NFL Notebook: Arizona win resuscitates sports books

Jan 12, 2010 5:09 PM

NFL Notebook by Micah Roberts |

There haven’t been ooh’s and aah’s in Las Vegas sports books all season like what was witnessed by the thousands who saw Sunday’s Packers-Cardinals Wild Card matchup. The game resembled like Arena Football league type of game with non-stop action, surely not an NFL game, at least by the standards set from the three previous uneventful Wild Card games over the weekend.

However, unlike the old Arena league games, this game was the most heavily bet game of the weekend.

Usually, the final game of the playoff weekend always has the most wagers just because of all the repeat wagers after the other games are over. Sometimes, their winning bets from earlier games are rolling over from someone feeling lucky, or sometimes it’s the unlucky who are trying to recoup their losses from the other games.

By Friday of last week, before any of the games started, several sports books were already reporting that the Cardinals game had the most action of the four games by far – both from the Sharps and small money. The ticket count ratio was 6 to 1 at many books in favor of the Packers and the actual cash wagers resembled the same ratio.

When the opening line came out last Sunday night, many opened the game with the Cardinals a 3 (EVEN) or 2½-point favorite. That number continued to slide down all week until finally making the Packers a 1-point or 2-point favorite by Thursday. By kickoff on Sunday, most books closed with the Packers as a 3-point favorite – a 6-point swing in many cases.

Everyone had Packers fever. The public had just witnessed the same game last week in Arizona with Green Bay winning easily 33-7, despite the Cardinals not playing many of their starters. They had just seen the Jets dispose of the Bengals like they did last week and the same with the Cowboys thumping the Eagles again … so, why not the Packers, too.

The Packers offense had been so crisp the last few weeks led by Aaron Rodgers and the defense had been almost equally as strong.

The variable missing from the Cardinals loss last week was Kurt Warner, who played one of the best games of his dazzling career leading Arizona to the 51-45 overtime win. Talk all week had been about how Warner said he may retire at the end of the season, a hope all the Packer-backers wished he had done before the game.

At the conclusion of the game, everyone had to catch their breath from the frenzied pace of the game, and the cashier windows in the sports books looked more like a Tuesday morning during basketball season than an NFL Sunday.

The sports books’ entire weekend rested on that one Packers decision.

Most books fared well with the Jets and Cowboys winning Saturday along with a big upset in college basketball action.

The Eagles would have been a better decision, but everyone knew that it was going to come down to that last game to decide their weekend’s fate.

The Patriots losing to the Ravens was a good result for the house, but it still paled in comparison to the mounting risk built from all three games that was heading into the Packer game. All the parlays and teasers that were alive were going into the final game along with all the action that was played just exclusively by itself.

When it was all said and done, the sports books exhaled a sigh of relief after enduring the same type of ups and downs the bettors did throughout the game. When Neil Rackers missed a chip-shot field goal at the end of regulation, the bettors in the books erupted, while the bookies threw objects at the wall in disgust. It would only seem fitting that such an offensive show would end in overtime with a defensive touchdown.

It will be hard for any game to top what we all saw Sunday in Arizona, but we may just very well see it again Saturday night in New Orleans when the Saints welcome these very same Cardinals. The Saints were opened up as 7-point favorites at the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book with a whopping total of 56½, which surely suggests there might be some points scored.

The Saints limp into the playoffs not having won for a month with a three game losing streak. The offense that had once lit up the scoreboard going 13-0 has struggled, even before their first loss to Dallas. Now the Saints come off a bye. Can they really just turn on the switch and say the team from Week 9 is back?

On the subject of byes, handicapper Marc Lawrence brought up a great stat. Since 2000, when the current playoff system was structured adding two more teams, the favorites have gone 23-13 straight up and 15-20-1 against the spread. That ratio ATS is much higher than in years past and is something to really consider before wagering this week.

Most of the teams with byes have had their situation clinched for a few weeks which means resting players down the stretch and then having an additional week off. When they get to game time when the games really mean something, it’s hard to find that rhythm again that got the lofty record.

This week the Saints and Colts fall into that danger category, whereas the Chargers and Vikings played strong to close out the regular season. The Hilton opened up the Colts a 6½-point favorite over the Ravens, Minnesota’s a short 2½-point favorite over the rejuvenated Cowboys and the Chargers a big 9-spot over the Jets.

Ravens money came in immediately and the line has settled between 7½ and 8 at most books.

Two teams I would not want to be playing right now are Dallas and Arizona. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see those two battle for the NFC Championship. If that becomes the case, the week 17 lay down by the Cardinals to Green Bay looms large. Had Arizona won that game, the possible championship game could have been at home under that scenario.

Oh well, looking at how many Packers fans found seats into the game Sunday, I’m sure the Cowboy faithful would have had just as large a presence, and Arizona can win just about anywhere they want as long as it isn’t cold.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Micah Roberts