Sunday was the best day of the NFL season for many of the Las Vegas sports books, but it wasn’t even the best day of the holiday weekend for some which happened the day before on Saturday. That’s right, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer for the fifth straight week. Not much has changed from the day that Christopher Columbus himself supposedly discovered America.
Between the sports books beating every major decision in Saturday’s college action and a slew of outright underdog winners in the NFL, the two days came close to being one of the best combined weekend wins ever for Las Vegas sports books. The figures varied somewhat based on being a Strip or locals property with the major differences being the extraordinary handle and win the local books get with parlay cards.
A good weekend of normal parlay card hold – pre-2010 NFL season – would be considered holding 30%. After Sunday’s games all washed, most books were holding over 70% of card handle.
Saturday’s most weighted public college teams like Alabama, Florida, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona all failed to win or cover setting the stage for Sunday’s NFL action. Most of the sports books anticipated week 5 being the bettors turn and braced for the inevitable cycle of fairness, but it didn’t happen. The underdog trend continued and actually grew stronger with the dogs going 9-4.
The sports book directors aren’t complaining, but they are concerned about how the regular Joe bettors can keep coming back firing at the same pace after getting beat once again. This week’s handle was spurred by all the three-day weekend visitors, but what about next week when the dust settles and it’s just the regular crowd again?
This season truly has been amazing and has thrown a wrench into just about everyone’s handicapping tendencies. I suggested last week to stay the course and that things should all cycle around again, but I’m less confident now and I’m now saying that it may be time to go outside the box. It’s apparent that anything can happen and that all teams are capable of winning anywhere at any time.
For instance, why even take points anymore when you can just take the money line and cash in. That’s what happened Sunday when nine of the underdogs won outright -- no points needed – with only four favorites winning.
During the early games, things didn’t seem so out of line just because the two largest spreads got there and the underdogs that won weren’t that big of a surprise. The Ravens and Colts were each 7-point favorites and covered while the Bengals lost as a 6½-point home favorite to the Buccaneers. It was what happened in the late games that threw the entire week for a loop when all three large underdogs won straight up and ultimately killed the bettors’ chances.
The Saints, Chargers and Cowboys weren’t just ordinary favorites, either, they each had strong 7-point spreads. In all three games it came down to the final minute to decide the winner, but covering the spread was never really in doubt for each of their opponents. The major question was whether the dogs could pull off the upsets, and they did.
The Cardinals 30-20 win over the Saints might have been the most improbable of the day just because of rookie Max Hall starting the game against the Super Bowl champs. Even worse for Saints fans – that puts their season in perspective – is that the Cardinals didn’t have a rushing or passing touchdown for the game, yet managed to put up 30 points. The Saints were held under 25 points for the fifth time this year, one more than they had the entire 2009 season.
The Chargers and Cowboys each passed for over 400 yards, but made key turnovers and mistakes that they were never able to recover from. The Raiders blocked two punts and forced two San Diego turnovers inside the red zone, and that was only in the first quarter, but it set the tempo for the rest of the game.
Probably the Cowboys’ biggest mistake – one that won’t show up in the box score – is that Wade Phillips is still the head coach. Twelve ill-timed penalties for 133 yards kept the Titans in position all game long to keep the Cowboys defense off balance, and it’s all a reflection of their coach and his lackadaisical approach. The best thing Jerry Jones could do is get a coach who screams loud at players, levies fines and suspensions to get that extra 15% missing from their individual games.
Cowboy fans must have a hard time watching Phillips show no emotion when his players do something dumb. At one point you could actually read Phillips’ lips as he was talking into the head set where he said, "What just happened" after another penalty.
The biggest public games of the day were the Falcons, who covered, the Packers, Saints and Chargers. That would have been a rough four-team parlay for the sports books, but they beat them down with only Falcons getting there.
Some of the Sharp plays of the day went the books’ way as well. The Ravens covered, but the Bills and Panthers each lost. All three of those games saw significant action on game day and rose by a point-and-a-half each. The three plays all made sense on paper where the spread was maybe deflated a little to catch up to the crazy adjusted ratings of today’s NFL parity.
Let’s hope it gets easier this week where we have one double digit favorite and only two others that are a touchdown favorite or above. You’ve got San Diego on the road again where they are now 0-3, Ben Roethlisberger making his season debut against the Browns and the Packers hosting Miami with Aaron Rodgers on concussion status.
The game that stands out the most is Denver getting over 3-points at home against the Jets. After watching Kyle Orton move the ball effectively against the Ravens’ top ranked pass defense in Baltimore, I am now a believer that his offense can’t be stopped by anyone. I’d look for a high scoring game that the Broncos should hang around in and then maybe get some Mile High Magic near the end.
Good luck and make week six yours to own!