Last year, I wrote a “Point Spread Plays of the Year” NFL article at this stage of the season, at a time of year when Top 10 lists seem to formulate out of thin air.
It was so much fun to write, I decided to do it again even though there was no clear “Point Spread Play of the Year” like we had last season with the Seahawks-Packers final play Hail Mary TD on Monday Night Football!
In my world, there’s nothing better than a “right side” winner – no drama, no sweating; an easy rocking chair cover. Of course, cashing nothing but right side winners is much easier said than done. In the real world, there are so many games that come down to a single key late play that determines the SU and/or ATS winner.
I’ve gone back through my notes, looking at the some of the wackiest and memorable point spread outcomes. End of the year Top 10 lists are so passé, so I’ll call this my Top 8 Point spread Plays of the Year.
8) DeAngelo Williams fumble (week 1): Seattle was a three point road favorite on opening day at Carolina. Their offense was not clicking, but they finally punched in a fourth quarter TD to take a five point lead following a missed two point conversion. Carolina marched down the field, facing a second and 2 on the Seahawks 24. DeAngelo Williams found daylight, and appeared to be heading for the end zone, but he got hit inside the 10 and fumbled. The Seahawks killed the clock.
7) Mendenhall’s fumble (week 10): Arizona was bet up from -3 to -3½ or higher in many places against the Texans. Like so many other times this season, Houston played well early, but fell apart in the second half. The Cards led by 10 with less than five minutes to play. Following a Texans punt, ‘Zona needed only a couple of first downs to run out the clock. Head coach Bruce Arians made sure veteran RB, Rashard Mendenhall, was on the field, not rookie Andre Ellington. But Mendenhall fumbled at his 5 on Arizona’s first play from scrimmage following the punt. That was followed by Andre Johnson making a ridiculous catch in the end zone on a fourth down heave from Case Keenum. ‘Zona backers went from winning to pushing or losing.
6) Becoming Riverboat Ron (week 2): Gambling repeatedly on fourth down conversions, Carolina head coach Ron Rivera had been nothing short of awful in tight games. Carolina went 2-14 SU in his first 16 tries in games decided by a TD or less, including this bad loss at Buffalo. The Panthers never trailed in game that bounced between Carolina -2½ to Carolina -3½. Facing a fourth and 1 from the Bills 21 inside the two minute warning with Buffalo out of time outs, Rivera chose to kick the field goal, putting the Panthers up 6. The Bills responded with a late TD drive with just two ticks left to win by 1.
5) Lions Fake FG (week 11): The Lions were road favorites of less than a field goal when they travelled to face the Steelers at Heinz Field. After falling behind 14-0 early, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson went nuts and hung 27 second quarter points. Still leading in the fourth quarter, Detroit marched down the field, into the red zone, but were forced to settle for a field goal attempt. Rather than kicking to go up by 7, Jim Schwartz ran a fake that got stuffed. The Steelers then scored a TD. Instead of a tie game, the Lions were now trailing with the clock winding down, leading to another Stafford INT and a game sealing Steelers TD.
4) Bears missed FG on 2nd down in OT (week 13): Marc Trestman really blew this call for Bears +1 backers. With the Bears fighting for their playoff lives in a tough battle at Minnesota, the game went into OT and Minnesota missed a field goal on their first possession – next score wins. Chicago handed off to Matt Forte five straight times following that missed field goal, gaining a pair of first downs and driving to the Vikings 30. Then, inexplicably, on second and 8, Trestman trotted Robbie Gould onto the field to attempt the game winner. Naturally, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history sailed his attempt wide right. Minnesota marched down the field for their own game winning field goal on the next drive.
3) McFadden late TD earns middle (week 3): Denver was a very popular public choice on Monday Night Football against the Raiders, bet from -14½ to -17 or higher by kickoff. And the Broncos were fairly dominant for most of the game, taking a 27-7 lead into halftime and a 37-14 lead into the latter stages of the fourth quarter. But Montee Ball fumbled, giving the Raiders possession at Denver’s 20. Darren McFadden punched in a meaningless late TD, cutting the Broncos margin down to 16, and allowing savvy bettors to cash winning tickets on both sides. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day!
2) Tamba Hali fumble return TD at Buffalo (week 9): It was a miserable spot for KC, winners of eight straight with this road tilt at Buffalo standing between them and a bye week. This was a clear sharp/square divide game, with the public loving KC and the wiseguys lining up to back the Bills. The Chiefs went off as 4½ point favorites, but they were badly outplayed right from the get-go, outgained 470-210 by Buffalo. Still a 100 yard Sean Smith INT return TD sent the game into the fourth quarter tied at 13. Then disaster struck for Buffalo backers, thanks to a forced TJ Graham fumble, scooped up by Hali and run back for another defensive score. KC tacked on a late field goal and Bills backers were burned by 10.
1) Seattle lets 49ers run out the clock (week 14): In a statement game for the home team, San Francisco was a 2½ point favorite in double revenge for a pair of ugly losses on their last two trips to Seattle. It was a tight affair throughout, with Seattle clinging to a one point lead as time wound down in the fourth quarter. A Colin Kaepernick keeper gave the 49ers a first and goal at the Seattle 7. The Seahawks had used all three timeouts, with only the two minute warning left to stop the clock in chip shot field goal range for the 49ers.
The advanced metric strategy would have been for Pete Carroll to instruct his defense to allow the 49ers to score a TD on the very first play. Yes, Seattle would have been down 8 at that point, but they’d have enough time to mount a late drive. Instead, the Seahawks played ferocious goal line defense, held the 49ers to a field goal attempt, but got the ball back at their own 16 with just 26 seconds left. The Seahawks flawed strategy got their backers the money at +2½, but it cost them the game.
Ted Sevransky is one of the nation’s premier sports handicappers and analysts. Follow Teddy on Twitter @teddy_covers or visit his page at experts.covers.com. Contact Ted Sevransky at [email protected]