Usually I write this column on a Tuesday. The reason being I like to be ahead of the other 9,000 people making picks for the weekend, and its the day I usually make my bets. I bet early because the odds are usually so much better if you do what I do, which is bet favourites. Lines on favourites tend to tighten closer to the weekend in the NFL, as exposure to 400 hours of various forms of NFL Countdown tends to convince people that potential upsets are possible. When Keyshawn Johnson tells you that there’s no way 2010 Tampa Bay win more than 4 games this year (they’re 2-0 right now) people rightly tend to herd in the other direction.
My strategy is even worse – in fact its actually anathema to the spirit of gambling.
I only bet likely blowouts.
You give me a horrendous mismatch and I’ll take those odds, no matter how thin. By likely blowout I mean Saints vs Raiders, or New England v Buffalo. God I love seeing those on the schedule. Because the truth is, the NFL produces very few surprises. It’s very skillfully engineered not to. My biggest losses in the last 3 years were on two Superbowls: 2008′s helmet catch (the Patriots would have one that easily) and this February where Hank Baskett’s buttery hands (just landed in Minnesota!) and one terrible throw from one of the Top 2 QBs of the last decade meant the Colts folded. If you ever wonder why I love Tom Brady so much (apart from my obvious latent homosexuality) its that in 2007 I bet EVERY GAME the Pats played from Week 3. And I only bet blowouts. They were the best team of the modern era (post 1987). Better than any of those 49ers teams, or Aikman’s Cowboys. You knew that although the cost of entry was high, it was safe money (Although I was sweating during the late season Giants game). Betting a dominant team at home against someone like Jacksonville is a better investment than real estate or bank stocks. And there’s always at least one every week (Buffalo @ New England! New England coming off a harsh loss? Whoo boy).
The other upside is that I get to enjoy the good, usually closer games, free from the likely homicidal rage that would descend if I’d had money on it, and lost on a muffed extra point. I’ve spent too many nights out in Vegas watching grown men cry for that.
Also, taking the points? In a sport where teams often kneel down to kill the clock, start throwing the ball in goal to go situations, or go to a ‘prevent defense’ late in a blowout to allow the other team to score? Are you nuts?
No-one talks about it, but the ‘prevent defense’ is not to prevent scoring, its to prevent other NFL coaches getting fired. You’re up 21 with 6 left in the 4th? Help your brothers on the other sideline by going ‘prevent’ and you win by ‘only’ 7. This is why they (the media and staff of other teams) all hate Bellichick. He never played that game. (God I sound like a Boston homer. I’m not. Now excuse me while I go see ‘The Town’. Twice.)
You know how you can really tell the ‘prevent’ defensive formation (CBs don’t press at the line, Safeties stay rooted to the post and you get a lot of ‘soft’ Linebacker blitzes which go around the tackles – all of which means your backfield starts looking like a wide open Kansas prairie to the opposing QB) is total bullshit? No serious college team plays it. In college football, especially for BCS teams, every point of difference counts. They get marked on the ‘quality’ of their wins. Tomorrow night Alabama play Arkansas (Bama win, but close – no way I’m betting it). We will not be hearing any commentator use the words ‘prevent defense’ in that game.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
EAGLES vs JAGUARS
Yes I bet this game, even with Philly on the road. Vick is back, and playing angry. Maturity is a key QB component. After the last few years Vick looks like he may have aquired some. And his legs still work. And he’s one of the most entertaining players to watch in the game.But the most incredible thing of all is that he’s starting, and Kolb is gone. That sound you hear is Andy Reid’s 500 pound body landing on the common sense button.
STEELERS vs BUCCANEERS
When everyone was looking at the Pittsurgh Ben-less schedule, almost everyone had this circled as a win. Down to their 4th string QB, they may still pull it off, but Tampa look good and are at home. Tampa 3-0? People in Manchester and further afield may hate the Glazers for not being profligate Saudi billionaires, but very few succeed on two dimes and an IOU like they do.Ask Randy Lerner.
JETS vs DOLPHINS
Both teams are on an upward curve, the Jets are just slightly louder about it. I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Chad Henne is apparently an effective NFL QB, but here he is. Miami’s at home.
NSFW link of the week: F#ck Yeah Stockings. Bookmark it.
– Mark Tierney