American Football Archives

Jan
2016
25

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Carolina Panthers -4.5 versus the Denver Broncos (O/U 45)

I knew fairly early into the NFC Championship game that I would be on the Denver Broncos to win the first Super Bowl to drop the Roman numerals (“Super Bowl L” doesn’t look right). I got another text from a friend (an American one this time) that said “they can’t make this line high enough” as the Panthers were laying the smackdown on the Cardinals. As a contrarian I don’t really pick the games, the games pick me. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but you get the idea. Unless they made this line Panthers by a touchdown which then would probably get the bet percentage balanced, I knew that I was going to be on Peyton Manning and company. It was a complete performance by Carolina as they went to 17-1 for the season just the 5th team to go into the Super Bowl with 17 wins. Quarterback Cam Newton looks unstoppable with both his arm and legs. The Panthers defense continues to make plays and score touchdowns as well. The Broncos on the other hand had to hold on to win and their 39-year old QB is just a game manager at this point.

The point spread opened up at 4 and is already out to 4.5. Before the game the indication was that the Panthers would be 3-point favorites over Denver, but obviously how they won yesterday changed that. I would hope that it continues to edge out towards 6 where I think bets and money would be more balanced. The early action has 81% of spread bets on the Panthers. The numbers 5 and 5.5 aren’t very important as NFL games land much more often on 4 and 6 (especially with the new overtime rules). So I think this line could get out to 6. Although, just like the AFC Championship game there will be a lot of sentiment with the Broncos and Peyton Manning. The once a year bettors are in play (they certainly haven’t bet yet) and this is the one game they usually like the underdog. They are going to bet on the team they want to win and Cam Newton has been polarizing. Still anyone who watched the games Sunday are going to like the Panthers and would be afraid of backing another team that gets blown out. Unlike both championship games there are injury question marks with both teams that could affect the line. The Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis and safety Roman Harper are both listed as questionable. On the Broncos side starting safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart (who laid the wood on Sunday before going out with knee injury) are both questionable to play in the Big Game.

The moneyline is Panthers -200 (1.50) with the Broncos +170 (2.70) at Sportsbooks in the Americas. Only 61% of the outright win bets have come in on the Panthers which is what you would expect. The average bettor prefers to lay the points with the favorite and take the moneyline with the underdog setting up a sweet spot for the sportsbooks. This occurred in the College Football Playoff game when Clemson scored a TD with 12 seconds to go to cut the deficit to 5-points giving them a win at +7, but still losing outright. 2/3rds of spread bets were on Alabama -7 (lost) and 2/3rds of the moneyline bets were on Clemson (lost). I know you can’t figure out the bookies profit from that as the amount bet is the biggest factor and missing, but it was reported that the 5-point ‘Bama win was a great result for Vegas. We may see a Panthers win, but non-cover in this game, though right now Carolina is getting bet every which way. 79% of parlay and teaser bets are on Carolina as well. With no other football game to pair with any teaser would have to tease the side and the total, generally a terrible strategy and not one that someone who is betting 13 days before the game would make. What you probably have are a lot of Panthers and over parlays that are accounting for this number as they are “only” expected to score 24.75 points. Carolina scored 31 points in the first half in the Divisional round and 49 points yesterday.

That leads right into the total which opened at 45 (the advance line was 43) and is unchanged after flirting with 45.5. 76% of the early bets are on the over. I would think that the total would jump up as the once a year bettors love the overs. The over in Carolina games are 12-5-1 this season and 7 of their last 9 have exceed the total. The one question is the weather conditions. We are still 13 days out so it really is impossible to get a reliable forecast, especially in the Bay Area. Levi’s Stadium is in Santa Clara, California and isn’t that vulnerable to wind, but it is a possibility along with rain. Looking at the 14-day forecast heavy rains are expected the middle of next week and some on the weekend as well. Oddly very high winds are expected on Monday February 8th, the day after Super Bowl, so if they are very accurate there could be flight delays getting out of town, if they are off a day it could make for a wild Super Bowl. There was so much talk of the weather in the last Broncos Super Bowl a couple of years ago in New York/New Jersey and it wasn’t a factor in Denver getting crushed by the Seattle Seahawks. It could be a big factor this time around, I would think that high winds and rain would really hurt Peyton Manning and wouldn’t affect Cam Newton nearly as much. It would definitely have a large bearing on the total and that is why I wouldn’t be all that eager to jump on the over just yet.

When looking back at the two underdogs I picked on Championship Sunday I had a lot of good solid reasons to take the Broncos, but didn’t nearly have same evidence to back up going against the Panthers. I don’t have the all the positive trends the Broncos had at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots a mile-high on grass with Ed Hochuli as referee. Now it feels like you would have to be a mile-high on grass to pick the Broncos. The only clear edge the Broncos have is in experience in this game. Having played in Super Bowl XLVIII (48) just a couple of years ago in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Denver will not be shocked by the huge stage. They did lose that game 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks so the experience wasn’t very fun, but many of them have been through it. It is the 4th time around for Peyton Manning who will try to even up his career Super Bowl record at 2-2. The Panthers have virtually no Super Bowl experience, though Cam Newton did win a BCS College Football National Championship game while at Auburn University. Although, I wonder though how someone who so clearly loves the attention will handle the throngs at media day and the entire Super Bowl atmosphere. Looking back at Super Bowl history experience seemed to matter much more in the days of much easy Roman numeral conversion, but recently it hasn’t so much. We will have two weeks to dissect this game every which way. I hoping to find some good reasons to back the Denver Broncos because I would love to see Peyton Manning walk off into the sunset with another Lombardi Trophy just like his General Manager John Elway did after Super Bowl XXXIII.

Jan
2016
25

Spot on the All Night Appetite with Darren

on SEN 1116 AM Melbourne, Australia

I start discussing NFL Championship Sunday. I already state that I will be taking the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. I recap yesterday’s action in the NBA and pick a few of tonight’s game.

I lead off the podcast!

Jan
2016
25

Championship Sunday Recap

Denver Broncos 20 – New England Patriots 18
If you follow me on Twitter (@thechiefsports) you saw a couple of tweets right before kickoff of the AFC Championship Game at my amazement with the point spread coming into +2.5 with the Denver Broncos. Earlier in the week I had thought this line had a very good chance of moving out to 3.5 with the heavy action (nearly 80% of spread bets) on the New England Patriots. On Saturday I wrote I don’t think it will end up moving as there is money waiting to be bet on Denver on the sidelines and late sentiment will be on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. That certainly was the case as seemingly smart money came in and pounded Denver to the point they wanted to lure more Patriots bets by moving them down to 2.5. When I saw this final line move, I felt very confident in the Broncos pulling off the upset. New England ended up receiving 70% of the spread bets and the vast majority of the talking heads took the Pats even though they ended up being just -140 (1.71)/+120 (2.20) to win outright. The game went exactly as I hoped it would go with pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware all over Tom Brady and cornerbacks Chris Harris, Jr. and Aqib Talib shutting down the wide receivers. It was a championship effort by the Broncos D that gave up the first touchdown on a short field after a terrible fumble by the Broncos on lateral that was initially ruled incomplete. Then Denver then lost both starting safeties to injury which allowed tight end Rob Gronkowski to make huge plays for the Pats. New England came up just two extra points short of what would have been Tom Brady’s greatest comeback ever. Converting a 4th down and 10 and then the 4th and goal TD both to Gronk were as remarkable a pair of plays you will ever see. It was a missed extra point by place kicker Stephen Gostkowski after the Pats first touchdown that ended up forcing New England to go for 2 to tie the game. It was heartbreaking for the games best kicker and arguably one of the best of all-time. I was thrilled as you had to figure this game was going to the wire and had the Patriots forced overtime they would have been in very good shape to win the game with both of Denver’s safeties out.

Carolina Panthers 49 – Arizona Cardinals 15
I never felt confident with the pick of the Arizona Cardinals and it was worse by game time as the point spread went out to -3 -130 (1.77) on the Carolina Panthers +3 +110 (2.10) on the Cardinals. It settled at -3 -120 (1.83)/+3 Ev (2.00) by kickoff. This was with the Panthers receiving 2/3rds of the spread bets. I also didn’t like the Cards because a lot of the “experts” on the studio show were picking them. That was with Arizona as +160 (2.60) dogs with Carolina -190 (1.53) favorites in the wide market here in the Americas. I was banking on Cards QB Carson Palmer having a bounce back game after struggling in winning his first career playoff game. He answered with 4 interceptions and 2 turnovers in an embarrassing performance. The Panthers offense continues to amaze me as they moved the ball with ease against a strong Cardinals defense. They made huge plays and down the field and then in the 2nd half controlled the ball and killed the clock. It was a complete performance by the Carolina Panthers. Even though the voting took place after the end of the regular season it would be a travesty if Panthers QB Cam Newton doesn’t win NFL MVP. The Panthers go into the Super Bowl with a 17-1 overall record and favorites to win the first Championship in franchise history.

Jan
2016
24

Picks for NFL Championship Sunday

Denver Broncos +3 over the New England Patriots
Arizona Cardinals +3 over the Carolina Panthers

Jan
2016
24

Picks for NFL Championship Sunday

There have been no changes in the market or with any other factors that have me off the two underdogs.

Denver Broncos +3 over the New England Patriots This line will not budge even in the face of overwhelming action on the Patriots. David Purdum who I reference often from ESPN.com posted an article today titled “Money piling up on Pats in Vegas”. That is pretty self-explanatory, but the books are obviously very afraid of moving the line to 3.5 as they will take a lot of Broncos action at that price making a Pats win by a field goal a disastrous scenario for bookies. I don’t think it will end up moving as there is money waiting to be bet on Denver on the sidelines and late sentiment will be on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The spread bet percentage has come in slightly to 77% with 68% of moneyline and 69% of parlay and teaser bets on the Pats. I was able to write a full paragraph of justifications for the Broncos pick on a post on January 21st (3rd paragraph). I do think that the Broncos pass defense will be able to frustrate Tom Brady and the passing game and the Denver running game will key their offen I haven’t mentioned the total all week because it has been an absolutely boring market. The over/under opened 44.5 and is unchanged with 61% of the bets on the over. That is exactly par and indicating nothing. New England has over trends, Broncos have under trends. The weather should be fine with some wind around kickoff, but not a huge factor. There really is nothing to work with and I would avoid playing the total.

Arizona Cardinals +3 over the Carolina Panthers I don’t like this dog nearly as much as the public bets aren’t as lopsided and most books require laying extra juice with the Panthers indicating not much smart money offsetting the public bets. The Cardinals in many places are +3 even (2.00). I would highly doubt this spread will move to 3.5. 70%/58%/63% of spread/moneyline/combination bets are on the favored Panthers. There is little else to work with in this game. I had a full paragraph on how Denver can win, but I’m having a harder time with Arizona. I do expect quarterback Carson Palmer to have a much better game after finally breaking through with his first NFL playoff victory. The performance last week by future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald carried the Cards to victory and I don’t think he will be denied his second trip to the Super Bowl. I like how the Cardinals defense matches up with the Panthers and I think that they will force turnovers. The total is 47 right where it opened with 69% of the bets on the over. That is slightly above par and would have me leaning a bit towards the under. The weather should be great with no wind or rain, but I’m not sure what the field conditions will be like. Last week the Seahawks had a very hard time with their footing and were down 31-0 by halftime. That is a concern for Arizona as are the expected temperatures that will be just above freezing.

Jan
2016
22

NFC Championship Game Update

I was remiss in not updating the NFC Championship game. It is a very similar market to the Patriots/Broncos game, but the Panthers aren’t getting nearly the level of action the Patriots are. 69% of spread, 59% of moneyline and 63% of combination bets are on Carolina. This has me less excited about the Cardinals pick than the Broncos. Also some bookies are requiring extra juice when you lay the field goal, indicating there isn’t as much Arizona action offsetting the public bets on the Panthers. The Cardinals pick may be harder to justify than the Broncos as well. I was able to write a full paragraph with recent trends, a blueprint for winning, home-field advantage and the Ed Hochuli factor on why Denver can win. This is a rematch of a playoff game last year, a Wild Card round game in Carolina. The Cardinals competed in that game and actually led at halftime even though they were quarterbacked by Ryan Lindley, who may be the worst QB to ever start and NFL playoff game. The Cardinals had just 8 first downs and lost the yardage battle 386-78. Arizona’s quarterback Carson Palmer who finally broke through for his first NFL playoff victory last week will play better than Lindley. Palmer will have to be better than he was last week for the Cardinals to have any chance of winning. I have had this feeling that the Panthers would fall short of the Super Bowl all season.

Jan
2016
21

Discussion on the AFC Championship Game

1387749303000-manning-thumbs-upThe AFC Championship game with the New England Patriots at the Denver Broncos is lining up to be a textbook example of my main handicapping philosophy. My analysis on any game starts with the gambling market. I try to determine which side the smart money is on and piggy-back them. Similarly I like being on the same side with the sportsbooks and like going against (fading) the public or “squares”. The two key factors are the movement in the point spread and the percentage of the number of bets being placed on the two teams. The wagering information I get from www.sportsinsights.com’s Sportsbook Spy. What I am looking for is divergence between these two factors. I want to see the line moving in the opposite direction of which way the bets are coming or the line not move in the face of overwhelming public action. Significant divergence is the best case, but when you have around 80% on one side and the spread isn’t moving at all that is probably the 2nd best. That is what we almost have here with the New England Patriots receiving 79% of spread bets. The spread has been 3-points all week though many books are now requiring a little more juice if you take the Pats and are offering the Denver Broncos and +3 with half or no “vig”. From Sports Insights BetLabs teams receiving just 20% or less of the spread wagers are 107-85 against the spread (55.7%) in the regular season. That system would produce at 8.7% ROI and earns a grade of A- from Bet Labs. There has never been a game in the postseason hit that mark and I would think by game time the bets won’t be so lopsided, but it still illustrates a point.

I could do this basic market analysis on any sport in the world if I have those two key factors, the line/spread/odds and the percentage of wagers. Where my knowledge in the NFL helps is that I can make my own point spread that I think would balance the action. I thought this line would be 3.5 or 4. When it came out at just 3-points I knew that the Pats would be getting the vast majority of the wagers. I really didn’t need to Sports Insights on this one. I would consider just a field goal line here “fishy”. The theory there being is that the smart money in the market knows or sees something the vast majority of the other participants don’t. I got a pair of texts last night less than an hour apart both from Australia friends living here in New York. The first was from “Neil” and it read “New England line looks low…am I missing something?” The second was from “Bob” asking “Thoughts on the Pats line -3 this weekend in Denver?” I responded with my usual, “I like the Broncos, fishy line, hasn’t moved in the face of nearly 80% of the bets”, etc… “Bob” then asked what the “sharps” were doing. I said they have to be on the Broncos because if both the public and the sharps are on the Pats the line would have to move out. He understood all of that, but “Bob” gave solid reasons why the Pats at -3 are great bet, most importantly is that their offense is healthy. He put a third Aussie friend on that text who we will call “Tug” who added “I love Pats at line”. Aside from the market I obviously have a hard time arguing with them and justifying a pick of the Broncos at +3.

There are a couple of trends that do favor the Broncos. Tom Brady is 2-5 in his career both straight up and against the spread in Denver. The Patriots are just 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games on grass. There is also the excellent Denver defense which like the Pats offense wasn’t fully healthy when these two teams matched up back in week 12. The Broncos ran for 179 yards on 32 yards in that game and will have to put up a similar number on Sunday. The Broncos’ plan will be to run the ball, milk the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of Tom Brady. The home field advantage is big as the crowd will be rocking making it hard for Brady at the line of scrimmage. It also is never easy playing a mile above sea level. That should allow for the Broncos top pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to cause problems. Denver has two lockdown corners, Chris Harris Jr. and former Patriot Aqib Talib. There is one other factor that actually as of right now is the lead story on the tabloid New York Post’s website with the headline “NFL Conspiracy Theory Freaking Out Patriots Fans”. This is due to the fact that Ed Hochuli will be the referee on Sunday. From the Boston Herald the Broncos have never lost a game with Hochuli as the ref (7-0 straight up). The Pats are 3-4 outright in Hochuli games since 2010 (72-17 in all other games). I would think the NFL would want Denver considering they just punished the Patriots for the “Deflategate” scandal this past season. The Super Bowl would be huge with either of them, but considering there is a good chance Peyton Manning would retire after the game ratings probably would be bigger with the Broncos.

There is one factor that might not be in the market just yet that could level the bet percentage and help balance the books. This would also make the Broncos a less attractive selection. That factor is sentimentality. These Championship games get a lot of gamblers out of the woodwork and I think many of those bettors will back who they want to root for in the game. In what most likely will be the last Manning-Brady Bowl I think the majority will be rooting for Manning. Those gamblers will be placing bets later in the week so they haven’t hit the market yet. I also think a lot of sharps who want to play Denver haven’t made their bets yet and some may even have the Pats at -3 in hopes of it moving and being able to take the Broncos at +3.5 or 4 and having the potential to hit one side while just pushing the other. It could be a low risk/high return play if the line were to move. The books seem to be holding firm and don’t want to move the line and are willing to be imbalanced expecting late Broncos money.

Jan
2016
19

Quick NFL Playoff Update

It was a very entertaining weekend of games even with the very predictable results. All of the home teams were victorious and they all won by a 6 or 7-point margin. The New England Patriots won by 7 (as 6-point favorites), the Arizona Cardinals won by 6 (as 7-point favorites), the Carolina Panthers won by 7 (as 2.5-point favorites) and the Denver Broncos won by 7 (as 7-point favorites). The picks were ok going 3-1 though I gave myself a favorable line with +7.5 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Looking ahead to Championship Sunday if you know my philosophy on handicapping you know which direction I am going in both games. Both of the favorites the Patriots and Panthers are laying a field goal and both have the vast majority of the public action as you would expect. I will be taking the underdogs. I was surprised that the Pats weren’t favored by 3.5/4-points with even the possibility of it moving out further. New England looks healthy and the Broncos looked very ordinary in beating the short-handed Steelers. In what most likely will be the last Manning-Brady Bowl, Tom Brady has the clear advantage as Peyton’s body is falling apart. With the spread just 3-points 78% of spread, 73% of moneyline and 71% of parlay and teaser bets are on the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Panthers coming off an impressive win in which they led the Seattle Seahawks 31-0 at the half. The Cardinals showed more vulnerability especially at the quarterback position where Carson Palmer won his first career playoff game, but was very shaky in the process. Carolina is receiving 71% of spread and 60% of moneyline and combination bets.

Jan
2016
17

Picks for NFL Divisional Sunday

What a game! The Arizona Cardinals 26-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers was a violent roller-coaster ride. The Packers miraculously forced overtime with a “Hail Mary”, but weren’t lucky enough to win the all important coin toss at the start of overtime. It was very unfortunate that because of the fate of a coin (that didn’t flip and needed to be re-tossed) Aaron Rodgers didn’t get to touch the ball in OT. In the opening game the New England Patriots led from wire-to-wire to end the Kansas City Chiefs 11-game winning streak 27-20. It was an entertaining game that featured some classic clock mismanagement by the master Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

Today’s games are also pretty tricky. I feel a little more confidently in my pick in the first game.

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 over the Carolina Panthers This line opened up at 2 which I thought was very fishy. I would have thought that the 15 and 1 Panthers would have been favored by around 3.5/4-points at home off their bye week. The line initially jumped out to 3 and was looking like it was going to get towards that number, but it turned around and came into -1.5 and now is drifting out to 2.5. There was some injury news that caused a lot of this noise. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is set to play as is Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart. As you would think with this fishy line 68% of spread, 53% of moneyline and 62% of parlay and teaser bets are on the Panthers. I have to go against the public and with the smelly line. I don’t like the fact I am going with a West Coast team playing at 10am Pacific Time. Seattle is definitely at a disadvantage because of travel playing against a rested team. This should be factored into the line as well making it even stranger. The total is 44 and hasn’t moved all week with 60% of the bets on the over. That is a perfect efficient market at equilibrium. I have zero opinion whatsoever. The weather won’t be perfect with some wind, but it shouldn’t factor.

Pittsburgh Steelers +7.5 over the Denver Broncos I really could go either way with this game. I am going to side with the underdog and fade 69%/59%/67% of spread/moneyline/combination bets on the Broncos. This is a flip-flop from my appearance on SEN yesterday. It is so hard not to go with the Broncos here with the serious injuries to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder, though he is scheduled to start. Big Ben will be without his number one target and maybe the best wide receiver in the league in Antonio Brown. Running back DeAngelo Williams also will not be able to play either for the Steelers. This is against the Broncos defense one of the best in the entire NFL. Peyton Manning will be starting the Broncos. I worry about his lack of mobility and the Pittsburgh defense which looks like it has improved as the season has progressed. This is a rematch of a 34-27 Steelers win in Pittsburgh when Brock Osweiler was QBing the Broncos a month ago. Denver led 27-10 in that game before their defense collapsed. It was Antonio Brown who did the damage with 16 catches for 189 and 2 TDs including the game winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Broncos 7-point win. Luckily for Denver it won’t be very cold with kickoff temperatures right around 40 F, but will be below freezing at the end of the game. Peyton Manning has struggled in cold weather and there also won’t be much win and will be sunny. That is good for the over which is up from 40 to 41 with bets split. The market is hinting at the over and I would lean that way. I think you could see each of the defenses score and also would expect a few long plays for each of the offenses.

Jan
2016
17

Picks for NFL Divisional Sunday

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 over the Carolina Panthers
Pittsburgh Steelers +7.5 over the Denver Broncos