This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 09/25/2007
A - Any Given Saturday. One of the handful of extremely interesting horses headed towards the Breeders' Cup Classic completed his preparations in fine form on Saturday. He won the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont in a professional, impressive effort to show that he is ready to take his shot at the winner's piece of the $5 million purse. Street Sense and Hard Spun finish their preparations in the Kentucky Cup Classic next Saturday.
B - Brewers, Milwaukee. It's been a good story in Milwaukee this year, but it looks like the fairy tale won't have a happy ending. The team has really shown this week that they aren't ready for the big time. They lost to one of their former farm hands, Jeff Bennett, who was making his first major league start for the Braves on Thursday. They lost four of five to negate the impact of their previous four-game winning streak. They aren't eliminated yet, but it doesn't look good.
C - Colt Brennan. Brennan's ankle was hurt, so coach June Jones gave him the week off. Hawaii really struggled in his absence. Oh, wait a second - they scored 66 points. That makes it a little bit easier for Colt's critics to make the argument that much of his success is the product of a system.
D - Darren McFadden. I'd be willing to bet a fair bit against McFadden's success in the Heisman race. He's playing great, but his team is quickly falling into the realm of the totally irrelevant, and that's probably too much for the running back to overcome in a year that's full of great players on great teams.
E - Edwards, Carl. NASCAR's back-flipper won the Chase race at Dover this weekend, but in the end he had a pretty lousy day. The points he earned for the win moved him up to third in the standings, but much of the gain will likely be wiped out by the penalties he'll get early in the week. Edwards' car failed the post race inspection with a rear fender that was too low. That's gotta hurt.
F - Fausto Carmona. The Indians have clinched a playoff spot, and baseball matters again in Cleveland, but the best story of the year for the team is, by far, the surprising emergence of Carmona. He had just one win in August, and it was tempting to write him off as a flash in the pan, but he has won four in a row to return to the money-making form of earlier in the year.
G - Green Bay. There are five unbeaten teams in the NFL after three weeks. That seems about right. The shocking thing, though, is that the Packers are one of those teams. They haven't fluked into their position, either. They have played good teams and they have won convincingly. Favre was spectacular on Sunday, and he's playing like he's possessed. With the Bears struggling and the Lions getting exposed by Philly, the Pack could actually be a playoff team in the weak NFC North.
H - Hmmm. Wade Phillips has his new team, the Cowboys, playing like they are possessed. They are clearly the best team in the NFC. When he was defensive coordinator in San Diego the last couple of years the Chargers were almost as hard to score on as they were to keep out of the end zone. Now they are so bad on defense that I think I could score on them. Maybe Phillips is better than his .533 career coaching mark.
I - Impressive. How about 21-of-26 for 381 yards and four touchdowns? If that's the way Donovan McNabb plays the week after creating some serious controversy then maybe the guy should shoot his mouth off on national television every week. McNabb played as well as he (or any other quarterback, for that matter) has played in two years.
J - Josh Beckett. The Boston ace won his fourth straight, his 20th on the season, and likely the Cy Young award on Friday. The Red Sox are playoff bound, and they have Beckett to thank in large part for that success. The rest of the staff has issues all over the place, so it will at least make playoff handicapping interesting if Beckett continues as he has.
K - Kiffin, Lane. Last week the new Oakland coach had his first win as a head coach ripped from him when the crafty Mike Shanahan called a time out milliseconds before Sebastian Janikowski kicked what would have been the game winner. Janikowski missed his second try and Denver went on to win. This week, Kiffin did exactly the same thing against Cleveland. That savvy move shows that Kiffin has the potential to be a decent leader of Raider Nation once he gets his personnel situation under control.
L - Lawson, Manny. Lawson was really coming into his own in his second year as a linebacker for the 49ers, so his knee injury sustained in practice that will keep him out for the season is a real blow for the team. His absence is partly to blame for the loss to the Steelers on Sunday, but there were a lot of reasons that game got out of hand. Mainly, the Steelers are just way, way better than San Francisco.
M - Miami. The Hurricanes convincingly beat Texas A&M on Thursday. It's been a bit of a rocky road this year, but the dominating effort on both sides of the ball show that the Randy Shannon era could be a promising one for Miami. They are playing with a discipline and determination that was lacking late in the Larry Coker regime.
N - Nebraska. When their defense was outclassed and outmatched by USC last week it was excusable. They were, after all, playing the top team and perhaps the best offense in the country. But when they went out and allowed 606 yards of offense to Ball State this week the alarm bells should have started to go off. The Huskers won, but only barely, and they clearly have a pile of work to do. The over against Missouri and Chase Daniel in two weeks will look very good if something doesn't change significantly before then.
O - Out. J.P. Losman is going to miss time with a knee injury sustained when his Bills were crushed by the Pats on Sunday. It's just one more thing that's gone wrong for a team that can't catch a break. If there's a bright side in this, it will give the team a chance to see what they have in Trent Edwards. Losman went down on his first play, so Edwards saw lots of action. He looked alright, especially when you consider who he was playing against.
P - Patriots. These guys are good. The offense is amazing. Randy Moss looks like, well, Randy Moss. The defense is relentless. There is a pretty solid chance that they get to the game against the Cots in week nine undefeated. That should be a barnburner, but I'm more excited at this point about Dec. 9 when Pittsburgh comes to town.
Q - Quite consistent. Week 1 - New England scored 38. Week 2 - New England scored 38. Week 3 - New England scored 38. I'm no mathematician, but I think I can see a bit of a pattern there. Patterns are the best friend of bettors if you can find the best way to capitalize on them.
R - Running games. Larry Johnson had 42 rushing yards on 24 tries. That's pathetic. LaDainian Tomlinson was only a little better - 22 carries for 62 yards. It's too early to panic or to see too much, but it has to be noticed that both super-stud backs have been awful. They have cost the public a lot of money with their underperforming so far, and it may be time to discount the two players in your handicapping until they come around.
S - Syracuse. Really? How in the world did the Orange beat Louisville? Louisville has an amazing quarterback, but it seems almost impossible to believe that a team of this caliber could have essentially no running game, or that they could be so inexcusably bad on defense. I'm not sure how coach Steve Kragthorpe is going to turn around these issues. It could get ugly. The Cards' defense made Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson look like a major stud (423 yards and four TDs), and he's a guy with four career starts who had never passed for more than 208.
T - Tigers. Auburn got some much-needed good news on Thursday with word that running back Brad Lester has been cleared by the NCAA to return from suspension on Oct. 6. Auburn needs an offensive boost. Or at least they did before Saturday. Backs Ben Tate and Mario Fannin must be worried about losing their jobs, because they each ran for over 100 yards and combined for three scores. Next week will be a better indicator of where the team is really at - Florida is a slightly tougher test than New Mexico State.
U - Upward progress. There is a lot left for the Texans to work on - the quarterback got sacked too much, the running game was non-existent, and there was at least one interception too many. Still, this team is very legitimate. Matt Schaub was incredibly accurate even without Andre Johnson, the kick return was phenomenal, and the team didn't at all look out of place against Indianapolis. If you haven't done it already, you need to re-evaluate your impression of the formerly hapless losers from Houston.
V - Very bad. It goes without saying that a team that starts the season 0-3 straight up and ATS has some problems, but the Rams are just plain bad. Marc Bulger has been awful, the running game showed its first spark of life on Sunday, the defense is flawed, and the team looks listless and disinterested. It could get worse before it looks better.
W - Wolverines. I know that my beloved Michigan is still a national punchline and that they are only barely relevant, but things are getting brighter for the hardcore fan. The previously inept defense showed real signs of life in shutting down Penn State, Mike Hart showed yet again just how good he is, and Ryan Mallett continues to improve. It doesn't hurt that they play in a truly terrible conference, either. Rose Bowl here we come.
X - eXtremely low. What are the chances of this happening? As part of a mini-vacation in San Francisco, my wife and I headed to Palo Alto to watch Stanford get clobbered by Oregon on Saturday night. We spent a good deal of time making fun of the Tree, Stanford's mascot. It is easily the most ridiculous, ugly and amateur mascot in existence, and we said so many, many times. Wouldn't you know it - the parents and grandmother of the kid in the stupid costume were sitting right beside us.
Y - Yikes. We also went to the Giants-Reds game on Sunday. Wow, is it ever sad to see teams that bad play this late in the season. No-name pitchers are throwing to batters no one has ever heard of, and no one really cares. It was a bit sad, really. It was also a very good reminder of why I generally refuse to play a game after late August until it involves two contenders. That's a great stadium, though, and any day at a ball game is still better than almost anything else.
Z - Zzzzzzz. Steve Flesh won his second tournament of the year.......... Sorry, I just dozed off. I love golf, but it just goes on way, way too long, and it is way too hard to care about anything other than the Ryder Cup after the PGA Championship. Extending the offseason would be the biggest gift the PGA could give to its fans and bettors.