This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 11/26/2007
A - Agent Zero. The Wizards suffered a gigantic loss this week. Gilbert Arenas, for my money probably one of the top five players in the league when it's crunch time, will miss the next three months of action. He underwent not one but two knee operations on Wednesday. It's the same knee that he had repaired last year, so this has to scare the heck out of the team and its fans. In a sign of what is likely to come, the Wiz have lost two straight high scoring games in which they haven't quite been able to keep pace offensively.
B - Bengals. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be a Cincinnati fan, but I know well how frustrating it is to handicap them. Against Tennessee on Sunday Carson Palmer was almost flawless, Chad Johnson woke up for the first time all year, the defense was actually solid for once, and the Bengals rolled to an incredibly easy win. Marvin Lewis can spend his days thinking of how good that game felt while he's sitting at home after being fired at the end of the year.
C - Clinched. The Patriots clinched the AFC East on Sunday afternoon, and played like they knew it later that night. The Eagles were shockingly good, and New England struggled like we have rarely seen them struggle all year. They pulled out the win in the end, though, and I suspect that this will be a huge wake up for the team. This is why it will be so tough to be undefeated, though - every team from now on will be throwing them their very best every game.
D - Disaster. I've never been an Eli Manning fan at all, so I can't say that I was too disappointed to see him struggle on Sunday. And wow, did he ever struggle. The good news is that he threw four touchdowns. The bad news is that three of those passes were to the Vikings defenders. Eli single-handedly gave the game to an undermanned Vikings squad. I am not at all convinced that Manning is a long-term solution for the Giants. Actually, I'm very convinced that he's not.
E - England. England failed to qualify for Euro 2008. All they had to do was tie Croatia at home, but they couldn't manage it. To put this into context for those who aren't fans of soccer, this is a much, much bigger blow to supporters than it would be for the Yankees to miss the playoffs. To the surprise of no one, coach Steve McLaren was fired about 12 seconds after the debacle ended.
F - Failure. Nobiz Like Shobiz was one of the bigger disappointments on Breeders' Cup day. The three-year-old turf star didn't fire in the Mile and burned a lot of bettors' money after he was bet heavily. He had his chance for redemption in the Hollywood Derby on Sunday, but he failed miserably. He weakened badly after a half-hearted charge, and ended up eighth in the field of 11. Hopefully he comes back stronger next year after a break to recharge.
G - Green Monkey, The. What do you get for $16 million these days? Not much, it would seem. The Green Monkey was the most expensive two-year-old thoroughbred ever purchased, and his owners must be pretty desperate for a refund. He made his third career start this week, and his first on turf, and it was as underwhelming as those that came before it. He briefly had the lead, but he looked clearly outclassed and is very unlikely to ever be competitive at a high level.
H - Hester, Devin. Hester is one of the most talked about and over-hyped players in the NFL, but he proved on Sunday that he's worthy of the attention. He returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the second half to key a rousing second half and an eventual win for the Bears. The Bears have been pretty bad this year, but they showed in the second half that they can be a very competitive team if they put the full effort into it.
I - Injury. If you have any doubts about Tim Tebow's toughness, you just aren't paying attention. In high school he played on a broken leg. Earlier this year he played through a shoulder injury. This weekend he did his typical Superman impression despite breaking his hand in the third quarter. I know that Darren McFadden is a great player, but I honestly can't see any way that Tebow doesn't deserve the Heisman. Luckily for his campaign, his season is over, so he will miss no time due to the injury. He also should be healed in time for his bowl appearance.
J - Jeff Garcia. It's not overstating the facts to say that the fate of the upstart Buccaneers' season rests on Garcia's injured back. He was injured in the first series of the game and was out until the fourth quarter. His team still beat the struggling Redskins, but the offense looked inept. If Garcia is healthy enough to keep playing the team could easily win 10 games and hit the playoffs. If he is out, the team will struggle badly with Bruce Gradkowski at the helm.
K - Kansas State. Watching George Mason beat Kansas State this week showed me a couple of things that I expect to see repeatedly throughout the season. First, Michael Beasley is absolutely unbelievable. He is a truly freakish talent and I plan to enjoy every second of his one and only year in college. Second, as good as he is he can't win alone. No one else on the team bothered to show up for long stretches, and a feisty George Mason won relatively easily.
L - LSU. For the second time LSU lost as the top ranked team in the country, and for the second time they stayed in the top five. That's ridiculous, and proof that they must have pictures of several pollsters doing things they shouldn't. The game against Arkansas, besides knocking the Tigers out of the national championship picture and hastening the hiring of Les Miles in Michigan, provided one of the most exciting finishes of the year, and was yet more proof that the college overtime system is infinitely superior to the joke that is the NFL's win-the-coin-flip-and-you-win approach.
M - Missouri. The latest team to ascend to No. 1 in the country truly deserves the spot. Kansas struggled at times but was a daunting foe, but Missouri outclassed them. Most impressive was their ability to adjust and regroup when things weren't going their way. The Big 12 championship against Oklahoma has a chance to be a classic, as does a potential high-octane showdown with West Virginia.
N - Nebraska. This is the last time I get to kick on Nebraska this year, so I had better take advantage of it. It was a fitting end to the season - the Huskers were up by 11 at the half and yet lost by two touchdowns. Officially Bill Callahan didn't get fired until the next day, but I'm guessing he'd been pink slipped before he even got back to the locker room after that debacle.
O - Oregon. I feel really, really bad for the Ducks. If Dennis Dixon's knee had held up they'd be at No. 1 right now, and Dixon would be on the way to New York to pick up his Heisman. Instead, Dixon is on crutches, Brady Leaf got knocked out early, and Oregon was shut out by UCLA. What a waste of potential. Of course, wasted potential seems to be the theme of the Pac-10 this year. More proof of that - USC's victory over ASU means that UCLA is alive to win the conference.
P - Priest Holmes. Holmes retired again this week after re-injuring his neck. That development is both sad and sadly inevitable. That's a big blow for a team already without Larry Johnson. Or at least it would be if rookie Kolby Smith of Louisville hadn't stepped up huge for the Chiefs. In his first career start, Smith carried 31 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns against Oakland. Times are tough in K.C., though - that huge running performance wasn't enough to lift his team to a win against the lowly Raiders.
Q - Quit. Maybe the Panthers should just quit playing with a quarterback. They could throw in another running back, and direct snap every time. Heck, they could put an actually four legged panther in at quarterback and they wouldn't be any worse. Neither David Carr nor Matt Moore were anything near effective as the team lost badly yet again, this time to the Saints. The only good news is that the way the NFC is going they aren't out of the playoff picture at 4-7.
R - Raiders, Oakland. Read this next sentence very closely and think about what it actually means - in beating the Chiefs on Sunday the Raiders won their first division game in 17 tries dating back to 2004. I know that the Raiders have been monumentally bad recently, but hearing that put their struggles into perspective. This team really stinks.
S - Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Riders won the Grey Cup as Canadian Football League champions in Toronto on Sunday in a defensive battle that was more interesting than it was exciting. Saskatchewan was the heavy favorite and won despite never really finding their rhythm on offense. Winnipeg deserves tremendous credit for keeping it close - their starting QB, Ryan Dinwiddie of Boise State, was making his first career start thanks to a broken arm suffered by regular starter Kevin Glenn in the eastern final.
T - Thanksgiving. I have a lot of things to be thankful for, but those three games on Thanksgiving day were not among them. You would be hard pressed to come up with three less interesting, more one-sided contests than those ones. Sadly, that has become more the rule than the exception this year with so few good teams and so many bad ones. The only redeeming features of the three games were three pretty stellar performances by the superior quarterbacks in each game.
U - UCLA. It wasn't that surprising that the top-ranked Bruins found a way to come back and beat the 11th-ranked Michigan State Spartans despite being down by 11 at the half on Tuesday night. What was both surprising and impressive, though, is that they did it while only giving six players meaningful playing time. Darren Collison should be back soon, and given how good this team has been already they could really be dangerous with him in the lineup.
V - Victory. I have a soft spot for the Niners, so I feel obligated to write about them every time they win. Unfortunately, that means I don't spend much time writing about them. Not only did they win, but they won a shootout against the Cardinals. Trent Dilfer looked like a younger, better version of himself at the helm, and Frank Gore finally had a game to remind us of last year.
W - West Virginia. The Mountaineers put an exclamation point on their claim to the national title with their absolute decimation of Connecticut on Saturday. The Huskies had a top 25 defense coming into the game, and a 9-2 record, yet West Virginia put up a ridiculous 517 yards on the ground en route to a 66-21 victory. My only fear now is that they will lose to Pittsburgh next weekend - they are sitting in the dreaded No. 2 spot, after all.
X - Xavier. The mascots of this column asserted themselves as a legitimate contender with a huge 80-65 win over No. 8 Indiana on Saturday. Hoosier stars Eric Gordon and D.J. White had solid games, but the Musketeers were able to largely immobilize the rest of the lineup and cruise to an easy win. Xavier junior B.J. Raymond continued his emergence as a very solid player with 19 points and 10 boards.
Y - Yikes. The Rams are, in my mind, a fairly likable franchise, so I feel bad that they can't seem to catch a break. Just when it looked like they were turning things around and salvaging a truly terrible first half, Marc Bulger went down with a concussion, and the Rams came from way ahead to lose to the Seahawks. To make matters worse, the game was right there for the Rams to win, but they fumbled on the one-yard line in the final minute.
Z - Zzzzz. I was very much looking forward to the last college basketball game of the weekend on Sunday night - the final of the Anaheim Classic between USC and the 19th ranked Southern Illinois. I should have just skipped it and gone to bed. The Salukis never bothered to show up. USC rolled to a 12-point lead in the first half, and more than doubled their margin in the second half to end up at 70-45.