This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 12/29/2008
A - Awesome. Life is almost always good for a sports bettor, but this time of year is particularly brilliant. College bowl games almost every day, an NFL playoff race that leads into the playoffs themselves, college basketball getting ready for conference play, and the heart of the NBA and NHL season. It's even prime hot stove season in baseball. It's nirvana for sports bettors.
B - Big Unit. The world's least attractive pitcher has a new address. Randy Johnson signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants this week. Though Johnson is far past his prime, the move makes sense for both sides - Johnson needs five wins to hit 300, and the Giants need something positive for their pathetic franchise. If Johnson can be healthy and even reasonably effective then he and Tim Lincecum could be an intriguing and incredibly contrasting one-two punch.
C - Celtics. Santa was not kind to Boston this year. They lost the rematch of last year's NBA Finals to the Lakers on Christmas Day, then followed that up with a humiliating loss to Golden State the next night. It was their third game in four days, and they looked very tired. Luckily, they next traveled to Sacramento, and that's a cure for any slump. Boston crushed the Kings by 45. The losses by themselves are meaningless - they have virtually clinched the Atlantic already. The team just needs to get things in order before losing becomes a habit. If there is a concern, it's that the team has very little experience dealing with loss over the last two years.
D - Disgusting. The Dallas Cowboys are a truly pathetic joke. Not making the playoffs is one thing, but not even bothering to show up for the game that will determine your fate is something else entirely. If I was Jerry Jones I would fire every single person associated with the team, and then decide which ones could beg enough to get another chance. There wouldn't be many. The problem with that, of course, is that the first person who needs to go is Jones, and that won't happen.
E - Evans, Rashad. UFC 92 had three main event-caliber matches, and at least two of them had somewhat surprising outcomes. Frank Mir looked like a new man in earning a rematch with Brock Lesnar. The big star, though, was Evans. He was undefeated, but he wasn't getting a pile of credit against Forrest Griffin. When the dust cleared, though, Evans was the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. It was decisive, too - the fighters traded punches for two rounds, but Evans was clearly dominant in the third.
F - Futility. Well, they did it. At times it looked like the Lions were going to pull out a win, but they never let the temptation become too much for them. They stuck to their vision, played to their unique abilities, and managed to pull off what no other team has ever done before. Detroit wasn't good enough to really compete with the Packers, and that's saying something because the Packers just aren't that good. To the shock of no one, Rod Marinelli has already joined Greg Millen on the unemployment line.
G - Gonzaga. There is nothing particularly shameful in losing to UConn in overtime. Losing to Portland State when you are favored by 21.5 is a different matter entirely. The Bulldogs obviously were tired and looking forward to turkey instead of concentrating on the game. That's three losses in four games for the team that started out so well, and it raises some obvious concerns. The good thing for the team, though, is that they play in such an easy conference that they can win while far from their best.
H - Happy New Year. Here's hoping that next year is a good one. May the winners be obvious and the results highly profitable.
I - Irish. It was a big win for Notre Dame over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl this week. For the first time in a long time they actually looked like a good team, and Jimmy Clausen for once lived up to his hype coming out of high school. The key to the success seems pretty clear to me - Charlie Weis was stuck in the press box with his knee problems, and he didn't talk to the team at halftime. The less involved he is with things, the better. If only the school's administration could figure that out.
J - Jahvid Best. Cal's running back made a heck of a statement in the Emerald Bowl, and the sophomore certainly secured himself a spot on all the Heisman watch lists next year. Best scampered for 186 yards on just 20 carries, and added two touchdowns. Cal wasn't in their best form in the game, so Best pretty much single-handedly won the game for his team. Best ran for almost 1,600 yards and 15 TDs this year. By far the most impressive part, though, was his 8.2 yards per carry average.
K - Kids. If you had said going into the season that both Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco would lead their teams into the playoffs as rookies then I would hope that the people that care about you would have had you committed. That's just what has happened, though. Not only that, but the two rookies are both road favorites in their games, and it's far from difficult to imagine either one of them winning. It goes to show just how quickly the fate of teams can change in the NFL.
L - Lions. I know I have already talked about Detroit once already in this list, but what they accomplished is so impossibly impressive that they deserve the unprecedented reward of being mentioned here twice. Just think about what they pulled off. The freaking Chiefs won twice. So did the Rams. Cleveland and Cincy each got four wins. Yet somehow the Lions managed not to win one. I tip my cap to you, gentlemen. I never thought I would see this happen.
M - Miami Heat. Talk about a turn-around - it's only December and already the Heat have more wins than they had all of last year. Here's the thing, though - the Heat aren't really that great this year. They are only three games above .500, and though they are solidly in the playoffs right now they are far from a lock to stay there. It really shows how truly terrible they were last season. The team's success hasn't translated into betting success - the team is far from profitable on the year.
N - Nepotism. If you can't earn a job then you might as well be born into one. Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter raised an eyebrow or two in 2005 when he used a 6th-round draft pick to choose his own son Brett, an only moderately-talented forward who played junior hockey for Sutter's brothers team in Red Deer. The eyebrows were really on the rise when Brett, home for the holidays from the AHL, was called up to play with the Flames. The player scored a goal in his first game, but he thoroughly neglected his defensive duties. The GM asserted that the player was treated like any other guy, but no one really believes that.
O - Ouch. The Steelers ended their regular season with one of their easiest wins ever when they got past the Browns. The win was not without a cost, though. Ben Roethlisberger was taken off the field strapped to a backboard after suffering a nasty concussion. Everyone insists that Roethlisberger will be totally fine after the bye week, but I'll only believe it once I see him start to take snaps in the playoffs. On the plus side, the Steelers are in pretty good shape at QB - Byron Leftwich is one of the best backups in the league.
P - Pat White. It seems like Pat White has been playing college football for about 15 years. His career has finally ended, and it went out with a bang. White completed 26-of-32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns to come out ahead in a shootout with North Carolina. With the win White can claim what few players can - he was the starting quarterback for four bowl victories. He was also named MVP for the final three victories. It will be interesting to see if White finds a home on Sundays.
Q - Quit. Romeo Crennel should have saved his dignity and quit a few weeks ago. Things certainly weren't going to get any better in Cleveland. Instead, Crennel was dumped by the Browns hours after the season ended, and he's very unlikely to ever land another job as a head coach. At least he's not alone - Rod Marinelli and Eric Mangini joined him in unemployment, and several other guys should follow suit soon.
R - Revenge. This is straight out of a bad Disney script - Chad Pennington picks himself up after being unceremoniously dumped by his former team, lands with the worst team in the league, and leads them back to respectability, ultimately making the playoffs by beating his former team in the last game of the season to make the playoffs and knock the opposition out. Ridiculous, impossible, but all true. The Dolphins should be very proud. The key to their success is obvious - they picked players from Michigan with two of their top three picks.
S - Schnellenberger, Howard. This is a heck of a story. Schnellenberger led his Florida Atlantic Owls to a win in the Motor City Bowl over Central Michigan. That moved him to 6-0 on his career in bowl games. Schnellenberger has had an amazing career - he was the offensive coordinator for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, he won a national championship caching the Miami Hurricanes, and he has won bowls with FAU the last two years after starting the program totally from scratch a decade ago.
T - TCU. The Horned Frogs didn't quite accomplish all they wanted to this year, but they did get to crush the hopes of another thwarted BCS Buster in their bowl game. The Poinsettia Bowl was a heck of a matchup, and in the end TCU squeaked past Boise State by one. The victory was a clear result of the dominance of the TCU defense over the Boise State offense. If only pre-Christmas bowls were always that good.
U - Ugly. The NBA has a lot of truly awful teams these days, and that makes for some bad games. The game between the Wizards and the Thunder this week, though, was statistically the worst game ever played. The teams were a combined 7-51, and no game has ever matched two teams with lower win percentages that have played at least 25 games. Washington won, but who really cares? Both these teams have the potential to tie or beat the 1973 Sixers at 9-73.
V - Valueless. It wasn't that long ago that Stevey Franchise was a relevant NBA player. A star, even. Now Francis is an afterthought. He was traded from Houston to Memphis this week, at a price of almost nothing. Francis and a 2009 second round pick were sent to Memphis for a 2011 conditional second round pick. Francis hasn't played this year, and hasn't played a full season since 2005 when he was in Orlando. This is his fourth team since the start of that season.
W - Washington Capitals. The Caps are red hot. They have won 10 of their last 12 games, and it's often in impressive fashion. Take their last game before Christmas, for example. They fell behind 4-0 to the Rangers, but fought back to win it, 5-4. The hot streak has Washington miles ahead in the Southeast Division. That means that the team is not only securely in the playoff picture, but also becoming a team that no one will want to play when they get there.
X - Xavier. Two weeks in a row now the news has not been happy for our mascots. They did not rebound well from the manhandling they got from Duke, losing again three days later, this time to Butler. Losing by nine at home when you are favored by eight is never a good thing. Hopefully some turkey and a much easier schedule for a while will combine to help this team rediscover their mojo again.
Y - Yankees. New York seems determined to make a mockery of baseball. They signed Mark Teixera for way, way too much money this week, and the best reason that can be given for doing it is so that the Red Sox didn't get him. Their already massive payroll is now incomprehensible after this offseason, and they may not be done yet. I don't know about you, but I will be cheering against them every time they take the field this year. Not that that's new, of course.
Z - Zzzzz. The last weekend of the NFL season was mostly exciting, and there were an impressive number of very important games to be played. Every year, though, I am struck by just how bad some of the final games are. Kansas City/Cincinnati is the most obvious offender, but Washington/San Francisco and Seattle/Arizona weren't far off. The world would be a better place if all of those games had been cancelled. Or if several of those teams were folded, for that matter.