NFL Betting: Favorites Causing Big Headaches for Bookies
by Larry Fiske - 10/28/2009
10? 14? 20?
How high is too high?
Everyone from potato country in upstate Maine to the Marina district in southwest San Diego knows that parity is a thing of the past in the NFL, and betting lines are ever so slowly inching up as good teams continue to paste bad teams week after week.
New England made a mockery of the 15.5 points it gave to both Tennessee and Tampa Bay, winning by a combined 94-7 and scoring 80 consecutive points in the process.
Indianapolis, as expected, swatted aside the Rams and easily covered the 14 points that oddsmakers had given St. Louis, which was playing at home. Two weeks prior, the Colts gave 10 to playoff-hopeful Seattle and dominated the Seahawks, besting the number with a touchdown to spare.
The list goes on: Green Bay giving 14 and covering with a 26-0 win over Detroit; Minnesota pasting the Rams by 28 after giving only 10. Etc. etc.
Are the lines too short? Should the oddsmakers start treating pro games the way they would treat Ohio State against Rhode Island?
Jay Kornegay, the sportsbook manager at the Las Vegas Hilton, has forgotten more about the business than most of us will ever know. Here's his take:
"I don't remember the NFL having so many uncompetitive teams," he says. "This has been a challenge for all the bookmakers. Sportsbooks have been adjusting each week but we still haven't caught up to the disparity we are seeing these days. History and experience tells us these type of [weak] teams usually will come around and be competitive, but for the most part this year it hasn't happened yet. You can't make knee-jerk adjustments, because the history of the NFL tells us teams compete and stay competitive at times."
The toilet-circling teams are making life miserable for books everywhere.
"Teams like the Browns, Rams, Lions, Raiders, and the Bucs are making us nervous because if they all go down like they did yesterday, the books are in for a long day," adds Kornegay. "[Sunday] was probably one of the worst days in the history of the LV sportsbooks. Every week we'll need two or at least one of these teams to step up and win. We don't need them all to win or cover since the betting public usually parlays them. It wasn't the 'sharp' money that beat us; it was all the 'average Joe' money that came in."
There are indications that the lines might be moving up a bit. Indianapolis gives 11.5 points Sunday at home against a decent San Francisco team that still thinks it can win the NFC West. Arizona is a 10-point home favorite over defending NFC South champ Carolina. And the Chargers give a whopping 16.5 to Oakland in one of the highest numbers in recent memory between two division rivals.
Even at those high numbers, though, the public is hammering the favorites. In early betting two of three bettors like Indy, three of five are backing San Diego, and a whopping three of four like Arizona to cover.
One note of caution for bettors: Two years ago, when the Patriots were on a scorched-earth campaign, New England covered easily for the first eight weeks as the number swelled, reaching its peak in Week 12 when the Eagles traveled to Foxboro and were 24-point dogs. Including that game the Pats were an average 16.5 favorite in the final nine games (including the Super Bowl). They covered just one of those nine.
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