by Robert Ferringo - 12/13/2005
Is a push a win?
The answer to that question depends on whom you ask, and it depends on the situation. My own experience this weekend involving the Indianapolis/Jacksonville game sure didn't feel like a victory. In fact, the random, nonsensical events that surrounded this wager and this game served as a perfect example of why it's so incredibly exciting - and amazingly frustrating - to bet on the National Football League.
Last week the talking heads in the mainstream media had the Jags pegged as the trendy pick to reign in the unbeaten Colts. Though Indy has been beating foes by an average of 17 points, the line started at just 8. As the money filtered in on Indy that number crept up to 9.
Then on Sunday morning, for whatever reason (Fred Taylor starting?), all of the late action went the Jaguars way. About 10 minutes before kickoff, the line steamed a full point in about 180 seconds. Literally. I know this because the line changed - twice - while I was trying to place my bet.
I was a firm believer that the Colts would dominate, and was ecstatic to pick up the line at its origin. And for the first 55 minutes of that game I was basking in the Glow of my own Ego as things went exactly according to plan.
Then the roof caved in.
The Jaguars stormed back with a pair of late touchdowns (bolstered by an onside kick recovery and two-point conversion) to lose 26-18. The Jags didn't come through the back door; it was more like squeezing through the basement window. The result was a push for me, and a stolen victory by all those puppets that backed Jacksonville.
But hey, that's how we play. I've been on the other end my fair share of times, so kudos to those that beat the books with the Jags at 8.5. As we've seen time and time again, those last five minutes can be the difference between payday and mayday.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg in a wild, wacky Week 14:
-- New England is going to end Indianapolis' season -- again. I'm serious. The Patriots have the four-seed locked up in the AFC, which means a home game. If they win that, they'll likely go to Indy to face a rusty Colts team on Jan. 14 (Indy will have its last meaningful regular season snap on Dec. 24).
The Pats aren't scared of the Colts. I could see Indy basking in the hype and hoopla of an undefeated regular season, only to get smashed in the face by the defending champs.
-- There were several monster lines this weekend as oddsmakers tried to stem the tide of favorites' recent domination (22-10 ATS over the last two weeks). The move worked, as the chalk went just 2-4-1 against the spread in games with a line of 8 or more. Of those seven match-ups, only two saw the lines drift down due to heavy money on the dogs (Cleveland, Miami). The House likely cleaned up on the rest.
-- The books were also incredibly astute in regards to the week's totals. Ten of the 16 games saw the final end up within seven points of the closing over/under. Two were exact, and three others were within two points. By comparison, in Week 3 four of the totals were within one touchdown, and only one was within two points.
That level of accuracy generally spells doom for the bettor. However, if the bookies are hitting that close on their posts that means that they're susceptible to teasers.
-- Fox's feature on Jerome Bettis - following him around in the days after a game - was a harrowing look into the life of an NFL bruiser. It's truly sobering to see a 33-year-old man, much less a professional athlete, have to hold a rail to hobble up and down stairs.
That also makes what Bettis did on Sunday that much more astounding. Facing the league's most fearsome defense, The Bus was pulverizing for Pittsburgh and rolled for 101 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
-- Does it get any better than Danni Boatwright (the chick who won Survivor)? She's incredibly hot, a millionaire, and is a total sports addict. How good she looked at the Survivor reunion was almost enough to make me forget the last few weeks spent counting her bones on the show (Anyone who watched it know what I'm saying. I had to turn away at times).
-- Tom Brady will be fine this weekend. Mike Vick will not be.
-- Peyton Manning is a machine. Plain and simple. However, in 51 passing attempts this year with the game's margin between 0-7 points, his rating is just 66.6. Also, his rating is only 85.9 when his team is trailing (33 throws) and 82.7 in the last two minutes of either half (34 throws). These numbers aren't terrible, but they're a drastic drop off from the rest of his situational stats.
-- Northwest Missouri State wide receiver E.J. Falkner dropped a wide-open touchdown pass - it bounced right off his chest - that would have given the Bearcats the Division II national championship over Grand Valley State on Saturday. Just a brutal moment for the kid, and a tough ending to an exciting game.
-- Aloha, DeAngelo Hall.
-- What is more immature and irrational than the claims of a "War on Christmas"? These crazed sociopaths wouldn't boycott a retail store that runs sweatshops in Third World countries or one that gets sued for discrimination. But if those same stores dare to print "Happy Holidays" on their posters or coupon booklets, these lunatics start foaming at the mouth and picketing. Ridiculous.
-- Speaking of ridiculous, how about Houston? I haven't seen someone look this bad taking a dive since Hurricane Peter McNeeley's "knee buckled". Over the last three weeks the Texans have:
A. Blown a 10-point lead at home in the final 42 seconds.
B. Allowed the immortal Kyle Boller to engineer a game-winning drive.
C. Watched their kicker miss a 31-yard game-winning field goal by about 50 yards.
The funny thing is that they've covered the spread all three weeks for anyone brave enough to bet on them. Odd league.
-- Another of the biggest oddities of the week occurred when Chicago kicker Robbie Gould shanked an extra point in Pittsburgh after the Bears' lone touchdown. That miss left cemented the final score at 21-9.
The total had started at 31 this week, and inched down to 30 at most books to compensate on the under action. That kick prevented another victory by the books, and allowed another gaggle of gamblers to dance naked and howl in the streets.
-- I've been pretty hard on the Saints over the last few weeks, but they impressed me with their effort on Monday night. For a team that has practiced in a parking lot during the last few weeks, they keep fighting and playing hard each week. They just can't execute.
-- The fact that Lambeau Field was still packed and rowdy as the 2-10 Packers went to overtime against the 4-8 Lions Sunday night says a lot about the Green Bay faithful. Here's a shout out to the joys of public ownership.
-- Hats off to the Eagles. That was a proud performance by a team that's all heart. They just beat the G-Men up, putting out Antonio Pierce and wounding two starting offensive lineman. The Giants earned that victory, but should be a little concerned about their health and the fact that the defense was torn up by Mike McMahon and Ryan Moats.
-- Ronde Barber received the headlines with his record-setting performance (first corner with 20 sacks and 20 interceptions), but it was an all-around outstanding day by the Tampa Bay secondary.
The turning point in their huge win over Carolina came with about five minutes left in the second quarter. First, Brian Kelly made an outstanding play to breakup a bomb to Steve Smith. On the next snap, safety Will Allen delivered a crushing hit on Smith over the middle to force an incompletion. The Bucs took the ball and managed a field goal to close the half. That put them up 10-0 and they never looked back.
-- The Chargers had 13 more first downs, 38 more offensive plays, and had the ball for 21 more minutes than the Dolphins. Yet, they lost? How is that possible?
-- The Steelers offensive line absolutely dominated the Bears front seven. Also, Pittsburgh's play calling was more conducive to what they want to do offensively. They ran 46 times (to just 20 passes) for 190 yards and controlled the clock. If they can do that three more times they'll be in the playoffs.
Not only did The Bus drill Brian Urlacher on his second touchdown, but Urlacher also got in an actual car accident on Monday when some moron rear-ended him. Urlacher walked away unscathed, but I found this an odd twist of fate.
-- Deshaun Foster is made of glass.
-- The fact that seven people voted for Brady Quinn over Reggie Bush for the Heisman just goes to show you how absolutely fanatical Notre Dame backers are.
-- How much fun would a Super Bowl in a cold-weather city be? If you watched the games in Pittsburgh or Buffalo this weekend, you know exactly what I mean.
-- That exchange between John Madden and Al Michaels about Madden spilling mustard on his tie was one of the strangest and most unintentionally hilarious moments in NFL broadcast history. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you missed out.
-- Happy Holidays!
Questions or comments for Robert? Email him at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's football picks service.