Fishing in Lockness – NFL Divisional Playoffs

by dave on January 11, 2013

My Vegas condo agreement requires me to publicly tout gambling picks for the week. I can’t GUARANTEE A FIVE STAR LOCK OF THE MILLENNIUM, YOU ARE A COMMUNIST TRANSVESTITE IF YOU DON’T BET ON THIS but I can identify the games that seem to me to have an essence of Lockness about them, which smells like a mix of algae, brackish water and lizard breath.

Also, I am totally welcoming of all communists. Transgendered, transvestite or other.

It is really kind of hard to believe we are here. No more college football. Seven NFL games remaining on the season. We are closer to the vast never-ending desert that is the off-season than we are to Thanksgiving. Where did the season go?

If I look for a positive it is that with only 4 games to analyze, it is easier to get in-depth on each game and feel better about laying money on it. The negative being that with only four games each will receive a larger amount of money and the point spreads will be that much stronger. I also have more money to focus on a smaller menu of options.

So if you are keeping track at home that means I am applying more money to more sharply developed lines that I may or may not have a better feel for. Yes, that is a recipe for big losses. At least Notre Dame isn’t involved this weekend.

But that is what I signed up for and I am going down swinging. A year from now I will be back in Denver, dreaming of the ability to lose money on NFL playoff games. In the spare hours I am not back at my real job, I will stare longingly at the lines on donbest.com and identify where I would be betting. All of my complaints this year about losses and bad beats are just the whining of the spoiled – “But daddy, I don’t want a pony with white spots!”

Instead of lamenting tough lines and the inevitable losses, I need to spend the next three weeks just appreciative of what I am doing. How many people out there would kill to toss aside life’s pressures and spend a football season gambling in Vegas?

Put your hands down, someone might see you.

So, forget any more complaints from me. I get to spend the weekend in sports books of the Strip yelling and cheering for football games in which I have vested emotional and financial interests. Even If I lose my bets, I am the lucky one.

Lockness #1 – Denver (-9) vs Baltimore

Ok, if I lose this one, I will not feel lucky. For much of the season, I have avoided crossing the streams of emotional ties and financial bets. I may have learned a lot of tricks of the professional gambler this fall, but one component I have yet to master is the balancing of fan and bettor. I struggle to dispassionately analyze my teams. I spent the last weeks of the regular season bracing for the inevitable Broncos no-show game. Yet, it never came. They kept winning and, more importantly, kept covering the spread. I enjoyed the run as a fan, but never profited from it as a bettor. Which was fine with me.

But now, only four games remain and the Broncos possess home field advantage I would have avoided them again except the handicapping system I am now using, that showed such promise last week, labels them the best bet on the board this week. My system projects the Broncos to win by more than 12. At a 9 point line, this is the most value from a single team. Damnit.

Setting aside the quantitative rationale, what makes me feel more comfortable about this bet is the display by the Ravens after last week’s win over the Colts. The Ravens celebrated and honored Ray Lewis like their season was over. I know that it was Lewis’ final home game but that much of a celebration screamed ‘we know we are done’. Can they find some new wrinkle to close the gap that we saw between these teams when they played a few weeks ago? Hard to see that. Even if the Ravens defense finds a way to slow the Broncos offense, the Broncos defense has grown into such a solid unit, I struggle to see Joe Flacco’s unibrow coming into a raucous, freezing Mile High and move the ball consistently.

My math shows that the Broncos will roll and all of the intangible analysis I can do, says the same. Gulp.

Lockness #2 – New England vs Houston Over (47.5)

With memories of the Patriots beating the Texans 42-14 on December 13, it is easy to imagine another Patriots blow out. I actually think that the Texans will play this game much closer and would lean to them covering the +9 point spread. The parallels with 2010 make this very interesting.

On December 6th, 2010 the Patriots beat the Jets in Foxborough 45-3. The Jets returned in the divisional playoffs and beat the Patriots 28-21. Could this forecast a much better game, even an upset? If so, I am not the only one that thinks so:

As of Thursday, Bob Scucci, sports book director for Coast Casinos, had taken twice as many bets on the New England Patriots as he had on the Houston Texans.

However, the total money bet on Sunday’s second divisional playoff game was almost even.

“The public loves the Patriots, but the bigger money is on the Texans,” said Scucci, a respected Las Vegas veteran, who oversaw the Stardust sports book during its prime in the 1990s.

But having just been burned by betting on historical parallels (Hi, Notre Dame!) and with my system projecting a 10-point Patriots win, I am hesitant to jump heavily on the Texans. If the line gets above 10 before the game starts I will probably bet something, but I feel much better about the Over.

We know the Patriots are going to score points. They always do, having scored less than 20 points once all season (back in week #2’s upset loss to Arizona, a loss that looks dumber and dumber by the week). If the Texans are able to find ways to score on the Patriots defense, then the Over should be easily by-passed. Not even the weather, the great variable in New England this time of year will cooperate – forecast shows a clear day and a high in the mid-50’s on Sunday.

My system projects nearly 57 points, passing the total line by almost 10 points. This makes the Over my favorite bet of the weekend and my biggest bet.

Obviously, this means the proper bet is a parlay of the Patriots and the Under.

Lockness #3 – Hail Mary of the Week: Parlay – Ravens, Packers, Seahawks Moneyline (+2400)

We’ve all been there. Bets have been going against us all day. Down to one last bet, it just isn’t worth trying to win less than double our money because when you are trapped at the bottom of a well, 3 feet off the ground is still deep in the well. We need the big score to get back. We could look for a parlay and hope 5 or 6 things all break our way or we can find one highly improbable thing that might, maybe, possibly, could happen and go all-in on it. This is the ‘Break Glass in Case of Emergency’ bet in the sports book.

With 2 big underdogs there are a couple high moneyline options if you think the Texans (+375) or Ravens (+350) can pull the upset, but if you are going to swing for the fences you might as well swing for McCovey Cove. This bet is less about making a lot of money and more about the emotional hedge. I will be actively cheering against this bet to win. My desire for the Broncos and Niners to win has nothing to do with making money, these are personal. Given that, if they are going to lose I might as well make some money off of it.

I threw in the Seahawks because despite my love of the city of Seattle I am getting a little sick of the orgasmic love of Russell Wilson and will be cheering for the Falcons this weekend (I also have a small bet on the Falcons to win and cover the -2.5 spread). Wilson has become the agnostic equivalent of Tim Tebow. He is the favorite quarterback of bandwagon fans that describe themselves as ‘not religious but spiritual’.

An exciting style of play, charisma and being on a team with a great defense has led to a never-ending media love-fest. Wilson definitely has a chance at a better career than Tebow, possessing more traditional quarterback skills, but that doesn’t mean the current obsession hasn’t gotten out of whack. Wilson going into Atlanta and getting reminded he is an undersized rookie would be a good way to quiet all of those media members that begin rubbing themselves every time a young quarterback shows up and exceeds expectations.

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