FRIDAY UPDATE: Apparently Jay Cutler’s precious little melon is too bruised for him to play, so the line in the Chicago-Carolina game has moved from -3 to +1. That’s right, an 0-4 team with a rookie quarterback and an injured star receiver is favored by a point against a 3-1 team with a defense that successfully held the Green Bay Packers to only 17 points. I don’t care if they’re playing in Carolina – even if this game were played on the moon and the Panthers were the only ones with space suits I’d still like the Bears here. With the revised spread, Gamblor and Son of Gamblor still like Chicago, but only for $31.52 now. Unfortunately for me, I had already put my bet in yesterday before the line changed, so I’m stuck. But I’m actually not all that scared. I’m hoping that the rest of Chicago’s team will step up to fill the void left by Jay Cutler’s absence. Also, the line in the Tennessee-Dallas game moved by half a point, so Gamblor’s hedge bet is different by a couple of dollars, but nothing significant.
Last week was another great one for the computer – both models delivered weighted win percentages of better than 70% (75.4% and 73.3% for Gamblor and Son of Gamblor, respectively) and the total profit for the week was over $200, bringing the season’s winnings up to a total of $1238 – see the summary table at the bottom of the page for a week-by-week breakdown. Both models have a weighted win percentage of over 80% for the season, which is truly incredible, and certainly unsustainable. But that won’t slow me down too much as the computer’s got it’s second-biggest bet of the year coming up this week – on a team that just gave up an NFL record for sacks in a half.
Last Sunday the New York Giants absolutely brutalized Jay Cutler, as the Bears offensive line was completely ineffective at stopping even a four man rush. The Giants recorded an NFL record nine sacks in the first half, and probably would have picked up plenty more had Cutler not left the game with a mild concussion. The Giants also sent backup quarterback Todd Collins to the sideline as well in the second half on another brutal hit. It was amazing that the game was actually close – the Bears were within a touchdown until a touchdown by Brandon Jacobs late in the 4th quarter sealed the win for the Giants. I don’t normally dedicate my features to a single team, but I thought in tribute to the Giants’ defense’s spectacular performance I’d do a feature this week on the 5 most significant – and memorable – sacks in NY Giants history.
5. Michael Strahan sacks Brett Farve for the single-season sack record, January 7, 2002. Michael Strahan, whose diastema has always made me secretly hope to see him linked with Anna Paquin as a celebrity couple, came into the final game of the 2001 campaign with 21.5 sacks, just half a sack short of Mark Gastineau’s record. With the playoff-bound Green Bay Packers ahead 35-24 in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, Brett Farve changed the play call and fell at the feet of Strahan, who tumbled on top of him for the record-setting sack. Although it broke a long-standing NFL record, it was a bittersweet moment for most fans, because Farve had obviously contrived to let his friend Strahan to set the record and it diminished Strahan’s accomplishment.
4. George Martin sacks John Elway for a safety in Superbowl XXI, January 25, 1987. The Broncos entered Superbowl XXI as something of an underdog darling, on the heels of a 98-yard drive led by John Elway in the final five minutes of the AFC championship. The first half was a very tight game, with the teams exchanging the lead throughout the first half. The Broncos held a 10-7 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first half, when defensive end George Martin sacked John Elway in the end zone. The sack erased any fears of a Broncos encore of their lengthy drive against Cleveland, returned the ball to the Giants, and sent the team into halftime with momentum that carried through the second half as the Giants racked up 30 second-half points en route to a 39-20 victory.
3. Jay Alford sacks Tom Brady in the closing moments of Superbowl XLII, February 3, 2008. As the Onion summarized perfectly, Superbowl XLII marked the perfect end to the Patriots season for everyone except Patriots fans. The Giants harrassed Tom Brady throughout the game, preventing him from making the same kinds of connections with his receivers that had allowed the Patriots to go undefeated throughout the regular season and the AFC playoffs. The Giants sacked Brady a total of five times during the game, and hit him a total of twenty, but the most significant sack came with just twenty seconds remaining on the game clock. The Patriots, facing a three-point deficit after Eli Manning and David Tyree’s historic connection set up a Giants touchdown to take the lead, had the ball on their own 26-yard line with 0:29 seconds and three time outs. After a first-down incompletion, rookie Jay Alford tracked down Tom Brady in the backfield, costing the Patriots 10 yards and a timeout, and ultimately sealing the Giants’ victory by forcing the Patriots into 3rd-and-20 and 4th-and-20 incompletions.
2. Leonard Marshall sacks Joe Montana in the NFC Championship game, January 20, 1991. Although the Giants had managed to hold the 49ers offense in check throughout most of the NFC Championship following the 1990 season, the 49ers held a 13-9 lead in the fourth quarter and Joe Montana looked like he’d be able to lead the 49ers to yet another Superbowl, with the potential to win an unprecedented third title in a row. But Leonard Marshall managed to get up from a block that had cut him to the turf and chased Montana to the sideline, leveling him with a blindside hit that knocked the quarterback from the game and effectively ended his career in San Francisco. The Giants went on to pick up a pair of field goals that gave them a 15-13 victory, and they went on to win Superbowl XXV by a score of 20-19 over the Buffalo Bills on Scott Norwood’s kick that famously missed “wide right.”
1. Lawrence Taylor sacks Joe Theismann on Monday Night Football, November 18, 1985. With an entire nation watching a widely anticipated matchup between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, a single hit on Joe Theismann changed the game of football forever. Lawrence Taylor’s incredible prowess at linebacker was the hallmark of a very tough Giants team, and the Redskins were only one year removed from back-to-back Superbowl appearances. In the second quarter, the Redskins attempted to run a flea flicker (a play famously run later by the Giants in their Superbowl XXI victory over the Broncos) but the play fell apart, and Taylor lunged over a teammate to pull Theismann to the ground, pinning his lower leg and snapping both bones. To me, Taylor’s reactions is the most memorable part of this play, as the linebacker recognized immediately what had happened and leapt up and immediately began signalling to the Giants sideline for medical help. Theismann’s bones did not knit properly and he never played football again, and the hit inspired a revolution in how teams approached quarterback protection and the importance of the left tackle position.
As I mentioned above, Gamblor and Son of Gamblor are both very, very interested in the Chicago Bears this week, and also have a lot of money invested in the Washington Redskins. Fingers crossed!
|Away||Home||Spread||Gamblor’s Pick||Bet Amount||Son of Gamblor’s Pick||Bet Amount||Overall Pick||Overall Wager|
Computer’s Pick: Denver (+7)
Bet Amount: $10.74 (Gamblor only)
|COMMENTS: This is just a plain old hedge bet by Gamblor, and most of the model agree that the spread is about where it should be. It actually seems a bit high to me; Baltimore looks strong this year but not overwhelmingly so. I think I’m comfortable getting the points here – Denver’s definitely capable of a few early or late scores that will ensure that this games stays close.|
Computer’s Pick: Jacksonville (-1)
Bet Amount: $2.57 (Conflict)
|COMMENTS: Wow, what a suck-fest. As I mentioned last week, I’m instituting a strict cutoff policy of not betting on games where the wager is less than $5 (that’s the minimum at my sportsbook, and I used to round up sometimes, but I won’t be doing that anymore). I have the feeling that Maurice Jones-Drew will see lots and lots of action in this game, and Jacksonville will grind out a relatively tight victory.|
|KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Computer’s Pick: Indianapolis (-8.5)
Bet Amount: $2.06 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: The Kansas City Chiefs certainly aren’t as good as their record, but by this point I’m wondering how much of a fluke they really are. They haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game (even to the Chargers, who have averaged 33 since then) and they just seem to keep winning games. It seems unlikely they’ll come away with a victory here against the Colts, who are good as they’ve ever been despite their record, but I think the Chiefs will manage to keep it close enough for the spread to factor in. Both models agree that the spread is too large, but not so much so that Vegas is trying to scare people away from the Colts.|
|SAINT LOUIS RAMS
Computer’s Pick: St. Louis (+3)
Bet Amount: $4.91 (Conflict)
|COMMENTS: Gamblor sees this as a pretty straightforward hedge bet on behalf of the Rams, while Son of Gamblor thinks the travel is a bit too much for them and would prefer to bet on the Lions. I’m conflicted myself. Neither of these teams has much business being considered as a favorite, so I’ll assume that the home field advantage for the Lions is worth less than three points and predict the Rams win this one outright.|
Computer’s Pick: Cleveland (+3)
Bet Amount: $6.79 (Gamblor only)
|COMMENTS: Simple little hedge bet on the Browns.|
|TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Computer’s Pick: Tampa Bay (+6.5)
Bet Amount: $9.38 (Conflict)
|COMMENTS: Once again the two schemes disagree, with Gamblor preferring Tampa Bay as a hedge bet and Son of Gamblor taking the host. I have a soft spot for Tampa Bay this year (probably because they’re one of the few teams that managed to win me money against Green Bay last year), so I’ll go with my heart on this one.|
Computer’s Pick: Chicago (-3)
Bet Amount: $296.20 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: This game worries me a lot, but not for the obvious reason of Chicago’s pass-protection. I feel very strongly that the Bears will bounce back just fine after their embarrassment against the Giants. The announcers kept going on about how Cutler was holding onto the ball too long, but most of his sacks weren’t coming during blitzes. Carolina won’t be able to match that some front-four dominance, and the Bears defense will feast upon the fact that the Panthers are missing Steve Smith, have a rookie quarterback who went through training camp as the backup, and the lackluster performance of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart behind a banged-up offensive line. The real reason I’m worried is that my sportbook is pushing the juice HARD towards the Panthers. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that this is usually a bad sign for my bet – when the juice moves from -110 to -100 or even +105 (as it has done for this game) the bet never seems to pay off. And this is despite the fact that 65% of bets are already on the Bears. It seems very, very, very shady to me. Of course, it’s not up to me whether I’m actually going to bet on this game – I have absolutely no discretion in the matter. I’m just not too psyched to be putting so much of this season’s winnings on the line in this situation.|
|GREEN BAY PACKERS
Computer’s Pick: Washington (+2.5)
Bet Amount: $124.27 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: Again, another game I’m not too thrilled about. Green Bay hasn’t really beaten me too badly this season, which makes me think they’re about due.|
|NEW YORK GIANTS
Computer’s Pick: NY Giants (+3)
Bet Amount: $0.63 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: Neither model has a particularly strong opinion about this game, and I suppose I don’t either. I am a bit surprised to see such a low spread, but I think it’s a bit of an overreaction to recent events – the Giants’ domination of the Bears and the Texans submission to the Cowboys. But I wouldn’t read too much into either one. I think Houston is good enough to put up a healthy point total at home, and should cover the spread in this one.|
|NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Computer’s Pick: Arizona (+7)
Bet Amount: $12.30 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: The computer is jumping all over Arizona – both of Gamblor’s hedge and flip models like Arizona here, as does Son of Gamblor. But none of them are particularly confident about it. New Orleans hasn’t really dominated anybody so far this season, and despite all of Arizona’s issues, I think they’ll hold tough at home and force the Saints to eke out another close win..|
|SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Computer’s Pick: Oakland (+6.5)
Bet Amount: $0.86 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: I’m pretty grateful I don’t have to put any money on this game, and that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about it.|
Computer’s Pick: Tennessee (+7)
Bet Amount: $7.05 (Gamblor only)
|COMMENTS: Another relatively small hedge bet on the underdog. I actually feel pretty unsettled about this one – I feel like Dallas on an upslope, while Tennessee is fading towards mediocrity. I’m feeling like their victory against Houston will have given the Cowboys some momentum, and they’ll build on that in this game and dominate the Titans completely.|
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Computer’s Pick: San Francisco (-3.5)
Bet Amount: $60.71 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: This is the computer’s third-biggest bet of the week. Public perception is that the 49ers can’t possibly start their season 0-4, and that Kevin Kolb is an inferior quarterback just because he got passed over for Michael Vick, and the computer apparently agrees with that. However, it’s going to be very difficult for the 49ers to pick themselves up after such a heartbreaking loss last week. I think the 49ers will win this game, but it will be tight, and they will fail to cover the spread.|
NEW YORK JETS
Computer’s Pick: Minnesota (+4)
Bet Amount: $5.90 (Consensus)
|COMMENTS: It was amusing to me to read a New York writer’s column (I’d post a link but I can’t remember where I read it) that just completely trashed the Jets after the lost to Baltimore in the season opener. His argument was that after opening their training camp to HBO’s Hard Knocks and Rex Ryan’s bold claim that the Jets – at their best – could beat any other team in the NFL at their best, a loss to the Ravens completely deflated the team’s expectations. Of course, that happened to be a one-point loss, on the road, to a team that many people consider a Superbowl contender. I still consider Baltimore overrated, but after that loss the Jets quietly went about their business and won their next three games, including a 14 point victory over a Patriots team that nobody even gave them a chance against. I do think this game is a good matchup for the Jets. I’m not even sure it will be worth Revis’ trouble to cover Randy Moss in this game, the Jets’ run defense will be able to focus on Adrian Petersen, and even though the Vikings’ defense is pretty tough, the Jets should be able to put up enough points courtesy of turnovers that they should be able to win this game handily.|
|Week||GAMBLOR||SON OF GAMBLOR||Profit|
|W||L||P||Weighted Wins||Weighted Picks||Weighted Win %||W||L||P||Weighted Wins||Weighted Picks||Weighted Win %|