UPDATE: Now with sexy new summary table! Starting next week I’ll be posting the consensus pick in the game summaries below.
Gamblor has been hot, hot, HOT. And so has Los Angeles. The Bears’ win on Monday night left Gamblor with an incredible 13-3 record for the week and a weighted win percentage of 81.7%, which along with the first two weeks of this season (weighted win percentages of 89.6% and 89.1%) is one of the hottest streaks I’ve ever seen the computer put together. Monday’s game also coincided with the peak of an unbearable heat wave here in Los Angeles, where the temperature reached 113 degrees – a local record. And not just a record for late September – an all-time record. Since you probably care a lot about my fancy Hollywood lifestyle, I’ll share that I’m currently subletting a loft in downtown Los Angeles (from a guy who’s out of town working on Transformers 3). Remember that Simpsons episode where Milhouse announced that the bakery had caught fire and all of downtown smelled like cookies? Well, this heat wave has been just like that, except that all of downtown smells like hot garbage instead. Son of Gamblor also had a solid week, going 5-4 with a very respectable weighted win percentage of 56.9%. All told, the computer pulled in $175 last week, bringing the season’s winnings up to a total of $1,038.
Underdogs have been on fire this season. So far, underdogs have a record of 28-16-4. I can guarantee that this is not going to last. One of the purposes of the hedge model, which bets exclusively on underdogs, is to ensure that Gamblor makes a pick for each and every game during the week. But I’m getting sick of putting down substantial bets on games where there’s no genuine edge. So I’ve decided to scale back the hedge model – each pick is going to be weighted at one-quarter of what it used to. Which means that there won’t be any $50 hedge bets anymore – the maximum is about $20. Futhermore, I’ll be instituting a strict $5.00 minimum – any games that don’t cross the threshold will receive no bet. But to celebrate the record heat here in Los Angeles and Gamblor’s corresponding hot streak, I thought it would be interesting to look at five NFL games that were played in some of the most extreme field conditions ever. One of the most wonderful things about football is that there is only ONE weather condition that players are not forced to endure – lightning. Other than that, absolutely anything goes. It doesn’t matter how hot, cold, windy, or wet the conditions are – they’ll still play. Here are five of the toughest field conditions that teams have ever faced in NFL history.
5. Hottest Temperature. Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals, Sun Devil Stadium, September 21, 2003. It’s not hard to predict where and when this record was set – an early-season game in Tempe, Arizona. Considering that the Cardinals have wisely moved into a dome (that features an awesome moving field instead of one of those stupid retractable roofs), it’s also a record that’s unlikely to be broken. The temperature was 102 degrees at kickoff, and eventually climbed all the way up to 106 at the start of the fourth quarter. Arizona ended up taking a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, and sealed the victory when Brett Farve tossed an end-zone interception with seven seconds left.
4. Worst Turf Condition. Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, November 26, 2007. A number of games had been given the title of “Mud Bowl” prior to this Monday night contest between the Steelers and the winless Dolphins, but the fact that this game ended with a score of 3-0 makes this the definitive game. The field surface had been previously torn up by two University of Pittsburgh games and a few high school contests, so the grounds crew had rolled out completely new sod on top of the old surface on Saturday morning. But a full day of torrential rain and associated drainage issues caused the new grass to lose all integrity, and players were completely unable to run or make cuts at full speed. Most players later agreed that it was the worst field they had ever played on. The Pittsburgh Steelers eventually prevailed on a 24-yard field goal by Jeff Reed.
3. Strongest Winds. New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium, December 28, 2008. Again, the title of “Wind Bowl” has been bestowed upon several games in history, including a 2005 game between the 49ers and the Bears, and the 1995 Grey Cup (the CFL’s equivalent to the Superbowl and the only time an American team has won the title). But the most memorable example was a late-season game in 2008 between the Bills and the Patriots. The winds gusted up to 55 mph during the game, blowing away a referee’s hat and visibly tilting the goalposts, and the Patriots almost completely abandoned their passing game, as Matt Cassel threw just eight passes the entire game. The Patriots won 13-0, but were bumped from playoff contention when the Baltimore Ravens won elsewhere to secure the final wild card spot.
2. Worst Visibility. Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears, Soldier Field, December 31, 1998. This is actually my personal favorite. Chicago in December is generally known for high winds and freezing temperatures, but a sudden temperature change led to a thick bank of fog rolling over the stadium during the second quarter of this divisional playoff game. The Bears built an early lead in the first two quarters, before visibility became so limited that players could not see the sidelines or first-down markers, and CBS was forced to rely on sideline reporters for much of the commentary and updates during the game. Neither team was able to produce much offense in the second half, and Chicago eventually won 20-12.
1. Coldest Temperature. Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field, December 31, 1967. Known as the “Ice Bowl,” the 1967 NFL championship is generally considered to be one of the best – if not the best – game in NFL history. The official temperature at kickoff was -13°F, with a (modern) wind chill of -36°F. The Cowboys, coached by Tom Landry, took a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Packers, led by Bart Starr, drove the length of the field in the last five minutes of the game – as the temperature dropped all the way down to -20°F and scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak so famous that even Jerry Kramer’s block that opened the hole for Starr to tumble through is a legend in its own right. It was coach Vince Lombardi’s fifth NFL title in seventh years, and he retired after the Packers went on to rout the AFL Champion Oakland Raiders in Superbowl II, which was little more than an afterthought at the time.
|Away||Home||Spread||Gamblor’s Pick||Bet Amount||Son of Gamblor’s Pick||Bet Amount||Overall Pick||Overall Bet|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Gamblor’s Pick: San Francisco (+6.5)
Bet Amount: $2.06 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: Atlanta is starting to look awfully good. I have no idea how San Francisco is going to keep up. Why wouldn’t the Falcons win this game by more than a touchdown? I’m worried that this line is a trap – but it’s not enough of one to convince Gamblor or Son of Gamblor to bet on this game.|
|NEW YORK JETS
Gamblor’s Pick: Buffalo (+5)
Bet Amount: $14.60 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: Gamblor feels a lot better about this contest – as do I. The Jets have just won two tough divisional games against what they consider to be genuine rivals. They won’t feel the same way about Buffalo. I don’t believe that Buffalo has any chance whatsoever to win this game, but it’s also unlikely that the Jets will do anything offensively other than use this chance to rejuvenate their underperforming running game. Jets win, but it’s close.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Cleveland (+3)
Bet Amount: $7.78 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: The computer is pretty much perfectly split on this one – Gamblor likes the Browns, while Son of Gamblor likes the Bengals (for $5.55), so I won’t have a bet on this game. It seems like every year the Bengals and Browns play two games that I’m completely indifferent to, and the first of this year’s pair is no exception. Actually, I see this game as a relatively even matchup, so taking the home team plus three points seems like a no-brainer.|
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Detroit (+14.5)
Bet Amount: $103.50 (Flip – 90%)
|COMMENTS: And here we go. Son of Gamblor is in full agreement about this game, with its contribution of $126.45, meaning that this bet of $229.94 on the Lions will consume almost 2/3 of my total wagers for the week. Does this fill me with dread? Not as much as it should, to be honest. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise if the Lions somehow managed to find a way to win this game? Well, that won’t happen. But they moved the ball reasonably well against the Vikings last week even as they blew two wonderful chances for a backdoor cover. And their first two games were lost by a combined score of eight points. Green Bay certainly has the offense to light up the scoreboard against the Lions, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be properly motivated for this game.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Denver (+6.5)
Bet Amount: $2.86 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: I’m surprised Denver isn’t getting more respect here. Chris Johnson will have a field day, but Kyle Orton is looking like an entirely different player this season, and it’s hard to imagine that the Broncos won’t be able to keep up with the Titans. Son of Gamblor actually likes the Titans in this game, for $11.55, so I’ll have a bet in on Tennessee for $8.69, which is a little unsettling for me – I like Denver in this one.|
SAINT LOUIS RAMS
Gamblor’s Pick: St. Louis (+1)
Bet Amount: $2.86 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: Rounding this one down. Don’t care about this game at all. St. Louis will win straight up.|
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Gamblor’s Pick: New Orleans (-13.5)
Bet Amount: $10.42 (Flip)
|COMMENTS: Gamblor likes the Saints in this one, and Son of Gamblor likes them even more, for $33.74. I’m glad. I like the Saints too. I know this is a divisional game and these are usually close, but the Saints are due for a blowout. They’ll get it here.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Baltimore (+1.5)
Bet Amount: $7.99 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: Pittsburgh has been this season’s biggest surprise so far. I thought they’d finally be ready to phone one in last week, and I was spectacularly wrong. I’m not making that mistake again this week. This spread isn’t quite enough – I think the Steelers will win by about three points or so.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Oakland (+3)
Bet Amount: $5.08 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: I’m actually surprised that this spread isn’t higher. Tennessee put up 38 points on the Raiders – why wouldn’t the Texans put up more? Games like this make me pretty enthusiastic about my new hedge strategy, because instead of losing $20, I’ll only lose $5.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Jacksonville (+7.5)
Bet Amount: $5.71 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: This spread is too high – Jacksonville always keeps it close against the Colts. I’m happy to get the points here – it should be more than enough.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Washington (+6)
Bet Amount: $4.97 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: A bump from Son of Gamblor (for $4.41) means that there will actually be a bet on this game. Sounds fine to me. The Redskins have two weeks worth of tape on Michael Vick to work with; he won’t have such an easy time against their defense. And the Skins’ offense will be playing their hearts out to help Donovan McNabb show up his former team in their own stadium. I really like the Redskins here, even though I think they’re a terrible team.|
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Arizona (+8)
Bet Amount: $3.76 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: Son of Gamblor’s contribution of 97 cents isn’t enough to bump this game up into actual bet territory, so I’ll just say that I fully expect the San Diego Chargers to take revenge for last week’s humiliation out on the Cardinals. Should be a blowout.|
NEW YORK GIANTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Chicago (+4)
Bet Amount: $0.85
|COMMENTS: Son of Gamblor actually quite likes the Giants in this game (for $8.55), so my money will be headed toward the home team here. I’m fine with that. Chicago was very fortunate to win last week, and isn’t anywhere near as good as their 3-0 record makes them look. Nor are the Giants and bad as most of the other 1-2 teams. I just wish the spread were a little bit tighter.|
|NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Miami (+1)
Bet Amount: $10.27 (Hedge)
|COMMENTS: This seems like kind of a sucker bet. But New England’s defense is truly terrible. I’m conflicted on this one, but since it’s the last game on this week’s card, I’ll just make things exciting and call for the Dolphins to pull off the upset here.|