UPDATE: A few minor tweaks in the spread have changed my bets a little bit, but nothing more than half a point or more than few dollars. Gaining the half point in Chicago made the computer a bit less enthusiastic about the Bears, and the change on the Dallas line led to the computer switching its pick, since a single hedge bet came in on the side of Carolina. A new summary sheet is here. Still no line on the Philadelphia game.

UPDATE 2: Ah, finally. The line on the Philadelphia game is up – the Eagles are favored by 8.5 points. Which means that Gamblor would like to place (gulp) a $31.50 bet on the Chiefs. My thoughts are summarized below.

I really enjoyed my Sunday last week. In the morning, I watched my chosen team (the Raiders) put together a sensational drive late in the game to come from behind and pull out an improbable win (and win some money for me). In the afternoon, my girlfriend and I watched her chosen team (the Bears) put together a sensational drive late in the game to come from behind and pull out an improbable win (and win some more money for me). In the evening I went out and saw We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad, and Frightened Rabbit play a corker of a show at the Knitting Factory. It was a good day. Last week I mentioned that I’d be impressed if Gamblor could beat his Week 1 weighted win percentage of 77.5%. He didn’t, but he came awfully close, nailing 75.1% of his picks – and finishing 11-5 for the week (tabulated summary is here). My own picks were a little better, going 9-7, which brings me to even for the season. As I mentioned before, you’re better off listening to the computer, not me.

You’d expect that Vegas would have enjoyed their Sunday as well, as the week featured a number of close games and underdogs prevailed in 9 of the 16 games. Unfortunately, the bettors were a little bit too savvy and correctly identified Oakland and Baltimore as the same kind of dogs I’d like to see set loose on Michael Vick’s testicles. So the books took a beating, and likely will try to recoup their losses this week. I find Gamblor’s picks a bit unsettling this week, as it only likes one favorite in the entire slate of games. Then again, it only liked one favorite last week too, and it’s awfully hard to argue with those kinds of results. This week, the computer is making a grand total of 1464 hedge bets – its sixth most ever. For some historical context, the most hedge bets it has ever made was 1806, which happened in Week 15 of 2005. In weeks that it has wanted to make this many hedge bets, it has actually done quite well – when making 1200 hedge bets or more it has been profitable 13 out of 22 times – with an overall win percentage of 57.2%. So I’ll swallow my concerns and let Gamblor continue (I hope) to work his magic.

One of the reasons the computer is so enthusiastic about underdogs this week is because many of those underdogs are playing at home. Some of the tougher teams in the league (New Orleans, Green Bay, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh) are headed out on the road against comparatively weaker teams (Buffalo, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati), which means that although we’ll probably see at least one upset, it’s virtually guaranteed that a few unlucky cities will have to watch their teams get slaughtered on their own home fields. Which brings me to my feature for the week…

The Top 5 Most Worthless Home Crowds:

(To watch this video, right-click and hit “play”)

flashfiller[kml_flashembed movie="http://earbuds.popdose.com/zack/Gambling/HomeCrowd.swf" width="600" height="320" wmode="transparent" play="false" loop="false"/]

One of the fun things about the database I generated for the computer’s picks is that without too much trouble I can dive in and pick out statistics that I’m curious about. This week, I decided to take a look and see which stadiums and home crowds actually convey the smallest advantage to their home teams. The topic of this feature is a little misleading; it’s tricky to separate whether a low home field advantage translates to poor play at home or superior play on the road. The general consensus is that home field advantage is worth about a field goal. Numerically this is about right – the home team has an average advantage of 2.62 points over the last ten years. However, there’s a surprisingly large disparity between individual teams. Some teams consistently perform much better in front of the familiar sights, smells, and sounds of their home stadium, while other teams derive virtually no advantage at all.

This particular metric is calculated by taking the average score differential at home and subtracting the average score differential on the road for each individual team. It’s a very simple formula that makes the overall win/loss ratio of the team irrelevant. Last year, the undefeated (at home) Carolina Panthers boasted the highest differential, gaining an average of 7.7 points when in front of their fans at Bank of America Stadium (I actually feel kind of dirty mentioning stadiums by their corporate-sponsored name, so I’m not going to do it anymore here). They were followed by Arizona (+7.3), Philadelphia (+7.0), Seattle (+6.5), and Dallas (+6.1). But where do we go to find the teams that have consistently underperformed at home? Here are the five worst over the last five years:

5. New York Giants (+0.5): With such notable fans as Paul Aufiero, Carl Brutananadilewski, and this guy, a stereotype of Giants supporters as doughy, slobbering, hopelessly devoted simpletons has emerged. But does having stands full of such slavishly loyal meatbags actually help the team win games? Apparently not. Perhaps the Giants’ 11 straight road wins on their way to winning the Superbowl in 2007 were just a desperate ploy to showcase their talents in other cities and win a few fans they’re less embarrassed to be associated with. The Giants turned things around last year, pushing up their differential to +4.2.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (+0.4): When the Bengals opened their new stadium in 2000, they “decided” not to sell the naming rights to a corporate sponsor. Yeah, and I “decided” that instead of going to all those keg parties in high school, I’d stay home and do my algebra homework. Cincinnati residents have been indifferent to this team for ages – probably because they’ve had just one winning season in the last 18 years. They sell more orange and black tiger stripe prints at the Forever 21 in Ft. Lauderdale than they do at all of the sporting goods stores in Cincinnati combined. You’re far more likely to hear a “Cincinnati Bengal” mentioned in a positive light when a fraternity brother describes his most recent conquest than when a sportscaster describes this hopeless franchise’s team’s last game.

3. Miami Dolphins (+0.3): Miami seems like it would be a wonderful place to live, but a terrible place to play football. The tropical heat is no picnic during the first part of the season, and visiting teams seem to make the most of playing in weather where frostbite isn’t a concern. Between the nightclubs, the beaches, and the cheerleaders, it’s got to be hard to stay focused on the beefy jock in tight pants playing across the line from you. Many of Florida’s fair-weather fans have been distracted by the University of Florida’s success at the college level in recent years, and the adjustments other teams have made to shut down the entertaining Wildcat offense are going to shut down any burgeoning fan interest in this team as well.

2. Carolina Panthers (+0.1): Considering that Carolina led the league last year in home differential, it’s pretty amazing to find them in second place on this list. But up until last year, Carolina has been consistently letting its fans down at home. Prior to last season’s improbable run, the Panthers managed to lose their home opener four seasons in a row. And they did it again this year. Discounting last year’s fierce defense of their home territory, they haven’t finished a season with a winning record at home since 2003.

1. New England Patriots (-0.3): More than anyone else, the Patriots have been virtually unstoppable in the last five years – and are completely unfazed about playing on the road. Like an elementary school bully giving you an atomic wedgie in front of the girl you’ve got a crush on, Bill Belichick seems to take delight in running up the score in front of opposing crowds. And when they’re at home, the Patriots players seem distracted by the prospect of getting home to their supermodel wives and surgically enhanced girlfriends, so they tend to pack it up in third quarter.

Are these numbers going to affect my picks this week? Nope. It’s something the computer uses, though. Here are Gamblor’s picks for Week 3 – good luck!




Computer’s Pick: Detroit (+6.5)

Bet Amount: $29.37 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Even though the Redskins are 1-1, their record could very easily be 0-2. They were completely manhandled by the Giants in the first week of play (only making it close by virtue of a very late touchdown) and couldn’t manage a single touchdown against the worthless Rams last weekend. With another supposedly easy win on the horizon (Tampa Bay), the Redskins will be lazy and flat and won’t take the Lions seriously enough. Detroit seems to improve a little bit every week, having held a lead against Minnesota throughout the first half. I think this is actually a great spot for the Lions – I’m expecting them to cover or even pull out a miracle win.




Computer’s Pick: St. Louis (+6.5)

Bet Amount: $21.94 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Don’t get fooled by the score of the Rams – Redskins game last week. St. Louis is still terrible. Green Bay will be looking ahead to its battle with Minnesota next week, but that won’t be enough to save the helpless Rams. The Packers will take advantage of this opportunity to flex their offensive muscles one more time, and Greg Jennings will end his drought as Aaron Rodgers torches the Rams’ weak defense. I’d be comfortable laying a lot more than 6.5 points here – Green Bay won’t fail to finish their drives the way that Washington did and I’m expecting this game will be blown wide open by halftime.




Computer’s Pick: San Francisco (+6.5)

Bet Amount: $29.91 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Something about this line doesn’t sit right with me. San Francisco knocked off the Superbowl losers and then took down a supposedly great Seattle team and is sitting on top of the division at 2-0. Minnesota certainly looked very strong in their first two wins – but they were playing against Cleveland and Detroit. It’s easy for a team to look strong when they’re bursting through a paper wall…but what happens when they try to run through something solid (as Chong Li says…“brick no hit back.”)? I’d expect this to be a very tough matchup with a line of somewhere around 3 points to account for Minnesota’s home field advantage. The fact that it’s so high makes me very suspicious, which makes me feel like Vegas perceives the Vikings to have a huge edge in this game. I’ll trust their judgment on this one.




Computer’s Pick: Atlanta (+4)

Bet Amount: $23.71 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: I feel like a broken record saying this, but the Patriots have far too many offensive weapons for any defense to realistically contain (unless said defense is the Jets, apparently). Despite their two wins, Atlanta’s pass defense actually is quite weak, surrendering 296 yards to Jake Delhomme last week. The lingering question is whether New England’s defense can contain Atlanta’s potent offense. I think they can – enough that Matt Ryan will be forced to take too many chances trying to keep up with Tom Brady. Atlanta will be chasing the Patriots for this entire game, and they won’t be able to catch up.




Computer’s Pick: Tennessee (+3)

Bet Amount: $10.26 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: Sanchez has looked great in his first two starts, showing good accuracy and judgment, but against this defense he is doomed. Tennessee will stifle every single thing the Jets try to accomplish on offense. The Jets looked ferocious against the Patriots, but after such an emotional win, I think they’ll find themselves falling back to earth. I’m not sure Tennessee will be able to generate enough offense to beat them (the Jets are much more capable of stopping Chris Johnson than Houston was), but this game looks to be a tight, low-scoring affair that gets decided by a field goal or less. I’d absolutely adore Tennessee in this one if they were getting 3.5 points, but I feel comfortable taking them even at 2.5.




Computer’s Pick: Kansas City (+8.5)

Bet Amount: $30.15 (Hedge)

WHY I AGREE: McNabb has been doubtful all week, and the books waited until today to post a line. It’s probably not great news for Kansas City, as it means that the Eagles will take this game a lot more seriously now that Kolb is calling the shots. Despite playing tight with Baltimore, Kansas City hasn’t really looked good at any aspect of the game. I get the feeling that Reid will consider this game as a foregone conclusion and will use this chance to experiment with Michael Vick and the Wildcat. As we saw in preseason, it won’t work and they’ll get bogged down. The Eagles aren’t in for a nasty surprise or anything here, but I think the Chiefs can keep this close enough that even if they suffer a late letdown, they’ll still cover the spread.




Computer’s Pick: Tampa Bay (+6.5)

Bet Amount: $18.76 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: The New York Giants have looked very much like Superbowl contenders so far this year, first dismantling the Redskins with ease and then coming from behind to disappoint the Cowboys during their opening game at Cowboys Stadium. You’d expect the Giants would be in for a letdown after such a tough win and after making their second long trip in a row. But you’d be wrong. The Giants will run from end zone to end zone on Tampa’s porous run defense, and Eli Manning will have little trouble lighting up the Tampa Bay secondary if they ever actually face any passing situations (which they probably won’t).




Computer’s Pick: Cleveland (+13)

Bet Amount: $3.01 (Hedge and Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Is Cleveland really that bad? Yeah, they are. Against Denver last week their offense only managed eleven first downs and two field goals against one of last year’s weakest defenses, and gave up 27 points to an offense helmed by Kyle Orton. They’re in big, big trouble against Baltimore’s punishing defense and brutally effective offense, and the huge line reflects this. The only concern I have is that Baltimore will be saving themselves for New England next week and won’t bring 100%. But I’d be a lot more concerned about this if Brady had had a big game against the Jets. I feel a little uncomfortable laying this many points here, but Baltimore is looking way too strong to pick against, especially at home, and especially against a vastly inferior opponent like the Browns. The computer actually wants to bet $3.01 on the Browns, but I’m rounding this one down and avoiding betting on this game.




Computer’s Pick: Jacksonville (+3.5)

Bet Amount: $23.36 (Hedge and Flip – 90%)

WHY I AGREE: After seeing the Jets shut down the Patriots last week and watching Houston put down 34 points against a strong Tennessee stop unit, people will probably stop dismissing the talents of the Houston offense. Matt Schaub and his receivers looked like their old selves – and they will have a field day against Jacksonville’s weak pass defense. Unfortunately, Houston’s defense also looked like their old selves, surrendering almost 300 yards to Chris Johnson alone. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves here, and David Garrard will be the unlucky recipient of their wrath. I expected the spread to drift upwards during the week, and I wouldn’t have cared how big it got – I would have been with Houston all the way. Instead, with a ton of money pouring in on Houston, the spread has drifted the other way – it’s gone from -4.5 to -3.5. Like the Jets line last week, this one smells a lot like sucker bait. Given how great I felt about Houston earlier in the week, I’m amazed to find that my sentiments have reversed and I’m now favoring Jacksonville in this game.




Computer’s Pick: Buffalo (+6)

Bet Amount: $36.81 (Flip)

WHY I AGREE: Buffalo surprised me again last week, so I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to read that team. When the line opened up at just 4.5, the public was all over the Saints – and I can’t say I blame them. New Orleans has been completely unstoppable offensively, but the Bills defense supposedly proved themselves against the Patriots. The thing is, I don’t trust this line at all. Given how enthusiastic people are about the Saints’ offense, I’d imagine a line of 7 or more wouldn’t faze many bettors. So I’m going to take a lesson from what the Jets game taught me last week and consider this one as a trap. It makes me feel like a cat whose fur is being brushed the wrong way, but I’m taking Buffalo here.




Computer’s Pick: Chicago (-2)

Bet Amount: $4.95 (Flip Conflict)

WHY I AGREE: Some of our more sharp-eyed readers may have noticed my editor Jeff talking shit about my scorn for the Seahawks in the post tags. At the start of the season, I considered the Seahawks to be vastly overrated. I still do. It’s not just to piss Jeff off that I’m picking against Seattle here; I genuinely think that they’re a lousy team. The Bears, on the other hand, will be riding high after coming from behind to beat the Superbowl champions in a game that by the end of the year we may look at as the savior of both their season and Jay Culter’s career. Even with Hasselbeck, the Seattle offense is lackluster at best, and with Seneca Wallace in charge the team will pick up right where they left off last season – predictably losing games to superior opponents. Something to remember is that three of Seattle’s last five wins have come against the Rams. And if you think the Rams are anywhere near as good as the Bears, you’d probably better visit a doctor and make sure you don’t have a crayon lodged in your brain.




Computer’s Pick: Miami (+5.5)

Bet Amount: $10.26 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Miami’s defense, after giving up a game-winning drive to the Colts, can go one of two ways. They can find someone weak to beat the crap out of, or they can let themselves get even more frustrated, falling prey to blown coverages, penalties, and big plays. Against the Chargers, I forecast the latter. Seeing the spread move from -7 to -5.5 gives me pause, but I still like the Chargers put together their first solid victory of the season here.




Computer’s Pick: Cincinnati (+4)

Bet Amount: None (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Is Cincinnati finally getting some respect? The sportscasters say yes, but the line here says no. Despite all their talent, Pittsburgh’s offense has been held in check by their opponents in both games this year. Cincinnati’s proud defense will deliver the same tough front for the Steelers to break through. I actually feel like Roethlisberger will rally the troops and deliver some offense this game, but it’s based on a gut feeling more than anything else.




Computer’s Pick: Oakland (+1.5)

Bet Amount: $10.79 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: I hate the books for changing the line on this game. When the lines were posted on Monday morning, Oakland was a favorite at -2.5 and the computer wanted to put down a moderate hedge bet on Denver. Now it’s flipped and wants to bet a small amount on Oakland. Do I really think Oakland can cover the spread three times in a row? I sure don’t. Throughout his high school and college career, didn’t anyone notice how inaccurate Jamarcus Russell is? You could put him in a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hand him a football and ask him to hit the water, and the ball would somehow end up in the middle of the Australian outback. Denver has had Oakland’s number for a long time, but will this hold true now that Shanahan is gone? Sadly for my Raiders, I think it will. Denver hasn’t looked as bad as everyone expected, and I think they’ll be able to completely control the ball against Oakland’s sputtering offense. Having only three downs of rest between series’ will take its toll on Oakland’s defense, and once they’re worn out Correll Buckhalter, Knowshon Moreno, and LaMont Jordan will only trade places long enough for each to catch their breath. The Raiders are going to disappoint their fans yet again by getting embarrassed at home against the Broncos.




Computer’s Pick: Indianapolis (+2.5)

Bet Amount: $19.82 (Hedge)

WHY IT’S WRONG: I don’t know how on earth Indianapolis’ defense can be expected to summon the energy to compete in this game. Their first two weeks brought them two very tough victories against Jacksonville and Miami, and now they’ve got to fly out into the desert and try to keep up with a rejuvenated Arizona offense? Good luck with that. As long as they can put together any sort of running attack, this game should be a cakewalk for Arizona, who have a bye coming up and should be entirely focused. The Colts, on the other hand, are playing off a short week and have got Seattle and Tennessee to contend with following this game. All other factors equal, I think the Colts are the better team. But the other factors aren’t anywhere close to equal on this one.




Computer’s Pick: Carolina (+8.5)

Bet Amount: $0.18 (Flip)

WHY IT’S WRONG: Can Tony Romo bounce back from a lousy performance against the Giants last week? It seems like the greater the pressure, the worse he plays, so it’s a good thing his Monday Night Comeback Special finds him facing Carolina. The Cowboys’ running game should be able to move the ball effectively against the Panthers’ defense, so there won’t be as much pressure on Romo to deliver the ball downfield. Dallas’ defense should be able to hold Carolina to just a few scores, so they will probably be able to put together a relatively pedestrian win at home in their new stadium.

For legality purposes, this website does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.