Greetings from your Prognosticator! It’s good to be back after a 2 year hiatus. I’ve got my charts, data and information banks updated an ready for a brand new season. My pregame infrastructure is in place with a new grill, a pantry full of snacks and a spare fridge packed with anniversary labeled beer. We’re more than ready here at the Prognosticator’s lair.
Before we start let’s review our base strategy for the coming weeks. There are anywhere from 13 to 16 games depending on the week. The key is to pick 5 or 6 games you feel strongly about. There are two different lines we read inside out crystal ball: the point spread (aka the line) and the money line. Commonly we will use the term “the line” when referring to the point spread. Also let’s be clear I write this purely for entertainment purposes. Consider it chewing gum for the mind of the avid sports fan, or a clue for someone playing an office pool who doesn’t care about football. Once I worked with a woman who picked birds, animals and fish in that order and won the office pool three times. While I am fascinated by the mechanism I do not support or condone gambling. I do not promise results. Any losses incurred by relying on information written here or in any future postings are not the responsibility of me, The Mountain, Entercom Wilkes-Barre, Entercom Communications, its holdings or its subsidiaries.
Remember the point spread is not a prediction of the game’s outcome. It’s a prediction of how people wager in Vegas sports parlors. In a sports book one wagers 6 units to win 5. The book (betting house) has no interest in who wins the game. He wants an equal amount of money wagered on each side. For example this Sunday the Packers are in Philadelphia for a game that is supposed to resemble a reenactment of the last Eagles’ championship 50 years ago. If 6 units are wagered on the packers the book wants 6 units wagered on the Eagles. If the Packers win, the book returns the 6 units from the packer wager and keeps the 6 units wagered on the Eagles. The book then pays the packer wager 5 units from the 6 collected on the Eagles wager. In the end the house made one unit. If the outcome were reversed and the Eagles win, the book would return the ^ units from the Eagles wager and pay out 5 units collected from the Packers wager. No matter who wins, the house collects one unit.
Those of you who were Sopranos fans may recall after Big Pussy got “whacked,” Christopher took over the sports book operation. Christopher set his spreads based on his game predictions and not wager predictions and the book hemorrhaged money. Remember the book never cares who wins. It’s a mantra I’ll repeat countless times this year.
There are two ways to read the line. The first is to look at the schedule and make up your own line, and then compare it to the published lines. If you predict the Packers are a 3 point favorite only to find out they are a 1 point underdog your instinct should lead you towards picking Green Bay. The second step is to follow the line throughout the week. If the Line opens with the Packers as a three point favorite on Monday, and by Friday the Packers are a 4 point favorite the line is shouting at you. An imbalance of money is wagered on the Packers and the book wants to make the Eagles more a more compelling bet. In other words the line follows the money. Some of you may recall 1979 when the Steelers played the Cowboys in the Superbowl. The line opened with the Cowboys as 5 point underdogs. An overwhelming amount of money was wagered on Dallas, prompting the line two move a whopping 2 points. When the Cowboys were only 3 point dogs a ton of money was laid down on the Steelers. In the middle was 4 points. The game ended with the Steelers as 35-31 victors. If you bought the Cowboys +5 and then Steelers -3 you won both sides of the wager. Vegas lost their shirt that Sunday. For that reason a 1 ½ point move is a HUGE move and worthy of attention.
The money line is the one the looks like “-110.” It means you have to wager 110 to win 100. A line that read s“+115” means if you wager 100 you stand to win 115. Its more commonly seen in the sports pages associated with baseball, but there is also a money line with football albeit not usually published in the average newspaper. A lopsided money line that reads “Green Bay +90/Philadelphia +115” is a prediction of the game. If the book is willing to pay out less for one than the opponent, that team in the eyes of the book is the true favorite. The greater the margin, the stronger the favorite. The money line almost never changes. When it does it should grab you by the lapels and scream “NOTICE ME!”
Let’s take a look at some opening day match-ups!
FALCONS (-2 ½) over Steelers. The Steelers need to prove they can field a reliable quarterback not named Roethlisberger. Until Big Ben gets out of the Commissioner’s purgatory I wouldn’t hold my breath it will happen. Byron Leftwich’s injury forces the Steelers to start either unproven and untested Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch who most likely would have been cut had it not been for the Leftwich injury. Don’t be shocked if Pittsburgh starts 0-4 this year. The line opened with the Steelers as 1 ½ point favorites and moved a whopping 4 points. Such a move was allowed in part because the line was set before the final preseason games were played. That said if the line were a politician he’d be labeled a flip flopper. Log Cabin doesn’t have enough syrup to cover that waffle. The Falcons are 10-2 ATS (against the spread) in their last 12 opening day games. That works for me.
EAGLES (+3) Over Packers. The line opened with The Eagles as one point favorites. The move is no doubt related to the inability of the Eagle Offence to score a touchdown in the preseason. Some coaches try and win big in the preseason hoping it seeds a mindset for the season. Chuck Knoll believed this. Eagles coach Andy Reid does not. An Eagles preseason is about evaluating players without giving other teams film to craft a game plan. Kevin Kolb’s 2 consecutive 300 yard starts last season is a better indicator than the preseason. The difference in this game is the Eagle Defense. The Eagles are 9-2-1 ATS at home over their last 12, and 7-2 ATS against Green bay over their last nine meetings. Sing it with me: “Fly eagles fly…”
COWBOYS (-3.5) over Redskins. I truly believe Donovan McNabb will make the Redskins a better team, even a dark horse for a wild card spot. I truly believe Tony Romo will be playing in another city by 2013 without ever reaching the lofty expectations of the Cowboy fan base. Romo however plays very well in September, and the Redskins offensive line doesn’t yet have the athletes needed for Mike Shannahan’s running scheme. The Cowboys are 9-4-1 ATS in September while the Redskins are 3-11 ATS over their last 14 at home. Assuming the Pokes don’t mail it in at Fed Ex field they’ll be partying in Dallas Sunday night. Take the Cowboys.
49ERS (-3) over Seahawks. It’s becoming obvious that the 49ers are getting it together while the Seahawks are not. The 49ers may make the playoffs because they’re in the weakest division. That “one eyed man in the land of the blind” thing. Cutting TJ Houshmandzadeh (yes, I googled that) says to me one big money player to this team does not a difference make. Don’t be surprised if the fans in the “twelfth player” section are wearing bags in their heads by mid October. The 49ers are 12-5-4 ATS over their last 21, while the Seahawks are 3-8 ATS their last 11 against the NFC. There’s no reason to expect the Seahawks to do anything but lay an egg here, so lay the three points. I like the 49ers.
Cardinals (-4) over the Rams. Sam Bradford my eventually be the answer in St. Louis. But not this week. The Rams have more problems than any one player can fix, especially a rookie quarterback. Over the past 10 years the Rams are 1-8-1 ATS on opening day, and 7-21 ATS against the NFC. This is not “the greatest show on turf.” Cardinals in this one.
That’s how I see it. Enjoy the weekend!
I'm listening right now in South Central Los Angeles at my new apartment where I've just started my masters at USC. I'm from West Pittston.
It's good to hear a familiar voice.
During most summers back home, I'd spend a lot of time night-fishing in the Susquehanna. And, more often than not, we'd spend more time playing guitar and drinking beer than catching anything.
One of the songs we mastered was You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Stones.
Even though I know I belong out here bettering myself and whatnot, I find my mind wandering back to the Wyoming Valley. So, in short, I can't think of a more appropriate song.
Could you give it a spin?