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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pete's NFL Picks (and delightful tidbits)

Two straight weeks of NFL posts and I feel giddy. While it wasn't exactly a profitable weekend, things could have been substantially worse. We live to play on, and thankfully there is a whole load of material to get us through it. Like Guns N Roses, it's time for a comeback. Like LL Cool J, the best gay rapper alive, don't call it a comeback either. A few things to blow through:

--Call me a conspiracy theorist or whatever, but I am firmly entrenched in the camp that the Steelers-Chargers game was absolutely fixed. Between the time the play ended and the time that the score was changed was certainly enough time for someone in Vegas to call someone in the NFL and get this done. Consider these facts:

1. For some reason, this was the most heavily wagered-on game of the year, according to Vegas sources.
2. This was a $72 million dollar swing-in favor of the books.
3. The NFL (as well as the NCAA, MLB and the NBA) consults with sports-books all the time to keep an eye out for potential shady business.

My point is this: if you were Vegas and you stood to make $72 mil with a Chargers cover, you had contact with high ranking NFL people, and you saw it vanish on a controversial play, you wouldn't at least try to save your ass?

If you're the NFL, and you try like a bastard to avoid anything even remotely acknowledging gambling despite that an estimated 1/3 of your ratings come from gamblers, you wouldn't have incentive to appease one of your main revenue streams? I'm not sayin' I'm just sayin'.

--Tony Romo taking a homeless guy to get the movies is, in a word, awesome. I wouldn't take a homeless guy to the movies, and I'm not the All-Pro QB of the most popular team in the sport with what some (not me) consider to be an amazing looking girlfriend with a really creepy dad. I simply can't hate this guy anymore. I can't. I try. Things went downhill when he helped a couple change a tire on the side of the road after a game. Now this. Fucking guy. You can't make this shit up. I'm sure some cynics will say that these are all stunts, but until proven I'm in the camp that says he's just a genuinely awesome guy. It's not like there's a camera crew making sure every news outlet gets these stories.

--Phil Savage, Browns GM, responding, during the actual Browns-Bills game, to an upset Browns fan: "Go root for Buffalo. Fuck you."

After the Browns season this year, and the cruel reality of me not being able to watch the best Browns game of the year on Monday, nothing would surprise me at this point. Savage could have gone to the emailer's house, ball-gagged him, and banged the guy's wife and I wouldn't have done more than a shoulder shrug at this point. There are, of course, many problems with the Savage-fan discourse, but here's why I'm upset:

1. It was during the game! Why is the Browns' GM even on a computer during a game? Was he watching the ESPN Gamecast like I fucking was? This asshole, who is responsible for all personnel moves for my beloved Browns, is fucking reading message boards while Willie McGinest and Andra Davis (combined age: approximately 78)apply for Medicare and chase after Trent Edwards in wheelchairs. Unbelievable.

2. If I were going to suggest this fan support another team, shouldn't it be a team that is substantially worse than you? That leaves the Lions, Bengals and Chiefs to choose from.

3. If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly. Phil Savage should channel Randy "Macho Man" Savage and start dishing out flying elbows, and snapping into Slim Jims.

Onto the picks:

RAVENS (-1) over Eagles

I did not even get into the Donovan McNabb story, but I tend to agree with a Whitlock column I read today about how not knowing games could end in ties can't possibly make him a less effective QB. What makes him a less effective QB is that he doesn't have much talent and he works for a stubborn organization.

Also, I've heard rumblings about the NFL needing to eliminate ties and go to a college OT. While I love the college OT, I also love quirky things in sports like pro football games ending in ties once every five years or so. That's awesome. I tied a fantasy game earlier this year and it was much better than if I had won. I bet the Eagles don't feel that way.

Also, take the Ravens.

DOLPHINS (+1.5) over Patriots

In honor of Greg Camarillo, my favorite Italian-Mexican-American receiver, getting a 3 year contract extension, I'm riding his boys this week. I think they are a better team overall than the Pats, they kicked their ass in Foxboro BEFORE New England's entire team went down and they will win a crucial divisional game here. I was dead right about them last week against the Raiders, and I will be here, as well.

Jets (+5) over TENN

The Titans have to not cover one of these, right? Umm, right? I don't think these teams are that far apart actually, and I like the Jets to make it come down to a field goal, one way or another.

Colts/Chargers Under 49

Did Vegas think it was 2006 or something. I'm either walking into one enormous trap or this is absolutely free money.

SAINTS (-1) over Packers

John Q. Public is going to love Green Bay here, while I'm going to sit back and let him bet the Packers into being favorites and come down on the side of the explosive home team getting points indoors at home on Monday night. Green Bay would beat this team 7 or 8 times out of 10 on a neutral site, but this is a tough spot for 'em.

Now, some over/unders for The Deuce's wedding:

The Deuce (1.5) collars on tux outfit
People (33.5) who see a picture of NPGage's new cats
Whiskey cocktails (5.5) consumed by first-ballot wedding Hall of Famer OC, obviously this total does not include beer
Scale from one to 10 on offensiveness of GA's speech (-5.5) (And I'm absolutely taking the unders. Consider that a challenge, GA.)

Congrats, The Deuce.

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Then again, my man who knows a lot more than I do doesn't seem to agree with me:

There's been a lot of talk in the media the past few days about that crazy ending to the San Diego/Pittsburgh game this past Sunday. I can tell you it was a madhouse at the sportsbooks because nobody knew for sure who won. Pittsburgh bettors wanted to cash their tickets. San Diego bettors were hoping the officials would bail them out. It took a long time for the game to go official.
When it finally did, more bedlam!
What's been lost in the national media coverage has been the simplest point. The officials blew the call. I knew the TD should have counted when I was watching it live. The replays confirmed it. I don't know how the refs could go under the hood and come out with a different answer. It was impossible to overrule that play!
Maybe the media is too close to the NFL to want to focus on poor officiating. This has been a horrible year for the pro refs. They instituted instant replay many years ago to eliminate situations like this. But, they still keep finding a way to screw everything up.
The media focused on variations of "63 million dollars changing hands" or whatever. I'm not sure how they came up with that number. I can tell you that the books in general needed San Diego there. Not every single one did. My employers actually needed Pittsburgh in that game. Most places though were rooting for the dog because of parlay cards.
Remember the late games Sunday?
Favored San Francisco covered against St. Louis
Favored Arizona covered against Seattle
Favored Tennessee covered against Jacksonville in the time change game
If Pittsburgh had covered, that would have been four for four on the favorites. The public was all over Dallas in the night game, and that ended up winning too. It was almost a barbecue for sportsbooks in the late action. The ruling in favor of San Diego helped reduce the carnage.
But, nobody should get the idea that any conspiracies were involved. It was plain old incompetence. Refs keep getting the calls wrong. I can tell you, if I had placed a big bet on Pittsburgh I would have wanted to take poison after that blown call.
I also heard some Fantasy Football guys complaining about the call because some leagues reward defensive points. Guys rooting for the Pittsburgh defense got hosed there.
The big story should have been "Refs screw up again" instead of anything suggesting conspiracies. For one thing, anyone involved in an actual conspiracy wouldn't be that obvious about it! Some sportsbooks were rooting for Pittsburgh. Others were rooting for San Diego. I'm not sure who the island places were rooting for. They don't have parlay cards to sweat. This was just like any other game. Last second plays determine who cashes their tickets all the time. What was special here was that it was a horrible officiating call. The fact that "money changed hands" is irrelevant.
You could argue a coin flip determined who covered the Thursday night overtime game between the Jets and the Patriots last week. If the Patriots win the flip, maybe they push with a field goal or cover with a touchdown. There weren't any stories about "coin flip" conspiracies coming out of Nevada.
Money changed hands in the final seconds of Stanford/USC. The Cardinal scored a TD on their last play of the game to sneak in the back door. There weren't any news stories about that.
Moneyline bets would have gone to Buffalo if they had made a last second field goal Monday night. Instead, those who bet on underdog Cleveland to win outright cashed their bets when the kick went wide right. Did you read any stories about the Nevada angle of that?
Late plays changing who gets to cash their tickets happen all the time! That's not a story. Three pointers at the buzzer in basketball determining who covers. Empty net goals in hockey turning an Under into an Over. Two run homers with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning changing a side or total winner. Have you ever read mainstream media stories about the Nevada angle on any of that stuff? This happens in Pittsburgh and suddenly "millions of dollars change hands in Nevada" is the big story?
Maybe the press should use some instant replay on their own coverage so they can get some perspective!
Things could get crazy again this weekend in Las Vegas and Reno because of Rivalry Saturday in college football. The public loves betting those rivalry games because they have such great histories. It's also the last full Saturday of college action. Bettors really send it when they know a season is about to end.
The Fix was in!!! Why couldn't they adjust the score after the game? It was the last play afterall. Is there a time limit on when the final score has to be recorded? 72 Million is a lot of money. Enough money for people to do shady things.
Fix is a strong word. I don't think the game was fixed, but I do believe there was a chance to fix the score and it didn't happen because of that 72 mil.

And unlike Pete, I love Tenn and will continue to bet them until they lose me money. Something they haven't done all year.
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