If any team is ever temporarily permitted to use the dreaded “no one believes in us” or “we get no respect” clichés, it’s the Atlanta Falcons right now. Truth is very few people believe in the Falcons, especially within the confines of this fair city. Bettors have driven Atlanta up to 4-point underdogs at home in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, which is the most points a No. 1 seed has ever taken in the playoffs excluding the Super Bowl.
Sports book directors gave their best imitation of action-movie heroes last weekend. They found a graceful escape after what seemed like imminent danger.
With Alabama putting the finishing touches on its 42-14 blowout over Notre Dame in Monday night’s BCS National Championship, conversation in the broadcast booth inevitably changed from the game to next year’s college football season. Commentators Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit opined that Alabama would be the favorite to win its fourth title in five years. Vegas oddsmakers showed they were in agreement Tuesday afternoon.
Clinging to a profitable clip of 55 percent against the spread, the success of this year’s bowl pick’em comes down to the final entry. That’s the way it should be for the sake of suspense. While last year’s comfortable mark of 20-14-1 isn’t within reach, finishing off with three straight wins would get us awfully close.
Racecar drivers get a victory lap. Award winners get an acceptance speech. So I felt inclined to get something out of my win in the first-ever Las Vegas Sun NFL handicapping contest, even after finishing with a solid-but-unspectacular 54-47-1 record against the spread. I somehow came up with a prize that involved work — making more picks.
As of now, before the NFL playoffs kick off, there are 72 different combinations for how the Super Bowl XLVII could play out. William Hill, which operates several sports books and betting kiosks throughout Las Vegas including at all PT’s Tavern’s, attached odds to every possible scenario and made it available for betting Thursday afternoon.
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Casual bettors love loading up on BCS bowl games. It’s assumed the thrill of having money on the most important games draws wagering from fans who wouldn’t normally place bets, causing the handle to rocket at local sports books at this time of year. But there might be another reason.
Handicapping bowl games takes a sharp turn at the intersection of the end of one year and the start of another. While strategies like backing motivated teams and going against unstable programs remain important, the situations are less glaring and exploitable as the stakes rise and the games start to feature better teams.
On the second and third days after Christmas, my sports book gave to me three bad beats and two humbling blowouts. The last bowl pick’em entry went down as the lowest point since starting this series three years ago. The results wiped two weeks’ worth of work to get off to a promising start away.
Entering a rapid stretch of 21 games in five days, bowl season is a quarter of the way complete. It’s about to get tougher, however, as the next six games, specifically, presented several challenges.
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