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Dog Day Afternoon

   by Al McMordie - 12/13/2004

Of Big Dogs and Big Favorites

by Big Al McMordie

Public money is not shy about coming in on the favorites, many times regardless of the number. This past Sunday in the NFL was filled to the brim with large chalk. The Patriots, Bills, Colts, and Broncos all opened as double-digit favorites, while the Ravens, Packers, and Eagles opened as nine-point favorites. Several others were favored by seven or more, so it was a Sunday of expected one-sided games.

But there’s a twist to keep in mind with one-sided games: they’re not always one-sided. Don’t get duped into believing that just because an oddsmaker lays a high number on one side that the game will be a rout. The Patriots were a 14-point dog in the Super Bowl three years ago and won. The last three college football national champions were all big dogs in the title game, in Oklahoma, Ohio State and LSU. The game is played on the field and there’s a reason they keep score.

This is even more important to remember in the NFL because of parity. Make no mistake that the best college football team in the country would get flattened by the worst NFL team if they were to play. For example, the 49ers might be a 19-point favorite over USC, or the Saints a 24-point favorite over Oklahoma. There’s not a great deal of difference talent-wise between some of the top teams in the NFL and those below .500. Look at the Steelers, who went 6-10 a year ago and know find themselves 12-1 and thinking Super Bowl.

But the league absolutely loves parity, which benefits the fans and league revenue. Having a situation where the Dolphins play so close against the Broncos, as happened Sunday, or the Redskins battling the 11-1 Eagles to a halftime tie is good for the game, and keeps everyone interested. With the season winding down and many spots where good teams are playing bad ones you will continue to see some big favorites. It’s important to keep in mind that inflated favorites can offer excellent betting value on underdogs.

In the Stardust Invitational handicapping contest this past weekend, many of you will notice my card was heavy with dogs. I gave out the Bengals as an 11-point dog. This was a Cincinnati offense that was playing great football behind QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson and several speedy young wide receivers. They were also on a roll as a team, winning four of five straight up and against the number, which got them back in the playoff race. A motivated team with a terrific balanced offense like that is a bargain getting 11 points. The Bengals rolled up 478 yards (150 rushing) on the defending champions and got the cover. They could have gotten the win if it weren’t for several turnovers.

I also had the Texans as my Best Bet in the contest, an 11-point home dog to Indy. The Texans always play hard for coach Dom Capers and here they were as a double-digit home dog, even though they had not lost by more than a touchdown at home in 13 straight games. In fact, I went 6-1 ATS in the contest and advanced to the Stardust Invitational Finals this Friday. (If you're in Las Vegas, please come by to say 'hello'.)

Sometimes it can be difficult for some sports bettors to take dogs, as they feel more "comfortable" taking favorites. Well if you’re that way and want to make a profit betting sports, get over it. There’s tremendous value in getting a lot of points, especially late in the season. Eight dogs got the money on Sunday, and several helped me advance in the contest. Ugly dogs are nothing to bark at or be fearful of – when they get the money! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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