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Football Adjustments

   by Al McMordie - 10/27/2006

It was a wild football weekend, the biggest surprise was Michigan State engineering the greatest comeback in NCAA Division I-A history. Down 38-3 in the third quarter at Northwestern, the Spartans rose from the dead with an improbable 41-38 comeback win. The Wildcats started in the first half converting on six of their first seven scoring drives before a missed field goal helped start the Spartan comeback.

This brings up the point about why adjustments are so important in football, both on the field and at the betting window. Adjustments before a game and at halftime can significantly change things. One adjustment Michigan State made was in the secondary, where Nehemiah Warrick and SirDarean Adams switched positions -- Warrick to bandit, Adams to safety. The flip-flop helped improve communication between the secondary and defensive line, and allowed Warrick to roam freely.

I’m not suggesting the Spartans under John L. Smith are great at making important adjustments. They have underachieved under his guidance, but I am stressing how important adjustments can be in a game. Over the long haul, good coaching staffs will make adjustments to help a team win. It even shows up against the spread, too.

The New England Patriots trailed Buffalo 17-7 at the half in the season opener in September. The Pats had the ball for the final play of the half, but simply took a knee to regroup. Fans even booed. However, the Pats under Bill Belichick have been outstanding at making key halftime adjustments and that’s what was taking place. They came out in the second half, as a 7-point second half favorite, and outscored the Bills 12-0 to win the game and cover the second half number.

Adjustments can help bettors who like to play totals, too. Notice that after going 4 straight games under the total, the Miami Dolphins have changed their strategy the last two weeks. The Dolphins came out throwing Sunday against Green Bay, jumping to a 10-6 halftime lead. They threw the ball 62 times for 414 pass yards in a game that sailed over the total, 34-24. QB Joey Harrington set a Miami regular-season record with 62 passing attempts. It’s one thing to look at Miami’s 13 points per game scoring average coming into the game and think that they are a good 'under' the total team. However, it’s important to keep up on adjustments, because that can alter the pace and flow of a game, and change the way you handicap and analyze.

The Chicago Bears came into this season with a reputation of being a great team to bet 'under' the total, with a terrific defense and a weak offense. However, they have been very strong on offense, for the most part, with a new style of stretching the field with speedster WR Bernard Berrian. And who would have thought New Orleans would be fifth in the NFL in total offense? A new coaching staff and offensive personnel have changed how this team moves the football.

Dennis Green flipped out last week and fired his offensive coordinator after that awful Monday night loss to Chicago. Arizona then had 75 yards in the first half Sunday, trailing the Raiders 17-3. Oops! I would say that particular adjustment has been a failure.

It will be interesting to watch the Baltimore Ravens this coming weekend as it will be their first game since firing offensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Head Coach Brian Billick will be calling the plays. The Ravens probably don’t have the personnel to suddenly explode offensively, but from a handicapping perspective it’s essential to keep up on changes like this each week. You need to be prepared to make wagering adjustments, as well, if necessary. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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