After the party, the hangover is due to hit. And the better the party, the worse the headache gets. Right about now, it’s hitting quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers right between the eyes.
The so-called Super Bowl hangover is referenced so often because it’s real. In the NFL, for whatever reasons, it’s tough to be great two years in a row, and the 49ers are slowly finding that out. It’s just not their year.
If there are only three elite teams in the NFC, two of them crossed paths Sunday in New Orleans. The game was won as time expired, but suspense aside, it was far from an instant classic.
“It was sloppy play. There were questionable calls. Kaepernick didn’t look that good,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said. “It was a boring game.”
The Saints were 3-point favorites in a 23-20 win, and a point-spread push is as boring as watching grass grow and paint dry on an overcast afternoon.
Kaepernick threw 31 times for a grand total of 127 yards. His two touchdown passes were set up by turnovers, a fumbled punt and an interception return, deep in New Orleans territory. When he threw an interception, the Saints returned it to the 1 and fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback.
Drew Brees passed for 305 yards and a touchdown, but his final three scoring drives resulted in field goals, and his lost fumble on the tying drive was wiped out by a questionable personal foul penalty.
The Saints were lucky to win, but things are going Brees’ way this year. The 49ers are not so fortunate, and Kaepernick is taking a step back.
The 3-point decision was a headache for bookmakers, especially those who moved the line to 3½. If there’s a magic number in football betting, it’s 3, and the books paid back every wager made at 3 and paid off the 49ers tickets at plus-3½.
“The only game that hurt us was the Saints landing on 3,” Miller said. “I thought for sure there was a safety, but they didn’t call it.”
It almost landed on 2. With less than two minutes to go and the score tied at 20, Kaepernick backpedaled near the goal line, threw the ball away and could have been flagged for intentional grounding from the end zone.
South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro was able to shrug off the books’ loss on the 49ers-Saints game because the books won most of the decisions.
“The Texans game was a monster,” Vaccaro said. “That was the best game early in the day.”
Houston opened as a 7-point favorite over Oakland, and the line closed at 10½ and 11. The Raiders started an undrafted rookie, Matt McGloin, at quarterback, and bettors surmised they had no shot. About 65 percent of all teaser tickets included the Texans, Vaccaro said.
So, of course, McGloin passed for three touchdowns, and Houston spiraled to its eighth straight loss, 28-23. Oakland paid off at around plus-450 on the money line.
Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh picked up wins as home underdogs, and the line moves were wrong in all three cases.
The Bills, who went from 1-point favorites to 2-point underdogs, crushed the New York Jets 37-14. The Dolphins, 2½-point ’dogs, foiled Philip Rivers and the still-underachieving San Diego Chargers 20-16. The Steelers, getting 3 points and giving up 27 points in the second quarter, stormed back to upend the Detroit Lions 37-27.
A severe storm in Chicago delayed the Ravens-Bears game. When it resumed, the Bears, 3-point favorites, came back to win 23-20 in overtime.
Aaron Rodgers’ value to the Green Bay Packers is about 10 points. Without their injured quarterback, the Packers flopped in a 27-13 loss to the New York Giants, who closed as 3½-point favorites.
“You talk about a team packing it in,” said Vaccaro, who was talking about the Atlanta Falcons.
After opening as 1½-point favorites at Tampa Bay, the Falcons closed as 2-point ’dogs and got whipped 41-28. A play away from the Super Bowl last season, Atlanta is experiencing a hellacious hangover.
Seven favorites covered Sunday, none more surprising than the Philadelphia Eagles, who snapped a 10-game home losing streak with a 24-16 victory over Washington. No trend lasts forever.
The Redskins, 4½-point underdogs, fell into a 24-0 hole and fought back only to fall short when Robert Griffin III threw a lollipop pass up for grabs with the game — and cover — on the line. It was picked off, and RG3’s second season is nowhere near as great as his first.
Peyton Manning is as steady as it gets. Denver, a 7½-point favorite, dealt Kansas City its first loss, 27-17. In the AFC, it looks like the Broncos’ year.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks won again. So in the NFC, it appears the road to the Super Bowl is going through either Seattle or New Orleans.
That’s sobering news for Kaepernick and the 49ers.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.