Polarizing Tebow positioned to thrive

In the eyes of many, Tim Tebow is a gimmick. Maybe he's a better fit for a role in pro wrestling, and totally unfit to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, where throwing with accuracy is a necessity.

Or maybe he is simply a winner with a relentless attitude and unique, freak-show talents.

Tebow sports the look of a late-night infomercial novelty, one of those corny marketing gimmicks that appeal to impressionable children and excitable, naive adults. At the same time, he is a damn good football player. But does he have staying power as a quarterback?

The Denver Broncos, desperate at 1-4 and with nothing to lose, are about to become one of the most-watched teams in the league as they unveil Tebow as a starter Sunday at Miami.

"I'm not really a believer that Tebow can play quarterback in this league," said Mike Colbert, Cantor Gaming sports book director. "But he is a winner. He's young, and I guess he could learn the position. He's a good backup. He can come in and give you a spark. But over 10 or 15 games, I think he would get exposed."

Almost everyone has an opinion on Tebow. Poll a group of sophisticated NFL personnel people, and some will say Tebow is a joke and others will say the kid deserves a fair chance.

It's appropriate Tebow is a popular underdog in his first start of the season. It's not my best bet, but I'll go with Denver as a 1-point 'dog.

Tebow is in a position to succeed, with the Broncos off a bye week and facing the 0-5 Dolphins and their lame-duck coach. It's hard to figure how this is possible, but Miami is 1-11 in its past 12 home games and 5-18 against the spread in its past 23 at home.

The Dolphins, getting poor play from quarterback Matt Moore, don't pose a serious threat offensively. Denver's defense is back to full strength with end Elvis Dumervil and safety Brian Dawkins healthy, and cornerback Champ Bailey can cover Brandon Marshall.

The Broncos traded their top receiver, Brandon Lloyd, to St. Louis for a grilled cheese sandwich this week, and that does not help. But Tebow will make most of his plays on the run anyway.

Tebow also will be playing in front of friendly fans. The Dolphins are honoring the 2008 Florida Gators national championship team, which was led by Tebow, as a marketing gimmick.

The NFL schedule is as ugly as it gets, with hideous matchups all over the board, but bettors/writers don't take bye weeks in October, so here are four more plays for Week 7 (Home team in CAPS):

■ PANTHERS (-2½) over Redskins: John Beck takes over at quarterback for Washington, which is missing two starters on its offensive line. Carolina has had several close calls and is due for a breakthrough. Cam Newton has thrown nine interceptions, but the rookie is playing surprisingly well for a strong Panthers offense.

■ Chiefs (+5) over RAIDERS: Whether it's Carson Palmer or Kyle Boller at quarterback, the Raiders' offense could be out of rhythm. It's possible the entire team could hit a flat spot after back-to-back emotional wins. The road team is 14-1-1 ATS in this series the past eight years, with Kansas City winning seven of eight in Oakland.

■ Packers (-9) over VIKINGS: Look for Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers to outgun Minnesota rookie Christian Ponder. Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers are 13-4 ATS on the road versus NFC North opponents. The line is inflated, and I hate big road favorites, but the Vikings were blowout victims in Week 6 in a 39-10 loss at Chicago.

■ Ravens (-8) over JAGUARS: The quick switch to rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has not paid off for Jacksonville. Expect the Baltimore defense to dominate a weak Jaguars offense. The Ravens are on a 5-2 ATS run as road favorites. Plan to be bored on Monday night.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 16-11-3

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at 702-387-2907 or myoumans@reviewjournal.com.