Remarkably, Tebow's show not over yet


How about that dominant defensive line for the New York Giants? And Eli Manning looked sharp throwing the ball, too. Obviously, when the weekend's NFL playoff games are recapped on radio shows and in office conversations today, those two topics will be hottest.

The Giants are set up for a big-time showdown with the Green Bay Packers. It's Manning against Aaron Rodgers. It's what everyone will be talking about all week.

"I don't see a team playing with more confidence than the Giants," MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said.

Obviously, that was a diversionary tactic, because I wanted to wait at least 11 seconds before mentioning Tim Tebow.

There were rumors Sunday that Bigfoot had been sighted or was close to being captured or something like that. I found it more believable than what happened in Denver, and we actually witnessed it.

On the first play of overtime, against the Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 1-ranked defense, Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to lift the Broncos to a 29-23 victory. The play took 11 seconds. The replay can be seen on "Ripley's Believe it or Not!"

It's not shocking the Steelers lost. Their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was hobbled, and several other key players limped off with injuries or didn't suit up at all. Home underdogs are never to be taken lightly.

But Tebow had played so poorly the previous three weeks, there was pregame talk that he might get benched during the game.

"Everyone on TV was saying, 'I don't see how the Broncos are going to score,' " Rood said. "There obviously was a lot of money going to the Steelers. We had a ton of Steelers-and-under parlays."

Pittsburgh closed as a favorite of 7½ to 8 points, and the total dropped to 33½.

"For most of the week, the Steelers were getting about 70 percent of the action," Las Vegas Hotel sports book director Jay Kornegay said. (Yes, what was formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton is now the LVH. That will take some getting used to.)

Kornegay offered in-game wagering at the LVH. When the Steelers led 6-0 after the first quarter, they were adjusted to 13½-point favorites, and the Broncos were plus-600 on the money line.

"The Steelers were dominating," Kornegay said, "and the Broncos couldn't do anything."

When the game reached overtime, Pittsburgh was a minus-140 favorite. Eleven seconds and 80 yards later, the Broncos did something unimaginable, with Tebow and Thomas burning the Steelers' defense. But Bigfoot was not captured, as far as I know.

"Tebow still looks pretty ugly, but he's getting it done," said Rood, whose books won on the outcome despite a handful of late money-line wagers on Denver in the plus-300 range. "I think it was a tough weekend for the bettors."

The Broncos were the only underdog to cover on wild-card weekend, and you might have sensed it was coming after favorites cashed in blowouts in the first three games. The so-called sharp money was on all four 'dogs. On Saturday, Houston easily handled Cincinnati 31-10, before New Orleans beat Detroit 45-28 in a game that was more competitive than the score indicates.

Drew Brees passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns for the Saints, who were 10½-point favorites. But every break went their way, including a major officiating blunder.

"We had a ton of Lions money-line wagers," Rood said. "We took a lot of sharp money on the Lions early, and we knew the public was going to come in hard on the Saints."

I was in an 0-2 wagering hole, losing on the Lions-Saints under 60½ and Atlanta plus-3. Manning passed for 277 yards and three scores as the Giants hammered the Falcons, 24-2.

Handicapping is a fluid situation. Read and react. I did not plan to bet the Broncos, but after watching three favorites roll, I rolled the dice and took plus-8, sensing the Steelers would win a close game. Still, it was a tough betting weekend.

Next up on Saturday, the Saints are 3½-point favorites at San Francisco, and the Broncos are 13½-point underdogs at New England. In Sunday's games, Baltimore is a 7½-point favorite over Houston, and Green Bay is favored by 8½ over the Giants.

Rood said he expects a lot of wagering on the Saints and Giants. Last week, most bettors showed a lack of faith in Tebow and the Broncos. This week, who knows? But we do know Tebow will be the hottest topic all week, like it or not.

"It's ESPN's fault. You can't get away from it. It's driving everybody nuts," Kornegay said. "It's part of the reason some people don't like Tebow, because they are sick and tired of hearing about him."

■ BOTTOM LINES -- College football's phony national championship game is being staged today in New Orleans, and VegasInsider.com handicapper Brian Edwards is siding with top-ranked Louisiana State as a 2-point underdog to Alabama.

"LSU played the nation's toughest schedule, beating six teams that have won bowl games by 13 points or more," said Edwards, who gives the Tigers the special teams edge and expects Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron to make a "critical mistake."

After the game, there will be a celebration, followed by another week of talk about Tim Tebow.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the "Las Vegas Sportsline" weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

 

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