Belichick, Brady teach doubters a lesson

A pair of aces is not an unbeatable hand, but it’s tough to crack Bill Belichick and Tom Brady three times in a row. Betting against the New England Patriots, in the spot they were in Sunday, was exposed as a foolish bluff.

It was a popular opinion, though, for reasons I can no longer recall. Las Vegas sports books were filled with suckers, including this one, who took the bait with the Jets.

Brady passed for 329 yards and three touchdowns, Belichick coached up his defense, and New England beat the smack talk out of New York, 37-16. The Patriots were 2½-point underdogs, and the books welcomed the donations made by the public and the professionals.

"We’re getting nothing but Jets money," MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said before kickoff. "There are worse things in the world than needing the Patriots every now and then."

Belichick and Brady form the top coach-quarterback combination in NFL history, and it has been nine years since they lost three consecutive games. They responded to losses to Pittsburgh and the New York Giants by taking a broom to the Jets.

New England was the right side all the way. Too many of us got it wrong. It happens.

But there was a coin-flip game on the Week 10 schedule, and losing it stung worse only because it was given away by a coach wearing a dunce cap. New Orleans opened as a 1-point favorite at Atlanta, and by closing time the Falcons were bet to 1-point favorites.

The Falcons overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime, where they won the coin toss and lost the game.

On fourth and inches at his own 29-yard line — after a questionable replay reversal took away a first down — Atlanta coach Mike Smith opted to go all-in with a pair of jokers.

"I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked," Rood said. "That’s what gets you fired. How do you not punt?"

Smith’s gamble was a bad one, and not just in hindsight. Smith was looking at two possible results — getting a first down on his own 30 or getting second-guessed after blowing the game. High risk, low reward.

So the Falcons ran the most predictable play in the book, and running back Michael Turner was stuffed for a loss. He took the handoff and immediately was buried under an avalanche of Saints defenders. A quarterback sneak by Matt Ryan made more sense, although punting was clearly the higher-percentage play.

John Kasay’s 26-yard field goal lifted the Saints to a 26-23 victory. If Smith was terrified of giving the ball back to Drew Brees, he should have remembered Brees’ offense was stopped on its two previous possessions.

Another annoying Sunday offered the usual mix of bad beats, easy covers, ugly games and upsets.

In an ugly upset, Tim Tebow did not complete a pass in the first half, yet he somehow led Denver to a 17-10 victory at Kansas City. Tebow completed two passes for the Broncos, who were 3-point underdogs.

"We need Tebow almost every week, and so far he has delivered for us," Rood said. "It’s an interesting little phenomenon."

Assuming the Green Bay Packers rank No. 1, and it’s safe to assume as much, who’s No. 2 in the league? I posed the question last week and heard eight different answers.

"It’s a tough question," Rood said. "The Steelers look good, but their offense just doesn’t click like it should. I would have to say maybe the Saints. But I could almost see the Steelers."

My one winner was on Pittsburgh as a 3-point favorite at Cincinnati. The Steelers seemed determined to go three-and-out on every offensive possession in the fourth quarter before holding on, 24-17.

"The Steelers game was a huge loss," said Rood, whose book also took a hit on Houston’s 37-9 blowout of Tampa Bay. "Those were two big blows. What’s really surprising is how bad the Bucs are right now."

What was not too surprising was the Baltimore Ravens sleepwalking in Seattle. The Ravens get up for the Steelers and play down to the level of competition offered by sad teams like the Seahawks, who won 22-17 as 7-point ‘dogs.

Rood aptly called the Indianapolis Colts, who are 0-10 after a 17-3 loss to Jacksonville, an "unbelievable mess." The same goes for the Philadelphia Eagles, who were upset 21-17 by Arizona, a 13-point underdog that paid plus-550 on the money line.

Chicago and Dallas produced easy covers, while San Francisco upped the ante to 8-0-1 against the spread. Jim Harbaugh is doing everything right with the 49ers.

As for the Falcons and Jets, what an unbelievable mess.

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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