Brady, NFL bettors left crazy and confused

Dazed and confused, picked off once and sacked four times, Tom Brady finally went to a knee to run out the clock as the New England Patriots escaped from New York.

The Patriots were lucky to escape, proving no team is invincible and reinforcing the theory that betting double-digit road favorites in the NFL is similar to one of those get-poor-quick Ponzi schemes.

“You know who played the best and lost?” Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point sports book, asked and then answered. “The Jets pressured Brady all day long. It had to be Brady’s worst game of the year.”

Brady and the Patriots, 9½- to 10-point favorites, got away with a 17-16 victory over the Jets only because Geno Smith is a bad-luck quarterback. Smith threw a costly interception and took a costly sack as the Jets found a way to lose a game they should have won.

A Jets loss is no surprise. But an inspired effort by the Jets fooled Brady and the betting public at the same time. The NFL can fool us 1,000 times and we still act surprised as if it’s the first time.

“Football is crazy,” Vaccaro said. “You watch these things and continually just shake your head.”

Aside from a threat from North Korea, these are the crazy things that had our heads shaking on this Sunday:

New Orleans, a 6-point favorite, lost its fifth consecutive home game. Not long ago, the Saints were considered to own the strongest home-field advantage in the league. With a chance to take control in the NFC South, they fell 30-14 to the Atlanta Falcons.

“I looked and it was 7-0 Saints,” Vaccaro said, “but they looked bad after that. I don’t understand it.”

A touchdown was ruled a fumble, and the Saints got screwed. Jimmy Graham crossed the goal line with the ball, then lost the ball, and everyone was confused after a controversial replay review. On the last play of the game, Drew Brees was sacked and coughed up the ball, and the Falcons returned it 86 yards for a touchdown as time expired on New Orleans’ disastrous season.

“It was a good game for us, but not monstrous,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “The offense is not clicking like we’re used to seeing the Saints click.”

Joe Flacco, who clicks only occasionally, led Baltimore to a 25-13 loss to Houston and its emergency quarterback, Case Keenum. The public was fooled by the Ravens as 6½-point favorites.

“The most surprising thing, I think, was Baltimore had no shot in that game,” Rood said.

Rood also was surprised when sharp money flooded in on Kansas City, which closed as a 2½-point underdog at Pittsburgh. Rood was the last bookmaker to drop the line from 3.

“Everybody liked the Chiefs, public and sharps. Money just kept coming and coming on plus-3,” Rood said. “I couldn’t quite understand that one.”

I bet the Steelers, who won 20-12, so I was not fooled by that one. But the Dallas Cowboys, who typically flop on their home field, fooled me by crushing Indianapolis 42-7.

The Colts tried a fake punt from their own 19-yard line with 4½ minutes remaining in the first quarter. The crazy fake should have worked, but a perfect pass was dropped, and it failed. The Colts were completely embarrassed, and the Cowboys are in the playoffs.

“If you bet the Cowboys, that was a fun game to watch,” Rood said. “That was never even close.”

A late meltdown by Minnesota allowed Miami to escape with a 37-35 win. Rood said sharp bettors jumped all over the Vikings, who closed as 4½-point underdogs. After the game, it was announced the Dolphins plan to keep their clueless coach, Joe Philbin.

If that does not prove football is crazy, maybe Chicago covering at home with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback proves it. Clausen, subbing for the benched Jay Cutler, passed for two touchdowns. Detroit, bet to a 10-point favorite, escaped with a 20-14 win even though Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions and no touchdown passes.

Buffalo, a 6½-point favorite, lost at Oakland. The public liked the Bills. The New York Giants, 6½-point underdogs, won at St. Louis. The sharps liked the Rams.

On Saturday, Philadelphia, a 7½-point favorite, was knocked out of the playoff race in a loss at Washington. San Francisco blew a 28-7 lead in a 38-35 overtime loss to San Diego, which mounted an improbable rally behind Philip Rivers and suddenly looks like a playoff team.

“I never figured that would happen. Rivers looked so bad at the beginning,” Vaccaro said. “The weekend was good. More winners than losers, that’s for sure.”

The bookmakers closed with a loser, though, as Seattle massacred Arizona 35-6. The public liked the Seahawks as 9½-point road favorites, a bet that made sense and actually paid off.

A bet on the Patriots normally makes sense. But the Jets played hard for outgoing coach Rex Ryan, whose defense drove Brady crazy.

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

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