‘Dog show a victory for sports books

Around the time Matt Ryan threw his third interception of the first half, it was obvious something was amiss. The Atlanta Falcons, the biggest favorites on the board, were expecting a leisurely stroll in the park and instead walked into a dogfight.

It was going to be one of those crazy Sundays.

Bookmakers want to see chaos, which means the games fail to go according to form and favorites fall in a domino effect.

"Everything is going good if you’re on this side of the counter," said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of public relations for William Hill sports books. "The ‘dogs are showing, and the books are doing very well."

The NFL is resembling the Westminster Dog Show.

The league’s swiftest teams – Atlanta, Houston, New England and San Francisco – came up surprisingly lame Sunday. Only the Falcons won their game, and they did so with one second left on a 55-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.

The lowly Oakland Raiders, 9½- to 10-point underdogs, pushed the Falcons to the finish line and covered in a 23-20 loss. It was a really bad day to put favorites on a parlay.

For that matter, it has been a bad season to be playing favorites. According to the consensus closing lines at Las Vegas books, recorded by Dave Tuley at ViewfromVegas.com, underdogs are 56-32-2 against the spread for the season.

In Week 6, including Tennessee’s upset of Pittsburgh on Thursday, underdogs are 11-2 ATS, with eight winning outright.

"Will it turn? Who knows," Vaccaro said. "I’ve seen it change on a dime."

How chaotic and crazy is it getting? Here’s a small sample:

■ Tom Brady threw two interceptions and was upstaged by rookie Russell Wilson, who had three touchdown passes. Wilson’s 46-yard scoring strike to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining lifted Seattle to a stunning 24-23 victory over the Patriots.

■ The Detroit Lions won a road game, and did it by overcoming a 10-point deficit with five minutes to go. The Lions, 3½-point ‘dogs, took the fight to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, and survived 26-23 in overtime.

■ The Cleveland Browns won their first game, and actually scored three touchdowns in one quarter. Cincinnati, heavily bet as a 2-point road favorite, took a fall 34-24 in one of the morning’s biggest decisions for the books.

"We won that game," Vaccaro said. "We’re winning those key games. Nothing is ever definite or a guarantee, but when you’re winning the key games, you almost can’t lose for the day."

(One guarantee is if the New York Yankees need a hit in a key situation, Alex Rodriguez will strike out. But that’s a different story.)

After the Bengals, Eagles and Falcons failed to cover in key games, the 49ers followed with a spectacular flop.

I say it all the time: Don’t bet against the New York Giants as underdogs. Not many people listen. But they will learn. San Francisco, which closed as a 7-point favorite, got lit up at Candlestick in the Giants’ dominant 26-3 win.

"And you throw in a monster Patriots game," Vaccaro said. "It just slaughters every ticket."

Even the Buffalo Bills picked up a rare road win. And the Washington Redskins, 2-point ‘dogs, stopped an eight-game home losing streak. The only favorites to win and cover were the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they each made it look easy.

To top it all off, the Houston Texans suffered their first loss in a 42-24 slaughter against the Green Bay Packers, 3½-point road underdogs.

The ‘dog trend is tailored for a handicapper such as Tuley, who is 21-9 in the LVH SuperContest and has played only one favorite (the Jets in Week 1) all season.

Tuley said he is a "dog or pass" bettor who learned the hard way years ago. "When I picked a favorite and it would lose, I would question myself – why didn’t I see that ‘dog being live?"

Several bettors were asking that question Sunday. As for tonight’s game, San Diego is a 1-point home favorite over Denver. But Vaccaro said he thinks the Broncos will close as 1-point favorites.

Right now, it’s better to be the ‘dog.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans 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, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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