Luck is a significant factor in handicapping, and when you’re hot, it’s probably on your good side. Lately, it has paid off to side with the Indianapolis Colts and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Sometimes luck is nothing more than an unpredictable intangible. But on Sunday, when it was a factor in deciding the point-spread results of six NFL games, the right side also was the lucky side. And I’ll try to explain why.
The Detroit Lions serve as the first example. When you bet on the Lions, you’re asking for bad luck. Some teams just find ways to lose, and a bad team is often led by a clueless coach – in this case, Jim Schwartz.
Leading by 12 points and in possession of the ball around midfield with 4½ minutes to go, the Lions went three-and-out and punted. The Colts’ Luck took it from there.
“That kid is the real deal,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “The Colts are quietly putting together a great season. When you’re having a bad season, the breaks don’t go your way. Right now, the Colts are completely opposite.”
Indianapolis’ regular-season win total was 5½. The Colts are 8-4 and likely headed to the playoffs after winning six of their past seven games.
Detroit opened as a 4-point home favorite, and the line closed at 7. The Lions still led by five after Luck’s 42-yard touchdown pass with 2:39 remaining. Luck’s last shot – a 14-yard scoring pass to Donnie Avery as time expired – capped the Colts’ 35-33 comeback win. It was a bad beat for Detroit bettors, but don’t be surprised. Luck is hot, and the Lions are not.
The same theory basically applies to San Diego, too. The Chargers held a fourth-quarter lead and lost to Cincinnati, 20-13. The game ended with Philip Rivers throwing an interception. Betting on Norv Turner is a bad idea, and it has been for a long time.
Laying points with the New York Jets? Another bad idea. The Jets, bet from 4½- to 6½-point favorites over Arizona, got to the 1-yard line with two minutes to go and kneeled down to run out the clock in a 7-6 win. Tough luck. Mark Sanchez was benched after throwing three interceptions, and nobody should be surprised.
San Francisco, favored by 7 to 7½ points at St. Louis, led 10-2 and faced a key third-down play from its own 17 with three minutes left. For those who predicted 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to start Colin Kaepernick at quarterback would backfire, this is when it backfired.
Kaepernick ran an option play to his left and threw a wild pitch over his running back. The Rams recovered the fumble, scored, tied the game and won it 16-13 in overtime. Harbaugh is aloof, and he got what he deserved.
“Harbaugh is one of the better coaches. But that was the worst play call I think I’ve seen all year,” said handicapper Mark Franco (FrancoSports.com). “Obviously, I had San Francisco, so I’m a little biased.”
Laying 7½ points, even with the New England Patriots, is playing with fire. So when Miami’s Dan Carpenter kicked a 42-yard field goal with 31 seconds to play, cutting the Patriots’ winning margin to 23-16, it highlighted the importance of a half-point. The hook is there for a reason.
“Miami kicking a field goal late was big for us,” Rood said.
Saving the sixth and luckiest result for last, we go to Dallas, where the Cowboys went into the prime-time game 0-5 against the spread at home. Despite that trend, a majority of bettors thought laying 10½ points against Philadelphia was a good idea.
The Eagles’ 27-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter turned into a 38-27 deficit after Dallas’ Morris Claiborne returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown with
3:50 to go. It appeared Cowboys backers got lucky with a wrong-side winner – until Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards for a TD with 31 seconds left, and Philadelphia covered in its 38-33 loss. It was incredible luck, but underdog bettors deserved it.
Underdogs finished the day 8-6 ATS with Indianapolis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Seattle recording outright upsets. The Chiefs and Steelers helped the bookmakers the most.
Kansas City, bet from a 3- to 5½-point ‘dog, was in an emotionally unpredictable spot after linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide incident Saturday. Pittsburgh, a 7-point ‘dog, followed third-string quarterback Charlie Batch to a 23-20 win at Baltimore.
“Pretty much all of the money was on Carolina, so we did well on that game,” Rood said. “The public just pounded the Ravens on the teasers and parlays. We had a pretty good day. It’s a nice way to start the month. The whole month of November was pretty horrible, and October wasn’t great.”
The betting public did win big with Denver and Houston. Luck was not much of a factor for Peyton Manning, who guided the Broncos, 7½-point favorites, to a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay.
“I really like the Broncos to get to the Super Bowl. Their defense is good enough, and Manning is not going to make many mistakes,” Franco said. “I’m not sold on the Texans. I just don’t think the Patriots are that good.”
Efficiency ratings and statistics show the Colts aren’t great, either. But they have Luck on their side, and it’s tough to bet against him.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.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.