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NFL betting: Cardinals help public get it right

While star quarterbacks continue to fall, the power rating on Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals keeps rising. Of course, the NFL is a stock market, with rises and falls, injuries and overreactions.

This time last year, the Cardinals were in the midst of a similar red-hot rise, and then Palmer took a fall and they went ice cold.

“If Palmer stays healthy, the Cardinals are really, really good,” said Chuck Esposito, Sunset Station sports book director.

Palmer was good again Sunday, when Arizona made the San Francisco 49ers look like Idaho State in a 47-7 beating. Las Vegas bookmakers started to hide their eyes. It’s not always better to be the bookmaker. Occasionally, the bettors deserve credit for playing their cards right.

The Cardinals, 7-point favorites, were one of the teams the public had right in Week 3. Buffalo and Seattle were a couple more. All three won in blowouts — by a combined score of 114-21 — in the afternoon.

“We lost all the late games,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “It’s ugly. As bad as you can get.”

There were 10 games in the morning — because the NFL loves to aggravate us with an unbalanced schedule — and the bettors were right about Atlanta, Houston, New England and Pittsburgh in the big-decision games.

“I’m trying to find a game we won,” Bogdanovich said. “We won Indianapolis-Tennessee, and I don’t know how.”

The season’s first Sunday was ugly for the books, too. However, Internet headlines such as “Las Vegas books get crushed” turned out to be misleading.

“In Week 1, we got out because we won the Sunday night game and both Monday games,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s worse right now than it was Week 1.”

The isolated Sunday night game often creates a swing in results because it draws so much action and includes a lot of parlay liability for the books. This time, it was Denver at Detroit, and the bookmakers were pulling for the Lions as 3-point underdogs.

“We had a nice cushion going into the afternoon games,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “We went 0-3 in the late games, and after the smoke cleared, we ended up a small loser. We needed to knock the Broncos out.”

The bookmakers don’t always get what they need. The Broncos pulled away to KO the winless Lions 24-12 as Peyton Manning played hero with a late touchdown pass.

Esposito called it “kind of up and down” for the Station Casinos books Sunday, when underdogs went 7-6 against the spread and won five games outright.

The Steelers, popular 1-point ‘dogs, won 12-6 at St. Louis, but they lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for about a month to a knee injury in the process. His replacement is Michael Vick, so there will be a line adjustment on Pittsburgh moving forward.

“I think it’s probably going to be 4 or 4½ points, maybe even 5,” Esposito said. “Vick likes to sling the ball around, and he’s got a good supporting cast around him. I think it’s a good system for him, it fits his style of play, so it’s not that much of an adjustment.”

After a pathetic showing the previous week, Philadelphia went from a 2½-point road favorite to a 3-point underdog against the New York Jets, who were coming off two impressive showings. And the Eagles made it look easy in a 24-17 victory over the Jets.

“You think about the swing in the betting line on the Eagles game. It was a huge swing there,” Esposito said. “”The best way I can characterize it is from week to week, it’s the NFL and it changes. You think you have a team figured out, and by next week you’re scratching your head again.”

We know the Patriots are awfully good and the Jaguars are awful. In a supposed flat spot, New England bombed Jacksonville 51-17 to cover as a 14-point favorite.

We think the Falcons are legitimate at 3-0. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones took apart the Dallas defense as Atlanta overcame a 21-7 deficit to win 39-28 in a pick’em game. Brandon Weeden, aside from one really poor throw, was a pretty good replacement for injured Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

We know Carolina is 3-0, but we think that record is misleading. The Panthers, 9-point favorites, barely beat New Orleans 27-22. One week after Drew Brees took a fall, backup Luke McCown was surprisingly solid, aside from one bad throw.

We know Chicago is hopeless at 0-3. It’s tough to make anyone miss Jay Cutler, but Jimmy Clausen pulled it off by passing for 63 yards in a 26-0 loss at Seattle, which was bet from a 14- to a 16½-point favorite.

“I go into Sundays knowing the Bears are going to lose,” said Esposito, a Bears fan who managed to keep his spirits up while throwing a party at Club Madrid inside Sunset Station.

At the next table, a group of Bills fans were wildly celebrating. Buffalo, a popular 1-point underdog, was putting a 41-14 whipping on Miami. There were some rowdy Cardinals fans and some subdued 49ers fans, too.

Palmer is 16-2 in his past 18 starts for the Cardinals, who are 3-0 and looking better every week. Some things might not last long — the flavor in chewing gum, the excitement of a new relationship, a healthy Palmer — but for now Arizona is a hot team with bettors.

The Packers are also public favorites. If Green Bay wins and covers against Kansas City on Monday night, some bookmakers will be crushed. Next week that could change.

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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