NFL betting not for faint of heart, headless chickens

At the end of an odd Sunday afternoon, Tim Tebow imitated a headless chicken as he scrambled in circles and tried to rally the Denver Broncos to an improbable victory. It was a fitting scene.

Two games with narrow point-spread decisions moved bettors to the edge of their seats or to the brink of emotional breakdowns, and it started with the New England Patriots driving in the final two minutes.

“Pretty amazing finishes. Unbelievable drama for the spread,” said Mike Colbert, Cantor Gaming sports book director at M Resort. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s stressful.”

It’s agitating and exciting at the same time. Adrenaline junkies, like skydivers, would appreciate the action aspect of NFL betting.

Were you feeling pretty safe with that ticket on the Atlanta Falcons plus-6 when they took a 14-0 lead? Think again.

How about your bet on the underdog New York Jets? Trailing 27-21 with 7:07 remaining, the Jets needed a defensive stop to cover the spread, which opened at 9 and closed at 7½.

But the Patriots drove from their 22-yard line to the Jets’ 8, and did it by running the ball on 11 of 12 plays and converting two third downs. On third-and-1 with 1:09 to go, however, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.

If Green-Ellis gets the first down, New England probably runs out the clock and wins by six. Instead, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 30-21. Nine of 12 games went over the total, including the Jets-Patriots at 50½.

The Jets still had a shot to sneak in the back door. Mark Sanchez threw a strike to Plaxico Burress near the New England 30-yard line with 26 seconds left. But Burress dropped the ball. The Jets could have attempted a long field goal, followed by an onside kick, but Sanchez was sacked on the next play.

At the same time, the San Diego Chargers, favored by 3½ to 4 points, were clinging to a 26-24 lead after Tebow’s two-point conversion pass to Brandon Lloyd barely fell incomplete.

San Diego started a drive from its 20 with 3:19 to play. Philip Rivers completed a 38-yard pass on third-and-10 and led the Chargers to Denver’s 17-yard line. Nick Novak split the uprights on a 35-yard field goal with 24 seconds left.

“You never thought San Diego was going 70 yards in three minutes to kick a field goal,” Colbert said.

Tebow’s last gasp, a wild scramble and a 30-yard bullet throw into the end zone, was knocked down.

The majority of public money was on the Chargers and Patriots. But there were plenty of underdog bettors who got burned with the Broncos and Jets, who got the worst end of some questionable calls.

“There was a lot of support for the Jets, and there was sharp money on the Broncos, too,” Colbert said. “Believe it or not, those games didn’t mean much to us. But the ‘dogs would have been better as far as parlays. The Chargers and Patriots hurt us in the parlay area.”

Not all decisions are nail-biters. San Francisco crushed Tampa Bay 48-3 as all three favorites covered in the afternoon.

“The parlay cards are rolling in,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said. “You know how the public loves the Packers. It’s a bad weekend for parlay cards.”

It finally was a good weekend for the Minnesota Vikings, who rode Adrian Peterson’s 122 yards rushing and three touchdowns to a 34-10 victory over Arizona. The Vikings closed as 3- to 3½-point favorites, and the books took a beating on that game.

Miller said the Golden Nugget also took a loss on Buffalo’s 31-24 upset of Philadelphia, a 3-point road favorite. Michael Vick passed for 315 yards and rushed for 90, but he also threw four interceptions as the Eagles again collapsed under an avalanche of mistakes.

“The biggest game of the day was the Bills. That game hurt us,” Miller said. “Vick’s not going to last. He’s getting banged up left and right. The ‘Dream Team’ is 1-4. The Eagles are in trouble.”

Four underdogs won outright, including Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle. The Seahawks, getting 10 points and plus-450 on the money line, stunned the New York Giants, 36-25.

The Chiefs erased a 17-0 deficit to beat winless Indianapolis, 28-24. The Raiders, 5-point road ‘dogs, were inspired to play for late owner Al Davis and pulled out a 25-20 victory over Houston.

Favorites went 7-5 against the spread. Green Bay rewarded its swarm of supporters, and the Detroit Lions, 5½-point favorites over Chicago, can cap off a strong finish to the week for the betting public.

“I don’t think there’s one book that possibly needed Atlanta,” Colbert said. “I actually have an opinion (tonight), and I do like Detroit. But we took a pretty big bet on the Bears plus-6.”

I had a bet on the Falcons, but it never was safe and went to waste after the Packers reeled off 25 unanswered points. Chalk it up to another bizarre Sunday.

■ BOTTOM LINES — Sports betting shows hosted by Gary Greene and John Kelly are offering quality content for football season. Kelly (EOG.com) hosts the “EOG Sports Hour” at 10 p.m. weeknights on KLAV-AM (1230).

Greene (Bluebooksports.com) has a two-hour radio show beginning at 6 p.m. Fridays on KSHP-AM (1400). He also hosts a local cable TV program, “Bet Vegas,” that can be viewed at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays on Cox (14), DirecTV (25) and at vegastv.com.

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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