Vick among casualties as ‘dogs bark loudest

A phenomenal comeback came to an abrupt and ironic end Sunday. Michael Vick, the quarterback who experienced a magical season of redemption in Philadelphia, was thrown to the ‘dogs.

Vick turned into an electric playmaker for the Eagles, and he seemed to feel genuine remorse for torturing animals after doing prison time for the crime. Some appreciate the story and some hate it. But he earned another shot, and made something of it.

The NFL regular season was dominated by underdogs, and the trend carried into the wild-card round of the playoffs as three of four ‘dogs won outright.

The Green Bay Packers upset the Eagles 21-16 in an NFC postseason game that concluded with Vick throwing an interception in the end zone. The public and wiseguys bet the Packers, who closed as 1-point underdogs after the line bounced from 2½ to 3 all last week.

So Vick is not returning to Atlanta to face the Falcons, and he’s not squaring off against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

Still, the postseason is off to a fascinating start. The bettors were out in full force for the first weekend and they essentially battled the bookmakers to a draw.

"The handle was excellent for four games, and it was almost like a regular Sunday with 13 or 14 games," said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of operations for Lucky’s sports books. "It was a very good Saturday, and then Sunday we gave some back."

Vaccaro was quoted on these pages Friday as saying the Packers were his pick. That’s one winner.

I stated in the same column that Baltimore and Seattle were my plays. Two more winners. I don’t highlight the winners and hide the losers here, but it’s nice to quiet the critics, at least for a week.

The reality is, Baltimore was a relatively easy call, and almost everyone was clued in to it. The Ravens are a road-tested playoff team with more talent on both sides of the ball than the inexperienced Chiefs, whose flaws were exposed late in the season.

Despite a clumsy beginning, Baltimore wiped out a 7-3 deficit and crushed the Chiefs, 30-7. The Ravens opened as 2½-point favorites and the line closed 3 and 3½.

"There weren’t too many tickets on the Chiefs to be found anywhere," Vaccaro said.

Bookmakers were pulling for the Chiefs and Eagles to cover Sunday, but the Ravens and Packers got the money.

"Everybody is in the same boat. The books all needed the Chiefs, and that’s the biggest decision of the weekend," Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said.

It was a different tale Saturday, as the Super Bowl participants from a year ago — New Orleans and Indianapolis — went down in a spectacular ball of flames.

It’s amusing how suddenly fortunes shift in the NFL.

Eleven months after winning it all and embarking on a book tour, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was knocked out by a Seattle team that was 7-9. Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, who intercepted Peyton Manning and sprinted for a touchdown in a Super Bowl-clinching highlight, was tossed aside like a rag doll on Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard TD run that clinched a 41-36 win for the Seahawks.

New Orleans coach Sean Peyton lost a chess match to Pete Carroll, and the Seahawks, at plus-10 the largest home underdogs in NFL playoff history, blew up countless parlays and teasers.

A few hours later, Manning and the Colts, 2½-point favorites, fell 17-16 to the New York Jets. And we were all, Manning included, left in stunned amazement as Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell used a late timeout to help the Jets.

"That seems to be the way business is done anymore. Sooner or later, the Super Bowl teams just don’t show up," Vaccaro said. "That seems to be some sort of a trend."

Let’s move on to the next round. The opening numbers posted at Lucky’s books, based downtown at the Plaza, are as follows:

In the AFC, Pittsburgh is a 3½-point favorite over Baltimore on Saturday, and New England is favored by 8½ over the Jets on Sunday.

In the NFC, Atlanta is a 1½-point favorite over Green Bay on Saturday, and Chicago is a 10-point favorite over Seattle on Sunday.

"I guess there’s no bad matchups," Vaccaro said.

The playoffs were more intriguing with Vick and the Eagles in the picture. But this has been a season of underdogs, and the Packers will continue to be dangerous.

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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