Every Monday of the NFL season, ESPN Insider will present the Monday Night Chaser, a comprehensive gambling preview of the "Monday Night Football" game, along with a recap of the weekend's games. Chad Millman will look back at the weekend's action, while Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton a veteran Vegas handicapper will provide analysis on the MNF game.
For more than three hours on Sunday afternoon I sat on my couch, watching my crazy big Smart TV with a Twitter feed strolling down the side and a high-def picture so real I can see Rex Ryan's Spanx. I ignored my kids, left my wife to fend for herself and sweated my fantasy players, my picks and my pools.
I remember when Sundays were relaxing, when I sat on the rose-colored leather sectional in my living room and went through a gantlet of Brent and Irv and Phyllis and The Greek on "NFL Today," then a Bears game, then drifted off to sleep to the melodious tones of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen as they announced a late game featuring some combination of the Broncos, Chargers or Raiders. Then I whined about doing my homework because I had to watch "Family Ties." That was a solid mid-80s afternoon.
Instead, this new technology and all these contests and leagues have me using lots of gadgets on Sundays. Don't get me wrong, when I saw my wife again at 4:30 p.m., I told her, "I think I just had the greatest day ever." But the day is still an emotional and physical undertaking.
And I wasn't alone. When I did my regular Sunday tweet of NFL betting trends for squares and sharps, I noted that the Ravens were a big square pick. I had gotten that from some bookmakers I talk to and from combing sites like Pregame.com and sportsinsights.com. What I realized was that about 90 percent of bets were coming in on that side. And that should have been a clue to walk away from Baltimore. The clear contrarian play was a home dog with a veteran quarterback getting plus-5.5 points. Then, I woke up this morning and RJ Bell from Pregame.com emailed me to say he had spoken with a bookmaker at the Cal-Neva resort who said he had more individual bets on the Ravens, including parlays and teasers, than any game he's ever had. Including the Super Bowl.
Fortunately, I didn't sweat that one. Instead, I was bouncing back and forth between the Packers-Panthers, I had the Pack minus-9.5, and the Bucs-Vikings, I had the Bucs plus-3. (These were two of my Hilton SuperContest picks, along with Detroit minus-8.5, San Diego plus-7 and Cincy plus-4. Rooting for the Chargers is like rooting for that super talented starlet who you know is going to throw it all away somehow. Nothing that San Diego team does when it matters ends well.) I also happened to have Aaron Rodgers on my fantasy team and had activated Jordy Nelson that morning. Imagine my elation as I watched the Bucs come from 17 down at the half to beat the Vikings on their last drive of the game, moving my play from a push to a W. Now imagine the euphoria when my fantasy quarterback hit my recently activated fantasy receiver for an 84-yard touchdown pass, a play that also happens to put the Packers in position to cover. I was happier than the day I hooked up my very special Smart TV with an Internet machine built inside.
I almost pulled the trigger on the biggest amateur move I could make: Tweeting how happy I was about this turn of events. Then I deleted it. Then I almost emailed my fantasy partner, Whit Albohm, who is a producer on "SportsNation." Whit is nearly 7 feet tall, or at least seems that way to me. I don't think he's ever seen my face, only the top of my head. But rather than taking 30 seconds to do that (we still had Vincent Jackson playing later that day, so there would be plenty of time for emails) I turned off the TV and went for a walk with the family.
Naturally, I came back to discover that the Packers didn't cover thanks to a late Cam Newton TD. As my Insider buddy Chris Sprow likes to say, "All a prevent defense does is prevent covers."
Look, I can't complain. That Cowboys game was pure agony. So many people were so high on Dallas that it was the most popular pick in the Hilton Contest, with 208 entrants taking them to cover against the Niners. And Dallas was out of it, never had a chance: Romo was knocked out, Kitna was playing like, well, a guy who gunslings. The Boys were down 14-0 at one point and needed a rookie kicker to boot a 48-yarder just to get to overtime. Then they nearly made everyone winners in OT when the courageous Romo came back on the field with a fractured rib and hit Jesse Holley, who rumbled and huffed and puffed down the field. Everyone was thinking "He's going to score, the Cowboys are going to cover!" Umm, no. He was caught at the 1. Instead, the Cowboys kicked a field goal and the game was a push.
Which can only mean one thing: Plenty of people with money to spend on tonight's Monday night game.
Matchup: St. Louis Rams at New York Giants
Spread: Opened at Giants minus-6, now Giants minus-7
Over/Under: Opened at 43.5, now 44