My first job in the magazine biz was at Sports Illustrated, checking Peter King's weekly NFL column. There's not a more generous man in journalism than Peter, so I'm sure he won't mind if I pay homage to his weekly awards section in "Monday Morning Quarterback" by offering my own awards roundup this week, of the gambling variety.
Here we go:
The Don't-Believe-Til-You-See-It Award:
This goes to the 80-20 rule. If you listened to my podcast on Friday you caught Dan Fabrizio of sportsinsights.com talking about contrarian betting theories. That means betting against the public almost exclusively. And that means generally betting on underdogs. His research shows that doing just this will help you win 51 percent of your bets. Now, that's not enough to beat a book charging you a 10 percent commission (you need to hit 52.4 percent to do that). But 51 is closer than 50, so it's a head start. What Fabrizio talked about was finding the filters that help you find that extra 1.5-2 percent that helps turn a profit. And one of the filters he loves is the 80-20 rule. When you have a home dog in which 80 percent of the bets are on the road fave, it's a winning formula. I tested his theory this weekend and included the two 80-20 games -- the Niners getting 82 percent of bets as 3.5-point faves at Zona and the Pats getting 84 percent of bets as 7.5-point faves at Washington -- in my SuperContest five. I won both games.
The Right-Side-Wrong-Outcome Award:
For most of the week, the Saints-Titans in Nashville fell into that 80-20 category, too (it ended up 74 percent-26 percent). Still, I made the Titans plus-3.5 a SuperContest pick anyway. And it was the right call. This is something worth remembering during the playoffs: Drew Brees and the Saints look human playing on natural grass under the real sky. Yet bookmakers know casual fans will bet them anyway, so they are bound to be overvalued. Look at the stats in this game and it's clear the Titans should have covered. They gained a full yard more per play (6.8 to 5.8), and were better in the red zone. Even with Jake Locker taking over for Matt Hasselbeck, they kept it close. Bummer.
The It-Really-Can't-Get-Worse Award:
Another reference to last week's offerings, sorry. But in Friday's column, my fellow Chicagoan, Todd Fuhrman of Caesars in Las Vegas, told me that the line in the Bears-Broncos game had moved from Denver minus-4 to minus-3.5 because wiseguys believed, "It's tough to lay over a field goal with an offense that has relied on last-minute heroics." He also pointed out that it would be hard for the Bears' offense to play any worse. It was better against Denver and then Marion Barber was just bad enough to give the game back to Denver when it needed it most. The other thing Fuhrman told me Friday: We would be glad to have that half-point hook in our pockets. I know I was.
The Now-We-Know-How-Motivated-The-Packers-Are Award:
Green Bay 46, Oakland 16. If the win against the Giants had people thinking the Pack were disinterested, if anyone had any doubts about their intentions of going for an undefeated season, let this be the answer. I know I learned my lesson.