Los Angeles, CA
The San Diego (Super) Chargers threw a monkeywrench at the Denver Broncos last night. San Diego and Philip Rivers marched into Denver's Mile High Stadium as a -10 underdog. Double-digit dogs are highly attractive bets to wiseguys, mostly because they have both the bankroll and the balls to pull the trigger on a mega-dog.
My hats off to anyone else who decided to fade the Broncos (undefeated at home) and back San Diego, a warm-weather team playing on the road with short rest. Not only did San Diego cover, they won the game outright and prevented Peyton Manning and the best offense in the NFL from rallying late in the 4th quarter, when the thin air of Denver becomes a major factor.
Denver's offense stalled for the first time all season. Peyton couldn't get the ball downfield and RB Knowshon Moreno all of a sudden became the invisible man. I had never seen Peyton look more disgusted with himself as he jogged off to the sidelines at the bitch-end of a three and out. That's the most three and outs I've seen since Peyton Manning signed with Denver. I'm used to seeing plenty of three and outs as a Jets fan, but Peyton Manning is not the type of QB who will go three and out in consecutive possessions, let alone three times in a row. The Broncos offense was out of sync and San Diego's defense stepped it up on the road to hand the Broncs their first loss at home. The Broncos slipped to 11-3 with their other two losses coming on the road in Indianapolis and New England.
After Denver's somewhat-shocking loss to San Diego, the bookies adjusted the Super Bowl lines. Denver was the odds-on-favorite to win going into Thursday Night Football, but as of Friday morning, the favorite is now the Seattle Seahawks.
Let's take a quick look at the top 10 on the board (according to Sportsbook.ag):
Seattle Seahawks (11-2) +200... The Seahawks looked unstoppable after they beat up New Orleans in Week 13, but they had just come off the bye week and had the ultimate advantage of playing at home, where they are nearly impossible to beat. Despite the big win against the Saints, the Seahawks lost a heartbreaker on the road to the Niners. I wouldn't want to butt heads with Seattle in the postseason, especially playing in that deafening stadium in Seattle. However, Seattle has to figure out how to win the big game on a neutral field without their rabid fans. FYI... Seattle is -125 to win the NFC Championship.
Denver Broncos (11-3) +300... Peyton Manning and the Broncos were the team to beat this year the moment they were knocked out of the playoffs last year. The offense looked meh last night, but most teams struggle on Thursday Night games. The Broncos' biggest weakness is their (Swiss cheese) defense that gives us chunks of rushing yards and Champ Bailey looks like he's playing with cement blocks on his feet. They'll win a shootout, but if Peyton and the offense sputters, they're in big trouble. Good news for Broncos fans, last night's loss gives you a slightly better price.
New England Patriots (10-3) +800... The Pats are 10-3, which is amazing considering how many injuries they suffered. They lost Gronk for the rest of the season, so who knows who will step up in the postseason for Brady and company.The Pats look good for bettors who don't like to pick favorites. Essentially, the bulk of New England Super Bowl futures' wagers are coming from the "chowdah-heads" in New England and everyone else in America who is opting for "Anyone but Denver."
New Orleans Saints (10-3) +900... This is the team with double-digit wins that offers up the best value. Rob Ryan's defense has improved every week and you can never take your eyes off Drew Brees. After getting their asses handed to them by the Seahawks two weekends ago, the Saints know they must go back into Seattle and steal a win if they want a shot at the Super Bowl. If they beat Seattle, then they can go all the way.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) +1000... Yeah, the Bungles are very close to winning the AFC North. They took advantage of a crappy Cleveland squad, a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers, and a Baltimore Ravens team in flux. But, I doubt they can win a game in the postseason, let alone two. The lack of depth in the AFC is the only reason they are at 10-1. They should be much higher.
San Francisco 49ers (9-4) +1000... The Niners are a live wire and Coach Harbaugh is on a mission to win a title that was well within his grasp until he lost to his brother's hot team in the Superdome. The Niners beat Seattle at Candlestick, a game they were supposed to win, but they'll have to beat both Seattle and New Orleans on the road if they want another shot at the Super Bowl. They could pull off one of those wins, but two?
Carolina Panthers (9-4) +2000... Live by Cam, die by Cam. When Cam Newton is soaring... no one can stop Carolina's high-flying offense. Their once shaky defense has been top notch and they're hunkering down in the second half of games. Carolina's big knock last season was their inability to hold a lead (they coughed up numerous first-half leads). They plugged that massive leak and it's nearly impossible to run against them (giving up fewer than 80 yards a game on the ground). Too bad the Panthers have one of the worst head coaches in the league. I liken their situation to last years' LA Clippers squad with Vinny Del Negro at the helm. An up and coming team is as only good as their inept head coach.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) +2200... No faith in Andy Reid. His biggest liability has always been poor clock management in crunch time, which hindered his inability to win big games. But Alex Smith has a chip on his shoulder. He's not in the same league as Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady... but never underestimate a pissed off QB with an axe to grind. The only thing KC has going for them is that no one is giving them a chance. Maybe they can pick off New England or even Denver sleepwalking in the postseason? But give Andy Reid a chance to make a crucial error... he will.
Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) +3000... Nick Foles and Chip Kelly will lead the Eagles to the promised land... next year. This year? Foles/Kelly will simply be happy to win one of the worst divisions in pro football and advance to the postseason. We'll see how Foles can handle top-notch defenses in the post season, but he looks like the real deal and everyone in the greater Philadelphia area will be saying, "Michael Vick who?" With that said, expect Vick to wash up with the NY Jets next season. You heard it here first.
Indianapolis Colts (8-5) +4000... Oh how the mighty have fallen. We all figured the Colts wouldn't replicate last year's magical season, but what is going on in Indy? The Colts are that team who steps up against superior competition (with wins @SF and at home against potential Super Bowl teams Seattle and Denver) but looks like ass against the bottom feeders (e.g. an ugly loss to St. Louis). Andrew Luck is picking up Eli Manning's bad habit of only showing up to play in big games. With that said, the Colts will be a pain in the ass to whomever draws them in the postseason.