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Handicapper Owens Lays the Lumber, Says –14 on the Rams is OK

31 January 2002

By Bob Owens
Cockadoodle doo!

Well, that's all the crowing I'll do for the cover by the Eagles on Sunday, and the 1.5 units I gained. Aside from the fact that in sports betting he who crows over a win or two or three always ends up eating same, that Rams-Eagles game didn't add up the way I figured.

Yes, it is an invitation to fade any double-digit fave in the Conference Championship games, and that held true again in both games on Sunday. (Both St Louis and Pittsburgh closed at -10.) Betting against the favorite in those games over the past four years would have gotten you 6-2 ATS.

Laying double digits to a winning team doesn't make sense, though I am going to be senseless in the Super Bowl, where blowouts are not unknown, and I'll reason that out below.

But last Sunday I really did expect the Philly "D" to pressure Warner into mistakes, and they hardly laid a glove on him. I thought Troy Vincent would get his shot and play well -- he left the game early. I was convinced that the Eagles could contain Faulk -- that container leaked 159 yards to the primo Ram rusher.

And Philly QB McNabb hardly ran at all, making it easier for the Ram defense. He might have thought he was an accomplished pocket passer, like Warner. McNabb looked tentative and indecisive at times, a fact he more or less admitted in a post-game interview.

But I did get the cover. And after thinking it over for quite some while, I decided not to return the money to the sports accountant. However, if one engages in that type of faulty analyses on a regular basis, it guarantees losing long-term.

Hardly any who do public recommendations on whom to wager in sporting events discuss their losers (though it is far more instructive than celebrating wins), and none, I think, will ever dare tell you they made a mistaken analysis on a cover. Instead, they tailor their message to their audience, and the great majority of the clients of touts are certified imbeciles who need the bogus certainty supplied by the twisters and shouters.

But that's not my style. I prefer to talk as equals to those who wish my opinions on football. Unlike many in that band of bandits (with maybe 5 percent exceptions) who engage in sports touting, I'll never claim I won 500 units (for even if true it would mean you are risking too much, violating the principle of conservation of capital).

The most I've ever won during one football season is 48 units. The most I've ever lost is around 16. I've won more years than I've lost, which of course does not mean I can guarantee that I, or anyone following my picks, will win in any particular year.

I did again come out on the plus side this year. I only did the college bowls and the NFL post-season publicly (at this site), but even there I will come out slightly ahead.

In the bowls I lost 3.9 units -- including the juice -- and in the NFL playoffs I am now up 5.4 units (6.5 won, 1.1 lost). So overall for this post-season, I am up 1.5 net units.

Should I lose the Super Bowl bet, I'll finish the post season 0.4 units up. If I win the Super Bowl, I'll finish 2.5 units ahead.

"Wow, whoopee! Big deal!" I can hear that from some in the imbecile wagering constituency. Well, pal, it is a big deal to come out ahead, or to just break even. Because well over 95 percent of all sports bettors lose, long-term. But since it's such a macho enterprise, you could sit in any sports book in the world for days on end (as I have) and never hear a single bettor admit it!

Plunging on hunches or betting big on the soothing words of screaming touts may get you some huge hits, but long-term, brother, you will surely lose. And long-term is what it's all about. It's the way the bookmakers think -- they do have losing weeks, but long-term they eat the pastry while most of their customers scramble for crumbs.

I always handicap college and pro football, for my own betting, and usually as a service for others as well. Though not always; it's hardly my main source of income, and sometimes -- like this full season -- I had too many other things in the fire to bother with it.

Sunday, February 3

St Louis –14 over New England (1 unit)

Yeah, I'm laying a large load of lumber against a winning team. But, as noted, the Super Bowl usually follows a different script from other playoff games. It has its own illogic.

Lopsided wins in these games are not that unusual, which is why the Super Bowl has a reputation of being a bore, with the collateral activities providing the real excitement. Most people in the stands are there to party, with the game as little more than a colorful backdrop.

Last year Baltimore, a three-point fave, won the game by 27. And it really wasn't even that close. Three years ago Denver (-7) smacked Atlanta by 15, and that one also was not as close as the score indicated. In the mid 90s New England was +14 to the Packers in a Super Bowl, and could only manage a push.

The other day on talk radio, I heard it sagely intoned that New England is one of only four teams to hold the Rams to under 25 points in the regular season. And that they covered the spread against St Louis.

True, but let's look at that game, played on Nov 18. First, it was at New England, on grass. The speed of St Louis is more telling on artificial turf, as will be the case in New Orleans.

Second, the Rams failed to cover an eight-point spread, but did beat the Pats by a touchdown.

Third, the Rams almost certainly had a case of "look ahead" in that game; the following week they were going to play their nemesis, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on Monday night, a game with much more impact than the one versus the Patriots.

Fourth, the stats from that game show an interesting story. Although the Rams won by only seven, they dominated the game offensively. They had double the number of first downs, and more than twice the total net yards. Warner out-passed Brady by over 200 yards. St Louis also won the rushing game by 35 yards.

Most games that are so dominated by one team will usually result in a blowout. I'll agree that if the Rams play as lamely as they did versus Philly -- Eagle rookie Correll Buckhalter gained an average of eight yards per carry before leaving with an injury, lucky for the Rams -- they won't get the cover. But I believe they will perform at their peak.

Research I did a few years back taught me that a team that had recently won a Super Bowl had a very significant advantage in covering in the SB than a team that did not. The Rams won it two years ago, New England lost the game about five years ago.

And most important, a simple syllogism: (a) the better team almost always wins the SB; (b)the Rams are the better team; and (c) it's rare for the winning team in the SB not to also cover, or at least get a push.

To dispose of a couple of intangibles. One is that a team that lost to Tampa during the season, as St Lou did, has never won a Super Bowl. So what? That's all history so much in the past it's irrelevant. It means as little as the fact that the two prior Super Bowls contested by New England were both in New Orleans, and the Patriots lost both games big-time.

Also that the New England team in these trying times has something mystical going for it, with a name like the Patriots. Actually, the Rams have just as much going for them on that score, since they have taken the place of the old Dallas Cowboys as "America's Team." It's a myth that America loves an underdog. We root for the big favorite to kick butt, providing the big fave wears a white hat. And Kurt and friends do wear that hat. Truly, brethren, the Rams are the new "America's Team."

I'm not at all underrating the Patriots. They somehow get it done. Without two special teams touchdowns against Pittsburgh, the Steelers win the game by seven. I mean, two special teams Tds. Please!

Nice magic, but the SB is about better execution all around, and about the experience of being a participant in this bizarre media circus. The Rams have done it, and won. The Patriots have not.

I will grant that had I other games to choose from, I may have passed on this one. But the Super Bowl is the only game of the year in which I take a "Mount Everest" approach: you know, because it's there. I'm not as strong on it this time as I was last year with Baltimore, which coaxed a three-unit play from me. But I will bet the single unit and watch the game with at least some interest.

The SB is sort of anticlimactic for the handicapper, but it is the apex of the season for the casual fan, many of whom turn into bettors, to better "enjoy" the spectacle. With that in mind I'll offer my opinions on some of the other bets and the many, many propositions most bookies post.

Total: over 53. Because the Super Bowl more often than not goes over the total. These guys scored 41 points at Foxboro, and this game should go a few Tds higher.


Yes, there will be a score in the first six minutes of the game, -180. (This, to the uninitiated, means you must lay $18 to win $10 here. This is my max number for any prop.) Regular season the Rams, on average, had a score in 5:33 minutes of the game. If there will be more points scored in this one, and I think there will, I have to believe we'll see a score within six minutes of kickoff.

No, the Patriots won't get a first down in their first drive of the game, EVEN. This game is a new experience for most of their players. They'll be too anxious to get that first down. This is an even money proposition.

Yes, both teams will score in every quarter, +450. Why not? New England failed to score in the third quarter at Foxboro but in the SB there usually is more scoring. And you'd get $4.50 for each buck bet here.

Yes, the Rams will score more points in the second half/overtime than in the first half, -105. Kind of a SB habit, teams loosen up offensively as the game progresses.

The Rams will be charged with more penalty yards, +110. St Lou had twice the penalty yards of the Pats in the November game. The Rams, with their complex offense and huge playbook, do tend to incur more penalties than their opponents. ***

Total passing yards by the Rams, over 300.5, -115. Hey, they passed for 396 yards in Foxboro. You gotta figure, if they're going to win, they will repeat that. ***

Total rushing yards by the Patriots, under 78.5, -115. They had only 51 on the ground at Foxboro. Of course, they could break off a long one and get those yards, but it appears they will use mostly a controlled passing game.

The Rams (-4) will have more first downs than the Patriots, -140. In this prop you must subtract four first downs from the Ram total to get the final result, as well as to put down 14 bucks to snag 10. Still, I think it a good bet in that the Rams in Foxboro doubled New England's first downs.***

More than 3.5 Rams players will score an offensive touchdown, +115. In the November game three different Rams took it to the house (Holt, Faulk, Hodgins). Warner does spread it around, and if the score is higher in this one, as it should be, figure four guys will score.

Total points scored in game by the Rams only, over 33.5, -115. It follows the basic SB syllogism. ***

Ram WR Ricky Proehl will score the first offensive TD of the game, +1200. If you crave SB action and want a long shot, give this a try. Man, look at those odds! And Proehl did score a TD the last time the Rams were in a Super Bowl.

***The bets marked with a triple asterisk I'd consider a little better than the others. Still, I wouldn't advise betting much more than beer money on any of them.

Have a Super Sunday.


Bob Owens Handicaps the Conference Championships

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Bob Owens
Bob Owens has been a freelance writer for 20 years, authoring numerous articles on sports and betting. In the late 1980s, he was an advisor on betting and promotions for the Caliente bookmakers in Mexico. He's based in San Diego.
Bob Owens
Bob Owens has been a freelance writer for 20 years, authoring numerous articles on sports and betting. In the late 1980s, he was an advisor on betting and promotions for the Caliente bookmakers in Mexico. He's based in San Diego.