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Best of Bob Owens

Bob Owens: NFL Playoff Handicap

9 January 2002

I have only one selection from the four games in Round One of the playoffs, the Wild Card weekend. Before getting to that let me dispose of the mea culpa.

Most who do a public selection service, free or for a fee, don't want to mention their losing picks. I suppose it sends out negative vibes.

But I deem it essential, as a matter of credibility. In fact, I'd rather talk of my losers than of the winners, because you learn more from the dumps than you do from the fat scores. Losing also teaches humility in playing The Great Game of sports handicapping, a vital asset to deter disaster.

One well-known handicapper, a super salesman who uses his gift of blab to dupe naive bettors, put his bowl game selections out gratis for the second consecutive year, and again finished in the red. But don't suspend respiration waiting for him to admit it, although if he'd won big rest assured we'd never hear the end of it. Dupes have short memories.

In the bowls I went 7-9 ATS, and lost 2 units, plus one more for the broken parlay. Add another lost unit for the juice and I'm down 4 units for those 16 games. Poor work on my part. I overestimated the Big 12, and underestimated the Big East.

I did go 5-2 ATS on my 7 totals plays. Shoot, I shoulda just stuck with those. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. The mantra of the gambler stretching back to when some tapped-out Cro-Magnon first rolled dem bones around a Stone Age campfire.

I'll attempt to recover the lost units in the NFL playoffs, and hopefully add a few more. But that doesn't mean I'm going to go wild. A bettor's worst enemy is a lack of discipline, and too many lose control in the grip of frustration or elation. Shooting for the moon is fine when you're playing the lotto, a racetrack Pick Six or a ten-team parlay card, but for day-to-day sports betting you're best off rooted in terra firma.

Selection, Jan. 12: PHILADELPHIA -3.5 over Tampa Bay (2 units). This is my sole play this week. The Bucs and the Eagles played a meaningless season finale in Florida, with the backups getting a lot of field time. Philly pulled out a win in the last few minutes.

This time it's for real, and it's in Philadelphia. The weather is likely to be in the 30s, and Tampa can't win in the cold, temps under 40. Last year they lost their first playoff game by 18 points, to these same Eagles in chilly Philly.

Tampa is a dismal 2-6 ATS this season on the road. And Philadelphia performed considerably better, overall, versus the foes the two teams had in common.

This figures to be a defensive grind of a game. The Bucs never surrendered more than 31 points all season, and the Eagles never gave up more than 21, with their blitzes and shifting defensive schemes. Both are going to pretty much rely on getting a running game going, and Philly gained during the season about a yard more per carry than did Tampa, and that's a lot.

No doubt that Tampa has added motivation, to save the job of their popular head coach Tony Dungy. (Anyone seen Steve Spurrier hanging around Tampa?) But Philadelphia looks strong to win this trench warfare. (I did buy the half point on this game.)

The other three games: I lean toward the Jets getting points from Oakland. Both teams have shown characteristics of the Keystone Kops lately, but Oakland almost has a patent on late season swoons: they lost their last three games, including the finale, a game with meaning to these selfsame Jets. This year the Raiders have managed to limp into the playoffs, but if New York can get top RB Curtis Martin active early, and not rely on shaky QB Testaverde, they have a very solid shot to win it.

Miami and Baltimore both have their best athletes on the defensive side and this appears to be another low-scoring contest. (But the listed total is too low to induce me to bet into it.) Neither team is much at running the rock, but Miami's pass defense is better than Baltimore's. It's meaningful that the Fish are 6-1-1 ATS playing at home, while the Ravens are only 3-4-1 on the road.

In the other NFC game, Frisco flies to the famed frozen tundra of Green Bay. Look for Pack QB Favre to test a suspect Niner secondary. However, a very solid running game gives San Fran a shot, but I'd lean toward the Pack playing at home.

I was tempted to spend a unit each with the Jets and the Dolphins, but my conservative style of wagering allowed me to suppress that temptation. I'll happily stick with my 2 units on the Eagles, and hope that Philly gets hit with a deep freeze come Saturday.

(I reserve the right to throw in a 3 unit play on anything that looks like a standout, as I did last year with Baltimore in the Super Bowl.)

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.