Trying to figure out how to win some Franklins from Doug the Dog and his little black notebook tonight? Or just arguing football with your pals?
Our man on the NFL beat, Paul Deblinger, spent 15 years handicapping horse racing professionally.
He has written sports for the Associated Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dallas Morning News and Daily Oklahoman. That doesn’t mean he will pick games any better than you will, but it does mean he will sound more erudite doing it.
Week 4 Recap, Money Lines, and a Thursday Pick
by: Paul Deblinger
Week 4 Recap, Money Lines, and a Thursday Pick
Week 4 Picks: 7-8… on the Season: 30-32–1
Week 4 Over/Under: 9-6… on the Season: 33-30
Bankroll: Season start 1,000 units
Week 4 start: 1,030 units
Week 4 wagers: 120 units
Week 4 results: +80 units
Bankroll after week 4: 1,110 units
Money Lines, Part I
So, the government is shut down and that leaves some people so bored they will turn to football to ease their ennui. Actually, that will happen despite the government shutdown. Do you know the highest rated prime time network program? No, it’s not The Big Bang Theory or Survivor, it’s NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Do you know the highest rated cable program? It’s not Breaking Bad or Mad Men, it’s ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
The National Football League is a nine billion dollar business–actually it’s a non-profit, (thanks to Congress) larger than the Gross Domestic Product of 54 nations. Over $1 billion was bet in Vegas legally on the NFL last year, and by some estimates, more than $300 billion is bet illegally–either online or through bookies.
ESPN charges cable providers over $5 a household and that’s not because of bass fishing or the X-Games, it’s Monday Night Football. By the way, when you pay your cable bill, you pay for that whether you watch football or not.
The NFL has also extracted over $17 billion in public money for new stadiums. There was one federally-built stadium, RFK Stadium in D.C., which probably would have been shutdown this week had the Washington Subsides not moved to the Maryland suburbia. Here’s a little known civil rights bit of trivia: because the Feds owned the stadium in D.C. they forced George Preston Marshall, the racist owner of the Washington team, to integrate his team in 1962, the last NFL team to do so.
I mentioned last week how the NFL said no when the Obama administration asked them to support education efforts for the Affordable Care Act. They did so after being pressured by Republicans in Congress. One of the reasons they acquiesced so easily and went against the President is that Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has tried to yank sports leagues’ tax exemptions. The NFL has so much to protect in Congress that they spend $1.5 million annually lobbying.
The NFL’s goal is to increase their revenue up to $25 billion by 2025 which is a pretty amazing goal considering that some in sports media feel the league has peaked and is in for rough time regarding player injuries, tax money for stadiums, and shrinking profits for TV.
The NFL, after all, is only a front for 32 individually owned franchises and merely enforces the league’s rules and distributes the collective revenues it brings in on behalf of the teams such as visiting team tickets sales shares, TV revenue, and other such income.
Through a brilliant revenue sharing plan, the annual draft, and the collective bargaining agreement the NFL has produced a league where teams can go from last to first in one year and no team can remain dominant for long. The Bill Belichick-coached Patriots, one of the NFL’s best and most consistent teams, haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2005.
The salary cap has a major impact on the NFL’s profitability, competitiveness, and team growth. As opposed to other sports the NFL has a strict hard cap and also a pay scale for rookies.
One of the things in which the NFL has no power is the growing amount of money paid to quarterbacks. In the last year, quarterback money has exploded. When the current round of quarterback contracts hits the big money years at the end of the cap-structured deals, quarterbacks will be sucking up more than 20 percent of the average team’s salary cap. When you add a couple of other high-priced contracts and the money paid to first-round picks, the rest of the team will get the crumbs. You can figure it out yourself.
In 20 years the NFL salary cap has risen from $35 million to $126 million. Say your quarterback earns $20 million (about 16% of the cap) and the other stars take in another $25 million. That leaves $81 million for the other 50 players on the team, a lot less than what the stars make.
If the NFL’s goal is to triple its revenue in 12 years that means the players will bring in a lot more money, the cap will go up, ticket prices will go up, and your cable bill will go up, too.
When I signed up for DirectTV recently one of the reasons I signed up was the “free” NFL Sunday ticket package which allows you to see any NFL game. They don’t tell you how much they regularly charge for the package, a fee you will have to pay if you want it after the first year of your two-year contract. Well, it’s $220 for the package or $300 for the Deluxe package (which I presume includes a visit from the NFL player of your choice).
The average NFL ticket price is $81.54, compared with the Sunday ticket per week price of $13.75, The advantage of DirectTV is you don’t have to pay to park, beer and pizza are usually cheaper at home, you can invite your buddies over for no extra fee, and you don’t have to worry about being assaulted by fans of the other team. Of course, $13.75 a week is not small potatoes in the current U.S. economy.
And you can keep track of your fantasy players by flipping the channel to other games. I forgot to mention that Fantasy Football brings in another $800 million in revenue to the NFL, Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, Fox, and cohorts, capitalizing on what was once a beer-drinking, get your buddies together game.
The only way the NFL will be able to hit their $25 billion goal is to add markets to their brand. The market they are leaning to is the UK and Europe. They tried with the NFL Europe Developmental League, but it was haphazardly planned, an unusual misstep for the NFL, and it was terminated. Now the NFL plays two games a year in London’s Wembley Stadium and tickets sell out in hours. There is talk of an NFL franchise in Europe and that could become much more than talk in the near future. [Jacksonville?]
Moneyball was the name of the movie based on the Michael Lewis’ book about the Oakland A’s and their small-market dreams. The moniker “Moneyball” is more aptly associated with the National Football League where almost everyone interested in the game has a hand out (including me, I suppose) and the League has the biggest mitts of all.
I don’t know why I care. I guess it beats writing about a government shutdown and why Republicans don’t want me to have health insurance.
Money Lines, Part II
I had a pretty good week last week. I picked seven games correctly against the spread which puts me at 30-32-1 against the spread for the season, a bit lower than what I’d like, but respectable, nonetheless. I was 9-6 in Over/Under picks which put me at 33-30 for the season. However, in the all important bankroll, I hit two out of three imaginary wagers and made a nice profit of 80 units last week against 120 wagered. The only bet that let me down was the Bears road loss to the Lions. The Broncos and the Colts won smartly. That 80-unit profit pushed our bankroll to 1110 or an 11 percent gain in four weeks. That beats the Dow Jones Industrial Average, like some corporate suit’s rented mule.
In order to make a profit wagering on NFL games, you need to hit about 55% of your bets. I don’t account for it in the bankroll because its imaginary and complicated, but when you wager against the spread you are risking $11 to win $10. When you bet $11 and you win, $21 are returned to you.
There is another way to bet NFL games, as I mentioned in an earlier column, and that is money line wagering. Most Vegas sports books will have a spread and a money line on NFL games. In fact, betting on baseball games is almost exclusively with a money line.
Think of against the spread betting as a money line plus a spread. That is, you lay $11 to win $10 or a money line of -110.
There is a very interesting money line this week in the game in San Francisco against the Houston Texans. The 49ers are favored by 6.5 points after their win last week against St. Louis. Houston surrendered the lead to Seattle at home and lost in overtime 23-20 to the team that crushed the 49ers in Seattle.
Houston has lost two in a row. The week before they looked terrible in Baltimore and then the Ravens went to Buffalo and lost in an awful outing. I don’t know which Houston team will show up in San Francisco or, for that matter, which 49ers team, but neither team wants to take a loss and move to 2-3. Three out of four Houston games have been decided by less than a touchdown, so the 6.5 point spread might not be too viable. On the other hand, three out of four 49ers games have been more than 20-point blow outs, for and against.
So, will the 49ers blow out the Texans or will they struggle at home? Here’s the rub–while the 49ers are 6 1/2 point favorites, the money line looks like this:
San Francisco -280
So, if you like Houston your $100 wager brings you $335 (your $100 bet plus $235). If you wager on the 49ers your need to wager $280 to win $100 and you will get back $380. The linemakers balance the money line just like the spread so half the money will be bet on each team.
Remember in an ATS bet you are risking $110 to win $100 but if you like Houston you get 6.5 points to even it up.
Betting is more money management than picking the most winners. When you make your picks you have to think about how much you like the game and your chances for making a successful wager. If the Houston-San Francisco game was a pick ’em with no spread at 10-11, I would take San Francisco easily. Their chances of winning a no spread game at home are pretty good, despite the fact that both teams have played inconsistently. But if you give me Houston and 6.5 points, I would have to really think about it. It diminishes the 49ers chances of winning (ATS). When I look at the current money line- at 100-235–that presents a whole new story. I really like that for a game that could be very close. I think the return on Houston at that money line may very well be worth the risk. And that’s what you have to do ask: is it worth the risk? It may not be worth the risk to bet Houston in a pick ’em at 10-11 on the road, but if you give me Houston ad a +235 money line it very well may be worth the risk at that price.
In horse racing, the smart bettor knows that you cannot make money wagering on favorites–they win only one-third of the time. You have to dig deeper and look for horses that present value in your wagering. Think of it this way–when you wager at 10-11 you have to be right 55% percent of the time but when it is 235-100 you only have to be right one-third of the time. That’s a big difference.
It’s all risk and money management. Economists can give you complicated formulas to figure it out, but in the end, it’s just answering the age old questions: “Is it worth the risk?”
The Real Good, the Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Quickly, here are my impressions after one-fourth of the NFL season flew by. Bill Simmons in his Grantland column on Espn.com bemoaned the fact that this was a tough NFL year and then he went 9-6 this week. It just shows that even the best have trouble understanding the NFL–it’s a tough bet all the time and Simmons doesn’t even do a bankroll.
The REAL GOOD teams are two: Denver and Seattle. I am really impressed with the Denver Broncos. I have never been a huge John Fox fan. I have always felt he is way too conservative. However, he has let Peyton Manning coach the offense and Manning knows his sport line none-other, and now is back to at least a semblance of the health he had in his younger days. They pass, run, and play defense far better than any team this year and have overcome injury and suspensions.
Seattle has played very well, too, but they are not the same team on the road as they are at home. They crush at home and have to go all out on the road.
The Good teams are: San Francisco, New Orleans, New England, Kansas City, Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Indianapolis, Dallas, and Tennessee. I have tried to rank them in order, but some teams are much better than the team right after them.
I was very impressed with New England and New Orleans this week. They both looked real tough, especially the Patriots on the road. New England will now have to play without nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the heart of their defense. The Patriots were so impressive against the Falcons offense. I loved the way they jammed the star Atlanta receivers at the line and took them out of the play. Belichick is still the smartest coach and is one of the few coaches who knows the difference between strategy and tactics. Sean Peyton and Rob Ryan have made huge differences to the Saints. They look like a different team and Drew Brees really zips the ball.
I put the 49ers at the top because they turned themselves around against the Rams with an impressive short-week victory. Kaepernick played better, but has been exposed, so the 49ers are still in the show-me stage. The other teams in this category should make the playoffs, but will have to step it up to really make a difference. I liked Detroit’s win over Chicago last week. Reggie Bush is in his prime, and if he stays healthy, he will make a difference.
The BAD teams are: Cincinnati, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, San Diego, Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Carolina, Buffalo and New York Jets.
I put them in this category because they were once thought of being good team, but have played erratically and have been generally disappointing. The Bengals were picked by some to go to the Super Bowl–they will not. Baltimore is still trying to put together and offense. They should watch to see how other teams like the Saints use their running backs in their passing attack. The Ravens offense is plain vanilla, not because of their skill players, but because of their offensive strategy. Houston is tough to figure out. They have no heart. Buffalo has heart and plays that way.
The UGLY: Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, New York Giants and Jacksonville.
These teams need transfusions of something to move up a tier.
Thursday Night Pick
The Lake Erie Bowl pits two teams that have played better than they were thought to be. Buffalo beat the World Champs at home(!) while the Browns won their second in a row behind third string QB Brian Hoyer, who is suddenly playing like the QB he backed up in recent years, Tom Brady. I have to take Cleveland because they are at home, but this game is really as much of a toss-up as their is.
PICK: Cleveland (-4) OVER $$
NO Spot Play
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