ROB LONGLEY’S YOU BET
The home underdog strategy has been a successful one so far this season, but be careful if you are worried about taking the Packers at Detroit. Over the past several seasons, road favourites coming off of a bye are 24-4 vs. the spread. Green Bay is favoured by 3½ points and fresh off that bye, note that the Packers have also defeated four of their past five opponents by a minimum of nine points ... That road favourite angle isn’t nearly as strong as it was earlier in the season, either. Over the past two weeks, the home ’dogs have gone 4-7 for a 27-24 mark on the season ... The Oakland Raiders have given up close to a century in their past two games (97 points) and now have to face the suddenly rejuvenated New Orleans Saints and that Drew Brees led offence. That said, the Raiders are much tougher at the Black Hole and are getting a healthy 4½ points. According to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, the underdog in Raiders games has covered in 10 of the past 12 ... The Cowboys would appear to lay over the Browns, but Dallas has only covered two of its past 12 games at the house that Jerry built ... Another of those road favourites (Tampa by 1½ at Carolina) have been money this season going 7-2 vs. the spread overall ... How important are quarterbacks to the betting line? Look no further than the Pittsburgh-Baltimore line. Last Sunday night, the Steelers opened as four-point favourites, prior to the Monday nighter in which QB Ben Roethlisberger was injured. By midweek, the Ravens were 3½-point faves. Is Big Ben worth a touchdown in the line? We’re guessing not, especially with the Steelers at home and close to a week to put in a game plan for backup Byron Leftwich ... At first glance, the Patriots opening at nine-point home favourites over Indianapolis and rookie QB Andrew Luck seemed a little high, didn’t it? Bettors haven’t had a problem with it, however, as the line has held steady ... How much have Peyton Manning and the Broncos impressed bookmakers and bettors? The Broncs opened up as eight-point favourites over the Chargers in what is a desperate divisional matchup for visiting San Diego.
RANDALL THE HANDLE’S ODDS ON
Picking winners in the NFL is never an easy task. Yet, some of the less reputable “services” will make claims of outrageous success rates that can range in the 80-90% range. We laugh. One simple way to dispel such declarations is to look at one of the longest running and most prestigious football handicapping contests. The Las Vegas Hotel’s (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) Supercontest is recognized as the world’s ultimate ’capping competition. The rules are simple: Pick five games each week against the posted pointspread and best records at the end of the year win the prize money. There is an entry fee of $1,500 and is limited to one entry per person. To illustrate how difficult it is to succeed, there is additional prize money to any entrant that correctly picks 67% on the year or better. In the 20 years history of the competition, the 67% mark has been exceeded only three times with 71% being best of all time. Traditionally, the winner ends up slightly above or below 64.3%.
This year, there were a record 745 entries. The top 20 finishers win prize money and the first-place finisher receives 40% of the pool money, a cool $447,000.
So, how are these “experts” doing? Through the first 10 weeks, there are three entrants tied with 33 wins out of 50 selections made, a 66% winning clip. 10 contestants are tied with 32 wins or 64%. Illustrating even further the difficulty of predicting games, the top five picks each week collectively, inclusive of Week 10 has them at a 26-23-1 mark. The top five picks have produced five winnings weeks, four losing weeks and one even slate with a 2-2-1 mark. Week 5 was sweet with a 5-0 mark while Week’s 1 and 4 were the least successful with 1-4 records.
— After 10 weeks of the NFL season, the most profitable teams have been the Texans, Buccaneers and Seahawks, each with seven covers. The biggest money guzzlers have been the Eagles with just one cover on the year. Of the 32 teams, 20 of them have either four or five covers.
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DAN BILICKI’S FANTASY UPDATE
After practising all week, Darren Sproles has now been listed as questionable for today’s game in Oakland. If the dynamic Saints back does play, it would cloud an already murky backfield picture for New Orleans. As many as four different backs could see playing time Sunday, including Sporles, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. Good luck guessing which one will get the most touches.
— Rashard Mendenhall will return to the Steelers lineup against Baltimore in another crowded backfield situation. Coach Mike Tomlin has said that Mendenhall would be the starter when he returned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll get he’ll most carries.
BE A SURVIVOR
Last week, we had quite the unique situation in survivor pools: There were more possible losing teams than winning ones. The 49ers-Rams tie meant that if you picked either team, you were eliminated since you didn’t pick a winner. It’s a tough way to lose, but there have been some pretty bad beats this year.
Picking St. Louis this week though, shouldn’t be too dicey. They’re hosting the sputtering Jets, whose only road win came back in Week 3.
The Chiefs may have played the Steelers tough on Monday night, but they have a habit of having tight games in prime time. This week they host the Bengals, who are riding high after topping the Giants and should get their second win in a row.
There are few hotter offences than the Buccaneers’ right now and that shouldn’t stop this week. Tampa Bay visits division rival Carolina, who haven’t exactly been lighting it up like in Cam Newton’s rookie year.
— Dan Bilicki