Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
29 Jan 2004
by Al Bogdan and Ian Dembsky
Welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where we discuss all things football. We'll have commentary on the latest NFL stories, as well as our Best Bets of the week and updates to our Survivor League (check the Scramble archives for full details). Al's a long-time Giants fan originally from Long Island, and Ian is a long-time Tampa Bay fan originally from Jersey, and we're both NFL and fantasy sports addicts. Look for Scramble updated every Thursday afternoon during the NFL season, and feel free to email us with any thoughts at scramble @ footballoutsiders.com.
Al: There are plenty of things not to like about the Super Bowl -- unfunny people asking unfunny questions on Media Day, watching a week full of features about all the special people involved in the game and all the obstacles they've had to overcome, the usually awful pre-game and halftime entertainment and the over-hyped commercials. But what makes the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event in America is the ability to place a legal wager on any and every event in some way associated with the game. I mean when else could you possibly put money down on Muhsin Muhammad having a better day than Phil Mickelson? So to do our part in previewing the Super Bowl, we're going to keep up a tradition we started two years ago at another website and continued last year just between ourselves. We're going to make imaginary wagers on as many Super Bowl bets as we possibly can before we get tired of it and/or our deadline comes. Ian, want to explain the rules and how the bets work?
Ian: You bet! Sorry, bad pun intended. From betting on the coin flip, to the margin of victory, to the aforementioned cross-sport proposition bet, the Super Bowl can be even more fun if you lay money on just about everything that could possibly happen during the game. For those of you who've made sporting bets before (probably all of you), the next paragraph may seem a little obvious; feel free to jump to the betting.
No matter what bets we place, there will be two numbers involved -- how much we lay, and how much we win if we get it right. For a bet with a pretty much 50/50 chance of going either way, the industry standard is to bet $110 to win $100. This is often written as "-110". That means you pay $110. If you get the bet wrong, no soup for you! If you get it right, you get paid $210 -- your original wager plus the $100 you bet. Why would you bet $110 to win $100 on a 50/50 bet? Because the person you're placing the bet with wants to make some money! Think of it this way -- if 10 people bet that the coin flip will be heads, and 10 people bet that it will be tails, then no matter which result comes up the casino will take in $100. This is because each winner gets paid $100, but each loser pays you $110. The idea is to get an equal amount of money bet on both options, so that no matter what happens the casino wins. If a lot of people are betting on one side as opposed to the other, the betting line may move to try and equalize betting on both sides. One side may now cost $120 to win $100, while the other may just cost $100 even. In bets where the chances of you getting it right are rather small, you often can bet $100 to win more than that. For instance, choosing who will score the first TD of the game is certainly no even money bet, so you can bet $100 to win $800 that Antowain Smith will score the first TD of the game. Get it? No? Oh well, consult your local sports nut. It's time to make some wagers!
Ian: Ahhh... The most pure bet in all of sports. The coin toss. Not even who's gonna win it, but just what the coin flip will come up as. This year's coin will say Super Bowl XXXVIII on the front and have both teams on the back (probably their helmets). The teams sound a bit heavier to me, so I'm going tails.
Al: Tails!?!? This is the Super Bowl! You have to bring your A-Game! The Super Bowl logo is always heavier than the helmets are. Always. My money is on heads.
Al: New England is the "home team" for the Super Bowl meaning the Panthers get to call the coin flip. I respect John Fox as a coach enough to think he'll do the smart thing and have his players call "heads". I'll take the Panthers and start the day +200 before I'm on my fourth beer.
Ian: John Fox instructing his guys to pick heads is exactly why the Pats will win the coin toss and get the ball first. I'm taking the Patriots. On a side note, I don't understand why teams choose to take the ball in the first half. The way I see it, it's hard to predict what will happen in the first half. You may be leading, losing, or tied at halftime. So wouldn't you want the ball to begin the last half of the game? I play a bunch of online Madden, and almost everyone chooses to kick after winning the coin toss...
Ian: In such a defensive game, you have to consider the possibility that neither team will score three times at all! There could be a bunch of field goals in a battle of field position, with the occasional big play. I'm guessing it'll be back and forth enough that no team scores three times in a row.
Al: I'm not so sure this will be a great defensive matchup. I'm actually leaning towards a New England blowout. Carolina's secondary has done well during the playoffs, but they've faced Quincy Carter, Marc Bulger and the Philly WRs. They haven't had to deal with Tom Brady and five WRs that can all catch the ball. It's tough to have a blowout without one team scoring three times in a row, so I'll lay the $160 and say yes, some team (probably New England) will score three times in a row.
Al: In the past ten Super Bowls a team has scored in the first seven minutes seven times. I'll go with history and say yes, a team will score in the first seven minutes. My guess is that Carolina scores on its opening drive and doesn't get any more points until the fourth quarter.
Ian: I think there will be an early score, but I think it'll be due to an early Jake Delhomme interception that the Pats turn into a field goal. I'll also say yes on this one.
Ian: Often there are scores just before the half, as teams open things up in an effort to squeeze in some more points before halftime. But I'm sticking to my defensive guns here -- mainly because it's a +170 bet vs. -220. I see it as more of a 50/50 shot with the way these teams force punts. I'll say no here.
Al: I'm going with history again here. A team has scored in the last two minutes of the first half in nine of the past ten super bowls. Does this mean anything for this game? Of course not, but it's as good of a reason as any to go with yes and lay the $220.
Panthers +3.5 (+150)
Patriots -3.5 (-185)
Panthers -3.5 (+260)
Patriots +3.5 (-340)
Panthers -7.5 (+400)
Patriots +7.5 (-600)
Panthers +10.5 (-185)
Patriots -10.5 (+150)
Panthers +13.5 (-270)
Patriots -13.5 (+210)
Panthers +17.5 (-400)
Patriots -17.5 (+300)
Al: The Patriots are either a six and a half or seven point favorite, depending on where you place your bet. You can change the line, however, as long as you're also willing to change the odds. I'm going to play it very safe here and take the Patriots +7.5 at -600. I've been going back and forth on how I think this game will unfold. I could make a great case for Carolina, but I ultimately have settled on New England winning big. Out of all of the scenarios I've played out in my head, Carolina winning by more than a TD has never come up. Very easy money here.
Ian: I don't think this game is gonna be a blowout in either direction, so I'll take the most points I can get my hands on and go with Panthers +17.5.
Over 27.5 (-380)
Under 27.5 (+290)
Over 30.5 (-300)
Under 30.5 (+220)
Over 34.5 (-200)
Under 34.5 (+160)
Over 43.5 (180)
Under 43.5 (-240)
Over 48.5 (+260)
Under 48.5 (-340)
Over 53.5 (+350)
Under 53.5 (-500)
Ian: As has become pretty obvious by now, I'm expecting a low-scoring game. I'll try to get a little extra dough and take under 34.5.
Al: I think this will be a higher scoring game than expected. I don't think I can take the 48.5 or the 53.5 overs, though. 43.5? That I like. I can see the Pats winning 34-10 or 30-17, something along those lines. +180 for over 43.5 for me.
Over 23 (-115)
Under 23 (-115):
Al: I'm going over. 30+ points is a real possibility for New England. As Aaron noted last week, Carolina's recent defensive success is directly related to their ability to pick off the opposing QB. New England will spread the ball around and attack the defensive backs that aren't Ricky Manning. New England won't stop attacking and scoring until they're hoisting the Lombardi trophy. Over 23 for New England at -115.
Ian: Please, you act as if Ricky Manning is someone to be afraid of. As I noted last week, two of his three interceptions against the Eagles were gifts thrown right to him, while the other one, while not really easy to catch, wasn't hindered by the receiver in any way. In the early game that day, both Troy Brown and Deion Branch made nice plays to break up bad Brady passes that could have been intercepted. The Panthers aren't likely to pick off any passes unless they get a lucky bounce from a batted ball. Anyways, before I saw what this over/under bet was, I was thinking the score would be something like 23-13. Sure enough, the Pats are predicted to score exactly 23 points. For no good reason other than I'll be rooting for New England to score as much as possible, I'll take the over here.
Over 16 (-115)
Under 16 (-115)
Ian: One reason I feel confident that the Pats will win this game is because of their defense's ability to shut down the Carolina offense, and force Delhomme into two or three interceptions. I'll take the under.
Al: I hate to take the same bet as you, but I don't see Carolina scoring two TDs and a FG against New England. The last team to break 16 points against the Patriots was Indianapolis back in November. Jake Delhomme is going to break that streak? I don't think so. I'll take Carolina under 16 at -115.
Al: I might as well stick with my script that has the Panthers winning the toss, getting the ball and scoring on their first drive. Unless you think one team will shut out the other, this is really a coin flip kind of bet. I'll take odds with the Panthers +125.
Ian: Thanks to an early Jake Delhomme interception, Adam Vinatieri will give the Pats an early 3-0 lead. I'm taking the Patriots.
Ian: Whether or not it comes off an interception, the first score of the game against either of these defenses will be nothing more than a field goal. No it is.
Al: Over the past ten Super Bowls, FGs have been the first score slightly more than TDs have, winning 6-4. That's certainly not damning evidence either way, but it's enough that I'm not going to lay money on the proposition with the worse odds. I'm with you again on the first score not being a TD at +115.
Over 38.5 yards (-115)
Under 38.5 yards (-115)
Al: I'm going over here. Either team could score a return TD that would almost definitely be more than 38.5 yards. Plus there's been a TD over 38.5 yards in eight of the last ten Super Bowls. As you can tell, I've been spending time looking over the boxscores on SuperBowl.com.
Ian: If I had to pick one word to describe what's gotten these two teams to the Super Bowl, it'd be "discipline". Rarely do you see holding penalties or false starts by these guys, and almost never do you see a truly blown coverage that results in a long play for the other team. I realize there's always a good chance of a freak play like a defensive touchdown or kick return going for a touchdown, but I don't see either offense busting out a huge play. I'll take the under.
On to the always-fun guess as to who will score the first touchdown of the game
Antowain Smith +800
Deion Branch +800
David Givens +900
Troy Brown +900
Kevin Faulk +1500
Daniel Graham +1200
Bethel Johnson +1200
Christian Fauria +1200
Larry Centers +2500
Tom Brady +3000
Stephen Davis +800
DeShaun Foster +1200
Steve Smith +1000
Muhsin Muhammad +1200
Ricky Proehl +1800
Nick Goings +2500
Brad Hoover +2500
Jake Delhomme +3000
No TDs in the game +5000
Ian: We know that Tom Brady loves to spread the ball around, and that Carolina's defensive line is better than its secondary. For those reasons I'll go with the guy on New England that hasn't scored a touchdown yet this playoffs; Deion Branch is due.
Al: As I've mentioned before, I have a strange affinity for Muhsin Muhammad. I like Carolina's chances of scoring early so I'll take him at +1200. That +5000 No TDs line is tempting, though.
Panthers 1-3 +800
Panthers 4-6 +1000
Panthers 7-10 +900
Panthers 11-13 +2000
Panthers 14-17 +1800
Panthers 18-21 +4500
Panthers 22+ +2500
Patriots 1-3 +450
Patriots 4-6 +400
Patriots 7-10 +350
Patriots 11-13 +800
Patriots 14-17 +600
Patriots 18-21 +1200
Patriots 22+ +800
Very tough bet. I like the Pats to win by at least two TDs, but narrowing down the margin of victory to a 3-4 point range is nearly impossible. I'll take the big money and go with 18-21 at +1200.
Ian: Not that I'll be rooting for this to happen, but Jake Delhomme has proven to be money in the fourth quarter. Just to mix things up a bit, I'll take Carolina 1-3 and the shot at $800.
Panthers FG (+350)
Panthers TD Pass (+500)
Panthers TD Run (+550)
Panthers Other TD (+2000)
Panthers Safety (+5000)
Pats FG (+300)
Pats TD Pass (+300)
Pats TD Run (+500)
Pats Other TD (+1500)
Pats Safety (+4500)
Ian: I've been saying that I like the chances of Delhomme throwing an early pick. I might as well bundle the chances of that turning into a Patriots TD with the chances of Bethel Johnson returning the opening kickoff for a score. I'll go with Pats Other TD.
Al: I hate hedging my bets when doing this. I probably should play it safe and take the Pats here, but I'm going to go for broke and take Carolina Pass TD. I can have this thing won within the first seven minutes if the Panthers get the ball and Delhomme throws a TD pass to Muhammad on the Panthers' first drive.
Panthers FG +450
Panthers TD Pass +400
Panthers TD Run +500
Panthers Other TD +1500
Panthers Safety +3500
Patriots FG +300
Patriots TD Pass +400
Patriots TD Run +450
Patriots Other TD +1200
Patriots Safety +3500
b> My script calls for an early Panther TD, Patriot dominance for the next two quarters, and a late Panther score to break the hearts of all the gamblers that took the under. So, I'm going with Panther Pass TD again.
Ian: I'll be conservative and go with a Patriots FG. I'm vaguely tempted to go with the chance of Belichick calling for the intentional safety and the huge payoff, but Vinatieri won the Super Bowl two years ago -- maybe he'll win it again.
Ian: I don't think the chance of any of those middle scores coming through is worth the chance at only $300- So I'm gonna stick to my low-scoring guns and say 22-28 for a shot at $700.
Al: 35-17 = 52 points. I'll go 50-56 (+800).
Now for the fun stuff
Completed Pass (-185)
Incomplete Pass or Interception (+150)
Al: I can see the Pats starting out with a long bomb, but it's more likely that they start the game off playing it safe with one of their patented quick passes to a WR that goes two yards. I'll take completion -185.
Ian: I'm noticing more and more that teams love to start the first play of the game with play-action. This often leads to a wide-open tight end or fullback, which means I'm going with a completion.
Over 230.5 (-110)
Under 230.5 (-110)
Ian: In a close game, Brady probably ends up with around 200 passing yards. If the Pats blow it open early, they'll probably turn into a rushing team to pound the ball and run the clock. Either way, I'm going with the under.
Al: The Patriots are going to pass all day on Carolina. I'd be shocked if Antowain Smith reached double digit carries until the fourth quarter. Brady could go something like 33/45, 320 yards, 3 TDs, Super Bowl MVP. I really like the over here.
Al: Tom Brady has thrown one INT since November. One! Carolina has been picking QBs off like crazy recently, but I think New England's game plan will revolve around preventing that from happening. I'll say no.
Ian: I agree with you. Whether the game is high-scoring, low-scoring, or neither, the one thing New England has been really good about is not throwing interceptions. Especially after the horrible pick that Brady threw against Indianapolis up 7 on the Indy 3 yard-line late in the game. They won't let that happen again. No interception for Tom.
Over 78.5 (-110)
Under 78.5 (-110)
Ian: Of all the crazy bets out there on the Super Bowl, I might like this one the most. If the Patriots are successful against the Panthers, it'll be through the air-- there's no way Antowain will get up to 80 yards on the ground. I'm taking the under.
Al: Smith has topped 78.5 yards only three times this year. However, two of these were in the last four games. Carolina's strength defensively is their defensive line, so I don't really see New England attacking it too much with the run. Way under here.
Al: I like Smith's chances with this line, however. The last thing Carolina would expect when the Patriots get inside the redzone is for New England to go to Antowain Smith. That's why I think Antowain will be given a shot at the endzone and should be able to run one in. Yes, Antowain Smith scores a TD in his hometown at the Super Bowl.
Ian: Once again bringing up New England's horrible interception against the Colts, I think the Patriots will remember to run the ball at the opponent's goal line. I think Antowain pounds one in as well. Yes it is.
Over 20.5 (-110)
Under 20.5 (-110)
Ian: On 3rd down passing situations, Kevin often lines up in the backfield alongside Tom Brady in the shotgun. Given the Carolina pass-rush, I can see the Pats taking advantage with draw plays up the middle. I'm taking the over here.
Al: I'll disagree with you on this one. Most of the running that New England does will be by Smith to change the pace of the game. Faulk could have a huge receiving day, but Carolina doesn't seem like a defense he'd have a lot of success running on. 20.5 isn't that high, but Faulk hasn't been getting as many carries lately as he was earlier this year. I'm not thrilled about this one, but I'll go under just to change things up a bit.
Over 50.5 (-110)
Under 50.5 (-110)
Al: I like the under here as well. Brady will get most of his passing yards throwing to his #3-#5 receivers. I actually like David Givens' and Bethel Johnson's chances of having huge receiving days more than I like Brown's. Brown has only eclipsed 50 yards receiving in five games this year, including the playoffs. I'll take the under and bet that trend continues.
Ian: Big players come through in big games, and I think Tom Brady will look to Troy Brown often for clutch receptions on third down. Throw in one or two 20 yard passes, and he'll pass 50 easy. I'm taking the over.
Ian: There won't be many touchdowns to go around this game, and I already think that Antowain and Deion will score one, so I'm gonna say no.
Al: I like Givens' chances of having a good game but the odds just aren't good enough to bet on him scoring a TD. Realistically, you can't expect the Pats to score more than five TDs. They've had 11 players score either rushing or receiving TDs this year during the regular season. David Givens did lead the team in TDs, but he only scored 18% of New England's offensive TDs. +135 just isn't good enough for me to take the over when New England has so many people that are likely to score for them. I have to go with no as well.
Over 16.5 (-110)
Under 16.5 (-110)
Al: Branch was the Pats' leading receiver this year. He caught a pass over 16.5 yards in 10 games. In another three games his longest catch was 16 yards. He also had two games where his longest catch was 14 yards. That's 15 out of the 17 games he's played where his longest catch was within three yards of or over 16.5. I love this bet. I'm all over this over.
Ian: Yes, this is definitely an over bet. Only 16.5 yards? Deion can run after the catch, and he can easily take a crossing pattern for 20 yards up the sideline.
Ian: This might be my favorite bet with better than even odds -- yes, Ty Law will catch an interception. Jake Delhomme doesn't settle down till the fourth quarter, and given the magnitude of this game he may never calm down. Ty Law will be waiting.
Al: Before the Colts game last week, Ty Law only had six INTs in 16 games played. Someone is going to get an INT or two for NE, but I doubt it will be Law. The Patriot defensive linemen will try for a pass deflection at the line as much as they will try for a sack. This should lead to some INTs for either those lineman or the Patriot linebackers. Delhomme will be smart enough not to challenge Law who will probably be trying to shut down Steve Smith all day. The odds aren't good enough for yes for me not to take no.
Completed Pass (-150)
Incomplete Pass or Interception (+120)
Al: Including the playoffs, Jake Delhomme has thrown 309 completions out of 518 passes for a completion percentage of just under 60%. If we take that percentage to be the likelihood that any pass Jake throws will be a completion, then the -150 for a completed pass gives us the best odds. Of course that doesn't factor in a million other variables, but it's as good of a rationale as anything else.
Ian: Teams love to start off conservative, for the sake of getting their QB in rhythm for the game. I imagine that will be the case for Carolina as well -- you certainly don't want him going up against the New England secondary early on. Completion it is.
Over 200.5 (-110)
Under 200.5 (-110)
Ian: 200 yards doesn't seem too difficult a number for the Panthers to reach; I'll take the over. Not that it will come in big chunks, but the Pats have the best run D in the NFL and Carolina will need to move the ball somehow.
Al: Over the regular season and in the playoffs, New England has allowed an average of 202 passing yards per game. Over both the regular season and post season, Jake Delhomme has averaged 204 yards passing per game. Talk about a coin flip bet. I'm just taking the opposite of your pick and going with the under. If there's one bet I'd recommend staying away from, it's this one.
Will throw TD before INT (-105)
Will throw INT before TD (-115)
Al: What if he throws neither? I guess you lose either way, since you're betting that he will throw a TD or an INT. I'm just going with the odds here. Like I've said all along, I have a strange feeling that the Panthers will score on their opening drive. I'll guess it's a Delhomme pass and say he throws a TD before an INT.
Ian: It's very possible to throw an interception from anywhere on the field, but much less likely to throw a touchdown from anywhere on the field. I'll say INT before TD.
Over 74 (-110)
Under 74 (-110)
Ian: Wow, that's a tough one. All it takes is one big run from him, and he should be able to top 74 yards throughout the rest of the game. Of course, the way DeShaun Foster's been playing, Davis has been spending more time on the bench than usual. And the Pats simply stuff the run. I'll take the under.
Al: Stephen Davis has to rush for over 74 yards for the Panthers to have a chance. This hasn't been a tough number for him to crack this year (13 out of 17 games) but the x-factor is the status of his injured quad. Even if he's still a bit hobbled though, I'll say Davis makes the over. He was able to rush for 76 yards last week while still recovering from his injury. With an extra week of rest, Davis should be at close to 100%. Teams have been able to run on New England, who were only #13 in rush defense DVOA. The Patriots gave up 78 yards to Edgerrin James last week. Davis should be able to go over 74.
Al: Surprisingly, Davis has only scored 2 TDs since November. The Panthers had twice as many receiving TDs as they did rushing TDs. The Panther offense will be lucky if they can put up 2 TDs on the Patriot defense on Sunday. I'll say no, Stephen Davis does not get one of those TDs.
Ian: I'm not sure I like the chances of Carolina scoring any touchdowns. If they do, there's a strong chance Davis will cross the stripe, but I'm not betting money on it. No touchdown for Stephen.
Over 48.5 (-110)
Under 48.5 (-110)
Ian: Given the Patriots strength of shutting down wide receivers and pressuring the quarterback, I can see Jake dumping off the ball a lot for short gains. Plenty of those will go to DeShaun Foster, who should move the ball enough to make the over here.
Al: Foster's hit that number four out of his last five games. As I noted with Davis, the Pats run defense isn't spectacular. Plus, if the Panthers fall behind, Foster is more likely than Davis is to rack up receiving yards on dump offs and screens. I'll take the over as well.
Over 75.5 (-110)
Under 75.5 (-110)
Al: This may be my favorite bet so far. If Ty Law can hold Marvin Harrison to less than 20 receiving yards, he can hold Steve Smith to under 75. Smith only caught three balls for 26 yards last week against Philadelphia. If New England is going to make an effort at shutting down any one Carolina player, it will be this one. I love this under -- way under.
Ian: I would like to repeat everything you said while adding nothing whatsoever. I'm taking the under.
Ian: A potential $500 swing if I'm wrong on this one, but I can't bring myself to bet on an individual Panther scoring a touchdown when I'm not certain that any of them will. I'm saying no here.
Al: Not only will Muhsin score a TD, he'll score the first TD of the game, on the Panthers' first drive, after they call heads and win the coin toss, within the first seven minutes of the game. Yes, Muhammad's scoring at least one TD in this Super Bowl. Great odds at +220.
Over 15 (-110)
Under 15 (-110)
Al: Proehl hasn't been a big part of the Panther offense in the playoffs, managing only one catch for seven yards in three games. As Aaron noted in his Colt/Patriot preview, New England has struggled at times this year against the 3rd WR in three receiver sets. Plus, Carolina could be likely to rely on Proehl early on in the game, since he is one of their few offensive players with Super Bowl experience. Four catches for 40 yards seems like a good number for Proehl. I'll take the over.
Ian: I hate Ricky Proehl. Anyone who's been a Tampa fan for awhile probably hates him too, as he killed Tampa's shot at an improbable run to the Super Bowl back when they were lead by Shaun King. In the NFC championship game, the Tampa defense totally shut down the Rams until Ricky caught a rather amazing touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone, a play that completely haunted me until the Bucs made it to and eventually won the Super Bowl against Oakland. Anyways, here's hoping Ricky gets shut down all game, doesn't touch the ball, and goes home a loser. I'm taking the under.
Ian: As I've said before, Ricky Manning Jr. did nothing special against the Eagles; he was just in the right place at the right time. All three times, in fact. I don't think it's likely that Tom Brady will throw an interception at all; I'm certainly not betting money on one of these two guys catching one. No it is.
Al: It's pretty tough to bet on Manning or Minter having an INT if I'm also betting that Tom Brady won't throw one. I'm not betting on a halfback option gone wrong or Damon Huard getting in the game. I'll say no.
Now for the truly ridiculous Super Bowl bets.
Muhsin Muhammad Receiving Yards +17 (-115)
Phil Mickelson 4th Round Score -17 (-115)
Al: Mickelson's been playing well lately. He's #5 on the tour in scoring average at 68.84 after winning the Bob Hope last week. If we take his average as his expected performance on Sunday, all Muhsin will need is 52 yards to win this bet. Delhomme is going to have to throw to someone. I think it will be Muhammad. I'll take Muhsin and the 17 yards.
Ian: Of course, a bet like this can become irrelevant if Mickelson doesn't make it to the fourth round, but if he does, he should do just well enough to finish second. It shouldn't be too hard for Muhsin to add 17 to his yardage total and beat a golfer; I'll agree with you and take Muhammad.
Tom Brady TD Passes (-130)
Joe Thornton Points (+100)
/b> A few years back I got slightly addicted to betting sports online. It worked out well, since I won over $2,000 that year and haven't done it since. The true sign that I'd gotten into it too much was when I started betting hockey proposition bets. But the ones I really loved were the chance at laying down money that someone wouldn't score a point that night. Sometimes I'd have to bet over $300 to win $100, but I think I was 5-0 on those bets as I stayed away from the big scorers and managed to get lucky. I'm gonna continue that trend by betting against Joe Thornton, especially since I like Brady's chances of throwing a touchdown or two. Gimme Brady here.
Al: Thornton is averaging less than one point per game. He has only had one three point game this year and has recently returned to the ice from cheekbone surgery. Brady should be good for at least two TDs. I'll go with Tom.
Tom Brady Pass Attempts +4 (-110)
Kevin Garnett Points + Rebounds -4 (-110)
Al: KG is averaging 24.5 points and 14 rebounds a game. He'll be playing against Philadelphia in Minnesota on Sunday. Garnett lit up the Sixers last season, averaging 27 points and 16.5 rebounds over two games. Philadelphia will be missing Allen Iverson, Derrick Coleman and Kenny Thomas due to injuries. Brady will be passing a lot on Sunday, but KG should be able to have his way with Philadelphia. I'd expect 30+ points and 15+ rebounds. Even after spotting Brady four passes, I'm going with Garnett.
Ian: Sure, Kevin Garnett will rule vs. Philly, but you're forgetting that it will be the best team in basketball against a bad team riddled by injuries. Once Minnesota is up by 20 in the 3rd quarter, Garnett won't be getting any more points or rebounds while cheerleading from the bench. I'm taking Brady on this one.
Maryland Total Points + 19.5 (-115)
Panthers Total Rushing Yards -19.5 (-115)
Ian: This seems like a number that Stephen Davis could win by himself, much less the entire Panther offense. I'm taking Carolina.
Al: Maryland is averaging 78.1 points per game this year, fifth in the ACC. They're playing NC State who has allowed the second lowest number of points per game in the ACC -- 61.5. I'll split the difference and give Maryland 70 points. Add in the spread and we get to 88.5. The Panthers as a team should easily rush for that many yards. I picked Stephen Davis to run for over 74 yards earlier. I'll bet that the rest of the Panthers are capable of picking up another 15.
Arsenal vs. Manchester City Total Goals +0.5 (-110)
New England Touchdowns -0.5 (-110)
Al: Arsenal is averaging 1.9 goals per game and only allowing .6 per game. Man City has scored 1.4 goals per game and allowed 1.5. I'm predicting a 2-1 Arsenal victory. Will New England score four TDs? I think so, but I'm not confident enough to bet on it. The Patriots could easily have only 2-3 TDs with another 4-5 FGs. I'll go with the non-American football teams and bet on a high scoring Arsenal/Manchester City match.
Ian: Betting on total soccer goals? My goodness! Only during the Super Bowl. Just for the sake of disagreeing with you, I'm gonna go with New England and root for an especially boring soccer game.
Al: To recap, I'm up 13-10 for the playoffs. Let's double the points of our regular scoring system to keep things interesting (6 for Best Bet, 4 for Very Good, 2 for Hunch). We'll pick the game against the normal seven-point spread and the 37.5 point over/under. Our third pick will be one of the bets that we didn't address above.
Best Bet: Patriots -7 over Carolina: Like I mentioned before, I've been going back and forth on this all week. I was leaning towards taking the Patriots when I emailed Anthony Brancato, creator of THE SYSTEM, for some advice. According to Anthony, this is the 31st Super Bowl to be played after a two-week break. In the previous 30, the favorites are 20-10 against the spread with an average margin of victory of 17.3 points. I think Mike Francesca put it bet this week -- New England hasn't lost a game since September. Why would they start losing now?
Very Good Bet: Over 37.5: New England could score this many on their own. I really think Tom Brady will be able to pick apart the Carolina linebackers and nickel backs. The Patriot defensive line will put pressure on Delhomme and force a turnover or two. While New England has only had one over since November, Carolina has had three of their last four games hit the over. Both teams have scored well away from home and on grass. Conventional wisdom says go under, so I'm going over.
Just a Hunch: Patriots Points +.5 over Sam Cassell Points: Like I mentioned before, because of Philadelphia's injuries in the front court, I expect KG to be Minnesota's big scorer. Cassell is averaging 21.1 points per game and I don't see him getting much more than that against Philadelphia. The Patriots could easily end up with over 30 points. You don't need to be the Russian girl with X-Ray vision (now visiting the UK) to see the Patriots are the better bet.
Ian: Clearly, we have differing views on the game, as I see it as a defensive struggle, while you see the Pats blowing it open (following a Muhsin Muhammad touchdown, of course).
Best Bet: Longest made field goal of the game - Over 44.5: While Adam Vinatieri has been struggling this season due to injuries; he's still a clutch kicker when it counts. But I'm not betting on him hitting a long field goal. I'm betting on John Kasay, who's been amazing for Carolina, hitting regularly from around 50 yards. John Fox also displays lots of confidence in Kasay, giving him plenty of shots at making long field goals. I wouldn't be surprised if there are two or three field goals made of 45 yards or more, much less one.
Pretty Good Bet: Under 37.5: The vast majority of people I've talked to have agreed that this pick is an easy over. I see this game as a game of field position and field goals; probably something in the 23-13 range when all is said and done. I'm taking the under here.
Just a Hunch: New England --7 over Carolina: Despite my belief that this game will be low scoring, I still see New England's defense dominating and their offense doing just enough to win in the 7-10 range. I'm taking New England.