by Bill Barnwell
In this week's Scramble, I'll be departing from our typical format and topics to discuss at length the Patriots running up the score. I'll be discussing ethical conundrums related to scoring, the chart comparing maximum allowable pass length to score differential as delineated by quarter and time remaining, the effects of the signal-stealing penalty upon Bill Belichick's psyche, how Tom Brady wants to stay on the field to avoid being a father to his children, what Robert Kraft's unconscious gestures mean, how the '72 Dolphins should be shamed for beating the Patriots 52-0 with the last two touchdowns being 50-plus-yard bombs, how Joe Gibbs actually used sleight-of-hand on Sunday to avoid shaking Belichick's hand when there's photographic evidence that he did...
Oh, wait. You guys covered it already? 87 times over? Sweet.
In this week's Scramble, I'll take a bit of a different angle, then.
Every year, Scramble does a prop bet column for the Super Bowl, looking at the game from the perspective of many different, often silly over/under bets. The column usually runs about, oh, 28 pages long.
Since this game has been pretty much declared the Super Bowl of the regular season, we're going to turn the tables a bit. I have yet to see any prop bets set for the Pats/Colts game. Instead, what I'm going to do is create what I would consider to be reasonable lines for the game in a variety of different situations and then pick an Over/Under based upon those bets. It'll work out well because if I end up winning money, I'll be accused of setting the lines in my favor, and if I lose, I'll be accused of not knowing how to set lines. Good ol' lose-lose.
Regardless, feel free to discuss my bets in the comments section. I won't be tracking anyone else's bets but my own, but if anyone wants to volunteer to track other people's bets, I'd be happy to run the results in Scramble next week.
Unfortunately, some of the pageantry of the Super Bowl won't be featured in the Colts game, so we can't do bets on the more bizarre features of the event (e.g. the length of the National Anthem). We'll restrict our bets to those related to gameplay. Gotta save something for the Super Bowl.
What will the coin toss be? (Heads -105, Tails -105)
OK, so I lied. For the newbies in the audience, let's explain how these bets work. Here, a line of -105 means you'd have to bet $105 in order to win $100 (for a total of $205). If the line was +105, I'd have to bet $100 to win $205 -- my $100 back, plus the $105 line. Here, Vegas has both options below the break-even point because the line is guaranteed to be one of these two options. It's a pretty silly bet, which means I'll take it. Heads it is.
Who will score first? (New England -135, Indianapolis +105)
That line would entice betting on both sides of the line -- New England's offense has scored a touchdown in the first drive of every possession this year, while betting on Indianapolis to score with the odds in your favor seems like an obviously intelligent move. I'd take Indianapolis.
Who will punt first? (New England -105, Indianapolis +105)
New England's punted 18 times in eight games; Indianapolis, 20 times in 7 games. That makes them the slightest bit inferior, so I'll take the Colts to punt first.
Who will score the game's longest touchdown? (New England -150, Indianapolis +115)
I wonder how long those odds on New England should be. I mean, they can't be too long, but could you sit through this whole game in fear that the Patriots were one play-action pass away from winning this? It would kill you. The other factor is that you can't make the Colts line too high, because their offense is far too much of a threat to put big odds against. Manning's longest pass against the Patriots is a 64-yard pass in Week 4 of the 2001 season, and he has seemingly a 45-plus-yard pass against them in every game since 2003. There's no chance of the running game being the long touchdown of the day. Brady's median longest pass of the season is between 35 and 45 yards, so I'll go with Indianapolis again in this one.
First team to record a sack? (New England +105, Indianapolis -110)
This is a really tough one. The Colts struggled to get to Brady last year in the playoff game, and the Patriots offensive line has looked absolutely impenetrable through eight weeks; on the other hand, Peyton Manning never gets sacked. In last year's conference final, Manning was sacked once every 16.7 dropbacks, while Brady was sacked once in 35 dropbacks. However, I think the Colts are going to bring some surprise pressure to try and throw Brady off, especially from Bob Sanders. I'll say Indianapolis takes Brady down first. (Hmmm, I seem to be saying Indianapolis a lot...)
Combined rushing yards more than either team's passing yards (Yes +130, No -160)
Hey, Vegas wouldn't run such a convoluted bet, but I will. This is a bet saying that the combined rushing yards of the Patriots and Colts in the game will be below the passing yards compiled by either the Colts or the Patriots, whichever is lower. For example, if the Colts and Patriots combined for 285 rushing yards, but the Patriots only threw for 240 yards, the answer would be yes; if the Patriots threw for 320 yards and the Colts 315, the answer would be no. I'm going to say yes with the idea that the Colts are going to run the ball and stretch the field against the Patriots linebackers.
Tom Brady Total Passing Yards o/u 312.5 (o -120, u +140)
This bet is a little different -- here, the bet is that Tom Brady will have 313 or more passing yards (the over), or fewer than 313 passing yards (the under). Again, to win $100 on the over, you'd have to bet $120 (to win a total of $220), but if you bet $100 on the under, you'll win $240 (your $100 back plus $140). I'm going to take the Under here in the thought that the Colts simply drop everyone back, let Wes Welker get five and six yards at a time, and try to force the Patriots to beat them with the running game.
Peyton Manning Total Passing Yards o/u 298.5 (o -120, u +105)
Manning's averaged 298 yards per game in his contests against the Patriots since 2004, but he's got three straight 300-yard games against them as well. At home, I think this line is in his favor. Over.
Randy Moss Longest Completion +/- 43.5 (o -115 u -105)
Like I said, I think the Patriots' strategy will be to take away Moss and everything deep and allow stuff underneath. That means the Under for this one.
Marvin Harrison Receptions +/- 6.5 (o +105, u -120)
This combines the possibility of Harrison not playing with the reality of his success against the Patriots in previous years. I think he was held out last week so that he'd be as healthy as possible for this game, and he'll shine. Over.
Laurence Maroney Carries +/- 13.5 (o +130, u -105)
If you can file any complaints about the 2007 Patriots offense, they've got to be directed towards Maroney, who's been alternately injured and unable to make the starting running back spot his. No one doubts (or should doubt) Maroney's pure talent as a runner, but he just isn't a blocker to the level Bill Belichick wants him to be. The result has been a bigger-than-expected role for Sammy Morris, followed by the same for Kevin Faulk following Morris' injury. If the Patriots continue to operate their offense in the same way they have been, Maroney's not the right back for it. That means lots of Faulk, and I'll take the Under.
Joseph Addai Longest Run from Scrimmage +/- 15.5 yards (o +105, u -110)
The Colts are famed for their lack of long-distance running all the way back to the heart of the Edge days -- so expecting a big run from Addai is unlikely. On the other hand, Addai's longest run has been above this number three times this year, and was right at 15 yards in another game. The Patriots are a very disciplined defense, though, not one likely to shirk their gap responsibilities and forget about the rare Addai cutback. I'll go with Under here.
Player to Score the First Touchdown of the Game:
Tom Brady (+1300)
Laurence Maroney (+900)
Kevin Faulk (+1600)
Heath Evans (+2800)
Randy Moss (+600)
Wes Welker (+900)
Donte' Stallworth (+1200)
Ben Watson (+1100)
Kyle Brady (+1700)
Jabar Gaffney (+2900)
Peyton Manning (+1700)
Joseph Addai (+800)
Kenton Keith (+1900)
Reggie Wayne (+1000)
Dallas Clark (+1100)
Marvin Harrison (+1000)
Anthony Gonzalez (+2200)
Ben Utecht (+2400)
This kind of bet lists a series of players to fill a particular role (in this case, whoever will score the first touchdown) and their odds on being that person. For example, in this case, if Tom Brady scored the first touchdown (rushing or receiving), you'd receive $1400 for betting $100 (your original $100 plus $1300).
The tempting bet, of course, is to take the field and count on Mike Vrabel or Dan Klecko. I'd be tempted with several of these bets -- mostly the Patriots running backs and the Colts receivers. If I had to choose one, though, Dallas Clark would be my pick. The Patriots still don't have a way to defend him that I can see.
Who will have more on November 4?
Peyton Manning completions -3.5 (-120)
Kevin Durant points +3.5 (+120)
This line is complicated at first, but it's not that hard. We're comparing Peyton Manning's completions in the Patriots game to the number of points Kevin Durant scores in his game against the Clippers that night. If the number of points Durant scores plus 3.5 is more than the number of completions Manning has, Durant wins; if not, Manning wins. I'm gonna take Durant, thinking the 3.5 will push him over. Tim Thomas? For real? Come on.
Tom Brady passing touchdowns +0.5 (+110)
Most touchdowns thrown by any other quarterback on the day -0.5 (-130)
Basically, do you think Tom Brady will tie or throw more touchdowns than any other quarterback in football next week? I don't. Someone's playing the Jets, right? I'll play the field.
I'll bet on this game in the best bets.
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QB: Ignoring Gary Kubiak's vile treatment of his "concussion," Matt Schaub had an ugly day last week. Two interceptions and only 77 yards leave him with a -1 and tie him for Losingest Loser of the Week. Vince Young and the magic Floppy Throw Express scored three points for second, and Daunte Culpepper could only score four points against the Tennessee defense.
RB: Speaking of Oakland, LaMont Jordan couldn't do much, either. He had 16 yards for a single point. Both Reuben Droughns and Najeh Davenport had two; you never, ever want to be linked with Najeh Davenport. Frank Gore and Ron Dayne each had four. KUBIAK is sorry and wants you to take him back. Honest.
WR: Four guys with a lone point this week: Marty Booker, Justin Gage, Steve Smith, and Plaxico Burress. That's a weird foursome. In our internal league, Ted Ginn pulled off the awesome 23 with a penalty move. That's the 15-point penalty, plus catching a touchdown on your only pass. The maximum you can get with a penalty and no rushing plays is 30, but Ginn did well for himself here.
K: No missed extra points this week, sadly, but a missed field goal and single extra point from Robbie Gould gave him -1 for the week and tying him for league worst. That was no consolation to Shaun Suisham and John Kasay, both of whom only had one point each. And the teams they played last week were the Colts and Patriots! What a coincidence!!!!!
Keep Choppin' Wood
KCW this week goes to a duo -- thank you, Bryan Pittman and Matt Turk, for combining for one of the uglier displays of football we'll ever see. For those of you who didn't see the play, the normally-reliable Pittman snapped the ball yards over Turk's head, and as the ball came to rest in the end zone, Turk overran it, allowing Antonio Cromartie to fall on it for the easiest touchdown he'll ever score. Pittman's last botched snap apparently came at Walla Walla Community College, which, honestly, is where most people from Walla Walla Community College's last botched snap occurs, so Pittman's done well for himself.
2-1 last week, 10-10-1 overall
Don't invoke the FOMBC curse, kids. Just don't.
Jacksonville (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I'm not exactly on the Saints bandwagon yet. There are 31 percentage points of DVOA between the Jaguars and Saints. That's more than enough to account for the home-field advantage.
KANSAS CITY (-2) over Green Bay
I am taking this bet because I looked at it for three minutes and couldn't think of a single reason why Vegas would make this line as is. That usually means Vegas knows something we don't, and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
INDIANAPOLIS (+6.5) over New England
I don't know if the Colts will win. I think it will be close, either way. I don't think there's a number you can give me that I wouldn't take the over on. If it were on a neutral field, I'd flip my bet. But it's at home. And the Colts are the champions, and not just a very good team, but an incredible team this year. The Patriots are good, but I don't think they're blow-the-Colts-out good. What the hell; Indianapolis 35, New England 32. And yes -- Adam Vinatieri kicks the game-winner.