10/01/2009 12:00AM

Lions, Buccaneers: Bad teams, but good bets with the points


LAS VEGAS - Betting futures has long been an exercise in optimism.

You think the 2-year-old you just saw can win the Kentucky Derby? Lock in a huge price months in advance. Feel you know who is going to win the Super Bowl or World Series? Bet it before everyone else gets on the bandwagon. And this goes for all sports.

There haven't been nearly as many chances to bet against teams (or individual players or horses) but that has changed in recent years with the popularity of over/under season win totals which allow you to short a team, and we see more offerings such as betting against Tiger Woods in a major golf tournament or a Big Brown to win the Triple Crown, etc.

In the NFL in recent years, we've had a number of teams start off with long winning streaks (Colts, Patriots, Titans) and we've seen sports books here in Las Vegas and elsewhere put up odds on whether those teams would go 16-0, but last year was the first time I recall books putting up odds on a team going winless. Halfway through the season, a number of books put up odds on whether the Lions would go 0-16, and you could have gotten odds of around 2-1 on the "yes."

This year, there's a lot of talk about how inept a number of teams are, namely the Buccaneers, Browns, and Rams, with several teams not that far ahead of them: Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, and Panthers.

I guess the Lucky's sports books felt they didn't have to wait to see which teams are really bad this year, because they posted a bunch of odds on Wednesday, including the Buccaneers at +850 (odds of 8.5-1) to not win even one game and the Browns at 15-1 to not win at least one game. You can also bet the other side if you think they will get a notch in the win column, laying -1200 (risk $1,200 to win $100) on the Bucs or -2000 on the Browns. There's also a prop that asks how many games will be won by the Buccaneers, Browns, and Rams combined. The number is 10 1/2, with the over and under both at -110.

I agree that these teams have all looked awful, but I still believe in parity in the NFL, and with the public and oddsmakers discounting these teams so much, there will be opportunities to bet on them in individual games.

Back to the bankroll

I went 2-2 with my published plays last week. Sunday started great, with the Lions and the 49ers both covering in the early games, but then I lost with Bills later in the afternoon and the Cardinals at night. Two steps forward, two steps back (and losing the vig). This Sunday, I've got two ugly teams but also two pretty good teams getting points.

Lions +10 vs. Bears

The Lions are one of the bad teams and clearly only missed being on Lucky's list of ignominy because they beat the Redskins last week to get off the schneid and snap a 19-game losing streak dating back to December 2007. The Lions should come into this game with renewed confidence (there's such a thing as the "swagger theory" that says to bet on teams again after they snap a long losing streak, or conversely bet against a team after it has a long winning streak snapped), but even more than that, I don't see the Bears as a team that should be double-digit favorites over anyone. They've won two straight games - granted, against better teams - but were life and death to get to the winner's circle. The Bears very likely win, but I'll take the 10-point head start with confidence.

PLAY: Lions for 2 units.

Buccaneers +7 vs. Redskins

Not many people are willing to back the Bucs after their 0-3 start, nonexistent offense, and change of quarterbacks from Byron Leftwich to second-year Josh Johnson, but this is clearly a pick against the Redskins. I've gone against them the past two weeks, with the Rams and Lions, because I thought they were getting too much respect from oddsmakers and the betting public, and even though they're only a 9-7 win over the Rams (at home, no less) away from being in that list of winless teams, they're still laying a touchdown here? I'll take it and hope the QB switch in Tampa sparks the team for a least one game.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Jets +7 vs. Saints

Okay, here's a case where we get a full touchdown with a good team. Led by their defense and the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Jets have certainly impressed with their 3-0 start with wins over the Texans, Patriots, and Titans. Even so, the public loves offensive fireworks, and the Saints are the team du jour. However, the Bills slowed down the Saints through three quarters last Sunday, and the feeling here is the Jets can do the same and stay right in this game.

PLAY: Jets for 1 unit.

Chargers +6 1/2 vs. Steelers

This is a marquee game on Sunday night, and I like the Chargers. They looked sharper in their win over the Dolphins last week (and put up 26 points the week before in a loss to the Ravens) and they're facing a Steelers team that isn't playing as well as they did in their Super Bowl run. The Steelers have lost two in a row (to lesser teams in the Bears and Bengals) and their only win was a non-cover on opening night vs. the Titans, who are 0-3. Anything more than field goal would be a play, so I'll take the bonus points.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-2 for a net loss of 0.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1 unit). Season record: 4-6 for a net loss of 2.5 units.