09/30/2010 12:38PM

Panthers can cover double-digit spread vs. struggling Saints

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With the calendar flipping to October, we have an overlapping of the four major team sports in North America as the so-called winter sports are in training camp, so let’s take a quick look at the betting landscape before concluding with the king of ‘em all, pro football.

Baseball

As of Thursday afternoon, the American League playoffs were all set with four teams (Yankees, Rays, Twins, and Rangers), but the Yanks and Rays were still battling for the AL East title and home-field advantage. The Rays had to be viewed as the favorite as they are facing the Royals this weekend while the Yankees are facing the Red Sox. However, the Las Vegas Hilton was still listing both as 7-5 co-favorites to win the AL (with the Twins at 4-1 and Rangers at 5-1). The winner of the East will obviously take over favoritism in the future books. The NL was far more complicated, though the Padres were pretty much needing a sweep of this weekend’s series with the Giants to stay alive, while the Braves were all but assured of getting the wild-card spot. One thing that is certain is the NL is that the Phillies are the 10-11 favorite to take the pennant.

Basketball

The Miami Heat are still talk of the league and the 7-4 favorite (+175 as expressed as a money line, or receiving $1.75 for every $1 you want to profit) at the Hilton. That’s down slightly from the 9-5 odds (+180 as money line) Miami was when LeBron James first announced he was taking his talents to South Beach. The Lakers are 3-1 to complete their three-peat with a big drop-off to the Celtics and Magic, both at 10-1. If you want to include college basketball among the major team sports (and I certainly do), Midnight Madness is two weeks away on the night of Friday, Oct. 15, and a check of the futures shows defending champ Duke as the 7-1 favorite, with two Big 10 teams, Michigan State and Purdue, both at 8-1, and then North Carolina at 15-1, and the quartet of Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, and Ohio State at 25-1.

Hockey

I will make this quick since, despite the protests of the vocal minority, betting on the sport is just not that popular. The Capitals are the 5-1 favorite to go on a tour with the Stanley Cup, with the Penguins at 6-1, the Red Wings and Canucks at 8-1, and the defending champion Blackhawks at 9-1.

Football

Ah, finally back to football. Starting with the college ranks, Alabama and Ohio State are the 3-1 co-favorites and it’s assumed they will meet in the BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10 if they both run the table, and they’re both expected to be favored in the rest of their games. But Boise State is waiting in the wings at 5-1, and there are potential stumbling blocks for the favorites, including this Saturday with Alabama an 8-point favorite over SEC rival Florida and Ohio State an 17-point favorite at Illinois, which pulled an upset over the Buckeyes two years ago.

In the NFL, the Packers were raised from 7-1 to 8-1 after their loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football, but they’re still the lukewarm Super Bowl favorite with the Colts, Steelers, and Ravens next in line at 9-1; the Saints at 10-1; and the Patriots, Cowboys, Jets, and Falcons all at 12-1; and the Bears at 15-1.

Back to the betting board

I went 2-1 in this space last week to drop my winning percentage to 70 percent at 7-3. The underdogs have been good to me again this year, and I will go with three more plays and will be content if my win percentage drops further with another profitable 2-1 performance.

Panthers +13 1/2 vs. Saints

Double-digit underdogs went 2-1 against the spread last week (unfortunately the loss was my pick of the Lions, who had every opportunity to get in the back door) and we have two this week with the Lions and Panthers. I like this one better as a play against the Saints, who have yet to cover a spread this season (0-3, or 0-2-1 if you give them a push in the season opener). They are just not clicking like they were last year. The Panthers should be able to run the ball on the Saints – thus keeping the clock running, and Jimmy Clausen should be better with a game under his belt.

PLAY: Panthers for 1 unit.

Jaguars +7 1/2 vs. Colts

Home underdogs have been money in the bank so far this season, compiling a record of 13-7-1 (65 percent when discounting the push) against the spread, and that’s after going only 4-4 last week after starting the season 9-3-1. However, this is the only home dog I like this week. Clearly, the Jaguars haven’t looked good the last two weeks in blowout losses to the Chargers and Eagles, but they usually play the Colts tough and I look for a big game from Maurice Jones-Drew against the Colts’s porous run defense, plus David Garrard should respond with a good game after the Jaguars signed Trent Edwards.

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Cardinals +8 vs. Chargers

The Cardinals are a surprising 2-1 with narrow wins over the Rams and Raiders (nothing to brag about as they by all rights should have lost both) and a 41-7 whipping from the Falcons, but again this is more of a bet against a flawed favorite. The Chargers are off to their patented slow start and I’m hoping it continues for at least one more week. I know I’m in the minority, but I still have faith that Derek Anderson can lead the Arizona offense and it looks like Beanie Wells is healthy to take some pressure off the passing game. If the Cardinals’ defense can continue to bend but not break, they can stay within a touchdown.

PLAY: Cardinals for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a net profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 7-3 for a profit of 3.7 units .