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Updated on 09/17/2011 10:48AM
Take Raiders and the under
LAST VEGAS - As an underdog bettor and one who subscribes to the theory that "defense wins championships" (plus the fact I won with the Buccaneers each of the past two weeks), it pains me to write this: The Bucs stop here.
Whether you think this is the aging players' last chance to win a title or that they're trying to make up for the chance they lost last January on the "tuck rule" play in New England, the Raiders are on a mission. Now they get the chance to take it out on their former coach, current Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. A lot has been made of the fact Gruden knows the Raiders' personnel inside and out, but it's still the players on the field who will decide the outcome, and the edge goes to the Raiders laying the 4 points.
The Raiders just have too much firepower to ignore. Many times this year it seemed like they were being held in check, but then you look at the scoreboard and they have more than 30 points.
To win this game (or even to cover), the Bucs will need a tight, low-scoring game. Now granted, the Bucs have a great defense, and they will be able to contain the Raiders enough to where they won't be moving up and down the field. In addition, the Bucs have to be encouraged by the way the Dolphins shut down the Raiders in their 23-17 win in week 15. But that was the exception rather than the rule. In the four games since, the Raiders have beaten the Broncos, Chiefs, Jets, and Titans, with all the wins by at least 12 points. In fact, all 13 of the Raiders' wins this year would have covered this spread. None of their wins was by less than six points.
A lot of people are ignoring the Raiders' solid defense. In the second half of the season, they were playing as well as anyone, and the banged-up Charles Woodson and Tory James are getting healthier by the day. A lot of the Raiders' defensive stats are skewed because the offense can strike so quickly that teams get more possessions against their defense, plus they've given up a lot of garbage yards at the end of blowouts.
So, with the Raiders' offense being contained somewhat, and with the Bucs' offense coming back to earth, I think the final score will come under the total of 44, which is inflated a few points just because it's a Super Bowl. When I originally handicapped this game, I had it Raiders 24, Bucs 16
PLAY: Raiders for 1 unit, and under 44 for 1 unit.
Playoff record: 7-6, including 6-3 on sides and 1-3 on totals, for a net profit of 1.2 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).
Season record: 68-78-4 for a net loss of 16.7 units.
Just about any bet imaginable
Have they got propositions for you? Yes!
Super Bowl proposition wagering has taken on a life of its own. You can bet on everything from who receives the opening kickoff (Nevada regulations forbid taking wagers on the coin flip) to who runs the last play and everything in between. Some casinos have even added props this year on the first coach's challenge (-110 each way) and which team takes the first timeout.
With neither Michael Jordan nor Shaquille O'Neal playing Sunday, the player of choice seems to be Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. Several casinos offer "hybrid" wagers with Super Bowl results vs. Ming's game against the Bulls. You can bet Ming's points plus rebounds vs. the Raiders' total points (with the Raiders laying 2 1/2 at the Imperial Palace and 5 1/2 at Caesars Palace), or Ming's points plus rebounds vs. the Bucs points (with the Bucs -1/2 at the Stardust). Other books are sure to follow suit and put up additional props over the weekend.
"We try to pick the icon of the moment," said Chuck Esposito, director of race and sports at Caesars Palace. "He's really captured the imagination of the public. People love to play these bets where they can watch the earlier games and tie it to the Super Bowl. It's a day's worth of action for one wager."
While those kinds of plays are tempting, they surely are hard to handicap. I will try to stick to some where I can find an edge.
One bet I make every year is for each quarterback's first pass to be incomplete. Because of opening-game jitters or a defensive lineman knocking down a pass, one usually is incomplete, and since plus-money is offered on each, you can eke out a profit. The best odds I found for Rich Gannon's first pass to be incomplete was +170 (The Mirage), with Brad Johnson at +140 (Imperial Palace). I will start a mythical bankroll with $20 on each. (Odds for all bets are as of Thursday night).
The Imperial Palace also has a prop on whether the first score of the game will be a touchdown (-140) or any other score at +110. I could see either team having its first drive stall and settle for a field goal, so I'll take $20 on "any other score."
The Palms offers a bet called "double result" in which you pick which team is leading at halftime and which team wins the game, but there is also a tie option with tie/Raiders at 12-1 and tie/Buccaneers at 15-1. Other casinos also offer this multiple-result bet, but the Palms had the highest odds as of Thursday. I will take $10 on each and hopefully lock up a tidy profit by halftime regardless of the final result.
Bettors all over Vegas have been loading up on the the team with the most first downs, with the Bucs at +2 1/2 because they will be more methodical moving down the field. However, I think the Raiders will be forced to play a ball-control offense, too, and dominate this stat. I will take $20 at Coast Casinos, which had the Raiders -2 1/2 for most first downs at even money on Thursday.
The Raiders will be pulling out all the stops in trying to take advantage of the Bucs' fast-pursuing defense, and I think that includes reverses. The Imperial Palace has a prop on the number of different Raiders to have a rushing attempt at 4 1/2, with the over at +140. Gannon, Charlie Garner, and Tyrone Wheatley are shoe-ins, with Zack Crockett in short-yardage situations a better-than-average possibility. Throw in fullback Jon Ritchie and a possible reverse to either Jerry Rice or Tim Brown, and there are several ways for this to go over 4 1/2, so I will take that for $20.
Will either team put up score three unanswered scores? I say no, and can get +140 at the Palms, so I will take that for $20. I certainly don't expect the Bucs to score three unanswered times, and if the Raiders do, then I will probably win my main bet on the Raiders -4, but I'm banking on winning both.
Station Casinos have a prop on the total points scored with 36 to 42 as the 3-1 second choice. This fits with my projected scored of 24-16, plus the most common totals in NFL betting are 37 and 41 and I get both of those key numbers, too. I will take $20 on that.
I do want one bet that I will either have won or at least have a prayer to win late in the game, so I will wager $20 at the Stardust at +180 that there will be either a defensive or special teams touchdown.
Grading the plays, let's assume one unit is $110 and bet that on the Raiders -4 and another $110 on under 44 points. With $180 in various props, that's $400 in wagers.
Good luck, but most of all have fun.