11/25/2010 2:55PM

Topsy-turvy NFL season confounds bettors, oddsmakers

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LAS VEGAS – This NFL season has had more twists and turns than any in recent memory – and I’m not even going to bring up all the off-the-field drama.

I’m talking about how confusing it has been for oddsmakers and bettors alike. We started the season thinking that the Cowboys and Vikings were among the top Super Bowl contenders, and every time a new team has been anointed as the league’s best (such as the Steelers, Colts, Packers, Patriots, and Giants), they have invariably stubbed their toe and are not even sure of making it to the playoffs as we sit here in Week 12.

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As for the games themselves, upsets were almost the rule rather than the exception through the first seven weeks of the season, and in fact, home underdogs were 19-18 straight up at that point while being 22-13-2 (62.9 percent) against the spread. Underdogs as a whole were 61-38-4 ATS, better than 61 percent, and this was being called the Year of the Underdog.

But if anyone started jumping on the dogs at that point, they were late to the party. Favorites went 8-4 against the spread in Week 8, faves/dogs split over the next two weeks at 13-13-1, and then last week favorites went 10-6 against the spread. For the season, underdogs still held a 84-69-5 edge overall (54.5 percent), while home dogs have won only 4 of the last 14 outright and are just 27-22-2 ATS (55.1 percent).

We’ve also seen individual teams take a reversal of fortune. Last week, I posted the NFL ATS standings; the top four teams (Lions and Rams at 7-2, and Jets and Dolphins at 6-3) all failed to cover the spread last week, with the Jets being the only one to squeak out a straight-up victory. Oddsmakers certainly know what teams that bettors are riding or betting against, and will adjust the numbers accordingly.

We even saw a bit of a correction in the over/under markets as the over was 21-7 during Weeks 9 and 10 to stand at 83-59-2 (58.5 percent) for the year but went 8-8 last week as oddsmakers have been adjusting the totals higher.

What will the rest of the season hold? Your guess is as good as mine, but I know that bettors will need to adapt to the craziness on the field just like the oddsmakers are doing.

Back to the betting board

I went 0-3 with my picks last week. Ouch! Obviously, with the favorites rallying the past few weeks, that hasn’t done me any favors. However, when people ask me if I think I’m picking too many underdogs, my response is: “No, I’m just picking the wrong dogs.” Here’s hoping that with the chalk players having newfound confidence that we’ll see a swing back to the dogs in the coming weeks.

Jaguars +7 vs. Giants

This game opened Giants –8.5, but I think that was based on power ratings from a few weeks ago when it was thought the Giants were the top team in the league. In fact, the 12-day advance line from the Las Vegas Hilton had it Giants –8.5 before they lost to the Eagles and the Jaguars beat the Browns. The line was bet down to 7, and I think the smart money is right. These are two teams heading in opposite directions, with the Jaguars not getting as much respect as they deserve despite topping the AFC South by virtue of an earlier win against the Colts. The threat of Maurice Jones-Drew’s running should help slow down the Giants’ pass rush and help David Garrard with his controlled passing game (nothing fancy and no star receivers).

PLAY: Jaguars for 1 unit.

Seahawks +1.5 vs. Chiefs

Surprisingly, this is a battle of division leaders out West. I’m still not sold on the Chiefs. That cost me last week in taking the Cardinals against them, but I’m sticking to my guns and playing against them again. The Seahawks play much better at home, where they are 3-1 SU and ATS the spread. According to Marc Lawrence of playbook.com, Seattle is 11-0-1 against the spread against the last 12 AFC teams that have visited. Meanwhile, the Chiefs started 2-1 on the road, but as oddsmakers have caught up to them, they failed as road favorites in their last two tries, which came at Oakland and Denver.

PLAY: Seahawks for 1 unit.

Chargers +3 vs. Colts

The Chargers got off to their annual slow start but have won and covered their last three games as they make their annual midseason run. Now, I’m getting points with a team playing better and facing a Colts teams that isn’t as good as they’ve been in recent years. Peyton Manning makes the players around him better, but that hasn’t been enough, and the defense should get shredded by the Chargers’ high-powered offense.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Last week: 0-3 for a loss of 3.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 18-15 for a net profit of 1.5 units.