11/29/2012 3:20PM

Tuley: NFL favorites reverseing the early season trend


LAS VEGAS – So much for the NFL Year of the Underdog.

Yes, underdogs are 94-76-5 (55.3  percent) against the spread so far this season, but that’s nothing compared to how well they were faring. After Week 6, dogs were 56-32-2 (63.4 percent), and I was in fourth place in the LVH SuperContest at 21-9. But as I’ve often written about, there’s always a regression to the mean (even if it takes more than the six weeks we’re seeing here) as all trends work themselves back toward .500.

Underdogs have gone 38-44-3 (46.3  percent) the past six weeks. We’ve seen an even more extreme backlash for my pet plays, home underdogs, as they were 21-11 (65.6  percent) after Week 6 and have gone a woeful 10-19-2 (34.5 percent) to now stand barely above .500 overall at 31-30-2. Wanna hear another crazy stat? Through Week 6, home underdogs were 18-14 straight up. Since then, they’re 8-23 straight up.

Hidden in all those stats is the fact that road underdogs have actually fared much better. They’re still 63-36-3 (63.6 percent as sixes and threes are wild), but that can’t last forever either.

Back to that 94-76-5 record mentioned at the beginning, ironically that’s also the overall spread record of all road teams this NFL season as home-field advantage hasn’t amounted to much. (Note: there have been 176 games played heading into the Saints-Falcons Thursday night battle, but our records only add up to 175; that’s because there was one game with no home team – Patriots vs. 49ers in London in Week 6 – and one game that was pick-em in the ViewFromVegas Consensus Closing Lines – Broncos-Chargers in Week 6).

One team that has been able to overcome all this regression to the mean has been the Buccaneers, who own the best spread record in the league at 8-2-1, the push coming last week as they lost 24-23 to the Falcons as a 1-point home dog. No other team is closer than a game and a half to the Bucs as a slew of teams are 7-4 ATS: Patriots, Texans, 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins, Colts, and Rams.

The worst ATS team is the Eagles at 1-9-1, with the closest team being the Raiders at 3-8. But again a word of caution: last week when I mentioned the Eagles’ spread record in my ESPN Insider column, someone Tweeted that it was a “lock” that the Eagles would lose to the Panthers on Monday night. Well, that person turned out to be right, but remember that these trends (as all others) are more likely to regress to the mean as well. Maybe not this week, but in the long run.

Notre Dame awaits SEC winner

Notre Dame secured its spot in the BCS title game by beating USC 22-13 last Saturday (and holding onto the point-spread cover of 5.5 points with its late goal-line stand).

Alabama and Georgia meet in Saturday’s SEC championship game for the right to face the Irish in the championship game on Jan.  7 in Miami. Alabama opened as a 7.5-point favorite over Georgia, but money has come in on the Bulldogs and it was down to 7 as of Thursday morning. The money line on the game varies from Alabama –300 (at Wynn Las Vegas) up to –350 (Stratosphere), with the price ranging on Georgia from +250 (Wynn and Station Casinos) to +280 (MGM and Jerry’s Nugget). Those will likely meet in the middle by gametime. The consensus is –320/+260, and if we go with a no-vig line of 290, that equates to Alabama having a 75.4  percent chance of winning outright and Georgia 25.6 percent.

As mentioned in this space last week, Vegas books already have the potential title game matchups on the betting boards with Alabama –9.5 vs. Notre Dame and William Hill books going as high as 10. Georgia, which opened –1 at Wynn, was posted as a 3-point favorite at the LVH and –4 at William Hill.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 1-2 last week. It was looking like a profitable week as I won with the Chiefs +10.5 vs. the Broncos and lost with the Bills +3 in the early games, but then the Chargers were leading the Ravens 13-6 with less than 2 minutes to play and had them facing fourth-and-29 . . . and, well, we all know how that turned out. Hopefully, these three games are well in hand late and not open to bad beats.

Rams +7 vs. 49ers

I had the Rams +13.5 against the 49ers three weeks ago and watched the whole game as they went to overtime and played to a 24-24 tie. The Rams outgained the 49ers 458-341 in yardage, and it wasn’t a fluke and they should have won the game. And that was in San Francisco. I’ll gladly take the touchdown here at home.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Buccaneers +7 vs. Broncos

It worked fading the Broncos as big favorites last week as they rallied to beat the Chiefs but were unable to cover. Now, they’re playing a much better Buccaneers team (as stated above, a league-leading 8-2-1 ATS) and still laying a full touchdown. This should be a shootout that hopefully comes down to the wire. Both teams have found themselves in a lot of close games lately, and Josh Freeman has been nearly as clutch as Peyton Manning.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Eagles +10 vs. Cowboys

Yes, the Eagles are horrible this year (and, as was stated above, they’re 1-9-1 ATS), but there’s nothing you can tell me that will convince me that the Cowboys should be double-digit favorites over any team this season, even at home where they lost to the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day but also barely got by the Browns the previous Sunday in a non-covering 23-20 overtime win. This is a case where I say the line has been overadjusted and we have to take the ugly dog.

PLAY: Eagles for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a net loss of 1.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 18-16 for a net profit of 0.4 units.