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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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Betting football is getting harder and harder. The parity which the NFL so cherishes is anathema to bookies and bettors alike, because it makes it almost impossible to set early-season lines and predict off of trends. Luckily for bet-takers, bettors don't seem as aware of this. The term, at least in Chicago, for the money placed on a "sure-thing" bet is "gold." As in, "I got gold on Phillie this week." The reason for placing this bet is also termed "gold," and some of these reasons are the most hilarious you'll ever hear. Over the years, I've heard all of the following: "Atlanta is terrible against the spread after divisional wins where they don't cover." "Do you know the last time Miami won on a Monday after they didn't cover the spread at home on a Sunday?" "Cleveland is 4-1 against the spread against Baltimore since 2000, but Baltimore is only 2-6 on the road against divisional rivals against the spread in October." These lines of reasoning are more jagged than Helen Hunt's face, and bear no meaning whatsoever on the outcome of games. Bad for bettors, good for bookies.

I make it a point not to bet the first week of the NFL season, except when I do, which is usually. However, I never offer betting advice for the first week, because Week One is wild and unpredictable and I don't need that kind of guilt on my conscience.

Now that that's out of the way, I can review the first week and give preliminary predictions for Week Two.

Chicago at San Francisco
The Spread: SF –7
Outcome: SF – 49 CHI – 7
Notes: Before I begin crying, let me relate this anecdote (pay attention to the details): Garrison Hearst, the starting RB for the SAN FRANCISCO 49ers, once told a reporter the following: "Aww, hell no! I don't want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any faggots in this locker room." Now, you have to be a major idiot to say something like this in public even if you're already dumb enough to believe it. But what kind of trepanation addict do you have to be to say this when you play in San Francisco of all places? The Bears lost this game because of mental errors and an offensive line that couldn't block the Hegewisch Korean War Veterans Touch Football Team's Auxiliary Wives Squad. The defense was generally okay, but suffered from fatigue and terrible field position. But don't lose hope: the 49ers were helped by the fact that Erickson didn't coach in the NFL last year and so the Bears had no real game film to study. Stewart won't have another game this bad: the Bears can still contend for the division title if they play mistake-free football and improve their blocking schemes, which isn't as hard as it sounds. Bear Down! Bear Down!

New York Jets at Washington
The Spread: WAS -3
Outcome: NYJ – 16 WAS – 19
Notes: This game was a push, since the spread was accurate, which means if you bet on it, you win nothing and lose nothing. The Redskins are going to pull out games like this all season, because despite a deficient running game they have a big-play back in Trung "My Name is Trung Canidate" Canidate and a big-play quarterback in freakish-armed hillbilly Patrick Ramsey. They also have a handful of big-play defensive players. So when the ‘Skins play at home and the line is small (less than 3.5), go with the ‘Skins.

Denver at Cincinnati
The Spread: DEN –6
Outcome: DEN – 30 CIN – 10
Notes: A team that isn't the Cardinals was playing the Bengals. The Broncos are going to play efficient football but will have trouble finishing in the red zone, especially in the third quarter, when the game is in the air.

Indianapolis at Cleveland
The Spread: CLE –1.5
Outcome: IND – 9 CLE – 6
Notes: This was opening-game jitters, and boring as hell. Cleveland is going to have a playoff surge in late October/early November, but ultimately fall short. The Indianapolis Colts have the personnel and the coaching to win the division and make a serious playoff drive. They are solid against the spread because of their offensive firepower and the addition of rookie TE Dallas Clark, who will absorb defenders in the flat and in space five- to ten-yards out.

Minnesota at Green Bay
The Spread: GB –5.5
Outcome: MIN – 30 GB – 25
Notes: My goodness, Daunte Culpepper has a big ass. I mean, he's a big, muscular guy, but his ass is just huge. And not just when he's crouching for the snap; it's like an independent entity that floats separate of his body. This guy's ass is like a septuagenarian Romanian woman's twin goiters. This game was not nearly as close as the score indicates. My boy "Baby Huey" Culpepper is going to have a killer year and the enormous Vikings offensive line is going to dominate all season. Green Bay's defense will be inconsistent and their offense may pull out some games, but they're disjointed and sloppy. Green Bay may not win 6 games this year.

San Diego at Kansas City
The Spread: KC –5.5
Outcome: KC – 27 SD – 14
Notes: Kansas City can score at will and will be the most entertaining team to watch this season. Their defense is vastly improved, though still pretty wretched. Still, they create turnovers so the Chiefs will be in every game this season. Jump all over games in which they're underdogs by more than 5.5. San Diego has a good defense and an improved passing game, so this wretched effort will not be indicative -- if the bookies overreact next week and make the Chargers big dogs, take that bet.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
The Spread: Pittsburgh –6
Outcome: PITT – 34 BAL – 15
Notes: Baltimore is going to be bad. Bad bad bad. Their defense is overrated and their offense is wretched. Jamal Lewis isn't as good as everyone thinks, and rookie Kyle Boller is going to have severe growing pains playing behind an adequate offensive line. They could lose to the Bengals.

Houston at Miami
The Spread: Miami –13.5
Outcome: HOU – 21 MIA – 20
Notes: Huh? Miami should have the best defense in the league. Their offense should be a grind-it-out clock milker because of Ricky Williams. And yet? Still, never ever take Miami to cover a spread this big -- nothing over a couple of field goals. Their offense is designed to score little and be on the field a lot. Lots of people probably bet on Houston to cover this ridiculous spread, but nobody expected them to win.

Jacksonville at Carolina
The Spread: CAR –4
Outcome: CAR –24 JAC –23
Notes: I love Carolina. Usually I don't like expansion teams, especially Southern ones, but Carolina has such a deliciously good defense. The defense will hand them at least 5 games this season, and they have a good power back in Stephen Davis, who can help them close out the clock in the fourth quarter (their major problem last year). Jacksonville is underrated, with Fred Taylor and Mark Brunell healthy. In the future, Carolina is a poor bet because they can't be expected to score too much so it will be difficult to gauge them ATS.

New England at Buffalo
The Spread: BUF –1
Outcome: BUF –31 NE –0
Notes: Ha! Big fat goose egg! Some of you may recall when NE QB Tom Brady punched Bears S Mike Brown in the face last year, and got no penalty or fine for it. He's a flash-in-the-pan pretty-boy punk who may put up big numbers only because his running game is so wretched. Buffalo is the most improved team of the off season, with a very solid defense supporting a high-flying, high-scoring offense. They will win this division and the Patriots will suck, which makes me happy. Stupid Boston.

St. Louis at New York Giants
The Spread: New York –1
Outcome: NYG – 23 St. Louis – 13
Notes: Jeremy Shockey is an Oklahoma-bred good-ol'-boy hillbilly, a small-town hick fascinated by the bright lights of New York City. He throws ice at fans and calls opposing coaches "homos." I hate this guy. And I hate the Giants. Still, they'll probably win the division. The Rams' starting QB Kurt Warner suffered a concussion early in the game and committed numerous turnovers, but still completed 34 passes for over 340 yards. That won't happen next week, because of rising star Marc Bulger.

Arizona at Detroit
The Spread: DET –4
Outcome: ARI – 24 DET – 42
Notes: Detroit's young QB Joey Harrington was a straight-A student and he plays the piano and loves his wife so much he wears his wedding ring on the field, under a bandage. You want to hate him, but he's just so peppy. Arizona is the only team the Lions can beat, much less massacre. They may win four games, but they won't win next week. Arizona is very, very, very, very, very not good.

Atlanta at Dallas
The Spread: DAL –2 (!)
Outcome: ATL – 27 DAL – 13
Notes: This may have been the second-dumbest spread after the Miami game. True, Michael Vick is injured, but his back up Doug Johnson is a great pocket passer and the Falcons have a very solid, play-making defense. And Dallas is going to suck forever.

New Orleans at Seattle
The Spread: SEA –3
Outcome: SEA – 27 NO – 10
Notes: This should have been a no-brainer. Seattle has a great offense with one of the league's best young quarterbacks (Hasselbeck), an exciting receiver (Koren Robinson), and arguably the best running back (Shaun Alexander). Their defense is improved so in games where the bookies give the Seahawks the victory (greater than 3 at home or less than 3 on the road) against a middling defense/good offensive team, take the Seahawks. New Orleans has an adequate defense, and big-play receivers and a quick quarterback, but are bad at closing games.

Oakland at Tennessee
The Spread: TEN –3
Outcome: TEN – 25 OAK – 20
Notes: Tennessee is a strange team, because they have so few big name players (Steve McNair, Eddie George….uh…Jevon Kearse….er….) and almost all of them are old. So why are they good every year? Because they are the most well-coached team in football, and not just by a slim margin: they are far-and-away the most well-coached team in football. Jeff "The Hair" Fisher, a former Chicago Bear kick returner, keeps the team happy and in a position to win every single week, no matter who the opponent. The Raiders, on the other hand, are old and only moderately well-coached. They have a few holes (linebackers, defensive ends, tight end, special teams) and are prone to fatigue because of their age. Tennessee is carried by the indomitable and lovable Steve "Why The Hell Did I Go To Alcorn State" McNair, who plays injured every year and never lets up.

Tampa Bay at Philadelphia
The Spread: PHI – 3
Outcome: TB – 17 PHI – 0
Notes: Ouch, a shut-out in the inaugural game of a new stadium against a hated rival. Zing. Tampa Bay is almost identical to last year and is easily the most likely Super Bowl repeat team since the Cowboys teams of the early 1990s. Will they repeat? I don't think so. Their defense is diffusable and their offense prone to sluggishness. Philadelphia gutted its defense and has possibly the worst Goodness-of-Quarterback, Crappiness-of-Wide-Receivers ratio in the league, with the fearsome, 115-pound tandem of James "Who?" Thrash and Todd "Huh?" Pinkston the 1-2 receivers.

Next Week's Picks:
[Okay, here's how spreads work. Where it says "Take Minnesota –8.5 vs. Chicago" that means that in order to win the bet, Minnesota needs to win by 9 or more. Where it says "Take Pittsburgh +3 at Kansas City" that means that in order to win the bet, Pittsburgh only needs to lose by less than three; if they win, that's icing.]

Take Minnesota –8.5 vs. Chicago
Take Pittsburgh +3 at Kansas City
Take St. Louis –3 vs. San Francisco
Take New Orleans –8 vs. Houston
Take Buffalo –3 at Jacksonville
Take Atlanta –3 vs. Washington
Take Detroit +6 at Green Bay
Take Indiana –1.5 vs. Tennessee
Take Baltimore –2.5 vs. Cleveland
Take Miami –3 at New York Jets
Take Seattle –5 at Arizona
Take Carolina +9.5 at Tampa Bay
Take Oakland –12 vs. Cincinnati
Take San Diego +3 vs. Denver
Take Philadelphia –5.5 vs. New England

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Andrew / September 10, 2003 10:20 AM

So, how much did you lose last weekend?

dce / September 10, 2003 12:05 PM

So I'm in this "survival of the fittest" thing where I need to pick a team each week. If my team wins, I move on. If not, I'm into the consolation bracket (which goes by overall record). I made it through the first round by picking Denver over the Bengals, but am unsure of what to do this week.

I need a good bet, but can't really go by a spread system. And it goes without saying that I know absolutely nothing about football.

Any advice?

Andrew / September 10, 2003 1:42 PM

Simple: pick whoever the Bengals or Cardinals are playing this week.

Wiz of Odds / September 10, 2003 2:51 PM

Ha...if you're losing money betting on sports, you're on the wrong side.

And Dave, take Seattle or Oakland--Andrew is absolutely correct. If you want to get a little flashy, you can take a chance with Buffalo or New Orleans


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