NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Into the Wind
by Dennis Ranahan

When I was working in the National Football League in the 1970’s, Monday Night Football was a relatively new success. Before the 1974 season, ABC was lobbying the league to allow them to swap out of a scheduled Monday night matchup for a more attractive game if they were stuck with a dog. A ‘dog’ in this case, being a contest between two teams that perhaps only close family members of the players are interested in watching.

The league officials considered the idea ABC proposed because they knew that the primetime Monday Night Football matchup was their best advertising of the week. But, when the idea got to team owners, general managers and coaches, it got nixed in a hurry.

Teams have flights scheduled, hotel reservations booked, bus companies lined up and the stadiums have fans who have bought tickets for a Sunday game … some fans traveling from out of town and unable to attend a Monday night game. The logistics prevented ABC from getting their wish list for matchups.

The idea did get resurrected for the Sunday night primetime telecasts, where a few teams are designated to be allowed to shift from a day game to the night time slot. A time change determined to not as drastically affect the logistics as a day change.

I tell you all that just to make this point, if the network carrying tonight’s game could select a different matchup off the Sunday schedule in a blind draw out of a hat, they could broadcast a more attractive matchup than the one they are stuck with tonight. Week Seven kicks off with a Thursday contest between two really bad teams, the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos.

Now, most people know the Cardinals are no good, and they got more evidence to support that claim after Arizona was blown out in their first two games this year. They lost their opener at home to the Washington Redskins and then got drilled on the road against the Los Angeles Rams by respective scores of 24-6 and 34-0.

While the Cardinals were getting clubbed in their first two games, the Broncos won a pair of contests, at home against the Seattle Seahawks by a field goal, and a second straight home game and win over the Oakland Raiders, 20-19. While the Cardinals opened with two wins, they didn’t yet beat the point spread. They pushed on the line against the Seahawks and lost to the Raiders.

The Broncos were in fact the last NFL team this year to pick up a point spread win, getting their first last week in a 23-20 home loss to the Rams while getting a touchdown on the spread.

Tonight, the Broncos are favored on the road.

How bad does their opponent have to be in order to make the Broncos a road favorite?

Well, a couple weeks ago, the bettors wagered the Broncos into a road favorite role for their game against the New York Jets. Denver opened as a one point underdog but went off as a one point favorite while nearly 70% of the bettors backed their chances.

Bad idea. Jets won, 34-16.

This week, the books opened the Broncos as a 2½ point favorite, and the public again backed Denver’s chances at nearly a 70% clip. But, instead of their favorite role rising with the public action, the line came down to where now the public only has to lay 1 point with the Broncos.

So, do you see this, the public likes a team in a big way, and the books make it even easier for them to back them while laying 1½ less points from the opening number. How can this be?

While the Cardinals did get blown out in their first two games, they have won four straight point spread decisions since, including spread wins over the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks at home. Since Josh Rosen took over at quarterback, the Cardinals picked up their only straight-up victory of the season, two weeks ago over the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, and stayed competitive against the talented Vikings last Sunday in Minnesota

The books are not responding to the public action with their line move on this one, but rather protecting themselves against the huge sums of money the wise guys have put on the home team getting points tonight.

What I don’t like about the Cardinals tonight is that they are injured on the offensive line and the Broncos come to town looking to end a four game losing streak. Denver can’t take the Cardinals lightly, as did both the Bears and Seahawks before their point spread losses in the desert.

What I don’t like about the Broncos tonight is that betting on this team as a road favorite is akin to something like, well, I’ll say it, pissing into the wind.

As a fan and viewer, we can flex out of this weak match-up and look forward to some great contests scheduled for Sunday.