This past Sunday at 4:01 pm on the east coast, I received the following text from a fellow gambler.
“Need Rex Grossman to score. That’s not fun to say.”
Ah, the joys of gambling. Putting your money in the hands of Rex Grossman is never a winning proposition over the long haul. Rex last threw a touchdown on October 2nd. After that 6 yard laser to Santana Moss with 3:06 to go if the first quarter against the Rams, Rex has managed to gift 8 interceptions to his opponents…in 3 games! He was benched in favor of John Beck who was equally incompetent as the Redskin’s season continued its downward spiral.
Armed with this knowledge and a true appreciation of Rex’s ineptitude as of late, I was more than willing to lay 7 points with Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, the Redskins defense has played well, but I was confident that chubby Rex and the offense would struggle just to sniff double digits. Besides, the Dallas Cowboys had finally figured it out and Demarco Murray had given Tony Romo the running compliment the offense had been missing all year, right?
And that brings us back to 4:01 Sunday afternoon. There was my buddy, pulling for Rex to channel his inner gator and capture glory one more time. And there I was, rooting for Rex to simply embrace being the mediocre and team-killing NFL quarterback I have grown to know and love. Of course, Grossman connected with Donte Stallworth (why is he playing football) with 14 seconds remaining to save my buddy and crush my hopes of covering.
Rex blinded me to a gambling rule that as a square, I have been slow to embrace. Quite simply, divisional games need to be viewed differently than non-divisional games. This is a painful proposition for a gambler as it often means backing a team that on paper (and on the football field) is terrible. Simply backing the underdog takes some faith and it requires a particular amount of testicular fortitude to back a large underdog. In week 11, divisional underdogs went 3-2-1 against the spread, including two wins straight up (Eagles and Seahawks). These divisional rivals remain competitive for several reasons. First, there is a familiarity between the teams. Players and coaches recognize one another’s tendencies which can be especially helpful when incompetent coaches such as Jason Garrett or Andy Reid are involved. Likewise, while all teams want to win, divisional rivals are less likely to run up the score as they know there could be retribution later in the year; something non-divisional teams do not have to deal with. Divisional games are also key as they have more of a direct impact on standings and gaining a playoff spot. You’re likely to see a more conservative game plan when the Saints and Falcons get together when compared to the Ravens and Seahawks. These factors create a recipe for a more defensive minded game which is not decided by multiple scores.
And so, fading the Skins at home, getting 7 points was a square bet on my part. But in Rex Grossman we trust and I will be ready to wager against him at the next available opportunity.
This weeks NFL square edge plays: (All lines from heritagesports.com)
Last week 2-1
Green Bay -5.5 So, if I just wrote a column about why to take the underdog in divisional games, why would I recommend the Packers going into Detroit on Thanksgiving? Quite frankly, the Pack are the champs and I think the Lions have already played their best and most consistent football. Look at last weekend. The Packers played an early game at home against a better-than-people-think Buccaneers team. Green Bay was also coming off a Monday night game against their biggest rival and were looking ahead to the short week and Turkey Day. The Packers controlled most of the game,Tampa came back late, and then Green Bay turned it back on. Detroit on the other hand got down 17 in the first half at home to a bad Carolina team and then came back late in the second half. We all know that both the Packers and the Lions have suspect defenses. Points will be scored. But if the Lions allow the Packers to get out to a 14+ point lead, as they’ve done several times this year, they will not come back the way they have in past weeks. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will send a message to the Lions and the rest of the NFC that they are the team to beat.
San Francisco +3 I love this line for 2 reasons and both of them are Jim Harbaugh. First, this guy is a throwback red-ass. A man who wants to win at all costs and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He is Michael Corleone. As for John Harbaugh? Well, he’s Fredo. Sure he might get fired up at times, but for the most part, he calmly paces the sideline and wonders why his quarterback is from Delaware. The second reason I love the +3 is the Green Bay game. The Packers and 49ers are the class of the NFC. After the Packers roll the Lions, and Dallas lays an egg in the afternoon game (hint hint), the 49ers will be looking to remind everyone that they are equal to Green Bay. Baltimore has struggled with the NFC West this year while the 49ers have been steam rolling their opponents with physical play and attitude. I will wager that Joe Flacco won’t get it done, even if it means wagering on Alex Smith on the road. But that might just be something we need to get used to.
-Square Edges will be a weekly column on Thursday or Friday’s and is written by “The Ghost of Sam Rothstein”