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This Week in Betting, A to Z

A – Atlanta. I have to be a man and admit that I was wrong about the Falcons. I didn’t believe that Michael Turner was going to get the job done, that Matt Ryan was going to adjust easily to the pro game, or that the team stood a chance of making .500, never mind the playoffs. That’s an 0-fer for me. With a nice road win over the flailing Bucs on Sunday the Falcons clinched their spot, and they can now get ready to play a road game to start the playoffs.  

B – Big Ten. It was a spectacular weekend for Big Ten football, with big wins that just kept coming. Purdue showed that beating Davidson isn’t hard – just shut down Stephen Curry. Minnesota proved that their unbeaten record wasn’t as meaningless as many thought when they beat Louisville. Most impressively, Michigan State redeemed themselves from early struggles by standing up to Texas and coming out on top.

C – Chris Paul. This guy is a serious thief. In a good way. On Wednesday, Paul broke Alvin Robertson’s record for consecutive steals by notching at least one steal in his 106th consecutive game. It’s not one of the most high profile records, but it certainly is impressive. To prove it was no fluke, Paul went out on Saturday and notched eight steals – a season high.

D – Devendorf, Eric. Syracuse’s best player got very lucky when his punishment was handed down for hitting a female student. He was given 40 hours of community service, and he can apply to be reinstated to the school when it is done. That means that he should only miss two games. Syracuse showed that they can survive without him by beating Memphis on Saturday. That made up somewhat for the stunning loss to Cleveland State earlier in the week.

E – Elton Brand. This is not how this was supposed to turn out. Brand is going to miss about a month after dislocating his shoulder in a game this week. That’s a blow to a Philly team that has already had more than their share of struggles. It’s not impossible that this could be a good thing, though. The team isn’t playing together at all, so maybe they can find their form without worrying about trying to measure up to one of the bigger stars in the league.

F – Finally. Mats Sundin signed with the Canucks this week. I don’t really care where he ended up as long as he finally ended up somewhere – his free agent song and dance was getting more than a little annoying. Sundin signed for the pro-rated portion of $10 million, and he should join the team early in the new year. Vancouverites are already planning the parade route, but I’m not convinced that this makes them anything close to a legitimate Cup contender.

G – Gigantic joke. The NFL’s west divisions are so incredibly bad it is beyond belief. The Cardinals have had their division clinched for weeks. Those are the same Cardinals that looked like a bunch of 12-year-old girls against the Pats on Sunday. The AFC West is set for a deciding showdown between the Chargers and Broncos to decide which 8-8 team is going to represent them in the playoffs. Neither division can travel to the East Coast. Pathetic.

H – Here we go again. For a week it looked like we would not have to hear about the ridiculous mess on the Cowboys’ front for a while. But then Saturday happened. The Cowboys were schooled by Baltimore, and it happened in ridiculous fashion – Baltimore had fourth quarter TD runs of 77 and 82 yards. Incredibly, the Cowboys still control their own destiny. All they need to do is win. Oh, and overcome the most ridiculous soap opera in sports.

I – Italy. David Beckham is no longer exclusively an American soccer player any more. Beckham was introduced in Milan this week to start a three-month loan with AC Milan. He’ll go back to the L.A. Galaxy after that, but you have to believe that this is just the beginning of the end of his time stateside. Beckham didn’t come right out and say what everyone already knows, but he took every opportunity to hint just how far MLS is from the top levels of the international game.

J – Johnson, Gartrell. This guy is far from a household name, but he would have been if he had a few more games in his college career like he did on Saturday. The senior running back from Colorado State ran for 285 yards, the second highest total ever in a bowl game, as his Rams got past Fresno State. He also added 90 yards receiving, making his 375 combined yards the best ever in bowl action.

K – Kentucky. Jodie Meeks has consistently been the offensive leader for Kentucky this season, but this week he took that to a new level. Against Appalachian State on Saturday Meeks scored 46 points, and he drained nine of 14 threes along the way. It was the most points scored by a Kentucky player since Dan Issel had 47 in 1970. The win moves Kentucky to 8-3, though they still lack a particularly impressive win.

L – Louisville. Memo to Rick Pitino: Dude, you have to quit scheduling neutral site games. It’s for your own good. Pitino’s Cardinals lost to Minnesota in Arizona this week. It was their second loss on the year, and both have come in neutral site games in front of mostly empty stands. Obviously this team needs external motivation to get going. At least Pitino is consistent – he has always been lousy at regular season neutral site games. Luckily, the team has none left this year.

M – Merry Christmas. Tis the season. Have a great holiday season, whatever and however you celebrate.

N – Nikolai Valuev. The good news – Valuev, the man who looks like a gigantic, ferocious bear in boxing gloves, retained his WBA Heavyweight title this week. The bad news – it was by a very narrow margin, the result was controversial, and it came against a 46-year-old Evander Holyfield. I seem to say this a lot these days, but heavyweight boxing is a ridiculous joke that is probably beyond salvation.

O – Orlando. The Magic aren’t getting nearly the press that some of the higher profile NBA teams are, but they are quietly putting together a very impressive season. Orlando gave up a season-high 41 points to Kobe Bryant on Saturday, but still were able to beat the Lakers by three. That was their 17th win in their last 20 games, and it moves them to a very nice 17-9-1 ATS on the season. Quiet reliability – a bettor’s best friend.

P – Practicing. Uh oh, he’s back. Or at least he is on his way back. This week Tiger Woods returned to serious practice for the first time since his knee surgery. He was typically vague in his comments on the subject of his recovery, but he was willing to virtually guarantee that he will be ready for the Masters. He also said that his knee is stronger now that it was before the operation. That’s not good news for everyone else.

Q – Quit. The Jets seem to have packed it in, which seems like an odd thing to do with a month left in the season and a playoff spot theirs to lose. They can still make the playoffs with a win over the Dolphins and a New England loss, but that doesn’t seem very likely given that they only managed to score three points against the pathetic Seahawks. That means that their only win in the last four was a miracle due to the worst coaching decision of the year in Buffalo.

R – Roy, Brandon. Roy is rapidly making an argument that he belongs among the elite players in the league. On Thursday, Roy scored 52 points, a career high, as he led his Blazers to their first win over the Suns in 12 tries in his career. The 52 points was the second highest in the league all season, and it came less than a week after he set his previous career high of 38 points against the Clippers.

S – Singletary, Mike. It seemed like Singletary was climbing aboard a sinking ship when he took over the Niners’ coaching job. He’s done a heck of a job, though, and he almost certainly deserves another year at the helm. The win over the Rams on Sunday was the fourth in six games for the team, and they are 5-2 ATS in their last seven. Singletary’s early moves with the team made him look like a lunatic, but it is obviously resonating with the players.

T – Teixera, Mark. The guy is a solid player, but this is getting ridiculous. The Red Sox and the Angels both say that they are out of the chase for him after their offers of more than $160 million was reportedly not enough to land him. Needless to say, Scott Boras is the agent involved, and he seems to be playing a dangerous game here – by scaring off the two most likely buyers he might not get the money he wants. Of course, the likely outcome is still that Teixera will be in Fenway next year.

U – UConn. The Huskies got a big win over Gonzaga on Saturday to remain undefeated and keep their second spot in the polls, and they showed some real character in the process. They were down by 11 points in front of a hostile Seattle crowd, but they fought back to tie it before winning in overtime. This was by far the biggest test that UConn has faced, and it provided some answers to critics’ questions.

V – Volunteers. Tennessee is not making it easy for us to believe in them. A week after their inexplicable loss to Temple, the Vols only barely squeaked past Belmont by two points at home. There are a couple of things at work here. First, Belmont is a better team than people think. They almost beat Duke in the tournament last year, and they won a couple of big games last season. More importantly, though, I think that Bruce Pearl’s personality has people thinking more of this team than is warranted. It doesn’t say much for the SEC when their only ranked team could be a fraud.

W – Wake Forest. Early in the EagleBank Bowl it looked like Navy was going to walk all over Wake Forest. But then the Demon Deacons’ offense woke up. Wake QB Riley Skinner led the way. He only managed 166 yards passing, but he made the most of them – he was a perfect 11-for-11, and his ruthless efficiency gave his team impressive confidence. If Wake Forest had looked like that more often then maybe they wouldn’t have been stuck playing a rematch in the first bowl of the year.

X – Xavier. Ouch. It was not a good weekend or our mascots. In fact, it was downright ugly. Duke got off to a blazing early start, opening up a 22-3 lead before Xavier had even managed a field goal. By the half Duke was up by 31, and the second half was a meaningless joke. For a game that had a lot of anticipation built up for it, this was one major letdown. The loss moved the Musketeers to 9-1, and drops them from seventh to 14th in the AP poll.

Y – Yikes. That was not a good way to get ready for the playoffs. Pittsburgh was facing a Tennessee team that should have had all sorts of troubles because of injuries to the d-line, but the Titans were the far superior team. Pittsburgh was viewed as the AFC favorite by many before the game, so this throws a wrench in things. Ben Roethlisberger spent a lot of time picking himself up off the ground, and quite a bit putting the ball onto the ground.

Z – Zzzzz. Cleveland and Cincinnati were set to play a game on Sunday that looked like one of the worst games you could imagine on paper. It lived up to the hype. The two miserable teams, both featuring quarterbacks that have no business playing in the NFL, combined for an indescribably pathetic 131 yards passing. Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski combined to amass a majority of the yards, 76, but sullied that dubious accomplishment by tossing four picks.


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