It was an ominous sign for favorite players as 11 of the 15 underdogs covered the number, thus giving the books a substantial money edge after week 1. Hopefully those same chalk players spent some of last years’ take in remodeling their kitchens.
I ‘m calling the Dolphins vs. Steelers game neutral, though the money was clearly partial to the Fish as the line plummeted to a pick from the opening number of 4.5, in large part due to QB Roethlisbergers’ absence from the lineup. The Steelers prevailed in a seesaw contest in which they pulled away on the strength of an 87 yard TD pass to Heath Miller and a late Joey Porter Interception return that allowed them to escape with a 28-17 victory
Of the favorites that did shade the number, the Eagles victory over the Texans was clearly the most damaging to the house as the number moved up sharply from 3.5 to 6.5 or 7, depending on the venue. The Chargers shutout of the sad sack Raiders produced solid two way action, as did the Manning bowl in which Peyton bested brother Eli, in a game featuring an offensive interference call reminiscent of Muhammed Ali’s phantom knockout of Sonny Liston. Rounding it out was the Bears demolition of the Packers, 26-0, which saw solid late money drive the number from three to four.
But it was a dog day afternoon, in addition to one that was dominated by low scoring affairs, much to the liking of bookmakers near and far. Carolina clearly showed why they are a mediocre club without Steve Smith, and now must forge ahead without OL Travelle Wharton who was placed on IR with torn ligaments, while linebacker Dan Morgan suffered yet another concussion which will undoubtedly trigger an early retirement at some point.
The big money mover featured the Seahawks nipping the Lions on a late field goal that spared the teasers, but foiled the chalk players as the line was driven up to a touchdown from the opening number of 3.5. Other very solid games for the books included Jake Plummer’s turnover fest, and the Broncos loss at the hands of the home standing Rams, Buffalo’s cover versus the double digit favorite Patriots, the Saints five point win over the offensively challenged Browns, who now lose WR Joe Jerevicius to a rib injury, and the Jaguars victory over the Bledsoe led Cowboys, which probably has Terrell Owens crooning for Donovan McNabb.
The Jets near collapse in Tennessee provided balanced action in a game that the Men in Green almost gave away as Chad Pennington fumbled near his own goal line, the result of a sack that allowed the Titans to tie the contest. Pennington then led the Jets on a 41 play drive to retake the lead, though the under players were foiled in one of the few contests to clear the number.
Monday’s game featuring cameos of Tom Cruise side by side with his new buddy, Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder, also had balanced action as the line hovered at four, but in the end the Vikings prevailed, and the game stayed under, courtesy of kicker John Hall’s misdirected laser with 17 seconds to go.
The torching of the day had to be reserved for backers of the Arizona Cardinals, who were breaking the cherry on their new 455 million dollar stadium. After taking a 10 point lead, the Cardinals surrendered a fourth down, 46 yard completion to Antonio Bryant that brought the 49ers to within kicker Joe Nedney’s range. Coach Mike Nolan, eschewing the chance at a TD, chose instead to opt for a 44 yard field goal attempt which Nedney then converted on, thus slicing the lead to seven and allowing Arizona to hang on for the non covering win after the 49ers could not take advantage of their recovery of the onsides kick.
Week one has the books out to a commanding lead. Let’s just hope those new kitchens are paid for, for the players probably cannot withstand too many more weeks like this one.