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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Folks, there have been plenty of folks tossing bouquets in the general direction of the New Orleans Saints these days as the NFC South champion and #3 seed in their conference in these upcoming NFL Playoffs will enter Saturday night's home game against the Detroit Lions having covered a rather amazing eight consecutive games ... and get this:

During this time span (that's November 6th thru January 1st) the Saints have covered Las Vegas pointspreads of 7-or-more points on six different occasions while covering an average pointspread of 5.8 points per game and now - in case you had not noticed - the Saints are listed as a 10 ½-point betting fav against the Lions in this NFC Wild Card Playoff Round Game and you might be interested in knowing the Saints were double-digit betting favorites just twice this 2011 season: A rollicking 62-7 win against the woe-be-gone 13 ½-point underdog Indianapolis Colts back on Oct. 23rd and than that season-changing 31-21 loss at 13 ½-point home underdog St. Louis.

Nope, the Saints have not lost a pointspread verdict ever since and now they are in rarified air of having to lay a twin-figure price at playoff time. Still, as we can see here by our accompanying chart the Saints have been "just perfect" at home in the dome this year: Here's the rundown of eight regular-season home games for the Saints this 2011 season:

9-18 NEW ORLEANS - 4 Chicago SAINTS 30-13
9-25 NEW ORLEANS - 3 Houston SAINTS 40-33
10-23 NEW ORLEANS - 13.5 Indianapolis SAINTS 62-7
11-6 NEW ORLEANS - 8 Tampa Bay SAINTS 27-16
11-28 NEW ORLEANS - 7 NY Giants SAINTS 49-24
12-4 NEW ORLEANS - 8 Detroit SAINTS 31-17
12-26 NEW ORLEANS - 7 Atlanta SAINTS 45-16
1-1 NEW ORLEANS - 7 Carolina SAINTS 45-17

Okay, so the Saints have been getting all their backers rich when playing at home this year - but what about this weekend's other three NFL Playoff home teams? Here's the deal ...

DENVER - The Broncos are getting pounded in the press for "backing in" to this year's post-season following back-to-back-to-back regular-season-ending losses but here's another reason to castigate the AFC West champs: They went a brutally bad 1-6-1 ATS (against the spread) this year with the one-and-only pointspread win coming in that 17-13 prime-time win against the 6-point favorite New York Jets back in Week 11 action. Folks, the fact of the matter is if you go back to the start of 2006 you'll see that Denver's a collective 13-33-2 against the odds (a wobbly .293 winning rate).

Maybe it's gonna take a miracle for the Broncos to survive-and-advance this AFC Playoff Wild Card game this Sunday against the 8-point road favored Pittsburgh Steelers but know this: Denver's averaging just 16.8 points a game at home this year while yielding 23.8 points a game and the mid-week game plan says here the Steelers will chuck it deep whenever possible now with RB Rashard Mendenhall out (knee) and with those Pittsburgh wide-outs ready to exploit a Denver secondary that has been roasted by the likes of New England's Tom Brady and Detroit's Matthew Stafford.

HOUSTON - Maybe trekking to Reliant Stadium doesn't seem like a real scary proposition to other NFL teams but keep in mind the 2011 Texans are a composite 4-2-2 against the odds this year including "pushes" against fellow AFC South foes Jacksonville and Tennessee. In all, Houston - currently a mild 3-point betting favorite in its Saturday afternoon AFC Wild Card Round game against the Cincinnati Bengals - is 9-12-3 against the odds at home since the start of the 2009 season but you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time Houston hosted Cincy and that happened to be a resounding 35-6 win by the than 9-point favored Texans.

NEW YORK GIANTS - Maybe last Sunday night's 31-14 win/cover against 3-point dog Dallas gave folks the sense that the G-men truly enjoy a "home-field advantage" at MetLife Stadium but the numbers don't lie and they say NYG is 3-5 spreadwise as hosts this year and just 8-16 ATS as a home side dating back to the start of 2009 ... not very good! The NFC East champs failed to cover 5-of-7 games this year in which the Giants were the home betting favorites (the covers came against St. Louis in Week 2 and Dallas in Week 17) and note the Giants never have covered as playoff home favorites in the eight years that Tom Coughlin has served as head coach with playoff pointspread home losses as the chalk side against Carolina back in 2005 and versus Philadelphia in '08. Just sayin'!



ORANGE BOWL - at Miami, FL
WEST VIRGINA (9-3) vs. CLEMSON (10-3) -- 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so far two of the first three BCS Bowl Games have gone overtime - Oklahoma State topped Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl back on Monday night and last night Michigan copped a 23-20 OT win against haphazard Virginia Tech - plus consider that the other BCS Bowl Game was decided by 7 points (see Oregon's 45-38 donnybrook Rose Bowl win/cover against Wisconsin) and so even the critics (like us) who howled that this bowl season had its share of bad matchups must 'fess up and say these BCS Bowl Games have been a blast.

Will an almost evenly-matched showdown between Big East tri-champ West Virginia and ACC champion Clemson require "bonus time" this evening in Sun Life Stadium?

If 2 ½-point dog West Virginia has plans of swiping this bowl tilt than QB Geno Smith (3,978 yards passing with 25 TDs and 7 INTs) must pull the trigger with key red-zone quick strikes to the likes of WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin as this duo combined for 2,260 receiving yards and 15 TDs this year. No doubt the Mountaineers won't rely on a wobbly rushing attack - one that ranks 100th nationally out of 120 FBS teams - to save their bacon here. P.S., West Virginia closed out its 2011 regular season winning its final three games in a row ... by a combined 7 points!

Meanwhile, Clemson raced out of the starting gate this '11 season with a sizzling 8-and-oh SU (straight-up) mark but losses to Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina within a four-game span really spoiled much of the orange-and-white glory. If you really want to check out a special player here than keep eyes glued to freshman WR/KR/PR Sammy Watkins who hauled down 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 TDs and he's an absolute demon as a return man and so WVU rookie head coach Dana Holgorsen better inform his kicker/punter to steer clear of booting it in his direction.

The Tigers will ask QB Tajh Boyd (3,578 yards passing with 35 TDs and 10 INTs) to keep the game moving at a rapid pace - don't be shocked if Boyd chucks it 50 times here.

Spread Notes - Clemson's failed to cover five of its last six bowl games while dating back to the 2005 season and that includes last year's 31-26 loss to 5 ½-point underdog South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Tigers are a solid 18-13 ATS as betting favorites since late 2008 but note this Clemson gang enters this prime-time affair having dropped four of its last five overall games with the lone spread "W" that 38-10 triumph over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. On the flip side, West Virginia is just 1-4 versus the vig in its last five bowl outings while dating back to the 2006 season though the Mountaineers are 10-4 ATS as underdog sides since the start of 2005. Note that WVU has covered four of its five away games this season with spread wins at Maryland, Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida with the lone away spread loss at Syracuse.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to win big-time this week/month as we roll on with our College Football Bowl Games all this week and right through the BCS Championship Game next Monday, Jan. 9th between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama plus there's NFL Playoff Wild Card Game action this weekend along with the NBA and tons of College Hoops action too. Get all these winners at our toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or else get it online right here as America's #1 Handicapper keeps up the winning beat this holiday season. Make sure to get your New Year off to a rollicking start!

NOTE: There's more NFL Wild Card Playoff coverage all week long right here in Jim Sez.

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