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Quarterback Rankings All Over The Board

January 19th, 2011

By Ron Jumper

I’m trying to figure out where to even start…

The 2011 NFL draft quarterback class has been a wild roller coaster ride all season long. It just seems like every week a new quarterback would emerge in the top 5 and the guys that I view as the actual quarterback prospects get pushed further and further back. Never have I been more confused, granted I’ve only seriously covered the NFL draft for 6 years, but the fact still remains my mind has officially been blown.

I’m going to give a very simple analogy, look at all the top quarterbacks in the NFL: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Rothleisberger, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, and Matt Schaub. Even look at the young guns like Sam Bradford, Mathew Stafford, and Josh Freeman. Now, of all those guys, only ONE relies on his legs and that is Michael Vick. Can Aaron Rodgers or Josh Freeman take off when they need to? Yes, but let’s not get carried away and call them scramblers. To be a successful NFL quarterback, it is obvious there is a pretty clear cut prototype. They need to be able to play under center, stay in the pocket, dissect the defense pre-snap, and deliver the ball quickly in tight windows to the correct read.

Now, with that prototype in mind, who fits the mold in this draft class? Let’s take a look at the latest quarterback the “experts” have anointed as the top prospect in this draft: Blaine Gabbert. I just don’t see it. While he has nice size (6’5 240), nothing else about him says franchise quarterback. Look at the numbers, Gabbert only had 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. More importantly, his yards per attempt was 6.7 (which ranked just 78th in the country) and his QB rating was 127 (good for 64th nationally), both of which are very mediocre. Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, and Cam Newton were all in the top 10 in both of those categories, not to mention they also all three had at least 30 touchdown passes. When you consider all of this took place in a quarterback friendly system at Missouri in a conference like the Big 12 that, other than Nebraska, doesn’t believe in defense it doesn’t sound too impressive. Honestly tell me if you are a Bills, Panthers, or Cardinals fan that you will be drooling with anticipation over this guy come draft day? Give me a break…

Then there is Cam Newton. Think it through, while he is big and fast, what does that matter in the NFL? He hasn’t played under center and hasn’t had to learn how to read defenses since every pass play was one-read due to eight guys being in the box on defense. Don’t be an amateur and say defenses will have to do that in the NFL to stop him because I got news for you…they won’t. It is a complete leap of faith thinking he can become an NFL QB. At best, we can label him a “project” that will need several years of seasoning before we know what we are getting (think Vince Young).

Now, based on the criteria we’ve discussed, who best fits the mold? Who has great size? Who has outstanding numbers (yards, touchdowns, yard per attempt, QB rating)? Who has played in a pro-style offense against elite defenses? In my opinion, there is only one choice: Ryan Mallett.

Bookmakers Cash In During Divisional Playoffs

January 16th, 2011

By Ron Jumper

If there was ever a weekend to showcase as a textbook example of how the betting public loses and the casinos rake in cash, this was it. No, it isn’t because of a bunch of crazy upsets or wild finishes (though the Ravens-Steelers game qualifies). Simply put, every game had a line that was calculated perfectly in terms of forecasting what amount of money would come in on each side and where the line would close. Here is quick breakdown of what transpired.

At the conclusion of the wildcard weekend, the Seattle Seahawks were the big story. No one, and I repeat…NO ONE, thought they would whip the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in that fashion. Well, that may be true, but Vegas was banking on them to cover the 11.5-point spread. To the recreational gambler, the Saints were going to win and win easy. However, “sharp” bettors and sports books had a different view. To them, the Saints had underachieved all year and, because of turnovers and injuries in the backfield, had let teams hang around in games they should have won easily (i.e. not covering spreads). They also respected the Seahawks at home, where they have been strong over the years. It also goes back to the age old adage that big spreads in the NFL are dangerous, particularly on the road.

At the time, I was on the air doing a radio broadcast for UALR basketball but an exchange I had with a co-worker summed up best what this article is trying to articulate. I was minutes from doing the pre-game show and not aware of the score of the game at the time when the co-worker walked up and this discussion took place:

Co-worker: The Saints are going to kill them, no reason they should be in the playoffs at 7-9.
Me: The game should be closer than you think, the Saints haven’t been near as good this season as last year.
Co-worker: The Saints are already up 10-0… (followed by condescending laughter)
Me: (With a grin) It’s the NFL, it’s early…

The rest, of course, was history. The Seahawks capped off the upset with a demoralizing touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch. The game’s outcome created a buzz among fans and the media which, in turn, was more than enough to get the betting public focused in on the NFC West champion that had been all but left for dead going into that matchup.

Now, because Seattle had become a public darling and the Bears were not a team perceived to be as elite as fellow heavyweights like the Patriots or Steelers, the money came in on the Seahawks to cover the double-digit spread against Chicago. However, yet again, the sharps and bookmakers had a different view. To them, Seattle had just played their “Super Bowl” because everyone said they didn’t deserve to make the playoffs due to their poor 7-9 record. They also had ridden the roller-coaster all season long with that bunch, as no team was more up and down then Seattle. This game had a clear divide between the public and the sharps, as the public was taking the darling underdog while the sharps saw the game as an obvious blowout situation. In this instance, since there is typically more public money than sharp money on the average game, the bookmakers were also cheering for the Bears. They got their wish, despite Seattle’s best attempt to sneak in for the backdoor cover, as the Bears survived 35-24.

Not all games went in favor of the books.

The Steelers are ALWAYS a public favorite, as they have the next biggest fan base in the league to the Dallas Cowboys, so it was expected when there was heavy public money on Pittsburgh to cover vs. the Ravens. This was the one game of the weekend that the public cashed in on and even that one took a little luck. It appeared the Ravens were going to win straight up with a 21-7 halftime lead. However, turnovers got the Steelers back in the game during the third quarter. Late in the game it was tied at 24, the Steelers had the ball looking to go down and win the game. On 3rd and 19 from their own 38, the Steelers completed a miracle hail mary down the sideline to Antonio Brown for 58 yards to the Ravens 4. Until that possession, you assumed that they either wouldn’t convert the third down or they would just get close enough to try a potentially game-winning field goal. The Steelers punched it in and covered the 3.5-point spread, much to the chagrin of sharps and bookmakers alike.

When the Falcons were favored by less than a field goal at home, I knew immediately that Vegas liked Green Bay. Despite Atlanta being so good at home since drafting Matt Ryan and with the Falcons being the higher seed, the trap was set by bookmakers to entice public bettors to take the home team. The key, in my opinion, was that Matt Ryan and this bunch hadn’t ever been in this spot before. Sure, Ryan had led the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie where they lost at Arizona but they were the top seed in the NFC this season. Could they handle the hype? Meanwhile, Rodgers has been a man on a mission and the supposed lack of a running game seemed to be getting figured out thanks to James Starks. Sure enough, the Packers won going away and the game turned on a crucial interception by Ryan just before the half.

(It reminded me of the Arkansas Razorbacks going into their Sugar Bowl matchup with Ohio State. Sure, the SEC was supposed to kill the Big Ten but this was Ohio State going against Arkansas not Alabama. The Hogs were a great team but they weren’t accustomed to being in that spot, while the Buckeyes played in big games every year. It took Arkansas the first half to settle down and play their game.)

The Patriots have been a machine all year long and Tom Brady’s club is always going to be a fan favorite. They had pounded the Jets 45-3 earlier in the year, what was supposed to be different this time? With the line set at -9.5, bookmakers were hoping the money would pour in on New England and they got their wish. My thinking was, with all the hatred between these two teams, how could the Jets not show up and stay within single digits? That is a lot of points for fierce rivals in a playoff game. I didn’t like the Jets to win but I thought it would be a competitive game. Once again, we had a situation with a clear divide between public and sharp money on each side. The Patriots never seemed to get in sync and the Jets defense made play after play in route to winning the game straight up. My only concern now is whether or not the Jets have anything left in the tank, as beating New England was their “Super Bowl” similar to how the Seahawks beating the Saints was theirs.

Taking a quick peak, the Packers laying 3.5 on the road against Chicago was a surprise. The Bears have to feel disrespected, as they are both at home and the higher seed. The Steelers, yet again, are also a 3.5 point favorite. Both games put bettors in a similar predicament, as these type of lines are what we call a “hook” where it offers an additional half point above a key number which in this case would be 3. The Steelers are the better team but will they win by more than a field goal? It took a miracle against the Ravens to accomplish that feat. As for the Packers, have they now become this week’s public darling to be leery of? Aaron Rodgers is playing at a high level but now you have a disrespected division rival as a home dog. Not usually a great spot for bettors to lay the points.

Focus Shifting to College Hoops

January 10th, 2011

By Ron Jumper

Now that the college football season is over, it is time to turn our full attention to the hardwood. Not the NBA so much right now, as the NBA playoffs are when there is the most money to be made. I’m talking about college basketball, from the big boys down to the low majors. This is the time of year when lines are ripe for the picking. I’m going to go over a new system I’ve developed and give out some teams to keep on an eye on that the books may not be properly valuing.

As with all handicappers, developing systems can often sound quirky and even crazy but there is usually a method to the madness. With that in mind, here goes:

Zig-Zag Contrarian System
Most have heard of the Zig-Zag NBA playoff betting system and you’ve probably also heard of contrarian betting. If you haven’t, zig-zag theory is basically betting the rhythm of the NBA playoffs from game to game instead of the matchup so that, if Team A wins game 1, you take Team B in game 2. Contrarian betting is simply going against the majority on the simple premise the public generally loses so why not just do the opposite.

For my theory, I combine those two into a system that only requires two steps. Step one, pick teams that are traditionally “public” teams but also typically have a losing ATS record or are drastically overvalued this season due to results from the previous season. Michigan State was the first team that came to mind, as they finished 15-21 ATS last season despite typically being a popular/good team. As for teams who I think are simply overvalued, I’m going with Pitt and Syracuse. Part of the lack of value is also due to their style of play and lack of 3-point shooting, as they tend to not blow out teams as bad as they should this season (Pitt has historically won games ugly under Jamie Dixon). So now I have my three teams who have a combined 15-24 ATS record this season thus far.

For step two, simply fade these three teams after an ATS win in their next game. If you had done that all season long, you would be 12-3 ATS. That is a rock solid 80% clip. Basically, that means these three teams have only won back-to-back times against the spread three times all season long. For example, back on 11/12 Michigan State covered 20-point spread against Eastern Michigan but failed to cover the 17-point spread in their next outing against South Carolina. Simply wait patiently until one of these three teams cover and bet the other way their next game. Can’t get much simpler than that…

Smart Bets

Here is a list of teams to keep an eye on, as they have performed admirably thus far this season:

Purdue (10-3 ATS)
The Boilermakers have yet to get that much national attention, so cash in while you can. JaJuan Johnson is becoming a consistent force to be reckoned with inside and E’Twaun Moore is a big scorer on the perimeter.

Cincinnati (7-4 ATS)
The Bearcats have been a pleasant surprise to most, but I always HATED Lance Stephenson’s game. With Yancy Gates inside and Dion Dixon outside, plus a nice assortment of role players (7 guys average between 5.9 and 12.6 points), Mick Cronin has a nice squad trying to gain respect in the Big East.

Dayton (8-3 ATS)
Staying in Ohio, the Flyers are quietly putting together a very good season. After a bad loss early to Cincy, they have responded. Christ Wright and Chris Johnson form one of the nations best duos no one has heard of.

Tulane (6-0 ATS)
Probably the best kept secret in all of college basketball. New head coach Ed Conroy has installed his version of the Princeton offense and has a great mix of interchangeable parts to properly utilize the system (4 of top 5 scorers are between 6’5 and 6’7).

Temple (10-4 ATS)
The Owls continue to win under head coach Fran Dunphy, who has this squad playing great defense (held opponents under 60 points in 9 of 14 games).

Drexel (9-3 ATS)
The Dragons are playing great and deserve our attention, but so does the CAA as a whole. Who would have thought this was a RPI Top 10 conference?

Smart Fades

Mississippi State (1-10 ATS)
It has been a total mess since the end of last season…

Saint Louis (2-9 ATS)
Get well soon, Rick Majerus.

San Diego (2-12 ATS)
Same town as Aztecs, not quite the same results…

Arizona State (2-11 ATS)
Basically either they don’t win or they win UGLY!

Texas Tech (2-9 ATS)
Over/Under at 6.5 for calls Pat makes weekly crying for Daddy (Bob Knight) to come back.

Oklahoma (2-7 ATS)
Put this bunch in a UAPB jersey and no one could tell…


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