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Line dance

Making sense of Las Vegas' analysis of NFL teams

Posted: Thursday July 21, 2005 1:37PM; Updated: Thursday July 21, 2005 1:59PM
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Julius Jones' Cowboys dissapointed many bettors with their 6-10 record in 2004.
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I don't want to turn this into a tout sheet, but I must say that at this time of year, when forecasts on the season are about to erupt in a positive frenzy, there is only one set of predictions I take seriously. Perhaps you know what I'm talking about because I wrote about it last year ... the list that predicts the seasonal records for each team, offering the gamblers a chance to go for the over or the under.

I take these things seriously because you can actually bet into them. Coin of the realm is at stake. And if you check these sheets carefully you can get a reading on how the smart people, the ones who set the prices, think the season's going to play out.

Let's take Dallas, for instance. Last year the Cowboys were the team the oddsmakers were the most wrong about. The over-under number for victories, as determined by the Imperial Palace in Vegas, was a rather presentable nine, keyed to the Boys' remarkable turnaround in 2003, when they rose to 10-6 and the playoffs. But the nine was just a number they threw out; it wasn't what they really thought would happen. That's determined by the odds they give on the likelihood of a team doing either better or worse than its number of victories.

They assumed everyone would feel the Cowboys would do better than nine wins, so they set a price of -160 on the over. You'd have had to lay 16-10 odds to bet that way, the worst odds against you on the board. But if you were one of the few who thought Dallas wouldn't reach nine, then you were welcomed with open arms. You'd bet into a +130, which means they were giving you 13-10 odds, that's how silly they regarded the proposition.

No other price on the board was as friendly to bettors, out of the 32 teams listed. In other words the smart guys felt it was a cinch that the Boys would do well. They were surer about Dallas than any other team. Kaboom! The Cowboys tanked and the unders cleaned up.

So let's check out Dallas this year. A totally different proposition. The over-under number is 8 1/2, on the line put out by Pinnacles, which I'm using because it's the most recent (the one I've got from the Imperial Palace was set on May 23 and it varies wildly from the Pinnacle's numbers).