In my world, there’s nothing better than a ‘right side’
winner -- no drama, no sweating; an easy ‘rocking chair’ cover. Of course, cashing nothing but ‘right side’
winners is MUCH easier said than done.
In the real world, there are so many games that come down to a single
key late play that determines the SU and/or ATS winner.
As the end of the NFL season approaches. I’ve gone back
through my notes, looking at the some of the wackiest pointspread outcomes of
the year – the really memorable ones. End of the year Top 10 lists are so
passé, so I’ll call this my Top 7 Pointspread Plays of the Year. Let’s start the countdown with #7
7) Week 11: Packers
late field goal
Green Bay was a three point road favorite at slumping
Detroit, but they trailed for most of the game, and were behind by six points
at the two minute warning. Lions bettors
weren’t worried – a Packers TD, in theory, would only lead to a one point,
non-covering win. Aaron Rodgers threw
for that TD on the very first play after the two minute warning. The Lions proceeded to go ‘four-and-out’ on
their subsequent drive, leaving Green Bay the ball at Detroit’s 20 yard line
with just over a minute to play. The
Packers were unable to get a first down, and Jim Schwartz used his remaining timeouts,
forcing Mike McCarthy to trot kicker Mason Crosby onto the field with less than
20 seconds on the clock. Crosby hit the
‘meaningless’ field goal and the Packers covered the spread in their four point
6) Week 11: Carolina
punts on 4th and 1
Sometimes, the most important pointspread play is not a
touchdown or a conversion or anything even close – it’s a coaching
decision. Carolina’s Ron Rivera has been
routinely criticized for his ultra-conservative decision making on fourth down,
almost always choosing to kick. That’s a
big part of the reason why his team blew a half dozen fourth quarter leads this
year, including this one against Tampa Bay.
The Panthers spent most of the week priced as short home
underdogs against the Bucs, but led the game by double digits with less than
five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following a Tampa field goal, Carolina gained one first down and faced a
fourth and one just past midfield, needing only 36 inches to clinch the
game. Rivera chose to punt, resulting in
a touchback. Bucs QB Josh Freeman led
the Bucs 80 yards for the game tying score in 50 seconds without any timeouts,
than did basically the exact same thing with the first possession of
overtime. Rivera’s decision to punt was
an absolute ATS difference maker.
5) Week 14: Kirk
Cousins two point conversion
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the single most
important pointspread play in football is the two point conversion try;
affecting every coaching decision thereafter whether it succeeds or fails. In Week 14, the Redskins and Ravens were
lined in a pick ‘em range all week, meaning that the SU winner was in position
to cover the pointspread. Down by eight
in the fourth quarter, Redskins star rookie quarterback RG3 got hurt, forcing
untested backup Kirk Cousins into the game.
Cousins threw a TD pass with less than 30 seconds remaining on the
clock, cutting the deficit to two. But
it was the gutsy quarterback draw play for the two point conversion that put
the game into overtime where the Redskins won on a late field goal, covering
the spread in the process.
4) Week 12: Ray Rice
on 4th and 29
The Ravens were in the mother of all flat spots as they
headed to San Diego for a Week 12 showdown, and sharp bettors across the globe
placed big wagers on the Chargers as one point home underdogs. And Baltimore played like they were as flat
as a pancake, held to just a pair of field goals as they faced a 4th
and 29 in their own territory with less than a minute to play. Unable to find an open receiver downfield,
Joe Flacco dumped the ball off to Ray Rice, who eluded multiple tacklers, then
extended the ball over the first down marker as he was finally getting tackled
(at least according to the spot and the replay review). Baltimore’s miracle first down led to the
game tying field goal in regulation and the game winning field goal in
overtime, covering the spread in the process.
3) Week 13 Philly’s
punt return TD
The Cowboys were ten point favorites over the slumping
Eagles on Sunday Night Football. In a
wild, back-and forth game, Dallas finally took control with a trio of fourth
quarter touchdowns, including a 50 yard fumble return TD with less than four
minutes remaining on the clock, taking an eleven point, spread covering lead. After forcing a fourth down stop, the Cowboys
ran the clock down under a minute and forced the Eagles to use all their
timeouts before punting. But instead of
punting out of bounds, Brian Moorman boomed a 63 yarder, outkicking his
coverage – one of many decisions that head coach Jason Garrett made this year
that infuriated Cowboys backers. Eagles
return man Damaris Johnson fielded the punt at the two yard line and raced 98
yards for the spread covering touchdown.
2) Week 7: Harbaugh
declines the safety
The 49ers were a popular choice for bettors on Thursday
Night Football in their matchup against the Seahawks, and the -7 opening spread
was bet up throughout the week. The game
was a defensive struggle, and San Fran led 13-6 when they had to punt with the
clock winding down in the fourth quarter, pinning the Seahawks deep. On 4th and 17 from the Seahawks
four yard line, Russell Wilson threw a 16 ½ yard pass to Ben Obamanu. But on the play, Seattle was flagged for an
illegal chop block in the end zone, resulting in a safety. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh demanded a
measurement, and when he found out that his team had made the fourth down stop,
he chose to decline the penalty, decline the safety and simply take a
knee. San Fran bettors went from
rejoicing over a miracle cover to cussing out Harbaugh in the blink of an eye
(and about ten minutes of video review and on-field confusion).
1) 1) Week 3: Disputed touchdown in Seattle
Without a doubt, the single biggest pointspread play of the
year was also the single most controversial NFL ending of the year. In Week 3, on Monday Night Football, Green
Bay matched up against Seattle in a defensive battle. The Packers took money all week, going off as
3.5 point road favorites. Mike
McCarthy’s squad led 12-7, in position to win and cover until the game’s final
play – a hotly disputed touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate in
which Tate never seemed to have clear possession.
The replacement refs ruled that it was a catch, and after a
lengthy booth review, the call was upheld, giving the Seahawks the win and
cover. $15 million changed hands in
Nevada alone as a result of that play, and the worldwide estimate was that it
was in the range of a $250 million swing.
Now that’s a big pointspread play!
The regular refs contract dispute was settled within the next three
Next week I’ll follow this article up with my top HIDDEN
pointspread plays of the year.
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