With four shots to play the hero and shoot down the Atlanta Falcons, Mike Glennon came up empty-handed.
But the Chicago Bears’ loss still produced the biggest win of the day — in the form of an underdog cover — for Las Vegas bookmakers. The Falcons, favored by 6½ to 7 points, barely escaped with a 23-17 victory.
The dramatic conclusion in Chicago was the highlight of the NFL season’s first Sunday, an otherwise ugly day that was mostly about boring games, incompetent officiating and poor quarterback play. We waited all summer for this sloppy display?
“It looked unorganized. It was ratty. It was bad,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “That’s why I watch college football.”
Of course, what matters most are the wins and losses and cashing tickets at the end of the day. The betting action was brisk, and the books put Week 1 in the win column.
“It was a very positive day for us,” said Jay Kornegay, Westgate sports book director. “We won most of the major decisions plus a few others.”
The top five consensus plays in the Westgate SuperContest went 0-5. It was a super-sized contest fiasco. The most popular favorites on the board in the morning — Atlanta, Arizona, Cincinnati, Houston and Pittsburgh — failed to cover.
“We got off to a good start,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, oddsmaker at the South Point sports book. “Our biggest win was the Bears game. We knocked down every parlay. The other silent assassin was the Cardinals going down.”
With a first down at the Atlanta 5-yard line in the final minute, the Bears had a chance to extend the hangover for the Super Bowl losers. Three incompletions, including a drop, and a sack of Glennon ended Chicago’s upset hopes. On the bright side, Glennon is 1-0 against the spread. Matt Ryan was one of the few quarterbacks who performed well.
Carson Palmer imploded in the Cardinals’ 35-23 loss at Detroit. Arizona, which opened as a 2½-point ‘dog and closed as a 2½-point favorite, went up 10-0 after a pick-six of Matthew Stafford. Palmer threw three interceptions, and Stafford rebounded to finish with four touchdown passes.
Andy Dalton was dreadful in the Bengals’ 20-0 loss to Baltimore. Dalton was in postseason form, tossing four interceptions.
The never-hyped Tom Savage era ended at halftime in Houston, where Savage was sacked six times and pulled for rookie Deshaun Watson. Bill O’Brien coached a Texas-sized debacle, with the Jaguars coasting to a 29-7 win. This is Overreaction Monday, so why not pump up Jacksonville as the new AFC South favorite?
The Steelers, bet from 8½- to 10-point favorites, led by 11 late and held on to beat Cleveland 21-18. The point-spread decision came down to a fourth-down play with 3:36 remaining, when DeShone Kizer connected with Corey Coleman on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
To this writer’s disappointment, Tennessee is not ready for prime time, and neither is Marcus Mariota. The Titans, who attracted so-called sharp money as 2 ½-point home favorites, mysteriously opened the game with a failed onside kick and flopped miserably in a 26-16 loss to Oakland. More props to Derek Carr and the Raiders, who continue to roll on the road.
Favorites went 2-6 ATS in the early games, with Buffalo and Philadelphia narrowly cashing. The Bills covered in their 21-12 win due to the New York Jets failing on a dubious 2-point conversion try. The Eagles, 30-17 winners at Washington, benefited from a blown call that was not overturned on review. Kirk Cousins had a ball batted away that was ruled a fumble and returned for a touchdown. It probably should have been whistled dead as an incomplete pass, but NFL rules — starting at the top with Roger Goodell’s suspension decisions — are arbitrary.
And the bottom line is the clumsy Cousins did not deserve to win anyway.
After the quagmire in the morning, there was some optimism in the afternoon with another Seattle-Green Bay showdown at Lambeau Field. It was a huge letdown. The Seahawks, 3-point ‘dogs who led 3-0 at halftime, fell to the Packers 17-9. The officiating was terrible at times, and the offensive line in front of Russell Wilson was trash. Aaron Rodgers did not do much, but it was just enough.
The books lost all three decisions in the afternoon as Green Bay, Carolina and the Los Angeles Rams covered as favorites.
The Panthers, 5-point road favorites, pinned a dull 23-3 loss on Kyle Shanahan in his 49ers’ coaching debut. Shanahan is no Bill Walsh, and Brian Hoyer is no Joe Montana.
In L.A., it was time to send in the clowns, and this time the laughter was not at the expense of the Rams and quarterback Jared Goff, who finally picked up his first win in eight NFL starts. The clowns were Scott Tolzien and Colts coach up-Chuck Pagano. Tolzien threw two picks and was benched. A confused Pagano credited the “49ers” for whipping his team’s butt 46-9.
Indianapolis, without Andrew Luck at quarterback, might be the worst team in the league. Yes, maybe even worse than the Jets.
OK, could the Sunday nightcap in Dallas save the day? Forget it.
Now, picture a frowning Eli Manning with his shoulders slumped. Picture it about 20 times. That was the scene all night. With no running game, no protection and no Odell Beckham Jr., who stood on the sideline showing off his curly blonde hair, Eli was awful. Giants coach Ben McAdoo held a play sheet that revealed no answers because he’s no offensive guru.
The Cowboys, bet from 3½- to 6-point favorites after Beckham was ruled out, belittled the Giants 19-3. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 104 yards and made his annoying feed-me sideshow gesture after each first down.
The good news is most bettors won with the Cowboys. But one misguided bettor at the South Point, Vaccaro said, wagered $110,000 on the Giants plus-4. That money would have been better spent in a strip club.
The NFL’s return lived up to the hype Thursday night, when Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs upset the Patriots and ended New England’s chase for 16-0 at 0-1.
On the first Sunday of the season, there were 12 games, most of them resembling Eastern Michigan-Rutgers.
Maybe the Monday night doubleheader can save the week. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are in action as road ‘dogs, so there are reasons to be optimistic. We know the NFL can do better, and we’re betting on it.