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On the line from Vegas: Are title-game spreads out of whack?

By Tim Graham

Today's AFC and NFC Championship Games feature fascinating point spreads.

The Atlanta Falcons are the NFC's top seed yet are underdogs in the Georgia Dome. The New England Patriots opened as lopsided favorites, but recent history shows the Baltimore Ravens should keep it close.

Here are Las Vegas oddsmaker and Buffalo State grad Joel Staniszewski's thoughts and trends for the conference title games.

Continue reading "On the line from Vegas: Are title-game spreads out of whack?" »

On the line from Vegas: Sunday's trends and analysis

Tim Graham

Joel Staniszewski, everybody's favorite oddsmaker from Sloan, shared his betting insight on every Buffalo Bills game this season and since has turned his attention to the playoffs.

Here are his thoughts and trends for today's playoff matchups.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Spread: Atlanta minus-3

Total: 45.5 points

  • • The underdog in the series is 5-2 against the spread the past seven meetings.
  • • Seattle is 7-0 against the spread in its past seven games versus a team with a winning record.
  • • Seattle is 4-1 against the spread in its past five games after rushing for more than 150 yards the previous game.
  • • Atlanta is 3-0-1 against the spread versus teams with winning records.
  • • Atlanta is 0-4 against the spread in its past four playoff games.

Staniszewski's take:

"Seattle's just gotten stronger and stronger as the season's gone on. Atlanta, meanwhile, reminds you of the San Diego Chargers. No matter how good they play during the regular season, when it gets down to crunch time they just can't get it together.

"The big matchup here is going to be Atlanta's passing game against Seattle's secondary. I don't think Atlanta's going to run the ball at all. Michael Turner looks worn out. Roddy White and Julio Jones against Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner is going to be huge."

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

Spread: New England minus-9.5

Total: 47.5 points

  • • Houston is 4-0-2 against the spread in its past six games in January.
  • • Houston is 1-4 against the spread in its past five games after a straight-up victory.
  • • New England is 1-4 against the spread in its past five games after an against-the-spread victory.
  • • New England is 1-7 against the spread in its past eight home playoff games.

Staniszewski's take:

"Houston started off strong and then faltered at the end of the season. That gives people the thought they're not as good as they were the first two-thirds of the season. Everyone's remembering the Patriots winning, 42-14, in Week 14. But that doesn't mean the spread should be 26. This game is going to be a lot closer. It's not going to be a double-digit blowout.

"Houston will have to dial up some pressure on Tom Brady or he's going to pick them apart. The Texans can't get to a point where they're passing because they're down two touchdowns. They have to keep this game close so they can run and have a chance."

On the line from Vegas: Favorites open the playoffs on fire

By Tim Graham

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III looked like an unnaturally akimbo action figure when he crumpled to the FedEx Field turf.

Had he remained ambulatory last Sunday, the Redskins likely would have beaten the visiting Seattle Seahawks based on how well the Redskins played at the beginning of the game.

Joel Staniszewski, a Las Vegas oddsmaker from Sloan, pointed out that Griffin's injury helped favorites sweep the NFL's wild-card playoff round. A savvy gambler, he said, shouldn't expect all four favorites to go undefeated again this weekend.

"Realistically, all four favorites can't cover again this week," Staniszewski said. "That would be the equivalent of all four No. 1 seeds in March Madness making it to the Final Four. I think that's happened once.

"All four favorites winning in the first round is one thing. All four winning in the second round is not going to happen. This is where you really want to pick and choose which trends you follow."

Let's take a look at today's matchups.

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Spread: Denver minus-9.5

Total: 46 points

  • • The favorite in this series is 4-0 against the spread in the past four meetings.
  • • Baltimore is 9-4 against the spread in its past 13 road playoff games.
  • • Baltimore is 4-1 against the spread in its past five games after gaining more than 350 yards the previous game.
  • • Baltimore is 1-5 against the spread in its past six divisional playoff games.
  • • Baltimore is 0-16 straight up as an underdog of nine or more points (including games before relocating from Cleveland).
  • • Denver is 4-0 against the spread in its past four games after a straight-up victory.
  • • Denver is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven games after scoring more than 30 points its previous game.
  • • Denver is 1-4-1 against the spread in its past six January games.

Staniszewski's take:

"When the season started, I didn't necessarily want to like Denver and all the Peyton Manning hype. But as the season progressed, they've looked unstoppable. You saw Manning throwing some dead ducks early in the season. Now the team is clicking on offense. In my opinion, they're destined for the Super Bowl.

"Steer clear of the total. All of Baltimore's trends tell you the game is going under. All of Denver's trends tell you the game's going over. Plus, it's going to be really cold there, and you don't know how that's going to effect teams."

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Spread: San Francisco minus-2.5

Total: 44.5 points

  • • Green Bay is 5-0-1 against the spread the last six games in San Francisco.
  • • Green Bay is 8-1 straight up in its past nine games versus San Francisco.
  • • Green Bay is 5-1 against the spread in its past six playoff games.
  • • Green Bay is 4-1 against the spread in its past five playoff road games.
  • • San Francisco is 5-1 against the spread in its past six home games against a team with a winning record.
  • • San Francisco is 1-4 against the spread in its past five playoff games.

Staniszewski's take:

"This, to me, is the game you play the money line. Take a value play and give it a shot. The Packers have done well in San Francisco. The over also looks good. Four out of the last five games between these teams has gone over."

On the line from Vegas: Sunday wild-card analysis

By Tim Graham

Joel Staniszewski noted earlier today that betting trends for playoff teams are going to be sparkly. The games are tougher to dissect.

But he correctly speculated the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers would cover their spreads today.

Staniszewski, oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas, has been delivering his betting insight for Buffalo Bills games all season and is continuing his analysis for the playoffs.

Here are his thoughts on Sunday's games.

Continue reading "On the line from Vegas: Sunday wild-card analysis" »

On the line from Vegas: A look at today's wild-card games

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills didn't make the playoffs, but our favorite oddsmaker, Joel Staniszewski, still has more betting information to share from Las Vegas.

Throughout the postseason, Staniszewski will pass along the important trends for those of you who are into that kind of thing.

Trends are trickier this time of year.

"You're playing good team against good team," Staniszewski said. "You're going to find good trends for everything."

We'll touch on today's wild-card games now. Check the Press Coverage blog Sunday morning for this weekend's other two games.

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

Spread: Texans minus-4

Total: 43 points

  • • Cincinnati is 4-0 against the spread in its past four road games.
  • • Cincinnati is 5-0 against the spread in its past five games against the AFC.
  • • Houston is 4-1 straight up in its past five games against Cincinnati.
  • • Houston is 5-0 against the spread in its past five against Cincinnati.

Staniszewski's take: "The thought is Houston started the season so strong and faded at the end of the year and played poorly against bad teams. The spread reflects recent games. I don't think the bettors really are taking into account how good this Houston team can be. This team is really going to be able to get up for a playoff game."

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Spread: Packers minus-7.5

Total: 45 points

  • • Home team in this series is 4-0 against the spread the past four meetings.
  • • Minnesota is 4-0 against the spread in its past four games.
  • • Green Bay is 8-1 against the spread in its past nine games after a straight-up loss.
  • • Green Bay is 4-1 against the spread in its past five January games.

Staniszewski's take: "Minnesota can't pass the ball. Green Bay can't really defend the run well. But I recall seeing games where Minnesota passed for under 100 yards, and they've won based upon their defense and Adrian Peterson. If Green Bay can slow him down at least a little bit, I think it could be a big win for them at home."

On the line from Vegas: No safer bet than Bills failure

By Tim Graham

All season, Las Vegas oddsmaker and proud local boy Joel Staniszewski has been a good sport, giving us his thoughts on the Buffalo Bills from a wagering perspective.

For the final Bills installment of our season series, please allow the kid from Sloan, St. Joe's and Buffalo State a few moments to cleanse his giblets.

Mr. Staniszewski, you have the floor.

"Something has to change," Staniszewski said. "Somewhere in the front office -- ownership, the general manager, the coaching staff, the scouts -- something needs to change. Maybe everything needs to change to make this team work properly.

"How can the Colts go from a last-place team in the league to the playoffs? I don't think it was just the quarterback. I think it was the coaching staff, the general manager, the owner. They're the ones who build a team to win.

"The Bills' organization builds a team they think is going to work, and it hasn't for the last 13 years. You need a complete overhaul to right this ship."

On Sunday, the Bills will close their season with a whimper against the New York Jets in Ralph Wilson Stadium. It also will be Staniszewski's sixth wedding anniversary. His wife, Aja, is from Italy and has become a Bills fan by default.

"She follows the Bills because I follow the Bills," Staniszewski said. "She wears Jim Kelly jerseys. She puts up with all my problems and all the Bills' problems even though she has no reason to other than because of me."

Staniszewski finds defending -- nearly apologizing -- for his hometown loyalty tiresome. Recounting recent draft picks and missed opportunities disgusts him. The name Torell Troup makes him laugh impulsively.

That's why Staniszewski wants the Bills to lose Sunday. It can help make their first-round draft pick more foolproof -- relatively speaking.

"This win or loss can change their draft order drastically," Staniszewski said. "Coaches and players want to win. That goes without saying. But, as a fan and looking at the team in the future, a loss is actually better for the Bills than a win.

"It's sad to say, but we're at that point in the season where you're hoping for the Bills to lose to help their draft stock, and they need to build through the draft. A win does nothing for them."

The Bills are favored by 3.5 points even though the Jets beat them, 48-28, at the Meadowlands on opening day. The over/under total is 39 points.

After Staniszewski's blood simmered down from a rolling boil when talking about the state of the Bills, he passed along some betting trends.

New York Jets

  • 8-1 straight up in their past nine games against the Bills
  • 5-1 against the spread in their past six against the Bills
  • 4-0 against the spread in their past four games in Orchard Park

Buffalo Bills

  • 1-4 against the spread in their past five games overall
  • 2-4 against the spread in their past six home games
  • 2-7 against the spread in their past nine season finales

The trends, however, might not matter as much in a game between two teams with so little to play for.

"Who's going to screw up more this week?" Staniszewski wondered. "Which coaching staff has an opportunity to have a job next year? Which starting quarterback has a job on the roster next year? Who wants to go out on a high note, and who has mailed it in?

"It's tough to see who actually wants to win with these two teams."

On the line from Vegas: Money, trends support Dolphins over Bills

By Tim Graham

Joel Staniszewski was thrilled to learn the Buffalo Bills had signed a lease to remain in Western New York for at least another seven years.

Then he sat down to examine Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins and got depressed again.

Staniszewski, the Las Vegas oddsmaker from Sloan, didn't see much for fellow Bills fans to get excited about when it comes to the betting trends.

"I remember when these rosters had Dan Marinos and Mark Dupers and Jim Kellys and Thurman Thomases and Andre Reeds -- perennial All-Pros and future Hall of Famers," Staniszewski said. "Now we're looking at Ryan Fitzpatricks and Brian Hartlines.

"These two teams have really fallen from grace."

The over/under total for this game is 41.5 points, but the spread has been volatile.

"The lines have been weird all over town," said Staniszewski, an oddsmaker with Cantor Gaming. "It's been anywhere from 4 1/2 to six points for the Dolphins. A move from 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 isn't all that big of a move because how many NFL games land on five? That's an unusual number. But six is a common number, making for a big disparity.

"That tells me some places are getting big bets on the Dolphins, and the trends tell you to do so."

Bills against-the-spread trends to consider:

  • * 3-13 in their past 16 games after allowing more than 350 yards the previous game;
  • * 0-6 in their past six games after a double-digit home loss (Las Vegas still counts Toronto as a home game).

"The Bills, when they have a good game, they usually follow it up with a bad game," Staniszewski said. "When the Bills also have a horribly bad game, they follow it up with another bad game."

Dolphins against-the-spread trends to consider:

  • * 4-1 over their past five games in December;
  • * 6-2 in their past eight games against AFC East teams;
  • * 6-3 in their past nine games versus the Bills (also 6-3 straight up).

"You hope that the emotional lift of the new lease agreement can give the players a spark to play a little better," Staniszewski said, "but the statistics say they don't have much of a shot."

On the line from Vegas: Safe bet to stay away from Seahawks-Bills

By Tim Graham

We had a good run, didn't we?

We lasted until Week 15 before we finally encountered a Buffalo Bills game Las Vegas oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski advises folks to steer clear of.

"From a betting standpoint, you probably should stay away," Staniszewski said of Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks in Toronto. "It's tough to get a gauge on this matchup."

The Seahawks are five-point favorites. The over/under total is 42.5 points.

Staniszewski, an oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas, noted the trends for both teams are at odds with each other.

"We're at that point in the season where average to below-average teams are going to have trends for and against what you should bet," Staniszewski said. "It's hard to really get a lock on a team this late in a season unless it involves a really good team like the Patriots or a really bad team like the Chiefs or Jaguars.

"Who's trend do you buy here? From a bettor's standpoint, this is a game you would shy away from."

Some against-the-spread trends for Buffalo:

  • * 4-1 their past five games after a straight-up loss.
  • * 4-1 their past five games after gaining less than 90 rushing yards.
  • * 4-0 their past four games versus Seattle (but most recent game in 2008).

Some against-the-spread trends for Seattle:

  • * 4-1 their past five games after a straight-up win.
  • * 4-1 their past five games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing.
  • * 0-4 their past four games as a road favorite.

Staniszewski added one consideration that could sway a bettor who insists upon getting action on the Seahawks-Bills game.

"When the Bills play one great game, they're due to have a bad game the next one," said Staniszewski, repeating a trend that has been outlined in this space before. "Seattle recently has done well after playing a great game."

As for playing in Toronto, it still counts as home-field advantage from an oddsmaking standpoint.

A game in London would be a true neutral site, but Las Vegas considers Toronto a home field for the Bills, similar to when a college plays not in their home stadium but nearby (Ohio State in Cleveland Browns Stadium, for example).

"Yes, it's a home game," Staniszewski said. "Yes, you're going to have more Bills fans there than Seahawks fans, but you also will have people who are just going to an event."

The Bills are 1-3 straight up in Toronto, and all of the games have gone under. Staniszewski doesn't view either as a trend because of a small sample size and the fact the matchups have been clunkers.

On the line from Vegas: Trends kinder to Rams than Bills

By Tim Graham

Two weeks ago, Las Vegas oddsmaker and St. Joe's grad Joel Staniszewski passed along some trends that showed the Buffalo Bills don't perform well against the spread the game after a victory.

Here we are again.

The Bills are coming off perhaps their most complete performance of the season, a 34-18 thrashing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills on Sunday are favored by 3 points over the St. Louis Rams in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The over/under total is 42 points.

"We're in that same situation again after they beat Miami," Staniszewski said of the Thursday night victory in Week 10. "When the Bills win and hold the other team's offense and ground game to limited production, the next game, the Bills just don't perform well."

The Bills are 2-7 against the spread in their past nine games after a straight-up victory of 14 points or more.

"That once again proves that inconsistency rears its ugly head the next game," said Staniszewski, of Cantor Gaming. "They just don't perform like they should after a win."

The Rams, meanwhile, also have some interesting trends to consider. They've been playing well and beat the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers last week.

The Rams are 4-1 against the spread over their past five games after a straight-up victory, and they're 4-1 against the spread over their past five road games.

But the Rams suffer from a weird malaise the week after playing the Niners. The Rams haven't won straight up after playing the Niners since Sept. 24, 2006.

The Rams are 8-4 against the spread this year, but this will be their first cold-weather game. Their outdoor road games so far have been at Chicago on Sept. 23, at Miami and at San Francisco.

No jackets required.

Weather doesn't usually impact a point spread, but Staniszewski explained how it impacts the over/under total.

"Totals can change dramatically based on weather, especially late reports that it'll be rainy or snowing or winds gusting up to 50 mph," Staniszewski said. "That means passing teams aren't going to be passing, and every time you run the ball it wastes so much more clock and usually for less yardage."

On the line from Vegas: Jaguars have betting edge on Bills

By Tim Graham

You never know who's reading the Press Coverage blog.

While in Lucas Oil Stadium to cover last Sunday's game, I was invited to appear on the Indianapolis Colts' pregame telecast with a couple of co-hosts who might as well have been doing a Buffalo Bills show: retired linemen Joe Staysniak and Will Wolford.

As I put on my headset during the break, Staysniak started quoting Joel Staniszewski's trends from last week's "On the line from Vegas" blog.

On the air, the former Bills draft choices and I discussed Staniszewski's information as legitimate data to preview the upcoming game.

And it turned out to be prophetic. Staniszewski pointed out in this space the Bills have been lousy against the spread after victories (they had beaten the Miami Dolphins), while the Colts have been impressive after defeats (they had lost to the New England Patriots).

The Colts beat the Bills and easily covered the 3-point spread.

This week's trends seem to go against the Bills again. They are 6-point favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The over/under total is 45 points.

Staniszewski, an oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas, highlighted these nuggets:

* The Bills are 1-4 against the spread over their last five home games versus teams with losing records.

* The Jaguars are 4-1 against the spread over their last five games versus teams with losing records.

* Although Jacksonville is 2-13 straight up over its past 15 road games, it is 5-0 on the road this year against the spread.

* Buffalo is 0-4 against the spread in its past four games after allowing less than 90 rushing yards the previous game, which is what happened versus Miami and again in Indianapolis.

Of course, these trends are against the spread. The Bills have plenty of room to win straight up without covering.

"As a Bills fan, you don't care whether they win by one or 10 points," said Staniszewski, originally from Sloan. "A win is a win no matter who they're playing against. If the Bills don't cover, that's fine. You just want to see them win.

"Of course, that depends on the fan. You might want to see them lose so they get a better draft pick. We're fairly aware they're not making the playoffs."

For the record, this is only the fifth time the Bills have been favored this season. They are 3-1, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and Dolphins, but losing to the Tennessee Titans.

The Jaguars have been favored only once this year -- by a point at home over the Cincinnati Bengals, who won by 17.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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