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On the line from Vegas: Back-to-back wins look dubious

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills are coming off an important victory they hope will catapult them into the playoff race.

Las Vegas trends, however, suggest the Bills will struggle to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"The Bills coming off a good performance haven't done very well, and the Colts coming off a poor performance have done well," Las Vegas oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski said.

Staniszewski, a St. Joe's and Buffalo State grad who works for Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas, found several recent trends rather discouraging for the Bills after a victory.

The Bills beat the Miami Dolphins, 19-14, at home last Thursday night. The Colts were soundly walloped by the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

The Colts opened as a 3-point favorite over the Bills. The over/under total is 51 points.

All of these trends are against the spread:

* The Bills are 1-5-1 over their past seven games after a straight-up victory.

* Dating back to last season, the Colts are 6-0 over their past six games coming off a straight-up loss.

* The Bills are 2-8-1 over their last 11 games after beating the spread the previous game.

* The Bills are 0-5 over their past five games after allowing less than 15 points the previous game.

* The Bills are 1-5 over their past six games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing the previous game.

"Those are all fairly recent trends within the Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey era," Staniszewski said. "These back-to-back inconsistencies are so bad, it's tough to get a gauge.

"Diehard Bills fans are saying, 'Well, the rest of the schedule is weak comparatively, and if the Bills can win out they have a chance to be a wild card.' But even when they play a good game, they're just so inconsistent from week to week."

Staniszewski scrounged to find a positive Bills trend.

They are 4-0 against the spread in their past four Week 12 games.

On the line from Vegas: Bettors putting money on Bills

By Tim Graham

Joel Staniszewski finds himself in a bit of a prognostication dilemma.

Our Las Vegas oddsmaker and indefatigable Buffalo Bills fan had trouble finding trends to support the hunch his hometown team will beat the Miami Dolphins tonight in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills opened as 1-point favorites, and many sports books have inflated the spread to 2 1/2 points. The over/under total is 46 points.

"The statistics aren't necessarily looking to be in the Bills' favor," Staniszewski said. "Just me looking at it, giving you my gut opinion, I think the Bills are going to win this game.

"The trends tell you they won't, but these trends against the Dolphins or the Bills in prime time don't factor in the current lineups. For instance, none of these statistics have anything to do with Ryan Tannehill. So you take all these with a grain of salt."

Some numbers to consider:

* The Dolphins are 6-2 against the spread over their past eight games against the Bills.

* The last 11 times the Dolphins have been a road underdog by between 1/2 a point and 3 points, they are 8-0-3 against the spread.

* The Bills have lost eight in a row against AFC East opponents straight up and four of their past 23 games.

* The Bills have lost 11 consecutive primetime games and haven't won since beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 13-10 in 2001.

* Over the past 11 meetings between the Dolphins and the Bills, the favorite is 7-3-1.

"A 1-point spread's rather small for fairly evenly matched teams and considering Buffalo's at home," Staniszewski said. "You factor home-field advantage at 3 to 4 points. So if the Bills are favored only by 1, you'd be inclined to think Miami would be favored by 5 or 6 at home."

The point spread has grown this week partly because the Bills nearly defeated the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday. The Dolphins are coming off a 37-3 home loss to the Tennessee Titans, a team to which the Bills lost by just a point four weeks ago.

"The Bills showed some promise last week against an opponent that in most people's minds is superior to the Dolphins," Staniszewski said. "The Bills' defense gave up a boatload of points to the Patriots, but Miami's offense is not the New England Patriots."

On the line from Vegas: Bills-Pats trends that'll make you cringe

By Tim Graham

Las Vegas oddsmaker and St. Joe's grad Joel Staniszewski delivers some fascinating Buffalo Bills betting trends each week for the Press Coverage blog.

For a change, I gave him one to consider.

Ripped straight from Jerry Sullivan's column on Thursday, I told Staniszewski that in their 12 in-season rematches since 2000, the New England Patriots have outscored the Bills, 344-99.

"Geez," Staniszewski said before scratching out some quick math. "That's an average score of 28-8. Wow.

"That's pathetic to average losing by 20 points. It's not like it's one or two games they got blown out in. This is over the course of 12 games. That's quite a beating."

That obnoxious point total includes games in Orchard Park and Foxborough, Mass. The Bills, of course, are playing Sunday in Gillette Stadium, where they've never won and the Patriots have an .831 winning percentage.

The Patriots, to make matters worse, are coming off their bye week. They are 9-3 after byes under Bill Belichick. The Bills have been the Patriots' post-bye opponents six times since 2000. The Patriots are 6-0 in those games.

The Bills are 11-point underdogs and have gone 3-8-1 against the spread over their past dozen road games. The over/under total is 51 points.

Staniszewski found one favorable trend for the Bills -- at least for wagering purposes. The Patriots are 3-11 against the spread over their past 14 November home games.

Staniszewski didn't sound confident about Buffalo's chances.

"Their defense is actually getting worse," Staniszewski said. "Mark Anderson's been out. Terrence McGee's out. Aaron Williams is out.

"Their secondary is hurting. It's not a good place to be in against the Patriots and their pass-happy offense.

"It's a grim outlook, to say the least."

On the line from Vegas: Double-digit underdogs covering

By Tim Graham

This information will provide slight consolation for Buffalo Bills fans.

Those who enjoy wagering on them, however, should be pleased.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski points out some interesting numbers about double-digit underdogs, which the Bills happen to be Sunday against the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium.

The Texans opened as 10-point favorites. The over/under is 47 points.

"They're a complete package," Staniszewski said of the Texans. "When they're healthy, that team is pretty close to unstoppable."

Even so, Staniszewski added that double-digit underdogs are 67-51-4 against the spread since 2009, and their winning percentage has increased each season.

"A double-digit spread in the NFL is big," Staniszewski said. "Even though one team might be viewed as a lot worse, they're still professional players."

In 2009, double-digit underdogs went 29-26-2. Two years ago, they were 12-10. They went 21-13-2 last year and are 5-2 so far this year.

"Those numbers are impressive," said Staniszewski, a Bills diehard. "But as a Bills fan goes, covering the spread as a double-digit dog doesn't necessarily make you happy.

"It makes you able to watch an entire game as opposed to just turning it off. When I watch a Bills game, I'm content to see them stay close and be competitive. It's like being in a bad relationship."

Staniszewski mentioned two other trends that seemingly would cancel each other out.

For your consideration:

* Buffalo is 6-1 against the spread after a bye week over its past seven games.

* Houston has won and covered five straight games in November.

On the line from Vegas: Titans' extra prep time no big deal

By Tim Graham

For the second straight game, the Buffalo Bills will face an opponent that played on Thursday night the week before.

How much advantage does that give the team with a few extra days to prepare?

Against the point spread, apparently none at all. In fact, the trend suggests Buffalo has a slight edge Sunday over the rested Tennessee Titans in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Joel Staniszewski, our Las Vegas oddsmaker from Sloan, found that since the 2002 divisional realignment, teams that have won on Thursday night went 29-36-4 against the spread the following week.

"A lot of people think that mini-bye gives teams more time to prepare," Staniszewski said. "But it actually seems to hurt them. Are they taking too much time off and unable to get into game mode when they're out of their routine?"

The Tennessee Titans are coming off a 26-23 Thursday night victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills are coming off a sudden-death victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who lost on Thursday night 10 days earlier.

The Bills opened as a 3-point favorite against the Titans, but money is inching the spread toward 3 1/2 points.

"The line seems straightforward," Staniszewski said. "They're pretty evenly matched teams, pretty similar teams by the numbers.

"If this game was in Nashville, then Tennessee would be a same-sized favorite there. On a neutral field it probably would be a pick 'em or the Bills a slight favorite because they have one more win, leading you to believe the Bills would be viewed slightly better on paper."

Staniszewski noted another trend that favors the Bills in this matchup: The Titans are 0-5 straight up and 1-4 against the spread in their last five road games.

UPDATE: After I published this blog, @NickelCityBills and @SalSports tweeted this year's records of how teams fared a week after playing on Wednesday (opening week) and Thursday nights.

Straight up, teams that played on those nights have gone 3-7 the next week, while winners on those nights have gone 1-4.

On the line from Vegas: Cardinals are covering at home

By Tim Graham

Joel Staniszewski is on a hot streak he'd prefer would come to an end.

The Las Vegas oddsmaker from Sloan has shared some prescient trends with the Press Coverage blog, and if his data proves prophetic again this week, then Buffalo Bills will have lost their third straight game.

The opening line had the Arizona Cardinals by 4 points with an over/under of 43 points. Early money (although there hasn't been much of it) has been on the Cardinals and the over, moving the spread to 5 points and the total to 43.5 points.

Staniszewski, of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, shared two trends for this week. One looks really bad for the Bills, the other mildly hopeful.

First, the negative: In the Cardinals' past 13 home games, they're 11-2 straight up and 9-4 against the spread.

But then there's this: Since 2002, underdogs coming off a loss of 21 points or more are 173-138-7 against the spread, a .556 win percentage.

"That's not a huge win percentage," Staniszewski said, "but when you factor in the juice, winning 55.6 percent is profitable."

And that's where Staniszewski, a lifelong Bills fan, sees a ray of sunshine. Four teams went into Week Six in that situation: the Bills, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders.

If the trend holds up, then two of those teams should cover the spread. The Titans already did so Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The trend shows that at least the Bills have a chance," Staniszewski said. "Arizona's wins have been a little questionable. Their record is a bit of an anomaly. Their record is inflated.

"Covering the spread doesn't help Bills fans. If they cover and lose, it doesn't do you much good. But it's something."

On the line from Vegas: 49ers cover with big spreads

By Tim Graham

Don't get upset with oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski's information. He's a Buffalo Bills fan. He's from Sloan and graduated from St. Joe's and Buffalo State. He wants his hometown team to win.

But the trends don't show much hope for the Bills against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

"Before the season even began, most Bills fans were excited about facing the NFC West," Staniszewski said. "But now it's looking like that division is one of the most competitive in the NFL.

"The trends don't look too good for the Bills again this week. For the Bills, the over has hit 12 of the last 14 games they've been the underdog, including last week."

San Francisco opened as a 10-point favorite in Candlestick Park. The spread now is at 9 1/2 points. The over-under total has remained at 44.5 points.

Staniszewski said there hasn't been much action on the game because of the West Coast kickoff.

"There are a good amount of bettors who wait and see how the early games go before they start betting on the late games," Staniszewski said. "They want to see if they're playing with house money or if they're chasing their early losses."

The Niners are 17-4 straight up in the last 21 games they were favored and 7-1-2 in their past 10 games they were favored by at least eight points.

The trends Staniszewski has shared recently with the Press Coverage blog have held up.

Two weeks ago, he noted a high percentage of 0-2 underdogs cover the spread in Week Three games (and they went 4-1, with the Bills holding off the Cleveland Browns).

Last week he stressed how awful the Bills have been against the spread in AFC East games and mentioned the New England Patriots crush the over in the division. The Patriots matched the total all by themselves, scoring 52 points on the Bills.

"Let's hope for a trend-buster this week," Staniszewski said.

On the line from Vegas: Trends look raggedy for Bills

By Tim Graham

A week ago on the Press Coverage blog, Las Vegas oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski relayed an NFL trend that proved prophetic.

Staniszewski is a Buffalo State grad who works for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, one of the world's most prominent line-setting operations. Last week, he noted teams that started a season 0-2 were 80-57-1 in Week Three against the spread -- a wager-healthy .584 win percentage. The win percentage increased to .642 for 0-2 underdogs.

And what happened Sunday?

Four out of five 0-2 underdogs won straight up, with the lone exception being the Cleveland Browns at home against the Buffalo Bills. The New Orleans Saints were the only 0-2 favorites to lose, but they played the 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs.

"I'm an oddsmaker, but first and foremost I'm a Bills fan," Staniszewski said Thursday from Las Vegas. "Any time a trend works out and the Bills win their game, it's the best week possible.

"What can be better than that?"

Staniszewski certainly wouldn't mind watching his Bills defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday, but the trends aren't encouraging.

"Everyone knows the history of the Bills and the Pats," Staniszewski said. "So it historically doesn't look good.

"Over their last 20 games, the Bills are 2-18 straight up. They are 1-6-1 against the spread their last eight home games. Previous to last year, they were 0-6-1 against the spread at home. Over their last 21 games within the AFC East, the Bills are 4-17 against the spread."

The Patriots opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite. Early money on the Patriots moved the line to 4 points. The over-under total opened at 51 1/2 points and shifted slightly to 52 points.

"The last 13 games within the AFC East, the game involving New England has gone over the total 12 times," Staniszewski said.

Staniszewski noted the uncertainty surrounding Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller hasn't had a huge impact on the numbers so far.

On the line from Vegas: Bettors taking Browns plus 3 over Bills

By Tim Graham

LasVegasSportsBookAlong with everyone else, Las Vegas is trying to figure out what to make of the Buffalo Bills.

"What I've seen in the first couple weeks is just a lot of overreacting in terms of the betting public," said Joel Staniszewski, an oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Every week for the rest of the season, I'll check in with Staniszewski. He's a St. Joe's and Buffalo State grad who works for one of the world's most influential sports-betting firms. LVSC helps set the odds and spreads we accept as the standard.

But just two weeks into the season, there's little certainty.

"It's tough," Staniszewski said from the LVSC offices Thursday. "In the offseason and preseason the Jets were embarrassing. So that line for opening day opened at 5 1/2 and went down to 3. The Bills got manhandled.

"So the second week, the line was lower and people were betting the Chiefs. We see how that went."

The Bills opened as 3-point road favorites over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Staniszewski said action has been limited on the game, but a majority of the money wagered has been on Cleveland.

"Sharp bettors are basing it on trends," Staniszewski said. "The Browns have their backs against the wall and are pretty much in a must-win game at home. After this they play the Ravens and the Giants, both on the road.

"The Browns are arguably the best 0-2 team in the league. They're three plays away from being 2-0. They could have beaten Philly and could have won last week against the Bengals. They've lost by a combined eight points in two weeks.

"That's what the betting public is looking at right now."

And here's the type of Vegas analysis we hope to deliver in this series:

Teams that start a season 0-2 are 80-57-1 in Week Three against the spread, a .584 win percentage.

"If you base your betting on that kind of success, you have a pretty profitable bankroll," Staniszewski said.

The win percentage goes up to .642 when betting only the 0-2 underdogs.

For the record, Sunday's over/under total is 43 1/2.

The last time the Bills were road favorites was Week Four last year. The Cincinnati Bengals were 3-point underdogs and won outright, 23-20.

(Photo: Associated Press)

What does Las Vegas really think of the Bills?

VegasSign

By Tim Graham

Last week, a minor skirmish broke out on my Twitter feed over what Las Vegas thinks of the Buffalo Bills' win total for 2012.

The problem is that too many people view an over/under number as a prediction of reality.

Actually, it's a prediction of money.

While some online sites started the Bills out at 6.5 wins, Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Bills at 7. LVSC is the world's most influential oddsmaking operation, setting lines for a vast majority of legal sports books.

To further illustrate the concept that win totals aren't based on reality, consider that LVSC has posted early point spreads for every 2012 NFL game except for Week 17 (because many teams bench their starters to get ready for the playoffs). The Bills are favored to win eight of the 15 games forecasted, and probably would be favored at home in Week 17.

So why wouldn't LVSC peg its win total for the Bills at 8.5?

I called LVSC for expert insight to share on the Press Coverage blog. The oddsmaker who answered the phone? Joel Staniszewski, a Sloan native who graduated from St. Joe's and Buffalo State.

What are the odds of that? I should have asked him, but we were too busy talking about Bills wagers.

The first thing to consider about win totals is that they're posted before the free-agency period begins. Buffalo was assigned its 7 without knowing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were on the way.

"The number is put up based on what oddsmakers think will get the most bets on both sides," Staniszewski said. "A team like the Bills that's traditionally poor, they're going to get a lower number because oddsmakers know that people are going to bet them under.

"The only people that are going to bet them over are homers who want to bet the Bills, which are few and far between."

The perfect scenario oddsmakers shoot for is an equal amount of money on either side. That's guaranteed money because they keep half the wagers plus a built-in commission commonly referred to as "the juice."

To that end, oddsmakers must account for all those people who view the Bills as a perennial doormat and the scarcity of Bills fans who will wager big money to show their confidence.

So when the Bills do make dramatic moves to improve their defense, why doesn't the win total then shoot upwards to reflect how much better their roster is?

"You let the people who are betting determine where you're going to move the number to," Staniszewski said. "You don't want to move the number too much. You've got to be smart with the number, assuming who's going to bet what."

Subtle movement protects the sports books. Suppose the Bills opened at 6.5 wins before free agency and then they signed two of the best defensive free agents on the market, whipping fans into a frenzy and making seven victories seem super attractive.

Sports books couldn't simply switch the win total to 7.5 or 8 because bettors who previously took the over would also bet the new under. And if the Bills finished 7-9, then books would face the possibility of cashing out an inordinate amount of tickets.

Sports books, therefore, must move their lines slowly and based on the money coming in to protect themselves.

And the money -- wiseguy money, even -- has been coming in on Buffalo. The LVSC win total for Buffalo now is at 7.5 wins and creeping toward 8. Money on Buffalo also is reflected at the Bovada.lv online casino, where the Bills' odds to win the Super Bowl have shrunk from 60-to-1 to 50-to-1.

"From what I gather," Staniszewski said, "the people that have bet the over are people that would be considered the sharp bettors, the people you keep an eye on and move the line a little when they bet it as opposed to when Joe Shmoe comes in and bets it.

"Those that are really keen to it know that if the Bills' defense can get even to the middle of the pack and their offense can stay as high-powered as it was in the beginning half of the year, this team can cause some damage."

(Photo: Associated Press)

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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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