Every gambler has a system. Some spend days pouring over statistics, studying line movements and tracking injuries before placing their bets. Others just take a quick glimpse at the point spreads on Sunday morning before dialing up their bookies and heading to the bar.
Either way, once that bet is placed, it’s out of your hands.
Blowout wins are fun and close losses are tough to swallow, but what really makes an NFL Sunday (or Monday) exciting is that miracle play that covers the spread late in the fourth quarter.
Here are eight such plays from the 2010 season that had a big impact on Vegas’ bottom line:
No. 8: Ed Reed comes up big
Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers
Closing Line: Ravens -13
The injury bug hit the quarterback position in Carolina hard prior to their Week 11 home date with the Baltimore Ravens, forcing head coach John Fox to sign veteran journeyman Brian St. Pierre off the street just days before kickoff. The Ravens went off as 13-point favorites, but found themselves leading just 23-13 after Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff drove home a 49-yard field goal with 5:55 left to play in the fourth quarter.
Knowing damn well that a defensive stop would allow the Ravens to run out the clock, gamblers prayed for a miracle…
Ravens win and cover 37-13.
No. 7: Favre does what Favre does
Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets
Closing Line: Jets -4
In a Week 5 Monday night matchup that saw quarterback Brett Favre throw his 500th touchdown pass at New York against the Jets, gamblers who faded the 1-2 Vikings found themselves in a bad spot. New York had led the entire way, but Favre hit wide receiver Percy Harvin on an 11-yard touchdown strike that cut the lead to 22-20 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
After the Jets failed to get anything going on offense, Favre and the Vikings got the ball back trailing by two with the opportunity to drive down the field and win the game…
*Fast forward to the 6:10 mark for the play (Dwight Lowery 26-yard INT return for touchdown, Jets win and cover 29-20).
No. 6: An unknown rookie emerges
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Closing Line: Chiefs -1
The 4-4 Oakland Raiders played host to a red-hot 5-2 Kansas City Chiefs team in a Week 9 divisional showdown that brought national recognition to the AFC West. Kansas City jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead, but watched the tide turn in the Bay Area after rookie Jacoby Ford took the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards to pay dirt. Quarterback Jason Campbell led the Silver and Black to a 17-13 lead midway through the fourth before quarterback Matt Cassel hit Dwayne Bowe for a 20-yard touchdown with just over six minutes left on the clock.
With 2:06 remaining and trailing by three, the Raiders got the ball back on their own 25-yard line, but quickly found themselves well out of field goal range with only 24 seconds to play…
After holding the Chiefs to just five plays on their first possession in overtime, the Raiders drove down the field and won the game outright 23-20.
No. 5: The zebras save the day
New York Jets at Denver Broncos
Closing Line: Jets -3.5
After taking out the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, the Jets traveled to Denver on short rest in Week 6 to play a 2-3 Broncos team that featured one of the worst defenses in the Western Hemisphere. New York took a 10-7 lead into the half, but found themselves trailing 20-17 with just under four minutes to play after Broncos kicker Matt Prater drove home a 48-yard field goal.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez took a healthy 2:29 to move the ball from New York’s 20-yard line to the Denver 48 before a controversial call paved the way for a late cover…
I apologize for the quality, but I couldn't find this play anywhere on the internet. However, the look on the cameraman’s face after Denver safety Renaldo Hill was flagged for pass interference more than makes up for it. The 46-yard penalty put the Jets on the Denver 2-yard line, where running back LaDainian Tomlinson cashed in en route to a 24-20 win and a half-point cover.
No. 4: Crisis averted
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans
Closing Line: Ravens -3
In what appeared to be one of the easiest games on the board in Week 14, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Houston for a Monday night showdown with a Texans team that had lost five of their last six games.
Ravens kick returner David Reed took the opening kickoff of the second half 103 yards to the house to give Baltimore a cozy 28-7 lead, before quarterback Matt Schaub and the Texans rallied to rip off 21 unanswered points, sending the game to overtime.
With the Ravens defense completely gassed and playing on their heels, gamblers could only look on in horror as the Texans took possession on their own 9-yard line with just over 12 minutes left to play in overtime…
Game, set and match as the Ravens win and cover 34-28.
No. 3: The meltdown
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Closing Line: Giants -3
With 8:17 left in the fourth quarter of this Week 15 hate fest, Giants quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Kevin Boss for an eight-yard touchdown to give New York a 31-10 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, sending thousands in attendance to their cars in an effort to beat the traffic.
Then, the impossible happened…
DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown as time expired capped off a 28-0 Philadelphia run over the final eight minutes to give the Birds a 38-31 win and cover over the New York Giants.
No. 2: Knock it down!...wait, what?
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Closing Line: Jaguars -1
The 4-4 Jacksonville Jaguars came off their Week 9 bye in desperate need of a win. On the other sideline stood a Houston Texans team that had lost two of their previous three games prior to traveling to Jacksonville in mid-November.
Very few people tuned in, but somebody still had to win.
The Jaguars pissed away a 17-3 halftime lead in less than ten minutes and found themselves deadlocked with Houston at 24 after quarterback Matt Schaub hooked up with wide receiver Kevin Walter on an 18-yard touchdown strike with just over four minutes to play.
With 1:39 remaining, Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee shanked a 43-yard field goal that sent gamblers to the ledge. Was Jacksonville really going to lose this game?
In full-on panic mode, gamblers watched Schaub march the Texans towards field goal range before disaster struck. Tight end Joel Dreessen fumbled the rock on the Jacksonville 37 with 19 seconds left, the Jaguars pounced and the game was headed to overtime.
Or was it…
David Garrard’s 50-yard prayer was caught by wide receiver Mike Thomas via deflection and the Jaguars won and covered 31-24 as time expired.
No. 1: The Biermann
Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns
Closing Line: Falcons -3
Vegas sportsbooks do an excellent job of making lines. But every now and then a point spread emerges that sends the public scrambling to the counter in an effort to dump their 401K on the favorite.
The Week 5 showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns was one of those times.
At 3-1, the Falcons were beginning to make some noise in the NFC. Hell, their only loss was by six points at Pittsburgh in Week 1. There was NO WAY Matty Ice and Michael Turner would fail to cover 3 points against the 1-3 Browns, right?
But that’s why they play the game.
Behind an impressive red zone performance by their underrated defense, the Browns were clinging to a 10-6 lead midway through the third quarter before Ryan found wide receiver Roddy White for a 45-yard touchdown pass, giving the Falcons a 13-10 lead.
A push wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the Browns wouldn’t go quietly. Cleveland took possession at their own 20-yard line with just over nine minutes to play and was able to advance to rock to their own 47 with 4:14 remaining. The 1-3 underdog was getting dangerously close to field goal range.
On third and seven from the Cleveland 47 with 4:14 on the clock, quarterback Jake Delhomme dropped back…
Delhomme lived up to his reputation as one of the league’s preeminent turnover machines and the Falcons went on to win and cover 20-10.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh
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