Vegas sets those lines and point spreads with a cagy brilliance, and professional football players met them halfway in ensuring wild covers ensued on Sunday afternoon.
(Final spreads from Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em)
Buffalo Bills (+2.5) score touchdown in final seconds to cover vs. conservative Carolina Panthers, win 24-23
For the second week in a row, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel provided evidence that he is the real deal en route to not just a cover, but a victory at home against a Panthers squad that led for most of the afternoon. Manuel picking up his first pro win is obviously not the crazy part, but more so how Ron Rivera coughed up yet another close loss for Carolina. With under two minute and needing to pick up a few yards for a first, the Panthers made Cam Newton hand it off before kicking a field goal on 4th-and-1, which was then swiftly trumped by a Buffalo touchdown. Usually Carolina heads in as underdogs and still gets the cover in these situations; this time they squandered a win for both fans and gamblers.
This cover was strange when looking at the game holistically. The Bucs seemed almost certain to come away 17-13 victors in the final minutes despite looking the clearly inferior team. Missed 47-yard field goal in the waning seconds aside, the Bucs scored their 14-points off turnovers and received hideous quarterback play from Josh Freeman; They had little business coming down to a Saints winning kick but more so a Bucs rally attempt. If you remove Mason Foster‘s touchdown return this game could have very well ended a 13-7 defensive struggle.
I left this game believing Dallas would win a rematch on neutral field yet am surprised the Cowboys covered then spread given end-of-game circumstances. The Cowboys did Cowboy things by going away from Dez Bryant at the strangest time possible, targeting Jason Witten on a pass that had no chance of converting on third down. This incomplete pass seemed to have the clear intent of better positioning for field goal range and give Dallas the cover at 17-16 (but still behind with under five to play). Just an oddly conservative approach that ended with KC running out the clock. The most likely scenario to me seems like a team that actively guns for first downs and either scores a touchdown on that drive or turns it over down 17-13, the scenario in which the Chiefs would have covered. Either way, anyone who had KC -3 must have slumped after seeing Dallas essentially settle for Dan Bailey knocking through the ultimately useless 53-yarder.