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The Sin City BetBot Presents: Super Surprise

Initially built by NASA to set lines for the Las Vegas casinos in the late 50’s (who do you think funded the Apollo missions? The government? It was the mob…), The Sin City Betbot 6000 calculated lines for over 30 years. The Betbot was given various upgrades through the years, not always with the best equipment, but he was very good at setting lines, and living the good life. 

 

The Betbot was de-commissioned in 1990 after San Francisco destroyed Denver in the Super Bowl. The 45 point spread simply fried a number of the Betbot’s wires and he retired. The Betbot was discovered and retooled to share his thoughts on fantasy football and life in general. This robot has done it all, and seen it all, just ask him.

 

The Betbot’s column is transcribed each week by Joe Petrizzi and Tom Walls, because, “Typing is a dame’s BZZZT job.”

 

I had an up-and-down weekend with the conference championship games, going 2-2 as the NFC went exactly to plan while the AFC blew up in my face.  That puts me at 7-5 for the playoffs, not exactly lighting the world up, but 58% success is enough to turn a tidy profit in this business.  Trust me; I’ve been doing this since the word “offshore” meant more to surfers than sports books.  The keys to successful sports wagering are just like the keys to successful sun tanning – pick the best spots and limit your exposure.  This may seem like odd advice from a robot; admittedly, I cannot get sunburned.  However, I’ve seen many a young punk get caught up in the game, and the biggest problem is always too much wagering.  Pick your spots and protect your bankroll, or the juice WILL kill you.  That said, the super bowl offers some interesting gambling opportunities because everyone gets in on the action for the super bowl, and the media circus leading up to the game can create serious advantages for us. 

 

For example, this season the Steelers are getting roughly 7.3 billion times the amount of hype as the Seahawks.  The casual fan doesn’t pay attention most of the year but still likes to make a wager on the super bowl just to keep the conversation going during whatever party he’s attending.  For him, the fact that so-called pundits like Chris Berman and Peter King keep saying “Steelers” means that he’ll be inclined to do the same come betting time.  Well, that, and apparently the average fan is falling in love with Jerome Bettis.  This “kiss of death” can shift the line in our favor if we like the Seahawks.  Unlike popular belief, the sports books do not attempt to pick a line that guarantees even wagering on both teams.  While this would create the safest situation for the book, it won’t maximize their profit if they recognize a situation where the public favors the team that is more likely to lose.  If they can determine, with a reasonable amount of risk, how these teams match up against each other AND also determine which team will get the most betting action, it behooves them to make the popular choice as expensive as possible.  It’s an economic reality – if people are going to pick the Steelers anyway, why not jack up their price? 

 

And, of course, this is the very reason I was born.

 

I don’t bring this up just to explain how I’m built, but also to provide you with solid advice for your super bowl wager.  I’ll put this up front so you can skip my blah, blah and get right to the juicy bits.  At a neutral site, in a dome, the Pittsburgh Steelers have no business laying 4 points to the Seattle Seahawks.

 

Super Bowl

Pittsburgh vs. Seattle

Ford Field – Detroit, MI – Sunday, February 5 – 6:30 pm

Line: Pittsburgh -4 – Over/Under: 47

 

Look, I don’t mean to be contrarian simply because it’s easier to justify my arrogant demeanor, although that helps.  It’s just that I’m looking down the numbers for this game and it’s pretty clear to me that these teams are evenly matched.   Let’s break this down.

 

Pittsburgh – Let me first say that I am a robot of honor, and when I am wrong, I admit it. I was very wrong about Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothlyzplyk; I doubted his talent simply because of the lack of passing plays his team runs, and his performance during the end of the 2004-2005 campaign. The Steelers ran so much because they are so good at it, not because of a lack of talent at the QB position. And Rothlyzplyk was so bad last year because of his injuries, plain and simple. Big Ben is the real deal, sure enough and the Steelers have relied on his arm in the post-season to get them to the Super Bowl.

 

Ben is averaging 227 yards through the air this post-season, not staggering…BZT… for sure, but he comes up with clutch plays all game long. This post-season, Ben has 7 TDs compared to 1 INT, a gaudy ratio, not as gaudy as Liberace’s living room, but pretty bleeping gaudy. Rothlyzplyk is not without help, of course. The Steelers have a top 5 offensive line and savvy WRs who know how to get open. Cedric Wilson, Antwaan Randle El and of course, the Gentleman’s Gentleman, Hines Ward form a fine corps of receivers. Let’s take a look at their individual yardage so far in the post-season:

 

Wilson – 8 receptions for 196 yards

Randle El – 9 receptions for 97 yards

Ward – 10 receptions for 137 yards

 

Ward, of course, is going to get his receptions, he’s a very good WR, and to be sure, he’ll get his during the Super Bowl. I want to concentrate on Randle El and Wilson; these two players have really stepped up for Pittsburgh. Wilson, who was signed from San Francisco this year is the deep threat for the Steelers, he has the most receiving yards in the post season, and sports a 24.5-yard average per catch. Randle El is proving to be more than a gadget player; he’s been a steady influence for the Steelers.

 

While we’re discussing Randle El, let’s talk about the gadget plays. The Steelers love their gadget plays, and we all loving watching the plays. If it were up to me, every football play would involve some sort of unnecessary trickery:

 

Direct snaps

End arounds

Reverses

Double reverses

Half back Options

Full Back Cross Dressing (“Crying Game on Two…Break!!!”)

Flea Flickers

Tackle Eligible

 

The list goes on, it’s fun isn’t it? The reason why these plays work are because the Steelers are so good at beating teams straight ahead, their line is…BZZT… often so superior to the defensive lines they face that teams begin compensating by over-pursuing plays, opening up the mass mis-direction Pittsburgh has been successful with. Ken Whisenhunt, the Steelers Offensive Coordinator, has done no wrong this post-season; he’s done a masterful job of managing the game for the Steelers. He knows when to call these plays, based on the mistakes he sees the defense make, you can expect more of the same in the Super Bowl.

 

Another key component is first year TE, Heath Miller, this kid has shown a good set of hands and a great head for finding the seams in zones, he’ll be targeted about 4 times, and probably grab every ball thrown in his direction. He’ll be an All-Pro for years to come.

 

I’ve talked this bleeping long about the Steelers and haven’t talked about the running backs yet, imagine that. Maybe it’s because I am so bleeping sick and tired of seeing Jerome ‘The Refrigerator’ Bettis’ mug everywhere. Did you know he’s from Detroit? Did you know that the Steelers are rallying around The Refrigerator, getting him this magical trip to his hometown? Did you know, hunh? Did you bleeping know!? Man, I hate this story, I hate it more than I hated all the attention Freddie Mitchell got last year; at least you could laugh at Mitchell’s stupidity…This Refrigerator-to-Detroit story is a non-ending bunch of feel good static. I don’t care! I don’t bleeping care!!

 

Sorry, I don’t usually lose my cool like that, but sometimes you need to let it all out. Back in the late 60s I explored Primal Scream therapy with John and Yoko. You can hear the influence of Arthur Janov’s ground breaking…BZT… therapy in the Plastic Ono Band’s work of the early 70s. Great stuff, just let it all out, baby.

 

Anyway, Willie Parker is really the story here. Bettis will get the ball at the goal line, and in any mop up duty should the Steelers be leading late in the game, but Parker is the true rushing threat. I think the Steelers will stick with passing more often than not, so look for Parker to get about 15 rushes and the Steelers to attempt about 25 rushes total, with Bettis and maybe Duce Staley getting a run or two.

 

I would like to see Pittsburgh line up with 3 WRs and Miller in at TE most of the game. Stretch out the Seahawks, make the front four of Seattle get pressure on their own, without help from their improved linebackers. If the Steelers do this, and stick with the pass, I think they have their best chance of success, if they keep formations tight, the Seattle LBs will be able to help out up front more, which could make Rothlyzplyk’s day very long indeed.

 

On defense, Joey Porter is clearly ready to take over for Rodney Harrison as the top nut job in the super bowl.  He’s taking his fake rage to a whole other level; I realize that the man has self-confidence problems, but the actions he’s taking to overcompensate for his unusually sensitive feelings are becoming more rote than a pro wrestling match.  The good thing for Pittsburgh fans is that Porter can still rush the passer when he’s not complaining about how nobody respects him, which is an interesting match-up for this game since Seattle struggled against Dallas and their 3-4 configurations.  I don’t think Seattle will make the same mistake twice, and regardless of what you think of the offensive linemen for Indianapolis and Denver, none of them are Walter Jones.

 

The Steelers have been tough against the run and the pass all season, and they’ll need to be on top of their game to deal with the balanced Seahawks attack, especially if Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t turn into a worthless pile of meat once Porter and Troy Polamalu start applying pressure.  The danger here for the Steelers is that the Seattle running game is so good, it can take the heat off of the QB by keeping the linebackers honest.  The Steelers secondary isn’t good enough to be putting them in single coverage consistently, so it will be the defensive line’s job to generate pressure without a lot of blitzing help.  According to my numbers, if Pittsburgh plays like they did against Indianapolis, they’re going to get burned.  While Polamalu has game-changing talent at safety, I think he’s going to have to play more conservative in this game to take care of Alexander when Shaun gets to the second level.

 

Seattle – You probably know this already (after all, you must be well informed if you’re reading my column), but the Seahawks had the number one scoring offense this season, with over 28 points scored per game. Pretty nice, eh? This team has had a bit of adversity with a seemingly decimated WR corps, and a Shaun Alexander injury that forced them to win without him against the Redskins three weeks ago. They keep finding ways to win, and like the Steelers, they do it with a healthy run/pass mix and a great offensive line.

 

Matt Hasselbeck seems to have slipped most of the media’s attention, as have most of the Seahawks, it’s been a real Steeler Love Fest out there…I’m talking to you, ESPN. Anyway, Hasselbeck has led his team efficiently, and came up with big plays when needed this post-season, he’s been very steady…BZZT… logging 215 and 219 yards passing in the two playoff games they’ve played. He also has 3 TDs and no INTs. Steady, boring, exactly what a solid running team needs. Hasselbeck’s efficiency and cool demeanor will be needed against an aggressive Steelers front seven.

 

Shaun Alexander finally had a good playoff game against the Panthers after a horrible game (and concussion) against the Redskins. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, that concussion might have been the best thing to happen to Alexander and the Seahawks in whole this post-season. I think the team as a whole realized they could win without him; and he was able to play more loosely against the Panthers, amassing 132 yards on 34 carries. He really carried the Seattle offense two weeks ago, and has no excuse to play tight against the Steelers.

 

The only players for Seattle who seem to be getting any big media play this year are Lofa Tatupu (son of Tecmo favorite Mosi Tatupu) and the Seattle receiving corps. I said it a couple weeks ago, and it bears repeating, these guys are good, better than the Steelers receiving corps. Darrell Jackson, Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram are all legitimate threats in their own way. I’ll include Jerramy Stevens in this discussion because I think he is more of a WR/TE down field threat than the Steeler’s Miller. Here’s the Seahawks receiving totals this post season:

 

Jackson – 15 receptions for 218 yards

Stevens – 8 receptions for 79 yards

Engram – 5 receptions for 45 yards

Jurevicius – 2 receptions for 37 yards

 

Engram and Joe J. haven’t exactly been stars in the post-season, but they are threats when on the field and the Steelers will need to account for them. Darrell Jackson has really come through though, and I think he can have another huge game if the Seahawks can keep Hasselbeck upright. The Steelers corner backs are nothing…BZT… special and I think Jackson will be able to find open field against the Steeler’s Blitz Zone scheme. I think Jerramy Stevens will be a real key in the passing game, though. He needs to recognize where the Steelers are blitzing from and if he’s going out on a route be the safety valve Hasselbeck will need. If Stevens can catch a couple key balls in tight, the Steelers may choose to account for him with a linebacker or Troy Polamalu, making the Steelers’ blitz that much less effective.

 

The heart and soul of this offense is their line. Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson anchor an All-World left side of the offensive line, and the right side isn’t too bleeping shabby either. Seattle has the best offensive line in the game right now, and they need to account for the multiple looks the Steelers will give them, I think they’re up to the job.

 

I want to see the Seahawks present the Steelers with all sorts of looks, and they have the talent at all offensive positions to utilize the players mentioned above along with Mack Strong, their fullback and Maurice Morris, who backs up Alexander. The Seahawks should have more freedom than the Steelers to bring in a lot of different personnel, and lots of different formations.

 

I think the Seahawks should also employ a lot of double TE sets (FYI some guy named Ryan Hannam is their second TE). This isn’t a look you see a lot from the Seahawks, but I think a max protect look could be quite fruitful for them. The Redskins and Cowboys are two examples of teams that went with the max protect look often and it paid huge dividends. The Seahawks would be able to run or throw out of this formation. If…BZZT…they ran, I think Mack Strong would be able to get into the defensive backfield (which will likely be cheating up with this offensive look) and pop Polamalu or anyone else to free Alexander for a couple nice runs. If they chose to throw, and Polamalu cheated up, I think Jackson could get past whichever cornerback they put on him. I don’t think you’ll see this look too often (if at all), but I think it could be successful for the Hawks.

 

If there’s a weakness in the Seahawks’ game, it’s on the defensive side of the ball.  The Seattle linebackers are starting to get some nice publicity.  It’s been well earned, especially the youngster Tatupu.  I wrote about him in a Tecmo tip a while back, and he’s having a great playoff run, especially the Carolina game.  But the Seattle defense is going to have trouble generating a consistent pass rush on the tough Pittsburgh offensive line, and Ben Roethlisberger is going to shred them if they can’t put pressure on him.  The Pittsburgh receivers are going to force the Seahawks secondary to play zone, they’re too good for Seattle to play single coverage.  The ‘Hawks defense played solid ball this year, but they’ll be facing a balanced attack in Pittsburgh, and I’m not convinced that they have the meat on the defensive line to stop a smash mouth game plan from the Steelers.  But one thing I want you to remember is that Seattle has a great defensive coordinator in Ray Rhodes (do not repeat that statement in Philadelphia).  Even though Big Ben looks like a stud, remember that this is still a young QB playing in his first super bowl, I think Rhodes will be able to disguise his schemes and produce a turnover or two.

 

Pittsburgh has played some brilliant offensive game plans in the playoffs.  The most notable change has been a heavier reliance on the passing game where you would normally expect the conservative running attack that is Bill Cowher’s trademark (well, that and the scowling, spitting, and generally cantankerous behavior).  Wouldn’t it be interesting if Pittsburgh went back to their conservative roots and took advantage of their offensive line in this game?  Not for me, I’m betting the over.  But it sure would be something to witness.  The other advantage of this approach would be that controlling the clock will keep the powerful Seahawks offense on the sideline where they can’t do any damage.

 

And really, that’s the key to this game – time of possession.  Neither defense looks tremendously capable of shutting down the other team’s offense.  Yes, Pittsburgh has one of the top units in the league, but Seattle’s offense is also one of the best in the NFL.  And even though the Seattle defense has played pretty well this season, Pittsburgh has too many weapons on offense and a significant advantage at the line of scrimmage.  So whoever is able to put together consistent, time consuming drives will control the game.  But they must close the deal in the red zone!  With high powered offenses on both sides of the ball, coming away with 3 points after a long drive isn’t going to get the job done.  It’s because of the advantages on offense that I think this game is going to be a pretty high-scoring affair, and I’m recommending the over.  And because the game looks to be very even, it may be one of those “whoever has the ball last…” types of games.  In those games I always pick the team with the points. Plus, we’ve heard all week about how Pittsburgh beat tougher teams to get here and how the AFC dominated the NFC this year, etc.  Perhaps you remember hearing the same thing before last year’s super bowl, leading to a 7 point gift for Philadelphia in a game that should have been 2 points tops.  And you may also remember a certain robot that pointed you in Philly’s direction.  This year Seattle only gets 4 points, but by all of my analysis this game should be a pick ‘em.  So I’m suggesting Seattle plus 4, and don’t be surprised if they win this game outright, 31-28.

 

If you have any questions for the Betbot, please send them to his fantasysharks.com contact at twalls@fantasysharks.com .

 

So long, and remember – showgirls and gin, my friends – Showgirls and BZZZZT gin.

 

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