When Matthew Stafford completed a 12-yard pass to Ryan Broyles with just 30 seconds left Monday night, it marked the second time over the past week that the spread for an NFL game with a primetime weeknight audience was decided by just a half-point on a last-minute play.
Several books closed with the Bears at -6.5 and Broyles’ touchdown meant the Lions covered on the late score in a 13-7 loss. It comes on the heels of "Safetygate" just four days earlier, when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh declined a chop-block penalty which nullified a late safety and a subsequent 49ers cover.
Both games have brought up an important betting philosophy question: Is it possible to be on the right side of a wager without actually winning it?
“Yes,” says Covers Expert and Las Vegas-based handicapper Teddy Covers. “In a lot of games – in fact, the majority of games – there is no right side. But you want to be on the right side. When you’re not winning your right side, a bad day turns into a miserable day in a hurry.“
Teddy uses poker as an analogy. He said you can play your cards perfectly for an entire hand, but your opponent draws a lucky one at the right time and your chips are moving across the table. Over time, you just have to trust that you did everything right and eventually the wins are going to come back to you.
But not everyone agrees and that’s what makes the philosophy of handicapping sports so fun.
“The right side is just the winning side. I'm not very quick to label something a bad beat,” says Ben Burns, veteran capper and Covers Expert.
“I've never really been a big believer in there being a 'right side' and 'wrong side' of the bet - only a 'winning' and 'losing' side,” says Sean Murphy, who was on the losing side of "Safetygate", but the winning side of the Packers-Seahawks Monday night controversy on Sept. 24. “I've certainly had my share of plays turn on a bad break or sometimes a lucky break.”
Usually for a football bettor, that lucky card – or unlucky one – comes in the form of a turnover or a special teams play. Turnovers are a tough one to handicap because they’re often intangible, but Teddy says special teams play is one of the most overlooked elements for recreational handicappers.
“But what you really don’t want to do,” he says, “is be on the wrong side and end up making excuses for it.”
What do you think? Is it possible to be on the right side and still lose your bet? Tell us in the comment section below, or on Twitter @Covers.