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A look at NFL handicapping with the PFW editor lobbying to become Las Vegas bureau chief.

The thrill, and the agony, of the push

About the Author

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Posted Aug. 10, 2009 @ 1:01 p.m.
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Mike Wilkening

An intentional safety ending a preseason game doesn't mean anything. Unless, of course, you have money on the game. Then it means everything.

We have all seen intentional safeties before, and with Tennessee up 21-16 with eight seconds left Sunday night vs. Buffalo, it wasn't surprising to see Titans P A.J. Trapasso (he of the 40-yard TD run earlier in the game) running toward his own end zone, ball in hands. Time expired, Trapasso took the safety, and the Titans won by three points.

No big deal, right?

Well, as with most matters, it depends on whether you opened your wallet.

The prevailing pointspread on the game was Tennessee favored by three points; in that scenario, the safety made the game a "push," or a pointspread tie. So if you wagered $10 on Tennessee, you got your money back. But after the Titans had controlled the game in the first three quarters before faltering in the fourth, a push could not be anything but an unsatisfying outcome. The pointspread victory should have been a given, right?

Contrast that set of emotions with those felt by Bills backers. The Titans were much better when both clubs' best players were on the field. Buffalo could have easily lost by double digits.

Thus, it's easy to see how Bills bettors might appreciate getting their money back.

The significance of the safety wasn't lost on NBC's Al Michaels. He didn't specifically note the spread, but he did allude to those two points having meaning a lot to some people, joking that if that were the case, "you're crazy," according to the good folks at Football Outsiders.

Those who put some money on Tennessee last night got a cruel reminder about the unexpected twist-and-turns of the preseason -- and how tough picking a winner can be.

Those who took Buffalo? Oh, they dodged one, but the superstitious of the bunch are hoping they didn't use all of their mulligans on the second Sunday in August.


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