Mastering the 'Green Zone' 

September, 30, 2011

Here's how we know the casino host in the sky has a sense of humor.

There is a nerve in your body that extends from your brain stem, through your neck and into your abdomen. It is the longest of what are known as the cranial nerves and has branches that come into contact with every important part of the body: heart, lungs, stomach, voicebox.

This nerve is vitally important, helping your body regulate your heartbeat, controlling muscle movement, sending information from the nervous system to the brain. Really, this is a top-notch nerve, one of the best there is. I know this because my Google machine has very high praise for this nerve.

But as I wandered through the Internet to copy all the medical lingo I could understand for this column, one trait of this nerve stood out (and I took this from, so I know it's accurate): It is responsible for contracting the muscles of the stomach and intestines.

Now, are you ready to laugh? Know what they call this nerve? The Vagus Nerve, which is pronounced not all that differently than our favorite desert flower. Who knew Bugsy Siegel happened to be an expert on the central nervous system?

I think about this coincidence every Sunday afternoon, when my vagus nerve goes into overdrive as I sweat a bevy of games. That's all Sunday has become -- a constant twitch of conversation between the mule kicking my stomach and my head calculating cover possibilities.

This past weekend of games was particularly galling. As both the 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. games ended, it seemed every time I flipped between the 700s on my DirecTV dial, a team I needed was in what I like to call The Green Zone: They were either a score away from covering, or the opponent was a score away from ruining a cover. That is just one possession to make or break a bet. It got so bad I made a note and asked Jeff Gold, a blog contributor, to help me with some research. I wanted to know how often this actually happened on that day, and at what intervals it was happening. Here's what he discovered:

Entering the fourth quarter, nine of the 14 games were in the green zone.

With nine minutes left, the number was 10 of 14.

With six minutes left it was nine of 14.

And with three minutes left, often times when a team was about have its final possession, eight of the 14 games were in the green zone.

I am going to keep track of this the rest of the season to see if there is a pattern. I like to know when my vagus nerve is going to act up. Meanwhile, I'm hoping the breakdown below from Tim Trushel of can help me avoid any problems.

Matchup: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

Line moves: Opened at Cowboys minus-3, currently Cowboys minus-1.