Articles

Why is Tom Brady (the GOAT) Struggling?

by ASA, Inc.

Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

Many of the great quarterbacks have switched teams late in their career like Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and even Joe Montana. Tom Brady attempted that feat this season and joined a loaded Buccaneers team led by a Bruce Arians downfield passing scheme. Everyone was curious how he would fit in a new system and how the most decorated quarterback ever would play with weapons like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. Brady, for the most part, has been a bit underwhelming with his performance.  A brand new system, shortened off season, or the fact Brady is a ripe 43 years of age could all play a part here. One of the main issues that he has struggled with is holding onto the ball longer than he is used to. In his years with New England he focused on getting the ball out early and on time. Now Bruce Arians has asked him to push the ball down the field. However, it takes time for receivers to get downfield and the pass protection has not held up against some of the elite pass rushes (Saints, Rams, Bears). In Brady’s 5 losses he has been sacked a total 11 times while only 5 times in his 7 victories.  Overall, Brady’s stats are on par with the rest of his career as he’s on pace for 39 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He has only thrown for 39+ touchdowns once in his career, but the 14 picks would tie his career high. What has made Brady so good over the past 20 years has been his ability to simply WIN. During the last 19 seasons, only twice did someone other than the Patriots win the AFC East. Going further, only 3 times in that span did a team (besides the Pats) win over 10 games.  The Buccaneers defense has also been to blame as they rank 13th in points allowed this season.  They have solid total defense numbers, however they’ve struggled against Top 10 total offense teams (Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, and throw in the Saints just outside the top 10).  Comparing that to Brady’s 19 years in NE where he had an average defense of 7th in points allowed is a change we are not accustomed to. Only 3 of Tom’s seasons in NE did he not have a top 10 defense in terms of points allowed.  Following their bye this weekend, Brady and the Bucs have 4 very winnable games in coming weeks and they should be favored in each.  The face the the Vikings, Lions, and mix in the Falcons twice. All 3 of those teams are ranked 21st or lower in sack percentage so Brady could be in line for some big games down the stretch.  The Bucs are in a good position to snag a wild card spot and if they can protect Tom, he always has a chance to do what he is best at, WIN. 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Dec 2

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL: Baltimore is in the midst of one of the biggest outbreaks in professional sports, as the Ravens have had 10 straight days of positive tests as they prepare to play the undefeated Steelers in a game that has been postponed THREE times because of the outbreak. At least a dozen Ravens have tested positive, including reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Baltimore practiced early Tuesday and had two more positive COVID-19 tests before departing Tuesday. The Ravens arrived at their hotel in Pittsburgh later in the evening and as of now, the game is still on with the NFL looking to complete its longest Week 12 in history. Of note is that the game will kick off at 3:40 ET, as NBC wanted to keep its Prime Time schedule of The 88th Annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center intact.  When was the last time the NFL played "second-fiddle?" Pittsburgh originally opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite but as of Wednesday morning is favored by 10 points (over/under is 42 1/2).  My Week 12 recap and Week 13 preview of the NFL will be the featured topic of Friday's NotesCollege hoops: Entering Tuesday there have been just THREE games between ranked opponents, No. 1 Kansas beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90, No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St 83-74 and No. 14 Texas Tech losing to No. 17 Houston 64-53. However, Tuesday's slate featured two such matchups, as No. 6 Duke and No. 8 Michigan St (Coach K vs Izzo) squared off, as did No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky. The Champions Classic has been played as a doubleheader at a neutral site in the past but COVID-19 has changed all that. The game between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Duke game was switched to Duke's campus, with the Blue Devils agreeing to visit Michigan State next year, while No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky will meet in Indianapolis. No. 8 Michigan State (+4) came back from an early nine-point deficit to beat No. 6 Duke 75-69 in the first game of the Champions Classic. It was Duke's third non-conference home loss since 2000 but second in the last two seasons after an 85-83 defeat to Stephen F. Austin last November. There were no fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium but that won't take away from the win said Tom Izzo (don't blame him). No 20. Kentucky (+4) used a 15-0 run to lead 17-5 at the midpoint of the first half against No. 7 Kansas but the Jayhawks closed within 35-29 by halftime. Kansas opened the second half on a 10-3 run to grab a 39-38 lead and won 65-62  despite shooting 29.9 percent for the game. No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 9 Creighton, No. 12 Villanova, No. 14 North Carolina, No. 15 Virginia and No. 17 Texas all beat unranked opponents, going 5-0-1 ATS. The Y-T-D numbers have higher ranked teams going 3-2 SU in matchups with fellow ranked opponents but 2-3 ATS. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 45-4 (.918) SU start, while going 29-18-2 (61.7%) ATS. There are THREE games on Wednesday featuring top-25 teams, including the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams playing in the Jimmy V Classic at Indianapolis. The college basketball world expects No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor to meet in Saturday's championship game but both schools have work to do to make that happen. The 2-0 Bulldogs have beaten then-No. 6 Kansas and Auburn in the season's first week and will meet No. 15 West Va tonight at 7:00 ET. Let's hear it for Bob Huggins. Upon learning that Tennessee, Gonzaga's originally scheduled foe, had to vacate its spot in the event due to program concerns over COVID-19, Huggins reached out to his connections at ESPN, which has television rights to the Classic. "I thought, ‘What the heck, let's call ESPN,'" Huggins said. "So, I called some guys that I've known for a long, long time and said, ‘Can you work this out and get us in the Jimmy V to play Gonzaga?" Huggins got his wish. The programs haven't met since Gonzaga edged West Virginia 61-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, en route to a berth in the national championship game. Gonzaga is favored by nine points . Tipping at 10:00 ET will be No. 2 Baylor (2-0) against No. 5 Illinois (3-0), as this contest marks the first meeting this season of top-5 opponents. The Bears are favored by 5 1/2-points. The third meeting of ranked opponents will feature two 3-0 teams in the Maui Invitational championship game, as  No. 14 North Carolina and No. 17 Texas. The fact that the Maui Invitational is being played in Asheville, NC, is all one needs to know about just how strange the 2020-21 college season is and will be. Texas is aiming for its first Maui Invitational title in five all-time appearances in the event. The best finish for the Longhorns had been a pair of third-place finishes, while. North Carolina is going for its FIFTH Maui Invitational title with its seventh appearance in the tournament final. The Longhorns are favored by one points. Two ranked teams have had games postponed or canceled due to COVOID issues (No. 12 Villanova and No. 19 Richmond) but three other ranked teams are in action against unranked opponents. No. 21 Oregon plays its first game of the season against Missouri and No. 22 Florida  St also takes the floor for the first time against an 0-3 North Florida team. No. 23 Ohio St (2-0) is home to Morehead St. CFP rankings: The top-seven teams remained unchanged in the second CFP standings of the 2020 season on Tuesday. Alabama remained No. 1 (20th No. 1 ranking which matches the total of all other schools).Notre Dame, owners of CFB's longest active winning streak (15) is No. 2 and Clemson, with Trevor Lawrence back on the field, remained No. 3. Ohio State held on to the No. 4 spot, even though the Buckeyes have played only four games. Ohio St canceled last Saturday's game at Illinois following an increase in COVID-19 cases within the program (including head coach Ryan Day) but remained ahead of one-loss Texas A&M (No. 5) and one-loss Florida (6-1). Ohio State remains the biggest "X factor" in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Buckeyes resumed team activities on Tuesday and are expected to play on Saturday at Michigan State. Here's the rub. Ohio St most likely will have play this week and next week (home to Michigan) to qualify for the Big Ten championship game. However, the College Football Playoff has set no minimum number of games played to be eligible for the playoff. It's just going to be up to the selection committee to figure out how many is too few. "There is a discrepancy sometimes between a team that plays eight or nine games and a team that's played three or four games and frankly that's a problem [in ranking teams],'' said Gary Barta, who is the committee chairman, as well as Iowa's athletic director.Cincinnati stayed at No. 7, Georgia is No. 8, Iowa St jumped into the top-10 at No. 9 and Miami took the top-10's final spot. 9-0 BYU (ranked No. 8 in the AP poll) remains on the "outside, looking in" at No. 13. The ESPN commentators all seem to think that BYU is being shafted but I just don't get it. No one can seriously believe BYU is anywhere near one of the nation's top-six teams, so what difference would it make if the Cougars were ranked say 9th or 10th? Riddle me this. Why did North Carolina move up two spots to No. 17, after getting shut in the second in a home loss to Notre Dame? Remember, the Tar heels have THREE losses. Anyone curious as to why USC, from the sad-sack Pac 12, is ranked No. 20? The Trojans needed back-to-back 'miracles' to win their first two games and is just 3-0. Anyone on the committee look at the Pac 12 standings and notice that USC's 3-0 start has come over three opponents that have yet to win a SINGLE game this season? How about Oregon at No. 23, despite losing at Oregon St? The CFP selection committee will release rankings Dec 8 and Dec 15, before unveiling its final list Dec 20.I'll close with a look at the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. Three schools are at 9-0. Notre Dame (5-4-1 ATS) owns the longest active winning streak at 15, going 10-5 ATS. Coastal Carolina is 7-1-1 ATS in its 9-0 start, extending its winning streak to 10 in a row (7-2-1 ATS). BYU ended last season with back-to-back losses and rounds out this season's 9-0 teams (6-2-1 ATS). No. 1 Alabama is 8-0 (6-2 ATS) and along with 8-0 Cincy (5-3 ATS) has won nine in a row. Marshall is 7-0 (5-2 ATS) is the only other unbeaten team with more than five games played in 2020. Throw in four, 4-0 teams (Ohio St, Buffalo, San Jose St and Western Michigan) and we have 10 schools still unbeaten among ones having played at least four games. Checking in with the Pac 12, USC, Washington (moved into the CFP rankings Tuesday at No. 22) and unranked Colorado are all 3-0.Checking in our list of 'loveable losers,' there are 11 schools still winless among ones having played at least four games. UL-Monroe 'leads' the pack at 0-9 (3-6 ATS), giving the Warhawks 10 straight losses (4-6 ATS). Kansas is 0-8 SU and ATS (way to go Jayhawks!) and has lost 12 in a row (1-11 ATS). Vandy, 'the brains of the SEC,' is also 0-8 ((4-4 ATS) and has lost nine straight (5-4 ATS). Three schools are 0-5, New Mexico, FIU and UNLV. I listed New Mexico first because the Lobos have lost 14 in a row (5-9 ATS). That leaves five schools at 0-4, UMass (playing as an Independent) plus four schools from the MAC.UMass has been outscored in its four losses this season 161-12 but is somehow 2-2 ATS. The Minutemen are on an 11-game overall losing streak, going 3-7-1 ATS. I'll leave out THREE of the MAC schools which are 0-4, because Akron stand heads and shoulders over its fellow bottom-dwellers. The Zips own CFB's longest active losing streak, having lost 21 in a row, including going a money-burning' 4-17 ATS. Thursday Notes will preview the upcoming weekend.Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: EPL, NCAA Basketball and NFL Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

The Wednesday sports card features another full day of college basketball action as well as the second half MatchDay 5 of the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, as well as a rare midweek game in the National Football League. The college basketball card begins at 1:30 PM ET, with the final day of the Maui Invitational taking place on a neutral court in Asheville, North Carolina, this year. The opening game on ESPN has Indiana playing Stanford after both teams lost in the semifinals of this tournament. At 2:30 PM ET, Army plays Florida on ESPN2 in the mini-bubble at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The championship of the Maui Invitational in Asheville takes place at 4 PM ET on ESPN, with Texas playing North Carolina.At 5 PM ET, VCU travels to Penn State, where the Nittany Lions are a 4-point favorite with the total set at 143. FS1 has the broadcast. St. John’s plays BYU in Uncasville on ESPN2 with the Cougars a 1-point favorite and the over/under set at 158 (all odds from BetOnline).The first game in the Jimmy V Classic at the Banker’s Field House in Indianapolis takes place at 7 PM ET on ESPN. West Virginia plays Gonzaga with the Bulldogs a 4-point favorite. Providence faces Alabama on ESPN2 in one of the consolation matches in the Maui Invitational in Asheville. The CBS Sports Network has Rhode Island hosting Seton Hall at 7 PM ET with the Pirates a 2-point road favorite with the total at 149.At 9 PM ET, Oregon plays Missouri on a neutral court in Omaha, Nebraska. FS1 has the broadcast with the Ducks a 4-point favorite with a total of 139.5.Davidson plays UNLV on ESPN2 at 9:30 PM ET in the final consolation game in the Maui Invitational in Asheville. The second game in the Jimmy V Classic takes place on ESPN at 10 PM ET. Baylor plays Illinois as a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 144.5 at Banker’s Field House. The Wednesday sports card features the first eight matches in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 5. These matches are all reverse fixtures of the games played on October 20th in the round-robin group stage six-match schedule.Two matches start at 12:55 PM ET. Krasnodar hosts Rennes in a pick ‘em contest with the total set at 2.5. RB Leipzig visits Istanbul Basaksehir as a -1.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 3.Another six matches take place at 3 PM ET. Sevilla hosts Chelsea in a battle for first place in Group E pick ‘em match with the total at 2.5. Borussia Dortmund hosts Lazio as a -1 goal line favorite with the over/under at 3. Club Brugge plays at home against Zenit as a -0.50 goal line favorite with a total of 2.75. Juventus hosts Dynamo Kyiv as a -1.5 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.75. Barcelona travels to Ferencvaros as a -1 goal line road favorite with the total at 3. Paris Saint-Germain visits Old Trafford to play at Manchester United as a -0.25 goal line favorite with the over/under at 3.25. All eight games are available on the CBS Sports All-Access package. Alternatively, the CBS Sports Network broadcasts a whip-around show during the six 3 PM ET games.The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will finally play their Week 12 matchup on Wednesday afternoon, assuming neither team experiences any more positive COVID tests. This game has been moved three times already, with its initial prime-time slot for Thanksgiving moved to Sunday afternoon and then Tuesday evening before this final move to the 3:40 PM ET kickoff on Wednesday. NBC still has the broadcast to make up for the lost Thursday night game, but the network could not accommodate an evening start given their previous commitment to broadcast the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center Wednesday evening. Pittsburgh is a 10-point favorite with the total set at 42.5.

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NFL Wednesday Afternoon Football: Steelers/Ravens Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Football on NBC features a rematch of AFC North rivals. Pittsburgh won the first meeting between these two teams on November 1st with their 28-24 upset victory in Baltimore as a 4-point underdog. The Steelers forced four turnovers in that game, including an interception returned for a touchdown in the opening minute of the game. Yet Pittsburgh went into halftime with a 17-7 deficit before scoring the next two touchdowns en route to pulling the upset. The Steelers’ +3 net turnover margin obscured them being outgained by a 457-221 yardage margin. The Ravens controlled the time of possession for over 35 minutes of this game while running the ball 47 times for 265 yards. Ben Roethlisberger engineered the winning rally midway through the fourth quarter that culminated in an 8-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool at the 7:29 minute mark. Baltimore has lost three of their last four games in a stretch that started with that setback to the Steelers. The Ravens have lost two games in a row after they failed to avenge their playoff loss to Tennessee on Sunday in a 30-24 upset loss at home in overtime as a 6-point favorite. Baltimore blew a 21-10 second-half lead to Tennessee in that game, but criticism of their collapse went on the back burner given the news that began this week.Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins all tested positive for COVID last week, which will keep them out for this game. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams is also quarantining given close contact to both players. He will not be available to play, although an injury kept him out of the Tennessee game last week. The Ravens will rely on Gus Edwards and Justice Hill as their primary running backs, with Dobbins and Ingram unavailable. Injuries have already hit head coach John Harbaugh’s team with All-Pro left tackle, Ronnie Stanley, out the year with an ankle injury and defensive end Calais Campbell out indefinitely with a calf injury. Pittsburgh has the opportunity to eliminate their arch-rivals from the AFC North title hunt. Another Baltimore loss drops their record to 6-6. The Steelers remained unbeaten in ten games on Sunday with their 27-3 win in Jacksonville as an 11-point favorite. The Steel Curtain defense limited the Jaguars to only 206 yards in that game while intercepting rookie quarterback Jake Luton four times. Pittsburgh ranks fourth in the NFL by allowing 306.9 yards-per-game, and the 4.94 yards-per-play they are giving up is the second-best defensive mark in the league. The Steelers have 21 takeaways as well, which is the most in the NFL, and their +12 net turnover margin is also tops in the league. Pittsburgh goes into this game in relatively good shape on the health front, though James Conner will miss the game due to COVID. Cornerback Joe Haden is questionable with a knee injury. Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is listed as probable with a toe injury that kept him out of several practices in the run-up to this contest.Baltimore seems backed in a corner for this game. The previous time that Harbaugh’s team had lost two straight games was September of last season. BetAnySports lists Pittsburgh as a 10-point favorite with the total set at 42. Kickoff is shortly after 3:40 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 1

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: As I noted in yesterday's notes, in normal times (we are FAR from that at the present moment), the Seahawks/Eagles MNF game in Philadelphia would close out Week 12 of the NFL. However, Sunday's game between the Ravens and Steelers was rescheduled to Tuesday and yesterday, got pushed back until Wednesday. We'll see what Tuesday's developments are. Getting back to football "on the field," Seattle beat Philadelphia 23-17, as the 8-3 Seahawks moved a game ahead of the LA Rams in the NFC West, while the 3-7-1 Eagles dropped into third in the NFC East after entering the weekend with the division lead. New York and Washington are tied atop the NFC 'Least' at 4-7. Will this sad-sack division give us a champ with a losing record? Seems likely it will, right?Back to the MNF game, Seattle turned the ball over on downs in Eagles territory on each of its first TWO possessions, including on fourth-and-goal the first time it had the ball. The Seahawks would go up 14-0 as Philadelphia went three-and-out on its first FIVE possessions against the Seahawks' league-worst defense, gaining a total of just FOUR yards. However, the Eagles drove 75 yards and scored with 12 seconds left in the half to close to 14-6 (naturally, missed the extra-point). It was 23-9 Seattle with the game winding down but the Eagles then drove 58 yards in just four plays, with Wentz completing a tipped Hail Mary pass from 33 yards out with 12 seconds left. Sanders then ran it in for two points, as the Eagles (plus-6 1/2) covered. Is it just me or has there been an inordinate number of similar ATS finishes in NFL 2020? With Bal/Pit now pushed to Wednesday (?), I will combine my NFL Week 12 recap and NFL Week 13 preview in Thursday's Notes.College hoops: The AP preseason poll was released back on Nov 9, with No. 1 Gonzaga (28 first-place votes and 1,541 total points) edging out No. 2 Baylor (24 first-place votes and 1,540 total points) for the top-spot. The AP's first regular season poll was announced Monday and Gonzaga extended its lead over Baylor (both schools have opened 2-0) by earning 57 first-place votes to Baylor's six (total points sit at 1,569 to 1,513). Preseason No. 3 Villanova (highest preseason ranking since 1995-96 season) fell to 12th with an 81-73 OT loss to Va Tech, while preseason No. 4 Virginia all the way to 15th, after a shocking 61-60 loss to San Francisco, as a 9 1/2-point favorite. 2-0 Iowa moved up to No. 3 (opened No. 5), matching its highest ranking since the 2015-16 team also reached No. 3, with preseason Player-of-the-Year Luka Garza averaging 33.5 PPG (on 86.2% shooting) with 9.5 RPG. 2-0 Wisconsin took over at No. 4 (up from No. 7) and 3-0 Illinois is No. 5, the school's first top-10 ranking since the 2004-05 team was ranked No. 1.The rest of the top-10 features 1-0 Duke at No. 6, 1-1 Kansas (loss came to Gonzaga) at No. 7, 2-0 Michigan St at No. 8 (up from 13th), 1-0 Creighton at No. 9 (up from 11th, which was the school's highest-ever preseason ranking) and 3-0 Houston at No. 10 (up from 17th after beating then-No. 14 Texas Tech). Kansas is the lone one-loss team in the top-10 but the Jayhawks have now been ranked for the 222nd consecutive time, breaking a tie with I+UCLA (from 1966-80) for the longest streak in NCAA history. For some perspective, I'll add that Duke owns the second-longest active streak with 85! Dropping out were No. 22 UCLA and No. 25 Michigan (let's blame Harbaugh for that, too!). Moving into the top-25 were 3-0 Va Tech (win over 'Nova helped) and No. 19 Richmond, whose 76-64 win at then-No. 10 Kentucky was the school's first-ever road win over a top-10 opponent. Speaking of Kentucky, that loss dropped them to No. 20. The current 2020-21 college basketball season opened last Wednesday (Nov 25), so Dec 1 makes it 'Day 7.' Entering Tuesday, there have been just THREE games between ranked opponents, No. 1 Kansas beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90, No. 3 Villanova beating No. 18 Arizona St 83-74 and No. 14 Texas Tech losing to No. 17 Houston 64-53. However, Tuesday's slate features two such matchups, as No. 6 Duke and No. 8 Michigan St (Coach K vs Izzo) square off, as do No. & Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky. The Champions Classic has been played as a doubleheader at a neutral site in the past but COVID-19 has changed all that. The game between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Duke game was switched to Duke's campus, with the Blue Devils agreeing to visit Michigan State next year, while No. 7 Kansas and No. 20 Kentucky will meet in Indianapolis. Duke is favored by 3 1/2-points and Kansas by 4 1/2. The higher ranked teams are 2-1 SU and ATS so far in top-25 matchups. In games between ranked teams and unranked opponents, ranked teams are off to an impressive 39-4 (.907) start SU, while going 24-18-1 (57.1%) ATS. There are four such matchups on Tuesday, including No. 4 Wisconsin (-24.5) home to Green Bay and No. 9 Creighton (-19.5) taking on Omaha in a neutral-site setting among top-10 teams.Wednesday's Notes will review the second CFP rankings from Tuesday night plus I'll get to that look at the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. Hopefully, I'll be able to preview the NFL's Baltimore/Pittsburgh game, as well. "Fingers crossed."Good luck...Larry

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Big Al's Daily Angle: UEFA Champions League and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Tuesday, Dec 01, 2020

The Tuesday sports card features a full day of college basketball action as well as MatchDay 5 of the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. The NFL showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers that was rescheduled for Tuesday evening has pushed back until Wednesday for a 3:20 PM ET kickoff. The morning college football game between Charlotte and Western Kentucky was canceled due to COVID issues with the 49ers program. The college basketball card begins at 1:30 PM ET, with the second day of the Maui Invitational taking place on a neutral court in Asheville, North Carolina, this year. The opening game on ESPN has Texas playing Indiana after both teams won on Monday. BYU also plays USC on ESPN2 at 1:30 PM ET on a neutral court in the mini-bubble at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Cougars are a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 147 (all odds from BetOnline). The second game of the Maui Invitational in Asheville takes place at 4 PM ET on ESPN, with North Carolina playing Stanford after both teams won their games on Monday.At 5:00 PM ET, Villanova plays Hartford in the second game at the Mohegan Sun Arena that Jay Wright has made his team’s home away from home over the last week. The Wildcats are 26.5-point favorites with an over/under of 139. Davidson plays Providence at 7 PM ET on ESPN2 in the third game in the Maui Invitational in the losers bracket after both teams lost on Monday.The Champions Classic tips off at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN with Michigan State traveling to Cameron Indoor Arena to play Duke. The Blue Devils are 3.5-point favorites with a total of 152. The second game of the Champions Classic starts at 9:30 PM ET on ESPN, with Kansas playing Kentucky on a neutral court at Bankers Field House in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jayhawks are 4.5-point favorites with the total at 146.5. The final game of the Maui Invitational in Asheville tips off at 9:30 PM ET as well on ESPN2 with UNLV playing Alabama. The Tuesday sports card features the first eight matches in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage Matchday 5. These matches are all reverse fixtures of the games played on October 21st in the round-robin group stage six-match schedule.Two matches start at 12:55 PM ET. Salzburg travels to Lokomotiv Moskva as a -1 goal line road favorite with the total set at 3. Real Madrid visits Shaktar Donetsk as a -1.25 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 3.25.Another six matches take place at 3 PM ET. Atletico Madrid hosts Bayern Munich (who has clinched a spot in the Round of 16) as a -0.5 goal line favorite with a total of 2.75. Inter Milan visits Borussia Monchengladbach as a -0.25 goal line road favorite with the total at 3. Marseille hosts Olympiacos as a -0.25 goal line favorite with an over/under of 2.25. Manchester City (who has also clinched a spot in the Round of 16) travels to Porto as a -1 goal line road favorite with the total at 2.75. Liverpool hosts Ajax as a -0.75 goal line favorite with the over/under at 3.25. Atalanta hosts the pointless Midtjylland without a goal line yet established and an over/under set at 3.5.All eight games are available on the CBS Sports All-Access package. Alternatively, the CBS Sports Network broadcasts a whip-around show during the six 3 PM ET games.

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A Look At European Soccer (Serie A & La Liga)

by Power Sports

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

With soccer having returned all across Europe last week following the season’s second international break, I thought it would be a good time to examine what’s going on in the “Big 4” leagues.Here I’ll take a look at a pair of wide open leagues: Serie A (Italy) and La Liga (Spain) Serie A: This was supposed to be the year that Juventus’ nine-year run at the top came to an end. They are currently fourth with 17 points. Clubs such as Inter Milan or Atalanta were the picks of many to supplant Juventus. Fresh off an impressive 3-0 win over Sassuolo, Inter is tied for 2nd. Atalanta is 8th as they’ve conceded 16 times, the most of any side in the top half. The big story is AC Milan running ahead of everybody with 23 points taken out of a possible 27. They have not been beaten. Neither has Juventus, but they have four wins and five draws as opposed to AC Milan’s seven wins and two draws. Aforementioned Sassuolo is still tied with Inter for second, but I expect them to drop. Napoli is sitting in 5th and could be the club who moves past Sassuolo into the top four. In the relegation zone, we have a number of sides that could finish bottom three. Don’t be surprised to see Benevento drop there as they’ve conceded 21 times, second most in all of Serie A. La Liga: No one expected Real Sociedad to be running out in front, but they are. Atletico Madrid is just one point behind and has conceded only twice in nine matches with zero losses! Sociedad has conceded only five times and lost once. As tumultuous of a season as it has been, you can never discount Barcelona, the only other La Liga side with a positive double digit goal differential (+10). Barca (currently 7th) should make its way into the top four shortly. What about Sevilla? They’ve recently made a move and are 5th in the table. Real Madrid is 4th. Some of the pretenders have started to fall off, but I’m still surprised to see Cadiz (-3 GD) and Granada (-6) in 6th and 8th place. Not convinced Villareal (3rd) is going to hold its current position either. One side you may want to look to bet against moving forward is Real Betis, who has the worst goal differential in La Liga (-11) but still sits 15th and out of the relegation zone. Yet they have conceded more times than anybody (23) and have the most losses (7). Those four wins seem fluky. 

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A Look At European Soccer (EPL & Bundesliga)

by Power Sports

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

With soccer having returned all across Europe last week following the season’s second international break, I thought it would be a good time to examine what’s going on in the “Big 4” leagues.Here I’ll look at the English Premier League as well as the German Bundesliga EPL - Many expected Liverpool to take a step back after last year’s historic campaign. Yet there the Reds are, tied with Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the table (21 points). Thus far, we’ve seen a revolving door of contenders in the Premier League with clubs like Everton, Southampton and Aston Villa spending time on top. All three of those sides have fallen off the pace a bit and now currently sit 8th, 6th and 10th respectively. For my money, Tottenham and Chelsea have been the two best sides. Right behind Chelsea is Leicester City in the 4th spot, but they just suffered a terrible loss to Fulham, one of the four clubs that will spend most of the year fighting to avoid relegation (West Brom, Burnley & Sheffield United are the others). Manchester City and Manchester United being middle of the table teams is surprising. Bundesliga - Any discussion of this league must start with Bayern Munich, the best side in all of Europe. Not surprisingly, they are at the top of the table with 22 points. They have scored 31 times in nine matches. Besides Bayern, there are six other sides that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in Germany’s top flight. Neither Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have a loss on their resumes, which is something that even Bayern can’t claim. Yet the two undefeated sides still rank just third and fifth in the table due to an abundance of draws. RP Leipzig and Dortmund were both expected to finish in the top four and that’s where both currently are. They each have a +12 goal differential. Only Bayern is better in that metric. Don’t discount Union Berlin (+10 goal differential) or Gladbach either. The bottom of this league is pretty bad, particularly Schalke, who is still winless in its last 25 Bundesliga matches. 

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How Many QB Hits Are Too Many? Assessing Joe Burrow's Season-Ending Injury

by Hollywood Sports

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

When Joe Burrow suffered his season-ending in Week 11 of the NFL season with a gruesome leg injury, many observers thought that this outcome was inevitable given the punishment the rookie was consistently facing. In hindsight, the statistics are staggering regarding how the Cincinnati Bengals treated their franchise quarterback. Burrow endured his injury in the third quarter against a Washington team with one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. He had already attempted 34 passes at that point of the game, while being on track to approach 50 throws in the game. These efforts were all for a team that was 2-6-1 at the time, and far out of the AFC playoff race. Burrow’s rookie season ended with him attempting 404 passes in his 8 1/2 games played. But it is not just his pass attempts that is the concern. Burrow was playing behind a suspect offensive line that made a season-ending injury a significant risk. Burrow was sacked 32 times. However, sacks are an insufficient measurement of the damage he was absorbing. Burrow also took 53 hits in the pocket. When then adding the 34 rushing attempts he made where he was tackled, the result is that Burrow had been subject to 125 significant hits from opposing defenders in just over half a season. Is approaching 250 hits a sustainable number for a quarterback to stay healthy?There was intriguing research done on the toll of high-usage in bell-cow running backs in the early 2000s. Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders dubbed the phrase “the Curse of 370” when detailing the tendency for running backs who had 370 touches from rushing attempts and receptions had on the future productivity (https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2004/ricky-williams-retires). I find it surprising that similar research has not been undertaken to attempt to identify if there is a correlation between hits on the quarterback and injury. To be fair, I may be unaware of such research. Such work is not being addressed in the higher-profile pieces I have read arguing for passing the football in seemingly every instance despite the ancillary risk this strategy has in putting the quarterback’s health at risk. In researching this article, I did come across a promising fantasy football site that does attempt to measure this data: https://sportsinjurypredictor.com. However, I would be interested in research that attempted to determine that theoretical magic number regarding the number of hits a quarterback endures before the risk of injury seems to significantly rise. Jamey Eisenberg made some conclusions regarding running backs for his CBS Fantasy Football work in 2014 that illuminates how similar work could be undertaken regarding hits on the quarterback: “We went back and looked at the past 10 years for running backs who had 400 touches in a season, including the playoffs, and found 27 occasions where it happened for 17 different running backs. Of those 27 times, only five -- Edgerrin James (2004), LaDainian Tomlinson (2005), James again (2005), Adrian Peterson (2009) and Ray Rice (2011) -- produced an increase in Fantasy points the following season, and you can see all the data in our chart below. The 22 other examples where a running back hit 400 touches over that span showed varying results -- all negative. Two running backs -- Tiki Barber and Ricky Williams -- retired following consecutive seasons with 400 touches. And nine times a running back suffered an injury -- Arian Foster (2013), Peterson (2013), Michael Turner (2009), Steven Jackson (2007), Larry Johnson (2007), Shaun Alexander (2006), Clinton Portis (2006), Curtis Martin (2005) and Jamal Lewis (2004) -- that caused him to miss games following a 400-touch campaign. Some of those injuries could be attributed to the heavy workload the year before.” (https://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/football/news/offseason-extra-the-year-after-400-plus-touches/)Identifying a theoretical number of hits absorbed where the risks of injury significantly increased for a quarterback would be fascinating. It would certainly better inform the debates regarding offensive run versus pass strategy. And this level of scholarship might have compelled the Bengals to run the ball a bit more to save their star rookie quarterback from sustaining an injury that may put his 2021-22 season into jeopardy. Best of luck for us — Frank.

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Early College Basketball Trends -- Shooting Percentages are Up

by Team Del Genio

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

The early data regarding shooting numbers for the 2020-21 college basketball season demonstrate clear trends that shooting percentages are on the rise. Using the data at kenpom.com after the first six days of the season, the numbers demonstrate these upward trends. Division I teams are making 69.4% of their free-throw attempts, which is the highest mark ever. D-I teams made 69.1% of their free throws in 2017, which is the highest shooting clip for an entire season. Teams are shooting 49.7% inside the arc, which is the second-highest shooting percentage for 2-point shots. D-I teams made 49.9% of their 2-pointers in the 2018-19 season. The data on 3-pointers is muddier, but the trends are still on the upswing this season. Teams are making 32.6% of their shots from 3-point land with is +0.6% higher than last season. However, teams are also taking 37.7% of their field goal attempts from 3-point land versus last season when 37.4% of the shots were 3-pointers, so teams are more aggressive with their 3-point shooting and still making more of them. This 37.7% clip of field goal attempts being from behind the 3-point line is the second-highest behind the 2018-19 season when 39.0% of field goal attempts were 3-pointers. What accounts for this improved shooting? The most likely reason is the lack of fans in the arenas. The quieter gyms and the lack of activity from the fans lead to fewer distractions for the shooter. This dynamic seems most apparent with the improved shooting at the charity stripe. Players have also commented that the lack of fans in the stands has improved the sightlines for the players. Scottie Pippen has commented that these games without fans bring players back to their extensive pickup game experience. These observations are consistent with the results in the NBA when they played in the Orlando bubble. Until the oddsmakers and the betting public adjust to these trends, there likely will be an increase in the situations where the totals' value is with betting the over the number. Good luck - TDG.

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"Let Russ Cook?" -- Confirming Some Priors From Last Month

by Hollywood Sports

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

I wrote last month about some of the negative consequences to the “Let Russ Cook” mantra coming from many NFL observers and Russell Wilson fans regarding the Seattle Seahawks opened up their passing game in the first half of their games. The Seahawks went on a two-game losing streak in the middle of November with losses against Buffalo and the Los Angeles Rams, which were Wilson’s two worst games of the season. Wilson was responsible for seven turnovers himself, including four interceptions. The conventional wisdom was that the coaching staff was asking him to do too much. Head coach Pete Carroll appears to have taken a step back from the “Let Russ Cook” philosophy in their 28-21 victory on Thursday Night Football on November 19th. For the second time all season, Seattle ran the ball more than they passed — they had 31 rush attempts for 165 yards, with Wilson completing 23 of his 28 pass attempts. He did not commit a turnover. The commitment to running the ball also helped them control possession of 35:07 minutes of that game, which kept Kyler Murray off the field. Arizona managed only 314 total yards in what was the fewest yards the Seattle defense had allowed all season. Those 314 yards were also the second-lowest mark that the Cardinals had generated in a game up to that point of the season. That performance is evidence of two of the benefits of running the football that too many in the football analytics community fail to appreciate when critiquing the “establish the run” mentality. First, running the football lowers the propensity of the quarterback turning the ball over. Fewer pass attempts are fewer opportunities to throw interceptions. And the quarterback will fumble the ball less if the ball is not in this hand. Of course, the player with the football can still turn the ball over with a fumble mistake, but it would be interesting to study if quarterbacks in the pocket are more susceptible to a fumble than running backs. Running backs expect to be hit while quarterbacks focused on passing the ball are vulnerable to blindside hits. Second, running the football burns time off the clock, which can lead to fewer offensive possessions from the opposing offense. Murray (or Deshaun Watson, et al) can not score from the sidelines. And defensive players who asked to play fewer snaps retain more energy at the end of the game. Some defensive coaches make the case that defensive players only have about 50 plays in them before their productivity begins to decline. That would be another intriguing area to study. Seattle goes into their Monday Night Football game at Philadelphia to conclude Week Twelve of the season with 33 sacks on the quarterback. That mark ranks 30th in the league. The Seahawks are also 31st in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate on offense. With quarterbacks like Joe Burrow out the year with season-ending injuries, asking Russ to cook a little less may also be the best way he can still be in the kitchen come playoff time. Best of luck for us — Frank.

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Ness Notes: Monday, Nov 30

by Larry Ness

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."MNF: In normal times (we are FAR from that at the present moment), tonight's Seahawks/Eagles game in Philadelphia would close out Week 12 of the NFL. As it stands now, Sunday's game between the Ravens and Steelers has been rescheduled to Tuesday and would stand as the final game of the current week. However, here's the latest. The NFL canceled the Baltimore Ravens' practice for Monday morning. The Ravens are in the midst of one of the biggest outbreaks in professional sports with at least one positive test for the past eight days. Baltimore has officially placed 18 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in the past week. As I've been saying all season, "fingers crossed." Getting back to MNF, the 7-3 Seattle Seahawks got some help on Sunday, as the Cards lost 20-17 in New England to the Pats and the 49ers upset the Rams 23-20 in LA. That drops the Rams to 7-4 and the Cards to 6-5. Seattle would move to 8-3 with a win. In stark contrast, Week 12 has NOT gone well for the Eagles, as Washington and the NY Giants both won 19-17, moving to 4-7. That means the 3-6-1 Eagles must win to inch back ahead of their two NFC 'Least' rivals. Kickoff is at 8:15 ET on ESPN  with Seattle favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 49). Looking ahead, I'll move my NFL 12 recap to Wednesday.CFB recap: the week began on Thanksgiving with a game few care about other than the people in Logan, Ut, who saw the Utah State Aggies win for the first time in 2020, 41-27 over New Mexico. The Aggies moved to 1-4 and New Mexico remained winless on the season at 0-5. NINE games were played on Friday, with FIVE ranked teams in action, including top-25 matchups (note: I will continue to use the AP rankings, not the CFP ones) between No. 2 Notre Dame at No. 25 North Carolina and No. 15 Iowa St at No. 20 Texas. Notre Dame won 31-17 (shut out high-scoring North Carolina in the second half) for its 15th straight win (longest among FBS teams). Iowa St edged Texas 23-20 (first win in Austin since 2010) and is now a near 'lock' to play in the Big 12 title game. No. 1 Alabama would rout No. 19 Auburn 42-13 in the Iron Bowl (Mac Jones threw five TD passes), as the higher ranked team won and covered the only three matchups of the weekend between top-25 opponents. Nothing surprising in those results, as higher ranked teams are now  21-5 (.808) SU and 19-7 (73.1%) ATS in meetings between top-25 opponents in the college football season to-date.Including Friday's game with No. 9 Oregon visiting Oregon St in the "Civil War" rivalry, 10 ranked teams met unranked opponents (note: six more were either postponed or canceled). Here's what I wrote in last Friday's Notes. Ranked teams went a perfect 14-0 SU against unranked opponents from Nov 3-7 but still could NOT win more than 50 percent ATS, going 6-7-1. However, when 'all the dust had settled' from the week of Nov 10-15, ranked teams had gone 12-1 SU against unranked opponents (then-No. 19 SMU's loss to Tulsa being the exception) and more significantly, a MONEY-MAKING 11-2 ATS! That trend continued in games from Nov 17-21, as ranked teams went 11-1 SU and a solid 8-4 ATS. That's a three-week run of 37-2 (.949) SU and 25-13-1 (65.8%) ATS. The Y-T-D numbers sat at 105-24 (.814) SU and 61-66-2 (48.0%) ATS. I opined, "Can (will) ranked teams finally go over .500 ATS after this Thanksgiving weekend?" The verdict is in and the answer is no. Ranked teams did go 8-2 SU but were just 5-5 ATS. The SU losers were No. 9 Oregon losing 41-38 at Oregon St and No. 11 Northwestern losing 29-20 at Northwestern. Doing the math, ranked teams are now 113-26 (.813) SU but still sub-500 ATS at 66-71-2 (48.2%). Of the six games canceled among the group of ranked vs unranked matchups, NONE had more ramifications than No. 3 Ohio St (No. 4 in the CFP standings) losing its game at Illinois. The Buckeyes are now 4-0 (have had two games canceled) and will HAVE to play their final two games or they will be ineligible for the Big Ten championship. What a development that would be.The new AP poll was released on Sunday The top-eight remained the same for the FOURTH straight week and to no one's surprise, Alabama got all 62 first-place votes for the second consecutive week. Alabama has now been ranked for 209 straight polls, tying the Florida Gators  *1990-2002) for the third-longest streak in CFB history. Florida State's 211 consecutive weeks (from 1989-2001) is up next but the Tide have a LONG way to go to catch Nebraska's amazing run of 348 weeks from 1981-2002. Remember when Nebraska football mattered? Oregon fell from No. 9 to No. 21, with Miami moving up to No. 9 (from No. 10) and Indiana moving back to No. 10 from No. 12. Washington is No.23 and ranked for the first time this season. No. 24 Iowa opened the season 0-2 but with four straight wins is back in after opening at No. 24 in the preseason poll. Taking the No. 25 spot is Liberty, after falling out last week after a 15-14 loss at NC State. No. 20 Texas, No. 22 Auburn and No. 25 North Carolina all dropped out. Auburn was ranked No. 11 in the preseason and rose to as high as No. 7 this season, Texas opened No. 14 in the preseason and got as high as No. 9 and North Carolina opened the season No. 18 but climbed as high as No. 5. NOT a good week for those programs.I'm pushing back my NFL Week 12 recap to Wednesday and will feature the highs (still unbeaten CFB teams) and lows (still winless teams) of CFB 2020. The first regular season AP poll of the 2020-21 CBB season will come out Monday and I'll comment on that plus check in on the comings and goings of the first six days of college hoops, so far.Good luck...Larry

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