Ness Notes: Thursday, Dec 17

by Larry Ness

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."

College hoops: There were again no games between ranked opponents on Wednesday but there were four games between ranked and unranked ones. No. 7 Villanova beat Butler 85-66 to move to 6-1,  No. 11 Texas (now 6-1) beat Sam Houston St, No. 20 Ohio St  lost at Purdue, falling to 5-1. No. 21 Duke, which opened No. 9 in the preseason poll, got a much-need 75-65 win at Notre Dame, after losing at home to Michigan St and Illinois (Blue Devils are just 3-2). Ranked teams were 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS on Wednesday against unranked opponents.

We finally get a ranked vs ranked matchup on Thursday, as No. 5 Kansas (6-1) visits Lubbock to take on No. 14 Texas Tech (6-1). It's the Big 12 opener for both schools, the earliest Big 12 opener for either team since the conference formed 24 years ago. Kansas and Texas Tech  are two of the league's FIVE ranked teams and, because of a COVID-19 cancellation, their matchup is the only opener pitting two such teams against each other. Kansas has claimed 15 of the last 16 Big 12's regular season titles but is a small underdog here, as Texas Tech is favored by (higher ranked teams are 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS on the season). There is just one contest in which a ranked team is playing an unranked opponent. No. 9 Creighton (4-2, 0-1) blew a second-half lead Monday night to lose its Big East opener at home to Marquette 89-84, while St. John's (5-3, 0-2) suffered a 97-94 overtime setback Sunday at Georgetown. The Bluejays are favored by 7 points but note that St John's has opened 4-0 at home. Ranked teams are 91-13 (.875) SU but a more modest 58-44-2 (56.9%) ATS against unranked opponents Y-T-D.

NFL Week 15 kicks off with a Thursday night game between the LA Chargers and the LV Raiders. The Chargers and Raiders are original members of the AFL, which began in 1960. The Raiders played in Oakland from 1960 through 1981, winning two Super Bowls. They moved to LA from 1982 through 1994 (won a third Super Bowl title), before returning to Oakland from 1995 through 2019. The Raiders are now based in Las Vegas. The Chargers spent their first season in LA but moved to San Diego the very next season, staying through 2016, when they moved back to LA and now share SoFi Stadium with the Rams. The Chargers do not own a Super Bowl title but the 1963 team which was 11-3 won the AFC championship game 51-10 over the Pats, was one of the best teams of the 1960s, AFL or NFL. CFL castoff Tobin Rote stepped in at QB and had one of the greatest WRs ever in Lance "Bambi" Alworth plus a RB duo that included Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln (note: Lincoln rushed for 206 yards on 13 carries, led the team with 123 yards in receiving on seven catches and completed a pass for 20 yards). For those of you too young to have seen it, you really missed something. Suggested reading: The Lost Super Bowls 1961-65 (A Fictional Scrapbook). Spoiler alert: Sid Gillman's 1963 Chargers beat George Halas' 11-1-2 Chicago Bears in that 1963 'Super Bowl.' Fast-forwarding to 2020, the 4-9 Chargers have been eliminated from the playoffs, while the 7-6 Raiders are currently on the wrong side of the playoff 'bubble' (9th, with only seven getting in). The Chargers may just have found a franchise QB in rookie Justin Herbert (66.3% for 3,467 yards with 25 TDs and 10 INTs) and Raiders QB Derek Carr is "on pace" for the best season of his career (68.2% for 3,343 yards with 24 TDs and 7 INTs / QB rating of 102.1). Las Vegas is favored by three points (over/under is 53 1/2).

Week 15 also features two Saturday games, the 10-3 Bills at the 5-8 Broncos and the 4-9 Panthers at the 10-3 Packers. The Bills sit atop the AFC East (two-game lead over the 8-5 Dolphins), looking to win the division for the first time since 1995 (Buffalo is favored by six points and the over/under is 50). The 10-3 Packers currently own the NFC's No. 1 seed (own tiebreaker over the 10-3 Saints) and are favored by  8 1/2-points (over/under is 51 1/2). Moving on to some notable Sunday games, starting at the bottom (where else?) with the 0-13 Jets and 1-12 Jags, who have lost 12 straight since a Week 1 win over the Colts.

The Jets have now lost a franchise-high 13 straight and are unlikely to win Sunday in LA against the Rams, who at 9-4 are in first-place in the NFC West only because they own the tiebreaker over the 9-4 Seahawks. The Rams are favored by 17 1/2-points and the over/under is 44. The Jags will be at the Ravens, who after going an NFL-best 14-2 in 2019, are currently 8-5, with the 8-5 Dolphins owning the tiebreaker which would give Miami the 7th and final playoff berth in the AFC. The Ravens are favored by 13 points and the over/under is 47 1/2. 

The defending champion KC Chiefs now own the league's best record at 12-1, after the Steelers have lost two straight, after an 11-0 start. The Chiefs are in New Orleans against the 10-3 Saints, who can pretty much be assured that the Packers will beat the Panthers, meaning a loss would put them ONE game back of Green Bay for the NFC's No. 1 seed with two games left PLUS the Packers owning the tiebreaker. The Chiefs own just one-game lead over the 11-2 Steelers for the AFC's No. 1 seed, with Pittsburgh playing the 2-10-1 Bengals in Cincinnati on Monday night. KC is favored by three points and the over/under is 51 1/2. Pittsburgh is favored by 13 points and the over/under is 40. 

SNF features the 9-4 Browns at the 5-8 NY Giants. The Browns are currently the AFC's No. 5 seed, as Cleveland looks to make the postseason for the first time since 2007. In a 'normal' year, the Giants' would be counting the days until the end of the regular season but thanks to playing in the NFC 'Least,' New York is just one game behind first-place Washington. The Browns are favored by five points (over/under is 43 1/2) but the Giants are hopeful that 6-7 Washington will lose earlier in the day to 9-4 Seattle, as Seattle is favored by five points (over/under is 44 1/2).

Friday's Notes features CFB's Championship Game weekend.

Good luck...Larry 

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