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Big Al's Daily Angle: NFL and MLB Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

The MLB Wildcard Playoffs continue on Thursday with five games on the schedule. The Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees all advanced to the American League Divisional Series with victories on Wednesday.The MLB card begins at 12:08 PM ET with Atlanta looking to close out their series after they defeated Cincinnati in Game 1 on Wednesday by a 1-0 score in 13 innings. The Braves give the ball to Ian Anderson while the Reds counter with Luis Castillo. Atlanta is a -130 money-line favorite as of Wednesday with the total set at 7.5 (all odds provided by BetOnline). ESPN has the telecast.Miami looks to pull the series upset against Chicago at 2:08 PM ET after they shocked the Cubs on Wednesday with their 5-1 victory. Sixto Sanchez gets the pitching assignment for the Marlins with Chicago countering with Yu Darvish. The Cubs are -184 money-line favorites with the over/under number at 7 runs. ABC will televise this game.The lone American League Wildcard game takes place at 3:10 PM ET between the White Sox and the A’s after Oakland staved off elimination on Wednesday with their 5-3 victory. Chicago has decided to send out their rookie starting pitcher Dane Dunning while A’s manager Bob Melvin will counter with Mike Fiers. Oakland are -109 money-line favorites with the over/under installed at 8. ESPN has the broadcast. St. Louis looks to close out their series with San Diego at 5:08 PM ET after they won Wednesday’s game by a 7-4 score. The Cardinals turn to Adam Wainwright while the Padres will rely on Zach Davies. San Diego is priced as -155 money-line favorites with the total set at 8.5. ESPN2 will televise the game.The final MLB game of the day takes place at 10:08 PM ET with the Dodgers hosting Milwaukee after their 4-2 victory on Wednesday. Los Angeles gives the ball to Clayton Kershaw while the Brewers counter with Brandon Woodruff. With Game 1 being the late game on Wednesday, no lines have yet been set for Game 2. This game will be on ESPN.Week 4 of the NFL season kicks off on Thursday with the Denver Broncos traveling to New York to face the Jets. In a matchup only bettors could love, both of these teams remain winless this season.  But if you are a fan of head coaches on the hot seat, starting quarterback drama, and long lists of injured players that will be game-time decisions on Thursday, this game offers a smorgasbord of intrigue. New York has yet to cover the point spread this season after their 36-7 loss in Indianapolis last week. Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold seems to have stagnated in his development after throwing for only 168 yards last week. Drew Lock remains out indefinitely with a shoulder injury for Denver. Jeff Driskel dropped to 1-8 as a starting quarterback in his career last week in the Broncos’ 28-10 loss at home to Tampa Bay. Brett Rypien completed 8 of 9 passes for 53 yards with an interception in the end zone after coming on in relief, which was enough for head coach Vic Fangio to name him the starting QB for this game. BetOnline lists Denver as a 1-point favorite with the total set at 39.5. The NFL Network has the broadcast with the kickoff scheduled for just after 8:20 PM ET.

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NCAA Friday Night Football: BYU/Louisiana Tech Preview

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

Two unbeaten teams face off on Friday night to kick off the fifth week of the College Football with Louisiana Tech traveling to Provo to play Brigham Young. Louisiana Tech has been one of the football programs most impacted by COVID-19. They did not get any spring practices to help settle the quarterback competition with four quarterbacks competing to replace the last year's Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in J’Mar Smith. They were also breaking in nine new starters on defense for a new defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs then had to delay the start of their season in the fall when 38 players tested positive for COVID. Louisiana Tech had rearranged their schedule to move up their September 26th date with Baylor to September 12th, but that game was canceled, with their COVID outbreak.The Bulldogs were able to get their season started the next Saturday, where they defeated Southern Mississippi on the road by a 31-30 score. Skip Holtz’s team followed that victory up last week with a 66-38 victory at home over Houston Baptist. Senior quarterback Luke Anthony, a graduate transfer from Abilene Christian, has played after winning the starting quarterback job. He has accumulated 463 passing yards with eight touchdown passes in two games while completing 59% of his passes. He leads a Louisiana Tech offense that is scoring 48.5 PPG while averaging 461.5 total YPG. However, the Bulldogs rebuilt defense remains a work in progress after they allowed an FCS program to gain over 500 yards against them last week. Louisiana Tech is allowing 34.0 PPG along with 447.0 Yards-Per-Game. BYU opened its season with a 55-3 victory at Navy on September 7th. When the Midshipmen’s head coach Ken Niumatalolo later admitted that his fall practices had limited contact given COVID concerns, the quality of that victory was put into question. BYU had to wait three weeks to prove themselves, but they made a statement last Saturday night with a 48-7 blowout victory at home over Troy.The Cougars may have their most potent offensive attack in head coach Kalani Sitake’s five seasons with the program. They have scored in each of their eight quarters so far this season to put up 103 total points. Their 51.5 PPG scoring average is 2nd in the nation, and they are averaging 622.0 total YPG. Junior QB Zach Wilson is completing 78% of his passes while averaging 312.0 passing YPG. This offense faced a significant challenge before the season started when their lone returning starter, tight end Matt Bushman who bypassed the NFL to return for his senior season, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Wide receivers Gunner Romney and Dax Milne have emerged with 19 combined receptions accounting for 447 yards in their first two games to give this offense downfield weapons they have not had in years. The BYU defense has also looked good by allowing only ten combined points along with just 330 total yards in their first two games. The Cougars are allowing 96.0 passing YPG while holding opposing quarterbacks to complete just 56.8% of their passes. But be careful about reading too much into the pass defense numbers after two games. Navy only threw the ball eight times in their opening game with their spread triple-option offensive. The Trojans are primarily a passing offense, but they only gained 162 passing yards on 36 attempts last week. BYU is a 24-point favorite at BookMaker with the total set at 59. The game will be on ESPN2 with the kickoff slated for 9 PM ET.

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What is Pari-mutuel Betting?

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

Pari-mutuel betting is a different form of betting which is used in only a few sports. In most sports, you simply head over a bookmaker and place your wagers at fixed odds.  But, with pari-mutuel betting, instead of working with fixed odds at a bookmaker, you're playing against other bettors with flexible odds.  The pari-mutuel system is also known as pool betting.  A pool is created by all the wagers placed by anyone on the same event (i.e., the Kentucky Derby), and on the same wager type (i.e., a Win bet).  At the end of the event, the prize is shared among all the winning tickets, minus a small deduction by the house as a commission.The beauty of pari-mutuel wagering is the fact that it's completely legal in basically any part of the world.  Instead of having a central party like a sportsbook which hosts the money, you have a bunch of bettors who take their chances upon each other.  Thus, the pari-mutuel system is common all across the world.  Although, in theory, it's possible to implement in any sport, the pari-mutuel system is often only used in horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai.  Anyone who has ever been to the racetracks will probably remember the giant tote boards displaying the odds and the total amount of bet by all bettors at the race tracks.In this betting guide, we'll take you through everything pari-mutuel betting has to offer.  We'll dive into the history, the different types of bets, and how to form your pari-mutuel betting strategy.  Oh, and we'll conclude with a recommendation on where you can best place your pari-mutuel wagers. History of pari-mutuel wagering ​Way before bookmakers and sportsbooks came into play, bettors would only wager against each other.  It all started back when friends and acquaintances would make small wagers on some small events….perhaps who had better aim in shooting a pheasant.  With sports evolving from recreational to professional, and events growing in size, betting systems evolved as well. Whereas horse racing dates back to ancient times with Romans and the Chinese empire, the pari-mutuel system came many years later.It wasn't until Joseph Oller, a Spanish entrepreneur who was fed up with bookmakers taking large commissions, started to consider ways to innovate the betting system.  His solution was the pari-mutuel system.  Coming from the French phrase ‘pari mutuel,’ which means mutual betting, the term was born.  Oller traversed through France to implement his new betting system at race tracks.  After facing a small setback by being charged with illegal gambling practices, Oller finally achieved his goal when fixed-odds bookmaking became illegal in France.Pari-mutuel betting took a whole new shift when the totalisator, also known as the pari-mutuel machine, was invented.  Instead of making all the calculations manually, the totalisator would take care of the difficult mathematics.  Thus, the tote board became a thing, and soon the new betting system was adopted in places like Hong-Kong and the United States. Getting started with pari-mutuel wagering When you want to start in horse racing, you need to understand the betting system first. Usually, the novice bettors who wager a couple of bucks on their favorite horse have no idea how everything is calculated.  The mathematics behind the entire system can get quite complicated, but you don't need to understand every aspect.  To get started with the pari-mutuel betting system, you need to understand the basics of horse race betting. That means the different kinds of bet types and how to calculate your payout.  Allow us to guide you through! Different types of pari-mutuel bets As a novice bettor, you should know the distinction between straight bets and exotic bets. Straight bets are bets on a single race, while exotic bets can be on multiple races.  When handicapping horse races, you have many options that go way further than just picking the winning horse.  When you're at the horse racing tracks, you'll probably get one of the betting slips filled with various terms that you might not understand at first.  However, once you're aware of the most common bet types in horse racing, it'll be a lot easier to understand the way pari-mutuels work.  You don't need to know what a daily double is at first, but the straight bets and the most common exotic bets are basic knowledge in pari-mutuels.Win betSimple - pick the winning horse.  All you need to do is pick the winning horse, and you walk away with a payout.  It's hard to pick the right horse, of course, so the payout here can be quite rewarding.Place betThe place bet is slightly different from the win bet.  Instead of picking the horse that finishes in first place, you pick a horse which ends in either first or second place.  That means if your winning horse is in the top-two finishers, you have a winning bet.Show betThe show bet is a little easier than the place bet.  You choose a horse to finish among the top three to land a payout.ExactaNow, let’s look at the more exotic bets.  Instead of betting on one single horse race, you're picking multiple horses, possibly in various races.  It requires more research than the straight bets, but it's also the place where you can find really good value.  For example, with an exacta wager, you're picking two horses to end up as the top two finishers.  Instead of choosing the winning horse, you pick two horses for spots number one and two.One thing that must not be forgotten is that you need to predict the precise order here.  You only walk away with a winning ticket when you pick the horse in the first spot and the second spot in the correct order; any other outcome, and you'll be left empty-handed.QuinellaThe quinella wager is easy to explain once you have the hang of the exacta bet.  The exacta bet is about picking the top two finishers in the correct order, while the quinella bet is about picking the top two finishers in any order.  That means you just pick two horses, and you win as long as the top two.TrifectaThe trifecta is very difficult to predict.  You need to pick the top-three finishers for a single horse race.  That means you correctly pick the first place horse, the one in second place, and the third finisher in the correct order.  Any other outcome, and you lose.  Since the chances are minimal that you'll be successful, the payouts for trifectas are lucrative.SuperfectaAnyone who loves risks will take a shine to the superfecta bet.  It's the extra step from a trifecta bet.  Where the trifecta bet makes you pick the top-three horses in the exact order, the superfecta adds another horse to the line.  You need to pick the top four finishers in the correct order to land a payout.  Again, the chances are small, but the rewards are astronomical! Calculate your payout with a pari-mutuel bet To properly understand the pari-mutuel betting system, we have to explain how your payout is calculated.  When you arrive at the race tracks, you'll see some screens displaying the current odds and the total amount bet.  You should know that the odds you see on the tote board are the probable odds before all the money is in.  They're still subject to change since bettors can still place their wagers.  For any wager type, whether it’s a win bet or a quinella, there's an individual betting pool.  All of this money adds up, and you have one giant pot of money.  The moment the betting lines close, you will receive the final odds -- also known as the payoff odds.  At that moment, all winning bettors will share the prize in the prize pool according to these odds.  We'll share an example to illustrate how it works precisely.Imagine you're at the Kentucky Derby, one of the most important horse races in the world. There are over 150,000 bettors in attendance, all eager to place some wagers that day.  Of all attendees, 80,000 bettors decide to place a win bet on their favorite horse, and they all decide to bet the same bet size of $5.  That means your total prize pool would become $400,000. When the race concludes, horse number 6 finishes first.  Four thousand bettors were right and went with horse number 6.  That will bring the following formula to calculate your payout: 80,000 x $5 = $400,000 $400,000 / 4,000 = $100 This shows the way the pari-mutuel system works.  Of course, we’re leaving out the commission taken by the track.  Thus, the payoff odds will be a little less than displayed in our calculation since the track takes a piece of the pie to cover its costs and government taxes.  Thus, the payout will be slightly less than $100, but you at least can now understand how the payout is calculated. How to win at pari-mutuel betting ​The one question everyone always asks is, how do I win?  It doesn't matter what kind of sport you're betting on -- whether it’s the NFL or Jai Alai -- you want to know how to land that winning ticket.  In horse racing, here are a couple of tips we can provide. Do your research: You can't make a proper decision without knowing your horses.  Look up a horse’s breeding, what class it’s competing in, and its current form.  Besides the horse, make sure you also check which jockey is on top of the horse, and review the jockey’s record.  You can never know too much, so always make an educated prediction. Manage your money: When you're betting, it's always tempting to bet a little more than you planned to.  But don’t.  Instead, create and stick to your plan.  Set some maximum wager sizes and choose at what level you'll stop.  No matter how interesting a bet might be, never risk more than you're able to lose. Bet at the right place: With any bet you make in pari-mutuel betting, the track takes a small cut.  However, you don’t have to bet at the track.  You can also bet at offshore sportsbooks.  And those sportsbooks will often give bettors nice bonuses!  One of our favorite sportsbooks for horse players is MyBookie, whose racebook offers up to an 8% rebate on losing tickets.  And another customer-friendly book is our top-rated BetAnySports, which offers 10% bonus payouts on winnings at major tracks, as well as a 9% rebate on losing tickets. That's all there is to pari-mutuel betting.  It's nothing complicated, and just requires some basic knowledge and a little experience.  From the moment you achieve your first winning bet, and receive the payout, you’ll be on your road to riches!

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Sep 30

by Larry Ness

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

MLB's expanded 16-team postseason opened Tuesday with the lower-seed team winning THREE of the four games. The lone exception was the AL's No. 1 seed, Tampa Bay, beating 8th-seeded Toronto 3-1. It all started when the Astros and Twins entered the 9th-inning tied at one-all. A two-out error by Minnesota shortstop Jorge Polanco kept Houston alive in the top of the inning, before a bases-loaded walk forced in the go-ahead run and a two-run single followed. The Astros beat the Twins 4-1 to open their AL playoff series and stretch Minnesota's all-time postseason record to 17 straight losses, while the Astros became the first team in major league history to win a game after reaching the postseason with a losing record. Chicago's Lucas Giolito dazzled in his postseason debut, throwing SIX perfect innings. He didn't allow a baserunner until Tommy La Stella's single up the middle to start the seventh, as the White Sox won 4-1. Tampa Bay's Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Toronto, helped by some splashy defensive plays by shortstop Willy Adames and a two-run HR from Manuel Margot (Rays won 3-1). The nightcap saw Gerrit Cole strike out 13 batters over seven innings (allowed two runs), while the Yankees ripped probable AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber for seven ERs in 4.2 innings of a 12-3 New York rout.All four AL series continue on Wednesday with the four Game 1 losers in a "win-or-go-home" scenario in their respective Game 2s. The NL 'joins the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s of their own. Up first it's Cincinnati (in its first postseason since 2013) playing in Atlanta against the Braves, who have won the NL East the last three seasons. However, the Braves have dropped NINE straight postseason series since beating Houston during the 2001 NLDS, not including an additional one-game 2012 NL wild-card loss against St Louis. The Marlins at the Cubs come next. The Marlins are just the second team in MLB history to reach the postseason the year after losing at least 100 games and own the distinction of having been to the playoffs only twice before in franchise history, while winning the World Series both times. Note: There is a Steve Bartman Watch today at Wrigley!<p>The 30-28 Cardinals open at the 38-23 Padres, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. I wonder if San Diego is happy to open with St Louis? Fact is, this is the fourth time the Padres and Cardinals have met in the opening round of the National League playoffs. The bad news for San Diego is, the Cardinals eliminated the Padres in 1996, 2005 and 2006, winning NINE of 10 games. Revenge? Lastly, the Dodgers, who finished with a MLB-best 43-17 record, will host the brewers, who like Houston, made the playoffs with a sub-.500 record (29-31). These two teams met in the 2018 NLCS, when Los Angeles needed SEVEN games to advance to the World Series. This series can't go SEVEN but will it go THREE?The NBA Finals are finally here and how many thought we'd actually make it this far? The Miami Heat are just the East's No. 5 seed but they are in The Finals against the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17.The Lakers cleared enough cap space to lure LeBron James in 2018 free agency and then traded the cache of draft assets they collected in six straight trips to the lottery for Anthony Davis. Owning two of the five best players in the league has the Lakers on the verge of tying the Celtics for the most NBA titles all-time, at 17. A.D. (28.8 & 9.3) and LBJ (26.7-10.3-8.9) don't exactly have the kind of supporting cast you would expect from a dominant playoff team but those two are one "Dynamic Duo." While the Lakers own the two-best players in this series, all five Miami starters are averaging in double figures and Kentucky rookie guard Tyler Herro (16.5 PPG) has become a playoff star coming off the bench.LBJ is looking for his FOURTH title and the Lakers would be the third team he's won with (twice with Miami and once with Cleveland). As for A.D, it would be his first. Both teams are 12-3 SU this postseason but Miami is 12-3 ATS, while the Lakers are 9-5-1. LA is favored by 4 1/2-points at BetOnline in Game 1 and are about 4-to-1 to win the title.Good luck...Larry 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 4

by Sean Murphy

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

Playing on Sean's NFL 'stock rising' teams and against his 'stock falling' squads would have netted you a 4-2 ATS result last week and now he's back with six more teams to keep an eye on heading into Week 4.Stock RisingChicago BearsWith the Bears off to a surprising (and some believe fraudulent) 3-0 start, it would be easy to assume the value is now gone. I'm not sure that's the case as they were given a big shot in the arm with Nick Foles taking over at quarterback. There's reason to believe value is still on Chicago's side, at least for one more week, as it prepares to host 2-1 Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.Cleveland BrownsIs it time to start buying what the Browns are selling? The jury is certainly still out after they posted back-to-back wins over two non-contenders in rebuild mode in the Bengals and Washington Football Team. Cleveland faces a much tougher test with a trip to Jerry World to face the 1-2 Cowboys this week. The matchup may not be all that bad, however, as evidenced by the reasonably short pointspread being hung out by the books.Kansas City ChiefsFollowing a close call on the road against the division-rival Chargers, the Chiefs went out and made a major statement with a lopsided win over the Ravens on Monday Night Football. Now comes another opportunity to silence any remaining doubters with a home date against Bill Bellichick's Patriots on Sunday afternoon. I'm still not certain the Chiefs have an elite defense but their offense can more than make up for any blemishes on that side of the football.Stock FallingNew Orleans SaintsMaybe the Saints deserve some credit for at least sticking around in an entertaining Sunday night affair against the red hot Packers but that was essentially a one-man show with RB Alvin Kamara going off. Teams are obviously going to scheme up their defenses to slow Kamara as he's New Orleans' lone offensive threat at the moment. I'm more concerned about the Saints defense, which simply hasn't held up well at all through the first three weeks of the season. A trip to Detroit as a road favorite awaits this week.Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings are completely lost right now and fresh off another demoralizing home loss last Sunday, it's tough to envision them picking themselves up off the mat. The good news is they draw a winnable game against the Texans this Sunday but after that they'll play two of their next three contests against the Seahawks and Packers - both on the road. Mike Zimmer's archaic gameplanning simply isn't going to lead to many 'W's, especially with an injury-ravaged defense - once the strength of the team.New York GiantsAfter getting blown out by an undermanned 49ers squad last week, the Giants will pack up and head to the west coast to face what will be a highly-motivated Rams team on Sunday afternoon. Without RB Saquon Barkley there's really not much for sophomore QB Daniel Jones to lean on in this offense. Defensively, this is a team lacking an identity after allowing 49ers backup QB Nick Mullens to complete 25-of-36 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown last week. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB and NBA Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

The Wednesday card features Game 1 of the NBA Finals along with a full slate of eight MLB Wild Card Playoff games. The MLB card begins at 12:08 PM ET with the Cincinnati Reds traveling to Atlanta to play the 2nd seeded Braves. Atlanta sends out Max Fried as their pitcher with the Reds countering with the likely NL Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer. Atlanta is a -123 money-line favorite with the total set a 7.5 (all odds listed courtesy of BetOnline). ESPN has the broadcast.Game 2 of the Houston Astros-Minnesota Twins series starts at 1:08 PM ET. The Astros won Game 1 of this best-of-three series on Tuesday with their 4-1 victory. Manager Dusty Baker has yet to announce a starting pitcher for this game as of Tuesday night, but he will likely to rely on Lance McCullers pitching on three days rest along with Jose Urquidy as his first two pitchers since Framber Valdez pitched five innings of relief in Game 1. Jose Berrios starts for the Twins. Minnesota is a -147 money-line favorite, with an over/under of 8. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.Miami travels to Chicago to play the 3rd seeded Cubs at 2:08 PM ET. The Marlins plan to start Sandy Alcantara with Kyle Hendricks taking the mound for the Cubs. Chicago is priced as a -166 favorite, with the total not yet installed as of this writing. ABC will broadcast the game.The White Sox defeated Oakland yesterday by a 4-1 score on Tuesday. Chicago will send out Dallas Keuchel for Game 2 to face off against the A’s Chris Bassitt at 3:10 PM ET. Oakland is a -120 money-line favorite with the over/under at 7. The game will be on ESPN.Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in their series with Toronto on Tuesday with heir 3-1 victory. The Rays turn to Tyler Glasnow for Game 2, who will be dueling with the Blue Jays’ Hyun-Jin Ryu with the game starting at 4:07 PM ET on TBS. Tampa Bay is a -142 money-line favorite with the over/under set at 7.San Diego is the 4th seed in the National League playoff seeding, which has them hosting the St. Louis Cardinals with Game 1 set for 5:08 PM ET on ESPN2. The Padres will start Chris Paddack with the Cardinals countering with Kwang Hyun Kim. San Diego is a -158 money-line favorite with a total of 8.The Yankees throttled the Indians in Game 1 of their series on Tuesday by a 12-4 score. New York turns to Masahiro Tanaka for Game 2 at 7:08 PM ET with Cleveland countering with Carlos Carrasco. The Yankees are -125 money-line favorites with the over/under installed at 8. ESPN broadcasts this game.The final MLB game of the evening takes place in Los Angeles at 10:08 PM ET with the Dodgers hosting the Milwaukee Brewers. LA gives the ball to Walker Buehler with Milwaukee countering with Brent Suter. The Dodgers are -235 money-line favorites with a total of 8. ESPN also has this game. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for 9 PM ET on ABC. Los Angeles takes the court for the first time since Saturday when they eliminated Denver in five games in the Western Conference Finals with their 117-107 victory. Miami defeated Boston in six games to win the Eastern Conference Finals by winning Game 6 of that series by a 125-113 score as a 3-point underdog on Sunday. The Lakers are 4.5-point favorites with the over/under at 217.5. 

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NBA Finals: Will Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro be X-Factors?

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

The NBA Finals begins on Wednesday in a series involving two respective leaders of their organizations that played vital roles in the storied history of the other franchise. The Lakers’ LeBron James won his first NBA championship as a member of the Miami Heat while Pat Riley won four championships as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers before eventually becoming the President of the Heat organization. Los Angeles takes the court for the first time since Saturday when they eliminated Denver in five games in the Western Conference Finals with their 117-107 victory. The Lakers have a 12-3 record in the postseason with a Net Rating of +7.7 points per 100 possessions which is the top mark in the playoffs. Anthony Davis led the way for Los Angeles against the Nuggets by averaging 31.2 points per game on 54.2% shooting from the field. LeBron James was just shy of averaging 27 PPG against Denver. While this will be the first NBA Finals appearance for Davis, James will be looking for his fourth NBA championship. He has averaged 28.2 PPG in his ten NBA Finals appearances along with averaging 10.0 rebounds-per-game, 7.7 assists-per-game, and 1.8 steals-per-game. Miami defeated Boston in six games to win the Eastern Conference Finals by winning Game 6 of that series by a 125-113 score as a 3-point underdog on Sunday. The Heat also have a 12-3 record in the postseason with their Net Rating of +4.5 points per 100 possessions being the third-best mark in the playoffs. Miami made only 32.3% of their shots from 3-point land against the Celtics after making 38.0% of their 3-pointers in the previous two playoff rounds. This is an area where the Lakers have been vulnerable as their postseason opponents have made 36.2% of their 3-pointers which is just 9th best in the playoffs. However, LA limited their opponents to attempting 40.1% of their shots from the 3-point line, which was the 4th lowest mark of playoff teams. The Lakers have averaged 23.3 transition points per game in the postseason, which leads all playoff teams. 18.5% of Los Angeles’ possessions in the postseason have come from transition which is the 2nd highest rate in the playoffs. Miami has allowed their playoff opponents to average 1.17 points per possession in transition, which is the 3rd highest mark for playoff teams. The Lakers won both meetings between these two teams during the regular season with their 95-80 victory on November 8th followed up by a 113-110 win on December 13th. Tyler Herro averaged only 7.0 PPG in those two games on 25% shooting from the field and an 18.2% clip from behind the arc. Duncan Robinson averaged just 6.5 PPG on 26.7% shooting while making only 30.8% of his 3-pointers. Yet both players have improved significantly since those games and they have the opportunity to be X-Factors for the Heat in this seven-game series. Herro has scored 16.5 PPG in the playoffs while adding 5.5 RPG and 3.9 APG and shooting 37.8% from the 3-point line. Robinson has added 11.3 PPG in the postseason while making 40% of his 3-pointers. BookMaker has the Lakers as a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 217.5. ABC has the telecast which begins at 9 PM ET. 

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Bad Beats: NFL 4-Team Parlay

by Wayne Root

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

Let’s discuss this crazy four team parlay over the weekend. You won’t believe this happening.Here are the wagers:Buffalo -1.5Pittsburgh -3.5Chicago + 2.5KC/Balt Over 54.5  Keep in mind that a four team parlay pays 10/1. Many call this type of wager a poor person's football lotto. Scraping up $200 to win $2000 is monthly bills-changing money. So off my friend went to Caesar's Sportsbook to purchase his piece of "game day hope." And he was sure to wear his "lucky" hat.  Game 1)   Buffalo  How great do you have to feel with Buffalo leading 21-3 at halftime against the LA Rams. You never know if a lead is safe in the NFL but the first score in the second half is a score by the Bills extending their lead to 28-3. With under 5:00 minutes left in the third quarter, the Rams are driving but who cares with this lead. The Rams score a touchdown making the score 28-10 and the partying continues. The Rams scored again within two minutes and quieting my friends happy expressions at 28-17. In the fourth quarter, the Rams scored another TD and a successful two point conversion having the score 28-25. OH NO!  On fourth and goal, the Rams went for it and scored another touchdown putting the Rams ahead 32-28. My friend was devastated and very quiet...And crushed. Josh Allen got the ball back with four minutes left and moved down the field and scored with .15 seconds left to win the game and cover the point spread. The smiles are back with this winner. The first game is a winner but meanwhile Chicago is getting blown out so it’s kind of all for naught.  Game 2)   Chicago It’s easy to hate Atlanta. They seem to always make a gambler’s life miserably lately. Always losing money on them. They are set to get a mention in pretty much every bad beat story. They have turned the Bad Beat into an art form, working their genius on the gridiron like other true masters work in clay or oils. This game started off slow. The Falcons led 6-3 after the first quarter. We both were prepared to see a close hard fought game. In the second quarter, Atlanta added a field goal and a touchdown to lead 16-3 as the game was getting away. But the Bears scored and at the end of the first half, the Falcons were leading 16-10. Not a problem. The second half start saw the Falcons add 10 quick points in the first five minutes now leading 26-10. The third quarter ended with no further scores. The last fifteen minutes began with the Bears and Nick Foles scoring a TD to cut the lead to 26-16 as the two point conversion failed. Two minutes later, Foles was back and threw a 37 yard touchdown pass to make it 26-23. He’s only getting plus +2.5 points and with under 4:00 minutes left and Atlanta having the ball, we needed to get the ball back and then a miracle score. Somehow, Atlanta didn’t do anything and our new Bears hero, Nick Foles, threw a 28 yard touchdown pass for a touchdown and let the confetti fly as the Bears won 30-26. I can only imagine the Atlanta Falcons can envision the horrid, soul crushing loss that lives inside of their heads. If others want to say that the Falcons blew another game, it’s probably true. At least two legs of the parlay are in.  Game 3)   Pittsburgh  The Steelers game was also an early game so it was difficult where to pay special attention with three games going at once. I had seen an early score while watching the Buffalo game where Houston was up 14-3 but Pittsburgh roared back to make it 17-14. All we knew for sure was the score at halftime was 21-17. The Steelers made the only score in the third quarter tying the game at 20-20. Now for the long 15 minute fourth quarter. We got in at the six minute mark and added a two point successful play to bring it to 28-20 which ended up as the final. We had purposely chosen these three games because the late games were difficult and we thought the extra time until Monday night would give us time to hedge our bets if lucky to go 3-0 with the early games.  Whoopee, Bravo, Presto. We are 3-0 and the best game is left. The perfect two teams to score a ton of points and we have (he does but by now I am truly involved) the over 54.5.  The One Day Wait.  Your mind starts to think of safe vacation spots for you, your spouse and your kids that wouldn’t be too crowded while the weather’s still warm. You know what would be great? A cabin. A nice one with a Jacuzzi right off some hiking trails. You can distance and if society continues to collapse, you’ll already be safely ensconced on a mountaintop watching the world burn from afar. Frankly, it’s my dream scenario. Or a quick trip to the beach knowing it would be prepaid with my $2000 win. What a life we live!!! ————— MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL Kansas City/ Baltimore ov 54.5  There was plenty of fire in the first half as the Chiefs took a 27-10 lead. There could have been more as we were on a tie on points needed  We figured 30 or 31 points would be scored that half so we were in a great position with 37. I was the one to advise my friend to bet the over for the obvious reasons of two great QBs. I liked the Baltimore side and it looked like a oddsmakers trap giving you Mahomes and +2.5 points so the over seemed like the best choice. NOTE: Only four times in history has the Regular Season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP met with the SB MVP winning all four contest. Now back to the game. Only 19 points were needed after the break to push the total over. Thinking back while watching the second half, I was wondering if Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s missed extra point and 42-yard field goal wouldn’t matter.  4th Quarter Finale  Those points mattered. Only three points were scored in the third quarter. My friends heart was sinking. The two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter to leave the Chiefs ahead 34-20 with 8:14 to play. To win $2000, any score would do for over bettors. The Ravens promptly drove down the field, but their drive stalled out with two Kansas City sacks and they turned the ball over on downs. This is starting to be a nightmare. My buddy and I had sweated they two days and three miracle games on Sunday. It’s our fate to win this. Certainly no Greater Power would take us this far and betray our magic ticket bought Sunday from the Church of the Holy Point Spread. Sweating the rest of the game with over eight minutes left was a true sweat thru your shirt moment with $2000 in your front right pocket. Neither of us said much not wanting to say an unlucky thing or being the blamed jinx. It was no longer tictock; it was tic-tic-tic-tic-tic as the minutes were vaporizing at nano speed on the clock. Under five minutes left, under four and three and the the two minute warning. Over bettors were in trouble. Make that big trouble. The Chiefs merely milked the clock and turned the ball over on downs instead of kicking a field goal with 23 seconds to go. So Sad He Lost That had to be the longest and most disheartening loss I have witnessed. I felt it was my money losing by the end. There were no words to say. He won three out of four games and lost money. It was not the right time to say parlays are difficult at best to win. He wins 75% and lost $200. The moral of the story is obvious. Don’t bet parlays. Be sure to read more Wayne Root articles if you enjoyed this one. 

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NBA Finals Preview

by AAA Sports

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

Why Miami will win the NBA Finals: The Miami Heat just clinched their first NBA Finals since the 2014 season. Back then, they were led by LeBron James. One of the greatest, if not the greatest NBA player to ever live. This year, they will try and take down the man that got them 2 rings. The Heat are filled with talent everywhere. Starting with Jimmy Butler, he's been a scoring machine ever since he got drafted by the Bulls in 2011. Now, he's finally found a team that he could potentially win with. Next, they have Bam Adebayo who just dominated the Celtics in Game 6 with 32pts, 14rebs, and 5 assists. They all say that he's the heart and soul of this young team with how hard he works on both sides of the ball. Then, they have two 3pt Specialists in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Both players can knock down shots from anywhere. With guys like Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Jones Jr and Jae Crowder, I think they have a shot. Why LA will win the NBA Finals: Well, the Lakers are the big favorite coming into this NBA Finals, and I think I know why. They have LeBron James (3x Champ, 15x All Star, 4x MVP,) + Anthony "The Brow" Davis who went absolutely crazy against the Nuggets. Them combined, will be extremely hard to stop. LeBron comes into his 10th NBA Finals appearance with a 3-6 record. Although he's lost 6 of them, let's not forget that most of those were against the SuperTeam Warriors. He led the Cavs to a Championship that no one thought could happen, as they beat the best team in NBA History, according to their record. The Warriors were 73-9 that season. Incredible. He also led the Heat to two titles. Now, he will face his old Coach, Erik Spoelstra, as he looks for his 4th Ring. But this time, he's hungry, he's off a ridiculous season, he's got lots of players behind him, and he wants to prove to everyone that he is the best of all time. It's going to be a good one. What I believe: Don't get me wrong, both teams are very talented. That's why they are in the Finals, but I believe that the Heat will outwork the Lakers and take the Larry O'Brien trophy back to Miami once again. A lot of people don't think so, but this Heat team is the real deal. When the 2-3 Zone that they run with the two forwards up top, I believe that it will confuse the Lakers into some bad shots. Especially if the Heat get their shooting back from Jae Crowder, they are going to be really hard to stop, even with LeBron on the other side. 

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NFL Thursday Night Football: Jets/Broncos Preview

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

Week 4 of the NFL season kicks off on Thursday with the Denver Broncos traveling to New York to face the Jets. In a matchup only bettors could love, both of these teams remain winless this season. Only six teams since 1980 have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start to the season. Even with the additional seventh team added to the AFC playoffs this season, it is unlikely that either of these teams will be playing in the postseason. But if you are a fan of head coaches on the hot seat, starting quarterback drama, and long lists of injured players that will be game-time decisions on Thursday, this game offers a smorgasbord of intrigue. Rumors are circulating that the Jets’ could relieve Adam Gase from his head coaching duties after just his sixteenth game as their head coach if his team loses on Thursday. His team has yet to have a lead this season, and their -57 net point differential is last in the league. New York has yet to cover the point spread this season after their 36-7 loss in Indianapolis last week. Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold seems to have stagnated in his development after throwing for only 168 yards last week. Darnold personally accounted for 16 of the Colts points. He threw two interceptions, which were returned for touchdowns, and he was sacked for a safety. In Darnold’s limited defense, the Jets are decimated with injuries on offense. Running back Le’Veon Bell and rookie wide receiver Denzel Mim are on injured reserve. Wide receiver Breshard Perriman has already been ruled out this week with a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder along with starting tackles George Fant and rookie Mekhi Becton are listed as questionable for Thursday. The defense is also dealing with a handful of absences. The depletion of this unit started when linebacker C.J. Mosely opted-out from playing this year because of COVID-19. The team then traded the disgruntled Jamal Adams to Seattle. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins and cornerback Quincy Wilson are questionable to play this week with injuries. In total, the Jets have placed nine players on IR.Denver has also placed nine players on IR with the biggest losses being linebacker Von Miller, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, cornerback A.J. Bouye, and defensive end Jurrell Casey. Cornerback Bryce Callahan, strong safety Kareem Jackson, nose tackle Shelby Harris, and running back Phillip Lindsay head a list of players questionable to play on Thursday.  These names do not include second-year quarterback Drew Lock who is also out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Journeyman Jeff Driskel dropped to 1-8 as a starting quarterback in his career last week in the Broncos’ 28-10 loss at home to Tampa Bay. Driskel was uninspiring in completing 17 of 30 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Brett Rypien completed 8 of 9 passes for 53 yards with an interception in the end zone after coming on in relief, which was enough for head coach Vic Fangio to name him the starting QB for this game. BetOnline lists Denver as a 1-point favorite with the total set at 39.5. The NFL Network has the broadcast with the kickoff scheduled for just after 8:20 PM ET.

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What is a Trifecta Bet?

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

What is a trifecta bet?Imagine friends surround you, you're talking about plans for the upcoming months, and suddenly a buddy comes up with a fantastic idea:  "Why don't we head over to Churchill Downs to try our luck at the Kentucky Derby?"  You and your friends are passionate about horse racing.  You get together to watch the races from all over the world.  Happy Valley in Hong Kong, the Australian racecourses, and every other track around the world are part of your routine.  But the all-time favorite is the Kentucky Derby.When you get there, you are astonished by the adrenaline rushing through your veins.  You spy the tote board, and then look over to the jockeys and horses preparing themselves.  You're here for one single reason:  wagering.  You and your friends come up with a strategy and think about the ways you could make the most profit in one day.  You could go rogue and bet outside your chosen strategy, but you could also go the smart route.In this betting guide, we'll talk about the trifecta bet.  It's an effective way to wager which gives modest bettors an edge at scoring the big bucks with not that much to outlay.  You can imagine a couple of college students who wouldn't have that much to risk, yet are seduced and motivated by the grand prize pools.  It's not weird to see five-figure trifecta pools, and sometimes they can even reach the six-figure number.  We'll share the ins-and-outs to get you started with trifecta betting.  By the way, if you cannot get to your favorite race track, you can always bet the ponies at an offshore race book.  Our current favorite offshore book is BetAnySports, which offers 10% bonus payouts on winnings at major tracks, as well as a 9% rebate on losing tickets (not to mention -105 odds on Football and Basketball games).  Even if you already have a sportsbook, it’s well worth it to sign up with BetAnySports.Take note that this betting guide refers to horse racing in general.  However, trifecta betting is also possible for greyhound racing and jai alai, as well. How to start trifecta betting The trifecta bet is a bit more challenging to understand than the more-straightforward win, place, and show bets.  With the bet becoming more complicated, your risk starts increasing, but your potential profit starts to grow at the same time.  You have a winning ticket when you successfully predict the top three finishers in the exact order.  Meaning, of all the entrants, you have to pick which horse finishes in first place, second place, and third place in the exact order.The first thing you do when you start fantasizing about your next bet is to look at theracing form.  See which horses are competing along with the jockeys.  To illustrate this, let's pretend we're at Churchill Downs preparing for the Kentucky Derby.  Of course, the number of horses would be larger than six, but to keep this example brief, we'll just work with six. The starting horses are: Gold Street Anneau D'Or Chance It Enforceable Gouverneur Morris Authentic With each race, you get “morning odds” on each horse provided by the bookmakers.  Your task, as a bettor, is to handicap the race to determine whether the odds are an overlay or an underlay.  Nevertheless, now it's time to start wagering.  You walk up to the counter, and make a trifecta bet.  You pick horses #1, #4, and #6 to be the top three finishers.  The order you choose is Gold Street (1) first, Enforceable (4) second, and Authentic (6) in third.The race starts, and you're following every move the horses make.  In the end, you only will cash your trifecta bet if the three horses finish in the exact same order as you predicted.  That means Gold Street (1) first, Enforceable (4) second, and Authentic (6) in third.  Any other outcome would mean you have a losing bet. How to calculate your trifecta payout The trifecta payoff can get interesting.  To calculate your winnings, you should know how horse racing payouts work in general.  In the NFL, for example, you're betting against the bookmaker, not against all the other players.  You simply get the available odds, and you place your bet.  With horse racing, it's different.  Horse racing works with a pari-mutuel system.  That means that each bet has an individual prize pool.  Each bettor who can claim a winning ticket after the race takes his fair share of the prize pool.That means it's a bit harder to calculate your potential payout with a trifecta than with, say, a regular moneyline bet in football.  Nevertheless, we can draw a scenario to give you an impression of the trifecta payoff system, and the pari-mutuel system in general.  So, let's pretend we're at the race track and it's time to start wagering: Bettors step up to the window to place their trifecta wagers.  Collectively, 150,000 trifecta tickets are sold, each for exactly $2 per ticket. The betting pool is now worth 150,000 x $2 = $300,000. There are just 100 bettors with a winning ticket as they successfully predicted the correct order of the top three finishers. Each of the 100 winning bettors takes his share of the prize pool:  $300,000 / 100 = $3,000. This is a perfect scenario:  there's no intermediary in the form of the sportsbook or betting site.  Besides that, few trifecta tickets go for exactly $2.  In reality, ticket sizes vary from the minimum bet of $.50 to thousands of dollars.  Your payout is calculated by your percentage of the prize pool and the number of winners.  Each horse race is different, but each horse race does bring you new opportunities. Trifecta box betting As you might notice, trifecta betting is very hard.  You have to pick the exact order of the top three finishers, which is way easier said than done.  There are other ways to reduce your risk and stay away from the actual longshot betting that trifectas could look like.  One of these is the trifecta box bet.  Instead of picking the top three finishers in the right order, you simply pick which horses finish in the top three without regard to the exact order.  To illustrate this, we'll give an example of how a boxed trifecta can look like.  We'll take the same horses of the example above of the Kentucky Derby race.  The ticket for the original trifecta bet looked like this:1 - 4 - 6When taking a boxed trifecta, you take away the risk of your number one horse finishing second and then losing your entire bet.  Instead, you bet on all the possible combinations with your top three finishers.  These three are also known as your key horses.  Then, your trifecta box bet looks something like this: 1- 4 - 6 1 - 6 - 4 4 - 1 - 6 4 - 6 - 1 6 - 1 - 4 6 - 4 - 1 As you can see with a boxed trifecta, you are creating a straight trifecta for each possible combination.  The trifecta key consists of horses numbered 1, 4, and 6, but you cover each possible way the horses could finish.  You are taking less risk, but your initial stake also does increase.  Instead of wagering one combination, you would now have to bet six combinations.  The payout would still be more than enough to cover your stake, so this can be a brilliant way to approach trifecta betting. Trifecta wheel betting Another way to approach the trifecta bet is to go deeper into handicapping.  One example is to make a wheel bet.  Similar to the trifecta box bet, you pick a key horse to win the race.  Now, you are not sure about the other horses, so you set up a full trifecta wheel.  To illustrate this, we'll use the same example as previously mentioned in this betting guide.  There are six starting horses.  You are confident horse number 1 will win the race, but you're unsure about the other horses.  Now, we simply create each possible outcome with your horse number 1 in first place.  That will look something like this: 1-2-3 | 1-2-4 | 1-2-5 | 1-2-6 1-3-2 | 1-3-4 | 1-3-5 |1-3-6 1-4-2 | 1-4-3 | 1-4-5 | 1-4-6 1-5-2 | 1-5-3 | 1-5-4 | 1-5-6 1-6-2 | 1-6-3 | 1-6-4 | 1-6-5 Suddenly, you're making lots of wagers.  This takes away a lot of risk, but it does highly increase your initial stake.  In the example above, there are 20 separate trifecta wagers within your horse box.  That will cost you a lot, but if you manage to land a winning ticket, you will be virtually guaranteed a profit.Trifecta part wheelAnother way handicappers efficiently handle their trifecta bet is by not completing their trifecta wheel, but only going for a small part of it.  That means, you don't just look at the winning horses, but you also look at which horses you think won’t finish among the top three.  In the part wheel, you can leave out any combination that involves a horse you believe won’t finish in the money.  In the above example, let's say you don't think horse number 3 will finish as high as third.  Your trifecta ticket will then look like this: 1-2-4 | 1-2-5 | 1-2-6 1-4-2 |1-4-5 | 1-4-6 1-5-2 | 1-5-4 | 1-5-6 1-6-2 | 1-6-4 | 1-6-5 Now you're left with just 12 bets instead of 20.  That takes away a lot of your initial stake, but it does increase your risk.  You never know what might happen on the horse track, so it's on you to decide how much risk you want to take. What other horse racing bets are there? Trifectas are a small part of horse racing.  Many other bet types might even suit you better.  We'll go through a shortlist of bets, and you can see for yourself how exotic you want to take things: Win -- You pick the horse which wins the race. Place -- You pick a horse which finishes in either first place or second place. Show -- You pick a horse which finishes in either first place, second place, or third place. Exacta bet -- You pick the two horses that finish in first place and second place in the exact order. Quinella -- You pick the two horses that finish in first and second place without regard to the exact order.  It's similar to the exacta bet, but the order does not matter. Superfecta -- You pick the four horses that finish in first place, second place, third place, and fourth place in the exact order.  The superfecta is the hardest of the single-race wagers. There are multiple other exotic wagers, the hazardous type of bets.  Do note that we do not advise you to take on more risk than you're able to handle.  Don't risk any money you're not ready to lose, and always do your research before placing any type of bet.  We wish you happy betting, and a long and prosperous career at the track!

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Sep 29

by Larry Ness

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

NFL concluded Week 3 with a highly-anticipated MNF showdown between 2018 MVP Pat Mahomes and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson. By game's end (KC won 34-20), Pat Mahomes won by KO. The Super Bowl MVP passed for 385 yards with four TDs, no INTs and earned a QB rating of 133.5. Jackson threw for just 97 yards (1 TD / 0 INTs / 73.1 rating) and added 83 yards rushing  but no TDs, Mahomes had now thrown nine TD passes without an interception in 121 attempts (QB rating of 114.3), as the Chiefs joined the Bills, Steelers and Titans at 3-0 in the AFC. The NFC still has three unbeaten teams, the Bears, Packers and Seahawks. The Packers and Seahawks are also 3-0 ATS, while the Titans stand with an 0-3 ATS record. The Bears, Bills, Chiefs and Steelers are all 2-1 ATS. The NFC 'Least' is back, as NFC East teams are a combined 2-9-1 SU and 2-10 ATS (combined minus-97 in point differential). There was a time when the NFC West was saddled with an NFC 'Worst' label but that hasn't been the case for quite awhile now. Seattle sits atop of the division that is a collective 9-3 SU and ATS, with a combined plus-100 point differential. Four playoff teams from the 2019 field are all in some early trouble. Houston (AFC South champs) are 0-3, NFC East champ Philly is 0-2-1 and NFC wild card entrant Minnesota is also 0-3. New Orleans won the NFC South with a 13-3 record in 2019 but dropped to 1-2 after losing a SNF game to the Packers. Those teams are a combined 1-10-1 SU and 2-10 ATS.Speaking of pointspread numbers, here is the up-to-date tally on the season's first three weeks. Home teams went 6-9-1 SU and 7-9 ATS in Week 3, including home dogs going 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS. Week 3 games averaged 52.2 PPG but unlike in Week 2 when games averaged 53.3 PPG with 11 of 16 games going over, Week 3 games saw nine games go over and seven stay under. Y-T-D totals have home teams 25-22-1 SU and 23-24-1 ATS (home dogs are 3-11 SU but 7-6-1 ATS). Over bettors are winning the 'battle' so far, with 29 overs and 19 unders (60.4%). Week 4 kicks off on Thursday, as 0-3 Denver plays at the 0-3 NY Jets. TV ratings should be sky-high.Let's hear it for the Lightning. Brayden Point scored his playoff-best 14th goal and the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 on Monday night to win the franchise's second Stanley Cup (won first in 2004). Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the 10th defenseman to win the award. The Lightning went 2-1 in the seeding round and then 16-6 in the playoffs, as last night's win made Tampa Bay a perfect 7-0 after a loss. Everyone remembers last season's shocking first-round sweep by Columbus after the Lightning had tied the NHL single-season wins record (62) and won the Presidents' Trophy with 128 points. However, the Lightning also exorcised playoff demons from 2015 in the Finals when they lost four consecutive games to Chicago after going up 2-1 plus Tampa Bay also blew 3-2 series leads in the Eastern Conference final in 2016 and 2018. Kudos to the NHL, which played 130 games in a bubble, 25 of them going into overtime. After more than 31,000 tests, there were zero positive coronavirus cases reported among players, coaches and staff inside the bubbles and just a handful among hotel, arena or restaurant employees. There was nothing close to a breakout. The NHL has targeted a tentative Dec 1 start date for next season, but even commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged a later December or January start is possible. However, even that is no guarantee given the uncertainty.We were never quite sure a MLB season (of ANY length) would be played in 2020 but "here we are!" Amazingly, the two teams most-affected by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins and the St Louis Cardinals, BOTH made the expanded 16-team playoff field. So did the Blue Jays, who were not allowed to play home games in Toronto and were forced to play 'home' games at their Triple-A park in buffalo (Toronto played its first 13 games on the road, while that stadium was made MLB-ready). Getting back to Miami, the Marlins became just the second team in MLB history to reach the postseason the year after losing at least 100 games, joining the 2017 Minnesota Twins. Their 16-season playoff drought was the second-longest active streak in the majors, behind the Seattle Mariners (19). The Marlins have been to the playoffs only twice before in franchise history but they won the World Series both times (watch out!). MLB's 60-game schedule was limited to regional play, so SEVEN of the eight wild card series features teams that haven't met since 2019! The exception is the series between AL East rivals Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Padres (NL's No. 4 seed) are in the postseason for the first time since 2006, the White Sox (AL's No. 7 seed) are in for the first time since 2008 and the Reds (NL's No. 7 seed) are in for the first time since 2013. Tampa Bay won the AL East for the first time since 2010 and is the AL's No. 1 seed. Oakland won the NL West for the first time since 2013, a comfortable seven games ahead of the Astros. Houston, which had won three AL West titles with 101, 103 and 107 wins from 2017-2019, is one of two teams to make the postseason with a losing record (29-31). The Brewers are the other team as Milwaukee also went 29-31, making the playoffs for a third straight season. The Yankees and Dodgers were favored to meet in the 2020 World Series and while the Dodgers put together MLB's best record (43-17), the Yankees fought through injuries to go a much more modest 33-27, entering as the AL's No. 5 seed. The Dodgers are solid favorites at BetOnline to win the NL at +140, followed by the Padres (+450), the Braves (+575) and the Cubs (+750). All other teams are 10-1 or higher. The AL race is tighter, with the Rays at +325 and the Yanks at +350. The Twins (+575), A's (+650), White Sox (+700) and the Indians (+700) follow, with the remaining teams at 10-1 or higher. The Dodgers are +300 to win the World Series, while the Rays and Yankees are both listed at +650. All others are 10-1 or higher.The Four AL series begin Tuesday, with the four NL Game 1s set for Wednesday. All four AL series will also play on Wednesday (EIGHT games in all), as FOUR teams will be one loss away from elimination. This season's wild card round could be nicknamed, "The Fast and Furious," Play Ball!Good luck...Larry

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