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

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Jan 17, 2021

The Sunday card features a busy day of sports headlined by the final two NFL divisional playoff games. A slate of college basketball complements action in the NBA, NHL, and the English Premier League.The NFL card kicks off at 3:05 PM ET, with Cleveland playing at Kansas City. The Browns come off a 48-37 upset win at Pittsburgh last Sunday as a 5-point underdog. The Chiefs come off their bye week after losing at home to the Los Angeles Chargers by a 38-21 score on January 3rd as a 7-point underdog in a game where Patrick Mahomes and other key starters did not play because they already had the top seed in the AFC playoffs locked up. Kansas City is a 10-point favorite with the total set at 57 (all odds from BetOnline). CBS has the broadcast.The final game in the NFL divisional playoffs kicks off at 6:40 PM ET, with Tampa Bay traveling to New Orleans in the third game between these NFC South rivals. The Buccaneers won five in a row after their 31-23 victory at Washington last Saturday as a 10-point favorite. The Saints have won three games in a row after they beat Chicago by a 21-9 score last Sunday as an 11-point favorite. New Orleans is a 3-point favorite today with an over/under of 52. The game is on Fox.The NHL has two games on its docket. At 12:05 PM ET, Pittsburgh hosts Washington on NBC. The Penguins are looking for their first victory of the season after losing their first two games with their 5-2 loss at Philadelphia on Friday. The Capitals are 2-0 after winning at Buffalo on Friday by a 2-1 margin. Pittsburgh is a -119 money line favorite with the total at 6. The nightcap has Florida hosting Chicago at 7:05 PM ET as a -153 money line favorite with an over/under of 6.5.The NBA schedule features six games. Boston hosts New York at 1:05 PM ET as an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 212.5 to tip off the card. The card concludes at 10:05 PM ET with the Los Angeles Clippers playing at home against Indiana as a 5.5-point favorite with the total at 221.5.The college basketball card begins at Noon PM ET with Iowa playing on the road at Northwestern on CBS. The Hawkeyes are a 10-point road favorite with an over/under of 156. At 2 PM ET, Houston plays at home against Central Florida on ESPNU as a 13.5-point favorite with a total of 130. UMass visits Fordham at 2:30 PM ET as an 8-point road favorite with an over/under of 135.5.Nevada hosts Fresno State at 4 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 135.5. At 4:30 PM ET, Dayton travels to George Washington as an 8-point road favorite with an over/under of 139.5. Loyola-Chicago plays at home against Northern Iowa at 5 PM ET as a 10.5-point favorite with an over/under of 138. At 6 PM ET, Lafayette plays at Loyola (MD) on the CBS Sports Network as a 1-point road favorite with the total set at 151.Three plays are on tap in the English Premier League as Matchweek 19 continues. Tottenham visits Sheffield United at 9 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network as a -0.75 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.5. Liverpool hosts Manchester United at 11:30 AM ET on Peacock as a -0.5 goal line favorite with a total of 2.75. At 2:15 PM ET, Manchester City plays at home against Crystal Palace on Peacock as a -2 goal line favorite with the over/under at 3

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NFL Saturday Night Football: Bills/Ravens Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

The Saturday night contest in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs involves two of the hottest teams in the league.Baltimore has won six straight games with an average scoring margin of +17.3 points-per-game during that span. Yet Buffalo bests those numbers with their seven-game winning streak where they have outscored their opponents by +17.4 points-per-game.The Ravens advanced to this showdown last Sunday with their 20-13 victory at Tennessee as a 3.5-point favorite. Lamar Jackson completed 17 of 24 passes for 179 yards with an interception in the win. The Baltimore quarterback added 136 rushing yards with a touchdown from his 16 carries. Jackson is completing 64.4% of his passes this season for 2757 yards with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He has rushed for 1005 yards with another seven touchdowns. Baltimore is scoring 28.7 points-per-game this season behind a ground attack that averages 35 rushing attempts per game that produces 194 rushing yards-per-game. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards have rushed for 805 and 723 yards, respectively. The Ravens possess the league’s best scoring defense that holds their opponents to 18.6 points-per-game. They held Derrick Henry to just 40 rushing yards last week from his 18 carries.Buffalo is the second-highest scoring team in the NFL by averaging 31.1 points-per-game. Josh Allen leads a Bills’ attack that is third in the league by averaging 289.5 passing yards-per-game. Allen completed 26 of 35 passes for 324 yards with two touchdown passes in their 27-24 victory against the Colts last Saturday as a 7-point favorite. Allen also rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries. Allen is completing 69.2% of his passes this season for 4544 yards with 37 touchdown passes and ten interceptions. He has added 421 rushing yards with another eight touchdowns. The Bills are allowing 23.5 points-per-game on defense, with opposing teams averaging 359.5 yards-per-game. Buffalo hosts this game with an 8-1 record at home.Buffalo has only one player on their injury list, with defensive end Darryl Johnson questionable with a knee injury after not practicing all week. The Bills have lost four players to injury this season after running back Zack Moss is out for the rest of the year with his knee injury. Baltimore has four players on their final injury report. Cornerback Marcus Peters is questionable with a back injury, but he did take part in limited practices. Tackle D.J. Fluker is also questionable with a knee, yet he was also a limited participant in practice this week. Linebacker Matthew Judon got upgraded to probable after dealing with an illness. He took part in full practice by the end of the week. Defensive end Derek Wolfe did not practice this week but was not listed on the final injury report. These two teams last played in December of 2019 when Baltimore defeated the Bills on the road by a 24-17 score as a 6.5-point favorite. BetAnySports lists Buffalo as a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 49.5. NBC has the broadcast at 8:15 PM ET.

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Ness Notes: Saturday, Jan 16

by Larry Ness

Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

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." This is a special Saturday NFL-only Ness Notes edition.Last Saturday and Sunday was called the NFL's Super Wild Card weekend, as there were SIX games as opposed to the usual four. Home teams went 2-4 SU and 2-4 ATS and until last Sunday night's 'explosion' in which the Browns beat the Steelers 47-38, the first five wild card games averaged a very modest 43.6 PPG. Three of the first five went over (counting Ind/Buf as an over, with that total closing 50 1/2 and ending 51). Obviously, Cle/Pit went over, making four overs and two unders for the weekend, as games averaged 50.5 points. Before getting to each of this weekend's games (NFL's Division Round), let me note something about the eight starting QBs. Baker Mayfield is 25, a few months older than Patrick Mahomes, making him the 'graybeard' among the four starting QBs in the AFC 25. Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen are both still only 24 years old. This is in HUGE contrast to the NFC, where the youngest QB Jared Goff (at 26), is older than all four AFC starting QBs. However, he's 11 years younger than Rodgers (37), 16 year younger than Brees (42) and 17 years younger than Brady (43). Not sure what that is worth but I found it interesting. Let's get to the games. The LA Rams (No. 6 seed) will take on Green Bay (No. 1 seed) at Lambeau Field at 4:35 ET on FOX. Over in the AFC, it's a 'Battle of the Bs," as the Ravens (No. 5 seed) travel to Bills Stadium in Orchard Park to face the Bills (No. 2 seed) at 8:15 ET on NBC.The Rams started undrafted rookie QB John Wolford at Seattle last week due to Jared Goff's thumb injury but they beat the NFC West champion Seahawks by battering Russell Wilson and avoiding mistakes. The Rams allowed the fewest points (18.5 PPG) and total yards (281.9 YPG) during the regular season and allowed Seattle just 278 total yards and 11 FDs, while holding them to 20 points. Russell Wilson completed only 11 of 27 (40.7%) for 174 yards with two TDS, while throwing a "pick-6" and getting sacked FIVE times (QB rating of 72.1)! Wilson finished the regular season having completed 68.8% for almost 300 YPG with 40 TDs and just 13 INTs with a QB rating of 105.1.The Rams come to Lambeau to face Aaron Rodgers and a Green Bay offense that led the NFL in scoring at 31.8 PPG and also committed the fewest TOs (11). Rodgers was consistently GREAT in 2020, leading the NFL with 48 TDs, a 70.7 percent completion rate, a 121.5 passer rating, a league-tying-low five INTs. He's the overwhelming favorite to win the MVP award. WR Davante Adams is the first player in NFL history to have at least 100 receptions with 18 receiving TDs in a season, as he finished with 115 receptions and 18 TDs in just 14 games. Goff will start at QB for LA plus both DT Aaron Donald (ribs) and leading WR Cooper Kupp (knee) will play. Will offense prevail over defense? The Packers are favored by 6 1/2-points (over/under is 45 1/2).The Baltimore Ravens ended last season on a 12-game winning streak and entered the 2019 postseason 14-2 as the AFC's No. 1 seed. However, the Ravens lost 28-12 at home to the Titans as 10-point favorites. The Ravens drew the Titans again last weekend and fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter but dominated the rest of the way in winning 20-13. Lamar Jackson finally got his first postseason victory (0-2), running for 136 yards and a 48-yard TD while throwing for 179 yards. The Baltimore D held Tennessee to its fewest points all season and smothered 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry. Henry had run all over the Ravens with 328 yards rushing combined in the last two meetings but had his worst performance of the season, gaining only 40 yards on 18 carries. The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (Josh Allen set franchise records of 4,544 passing yards and 37 TDs) but entered their game with the Colts having lost their last SIX playoff contests since last winning a postseason game following the 1995 season. The Bills' 27-24 win over the Colts snapped that 0-6 postseason skid, winning their first playoff game since a 37-22 win over Miami on Dec 30, 1995. Allen passed for 324 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (121.6 QB rating), while leading the team in rushing with 54 yards and a TD. He's in just this third season but in two playoff games, has become only the FIFTH player since at least 1940 to score a touchdown rushing, passing and receiving in his playoff career (he scored on a 16-yard catch from John Brown in a 22-19 OT loss at Houston a year ago). Which is the 'hotter team? Buffalo enters on a SEVEN-game winning streak and has won 10 of 11, losing only at Arizona when Murray and Hopkins connected on that improbable "Hail Mary." That said, Baltimore has been playing with a win-or-done urgency since early December, following a 1-4 skid that dropped it to 6-5. The Ravens were depleted by a COVID-19 outbreak in a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh (but covered), before reeling off six consecutive wins and seven straight ATS wins. Buffalo is favored by 2 1/2-points and the over/under is 49 1/2.The Browns scored 14 seconds into their game at Pittsburgh last Sunday and led 28-0 at the end of the second quarter! Cleveland was without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19, and assorted other coaches and players because of protocol related to the pandemic. The Browns had limited practice time NONE of that mattered. The Browns were playing their first playoff game since 2002 and walked away with the team's first playoff victory since beating the Pats on New Year's Day 1995 (1994 season), 48-37. However, as a reward Cleveland (No. 6 seed) will travel to Arrowhead Stadium (3:05 DET on CBS) to take on the defending champion KC Chiefs, who earned the AFC's No. 1 seed by going 14-2.Baker Mayfield matured this season and threw for 263 yards with three TDs and no interceptions last week in Pittsburgh. He has not thrown an interception in his last FIVE games. Cleveland averaged 148.4 YPG on the ground, the most for the franchise since 1978. Browns RB Kareem Hunt (841 yards) will face the Chiefs for the first time since they released him but the star RB is Nick Chubb, who is the first player since Miami's Mercury Morris in 1972 to rush for at least 1,000 yards (1,067) and score 12 TDs (he had 12) on 190 or fewer attempts. However, when one talks about offensive stars, Patrick Mahomes shines as bright as any. He was second in the NFL with 4,740 yards passing and fourth with 38 TD passes despite sitting out Week 17. Mahomes has 13 TDs and no interceptions in four postseason starts at Arrowhead Stadium. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire was fourth among rookies with 1,100 yards from scrimmage despite missing three games to injuries. Tyreek Hill was second among WRs with 17 total TDs this season and unanimous All-Pro TE Travis Kelce had 1,416 yards receiving in 15 games (catches), the most in a season by a TE in NFL history. KC is favored by 10 points (over/under is 57) and while the Chiefs were just 7-9 ATS this season, the Browns were only 6-10.The marquee matchup of the weekend will be a showdown between Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the two most productive passers in NFL history. The Tampa Bucs (No. 5 seed) visit the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (No. 2 seed), the only team to have beaten Tom Brady twice in the same season. Drew Brees and the Saints ruined Brady's debut with the Buccaneers after 20 seasons in New England when they prevailed 34-23 in the season opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and they handed Brady the worst loss of his career when they completed the season-series sweep with a 38-3 rout in Tampa on Nov 8. Brady is 43 years old and Brees turned 42 on Friday. This will be the first time the two have met in the playoffs.Brady threw for 381 yards and two TDs in the Bucs' 31-23 win at Washington. It was his 42nd postseason start (31st win). However, it was his first not in a New England Patriots uniform and he led the Bucs to their first playoff victory since the 2002 season! Brees three for 265 yards (2 TDs / 0 INTs / 107.3 QB rating), RB Kamara returned to rush for 99 yards and WR Thomas caught five passes with a TD in the Saints' 21-9 win over the Bears. However, the defense was the star, holding Chicago to 11 FDs and 239 yards, 99 of which came on the game's final TD drive.The combined ages on game day of Brady and Brees will be 85, the highest in NFL history. The Bucs averaged 30.8 PPG (3rd) and New Orleans 30.1 PPG (5th) during the regular season but as noted above, the Saints dominated the Bucs in both regular season meetings. The stakes are much higher in this THIRD meeting, as the winner will earn a trip to the NFC Championship on Jan 24. The Saints are favored by three points (over/under is 52).Good luck...Larry

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

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

The Saturday card features a busy day of sports headlined by the opening two NFL divisional playoff games. A full slate of college basketball complements action in the NBA, NHL, and the English Premier League.The NFL playoffs kick off today at 4:35 PM ET with Green Bay hosting the LA Rams. The Packers come off a bye week after defeating Chicago to end the regular season by a 35-16 score as a 4.5-point favorite. The Rams upset Seattle on the road last week, 30-20, as a 3-point underdog. Green Bay is a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 45.5 (all odds from BetOnline). Fox has the broadcast. The NFL nightcap takes place at 8:15 PM ET, with Baltimore traveling to Buffalo. The Ravens have won six games in a row after they defeated Tennessee on the road last week by a 20-13 score as a 3.5-point favorite. The Bills won seven in a row with their 27-24 victory against Indianapolis as a 7-point favorite last Saturday. Buffalo is a 2.5-point favorite with an over/under of 49.5. The game is on NBC.Six games are on tap in the NBA. San Antonio hosts Houston at 5:05 PM ET as a 6.5-point favorite, with the total at 216.5 to tip off the card. Portland plays at home against Atlanta as a 4.5-point favorite with an over/under of 235 to close out the schedule. None of the games are on national television.The first Saturday of the NHL season has ten games. The puck drops at 1 PM ET, with Boston playing at New Jersey as a -185 money line favorite with the total at 5.5. Two games conclude the card at 10 PM ET. Carolina plays at home against Vancouver as a -138 money line favorite with an over/under of 6.5. Anaheim visits Vegas with the Golden Knights priced as a -220 money line favorite with an over/under of 6. The college basketball card tips off at noon PM ET with Florida State hosting North Carolina on ESPN as a 4-point favorite with a total of 145.5. Marquette visits St. John’s at noon on FS1 as a 2.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 154. Ole Miss plays at home against Georgia at noon on ESPN2 as an 8-point favorite with a total of 145.5.San Diego State visits Utah State at 1:30 PM ET on the CBS with the Aggies a 4-point favorite with an over/under of 145.5.At 2 PM ET, Michigan visits Minnesota on ESPN2 as a 6-point road favorite with the total set at 148. Creighton goes on the road to play at Butler on FS1 as an 8-point road favorite with a total of 140. Bucknell hosts Lehigh on the NBC Sports Network as a 4-point favorite with an over/under of 144.5. Auburn plays at home against Kentucky on ESPN as a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 145.At 4 PM ET, Baylor visits Texas Tech on ESPN as a 5-point road favorite with an over/under of 138.5. DePaul plays at home against Valparaiso on FS1 as a 9.5-point favorite with an over/under of 141.5. Florida visits Mississippi State on ESPN2 in a pick ‘em contest with the total at 136. Furman is at home against East Tennessee State on ESPNU as a 9-point favorite with an over/under of 141.5. The CBS Sports Network has UNLV hosting New Mexico at 5:30 PM ET as any 11-point favorite with the total at 141.5. At 6 PM ET, Clemson plays at home against Virginia on ESPN as a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 116. Loyola-Illinois is at home against Northern Iowa on ESPN2 laying 10 points as the favorite with the total at 140.5. BYU visits San Francisco at 8 PM ET on ESPN as a 1.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 143.5. At 10 PM ET, Gonzaga plays at Saint Mary’s on ESPN as a 16-point road favorite with the total set at 146.5. Utah hosts California on ESPNU as a 12-point favorite with an over/under of 134.Matchweek 19 in the English Premier League opens with five matches. Wolverhampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 7:30 AM ET on the NBC Sports Network. At 10 AM ET, Leeds United plays at home against Brighton and Hove Albion as a -0.25 goal line favorite with the total at 2.75. Chelsea visits Fulham at 12:30 PM ET on NBC as a -1 goal line road favorite with an over/under of 2.5. 

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NFL Saturday Afternoon Football: Packers/Rams Preview

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jan 16, 2021

The opening game of the divisional round of the NFL playoffs involves the top-rated scoring offense against the top-rated scoring defense. The Los Angeles Rams lead the NFL by allowing only 18.6 points-per-game. They clinched a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season with an 18-7 win at home against Arizona. They followed that victory last week by avenging their 20-9 loss at Seattle in Week 16 by upsetting the Seahawks by a 30-20 score as a 3-point underdog on Saturday. John Wolford started at quarterback but got knocked out of the game after completing three of his six passes for 29 yards. Jared Goff came on in relief with his injured hand to complete 9 of 19 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown pass to lead the Rams to the victory. Rookie running back Cam Akers ran the ball 28 times for 131 yards with a touchdown. Wolford is out for this game with the neck injury he suffered last week. Goff has been named the starting quarterback for this game. Los Angeles linebacker Terrell Lewis is also out with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp is questionable with a knee, and David Edwards is questionable with an ankle. The Rams have five players out the season or on Injured Reserve, including running back Darrell Henderson.Green Bay comes off a bye week after defeating Chicago on the road last week by a 35-16 score as a 4.5-point favorite. That was the sixth straight victory for the Packers. Green Bay leads the NFL by averaging 31.8 points-per-game. Aaron Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards with four touchdowns in the victory against the Bears to clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Rodgers is completing 70.7% of his passes this season for 4299 yards with 48 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Wide receiver Davante Adams is having a career year with 115 receptions from his 149 targeted passes for 1374 yards with 18 touchdowns.The Packers host this game at Lambeau Field, where they are 7-1 this season. They are scoring 31.6 points-per-game at home while averaging 406.8 yards-per-game. Green Bay allows 19.5 points-per-game along with 308.9 yards-per-game at home. Los Angeles has won five of their nine games on the road while scoring 26.2 points-per-game and averaging 409.0 yards-per-game. The Rams are allowing 23.1 points-per-game and 270.4 yards-per-game on the road.Green Bay will be challenged by the Rams' ground game that averages 30.4 rushing attempts-per-game and 128 rushing yards-per-game. Those numbers rank sixth and ninth in the NFL. The Packers allowed opposing rushers to average 4.5 yards-per-carry along with 113 rushing yards-per-game. The Packers’ defensive end Kingsley Keke is doubtful as he continues through the concussion protocol. Green Bay has nine players either out the season or on their Injured Reserve, with left tackle David Bakhtiari being the most notable loss. BetAnySports lists Green Bay as a 6.5-point favorite, with the total set at 45.5.

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Ness Notes: Friday, Jan 15

by Larry Ness

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

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."CBB: There were no top-25 matchups in Thursday play and the only ranked team to play on Thursday was No. 1 Gonzaga, which hosted Pepperdine. The Waves were playing their first game after a 23-day layoff due to COVID-19 concerns but Pepperdine only trailed by a score of 43-39 at halftime. However, Gonzaga pulled away for a 95-70 win but a non-cover (Bulldogs closed as a 27 point favorite). The Bulldogs are 95-0 against West Coast Conference teams not named Saint Mary's or BYU since 2014 (note: BYU won 62-52 at St Mary's last night). Gonzaga is 13-0 SU but just 6-6-1 ATS on the season. However, the Zags have won 17 straight games and 46 straight at home (longest active streak).Joining Gonzaga as unbeaten teams which have played double digits in games are 13-0 Drake, 12-0 Winthrop, 11-0 Baylor (No. 2) and 11-0 Michigan (No. 7). Drake matches Gonzaga's win total but hasn't played since Jan 4 and its next game isn't scheduled until Jan 26 because of COVID issues. Winthrop moved to 12-0 by beating Longwood at home last night and will play Longwood at home again tonight. A second straight win over the 3-12 Lancers, would give the Eagles 18 straight wins, ONE more than Gonzaga (Winthrop is favored by 16 1/2-points). Talk of unbeatens naturally leads to a discussion of winless teams. Three schools remain winless after at least 10 games. South Carolina St is 0-13 (has lost 19 in a row), Idaho is 0-10 (11 straight losses) and Mississippi Valley St is 0-10. Chicago St is 0-9 but deserves mention because it ended last season on a 19-game losing streak, giving the Cougars 28 consecutive losses. However, Chicago St won't lose any more games this season, as the school suspended the remainder of its 2020-21 men's basketball season due to COVID-19 back on Dec 23.There are no top-25 matchups on Friday, but No. 9 Wisconsin will play at Rutgers. When the Badgers visited seventh-ranked Michigan on Tuesday, it looked like a great Big Ten contest but the Wolverines used a 36-3 run bridging the halves to rout the Badgers 77-54! 10-3 Wisconsin plays at Rutgers, which opened 6-0 and was ranked 11th in the AP, but has now lost THREE straight (and four of five), to fall to 7-4. Both teams badly need a win and I will note that the Scarlet Knights have gone 24-4 SU at "The RAC" (Rutgers Athletic Center) since the start of last season. Wisconsin is favored by three points. Higher ranked teams are 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. There are FOUR such meetings over the weekend, all on Saturday. No. 2 Baylor is at No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 7 Michigan is at No. 23 Minnesota, No. 12 Clemson hosts No. 18 Virginia and No. 14 Illinois is home to No. 21 Ohio State. I'll check back in with college hoops in Monday's Notes.NBA: Thursday's TNT doubleheader saw the short-handed Houston Rockets win 109-105 at the San Antonio Spurs. NONE of the players the Rockets received in the trade -- Victor Oladipo (from the Indiana Pacers), Dante Exum (from the Cleveland Cavaliers), and Rodions Kurucs (from the Brooklyn Nets) -- was in uniform on Thursday, forcing Houston to field a makeshift lineup that more than held its own. San Antonio led 99-90 with 4:39 to play but the Rockets outscored the Spurs 19-6 the rest of the way. Christian Wood (23.1 PPG and 10.1 RPG on the season) had 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. In the nightcap, Denver center Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, Jamal Murray had 17 points and nine rebounds, as the host Nuggets beat the Golden State Warriors 114-104. The Nuggets were missing two starters, Michael Porter Jr. (COVID-19) and Gary Harris (personal reasons). Jokic is averaging 24.2-11.2-10.4 through 12 games. Can he pull a Russell Westbrook? The Raptors were able to win 111-108 over the Hornets but were not able to cover. Toronto, just two years removed from an NBA title, owns the NBA's worst SU and ATS record so far in the current season (3-8 SU & ATS).ESPN is back in the doubleheader business on Friday, as the 6-4 Mavericks take a four-game winning streak into Milwaukee to face the 8-4 Bucks (7:35 ET), followed by the 4-6 Pelicans taking on the 10-3 LA Lakers at Staples Center (10:05 ET). The Bucks have won SIX of seven to reach 8-4 but are just 6-6 ATS. However, the team's plus-11.4 point differential is an NBA-best. Milwaukee is favored by 6 1/2-points. The defending champion Lakers own the NBA's best record but like the Bucks, are a modest 7-6 ATS. However, also like Milwaukee, LA owns the second-best point differential at plus-10.5. The Pelicans expect to play without Eric Bledsoe (eye), Zion Williamson (health and safety protocols) and Lonzo Ball (knee). LA is favored by 10 points. The Chicago Bulls may be just 4-7 but they own the NBA's best ATS record at 8-3. The Bulls visit OKC to play the 5-6 Thunder, who are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS at home! The game is a pick'em.I spent too much time on CBB and the NBA, so I'll offer an NFL-only Saturday edition of Ness Notes.Good luck...Larry

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NFL Divisional Round Saturday Player Props

by Sean Murphy

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

We went 1-2 with our NFL Wild Card props in this piece last week so we'll be looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger this week, with two NFL Divisional Round matchups in the offing on Saturday. While player prop numbers are generally moving targets, the following two plays are widely available (lines taken from BetOnline). Rams vs. PackersPackers RB Aaron Jones over 69.5 rushing yards.Aaron Jones should be front and center in the Packers offensive gameplan on Saturday afternoon. Game script clearly plays into Jones favor with Green Bay favored by nearly a touchdown at the time of writing. Note that the Packers showed a great deal of confidence in Jones in last year's playoff run, increasing his workload after he took a backseat to Jamaal Williams at times during the regular season. Off a healthy regular season, Jones is well-positioned to take the reins and ultimately put this game away should Green Bay build a lead in this game. While the Rams do offer a tough test with a stout run defense, their biggest concern should be on pressuring QB Aaron Rodgers and clamping down on WR Davante Adams. They'll likely be content to give up chunk plays to Jones on the ground if it means limiting the Pack to 3's rather than 7's at the end of drives. I have Jones getting north of 80 yards running the football in this game. Ravens vs. BillsRavens TE Mark Andrews over 55.5 receiving yardsI absolutely love the way this play sets up after Andrews took a backseat to WR Hollywood Brown in last week's win over the Titans. Andrews caught just four passes for 41 yards in that contest but draws a mouth-watering matchup against the Bills here. Note that only one team allowed more receiving yards to tight ends than Buffalo over the course of the regular season. Even Colts veteran TE Jack Doyle was able to find plenty of open field last week as Indy tight ends abused the Bills defense. With the Ravens likely to be playing from behind for some of this game, we should see QB Lamar Jackson rely heavily on Andrews to move the sticks. While I also like Andrews to score a touchdown in this game, I'll back him to get over the very reasonable receiving yards total, banking on a 70+ yard performance. Good luck this weekend and enjoy the games!

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NHL Early Look

by Ben Burns

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

A couple of weeks ago, I told you to "do your homework" for the upcoming NHL campaign. The season started Wednesday, with a bang. Hopefully, everyone has enjoyed an exciting first two days.While it's never wise to over-react to a game or two, it's also important to "pay attention" to what's going on. So far, one thing which has stood out has been the scoring. Nine of the first 14 games have finished above the total. Those 14 games produced 91 combined goals, an average of exactly 6.5. What should we do with that information? Not much, yet. Keep watching though and if the high-scoring trend continues, there may be some opportunities. It's worth mentioning that all 14 of those O/U lines were 5.5, 6 or 6.5. Friday's card is also full of 6's and 6.5's. We have yet to see any sevens. While the oddsmakers can sometimes be a little slow to adjust to scoring trends, when they finally do so, sometimes they can go too far. As someone who typically plays more 'unders' than 'overs,' I'm hopeful that will be the case. Another few days of high-scoring games and the sevens will be quick to start popping up. Games that would have been 5.5 will move to six etc. If and when that time comes, I'll likely be looking to pick my spots with some 'unders.' This year's schedule will see a lot of teams playing each other in "back-to-back" situations. You may have already noticed. The Canucks and Oilers already faced each other twice. Vancouver won the first game and revenge-minded Edmonton came back to win the second. Tonight's card features four games where the teams will be playing each other for a second time: the Flyers/Penguins, Hawks/Lightning, Avs/Blues and the Capitals/Sabres. I'll be paying particularly close attention to these "revenge situations," while also keeping a close eye on league-wide scoring. I'll report back with my findings soon. Until then, good luck with the games! 

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Saints/Buccaneers: Is the Third Time the Charm?

by Wayne Root

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

Guaranteed to hear this statement this week. All week, you will hear the self-proclaimed experts tell you it is difficult to beat a team three times in one season. Let’s look at the weekend game that this aspires to:  the NFL’s  Tampa Bay vs New Orleans game.  One of the conventional wisdoms about the difficulty of dominating opponents you see on a regular basis doesn’t hold up to actual math, which is good news for people worried about the Saints as they play Tampa Sunday.  The History of Three-Peats Since the 1970 NFL Merger, there have been 21 instances where a team swept a team in the regular season and then had a third battle in the playoffs. The sweeping team has gone 14-7 in those games, which favors New Orleans. In the season opener, the Saints beat the Bucs by 11 points, and then the Saints shocked Tampa Bay on the road in the rematch, 38-3. Will Tom Brady be that special quarterback that will be able to break this trend? Wayne Root has a solid personal opinion about this situation after studying these situations for over 34 years.   Using a Baseball Analysis Manager Tony La Russa said he didn't like playing doubleheaders because it's hard to beat the same team twice in one day. But football is not two games. The point is that if you beat an opponent twice, you have proven your opponent to be inferior.  The Tom Brady Effect We shall see if the Tom Brady effect will apply or the Saints going for the 3-0 sweep. Playing on the road does not help his case completely. The home team going for the sweep is also 12-5, 71%. Yet for some reason, everyone is going to talk about the difficulty of beating a team three times in one year. The Dallas Effect NFL teams outside of Dallas have a .706 winning percentage when attempting to beat a team for the third time in one season because the Cowboys are 0-2. So bottom line, pay attention to handicapping professionals for real truths. I guarantee that you will hear how hard beating the same team three times this year more than once. To base a prediction on a game based on something a person believes to be true, even though we now know it is not, shows a lack of research and diminishes one's credibility. And that’s why you stick to Wayne Allyn Root.  

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NBA, NHL and NCAA Basketball Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

The Friday card features action in the NBA, college basketball, and the NHL.Eight games are in the NBA. Two contests got postponed because of COVID issues: Detroit/Washington and Golden State/Phoenix.An ESPN doubleheader tips off at 7:35 PM ET with Milwaukee hosting Dallas. The Bucks have won six of their last seven games to raise their record to 8-4. They come off a 110-101 victory at Detroit as a 10-point favorite on Wednesday. The Mavericks have won four games in a row to improve to a 6-4 record. The last played on Wednesday when they defeated Charlotte, 104-93, as a 4-point favorite. Milwaukee is a 6-point favorite with the total set at 227 (all odds from BetOnline). The nightcap on ESPN at 10:05 PM ET has the Los Angeles Lakers playing at home against New Orleans. Los Angeles is 10-3 this season with eight wins in their last nine games after they defeated Oklahoma City on the road by a 128-00 score on Wednesday as an 11-point favorite. The Pelicans’ record has dropped to 4-6 after losing their fourth straight game on Wednesday, in a 111-106 loss in Los Angeles against the Clippers as an 11.5-point underdog. The NHL has five games on the schedule. Four of the games start at 7:05 PM ET. The finale has St. Louis visiting Colorado at 9:05 PM ET with the Avalanche priced as a -140 money line favorite with an over/under of 6.The college basketball card tips off at 1 PM ET, with Hofstra visiting Delaware as a 3.5-point road favorite with the total at 137.5. Western Kentucky hosts Marshall on the CBS Sports Network at 5 PM ET. The Hilltoppers have lost two of their last three games to fall to 9-4 on the season after getting upset on Saturday, 63-53, as a 5.5-point favorite at Louisiana Tech. Marshall is 7-2 after winning three of their last four games with their win at Louisiana Tech as a 2-point favorite on January 2nd. Western Kentucky is a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 150.UAB travels to Charlotte at 5 PM ET on ESPNU. The Blazers have won their last two games to improve to a 9-1 record after defeating Southern Mississippi on Saturday as a 13-point favorite. Charlotte dropped to 5-5 with two losses in their last three games after their stunning 75-72 loss to Belmont Abbey in a contest off the betting board on Saturday. UAB is a 1.5-point road favorite with a total of 128.St. Bonaventure plays at home against Duquesne at 7 PM ET on ESPN2. The Bonnies won their third in a row to improve to 5-1 after defeating Fordham on the road, 68-54, on Wednesday. The Dukes are 3-4 this season after losing on Wednesday at Dayton, 72-63, as a 6-point underdog. St. Bonaventure is an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 135.Bowling Green plays at Buffalo at 7 PM ET on the CBS Sports Network. The Falcons are 9-3 after their five-game winning streak end on Tuesday with an 88-64 loss to Ball State as an 8-point favorite. The Bulls won four of their last five to rise to 5-2 on Tuesday with an 85-69 win at Western Michigan as a 9.5-point favorite. Buffalo is a 4.5-point favorite with the total set at 161.Nevada hosts Fresno State at 11 PM ET on FS1. The Wolf Pack fell to a 7-5 record on Saturday after losing their second game in a row in their 69-67 loss at San Diego State as a 10.5-point underdog. The Bulldogs have won three games in a row to improve to 5-3 after their 80-65 win against San Jose State on Sunday as a 14-point favorite. Nevada is a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under of 136.5.

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NCAA Friday Night Basketball: Duquesne/St. Bonaventure Preview

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

The Friday night college basketball game on ESPN2 features two experienced teams from the Atlantic 10 conference that began the year with postseason aspirations. Duquesne entered the season with high expectations in Keith Dambrot’s fourth season as the head coach of this program. The Dukes returned all five starters and seven of their top eight starters from the team last year that finished 21-9. Yet three starters have left the team in the last week. Lamar Norman, Jr. and Sincere Carry entered the transfer portal while Maceo Austin is out indefinitely for personal reasons. The loss of Carry seems the most significant, with the point guard choosing to transfer to Kent State. The point guard scored 12.2 points-per-game last year while adding 5.3 assists-per-game. Carry was not as productive this season as he was scoring 9.0 points-per-game and averaging 4.2 assists-per-game. Norman and Austin have also seen their numbers decline this season. Norman was scoring only 5.0 points-per-game after posting a 6.1 points-per-game average last year. Austin was contributing 4.8 points-per-game after scoring 7.0 points-per-game a year ago.Dambrot remains confident in his team after this attrition. Duquesne still has five players that were averaging at least 17 minutes-per-game before those moves. Forward Marcus Weathers leads the team with a 14.0 points-per-game scoring average while adding 6.4 rebounds-per-game. Weathers scored 14.3 points-per-game last year with 8.1 rebounds-per-game. The Dukes are 3-4 this season after losing at Dayton on Wednesday by a 72-63 score as a 6-point underdog. Duquesne’s highest-profile victory was a non-conference win against UNC-Greensboro on December 2nd. The Dukes are 2-3 in conference play with losses to George Washington and Davidson in addition to their most recent setback against the Flyers. They rank tenth in the Atlantic 10 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. Duquesne leads the conference with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 46.3%.St. Bonaventure has won their last three games after they defeated Fordham on the road on Wednesday by a 68-54 score as a 13-point favorite. The Bonnies are 5-1 with a signature victory against Richmond. Their lone loss was against Rhode Island. Head coach Mark Schmidt has all five starters back from last season's 19-12 squad. Jalen Adaway was a part-time starter for multiple seasons at Miami (OH) who transferred to this group. Five players are scoring at least 10.8 points-per-game this year, with Jaren Holmes leading the way with a 16.3 points-per-game scoring average. Kyle Lofton is adding 13.3 points-per-game along with 5.8 assists-per-game. St. Bonaventure leads the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency. Opponents make only 26.3% of their 3-pointers against them, which is the lowest mark in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies are fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency in the conference while leading the A-10 in offensive rebounding rate. BookMaker lists St. Bonaventure as an 8-point favorite, with the total set at 134.

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Jan 14

by Larry Ness

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

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."CBB: No. 4 Texas was at home to No. 15 Texas Tech in the lone Wednesday game involving ranked opponents. Texas scored 48 points in the first half (10-point lead) against a team allowing just 58.0 PPG but while the Longhorns led almost the entire game, Tech's Mac McClung made a long jumper with THREE seconds left to give No. 15 Texas Tech a 79-77 win, ending the Longhorns' 4-0 start in the Big 12. That 4-0 start in Big 12 play was Texas' best since the 2010-11 season when it began league play with 11 straight wins. Higher ranked teams are now 25-12 (.676) SU but just 20-17 (54.1%) ATS in meetings between ranked opponents Y-T-D. Three ranked teams, No. 16 Louisville, No. 18 Virginia and No. 21 Ohio St, all won and covered vs unranked opponents.Thursday's play was supposed to include four ranked teams meeting unranked opponents (no top-25 matchups were scheduled) but THREE were postponed due to COVID. The list includes No. 5 Iowa, No. 11 Houston and No. 22 Oregon. Still on the schedule is No. 1 Gonzaga (12-0) hosting 4-5 Pepperdine. The top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of only THREE undefeated college basketball programs in the top-25 and they've steamrolled their first three WCC opponents, winning 85-62, 86-69 and 116-88. Saturday's 116-88 win at Portland saw Joel Ayayi log the first triple-double in program history (12-13-14) points. Pepperdine hasn't beaten the Zags since 2002 (a span of 39 games!) and hasn't won at Gonzaga since 1998. Gonzaga has won 45 straight at home (longest active streak) and is favored by 25 1/2-points. Pepperdine on the moneyline?NBA: The big news Wednesday was the Rockets sending James Harden to the Nets in a blockbuster four-team trade that also involves the Pacers and Cavaliers, completing the unhappy star's exit from Houston and setting up a potential superteam in Brooklyn. That's assuming Kyrie feels like playing. The details of the trade are all over the net and TV. ESPN featured a Wednesday doubleheader, as the Nets were in MSG to take on the Knicks (Nets won 116-109, as Kyrie missed again) and the nightcap featured the Pelicans in LA to face the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, Paul George added 27 and the Clippers defeated the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 111-106. The Pelicans were missing starters Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe but still covered. The Lakers won easily at OKC 128-99 and upped their NBA-best record to 10-3.TNT features a doubleheader on Thursday, as the Rockets are at the Spurs (7:35 ET) and the Warriors are at the Nuggets (10:05 ET). Not sure who will suit up for 3-6 Houston but note that the Spurs return home off a 4-1 road trip and are now 6-5. The Warriors are 6-5 on the season, after playing SEVEN straight at home (4-3 SU & ATS). The Nuggets 'exploded' out of the gates last season at 12-2 but enter this game just 5-6. The Spurs are favored by seven points and the Nuggets by five. Also playing on Thursday is the NBA's worst team, the 2-8 Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 'home' (actually in Tampa) to host the 6-6 Hornets and are favored by NINE points (Toronto is 3-7 ATS!).Closing CFB thoughts: It was just a formality (no more split national champions these days with the CFP in place) but the AP released its final poll for the 2020 season on January 12 and Alabama was No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Texas A&M and Notre Dame. The preseason poll came pretty close, as Clemson was No. 1 (finished third), Ohio State was No. 2 (finished 2nd) and Alabama was No. 3 (finished 1st). NINE of the AP's final top-10 entered the season ranked somewhere in the AP's preseason top-25, with the exception of Northwestern. The Wildcats were coming off a 3-9 season but went 7-2 and grabbed the No. 10 spot in the final poll. Overperforming were Cincinnati (No. 20 to open the season) and Iowa St (No. 23). The Bearcats finished 9-1 and ranked No. 8 and the Cyclones finished 9-3 and ranked No. 9.10 schools were ranked in the preseason top-25 but finished 'out of the money.' Three of them were in the top-10! No. 6 LSU (defending champs) finished 5-5, No. 7 Penn St finished 4-5 and No. 9 Oregon wound up 4-3. Joining Penn St in opening the season ranked but finishing sub-.500 were No. 25 Tennessee (3-7), No. 16 Michigan (2-4) and No. 19 Minnesota (3-4). There were also 10 schools unranked which finished the year ranked. BYU ended 11-1 and ranked No. 11, Indiana 6-2 and ranked No. 12, Coastal Carolina 11-1 and ranked No. 14, ULL 10-1 and ranked No. 15, Liberty 10-1 and ranked No.17, Miami-Fl 8-3 and ranked No. 22, Ball St 7-1 and ranked No. 23, San Jose St 7-1 and ranked No. 24 and Buffalo 6-1 and ranked No. 25. TWO schools each from the MAC, the SBC and from the Independents made the final top-25. Sports fans and bettors alike were VERY lucky to see the 2020 CFB season 'survive!"Friday's Notes will preview the NFL's Division Round games.Good luck...Larry

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