2020 NFL Division Best Bets

by Doc's Sports

Friday, Aug 07, 2020

Football is back, baby - or at least sort of. With the division odds released and a bunch of other props available including MVP, season win totals, to make the playoffs, and everything in between, there finally feels like some normalcy is back in the world. However, it doesn’t help that the Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Steelers is cancelled and that the preseason is still up in the air in terms of when it will be played, if at all. But I like to live in the positive. Football will be played this season, and if you want best bets to win the divisions, you’ve come to the right place. Below are my best division bets for the 2020 NFL season. AFC East Best Bet – Buffalo Bills (+125) – The Buffalo Bills were an incompetent coaching decision and a miraculous sack-avoidance away from beating the Houston Texans in last year’s wild-card game. They come into this season with all the same pieces on offense with the inclusion of a deep threat in Stefon Diggs. The defense remains intact and should be able to dominate and lead the league once again. Their opponents – the Jets (a joke) and the Dolphins (a bigger joke) have no shot at winning the division, so that leaves those guys up in Foxboro. Did you know they lost Tom Brady in the offseason but signed Cam Newton to lead the way? Are we sure Newton is healthy? Are we sure Newton fits the Bill Belichick mold? Are we sure that the Patriots are going to have another winning season? Until I’m proven wrong, I’m taking the Bills to grab the division title.  AFC North Best Bet – Baltimore Ravens (-250) – This division bet is a no-brainer. You have the Ravens coming into the season with arguably the second most unstoppable offense in the league, and they have a chip on their shoulder because of how last season ended. Lamar Jackson is a year older and a year wiser, and the offense returns all the same parts which will only help expand the playbook and terrorize defenses. The Bengals and Browns are still going to be the laughing stalks of the AFC, and only the Steelers have a shot at dethroning the reigning AFC North Champs. However, the Steelers have issues. They are solid defensively, but if Big Ben goes down with injury again or plays like the old QB he is, the offense will once again sputter under Mason Rudolph. AFC South Best Bet – Tennessee Titans (+162) – I really believe what the Tennessee Titans did last year to end the season will continue again this year. They believe in Ryan Tannehill, and they have an offense that can work in all environments thanks to Derrick Henry running the ball from the backfield. The defense is returning. And with teams like the Texans and Colts set to take a step back, the Titans could be the beneficiary of a weak division. Let’s not forget the Jaguars, who since their loss in the AFC Championship Game, have looked like a complete dumpster fire. This is a great price we are getting on the Titans, and we believe they can get back to the playoffs again this season. AFC West Best Bet – Kansas City Chiefs (-450) – Is the Super Bowl hangover real? Well, we’ll see this upcoming season as the Chiefs look to defend their World Championship against 31 hungry teams. The Chiefs should run away with the division seeing as how nobody in the AFC West got better, and that includes the Chargers getting worse with the departure of Philip Rivers. The Chiefs return essentially their entire roster from last year’s Super Bowl-winning team. And with Patrick Mahomes another year stronger and wiser, there is no telling how great of a season he could have and in turn lead the Chiefs to more postseason glory. I know it doesn’t take much to tout a -450-division favorite, but sometimes it’s the only option. NFC East Best Bet – Philadelphia Eagles (+135) – This bet would be more of a fade on the Cowboys than a trusting of the Eagles and their offense. The Eagles will finally (knock on wood) have another healthy season from Carson Wentz, and that should up their game dramatically from what we saw last season. The Eagles essentially only have to worry about the Cowboys in the division, with the Giants and Redskins going through another year of the rebuilding process. The Cowboys seemingly have a dozen or so distractions at all times of the year, and we just are not convinced they are as good a team as everyone makes them out to be. The Eagles defense can be just as good as anyone when they are playing well, and with Wentz under center the Eagles have arguably the best quarterback in the division wearing their colors. Take the Eagles. NFC North Best Bet – Green Bay Packers (+162) – This season is going to go one of two ways for the Packers, and I don’t see any in-between. The Packers are either going to be 7-9 or 8-8, and Aaron Rodgers Is going to give up on his team and pave the way for Jordan Love. Or Rodgers is going to have an “eff-you” season and put up MVP like numbers and show the Packers brass why drafting his “replacement” so soon was a gigantic mistake. Rodgers is a prima donna, yes, but he’s got too many weapons around him and the talent required to make this a dominating season. Furthermore, The Vikings just lost one of their best receivers to Buffalo, and the defense is going to take a step back this year. And we all know how mediocre the Bears and Lions are. This is a great number we are getting on the Packers to win the division. NFC South Best Bet – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+140) - I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I think Tom Brady is going to have a great season and he’s going to lead the Bucs to the postseason. The Bucs offense may just be the best in the division, and that’s saying something with the Saints and Falcons also in the league. The Bucs are explosive at every skill position. And with a quarterback that finally has the experience and a winning mentality (sorry, Jameis), the Bucs are prime to take the next step. As for the Saints and Falcons – the other two division threats, the Saints pose a bigger threat with Drew Brees leading the way, but the defense is suspect. Atlanta consistently underachieves, so at +140, we think there is great value on the Bucs. NFC West Best Bet – San Francisco 49ers (-110) – The NFC West may be the best division in football once again this year. The Niners lead the way after their crushing Super Bowl loss, and we expect them to make some noise once again this season. The Seahawks are going to contend but have fallen short time and time again thanks to having no real offensive line. And the Rams should bounce back after a down year last year, but we still believe the 49ers are the cream of the crop. It’ll be tight, but I’m taking Jimmy G and that scary defense to grab the NFC West.

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NCAA Football Handicapping: Game 2 Hangover

by Tom Stryker

Tuesday, Aug 04, 2020

Season openers in college football are never easy to handicap.  Unlike the NFL, there are no exhibition games.Some analysts will argue that the second game of the year is even more difficult.  There is a tendency to either overreact or underreact to a teams’ performance in their opener.  Personally, I believe college teams are never as good (or as bad) as they’ve looked in their first game and their true ability to play likely rests somewhere in between.It would be difficult to argue the point that conference games in a season opener take on a greater level of importance.  Losing your first game of the season would be tough.  Dropping that battle to a conference foe would make the beating even worse.Wondering if there was any value in taking (or fading) a team coming off a conference war in their season opener, I turned to the Team Stryker Database  and found an excellent wagering situation that is worth noting.  Here it is:  Since 1980, PLAY AGAINST any college football home underdog or favorite of -19 or less in their second game of the year provided they opened against a conference foe and their opponent is competing in their second game.39 Year ATS Record = 64-37 ATS for 63.3 percentIt makes perfect sense.  Off an emotional battle against a conference foe in their season opener, our host struggles to match that intensity in their second game of the year.  There are a couple of parameters that can be added to this technical situation that really make it pop.  If our “play against” home team is NOT going into revenge and is facing a foe that is NOT off a blowout win of seven points or more, this system drops to a shocking 9-30 ATS.  Good luck, as always,Tom Stryker

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2020 UEFA Champions League: Betting Schedule and Preview

by Team Del Genio

Sunday, Jul 19, 2020

With the Spanish La Liga concluding their 2019-20 campaign and the English Premier in their final week of play, the attention of the soccer world begins to turn to the resumption of the European Champions League in August. The opening round of sixteen elimination stage was in-progress when COVID-19 stopped sports in its tracks in March. PSG, Real Madrid, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig had already completed the two-legs of the matches to advance to the quarterfinals but the final four matches still have second-legs to complete. UEFA has decided that these second legs will take place at the empty home stadiums of the teams that were on the road for the opening leg. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will then take place in a single-elimination knockout tournament on a neutral field in Lisbon, Portugal with all matches taking place as stand-alone daily events at 3 PM ET. CBS Sports Network owns the broadcasting rights in the United States.The competition returns on August 7th with two matches. Lyon travels to Juventus with the french team holding a 1-0 aggregate score lead over the Italian powers. Real Madrid also travels to Manchester City for the second-leg of their match which the newly crowned La Liga champions trailing by a 2-1 score to the recently dethroned two-time English Premier League champions. On August 8th, Chelsea travels to Bayern Munich in a big hole trailing by a 3-0 aggregate score to the Bundesliga champion. Napoli also travels to Barcelona with that aggregate score deadlocked at 1-1. If the aggregate scores after two matches are tied, the first tie-breaker is determined by which team scored the most goals on the road. The quarterfinals begin on Wednesday, August 12th with La Ligue powerhouse Paris-Saint-Germain facing a red hot Atalanta team from the Italian Serie A. The next day, the Bundesliga runner-ups in RB Leipzig will face the third-place team out of La Liga in Atletico Madrid. On Friday, the winner of the Barcelona/Napoli showdown will face the team that advances between Bayern Munich and Chelsea. Then on Saturday, August 15th, the survivor of Manchester City/Real Madrid will face the winner of Lyon/Juventus. The first semifinal match will take place on Tuesday, August 18th between the winners of the Wednesday/Thursday matches. The winners of the Friday/Saturday games will play the next day. Those two winners will precede to play for the UEFA Champions League championship on Sunday, August 23rd in the final match in Lisbon. With the reigning UEFA Champions League title-holder in Liverpool already eliminated from this competition, Europe will crown a new champion on this day.

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2020 MLB Futures Bet: Los Angeles Dodgers to Win World Series

by Al McMordie

Thursday, Jul 16, 2020

Last season, we continued our great run with our futures wagers, as we hit the Washington Nationals (at 18-1 odds) to win the World Series.  And that followed closely on the heels of our 2019 College Basketball futures wager on Virginia (at 22-1 odds) to win the NCAA Basketball Championship.  And, of course, we also cashed the Houston Astros (at 10-1 odds) to win the 2017 World Series.  So, which team is our pick for 2020?  We're going to go with my hometown club, the Los Angeles Dodgers (currently at +400 at BetOnline Sportsbook).   Nothing has gone according to plan for the Dodgers over the last few seasons.  Indeed, last year, they entered the Playoffs as the prohibitive National League favorite, but succumbed in seven games to the Nationals in the NLCS.  Los Angeles hasn't won Baseball's top prize since 1988 but the shortened (60 game) season could be just what the doctor ordered for the Boys in Blue.  The Dodgers usually look like world beaters through most of the 162 games of a normal regular season, only to fade in the Autumn months.  They've won the NL West division the last seven seasons and made the World Series in two of the last three only to come home empty-handed.So, why do I believe this year will be different?  First, the Dodgers pulled off the biggest trade of the off-season when they acquired OF Mookie Betts and LHP David Price from the Red Sox in exchange for some prospects.  It's true that Price has opted out of the season due to the risk from COVID.  But that will do very little to hurt the Dodgers' chances.  That's because this pitching squad is deep -- with uber-prospect Dustin May ready to step in for Price, and others (like Josiah Gray and Tony Gonsolin) waiting in the wings if needed.  And if the pitching staff is deep, then the offense is the Grand Canyon.  No team is loaded with more young hitting and fielding talent than the Dodgers, which is why they could afford to part ways with Jeter Downs and Alex Verdugo in the swap with Boston.The experienced players on this club -- guys like Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, AJ Pollock, and Corey Seager -- will appreciate the short season.  Sixty games won't take its toll on this talented -- but often brittle -- cast of veterans which should should set them up for a deep run in the post-season and a third trip to the World Series in the last four years.  Look for the Dodgers to seal the deal this time.  Take L.A. at +400 to win the World Series.  As always, good luck...Al McMordie.

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Soccer Handicapping Analytics: Expected Goals (xG)

by Hollywood Sports

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2020

Analytics can be a powerful tool in the handicapper toolbox when assessing potential value versus bookmaker odds. While statistical analysis has existed with sports since someone started keeping score, the analytics movement examines data to foster a better understanding of the sports we study and follow rather than relying solely on traditional statistics. Often this data can be more predictive of future activity and results than the conventional statistics. This offers exciting possibilities for sports bettors with the opportunity to deploy more accurate predictive data that a majority of the bettors in the market are not using. In baseball, the two most prevalent statistics associated with starting pitchers are Win-Loss record and Earned Runs Average. A statistical analysis of Win-Loss record determined that those numbers had little predictive value for that starting pitcher’s future performance. Data analysis went even deeper to discover that Fielding Independent Performance data such as strikeouts, walks, and batted ball activity offer a more accurate perspective of how a starting pitcher will perform in the future. Statistics such as FIP, xFIP, and SIERA are attempts to provide more accurate descriptive and predictive measurements of how many runs a pitcher allows. In soccer, the idea of expected goals serves a similar vision. Goals scored and goals allowed may be definitive in determining a final score but that does not mean that those numbers are the most predictive regarding future scores. What are other statistics that are important in scoring goals? Most goals are scored by shooting at the net in open play (with exceptions being penalty kicks and opponents scoring own goals which do not appear to be reliable events that can be created without luck and the random behavior of an opponent). The more shots a team takes at the net, the more likely they will score. And the better quality of these shots, the more likely they will get past a keeper. Expected goals is a metric that determines a statistical probability on every scoring chance a team generates in a match. In this adventure of quantitative analysis, similar scoring situations are logged to determine a scoring probability from a deep data set in a way similar to measurements that predict the accuracy of an NBA shooter attempting a 22-foot corner 3-pointer. Shot attempts that have an empirical success rate of 35% or higher have been categorized as Big Chances. By reassessing a soccer match from the expected goals (xG) and expected goals allowed (xGA) given the activity and nature of all the shot attempts in a match. If xG analysis offers a better evaluation regarding how a team is playing, then it could provide a more precise way to measure subsequent action. For example, Southampton entered match week 32 of the 2019-20 English Premier League season with 38 goals scored. However, their xG of 44.20 suggested that they should have scored at least six more goals on the season given the average likelihood of events regarding their scoring opportunities. Bettors that decided that this information was evidence of the Saints covering the goal-line spread with their match at Watford or that the final score would finish over the 2.5 total were rewarded with Southampton’s 3-1 victory. Armed with expected goals and expected goals allowed data for both teams in an upcoming match can offer handicappers a powerful weapon in exposing the hidden value against the posted side and totals numbers of the bookmaker. But these potential strengths of using expected goals data do come with some caveats. There are some disadvantages to relying on expected goals data exclusively. For starters, one should not consider this objective data. At the beginning of the statistical endeavor, there is a human being assessing and categorizing shot attempts (even if eventually this analysis is then replicated by artificial intelligence). The mathematical formulas are all creations by human beings that are deployed in the quantitative analysis. As long as we live in a pre-Singularity world, this phenomenon is inevitable. And it is ok! Just remember that with the human eye and the touch comes the possibility of human error. There are competing expected goals systems in the marketplace. While ERA and field goal percentage are agreed upon statistics, xG remains a proprietary activity with different agents developing and propagating their numbers. Second, the concept of overachieving or underachieving can be misused. Expected goals attempt to determine the most likely outcomes. But not all outcomes are created equal. Lionel Messi is going to score more goals than Glenn Murray dribbling up the left-wing and talking a shot from 30 yards out. Ederson is more likely to make a spectacular save in that situation than Tom Heaton. While xG attempts to minimize outlier efforts, some players have earned their outlier status on both ends of the equation. Betting against Real Madrid (or taking more Unders) because their number of goals scored seems to be overachieving their expected goals may be foolhardy because they have Lionel Freaking Messi! Similarly, banking on bad teams to start playing closer to their expected points calculation (xPTS — a formula attempting to incorporate xG and xGA to reproduce their expected points for the season) may be foolhardy because that team may truly embody the outlier bad xG and xGA numbers. Third, be careful to not confuse recent results as overachievement (or underachievement) when what may be going on is the in-season improvement (or decline) of a team’s quality of play. Teams do get better (or worse) as the season moves forward. Coaching matters. Players improve. Injuries sometimes have disproportionate impacts. Teams can suffer from a loss of morale. An assumption in analytics that attempts to describe past results for predictive value moving forward is that those past results remain a credible assessment of the team’s quality. Yet team quality can be fluid. Fourth, regression to the mean is a long-term expectation so finding discrepancies between current results with expected goals results may not immediately produce dividends. Be patient. And remember what John Maynard Keynes said about the long-run (to paraphrase, we are all dead). Waiting for what may seem to be inevitable regression can be Fool’s Gold. Last, keep in mind that because the margins are thinner in soccer, the impact of expected goals is smaller. In basketball, identifying discrepancies between an expected score and a projected score using Points-Per-Possession analytics can be more fruitful since a college basketball game averages around 130 combined points per game with an NBA averaging over 200 combined points per game. Because soccer generally sees one zero to six combined goals scored per match, there are fewer scoring opportunities for which the discrepancies exposed via expected goals analysis translates into an actual difference in score. Your team can dominate their opponent on the pitch but still settle for a 1-1 draw. Because there are more scoring opportunities in basketball, the expected value identified from Points-Per-Possession analysis has more opportunities to demonstrate itself. These caveats aside, expected goals is a valuable tool to help the handicapping of soccer. Despite Liverpool winning the 2019-20 English Premier League championship, the xPTS analysis still projects Manchester City to be the better team this season. Those of us that used that information to help to conclude side with Man City in their July 2nd meeting were rewarded with a 4-0 victory. Relying on expected goals analysis alone will probably not be profitable. However, adding expected goals into the array of angles from which to determine value relative to the numbers that the bookmakers have posted should make successful soccer handicapping even more lucrative. Best of luck for us — Frank.

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2020 NFL Futures: Will the Pittsburgh Steelers Make the Playoffs?

by Jack Banks

Monday, Jul 13, 2020

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be bolstered by the return of Ben Roethlisberger and I expect it to be enough to propel the team back into the postseason following a two-year absence. Pittsburgh got off to an 8-5 SU start last season despite not having Big Ben available, only to lose their final three games. Defensively, the Steelers are talented and in fact, finished last season with one of the best stop-units in the league in the metrics we care about the most. The 2020 home schedule shows a solid chance at a 7-1 or even an 8-0 SU mark. I have them losing four to five road games and expect a 10-6 season at the very least as long as Big Ben stays healthy.  The tools on both sides of the line of scrimmage are in place and we expect a return to the playoffs in 2020. - Jack Banks.

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2020 NFL Futures Odds: New England Patriots Unchanged

by AAA Sports

Saturday, Jul 04, 2020

Signing QB Cam Newton hasn’t really impacted the Patriots betting odds for the 2020 NFL Season … yet.  The Pats remain pegged for 9.0 wins at BookMaker, although that’s a heavily juiced number and other sportsbooks have moved to 9.5. Their odds of making the playoffs are -230 at Bovada, which isn’t much different from where they were at (across the board) before signing Newton.New England has enjoyed a historic run of dominance in the AFC East. Tom Brady took over as the starting QB for the franchise in 2001. Since then, the Patriots have won their division all but two seasons. One of those two seasons was 2008 when Brady basically missed the entire season (team still went 11-5 SU). The other was 2002, his first full year as the starter. That’s 17 division championships in 19 seasons, if you’re keeping score at home.The last time that the Patriots won fewer than nine games in a season was the year 2000, Bill Belichick’s first on the job. They almost certainly will experience a drop in wins from last year (when they won 12 games). But are oddsmakers too pessimistic towards the 2020 Patriots?New England’s only competition (in the AFC East) this season figures to be the Buffalo Bills. Ironically, the Bills have not won the division (or a playoff game) since 1995 -- when Cam Newton was just six years old. The Bills have made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and improved their roster this offseason. BookMaker has them projected for 9.0 wins this year as well and they are “favored” to make the playoffs at Bovada. It’s not that the Bills are without question marks entering 2020. Quarterback is probably the biggest one as Josh Allen isn’t an accurate passer. The Bills seem to have a better overall roster (right now) compared to the Patriots, but I hardly love them to go Over the win projection of 9.0 either.For the record, don’t expect much from either the New York Jets or Miami Dolphins in 2020. I expect both of those teams to finish with 10 or more losses. If you’re a firm believer in Belichick and like the Newton signing, then by all means bet the Patriots to go Over the season win total. It’s a two-horse race in the AFC East this season. 

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PGA Golf Preview: Rocket Mortgage Challenge

by Matt Fargo

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2020

The fourth event since the PGA Tour restart takes place this week with the Rocket Mortgage Challenge taking place from Detroit Golf Club. This is the second year DGC has hosted this event so course history is meaningless when looking for a winner. Defending champion Nate Lashley won at -25, six shots clear of Doc Redmond, so there was not a lot of Sunday drama which has not been the case so far this season since the shutdown.Detroit Golf Club is a par 72 course that measures in at 7,334 yards and the players tore it up last year. Part of the reason was that a lot of rain hit the area leading up to the event so greens were soft and receptive and players were able to take dead aim at flags. That should not be the case this year with conditions being dryer so there will be more of a risk reward factor. Additionally, the rough will be longer and with no patrons to trample down the grass, keeping the ball in the fairway is a priority. The past three events have seen a star-studded field but that is not the case this week as only 10 of the top 20 players ranked in the FedEx Cup standings are projected to participate with a pair of events at Muirfield on deck. All players ranked in the top ten in the OWGR were in the field the last two weeks but only three are teeing it up this week, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. Similar to last year’s edition, it should be a wide open event.Key performance stats for this week include Strokes Gained: Approach and Par 4 Scoring. Over the first three weeks, Doc Redmond leads the field in SG: Approach followed by Harold Varner III, Lucas Glover, Viktor Hovland and Tyrell Hatton. As for SG: Par 4, the top five are Hatton, DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Patrick Rodgers and Kevin Na. This is the first event with four par fives and leading the way Eagles gained is Hovland, followed by Alex Noren, Cameron Davis, Redmond and Maverick McNealy. At Bovada Sportsbook, DeChambeau is the odds on favorite at +650 as he has posted finishes of T3, T8 and T6 over the last three weeks to go along with three other tops fives prior to the shutdown. Simpson is next at +1100 following a win at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago. Hatton is +1200 as he has a pair of victories and a four top six finishes in his past five starts. Reed comes in at +1400 but he has been pretty uneven with T7, MC and T24 the last three weeks. Closing the top five is Hideki Matsuyama at +1800 who missed the cut last week.Other notables include Tony Finau +2500, Rickie Fowler +2800, Brandt Snedeker +4000 and Jason Day +5000.

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Major League Baseball's Back (Fingers Crossed)

by Larry Ness

Monday, Jun 29, 2020

After negotiations between owners and players failed to produce a settlement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred instituted a 60-game schedule. It's expected to begin July 23 or July 24 and last until late September. Teams will play their four divisional opponents 10 times each and five interleague opponents in the same geographical area four games apiece (example: NL East will play AL East). The playoff structure remains the same (10 teams) but significant changes are that the National League games will use a designated hitter and when a game moves to extra innings, teams will begin with a runner on second base (that will NOT apply for postseason games).Before continuing, let me first address 'the elephant in the room.' Covid-19 hovers over almost all aspects of our lives and each sport has protocols to be followed. However, to face reality, they are all 'flying blind.' As generals say during war time, "Conditions on the ground will dictate." Here are three conditions (according to reports) that could lead to the season being canceled: 1) if restrictions on travel throughout the country are imposed; 2) if the season poses "an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games,"; and 3) if the competitive integrity of the season is compromised by the number of players who are available.The above is beyond our control, so let's talk baseball. Before the start of the 2020 season was postponed in March, the Dodgers and Yankees were favored to meet in the 2020 World Series. Following the announcement of a 60-game season, the World Series title odds were released by various sportsbooks. At Bovada, the Dodgers and Yankees were co-favorites at +375, followed by the Astros at +800. No other team was better than 15-1. At the other end of the spectrum, the Pirates were 400-to-1, with the Orioles and Marlins listed at 300-to-1.When the coronavirus pandemic suspended the start of the baseball season back in March, the Dodgers had the highest season win total at Caesars Sportsbook at 102.5. Caesars' adjusted win totals for the 60-game season look like this (note: teams must play a minimum of 59 games for season win-total bets to be valid, according to Caesars Sportsbook's rules). The Dodgers opened at 37 wins and the Yankees checked in at 36.5. 18 teams had win totals between 34.5 (Astros/Twins) to 30.5 (Brewers/Red Sox). The Orioles (20.5) and Tigers (21.5) had the fewest win-total predictions (five teams had predictions of under 25 wins).Here's some history you may want to know before you make a future bet. The most wins through 60 games over the past five years were 41, 41, 42, 42 and 39. The average winning percentage of the worst playoff team in each league over the last five seasons is .549 (that translates to 33-27 over 60 games). The worst "playoff" team through 60 games was between 31 and 33 wins in each league in each season (again over the past five years).The volatility of a 60-games season could see some "surprise teams." Remember, the Nationals (2019 champs) were just 19-31 after 50 games last season and 27-33 after 60 games. I think it's possible to make the case that as many as 15 teams are capable of going 39-21 over a 60-game stretch but most would be incapable of sustaining that over 162 games. There's a pretty decent chance that a 31-29 team will make the playoffs, while a 32-28 team will miss it. Could the "third wild-card" team" (the one just missing out), actually have a better record than at least one division winner? It would hardly be a shocker.MLB has always been my favorite sport to bet/handicap but clearly we will be faced with unique challenges this season. It's unlikely that starters will pitch 'deep' into games the first few weeks and we could see many more teams turning to the practice of using "Openers," a la Tampa Bay (the depth of the Rays' bullpen could give them an edge in this shortened season).With the launch of Al's new site this upcoming August, I will feature a daily "Ness Notes" feature, EXCLUSIVELY at It will run Monday through Friday, available by 1:00 ET."Let's play ball!" The NBA and NHL are scheduled to join the 'party' in late July as well, virus permitting.Good luck...Larry

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2020 NBA Futures Betting: Dallas Mavericks to Win Western Conference

by Power Sports

Saturday, Jun 27, 2020

When it comes to predicting future outcomes, I’ve always been of the belief that a team’s point differential is a far more useful tool than their actual won-loss record. This goes for any sport. If this holds true for the Dallas Mavericks, then they very well may emerge as a team you’ll want to be betting on when the NBA resumes games on July 30th.The Mavs owned the league’s 6th best point differential (+6.1 per game) at the time of the stoppage. The only teams to have outscored their opponents by a higher margin per game were: Milwaukee (+11.2), the Lakers (7.4), the Clippers (6.5), Toronto (+6.5) and Boston (+6.3). Collectively, that quintet owned the five best won-loss records in the league. Dallas posted 23 victories by 10 more points in their first 67 games. So they won more than a third of their games by double digits. Only four teams can say they won a higher number of games by 10 or more points.So why didn’t the Mavs have a better record than 40-27 (straight up)? Simple - they were a league-worst 2-9 SU in games decided by three points or less. They also lost three overtime games. Something I have constantly harped on through the years is that a team’s record in close games is NOT a sign of skill, but rather good (or bad) luck. Through its first 67 games, Dallas was clearly snakebit in this regard. Despite the unprecedented way in which the NBA has chosen to conclude its season, the Mavs should experience better results in close games moving forward. One negative sign for the Mavericks moving forward is their 10-16 SU record versus teams that have a .500 or better record. With the bottom-feeders no longer playing games, Dallas will be unable to “beat up” on those opponents. They’ll have to be better against stiffer competition. Of course, many of the close losses that the Mavs sustained in their first 67 games came to .500 or better teams. Again, look for them to be better in that situation.From a personnel standpoint, the Mavs are of course led by Luka Doncic, who has the most 30+ point triple doubles in the league. They won’t have either Willey Cauley-Stein (opted-out of playing) or veteran guard Courtney Lee (calf injury), but are expected to sign Trey Burke as a replacement for Lee.The Mavs lead the league in offensive efficiency and were a league-best 21-10-2 ATS in road games. Remember that homecourt advantage is now “out the window.”  Dallas is currently 15-1 to win the Western Conference at Bovada Sportsbook. Normally, I’d never consider a team at those odds in the NBA Playoffs, but if there was ever a year for a long-shot, it’s definitely this one. Something to keep an eye on - it’s fairly imperative that the Mavs move out of the 7th spot in the Western Conference. Finishing there would likely result in a first round playoff matchup with the Clippers. Even if they can move into 6th place, Dallas will be much better suited for a playoff run. 

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Sports Betting in 2020: A Summer Like No Other

by Scott Rickenbach

Saturday, Jun 27, 2020

With the Covid-19 Pandemic still on the minds of everyone in the summer of 2020, sports bettors and professional handicappers can at least finally take some solace in the fact that North American sports are set to resume in July. Below I am providing a few quick hitters or food for thought on each of the 3 sports that are about to be underway. Of course, we will soon all be turning most of our attention toward football. Indeed, preparation for the upcoming college and NFL seasons is already underway but now is the time to talk about NBA, NHL, and MLB action!In my 3 decades of exposure to sports betting and my 2 decades as a professional sports handicapper, I certainly have never seen anything like this - none of us has! The fact remains the Covid-19 Pandemic will continue to impact the sports world even as we now, finally, play on! It looks like MLB finally has figured things out and is set to resume in the final week of July just prior to NBA and NHL resuming.In terms of MLB, I feel the handicapping world needs to pay special attention to the scheduling for this shortened season. With playing each divisional foe 10 times and then the corresponding division foes (East vs East, Central vs Central, West vs West) being played 5 times I feel this could have a big impact on teams’ success factors. I will use the NL East as an example. Many feel that the Braves, Nationals, Mets and Phillies each have a respectable shot at winning the divisional title. However, the Marlins are nowhere close to being in that discussion. When also factoring in that Miami’s AL East foes will include the Yankees and Rays plus respectable Blue Jays and Red Sox teams, I just do not foresee the Marlins winning many games at all. This is just one example so keep scheduling in mind in a strange 2020!As for the NHL, I feel this could be the least impacted of the sports. These teams will be going quickly into post-season action and I feel the neutral ice venues will not be a big factor. That said, the usual post-season success factors of riding teams with strong team chemistry and grabbing hot goalies as well as watching for big coaching or other match-up edges in the series match-up are all important. Use these factors as “bread and butter” for profits at the betting window throughout the NHL post-season.The NBA, like the NHL, will have the neutral site factor in play. Some believe that teams with a sub-par road performance factor may not perform as well in this situation. However, keep in mind that going away for a true road game at enemy territory is one thing. But, traveling just once to stay at a neutral site location for the length of a post-season is another thing altogether. Take the 76ers as an example. They were so strong at home but so unimpressive on the road this season. However, per my above argument, I feel that does not mean they should be automatically faded. In fact, a bigger factor for the post-season is now the health factor that has been afforded by the time off. Now the Sixers have Ben Simmons back and Joel Embiid healthy again. That is likely to prove to be a bigger factor to consider! The point being that health factors or roster changes since the season was shutdown are worth considering.

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2020 NFL Preview: AFC Conference

by Jim Feist

Friday, Jun 26, 2020

Preparing for the NFL has been remarkably different for the 2020 season than any other in my nearly half of a century of handicapping.  I do not have to tell anybody out there how crazy the first half of 2020 has been and how the Pandemic has seen the cancelling of sports along with a devastating toll on the lives of people all around the world.  We have witnessed personal and business economies hurt or ruined in some cases and many businesses that have not survived.  This has been one of those years you just have to live through and hopefully come out the other end stronger.   We recently have seen baseball looking to start their season on or around July 24 with a 60-game season. Plus, the NHL looks to return around the same time and proceed directly to a playoff format.Still be determined is the effect this Covid-19 year will have on the NFL season. The NFL still appears on schedule for a preseason in August and a regular season week one in early September. Albeit with many new protocols in place which likely will include no fans in the stadiums. I have been doing my work and have some very in-depth analysis of each team in each division. However, for the purposes of this article, I’ll limit my analysis to an abbreviated look at the AFC divisions. AFC EAST:  You cannot mention the AFC East without talking about the team that has dominated this division for a long time now, the New England Patriots.  This will be a new Patriots team for 2020. Gone is future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who departed for the warmer climate of Tampa Bay.  The Pats dominance of this division may be coming to an end. I am not saying they can't win the East, especially when no team might come out of the AFC East with a record much over the .500 mark. The Patriots main challenger will be the Buffalo Bills, who have that excellent defense and exceptionally good coaching. The Jets looked to have improved in the draft and the Dolphins will likely still struggle.  Pats might not have much to contend with in this division other than the Bills. AFC NORTH: The Baltimore Ravens should once again be the team to beat in the North. The Cincinnati Bengals got the number one draft choice and took QB Joe Burrow from LSU. While Burrow looks to be a great NFL prospect, I still see too many shortcomings with the Bengals for them to be any factor this season.  The Steelers welcome back QB Ben Roethlisberger, who knows how to win games.  This will automatically make the Steelers a contender again for the division.  As for the Browns, it is hard to predict a good year ever for this team. No matter how much talent they possess, the team fails to produce consistently year in and year out.  I do not expect the Ravens offense to surprise teams as they did last year with their unique offensive attack. Defensive coordinators will be prepared this year for the Ravens and that should tighten this division considerably between the Ravens and Steelers.AFC SOUTH: The AFC South has seen the Houston Texans rise to the top as the team to beat in this division. They came awfully close last year as we all remember that big playoff loss at Kansas City where they led 24-0 before the Chiefs rallied for a 20-point win. Still, they have an excellent coach in Bill O’Brien to keep moving them forward.  The Tennessee Titans just made the playoffs last year and came close to making a big impact in the post season behind an incredibly good rushing attack. They beat the Patriots and Ravens before losing to the Chiefs, 24-35. Quarterback still looks to be an issue however and that likely will hurt them once again this year. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be a dumpster fire this year and any wins they get will be surprising. The Indianapolis Colts went out and got veteran QB Phillip Rivers in the offseason. Rivers is getting old but still knows how to win and that is what this team needs, veteran leadership at quarterback. Does he have much left in the tank?  For me, the Texans are once again the team to beat here but if Rivers is anything like his old self, we will see this as a close race for the South. AFC WEST:  Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs look to defend their championship and appear to have all the pieces returning to do just that. I think their main competition in that division is going to come from the Denver Broncos.  I like what Denver did in the offseason. I do not usually give a lot of credit to John Elway, but he did a great job and they are going to be much tougher this season. If the Chiefs stumble at all, I think it can be the Broncos that derail them. The LA Chargers will be in a rebuilding mode this year as I do not expect much out of this club. The Las Vegas Raiders have a new home, but I do not see much improvement for the team. They picked up QB Marcus Mariota to challenge for the starting spot, but this club will likely remain right around the .500 mark. What I will say about the NFC is that I expect the 49ers to come right back this season and be the team to beat in that conference.  Let’s hope for a full NFL season and hopefully the return of the fans to the stadiums.

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