Articles

NFL Week 1 Breakdown

by Will Rogers

Sunday, Sep 05, 2021

Week 1BEST GAME – Pittsburgh at BuffaloA battle between one team hoping to take the Next Step and another desperate to bleed one more year out of its veteran quarterback. As if emerging QB Josh Allen wasn’t already one of the best in the league, his job got easier with the emergence of RB Devin Singletary as a potent weapon. Meanwhile, the Steelers will be relying on their defense this season and praying that Ben Roethlisberger’s 39-year-old battered body will grind its way through 17 games and one last decent playoff run. This game opened at Bills -6.5, and that number has held steady with early money pretty much evenly divided.WORST GAME – Jacksonville at HoustonAnyone and everyone who follows the NFL seems ready to toss dirt on both teams, and this could be the first time in league history that the No. 1 draft pick is determined on Opening Day. Houston, which still hasn’t figured out what to do with accused miscreant QB Deshaun Watson, is in full 76ers-type tank mode. Meanwhile, new Jags coach Urban Meyer has more than his share of problems repairing a team which lost its last 15 games last season, by an average margin of nearly 13 a game. Still, SOMEONE has to win, and the books like Jacksonville as a 3-point road favorite.LARGEST SPREAD – San Francisco at Detroit (+7.5)It’s always about the future for the Lions, and this season is no different. Sending out Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff is an obvious downgrade, and the receivers are hardly household names. Detroit really needs its O-Line to improve so it can make defenses at least somewhat respect the running game. If that’s not too encouraging, the Lions drew a short straw with SF in the opener. The Niners are a much better team than the injury ravaged 6-10 club of a year ago, and if they sort out the Garoppolo/Lance quarterback situation it could own the NFC West. Simply put, there is a huge talent gap here and the 49ers would have to turn over the ball several times to make this a game.SMALLEST SPREAD – Los Angeles Chargers at Washington (+1)This one opened as a PK until some early Charger cash pushed it to 1. LA has its 10-year franchise quarterback, which is always the most expensive and difficult part of a rebuilding franchise. Now the Chargers just have to build on Justin Herbert’s foundation. HC Brandon Staley figures to make the defense better and avoid last year’s maddening string of close losses. The WFT most likely won’t be able to win the NFC East with 7 or 8 wins this year, but playing in the worst division does have its perks. Can a good draft and athletes all around cover for aging (he turns 39 the day before Thanksgiving) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? This one opened as a PK until some early Charger cash pushed it to Washinton +1.LARGEST TOTAL – Cleveland at Kansas City (53.5)Tough opener for the Browns, who are coming off an 11-win season and want to keep the momentum flowing this season. There will be immediate pressure on a Cleveland secondary which was awful last season and rebuilt over the summer. The good news is that the Browns figure to be able to move the ball against a mediocre Chiefs defense. Over players figure to hit this one hard despite the large number.LOWEST TOTAL – Denver at New York Giants (42.5)Wasn’t that long ago that the average betting total in an NFL game was 41. This week no game is that low, and six games opened at 50 or above (although Seattle-Indianapolis was quickly bet down to 48.5). Bettors are looking at a Giants QB, Daniel Jones, who was just ok in the pre-season, and a Denver defense that will carry the Broncos this year. Hardly a recipe for a lot of points.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAAF, MLB, WNBA and CFL Previews and Odds - 09/05/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Sep 05, 2021

The Sunday sports card features action NCAAF, MLB, WNBA, and CFL.One game continues Week 1 of the college football season with Notre Dame playing at Florida State on ABC at 7:30 PM ET. The Fighting Irish are a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 55.5 (all odds from DraftKings). Fifteen games are on the MLB docket. Two games begin at 1:05 PM ET. The New York Yankees play at home against Baltimore in the third game of their three-game series. Corey Kluber pitches for the Yankees against Keegan Akin of the Orioles. New York is a -305 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.5. The New York Mets play at Washington in Game 4 of their five-game series. The Mets pitch Taijuan Walker against the Nationals’ Josiah Gray. New York is a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5. Toronto plays at home against Oakland at 1:07 PM ET in the final game of their three-game series. Robbie Ray pitches for the Blue Jays against Cole Irvin of the A’s. Oakland is a -210 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. Four games start at 1:10 PM ET. Philadelphia is at Miami in the third game of their three-game series. The Marlins pitch Elieser Hernandez against a starting pitcher yet to be named for the Phillies. Philadelphia is a -170 money line road favorite with a total of 7. Boston plays at home against Cleveland in the third game of their three-game series. Nick Pivetta pitches for the Red Sox against Zach Plesac of the Indians. Boston is a -160 money line favorite with an over/under of 10. Tampa Bay hosts Minnesota in Game 3 of their three-game series. The Rays pitch Luis Patino against the Twins’ Griffin Jax. Tampa Bay is a -210 money line favorite with a total of 9. Cincinnati is at home against Detroit in the final game of their three-game series. Luis Castillo pitches for the Reds against Casey Mize of the Tigers. Cincinnati is a -235 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Two games begin at 2:10 PM ET. Milwaukee is at home against St. Louis in the final game of their three-game series. The Brewers pitch Corbin Burnes against the Cardinals’ Jon Lester. Milwaukee is a -260 money-line favorite with an over/under of 8. The Chicago White Sox are at Kansas City in the third game of their three-game series. Dylan Cease pitches for the White Sox against Brady Singer of the Royals. Chicago is a -170 money line road favorite with a total of 9. The Chicago Cubs are at home against Pittsburgh at 2:20 PM ET in the fourth game of their four-game series. The Cubs pitch Zach Davies against the Pirates’ Will Crowe. Chicago is a -150 money line favorite. Atlanta is at Colorado at 3:10 PM ET in Game 4 of their four-game series. Charlie Morton pitches for the Braves against Ryan Feltner of the Rockies. Atlanta is a -195 money line road favorite with an over/under of 11. Texas plays in Los Angeles against the Angeles at 4:07 PM ET in the third game of their four-game series. The Rangers pitch Taylor Hearn against the Angels’ Jason Junk. Both teams are a -110 money line favorite with the total at 8. Two games start at 4:10 PM ET. Seattle is at Arizona in the third game of their three-game series. Chris Flexen pitches for the Mariners against Tyler Gilbert of the Diamondbacks. Seattle is a -140 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. Houston plays at San Diego in the final game of their three-game series. The Astros pitch Luis Garcia against the Padres’ Chris Paddack. Houston is a -115 money line road favorite with a total of 9. The Los Angeles Dodgers conclude their series at San Francisco on ESPN at 7:08 PM ET. Walker Buehler pitches for the Dodgers against a starting pitcher yet to be named for the Giants. Los Angeles is a -150 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7.5.Two games take place in the WNBA. Las Vegas visits Chicago on ABC at 3 PM ET. Atlanta travels to Dallas on the CBS Sports Network at 4 PM ET. The Canadien Football League has Saskatchewan playing at home against Winnipeg on ESPN News at 6 PM ET. The Roughriders are a 5-point favorite with a total of 42.

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAAF, MLB and WNBA Previews and Odds - 09/04/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Sep 04, 2021

The Saturday sports card features action NCAAF, MLB, and the WNBA.Thirty-five games between FBS opponents are on the college football slate. Nine games kickoff between noon and 2 PM ET. Five games are on national television at noon. Wisconsin hosts Penn State on Fox as a 5.5-point favorite with the total set at 49 (all odds from DraftKings). Oklahoma is at home against Tulane on ABC as a 27-point favorite with an over/under of 69.5. Michigan plays at home at the Big House against Western Michigan on ESPN as a 17-point favorite with a total of 66. Georgia State is at home against Army on ESPNU as a 2-point favorite with an over/under of 50.5. Kansas State plays Stanford at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on FS1 as a 3-point favorite with a total of 53.Ten college football games start in the 3:30 PM ET to 5 PM ET window. Three games are on national television at 3:30 PM ET. Alabama faces Miami (FL) at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on ABC as a 19.5-point favorite with an over/under of 61.5. West Virginia travels to Maryland on ESPN as a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 57. Marshall travels to Navy on the CBS Sports Network as a 3-point road favorite with an over/under of 46.5. Mississippi State hosts Louisiana Tech on ESPNU at 4 PM ET as a 23-point favorite with a total of 52.5. Texas plays at home against Louisiana on Fox at 4:30 PM ET as an 8-point favorite with an over/under of 58.Twelve games kickoff in the 7 PM ET to 8:30 PM ET window. Three games kick off on national television at 7 PM ET. Houston plays Texas Tech at NRG Stadium on ESPN as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 64.5. Purdue is at home against Oregon State on FS1 as a 7-point favorite with an over/under of 69. Syracuse visits Ohio on the CBS Sports Network as a 1-point road favorite with a total of 56. Clemson battles Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on ABC at 7:30 PM ET as a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 50.5. Texas A&M is at home against Kent State on ESPNU at 8 PM ET as a 29.5-point favorite with an over/under of 67. LSU visits UCLA on Fox at 8:30 PM ET as a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 68.5. Four games conclude the college football card beginning at 10:30 PM ET. Three games are on national television at 10:30 PM ET. California plays at home against Nevada on FS1 as a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 52.5. BYU plays Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on ESPN at 10:30 PM ET as a 12.5-point favorite with a total of 54. San Diego State hosts New Mexico State on the CBS Sports Network as a 30-point favorite with an over/under of 50. Sixteen games are on the MLB slate. Six games start in the afternoon starting at 1:05 PM ET. Tampa Bay plays at home against Minnesota on FS1 at 4:05 PM ET. Chris Archer pitches for the Rays against Andrew Albers of the Twins. Tampa Bay is a -220 money line favorite with a total of 8.5. Ten games conclude the card starting at 6:05 PM ET. Two games are in the WNBA. Phoenix visits Indiana at 1 PM ET. Washington plays at Minnesota at 8 PM ET. 

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College Football's Early Season Difficult Encore

by Tom Stryker

Friday, Sep 03, 2021

It’s never easy handicapping college football games in the first few weeks of the season.  Aside from the knowledge of what key starters are returning, it usually takes a battle or two in order to determine the true pulse of a team.With the help of my college football database, the same one that was featured in the December 13th, 2010 issue of the ESPN Insider magazine, I’ve been able to isolate and profit from a number of early season technical situations that have performed very well.  In September, I will be sharing a few of those with you that have churned a respectable profit.Usually, in the first few games of the season, momentum can be a solid tool when it comes to picking pointspread winners.  This issue’s System of the Week goes against the grain.  Take a look at what I like to call, “College Football’s Early Season Difficult Encore.”Since 1980, PLAY AGAINST any game two non-conference underdog priced at +10.5 or more provided they take the field of battle off a blowout home win of 10 points or more provided they won seven games or less a year ago.41-Year ATS Record = 108-72-1 ATS for 60.0 percentThis Week’s Play’s = OREGON & USCWhen college football teams check in off impressive performances early in the season, the “buy” sign is usually shining bright.  In this situation, it appears to be turned off.  The fact that this team only won seven games or less last year likely means they’re still a work in progress.  (Last year, in a shortened season, Fresno State went 3-3 SU and San Jose State finished 7-1 SU.  The argument could be made that the Spartans would have won more than seven games in 2020 and that would push SJS out of this system.)There is one situation that can be added to this general system that really makes it pop.  If our “play against” side is battling an opponent that won eight games or less a season ago, this system falls to an eye-popping 28-59-1 ATS.  Last year, Oregon won six games and USC tasted victory in five battles.  Unfortunately, it was a rare COVID-19 season in 2020 and the Ducks only competed in seven total contests and the Trojans fought in only six.  Even though the tightener applies, we’ll consider it with a grain of salt.Still, Fresno State and San Jose State are locked into this general negative situation this week and we’ll look to play against the Bulldogs and Spartans.  Best of luck with the UO and the Men of Troy.  

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English Premier League Update

by Ben Burns

Friday, Sep 03, 2021

EPL UpdateThe Premier League recently started its season. Each of the teams has played three matches. Many clubs are right about where we'd expect them to be. However, there are some early surprises. Let's take a closer look.TOTTENHAMThe fact that only one team has a perfect 3-0 record is somewhat surprising. The fact that the team is Tottenham is even more so. Manchester City has a loss while Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool all have a draw. (West Ham and Everton, too.) With an opening match against Man. City and dealing with the drama surrounding what was supposed to be the imminent departure of Harry Kane, even diehard Tottenham fans weren't expecting this fast a start. Yet, here the Spurs are and now Kane is reportedly staying.The 28-year old Kane had this to say: "My focus moving forward is to win silverware at Tottenham and this year is no different. We have started brilliantly in the Premier League with three wins and we have a new manager. This is my focus. We want to win as many games as possible and get that trophy I have wanted all my career."Kane and co. could easily be 4-0 when they take on Chelsea on September 19. Before that showdown comes Crystal Palace. The Spurs are currently laying in the minus 110 to minus 120 range, on the 3-way line. Note that the next league games don't come until September 11. For its part, Chelse should be undefeated for the Tottenham match; the Blues are heavy favorites against Aston Villa in their next match. ARSENALEight teams remain winless in league play. Five of those have earned a draw. The other three, Wolverhampton, Norwich, and Arsenal are all 0-3. Naturally, each of those clubs was hoping for a better start. Arsenal fans are arguably the most disappointed. Not only are the Gunners 0-3, but they haven't even managed a goal. That makes this their worst start since 1954. Wolverhampton is the only other club that has yet to find the back of the net. However, while the Wolves have allowed just three goals, the Gunners have conceded nine. Even Norwich, which has allowed 10 goals, has at least scored one of its own. Good news for Arsenal and Norwich. Those clubs face each other on September 11. So, at least one will have its first point/s. Needless to say, Gunner fans will be completely disgusted if their team can't win that one. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAAF, MLB and CFL Previews and Odds - 09/03/2021

by Big Al Staff

Friday, Sep 03, 2021

The Friday sports card features action NCAAF, MLB, and the CFL. Four games are on the NCAAF card. North Carolina visits Virginia Tech on ESPN at 6 PM ET. The Tar Heels are a 5.5-point road favorite with the total set at 63 (all odds from DraftKings). Duke travels to Charlotte on the CBS Sports Network at 7 PM ET. The Blue Devils are a 6.5-point road favorite with an over/under of 60.5. Wake Forest plays at home against Old Dominion at 7 PM ET as a 32-point favorite with a total of 64. Northwestern hosts Michigan State in the second game of the ESPN doubleheader at 9 PM ET. The Wildcats are a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 45.5. Fifteen games are on the MLB docket. The Chicago Cubs are at home against Pittsburgh at 2:20 PM ET. Alec Mills pitches for the Cubs against Steven Brault of the Pirates. Chicago is a -140 money line favorite. Two games being the schedule under the lights at 7:05 PM ET. The New York Mets visit Washington in the first game of their five-game weekend series through Labor Day. Rich Hill pitches for the Mets against Sean Nolin of the Nationals. New York is a -150 money line road favorite with a total of 9. The New York Yankees are at home against Baltimore in the opening of their three-game series. The Yankees pitch Nestor Cortes against the Orioles’ John Means. New York is a -255 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. Toronto plays at home against Oakland at 7:07 PM ET in Game 1 of their three-game series. Alek Manoah pitches for the Blue Jays against Sean Manaea of the A’s. Toronto is a -155 money line favorite with a total of 9. Four MLB begins at 7:10 PM ET. Tampa Bay hosts Minnesota in the first game of their three-game series. The Rays pitch Michael Wacha against the Twins’ Randy Dobnak. Tampa Bay is a -195 money line favorite with an over/under of 9. Boston is at home against Cleveland in the opener of their three-game series. Nathan Eovaldi pitches for the Red Sox against Cal Quantrill of the Indians. Boston is a -195 money line favorite with a total of 9. Cincinnati plays at home against Detroit in Game 1 of their three-game series. The Reds pitch Vladimir Gutierrez against the Tigers’ Tyler Alexander. Cincinnati is a -190 money line favorite with an over/under of 9.5. Philadelphia travels to Miami for the first game of their three-game series. Kyle Gibson pitches for the Phillies against Jesus Luzardo of the Marlins. Philadelphia is a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 7.5. Two MLB games begin at 8:10 PM ET. The Chicago White Sox visits Kansas City for the opener of their three-game series. The White Sox pitch Dallas Keuchel against Kris Bubic of the Royals. Chicago is a -220 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9.5. Milwaukee hosts St. Louis in Game 1 of their three-game series. Freddy Peralta pitches for the Brewers against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Milwaukee is a -180 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. Atlanta plays at Colorado at 8:40 PM ET in the second game of their four-game series. Huascar Ynoa pitches for the Braves against Antonio Senzatela of the Rockies. Atlanta is a -145 money line road favorite with an over/under of 11.5. The Los Angeles Angels play at home against Texas at 9:38 PM ET in the first game of the four-game series. The Angels pitch Shohei Ohtani against the Rangers’ Glenn Otto. Los Angeles is a -220 money line favorite with a total of 8. Seattle travels to Arizona at 9:40 PM ET in the first game of their three-game series. Tyler Alexander pitches for the Mariners against Madison Bumgarner of the Diamondbacks. Seattle is a -130 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Los Angeles Dodgers visit San Francisco at 9:45 PM ET in Game 1 of their three-game series. The Dodgers pitch David Price against the Giants’ Anthony DeSclafani. Los Angeles is a -115 money line road favorite with a total of 9. Houston plays at San Diego at 10:10 PM ET in the opener of their three-game series. Jose Urquidy pitches for the Astros against the Padres’   Jake Arrieta. Houston is a -145 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. The fifth week of the Canadian Football League kicks off with one game. Montreal travels to Ottawa on ESPN+ at 7:30 PM ET. The Alouettes are a 7.5-point road favorite with a total of 43.5. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: NCAAF, MLB and WNBA Previews and Odds - 09/02/2021

by Big Al Staff

Thursday, Sep 02, 2021

The Thursday sports card features action NCAA-F, MLB, and the WNBA. Six games are on the NCAA-F card. Rutgers hosts Temple at 6:30 PM ET. The Scarlet Knights are a 14.5-point favorite with the total set at 52 at 5Dimes. Central Florida plays at home against Boise State on ESPN at 7 PM ET. The Knights are a 5.5-point favorite with an over/under of 68 (all odds from DraftKings unless indicated otherwise). Two games begin at 7:30 PM ET. North Carolina State is at home against South Florida as a 19-point favorite with a total of 59. Appalachian State hosts East Carolina on ESPNU as a 10-point favorite with an over/under of 55.5.Two games conclude the NCAA-F slate at 8 PM ET. Ohio State visits Minnesota on Fox as a 14-point road favorite with a total of 63.5. Tennessee plays at home against Bowling Green as a 35-point favorite with a total of 65.5.Eight games are on the MLB docket. Three games take place in the afternoon. Philadelphia plays at Washington at 1:05 PM ET after their game on Tuesday was postponed. The starting pitchers have yet to be named for either team. Oakland plays at Detroit at 1:10 PM ET in the final game of their three-game series. Sean Manaea pitches for the A’s against Matt Manning of the Tigers. Oakland is a -170 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. San Francisco is at home against Milwaukee at 3:45 PM ET in the fourth game of their four-game series. The Giants pitch Logan Webb against the Brewers’ Eric Lauer. San Francisco is a -180 money line favorite with a total of 8. Two games start at 7:10 PM ET. The New York Mets are at home against Miami in the second game of their two-game series. Carlos Carrasco pitches for the Mets against Zach Thompson of the Marlins. New York is a -180 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.5. Tampa Bay hosts Boston in the final game of their fourth game series. The Rays pitch Shane McClanahan against the Red Sox’s Eduardo Rodriguez. Tampa Bay is a -160 money line favorite with a total of 8. Pittsburgh travels to Chicago to play against the Cubs at 8:05 PM ET in Game 1 of their four-game weekend series. Mitch Keller pitches for the Pirates against Keegan Thompson of the Cubs. Cleveland is at Kansas City at 8:10 PM ET in the third game of their three-game series. The Indians pitch Triston McKenzie against the Royals’ Mike Minor. Cleveland is a -120 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Atlanta visits Colorado at 8:40 PM ET in the opener of their four-game series. Touki Toussaint pitches for the Braves against Chi Chi Gonzalez of the Rockies. Four games take place in the WNBA. Two games begin at 8 PM ET. Atlanta visits Dallas. Los Angeles plays at Minnesota. The two other games start at 10 PM ET. Chicago is at Las Vegas. New York travels to Seattle. 

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Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB Previews and Odds - 09/01/2021

by Big Al Staff

Wednesday, Sep 01, 2021

The Wednesday sports card features 15 games in MLB. The Miami Marlins/New York Mets game has been postponed because of expected rainstorms. Four games begin in the afternoon. St. Louis plays at Cincinnati in the first game of their seven-inning doubleheader at 1:10 PM ET after their game on Tuesday was rained out. Miles Mikolas pitches for the Cardinals against Wade Miley of the Reds. Colorado plays at Texas in the final game of their three-game series at 2:05 PM ET. The Rockies pitch Kyle Freeland against the Rangers’ Kohei Arihara. Colorado is a -135 money line road favorite with the total set at 9 (all odds from DraftKings). San Diego is at Arizona at 3:40 PM ET in the third game of their three-game series. Yu Darvish pitches for the Padres against Luke Weaver of the Diamondbacks. San Diego is a -240 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Houston completes their three-game series at Seattle at 4:10 PM ET. The Astros pitch Jake Odorizzi against the Mariners’ Logan Gilbert. Houston is a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 9. The second game of the St. Louis/Cincinnati doubleheader is scheduled for 6:40 PM ET. J.A. Happ pitches for the Cardinals against Wade Miley of the Reds. Philadelphia plays at Washington at 7:05 PM ET in the third game of their three-game series. The Phillies pitch Aaron Nola against the Nationals’ Paolo Espino. Philadelphia is a -180 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. Two games begin at 7:07 PM ET. Toronto is at home against Baltimore in the third game of their three-game series. Steven Matz pitches for the Blue Jays against Matt Harvey of the Orioles. Toronto is a -275 money line favorite with a total of 10. The New York Yankees play at the Los Angeles Angels in the final game of their three-game series. The Yankees pitch Gerrit Cole against the Angels’ Packy Naughton. New York is a -280 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Two games start at 7:10 PM ET. Oakland plays at Detroit in the second game of their three-game series. James Kaprielian pitches for the A’s against Wily Peralta of the Tigers. Oakland is a -165 money line road favorite with a total of 9.5. Boston is at Tampa Bay in the third game of the four-game series. The Red Sox pitch Chris Sale against the Rays’ Drew Rasmussen. Boston is a -125 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7.5. Three games begin at 8:10 PM ET. Minnesota is at home against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of their two-game series. Joe Ryan pitches for the Twins against Justin Steele of the Cubs. Minnesota is a -200 money line favorite with a total of 8. The Chicago White Sox are at home against Pittsburgh in the final game of their two-game series. The White Sox pitch Carlos Rodon against the Pirates Mitch Keller. Chicago is a -335 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Kansas City is at home against Cleveland in Game 2 of their three-game series. Jackson Kowar pitches for the Royals against Logan Allen of the Indians. Kansas City is a -130 money line favorite with a total of 9. San Francisco plays at home against Milwaukee at 9:45 PM ET. The Giants pitch Kevin Gausman against the Brewers Brett Anderson. San Francisco is a -150 money line favorite with an over/under of 7.5. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at home against Atlanta at 10:10 PM ET. Max Scherzer pitches for the Dodgers against the Braves’ Max Fried. Los Angeles is a -195 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. 

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Handicapping College Football After a Season Played During a Pandemic

by Team Del Genio

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

After a 2020-21 college football season played without fans, the new ’21-22 season appears to return to looking like the game we observed in 2019-20. COVID is still here, and positive tests threaten to wreak havoc once again with the eligibility of players on game day (even if vaccinated). Yet fans will be back in stands, and each of the 130 teams representing the FBS appears poised to play full schedules. But normalcy has not yet returned for those of us who handicap college football games. After an extremely unusual college football season last year, those games remain the most recent relevant data points to use when assessing the early games for this season. Team Del Genio is a collection of handicappers that worked with and who were influenced by former oddsmaker turned sports handicapper Lenny Del Genio. We hope we analyze these early college football games the way he would, from the perspective of someone thinking about how the point spread and over/under lines were decided. Three principles will guide our early thinking.(1) Last Year’s Sample Sizes were Low. Most FBS teams play at least twelve games each season. Many Pac-12 teams played only four times. Many Big Ten teams did not play more than seven times. Non-conference schedules were abandoned. For many of these teams, there is just not much to gather from playing a third to a half of a typical season. With opt-outs and teams declining bowl games, the stakes changed for many programs. The lack of games between conferences makes the data regarding relative conference strength limited. Handicappers and gamblers making strong conclusions from last year’s results do so at their own risk.(2) Returning Starters/Production is Less Important. Perhaps this has been an overrated factor when handicapping early-season games. A team returning all five starters from an offensive line that was not very good may not be all that advantageous. Talent is probably more important than experience and chemistry. Yet with the NCAA granting all players an extra year of eligibility if they played last year, every FBS team is returning a high number of starters from last year. Returning experience is simply not as important this season since it is an area most programs have benefiting them.(3) More Than Ever, Coaching Matters. After a year impacted by COVID that precluded practice time and coaching opportunities in the spring and the fall, every FBS program got in spring and fall practice sessions. The surprises relative to point spread expectations will probably come from the better-coached programs. Good luck - TDG.

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Starting Pitcher Observations from August

by Team Del Genio

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

The Team ended the month of August by winning their MLB National League East Total of the Month with the Philadelphia/Washington over on August 31st. The Phillies won the game, 12-6, as they scored at least seven runs for the fourth straight game. We concluded that they would continue swinging hot bats against the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin. The left-hander entered the game with a 7.59 era and a 1.41 whip in eight starts since the all-star break. He has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his last eight starts. His strikeout rate of 18.6% of the batters he has faced is the lowest mark in his career. Sure enough, Corbin allowed two home runs and six runs overall in his six innings of work in taking his thirteenth loss of the season. Corbin gave up nine hits and walked four batters. While he struck out four batters, that represented only 14.2% of the batters he faced. Washington has allowed 33 combined runs in their last three games. The Phillies’ Matt Moore struggled in this game as well. He has been rotating back and forth between the bullpen and starting rotation. He has a 2-4 record with a 6.12 era and a 1.55 whip on the season. Since the all-star break, Moore has a 6.82 era and a 1.45 whip in six starts and eight overall appearances. His walk rate of 10.2% of the batters he has faced is the highest since 2014. He walked five batters in this game in his 3 1/3 innings for a 23.8% walk rate. He was pulled after getting one out in the bottom of the third inning after allowing five runs. Our 25* MLB Total of the Month on Monday, August 30th, was scratched when the San Francisco starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto, tested positive for COVID which forced the Giants to resort to a bullpen game. Much of the reasoning for the under in that game was the expected strong pitching performance from Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. The Brewers won the game, 3-1, with the final score still finishing well below the number. Burnes pitched great by allowing only one run in six innings. He allowed only four hits and did not walk a batter. He struck out nine Giants. He entered that game with an 8-4 record with a 2.30 era and a 0.95 whip in twenty-two starts. The hard-throwing right-hander had a 1.67 era and a 0.85 whip in his four starts this month before that effort. Burnes had a 1.87 era and a 0.86 whip in his previous ten starts on the road. We lost our MLB ESPN Sunday Game of the Year on August 29th when the Yankees lost at Oakland, 3-1. We were surprised that New York did not generate more runs against the A’s starting pitcher Paul Blackburn. Our assessment of Yankees’ starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery was on the money. Montgomery allowed just one unearned run in his six innings where he gave up only six base hits and did not offer a free pass. The left-hander had a 5-5 record with a 3.69 era and 1.20 whip in twenty-three starts entering the game, yet that did not tell the full story. Since the beginning of June, Montgomery had a 2.98 era and a 1.16 whip with 43 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings before that start. His strong efforts were not restricted to Yankee Stadium either during this run. In his previous four starts on the road before pitching at the Coliseum on Sunday, Montgomery has a 0.87 era and a 1.11 whip. When pitching at night, Montgomery held a 2.84 era and 1.15 whip in fourteen starts before that effort.Good luck - TDG.

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Handicapping the 2021 NFLx Preseason: Autopsy Report

by Hollywood Sports

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

We concluded a 7-4 mark in the NFLx preseason by winning out 25* NFLx Preseason Game of the Year on Sunday with the Cleveland Browns minus the points against Atlanta. NFL preseason football is beatable — but it requires using a different set of methods than handicapping the NFL in the regular season. We will begin the 2022 NFLx preseason on a 16 of 22 (73%) NFLx run and a longer-running 46 of 74 (62%) NFLx preseason mark. We won six of our seven highest-rated 25* NFLx preseason plays this year, furthering a 13 of 14 (93%) NFLx 25* preseason run going back to 2019 and a longer running 26 of 34 (76%) preseason mark with 25* plays. Being a little choosier while being patient has helped to make decisions as to when to invest in a preseason situation. Handicapping the preseason in the NFL (successfully) is not the same as it was five years ago. Back then, deciphering edges against the point spread mostly involved the qualitative assessment and comparison of both team’s rosters — especially at quarterback. Getting a book on the philosophy each head coach had regarding how they used preseason games has always been important as well — but Sean McVay’s commitment to not play any starters in the preseason established a school of thought that many of his peers have adopted. After no preseason last year because of the pandemic and the league’s shift to just three preseason games, a new dynamic has taken hold this year. It had been conventional wisdom for most head coaches to use the third preseason game as the dress rehearsal game where he has his starters get in their most minutes — and then the last preseason game is used exclusively to make the final roster decisions. Not playing starters in the final preseason game also gave them a week of rest before the regular season while protecting them from short-term injuries that could threaten their status for the start of the season. But with the NFL having next week off before the start of the regular season, head coaches face a dilemma: not playing their starters in this third preseason game could risk them being rusty. First and foremost, handicapping the preseason requires understanding what philosophical approach the respective head coaches are using for the preseason game. Head coaching team trends that are specific to the preseason can help, but the loss of the fourth preseason game makes the sample size thinner even for veteran NFL head coaches. Following beat reporters who can provide insight regarding how the head coach plans to use the game is helpful. Often this news does not break until the day of the game. Favorites were 23-22-2 ATS this preseason. Going back to include the preseason data from 2019, underdogs hold a narrow 54-47-5 ATS mark. The Under was 28-20 this preseason. After the Under was 35-27-1 in the 2019 preseason, the Under is now 63-47-1 in the last two preseasons. I started tracking ATS numbers for games that conclude a three-day joint practice session. Oftentimes, head coaches use the controlled scrimmage environment (where quarterbacks wear the red jersey that prohibits getting hit) to work on their more sophisticated plays and packages. Did that affect the results of the exhibition game? In 2019, dogs were 6-5 ATS in preseason games that concludes joint practices. The Under was 8-3 in those games. In 2021, dogs were 7-5 ATS, but the Over was 8-4. Overall, underdogs are 13-10 ATS in preseason games that conclude joint practices the last two seasons. The Under is 12-11 in those situations the last two seasons. While the sample size remains small, it appears there is no angle to be gleaned from those joint practice situations. Duly noted for 2022! Best of luck — Frank.

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The Lost and Last Days of Scott Frost at Nebraska

by Hollywood Sports

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

Nebraska is (most likely) going to have a new coach for their fabled college football team next season. The writing may have been written on the wall earlier this month when the head coach Scott Frost was placed under investigation for the improper use of consultants and analysts during games and practices. The NCAA investigation may extend to include possible off-campus workouts and practices that Frost organized despite guidelines that prohibited those activities during the early stages of the COVID pandemic. While Frost is a Nebraska alumnus, so too is athletic director Trev Alberts who was hired for the position after Frost’s tenure had started — so he is not an Alberts hire. But if Alberts still had a chance to salvage things this season, the Cornhuskers’ 30-22 upset loss at Illinois as a 6-point favorite likely sealed his fate. It is not so much the upset loss that was infuriating (especially for backers like me) as it was the continued mental mistakes that have become endemic for this program under Frost. Nebraska surrendered a safety that opened the scoring. They then went on to dominate the first quarter — and Adrian Martinez’s inability to complete a potential touchdown pass to a wide-open receiver to take a 14-2 lead led to the Huskers settling for a field goal … which they missed. The Nebraska defense remained dominant — but when an interception on the Illini’s side of the field was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty. The momentum shifted, Illinois scored a touchdown on that drive — and they recovered a fumble at the Cornhuskers’ 41-yard line which they returned for a touchdown to seize a 16-9 halftime lead. The Illini scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 30-9 lead before the Huskers scored two touchdowns to make the final score look respectable. Nebraska won the yardage battle by a 392 to 326 margin — yet Frost’s team was not competitive on the scoreboard. If that performance did not seal Frost’s fate in the eyes of Albert after the game, the coach’s comments after the game probably did. Uttered Frost about the play of his offense: “About half of our game plan was out the window when they lined up how they did.”To paraphrase the football wisdom of Bugs Bunny: “What a maroon!”As if accidentally conceding that one’s offensive acumen does not include the ability to make adjustments (after a month of practice), admitting to being be owned by Illinois coach Bret Bielema in his first game back in the Big Ten along with his defensive coordinator Ryan Walters who he poached from Missouri is not going to go over well with Albert who is one of the most fabled “blackshirts” in the history of the Nebraska program. Frost’s tenure with the Cornhuskers has been a disaster. On the field, the team is now 12-21 with seven upsets losses in his fourth season. They are 9-22 in Big Ten play. Supposedly an offensive guru, Nebraska scored only 23.1 PPG last season which was the lowest mark for the football team this century. The terrible play of the special teams has been the most consistent aspect of the program under Frost. Two of his best players last year, quarterback Luke McCaffrey and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, transferred away from the program in the offseason. Frost and his coaching staff are not developing NFL talent. And the recruiting has completely fallen off. 247 Sports rated the Huskers’ 2022 recruiting class as last in the Big Ten. Frost became a hot name in the college football ranks when he oversaw Central Florida’s 13-0 season in 2017-18. Frost took over that program the year prior after the Golden Knights bottomed out with an 0-12 record. That 2016-17 season for UCF was fluky in that they lost a bunch of talent from the prior year — and then they got hit hard with injuries, bad luck, upset losses, close losses, and a retiring head coach midseason. Frost came to Orlando from Oregon where he was the offensive coordinator. With George O’Leary’s recruits, he was handed a great situation -- which he took full advantage of. Yet in Frost’s five seasons as a head coach, that 2017-18 campaign at Central Florida was the only team he coached a team with a winning record. I think coaches should get some benefit of the doubt from last year’s results given the challenges of COVID. But with the early returns now in for Nebraska this season, the program is lost under Frost’s guidance. Best of luck — Frank.

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