Sports Picks For Sale - Ben Burns

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • $123K (10*) HOOPS
  • $86K (10*) MLB
  • 83% (10*) ALL


Ben Burns is one of the most successful sports handicappers in North America, and his extended hot streaks have brought him fame and fortune.

Active since:  1998

Location:  Vancouver, BC

Ben Burns has been a major player in the sports handicapping profession since 1998, and is widely regarded as being among the top of the field.  To understand why, consider Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers.  In it, Gladwell asks the question, “What makes high achievers different?”  Gladwell suggests that industry leaders have a number of similarities — that their upbringing (culture, family, what generation they came from, experiences) has much to do with their success.  A look at Ben's upbringing shows that he fits Gladwell's model to a tee.

Exposed to the world of point spreads early and often as a child, Burns reached adulthood as the Internet was beginning to explode, just as the first offshore sportsbooks were springing up.  By that time he'd already spent thousands of hours learning and studying stats.

From an early age it became apparent to family and friends that Ben wasn't a "typical" fan.  At age 11, he was mentioned in a major newspaper (Toronto Star) for correctly predicting a high profile trade before the Major League Baseball trading deadline.  (Winner of the contest got tickets to the All Star game.)

Ben's father and uncles were always involved in a weekly NFL (ATS) pool.  Some of Ben's earliest memories included that pool and his fascination with it.  As soon as he was allowed to play, Ben demonstrated an uncanny ability to surprise the adults.  Around this time, one of his uncles moved his casino business to the Caribbean.  This was the environment from which he came from.

The caption underneath Ben's high-school graduation photo references Ben's love for betting on football.  That's because he was famous throughout his school for annually winning the local football contest, along with the $1700 per year which was awarded to the champ.

Coming of age right as the first sports books were coming online, Ben was fortunate to enjoy some success with his some of his early online sports betting endeavors.  He did so well that the first shop he ever played at ended up refusing to take his hockey bets.

Also, in the very early days of the Internet, Ben won an NBA playoff contest.  The victory awarded him a trip for two to Las Vegas, $1000 cash, a limo at his disposal, free shows, hotel and live sports odds for a year.  Not a bad score for a kid in his early 20s.  However, the bigger win was that Ben was exposed to the world of "professional sports handicapping."  Inspired by his personal success and encouraged by his peers, Ben first made his picks available to the public in 1998, and has never looked back.  In addition to enjoying unparalleld success as a sports handicapper, Ben is a star in the Daily Fantasy Sports arena.  Ben was featured as the “High Roller” in the 2015 documentary film, Living the Fantasy.  And he has won 6-figure fantasy contest prizes in each of Football and Baseball.

Opening Round Recap

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The second round of the NHL playoffs begins this evening. If its anything like the opening round, hockey fans are in for a treat. Let's take a look at some of the top stories, thus far. SCORING IS UPThough things started slowing down slightly towards the end, scoring was way up in the first round of the playoffs. For years, we've been seeing O/U lines of 4.5, 5, or 5.5 in the postseason. This year, the majority of the O/U lines are 6.5. Often, you even have to lay extra juice to play the 'over' 6.5. Yet, despite the high lines, many games continued to fly over the total. The only series which was somewhat "normal," in terms of scoring, was the Dallas/Calgary one. It'll be interesting to see how the upcoming round plays out. WINNER-TAKE-ALLNot only did the first round feature more scoring than normal but it also included a lot of "bonus hockey." A whopping five (of the eight) matchups went the distance. In four of those cases, the home team won. Of course, fans love goals and they love Game 7's. So, in terms of excitement, the postseason is off to a great start. POOR TORONTOThe lone home team which didn't win Game 7 was Toronto. I abandoned any allegiances long ago. However, I grew up a Leafs' fan. So, I can empathize. A few bright spots notwithstanding, for my entire life, the Leafs have under-achieved. So, their supporters are accustomed to heartache and disappointment. This year appeared like it might be different. Then, it wasn't. THREE-PEAT?By rallying to beat Toronto, Tampa showed the heart of a champion. It wouldn't be wise to write the champs off. The Leafs took them to the brink though and the Lightning lost Brayden Point to injury. Now, they face in-state rival Florida. The Panthers are coming off a great regular season and they're coming in hungry. The All-Florida showdown should be a good one. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN?The only series of the first round which ended up being a mismatch was Colorado vs. Nashville. The Avalanche were clearly the stronger team. They swept the 4-game series and outscored the Predators by a combined score of 21-9. Besides Colorado, every other team was tested. While the Avs should receive a tougher test from the Blues, they do look like they'll be tough to stop. Good luck in the second round and enjoy the games. 

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Draft Report: D-e-f-e-n-s-e!

Friday, Apr 29, 2022

You often hear that "defense wins championships" but when was the last time you can remember the first five picks in the NFL Draft all going on the defensive side of the ball? That's what happened last night. We have to all the way back to 1991 to find the last time that the top five picks were all defensive players. Let's take a closer look at some of this year's top stories. #1 OVERALLThe Jaguars got things started by selecting Travon Walker with the first overall pick. While he wasn't orignally expected to go this high, the 272 pound defensive end from Georgia has excellent athleticism and he moved up on the draft boards late.  Recall that the Jags elected to go with QB Trevor Lawrence with the #1 overall pick last year. ROUNDING OUT THE TOP FIVEThe Lions got Aidan Hutchinson with the #2 pick. The defensive lineman from Michigan had previously been projected #1. He led the Big Ten in sacks. Houston's #3 pick was used to secure the first defensive back selected in the draft; Derek Stingley Jr. While he had six interceptions in his freshman season, the LSU cornerback only played three games last year. The Jets had a strong draft and it began with getting Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the fourth overall pick. The AAC Defensive Player Of The Year in 2021, Gardner didn't allow a receiving TD in his three years of college. Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon, the fifth straight defensive player chosen, bolsters the Giants' pass rushing skills. TOP QBThe Steelers needed a QB and they grabbed the first one in the Draft with the #21 pick overall. Local product Kenny Pickett had 49 starts for Pittsburgh. He holds all kinds of Pittsburgh (and ACC) records and is expected to be ready to challenge for the starting job sooner, rather than later. Mike Tomlin commented: "We circled the globe -- or at least the United States -- here the last several months, man, just exploring and researching. And it's funny, we ended up with a guy from next door." Pickett, for his part, added: "I'm pretty familiar with the area code. I had a pretty good idea of who it was. I was speechless. It's a lifelong dream, 23 years of hard work to get to this point. That all came in a phone call. It was probably one of the best feelings of my life. I'm so excited to get started and get to work with the guys who are next door to me my whole career in Pittsburgh."BIG DEALThe Titans and Eagles pulled off the big trade of the night. Philadelphia picked up receiver A.J. Brown in exchange for the #18 overall pick.SURPRISE We've learned not to question Belichick. He's certainly earned the benefit of the doubt. Still, many were surprised to see the Patriots pick Cole Strange with their first pick. The guard out of Chattanooga may well turn out to be a decent player. However, most felt he could have been picked up later on. Sean McVay laughed out loud at the selection. REMEMBERING 1991The first six picks of the 1991 Draft were all on the defensive side of the ball. The first overall pick was Russel Maryland, who went to Dallas. While some had very solid careers, arguably, none of those six ended up being a "superstar." Seven of the first nine picks were defensive players and the other two were offensive tackles. Time will tell how this year's draft picks turn out. All I know, is that I'm already itching for some football. 

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Final NHL Regular Season Report

Thursday, Apr 21, 2022

The basketball postseason is off to an exciting start. Next up are the NHL playoffs. They're set to begin on May 2nd. With the regular season winding down, it's a good time to get caught up on what's been happening.  Who's In?In the basketball playoffs, the top seeds generally fare pretty well. That's not always the case in hockey; upsets are more regular. That said, a strong regular season is still a pretty good indicator of a good team. This year's (current) top 10 regular season teams include: Florida, Colorado, Toronto, Carolina, NY (Rangers), Calgary, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa and Boston. All 10 of those teams have clinched a spot. So have Pittsburgh and Washington. The Edmonton Oilers should be the next team to qualify. The Avs and Panthers will be favored and there's a good chance that at least one of them will be in the Finals. However, any of the teams mentioned is capable of catching fire and going on a run. On The Bubble I mentioned that the Oilers would likely be the next to qualify. After them, things become less clear. Nashville and Dallas and LA should make it. Vegas and Vancouver are in trouble. We'll know more soon. Race For Last? Getting last place doesn't guarantee first pick in the Draft. But it helps. It appears that it'll be a battle between Arizona and Montreal. Other less than honorable mentions include: Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Jersey and Ottawa. Stat LeadersEdmonton's Connor McDavid leads the league in points. He's got 113. Huberdeau, of the Panthers, is right on his heels with 111. Gaudreau, Draisaitl and Matthews round out the top five. The other four get more assists but Matthews has the most goals (58) in the NHL. Don't Be Afraid Of The Puck-Line At this time of the year, many of the favorites start to become very expensive. As most don't like to regularly lay between -200 and -600, that makes the puck-line a more attractive option. Personally, I always find myself utilizing the puck-line more than normal in the second half of the season. I've gone 12-5 with such plays since mid-February, 14-6 if factoring in complimentary selections. I had a closer look and I played at -1.5 goals seven of those 20 times. So, more often than not, I was taking goals instead of laying them. Either way, my point is that just because one team may be a big favorite, it doesn't mean that we can't be involved in the game. I'll check in again once the first round matchups have been set. Until then, enjoy the games and good luck with your plays. 

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Play Ball!

Friday, Mar 11, 2022

I'm sure you heard the good news. It's Go Time! It really didn't look promising. However, the two sides came together and figured things out. Only hours before the agreement was reached, I remember thinking: "I'd be happy just to have a shortened season start by June 1st. That's better than nothing ..." Instead, a full 162-game season will start much sooner. Here are some of the details.When Is The First Pitch?They're moving fast. By the time you're reading this, spring training may have already begun. The games begin Sunday, March 13. That will allow the regular season to begin on April 7th. After all the fuss, that's only one week later than was originally planned. In a way, it's not bad at all. College hoops will wrap up on the 4th. Then, only a couple of days before Opening Day. What's Different?In order to make up the missed week, the teams will play three extra games at the end of the regular season. The other missed games will be made up by playing double-headers. Those will be of the 9-inning variety, too. Gone are the 7-inning DH's. Speaking of "DH's," another difference this year is that the National League will now be using designated hitters. Also , there will no longer be a runner on second base to begin extra innings. Additionally, the playoff format has changed; 12 teams will now make it, instead of 10. Top Free AgentsThere are some pretty big names out there and they're likely to start finding new homes quite quickly. Remember, teams and players haven't been able to talk. Carlos Correa tops the list. Needless to say, he'll be getting a huge deal. Coming off a strong 2021, Carlos Rodón is likely the top free agent starting pitcher. Naturally, the Yankees are reported to be in the mix for both. Some other notable names include: Story, Soler, Schwarber, Jansen, Freeman, Castellanos, Kikuchi and Bryant. Seiya Suzuki, a 27-year old power hitter from Japan, is another name you're likely to hear. Who's Expected To Be Good?The Dodgers are favored to win the World Series. Other contenders include the Astros, Yankees, Mets, White Sox, Blue Jays and Braves. To say that I was relieved by the news would be an understatement. Baseball is one of my very favorite sports to watch and handicap. Not just because I'm coming off back-to-back really strong baseball campaigns either. March Madness will have the bulk of my attention over the next few weeks but I'll also be keeping a close eye on spring training. While I don't plan to attend any games this year, I'll still be digesting as much info as possible. Bring on Opening Day!

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Preview: UFC Vegas 50

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2022

After Covington beat up on Masvidal at the T-Mobile Arena last weekend, the MMA spotlight shifts to UFC Apex this Saturday. Same city. Different venue. While UFC Vegas 50 may not have the star power that last week's card did, there are still some interesting and potentially exciting fights. Here are a couple to keep an eye on. Thiago Santos (22-9) vs. Magomed Ankalaev (16-1)This may be the featured fight of the night but its unlikely to be the most competitive. Santos is off a win last time out. However, he's in over his head here. The odds reflect that. Ankalaev opened as roughly a 4:1 favorite and the line has climbed even higher. He's now laying in the -550 range. Santos has taken on some of the best in the business, as he fought the likes of Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira. So, he's not going to be intimidated. Still, he's 38 years old and he'll be taking on a determined and more well-rounded 29-year old. Santos hasn't been the same fighter since the Jones loss. While I wouldn't suggest laying the high price, expect the younger fighter to take this one. Khalil Rountree (9-5) vs. Karl Roberson (9-4)The odds suggest that this light heavyweight battle will be considerably closer than the main event. Rountree opened as a small favorite. However, Roberson is currently priced in the -125 to -135 range. In addition to the similar records, these guys have quite a few things in common. They're each southpaws. They're both 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, each with a 74-inch reach. They're both American and they're very close in age. Roberson is 31, Rountree is 32. Both fighters have power. Roberson is a former pro kick-boxer. Rountree, who got into MMA later in his life, trained in kick-boxing in Thailand. Rountree had this to say: "I feel good. This camp has been tough. I purposely came into this camp and pushed myself as hard as I possibly could so I can get the result that I am looking for. And I'm happy with the growth that I've made from the last camp. Just ready to put it all together now." With all the similarities and with both fighters in need of a victory, this one could be interesting. Another KO?Last week, I successfully backed Spivak against Hardy. He was a little expensive but I was quite confident that Hardy was outclassed. Here's an excerpt of what I said, prior to that fight: "Hardy is in over his head. Again. He's lost b2b fights and this is not a good matchup for him. These two were supposed to fight at UFC 270. At the time, Hardy was orginally scheduled to face Olenyk. However, Olenyk backed out and it was then supposed to be Spivak vs. Hardy. That probably wouldn't have gone well for Hardy but at least Spivak would have been fighting with less prep time. Hardy remains an elite athlete and he's got bigtime power. He's not a good wrestler though and he's far from elite when exchanging strikes. Consider one of their common opponents in Tuivasa. Hardy hurt Tuivasa a bit early on but then got KO'd. Spivak, on the other hand, took Tuivasa down six times before choking him out with an arm triangle. I see Spivak getting Hardy off his feet and winning by either ground and pound or submission." Spivak came through for me, making short work of Hardy. This week, I've got my eyes on another fight which may not last long ... 

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"No Deal!"

Wednesday, Mar 02, 2022

As you may have heard, baseball's latest deadline has come and gone. The earliest which the regular season can begin is now April 7. Spring Training will begin no earlier than March 12. Needless to say, I'm not happy. Nobody is. Commissioner Rob Manfred had this to say: "We worked hard to avoid an outcome that is bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs. I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort on the part of either party."Manfred went on to say: “The clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible. To that end, we want to bargain and we want a deal with the Players Association as quickly as possible."Manfred concluded a letter to the fans by stating: ".... We played without an agreement in 1994 and the players went on strike in August, forcing the cancellation of the World Series. It was a painful chapter in our game’s history. We cannot risk such an outcome again for our fans and our sport. The Clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible. To that end, we want to bargain and we want a deal with the Players Association as quickly as possible."The players are singing a considerably different tune. MLBPA executive Tony Clark commented: "Today is a sad day. We came to Florida to navigate and negotiate for a fair collective bargaining agreement. Despite meeting daily, there is still significant work to be done. The reason we are not playing is simple: a lockout is the ultimate economic weapon. In a $10 billion dollar industry, the owners have decided to use this weapon against the greatest asset they have: the players."An MLBPA statement included the following: "Rob Manfred and MLB's owners have cancelled the start of the season. Players and fans around the world who love baseball are disgusted, but sadly not surprised .... What Rob Manfred characterized as a "defensive lockout" is, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break our Player fraternity. As in the past, this effort will fail. We are united and committed to negotiating a fair deal that will improve the sport for Players, fans and everyone who loves our game."Remembering 1994Some of you may not remember the 1994 season. In a strike which lasted 232 days, more than 900 games were missed. While that was the only time (since 1904) that there was no World Series, it actually marked the eighth work stoppage in MLB history. At the time, it was baseball's fourth "in-season work stoppage" in 22 years. It was also the longest strike in pro sports history. (Later, in 2004/05, hockey would break that record.) So, unfortunately, this has happened before and it doesn't always end quickly. What Next?So far, only the first two series from each team will be missed. I think everyone can live with that. There won't be any meetings again today but they'll be back at it again really soon. Apparently, the league's last ditch proposal "wasn't that far off." Manfred's words certainly sounded hopeful. I'm going to choose to remain optimistic. I'll keep you posted about the baseball. For now, however, I'm looking forward to enjoying a profitable March Madness. 

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What's Going On With The Baseball Season?

Sunday, Feb 27, 2022

More and more regularly, I find myself being asked: "What's going on with baseball, will the season start on time?" Truthfully, I haven't been paying very close attention. However, I decided that I better get up to speed. Here's what I learned. Why The Lockout?The latest 5-year "collective bargaining agreement" ended on December 1st. Though they've been meeting regularly, the two sides, the owners and the players, haven't been able to agree on a new one since. They'll be meeting again shortly after I finish this article, Sunday at 1:00 ET.What Does A Lockout Mean? It means that the owners have "locked out" the players which means that the teams can have no contact with them. Until resolved, there can be no practices, no free agent signings, no spring training. Nothing. What's The Issue? There are a number of things that the two sides are negotiating. However, when you get to the heart of it, money is always the main issue. Reportedly, their biggest current differences include: the luxury tax rates and thresholds, the min. salary and the (new) pre-arbitration bonus pool.When's The Deadline?It's here. February 28th. If nothing is agreed by the end of the day Monday, then spring training will not start on time. Without enough time for spring training, regular season games will begin to get canceled. Is There Hope? Apparently, while they're still far apart on a few things, progress is being made. Hopefully, today's meeting is a good one. With so much money at stake, you'd sure like to think that they can figure it out. If a deal is reached, it'll be full steam ahead. Things will be moving fast. Opening Day will begin on March 31st and I'll be ready to go. I'll check back in on Tuesday, with an update. 

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Playing the Rebound

Monday, Jan 24, 2022

What does one do with a "good" team on a losing streak? For handicappers who choose not to ignore such teams completely, there are generally two schools of thought.1. Keep playing against the team and ride the losing streak. 2. Try to predict when the losing streak will stop.Neither is easy. There are usually reasons why the team is losing. Predicting the end of a skid can be tough. That said, good teams don't keep losing forever. So, continuing to play against them can also prove costly. However, there's also a third way that I sometimes use to deal with these situations. Let's take a closer look at a recent example from the NBA. Most would consider the Atlanta Hawks to be a reasonably decent team. Coming off a strong performance in last year's playoffs, the Hawks had high hopes for this season. Yet, for most of December and the first half of January, they could barely win a game. From 12/3 to 1/15, they were just 5-15. That included an 0-5 stretch from 1/7 to 1/15. The biggest reason for the Hawks' struggles was a depleted lineup. They were missing numerous players, due to Covid and injury. As mentioned, there are usually reasons why good teams go on a losing streak. I stayed away from playing on/against Atlanta during the skid. However, the Hawks slowly started to get healthy. On 1/12, they were hosting the Heat. Miami was also starting to deal with some missing players. I tried to predict the end of the streak and played on the Hawks. At the time, Atlanta had dropped three straight. As mentioned, predicting the end of a streak can be tricky. In this case, it proved costly. The Hawks lost again. I won with the total in the Hawks' next game (Knicks on 1/15) but didn't play on them again. Good thing, too. They lost for the fifth straight time. On 1/17, the Hawks were hosting the Bucks. Call me stubborn but I decided to play on them again. I knew they were getting healthier and suggested that a visit from the defending champs would prove to be just what the doctor ordered. This time, the underdog Hawks rewarded me with a 121-114 victory. It's the next game or two, after the streak is finished and a team is in "on the rebound," where we can often find the best plays. Confidence and momentum restored, the losing streak in the rear view mirror, good teams tend to go on a bit of a winning streak. After they beat Milwaukee, I continued to play on the Hawks. I backed them on 1/19 against Minnesota and again on 1/22 against Miami. They won both games. At that point, the Hawks went on the road and I decided not to press my luck. I kicked myself for not doing so though, as they won easily, at Charlotte. All the same, they came through for me three straight times. You'll regularly find similar situations throughout the season. Next time a good team snaps a lengthy losing streak, if all else lines up with your handicapping, take a look at that same team in its next game. 

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Return Of The Ivy League

Sunday, Jan 09, 2022

For many schools, the new year has coincided with the start of "conference play. " Teams from the Ivy League are among them. Yale's game vs. Columbia was supposed to be the first Ivy League game in 666 days. What happened? Typically, it got postponed. The Lions finally got things going against Princeton, on Friday, January 7th.  Naturally, after nearly two years, much has changed. Let's take a look at some of the early contenders/pretenders for 2022.  PRINCETON The Tigers have had a few down years. That will change in 2022. They're already 2-0 in conference play and their 12-3 overall record is best in the Ivy League. Two of those three losses were very close, too. They've beaten the likes of Oregon State and South Carolina. The young Princeton players have matured. They're the early frontrunners for the league title. YALE Any conversation about the Ivy League needs to include the Bulldogs. The defending league champions are deep, talented and well-coached. The poor non-conference record can be taken with a grain of salt, as it included the likes of St. Mary's, Auburn and Seton Hall. Due to postponements, they have yet to play a conference game. PENN Games against teams like Villanova, Florida State and  Arkansas have the Quakers ready for Ivy League action. They're already 2-1 within the conference. Coach Donahue is excited about his team and they should be in the mix the entire way. BROWN The Bears don't have as strong a backcourt as any of the three above teams. However, they're arguably better up front. Tamenang Choh, one of the best rebounders in the conference, does much of the heavy lifting. He averaged 13.2 ppg and 8.1 rbg in 2019/20. He's started every game the past two seasons. Choh is complemented by Jaylan Gainey. The 6-9 senior is the reigning Ivy League defensive player of the year. While the Bears are off to a 1-2 start within the league, a tough non-conference schedule should serve them well.  HARVARD The Crimson are usually near the top of the conference but this may not be their year. While they have talent, they're also inexperienced. Prior to the season, coach Amaker commented: "I think it's going to require for us .. to be incredibly patient .... It's just going to be like you're starting over in every way with the program." CORNELL I don't expect the Big Red (1-2) to compete for the league title this season; I successfully played against them in their 14-point loss against Penn. However, I'm giving them an honorable mention due to their impressive 10-2 ATS overall record. 

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NBA: 'Capping COVID-19

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

It's always been tricky to accurately predict NBA starting lineups. Teams are notorious for listing players as "game-time decisions."  They allow the player to participate in pregame warmups and assess how he feels. The Omicron variant has made things even more difficult. Players are shuffling in and out of the lineup more than ever before. That makes knowing who's available very important. Let's take a look at some of the teams currently dealing with "COVID-19 issues." Atlanta Hawks:With 12 players in COVID health and safety protocols, the Hawks have been especially hard hit by the virus. Not surprisingly, it's had a major impact. The Hawks enter their New Year's Eve game with an 0-3 SU/ATS record their last three games and a 1-5 SU/ATS mark their last six. They should return to health early in 2022. Once that's the case, I won't be surprised if they go on a winning streak.Toronto RaptorsPlaying with an extremely Covid-depleted lineup, the Raptors lost by 45 points on Boxing Day. Things change quickly in today's world though. Less than a week later, they've got most of their players back and find themselves favored against the the Clippers, a team dealing with its own "quarantine list." Also, prior to Christmas, the Raptors benefitted when the Warriors decided to leave all their stars at home, rather than have them cross the border. Portland Trail BlazersThe Blazers are 0-3 SU/ATS their last three games, entering Friday's game vs. the Lakers. Playing without a handful of players, out on the quarantine list, hasn't helped. Relief will come "next year." Washington WizardsIt's critical to pay attention to when key players are scheduled to return. The Wizards were off back-to-back losses while dealing with some missing stars. However, all signs indicated that Beal would return for their 12/30 game against Cleveland. He did. Suddenly, arguably, the healthier team, led by Beal's 29 points, the Wizards won by double-digits. I could go on, as almost every team is affected. The list will change though. Every day. So, you'll need to do your own research, in order to stay current.Of course, nobody wants things to be this way. However, for the time being, this is the way of the world. Just as we've needed to adapt to the world, we need to adjust our handicapping. For me, I find that I'm often making my NBA plays a little later in the day. This allows me more time to read as much as I can about who is expected to play, while also allowing more time for information to become available. Happy New Year everyone. Best of luck to us all in 2022. 

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021

In football, playing "at home" means more to some teams than it does to others. Some tend to thrive in a familiar setting. Others do not. The Packers and Bucs are both 5-0 at home. Yet, each is 4-3 on the road.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Patriots are a combined 13-0 on the road but only 6-6 on their home fields. The same is true for NBA teams. Let's take a closer look.  Overall, home teams are 200-165 (54.8%) on the season. They've only hit 48.1% (174-188-3) at the betting window though.  PortlandThe Blazers are a solid 10-4 at Portland but a dismal 1-10 on the road. IndianaThe Pacers enter Wednesday with a 7-6 home record. However, they're just 3-10 on the road. CharlotteThe Hornets are 7-3 at home but 7-9 on the road. AtlantaThe Hawks are 8-4 at Atlanta but 5-8 on the roadDenverThe Nuggets are 8-4 in the high altitude of Denver. On the road, they're 4-8.HoustonThe Rockets enter Wednesday's play with a winning (6-5) home record. They're an ugly 1-11 away from Houston.  ROAD WARRIORSThe Raptors are one team which hasn't fared well at home. They're 4-8 in games played at Toronto but 7-5 when on the road. The same is true of the Cavaliers and the Knicks. The Cavs are 8-5 on the road but only 5-7 at Cleveland. The Knicks are 5-8 at MSG but 7-4 on the road. DIG DEEPER Most have an idea whether or not a team has a strong home court advantage. Some may not look at the "type" of games which teams are playing at home, compared to on the road, though. Let's use the Spurs, as an example. At first glance, there's not much separating their home and road performances. They're 4-7 at home and 4-8 on the road. No big deal. However, if one digs deeper into the stats, it turns out that the Spurs are playing higher-scoring games at San Antonio than they are on the road. Much higher. (See below) This knowledge helped support my 'over' play when the Spurs hosted the Knicks on 12/7. (The O/U line was 211 and the teams combined for 230.) Here's an excerpt from my analysis of that game:".... The Spurs saw last night's game at Phoenix sneak below the total. We're working with a lower O/U number tonight but I'm expecting a considerably higher-scoring affair. San Antonio road games have been staying below the total all season. In fact, including last night's result, the 'under' is now 10-1-1 when the Spurs have played away from San Antonio. Entering last night, SA road games were averaging just 206.5 points. However, the complete opposite has been true in games played at the AT&T Center. Games here are averaging 225.5 points. That's nearly 20 ppg more than the Spurs' road games. The OVER is 7-1-2 here. There's a lot more to this play than just the venue. The Knicks aren't playing the same type of defense that they were last year. They were a top five defense last year. This year, they've been mediocre. Over their last four games, they're allowing 110.4 ppg and a high 47.9 field goal percentage. The last time that the Spurs played the second of b2b games, they combined with the Pacers for 249 points. Including that shootout, the OVER is 43-21-2 the past 2+ seasons, when SA has faced an Eastern Conf. opponent, 14-6-1 in games against teams from the Atlantic. With the OVER also 8-1-1 (or 9-1) the past 10 times that the Spurs hosted the Knicks ... "The Pacers are another team which has been playing higher-scoring games at home than on the road. The opposite is true for Sacramento. The Kings have played much lower-scoring games on their home floor. That's led to a 9-3 'over' record on the road but an 8-4 'under' record in games at Sacramento. There are many more examples but you get my point. Take the time to look at how teams are playing at home, as opposed to on the road. It's simple but important. 

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World Cup Report

Sunday, Nov 28, 2021

International soccer is heating up. Countries are battling hard to qualify for the next World Cup. The big event will be held in Qatar, in November/December 2022. It'll be just the second time that a WC will be held in Asia. Recall that South Korea and Japan co-hosted the 2002 tournament. It'll also mark the first time that the WC will be hosted by an Arab nation. Let's get caught up.SOCCER IN THE WINTER? In addition to being the first tournament in this part of the world, WC 2022 will also be the first to be held in the late fall. Every previous WC has been played in May, June or July. Personally, though I know it couldn't have been in Qatar, I'd rather it be played in the summer. We've got enough sports going on in November and December. LAST TIME WITH 32 TEAMSAs per usual, only 32 countries will qualify for the WC. That makes "just getting there" an accomplishment. After this, however, the field will expand to include 48 teams.ITALY/PORTUGAL: THERE CAN BE ONLY ONEWhen you think about international soccer, two of the first countries that come to mind are Italy and Portugal. Yet, one of them won't be going to Qatar. The Italians are 4-time champs. They failed to qualify for the 2018 WC but bounced back to win the Euro Cup in 2020. Meanwhile, Portugal won the 2016 Euro Cup. These two European soccer powers received an unfortunate draw though and will have to face each other, only one of them qualifying. Italy coach Roberto Mancini acknowledged. "It's not a great draw and it could have gone better. Just like we wanted to avoid Portugal, they would have wanted to avoid Italy."HERE COMES CANADAIn Canada, as is the case in the United States, the women's soccer team has achieved far more success than the men's team. The Canadian women are the defending Olympic Champions. They're led by one of the best and most recognizable players (Sinclair) of all-time and have won multiple medals. The men, on the other hand, rarely ever even make it to the World Cup. In fact, they've only ever done so once. That was back in 1986 and they failed to score a single goal. The men's team is currently riding high though and appears to be in great shape to return to the world stage. The Canadians sit in first in CONCACAF and the top three countries from that group will qualify. Even if Canada slipped all the way to fourth, it would have a strong chance to win its way in by facing a team from the Oceania region in an International Playoff. The Canadians aren't thinking about fourth though. This is their strongest team ever. Fresh off a victory over Mexico, in the snow, they're looking to win the group. 

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Rink Report

Sunday, Nov 21, 2021

November is busy. With so much football and basketball, it can be hard to keep up with hockey. While it might seem like the season just started, some teams have already played 20 games. Let's get caught up. BEST CONFERENCEThe Stanley Cup has gone to a team from the Eastern Conference in five of the past six seasons. So far, the top three teams, in terms of records, all reside in the East. Florida has the most points (29) but Carolina has the best record. The (14-2) Hurricanes have 28 points but have played two fewer games than the Panthers. Next, comes Washington with 27 points. Edmonton, #1 in the West, has the fourth most points overall. There's a big gap between the haves and the have nots. The Coyotes and the Kraken, a pair of Western Conference teams, are the worst of the bunch. They have eight and nine points, respectively. Ottawa also has nine points but has played a few less games. Edmonton averages four goals per game, Arizona averages just 1.8. PROFITABLE TEAMSWith their strong records, it stands to reason that Carolina, Florida and Edmonton are among the most profitable teams. Likewise, Arizona and Seattle have hurt their backers the most. Some other teams might surprise you though. Columbus, Anaheim, Vegas, Minnesota, Boston and the NY Rangers have all produced solid profits. Teams like Montreal, Chicago, Pittsburgh and the Islanders are all significantly in the red. HOME SWEET HOMEDoes playing at home matter? It depends on which team you ask. The Panthers are 10-0 at home but 3-2-3 on the road. On the other hand, the defending champions have been better on the road than at home. Overall, on the season, home teams have won 56.3% of the time. TOTALSThus far, there have been more 'unders' than 'overs.' At 52.3% to 47.7%, the difference is fairly modest. We'll keep an eye out to see if the gap narrows, or widens. Interestingly, 63.5% of overtime games have stayed below the number. VEZINA TROPHY IN TORONTO?There are a number of goalies with excellent stats. Jack Campbell is right there in all the major categories. Of goalies who have played at least 10 games, the Leafs' netminder has the best goals-against-average (1.66) and also the best save percentage (.944). However, it's Calgary's Jacob Markstrom who leads the league in shutouts. He's already got five. Campbell is tied for second, at three. Good luck with the games. I wish everyone the best, during the upcoming holiday season. 

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World Series Game 3 Preview

Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

With the teams splitting the first two games at Houston, we're down to a "Best Of Five" World Series.  A pivotal Game 3 goes Friday, at Atlanta. It'll be the first time that two rookie starting pitchers oppose each other in the WS, since 2006. Let's take a closer look. THE STARTERSIan Anderson goes for the Braves. Having not reached enough innings last year, he's still technically a "rookie." However, he's already got plenty of postseason experience. In fact, this will already be his eighth career playoff start. He's 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA through the first seven, striking out 36 in 30 2/3 innings. This season, he was 9-5 with a 3.58 ERA.Luis Garcia doesn't have the playoff numbers that Anderson does. However in Game 6 of the ALCS, when Houston needed him most, he bounced back with an absolutely dominant performance. In fact, he took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. It was the second most number of "no-hit" innings by a rookie, in playoff history. (Wacha had a no-hitter for 7 1/3 innings in the 2013 NLDS.) He was 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA on the season. THE ODDSDespite the Braves "having home field advantage," the Game 3 line is essentially a "pick'em." Perhaps, that's because playing at home hasn't been much of an advantage, in recent Fall Classics. Houston's Game 2 win was the first (victory) by a home team since Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. The Braves were 42-38 at home this season. The Astros were 44-37 on the road. THE O/U LINEThe first two games have seen the final scores land right on, or near, the number. Game 1 saw eight runs scored. Game 2 saw the teams combine for nine. Fittingly, at most shops, the O/U line is 8.5 for Game 3. GAME 3 IS IMPORTANTLast year, the Dodgers and Rays were tied 1-1. The Dodgers took Game 3 and went on to become champions. That game marked the 17th time in 40 years that the World Series was tied after two games. Including the Dodgers last year, 13 of the 17 Game 3 winners went on to win the series. While there were a few recent teams that did lose Game 3 and went on to win, that's still better than 76% over a 40-year span. Recall that the Astros were tied 1-1 in the 2017 WS. They won Game 3 and went on to win in seven. 

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Wilder/Fury III 

Friday, Oct 08, 2021

On Sunday, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury will fight for the third time. It's been roughly a year and a half since Fury dominated Wilder. Their first meeting, back in December of 2018, resulted in a draw. Wilder was a fairly big favorite for that first fight. However, Fury is an even bigger one for Saturday night's bout. Let's take a closer look. Wilder/Fury IWilder was favored in the -180 to -200 range. The judges scored it 115–111 for Wilder, 114–112 for Fury and 113–113; a split draw. However, when 27 boxing journalists were polled, fifteen gave the fight to Fury and only three had it going to Wilder. Nine scored it a draw. These two had been talking trash about each other for years. Fury confronted Wilder after he won a fight in 2016 in NY and said: "any time any place anywhere when you're ready, I'll fight you in your back garden like I did Klitschko I'll beat you, you bum! You're a bum!" Wilder responded: "I don't play this, you can run around like you're a preacher and all that but I promise you when you step in this ring I will baptize you!" The fighters had a combined 67-0 record when they finally met. Fury weighed in at 256 1/2 pounds. Wilder was 212 1/2. Afterward, both fighters claimed to have won. Each called out Anthony Joshua after that fight. In an interesting twist, Joshua recently lost and now Fury has offered to train him for his rematch against Usyk.Wilder/Fury IIThe odds were closer for the rematch but the fight was not. Hyped as "Unfinished Business," it appeared clear that things had been settled. The odds opened more in the pick'em range but Wilder closed as a -140 favorite. That didn't phase Fury. He took it to Wilder, knocking him down twice before Wilder's corner eventually threw in the towel, in the seventh round. While Wilder would go on to fire the cornerman who threw in the towel, he was getting pummelled. Wilder won't go away though. Back with a new trainer, he insists that things will be different. He's got a huge ego and has all sorts of excuses for why he lost. One has to wonder what his confidence will be like though. Deep inside, he knows that he lost. Not surprisingly, Fury is now the significant favorite. He's currently laying close to -300. Takeback is roughly +240 with Wilder. With the recent trend of "YouTube stars" fighting over-the-hill fighters, it will be good to see a couple of legitimate heavyweights. Enjoy the fight! 

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The NBA Is Back! 

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

After closing out the playoffs on a 14-2 run, I'm pretty excited to have the NBA back. The preseason starts this weekend. The Nets and the Lakers tip things off, Sunday afternoon. Regular season action begins on October 18th. Opening night includes a pair of intriguing matchups. Once again, both the Nets and the Lakers are featured. Brooklyn visits Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Lebron and co. will host Curry and the Warriors.  A few months later, the Nets and Lakers will meet in primetime, on Christmas Day.With the extra TV time being awarded to them, it's not surprising that Nets and Lakers are the two favorites to take home the title. As of this writing, Pinnacle has the Nets listed at +217 and the Lakers at +355. Not much value there. At +837, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are the only other team being given much of a chance. Given that the Bucks are playing in a far less competitive division than the Nets, they seem like a relative bargain. Check out the list below.There are also odds for which player wins the MVP award. There are a number of players in the running. At +487, Luca Doncic is the favorite. He's a great player and is an excellent position to put up huge stats. Perhaps, this will be his year. Still, in my estimation, there's much better value on the board. Young stars like Trae Young, Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum are all being offered at better than 20-1. You'll also find those odds below. October 18th will be here before you know it. Make sure to use the next couple of weeks getting caught up on what's been going on and learning the current state of the teams. Until then, enjoy the baseball and football! Odds To Win TitleAtlanta Hawks +4318Boston Celtics +3527Brooklyn Nets +217Charlotte Hornets +8029Chicago Bulls +8633Cleveland Cavaliers +26959Dallas Mavericks +3672Denver Nuggets +2165Detroit Pistons +26959Golden State Warriors +1267Houston Rockets +26959Indiana Pacers +10789Los Angeles Clippers +2165Los Angeles Lakers +355Memphis Grizzlies +10478Miami Heat +2810Milwaukee Bucks +837Minnesota Timberwolves +26188New Orleans Pelicans +11526New York Knicks +10789Oklahoma City Thunder +26959Orlando Magic +26959Philadelphia 76ers +2261Phoenix Suns +1516Portland Trail Blazers +8093Sacramento Kings +25882San Antonio Spurs +13484Toronto Raptors +8124Utah Jazz +1516Washington Wizards +18874Odds To Win Regular Season MVPLuka Doncic +487Giannis Antetokounmpo +710Joel Embiid +812Kevin Durant +754Stephen Curry +812Damian Lillard +1217LeBron James +1419Nikola Jokic +1622Trae Young +2129James Harden +2029Anthony Davis +2837Devin Booker +2837Jayson Tatum +2538Donovan Mitchell +3040Paul George +3648Russell Westbrook +3648Zion Williamson +4256Kyrie Irving +4256Bradley Beal +5573Ja Morant +5573Domantas Sabonis +7599Julius Randle +6587Karl-Anthony Towns +6587Jimmy Butler +6587Zach Lavine +7093Chris Paul +7093

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English Premier League Update

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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MLB Division Races Heating Up

Monday, Aug 09, 2021

With the calendar now well into August, things are really heating up at the ballpark. The American League Central Division, dominated by the Chicago White Sox this season, is the only division where we know the winner. The other five divisions are very much up for grabs. Naturally, when handicapping games, it's important to know which teams still have a chance and which teams are now playing out the string. Let's take a closer look.AL EASTFour of the five teams still have hopes of winning the division. The Rays enter the week with a 4-game lead over Boston. New York and Toronto aren't far behind. All four teams will be fighting it out right until the end. The Orioles, of course, are long out of contention.AL CENTRALAs mentioned, the White Sox have all but mathematically won this division. Not only will none of the other teams (Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, KC) catch Chicago, none are alive in the Wild Card race. AL WESTThe Astros can't quite shake the A's. Houston leads Oakland by 2.5 games. The other teams in the division, Seattle, LA and Texas, are out of the running. No shot at the Wild Card for any of those three, either. NL EastThree of five teams in the East are alive. None have a shot at the Wild Card, so it's truly a winner-takes-all affair. The surging Phillies currently hold a 2-game lead over the Braves. The Mets are only half a game back of the Braves. Washington and Miami are done.NL CentralWith a 5-game lead over the Reds, the Brewers are in fairly good shape at the moment. They better not falter though, as the Wild Card isn't likely an option. The Cards, Cubs and Pirates are playing for pride.NL WestEveryone knew the Dodgers would be strong. Most thought, however, that it would be San Diego which would challenge them. The Padres have indeed played well. Only 3.5 games behind the defending champs, they're in good shape for a Wild Card spot. It's the Giants who continue to surprise though. At 71-41, they've got the best record in baseball. Could the three top teams in baseball all be in the same division? The next few weeks are going to be exciting. We know that the teams fighting for the playoffs will give their best effort. Remember to also keep a close eye on the ones which are playing out the string. Those teams will be calling up young players and evaluating talent. Some will relish the chance to play spoiler and will keep playing hard. Others are likely to really struggle. Identifying which category the various clubs fall into will help with your handicapping. Enjoy the pennant races and best of luck with all your wagers. 

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NFL Thursday Night Football: Hall of Fame Game Preview

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

August is here and football is back! Last year, at this time, there was still a lot of uncertainty. Would they be able to play the whole season? There wasn't a Hall Of Fame Game at all. Thankfully, things seem considerably better this year and the H.O.F. Game goes Thursday, on FOX TV. While I'm always excited about the return of football, I often pass on the H.O.F. Game. However, when I do get involved, I've typically done pretty well. (Over the past seven years, I'm 3-0.) This year's game features a pair of classic franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Note that those were the same teams which would have played last year, if there had been a game. Let's take a closer look. As you're likely aware, the game is played at Canton, Ohio. They've been playing the game there since before I was born. With six appearances each, Dallas and Pittsburgh have been here more than any other franchises. The Steelers are the designated home team. As of this writing,  they're very slight favorites. The O/U line is in the low 30s. As per usual, the biggest stars will see little or no playing time. For Dallas, Dak Prescott is not expected to play. Neither are guys like Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence or kicker Greg Zuerlein. Same figures to be true on the Pittsburgh sideline. Tomlin noted: "We just want to see more of the other guys. Some of these guys we know a lot about and some of those guys we know a lot about might not play in the Hall of Fame game. And so we've got to get to know some others, we've got to prepare some others ..."The Steelers last played in the H.O.F Game in 2015. They lost 14-3 to the Vikings. Two years before that, the Cowboys beat Miami by a score of 24-20. Of the coaches, one could argue that McCarthy has more to prove than Tomlin. The Cowboys were 6-10 last year and there are reports that he's already on the "Hot Seat." Tomlin, on the other hand, is about as safe as an NFL coach can get. He's loved in Pittsburgh and has the Steelers off a 12-4 season. Over 14 years, he's 145-78-1. Both coaches have similar preseason records. McCarthy is 28-23 SU while Tomlin is 31-23 SU. Both, perhaps, have put a slightly bigger emphasis on winning in recent years. In McCarthy's last three preseasons, his teams were 8-4. Tomlin, meanwhile, has led the Steelers to a 9-3 record their past three exhibition campaigns. Enjoy the game and best of luck.

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2021 NFL: Another Long Year For ...

Sunday, Jul 25, 2021

Interested in how your favorite team is expected to do this season? The projected regular season wins numbers provide excellent insight. The list below is courtesy of Pinnacle.Based on these numbers, Detroit will be the worst team in the league. Don't worry Lions' fans. You've got a couple of things working in your favor. 1. Predictions made before the season can be way off. 2. You're used to it.Indeed, it figures to be another long year for Detroit. New coach and a rebuilding team. The Lions have gone 3-15 in division play the past few seasons. Wins in the NFC North figure to again be hard to come by. The non-conference schedule, which includes the likes of the 49'ers, Ravens, Rams and Steelers, isn't exactly easy either.  In fact, based on last year's records, the Lions' 2021 schedule is tied for the 6th most difficult in the league. (Teams they will play this year went a combined 143-127-2 last season.) Hardly seems fair. Looking for a chance at a victory? Circle October 17th, the day the Lions host the Bengals, as a potential "W." Regular Season WinsArizona CardinalsOver 8.5 Wins +113Under 8.5 Wins -134Atlanta FalconsOver 7.5 Wins -145Under 7.5 Wins +122Baltimore RavensOver 10.5 Wins -177Under 10.5 Wins +147Buffalo Bills Over 10.5 Wins -164Under 10.5 Wins +137Carolina PanthersOver 7.5 Wins -107Under 7.5 Wins -111Chicago Bears Over 7.5 Wins +105Under 7.5 Wins -125Cincinnati BengalsOver 6.5 Wins -101Under 6.5 Wins -118Cleveland Browns Over 10.5 Wins +101Under 10.5 Wins -120Dallas CowboysOver 9.5 Wins +102Under 9.5 Wins -121Denver BroncosOver 8.5 Wins -120Under 8.5 Wins +101Detroit Lions Over 5 Wins -101Under 5 Wins -117Indianapolis ColtsOver 9.5 Wins -139Under 9.5 Wins +117Jacksonville Jaguars Over 6.5 Wins +108Under 6.5 Wins -129Kansas City ChiefsOver 12.5 Wins +117Under 12.5 Wins -139Las Vegas RaidersOver 6.5 Wins -183Under 6.5 Wins +152Los Angeles ChargersOver 9.5 Wins +130Under 9.5 Wins -155Los Angeles RamsOver 10.5 Wins +120Under 10.5 Wins -143Miami Dolphins Over 9.5 Wins +143Under 9.5 Wins -171Minnesota Vikings Over 8.5 Wins -187Under 8.5 Wins +155New England Patriots Over 9.5 Wins -105Under 9.5 Wins -113New Orleans SaintsOver 9.5 Wins +128Under 9.5 Wins -153New York Giants Over 7.5 Wins +117Under 7.5 Wins -139New York JetsOver 6 Wins +105Under 6 Wins -125Pittsburgh SteelersOver 8.5 Wins +116Under 8.5 Wins -138Philadelphia EaglesOver 6.5 Wins -144Under 6.5 Wins +121San Francisco 49ers Over 10.5 Wins +118Under 10.5 Wins -140Seattle SeahawksOver 9.5 Wins -144Under 9.5 Wins +121Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over 11.5 Wins -143Under 11.5 Wins +120Tennessee Titans Over 9 Wins -134Under 9 Wins +113Washington Football TeamOver 8.5 Wins -114Under 8.5 Wins -104

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NFL Futures - Are Cards Worth A Look In the Desert? 

Thursday, Jul 15, 2021

It's never too early to start thinking about the NFL. The schedule was released more than a month ago. Week 1 lines are out, as are futures and team totals. Last year saw Brady and the Bucs take down the title. Not surprisingly, Tampa is favored to win the NFC. The champs aren't the favorites to repeat though. You guessed it, that distinction goes to Mahomes and the Chiefs. Looks like a long year for Houston fans. Let's take a closer look at some of the current futures, courtesy of Pinnacle. Odds To Win Super BowlChiefs +408Bucs +767Bills +125249'ers +1357Browns +1451Rams +1483Ravens +1555Packers +1688Seahawks +1834Colts +2360Chargers +2494Patriots +2638Titans +2778Broncos +3018Saints +3182Dolphins +3772Cowboys +3882Steelers +3904Cardinals +4531Football Team +4832Vikings+5208Bears +5649Falcons +7050Eagles +7591 Lions +7917Panthers +8225Giants +8812Raiders +9146Bengals +11158Jaguars +11741Jets +12913Texans +17602Looking at the odds to win each of the individual divisions provides more insight. They're projecting 2-team battles in the AFC North and South. The NFC North, meanwhile, is currently OTB. Before looking, see if you can predict which team is the biggest favorite. AFC EastBills -140Patriots +260 Dolphins +390Jets +2500AFC NorthRavens +121Browns +151Steelers +375Bengals +2500AFC SouthColts -105Titans -110Jaguars +950Texans +2500 AFC WestChiefs -307Broncos +558Chargers +609Raiders +1823NFC EastCowboys +130Football Team +219Giants +412Eagles +486NFC SouthBucs -190Saints +291Falcons +890Panthers +1046NFC WestRams +17249'ers +208Seahawks +284Cardinals +576Any Longshots Worthy Of Consideration?Only two of the above divisions are "4-team races," the NFC East and the NFC West. Every other division has at least one team which is greater than a 10-1 underdog to win. However, the NFC East and West divisions have four teams capable of winning. That being the case, I think the Eagles (+486) and the Cardinals (+576) both offer potential value.  Next week, I'll take a closer look at the Eagles/Cards schedules, as well as the team O/U lines from around the league. 

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Euro Cup: Weekend Preview

Friday, Jun 25, 2021

by Ben BurnsThe group stage of Euro 2020 (2021) provided plenty of excitement. Now, the real fun begins. Sixteen teams remain. By Tuesday afternoon, half of those will be gone. That's right. Eight matches, two per day, from Saturday through Tuesday. Each of them is of the "Win Or Go Home" variety. Let's take a look at this weekend's matches. SaturdayDenmark/WalesThe first game of the knockout stage features Denmark taking on Wales. The Danes saw their leader collapse on the field of their first match. Naturally, that was scary and emotional for them. Subsequently, they were upset by Finland. That left them with a pretty big hole to dig out of but they managed to do so. No team in Group A could compete with Italy. However, Wales did well to finish second. The Welsh team tied Switzerland with four points but edged out the Swiss in goal differential. Current odds: Denmark -115. Wales +431. Draw: +233Austria/ItalyThe Italians returned to the International stage with a bang. In going 3-0, they outscored opposing teams by a 7-0 margin. Austria couldn't contend with the Netherlands but managed wins against North Macedonia and Ukraine. This is unfamiliar territory for the Austrians and they haven't beaten the Italians in any of the last 13 meetings. Italy won 10 of those, the teams drawing three times. Making matters worse for Austria, Italy is unbeaten in 30 straight games, a run of 25 wins and five draws. Current Odds: Italy -205. Austria: +737. Draw: +328 SundayCzech Republic/Netherlands Always exciting, the Dutch won all three of their matches in the group stage. They come in full of confidence. The Czechs aren't likely to go down easily though. They earned a 2-0 win and a 1-1 draw, while suffering a narrow 1-0 loss to England. Ronaldo has five goals to lead all scorers in the tournament. Five players are tied with three goals. Holland's Georginio Wijnaldum and Patrik Schick from the Czech Republic are among them. Therefore, it's not that surprising that this is projected to be the highest-scoring game of the weekend. The three others mostly have O/U lines of two or 2 1/4. However, this one has an O/U line of 2.5. Current Odds: Netherlands -145. Czech Rep: +451. Draw +297Belgium/PortugalThis one figures to be the most anticipated match of the weekend. Belgium is the #1 ranked team in the world. Portugal, however, is the defending champion. As mentioned, Ronaldo has already scored five goals. Belgium has a world-class sniper of its own though. Lakaku is one of the five players tied with three goals. Both teams scored seven goals overall. However, while Belgium conceded only one, Portugal gave up six. Of course, that had a lot to do with the fact that the Portugese had to play in the "Group Of Death." Current Odds: Belgium +151. Portugal +222. Draw +220. 

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Is Novak Djokovic The Greatest Men's Tennis Player Of All-time? 

Tuesday, Jun 15, 2021

I've always been a tennis fan. My first racket was a wooden Dunlop, painted black with John McEnroe's signature on it. I thought it was the coolest. Back then, "Johnny Mac" had some epic battles with the likes of Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. I was young but still remember pretty well. Björn Borg was a little before my time. Later, came the likes of Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Jim Courier. Andre Agassi was great but he arguably didn't have the career that Pete Sampras did. I remember thinking that "Pistol Pete" was indeed "The Goat." After all, when he retired, he had won 14 major titles, the most of anyone at the time. While he wasn't as dominant on clay, on any other surface, Sampras was an absolute beast. Lendl said this of Sampras' serve: “the ball just crumbled on your racquet.”One might have assumed that Sampras' record would stand for a long time. Yet, less than 20 years since he retired, three different players have broken it. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are tied at 20 titles each. At 19, Novak Djokovic is right on their heels. The recently finished French Open may ultimately play a role in determining the best ever. If Nadal, long the undisputed King Of Clay, could have won, it would have given him 21 Grand Slam titles. That would have been one ahead of Federer and three ahead of Djokovic. That didn't happen though, as Novak knocked off Rafael in the semis. In the final, Djokovic found himself down two sets. The world's #1 knew the historic significance of the match. Calmly, he dug deep, bounced back and won the next three sets. Instead of Nadal having a "commanding" lead, in terms of slam titles, he and Federer are only one ahead of Djokovic. Federer may not get any more. Nadal will have to wait a year for another crack at Roland-Garros. Yet, the way Djokovic looked Sunday, he may well add another by next month; Wimbledon starts in two weeks. So, when it's all said and done, Djokovic has an excellent chance of holding the most titles in the history of men's tennis. He's already held the World's #1 ranking for 325 weeks, more than any other player in history. Federer may always receive more love from the fans and the bigger endorsements. However, it's looking more and more likely that Djokovic will go down as: "The Goat." 

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NHL Playoff Breakdown

Monday, May 17, 2021

If the first few games are any indication, we're in for an exciting NHL postseason. For the first time in history, the first three games of the NHL playoffs all went to Overtime. In fact, the fourth game nearly did, too. The third of those OT games was an epic duel between a pair of veteran goalies, Cam Talbot of the Minnesota Wild and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Knights. In last year's playoffs, there wasn't a single game which was scoreless after regulation. This year, it happened on the first full day of games. (It had previously happened in April of 2019, a game between the Islanders and Hurricanes.) Fleury, the first goalie to ever play in 15 straight postseasons, made some huge saves. Talbot made even more. Forty-two of them. Minnesota won 1-0, reminding us of the importance of "hot goaltending" in the playoffs. It's hard to predict which goalies are going to "get hot" at the right time, as they're all capable of doing so. It's important to pay attention to how they look out of the gate; the playoffs are an entirely different beast. Here are some to keep an eye on:Vasilevskiy (Tampa) Though he wasn't spectacular in the opening game of this year's playoffs, he still did enough. Vasilevskiy would stop 35 of 39 en route to the 5-4 win. He proved himself in last year's postseason and he's off a dominant regular season. Fleury (Vegas) At 36, Fleury is still playing at a very high level. As mentioned, this is his 15th straight trip to the playoffs. He's hoisted the Cup before and he managed career bests in both goals against average and save percentage during the regular season.Campbell (Toronto) Unlike the others, Campbell doesn't have playoff experience. There's also a lot of pressure on him. Still, he was excellent in the regular season and we've see young goalies get it done in the past.Rask (Boston) Rask has been playing at a high level for years but hasn't won the Cup as a starter (Rask was backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won in 2011.) He battled injuries this season but now appears to be healthyTalbot (Minnesota) Talbot wouldn't have necessarily cracked this list, if not for his superb effort in 1-0 win over the Knights. He's played well in the playoffs in the past though. He's going to need to keep standing on his head if the Wild want to knock off the Knights. There are a lot of other capable goalies in the field, too. Guys like Carey Price, Jordan Binnington and Semyon Varlamov. (Varlamov didn't play in the Isles' opener but rookie Ilya Sorokin stepped in and got the win.) Going forward, pay close attention to which goalies are playing their best. Confidence can be contagious. You may want to also keep an eye on the road teams, too. They're 3-1 through the first two days. Enjoy the games and good luck! 

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NHL Playoffs: An Early Look

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I've looked forward to the NHL postseason for my entire life. While this has been a unique year, the playoffs figure to be just as exciting as ever.  Every NHL game this entire season has been of the "divisional variety." Due to Covid restrictions, teams played within their division all year. That'll mean that everyone is very well-acquainted with each other; the first two rounds of the playoffs will also all be between teams from the same division. You know what they say, familiarity breeds contempt. When the smoke clears, there will be one team remaining from each division. Here's how the matchups are currently shaping up. East DivisionThe Pittsburgh Penguins earned the #1 seed and will host the #4 New York Islanders. The winner of that series will face the winner of Washington Capitals (#2) vs. Boston Bruins (#3) series.West DivisionAs of this writing, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Knights are still batting for the top seed. The team which finishes #1 will host the (#4) St. Louis Blues. The other will face the Minnesota Wild.North DivisionThe Toronto Maple Leafs dominated the "Canadian division" most of the season. By earning the #1 seed, they'll host their oldest rival, the (#4) Montreal Canadiens. The (#2) Edmonton Oilers will take on the (#3) Winnipeg Jets. Central DivisionThe Carolina Hurricanes were the class of the Central during the regular season. They'll host the (#4) Nashville Predators. The winner of that series will face the winner of the "Battle of Florida," as the (#2) Florida Panthers will take on the (#3) Tampa Bay Lightning. That should be a good series. The teams have never met in the playoffs and the Panthers had the edge in the regular season. The Lightning are still the defending champs though.  At this time of the year, a hot goalie can really carry a team. That being the case, before the playoffs officially begin, I'll check back in with a look at the goalies from each of the above teams. 

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Namajunas vs. Weile: Buckle Up

Thursday, Apr 22, 2021

With three titles up for grabs, Saturday's UFC card has a lot of potential. The main event features Kamaru Usman in a rematch against Jorge Masvidal. Valentina Shevchenko defends her flyweight title against Jessica Andrede, a former champion herself. Both those champions are favored in the -400 to -500 range. Perhaps the most anticipated fight is the co-main event; Zhang Weili puts her strawweight belt on the line against Rose Namajunas, another former champ. Outside of Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko and Weili enter the weekend as the best female fighters in the sport. With Usman and Shevchenko such heavy favorites, let's take a look at what figures to be the most competitive of the three title fights. Zhang Weili vs. Rose NamajunasIf you watched Weili's last fight, an all-out war with Joanna Jędrzejczyk, you'll know why everyone is excited. It was absolutely one of the best fights of 2020. In fact, many consider it the greatest women's fight of all-time. Weili proved she had the heart of a champion. She took a lot of punishment but kept coming forward with everything she had. Now, however, she takes on Namajunas, perhaps even more dangerous than Jędrzejczyk.  These are two serious fighters, both intent on having her arm raised. Zhang lost her first professional fight, a decision in the China MMA League in 2013. Since then, she's won 21 straight. She's focused and determined. Ditto for Rose; she's also extremely hungry. She's 7-2 since 2015 and 4-1 since 2017. Her lone loss came against Andrede, who took the belt from her and Namajunas would go on to avenge that loss. Weili rearranged Jędrzejczyk's face, en route to winning a split decision. However, Namajunas knocked her (Jędrzejczyk) out, becoming the champion. Joanna could barely stand after that 2018 upset. A young Namajunas was nearly a 4:1 underdog for that (first) fight. (Namajunas would also go on to win a rematch by decision, too.) Rose is getting more respect this time but is still a sizable dog. At most shops, Weili is roughly -200 while Namajunas pays back in the +170 range. Note that Jedrzejczyk is already saying: "She's got next." The O/U line for this fight is 4.5 rounds and one has to lay some extra juice to take the 'over.' In other words, we could be in for another epic battle. Good luck and enjoy! 

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Rise And Fall Of The European Super League 

Wednesday, Apr 21, 2021

In case you haven't noticed, in 2021, more than ever, the people hold the power. Outraged by the proposed formation of the "European Super League," soccer fans took to social media. UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) joined in to help apply pressure. Roughly 48 hours after the idea was announced, it collapsed. For those who may have never heard of any of this, let's backtrack. Over the weekend, twelve of Europe's biggest soccer teams announced plans to join together to form the "Super League." The idea was to play mid-week games, so as not to interfere with regular league play. There would be a total of 20 teams involved. The twelve  which had committed included teams from England, Spain and Italy: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and Ac Milan.To me, initially, the plan sounded pretty good. After all, more soccer equals more wagering opportunities. Evidently, however, I was in the minority. Indeed, the reaction to the proposal was fast and furious. Watching the owners backpedal was kind of funny. Liverpool's John Henry commented, via video message: "I want to apologize to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused ... Over these 48 hours, you were very clear ...We heard you. I heard you ... "The rest of the clubs released similar messages. Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said this to the Italian outlet La Republica on Tuesday: “There is a blood pact between the clubs, we are going forward. This project has a 100% possibility of success.”The very next day, Agnelli acknowledged: “... evidently no. I don’t think that project is now still up and running."The UEFA Congress stated: "The 55 member associations and participants in the UEFA Congress condemn the declaration of a so- called “Super League.” The UEFA Congress is adamant that the closed “Super League” goes against the very concept of what it is to be European ..."So, no Super League. Not to worry though. There's still a ton of soccer going though and the Euro Cup is right around the corner. Stay tuned for my UFC preview, as this week's card may prove to be one of the best in quite some time. 

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UFC 259 Preview

Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021

UFC 259 PreviewUFC's second PPV of 2021 goes this Saturday (March 6) and it figures to be a good one. No fewer than three different titles are up for grabs.The main event sees Middleweight champ Israel Adesanya move up to 205 pounds to take on Jan Blachowicz for the Light Heavyweight belt. At Featherweight, Amanada Nunes faces Megan Anderson. Additionally, Petr Yan makes the first defense of his Bantamweight belt, going up against Aljamain Sterling.The Main EventTalk about respect. Despite moving up in weight, Adesanya is still a -240 favorite. At 20-0, he's clearly one of the biggest stars in the sport. If he wins this and becomes a champ in two divisions, he'll already be considered one of the greatest ever. You may recall him disposing of Paulo Costo with ease in his last fight. The Middleweight champ will be faster and he'll be the more technical striker. Blachowicz has serious power of his own though. The big Polish fighter catches Adesanya with one good shot and anything is possible. While I do think Adesanya will get it done, I don't expect it to be nearly as easy as the Costo fight. Amanda NunesNunes is the biggest favorite (roughly -1200) on the card and for good reason. The "Goat" of women's MMA, Nunes has already done (belts at two weight classes) what Adesanya is trying to achieve. Nunes has dominated everyone: Rousey, Cyborg, Tate and Holm to name just a few. She can knock opponents out or she can choke them out. Anderson is a "knock-out artist" herself but she's outclassed here. Yan/SterlingWith a line of roughly a pick'em, this is expected to be the most competitive of the three title fights. Given the amount of trash talk between them, it should be exciting. The two fighters were originally supposed to fight back in December and the war of words between them has been going on for months. Yan had this to say: "He likes to talk a lot. He's a big mouth and sometimes I just happen to answer his tweets. For me, he's just another opponent, but I understand that he's the challenger and he needs to attract attention that he needs so much. As I started training and preparing, recently he's gone quiet. I don't know what happened. I don't know what happened to his big mouth ... " Yan went on to say: "... I don’t know what he's hoping for when he fights me. Is he hoping just to work his jiu-jitsu on me? I don't understand. I work and train with black belts so it’s not a problem for me.  I'm training to break him and destroy him. I can't see what he's going to offer me and I'm determined to prove to everyone that I deserve to be champion. I'm gonna defend this belt for a long time ... " Naturally, Sterling feels much differently. He had this to say: "Petr Yan has beaten up a lot of old men. I want to prove he's been the paper champ this entire time."

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The Europeans Are Coming!

Monday, Mar 01, 2021

by Ben BurnsBetter late than never! Thanks to the pandemic, Euro 2020 will be played in 2021. Starting June 11th and going for a month, 24 teams will do battle across 12 host cities. How Did They Get Here?The top two teams from each of the 10 groups qualified. The four remaining positions were settled in the play-offs. Scotland beat Serbia in a penalty shootout. What Do The Groups Look Like?This year's "Group Of Death" pits Germany, France and Portugal against each other. Poor Hungary. Remember, teams play each of the other three in their group. Top two from each group. advance to the knockout stage. Complete listings below:Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, RussiaGroup C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North MacedoniaGroup D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech RepublicGroup E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, SlovakiaGroup F: Hungary, Portugal, France, GermanyWho's Expected To Win?Believe it, or not, England is actually the current favorite to hoist the Henri Delaunay Cup. It helps to be in a group with Scotland and the Czech Republic, two of the weaker teams in the tournament. The top 10 favorites, courtesy of Pinnacle, are below:England +394Belgium +520 France +520 Spain +623Germany +726 Netherlands +726Italy +1036 Portugal +1036Croatia +2586Ukraine +5168Any Longshots To Keep An Eye On?At +7751, Switzerland is well worth a look. They should finish ahead of Wales and Turkey in Group A and then anything is possible. I've had the pleasure of visiting Switzerland a couple of times and always remember being very impressed by their soccer program. My son played in some tournaments in Italy and Switzerland; he played on what was essentially a North American select team but they had their hands full. Anyway, if looking for a longshot, consider the Swiss. 

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2021 Major League Baseball: American League Preview

Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

The American League has a 66-50 all-time edge over the National League, in terms of World Series titles. However, the "senior circuit" has now taken two in a row. Let's take an early look at some of the teams which will try and right the ship for the A.L. this season. While the American League East appears to be New York's to lose, the other two divisions are up for grabs. The White Sox and Twins are essentially co-favorites to win the Central while the Astros and A's are expected to receive a challenge from the Angels, in the West. Fans of the Rangers, Orioles and Royals: you're likely in for a long season. Don't completely give up yet though. Opening Day brings new hope to every clubhouse and there's almost always at least one team which defies preseason expectations. Though I'm not currently recommending any futures wagers, I do find it helpful to know what is expected from each team, after factoring in the usual flurry of offseason activity. I've listed the odds to win each division (courtesy of Pinnacle) below. Spring training games don't begin until Sunday but the players have already reported to camp. The actual season starts April 1st. Notes From The First Few Days Of Camp- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reportedly lost 42 pounds this offseason. - Shohei Ohtani threw 97 mph in a live batting practice session. - Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu has tested positive for COVID-19. AL EASTYankees -198Blue Jays +390Rays +449Red Sox +2209Orioles +4276AL Central White Sox -109Twins +123Indians +845Tigers +3244Royals +4035AL West Astros +116A's +166Angels +359Mariners +2374Rangers +3920

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2021 Major League Baseball: National League Preview

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021

While some are still shovelling driveways, baseball is right around the corner. Spring training gets underway February 28th. The "real thing" begins April 1st. So, what will baseball look like in 2021? Though they hope to play a full 162 games, doubleheaders will still be two seven-inning games. Each offense will get a runner on second to start each extra inning. However, there will be no universal designated hitter. What about the fans?Everyone hopes for there to be fans in the stands. When and where fans return to the ballparks, however, remains to be seen.Before the exhibition season starts, I find it helpful to see what the oddsmakers are projecting for each team. Looking at the division odds (courtesy of Pinnacle) gives an idea of which clubs are expected to compete. I've provided the National League below and will check back soon with the American League. The NL Central appears to be up for grabs with any team, except Pittsburgh, capable of winning. The Dodgers are heavy favorites in the West, the Padres their only possible competition. You'll see that the NL East is expected to be a 2-team race between the Mets and the Braves. Fans of the Nationals and the Phillies probably feel differently. Bryce Harper, reportedly healthy and excited about his team, surely does.  Harper had this to say of Philadelphia's offseason: "We needed to be able to spend money, because we don't have the prospects to actually trade and do that. We were kind of in a predicament of, 'What can we do right now, but how can we prolong this for the next four or five years and not just one year?' So being able to kind to get a new GM, get a new president of baseball operations and kind of go from there. I mean, when Dombrowski came in, I was really excited, because I saw what he did in Boston, what he did in Detroit. I was sitting there thinking to myself, 'Man, well, yeah, we can possibly spend money. But do we have the prospects to kind of get the guys that we need to?' And I mean, I trusted so much in what Dombrowski was going to do, what Sam Fuld is going to do for us. I know how smart Sam is. I know how smart Dombrowski is. So I knew they were going to be able to do what they did. But I didn't know they were going to be able to do what they did like this. I was really pumped about it. And I was, quite frankly, a little shocked that they were able to do what they did."NL East Braves +150Mets +150Nats +600Phillies +850Marlins +1500NL CentralCardinals +153Reds +278Brewers +341Cubs +384Pirates +4087NL WestDodgers -258Padres +201Giants +3038Diamondbacks +5063Rockies +5063

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UFC 257 Preview: Poirier vs. McGregor 2

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor sure can sell tickets. Every time the cocky Irishman fights, it's a big deal. Saturday sees him take on Dustin Poirier. The two previously fought, back in 2014. On the rise at the time, a young McGregor took care of business in short order. So, will the rematch be worth the price of admission? Poirier vs. McGregor 1The first fight happened so long ago, that McGregor wasn't even on the "Main Event." It didn't last long. Conor predicted a first round KO and stated that he'd "bounce Poirier's head off the canvas." Watch the replay. That's essentially what happened. McGregor made it look easy. He had barely broken a sweat by the time referee Herb Dean was pulling him off.Could The Rematch Be Any Different? The first fight was so long ago that the two are entirely different people. McGregor is now a global superstar. He's made millions and has his own line of Irish whiskey. Poirier has quietly done a lot, too. Not only has he had a daughter and founded his own charity, but he's also beaten the likes of Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis and Justin Gathje, to name a few. Poirer had this to say: "I don’t feel like I’m as emotional a fighter as I was then. My outlook now is trying to stay in a place of gratitude and be grateful for the position I’m in and be grateful for the fights that I have, the family I have. I’m just thankful."The OddsDepending on the book, McGregor is roughly a 3-to-1 favorite. Take back on Poirier is +250. The O/U line is set at 2.5 rounds. One has to lay some pretty steep juice to play the 'under' though. Currently, the price on the U2.5 ranges from -180 to -200, with the 'over' bringing back +150 to +160. The Rest Of The CardI don't plan on getting involved in the Main Event. I expect Conor to win but I'm not willing to lay the big price on him. There are some other interesting fights though. Amanda Ribas is an exciting fighter, who should win again. However, Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler should be a more competitive battle. (I've got my eyes on another one, too.)Enjoy all the fights, as well as this weekend's NFL Championships games. Until next time, good luck ... Ben Burns

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NHL Early Look

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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The Early Bird Gets The Worm

Monday, Dec 28, 2020

Regardless of sport, it's much easier to have a profitable season, if one gets off to a winning start. It's also much easier to get off to a winning start if one is properly prepared. Over the years, I've become known for my "fast starts." Currently, I'm off to a quick start with my basketball selections. I attribute much of my success to my offseason preparation. While each sport allows for a different type of study, by the time the season begins, I want to have devoured as much information as I possibly can. On that note, I'll point out that NHL returns on January 13th. I know it seems like last season just ended (Tampa hoisted the Cup on Sept. 28th.) but the league hopes to get back to its normal schedule, in time for next year. This condensed 56-game schedule allows them to do so. Due to travel restrictions, the divisions have been realigned. We've now got the North, West, Central, and East. The North is an "All Canadian" division, featuring the seven Canadian teams. The 24 American teams are divided equally among the other three. As I write this, on December 28th, the Avs are favored to win the Cup. While I'm not advising making any future bets, I do find it helpful to know what each team's expectations are. Current future odds, for the "top 10" teams, courtesy of Pinnacle, are listed below. Remember, you've got roughly two weeks to prepare for the upcoming season. When they drop the puck, make sure you're ready to go. Good luck and an early Happy New Year!ODDS TO WIN THE CUPColorado +536Tampa +743Vegas +753Toronto +1254Boston +1292Edmonton +1531Philadelphia +1873Washington +1988Pittsburgh +2104Dallas +2104

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UFC 256 Preview

Sunday, Dec 06, 2020

A few weeks ago, in my preview of UFC 255, I stated the following: "The Royval/Moreno winner could find himself fighting Figueiredo next." Dana White didn't waste any time in making my prediction come true. As expected, both Moreno and Figueiredo won their November 21st fights. On December 12th, a mere few weeks later, the two will meet at UFC 256. It should be a good one. I believe that Moreno is better than Perez, the fighter that Figueiredo submitted in the first round last month. However, Figueiredo is a slightly bigger favorite for this fight than he was against Perez. (Most shops are at -300 or higher.) That's because the public has caught on that the flyweight champ, "God of War," is deadly both on the ground and on his feet. As I mentioned before his last fight: "I won with Figueiredo (19-1) in his last fight, as he took care of Joseph Benavidez in the first round. That victory came via submission, the seventh of his career. However, the flyweight champ is more known for his hands. He's got serious power for this weight class."Moreno is no slouch though. Royval was a pretty good fighter in his own right and Moreno stopped him in the first round. That brings him to an impressive 6-0-1 in the UFC. Moreno had this to say about the champ: "I'm more technical, I have more tools and I’m a lot quicker than him. The only thing you can say about Deiveson is that he’s a one-shot fighter, so I have to make that my advantage. I know that he can surprise. I know that he has a lot of tools, good elbows, good kicks. but I have a lot more speed than him and that’s going to be my advantage against him."I'm not about to lay -300 or more with Figueiredo. Not against a really good fighter. Not when both are taking the fight on short notice. I'm not about to go against the champ either. He's that good. Rather, I'm just going to appreciate this one and look for my opportunities elsewhere. Enjoy and good luck ... Ben Burns

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Mike Tyson/Roy Jones Jr. Recap

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

by Ben BurnsI'm not ashamed to admit that I watched Saturday's boxing "exhibition." It was somewhat entertaining. However, I'm a little reluctant to admit that I actually bet on the "fight."Watching Tyson and Jones Jr. felt a lot like watching Thai boxing in an outdoor bar in Thailand. It looked and felt real, but there was also the feeling that the contestants were there to put on a show. It appeared that Tyson, who apparently had dropped 100 pounds to get down to 220, was landing some decent shots and that he was capable of taking Jones out at any time. Yet, it didn't happen. Roy did a lot of clinching and avoided the fatal blow. The decision of a draw was obviously a joke. Tyson won the fight. What do you think, was the result predetermined? While he may not have been awarded the decision, I'd say that Tyson still came out as a big winner. He got his name in the spotlight and actually looked pretty good in the ring. He also ended up coming across like a "good guy." Not only did he reportedly give a lot of the profits to charity, he was also gracious, despite being robbed by the judges. Only in 2020. 

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UFC 255 Preview

Monday, Nov 16, 2020

Say what you want about the rest of 2020 but it continues to be an exciting year for fight fans. Another two titles are up for grabs on Saturday November 21st, at the UFC Apex, in Las Vegas. The main event features flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo, defending his belt against Alex Perez. In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko goes for her fourth straight title defense.  Shevchenko, among the most dominant fighters out there, is an extremely heavy favorite. We're talking in the -1400 range, as of this writing. Obviously, I'm not about to suggest that kind of price. So, is it worth taking a shot on the huge underdog? Probably not. Maia (18-6-1) is no slouch, as she's capable on both her feet and on the ground. However, Shevchenko (19-3) is better in both areas. She's won seven of her past eight and has defended her belt three times, twice by KO. Maia's never faced anyone that hits this hard. By comparison, Figueiredo's -300, or so, price tag may look somewhat reasonable. It's still a little too rich for my blood though. I won with Figueiredo (19-1) in his last fight, as he took care of Joseph Benavidez in the first round. That victory came via submission, the seventh of his career. However, the flyweight champ is more known for his hands. He's got serious power for this weight class. Perez (24-5) has been fighting well and checks in off three straight wins. However, it should be noted that his lone UFC loss was by first round TKO, at the hands of Benavidez. It should also be mentioned that Figueiredo was originally supposed to fight Cory Garbrandt while Perez was to go against Brandon Moreno. Though both champions may be too expensive to bet, there are plenty of other enticing options on Saturday's card. Totals have yet to be released but there are some interesting matchups. The Brandon Royval / Brandon Moreno winner could find himself fighting Figueiredo (or Perez) next. Paul Craig vs. "Shogun" Rua should also be pretty good, given that the two fought to a draw last September. Enjoy and good luck! .... Ben Burns 

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Don't Forget About Defense

Monday, Oct 12, 2020

"Chicks dig the long ball." Remember that Nike commercial? It was on the air back in 1999, so perhaps not. It featured Glavine and Maddux, a couple of Cy Young pitchers, trying to learn to hit like Mark McGwire, in order to get noticed by women. Google it.While that commercial aired more than 20 years ago, home runs remain the current rage. That's because teams which hit more "long balls" than their opponent have won nearly every game this postseason. While hitting home runs is clearly very important, it doesn't mean that teams can forget about the little things. Like playing defense. That was evident when watching Game 2 of the ALCS. I had liked what I'd seen defensively, from the Rays, in Game 1. In Game 2, the Rays took their defense to another level. Margot's highlight reel catch was only one of many high quality defensive plays. On the other side, Altuve's mindless throwing error extended Tampa's first inning. (Gurriel was originally given the error but they changed it and gave it to Altuve, who would go on to commit another.) The Rays made the most of it, their next batter (Margot) making the Astros pay with a 3-run home run.   Remember, home runs may get you noticed. But pitching and defense still win ball games. 

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NBA Finals Report: Can History Repeat Itself?

Monday, Oct 05, 2020

We've got a series! I really didn't think that the Heat would go down without a fight. Jimmy Butler made sure that they didn't. All Butler did, in willing his team to victory, was put up the third 40-point-triple-double in NBA Finals history. Butler would finish with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. The series now sits at 2-1. Game 4 goes Tuesday. So, what should we expect? Can Jimmy Buckets and the Heat do it again? History hasn't been kind to teams that go down 2-0 in the Finals. However, the Heat have their own history. Think back to 2006. Facing Dallas, as they did against LA, the Heat lost the first two games by double-digits. Then Dwayne Wade came to life. Miami eked out a 2-point win in Game 3. Then, the Heat blew out the Mavericks in Game 4. It was their only lopsided victory of the series. Wade and co. would complete the improbable comeback by winning Game 5 and Game 6 by a combined four points. Can history repeat itself? Are there any similarities between this year's team and that 2006 squad? The big one is that Wade and Butler both went to Marquette. Both the former Golden Eagles are players who refuse to "go down easy." As for history repeating itself, the problem with that is that these Lakers are arguably much better than the 2006 Mavs. Regardless of what happens, with the Heat now "believing that they belong," the series has sure gotten a lot more interesting. 

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Early MLB Playoffs Preview

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

by Ben BurnsThe year of 2020 has reminded us that anything is possible. In the NBA,the fifth seeded Miami Heat took down #1 Milwaukee and are now one win away from advancing to the Finals. In the NHL, the Dallas Stars upset favored Colorado (and Vegas) to advance to the Finals. Should we also expect an unlikely entry in this year's World Series?With the short season and the new playoff format, I'd say it's entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that we'll have an "unexpected" team playing for the title. The Dodgers are favored and for good reason. They're stacked. Anything can happen in a series though and they're certainly not a sure thing to represent the National League. They could face a tough Reds team in the first round. The Padres and Braves are both playing well. Atlanta recently learned that it will get Fried back for the playoffs. The Cubs can't be counted out, particularly if they draw over-achieving Miami in the first round. The Yankees may be favored in the American League but they won't have an easy road ahead of them. Indeed, the AL is wide open. with any team capable of stepping up. Tampa, Oakland and Minnesota are currently the top three seeds but the White Sox and Indians are also tough. Even Toronto, though young, is capable of getting hot at the right time. At this time, with the brackets not quite finalized, I'm willing to make only one prediction. Like everything else in 2020, the playoffs promise to at least be "interesting." Once the matchups are set, I'll report back with some further thoughts. Until then, enjoy the final few days of the regular season.  

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Hail to the Chief: NFL Opening Night Preview

Monday, Aug 31, 2020

In order to have success in the NFL regular season, or playoffs, I've always found it important to "identify teams early." With Mahomes coming off an MVP season, the Chiefs were expected to be good last year. As a result of those expectations, I found them to be a bit overvalued, early in the regular season. In fact, I played against the Chiefs a few times, including successfully when they lost at Tennessee, 35-32, on November 10. From that point forward, however, the Chiefs were a wrecking machine. I was involved in five plays involving KC during the playoffs. In the Super Bowl, I supported the Chiefs for the game. I also won with the 'under' for both the first half and for the game. Despite winning with the Titans during the regular season, I successfully backed the Chiefs in the rematch, when it counted. Prior to that, I won with the 'over' 24 for the first half in the Chiefs/Texans game. I remember watching that game in an airport bar, waiting to catch a plane home from Mexico. (Wow, does that ever seem like a long time ago!) You may remember that one. By halftime, they already had 52 points, as Mahomes erased a 21-0 first quarter deficit, ultimately winning 51-31. The Texans and Chiefs will face each other again, on Opening Night. There are some new faces on the Houston side. While Watkins no longer has Hopkins to rely on, he does have some other weapons. Running back David Johnson and receivers Cooks and Cobb are among the new options. The Chiefs are currently laying -10 points, at most shops, with an O/U line in the mid 50s. Good luck. Stay safe and enjoy the game!Ben Burns was a PERFECT 5-0 in games involving the Chiefs in the playoffs including a DOUBLE-DIGIT WINNER with the total when they faced the Texans. Don't touch the opening night CHIEFS/TEXANS TOTAL until you've checked in with Burns first! 

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Pandemic Puppy

Thursday, Jun 25, 2020

Ringing in 2020 in sunny Puerto Vallarta, I capped off another highly successful NFL playoffs with a 3-0 (side, total, first half) sweep in the Super Bowl. A couple weeks later, I attended my son's soccer tournament in Las Vegas. We took in a UNLV game at Thomas & Mack, knowing the Mountain West Tournament would soon be played there. The world seemed so normal. Everything changed. The pandemic has seen me go through a range of emotions. I assume the same is true for most. When Covid-19 first reared its ugly head, my oldest daughter was working overseas. By the time she decided it was time to come home, flights were getting cancelled, left, right and center. It was scary. Eventually, to everyone's great relief, she returned safely. She had a nasty cough though and was coming from a high-risk part of the globe. That led to her having to quarantine, upon arrival. I admit it. At the onset of the pandemic, I watched way too much news. I probably went a little overboard at the grocery store, too. It seemed the sensible thing to do. That led to many excellent meals and a few extra inches on my waistline. I was also one of those people who got a "pandemic puppy." I know what you're thinking. He's awesome though. After a few weeks, I decided to stop worrying about things that were out of my control. Instead, I vowed to make the most of the down time. I sent masks and continue to try and help those who need it. I also embarked on an in-depth review of all my picks from the past decade. It's something which I'd always wanted to do but never found the time for. I won't delve into the details but I really learned a lot. The reality is that I've been very fortunate. For this, I am extremely grateful. I know that this continues to be a devastating time for so many. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who are suffering. Stay safe everyone. We're all in this together and we'll get through it.

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