Larry Ness Sports Picks For Sale

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • MLB: 8-3, +$5,615 in LCS and WS
  • all NFL 2020: 24-16, +$5,467 ($100/unit)
  • 25-17, +$6,183 all sports L16 days

Biography

Larry Ness was a fixture on TV and radio for 18 years, and is one of the most recognizable names in the history of sports handicapping.

Active since:  1982

Location:  Homosassa, FL

Larry Ness was a member of the original cast of Proline (began in 1985), the nation’s longest running pre-game handicapping show on the USA-TV network (also hosted Sports Desk on the same network from 1996-98).  Larry then joined the panel of The Winning Edge in the early 2000s.  Although well-known on TV for his expert game analysis and no-nonsense handicapping style, Larry may be best known for his radio work.  He hosted his own syndicated call-in radio show, Sports Central, which aired live from Bally's Casino in Las Vegas in the early-to-mid-90s, and was heard in more than 100 markets.

Achievements in handicapping:  Larry has achieved unparalleled success in his decades-long career.  But one of his favorite awards came in 1985, when he won The Castaways Pro Football Challenge Championship, then the most prestigious handicapping contest in Las Vegas.  Sports handicapping has always been (and will always be) a "What have you done for me lately" business.  Larry can't wait for NFL 2020, as he comes off back-to-back seasons (2018 & 2019) of going a combined 144-108-7, earning a profit of $22,458 at $100/unit (note:  from 2019 Week 4 thru the Super Bowl, Larry's top-rated NFL 10*s went 31-13, or 70.5% ATS).  After a great 2018 CFB season (73-52-1, +$13,592), Larry stumbled in 2019 but looks to "bounce back" in 2020 (he had earned a profit in FOUR of the previous five CFB seasons entering 2019).  When the 2019-20 NBA season was halted (68-54-1, +$9,071), Larry was well on his way to his FOURTH winning NBA season in five years.  Like with last year's CFB season, Larry had an "off year" in college hoops 2019-20 and is confident of a bounce-back this coming season.  Larry plays VERY selectively in the NHL and when play was halted in March, his "Big Plays" (defined as G.O.W, G.O.M. and "signatures") were 18-7 (72%) Y-T-D.  Will there be a 2020 MLB season?  Larry hopes so, as it's his "favorite sport to handicap" and he has earned a profit in SEVEN of the last 10 seasons.

Systems used for handicapping a game:  Fundamental and statistical analysis.  "I'm not typically a trend-and-system kind of guy," Ness says.  "I look at team strengths and weaknesses and compare them.  It’s an all-encompassing thing, and over 35-plus years, you get good at it."

Star Ratings:  9 and 10*s are considered "Best Bets."  All other plays are rated between 6 and 8*s, depending on strength and/or price.

Release Times:  Larry releases "daily sports" (MLB, NBA, NCAAB and NHL) on the day of the game.  His full card is almost always available by 10:00 ET (save Late-Breaking games).  In the FB season, Larry begins releasing plays as early as Tuesday.  His full CFB card is typically complete by Thursday (on Friday, at the latest) and his full NFL card will be mostly complete by Friday (definitely by Saturday at 3:00 ET).

37-Club Play:  It represents Larry's 37 years in the business and gets his highest star rating (10*s).  Expect no more than one of these plays per month, per sport, during the regular season.

Legend Play:  Larry's often been referred to as a Las Vegas legend and he's 'borrowed' the title for his other "signature play."  Larry's Legend Plays were previously available to only a select group of private clients but they are now available to all, via the internet.  Like his 37-Club plays, expect no more than one play per month, per sport (rated 10*s).

Game of the Month and Game of the Year Plays:  Always rated 10*s.

Las Vegas Insider:  Throughout his 37 years "in the business," Larry has become known as "the ultimate Las Vegas insider."  The contacts he's developed over more than three decades (on both sides of the 'counter'), are arguably "unmatched!"  He confers daily with his 'friends' and when "all the stars align on the same game," Larry releases an exclusive Las Vegas Insider (rated between 7 and 10*s).

Oddsmaker's Error Plays:  Larry uses this term with "great respect" (and not very often), as he counts among his very closest friends many of Las Vegas' most famous and respected sportsbook directors (past and present). However, when Larry feels "the line is significantly off," he'll release one of these "not to be missed" plays (rated 9 or 10*s).

Situational Stunners:  Larry's a fundamental handicapper at heart but he does pay attention to team and situational trends (especially in MLB).  When his fundamental handicapping and a strong trend or situation match up, he releases a Situational Stunner.  He began releasing these plays in MLB '09 and he's expanded them since to all sports (rated from 7-10*s, based on strength and/or price for moneyline sports).

Perfect Storm:  Larry just added these plays the last few years and his accompanying expert analysis makes these popular plays self-explanatory (typically rated 9 or 10*s but moneyline sports may be rated 7 or 8*s due to price).

Weekly and Weekend Wipeout Winners:  Larry added this self-explanatory moniker just a few years ago. They've become immensely popular and why not?  Who wouldn't want a game that has "blowout written all over it," supported by Larry's expert analysis (rated between 7 and 10*s, depending on strength and price).

Superstar Triple Play: Over the years, many of Larry's regular clients have clamored for more three-game reports.  You asked for it and Larry's responded.  Back in the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s, 900-numbers became "the rage."  While a panel member of Proline (see above), Larry created the Superstar Triple Play.  One call got you three Superstar Triple Plays (in a particular sport).  For almost a decade, anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500 callers responded each weekend, when Larry offered his famous "Superstar Triple Play" pitch on Proline.  Starting in 2009, Larry began going "Back to the Future!"  Look for 3-game reports this FB season on Saturday (college) and Sunday (NFL).  Get three plays on a single report from Larry (many will be TV games), the originator of the "Superstar Triple Play!"

Late-Breaking Plays:  Larry will always go back to take a "second look" at each day's card, after posting all his games.  When he finds something he missed the first time around, he'll release a Late-Breaking Play.  These plays are more prevalent in sports like baseball and basketball than football (typically rated at 8 or 9*s).

Quote: "No one works any harder and my work-product speaks for itself," Ness says.  "I have a no-nonsense style and my logic is easy to follow.  Anyone buying my plays will know exactly what I was thinking when I made the selection.  After 37 years, the Larry Ness brand is instantly recognizable and my analysis ranks with the best in the industry."

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, October 27

Tuesday, Oct 27, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series Game 6: I provided a brief recap of Games 3 through 5 in Monday's Notes and now, following LA's 4-2 win in Game 5, the Dodgers are just ONE win away from the team's first World Series title since 1988. The Game 6 pitching matchup is a rematch of Game 2, as Blake Snell takes on Tony Gonsolin. The Rays staked Snell to a 5-0 lead and he didn't allow a hit through four innings, while striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. However, Snell's dreams of a no-hitter ended in the 5th. He walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and served up a two-run HR to Chris Taylor. A walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager ended Snell's night. However, four relievers held off the Dodgers, allowing two runs over 4.1 innings, as Tampa Bay evened the Series at one-all with a 6-4 victory. Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine games (eight starts / team was 5-3) during the regular season. However, in his two outings this postseason against Atlanta, he'd allowed SEVEN earned runs in 6.1 innings for a 9.95 playoff ERA. He threw just 41 pitches in a Game 7 against Atlanta (allowed two runs in two innings) in which the Dodgers won 4-3 to complete their comeback from being in an 0-3 'hole' against the Braves. I found the choice of starting Gonsolin in Game 2 a little strange, as he was pitching on just two days' rest in Game 2 of the World Series and got just four outs, throwing 29 pitches while allowing a solo HR and one walk. In his three postseason starts, he's lasted only 7.2 innings, allowing eight ERs on six hits with almost as many walks (7) as strikeouts (9). His ERA is 9.39 and his WHIP is 1.70.However, he hasn't pitched since that Game 2, so he takes the mound well-rested. Remember, he pitched well in the regular season (see above). The Dodgers have won Games 1, 3 and 5, while the Rays have won Games 2 and 4. "The trend" says Game 6 sets up as a Tampa Bay win, which would send the World Series to a Game 7, mirroring the two LCS that also went a full seven games. The Dodgers, as they have been in EVERY game so far, are favored (-140) and the over/under is 8. I'll be back tomorrow with a World Series recap OR, a Game 7 preview.Note: I've gone 8-3, +$5,615 with all LCS and WS plays and Game 6 is my 10* MLB Game of the Week. BATTER UP!NFL's Week 7 concluded last night with the LA Rams beating the Chicago Bears 24-10. LA's defense dominated, as Chicago's only TD came on an eight-yard fumble return with just 7 1/2 minutes to go and Chicago down 24-3. Jared Goff won the QB 'battle' over Nick Foles, completing 23 of 33 for 219 yards with two TD passes, no INTs and a 108.0 QB rating. In comparison, Foles completed 28 of 40 for 261 yards without a TD pass and two INTs (66.8 rating). Supporting Goff was an LA running game that produced 161 yards, compared to Chicago's 49 rushing yards on 2.9 YPC.LA's win gave home teams a 6-8 SU and ATS record for the week, as home dogs went 1-5 SU but 3-3 ATS. Here are the Y-T-D numbers. Home teams are barely over .500 at 53-51-1 (.510), while going just 45-58-2 ATS (.437). Home dogs check in at 9-26 SU but a more respectable 16-17-2 ATS. Scoring remains high (Week 7 games averaged 49.1 PPG) but resulted in six overs, seven unders and one push. Y-T-D there have been 52 overs, 50 unders and three pushes.More NFL from Week 7: In a showdown of unbeatens, the Steelers moved to 6-0 with a 27-24 win in Nashville against the Titans (now 5-1). Arizona's comeback 37-34 OT win in SNF action dropped Seattle to 5-1, leaving Pittsburgh as the NFL's lone unbeaten. Up next, the Steelers are at the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens this Sunday. At the 'bottom of the barrel' are the 0-7 Jets, who had a 10-0 lead at home over the Bills in the mid-second quarter but NEVER scored again in an 18-10 loss. Buffalo never scored a TD, settling for six FGs. Dallas is not winless (Cowboys are 2-5) but remain the NFL's lone winless ATS team, falling to 0-7 with a 25-3 loss at Washington.The NFC East is a 'disaster,' as the 2-4-1 Eagles sit atop a division that is 7-20-1 (.288) SU and 10-18 (.357) ATS, overall. In contrast, there is the NFC West in which all four teams are above. 500. The division is a combined 18-8 (.692) SU and 16-10 (.615) ATS. The defending NFC champions are the SF 49ers, but they sit in last-place at 4-3, trailing the 5-1 Seahawks, as well as the Cardinals and Rams (both are 5-2). The Niners are not the only 2019 division winner that is finding that repeating in 2020 will not come easily. The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2019 for the FOURTH  time in the previous five years but at 1-6, the Texans are effectively 'dead' in 2020 (Titans lead the division at 5-1). The Brady-less NE Patriots entered 2020 having won 11 straight AFC East titles (as well as 17 of the previous 19) but at 2-4 are already 2 1/2 games behind the 5-2 Buffalo Bills The Pats travel to Buffalo on Sunday and while it may be just Week 8, how isn't it a "must win?" Minnesota was 10-6 in 2019 and earned a wild card spot, where the Vikings upset the 13-3 Saints in New Orleans, but the Vikings have little chance of playing past Week 17 in 2020, as they are off to a 1-5 start.There are a couple non-playoff teams from 2019 that are 'sitting pretty' through Week 7 of 2020. No team is better positioned than the 6-0 Steelers, who are almost assured of ending their brief, two-season postseason drought in 2020. The TB 12-led Bucs are riding Brady's excellent start in 2020 (18 TDs / four INTs) plus one of the NFL's best defenses (20.3 PPG on 291.3 YPG ) to a 5-2 start. The Bucs last made the playoffs in 2007, a 12-year drought! Week 8 kicks off on Thursday with another ho-hum contest, the 1-6 Falcons at the 3-4 Panthers. Who is responsible for 2020's 'ugly game' Thursday Night schedule?Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, October 26

Monday, Oct 26, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 7 will conclude tonight with 5-1 Bears in LA to take on the 4-2 Rams at 8:15 ET on ESPN (Rams are favored by six points and the over/under is 44 1/2). Just one of Chicago's wins this season have come over a .500 or better team (Tampa Bay), while all FOUR of the Rams' wins in 2020 have come against NFC East teams, which are a combined 7-20-1. You make the call. Full Week 7 recap in Tuesday's Notes but Pittsburgh's 27-24 Sunday win at Tennessee moved the Steelers to 6-0, while the Titans fell to 5-1. When the Cardinals came back Sunday night to edge the Seahawks, Seattle fell to 5-1 leaving the Steelers as the NFL's lone unbeaten team. The Jets lost 18-10 at home to the Bills and remain the NFL's lone winless team at 0-7 but they covered to give them their first ATS win of the season (1-6 ATS). The Cowboys lost 25-3 at Washington and Dallas now stands alone as the NFL's lone winless ATS team (0-7). How 'bout dem Cowboys!3-Day World Series recap: With the Series tied at one-all, Walker Buehler allowed just ONE run over six innings with 10 Ks in Game 3. He became the first pitcher in World Series history to record double-digit strikeouts in six innings, as the Dodgers won 6-2. The Rays' Charlie Morton allowed five ERs over just 4.1 innings, after entering the game having won all FIVE of his starts in the playoffs for Tampa Bay over the last two years while recording a minuscule 0.70 ERA.Game 4 was a World Series "classic," as the Tampa Bay Rays won Saturday night's contest with one of the wildest finishes in World Series history. The Dodgers broke a 6-6 tie in the top of the 9th by scoring their seventh run of the night, all coming with two outs. Then, with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, Brett Phillips, a seldom-used outfielder, hit a single to center field off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, bringing in the tying run. However, Chris Taylor kicked the ball and Randy Arozarena, who started on first, never stopped running. The relay to catcher Will Smith had Arozarena out by 30 feet but Smith dropped the ball and the ricochet allowed Arozarena to dive home with the winning run. The 8-7 Tampa Bay victory tied the Series at two-all.Game 5 saw Clayton Kershaw take the mound with the fifth-worst postseason ERA among pitchers with at least 70 innings, since the advent of the wild card in 1995. Kershaw was excellent in LA's Game 1 win (one ER allowed in six innings with eight Ks) and was treated to an early 3-0 lead. Kershaw allowed two runs in the third but lasted 5.2 innings, while surviving an attempted steal of home by Manuel Margot in the fourth with two outs and LA leading just 3-2. Then, LA used THREE relievers (NONE named Jansen) to pitch 3.1 scoreless innings for the 4-2 victory. Game 6 is set for Tuesday with a pitching rematch from Game 2 of Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and LA's Tony Gonsolin. See Tuesday's Notes for a preview. CFB recap: Saturday featured four games between ranked opponents, No. 6 Oklahoma St at home against No. 17 Iowa St, No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU, No. 14 No. Carolina home to No. 23 NC State and No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. The higher ranked team won all four and also went 4-0 ATS. That continued a trend in which of the 15 games featuring ranked opponents in 2020, the higher ranked team has gone 14-1 SU and 13-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). However, ranked teams against unranked opponents have seen a very different dynamic. Ranked teams did win 10 of the 12 such matchups this past weekend but were able to go just a modest 6-6 ATS, although that was a MAJOR improvement over the numbers Y-T-D. Ranked teams are 54-18 (.750) SU when taking on an unranked opponent so far this season but remain a 'money-burning' 26-45-1 (.366) ATS.No. 19 Va Tech losing at Wake forest was a surprise but No. 8 Penn State losing 36-35 in OT at Indiana was a real shocker. It was Indiana's first win over a top-10 team since 1987! The Indiana shocker was just ONE of seven Big Ten games, as the conference took the field for the first time in 2020 this past weekend. Illinois started things off with a 45-7 rout of Illinois on Friday, as Graham Mertz, the highest-rated quarterback recruit to ever sign with Wisconsin, made quite a 'splash' in his first career start. He entered the year as Jack Coan’s backup but when Coan suffered a serious foot injury in preseason practice, Mertz got the start. He lived up to his billing, completing 20-of-21 passes for 248 yards and five TDs. His 95.2% single-game completion percentage mark set an all-time Big Ten mark. However, Ohio State's Justin Fields would match it the very next day, as he also completed 20 of 21 passes for for 276 yards (two TD passes and one rushing TD), as Ohio St beat Nebraska 52-17. Ohio State has now won 13 straight Big Ten games by double digits! Also making news in the Big Ten was Michigan's dominating 49-24 win at Minnesota. Michigan's junior QB Joe Milton completed 15 of 22 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 52 yards and another score, in his first career start (had 11 pass attempts in his first two seasons). While Indiana's upset of Penn St garnered the biggest headlines out of the Big Ten, let's give a shout out to Rutgers' Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights won 38-27 at Michigan St, snapping the school's 21-game Big Ten losing streak in the first game of his second tenure as head coach at Rutgers.6-0 Clemson remained No. 1 in the AP's latest poll (52 of 62 first-place votes), winning its 38th straight regular season game, 47-21 over Syracuse. A win at home over BC this coming Saturday and the Tigers will match Miami's 39-game streak set from 2000-03, leaving only Oklahoma's 45-game winning streak (1953-57) to beat. No. 2 Alabama got the remaining 10 first-place votes after beating Tennessee but the Tide lost WR Waddle on the opening play of that game on his kickoff return (ankle). Ohio St moved up from No. 5 to No. 3, as Notre Dame fell to No. 4 after winning a nation-best 11th straight game, 45-3 at Pittsburgh. Idle Georgia rounds out the top-5.Falling out of the rankings were No. 19 Va Tech, No. 21 Minnesota and No. 23 NC State. Indiana enters the poll at No. 17, matching the school's highest ranking since being ranked No. 17 in 1993. The Hoosiers snapped a 25-year absence from the AP top-25 in 2019 but their stay lasted just one week. Will Indiana remain ranked next week, after playing UNDEFEATED Rutgers this Saturday? Also new to the latest poll is Oklahoma, which returns after a three-week absence. That three-week poll drought was the longest for Oklahoma since the Sooners were left out of the final SIX polls of the 2009 season (Oklahoma finished 8-5 that season). Checking in at No. 25 is Boise St, which beat Utah St 42-13 in its first game of 2020. Boise St finished No. 23 in the final AP poll of 2019 and the Broncos are no strangers to being ranked. In fact, it's the 19th straight season in which the Broncos have been ranked for at least ONE week, tying them with USC for seventh-best all time.Closing shout outs. Joining Clemson at 6-0 in 2020 are BYU (ranked No. 11) and Liberty. The Flames are coached by Hugh Freeze and he led them to an 8-5 season in 2019 (his first at the school), including a 23-16 Cure Bowl win over Georgia Southern. Liberty received 85 points in Sunday's AP poll, second to Memphis' 105 points, among "others receiving votes." Boise St, the 25th-ranked team has 113 points. Let's NOT forget the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, who were ranked (at No. 25) for the first time in last week's poll. The Chanticleers beat Georgia Southern 28-14 this past Saturday and are now up to No. 20. Is there a 'ceiling' for how high they could climb? How about this? Coastal Carolina will host Liberty on Dec 5 in the season- finale for both schools. Could it be a "Showdown of Unbeatens?"Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, October 23

Friday, Oct 23, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series Game 3: The best-of-seven series is tied at one victory apiece and the Game 3 pitching matchup is a VERY good one. 26-year-old Walker Buehler takes the mound for the first time since he threw six scoreless innings in a 3-1 triumph against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday in Game 6 of the NLCS. That performance gives him 29 Ks over four postseason starts (19 innings) in 2020. The Dodgers are 3-1 in his starts and Walker owns a 1.89 ERA. I think Buehler is now considered LA's 'ace,' over Kershaw. With an excellent effort here, he could nail down that moniker. However, he faces one tough competitor in Tampa Bay's 36-year-old Charlie Morton. Morton's 3-0 in 2020's postseason, allowing 11 hits and two runs (one earned) over 15.2 innings for an 0.57 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 17-4 KW ratio. In fact, Morton has won all FIVE of his starts in the playoffs for Tampa Bay over the last two years while recording a minuscule 0.70 ERA. The Dodgers are favored (-150) and the over/under is 7 1/2.<p>Note: I enter Friday on an 8-2 run MLB run (+$6,615 at $100/unit) and Game 3 is my 10* MLB Game of the Year. BATTER UP!NFC 'Least' is back! Going back in time, NFC East fans will remember that in a 10-year span from Super Bowl XXI through Super Bowl XXX, an NFC East team won SEVEN of the 10 Super Bowls played in that span (49er fans will point to the fact that "their team" won the other three). However, that was THEN and this is NOW. The Giants and Eagles met last night in Philly, with the Eagles eking out a 22-21 win. Carson Wentz threw an 18-yard TD pass to Boston Scott with 40 seconds remaining for the game-winner. Wentz threw for a season-high 359 passing yards and two TDs, both coming late in the fourth quarter on scoring drives of 78 and 71 yards. He also had a rushing TD. The Giants attempted to answer on the ensuing drive but QB Daniel Jones was stripped of the ball and Philly recovered to seal the win. Improbably (incredibly?), the Eagles now sit ATOP of the division with 2-4-1 record, edging the 2-4 Cowboys by percentage points (.357 to .333). For those unfamiliar, the NFL gives a team half a win and half a loss in a tie game. NFC East teams are a combined 6-19-1 SU and 9-17 ATS. However, the New York Football Giants (as Howard Cosell always referred to them), may be 1-6 but they own the division's only winning ATS record at 4-3.NFL Week 7 resumes on Sunday, with Baltimore (5-1), Indianapolis (4-2), Miami (3-3), Minnesota (1-5) enjoying bye weeks. Only three unbeaten teams remain and barring a tie, ONE team will fall from the rung of unbeatens by Sunday night. The 5-0 Steelers will visit the 5-0 Titans in Nashville on Sunday. This game was originally scheduled for Oct 4, but an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Titans organization forced a postponement. Now, this Week 7 game marks just the EIGHTH time in NFL history that undefeated teams have met this deep into a season. The Steelers are 5-0 for the first time since 1978 and Tennessee for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2008. Tennessee is currently favored by just one point and the over/under is 50 1/2.Speaking of COVID-19, the Raiders were scheduled to host the Bucs in Las Vegas for NBC's Sunday Night Football. However, the Raiders placed four starting offensive linemen plus a safety on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. All five players were deemed high-risk contacts Thursday. The NFL then announced later on Thursday that the Raiders' game against the Bucs had been moved to 4:05 ET "out of an abundance of caution to ensure that a game would be available for fans on Sunday Night Football." That means, the 5-0 Seahawks will now face the 4-2 Cardinals in Arizona for SNF.Seattle is the NFL's third unbeaten team but has yet to face an NFC West opponent. The Seahawks' 5-0 start is the best in franchise history and the 4-2 Cardinals are above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, which was the last time they made the playoffs. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is widely considered the front-runner for the NFL's MVP award a third of the way through the season, as he's completing 72.8% for 1,502 yards while leading the league with 19 TD passes (just three INTs) and with a 129.8 QB rating. However, THREE of Seattle's five victories have come down to the game's final 15 seconds. Seattle is favored by 3 or 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 56.Another HUGE game is the 3-3 SF 49ers playing in Foxboro vs the 2-3 NE Pats. The 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. The Pats are more than just the defending AFC East champs, as New England entered 2020 having captured the AFC East title the previous 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (since 2001). The Pats welcome the 49ers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-3 record. New England hasn't been under .500 through the fifth game or later in any season since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. New England is a two-point choice and the over/under is 44.I'll close with the NFL's only winless team, the 0-6 (also 0-6 ATS) J-E-T-S Jets, Jets Jets! The Jets are last in the NFL with 75 points scored (every other NFL team has scored at least 100), which is an average of 12.5 per game. The Jets are also one of EIGHT teams allowing 30-plus points per game (30.8), meaning they are losing by an average of 18.3 PPG. Buffalo QB Josh Allen was terrific in Buffalo's 4-0 start, completing 70.9 percent of his passes, while averaging 331.5 YPG through the air with 12 TDs and just one INT. However, Buffalo has lost back-to-back games, 42-26 at Tennessee and then 26-17, as Allen has completed just 58.8 percent, while averaging only 192.5 YPG passing with four TDs and three INTs in the back-to-back defeats. Buffalo is favored by 12 1/2-points and the over/under is 45.Updating the NFL's Y-T-D numbers to include last night's game. NFL home teams continue to struggle in 2020, going a modest 48-43-1 SU (.527) but a 'money-burning' 39-51-2 (.433) ATS. Home dogs are 8-21 SU and 13-14-2 ATS. There have been 46 overs, 44 unders and two 'pushes' on the season.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday October 22

Thursday, Oct 22, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." World Series Update: The 2020 World Series got underway Tuesday night and the Dodgers looked every bit the part of a team with MLB's best record in this COVID-shortened season with an 8-3 victory. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw shrugged off his rocky playoff history to give up just ONE run on two hits over six innings with only one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired 13 consecutive batters until Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo HR in the fifth. In contrast, the Ray's Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and SIX walks (three would eventually score) in 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed SIX runs (all earned). Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers an early lead with a two-run HR (two days after his go-ahead HR in Game 7 of the NLCS) and Mookie Betts hit his first postseason HR for the Dodgers in the sixth to open a 7-1 advantage. Betts, Muncy and Taylor each had two hits. Tampa Bay had just six hits, while LA struck out 10 Rays as opposed to allowing just ONE walk.However, Game 2 told a very different tale, as Blake Snell took charge from the mound in the first four innings, while Brandon Lowe took charge at the plate. Lowe came in batting .083 (4-for-48) with one HR in his previous 13 postseason games but ended his slump in dramatic fashion. Lowe jump started the Rays' offense with a solo HR in the first inning off Tony Gonsolin, then hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning off Dustin May, as the Rays led 5-0 into the bottom of the 5th. Snell didn't allow a hit through four innings, while striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. However, Snell's dreams of a no-hitter ended in the 5th. He walked Kiké Hernandez with two out and served up a two-run HR to Chris Taylor. A walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager ended Snell's night. Four relievers held off the Dodgers, allowing two runs over 4.1 innings, as Tampa Bay evened the Series at one-all. The Rays had 10 hits, the first time they reached double digits since Game 3 of their ALDS against the New York Yankees, a single-digit-hit skid that had lasted 10 games. The Dodgers used SEVEN pitchers in the loss but the good news (for both pitching staffs) is that Thursday is an "off day." Game 3 is set for Friday and it features the best pitching matchup of the series, LA's Walker Buehler vs Tampa Bay's Charlie Morton. Early price is LA (-155) with an over/under line of 7 1/2.Note: My 10* MLB Game of the Year is already posted for Game 3. BATTER UP! NFL Week 7 kicks off with another uninspiring contest (way too many already this season), when the 1-5 NY Giants visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles (FOX/NFL Network at 8:20 ET). That said, with the 2-4 Cowboys atop the sad-sack NFC East, the winner of this game is "right in the mix" for the division title. The division as whole is 5-18-1 SU and 8-16 ATS. Actually, the two 1-5 teams (NY Giants and Washington) account for SIX of the division's eight ATS wins. The Eagles have won SEVEN straight games against the Giants and haven't lost at home to their NFC East rivals since a 15-7 setback in 2013. Philly is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 45. Good luck to all who dare play this one. I'll pass and wait until Sunday, when my card will feature my 1st 10* "Signature" 37-Club Play of NFL 2020 (represents my 37 years as a professional handicapper).The college football weekend also kicks off tonight, as 3-2 Arkansas St visits Boone, NC to take on 2-1 Appalachian St. ESPN will be there to televise at 7:30 ET. App St is favored (-13.5) and the over/under is 68. The biggest storyline of the weekend in the college ranks is the return of the Big Ten. CFB's oldest conference (established in 1895) announced it was canceling its fall football season back on August 11. However, a little over a month later (in mid-September), the conference announced that it had adopted “significant medical protocols,” and would return to play the weekend of October 23-24. So here we are and someone had to be first. Kicking off the 2020 Big Ten schedule will be Illinois and Wisconsin, with the 14th-ranked Badgers hosting the Illini in front of an empty Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Friday night at 8:00 ET on the Big Ten Network. The Badgers had won the last nine meetings and 13 of the previous 14, with Wisconsin having outscored Illinois by a combined 145-46 in the four meetings since Paul Chryst took over the Wisconsin program in 2015. So what happened in 2019? James McCourt converted a 39-yard FG as time expired, as Illinois upset Wisconsin 24-23 as a 30 1/2-point underdog. Methinks the Badgers will remember? Wisconsin is favored by 19 points and the over/under is 51.5.The remaining 12 Big Ten schools (six games) will all be in action on Saturday. Top-10 schools Ohio St (No. 5) and Penn St (No. 8) are home to Nebraska and at Indiana, respectively. However, the Big Ten's marquee Game of the week is No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota. Most feel as if Harbaugh has underachieved since returning to his alma mater to coach and the Wolverines are coming off a 9-4 season, including a 35-16 loss to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl. As for Minnesota, PJ Fleck's Gophers 'rowed the boat' to an 11-2 season (including a 31-24 win in the Outback Bowl over Auburn as a 7-point dog), the school's first 11-win season since 1904. It's safe to say this is a "big one" for the Golden Gophers, as the last time Minnesota was involved in a matchup of ranked teams to start a season was 1968. Michigan is favored by three points and the over/under is 54 (kick off is 7:30 ET on ABC).Michigan/Minnesota is one of four games featuring ranked opponents. The other three are No. 6 Oklahoma St at home against No. 17 Iowa St (Cowboys are favored by 3 1/2-points), No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU (Bearcats are 2 1/2-point underdogs) and No. 14 No. Carolina home to No. 23 NC State (Tar Heels are favored by 15 points). There have been just 11 games featuring ranked opponents in 2020 and the higher ranked team has gone 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M). As for playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents, it has been a 'money-burning' proposition so far. Through games played Oct 17, ranked teams are 44-16 SU (.733) against their unranked opponents but only 20-39-1 (.339) ATS!  Friday's game (Wisconsin hosting Illinois) is the first of 12 games in which a ranked team is squaring off against a ranked opponent. Keep the above stat in mind before getting involved with any of the 12 favorites this weekend. That said, following a theory called "regression to the mean," we are overdue to see the ATS record swing back in favor of the ranked teams. Is this the week? Top-10 teams facing unranked opponents are No. 1 Clemson (-46) home to Syracuse, No. 2 Alabama (-21) at Tennessee, No. 3 Notre Dame (-10.5) at Pittsburgh, No. 5 Ohio St (-26) home to Nebraska and No. 8 Penn St (-5.5) at Indiana. Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 21

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." The 2020 World Series got underway last night and the Dodgers looked every bit the part of the team with MLB's best record in this COVID-shortened season. Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw shrugged off his rocky playoff history to give up just ONE run on two hits over six innings with only one walk and eight strikeouts. He retired 13 consecutive batters until Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo HR in the fifth. In contrast, the Ray's Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and SIX walks (three would eventually score) in 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed SIX runs (all earned). Cody Bellinger gave the Dodgers an early lead with a two-run HR (two days after his go-ahead HR in Game 7 of the NLCS) and Mookie Betts hit his first postseason HR for the Dodgers in the sixth to open a 7-1 advantage. Betts, Muncy and Taylor each had two hits. Tampa Bay had just six hits, while LA struck out 10 Rays as opposed to allowing just ONE walk.Tampa Bay turns to Blake Snell, who won a Cy Young of his own in 2018, in Game 2, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Tony Gonsolin. Snell was 4-2 in the 2020 regular season with a 3.24 ERA over 11 starts (Rays were 7-4). In four starts during this postseason, Snell is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He enters off an outing in Game 6 of the ALCS in which he gave up two runs on three hits with four walks in four-plus innings and was CLEARLY unhappy about being removed. The Houston Astros won that game 7-4 but the Rays rebounded to win Game 7. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has named Tony Gonsolin as his Game 5 starter. He said after the World Series opener, "We just feel like we like him in this spot," Roberts referenced Gonsolin's recent bullpen experience, seemingly suggesting the 26-year old could be more of an opener Wednesday, pitching the first inning and perhaps a bit more if he is efficient. The Dodgers would turn it over to the bullpen from there. Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine games (eight starts / team was 5-3) during the regular season. However, in his two outings this postseason against Atlanta, he's allowed SEVEN earned runs in 6.1 innings for a 9.95 playoff ERA. LA is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.Peeking ahead to the NFL weekend: NFL Week 7 kicks off with another uninspiring contest (way too many already this season), when the 1-5 NY Giants visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles. That said, with the 2-4 Cowboys atop the sad-sack NFC East, the winner of this game is "right in the mix" for the division title. More in Thursday Notes about this game and the NFC East. The Game of the Week is the 5-0 Steelers visiting the 5-0 Titans, a contest that was scheduled for Week 4 but was pushed back to Week 7 because of Tennessee's COVID-19 issues. Ironically, the game is even more significant now. SEVEN of last season's eight division winners are NOT in first place as we enter Week 7, as KC is the LONE division winner from 2019 to actually lead its division here in 2020. TWO of those seven teams meet Sunday in Foxboro. The SF 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. The Pats are more than just the defending AFC East champs, as New England entered 2020 having captured the AFC East title the previous 11 years and in 17 of the last 19 seasons (since 2001). The Pats welcome the 49ers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday with a 2-3 record. New England hasn't been under .500 through the fifth game or later in any season since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. SNF features TB 12 visiting Las Vegas (along with the NFL's No. 1 defense) to face the Raiders, who are coached by Jon Gruden. Most should remember that Gruden coached the Bucs to the franchise's lone NFL championship in SB XXXVII, a 48-21 win over the Raiders, the team he now coaches in his second go-around with that franchise. Good stuff!Thursday's Notes will feature a recap of World Series Game 2 (Thursday will be an off day) plus a 'long' look at the upcoming college football weekend, highlighted by the Big Ten's return to play!

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 20

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 6 concluded with a MNF doubleheader. The Chiefs were to play at the Bills this past Thursday but it was rescheduled to Monday. Both came in 4-1, after each team lost for the first time this season in Week 5. The Bills led 10-7 as the first half was nearing its end but Mahomes hit TE Kelce with a second TD pass to put KC up for good, 13-10. The Chiefs extended the lead to 23-10 and the final was 26-17. Rookie RB Edwards-Helaire ran for 161 yards, as KC ran for 245 yards (on 5.3 YPC). It should not h=go unmentioned that KC ran the ball more times than it passed it for just the SECOND time in Mahomes' 37 starts. That's NOT to say Mahomes was not a major factor. He was 'surgical 21 of 26 for 225 yards with two TDs and zero INTs (QB rating of 128.4). His "opposite number," Buffalo QB Josh Allen, played poorly. He was 14 of 27 for only 122 yards with two TDs and one INT. Allen opened the season by leading the Bills to four straight wins, completing 70.9 percent of his passes, while averaging 331.5 YPG through the air with 12 TDs and just one INT. However, in Buffalo's back-to-back losses, he's completed just 58.8 percent, while averaging only 192.5 YPG passing with four TDs and three INTs.The regularly scheduled MNF game saw the Cards roll over the Cowboys 38-10 in Dallas. It was Arizona's third straight road game but Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott started the game with two fumbles, which gave the Cards all the momentum they needed. The first fumble came after catching a short pass from Andy Dalton and 11 plays later Kyler Murray and Christian Kirk hooked up for a six-yard flip for a TD. Two plays into the next possession, Elliott fumbled again and five plays later, Arizona RB Kenyan Drake scored the Cardinals' second TD and gave them a 14-0 lead. Arizona won the 'turnover battle' 4-0. QB Kyler Murray completed a modest 9 of 24 for 188 yards but had two TD passes and did not throw an INT. He added 74 yards rushing and a third TD to become just the THIRD player in league history with 30 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in the first 25 games of his career. He's done so in 22 games, tying Daunte Culpepper (Vikings) for the QB quickest to reach the mark. The Cowboys fell to 2-4 but incredibly, remain atop the NFC East, as their three division rivals own a combined 3-14-1 record (more in a bit). League-wide scoring is up this season and NINE teams are currently allowing 30-plus PPG but NO team is allowing more than the Cowboys, who are giving up 36.3 PPG. New head coach Mike McCarthy may also want to point out that his team also owns the WORST turnover ratio of ANY team, at minus-12 (15 giveaways vs just three takeaways).I noted above that Dallas sits atop the NFC East at just 2-4 and that's because defending NFC East champ Philly is just 1-4-1. However, the Eagles are NOT alone among 2019 division champs through Week 6 of NFL 2020. In fact, the LONE division winner from 2019 to be currently leading its division in 2020, is the 5-1 defending Super Bowl champion KC Chiefs in the AFC West. Here's a list of the other six 2019 division champs and their status as the season head to Week 7. In the AFC East, the defending champion Pats are just 2-3. The Pats haven't been under .500 through the fifth game or later since they were 3-4 in 2002, which was the last season the Patriots did not win 10-plus games. Houston won the AFC South in 2019 (for the 4th time in the previous five seasons) but are 1-5 and in deep trouble in 2020. The San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West last season at 13-3 (and advanced to the Super Bowl) but their 3-3 record leaves them in last-place in 2020, behind not only the 5-0 Seahawks but also the 4-2 Rams and Cards. Neither the Packers (4-1), the Ravens (5-1) nor the Saints (3-2) lead the divisions they captured in 2019 (NFC North, AFC North and NFC South, respectively) but that's not because of poor play. The Bears are 5-1 in the NFC North, the Steelers are 5-0 in the AFC North and the Bucs are 4-2 in the NFC South.NFL home teams continue to struggle in 2020, as after going 7-7 SU and 6-8 ATS in Week 6, are 47-43-1 SU (.522) Y-T-D and 39-50-2 (.438) ATS. Home dogs are 8-21 SU and 13-14-2 ATS. The Cowboys fell to 0-6 ATS with their Monday loss, joining the Jets, who remain the NFL's lone winless team. Five teams are tied atop the ATS standings at 4-1. That group includes the 5-0 Seahawks and Steelers plus the 4-1 Packers but also the 2-3 Broncos and 1-4 Chargers. Week 6 games averaged 47.5 PPG and 10 of the 14 went under. There have been 46 overs, 43 unders and two 'pushes' on the season.World Series 2020: Both LCS went the full seven games, although each followed a different path, which I detailed in Monday's Notes. So in the end, the team with the best record in the AL and the team with the best record in the NL, will meet in the 2020 World Series. Just the way it should be, right? That makes sense but I should note that it's only the FOURTH time in the wild-card era (since 1995) that the teams with the best record in each league will meet in the World Series. Tampa Bay is in the World Series for just the second time in franchise history (first time being in 2008, when it lost to Cole Hamels' Phillies). The Rays opened the season ranking 28th in the majors in payroll and the only team to reach the World Series since 1998 with a lower ranking was that 2008 Tampa Bay club. As for the Dodgers, they are in the World Series for the THIRD time in the last four seasons, losing in 2017 to the Astros and in 2018 to the Red Sox. It's the 63rd instance in major league history that a team has reached three World Series in a four-year span and only TWO teams among the group did not win a World Series. The Dodgers sure don't want to join the 1907-09 Detroit Tigers and the 1911-13 NY Giants.  If the Dodgers win, it will be their 7th championship (including one as the Brooklyn Dodgers).The starting pitchers for Game 1 will be Tampa Bay's Tyler Glasnow and LA's Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw and LA are favored (-175) and the over/under is 7 1/2. There's good news for the teams' pitching staffs, as after each team played SEVEN games in SEVEN days in their respective LCS, the World Series will have a one-day break after Games 1 and 2 and another one-day break after Games 3 thru 5 and before Games 6 and 7.  BetAnySports has the series odds at -200 for the Dodgers, with Tampa Bay at +185.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 19

Monday, Oct 19, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 6 opened with four remaining unbeatens and 5-0 Seattle was assured of staying unbeaten, as the Seahawks were on their bye week. The Steelers joined the Seahawks at 5-0 with an impressive 38-7 home beatdown of the Browns, while the Titans moved to 5-0 with a 42-36 OT win at home over the Texans, just four days after handing the Bills their first loss of the season last Tuesday. Houston, which has won the AFC South in FOUR of the last five seasons, is now 1-5 to open 2020. Unlike Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers lost their 'Battle of the Bays' in Tampa. Green Bay jumped to a 10-0 lead but the Bucs defense shut down Rodgers and Co. as Tampa Bay scored the game's final 38 points! Three winless teams entered Sunday's action, with two getting off the schneid. The Falcons won 40-23 at Minnesota (Vikings are now 1-5), while the Giants eked out a 201-9 home win over Washington. The one constant of NFL 2020 so far has been, we can always rely on the Jets to not only lose, but also lose ATS. The J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets lost 24-0 at Miami, falling to 0-6 SU and ATS, while 'leading' the way with a league-worst minus-110 point differential.As the league 'manages' its way through the "Era of COVID," we have yet another MNF doubleheader. The Chiefs were to play at the Bills this past Thursday but it was rescheduled until tonight (Fox/NFL Network at 5:00 ET). The Chiefs and Bills are both 4-1 and each team lost for the first time this season in Week 5. The Chiefs are favored () and the over/under is . The regularly scheduled Monday Night game (ESPN at 8:15 ET) features the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals at the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys. The Cards will be playing their THIRD straight road game (never a great spot) but the Cowboys are 0-5 ATS and feature arguably, the NFL's worst defense. Dallas is allowing a league high 36.0 PPG and ranked 29th of 32 teams through Week 5 by allowing 404.4YPG. What's more, QB Dak Prescott has been lost for the season, with Cincy cast-off Andy Dalton going the rest of the way under center. The current line is Dallas minus-1 and the over/under is. Don't forget, a full recap of NFL Week 6 will be the "feature attraction" of Tuesday's Notes.ALCS/NLCS recap: Baseball fans couldn't have asked for more out of the two just completed LCS. The Rays owned the AL's best record (40-20) and took a 3-0 lead over the Houston Astros, who were able to make the expanded 2020 postseason field by finishing second in the AL West, despite a 29-131 record. However, there was no "give-up" on the Astros, who won Games 4 and 5 by identical scores of 4-3, before forcing a Game 7 with a 7-4 win in Game 6. Houston, which had won 100-plus games in each of the previous three seasons, were looking to join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to comeback from an 0-3 'hole' and win a seven-game series. However, the Rays took Game 7 by the score of 4-2 on the strength of Charlie Morton's pitching (5.2 scoreless innings), Randy Arozarena's two-run HR and a solo HR and sac fly from Mike Zunino. Arozarena was named ALCS MVP. Getting back to Morton, he improved to 3-0 in Game 7 appearances, having beaten the Yankees as a starter in the 2017 ALCS and the Dodgers in relief in the 2017 World Series. In 14.2 career Game 7 innings, he's given up just one run and six hits.The Dodgers owned MLB's best 60-game record this season (43-17) plus posted a plus-136 run differential that was 52 runs better than any other MLB team. It was 76 runs better than their NLCS opponent (Atlanta) but the Braves took a 3-1 series lead. LA fought back to win Game 5 (7-3) and Game 6 (3-1) setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 against Atlanta rookie Ian Anderson. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He took the mound Sunday night having not allowed a SINGLE run in 15.2 postseason innings, with the Braves winning all three of his starts. As for LA, manager Dave Roberts didn't name a starter until late afternoon. It turned out to be Dustin May, who allowed one run in one inning. Gonsolin followed and allowed two runs in two innings but then Treinen, Graterol and Urias combined for six scoreless and HITLESS innings. Trailing 3-2 in the 6th, pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez tied it with a solo HR and then Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead HR in the seventh inning, which turned out to be the game-winner. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was named NLCS MVP with five HRs and 11 RBI in the seven games. 2020 World Series preview set for Tuesday.CFB recap: There had been just 10 games so far in which ranked teams have met entering this past Saturday. The Saturday schedule had just ONE such matchup but it was the 'game of the year' so far in 2020. No. 3 Georgia made the trip to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 2 Alabama Saturday night at 8:00 ET on CBS. These two national powers hadn't met in the regular season since 2015 and believe it or not, the last time the Bulldogs played in Tuscaloosa was 2007. That happened to be Nick Saban's first season with Alabama and Georgia won 26-23 in OT. Georgia's defense ranked first nationally in rushing (38.3 YPG), second in total defense (236.7 YPG) and was tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 PPG). Meanwhile Alabama's offense led the nation with an average of 51.0 PPG (note: Alabama put up 723 yards the previous Saturday vs Ole Miss!) but 'Bama's defense was shredded at Ole Miss in allowing 647 yards and 48 points.<p>If there wasn't enough drama surrounding the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 and it looked for certain that he would not be able to coach the team. However, he was able to get three negative tests in a row and there he was on the sidelines. Georgia led Alabama 24-20 at the half but a Jones to Waddle 90-yard TD pass in the early third quarter sent Alabama on its way to a 41-24 win. Georgia's defense had no answers for the Tide's offense, which rolled up 564 yards. The much-maligned Alabama D held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half. Saban improved to 22-0 against his former assistants and the Crimson Tide have now won 28 consecutive games against SEC East opponents. Saban also tied Joe Pa for most all-time wins against a ranked opponent with 86. He already owns the most wins over top-five opponents (25) and over top-10 opponents (42).Streak setting or breaking ran 'wild ' in the SEC on Saturday, as Kentucky beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1984, having lost its previous 17 visits. Saturday's game wasn't close, as the Wildcats won 38-7. South Carolina made some history of its own, beating Auburn 30-27 at home last Saturday for its first win over the Tigers since 1933! Not to be outdone, the ACC made some waves of its own with Clemson's 73-7 rout of Ga Tech as the 66-point margin of victory was the biggest in ACC history. North Carolina visited Tallahassee 3-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation while the Seminoles only win of 2020 had come against Jacksonville St, an FCS team. Mack Brown, an FSU grad, had NEVER beaten his alma mater and he wasn't able to do it on Saturday either, as FSU went up 31-7 at the half and was able to hold on for a 31-28 win. Brown is now 0-10 lifetime vs FSU, 0-3 with Tulane and now 0-7 with North Carolina.Alabama's win and cover over Georgia means the higher ranked team has gone 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing on Oct 10 at then-No. 21 A&M) in meetings between ranked opponents. However, as I have noted each week, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. There were 11 games in which a ranked opponent met an unranked one last week and the ranked team went 7-4 SU but again struggled ATS, going 5-6. Actually, that's much better than usual. Through games played Oct 17, ranked teams are 44-16 SU (.733) but only 20-39-1 (.339) ATS against their unranked opponents.Clemson remains No. 1 in the latest AP poll (out Sunday), after winning its 37th regular season game. That ties Nebraska, which did the same from 1992-96. Clemson has Syracuse and Boston College up next, so the Tigers will almost assuredly match Miami's 39-game regular season winning streak, set from 2000-03. Clemson will play at current No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov 7 and will need to beat the Irish to move past Miami. If so, only Oklahoma's 45-game regular season winning streak (from 1953-57) stands in the way. Let's hear it for Coastal Carolina, which only moved up to FBS status in 2017, as the Chanticleers are ranked for the first time in school history at No. 25. The Big Ten 'joins the party' this weekend and I'll see you Thursday for my CFB weekend preview.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 16

Friday, Oct 16, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." The Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 in Game 4. The two teams went with "bullpen" games for Thursday's Game 5, as neither start saw the third inning. George Springer crushed John Curtiss' first pitch over the fence in left field to give the Astros the lead in a game in which they never trailed. Brandon Lowe homered in the third to tie it for Tampa Bay but Houston went up 3-1 on a two-run double by Brantley. Solo shots by Tampa's Arozarena and Choi sent the game to the 9th tied at 3-all. Astros closer Pressley stranded the potential go-ahead run on second base in the top of the ninth, before Carlos Correa belted a walk-off HR with one out in the ninth inning. The game-ending blast came off Nick Anderson, who had entered a tie game in the bottom of the eighth and had retired all four batters he faced before Correa's blast.<p>As we head to Game 6, here's the setting. The Rays have now lost two in a row but still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. As for the Astros, they became just the fourth team out of 39 ever to trail a playoff series 3-0 and even force a Game 6. The 2004 Boston Red Sox (in the ALCS against the NYY), are the only team to win a series after losing the opening three games. The Astros attempt to keep their season alive with a third straight win Friday night, as the Game 6 starters are Houston left-hander Framber Valdez and Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell. It's a rematch of Game 1, which the Rays won 2-1. Framber pitched six innings in that contest, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out eight. Snell earned the win by allowing one run on six hits and two walks over five innings with just two Ks. Tampa Bay is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8. The Dodgers were MLB's most-dominant team during this COVID-shortened season but they found themselves in an 0-2 'hole' as they faced a Game 3 against an Atlanta team that was 7-0 this postseason. However, LA hitters 'took no prisoners' with an 11-run first inning that set a record for the most in any inning in postseason history. The Dodgers compiled 18 total bases in that 32-minute top of the first, the most in postseason history for any inning. Their three HRs and five extra-base hits each tied records for single postseason innings. However, a 15-3 win doesn't count any more than a 2-1 win does. The Dodgers sent Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 4, while the Braves countered with 22-year-old Bryse Wilson, who was making his first career postseason start. Game 4 was 1-1 after five innings, as Wilson matched Kershaw. Wilson held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the sixth but in the bottom of that inning, Kershaw had yet ANOTHER postseason 'meltdown!' The Braves sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the sixth-inning, chasing Kershaw and breaking the game wide-open. Kershaw never got an out in the 6th, leaving after allowing four runs in five innings. Meanwhile, Wilson went six innings and allowed just one run in his first postseason appearance! The first three batters in Atlanta's lineup, Acuna, Freeman and Ozuna went a combined 8 of 14 with six runs scored and six RBI (Acuna hit two HRs). The 10-2 Atlanta win puts the Braves ONE win away from their first World series appearance since 1999. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker announced prior to Game 4 that he would NOT bring Fried back until Game 6, so it will be a "bullpen" game for Atlanta, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Dustin May, who has pitched 4.2 scoreless innings over three appearances this postseason, including 1.2 innings in relief against Atlanta in Game 1. Starting pitching uncertainty has become 'common' this postseason so there is currently no price on this game.NFL home teams are a modest 40-36-1 SU (.526) Y-T-D, while going just 33-42-2 ATS (44.0%) with home dogs going 6-18 SU and 10-12-2 ATS, through five weeks. NFL games had averaged a combined 51.3 through the first four weeks of the 2020 season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Week 5 games averaged 51.8 PPG but over/under numbers have been adjusted up, as seven games went over and seven stayed under. Peering a little closer, let me note that the seven games which went over averaged 62.9 PPG, while the seven that went under averaged just 40.7 PPG. After five weeks, there have been 42 overs, 33 unders and two 'pushes.' There are just four remaining NFL unbeatens as the season moves to Week 6. Seattle is 5-0 (4-1 ATS) and is one of four teams which has a Week 6 bye. The others are the Chargers, Raiders and Saints. The other unbeatens are all 4-0, a group that includes Green Bay (4-0 ATS), Pittsburgh (3-1 ATS) and Tennessee (1-3 ATS). On the flip side, we have three winless teams at 0-5. Atlanta is joined by MetLife co-tenants the NY Giants and NY Jets. Atlanta fired head coach Dan Quinn at the beginning of the week and Jets head coach Adam Gase may not be far behind. Gase led Miami to a 10-6 season in 2016 but was fired after going 6-10 and 7-9 the next two seasons. For some unexplained reason, the Jets hired him in January of 2019. The Jets went 7-9 last season and have now opened 0-5. How do you like him so far? The Giants have a first-year head coach in Joe Judge but while the Falcons and Jets are a combined 1-9 ATS, the Giants have been somewhat competitive, going 3-2 ATS.<p>Tracking the three unbeaten teams playing in Week 6, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers will play at the 3-2 Bucs in a 'Battle of the Bays' (Green vs Tampa), as Rodgers (13 TDs / 0 INTs) and TB 12 go head-to-head. Green Bay is a one-point road favorite. The 4-0 but 1-3 ATS Titans are home against the 1-4 Texans, who are coming off their first win of 2020 last Sunday, 30-14 over the Jags. Tennessee is favored by 3 1/2 points. Then there is 4-0 (3-1 ATS) Pittsburgh hosting NFC North rival Cleveland, which is 4-1 for the first time since 1994. The Browns lost 38-6 in Week 1 at Baltimore but have won four straight, scoring 30-plus points in each win. When was the last time the Browns scored 30 points or more in four straight games? Try 1968! Cleveland leads the NFL averaging 188.4 YPG on the ground, while the Steelers are holding opponents to an NFL-low 64.0 rushing YPG. Pittsburgh is favored by 3 1/2-points.The 0-5 Falcons are in Minnesota to take on the 1-4 Vikings but note that Minnesota has covered three in a row (Vikings are favored by four points). The 0-5 Giants (but 3-2 ATS) are home to 1-4 Washington, which comes in having lost four in a row (allowed 30 points or more in each), after upsetting the Eagles 27-17 in Week 1 (Eagles led that one 17-0 but never scored again). The Giants are favored by 2 1/2-points. Then we have the 0-5 Jets (also 0-5 ATS) at Miami, where they'll face the 2-3 Dolphins. It's a 'homecoming' for Gase but I doubt either Miami or New York (New Jersey?) want to claim him. Miami is favored by 9 1/2-points.SNF features the Rams at the 49ers. The 49ers represented the NFC in last year's Super Bowl but enter this game just 2-3, while the Rams are 4-1. Both are looking up at 5-0 Seattle in the NFC West. The Rams are favored by 3 1/2-points. It's another MNF doubleheader in Week 6, with an excellent game between the 4-1 Chiefs and 4-1 Bills joining the regularly scheduled game (Arizona at Dallas). The Chiefs and Bills are both coming off Week 5 losses, with the defending Super Bowl champs favored by 4 1/2-points. Dallas lost starting QB Dak Prescott for the season last week and will turn to Andy Dalton at QB. The Cards are 3-2 and a slight favorite (1 1/2 points) over the 2-3 Cowboys who are 0-5 ATS but sit atop the NFC East, as the Giants, Philadelphia and Washington are a combined 2-12-1.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 15

Thursday, Oct 15, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." MLB's most-dominant team during this COVID-shortened season was the LA Dodgers but they found themselves in an 0-2 'hole' against the Atlanta Braves, who were a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs to-date after an 8-7 win in Game 2.  Atlanta pitching had allowed just SIX runs (five came in its 9-5 Game 1 win over Miami) heading into the 7th inning of Game 2 (that's over 64 innings), before FIVE relievers allowed SEVEN runs over the last three innings. The Dodgers were not able to complete their ninth-inning comeback against the Braves on Tuesday night but in what was a clear "must-win" situation in Game 3, LA hitters 'took no prisoners against Atlanta starter Kyle Wright, with an 11-run first inning that set a record for the most in any inning in postseason history. The Dodgers compiled 18 total bases in that 32-minute top of the first, the most in postseason history for any inning. Their three HRs and five extra-base hits each tied records for single postseason innings. However, a 15-3 doesn't count any more than a 2-1 win does.Kershaw's back is "good to go" and he'll get the start after opening the 2020 postseason by going  2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Those two successful starts are in stark contrast to his checkered postseason history (9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 32 appearances, including 25 starts) before this year. Getting the nod for Atlanta will be the 22-year-old Bryse Wilson. He's made just 15 career appearances (seven starts), posting a 3-1 record but with a 5.91 ERA, 1.80 WHIP and .306 BAA. Wilson has never pitched west of Milwaukee in his three-year, major league career and has never started a game against an NL West team. Needless to say, this is his first start in the postseason. Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in 11 career starts against Atlanta with his ERA against the Braves marking his best against any NL team. Surprise, surprise. The Dodgers are favored -213 and the over/under is 9 runs. Over in the AL, the Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 last night. Altuve hit a solo HR in the 1st and then doubled in a run in the second for Houston but Tampa Bay's Arozarena hit a two-run HR to tie it in the fourth, before George Springer's two-run HR put the Astros up 4-2 in the 5th. Zach Greinke got into trouble in the top of the sixth but Dusty Baker went with his 'gut' and decided to leave Greinke in and he delivered by getting out of the inning. Tampa Bay scored once in the 9th but left a runner stranded on third when the game ended. The Rays still own a commanding 3-1 lead but the Astros have 'lived' to 'fight another day.' Not much to report on Game 5, as Baker has yet to name a starting pitcher, though John Curtiss will be the first of a slew of "relievers" to toe the rubber for Tampa.The CFB week got an early start, as a pair of Sun Belt unbeatens met last night in Lafayette, La. It was 3-0 Coastal Carolina and 3-0 UL-Lafayette, which was ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll. The game had been pushed back four days because of the threat to Louisiana from Hurricane Delta. It was 13-all at the half (both teams had a missed extra-point) and was 27-all before Massimo Biscardi kicked a 40-yard FG with four seconds remaining to give Coastal Carolina a 30-27 upset victory. The victory makes Coastal Carolina 4-0 and should move the Chanticleers closer to the AP top-25. They have received votes in the rankings each of the last two weeks for the first time in the program's four-year FBS history. It was yet another example of a ranked team falling 'victim' to an unranked team (more in a bit).There is one game on Thursday, as 1-1 Georgia St is at 2-2 Arkansas St (Red Wolves are favored by 3 1/2-points) but Friday features a doubleheader on ESPN. It's No. 17 SMU (4-0) at 2-2 Tulane at 6:00 ET and No. 14 BYU (4-0) at 1-0 Houston at 9:30 ET. The Mustangs opened last season 4-0 as well (actually opened 8-0) and by repeating that start in 2020, have recorded the school's first back-to-back 4-0 starts since 1983-84 (remember "The Pony Express?"). SMU is favored by 6 1/2-points. BYU head coach Kalani Stake was 'feeling the heat,' as the Cougars were coming off seasons of 4-9, 7-6 and 7-6. However, the Cougars opened with a light schedule in which they won their first three games by an average of 41.3 points, before unexpectedly struggling in a 27-20 win over visiting UTSA last Saturday. The Cougars find themselves 4-0 and with a very favorable schedule ahead of them. Friday's game at Houston and a Nov 6 visit to Boise St seem like the only possible pitfalls. Houston is coming off a 4-8 season and its 49-31 home win on Oct 8 over Tulane was its FIRST game of 2020. The delayed start was due to contests against Washington State, Rice, Baylor and North Texas being canceled due to various COVID-19 reasons, while a game with Memphis was postponed and rescheduled for Dec 5. Houston was predictably rusty in the win over Tulane, as it committed four of its five turnovers in the first half before recovering from a 24-7 deficit to win by 18 points! BYU looks to notch its first 5-0 start since 2008  and is favored by five points.Getting to Saturday's action, let's first acknowledge that COVID-19 has 'raised its ugly head.' It was revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has tested positive. Earlier in the day, the game between LSU and No. Florida was postponed due to the Florida program's issue with the virus. Having already been postponed for Saturday were No. 7 Oklahoma St's game at Baylor, Vandy's game at Missouri at Appalachian St's game at Georgia St (has already been rescheduled for Dec 12). The news about Saban comes with No. Alabama hosting No. 3 Georgia. It is the LONE game on Saturday's schedule in which ranked teams were playing each other and it is easily the 'biggest" game of CFB 2020, to-date.There have been just 10 games so far in which ranked teams have me and the higher ranked team has gone 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS (the lone SU loser was then-No. 3 Florida losing last Saturday at then-No. 21 A&M). No. 3 Georgia visits No. 2 Alabama Saturday night (8:00 ET on CBS) in Tuscaloosa. These two national powers haven't met in the regular season since 2015 and believe it or not, the last time the Bulldogs played in Tuscaloosa was 2007. That happened to be Nick Saban's first season with Alabama and Georgia won 26-23 in OT. Georgia's defense ranks first nationally in rushing (38.3 YPG), second in total defense (236.7 YPG) and is tied for fifth in scoring defense (12.3 PPG) but will surely be tested by Alabama's offense, which lead the nation with an average of 51.0 PPG (note: Alabama put up 723 yards last Saturday vs Ole Miss!). However, Alabama's defense was shredded at Ole Miss last Saturday, allowing 647 yards and 48 points. That's the most points the Tide have given up vs an unranked team since 1936! Georgia's Kirby Smart was an Alabama assistant under Saban from 2007 to 2015 and is 0-2 vs his former boss. That's not exactly news, as Saban is 21-0 against his former assistants. Is it possible Saban will be on the coaching sidelines on Saturday? Alabama was a solid six-point choice prior to the news about Saban's positive test but as of Thursday morning, Alabama is down to a four-point favorite.While Georgia/Alabama is the lone game between ranked opponents on Saturday, 11 ranked teams will be playing an unranked opponent either Friday or Saturday. That includes top-10 teams No. 1 Clemson at Ga Tech (Tigers are favored by 27 points), No. 4 Notre Dame home to Louisville (Irish are favored by 17 points), No. 5 North Carolina at Florida St (Tar Heels are favored by 13 1/2-points) and No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa  (Bearcats are favored by 3 1/2-points). Wednesday night saw unranked Coast Carolina upset No. 21 ULL, making ranked teams 37-13 (.740) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 15-34-1 ATS (that's just 30.6%). Let the buyer beware. I should talk, right? I used ULL as my SBC Game of the Year Wednesday night. However, I have gone 9-3-1, +$5,230 (at $100/unit) the last three CFB Saturdays and serve up an action-packed five game card on Oct 17. The "featured" play will be my 1st "signature" LEGEND Play of CFB 2020, having gone 5-0 with LEGEND Plays in all sports since July 23.<p>Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 14

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 5 recap: Week 5 concluded a day later than usual as Tuesday featured a matchup of unbeatens, the 4-0 Bills at the 3-0 Titans. Tennessee was not able to practice since the team shut down operations back on Sep 29, after 24 players and team personnel members tested positive for COVID-19 since Sep 24. The Titans were finally able to return to their facility on Saturday and had three days of walk-through practices to get ready for Buffalo. The Titans entered the game 3-0 but also 0-3 ATS but with only three practices in 16 days, routed the previously unbeaten Bills, 42-16.The Titans got some players back in time for Tuesday's game, but they were without starting receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. However, QB Ryan Tannehill finished with 21 completions on 28 attempts for 195 yards with three TDs and zero INTs (129.3 QB rating) plus ran for a TD. Buffalo QB Josh Allen had his worst game of the season (26 of 41 for 263 yards  with two TDs and two INTs / 77.6 QB rating) and the Tennessee defense forced three TOs and held a Buffalo team to just 16 points (Bills had averaged 30.8 PPG in their 4-0 start).Home teams ended the week 9-5 SU but 6-8 ATS (home dogs were 2-2 SU & ATS). Home teams are now 40-36-1 SU (.526) Y-T-D, while going just 33-42-2 ATS (44.0%) with home dogs going 6-18 SU and 10-12-2 ATS. NFL games had averaged a combined 51.3 through the first four weeks of the 2020 season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Week 5 games averaged 51.8 PPG but over/under numbers have been adjusted up, as seven games went over and seven stayed under. Peering a little closer, let me note that the seven games which went over averaged 62.9 PPG, while the seven that went under averaged just 40.7 PPG. After five weeks, there have been 42 overs, 33 unders and two 'pushes.' There is no Thursday night game in Week 6 but we will have another MNF doubleheader. Friday's Notes will feature a Week 6 preview.MLB Playoffs: "Something had to give" in Game 1 of the NLCS, as the Braves and Dodgers were both 5-0 this postseason and the pitching matchup featured Fried (Braves were 12-1 in his starts in 2020) vs Buehler (Dodgers were 9-1 in his starts). Game 1 entered the 9th tied at one-all when Austin Riley hit a solo shot to put the Braves up. An Acuna double, an Ozuna single and an Albies HR, all, like Riley's hit, coming after 0-2 counts, gave the Braves a 5-1 win. Game 2 was expected to see Ian Anderson go up against Clayton Kershaw. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He'd won BOTH postseason starts, pitching 11.2 scoreless innings with a 17-3 KW ratio. However, Kershaw was scratched with back spasms. Gonsolin was an under-appreciated hurler for Dave Roberts' squad this season. However, the jury is still out on how he will fare in his first postseason appearance.<p>Here's the answer. Anderson allowed just one hit and struck out five in four scoreless innings but his outing was cut short after he gave up five walks and threw 85 pitches. As for Gonsolin, he was fine through three innings but then allowed a two-run HR to Freddie Freeman in the 4th. He was chased in the 5th inning, when Atlanta added FOUR more runs (Gonsolin was charged with five ERs in 4.1 innings). The Braves extended the lead to 7-0 in the top of the 7th but Corey Seager hit a three-run HR in the bottom of the 7th. It was 8-3 entering the bottom of the 9th when the Dodgers scored FOUR times, before Cody Bellinger was left on third base when A.J. Pollock's groundout ended the rally. The Braves are now 7-0 this postseason and lead the Dodgers 2-0. Game 3 is set for 6:05 ET on FS1. Kershaw is still unavailable so it's Jose Urias and Atlanta's Kyle Wright. The Dodgers are favored (-180) and the over/under is 9 1/2.Over in the ALCS, the Tampa Bay Rays keep giving us more reasons to believe the City of Tampa is this year's "chosen city." The Lightning won the Stanley Cup and the Rays are now just ONE win away from making the franchise's second-ever World Series appearance (Rays lost to the Phillies in the 2008 Series). Jose Altuve's first-inning throwing error opened the door for Tampa to take 3-0 lead in Game 2, as Tampa's 4-2 win gave the Rays a 2-0 lead in the series. Altuve's sudden case of the yips has come to exemplify an ALCS in which the Astros can't seem to catch a break. Altuve's FOURTH throwing error of the postseason and THIRD of the ALCS played a big part in Tampa's five-run, sixth-inning rally. The Rays' 5-2 victory gives them a commanding 3-0 lead as the team's get set for Game 4 (8:40 ET on TBS). Tonight's pitching matchup features Tyler Glasnow and Zach Greinke. The Rays have won each of Glasnow's last 11 starts (including 3-0 this postseason) and while the Astros are 2-0 in Greinke's two starts this postseason, he had little to do with Houston's 11-6 series-clinching Game 4 win over Oakland (4 ERs allowed over 4.2 innings), after pitching four innings and allowing one run in the team's 4-1 Game 1 win over Minnesota in the wild card round. The Rays are favored (-140) and the over/under is 8.The CFB week gets off to an early start with a Wednesday night game between two unbeaten Sun Belt schools. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are 3-0 and visit Cajun Field in Lafayette, La to face the 3-0 ULL Ragin' Cajuns. UL-Lafayette is ranked No. 21 in the latest AP poll, one of FOUR Group of 5 schools currently ranked. ULL opened the 2020 season by winning 31-14 at Iowa St as a two-TD underdog. That victory is arguably the biggest win in school history, as ULL beat a top-25 opponent on the road for the first time, having previously gone 0-26 against ranked foes away from home. ULL's only other win over a top-25 team was in 1996 at home against Texas A&M. However, the Rajin' Cajuns have 'escaped' with wins vs Ga State (34-31) and Georgia Southern (20-18), since. Kickoff is 7:30 ET on ESPN with ULL favored by 7 1/2-points.Note: I'm featuring a doubleheader of Game of the Year plays on Wednesday, my SBC 10* Game of the Year in tonight's CFB and my LCS 10* Game of the Year in MLB. Any takers? Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 13

Tuesday, Oct 13, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL: The Saints overcame a 20-3 deficit to 'escape' with a 30-27 OT win last night over the Chargers. Drew Brees completed 33 of 47 passes for 325 yards (one TD / one iNT) and ran for a TD. He drove the 3-2 Saints to a tiebreaking 36-yard FG by Wil Lutz on the first possession of overtime and then watched as Justin Herbert's five-yard completion to Mike Williams came up a yard short on fourth down at the Los Angeles 49 to end the game. The 1-4 Chargers lost their FOURTH straight game since Herbert, the overall No. 6 pick in the 2020 draft, took over for Tyrod Taylor as the starter. However, it's hard to blame Herbert. He completed 20 of 34 for 264 yards with four TD passes and zero INTs (122.7 QB rating). The rookie is completing 68.8% for 1,1195 yards with nine TDs and three INTs (QB rating of 107.1) in his four starts. He looks like 'a keeper!' In a normal season, MNF concludes the NFL week but we are all WELL aware that 2020 is no 'normal' year. The Titans had their Week 4 game with Pittsburgh postponed and Tennessee's Week 5 game with Buffalo (set for Sunday) was pushed back to Tuesday. The good news is, the 4-0 Buffalo Bills and 3-0 Tennessee Titans will proceed as scheduled after all of the Titans' coronavirus tests from Monday came back negative. It marked the second straight day that the Titans had no new positive COVID-19 tests. Tonight's game features two QBs off to excellent starts. Buffalo's Josh Allen is completing 70.9% for 1,326 yards with 12 TDs and one INT (122.7 QB rating) in four games, while Tennessee's Ryan Tanehill is completing 67.3% for 809 yards with six TDs and one INT (105.8 QB rating) in three games. Both teams are unbeaten but while Buffalo is 3-1 I'll have my  NFL Week 5 recap on Wednesday's Notes.ATS, the Titans are 0-3 ATS, due to just a plus-6 point differential margin. Buffalo is favored by 3 1/2-points and the over/under is 51 1/2. I'll feature my NFL Week 5 recap in Wednesday's Notes.MLB Playoffs: The Tampa Bay Rays eked out a 2-1 win in Game 1 on Sunday night and then came back with a 4-2 victory in Game 2, late Monday afternoon. A two-out throwing error by Astros second baseman Jose Altuve brought Manny Margot to the plate with two on in the bottom of the first and he hit Lance McCullers second pitch over the fence in center to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead, one which the Rays never relinquished. Margot then made the "catch of the postseason" in the top of the second, when Houston's George Springer came up with two outs and runners on second and third. Springer hit a fly down the right field line that kept drifting into foul territory toward the wall but Margot made the grab as he hit the wall and then he went over it and fell face first to the concrete below, quickly getting up to hold up his glove, displaying that he made the catch. Tampa Bay is looking like a team of destiny and manager Kevin Cash has masterfully used his deep and talented bullpen. That said, the Astros have had their chances. They left seven runners on base over the first four innings in Game 2 and for the series, the Astros have scored just three runs but left 21 runners on base while losing the first two games. Meanwhile, the Rays are up 2-0, with a modest 10 hits (team BA of .169). The pitching matchup is Ryan Yabrough for Tampa Bay (making his first career postseason start) and Jose Urquidy for Houston. Not exactly a Gibson/Koufax showdown. Game 3 (8:40 ET on TBS) is a pick'em and the over/under is 8 1/2.The NLCS got started last night and "something had to give" in Game 1. The Braves and Dodgers were both 5-0 this postseason and the pitching matchup featured Fried (Braves were 12-1 in his starts in 2020) vs Buehler (Dodgers were 9-1 in his starts). We now know the answer. The lone unbeaten in the 2020 postseason is Atlanta. The game entered the 9th tied at one-all  when Austin Riley hit a solo shot to put the Braves up. An Acuna double, an Ozuna single and an Albies HR, all, like Riley's hit, coming after 0-2 counts, gave the Braves a 5-1 win. The Dodgers owned MLB's best record at 43-17, EIGHT game better than Atlanta's 35-25 mark, but now enter Game 2 (6:05 ET on FS1) looking to bounce back from the team's first loss since Sep 23 (almost THREE weeks ago!). Ian Anderson starts for Atlanta and Tony Gonsolin for LA. Anderson made his MLB on August 26 and in six regular season starts, posted a 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and .172 BAA. He's won BOTH postseason starts, pitching 11.2 scoreless innings with a 17-3 KW ratio. Gonsolin was an under-appreciated key hurler for Dave Roberts' squad this season. However, the jury is still out on how he will fare tonight, given it's his first post-season appearance. The Dodgers are favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.Final NBA thoughts: Let's hear it for Adam Silver. He was the first to shut down the season (all sports followed) and he worked with the players to pull off a 'bubble' in Orlando which went off with barely any missteps. When the Lakers took Game 6 from the Heat 106-93, it capped the longest season in NBA history. Three-hundred fifty-six days after the season began, the Lakers won the 2019-20 NBA championship, the franchise's 17th all-time (matching the Celtics for most-ever). Individually, LBJ won his fourth title and was named 2020 Finals MVP for the fourth time, as well. He previously won Finals MVP in 2012 and '13 with the Heat and in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him the first player in NBA history to win the award with three different franchises. Winning his fourth Finals MVP moves him out of a tie with Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal and into second all time, trailing only Jordan, who won the award six times. He also became the second-oldest player to win NBA Finals MVP (35 years, 286 days), behind only Kareem (38 years, 54 days in 1985). A final 'shout out' goes to Jeanie Buss. She took over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, as controlling owner after a legal battle with her brothers. She is now the first female controlling owner to lead an NBA organization to a championship.The Lakers won the title but the Heat were the NBA postseason "ATS champs." The Heat finished 14-7 SU this postseason but 16-5 ATS (76.2%). In comparison. the Lakers went 16-5 SU but 11-9-1 ATS. With no homecourt edge, I guess it should be no surprise that favorites were only 41-40-2 ATS. The under has cashed in 48 of the 83 games (57.8 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they finished 32-33-2 ATS (49.2%) or minus-4.3 net units.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 12

Monday, Oct 12, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NBA Finals: My last update had LA up 3-1 heading into Friday's Game 5. Jimmy Butler became the SIXTH player in NBA Finals history to have multiple triple-doubles in the same title series (35-12-11). Magic Johnson and LBJ have both done it three times, while Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Draymond Green have done it once. All Miami starters were in double digits, including a career playoff high by Duncan Robinson (26). LBJ had 40-13-7 but while he and Davis were a combined 24 for 36 from the floor, the rest of the Lakers were 14 for 46 (30.4%). The Lakers' reserves shot 5 for 22 (22.7%). That forced a Game 6 last night. After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the 5 and plugging Alex Caruso in Dwight Howard's place for a smaller, quicker group.After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the center position and starting Alex Caruso over Dwight Howard's for a smaller, quicker group. The move paid off, as LA effectively put the game away by outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter. They led by 28 at the half, the second-largest halftime lead in NBA Finals history. Jimmy Butler, after a 40-point triple-double in a Game 3 win for the Heat and a 35-point triple-double in a Game 5 win, was contained, finishing with 12 points. LBJ capped his fourth championship with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 106-93 victory (game was NOT as close as the final score). Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds in winning his first NBA title (won a national championship at Kentucky in ). LBJ became the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams and won the award for the fourth time to trail only Michael Jordan (six). It was the Lakers' 17th NBA title, tying them with the Celtics for the most all-time. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third wire-to-wire victory to clinch an NBA title in the past 50 seasons, joining the 1982 Lakers and the 1986 Boston Celtics. Much more on the 2019-20 NBA season, the Lakers and LBJ in Tuesday's Notes.MLB Playoffs: Michael Brosseau hit a dramatic home run off Aroldis Chapman with one out in the eighth inning, as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Friday night in the decisive Game 5 to reach the ALCS for the first time in 12 seasons. The Rays dominated the regular-season series with the Yankees 8-2 and were the AL's No. 1 seed and making the victory even more 'sweet' was that Tampa Bay's $29 million payroll (28th out of the 30 major league teams) was dwarfed by the Yankees, who had the third-largest payroll at $84 million. Waiting for the Rays were the Houston Astros, who followed three straight 100-win seasons by going just 29-31 during this year's COVID-shortened season but were able to get into an expanded 16-team playoff field by virtue of finishing second in the AL West. The Astros then swept AL Central champs Minnesota 2-0 in the wild card round and eliminated AL west champs Oakland 3-1 in an ALDS matchup. The NLDS features the Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers. The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3 last Thursday, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001. In the process, the Braves became just the SECOND team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in their first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. The Braves have already pitched the most postseason shutouts in franchise history and are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Indians over 15 games. Atlanta draws the LA Dodgers in the NLCS, who completed a three-game sweep of their own last Thursday with a 12-3 win over the Padres. Los Angeles advanced to its fourth NL Championship Series in five years and the team with MLB's best regular season record in 2020 (43-17), will be making their 14th NLCS appearance, matching the St Louis Cardinals for the most.The League Championship Series Prices at BetAnySports (before the start of each series) had the Rays -175 and the Astros +165, while the Dodgers were -215 and the Braves +195. To win the World Series the Dodgers were +160, the  Rays +240, the Braves +425 and the Astros +435. Game 1 of the ALCS was last night and the Rays won 2-1. The Rays took a 1-0 series lead on the back of two timely hits and a pair of critical double plays, the latter coming with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning. Randy Arozarena his fourth HR of this postseason. and Mike Zunino plated the go-ahead run with a first-pitch single in the fifth inning. Blake Snell allowed a solo HR in the first inning but that was all he allowed in five innings. The Rays' bullpen then produced another exceptional effort, as four relievers combined for FOUR scoreless innings. Houston wasted a solid effort by Valdez (two runs in six innings with eight Ks), as the Astros left 10 men on base and went 2 of 8 with RISP.Game 2 of the ALCS ( 4:07 ET on ) sees Lance McCullers going up against Charlie Morton. The Rays are favored (-125) and the over/under is 8. Game 1 of the NLCS (8:08 ET on FOX) features Atlanta's Max Fried up against LA's Walker Buehler (more in a bit). The Braves led the majors in OPS (.832) and ranked second in team BA (.268), runs (348), HRs (103) and slugging (.483) during the regular season. Checking LA's numbers in those same categories reveals the Dodgers had an .821 OPS, a team BA of .256, scored 349 runs, hit 118 HRs and owned a slugging percentage of .430. However, LA's pitching numbers are dominant by comparison. LA owns a team ERA of 3.02 (Atlanta's is 4.41) with a 1.06 WHIP (Atlanta's is 1.36) and a BAA of .213 (Atlanta's is .247). LA owned a MLB-best 43-17 regular season record, while Atlanta was EIGHT games worse at 35-25. More LA dominance is revealed by LA's MLB-best plus-136 run differential, more than DOUBLE that of Atlanta's (plus-60). However, it's just a seven-game series and Atlanta's pitching staff (see above). "Something has to give" in this Game 1, as the Braves are 12-1 in Fried's 2020 starts, while the Dodgers are 9-1 when Buehler starts. The Dodgers are favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.BATTER UP! I have plays in BOTH games!NFL: It's Monday and that typically means the NFL would be completing its current week with a MNF matchup. However, 2020 has hardly been a "typical" year in ANY aspect of life, let alone the 'world of sports.' The NFL is the 'Big Dog' and likes to think of itself as invulnerable but COVID-19 has had other ideas. Here's what I think we know. The Bills at the Titans (scheduled for yesterday will be played tomorrow (Oct 13). The Broncos at the Pats and Broncos (also scheduled for yesterday) will now be played during Week 6 on Sunday Oct. 18. As a result of that game, the Broncos' Week 6 matchup against the Miami Dolphins has been pushed back to Week 11. From what I've read, here are the other remaining changes to the 2020 schedule: The Kansas City Chiefs-Buffalo Bills Week 6 game on Thursday, Oct. 15 moves to Monday, Oct. 19. The New York Jets-Miami Dolphins Week 10 matchup moves to Week 6. The New York Jets-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 6 to Week 11. The Jacksonville Jaguars-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 8 to Week 7. The Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos game moves from Week 11 to Week 8. The Los Angeles Chargers-Miami Dolphins game moves from Week 7 to Week 10. Got it?There is a MNF game tonight at 8:15 ET on ESPN. The 1-3 Chargers are at the 2-2 Saints, with New Orleans favored by seven points (over/under is 49 1/2). My usual Tuesday NFL recap will be pushed back to Wednesday's Notes, to cover the Bills/Titans contest. CFB recap: Heading into this past Saturday (Oct 10), there had been just SIX, top-25 showdowns in 2020, with the higher ranked team having gone 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. However, we saw FOUR such matchups on Saturday. No. 1 Clemson beat No. 7 Miami-Fl  42-17, No. 3 Georgia beat No. 14 Tennessee 44-21 and No. 8 North Carolina beat No. 19 Va Tech 56-45. All three played at home and covered. However, No. 4 Florida was at No. 21 Texas A&M and lost 41-38 (A&M's winning FG came as time expired), becoming the first higher ranked team to lose to a ranked opponent. The Y-T-D record has higher ranked teams at 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS. As I warned last Thursday, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. October 10 was a 'nightmare' scenario ATS for the seven ranked teams facing an unranked opponent. Five won but just ONE covered!  No. 17 LSU lost an 'ugly' one at home to Missouri, 45-41, while No. 22 Texas lost its Red River Showdown 53-48 in four OTs to Oklahoma in a "classic" (most combined points in the series' 116-game history)  LSU was stopped FOUR times from the one-yard line with a chance to win and the LSU defense allowed 45 points to a Missouri team that had averaged 15.5 PPG in its first two. With ranked teams going 5-2 SU and 1-6 AY+TS, the Y-T-D record has ranked teams 37-12 (.755) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 15-33-1 ATS (that's just 31.3%).4-0 Clemson remains No. 1 in the AP poll with 59 of 62 first-place votes. Its victory over Miami was the Tigers' 36th consecutive regular season win, the fourth-longest streak of all-time. They can tie Nebraska, which won 37 straight from 1992-96, with a Saturday win at Ga Tech. Alabama is No. 2 after a 63-48 win at Ole Miss ('Bama led just 49-45 with under four minutes to go) and will host No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the season's 'BIGGEST' game to-date (note: it's the ONLY game between ranked opponents this coming weekend). Notre Dame has won NINE in a row (most of any Power-5 school) and is ranked 4th, while North Carolina climbed to No. 5, the school's highest ranking since November of 1997, when Mack Brown was head coach. Hey wait. He's baaaaaack!LSU dropped out of the poll (last defending champ to be unranked the following season was Auburn in 2001, post-Cam), after 43 consecutive appearances in the top-25. No. 22 Texas dropped out after its loss to Oklahoma but the win was not enough for the Sooners to sneak back in the poll and is now 'poll-less' for the second straight week, after being ranked for 64 consecutive polls. Last time both Oklahoma and Texas were unranked was Sep 25, 2016. For those remaining in the poll, the biggest drops were SIX spots by Florida (down from No. 4 to No. 10) and Miami (from No. 7 to No. 13). The biggest move up was Texas A&M going from No. 21 to No. 11. Kansas St made its first appearance in the top-25 at No.22, while USC, the AP's preseason No. 17 team), is back at no. 25 without playing a game. The Trojans are one of SEVEN teams ranked, before playing a game. No. 6 Ohio St and No. 10 Penn St are top-10 teams. It's surely a season like no other!Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 9

Friday, Oct 09, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NBA Finals: The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. Adebayo returned for Miami in Game 4  (scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes) but Butler was able to score just 25 points (down from 40). The Heat used just three players off the bench and that trio combined for 13 points while shooting an abysmal 4 of 18 (22.2%). LBJ was his usual self (28-12-8) and A.D. bounced from a poor game (15 points) with 22 points and nine rebounds, while starting LA guards Caldwell-Pope and Green combined to score 25 points. LA's bench outscored Miami's 27-13. The Heat stayed with the Lakers all game and the final was 102-96. Herro nailed a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go to give Miami the cover. The Heat fell to 13-6 SU this postseason but are 15-4 ATS, while the Lakers are 15-4 SU but just 10-8-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-39-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 47 of the 81 games (58.0 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-33-2 ATS (47.6%) or minus-6.3 net units. Game 5 tips tonight at 9:00 ET on ABC. The Lakers are looking for their first title since 2010, when they defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games. A win in Game 5 (or in Game 6 or 7) would give the franchise its 17th title all-time, which would tie them with the Celtics for most in NBA history. LBJ is looking for his FOURTH NBA title in his 10th Finals. Many like to play "the G.O.A.T game" of comparing him to MJ but "I Like Mike," who was SIX-for-SIX in NBA Finals' appearances, winning MVP honors in each one. Anthony Davis is one win away from his first NBA title. "They're going to make adjustments," Davis said after Tuesday's 102-96 victory by the Lakers, giving them a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven game series. "We have to be prepared for it." Ask Miami's Jimmy Butler and despite the hole the team is in, believes the Heat are capable of rallying. "We just got to lock in on us knowing that we can control a lot of these things," Butler said. "But our confidence ain't going nowhere. It's going to stay high. I'm going to make sure that it stays high because it's going to have to be at an all-time to get this next win." LA is favored by seven points and the over/under is 216. Game 6, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday. My next Ness Notes is Monday, so I'll be back with a recap of the Finals OR, a preview of Game 7. MLB Playoffs: The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001 (note: the Marlins had won all SEVEN of their previous postseason series!). In the process, the Braves became just the SECOND team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in their first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. The Braves have already pitched the most postseason shutouts in franchise history and are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Indians over 15 games. Awaiting the Braves in the NLCS will be the LA Dodgers, who complete a three-game sweep of their own with a 12-3 win over the Padres. Los Angeles advanced to its fourth NL Championship Series in five years and the team with MLB's best regular season record in 2020 (43-17), will be making their 14th NLCS appearance, matching the St Louis Cardinals for the most. The Dodgers and Braves will open the best-of-seven NLCS on Monday in the Texas Rangers' new $1.2 billion stadium with fans in attendance for the first time during this pandemic-altered season.Over in the American League, the Houston Astros beat the Oakland A's 11-6, eliminating the AL West champs, 3 games to one. Houston 'snuck into' the postseason despite a 29-31 record but improved to 5-1 in the playoffs. The Astros and A's combined for 24 HRs (12 each), the most in a postseason series of five games or fewer. The Astros ranked 20th in the majors with a .240 average and 14th with 279 runs during the regular season and while their batting slump continued through the wild-card round, Houston batted .322 as a team in the ALDS, scoring 33 runs (8.3 per) with those 12 HRs. Few people outside of Houston are rooting for the Astros these days but one has to feel good for Dusty Baker, their 71-year-old manager. He earned his first closeout win since the 2003 NLDS, improving (?) to 4-13 in closeout games. The Astros will head to San Diego's Petco Park to await the winner of Game 5 between the Yankees and Rays.The Tampa Bay Rays went an AL-Best 40-20 during the regular season and captured the AL East title for the first time since 2010. In the process, the Rays took EIGHT of 10 from the Yankees but I doubt anyone on Tampa Bay expected their ALDS with their hated rivals would be a 'walk in the park.' The Yankees won 9-3 ion Game 1, while the Rays rebounded to win Games 2 and 3, 7-5 and 8-4. However, the Yankees didn't flinch under the pressure of an elimination game, as Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres hit impressive HRs, while Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined on a three-hitter. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-1 Thursday night to even the best-of-5 series at 2-all. The Yankees are trying to reach the ALCS for the THIRD time in four seasons following eliminations by the Astros at that stage in 2017 and last season. Meanwhile, the Rays are trying to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2008, when they made it to their only World Series. Somewhat ironically, the pitching matchup of Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow is a rematch of last year's ALDS Game 5 between Houston and Tampa Bay. I'm NOT sure why MLB decided to play the four Division Series WITHOUT a day off (Championship Series will be contested without any days off, as well), as it has taxed the pitching staffs of all teams and in particular any that are forced to "go the distance." That's the case here with the Rays and Yanks. Cole will pitch on three days' rest for the FIRST in his career, while Glasnow is being asked to pitch on TWO days' rest. New York is favored (-155) and the over/under is  7 1/2.Note: Game 5 of NY/TB is my 10* Division Series Game of the Year.The NFL opened its Week 5  with 3-1 Tampa Bay visiting 3-1 Chicago. The Bucs came in on a three-game winning streak and with all due respect to the Bears' 3-1 start, their three wins had come over a trio of teams that owned a combined 1-11 record. Tom Brady never lost to Chicago in five meetings as a member of the Patriots and was liking 'itching' to get another shot at Nick Foles, facing him for the first time since New England lost to Philadelphia in Super Bowl 52. However, the six-time champion came up short, as Chicago won 20-19. Brady threw for 253 yards and one TD but he and the Bucs couldn't finish their drives, settling for four FGs (three inside of 40 yards). Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP, completed 30 of 42 passes for 243 yards and a TD in his second start after replacing Mitchell Trubisky. Green Bay and Detroit have byes in Week 5 plus the schedule has been 'shuffled' due to COVID-19 issues. For the SECOND consecutive week we will have a MNF doubleheader, as the Denver/New England game has been moved from Sunday to Monday, joining the regularly scheduled MNF contest between the Chargers and Saints. There was early talk that game might be moved to Indianapolis because of Hurricane Delta, but that's no longer an issue. What's more, the 4-0 Bills were scheduled to play the 3-0 Titans in Nashville on Sunday but while the game will go on, it has been moved to TUESDAY! The Bills (-8.5) and Titans are two of SIX teams still unbeaten. The 4-0 Packers and Seahawks are both also 4-0 ATS and while the Packers have a bye week, Seattle will host the 1-3 Vikings on SNF (Seattle is favored by seven points). The defending Super Bowl champions Chiefs are 4-0 (3-1 ATS) have won 13 straight games (including a 3-0 run in last year's postseason) and will host the 2-2 Raiders, laying 11.5 points (and seemingly climbing). The Steelers are the last of the NFL's six unbeatens at 3-0 and after having their game at Tennessee postponed last Sunday, will welcome in-state rival Philadelphia to the Steel City on Sunday (Pittsburgh is favored by seven points). The Eagles are 1-2-1 but reside in first-place in the pathetic NFC East, ahead of 1-3 Dallas and Washington, plus the 0-4 NY Giants. NFC East teams are 3-12-1 SU and 5-11 ATS. In contrast, AFC West teams are a combined 11-5 ATS.There remain four winless NFL teams, as the Falcons, Giants, Jets and Texans are all 0-4. The Falcons, Jets and Texans are all also 0-4 ATS, while the Giants are 2-2. With Chicago's win last night, home teams moved to 26-22 SU, while going just 21-25-2 ATS in 2020 (Home dogs are now 5-13 SU and 8-8-2 ATS). I mentioned in Thursday's Notes that NFL games have averaged a combined 51.3 through four weeks of a season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Last night's game stayed under but overs still lead unders at 26-20-2 (56.5%). Linemakers have adjusted totals higher very quickly.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 8

Thursday, Oct 08, 2020

The NFL kicks off its Week 5 when the 5-1 Bucs visit Chicago to take on the 3-1 Bears. You may just have heard that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Tom Brady in the offseason and after a 34-23 loss in Week 1 at New Orleans (in a showdown with Drew Brees), Brady has looked great in three straight wins completing 65.5% with nine TDs and just two INTs. The Bears are also 3-1 and Brady may just remember his "opposite number" tonight. It's Nick Foles, who played a "game for the ages" when he led the Eagles to a 41-33 win against the Patriots (and Brady) in Super Bowl LII. He was the game's MVP completing 28-of-43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns plus caught a 1-yard TD pass on the “Philly Special" trick play that ranks as one of the most famous plays in NFL history (note: Brady passed for 505 yards in the loss, with three TD passes and zero INTs in 48 attempts). The Bucs are favored by 3 1/2-points and the total is 44.5. Something to ponder? NFL games have averaged a combined 51.3, the highest through four weeks of a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Much more NFL in Friday's Notes. MLB Playoffs: In the NL, Travis d'Arnaud and Dansby Swanson each homered for the second straight day, as the Braves beat the Marlins 2-0. Ian Anderson scattered three hits and struck out eight over 5.2 innings, after he fanned nine in six scoreless innings in a wild card win over the Reds. The Braves are now just the THIRD team in MLB history to pitch three shutouts in the first four games of a postseason, joining the 1966 Baltimore Orioles and the 1905 New York Giants. Clayton Kershaw followed up his gem in the clinching game of the first round against Milwaukee (13 Ks over eight scoreless innings) with six strikeouts and no walks over six innings, although he allowed three runs, including back-to-back solo homers by Machado and Hosmer in the sixth. However, he got the "W," as the Dodgers held on for a 6-5 win over the Dodgers. The Padres were down one with a runner on and two outs in the seventh when Cody Bellinger extended his glove above the 8-foot wall to rob Tatis of what would have been a go-ahead HR. Joe Kelly retired Eric Hosmer on a routine grounder to earn the save after Dodgers All-Star closer Kenley Jansen wobbled (AGAIN) in the ninth. How about this? The Padres became the first team in 20 games this postseason to lose when outhomering their opponent. Over in the AL, the Astros had a chance to sweep A's but the wasted leads of 2-1 and 7-4. Houston's bullpen had stifled Oakland in the first two games with seven shutout innings of one-hit relief but Oakland rallied for three runs in the 7th and two more in the eighth for a 9-7 win. The A's entered the day 1-29 when trailing by at least three runs after the sixth inning in postseason games all-time but saved their season under that very scenario. Liam Hendriks recorded the final NINE outs to preserve a 9-7 win. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run HR in the eighth inning of Game 3 for the Yankees to become the first player with a HR in each of his team's first five games of a single postseason (has six HRs and 13 RBI in those five games) but it wasn't enough, The Rays' Randy Arozarena homered for the THIRD straight game on Wednesday, while Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez also went deep for the Rays, who beat Yankees 8-4. Charlie Morton got the win after holding the Yankees to two runs (one earned) on four hits in five innings. He struck out six and walked two in winning his FIFTH straight postseason decision. Masahiro Tanaka took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in four-plus innings.In Thursday's games (listed in order of start times), the Marlins, A's, Yankees and Padres all face elimination. I'd post lines for the games but with pitching staffs being taxed with NO days off in these series, we never quite know when the managers will name a starter, allowing linemakers to post a price and handicappers to make a pick..The CFB weekend opens Thursday night with a C-USA game, as Tulane visits Houston (7:30 ET on ESPN). The Green Wave are 2-1 (0-1 in C-USA), while the Cougars will FINALLY actually get to play a game. Houston has had a Sep 3 home game with Rice, a Sep 19 game at Baylor and a Sep 26 home game with North Texas, all postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. NONE of those games have been rescheduled, so the Cougars will only play a maximum of EIGHT games this season (let's hope). The Cougars are listed as a 6.5 favorite. Friday night at 7:00 ET (also on ESPN), it's an ACC contest when 1-2 Louisville visits 1-2 Ga Tech. The Cardinals entered the AP poll at No. 18 after a season-opening 35-21 win over Western Ky but have since dropped out after conference losses to losses to Miami (47-34) and Pittsburgh (23-20). Ga Tech opened its season with a 16-13 win at Florida St but has since lost 49-21 at home to UCF and 37-20 at Syracuse. Louisville is favored by 4.5 points.Before getting to Saturday's games, let me take a quick look back at last week's results. There were two contests last Saturday featuring ranked teams and as has been the case in the early going, the higher ranked team won and covered in each one. No. 2 Alabama beat No. 13 Texas A&M 52-24 and No. 4 Georgia beat No. 7 Auburn. In top-25 showdowns in 202, the higher ranked team sit 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. However, in something I have been following (and sharing) for years, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. So far in 2020, that has surely been the case. There were 14 ranked teams playing unranked opponents last weekend and they not only went just 8-6 SU but also a 'money-burning' 4-10 ATS. That leaves ranked teams 32-10 (.762) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 14-27-1 ATS (that's just 34.1%).The two most shocking Saturday upsets last Saturday, lead me into my preview of this Saturday's games. Texas (-11) lost 33-31 at home to TCU, when the Longhorns fumbled at the Horned Frogs goal line on a 1st and goal play with about four minutes to go. The 'Horns dropped from No. 9 to No. 22 in the latest AP poll. Then there was Oklahoma (-7.5) losing 37-30 at Iowa St, giving the Hawkeyes their first win in Ames over the Sooners since 1960! Oklahoma has now dropped back-to-back regular-season games (lost 38-35 at home to Iowa St on Sep 26) for the first time since 1999. The Sooners were No. 3 in the AP poll two weeks ago but the loss to Iowa St dropped them out of the top-25, after spending 64 consecutive weeks inside the AP top-25. As fate would have it, Oklahoma and Texas meet in the Red River Showdown for the 116th time on Saturday. Texas holds a 62-48-5 edge all-time but the Sooners have won 14 of the 21 meetings since 2000. However, the "vibe" is different in 2020 for MANY reasons. The Red River Showdown is one of the most unique games in college football. The are fans split down the 50-yard-line. The State Fair of Texas is bustling just outside the Cotton Bowl gates and the bus rides by the teams through the fairgrounds to the stadium are jam-packed with thousands of fans lining the streets either cheering or jeering. COIVID-19 has changed all that. "To pull into the fairgrounds without anybody there will be a little eerie," Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said. "It'll be different, there's no doubt. And that's just 2020 right now, I guess." What's more, with Oklahoma unranked and Texas at No. 22, NEITHER school is in the top-20 for this game for the 1st time since 1999! Oklahoma is a 2.5-point favorite.Point of interest, this contest is my 10* Rivalry Game of the Year! BE THERE! Getting back to business, Texas is one of SEVEN games this Saturday in which a ranked team faces an unranked opponent, an unusually small number. No. 2 Alabama is at Ole Miss (favored by 24.5 points) and Notre Dame is home to Florida St (Irish are favored by 20.5 points), among top-10 teams. Notre Dame has won EIGHT straight games, tied for the longest active winning streak among Power-5 schools. However, after just SIX meetings between ranked opponents up until now, there are FOUR such meetings on Saturday. No. 1 Clemson gets its first real test of the season when it hosts No. 7 Miami-Florida (Tigers are favored by 14). No. 3 Georgia is home to No. 14 Tennessee, which also owns EIGHT straight wins (Bulldogs are favored by 12.5). No. 4 Florida is at No. 21 Texas A&M (Gators are favored by 6.5) and No. 8 North Carolina is home to No. 19 Va Tech (Tar Heels are favored by 4.5). One quick 'shout out' to Air Force. The Falcons played their first game of 2020 last Saturday when they routed Navy, 40-7. The MWC originally said the league would not play football in the fall, so Air Force was only scheduled to play Navy and Army. However, the MWC will now play a six-game conference schedule, meaning the 'Fly Boys' will play eight games in all. I mention this because Air Force's win over Navy gave them NINE straight wins, the longest active streak among FBS schools (note: Air Force is 7-2 ATS during its winning run). Air Force will next play Oct 24th at San Jose St.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Oct 7

Wednesday, Oct 07, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NBA Finals: The Miami Heat reached this year's NBA Finals as the East's No. 5 to face the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. Game 4 was last night and Adebayo returned for Miami. He scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes but Butler was able to score just 25 points (down from 40). The Heat used just three players off the bench and that trio combined for 13 points while shooting an abysmal 4 of 18 (22.2%). LBJ was his usual self (28-12-8) and A.D. bounced from a poor game (15 points) with 22 points and nine rebounds, while starting LA guards Caldwell-Pope and Green combined to score 25 points. LA's bench outscored Miami's 27-13. The Heat stayed with the Lakers all game but LA bettors (INCLUDING ME) lost when Miami rookie Tyler Herro nailed a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go. The 102-96 final gave Miami the ATS win. And so it goes in the sports betting world. The Heat fell to 13-6 SU this postseason but are 15-4 ATS, while the Lakers are 15-4 SU but just 10-8-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-39-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 47 of the 81 games (58.0 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-33-2 ATS (47.6%) or minus-6.3 net units. Game 5 is Thursday and the early line has the Lakers favored by the same 7 1/2-points they were in Game 4.MLB Playoffs: The NL 'joined the party' on Tuesday with Miami vs Atlanta from Houston. and the Padres vs the Dodgers from Arlington. I noted in Tuesday's notes that Atlanta's Max Fried had made 12 starts in 2020 (including Game 1 of the wild card series) and the Braves have gone 11-1. However, he allowed four ERs on six hits in just four innings. The Braves trailed 4-3 entering the bottom of the 7th but 'exploded' for SIX runs, highlighted by Travis d'Arnaud's three-run HR and two-run shot by Dansby Swanson. The final was 9-5 Atlanta, as five relievers held Miami to just two hits and one run over five innings with seven Ks Atlanta is now 12-1 in Fried's 2020 starts (never in doubt).The Dodgers beat the Padres 5-1 in that series Game 1, which was somewhat strange. Mike Clevinger made it only two pitches into the second inning of his postseason debut for the Padres before leaving with the same elbow injury that sidelined him during the first round. San Diego's heavily worked bullpen couldn't keep putting up zeros, or keeping runners off base, even though the Padres gave up only four hits. Clevinger walked three batters in his one-plus inning of work and then NINE San Diego relievers allowed SEVEN more. The Dodgers had already drawn nine walks before Mookie Betts got their first hit in the sixth inning, when LA boke open a 12- game with FOUR runs. Buehler lasted just four innings, allowing two hits and one ER with eight Ks. Four relievers worked five scoreless innings and the LA staff struck out 14 Padres!Back in the AL, the Astros took a 2-0 lead over the A's with a 5-2 win and the Rays evened their series with the Yankees with a 7-5 win. George Springer hit two HRs and Martin Maldonado also went deep for Houston, as the Astros (just 29-31 in the regular season) moved to 4-0 in the postseason and are now just ONE win away from reaching their FOURTH straight ALCS. Oakland didn't have an at-bat with a runner in scoring position, as the A's are batting only .226 for the series (14 for 62). The NY Yankees became the first team in American League history to hit a grand slam in back-to-back playoff games in Game 1, while setting a franchise record by hitting at least three HRs in three consecutive postseason games. Giancarlo Stanton hit two HRs in Game 2 and has now hit five HRs this postseason, tying an MLB record held by Juan Gonzalez (Rangers, 1996) for HRs by a player in his team's first four playoff games. However, the Rays hit four HRs in Game 2 and more importantly, four Rays pitchers struck out 18 Yankees, an MLB postseason record for a nine-inning game and a postseason record for Yankees batters. Starter Tyler Glasnow allowed three hits and four runs in five-plus innings, while walking three. His 10 strikeouts surpass the previous Rays postseason record of nine done three times. It was the Rays' 10th straight win when Glasnow started. He won his FIFTH straight start and SEVENTH consecutive decision.Wednesday's MLB (in order of starting times). Miami (Lopez) vs Atlanta (Anderson) at 2:08 ET (Braves -210 / 8 .5), Oakland (Luzardo) vs Houston (Urquidy) at 3:35 ET (Astros -110 / 9), Tampa Bay (Morton) vs NY Yankees (Tanaka) at 7:10 ET (NYY -125 / 9) and San Diego (undecided) vs Los Angeles (Kershaw) at 9:08 ET (no line). Thursday's notes zeroes in on CFB Last week's highlights, current AP poll and a look ahead to the weekend.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Oct 6

Tuesday, Oct 06, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL concluded its Week 4 with a MNF doubleheader as the Pats/Chiefs game, postponed from Sunday to to COVID-19 issues, joined the regularly scheduled MNF game between the Falcons and Packers. New England played without Cam Newton but gave KC fits most of the way (trailed just 13-10 in the 4th quarter), before Mahomes' second TD pass and a "pick-six" by Tyrann Mathieu (just NINE seconds apart), led KC to a 26-10.Green Bay beat Atlanta 30-16, as Aaron Rodgers threw for 327 yards with four TDs. The Chiefs and Packers are both 4-0, joining the Bills and Seahawks as the NFL's lone 4-0 teams. The Steelers and Titans are each 3-0 but had their game postponed Sunday. The Falcons' MNF loss dropped them to 0-4, joining the Giants, Jets and Texans. The Jets and Titans are also both 0-4 ATS, while the Falcons are 1-3 and the Giants a 'giddy' 2-2! Houston, which won the AFC South last season for the FOURTH time in the last five seasons, have seen enough of Bill O'Brien. He was not only head coach but was also the team's GM. He was fired Monday afternoon with associate head coach Romeo Crennel named as the team's interim head coach. Now that's the 'ticket!' Crennel's record as an NFL head coach is 28-55 (.337) in five-plus seasons with the Browns and Chiefs!Home teams went 2-0 SU and ATS on Monday night, after opening the week going 4-9 SU and 2-10-1 ATS. Week 4's first 13 games averaged 54.2 PPG but with totals being adjusted higher, saw six games go over, five go under and two fall "on the closing number." Both Monday games went under. Home teams are barely over .500 SU on the season at 25-22, while going just 20-25-2 ATS (Home dogs are 4-13 SU and 7-8-2 ATS). Overs still lead unders at 26-19-2 (57.8%). NFL Week 5 kicks off Thursday night when the 3-1 Bucs (what a comeback by Brady on Sunday when he threw five TD passes!) visit the 3-1 Bears, whose options at QB are either Foles or Trubisky.NBA Finals: The Miami Heat reached this year's NBA Finals as the East's No. 5 to face the LA Lakers, the West's No. 1 seed. Miami is the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. LBJ played a typical game in Sunday's loss (25-10-8), as he's averaging 27.7-10.7-9.0 through three games. However, the Lakers committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone in Game 3, one more than they had total in Game 2. They finished the contest with 20, James being responsible for eight and Anthony Davis five. Davis, after scoring 34 and 32 points in the first two games, took just NINE shots and finished with only 15 points. LA's other three starters (Howard, Green and Caldwell-Pope), combined for a pathetic11 points on 3-0f-13 shooting (23.1%).Do we have a series now? We'll find out in tonight's Game 4, where the Lakers are 7 1/2-point favorites. The Heats are 13-5 SU this postseason (14-4 ATS), while the Lakers are 14-4 SU but 10-7-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-38-2 ATS , while the under has cashed in 46 of the 80 games (57.5 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-32-2 ATS (45.6%) or minus-5.1 net units.MLB Playoffs: The AL gets things going on Monday. The A's got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series but fell in Game 1 of the ALDS, 10-5. The teams combined for six HRs (three each) but the Astros out-hit the A's 16-8, overcoming a 5-3 deficit to score the game's final SEVEN runs from the 6th-inning on. Game 1 between the Yankees and Rays was expected to be a pitchers duel between Cole and Snell. That wasn't the case. Cole was solid but hardly spectacular (6 IP/ 3 ERs / 8 Ks) and Snell had a less-than-impressive outing ( 5 IP / six hits, including 3 HRs / 4 ERs). It was 4-3 Yanks into the 9th when New York broke the game open on the strength of Stanton's grand slam. The Yanks would score FIVE runs in the top of the 9th for a 9-3 win and a 1-0 series lead. The Bronx Bombers became the first team in American League history to hit a grand slam in back-to-back playoff games, while setting a franchise record by hitting at least three HRs in three consecutive postseason games. New York's goal in Game 2, after recording 31 runs and a major league-record 11 HRs in their first three postseason contests. It's Valdez (Hou) vs Manaea (Oak) in Game 2 and the game is a pick-em and the total is 9. The Yankees send rookie Garcia up against the Rays Glasnow, with the Rays favored (-125) and the total set at 8.The NL 'joins the party' on Tuesday with Miami vs Atlanta at 2:08 ET from Houston. The second-seeded Braves did not surrender a run in their two-game sweep of Cincinnati over 22 innings, while the sixth-seeded Marlins allowed just ONE while sweeping the Chicago Cubs *Chicago batted .145 in the two games). Miami lost 105 games in 2019 and became the first team to reach the playoffs after a 100-loss season. The Marlins finished second in the NL East at 31-29 being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that forced 18 players from the field following the opening series and prevented them from playing for more than a week. Remember, the only other times the Marlins have reached the  postseason in their history, they won the World Series (in 1997 and 2003). It's Alcantara for Miami and Max Fried for Atlanta. Fried has made 12 starts in 2020 (including Game 1 of the wild card series) and the Braves have gone 11-1. It's no surprise that Atlanta is favored (-1950 in Game 1, with a total of 8.The teams with the two best records in the National League open tonight in Arlington at 9:38 ET, as the Dodgers, owners of MLB's best record (43-17) face the Padres, whose 37-23 record was second-best in the NL. The Dodgers won six of the 10 regular season matchups and will turn to Walker Buehler in Game 1, while the Padres have yet to announce a starter for Game 1. Top San Diego starters Mike Clevinger (elbow) and Dinelson Lamet (biceps/elbow) are still being considered for the NLDS roster after not participating in the wild-card round. The Padres pitched Chris Paddack and Zach Davies in the first two games of their series with the Cards but both 'flopped." The Padres then used NINE pitchers to craft a shutout in a deciding Game 3. The current odds have LA favored (-170) and the over/under at 8. BetAnySports has the Dodgers (-120) as significant favorites to win the NL pennant, followed by the Braves (+355), the Padres (+370) and the long-shot Marlins (+876).Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 5

Monday, Oct 05, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 4 concluded with an unexpected MNF doubleheader. 2-1 New England and 3-0 Kansas City were scheduled to play Sunday but Patriots QB Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta'amu were added to the COVID-19 reserve list this weekend. The status of the game was "up in the air" but thankfully, further testing showed none of their teammates were infected with the virus. Therefore, the game will be played Monday night 7:05 ET (CBS). The regularly scheduled MNF game featuring 0-3 Atlanta and 3-0 Green Bay has been bumped back 45 minutes and will now kick off at 8:50 on ESPN. The Chiefs are favored by 10 1/2-points (were about a TD favorite against Cam) and the Packers are favored by 6 1/2-points. Complete NFL Week 4 recap with Tuesday's notes.NBA Finals Update: Do we have a series? The Lakers routed the Heat in Game 1 (116-98) and then took Game 2 by the score of 124-114, as Miami's Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both sat out with injuries. Dragic and Adebayo did not play in Game 3 either but Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, as the Heat beat the Lakers 115-104 last night to get within 2-1. Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. BTW...LBJ has a Finals-best 10 triple-doubles. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night but unlike in Games 2 (LA closed as a 10 1/2-point favorite) and 3 (LA - 9 1/2), the early line has LA favored by 7  1/2-points. More on the NBA in Tuesday's Notes.MLB: All SEVEN Central Division teams lost in the wild card round, going a combined 2-14. No team was more disappointing than the Twins, who have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. However, the Twins weren't alone, as two NL Central teams gave pathetic offensive efforts. The Cubs (NL Central champs) lost 5-1 and 2-0 to the Marlins, batting .145 as a team. Chicago saw Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combine to go 0 for 12 Friday's loss, finishing the series 1 for 24. The trio is 19 for 142 (.134) with 52 strikeouts and six walks in the postseason since the 2016 World Series title as Chicago has lost nine of 13. Not to be 'outdone,' the Reds were swept by the Braves, scoring just ONE run over 22 innings of two games, batting .194 as a team. Good Riddance Central division teams.All four Division Series feature matchups between division rivals. The AL teams open Monday, with Houston and Oakland playing at Dodgers Stadium (4:07 ET) and the NY Yankees and Tampa Bay playing at Petco Park in San Diego (8:07 ET). The NL 'joins the party' on Tuesday, as Miami and Atlanta hook up in Houston and San Diego and the LA Dodgers meet in Arlington.AL preview: The Houston Astros opened the 2020 season off three straight seasons of 100-plus wins (101, 103 and 107), making the World Series in 2017 and 2019 (won the first, lost the second). The team's season figured to be marred by criticism of "sign stealing" but COVID-19 pushed all other storylines to the 'back-burner.' The Astros opened 15-10 but would go 14-21 the rest of the way and became one of two teams to make the 2020 postseason field with a losing record (29-31). The Astros drew a great wild card matchup in Minnesota, whose postseason 'nightmare' continued. Houston eliminated the Twins 2-0, as the Twins have now lost an incomprehensible 18 consecutive postseason games with a total of seven rounds lost. Houston manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with the Astros, advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Oakland A's won the AL West in 2020 for the first time since 2013. The AL West champions lost the opener of its wild card series 4-1 to the White Sox but then won on consecutive days at home in Games 2 and 3 (5-3 and 6-4), advancing to an ALDS against the rival Houston Astros. Oakland snapped a NINE-game losing streak in winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A's had lost six straight playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS, starting with when Detroit swept Oakland in that year's ALCS. It was a humongous relief for a club that won 97 games each of the past two seasons only to lose the division to Houston and then the AL wild card game both years. The A's got the better of the Astros 7-3 in the season series but it should be noted that they had the advantage of getting eight of the 10 games at home. Lance McCullers (3-3, 3.93 ERA in the regular season) gets the start for Houston and Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA) for Oakland. The A's are -135 and the total is 8.I don't want to compare the Yankees/Rays rivalry with the Red Sox/Yankees but the disdain the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees share for each other is hardly a secret. Tampa Bay claimed its third-ever division title by winning EIGHT of 10 regular season meetings, outscoring the Yankees 47-34. Tensions boiled over in the ninth inning of New York's 5-3 win back on Sep 1 at Yankee Stadium, when closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball up and in at infielder Michael Brosseau's head, nearly prompting a benches-clearing incident. Now, after some hostile moments in the regular season, the stakes are significantly higher in this five-game ALDS. Petco Park has been known as a pitchers' park and it seems only fitting that the team's two aces will square off. Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA in the regular season) takes the mound for New York, while Tampa Bay counters with Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA). The Yankees are favored in Game 1 (-145) and the total is 7. BetAnySports has the Yankees as a slight favorite to win the AL pennant (+187), followed by Tampa Bay (+197), Oakland (+375) and Houston (+432). NL preview on Tuesday.A typical Monday would feature a recap of the CFB weekend but I'll combine that recap with my upcoming CFB weekend preview in Thursday's Notes.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 2

Friday, Oct 02, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."NFL Week 4 kicked off last night with a game between the winless Broncos and Jets. It was NOT a well-played game but it was somehow entertaining. Brett Rypien, the nephew of 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien, made his first NFL start and threw for 242 yards and two TDs but also threw three INTs (one which was returned for a TD). However, he led the Broncos to 37 points, after the team had averaged just 15.0 PPG in opening 0-3. He got some help from newly-acquired RB Melvin Gordon, who ran for 107 yards, including a 43-yard TD run with just under two minutes to go which sealed Denver's win. Rypien became the first QB to win his first start with three interceptions since San Francisco's Jim Druckenmiller beat the St. Louis Rams 15-12 in 1997. As for the Jets, paraphrasing HOF head coach Bill Parcells, "They are who their record says they are!" The Jets are 0-4 SU and ATS. I'll return to the NFL in just a bit.The NBA Finals resume tonight with Game 2. The Lakers dominated the first game, cruising to a 116-98 win but the main storyline for Game 2 is the injuries to Miami PG Goran Dragic (plantar fascia tear in left foot) and PF/C Bam Adebayo (neck strain). Both are listed as doubtful and I think that's an optimistic take. The current line has the Lakers listed as 7 1/2- or eight-point favorites and after winning my NBA Game of the Year on the Lakers in Game 1, I will sit this one out and see what kind of team Miami can put on the floor. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-36-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 45 of the 78 games (57.7 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 27-33-2 ATS (45.0%) or minus-.9.3 net units.MLB Playoff Update: Game 2 of the Marlins/Cubs series was postponed and will be played on Friday but four other series were played on Thursday. The Braves beat the Reds 5-0, snapping their record-tying string of losses in 10 consecutive postseason rounds since their last playoff series win in 2001. The Reds, playing in their first postseason since 2013, did not score a SINGLE run  in the two games (over 21 innings), batting .169 as a team, while hitting 1 of 14 (.071) with RISP. Oakland beat the Chicago White Sox 6-4 in its deciding Game 3, ending a nine-game losing streak in winner-take-all postseason games, a major league record that dated to the 1973 World Series. The A's had also lost six straight playoff series since sweeping Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS, starting with when Detroit swept Oakland in that year's ALCS. Back in the NL, Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 while delivering eight innings of three-hit ball. His 13 strikeouts were a playoff career high and considering he came into the game with a 9-11 record and 4.43 ERA in the playoffs, he and the Dodgers have to be feeling pretty good. The Dodgers eliminated the Brewers with Thursday's 3-0 victory and it's "Good Riddance" to Milwaukee. The Brewers never got above .500 all season and 'snuck into' the expanded playoff field with a 29-31 record as the NL's No. 8 seed.Joining the Marlins and Cubs in playing on Friday, are the Cards and Padres. San Diego's powerful offense finally burst to life in the  6th-inning of Game 2, after slumbering through a 7-4 loss in Game 1 and a listless first five innings last night. The Cards led 6-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth but the Padres hit five HRs while plating NINE runs from the 6th to the 8th inning. The Padres are the first team in postseason history with five HRs from the sixth inning onward in a game and Thursday's victory marked the team's 23rd comeback win of 2020. The Cards will start Jack Flaherty in Game 3, while the Padres are expected to use a "bullpen game." Game 1 and 2 starters Chris Paddack and Zach Davies lasted a combined 4.1 innings, forcing the Padres to use eight relievers on Wednesday and seven more on Tuesday, for a total of 13.2 innings. SIX San Diego relievers have worked in both games. As for the Miami/Chicago game, it's Miami rookie Sixto Sanchez (3-3, 3.46 ERA)  up against the Cubs' Yu Darvish (8-3, 2.01 ERA).Returning to the NFL, the "big story" of Week 4 has to be the postponement of the Pittsburgh/Tennessee game due to COVID-19 concerns. This is the NFL's first real test and all sports fans (and bettors) have their "fingers crossed," The 3-0 Steelers and Titans are two of SEVEN teams still unbeaten, joined by the Bears, Bills, Chiefs, Packers and Seahawks. Green Bay and Seattle are 3-0 ATS but Tennessee is 0-3 ATS, as the Titans have only outscored their three 'victims' by a total of just SIX points.The Pittsburgh/Tennessee game was the only contest featuring unbeaten opponents but there are two games featuring 3-0 teams playing 2-1 opponents. The 3-0 Chiefs host the 2-1 Pats (Chiefs are -7) and the 3-0 Bills are at the 2-1 Raiders (Bills are -3 1/2). The LONE game featuring 0-3 opponents is the Vikings at the Texans (Houston is -4), a game between two 2019 playoff teams. The SNF game on NBC has the 0-2-1 Eagles (winners of the NFC East in 2019) at the 2-1 SF 49ers, the defending NFC champs (Niners are favored by seven points). MNF has the 0-3 Falcons at the 3-0 Packers (Green Bay is favored by 7 points at BookMaker).  See you all Monday for my next Ness Notes report.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Thursday, Oct 1

Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." LBJ led the Lakers into the 2020 NBA Finals, marking his 10th appearance (with three different teams). His teams had won just THREE of his previous nine Finals appearances and it sure didn't help that those teams had gone 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, including a stretch of SEVEN consecutive Game 1 losses! LBJ may have thought "here we go again," when the Heat scored on SIX consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period. However, it was ALL Lakers after that. Anthony Davis scored 34 points and added nine rebounds, while LBJ had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 116-98 win. The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points and made 15 three-pointers. Adding insult to injury, Miami Point PG Goran Dragic left in the second quarter and word is, he has a torn plantar fascia in his left foot (if so, he's done). More bad news  was that Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler played through a twisted left ankle. Game 2 is Friday and I'll update the situation in tomorrow's Notes.MLB Playoffs: The NL 'joined the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s. The first game out of the box (Cin/Atl) featured a terrific pitching matchup between Trevor Bauer and Max Fried. The result? Wednesday's starters combined to throw 14.2 scoreless innings and strike out 17 batters in a game eventually won 1-0 by Atlanta in 13 innings. NO postseason game had ever gone so deep into extra innings before the first run was scored and the teams combined for a playoff-record 37 strikeouts. The Marlins and Cubs followed from Wrigley Field with Miami winning 5-1 on the strength of a five-run 7th (ghosts of Steve Bartman?). The Cards beat the Padres 7-4 in San Diego, meaning they need just one more win to eliminate the Padres from the postseason for the FOURTH time since 1996. They swept the Padres in the NLDS in 1996 and 2005, and won 3-1 in the NLDS in 2006, which was the last time San Diego made the postseason. The NL schedule concluded with the No. 1 LA Dodgers taking care of the No. 8 seed Brewers, 4-2.Back in the AL, the Astros (just 29-31 in the regular season) eliminated the Twins with a 3-1 win in Game 2. The Twins are now 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their ALDS at the New York Yankees back on Oc. 5, 2004, losing SEVEN consecutive series. Kudos to Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with Houston this season and advanced for the first time in SEVEN series since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees followed their dominating 12-3 win over the Indians in game 1 with a 10-9 win over the Cleveland Indians, what is now the longest nine-inning game in major league history. It lasted 4 hours, 50 minutes and that does NOT include two rain delays totaling another 76 minutes. The top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays eliminated the Blue Jays with an 8-2 win, The Al's top team (40-20) saw starters Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow dominate Toronto batters, pitching a combined 11.2 innings while allowing just two ERs with 17 Ks and just three walks. While the Blue Jays, Indians and Twins are going home, the A's forced a Game 3 with the White Sox with a 5-3 win. Chicago's Dallas Keuchel allowed FIVE runs (three earned) in just 3.1 innings.It's a deciding Game 3 in the AL between the White Sox and A's on Thursday plus four Game 2s in the NL, with the Brewers, Cubs, Padres and Reds all facing a "win-or-go-home" scenario. So far, home teams have gone 5-7 and there have been five overs and seven unders in MLB's playoffs.CFB 2020 has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and the month of September was an unusually 'quiet' one. No one is saying "we are out of the woods" just yet but the hope is that we will see MUCH more CFB being played the rest of the way, as the Big Ten begins play in late-October plus the Pac-12, MAC and MWC start up in early November. Fingers crossed. The entire month of September saw just FOUR games played between ranked teams. The higher ranked team won all four, going 3-1 ATS. Saturday provides two contests between ranked opponents, both in the SEC. No. 2 Alabama will host No. 13 Texas A&M ('Bama is favored by 18) and No. 4 Georgia will host No. 7 Auburn (Bulldogs are favored by 6 1/2-points).The CFB weekend opens on Friday, as No. 22 BYU, coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, is hosting La Tech. The 2-0 Cougars are favored by 24 points over a La Tech team that is also 2-0 and  is coming off a 10-3 season in which the Bulldogs beat Miami 14-0 in the Independence Bowl. For what it's worth, the Bulldogs became the first Group of 5 school to shut out a Power-5 school in a bowl game since the BCS/CFP era began in 1998. BYU is one of 13 ranked teams playing unranked teams this weekend, including three top-10 schools. No. 1 Clemson is home to UVa laying 28 points, No. 3 Florida hosts South Carolina and is an 18-point favorite and No. 9 Texas hosts TCU and is laying 12. Beware of ranked teams playing unranked opponents, as Y-T-D, ranked teams are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). when playing unranked opponents. Will it turnaround? I'll update this trend in Monday's Notes.Before I go, it's Thursday Night in the NFL, as the NFL Network brings us a "Losers Night Out" contest with Denver playing at the NY Jets. The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, one team will  avoid an 0-4 start. Denver opened a 2 1/2-point favorite but with the news that the Broncos will start their third different QB this season, the Jets are currently favored by 1 1/2-points (and climbing?). Brett Rypien (nephew of Super Bowl-winning QB Mark Rypien) will make his first NFL start. You make the call. I'm passing. Friday's Notes will focus on NFL Week 4.Good luck...Larry 

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Ness Notes: Wednesday, Sep 30

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

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

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Ness Notes: Tuesday, Sep 29

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

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

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Ness Notes: Monday, Sep 28

Monday, Sep 28, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."The NFL concludes its Week 3 schedule with its marquee game, as the defending champion KC Chiefs (2-0) visit Baltimore to take on the 2-0 Ravens. This was the matchup all anticipated to be last season's AFC championship game but the 14-2 Ravens (-10) were upset 28-12 by the Tennessee Titans. Does it get any better than Mahomes vs Jackson? The Ravens are favored by 3 points (-125) at BetAnySports. I'll recap NFL Week 3 in Tuesday's Ness Notes but first let's look back at the college football weekend.There were three games featuring top-25 opponents (had been just ONE, prior to Saturday) and the higher ranked team won all three (2-1 ATS). Fourteen other ranked teams were in action against an unranked opponent and while 12 of the 14 won, the group went just 5-8-1 ATS. As September comes to a close, ranked teams vs unranked opponents are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). The two losses by ranked teams were more than a little noteworthy. No. 3 Oklahoma welcomed Kansas St to Norman looking for revenge from last season's 48-41 loss at Manhattan, as a 23.5 point favorite. Kansas State lost its home opener to Arkansas State two weeks ago and had its roster depleted by COVID-19 but came back from a 35-14 deficit in the late third quarter to win, 38-35 as a four-TD underdog. The Wildcats outscored the Sooners 17-0 in the fourth quarter and after giving up 455 yards the first three quarters, held Oklahoma to 62 yards in the fourth. It marked K-State's first-ever road win over a top-3 opponent and its first win while playing as an unranked team against an AP top-3 opponent in 30 tries (now 1-29!).Defending champion LSU opened its season against Miss St, as Mike Leach made his SEC coaching debut for the Bulldogs. Miss St, led by K.J. Costello (a Stanford graduate transfer) ended LSU's 17-game winning streak with a 44-34 upset as a little more than a two-TD underdog. Leach's "Air Raid" offense suited Costello just fine, as he threw six TD passes plus set an SEC-record with 623 passing yards. LSU became the first defending champ to lose its season opener since Michigan did so back in 1998.<p>Speaking of rankings, the latest AP poll was released on Sunday afternoon. It was sure a poll unlike any before it (AP began its poll back in 1936), as the AP decided that all FBS schools planning to play in 2020 could be included (note Big Ten starts Oct 24 and Pac-12 schools are expected to return Nov 6). Clemson remains No. 1 (55 of 62 1st-place votes) and Alabama, after extending its record of consecutive wins over an unranked opponent to 92 with a win 38-19 at Missouri, sits No. 2 with three, first-place votes. Ohio St, which was a close No. 2 to Clemson in the preseason poll, is ranked No. 6 and actually got four first-place votes. The Buckeyes were one of FIVE schools ranked in the AP's preseason poll to enter Sunday's poll, despite not yet playing. Miss St, unranked in the preseason, entered the poll at No. 16. SIX schools dropped out of the poll, including No. 19 ULL which improved to 3-0,  No. 20 Va Tech which beat NC State 45-24 despite missing 23 players due to COVID-19 and No. 25 Marshall which was idle.The 2020 NBA Finals are set, as the LA Lakers (No. 1 seed in the West) will meet the Miami Heat (No. 5 seed in the East. The Lakers (including their beginnings in Minneapolis) are in the Finals for the 32nd time in franchise history (but first appearance since 2010) and a 17th title would tie them with the Celtics for the most all-time, Miami is making its sixth Finals appearance (win in ) but first without longtime star Dwyane Wade. Game 1 is set for Thursday. Full preview and NBA postseason numbers to-date, in Wednesday's Notes.Bye-Bye Denver and Boston. Entering this season's Western conference finals with the Lakers, the Nuggets had played FOUR consecutive seven-game series the last two postseasons. They won their first in 2019 against Utah, but then lost to the Blazers last season, as Portland won Games 6 and 7. Here in 2020, the Nuggets fell behind the Jazz AND the Clippers 3-1 but came back to capture each one in seven games. In the process, Denver became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit TWICE in the same postseason. In the East, Boston swept longtime rival Philly 4-0 in the first round but after taking the first two games against defending champions Toronto, needed seven games to dispatch the Raptors. Boston's performance in the East Finals against the Miami Heat was an abject embarrassment. Boston heads into the offseason, dealing with the reality that they collapsed in the second half of THREE of its four losses. Boston entered the 4th-quarter of Game up 12 but the Heat forced OT and won. Boston then owned a 17-point lead in the first half of Game 2 but didn't wait for the final period to collapse, getting outscored 37-17 in the third quarter. Boston then gave up a 26-6 fourth-quarter run in Game 6 that officially sealed its fate.The Stanley Cup final continues with Game 6 on Monday. The Lightning took a 3-1 series lead with a 5-4 OT win in Game 4 on Friday but playing the very next night, the Stars staved off elimination with a 3-2 win in double-OT. However, they still trail 3-2 and the Lightning are a perfect 6-0 in games following a playoff loss in this year's postseason. Tampa Bay is a minus-160 favorite at BetAnySports. MLB's COVID-shortened season is complete and its 16-team playoff-field starts play tomorrow. I'll feature some random thoughts on the 2020 MLB season in Tuesday Notes, along with that NFL Week 3 recap.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes: Friday, Sep 25

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." NFL Week 3 kicked off Thursday night, as the Dolphins easily handled the Jags 31-13 in Jacksonville. Who says Ryan Fitzpatrick is no more than a journeyman? The 37-year-old accounted for three TDs ( two passing / one rushing). He became the first NFL quarterback to notch six wins over the same opponent with SIX different teams. The blowout also gave Miami its first double-digit victory in 39 games, ending the longest drought in the league. NFL home teams have gone 19-13 SU but just 16-15-1 ATS the first two weeks, including home dogs going 3-8 SU but 6-4-1 ATS. Eleven of the 16 Week 2 games went over (average final score was 53.3 PPG), as overs lead unders 20-12 (62.5%).Week 3 features two games between 2-0 teams. The Rams at the Bills (Buff is -2.5) plus on MNF, the 2-0 Ravens host the 2-0 Chiefs. Baltimore is favored by 3.5, as the two teams expected to meet in last season's AFC championship game square off. Think anyone will be watching? The only game between 0-2 teams is the Bengals at the Eagles (Philly is -4.5). There are three games featuring a 2-0 team vs an 0-2 one. The 2-0 Titans are at 0-2 Vikings (Tenn is -2.5), the 2-0 Steelers host the 0-2 Texans (Pitt is -4) and the 2-0 Cardinals host the 0-2 Lions ( Arz is -5.5). SNF has a good one in 2-0 Green Bay at 1-1 New Orleans, Rodgers vs Brees (Saints are -3).The Lakers beat the Nuggets 114-108 last night to take a 3-1 lead in the western conference finals A.D. had 34 points, LBJ 26-9-8 and Dwight Howard got his first start of the postseason, adding 12 & 11. The Nuggets shot 50.6% as a team but it wasn't enough. Does Denver have LA right where it wants? The Nuggets have already overcome two, 3-1 deficits this postseason. Game 5 is Saturday (early line is LA -6). Game 5 of the East is set for tonight, with Miami leading 3-1. Miami can become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999. The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West's No. 6 seed. Boston is in the East Finals for the third time in four years but hasn't advanced to the NBA Finals since 2010. Boston last won an NBA title in 2008 and before that, its last title was back in 1986, the last of Bird's three NBA championships. Each team has scored exactly 441 points but that's NOT indicative, as the Heat have been the better team (Miami is 11-2 SU & ATS this postseason). However, Boston is favored by three points in Game 5.of a one-sided series.  Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 37-35-2 ATS , while the under has cashed in 44 of the 74 games (59.5 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 26-31-2 ATS (45.6%) or minus-.8.1 net units (last night's game was graded as a 'push').MLB enters its final weekend. The Blue Jays clinched a playoff spot in the AL with their 4-1 win last night over the Yankees. Yes, the Cardinals and Marlins dealt with major COVID outbreaks but let's NOT forget the Blue Jays were denied the ability to play in Toronto by the Canadian government, so they instead played their home games at their Triple-A stadium in Buffalo, NY. The team was forced to open the season with 13 games straight on the road. Kudos to the franchise that won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. The Astros can wrap up the final playoff spot in the American League on Friday with a win over the Rangers OR an Angels loss to the Dodgers. Speaking of the Marlins and the Cards. Miami can clinch second place in the NL East and the playoff spot that goes with it Friday with a win over the Yankees AND a Phillies loss to the Rays. The Cards currently hold down second place in the NL Central but they Cards enter Friday to either earn the second-place spot in the division, grab one of the NL's two wild cards or miss the postseason entirely. Note: St Louis could be forced into a make-up doubleheader with Detroit on Monday.Next Ness Notes on Monday by 1:00 ET.Good luck...Larry

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Ness Notes

Thursday, Sep 24, 2020

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."  The Lightning took 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a dominating 5-2 win over the Stars. Wouldn't it be "just desserts" if the Lightning won it all this year, after last season's 'disaster.' Even casual fans may remember that the Lightning went 62-16-4 (128 points) in the 2018-19 season, tying the record for most wins in a single season in NHL history. However, the Lightning then got swept in four games by Columbus in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 4 is Saturday (early line has Tampa Bay as a -160 favorite.The Miami Heat have not just been the most surprising team in this year's postseason (Came in as the East's No. 5 seed) but they've also been the NBA's best team this playoff season (so far). The Heat beat the Celtics 112-109 to take a 3-1 lead in the series. All FIVE of Miami's starters are averaging in double digits, while Kentucky rookie Tyler Hero is chipping in 16.5 PPG (he had a 37 points last night!). The Heat are now 11-2 SU and ATS this postseason. The West Finals resume tonight from Orlando, as the top-seeded Lakers take on the third-seeded Nuggets. Each of the Nuggets' four previous playoff series (two last year and two this year) have gone to seven games, with Denver winning THREE of them, The Nuggets rallied from 3-1 deficits in each of their first two series this postseason and after falling in an 0-2 'hole' against the Lakers, bounce back with an impressive 114-106 win in Game 3. Are we headed to another seven-game Denver series? The Lakers are favored by six points in tonight's game. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 37-35-1 ATS , while under cashed in 44 of the 73 games (60.3 percent. For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 26-31-1 ATS (45.6%) or minus-.8.1 net units.MLB enters the final four days of its COVID-shortened 60-game schedule and there are still a few playoff spots up for grabs in this season's expanded 16-team field. It's no surprise that the Dodgers own MLB's best record (39-17 or that they won the NL West for the EIGHTH consecutive year. However, the Padres have secured a second-place finish in the NL West (all second-place teams are assured a playoff spot), as San Diego (just 70-92 in 2019) will participate in MLB's postseason for the first time since 2006. The surprising Chicago White Sox, off a 72-89 season in 2019, have clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2008. The Yankees were the clear favorites to represent the AL in the World Series at the start of the season, as well as strong favorites to win the AL East. However, the 37-20 Tampa Bay Rays have  won their first AL East title since 2010 and are likely to wind up as the AL's top-seed.The 2020 CFB season has started slowly and late due to COVID-19 but the SEC (the nation's top conference) finally opens its season on Saturday. There has been just one game between ranked opponents up until now, as No. 17 Miami-Florida handled No. 18 Louisville last Saturday, 47-34. However, there are three games this Saturday in which ranked opponents square off against each other. No. 8 Auburn (-7.5) is home vs No. 23 Kentucky, No. 14 Cincinnati (-13.5) hosts 2-0 Army (note: Army was just 5-8 in 2019) and No. 21 Pittsburgh (-3) is home against No. 24 Louisville. There are 14 teams playing unranked teams this weekend and note that while ranked teams are 12-2 SU against unranked opponents so far in 2020, they are a 'money-burning' 5-9 ATS. I'll follow this trend all season here at Ness Notes.Be back Friday at 1:00 ET.Good luck...Larry

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2020 NBA Playoffs: A Championship Unlike Any Other

Sunday, Aug 16, 2020

Hearing Jim Nantz say the catchphrase, "A tradition unlike any other" around the Masters each year over the last three decades has become a tradition unto itself. The saying has even been trademarked by Augusta National and now adorns tournament merchandise. However, COVID-19 has had a way of 'influencing' many traditions in the sports world in 2020. Case in point is The Masters itself, which was postponed from April 9-12 to Nov 12-15 AND will be played without patrons or guests on the grounds. Quoting Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?"That brings me to the 2020 NBA postseason, which in many respects, will challenge its players and teams like never before. The NBA was the first professional sports league to shut down and most consider the league, led by Adam Silver, to have had the best response to the current pandemic. Twenty-two of the league's 30 teams were sent to an Orlando 'bubble,' with all 22 playing eight games to decide the final seeding order of the 16 teams which would begin the 2020 postseason. The 'experiment' has basically gone off without a hitch and fans (along with us bettors) have been treated to some entertaining games. Portland's Damian Lillard was the bubble's brightest star, averaging 36.9 PPG in the nine games the Blazers needed to clinch the West's final playoff spot, although Portland's reward is a first round matchup with the top-seeded Lakers. The most surprising team in Orlando was the Suns, who were just 26-39 when play was halted in March but then went 8-0 in "the bubble," as well as going a perfect 8-0 ATS, as well. Raise your hand if you saw that coming! However, the Suns' brilliance was all for naught, as they missed out on a spot in the West's play-in game to Memphis (both teams finished 34-39) because they lost the season series 3-1 to the Grizzlies.With the 2020 postseason tipping off on Monday (Aug 17), let me note that the NBA consists of 30 teams but just 15 have won championships since the 1976-77 merger. Only EIGHT teams have won multiple titles, with the Lakers leading the way with 10. The Lakers are followed by the Bulls (six), Spurs (five), Celtics (four), Warriors, (three), Heat (three), Pistons (three) and Rockets (two). Will the fact that all teams are playing neutral-site games make for a more wide-open postseason? I wouldn't count on it. The NBA has NOT presented us with many "surprise" champions for quite some time now.As I point out every year at this time (granted, a little later in the year here in 2020), it’s not as if the NBA playoffs typically serve up “unlikely” champs. Bird and Magic entered the NBA for the start of the 1979-80 season, rejuvenating what was a 'dying' league. Here's what a check of the history books tells us. Of the 40 championship teams since that 1979-80 season, 19 have been teams which finished the regular season with the best regular season record (or tied for the best record). Ten champs have been teams which finished with its second-best mark and six others with its third-best record.That leaves just FIVE champions from outside the top-three regular season records over the last 40 seasons (or just 12.5 percent). That 'Group of 5' includes the 2010-11 Mavericks and the 2011-12 Heat, who both finished with the fourth-best record that year. The 2005-06 Heat finished  with the league's fifth-best record that season and the 2003-04 Pistons finished with the league's sixth-best mark. However, that Detroit team deserves an asterisk, because after acquiring Rasheed Wallace during the regular season, the Pistons owned the NBA’s best record after the All Star break and by year’s end, were HARDLY considered the league’s sixth-best team. That leaves the 1994-95 Houston Rockets as the fifth team to win an NBA title these last 40 years, without finishing the regular season with at least the league’s third-best regular season record. That squad deserves a “special mention.”You may remember that following a third straight NBA title in 1992-93 with the Bulls, MJ decided to pursue a career in MLB. The tragic death of his father was said to have had something to do with MJ’s decision, although there are other theories out there. Anyway, with MJ in the minors and not on an NBA court, the 1993-94 Rockets (coached by Rudy T and led by Hakeem) won the title in a seven-game series over the Knicks, who were coached by Pat Riley and led by Patrick Ewing. The following season, the Rockets finished with a record of 47-35, tied for the 10th-best mark during the regular season. However, they beat in order, the 60-22 Jazz, the 59-23 Suns and the 62-20 Spurs (owners of the league's best record that year in David Robinson's MVP season) in the Western Conference playoffs, to reach the NBA Finals. Waiting for them were the 57-25 Magic, led by Shaq and Penny, who had eliminated the Bulls and MJ, who had returned late in that season from his MLB 'sabbatical.' The Rockets swept the Magic in four games, giving Rudy T and Hakeem back-to-back titles and giving Clyde Drexler (who was acquired from Portland during the season in a trade), the lone NBA title of his Hall-of-Fame career. Houston 'victims' that postseason had a combined record of 238-90 (.726) during the regular season. No championship team, before or since, has beaten a more impressive group of challengers on its way to an NBA title.On the eve of the 2020 playoffs, should we expect any surprises. The Milwaukee Bucks own the league's best record (56-17), followed by the defending champion Toronto Raptors (53-19). Completing the "Big Three" is the LA Lakers (52-19), the West's No. 1 seed. I'm not even a little 'sold' on the Lakers and like the chances of Bucks and Raptors, much more. It would be hard to call the LA Clippers a "dark horse" but at 49-27, they are outside of this year's "Big Three," who as noted above, have won 35 of the last 40 NBA titles (87.5%). Kawhi and George make up a dynamic combo (offense and defense) plus Wiliams and Harrell make up the NBA's best one-two 'punch' off the bench. Kawhi's already a HOF lock but what would it mean for him to add a third title to his resume, joining his championship season with the Spurs (in 2014) and his one last year with the Raptors. Kwahi was The Finals' MVP in both 2014 and 2019 and if the Clippers win it all in 2020, would anyone like to bet against him NOT being the Finals' MVP, again? I bet the playoffs game by game and series by series but a small wager on the Clippers to "win it all," is warranted.Good luck...Larry

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Major League Baseball's Back (Fingers Crossed)

Monday, Jun 29, 2020

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

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Notes From Colonial: Welcome Back PGA

Tuesday, Jun 09, 2020

The Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, with exceptions in 1949 (flooding of the Trinity River, which orders the course) and 1975, when the club hosted the second Tournament Players Championship in August. The most noteworthy winner of the tournament is Ben Hogan; the late Fort Worth resident won five times, which earned the course the nickname "Hogan's Alley." Many may remember that Annika Sörenstam played in the 2003 tournament and became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years (Babe Zaharias made three cuts as an amateur in 1945). Sörenstam's participation drew HUGE media attention but she shot 71 and 74 and missed the cut by four strokes.As noted above, the Colonial golf tournament has been held every year since 1946, making it the longest running non-major tour event held at the same site. Charles Schwab & Co, a major sponsor on the PGA Tour and PGA Champions Tour, expanded its golf presence in 2019 by assuming title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club (four-year agreement, from 2019-2022). The 2020 tournament will be played June 11–14, as the first PGA Tour event staged since the interruption of the regular schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interests of maximum health and safety, the tournament will be played with no spectators attending, which will be a PGA Tour first.While there won’t be fans on the grounds at Colonial Country Club when the PGA Tour resumes play on Thursday, 16 of the top-20 in the Official World Rankings will be participating. The Tour announced its featured groupings on Sunday and the top-three ranked players in the world—Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka—will play together. The trio played together in the first round of this year's Players Championship back on March 12, which was eventually wiped out when the tournament was canceled on Thursday night at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic (FYI...Rahm shot 69, Koepka 70 and McIlroy 72). McIlroy is the hottest player in the game with one win and five other top-5s in his last six starts (he is making his tournament debut). Rahm has played just five events in the 2019-20 season but has four top-10 finishes  His best finishes are a 2nd at the Farmers (Torrey Pines) in late January and a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, which is the last time he's played an event (ended Feb 23). Rahm has two top-5s at Colonial. Koepka, who has won FOUR majors since 2017 (two US Opens and two PGAs), will be making his sixth appearance of the current season. Believe it or not, he's had two missed cuts, had a W/D at the CJ Cup@Nine Bridges, plus owns a T-43 at the Genesis Invitational (Riviera) and a T-47 in Arrnie's tourney at Bay Hill. Koepka has played at Colonial only once, but he shot a pair of 63s to finish T-2 in 2017.Boyhood friends Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will play with arguably the Tour's "favorite son," Rickie Fowler. Spieth turns 27 in late July and has already won 11 PGA Tour events, including THREE majors. However, Jordan's last Tour win was the 2017 British Open. He tees off Thursday at Colonial having gone SIXTY starts since winning his third major. Meanwhile, Thomas (who turned 27 in April) has caught and passed his longtime friend with 12 Tour titles (lone major came in the 2017 PGA). Two of his career wins have come in the current season and he tees off at Colonial ranked 4th in the OWR. The ever-popular Fowler, who will turn 32 in December, will tee it up for the 243rd start of his career but owns a modest FIVE wins and NO majors.Kevin Na (four career PGA wins) is the defending Schwab Challenge champion, as he won by four shots over Tony Finau in 2019. Na will be paired with Gary Woodland and Phil. Woodland, like Na, owns a modest four PGA wins (turned professional in 2007) but one of them was the 2019 US Open. Phil needs no introduction but note he turns 50 on June 16 and has dropped to No. 63 in the World Rankings with four missed cuts in his last five starts. Phil won the 2013 British Open (his fifth major) and shortly thereafter declared, "I'm playing the best golf of my career!" Phil's won 44 PGA titles (9th all-time) but since that win at The Open, he's won TWO of his 143 starts. Good luck...Larry

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