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Bryan Power has cashed 9 straight calendar years (All Sports combined), and has established himself in the upper echelon of sports handicappers.

Active since:  2011 

Location:  Cleveland, OH

Bryan Power began selling sports picks on the internet in August 2011.  He quickly established a reputation for winning month after month, and year after year.  Bryan’s 2-year MLB run in 2013-14 (+ $41,295) was an early highlight.  In April 2015, Power formally announced the formation of Power Sports Picks.  And the results have only gotten better since that time.  Immediately, he set a new standard in College Hoops betting by turning a LEGENDARY $84,556 PROFIT over three remarkable seasons (2015-18), capped by a 19-9 record in the 2018 Tournament.  Incredibly, Power has NEVER had a losing record with plays in any calendar year in his career!  And the 2018 football season was one for the ages as Power made a combined $23,888 in NFL and College.  He’s also up $20,144 the last two years in College Football alone.

Bryan's passion for sports, seemingly unlimited energy and his love of numbers have made him an unstoppable force.  He has his own personal (and private) set of "power rankings" which he is constantly adjusting.  He makes a line for every game on the board, well before one is officially released.  More often than not, his number is bang-on.  When it's not, in order to find out why, he digs deeper.  And that's just the beginning.  From there, he incorporates a combination of fundamental, situational, and statistical factors.  Power acutely understands the need to adapt.  Sports betting is constantly changing.  What works one season (or week) won't necessarily work the next.  Give Power an edge and he'll play on or against any team.  Whether its football, basketball, baseball, or even something more obscure like backgammon or women's basketball, the smart money is on Power to finish on top.  Over the years, Power has beaten them all.  Just as he has no favorite teams, he also has no favorite sport.  Offshore insiders — fortunate enough to be in Bryan's "inner circle” — have witnessed his remarkable success rate with the mainstream sports, like football and basketball.  However, Bryan's success with the lesser sports has also quietly become the "stuff of legend."  Start following today and you'll see what we mean!  

Power draws inspiration from many sources and has been fondly referred to as a walking encyclopedia.  When asked "what his secret is," he's been known to reply with this simple quote from Colin Powell:  "There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

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MLB - Over / Under - Sun, Jun 26


Coming off a 4-2 Saturday, Power Sports is anticipating a BIG finish to June! While things have certainly gotten a li...


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Using Run Differential To Predict The National League

Monday, Jun 20, 2022

Anyone who has followed my handicapping through the years is well aware that I’m a big believer in using a team’s scoring differential as a solid indicator of future outcomes. This goes for all sports.My rationale is pretty simple. Teams that outscore the opposition by the biggest margin tend to be the “best” teams while those outscored by the widest margin tend to be the “worst.”Looking at the National League, I think it’s quite easy to separate the contenders from the pretenders this year, using run differential.“There’s Always Next Year”Though we’re just a little over one-third of the way through the regular season, I feel quite confident in saying the following NL teams will NOT be making the playoffs this season: Arizona, Colorado, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Washington. In terms of run differential, there already exists a substantial gap between these six and the other nine clubs in the Senior Circuit. In fact, five of the six teams on the list above already have a run differential of -57 or worse (as of 6/20).  The nine NL teams still to be mentioned all have positive YTD run differentials.One non-contender to “keep an eye on” is Pittsburgh. The Pirates have the second worst run differential in all of baseball, but are somehow still third in their own division (ahead of both the Cubs and Reds). I expect the Bucs to start losing games at an even higher rate than they already are. Since its disastrous 3-22 start to the 2022 season, the Reds have actually been a .500 team. Yet they join the Nationals and Cubs in the bottom five of net units earned. (That means we are talking about three of the five worst teams to bet on).  The Pirates, D’backs and Rockies have all been middle of the road when it comes to net units. The ContendersSo we have nine teams to consider when it comes to this year’s NL Playoff picture. Remember that there’s been an extra Wild Card added, so six will ultimately make it.The Dodgers and Mets should be considered playoff locks. I know that the Mets blew a large lead in the division last season and the NL East is pretty tough. Plus, a 5-0 record in extra inning games is due to regress. But I’m still more confident in this Mets team than I was last year’s.The Dodgers have the best run differential in the NL, by a lot (+114). They are actually 0-5 in extra inning games and only have a half game lead in the West. But you’re crazy if you don’t think this is the NL’s best team, moving forward.Someone will have to win the Central and that will obviously be either the Cardinals or Brewers, who coincidentally will play each other this week in Milwaukee. The two teams both come in with identical 38-30 records. But St. Louis has the much better run differential, +61 vs. +16. We’ve got a bevy of possible Wild Card contenders, besides whichever team doesn’t win the Central. San Diego and San Francisco both look strong out West. Coming into 2022, we knew the Giants couldn’t possibly be as profitable as they were last year (when they were a historically great +45.8 units). Therefore, I have less confidence in them making the playoffs than I do the Padres and not just because of SD’s superior run differential at the moment.The East is very interesting as both the Braves and Phillies got hot in June. But also keep an eye out for the Marlins, who ought to have a winning record. They’ve outscored their opponents by 19 runs, yet find themselves six games below .500. I cashed a winning ticket on Miami Sunday (as an underdog). You can point to a MLB-high 17 one-run losses as the reason the Marlins face the current dichotomy. Only one other team in the NL has more than 10 one-run losses right now and that’s the Cubs. Be back to focus on the American League next week. 

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Serie A, La Liga & Premier League: The Final Weekend

Thursday, May 19, 2022

It’s the final weekend of the season in Serie A, La Liga and the English Premier League. Two of the three title races are still up for grabs, European places are on the line and the relegation battle in all three leagues is not settled. Here’s what to look for on Matchday 39.Serie ASo the four Champions League spots have been clinched (by AC Milan, Inter, Napoli and Juventus), but the Scudetto (League Championship) is still up for grabs between AC Milan and Inter. The former will head into Sunday with a two-point advantage and only need a draw with Sassuolo to finish first. Inter must beat Sampdoria and have AC Milan lose. Both teams play at Noon ET Sunday.Overachiever Lazio has already clinched one of the two Europa League spots for next season. Sixth place Roma will join them with a win over Torino on Friday. If Roma (60 points) loses or draws that match, then there’s the chance Fiorentina (59) and Atalanta (59) could both jump them. If that happens, Roma would still have a second chance to qualify for the Europa League, if they win next week’s Europa Conference League Final against Feyenoord. If Roma clinches sixth place on Friday, then Fiorentina and Atalanta will fight for seventh and the Europa Conference League spot for next season. Fiorentina has the tiebreaker based on head to head points, which could decide sixth or seventh place. Both teams play Saturday at 2:45 ET. Looking at the relegation battle, we know Venezia and Genoa are already confirmed for Serie B next season. It’s Salernitana (31 pts) and Cagliari (29) fighting to avoid being the third team to be relegated. All Salernitana needs is a win Sunday over Udinese to avoid relegation, or a Cagliari loss. Cagliari would need to beat last place Venezia AND then hope Salernitana does not win (draw or lose). Cagliari has the tiebreaker by virtue of a superior goal differential.Both Lecce and Cremonese are confirmed to move up from Serie B for next season. The third team to move up will be determined by the ongoing playoff. La Liga Not much drama here. The top four spots are clinched with Real Madrid as champions. Barcelona, Atletico and Sevilla join Los Blancos in the Champions League next season.Real Betis and Real Sociedad are guaranteed to finish 5th and 6th and while the order is yet to be determined, that means both are going to represent La Liga in the Europa League.Seventh place is still up for grabs with Villarreal holding a tenuous one-point edge over Athletic Club. In order for the latter to pass, they must beat Sevilla on Sunday and have Villarreal do no better than a draw vs. Barcelona. Any other results puts the Yellow Submarine in the Europa Conference League next season.So the most drama is at the bottom of the table with the third relegation spot to be decided and three teams involved. We know both Levante and Alaves have their relegation confirmed. That leaves Granada, Mallorca and Cadiz still fighting for survival. Right now, Granada (37) is one point ahead of the other two. They are safe with a win Sunday vs. Espanyol. If they don’t win, that leaves the door open to get jumped by the other two. Mallorca has the tiebreaker over Cadiz based on head to head points, if those two end up level on overall points. So Cadiz is the one that must earn at least a point (they are at Alaves) and hope Mallorca comes up empty at Osasuna. The Segunda Division (La Liga 2) season is not yet complete, so we still don’t know which sides will earn promotion for next season. Premier League4 spots. 8 teams. Let’s get to it.The race for the title has come down to the final matchday with Manchester City holding a one-point lead over Liverpool. If Man City defeats Aston Villa on Sunday, then they are Premier League Champions for a second consecutive season and Liverpool’s dreams of a “quadruple” (Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Premier League Title, Champions League) are out the window. Liverpool must defeat the Wolves and then hope Man City draws or loses. Liverpool faces La Liga Champions Real Madrid the following Sunday in the Champions League Final. The fourth Champions League spot goes to either Tottenham or Arsenal. Tottenham needs only a draw vs. last place Norwich City on Sunday to clinch top four. Arsenal must defeat Everton (who no longer has anything to play for) and hope the Spurs lose.Whomever finishes fifth (Tottenham or Arsenal) goes to the Europa League. They will be joined by either Manchester United or West Ham in that competition next season. It will be Man U if the Red Devils beat Crystal Palace Sunday. But if they draw or lose, then West Ham moves into sixth with a win over Brighton. The seventh place finisher heads to the Europa Conference League.With Everton having now secured survival for next season, the battle for the third relegation spot is now between Burnley and Leeds United. Both teams have 35 points, but Burnley is way ahead on goal differential. That means Leeds must finish ahead in order to secure their survival.. If Burnley beats Newcastle United, they are guaranteed to avoid relegation. Leeds faces Brentford.We know Fulham and AFC Bournemouth will be replacing Watford and Norwich City next season in the EPL. Burnley or Leeds will be replaced by the winner of next week’s EFL Championship Playoff between Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield. 

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State of the Bundesliga Entering the Final Weekend

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Entering the final weekend of the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, three Champions League spots have been clinched while the fourth is very much up for grabs as are the other European places. The relegation battle has also gotten quite interesting.Bayern Munich clinched their 10th consecutive Bundesliga title a few weeks ago. Borussia Dortmund (clinched 2nd) and Bayer Leverkusen (clinched 3rd) will join Bayern in next season’s Champions League. The fourth spot will go to either RB Leipzig (57 points) or Freiburg (55). Leipzig is a monster favorite (as high as -400 in some shops) this weekend at relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld. Freiburg, who will travel to face a Leverkusen side that has nothing to play for, will need to win AND have Leipzig lose to move into fourth. Leipzig would clinch fourth with a draw as they will finish with a better goal differential than Freiburg.Leipzig and Freiburg will also meet next weekend in the DFB Pokal Final. The winner of that competition is automatically assured a place in next year’s Europa League, but since both of this year’s finalists are already assured of European football next season, a second Europa League spot has opened up to the Bundesliga.Assuming Leipzig and Freiburg finish in fourth and fifth place in the German top flight, it won’t matter who wins the Pokal, aside from the actual hardware up for grabs. Leipzig, who was just eliminated from this year’s Europa League (semifinal loss to the Rangers last week), is already assured of no “worse” than being back in that competition for 2022/23. But of course their main goal right now is to finish fourth in the Bundesliga standings (thus earning a spot in the Champions League) and then win the Pokal.If Freiburg does not win this weekend, that opens the door for Union Berlin (54 points) to pass them. Union’s final opponent is Bochum, who has nothing to play for. The seventh Bundesliga team that has clinched European football next season is FC Koln (52 points). They are likely headed to the Europa Conference League unless they can pass Union into sixth, which would mean the Europa League. Koln faces relegation-threatened Stuttgart this weekend.  Note that if Freiburg loses to Leverkusen this weekend and is passed by BOTH Union Berlin and Koln, a slight possibility depending on how goal differential plays out, then there would be the possibility of three Bundesliga teams in the Europa League. That’s if Freiburg ends up seventh in the Bundesliga table and wins the Pokal. If that happens, then there would be no Bundesliga side in the Europa Conference League next season.The bottom two Bundesliga sides are automatically relegated. We already know one of them (Greuther Furth), who was assured of a last place finish long ago. Arminia Bielefeld currently sits second from the bottom (27 points) and can do no worse than the relegation playoff, which is where the third worst finisher ends up. Currently third from the bottom is Stuttgart (30 points). To avoid automatic relegation, Bielefeld must win this weekend (against Leipzig!), have Stuttgart lose (to Koln) AND somehow finish with a better goal differential. Bielefeld’s GD is currently -26 while Stuttgart’s is -19.Assuming that unlikely scenario does not play out, then the team that ends up in the relegation playoff will be either Stuttgart or Hertha Berlin (33 points). The latter blew an opportunity to clinch safety when it lost to Mainz last weekend. All Hertha would need this week is a draw vs. Dortmund (who will be saying goodbye to Erling Haaland) to avoid the relegation playoff. But if they lose and Stuttgart wins, then Stuttgart will finish with a better goal differential and move past.  The relegation playoff is between the third worst finisher in the Bundesliga (will be either Hertha/Stuttgart/Bielefeld) and the third place team in the 2, who is still to be determined. We already know current second division leader Schalke 04 is assured of promotion and will replace Greuther Furth in the top flight next season. The second automatic promotion is also up for grabs on the final weekend.But perhaps the biggest story this week in the Bundesliga is the impending departure of Dortmund star Erling Haaland to the Premier League (Manchester City). So much has been written about the state of the Bundesliga and how it’s almost becoming a “feeder” league for the EPL. It is likely that Bayern Munich may be saying goodbye to Robert Lewandowski. The league losing its two best players would be such a blow to German football fans next season.

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La Liga and Serie A: Latest Look

Monday, Apr 25, 2022

I already hit the EPL and Bundesliga. Now it’s time to check in on La Liga and Serie A. At the top, one race is all but decided while the other is very much up in the air. Relegation battles in both leagues have also gotten quite interesting. La Liga Whereas Bayern Munich has already clinched a 10th straight Bundesliga title, it is not yet official that Real Madrid will be champions of La Liga this season. But that will happen as Los Blancos currently enjoy a 15-point cushion over Barcelona and Sevilla with just five matches to go. Therefore, Real Madrid can now concentrate on the Champions League where they’ll be facing off with Manchester City in the semifinals, starting Tuesday.Speaking of Barcelona, they have lost three consecutive home matches for the first time in their history. The club clearly misses Pedri, but should still finish top four. Though it would be a small consolation, this could be the second year in a row Barca finishes 1st in La Liga in expected points (xPts) despite not actually winning the league.While Real Madrid’s 35th title is all but assured at this point, the race for the remaining three Champions League spots has gotten quite interesting. I already hit on slumping Barcelona. You’ve also got Sevilla and last year’s champions, Atletico Madrid, currently in position to make next year’s Champions League. Personally, I think Sevilla is NOT as strong as its record indicates, though only four losses is huge and will probably ensure they stay in the top four. It should be noted they are only eighth in xPts. I’d also be surprised to see Atletico drop out of the top four, even though they have just one win in their last five competitions and have failed to score in four of them. Waiting in the wings, four points out of the top four, is Real Betis, who already has clinched a Europa League spot for next year by virtue of winning Saturday’s Copa del Rey Final over Valencia. If Betis finishes in the top five, then you’ll see another Europa League spot open up to the sixth place finisher in La Liga. That race likely comes down to Real Sociedad (who is better than their +1 goal differential indicates) and Villarreal (who is still playing in the Champions League).The Champions League figures to be the focus of Villarreal right now, but it is unlikely they will win it. It would be a shame if this side is somehow locked out of European football next season. They are tied for third in GD in La Liga. Seventh place will likely gain entry into the Europa Conference League, but the Yellow Submarine must be wary of Athletic Bilbao, who is a solid side and only four points behind them. There’s a big gap between the top eight and everyone else in La Liga. Mid-table sides assured of safety (from relegation) for next season would include: Osasuna, Valencia, Rayo Vallecano, Celta Viga, Espanyol and Elche. I *think* Getafe might be okay as well, though compared to the aforementioned sides, they could really use one more win.Therefore, you’re likely looking at five sides in the relegation battle. Levante (despite being 9th in xPts!) and Alaves are probably cooked. The third spot has gotten very interesting with Mallorca, Cadiz and Granada all separated by only two points. Mallorca has the worst GD of the three, but as I’ve previously said, Cadiz and Granada were both bottom three in xPts last season. Granada is currently last in xPts this season.Serie AWhile title races in the Bundesliga and La Liga are wrapped up, here in Serie A it’s just like the Premier League - a very tight two-team battle at the top. AC Milan’s last gasp victory over Lazio on Sunday put them back ahead of Inter by two points. Had Sando Tonali not scored in the second minute of stoppage time, then the two Milan sides would be entering this week tied atop the summit. Inter has the better GD (+45 vs. +30) and is also ahead on xPts. Thus I still would not be shocked if they captured their second straight Scudetto. Also note that Inter just drilled AC Milan 3-0 to advance in the Coppa Italia. Napoli looked to be a title challenger for much of this season, but now looks destined for third place after earning just a single point from their last three matches. Blowing a two-goal lead to Empoli on Sunday was just horrific. The similarity with La Liga is that I don’t see the top four changing here in Italy. Juventus, still with a five-point cushion, should stay in the top four and note they are onto the final of the Coppa Italia where they’ll face Inter. (Note Juve’s cushion could get even larger as they’ve still got a fixture Monday that was not complete at the time of this writing). Assuming both Inter and Juve finish top four, that means an extra European spot opens up here in Serie A. That should be a fascinating race with Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Atalanta all grasping. I would bank on Roma and Atalanta finishing as the top two of that quartet. Lazio has drastically overachieved this season when it comes to goal scoring. In fact, no side in all of Europe has exceeded its xG (expected goal) total more! (I’ve brought this up previously). I could see Fiorentina being the one left out of European football next season.The gap between the top eight and everyone else isn’t quite as stark here as it is in La Liga as you’ve got solid mid-table sides like Hellas Verona, Sassuolo and a side that has been very kind to me in recent weeks, Torino.After that, it is a big drop, though Udinese, Bologna, Empoli and Spezia have all probably done enough to remain in the top flight next season. The relegation battle is interesting as all of a sudden, Salernitana, who has been in last place basically all season, has won three straight to move within three points of safety. They still have the worst GD (-42) and are tied with Genoa (-29), who won for just the third time all season on Sunday (1-0 over Cagliari), at 25 points. Now stuck in last place is Venezia with 22 points. Cagliari (28 points) and Sampdoria (30 points) both have work to do, but I still predict the bottom three will remain unchanged by season’s end. 

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EPL and Bundesliga: Latest Look

Sunday, Apr 24, 2022

It’s time for our monthly check-in on Europe’s “Big 4” soccer leagues. We’re down the home stretch as the season ends in May!This updates focuses on the EPL and Bundesliga. A look at La Liga and Serie A will come later this week.  Premier League With anywhere from 4-6 matches remaining (depending on the club) there’s the possibility of as many as NINE Premier League sides playing European football next season.So the race at the top has gotten quite interesting, Manchester City is still just one point ahead of Liverpool after the weekend. But it is the Reds that have the better goal differential and also hold a recent 3-2 victory (in the FA Cup) over the Citizens. (The teams also just played to a 2-2 draw in league play). The Reds are as hot as any side in Europe right now, winning 12 straight at Anfield and 14 of their last 15 overall. So it would not be a surprise to see them finish first. Both Liverpool and Man City are still alive in the Champions League where they’ll be favored to meet in the Final. Liverpool has already captured the Carabao Cup this season and could make it a quadruple by claiming hardware in the FA Cup (face Chelsea in the Final), Premier League and Champions League. Meanwhile, Man City could still make it a double (EPL, Champions League), which is obviously impressive.Despite a recent slump, Chelsea has been the presumed third place finisher for a while now. A last gasp 1-0 win at West Ham on Sunday was absolutely huge. It would be a shock if Chelsea didn’t finish top four and book its place in next season’s Champions League. But Wednesday’s loss to Arsenal was the third fixture this month that Thomas Tuchel’s side has conceded 3+ goals! It’s probably going to be Tottenham or Arsenal rounding out the top four. Two weeks ago, the former was the favorite to finish fourth, but is now two points back after picking up just one point from the last two fixtures. Meanwhile, Arsenal has recorded huge wins over Chelsea and Manchester United. Tottenham has the better YTD goal differential, however Arsenal is ahead on xPts (expected points). There was no “new manager bounce” for floundering Manchester United on Saturday and the Red Devils now face a six-point deficit to finish top four. They have just one win in their last six competitions and it came at the expense of last place Norwich City. It looks like the Europa League for them next season. West Ham, currently in seventh, is still involved in this season’s Europa League where they are into the semis and will face Eintracht Frankfurt of the Bundesliga. That competition is probably now the Hammers’ main concern. If they don’t win it, which would qualify them for next season’s Champions League, then the Europa Conference League is still in play by finishing seventh.Wolverhampton will be rooting for West Ham to win the Europa League as it would allow for the Wolves to “steal” the Premier League’s Europa Conference League spot. Leicester City is the ninth and final EPL side still with European hopes for next season. They are currently in the semis of the Europa Conference League, the winner of which gains automatic entry into next season’s Europa League. Got all that?Mid-table sides are a dicey proposition down the home stretch as they know they can’t reach the European places, but are also well clear of the relegation zone. So motivation may be an issue for many of them. But one to keep an eye on right now is Brentford, who is unbeaten in its last four matches and beat both Chelsea and West Ham. The Bees are actually sixth in the league right now in xPts (expected points), ahead of both Man U and West Ham. Newcastle United is also playing inspired football. Crystal Palace deserves to be higher in the table.As I’ve been saying for some time now, Norwich City and Watford certainly seem like they will be condemned to relegation. Both were newly promoted for the 2021/22 season, so it’s “one and done” for them. But the interesting thing at the bottom of the EPL table is who will be the third relegated side. Everton, who has been part of the top flight since 1951, now occupies that dreaded spot. Burnley passed them with this weekend’s win over Wolverhampton. The Toffees’ remaining set of fixtures is not an easy run and they desperately need Watford to beat Burnley next week. Leeds United, with the third worst GD in the EPL, is also still in the relegation mix.  BundesligaBayern Munich has secured a historic 10th consecutive Bundesliga title after defeating second place Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.There’s been much hand-wringing over the current state of the German top flight as there just doesn’t seem to be any real consistent challengers to Bayern and the league could be on the verge of a mass exodus of talent.Case in point, Dortmund will almost certainly finish second this year, but is probably saying goodbye to Erling Haaland at the end of the season. So there’s no reason to believe that BVB is capable of making any noise in next season’s Champions League.RB Leipzig, who got off to a slow start in 2021/22, is probably the Bundesliga’s second best side. They are still in competition for two pieces of hardware: the Europa League and DFB Pokal. Between those two competitions and a likely top four finish domestically, expect Leipzig to again qualify for the UCL. The worst that can happen to them is not winning any hardware and a fifth place finish. But even that would mean the Europa League next season.The side Leipzig faces in the Final of the DFB Pokal will be Freiburg, who is currently in fifth, two points behind Leipzig. There’s a chance they both end up in the Champions League next season, if Leipzig wins the Europa League and Freiburg finishes top four. There’s a very good chance the Bundesliga’s Europa League and Europa League Conference spots will go to either FC Union Berlin, Koln or Hoffenheim. One will be “the odd team out.” Of those three, FCUB is the best side (in my opinion).Fans of Bayer Leverkusen are probably wondering why I’ve neglected to mention their side so far. I apologize for that! Leverkusen has been top three all season, but after settling for a draw over the weekend, their lead over Leipzig stayed at one point and Freiburg is now only three points back. It’s no lock Leverkusen makes it to the Champions League next season. It’s Champions League or bust for ninth place Eintracht Frankfurt at this point. Frankfurt is currently in the semis and must win that competition to have any shot at European football next season. It could be an all-Bundesliga Final vs. Leipzig!Looking at the middle of the table, Mainz, Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Bochum and Augsburg all seem to be safe from the threat of relegation.On Sunday, Hertha Berlin (who has the 2nd worst GD in the league) picked up a huge win over Stuttgart to move four points clear of the relegation playoff, which calls for the 16th place finisher to face the winner of the promotion playoff from the Bundesliga 2 in a winner take all scenario. That’s Stuttgart right now and they are only two points ahead of Arminia Bielefeld. As a reminder, the bottom two are automatically relegated and as has been obvious since the first month of the campaign, Greuther Furth is finishing last. Something I’d mentioned in a previous article is that Bielefeld is actually lower than Greuther Furth on xPts. 

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La Liga and Serie A: Latest Look!

Monday, Mar 21, 2022

La LigaWell, Barcelona certainly made quite the statement on Saturday, didn’t they?Barca’s 4-0 thrashing of first place Real Madrid in “El Clasico” closed the gap to 12 points. It’s probably still too large to overcome, but Barca is probably finishing in second this season, given Sevilla’s recent form. The gap between second and third is currently just three points. To me, Sevilla isn’t even a top four side in La Liga, but their fast start to the campaign probably guarantees they’ll be headed back to the Champions League next season. The lead over fifth place Real Betis is just seven points, but Betis is a side I see moving down the table, not up. It’s Villarreal that probably finishes “odd team out” as they only have 45 points, nine back of the top four and the Yellow Submarine also has Bayern Munich to worry about in the Champions League quarter finals.So, expect the top four to be Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, probably in that order. Villarreal will probably finish fifth ahead of Betis and Real Sociedad, leaving the latter two sides to battle for Europa League Conference qualifying. Note that the two Madrid sides and Villarreal are all in the UCL quarter finals. Barcelona is in the Europa League quarter finals. Sevilla is the lone side without any current European commitments as they were just eliminated from the Europa League.The middle of the La Liga table remains a bit of a jumbled mess. I think Celta Vigo finishes in the top ten. Valencia is facing Betis next month in the Finals of the Copa del Rey, which is another automatic entry in next season’s Europa League. That one will be far more important to Valencia, who is highly unlikely to finish top five in the La Liga table. The race to avoid relegation has gotten quite tight. Amazingly, for the second straight season, Cadiz, Elche and Granada are the bottom three on xPts (expected points) and again all may avoid being sent down to the Segunda Division. Right now, Elche is in the best position, six points clear of the drop zone. But Granada and Cadiz are just two and one point clear, respectively. The current bottom three are: Mallorca, Alaves and Levante, who have the worst three goal differentials. Levante, like last year’s bottom finisher Eibar, deserves to stay but it may be “too little, too late.” They have the fewest number of wins in the league (3). Mallorca, a newly promoted side for this season, has been in awful form of late with six straight losses and they haven’t scored a single goal in four of the last five.  Serie AThis is the league with the biggest gap between the top four and everyone else. It’s AC Milan, Napol, Inter and Juventus (some familiar names) occupying the Champions League places with Atalanta and Roma (tied for fifth) currently looking at an eight-point gap.Both Napoli and Inter have better goal differentials than AC Milan and so there could be a change at the top. AC Milan is only fourth in xPts, also behind Roma. I think Napoli is primed to earn the Scudetto. No Italian side is currently left in the Champions League as both Inter and Juventus were bounced in the Round of 16. So there’s lots of pressure on everybody right now.Atalanta’s best path of claiming a spot in next season’s UCL might be winning the Europa League, which they are still involved in, but it’s a tough quarterfinal matchup vs. RB Leipzig out of the Bundesliga. Roma and Atalanta are likely to finish in the top six, which would leave sides such as Lazio and Fiorentina on the outside looking in when it comes to European football next season. Although Fiorentina is still in the Coppa Italia, which is down to the semis, and the winner of that gains entry to the Europa League. The other three remaining sides in that competition are Milan, Inter and Juventus. I think there is a massive gap, reflected in goal differential, between 11th and 12th place in this league.The relegation battle should come down to these five sides: Salernitana (a lock), Genoa, Venezia, Cagliari and Spezia. I think Venezia, who like Salernitana was just promoted for this season, is likely to be headed right back to Serie B. Most of the way, I thought Genoa was also bound for relegation. But they’ve somehow picked up points in eight straight matches, despite scoring only three goals! (Five 0-0 draws). They are still tied (with Venezia) for 18th at 22 points. Their league-leading 16 draws will either be their savior or doom. Still only with a league-low two wins, Genoa is still projected for relegation by my numbers 

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EPL and Bundesliga: Latest Look!

Monday, Mar 21, 2022

With the “Big 4” European leagues off this week, it’s time for my monthly look at what is going on in soccer. This one is going to be a bit more detailed, so I’ll be breaking it up into two separate articles. Up first: the English Premier League and German BundesligaPremier LeagueAgain, there’s no drama as to who will finish in the top three spots: Manchester City (70 points), Liverpool (69) and Chelsea (59) will all be returning next season to the Champions League, where all three are currently still playing in this year’s quarterfinals.There is a bit of drama for the top spot as I give Liverpool an excellent shot at unseating Man City and winning the league. This is something that few thought possible, even as recently as last month. Liverpool has the better goal differential (+55 vs. +50) and has won nine straight EPL matches while keeping seven clean sheets. They’ve outscored the competition 23-2 during the unbeaten run! Interestingly enough, Man City and Liverpool will square off in next month’s FA Cup semi finals. That means the two sides will be doing battle on consecutive weekends as they also meet in league play on April 10th. The fourth spot in the EPL remains wide open with Tottenham becoming a full-fledged player due to four wins in their last five fixtures. Arsenal remains fourth, however, two points ahead of the Spurs with one match in hand. Arsenal has two matches in hand compared to Manchester United (6th place)  and West Ham (7th). Man U, fresh off being eliminated from the Champions League (by Atletico Madrid) is now even more desperate for the fourth place finish. Of the four “legit” contenders for the fourth spot, West Ham is the only one still playing European football (Europa League), which may have them at a disadvantage, although winning the Europa League would obviously be a “panacea.” Sorry Wolves’ fans, but I happen to think your team is a pretender. There are 12 sides that sit higher on xPts (expected points) in the table. If there’s a Premier League side to keep an eye on in the middle of the table, it’s Crystal Palace, who is in 12th place but 9th on xPts. The Eagles are also in the FA Cup semis (with Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea) and could be the most motivated side in that particular competition as the winner gains automatic entry into next year’s Europa League. None of the other three care much about that. Now to the bottom and the race to avoid relegation. This has gotten interesting. For quite some time now, last place Norwich City has been earmarked for a return to the second tier of English football (aka The Championship). The Canaries are last the Premier League by almost every metric. The next two worst goal differentials belong to Watford (-26) and Leeds United (-33), but the latter just picked up a huge win over the Wolves (thanks to a red card) and are now seven points clear of the drop zone. I think the key factor in this race is that both Everton (25 points) and Burnley (21) have three matches in hand compared to Leeds and two over Watford, the sides they are competing against to avoid relegation. As of now, I think it ends up as Watford and Burnley that join Norwich in The Championship next season.BundesligaAs I wrote last month, I am extremely confident that Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig will finish as the top four. Bayern should be running away with a 10th straight Bundesliga title, but has instead kept things interesting with two recent draws. But they will finish first (GD gap between them and Dortmund is massive, +53 and +29), although Bayern does have the Champions League to still worry about. Leipzig is still alive in the Europa League as well. Winning that competition would mean they do not have to be concerned about finishing top four here in the Bundesliga, as they’d gain automatic entry into next year’s UCL. The race for other European spots (go to the fifth and sixth place finishers) is very interesting. Currently, those spots are occupied by Freiburg and Hoffenheim, who are tied with and just one point off Leipzig for fourth. But both chasing sides suffered bad results this past weekend. Eintracht Frankfurt, a top five finisher last season here in Germany, is also still alive in the Europa League and may view that as their path to glory. Either Union Berlin or Mainz could move up into the top six. Note that Leipzig, Freiburg and Union Berlin are also all still alive in the DFB-Pokal (semis next month). Facing a second tier side in the semis, Freiburg looks to have a clear path to the Finals. The winner of the DFB-Pokal is automatically in next season's Europa League and that could have an effect on motivation the final month of the Bundesliga season. The relegation battle here is a little different because it’s only the bottom two that get automatically sent down to the 2. We’ve known for a while that Greuther Furth is going to be one and done in the top flight. I still believe that Hertha Berlin will join them, even though they just won last weekend to move out of the bottom two. I now think the team most likely to finish in the relegation playoff spot is Arminia Bielefeld, who is still lowest on xPts in the entire league. To clarify, finishing third from the bottom means you take on the third place finisher from the Bundesliga 2 in a one-match scenario to remain in the top flight.

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NCAAB Top 25: Overrated and Underrated

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022

After skipping this exercise in the month of January, I’m back with another look at the current Top 25 in College Basketball. This will probably be the final time I do this prior to the start of the Conference Tournaments.For those who may have missed previous editions, this is pretty simple. Here are my views on which College Basketball teams are rated too high, too low, or maybe shouldn’t be rated at all. There is also a team that I feel should be in the Top 25, but failed to make the latest poll. Ranked Too HighProvidence (#11 AP/#10 Coaches) - I’ve talked about this group before. Obviously, at 22-3 straight up and leading the Big East, the Friars do deserve to be ranked. But it’s worth pointing out that KenPom has them at #46, which is one spot below where they are in my own personal power ratings. The Friars have the top luck rating at KenPom and are an unfathomable 10-1 SU in games decided by five points or less. In their last game, they came back from 19 down (in the second half!) to defeat Butler in overtime. It was Providence’s second OT win in the last three games and five of their last six wins have been by four points or less. I have them as only the SIXTH best team in the Big East! Be willing to consider an early exit from the Big East Tournament for this lucky group and I will certainly be looking to fade them in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.Wisconsin (#13 AP/#12 Coaches) - Same thing as Providence here. The Badgers have been extremely lucky in close games this season as they are 12-1 SU in games decided by six points or less. They have the #7 luck rating at KenPom, who has them at #25 overall. So it’s not quite the discrepancy that exists with Providence. My own ratings are a little lower on Wisconsin, putting them at #30 and calling them just the SEVENTH best team in the Big 10. Note they were recently underdogs in a win at Indiana, who is not one of the six I have ahead. Again, look to fade when appropriate.USC (#16 AP/#16 Coaches) - KenPom has the Trojans at #28 while I’ve got them at #25. They just pulled off a close one at home vs. Washington State on Sunday night, winning in the final second, 62-60. Thankfully, for me, Wazzu was still a winner plus the points. USC is now 7-1 SU in games decided by five points or less, so there’s a running theme in this “ranked too high” category. Eventually, these teams’ “luck” WILL run out.Ranked Too Low Houston (#14 AP/#15 Coaches) - I had the Cougars in this spot back in December. They are a Top 7 team according to both KenPom and my own power ratings. ESPN’s BPI ratings have them at #3. I’d be stunned if the Cougars, who were a Final Four team last year, didn’t steamroll through their conference tournament (American) and earn a high seed.Tennessee (#17 AP/#17 Coaches) - This isn’t too bad, but I thought it was harsh for the coaches to drop the Vols four spots in their latest poll. This is a Top 12 team in my eyes and KenPom’s. They just beat Kentucky last week (only to then lose at Arkansas). The Vols are #4 in the country in defensive efficiency.Iowa (#25 AP/NR Coaches) - The Hawkeyes are top five in offensive efficiency and don’t turn the ball over very often. I think they’re a Top 16 team in the country and the third best team in the Big 10 (not that far off from Purdue and Illinois). KenPom agrees! It was rather shocking that they were 4-6 SU to start conference play. Expect a strong finish.Should Be RankedLSU - The Tigers have fallen out of both polls, but are considered top 18 by both KenPom and my ratings. There are six SEC teams that I feel belong amongst the Top 20 in the country (it’s a very strong league this year) and this is one of them. LSU is #3 in the country in defensive efficiency, which will serve them well come March. 

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Soccer: A Look At Europe's Big 4 Leagues

Tuesday, Feb 22, 2022

I’m back with a look at Europe’s “Big 4” soccer leagues and what you should be looking for when wagering on the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A. Premier LeagueAs it has been known for some time now, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are destined to finish as the top three. Liverpool has closed the gap on Man City to six points and they have a match in hand. Both GD (goal differential) and xPts (expected points) say it will be a tight race for the title with Chelsea (by their own manager’s admission) likely ending up off the pace. None of this information is at all Earth-shattering.But the big question is still who will finish fourth and grab the last Champions League spot for next season? It’s a five-horse race with Manchester United, West Ham, Arsenal, Wolverhampton and Tottenham all vying. I believe there’s a gap between those first three sides and the last two with Wolverhampton in particular lagging behind in xPts. Tottenham has a GD of 0 and that’s after the stunner against Man City on Saturday. Right now, I’d bet on Arsenal to finish fourth, just in front of Man U. The Gunners have THREE matches in hand over United, which is key. Remember that West Ham made the jump from 16th to 6th place last season, thus I still think there’s some regression there.Brighton, Southampton, Leicester City, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace are all solid mid-table sides that shouldn’t have to worry about relegation. I do think CP is much better than its current position while Leicester and Villa deserve to be lower. The relegation battle has gotten a lot more interesting over the last few weeks. The X-factor is Burnley having played only 22 matches (most everyone else has played 24) and whether or not they can accrue enough points to get out of the drop zone. I do think Norwich City, whose -38 GD is by far the worst in the EPL, is destined to be sent back to the second tier. Newcastle seems to have spent enough where you think they may be safe. If so, expect Watford (like Norwich) to be one and done in the top flight. Leeds United is the team that could fall hard as well, especially if Burnley pulls itself out of the hole.La Liga This is the league where I have the most questions about the top. Real Madrid has certainly looked like the best team thus far and would be my pick to finish first. Certainly, they are the lone guarantee for the top four at this point. Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal (who are 4th-6th respectively) are coming for the other spots though. I consider all three to be better than Sevilla and Real Betis, though Sevilla may have built up a big enough cushion where they are likely to remain top four. Beyond the top six, Real Sociedad (-1 GD) seems to have really fallen off while Athletic Bilbao could still contend for the Europa League. After that, the middle of the table is occupied by the likes of Celta Vigo, Osusana, Rayo Vallecano, Valencia and Espanyol. None of these teams should have to worry about relegation.The relegation battle here is very wide open. Last year, none of the bottom three in xPts (Granada, Cadiz, Elche) ended up relegated due to some good luck. Those three same sides are again the bottom three in xPts in 2021/22! But again, of the three, only Cadiz (18th) is currently in the drop zone. Elche is 14th (nine points clear) while Granada is on shakier ground in 17th (only four points clear). I don’t think Cadiz (who is currently last in xPts) can escape relegation again. What’s really interesting is Levante, who is last in the league with 15 points and needs at least nine more to guarantee safety, is ahead of EIGHT teams in xPts! Can they prove the metrics right and escape relegation? If so, Alaves and Granada are most likely to join Cadiz in the Segunda Division next season.BundesligaOver in Germany is where I am most confident in who will finish in the top four: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig. Out of that quartet, it is third place Leverkusen that I am least certain about. They are only sixth in xPts.It should be a very interesting battle for the rest of the European spots between Hoffenheim, Freiburg, FC Union Berlin, FC Koln and Mainz. All of those sides are currently separated by just three points, plus Hoffenheim and Freiburg are actually tied with Leipzig for fourth. But GD shows there’s a gap between the top four and everyone else. Hoffenheim and Freiburg (+10 each) have the best GD of the rest, but the former is actually last in xPts among this group. The reverse is true for FC Union Berlin, who has the worst GD of the bunch, but running fourth in the league in xPts. I can’t call who will finish fifth or sixth right now (maybe Freiburg and Mainz?)I’m just going to skip over the middle of the table and move to the bottom where the relegation battle has gotten interesting. Greuther Furth remains a solid choice to be one of the two sides automatically relegated at season’s end. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Arminia Bielefeld actually has the fewest xPts in the league, but has moved to 14th place and their -7 GD is better than all the teams they are competing against. I think Hertha Berlin (-26 GD) is in serious trouble and will finish second from the bottom. Augsburg and Stuttgart will be vying to avoid the relegation playoff (whomever finishes third worst). Serie AThis is the one league where I am confident we are going to see a change at the very top. Look for either Inter (the current Scudetto holders) or Napoli to unseat AC Milan for first. Juventus should be the ones to round out the top four, leaving Atalanta on the outside looking in for the Champions League next season. Roma should finish sixth and get the Europa League qualifying spot.The reason I like Roma more than Lazio is that no team has exceeded its xG (expected goal) total in all of Europe more than Lazio has. There’s got to be some regression forthcoming.Looking at the middle of the table, Sampdoria and Udinese should move up a few spots, passing Empoli and Bologna (and Spezia in the case of Udinese).  The relegation battle in Italy seems a lot more cut and dry. Salernitana and Genoa both look doomed to be in Serie B next season. I think Cagliari fights its way out of the drop zone, which would leave Venezia as the most likely third candidate for relegation. 

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Betting Soccer Totals

Monday, Jan 31, 2022

With all of the big European leagues on break the final week of January, now is a good time for some soccer discussion. Let’s talk about betting soccer totals.I delved into xG (expected goals) and xGA (expected goals allowed) to find which clubs you may want to consider betting Over, or Under, down the home stretch of the 2021/22 campaign.For beginners, xG is the probability that a shot will result in a goal based on the characteristics of that shot and the events leading up to it while xGA is just the opposite, measuring the number of goals a side should have conceded. Bet Over Wolverhampton (Premier League) - In 21 matches played, the Wolves have scored 19 goals and conceded only 16 goals. That total number of goals (35) is - by far - the fewest in the entire Premier League. The next fewest would be Burnley’s 43 and they’ve played three fewer fixtures (matches). Leicester City has played 20 fixtures, one fewer than the Wolves, and there have been a total of 72 goals scored when they’re on the pitch! So the Under has been your friend when playing Wolverhampton thus far. But what about moving forward? xGA says they SHOULD have conceded 26 times already. Don’t be surprised if this side starts conceding more down the stretch. Athletic Bilbao (La Liga) - On the flip side, La Liga’s Athletic Club (Bilbao) has scored only 21 goals, but their number of expected goals (xG) is 31. Coming up so woefully short of the xG total partially explains why Athletic Club is languishing down in ninth place when they probably should be higher in the table. That, and the fact they’ve been “kings of the draw” in La Liga, sharing the points a league-high 10 times. This side is actually fifth in xPts (expected points) and I anticipate they’ll be challenging for one of the European places by season’s end. If they do move up, expect them to start scoring more goals.  Wolfsburg (Bundesliga) - Wolfsburg started the season by winning their first four matches. Since then, they’ve won only twice and lost 11 of 16 times. Tied with last place Greuther Furth (who they play this week) for fewest goals in the league (17), Wolfsburg is moving shockingly close to the relegation zone in the German top flight. But they’ve been unlucky when it comes to scoring goals. Their xG total is 27. So like Athletic Club, look for this side to start scoring more. Incredibly, Wolfsburg has been blanked six of its last seven league matches. Sunday is a must win and they’ll probably put some goals up. Bet Under Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga) - BVB has scored 52 times this Bundesliga season, but that’s a “lucky” total as xG has them only scoring 40. With Erling Haaland’s future very much in question here, regression in the goal scoring department is coming. Haaland, who had to be taken off injured in the 63rd minute against Hoffenheim, has scored 16 goals in just 14 matches. Lazio (Serie A) - No side in any of Europe’s “Big 4” leagues has a wider gap between actual goals scored and xG than Serie A’s Lazio. I Biancocelesti have scored 46 times this season, third most in Serie A, putting them right with the big boys. But they have also exceeded their xG total (31.60) by almost 15. Therefore, expect fewer goals from them moving forward, thus likely depriving them of a top six finish. Last time out, it was a 0-0 draw with Atalanta (whose matches are almost always high-scoring).  Levante (La Liga) - The side at the foot of the La Liga table (in last place) is a little different than the other two sides I’m telling you to bet Under. Levante, in my view, is quite unlucky to be facing relegation for next season. The main culprit for this is the number of goals they’ve conceded, 43, which is the most in the league. But that number is well above what xGA says (31.83). If Levante has any hope of not dropping to the Segunda Division, it must shore up the back end. As far as betting them Under, they’ve scored the fifth fewest number of goals in La Liga.  So that seems like a solid bet, moving forward. 

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NFL Playoffs: Key Metrics

Tuesday, Jan 11, 2022

Here are some metrics that I consider when examining the NFL playoff field. It's not an "end all, be all," but this article should provide some perspective on the 14 teams still playing professional football. Point Differential Buffalo +194 Dallas +172 New England +159 Tampa Bay +158 Kansas City +116 LA Rams +88 Cincinnati +84 Arizona +83 Green Bay +79 Tennessee +65 San Francisco +62 Philadelphia +59 Pittsburgh -55 Las Vegas -65 Commentary: The top 12 teams in point differential all made the playoffs. But what obviously sticks out here is the two bottom teams. Not only have the Steelers and Raiders allowed more points than they’ve scored this year, the differential is rather significant. They ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively, when it came to regular season point differential! Also of note is that the two top seeds (Green Bay & Tennessee) are both “middle of the pack” in point differential.  Yards Per Play Differential Buffalo +1.0 San Francisco +0.9 Tampa Bay +0.8 LA Rams +0.7 New England +0.6 Philadelphia +0.6 Dallas +0.5 Las Vegas +0.5 Green Bay +0.4 Cincinnati +0.4 Arizona +0.1 Kansas City 0.0 Tennessee -0.2  Pittsburgh -0.8 Commentary: This metric, which obviously measures the number of yards a team gains vs. what it allows, on a per play basis, tends to have predictive value for who will win the Super Bowl. That’s good news for Buffalo, who is also the #1 team in point differential, and maybe even San Francisco. Again, the top seeds in each conference don’t fare too well here. Kansas City is a surprise down at #12.  Pittsburgh again appears to be very lucky to have made the playoffs. Records in One-Score Games Tampa Bay 6-0 Pittsburgh 8-2-1  Las Vegas 7-2 (4-0 in OT games!) Tennessee 6-2  Dallas 5-2  Green Bay 6-3 LA Rams 4-2 Kansas City 5-3 San Francisco 5-5 New England 3-3 Cincinnati 4-5 Arizona 3-4 Philadelphia 2-4 Buffalo 0-5  Commentary: I define “one-score games” as those decided by eight points or less. Reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay was exceptionally lucky in this regard during 2021-22. That kind of luck seems unsustainable, so a close loss in the playoffs would not surprise me. You can now see how Pittsburgh and Las Vegas made the playoffs, despite both having subpar point differentials. The Raiders’ overtime record is particularly egregious. Playing four overtime games in one season is uncommon, winning them ALL is downright ridiculous! Again, note those two top seeds, who definitely seem to be a bit lucky to have Wild Card Weekend off. Not lucky was Buffalo, which is how they ended up 11-6 despite having the top point differential in the league. Might the Bills be “due” to win a close game (or two) over the next several weeks?  ATS records  Dallas 13-4 (8-1 on the road) Green Bay 12-5 (7-1 at home) Buffalo 10-6-1 Arizona 10-7 (8-1 on the road) Cincinnati 10-7 Tennessee 10-7 New England 10-7 San Francisco 9-8 Tampa Bay 9-8 Philadelphia 8-8-1 Pittsburgh 8-9 Kansas City 8-9 LA Rams 8-9 Las Vegas 8-9 Commentary: Not really much to discern here. Obviously, the Cowboys and Packers have been the best teams to bet on this season. Green Bay is obviously very happy to have home field advantage in the NFC as not only did they go 7-1 ATS, but they are a perfect 8-0 straight up at Lambeau. Maybe Arizona is happy to be a non-division winner as it’s unlikely they’ll have any home games the rest of the way.  Records vs. Fellow Playoff Teams Green Bay 5-1 Tampa Bay 4-1 Arizona 5-2  Kansas City 6-3 Cincinnati 4-2 Tennessee 4-3  San Francisco 4-4 Las Vegas 3-3 Dallas 3-4 New England 2-3 Buffalo 2-4 LA Rams 2-5 Pittsburgh 2-5  Philadelphia 0-6 Commentary: Here, the Packers fare quite well and justify their top seed status. The one loss came to Kansas City when Aaron Rodgers was out. However, four of GB’s five wins over fellow playoff teams did come by one score. Three of those were by three points or less. It’s a similar story down in Tampa where all four wins over fellow playoff teams were close. With nine games against other playoff entrants, Kansas City certainly seems like the most "battle-tested" playoff team of the bunch. Philadelphia's record raises question marks about their future prospects. 

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NCAA Basketball Top 25: Overrated and Underrated

Monday, Dec 27, 2021

Here’s my monthly look at the NCAAB Top 25 and who’s overrated, underrated and should be ranked (but isn’t).Overrated#7 USC (12-0)#8 Iowa State (12-0)#20 Colorado State (10-0)Look. I understand that if a team is still unbeaten in late December, they will make their way into the Top 25. But none of these three are as good as their respective rankings. At least USC can say they deserve to be ranked. Iowa State and Colorado State are not even Top 35 teams in my eyes. I will give Iowa State credit for being a top 7 team in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. But they are 135th in offensive efficiency. On New Year’s Day, the Cyclones face #1 Baylor, who is also undefeated. Expect to have to lay a large number if you want to play the favorite.Colorado State, who had its closest call (won by three) in its most recent game, is scheduled to host Air Force on January 4th. Can’t see the Rams losing that one. At Boise State three days later may be the first loss. USC has already postponed a Jan 2 date with Arizona where the Trojans would have been expected to lose.  Underrated#16 LSU (12-0) Ha. The fifth remaining undefeated team is most definitely underrated. I’d have the Tigers in the Top 10. We’ll see if I’m right as their next two games are against #11 Auburn and #18 Kentucky. If LSU can make it through unscathed, then they play #14 Tennessee. So don’t expect them to still be undefeated by the second week of January, but the Tigers should win two of those three games.#9 Arizona#12 HoustonI think these are Top 5 teams. BPI (ESPN) has Houston #1! Should Be RankedIllinoisHow are the Fighting Illini not ranked? They were a #1 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. They’ve played only one bad game this season. Last week, they absolutely destroyed Missouri (by 25) in the Braggin’ Rights Game. Michigan The Wolverines already have four losses, but they are still Top 20 in my power rankings and should have a strong January run, provided they get all the games in. I think these two unranked Big 10 sides are every bit as strong as #10 Michigan State is. 

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December Check-In: Europe's Big Four

Monday, Dec 27, 2021

My monthly look at the four major European football (soccer) leagues focuses on who I’m buying and who I’m selling. Premier LeagueAs stated last month, the big mystery in the EPL is who’s going to finish fourth. Arsenal has moved past West Ham and is six points clear of fifth. But that’s misleading as the Gunners have played 19 matches. Tottenham (5th) has played just 16,  West Ham (6th) has played 18 and Manchester United has played (17). So that lead Arsenal currently enjoys could shrink in a hurry. A key difference between now and last month is that there are now seven sides with positive YTD goal differentials. There were only four at the end of November. Crystal Palace (12th) and Brentford (13th) are actually ahead of both Tottenham and Man U on expected points, which means those sides have been unlucky and you should probably be looking to play them. One side I’m not buying is Aston Villa, who has the fifth lowest expected point total in the league. La Liga Real Madrid and Sevilla continue to be the most consistent sides in La Liga and will easily finish in the top four. As of this writing, Real Madrid is starting to “run away” with things a bit as they have an eight point lead on the field. But Los Blancos are only third on expected points (xPts), behind last year’s champions Atletico Madrid and, surprisingly, Barcelona. I don’t think Ateltico will catch Real, but they should finish top four. I’ve previously stated that it would be a mistake to write off Barca and though they are still in seventh, they are just two points adrift of the top four and it wouldn’t at all shock if they finished in the Champions League places. A big change from last month is how much Real Sociedad has fallen off. I can’t see either Real Betis or newly promoted Rayo Vallecano remaining in the top four, so they look like sides to fade early in 2022. Athletic Bilbao is a side to “buy low” on, as they have the fourth highest number of xPts in the league. Same for Villarreal, who finished seventh last year and is now up to ninth after a disappointing start. They are fifth on xPts. Looking down at the relegation battle, I remain extremely curious if winless Levante, who sits at the foot of the table, is capable of making a run. They are actually 11th on xPts! But they’ve dug themselves a huge hole. Cadiz, Elche and Granada have the three lowest xPts totals right now, which was also the case at the end of last season!BundesligaAs I’ve said before, pencil Bayern Munich in for another title. Borussia Dortmund should finish top four, although the Erling Haaland transfer talk looms large. I remain unsold on Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen. The respective goal differentials of those two sides say they are both top four worthy, but they are lower on xPts. The candidates to move up and replace them are RB Leipzig (currently 10th), Union Berlin (7th) and Mainz (9th). The fact that Leipzig has yet to win a single away match is stunning. Their next one is 1/15 at Stuttgart, a bottom of the table side. I’m not sold on Eintracht Frankfurt, who was a top five finisher last season. Nor am I sold on Wolfsburg, who has slipped dramatically. Obviously, Greuther Furth will be relegated and Arminia Bielefeld is likely to suffer the same fate. That’s unchanged from last month. The battle for the relegation playoff will be an interesting one as Hertha and/or Bochum could fall. I don’t see Stuttgart or Augsburg moving up much. Serie A There’s a clear top eight, a clear bottom five and seven sides in the middle here in the Italian top flight. Of the current top four, AC Milan seems the most fortunate. Internazionale is a deserved table leader while Napoli, despite recent struggles, should also be headed to the Champions League. Juventus, like Barcelona in La Liga, was the long-time power written off for dead. But “The Old Lady” is already back up to fifth in the table and is third on xPts. Atalanta and Roma are both to be respected. Fiorentina, after zero draws in the first 17 league matches, has shared the points each of their last two times out. Look for Torino and Hellas Verona to pass Empoli and Bologna to round out the top half of the table. 

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NCAA Top 25 Review: Overrated & Underrated

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021

College Basketball is one of my favorite sports to handicap, so each month I plan on taking a look at who’s underrated and overrated in the Top 25:UnderratedHouston - The Cougars are currently 15th in the AP Top 25 and 14th in the Coaches Poll. I’ve got them in the top four of my power rankings and ESPN has them third in their BPI. This was a Final Four team last year, remember. The Cougars only loss was by two to Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational. They hold blowout victories over Oregon, Butler and Virginia, all by 18 points or greater. Per KenPom, UH is #1 in the country in defensive efficiency. A team that should clearly be ranked higher. Arizona - The Wildcats are 6-0 and have risen to #11 in the poll. BPI is actually a bit lower, but my power ratings are very high on them, calling them one of the top teams in the entire country! Without question, Zona’s most impressive win came against Michigan, who was ranked #4 in the country at the time. The Wildcats won 80-62 (I had them) in Las Vegas, holding the Wolverines to 1 for 14 from three-point range. Their six wins have come by an average of 33.8 points/game. OverratedDuke - The Blue Devils just beat Gonzaga, which was just the second loss for the Zags in the last two years (the other being the National Championship Game). But I do not think Coach K’s team is really the best in the country. I’d say top six, but definitely not first. BPI is even less bullish, putting them at #11. Coming off the huge win over Gonzaga, it might be a good idea to fade Duke their next time out. They play Tuesday at Ohio State as part of the Big 10/ACC Challenge. Arkansas - The Razorbacks are considered Top 10 by both the AP and Coaches Polls. I’m not sure they are one of the Top 25 teams. BPI is also unconvinced. The Hogs are 6-0 SU, but have had a couple single digit victories thus far. The upcoming schedule is not all that challenging with games against Central Arkansas, Little Rock and Charlotte. But fading the Razorbacks (who will be big favorites) might be a good idea in those games. You can at least get an ATS win.Should Be InLSU - The Tigers are 7-0 SU. They are also 6-1 ATS. They are the team I played against with my *10* Game of the Month (for November) as I took the points in their matchup with Penn State. LSU needed OT to win that game and it’s the only time they didn’t cover. Still, I have much respect for this team, which belongs not just in the Top 25, but the Top 15. Iowa - Another team not currently in the Top 25, but they should be. The Hawkeyes moved to 7-0 with a 75-74 win at Virginia on Monday, part of the Big 10/ACC Challenge. There is a huge showdown looming with #2 Purdue this Friday. Win that game and the Hawkeyes are definitely going to be in the Top 25. As long as they aren’t blown out, they still deserve to be in (my view) as my power ratings say they are Top 20 team right now. 

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November Check-In: Europe's Big 4

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021

It’s time for a monthly review of what’s been going on in Europe’s “Big 4” football (soccer) leagues and what might be on the horizon. Here, I’ll be looking at who’s in the top four of each league, who might be moving up/down and the battles to avoid relegation. Premier League (England)Chelsea (30 pts), Manchester City (29), Liverpool (28) & West Ham (23) are the top four here. Beyond them, no one else in the Premier League even has a positive goal differential! The top three have been dominant and it’s going to be one of those sides that wins the EPL. Chelsea has the most points right now (30), which is what matters, but Manchester City is ahead on expected points (xPts) and Liverpool has the best GD (+28). There is a big gap (-6.92) between the number of goals that Chelsea has allowed vs. what you’d expect them to have allowed. In fact, it’s the largest such gap in the league. However, my money is still on the Blues - the reigning Champions League holders - to win the Premier League title this seasonRemember that the top four teams in each domestic league qualify for next year’s Champions League. With the top three in the EPL being so dominant this year, the only question seems to be whether or not West Ham can hold on to the coveted fourth spot? West Ham’s YTD GD of +8 is not on par with the top three teams (all of who are +20 or better). But there’s not exactly a litany of obvious contenders who can overtake them. Arsenal is level on points, but the Gunners are 0-3 against the top three while being outscored 11-0. I actually think Crystal Palace is the side with the best shot of moving up. The Eagles are 5th in xPts and have been beaten only three times. But you have to wonder if a league-leading seven draws will come back to hurt them. As of now, I’d expect West Ham to hold onto fourth position, although the gap will widen between them and the top three.Down at the foot of the table, Norwich City and Newcastle are the locks for relegation. Newcastle has yet to even win a single match while Norwich has the worst GD (-20). As for who will be the third side condemned to relegation, I think the “best bets” would be either Burnley or Watford. Burnley only has one win while Watford is tied with Norwich for the most losses (8). La Liga (Spain)The top four here are currently: Real Madrid (33 pts), Atletico Madrid (29), Real Sociedad (29) and Sevilla (28). Important to note is that Sociedad, who I think is the shakiest of the four, has played one more match than the other three. The Spanish top flight is not as “top heavy” as it’s been in recent years, meaning none of these top four sides are locks to stay in their current position (well, maybe Real Madrid is). When looking at who could move up into the top four, I’d look past 5th place Real Betis and 6th place Rayo Vallecano and instead consider 7th place Barcelona or 8th place Athletic Bilbao. Barca was written off by many early on, but is actually second in the league in xPts. Bilbao, like Crystal Palace in the EPL, is hurt by being the “kings of the draw.” They’ve shared the points a league-high eight times. Still, I’d expect them to finish in the top six by season’s end. What’s interesting about La Liga this season is how all three of the newly promoted sides (particularly Rayo Vallecano) are performing better than expected and none are really a threat to be relegated. Poor Levante is currently in last place and winless, but they are actually 12th in xPts! Getafe and Granada are actually the bottom two in xPts, but Cadiz and Elche were last year’s bottom two (in xPts), suggesting that maybe it is they who deserve condemnation to the Segunda Division.Bundesliga (Germany)Going off goal differential and xPts, Bayern Munich is going to win this league for a 10th straight season. I said that last month and feel even more strongly about it now. I know Borussia Dortmund is only one point behind, but their GD is only +14 (compared to Bayern’s +29) and the gap in xPts is 11. Again, like I said last month, Dortmund is a lock to finish in the top four. But they will not overtake Bayern.Of the four leagues we’re discussing, the Bundesliga is the one where I think we could see the most change in the top four. Third place Bayer Leverkusen and fourth place Freiburg both seem a little shaky. In last month’s update, I mentioned how Freiburg was the Bundesliga’s only unbeaten side. Well, now they’ve dropped three straight fixtures. As for who could move into the top four, I’m still a believer in RB Leipzig, even though they’ve yet to win a single away match this season! Leverkusen is the only team still without an away loss, but that can’t possibly continue. Both Mainz and Hoffenheim are darkhorses as is Gladbach.No side in all of Europe is a bigger lock to be relegated than is the Bundesliga’s current last place team, Greuther Furth. They are not only still winless, but have lost 12 of 13 matches. Bet against them at will. Believe it or not, Arminia Bielefeld is actually lower on xPts than Greuther Furth, which is shocking. So those two are the obvious choices for automatic relegation. Whoever finishes third from the bottom has to play a relegation playoff against the third place team from the Bundesliga 2. Augsburg and Hertha Berlin seem like prime candidates for that spot.Serie A (Italy)The top four here are Napoli (35), AC Milan (32), Inter Milan (31) and Atlanta (31). Napoli is looking especially dominant this season with a 11-2-1 record and +23 GD. But Inter is actually higher on xPts. I think AC Milan is the shakiest of the top four, even though they were unbeaten after their first 12 matches. They are only sixth in the league in xPts. Atalanta should finish in the top four.While none of the top four teams have lost more than twice, everyone else in Serie A has at least five losses. So there’s a gap forming. Roma would be the obvious candidate to possibly replace AC Milan in the top four. I also think Juventus has played better than most realize, but it may just not be their year.Cagliari probably doesn’t deserve to finish in the bottom three, yet they probably still will. To me, Salernitana and Spezia are the two most likely teams to be relegated at season’s end. Empoli is nowhere near as good as its record, but has probably done enough to avoid finishing in the drop zone. Genoa and Venezia are other possible candidates to be playing in Serie B next season. 

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NBA: Early Upgrades and Downgrades

Sunday, Oct 31, 2021

The 2021-22 NBA Season is not even two weeks old, but already there are a handful of teams where I’ve made a significant upgrade or downgrade to my own personal power rankings. That’s what I want to go over today. Upgrades Miami - The Heat figured to be a top six team in the East with the addition of Kyle Lowry. But so far they’ve played as well as anybody. Their record is 5-1 and they are outscoring opponents by a league-best 17 points per game. Ranking first in the league in defensive efficiency is always key and that’s where the Heat are right now.Golden State - Again, the Warriors are a team I’d tabbed to finish in the top six in the West. But they have been better than advertised. They are 5-1 and playing like one of the best teams in the league. They have yet to lose in regulation.New York & Chicago - I’m putting these teams together because coming into the year I thought they’d finish pretty close. One of them is probably going to get a top six spot in the East. Both have started 5-1. The Bulls did just lose Patrick Williams to a season-ending injury. The Knicks won’t be #1 in 3PT% defense again (like they were last season). So beware just a little bit. At the same time, note the Knicks are #2 in offensive efficiency and the Bulls are #4 in defensive efficiency.DowngradesLA Lakers - The Lakers have been a below average team in their first six games. That’s a downgrade from what was expected to be a top two team (along with Utah) in the Western Conference. Do I still expect LeBron and company in the top six? Of course. But this is not a deep team. Boston - The way things are looking early on, the best the Celtics might be able to do is the play-in round. They’ve definitely been below average. Three of their games have gone to overtime and they’ve twice been a loser in double overtime games. Like the Lakers, Boston ranks in the bottom third in defensive efficiency.Milwaukee - Well, when you come into the season ranked #1 in the power rankings, the best you can hope for is to maintain that ranking. The Bucks have dropped due to getting outscored by roughly five points per 100 possessions. They are even lower than the Celtics and Lakers when it comes to defensive efficiency - ranking 25th. While things are skewed due to an awful showing vs. Miami, the Bucks just lost to the T’wolves and Spurs. 

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A Look At Europe's Big 4 Leagues

Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021

With the four major European soccer leagues returning from an International break last weekend, I thought it would be a good time to check in on what’s been going on and what we might expect moving forward. New to betting European soccer? Don’t be scared. I’ve got you covered in the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A.  English Premier League: Remember when somebody wrote that Brighton & Hove Albion would be the most improved side in all of Europe this season? That was pretty smart. But I’d still expect Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City & Manchester United to occupy the top four spots in the table at season’s end. Note that while Chelsea is currently in first place, they only have the eighth highest expected point total (xPts). So there could be some regression there. West Ham & Everton, who just played last weekend, should battle it out for fifth and the Europa League spot. Tottenham is the most overrated team right now. They are in the bottom half of the table in terms of xPts and goal differential. I’d fade them when the opportunity presents itself. Newly promoted Brentford has made a real solid showing and actually has the third highest number of xPts! Can they keep that up though? As far as the relegation battle goes, Norwich City looks like a lock. Newcastle United would be a solid bet to finish in the bottom three as would Watford.  Spanish La Liga: This league is far more wide open than in years’ past. Right now, Real Sociedad is your surprise leader, but I’d be shocked if that continues. Going by goal differential, Real Madrid has been the class of La Liga as they’ve outscored opponents by 12 this season. Sevilla might also have a case to finish at the top of the table as they have a +8 goal differential and the highest number of xPts. What makes that impressive is they’ve played one fewer match than most other sides. Should we really discount Barcelona? Probably not. I also haven’t even mentioned the reigning champs Atletico Madrid. Sides like Real Betis and Osasuna look like they could contend for the Europa League. With most of the newly promoted sides doing better than expected in La Liga, the relegation battle will be interesting. Levante and Getafe are both still winless. Alaves also stinks. But Levante has been unlucky and I think they’ll move out of the drop zone. Granada, Cadiz and Elche finished with the three lowest xPts last season and are by no means considered safe in 2021/22. Granada in particular has been bad. They have the lowest number of xPts in any of the big four leagues this season.  German Bundesliga: Once again, this league belongs to Bayern Munich. They just shredded Bayer Leverkusen 5-1 over the weekend. Bet on Die Roten running away with their 10th straight Bundesliga title. Dortmund (5-0 at home) is the other lock to finish in the Champions League places (top four), provided Erling Haaland remains healthy. Right now, Haaland is level with Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski with a league-high nine goals, despite playing in two fewer matches. Freiburg is the only undefeated side in the German Top Flight, but has drawn in four of their eight matches and I don’t expect them to remain in the top four. Leverkusen and Wolfsburg are two other sides that have overperformed xPts so far. As for who could move up, keep an eye on Gladbach, Union Berlin and especially RB Leipzig. The relegation battle will likely include the two newly promoted sides - Bochum and Greuther Furth - as well as Augsburg and Arminia Bielefeld. Bielefeld has the second lowest point xPts in any league I’ll be talking about today, ahead of only La Liga’s Granada.  Italian Serie A:  There is a clear dividing line here between the top seven and everyone else. The big story is Napoli, who has won all eight of its matches so far. They are the only side in any of the big four leagues without a loss or a draw. AC Milan and Inter have also been excellent and have the look of top four sides. That would leave Atalanta, Juventus, Roma and Lazio to battle it out for the other Champions League spot. Despite getting off to such a terrible start, Juve has already managed to climb up to 7th in the table. An interesting thing with Roma is that they have won all four home fixtures but have lost three of four away. Atalanta has scored less than usual. There is no more overrated side in Serie A than Fiorentina. Empoli is another team that you should see start falling down the table. Torino, who was due to improve from a tough 2020/21 season, may be the most underrated. Cagliari, currently 19th, should escape the drop zone. They have an xPts total that’s more indicative of a mid-table side. I’d say that Salernitana is the most likely team to be relegated. Spezia is the second most likely.  

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NFL 2021: Early Season Reads

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

It feels like the 2021 NFL season just started. But, believe it or not, we’re about to be four weeks in. It used to be that marked the quarter post. But now we’ve got 17 regular season games. Still, I thought this would be a good time to make some early assessments on who is likely to make the playoffs in the two conferences.Buffalo was a surprise loser in Week 1. Since then they’ve outscored two opponents 78-21. Even with the loss, the Bills are tied with the 3-0 Broncos for the best point differential through three weeks (+50). Expect them to run away with the AFC East. The Tua-less Dolphins are going to regress, the Patriots aren’t going to be better than middle of the road with rookie QB Mac Jones and the Jets are awful.Tennessee should also be a runaway division winner in the AFC. Not nearly as impressive as Buffalo so far, the Titans will instead benefit from a weak South Division. Houston and Jacksonville are two of the worst teams in the league. Indianapolis, off to an 0-3 start, looks like one of the big regression teams this year.The AFC North will likely produce two playoff teams and I’m talking about Baltimore and Cleveland. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, both the Ravens and Browns will be favored in all of their remaining games except one - when they visit one another. Pittsburgh’s streak of non-losing seasons, which goes back to 2003, could be in jeopardy. Big Ben is toast and the team has lost seven of nine games going back to the end of 2020. Cincinnati, off to its first 2-1 start in three years, is improved but not yet ready to contend for the playoffs.The West is definitely going to produce multiple playoff teams, likely three, but all four are thinking playoffs this year. Shockingly, the two-time defending AFC Champion Chiefs are the team in last place right now. They are a dreadful 2-12 ATS in their last 14 games. Regression was due after an extremely fortunate record in one-run games last year. The Raiders and Broncos are the two 3-0 teams in the division. But two of Las Vegas’ three wins came in OT. Denver’s first three opponents are a combined 0-9. Don’t look past the Chargers’ improvement either as they thankfully rid themselves of the odious Anthony Lynn. My guess is that the Raiders will be the “odd team out” come playoff time.Tampa Bay is probably the most certain division winner in the NFC. The Saints aren’t as good as they used to be. Carolina is off to a 3-0 start, but Christian McCaffery is hurt. It’s hard to envision a team with Sam Darnold at QB making the playoffs. Atlanta just isn’t very good.I think Dallas might be just as likely to win the East as Tampa Bay is to win the South. For the Cowboys, it’s very similar to what I talked about with Tennessee in the AFC South. The rest of the division stinks. Washington is a clear regression team while the Eagles and Giants are both bad.After a disastrous Week 1 showing, Green Bay has won two straight and Aaron Rodgers has the Cheeseheads R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G. I’d still make the Packers the favorite to win the NFC North, but they definitely aren’t winning as many games as they did last season. If the Vikings can get their act together, they will challenge the Pack. They might be 1-2, but Minnesota could easily be 3-0 right now. The Pack and Vikes need not worry about the Bears and Lions as the latter two seem destined for double digit losses.That brings us to the NFC West, which is pretty easily the best division in football. Three teams will definitely make the playoffs and it could be all four. The Rams already beat the Buccaneers and could end up as the #1 overall seed. Matt Stafford is a clear upgrade over Jared Goff. I like Arizona too as long as Kyler Murray stays healthy. San Francisco was on everyone’s shortlist for most improved teams in 2021. Even with some early attrition and question marks surrounding Jimmy G, I think the Niners win 10 games. So Seattle could be the odd team out come playoff time, which sounds shocking. They will battle with the Saints and the second place team in the North for that 7th playoff spot.See you next month!  

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MLB: Examining The Likely Playoff Field

Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021

With only one week left in the regular season, this will be my final monthly “check-in” (article) on 2021 Major League Baseball. I thought now would be an opportune time to take a special look at the teams we know will be competing in the playoffs. In the American League, it’s been pretty obvious for awhile now who would be claiming the respective pennants. You’ve got Tampa Bay (East), Chicago (Central) and Houston (West). Unless they lose the rest of their regular season games, Tampa Bay will set a new franchise record for regular season wins. They have already set a new record with 14 series sweeps this year. But before sweeping the Marlins this past weekend, they were actually below .500 in September. They are just 3-3 vs. the White Sox this season and 1-2 vs. the Astros, who they face this week. I think it’s worth mentioning the Rays dominated both the Orioles (18-1) and Interleague Play (15-5) this season. Other than that, they are “only” 11 games over .500 against everyone else. I bring all this up because I think this team is ripe to be upset in the LDS as the team that wins the AL Wild Card game is likely to be a division rival that is quite familiar with them. Now the Rays are tied for the most home wins (52) in all of MLB and - barring a complete collapse this week - they will have home field advantage in the AL portion of the playoffs. So that could be their saving grace. The key to their success at Tropicana Field is they only allow 3.2 runs per game there. Not to be dismissed is the fact they average a MLB-high 5.7 runs per game on the road. That’s needed as the number of runs they allow per game rises to 5.1 when away from home. No team has a higher percentage of Overs on the road than do the Rays. The Rays are 40-19 in day games and 19-4 as a favorite of -200 or more. Those situations will not arise much moving forward.Based on their 40-41 road record, you’d think it would be imperative for the AL Central Champion White Sox to finish with the second best record in the AL and thus have home field advantage in the LDS. But something interesting that I found is that the Sox have actually outscored their opponents by a fairly comfortable margin when on the road this season (4.7 to 4.1 per game). So there could be some value with this team on the road come playoff time. They are just 2-5 against the Astros, who they will likely face in the LDS. Entering Tuesday, the White Sox are 2.5 games back of the ‘Stros in the race to see who gets home field advantage in that series. As of press time, Houston has yet to officially clinch the AL West. But they do have the distinction of having the top overall run differential in the American League (+205). If I were a betting man (and I am!), then I’d make the Astros the favorites to represent the Junior Circuit in the World Series. Right now, Houston is the highest scoring team in all of baseball and their home/road split is a lot more consistent than the Rays, who are the second highest scoring team. The Astros have a better record in night games compared to the Rays and White Sox as well. As for who will get the two Wild Card spots in the AL, that’s going to come down to the wire. I’ll continue to cite Toronto’s run differential (+172) as proof they “deserve” to be in while also citing Seattle’s run differential (-52) as a reason they don’t deserve to make it.Now we turn to the National League. The teams with the two best records in all of baseball - the Giants and Dodgers - both reside in the NL West, so one of them is going to be forced into a one-game playoff, likely against a Cardinals team that is on the longest win streak MLB has seen in four years (16 straight entering Tuesday). What a scary proposition that is! For what it’s worth, I believe the Dodgers are the favorites to repeat as World Series Champs. Beating this team over the course of a five - or seven - game series is going to be very difficult. The Dodgers have been underdogs in only two regular season games! Now anything can happen in a one-game scenario, if they were to end up as a Wild Card. Like the Rays, the Dodgers have really beaten up on the bad teams on their schedule, going a combined 42-9 vs. the D’backs, Rockies, Pirates and Nationals. They are just 4-2 vs. Atlanta, 4-3 vs. St. Louis, 1-3 vs. Milwaukee and 9-10 vs the Giants.The Giants have been the most profitable team to bet on this year at +42.6 units. They have the most road wins with 53. It’s interesting they’ve been underdogs in 54 regular season games, a far cry from how linesmakers have viewed their rivals in LA. Against the four other likely NL playoff teams, the Giants are just 18-20 though. There is no doubt that San Francisco would be the underdog, even with home field advantage, in a potential LDS showdown with the Dodgers. I’d be looking to go with LA if that comes to fruition.Milwaukee has phenomenal starting pitching and could be the darkhorse in the Senior Circuit. It’s curious how much better the Brewers have been on the road (49-26) than at American Family Field (45-36). Unlike the White Sox road record, there’s really nothing misleading about the Brew Crew’s home mark. In fact, they are probably a little bit lucky to even be nine games over .500 at home considering they allow the same number of runs per game that they score themselves (4.3). They’ve allowed by far the fewest number of runs on the road in all of baseball.Atlanta also has a better record on the road than at home. Incredibly, that would be the case with four of the five likely playoff entrants in the NL. Now the Braves must first clinch the NL East, a race they can put to bed by taking out the second place Phillies this week in a three-game series. Given the respective run differentials, it’s clear to me that the Braves are the better of those two teams.St. Louis, despite its franchise-record win streak, will be a huge dog to either the Giants or Dodgers in the NL Wild Card Game. But, as I said earlier, anything can happen in a one-game scenario. They’ve been competitive with both of those teams this year. See you in October!

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MLB: Handicapping the Wild Card Races

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

Our monthly look at Major League Baseball will focus on the respective Wild Card races in the American and National Leagues. Over the course of the final month of the regular season, this figures to be where all the intrigue is.In the AL, it’s safe to say current division leaders Tampa Bay, Chicago & Houston will be involved in the postseason. All three have near 100 percent odds of making the playoffs at this point. Honestly, I’d be shocked if any team out of the trio failed to win its division.The Wild Card race is pretty wide open though with five teams battling for the two spots. From the East, you’ve got the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays. From the West, the A’s and Mariners are in contention. There will not be a second team from the Central in this postseason.Those of you that have read any of my previous articles, or followed my picks throughout the year, know that I am completely dismissive of the Mariners’ chances. They are 70-62 but have a -61 run differential. Their expected number of wins, based on that run differential, is 59. They are the only team in baseball that has outperformed its win expectation by more than five games. The Mariners’ good fortune in games decided by one run and extra innings will run out. As of this writing, five of Seattle’s next eight games are against Houston. They lost Monday to the Astros … by one run. It feels as if we’ve already seen the “best” from the Yankees, Red Sox and A’s this season. The Yankees recently had a 13-game win streak snapped and have now lost three in a row. The Red Sox were 52-31 on July 2nd. They have gone just 23-27 since. The A’s, like the Yankees, had their own 13-game win streak this season. Theirs came all the way back in April. Take that away and they’ve been a .500 team the rest of the year.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Toronto is the team to keep an eye on. Yes, they trail the three teams I just mentioned. But their run differential (+118) is vastly superior. (Note: I always harp on run differential because I think it’s a better measure of a team’s performance than won-loss record). Ten of the Blue Jays’ final 33 games are against the worst team in baseball, Baltimore, including the last series of the season (and that’s at home). The Jays also have seven games left against another last place team, Minnesota. My picks for the two Wild Card spots are the Blue Jays and Yankees. New York has the best record in games decided by two runs or fewer, so they have been a little lucky in 2021. Boston has scored the most runs of the three, but also allowed the most. Oakland really doesn’t do it for me.Over in the National League, things aren’t nearly as wide-open. The Giants, Dodgers and Brewers are all shoo-ins for the playoffs. Last month, we told you to take note of Atlanta and they’ve seized control of the East. Based on the run differentials in that division, you have to think the Braves are winning it for a fourth straight year.Whomever doesn’t win the West - the Giants or Dodgers - will obviously be the top Wild Card in the Senior Circuit. The second Wild Card comes down to the likes of the Reds, Padres, Cardinals and Phillies. Look, whoever it ends up being will be a massive ‘dog in the WC game and will probably lose. I don’t have particularly strong feelings on this race. It feels like it’s San Diego’s to lose. The fact they’ve lost 13 of their last 17 games but are only one-half game behind Cincinnati tells me that any righting of the ship should guarantee the spot. They have the best run differential of the four teams. The Cardinals and Phillies both have negative run differentials, so I’m skeptical of them. The Padres have a ton of games left vs. the Giants and Dodgers though and an interleague series with Houston. It’s also not good that 20 of the Padres’ final 32 games are on the road. They are 41-29 at home, but below .500 on the road. The Reds have nine games left vs. Pittsburgh plus seven more with the Cubs and Nationals. I think they will make the playoffs. 

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The Most Improved Side In All Of Europe Will Be ...

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2021

Already off to a 2-0 start in the English Premier League, Brighton & Hove Albion is a team to watch out for during the 2021/22 campaign. Do I expect the Seagulls to contend for a top four spot and the Champions League next season? No I don't. But they should easily eclipse the oddsmakers’ projection of 46.5 points. Having taken the full six (points) after two matches, they are well on their way to going Over that number. Consider that Brighton finished with 41 points last year and that was with some incredibly poor luck.Though they ended up in 16th place, Brighton was a shocking fifth in expected goal difference (+16.2) last season. The only four clubs to finish above them in that metric were the actual top four in the table (standings): Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. For those that may be unfamiliar, expected goals (or xG for short) measures the probability that a shot will result in a goal based on the characteristics of that shot and the events leading up to it. Brighton had the fourth best shot differential in the Premier League last season (+129), however they were somehow outscored 46-40. Their actual goal differential was still better than four teams who finished directly above them. Even though the actual goal differential was not as good as it “should have been,” Brighton clearly should have had a mid-table finish. Crystal Palace (14th place) had a -25 goal differential while Southampton (15th) had a -21 GD. Both Newcastle (12th) and Wolverhampton (13th) were -16. It can easily be argued that Brighton played better football than any of those four teams last season. It just didn’t show in the standings. Per xG, the Seagulls “should” have scored 12 more goals while also conceding 10 fewer than they actually did. Now some of this has to do with the fact Brighton was typically down and looking for equalizers at the end of the match. But there can be no denying that this was the most snakebitten side in the entire Premier League last year. Brighton were the “kings of the draw” last season, a distinction you really don’t want. They had 14 draws in 2020/21. Only four other teams had at least 10. Turn some of those draws into wins and all of a sudden you’re moving right up the table. On the flip side, only nine teams suffered fewer losses. Again, a top four finish for Brighton is too lofty to project for even the biggest believer in analytics. They may not even end up qualifying for the Europa League. But this is definitely a lock to be the most improved EPL side and just maybe the most improved side in all of Europe. 

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These NFL Teams Will Improve, But Will They Go Over?

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Based on Vegas win totals, the four teams expected to improve the most this NFL season are: the 49ers, Jaguars, Falcons and Cowboys. My metrics are in line with these assessments by the oddsmakers. But can these teams exceed their rather lofty win projections? Let’s break them down on a case-by-case basis:Jacksonville - Record Last Year: 1-15 | 2021 Win Projection: 6No team is expected to improve more than the Jaguars. This may seem shocking to you. Obviously, improvement is all but guaranteed after a one-win season that allowed the team to land QB Trevor Lawrence in the Draft. But first year head coach Urban Meyer inherits a team that is on a 15-game losing streak and has gone an NFL worst 39-105 straight up over the last nine seasons. Meyer strangely signed Tim Tebow. As far as former Heisman winners go, Lawrence’s game is much better suited to the pros than Tebow’s ever was. It should be noted that the Jags only win last season (27-20 in Week 1 vs. the Colts) came in a game where the defense failed to force a single punt! There is not much talent on hand. But … the last seven coaches who made the transition from college to the pros have improved their NFL team’s win total by an average of four wins in year one. The Jaguars had six one-score losses last year. Lawrence is probably the most talented QB to come out of college since Andrew Luck. The AFC South is not going to be all that good this year. But I still think seven wins is a lot to ask from the 2021 Jaguars. San Francisco - Record Last Year: 6-10 | 2021 Win Projection: 10.5Another team expected to improve by a lot this season is the 49ers. No team dealt with more injuries last season. They had a -11 turnover margin. Now they are expected to be healthier and face the easiest schedule in the league this year. It was just two years ago that they made the Super Bowl. Oddsmakers currently have them as the favorite in 14 of their 17 regular season games! But despite a schedule that’s perceived to be easy, the Niners do play in the NFL’s toughest division where both the Rams and Seahawks are also expected to make the playoffs. Arizona is not “slim pickings” either. In three of Kyle Shanahan’s four years here, the team has won six games or fewer. The health of QB Jimmy Garoppolo is huge. Shanahan is 24-9 straight up with Garoppolo as his starting QB, but just 7-27 SU without him. Rookie Trey Lance now waits in the wings. There is no doubt in my mind that the Niners will improve on last year’s disappointing win total. After all, the same plexiglass principle that predicted they would regress in 2020 says they will improve this year. But getting to 11 wins will be difficult in the ultra-tough NFC West. Dallas - Record Last Year: 6-10 | 2021 Win Projection: 9.5 The Cowboys are expected to improve along the same lines as the 49ers and for many of the same reasons. They too were immensely banged up during the 2020 season. The biggest injury was the one that ended QB Dak Prescott’s season in Week 5. I think Mike McCarthy is a pretty bad coach, but this is a win total I would bet Over. I have Dallas winning the NFC East, which has two weak teams (Giants, Eagles) and last year’s division champ (Washington) isn’t likely to be as strong on the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys’ offense, when healthy, is among the most efficient in football. They had the worst fumble luck in the entire league last year and much of that can be tied to Prescott being out. Remember that there are 17 regular season games now. Dallas going 10-7 (or better) seems rather reasonable. Atlanta - Record Last Year: 4-12 | 2021 Win Projection: 7.5I also like the Over on this win total. The Falcons were perhaps the unluckiest team in the NFL last season. They led in 13 of 16 games. They led at the half nine times. Only six teams in the last 30 seasons blew more halftime leads. They were 2-8 straight up in games decided by eight points or less and 0-4 in games decided by three or less. They were only outscored by 18 points despite being 4-12. Over the first three quarters of their games, they were +28 in point differential. They blew five leads in the final two minutes. It was a tough schedule. QB Matt Ryan has thrown for 4,000+ yards in 10 consecutive seasons. Though he loses WR Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley will step up and Kyle Pitts is one of the top TE prospects EVER. Only 7 of their 17 games this year will be played at home (lose one to London), but the Falcons can absolutely finish second in the NFC South. 

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MLB - 2nd Half Predictions

Thursday, Jul 22, 2021

Well, we’re basically a week removed from the All-Star Break, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to make some second half predictions. Some of these takes will be right in line with what I said two months ago. Others (like Milwaukee) have since changed. So here’s what I’m predicting for the second half of the MLB season.At least two teams from the AL East are getting into the postseason. It could be three if Toronto gets its act together. The Blue Jays have the division’s best run differential (+83). The first place Red Sox actually have the third best differential (+63). Tampa Bay is in between, closer to Toronto, at +81. We probably also shouldn’t forget about the Yankees, who have a very similar record to Toronto. But their run differential is way below the other three teams. Thus, I’m not nearly as sold on the team wearing pinstripes.A big key in handicapping this race is that the Blue Jays will resume playing home games in Toronto beginning July 30th. Playing in Dunedin and Buffalo, they’ve averaged a MLB high 5.9 runs per game at home this season, but went only 22-22 in those games. Expect scoring levels to drop at Rogers Centre where in 2019 they averaged just 4.4 rpg. It’s interesting that the Jays are 22-11 in day games and 13-2 in Interleague Play. There are only two American League teams that they have winning records against - Baltimore and Texas. So maybe we shouldn’t totally buy into that run differential? Chicago will run away with the AL Central. Book it. They probably will end up being the first team to clinch a playoff spot in either league. There will be no Wild Card from the Central.I predicted months ago that Houston would run away with the AL West. Right now, they only lead the A’s by three games but that gap is going to get bigger. The Astros are the highest scoring team in baseball and the highest scoring road team. They have the AL’s best run differential and are a playoff lock.Elsewhere in the West, Seattle WILL fall off and finish below .500. They have a -51 run differential entering Thursday’s action. The tremendous luck they’ve experienced in one run games and extra innings is something I’ve previously written about. It has continued, but I sense those records will eventually start to regress. The Mariners hit only .203 at home! They can’t sustain a better than .500 pace with an offense that is that bad.Over in the NL, both Wild Cards will be claimed out West. I’ve been adamant about this from the start of the season. The Dodgers, Giants and Padres are the three best teams in the Senior Circuit. It’s a major dropoff after that. I’m not just speaking about the division, but the entire league. All three teams are in the top five of my power ratings.  Milwaukee has really turned the Central upside-down and could be poised to run away with things. They are the only team in that division to currently have a positive run differential. Their pitching is superb (top five in runs allowed). I do think they are poised to win the division, which is not something I would have been confident in saying a month ago. But a 7.5 game lead seems pretty safe.The NL East remains the most difficult division to handicap in either league. My gut says the Mets, who have been in first place for a while now, are going to take it. But Atlanta now has the best run differential in the East, though they are going to be without Ronald Acuna Jr the rest of the way. The Mets having allowed so few runs gives them the edge though. But continue to monitor Jacob deGrom’s forearm. He’s obviously the predominant reason the Mets are #2 in MLB in runs allowed. It’s a good thing the Mets give up so few runs per game. Because their offense is ranked 29th (2nd worst) in rpg! I still say they make the playoffs though.Put a gun to my head (please don’t!) and I’ll tell you that Astros vs. White Sox is the most likely ALCS matchups. In the National League, the West will cannibalize itself due to the playoff format. The Dodgers are still the team I favor to win the World Series. Top Teams to Bet On (through 7/21):San Francisco +24.5 unitsSeattle +20.3 unitisBoston +15.7 unitsDetroit +13.4 unitsTampa Bay +12.5 unitsWorst Teams to Bet on (through 7/21)Arizona -32.4 unitsMinnesota -24.9 unitsBaltimore -18.1 unitsYankees -16.2 unitsTexas -14.1 units

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Euro Cup Quarterfinals Preview

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021

We’re down to the quarterfinals of this year’s Euro Cup. Some of the sides that remain - such as Belgium, England, Italy and Spain - were expected to get here. Others - like Czech Republic and Ukraine - are a bit of a surprise. Over on the right side of the bracket, there is potential for the ultimate “feel good” story with Denmark. Their tournament got off to the worst possible start with Christian Eriksen collapsing in the opening match and going into cardiac arrest. Later that day, Denmark had to resume the match with Finland and suffered a shock 1-0 loss. Then they blew an early lead to favored Belgium and lost that one too. But Eriksen showed up on the sideline for the team’s final match of the group stage and since then everything has changed. Denmark rolled Russia 4-1 to qualify for the knockout stage, then beat Wales 4-0 in the Round of 16. The right side of the bracket is considered the much weaker half. Next up for Denmark will be Czech Republic, who shocked the Netherlands 2-0 in the Round of 16. The Czechs have conceded only two goals the entire tournament. Going back to earlier competitions, it’s been a long time since they conceded more than one in any match. But something to keep in mind is that even before their “resurgence,” Denmark had been playing well. They had the second best shot difference (+46) and fourth best expected goal differential (+3.4) in the group stage. England should now be considered the favorite on the weaker side of the draw. They are more than a 2/1 favorite to beat Ukraine in the quarterfinals, as they should be. Through four matches in Euro “2020,” the Three Lions have yet to concede a single goal. They are the lone side that can say that. But they’ve only scored four times. Ukraine beat 10-man Sweden in the quarters with the latest game winner ever in a major tournament. They got the game-winner in the final minute of added time. They’ve scored six goals in the tournament, more than England, but also conceded six. It would be shocking to see them in the semis.Over on the other side of the draw, Spain is favored to beat Switzerland. It should not have been as hard as it was for La Roja against Croatia in the Round of 16. They blew a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes. Added time belonged to them as they scored twice. That’s now 10 goals from Spain in the last two matches. Keen observers probably saw this coming. Spain had 7.5 expected goals in the group stage, which was second most of anybody. Switzerland also erased a late two-goal deficit in its Round of 16 fixture. But unlike Croatia, they were able to finish the deal and stunned France on penalties. The Swiss had an underwhelming first two matches of this tournament before blitzing Turkey to stay alive. They probably “should have” lost to France though. This is the first time La Nati has ever made the European Championship quarterfinals in their history. Their record against Spain is quite poor, but they’ve also only been beaten once in the last 11 competitions. Clearly, the marquee quarter final fixture is between Italy and Belgium. Italy looked like the best side in the group stage. They are on an unbeaten run of 31 straight matches, a new national record.  But they needed added time to get by Austria in the Round of 16. Belgium was the #1 ranked team in the world coming into the tournament. They have not lost in 2021. Both sides will come into Friday on 14-match win streaks. But one streak obviously has to end. Belgium has not only won 14 in a row, but 23 of their last 27. They’ve scored a goal in 34 straight matches. But their record against Italy isn’t very good. They have just four wins and 14 losses in the last 22 meetings. There are injuries to monitor on the Belgian side. One of them is Kevin De Bruyne (ankle) and the other is captain Eden Hazard (muscular). Neither injury is believed to be serious, but you’ve got two significant contributors that won’t be fully fit. That could end up being the difference in the match. I, for one, will be looking forward to the remainder of Euro 2020. 

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2021 MLB: Overachievers & Underachievers

Tuesday, Jun 29, 2021

I’m continuing our monthly check-in on “America’s Pastime” with a look at which MLB teams are overachieving and underachieving the most, based on expected vs. actual win totals. Expected win total is sometimes referred to as Pythagorean win percentage. “The concept strives to determine the number of games that a team *should* have won -- based on its total number of runs scored versus its number of runs allowed -- in an effort to better forecast that team's future outlook.”I think this tool is extremely important in evaluating how a team has “really played.”Now onto the over and underachievers. Overachievers - Teams whose actual win total exceeds expected win total by the widest margins. 1. Seattle - At 41-38, the Mariners find themselves on the periphery of the Wild Card race in the American League. But it’s a race they probably shouldn’t even be involved with, at least based on their expected win total which is just 35. Their run differential is -43. The M’s have been really lucky in extra inning games (7-1) and their 18 one-run wins are the most in MLB. I do not expect them to stay in Wild Card contention. Not just because of all the above, but also due to being in the same division as Houston and Oakland. 2. Milwaukee - The Brewers come into the week leading the NL Central at 45-33. It will be interesting to see what happens against the second place Cubs, who actually have a slightly better run differential and thus expected win total. The Brew Crew’s expected win total is just 40. They are 26-9 in day games, but below .500 in night games. I do like Milwaukee’s starting pitching and they very well could win this division. Unlike Seattle, I would NOT write this team off. 3. Boston/Cleveland/St. Louis - These teams have all exceeded their expected win total by four. Boston (47-31) leads a tough AL East, but actually has the third best run differential in the division. They have an expected win total of 43 and I expect them to tumble. I also don’t anticipate Cleveland (41-33)  making the Wild Card, even though they look like a lock to finish second in a pretty weak Central Division. While eight games above .500, the Tribe have a minus 3 run differential YTD and an expected win total of 37. St. Louis has already fallen to fourth in the NL Central (37-41) and while they’ll always stay ahead of Pittsburgh, the Cardinals’ run differential is -52 and that’s fourth worst in the whole Senior Circuit. They have a win expectancy of 33. Underachievers - Teams whose expected win total exceeds actual win total by the widest margins. 1. Miami - The Marlins are last in the NL East. But they are the only team in the division besides the Mets to have a positive win differential. Their actual record is 33-44, but their run differential says they should be 41-36. Being 6-16 in one-run games has hurt. Seeing as how they overachieved last season, I don’t think the Marlins get back in the division or Wild Card race. But they are a team that should have a better overall record.2. Arizona - Well, here’s an ugly one. The Diamondbacks stink. When they won 10-1 Saturday in San Diego, it snapped a MLB-record 24-game losing streak. They have lost 35 of their last 39 games overall. They have baseball’s overall worst record at 22-56. But as bad as things are, the D’backs should have a few more wins under their belt. Their expected win total is 27. They are 2-18 in one-run games. There’s no way any team can continue being THIS bad. 3. Toronto - The Blue Jays are 40-36 and in third place in the East. But they have a +65 run differential. That’s top five in the American League. Compared to pretenders like Seattle and Cleveland and overachievers like Boston, the Blue Jays are actually playing better baseball. They could be a Wild Card team or even win the division. Recently, the Jays have been winning more. They are 7-1 their last eight games, though most of those wins have come against Baltimore. 

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2021 Major League Baseball: Two Months In

Sunday, May 30, 2021

We’re basically two months into the 2021 Major League Baseball season. Here are some observations, followed by an analysis of who has been the best (and worst) teams and pitchers to bet on so far.Observations:I think the White Sox and Astros run away with their respective divisions. Just look at their run differentials compared to the rest of their division foes. It’s not even close. Run differential has long proven to be a strong predictive measure of future outcomes. If that’s the case with these two teams, then both will win their respective pennants. Chicago has the AL’s best run differential heading into Sunday. Houston has a +45 run differential, so it’s odd to see them trailing Oakland (-8) in the standings.The AL East is a strong division that may produce both Wild Cards. Four of the American League’s top six run differentials belong to teams from the East. Tampa Bay had a fantastic May (20-6 entering Sunday) to seize first place from Boston. Honestly, the only team outside the East that looks “Wild Card worthy” in the AL is Oakland and that’s just because of their overall record. Detroit and Baltimore look like the worst teams in the AL, but everyone figured that would be the case coming into the season. You want to talk about some “bad luck?” Minnesota is 1-8 in extra inning games so far. Seattle has the most one-run wins (12) in baseball, a sign they’ve been a bit fortunate.Over in the National League, the West - clearly - looks like the strongest division. Unlike the East in the American League, this is a three (not a four) horse race, but the three horses here (Padres, Dodgers, Giants) have the three top run differentials in the Senior Circuit. San Diego (entering Sunday) is the only undefeated team in Interleague Play. They’ve allowed the fewest runs per game and are currently #1 in my power ratings. The Dodgers are right behind them at #2. The Giants are a surprise, but their run suppression is right on par with the two heavyweights. How do you think it feels to be Colorado or Arizona this year? The NL East and Central both look wide open, particularly the former. I think the Mets, who have played the fewest games in baseball, and the Marlins are the two best teams in the East right now.  Miami has been hurt by a 4-10 record in one-run games. The only thing I can say for sure about the Central is that Pittsburgh is going to finish in last place. Did you see this play from earlier in the week? Put that on the season highlight film. At the top, the Cubs have a superior run differential to the Cardinals, but are still a half game back entering Sunday. Best Teams To Bet On (entering 5/30)San Francisco (+13.8 units)Tampa Bay (+11.5 units)The Giants have won 16 times as an underdog already. They’ve made money in basically all situations, but day games (14-5, +11.9 units) have been particularly profitable. The Rays have actually been money losers in home games, but are +13.9 units on the road. They have been a great road team the last three seasons. Worst Teams To Bet On (entering 5/30)Minnesota (-17.7 units)Arizona (-14.3)Baltimore (-13.3)Colorado (-11.6)Atlanta (-10.2)You expect to see some bad teams on this list and we’ve got three, but the Twins and Braves are surprises here. Both were division winners in 2020. Keep an eye on how they are priced on a game by game basis over the next month. Minnesota has been priced as a 35-16 team, but their record is 21-30. Atlanta has been priced as a 39-11 team, but is 24-26.  The three bad teams on this list have little chance of upward mobility in the standings by virtue of being in tough divisions. But keep in mind they will probably all win at least 55-60 games.Best Pitchers To Bet OnDarvish (SD) - 10-1 team start record (+9.4 units)Pivetta (BOS) - 9-1 TSR (+8.9 units)Flaherty (STL) - 9-1 TSR (+8.3 units)Team start record refers to a team’s record with that particular pitcher on the mound. Darvish took the overall lead, thanks to the Padres coming from behind to defeat the Astros on Saturday. He has fewer individual wins (5) than either Pivetta (6) or Flaherty (8), however. Pivetta, despite being 6-0, has the highest ERA and WHIP of the trio.Worst Pitchers To Bet OnCastillo (CIN) - 1-10 TSR (-10.8 units)Burnes (MIL) - 2-6 TSR (-6.8 units)Dunning (TEX) - 2-8 TSR (-6.3 units)Castillo is running away with this after being a money-loser last season as well. It is a shame to see Burnes on this list as he’s among the league leaders in ERA, WHIP and strikeout to walk ratio. But, hey, you would have lost money betting on Jacob deGrom every time out as well. Dunning just gave up seven runs in his last start, but has actually pitched pretty well at home (2.33 ERA, 1.074 WHIP).

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NBA Playoff Report

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Every first round series is two games in, so let’s take a look at what’s happened so far in the NBA Playoffs and where things may be headed.Eastern ConferenceThe Sixers, as anticipated, are not having much difficulty with the Wizards. They are up 2-0 and well on their way to the second round. Washington is 16-8 SU since April 12th, but they are the only team left in the 16-team field to have a negative efficiency rating and point differential for the year. They allowed the highest number of points per game in the regular season (118.5) and have given up 120 and 125 in the first two games vs. Philadelphia. After shooting an abysmal 2 of 22 from three-point range in Game 2, can they bounce back Saturday?Philly could go from playing the 30th ranked team in scoring defense to the #1 scoring defense in the second round. That’s if the Knicks can get by the Hawks in the first round. That series is 1-1 and will resume Friday in Atlanta. The Hawks have won 11 straight at home (last loss was 4/15 to Milwaukee), but the Knicks are 10-1 ATS run against the Hawks the past three seasons. So something will have to give there. Both games in the series have gone Under. The Knicks are a league best 47-25-2 ATS this season including 9-2 ATS L11 as a road underdog. Brooklyn and Milwaukee could be on a collision course in the other half of the bracket. Both are up 2-0 in their respective series and off blowout wins in Game 2. Of course, now each must get it done on the road. The Nets have -115 odds to sweep the Celtics while the Bucks are +200 to sweep the Heat and +175 to win in five games. It should be noted that the Nets have the shortest odds to win the NBA Finals, but I think the Bucks are a far better value in that regard. Milwaukee had the East’s top point differential and net efficiency rating.  One positive for the Celtics and Wizards is that home teams down 0-2 are 80-38-2 ATS in Game 3 including 29-6 ATS L35 in that spot (first half only). Western Conference OddsThe biggest swing we’ve seen so far in terms of series odds is from Clippers-Mavs. The Clippers, initially -400 to win this series, are now down 0-2 and listed at +220. That’ll happen when you lose twice at home. Only 6.3% of teams that have fallen behind 0-2 in a best of seven series have gone on to advance. The Clippers are 6-2 ATS their last eight games in Dallas and still favored to win Game 3. The Lakers had to win a play-in game just to be the 7-seed. Then they lost Game 1 to the Suns. But they are still the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. They are -300 to win this first round series after taking Game 2 and +333 to do so in six games. Chris Paul’s injury is a major concern for Phoenix, who is a significant underdog in Game 3 and likely will be in Game 4 as well. I really like the Lakers’ path to the Western Conference Finals because I don’t think there’s a chance either Denver or Portland would beat them in the second round. Those teams have split the first two games of their series, which probably won’t be short. Right now, Portland is -155 to advance as they stole the home court advantage. But the Blazers have the worst defensive efficiency rating of any playoff team. Denver doesn’t have Jamal Murray (ACL) and Will Barton is out for Game 3 as well. The first two games both went Over. It speaks volumes that I haven’t mentioned the top seeded Jazz yet, but that’s probably the way they like it. Their Game 2 win was my top play for the month in the NBA. Teams seeded 1-3 that lose Game 1 are now 26-16 ATS In Game 2 since 2005. PG Donovan Mitchell was back for Utah in Game 2 and they scored 141 points. The first two games of this series have gone Over as have four of the five meetings this season. Despite finishing with the best regular season record in the league, Utah has only the 5th best odds to win the NBA Finals

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2021 Major League Baseball: One Month In

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

We’re officially one month into the 2021 Major League Baseball season and the Mariners (+7.0 units), A’s (+7.0), Royals (+6.9), Giants (+6.5) and Pirates (+6.5) have been the five most profitable teams to bet on thus far. There are definitely some surprises on that list and I’d expect four of the five (exception being the Giants) to fall pretty quickly.The A’s won 13 in a row at one point, but still have a negative run differential. Ditto for the Mariners. Kansas City has benefited from a 6-1 record in one-run games. The Pirates are expected to be one of the worst teams in either league this season.Minnesota (-12.5 units) and the Yankees (-10.4) are pacing the “bad bets” thus far. Only the Mets (-7.2), who have played far fewer games than anyone else, are within “sniffing” distance of the bottom of the net unit rankings. Colorado (-5.4), Detroit (-5.2), Atlanta (-5.1), Houston (-5.1) and the Cubs (-5.0) round out the rest of the worst.Atlanta and especially Houston should get better as the season wears on. The Astros have the American League’s second best run differential at +24, but are currently just a game above .500. I think a big story thus far is that none of the preseason favorites are leading the respective divisions. Even the Dodgers are one-half game out of first place (trailing the surprising Giants). The NL West looks stacked thus far with the three best run differentials in the Senior Circuit. The Dodgers are +36, the Giants +24 and the Padres (who were supposed to be LA’s main competition) +14.  Could all three end up making the playoffs?The NL East and Central both appear to be wide open. Milwaukee has gotten tremendous pitching the first month of the season. Only the three teams out West are allowing a fewer number of runs per game. That seems more reliable than Cincinnati, who is 1st in runs per game but 29th in runs allowed. The only team in the East with a positive run differential at this point is Miami and they were pegged for last place before the season began. No team in that division is currently .500. We now move to the American League where no team has established itself as a clear favorite. In the Central, I like the White Sox, who have a +31 run differential. As stated above, Kansas City could start to fade as they’ve been fortunate in one-run games. Can’t say the same for Cleveland, who is the only team in MLB yet to win a one-run affair (0-4). Look for Houston to take charge in the West.The East is the most intriguing division in the AL. With the Red Sox starting fast, everyone except Baltimore should be a contender. Boston is top five (in all of baseball) in runs scored, but the Blue Jays and Yankees have been very good at run suppression. Not sure where this leaves Tampa Bay.Three teams from the East (Toronto, Yankees, Baltimore) are in the top six for most Unders in the first month. Ahead of them are: Kansas City (15-7-1), the Mets (12-5-2) and Detroit (19-7 Under). The Mets and Tigers are the two lowest scoring teams in baseball right now. As of this writing, the Tigers have gone Under in 13 straight.Cincinnati is 17-6-1 to the Over this year, easily #1 in that department. That shouldn’t be a surprise given what I mentioned above. Interestingly, the next two highest scoring teams (White Sox, Arizona) are not among the league leaders in Overs. In fact, only two teams besides the Reds have gone Over at least three more times than they’ve gone Under. Those would be Atlanta and the Angels, the latter of whom is giving up the most runs per game at 5.9.  I hope this provides some insight and I will be sure to have multiple updates as we get into the summer months. 

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NBA: Overachievers and Underachievers

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021

Today I wanted to take a look at some NBA teams that - objectively speaking - have either overachieved or underachieved this season. The objective metric I’ll focus on is the team’s actual number of straight up wins vs. the number of games in which they’ve been favored. If a team’s actual SU win total greatly exceeds the number of games in which they’ve been favored, I think it’s fair to say they’ve “overachieved.” On the flip side, if a team’s number of actual SU wins falls well short of the number of times they’ve been favored, I think it’s fair to say they’ve “underachieved.” Two months ago, I looked at a number of teams that I thought could be potential risers and fallers in the NBA standings. I’m proud to say that much of what I said in that article has played out. The benchmark, or differential, I used to determine if a team has truly over or under achieved was 10. Teams with 10 or more actual wins than the number of times they’ve been favored are the overachievers. Similarly, it takes 10 fewer actual wins vs. the number of times favored to be considered an underachiever.Overachievers 1. Charlotte - Here is a team I do not understand. The Hornets have been favored in only 18 of their first 60 games, yet have a 30-30 SU record. On top of that, mounting injuries “should have” derailed their season. Only four teams in the East have a worse YTD point differential and they are being outscored by 1.6 points per 100 possessions. Even if the Hornets make the play-in round, they won’t last long. 2. New York - Basketball seems to be back in the Big Apple as the Knicks have gone 34-28 SU despite being favored in only 21 games. They are 16-5 SU and 15-6 ATS when favored. Unlike Charlotte, the Knicks seem to be “more legit” as they lead the league in the number of points per game allowed. Even though they just had a 9-game win streak snapped, I expect New York to finish in the top six in the East and avoid the play-in round. 3. Washington - The Wizards just had an 8-game win streak snapped. Even with that, they are still only 10th in the East, just barely in the play-in round. They are a bottom four team in the East in terms of point differential and net efficiency. The defense has gotten better recently, but the Wiz are still 28th in points per game allowed. They do have two All-Stars (Beal and Westbrook), but have only been favored 17 times all season. They should feel fortunate to be 27-34 SU. ‘Honorable Mention: The league’s bottom feeders aren’t favored often, so almost all of them project as “overachievers” by this metric that I’m using. Maybe that’s a flaw of the metric as I don’t think teams with 21 or fewer wins should really be considered as overachieving. Cleveland has won 21 games despite being favored only seven times. Similar examples would be Minnesota and Oklahoma City, who have won 11 and 18 more games (respectively) than the number of times favored. The Thunder have been favored only twice all season!Underachievers 1. Boston - The Celtics are 32-29 and should finish in the top six in the East. But they have been favored in 41 of 61 games and probably should be doing a lot better. Injuries have been a problem. But still, oddsmakers have more faith than they probably should. Boston is only 6-11 SU and 5-12 ATS as a road favorite.  2. Denver - The Nuggets will probably finish fourth in the West, which is lower than either of the previous two seasons (2nd and 3rd). What’s interesting about that is it felt they overachieved both times. This season, they have been favored in 50 of 61 games, but are only 40-21. If they do end up matched with the Lakers in the first round, most people will pick against Denver and I can’t say that I disagree with that.3. Miami - The Heat were in the NBA Finals last October, but won’t be getting back there in July. First off, they are probably going to be in the play-in round. A big reason for that is a failure to win when favored. Miami has gone off as the favorite in 43 of its 62 games, but they are just 32-30 as of April 27th. Last season saw them go a league best 8-1 SU in overtime games. This season they are 0-4 SU in OT. Honorable Mention: Just like bad teams are misleading overachievers by this metric, good teams are misleading underachievers. Milwaukee has been an underdog only four times. Obviously, they aren’t going to go 56-4 SU. But 37-23 feels disappointing. Utah has lost a league-low 17 times, but has only been an underdog in three games. The Clippers have 43 wins while being favored 53 times

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NCAA Final Four Preview

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

So we’re down to the Final Four. For as much chaos as we’ve seen in this bracket, three of the four teams that are still remaining were in the top four of my own power personal power ratings before the NCAA Tournament started. The obvious exception is UCLA. I thought Gonzaga, Baylor and Houston would all get here. I was far from alone in that assessment, but wanted to mention it anyway! Last month I wrote about how defensive efficiency is key this time of year. Sure enough, both Gonzaga and Houston rank in the top eight nationally in that regard. Baylor is 28th and UCLA is 45th (per KenPom). Several teams ousted in the Elite Eight, like Michigan (4th), USC (7th) and Arkansas (11th) were all pretty high in the defensive efficiency ratings. Personally, I was a little surprised that both Loyola Chicago (2nd) and Alabama (3rd) didn’t make it to the Elite Eight. Interestingly enough, the team that will likely finish #1 in the defensive efficiency ratings at KenPom is Memphis and they just won the NIT.  But you didn’t come here to read about the NIT.Gonzaga is -250 to cut the nets down and given how they’ve looked so far those odds seem LOW. The 30-0 Zags have won all but one of their games by double digits this season. The exception was 87-82 against West Virginia on December 2nd, the third game of the season. Not surprisingly, Gonzaga opened as a 13.5-point favorite over UCLA and that number has already jumped to -14 as of press time. It’s the single largest spread we’ve seen in a Final Four game since the 1996 National Title Game between Kentucky and Syracuse (UK won but did not cover). For the record, the largest spread in semifinal history occurred in 1972. Ironically, it was UCLA over Louisville and the Bill Walton-led Bruins covered the 17-point number in a 96-77 victory. This weekend’s number will not get that high, even though Gonzaga is just the sixth team since 1985 to win its first four Tournament games by 15+ points. As you (probably) already know, two more straight up wins and Mark Few’s team becomes the first team to go unbeaten since Indiana in 1976. The semifinal with more intrigue will be Baylor (-5) vs. Houston. Like the Gonzaga-UCLA game, the total has ticked down a half-point from the opener so far. If you are wondering, in a hypothetical National Title Game matchup vs. Gonzaga, Baylor would be a 5-point underdog. Houston would be +9.5.  But these teams should only worry about each other for right now, not Gonzaga. Baylor is 3-1 ATS in its four Tourney wins. The lone game they did not cover was the 1st round vs. Hartford, a 79-55 win where they were laying 25.5.  Houston is 2-2 at the betting window in its four games, the worst ATS mark among the Final Four teams.  Gonzaga is 4-0 ATS. UCLA is 5-0 ATS (they were in the “First Four.”)  Two of UCLA’s five wins required overtime. The win over Michigan was by two points. Houston and Gonzaga are both 3-1 Under in Tourney action. UCLA is 3-2 Under. Baylor is 2-2. Another intriguing aspect of the Gonzaga-UCLA matchup is tempo. Gonzaga plays at the 6th fastest adjusted tempo in the nation. UCLA is among the 20 SLOWEST. Houston plays slow as well (328th) while Baylor (186th) is middle of the pack in that regard.  Gonzaga is #1 in the country (by a lot) in points per game scored at 91.6. Baylor is 6th (83.7 PPG). Houston (55th) and UCLA (126th) are much further down the list in points per game, but both are in the top 13 in offensive efficiency (as are Gonzaga and Baylor).Houston is #2 in the country in points allowed at 57.6 per game. None of the other three are close to that as Baylor is next highest at 62nd while UCLA and Gonzaga are outside the top 100. But all three still allow fewer than 69 PPG. It should be an exciting finish to the NCAA Tournament! I’m looking forward to it. 

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European Soccer: What To Look For After The Break

Sunday, Mar 28, 2021

Like every other bettor, the NCAA Tournament has been my main focus in March. But now is also a good time to take inventory “across the pond” as the four major European soccer leagues are set to resume this week after an international break. What I’ll do here is look at the races for the Champions League spots (top four) as well as the races to avoid relegation (bottom three) in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga. Premier League Current Top Four: Manchester City (71 points), Manchester United (57), Leicester City (56), Chelsea (51)Man City is obviously running away from the pack. They can cement their status as the top side in Europe by winning the Champions League two months from now. Man U and Leicester City, the latter being a bit of a surprise, both seem pretty safe when it comes to UCL qualifying for next season. It’s a little interesting that Man U is the only one of the top four not in the semis of this season’s FA Cup. Chelsea has drawn Man City in the FA Cup semis and has just a two point lead over fifth place West Ham in the EPL. Among teams currently outside the top four, I believe Tottenham (48 points) would be the most likely to break through.Current Bottom Three: Fulham (26 points), West Bromwich Albion (18), Sheffield United (14)West Brom and Sheffield are both locks to be relegated next season. I expect Fulham to catch and pass Newcastle United (28 points) even though the Magpies have a game in hand. Currently, Newcastle has an inferior goal differential and one more loss than Fulham, who is desperately trying to avoid a “one and done” in the English top flight (they were promoted this season).Bundesliga Current Top Four: Bayern Munich (61 points), RB Leipzig (57), VfL Wolfsburg (51), Eintracht Frankfurt (47)As was expected, Bayern and Leipzig are both locks to finish 1-2. The big question is whether the two “upstarts” - Wolfsburg and Frankfurt - can maintain their current positions. They both have the same number of losses (3) as the top two sides. Wolfsburg, with an eight-point cushion, should feel fairly safe. Frankfurt, who has been beaten just one time since Jan 12, is a side I expected to be improved this campaign. More “decorated” sides - Borussia Dortmund (43 points) and Bayer Leverkusen (40) - are in the rear view mirror. A match this Saturday at Dortmund looms large, though so do BVB’s nine defeats. I think Wolfsburg and Frankfurt hold on.Current Bottom Three: FC Cologne (23), Arminia Bielefeld (22), Schalke 04 (10)The key here is the team that finishes third from the bottom enters a relegation playoff with the team that finishes third in Bundesliga 2, so it’s not automatic relegation. Obviously, Schalke is going to be relegated. But above them, five teams are separated by just two points and that includes Hertha Berlin (24) and Mainz (24). Right now, Mainz is the highest they’ve been in the table all season. I would not be surprised if they fell back into the relegation zone. Bielefeld is probably a good bet to finish in the bottom three as well. My guess is Koln lives to fight in the German top flight another year. Serie ACurrent Top Four: Internazionale (65 points), AC Milan (59), Juventus (55), Atalanta (55)Inter is set to end Juve’s nine-year run atop Serie A. I expect Juve and Atalanta to also comfortably finish within the top four. In fifth place is Napoli (53 points), who has a better YTD goal differential than Milan, one that is on par with Juve and Atalanta. But the fact that Milan has a nine-point cushion over Napoli is huge. Napoli having been beaten eight times is a killer. The big dropoff (in points) in Serie A comes between 7th and 8th place, but I feel both AS Roma (50 points) and Lazio (49) are closer to the mid-table sides than they are the top five. Goal differential certainly backs my assessment up there. Two of Napoli’s next three matches are very winnable, so they can catch Milan, who seems curiously underpriced for their next two fixtures. But Napoli must make their move now.Current Bottom Three: Cagliari (22 points), Parma (19), Crotone (15)Parma and Crotone are getting relegated. Cagliari likely joins them as the one thing I’m fairly confident in projecting at the bottom of the Serie A table is that Torino (23 points) will AVOID relegation. Torino has a better GD than the two sides ahead of them. One of those is Benevento, whose -24 GD is third worst in the league. But they have 29 points and having a seven point edge over the bottom three is huge right now. I’d say if there’s one team that could fall into the bottom three, it’s Benevento as Torino should pass them by season’s end.La LigaCurrent Top Four: Atletico Madrid (66 points), Barcelona (62), Real Madrid (60), Sevilla FC (55)This race has been decided for some time now as there’s a 10 point gap between the top four and everyone else. If Barca can pull off finishing first over Atletico, it would be an incredible achievement given how we all viewed the two sides a couple months ago. I have no idea how Real Betis (45 points) has caught Real Sociedad for 5th, given their terrible start to the season. I think Sociedad and Villareal deserve to finish above Betis and Granada, but it’s been a somewhat strange season in La Liga. Current Bottom Three: Eibar (23 points), Alaves (23), HuescaUnlike the other three leagues, there are no locks for relegation yet. If I had to guarantee one, I’d say Alaves, who has the worst GD (-21) and most losses (15). There are five clubs that are seven or fewer points clear of safety right now. Among them, I’d say Cadiz is the most vulnerable based on GD. 

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NBA: Potential Risers & Fallers

Saturday, Feb 27, 2021

Potential Risers1. Atlanta - Remember that 4-1 start? Since then, the Hawks are just 10-18. They are currently 11th in the East. However, they have both a positive scoring differential and net efficiency rating for the season. So they’ve inarguably outscored their opponents while outplaying them on a per possession basis. Don’t be surprised if they climb as high as 6th in the East by season’s end and win the Southeast Division.  2. Dallas - The Mavs finished 7th in the West last season, largely because they were 2-11 SU in games decided by three points or less, a league worst. I figured they’d be a shoo-in to move up in the standings. But after 31 games, their record stands at just 15-16. The good news is there are still plenty of games left. I think the ceiling would be a 5th place finish. Currently, they are 9th. This team has NOT done well off an ATS win or when playing without rest. I expect that to change.3. New Orleans - The Pelicans are similar to the Hawks in that their point differential & net efficiency rating indicates they should be closer to .500. They are currently 11th in the West with a 14-18 record. One thing I notice is that 27 of their 32 games have come on one or zero days’ rest. Hopefully, the schedule breaks better for them in the second half. Zion Williamson has looked great recently. The Pelicans’ last 10 games have all gone Over the total, so you know they can score.Potential Fallers 1. Portland - The Blazers are 28th in defensive efficiency, missing two of their three best players and have suffered six 20+ point defeats. Yet somehow they are currently tied for 5th place in the West. Don’t expect that to last, however. By season’s end, they’ll be fighting for a play-in spot. This team has been lucky to this point. Their six wins by three points or less are tied for most in the league.2. Charlotte - The Hornets are already starting to fade. This is a team that’s been an underdog in 25 of its 32 games. They were expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The East is so depth-shy that there will be multiple teams finishing below them this season and even a play-in spot cannot be discounted. But they aren’t going to maintain a .500 record moving forward.3. Philadelphia - The Sixers are not as good as either the Bucks or the Nets. I do not expect they’ll finish with the best record in the conference, which is something they currently own. 4. Cleveland - This one may seem oddly placed as the Cavaliers are 12-21 and unquestionably considered one of the worst teams in the league. But I believe them to be THE worst team and expect a bottom of the standings finish by season’s end. 

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NCAA Tournament Handicapping: Defensive Efficiency Is Key!

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021

Before you know it, the NCAA Tournament will be underway. With that in mind, I wanted to discuss a key metric I look at every year when handicapping March Madness (well except 2020). Defensive efficiency is key. For those that are unaware, defensive efficiency refers not to the number of points a particular team allows per game, but rather over a given number of possessions. Typically, a team’s defensive efficiency rating is extracted from the number of points it allows per 100 possessions. The site makes even further adjustments and their ratings are the ones I lean on for my own College Basketball picks. Looking at efficiency gives you a better “feel” for how a team really plays defense as opposed to simply looking at the number of points they allow per game. Some teams play at much slower tempos and thus there are a fewer number of possessions per game. Therefore, they are likely to give up a lower number of points per game. (Note: if they don’t, that means they are pretty bad defensively!) Conversely, if a team is giving up fewer points in a game that has more possessions, then they are a significantly better defensive team. Even if you don’t care to understand defensive efficiency, that’s okay. The aforementioned KenPom posts every team’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating and you can view it there. The current top 10 teams in defensive efficiency rating (per KenPom) are: Loyola Chicago, Alabama, Memphis, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Baylor, Houston, Wisconsin, Illinois and VCU. Obviously, you’ve got some names on that list that you’d expect to see. Gonzaga and Baylor are both undefeated and the top two teams in the country. Alabama, Tennessee, Houston, Wisconsin and Illinois are all Top 25 teams you’d expect will perform well in the NCAA Tournament.But there are definitely two names on that list that should jump out to you. First and foremost, you’ve got Loyola Chicago, who is #1 in the entire country in defensive efficiency. The Ramblers are currently ranked in the Top 25, but only projected to be an 8-seed by the “esteemed” Joe Lunardi. In my opinion, this is NOT a team that any #1 seed would want to face in the Round of 32. I would almost certainly take the points with Loyola against any higher seed come tourney time. Remember - they made the Final Four three years ago! VCU is another team to keep an eye on. Right now, the Rams are very much a bubble team. But as a likely double digit seed, they’d make for a very live dog in the Round of 64. Unfortunately for Memphis, they are currently NOT projected to be a NCAA Tournament team. They’d be a real dark horse (to pull an upset or two, not to win the whole thing obviously) if they were somehow to make the field.Underdogs with strong defensive efficiency ratings make for strong plays come NCAA Tournament time. On the flip side, favorites with suspect defensive efficiency ratings are vulnerable to getting bounced early. There are likely to be a handful of teams in this year’s Tourney that will get high seeds despite defensive efficiency ratings outside the top 75. They are: Iowa, Ohio State and Villanova. Ohio State is even in the running for a #1 seed! I would not pick any of these squads to make it to the Final Four. Keep all this in mind when the brackets are released next month. It will help you be a more successful NCAA Tournament bettor. 

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NCAA Basketball: Overrated and Underrated Teams

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

I did this last month and thought it was somewhat instructive. So I’ll once again compare the current Top 25 rankings (AP/Coaches) and my own power ratings and give you a list of teams I think are overrated and underrated.OVERRATED Missouri (#12 AP/Coaches) - The Tigers did lose earlier this week, so they figure to fall a bit when the new rankings are published Monday. That fall won’t be as precipitous though after holding off TCU (in overtime) on Saturday. In my own power rankings, Mizzou barely cracks the top 40 and I’m pleased that the KenPom ratings say the same. Do not expect this team to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.Virginia Tech (#20 AP/#19 Coaches) - Admittedly, now is not a good time to call the Hokies “overrated” as they just upset Virginia on Saturday. They’ve also beaten Villanova! But this team has done the bulk of its damage in Blacksburg, where last I checked the NCAA Tournament WON’T be taking place. The Hokies are going to move up in the next rankings and I feel it might be a good time to fade as they are just ahead of Missouri in my own power ratings, outside the top 30. UNDERRATEDIllinois (#19 AP/#24 Coaches) - So the Illini are going to move up after beating Iowa on Friday. But they still won’t be high enough, at least in my estimation. This is easily a Top 10 team in America and maybe even Top 5. There are only seven teams in the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (per KenPom). The Illini are one of the seven.Colorado (NR) - So the Buffaloes loss to Utah on Saturday pretty much guarantees they won’t be moving into the Top 25. Believe it or not, I faded the Buffs on Saturday. So it may seem strange I’m still calling them “underrated.” But consider that they led the Utes 65-46 with just under nine minutes to go. This is definitely one of the 25 best teams in the country.Arkansas (NR) - The Razorbacks went just 4-5 in January after I called them “underrated” in last month’s column. That’s not enough to dissuade me. All of their losses have been to good teams. Admittedly, most of their wins have been against bad teams. But the SEC remains wide open and I’d put the Hogs up against anybody in the conference with the exception of Tennessee.  

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NBA: How Do The Teams Stack Up So Far?

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

We’re a little more than one month into the NBA season, so I wanted to share some thoughts on how the two conferences are shaping up. If you’re unaware, the playoff format has been altered. There will be a  "play-in tournament" for teams ranked 7th through 10th in each conference from May 18–21. The 7th place team will play the 8th place team, with the winner earning the 7-seed. The 9th place team will play the 10th place team with the loser of that game being eliminated. The 7th-8th loser will then play the 9th-10th winner, with the winner of that game earning the 8-seed and the loser being eliminated.The top six in each conference do not have to worry about the “play-in tournament” and are assured of playoff berths.Let’s look at who I think has a good shot at finishing in the top six in the East and West. East: The current top six of Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Indiana, Boston & Atlanta are who I expect to be the top six when the regular season concludes. The order will likely shuffle with Milwaukee being my pick to finish on top, which they’ve done the previous two seasons. The Bucks are #1 in the East in both point differential and net efficiency. Brooklyn is #2 in both and now that they have James Harden, will probably finish no lower than third. I expect them to duke it out with Philadelphia for the #2 seed. The Sixers have cleaned up against sub-.500 foes so far (11-2 SU) and did just beat the Lakers, but I don’t see them making the Conference Finals. Atlanta is among the league’s most improved teams so far and as the likely winner of the Southeast Division could finish ahead of Indiana and Boston, if all goes well.  As for the play-in spots, I think you have to look at the likelihood of both Toronto and Miami improving. These teams have been negatively impacted by COVID with the Raptors playing home games in Orlando and the Heat having a thin roster. The East is too weak for these teams not to finish in the top 10. It’s so weak that even teams like Charlotte, New York and Cleveland have a shot at making the playoffs. When all is said and done, expect the Raptors and Heat to round out the top eight. West: The top three have really solidified themselves already. As expected, the Lakers and Clippers are among those three teams. The surprise is Utah, who has won 11 in a row as of this writing, and currently leads the conference. There’s no “smoke and mirrors” either. The Jazz are 12-3 in games decided by 10 points or more and have the best point differential in the NBA. They’ve covered the spread in all 11 games during this win streak as well and have the best ATS record in the league. The Jazz have actually been favored in 17 of their 19 games so far, so the strong start should actually NOT be that surprising. They have yet to face the Lakers, but did beat the Clippers on New Year’s Day.Denver, who has finished top three in the West each of the previous two seasons, would seem like a lock to finish in the top six again this year. I’ve been very disappointed with the Mavericks recently as they’ve lost five straight to fall to 8-12 SU. But like the Raptors and Heat in the East, expect the Mavs to rise up and I’ve got them projected for the top six here. Phoenix is a young and exciting team and I think they’ll also finish above the “cut line” for the playoff scenario.The West is deeper than the East, making the race for the Play-In spots more intriguing. Unlike the East, I think there are some teams that you can easily “write off” though. Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Minnesota are all pretty bad and I would be stunned if any of those three finished in the top 10. That would leave six teams - Memphis, San Antonio, Houston, Portland, Golden State and New Orleans - fighting for the four spots. All of these teams would make the playoffs if they were in the East. They all have significant flaws, Portland’s horrible defensive efficiency for example, but those things can be overcome. I think it’s pretty clear the Warriors are never getting back to their previous championship heights. Memphis and Houston are both solid defensive teams. San Antonio is one of only three teams currently covering at a 60% rate or higher, so they’ve been undervalued. New Orleans is the worst of the six teams, according to every metric. Since it’s so early in the season, I’m not really comfortable choosing which four of these six will get the chance to play playoff basketball.I’ll be checking back in as the season progresses. 

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CBB Entering 2021: Underrated Teams

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Every week, I like to take a look at the AP & Coaches Polls in College Basketball and compare them to my own Top 25 power ratings. It’s always fun (and instructive!) to spot which teams the pollsters and I aren’t necessarily in agreement on. As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2021, here are three teams that I feel are underrated by the pollsters. None are ranked in the Top 25, but all of them SHOULD be. Interestingly enough, ALL three hail from the SEC. So either the pollsters aren’t watching the SEC or my power ratings are giving too much credence to these teams’ non-conference schedules.1. Arkansas - I just cashed an SEC Game of the Month on the Razorbacks Wednesday. They went to Auburn and won by 12. That win keeps the Hogs unbeaten (9-0), yet they are surprisingly unranked. If they beat #12 Missouri on Saturday, you have to figure they’ll climb into the next poll. This is a senior laden team that plays very good defense. They are #15 in my power ratings. 2. LSU - Right behind Arkansas in my power ratings is LSU (#16). The Tigers’ only loss of the season was by four points at St. Louis. Since then, four of their five wins have been by 22 points. They’ve got a huge showdown looming with Florida (more on them in a moment) this weekend. 3. Florida - Wednesday night saw the Gators play for the 1st time since Keyontae Johnson collapsed. That very scary situation occurred on December 12th against Florida State, the Gators only loss of the season. Johnson was the Preseason SEC Player of the Year, so losing him is no “small potatoes.” But the Gators showed they can be quite formidable even without their star as they destroyed Vanderbilt, 91-72, in Nashville. I’ve got the Gators as a Top 20 team. 

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CBB Entering 2021: Overrated Teams

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Every week, I like to take a look at the AP & Coaches Polls in College Basketball and compare them to my own Top 25 power ratings. It’s always fun (and instructive!) to spot which teams the pollsters and I aren’t necessarily in agreement on. As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2021, here are three teams that I feel are overrated by the pollsters. All are ranked in the Top 25, but none of them SHOULD be. We’ve got one from the SEC, a conference I covered extensively in my underrated College Basketball teams column. The other two are from the Big 10. 1. Missouri - The Tigers are ranked #12 in the country, but I flat out disagree with that assessment as I’ve got a number of SEC teams rated above them. I had no issue laying a short number against the Tigers, in Columbia, when they faced Tennessee in a battle of unbeatens Wednesday. Sure enough, the Volunteers crushed the Tigers 73-53. Up next for Mizzou is a date with Arkansas, a team that made my underrated list. A loss there and the Tigers could tumble out of the Top 25.2. Michigan State - I bet a lot of you wish I would have written this column prior to Monday as that was when Sparty suffered a humiliating 81-56 defeat in Minnesota. It was their third consecutive defeat, all of those coming in Big 10 play. That’s dropped Tom Izzo’s team down to #17, but my power ratings say they shouldn’t even be ranked. Their best win is the lone time I played them (vs. Duke), but Duke is another team that has no business in the Top 25. Neither the KenPom ratings nor my own consider Michigan State a top 50 team in the country right now.3. Northwestern - Get ready to “sell high” on the Wildcats. Their current #19 ranking is the program’s highest this “late” in the season since 1969! It’s only the 7th time they’ve ever been ranked! After opening Big 10 play with three consecutive upsets (Mich St, Indiana, Ohio St), N’western lost at Iowa (by 15) on Tuesday. Look for that to start a downturn. The upcoming schedule is BRUTAL with the next four games all against legit Top 25 competition. 

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A Look At European Soccer (Serie A & La Liga)

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

With soccer having returned all across Europe last week following the season’s second international break, I thought it would be a good time to examine what’s going on in the “Big 4” leagues.Here I’ll take a look at a pair of wide open leagues: Serie A (Italy) and La Liga (Spain) Serie A: This was supposed to be the year that Juventus’ nine-year run at the top came to an end. They are currently fourth with 17 points. Clubs such as Inter Milan or Atalanta were the picks of many to supplant Juventus. Fresh off an impressive 3-0 win over Sassuolo, Inter is tied for 2nd. Atalanta is 8th as they’ve conceded 16 times, the most of any side in the top half. The big story is AC Milan running ahead of everybody with 23 points taken out of a possible 27. They have not been beaten. Neither has Juventus, but they have four wins and five draws as opposed to AC Milan’s seven wins and two draws. Aforementioned Sassuolo is still tied with Inter for second, but I expect them to drop. Napoli is sitting in 5th and could be the club who moves past Sassuolo into the top four. In the relegation zone, we have a number of sides that could finish bottom three. Don’t be surprised to see Benevento drop there as they’ve conceded 21 times, second most in all of Serie A. La Liga: No one expected Real Sociedad to be running out in front, but they are. Atletico Madrid is just one point behind and has conceded only twice in nine matches with zero losses! Sociedad has conceded only five times and lost once. As tumultuous of a season as it has been, you can never discount Barcelona, the only other La Liga side with a positive double digit goal differential (+10). Barca (currently 7th) should make its way into the top four shortly. What about Sevilla? They’ve recently made a move and are 5th in the table. Real Madrid is 4th. Some of the pretenders have started to fall off, but I’m still surprised to see Cadiz (-3 GD) and Granada (-6) in 6th and 8th place. Not convinced Villareal (3rd) is going to hold its current position either. One side you may want to look to bet against moving forward is Real Betis, who has the worst goal differential in La Liga (-11) but still sits 15th and out of the relegation zone. Yet they have conceded more times than anybody (23) and have the most losses (7). Those four wins seem fluky. 

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A Look At European Soccer (EPL & Bundesliga)

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

With soccer having returned all across Europe last week following the season’s second international break, I thought it would be a good time to examine what’s going on in the “Big 4” leagues.Here I’ll look at the English Premier League as well as the German Bundesliga EPL - Many expected Liverpool to take a step back after last year’s historic campaign. Yet there the Reds are, tied with Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the table (21 points). Thus far, we’ve seen a revolving door of contenders in the Premier League with clubs like Everton, Southampton and Aston Villa spending time on top. All three of those sides have fallen off the pace a bit and now currently sit 8th, 6th and 10th respectively. For my money, Tottenham and Chelsea have been the two best sides. Right behind Chelsea is Leicester City in the 4th spot, but they just suffered a terrible loss to Fulham, one of the four clubs that will spend most of the year fighting to avoid relegation (West Brom, Burnley & Sheffield United are the others). Manchester City and Manchester United being middle of the table teams is surprising. Bundesliga - Any discussion of this league must start with Bayern Munich, the best side in all of Europe. Not surprisingly, they are at the top of the table with 22 points. They have scored 31 times in nine matches. Besides Bayern, there are six other sides that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in Germany’s top flight. Neither Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have a loss on their resumes, which is something that even Bayern can’t claim. Yet the two undefeated sides still rank just third and fifth in the table due to an abundance of draws. RP Leipzig and Dortmund were both expected to finish in the top four and that’s where both currently are. They each have a +12 goal differential. Only Bayern is better in that metric. Don’t discount Union Berlin (+10 goal differential) or Gladbach either. The bottom of this league is pretty bad, particularly Schalke, who is still winless in its last 25 Bundesliga matches. 

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NFL: 2 Teams That Are Better Than You Think

Friday, Oct 30, 2020

Anyone who regularly follows my picks knows that I am a big believer in YTD scoring differential being a reliable predictor of future outcomes. Yesterday I took a look at three NFL teams that aren’t as good as their record says they are. Now it’s time to take a look at two teams that are better than you might realize.1. Tampa Bay (5-2, +80 pt differential) - The Buccaneers were likely to improve this year for a variety of reasons. But, despite two losses, they are even better than I’d thought. Coming off a 45-20 win over Las Vegas last week, the Bucs now own the league’s top point differential. Tom Brady and the offense commands the attention, but the defense is arguably the best in the NFL. You can’t run on them. They are allowing just 66 rush yards per game! Looking at the two losses, one was in Week 1 whey they outgained the Saints in New Orleans. The other was a Thursday night road game in Chicago where they outgained the Bears substantially on a per play basis, yet lost 20-19 on a last second field goal. Tampa Bay projects to be favored in almost every game from here on out. They have a shot at being the NFC’s top seed. 2. Miami (3-3, +47 point differential) - This is the real surprise of the list. The Dolphins are the only team in the AFC East with a positive point differential. All three wins have been by at least 18 points. The three losses were to New England, Buffalo and Seattle, two of those being one-score games. I believe this team has a legit shot at winning the division this season. Head coach Brian Flores has obviously “rolled the dice” by making the change at QB to Tua Tagovailoa, but he did so on a bye week and Tua obviously has more upside than veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. The team’s point differential is actually the 7th best in football right now. We shall see if that holds up. This week, the Fins are a dog at home vs. the Rams. Next week they’ll be a dog in Arizona. That means they will have been the underdog in seven of their first eight games. The second half schedule looks to be easier and the AFC East could be decided in Week 17 at Buffalo.

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NFL: 3 Teams That Aren't As Good As Their Record

Thursday, Oct 29, 2020

Anyone who regularly follows my picks knows that I am a big believer in YTD scoring differential being a reliable predictor of future outcomes. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at three NFL teams that aren’t as good as their record says they are. 1. Bears (WL record: 5-2, Point Differential -2) - It should be common sense that a team that’s been outscored on the season probably should not have a 5-2 record. Anyone who watched the Bears play on Monday Night Football against the Rams probably doesn’t think they should be 5-2 either. This is a team that’s been extremely fortunate in the early going. They have won two games in which they trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter. They somehow beat Tampa Bay despite being outgained 5.3 to 4.1 on a yards per play basis. The offense isn’t good as it’s been held under 20 points in half of its games, two of those coming since the move to Nick Foles. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears ended up missing the playoffs. 2. Bills (WL record: 5-2, Point Differential: -4) - I’m not nearly as high on this Bills team as some others seem to be. Once again, having a negative point differential seems to justify my position. The Bills snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday by beating the Jets 18-10. But they did not cover the large spread. It’s also worth mentioning they’ve beaten the winless Jets twice. They have no other wins by more than seven points and were dominated in games against two of the AFC’s best teams (KC, Tennessee). The offense has been held to an average of 17 PPG the L3 weeks, a stretch which has seen them go 0-3 ATS. A win this Sunday against New England would put the Bills at 6-2 and firmly in control of the AFC East. But this is an average, not great team. 3. Cleveland (WL record: 5-2, Point Differential -21) - This is the biggest “offender” on our list. The Browns were dominated in losses to the Ravens and Steelers, but are 5-0 otherwise. Those losses to the Ravens and Steelers were by a combined 63 points. Three of the five wins have come at the expense of Cincinnati (both close) and Washington (were +5 in turnovers). The upcoming schedule is favorable and the addition of a 7th playoff spot this year may very well end up being what snaps Cleveland’s 18-year playoff drought. But this isn’t a very good team. Note their point differential is roughly the same as the 1-6 Falcons!

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2020 NBA Futures Betting: Dallas Mavericks to Win Western Conference

Saturday, Jun 27, 2020

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

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NFL Teams Set to Decline in 2020

Wednesday, Jun 03, 2020

Earlier, I took a long look at NFL teams whose win total should improve from last season. Here I’ll be focused on teams that will win fewer games in 2020 (compared to 2019).  Similar to my “improved list,” oddsmakers are "onto these teams" (check projected win totals below). So I would not say that there’s a ton of value in betting these numbers. However, I do think more than a few will finish UNDER their respective win totals. At the end of this article, you’ll mind my FAVORITE NFL Win total bet for 2020!The first number (listed next to the team) is how many games they won last season. The second number in () is how many they are currently projected to win this season.1. Packers 13 (9)  - Was this the worst 13-3 SU team EVER last year? Probably. The Packers had a pythagorean win expectation of only 9.8 in 2019. They only outscored opponents by 63 points, which was a smaller margin than the 10-6 Vikings (+104), 9-7 Titans (+71) and even 8-8 Cowboys (+113). Green Bay went 9-1 SU in one-score games last season. They were actually outgained on yard per play basis and were +12 in turnover margin. The only saving grace for this year’s playoff prospects is that they play in a weak NFC North.2. Patriots 12 (9)  - The loss of Tom Brady heavily factored into this number. Brady’s replacement (as of now) is Jarrett Stidham, who is a 4th round draft pick with no prior starting NFL experience. Stidham doesn’t exactly have a lot of offensive weapons at his disposal either. After posting a league best turnover margin (+21) last year (against a very easy schedule), the Pats’ defense is set to decline as well.  3. Texans 10 (7.5)  - Coach/GM Bill O’ Brien had a dismal offseason with several questionable personnel decisions. The most flagrant was trading WR DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. The Texans were actually outscored despite winning 10 games last year. They were outgained on a per play basis as well. Among AFC South teams, both the Titans and Colts are better.4. 49ers 13 (10.5) -  The 49ers had a huge jump in wins last year (went 4-12 SU in 2018). Thus, the “plexiglass principle” kicks in. Last year’s NFC Champs should still be favored to win the West, but they won’t be going 13-3 again.5. Ravens 14 (11.5)  - Similarly, Lamar Jackson and company are not going to win 14+ games for a second straight year! No team in NFL history has ever done that. Still, the Ravens join the Chiefs as the clear top two teams in the AFC.6. Seahawks 11 (9)  - Last year’s Seahawks were the worst 11-win team, perhaps in history.  They benefited from a +12 TO margin and EVERY win was by eight points or less. (Their point differential was only +7!) Their pythagorean win expectation was only 8.2. Even with Russell Wilson, I see Seattle as a single-digit win team in 2020. The NFC West is tough. My favorite win total on the board - Here's an instance where my numbers indicate a team will decline next year and that's NOT being accounted for in the oddsmakers number! Raiders Under 7.5 (Went 7-9 last year) - This is by far my favorite win total on the board, and the odds are currently -105 at BetOnline Sportsbook. The Raiders were -106 in point differential last year. Compare that to the 5-11 Chargers (only -8) and the fellow 7-9 Broncos (-34). They were 7-3 SU in one-score games. Their pythagorean win expectation was only 5.2.  Studies show moving into a new stadium hurts home field advantage for the first two seasons. It should be a much tougher first year in Las Vegas than what’s being expected. Look for the Silver & Black to finish dead last in the AFC West this season. 

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NFL Teams Set to Improve in 2020

Tuesday, Jun 02, 2020

Six NFL Teams That Will Improve Their Record in 20201.    Bengals - Cincinnati had the worst record in the league last season (2-14 SU). That allowed them to take QB Joe Burrow with the #1 pick in April’s Draft. The Bengals are projected for 5.5 wins in 2020, so oddsmakers see them as likely to improve - substantially. It’s not just because of Burrow. This team wasn't actually as bad in 2019 as you might think. They led in 12 of 16 games. But they were 0-8 (straight up) in one-score affairs and also had a -14 turnover differential. Those numbers will improve this season. It’s a case of “low-hanging fruit” here, but the Bengals WILL win more games in 2020. 2.   Lions - Detroit wasn’t much better than Cincinnati last year. They finished 3-13 (SU). Unlike the Bengals, the Lions did not draft a QB of the future. They didn’t have to though. They are getting back a (hopefully) healthy Matthew Stafford, which should certainly help their 2020 prospects. A futile record in one-score games (3-8 SU) last year was another problem for the Lions, who lost only one game by more than 13 points. One reason I see the Lions being able to possibly go Over this season’s win total (6.5) is that they play in the NFC North, an “up for grabs” division that has no dominant team.3.    Chargers - The Lightning Bolts finished 5-11 SU last season, but were only outscored by eight points! They were actually favored to win nine games, so it was a clear case of underachieving. A league worst -17 turnover differential and a 2-9 SU record in one-score games did them in. Philip Rivers is gone after being a big contributory factor to that poor TO margin. But I worry about how LA is going to replace him. Veteran Tyrod Taylor will presumably begin the season as the starter, even though the team used the #6 overall draft pick on Justin Herbert. Still, I expect LA to be closer to .500 this season, which is right in line with the oddsmakers’ projection of 8 wins. Despite having (arguably) the weakest home field advantage in the league, you have to figure the Chargers will improve upon last season’s 2-6 SU home record. They also failed to win a single division game last season. Look for improvement in that area as well. 4.    Bucs - Even before acquiring Tom Brady (and Rob Gronkowski), Tampa Bay was a team likely to improve in 2020. They outscored and outgained their opponents last year (both on a per game and per play basis). Jameis Winston was the big reason the Bucs were -13 in turnover margin last season. Brady will help cut down on that number and also improve on last year’s 3-6 SU record  in one-score games. By the way, the Bucs’ defense was #5 in DVOA last year. I’m a little scared of how trendy the Bucs are this year, but the fact they could be favorites in as many as 13 games shows the oddsmakers are taking them very seriously. I do see them challenging the Saints for first place in the NFC South and they are a strong bet to win at least 10 games! 5.    Cowboys - It’s definitely fair to say that the Cowboys underachieved last year. They were favored in all but two games, finished with the league’s 6th best point differential (+113), yet ended up 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The Dak Prescott contract situation is a perceived “distraction,” but don’t let it distract you from the fact this is one of the more talented teams in the entire league, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Perhaps most important of all is that Jason Garrett was FINALLY relieved of his head coaching duties. Mike McCarthy probably wasn’t the best possible replacement for Garrett and an unprecedented offseason doesn’t exactly help a first year coach. But McCarthy did win 10 or more games EIGHT times with the Packers. Oddsmakers project his new team to win 10 games in 2020. 6.    Cardinals - I’m starting to see Arizona as a darkhorse team in the NFC West. Some of that has to do with the fact that I project the three other teams in the division (49ers, Seahawks, Rams) to all win fewer games this season compared to last. Fleecing Houston in the DeAndre Hopkins trade is another big reason why the Cardinals may fly higher than their projected win total of 7.5 in 2020. 

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