Sports Picks For Sale - Sean Murphy

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • 17-5 NHL moneyline run
  • 35-15 run on 10* NBA sides
  • 39-28 run on 10* MLB moneylines


Sean Murphy’s handicapping success is renowned, and his winning advice has been featured on TV and radio shows across North America.

Active since:  2003

Location:  Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Sean Murphy made his professional debut as lead handicapper for Pat Miller Sports in 2003, continuing on with The Miller Group from 2006 through 2009.  Sean broke away to found his own sports service in September 2009 and has now delivered 12 of 17 winning NFL seasons.  Sean’s also cashed big in NCAA Football, as he’s won each of the last 3 seasons, recording 55% of his overall bets.  A key factor in Sean’s success is his knack for Over/Unders, which is no surprise given Sean’s reputation as a ‘numbers guru.’  Indeed, Sean’s knack for handling numbers is deep-rooted.  He owns a business degree, with a major in finance, and is a member of the prestigious Beta Gamma Sigma honor society for business students and scholars.  

Although Sean took a circuitous route to become a professional handicapper, sports betting has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.  In fact, he still fondly recalls his first successful venture into sports betting – a winning three-game NFL ‘Pro-Line’ parlay (offered by the Canadian lottery) when he was just 12 years old.  Sean — along with the rest of his 7th grade class — was hooked.  His passion for sports is unmatched.  The phrase “find something you love to do and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life” is Murph's mantra.  Sean's love for numbers, combined with his passion for sports, makes a career in sports handicapping the perfect fit.  

After building The Miller Group from the ground up, and turning it into one of America’s most respected handicapping services, Sean has continued to prosper as an independent, thanks to an honest approach and strong belief in delivering value to the customer.  Sean’s selections are based on his extensive knowledge of the game, and his approach is both situational and statistical.  He prides himself on going against the majority and thinking outside the box, and his unique analysis keeps his clients coming back.  When you purchase one of Sean’s selections, you can always count on insightful and expert information to back it up.  Sean rates all of his plays from 8* to 10* with free plays qualifying as 8* releases, and the majority of his selections warranting a 10* designation.  As you would expect, the higher the rating, the stronger the play.

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MLB - Over / Under - Wed, Jun 19 @ 01:05 PM


San Diego Padres vs Philadelphia Phillies

San Diego Padres vs Philadelphia Phillies Over 8.5 (-125) (Consensus 3)

Wednesday MLB Free play. My selection is on the 'over' between San Diego and Philadelphia at 1:05 pm et on Wednesday. Last night's game between these two teams fell just short of the total with the Phillies rallying in the ninth inning for a 4-3 victory. I look for a higher-scoring affair on a h...

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MLB - Over / Under - Wed, Jun 19


1-2 last night. 29-17 last 46 MLB plays. 17-10 last 27 MLB totals. Sean's afternoon O/U SMASH is ready to deliver the...


MLB - Moneyline - Wed, Jun 19


1-2 last night. 29-17 last 46 MLB plays. Sean is back on the diamond with a TERRIFIC side situation on Wednesday as h...


MLB - Run Line - Wed, Jun 19


1-2 last night. 29-17 last 46 MLB plays. 64-40 last 104 MLB run-lines. Sean's RED HOT run on the bases rolls on with ...


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Betting the CFL: Rule Differences

Monday, Jun 03, 2024

Football, the quintessential American sport, has a cousin north of the border that boasts its own set of rules, strategies, and fervent fan base. From the size of the field to the number of players, the CFL showcases several distinctive rules that set it apart from its American counterpart, the NFL. Here's a look at some of these unique CFL rules as Thursday's kickoff to the 2024 season approaches. Field Dimensions One of the most striking differences between the CFL and NFL is the size of the field. While NFL fields measure 120 yards in length (including the end zones) and 53.3 yards in width, CFL fields are longer and wider. A CFL field spans 150 yards in length (including the end zones) and 65 yards in width, providing more space for players to maneuver and leading to a faster-paced game. Number of Players Another notable contrast lies in the number of players on the field. In the NFL, each team fields 11 players at a time, whereas in the CFL, teams have 12 players on the field per side. The extra player opens up various strategic possibilities, affecting both offense and defense strategies. Motion in the Backfield In the CFL, offensive players, except for the quarterback, are allowed to move towards the line of scrimmage before the snap. This rule, known as "the waggle," adds an element of unpredictability to offensive plays, as receivers can build momentum before the ball is snapped, making them harder to defend against. Downs and Distance While the NFL has four downs to advance the ball 10 yards and earn a new set of downs, the CFL has only three downs to gain 10 yards. This subtle difference makes each down more crucial in the CFL, often leading to more aggressive offensive strategies and higher-scoring games. Scoring Scoring in the CFL is similar to the NFL, with touchdowns, field goals, and safeties accounting for points. However, there are a few key distinctions. In the CFL, a touchdown is worth 6 points, like in the NFL, and teams have the option to attempt a one-point conversion (kicking the ball through the uprights) or a two-point conversion (running or passing the ball into the end zone). Additionally, a rouge, or single point, is awarded to a team if a kickoff, punt, or missed field goal is not returned out of the end zone by the opposing team. This unique rule adds an intriguing dynamic to special teams play. Punting and No Yards Punting plays a significant role in CFL strategy, as teams often utilize the larger field to pin their opponents deep in their own territory. However, to prevent injury and encourage exciting returns, the CFL has a "no yards" rule, which prohibits players from the kicking team from getting too close to the returner before the ball is caught. Violating this rule results in a penalty, giving the receiving team better field position. Overtime In the CFL, overtime is a thrilling affair that differs from the NFL's sudden-death format. Each team gets a chance to possess the ball at the opponent's 35-yard line and attempt to score. If the game remains tied after each team has had a possession, the process repeats until a winner is determined.

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Betting the WNBA: Rule Differences

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

After a brief hiatus in 2023, I'll be back covering the WNBA extensively this season. The regular season tips off on May 14th with Caitlin Clark making her much-awaited debut with the Indiana Fever. It promises to be one of the most intriguing WNBA campaigns to date, noting that the teams will take a break for the Olympics from July 18th to August 14th. Here's a look at a number of rule differences between the WNBA and NBA, for those not familiar with the women's game. Game Duration: WNBA games consist of four quarters, each lasting 10 minutes, while NBA games have four quarters of 12 minutes each.Ball Size: The WNBA uses a slightly smaller basketball compared to the NBA. The circumference of the WNBA ball is 28.5 inches, while the NBA ball has a circumference of 29.5 inches.Three-Point Line Distance: The distance of the three-point line in the WNBA is shorter than in the NBA. In the WNBA, the three-point line is approximately 22 feet 1.75 inches (6.75 meters) at the top of the key and 21 feet 8.25 inches (6.6 meters) in the corners, while in the NBA, it's 23 feet 9 inches (7.24 meters) at the top of the key and 22 feet (6.7 meters) in the corners. Shot Clock: The WNBA uses a 24-second shot clock, the same as the NBA, but in the WNBA, the shot clock resets to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound, while in the NBA, it resets to 14 seconds only if the offensive team gains possession of the ball after a missed shot. Foul Limit: Players in the WNBA are allowed six personal fouls before fouling out of the game, while in the NBA, players are allowed only six personal fouls. Restricted Area: The restricted area, also known as the "charge circle," is slightly smaller in the WNBA compared to the NBA. In the WNBA, it has a 4-foot radius from the center of the basket, while in the NBA, it has a 4-foot radius from the center of the basket. Technical Fouls: Technical fouls in the WNBA result in one free throw for the opposing team, while in the NBA, they result in one free throw and possession of the ball. Timeouts: WNBA teams have four timeouts per game (three 30-second timeouts and one 60-second timeout), while NBA teams have six timeouts per game (four 75-second and two 20-second timeouts).

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Betting the Second Round

Friday, May 03, 2024

Betting on the second round of the NHL playoffs requires a mix of strategy, analysis and a bit of luck. Following a trusted professional handicapper can help you filter out the noise and identify positive expected value on a daily basis. Here are some tips to consider as the field narrows to eight teams vying for Lord Stanley's Cup. Analyze Team Form: Look beyond just the win-loss record in the first round. Consider factors such as goal differentials, shots on goal, time of possession and overall performance. Teams that dominated statistically in the first round are likely to carry that momentum into the second round.Evaluate Head-to-Head Matchups: Look at how teams matched up against each other during the regular season. Pay attention to trends such as which team has had success against the other and why. Certain teams may have specific strengths or weaknesses that could be exploited in the playoffs.Assess Goaltending: Goaltending is often the most crucial position in hockey, especially in the playoffs. Look at statistics such as save percentage, goals-against average and performance under pressure. Also, consider the depth of each team's goaltending roster in case of injuries or poor performance.Special Teams Performance: Analyze power play and penalty kill percentages for each team. A strong power play can capitalize on opportunities and swing the momentum of a game, while a solid penalty kill can shut down opponents' scoring chances.Home Ice Advantage: Take into account each team's performance at home versus on the road during the regular season. Some teams thrive in front of their home crowd and have a distinct advantage, while others may struggle away from home. Also, consider the impact of travel and fatigue on teams playing on the road.Injuries and Lineup Changes: Stay updated on injuries and lineup changes leading up to and during the series. A key player being sidelined or returning from injury can significantly impact a team's performance and strategy. Also, consider how teams adjust their line combinations and defensive pairings due to injuries or matchups.Look Beyond Statistics: While statistics are essential, don't rely solely on them. Consider intangible factors such as team chemistry, leadership and playoff experience. Teams with veteran players who have been through deep playoff runs may have a mental edge over younger, less experienced teams.Manage Your Bankroll: Set a specific budget for your betting activities and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses by betting more than you can afford to lose. Consider using strategies such as unit betting, where you wager a consistent percentage of your bankroll on each bet, to minimize risk.Shop for the Best Odds: Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you're getting the best value for your bets. Even small differences in odds can have a significant impact on your overall profits, especially over the course of a long playoff series.Trust Your Instincts: While it's essential to do your research and analysis, don't discount your gut instincts. If something doesn't feel right about a particular bet or matchup, it's okay to pass or look for alternative betting opportunities. Trusting your instincts can help you avoid making rash decisions based solely on statistics or trends.Best of luck in round two!

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Revisiting Stanley Cup Futures Odds

Thursday, Apr 25, 2024

We're almost a week into the NHL Playoffs with every series having completed at least two games. As you would expect, we've seen some considerable shifts in Stanley Cup futures odds. Here's a look at some of the biggest moves and what to make of them as the opening round continues.Vegas Golden Knights: 8-1The Golden Knights entered their opening round series with the Dallas Stars as considerable underdogs. Not only did they steal home ice advantage with a victory in the opener but they went on to win Game 2 as well, taking a 2-0 series strangle-hold as the series moves to Las Vegas for Game 3 on Saturday. Note that the Knights have been terrific at home this season going 27-14. Looking ahead, the Knights would match up with the winner of the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche series next round. The Knights would undoubtedly be underdogs in that series as well but given the current wave the defending champions are riding (five wins in last six games) it might not be in your best interest to line up against them.Vancouver Canucks: 21-1The Canucks got some tough news following their 4-2 series-opening win over the Predators as they lost starting goaltender Thatcher Demko for an indefinite period of time with a lower body injury. That combined with the Canucks Game 2 defeat sent their Stanley Cup odds tumbling. I haven't been all that high on the Canucks all season but did cash a ticket with them in Game 1 against Nashville. At this point, Demko's status is critical as backup Casey DeSmith while serviceable simply isn't on the same level. Of course, it's important to remember the Golden Knights rode backup Adin Hill to a Stanley Cup victory last year while the Penguins lost starter Matt Murray during one of their Cup runs opening the door for Marc-Andre Fleury. DeSmith isn't Hill or Fleury though and I'm not counting on the Canucks to survive this round (or potentially next against the Oilers or Kings). Colorado Avalanche: 10-1The Avalanche were going to see their Stanley Cup odds take a major tumble were it not for their impressive 5-2 victory in Game 2 in Winnipeg. All of Colorado's defensive warts were on full display in Game 1 as they allowed seven goals in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Use caution when betting the Avs to go all the way at a not-so-favorable price as the Jets have proven to be road warriors this season, going 25-16 on the highway including a 7-0 rout in their last stop in Denver. Colorado can score with the best of them but still has major concerns between the pipes. Looking ahead to a potential second round matchup, neither the Jets or Avalanche present lightweight challenges. New York Rangers: 7.5-1I would give strong consideration to betting the Blueshirts at this price, not to mention at nearly 4-1 to win the Eastern Conference. New York is off to a 2-0 start to its series with Washington but neither victory came in landslide fashion as some were expecting. As a result, the Rangers odds have been tempered somewhat as their opening round series shifts to Washington for Game 3. Of course, the impressive nature of the Hurricanes and the Panthers also serves to hold New York's Stanley Cup prospects in check. I have been high on the Rangers all season and didn't see anything in the first two games that would lead me to stay away from them moving forward. If anything I came away encouraged by some of their secondary scorers chipping in, most notably Alexis Lafreniere who is quietly enjoying a breakout campaign. 

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MLB Around the Horn: April 23rd

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

We're almost a month into the MLB season so it's a good time to take stock of what we've seen so far and what to expect moving forward. Here's a look at some news and notes from around the diamond entering the final week of April.Snake-bittenThe Diamondbacks have gotten off to a slow start following their improbable run to the World Series last October. Arizona checks in 11-13 through 24 games with their longest winning streak lasting only two games (they've accomplished that on three occasions). It's hard to pin the Snakes struggles on their offense as they've averaged 5.6 runs per game while recording a respectable .730 OPS. It's been another story for Arizona's pitching staff and the bullpen in particular. Note that Arizona relievers have combined to record a 4.18 ERA and 1.37 WHIP with only four saves converted and six blown. The D'Backs have five games remaining on their current 10-game road trip, following their current stop in St. Louis with a three-game Interleague series in Seattle. Rocky startIt's setting up as another long season in Denver as the Rockies are off to a miserable 5-18 start. Things have gone from bad to worse over the last week as Colorado has dropped six of its last seven games, averaging a putrid 1.7 runs per contest over that stretch. That's just the tip of the iceberg as the Rockies pitching staff has been as bad as advertised, allowing opposing hitters to record a .368 OBP and an .813 OPS. Through 23 games, the Rockies bullpen has converted just one save. They've only blown a pair of save opportunities but that's only because the majority of their games haven't been close. If it weren't for the fact that they play in one of the nicer ballparks in baseball you have to wonder whether fans would still be willing to pay to watch this long-term losing franchise.Boston StrongNot much was expected from the Red Sox this season but so far, so good as they're off to a 13-10 start including six wins in their last nine games. A bullpen that was thought to be one of the weakest in baseball has been a strong point with Boston relievers combining to post a 3.76 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. In fact, the pitching staff as a whole has limited opposing hitters to a .222 batting average and .610 OPS. A three-game series in Cleveland is up next before a six-game Interleague homestand against the Cubs and Giants. Philly fanaticsWe've seen this story play out before with the Phillies proving to be regular season warriors, checking in 15-8 through their first 23 games. The question will always be whether they can thrive in the postseason but that's a story for another day. For now, Philadelphia is red hot, riding a seven-game winning streak into the second game of a four-game set in Cincinnati (it won the opener 7-0). Of note, the Phillies are now 138-107 (+11.4 net games) in their last 245 night games and 67-48 (+12.3 net games) in their last 115 contests against left-handed starting pitchers. They'll face a southpaw in Reds starter Andrew Abbott on Tuesday. 

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NHL Off the Post: March 25th

Monday, Mar 25, 2024

We're less than a month away from the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here's a quick look around the league at some of the key battles for playoff positioning entering the stretch run.Blues in the greenThe St. Louis Blues were an afterthought in the Western Conference playoff race just a few weeks ago but they're firmly in the mix now thanks to a 6-1 surge highlighted by an incredible six upset victories (closed as +110 or higher underdogs in all six wins). They'll begin a critical four-game homestand on Tuesday as they host the Vegas Golden Knights. The Blues are currently four points behind the Knights for the final Wild Card spot in the West but Vegas has a game-in-hand. St. Louis doesn't realistically have enough runway left to catch the Winnipeg Jets for third place in the Central Division (Winnipeg sits 14 points ahead of St. Louis with 11 games remaining). Three's a crowdThere are currently three teams vying for top spot in the Western Conference with the Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars separated by just a single point. The Canucks and Avs figure to have a slight advantage having played one less game than the Stars. Of course, top spot may not be an enviable position given the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights are the most likely team to earn the final playoff spot in the West. A first-round date with supremely-talented Vegas might just be the worst-case scenario for the three front-runners.Metro boomin'Just one point separates the New York Rangers from the Carolina Hurricanes at the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. New York has reeled off four wins in its last five games and will have the benefit of playing at home in seven of its final 11 regular season contests. Note that the Blueshirts won't face the Canes again in the regular season. Carolina has just 10 games left on its regular season schedule with six of those coming on the road. It does have the benefit of closing out the season with a manageable two-game road trip to Chicago and Columbus to face two of the league's weakest teams.Capital punishmentIt seemed as if Alex Ovechkin's chase of Wayne Gretzky's all-time goal-scoring record would be the only reason to pay attention to the Washington Capitals down the stretch but instead they've gone on a remarkable run to put themselves in Wild Card position with 12 games left to play. The Caps are 12-6 over their last 18 games to push a single point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the final playoff spot in the East. Up next is a date with, you guessed it, the Red Wings in the Nation's Capital on Tuesday. The Caps will also travel to Detroit to face the Wings one final time in the regular season on April 9th. 

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2024 MLB Futures: Rookie of the Year Award

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

With Spring Training underway now is the time to start locking in some MLB futures bets as we look ahead to the 2024 season. Here's a look at my predictions for American League and National League Rookie of the Year award winners as we approach the beginning of March. Odds courtesy DraftKings.American LeagueWyatt Langford - Texas Rangers (+600)While Langford's teammate and last October's breakout star Evan Carter is one of the favorites to win the award (along with Orioles phenom Jackson Holliday), I like the value being offered with the Rangers 'other' highly-touted prospect. Langford is expected to be on the Rangers Opening Day roster even if he isn't an every-day player right out of the gate. The outfielder has thrived at every level, most recently scorching a path through the Rangers minor league ranks with a .360 batting average to go along with double-digit home runs and stolen bases last season. While Carter might be the better all-around player, Langford has power to spare (which was on full display during his time with the Florida Gators) and that combined with his speed should turn voters heads as the season goes on. Texas does have a rather crowded outfield and the risk of Langford not getting a ton of playing time in April and May is real. With that said, I prefer not to back the chalk when it comes to this particular award as a lot can happen over the course of a 162-game MLB season, injuries or otherwise. Langford should be in the conversation all season long. National LeagueJackson Chourio - Milwaukee Brewers (+800)Despite the lofty price, Chourio is actually tied for the third-favorite to win this award at several books. A pair of Japanese imports lead the way in Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Jung Hoo Lee, with the latter's stock quickly rising. I think Chourio has as good a chance as any at taking home the prize, however. We've already seen the Brewers top prospect flash during Spring Training games. Keep in mind, Milwaukee has a lot invested in the outfielder having locked him up with an eight-year, $82 million contract. There have been whispers that Chourio might not be an every-day player for the Brew Crew early in the season but I expect him to play his way into the starting lineup over the course of the exhibition schedule in March. In the Venezuelan Winter League, Chourio hit .379 across 66 at-bats with seven extra-base hits and three stolen bases. While he only had a cup of coffee at the Triple-A level last year he hit .280 with 22 home runs and 43 steals at Double-A Biloxi. Expect him to make the leap in 2024 and prove to be an bonafide star for the Brewers sooner rather than later. 

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NHL Off the Post: February 23rd

Friday, Feb 23, 2024

We're just two weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline as a number of teams jockey for positioning and decide whether they'll be 'buyers' or 'sellers'. Here's a look at some notes from around the league as we approach the end of February.Cleared for takeoffThe Winnipeg Jets stumbled out of the All-Star break, scoring a grand total of one goal in consecutive losses against the Penguins and Flyers. Since then, they've turned it around, securing four wins in their last five games entering Friday's matchup with the lowly Blackhawks. The good news is, the first-place Vancouver Canucks have stumbled lately, leaving the door open for the Jets to gain ground in the Western Conference standings. Winnipeg currently sits seven points behind Vancouver but has a whopping five games-in-hand. The bad news is, the Jets face a difficult upcoming schedule with 11 of their next 17 games being played on the road. Winnipeg has posted a winning record away from home this season but there is reason for concern as it has averaged just 2.8 goals per game along the way. Seeing StarsIt's been a tough road trip for the Dallas Stars as they've lost all three games on their current jaunt out East. In fact, Dallas has lost four consecutive games overall and draws another difficult matchup in Carolina on Saturday before returning home for one game against the struggling New York Islanders. It seems the Stars nine-goal outburst in Nashville back on February 15th may have led to a bit of complacency as they've produced only eight goals in four games since. Dallas does remain in second-place in the Western Conference standings and continues to lead the Central Division. With that being said, the Colorado Avalanche are nipping at their heels, sitting just a single point back. A showdown with the Avs in Denver awaits on Tuesday night. Red hot BlueshirtsI noted prior to the All-Star break that the then-struggling New York Rangers would be a team we'd be looking to get behind in the coming weeks. Right on schedule, the Rangers have gone on a tear, reeling off nine straight victories culminating with a decisive 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Newark on Thursday. The schedule doesn't get much tougher until the start of March as the Blueshirts will close out February with a stop in Philadelphia followed by a home-and-home series with the lowly Blue Jackets. New York's recent surge has strengthened its grip on the Metropolitan Division lead as it currently sits six points ahead of the second-place Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers and Canes will next meet in Raleigh on March 12th, marking their final matchup of the regular season. Decision timeThe Philadelphia Flyers were an afterthought when it came to preseason playoff prognostication but as we approach the Trade Deadline they find themselves in third-place in the Metropolitan Division, holding a seven-point advantage over the 'first team out' in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (the Washington Capitals). Whether Philadelphia will be buying or selling prior to the deadline remains to be seen. Standing pat is an option as well should the organization decide it is still a year or two away from making legitimate noise come playoff time. A glimpse ahead shows that the Flyers will play 12 of their final 25 regular season games against opponents that are currently outside of the playoff picture. 

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NHL Off the Post: January 31st

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024

The NHL All-Star break is upon us with most teams approaching or eclipsing the 50-game mark heading into February. Here's a look at some news and notes from around the league before the action resumes on Monday.Shark bitesThe Sharks have pulled themselves out of the league basement thanks to a 4-1 surge. They'll play one more game (in Anaheim) on the final night of action before the break on Wednesday. A victory would actually move them just two points behind the Ducks. Of course, winning isn't paramount in San Jose right now as the Sharks would undoubtedly like to finish as close to the bottom as possible to give themselves a chance to win the lottery and draft a potential franchise player in June (Macklin Celebrini is this year's biggest prize, drawing admittedly lofty comparisons to Sidney Crosby). Of note, the Sharks won't play another home game until February 17th.March of the PenguinsPerennially active as buyers prior to the trade deadline, this year figures to be no different for the Penguins. They're well within striking distance of a Wild Card spot (not to mention third place in the Metropolitan Division) heading into the break. You do have to wonder whether Father Time is finally catching up with the Pens as their aging core had a difficult time carrying the load for stretches this season. Note that Pittsburgh is just 2-5 over its last seven games and will face a difficult schedule immediately following the break with three of its next four games coming against the Jets (two games) and Panthers. Management will undoubtedly do whatever it can to give Crosby, Malkin, Letang et al one more shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup in June. Back on BroadwayThe Rangers limp into the break losers of eight of their last 12 games. There is reason for optimism, however, as the Blueshirts delivered a 7-2 victory in Ottawa last time out and will play five of their next seven games on home ice. In fact, they won't travel any further west than Chicago until March 28th when they make a two-game trip to Colorado and Arizona. New York is a team I'll look to bet in the coming weeks as there's simply too much talent for it to continue to sputter the way that it has. An eight-day break could be just what the doctor ordered, especially for All-World goaltender Igor Shesterkin who has struggled to the tune of a pedestrian 2.86 goals against average and .900 save percentage this season. Rocky mountain highIt's hard to call a perennial Stanley Cup contender like the Avalanche undervalued but that's been the case lately. Colorado checks in 13-5 over its last 18 games and has been laying some very reasonable prices lately (-140 at home against the Kings last time out - a game it won 5-1). Only two teams enter the break with more points (the Canucks and Bruins) and the Avs are well withing striking distance of both, just four points back.  A word of caution, the Avs will begin a difficult six-game eastern road swing against the Rangers in Manhattan on Monday. Looking ahead they wrap up the regular season by playing nine of their final 13 games on home ice.Kane is ableIt may come as a surprise to some but the Red Wings rank second in the Eastern Conference in goals scored with 174. The addition of veteran super-scorer Patrick Kane has certainly given them a boost but he's missed six straight games due to a lower-body injury suffered on January 14th. The good news is, Kane himself has said that he should be ready to return to the lineup following the All-Star break. The 35-year old has produced 16 points in 19 games since joining the Wings in November. Detroit currently holds down the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference but sits just two points behind the third-place Lightning in the Atlantic Division. 

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NHL Off the Post: January 22nd

Monday, Jan 22, 2024

The NHL All-Star break is quickly approaching with the game's best set to square off on February 3rd in Toronto. Here's a quick look at some news and notes from around the league just past the halfway point of the regular season.Broadway BluesThe Rangers appeared headed for a disastrous 0-3 start to their western road swing before rallying from a 2-0 deficit to secure a 5-2 victory in Anaheim on Sunday. Still, it's been a rough ride for New York lately as it has dropped six of nine games since January 6th. The Blueshirts will wrap up their road trip with a stop in San Jose on Tuesday as they try to gain some positive momentum before returning home where they'll play five of their next seven games. While the Rangers still occupy top spot in the Metropolitan Division they're just five points clear of the third-place Hurricanes. Saint Patrick's DayIslanders general manager Lou Lamoriello made a big splash by firing head coach Lane Lambert and hiring Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy on Saturday. The move paid immediate dividends as the Isles rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory against the Stars on Sunday. A shake-up was certainly needed as New York entered Sunday's action on the outside looking in as far as the Eastern Conference playoff hunt goes. With six of their next eight games coming on home ice the Isles are well-positioned to go on a run. It remains to be seen whether Roy's aggressive coaching style, which eventually wore out its welcome in Colorado, will lead to long-term success on Long Island but it will be fascinating to watch. Striking oilNot only are the Oilers riding their longest winning streak in franchise history, at 13 straight victories it marks the longest winning streak for any Canadian team in NHL history. While Edmonton is known for its offensive prowess it has been its defensive play that has fuelled its recent success. The Oilers have held 11 straight opponents to two goals or less. Next up is a three-game homestand that will include matchups against two of the league's worst teams in the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets. The schedule only toughens up when they hit the road for three games (including stops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles) following the All-Star break. Wily CoyotesFew expected much from the perennially-rebuilding Coyotes this season but as we approach February they sit just four points out of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, with two games in hand. Arizona isn't a threat to pace the league in any offensive categories. The Coyotes leading scorer is Clayton Keller with just 41 points in 44 games. With that being said, they boast a balanced attack and have been rock solid defensively, giving up only six goals in regulation time in their last four contests. Arizona will play five of its next seven games on the road, wrapping around the All-Star break. First up will be a home date with the Penguins on Monday. The Coyotes haven't defeated Pittsburgh since February of 2017 - an 11-game slide in the series. 

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IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Primer

Friday, Dec 29, 2023

We've already seen three full days of action at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden and while there has been one big upset with Germany taking down Finland for the first time in tournament history, the usual suspects sit at the top of the two pools. Here's a look at how I see the tournament progressing from this point forward.Current odds to win: USA +162, Canada +162, Sweden +250, Finland +1500, Slovakia +1500, Czechia +3300, Switzerland +15000, Germany +15000, Latvia +50000, Norway +100000You could argue that only the top five, perhaps six teams listed above have any shot at winning it all at this point. USA, Canada, Sweden and Slovakia are the only remaining undefeated teams. While the Americans undoubtedly boast the most talented team in tournament from top to bottom, I believe that Canada is well-positioned to peak at the right time and ultimately take the tournament for a third straight year. This is precisely the type of Canadian squad that tends to fare well at this tournament - a little overlooked at the outset but steadily building momentum and coming together as a team. Unlike in recent years, goaltending doesn't appear to be an issue for Canada with QMJHL standout Mathis Rousseau capable of stealing a game at any time and the clear number one between the pipes. In fact, it took Rousseau less than 10 minutes of action to record perhaps the save of the tournament in Canada's opener against Finland. If you're looking for a dark-horse to pin your hopes to at this stage, Slovakia would appear to be your best bet. The Slovaks have plenty of returning talent from last year's squad that nearly staged a massive upset of eventual champion Canada in the quarter-final round in Halifax. By finishing first or second in their group, they'll draw a favorable quarter-final round matchup (against Finland or Germany) this time around. The remaining group stage games to watch include Canada taking on host Sweden on Friday in a game that will likely decide the top team in Pool A. The USA will take on Czechia on Friday before an off day on Saturday. A New Year's Eve showdown between the Americans and Slovakia should determine who prevails in Pool B. Shockingly, as a result of a stunning loss against Germany, Finland will likely need a win over Latvia on Friday to avoid a one-game relegation showdown against Norway. The championship game is scheduled to take place at 1:30 pm et on January 5th in Gothenburg. 

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NHL Off the Post: December 27th

Wednesday, Dec 27, 2023

The three-day NHL holiday break is over as the teams return to the ice on Wednesday with a full slate of action on tap. Here's a look at some news and notes from around the league as the New Year approaches.Shooting StarsDallas has predictably returned to form, winning three straight and five of its last six games leading up to the break. The Stars will draw the Blues in St. Louis on Wednesday, noting that they'll be out for revenge after dropping a 4-3 decision on the road earlier this month. The Blues check in off consecutive wins by two goals or more which is notable as they're 0-7 in their last seven games played in that situation. Interestingly, Dallas owns identical 10-6 records at home and on the road this season.Devils dueNew Jersey has been plagued by injuries but also sloppy play on its way to a mediocre 17-13-2 record this season. The Devils posted a 3-2 win over the Red Wings to snap a three-game losing streak prior to the break. Continuing a theme from last year's campaign, New Jersey has struggled in Newark, going 7-10 in front of the home faithful. Note that six of the Devils next eight games will be played on the road.Coming up snake eyesThe Golden Knights have dropped three straight games and will mercifully wrap up their four-game road trip with a stop in Anaheim on Wednesday. Vegas has the added distraction of playing in the annual Winter Classic in Seattle on New Year's Day. There's reason to believe in the Knights moving forward, however, as they'll play eight of their next 10 games on home ice following Wednesday's stop in Anaheim. Vegas is just 9-9 on the road this season but 12-5 at home. Power surgeTampa Bay hasn't shown the consistency we've come to expect in recent years but the Bolts did go into the break on a 7-3 run. Tampa Bay stares down at a three-game stretch at home that will begin with a showdown against the rival Panthers on Wednesday. The return of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy from injury has steadied the ship as the Lightning have gone 8-5 with him between the pipes and he has recorded a respectable .910 save percentage. Tampa will play seven of its next 10 contests on home ice.

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NHL Off the Post: November 29th

Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

The dark cloud just won't go away in Chicago as the Blackhawks are mired in another controversy - this time involving the release of veteran Corey Perry following an incident that's shrouded in secrecy. That's the story that's grabbed headlines this week but here's a look at four more useful tidbits from around the league as we approach the start of December. Kane is able?The Red Wings made a splash on Tuesday, signing future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Kane who is coming off offseason hip surgery and based on his play after joining the Rangers last season, doesn't have a whole lot of tread left on his tires. If nothing else, Kane provides some additional veteran leadership in the dressing room for a young Red Wings squad that has already made positive strides this season, starting 11-7-2. How productive Kane can be remains to be seen but Detroit is certainly on an upswing as it heads into a stretch that will see it play three of its next four games on the road. All hail the KingsYes, we're talking about the Kings again this week as their red hot run continues. Los Angeles has reeled off five straight victories, allowing a grand total of just five goals over that stretch. On the season, the Kings have outscored the opposition by an average margin of 1.5 goals, noting that they're putting up an impressive 4.0 goals per contest. They'll have another two opportunities to pad their stats at home against the Capitals and Avalanche this week before heading out on the road for four straight, all in the Eastern time zone. Pittsburgh power outageThe Penguins have had a miserable time offensively, scoring just 14 goals over their last seven games, going 2-5 over that stretch. In an interesting scheduling quirk, their next four games will come against the Lightning and Flyers, including two games in Tampa. With the Metropolitan Division appearing ultra-competitive this season, Pittsburgh will need to turn it around in a hurry, noting that it currently sits in seventh-place in the division, just three points clear of the last-place Blue Jackets. The good news is, a single victory could leap-frog the Pens all the way to third with the Flyers currently holding down that position with only 23 points. Not so golden?The Golden Knights were the talk of the league earlier this season, looking very much like the team to beat as they defend their Stanley Cup crown. While Vegas still sits in first-place in the NHL, it has run into a rough patch, securing just one victory in its last six games. Of course it's worth noting that three of the Knights five defeats over that stretch came by way of overtime or a shootout including the latter on Tuesday night in Edmonton. Following Thursday's stop in Vancouver, the Knights will play six of their next eight games at home and they will likely be heavily-favored in all six of those contests on the Strip. 

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NHL Off the Post: November 23rd

Thursday, Nov 23, 2023

With the NHL taking a brief pause for Thanksgiving, it's a good time to take stock of what's been happening around the league. Here's a look at four teams to keep an eye on heading into December.Oil spillThe Oilers might just be the league's biggest disappointment through the first two months of the season. Edmonton sits third-last in the Western Conference standings, better than only the lowly Sharks and rebuilding Blackhawks. While it's certainly not too late for the Oilers to turn things around, it's going to take a monumental group effort and you have to wonder whether they have the right personnel in place beyond the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The good news is, Edmonton will play eight of its next 10 games on home ice. The bad news is, the Oilers are just 3-4-1 as hosts this season.Hurricane warningCarolina got off to a slow start this season but that had a lot to do with a number of key injuries. The Hurricanes have gotten healthier and head into Thanksgiving having recorded wins in five of their last seven games. That run has put them back into the top-eight in the Eastern Conference and they'll have a favorable schedule to continue their ascent with four of their next five contests coming at home. It's probably not a bad time to buy in to the Canes in terms of long-term futures as their stock had dropped a little more than it probably should have. Perennial contenders in the East, Carolina has the right pieces in place to hang with the likes of the Bruins and Rangers come playoff time.Devil of a timeOne of last year's breakout teams, the Devils have fallen on hard times so far this season. New Jersey enters the break having lost four of its last five games including an ugly 4-0 shutout defeat in Detroit on Wednesday. You have to wonder if head coach Lindy Ruff could be on the chopping block if the Devils can't turn it around in the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, aside from the Rangers, no other teams are really running away and hiding in the Metropolitan Division. Despite sitting in seventh place in the division, the Devils are just four points out of a Wild Card spot. New Jersey will play four of its next five games at home beginning with a winnable matchup with the lowly Blue Jackets on Friday.Crowning gloryWhile few are paying much attention, the Kings are thriving, off to a red hot 11-3-3 start to the season and riding a three-game winning streak into Thanksgiving. Few teams have been as stingy as Los Angeles as it has held an incredible eight of its last nine opponents to two goals or less. It's not as if the schedule is going to get a lot tougher in the coming weeks either with the likes of Anaheim, Montreal (twice), Columbus and New York (Islanders) on the ledger between now and December 9th. While the Kings currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division, they're just three points back of the first-place Golden Knights and have three games in hand. 

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MACtion is back!

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler and that can only mean one thing...the return of weeknight MACtion!The MAC will dot the weeknight college football schedule from now through Thanksgiving. Here's a quick look at some news and notes from around the conference with an eye on this week's matchups. Running with the BullsBuffalo has reeled off three ATS wins in its last four games and it has been getting it done on the ground, rushing for 123 or more yards in four of its last five contests. Thanks to an 0-4 start, the Bulls have their work cut out for them in terms of gaining Bowl eligibility. They'll need three wins in their final four games and that's daunting when you consider they're installed as more than a two-touchdown underdog on Tuesday in Toledo. The Rockets boast one of the nation's best rushing attacks, gaining an otherworldly 5.7 yards per rush on the season.Chips are downSpeaking of Bowl eligibility, Central Michigan has put itself in excellent position thanks to a 4-3 start but things haven't exactly gone swimmingly of late as it has dropped the cash for its backers in four straight games. A sputtering aerial attack has been the main culprit as the Chippewas have completed fewer than 20 passes for 181 yards or less in consecutive games entering Tuesday's home date against Northern Illinois. The good news is, Northern Illinois has gone a woeful 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite and lines up as a four-point fave on Tuesday.Flash in the pan?Kent State lit up the scoreboard last season but 2023 has been much different as the Golden Flashes have sputtered, scoring 14 points or less in four straight and five of their last six games, falling to a miserable 1-7 on the campaign. Not only have they struggled to move the football, they've had a difficult time simply maintaining possession, turning it over a whopping 18 times through eight games. Kent State is 2-10 ATS in its last 12 games against MAC opponents. Bowling for dollarsFew are paying much attention but Bowling Green has been a cash cow for its backers this season, going 5-2 ATS over its last seven games. The Falcons can gain Bowl eligibility with two wins in their last four games. They've been living off opponent miscues, forcing nine turnovers in the last two games alone. Up next is a date with Ball State on Wednesday, noting that BGSU has gone a long-term 38-17 ATS when coming off a win by 21 or more points, as is the case here. 

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NHL Off the Post: October 25th

Wednesday, Oct 25, 2023

We're more than a couple of weeks into the 23-24 NHL season and you could argue that things have gone as expected so far with the Bruins, Rangers, Avalanche and Golden Knights leading their respective divisions. Here's a look at some news and notes from around the league as we approach the end of October.Capital punishment?Washington currently brings up the rear in the Metropolitan Division having collected just three of a possible 10 points through five games. The Capitals essentially stood pat in the offseason leaving their veteran corps intact for one more run at the Stanley Cup. You have to figure they'll be sellers if things continue to go poorly. Alexander Ovechkin's chase for the all-time goal-scoring record has hit a speedbump as he has produced just one goal this season. He did fire 14 shots on goal in Tuesday's loss to the Maple Leafs and found the back of the net once so perhaps a sign of things to come from the Great 8. Winged wheel keeps on turningThe Red Wings have been one of the upstart teams in the early going this season, jumping out to a fast 5-1-1 start. In fact, Detroit leads the league in scoring with 34 goals. Alex DeBrincat looks like he's found a home in Detroit (he was born in nearby Farmington Hills) as he has compiled 13 points through seven games with his new team - his third different team in as many years. Of note, the Red Wings won't play a game outside of the Eastern time zone until December 11th, when they begin a two-game road trip in Dallas. The end of an era?It's probably far too premature to say given the ups and downs of a long 82-game NHL season but the Penguins once again look like they're nearing the end of their Stanley Cup window with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at the forefront. That's not to say those two veteran stars have struggled but simply that the Pens don't seem to have the right mix, yet again, as they look to return to prominence. Pittsburgh has dropped four of its first six games and looked outmatched against one of the league's better up-and-coming teams in the Stars on Tuesday (similarly to how Pittsburgh looked against Detroit last week). The Pens have produced only 17 goals in six games. Oil shortageEntering the campaign, Edmonton was considered to be a top contender to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup in June but things have not gone well for the Oilers so far, on multiple fronts. Edmonton checks in just 1-4-1 out of the gates and recently lost superstar Connor McDavid to an injury that could keep him out of the lineup for a number of weeks. In their first game without McDavid the Oilers dropped an ugly 7-4 decision in Minnesota on Tuesday. Scoring isn't likely to be an issue as long as Leon Draisaitl remains healthy but Edmonton's back-end has proven to be extremely leaky as it has yielded 27 goals this season. Only Carolina has given up more (33). A four-game homestand is on deck so perhaps that will help the Oilers settle down as November approaches. Toothless SharksHow bad have the San Jose Sharks been so far this season? Not only have they managed to collect just one point in six games but they've lit the lamp only eight times while allowing 23 goals - good for a league-worst -15 goal differential. You would have to go back four games to find the last time San Jose managed to score more than a single goal and that came in a 6-3 defeat against the struggling Hurricanes. Already 0-2 on their current road trip they'll have to navigate three games in four nights on the east coast beginning Thursday in Tampa. 

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2023-24 NHL Preview: Metropolitan Division

Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023

The NHL preseason is underway and the puck drops for real on the 2023-24 season in two weeks. As we march toward Opening Night on October 10th, I'll run through quick previews of all 32 teams. Here's a look at the Metropolitan Division.Odds to win division courtesy Draft Kings.Carolina Hurricanes (+180)It appeared the Hurricanes were well on their way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance during a deep playoff run last Spring but the Cinderella Panthers had other ideas. Hopes are once again sky-high in Raleigh as Carolina loads up for another run at Lord Stanley's Cup. The Canes cleared out a number of aging players in the offseason including Max Pacioretty, Shayne Gostisbehere, Paul Stastny and Derek Stepan, replacing them with upgrades virtually across the board with the likes of Michael Bunting, Dmitry Orlov and former teammate Tony DeAngelo. Shoring up the blue line was paramount as Carolina's netminding duo of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta isn't getting any younger. A return to health for Andrei Svechnikov is critical and all indications are that he'll be ready to go at the start of the season. New Jersey Devils (+240)The Devils rebuild is beginning to pay dividends as they enter the 23-24 season as serious contenders for the Metropolitan Division title after falling just short last Spring. While they didn't make a big splash in free agency, they didn't necessarily have to as the pieces are already in place to take another step forward this season. GM Tom Fitzgerald has done a tremendous job building a roster dotted with young, emerging superstars surrounded by veteran talent. One are of concern could be between the pipes where Akira Schmid enjoyed a breakout postseason. The jury is still out as to whether he can do it over the course of an 82-game season. Veteran Vitek Vanecek remains on board as well but you have to wonder where his confidence level is at after a brutal playoff showing. New York Rangers (+330)As is seemingly the case every single year, the Rangers talent is good enough to match up with any team in the league, let alone their own division. A new era will begin this season with Peter Laviolette taking over behind the bench. While Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane are two big name rentals that moved on in the offseason, neither made much of a splash in the Big Apple down the stretch last season. The Blueshirts only tinkered with their roster this Summer and the result is a consistent core that should shine for Laviolette right out of the gates. Of course, New York also has arguably the best goalie in the world in Igor Shesterkin who you have to figure is in line for a bounce-back season after recording only average numbers in 22-23 (.916 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average). Pittsburgh Penguins (+700)The Penguins won the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes, bringing on another veteran that can still produce, as he proved during a massive renaissance campaign in 22-23. This could be Pittsburgh's last kick at the can for a while, so to speak, with Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang - the core three - all nearing the end of their respective careers. Few teams underwent more of an overhaul during the offseason than the Pens, largely due to GM Kyle Dubas coming over from Toronto and putting his stamp on the roster immediately. The issue is, most of the players Dubas brought in, aside from Karlsson, aren't likely to move the needle very much. The Metropolitan Division as a whole remains crowded at the top and you have to wonder whether Pittsburgh has enough gas in the tank to contend over the course of 82 games. New York Islanders (+1500)Despite a lukewarm showing in 22-23, the Islanders did little (virtually nothing, in fact) to bolster their roster heading into the 23-24 campaign. Needless to say, GM Lou Lamiorello is banking on New York's veteran core to lead it back to the promised land. It's not as if the Isles are void of talent. They boast top-end scorers including Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat and do have some young players ready to contribute as well. That's not to mention the fact that they're set in goal with Ilya Sorokin in the conversation with Igor Shesterkin for world's best. It's unlikely Lamiorello will stand pat should the Isles be in contention come March and he does have plenty of draft capital at his disposal to make a splash at the trade deadline if necessary. Washington Capitals (+3000)How the mighty have fallen. It doesn't seem like that long ago that the Capitals were drinking out of the Stanley Cup and now here they are staring up from the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. The list of offseason acquisitions in the nation's capital is short and less than impactful. Ovie's chase for the NHL goal-scoring record will be the most interesting story in Washington this season. Anything can happen of course and franchise fortunes do have a tendency to change on short notice. With that being said, the cupboard isn't particularly well-stocked and a fire sale may not be far off should things go south early in the season. Philadelphia Flyers (+13000)Remember when the Flyers came roaring out of the gates last season? It was all downhill from there as Philadelphia was predictably one of the league's worst teams. It's tough to envision a path back to respectability this season with a number of veterans sent packing and not much coming back in return. GM Daniel Briere will be given plenty of time to get things sorted in the City of Brotherly Love, even if it doesn't sit particularly well with the Broad Street faithful. Expect another year of subtle tanking in an effort to gain additional draft capital after selecting future game-changer Matvei Michkov with the seventh overall selection in this past June's Entry Draft. Columbus Blue Jackets (+18000)It's been a tumultuous stretch for the Blue Jackets as a franchise. First there was the questionable hiring of polarizing head coach Mike Babcock, followed by his subsequent resignation months later. The team will turn over the reins to former Assistant Coach Pascal Vincent and that can only be seen as a positive, surely from the players' perspective. First round draft pick Adam Fantilli has already made a splash at training camp with some predicting that he'll push Connor Bedard in the Calder Trophy race this season. I would suggest pumping the brakes on that notion but do think Fantilli can make an impact right away. With little talent heading out the door and a much-needed blue line boost in the form of Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson, Columbus is in good position to perhaps climb the Metropolitan Division ranks before the turn of the New Year. 

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2023-24 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

The NHL preseason is underway and the puck drops for real on the 2023-24 season in two weeks. As we march toward Opening Night on October 10th, I'll run through quick previews of all 32 teams, beginning with the Atlantic Division.Odds to win division courtesy Draft Kings.Toronto Maple Leafs (+200)Yet another disappointing season is in the books for the Maple Leafs but here they are as the favorite to win the Atlantic Division once again, priced almost identically to what we saw at this time last year. We witnessed a sea change of sorts in Toronto during the offseason with GM Kyle Dubas shown the door. Brad Treliving seemingly has a much different vision in Toronto, bringing in a number of sandpaper guys including Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves and Max Domi. There's no denying the Leafs are a much deeper team than they were last season but the jury is out as to whether they've accumulated any more talent. While the addition of John Klingberg to the blue line was a step in the right direction, Toronto will undoubtedly be looking to add a piece or two in that department as the season goes on. Joseph Woll stepped up and performed admirably between the pipes down the stretch last season and should push veteran Ilya Samsonov. Boston Bruins (+350)It's the end of an era in Boston as long-time captain Patrice Bergeron announced he was hanging up his skates this Summer. He is one of nine regulars that will need to be replaced this season although none of the other departures will have nearly the same impact. The good news for the Bruins is that they still boast top-end talent led by superstar David Pastrnak and newly-named captain Brad Marchand along with a steady if not spectacular defensive corps. The last line of defense for the B's is a bright spot as well with the duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman returning after a tremendous regular season but disappointing playoffs. Head coach Jim Montgomery is in his second year with the team and that should prove impactful. Florida Panthers (+400)The Panthers enjoyed a Cinderella run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last June but are being priced as the third-best team in crowded Atlantic Division for a reason. Florida will be forced to start the season without two of its best defensemen in Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. It also lost a mountain of a man on the back-end in Radko Gudas to the Ducks. That matters on a roster that isn't blessed with a ton of depth on the blue line, even with a number of offseason additions including veteran Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Up front the Cats will once again be led by Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk. Again, it's the depth, or lack thereof, that concerns me. In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky regained his form as the playoffs went on before faltering in the Final. He's not getting any younger and next in line is Spencer Knight, who missed last season after entering into the NHLPA Assistance Program, and Anthony Stolarz, who has yet to prove he can succeed at the big league level. Tampa Bay Lightning (+600)It's jarring to see the Lightning this far down the pecking order in the Atlantic Division. The salary cap hasn't been kind to the Bolts as they've been forced to move on from a number of key contributors in recent years, all but ending their chances of a true dynasty in South Florida. Again this offseason Tampa Bay lost a number of key cogs including Alex Killorn, Ross Colton and Ian Cole. The Lightning's list of additions features a number of workman-like players including veteran Conor Sheary. Of course, there's still plenty of reason for optimism as Tampa Bay remains star-studded, if not aging, up front and has a pair of defensive standouts in Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev. Unfortunately injuries have cost that blue line duo a number of games recently and keeping them healthy will be paramount this season. You have to figure goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is in for a strong bounce-back campaign after wearing down last season. Buffalo Sabres (+900)Keeping in mind, the Sabres were priced at +5700 to win the Atlantic Division at this time last year, perhaps they're poised to take a step in the right direction in 2023-24. The needle is definitely pointing up for this team offensively after a breakout year from the likes of Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens last season. With a nice mix of youth and experience on the blue line, including sophomore Owen Power who by all accounts is ready for a breakout season of his own, there's reason to be optimistic that Buffalo can at least contend for a playoff spot this season. Goaltending remains a big question mark with unproven talent between the pipes including prospect Devon Levi who the Sabres are hopeful can take hold of the starting gig. The biggest obstacle for Buffalo might just be the ultra-competitive nature of the Atlantic. Ottawa Senators (+1100)Alex DeBrincat's time in Ottawa was short-lived and as a result the Senators will be looking to replace a good chunk of offensive production from last year's team. Veteran Vladimir Tarasenko was brought in following a failed experiment in Manhattan but it appears he doesn't have a ton of tread left on his tires and I question how long he'll remain happy in Ottawa, especially if the team isn't winning. Much like the Sabres, there is a lot to like when it comes to the Sens with Brady Tkachuk coming off a superstar-caliber season and Jakob Chychrun one of the more underrated defenseman in the entire NHL. Joonas Korpisalo will be tasked with the starting job between the pipes - a position that has proven to be a revolving door in Ottawa in recent years.Detroit Red Wings (+2500)GM Steve Yzerman made a splash by acquiring Alex DeBrincat in the offseason but apart from that, he mostly made minor moves to improve the Red Wings perhaps only marginally this season. Few teams in the league boast less top-end talent than Detroit. It almost seems as if Dylan Larkin's time in the Motor City has been more or less wasted as he's in the prime of his career. There's no question Yzerman will eventually build a winner, just as he did in Tampa Bay, but it's going to take some time. Unless Ville Husso is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat in goal and the Wings blue line ends up over-achieving, this team will be hard-pressed to push for a playoff spot in the Atlantic as there just isn't enough firepower up front. Montreal Canadiens (+20000)The price says it all as the Canadiens are unlikely to climb the ranks in the Atlantic Division this season. The time will come where the Habs are once again considered a contender in the Eastern Conference but it's still likely 2-3 years off. Guys like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield will make Montreal a fun team to watch once again but there are a number of holes in the lineup that need to be plugged. I really like Martin St. Louis as a head coach and believe he's in it for the long haul. Unfortunately he's likely to see a number of key veterans dealt away over the course of the season as the Habs continue their rebuild. I do think we saw some addition by subtraction in the offseason with guys like Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin moving elsewhere. Drouin in particular was never a fit in his home province. Expect plenty of wild, high-scoring games involving Montreal this season with the biggest question marks lying in its own end of the rink. 

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MLB World Series Futures Winner

Wednesday, Aug 30, 2023

As we get ready to flip the calendar page over to September and shift our focus to college football and NFL action, now is a good time to take stock of the MLB futures market and more specifically the World Series winner odds.I've already punched one ticket and wanted to give you the lowdown on why I believe one team in particular boasts the best value on the board.Philadelphia Phillies (+1400 at DraftKings)I'm predicting a repeat trip to the Fall Classic for the Phillies after they fell in six games against the Astros last October. This time around, I'm expecting Philadelphia to finish the job.The Braves and Dodgers are the obvious leading candidates to take home the National League pennant. After all, Atlanta's offense looks unstoppable and Los Angeles has faced little resistance running away with the West Division crown. I do think both of those teams have their flaws, however. Atlanta's bullpen has proven vulnerable, if not a little thin in the depth department, at times and it will be relying heavily on an arsenal of very young, yet accomplished, starting pitchers. The Dodgers starting rotation is top-heavy in my opinion, most recent losing Tony Gonsolin to a season-ending injury. The same could be said of Los Angeles' batting order, with plenty of pop near the top but not a lot as you approach six-through-nine. The Phillies, meanwhile, are putting it all together right now. They've been one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball, not just in the short-term picture but going all the way back to the start of August. Note that they've scored double-digit runs on five occasions going back to August 11th.Their bullpen is in excellent position heading down the stretch, having logged only 437 1/3 innings collectively. Keep in mind, many bullpens are already well north of 500 innings on the campaign. Philadelphia's relief corps has made the most of those innings as well, posting a 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 36 saves converted and only 15 blown on the season. As far as the Phillies starting rotation goes, they're well-positioned for playoff success with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Michael Lorenzen one of the more underrated 1-2-3's in baseball. Of course Philadelphia does still have its work cut out for it as it sits five-and-a-half games to the good in the N.L. Wild Card chase. It won't be catching Atlanta atop the N.L. East Division so the top Wild Card spot is the clear goal at this point. Having already experienced a deep playoff run last Fall, I'm confident this group goes all the way in 2023. 

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Dublin primer: Notre Dame vs. Navy

Wednesday, Aug 23, 2023

The 2023 college football season kicks off with a high-profile opener in Dublin, Ireland as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday afternoon (evening local time). The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the 50's with rain in the forecast. I wouldn't anticipate weather playing a major role apart from making fans in the stands slightly uncomfortable. Notre Dame will be ushering in a new (albeit brief) era with Sam Hartman taking over at quarterback. Hartman joins the team following five seasons at Wake Forest. All indications are that he has already more than won over his new teammates and has made a point to entrench himself in the community. The question becomes whether we see the Irish lean heavily on Hartman's arm right out of the gates and unleash an aerial assault on the Midshipmen, or elect to pound away and control proceedings on the ground in an effort to 'win and move on' in this critical season-opener. Running back Audric Estime was one of the more underrated runners in the country last year as he racked up 935 rushing yards on 156 carries, not to mention 11 touchdowns. Few offensive lines carry more upside than that of the Irish. The Midshipmen will be guided by Brian Newberry in his first year as head coach after serving as the team's defensive coordinator over the last four seasons. Navy did make positive strides on the defensive side of the football last season but defending the pass remained a sore spot. The good news is, there's plenty of returning talent in the secondary. In fact, that's arguably the most experienced group on the Middies roster. After ranking top-three in the country stopping the run a year ago, the front line will once again need to be stout with plenty of question marks on offense.Perhaps the biggest change for Navy comes on offense, where they'll shift to a more hybrid attack after running the option for what seems like an eternity. The Middies boast a pair of capable quarterbacks in Tai Lavatai and Blake Horvath but having two options under center isn't always better than one. Regardless, Navy's number one goal will be to possess the football for extended periods to effectively shorten this game against a talent-superior Irish squad. Of note, the Midshipmen are a perfect 6-0 ATS when priced as an underdog between 10.5 and 21 points over the last two seasons and have been outscored by an average margin of only 2.7 points in that situation. Notre Dame has won five straight matchups in this series with Navy last prevailing by a 28-27 score as a seven-point underdog in 2016. 

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North of the Border: CFL Week 8 News and Notes

Thursday, Jul 27, 2023

We're seven weeks into the CFL season and one undefeated team and one winless team still remain. Of course, you're never that far from playoff contention in the CFL so even the 0-7 Edmonton Elks still have a lot to play for while the 5-0 Toronto Argonauts are anything but free and clear at the top of the pack. Here's a look around the league heading into this weekend's action.Just a speedbump?The Hamilton Tiger-Cats had reeled off back-to-back wins prior to last week's 31-15 drubbing at the hands of the aforementioned Argos. They'll get a chance to respond on Friday as they make the trip to Ottawa to face the suddenly-surging RedBlacks. Ottawa has delivered consecutive victories in thrilling fashion, first rallying from a massive fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home before going on the road and outlasting the Calgary Stampeders 43-41 in another overtime affair last week. Hamilton is hoping that it will have QB Bo Levi Mitchell back sooner rather than later as it has few viable options at the position due to a number of key injuries. The RedBlacks have been living off of turnovers this season, coming up with 10 over the last four games alone. Meanwhile, the Ti-Cats coughed up the football eight times in their first four games but have turned it over only twice in their last two contests. Running down a dreamThe defending Grey Cup champion Argos are 5-0 on the strength of an incredible ground attack that has produced an average of 129 rush yards per game, good for an incredible 5.1 yards per rush so far this season. They draw a tough matchup on Saturday as the Saskatchewan Roughriders have been stout against the run, yielding just 4.3 yards per rush after holding their last two opponents to only 88 yards on 29 attempts. It's been a case of feast-or-famine for the Riders offense this season. They've produced 87 points across three of their games but only 38 in the other three. That includes last week when they were limited to just nine points in a double-digit loss to the B.C. Lions. Note that this week's clash between these two teams will take place at a neutral site in Halifax, Nova Scotia (hey that's my backyard). Looking for a sparkAs mentioned, the Elks remain winless on the season but it hasn't been for lack of trying lately. They've been competitive in their last three games (don't let the 28-14 final score in WInnipeg last week fool you) but will draw another difficult opponent in the Lions this Saturday. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the biggest issue is for Edmonton right now. The Elks have actually held up reasonably well against the pass but have been torched on the ground. Offensively, the Elks are coming off three straight 100+ rushing yard performances. They've also thrown for well over 200 yards in four straight contests. They'll likely need to lean on their defense this week as their offense is unlikely to break through against arguably the Lions ferocious 'D'. B.C. has held all but one of its six opponents to fewer than 20 points this season. The exception was a game against Toronto in which the Lions turned the football over six times and gave up 45 points. Riding into MontrealThe Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes serve as two of the league's biggest disappointments so far this season with Calgary having won just twice in six games and the Als fresh off three straight losses (after a 2-0 start). They'll match up in Montreal on Sunday in a game that has a 'something's gotta give' feel to it. While you don't want to pin a team's woes on one player, Als QB Cody Fajardo hasn't been pushing the football down the field nearly enough, topping out at 292 passing yards in a game. Meanwhile, Calgary QB Jake Maier started the campaign in a bit of a sophomore slump but did throw for over 400 yards in last week's overtime loss to the RedBlacks. Note that the Stamps will probably be happy to be hitting the road as they're on an incredible 16-4 ATS tear away from home over the last three seasons, outscoring foes by an average margin of 7.3 points. 

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North of the Border: CFL Week 5 News and Notes

Thursday, Jul 06, 2023

After a lighter schedule featured only three games in CFL action last week, it's back to a four-game slate for Week 5, beginning with Thursday's Elks vs. Roughriders West Division showdown on Thursday night. Here's a look at some news and notes regarding the Friday-Sunday matchups north of the border.Big Bomber bounce-backWinnipeg suffered an inexplicable 30-6 rout at the hands of the B.C. Lions, at home no less, two weeks ago but rebounded nicely last Saturday, securing a 17-3 victory in Montreal. The Blue Bombers defense got off to a poor start this season but showed signs of turning it around against the Alouettes and now draw an inconsistent Calgary Stampeders offense in Week 5. Of note, Winnipeg forced four turnovers in last week's win after picking up only two in its first three games. The Stamps enter Week 5 having turned the football over six times through three contests. The Bombers check in a perfect 9-0 ATS in Weeks 5 through 9 over the last two seasons. Laying the hammer down?The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have yet to taste victory this season, off to an 0-3 start following losses to the Blue Bombers, Argonauts and Alouettes. They'll get another shot at their first win as they host the 1-2 Ottawa RedBlacks on Saturday. You would have to go back eight meetings - all the way to 2018 - to find the last time Ottawa managed to defeat Hamilton. The RedBlacks have to be feeling pretty good about themselves after notching their first victory of the campaign in lopsided fashion against the lowly Elks last week. Note that Ottawa rushed for a whopping 208 yards in that contest after picking up only 97 rushing yards in its first two games. Hamilton is a woeful 3-11 ATS against East Division foes going back to the start of last season.East-West showdownIf it's not the game of the week, it's a close second (behind the Stamps-Bombers) as the Alouettes challenge the Lions in Vancouver on Sunday. Both teams suffered their first loss of the season this past week with both of those setbacks coming in blowout fashion. For B.C. this is a bit of a tough scheduling spot as it travels across the country on just five days' rest following Monday's contest in Toronto. In that game, Lions QB Vernon Adams Jr. tossed six interceptions. Part of the blame has to be placed on him, but the team as a whole played an extremely sloppy game - the first time we've seen that type of performance from the Lions this season. Note that Montreal checks in a long-term 29-47 ATS when playing on the road after winning two of their last three games, as is the case here. 

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North of the Border: CFL Week 4 News and Notes

Friday, Jun 30, 2023

With three weeks in the books in the 2023 CFL season, here's our weekly look at news and notes from around the league heading into this weekend's action.Quarterback carouselThe Edmonton Elks and Ottawa RedBlacks check into their Week 4 matchup winless on the season. For the RedBlacks, they're coming off an early season bye week, but it wasn't enough to get QB Jeremiah Masoli healthy enough to start on Friday. Ottawa will turn to dual-threat QB Tyrie Adams after an ineffective two-game stint from veteran Nick Arbuckle. Adams is known more for his legs than his arm and if nothing else may be able to provide a spark to the RedBlacks ground attack, which has run the football only 25 times through two games. The Elks will give the start at quarterback to Jarrett Doege after he impressed in relief of Taylor Cornelius last week. Keep in mind, Doege's success came after the Argos had already all but put that game to bed. Edmonton will have to make do without one of its top receiving threats in veteran WR Eugene Lewis due to injury.Everything comes in threesThe Montreal Alouettes will look to make it three straight wins to open the campaign as they play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday. Montreal has impressed on both sides of the football, outscoring its first two opponents by a 57-24 margin. The Bombers figure to pose a tougher challenge as they look to bounce back from a stunning 30-6 home loss against the undefeated B.C. Lions last week. That offensive no-show came out of nowhere after Winnipeg had racked up a whopping 87 points in its first two games of the season. The Als have somewhat surprisingly hung tough with the Bombers in recent years, splitting the last six meetings in the series.Something has to giveIn what most would call the game of the week, the 3-0 B.C. Lions will visit the 2-0 Toronto Argonauts on Monday. QB Vernon Adams Jr. has done a tremendous job running the Lions offense. Last week, he thrived without top WR Dominique Rhymes, leading the Lions to a season-high 30 points in their rout of the Blue Bombers. The Argos have been getting it done on the strength of their offense while proving vulnerable defensively, allowing their first two opponents to complete 52-of-67 passes for well over 500 yards. Perhaps they can be forgiven for that, however, as they've build sizable leads in both previous contests allowing them to rotate out some of their key defensive parts. The Lions have dropped their last two trips to Toronto, last winning here in 2019 (by a single point).

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North of the Border: CFL Week 3 News and Notes

Thursday, Jun 22, 2023

Two weeks are in the books in CFL action and every team has now taken the field as the Toronto Argonauts finally played their first game this past Sunday. Here's a look at some early season news and notes to consider as Week 3 gets set to kick off.History repeating?The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been the class of the league over the last few seasons and are off to another red hot start, easily disposing of the Tiger-Cats and Roughriders in Weeks 1 and 2. The Bombers offense has impressed, scoring 87 points in those two contests, led by the dynamic QB-WR duo of Zach Collaros and Dalton Schoen. They figure to get a tougher test this week as they host the undefeated B.C. Lions. Note that the injury bug has already bitten Winnipeg with standout RB Brady Oliveira likely to miss Thursday's contest. He had already racked up 160 rushing yards, not to mention 62 receiving yards, in two games. Restore the roarThe aforementioned Lions have been getting it done with defense - fresh off a shutout victory over the Edmonton Elks last Saturday they've allowed just 15 points through two games. Like the Blue Bombers, the Lions are also dealing with some key injuries, most notably to WR Dominique Rhymes, who had been lighting it up to the tune of 163 receiving yards and three touchdowns in two contests. His absence on Thursday could lead to RB Taquan Mizzell playing a larger role in the offense. Mizzell has rushed for 174 yards and hauled in seven catches for 35 yards so far this season. Feeble CatsIt's been another rocky start for Orlando Steinauer's Hamilton Tiger-Cats as they're 0-2 after getting beat up by the rival Argonauts in Toronto on Sunday. An injury to prized offseason acquisition QB Bo Levi Mitchell adds a little salt in the wound. On a positive note, backup QB Matt Shiltz has proven he can perform at this level and stepped in and completed 13-of-14 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss. Veteran RB James Butler is off to a tremendous start, rushing for 223 yards and two touchdowns on just 27 carries through two games. Hamilton will play its home-opener on Friday against Montreal.RedBlacks feeling blueUntil QB Jeremiah Masoli can make his debut, the Ottawa RedBlacks are in tough with an ineffective Nick Arbuckle under center. Tyrie Adams relieved Arbuckle last Thursday but fared no better, completing only 9-of-17 passes for 129 yards and an interception against Calgary. The Ottawa defense has actually held up just fine through two games, but can't shoulder the entire load. Fortunately, the RedBlacks do have an extra week off before taking the field against the lowly Elks on June 30th. If Masoli can return, the needle might begin to point upward again in the nation's capital. 

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NHL Conference Finals Preview

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The NHL Conference Final matchups are set with the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights serving as this year's unlikely Final Four. Here's a quick preview of both series' including my take on which sides' will end up meeting in the Stanley Cup Final. Odds courtesy of DraftKings.Carolina Hurricanes -135 vs. Florida PanthersI'm not sure any team has looked as dominant through the opening two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite missing a number of key contributors due to injury, the Canes have ramped up their game to another level in skating past the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. Now they face the last team to qualify for an Eastern Conference playoff spot in the upstart Florida Panthers in an old Southeast Division showdown. Note that Carolina took two of three regular season meetings, outscoring Florida by a 10-7 margin along the way. While the Canes have prevailed in 42 of the last 62 home meetings in this series, the Panthers have actually come away victorious in two of their last three games in Raleigh. Both teams are expected to get some help on the injury front with the Panthers expecting to have Ryan Lomberg back on the ice while the Canes welcome back Teuvo Teravainen, likely in one of the first two games in the series. Carolina has been incredibly stingy on home ice this season, limiting the opposition to just 2.4 goals per game while outscoring opponents by an average margin of 1.0 goal. The Panthers have given up 3.3 goals per contest on the season but have tightened things up in the postseason, yielding 3.1 goals per game. Prediction: Hurricanes in six. Vegas Golden Knights -140 vs. Dallas StarsFew teams have been forced to use as many goaltenders as the Golden Knights this season but here they are, still standing with home ice advantage as the Western Conference Final awaits. The Dallas Stars actually swept the three-game regular season series between these two teams, outscoring Vegas by a wide margin of 9-3. The return of Mark Stone from long-term injured reserve has made a big difference for the Knights as he has contributed 12 points in 11 games, playing mostly on the second line. The Knights and Stars are almost mirror images of one another in terms of goals for and against this season, both at home and on the road. While Vegas will hope to get goaltender Laurent Brossoit back sooner rather than later, Adin Hill stepped in and performed admirably late in the series against Edmonton and has posted a .934 save percentage in five appearances in these playoffs. Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger seemed to be fighting it throughout the series against Seattle and has recorded a .903 save percentage in 13 playoff games. Of note, the Stars haven't lost consecutive games since March 14th and 16th while the Knights last dropped back-to-back contests on March 28th and 30th. Prediction: Vegas in seven.

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MLB Around the Horn: April 27th

Thursday, Apr 27, 2023

For this week's edition of Around the Horn we'll take a look at several key weekend matchups in Major League Baseball. We're about a month into the season and many of the usual suspects have emerged as front-runners while a few surprise division leaders are in the mix as well. Here's a look at four matchups worthy of your attention this coming weekend.Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue JaysWith a strong following on the west coast, the Blue Jays always bring a raucous band of supporters with them on road trips to Seattle. That's turned the two teams into quasi-rivals over the years. The first instalment between the two clubs this year will take place in Toronto this weekend. I suppose the Mariners can be considered an early-season disappointment, sitting in fourth place in the American League West sporting an 11-13 record. While they've only managed to play .500 baseball on the road, they have proven to be a better offensive team compared to at home, averaging 5.0 runs per game. They'll need all the offense they can muster against a Blue Jays team that ranks tied for 11th in runs per game and fifth in hits per contest. The good news for the M's is that they'll start the series with their ace Luis Castillo taking the ball on Friday. Note that Seattle ranks third in the majors in home runs allowed this season, giving up just 19 to date. That's in stark contrast to the Jays pitching staff, which has been tagged for 30 long balls.Atlanta Braves vs. New York MetsAs expected, the Braves and Mets hold down the top two spots in the National League East as we approach the end of April. They'll match up for the first time this season in Queens this weekend. Atlanta figures to have the starting pitching advantage, in the front half of the four-game set at least, as they send Max Fried and Spencer Strider to the mound on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Braves have been red hot and check in ranked top-five in the league in runs per game and tied for second in runs allowed. Only three teams have posted a collective ERA lower than Atlanta's so far this season. New York's pitching staff has been decimated by injuries in the early going and unfortunately the bats haven't been able to pick up the slack, ranking tied for 15th in runs per game and tied for 19th in hits per contest. New York Yankees vs. Texas RangersWhile the Yankees are off to a respectable start to the season they still find themselves looking up at three teams in the American League East, entering this series sporting a 14-11 record. The Rangers are just a half-game better than the Yanks at 14-10, yet currently hold down the American League West division lead. The highlight of this series could come on Friday night as the Rangers send Jacob deGrom to the hill against Clarke Schmidt. deGrom has lived up to billing as Texas' big offseason acquisition, recording a 3.04 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 26 2/3 innings of work. Of course he's been overshadowed by the Rangers offense, which enters Thursday's action ranking tops in baseball in runs per game (6.4). New York has dealt with a number of key injuries to its lineup but that's no excuse for averaging only 4.3 runs per game, good for a tie for 20th in the majors. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles DodgersThe Cardinals have taken their lumps this week in San Francisco. In fact, it's been a rotten west coast road trip from the start for the Cards as they were also thrashed in Seattle last weekend. Sitting at 9-16 entering Thursday's action, St. Louis has its work cut out for it as it heads to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the Dodgers beginning on Friday. The Cards pitching staff ranks 20th in the majors in ERA and worse still, tied for 26th in WHIP. That's just not going to cut it when your offense is averaging only 4.4 runs per contest. Interestingly, despite the low scoring average, St. Louis actually ranks fourth in baseball in hits per game. It will face a difficult challenge against the Dodgers with L.A. sending Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw to the hill in the first two games of the series. The Dodgers have had a number of key hitters in and out of the lineup over the last week but should be near full-strength to open this weekend set. L.A. ranks top-five in the majors in runs per game this season, averaging 5.2. 

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MLB Around the Horn: April 20th

Thursday, Apr 20, 2023

We're just three weeks into the MLB season and intriguing storylines are already emerging. Are the Rays for real? Are the Braves back? And are the A's really that bad? Those are just a few of the questions that come to mind as we approach the final week of April. Here's a look at several teams to keep an eye on as the diamond action begins to heat up.Sleepless in SeattleThe Mariners were a sleeper pick by many to not only win the American League West but perhaps contend for a World Series title in 2023. While it's still way too early to jump to any conclusions, there's no denying it's been a rough start for last year's upstart team. Seemingly built for the ballpark they play the majority of their games in, the Mariners offense has mysteriously struggled to find any sort of consistency in the early going. They enter Thursday's action ranked 24th in the majors in team batting average, 21st in hits and 19th in runs scored. In a flipped script, their pitching has actually been terrific. Seattle sits top-10 in team ERA and hits allowed and a respectable 14th in runs given up. Only six teams have recorded a better WHIP. The schedule won't get any easier over the next couple of weeks as the Mariners welcome St. Louis for a three-game set before hitting the road for a difficult two-stop, six-game trip that will see them face the Phillies and Mariners. Even in May, Seattle will open with a three-game set against the lowly A's but then have to face the Astros and Rangers in succession. Again, it's early and the M's are still just 4.5 games back of the first-place Rangers in the A.L. West. If their offense can wake up in the coming weeks, they should once again become a club we'll be looking to bet on rather than bet against. Guardians of the galaxyWe've made some money backing the Guardians, not to mention the 'over' in several of their recent games as I think their offense is being severely undervalued thanks to some poor metrics. Yes, Cleveland ranks a miserable 29th in baseball in home runs and in the bottom-third in run production. However, when the Guardians face a pitcher that puts batters on base on a regular basis, they can excel. That's because no team has been more aggressive on the basepaths and they have speed to burn with a Major League-leading 29 stolen bases to date. I think it's only a matter of time before the power numbers get better and when that happens, this offense has the potential to go off. Few teams put more pressure on opposing pitchers with runners on base and we certainly saw evidence of that in last weekend's series in Washington. Note that Cleveland's pitching staff has been rock solid, ranking in the top-half of the majors in ERA, WHIP and home runs allowed. I have the Guardians slated as a bet on team in the coming weeks, especially when you consider their next three series' will come against opponents with a combined 22-33 record this season. Snake-bittenThe N.L. West has been one of the more interesting divisions in baseball so far this season with the upstart Diamondbacks leading the way with an 11-8 record. You may remember from a previous article, I suggested locking in the D'Backs at a generous price to win the N.L. West prior to the start of the regular season, even if it was a longshot at best. While it's still early, there's no question the Snakes are proving they can hang with the big boys (ie. the Padres and Dodgers). In fact, both the Dodgers and Padres currently own losing records on the campaign. While that's unlikely to last, I don't think the Snakes are going away any time soon. Arizona enters Thursday's series-opener against San Diego ranking inside the top-10 in hits, batting average and slugging percentage, not to mention sixth in stolen bases. As expected, the D'Backs pitching staff has been a mixed-bag but there's reason for optimism given what we've seen from the likes of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly at the front of the rotation. When you can trot out guys of that calibre two out of every five games you're going to be alright. Meet the MetsAs expected, the Mets find themselves near the top of the N.L. East heap as we head into the third week of the regular season. New York sits just two games back of the first-place Braves thanks to a 9-3 surge that culminated with a series with over the Dodgers in Los Angeles to start the week. Remember, it was just two weeks ago that the sky was falling in Queens after the Mets were swept (and outscored by a 26-6 margin) in a three-game series in Milwaukee. A six-game homestand seemingly vaulted them into their most recent road trip that saw them plate 37 runs in six games against Oakland and aforementioned Los Angeles. Keep in mind, New York is still waiting for prized offseason acquisition Justin Verlander to make his regular season debut after he was put on the shelf with a shoulder injury. He's getting closer to returning, scheduled to make a minor league rehab start a week from Friday. In the meantime, the Mets pitching staff ranks top-10 in baseball in runs and hits allowed helping to minimize the damage as they do sit a miserable 27th in home runs given up with 28. The offense has been as advertised for the most part, getting on base with some consistency but not hitting for a great deal of power, currently sitting 13th in the majors in runs scored. New York will close out its California road trip with a four-game set in San Francisco beginning on Thursday.

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2023 MLB: Division Winner Predictions

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

The 2023 MLB season is upon us as plenty of new faces in new places not to mention a number of new rules draw the attention of even the most casual baseball fans on Opening Day. Even if you're not interested in betting MLB futures, it's a good time to take stock of each division, even in a year where divisional play will be less of a factor (teams will play fewer games against divisional opponents than in previous years). Here's my take on which team is the best bet (not necessarily the most likely) to win each division crown. All odds taken from Bet365.American League EastTampa Bay Rays +380I'll skip past the supposed top two A.L. East contenders in the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays as I feel both teams have their flaws, not to mention are overpriced in my opinion. That's not to say the Tampa Bay Rays don't have their own warts, most notably offensively, but I really like the way they're set up from a pitching perspective.  I also favor them at these odds with the new scheduling system that will see them play far fewer games against their own division. Tampa Bay has a number of young players that figure to be entering their prime, most notably Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. Third baseman Isaac Parades is a less talked about player that will also be one to watch this season. Keep in mind, this is a Rays club that is just one year removed from winning the division in 2021. American League CentralChicago White Sox +150I'm higher on the Chicago White Sox than some as I feel they get an immediate boost with the departure of Tony Larussa. Consider the impact similar to what we saw in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the Urban Meyer debacle. There's a potential 'sling-shot' effect that I don't believe is being properly factored into the division odds. The Cleveland Guardians are perennial favorites in the division and they'll be difficult to contend with again this season. However, I think the ceiling is extremely high for the White Sox as they figure to stay healthier than they did during a disastrous 2022 campaign. Like the Rays, the White Sox have significant young talent that projects to hit its stride. Pitching may be a touchy subject but I'm confident the White Sox can slug their way to plenty of victories in games that just didn't go their way a year ago.American League WestSeattle Mariners +300While there's no question I'm in the minority, I do think there's a path for the Seattle Mariners to not only win the A.L. West but finish with the best record in the American League and dare I say the entire Majors. Everything is breaking right for the M's as they enter the campaign loaded with optimism but perhaps not the same pressure or expectation level as say the Yankees, Astros or Blue Jays. This is a Mariners club that is built for the ballpark it plays in. Don't sleep on the Seattle pitching staff either, with an underrated starting rotation led by last year's big pre-trade deadline acquisition Luis Castillo and book-ended by a pair of shutdown arms that could arguably hold down the closing job for any team in baseball. National League EastAtlanta Braves +135I think the Atlanta Braves are a steal at the price quoted but you'll need to shop around as you can find them as generous as +135 but as unfavorable as -110. Regardless of the price, I think the potential is there for the Braves to run away with the division. All of the pieces are there for the Braves to take another run at a World Series title after ascending to that peak in 2021. Health issues plagued the club last year but that's not something that can be properly projected or assessed moving forward. We can assume we'll get a bounce-back year from Ronald Acuna Jr. among others and we know what we're going to get from a loaded Atlanta pitching staff that will only get stronger as its younger arms come into their own. Neither the Mets or Phillies scare me all that much in this division and certainly won't intimidate the Braves.National League CentralMilwaukee Brewers +160I simply feel it's 'one of those years' for the Milwaukee Brewers - in a good way. The Brew Crew have few flaws and should be able to front-run in a ho-hum Central Division where I only consider the St. Louis Cardinals to be a serious threat (sorry Cubs fans). That's not to say I'm all that high on the Brewers - I don't anticipate them going on a deep playoff run, for instance. This prediction has perhaps more to do with my dislike for the Cardinals long-term prospects heading into the campaign. I have them as one of the more overrated and overvalued teams in baseball with a pitching staff that will need additional help as the season progresses. The N.L. Central as a whole doesn't pique much interest for me. National League WestArizona Diamondbacks +4000I know this one sounds crazy but hear me out. The Los Angeles Dodgers aren't going to get any of my money at -120. Nor are the San Diego Padres at +110. I don't think the San Francisco Giants have a high enough ceiling to go in on them with a futures bet while the Colorado Rockies figure to challenge for the worst record in baseball. That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks, a young club with a ton of upside but very low expectations entering the 2023 campaign. I think folks are going to be surprised by the offense the Snakes are going to put up early in the season. I mentioned the potential 'sling-shot' effect with the White Sox earlier. I think the D'Backs are set up to enjoy the same, albeit for different reasons. They boast a number of young players that are in line for breakout campaigns, with catcher Gabriel Moreno being one of my favorites of the bunch (he's not talked about nearly enough in my opinion). With a Cy Young candidate in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly at the front of the rotation and what I consider to be an underrated bullpen, the Snakes could surprise and at such a generous price, I'm biting. 

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NHL Off the Post: March 16th

Thursday, Mar 16, 2023

With just over a month until the puck drops on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's a good time to take stock of some key happenings from around the league. Here's a look at four teams and situations to consider in your daily hockey handicapping in the coming weeks. The defense restsIt's been a while since we've seen a team turn in as bad of a two-game stretch defensively as the Canadiens just displayed in (stunningly) splitting a pair of matchups with the Avalanche and Penguins earlier this week. In those two contests, the Habs were outshot by a wide 76-41 margin, allowing a whopping 12 goals along the way. There's no relief in sight with a two-game in three-night trip through Florida to face the Panthers and Lightning on deck. Note that the 'over' is now 14-8-1 in Montreal's last 23 games including 5-1 over its last six. You would have to go back to February 28th to find the last time the Habs held an opponent to fewer than four goals (that performance came against the lowly Sharks). Also of note, the Habs won't play another non-playoff contending team until a home date with the Blue Jackets on March 25th.Oil rushWhile we successfully faded the Edmonton Oilers during their stop in Toronto last Saturday night, there's no denying they're playing some of their best hockey of the season, winners of five of their last seven games, scoring 32 goals over that stretch. Don't sleep on Edmonton's savvy pre-trade deadline acquisition of defenseman Mattias Ekholm. He's been a rock on the blue line since being brought over to shore up the Oilers leaky defense corps. Edmonton has a favorable schedule down the stretch as it won't travel East on a single occasion over its final 14 regular season contests. It should also benefit from facing the Sharks and Ducks, two of the league's worst teams, five more times. Edmonton currently sits in third-place in the Pacific Division with just a single-point cushion over the fourth-place Seattle Kraken.Resisting the urgeMuch to the chagrin of their faithful, the Canucks have gone on an improbable late-season tear reeling off five straight victories to all but drop themselves out of the running for coveted Draft day prize Connor Bedard (who continues to break records with the WHL's Regina Pats). It's certainly a case of 'too little, too late' in terms of a playoff push although perhaps the Canucks are building something positive for the future under the guidance of new head coach Rick Tocchet. The return of goaltender Thatcher Demko has given them some much-needed consistency in the crease. Demko has recorded a sterling .934 save percentage in his last four games while the team has gone 5-1 in his six starts since coming back from injury. Vancouver will be tested over the next couple of weeks as it faces a grueling seven-game in 11-night stretch that will include stops in six different cities, beginning with Thursday's clash with the Coyotes in Arizona.Coming up acesThe Vegas Golden Knights were in rough shape as the calendar flipped from January to February but we've witnessed a sharp turn-around since as they've gone an incredible 13-4 over their last 17 games. They were the benefactors of a messy situation with the rival Los Angeles Kings giving up on veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Knights acquired him after he had been cast off to Columbus prior to the trade deadline. Quick has made four starts for the Knights and they've won all four of those contests. Vegas has put itself in good position to not only win the Pacific Division, but finish atop the Western Conference standings - currently holding a three point advantage over both the Kings and Stars (with all three teams having played 68 games). In an interesting scheduling quirk, four of the Knights next six games will come against the Flames and Oilers. Unfortunately for Vegas, only three of its final 14 regular season contests will come against non-playoff contending teams (the Blue Jackets, Canucks and Sharks). 

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NBA Shootaround: February 23rd-26th

Monday, Feb 20, 2023

The NBA resumes regular season action on Thursday following an extended six-day All-Star break. Here's a look at several playoff-hungry teams that are staring down a busy weekend as they begin the stretch run. Sacramento Kings (32-25, third in Western Conference)The Kings dragged their heels prior to the break, dropping two of their last three games including a particularly tough defeat in Phoenix as the Suns pulled within 1.5 games of Sacramento atop the Pacific Division. Now the Kings begin a tricky stretch that will see them play three games in four nights, in three different cities beginning Thursday at home against the Blazers. Sacramento is near the top of my second half fade list as regression is to be expected given it currently leads the league in points per game and offensive rating and stood pat at the trade deadline (save for a minor deal to acquire Kessler Edwards). Golden State Warriors (29-29, ninth in Western Conference)Like the Kings, the Warriors will also tip off the stretch run with a three-in-four situation, starting with a trip to Los Angeles to face the Lakers before hosting a pair of winnable games against the Rockets and Timberwolves on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Golden State limped into the break on the heels of three losses in four games. Note that Friday's game against Houston will mark the beginning of a five-game homestand where the Warriors will look to gain some ground in the Western Conference standings, where they currently sit in ninth place but just a single game back of the sixth-place Mavericks (teams in spots seven through 10 will take part in the play-in tournament).Denver Nuggets (41-18, first in Western Conference)Keeping with the Western Conference theme, the first-place Nuggets will play three games in four nights from Thursday to Sunday and it's a difficult stretch that will take them all over the map. It starts with a trip to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Thursday before heading to Memphis on Saturday and back home for a matchup with the Clippers on Sunday. Given their tendency to employ strict 'load management' with their stars over the course of the season, it will be critical to keep an eye on the nightly injury reports. Heading into the break, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon were both dealing with nagging injuries. Newly-acquired Reggie Jackson is likely to make his debut when Denver returns to the court on Thursday. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-23, fourth in Eastern Conference)The Cavs have perhaps the most manageable three-in-four situation of the teams I've mentioned. They'll return to game action on Thursday when they host the Nuggets before making the trek to Atlanta on Friday. Following an off day on Saturday they're back home for a game against the Raptors on Sunday. While the Cavs have gone 13-17 on the road this season, they're an impressive 25-6 at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland will want to make the most of this weekend's proceedings before beginning a stretch that will see it play five of its next seven games on the road. 

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NHL's Second-Half 'Buy-Low' Teams

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2023

With the All-Star break in the rear-view mirror and the trade deadline a few weeks away, we're in what some would call the 'dog days' of the NHL season. It's an excellent time to take stock of all 32 teams and determine which ones could make us some serious bank over the remainder of the regular season. Here are three candidates that I believe could offer considerable value in the coming weeks (and months) based not only on recent results but also by factoring in schedule-based projections.New York RangersI said it coming out of the All-Star break and I certainly stand by it after the Blueshirts acquired Vladimir Tarasenko in a blockbuster trade with the Blues last week - New York is a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. While the Rangers still sit in third place in a crowded Metropolitan Division, there's lots of reason for optimism on Broadway as they have gone a perfect 4-0 since the break and have collected at least a point in seven straight contests going back to January 23rd. A very manageable schedule lies ahead with stops in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary later this week followed by a 13-game stretch that won't see New York play outside the Eastern time zone a single time. As we saw this past Saturday in Carolina when they won 6-2 as +190 underdogs, the betting marketplace hasn't caught up to the Rangers just yet. We've seen the Boston Bruins terrorize the league for much of the campaign and I believe the Blueshirts can pull off a similar act in the final two months of the regular season. Seattle KrakenThe Pacific Northwest isn't exactly known as a hockey hotbed but the Kraken have certainly made great strides in winning over fans already this season. Seattle was the talk of the league earlier in the campaign when it went on an incredible run that seemingly came out of nowhere. It did cool off considerably prior to the All-Star break and checks into Tuesday's game in Winnipeg having lost three of its last four games overall. With that said, I believe now is an excellent time to 'buy low' with the Kraken after they showed signs of life in Sunday's 4-3 victory in Philadelphia. It's worth noting that they'll play four of their next six games at home not to mention another stretch in March that will see them play five out of six contests at Climate Pledge Arena, where they're in line for some positive regression (they're a .500 team at home but 17-0 on the road, averaging 4.0 goals per contest in the visitor's role). While most have written the Kraken off as a flash in the pan, they're still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt, currently holding down the third and final postseason spot in the Pacific Division. A savvy move or two prior to the trade deadline might be enough to get Seattle over the hump down the stretch. Colorado AvalancheWhen it comes to the teams on the outside looking in in the Western Conference playoff picture, one of these things is not like the other. That's right, the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche would miss the postseason if the regular season were to end today. Of course, they're only a point back of the second Wild Card spot and few believe they'll end up out of the playoff race come April. While we did successfully fade the Avs in a 5-0 blowout loss in Tampa last week, I liked what I saw as they rebounded with a 5-3 road win over the Panthers two nights later. Defending Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar remains sidelined after suffering a blow to the head from Penguins veteran Jeff Carter last week. While playing without Makar is never a positive, perhaps a few less miles on his tires might not be the worst thing come playoff time. After all, Makar (and the rest of the Avs) have played a ton of hockey going back to last season - as is always the case when it comes to defending Stanley Cup champs. I'm willing to bet we'll see Colorado make a splash at the trade deadline and ultimately go on extended run down the stretch and at the moment, we're able to back them at what I consider to be a discounted price on most nights. 

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NHL Off the Post: January 25th

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023

As we wind down the month of January, Sean takes a quick look around the NHL at some news and notes you can use in your daily handicapping.Ready to sell?The Ottawa Senators are a curious study as the trade deadline approaches (it's a little over a month away). This is a franchise that seems stuck somewhere between rebuilding and contending. The Sens got off to a better start to the season than most expected but have since gone in the tank, dropping six of their last eight games entering Wednesday's home clash with the Islanders. Over that stretch, Ottawa was shut out twice and held to a single goal on three other occasions. The Sens sit 13 points behind the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, albeit with four games-in-hand. There are likely too many teams to leap-frog to make a realistic run at the postseason so that begs the question; does Ottawa shift into sell-off mode? Guys like Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat were brought in during the offseason to provide some offensive punch (and have succeeded in doing so by most accounts) but likely aren't in the Sens future plans with Giroux looking to join a Stanley Cup contender as he winds down his career and DeBrincat an unlikely candidate to sign a long-term contract in Ottawa. Interestingly, the Sens next seven games including a pair of tilts with the Isles sandwiched around five games against Canadian opponents including a home-and-home series with the Canadiens. Storm brewingThe Carolina Hurricanes have rounded into form once again, winning four of their last five games, scoring five or more goals in three of those victories. That was a very manageable stretch, however, as three of the five games were played at home with the Canes were priced at -170 or higher in each and every contest. Now things get a lot tougher with a stop in Dallas on Wednesday followed by a three-game homestand that will include a showdown with the league's best team, the Boston Bruins. Note that nine of Carolina's next 12 games will be played in Raleigh, where it has gone 14-7 this season. The Canes are currently in a log-jam near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, sitting in a three-way tie for second place with the Devils and Maple Leafs.'Over' the moon in Oil CountryIt's easy to forget that the Edmonton Oilers reached the Western Conference Final last Spring before being brushed aside by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. While it endured a fairly miserable two-month stretch from early November through early January, Edmonton has since turned it around, reeling off six consecutive wins to move within two points of the third-place Kraken in the Pacific Division. With that said, the Oilers hold on a playoff spot is tenuous at best as they're only three points clear of the 'first team out' Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Wild Card hunt. It seems that the oddsmakers can't set Oilers totals high enough, noting that the 'over' is 32-14-2 in their 48 games this season. Edmonton has seen an average total of 6.9 goals scored yet we've seen a closing total of 7.0 on just seven occasions this season. Kraken the whipThe Seattle Kraken have arguably been the most streaky team in the NHL this season. They reeled off five straight wins late October-early November and then proceeded to post seven consecutive victories starting with a win against the Rangers a little more than a week later. After a December swoon, the Kraken got rolling earlier this month, winning eight straight games from January 1st to 14th. Having lost three of its last four games and seeing its hold on the coveted third spot in the Pacific Division loosen considerably, Seattle will look to turn it around with each of its next three games coming at home. The problem is, the Kraken are 11-12 at Climate Pledge Arena this season, outscored by 0.1 goal on average along the way. They're averaging an impressive 3.6 goals per game overall this season but that average drops to 2.9 on home ice. It's worth noting that the Kraken have never defeated Wednesday's opponent, the Vancouver Canucks, in six previous meetings yet find themselves priced at -180 (at the time of writing). 

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NHL Off the Post: January 18th

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2023

With the All-Star break a little over two weeks away, Sean takes a quick look around the rink at some NHL news and notes that you can use in your daily handicapping.Long Island bluesThere was plenty of optimism on Long Island entering the 22-23 campaign but that is quickly vanishing as the Islanders have now lost 14 of their last 22 games. Goal scoring, or a lack thereof has been the main culprit lately with New York having scored a grand total of 10 goals over its last six games. On a positive note, goaltender Ilya Sorokin is having another fantastic season having posted a .925 save percentage in 32 games played. The 'under' is 13-6-1 in Sorokin's last 20 starts between the pipes. Next up is a matchup with the red hot Bruins at UBS Arena on Wednesday.Wild nights are callingThe Minnesota Wild have quietly climbed back into the playoff picture, currently sitting in third place in the Central Division, just five points behind (with two games in hand) the Stars and Jets who are currently tied for top spot. Minnesota rides a three-game winning streak into Thursday's date with the Hurricanes in Raleigh. The Wild signed forward Matt Boldy to a seven-year contract extension with a cap-hit of $7 million per season earlier this week. He's actually been slumping, tallying a grand total of four assists over his last 11 games. Of note, Kirill Kaprizov was held off the scoresheet in their 4-2 win in Washington on Tuesday. Kaprizov has played in all 43 games this season and has only been held pointless in consecutive games on two previous occasions (not since November 3rd and 8th). C'est dommageThe injury bug has taken hold in Montreal with the Canadiens losing first overall draft pick Juraj Slafkovski for three months due to a 'lower-body' injury. He joins Jake Allen, Jake Evans, Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia who have all suffered injuries of varying severity in the past week. Things were actually looking up for the Habs as they delivered consecutive wins over the Rangers and Jets on Sunday and Tuesday. Many believe the Canadiens would be well-suited to take their lumps over the remainder of the campaign in an effort to give themselves a better shot at earning the coveted number one draft pick again this June (with highly-touted prospect Connor Bedard the ultimate prize). Montreal currently sits in 26th place in the NHL, 13 points clear of the last-place Blackhawks and Blue Jackets.What happens in VegasThe Golden Knights continue to hold down first place in the Pacific Division but their grip is loosening as they sit just two points ahead of both the Kraken and Kings and only seven points clear of the fifth-place Flames for context. Mark Stone recently joined the list of walking wounded with an upper-body injury, leaving a considerable hole at the top of the depth chart up front. Stone has contributed 38 points in 43 games this season and plays a key role on the power play (nine power play points this season), logging an average of nearly three minutes per game with the man advantage. The Knights will play their next two games at home before heading on the road for five-game trip that will take them all over the map, from Arizona to New York to Nashville and Minnesota. 

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NHL Off the Post: December 31st

Saturday, Dec 31, 2022

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, Sean takes a quick look around the NHL at some news and notes that you can use in your daily handicapping.Consistency countsThe Boston Bruins head into 2023 staking claim as the best team in the NHL and they've done it with alarming consistency this season. As we flip the calendar page over to 2023 we'll note that the B's have yet to lose consecutive games this season. They avoided that fate again earlier this week as they followed up a 3-2 loss in Ottawa with a 3-1 victory over the Devils the next night in Newark. Of note, Boston will play on back-to-back nights on three different occasions in January. Up next is the Winter Classic showdown with Pittsburgh at Fenway Park on Monday.Crown themThe Los Angeles Kings have proven to be one of the more underrated teams in the league so far this season and they'll have a chance to head into January winners of seven of their last eight games with a winnable home game against the Flyers on tap on New Year's Eve. With seven of their next eight games coming at home, where they've gone 11-7 so far this season, the Kings have plenty of room to run as they look to ascend the Pacific Division rankings in January.Oil rushIn less than surprising news, the Edmonton Oilers have been one of the best 'over' bets in the league this season and certainly of late as they've seen seven of their last eight and 16 of their last 20 games sail 'over' the total. That's despite the fact that they've been held to three goals or less in five of their last seven contests. If Friday's seven-goal outburst in Seattle (without Leon Draisaitl) is any indication, this might only be the beginning and it's surely only a matter of time before we see a return to those '7's that were popping up in Oiler games earlier in the season. Shooting StarsThe Dallas Stars haven't dropped consecutive games since December 4th and 6th, going on an 8-3 tear over their last 11 contests. While they've been finding the back of the net on a regular basis, I've been more impressed by their defensive play, allowing two goals or less in eight of their last 10 games and giving up an average of just 2.8 goals per game on the season. Not surprisingly, the 'under' has gone 7-2-1 in Dallas last 10 games overall. Next up is a home game against the reeling Sharks on New Year's Eve before the Stars hit the road for a quick two-game jaunt to California (to face the Kings and Ducks). Fanning the FlamesWhile it's still too early to declare a winner in the Tkachuk-Huberdeau blockbuster trade from the Summer, the case can be made that both the Panthers and Flames have been worse off since that deal. While Calgary has won four of its last six games, it still owns a less than impressive 17-13-7 record on the season and you would have to go back five games to find the last time the Flames scored more than three goals. After hosting Vancouver on New Year's Eve Calgary will play six of its next seven games on the road. Perhaps that's not a bad thing as the Flames have managed to win four of their last five away from home. 

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NHL Off the Post: December 23rd

Friday, Dec 23, 2022

As the NHL heads into its brief two-day holiday break at the conclusion of Friday's busy slate, here's a look around the league at some news and notes to consider when the action resumes on December 26th.Having a Devil of a timeAfter an incredible start to the season, the New Jersey Devils have more than just cooled off, losing six of their last seven games overall. They did manage to post a victory over the Panthers in Florida two nights ago but their schedule only gets tougher from here with a two-game home set against the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh and a home date with Carolina. Bouncing back could prove difficult as they've gone a woeful 14-35 after losing four of their last five games over the last three seasons, entering Friday's action.Bad Hab-itsThis was expected to be another rebuilding year for the Montreal Canadiens and that has proven to be the case. Some Habs fans would actually suggest that the team isn't losing enough as it tries to improve its Draft positioning in what promises to be a terrific draft class. Scoring woes continue to plague the Canadiens as they've found the back of the net two times or less in six of their last seven contests. They're in the midst of a seven-game road trip that will take them through the start of the New Year. Interestingly, the Habs are 0-11 when coming off a game that totalled three goals or less over the last two seasons, which is the situation in play on Friday in Dallas.Trade winds blowing in the Windy CityThe Chicago Blackhawks are mired in a dismal campaign, having won only seven of 31 games to date. It's only a matter of time before management starts looking to unload assets in an effort to kickstart what has been a slow-developing rebuild in recent years. The Madhouse on Madison hasn't exactly lived up to its billing with Chicago entering Friday's clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets sporting an ugly 4-14 home record. Note that the 'Hawks have gone a miserable 1-15 when coming off a loss by two or more goals this season, outscored by 2.3 goals on average in that spot (which sets up Friday against Columbus).Ready for take-offThe case can be made for the Winnipeg Jets being the most underrated team in the NHL this season. They've lost consecutive games on only two occasions and have yet to drop three straight contests. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck continues to make a strong case for the Vezina Trophy (it's early, I know) having posted a .928 save percentage in 25 games. They'll look to rebound from a 3-2 loss in Boston as they make a quick stop in Washington on Friday before returning home to play five of their next six games in Winnipeg following the holiday break. While Jets bettors have been stacking cash, the 'under' has been a highly-profitable play as well with only 11 of Winnipeg's first 33 games this season going 'over' the total. 

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NHL Off the Post: November 29th

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

With December quickly approaching, it's time to take another quick look around the NHL at several teams you should be keeping an eye on in the coming week. Swimming against the currentThe San Jose Sharks are mired in an awful 7-13-4 start to the season which many expected as the team continues its rebuild in Silicon Valley. It's how they've gotten there that has been interesting. San Jose has recorded five of its seven victories on the road. That leaves it a dreadful 2-11 on home ice. The good news is, the Sharks open a four-game eastern road swing in Montreal on Tuesday. The bad news? They'll have to do so without goaltender James Reimer, who has been played on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury. That leaves Kaapo Kahkonen and his dreadful .871 save percentage to take over as the regular starter between the pipes. The goal-happy Maple Leafs have to be licking their chops at the prospect of catching the Sharks at home with San Jose in a back-to-back and three-in-four spot on Wednesday (and will be priced accordingly). Unleash the KrakenNot much was expected of the Seattle Kraken in their second NHL campaign after they played the role of prototypical expansion team to a tee last season. While their first five-game winning streak was chalked up as nothing more than a brief run of good fortune after following it up with consecutive home losses to the Jets and Wild, the Kraken have proven they're no flash in the pan by delivering their second five-game winning streak in the last month heading into Tuesday's matchup in Los Angeles. Few teams are playing a more exciting brand of hockey, with Seattle having scored 17 goals in its last three games alone. Goaltender (and former L.A. King) Martin Jones is enjoying a renaissance campaign, posting a .903 save percentage with Seattle prevailing in 10 of his 16 starts to date.Singing the Blues(hirts)There's trouble brewing on Broadway after the New York Rangers suffered their third straight loss on Monday, this one coming in excruciating fashion as they blew a 2-0 lead in an eventual 5-3 loss at the hands of the rival Devils. While it's not time to hit the panic button yet, any extended losing streak is concerning when you reside in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division. New York currently sits in fifth place, a whopping 14 points behind the aforementioned division-leading Devils. A sweepable home-and-home series with the Senators (who reside in last place in the Atlantic Division) is up next, with the latter contest kicking off a brief three-game homestand in which the Blueshirts will look to right the ship before playing five of their next seven contests on the road.Flyers groundedThe Philadelphia Flyers turned heads out of the gate this season, going 5-2 in their first seven games. It's been all downhill from there and they enter Tuesday's rematch with the Islanders on the heels of 10 consecutive losses. The good news is, they're finally coming off a two-day break, their first since November 5th to 8th. Of note, Philadelphia is 8-2 the last 10 times it has played at home on two or more days' rest. Unfortunately, that extra time off hasn't helped heal their injuries, with Travis Konecny, James Van Riemsdyk, Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier among the list of key veterans currently sidelined. They're hoping to at least get Konecny back on the ice later this week but even with their full compliment of players, this is a team headed nowhere fast this season. 

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NHL Off the Post: November 21st

Monday, Nov 21, 2022

As we approach the end of November, it's time for another instalment of our semi-regular look around the NHL at news and notes to assist your daily handicapping. Here are four teams to keep an eye on in the coming week.Swamp monstersThe New Jersey Devils continue to turn heads, reeling off 12 straight victories entering Monday's home date with the Oilers. Perhaps the most impressive thing about their current winning streak is the fact that seven of those 12 victories came on the road. In fact, the Devils lone road setback to date this season came way back in their season-opener in Philadelphia. New Jersey should take comfort in the fact that it won't have to travel outside of the eastern time zone again until January 13th, when it opens a western road swing in Anaheim. Cleared for take-offFew expected the Winnipeg Jets to make much noise in the Central Division this season as they were seemingly left in no man's land roster-wise and being led by a new head coach in Rick Bowness. Here we are approaching December and the Jets have matched the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche step-for-step, sitting tied for second-place in the Central with 21 points through 16 games. After Monday's non-conference clash with Carolina, four of Winnipeg's next five games will come against division opponents, including a showdown with the first-place Stars in Dallas.Cure for the BluesFans of the St. Louis Blues were left scratching their heads after their team dropped eight straight games from October 24th to November 8th. Since then, we've seen a sharp turn-around, however, with the Blues delivering six consecutive wins while scoring 27 goals in the process. The play of goaltender Jordan Binnington has been key to their reversal as he checks in sporting a .943 save percentage over his last four games. St. Louis' schedule won't toughen up again until late this week (its next two games come against the Ducks and Sabres) when it heads to Florida for a two-game set with the Lightning and Panthers. Feeling the heatYou have to wonder whether Calgary Flames head coach was on the hot seat after the team lost seven consecutive games from October 29th to November 10th. However, three wins in four games have the Flames back on track, including a big 5-4 win in Jonathan Huberdeau's return to Florida this past Saturday. A tough week lies ahead with four games in six nights, beginning with a stop in Philadelphia to face the Flyers on Monday. It's interesting to note that Calgary won't face another team from its own conference until December 5th, when it hosts Arizona. 

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NHL Off the Post: October 24th

Monday, Oct 24, 2022

We're a little more than two weeks into the 2022-23 NHL season with interesting early trends emerging. Here's a look at some news and notes from around the league. Sleepless in SeattleThe Kraken are hoping to take a step forward after going through considerable growing pains during their inaugural season in 2021-22. So far, not so good as Seattle has won twice in seven games. On a positive note, both wins did come in the role of substantial underdog on the road against the Kings and Avalanche. The Kraken will get three home games in five nights this week before heading back on the road for a three-game trip. They've been outscored by a 14-6 margin in suffering three consecutive losses at home to open the campaign. Note that they've alternated 'over' and 'under' results through seven games, most recently dropping a 5-4 decision in Chicago on Sunday.Sens-ational startThe Ottawa Senators have been Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers for years' now but some savvy offseason moves have seemingly breathed new life into the sagging franchise. The new-look Sens have reeled off three straight victories following an 0-2 start and perhaps most importantly, the fans are back in the seats in Kanata, Ontario thanks to an entertaining brand of hockey put forth by their home team. Ottawa has lit the lamp 18 times in the first four games of its current five-game homestand. It will host Dallas as a short favorite on Tuesday night before wrapping its homestand against struggling Minnesota on Thursday.Broadway Blues-hirtsMost had the New York Rangers pegged as a Stanley Cup contender at the outset of the season and while they're still worthy of being in that conversation, they're by no means off to a solid start. New York is just 3-3 out of the gates, including consecutive home losses as a favorite priced well north of -200. The usually stout Blueshirts defense has been sieve-like during its current 1-3 slide, allowing 16 goals along the way. New York will host the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche on Tuesday before opening a three-game road trip with a short trip to Long Island to face the rival Islanders on Wednesday. Thundering herdWhile Buffalo is still firmly entrenched in a rebuild there's no denying it has gotten off to a tremendous start, notching four wins in its first five contests. There were valid questions as to who would step up offensively for the Sabres this season but that's been a non-issue in the early going as they've produced 22 goals in five games, despite three of their first five contests coming against playoff teams from 21-22. With a win on Tuesday against the struggling Kraken in Seattle, Buffalo would wrap up a perfect four-game road trip before heading home for its next four contests. All eyes on OvieAlex Ovechkin has scored two goals so far this season, edging a little closer in the chase for Wayne Gretzky's all-time NHL goal-scoring record. Gretzky finished his career with 894 goals and Ovechkin currently sits 112 goals behind at 782. At 37 years old, provided Ovie can stay healthy it's likely a matter of 'if' not 'when' he will break Gretzky's record. 

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2022-23 NHL Preview: Central Division

Monday, Oct 10, 2022

The puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season in rinks across the country this week (the Sharks and Predators opened the campaign in Prague, CZE over the weekend). I'm running through quick previews of all 32 teams, continuing with the Central Division.Odds to win division in parentheses.Colorado Avalanche (-150)As is often the case following a Stanley Cup championship, the Avalanche lost a number of key pieces in the offseason, namely Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Darcy Kuemper. With Kuemper moving on, Colorado added former New York Rangers backup goaltender Alex Georgiev, who will look to make a name for himself in the Mile High City. Playing goal for the Avs isn't a bad gig as they're capable of lighting up the scoreboard with a wealth of talent up front, not to mention an elite blue line corps led by superstar Cale Makar. No Stanley Cup hangover here - expect the Avs to have little trouble pacing the Central Division for another year. Minnesota Wild (+400)Having made few offseason changes, the Wild appear content with the roster that got them to the playoffs last season (but made an early exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues). In somewhat of a surprise move, the Wild locked up trade deadline rental goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, leading to them cutting ties with Cam Talbot. The case could certainly be made that Fleury's best days are behind him but he's made a career out of proving people wrong. Kirill Kaprizov leads a top-heavy forward group along with former first-round draft pick Matt Boldy poised for a breakout sophomore campaign after contributing 39 points in 47 games last season.Nashville Predators (+1000)The Predators are already off to a perfect 2-0 start to the season after posting consecutive hard-fought wins over the San Jose Sharks in Prague. With a good mix of youth and experience, the needle is certainly pointed up in Nashville. Filip Forsberg is back to lead the charge after signing a long extension with the club and Juuse Saros looks like a budding star between the pipes. Unlike the majority of the other teams in the Central, the Preds appear to have all of the pieces in place to potentially be a thorn in the side of the Avs at the top of the table. St. Louis Blues (+1200)Unable to get over the hump that is the Colorado Avalanche in each of the last two playoffs', the Blues did little to bolster their roster in the offseason. Ville Husso, who split time with veteran Jordan Binnington between the pipes last season, has moved on. Given Binnington's turbulent times with the Blues since helping them to a Stanley Cup championship back in 2019, it stands to reason that St. Louis will be in the market for a bonafide starting goaltender in the near future. The core of the team remains intact, a big reason why the Blues reside in that second tier in the Central Division. Regardless how the regular season goes, getting past the Avs next Spring figures to remain a tall task. Dallas Stars (+1400)The Stars remain paralyzed by the contracts of aging superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The team's biggest offseason move was a subtraction rather than an addition as Dallas lost key defenseman John Klingberg to free agency. With question marks up and down the roster the Stars seem far removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final just three seasons ago (albeit in that strange 2020 'bubble' tournament). This is a franchise that always treats a non-playoff season as a disappointment but that's likely where it's headed again in 22-23. Winnipeg Jets (+2000)Head coach Rick Bowness is back for a second go-round with the Jets franchise, with three-plus decades in between stints. For a franchise that had so much optimism a couple of years ago, things have fallen apart rather quickly. Guys like Patrik Laine and Andrew Copp are long gone with Mark Schiefele and Kyle Connor left to shoulder much of the load offensively. Connor Hellebuyck provides stability between the pipes but he'll be hard-pressed to get much help from a depthy-shy defensive corps in front of him. Not helping matters if the fact that forwards Mason Appleton and Pierre-Luc Dubois start the season nursing injuries. Arizona Coyotes (+24000)The Coyotes should at least be given credit for not standing pat despite the numerous issues that continue to swirl around the franchise's future in the desert. Phil Kessel is out the door, now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Connor Geekie and Zack Kassian are among those joining the fledgling 'Yotes. The big story is of course Arizona's move to 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, located on the campus of Arizona State University. The 'Yotes will share the facility with the Sun Devils and team insiders have already indicated that the players aren't all that pleased with the arena amenities being offered. Expect another trying campaign for the 'Desert Dogs'. Chicago Blackhawks (+24000)How the mighty have fallen. The Blackhawks, not so far removed from a Stanley Cup dynasty, have fallen on hard times and continue their quasi-rebuild in 2022-23. It's probably a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' face of the franchise, Patrick Kane, will be traded. Alex DeBrincat, one of the team's biggest offensive producers over the last couple of seasons, has already been dealt to Ottawa. There's help on the way with a wealth of young prospects bubbling under the surface but it's going to take some time for them to come along. Expect the Blackhawks to stay the course this season and ultimately finish near or at the bottom of the top-heavy Central Division. 

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2022-23 NHL Preview: Metropolitan Division

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

The puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season with a pair of games between the Sharks and Predators in Czechia beginning on October 7th. Before that, I'm running through quick previews of all 32 teams, continuing with the Metropolitan Division.Odds to win division in parentheses.Carolina Hurricanes (+195)I can't help but feel the Canes took the 'addition by subtraction' route by offloading constant distraction Tony DeAngelo and an aging Nino Niederreiter in the offseason. A pair of veterans, Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty, were brought into the fold although the latter will start the season on the shelf as he recovers from surgery to repair his achilles. The regular season hasn't been a problem for Carolina as it took top spot in the division last year and has been in the mix for a number of years. The question is whether the Canes can get over the hump come playoff time - just winning a round isn't enough anymore as expectations are seemingly sky-high on an annual basis, and rightfully so. An x-factor could be the performance of goaltender Frederik Andersen, who came up with a career year in 2021-22 but will need to match it to keep Carolina atop the heap in the Metro. Pittsburgh Penguins (+340)Evgeni Malkin is back to play Robin to Sidney Crosby's Batman for another year but it remains to be seen whether the once-dynamic duo has another Stanley Cup run in them. This seems to be a franchise unwilling to turn the page on an era that saw it win three Stanley Cups in relatively short succession. Yes, there is plenty of young talent in the fold to compliment veterans Malkin, Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang but it just hasn't been enough to push the team from division contenders to Stanley Cup contenders in recent years. Pittsburgh's biggest offseason addition was steady veteran defenseman Jeff Petry. Instead of going out to get help between the pipes, the Pens will once again rely on Tristan Jarry, who has been frustratingly inconsistent throughout his career. New York Rangers (+350)After making a surprisingly deep playoff run last Spring, the Rangers are a popular Stanley Cup sleeper pick heading into this season. All of the right pieces appear to be in place with an All-World goaltender in Igor Shesterkin and a strong forward group led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. Despite their success last season, the Blueshirts didn't stand pat over the Summer, signing Vincent Trocheck to add even more offensive punch. Depth on the blue line could be an issue but New York has a couple of defensive anchors to work around in newly-named captain Jacob Trouba and rising star Adam Fox. Washington Capitals (+730)The Capitals made some interesting offseason moves, bringing in goaltender Darcy Kuemper from the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche and a pair of depth players up front in Marcus Johansson and Dylan Strome. Johansson is of course familiar with the team as this will be his third go-round with Washington. The most exciting part of the Caps 2022-23 season will likely be Alex Ovechkin's chase for the NHL's all-time goal-scoring record, currently held by Wayne Gretzky. It remains to be seen whether that ongoing storyline gives the Caps an emotional boost or proves to be a distraction over the course of the season.New York Islanders (+880)In a move that was questioned by many, the Islanders fired Barry Trotz following a disappointing 2021-22 campaign. It would have seemingly been difficult to fault Trotz for the Isles woes a year ago as they were handed a number of blows including an early-season Covid outbreak that put them behind the eight-ball in a crowded division. Apart from the ousting of Trotz, New York didn't make many offseason moves of note. It did lock up one of its young franchise cornerstones in defenseman Noah Dobson but Mat Barzal's free agency after this season is looming. A successful season would likely go a long way toward enticing Barzal to return for another run at the Cup on Long Island. New Jersey Devils (+2280)There are some good young pieces in place, namely captain Nico Hischier and 2022-23 breakout candidate Jack Hughes (who was on his way to a monster year before getting sidelined with an injury last season), but also a lot of holes in the New Jersey roster. That's especially true on the blue line and in goal where the Devils remain unsettled following a quiet offseason. You have to figure the Newark faithful are starting to get restless given it's been over a decade since the Devils last iced a team that had a legitimate shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Mug. Head coach Lindy Ruff will likely need to work some serious magic to keep his team in contention for a Wild Card spot this season.Columbus Blue Jackets (+3870)It may seem strange to see the Blue Jackets being priced so generously given they landed one of the biggest free agent names in the league in Johnny Gaudreau. The problem is, there's not much depth behind the former Flames sniper. Elvis Merzlikins does inspire confidence between the pipes but the blue line needs help, as do the second-through-fourth lines up front. All indications are that Columbus is playing the long game to a certain extent as it has the services of Gaudreau for the next seven years. Given the steep return being offered, I don't mind taking a flyer with the Jackets in a division that could be a little more wide-open than most are expecting. Philadelphia Flyers (+6180)Will the John Tortorella experiment work in Philadelphia? One thing's for sure, he's going to be a polarizing character in Philly sports media circles. Curiously, the Flyers did little to bolster a roster than led to a last-place finish in the Metropolitan Division last season. It's becoming more evident with each passing season that Carter Hart isn't the answer in goal. Guys like James Van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier will be relied upon heavily to shoulder the load offensively but they both have plenty of miles on their tires. Travis Konecny has to feel like he's been left on an island given the lack of offensive talent around him. While there's little pressure given the low expectations, I'm anticipating another tumultuous campaign in the City of Brotherly Love. 

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2022-23 NHL Preview: Atlantic Division

Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

The puck drops on the 2022-23 NHL season with a pair of games between the Sharks and Predators in Czechia beginning on October 7th. Before that, I'll run through quick previews of all 32 teams, beginning with the Atlantic Division.Odds to win division in parentheses.Toronto Maple Leafs (+210)Ah, what could have been. It seems like we've been saying that about the Leafs every year for the last decade-plus. Following another first round playoff exit, hopes are once again high in Leaf Nation. In fact, most have them pegged to win the division and they've been clustered with the Panthers and Lightning as a trio of favorites to grab top spot. There are few changes to discuss personnel-wise. Jack Campbell's tortured tenure between the pipes is over as he's on to Edmonton. Replacing him, presumably as the starter, will be Matt Murray. It's tough to envision Toronto improving on their poor defensive track record given all of the tread on Murray's tires. The bulk of the pressure will once again be placed on the shoulders of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner as the Leafs look to outscore rather than out-defend the rest of the division.Florida Panthers (+230)Only time will tell whether the decision to send heart-and-soul players Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar to Calgary in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk will ultimately work in the Panthers favor. Some would say there's nowhere to go but down for Florida's 'other' team after it took down the President's Trophy last season. Getting over the hump (the hump being the rival Tampa Bay Lightning) has proved to be an arduous task with last year's trade deadline acquisitions of Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot failing to do the trick. Perhaps Tkachuk will breathe new life into the franchise but it seems to be that the dynamic duo of Huberdeau and Barkov will be tough to replace. Tampa Bay Lightning (+240)There's remarkably no rebuild in sight for the Lightning as they continue on as one of the favorites to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup on an annual basis. The usual suspects are all back in the fold, save for Ondrej Palat who perhaps became expendable with last season's underrated acquisition of Nick Paul from the Senators. As long as the likes of Stamkos and Kucherov up front and Sergachev and Hedman at the back are healthy, this team will be in contention atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Perhaps last Spring's Stanley Cup Final drubbing at the hands of the overpowering Avalanche will light a brand new fire in Jon Cooper's squad.Boston Bruins (+1000)One of the biggest surprises of the offseason was the Bruins retaining the services of Patrice Bergeron for at least one more year. Bergeron appeared likely to test the free agent waters and perhaps even head back to his home province in Montreal but instead he's back in Beantown for perhaps one last run at the Cup. David Krejci is another veteran drawing back in while Pavel Zacha was the team's biggest trade acquisition. With a new head coach in Jim Montgomery and an aging roster it seems expectations should be tempered somewhat but tell that to the 'Black and Gold' faithful. Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron will ensure the B's are a player in the Eastern Conference playoff race but expecting much more than that will likely be a bridge too far.Ottawa Senators (+2600)The Senators ultimately exceeded expectations last season, doing much more than just avoiding the Atlantic Division basement - they actually finished ahead of three teams including the Bruins. Now the pieces are in place to do even more with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux joining the fold. The latter should provide some much-needed leadership to this young squad that is brimming with talent. While the Sens defensive corps leaves a lot to be desired, Thomas Chabot is undoubtedly a stud. The addition of veteran goaltender Cam Talbot should provide some stability between the pipes but I'm not convinced he's that big of an upgrade over Matt Murray. While unlikely to make the jump to division contender, knocking on the door to the playoffs should represent Ottawa's ceiling in 22-23.Detroit Red Wings (+2800)Don't sleep on the Red Wings offseason addition of former Nashville Predator goaltender Ville Husso. That was certainly an area where Detroit was in desperate need of an upgrade and Husso represents just that over Alex Nedelkovic. General manager Steve Yzerman is quietly building a deep, talented roster in the Motor City, with the likes of Andrew Copp, Dominik Kubalik and Ben Chiarot joining the fold, among others. While scoring might still be a bit of a problem, there's a ton of grit up front - the Wings should be the very definition of a 'tough out' in that regard. On the blue line, Chiarot will be a likely pairing for last year's standout rookie Moritz Seider. It's apparent that Detroit is attempting to build a defense corps capable of contending with other high-powered offensive teams in the Atlantic and that strategy might just work wonders in time.Buffalo Sabres (+5700)Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Sabres this season will be the return of the 'goat head' logo along with the black and red color scheme as an alternate look. Apart from that there's just not much to get excited about in Buffalo as it made little noise in the offseason, content to stick with last year's roster that produced a second-to-last place finish in the Atlantic. There are some solid young pieces in place, including Victor Olofsson and Tage Thompson, who are both back in the fold for at least a couple more seasons. Last year's acquisition of Alex Tuch from the Golden Knights in the Jack Eichel trade produced an immediate spark offensively but it didn't seem to be sustainable. This is a team that is likely a number of missing parts away from being a top-four team in a crowded division.Montreal Canadiens (+13600)Nick Suzuki was recently named the Canadiens captain, a clear indication of the direction this rebuilding franchise is headed in. Last year we saw the Habs gain some late season traction under the guidance of first-time head coach Martin St. Louis and there's nowhere to go but up after finishing last place in the division. Montreal is hoping a change of scenery will provide a spark for former Blackhawk and once highly-touted prospect Kirby Dach. The Habs used their lottery pick to select Juraj Slafkovsky but it remains to be seen how much of an immediate impact he can make. The hope is that he pans out better than former high draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who never really made his mark in Montreal before being snatched up by Carolina last year. There are still far too many holes in the roster to expect the Habs to make a considerable jump this season. 

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2022 CFL Grey Cup Futures Wager

Thursday, Aug 25, 2022

We're past the midway point of the CFL season and the cream has certainly risen to the top with the elite teams coming out of the West Division without exception. With that said, I'm heading to the East Division for a Grey Cup sleeper. Here's a quick look at a longshot side that might just provide its backers with a considerable payday come late November.The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are currently priced around 14-1 to hoist the Grey Cup trophy. I believe now is the time to take a flyer with the Tabbies as they check in a middling 3-4 on the campaign but are still in the mix for an East Division title with no team seeming to be interested in planting itself in the driver's seat.We've seen the Ti-Cats offense wake up (finally!) in the last couple of games, putting up their two highest-scoring performances of the season - 34 points in a victory over Toronto and 28 points in a heartbreaking one-point loss against Montreal (the same Als team that handed Winnipeg its first loss of the season one week previous). While Hamilton's defense has struggled for the most part, it should only be a matter of time before it gets its heart-and-soul back from injury in veteran Simoni Lawrence. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ti-Cats have held six straight opponents to 90 or fewer rushing yards. Only four of seven opponents have completed more than 18 passes against them so it's not as if they've been getting boat-raced on a weekly basis.Note that the Ti-Cats have a excellent opportunity to take control of the East Division with three of their next four games coming against the Argos (two games) and the Alouettes. They lost by two touchdowns on the road against the league's best team in Winnipeg in an early season 'measuring stick' game back in Week 2 but will get a shot at revenge against the Blue Bombers, at home on September 17th. Also note that the Ti-Cats late season schedule is favorable with consecutive games against one of the league's worst teams in Ottawa in late October. While Hamilton is undoubtedly a true longshot, I have little interest in backing front-running teams like the Blue Bombers and Lions at a 4-1 or worse return with so much season remaining. I do question whether the two-time defending champion Blue Bombers may have peaked a little early while the Lions just lost starting quarterback Nathan Rourke to injury. Provided the Ti-Cats can get QB Dane Evans back to 100% health, I do think the potential is there for them to surprise down the stretch.

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CFL Week 11 preview

Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

We're right around the halfway point of the CFL season and we've seen clear separation between the West and East Division with the former proving vastly superior. Will the West's dominance continue this week? Two non-division matchups key the four-game Week 11 slate. Here's a quick preview of all four contests.FridayEdmonton Elks at Ottawa RedBlacks (-4.5, 48)The RedBlacks sit in last place in the East Division while the Elks occupy that same spot in the West. Ottawa finds itself near the bottom of most offensive statistical categories and is coming off a 17-3 drubbing at the hands of the Stampeders. The good news is, the RedBlacks are fresh off their bye week and welcome an Elks team that doesn't play a lick of defense. Edmonton has allowed 30 or more points in five of seven games to date. While the Elks did come close to pulling out a win (and cover) last week against the Roughriders, it was all for not as they allowed two unanswered touchdowns in the game's final four minutes in an eventual 34-23 defeat. Ottawa RB William Powell's status remains in doubt due to a nagging knee injury as he has yet to practice this week. While it hasn't helped all that much, the Elks are arguably the healthiest team in the CFL with no key injuries to mention.B.C. Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders (+4.5, 52.5)There are currently four points separating the Lions and Roughriders in the West Division standings with B.C. sitting in second place and Saskatchewan in fourth. The Riders will obviously have their sights set on narrowing that gap with this home clash on Thursday night. This marks the first home game in which the Riders have been listed as an underdog this season. It's been a bit of a slog for the Saskatchewan aerial attack this season as it has notched 20 or more pass completions in only two of seven games to date. In fact, the Riders offense as a whole has struggled and that could spell trouble as they welcome a Lions squad that has held each of its last three opponents to 83 or fewer rushing yards and no more than 203 passing yards. B.C.'s offense has been 'best in class' all season, averaging 101 rush yards per game and 367 pass yards per contest. SaturdayHamilton Tiger-Cats at Montreal Alouettes (-3, 48.5)These two East Division rivals are riding high off impressive victories last week. Hamilton delivered a 34-27 win over Toronto while Montreal pulled off a stunning upset victory over the previously undefeated Blue Bombers in Winnipeg. The Als needed overtime to secure that improbable road victory but shouldn't be any worse for wear as they've had a couple of extra days off with that game being played last Thursday. Since scoring 31 or more points in three of its first four games this season, Montreal has now been held to 20 or less in three straight contests. The Tiger-Cats are coming off a season-high 34-point performance last week. Hamilton's offense has quietly turned things around following a slow start, led by a rushing attack that has compiled 102+ yards on the ground in three of its last four games. The Als have been torched for 138, 102, 152 and 118 rushing yards over their last four contests.Calgary Stampeders at Toronto Argonauts (+2.5, 50)This will be the first meeting between the Stamps and Argos this season and it comes at a time when both teams are struggling. Calgary has dropped three of its last four games following a perfect 2-0 start while Toronto has lost two of its last three contests since posting consecutive victories over Saskatchewan in mid-July. The Stamps would be well-advised to button things up defensively having allowed all six opponents to attempt 30+ passes this season with their last two opponents getting off 44 and 52 pass attempts. Toronto can sling it, having completed 24 or more passes in five of its last six games. Both teams could be missing their star running backs for this game with Kadeem Carey of the Stamps working through a nagging hamstring injury and Andrew Harris of the Argos having reportedly suffered a torn pectoral muscle. 

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2022 CFL: Week 7 recap

Monday, Jul 25, 2022

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have separated themselves from the rest of the pack through seven weeks of CFL action, posting a flawless 7-0 record. The East Division continues to lag but can at least boast one team with an above-.500 record in the Toronto Argonauts. Here's a quick recap of what went down over the last four days north of the border.Alouettes 40, RedBlacks 33Montreal handed Ottawa its sixth consecutive loss to open the season, torching an overmatched RedBlacks defense on Thursday night. Ottawa thought it had solved its quarterback conundrum by signing Jeremiah Masoli in the offseason but he got off to an underwhelming start before suffering a leg injury. His incumbent, Caleb Evans wasn't necessarily the problem on Thursday as he threw for 297 yards. Nor was RB William Powell, who rumbled for 79 yards on 17 carries. The big issue is the RedBlacks defense, which just can't seem to get off the field and has been prone to giving up the big play, as we saw on Thursday night. With a cluster of injuries on that side of the football, they'll need to figure things out before heading to Toronto to face a steadily-improving Argos squad this coming Sunday. Montreal gets a date with the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton on Thursday.Lions 17, Tiger-Cats 13The bye week served the Lions well as they rebounded from a lopsided 43-22 loss to the Blue Bombers with a low-scoring victory over the Ti-Cats on Thursday night. It was a stark contrast to what we had seen from B.C. earlier in the season when shootouts were the norm. RB James Butler continues to pace the Lions offense while QB Nathan Rourke has been turnover-prone, tossing exactly two interceptions in three consecutive games. The Ti-Cats are still searching for answers with a 1-5 record. Hamilton's offense simply hasn't clicked with QB Dane Evans at the helm. Of course, he hasn't gotten a lot of help from his backfield with the likes of Don Jackson and Sean Thomas-Erlington struggling to make any headway running the football. The Ti-Cats will host the Als on Thursday with just one game separating the two teams in the East Division standings while B.C. travels to face a Roughriders squad that will be eager to respond following consecutive losses against Toronto.Blue Bombers 24, Elks 10This game went almost exactly as expected with the Blue Bombers wearing out the lowly Elks on both sides of the football in a comfortable victory. Winnipeg remains undefeated on the season thanks in large part to a fierce defense that has held all seven opponents to 22 points or fewer. The Bombers offense hasn't had to be great and that's a good thing as QB Zach Collaros completed just 7-of-16 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in Friday's victory. RB Brady Oliveira has been terrific taking over the starting job following Andrew Harris' departure. The Elks continue to have a tough time staying competitive on a weekly basis. QB Taylor Cornelius was thrown into the fire against the Bombers, attempting 42 passes and leading the team in rushing, gaining 59 yards on 15 carries. That's obviously not a winning recipe given Cornelius' limited CFL resume. Winnipeg will travel to Calgary for a rematch with the Stampeders on Saturday while Edmonton mercifully heads into its bye week.Argonauts 31, Roughriders 21It wasn't easy, but the Argos stayed hot, dispatching of the undermanned Riders in Regina on Sunday. That game was moved back a day due to Saskatchewan's multiple Covid-related absences. The Riders still weren't close to full strength on Sunday, forced to go with QB Jake Dolegala in what was his first CFL start. Dolegala actually turned in an admirable performance, particularly in the first half as the Riders took a lead into halftime. Things came unraveled in the second half as Andrew Harris and the Argos offense imposed their will, scoring 17 unanswered fourth quarter points to secure the double-digit victory. The Argos will have a good opportunity to earn a third straight victory as they host the lowly RedBlacks on Thursday while the Riders look to pick up the pieces and snap their two-game skid at home against the Lions on Friday.

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NFL Season Win Totals Best Bet

Friday, Jul 22, 2022

Detroit Lions OVER 6.5 wins (-115)The Lions are coming off another trying campaign, at least on paper, as they went 3-13-1 in head coach Dan Campbell's first year at the helm. Considering they started the 2021 season with eight consecutive losses, there's actually reason for optimism in the Motor City heading into 2022. I'll admit, I had my doubts as to whether Campbell's kneecap-biting philosophy would work, or whether the players would even buy into their hard-nosed head coach's vision. A funny thing happened after that 0-8 start as the positive momentum began to build with a tie against the Steelers and from there the Lions went on to win three of their final eight games with some tight losses in the mix. Football Outsiders ranked the Lions as having the league's third-highest injury impact last season, with Jeff Okudah, DeAndre Swift and T.J. Hockenson just a few of the key names that missed considerable time. Luck was certainly not on the Lions side in 2021.With an underrated defense that welcomes back a number of key parts that missed time last year, not to mention a sneaky-good offense led by the aforementioned Swift and one of 2021's breakout wide receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown, the needle is certainly pointing up for the Lions on both sides of the football. Most left QB Jared Goff for dead after he was dealt from the Rams in the Matt Stafford deal last Summer. He appeared in 14 games with the Lions last season, completing better than 67% of his passes with 19 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Working behind an even stronger, dare-I-say elite offensive line in 2022, I'm expecting Goff to build on last year's steady performance. Keep in mind, the Lions did work to upgrade their offense in the offeseason, adding veteran wide receiver D.J. Chark and using a high draft pick on Jameson Williams (who is expected to return from injury in October). The defense, which was by no means toothless last season, figures to improve with Jeff Okudah, Romeo Okwara, Ifeatu Melifonwu and others back healthy after missing considerable time last year. Detroit made a big splash with the number two overall draft pick, selecting one of the most dominant defenders in all of college football in Aidan Hutchinson.Scheduling works in Detroit's favor this season as well. Note that seven of the first eight opponents they faced last season were true playoff contenders. This year, they'll have the opportunity to get off to a solid start with two of their first four games coming at home against the likes of Washington and Seattle. They'll also close out the 2022 campaign with a very manageable stretch that includes the Jaguars, Vikings and Bears at home and the Jets, Panthers and Packers on the road, with that last game coming in Week 18, when the Pack could be resting their starters. We can currently grab the Lions win total OVER 6.5 but I would anticipate that number potentially bumping up to 7.0 by the end of the preseason. Keep in mind, the Lions will be featured on this year's edition of HBO Hard Knocks so the spotlight will be firmly planted on Dan Campbell's crew in August. 

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MLB Home Run Derby Sleeper Pick

Monday, Jul 18, 2022

The MLB Home Run Derby goes tonight at Dodger Stadium and if you follow my articles regularly, you probably know which slugger I'll be backing.Back in March I recommended a bet on Julio Rodriguez to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. He's well on his way to earning that trophy thanks to a stellar first half with the Seattle Mariners. Rodriguez heads into the All-Star break hitting .275 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI, not to mention 21 stolen bases. Of course, home runs are the name of the game on Monday and I'm confident Rodriguez can put on a good show in Southern California. You should be able to find J-Rod priced around +800 to win the whole derby, however, there are a number of other betting options as well. He's priced north of +800 at most books to hit the longest home run and also matched up against Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers in the opening round. Unfortunately, his matchup price is getting a little out of hand at -170 or worse but I do expect him to outslug the former Dodger. There's also the option to bet on 'any American League player' to win the derby (currently priced around +250), which also gives you the aforementioned Seager (who knows this park well as a former Dodger) and Jose Ramirez. I do think Rodriguez has by far the best shot of those three at hoisting the trophy so I much prefer backing him at the significantly higher price. Another interesting bet is Ronald Acuna Jr. to outslug two-time champion Pete Alonso in the opening round. You can currently back Acuna at around +170 to take that matchup. Acuna has been somewhat slow to round into form this season due in part to injuries but he's precisely the type of player that thrives in the spotlight, much like Rodriguez, and I believe Alonso has settled into 'overvalued' territory this time around. Enjoy the festivities and check back as I plan to have a premium play available for the All-Star Game tomorrow night. 

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2022 CFL: Week 3 recap

Monday, Jun 27, 2022

The West Division continued its early dominance over the East, winning three of four matchups in Week 3. Here's a look around the league as we glance ahead to Week 4 action which kicks off with the Lions vs. RedBlacks on Thursday.Montreal 37, Saskatchewan 13The Riders seemingly got caught looking past the undermanned Alouettes, who were without their three top offensive weapons in QB Vernon Adams Jr., RB William Stanback and WR Jake Weineke. Montreal took advantage of a sloppy performance from the Saskatchewan offense as Rider quarterbacks combined to complete just 19-of-37 passes with three interceptions. Despite starting the season with two losses in its first three games, Montreal is tied with Toronto atop the East Division standings. Saskatchewan sits third in the West and will get a quick opportunity for revenge, hosting the Alouettes this coming Saturday. Blue Bombers 26, Tiger-Cats 12We missed with the 'over' in this game as Hamilton moved the football but struggled to find the end zone, settling for four field goals in a lopsided defeat. Having dropped three consecutive games, the Tiger-Cats need to find some semblance of offensive balance as they've bombed away for 51 and 42 pass attempts in their last two contests. The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Blue Bombers are now 3-0 on the campaign and will have an extra few days of preparation before travelling to Toronto to face the Argonauts on Monday, July 4th. RB Brady Oliveira has done a nice job picking up the slack in the backfield following Andrew Harris' departure, rushing for 104 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts, while adding three catches for 27 yards over the last two games.Stampeders 30, Elks 23Most expected the Stampeders to trample the lowly Elks in this year's first instalment of the 'Battle of Alberta'. It didn't play out that way, however, as the Stamps were unable to pull away until a touchdown inside the final three minutes of the fourth quarter (Calgary actually trailed the game from 5:17 into the first quarter until 0:38 remaining in the third quarter). Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell has rounded back into form following an injury-plagued 2021 season, racking up 634 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception over the last two games. Elks QB Nick Arbuckle has managed to throw for just two touchdowns while tossing six interceptions through three games. These two teams will meet again in Edmonton on July 7th.Lions 44, Argos 3The fact that B.C. is off to a 2-0 start isn't a major surprise given it has had the benefit of playing its first two games at home. Few could have envisioned the re-tooled Lions offense scoring 103 points through its first two contests, however. B.C. QB Nathan Rourke turned in a performance for the ages against a good Argos defense, completing 39-of-45 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns. It was a demoralizing effort for Toronto given it did have the services of RB Andrew Harris after his status was in doubt due to injury leading up to the game. B.C. will head out-of-division for the first time this season in Week 3 as it travels to face winless Ottawa on Thursday.

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2022 CFL: Week 2 Recap

Monday, Jun 20, 2022

We're two weeks into the 2022 CFL season with the West proving superior to the East with four of five teams in that division having posted flawless records. Here's a quick look at some key takeaways from the second week of action.Argos 20, Alouettes 19Toronto was fortunate to come away victorious thanks to a late missed field goal by Montreal. The Argos underrated defense controlled proceedings most of the way before the Als got loose for 10 points in the fourth quarter. The absence of Als standout RB William Stanback was key as no Montreal back was able to gain more than 20 yards on the ground. RB Andrew Harris was the Argos big offseason pick-up and he paid immediate dividends, running for 87 yards while adding three catches. The Als will get to play their home opener against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday as they continue to search for their first victory of the season. Toronto travels to Vancouver to face the 1-0 B.C. Lions this coming Saturday.Blue Bombers 19, RedBlacks 12In a rematch of Winnipeg's Week 1 victory, the Blue Bombers proved superior to the RedBlacks once again, securing a seven-point road victory. The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Bombers entered the season with high expectations and haven't disappointed through two games with their defense not surprisingly leading the charge. Offseason acquisition WR Greg Ellingson has been terrific for Winnipeg, hauling in 10 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown in each of its first two contests. Ottawa is left scratching its head after racking up plenty of yardage but only 29 points in the home-and-home set with Winnipeg. QB Jeremiah Masoli has looked comfortable running the offense, completing 51-of-82 passes for 711 yards, a touchdown and an interception through two games. Stampeders 33, Tiger-Cats 30 (OT)In the week's wildest, most entertaining contest, the Stamps pulled out an improbable overtime victory in Hamilton. Calgary trailed 17-0 at the end of the end of the first quarter before QB Bo Levi Mitchell was able to turn back the clock, throwing for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns in the come-from-behind victory. The Stamps will enter Saturday's showdown with the provincial rival Elks sporting a perfect 2-0 record. Hamilton has dropped consecutive games to open the season, fading late in both contests. QB Dane Evans has quite simply been asked to do too much due to a non-existent ground attack. In Saturday's loss, Evans led the team in rushing with 22 yards. Now comes a difficult road date with the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on Friday.Roughriders 26, Elks 16Most pegged the Edmonton Elks as the league's worst team entering the new season and that's precisely what we've seen through two games as Edmonton has been outscored by a whopping 85-31 margin. The Elks defense hasn't proven capable of slowing opposing attacks, whether through the air or on the ground. Saskatchewan RB Jamal Morrow torched Edmonton for 126 rushing yards on 17 carries while adding a touchdown in Saturday's victory. Edmonton QB Nick Arbuckle might have a tough time keeping his starting job after tossing five interceptions compared to only one touchdown so far this season. The Elks employed a QB carousel during training camp and preseason action. Saskatchewan's defense has been dominant, recording a ridiculous 13 sacks and four interceptions on its way to a perfect 2-0 start.

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WNBA shootaround: Week of May 22nd

Sunday, May 22, 2022

We're already a few weeks into the WNBA season and many of the usual suspects have asserted themselves as the league's elite teams, with a couple of surprises in the mix as well. Here's a quick look at team news and notes from around the league as we head into the final week of May.Storm brewingAs Breanna Stewart goes, so go the Seattle Storm. Stewart was forced to miss time due to Covid protocols earlier in the campaign but has returned to lift the Storm back to an even 3-3 on the season with consecutive victories. Seattle certainly isn't accustomed to looking up at multiple teams in the Western Conference but that's the case as we head into the final week of May. Note that the Storm will have ample opportunity to pad their record and their stats with each of their next five games coming at home including consecutive matchups with the reeling Liberty next weekend.Aces are wildThe Las Vegas Aces have dealt with plenty of playoff disappointment over the years but they're once again proving to be regular season front-runners, jumping out to a 6-1 start to the campaign. As a result of a scheduling quirk, they've already faced the Phoenix Mercury three times, going a perfect 3-0 in those contests. Las Vegas' schedule is about to get a lot tougher, however, with a stop in Chicago later this week followed by consecutive home games against perennial contender Connecticut. Missing LynxA number of early season roster absences have led the Lynx to a miserable 1-6 start to the season. While they will have an opportunity to find their footing with a pair of home dates against New York and Los Angeles (their only previous win this season came against the Sparks), they'll need to turn things around in a hurry defensively, noting they've been torched for 82 or more points in all but one of their seven contests this season. Natalie Ochonwa, Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas remain sidelined without a clear timetable for their return.Into the MysticsDespite managing Elena Delle Donne's workload with scheduled off days, the Mystics have jumped out to a red hot 6-1 start and are well-positioned to improve on that record with consecutive home games against Chicago and Atlanta on deck. Washington might have one of the most underrated duos in the league in Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen. While Delle Donne gets most of the press, the Mystics are loaded with unsung contributors capable of stepping up at both ends of the floor on any given night. No fewer than four players have registered double-figures in scoring in five of Washington's last six games. 

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2022 WNBA Season Preview: Part Two

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Last week we took a look at how six of the WNBA's 12 teams shape up entering the 2022 season. We conclude our season preview here, with the regular season set to tip off on Friday night.Odds to win WNBA title are courtesy BetOnline.Las Vegas Aces (+375)The Aces might just be the flashiest team in the WNBA, led by superstar A'ja Wilson. The problem in recent years has been that the Aces roster has been somewhat top-heavy in terms of talent - often lacking the depth needed to go all the way in the postseason. Las Vegas' biggest offseason move was landing Becky Hammon to take over the head coaching reins. Hammon is a proven winner in this league and Aces fans should be confident she'll be able to get the most out of the Aces already explosive offense. If they can figure out a way to put it together on defense as well, they could turn out to be a front-runner for most of the season. Seattle Storm (+550)This season could serve as a victory lap for Storm veteran leader Sue Bird and fans in Seattle are hoping she has one more championship run left. With Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd back to lead the charge, the Storm certainly appear to be championship-caliber once again. Like the aforementioned Aces, a lack of depth down the roster could ultimately be Seattle's downfall but they've proven the ability to stay relevant year in, year out and we should expect nothing different in 2022.Indiana Fever (+8000)It only seems like the Fever have been in rebuild mode forever. You would have to go all the way back to 2015 to find the last time they posted a winning record and they're a longshot to do so this year as well. They'll once again be looking to flip the script with a boatload of young talent on board, noting that the Fever had a whopping seven picks in this year's draft. Number two overall pick NaLyssa Smith will lead the charge and the hope is she'll become the face of the franchise moving forward. Dallas Wings (+5000)After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2018 last year (albeit with a losing record of 14-18), there's reason for optimism in Dallas. The rebuild is essentially over, with the Wings making just a couple of offseason moves. Most notably, they locked up super scorer Arike Ogunbowale with a long-term contract extension. When in sync, the Wings can have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league but the consistency hasn't always been there. Teaira McCowan joins the fold this year to provide some much-needed stability at the center position. While not likely a championship contender, the Wings could prove to be a 'tough out' on most nights.Minnesota Lynx (+900)Led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles, who like Sue Bird is likely in her final WNBA season, the Lynx are hopeful they can make another run at a WNBA championship in 2022. Angel McCoughtry was a key offseason acquisition but there's reason to doubt how much she can contribute having not played a full season since 2018 due to various injuries. Napheesa Collier's scoring will be missed as she's pregnant and won't return to the floor for some time. Minnesota is hopeful that key cogs such as Natalie Ochonwa and Kayla McBride can pick up the slack offensively with Collier on the sidelines. Los Angeles Sparks (+2500)The Sparks had a disastrous 2021 campaign, finishing with a below .500 record and missing the playoffs entirely. Not surprisingly, the offseason brought changes, most notably acquiring Liz Cambage from the Las Vegas Aces. The thought is that the Sparks were missing a true anchor last season after Candace Parker's departure. Cambage was brought in to hopefully fill that role. This is a veteran-laden squad led by the Ogwumike sisters and Kristi Tolliver. The addition of guard Chennedy Carter could prove to be key as well as she enters her third season following two solid campaigns with the Atlanta Dream. Finding offense shouldn't be a problem for head coach Derek Fisher but the defense will be a work-in-progress for much of the season, hence the lofty championship odds. 

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2022 WNBA Season Preview: Part One

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2022

While the NBA and NHL playoffs not to mention the early stages of the MLB season consume most bettors' attention, the 2022 WNBA season is a little over a week away from tipping off. We've found plenty of success exposing soft lines on the ladies hardwood over the years and expect more of the same this season.Here's part one of our look at what to expect from the league's 12 teams.Odds to win the WNBA title are courtesy BetOnline.Connecticut Sun (+350)The Sun proved to be the 'cream of the crop' during the regular season last year but couldn't keep it going in the playoffs. Most believe the Sun are rightly positioned as the preseason favorite to win the WNBA title this year. Health will of course play a key role and all indications are that all of Connecticut's key pieces are full-go entering the season, led by reigning league MVP Jonquel Jones. Courtney Williams is back after a brief stop-over in Atlanta to relieve some of the scoring burden from Jones. Jasmine Thomas recently reported to camp after returning from overseas league play in Turkey. You'd be hard-pressed to find a deeper team with no fewer than six players having been previously elected as league All-Stars. Chicago Sky (+425)The Sky are the reigning champs so it's not surprising that they're projected as a championship contender again this season. It may seem odd to talk about a 'window of opportunity' closing just months after a championship run but Chicago's roster isn't getting any younger, with a number of veterans looking to repeat last year's performance and perhaps ride off into the sunset. The addition of 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meeseman and Julie Allemand among others have the Sky optimistic that, to quote the Counting Crows, this year could (actually) be better than the last.Phoenix Mercury (+500)Brittney Griner's ongoing ordeal in Russia certainly hangs over the Mercury franchise. Phoenix did load up in the offseason, adding the likes of Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields - two proven performers that should fit right in. Diana Taurasi is back in the mix as well, perhaps for a final run at a title. It remains to be seen how it will all work with first-year head coach Vanessa Nygaard at the helm but there's no question the talent is there for the Mercury to finish near the top of the standings once again.Washington Mystics (+1400)The Mystics appear to fit the bill as a solid sleeper pick, provided Elena Delle Donne can stay healthy which is always a big question mark. Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen are one of the more underrated one-two punches in the league in my opinion. Add in some savvy drafting with Shakira Austin poised to make an immediate impact (unfortunately their other draft choice Christyn Williams will miss the season after suffering an injury during the preseason) and Washington is capable of making some noise in an uneven Eastern Conference.New York Liberty (+2500)There are those that believe this might just be 'the year' for the Liberty but I think that's a little optimistic (and the oddsmakers seem to agree). Health concerns always seem to swirl around Sabrina Ionescu. If she can stay on the floor, there's reason to believe the Liberty could contend in the top half of the East. New head coach Sandy Brondello comes over from Phoenix to lead a talent-laden roster that also includes last year's Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere. The addition of Stefanie Dolson from the reigning champion Sky gives New York some much-needed stability and production down low. Atlanta Dream (+6600)The Dream were in desperate need of a franchise reset and got just that in the offseason with changes across the board, both on and off the court. Nia Coffey, Kia Vaughn and Erica Wheeler have joined the down-trodden Dream through free agency and it always helps to have the number one overall pick in the draft, with the Dream opting to go with Rhyne Howard who should be able to help right away. Atlanta's prospects could hinge on how Aari McDonald develops after an up-and-down rookie campaign a year ago. While Atlanta is still likely a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot, there's no question the franchise is once again pointed in the right direction. Check back next week as we look at the WNBA's other six teams in part two of our season preview.

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Handicapping the NHL Playoff Race

Wednesday, Apr 20, 2022

While all eight playoff berths have been clinched in the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is still wide open as the chase for the final four playoff spots continues. Here's a look at how the race shapes up as we approach the final week of the regular season.Battle for secondThe Oilers and Kings continue to battle it out for the second spot in the Pacific Division. Edmonton currently sits two points ahead of Los Angeles and certainly has the inside track with a pair of games in hand. The Oilers will have the benefit of playing four of their final six games at home. The Kings play their next two games at home - both against non-playoff opponents in the Blackhawks and Ducks - before wrapping up with consecutive road games in Seattle and Vancouver. The Golden Knights are still in the picture as well, but sit five points back of the Kings with just one game in hand and figure to be more of a player in the Wild Card race, as outlined below. Central in orderAll three playoff spots have been wrapped up in the Central Division, with the Avalanche having clinched top spot, but we could still see some movement as the Wild and Blues sit tied for second in terms of points (Minnesota currently holds the tie-breaker). The Wild have a game in hand and also play five of their final six regular season games on home ice. The Blues on the other hand, open a four-game road trip in San Jose on Thursday night. While the Blues have been red hot, you have to think the Wild have the inside track on grabbing second place and the opening round home ice advantage that goes along with it. Wild card huntIt's essentially a four-team race (for two spots) as far as the Western Wild Card goes. The Predators and Stars currently hold down the two playoff berths with the Knights and Canucks still in the mix but facing an uphill battle. Both Vegas and Vancouver have five games remaining and both sit four points back of the Stars. The good news for Vegas is that it still has one game left against the Stars, albeit in Dallas. The Canucks coughed up an important point in a shootout loss to Ottawa on Wednesday and will now have to play three of their final five games on the road, with of those games coming against playoff teams. The NHL regular season wraps up on April 29th (for all intents and purposes - the Kraken and Jets do play a make-up game on May 1st) with the Stanley Cup Playoffs getting underway on May 2nd. 

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2022 MLB Futures - Player Awards

Friday, Mar 25, 2022

With baseball's Opening Day just under two weeks away it's a good time to take a look at some futures worth grabbing a piece of before the stats start counting for real in April. Here are two American League player award futures that I've personally locked in already (odds courtesy DraftKings).A.L. MVPBo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays, +2000Of course, Bichette was overshadowed by another MVP candidate on his own team last year with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turning in a phenomenal sophomore campaign. However, Bichette's stellar season shouldn't be ignored. He came within one home run and five stolen bases of a 30-30 season. Perhaps most impressively of all, he appeared in 159 of 162 games for the Blue Jays. That's the sort of durability we're looking for in an MVP candidate. Noting that Bichette had posted .571 and .512 slugging percentages in more limited action in 2019 and 2020, respectively, I'm expecting a step forward in that department this year after he recorded a .484 SLG% last season. In general, I believe Bichette is in line to improve on his extra-base power, which would obviously go a long way toward building on the 29 home runs and 102 runs batted in he delivered in 2021. The Blue Jays as a whole figure to be improved offensively with the additions of Matt Chapman (who is in line for a bounce-back season at the dish) and Ramel Tapia (a recent trade acquisition from the Rockies) and that obviously improves Bichette's run-scoring and producing potential as well.A.L. Rookie of the YearJulio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners, +750I've been high on Rodriguez for years' now, even if he has yet to make his big league debut. It's only a matter of time before he cracks a spot on the Mariners roster - quite possibly in time for Opening Day given how he's been performing in Spring Training action. In High-A and Double-A ball last season, J-Rod hit .347 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI in 74 games. He also added 21 steals. He's shown remarkable improvement in his two years in the minors and all indications are that he's ready for the jump to the majors in 2022, likely sooner rather than later. There are obviously a number of budding young stars in the American League with Bobby Witt Jr. of the Royals leading the list (he's the favorite to win Rookie of the Year). I'm not sure if anyone has as much potential upside as Rodriguez though. He's already 4-for-11 at the dish this Spring, with a home run, four RBI and a stolen base. That's just the tip of the iceberg and I believe we're being offered incredible value before the hype train really gets rolling in April and May. 

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NBA Stock Rising and Falling

Friday, Mar 11, 2022

As we approach the final month of the NBA regular season it's a good time to take stock of teams that are on the rise and those on their way down in this week's edition of NBA Stock Rising and Falling.Stock risingMinnesota TimberwolvesDon't look now but the T'Wolves have won six straight games both SU and ATS, scoring 124 or more points in all six of those contests. Sure, they've benefited from a favorable schedule recently but it doesn't get that much tougher until March 19th, when the Wolves begin a stretch that will see them face the Mavericks (twice), Suns, Celtics, Raptors and Nuggets in succession. For now, Minnesota will aim to keep rolling with a trip that includes stops in Orlando, Miami and San Antonio before a home date with the reeling Lakers. While I wasn't necessarily a buyer earlier in the season, I do think Minnesota can continue to make some noise down the stretch, provided it can get a little healthier. One thing's for sure, the T'Wolves are unlikely to fit the bill as a 'public darling' anytime soon and that's a good thing for their backers.New York KnicksProving just how quickly things can improve, the Knicks find themselves in the 'stock rising' category after previously residing at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It took a while, but it seems like the Knicks have finally figured out that it's their defense that needs to fuel their offense. They enter Friday's matchup with the Grizzlies in Memphis after holding seven straight opponents to fewer than 89 field goal attempts, limiting four of those opponents to 83 or less. You would have to go back eight games to find the last time New York allowed an opponent to knock down 40 or more field goals. After wrapping up their long road trip with stops in Memphis and Brooklyn, the Knicks will return home for a four-game homestand beginning next Wednesday against Portland. Stock fallingNew Orleans PelicansAfter a brief surge, the Pelicans have gone back in the tank with consecutive losses against Denver, Memphis and Orlando. Worst of all, they'll be without Brandon Ingram, who had been making big strides forward this season, for multiple weeks due to injury. The depth simply isn't there for New Orleans to withstand such a blow. It does get its next three games at home but it's still a difficult stretch considering it will have played eight games in 14 nights by the time the homestand wraps up. Riding what I would consider an unsustainable streak of 11 consecutive games scoring more than 100 points, I will be looking for opportunities to play the 'under' in upcoming Pelicans games, noting that they have been doing a good job of limiting opponents scoring opportunities in recent weeks. Sacramento KingsSitting 20 games under .500 in 13th-place in the Western Conference, the Kings have nothing but pride and contracts to play for down the stretch. They head into Saturday's game in Utah riding a three-game losing streak, having won just twice going back to Valentine's Day. Even their once-explosive offense has gone cold lately, scoring 95, 115, 113, 115 and 100 points over their last five games. Frustrations boiled over earlier this week with pre-trade deadline acquisition Domantas Sabonis striking an official and earning a one-game suspension. While Sacramento will get four of its next five games at home it's not as if that has meant much this season as it has won just 15 times in 35 games as host. Picking favorable spots to back the Kings is a real chore these days and I don't see that changing in the final month of the season. 

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NBA Stock Rising and Falling

Monday, Feb 28, 2022

With the calendar about to flip over to March, it's a good time to take stock of where teams stand in the Association. Another wild trade deadline period is well behind us and the cream has certainly risen to the top as we head into the stretch run. Here's a look at two teams on the rise and two on their way down entering the new month.Stock risingMiami HeatWhile the Heat are just 1-4 ATS over their last five games they enter the week on an 8-1 SU tear and will have the benefit of playing 12 of their next 15 games at home, where they're 20-7 SU and 14-12-1 ATS on the season. Having allowed 100+ points in five straight games I would expect to see a defensive turnaround sooner rather than later as I do rate the Heat as having one of the league's top-10 defenses. While they will have to deal with a back-to-back set in Milwaukee and Brooklyn later this week, the Bucks have looked vulnerable lately while the Nets won't have the services of Kyrie Irving on their home floor. New Orleans PelicansThe Pelicans were buyers at the trade deadline as they acquired C.J. McCollum to bolster their offense with Zion Williamson still on the shelf and apparently nowhere close to returning to the team. Sunday's rout of the Lakers made it two straight wins coming out of the break and in convincing fashion in Phoenix and Los Angeles. McCollum has proven to be a tremendous fit and the duo of Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas have been underrated to be sure. New Orleans will play six of its next eight games at home, beginning with another winnable contest against the lowly Kings on Wednesday night.Stock fallingCharlotte HornetsThe buzz has gone quiet in Charlotte as the Hornets have dropped 10 of their last 12 games overall, going 4-7-1 ATS over that stretch. To prove just how far they've fallen, they lost at home against the Pistons on Sunday - a team they had previously hung 140+ points on in two other matchups this season. Unfortunately the Hornets schedule only gets tougher from here, with consecutive road games this week followed by a difficult three-game homestand against the Spurs, Nets and Celtics. Note that Charlotte enters the week having been torched for 111+ points in six of its last seven contests.Los Angeles LakersThis season has been a complete disaster for the Lakers and Sunday's blowout loss against the Pelicans on their home floor might serve as rock-bottom. At least they hope so. At 6-14 SU over their last 20 games and showing no signs of turning things around anytime soon, it's difficult to envision where the Lakers can turn for a spark at this point. This week's schedule features three games in five nights against the Mavericks, Clippers and Warriors so things could very well get worse before they get better. After that they'll play 10 of their next 13 contests on the road. While Los Angeles still sits well within playoff contention (3.5 games behind the Clippers with three games in hand), that may not still be the case when we check back in a couple of weeks from now. 

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NHL Futures at the All-Star Break

Friday, Feb 04, 2022

The NHL All-Star break is upon us. It was previously expected to be a much longer break with NHL players slated to head to Beijing for the Olympic Winter Games but hopes of that best-on-best tournament were dashed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The break is an ideal time to take stock of the NHL Stanley Cup futures odds. Here are three teams outside the upper-echelon (top five favorites) to consider. Odds listed are courtesy of DraftKings.Calgary Flames (+3000)This might be my favorite Stanley Cup futures play of the bunch right now. The Flames had a number of earlier postponements that leave them with at least four games in hand on the rest of the teams they're currently looking up at in the Pacific Division (Calgary sits in fourth place). They're only three points behind both the Kings and Ducks and will certainly want to make up that ground in an effort to avoid a potential first round playoff date with the Golden Knights. While injuries and Covid-related absences have certainly played a role, Vegas hasn't been nearly as consistent as in past years', perhaps leaving the door open for one of the other Pacific Division playoff teams to ultimately advance out of the division stage of the postseason. My bet is on Calgary to be that team as it boasts plenty of offensive firepower, a capable defense corps, not to mention one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL in Jakob Markstrom. Expect the Flames to be 'buyers' leading up to the trade deadline. A couple of savvy moves could further improve their chances of making a deep playoff run. BONUS TIP: Bet the Flames to win the Pacific Division at +200.Minnesota Wild (+1700)If you're backing the Wild, you're likely making the assumption that they'll also be active on the trade market leading up to the deadline next month. There are some holes to fill but when Minnesota is at the top of its game, it ranks among the best in the entire league. The biggest problem for the Wild is that they find themselves in the same division as the mighty Colorado Avalanche - the favorite to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. We did see the Wild go on the road and take the Avs to a shootout on Martin Luther King Day. It's also not outside the realm of possibility that we see Minnesota overtake Colorado for top spot in the division, currently sitting nine points back, but with three games in hand. The biggest question mark on the entire Wild roster might be whether or not the goaltending tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen is capable of shouldering the load. Kahkonen has actually been the more consistent goalie lately, although Talbot did show signs of turning the corner prior to the break, returning from an extended absence to allow just three goals on 72 shots in three appearances - all Wild victories. BONUS TIP: Bet the Wild to win the Central Division at +200.Carolina Hurricanes (+1300)Carolina has been on the cusp of greatness for a number of years but has never been able to get over the hump. The Canes are right there as a top contender in the Eastern Conference again this season, currently pacing the Metropolitan Division (they're actually tied with the Rangers but own the tie-breaker on wins and have five games in hand). The beauty of residing in the Metropolitan is that you avoid a potential matchup with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning until the Conference Final. While the Lightning, Panthers, Leafs and Bruins battle it out in what is likely to be two grueling playoff rounds, the Canes will likely be contending with two-of-three of the Rangers, Penguins and Capitals - all opponents that Carolina can handle in my opinion. Few teams can match the Canes depth up front or on the blue line - we've seen that depth shine through as they had a number of key contributors out of the lineup for extended periods due to Covid protocols earlier this season. The addition of Frederik Andersen in goal could prove to be the biggest difference-maker come playoff time but he'll need to prove he can get it done in the postseason after a number of disappointing previous results with the seemingly cursed Maple Leafs.BONUS TIP: Bet the Hurricanes to win the Eastern Conference at +650.

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NBA Weekend Shootaround: January 22-23

Friday, Jan 21, 2022

While the NFL Playoffs take center stage this weekend, the superior betting opportunities might lie on the NBA hardwood. Here's a look at several key spots to keep an eye on before the lines are released.SaturdayThunder at CavaliersWhile the Thunder will be playing their second game in as many nights following Friday's matchup with the Hornets in Charlotte, the Cavs are home and cool after suffering a disappointing loss against the undermanned Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday. I could only look to back the Cavs in this spot as they've proven to be an excellent bet all season long and should be poised to bounce back against an Oklahoma City squad that entered last night's action having gone 6-16 SU on the road, outscored by an average margin of 9.8 points. Pacers at SunsIndiana is in a clear letdown spot on Saturday as it looks to follow up consecutive upset wins over the Lakers and Warriors. The Pacers might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the desert as the Suns are absolutely rolling right now. Phoenix is coming off a hard-fought win in Dallas on Thursday, wrapping up a perfect 5-0 road trip that included an 18-point victory over these same Pacers in Indiana. Indiana can likely afford to catch its breath on Saturday before a winnable game to close its road trip in New Orleans on Monday. SundayClippers at KnicksThe Knicks will undoubtedly be in a foul mood following consecutive home losses against the Timberwolves and Pelicans - two games they needed if they wanted to be taken seriously as a potential playoff team in the East. They'll get a third opportunity to pick up a win over a Western Conference foe on Sunday and they'll be catching the Clippers in an early start game with this one tipping off at 1 pm et. The Clippers have been as inconsistent as any team in the league, entering Friday's game in Philadelphia sporting a 9-10 ATS mark on the road this season. Defense has been optional for the Knicks lately and that's key as the Clips have posted two of their three highest-scoring results of the season over their last three contests.Jazz at WarriorsTo say that the Jazz have been playing their worst basketball of the season would be an understatement. They entered Friday's home game against the lowly Pistons losers of six of their last seven games both SU and ATS. Lucky for them, the Warriors have struggled lately as well, seemingly having a tough time finding their footing since the return of Klay Thompson, going 3-4 SU over their last seven games. The Jazz have undoubtedly had this game circled since suffering a seven-point home loss against the Warriors back on New Year's Day. I'll be looking for a potentially inflated number to back the suddenly out of favor Jazz in this spot.

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NFL Divisional Round: Current Line Movement

Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022

The NFL's Divisional Round matchups are set with a mouth-watering four-game slate on tap this weekend. Here's a look at where to anticipate line movement in each contest.Bengals vs. Titans - Saturday 4:30 pm etThe Titans opened as rather standard three-point home favorites but we've seen the majority of books move off that number to -3.5. The total opened at 47 and has held steady at that number. The money is likely to continue to flow in support of the Titans as the Bengals defensive injury picture clarifies over the course of the week. Cincinnati lost Trey Hendrickson, Mike Daniels and Larry Ogunjobi to injuries in last Saturday's win over the Raiders. Only Ogunjobi has been ruled out for Saturday's game, so far anyway. I'm not convinced that confirmation of Hendrickson or Daniels' playing status will shift the line here, in fact I'm quite confident saying that it won't. I don't anticipate much more movement in the pointspread or total here barring any unforeseen circumstances over the course of the week.49ers at Packers - Saturday 8:15 pm et This line is on the move, shifting from the opener of Packers -4.5 (at a handful of books) all the way to -6. We'll likely see the number bounce between -5.5 and -6 all week long leading up to kickoff. The moneyline might be more interesting to watch. The Niners opened as a +200 underdog at most books with that number climbing to +216 to +218 before dropping back down to +210 as of Tuesday morning. If you like the Niners straight-up I believe you might want to lock in sooner rather than later as I would anticipate some underdog money flowing in on the moneyline leading up to Saturday's kickoff. Keep in mind, the Niners have been a somewhat popular Super Bowl sleeper pick ever since they rallied from a 17-0 deficit to defeat the Rams and clinch their playoff spot in Week 18. The total has held firm at 47.5 and I'm anticipating it bumping up to 48 before long as bettors look to support these two explosive offenses. Rams vs. Buccaneers - Sunday 3 pm etThe Bucs opened as low as -1.5 favorites but have since shifted all the way to -3 at the majority of books. There are injury concerns on the Bucs offensive line with Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen questionable to play on Sunday. If you like the Rams I would suggest grabbing the +3 now as I anticipate this spread settling at -2.5 by the end of the week. The total has been on the move as well, going from the opener of 47.5 up as high as 48.5 at some books. Don't count on that number going much higher as we hear all week about the ferocious Rams pass rush potentially eating up the Bucs banged-up offensive line, not to mention all of the key contributors Tampa is missing at the skill positions. Expect the total to settle around 48 points.Bills vs. Chiefs - Sunday 6:30 pm etThe betting marketplace seems to be treating this game as the definition of a toss-up with the Chiefs bouncing around at -2/-2.5. The Bills will undoubtedly be a popular moneyline bet on Sunday as bettors look to get a plus-money return rather than grab less than a field goal on the pointspread. We've seen Buffalo go from around +120 down to +115 on the moneyline so far. No surprise if that number settles closer to +110. This game features the highest posted total of the playoffs to date, currently sitting at 55 points, up from the opener. Given the way the last two matchups between these two AFC rivals have played out with the winner easily eclipsing the 30-point mark, I wouldn't be shocked if this total climbs as high as 56.5 points before likely settling back at 55.5. If you like the 'over', you probably won't want to wait until Sunday to lock in your wager, when more 'over' money will undoubtedly roll in. 

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NBA Positive Regression Candidates

Wednesday, Dec 29, 2021

As we near the end of 2021 there's still a Covid cloud hanging over all of the major professional sports and the NBA is no exception. With that being said, there is some light at the end of the tunnel with quarantine lists getting shorter and hopefully a return to normalcy (relatively-speaking) around the corner. Here's a look at three teams that are in line for some positive regression after slow starts to the season.New York KnicksLast year's Eastern Conference upstart, the Knicks got off to a shaky start this season. However, they enter Wednesday's game in Detroit within two games of the .500 mark and fresh off back-to-back wins. They have a very favorable schedule coming up over the next few weeks (starting with a three-game road trip with stops in Detroit, Oklahoma City and Toronto) and should be able to gain ground on some of their division and conference rivals. I like the depth and balance up and down the Knicks roster (we've seen some of their young talent emerge as steady contributors when given extra minutes) and think we'll see R.J. Barrett in particular take off and lead this team on a run in early 2021. Charlotte HornetsThe Hornets have quietly gone on a 9-3 ATS run, even if the outright wins haven't exactly been piling up. Having moved back over the .500 mark, Charlotte now gets a chance to find some consistency with three of its next four games coming against the likes of Indiana, Washington and Detroit. Few teams were more affected by Covid protocols and the Hornets not surprisingly struggled as a result. After allowing 120 or more points in nine of 13 games, we've seen them turn things around defensively, holding their last two opponents to just 107 and 99 points. Note that Charlotte has played 22 of its first 35 games on the road this season so a favorable schedule lies ahead. There's too much talent on the roster to not put together a serious run in the near future.Los Angeles LakersYes, the Lakers have been one of the league's biggest disappointments so far this season as they enter Wednesday's action sitting at 17-18. I'm not about to count them out just yet, however. Save for a few matchups against the Grizzlies and Jazz (they get two of the three games at home), their schedule over the next month is very reasonable. After Wednesday's stop in Memphis they'll play seven of their next nine contests at home. As bad as things have seemingly gone lately (during a 1-5 SU slide), the Lakers actually check in 5-4 ATS over their last nine games. Perhaps Tuesday's 132-point explosion in Houston (their second highest scoring total of the season) will prove to be a turning point. 

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NHL Off the Post: Holiday pause edition

Wednesday, Dec 22, 2021

The NHL has hit the pause button, at least until after Christmas as Covid, and more specifically the Omicron variant, has once again taken hold. The good news is, this disruption is likely to be short-lived as the other professional sports believe the way forward is to 'play through' and adjust testing protocols. Science tends to agree, at least to a certain extent. Here's a look at four teams to keep an eye on when the action (hopefully) resumes next week.Bad Hab-itsWith just seven wins in 31 games this season and only one so far in December (that came by way of a shootout against the Flyers), the Montreal Canadiens have been one of the league's biggest disappointments. While a return to Earth was certainly expected after the Habs unbelievable run to the Stanley Cup Final last Spring/Summer, this big of a drop-off comes as a surprise. The good news is, Carey Price should be back between the pipes sooner rather than later (he has resumed practicing with the team). The bad news is, a pre-trade deadline sell-off is probably in the cards. With that being said, I do think we will see some value backing the Habs going forward as their young nucleus is too talented to continue to wallow near the bottom of the NHL standings. Excellent Pen-manshipThe Pittsburgh Penguins enter the holiday pause as one of the league's hottest teams - winners of seven games in a row. They've been doing it despite missing a number of key contributors including Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. For a team that is presumed to be lacking in scoring depth, their run has certainly been impressive. Credit goaltender Tristan Jarry who is enjoying a tremendous turn-around season after a dismal 2020-21 campaign. Jarry has posted a stellar 1.94 goals against average and .932 save percentage in 24 games this season, certainly warranting early-season Vezina Trophy consideration. As always, the Pens are likely to be active 'buyers' in the January-March trading window as they gear up for perhaps one of Sidney Crosby's last runs at Lord Stanley's Cup. Long Island bluesYou have to feel for the New York Islanders. Thought to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender entering the season, it didn't take long for the wheels to fall off. Most of their issues have been Covid-induced, however, as they dealt with a string of postponements before getting back on the ice with a skeleton crew. The Isles currently find themselves sitting in 29th place in the NHL but do have at least two games on hand on every other team (and in most cases three or four). Barry Trotz's squad certainly has its work cut out for it but I'll be buyer coming out of the break as the Isles have certainly shown signs of life, collecting at least a point in seven of their last nine games and have scored at least three goals in five of their last six contests. They'll hope to have Mat Barzal back from Covid protocols next week. Crown themFew believed the Los Angeles Kings would be anywhere close to playoff contention this season but as we near the end of December, they sit just three points back of the fourth-place Oilers in the Pacific Division - and only seven points behind the division-leading Golden Knights with two games in hand. Veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, posting a 2.19 GAA and .930 save percentage in 18 games. Anze Kopitar has been a workhorse up front, averaging over 21 minutes per game while posting almost a point-per-game pace (he's played in all 30 games which is an accomplishment given the current state of affairs). While I'm not convinced the Kings are a true contender in the West, I'm also not going to be 'selling' them come January as I do like the core they've built with a nice mix of youth and experience. 

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NHL Off the Post: November 30th

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021

We're almost two full months into the NHL season and there are some surprises both at the top and the bottom of the league standings. Here's a quick look around the league at some areas of interest as you navigate your weekly hockey handicapping.All CapsThe Capitals are somewhat surprisingly tied atop the NHL standings with 33 points and a 14-3-5 overall record. I say surprising because many expected the Caps to perhaps take a step back with an aging veteran core, note to mention the fact that they've have had to deal with some adversity, playing without the likes of Nick Backstrom and T.J. Oshie for much of the campaign. Instead we've seen Washington lean heavily on Alex Ovechkin and what has been a rock solid blue line and goaltending tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. The Caps wrap up a quick two-game road trip with a stop in Florida on Tuesday before opening a four-game homestand.Singing the BluesSaturday's lopsided win over Columbus notwithstanding, the Blues have had a tough go lately, failing to register consecutive wins since opening the season with five straight victories. It's been a case of 'feast-or-famine' offensively while St. Louis has had a tough time keeping the puck out of its own net, allowing 25 goals over its last eight games alone. Backup goaltender Ville Husso has actually outperformed starter Jordan Binnington to this point, posting a .936 save percentage in delivering three wins in four starts. Unfortunately for the Blues, their next four games come against two of the league's best teams in the Lightning and Panthers. Philadelphia free-fallOnly the Covid-ravaged Islanders sit lower than the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division. They haven't won a game since November 16th. Their last victory by more than a single goal came way back on November 2nd against the lowly Coyotes. A punchless offense has been the main culprit as Philadelphia has scored two goals or less in 12 of its last 15 games. Next up is a road date against the Rangers before returning home for two difficult games against the Lightning (who they've already lost twice to this season) and the Avalanche. Release the KrakenDon't look now but the expansion Kraken have won four of their last five games and after a winnable game in Detroit on Wednesday (the Red Wings will be on the back half of a back-to-back) they'll return to the Pacific Northwest for a four-game homestand. Still concerning is the fact that Seattle can't seem to sort things out in goal where Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger have both struggled to the tune of .890 and .876 save percentages, respectively. As well as the Kraken have played lately, they're still just a point ahead of the last-place Canucks in the Pacific Division. Note entering Wednesday's contest that the 'over' is a perfect 10-0 with Seattle coming off a game in which it gave up four or more goals this season (they defeated Buffalo 7-4 on Monday).

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NHL Off the Post: November 10th

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021

As I do each and every week, I'm taking a look around the NHL to uncover some current trends and angles that you need to be aware of.With over a month of data to work with, this is the time of year when we can really exploit some weaknesses in the hockey betting marketplace. Here are four situations to keep an eye on in the days ahead. Sleepless (away from) SeattleThe Kraken got their inaugural campaign off to a competitive start by collecting at least a point in two of their first three road games. Since then, the bloom has come off the rose, so to speak, as they've now dropped six straight games away from home, failing to manage even a point in their last five road tilts. The good news is, Seattle will be back in the Emerald City for its next six games before heading back on the road at the end of the month. The Kraken are hemorrhaging goals right now, having given up a whopping 16 in their last four contests. Not surprisingly, the 'over' has cashed in each of their last four contests heading into Thursday's home date with Anaheim.Quack, QuackFew expected much of the Anaheim Ducks heading into the season with most projecting them to hold down one of the bottom three spots in the Pacific Division. A much different story has unfolded so far as Anaheim sports a 7-4-3 record, having won each of its last five contests following Tuesday's overtime win in Vancouver. With that being said, the Ducks will face the Kraken in Seattle on Thursday having gone a miserable 4-22 in their last 26 games following a one-goal victory over the last two-plus seasons, outscored by 1.5 goals on average in that situation. Of the Ducks last five victories, only one came away from home. Return to Glory?It's been a number of years since the Detroit Red Wings were relevant. A picture of consistency in the 90's and early-00's, the Winged Wheel has fallen on hard times. This season has been different, though, at least in the early going. Detroit has won each of its last three games and has surprisingly won more games than it has lost 13 contests into the campaign. Perhaps the Wings youth movement is finally paying off. Rookie Lucas Raymond looks like the real deal and is an early front-runner in the Rookie of the Year race. If captain Dylan Larkin can stay healthy (that's been a knock on him throughout his career) there's reason to believe that Detroit can sustain something positive for a change. The Red Wings will get two more home games against Washington and Montreal before heading on the road for a tough four-game western road trip. Baby, it's a Wild WorldSave for a brief 1-3 lull in late October, the Minnesota Wild have gotten off to a flying start this season. Heading into Wednesday's matchup with the lowly Coyotes in Arizona they've reeled off three straight wins, scoring a whopping 15 goals in the process. Perhaps we should pump the breaks a little, however, noting that Minnesota has been winning in spite of its goaltending tandem rather than because of it. Cam Talbot has posted a .904 save percentage while handing the lion's share of the action with nine starts in 11 games. Backup Kaapo Kahkonen had a miserable preseason and has picked up right where he left off during the regular season, recording a .860 save percentage while allowing seven goals in only two games. While the offense is more than capable of shouldering the load, there's no question the Wild are operating with a rather thin margin of error given their inability to keep pucks out of their own net. Keep an eye on the back-to-back set on Wednesday-Thursday this week as Kahkonen is likely to be in goal for one of those games. 

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NHL Off the Post: Week of November 1st

Tuesday, Nov 02, 2021

In a new weekly column I'll be taking a look around the NHL at some current angles and trends you can use in your daily hockey handicapping. Here's a quick look at some interesting tidbits from around the league as we flip the calendar page over to November. Shooting (blanks) StarsThe Dallas Stars have been an 'under' bettors' dream so far this season. Eight games, eight 'under' results. We've seen the Stars score more than two goals just twice in those eight games and they head into Tuesday's matchup in Winnipeg having found the back of the net only four times in their last three games combined. We have to anticipate some regression to the mean from a totals perspective moving forward, especially when you consider Dallas boasts what I would consider a below-average goaltending tandem that features veterans Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin (at least until Ben Bishop gets healthy). It's not as if the Stars talent cupboard is bare, particularly up front, and they enter the new week as healthy as any team in the league outside of Bishop.Fly-ing high in PhillyThe Philadelphia Flyers return home off consecutive 'under' results in Western Canada after their first five games this season had all totaled six goals or more (4-0-1 o/u record in those games). They'll host the reeling Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, noting that Flyers home games have totaled 9, 7, 9 and 6 goals this season. Perhaps their recent low-scoring results are factoring into Tuesday's total, however, as it sits at a reasonable 5.5. In games involving Philadelphia totaled at 5.5 goals this season, the 'over' has gone a perfect 2-0. Arizona checks in sporting a 17-7 o/u record the last 24 times it has come off five or more consecutive losses, as is the case now as it sits 0-9 on the season.Mile high expectationsIt wasn't the start they had hoped for, but the Colorado Avalanche have rounded back into form as they head into Wednesday's home game against Columbus off back-to-back victories over the Blues and Wild. Of course, injuries and quarantines played a role in the Avs slow start as Nathan MacKinnon started the season on the shelf while Gabriel Landeskog (suspension) and Mikko Rantanen (injury) have missed time as well. Interestingly, Colorado has yet to close as a favorite -200 or higher this season. That could be short-lived as we're likely to see the Avs laying a steep price at home against the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night. Note that the Avs check into that game sporting a 29-5 record the last 34 times they've come off a home win by two goals or more.A devil of a timeThe spooky season may be in the rear-view mirror but the New Jersey Devils are still dealing with some demons of their own. Since opening the season with back-to-back victories they haven't been able to string together a winning streak since, going 2-3 over their last five contests. I'm more interested in playing New Jersey 'overs' rather than backing or fading it at this point, as it remains a struggle between the pipes until MacKenzie Blackwood can get back in the crease. The Devils have already used three goaltenders this season. Only veteran Jonathan Bernier has enjoyed much success but we're talking about a small sample size of three games as he's dealt with an injury as well. On a positive note, even with former first overall draft pick Jack Hughes sidelined since game two, New Jersey has managed to score three or more goals in five of seven contests this season. Not surprisingly, the 'over' is 4-2-1 in the Devils seven games and next up is a date with the Anaheim Ducks, who have seen the 'over' cash in seven consecutive games, on Tuesday night. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 8

Friday, Oct 29, 2021

It's hard to believe but we're nearing the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season. With only 13 teams having posted above .500 records to date the stakes are especially high entering Sunday's action. Here's a quick look around the league at two teams that are on the rise and two that are on their way down in this week's edition of 'Stock Rising and Falling'.Stock risingAtlanta FalconsI'm hesitant to include the Falcons in this category as their last two wins have come against the likes of the Jets and Dolphins. However, the runway is clear for Atlanta to keep rolling as hosts the reeling Panthers this week. We've finally seen veteran QB Matt Ryan find some chemistry with much-hyped rookie TE Kyle Pitts and it should only be a matter of time before WR Calvin Ridley rounds back into form. Ridley has found it tough sledding in the post-Julio Jones era but I would anticipate Ryan force-feeding him a little more in the weeks to come. Defensively, the Falcons haven't had to be great but the good news is, they won't face a truly elite offensive opponent until Week 10 when they travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys.Indianapolis ColtsThe Colts got off to a slow start this season but that was to be expected as they faced a brutal early schedule that included games against the (then healthy) Seahawks, Rams, Titans and Ravens in the first four weeks. They've turned the corner since, posting consecutive wins over the Texans and 49ers and now comes a true statement game against the division-rival Titans on Sunday in Indy. I've never been all that high on QB Carson Wentz but there's no denying he's put the team on his back lately, throwing eight touchdown passes while running for another without tossing a single interception in the last four games. He gets another mouth-watering matchup against the Titans defense this week and I would anticipate head coach Frank Reich coming up with an aggressive offensive gameplan to take advantage of that unit being on a bit of a heater.Stock fallingMiami DolphinsI question what type of spot the Dolphins are in mentally after last Sunday's demoralizing last-second loss against the Falcons. Credit Miami for battling back and taking the lead late in that game, but it couldn't make it stand up as its defense once again dropped the proverbial ball. Of course, defense was supposed to be the strength of the Fins but that simply hasn't been the case. Now Miami faces the unenviable task of traveling to Buffalo to face a Bills squad that will be in a foul mood following a Monday night loss against the Titans (which was followed by a bye week). The good news is that relief should come in the form of five of Miami's next six games coming against the Texans, Jets (twice), Panthers and Giants. San Francisco 49ersIs it another lost season in Santa Clara? It certainly appears headed that way after the 49ers fell in a rain-soaked primetime game against the Colts last Sunday. Rookie QB Trey Lance is still banged-up while Jimmy Garroppolo looks like anything but the answer under center. While injuries have certainly played a role in the 49ers struggles this season, there are other issues lying beneath the surface. We've seen the wide receiving corps fail to make plays at key points while the running backs just haven't been afforded nearly the time and space we've seen them enjoy in recent years. San Fran's defense is healthier than it was during a disastrous 2020 campaign but it hasn't made much of a different as opponents are routinely marching up and down the field on them. Maybe the Niners right the ship in a favored role in Chicago this Sunday but sitting at 2-4 the path to the playoffs is anything but clear. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 5

Wednesday, Oct 06, 2021

After a week that was highlighted by Tom Brady's return to Foxborough, Week 5 kicks off with an NFC West showdown between the Rams and Seahawks on Thursday night. Here's our weekly look around the league at two teams whose stock is on the rise, and two that are on the way down in this edition of NFL Stock Rising and Falling.Stock risingCleveland BrownsIt hasn't been pretty, but the Browns are off to a solid 3-1 start to the season after a surprisingly low-scoring 14-7 win over the Vikings in Minnesota last Sunday. Now comes Cleveland's toughest test since Week 1 against Kansas City as it stays on the road for a matchup against the red hot Chargers in Los Angeles. With a depleted receiving corps, the Browns would be well-suited to once again lean on their ground attack against a Los Angeles defense that has been soft against the run, allowing right around five yards per rush this season. If it wasn't clear heading into the season, it is now; the Browns have an elite defense. How they hold up against an improving Chargers offense remains to be seen. Note that Los Angeles is just 1-8 ATS after outgaining its previous opponent by 100 or more total yards over the last three seasons, as is the case here. Arizona CardinalsRiding high off an upset win over the previously undefeated Rams, the Cardinals will return home in a favored role against the 49ers this Sunday. Everything is working for the Cardinals offense right now with QB Kyler Murray looking like an MVP candidate four weeks into the season. Against a banged-up 49ers secondary we can anticipate the Cards leaning heavily on their aerial attack again this week. Defensively, Arizona has forced a whopping nine turnovers through four games. Interestingly, the Cardinals are a miserable 13-26 ATS the last 39 times they've played at home following two or more straight wins, a situation they find themselves in this week. Stock fallingDenver BroncosDespite their impressive 3-1 start to the season, I'm worried about the Broncos. They roared out of the gates with three straight wins but those came against the likes of the Giants, Jaguars and Jets. Last week, Denver received a wake-up call in the form of a blowout home loss against the Ravens. Now it heads back on the road to face what is sure to be a desperate Steelers squad that did show a bit of push-back in last week's loss in Green Bay. Few teams have been bitten as hard by the injury bug as the Broncos this season, on both sides of the football. Denver is a long-term loser after winning two of its last three games, posting a long-term 59-86 ATS record in that spot. Miami DolphinsIt's difficult to envision the Dolphins turning things around with a punchless offense that will have to wait at least another week to get QB Tua Tagovailoa back on the field. The good news is, the Fins schedule will ease up beginning next week when they travel to face the lowly Jaguars. After that comes another winnable game at home against the Falcons. Before that though, they'll go up against Brady and the Bucs in Tampa this Sunday. On a positive note, Miami has generally gotten better as the season has gone on in recent years, posting a flawless 8-0 ATS record in Weeks 5 through 9 over the last two seasons, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 6.0 points. If it's going to hang with Tampa on Sunday it will need to come up with a big bounce-back performance defensively after allowing Colts QB Carson Wentz to throw for 228 yards and two touchdowns last week. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 4

Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021

Another week of NFL action is in the books, providing us with a little more clarity regarding which teams are contenders and which are pretenders as we approach the quarter-pole of the season.Here's a look at two teams on the rise and two on their way down in this week's edition of 'Stock Rising and Falling'.Stock risingCincinnati BengalsThere's wasn't a lot of optimism around the Bengals entering the season with most figuring that second-year quarterback Joe Burrow would be eased back into the offense after suffering a devastating season-ending injury in the back half of 2020. Burrow has exceeded expectations, however, throwing for seven touchdown passes in guiding the Bengals to a 2-1 start. Now the schedule eases up with a Thursday night home game against the reeling Jaguars and a trip to Detroit to face the lowly Lions sandwiched around a home game against the Packers. The Cincinnati offense is going to thrive with all the young talent on hand. It's the Bengals defense that was thought to be the weak link but so far, so good having allowed just 54 points through three games. Now comes an opportunity to feast on Jags struggling rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence.Buffalo BillsThe Bills are back. Did they every really go anywhere? There were plenty of critics following an ugly season-opening home loss to the Steelers - a Steelers team that has turned out to be far worse than advertised but they've been silenced following consecutive blowout wins over the Dolphins and Washington Football team, by a combined 78-21 margin. Buffalo will get another layup at home against the Texans this Sunday before a tough primetime road game in Kansas City in Week 6. Now that Josh Allen has shaken off the rust, the sky is the limit for Buffalo's offense. The defense will simply be asked to hold serve, much like it did last Sunday against Washington. Stock fallingPittsburgh SteelersThe Steelers are in an extremely sticky situation, off to a 1-2 start with their offense appearing punchless under the guidance of possibly-washed veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The issue is, there's really no 'plan B' when it comes to the quarterback position. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins aren't better options than Big Ben as hard as that is to believe. With a cluster of key injuries on the defensive side of the football, Pittsburgh now has to limp into Lambeau Field to face the red hot Packers. It doesn't get much easier from there as the Steelers host the currently undefeated Broncos in Week 5 before facing the Seahawks in Week 6. If they don't find a way to turn things around by then the season may already be circling the drain by the time their bye rolls around in Week 7. Philadelphia EaglesWe'll stick in the state of Pennsylvania for our other 'stock falling' team this week. Monday night's game in Dallas couldn't have gone much worse. I'm not sure the Eagles have ever been completely sold on moving forward with Jalen Hurts as their long-term answer at quarterback. The fact that they went out and acquired former Jaguars starter Gardner Minshew Jr. in August was telling in my opinion. While injuries have certainly played a role, the Eagles defense hasn't been nearly good enough. Just as we saw last year, the defense has proven to be a pass-funnel unit once again and that's simply not a winning strategy in today's pass-happy NFL. Now comes an extremely difficult home date this Sunday against a Chiefs squad that will undoubtedly be in a sour mood following rare consecutive losses. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 3

Monday, Sep 20, 2021

The NFL season is off and running following two entertaining weeks of action. Here’s a quick look at two teams on the rise and two on their way down in our first 2021 installment of 'NFL Stock Rising and Falling'. Stock risingDallas CowboysSo the Cowboys didn't get off to the start they had hoped for, suffering a close loss at the hands of the defending champion Bucs in Tampa back in Week 1. Undeterred, they bounced back with a gutsy road win over the Chargers on Sunday. That was a truly impressive victory when you consider Dallas was playing a second straight road game to open the season, not to mention traveling across the country to do so. Now the Cowboys have a path to 4-1 ahead of them with three consecutive home games on deck and you have to figure they'll be favored in all three as they host the Eagles, Panthers and Giants. They do have consecutive road games (with a bye week in between) in New England and Minnesota coming up in Weeks 6-8 but the schedule doesn't really get all that tough until a trip to Kansas City in Week 11. I may be getting ahead of myself but I do like what I've seen from the Cowboys so far and while their defense will almost certainly trip them up at points, I believe the offense can more than make up for it. For now, Dallas is a team to watch.Los Angeles RamsThe Rams 2-0 start isn't unexpected but there's no denying they've looked awfully strong on both sides of the football in wins over the Bears and Colts. Could QB Matt Stafford be the piece they were missing? It certainly looks that way as head coach Sean McVay finally has the engine needed to really get the offense humming. On the other side, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey may be the two best defensive players in all of football right now. Donald has been a one-man wrecking crew through two games while Ramsey has played a role all over the field, and sealed Sunday's game with a key late fourth quarter interception that spoiled the Colts comeback chances. Now things get interesting as the Rams host Tom Brady and the red hot Buccaneers in Week 3 before opening division play with a home game against the Cardinals in Week 4. Stock fallingAtlanta FalconsThe 2021 season could get away from the Falcons in a hurry if they can't pick up a win against the hapless Giants in New Jersey on Sunday. Off to an 0-2 start and looking like a mess on both sides of the football, it's been a disastrous start for Arthur Smith's tenure in Atlanta. While a trip to Tampa was never going to be easy, the Falcons simply weren't competitive in a 23-point rout. Without any semblance of a running game, teams are simply going to drop back in coverage and erase the likes of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Ridley did catch a touchdown pass against the Bucs but has just 114 receiving yards through two games. Most alarming is the fact that through two games, Atlanta's longest pass completion has gone for just 24 yards. If the Falcons can't figure out a way to stretch the field on offense, they're just not going to have much success as their defense is not capable of winning games all on its own. Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings desperately needed a strong bounce-back performance after a brutal overtime loss in Cincinnati in Week 1. While they did play better, they ultimately fell just short, missing a last-second field goal that would have given them their first win of the season in Arizona. With injuries piling up on the defensive side of the football, Minnesota might have to score 30+ every week to have a shot at winning, especially when you consider its upcoming schedule. The Vikes will host Seattle this week before the Browns come to town in Week 4. After a bye in Week 7 the schedule gets downright nightmarish with consecutive games against the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, Packers and 49ers, with three of those five contests on the road. Consider Sunday's showdown with the Seahawks a must-win game. 

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2021 NFL: NFC East Division Preview

Monday, Sep 06, 2021

The Dallas Cowboys are favored to win the NFC East Division but there's plenty to be decided in a division that has struggled to produce winning football teams in recent years. Here's a quick look at what to expect from all four squads entering the 2021 campaign.Odds to win (courtesy of BetOnline)Dallas Cowboys +160Washington Football Team +185New York Giants +325Philadelphia Eagles +625Dallas CowboysAll indications are that QB Dak Prescott is healthy and ready to start the season under center for the Cowboys. The sky is the limit for the Dallas offense with WR CeeDee Lamb well-positioned to ascend to superstar status this season. Of course, Lamb is only a part of an offense that is loaded at all of the skill positions but will have to deal with absences on the offensively line right out of the gate (due to injury and Covid protocols). The hope is that first round draft pick Micah Parsons can solidify a defense that has been porous at best in recent seasons. Dallas' schedule is ranked by most as the second-weakest in the entire NFL. The Cowboys will appear in at least five primetime games, including the Week 1 opener against the defending champion Bucs in Tampa. Washington Football TeamIs journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to answer for an offense that has plodded along for years now? That's the hope and there's reason to believe he can lift this offense that includes a couple of big-time playmakers in RB Antonio Gibson and WR Terry McLaurin but not much else. If TE Logan Thomas can stay healthy there's reason to believe he can be Fitzpatrick's security blanket, but that's a big if. Defensively, Washington should once again be tough with Chase Young ready to terrorize opposing quarterbacks in his sophomore season. Washington's schedule includes games against six playoff teams from last season. WFT does draw a favorable start to the campaign with consecutive (winnable) home games against the Chargers and Giants to open things up.New York GiantsThe Giants hopes ride on the legs of RB Saquon Barkley as he attempts to make it back to full strength after a devastating season-ending injury early in 2020. The offensive line remains a question mark. If they can give QB Daniel Jones enough time in the pocket, this offense could turn out to be a dynamic unit. If Jones is running for his life and Barkley struggles to find holes to run through, it could be another long season in New Jersey. The defense is mediocre at best and will have a hard time containing some of the league's better offenses. The good news is, the Giants draw the Broncos and Washington Football Team in the first two weeks of the season, giving the defense an opportunity to settle in before facing an explosive Falcons offense in Week 3. Philadelphia EaglesThe Eagles probably have the widest range of possible outcomes of any team in the NFC East. Is Jalen Hurts the answer at quarterback? Can he even hold onto the starting job with Gardner Minshew being brought in via trade in August? There are so many promising pieces in the Eagles offense but not a lot of proven talent. Philadelphia's defense just hasn't been good enough in recent years and downright awful in the secondary at times. Injuries have certainly played a factor but that's part of football and something Philadelphia needs to figure out a way to overcome. The Eagles did little in the offseason to rectify their defensive weaknesses which means it could be another long year in Philly. Both the offense and defense will need to ramp up in a hurry with a sneaky-tough season-opening matchup against the Falcons on tap in Week 1. 

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2021 NFL: AFC West Division Preview

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

We wrap up our AFC division previews with the West, where the Kansas City Chiefs are once again favored to finish in top spot. Here's a quick look at what to expect from all four teams heading into the 2021 season.Odds to win (courtesy of BetOnline)Kansas City Chiefs -250Los Angeles Chargers +500Denver Broncos +525Las Vegas Raiders +1400Kansas City ChiefsThe Chiefs begin their quest for a second Lombardi Trophy in three years as they host another top AFC contender in the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. All of the usual suspects are back for Kansas City and if the preseason is any indication, the offense appears to already be rounding into midseason form as we turn the calendar page over to September. The sight of a healthy Patrick Mahomes under center is a scary sight for Chiefs opponents after he dealt with nagging injuries late last season. The offensive line gets a boost with the acquisitions of Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney. Kansas City's defense always seems to be overshadowed by the offense but that unit is well-positioned to excel once again in 2021. Of note is the recent arrest of Frank Clark. If he's forced to miss time that could somewhat diminish the Chiefs vaunted pass rush.Los Angeles Chargers Optimism is running rampant in Chargers camp as they look to take a big step forward in QB Justin Herbert's first full season at the helm. The defense proved to be Los Angeles' achilles heel last season, largely due to injuries. With that unit healthy the sky is the limit for this Chargers squad. Remember, the Chargers also lost do-it-all RB Austin Ekeler to injury early last season. He's arguably the focal point of the offense and if he can stay healthy this year, he'll certainly help Herbert continue his ascension to superstar status. The Chargers currently have three primetime games on the schedule and open the campaign with a trip across the country to face the Washington Football Team in an early window contest in the nation's capital. Denver BroncosTeddy Bridgewater has been named the Broncos starting quarterback to open the season. He won't take as many risks as Drew Lock and should be a better fit in the offense with a host of talented wide receivers to work with. Second-round draft pick RB Javonte Williams is likely to take over for veteran Melvin Gordon before long. Of course, defense has generally been the Broncos strong suit in recent years and that unit gets a major boost with the return of elite pass rusher Von Miller this season. He and Bradley Chubb are capable of disrupting even the most elite offenses. Denver gets a soft opening to the season with matchups against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets in Weeks 1 through 3 before the schedule toughens up with a date against the Ravens in Week 3.Las Vegas RaidersThere's just not a lot for the Raiders to hang their hat on entering the 2021 season with a lack of a real identity on either side of the football. You have to wonder how long it will be before head coach Jon Gruden is on the hot seat should the Raiders get off to another poor start. There are solid pieces in place on offense with RB Josh Jacobs, TE Darren Waller and WR Henry Ruggs all capable of turning in big seasons. It does seem that QB Derek Carr continues to hold the unit back in terms of its explosiveness. Defensively, the Raiders added a quality pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue from the Ravens but their weakness remains in the secondary, where they gave up far too many big plays last season and don't figure to improve much in 2021. With the Ravens and Steelers on tap to open the season, an 0-2 start is likely in the cards. 

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2021 NFL: AFC South Division Preview

Monday, Aug 30, 2021

We continue our series of NFL division previews with the AFC South. All four teams have questions entering the 2021 season. Here's a quick look at what to expect.Odds to win (courtesy of BetOnline)Tennessee Titans -120Indianapolis Colts +160Jacksonville Jaguars +600Houston Texans +2800Tennessee TitansThe Titans draw a bit of a tough hand, playing 12 consecutive weeks before reaching their bye in Week 13. Tennessee of course remains absolutely loaded on offense with QB Ryan Tannehill continuing his ascension and another big-time weapon to work with in WR Julio Jones. The future Hall-of-Famer is likely to play second fiddle to A.J. Brown and that should suit Jones just fine after he became used to blanket-coverage in Atlanta. Derrick Henry is in line for some regression off a 2,000 yard season but remains well-positioned to run wild behind an elite offensive line. I mentioned that every team in the division has questions to answer, and for the Titans it relates to their defense. They were involved in more shootouts than they would like a year ago but fortunately for them, they have the division's best offense by a longshot. Indianapolis ColtsThere's lots of potential in Indianapolis but the summer hasn't exactly gone as planned with Carson Wentz dealing with an injury, and now Covid protocols. Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger spent the month of August battling for the backup (and perhaps opening day) starting job. With Ehlinger going down to injury we're likely to see either Wentz (provided he can get out of Covid protocol) or Eason under center. Regardless, the focal point of the offense should be the ground attack led by sophomore starter Jonathan Taylor. With T.Y. Hilton going down to injury, the wide receiving corps is a big question mark. Can Michael Pittman Jr. rise to the occasion and enjoy a breakout campaign? Defensively, the Colts are set. They have the personnel in place to once again boast one of the league's most stout defenses. Indy won't hit the road until Week 3, when it faces Tennessee in a key division clash.Jacksonville JaguarsThe Jags finally have their quarterback in first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence and the starting job is all his with Gardner Minshew being dealt to the Eagles in late August. While Lawrence didn't always impress in preseason action, he seemed to get better with each passing game and should have a wealth of weapons to work with in the Jags offense. That won't include rookie RB Travis Etienne as he suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason. James Robinson proved his is more than capable of shouldering the load last season, however. The aerial attack is well-positioned for success with the likes of D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. building a rapport with Lawrence. Unfortunately the Jags defense is still a year or two away from holding up its end of the bargain, or that's the hope anyway. Outside of the Titans, it's hard to say whether the Jags other AFC South rivals can take full advantage of their defensive flaws.Houston TexansThere's little reason for optimism in Houston. QB DeShaun Watson remains a big question mark as he waits for a trade while he deals with legal issues. Journeyman QB Tyrod Taylor is likely their best option under center. Oft-injured WR Will Fuller has moved on to Miami. RB David Johnson is a shell of his former self. The offensive cupboard is alarmingly bare. Meanwhile, the face of the defense for so many years, J.J. Watt, bolted for greener pastures in Arizona. This is a team that is desperately lacking an identity and most project it finishing dead last not only in the AFC South, but in the entire league. The Texans will alternate home and away games for the first six weeks of the season, beginning with a contest against the Jaguars in Week 1. Their lone primetime game comes in Week 3 at home against Carolina. 

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2021 NFL: AFC North Division Preview

Friday, Aug 27, 2021

In the second installment of our series of NFL division previews, we take a look at the AFC North, which promises to be one of the most competitive divisions in football. Here's a quick look at what to expect from each division.Odds to win (courtesy of BetOnline)Baltimore Ravens +110Cleveland Browns +140Pittsburgh Steelers +370Cincinnati Bengals +2300Baltimore RavensThe hope heading into 2021 is that Baltimore can get more from its passing game with the additions of wide receivers Sammy Watkins and rookie Rashod Bateman. I'm not holding my breath. We can expect to see the Ravens continue to focus on moving the football with their dynamic ground attack with running back J.K. Dobbins primed for a big season after running for just shy of 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. Lamar Jackson has been a monster in the regular season and there's little reason to expect anything different this year. Defensively, the Ravens lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue to free agency. The cupboard is by no means bare, however, and the addition of veteran Justin Houston should help keep the pass rush on track. The Ravens open the season with back-to-back primetime games.Cleveland BrownsBrowns doubters are suddenly few and far between following last year's playoff run. The roster remains relatively unchanged from last season and that's obviously not a bad thing. It does remain to be seen whether the Browns offense can reach the heights it did a year ago with Odell Beckham Jr. still dealing with a knee injury and Jarvis Landry not getting any younger. Nick Chubb will once again be asked to shoulder much of the load - a role he has proved more than capable of handling. Note that Cleveland will open the season by playing three of its first four games on the road, including a return visit to Kansas City in Week 1 - the scene of its playoff demise last January. Pittsburgh SteelersI'm fairly high on the Black and Gold entering the new season, which could serve as the 'last ride' so to speak for the combo of head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers are brimming with talent on both sides of the football with the addition of potential Rookie of the Year candidate Najee Harris in the backfield serving as the showpiece. While the defense is set, the offense will need Big Ben to be the quarterback he was early last season rather than the one that regressed heavily down the stretch. Most have the Steelers ranked as having the most difficult schedule in the NFL this season. That schedule includes five primetime games. It all gets started with a difficult test right out of the gate as Pittsburgh heads to Buffalo to face the Bills. Cincinnati BengalsThe Bengals boast a lot of potential with Joe Burrow returning from last November's devastating season-ending injury but they're still likely a couple of years away from possibly contending for the division crown. The offense should be fine once Burrow gets re-acclimated as he has a host of weapons to work with, including highly-touted draft pick Ja'Marr Chase. All indications are that Burrow got stronger as camp went on and he'll be working behind an improved offensive line compared to a year ago. Defensively, the Bengals have plenty of holes. In fact, the Bengals may possess one of the worst defenses in football which should lead to plenty of shootouts. Cincinnati's Thursday night game against the Jaguars marks its only primetime game of the season. A three-game homestand from Week 12-14 will feature matchups with potential playoff teams - the Steelers, Chargers and 49ers.

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2021 NFL: AFC East Division Preview

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2021

Is the winner of the AFC East already a foregone conclusion? Most certainly feel that way with the Buffalo Bills installed as significant favorites. Here's a quick look at what to expect from this top-heavy division in 2021.Odds to win (courtesy BetOnline)Buffalo Bills -180New England Patriots +280Miami Dolphins +360New York Jets +2410Buffalo BillsJosh Allen is back to lead one of the AFC's top contenders this season and there's little reason to expect much of a drop-off in production on either side of the football. The Bills are obviously loaded with talent but if there's a weakness it's in the backfield, where they've done little to improve a ground game that finished in the bottom-half of the league in rush yards in 2020 and features the likes of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Matt Breida. Buffalo does face a tough schedule out of the gate with three of its first five games coming against playoff teams from a year ago. Key matchups include a home date against the Steelers in Week 1 and a trip to Tampa to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on December 12th. The Bills will be featured in four primetime matchups this season with the possibility of more to be added as a result of TV schedule flexes. New England PatriotsCam Newton has been forced into Covid protocols at the time of writing, perhaps giving rookie Mac Jones a puncher's chance at stealing the starting job in Week 1. Jones has impressed in preseason play, as has the Patriots defense, which should be improved heading into 2021. If New England can get more consistency out of the quarterback position there's reason to believe it can give the Bills a challenge atop the AFC East. That's a big 'if' of course, especially with a subpar supporting cast at the skill positions on offense. Still, it's tough to count out a Bill Bellichick-coached team - especially coming off a down year. Miami DolphinsIt's Tua-Time in Miami as the second-year man will have the starting quarterback job all to himself with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the picture. The additions of wide receivers Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle should pay immediate dividends for the Fins offense which was relatively punchless a year ago. Of course, injuries are always a concern when it comes to Fuller but all indications are that he will at least be healthy to start the season. Miami will face the consensus eighth-easiest strength of schedule. It won't take long for the Fins to see where they stand in the AFC East as they open the season with a trip to New England followed by a home game against Buffalo. New York JetsZach Wilson has arguably been the league's most impressive rookie quarterback during the preseason. He's likely to encounter plenty of growing pains once the curtain drops on the regular season, however, as he operates behind what is projected to be one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and makes do with a receiving corps that lists Corey Davis atop the depth chart. They do have an opportunity to get off to a positive start with three straight games against non-playoff teams from a year ago to open the season. New York will venture across the pond to London for a date with the Falcons on October 10th.

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CFL Injury Report: Week 2

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2021

With one week of CFL action in the books it's time to turn our attention to Week 2. Here's a look at some injury concerns to keep an eye on ahead of this week's four matchups.B.C. at Calgary - Thursday, 9:30 pm etThe Lions will give rookie QB Nathan Rourke his second consecutive start but haven't ruled out Mike Reilly seeing some snaps as well on Friday night. Both performed to mixed reviews in last week's wild 33-29 loss in Saskatchewan. Note that B.C. has ruled out prized offseason acquisition OL Ryker Matthews for this one. Calgary is expected to have the services of QB Bo Levi Mitchell after he was limited in practice earlier in the week. Veteran DB Jamar Wall has been placed on the Injured List.Toronto at Winnipeg - Friday, 8:30 pm et The Argos look a little healthier than they were a week ago when they rolled into Calgary and upset the Stampeders. Backup QB Nick Arbuckle was once again limited in practice all week and it remains up in the air whether he'll be available on Friday.Winnipeg has a number of injury concerns, particularly on the defensive side of the football. The anchor of the Bombers defense, DL Willie Jefferson, hasn't practiced this week. His pass rushing mate DL Jackson Jeffcoat did return to practice on Wednesday but was limited. Offensively, Winnipeg will likely be without the trio of RB Andrew Harris and WRs Darvin Adams and Ardarius Stewart. Montreal at Edmonton - Saturday, 7 pm etThe Als will be playing their first game of the season after being idle last week and enter the contest at virtually full strength.Edmonton WR Armanti Edwards returned as a full participant at practice on Wednesday after being limited earlier in the week. All told, the Elks came out of last Saturday's disappointing loss to the RedBlacks relatively unscathed injury-wise.Hamilton at Saskatchewan - Saturday, 10 pm etHamilton enters this one with a long list of injury concerns, but most of its banged-up players are expected to suit up on Saturday. Star WR Brandon Banks was dealing with an illness earlier in the week but was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.The Riders had only three players miss practice on Wednesday. DL Kevin Francis, OL Mattland Riley and DL Peter Robertson are all questionable to play on Saturday night. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

Thursday, Aug 05, 2021

We've saved the worst for last? Few are expecting the RedBlacks to contend for a Grey Cup title in 2021 but there are also reasons for optimism in the nation's capital. Here's a quick look at what to expect from Ottawa this season.Paul LaPolice takes over head coaching duties after a successful term as offensive coordinator in Winnipeg. He'll be tasked with turning around a RedBlacks squad that lost 15 of their final 16 games in 2019. Gone are the days of an ultra-efficient RedBlacks offense led by Trevor Harris and Greg Ellingson. Veteran QB Matt Nichols hopes to provide some stability at the quarterback position. He obviously has a good rapport with new head coach LaPolice from their days together in Winnipeg. Nichols won't have all that high of a bar expectations-wise after Dominique Davis struggled mightily two years ago. Keep in mind, LaPolice was able to get a ton of production out of what was perhaps a mediocre offense, at least talent-wise, over the years in Winnipeg. No team boasts fewer household names on the offensive side of the football. The likes of RB Timothy Flanders and WRs Nate Behar and Terry Williams will be tasked with lifting the offense following a disastrous 2019 campaign. With that in mind, it's not difficult to understand why most are picking the RedBlacks to finish last in the East Division. The defense could turn out to be the strength of the team with some notable returning talent, keyed by DL Avery Ellis, but again, this is a unit lacking starpower and there are more questions than answers entering the new season. The RedBlacks will look to hit the ground running in their opener as they hit the road to face the Edmonton Elks.As I mentioned, Ottawa is a decided underdog when it comes to Grey Cup futures, currently priced around 13-1 at most books. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2021

In our penultimate installment of CFL team previews, let's take a look at the Tiger-Cats, who have unfinished business to take care of after falling just short of a Grey Cup title in 2019.Jeremiah Masoli will get the nod as starting quarterback to open the season but he'll likely give up some snaps to capable backup (and potential future starter) Dane Evans. There are some questions on the offensive line with Ryker Matthews no longer anchoring the left side. Remember, it was the offensive line that got dominated in that 2019 Grey Cup loss to Winnipeg. With that being said, the offense remains largely unchanged at  the skill positions. This is likely to once again be one of the league's most explosive offenses. Wide receivers Bralon Addison and Brandon Banks make up one of the best 1-2 punches at that position in the entire league. Meanwhile, RB Don Jackson was brought over from Calgary to compliment Sean Thomas-Erlington, who returns from injury. Defensively, the Ti-Cats are once again loaded after allowing the league's fewest points per game in 2019. That doesn't mean there aren't departures to deal with, however, with cornerback Delvin Breaux Sr. electing to retire and linebacker Larry Dean moving on to Saskatchewan. Simoni Lawrence will be asked to do a lot and lead this defense back to the levels it reached two years ago and he's certainly proven capable of lifting the defense in the past. This is an extremely well-coached unit that shouldn't take long to come together, even with some new faces in the mix.Special teams doesn't get talked about enough in the CFL as it's a big facet of the game, particularly up north. The Ti-Cats might just have the best special teams in the league led by coach Jeff Reinebold. With an absolutely electric return game, Hamilton is always a threat to score on punts and kickoffs. No team boasts shorter odds to win the Grey Cup than Hamilton as it checks in priced at around 4-to-1 at most books. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Toronto Argonauts

Wednesday, Aug 04, 2021

The last time we saw the Toronto Argonauts they were mired in a disappointing 4-14 campaign back in 2019. Here's a look at what to expect from the Argos in 2021.There's reason for optimism as far as the offense goes with two capable options at quarterback in McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Nick Arbuckle. New head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has a good rapport with Arbuckle in particular from the pair's days in Calgary. Arbuckle was of course pressed into action after Bo Levi Mitchell went down to injury in 2019. Improvement is expected from the Argos aerial attack with Eric Rogers coming over from Calgary and much-maligned but talented former NFL wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the mix as well. Running back John White was brought in to stabilize the backfield. He's coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season with the B.C. Lions in 2019 and will serve as a relief valve for whoever is under center thanks to his versatility as a pass-catcher.There are upgrades all over the field on defense, with perhaps none bigger than defensive lineman Charleston Hughes up front. The former Blue Bomber led the league with a whopping 16 sacks in 2019 and provides a veteran presence to anchor the defense. The Argos linebacking corps should be among the best in the league led by Henoc Muamba. The question is whether all of that talent and experience up front can make up for what could be a leaky secondary. With defensive back Alden Darby no longer in the mix, Toronto's pass defense could be a work in progress at least in the early stages of the season.While the Tiger-Cats are decided front-runners, the rest of the East Division is wide open with Toronto looking more than capable of settling into the second slot. Toronto is currently priced in the middle-of-the-pack at around 7-1 to win the Grey Cup. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Montreal Alouettes

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

We continue our series of CFL team previews heading into the 2021 season with the Montreal Alouettes - the league's upstart team from 2019. Here's what to expect as they try to prove their surprising run to the '19 East Division Semi-Final was no fluke.On offense the Als are relatively set. Vernon Adams Jr. is back under center and one of the most dynamic offensive players in the entire league. He has plenty of support around him as well, with RB William Stanback poised for another big season after putting in time in the NFL. Stanback is a threat both on the ground and through the air and will be critical to the team's offensive success. At wide receiver, the Als added Naaman Roosevelt to a group that already boasted a lot of potential. Rashad Ross is another name to watch as he has impressed throughout training camp and would serve as the perfect compliment to Roosevelt and Geno Lewis.Defensively, the Als need some work. They got picked apart by the league's better offenses in 2019, allowing over 27 points per game, largely due to their inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (they posted a league-low 27 sacks). A new-look defensive line should help their cause with the additions of Almondo Sewell and Nick Usher, who both come over from Edmonton. Michael Wakefield joins the line from Ottawa where he was a disruptive force for three seasons. Montreal's linebacking corps could serve as the strength of the defense with plenty of returning talent and a new coach in Mickey Donovan (he formerly led the Als special teams). The Alouettes will have to wait an extra week to start their season as they kick things off on August 14th against Edmonton. The betting marketplace isn't giving Montreal much respect as the Als boast the second-longest odds to win the Grey Cup, currently priced around 10-1 at most books. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Calgary Stampeders

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

We'll wrap up our 2021 CFL West Division team previews with a perennial Grey Cup contender in the Calgary Stampeders. Here's what you can expect from the Stamps this season.The sky is the limit for Calgary after it went 12-6 and finished second in the West Division in the face of plenty of adversity in 2019. The Stamps were forced to go without QB Bo Levi Mitchell for an extended period and when he returned it was too little, too late as they fell to the eventual Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West semi-final. Mitchell is back healthy and ready to guide an explosive, albeit new-look Stamps offense in 2021. There's reason for concern on the offensive line, which is nothing new in Calgary. With such a prized talent like Mitchell under center, the Stamps need the o-line to be better than just 'good enough' and certainly made a move to bolster that line with the acquisition of center Sean McEwen. As the anchor of the Argos o-line, McEwen played in all 18 games in each season from 2016-2019. RB Ka'Deem Carey will be tasked with taking over the backfield duties from Don Jackson who was lost to free agency. Carey had gotten off to a fine start in 2019 before breaking his arm and missing the remainder of the season. There may not be a lot of household names, but the Stampeders wide receiving corps is brimming with talent. WR Markeith Ambles will make his long-awaited return to the fold after missing the entire 2019 season due to an undisclosed injury. SB Kamar Jorden also missed the bulk of the 2019 season due to an ACL tear but did return for the playoffs. Back in 2018 he racked up 944 receiving yards and caught 10 touchdown passes. No fewer than three former Stampeders defensive starters have moved on to the NFL so there will be plenty of turnover on that side of the football entering 2021 as well. That's not to say the cupboard is bare, however - far from it, in fact. Calgary still boasts plenty of veteran talent led by the likes of SAM LB Jamar Wall, LB Cory Greenwood and DL Derek Wiggan. There are some question marks in the secondary but if the Stamps can apply as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as we think they can, that defensive backfield should hold up just fine. Despite the roster shake-up, Calgary is being given the benefit of the doubt by most sportsbooks, currently priced around 6-1 to win the Grey Cup. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Friday, Jul 23, 2021

In our fourth installment of 2021 CFL team previews, here's a look at what to expect from the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season.Interestingly, the Blue Bombers narrowly avoided disaster in 2019, finishing the regular season 11-7 before catching fire in the playoffs and running the table on their way to an improbable Grey Cup championship.The Bombers are well positioned to challenge for the Grey Cup again this season with the nucleus from that championship team remaining intact and still under the guidance of head coach Mike O'Shea. In keeping with CFL tradition, the Bombers welcome a former starting quarterback to take over the reins as offensive coordinator with Buck Pierce getting the nod. Pierce takes over from Paul LaPolice, who is now the head coach in Ottawa. LaPolice squeezed every bit of production he could out of this dare-I-say middle of the road offense talent-wise. Can Pierce continue the offense on the same path in 2021?QB Zach Collaros and RB Andrew Harris return to the fold to lead the offense. Both do have plenty of miles on them at this point of their careers, however, and the Bombers will obviously need them to stay healthy to contend in a crowded West Division. I would suggest that Winnipeg doesn't have quite the same wealth of talent at the wide receiver position as perhaps the Lions, Riders and Stampeders possess. Defensively, the Bombers have few weaknesses, keyed by what should once again be one of the league's most-feared pass rushes. That unit is anchored by Willie Jefferson, the league's reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player after leading the CFL in sacks and forced fumbles in 2019. A number of Bombers defensive players trained together in the offseason - you might not find a closer-knit defensive group in the league. Despite serving as defending champions, the Bombers actually enter the 2021 campaign with a chip on their shoulder thanks to some considering their 2019 Grey Cup title a 'fluke'. Of course, the truth is that their title run was anything but a fluke and this team ranks as one of the league's most complete squads heading into the new season.Winnipeg is currently priced around 6-1 to repeat as Grey Cup champions. 

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2021 CFL Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2021

As the third installment in our series of 2021 CFL team previews, here's a look at perennial West Division contenders the Saskatchewan Roughriders.The Riders topped the West Division in 2019, posting a 13-5 record on the strength of a potent offensive attack led by dual-threat QB Cody Fajardo. He remains the focal point of the offense heading into 2021 but will need to adjust to a new offensive coordinator in former Edmonton head coach Jason Maas. There's little reason to anticipate any growing pains, however, as most of the key pieces at the skill positions are back including wide receiver Shaq Evans and RB William Powell. We will see a new-look Riders offensive line but that's not necessarily a bad thing as for every departure there was a solid addition. As long as that group can mesh together in short order, this offense has the potential to find its way among the league leaders in yards per game and scoring average with an aggressive play-caller like Maas at the helm. Defensively, the Riders boast studs all over the field with cornerback Ed Gainey (who signed a new contract earlier this year) serving as the anchor. The Riders are looking to build a 'no fly zone' of sorts in the secondary as they prepare to face some of the league's best quarterbacks who happen to reside in the West Division (Bo Levi Mitchell of the Stampeders and Mike Reilly of the Lions come to mind). It will be a different looking Saskatchewan defense, however, with Solomon Elimimian retiring and Charleston Hughes bolting for Toronto. All told, the Riders lose four starters on the defensive side of the football. Changes are really nothing new for the Riders though as they welcomed a new coordinator in Jason Shivers in 2019, taking over for mastermind Chris Jones. Not only that but the Riders were also forced to replace a number of key cogs on the field that year as well. All Shivers did was shape the defense into one of the league's most dominant units and I'm confident he can do the same with the 2021 edition. The Riders are currently priced around 6-1 to win the Grey Cup, slotting in between the Tiger-Cats and Stampeders in the league's projected top three teams.

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2021 CFL Preview: Edmonton Elks

Tuesday, Jul 20, 2021

It's the start of a new era in Edmonton as the franchise formerly known as the Eskimos becomes the Elks. After managing only eight wins in 2019, they'll be looking to make their presence known in a crowded West Division this season. Here's a look at what to expect.Of course, the big change for the Elks comes on the sidelines with Jamie Elizondo replacing Jason Maas as head coach. Elizondo will also serve as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as he looks to reignite an offense led by veteran QB Trevor Harris. Elizondo already has a good relationship with Harris from their years together in Ottawa. The Elks offense is well-positioned to put up big numbers this season with one of the league's best wide receiving corps' featuring Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson and Armanti Edwards, with the latter coming over from the Argos to add another level to this passing game. Replacing C.J. Gable at running back will be no easy feat but James Wilder is an experienced back capable of shouldering the load. He'll only be asked to do enough to keep opposing defenses honest and relieve some of the pressure on Harris. I certainly don't expect the Elks ground game to be among the league's best. Defensively, the Elks will have a new man in charge in coordinator Noel Thorpe. Again, there's plenty of continuity there as Thorpe worked with Elizondo the last two seasons in Ottawa. Standout defensive tackle Almando Sewell will need to replaced after he bolted for Montreal. There's plenty of returning talent, however, and pass-rusher Kwaku Boateng is a star in the making after serving as Edmonton's nominee for most outstanding defensive player in 2019. Edmonton has just one returning starter in the secondary, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as it brought in a number of key free agent acquisitions to bolster its pass defense. All indications are that the new-look secondary has been making life extremely difficult on the offense during training camp. If the new faces on defense can mesh in short order, the Elks could turn out to be one of the league's biggest surprises in 2021. Most books have the Elks priced around 9-1 to win the Grey Cup. 

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2021 CFL Preview: B.C. Lions

Monday, Jul 19, 2021

I'll be previewing all eight CFL teams in the lead-up to the long-awaited 2021 season. First up is the B.C. Lions, who will be looking to climb out of the West Division basement. The Leos are coming off a disastrous 2019 campaign that saw them win just five games and finish in last place in the West Division. That outcome was even more disappointing when you consider the splash the Lions made prior to that season, acquiring star quarterback Mike Reilly. Unfortunately the Lions couldn't keep Reilly upright with an offensive line that served as nothing more than a swinging door. The good news is B.C. made a concerted effort to upgrade its o-line this offseason, acquiring Ryker Mathews from the defending champion Tiger-Cats. Reilly is back under center with a new contract and has an opportunity for a 'do-over' of sorts after the 2020 campaign was wiped out by Covid-19.The pieces are in place for the Lions offense to take a big step forward with the addition of RB Shaq Cooper, who will be given the chance to take on a more substantial role in an offense after departing Edmonton, not to mention the presence of elite WR Bryan Burnham, who racked up career-highs in both receiving yards (1,492) and touchdowns (11) back in 2019. Burnham leads a talented group of wide receivers that didn't reach their full potential due to Reilly's inability to find time in the pocket two years ago. Keep an eye on the Lions special teams early in the season as that unit should make its presence known with Lucky Whitehead back to anchor a group that was among the league's best in 2019. Special teams is one area that I feel is rarely properly factored in when it comes to CFL odds. Kick return touchdowns became commonplace in the 2019 season and I would anticipate more of the same here in 2021. Defensively, B.C. needs some work but has the potential to be better should 2020 first overall draft pick Jordan Williams turn out to be the player (and leader) the Lions expect him to be. Unfortunately the Lions 'D' won't have the benefit of time as it tries to come together and contend with the likes of the Stampeders and Roughriders - two of the league's most potent offensive squads - which both reside in the West Division. The Lions are a longshot to win the Grey Cup, priced around 10-1 at most books. 

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MLB World Series Futures Picks

Thursday, Jul 08, 2021

With the MLB All-Star break just days away, now is an ideal time to consider locking in some MLB World Series futures as we've had ample time to dissect the 2021 season. Here's a look at one longshot (relatively speaking) pick from each league as the dog days of Summer approach.(Odds courtesy BetOnline)American LeagueToronto Blue Jays +2500This is one of the most generous prices I've seen for the Blue Jays who despite all of their young talent, go largely overlooked by most in the futures market (perhaps apart from those of us that reside here in the Great White North). It's easy to forget that the young Jays actually gained some valuable postseason experience, albeit in a unique 2020 Covid-tinged format. We've already seen that the Jays are buyers leading up to the trade deadline and a couple of savvy moves could very well put this team over the top and back into serious contention in the A.L. East. While the management team is different, this is the same club that went 'all in' back in 2015 when it acquired the likes of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki prior to the trade deadline and fell just short of a World Series berth, succumbing to the eventual champion Royals that year. Having already made a couple of minor tweaks with the addition of Corey Dickerson and Trevor Richards, bigger moves could be on the way post-All Star break. Toronto's offense is without question among the best in baseball with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. putting it all together in his third season to anchor the lineup. If George Springer can stay healthy and perhaps with the addition of one more bat, the Jays order should strike fear in any American League pitching staff. It's on the mound where there are questions and the prime reason we're being offered such a healthy return to back the Birds to win it all. I believe it's all worth the risk right now.National LeagueSan Francisco Giants +1400The Giants of course have the pesky Dodgers to deal with in the N.L. West but they currently own a 1.5-game edge and should at the very least earn a Wild Card spot to punch their ticket to October. I like the make-up of this Giants club. I think there are actually a lot of similarities to the World Champion Giants teams from earlier this decade. There's not a lot of star-power but plenty of talent. In contrast to the Blue Jays, the Giants don't have the most potent lineup but do possess a rock solid pitching staff with an A+ starting rotation and bullpen. The emergence of Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani as true rotation anchors this season has been a real difference-maker in San Fran. Outside of the Dodgers, no other National League team really has much of an intimidation factor. For the Giants, it will likely come down to whether they can make a couple of key moves to perhaps bolster their offense and give them a real shot at hanging with the likes of L.A. in a seven-game series. Right now, that's a question mark as the Dodgers have taken six of nine meetings so far this season. Nevertheless, I don't see the Giants fading any time soon and this is likely as good as it gets price-wise. 

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Revisiting April NHL Stanley Cup Futures Bets

Friday, Jun 11, 2021

Back in mid-April, I posted an article recommending one Stanley Cup futures bet from each NHL division. Now with three of the four division titles wrapped up and just one semi-final spot left to be decided, let's take a look back and see how those bets are shaping up.April's breakdowns in italics.North DivisionWinnipeg Jets 18-1While I honestly don't believe this is the year that a Canadian team hoists the cup for the first time since 1993, I will anoint the Jets as the Great White North's best hope (and best value). While the Leafs certainly possess the most talented roster, they're not settled in goal and have inexplicably proven inconsistent offensively. The Jets have an elite goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck and a roster that has remained virtually intact for a number of years. The window of opportunity is starting to close when it comes to their core of Mark Schiefele, Blake Wheeler, Nik Ehlers, etc. We've seen Winnipeg go on a deep playoff run as recently as 2018 when they reached the Western Conference Final before bowing out at the hands of a red hot Golden Knights squad. There's no team in the North Division that should intimidate the Jets and they'll be afforded a chance to fine-tune their game heading in with a playoff spot all but locked up. Well, at least they upset the Oilers in an improbable first round sweep. Things didn't go well from the outset of the Jets second round series against Montreal as an ill-advised hit by Mark Scheifele late in Game 1 loomed large after he was suspended for the rest of the series. The window of opportunity may be closing on this era of Jets hockey. You have to wonder whether Paul Maurice's days are numbered behind the bench although management seems to indicate otherwise. At 18-1 I would still make this bet again as the North Division was wide open, as the Canadiens can attest.East Division New York Islanders 13-1Despite sitting in second place in the East Division, the Islanders actually have shorter odds to win the cup than the first-place Capitals. Rightfully so, in my opinion. The Isles have played with purpose this season and have a roster built for playoff hockey with plenty of front-line talent but also enough grit to withstand a grueling seven-game series. Head coach Barry Trotz is just a couple of seasons removed from guiding the aforementioned Caps to a Stanley Cup title. He was brought to Long Island with the sole purpose of returning the Isles to glory as well. In this topsy-turvy 2021 season, why not pick a hard-luck franchise like the Isles to hoist Lord Stanley's mug. I'm more than happy to hold this ticket even as the Islanders face a tall task in the form of a revenge date with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the semi-final round. New York didn't prove to be much more than a speedbump on Tampa's way to the title last year. I do think the Isles have caught lightning in a bottle (no pun intended) offensively in these playoffs and could give the Bolts a more legitimate run this year. We know all about their defensive prowess under the guidance of head coach Barry Trotz but if they can keep an attacking mindset like they did against the Bruins they could prove to be a tough out.Central Division Carolina Hurricanes 12-1I picked the Hurricanes to go on a deep playoff run in last Summer's bubble-hockey postseason tournament and that prediction looked pretty good for a series. Unfortunately Carolina was overmatched in the second round against Boston. The 'Canes made the necessary offseason moves to chart their course back to Stanley Cup contention this year and while they're fresh off ugly back-to-back losses to the lowly Red Wings as I'm writing this, I've seen enough positives to warrant them a true championship contender. Carolina has gotten healthier lately with Petr Mrazek returning to an already solid stable of goaltenders and Vincent Trocheck providing some additional scoring depth up front. Trocheck is one of those key offseason additions I mentioned and he hasn't disappointed here in 2021, chipping in with 34 points in 32 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning will prove to be a tough obstacle but as we saw two years ago when the Bolts were swept by the eight-seeded Blue Jackets in the opening round, anything can happen in the NHL Playoffs.Another year, another bitter playoff disappointment for the Canes. At 12-1 they were certainly worth a shot, rolling the dice that the Lightning might get upset in the opening round. There's no real shame in losing to the defending Stanley Cup champs although the disappearing act pulled by the Canes offense on home ice was something to behold. Carolina is likely still a piece of two away from becoming a true championship contender, perhaps between the pipes where the duo of Mrazek and Ndeljkovic disappointed. West Division Vegas Golden Knights 8-1While the Avalanche are favorites to come out of the West Division for a reason, I'm willing to take a shot with the Golden Knights at what I consider to be a reasonable return. Vegas has proven it can go toe-to-toe with Colorado. In fact, I feel the Golden Knights even have a slight edge in terms of depth - certainly between the pipes, where the Avs are a Philip Grubauer injury away from newly-acquired journeyman Devan Dubnyk shouldering the load. Colorado has more elite talent at the top of its payroll with Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen up front and phenom Cale Makar patrolling the blue line. But the Knights have proven they can win games in a variety of different ways and recently welcomed back stud offseason acquisition Alex Pietrangelo from injury. I do believe this Knights team is better than the one that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and see value backing them at the current price point. The Knights are currently one win away from securing a mouth-watering semi-final matchup against the upstart Canadiens. Whoever wins the Knights-Avalanche series will be heavy favorites against the Habs. If it's the Knights, that potential 8-1 return would look awfully good. After a slow start to the postseason, Vegas has rounded into form at both ends of the rink against the juggernaut Avs and in my opinion could go toe-to-toe with any of the other three remaining teams.

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2021 NBA Playoffs: Milwaukee Bucks/Brooklyn Nets Series Preview, Odds and Prediction

Friday, Jun 04, 2021

In one of the most anticipated series' of the second round, the Bucks and Nets will renew acquaintances beginning on Saturday night in Brooklyn.Here's a quick look at the tale of the tape entering this marquee NBA playoff showdown.Season seriesThe Bucks dropped the first meeting between these two teams during the regular season by a narrow 125-123 margin in Brooklyn in mid-January but answered back with consecutive victories in a two-game set played in Milwaukee in early May. Note that the Bucks were favored in all three regular season matchups, although never by more than 3.5 points. They're currently a four-point underdog in advance of Saturday's Game 1 tilt in Brooklyn. The 'under' cashed in two of three meetings during the regular season with all three totals closing at 240 points or higher. Saturday's total currently sits at, you guessed it, 240 points.   For the series, BetAnySports lists Brooklyn as a -190 favorite, with Milwaukee's odds at +175.First round recapNeither team faced much resistance in the opening round with the Bucks sweeping aside what appeared to be a disinterested Heat squad and the Nets crushing an under-performing, injury-plagued Celtics team in five games. Give the Bucks a slight advantage in terms of rest as they wrapped their series with Miami last Saturday while the Nets didn't finish off the Celtics until Tuesday night. Stopping the Big ThreeMilwaukee will be hard-pressed to stop or even slow down the Nets vaunted 'Big Three' with KD, Kyrie and the Beard having gone off against the Celtics in what at times looked like playground basketball in the opening round. The Bucks may be better served to focus on the other end of the floor, where they're certainly capable of exposing a bottom-tier Nets defense that ranked 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season and quietly allowed 117 points per game in the final four games against Boston last round. The Bucks check in averaging 120 points per game on better than 48% shooting this season. Playing small ballThe Nets went with a smaller lineup for much of their opening round series, something that might not work so well against a Bucks squad that crashes the boards relentlessly led by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Nets are essentially void of any true rim defenders and could have a tough time preventing the Bucks from generating a boatload of second-chance scoring opportunities in this series. Brooklyn is at its best when it can get out in transition. Floor space just isn't going to be nearly as plentiful against Milwaukee as it was against Boston. Final verdictThe Nets are the favorites to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy for a reason. While the Bucks got over a major hump by ousting at Heat squad that owned them in the bubble last summer, they face a much different challenge in round two. This is usually where we see Milwaukee start to wilt and while I don't believe we're in for a short series, I'm with the majority in thinking that the 'Big Three' will simply be too much over the course of a potential six or seven-game battle. Pick: Brooklyn in six. 

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Islanders-Bruins Round 2 Playoff Preview

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Islanders and Bruins will drop the puck on their East Division Final series on Saturday night in Boston.If you're a fan of old-school playoff hockey, you should be in for a treat as these two teams have built up some considerable animosity over the course of eight meetings this season.Tale of the tapeThe Bruins finished just two points ahead of the Islanders for third place in the East Division and held a slight four-goal advantage in terms of goal differential. After dropping the first five meetings in the series during the regular season, the Bruins answered back with three consecutive victories over the Isles in April. We saw plenty of 5's in terms of the posted totals and I would anticipate more of the same as this series goes on. Key acquisitionWith surprisingly minimal fanfare, the Bruins brought in polarizing forward Taylor Hall prior to the trade deadline and he's certainly made a positive impact. In 16 regular season games with the B's, Hall contributed 14 points. He picked up right where he left off against the Capitals in round one, adding three points in five games. The B's have been desperate for secondary scoring beyond the 'Perfection Line' for years and now they seem to have it with Hall. Super stoppersThe big difference in the Islanders opening round series victory was between the pipes where rookie Ilya Sorokin stole the show against the Penguins supposedly high-powered offense. He brings a 1.95 GAA and .943 save percentage into round two after posting a 2.17 GAA and .918 SV% during the regular season. Sorokin isn't likely to upstage Bruins vet Tuukka Rask the way he did Tristan Jarry of the Pens, however. Rask was terrific during the regular season, recording a 15-5-4 record to go along with a 2.28 GAA and .913 SV%. He owned the Caps in round one, posting a 1.81 GAA and .941 SV%. Rask gave up just three goals on 47 shots in his last three appearances against New York during the regular season.Seeing starsThe Bruins top line didn't have to shoulder the entire offensive load in round one but still contributed 13 points in five games. The Islanders have had a knack for shutting down opponents' top scoring threats but that's certainly tough with the B's three-headed monster in Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. The Isles inexplicably got just three assists from Mat Barzal in round one. He'll obviously need to pick up the pace offensively if New York is going to hang with Boston in this seires. J.G. Pageau and Brock Nelson combined for 13 points against the Penguins and can be difference-makers again in this series. Who has the edge?This has the makings of a long, heated series with Boston playing its best hockey of the season (16-6 last 22 games) and the Isles employing a gritty style and feeding off the energy of the small-but-boisterous crowed at the historic Nassau Coliseum. I'll give the B's the edge as they have the look of a true Stanley Cup contender and just enough scoring depth to outlast the Isles. Pick: Bruins in seven. 

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WNBA Early Season Shootaround

Friday, May 21, 2021

We're one week into the 2021 WNBA season and we've already seen plenty of surprises across the league. Here's a quick look at some key situations to keep an eye on heading into the second weekend of the season.Minny-slumpThe Minnesota Lynx are off to an improbable 0-3 start after a complete fourth quarter collapse against the Seattle Storm on Thursday. While the schedule-makers haven't been overly kind to the Lynx in the early going with two of their three games coming against title contenders in the Mercury and Storm, both of those games came at home and they also had a winnable road game against the Liberty which they lost 86-75. The good news is, reinforcements are on their way with two-way star in the making Napheesa Collier set to return from Covid quarantine. Note that the Lynx are in for an extended layoff as they won't take the court again until next Friday when they head to Seattle for a rematch with the Storm. Aces are wildWhile the Las Vegas Aces only managed to earn a split in a two-game season-opening set in Seattle, they still managed to put on quite a show, scoring 179 points led by 42 points from A'ja Wilson. Going back to the brief preseason, the Aces rank second in the WNBA in pace rating but they've been anything but careless, also checking in second in the league in fewest turnovers per game. Off Tuesday's blowout win over the Storm, the Aces have the opportunity to go on a run with four of their next five games coming at home, beginning with a date with the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night. It's early but the Aces certainly look the part of a title contender - this time with a big chip on their shoulder after last year's Finals disappointment.Unpleasant Dream?The Atlanta Dream started the season completely out of sorts after head coach Nicki Collen surprisingly bolted for Baylor just weeks before the 2021 campaign began. They're off to a winless start through two games, checking in 10th in the league in defensive rating and 11th in offensive rating. Things don't figure to get a whole lot easier as they'll play their next two games on the road. The good news is Friday's opponent, the Indiana Fever, are in complete disarray having dropped their first three games this season. Dream first round draft pick Aari McDonald has yet to find her way, contributing just a single point in 27 minutes of action so far. Atlanta does have high hopes for a potential backcourt duo of McDonald and Chennedy Carter. For her part, Carter has accounted for nearly a quarter of the Dream's scoring output through two games. Mercury risingPhoenix is going to be a problem for many opponents this season with an explosive starting five that has seen all five players score in double-figures in two of three games so far (with four reaching the mark in the other). Having Brittney Griner back in the fold is obviously a major plus and she already appears to be in midseason form, contributing 47 points while grabbing 26 rebounds through three games. Along with Sue Bird of the Storm, Diana Taurasi is an ageless wonder, pouring in 50 points in her first three contests this season. Phoenix's tough early season schedule continues with consecutive home games against the undefeated Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces up next.

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NHL First Round Playoff Preview

Friday, May 14, 2021

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are upon us with the action getting underway with Game 1 between the Bruins and Capitals on Saturday evening.Here's a quick preview of each opening round series.(Odds courtesy BetOnline)North DivisionMaple Leafs (-280) vs. Canadiens (+235)For the first time in 42 years the Leafs and Canadiens will renew their storied rivalry in the playoffs, this time as the 1 vs. 4 matchup in the North Division. The Leafs took seven of nine regular season meetings and enter the series as heavy favorites. You would be hard-pressed to find an advantage for the Habs in this series but perhaps goaltending could be the great equalizer? Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has proven he can steal a series in the past but let's face it, he had a disastrous regular season and was outperformed by backup Jake Allen, who could very well earn the Game 1 start in this series. Jack Campbell took over the Leafs starting job after Frederik Andersen got hurt and while Andersen is back, he's unlikely to wrestle back the number one role. For things to go Montreal's way it will need to get elite production from its forward group that has only been good in fits and starts this season. Keeping pace with the Leafs vaunted offense will be a tall task indeed and I ultimately expect the Habs to fall short. Prediction: Leafs in six. Oilers (-200) vs. Jets (+170)This would have been an intriguing matchup a few weeks ago but with the Jets going in the tank down the stretch, excitement has waned a bit. The Oilers didn't let up an ounce in the closing weeks of the regular season and are well-positioned to outgun a Jets squad that has sorely missed the production of Nik Ehlers since he went down with a season-ending injury. Winnipeg does have the talent and experience to go on a deep playoff run but it's going to be difficult for them to take flight (pun intended) from a standing start. Note that the Jets entered Friday's regular season finale against Toronto having won just twice since April 17th, scoring fewer than three goals in nine of their last 11 contests. The Oilers are hungry for an elusive playoff series win and have the personnel in place to end their drought here in 2021. In the face of an army of doubters, goaltender Mike Smith has proven to be Edmonton's unsung hero this season and should help them advance past the down-trodden Jets in relatively short order. Prediction: Oilers in five.Central DivisionHurricanes (-255) vs. Predators (+215)Carolina not surprisingly dominated the regular season series between these two teams, taking six of eight meetings. A true Stanley Cup contender, the 'Canes will be looking to erase the memory of an early playoff exit (in unceremonious fashion) at the hands of the Bruins last year. While the Predators have one of the most underrated goaltenders in hockey in Juuse Saros, I'm not convinced they have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with the deep Carolina offense. Home ice will mean something in this series as the 'Canes went 20-8 in Raleigh during the regular season, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 1.3 goals per game. While the Preds went 18-10 at home, they check in 13-15 in a visitors role. Prediction: Hurricanes in five.Lightning (-150) vs. Panthers (+130)It looks like it will be all hands on deck for the Lightning as they welcome back Nikita Kucherov and Steve Stamkos from injury in round one against the in-state rival Panthers. Victor Hedman will require offseason surgery but all indications are that he'll be back on the ice for the series-opener as well. The Panthers did take five of eight regular season meetings between these two teams and while they have the offense to keep up with the Bolts, I'm not sure Sergei Bobrovsky can match saves with all-world counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy. This is also a series where Florida missed defensive anchor Aaron Ekblad and key secondary scorer Vincent Trocheck, who now skates with the Hurricanes. This has the makings of a long series but I'll give the slight edge to the defending champions. Prediction: Lightning in seven. East DivisionPenguins (-145) vs. Islanders (+125)Pittsburgh had its way with New York during the regular season, taking six of eight meetings. The stretch run was a disaster for the Islanders as they dropped seven of their last 10 games to set up this difficult opening round date. With that being said, the Isles core remains intact from the team that staged a 4-0 sweep over the favored Penguins two years ago. I wouldn't be quick to dismiss a Barry Trotz-coached squad that defends well and also has two top-rate goaltenders at its disposal. The issue is up front where someone other than Mat Barzal will need to step up and contribute - something we just didn't see much of during the regular season. I may sound like a broken record but scoring depth is paramount at this time of year and the Pens have it. Prediction: Penguins in six. Capitals (+145) vs. Bruins (-165)The Bruins are favored in this series despite finishing behind the Capitals in the East Division standings. In fact, Boston is the favorite to come out of the East Division. I would have had this series priced a little tighter but can understand the logic behind the B's being favored in spite of the 4-4 regular season split between these two. While Boston's top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak has been firing on all cylinders, the Caps have been struggling to even ice a healthy roster with key cogs such as Ovechkin, Carlson and Kuznetsov in and out of the lineup. Washington's 19-9 road record is certainly a feather in its cap entering this series as is the fact that it managed to go 12-5 down the stretch despite being undermanned. Perhaps the Caps spat with the Rangers will be looked back on as a galvanizing turning point. Prediction: Bruins in seven.West DivisionAvalanche (-400) vs. Blues (+320)Colorado won its way into top spot in the West Division thanks to sweeping a two-game set against the Kings at the end of the regular season. It did so without the services of Nathan MacKinnon but I would count on him to be back on the ice for the start of this series. St. Louis dropped five of the first six meetings in this series during the regular season before answering with a couple of victories on home ice in late April. It will be hard-pressed to steal more than a game, if that, against the Stanley Cup favorites here, however. We saw a glimpse of Colorado's incredible depth as it scored 11 goals - without MacKinnon - in consecutive wins over the Kings earlier this week. The Avs defense is the real undervalued commodity here though, noting that they've allowed just 2.4 goals per game overall and 1.9 goals per game on home ice this season. The Blues don't have the goaltending or consistency up front to keep pace. Prediction: Colorado in four.Golden Knights (-240) vs. Wild (+200)This has the makings of an incredible series between the veteran-laden Knights and the upstart Wild. Vegas led the West Division for much of the season - deservedly so - but a late season loss to the Avs cost them the top seed. Few teams displayed the consistency of the Knights over the course of the season as they went 21-7 at home and 19-9 on the road. It is worth noting that the Wild have managed to take four of the last seven meetings in Las Vegas. Minnesota seemed to find its identity this year, somewhat surprisingly as a high-octane offensive squad. If you haven't seen much of the Wild this season you're in for a treat. Rookie standout Kirill Kaprizov is cut from the same mold as superstar Artemi Panarin, breaking into the league as a 24-year old this season and pacing the Wild offense. Minnesota checks in averaging 3.4 goals per game compared to Vegas' 3.2. Prediction: Vegas in seven. 

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NBA Weekend Shootaround: May 1-2

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

There are only two weeks remaining in the NBA regular season and the sprint (or limp in some cases) to the finish is well underway.Here's a look at some easily-overlooked spots to consider before you do your weekend NBA line shopping.SaturdayDetroit at CharlotteDespite missing a number of players due to 'injury management', the Pistons got up for the Mavericks at home on Thursday and actually hung with them for three quarters before ultimately falling by 10 points. Keep in mind, Dallas was without Luka Doncic and for as well as Detroit played, shooting better than 50% from the field, it still couldn't stay within arm's reach against an undermanned opponent. The Pistons have for all intents of purposes already moved on to next season. Next up is a trip to Charlotte to face a Hornets squad that is sure to be in a foul mood after back-to-back losses against the Bucks and Celtics. The Hornets are of course still fighting for playoff positioning, entering Friday's action in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They certainly haven't given up on the season, even if a deep playoff run is unlikely, with LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk close to returning. The Pistons should be back at full strength for this one but they'll be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Hornets. Keep an eye on the line as the Hornets could be worth a look at a reasonable price point. Indiana at Oklahoma CityThe Thunder came out flat as expected at home against the Pelicans on Thursday night, unable to build off the positive momentum gained from Tuesday's upset win in Boston - their first victory in what seemed like an eternity (it was their first since March 31st). Now the Thunder draw a more favorable matchup against an injury-riddled Pacers squad that continues to play at a break-neck pace, often to its own detriment. Despite Thursday's poor showing, Oklahoma City is actually healthier than its been in a while and well-positioned to play spoiler against the playoff-hungry Pacers on Saturday. For whatever reason the Thunder appeared disinterested in pushing the tempo against a tired Pelicans squad playing the second of back-to-backs, and shot a miserable 38% from the field, but they should bounce back in what has the potential to be a track meet on Saturday night. If Oklahoma City is catching a generous helping of points again in this spot, it may be go-time for Thunder backers. While we're likely going to see an exorbitant total, the 'over' could be worth a look as well.SundayNew York at HoustonPerhaps Knicks bettors have been lulled into a false sense of security after a wildly-successful six-game homestand that saw New York go 5-1 straight-up and against the spread. This is precisely the type of spot where a young, confident team like the Knicks could get tripped up as they travel for a sleepy Sunday night matchup in Houston (against a Rockets squad they've already defeated by 22 points this season). This trip will get much tougher for New York after Sunday's contest as it will face the Grizzlies, Nuggets, Suns, Clippers and Lakers in succession - a murderer's row of Western Conference contenders. It would be easy to overlook the Rockets, who will be in a back-to-back spot after hosting the Warriors on Saturday. While Houston's season is essentially over, it hasn't thrown in the towel just yet, as evidenced by Thursday's upset win over the Bucks here at home. Toronto at Los AngelesThis is a tough scheduling spot for the Raptors, who are simply playing out the string with no legitimate playoff hopes still worth reaching for. Toronto will be playing its third game in four nights, with two of those coming at altitude in Denver and Salt Lake City. The Lakers are rested and ready having returned home from a four-game road trip to host the Kings on Friday night. Of course, Los Angeles is gradually getting back to full strength with Anthony Davis working his way back to a full minutes load. With a tougher game against Denver on deck on Monday perhaps we see some 'load management' from the Lakers here but I'm quite honestly not sure that plays into their decision-making. Los Angeles doesn't really have the luxury of taking games off down the stretch as it enters the weekend in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture. More help will obviously be coming with Lebron James' return imminent (at the time of writing on Friday). For now look for Los Angeles to take advantage of every winnable game on its schedule.

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UEFA Champions League Semi-Final Preview

Monday, Apr 26, 2021

The first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final round takes place this week with Chelsea traveling to Spain to face Real Madrid on Tuesday while Paris-St. Germain hosts Manchester City on Wednesday.The lead-up to the matches has been overshadowed of course by the proposed creation and immediate collapse of the European Super League. Nevertheless, we have two fantastic matchups in the offing. Here's a quick look at both (odds courtesy BetOnline).Tuesday, April 27thReal Madrid (-0.25 -109) vs. Chelsea (+0.25 -111)Los Blancos have been playing phenomenal defensive football, contributing to an incredible 17-match unbeaten streak going all the way back to a January 30th setback against Levante. Most impressive is the fact that no opponent has managed to score more than a single goal against Real Madrid over the course of that 17-game stretch.Off a disappointing 0-0 showing against Real Betis on Saturday, Real Madrid will be eager to push forward and shake out of its own scoring slump here, noting that it has failed to register a goal in three of its last four matches overall. Chelsea won't be easy to break down, noting that it has posted three consecutive clean sheets since an ugly 1-0 loss in the second leg of its Champions League quarter-final matchup with Porto. Note that Real Madrid has an excellent track record when reaching this stage of the Champions League, having gone on to win the title each of the last three times it has made it to the semi-final round. You have to wonder if the majority of the Blues focus is on the English Premier League, where they currently sit fourth in the table with a three point cushion over fifth-place West Ham. Chelsea does check in undefeated in its last 10 away fixtures. This marks its first appearance in the Champions League semi-final round since 2014 when it bowed out against Atletico Madrid. Wednesday, April 28thParis-St. Germain (+0.25 -104) vs. Manchester City (-0.25 -116)Parc des Princes will be the venue for the first leg of this intriguing semi-final showdown between PSG and Manchester City. Both clubs are looking for their first ever Champions League title.PSG will be hard-pressed to accomplish that feat if they don't have the services of international superstar Kylian Mbappe after he was forced to leave Saturday's 3-1 victory over Metz with a thigh injury. Mbappe scored twice in the victory and his status remains up in the air for Wednesday's contest. Mbappe's status notwithstanding, PSG has been rolling offensively in recent weeks, scoring at least three goals in seven of its last night matches overall. Home field advantage has meant very little as it has managed just three victories in its last eight contests here at Parc des Princes.Manchester City reached the semi-final stage thanks to consecutive thrilling 2-1 victories over a game Borussia Dortmund squad with Phil Foden securing those wins with a pair of late markers. This marks the first time Man City has reached the Champions League semis since 2016 when it lost to eventual champions Real Madrid. How fitting would it be for it to draw a rematch with Los Blancos in the final of this year's tournament? City checks in having won nine of its 10 Champions League matches to date, with its lone setback coming in the second leg of its quarter-final matchup against Porto. In those 10 previous matches, it has allowed a grand total of just three goals, which outlines the importance of PSG having super-scorer Mbappe for this match.

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NHL Stanley Cup Futures Bets

Thursday, Apr 15, 2021

With the NHL trade deadline in the rear-view mirror and the playoff picture beginning to take shape, now is a good time to lock in some Stanley Cup Futures bets. Here's a look at one team from each of the NHL's four divisions worthy of a wager with the playoffs less than a month away.North DivisionWinnipeg Jets 18-1While I honestly don't believe this is the year that a Canadian team hoists the cup for the first time since 1993, I will anoint the Jets as the Great White North's best hope (and best value). While the Leafs certainly possess the most talented roster, they're not settled in goal and have inexplicably proven inconsistent offensively. The Jets have an elite goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck and a roster that has remained virtually intact for a number of years. The window of opportunity is starting to close when it comes to their core of Mark Schiefele, Blake Wheeler, Nik Ehlers, etc. We've seen Winnipeg go on a deep playoff run as recently as 2018 when they reached the Western Conference Final before bowing out at the hands of a red hot Golden Knights squad. There's no team in the North Division that should intimidate the Jets and they'll be afforded a chance to fine-tune their game heading in with a playoff spot all but locked up. East Division New York Islanders 13-1Despite sitting in second place in the East Division, the Islanders actually have shorter odds to win the cup than the first-place Capitals. Rightfully so, in my opinion. The Isles have played with purpose this season and have a roster built for playoff hockey with plenty of front-line talent but also enough grit to withstand a grueling seven-game series. Head coach Barry Trotz is just a couple of seasons removed from guiding the aforementioned Caps to a Stanley Cup title. He was brought to Long Island with the sole purpose of returning the Isles to glory as well. In this topsy-turvy 2021 season, why not pick a hard-luck franchise like the Isles to hoist Lord Stanley's mug. Central Division Carolina Hurricanes 12-1I picked the Hurricanes to go on a deep playoff run in last Summer's bubble-hockey postseason tournament and that prediction looked pretty good for a series. Unfortunately Carolina was overmatched in the second round against Boston. The 'Canes made the necessary offseason moves to chart their course back to Stanley Cup contention this year and while they're fresh off ugly back-to-back losses to the lowly Red Wings as I'm writing this, I've seen enough positives to warrant them a true championship contender. Carolina has gotten healthier lately with Petr Mrazek returning to an already solid stable of goaltenders and Vincent Trocheck providing some additional scoring depth up front. Trocheck is one of those key offseason additions I mentioned and he hasn't disappointed here in 2021, chipping in with 34 points in 32 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning will prove to be a tough obstacle but as we saw two years ago when the Bolts were swept by the eight-seeded Blue Jackets in the opening round, anything can happen in the NHL Playoffs.West Division Vegas Golden Knights 8-1While the Avalanche are favorites to come out of the West Division for a reason, I'm willing to take a shot with the Golden Knights at what I consider to be a reasonable return. Vegas has proven it can go toe-to-toe with Colorado. In fact, I feel the Golden Knights even have a slight edge in terms of depth - certainly between the pipes, where the Avs are a Philip Grubauer injury away from newly-acquired journeyman Devan Dubnyk shouldering the load. Colorado has more elite talent at the top of its payroll with Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen up front and phenom Cale Makar patrolling the blue line. But the Knights have proven they can win games in a variety of different ways and recently welcomed back stud offseason acquisition Alex Pietrangelo from injury. I do believe this Knights team is better than the one that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and see value backing them at the current price point. 

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NBA Weekend Shootaround: April 3-4

Friday, Apr 02, 2021

It's hard to believe we've already reached the first weekend in April and with it comes a full slate of NBA action as the regular season stretch run heats up. Here's a look at several matchups to keep your eye on as the lines are released on Saturday and Sunday.SaturdayTimberwolves at 76ers, 8 pm etWe saw the 76ers rise to the occasion in what could have been a flat spot at the end of their long road trip in Cleveland on Thursday. Of course, Philadelphia was looking to snap a two-game skid in that situation so perhaps it wasn't all that difficult for it to get up for the game, even if it was against the lowly Cavaliers. Here, the 76ers face another league bottom-dweller in the Timberwolves. It's advantage 76ers here as Minnesota plays in Memphis on Friday night. In face, this will be Minnesota's fourth game in the last six nights, in four different cities no less. Should Philadelphia jump out to an early lead Minnesota might already start packing its bags for home as it hosts the Kings in a more winnable contest (relatively speaking) on Monday. Thunder at Blazers, 10 pm etThis might be a tricky spot for the Blazers as they play the second of back-to-back nights after returning home to host the Bucks on just one day of rest following a four-game road trip on the opposite end of the continent. That's not to mention the fact that their opponent, the Thunder, aren't going to draw a great deal of motivation, noting that the Blazers already exacted revenge for an earlier-season loss at home against Oklahoma City, winning by double-digits in OKC back on February 16th. Portland rarely blows anyone out here at home - in fact, it has been outscored by 1.5 points per game on average here in the Pacific Northwest this season (entering Friday's action). Just something to keep in mind should we see a crooked number in favor of the Blazers on Saturday.SundayNets at Bulls, 3 pm etThe Bulls have been reeling lately and wrap up a disappointing road trip against the league-leading Jazz on Friday night before returning home for this matinee affair with the Nets on Sunday. This could actually serve as a sneaky-good spot to back the Bulls should they be catching enough points against a Nets squad that has been rolling. Brooklyn enters the weekend on a four-game winning streak, stringing together six consecutive quarters of incredible basketball against the Rockets and Hornets over its last couple of contests. Is this a spot where we'll see the Nets bring their 'A' game though? I'm not so sure. While the Bulls have been struggling, they're not short on talent and the new faces they brought in prior to the trade deadline have had ample time to get acclimated. You'll need to keep your eye on the injury report for both teams as James Harden has been banged-up for Brooklyn while Zach LaVine has missed time for Chicago. Magic vs. Nuggets, 10 pm etThis is a tough scheduling spot for Orlando as it plays the second of back-to-back nights, in altitude, against the Nuggets on Sunday night. We've seen some promising play from the Magic on this trip - surprising to most after their roster was gutted prior to the trade deadline. Of course, there's a chance Orlando is already satisfied enough with its performance on this five-game western swing that it checks out should it fall behind early against the superior Nuggets. Denver has been frustratingly inconsistent at times this season, especially given the talent it has on hand, but we have seen it round into form lately, reeling off four straight wins heading into the opener of a five-game homestand. You can be sure Aaron Gordon will be looking to show up and show out against his former squad. While we're likely going to be looking at a steep number in favor of the Nuggets here, it might just be warranted in a game that has true blowout potential. 

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NCAA Sweet 16 Bracketology

Friday, Mar 26, 2021

We've reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament with some expected names but also a number of 'Cinderellas' rounding out the remaining field. Here's a look at where you can still find value in the futures market, with three upset-minded teams that aren't ready to put away their dancing shoes just yet. To reach Final FourOregon (+650)The Ducks were actually my pre-tournament pick to come out of the West Region and I still like their chances even with arguably the best team in the country, Gonzaga, residing in that region as well. Just to play Devil's Advocate when it comes to the top-ranked Bulldogs, let's say Creighton gets hot from beyond the arc (as it is known to do) and stages the improbable but possible Sweet 16 upset. That would leave the Ducks with only a talented but inconsistent Blue Jays squad standing between them and a Final Four appearance - assuming Oregon can get past Pac-12 rival USC of course. The oddsmakers have certainly done their homework and Oregon is accurately priced to reach the Final Four, but I'm higher than most on the Ducks and feel now might be a favorable time to take a shot for a potential big return. Villanova (+550)The Wildcats are another team that I had pegged to reach the Final Four (even if I thought they would get a much tougher game from Winthrop in the opening round - oops) prior to the tournament tipping off last week. I've never been one to underestimate Jay Wright's 'Nova squads and even without Colin Gillespie we've seen the Wildcats cruise through two rounds, setting up a favorable Sweet 16 showdown with one-seed Baylor. The Bears have of course rounded back into form following a poor showing in the Big 12 Tournament. However, if one of the three top seeds remaining are going to make an unceremonious exit prior to the Elite Eight they might just be the team. Should the Wildcats upset Baylor on Saturday they would likely match up against a beatable Arkansas squad in the Elite Eight (unless Oral Roberts decides the slipper still fits). Either way, I see value with 'Nova at a healthy return to find its way into the Final Four, noting it is currently priced at around +240 to beat Baylor. Florida State (+300)Full disclosure, I had Alabama (currently priced at +180) coming out of the East Region prior to the tournament, which is still well within the realm of possibility. However, based on what I've seen so far in this tourney, I'd be willing to take a shot with the Seminoles priced at +300 or better. Michigan needed everything it had in the tank to get past LSU in the Round of 32 and draws an even tougher matchup against fourth-seeded Florida State in the Sweet 16. After scoring 80+ points without Isaiah Livers in their first two tournament games, I believe the Wolverines could be ripe for the upset against the 'Noles - who can hang with UM at both ends of the floor. Of course, it would by no means be a true shocker as Florida State is just a slight 2.5-point underdog at the time of writing. Alabama should get past UCLA, which would set up a reasonable matchup for the 'Noles in the Elite Eight, noting that LSU laid out a pretty good blueprint for beating the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, even if the Tigers ultimately fell a point short. *Note that Sean's individual game selections are independent of the recommendations on futures bets above. 

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Sleeper Teams

Tuesday, Mar 16, 2021

The NCAA Tournament is set to tip off with four play-in games on Thursday night and after missing out on the Big Dance last March, we're obviously all anxiously waiting with our betting slips in hand for what will likely be the heaviest bet tournament of all-time. Here's a look at four potential tournament sleeper picks. - one from each region. While these teams aren't likely to be serenaded by 'One Shining Moment' come April, they do have the potential to bust a few brackets early on. Seeding in parentheses.St. Bonaventure (9) - East RegionThe Bonnies rode their wealth of experience to an Atlantic-10 Tournament championship on Sunday, delivering a dominant performance against a quality VCU squad. They draw a favorable opening round matchup against an LSU team that came a point short of winning the SEC Tournament championship, falling to Alabama in what was an impressive (but somewhat improbable) run. I really like St. Bonaventure's depth advantage in the early stages of the tournament. Keep in mind, LSU doesn't get much scoring at all from its bench while the Bonnies likely second-round matchup would be Michigan, which lost starting guard and team co-captain Isaiah Livers to a stress fracture in his foot and his status remains in doubt. There's definitely a path forward for the Bonnies, who open as a two-point underdog against the Tigers.Ohio (13) - West RegionThe Bobcats draw the defending national champions (from two years ago) in Virginia in their opening round matchup. Ohio doesn't get a lot of press coming out of the MAC but its resume is certainly impressive (if not all that extensive). The Bobcats gave popular bracket-winning pick Illinois all it could handle in just their second game of the season, falling by a 77-75 score as 16-point underdogs, on the road no less. They followed that up with an impressive 101-46 dismantling of eventual Horizon League champion Cleveland State. After running the table in the MAC Tournament, scoring 85, 87 and 84 points in the process, they're certainly upset-minded heading into this date with what I believe to be a vulnerable Virginia squad. Should Ohio upset Virginia it would likely draw Creighton - a team that had its own issues down the stretch and got drummed by Georgetown in the Big East Tournament championship game.North Texas (13) - South RegionThe Mean Green Eagles certainly have the look of a true Cinderella team after going on a magical run to a Sun Belt Tournament championship last weekend. North Texas loaded its early season schedule with tough matchups on the road against Arkansas, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Loyola-Chicago and while it went winless in those three games, I do think it helps eliminate any sort of intimidation factor against Purdue here in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. A win over the Boilers, while improbable, would lead the Eagles to a likely matchup with Villanova in the second round. The Wildcats obviously possess a championship pedigree but certainly aren't invincible, at least not this season. While this is probably the biggest longshot of the four teams I've highlighted, I do think UNT is worth a look early on. Syracuse (11) - Midwest RegionSyracuse battled to the final buzzer despite not making it all the way in the ACC Tournament, exiting at the hands of Virginia in a hard-fought affair. The Orange draw a quality San Diego State team in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs are the Mountain West champions and deserving of plenty of respect but as we've seen in the last couple of weeks, the Orange are capable of getting hot and staging the minor upset here. I actually like the path forward for the winner in this game as I see some upset potential in the Morehead State-West Virginia matchup, the winner of which 'Cuse-SD State would face in the second round. Note that 2019 (the last time an NCAA Tournament was played) marked the first time since 2013 where the six-seeds won at least three games against the 11-seeds. 

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NHL Stanley Cup Dark Horses

Thursday, Mar 04, 2021

As we approach the midway point of this unique 2021 NHL regular season, it's time to give some attention to Stanley Cup futures. Here's a look at four 'dark horses' to consider as we flip the calendar page to March.St. Louis Blues 23-1I'll admit this play has a little more to do with the lofty price than the team itself. I do feel the Blues have a considerably better than 23-1 shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup. While there have been some bumps in the road, St. Louis has hung in there through the first month-and-a-half of the season and should enter the playoffs in second or third spot in the West Division. It's easy to forget that this is a team that just won it all back in 2019 - which does feel like a lifetime ago. With Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester no longer in the mix, the Blues have had to change their identity but I'm confident they'll continue to find their way. Offseason acquisitions Torey Krug and Justin Faulk have helped solidify their blue line, contributing 23 points in 22 games. New York Islanders 28-1I'm quite surprised we're being offered such a generous price to back the Isles, who currently sit tied atop the East Division standings. Perhaps it's their reputation as a perennial loser over the last few decades - let's face it, the early-80's dynasty is nothing but a memory at this point. I like what they're building on Long Island though, and certainly believe in Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz. With the solid defensive system they have in place and their wealth of talent led by budding superstar Matthew Barzal up front, this is a team that could make some noise in what I believe is a fairly wide open field. Pittsburgh Penguins 30-1As long as Sidney Crosby is around, you can't count out the Penguins. While Pittsburgh currently sits on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture goes (by percentage points only), I believe this is a team capable of going on a solid run and overtaking the Flyers for fourth spot in the East Division. We've already seen that the Pens can handle the rival Capitals, who currently sit top the East so finishing lower in the division isn't a huge concern. While staying healthy will be paramount with a lack of scoring depth and goaltender Tristan Jarry still needs to round into form, we're being offered an exceptional price to back a team that has the pedigree to go all the way this Spring.Calgary Flames 36-1This is a 'plug you nose and bet it' type of play as the Flames are severely wounded coming off six losses in their last eight games, including a pair of ugly blowout losses to the lowly Senators over the past week. I still like the upside they offer (especially at this price), even as they sit in fifth place in the North Division. There's no question Calgary's best hockey should lie ahead given its below-.500 record. I like the veteran leadership the Flames possess and feel they have a goaltender that is capable of getting hot and leading them on a deep postseason run (assuming they sneak in) in Jakob Markstrom. 

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NBA Weekend Shootaround: February 20-21

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

We went 4-1 on leans recommended inside this column last Friday so we'll try our luck again this week with a full slate of games on deck Saturday and Sunday. Here are five situations to consider as you handicap the weekend board.SaturdayPacers at RocketsThe Rockets should be thrilled to get back home following a tough road trip that saw them go winless in three games. In fact, Houston hasn't posted a victory since back on February 4th in Memphis. As much as I'd like to back the Rockets in this clear bounce-back spot at home, the matchup doesn't suggest such a play. The Pacers will undoubtedly get up for this one after scuffing their heels in their last two games, losing at home against Chicago before needing overtime to defeat the lowly T'Wolves in Minnesota. Dealing with a number of key injuries and struggling to find any consistency with the personnel they have in place, the Rockets just appear unworthy of our dollars right now. Suns at GrizzliesPhoenix recently went through a rebuilding phase of sorts similar to what Memphis is in the midst of right now. The Grizzlies have made positive strides this season, entering last night's action with a .500 record. With that being said, I see this as a tough back-to-back spot, even with the Suns in the exact same situation (except needing to travel as well after playing in New Orleans on Friday). Phoenix will be looking for revenge here after letting down their guard in a 108-104 loss in Memphis back in January. SundayT'Wolves at KnicksThis looks like a layup for the surging Knicks at home against the T'Wolves on Sunday. I'm just not convinced they take the matchup seriously enough to cover what is likely to be an inflated pointspread. New York had a wrench thrown in its schedule with Saturday's game against the Spurs postponed. The last time we saw New York play it got off to a fast start but couldn't keep it up and ultimately got squashed by 18 points in Orlando. While Minnesota still isn't winning many games, it has been competitive in virtually every contest since late January (entering Friday's action at least).Nuggets at HawksThe Hawks have played well for stretches this season but limped into their two-game set in Boston earlier in the week. Give them credit for rising to the occasion in the first of those two contests, winning on the strength of a huge night from Trae Young. I like the spot for them here, returning home to host an uneven Nuggets squad that might already have one foot on the plane, looking forward to returning home after a four-game road trip out east. Denver will host Damian Lillard and the Blazers on Tuesday night. Nets at ClippersBrooklyn is rolling along right now but most will be anticipating a letdown here after a couple of days off in La-La Land following Thursday's win over Lebron and the Lakers. I'm not sure that letdown will be in the cards against a Clippers squad that has had so many key pieces in and out of the lineup in recent games and comes off a tough two-game set against the red hot Utah Jazz. As long as Kawhi Leonard is in the lineup the Clips will undoubtedly earn the 'favorite' tag for this one but I wouldn't count out the Nets as they're finally playing a cohesive brand of basketball. 

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NHL Handicapping: Covid Concerns

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021

We've seen a number of teams sidelined for extended periods in the early stages of this unique 2021 NHL season. We're beginning to gain a better understanding of what to expect from these teams following the long layoffs. Here's a quick breakdown.Dallas StarsThis was a unique situation as the Stars weren't able to start the season on time due to Covid protocols. Somewhat surprisingly, Dallas came roaring out of the gates, scoring 19 goals in four consecutive wins. Again, that situation was a little different as it came at the onset of the season, unlike those other squads that have had to abruptly stop playing. Carolina HurricanesThe 'Canes were able to start the season on time, going 2-1 over their first three games before postponing their next three contests. When they returned to the ice, they enjoyed success similar to that of the Stars, reeling off four straight wins, albeit scoring just 11 goals in the process. Vegas Golden KnightsThe Knights were forced to postpone three straight games in late January-early February. When they got back in action they also thrived, securing three straight wins, scoring a whopping 14 goals along the way. Buffalo SabresHere's where things look a little different but perhaps it's not difficult to understand why. The Sabres missed six straight games, sitting idle for the first two weeks of February. Not surprisingly, they've been sluggish since returning to play, dropping consecutive games against the Islanders while scoring only one goal. Colorado AvalancheThe Avs got back to game action after a five-game absence on Sunday in Las Vegas, and proceeded to drop a 1-0 decision. They did manage to follow that up with a 3-2 victory against the Knights on Tuesday.New Jersey DevilsThe jury is still out on the Devils as they've played just once following an extended six-game absence due to Covid protocols. That one game went well as they skated to a 5-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night. We'll see how they fare as the rest of the week unfolds as they'll play three games in four nights from Thursday-Sunday - a tough stretch at the best of times.Minnesota WildLike the Sabres, the Wild were sidelined for six consecutive games and when they returned to the ice they were blanked by a 4-0 score in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Based on the data we have to work from so far this season, the key takeaway is the longer the layoff the more difficult it is for teams to get going again - not exactly a groundbreaking discovery, but worth noting nonetheless. There have been four teams that have missed five games or more and three of them managed to score a goal or less in their first game back on the ice. Note that the Flyers have just started practicing again with their tally of games missed due to Covid protocols standing at four games and counting. 

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NBA Weekend Shootaround: February 13-14

Friday, Feb 12, 2021

Another busy weekend of NBA hoops is upon us with five games coming up on Saturday and 10 on the Sunday board. Here's a quick look at five matchups to pay attention to before the lines are released.Saturday76ers vs. SunsThe 76ers were rolling until they ran into a hot-shooting Blazers team on Thursday night. Portland made 17 three-pointers in the upset win, shooting 45% from beyond-the-arc. Now Philly's trip really toughens up with Saturday's game in Phoenix followed by a trip to Salt Lake City to face the league-leading Jazz on Monday. The Suns have shaken off a late-January slump to reel off seven wins in their last eight games, including an upset win over the Bucks on Wednesday. Well-rested and at home, Devin Booker and co. might be worth a look in this one.Rockets vs. KnicksYou'll want to keep your eye on the injury report ahead of this game as the Rockets have been dealing with a number of key absences. Houston heads to New York on the heels of four straight losses but does catch the Knicks in a favorable situation here. New York will be playing its second game in as many nights after a trip to Washington on Friday. Houston has scored 106 points or less in each of its last four contests - I don't need to tell you how bad that is by today's NBA standards. Meanwhile, the Knicks entered Friday's action ranked dead last in the league in pace rating.Nets vs. WarriorsThis is Saturday's showcase game, set to be nationally-televised in primetime on ABC. The Nets have been highly inconsistent since acquiring James Harden but perhaps a trip west will serve to galvanize this star-studded squad. The Warriors should draw plenty of support from the betting public here with Steph Curry putting on a clinic in recent games. Remember, last Saturday night Curry lit it up in a straight-up loss but ATS victory in another ABC-TV appearance against the Mavs. SundayT'Wolves vs. RaptorsThe Raptors are in the midst of a disappointing season, struggling to get back to the .500 mark following a dismal start. While this looks like a layup on paper against the lowly T'Wolves, it's worth noting that Minnesota has showed some signs of life lately, reeling off seven straight ATS victories entering Friday's game in Charlotte. Karl-Anthony Towns gave the T'Wolves a big emotional boost with his return on Wednesday, posting a double-double in a loss but ATS cover against the Clippers. The Raptors have shown a tendency to let inferior opponents hang around in "home" games in Tampa this season.Pelicans vs. PistonsWhile the Pelicans certainly have the talent to manhandle the Pistons, this is a tough spot to get up for as they play their fourth game (in four different cities) in the last six nights in Detroit...on a Sunday evening...with the stands get the picture. The Pistons are banged-up in the front-court heading into the weekend, which could certainly play a factor here with the Pelicans ranking as one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Keep an eye on the injury report but Detroit could be a sneaky play depending on the number the books decide to send out.

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What to Watch For: NHL Week of February 8th

Monday, Feb 08, 2021

Covid has reared its ugly head already this NHL season, wreaking havoc when it comes to the schedule. The show must go on, however, and there’s a busy week of action ahead.  Here’s a look around the league at five teams to keep an eye on this week.  New York Islanders The Isles are coming off a galvanizing 4-3 win over the Penguins on Saturday. They rallied from a 3-2 third period deficit to win that game, snapping a five-game losing streak. A big week lies ahead, starting with Monday’s showdown with the rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden before hosting the Penguins and Bruins on Thursday and Saturday respectively. I see some value with the Isles right now, having won with them on Saturday and likely to see them in an underdog role in two of three games this week. St. Louis Blues In an odd but perhaps not unexpected Covid-tinged scheduling quirk, the Blues have played the Coyotes in each of their last three games and will face them three more times in the next week. They’ll look to even up a four-game set at home on Monday night after dropping back-to-back games against the ‘Yotes last Thursday and Saturday. Note that St. Louis is scheduled to play a sandwich game in Minnesota on Thursday but that’s Covid-pending with the Wild dealing with a number of absences. Edmonton Oilers The Oilers have a tricky stretch up next with a clear letdown spot to kick it off in Ottawa on Monday night after dropping a 6-4 decision in a rivalry game against the Flames on Saturday night. They’ll play again in Ottawa on Tuesday before heading to Montreal for their fourth game in six nights on Thursday. Edmonton will be a big favorite against the Senators after steamrolling them by a combined 12-7 score in consecutive wins on home ice last week. The Sens showed some signs of life in back-to-back games against the high-flying Habs and might offer a bit of value on home ice to start the week. Detroit Red Wings Detroit will have had been in Florida for a full week by the time it wraps up its four-game jaunt against the Lightning and Panthers on Tuesday. The Red Wings upset the Panthers 4-1 on Sunday afternoon but figure to be in tough on Tuesday night. A two-game swing through Florida is usually bad enough for road teams, rarely managing to sweep the trip over the years, but here with the lowly Wings having been in the Florida sun for a week and coming off a win on Sunday, I look for an obvious letdown on Tuesday night. Note that the Panthers remain an undervalued commodity, quietly putting together a 6-1-2 start to the campaign. Calgary Flames Now might be a good time to buy low with the Flames as they looked good in Saturday’s 6-4 win over the Oilers but that marked just their third win in their last eight games. Let’s chalk that win up as a potential turning point as they prepare to host the Jets on Tuesday night before four straight against the struggling Canucks. Keep in mind, the Flames opened the season with three games against the Jets and Canucks, collecting five of a possible six points along the way. Despite its uneven overall record, I do think Calgary has plenty of upside moving forward.

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NFL Divisional Round Saturday Player Props

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

We went 1-2 with our NFL Wild Card props in this piece last week so we'll be looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger this week, with two NFL Divisional Round matchups in the offing on Saturday. While player prop numbers are generally moving targets, the following two plays are widely available (lines taken from BetOnline). Rams vs. PackersPackers RB Aaron Jones over 69.5 rushing yards.Aaron Jones should be front and center in the Packers offensive gameplan on Saturday afternoon. Game script clearly plays into Jones favor with Green Bay favored by nearly a touchdown at the time of writing. Note that the Packers showed a great deal of confidence in Jones in last year's playoff run, increasing his workload after he took a backseat to Jamaal Williams at times during the regular season. Off a healthy regular season, Jones is well-positioned to take the reins and ultimately put this game away should Green Bay build a lead in this game. While the Rams do offer a tough test with a stout run defense, their biggest concern should be on pressuring QB Aaron Rodgers and clamping down on WR Davante Adams. They'll likely be content to give up chunk plays to Jones on the ground if it means limiting the Pack to 3's rather than 7's at the end of drives. I have Jones getting north of 80 yards running the football in this game. Ravens vs. BillsRavens TE Mark Andrews over 55.5 receiving yardsI absolutely love the way this play sets up after Andrews took a backseat to WR Hollywood Brown in last week's win over the Titans. Andrews caught just four passes for 41 yards in that contest but draws a mouth-watering matchup against the Bills here. Note that only one team allowed more receiving yards to tight ends than Buffalo over the course of the regular season. Even Colts veteran TE Jack Doyle was able to find plenty of open field last week as Indy tight ends abused the Bills defense. With the Ravens likely to be playing from behind for some of this game, we should see QB Lamar Jackson rely heavily on Andrews to move the sticks. While I also like Andrews to score a touchdown in this game, I'll back him to get over the very reasonable receiving yards total, banking on a 70+ yard performance. Good luck this weekend and enjoy the games!

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NFL Wild Card Saturday Player Props

Friday, Jan 08, 2021

Betting opportunities abound with an unprecedented six NFL Wild Card showdowns on tap this weekend. Here's a look at one player prop to consider from each of Saturday's three playoff contests (lines taken from BetOnline but widely available, with numbers varying, at most sportsbooks).Colts vs. BillsColts RB Jonathan Taylor over 77.5 rushing yardsWhile game script could certainly work against super rookie Taylor in this game (the Bills are favored by nearly a touchdown), I don't expect the Colts to stray away from him even if they do fall behind. Outside of Derrick Henry, few running backs were more dominant than Taylor down the stretch as he ripped off north of 130 rush yards per game over his last six contests. The strength of the Bills defense is in their secondary - they're relatively soft against the run, ranking 26th in yards per rush allowed (4.6). Also note that the Bills rank an identical 26th in opponent's rushing first down percentage. Expect Taylor to rip off enough big gains to get up and over this relatively low rushing yardage total. Rams vs. SeahawksSeahawks WR D.K. Metcalf under 62.5 receiving yardsSeattle QB Russell Wilson is likely going to have to look away from big play machine Metcalf in this one as D.K. will likely draw shadow coverage from Rams elite CB Jalen Ramsey. Note that Metcalf has surpassed 59 receiving yards just once in four career meetings with the Rams. We saw the Seahawks offense settle down as the season progressed, with far less being asked of Wilson compared to earlier in the campaign when the 'Let Russ Cook' talk reached a fever pitch. Metcalf topped out at six catches and went over 61 receiving yards just once over the regular season's final five games. Should the Seahawks build a lead as expected in a favored role at home, his likelihood of seeing a sudden increase in targets is diminished.Buccaneers vs. Washington Football TeamWashington RB J.D. McKissic over 32.5 receiving yardsIf there's one area in the Bucs defense that Washington's offense can exploit it's in the short passing game where RB McKissic was a force all season long. With Washington's two legitimate game-breakers in RB Antonio Gibson and WR Terry McLaurin both dealing with late season injuries, McKissic needs to be a part of the gameplan on Saturday night. Should WFT be playing much of this game from behind (as is expected as an eight-point underdog) it will be yielded the middle of the field by a Bucs defense that will be focused on taking away big splash plays through the air. With QB Alex Smith nursing a calf strain, he'll be looking to get the ball out quickly and McKissic should be a benefactor. 

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Camellia Bowl Notes: Marshall vs. Buffalo

Thursday, Dec 24, 2020

The Christmas Day Bowl showdown between Marshall and Buffalo may look like a terrific matchup on paper, but injuries and opt-outs have the potential to derail that notion.Marshall will be without at least three key pieces - most notably RB Brenden Knox, who has elected to sit out this game and forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Knox was really one of the only things the Thundering Herd offense had going for it down the stretch with redshirt freshman QB Grant Wells struggling mightily. The Herd enter this contest off consecutive losses against Rice and UAB, scoring only 13 points in the process. Knox isn't the only notable absence, however, as Marshall will be without its top tackler and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Tavante Beckett, who has also elected to opt-out. Buffalo has concerns of its own, with RB Jaret Patterson nursing a knee injury suffered in last week's stunning MAC Championship Game loss to Ball State. Patterson had run for a whopping 815 yards and 14 touchdowns over his last three games before last week's misstep against the Cardinals. While Patterson is expected to play in this game, he'll likely be wearing a knee brace and it remains to be seen how effective he can be, or whether he'll see a full workload. Both teams feature starting quarterbacks that showed flashes of brilliance over the course of the season but are best suited to 'game manager' roles in my opinion. Note that last week's contest marked the first time Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease attempted more than 27 passes in a game this season, and we know how that one went for the Bulls. Marshall QB Wells has thrown more than two touchdown passes just twice in eight games against FBS opponents this season. The Bulls are currently installed as 5.5-point favorites.

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IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Preview

Friday, Dec 11, 2020

The 2020-21 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway on Christmas Day (provided all teams can get through the Covid protocols and ice full squads prior to that), helping fill the void for hockey bettors until the NHL makes its long-awaited return in mid-January (that's been thrown around as a possible start date anyway). Group A features defending champion (and tournament host) Canada along with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B has last year's tournament runner-up Russia, Sweden, USA, Czech Republic and Austria. Here's how the odds shake out entering the tournament.Canada -130USA +375Russia +500Sweden +650Finland +725Czech Republic +2000Switzerland +5000Slovakia +5500Germany +7500Austria +10000It should come as no surprise that I'm picking Canada to take home its second straight Gold Medal as it ices a 'Dream Team' - essentially the fourth time it has done so in tournament history (three times previously due to NHL labor issues). Yes, we're being asked to pay a tariff to back the tournament favorite but that price might actually look cheap as this tournament goes on.The Canadians certainly land in the softer of the two groups, with only Finland likely to pose much of a challenge. While that can sometimes hurt teams as they enter the knockout stage of the tournament, here I believe it helps Canada with most of the players having not seen real game action in months. It should give them a chance to ease into things and ultimately ramp up leading into the quarter-final round, with the game against Finland coming on the final day of the group stage on New Year's Eve. Team Canada's roster is absolutely loaded with depth and talent, particularly on the blue line where this tournament is often won and lost. Canada's top defensive pairing is likely to feature two returning players from last year's golden squad, Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale. Byram, a first-round pick in this year's NHL draft, could very well be the best all-around player in the tournament. Drysdale made last year's squad as a 17-year old and should take a big leap forward as a cornerstone on the blue line this year. Up front, Canada is brimming with talent. Kirby Dach will lead the group after being loaned from the Chicago Blackhawks, who he played a full season with in 2019-20. As far as forwards go, only Patrick Kane saw more ice time than Dach in the 'Hawks brief playoff run in August - a testament to just how high Chicago is on the young forward. Dylan Cozens was a big factor in Canada's Gold Medal victory last January and is primed to contend for the title of 'best forward' in this year's tournament as well. You can go up and down the list - Canada simply has no holes up front (as evidenced by the fact that it was forced to cut first-round NHL draft pick Hendrix Lapierre on Thursday). If you're looking for a potential dark horse winner I would suggest Finland at a +725 return. With Covid concerns swirling and a number of teams already missing some key players due to the protocols in place, this is certainly a tournament where anything could happen - within reason of course. Finland has excellent pedigree in this tournament, often rising up to take the Gold Medal when you least expect it (it has taken the gold on five occasions). There's no question it will be a 'tough out' and we're being offered a generous price to back it in advance of puck drop. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 13

Thursday, Dec 03, 2020

Having just wrapped up Week 12 in odd fashion with Wednesday afternoon football in Pittsburgh, it's time to get right back to work on the Week 13 NFL board. Here's a look at three teams on an uptick and three on the wrong side of the curve as we head down the home stretch in December.Stock RisingHouston TexansI hesitate to put the Texans in this category with the news that WR Will Fuller will miss the remainder of the season due to suspension after taking PED's. With that being said, there's no question Houston has been a different team since ridding itself of former head coach Bill O'Brien. While the Texans do draw a tough opponent in the Colts this Sunday, the fact that they're just a field goal underdog is telling. They might be catching Indy at the right time off back-to-back bruising battles with the Packers and Titans.Cleveland BrownsIs it time to start believing in the Browns? Their schedule has unquestionably done them plenty of favors to this point but now things toughen up with a trip to Tennessee on Sunday followed by a home date with the Ravens next week. There's certainly a path to the playoffs in Cleveland though, as it also has two games left against the Giants and Jets later in December. If the Browns can continue to hide an ineffective Baker Mayfield in their offensive scheme they can keep piling up victories.Seattle SeahawksI like the way the Seahawks have gone about their business in the last two weeks, successfully bouncing back from a tough stretch to deliver key wins over the Cardinals and Eagles, allowing a grand total of only 38 points in the process. Now comes the reward - consecutive games against the Giants and Jets (both at home, no less). The potential is there for Seattle to run the table from here, with its other games coming at Washington, at home against the Rams and at the 49ers.Stock FallingLas Vegas RaidersThe Raiders have shown a lot of promise this season but we'll see if that tough 35-31 loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago continues to have hangover effects moving forward. It certainly looked that way last week as Jon Gruden's squad was torched 43-6 by the lowly Falcons. A 'get right' spot awaits this Sunday as Las Vegas stays on the road to face the hapless Jets. If the Raiders can't earn a win in that game it might be time to start thinking about 2021.Denver BroncosWhile Covid protocols obviously put the Broncos in a really tough spot against the Saints last Sunday, things aren't likely to get much better this week - even with a real starting quarterback. That's because Denver is heading to Kansas City for a primetime date with the Chiefs. The last time these two AFC West rivals hooked up it was the Chiefs rolling to a 43-16 win. A similar scoreline would come as no surprise this week with Kansas City installed as a two-touchdown favorite.Arizona CardinalsWith three losses in their last four games the Cardinals have fallen on hard times at the absolute worst time. Perhaps the injury to QB Kyler Murray's shoulder has had more of an effect than the team has let on as their offense just hasn't looked the same in the last two weeks. Murray completed just 23-of-34 passes for 170 yards, no touchdowns and an interception against a beatable Patriots defense last Sunday. After a stretch that saw him throw three touchdowns in three of five games he has tossed a grand total of only three in his last three contests. With key injuries on the defensive side of the football they desperately need a lot more production out of their once-vaunted offense. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 12

Thursday, Nov 26, 2020

December is right around the corner but a lot of teams still haven't separated themselves from the pack in this unique 2020 NFL season. Here's our weekly look around the league at three teams on the rise and three on their way down entering Week 12.Stock RisingNew York GiantsThere's something positive happening in the Meadowlands these days - at least when it comes to one of the two NFL franchises that call New Jersey home. The G-Men are coming off their bye week, which came on the heels of consecutive wins over NFC East opponents. Shockingly enough, they're still alive and kicking in the abysmal NFC East race and this week they're afforded another favorable matchup against the Joe Burrow-less Bengals in Cincinnati. Credit the New York defense for charting a course back to contention and look for another positive performance this week.Tennessee TitansThe Titans were in desperate need of a strong bounce-back performance in a tough matchup in Baltimore last Sunday and they got exactly that. Tennessee may only go as far as RB Derrick Henry can carry them but that's not necessarily a bad thing as he's more than capable of doing the heavy lifting. After this Sunday's date with the Colts the Titans schedule lets up a bit with home games against the Browns and Lions sandwiched around a trip to Jacksonville to face the lowly Jaguars. New Orleans SaintsWhat's not to like about the Saints these days? Their defense has staged an incredible turnaround after a rough start to the season while their offense has shown no signs of slowing down, even with QB Drew Brees sidelined. Few were talking about New Orleans as a true Super Bowl contender leading into the season but that is quickly changing. This Sunday they travel to Denver to face a Broncos squad in a clear letdown spot off a rare victory last week. Stock FallingJacksonville JaguarsThe Jags stock was admittedly not all that high to begin with, but having not won a game since Week 1, and coming off a blowout defeat at the hands of the Steelers (who have a tendency to play down to their competition) we may not have seen their worst just yet. Jacksonville hosts a surging Browns squad this Sunday and will stunningly turn to third-string QB Mike Glennon (yes, he's still in the league). The Cleveland defense has to be salivating at the prospect of teeing off on the statue-like Glennon on Sunday afternoon. Chicago BearsComing off four straight losses and with no reason to believe its offense can get on track, Chicago heads to Green Bay to face what is sure to be a highly-motivated Packers squad this Sunday. The Bears haven't won a game since mid-October and while they will get some relief with a home game against the Lions next week, expect their losing streak to continue as a near double-digit underdog at Lambeau Field. New England Patriots While last Sunday's game in Houston was by no means a must-win situation, the Patriots playoff hopes are quickly diminishing in a crowded AFC field. Now things get tricky with the high-flying Cardinals visiting Foxborough this Sunday before the Pats pack their bags and head for Los Angeles for consecutive games against the Chargers and Rams (in a five-day span). The sputtering and inconsistent New England offense has been the biggest issue but last Sunday the defense just couldn't get off the field, allowing an average Texans offense to go on long, clock-churning drives. Expect more of the same against Arizona.

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 11

Thursday, Nov 19, 2020

We're coming off another winning Sunday in NFL action and back to take our weekly look around the NFL at three teams on the rise and three on their way down as we head into Week 11.Stock RisingNew England PatriotsPerhaps their come-from-behind win over the hapless Jets in New Jersey two weeks ago will serve as the Pats unlikely turning points, as long as they can build off of last Sunday's impressive primetime win over the Ravens. QB Cam Newton looks healthy again and that's bad news for a rag-tag Texans defense that will try to slow him down on Sunday afternoon in Houston. New England is currently laying less than a field goal.Indianapolis ColtsThe Colts have won three of their last four contests and find themselves in a spotlight non-conference game against the Packers this Sunday They'll have the benefit of a long week of preparation having not played since last Thursday's key win over the division-rival Titans. The Packers are back on track following consecutive wins but neither victory was all that impressive (coming against the injury-ravaged 49ers and lowly Jaguars). Kansas City ChiefsOf course, we could install the Chiefs at the top of this article virtually every week, but here we'll make a point to include them as they've scored a whopping 111 points over their last three games. Kansas City's lone loss this season came in stunning fashion at home against the Raiders back in early October so you can be sure it will be up for this revenge matchup in Las Vegas on Sunday. While the Chiefs are undefeated on the road this season, two of their four wins have come by single-digit margins.Stock FallingCincinnati BengalsI'm not going to knock the Bengals for last week's tough road loss against the undefeated Steelers but the fact is, they've had a miserable time trying to find the win column since their schedule toughened up in October. Cincinnati checks in having won just once in its last five games and while it does draw a favorable matchup against the Washington Football Team this Sunday, it's a tough spot from a motivational standpoint coming off that big measuring-stick division showdown with Pittsburgh.Philadelphia EaglesThe Eagles had a fine opportunity to take control of the NFC East with a victory over the Giants last Sunday but ultimately fell short. They've been sputtering all season, playing a maddeningly inconsistent brand of football - par for the course in the NFC 'Least'. This Sunday's game in Cleveland is winnable but it's getting awfully tough to predict when the Philadelphia offense in particular will finally get it together, if at all this season.Baltimore RavensThere's sure to be somewhat of an overreaction in the betting marketplace to the Ravens losing that rain-soaked game in New England last Sunday night. With that being said, there's no question Baltimore is having a difficult time reaching the heights that it saw last season. Sitting at 6-3 it is in desperate need of a strong bounce-back performance at home against the Titans on Sunday as a very difficult road game against the Steelers looms next week. QB Lamar Jackson looks like a quarterback that might be putting a little too much pressure on himself.

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 10

Thursday, Nov 12, 2020

We're rolling following a perfect 5-0 premium NFL card in Week 9. Now our attention shifts to Week 10 as we take a look at three teams on the rise and three teams on the decline entering Sunday's action.Stock RisingHouston TexansSurprisingly enough, there's a lot to like when it comes to the Texans right now. Since the firing of head coach Bill O'Brien they've shown some signs of life, particularly on the offensive side of the football where QB DeShaun Watson looks a whole lot more comfortable. Houston's schedule remains fairly soft the rest of the month, with a trip to Cleveland this week followed by a home date with the Patriots and a road game against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.New York GiantsDon't look now but the Giants might actually be building something positive under Joe Judge. They followed up a nice effort in a close loss to the Bucs on Monday Night Football with a come-from-behind win in Washington last Sunday. The New York defense in particular has risen to the occasion in recent weeks and draws another favorable matchup with the inconsistent Eagles at home this Sunday afternoon. If the New York offense can show a pulse, this could be a play-on team down the stretch.Las Vegas RaidersThe Raiders were a 'tough out' last season and they look like even more than that here in 2020 as they're coming off another divisional win last Sunday, improving to 5-3 in the process. Is Derek Carr a legitimate top-level NFL quarterback? That certainly appears to be the case here in 2020 as he's thrown 16 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions - a massive improvement over previous campaigns. Las Vegas draws another winnable matchup this Sunday as it hosts a reeling Denver squad.Stock FallingTampa Bay BuccaneersWhat a difference a week makes. The Bucs got their doors blown off in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, falling to 0-2 against the division-rival Saints. The good news is, they draw a favorable bounce-back matchup with the Panthers this Sunday. However, it remains to be seen whether QB Tom Brady can get back in sync with his offense, which perhaps had its chemistry shaken up with the arrival of WR Antonio Brown last week.San Francisco 49ersThe injury bug took hold of the 49ers prior to the start of the season and really hasn't let go. It is quickly becoming a lost season for the Niners and this doesn't look like the week to turn things around with a trip to New Orleans to face the surging Saints. They won't get another home game until December 7th, when they host the Bills.Chicago BearsI think most bettors already knew the Bears were a fraudulent 5-1 team earlier this season but now we've seen it play out on the field as they've dropped three straight games, scoring a pitiful 50 points in the process. The fact that they're the underdog in this Monday's home date with the 3-5 Vikings says a lot. Until Chicago can figure out how to move the football consistently on offense, it will continue to struggle mightily to find its way into the win column. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 9

Thursday, Nov 05, 2020

We've blazed past the midway point of the NFL regular season and while COVID outbreaks are seemingly around every corner, the show must go on. Here's a look at three teams rising and three teams falling as we enter Week 9.Stock RisingIndianapolis ColtsWhile I'm still not certain QB Philip Rivers is the right man to lead the offense, there's no question he's been getting the job done lately. Last Sunday looked like a smash spot for RB Jonathan Taylor but instead it was Rivers (and the Colts) defense that stole the show in Detroit. Now comes a tough matchup back home against what is sure to be a highly-motivated Ravens squad.Arizona CardinalsIt's easy to forget about the Cardinals after their bye week. They return to the field with a favorable matchup against the Tua-led Dolphins this Sunday. Everything was clicking for Arizona prior to the break, particularly on the offensive side of the football. Now we'll see if the Cards can avoid reading their own press and go out and take care of business to move to 6-2 on the season.New Orleans SaintsThe Saints continued their march to the top of the NFC South last Sunday, slipping past the Bears in overtime. News of Drew Brees' demise was apparently premature as he has been on point in recent contests. New Orleans will face its toughest challenge of the season to date this Sunday night as it travels to Tampa to face the red hot Buccaneers. Stock FallingCarolina PanthersThings look pretty bleak in Carolina following three straight losses, including a truly disappointing setback against the Falcons last week. After thriving early in the season, the Panthers offense has struggled, scoring a grand total of 57 points over their last three games. In stark contrast, this week's opponent - Kansas City - has scored 104 points over that same stretch. RB Christian McCaffrey is close to returning but outside of that, it's mostly doom and gloom.Los Angeles ChargersThe Chargers could have been returning home on the heels of two straight victories were it not for a complete collapse against the division-rival Broncos last Sunday. While Los Angeles' defense has been missing a number of key cogs all season, there's really no excuse for Sunday's dismal fourth quarter performance against a very average offense. The Bolts do get a solid bounce-back spot this week as they welcome a Raiders squad that will be traveling back across the country following a sloppy win in Cleveland last Sunday.Detroit LionsAs if things couldn't get any worse, Lions QB Matthew Stafford has landed on the COVID reserve list. Detroit did enjoy consecutive wins at the end of October but those were really fool's gold as they came against the Jaguars and Falcons - two of the league's weakest squads. The Lions will play two of their next three games away from home, starting with a trip to Minnesota to face the suddenly-hot Vikings offense this Sunday. If Stafford can't go they'll obviously be hard-pressed to pick themselves up off the mat.

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 8

Thursday, Oct 29, 2020

We're seeing the NFL pretty well right now off a 4-1 Sunday and Monday card last week. As we approach the midway point of the season it's a great time to take stock of where a number of teams stand entering the first Sunday in November.Stock RisingBaltimore RavensThe Ravens find themselves in a huge statement spot this Sunday as they host the undefeated division-rival Steelers. Baltimore's bandwagon seemed to clear entirely following that ugly loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football last month. Since then, the Ravens have gone a perfect 3-0, but they've beaten the likes of Washington, Cincinnati and Philadelphia - not exactly a who's who of the league's best teams. I do think we see Baltimore's best this Sunday but will it be enough against the streaking Steelers?Los Angeles ChargersI'm of the mind that the Chargers are far better than their 2-4 record indicates. They followed up a season-opening victory with four straight losses, but three of those setbacks came against three of the league's best teams in Kansas City, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Last week we saw the Bolts get back on track with a 39-29 win over the Jaguars. QB Justin Herbert appears to be getting more comfortable running the offense with each passing week and now he has a chance to really get the team rolling with the next four games coming against the Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins and Jets.New Orleans SaintsAll of the Drew Brees critics have gone silent in recent weeks as the veteran quarterback has guided the Saints to three straight victories, throwing for well over 800 yards and five touchdown passes in the process. New Orleans' schedule admittedly starts to toughen up in November as it travels to face Chicago and Tampa Bay in the next two games. With that being said, it does look like Sean Payton's squad has regained its identity and appears well-positioned to challenge atop the NFC South.Stock FallingChicago BearsWe cashed a ticket fading the Bears on Monday Night Football as they not surprisingly proved to be a fraudulent 5-1 team in an ugly loss to the Rams. Chicago's offense remains unimaginative and the question remains whether it's Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky that should be running it. A return home may not be enough to cure their woes, noting that the Bears have scored a grand total of just 48 points in three games at Soldier Field this season.Cleveland BrownsIt may seem odd to find the Browns in our 'stock falling' category this week. After all they're 5-2 on the season and coming off a thrilling win in Cincinnati last Sunday. There are plenty of concerns. First of all, Cleveland has been shredded for 62 points over its last two games. In fact, the Browns have allowed at least 30 points in five of seven contests this season. Now their offense is hamstrung as well with WR Odell Beckham Jr. done for the season and QB Baker Mayfield showing plenty of inconsistency. Look for them to go even more run-heavy than usual moving forward.New England PatriotsWe'll put the Patriots in this category again this week as they try to pick up the pieces following their worst performance of the season in a blowout home loss to the 49ers last week. I'm not sure any team misses having its fans in the stadium than the Pats. But that's obviously no excuse for the team's performance on the field over the last few games. Perhaps head coach Bill Bellichick has never faced a challenge like the one he is up against this year. We'll see how the Pats respond this Sunday in Buffalo. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 7

Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020

The gap between the NFL's best and worst teams continues to grow wider but this week's slate features eight games with pointspreads of 3.5 points or less. Here's a look at three teams on the rise and three on the decline as we head into Week 7.Stock RisingTampa Bay BuccaneersThe Bucs Super Bowl stock has never been higher after a rout of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last Sunday. Tom Brady and co. find themselves in a bit of a tricky spot this Sunday, however, as they pack their bags and head across the country to face the Raiders in Las Vegas. Once considered a potential suitor for Brady, the Raiders will be eager to show Tom Terrific that he chose wrong heading to sunny Florida over the bright lights of Vegas. Pittsburgh SteelersThe emergence of rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool has given Big Ben another big-time weapon to work with on offense while the Steelers defense continues to play lights out on the other side of the football. Interestingly, Pittsburgh will be hitting the road this week for the first time since it traveled to face the lowly Giants way back in Week 1. The Steelers will head to Tennessee where it will be an unstoppable force vs. immovable object type of battle between Titans running back Derrick Henry and Pittsburgh's stout run defense.Arizona CardinalsThe Cards are fresh off an absolute annihilation of the Cowboys on Monday Night Football but things will get a whole lot tougher this Sunday as they return home to host the Seahawks. Arizona's defense has really stepped up but let's not lose sight of the fact that it has faced the likes of San Francisco, Washington, Detroit, Carolina, New York (Jets) and Dallas (without Dak Prescott) this season. This will be the Cards defense's biggest test to date.Stock FallingBuffalo BillsThe fact that they play in the AFC East is the Bills only saving grace following back-to-back losses at the hands of the Titans and Chiefs. Perhaps we should give them a pass as those two losses did come at the expense of two legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but still, the Bills haven't looked sharp at all - particularly on the defensive side of the football. The good news is, Buffalo finds itself in a true blowup spot against the lowly Jets in New Jersey this Sunday.New England Patriots Any positive momentum the Patriots had been building early in the season seemed to get derailed by Cam Newton's COVID diagnosis. Now the Pats check in having scored a pitiful 22 points over their last two games - both losses against the Chiefs and Broncos. Another likely low-scoring affair awaits this Sunday as they stay in Foxborough to host the 49ers. Newton will need to be in attack mode against an injury-depleted San Francisco defense if New England is going to snap its skid.Jacksonville JaguarsAre the Jaguars back in 'tank mode'? It would certainly appear that way as they haven't posted a victory since Week 1 and have been absolutely ripped to shreds on the defensive side of the football, allowing 30 plus points in each of their last five losses. The good news is they face an up and down Chargers offense this Sunday - perhaps an opportunity to put that streak of futility to rest. The jury is still out as to whether Gardner Minshew can rally the offense to keep pace for four quarters and cover the lofty spread let alone win outright. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 5

Thursday, Oct 08, 2020

With COVID concerns running rampant across the league there's plenty of uncertainty in the NFL entering Week 5. It's as good a time as ever to make sense of it all with this week's 'Stock Rising and Falling'.Stock RisingCarolina PanthersAre the Panthers actually for real? That certainly appears to be the case following impressive back-to-back wins over the Chargers and Cardinals. QB Teddy Bridgewater has been a really nice story and he gets a chance to keep it rolling against a very beatable opponent in the winless Falcons this week. Keep in mind, Atlanta will be playing on a short week after getting blown out in Green Bay on Monday night. The Panthers check in as short underdogs.Houston TexansCall me crazy, but I like the Texans a whole lot more now that Bill O'Brien has been relieved of his duties. There's no question O'Brien was holding this squad back in many regards and I look for Houston to play much looser in his absence. The Texans get a nice bounce-back spot on Sunday as they host the Jaguars who come in licking their chops following three straight losses. Seattle SeahawksThe Seahawks have a tremendous opportunity to keep their perfect record intact with a primetime home game against the 1-3 Vikings on Sunday. While Seattle's defense is obviously a problem, it did show some signs of life on that side of the football last week, essentially wrapping up the victory with a late turnover. They'll need to key on Vikes RB Dalvin Cook this week as he's looked outstanding over the last few weeks. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is obviously firing on all cylinders right now and should face little resistance against the Vikes undermanned defense.Stock FallingLas Vegas RaidersThe schedule-makers haven't been overly kind to the Raiders and there certainly isn't a break in sight this week as they head to Kansas City to take on the red hot Chiefs. The Raiders simply aren't built to play from behind as it takes their best offensive piece, RB Josh Jacobs, largely out of the offensive gameplan and puts far too much pressure on below average QB Derek Carr. Las Vegas needs to step up and at least play competitive football to slow the bleeding on Sunday afternoon. Miami DolphinsThe Fins went back in the tank with a loss to the Seahawks last Sunday and there's little reason for much excitement in South Florida - at least until Tua Tagovailoa takes over under center. This week Miami has to travel across the country to face what is sure to be an extremely motivated 49ers squad coming off an ugly home loss to the Eagles last Sunday night. This could very well be QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's last stand before it's Tua-Time.Dallas Cowboys To say that this Sunday's home game is a 'must-win' for the Cowboys would be an understatement. Their reeling thanks to a non-existent defense but catch a break with the lowly Giants coming to Jerry World on Sunday afternoon. QB Dak Prescott simply can't be relied upon to throw for over 500 yards every week, even if he does have an incredible supporting cast at his disposal. At some point the Dallas defense needs to get it together. We'll see if that happens this Sunday.

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 4

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2020

Playing on Sean's NFL 'stock rising' teams and against his 'stock falling' squads would have netted you a 4-2 ATS result last week and now he's back with six more teams to keep an eye on heading into Week 4.Stock RisingChicago BearsWith the Bears off to a surprising (and some believe fraudulent) 3-0 start, it would be easy to assume the value is now gone. I'm not sure that's the case as they were given a big shot in the arm with Nick Foles taking over at quarterback. There's reason to believe value is still on Chicago's side, at least for one more week, as it prepares to host 2-1 Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.Cleveland BrownsIs it time to start buying what the Browns are selling? The jury is certainly still out after they posted back-to-back wins over two non-contenders in rebuild mode in the Bengals and Washington Football Team. Cleveland faces a much tougher test with a trip to Jerry World to face the 1-2 Cowboys this week. The matchup may not be all that bad, however, as evidenced by the reasonably short pointspread being hung out by the books.Kansas City ChiefsFollowing a close call on the road against the division-rival Chargers, the Chiefs went out and made a major statement with a lopsided win over the Ravens on Monday Night Football. Now comes another opportunity to silence any remaining doubters with a home date against Bill Bellichick's Patriots on Sunday afternoon. I'm still not certain the Chiefs have an elite defense but their offense can more than make up for any blemishes on that side of the football.Stock FallingNew Orleans SaintsMaybe the Saints deserve some credit for at least sticking around in an entertaining Sunday night affair against the red hot Packers but that was essentially a one-man show with RB Alvin Kamara going off. Teams are obviously going to scheme up their defenses to slow Kamara as he's New Orleans' lone offensive threat at the moment. I'm more concerned about the Saints defense, which simply hasn't held up well at all through the first three weeks of the season. A trip to Detroit as a road favorite awaits this week.Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings are completely lost right now and fresh off another demoralizing home loss last Sunday, it's tough to envision them picking themselves up off the mat. The good news is they draw a winnable game against the Texans this Sunday but after that they'll play two of their next three contests against the Seahawks and Packers - both on the road. Mike Zimmer's archaic gameplanning simply isn't going to lead to many 'W's, especially with an injury-ravaged defense - once the strength of the team.New York GiantsAfter getting blown out by an undermanned 49ers squad last week, the Giants will pack up and head to the west coast to face what will be a highly-motivated Rams team on Sunday afternoon. Without RB Saquon Barkley there's really not much for sophomore QB Daniel Jones to lean on in this offense. Defensively, this is a team lacking an identity after allowing 49ers backup QB Nick Mullens to complete 25-of-36 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown last week. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 3

Thursday, Sep 24, 2020

We’re onto Week 3 of the NFL season with 11 teams still undefeated through two games. Here’s a quick look around the league in our latest edition of ‘Stock Rising and Falling’.Stock Rising:Baltimore RavensWhile a perfect 2-0 start was expected, perhaps the Ravens have looked even better than most anticipated through the first two weeks of the season. As I noted at the start of the season, the Ravens are absolutely loaded on both sides of the football – no team brings more roster continuity to this unique 2020 campaign. Now comes Baltimore’s first real test in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh SteelersThe Steelers are back…or at least that’s how it appears through two games. Give Pittsburgh plenty of credit; its defense has come up big in consecutive games against the Giants and Broncos and another favorable matchup awaits this Sunday as it hosts the reeling Houston Texans. Keep in mind, the Steelers offense is still rounding back into form after missing Big Ben for much of last season. There’s still plenty of upside in the Steel City as we head toward October. Dallas CowboysThe Cowboys doubters were coming out of the woodwork in droves before Dallas pulled off its incredible comeback victory against Atlanta last Sunday. Now the Cowboys look poised to go on a run but only if they can keep the momentum building in a road date with the Seahawks this week. After the trip to Seattle, the ‘Boys get a three-game homestand against the Browns, Giants and Cardinals so with a win on Sunday they could be staring down the pipe at a potential 5-1 start. Stock Falling:Denver BroncosBelieve it or not, the Broncos are actually off to a perfect 2-0 ATS start. That ATS success could be short-lived, however, as they deal with a number of key injuries and absences on both sides of the football. QB Jeff Driskel takes the reins under center after holding his own in relief of Drew Lock last week but draws a stiff challenge this Sunday as Denver hosts an underrated Tampa Bay defense. Vic Fangio will need to scheme up the Broncos defense in order to hang tough in this one. New York JetsThe Jets are a mess and perhaps their only saving grace at this point is the fact that they get to host the Broncos next week. Head coach Adam Gase appears to be on borrowed time with this group, which simply hasn’t been able to get it together offensively during his time in the Big Apple. New York heads to Indy this week to face a Colts squad that made quick work of the Vikings last Sunday. Atlanta FalconsHow in the world will the Falcons pick themselves up off the mat following that demoralizing loss in Dallas last Sunday? Atlanta’s pass-funnel defense just isn’t getting it done in spite of its very capable offense. This Sunday’s home game against the 2-0 Bears could be the last stand for head coach Dan Quinn. After Chicago comes a tough trip to Lambeau Field to face the red hot Packers. It’s put up or shut up time in the ATL this week. 

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 2

Tuesday, Sep 15, 2020

The 2020 NFL season is off and running following an entertaining opening week. Here’s a quick look around the league in our latest edition of ‘Stock Rising and Falling’.Stock Rising:Los Angeles RamsThe Rams were better than advertised in their So-Fi Stadium debut, dominating in the trenches in a 20-17 victory over the Cowboys. After a tough 2019 campaign, Los Angeles looked a whole lot like the team that reached the Super Bowl two years ago. Improved offensive line play keyed the victory as QB Jared Goff was given time to operate and long-tenured Rams RB Malcolm Brown was one of the breakout stars of the week. Next up is a trip to Philadelphia to face the injury-ravaged Eagles. New England PatriotsLet’s not get too excited about the Patriots opening-week victory. After all, it did come at the expense of the rebuilding Dolphins. With that being said, there were a lot of positives to take away. QB Cam Newton looked comfortable in and out of the pocket, and perhaps most importantly to Pats fans and backers, he looked healthy. There will be tougher tests ahead but the Pats defense held up well, picking off Fins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on three occasions and limiting the Miami offense to just 278 total yards. New England will be in the national spotlight on the road against the Seahawks next Sunday night.Green Bay PackersAfter a slow start, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was able to shake off the rust and surgically pick apart the Vikings defense. Everything clicked from the second quarter on for the Green Bay offense, racking up nearly 500 total yards of offense in the 43-34 victory. The defense didn’t have to be great, but came up with enough key plays (two sacks and an interception) to hold on. The Pack will have an excellent shot at a 2-0 start as they host the reeling Lions next Sunday.Stock Falling:Philadelphia EaglesEverything looked great for a quarter-and-a-half in Washington. After that the wheels fell off on the offensive line, which is dealing with a number of key absences. QB Carson Wentz was sacked eight times and threw a pair of interceptions. Philadelphia essentially gift-wrapped the game for Washington, handing the offense short field after short field to work with. Unfortunately there’s no magic formula to cure the o-line’s woes with a scary date with Aaron Donald and the Rams coming on Sunday.Detroit LionsThe Lions played well for three quarters in their opener against the rival Bears on Sunday. Then the wheels fell off. Blowing a 17-point lead against what appeared to be an inept Chicago offense for three quarters serves as a serious gut-punch right out of the gate. Keep in mind, the Lions were already a team with fragile confidence. In a crowded NFC North division, Detroit suddenly finds itself keying up for a big road date with the Packers this coming Sunday.Carolina PanthersThe Panthers weren’t far from a victory in their season-opener but there was still plenty of cause for concern. The Carolina defense has seen an incredible amount talent walk out the door in the last couple of years and it showed against the Raiders. That was particularly true against the run as Raiders RB Josh Jacobs was afforded all the open field he could handle. On offense, it was once again the Christian McCaffrey show. The problem is one player can only do so much. If the Panthers defense doesn’t right the ship their offense will have a tough time coming out on the winning end of many shootouts. As mentioned earlier, Carolina will travel to face Tom Brady and the Bucs next.  

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NFL Stock Rising and Falling: Week 1

Wednesday, Sep 09, 2020

We've made it. It feels like an eternity since Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy back in February but here we are, on the eve Week 1 of what promises to be a truly unique 2020 season. Now is a great time to take stock, so to speak, of which teams are poised to rise and fall as we kick things off this weekend.Stock Rising:Baltimore RavensIt may seem hard to believe the Ravens stock can go much higher after a phenomenal 2019 campaign that ultimately ended in playoff disappointment. I actually feel Baltimore could be even better here in 2020. There's just so much talent coming back to the fold - on both sides of the football - not to mention the coaching staff, which is somewhat unique in today's NFL. I fully expect Baltimore to pick up right where it left off last regular season and what a great starting point against a very beatable Browns squad on Sunday afternoon.Arizona CardinalsThe Cardinals are suddenly a trendy sleeper pick in the NFC West and while I'm not one to side with the masses, I tend to agree that the Cards could be in for a terrific year. QB Kyler Murray is obviously poised to take a big step forward in his sophomore year, and he'll be given every opportunity to succeed with the addition of all-world WR DeAndre Hopkins, and an underrated stable of running backs led by Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds. With that being said, Arizona's defense still has plenty of holes, so count on plenty of shootouts in games involving the Cards this season.Indianapolis ColtsThe Colts have quietly been building something positive down in Indy over the past few seasons and now they have a legitimate chance to take a leap forward with a rock solid defense and an offense that could be better than expected with a few new faces in the fold. Of course, the Colts big offseason move was acquiring a proven quarterback in Philip Rivers. While he's not going to light the AFC on fire, I do think he's a good fit in this offense. Don't sleep on rookie RB Jonathan Taylor either. He should fit in just fine running and catching behind an offensive line that returns mostly intact. Stock Falling:San Francisco 49ersHear me out on this one. The 49ers are the defending NFC champions and a popular pick to return to the Super Bowl in February. I'm expecting some regression, however, as the Niners open the campaign with a number of key absences on the defensive side of the football as well as on the offensive line. That strikes a major blow to San Francisco's identity, which is built on playing airtight defense and bludgeoning opposing defenses with a run-heavy offense. Playing in an improved NFC West doesn't help matters. Houston TexansOutside of QB DeShaun Watson, there's really not a lot to like about the Texans entering the new season. First they take away Watson's biggest weapon in WR DeAndre Hopkins. Then they do nothing to help what was a pitiful pass rush a year ago. Yes, Houston added the likes of RB David Johnson and WR Brandin Cooks but both carry plenty of baggage on the injury front (Cooks is already missing practice time). The schedule-makers did the Texans no favors giving them a rematch with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on opening night.Jacksonville JaguarsThere are whispers of 'tanking' in Jacksonville as the Jaguars have become a shell of their former selves. What was once a loaded young defensive corps has been left ravaged and ripe for the picking against a tough AFC South. QB Gardner Minshew brought plenty of excitement to the offense a year ago, but his weapons are few and far between. Expect the Jags defense to spend a lot of time on the field, giving the offense precious little time to inflict much damage, and without the necessary tools to do so. 

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2020 NHL Playoffs: Stanley Cup Futures Bets

Friday, Jun 26, 2020

The NHL is set to return to the ice with a revamped playoff format in late-July. That means it's an excellent time to revisit some Stanley Cup futures bets that I still feel hold considerable value, even in these admittedly unusual circumstances. Here are two plays from each conference to consider (odds courtesy of BetAnySports).Eastern ConferencePittsburgh Penguins: 12-1The Penguins didn’t make any big moves on deadline day – their biggest acquisition was Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild two weeks prior. Zucker has proven to be an excellent fit on a line with Sidney Crosby, providing some nice secondary scoring over the month leading up to the Covid stoppage.That’s not to say the Pens didn’t tinker with their lineup a little, adding veteran forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks while also re-acquiring Conor Sheary along with Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres.I like the make-up of this Pens squad as it stands, particularly on the blue line where Pittsburgh has built a solid but unheralded defensive corps that matches up with most teams they’ll face come playoff time. The x-factor could be between the pipes where Pittsburgh will need Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray to round into form quickly if they're going to go on a deep run.Carolina Hurricanes: 45-1This may be my favorite Stanley Cup value play on the entire board. The Hurricanes bolstered their blue line prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Sami Vatanen from the Devils and Brady Skjei from the Rangers. Carolina, of course, gained immeasurable playoff experience during last year’s improbable run to the Eastern Conference Final, where it was ushered out by what was simply a strong Bruins squad. This year, I believe the Canes can match up with anyone in the East, noting they already took down the mighty Washington Capitals, who were then defending Stanley Cup champions, in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Canes young corps has only gotten stronger this season and I liked the savvy move of bringing Justin Williams back out of retirement for one more run at the Cup. It’s probably only a matter of time before head coach Rod Brind’Amour brings a cup back to Raleigh – why not this year when there may be more variance than ever?Western ConferenceVegas Golden Knights: 7-1The Knights appeared to be rounding into form at the right time as they ascended the Western Conference standings prior to the Covid stoppage. This is a roster that has only gotten stronger since going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s NHL debut season in 2017-18. Given last year’s somewhat surprising early playoff exit, the hunger will certainly be there for the Knights to go on a deep playoff run this year. Vegas didn’t stand pat in the days leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Stanley Cup winner Alec Martinez to strengthen their defensive corps while also adding some depth between the pipes with Robin Lehner coming over from the Blackhawks. Even Nick Cousins looks like a nice under the radar pickup to add to their depth up front. The Western Conference is wide open this Summer and I would put the Knights right up there with the Blues as one of the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Final.Vancouver Canucks: 50-1While the Canucks won’t be a sure thing to get out of the first round, let alone go on a Stanley Cup run, I do like them at the current price point as they offer a lot of upside, albeit with a young roster that doesn’t have a great deal of playoff experience to lean on.Bringing in two-time Stanley Cup winner Tyler Toffoli from the Kings was arguably one of the biggest moves leading up to the trade deadline, and since joining the team he has proven to be a tremendous fit by all accounts. With Brock Boeser sidelined, Toffoli provides some much needed scoring punch up front.While the Canucks future is bright, I do think they’re in ‘win now’ mode as well. Once again, with the West there for the taking, this might just be the year that a Canadian team finally ends the 27-year drought and hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

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Betting MLB Spring Training

Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020

While we still haven’t officially entered Spring, the Boys of Summer are out in full force across Florida and Arizona as MLB Spring Training is underway.Betting the MLB exhibition schedule certainly isn’t an easy undertaking for novice bettors, with lots of different factors to consider. Here’s a quick guide of what to look if you just can’t wait for the MLB regular season to get your betting fix.LineupsStarting lineups are obviously the biggest factor when it comes to preseason baseball handicapping. These lineups are usually widely available in the hours leading up to first pitch. Mismatches are not uncommon with teams electing to field rosters of unproven talent on any given day, potentially against a true MLB lineup. Of course, when that is the case, it will quickly be factored into the moneyline prices. It’s important to shop around and act quickly if you come across a stale line. Starting pitchingConsidering the starting pitchers is important, but perhaps not as much so as it is in the regular season as the starter will often be slated to work only a couple of innings. More critical is finding information regarding a manager’s gameplan when it comes to his stable of arms on any given day. That, of course, is easier said than done but following team beat writers on Twitter is a good place to start.   WeatherThis time of year, weather is certainly a factor – particularly when it comes to Grapefruit League games, which are played across the state of Florida. Wind, humidity levels and potential afternoon rainfall are all things to look for when scouring the daily weather forecasts. With the smaller dimensions of ballparks, wind is obviously one of most important factors to consider (strength, whether it’s blowing in or out). Also keep in mind, Spring Training games can have start times anywhere between 12 noon et and 9 pm et, with the majority of games taking place in the afternoon. Games that take place in the latter stages of Spring Training are often played at the team’s true home ballpark (generally the weekend before the regular season begins).

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Betting NHL Playoffs Futures

Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone leaving us with updated Stanley Cup futures odds. Here’s a look at two teams from each conference that offer excellent value in the wake of all the deadline deals.Eastern ConferencePittsburgh Penguins: 11-1 (at Bovada Sportsbook)The Penguins didn’t make any big moves on deadline day – their biggest move was acquiring Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild two weeks ago. Zucker has proven to be an excellent fit on a line with Sidney Crosby, providing some nice secondary scoring over the last couple of weeks.That’s not to say the Pens didn’t tinker with their lineup a little, adding veteran forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks while also re-acquiring Conor Sheary along with Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres.I like the make-up of this Pens squad as it stands, particularly on the blue line where Pittsburgh has build a solid but unheralded defensive corps that matches up with most teams they’ll face come playoff time. The x-factor could be between the pipes where Pittsburgh will need Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray to round back into form down the stretch.Carolina Hurricanes: 23-1 (at Bovada Sportsbook)This may be my favorite Stanley Cup play on the entire board. The Hurricanes bolstered their blue line prior to the trade deadline, acquiring Sami Vatanen from the Devils and Brady Skjei from the Rangers.Carolina, of course, gained immeasurable playoff experience during last year’s improbable run to the Eastern Conference Final, where it was ushered out by what was simply a strong Bruins squad. This year, I believe the Canes can match up with anyone in the East, noting they already took down the mighty Washington Capitals, who were then defending Stanley Cup champions, in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Canes young corps has only gotten stronger this season and I liked the savvy move of bringing Justin Williams back out of retirement for one more run at the Cup. It’s probably only a matter of time before head coach Rod Brind’Amour brings a cup to Raleigh – why not this year?Western ConferenceVegas Golden Knights: 13-1 (at Bovada Sportsbook)The Knights appear to be rounding into form at the right time as they ascend the Western Conference standings in February. This is a roster that has only gotten stronger since going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s NHL debut season in 2017-18. Given last year’s somewhat surprising early playoff exit, the hunger will certainly be there for the Knights to go on a deep playoff run this year. Vegas didn’t stand pat in the days leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Stanley Cup winner Alec Martinez to strengthen their defensive corps while also adding some depth between the pipes with Robin Lehner coming over from the Blackhawks. Even Nick Cousins looks like a nice under the radar pickup to add to their depth up front. The Western Conference is wide open this season and I would put the Knights right up there with the Blues as one of the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Final.Vancouver Canucks: 21-1 (at Bovada Sportsbook)While the Canucks won’t be a sure thing to get out of the first round, let alone go on a Stanley Cup run, I do like them at the current price point as they offer a lot of upside, albeit with a young roster that doesn’t have a great deal of playoff experience to lean on.Bringing in two-time Stanley Cup winner Tyler Toffoli from the Kings was arguably one of the biggest moves leading up to the trade deadline, and since joining the team he has proven to be a tremendous fit by all accounts. With Brock Boeser sidelined, Toffoli provides some much needed scoring punch up front.While the Canucks future is bright, I do think they’re in ‘win now’ mode as well. Once again, with the West there for the taking, this might just be the year that a Canadian team finally ends the 27-year drought and hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup. 

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