Sports Picks For Sale - Team Del Genio

Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • 38-23 (62%), 40-24 (63%), and 690-517 (57%) all sports runs, 5/22
  • 18-12 (60%), 117-81 (59%) NBA, 58-33 (64%) NBA O/Us, 55-31 (64%) NBA GOY/GOM runs, 5/22
  • 57-30 (66%) MLB winning streak with side plays, 5/22

Biography

Founded by Bally Casino’s former sportsbook director, Team Del Genio provides winners from an oddsmaker’s perspective.

Active Since: 1999

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Team Del Genio continues the sports handicapping legacy of former oddsmaker, Lenny Del Genio.  After heading the sportsbook operations at the Frontier and then Bally’s, Lenny moved to the other side of the window when he started his sports handicapping service where he later mentored the next generation of handicappers.  By maintaining the perspective of the oddsmakers, Team Del Genio represents a consensus service of a small group of handicappers that Lenny personally trained.

Lenny Del Genio was one of Las Vegas’ most influential and iconic Race and Sports Book Directors from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.  Lenny headed the sportsbook operations at the Frontier and Bally’s during that time.  During those years, Lenny also made frequent on-camera appearances for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and most cable television networks where he commented on major sporting events and gaming trends.  Lenny became internationally known as the unofficial oddsmaker of the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards with the Del Genio line carried by both the Associated Press and Reuters.  Lenny was featured on many national and international news and entertainment programs, including Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and NBC Late Night.  Lenny later held the position of Vice President/General Manager at Bally’s in charge of casino development while serving as a consultant to Indian gaming.  He then moved on to become the General Manager of Racing Services de Mexico, with special responsibilities in international expansion.  Finally, Lenny moved to the other side of the window in the late 1990s when he started his sports service.  Lenny was an integral part of the gaming industry for more than three decades before passing away in September 2012. 

Team Del Genio was founded by Lenny to provide the best sports wagering information to gambling clients with a keen eye kept on the perspective he gained from his decades of work as an oddsmaker.  Lenny trained and mentored a small group of individuals who served as his right-hand men over the years.  It is this group of handicappers that now maintain Lenny’s legacy with their consensus Team Del Genio picks.  Besides their prestigious Game of the Month/Year plays, the Team offers packages such as their Vegas J*A*C*K*P*O*T, Oddsmaker Error, and their rare 30* Vegas Icon Signature Play which celebrates the decades-long legacy of Lenny Del Genio.  Team Del Genio's reports are available exclusively at Big Al’s Sports Picks.

Once Again, UConn Was Inevitable

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2024

After UConn and Purdue won their final four games to reach the national championship game, it created a showdown between the two number-one seeds.  At first glance, it looked tough to lay six to seven points against this talented and determined Boilermakers squad that had won eleven of their last twelve games. Yet UConn had won eleven straight games in the NCAA tournament by 13 or more points. While it is difficult to repeat as national champions, the Huskies had already done most of the heavy lifting to get back to the title game. They took Alabama’s best punches early in their final four games as the Crimson Tide hit eight of their first eleven shots from 3-point land. Midway through the first half, the Huskies trailed, 23-18. Yet Alabama only made three of their last twelve shots from 3-point land while UConn would outscore them, 68-49, to win the game by an 86-72 score.  Purdue, on the other hand, looked shaky in their 63-50 victory against North Carolina State in their national semifinal game. The Boilermakers made only 40.0% of their shots and turned the ball over 16 times. Sophomore point guard Braden Smith only connected on one of his nine shots and committed five turnovers himself. He was called for two over-and-back backcourt violations early in the game which might have been a product of nerves.  UConn had a big advantage in the backcourt with their talented guards, Tristen Newton and Stephon Castle. Newton brought the experience of being in the starting five in last year’s championship run. Purdue still had Zach Edey yet this will be one of the rare times when he does not have a significant size edge against his opponent. Donovan Clingan is 7’2 and perhaps the best defensive center in the country. Edey needed to win this one-on-one battle by a decisive margin to make up for the advantage UConn has with their guards. That seemed unlikely, especially since Edey had played at least 38 minutes in three straight games making fatigue a factor working against him. Clingan has played less than 30 minutes in each of the games in the NCAA tournament. Purdue took plenty of 3-pointers and there was always a chance that they could get red-hot with these shots. This was how Creighton beat the Huskies the last time they lost a game in February. But head coach Dan Hurley was well-versed in preparing his teams to defend against this style of play. The Huskies were difficult to beat by relying on 3-pointers. Their opponents made only 31.4% of these shots against them which was the 42nd-best mark in the country. UConn did a great job getting shooters off the 3-point line as well. Their opponents took only 33.4% of their shots from 3-point land which is the 50th lowest mark. Overall, the Huskies opponents scored only 28.2% of their shots from 3-pointers. That mark ranked 263rd lowest in the country and is far below the 30.4% national average.  In his seventeen games in the NCAA tournament coaching for Rhode Island or UConn, Hurley’s teams had covered the point spread fourteen times. UConn had covered the point spread in twenty-eight of their last thirty-three games against non-conference opponents under Hurley. Take away the non-conference games when the Huskies were favored by 20 or more points and UConn had won and covered the point spread in twenty-one of those twenty-two non-conference games.  The Huskies could get hot from 3-point land themselves which would make the Boilermakers task nearly impossible. They had their best shooting performance from 3-point land in the NCAA tournament against Alabama by making 10 of their 25 shots from distance. UConn averages 24 shots from behind the 3-point line, and Purdue had covered the point spread in three of their last nine games after fifteen games against teams who average 21 or more 3-point attempts per game.  Finally, the outstanding defense that the Huskies played should not have been dismissed lightly. They ranked fourth in the country in defensive efficiency and had held their first four opponents to 58 or fewer points before Alabama scored 72 against them. The Huskies allowed only 63.5 points per game, and the Boilermakers had covered the point spread only once in their last seven games after fifteen games into the season against teams who do not allow more than 64 points per game.  Our prognostication was rewarded by UConn’s 75-60 victory. The Huskies went into halftime with a 36-30 lead before slowly but methodically breaking the will of the Boilermakers in the second half to win their second straight national championship.  Good luck - TDG.

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Humiliated Home Dogs Rarely Save Face in Avoiding a Playoff Sweep

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2024

After the Minnesota Timberwolves took a 3-0 series lead against the Phoenix Suns in a 126-109 upset victory as a 5.5-point underdog in Game 3 of that opening-round series on Friday, the oddsmakers installed them as a 2-point road favorite in Game 4 last Sunday. The betting market thought that was unjustified. Perhaps sold that the veteran Suns players like Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal would raise their level of play to avoid getting swept on their home court. The betting market may have been influenced by the Los Angeles Lakers beating Denver the previous night to keep that series alive rather than end their season on their home court getting swept. Phoenix closed as a 1.5-point favorite in many shops. Yet history had demonstrated that home teams trying to avoid getting swept after getting dominated in the first three games of an NBA series simply do not fare well relative to the point spread. The Timberwolves won the first of their games by 25, 12, and 15 points. In their 126-109 upset victory on the road as a 5.5-point underdog on Friday, the Timberwolves had six players score in double digits led by Anthony Edwards’ 36 points. Head coach Chris Finch was outcoaching the Suns’ Frank Vogel. Minnesota was imposing its physical will on them. They outscored Phoenix by 20 points in the paint in Game 3. They were scoring 38.5% of their shots at the rim in this series. The Suns did not seem to have a player who could slow down Edwards.  We considered this point spread movement as an overreaction, and history bears this out. Since the first round of the NBA playoffs was expanded to seven games, there had been nine teams who won the first three games of the opening series by ten or more points. Seven of these teams went on to win Game 4, and they all triumphed by six or more points. Three of those teams continued blowing out their outmatched opponents by twenty or more points. Only the 2012 Miami Heat and the 2018 Golden State Warriors failed to end that opening-round series in the fourth game. It perhaps is revealing that what both that Heat team and those Warriors had in common was that they both had reached the NBA finals the previous season. In hindsight, they got complacent and gave their opponent a little more life. Minnesota was still looking for their first playoff series victory in the Edwards era. They lost in the opening round to Denver in five games last year.  The Suns started the game well and went into the locker room with a 61-56 lead. Yet the Timberwolves outscored them in the second half, 66-55, and ended the series with a 122-116 upset victory. Minnesota even covered the opening point spread from the oddsmakers as a 2-point road favorite. It is now eight of ten teams who won the first three games of the opening series by ten or more points and then went on to win Game 4 by six or more points.  While it would probably be foolish to bet on a road team attempting to pull off a playoff sweep after winning the first three games by ten or more points solely because of this reason, it is something to consider. At the very least, this trend may provide enough of a reason to lay off the home dog playing for pride in front of their fans. Three straight losses by double-digits say something about the relative strengths of both teams. In this case, the oddsmakers recognized that and moved the point spread 7 points initially before the market responded. Once again, the wisdom of the oddsmakers was on display.  Good luck - TDG.

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No Glass Slipper for Cinderella Clemson

Sunday, Mar 31, 2024

The Clemson Tigers needed to pull off their fourth straight upset in the NCAA tournament to advance to the final four. The Tigers opened their tournament by upsetting New Mexico, 77-56, as a 2.5-point underdog despite being installed as a six-seed by the tournament committee. Clemson held the Lobos to 29.7% shooting in that game which was the lowest opponent’s field goal percentage of their season. They followed that up with a 72-64 upset victory against Baylor as a 4.5-point underdog in a game where they held the Bears to 38.9% shooting from the field. On Thursday in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers held Arizona to 37.3% shooting in a 77-72 upset victory as a 7-point underdog. The Wildcats missed 23 of their 28 shots from 3-point land as they uncharacteristically started relying on outside shooting. Arizona went into that game averaging only 21 shots from 3-point range per game. Clemson was a good defensive team that ranked 32nd in the country in defensive efficiency going into their Elite Eight game against Alabama. Yet they had been fortunate to have their three opponents in the NCAA tournament make only 17 of their 75 shots from 3-point range. When considering that ACC opponents made 35.8% of their 3-pointers against them this season, it was difficult to expect the Tigers’ opponents to continue to only hit 22.7% of their 3-pointers against them. Now here came an Alabama team that was taking 30 shots a game from 3-point land representing 46.3% of their shots from the field. Head coach Nate Oats' team was the 19th most reliant squad on taking 3-pointers. They made 36.8% of these shots which is the 25th-best mark in the country. Clemson gave up plenty of 3-point attempts. They rank 288th with their opponents taking 40.6% of their shots from 3-point land going into that gameWe expected the Tigers’ Cinderella dreams would probably come to an ending if the Crimson Tide simply approached their season average in hitting 3s. Clemson was a good offensive team that relied on their shooting inside the arc, yet they did not do many other things to help improve their efficiency. They went into the Elite Eight ranking 234th in free throw rate. They ranked 244th in offensive rebounding rate. Head coach Brad Brownell prefers to not foul their opponents at the expense of attempting to force turnovers. Clemson ranked 340th in the defensive turnover rate. The Tigers’ 3-point defense held up early against the Crimson Tide as Alabama missed eleven of their first twelve shots from 3-point land. Yet the Tide finally began to make their 3s as they made 15 of their next 24 shots from 3-point range to end the game with a 16 of 36 (44.4%) shooting clip with their 3s. The Tigers only made 8 of their 26 shots (30.8%) of their 3-point attempts. Clemson’s spotting 24 points from 3-point baskets was the difference in Alabama’s 89-82 victory. In the end, great defense and reliable shooting inside the arc usually only go so far in the NCAA tournament. In one-and-done competitions, the ability to get hot from 3-point land or create more scoring chances is needed to win six games in a row. Good luck - TDG.

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The Improbable Final Four Run by North Carolina State

Sunday, Mar 31, 2024

North Carolina State was trailing at halftime to a bad Louisville team in their opening game of the ACC tournament less than three weeks ago. The Wolfpack were trailing a Cardinals squad that went 3-17 in the regular season in conference play was not very surprising. NC State limped into the ACC tournament on a four-game losing streak. All four of their losses to Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, and Pittsburgh were by seven or more points. They had a 9-11 record in the conference when their tournament began in earnest two Tuesdays when the oddsmakers installed them as the favorite against Louisville. After that nine-point victory against the team in the basement in the ACC, head coach Kevin Keatts’ team flipped the switch by pulling off four straight upset victories against Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina to win the tournament and vulture the automatic bid. The Wolfpack may not have qualified for the NIT before those four upset victories last week. The only two NCAA tournament teams they had beaten in the regular season were Virginia and Clemson. How did they do it? At the time, it seemed merely a product of some fortunate luck and good shooting. They had their best shooting effort in their previous fifteen games by making 52.9% of their shots against Louisville to win that game despite the Cardinals making 55.2% of their shots. Syracuse turned the ball over 19 times in 26.8% of their possessions in their second game in the tournament the next day. Duke only made 43.1% of their shots against them in their upset win in the quarterfinals. They needed overtime against Virginia despite the Cavaliers making only 37.9% of their shots. Then as a 10-point underdog to North Carolina in the championship game, they shot 54.9% from the field with a 6-of-14 mark from 3-point land to upset the Tar Heels, 84-76, two Sundays ago. North Carolina was uncharacteristically cold from the field by shooting just 37.3%. In their five games in the ACC tournament, NC State shot 37.6% from 3-point range. Sometimes teams find themselves in the conference tournament. Sometimes teams simply find temporary lightning in the bottle. For the Wolfpack, we thought it was the former when we took Texas Tech in the opening round of the NCAA tournament against them. At that time, they ranked 142nd in the country with a 34.2% shooting percentage from 3-point land. They ranked tenth in the ACC and 91st in the nation in defensive efficiency. They were only forcing 12 turnovers per game at just a 16.2% clip of their opponent’s possessions in conference play and below the 17.1% national average. Yet NC State made 5 of their 13 shots from 3-point range against the Red Raiders and 50.9% of their shots overall in an 80-67 victory. Texas Tech only shot 38.7% from the field and missed 24 of their 31 shots from 3-point land. The oddsmakers then installed them as a favorite when they drew a 14-seeded Oakland team coming off their upset victory against Kentucky as a 13-point underdog. Yet the Wolfpack needed overtime for the second time in eight days to outlast the Grizzlies, 79-73. Oakland shot only 36.8% from the field. With the two-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles on deck in the Sweet Sixteen, the oddsmakers installed NC State as a 7.5-point underdog. Yet the Wolfpack pulled off their sixth upset victory in their last eight games since rallying against Louisville in the ACC tournament in a 67-58 victory. NC State held the Golden Eagles to 33.3% shooting which was a season-low for them defensively. Marquette missed 27 of their 31 shots from 3-point land. The Wolfpack deserve credit for holding their last eight opponents to 28.8% shooting from 3-point range. Yet anyone watching that game observed that Marquette missed open 3 after open 3. To reach the Final Four, the Wolfpack have to play one of their victims again during this torrid three-week march. In their victory against Duke in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils missed 15 of their 20 shots from 3-point land. NC State head coach Kevin Keatts deserves credit for turning his team’s season around. He might have been fired if his team had not rallied in the second half to beat Louisville. The Wolfpack are playing better on defense, and the offense has been energized by playing through D.J. Burns. But they were allowing their opponents to make 35.2% of their 3-pointers before the ACC tournament. Shooting variance has played a role in their success. Ask this Blue Devils team that led the ACC in the regular season by making 38.5% of their 3-pointers. Duke came into the Elite Eight game as confident as ever after they knocked off Houston, 54-51, as a four-point underdog. Mental and physical toughness had been a question mark for this team. The Blue Devils took an early lead and went into halftime with a 27-21 score. Yet the Wolfpack fought back to take the lead early in the second half before taking control of the game and winning by a 76-64 score. Duke missed 15 of their 20 shots from the 3-point line. NC State only made 3 of their 13 shots from 3-point range yet dominated inside where they converted 25 of their 47 shots inside the arc. Burns scored 29 points with 26 of those points coming from his 13 of 19 shooting from 2-point range. North Carolina State improbably advances to the Final Four to play Purdue with the oddsmakers initially installing them as 9.5-point underdogs. Perhaps their bubble bursts in Indianapolis where the Final Four will be played. Yet with seven upset victories during their nine-game winning streak, bettors simply fading the Wolfpack’s improbable victories would have dug themselves a deep hole. Buyer beware if you continue to bet against this NC State team. Good luck - TDG.

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IUPUI-Fort Wayne: Sneaky Good When Playing on the Road

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

IUPUI-Fort Wayne has been sneaky good when playing on the road this season. Going into their clash against Wright State on Wednesday, Purdue-Fort Wayne had a 9-6 record away from home with a +5.4 net point differential. They had beaten Northern Kentucky on the road in conference play who currently had an 11-7 record in the Horizon League. They also beat Oakland on the road in December, and the Grizzlies went into the day in first place in the Horizon League with a 14-5 record. Their previous victory before their loss on Sunday was at Wisconsin-Milwaukee last Friday, 85-59, and the Phoenix have a 12-6 record in the conference. The Mastodons had covered the point spread in twenty-eight of their last forty-one games on the road when the oddsmakers installed them as an underdog from 3.5 to 6 points. Purdue-Fort Wayne went into that game having won two games in a row before a 96-88 loss at Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a 1-point underdog on Sunday. The Mastodons had covered the point spread in fifteen of their last twenty games on the road after playing their previous game on the road. They were playing a Raiders team that appeared ripe for a letdown. Wright State was on a three-game winning streak in Horizon League play after sweeping their two-game road trip last week. The Raiders won at Detroit, 93-78, last Thursday before a 96-75 upset win at Oakland as a 4.5-point underdog on Sunday. They were coming back home where they had an 8-5 record yet they have covered the point spread just twice in their last seven games when playing at home with the oddsmakers installing the over/under from 160 to 169.5. Wright State had not covered the point spread in their last four games after winning their two previous games on the road, and they had covered the point spread only three times in their last fifteen games at home after winning two games in a row on the road. They have covered the point spread in nine of their last thirty-one games after a victory on the road where they scored 85 or more points. The Raiders had made 53.3% or more of their shots in three straight games, yet they had covered the point spread in three of their last fourteen games after making 50% or more of their shots in three straight games. Wright State had covered the point spread just once in their last five games at home when the oddsmakers installed them as a favorite of up to six points or as a pick ‘em.These were the reasons why we chose Purdue-Fort Wayne as our NCAA-B Horizon League Underdog of the Year in their matchup with Wright State on Wednesday. The Mastodons started strong by taking a 39-34 lead going into halftime. The Raiders quickly battled back in the second half by scoring the first eight points to take a 42-39 lead. Yet Purdue-Fort Wayne then went on an 8-2 run over their own to retake a three-point lead. It was a close game the rest of the way before the game went into overtime after a 74-74 deadlock after regulation time. The Mastodons outscored Wright State in overtime, 5-3, to pull the 79-77 upset. IUPUI-Fort Wayne will not have a flashy record going into the Horizon League tournament coming up next week. Yet their ability to play well in hostile environments could help them be a dangerous underdog in that tournament, especially if they get some breaks with their draw. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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How the Oddsmakers Hinted at the Super Bowl Under

Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

The oddsmakers initially installed the over/under for the 49ers/Chiefs Super Bowl showdown at 47.5. A week later on the Monday before the big game, the total had remained stuck at 47.5 in most shops, although there were a few 48s out there as of this writing. We at Team Del Genio thought the oddsmakers were subtly projecting a lower-scoring game. The Team went “all-in” with our NFL Total of the Year with the under. Below is much of our reasoning for that call.The 2022 Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals had a closing over/under number in the 47.5 range, and that final score finished under the total with the Rams’ 23-20 victory. The 2024 Super Bowl total was on pace to be tied with that year’s game as the lowest over/under in a Super Bowl since the 2016 game between Denver and Carolina in Peyton Manning’s final season with the Broncos' elite defense leading the way to a 24-10 victory. The oddsmakers installed the over/under in the 43.5 range in that game. In the seven Super Bowls since, the oddsmakers had set the over/under in the 50s five times. Yet three of the last five final scores in the Super Bowl have seen 43 or fewer combined points scored. In recent years, the expectation of higher-scoring games in a league that had leaned into the offensive side of the ball had not always matched up with the reality of the two teams competing in the big game. From this background, this rematch of the 2020 Super Bowl seemed set up to see fewer points than the 51 combined points scored in Kansas City’s 31-20 victory. Patrick Mahomes won his first Super Bowl in that game, and he had since picked up a second championship ring in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory against Philadelphia last year. While many of the core players and coaches remain from that 2020 team, wide receiver Tyreek Hill is gone. This Kansas City team was the least explosive in Mahomes' career as their starting quarterback. They were only averaging 22.1 points per game going into the Super Bowl, and that number dropped to 21.0 points per game when they were playing away from Arrowhead Stadium. Yet the biggest difference between those previous Super Bowl teams and this one had been on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs now had one of the best defenses in the league as they were holding their opponents to 16.8 points per game. They had held their three playoff opponents to 13.7 points per game and 323 yards per game. The Super Bowl was being played at Allegiant Field in Las Vegas which has a grass surface. Kansas City had played twelve of their last fourteen games under the number when playing on grass. The challenge of facing the powerful 49ers offense was already going to be stiff. San Francisco averaged 28.9 points per game and 6.8 yards per play going into the game. Yet the Chiefs had played six straight unders against teams who average 6.0 or more yards per play. This 49ers team had replaced Jimmy Garopollo with Brock Purdy at quarterback and added Christian McCaffrey at running back since that 2020 Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan was still searching for his first Super Bowl victory having also lost the big game when he was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. Yet in Shanahan’s last eight playoff games as the 49ers head coach, six of those games finished under the number. With the offense now centered around McCaffrey, Shanahan seemed content with more of a ball-control offense that runs time off the clock. They had the ball on offense for over 32 minutes against Detroit in the NFC championship game, and it was his fear of losing momentum to the Niners' grinding attack in the second half that Lions head coach Dan Campbell said motivated his controversial decisions to go for first downs and extend potential touchdown drives in those two failed fourth down attempts in that game. The San Francisco defense had seen two new defensive coordinators since Robert Saleh called the plays in that 2020 Super Bowl. The 49ers' current defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is a veteran in the league who had previously been the head coach for Arizona. The unit is stacked with first-team All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner, second-team All-Pro cornerback Charvarius Ward, and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa at tight end. The 49ers were allowing only 18.4 points per game and 313 yards per game. The 49ers had had three of their last four games and nine of their last fourteen games end with 45 or fewer combined points scored. Kansas City has had eight of their last nine and eleven of their last thirteen games end with 46 or fewer combined points scored. Our handicapping for the Super Bowl was on point, yet the result remained very much in doubt with the possibility of overtime looming. With the score tied 19-19 at the end of regulation time, it was not difficult to see how the game could end finishing over the number. Yet San Francisco’s opening drive stalled in the red zone, and their ensuing field goal made the score 22-19 with 41 combined points. We were rooting for the Chiefs now since a touchdown would end the game at 25-22, just under the 47.5s. Rooting for a 49ers turnover would be another good result since it would end the game. A Kansas City field goal would make a subsequent touchdown a crushing blow. Fortunately, Mahomes worked his magic again to engineer a winning touchdown drive. We survive overtime and win our NFL Total of the Year!                                                                                          Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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San Francisco -- The New BYU in the West Coast Conference?

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024

In college basketball, Gonzaga has been the toast of the West Coast Conference for decades. Their stiffest competition has consistently been Saint Mary’s since Randy Bennett took over as the Gaels’ head coach in 2003. BYU was often the third-best team in the conference, and they have made the NCAA tournament a dozen times this century. They have six regular season titles as well since 2001. With BYU’s move to the Big 12 conference, the opportunity exists for another program to take over its position. San Francisco may fit the bill.The Dons are a dangerous team this season because of their frontline. Center Jonathan Mobgo may win conference Player of the Year honors. He is making 66.3% of his shots inside the arc. For the season, he is averaging 15.0 points per game and adding 10.6 rebounds per game. Mike Sharavjamts and Ndewedo Newbury give him space to work inside since they are both stretch forwards who combine to make 42% of their shots from 3-point land. As a team, the Dons rank 14th in the nation by making 57.4% of their 2-point shots. They are second in the nation with only 5.4% of their shots blocked by their opponent. On defense, head coach Chris Gerlufsen’s team ranks 29th in the country in defensive efficiency. San Francisco forces turnovers in 21.0% of their opponents' possessions which is the 31st best mark in the nation. They also limit second-chance scoring opportunities by limiting their opponents to rebounding only 23.6% of their missed shots. The Dons were on a seven-game winning streak before a 77-60 upset loss at home to Saint Mary’s on January 20th. Those 60 points were the fewest they had scored in eight games. They then lost on the road at Gonzaga, 77-72, last Thursday. San Francisco responded last Saturday with a 76-64 victory at home against Portland.  They go into February with a 16-6 record overall. In conference play, they have a 5-2 record with their two losses to Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga which leaves them in fourth place. The fourth team in the mix is Santa Clara who San Francisco has yet to play this season. Their first encounter this season will be on February 10th. The Broncos upset Gonzaga earlier this season yet lost to Saint Mary’s by 24 points. The computer projections currently predict the Dons to win both their games against Santa Clara, so bettors should expect the oddsmakers to install San Francisco as the favorite in both games. The Dons’ best victory this season to help their tournament resume was a 76-58 victory on a neutral court against Minnesota who has a 13-7 record going into February. The Golden Gophers are not likely to make the NCAA tournament, so San Francisco will need to take full advantage of their upcoming rematches against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s to build their tournament resume. Without big wins against those teams, the Dons will need to win the West Coast Conference tournament. That may be too tall a task for this team. Yet, San Francisco remains the team most likely to fill BYU’s shoes as the third-best basketball team in the conference.Good luck - TDG.

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The Collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024

The Philadelphia Eagles collapsed in the second half of the season with five losses in their final six regular games. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai got demoted in December with Matt Patricia given the play-calling responsibilities. Rumors abound that this was a decision made by executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman rather than head coach Nick Sirianni. Patricia then attempted to install new terminology on the fly which is an ambitious project late in the season. The change did not work as the Eagles gave up 29 points per game and 385 yards per game in their final three regular season games. They got embarrassed in their final regular season game in New York against the Giants in a 27-10 loss where they gave up 415 yards. The Philadelphia run defense was one of the biggest problems as it simply collapsed in the second half of the season. After holding their first nine opponents to 66 rushing yards per game, they returned after their bye to allow 146 rushing yards per game in their last eight games. Turnovers have been an issue as well. After week 12, the Eagles had a 10-1 record with just a -2 net turnover margin. Since then, Philadelphia lost five of their final six regular games with a -8 net turnover margin. They gave up 30 points per game and 383 yards per game during those final six regular season games while averaging only 20 points per game and 330 yards per game. The defense struggled in pressuring the quarterback and registering sacks. The linebacker unit was not as good as last year. Their secondary got old and too slow to keep up with good wide receivers. Just a year removed from reaching the Super Bowl, Sirianni appeared to be on the hot seat going into their playoff game at Tampa Bay. Roseman had fired successful head coaches before as Doug Pederson can attest. Injuries were playing a role, as they usually do. Jalen Hurts was playing through a finger injury. In his last four regular season games, he had only four touchdown passes and five interceptions. His top wide receiver target A.J. Brown was unavailable to play against the Buccaneers due to a knee injury. The Eagles had lost money for the bettors in six straight games going into the postseason. An 0-6 against the spread run might have intrigued some contrarian bettors in their wild card game against Tampa Bay, yet to believe in Philadelphia at that point required faith that they could simply flip the switch from all this negativity. Yet the Eagles had not covered the point spread in their last four games after a double-digit loss to an NFC East opponent. They had covered the point spread only twice in their last eight games in January as well.Rather than successfully flipping the switch, Sirianni’s team appeared to quit on him in their 32-9 loss to the Buccaneers. While Tampa Bay only averaged 17.6 points per game and 317 yards per game at home during the regular season, their offense torched an uninspired Eagles defense for 426 yards. Since that game, Roseman decided to retain Sirianni as the team’s head coach for his fourth year leading the team. Yet offensive coordinator Brian Johnson along with Desai and Patricia were all let go. The organization made big splashes by hiring Kellen Moore as their new offensive coordinator and Vic Fangio as their new defensive coordinator. Yet if Sirianni can not rebuild the culture inside the building, the best coaching in the world won’t fix this team.Good luck - TDG.

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The Houston Rockets Defensive Turnaround

Sunday, Dec 31, 2023

The Houston Rockets were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season. By allowing 118.6 adjusted points per 100 possessions, the Rockets ranked 29th in the league in defensive efficiency. It was the fourth straight season where they had a bottom-four defense when measured by efficiency. With Houston beginning the second phase of their rebuild under general manager Rafael Stone, improving their play on defense was a high priority. Stone hired former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka who oversaw a significant improvement in the play of the Celtics on the defensive end of the court in 2021-22 before being suspended from the team last year for his off-the-court scandal. With those issues behind him with a new start in Houston, Udoka was given the mandate to establish a new culture. Stone made two big splashes in the free agent market to help establish this new defensive identity. Fred VanVleet was signed for a three-year $130 million contract. Not only does VanVleet bring a championship pedigree from Toronto, but he is also one of the better on-the-ball defenders in the league. Stone also inked a four-year $86 million contract to wing defender Dillon Brooks who was selected to the all-defensive second team last year. Brooks prides himself on his defensive play which is an attitude that Udoka hopes is infectious to the core group of young players on the roster like Jalen Green, Amen Thompson, Jabari Smith, and Alperen Sengun. The improvement in defense has been immediate and dramatic. The Rockets are holding their opponents to 109.7 points per game on 45.0% shooting from the field. Their opponents are making only 32.5% of their 3-point shots, which is the best mark in the NBA. They rank sixth in the league by allowing just 111.4 adjusted points per 100 possessions this season, an improvement of more than seven adjusted points against their defensive efficiency of last season. Houston’s strong play on the defensive end of the court has been even more pronounced when they are playing at home. In their seventeen games at home, the Rockets are holding their opponents to 43.8% shooting from the field with these teams averaging just 105.1 points per game. Opponents are making just 31.0% of their 3-point attempts when playing in Houston, ranking as the second lowest mark in the NBA to Minnesota when taking home courts into account. The Rockets do a good job of controlling their defensive glass. Led by Sengun who is undergoing a breakout season, Houston limits their opponents to rebounding 28.1% of their missed shots. That mark is tied with New Orleans for the tenth-best in the league. Udoka is not emphasizing forcing turnovers. Houston is only forcing turnovers in 13.5% of their opponent's possessions, ranking 19th in the NBA. Instead, Udoka's approach is to prioritize making things difficult for their opponent to take good shots. Houston ranks second in the NBA with an opponent's effective field goal percentage of 51.6%. Houston's efforts on defense have taken a step back as of late with Indiana, Phoenix, and Philadelphia all scoring 123 or more points against them with each of those teams making 52.3% or more of their shots against them despite all three of those games being played in Houston. Not having Brooks for those games as he nurses an abdominal injury should be considered when looking at these recent results. Those are three of the best offenses in the NBA as well. The Pacers lead the league in offensive efficiency and the 76ers rank third in offensive efficiency. The Suns rank eleventh in offensive efficiency yet should climb in those rankings with Bradley Beal back on the court. The Rockets have held five opponents to under 100 points this season. Once Brooks gets back on the court, Houston will hold more opponents to less than 100 points. Yet despite their improved defense, the market is well aware since only sixteen of their thirty games have finished under the number. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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Florida State Should Have Made the College Football Playoff

Sunday, Dec 31, 2023

Based on their going undefeated and winning the ACC championship game against Louisville and the lack of two other undefeated power-five conference teams with undefeated records, the Florida State Seminoles should have been selected to compete in the college football playoff. Some may say that their 63-3 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl demonstrates they would have offered little competition in the final four, yet that ignores the fact that the Seminoles played that game without more than twenty of the players that beat the Cardinals last month. At the time, the most popular argument justifying the exclusion of Florida State was that their starting quarterback Jordan Travis was out the season with an injury. Unfortunately, the Seminoles were not given any benefit of the doubt for beating Louisville by double digits with a third-string quarterback, Brock Glenn, despite the Cardinals being ranked in the top 15 of their playoff ranking system. If Florida State would have played in the playoff semifinals, presumably against Michigan, then it would have been second-string quarterback Tate Rodemaker most likely under center given the extra four weeks to clear the concussion protocol. Critics complaining about the Seminoles only gaining 219 yards in their victory failed to understand the situation. Neither the committee nor anyone else has any reliable idea how the Florida State offense would perform with a month of practice with Rodemaker getting the first string reps. Alabama was selected above them because of the presumption of their superior talent because of their high-level recruiting rankings. Yet computer rankings systems were supposed to remove these biases. If recruiting is so important, why not just have two guaranteed SEC teams in because of recruiting rankings (that are often wrong, by the way, as demonstrated by the number of four and five-star players that enter the transfer portal)? The era of SEC dominance may already be over given the transfer portal and NIL. Selecting Alabama over Florida State presumes one is confident in the assessment that the SEC dominance still prevails and that their champion deserves the benefit of the doubt at the exclusion of an undefeated power five conference team. Would this still be the case if the SEC conference championship game-winner was a two-loss team? Georgia and Alabama seem to have taken a step back this year. Perhaps they are both two of the top four teams in the nation if afforded a schedule where they play a 100-game round-robin against the top sixteen teams in the county. Who knows. Yet the bigger issue may be how many steps back teams like Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and Ole Miss have taken this season. The impact of NIL and the transfer portal is immediate, especially when losing players to the NFL. These rosters turnover very quickly. What was Georgia’s most impressive victory this season?Some observers point to the oddsmakers' odds that project Alabama as much more competitive than Florida State in the final four. Yet that is a reason to perhaps include Ohio State over Washington in the playoffs even after their loss to Michigan last month. Relying on the oddsmakers' betting line as an argument to include or exclude a potential playoff team is misguided. The oddsmakers are establishing a betting line to attract similar action on both sides from the market. The market assessment is often wrong. The market was not on the Arizona Cardinals to upset the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s why we play the games. The Seminoles earned the right to develop their players for another month after beating all of their previous opponents. Instead, the playoff committee started guessing despite their lack of expertise in the matter. This guessing is what was unfair about their process. The unfortunate element for the Florida State football team is that the college football playoff committee lacks the expertise to make the educated guess that it conducted. Cynical observers are left wondering if their higher calling all along was simply television ratings. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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The Future Is Now for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

The Oklahoma City Thunder are making an early case that the future is now for this team who surprised the league last year by making the Play-In Tournament.Chet Holmgren has been just what this team has needed with his shot-blocking on defense and his 3-point shooting. The former Gonzaga star missed last season after a lisfranc injury so the Thunder were not sure what to expect from the second pick in the 2022 draft. He is averaging 17.9 points per game and pulling down 8.0 rebounds per game. He is hitting 43.1% of his shots from 3-point land. He is averaging 2.2 blocked shots per game.Lu Dort is hitting 3-pointers as well. After never making more than 34.2% of his 3-pointers in his previous four seasons, the former Arizona State Sun Devil is making 42.9% of his 3-pointers. The Thunder went into the last day of November leading the NBA with a 40.9% shooting mark from 3-point range. Head coach Mark Daigneault is getting great play from his bench from players like Isaiah Joe and rookie Cason Wallace. During their recent six-game winning streak, Joe made 50% or more of his shots from 3-point land. For the season, the former Arkansas star is coming off the bench to score 10.9 points per game on 46.1% shooting and a 47.1% clip from 3-point range. Wallace is averaging 6.9 points per game off the bench while making 61.6% of his shots and 58.6% of his 3-pointers. Daigneault turned to the former Kentucky Wildcat who they selected tenth in the NBA draft as his fifth starter when Jalen Williams was out with an injury. Finally, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken another step in his game and is an early candidate for Most Valuable Player in the NBA. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 30.6 points per game on 54.1% shooting. He is adding 6.1 assists per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Oklahoma City is playing outstanding defense as they rank fifth in the league by allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions. They rank in the top ten in the NBA by holding their opponents to a 63.9% shooting percentage at the rim. They rank second in the NBA in transition defense. The Thunder had covered the point spread in six of their last eight games when the oddsmakers installed them as a favorite. They had covered the point spread in twenty-eight of their last forty-two games in November.The Thunder ended the month in style with a 133-116 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers (The Team’s NBA Game of the Month). Oklahoma City only shot 33% (14 of 42) from the 3-point land yet still made 53% of their shots from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 33 points. They held the Lakers to 44% shooting and just 33% from 3-point land. Going into December with a 12-6 record, the Thunder are making a strong claim that their young core of talent already has them as a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. Good luck - TDG.

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Is Justin Fields Making the Case for the Chicago Bears to Not Draft a Quarterback?

Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

The Minnesota Vikings had been one of the hottest teams in the NFL in the middle of the season going into their clash with the Chicago Bears for Monday Night Football. They had won five games in a row before their narrow 21-20 loss at Denver last week. The Bears had lost three of their last four games and come into this game trailing the Vikings by three games in the NFC North standings. Yet the oddsmakers installed Minnesota as only a field goal or so favorite in this game despite this game being played at the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings beat the Bears last month by a 19-13 score in the first game between these teams at Soldier Field. The oddsmakers were communicating that if these two teams would play on a neutral field, the point spread difference would be close to a pick ‘em after eliminating the three or so points for home-field advantage. Even when these teams played a month ago, the oddsmakers installed Minnesota as a three-point road favorite, despite a 1-4 record at the time. The Vikings’ victory in that game began their recent five-game winning streak. It was a remarkable point spread with the oddsmakers seeing something the betting public was not, and it was one of the primary reasons we tapped Chicago as our NFC Game of the Month in that game. The Bears pulled the upset, 12-9, to redeem our support.We saw a few intriguing things with Chicago, and it started with the play of Justin Fields who is quietly making a strong statement that he should be a starting quarterback in the league. In his last four games (including the game against Minnesota when he got knocked out of the game with a hand injury that kept him out for four games) before that Monday Night game, Fields had completed 65 of 97 passes for a 67.0% completion percentage. He had nine touchdown passes during that span with only two interceptions. He had passed for 844 yards in those four games with an 8.7 yards per attempt. He had added another 232 yards with a 5.7 yards per carry when running the ball on an average of ten times per game in those four games. He was playing better than the Vikings’ Josh Dobbs. The Bears had a 1-4 record in games decided by one possession including their 31-26 loss on the road at Detroit last week in a game they should have won. Chicago won the first down battle by a 25-23 margin, and they were close to even in yardage (334-338) despite the game being played at Ford Field. They forced four turnovers. The Bears had covered the point spread in four of their last six games after the first month of the season. They were an underrated team.While Chicago won the game, their offense sputtered. The Bears had only 317 yards of offense. They settled for four field goals with three drives stalling inside the Vikings 22-yard line. Fields’ stat line was okay as he completed 27 of 37 passes for 217 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran the ball another 12 times for 59 yards. Yet he was responsible for both of Chicago’s lost fumbles, with one of them his fault for not protecting himself as a runner.       Fields numbers in his last five games still look pretty good. He has completed 92 of 134 passes for a 68.6% completion percentage. He had passed for 1061 yards in those five games with a 7.9 yards per attempt. He has nine touchdown passes during that span with only two interceptions. He has added another 291 yards with a 5.5 yards per carry when running the ball on an average of ten times per game in those five games. Yet it appears the coaching staff has made the decision that Fields cannot be trusted to make decisions with the football down the field. Facing the Vikings’ defensive coordinator Brian Flores means dealing with the most blitz-dependent defense in the league. In what became a painful-to-watch display, Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy continually dialed up bubble screen after bubble screen to help Fields get the ball out quickly in the face of the potential blitz. Unfortunately for the Bears offense, this tactic became predictable very quickly yet Getsy rarely changed things up. A critic could make the case that Getsy may not be one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL, yet every offensive coordinator is familiar with a vertical passing game. Perhaps he was directed by head coach Matt Eberflus, but it was clear that Getsy had limited options that he was comfortable with regarding how Fields could handle the blitz. Some of his rushing numbers may be the result of bailing on plays too quickly because he is not processing third or even second reads in the passing game. His early season struggles might be the result of his failure to execute his second or third reads in the passing game. His “fantasy” numbers have improved only because he is giving up on plays to move the ball with his legs again. So, thankfully, the Bears pulled off the victory and our read on the oddsmakers line was correct. Yet it is hard to be optimistic about the future for Fields, at least with Chicago. With the Bears owning Carolina’s first-round pick draft pick, Chicago is poised to have two top-ten draft picks in the spring with that Panthers selection perhaps the prized number one pick in the draft. It is hard to imagine that the Bears would forego the opportunity to choose their favorite quarterback in the college draft pool and stick with a quarterback in Fields who they did not trust to throw the ball downfield with against the Vikings. Chicago could always draft a quarterback while allowing Fields to compete for the starting job. He still shows flashes of brilliance. However, the internal momentum to allow their new rookie quarterback to take the job and run with it will likely be overwhelming, and Fields’ stock will only continue to fall. Trading  Fields away sooner rather than later would probably bring back the most value, given how these events are likely to shake out. Good luck - TDG.   

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Did Baltimore Expose Detroit in their 38-6 Victory in Week 7?

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023

In our NFL Game of the Month for October, the Baltimore Ravens easily beat the Detroit Lions by a 38-6 score on October 22nd.  The Lions have been a feel-good story in the NFL this season with them raising their record to 5-1 after a 20-6 victory at Tampa Bay going into their showdown on the road against the Ravens. They are in the driver’s seat to win their first division title since 1993 with their competition in the NFC North in various stages of rebuilding. They had won thirteen of their last sixteen games, yet winning on the road in Baltimore is always a difficult chore. But what does it say about Detroit that went into halftime trailing by a 28-0 score? How do they give up 502 yards of offense? Perhaps injuries played a role in the blowout loss? Their defense is missing cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Garder-Johnson along with linebacker James Houston who was their second-best pass rusher to Aidan Hutchinson. Running back David Montgomery and starting left guard Jonah Jackson were also out for this game.Quarterback Jared Goff is playing at a very high level right now, and his road woes have probably been overstated when considering that Detroit has won seven of their last eight games on the road. Yet Goff is still playing at his best when playing in the controlled conditions indoors at Ford Field (or previously in the southern California weather for the Los Angeles Rams). Even this season, Goff is completing 66% of his passes in his three starts on the road with a quarterback rating of 97.7 which are good numbers yet not at the level of his 72.9% completion rate with a 113.3 quarterback rating in his three starts at home. The winds of 15 miles per hour at M&T Bank Stadium certainly did not help.Maybe Detroit should be given a pass since so many NFC teams struggle when facing Lamar Jackson for the first time. Baltimore now has a 15-1 straight-up record against NFC teams with Jackson as their starting quarterback. These NFC teams lack experience playing and defending Jackson’s mobility, and he is such a special athlete that opposing teams do not have a player close to his level to practice against from their scout team during the week. However, losing to Jackson is one thing, yet losing by 32 points perhaps points to deeper issues. The Lions did successfully rebound in their next game with their 26-14 win against Las Vegas back at home at Ford Field in front of a nationally televised audience for Monday Night Football. Yet that final score was much closer than it should have been when considering that Detroit outgained the Raiders by 329 yards after holding them to only 157 total yards. The Lions settled for three field goals in the first half including two following drives that stalled in the red zone. Another one of their scoring opportunities was flipped when Marcus Peters intercepted Goff to make it a 16-14 game early in the fourth quarterback. We offer full disclosure by admitting that we were on the Raiders for this game. Given the questions we have about the Lions, getting more of a touchdown (or more) from the oddsmakers seemed too much to pass up. Las Vegas likely covers the point spread if Jimmy Garoppolo can throw even a fairly accurate pass to a wide-open Davante Adams who could have walked into the end zone to have the Raiders pull within five points. Yet Garoppolo badly overthrew Adams in an embarrassing effort. Adams caught only one pass despite being targeted six times, and five of those misses were on the quarterback. Despite a 3-5 record, Las Vegas may be the worst team in the NFL with the players seemingly in revolt against head coach Josh McDaniels while not having much support for Garoppolo. It is hard to read much into the Lions’ effort against that team. Frankly, Detroit should have won that game by a similar margin than with the loss the Ravens handed them. Whether it is injuries, the challenge of facing Jackson for the first time, or perhaps the occasional clunker that almost every NFL team experiences, the Lions still have some questions to answer from their 32-point loss to Baltimore. Good luck - TDG.

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Boise State is Poised for Strong Finish to the Season

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2023

The Team won our NCAA-F College Football Game of the Month last Saturday backing Boise State against Wyoming in a spot where they looked undervalued relative to the oddsmakers point spread expectations. The Broncos had been struck with some back luck in the first half of their season. After an understandable loss at Washington to begin their season, they then lost to Central Florida on a game-ending field goal. They later lost to Memphis after their attempted game-tying field goal in the third quarter was blocked and returned for a Golden Knights touchdown that was a 10-point swing that changed the direction of that game. The Broncos still only lost by a 35-32 score. Then two weeks ago, Boise State held a 30-10 lead at Colorado State with under five minutes to go before losing on a last-second Hail Mary pass by the Rams to steal that game. Those three losses were by a combined six points. The bye week for head coach Andy Avalos' club came just at the right time last week as they could regroup and get to work to finish the season on a strong note. The Broncos had covered the point spread in eight of their last nine games after a loss. The offense is getting healthy again with the offensive line coming into this game against the Cowboys in their best shape all season. Avalos expected running back George Holani to play as well after not playing since the opening game against the Huskies with a leg injury. The junior is a two-time 1000-yard rusher for Boise State after gaining 1157 rushing yards last season. Avalos has been rotating his quarterbacks yet has committed to sophomore Taylen Green as his starter for this game. Last year’s Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year offers a dual threat with his legs. The Broncos hosted a Wyoming team last Saturday that they had beaten eight straight times at home at Albertson’s Stadium by more than 16 points per game. The Cowboys were on a three-game winning streak before a 34-27 loss at the Air Force two weeks ago as a 13-point underdog. Wyoming had been fortunate to win five of their first six games with special teams touchdowns and opposing quarterback injuries. Yet they were only outscoring their opponents by 0.7 net points per game, and they were getting outgained in yardage by 46 yards per game. They had lost both of their first two games on the road by an average of 14 points with their offense only averaging 18.5 points per game and 306 yards per game. On the road, they have covered the point spread in fourteen of their last forty-five games after winning two of their last three games. Wyoming had covered the point spread in fifteen of their last forty games on the road in conference play when the oddsmakers installed them as an underdog of up to seven points or as a favorite of up to seven points. Boise State made a statement right out of the gate against the Cowboys by scoring a touchdown on their first possession and then successfully converted their two-point play. Wyoming scored a touchdown near the end of the first quarter yet the Broncos scored the next 24 points to walk away with a 32-7 victory (giving us our NCAA-F College Football Game of the Month winner). Holani ran the ball 20 times for 75 yards while catching another three balls for 17 yards out of the backfield. Green played under center yet it was Madsen Maddux who starred for Boise State at quarterback by completing 12 of 15 passes for 147 yards with a touchdown pass while adding another 24 yards on the ground. With a 4-4 record going into the final month of the regular season, the Broncos are probably out of the race to play in the Mountain West Conference championship game being three games behind Fresno State and four games behind Air Force. Yet Boise State seems on track to play in another bowl game while being a dangerous team in the conference the rest of the way.Good luck - TDG.

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Another 4-0 Start For Kansas Sets Expectations Even Higher This Season

Friday, Sep 29, 2023

The Kansas Jayhawks opened their season with a 48-17 win against Missouri State before beating Illinois, 34-23. In week 3, Kansas played their first game on the road and survived a 31-24 victory at Nevada in a final score that should not have been that close. The Jayhawks held the Wolf Pack to 263 yards while gaining 442 total yards themselves. Kansas got inside Nevada’s 40-yard line seven times yet only came away with 24 points in those trips. Junior quarterback Jalen Daniels was injured to begin the season but he was back at full strength in that game after completing 21 of 27 passes for 298 yards. Yet the Jayhawks probably planned on revving up their rushing attack in preparation for their game against BYU with heavy winds expected up to 16 miles per hour in Lawrence at kickoff. Led by junior Devin Neal, Kansas was averaging 5.4 yards per carry and ranked 24th in the nation in rushing success rate. Neal had rushed for more than 300 yards already while averaging 3.8 yards after contact. If weather impacts the passing games for both teams, the Jayhawks would probably have the advantage..BYU had allowed their last eleven opponents last year to average 31.1 points per game and 6.1 yards per play. The Razorbacks' 38 points and 5.7 yards per play that they put up the week before was a return to that concerning level of play on the defensive side of the field. The Cougars allowed 408 yards per game which ranked 93rd in the nation for FBS programs. BYU was on the road to play an explosive Kansas offense that ranked 20th in the nation by averaging 35.6 points per game. The Jayhawks opened the game by recovering a Cougars fumble and returning it for a 22-yard defensive touchdown. They traded touchdowns before the Cougars scored the final ten points to go into halftime with a 17-14 lead. Yet the Jayhawks immediately responded in the second half by picking off a Kedon Slovis pass for a 30-yard interception that was returned for a second defensive touchdown. Kansas extended their lead to a 35-20 margin early in the fourth quarter before cruising to a 38-27 victory. Daniels was effective under center by completing 14 of 19 passes for 130 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He added 54 yards on the ground. The Jayhawks were able to control the game with their rushing attack with 221 yards on 37 carries. BYU ended the game with only nine rushing yards. Despite their favorable opening two games of the season against Sam Houston and Southern Utah, BYU went into that game averaging only 2.5 yards per carry in their rushing attack. They ranked last of all FBS teams in success rate in their ground game before playing Kansas. With their victory, the Jayhawks improved their record to 4-0 with a showdown in Austin against Texas looming on Saturday. Kansas opened last season with five straight victories before losing three in a row and six of their final seven games after a 55-53 loss to Arkansas in Liberty Bowl. The road gets much tougher with the heart of the Jayhawks' Big 12 schedule looming. The oddsmakers have installed Kansas as an underdog in the 17-point range against the Longhorns on Saturday. Yet with home against Central Florida, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Kansas State still pending, head coach Lance Leipold's team has a good chance to not only reach their second straight but end the season with a winning record. Good luck - TDG.

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How Far Can Georgia State Go After Its 4-0 Start?

Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

The Georgia State Panthers had opened their season with a 3-0 record before a showdown at Coastal Carolina last Thursday night that would go a long way to define their season. The Panthers came into the game on a 41-25 victory at Charlotte as a 5.5-point favorite on Saturday. The Panthers have one of the best quarterbacks from the group of five programs in senior Darren Grainger. The dual-threat quarterback had mostly been effective with his legs after rushing for 908 non-sack yards last year, yet he has developed his throwing skills this season. After struggling to establish the run against the 49ers in their third game of the season, Grainger completed 27 of 33 passes for 466 yards with three touchdown passes. He has thrown six touchdown passes this season without an interception going into the Thursday night showdown with the Chanticleers. He had thrown for 813 yards this year while completing 73% of his passes. He had added 216 rushing yards, and he had posted a quarterback rating of 78.3. Running back Marcus Carroll had rushed for 358 yards with 217 of those yards being after contact. The Panthers were playing a Chanticleers defense that had been vulnerable as they rank 111th in the nation in explosive plays allowed. Georgia State had covered the point spread in two of their three games, and they had covered the point spread in twenty-four of their last thirty-three games after covering the point spread in two of their last three games. They outgained Charlotte by a 571-356 yardage margin last week, and they had covered the point spread in four of their last five games after outgaining their last opponent by 175 or more yards. The Panthers had revenge on their minds as well after a 41-24 loss at home to Coastal Carolina last season on September 22nd. Georgia State were only 2.5-point underdogs in that game yet they had covered the point spread in eleven of their last sixteen games against conference opponents. The Panthers had covered the point spread in thirty-seven of their last fifty-eight games on the road. Earing a win against a Coastal Carolina team that still had Grayson McCall, Jr. at quarterback who led them to the Sun Belt Conference championship game would be a statement victory for head coach Shawn Elliott in his seventh year with the program. Georgia State started the game fast by scoring a touchdown in the first six minutes. After spotting the Chanticleers a field goal, the Panthers added two more touchdowns and went into halftime with a 17-3 lead. Coastal Carolina responded with a touchdown early in the second half yet the Panthers scored the next ten points to take a 17-point lead. The Chanticleers forced a fumble on Georgia State's 2-yard line which they ran into the end zone to make it a 10-point game but the Panthers kicked a late field goal to leave Brooks Stadium with a 30-17 upset victory after the oddsmakers installed them as a 5-point underdog. With the victory, Georgia State is 4-0 on the season with a big game at home this week against Troy. They get a bye week after that game before their homecoming game against Marshall.  Games at Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Southern remain challenging tests hosting James Madison and Appalachian State in as difficult a run as a team can face in the Sun Belt Conference. Winning the Sun Belt East may be too tall a task for the Panthers, yet earning their bowl game appearance since 2021 should be in the cards for Georgia State this season after their fast start. Good luck - TDG.         

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Trying to Understand the Confounding San Diego Padres

Thursday, Aug 31, 2023

The San Diego Padres seem to be a better team than their 62-72 record indicates. They are outscoring their opponents by 0.4 runs per game. They have scored 602 times this season while giving up 548 runs. Their win/loss record using Pythagorean models is 73-61. With that record, they would hold the second wild card spot in the National League and likely destined to compete in the postseason once again. Instead, they are 22 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, and they are 7 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the final wild-card spot in the National League. Why has manager Bob Melvin’s team underperformed their run differential numbers? After their 6-5 loss in St. Louis on Tuesday, they are winless in their eleven games that have gone into extra innings. They have only won one of the twelve games this season decided by a walk-off run. Of the twenty-eight games decided by one run, they have won only six of them. Perhaps their inability to win close games is an indictment of the character of this team. Yet this was a group returning mostly intact that reached the National League Championship Series. They have one of the best managers in baseball in the veteran Melvin. The Padres’ inability to win close games could strictly be a function of bad luck that will eventually get evened out. Yet bettors expecting this switch to be flipped could go bankrupt waiting for it to happen. San Diego has only won six games in their last eighteen games with five losses in their last six games going into the final day of August. Injuries are beginning to pile up. Their pitching staff is without Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish. Musgrove has been on the injured list since the end of July with shoulder inflammation. The right-hander has a 10-3 record this season with a 3.05 era and a 1.14 whip in seventeen starts. In his eleven starts since the beginning of June, he has an 8-1 record with a 1.88 era and a 1.00 whip across 67 innings. Darvish was put on the injured list this week with an elbow that may shut him down for the rest of the season. The right-hander was not meeting his 2022 numbers when he posted a 16-8 record with a 3.08 era and a 0.98 whip. This year, Darvish has an 8-10 record with a 4.56 era and a 1.30 whip. After struggling in May and June with an era over 5.00, he started to find his groove with a 3.62 era and 32 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Yet after giving up four or more earned runs in each of his last three starts, he was shut down with perhaps the elbow injury impacting his performance. The bats have underperformed this season. San Diego has just a .239 batting average on the year with a .324 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage. They have only been a .500 team at home at Petco Park with a 33-33 record, yet they have won only 29 of their 68 games on the road. The Padres still appeared capable of making a run to take a wildcard spot in the National League at the beginning of the month. Yet as the MLB season enters its final month, San Diego will need to suddenly play their best baseball and finally get some luck on their side to make the playoffs. Bettors may be better served in assuming their descent into mediocrity only continues the rest of the way.Good luck - TDG.

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Don't Sleep on Hawaii as a Dangerous Underdog

Thursday, Aug 31, 2023

Hawaii may not contend for the Mountain West Conference championship this season, yet bettors should pay attention to this team since they could be a profitable underdog as the season moves. They were better than their 3-10 record indicated last year. The Rainbow Warriors were not ready to play in their opener last season against the Commodores. Rookie head coach Timmy Chang took over a program that could not field a complete roster eight months prior in the Hawaii Bowl with the team imploding in backlash of the coaching tactics of the previous head coach Todd Graham. Many players transferred away. Yet Chang and his coaching staff kept working, and the team showed improvement just two weeks later in a 56-10 loss at Michigan where they were more competitive despite being installed as 52-point underdogs by the oddsmakers. Of course, that Wolverines' group was on their way to compete in the college football playoff. Chang decided to incorporate run-and-shoot passing principles into the offense soon after to bring back the offense he operated as the Rainbow Warriors quarterback in the early 2000s. That change in scheme helped make the offense distinct while the team had a new sense of identity that traced back to previous traditions of the program. Hawaii covered the point spread in seven of their last eight games. They upset Nevada by 15 points despite being a six-point underdog. They upset UNLV as an 11-point underdog. They only lost to San Diego State by two points (as a 23-point underdog) and on the road at Colorado State by four points. They then lost to Colorado State by four points and Utah State by seven points. Chang had the opportunity in the opening week of the season to use their rematch with Vanderbilt as a benchmark game for his players to prove that they are much better than they were last season at this time in their opening game of the 2022 season. It was only a 21-10 lead for the Commodores at halftime in last year’s game before Vanderbilt scored 35 unanswered points in the third quarter. This year’s team has better depth and has learned to fight back. Last Saturday, they were trailing by a 35-14 score before scoring the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lose by only a 35-28 score. In the end, it was a Vanderbilt 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that made the difference for the 17-point home favorites. Hawaii outgained the Commodores in yardage, 391-297, and their nineteen first downs were two more than what Vanderbilt gained. Junior quarterback Brayden Schager completed 27 of 35 passes for 351 yards with three touchdown passes. Chang had to be encouraged by how he operated the run-and-shoot with just eight incomplete passes. He only completed 55.3% of his passes last year. With the narrow loss to begin their season, the Rainbow Warriors have covered the point spread in five of their last six games when the oddsmakers install them as an underdog getting 10.5 to 21 points. Hawaii may struggle to become bowl-eligible this season, yet they should offer some intriguing opportunities for bettors this season as an underdog. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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Max Scherzer Now Pitching for the Texas Rangers: What to Expect

Sunday, Jul 30, 2023

Max Scherzer has not met the high expectations the New York Mets had for him this season. The 38-year-old was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season when he posted an 11-5 record for the Mets with a 2.29 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 23 starts and 145 1/3 innings. Yet going into his start on Friday at home against the Washington Nationals, the right-hander had just an 8-4 record with a 4.20 era and a 1.19 whip in 18 starts. With their 48-54 record going into their weekend series with the Nationals, the Mets are seven games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the third and final wild-card spot in the National League playoffs. Yet New York had a 12-8 record this month. With six more games on deck against the lowly Nationals and Kansas City Royals, the Mets can still make some waves in the NL playoff race. While their dynamic duo of Justin Verlander along with Scherzer had not met their high expectations this season, Verlander has been quite good lately.  If those two veteran hurlers get hot, the Mets could still have made a run in the last two months of the season. Yet general manager Billy Eppler decided that the preferred approach for the organization was to trade assets. He traded away their closer David Robertson on Thursday or two bright prospects yet who are only in A-ball. He then traded Scherzer to the Texas Rangers on Saturday. The Rangers may have been convinced that Scherzer can make a critical difference for them the rest of the way. After the season-ending injury to Jacob DeGrom, the team lacks a viable number-one starter in their rotation. Scherzer held Washington to just six hits and one earned run in seven innings of work to earn his ninth victory of the season. Yet Scherzer's issues with the long ball this season continued in that effort with the Nationals' lone run coming on a home run. He served up four home runs in his previous start against Boston. He has given up 22 homers this season including 16 in his last ten starts. The 1.92 home runs per nine innings he is giving up this season is almost double the 1.04 homers per nine inning rate for his career. Scherzer has struggled to adapt to the new pitch clock this season, and he has not always had his slider operating at its highest level. After eight straight seasons of striking out 30.6% or more of the batters he has faced, his strikeout rate has dropped to a 27.3% clip this season. Yet he does have 61 strikeouts in the 51 innings over his last eight starts. That 10.76 strikeouts per nine innings average during that span is right in line with his 10.11 strikeouts per nine innings average last year. Scherzer has a 3.53 ERA in his last eight starts which matches up with his expected ERA of 3.65 for the season. That is the pitcher that the Rangers can expect. However, pitching at Global Life Field may compound Scherzers's gopher ball problem this season. The 132 home runs hit at the Rangers' home stadium is the most in the majors. The advanced statistics indicate that 5% more home runs are hit at Global Life Field versus the league average. On the other hand, the Mets' Citi Field has 5% fewer home runs than the league average. When Scherzer was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, he posted a 7-0 record with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP for them in the regular season. Numbers that good are probably too much for the Rangers to expect. Yet Scherzer can expect to get more run support from the Texas lineup than what he had with the Mets. Given his home run issues this year, an ERA of 3.50 or so is a reasonable expectation for Scherzer the rest of the way. Yet given his improved strikeout rate over the last two months, the Rangers should have themselves an effective ace for the rest of the season. Good luck - TDG.

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The Consistent Inconsistency from Blake Snell Rises Again

Thursday, Jul 06, 2023

Blake Snell has become a poster child for being consistently inconsistent. For the third straight year, the left-hander has struggled early in the season only to right the ship and put up spectacular numbers in the second half of the season. In 2021, the 30-year-old began the year by posting a 5.44 era and a 1.61 whip in his first nineteen starts. Snell then completed the season by registering a 1.83 era and a 0.76 whip in his last eight starts.In 2022, Snell reverted back to that early form of the previous season by compiling a 5.22 era and a 1.48 whip in his first ten starts. Yet once again, Snell made adjustments and pitched to a 2.19 era and a 1.03 whip in his final fourteen starts. Snell's increased reliance on his slider was credited for much of the success in the second half of the year. This year, Snell had a 5.04 era and a 1.56 whip in his first ten starts. The lefty then went in the opposite direction from last year by throwing his slider less. He struck out at least ten batters for the fourth straight time last Wednesday (June 28th) at Pittsburgh while allowing only two runs in six innings of work. Snell had not given up more than two earned runs in seven straight appearances. During that span of seven starts, Snell had a 0.86 era and a 0.83 whip while striking out 66 batters and only walking 15 in 42 innings.                                              Snell carried a 4-7 record with a 3.21 era and a 1.21 whip into his first start this month in a home game for San Diego against the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched five scoreless innings for the Padres to lead them to a 10-3 victory on Monday, July 3rd. The effort was his eighth straight start in which he did not give up more than two earned runs. While his double-digit strikeout streak ended with him punching out seven Angels' hitters, he continues to average more than a strikeout per inning during his latest midseason renaissance. He is striking out 31.3% of the batters he has faced this season, making it the sixth straight season in which he has struck out at least 30.9% of the batters he has faced. Snell's walk rate is an area of concern. He is issuing free passes in 11.9% of the batters he has faced this year. He walked four batters on Monday against the Angels, the most bases on balls he had given up in seven starts. He had only walked five batters in his previous three starts, and his 2.7 walks per nine inning rate in his last four appearances remains a significant improvement over his 4.5 walk rate per nine innings for the season.The lefty carries a 5-7 record along with a 3.03 era and a 1.26 whip into an expected start at home against the New York Mets on Saturday, July 8th, in his final trip to the mound before the all-star break. He has struck out 121 batters and issued 46 walks in the 92 innings that consist of his seventeen starts this year. Yet bettors might be more successful focusing on his 0.77 era and 0.98 whip in his last eight starts since May 25th. He has a 4-1 record during this run while giving up only four earned runs. By striking out 73 batters in those 47 innings, he is averaging a remarkable 13.98 strikeouts per nine innings. Snell can surely frustrate bettors early in the season counting on him to maintain his strong form from the previous year. Yet once the lefthander adjusts and trusts what is working for him, the inconsistent pitcher becomes very reliable.Good luck - TDG.

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The Collapse of the Miami Heat Offense in their Postseason Run

Friday, Jun 30, 2023

The Miami Heat were the biggest surprise of the NBA playoffs as they reached the finals despite having to qualify for the postseason through the play-in tournament. Despite losing their initial play-in game at home to the Atlanta Hawks, the Heat demonstrated their internal belief in their culture by going to upset the Eastern Conference top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks, and then the defending Easter Conference champion Boston Celtics to reach the NBA finals to face the Denver Nuggets.Yet Miami hit a wall with their scoring this postseason. After scoring 128 points in taking a 3-0 lead against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, they then scored under 100 points in five of their last eight games going into Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Nuggets. Perhaps the nagging ankle injury that Jimmy Butler re-aggravated has removed the x-factor from their offensive attack. Butler was averaging only 21.8 points per game in this series, with the lift and explosion when attacking the rim seemingly gone. After scoring 30 or more points five times in his first eleven playoff games from the Milwaukee series to Game 1 of the Celtics series, he had not scored more than 28 points since. The diminished threat Butler posed in attacking the rim allowed the Nuggets to pay more attention to outside shooters. Perhaps the injuries to Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo had finally begun to take their toll. While Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Duncan Robinson had all taken turns being the hero with their 3-point shooting, it is difficult to have to continually rely upon role players that were undrafted free agents coming out of college. Perhaps Miami was simply due to seeing their red-hot 3-point shooting fall back down to earth. After leading all teams in the playoffs with a 39.0% shooting percentage from 3-point land, the Heat had not made more than 33% of their 3-pointers in three of the first four games in the finals. For the series, they were making 36.6% of their 3-pointers which was still above their regular season average of 34.4%. In their 108-95 loss at home to Denver in Game 4, Butler and Bam Adebayo combined for 45 points yet they only made 17 of their 36 shots to get there. Vincent and Strus combined to make only one of their ten shots from the field, and they missed all seven of their shots from behind the arc. Butler and Adebayo needed help but the unexpected scoring efforts from the supporting cast petered out. In their last eight games going into Game 5 of the finals, the Heat were averaging 99.4 points per game and thThe ey had only scored more than 103 points once. They have a 43.4% shooting percentage in their last eight games. In this series, Miami was averaging 98.3 points per game on 42.4% shooting after the first four games. Given the wear and tear of the playoff season, it is difficult to expect the Heat to suddenly break out of these negative trends, especially given their injury situation.Denver deserves credit for their defensive play as well. While the trademark of this team is their efficiency on offense, head coach Michael Malone had continued to preach the need to improve their defense as the final piece to a championship puzzle. The Nuggets were allowing 106 points per game in the playoffs going into Game 5 of the NBA finals, down by more than five points from their regular season average. After beginning the NBA finals with a defensive rating of 111.7 in the playoffs, that mark has dropped to 111.1 after the first four games against the Heat, ranking the fifth lowest in the playoffs. Miami has an offensive rating of 109.5 in this series, which is -3.8 points per 100 possessions lower than their regular season mark which ranked only 25th in the league. The Heat were scoring 9.2 fewer points per 100 possessions in the NBA finals versus what they accomplished against Boston last round. The length of the Denver defenders were giving Miami problems. The Heat had played seven of their last nine games under the number after scoring 95 or fewer points in their previous game.Miami played well in the first half of Game 5 in the face of elimination. They scored 51 points and went into halftime with a seven-point lead. Yet the Heat could only score 38 points in the second half as they watched Denver win the game, 94-89, to claim their first NBA title. Miami shot 34% from the field and made only nine shots from 3-point land from a 26% shooting percentage from behind the 3-point line.In the end, the Heat scored more than 103 points just once in their final eight games in the playoffs, and they did not score more than 99 points in five of those games. Despite the oddsmakers moving their over/under number consistently down from its 217 peak in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals and its NBA finals peak of 219 in Game 1, seven of Miami's last eight games of the season finished under the season.Bettors who jumped on board those unders trends were richly rewarded. Good luck - TDG.

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Buyer Beware When It Comes to Backing Dane Dunning

Friday, Jun 30, 2023

The Texas Rangers had big expectations this season for Jacob DeGrom, who was their big offseason splash in the free-agent market. Yet the Rangers only got six starts and 30 1/3 innings of work from the 35-year-old before an injury that requires Tommy John surgery that will keep him for at least the rest of the 2023 season. Dane Dunning took his place in the Texas starting rotation when DeGrom first got injured earlier in the year. He had a 4-8 record in his 29 starts last year while posting a 4.46 era and a 1.43 whip in 153 1/3 innings. With the Rangers acquiring Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney in addition to DeGrom in the offseason, Dunning was initially the odd man out. Yet after the DeGrom injury, Dunning took full advantage of his opportunity.The 28-year-old right-hander went into his most recent start on Wednesday, June 28th, with a 6-1 record with a 2.76 era and a 1.17 whip in seventeen appearances as a starter or out of the bullpen this season. Despite those impressive numbers, his expected era was almost double his current era at 5.09. He had been pretty fortunate to have a 77.9% strand rate for runners left on base, above the MLB average in the 72% range. The league batting average for balls put into play is in the .290 range yet Dunning had a babip of .267. He had only struck out 14.0% of the batters he had faced, and he had walked 7.3% of opposing hitters. Pitchers that keep their era below 3.00 with strikeout and walk rates like that usually coax ground balls over 50% of the time for the batted balls they allow into play. Dunning’s ground ball rate was 46.7% which is a three-year low. Dunning continued to defy expectations with a dominant performance against the Detroit Tigers in that game. He came one out shy of a complete game while only giving up only four hits and two runs in those 8 2/3 innings of work. He begins July as one of the bigger surprises in MLB with a 7-1 record that accompanies a 2.69 era and a 1.10 whip. Yet how much should be read into that performance against a Tigers team that went into the last day of the month having scored more than three runs just twice in their last six games? Detroit was averaging only 3.8 runs per game this season with a .229 batting average, a .298 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .363 going into their Friday night game in Colorado. Dunning still has an above-average strand rate of 77.9% of runners left on base when he finishes an inning. His batting average of the balls put into play against him is now. 258. Neither of those numbers is likely to remain as favorable. Despite striking out ten batters on Wednesday, his strikeout remains 15.8% of all the batters he has faced. He is averaging only 5.71 strikeouts per nine innings. Perhaps he can keep up a fantastic era, yet he is only inducing ground balls in 48.6% of the batted balls being put into play against him. At this point, Dunning is being priced in as one of the most effective starting pitchers in the American League by the oddsmakers. With those additional numbers providing context, buyer beware for the bettor when it comes to backing Dunning for the second half of the MLB regular season. Good luck - TDG.

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The Improving Baltimore Orioles

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Baltimore Orioles are demonstrating themselves to be legitimate contenders in the loaded American League East division. The Orioles had revenge on their mind on Tuesday after getting shut out by Logan Allen in the opening game of their three-game series with the Guardians on Monday. The Orioles had won eighteen of their last twenty-seven games when playing with revenge from a shutout loss to their opponent. Baltimore has lost three of their last four games, yet they have still won twenty-six of their last thirty-eight games. Their 34-20 record had them in second place in the AL East behind Tampa Bay who have the best record in baseball. The Orioles' rise in the standing appeared legitimate at the time with them outscoring their opponents by 0.5 runs per game with them averaging 4.9 runs per game. Baltimore had won twenty-three of their last thirty-five games after losing three of four. The Orioles had won twelve of their last eighteen games at home when priced as a money line favorite priced by the oddsmakers at -110 or higher. Baltimore is getting great pitching out of their bullpen with the team leading MLB in holds before getting to their closer Felix Bautista. At home at Camden Yards, the Orioles had a 2.74 era and a 1.25 whip going into that game. The Orioles have been getting reliable pitching from some key members of their starting rotation. Kyle Gibson got the start on Tuesday for manager Brandon Hyde after only giving up one earned run in his previous two starts. He pitched seven shutout innings in his previous start in New York against the Yankees. For the season, he had a 6-3 record with a 3.82 era and a 1.30 whip in eleven starts. The right-hander does not induce many strikeouts yet he is inducing soft contact. His hard-hit rate of 27.0 for the batted balls he is allowing into play is his lowest since 2014. Gibson offered his team a solid outing with 5 2/3 innings of work while allowing three runs. Baltimore won the game by an 8-5 score, and the Team won the Major League Baseball Game of the Month. The vaunted Orioles bullpen continued to shine with Yennier Cano pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his 11th hold of the season before yielding to Bautista who pitched a scoreless ninth inning to register his 14th save. Gibson has seven wins on the season. Baltimore lost the final game of the series on Wednesday, 12-8, yet still entire June with many reasons for optimism. With a 35-21 record, they have the third-best record in the American League. They have one more loss than the Rangers having played one more game than Texas, and they are four games behind a Tampa Bay Rays team that has the best record in baseball. Led by the breakout season from the rookie Cano, the Orioles bullpen has 48 holds which were ten more than the next closest team going into the week. As we enter the summer months of the Major League Baseball season, despite their recent inexperience in the playoffs, the Orioles are a team that should not be treated lightly. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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Who Should Be Targeted in the 76ers Firing Squad?

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Philadelphia 76ers blew their best chance to end their Eastern Conference semifinals series with Boston in Game 6 when they had the Celtics playing in an elimination game in front of their home fans up 3-2 in this series. The 76ers fell behind early by 15 points before rallying to take the lead, 73-71, going into the fourth quarter. Yet Philadelphia was only able to score 13 points in the final stanza and lost at home, 95-86. That loss set up the 76ers having to go on the road and attempt to beat Boston in their own building for a Game 7. These Game 7 situations have been a house of horrors for Philadelphia and the leaders of that team. Head coach Doc Rivers had lost nine of the twelve games he has coached in a Game 7. Joel Embiid had lost both his Game 7s in his career. James Harden had lost three of his five Game 7s. Embiid had only led his team to victory five times in his eighteen games against the Celtics in Boston. The 76ers’ upset victory in Game 5 of this series was the only time in his seven playoff games on the road in Boston that Embiid led his team to victory (Philadelphia’s Game 1 win in Boston was before he returned from injury). Philadelphia did have a 4-1 straight-up record on the road in this postseason at the time going into Game 7. Yet they were only scoring 103.8 points per game in those five contests. However, they had allowed the Celtics to post an offensive rating of 121.1 in those three games. The 76ers scoring drought in the fourth quarter on Friday is of grave concern. After only scoring only 14 points in the final twelve minutes, that game was just the fourth time all season that Philadelphia failed to score 90 or more points. They did not cover the point spread in their next game in those three previous games this season. That streak continued in Game 7 with the Celtics crushing the 76ers, 112-88, to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. Team Del Genio backers were rewarded with our NBA Atlantic Division Game of the Year winner on Boston for that Game 7 victory.Philadelphia now finds itself in a transition period. Rivers was let go as their head coach soon after as if he was responsible for the players making only 31 of 83 shots from the field for a 37% field goal percentage. The 76ers missed 29 of their 37 shots from 3-point range for a 22% shooting percentage from 3-point land. Lest anyone forget, Rivers has an NBA championship as a head coach with the Boston Celtics in 2008.Embiid did not have his best game. He scored only 15 points on 5 of 18 shooting. Harden only contributed 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting and a 1 of 5 mark from 3-point range. Rumors now circulate that Harden will return to Houston to play with the Rockets once again. Harden would be rejoining the team that he was a leader of when they missed 27 straight shots from 3-point land in a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals against Golden State. Daryl Morey was the general manager of that Houston Rockets team in 2018. He is now President of Basketball Operations of this 76ers team. He seems to be evading any blame or responsibility for the Philadelphia exit from the playoffs. In comparison to Rivers, Morey does not have an NBA championship run as a player, coach, or executive. He has convinced ownership that he is the person that can bring a title to Philadelphia. Good luck - TDG.

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The Market's Misplaced Game 7 Faith in the Sacramento Kings

Sunday, Apr 30, 2023

The Golden State Warriors opened as a small road favorite of 1 point by the oddsmakers for Game 7 of their opening round series with Sacramento. The market responded by betting the Kings to a favorite of 1 to 1.5 points by tip-off time. We thought this was a great opportunity to take the Warriors. Golden State had successfully closed out a playoff series in nine of their previous ten opportunities when playing at home before Game 6 against the Kings in Round One of their Western Conference playoff series. Perhaps that game gave them a false sense of confidence on Friday. The Warriors shot a season-low 37.2% from the field in an embarrassing 118-99 upset loss despite being installed as a 6.5-point favorite by the oddsmakers in that game. The defending NBA champions may be down, yet they were not yet out. We expected the veteran core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to respond with an outstanding effort in Game 7. Golden State had covered the point spread in five of their last six games after getting upset by a division rival. They had covered the point spread in five straight games after losing to a division rival on their home court. The Warriors had covered the point spread in eight of their last twelve playoff games when facing elimination. In revenge spots when they lost by double-digits to their opponent in their previous game against them, they had covered the point spread in twenty-one of their last thirty-one games. Sacramento extended this series to a seventh game yet this team would be making a mistake in presuming they won the series by winning Game 6 and getting one more game back at home. While Harrison Barnes had playoff experience in his time with the Warriors, most of these players lack significant playoff experience. The Kings had not been to the playoffs since 2006 before this series. This team had covered the point spread only once in their last seven games after an upset win on the road by double-digits. De’Aaron Fox was dealing with his fractured finger so it may be too much to ask for him to single-handedly lead his team to victory by outshooting Curry and Thompson. Domantas Sabonis had been a surprising liability in this series. In his 206 minutes on the court, the Kings are getting outscored by 27 points yet when he is off the court (82 minutes), they are outscoring the Warriors by 32 points. Sacramento only shot 40.4% from the field in Game 6 so it would be inaccurate to suggest they took it to champions. Golden State simply could not make baskets. The Kings deserve some of the credit, yet they were a team that ranked 25th in the league in defensive efficiency in the regular season. Sacramento did get this game at home yet they have covered the point spread just once in their last five games in front of their home fans. Excluding the 2020 postseason played on a neutral court in the bubble, home teams had covered the point spread just three times in the last thirteen Game 7s in the NBA playoffs. The Warriors responded with a resounding statement in a 120-100 victory. They held the Kings to 42 points in the 2nd half. Curry proved himself the most valuable player on the court by scoring 50 points.Bettors that thought Sacramento was poised to dethrone the champions and that home-court edge would give them a big advantage had it wrong. Once again, the wisdom of the oddsmakers in installing their initial line was proven right. And the Team won their NBA Underdog of the Month on Golden State to finish their month of April in the NBA!Good luck - TDG.

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The Value of 1st Half Plays in the Bettor's Tool Box

Sunday, Apr 30, 2023

The Team had three winners with NBA 1st Half plays in the NBA playoffs in the last week, including our NBA Round One Playoff Game of the Year on Memphis covering the 1st Half point spread against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Some bettors and handicappers consider 1st Half plays to be simply regurgitations of full game plays. Tell that to bettors on the New York Knicks today in their opening game in their Round Two series with Miami or the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday in their Game 4 against the Heat. Both those two teams covered the 1st Half point spread after being installed as the favorite for the first 24 minutes of the game, yet went on to lose the game. Granted, if the lone reason for liking the 1st Half play is just repeating the reasons to like that team to cover the point spread for the entire game, then the logic is limited. Doubling and tripling down on the same basic argument is what got Adam Sandler in trouble in Uncut Gems. Yet specific arguments to support the 1st Half play while keeping that oddsmakers 1st Half number in mind are good reasons to consider these plays unique and valuable. When used carefully, taking the 1st Half options offered by the oddsmakers presents successful bettors and handicappers an additional weapon in their arsenal to extract profits. Let’s look closer at these three 1st Half winners in the NBA this week. The New York Knicks had an average halftime lead this season of 2.6 points going into the first game of their series with the Miami Heat. Of more significance for this 1st Half wager, the Knicks led the league with a 51-30-1 ats mark in the 1st Half this season. At home, they held their opponents to only 54.8 points in the 1st Half which allowed them to go into the locker room with an average lead of 5.1 points. They had a 26-14-1 ats record in the 1st Half when playing at home which was the second-best mark in the league. When the oddsmakers installed them as favorites in the 1st Half, New York had a 24-16 ats mark, the third-best record in the NBA. When playing teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better, they had a 31-12-1 ats record, the best ats record in the NBA. The Knicks last played on Wednesday when they finished their series against Cleveland with a 106-95 victory. They had covered the point spread in nine of their thirteen 1st Halves when playing again after taking three or more days off. They held the Cavaliers to only 46.1 points in the 1st Half in their five games against them in round one of the playoffs. Their average halftime lead against Cleveland was 3.2 points. They covered the 1st Half point spread in four of those games with the lone exception being Game 2 on the road in Cleveland.Miami pulled off three straight upsets to stun the Milwaukee Bucks last round. Yet most of those victories came from surprising 2nd Half efforts by the Heat. They trailed at halftime in three of their five games against the Bucks. Miami had the fourth-worst ats record in the 1st Half in the regular season. They had an even 56.5 points scored and allowed average in the 1st Half this season. When playing on the road, the Heat were getting outscored by 1.0 points in the 1st Half. In their five-game series with Milwaukee, they went into the locker room at halftime trailing by an average of 2.7 points with the Bucks averaging 63.1 points. In all seven of their postseason games, Miami was outscored by 3.3 points in the 1st Half. The Heat were 12-point underdogs in Game 5 before upsetting Milwaukee, 128-126 in overtime to win that series. Considering that Miami has covered the point spread only eight times in their last thirty-four games after covering the point spread in their previous game, a flat effort from the Heat seems likely, at least early in the game. The Knicks covered the point 2 to 3 points they were laying in the 1st Half by going into halftime with a 55-50 score. Yet Miami outscored them, 58-46, to pull the upset by a 108-101 score. In hindsight, bypassing the New York full game play and only taking the Knicks minus the points in the 1st Half was the preferred option. On Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies found themselves trailing by a 3-1 margin in this series after losing in overtime in Los Angeles to the Lakers on Monday, 117-111. The strategy for head coach Taylor Jenkins seems for his team to start fast and loose to feed off the energy of the crowd and crush the morale of this veteran Lakers team. Lebron James and Anthony Davis knew full well that the reward for pulling out Game 4 was that they have two games in hand even if they lose this game. Conserving energy may become a higher priority for Los Angeles if they fall behind early. The Grizzlies had been a fast-starting team all season as they went into halftime with an average lead of 3.8 points. When playing at home, Memphis averaged 62.8 points in the 1st half and goes into the locker room at halftime with an average lead of 7.9 points. Their 53-32-1 ats record in the 1st half was the best in the NBA. They had covered the point spread in the 1st half in all four games in this series, and they had covered the 1st Half point spread in seven of their last ten games against the Lakers. Los Angeles had exerted plenty of energy in outscoring the Grizzlies by six points in the overtime period in Game 4 Monday. Even without considering the physical toll of a playoff series, the Lakers had been a slow-starting team this season. Los Angeles had gone into the locker room at halftime with an average score of 58 to 58. On the road, the Lakers were being outscored by 1.9 points in the 1st half. In their five games in the postseason, they had been outscored by 2.8 points in the 1st half while only putting up 51.8 points. The strength of this Lakers team is their ability to step up their game in the clutch. Los Angeles had a 59-27 ats record in the fourth quarter this season, the best mark in the NBA. This reflects not only the veteran savvy of James and Davis but also the team’s attention to conserving their energy for winnable opportunities. We predicted that if the Lakers fall too far behind in the second half, they would likely take their foot off the gas pedal by the fourth quarter (and the oddsmakers will adjust their fourth quarter line with the game out of hand with the benches coming on). Yet if Los Angeles finds themselves with a good opportunity to end this series tonight (and gain the extra few days of rest), James and Davis would step up their game in the final twelve minutes. That was the situation we wanted to avoid, and that is why we did not endorse Memphis as a full game play. The Grizzlies successfully covered the 2 to 3 points they were favored by in the 1st Half by going into halftime with a 61-52 lead. Given the final score of 116-99, one could assume that simply making the full-game bet was the same choice. Yet it is not as if playing an ats side winner in the 1st Half is not an argument that they will not cover the point spread for the game. A bettor can take an underdog yet decline the money line bet for taking the points despite suspecting that an upset may be in the cards. It is about preferred choices. Later, the Lakers pulled within one point in the second half with the score 75-74 with under four minutes to. Memphis then went on a 26-2 run to put the game away. If not for that surge, perhaps the Lakers win the game. Los Angeles went on to blowout the Grizzlies on Wednesday, 125-85. On Monday, the Bucks found themselves at risk of falling behind, 3-1, in this series to that ever-dangerous Miami Heat team which had three pending 2nd half comebacks forthcoming in their next three playoff games. With the expectation that Giannis Antetokounmpo returning to the court after being injured, the oddsmakers and the market had responded by moving Milwaukee up from a road favorite in the five-point range to them now favored in the eight-point range. We considered those are a lot of points to offer a home underdog like Miami with so much playoff experience. Instead, we preferred the 1st half bet. After falling behind, 66-53, at halftime in Game 4, the Bucks would be determined to get off to a fast start. They had covered the point spread in eleven of their last twelve games after getting upset as the favorite in their previous game. They play well on the road against good teams and had covered the point spread in ten of their last fourteen games on the road against teams with a winning home record. They were going into halftime with an average lead of 2.1 points when playing on the road. Miami had outscored their opponents in the first half this season, yet they have been outscored by 2.0 points in the first half in their five postseason games this season. That trend continued in Game 4 as they went into halftime with a 57-50 lead. Yet they got outscored in the 2nd Half, 69-57, to lose the game by five points. Like with the Knicks in Game 1 of their series with the Heat, the profitable rout in bacon the Bucks was only the 1st Half ats side option.  In basketball, 1st Half plays are distinct from full-game side plays. Oftentimes, they are the preferred betting option. They remain an important tool in Team Del Genio’s ways to beat the books.Good luck - TDG.

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The San Antonio Spurs Finally Committed to Tanking the Season

Friday, Mar 31, 2023

After sending some conflicting signals early in the year, the San Antonio Spurs are fully committed to tanking at this point of their season. The team was an early surprise in the league when they won five of their first seven games in October. Yet once the calendar turned to November, everything went south for this group. The Spurs close out the month of March tonight having only won seven times in their last twenty-three games. They have lost seven times in their last eight games, and they are on a five-game losing streak with no result being closer than 11 points after a 128-117 setback at home to Utah as a 2.5-point underdog on Wednesday. At this point of the season, head coach Gregg Popovich is not getting much out of his team after embarrassing losses like this. San Antonio has covered the point spread only four times in their last sixteen games following a loss by ten or more points, and they have covered the point spread just once in their last eleven games after losing three or more games in a row by ten or more points. Effort can often be measured by the commitment to work on the defensive end of the court. The Jazz shot 54.4% from the field against them, making it the fifth straight game where they allowed their opponent to shoot 52% or better against them. The Spurs have covered the point spread in six of their last twenty-two games after playing a game where they allowed their opponent to shoot 55% or better from the field. They have covered the point spread in three of their last fifteen games after playing a game where they allowed 125 or more points. San Antonio is allowing 122.6 points per game on 50.8% shooting this season, and their last five opponents are averaging 130.0 points per game on 55.7% shooting. The Spurs' scoring attack has cratered as well. They are averaging 112.1 points per game on 46.4% shooting yet they have only managed 102.4 points per game on 41.9% shooting in their last five games. Injuries to Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson have not helped the Spurs’ cause this season. Vassell has missed half of the team's 76 games this season after not playing against Utah due to injury management. The former first-round pick out of Florida State was in the midst of a breakout season in his third year in the league. The 6'5 shooting guard is averaging 18.5 points per game, an increase of 6.2 points per game over last year's number. Vassell has made 38.7% of his 3-point shots this season. He has added 3.6 assists per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. Johnson has missed 15 games this year after not playing for the third time in the last four games dealing with a foot injury against the Jazz on Wednesday. The former first-round pick out of Kentucky in 2019 has raised his scoring average by five points to 22 points per game this year. The 6'5 wing has added 5.1 rebounds per game. With both those players out indefinitely and a list of players questionable for tonight, San Antonio lacks the talent to keep up with a hard-working team like Utah. We jumped on the opportunity to take the Jazz as a small road favorite in that game. Unfortunately, the value in betting against the Spurs may be gone in the final two weeks of the season in April. In their game on Friday night against Golden State, the Warriors were installed by the oddsmakers initially in the 14.5-point range before the market bet them up to a favorite in the 18.5-point range. While it is difficult to lay that many points in the NBA, backing a Spurs team with nothing to play for and a roster full of injuries at this late point of the season is ill-advised. San Antonio has now clinched one of the bottom three spots in the standings which ensures them an equal chance to win the lottery with Detroit and Houston to earn the right to draft Wembanyama. Yet it is hard to imagine the players available to Popovich can now suddenly flip the switch. Sometimes the best decision is to pass. Good luck - TDG.

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The Utah Jazz: Too Good to Tank But Little Postseason Hope

Friday, Mar 31, 2023

The Utah Jazz were expected to tank this season to put themselves in a better position to win the NBA draft lottery and earn the right to select the generational talent Victor Wembanyama. Yet instead, a roster of veteran castoffs and young players worked hard every night for first-year head coach Will Hardy. Despite being sellers at the trade deadline, the Jazz are still within striking distance of tenth place in the Western Conference and the play-in game to reach the eight-team playoffs. After their 128-117 victory in San Antonio as a 2.5-favorite, they improved their record to 36-40. Utah completes the month of March in Boston to play the Celtics as a double-digit underdog currently in 12th place in the Western Conference. The Jazz trail the Dallas Mavericks by a half-game who began the day with a 37-40 record. They trail the Oklahoma City Thunder by 1 1/2 games who currently hold on to tenth place in the conference with a 38-39 record. Tenth place qualifies for the Western Conference play-in game. Utah had lost four games in a row before beating the Spurs on Wednesday. Yet after a bad loss to Portland, the Jazz have played difficult opponents at Sacramento and home against Milwaukee before getting a Phoenix Suns team facing their own sense of urgency on Monday to begin the week.Getting more ping pong balls for the Wembanyama lottery is no longer a realistic alternative. The Detroit Pistons are cruising towards securing the worst record in the league with their 16-60 mark. The Houston Rockets and then the San Antonio Spurs have 18-59 and 19-57 records, so finishing in the bottom three in the NBA to earn more ping-pong balls to win the draft lottery is not possible. With the Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers sharing 32-44 records and the Charlotte Hornets owning a 26-51 record, the Jazz would be hard-pressed to lose more games to finish below those teams who are well aware of their position in the standings (and draft lottery). Getting this group playoff experience appears to be the goal of this team now given those circumstances. Rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji continue to improve as they grow into leadership roles with this team alongside Lauri Markkinen. Kessler is averaging 9.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. The former first-round pick out of Auburn, the 7'1 center has raised those numbers this month by averaging 13.3 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game. Agbaji is averaging 6.9 points per game in under 20 minutes per game in his rookie season. The first-round pick out of Kansas has seen his playing time jump up considerably after the Jazz traded away from veterans at the trade deadline. In his thirteen games this month, Agbaji has played over 30 minutes per game. He is averaging 12.4 points per game and adding 2.1 assists per game and 2.5 rebounds per game this month. Getting these two rookies more minutes with playoff implications is probably the best long-term plan for the Jazz given their surprising success this season under a first-year head coach in Hardy.Good luck - TDG.

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The Surging Colorado Avalanche

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2023

Don’t look now, but the Colorado Avalanche have taken their level of play to the next level since the All-Star break in the National Hockey League. The reigning Stanley Cup champions went into a Western Conference showdown with the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday looking to extend a five-game winning streak after a 4-1 win against Calgary on Saturday. That triumph came after a 5-1 win in Winnipeg on Friday. Colorado had a 7-1-2 record in their last ten games, and they had won twenty-seven of their last thirty-eight games at home after winning their previous game by three or more goals. That trend helped us gain confidence that the Avalanche would continue their winning streak against the bitter rivals, the Golden Knights, who eliminated them from the 2021 playoffs. Colorado had won nineteen of their last twenty-two games after winning their previous two games by three or more goals. The Avalanche had scored four or more goals in four straight games, and they were averaging 4.4 goals per game during their five-game winning streak. They were continuing to play with star defenseman Cole Makar, yet this team has been dealing with injuries all season. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are leading the way in the meantime during their current hot streak. MacKinnon had scored four goals and added six assists during this stretch, and Rantanen had added four goals and two assists. The Avalanche were thriving on the other end of the ice as well as they had held their last five opponents to 2.0 goals per game. Colorado had won forty-four of their last fifty-six games after playing a game where they did not allow more than one goal, and they had won fourteen of their last sixteen games after playing two straight games where they did not give up more than one goal. The Avalanche were using Alexandar Georgiev as their goaltender against Vegas. In his previous seven starts, he had a 2.79 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. Colorado had beaten four straight teams with a winning record, and they had won twenty-nine of their last thirty-seven games against opponents winning 51-60% of their games. The icing on the cake for us was that the Avalanche had the opportunity tonight to avenge a 3-2 loss at home in Ball Arena to the Golden Knights on January 2nd. The Avalanche had won eighteen of their last twenty-six games when playing with revenge from an upset loss at home to their opponent. Vegas was averaging 3.3 goals per game, yet Colorado had beaten eleven of their last fourteen games in the second half of the season against opponents who are average 3.0 goals per game. The Avalanche rewarded our faith in them with a 3-0 shutout victory against the Golden Knights in their last game in the month of February. It was MacKinnon and Rantanen that continued to carry the team despite their injured list. Rantanen scored an unassisted goal in the first fourteen seconds of the game and then added a second goal at the 16:40 minute mark of the second period. MacKinnon scored an empty netter in the third period. Georgiev stopped all 31 of the shots he faced, and the Team won their NHL Western Conference Game of the Month. Colorado begins the month of March with 73 points, good for third place in the Central Division, two points behind the Dallas Stars in first place, and a point behind a Minnesota Wild team that was victorious on Tuesday. Yet the Avalanche have only played 58 games this season, two less than the Stars and three behind the Wild. The pathway is clear for the defending champions to seize the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs and eventually represent the conference in the Stanley Cup finals, especially if Makar can pass concussion protocols by the postseason. Good luck - TDG.

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Recapping Super Bowl 57: A High Scoring Game Was Destiny

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2023

When the oddsmakers installed the over/under for Super Bowl 57 earlier this month at 49.5 in the evening after the NFC and AFC conference championship games were played, it seemed like that number was too low given the explosive potential of both the Philadelphia and Kansas City offenses. Yet the market only bet the number up to the 51.5-point range by kickoff two weeks later. That was music to our ears with our NFL Total of the Year committed to the over earlier in the week. We concluded that the prelude to Super Bowl 57 took place last year on October 3rd when the Chiefs traveled to Lincoln Financial Field to play the Eagles, and they came away with a 42-30 score as a 7-point favorite. More than sixteen months later, this Philadelphia team was much better which is why the oddsmakers installed them as a small favorite. That game was played early in Nick Sirianni’s head coaching career and before the decision was made to rely more on their rushing attack. Jalen Hurts had made significant strides in his development since that game as well. That was just his eighth start in the NFL, yet he completed 32 of 48 passes for 387 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He ran the ball an additional eight times for 47 yards in that game. Hurts had made twenty-six more starts since that game and had developed into a more mature quarterback in the pocket. The Eagles rushing game and RPO packages had become more sophisticated since that time. Hurts completed 66.5% of his passes in the regular season for 3701 yards with 22 touchdown passes and an 8.0 yards per attempt average. The offseason addition of A.J. Brown unlocked the explosive potential for the Philadelphia passing game with him presenting a very challenging skill set for opposing defenses that were already worried about speedster DeVonta Smith at wide receiver. Hurts added 760 rushing yards in the regular season with another 13 touchdowns. Behind the best offensive line in the league, Sirianni became very comfortable going for it on fourth-and-short with Hurts nearly unstoppable on quarterback sneaks. Despite his shoulder injury, Hurts had run the ball 20 times for 73 in the Eagles’ two playoff games this season with two touchdowns and six first downs. With the two weeks of rest for the Super Bowl, we thought he should be a big threat with his legs against Kansas City. If Philadelphia was able to put up 30 points in early October against the Chiefs who had Tryann Mathieu at the time, they should be able to at least match that number now against a Kansas City team with three rookies in their secondary. The Eagles had scored 29 or more points ten times this season, and they have scored 31 or more points in three of their last five games despite the Hurts injury. Philadelphia came into this game on a three-game winning streak, and they have played six of their last eight games over the number when they have won three or more games in a row. Patrick Mahomes was his usual self in that October game against the Eagles last year. He completed 24 of 30 passes for 278 yards with five touchdown passes in leading his team to 42 points. Tyreek Hill was on that team, yet Mahomes has demonstrated that he can still operate the Chiefs’ offense at a high level even without him. Kansas City averaged 28.7 points per game this year going into the Super Bowl, and they scored 27 or more points twelve times. Injuries at wide receiver held the Chiefs offense back in the AFC championship game as Kadarius Toney, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Mecole Hardman all got knocked out of that game. Hardman has been declared out for the Super Bowl, yet head coach Andy Reid thought both Toney and Smith-Schuster would be ready to play in the Super Bowl. The key for Kansas City may be with their running game with rookie Isaih Pacheco and the now-activated Clyde Edwards-Helaire who missed multiple games with injuries. Philadelphia allows their opponents to average 4.6 yards per carry, and the Chiefs had played ten of their last twelve games in the second half of the season over the number against opponents who allow 4.5 or more yards per carry. Kansas City’s ability to run the football should open things up for Travis Kelce and the Chiefs’ wide receivers. The Eagles had a great secondary that holds their opponents to 5.4 yards per pass attempt. Yet Reid had two weeks to prepare schemes against this Philadelphia defense, and Kansas City has played six of their last seven games over the number against opponents who do not allow more than 5.7 yards per passing attempt. The Chiefs had played eight of their last thirteen games over the number when the oddsmakers install them as a favorite of up to three points or as an underdog of up to three points. The oddsmakers expected a close game, and a tight contest lends itself to both teams scoring points back and forth against each other with the offenses having the upper hand. We concluded that expecting 72 combined points again may be too much to ask from the game between these two teams sixteen months ago, yet a combined score that reaches the 50s was highly likely. In hindsight, our caution on expecting another game that had more than 70 combined points was too conservative. Philadelphia dominated time of possession in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime with a 24-14 lead. Yet when the Chiefs scored a defensive touchdown when Nick Bolton picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown midway in the second quarter, the game seemed well on its way to finishing comfortably over the number. Ten combined points were scored in the third quarter which put the over within one more scoring play, and when Kadarius Toney scored on a five-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes at the 12:04 minute mark of the fourth quarter, the over was in hand. With another 18 combined points scored in Kansas City’s 38-35 victory, the over covered easily. In hindsight, our confidence in Hurts was more than justified. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 307 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Brown and Smith combined for 13 receptions for 196 recovering yards. Hurts added another 70 yards on the ground with three more rushing touchdowns. Sirianni kept the offense on the field for three fourth-and-one plays in the game, and they converted all three to keep their drives alive. The Eagles finished the season by converting 27 fourth-and-one plays which led the league. Mahomes completed 21 of 27 passes for only 182 yards but three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Smith-Schuster caught seven balls for 53 yards and Toney caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Pacheco ran the ball 15 times for 76 yards with a touchdown. In the end, it was a satisfying conclusion to a successful NFL season for the Team. Good luck - TDG.

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Can the Miami Heat's Elite Defense Keep Them Competitive in the Eastern Conference?

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

The Miami Heat went into the final day of January with a 28-23 record. That was good for first place in the Southeast Division, three games above the disappointing Atlanta Hawks. Yet the Heat only had the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference, with some serious concerns about the quality of their roster this season.Miami is only averaging 108.6 points per game on 45.3% shooting. That is the lowest-scoring average in the NBA, and that number is not simply a product of their 97.09 possession-per-game average. The Heat's 110.9 offensive rating this season is the fourth-lowest in the league in terms of efficiency. Only Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin are making 37% or more of their shots from 3-point land. None of the other players on the squad are shooting even 34% of their 3-pointers. As a team, the Heat went into Monday night with a 33.4% shooting percentage from 3-point land, the fourth-lowest mark in the NBA. Yet the Heat continue to excel on defense for head coach Erik Spoelstra. Miami ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive rating, and they led the league in defensive efficiency this month going into their game in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. We thought the Heat's consistent play on defense would help them be a live underdog tonight. Miami had been on a three-game winning streak before getting upset on the road in Charlotte on Saturday, 122-117, as a 6-point favorite. The Heat should respond by playing well in this Eastern Conference showdown with the Cavaliers. Miami had covered the point spread in seven of their last nine games after getting upset by a Southeast Division opponent. They had covered the point spread in twenty of their last twenty-eight games on the road after losing their previous game. Jimmy Butler had been dealing with a quad injury yet he had been upgraded to probable to play in this game. The Heat have a big challenge against the Cavaliers team that has a 21-5 record on their home court, yet their strong play on defense should keep them in this game. Their outstanding defense had helped them cover the point spread in four of their last five games on the road against teams winning 60% or more of their games at home. The Heat had covered the point spread in six of their last eight games against winning teams, and they had covered the point spread in seventeen of their last twenty-four games when the oddsmakers installed them as an underdog getting 3.5 to 9.5 points. Miami got embarrassed the last time they played the Cavaliers. That contest was in Cleveland on November 20th when the Heat lost, 113-87. Miami had covered the point spread in five of their last seven games when they were playing with revenge from a loss on the road to their current opponent. The Heat's defense did, in fact, lead the way for them in this game. Cleveland entered the game with a 48.9% field goal percentage, and that shooting clip improved to 49.4% when playing at home. Yet the Cavaliers were 48% from the field Monday night while missing 29 of their 40 shots from 3-point land. Their 28.0% shooting percentage from the 3-point line was far below the 38.1% shooting percentage from the 3-point land at home going into this game. Miami pulled the upset, 100-97, as a 5.5-point underdog, and the Team won their NBA Game of the Month for January. We closed out the month on a 49-23 (68%) NBA winning streak.Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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The Midseason Improving Minnesota Timberwolves Defense

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

We saw a nice opportunity with an under in the NBA on Monday in the Western Conference showdown between Sacramento and Minnesota. The oddsmakers had installed the over/under in the high-230s between these two teams despite the Timberwolves upsetting the Kings two days earlier, 117-110, as a 3-point underdog with only 227 combined points scored. Considering that Sacramento led the NBA in offensive rating and Minnesota ranked 11th in that category this month going into the game, it was understandable why bettors expect a higher-scoring game in this rematch. Yet perhaps these bettors should be paying closer attention to the improved play of the Timberwolves on the defensive end of the court. Minnesota ranked twelfth in the league in defensive rating going into that game, yet they ranked eighth in defensive rating in January. They had the second-best defensive rating in the NBA in their last five games as they have held those five opponents to 107.8 points per game on 45.4% shooting from the field. The Timberwolves were allowing 115.0 points per game on 46.6% shooting this season, yet those numbers should be considered with the fast tempo that the team likes to play. Minnesota ranked sixth in the NBA in pace, and they had the second most possessions in the league. They had held their three opponents (and four of their last five opponents) to 110 or fewer points, which is a very nice number when eight of their last nine games have had the oddsmakers install the over/under in the 230s. The Timberwolves had played thirteen of their last seventeen games under the number after winning their previous game at home, and they had played five of their last six games under the total when they had won five or more games in a row. It was Minnesota’s eighth game in their last fourteen days, and they had played nine of their last twelve games under the number when playing for the eighth or more time in the last two weeks. The 117 points they scored on Saturday was the most they scored in five games. They were getting all this done without Karl-Anthony Towns who is still out with a right calf injury. Minnesota had played four straight unders against teams with a winning record. They had played eleven of their last seventeen games when the oddsmakers install them as an underdog of up to three points or as a favorite of up to three points. The Timberwolves improved play on defense came through for us. While Sacramento is third in the NBA with a 49.3% field goal percentage, Minnesota held them to 47% shooting from the field including a subpar 9 of 30, 30%, shooting clip from 3-point land. The Timberwolves' play on defense was so good that the under survived an overtime session after the game ended with a 103-103 score after regulation time. Fortunately, Minnesota scored only eight points in overtime while the Kings surged with 17 points to win the game, 118-111. With the oddsmakers’ over/under number in the 238.5 range, under tickets remained safe, and we won our NBA Total of the Month. Sharp bettors should pay close attention to recent trends since that can expose numbers put out by the oddsmakers that reflect season averages that are dependent on data that may be outdated by improved (or declining) quality of play.Good luck - TDG.

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Another Reason to Bet the NFLX Preseason: Practice for Week 17 in the NFL Regular Season

Saturday, Dec 31, 2022

It is conventional wisdom in many circles that betting on preseason NFL games is foolish. “It’s too unpredictable.” “It’s only backup players.” “The oddsmakers set the over/under numbers too low.” “Things get too wild in the fourth quarter.”Those are all valid observations. Yet the notion that games played in the regular season suddenly eliminate those questions is naive. Take Thursday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans. Even in the first game in the second to last game of the season, the stakes involved in the game were nothing. Tennessee would win the AFC South with a victory the following week against Jacksonville since they would hold the tiebreaker if both teams ended the season with 8-9 records (they are both tied for first place in the AFC South with a 7-8 record at the beginning of week 17). Dallas’ chances of winning the NFC East over Philadelphia were very slim since all the Eagles need is a victory against New Orleans or the New York Giants in the next two weeks. The Cowboys had clinched the first wildcard spot in the NFC. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel flagged that he was not going to play his key starters, including running back Derrick Henry who was nursing a hip injury. Vrabel took things a step further on game day morning by announcing that his starting quarterback tonight would be Joshua Dobbs, who the team just signed off the Detroit practice squad on December 21st. If you bet on preseason games, then you were probably already familiar with Dobbs’ intriguing work with the Pittsburgh Steelers in previous exhibition seasons before moving on to a handful of other teams. The former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback completed 20 of 39 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He ran for another 12 yards on the ground. Even without being familiar with the Titans' offense, he seemed more equipped to make plays under center than Willis who came into the league a raw prospect after starting for a few seasons at Liberty. Yet even with the quarterback issues, the more pressing concern in the short run for the Titans was the state of the Titans' offensive line after center Ben Jones, right tackle Dillon Radunz, and right guard Nate Davis were all placed on the injured list. This unit was already been without starting left tackle Taylor Lewan for most of the season with a knee injury. With the oddsmakers installing Dallas as a nearly two-touchdown favorite on the road in that game, it was not a leap in logic to expect them to take an early lead. Yet that may have been exactly what the Cowboys starters were assuming which contributed to their lackadaisical start in that game. Dallas only scored 10 points in the first 29 minutes of that game, and they looked on track to possibly add to that lead with a final-minute score to take a 13-3 or even 17-3 lead. But an interception from Dan Prescott gave the ball back to Dobbs who got Tennessee into field goal position take go into halftime trailing by just four points, 10-6. The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter with Dallas going into the fourth quarter with a 17-13 lead. The Cowboys pulled away with ten unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win the game, 27-13. The oddsmakers closed the game with Dallas laying 14 to 14.5 points with the final over/under number at 40 to 40.5. The final result was razor-thin for everyone. Yet that often is the experience for those us bettors "brave enough" to venture into preseason NFL wagering. Perhaps the lesson should be this: regular season or not, we are only betting against numbers given particular circumstances. Regular or preseason, we are betting against numbers. If we have found an edge versus the number the oddsmakers have installed, then taking advantage of that should be profitable.Good luck -- TDG

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The Late Season Surging Los Angeles Chargers Defense

Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022

The Los Angeles Chargers are playing their best defense in the two seasons under head coach Brandon Staley, just in time for the playoffs next month. The improved play may be due to the players-only meetings instigated that started earlier in December. When noticing that the defense was allowing opposing rushers to average 5.44 yards per carry, veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy called a players-only meeting on the Thursday before their game with the Las Vegas Raiders. The results were not immediate. The Chargers lost that game, 27-20, with Josh Jacobs running the ball 26 times for 144 yards. Yet the players decided to make the players-only meeting a weekly event three days before game day (usually Thursday after practice, with the players-only meeting taking place on Friday last week due to the Monday night kickoff). Before that Monday night game in Indianapolis against the Colts, the numbers were indicating that the Chargers’ defense had begun to turn things around. They had allowed only 31 points in their two previous games with those opponents averaging only 251.5 total yards per game. They are still giving up 4.76 yards per carry, a modest improvement, yet their last two opponents have averaged only 109.5 rushing yards per game. The results against the pass have been much better as they have held their last two opponents to 141 passing yards per game. The defense has been hit hard by injuries, yet they are starting to get healthy again. Safety Derwin James played on Monday for the first time since week 13 (only briefly before being kicked out of the game for an illegal hit). The Chargers got back cornerback Bryce Callahan and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day as well after all three players took part in practice and had their names removed from the injured list last week. That bodes well for them in the days ahead. Los Angeles may have then played their best defensive game of the season in a 20-3  victory against the Colts on Monday. The Chargers held Indianapolis to just the one field goal and only ten first downs. Indianapolis managed to gain only 173 total yards of offense. Nick Foles was making his first start of the season for the Colts, and the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback completed 17 of 29 passes but for only 143 yards. Los Angeles picked off three of his passes. The Chargers held Indianapolis to only 69 rushing yards from their 14 carries. While that 4.93 yards per carry average for the Colts is not great from an efficiency standpoint, holding Indianapolis to below 70 rushing yards continues their recent ability to get their defense off the field. The Colts were on offense for just 26:06 minutes in the game. Los Angeles has now held their last three opponents to just 11.3 points per game and 225.3 yards per game. These opponents averaged only 4.7 yards per play. Their opponents are still averaging 4.8 yards per carry in the running game, yet they are only running the ball 20 times per game and getting 96 yards per game from their rushing attack. Perhaps most importantly, despite having their defense on the field for 29:45 minutes per game this season, the Chargers have lowered that number by almost three minutes per game by being on the field for only 25:53 minutes per game in these most recent three games. Whether it is because of the schemes of Staley and his defensive coaching staff or the increased accountability of the players on defense, the Chargers' defense is finally starting to meet the expectations from when they hired Staley away from the Rams when he was their defensive coordinator. With a healthy Derwin James running the defense (and Joey Bosa expected to get healthy and back on the field soon) and Justin Herbert lurking on offense, it is this Los Angeles team this season that has the makings of a potential deep run in the playoffs.Good luck - TDG.

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An Underrated Missouri Tigers Team Goes Bowling

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

The Missouri Tigers need a victory last Saturday to become bowl-eligible this season. They went into the Battle Line Rivalry hosting Arkansas with a 5-6 record. That showdown offered them the opportunity to avenge a 34-17 loss in Fayetteville last season to the Razorbacks as a 14.5-point underdog. The Tigers went into the game having ended a two-game losing streak in a 45-14 victory at home against New Mexico State as a 29-point favorite the prior week. Missouri had covered the point spread in 4 straight games after losing two of their last three games. In identifying the Tigers as our SEC Underdog of the Year in that game, we considered them better than their 5-6 record suggested. They have won only one time in their five games that got decided by one scoring possession. They were getting this revenge game at home where they were 4-2 this season with a net differential of 11.9 points. At home, they outgain their opponents by 62.5 net yards per game by holding their opponents to 324.7 yards per game and 19.3 points per game. The Tigers had covered the point spread in five of their last seven games at home against teams with a winning road record, and they have covered the point spread in six of their last eight games at home when the oddsmakers installed them as an underdog. They had covered the point spread in six of their last nine games in November.Our faith was rewarded with a 29-27 upset victory by Missouri with the oddsmakers installing them as a 3.5-point underdog in most locations. They went into the locker room trailing by a 21-20 score before scoring an early touchdown in the second half. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion to take a 28-21 lead yet failed to convert. A later field goal in the quarter gave Mizzou a 29-21 lead. Arkansas nailed a 46-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter to narrow the lead to five points. In a critical sequence early in the fourth quarter, Missouri stopped the Razorbacks on the 3-yard line as they settled for a short 20-yard field goal at the 12:40 minute mark of the fourth quarter. Arkansas would not score again as the Tigers pulled out the victory.Brady Cook completed 16 of 26 passes for 242 yards in the winning effort. He tossed a touchdown pass and did not throw an interception. Cook ran the ball another 18 times for 138 yards with a rushing touchdown. The Tigers dominated the yardage battle by a 468-325 margin. With their six victories, Missouri will present bettors with an interesting team to consider. They have wins against South Carolina and the Razorbacks who will be playing in bowl games. They have narrow losses of seven points or less against Florida, Kentucky, Auburn (in overtime), and, most impressively, a 4-point loss to Georgia. Despite playing in the SEC, they outgained their opponents by 33.9 net yards per game. The Tigers' defense ranks 28th in the nation by allowing only 337.1 yards per game. ESPN's bowl forecast projects Missouri into two intriguing albeit second-tier bowl games. One prediction has the Tigers playing Syracuse in the Birmingham Bowl against an Orange team that started the season undefeated before fading in the ACC late in the year. Another possible matchup would likely see them as an underdog against Oklahoma State in a battle of former Big 12 rivals in the Texas Bowl.Good luck - TDG.

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Rushing Is Up as NFL Teams Run Their Way Into Playoff Contention

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

More teams are running the football, and there is interesting evidence that it is this commitment to the ground game that is leading to their success. Let’s dive into some numbers.Last season, there were four teams to run the ball 30 or more times per game: Tennessee, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Three of those teams made the playoffs. This year after twelve weeks in the regular season, nine teams are averaging 30 or more rushing attempts per game.Chicago: 35.8 rushes per game; Philadelphia: 34.4. rushes per game; Atlanta: 35.7 rushes per game;  New York Giants: 32.5 rushes per game; Cleveland: 31.8 rushes per game; Baltimore: 30.8 rushes per game; Dallas: 30.5 rushes per game; Washington: 30.4 rushes per game; Tennessee: 29.5 rushes per game (rounding up the decimal). The combined record of these nine teams is 58-43. Six of these nine teams have winning records. All six of those teams would make the postseason if the playoffs started this weekend. Critics of teams that commit to establishing the running game argue that running game statistics are fluffed by fourth-quarter numbers where teams with the lead on the scoreboard decide to run the ball more to burn time off the clock. This deserves consideration. Yet that observation does not explain why the teams that are running the ball 30 or more times a game have doubled from last season since the number of victories remains the same (by definition). With the success of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, more defenses are using 4-2-5 defenses. When defenses rely more on nickel and dime defenses, their roster may see an additional defensive back instead of another linebacker. Depth charts are impacted. Teams are using smaller and quicker linebackers since they are more agile to defend against passing attacks.              In a league that adapts and evolves, it makes sense that some teams would choose to double-down on rushing attacks that are heavier with two running back or two tight end looks that trade wide receivers on the field for skill position players who can block. From the above list of nine teams running the ball 30 or more times a game, do any of them look like pass-first teams who only run the ball when they have the ball in the fourth quarter? Teams like Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, the New York Giants, and Baltimore are all offenses where the quarterback plays a prominent role in the rushing game with designed runs. Cleveland, Dallas, Washington, and Tennessee are all teams who commonly deploy two tight ends or two running backs with a full back. If it is a copycat league, it is interesting to observe even more teams running the ball over the last month. Winning teams running the ball in the fourth quarter does not explain this recent phenomenon. Thirteen teams have averaged 30 or more rushing attempts per game in their most recent three games.Washington: 42.0 rush attempts per game; Dallas: 36.7 rush attempts per game; Carolina: 36.7 rush attempts per game; Chicago: 35.0 rush attempts per game; Baltimore: 35.0 rush attempts per game; Pittsburgh: 34.3 rush attempts per game; Philadelphia: 34.0 rush attempts per game;  San Francisco: 32.7 rush attempts per game; Detroit: 32.0 rush attempts per game; New York Giants: 31.3 rush attempts per game; Cincinnati: 30.3 rush attempts per game; Buffalo: 29.7 rush attempts per game; New York Jets: 29.7 rush attempts per game.That list does not include Atlanta which is averaging 29.0 rushes per game in their last three games. The combined record for those thirteen teams running the ball 30 or more per game in their last three games is 83-63. Nine of those thirteen teams have winning records, and all nine of those teams would play in the playoffs if the postseason started this weekend. Certainly rushing numbers rise for teams winning on the scoreboard. Yet it seems naive to simply explain the rise in running the football to teams winning games. Half the teams win their games each week (excluding the occasional tie). More teams are running the football this season, and they look like they are running their way into the playoffs.Good luck - TDG.

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Bill Belichick Exposes Another 1st Year/2nd Year Quarterback

Sunday, Oct 30, 2022

The New England Patriots got embarrassed on Monday Night Football to begin the week with a 33-14 upset loss at home to Chicago despite the oddsmakers installing them as a 9.5-point favorite. The Patriots then went on the road against a surging Jets team highly motivated to avenge a 54-13 loss against them when they last played on October 24th last year. New York was on a four-game winning streak and hosted this game in an electric atmosphere at MetLife Stadium. Yet the oddsmakers still installed the Patriots as a small road favorite despite these circumstances? We trusted the wisdom of the oddsmakers in selecting New England as our AFC East Game of the Month for this game. It started with our expectation that Bill Belichick would dial up a defensive plan to thwart the Jets’ second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. The Patriots went into that divisional rivalry having a 58-19 record under Belichick against teams using a first-year or second-year quarterback. Those inexperienced quarterbacks had completed only 55.0% of their passes in those games. They averaged 162.1 passing yards per game in those seventy-seven games with 81 touchdown passes and 98 interceptions. The cumulative passer rating of those quarterbacks was 69.2. New England validated our judgment with a 22-17 victory against the Jets. The Patriots went into the locker room trailing by a 10-6 score before outscoring New York in the second half, 16-7. The Jets only had 17 first downs in the game despite gaining 387 total yards of offense. At first glance, it would seem as if Wilson had a good game. He threw for 355 yards with two touchdown passes. Yet his second touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Conklin took place with under two minutes when the Jets were trailing by 12 points. New York did not recover the on-side kick. Despite all those passing yards, Wilson’s performance provided yet another example of Belichick’s mastery against young quarterbacks. Wilson threw three interceptions, with two of them being inexcusable mistakes. One interception came from Wilson throwing away a lazy pass away to the sideline that was nowhere close to safely avoiding Patriot defenders in the field of play. A second interception was wildly overthrown. Both of these interceptions affected the momentum of the game and help New England engineer their comeback victory. The Jets’ coaching staff had done a good job in not asking Wilson to do too much with this offense before this game. But the offense had centered around the dynamic rookie running back Breece Hall who has rushed for 463 yards and caught another 218 receiving yards. He had five touchdowns. His season-ending ACL injury is devastating. New York still has second-year pro Michael Carter, and they acquired Brian Robinson from Jacksonville in a trade earlier this week. Yet both running backs are a downgrade from Hall. More was asked from Wilson who had gotten away with some dangerous decisions in the pocket during this recent winning streak.The Jets only had 15 rushing attempts, with one of them coming from Wilson himself in a scramble. They only gained 51 yards on the ground. They were on the field for less than 25 minutes of the game, leaving their defense, which had been playing great during their four-game winning streak, on the field for more than 35 minutes of the game.Belichick made sure to take away the Jets' rushing attack to goad New York into trying to win with Wilson's arm and decision-making. Three interceptions later, the Patriots pulled within one game of the Jets in AFC East standings and a game closer to owning the head-to-head tie-breaker between these two teams. Belichick frustrated yet another young quarterback. Good luck - TDG.

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NFL Scoring and Over/Under Trends After Week 4

Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

Scoring had been up last week going into Monday Night Football, with the first fifteen games of Week 4 averaging 50.3 combined points. After three weeks of the regular season, games were averaging only 42.1 combined points per game, the lowest mark since 2010. We expected scoring to rise with offensive players getting more in synch after not taking many snaps in the preseason. The Week 4 numbers included high-scoring games that had 93 combined points between Seattle and Detroit and 72 combined points between Kansas City and Tampa Bay last night. Yet seven of the fifteen games still finished under the number so far in Week 4 before the Los Angeles Rams played at the San Francisco 49ers Monday night. Five of the games did not see more than 42 combined points scored. For the season, the under has a 37-25-1 record. For prime-time games, the under has cashed in nine of the twelve games. Of course, the Sunday Night Football scoring fest between the Chiefs and Buccaneers demonstrated that it would be foolish to simply take the under became the game happens to be played at night in front of a nationally-televised audience. On the other hand, perhaps that game follows a different script if Rachaad White does not fumble the opening kick-off to give the ball to Patrick Mahomes deep in Tampa Bay territory. When Kansas City had a 7-0 lead in the first minute of the game, the Buccaneers played the entire game from behind and abandoned their rushing attack. So, each game needs to be treated differently. We passed on the over/under bet for Sunday Night Football, preferring the side plays with the Chiefs. We did endorse the under for Monday Night Football with that NFC West showdown involving two teams that like to run the football and who have played seven of their previous nine games played in San Francisco under the number. We were rewarded with a comfortable under with the 49ers' 24-9 victory. Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient if not explosive by completing 16 of 27 passes for 239 yards while leading San Francisco to 327 total yards of offense. Yet they only scored 17 offensive points with their final touchdown being from a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. The struggles on offense for the reigning Super Bowl champions continued as they gained only 257 yards behind a banged-up offensive line. Matthew Stafford completed 32 of 48 passes for 254 yards, yet lost 54 yards from getting sacked seven times. Stafford has been sacked fourteen times in the last two games. He has gone 87 straight pass attempts without a touchdown pass. In his last eight games including the playoffs last year, he has thrown sixteen interceptions. Lingering elbow and shoulder injuries may be impacting his performance.Week 5 begins Thursday night with the under having a 38-25-1 record. For prime-time games, the under has cashed in ten of the thirteen games. Yet that was not enough for us to endorse the Indianapolis/Denver under for the opening Thursday night contest for the week. The oddsmakers installed the over/under in the 43-point range and the market bet that number down all week with both teams missing their starting running backs, Jonathan Taylor for the Colts and Javonte Williams for the Broncos. While we were willing to be the under with the low number on Monday, injuries on a pair of defensive units not as good as the Rams and 49ers played a large role in passing (and instead taking the side play). As we continue to preach, these long-term under trends are interesting to observe but not nearly enough to expect to continue on their own.Good luck - TDG.

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Brandon Woodruff's Second Half Resurgence

Thursday, Sep 29, 2022

Brandon Woodruff struggled early in the season, but he has been outstanding since the middle of May. He came off a strong season where he had a 2.56 era and a 0.96 whip in 179 1/3 innings, although he settled for a 9-10 record with the Brewers last year. Yet there were early troubles signs from the abbreviated spring training where he allowed six home runs and 16 hits along with 15 runs (14 earned runs) in three starts comprising 11 2/3 innings. These difficulties continued in the regular season. He only struck out two batters in each of his first two April starts. In his first six starts, Woodruff had a 5.96 era and a 1.29 whip. The shortened spring training led to many starting pitchers struggling to build their arm strength to achieve their maximize their velocity. Bettors made a mistake by automatically discounting these established starting pitchers who were underachieving early in the year. Woodruff may very well be pitching at the highest level of his career since mid-May. In his start on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-hander comes off another strong effort where he allowed only one earned run and three hits in six innings of work at Cincinnati last Thursday. He struck out 11 Reds batters while inducing seventeen swinging strikes and a called strike or swinging strike rate of 35%. Woodruff had struck out at least ten batters in three straight games, and he has double-digit strikeouts in four of his last six starts. For the season going into that game, he had a 12-4 record with a 3.18 era, a 1.09 whip, and a strikeout rate of 30.1% of the batters he has faced. In his twelve starts since the all-star break, he had a 2.52 era and a 1.00 whip. He had pitched well in his two starts against St. Louis this year against which he has a 2.00 era and a 0.78 whip. In his eleven starts at home, Woodruff had a 2.16 era and a 0.84 whip. The Brewers have won ten of his eleven starts at home this year. They have won seven of their previous ten games when Woodruff is their starting pitcher tasked with ending a team losing streak.   We endorsed Milwaukee behind Woodruff in that game against the Cardinals, and we were rewarded with a 5-1 victory. Woodruff continued his outstanding form by giving up only five hits and no earned runs in six innings to earn the victory. He continued his torrid strike-out pace by punching out ten St. Louis batters, representing 41.7% of the batters he faced.In his twenty starts since May 15th after his slow start, Woodruff has a 2.35 era and a 1.04 whip. His 156 strikeouts in 118 2/3 innings have him averaging 11.8 punch outs per nine innings which would be the highest mark of his career if extended through to the entire season. He has lowered his season era from 3.54 to 3.05 just in his last five starts.Bettors should always consider shorter-term trends when looking at season-long numbers. While it is easy to appreciate that Woodruff is a good starting pitcher, a closer examination reveals just how dominant he has been. If Milwaukee makes the National League playoffs as the third wild card team, they could be very dangerous when Woodruff is their starting pitcher.Good luck - TDG.

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NFL Scoring is Down

Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Scoring is down in the NFL this season. For the first two weeks of the season, teams are averaging 21.41 points per game. In the first two weeks of the season last year, teams averaged 24.0 points per game. Let’s consider the implications of teams averaging 2.59 fewer points per game. The average combined score last year in the first two weeks of the season was 48 points. In the first two weeks of this season, the combined score is just 42.82. The scoring is down even more in this third week of the regular season. Through Sunday night’s low-scoring affair between San Francisco and Denver, teams are averaging only 20.37 points per game, and the average combined score for the previous fifteen games this week has been only 40.74 points. The betting market has yet to catch up with the under posting a 29-17-1 record this season. For prime-time games, the under has cashed in seven of the nine games. These under trends will probably fade as the oddsmakers and the betting market adjusts. Yet when we see the oddsmakers install an over/under below 40 as they did for the Monday night Cowboys/Giants game, we should not get scared off an under play. We had the under for that Monday night game, and bettors won with 39.5 tickets and pushed with 39s with Dallas winning the game, 23-16, to continue the lower-scoring trend. These numbers fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that the NFL has evolved into an offensive-dominated league. Certainly, rule changes designed to protect the quarterback and wide receivers running routes in the middle of the field have had an impact. Yet it would be more precise to indicate that these rule changes help the passing game. Yet with more teams passing the ball more often, scoring has not necessarily increased, as the early season numbers indicate. Perhaps offenses are simply behind the progress of defenses since more and more head coaches opt to not play their first-string offensive players in the preseason. More than a third of the opening week's starting quarterbacks did not take a snap in the preseason. Only three quarterbacks who did not play in the preseason led their team to a victory in Week 1, and two of those quarterbacks were playing against teams who also did not play their quarterback in the preseason. Kirk Cousins led Minnesota to a win against Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and Justin Herbert led the Los Angeles Chargers to a victory against Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders. Only the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson started 1-0 after their quarterback did not play in the preseason. Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Joe Burrow, and Ryan Tannehill were all losing quarterbacks in Week 1 after not playing in the preseason. These 11 quarterbacks combined for an 86.1 passer rating and a 6.9 yards per attempt average, which was a significant drop from their combined 100.4 passer rating and 7.7 yards per attempt average in 2021.If rust is the reason for the scoring decline, then it will be a short-term phenomenon. Yet some reasons support the notion that defenses may be catching up to the recent trends on offense that have emphasized the passing attack. More and more defenses are embracing the principles of Vic Fangio who deploys 3-4 base fronts with two high safeties. The two-high safety look became an effective counter to explosive offenses like Kansas City who thrived on big plays from Patrick Mahomes. Yet the Chiefs struggled against teams who played these two-high safety looks. These defensive concepts are now being used against other high-octane offenses like the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills. For those who consider NFL trends to be cyclical in nature, then it makes sense that it would only be a matter of time before defenses began to adjust, adapt, and catch up to these new offensive principles. Injuries and poor play on the offensive line are likely playing a role as well. Some observers are concerned that college football is not doing as good a job as they have in the past in training linemen for the next level. As more and more programs rely on pass-reliant passing offenses in the Air Raid vein, many offensive linemen are getting drafted by NFL teams despite the lack of experience playing with a hand on the ground at the line of scrimmage before the snap. Perhaps it is no coincidence that other teams are finding success running the football. As defenses play more nickel and dime sub-packages to defend against passing attacks, those teams that move in a different direction by emphasizing the run can take advantage of these schemes and lack of linebacker depth on the roster. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions are two teams with heavy run tendencies who are scoring plenty of points early this season. Bettors should consider these early under trends with a grain of salt. Yet it is important to monitor the possibility that the high-scoring games of the past which compelled oddsmakers to install the over/under in the 50s for many NFL games may be starting to wane.Good luck - TDG.

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Is Dylan Bundy Preparing for a Career Renaissance in his 30s?

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2022

Dylan Bundy is probably not going to ever regain the form he demonstrated in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Signed as a free agent in the offseason by the Los Angeles Angels, the right-hander posted an 11-6 record with a 3.29 era and a 1.04 whip in eleven starts compromising of 65 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate of 27.0% of the batters he faced was the highest of his career. Yet in his second-year with the Angels, Bundy was a major disappointment. He had a 2-9 record with an ugly 6.06 era and a 1.36 whip. He made nineteen starts in twenty-three appearances in pitching 65 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate dropped to 21.2%, and his walk-rate rose to an 8.6% mark of all the batters he faced, a five-year high since his second season in the league with Baltimore.The Minnesota Twins signed him in the offseason with the hopes that he could find that 2020 formula that worked so well with the Angels. Going into his start on Monday against Boston, many of his numbers did not look promising. For the year, Bundy had a 7-6 record with a 4.56 era and a 1.21 whip, yet there were reasons for optimism for his starts this month that helped persuade us to back Minnesota in our MLB Game of the Month on that day. Bundy was coming off a start in Houston the previous Wednesday where he allowed only three hits and two runs in five innings of work. In his four previous starts in August, Bundy has a 2.32 era and a 0.86 whip. His walk-rate of 5.1% of the batters he has faced was the lowest of his career. He had walked only four batters in his last five starts consisting of 24 1/3 innings, and he has not walked more than one batter in an outing since July 26th.The 29-year-old held the Red Sox to just two runs but could not get the final out in the fifth inning to complete five full innings of work. In hindsight, the effort was indicative of where Bundy has gone in his career. He struck out only three batters, and he has a mere six strikeout in his last four starts comprising 20 innings. His strikeout rate of 16.7% is the lowest of his career. Yet he did enough to put his team in a position to win the game, and Minnesota did pull the game out, 4-2. Bundy has only allowed six earned runs in his last four starts for a 2.70 era. While he is not striking out batters like he was in 2020, he has changed his tactics to rely more on his control. After walking only one Red Sox batter on Monday, his walk rate has dropped to 5.0% while averaging just 1.91 bases-on-balls per nine innings. His previous career-low was in that 2020 season with the Angels when he walked 2.33 batters per nine innings. Bundy is a fly ball pitcher with 44.3% of the balls that batters are putting into play being fly balls. Yet his home run rate of 1.27 per nine innings is the second-lowest of his career, behind the 0.68 home runs per nine innings he allowed in his benchmark 2020 season. Bundy is not likely to ever approach the numbers he put up in that shortened season in 2020. Yet by reducing his walks and getting more batters to settle for fly balls when pitching half his games in Target Stadium for the Twins, he just might find a new formula for success. That 2020 campaign was the only year in his career where he posted an era below 4.00. He could develop into a veteran who can be a 3.75 era in the back half of his career just yet.Good luck - Team Del Genio. 

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Lance Lynn's Velocity is Back Up (But Proceed with Caution)

Saturday, Aug 27, 2022

Lance Lynn has been a disappointment for much of the season for the Chicago White Sox. The 35-year-old right-hander was integral to the team’s playoff run last year when he posted an 11-6 record with a 2.69 era and a 1.07 whip in 28 starts. Yet the start of his 2022 season was delayed by his having surgery on his right knee to repair a torn tendon. When he finally got his season going in June after a stint on the 60-day injured list, he struggled to regain his velocity. Going into his fourteenth start of the season on Thursday (August 25th) on the road against Baltimore, the right-hander had a 3-5 record this season in thirteen starts with a 5.30 era and a 1.23 whip. We noted at the time that his velocity has been at its best all season this month. Yet his strikeout rate of 24.5% of the batters he had faced was the lowest in the last four seasons, and while he is striking out 9.17 batters per nine innings in his previous three starts (with the bump in velocity), that rate still represented a four-year low for him if extended to the entire season. Another concern for Lynn even with the return of his velocity has been in giving up too many home runs. Lynn had allowed 14 home runs this season at a rate of 1.77 home runs allowed per nine innings which is a career-high for him. In his previous three starts, he had given up another three home runs for a 1.52 home runs allowed per nine-inning rate which was an improvement yet still would be a career-high for him if extended to the entire season. These underlying issues played a role in our choosing the Orioles that night for our MLB Underdog of the Month. Fortunately, Baltimore won the game in extra innings, 3-2, after tying the game in the bottom of the ninth inning from a Kyle Stowers home run. At first glance, our take on Lynn may have looked to be off. He gave up only two runs, with just one of them being an earned run, in six innings. He struck out eight batters, representing 36.3% of the batters he faced. Yet Lynn’s gopher ball problems continued as he gave up a home run in the first inning to Anthony Santander (who later won the game with a homer in the bottom of the 11th inning). He is now allowing 1.75 home runs per nine innings having given up 15 bombs in his 77 1/3 innings. Lynn has given up eleven home runs in his last eight starts and eight homers in his last six starts. Perhaps bettors can talk themselves into dismissing those numbers because of his earlier velocity issues, but he has still given up four home runs in his last four starts in August even with his velocity back to normal. Lynn is pitching better than he was when returned from the injured list in June. Yet he is giving up too many home runs to then assume he has regained his form from last season. When it comes to backing the White Sox with Lynn on the mound, proceed with caution. Good luck - TDG.

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The Giants' Underrated Starting Pitchers: Alex Wood and Alex Cobb

Saturday, Jul 30, 2022

We backed the San Francisco Giants (our National League Game of the Month) in their opening game at home against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Manager Gabe Kapler was turning to Alex Wood who had been quite good all month after finding some extra zip on his sinker. In four July starts, the lefty has a 1.31 era and a 0.87 whip. He has struck out 25 batters yet walked only three in 20 2/3 innings. Wood rewarded these observations from our research by taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning before he got into some trouble and gave up two hits including a two-run homer from the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom. Yet Wood only gave up two hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings to get his seventh win of the season. For the season, he now has a 7-8 record to go along with a 4.11 era and a 1.16 whip. Yet those numbers probably fail to do Wood justice for what he can do for the Giants for the rest of the season. In his five July starts, the left-hander has a 2-1 record with a 1.65 era and a 0.80.Yet Wood is not the only San Francisco starting pitcher who is pitching better than his season numbers would suggest. Kapler gave the starting pitching assignment to Alex Cobb in Game 2 of their weekend series with the Cubs. The right-hander had a 3-4 record with a 4.26 era and a 1.33 whip in fifteen starts. Cobb had been one of the unluckiest pitchers in MLB this season with a strand rate of 58.9%, far below the MLB average for runners left on base which usually hovers in the low 70% range. Yet he is seeing much better results lately. In his seven starts since the beginning of June, Cobb had a 2.82 era and a 1.17 whip. After striking out a career-high 24.9% of the batters he faced last season with the Los Angeles Angels last year, his velocity has been good this year and his strikeout rate of 22.8% is still the second-highest in his last eight seasons. Opposing hitters have a hard-hit rate of 23.3% against him which is the lowest mark in his career. In his nine starts at home at Oracle Park this year, Cobb had a 3.02 era. The 34-year-old right-hander may have pitched even better than Wood did the previous night. Cobb struck out 11 batters in his six innings of work while allowing only three hits and one run. Yet Cobb did not get any run support from his team against Chicago’s Marcus Stroman. Cobb left the game with San Francisco trailing, 1-0, before the Cubs scored three times in the top of the ninth inning. The Giants rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth yet it was not enough and Cobb took the tough luck loss. The Giants had everything go right for them last year in winning 107 games in the regular season. With a 49-51 record going into the final day in July, their management may be tempted to be sellers before the trade deadline. Yet with undervalued starting pitchers in Alex Wood and Alex Cobb joining Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb (and Jakob Junis with his 2.98 era), San Francisco might be better served by adding more bats and riding their pitching staff. With the third wildcard spot added for both leagues for the playoffs, the Giants are still only 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia to qualify for the postseason. Good luck - TDG.

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The Surging Seattle Mariners Just Added Luis Castillo

Saturday, Jul 30, 2022

The Seattle Mariners had a 29-39 record on June 20th which was worrying bettors who purchased over 84.5 win total tickets at the Westgate in Las Vegas. Yet the Mariners started playing better baseball which culminated with a fourteen-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break with a 43-39 record. Suddenly, Seattle was a serious contender to make the postseason in the American League.The Mariners are led by their rookie sensation Julio Rodriguez who was introduced to the national MLB audience with his breakout performance in the Home Run Derby before running out of steam in the finals against Juan Soto. He is the first player in the history of Major League Baseball to smack 15+ home runs, drive in 50+ runs, and swipe 20+ stolen bases in his first ninety games. The frontrunner to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award has 18 home runs, 57 runs-batted-in, and 21 stolen bases. It turns out he injured his wrist in Seattle’s win against Texas the day before the Home Run Derby which led to him not playing in their three-game series against Houston the weekend after the All-Star Game. The Mariners lost all three games to the first place team in the American League West division. He returned to the lineup on Tuesday of this week and promptly homered in consecutive games against the Rangers. Seattle swept their three-game series with Texas to set up a weekend series rematch with the Astros. The Mariners lost the first two games against Houston, yet these upstarts demonstrated their moxie by rallying from a 4-3 deficit on Saturday by scoring two runs in the top of the ninth inning to steak a 5-4 victory against them. Seattle goes into the last day of July with a 55-47 record, and they have an impressive 26-8 record since June 20th. They may still be eleven games behind the Astros in the division, yet they currently hold the second wild card spot in the American League, with a three-game cushion against Cleveland for the final wildcard spot. The Mariners signaled their commitment to putting all their energies into making a playoff run when they traded significant future assets to the Cincinnati Reds for Luis Castillo. The right-handed starting pitcher has a 4-4 record this year with a 2.86 era and a 1.07 whip this season. Shoulder surgery delayed the start of this season for the 29-year-old, yet he is clicking on all cylinders now. In his four starts this month, Castillo had a 1.93 era and a 0.89 whip. He has struck out 90 batters this season while walking only 28 batters, and he has 30 punchouts to just seven walks in his 28 innings this month. In his six seasons with the Reds, he has finished with a sub-4.00 era five times. He joins Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert to give Seattle as good a trio of starting pitchers as any team in MLB. This surging Seattle team has suddenly become a legitimate threat to win a World Series. Buy your future tickets while there is still value!Good Luck - TDG.

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Previewing the Tampa Bay Lightning/Colorado Avalanche Playoff Series

Saturday, Jun 18, 2022

The Tampa Bay Lightning were expected to have an initial edge against an Avalanche team that had not played for nine days in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. Yet it was Colorado who scored the first goal of the series when Gabriel Landeskog scored at the 7:47 minute mark of the first period before Valeri Nichushkin gave the Aves a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later. Nick Paul cut the lead in half for the Lightning just over three minutes later yet Colorado was able to take a 3-1 lead into the first break when Artturi Lehkonen scored a power-play goal at the 17:31 mark of the first period. It appeared that Tampa Bay initially struggled to adjust to the speed of the Avalanche. Playing in the high altitude in Denver likely played a role as well. Yet the two-time defending champions responded in the second period with Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev both scoring to tie the game at 3-3. The teams played a scoreless third period before Colorado won Game 1 with Andre Burakovsky scoring the game-winner just 83 seconds into overtime. Tampa Bay has struggled throughout the postseason in the opening games of a series. They only won once in their four Game 1s (against Florida) with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy posting a .884 save percentage in those games.Tampa Bay completed their Eastern Conference finals series with the Rangers with a 2-1 victory at home on Saturday. The Lightning attempt to become the first NHL team to win three-straight Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four championships in a row from 1980 to 1983. It has been a difficult road getting back to the finals for the Lightning. They needed seven games to get by a talented Toronto team in the first round of the playoffs before dominating Florida in the second round. After beating New York and perhaps the best goaltender in the world right now in Igor Shesterkin in six games, the Lightning have a 12-5 record in these playoffs. Forward Brayden Point returned to action in Game 1 after being out since Game 7 of the first-round series against the Maple Leafs. He assisted on a goal and played just under 18 minutes on Wednesday. Point scored 28 goals and added 30 assists during the regular season, and the 14 goals he scored in each of the two previous postseasons is the league’s top mark. Perhaps the biggest edge the Lightning have in this series is with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. In winning the last four games against the Rangers, Vasilevksiy only gave up five goals and posted a .955 save percentage. He began this series with a 2.27 goals-against average in his seventeen starts in the playoffs this year with a .928 save percentage. In his career in the playoffs going into Game 1, Vasilevskiy had a 61-34 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He won last season’s Conn Smythe award for being the Most Valuable Player in the postseason. Led by Vasilevskiy, the Lightning will bring the most disciplined and effective style of play on defense that Colorado will have faced in their playoff run this year.The Colorado Avalanche reached the Stanley Cup finals by completing their second series sweep in the postseason with their 6-5 victory in overtime at Edmonton that eliminated the Oilers from the playoffs on June 6th. The Avalanche opened the postseason with a four-game sweep against Nashville. Colorado is 12-2 in the playoffs with their only two losses coming against St. Louis in the second round of the playoffs. Yet the Aves now face their biggest challenge in these playoffs in playing the Lightning. They take a step up in class which may present a jolt to the system for this Colorado team playing in their first Stanley Cup finals in the Nathan MacKinnon era. Beginning this series after nine days off between games may leave head coach Jerad Bednar’s team rusty, yet they scored three times in the first period. That time off may later help their speed and endurance as this series moves on. An area of concern for Bednar is the state of his goaltending. Darcy Kuemper had a 2.65 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage in ten playoff games before the beginning of this series. His backup, Pavel Francouz, had six victories in his six games (four starts) in the playoffs with a 2.86 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. Bednar did not announce who his starting goaltender would be to begin the finals before calling on Kuemper to be his starter. He stopped 20 of the 23 shots he saved in Game 1. Colorado is allowing 2.9 goals per game in their fourteen playoff games.The strength of the Avalanche is their balanced scoring attack. Nathan MacKinnon scored 11 goals and added seven assists in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Gabriel Landeskog added 17 points in those 14 games in the first three rounds. Mikko Rantanen scored four goals and had two assists last round against the Oilers. Defenseman Cale Makar had five goals and another 17 assists in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Tampa Bay has been the best team in the NHL over the last few seasons, yet it has been Colorado that has perhaps been the best team in the regular season over that span. This is the first Stanley Cup finals for the Avalanche corp group of young superstars. Their ambition to win their first Stanley Cup will depend on their ability to play good enough defense to beat elite opposition and how well their goaltending holds up.Good luck - TDG.

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Previewing the Tampa Bay Lightning/New York Rangers Playoff Series

Friday, Jun 03, 2022

The Tampa Bay Lightning had eight full days off since completing their four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL playoffs. We were concerned that it was near impossible for head coach Jon Cooper to come close to replicating the playoff experience in practices preparing for this game. Sure enough, the Lightning looked a step behind the Rangers in Game 1 of this series on June 1st in a 6-2 loss on the road at Madison Square Garden. Tampa Bay had won eight of their last ten games and fifteen of their last twenty games. Yet they have won just once in their last seven games after winning eight or more of their last ten, and they have won twice in their last nine games after winning fifteen or more of their last twenty games. Perhaps a letdown was inevitable? Yet the Tampa Bay Lightning were 14-0 in the previous two seasons coming off a loss in the playoffs which is why they are the two-time Stanley Cup champions. The resiliency of this team to pick themselves up after a loss, adjust to the things that are not working, and move forward is a trademark of a champion. Head coach Jon Cooper’s team has continued to demonstrate this quality this season. After losing Game 1 on the road, 5-0, at Toronto in their first round of the playoffs, they respond in Game 2 by soundly defeating the Maple Leafs in their own building, 5-3. The Lightning later returned to Toronto for the seventh game of that series to beat them, 4-3, in overtime. Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed six goals in Game 1 on Wednesday which is the most he has ever given up in a playoff game. Yet he has a .924 save percentage in his career in the postseason for a reason. In their four-game sweep last round against the explosive Florida Panthers, Vasilevskiy posted a .978 save percentage by stopping 150 of the 154 shots he faced. The Lightning are still without forward Brayden Point with a leg injury. He was their leading goal scorer in the last two postseasons. Tampa Bay played their best hockey at home this year where they had a 31-9-6. On the road, the Lightning had a solid but not spectacular 28-17-2 record. In five playoff games at home, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been nearly unstoppable with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage. Yet on the road in six starts, those numbers drop to a 2.51 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage which are still good numbers but offer the Rangers reasons to be optimistic. If the Rangers are going to make this a long series, they can need to take advantage of the potential rust that Tampa Bay may have. New York has responded to Gerard Gallant’s coaching. They are 5-0 in potential elimination games this postseason after rallying from a 3-2 deficit to beat Carolina on the road in Game 7, 6-2, on Monday. After a flat effort in Game 5 in Raleigh that drew Gallant’s ire, the Rangers scored five goals and six goals in their dominant victories against the Hurricanes.The team will be very confident with goalie Igor Shesterkin who has a 2.04 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage in seven playoff starts at home this season after the first two rounds. Those numbers are very similar to the 1.85 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in thirty games that Shesterkin played at Madison Square Garden in the regular season. After losing their first game at home in the playoffs to Pittsburgh in that triple-overtime affair that may have tired Shesterkin out for the next few games, the Rangers have since won all six of their games on home ice. He stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced in Game 1 to continue his strong play.Gallant’s team had two distinct advantages in the first game of this series which helped them beat the Lightning by four goals. After playing every other day for the last month having survived two seven-game series, they will be in rhythm and not miss a beat regarding the intensity of the playoffs. Second, they will bring a defensive focus and physicality to their game that neither Toronto more Florida had in the first two rounds of the playoffs against the Lightning. New York caught a break by hosting an opponent that had not played since May 23rd, yet now they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time that Gerard Gallant’s team has had a lead in a playoff series. They lost Game 1 in the opening round against Pittsburgh and in the second round against Carolina. The previous time that the Rangers were playing a game where they were not trailing but not staring at the potential elimination with a loss, it was Game 5 against the Hurricanes when they only attempted 17 shots in a 3-1 loss. New York has won all three of their games since then, yet they have only won twelve of their last thirty games when on a three-game winning streak. Gallant demanded more energy and activity since that game, and the Rangers have found success by being in attack mode when the puck is in the neutral zone. Yet Tampa Bay can counter this tactic which was certainly a central topic for Cooper and his coaching staff in practice yesterday. The Lightning should clamp things down in the middle to force the Rangers’ skaters wide or compel them to chip and chase the puck. Tampa Bay has defended against this approach before in their back-to-back championship runs. Game 2 appears to still be a game New York needs to win. If the Lightning rebound to steal the second game, they accomplish their goal of seizing home-ice advantage as they go back home. Yet even with a loss, Tampa Bay still has three of the remaining five games in front of their home fans, and the old adage is that a playoff series does not start until a team loses at home.Good luck - TDG.

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Previewing the Edmonton Oilers/Colorado Avalanche Playoff Series

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

It is rare for the oddsmakers to install the over/under number at 7, and it is even rarer for the oddsmakers to move past 6.5 to 7s in the conference finals in the NHL playoffs. Yet this is where the oddsmakers are between these two high-powered scoring teams that both averaged 4.3 goals per game in the first two rounds of the playoffs. After the Avalanche took the opening game of this series on Tuesday by an 8-6 score, this series seems destined to have the over/unders installed at 7 or even, daresay, 7.5 the rest of the way. The Edmonton Oilers reached the Western Conference finals with a 5-4 victory in overtime at Calgary on Thursday to end that series in five games. The Oilers scored five times for the third time in four games with that win. They have scored at least four goals in eight of their twelve playoffs games, and they have scored at least five goals in half of those twelve games in the postseason. Edmonton is led by the best player in the NHL in Conner McDavid who has scored seven times in the playoffs and assisted on another 19 goals in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He is joined by Leon Draisaitl who has generated 26 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs as well. Evander Kane has thrived playing on the top line with that pair. He had 12 goals in the first two rounds with a remarkable 23.5% shooting percentage in the postseason. Zach Hyman added another eight goals in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Yet the Oilers were giving up 3.1 goals per game even before Colorado scored eight times against them in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Mike Smith has put up good numbers with a .927 save percentage after the first two rounds yet he has committed several miscues that have cost his team goals. The Flames scored at least three goals in four of the five games against them. Edmonton began the playoffs with a seven-game series with the Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers shut out the Kings, 2-0, in Game 7 to win the series and advance to face Calgary. Edmonton had an 8-4 record after the first two rounds of the playoffs with 52 goals and 37 goals allowed in those twelve games.Colorado moved past St. Louis with a 3-2 victory on the road on Friday to end that series in six games. There three previous games with the Blues had at least seven combined goals scored, with two of those games having nine combined goals scored. The Avalanche had scored 10 power-play goals in the playoffs with a 34.5% conversion rate after the first two rounds of the playoffs. Colorado has scored at least five goals in five of their ten playoff games, and they have scored six or more goals three times. Nathan MacKinnon leads the way with eight goals and five assists in their ten games. Mikko Rantanen has 11 points yet has only scored once despite scoring 36 goals in the regular season. Yet Colorado had allowed 3.2 goals per game in their last five games against St. Louis with goalie Darcy Kuemper posting a .857 save percentage in his last three games. The season-ending injury to defenseman Samuel Girard in the fourth game of the series with the Blues makes the challenge to stop their opponents even stiffer.The Avalanche began the playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Nashville Predators. Colorado scored 43 times in their ten games in the first two rounds of the playoffs while giving up 27 goals. The oddsmakers have installed them as a money line favorite of -160 or higher in all ten of their playoff games. The results of Game 1 suggest the oddsmakers will keep posting an over/under of 7 in this series. Yet bettors should be aware that of the three goals scored in the third period, one was a late empty netter by the Avalanche. There may be unders coming on the horizon, especially when combined scores of six will pay off under tickets. The Oilers appear capable of staying competitive in this series as well in this showdown between McDavid and MacKinnon after almost forcing overtime after trailing 7-4 after two periods.Good luck - TDG.

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Will Home Runs and Scoring Stay Down All Summer?

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Home runs are down and so is scoring after the first quarter of the Major League Baseball season. Is this a trend that we will continue to observe all summer, or are these initial numbers an aberration?There are a few things that are different this MLB season. The baseballs appear to once again be changed. Yet the biggest complaints appear to be coming from pitchers who are finding more of the baseballs with indented laces that make the ball harder to grip. That would seem to benefit the hitters. All 30 stadiums have installed humidors this season, up from the ten stadiums that had humidors last year. Humidors are climate-controlled chambers where the baseballs are stored to prevent them from drying out. A dryer baseball has more bounce off the bat, so baseballs that have been stored at average humidity helps the pitchers.The wild card this season was the abbreviated three-week spring training that became necessary to play a complete 162-game season after the start of the season was delayed by the labor lockout. The shorter preparation time would appear to negatively impact pitchers’ usual development and progress in getting to their full velocity. Yet perhaps the hitters were hurt by fewer at-bats in the spring?The hitting numbers are clearly down. Teams are averaging 4.18 runs per game (through May 22nd, courtesy of Todd Zola from ESPN for all the seasonal data in this article). That is a six-year low, with the scoring average peaking in 2019 during that span with a 4.63 runs per game average. There are 0.97 home runs per game, another six-year low after peaking in 2019 with 1.33 home runs per game on average. The league-wide batting average of .236 is a six-year low as well after 2016 and 2017 had league-wide batting averages of .251. The humidors seem to be having their intended effect. The average flyball distance this season is 314.4 feet, down from 318.6 feet last year. The six-year high took place in 2019 when the average fly ball traveled 323.5 feet. The average exit velocity for fly balls is 92.1 miles per hour this season after the previous three years had average exit velocities of 92.3 mph, 92.3 mph, and 92.5 mph last year. Yet there is evidence that these lower-scoring trends are turning around. When comparing the April 7th opening day to April 30th data to the May 1st through May 22nd numbers, the hitting numbers are up. Home runs are up 15.6% this month, the largest increase from April in the last six years. Batting averages are up 4.2% this month, the second-biggest jump in May in the last six seasons behind last year’s 5.4% improvement in May. Runs are up 7.3% this month, the second-highest increase behind last year’s 10.3% rise in scoring in May.These numbers are important for us when considering over/unders in baseball. VSiN reports that the Under is 362-321-38 through May 30th this season. While that 53% percentage to the under is consistent with the lower hitting numbers this season, it is interesting to note that the under was hitting at a 60% clip a month ago. As the May hitting numbers improved, more overs were coming in. Given these recent improvements in hitting numbers, bettors should beware of playing unders exclusively because of the negative impact of the league-wide humidors. Perhaps the hitters were farther behind than the pitchers after all after the three-week spring training, yet the batters have finally caught up.Good luck - TDG.

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Analyzing ATS and O/U Data for the NBA Play-In Tournament

Saturday, Apr 30, 2022

We at Team Del Genio like to assess the against the spread and totals data for unique circumstances where perhaps the situation presents an inherent edge to the favorite/underdog or over/under that the oddsmakers and/or market may fail to appreciate. Last month, we looked at how NCAA tournament teams performed in their next if they won their previous tournament game in overtime. This time, we examine NBA play-in tournament games. The play-in tournament to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs is not like any other playoff game in the NBA. While there is a single-elimination dynamic for most of the teams competing in this event (with the exception being for the initial seventh and eighth seeds who earned the opportunity to play a second play-in single-elimination game for the eighth seed if they lose their initial play-in game for the seventh seed), those games are different than elimination games in seven-game playoff series. A playoff series where teams play each other four to seven times in a row breeds familiarity and rewards adaptions and adjustments. These play-in games lack that component. These games might produce interesting data that comes from (relatively) unfamiliar opponents playing in must-win showdowns. The NBA has now had three play-in tournaments, yet for our purposes, we are going to ignore the data from its initial incarnation since those games were played on a neutral court in the bubble during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season. Last year was the first time play-in games were played on true home courts with fans. All six home teams were favored, yet only three of them covered the point spread in victory. Four of the home teams won their games, with Memphis’ 100-96 victory against San Antonio as a 4.5-point favorite being the lone game where the home team won straight-up but did not cover the point spread. The over/unders split out at 3-3, yet the final game went over only because Memphis’ upset win against Golden State went to overtime. That game was still 18 points under the number before the five-minute overtime session where 31 combined points were scored.This year, all six play-in games finished under the number. Atlanta’s initial 132-103 victory at home against Charlotte to advance to play for the eighth seed was the closest call with that final score just finishing under the common closing number of 235.5. All five remaining play-in games averaged more than 11 points below the closing total. The under holds a 9-3 edge in the twelve play-tournament games played on a true home court. All six favorites in the play-in tournament this year won their games. Five of these six favorites covered the point spread in their straight-up victory. Two of these favorites were on the road. Both of these road favorites were playing in the final play-in game, and both covered the point spread in their straight-up victory. In the last two years of play-in games not taking place on neutral courts, favorites are now 8-4 ats. Home teams are just 6-6 ats.Favorites and unders may have had past underlying value in the NBA play-in tournament. Good luck - TDG.

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The Early Season Value of Eric Lauer

Saturday, Apr 30, 2022

Eric Lauer has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2022 season in Major League Baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers’ left-hander came into the last day of April with a 1-0 record that goes along with a sparkling 2.20 era and a 1.04 whip in three starts.Lauer was coming off a dominant effort where he allowed no runs in six innings while striking out 14 batters on the road in Philadelphia on April 24th. He induced seventeen swinging strikes and 36% of his 98 pitches in the effort were either a called strike or a swinging strike. Bettors looking at Lauer’s season numbers last year may have overlooked what appears to be a breakout season. He posted a 7-5 record in 118 2/3 innings with a 3.19 era and a 1.13 whip. Yet Lauer hinted at a possible breakthrough season this year after posting a 2.60 era in his 62 1/3 innings after the all-star break last season. He struck out 3.70 batters for every walk he issued during that span. The crafty 26-year-old has five different pitches at his disposal, and the 94.5 miles per hour on his fastball this season is 1.5 mph higher than last year.Lauer rewarded his backers in his start at home against the Chicago Cubs with seven innings of work where he allowed only one earned run. He struck out eleven batters and continued his impressive ability to miss bats. Twenty-one of his pitches went for swing-and-miss strikes, and 35% of his pitches overall were either called strikes or swing-and-miss strikes. Eric Lauer completes the month of April with a 2-0 record along with a 1.93 era and a 0.99 whip. He has 34 strikeouts in his 22 1/3 innings through four starts. He has walked only five batters. The Brewers were swinging cold bats, yet they have scored 20 runs in their last two games. The opportunities to buy low when Lauer is on the mound make be disappearing quickly, especially if the Milwaukee hitters continue to hit like they have against Cubs’ pitching this weekend. Yet Lauer still may offer some money line or under value as spring moves into summer. Good luck - TDG.

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How Have Teams Fared After Winning an NCAA Tournament Game in OT?

Thursday, Mar 31, 2022

Are NCAA-B tournament teams that come off a victory in overtime in their previous NCAA tournament game at a disadvantage in their next game, or does that dynamic gets priced into the line by the oddsmakers?It remains an ongoing question. There were six overtime games in the NCAA tournament in March. Perhaps analyzing those results can offer insight?Notre Dame outlasted Rutgers in two overtimes, 89-87, as a 1-point underdog in one of the first four games. The ten additional minutes did not appear to take a toll on a Fighting Irish team that did not rely on a deep bench as they made it to the weekend before losing to Texas Tech. They upset Alabama in the first round of the tournament, 78-64, as a 4-point underdog. St. Peter’s upset Kentucky, 85-79, in overtime as an 18.5-point underdog in the first round. That experience seems to energize the team as they proceeded to continue on a magical run that saw them become the first 15 seed to reach the Elite 8 where they lost to North Carolina. St. Peter’s pulled off three upsets along the way, including beating Murray State in the second round. Murray State’s loss as an 8.5-point favorite was the first team to not cover the point spread after winning their prior tournament game in overtime. The Racers needed overtime to cover the 2 points the oddsmakers had them laying in their opening round game against San Francisco which they pulled out, 92-87. Creighton defeated San Diego State, 72-69, in the first round of the tournament as a 2.5-point underdog. They played valiantly against Kansas in the second round despite the injury suffered to Ryan Kalkbrenner in the overtime of the game with the Aztecs. Yet the Bluejays lost the game ultimately, 79-72, as a 13-point underdog. North Carolina blew a 25-point lead against Baylor in the second round but used overtime to upset the defending national champions, 93-86, as a 5.5-point underdog. The Tar Heels followed that up by upsetting UCLA, 73-66, as a 2.5-point underdog in the Sweet 16. Arizona needed overtime to get past TCU, 85-80, as a 9.5-point favorite in the final game of the second round. The Wildcats were then upset by Houston, 72-60, as a 1.5-point favorite in the Sweet 16.In all, NCAA tournament overtime survivors went 4-2 against the spread in their next tournament game. Three of those four winners pulled off upset victories in their next game with Creighton the only team to parlay their momentum into an upset win. Both overtime losers, Arizona and Murray State got upset as a favorite after not covering the point spread as a favorite in their overtime victory in their previous game. These are interesting trends to continue to scrutinize next year. Good luck - TDG.

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The Sacramento Kings Are Still Playing Hard (and Covering)

Thursday, Mar 31, 2022

The Sacramento Kings may be out of the playoff race, yet they are offering some point spread value down the stretch as they play hard for head coach Alvin Gentry. They played Houston as a small road favorite on Wednesday in a game between two teams playing for next year in the Western Conference. The Kings were on a two-game winning streak before losing at Miami to an angry Heat team desperate to end a four-game losing streak in a 123-100 loss on Monday. Because they are not going to make the playoffs this year, they appear to have shut down De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis for the rest of the season with their nagging injuries. Yet the team is still competitive with rookie Davion Mitchell being given the keys to lead the offense. When they drafted Mitchell with the ninth pick in the first round out of Baylor, many observers were scratching their heads considering they already had Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as starting guards. Yet after Haliburton was traded to Indiana with Sabonis coming over in return, Mitchell has been given the room to develop. In the last five games since Fox has been out before Thursday’s game, Mitchell was averaging 22 points per game with 7 assists per game, 3 rebounds per game, and 1 steal per game. Sacramento beat the Rockets, 121-118, with Mitchell scoring 24 points while adding 8 assists and 5 rebounds. Sacramento cannot do too much to help their ping pong ball odds for the upcoming NBA draft lottery. Having the sixth-worst record in the league, they are losing ground quickly against the Indiana Pacers who are in complete free-fall after that trade. The Kings began the last day of March remaining 5 1/2 games above Oklahoma City who have the fourth-worst record in the NBA. At this point, Gentry probably wants his team to continue to play well and build positive momentum for the future while seeing what Mitchell can do. Our NBA Western Conference Game of the Month was with Sacramento in that Wednesday game in Houston. Bettors who had had -2.5 tickets won, yet there -3s out there with those punters having to settle for the push. The Kings will remain an interesting option for the rest of the regular season. They have covered the point spread in sixteen of their last twenty-five games in the second half of the season along with nine of their fourteen games this month. They are 5-1-1 ats in their last six games on the road, and they have covered the point spread in eight of their last eleven games on the road against teams not winning more than 40% of their games at home. Good luck - TDG.

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The Underrated Cincinnati Bengals

Monday, Feb 28, 2022

Cincinnati lost the Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams, yet better game management by the head coach Zac Taylor could have made the difference in the Bengals pulling the upset and lifting the Vince Lombardi championship trophy. Running back Joe Mixon was not on the field for both of Cincinnati’s failed fourth-and-one opportunities. In hindsight, this looks like an inexplicable failure on Taylor’s part to put his best players in a position to succeed. Taylor would later say that Samaji Perine “deserved” the opportunity to be on the field in those situations. The Bengals’ players and fans (and bettors) deserved to have their best running back in Mixon be given the opportunity to get the one-yard necessary to continue the drive. Mixon averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the Super Bowl but was only given 15 rushing attempts in the game. Perhaps it is understandable why Taylor kept Perine on the field for their fourth-down attempt in the first quarter given his ball-catching skills. But for Taylor to not use a timeout to get Mixon into the game when the Bengals had a fourth-and-one on their final drive and about ten yards away from getting into placekicker Evan McPherson’s field goal range for a potential game-tying kick was simply inexcusable. That mistake might have cost Cincinnati the Super Bowl. Neither of the Super Bowl teams had impeccable credentials entering this game, yet observers that were discounting Cincinnati’s chances made a mistake by not focusing on their most recent run of games. After an embarrassing 41-16 midseason loss at home to in-state rival Cleveland, the Bengals followed that up with a hard-fought 26-23 loss at home to San Francisco. Cincinnati’s prospects did not look promising at that point, despite not many appreciating how impressive the close loss with the 49ers would like in hindsight. Since that loss to the eventual loser in the NFC championship game (who had beaten the Rams twice this season), the Bengals won six of seven games. The play of their defense has improved as they held five of those seven opponents to 21 or fewer points. They stymied Kansas City to just a field goal in the second half in both weeks 17 and in the AFC championship game. In the playoffs, Cincinnati had six interceptions going into the Super Bowl. Their defense then faced Matthew Stafford who threw 17 interceptions this season with four returned for touchdowns. While much of the conversation in the two weeks before the Super Bowl included a coronation of Stafford in his first year out of Detroit, what was being forgotten is how different he would be treated if the Bengals had not dropped his errant pass midway through the fourth quarter in the NFC championship game which should have been his 18th interception of the season. Sean McVay only had Stafford throw 17 passes in their opening playoff game against Arizona. If Stafford had finally solved his interception problem, McVay did not seem to be convinced of this just a month before the Super Bowl. The Bengals found success in the second half against the Chiefs in the AFC championship game by relying on a three-man pass rush which allowed them to use eight defenders in pass coverage. One of the advantages of a pass defense like this is that it takes the power out of offensive head coaches like Andy Reid and now McVay since it is difficult for these masterminds to simply scheme out of the challenge. These defenses can be beaten, but it requires the quick-thinking skills of the quarterback. This had not been a strength for Stafford in his career.Joe Burrow, on the other hand, was playing with the utmost confidence and seemingly pressure-free with his career still ahead of him. Cincinnati is well ahead of its rebuilding plan. Isn’t it interesting that six of seven-run going into the Super Bowl was about eleven months after Burrow suffered his season-ending knee injury last season? Burrow worked himself to be available to begin the year, yet doctors often claim it takes a full twelve months to fully recover from injuries like that. The Bengals' late-season surge coincides with that timeline. Cincinnati covered the point spread in nine of their eleven games against winning teams this season, with eight of those nine covers occurring in the second half of the season. The Rams covered the point spread in just three of their nine games against winning teams this season. Considering that the underdog has covered the point spread in eleven of the last eighteen Super Bowls since 2003, we expected that dog trend to continue with this improving Bengals team. Cincinnati was in a position to win the Super Bowl if only had Taylor better managed those final moments. Now the Bengals will go from the hunter to the hunted next season. Defending their AFC North title will be a challenge with four games against two of the best and most consistent franchises in the league in the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers with another two games against the very talented Cleveland Browns. Dan Marino made the Super Bowl in his second year in the NFL but was never able to get his Miami Dolphins back in the big game. Could Burrow suffer the same fate?Good luck - TDG.

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Super Bowl Observations

Monday, Feb 28, 2022

Team Del Genio ended the NFL season on a high note by winning all three of their plays, including their NFL Total of the Year and their NFL 1st Half Play of the Year. Our first decision for the matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals was to endorse the Rams to cover the first half line (-2.5 in many locations, with -3s elsewhere). The Rams had gotten off to plenty of fast starts in the first half this season with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. We identified that Los Angeles had two initial edges in the game that would help them get off to a good start: home field and Super Bowl experience. Many of the players on both sides of the ball along with head coach Sean McVay were part of the Rams’ Super Bowl team three years ago. McVay admitted after that game that he attempted to accomplish too much in the lead-up to that game. Nerves were likely to be less of an issue this time around for the players who put on a Rams uniform in that game. The home crowd should energize the Los Angeles players in the opening moments of the game as well. McVay usually has his team start well. The Rams averaged 13.3 points in the first half going into the Super Bowl while allowing only 9.4 points in the first half. In their three previous playoff games, Los Angeles had averaged 16.0 points in the first half to give them an average halftime lead of 11.7 points per game against three playoff opponents who have averaged only 4.3 points in the opening 30 minutes. The only game where the Rams did not have a halftime lead was in the NFC championship game against San Francisco when the 49ers took a 10-7 halftime lead. Kyle Shanahan and his team were determined to get off to a better start than they did in the final week of the regular season when they let Los Angeles go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Rams blew that lead in the second half yet responded by scoring three first-half touchdowns the next week to take a 21-0 half-time lead against Arizona in the wildcard round of the playoffs. The next week in Tampa Bay, Los Angeles went into halftime with a 20-3 lead against the defending Super Bowl champions. Cincinnati had been the comeback kids with Joe Burrow as their quarterback. They rallied from a 28-17 halftime deficit in Week 17 of the regular season to upset Kansas City. They pulled off a second comeback win in four weeks in the AFC championship game against the Chiefs by overcoming a 21-10 halftime score to upset them, 27-24, in Arrowhead Stadium. Head coach Zac Taylor would probably not feel any urgency to take chances in the opening half. He knew his team is playing on the road, and his players may have nerves. The Bengals wanted to run the ball to establish the pass. Their continued commitment to run on first down to Tony Romo and many observers frustration represented a philosophy to not put Burrow in harm’s way with second-and-long and third-and-long situations. The Cincinnati offensive line was an obvious weakness, and the Bengals were fortunate to survive their game against Tennessee in the divisional round when Burrow got sacked nine times. What Taylor learned from the previous season when Burrow got sacked 32 times before his season-ending injury (with 13 sacks coming from empty backfield sets) is that he needs to do more to limit the punishment his franchise quarterback takes. Running the ball has a second advantage of putting his two big wide receivers, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, in run blocking responsibilities with an opportunity to perhaps soften up Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and that could pay off in the second half. The Bengals just wanted to stay competitive going into the second half when their confidence should rise. Cincinnati averaged 12.6 points in the first half this season yet allowed 12.4 points in the opening 30 minutes. Their scoring dropped to 9.6 points in the first half when playing on the road. In their three playoff games, the Bengals averaged 13.0 points in the first half but were outscored by 0.3 points in the first half in those games. Sure enough, the Rams went into the locker room with a 13-10 lead.We then decided to endorse the Bengals plus the points for the final score. Several reasons made the Bengals' showdown with the Rams a unique Super Bowl. For starters, Los Angeles will be playing in their home SoFi Stadium for this game, yet it did not feel appropriate to assign them the full weight of the home field edge. The Rams organization did not control the ticket allocation the way they do during their other home games. Even when they do, the Los Angeles market often buys and re-sells these tickets as fans from San Francisco certainly took advantage of twice in the second half of the season. The Rams will have their share of fans in the stadium, yet Cincinnati fans will have a significant foothold in the seats as well. Neutral observers may quickly decide to have a rooting interest with the underdog. The Los Angeles players got to stay at home to prepare for this game, yet it was unclear if staying at home, in a city like Los Angeles, is as advantageous for the two weeks before the Super Bowl as it would otherwise be during the regular season. Tampa Bay took advantage of the home field last year to win the Super Bowl while being the first team to ever play the Big Game in their stadium. However, there is a sizable difference in playing in Tampa Bay during a pandemic when crowds had just been allowed back in Florida then it is playing a Super Bowl in Los Angeles a year later when travel has become normalized. It is unusual for the Super Bowl to not have at least one number one or two seed coming from the AFC or NFC representing their conference. Both the Bengals and the Rams were four seeds going into the playoffs. Neither of these teams lacks significant weaknesses. Sure enough, it was the third quarter where Cincinnati made their move as they scored ten unanswered points to take a 20-13 lead. The Rams ended their scoring drought with a field goal to make pull within four points where the score stayed until Matthew Stafford engineered the final touchdown scoring drive to give Los Angeles a 23-20 lead. The Bengals' ensuing drive stalled, yet we successfully threaded the needle by winning the Rams' first half bet before winning the Bengals plus the points final score wager.We correctly anticipated a lower-scoring game than the 49.5 point total from the oddsmakers suggested. You had to be living under a rock to have not heard someone in the national media commenting that the biggest mismatch in the Big Game will be the Bengals’ offensive line versus Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defensive line. Certainly, Zac Taylor and Sean McVay would be game-planning around this game within the game. Taylor would not want this to be a high-scoring game since that puts more pressure on his star quarterback Joe Burrow to encounter more pass rushes from Donald and company. Taylor wanted to game plan to give Burrow an opportunity to win this game in the fourth quarter, and he needs to still be standing upright for that to happen. Cincinnati won all three of their playoff games despite only averaging 24 points per game and not scoring more than 27 ppg. All three of those games finished under the number.The Bengals did a fine job in neutralizing the Rams’ pass rush in the first half. Yet defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ halftime adjustment to put a fifth player on the defensive line was the tactical move that allowed Donald to thrive. Los Angeles would end the game with seven sacks and completing overwhelming Burrow and the Cincinnati offense in the fourth quarter. Those of us with under tickets had some nervous moments at the end of the game since a Bengals touchdown drive or even overtime could have put the final score into the 50s. Yet the Los Angeles pass rush was too much for Cincinnati to overcome, and the game finished under the number. It was a satisfying and rewarding end to the football season for the Team. Good luck - TDG.

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The Los Angeles Clippers Scoring (and Over) Surge (without Leonard and George)

Monday, Jan 31, 2022

Despite (or because of) playing without the injured Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers are playing higher-scoring games lately. Going into the last day of January, their last five games had seen 219. 2 combined points scored, with the Clippers averaging 111.6 points per game. That scoring average is almost six points above their 105.9 ppg average this season. The Clippers continue to play undermanned without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, yet head coach Tyronn Lue is getting a surprising contribution from Amir Coffey. He is averaging 17.4 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 2.4 assists per game in his last five games. Los Angeles lost the Pacers in Indiana on Monday, 122-116, but don’t blame the offensive effort of the Clippers. They made 45 of their 96 shots from the field for a 47% field goal percentage. Coffey led the way with 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting including him making five of his nine shots from the 3-point line. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher added four assists and five rebounds. Leonard has been out since the playoffs last spring with his knee injury. There is some talk that he could return for a potential playoff run. George is dealing with an elbow injury that has kept him out since December 22nd. While both players offer critical scoring for the Clippers, their absence on the defensive end of the court has probably had a bigger impact on this team.This continued offensive proficiency for the Los Angeles Clippers without George and Leonard is resulting in more overs.  Defensive lapses are an area of emphasis to monitor after the Pacers made 53% of their shots, including 13 of 29 (48%) of their shots from the 3-point line. Los Angeles has played five of their last seven games over the number when playing their third game in five days on the road. The Clippers did not cover the 1-point they were laying as a road favorite on Monday, and they have still played six of the last eight games over the number after a point spread win. Los Angeles entered the game coming off a 115-90 upset victory against Charlotte getting 6.5-points from the oddsmakers on Sunday. The Clippers have played five of their last six games over the number after an upset win on the road as an underdog. They have played five of their last six games over the total after playing at least three in a row on the road. Their eight-game road trip ended with their 6-point loss at Indiana on Monday, but more road games are quickly on the horizon for this team. After a two-game homestand this week against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles will embark on a three-day road swing in the southwest against Memphis before two straight games against the Mavericks in Dallas. With George and Leonard not expected to return anytime soon, perhaps these impending road games will offer profitable betting opportunities with the over. Good luck - TDG.

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The Defensive (and Under) Juggernaut Rising at Washington State

Monday, Jan 31, 2022

In our NCAA-B Sunday Night Vegas O/U Jackpot after the NFL Conference Championship Games, we noted that the Washington State Cougars had played four straight and eight of their last nine games under the total. The Cougars went into that game holding their opponents to 39.9% shooting, ranking in the top-30 in the nation. They held the Utes to a 39.1% field goal percentage on Wednesday in a 71-54 victory. That final score finished below the 139 total installed by the oddsmakers, and they had played eight of their last ten games under the number after playing an under in their last game. Washington State had played six straight unders after a win. They were set to complete a four-game homestand where they had played seven straight unders. They were holding their opponents to 63.8 points per game on 40.6% shooting when playing at home in Pullam. Yet the Cougars were scoring only 69.6 points per game on 41.4% shooting in their previous five games, a bit below their 74.0 ppg average on 42.2% shooting. They had played eleven of their last twelve games under the number when the oddsmakers install them as the favorite. Washington’s State reliable defense made a statement against Colorado that night. They held the Buffaloes to just 18 first-half points to race out to a 21-point lead. When the final buzzer sounded, the Cougars had held Colorado to a 29% field goal percentage on 16 of 56 shooting. Washington State overachieved expectations on the offensive end of the court by shooting 49% from the field and making 12 of their 28 shots from 3-point land. Yet the combined 113 points scored in the Cougars victory fell well below the 132 point total that most oddsmakers settled on by tip-off.Head coach Kyle Smith is quietly building a defensive juggernaut with this Washington State team. His Cougars finished 24th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency last season. That was the program’s best defensive effort since 2009. Smith mixes man-to-man defenses with 2-3 matchup zone schemes. In Year 3 at Washington State, Smith has his team ranked 22nd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. They have held their last three opponents to 57, 54, and 43 points. With a 12-7 record and a 5-3 mark in the Pac-12, the Cougars appear destined to be a bubble team for the next six weeks before the NCAA tournament. Their victory against Colorado may have been their best win for their resume. Yet they end the month of January ranked 35th in the nation according to the analytics at kenpom. They have held 11 of their 13 opponents to no more than 64 points. With upcoming games against Arizona, UCLA, and USC, Smith has the opportunity to test the defensive chops of his team against three teams with legitimate final four aspirations. Those showdowns may offer some intriguing under opportunities, pending what the oddsmakers and the market have to say about the over/under number. Good luck - TDG.

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Georgia Followed the Michigan State Blueprint to beat Michigan

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

Georgia appeared in a good position to have success running the football against Michigan in the college football semifinals. In our report recommending to lay the points with the Bulldogs (our College Football Playoff Game of the Year), we identified that the Wolverines “can be beaten by teams with strong rushing attacks that stick to that approach.” Earlier in the season, Michigan State gouged the Wolverines with a 6.7 yards per carry average led by Kenneth Walker III. The Spartans averaged 8.1 yards per play in handing Michigan their only loss of the season. Yet it was not just Michigan State that found success running the football against the Wolverines. Rutgers ran the ball 42 times against them for 196 yards and a 4.67 yards per carry average. Maryland ran the ball 44 times of 181 yards with a 4.11 yards per carry average. Led by running back Zamir White, Georgia averages 5.3 yards per carry with their ground game contributing 195 yards of the 442 yards they produce per game. They appeared to be in a great position to find success running against the Wolverines just as these three other Big Ten teams had done.Michigan had been exposed at times this season against opponents going up-tempo on offense. First-year defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald comes from the Baltimore Ravens where substitution packages on defense are common defensive tactics. Opponents going up-tempo makes it difficult to substitute players and MacDonald has been caught trying to do too much in getting favorable matchups with either penalties or players not ready to defend the play. Michigan was not used to the national stage in the playoffs. They had not even covered a bowl game point spread in their last four opportunities. In their 34-11 victory against the Wolverines in the playoff semifinals on the last day of 2021, Georgia ran the ball 35 times for 190 yards. While they were not as efficient as Michigan State was, they were not reliant on one bell-cow back as the Spartans were. The Bulldogs averaged 5.4 yards per carry led by four running backs who each carried the ball four times. White was the featured back with 12 carries for 54 yards. Georgia's ability to run the football opened things up for Stetson Bennett and the Bulldogs passing game. Bennett completed 20 of 30 passes for 310 yards with three touchdown passes and without an interception. Running the football helped take some of the pressure off the Bulldogs' defense that came into the playoffs with something to prove. Georgia gave up 536 yards in their 41-24 loss to Alabama as a 6-point favorite in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide averaged 7.66 yards per game against the Bulldogs, yet Georgia had covered the point spread in nineteen of their last twenty-seven games on the road after allowing at least 6.25 yards per play. The Bulldogs had only covered once in their last three games in a 45-0 win at Georgia Tech before playing Michigan, yet they have covered the point spread in seven of their last nine games after only covering the point spread once in their last three games. This is a football program that would not be satisfied by just reaching the national championship game. Kirby Smart already did that with this program four years ago when they lost to Alabama and Tua Tagovailoa's second-half comeback in an overtime thriller four years ago. This program has playoff experience, and these players have competed in many high-profile showdowns given their competition in the SEC. This Wolverines team was just 2-4 last year. Georgia has covered the point spread in six of their last eight bowl games. They have covered the point spread in ten of their last fourteen games played on a neutral field when the oddsmakers install them as the favorite. That is why we recommended taking Georgia minus the points. Now all eyes are on yet another rematch between Georgia and Alabama. Good luck - TDG.

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Betting the Bowls is About Motivation! (Easier Said than Done)

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

A common refrain from bettors during the college football bowl season is that success is “all about determining which team is more motivated.” Sure, with teams exceeding expectations or missing expectations and then coaching changes and player opt-outs, finding winners is as easy as identifying the team that has been motivated to practice and prepare for the game and then playing harder when the game starts. Easy! The problem with this approach is that determining what players and teams are more motivated than another team is easier said than done. In fact, it is quite difficult to assess motivation. Are you watching both teams in practice? Are you inside the dorm rooms logging in the number of hours the players are studying tape in their free time? Are you inside the mind of the players to assess how hard they plan on playing? Motivation is always important. Handicapping relative distinctions in motivation is commonplace. Yet teams with nothing at stake often shock teams who are motivated to win a game to clinch a playoff or achieve a milestone. It happens all the time. With motivation comes expectations, and with expectations comes pressure. Some teams do not perform well under pressure. Making the handicapping motivation game even more difficult is that the bettor has to filter their determination in relation to a point spread. What ifs the oddsmakers have already accurately accounted for the motivation distinction between the two teams? If so, then the bettor banking on motivation is venturing into a bad risk. Texas Tech was supposed to be not motivated to play in the Liberty Bowl on Tuesday. The administration fired head coach Matt Wells last month. New head coach Joey McGuire had yet to take over the program coming over from Baylor. The Red Raiders were on a two-game losing streak playing for an interim head coach in Sonny Cumbie who accepted the job to become the head coach at Louisiana Tech. It could have been easy for the coaching staff and the players to go through the motions facing an SEC team in Mississippi State. Bulldogs head coach was probably working overtime to prepare for the game, as well, since he once coached at Texas Tech for years before he was dismissed for alleged mistreatment of a player who later went to court. Yet, even with all that backstory, Texas Tech upset Mississippi State, 34-7, as a double-digit underdog. The problem with handicapping based on motivation is that pure guesswork. A bettor would be just as successful flipping a coin than guess what is the mind of the coaches and players. Here are some familiar examples of a bettor guessing at motivation but it can be refuted with a basic counter-hypothesis.Motivation: "Team X is playing in the near campus which will basically turn into their home stadium. Team X is ecstatic to be back in a bowl game and their fans will show out in massive numbers, providing a major jolt of intensity, and probably the biggest fan advantage of any bowl game this year."Counter-Motivation: "Team Y's campus is only about an hour farther away than Team X. They would love to pull the upset in Team X's home state, especially as an underdog." Motivation: "Team X is ecstatic to be in this game and I feel like Team Y are disappointed about how their season ended. Put those motivations in a blender and mix them all up and Team X wins!"Counter-Motivation: "Team Y closed out their regular season with an upset loss. Their head coach is using this game as a launching pad for next season with a quarterback competition to be played out in the game." Motivation: "Team X is ecstatic to be playing in this bowl. Team Y doesn’t care about this game at all and is dealing with a substantial number of opt outs. This would be the biggest win of Team X's head coach career and I think his team doesn’t just keep it close, I think they win this game outright. The previous game hangover is real for Team Y, take Team X to cover and win outright if you want to sprinkle some money on the money line."Counter-Motivation: "Team Y's head coach hates Team X's head coach. He will do everything possible to ensure his team does not get embarrassedopt-outs second time in a row. The opt-outs provide the opportunity for Team Y to employ the 'next-man up' mentality while giving playing time to the talented younger players."Motivational differences often become clearer with the benefit of hindsight. Given all the intangibles and circumstances involved in a postseason bowl game, banking on handicapping motivation difference in these bowl games is pure guesswork. At least when the oddsmaker guesses, they have the built-in advantage of the vig. If the bettor is guessing, they are probably losing. Good luck - TDG.

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Is Justin Herbert in a Sophomore Slump?

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021

The Los Angeles Chargers opened the season by winning four of their first five games. Justin Herbert picked up right where he left off after his spectacular rookie season in leading the team to this hot start. In those five games, he averaged 315.2 passing yards per game. He threw 13 touchdown passes to just three interceptions in those games with three games where he tossed at least three TDs. His 139 completions in 207 pass attempts were good for a 67.1% completion percentage. He completed at least 60.5% of his passes in all five starts.Yet Herbert has since taken a step back as the Chargers have lost four of their last six games. It all started in Baltimore on October 10th in a 34-6 loss to the Ravens. Herbert completed just 22 of 39 passes for 195 yards for a 56.4% completion rate in the loss. He only threw one touchdown pass and added an interception.Los Angeles returned home the next week to lose to New England, 27-24. Herbert completed just 18 of 35 passes for 223 yards and a 51.4% completion rate. He did throw two touchdown passes but he had two passes picked off as well. Herbert rebounded by completing 33 of 38 passes for 356 yards in a 27-24 victory at Philadelphia. He had two touchdown passes and no interceptions in the victory. After getting sacked five times in the previous two weeks, he was not sacked by the Eagles. Perhaps Herbert’s success can be attributed to facing a Philadelphia defense coached by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Coming over from Indianapolis where he was an assistant coach along with the Eagles’ rookie head coach Nick Sirianni, the zone coverage that the Colts and Eagles play was not difficult for Herbert to solve. New England’s Bill Belichick has a well-established reputation for making things difficult on young quarterbacks. Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh started as a defensive coach and has one of the best defensive coordinators in Wink Martindale who commits to pressuring the opposing quarterback. Herbert faced another well-respected defensive head coach the following week against Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings. In that 27-20 loss, he completed only 20 of 34 passes for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His 58.8% completion percentage in that game was the third time in a four-game stretch when he did not complete at least 60% of his passes. Herbert played better against a Pittsburgh Steelers team missing T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, and Minkah Fitzpatrick the following week. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 382 yards in the Chargers’ 41-37 victory. However, after having success against Mike Tomlin’s depleted defense, Herbert struggled last week in a 28-13 loss in Denver. He completed 28 of 44 passes for 303 yards against head coach Vic Fangio’s defense yet he threw two more interceptions in the setback. The downward trends are clear. In his last six starts, his completion percentage has dropped to 64.9% with Herbert averaging 276 passing yards per game. He has just 11 touchdown passes in those games along with seven interceptions. The numbers become even starker when removing the games against the Eagles and injured Steelers. Against Fangio, Zimmer, Belichick, and Harbaugh-coached teams, Herbert completed only 57.9% of his passes for 224 yards per game. He has only six touchdown passes against those four defensive coaches with five interceptions. Those four coaches saw their defenses sack Herbert ten times. Herbert had a historic rookie season where he completed 66.6% of his passes for 4336 yards with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Perhaps being coached by a new offensive coordinator in Joe Lombardi and head coach Brandon Staley threw off his early opponents. Yet it appears that the better defensive coaches in the league have discovered some tendencies in the second-year quarterback. They call it a sophomore slump for a reason since it is not uncommon for rookies coming off breakout seasons to maintain that level of excellence. The competition catches up.Herbert appears to have the talent and work ethic to make adjustments. However, it may take him some time to figure out the best way to counter the defensive looks that Fangio, Zimmer, Belichick, and Harbaugh have used to frustrate him.Good luck - TDG.

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The Washington Football Team's Rushing Attack is Revitalizing their Defense

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2021

The Washington Football Team has pulled off upset victories in three straight games after their 17-15 win against Seattle for Monday Night Football on the last Monday in November. After starting the season losing six of their first eight games, head coach Ron Rivera has this team in contention once again to win the NFC East against a faltering Dallas Cowboys team that has lost three of their last four games. At 5-6, the Football Team is two games behind the Cowboys in the division standings yet they still have both their games with their NFC East rivals on deck in December. Washington won the NFC East last season despite starting the year with a 1-5 record. The foundation for success for Rivera this season has been a renewed commitment to run the football coming off their bye week.The Football Team’s first game after the two weeks off and self-audit of their own tendencies when they hosted Tampa Bay. They shocked the defending Super Bowl champions three weeks ago with a 29-19 victory. The Football Team held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers' offense to just 273 yards. Washington was able to contain Brady by being on offense for over 39 minutes in that game. They ran the ball 34 times for 94 yards. Washington then upset Carolina on the road two weeks ago with a 27-21 win as a field goal underdog. They held the Panthers to only 297 yards with them being on offense for just over 24 minutes in that game. The Football Team’s offense was on the field for 35:53 minutes. They ran the ball 40 times for 190 yards. On Monday, the Football Team ran the ball 43 times for 152 yards. They controlled the clock on offense for 41:40 minutes after keeping Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense on the field for less than ten minutes in the first half. Seattle only gained 267 yards in the game. The success in the Washington ground game has come from the spectacular play of Antonio Gibson. The second-year running back has rushed the ball 72 times in the last three games for 270 yards. He has 81 touches in those three games when including catching the ball out of the backfield. He ran the ball 29 times for 111 yards against the Seahawks. Running the football to win the time of possession battle has helped to revitalize the Football Team’s defense that struggled early in the season. They allowed 424, 391, and 481 yards in their first three games of the year. The 432 yards per game those first three opponents averaged far eclipsed their 305 yards per game defensive average last year, the second-best mark in the league. Washington has held their last three opponents to 55 combined points, similar to the defensive run they went on last season when they held their last seven opponents to 20 points or less with a 15.0 points per game opponent average from week 11 to the end of the regular season. Their opponents during their winning streak have averaged only 279 yards per game with none gaining more than 297 yards. Being on offense for about 16 more minutes per game keeps the defense fresh while frustrating quarterbacks like Brady and Wilson. With this commitment to run the football and control the time of possession, Rivera may be poised to lead the Football Team to a second-straight playoff run despite a slow start to the season.Good luck - TDG.

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A Tale of Two Improving NBA Defenses/ Sacramento and New Orleans

Sunday, Oct 31, 2021

Two of the worst defenses in the NBA last season belonged to the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans. Both have seen immediate improvements this season, although both teams had nowhere to go but up. Yet both teams may offer some intriguing betting value with either unders or as a point spread underdog early in the NBA season. The Kings posted a historically bad defensive rating of 116.5 last season. They allowed their opponents to make 48.8% of their shots. which was also the worst mark in the NBA. Opponents scored 117.4 points per game against them, ranking 28th in the league. Rookie Davion Mitchell has made an immediate impact on the play of the Kings' defense already this season. The former Baylor star is establishing himself as a clampdown ball defender. He held Damian Lillard to 1 of 7 shooting, Donovan Mitchell to 2 of 6 shooting, and Jordan Clarkson to 2 of 6 shooting in his first two games in the league after earning rave reviews with his defense in the Summer League. Sacramento had limited their three most recent opponents to no better than 45.2% shooting before playing in New Orleans on Thursday. They held the Pelicans to 42.9% shooting in a 113-109 victory. They close out the month with an improved defensive rating of 110.2, good for 25th in the league. While not great, things are moving in the right direction. Opponents are scoring 111.8 points per game, an improvement of almost 6 ppg earning them a ranking of 22nd. Their opponent’s field goal percentage of 44.4% is 16th in the NBA.New Orleans was another team that had the directive to improve their play on defense this season. The Pelicans never took to head coach Stan Van Gundy. They allowed 114.9 points per game with opponents hitting 46.9% of their shots, ranking 24th and 19th in the league. Their defensive rating of 113.3 was 23rd. Management brought in Willie Green after his successful stint as an assistant coach with Phoenix, and he has made an instant impact on the team’s play on defense. New Orleans may have lost to Atlanta on Wednesday (10/28) 102-99, yet the play of the defense was quite good as they held the Hawks to 41.7% shooting. The Pelicans had held their last three opponents to 98.7 points per game on 39% shooting with none of those three teams topping 102 points. New Orleans' defense faltered against the Kings who made 50% of their shots against them. Yet their defensive numbers to end the month show improvement from last year. While their defensive rating ranks 26th, it has improved to 110.2. Opponents are making 45.9% of their shots, 22nd in the NBA. They are allowing 110.0 points per game, 20th in the league, in an improvement of almost 4 points per game.These trends may not hold, although the additions of Mitchell and Green suggest that they just might. There may be more valuable opportunities with these teams in November before the market catches up. Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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The Impact of Weather on Football Over/Unders

Sunday, Oct 31, 2021

The role that rain and windy weather was put to the test in the last week with three games on prime time national television. A bomb cyclone in the Pacific Northwest impacted the Sunday night game in the NFL between Indianapolis and San Francisco. It also affected the Monday night game between New Orleans and Seattle. Rain and wind then played a role in the Sun Belt Conference on Thursday in the game between Troy and Coastal Carolina.Rain and winds in the 15 to 17 miles per hour range with occasional gusts were the conditions that the Colts and 49ers had to deal with in their game. Conditions like that impact the passing games and field goal attempts. Some bettors may have presumed the under was the preferred play yet the final score did not stay under the number despite the inclement weather. However, the weather played a major role in how that game played out. Only thirteen combined points were scored in the second and third quarters. Indianapolis gained only 295 yards on seventeen first downs and San Francisco managed just 280 yards on thirteen first downs. Those are offensive numbers that reliably lead to winning unders. The Colts got help from the 49ers committing two big pass interference plays on jump ball deep passes that led to two of their touchdowns. Both passing games were limited. Indianapolis passed for 147 yards and San Francisco passed for 169 yards. The Colts missed an extra point and later chose to go for a two-point conversion given the difficult wind conditions.Bad weather does not guarantee lower-scoring games but it can negatively impact some of the things that lead to higher-scoring games. There were seven fumbles between both teams. Turnovers are neutral in the long run in impacting over/unders since giving the ball up stalls drives and creates good scoring opportunities for the opposition.The rain and wind were less pronounced the next night in Seattle, yet that game was a low-scoring contest that the Saints won, 13-10. Sometimes games are destined to be low-scoring.  Weather is a factor when considering over/under plays, yet it should not replace the underlying factors in the game matchup between both teams. For Troy’s visit to Coastal Carolina later in the week, the oddsmakers opened the point spread in the -18.5 range yet the market has pushed the number down to the key number of -17 for the Chanticleers. Perhaps the weather reports persuaded bettors to take a Trojans team with a great defense? Rain and possible thunderstorms with wind gusts up to 10 miles per hour are in the forecast. Yet could Troy slow down an angry Coastal Carolina team coming off their first loss of the season? The Chanticleers averaged 46 points per game and 523 yards per game entering the contest. They averaged 8.5 yards per play. Their rushing attack was eleventh in the nation by averaging 234 yards per game which should continue to be effective in wet conditions. Slippery conditions can help the offense since it is the defensive players that have to react to the movements of the offensive players. Those words at the time proved prophetic as Coastal Carolina gained 510 total yards of offense in a 35-28 victory that went way over the 49.5 point total installed by the oddsmakers. The Chanticleers ran the ball 40 times for 216 yards. Yet the Coastal Carolina could not stop a Trojans team that appeared limited on offense at the time. Their second-leading wide receiver Reggie Todd was suspended for the game. Troy averaged only 20.3 points per game at the time. The rushing attack averaged 106 yards per game with a 3.6 yards per carry average. Yet the Trojans rush for 164 yards on 36 carries. Troy gained 389 yards overall.Of note was that both teams committed a number of turnovers. The Trojans threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball another two times, losing the ball once. The Chanticleers threw two interceptions. Of course, fumbles and interceptions take place even in the best of weather conditions. Bettors should be careful in putting too much stock in the weather having a disproportionate impact on a point spread or over/under. Bad weather can both help and hurt scoring opportunities. The sharpest bettors will take the weather report to then handicap how those conditions will impact the strengths and weaknesses of the two teams playing the game.Good luck - TDG.

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The Detroit Lions: For Those Who Bet Numbers (Not Teams)

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

The betting public tends to want to bet for or against teams. Those looking to share the perspective of the oddsmakers look at the numbers before assessing a team’s ability to cover that point spread. These bettors may develop the habit of consistently backing the Detroit Lions this season.After 33 losses in Matt Patricia’s three seasons as the Detroit head coach, it is of little surprise that bettors are not fond of betting on the Lions. Detroit has been an underdog of more than a touchdown in each of their first three games. Dan Campbell is the new head coach after serving as the interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2015 after Joe Philbin was let go after four games. Campbell led the team to win five of their remaining twelve games while drawing national attention for doing gimmicky things like bring the Oklahoma drill to practices. After serving on Sean Payton’s coaching staff as the tight ends coach, Campbell got hired by the Lions in the offseason. His eccentric nature was ridiculed by the sports media when he talked in introductory press conferences about his team biting knee caps to demonstrate the fight and resolve he expects from his players. Yet these comments may have hit the right cord for the fans (and players) in Detroit who found Patricia aloof and a beneficiary of being a former defensive coordinator for Bill Belichick. Campbell knows the city and the mentality of the fanbase as a former player for the Lions himself.Campbell has assembled an intriguing coaching team around him. Anthony Lynn is a good offensive mind at offensive coordinator who is now being rumored as a candidate for the heading coaching job at USC. Lynn’s biggest failing as the head coach of the Chargers was his game management late in games. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is one of the hot young coaches in the game. After being a leader for many of Bill Parcel’s defenses for the New York Jets and later the Dallas Cowboys, he shined as the defensive backs coach at New Orleans, where he first worked with Campbell. Veteran defensive coach Dom Capers is a special consultant. Campbell is a Bill Parcells-disciple, as well, who is taking on the role of CEO head coach. The national media may not have bought in right away, yet the players seem to have become believers in Campbell. It would be easy for the Lions to fold after falling behind to San Francisco, 38-10, midway through the third quarter in their opening game of the season. Yet Detroit kept fighting by outscoring the 49ers 23-3 the rest of the way including making both of their 2-point conversions to put the game within one scoring possession before losing 41-33. The Lions then held a 17-14 halftime lead in Green Bay on Monday Night Football. A failed fourth-down attempt deep in Packers’ territory early in the second half changed the momentum of that game. The final score, 35-17, does not accurately reflect how competitive that game was. Detroit won the yardage battle, 344-323. Detroit then rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit to take a 17-16 lead against Baltimore last week before the Ravens’ kicker, Justin Tucker, kicked an NFL record 66-yard field goal to win the game. Perhaps it was only a former Lions’ player who could appreciate the bad turn of events for the club when replays revealed that the referees failed to call a delay of game penalty on Baltimore that should have nullified the successful kick. Campbell acknowledged the error, dismissed any eventual apology from the league as useless, and then got his team focused for their next game. It is going to take some time to rebuild the roster that Patricia left behind. Yet what this team may lack in talent, they will make up for by being prepared and not giving up. Detroit will probably be underdogs in most of their games this season. For those who bet numbers not teams, the Lions will present some interesting possibilities as the season moves forward.Good luck - TDG.

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Dan Quinn's Immediate Impact on the Dallas Cowboys' Defense

Thursday, Sep 30, 2021

Mike McCarthy knew the Dallas defense needed all the help it could get after allowing 29.8 points per game last season. His new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has energized the unit. Even after three games this season, his impact on the defensive unit is quite apparent.After getting fired as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Quinn conducted a self-assessment of his defensive principles from his time as the defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll in Seattle to update his ideas for the ever-evolving offenses in the NFL. Quinn became the head coach for the Falcons after serving as the Seahawks defensive coordinator for two seasons culminating with their Super Bowl victory in 2014. His reputation as a defensive mastermind only strengthened with the steady improvement of the Atlanta defense in their Super run in the 2016-17 season, which ended in their epic fourth-quarter collapse to New England. Disappointing play from his defenses since that year and three straight losing seasons eventually led to owner Arthur Blank letting Quinn go in the off-season. McCarthy quickly scooped him up to replace his defensive coordinator last year, Mike Nolan.Quinn has played less cover-3 defense with the Cowboys with more single-high safety or two-zone safety looks. He is adapting to the talent he inherited, and he is simplifying schemes, so his players play fast. One of the problems that Dallas had last year was the system change to a 3-4 under new coordinator Mike Nolan. The COVID pandemic made that transition more challenging, and Nolan did not adjust well to teaching his concepts from zoom meetings. The Cowboys signed six new defensive players in free agency and drafted eight rookies to contribute to the defense, including their top-six picks. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones hit a home run in the drafting of linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. After the injury to DeMarcus Lawrence, Quinn moved Parsons to defensive end, a position he had not played since high school. Parsons has thrived in that role. Quinn’s defense is making big plays. They have forced eight turnovers in their first three games, with three of them in the red zone. Dallas may be allowing over 400 yards per game, but they have played against two strong offenses in the Buccaneers and Chargers. They held those two offenses to 24.5 points per game. They only allowed 14 offensive points to Philadelphia on Monday, with the Eagles’ third touchdown being from a Dak Prescott fumble that they recovered in the end zone. The Cowboys were second-to-last in the NFL last season by allowing 159 rushing yards per game. Four opponents gashed them for over 200 yards on the ground. This year, they have not given up 100 or more rushing yards in a game while holding their three opponents to 70 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys lead the NFL with ten different players all moving at a speed of at least 19 miles per hour. Quinn deserves the credit. His schemes are helping his players play faster, with less thinking and more instinctual reacting. Good luck - TDG.

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Handicapping College Football After a Season Played During a Pandemic

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

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

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Starting Pitcher Observations from August

Tuesday, Aug 31, 2021

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

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Starting Pitcher Observations from July

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

What started as a hot month for TDG in baseball carried through until the final few days of July where we have gotten stuck behind some teams that hit below our expectations. Bad days at the plate will happen. If we continue to identify starting pitchers of value opposing starting pitchers with red flags, we should see good results.Our July Game of the Month was on Saturday, the 31st, on the Milwaukee Brewers. Brandon Woodruff had only allowed one run through five innings before getting in trouble in the top of the sixth with Atlanta scoring two more runs. Yet it was the Brewers' offense that was the bigger disappointment as they managed to score only once against Braves’ rookie starting pitcher Kyle Muller. The Milwaukee bullpen then gave up another five runs in an 8-1 loss. Woodruff will remain on our radar despite the setback. Woodruff entered the game with a 7-5 record with a sparkling 2.14 era and a 0.84 whip. The right-hander was striking out 30.4% of the batters has faced due to a nasty combination of a curveball and changeup that keeps batters chasing. In his previous start against the White Sox last Sunday, he induced 22 swinging strikes with 45% of his pitches resulting in a called-strike or a swinging strike. He combines his elite strikeout skills with a ground ball rate of the balls he allows into play of 45.6% before the start against the Braves. Woodruff’s hard-hit rate of the balls allowed into play of 25% is a career-best. Woodruff had been even better when pitching on the road where he has a 1.96 era and a 0.72 whip in ten starts. Milwaukee had won eleven of their last twelve games when Woodruff is pitching in a game where the oddsmakers install the over/under at 9 or 9.5. He should be fine. We will monitor Eduardo Rodriguez closely after getting burned with him in our American League Total of the Month on Thursday. With hindsight, perhaps Rodriguez was rusty after only pitching one inning in his previous start due to a migraine headache. Reports coming out of Boston is that he felt fine. Yet he struggled in the opening frame against Toronto before leaving that game on Thursday, July 29th, after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings. We thought the 5.23 era and 1.38 whip he had at the time was sending the wrong message to bettors. The left-hander did not pitch last year due to COVID, and he started slowly in spring training. Yet he was striking out 27.4% of the batters he faces while walking just 5.8% of the batters he had faced before that final start of the month. The hard-hit rate of the balls he was allowing into play of 27.8% is the second-lowest in his career. In his four previous starts, Rodriguez had a 2.15 era and a 1.08 whip as he appeared to have found his stride. Opponents were hitting just .209 against him this month. He had struck out 20 batters and walked five in his 17 2/3 innings in July. If his start against the Blue Jays was just one of those things after not pitching much, there could be quite a bit of value with him in the next two months (and playoffs).We looked poised to win our FS1 Game of the Month on Saturday, July 24th, in part because of the value we identified in Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He allowed only two runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Yet the Boston bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning and failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss. Eovaldi began the game with a 9-5 record with a 3.57 era and a 1.20 whip in 19 starts this year. The right-hander had a 2.55 era and a 1.01 whip in his previous four starts which did not include the scoreless inning he pitched against the National League in the All-Star game. Over those 24 2/3 innings, he had struck out 28 batters and walked just two. He is combining his elite strikeout-to-walk ratios with a hard-hit rate of the balls he is allowing into play of 26.3% which is the lowest mark in his last nine seasons. Some tough luck results. Yet we begin August on a 39 of 51 (76%) MLB run. Good luck - TDG.

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The Underlying Greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s NBA Title Run

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo deserved to win the Most Valuable Player award of the NBA finals. He put up incredible offensive numbers. He averaged 35.2 points per game, rebounded 13.7 boards per game, and added 5.0 assists per game in their triumph against the Phoenix Suns in six games. For the entire postseason, Antetokounmpo averaged 30.2 points per game, 12.8 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. Antetokounmpo was a force on the defensive end of the court as a rim protector and defender throughout the playoffs. He took away the Suns’ Deandre Ayton in the finals as that series moved on. Yet perhaps the more impressive aspects to Antetokounmpo’s first NBA title go beyond those numbers. For starters, the fact that Antetokounmpo evened played in the NBA finals was extraordinary. When he hyperextended his knee in the Eastern Conference finals, his ability to even compete for a championship looked in doubt. He was questionable up until tip-off for Game 1 of the finals against Phoenix. But not only was he able to play, but he also seemed to have no ill effects with that knee injury. The physical and mental conditioning he went through to prepare to play through that injury was incredible. Antetokounmpo worked through a mental battle with his free-throw shooting. He lost his confidence at the free-throw line somewhere in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets. After making 67.5% of his free throws in the opening round against Miami, he made only 6 of 19 free throws in the first three games against the Nets. Then came the jeering from fans and his taking all ten seconds at the line as his battle with what the golfers call the yips was for all to see. Antetokounmpo missed more than half his free throw attempts in both the Brooklyn and Atlanta Hawks series in the Eastern Conference finals. Removing Antetokounmpo from the game in clutch situations became a topic of conversation. Yet he worked through the problem. Free throw shooting has never been the strength of his game, yet he recovered to shoot 62% from the charity stripe on his 85 free throw attempts in the NBA finals. In the Game 6 clincher, Antetokounmpo nailed 17 of his 19 free throw attempts. His success over this mental battle was critical in leading his team to a championship. Antetokounmpo led his team to a title by accepting his limitations. After struggling with his 3-point shooting despite defenses begging for him to take open 3s, he changed his game and shot fewer 3s. After going 1 of 8 from 3-point land in Game 4 of the Brooklyn series, he does not even attempt a 3-point shot two games later in a critical Game 6 when they are down 3-2 in the series. In his ten games against Atlanta and Phoenix, only once does he attempt more than three shots from 3-point land. Antetokounmpo also accepted not being the primary ball-handler in crunch time as the playoffs went on with Kris Middleton having success making key shots. Antetokounmpo’s offensive numbers and outstanding play on defense made him the obvious choice for the NBA finals MVP. Yet what may have been more impressive during this championship run was his perseverance, his success in confronting adversity, and his growth as a player by accepting his limitations. These are all qualities that will serve him quite well as his career continues to progress.Good luck - TDG.

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Starting Pitcher Observations from June

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021

Starting Pitcher Observations from JuneWe started with caution to the new Major League Baseball season amidst plenty of uncertainty in handicapping starting pitching. Most starting pitchers only had up to 12 or 13 regular season starts last year in the shortened season that starting late because of COVID. That presented a smaller sample size from which to project early season performance this year. The absence of fans continued to introduce an unusual dynamic that may have affected MLB pitchers differently. Major League Baseball threw another knuckleball into the mix with the changes they made to the baseball. As we observed last month in our article, “It’s the Year of the Pitcher. Does that Mean to Play More Unders?”: “The ball is slightly lighter after new production standards. The new ball is easier to throw but does not travel as far off the bat given the lighter mass.”MLB has since added a new wrinkle into the mix with their crackdown on foreign substances pitches uses to get a better grip on the baseball to improve spin rate. Yet amidst all these new factors to consider, some actionable data began to accumulate around the 1/3rd mark into the season. Here are some of the observations about starting pitchers that has helped our 23-3 MLB money line sides run through the end of the month.Shohei Ohtani may the story of the league with Most Valuable Year campaign with his spectacular contributions with his bat and his pitching arm, yet there are some cracks in the armor in his pitching profile. For our MLB Game of the Month report on the Yankees for Wednesday, June 30th, we made these comments on Ohtani:“Ohtani has been a surprise as to just how good he has been on the mound. The right-hander has a 3-1 record with a 2.58 era and a 1.18 whip in 11 starts. Yet it might be premature to begin pricing him as an elite starting pitcher. Command remains a challenge for Ohtani who is walking 12.5% of the batters he faces. In his last two starts on the road, he has walked six batters in 11 innings for a 4.9 bases-on-balls per nine innings average. In four starts on the road, Ohtani has a 3.91 era. Seven of his eleven starts have been at home, so this looks to be a good opportunity to fade him in this high-profile matchup where the pressure will be high.”The prospect of Ohtani pitching in fabled Yankee Stadium, not the literal “House that Ruth Built” but nearby to the baseball legend that Ohtani gets most compared to because he stars as both a hitter and a pitcher, may have put too much pressure on the young superstar. He walked the first three batters he faced in the first inning before allowing seven earned runs on four walks and two hits when he got pulled with two outs in the inning. Ohtani’s command remains the weakness in his pitching profile, and he may not be as effective when pitching away from Angels Stadium. Unfortunately, the Yankees’ bullpen let us down in that game by giving up seven runs in the top of the ninth inning to blow an 8-4 lead and lose the game. If he handicap the starting pitcher matchup accurately, we will win more than we lose even with the occasional back door loss from a bullpen blowup.Kenta Maeda had one of the most disappointing starts to the season before showing signs that he might have righted the ship this month. We were not sold, particularly with him pitching on the road against the White Sox on Tuesday, June 29th. In our report for our AL Central Game of the Month, we noted:“After a disastrous start to the season, he finally went on the disabled list last month to rest his right shoulder. He has been a shadow of the pitcher that went 6-1 last season with a 2.70 era and a 0.75 whip. His strikeouts are way down. After striking out 32.3% of the batters he faced last season, he is punching out 21.7% of batters this year. He is walking 6.5% of the batters he faces, up from 4.0% last season. His ground ball rate is down from 49.0% last year to 41.9% this year. Opposing hitters are connecting on more line drives which are up from 20.4% to 24.4% of the batted balls he is allowing into play. Maeda’s era is 5.40 in his 8 starts on the road, and his teams have won just three of their last sixteen games on the road when the oddsmakers install the over/under from 7 to 8.5.”Maeda did get out of the fifth inning in that game, giving up seven runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked five batters representing 18.5% of the batters he faced. He only struck out four batters, just 14.8% of the White Sox hitters he pitched against in a clip even lower than his declining strikeout average this season. Maeda will likely continue to be a starting pitcher we will target to play against in side and over plays. The news is not all bad, as we saw encouraging things from Adam Wainwright. We made these comments in our NL Central Game of the Month on the Cardinals versus the Pirates on Saturday, June 26th:  “They (Pittsburgh) face Adam Wainwright who has pitched better at home for most of his long career. The veteran right-hander is 5-5 with a 3.74 era and a 1.12 whip in 14 starts. When pitching at home, Wainwright has a 2.66 era and a 0.95 whip in nine starts. The 39-year-old started strong in April with a bump up in velocity. Yet his velocity dropped in May as he struggled in some starts. Wainwright has turned it around this month by not allowing more than three runs in any of his four starts while pitching at least six innings in each outing. He has a 2.67 era and an 0.89 whip in June.”Wainwright’s strong month continued as he allowed only one run in six innings work to register a 3-1 victory against the Pirates. He struck out eight batters and walked only one to continue his consistency when pitching at home at Busch Stadium. We will continue to look for opportunities where the veteran is undervalued, especially when pitching at home. Good luck - TDG.

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What Happened to the Vegas Golden Knights?

Wednesday, Jun 30, 2021

After the Vegas Golden Knights upset the Colorado Avalanche in the West Division finals, it looked like the franchise was well on their way to make their second appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in the four years of their existence. Yet despite an easy 4-1 victory in Game 1 of the NHL semifinals against Montreal, they were exposed by the Canadiens in the next five games despite being a 5-1 favorite to win that series before it started. With three straight disappointments in the postseason after their inaugural season run to the finals, the Golden Knights are suddenly a franchise at the crossroads. What happened?Management took a big chance in trading with the very same Montreal Canadiens for Max Pacioretty before their second season. At the time, the move was designed to bring superstar talent into the organization that they could not acquire in the expansion draft. They later traded for Mark Stone at the trade deadline that gave them a top forward line of Pacioretty, Stone, and Paul Stastny, another offseason acquisition, that took the pressure off the William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith line that was such a surprise from the expansion draft. But a key piece in that trade with the Canadiens was Nick Suzuki who Vegas drafted as the 13th pick in the first round in their first draft. Suzuki outperformed Pacioretty in that series with five points, tied for the most for Montreal in that series. With hindsight being 20/20, the Golden Knights are weak down the middle. The injury to Chandler Stephenson exposed this deficiency even more. When Vegas drafted Cody Glass sixth in the 2017 draft before selecting Suzuki seven picks later, management had, in theory, laid the foundation for how their team would look at center for the next decade. Instead, Glass has failed to develop yet, he was not on the postseason roster, and Suzuki starred for the team that defeated them in the playoffs. At 21-years-old, Suzuki is 11 years younger than Pacioretty. Besides holes at center, depth was a concern for the team all season. They were only able to dress 15 skaters in their final home game of the year against Colorado which determined home ice in the playoffs and the President’s Trophy. Over $12 million were invested in their goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Having two top-notch goaltenders is a luxury that teams probably cannot afford when operating under a salary cap. But the adage in the NFL regarding the problems of having two worthy starting quarterbacks on a roster may apply to goaltenders in the NHL. Rumors were that the team tried to unload Fleury before the start of the season after they signed Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract. After Fleury saved the team during the regular season with Lehner dealing with a host of injuries, he won the Vezina Trophy for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. That cache will likely lead to the team being able to get a better deal from him in the offseason. If it was not clear that the team committed to Lehner when they signed in the fall to that $25 million deal, when head coach Peter DeBoer chose him to start in Game 6 of their series with the Canadiens, the writing was written on the wall for all to see. Next season likely becomes a make-or-break year for DeBoer. He was hired immediately after management made the surprising move to fire Gerard Gallant midway through the 2020-21 season. Having taken the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals, DeBoer’s ability to made adjustments from game to game was considered a strength that Gallant lacked. Yet DeBoer was unable to push the buttons to get Stone, Pacioretty, and the other Knights’ forwards going against Carey Price and the Montreal defense. In the meantime, Gallant has been hired to be the head coach of the New York Rangers in the biggest market in the National Hockey League. With the windows beginning to close on the prime years of Stone, Pacioretty, and Alex Pietrangelo (the team’s major offseason acquisition last year) all 29-years-old or older, the urgency for the Vegas franchise to win their first Stanley Cup only intensifies. Expect many moves in the offseason. Good luck - TDG.

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Would the Toronto Maple Leafs Beat Montreal if Mike Babcock Was Still their Head Coach?

Monday, May 31, 2021

The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to win a playoff series for the 18th straight season tonight after losing to Montreal, 3-1, in their North Division Game 7. The loss was the final nail in the coffin that will be considered an epic collapse by Toronto who seemed in control of this series with a 3-1 lead. The Maple Leafs finished in first place in the North Division with 77 points, 18 points ahead of the Canadiens. They are priced as a money line favorite at -195 at BetOnline to win Game 7.Auston Matthews registered an assist tonight, but he ended the series with just one goal and four assists. Matthews led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games during the regular season. He centered the top line alongside right wing Mitch Marner who had 20 goals and 47 assists in 55 regular-season games. Yet Marner managed only four assists in this seven games series. When the autopsy of what happened to the Maple Leafs in the postseason, it will start with why the productivity of Matthews and Marner declined. Mike Babcock was fired as the Toronto head coach in November of 2019 after a 9-10-4 start to the season. One of the biggest criticisms of Babcock was that he was not giving his stars enough ice time. In the 2018-19 season, the last full regular season under Babcock, Matthews averaged only 18:33 minutes per game. Marner averaged 21:33 minutes per game during that regular season. When general manager Kyle Dubas promoted Sheldon Keefe from the team’s top minor league team to replace Babcock, one of the directives was to get more ice time for Matthews and Marner.Matthews saw his ice time rise to 22:27 minutes per game after the all-star break after averaging 20:20 minutes before that. These numbers are a bit muddy because the pre-all-star break numbers include both Babcock and Keefe-coached games and the second half of the season was shortened because of COVID. Yet the increased ice time under Keefe is notable. Marner saw his ice time rise to 24:39 minutes after the all-star break in 2019-20 after averaging 22:32 before that. This season, Matthews averaged 21:33 minutes per game in the regular season. His ice time increased to 23:44 minutes per game in the playoffs. Marner averaged 22:26 minutes per game in the regular season while seeing that ice time increase to 24:52 in the playoffs. Could the decline in Matthews and Marner’s production be a product of them being tired? Matthews and Marner’s playoff production under Keefe last season left much to be desired. In their upset loss to Columbus in the qualifier for the NHL playoffs in the bubble hosted at their Scotiabank Arena last year, Matthews scored two goals and had four assists in five games. Those are decent numbers. Yet in the 2019 postseason under Babcock, Matthews scored five goals with an assist in their seven-game series with a Boston Bruins team that reached the Stanley Cup finals. Marner did not score in last year’s postseason under Keefe while assisting on four goals. Yet in the 2019 playoffs under Babcock against tougher competition, Keefe scored two goals and added another two assists. Could it be that Babcock’s strategy all along was to keep his stars’ legs fresh for when it mattered most in the playoffs? The production was certainly better. But what does Babcock know? After all, he has won only one Stanley Cup title with Detroit in 2008. He has only coached three teams to the Stanley Cup finals (Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2003, Detroit in 2008 and 2009). Babcock is the only head coach to take two different teams to a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup final. Maybe he does know something about preparing for a deep playoff run?On the other hand, Sheldon Keefe did lead the minor league Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup in 2018. But Keefe has yet to lead a team in the NHL to a playoff series win despite being favored in the last two seasons.Dubas hired Keefe to move the team in a different direction. Dubas was elevated to the general manager of the Maple Leafs to replace Lou Lamoriello. Where is Lamoriello now? He was hired by the New York Islanders in 2018. The Islanders are playing the East Division finals against Boston after they upset Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs. The Islanders played in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Draw your own conclusions.Good luck — TDG.

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It’s the Year of the Pitcher. Does that Mean to Play More Unders?

Monday, May 31, 2021

Major League Baseball has already seen six no-hitters this season, and that does not even count Madison Bumgarner’s no-hitter in a seven-inning doubleheader game which MLB did not officially count as no-no since the game did not go nine innings. The MLB record for no-hitters in a season in the modern era is seven, which has previously occurred four times.Pitching numbers are up, and hitting numbers are down so far this season as we take a look at some data on Memorial Day. Entering the day, the across-the-league Earned Runs Average sits at 4.02. That is the league-wide ERA since 2015. Strike-out rates continue to rise as well. Pitchers are striking out 24% of the batters they face (as of 5/20). Pitchers struck out 23.1% of the batters they faced in 2019, and they struck out 23.4% of opposing hitters in 2020.The Year of the Pitcher is demonstrated in declining hitting statistics as well. The league-wide MLB batting average after Sunday (5/30 is .236. That is the lowest number since 1968, the most recent Year of the Pitcher. MLB lowered the height of the pitching mound after the dominance pitchers enjoyed over hitters that year. Teams are scoring 4.33 runs per game this season. That average is a decline from the 4.65 runs per game mark in 2020. In 2019, teams averaged 4.83 runs per game, so the decline in scoring is part of some larger trends. What is happening? Several reasons help explain these trends. Velocity rates from pitchers continue to rise. Starting pitchers and relievers are being asked to make fewer pitchers per appearance but to throw harder when they do. Spin rates are on the rise as well as analytics departments influence their teams to rely focus on this intangible. The rise of defensive shifts has made things even more difficult for hitters to generate base hits. With pitchers throwing more heat, batters are being instructed to attempt to hit more home runs to take advantage of the acceleration produced from the batted ball. Yet home run rates are down this season after a steady recent rise in that number. 1.2 homers are being hit per 9 innings this season, the fifth-highest mark of all-time. But there was an average of 1.34 home runs and 1.40 home runs hit per 9 innings in the previous two seasons. Changes to the baseball this season have played a role. The ball is slightly lighter after new production standards. The new ball is easier to throw but does not travel as far off the bat given the lighter mass. Given all this, should bettors be investing in more unders? The numbers do not bear this out. The under is 382-374-25 after Sunday’s games (as measured by VSIN). The oddsmakers appear to be ahead of the game when it comes to adjusting their numbers. There may be value in betting the over as the season moves on. Warmer weather tends to favor the hitter with the ball carrying farther in the warmer air.Good luck - TDG.

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Don’t Crown the Brooklyn Nets the NBA Champions Yet

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

The alliance of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to a Brooklyn Nets roster that was already a playoff team already made them a strong contender to win the NBA Eastern Conference. Yet when they traded for James Harden earlier in the season to form a “Big Three” of superstars, it was understandable when many observers thought this team was destined to win the NBA championship this season. The later additions of stars like LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin elevated their collection of players into a super team. However, any coronation of this team is premature. As the month of May begins just a few weeks away from the start of the NBA playoffs, the questions that have dogged this team remain unanswered.First, will the chemistry of this group of players work? The Los Angeles Clippers were considered the super team of destiny last season. Their former head coach Doc Rivers later revealed that the lack of cohesion that never developed between Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with each other and the rest of the team played a big role in their early exit in the Western Conference playoffs to the Denver Nuggets. Developing chemistry on the fly in the playoffs is easier said than done. Yet the Nets’ Big Three of Durant, Harden, and Irving has only played together in seven games this season. Can all three share the ball? Will Harden and Irving defer to Durant as the presumptive alpha of the group? Should Durant be considered the alpha? Will Harden be content being a ball distributing point guard? Will Irving take more personal days? These stars have all said the right things up to this point. They seem to be on the same page of all wanting to just win a championship. But the platitudes of January are not under the same weight of pressure as the urgency these players will encounter if they happen to fall behind, 2-1, in a seven-game playoff series. That is when the chemistry of this group will be tested. The regular season should be building the foundation for this group of players to prepare for the inevitable adversity coming in the playoffs. Instead, this group has dealt with injuries and load management as they await the playoffs. Second, can this team simply outscore their opponents without playing at least decent play on defense? The offense numbers are quite impressive. Brooklyn averages 118.9 points per game. They make 49.4% of their shots and 38.9% of their 3-pointers. They lead the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 118.9 points per 100 possessions. These are numbers with the Big Three playing only seven games together so the ceiling could be even higher. But the defense is an eyesore. Opponents make 46.2% of their shots which is resulting in 114.1 points per game. The Nets have the sixth-worst defensive efficiency in the NBA, with opponents scoring 113.2 points per 100 possessions. Can a defense this suspect survive in the playoffs against the very best teams? Mike D’Antoni’s coaching career has attempted to have his great offensive teams score their way past defensive liabilities, including his time in Houston with Harden. This approach never won a championship. Coincidentally or not, D’Antoni is an assistant coach with this team. Steve Nash is the head coach of this group. He was the point guard for D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns teams that never reached an NBA Finals. Nash’s strengths were never defensive basketball. He is a rookie head coach, handling a large collection of big egos. It simply does not take much to imagine these circumstances taking a bad turn. Third, will the superstars stay healthy? Proclamations of teams of destiny never take into account the prospect of injuries. Given the recent histories of Durant and Irving, and with Harden’s hamstring issues this season, it may be unrealistic to expect these three players to remain healthy throughout the postseason. On paper, Brooklyn looks formidable. They have looked spectacular at times this season. Yet the challenge of the NBA playoffs is different than the regular season. Those are untraveled waters for the 2021 Nets. Good luck - TDG.

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Will the 2022 NFL Rookie Quarterback Class be as Weak as Expected?

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

In the run-up to the 2021 NFL draft, many observers commented that teams may feel more pressure to find their quarterback of the future since the incoming rookie class for next year’s draft looks to be thin. Yet, isn’t this the same thought every year? Perhaps a draft class that finally featured Trevor Lawrence who was winning National Championships as a freshman three years ago makes the 2021 quarterback group special. At this time last year, one would be hard-pressed to find someone confidently predicting that BYU’s Zach Wilson would develop into the second player taken in the draft. As Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian commented about the potential lack of quality quarterback prospects next year: “Somebody always crops up.” A quick glance at the prospects in college shows plenty of names that observers and NFL brain trusts might fall in love with. It is challenging to accurately assess the returning college quarterbacks next fall after a shortened season with limited practices given COVID protocols. Hopefully, college football will be able to return to a normal practice regimen which will help the development of the quarterbacks looking to impress NFL scouts. Observers are more likely to be surprised than disappointed with another year of development. Below is a list of ten players who may grow into being a first-round draft pick in April of 2022.Spencer Rattler: NFL scouts have learned to trust quarterbacks groomed by Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. If Jalen Hurts becomes the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, he will join Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as NFL starting quarterbacks that went through Riley’s program. Rattler started slowly last year before settled down to throw 15 touchdowns to two interceptions in his final seven games. J.T. Daniels: The former five-star quarterback was in the shortlist conversations with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields coming out of high school before injuries marred his growth at USC. With a full season as the starter at Georgia, Daniels will draw plenty of attention.Sam Howell: The North Carolina quarterback is considered the most polished passer in the class. He demonstrated his potential last year with 443 passing yards against Virginia and 550 passing yards against Wake Forest. Daniel Jones and Matt Ryan are comparables of quarterbacks with big arms who came from the ACC to find success in the NFL.Kedon Slovis: He is the quarterback who beat out J.T. Daniels for the starting job at USC, and he is the reason Daniels now plays in the SEC. Slovis has a quick release that NFL scouts covet. USC quarterbacks remain attractive to NFL brass.Tyler Shough: He was the heir apparent to Justin Herbert before a disappointing 2020 compelled him to transfer. He can put up big numbers against Big 12 defenses at Texas Tech, and then his 6’5 frame will take over to entice scouts. Matt Corral: He completed 71% of his passes in his first year at Ole Miss under head coach Lane Kiffin. He will likely put up video game numbers next season in the Rebels' offense. While just 6’1, his accuracy could make scouts think of Baker Mayfield or even Drew Brees.Bo Nix: The Auburn quarterback suffered from a sophomore slump last season after a freshman campaign that compelled quarterback coach guru Jordan Palmer to proclaim him the future top pick in the 2022 draft. A resurgent junior season in the SEC would elevate Nix once again. Desmond Ridder: The Cincinnati quarterback may be the closest comparison to a dual-threat Kyler Murray-type in the class. He completed 66.2% of his passes last season, and he has demonstrated himself as a winner with a 30-5 record with the Bearcats. Grayson McCall: The Coastal Carolina quarterback is still considered raw as he enters his redshirt junior season, but he came off a breakout campaign where he completed 69% of his passes with 26 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Chanticleers do not run a pro-style offense, but all it takes is one NFL offensive coordinator convinced he can lift enough of the Coastal Carolina offense to find success at the next level for McCall.Mystery Player to Come Out of Nowhere: This list above is not exhaustive of the potential quarterbacks who could make a big jump in development under a full year of coaching and competition. No one was predicting that Mac Jones would be picked by the New England Patriots in the first round at this time last year. Call it the “recency effect” or call it being a “prisoner of the moment”. It is human nature to overestimate the value of what is most recently experienced. For NFL scouts worried about finding a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft, there are plenty of intriguing candidates. Good luck - TDG.

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UCLA's Defense Spearheads its Final Four Run

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

UCLA reached the Final Four on Tuesday in a 51-49 victory against Michigan. The Bruins only shot 38.9% from the field but they stymied the Wolverines to just a 39.2% field goal percentage to hold them off and grind out a low-scoring victory that only had 100 combined points scored. Probably just like their head coach Mick Cronin likes it.In our write-up for UCLA in their upset victory against Alabama on Sunday, we wrote: “(Mick Cronin) may have made a breakthrough with his team after they gave up 44 points in the first half to Michigan State in the play-in game. The Bruins allowed only 36 points in the next 25 minutes which included an overtime session with UCLA rallying from a double-digit deficit to win and advance. The Bruins defense has been suffocating ever since. In their 67-47 victory against Abilene Christian on Monday, UCLA held them to just 29.8% shooting including 15 misses of their 19 shots from the 3-point line. Since halftime against the Spartans, the Bruins have played their next 105 minutes in the NCAA tournament at a defensive rate that would translate into 55.2 points-per-game on 42.4% shooting. This is the formula for success for Cronin.” UCLA’s 88-78 final score victory against the Crimson Tide was misleading since the score was tied at 65 at the end of regulation. That was 9.5 points below the closing over/under number. The Bruins scored a surprising 23 points in the five-minute overtime period to cruise to the victory. They held Alabama to just a 43.5% field goal percentage. Even after the Tide scored 78 points on Sunday, the UCLA defensive numbers continued to look impressive. Since the start of the second half against Michigan State through their game against Alabama, the Bruins were holding their opponents to 42.3% shooting from the field and limiting their opponents to a scoring rate that would see just 59.4 points-per-game. Cronin goes into the Final Four with defensive numbers that translate into holding their opponents to 57.3 points-per-game on 42.1% shooting since that opening first half against the Spartans. This includes UCLA playing three teams that ranked in the top thirty in the nation in offensive efficiency in those 190 minutes of play including a Michigan team that was ranked seventh nationally at the time. Now the Bruins face the nation’s top offensive team in Gonzaga who are putting up historic numbers. It remains to be seen if UCLA can stay competitive in this game. If they can, it will likely be because they turn the game into a rock-fight like they successfully did against the Wolverines. Good luck - TDG.

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Short-Term Value with Portland Trail Blazers' Overs?

Wednesday, Mar 31, 2021

Portland concluded March with four straight overs amidst some recent changes in the players that Terry Stotts has been able to send on the court. C.J. McCollum and Josef Nurcic are healthy again after missing time with injuries. Nurcic is still on a minutes restriction but McCollum seems at full strength again as he was averaging 20.3 points-per-game and 4.1 assists-per-game since his return before scoring 24 points and adding six assists in the Blazers’ 124-101 to end the month on Wednesday. The Trail Blazers added Norman Powell last week in a trade deadline deal with Toronto. The guard is averaging 16.3 points-per-game in his first three games with his new team. Stotts is often playing Powell alongside McCollum and Damian Lillard in a super-charged three-guard lineup. However, what that combination offers Stotts in scoring could come at a cost on the other end of the court. Small-ball lineups can suffer on defense. Portland has won four in a row, and seven of their last nine, after their win in Detroit on Wednesday. Playing a Pistons’ team was averaging only 103.6 points-per-game may not have offered much of a challenge to their play on defense. However, their previous game against Toronto may have been a canary in the coal mine regarding the play of their defense in the coming weeks. The Blazers allowed 74 points in the first half of that game on Sunday to the Raptors. Portland went on to win by a 122-117 score. Going into their game with the Pistons on Wednesday, the Blazers had allowed their last five opponents to make 49.9% of their shots which resulted in 118.4 points-per-game. Portland’s 124-101 victory against Detroit finished above a total that closed in the 219 range. Some bettors may see the Blazers’ holding the Pistons to only 101 points as a sign of improving defense. The value on Portland overs may continue for another few weeks before the market catches up.Good luck - TDG.

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Don’t Worry About the Lakers

Sunday, Feb 28, 2021

The reigning NBA champions have hit their rock bottom earlier this week when they lost their fourth game in a row on Wednesday. Los Angeles put up little resistance in a 114-89 loss at the red-hot Utah Jazz despite being an 8.5-point underdog. That was the Lakers’ fifth loss in six games after Anthony Davis went out with an Achilles’ injury. Yet not all “rock bottoms” are the same. It is usually wise to not overreact when good teams struggle in the dog days of the NBA regular season especially when the All-Star Game is approaching. Losing Davis took away one of the Lakers’ top two players. LeBron James looks tired after playing every game averaging almost 35 minutes per contest. There is an understanding in professional sports that the defending champion always gets their opponent’s best effort. Despite losing five of six (before winning their last two games), only one of the losses would be considered “bad.” Losing at Denver as a 3-point favorite is forgivable. Losing at home to the new-look Brooklyn Nets with James Harden and Kyrie Irving (even without Kevin Durant) as a 3-point favorite is understandable. Getting beaten by Miami as a 3.5-point favorite in their first opportunity to avenge their loss in the NBA Finals might have been expected. Few observers gave the Lakers much of a chance than against the red-hot Jazz in Utah as an 8.5-point underdog. Only a loss to Washington does not look very good in the rearview mirror, yet in that game, Los Angeles took their foot off the gas pedal by blowing a 17-point lead. Sometimes that happens on a Monday night in February. Our Western Conference Game of the Month was on Friday with the Lakers hosting Portland. Help was on the way with Dennis Schroder returning from COVID quarantine. His absence in the previous four games has cost Los Angeles a reliable scorer and a second starter along with Davis. He was averaging 14.2 points-per-game before entering quarantine. Just getting Schroder back on the court made a significant difference. He scored 22 points against the Trail Blazers in helping Los Angeles win, 102-93, and cover the 5-point spread. Schroder’s efforts on defense should not be dismissed either. The Lakers held the Blazers to just 39.1% shooting. Schroder running the point on offense helped Los Angeles get to the free-throw line 28 times where they made 21 attempts. Strong defense and getting to the charity stripe was the recipe on Sunday as well in the Lakers’ 117-91 victory at home against Golden State. LA held the Warriors to 41% shooting. They got to the free-throw line 38 times resulting in 26 points. Schroder contributed 12 points while dishing out six assists. Racing out to a 73-44 lead at halftime allowed for James to only play for under 25 minutes in the game.Los Angeles may not repeat as NBA champions this spring but that is a May and perhaps June problem. Until then, don’t worry. Pick your spots when betting the Lakers in the regular season, just as they pick their spots to exert a little more effort. LeBron James is playing the long game. Good luck - TDG.

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Watch Out for Kansas during March Madness

Sunday, Feb 28, 2021

Kansas upset the number two ranked team in the nation, Baylor, on Saturday, 71-58, as a 5-point favorite. Hopefully, TDG regulars were not surprised by that result since that was our ESPN Game of the Year on the Jayhawks. We had observed at the time that Kansas was going into the month of March a much-improved team on defense. We wrote in the game report:“After a schematic change by Bill Self to play more aggressively against ball-screens, Kansas has held their last five opponents to 38.4% shooting which is resulting in 58.2 points-per-game in the rugged Big 12. Bettors need to keep their eyes on the lookout for late-season improvements from teams that get elite coaching especially in a pandemic-ridden season where practice schedules earlier in the year have been out of the ordinary. This Jayhawks’ team is evolving into a scrappy defense-first juggernaut.”Kansas came to play on defense by holding the Bears to 34.8% shooting while coaxing them to miss 17 of their 23 shots from the 3-point land for a 23.1% clip. Baylor entered that game shooting 50.3% from the field and making 43.2% of their 3-pointers. As Bears’ Scott Drew claimed that a layoff from COVID was his team’s “kryptonite,” head coaches often reach for excuses in the face of frustrating defensive play. The plight of the blue blood programs in college basketball has been of the storylines this season. Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State are all at risk of not making the NCAA Tournament. We wrote about the trials and tribulations for these traditional powers in college football and college basketball during this year where COVID has impacted every program. As we observed in December about Duke and Kentucky:  “These are two programs that need practice and coaching.” As the calendar turns to March, both of those basketball teams along with the Spartans have seen significant improvement in play over the last few weeks.Keep your eye out for freshman taking their games to the next level in March. The Jayhawks have a talented redshirt freshman in Jalen Wilson. The four-star recruit did not see the court much last year but has stepped up this season to average 12.6 points-per-game with 8.4 rebounds-per-game. In his nine games in February, Wilson improved his scoring average to a 13.3 points-per-game clip while pulling down 11.0 rebounds-per-game. First-year players improve especially when they are getting great coaching. Kansas temporarily fell out of the top-25 in early February after losing five of seven games. All five of those losses were on the road to nationally-ranked teams. The inclusion of the Jayhawks in the plight of the blue-bloods narrative has always been a stretch. Perhaps Kansas is not a top-five team this season as they were last year when their 28-3 record had them destined to take one of the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament. Yet it would be foolhardy to dismiss Self’s ability to navigate this team to another final four appearance in the first weekend in April. Good luck - TDG.

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Our Two Favorite Super Bowl Prop Bets

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The long list of Super Bowl prop bets offers the betting public many avenues to increase their viewing pleasure in watching the big game. However, for savvy bettors, Super Bowl prop bets provide an avenue to hedge their primary side and totals bets for the game. There are also prop bets that can access the logic of those side and total bets while offering significant value on their own.Here are two prop bets offered by BetOnline that Team Del Genio finds intriguing.(1) Kansas City under 95.5 rushing yards for the game.Running the football against Tampa Bay is going to be difficult for the Chiefs. The Buccaneers allowed only 81.4 rushing yards-per-game this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense allows opposing rushers to average just 3.7 yards-per-carry which is also the top mark in the NFL. To make running the ball even more difficult, Kansas City will be without their top two starting tackles with left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz both out for this game with injuries. Tampa Bay allowed only five teams to rush for more than 94 yards in their 19 games this season. The Chiefs ran the ball 20 times for just 87 yards with their bookend tackles healthy in that game. Under 95.5 rushing yards in the Super Bowl for Kansas City looks good. (2) Tampa Bay over 87.5 rushing yards for the game.After not having more than 14 rushing attempts in a game in the regular season, the Buccaneers turned to their midseason acquisition, running back Leonard Fournette, in the playoffs. The former Jacksonville first-round draft pick ran the ball 19 times for 93 yards against Washington before rushing 17 times against New Orleans and then 12 times against Green Bay. He gained 93, 63, and 55 yards in those games. Head coach Bruce Arians will likely get Fournette going early against a Kansas City run defense that allows 121.9 rushing yards-per-game. That mark is 21st in the league but is perhaps a deceptive number considering teams fall behind against the potent Chiefs’ offense under quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City allows opposing rushers to average 4.6 yards-per-carry, 24th in the NFL.Arians is likely to commit to running the football early in this game. Tampa Bay’s worst game of the season was on November 8th when they lost to New Orleans, 38-3. Arians had Tom Brady throwing the ball on early downs in the first quarter of that game. When the Bucs fell behind in that game, Brady got stuck trying to throw his way back into the game. By the end of the game, Tampa Bay had run the ball only five times for eight yards. That is a mistake Arians will likely not make again. In their 27-24 loss to the Chiefs on November 23rd, the Buccaneers ran the ball only 13 times of 75 yards. Tampa Bay rushed for only 76 yards against the Packers in the NFC Conference Championship Game but did hand the ball off 24 times. That was the first time that the Buccaneers had not gained at least 94 rushing yards in their previous five games going back to December 26th which was just two games removed from their loss to the Chiefs. Arians' recipe for success likely involves gaining more than 87.5 rushing yards in this rematch. Good luck - TDG.

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Does Boston Have the Best Big Two in the NBA?

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021

The conventional wisdom from NBA observers was the Boston Celtics were likely to take a step back this season. They had an NBA Finals appearance for the taking before being upset in the bubble by a surprising Miami Heat team in the NBA Finals. Boston then lost Gordon Hayward in free agency in the offseason to Charlotte. Without replacing his role on the wing, it appeared to many that this Celtics team would take a step back this season in the Eastern Conference race to the rising Heat along with the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, and the ever-dangerous Milwaukee Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo inking his long-term contract with the franchise.Yet what if the loss of Hayward was a convenient money-saving move for general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens for what was always their grand plan: build a team around their emerging superstar duo Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum?At first glance, Boston’s 10-8 record at the end of January offers little encouragement. But the Celtics have been impacted by COVID. Tatum has missed five games while being in quarantine. He returned on Saturday in Boston’s showdown with the reigning NBA champions. Even in defeat, his performance with Brown demonstrated the potential this team has when at full strength this season.The Celtics rallied late to put themselves in a position to win the game in the final possession but the Lakers held on for the 96-95. We were happy as Boston plus the 3.5 points was our NBA Non-Conference Game of the Month. Tatum scored 31 points in the losing effort. Brown added 28 points. Anthony Davis led the way for Los Angeles with 27 points with LeBron James adding 21 points. Their 48 combined points were 11 points shy of the Tatum and Brown combination. James and Davis are scoring 25.2 points-per-game and 22.2 points-per-game this season. Last year, the duo scored 25.2 point-per-game and 26.1 points-per-game.Tatum and Brown scored 23.4 points-per-game and 20.3 points-per-game last season. However, after last year’s playoff experience and the condensed offseason, these two have returned with a heightened level of confidence and maturity to their games. Tatum is averaging 26.8 points-per-game with Brown raising his scoring average by almost seven points to a 27.1 points-per-game mark. The 53.9 combined points-per-game they are averaging is more than the James/Davis combination both this season and last season. Brown is only 24-years old. Tatum is a mere 22-years old. The arrow would presumably still be pointing up for both young players regarding what their potential could be. Using the eye test from watching their effort against the Lakers on Saturday, these are two players that have acquired more and more ways to beat opposing defenders.If Davis’ move to Los Angeles last year changed the paradigm from a Big Three to a Big Two with good help in what was needed to win an NBA championship, Ainge and Stevens may have had the seeds growing for achieving that level of success for the salt four seasons. With the money freed up from not resigning Hayward, the Celtics may be in a better position to acquire the talent to complement the skill set of their young dynamic duo.Good luck - TDG.

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Playoff Scenarios for NFL Week 17

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Successful handicapping of the Week 17 NFL card requires understanding what is at stake for the teams fighting for playoff positioning.In the AFC, eight teams remain alive for the seven playoff spots. Kansas City is locked as the top seed. They will host their AFC playoff games. They also get the only bye in the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs.Buffalo clinches the second seed with a victory over Miami. They also inherit the second seed with a Pittsburgh loss to Cleveland.Pittsburgh has clinched the third seed. They can overtake the Bills for the second seed with a win along with Buffalo losing to the Dolphins.The winner of the AFC South slides into the fourth seed. Tennessee wins the division with a victory at Houston. The Titans also win the AFC South if Indianapolis loses to Jacksonville. Even if they lose to the Texans, Tennessee makes the playoffs with either a Baltimore or Miami loss.Miami makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a win over Buffalo. The Dolphins also make the playoffs with a loss by either Baltimore, Cleveland, or Indianapolis. Baltimore makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a victory at Cincinnati. They also make the playoffs with either a loss by the Browns or a loss by the Colts.Cleveland makes the playoffs as a wildcard with a win against the Steelers. The Browns also make the playoffs with a loss by the Colts. Cleveland also slips into the playoffs with a Titans loss along with a win or tie by the Dolphins and a win or a tie by the Ravens.Indianapolis must beat Jacksonville to make the playoffs. The Colts can win the AFC South with a win combining with a Tennessee loss or tie. They can also win the division with a tie along with a Titans loss. Indianapolis makes the playoffs with a victory combined with either a loss/tie from Miami, Baltimore, or Cleveland. Green Bay has won the NFC North which ensures them no worse than the third seed. They clinch the top seed in the NFC with a first-round bye and home-field advantage with a win or tie against Chicago or the Seahawks losing or tying with the 49ers at San Francisco.New Orleans has clinched the NFC South. They can earn the top seed with a win at Carolina along with a Packers’ loss and a Seattle victory.Seattle is the winner of the NFC West. They clinch the top seed with a win at San Francisco and a Green Bay loss along with a Saints’ loss or tie.Tampa Bay has made the playoffs. The Buccaneers are the fifth seed if they defeat Atlanta.The Los Angeles Rams clinch a wildcard spot with a win against Arizona. They also clinch a spot in the playoffs if Chicago loses or ties with the Packers. Chicago makes the playoffs with a win against Green Bay. They also make the playoffs if Arizona loses. If both the Bears and Cardinals tie, Chicago makes the playoffs.Arizona clinches a spot in the playoffs with a victory over the Rams. The Cardinals also make the playoffs with a tie combined with a Bears’ loss.Washington wins the NFC East and inherits the fourth seed with a victory against Philadelphia or a tie combining with Dallas losing or tying against the Giants. Dallas takes the NFC East title with a win over the Giants along with Washington losing or tying against the Eagles. The Cowboys also win the division with a tie combined with a Washington loss.The Giants only win the NFC East if they defeat Dallas and Washington loses to Philadelphia.Good luck - TDG.

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2020: Why is it the Year of the Struggling Blue Bloods?

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

What do Penn State and Michigan football have in common with Duke and Kentucky basketball? These are four collegiate programs with a rich tradition of excellence. They are also four programs that have experienced unusually disappointing seasons.The Michigan football team under head coach Jim Harbaugh finished with a 2-4 record. That was the first losing season for the Wolverines in six seasons and their second losing season in the last eleven seasons. Penn State under head coach James Franklin lost their first five games this season before winning their final four games to settle for a 4-5 record. This was the Nittany Lions’ first losing football season in sixteen years going back to 2004.Kentucky has lost six straight games in college basketball. The Wildcats begin the new year with a 1-6 record which is the worst start in the eleven seasons John Calipari has been the head coach of the program. In fact, Kentucky’s six losses are already a many as Calipari has had with his teams at Kentucky in five other full seasons. These results make Duke’s 3-2 record this season seem tame in comparison. Things may have looked direr for the Blue Devils if they had not had some games canceled due to COVID. Yet with Duke’s best win on their resume being against a 3-5 Notre Dame squad, it is fair to say that the season has been underwhelming so far for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Another thing these four programs have in common is they all have highly regarded (and well-paid) head coaches. These veterans did not suddenly forget how to coach their sport. Of course, this year has been unique for all college football and basketball teams because of the COVID pandemic. While every team has been impacted by the virus, some programs have experienced bigger challenges. What these four blue blood programs also have in common is that they were all bringing back young teams that needed the attention of their highly paid and regarded head coaches. Michigan returned only 11 starters from last year’s team that finished 9-4. Ten of their players were drafted into the NFL last April. They then had their top returning player on offense and defense opt-out of the season to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. Penn State returned 13 starters from the team that finished 11-2 last season. While eight starters were back on offense, the defense experienced turnover with six starters from last year needing to be replaced. Yet when linebacker Micah Parsons then opted-out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft, the Nittany Lions lost perhaps their most important player. Harbaugh and Franklin did not have the benefit of full spring practices. Fall practices were modified because of COVID protocols. It makes sense that the best coaches are the most impacted by disruptions in the practice schedule since that is one of the areas where they excel versus their peers.Opt-outs heightened the challenge. Because it is the blue blood programs that have more future professional players, they are the ones hurt the most when those players decided to not play this season. The pandemic helped to level the talent playing field.Kentucky and Duke are experiencing similar challenges, albeit without the opt-outs. The Wildcats lost their top six players from last season with only Keon Brooks returning who played significant minutes last season. The Blue Devils lost their top three players for last year. They are two programs that need practice and coaching. What is also not fully appreciated is the loss of coaching time college programs experienced with a full March Madness from the NCAA tournament. The Kentucky and Duke supporting cast from last year that is now being asked to take larger roles would have been better served from that postseason experience. The blue blood programs are the easiest targets. However, critics should be mindful of the ways that the COVID pandemic impacted their programs in ways that other teams did not experience. As with everything, appreciating the context can help lead to a better understanding of the circumstances. Good luck - TDG.

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Early College Basketball Trends - Shooting Percentages are Up

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

The early data regarding shooting numbers for the 2020-21 college basketball season demonstrate clear trends that shooting percentages are on the rise. Using the data at kenpom.com after the first six days of the season, the numbers demonstrate these upward trends. Division I teams are making 69.4% of their free-throw attempts, which is the highest mark ever. D-I teams made 69.1% of their free throws in 2017, which is the highest shooting clip for an entire season. Teams are shooting 49.7% inside the arc, which is the second-highest shooting percentage for 2-point shots. D-I teams made 49.9% of their 2-pointers in the 2018-19 season. The data on 3-pointers is muddier, but the trends are still on the upswing this season. Teams are making 32.6% of their shots from 3-point land with is +0.6% higher than last season. However, teams are also taking 37.7% of their field goal attempts from 3-point land versus last season when 37.4% of the shots were 3-pointers, so teams are more aggressive with their 3-point shooting and still making more of them. This 37.7% clip of field goal attempts being from behind the 3-point line is the second-highest behind the 2018-19 season when 39.0% of field goal attempts were 3-pointers. What accounts for this improved shooting? The most likely reason is the lack of fans in the arenas. The quieter gyms and the lack of activity from the fans lead to fewer distractions for the shooter. This dynamic seems most apparent with the improved shooting at the charity stripe. Players have also commented that the lack of fans in the stands has improved the sightlines for the players. Scottie Pippen has commented that these games without fans bring players back to their extensive pickup game experience. These observations are consistent with the results in the NBA when they played in the Orlando bubble. Until the oddsmakers and the betting public adjust to these trends, there likely will be an increase in the situations where the totals' value is with betting the over the number. Good luck - TDG.

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Why is the NFL Seeing a Record in Double-Digit Comeback Victories?

Monday, Nov 30, 2020

There were another two double-digit comeback victories in Week 12 of the NFL season. New England trailed Arizona by a 10-0 deficit in the second quarter before rallying to defeat the Cardinals by a 20-17 score. Minnesota came back from 21-10 and 24-13 scores shock Carolina by a 28-27 margin.There have now been 35 comeback victories where a team rallied after trailing by at least 10 points. That is an NFL record through twelve weeks of a season. Through the first nine weeks of the season, at least one team had rallied from a deficit of at least 13 points to win their game. The only other time that had happened in NFL history in each of the first nine weeks of a season was in 2015.Why are these big comebacks happening more often? Certainly, some of the reason is the continued sophistication of passing offenses that can strike quickly. What team better embodies this aspect of the game than the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Led by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs demonstrated no double-digit lead was safe in their championship run last season. However, Kansas City is not the reason why 35 teams have rallied from double-digit deficits to win their game.The most significant difference in this season from previous ones is the lack of large crowds in stadiums. There are two reasons why the lack of loud crowd noise helps the offense, especially in critical situations when fans may be at their most energetic. First, fan noise produces pressure. For the road team, loud noise can be rattling. For the home team, loud noise can add to the pressure they are experiencing to execute and succeed. For home and road teams, noise is a distraction. Many players and teams have learned to not find the noise distracting. Yet it is easier to concentrate in a quieter environment. Second, the lack of crowd noise helps the offense execute at the line of scrimmage. This intangible seems particularly important when operating a no-huddle quick offense where the quarterback calls out plays at the line of scrimmage. Often quarterbacks have to resort to hand signals if his voice cannot be heard over the crowd. Communicating plays at the line of scrimmage is much easier without many fans in the building. It is interesting to note that underdogs are 97-74-2 against-the-spread after twelve weeks of the season. The data might uncover a disproportionate number of backdoor covers like with Philadelphia’s late point spread cover against Seattle for Monday Night Football that was cemented after a completed Hail Mary and the subsequent two-point conversion. The success teams have in the passing attack late in games is producing comeback victories and garbage points for the trailing team. The unique circumstances without large crowds this season may add some value to the underdog. This phenomenon may also make in-game betting on some underdogs worthy of consideration.Good luck - TDG.

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Assessing Football Home Field Advantage without Fans

Saturday, Oct 31, 2020

It is generalized that oddsmakers assign a standard home-field advantage in football of three points to the host team. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged this working assumption, with many football teams playing in empty stadiums. Even with limited fans allowed in some cities, it is unlikely that their cheers and boos have the same impact on the game as a jam-packed stadium of emotionally-charged fans in a playoff game. How should oddsmakers adjust in the pandemic when taking into account less-than-full stadiums?Even asking the question illuminates that these circumstances are not so different than situations that oddsmakers commonly encounter. Assigning odds to a home team without a vocal or vibrant fan base is not unusual in football. It would be more accurate to suggest that certain home field situations offer their team more of an advantage because their fan base is consistently louder and more disruptive to the opposing team. Every oddsmaker would likely agree that the home team edge is not as strong with capacity limitations to audiences due to COVID concerns. The challenge for oddsmakers (and then bettors) is determining what, if any, home-field advantage still exists for the home team. Some observers have gone so far as to say that COVID has eliminated the home field edge in football. The current win/loss numbers of home versus road teams offer support for that position. However, these observers should be careful of the limited sample size. There are three reasons why home teams retain an edge even without a cheering crowd backing them up.(1) Familiarity. Home teams simply have more experience playing in their stadium and on their field. This familiarity breeds comfort. A lack of familiarity plants the seeds for potential discomfort. This intangible certainly applies to how the home team feels inside their building. However, the weather and climate also play a significant role that should very much be considered. Dome teams may not be as comfortable playing outdoors and on grass fields. Cold weather teams may not be as comfortable playing in hot weather. Teams used to playing in sunny conditions may struggle in the cold. (2) Situational. Teams playing at home get to stay in their own beds. They stick to their routines. Road teams are in hotels and unfamiliar environments. Sometimes the visiting team has been away from home for an extended period of time. The preparation for the road team may have already put them at a disadvantage relative to their opponent even before setting foot on the field that lacks a cheering section. (3) Territoriality. Do home teams feel a higher sense of purpose in defending their home turf? Some psychological studies suggest this is the case. It is fair to assume that there is a higher expectation for teams playing at home to perform well. There perhaps is a built-in excuse for road teams to underperform when playing away from their “home base.” Perhaps for some visiting teams, these negative expectations create a self-fulfilling prophecy.In conclusion, it is reasonable for oddsmakers do not assign full value to home teams when playing in stadiums without enough cheering fans to impact the play of the visiting team. Maybe this adjustment should have already been made in environments that are not as loud and rabid as others?However, bettors beware if they conclude that a home team no longer retains “any” edge when playing at home.Good luck - TDG. 

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Is It Over for the Early Season NFL Overs Trend?

Saturday, Oct 31, 2020

The 2020 NFL season began as the highest-scoring in league history, with the average combined scores topping the 50-point threshold after the first five weeks of the season. The oddsmakers were slow to adjust as overs had a 43-33-2 (57%) mark after these initial five weeks. Yet in Week 6, nine of the thirteen games finished under the total. Then in Week 7, the under finished 7-6-1. After the Thursday night game between Atlanta and Carolina that finished under the number, the over is now just 53-50-3 (51%) going into November. Are the trends changing? Did the oddsmakers over-adjust The answers to both these questions is probably yes. There were three main reasons that drove the early season higher scoring games. First, the lack of large crowds for these games given COVID-19 precautions and guidelines has prevented loud stadiums. Less crowd noise helps the visiting quarterbacks who no longer have to resort to silent snap counts. This dynamic has not changed even with many stadiums allowing limited crowds. Noise remains a non-factor for the opponent. Second, the referees are calling fewer holding penalties which helps the offense in several ways. Not only are offenses not being penalized ten yards but the interpretation of the rules is helping quarterbacks avoid getting sacked so they can make successful passing plays down the field. Third, the defenses have been behind the offenses when it comes to schemes and cohesion. It was thought that the offenses may start slow without a normal training camp and preseason but, in practice, the evolving offensive philosophies that give the quarterback flexibility to make adjustments on the fly seem to have given the advantage to the offenses. But as defenses get more-and-more in-synch, this factor will continue to be mitigated. With bettors continuing to push the line up by betting overs while defenses get caught up, the under will likely continue to offer value to sharper bettors. As always, maintaining a proper perspective remains essential. The recent market correction is not a reason to start only betting the under just as the early-season over trends were not a reason to only bet overs. The circumstances at hand should always be considered.Good luck - TDG.

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2020 UEFA Champions League: Betting Schedule and Preview

Sunday, Jul 19, 2020

With the Spanish La Liga concluding their 2019-20 campaign and the English Premier in their final week of play, the attention of the soccer world begins to turn to the resumption of the European Champions League in August. The opening round of sixteen elimination stage was in-progress when COVID-19 stopped sports in its tracks in March. PSG, Real Madrid, Atalanta, and RB Leipzig had already completed the two-legs of the matches to advance to the quarterfinals but the final four matches still have second-legs to complete. UEFA has decided that these second legs will take place at the empty home stadiums of the teams that were on the road for the opening leg. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will then take place in a single-elimination knockout tournament on a neutral field in Lisbon, Portugal with all matches taking place as stand-alone daily events at 3 PM ET. CBS Sports Network owns the broadcasting rights in the United States.The competition returns on August 7th with two matches. Lyon travels to Juventus with the french team holding a 1-0 aggregate score lead over the Italian powers. Real Madrid also travels to Manchester City for the second-leg of their match which the newly crowned La Liga champions trailing by a 2-1 score to the recently dethroned two-time English Premier League champions. On August 8th, Chelsea travels to Bayern Munich in a big hole trailing by a 3-0 aggregate score to the Bundesliga champion. Napoli also travels to Barcelona with that aggregate score deadlocked at 1-1. If the aggregate scores after two matches are tied, the first tie-breaker is determined by which team scored the most goals on the road. The quarterfinals begin on Wednesday, August 12th with La Ligue powerhouse Paris-Saint-Germain facing a red hot Atalanta team from the Italian Serie A. The next day, the Bundesliga runner-ups in RB Leipzig will face the third-place team out of La Liga in Atletico Madrid. On Friday, the winner of the Barcelona/Napoli showdown will face the team that advances between Bayern Munich and Chelsea. Then on Saturday, August 15th, the survivor of Manchester City/Real Madrid will face the winner of Lyon/Juventus. The first semifinal match will take place on Tuesday, August 18th between the winners of the Wednesday/Thursday matches. The winners of the Friday/Saturday games will play the next day. Those two winners will precede to play for the UEFA Champions League championship on Sunday, August 23rd in the final match in Lisbon. With the reigning UEFA Champions League title-holder in Liverpool already eliminated from this competition, Europe will crown a new champion on this day.

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