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Hot Streaks and Achievements

  • 79-48 (62%) GOY/GOMs all-sports, 4/18
  • 20-9 (69%) NHL run, 4/18
  • 47-22 (68%) NBA Game of the Month/Year run, 4/18

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.

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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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