Sports Picks For Sale - Will Rogers

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Will “the Coach” Rogers’ conservative approach to sports wagering has produced outsized rewards.

Active since:  2013

Location:  Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Will “the Coach” Rogers has worked hard his entire life and has achieved success at every level.  Today, Will’s featured on all of the biggest professional handicapping sites in the world, which is a testament to his effort and results.  At the root of Will’s philosophy is that he believes there is always value somewhere, and he wants to help you find it.  Rogers is here to serve as your personal guide through the often confusing world of sports investing, navigating through both opportunities and pitfalls with one goal in mind — to help you make money.

A "Mr. Wolf" of sorts, these are some of the many attributes Rogers brings to the table:

Success:  a proven winner in every walk of life.

Vision:  a laser-like ability to focus on relevant data.

Resources:  team of proven handicappers; vast network of contacts.

Prior to committing full-time to handicapping, Will had a diverse career.  Five years in university.  Five years in research (quantitative analysis).  Twenty-five years in his second passion: running ever-larger high-end kitchens.  Then, next, working as a trouble shooter, analyzing and resolving issues in failing workplaces.  Along the way, he's rubbed shoulders with the rich and big players — royalty, sometimes.  After achieving stellar results over the past seven years, Will has no doubt this will be the last stage of a rich and rewarding life.

Rogers takes pride in his extensive knowledge about every team on the board.  He has a wide variety of proven handicapping techniques in his arsenal.  Knowing when to utilize and employ each technique is key.  Quite frankly, methods will vary from day-to-day and sport-to-sport.  Nothing works forever.  An ability to shift on the fly and to adjust to changing market conditions keeps Rogers ahead of the curve.

Having witnessed others done in by mismanaging their money, Rogers takes a conservative, long-term approach to investing in sports.  A 10* rated play represents just 0.5 percent of his bankroll.  He's not interested in unnecessary risk and/or high volatility.  Supremely confident in his abilities, he keeps his wager sizes to a minimum and relatively consistent — content in the knowledge that his long-term strategy will produce profits.

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SOCCER - Over / Under - Wed, Jun 19


Rogers is red hot in June and a 5-1 Euro Cup record has played a big part! Next winner goes at 9:00am ET, from the Cr...


SOCCER - Over / Under - Wed, Jun 19


Monday's 2-0 Euro Cup card brought Will Rogers to 5-1 through first matches of the Group Stage. The teams start playi...


SOCCER - Moneyline - Wed, Jun 19


Rogers is red hot in June and he's 8-2 his last 10 on the soccer pitch. Now comes his #1 MLS GOW. Proceed with confid...


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NHL Finals Preview + Game 1 Prop Winner

Monday, Jun 03, 2024

In both the NBA and the NHL playoffs, we're down to two teams remaining. The Boston Celtics will take on Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. The Boston Bruins and the Dallas Stars had hoped to also be playing. That would have made for quite the spectacle. The Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers made sure that didn't happen. Florida took care of Boston in Eastern Conference Finals and Edmonton defeated Boston in the Western Conference Finals. Now the two will face each other for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup. The Panthers are favored in a range between -130 to -145.  Edmonton OilersThe Oilers were the best team of the 1980s but haven't won the. Cup since 1990. This year's team got off to a terrible 2-9-1 start. Interestingly, the Oilers made history by getting here. No team ever started with five points or less through its first 12 games and made it to the Final. That slow start led to a coaching change. Soon, thereafter, Edmonton became one of the best teams in hockey. In the past, the Oilers had Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but not much else. They would generally try and outscore teams. This year's team is still led by its two stars. The Oilers are now more complete through and have learned and shown that they can win with defense. Florida PanthersThe Panthers have never won the Stanley Cup. They went to the Finals in 1996 and then again last year. The Panthers had some key injuries to their top defensemen to start the season. It didn't stop them from playing well. Once they got healthy, Florida was even better. On the topic of health, in last year's Finals loss to the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers were dealing with numerous injuries. This year's team comes in much healthier and playing its best hockey. The Panthers are strong at both ends of the ice and they've got great goaltending. Head-Head HistoryThe Panthers took both regular season meetings, 5-3 and 5-1. Those games were both in 2023 though. The first, at Florida, came when the Oilers were only 2-7 on the road and Pickard was in goal. The Oilers also had Calvin Pickard between the pipes for the second game. Now the Panthers will face a red hot Stuart Skinner. That's a big difference. Skinner was in net for each of the 2022 meetings and the Oilers won both games.Canada Needs This There was once a time when the Stanley Cup was won regularly by the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. When I was growing up, we expected it. The Oilers had their dynasty in the 1980s. Even Calgary won a Cup back in 1988-89. No Canadian team has won it since Montreal did it in 1993 though. That's more than 30 years! Hockey has always been a source of pride in Canada. But a whole generation has grown up without the Cup. It won't be easy, as Florida is a great team. But Canada could really use this win!Game 1 Player Prop: Skinner Over 27.5 saves (-105) I touched on Skinner being a difference-maker for the Oilers. He Stars took 34 shots on him last game. He also faced 28 and 42 shots in the two games where he opposed Florida in 2022. The Panthers had 34, 37, 40 and 37 shots their last four games. They should fire more than 30 shots at Skinner in Game 1 and he should save more than 27 of them. 

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2024 CFL Preview + Free Futures Pick

Sunday, Jun 02, 2024

The CFL gets underway this week. The odds to win the Grey Cup, which I've included below, suggest that it will be a 2-team race in the West. Winnipeg is the clear favorite, followed by BC. The proud prairie teams of Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan have all seen better days. Toronto had previously been a significant favorite in the East but a suspension to their star quarterback Chad Kelly, the reigning offensive player of the year, has brought the Argonauts back to the rest of the pack. They're now co-favorites with the Montreal Alouettes, the defending Grey Cup Champions, in the East. Hamilton is also expected to contend. It looks like it'll be a long year for Ottawa. 2023 RecapHeavily favored, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were up 17-7 at halftime of the 2023 Grey Cup. However, the defense was picked apart in the second half by quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led the Montreal Alouettes to a 27-24 comeback victory. It was Winnipeg's second straight loss in the final after coming up short against Toronto the previous year. Week 1 MatchupsThursday: The Bombers get an immediate chance for some payback. They host the Alouettes when the season starts Thursday. Winnipeg is currently favored by six points with a total of 48Friday: In a sign of how far the Stampeders have fallen, Hamilton is a 2.5 point road favorite at Calgary. The O/U line is 46.Saturday:  Saturday's game features Saskatchewan visiting Edmonton. The Elks are favored by 3.5 points with a total of 46. Sunday: The final game of the week has a total of 47 with BC laying six points at Toronto. *Notice that all 4 totals fall in the 46-48 range. Odds To Win 2024 Grey Cup (From Draft Kings on June 2)Winnipeg Blue Bombers +200Toronto Argonauts +500Montreal Alouettes +500BC Lions +650Hamilton Tiger-Cats +800Saskatchewan Roughriders +1500Calgary Stampeders +1600Edmonton Elks +1600Ottawa Redblacks +2200My Pick To Win The Grey CupToronto +500 (Draft Kings)Winnipeg will be hungry for redemption. At +200, there's no value with the Blue Bombers though. Plus, off back-to-back Grey Cup defeats, they've shown that they can't be trusted to win when it counts. The suspension to Chad Kelly caused the odds on the Argonauts to jump. He's only gone 9 games though and the Argos are still the most talented team in the East. They defeated Winnipeg in the 2022 Grey Cup and we could very well be poised for a rematch in Vancouver in November.  

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American League Report

Monday, May 06, 2024

Earlier, I took a look at how things were shaping up in the National League. Now, I'll do the same for the American League. I've paid some extra attention to Seattle and Baltimore, a pair of teams which I discussed before the season. I've also included a long-shot Cy Young Award pick you might want to take a look at.  Orioles FlyingPrior to the start of the season, I stated that I was high on the Baltimore Orioles. At the time, they were 12-1 to win the World Series. (They're down to 9-1 now.) The Orioles have a 23-11 record and are currently battling the Yankees for the top spot in the American League East. There's a whole lot of baseball still to be played but they're currently looking in pretty good shape to make the playoffs. The offseason pickup of Corbin Burnes (see Cy Young odds below) has paid early dividends.  Mariner ReportSeattle was another team which I was big on prior to the season. I said that I thought that the Mariners would finish with more than their projected total of 86 wins. I also said that that I thought they had a solid shot at winning the division. At the time, the line was +300 for them to do so. So far, so good. The Mariners 19-15 record is fairy underwhelming. The best news, however, is that Houston is just 12-22. It's too early to count out the Astros but it sure is nice to have an early 7-game lead on them. The Seattle pitching remains excellent. Check out the Cy Young odds below and you'll find three of the Mariner starters currently in the running for the best pitcher in the American League.  Playoff PictureThings are less clear in the American League than they are in the National League. At least, that's the way that I see it. Either the Yankees or the Orioles should win the East. The one which doesn't will likely earn a Wildcard spot. Loaded as always, the other three teams in the division, Toronto, Boston and Tampa all also remain hopeful for a Wildcard spot. The Central and the West are up for grabs. The Guardians and Twins are the front-runners in the Central but the Royals and Tigers aren't far behind. The only thing for certain is that the White Sox are out of the running. They're terrible. The Mariners and Rangers are fighting for first in the West. The Astros got off to a terrible start but they've still got the talent to turn things around. The A's have been surprisingly competitive but won't be able to keep it up. The Angels are lousy. So, we've got the Yankees and Orioles likely to make it and 10 other teams who will be fighting it out for the other four playoff spots. That should make for an exciting summer! Cy Young OddsThe American League Cy Young field is wide open. Burnes and Skubal are the front-runners for a reason. But if looking for a long-shot, at +2200, Berrios looks pretty good. He's 4-2 with a 1.44 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. That's the best ERA in baseball, entering his start on Tuesday May 7th. The Jays haven't really played up to their potential yet either. If they start swinging the bats better, Berrios may benefit. Here are the current top 10 candidates, the odds courtesy of Draft Kings. Skubal +250 Burnes +400Ragans +900Lopez +1500Gilbert +1500Kirby +1600Castillo +1800Ryan +2000Berrios +2200Gausman +2500

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N.L. Playoff Picture + World Series Longshot Future

Monday, May 06, 2024

Most teams have now played around 35 of 162 games. Obviously, there's still a long way to go. Yet, we're already getting a good idea about which teams are likely to contend for the postseason and which ones aren't. The playoff picture in the National League is particularly clear for this point of the season. I've taken a closer look below. I've also included a long-shot team which I feel has a good chance at sneaking into the postseason and potentially making some noise when it gets there. Understanding the FormatTwelve teams make the playoffs, six from each league. That includes the three division winners and three Wildcard teams, non-divisional winners with the three best records. Once the postseason starts, the #1 and #2 seeds receive a bye in the Wildcard Round. The #3 seed, the division winner with the worst record, hosts the #6 seed. The #4 seed hosts the #5 seed. The Wildcard Round consists of a 3-game series. To ensure that the top team doesn't face another division winner, in the Division Round, the #1 seed faces the winner of the #4 vs. #5 series. The #2 sees faces the winner of the #3 vs. #6 series. Can A Wildcard Team Win The World Series?Last year, the Texas Rangers defeated Arizona in the World Series. Both teams were Wildcard entrants. Texas was the #5 seed in the American League while Arizona was the #6 seed in the National League. That wasn't the first time that a Wildcard team won it all. In fact, it happens with relative regularity. The Marlins won out of a Wildcard spot  in 1997 and 2003. The Angels did so in 2002. The Red Sox accomplished the feat in 2004; the Cardinals, in 2011; the Giants, in 2014 and the Nationals, in 2019. Current NL Playoff ProjectionsThe Dodgers, Braves and Phillies are all very likely to make the playoffs. It currently appears probable that either the Cubs or the Brewers will win the NL Central. There's a good chance that the other will earn a Wildcard spot. So, that's five of the six NL playoff teams right here. The final spot figures to include one of the following six teams: St. Louis, San Diego, New York, Cincinnati, Arizona or San Francisco. Of the six, the Padres currently have the best chance of making the playoffs. FanGraphs has them at 48%. The other five are all less than 30%. San Diego at 70-1 To Win the World SeriesLoaded with high-priced talent, the Padres were a popular pick to win the World Series last year. Things didn't go as planned. They lost a few pieces this season. Most assume that they missed their chance. However, the team and lineup is still stacked. Dylan Cease was a great offseason acquisition and the recent trade for Luis Arraez immediately made them better. They could use another top level starter but should be able to acquire one at the trade deadline. Draft Kings currently has the Padres at +7000 to win the World Series. I've explained that they have a reasonably good chance to make the playoffs. I've also demonstrated that teams can go the distance out of the WC spot. If you're looking for a long-shot to back for the World Series, take a look at the San Diego Padres!

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Euro 2024 Odds and Futures Winner

Sunday, Apr 28, 2024

The 17th UEFA European Championship will run from June 14-July 14 at stadiums across Germany. The usual suspects like: England, France, Germany and Spain are expected to contend for the title. With the first games fast approaching, let's get caught up on the current odds. I've also included my long-shot pick to win the entire tournament. Group FuturesGroup AGermany -225Switzerland +500Hungary +600Scotland +800Group BSpain -145Italy +275Croatia +450Albania +2200Group CEngland -250Denmark +400Serbia +800Slovenia +1200Group DFrance -200Netherlands +300Austria +800Poland +1100Group EBelgium -285Ukraine +600Romania +700Slovakia +950Group FPortugal -250Turkey +400Czech Republic +700Georgia +1800Germany: A Safe Bet Win Group A All six group favorites should certainly advance. Most, perhaps all, will finish on top of their foursome. Group B is the undisputed "Group Of Death," as Spain, Italy and Croatia all rank in the top 10 in the world. Poor Albania has no chance. Playing on their home soil, Germany at -225 looks like a fairly safe bet to win Group A. Odds To Win Euro 2024England: +300 France: +340 Germany: +600 Spain: +700 Portugal: +800 Belgium: +1400 Italy: +1600 Netherlands: +1600 Denmark: +3500 Croatia: +4000 Turkey: +5000 Switzerland: +6500 Serbia: +8000 Austria: +8000 Scotland: +8000 Hungary: +8000 Ukraine: +10000 Poland: +10000 Czech Republic: +15000 Romania: +20000 Slovenia: +20000 Albania: +25000 Georgia: +50000 Slovakia: +50000 Rogers' Euro Cup WinnerBelgium +1400 (Draft Kings) and +1614 (Pinnacle)Since finishing third at the World Cup in 2018, Belgium has underachieved in international events. That could be partly why this year's team is flying under the radar. The defense may not be as stingy, but the Red Devils are still loaded with world-class attackers. Remember, Belgium is ranked #3 in the world in the Fifa rankings. Only Argentina and France rank higher. Importantly, as the biggest favorite to win its group, Belgium also has an easy path to the knockout round.  Assuming they win Group E, the Red Devils will face a third-placed team from either Group A, B, C or D. Following the group winner route, a potential meeting with the Group D winner or Group F runner-up (Turkey, Georgia/Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic) in the quarter-finals awaits. It'll get harder from there but by that time, Belgium is already in the semis. At +1400 or better, I think Belgium has a real chance at shocking the world. 

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UFC 301 Preview and Picks

Sunday, Apr 28, 2024

Pantoja vs. Erceg will take place on May 4, 2024, at the Farmasi Arena, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It may not be as star-studded as UFC 300 but it promises to still be an exciting event. Let's take a closer look at this week's two biggest matches. The Main EventPantoja -205Erceg +170Total: 3.5 over -125 Flyweight champion Alexandre "The Cannibal" Pantoja has won five straight fights and is 27-5 for his career. Steve "Astro Boy" Erceg is off 11 straight victories and is 12-1 for his career, 3-0 in the UFC. Erceg's record is certainly impressive but he hasn't been fighting top level competition. With recent wins against Royval (twice) and Moreno, Pantoja has been taking on some of the best in the division. This will be his second title defense. Pantoja is from Brazil. So, this fight is in his own backyard. Erceg is from Australia. While he recently delivered an impressive knockout, many are questioning how the relatively unknown Erceg, the #10 contender, even got a title shot. Pantoja is extremely tough and he's a great grappler. However, Erceg may have the advantage when the fighters are on their feet. Erceg had this to say: "Yeah, I just think I'm going to pick him apart. That being said, it’s not like I'm going to be able to stay on the outside the whole time. I fully expect him to find ways to get to the grappling, that sort of thing. But I’m no chump there. I’m also a black belt. Before people started calling me a knockout guy cause I had one knockout I was a ‘grappler’ in the UFC so I’m fully confident in my skills on the ground and in the grapple and I think I separate myself with the striking technique."Prediction: Pantoja's grappling and his experience probably tip the scales in his favor. Erceg seems to be the real deal though and an upset wouldn't totally surprise. I'm not touching this one but am excited to watch what should be an exciting and closer than expected battle. The Co-Main Event Jonathan Martinez-162Jose Aldo +136Total 2.5 over -315, under +230Jose "Junior" Aldo is in familiar territory. After all, the decorated veteran, making his return from a brief UFC retirement, is known as "The King of Rio." Aldo has had a few boxing matches since last fighting in the Octagon. Aldo (31-8) is a legend and has fought the best of the best. He's also 37 years old and his last UFC fight was a (decision) loss to Merab Dvalishvili in August 2022. Prior to that, he'd won three straight. However, those three victories were preceded by three straight losses. So, he's only 3-4 since a loss to Volkanovski  in May of 2019. Jonathan "Dragon" Martinez, 30 years old, has a 19-4 record. Off six straight victories, he hasn't lost a fight since March of 2021.  Known for being a leg kick specialist, Aldo will get a taste of his own medicine. Martinez is also known for his dangerous leg kicks. In fact, he's ended two of his last three fights by leg-kick TKO. Aldo was quoted as saying: “He’s a very tough opponent, and I think he has what, two wins by leg kicks? I’m a specialist at what I do, and you’re always going to face people that do the same thing that you do, but that’s what I’m known for, my leg kicks."Prediction: Aldo probably isn't what he used to be but beating the Brazllian legend on the scorecards in Rio won't be easy. Martinez knows a stoppage avoids worrying about the judges. At a huge underdog return, take a look at the under 2.5 rounds. 

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Texas Rangers Season Preview

Monday, Mar 04, 2024

Last year's Texas Rangers won 90 games in the regular season. That led to a tie with the Houston Astros atop of the American League West. The Astros held the tiebreaker advantage though which meant that they were the division winners. The teams would settle their differences in a wild 7-game American League Championship Series. You may recall that the road team won all seven games. Texas won the first two, at Houston. The Astros won the next three, at Texas. Then, the Rangers won both Game 6 and Game 7 to advance to the World Series. They had an easier time of things when they got there, as they defeated the Diamondbacks in five games. Pretty good for a team which was projected to win 82 games and finish fourth in their division! So, what will the defending World Series Champions do for an encore? Let's take a closer look. This season, the Rangers are projected to win 89.5 games. They are currently +200 to win the American League West. Once again, they're expected to be in a 3-team race with the Astros and the Mariners. Houston (92.5 wins) and Seattle (86.5 wins) are projected to finish first and third, respectively. The other two teams in the division, the Angels and Athletics, are being given no chance.On paper, the Rangers offseason wasn't very good. They lost Martin Perez, Aroldis Chapman, Mitch Garver, Robbie Grossman and Will Smith. They added Kirby Yates, David Robertson, Andrew Knizner, and Tyler Mahle, while re-signing Travis Jankowski. Importantly, playoff hero Jordan Montgomery remains a free agent. He's proven his worth and wants a long-term deal. As of this writing, Boston appears most likely to sign him. Losing Montgomery will hurt what was already a mediocre, at best, pitching staff. Led by the likes of Corey Seager, the American League MVP runner-up, Marcus Semien, the AL leader and hits and ALCS MVP Adolis García, the Rangers should still have an extremely potent offense. Texas led the American League in both average and home runs, finishing second in third in those categories overall. So, will all that hitting be enough to make up for the potentially suspect pitching? My feeling is that it will not. No team has won consecutive World Series titles for 23 years. As the defending champions, the Rangers are sure to get everyone's "best game." Other teams are going to get up for a series against Texas. World Series champions often take a step backwards after winning it all. The Astros won 90 games last year, after winning it all in 2022. As mentioned, they nearly returned to the World Series. Still, their 90 regular season victories was a far cry from the 106 which they won the previous year. The Final VerdictEverything fell into place for last season's Rangers. That was with dependable southpaw Jordan Montgomery helping to provide quality innings. With Montgomery likely heading to greener pastures and with a bullseye on their backs, it's my opinion that Texas takes a step back this season. Go with the Under 89 wins. 

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Seattle Mariners Season Preview

Sunday, Mar 03, 2024

The Seattle Mariners went 88-74 last year. A franchise best 21-6 August, which was preceded by a hot 17-9 July, had them in prime position to return to the postseason. Sadly, for Seattle fans, the Mariners couldn't keep it up in September.  They stumbled down the stretch and missed out on the playoffs in rather heart-breaking fashion. The top two teams in their division, Houston and Texas, both made it. Each finished with 90 wins. Will the Mariners take the next step this season? Or, did they miss out on their chance? Let's take a closer look. This season, the Mariners are projected to win 86.5 to 87.5 games, depending on which sports book one uses. They range between about +270 to +300 to win their division. Once again, they're expected to be in a 3-team race with the Astros and the Rangers. Houston (92.5 wins) and Texas (89.5 wins) are projected to finish first and second, respectively. The other two teams in the division, the Angels and Athletics, are being given no chance. The Mariners made a number of offseason moves but none that are likely to move the needle too much. Fans weren't thrilled that they traded Eugenio Suárez to Arizona and they would have liked to see Seattle spend more money to go after some bigger names in free agency. The Mariners maintained their core group of players though and arguably have one of the stronger overall teams in the American League. Paced by their top three starters, Luis Castillo, George Kirby, and Logan Gilbert, the Mariners should again have one of the better starting rotations in baseball. In fact, they return all five starters from last year. Remember, Seattle had the best combined ERA (3.74) in the American League last season. Seattle pitchers recorded 18 shutouts in 2023, the most in the big leagues and a franchise record. The Mariners also set a franchise record with 1,459 strikeouts in 901 innings pitched.Pitching is definitely their strength but the Mariners do also have a solid lineup, one which includes their young star Julio Rodriguez. The Mariners signed Mitch Garver in free agency and traded for second baseman Jorge Polanco and outfielders Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley. They also strengthened their bullpen by picking up reliever Gregory Santos from Chicago. Those aren't the huge names that some might have wanted but they do make this team better. The Final VerdictHealth always plays a pivotal role in determining how far teams will go and that will be the case for Seattle. The Mariners' starters did log a lot of innings last season and that could potentially be felt this year. Assuming they can stay reasonably healthy, I'm high on this year's team. I expect them to finish with more than 86 wins and at +300 (Draft Kings) I believe they've got a real shot at winning the division. Get excited Seattle fans, a return to the playoffs seems more likely than not. 

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Free World Series Futures Winner

Monday, Feb 12, 2024

The NFL season is in the rear view mirror but it's still a very busy time with basketball, hockey and soccer all going strong. Things will get even crazier, once the "Madness" hits next month. Then, before you can even catch your breath from the NCAA Tournament, baseball season begins. Though my primary focus remains on the sports currently being played, I also like to use the second half of February to catch up on my favorite sport. My last column included a 10-1 long-shot prop winner on the Chiefs and 49ers to go to Overtime. I close this edition with a 12-1 World Series Futures play. Spring Training Is A Week AwaySpring Training starts on February 22nd, the Dodgers taking on the Padres. Within the exhibition season, there are some interesting games. The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will play pair of games at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on March 9-10. The following week, on March 14-19, the inaugural edition of the "Spring Breakout" will take place. Sixteeen games will be played between teams comprised of each MLB organization's top 20-25 prospects. The regular season begins on March 28th. I can't wait to hear them say "Play Ball!" The Rich Get RicherShohei Ohtani dominated the offseason headlines. In case you somehow missed it, the 2-way superstar signed a record-breaking deal with the Dodgers. As if that wasn't enough, the Dodgers proceeded to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, among the most hyped players to ever come from Japan, to a 12-year $325,000,000 deal. Yamamoto has outstanding stuff, and won three straight "Sawamura awards" in Japan, the NPB's version of the Cy Young Award. It comes as no surprise that the Dodgers are favored to win the World Series. They top the current future odds from Draft Kings. World Series Future Odds Los Angeles Dodgers: +360 Atlanta Braves: +450 Houston Astros: +800 New York Yankees: +1000 Baltimore Orioles: +1200 Texas Rangers: +1400 Philadelphia Phillies: +1500 Minnesota Twins: +2000 Toronto Blue Jays: +2000 Seattle Mariners: +2000 Chicago Cubs: +2800 St. Louis Cardinals: +3500 Tampa Bay Rays: +3500 Arizona Diamondbacks: +3500 New York Mets: +4000 Cincinnati Reds: +4500 San Diego Padres: +5000 Boston Red Sox: +5000 San Francisco Giants: +5500 Detroit Tigers: +6000 Cleveland Guardians: +7000 Miami Marlins: +7000 Milwaukee Brewers: +10000 Kansas City Royals: +13000 Pittsburgh Pirates: +15000 Los Angeles Angels: +15000 Washington Nationals: +20000 Chicago White Sox: +25000 Colorado Rockies: +40000 Oakland Athletics: +40000 Free Play (Baltimore at +1200 to Win the World Series)The American League East is a tough place to play. The Yankees are always stacked. The Blue Jays are seemingly always on the door-step. The Rays have been strong in recent years. The Red Sox aren't that far removed from being World Series champions. However, this year's best team hails from Baltimore. The signing of Corbin Burnes didn't get the attention of some of the other deals but it may be just what the Orioles needed to put them over the top. Remember, this is a stacked team which won 101 games last year, more than anyone besides Atlanta. If they stay healthy, the Orioles could potentially be even better this year. I'm using the current Draft Kings odds of +1200, as that's what most people have access to. If you can, make sure shop around. Baltimore is currently +1327 at Pinnacle. 

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Will Rogers' Fab 5 Super Bowl Props

Thursday, Feb 01, 2024

The Super Bowl offers an enormous amount of proposition wagering opportunities. Some are kind of silly but others provide us with a great chance to profit. Sorting through them can be tough. So, I've tried to assist in that area by providing several to keep an eye out for. I've tried to feature a little something for everyone. So, whether you're into favorites or underdogs, I've got you covered. Remember to shop around. These lines can vary a lot, from book to book. Travis Kelce Receptions (UNDER 6.5) +121Kelce absolutely went off last game. Between his 11-catch performance and all the extra hype surrounding his relationship with Taylor Swift, there are a lot of bettors wanting to play on him in every way possible. The books are forced to act accordingly and Kelce prices are set sky high. That provides value in going against him. Last game, he was being asked to have 5.5 catches. Now, he's being asked to catch 6.5. Not only that, you have to pay a steep price on the over for the privilege. That means we get the under 6.5 with a solid underdog return. The 49ers will have a defensive strategy in place to slow down Kelce. They'll do a much better job of doing so than Baltimore did. Isiah Pacheco Rushing Yards (Over 65.5) -118If the 49ers are going to focus a lot of energy on stopping Mahomes and Kelce, they may become vulnerable to the Chiefs' running game. Keep in mind that the Lions just put up 182 rushing yards against them. Montgomery had 92 and Gibbs and Williams had 45 and 42, respectively. Pacheco didn't even average 3 yards a carry against the Ravens and still had 68 rushing yards. Barring an injury, he'll dominate the carries for KC and finish with 70+ yards on the ground. Christian McCaffrey Anytime TD (YES) -214The price on this one is rather steep. That is, until you consider that McCaffrey is a scoring machine. In 18 games, he's scored 18 touchdowns. He scored  2 touchdowns against the Lions after scoring 2 against the Packers. If SF is going to find the end zone, there's a good chance its going to be McCaffrey. Patrick Mahomes Pass Attempts (Under 36.5) +100If there's anyone that gets more hype than Kelce, its Mahomes. All that hype brings inflated prices. Most don't want to bet against the KC superstar. The Chiefs don't want their QB having to throw on every down. They saw the Lions run all over the 49ers and they will try and follow a similar gameplan. They'd prefer a game like they had against Buffalo where Mahomes was an efficient 17 of 23, for 215 yards with 2 TDs and 0 interceptions. He'll throw more than 23 times against the 49ers but probably less than 37. Will the Super Bowl go to Overtime? (Yes) +938Here's a big long-shot play, for those who are so inclined. Super Bowls don't usually go to Overtime. It's only happened once that I can remember, Brady's famous comeback versus the Falcons. This one has the makings of a really close game though. I'm personally not touching the side as I think its a coin flip. Both teams have been playing close games to get here. The 49ers 2 playoff games were both decided by a field goal. The Chiefs last 2 games were decided by 7 and 3. The previous time these teams met in the SB, the score was tied at halftime. There's no reason this one can't be tied at the end of regulation. At nearly 10-1, I'm taking a shot. 

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Fatigue Factor: How To Handle 2 Games In 2 Days

Monday, Jan 29, 2024

The long and busy NBA season provides numerous situations where one team is playing its second game in as many days. Knowing how to handle these back-to-back spots can be the key to a profitable season. All else being equal, a rested team will generally outperform a team playing with no rest. It's not as easy as just blindly betting on the rested team though. We need to look at a lot of other factors. Sometimes the best value comes from actually playing on the team with no rest. Knowing the answers to the following questions is a good place to start. Was the first leg of the back-to-back a win or a loss? Different teams react differently. Was the first leg of the back-to-back an "emotional" game against a division rival? Or, was it a less significant game against a non-conference opponent? Did the starters log heavy minutes in a close (Overtime?) game? Or, were they able to check out of the game early, due to it being a blowout? It's also important to recognize that not all teams react the same way to playing with no rest. Some teams are terrible in that situation while others actually seem to thrive.We can take things deeper. Some teams are fine if playing back-to-back home games OR, if playing a home game followed by an away game. But, they may struggle when playing 2 road games in 2 days. Lastly, remember to also look at totals. Some teams don't have many tendencies toward winning or losing when playing back-to-back games. However, they may tend to play high or low-scoring games.  For example, the Wizards are 7-1 to the under when playing with no rest. Memphis is 6-1 to the under. On the other hand, OKC and Milwaukee have both gone over 6 of 7 times.  Here's a list of how the teams have been doing, when playing the second of back-to-back games. (Stats are up to January 29th.) RECORDS WITH NO REST ATLANTA SU: 2-6  ATS: 1-7   O/U: 4-3-1BOSTON SU: 6-2. ATS: 5-3  O/U: 4-4BROOKLYN SU: 2-4  ATS: 2-3=1  O/U: 4-2CHARLOTTE SU: 1-6  ATS: 4-3.  O/U: 4-3CHICAGO SU: 3-5   ATS: 3-5   O/U: 4-4CLEVELAND SU: 2-4   ATS: 3-3  O/U: 4-2DALLAS SU: 4-4  ATS: 4-4  O/U: 5-3DENVER SU: 6-3. ATS: 3-6.  O/U: 5-4DETROIT SU: 2-6. ATS: 4-4. O/U: 5-3GOLDEN STATE SU: 5-3  ATS: 5-3. O/U: 6-2HOUSTON SU: 2-7  ATS: 5-4. O/U: 5-4INDIANA SU: 2-7  ATS: 2-7  O/U: 4-5LA CLIPPERS SU: 4-3   ATS: 4-3. O/U: 4-3LA LAKERS SU: 2-5. ATS: 1-5-1. O/U: 4-3MEMPHIS SU: 1-6  ATS: 3-4 O/U: 1-6MIAMI SU: 2-4  ATS: 1-4-1   O/U: 3-3MILWAUKEE SU: 6-1   ATS: 4-3   O/U: 6-1MINNESOTA SU: 3-2.  ATS: 2-3. O/U: 4-1NEW ORLEANS SU: 3-4. ATS: 4-3. O/U: 5-2NEW YORK SU: 4-5. ATS: 3-6. O/U: 4-5OKLAHOMA CITY SU: 5-2  ATS: 5-2. O/U: 6-1ORLANDO SU: 2-7  ATS:  4-5. O/U: 4-4-1PHILADELPHIA SU: 4-4  ATS: 4-4. O/U: 3-5PHOENIX SU: 5-2  ATS: 3-4. O/U: 5-2PORTLAND SU: 5-3  ATS:  6-2  O/U: 2-6SACRAMENTO SU: 2-4. ATS: 1-5. O/U: 2-4SAN ANTONIO SU: 2-5. ATS: 3-4. O/U: 5-2 TORONTO SU: 2-6  ATS: 3-5  O/U: 5-3UTAH SU: 4-4. ATS: 4-4  O/U: 5-2-1WASHINGTON SU: 0-8. ATS: 4-4  O/U: 1-7

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NHL Stats That Matter: 50 Games In

Wednesday, Jan 24, 2024

Now that we're nearly 50 games into the NHL season, it's time for me to check back in. The Edmonton Oilers are perhaps the biggest story. They've done nothing but win since my last article. After 20 games, the Oilers weren't even among the top 10 on the NHL Futures market. They're now favored to win the Stanley Cup! The Winnipeg Jets are another hot team which has become one of the favorites to hoist the Cup. I've got the updated future odds below, along with some other relevant stats. Top 10 Teams To Win The CupEdmonton Oilers +624Colorado Avalanche +832Boston Bruins +907Carolina Hurricanes +1066Florida Panthers +1097New York Rangers +1167Winnipeg Jets +1214Dallas Stars +1231 Vancouver +1286Vegas Golden Knights +1371Just as one should know how teams are doing in the standings, it's important to understand how they're faring at the betting window. Four of this season's most profitable teams are barely above .500. On the other side of the coin, some of the least profitable teams in the league have winning records. Below are the top 10 most and least profitable teams, entering play on January 24th. TOP 10 MOST PROFITABLE TEAMSVancouver: 32-15   +$1078 Detroit: 24-23   +$781 St. Louis: 23-22   +$714 Winnipeg 30-15   +$578 Arizona: 23-22   +$516 Philadelphia 25-23   +$386 Colorado: 30-17   +$342 NY Rangers 2918   +$306 Boston: 29-17   +$281 Florida: 28-18   +$239 TOP 10 LEAST PROFITABLE TEAMSSan Jose: 13-35   -$882 Toronto: 23-22   -$771 NY Islanders: 20-27  -$770 Minnesota: 21-26  -$756 Columbus: 14-32  -$686 Ottawa: 18-25  -$613 Calgary: 21-26  -$548 New Jersey: 24-21  -$531 Buffalo: 20-27  -$529Seattle: 19-27  -$497 KNOW YOUR PUCK-LINESome of the good teams are also really strong versus the puck-line. Others are not. Vancouver, for instance, is 28-13 against the puck-line. On the other hand, the Rangers are on the top 10 list for the most profitable teams vs. the money-line but they're only 17-24 against the puck-line. Dallas has a solid winning record but is only 15-25 against the puck-line. The Leafs and Devils have been especially bad. Their puck-line records are 10-29 and 11-27, respectively. Then you've got Columbus. The Blue Jackets are among the worst teams but they've got a profitable 25-16 record vs. the puck-line.  O/U Trends After each team had played roughly 20 games, I mentioned that it had been an equal split when it came to totals, as there were 152 unders and 151 overs. As the teams approach the 50-game mark, it's still quite equal. There have been 310 games which finished under the total and 297 games which went over. That's 51% vs. 49%. No real edge either way. If you throw out OT games, its roughly a 53% to 47% split, in favor of the under. So, if you know your game is unlikely to go to Overtime, it has a slightly better chance of staying below the total. Nothing worth wagering on though. 

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Bowl Betting Tips + Free Winner

Wednesday, Dec 20, 2023

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is one of my favorite times of the year. I'm not overly sentimental about the season. Nor do I particularly care for the cold.  All the sports more than make up for it! Hockey and basketball are heating up. International soccer is going strong. NFL divisional races are coming down to the wire. Even with all the opt-outs, the bowls are always exciting. December has been treating me well and I'm hoping to stay hot to close out the year.  Just as the holidays can be overwhelming, so can all the sporting options. It's too much for some. Others are able to effectively take advantage of all the added opportunities. I typically fall in the latter group. Here are a few common sense reminders which have served me well at this time of the year. As my "be cautious" theme may not excite everyone, I've also sprinkled in a complimentary bowl game winner. Thanks for reading and happy holidays to all! Don't Mix Drinking And BettingIt's important not to mix celebrating and sports handicapping. There's nothing wrong with enjoying some holiday cheer. However, it's an easy way to lose our discipline. Months of diligent money management can quickly be thrown out the window if one starts betting after having had too many drinks. There's always tomorrow. My advice is to avoid the sportsbook if you've gotten into drinking. Do your work and place your bets beforehand. Not afterwards.  Don't Play Every GameOne of the biggest advantages at our disposal is that we don't have to play every game. Discipline is more important than ever at this time of the year. Just because there are five bowl games on the first day of bowl season doesn't mean that we need to play all five of them. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing so either. Just don't force. Play because you feel that you have an edge, not because the game is kicking off on TV in 10 minutes. I personally chose to play one bowl game on Opening Day. The same goes for all the Christmas Day NBA and NFL games. Play only the ones you are really confident in. More on that in a minute.  Be CautiousFor many, the holiday season and New Year’s is a hectic time of year. There are often get-togethers with work, family and friends. It can get us out of our normal routine and can be exhausting. This can eat into our handicapping time. As a professional, I try and keep social engagements to a minimum. That can be easier said than done, I'm a firm believer that there's no substitute for hard work. If you don't have enough time to handicap the games the way you normally would, just take a pass. Don't Be Afraid to Fade The Line MovesThere's been a lot of line movement in the bowls this season. We're seeing more and more important players electing not to play and that causes the odds to shift. Often, there's an over-reaction and the line moves too much. The players replacing the stars can be better than bettors realize. If you like the game, don't be afraid to go against the move. Getting an extra handful of points in exchange for a starter can be well worth it.  Be PatientAs mentioned above, there's a lot of line movement in football games at this time of the year. There are times when it pays to lock in a play early but its also important to exercise patience. It's not a race to get your bet in. Waiting can get you a better number and waiting provides a better chance to see which players are in and which players are out. 68 Ventures Bowl O/U Winner On Saturday, December 23rd, South Alabama will face Eastern Michigan. The game, now known as the 68 Ventures Bowl, will be played at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile Alabama. The Jaguars are substantial favorites. I'm more interested in the total. The O|U line has come down from what it opened at. That's providing value with the over. USA games are averaging nearly 53 points. South Alabama is going to score a lot against a suspect Eastern Michigan defense. That will lead to the final score going over the number. Go with the Over! 

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NBA: What Happened To The Defense?

Sunday, Dec 03, 2023

I'm dating myself but it doesn't seem like so long ago that NBA totals were regularly in the 180s. Sometimes, scores were a lot lower than that. Companies used to do promotions where they'd give away something free, like a slice of pizza, if the local team would reach 100 points. Those days are long gone. This season, totals are regularly in the 220s and 230s. I  recently saw one in the 250s. Even that still wasn't nearly enough. That game finished with 309 points! Are all the high scores leading to more games going over the total than normal? Let's check it out. If it feels like games have been flying over the total, it's because they have been. Through nearly 300 games, there has been 159 overs compared to 131 unders. That's almost a 55% to 45% split. These things tend to even out. Lines will continue to creep up and eventually the unders should close the gap. Remember last year's gamesFittingly, the 309 point game mentioned above featured the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. It should come as no surprise that the Pacers and Hawks were involved. Not only are the Pacers scoring the most points (128.98) in the league, they're also allowing (125.94) the most. Their games average nearly 255 points. The Hawks rank #2 in scoring and are 4th worst in scoring defense.  Top 10 Over TeamsIndiana 16-2Phoenix 14-6Dallas 13-6San Antonio 13-6Milwaukee 13-7 Charlotte 12-6Philadelphia 12-6-1 Atlanta 12-7Washington 12-7OKC 11-8Even the best defenses in the league, teams like the Knicks, T-Wolves, Rockets and Celtics are allowing more than 105 points a game. Scoring was way up last year but both the Cavaliers and the Knicks managed to allow less than 100 points a game. The Clippers and Rockets are a pair of teams which are bucking the over trend. They are 11-6 and 12-7 to the under. I've taken a cautious approach out of the gate with my NBA totals. I've only played five of them, winning three. I was 2-1 with overs and 1-1 with unders. Rest assured, I'll be playing a lot more of them as the season progresses. Again, I look for the unders to even out a little bit. I'll check back a bit later in the season to see if that was the case. Unless they change the rules, I guess we will have to get used to it. Players are more skilled. The officials seem to give them more space than ever. Call me old-fashioned but I miss seeing the occasional 84-80 game! 

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NHL: Twenty Games In

Monday, Nov 27, 2023

Most teams have now played around 20 games. There's still a very long way to go but the standings at the 1/4 point of the season often seem to hold up. Since the 2005-06 season, of the 240 teams to find themselves in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving, 184 have gone on to make the post-season. That’s 76.7%, which is a pretty accurate success rate. Of the 56 teams that fell out of the playoff picture after the Thanksgiving, 31 were only within a single point of the final wild-card berth. Only two teams in the salary-cap era failed to make the playoffs after sitting ahead of the final berth by 10 or more points, at Thanksgiving. So, yes, there's a long way to go but teams which are off to strong starts tend to keep it up. Let's take a look at what's going on around the league. At The Betting WindowThe New York Rangers (+$791) have been the most profitable team to bet on this season. The Canucks, Kings, Flyers and Capitals round out the top five. The Minnesota Wild (-$967) have hurt their backers more than any other team. Edmonton and San Jose are the second and third worst. O/U TrendsIt's been a very equal split when it comes to totals, as there have been 152 unders and 151 overs. If you throw out OT games, 52.7% of non-overtime games have stayed below the total. Home Sweet Home?Not really. Home teams have only won 52.5% of their games. Favorites are cashing at just over a 60% clip. Who's Hot The Predators and Kings are both a perfect 5-0 their past five. The Rangers have won three straight and are 8-1-1 their past 10. Colorado, also off three consecutive victories, is 7-3 its past 10. Who's NotThe Wild have now lost seven in a row. The Ducks have dropped six straight. Chicago and San Jose remain at the bottom of the standings. Scoring LeadersNikita Kucherov has the most points (35) in the league but its close. Hughes, Miller, Pastrnak and a list of others are hot on his heels. Connor Bedard leads all rookies with 17 points. Current Odds To Win the Stanley CupFuture odds help to provide insight into where teams are at. Remember, top seeds don't always win when in the NHL playoffs. The Canucks are currently in good shape to make the playoffs and could be worth a look at 25-1. The Kings are priced fairly at +1450.   Vegas Golden Knights +750Colorado Avalanche +783Boston Bruins +915Carolina Hurricanes +1100Dallas Stars +1100New York Rangers +1100Toronto Maple Leafs +1227Florida Panthers +1301Los Angeles Kings +1450New Jersey Devils +1700Tampa Bay Lightning +1992Edmonton Oilers +2100Winnipeg Jets +2400Vancouver Canucks +2500Pittsburgh Penguins +4300Calgary Flames +6330Minnesota Wild +6500New York Islanders +7008Detroit Red Wings +7200Nashville Predators +7500Seattle Kraken +7553Washington Capitals +8000Ottawa Senators +8509St. Louis Blues +8800Buffalo Sabres +13000Arizona Coyotes +15000Philadelphia Flyers +15516Anaheim Ducks +17500Montreal Canadiens +21000Chicago Blackhawks +35000Columbus Blue Jackets +35000San Jose Sharks +71966

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What's Going On Out West?

Wednesday, Nov 01, 2023

Prior to the season, I looked at some of the teams from the Pacific Division. I previewed the Canucks, Oilers, Flames and the Kraken. With those clubs having all played a decent number of games, it's time to get caught up on where they're at. Edmonton: Through their first eight games, the Oilers are sitting at 2-5-1. This is not the start that they envisioned. Beating up on their provincial rival in their last game has them pointed in the right direction. The talent is still there and they still should be fine. However, seven of their next 11 games come on the road. They need to smarten up before digging themselves too deep a hole. Calgary: A coaching change was supposed to be just what the under-achieving Flames needed. Outscored 34-19 in going 2-6-1, perhaps the Flames' issues were deeper than Calgary fans wanted to admit. I also thought they'd be better. They play eight of their next 12 on the road.  The season could be over before it started. The Flames know things are bad. They've suspended all contract talks. Vancouver: Things are much rosier on the West Coast than they are in the Prairies. The Canucks have gotten used to slow starts. So, they're very much appreciating going 6-2-1 through their first nine games. They've outscored opposing teams by a 36-21 margin. They've got a lot of winnable upcoming games, including three in November against a really bad San Jose team. This looks like a legit playoff team. Seattle: Everything went right for the Kraken last season. So far this season? Not so much. Seattle sits at 3-5-1. No longer sneaking up on teams, the Kraken have been outscored 34-24. Much of that was thanks to an 0-4 start. They've been better since.  Though the Kraken should remain competitive on most nights, the playoffs look like they could be a long-shot. The Pacific Division is currently home to the both the top team in the NHL, in terms of points and also the worst. All four teams are chasing Vegas. The Knights (9-0-1) are setting the pace in the Pacific. I touched on the Sharks being a bad team. They could be historically bad. They're 0-8-1 getting outscored 35-9. Of course, there's still a long way to go. It'll be interesting to see where we're at by this time next month! 

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Seattle Kraken 2023 Season Preview

Thursday, Oct 05, 2023

I've previewed the Vancouver Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. Sticking in the Pacific Division, now I'll take a look at the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year, after upsetting Colorado in the opening round. Can they take the next step?Last season could only be described as a huge success. Seattle finished with 60 points (27-49-6 record) in 2021-22, its inaugural campaign. Last year, the Kraken jumped all the way to 46-28-8 and 100 points. That was good enough for fourth in the Pacific Division. That meant they had to face Colorado in the first round. No problem. The Kraken shocked the Avalanche in seven games. They very nearly beat the Stars in the next round, too. Dallas ultimately won Game 7. This season, the Kraken are projected to finish with 93.5 points. That number would have meant that they narrowly missed the playoffs last year. Despite the slightly lower expectations, the Kraken have pretty much the same group as last season. The general consensus seems to be that everything went right last year and that the Kraken may not be as fortunate. Also, after upsetting Colorado in the playoffs and improving by 40 points from their first season, the Kraken won't be sneaking up on teams any longer. I essentially concur. Its not easy to take such a huge jump and then to improve again the very next season. The Kraken had an impressive 26-11-4 record away from Seattle last year. With a bullseye on their backs, they likely won't match that mark this season. The Pacific Division is very competitive, too. Edmonton and Vegas are going to be good. Los Angeles will be, too. I've previously mentioned that I think Calgary and Vancouver will improve. Even San Jose and Anaheim are expected to be a little better. Not every team in the division can get better. The Kraken may be the odd one out. Look for the Kraken to take a step back. They'll still be competitive but I don't see them returning to the playoffs. Shop around for the best number and take a look at them to go under their projected number of regular season points ... Will Rogers

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Calgary Flames 2023 Season Preview

Wednesday, Oct 04, 2023

Last season didn't go as planned for the Calgary Flames. They often outplayed their opposition but still found a way to lose. Close games rarely went their way. They finished with 93 points, narrowly missing the playoffs. That's not good enough for Flames' fans, especially not with their northern neighbors thriving. Will things be any different this year? In terms of talent, the Flames are loaded. They were actually the only non-playoff team to score more goals than they allowed. Their biggest change comes behind the bench. Longtime coach Darryl Sutter is gone. Replacement Ryan Huska will help to change the culture and breathe new energy into the locker room. On paper, the Flames are solid in all areas. The defense is particularly strong. Goaltender Markstrom wasn't as good last season. For the team to really take the next step, he needs to return to the form he displayed in 2021-22. Markstrom started coming around at the end of last season and I'm expecting a bounce-back season.The Pacific Division is tough. The Flames are +828 to win it. Possible but unlikely. They're +1591 to win the West and +4339 to win the Cup. Stranger things have happened!  If you're looking to make a regular season o/u points prop play, the Flames are being projected to finish with 94.5 points. That's only slightly better than last season. It seems entirely reasonable that they can turn a few of the close losses into wins this year. I like their chances of finishing with 95 or more. That means a return to the postseason and that Calgary fans will get to enjoy playoff hockey.  Let's go Flames ... Will Rogers

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Edmonton Oilers: Could This Be The Year?

Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

The Edmonton Oilers have a history of hockey success. Their passionate fans expect their team to be good. Those expectations are realistic given that the Oilers have arguably the best player in the world. Connor McDavid topped the 150 point (64 goals, 89 assists) mark last season. With McDavid expected to have another monster campaign, the Oilers are favored to win the Pacific Division. Can they break through and take the next step?The Oilers have enjoyed plenty of recent regular season success. The postseason has largely been a different story. Last year, they got knocked out in the second round by the Vegas Knights. Before that, they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals. In each case, the team which defeated them went on to win the Cup.Another strong regular season is in the forecast. The Oilers are projected to reach 105.5 to 106.5 points, depending on which sportsbook one is looking at. McDavid gets most of the headlines but his co-star Leon Draisaitl (52 goals, 76 assists) is also a bigtime producer. The Oilers made some tweaks to the supporting cast and are feeling confident. It seems like McDavid's been around a long time but he's still only 26. He's already done everything except win the Stanley Cup. The Oilers superstar knows that needs to change:  "I think hockey is a team game, but with that being said, all those great guys have won before and it’s certainly something that we’re after in Edmonton ... I certainly feel that the greats have all won and that’s what you have to do." Speaking of "the greats," McDavid was 15 when he first met Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. Crosby, now 36, has achieved the ultimate success. He was the first overall pick 10 years before McDavid was drafted number one. Connor would like to meet Crosby again, when it really counts: "I’ll take a Cup Final against anybody. But against Sid, it would be incredible."Draft Kings currently has Edmonton at +1000 to win the Stanley Cup. Call me crazy but I think this just might be the year ... Will Rogers

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Vancouver Canucks Season Preview

Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Vancouver Canucks' fans annually get excited around this time of the year. In late September, their team always provides reason for hope. Yet, year after year, that hope and excitement fades away. Will this season be any different? Vancouver got off to an 0-7 start to its 2022/23 season. Things were bad from the get-go. The Canucks didn't get their first win until 10/27. They ended up missing the playoffs. Again. The last time they made the postseason was 2020. They've been there 28 times in 52 years. The current preseason got off to an ominous start when Vancouver lost 10-0 to Calgary. Coach Rich Tocchet commented: “I know people don’t want to hear it, but it’s a learning experience.”There is reason for hope though. The Canucks have a legitimate star in Elias Pettersson. Vancouver's best player gets it done at both ends of the ice. He finished with 102 points last year. Captain Quinn Hughes anchors a blue line which is stronger and deeper than it's been in recent seasons. The Canucks are counting on a bounce-back season from goalie Thatcher Demko. He was great when the Canucks last made the playoffs but struggled last year. The improvement behind the blue line should help Demko's cause. The Canucks are currently about +1400 to win their division and +2300 to win the West. They're going to be better but they won't be good enough to win the division or conference. They do seem like a solid bet to go over their projected number of 88.5 regular season points though. If they do that, a return to the playoffs is likely in the cards ... Will Rogers

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CFL 2023- A Question and a Prediction for each Western Division Team

Wednesday, Jun 07, 2023

With the unbalanced schedule for West teams this year (3 against each team in the West and 1 or 2 against each east team) it will be a tough go for teams that struggled in the West last year as they will have to play more games against better teams. I’m looking at you, Roughriders and Elks.BCCan Vernon Adams change from “Big Play V.A.” into “Game Manager V.A.”?He did it for his stint as a starter for BC last season as Rick Campbell did his CFL coaching magic to lead Adams into 6 TD completions and only 1 interception in the 6 games he started showing he can reliably manage a star-studded offence. This was all as a replacement for Captain Canada, Nathan Rourke who signed with the NFL in the off season. That will be the expectation this year without James Butler running and catching the ball. He may have lost Bryan Burnham to retirement but he still has three 1000 yard receivers in Dominique Rhymes, Keon Hatcher and Luck Whitehead. Adams can still improvise when things break down but Campbell’s well organized offence and solid O-line should make it less necessary.Prediction 1st in WestTaquan Mizzel was supposed to be an important scatback last season but just before training camp he has an emergency appendectomy. He is all healed and back on the roster as the #1 running back. He was the first back in his conference to ever get over 1000 yards running and receiving so he will add to Adams’ options this season. They lost two on the o-line but gained Couture from the Bombers and Schlueger from the Alouettes. Their d-line was outstanding last season and will continue to be so, as was their secondary. Defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips did an excellent job last season and will have the horses to repeat. WinnipegWill standing pat with an aging roster pay off? QB Zach Collaros will be 35 this summer. Is he another Tom Brady or is he an injury away from serious deficiencies in his game? Defense star Adam Bighill also turns 35 this season and Willie Jefferson is 32. The O-line is another year older and Collaros’ declining mobility will be exposed as they slow down. It started to show last year. Sure they have an outstanding receiving corps but the only real free agent addition was making Kenny Lawler the highest paid receiver in the CFL and now he is on the suspended list with immigration issues. It might be tough for the ball to get to them.  They essentially are running it back with the same roster that was a point (and a reliable kicker ) away from a third consecutive Grey Cup. I’m doubtful they have what it takes to repeat last years’ performance. There are some commentators who see them missing the playoffs. I’m not going to be the one to say this to Adam Bighill but maybe the West Division will. Prediction 2nd in the West Brady Olivera has the potential to lead the league in rushing. The receivers include Dalton Schoen, Nic Demski and Rasheed Bailey (and maybe eventually Kenny Lawler). This is as good as it gets in the CFL. And Winston Love, Deatrick Nichols and Jackson Jeffcoat will still terrorize opponents’ backfields. It is still a lot to expect the Bombers to dominate for a fourth season in a row. I’m sure Coach O’Shea and his veterans will have something to say about that.  EdmontonWhen will the Elks win their first home game?The Elks have lost 17 straight home games. If Chris Jones continues his pattern of first seasons with a new team being poor and second seasons being successful it should happen quickly. In previous stints with Edmonton and Saskatchewan Jones had a strong second season. This season has to be better than what happened last year to the Elks. Their first home game is against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. No one thinks the Roughriders will be a powerhouse this year. This streak could end in week one. Prediction 3rd in the West Taylor Cornelius will start the season as the starting QB. The Elks’ staff has had all off season to prepare an offense and personnel to help him succeed. Cornelius has had an entire off season to study film and work on the necessary skills. This will let him hit the ground running. Outstanding receiver Dillon Mitchell and running back Kevin Brown were brought in halfway through last season and they excelled. Mitchell is talking about a 2000 yard receiving season. Some commentators think Brown could lead the CFL in rushing. Former tight end, now rush end, A.C. Leonard and the versatile veteran Louchiez Purifoy were signed as free agents. They are Chris Jones’ type of players – playmakers – that can have a profound impact. The O-line still needs work. The 6’5” 230 lb. Cornelius may have to improvise. He has an impressive elusiveness and ability to run the football that will probably be called into service. This could be interesting. CalgaryWith Bo Levi-Mitchell gone and number one status from the get go, can Jake Maier become the second best QB in the CFL? So Collaros is the best. But Maier might not be far behind. With the most outstanding O-line in recent CFL history (judged by sacks allowed) and the leading rusher in the CFL, Ka’deem Carey, Maier will have the time and space to find an outstanding set of receivers. Malik Henry is as good as they get in the CFL. Reggie Begelton and Luther Hakunavanhu are also outstanding. Jalen Philpot is injured to start the season but when he returns all bets are off. Maier should have a field day. Prediction 4th in the WestSo how does a team with an outstanding offence end up ranked 4th. The second ranked defense lost the ageless Shawn Lemon and standout middle linebacker Jameer Thurman. There are still questions at middle linebacker. They still have Cameron Judge producing on the weak side but who is going to anchor the heart of this defense. They also lost defensive lineman Orimolade. Is this defense going to be able to get the stops to get Maier on the field enough to make use of all his weapons. They couldn’t get it done against the Lions in last years’ West semi-final. Are they going to be able to get it done against all of the Wests’ rejuvenated offenses. Sakatchewan Will coach Craig Dickenson and GM Jeremey O’Day make it through the entire last year of their contracts? Neither have signed extensions and the team had a down year in 2022. The Roughrider fans are legendary and this high profile franchise will not tolerate continued failure. They had a terrible O-line last season that led to injuries to QB Fajardo. Starting QB Trevor Harris is less mobile than Fajardo. How will he survive? It could get ugly quick and Dickenson might not last beyond Labour Day (first Monday in September for our American fans). They added center Peter Godber from the Lions but starting left tackle Jerald Hawkins is back home for a personal matter with no return in sight. Former Elk and Ticat offensive lineman Colin Kelly signed but is suspended 2 weeks for performance enhancing drug use. There has to be some light at the end of this tunnel. Prediction 5th in the WestDerel Walker and Jake Wernike are quality receivers but Harris will need time to find them. Running backs Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson are explosive and they will give their offense options.  On the other side of the ball the Roughriders have probably the best set of linebackers in the CFL with Derek Moncrief, Larry Dean and Micha Teitz although Moncrief missed most of training camp. There isn’t a lot of good news these days for the Roughriders and it could be a slow start to their campaign. 

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CFL 2023- A Question and a Prediction for each Eastern Division Team

Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

The CFL season starts Thursday. It’s time to consider how things will go for all nine teams this season after an off-season of considerable changes, especially at the QB position for many teams. Seven of nine teams have a different starter at QB to start the season and it looks like Masoli in Ottawa will start on the injured list. Today I’ll consider one burning question and a prediction for each Eastern Conference team and tomorrow I’ll look at the Western Conference. Watch for my picks on Thursday for opening games.HamiltonWill Bo Levi-Mitchell thrive as the biggest off-season signing for the Tiger Cats? He won’t have the most outstanding offensive line in the past 20 years like he had in Calgary. Hamilton has improved their O-line but it won’t compare to Calgary’s. Levi-Mitchell has been in decline for the last few years, partly from injuries and partly from aging. This will be a fresh start and he will want to prove Calgary wrong but it should take him awhile to get productive, even with top receiver Tim White still running routes. James Butler (another off-season signing from the Lions) should provide the run game to help set up the pass with fellow ex-Lion Joel Figueroa opening up holes for him on the offensive line. Some betting sites predict Butler will lead the league in rushing this year.Prediction 1st in EastHamilton’s defense should be dominant with a defensive line returning with 35-year-old ageless wonder Simoni Lawrence leading the way alongside standout returnees Kasey Sales and Malik Carter. Montreal Will new head coach Jason Maas be able to create a successful scheme for new QB Cody Fajardo?Jason Maas was a QB in his playing days. He will need all that experience and his experience as a head coach in the CFL to help Fajardo become more consistent than he has been the last few seasons. Injuries and a suspect offensive line made it difficult for Fajardo to succeed in Saskatchewan. Injuries limited his mobility which is a big part of his game. He looked mobile in the pre-season. It will be interesting to see if he is healthy enough to produce.  Prediction 2nd in the East GM Maciocia had a tough off season. There was an ownership change that wasn’t finalized until March so he lost some key free agents in the interim. But he did get Maas and Fajardo who share his work ethic. Running backs Stanback and Fletcher should excel this season. On the other side of the ball NFL practice squad defensive lineman Antwine recorded two sacks in the final preseason game and should create havoc this year. Sewell and Johnson are back in the interior of the defensive line and should continue to control the line of scrimmage. Williams and Beverette return as linebackers that will keep that effective front seven producing again this year. TorontoCan Chad Kelly produce over a full season at QB? Last year Kelly started only one mean-nothing game after playoff seedings were already determined. He did all right but is that something that will predict success this year? Sure, he came on in relief in the Grey Cup, showed poise and was under center for the victory but that is different than having teams prepare for you and your team depending on you week in and week out.  Prediction 3rd in the East Toronto lost many starters in the off season. Andrew Harris is another year older and already looked like he had lost a step last season. At times last season, speedster Brandon Banks was a non-factor and could be even less effective this season. Their defence was outstanding last year but can they carry a limited offence? It seems like a tall order. The Argos have the biggest potential to fall in the standings this year. Ottawa Can Jeremiah Masoli stay healthy long enough to lead Ottawa back into the playoffs? It looks like he is hurt again and may not start their opener. He had a catastrophic injury from a dirty hit from noted villain Marino in the fourth game last season. He had a solid start to last season but Ottawa struggled after he went down with the second lowest points/game in the CFL.  Prediction 4th in the East Not only Masoli is hurt to start the season. All-star cornerback Money Hunter is out and so is receiver Shaq Evans. A major overhaul of the offensive line should take time to gel as it is a technically complex player group to develop. This should put the Red Blacks behind in the first part of the season as rookie coach Bob Dyce tries to get everyone on the same page. Only Edmonton had a worse defence last season so it looks like an uphill battle for Ottawa to start the seasonPart Two, the Western Conference coming shortly.      

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National League Contenders: Additions and Updates, Part 2

Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Just as the season opens, let’s finish up with the rest of the National League World Series hopefuls. The Padres are surely in the mix with some formidable offensive up-side. The Padres were active in the off-season, with a couple of big adds in Bogaerts at SS and starting pitcher Wacha, off a rebound year. Carpenter and Nelson Cruz were added at DH. They re-signed Machado, Nick Martinez and relief pitcher Robert Suarez. They lost Josh Bell at first base, Drury, and Myers, plus pitchers Manea and Clevinger. The Padres have a formidable infield, especially with super stars Machado and Boegarts at third and short stop. Kim at second, is off a very successful World Classic, and Cronenworth, who has had a hot spring, could surprise at first base. A slightly better than average hitting Nola will catch while Campusano, who has also had a good spring, is back-up. If Carpenter can repeat last year's season, the Padres’ infield and DH are truly loaded for bear. The outfield is all Soto at the moment, plus Tatis Jr when he returns. Grisham has been hitting for power this spring. His average is a concern but he does have speed. Otherwise it is Dahl at the moment, and possibly sometimes, Carpenter? The extra and depth outfielders are an area of concern for the Padres in an otherwise loaded line-up. The starting rotation is compromised early as Musgrove will miss time. Snell rebounded last year, although his first start was not promising. Darvish had one of his best ever years in 2022, and the addition of Wacha is a great pick-up. Nick Martinez, who pitched well after returning from Japan, and Seth Lugo are both sometimes-starters who will be added to the mix early. Jay Groome, a long-time minor leaguer off a hot spring is also in the mix. The starting rotation is promising but can’t quite match up to the offense in terms of quality. In the bullpen, Hader and Suarez are a very solid pair to close/setup. Pomeranz unfortunately will start on the IL. The Padres have plenty of options for middle inning relief, so it looks like the bullpen could be a plus area for San Diego. With their formidable offense and a little luck in the pitching department, the Padres could very likely challenge for top spot in the NL. They, like the Phillies, may be playing catch-up until Tatis and Musgrove return. The Dodgers are starting the season with a much younger team, some question marks in the infield, and some injuries, resulting in even more question marks. Gone are the Turners, Trey and Justin, Bellinger and Joey Gallo. They lost starting pitchers, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney and relievers Martin, Kimbrel, and Kahnle. Incoming are an aging JD Martinez at DH, Peralta in the outfield, and another oldster in Syndergaard. That is a mass exodus, with very little replacement value. Guaranteed, this is not a team to match last year’s 111 wins. So, offense first. Freeman and Betts are the star attractions. Betts is a superstar, but the Dodgers don’t have another outfielder in the top 60. Peralta will be in left. Outman and Trayce Thompson will platoon at center. Muncy will be at third. He hits for power but not for average. At least, not last year. He could bounce back. Vargas is a youngster with a big up side. He hasn’t shown it this spring. Freeman is the best hitting first baseman in the NL. Rojas will have to replace Trey Turner and the injured Gavin Lux who is gone for the season. Not a chance he will fill those boots. The Dodgers are set at catcher with Will Smith and Barnes as back-up. Urias and Kershaw will anchor the rotation. Kershaw isn’t Verlander-old, but somehow he seems like it. May projects well as a fourth starter, but Gonsolin is on the IL for the beginning of the season. After him, it is a bit of a scramble. I don’t think Syndergaard is a good bet to remake himself. Pepiot is also out to injury, so Grove is in. The Dodgers have a very deep farm system so it remains to be seen if this will impact the starting rotation.  About the only area that projects as highly as last year is the bullpen. It is again deep and appears competent. The more I write about the Dodgers, the lower they sink in my estimation. So who else will challenge? The Cardinals definitely have the hitting right through the lineup, with Goldschmitt, Arenado, a sleeper in Edman, and (Willson) Contreras, plus young phenom Jordan Walker, who has huge upside. Contreras left the first game due to injury. Starting pitching is a huge question mark, with Wainwright, yesterday’s ace, injured to start the season, and slowly approaching senior citizenship. Mikolas is steady, usually. Montgomery is probably the best of the bunch, but after him? The Brewers will be in the running. They definitely have the pitching, but did little to address their dearth of run production beyond William Contreras and possibly Winker. That is it for my projections, just in time for the real thing. I’m ready to see how MLB 2023 unwinds..

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National League Contenders: Additions and Updates, Part 1

Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

In the National League East, the Braves look to be first in the running in 2023. Their biggest addition was Sean Murphy at catcher. They lost Danby Swanson to the Cubs and also multi-outfielder Duval. The Braves have offensive star firepower in six of nine batting positions. Rosario is something of a question mark in left field. The shortstop position seems to be filled for the moment by lighter hitting Arcia, but the Braves have minor league options. D’Arnaud is likely the best back-up catcher in the MLB. First, second, third and the two remaining outfielders are as good as it gets. First baseman Olson had had a spectacular spring, as had Austin Riley at third. Ozuna at DH has had two poor seasons, but if he is healthy, he hits for power. Elite left hander Max Fried anchors the rotation, with Strider right behind him. Kyle Wright had a career year in 2022 and will need to show the same stuff. Master curve-baller Morton is not getting any younger and wasn’t as effective last year, but has had a great spring, as have youngsters Dodd and Shuster, who have made their case(s) for the fifth starter position. Atlanta has some depth starters, but two of them, Soroka and Ynoa, will open the season on the disabled list. Lat year’s closer Jansen has moved on, and Raphael Iglesias was the heir-apparent. He will start the season on the IL, to be replaced by AJ Minter, with everyone else stepping up a notch. With the Bullpen a bit of a work in progress at the moment, it is likely the Braves’ weakest element. I like Atlanta’s team, and expect them to finish at the top in the NL this season. Next on the list is the Mets, who were very active in the off-season, signing Verlander and Quintana and bringing in Japan’s Kodai Senga. They also lost three quality starters in DeGrom, Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker. They re-signed closer Diaz to a monster contract only to loose him for the season. They also had and lost Carlos Correa. The power in the Mets’ line-up cannot match the Braves or the Padres. They are very well set with Alonso, McNeill, and Lindor. At first, second, and short. Escobar re-surfaced in September last year, and could possibly be steady at third, with young hard-hitting Brett Baty waiting in the wings. The outfield of Canha, oft-injured Nimmo and Marte is solid but not exceptional. The Mets will platoon Navarez and Nido at catcher, with Alvarez waiting in the wings. I don’t like Vogelback at DH, but the Mets have some depth strength in Pham and Guillorme. Verlander and Scherzer, a couple of aging stars, will top the rotation. Potentially both could be still great but there is an increased risk of injury. The Mets brought in Senga as the third man up, but he will have some adjustments to make. They have lost Quintana for the foresee-able future, but have some depth starters in Carrasco, David Peterson, and Tylor McGill. The Mets’ bullpen took a huge hit with the loss of Diaz, likely for the season. They do have other closing options in Robertson and Ottavino and have added Brooks Raley. As with the Braves, this is still a bullpen that is yet to be settled. The Phillies made a great if slightly unlikely run last year and have made many changes this year, including the addition of the jewel of the off-season, Trea Turner, at shortstop. Gone are Jean Segura, as well as pitchers, Eflin, Syndergaard, Robertson and Brad Hand. They have added Taijuan Walker and a stack of effective relievers. The injury bug has, however, hit them very hard. Hoskins, their backbone at first, is done for the season, and Brice Harper could lose up to half the season. Ranger Suarez and Andrew Painter are also out, cramping the starting rotation.  Derek Hall will try to fill a big hole at first base, unless the Phillies are forced into acquiring someone better. Stott at second is just in his second year but projects to very average with a bit of pop in his bat. Turner is a massive addition at short, and a legit MVP candidate. Bohm has high upside, with plenty of strikeouts, and could break out this year. The Phillies are set at catcher with one of the best in the league. Harper will likely DH when he returns, so the outfield is not strong. Schwarber has massive power but could also DH until Harper returns. Castellanos has huge upside on offense but will need to improve on last year. Otherwise it is Marsh and Cave, neither inspiring on offense. The starting rotation, even in spite of injuries, is strong. Zack Wheeler is the ace, a tough, dependable starter who is healthy this year. Nola is in his contract year, and could have a big season. Ranger Suarez has, I think, huge upside, and is not expected to be out long. Enter Taijuan Walker, a very solid 3rd or 4th option. Bailey Falter finished last season on a positive note and will likely fill in at 5th with the loss of Andrew Painter. Matt Strahm was signed as a reliever, but will likely start, at least in the early season. This year’s bullpen is a rare event in recent Phillies history. The pen was upgraded at the deadline last year, and has added some solid arms this year, giving them a settled and good (on paper) relief corps for 2023. It may be closer by committee; the Phillies have at least four options, including newcomers Kimbrell and Soto. This year’s Phillies have question marks at first base and in at least one outfield position and depth, especially early in the season, is an issue. I like their pitching staff, both starters and relievers. They have some star power at short, at catcher, and in Harper, when he returns. They may be playing catch up after a tough early start, but I expect them there at the finish this season. I will finish up with the rest of the NL in my next article.

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American League Contenders: Additions and Updates, Part 3

Monday, Feb 27, 2023

Moving to the AL West, there are two obvious choices in my mind as play-off contenders go. Most everyone has the Astros ranked first overall and it is a hard position to argue. Certainly, they are first in the AL. Their very deep rotation is now not so deep, as they lost Verlander and Odorizzi. The Astros had a lengthy stretch through free agency without a general manager this winter, and failed to replace either pitcher. McCullers won’t start the season on time this year due to injury recovery. That leaves Urquidy, Valdez, Javier and Garcia as the first four, with the potentially huge talent of Hunter Brown as the most likely fifth starter. There is no denying the talent in that rotation, but the Astros won’t likely be as lucky with pitcher injuries this year, so starter depth will be a question mark.  There isn’t much change in the bullpen, which is a good thing. This is a formidable and balanced relief corps. On offense, the Astros lost Gurriel at first base, but replaced him ably with Mr. Consistency, Jose Abreu. A good number of the Astros stars are on the older side of prime; Bregman, Altuve, Brantley and Abreu to name four. Not that they aren’t still a formidable group, but more frequent injury is a concern. Houston also has their share of young and formidable players. Pena at shortstop put rest to any concerns about losing Correa in 2022. Alvarez is the real thing, with Tucker not far behind. There isn’t a lot of offense out of Maldonado at catcher, but the Astros have a pair of highly rated catching prospects in Lee and Yainer Diaz. Diaz could also see some reps at DH. Speaking of which, the DH is a one of the only question marks for the Astros. Brantley will be used, otherwise it may be “designated hitter by committee”.  Talking about another oldster, Dusty Baker is in his seventies, but is back for another season. I’d keep Baker until he was in his eighties, if he were willing. Can the Astros repeat? The potential is there, and there are no real weak spots in the line-up, but age, and consequently roster depth, are the biggest concerns.The Seattle Mariners aren’t likely to catch the Astros, but look to have the pitching (starting and relief) to make the play-offs two times running. The question remains: did they add enough on offense to go deeper into the post season this year? Picking up Castillo down the stretch last year gave Seattle a legitimate ace, but he is not the only talented starter. Ray took his time but finally produced last year, Gilbert and Kirby have more than stepped up, and the Mariners have fine potential in Miller and Brast. Unlike the Astros and most other teams, Seattle has plenty of additional quality depth starters. The bullpen was terrific last year, and even trading Swanson, it is still very deep on paper. On offense, Seattle traded for some badly needed outfield offensive power in Teoscar Hernandez, and a plus second-baseman in Kolton Wong. The Mariners didn’t pursue Winker or Haniger. They have the crown jewel in Rodriguez in center, a potential MVP. They are by and large a very low team in batting average, but have home run power in Rodriguez, Hernandez, and Suarez, plus 30 dinger power from their catcher. There are questions in left field and DH. The Mariners gambled on AJ Pollock after a very bad season last year and are banking on Kelenic to finally produce in the big leagues. So, not the line-up of the Astros, but great pitching depth. Are there other American league teams who’ll challenge? No doubt. Watch for the Twins. We will see when it is all over..

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American League Contenders: Additions and Updates, Part 2

Thursday, Feb 23, 2023

The AL East is over-represented with play-off contenders, including many of the same ol’ same ol’ faces. You can count the Red Sox out this year. You can count the Yankees in, as usual. The Yankees’ rotation lost Taillon and now Montes to injury, but with that huge addition of lefty Rodon, the starting rotation with Cole, Cortes, Severino, and German or Schmidt looks formidable. There has been a mass exodus of relief pitchers this year including Green, Castro and Chapman, but the Yankee’s seemingly endless supply of quality bullpen arms and with the risky addition of Kahnle, should form a solid relief corps. They could use some left-handed relief. On offense, The big signings, or re-signings, were Judge and Rizzo, otherwise it was stand pat so far. Many of the Yankees stars are of the aging and injury-prone variety, eg. Stanton, essentially a part-timer, LeMahieu, and Donaldson. Volpe and Peraza are potential fine additions in the middle infield. They lost Matt Carpenter, who showed well last year. Bader was a fine pickup in center field but left field is a question mark unless Hicks shapes up. All eyes will be on Judge but a regression is almost certain. The pitching may have to carry the Yankees this year. The one change that wasn’t made was firing Aaron Boone. Big mistake. Staying in the AL East, the Rays are the perennial small market success story and always seem to be a contender. The 2022 Rays suffered a massive power outage, much of it due to injury, struggling down the stretch and making a premature exit from the playoffs. Their biggest addition this year is in starting pitching. The Rays pushed out a ton of cash (for them) to sign Zack Eflin. He is no ace, but I have learned not to question the Rays’ strategy when it comes to pitching. They lost Kluber and Yarbrough, but the Rays’ starting rotation surrounding ace McLanahan could rival the Yankees’, especially if Glasnow returns to form. They extended Springs, have break-out contender Rasmussen, Chirinos, an exciting prospect in Bradley, plus Luis Patiño and Fleming, for formidable depth. They also extended Fairbanks, a terrific reliever, and will likely have another deep pen with a ton of young talent in waiting. Offense and outfield defense could be a different story. There have been no major additions but they have lost a defensive stalwart in Kiermaier, and a dependable first baseman in Choi. The Rays will look for power from a healthier infield with rebound seasons from Lowe and Wander Franco especially, and another fine year from Diaz. There doesn’t appear to be enough offensive pop from the outfield other than Arozarena, and the Rays haven’t added any to date. The Rays farm system is a prolific producer of young talent, so the team bears watching during spring training. There is also that tenth man in Kevin Cash, the best manager in the AL East. Moving to the AL Central, there is to date one true contender in the Guardians, a “surprise” playoff performer in 2022, looking to return this season. The Guardians had plenty of pitching, with phenomenal success in last year’s playoffs and are well positioned again this year. Facing and losing to the Yankees, it was clear that the Guardians needed the additions of some bigger boppers. Enter Josh Bell at first, and Zunino at catcher. Bell has mile-high potential as a slugger. Zunino is a bit of a gamble, but one with some pop in his bat. These two will protect 3rd baseman Ramirez, a potential MVP.   The Guardians are very very young. Josh Naylor is considered a vet and he is only 25. He could be completely recovered and will likely move back into the outfield. Cleveland has at least a couple of young phenoms in the line-up. Kwan is off a tremendous season, and Giminez is rated as high as top three among all MLB 2nd basemen. Another Naylor, Bo, is waiting in the wings as the Guardians’ future catcher. Any contender needs a high-end rotation and Cleveland’s does not disappoint. Bieber is the ace, followed or possibly surpassed by McKenzie, who had some remarkable stretches last year. Quantrill, Civale and Plesac round out the rotation, but there are others in the mix. The pen was excellent last year behind Clase, but there are many solid arms in that bullpen. The Guardians played with poise and character for such a young team. Chalk that up to their manager Terry (Tito) Francona, the absolute best in the business. Does anyone else get more out of players? I am bullish on the Guardians this year. They are the superbly managed class of the AL Central.  In the third section, we’ll look at the AL West, and possibly one more contender.

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NBA: Who's Good?

Monday, Jan 30, 2023

NBA: Who’s Good?This has been a weird NBA season so far. Outside of Boston, there’s no obvious “dominant” team in the league. Also, the East now seems to be the stronger conference.Just about every team has played 50 games. So let’s see if we can make “heads or tails” of the chaos that is the 2022-23 NBA campaign.Eastern ConferenceThere are what I would call five “really good” teams here. One is great (Boston). The others are: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn and Cleveland. Interestingly, the Bucks fall well short in both net efficiency and point differential when compared to the other top East teams. Their net rating is more in line with the Knicks and Heat, who are vying to be the sixth team in the Conference that gets to avoid the dreaded “play-in tournament.” The Bucks are just 23rd in the league in offensive efficiency!Cleveland started very strong, but a word of caution: the Cavaliers are 6-0 in overtime games, which I view as being quite “lucky.” Just for the sake of comparison, the Celtics have played seven OT games this season and won only three. The same can be said for the Knicks.But a mark in the Cavs’ favor is that they have the most double digit wins in the league (21). That’s nine more than Brooklyn, who has benefited from a 6-1 SU record in games decided by three points or less. Milwaukee is 4-0 SU in games decided by three points or less.  My view at the present moment is that Cleveland will end up being the “odd team out” when it’s time for the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Cavs, moreso than the other four “top” teams that I’ve discussed, would really benefit from finishing top three. They do have the league’s second best defensive rating as of press time.Of the top seven in the East, only the Knicks (14th) are outside the league’s top 10 in defensive rating. Miami has the most wins by three points or less in the entire NBA (with 10).  Everyone else in the East ranges from “subpar” to “terrible.” The only two I’d give the latter designation to are Charlotte and Detroit. Teams I think are most likely to make the play-in tournament are Atlanta, Toronto and Chicago. The Bulls have four overtime losses and the Raptors are 2-9 SU in games decided by three points or less. Their respective luck should start to improve. But you must monitor how each team behaves at the trade deadline. I’d sell both Washington and Indiana. The Wizards have won five in a row entering Monday and have a good chance at making it six in a row when they visit San Antonio. But it doesn’t impress me that they are 3-8 ATS as a home favorite this season and getting outscored by an average of 2.2 points in those games. Indiana is only 7-14 SU in games decided by 10 or more points. They’ve already exceeded their preseason win total, an achievement unto itself, but don’t expect much more from them moving forward.Western ConferenceI can’t remember the last time I saw the West this wide open. While not as strong as the East at the top, the West remains deeper. The Clippers came into the year as the odds on favorite to win the NBA title. But they’ve allowed more points than they’ve scored this season. Same for Golden State, who won the NBA Finals last June.“Load management” and injuries are the respective culprits for the Clips and Dubs’ underwhelming records. But the rest of the West should be a little frightened that both have now worked their way back into the top six. Denver and Memphis have been the top two in the West so far. The former has the league’s top offensive rating while the latter is #1 in defensive rating.It’s highly probable that these four aforementioned teams (Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Grizzlies) end up being the conference semifinalists. Sacramento came into the season hellbent on ending the longest postseason drought in the four “major” North American professional sports leagues. They will do that, as they currently sit third in the West, a real shocker. But a losing record (11-16 SU) vs. teams .500 or above is a little concerning. Then again, the Clippers are 8-21 SU in such games. The Kings are neck and neck with the Nuggets for the top offensive rating in the league. The Clippers are just 22nd in that regard! Dallas is the only team in the West - besides Denver and Memphis - with a winning record against .500 or better competition. The Mavericks are 15-14 SU in such games. You may have noticed that Luka Doncic is "pretty good." The number of double digit wins on the resumes of the Pelicans and Suns is impressive. But both have been hit hard by injuries over the last month. New Orleans is mired in a massive slump right now. Sunday’s loss to the Bucks was their eighth in a row. Three straight wins have Minnesota up into fifth place entering Monday. This team was being written off not long ago. That’s how razor thin the margin in the West is right now as only five games separate third from 13th position. Only the Spurs and Rockets, the two worst teams in the whole NBA, are out of it. Sell on Utah even making the play-in tournament. One or more of the three teams directly below them at the moment (OKC, Portland and the Lakers) will pass the Jazz, who have the league’s sixth worst defensive rating. New Orleans, Phoenix and OKC are the only three Western Conference teams besides Memphis with a top 10 defensive rating in the league. 

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MLB 2023: Significant Roster Moves for AL East Teams

Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

Now that the NFL is winding down, and in spite of some serious winter storms where I  reside,  It is less than a month until spring training begins .  So, time to give some thought to who went where over the winter  among MLB possible contenders.  I'll begin with the AL East, starting with B for Blue Jays.Anyone who watches the Jays at all realizes that the boys in the dugout have a really good time.  After their quick playoff exit, one wonders "perhaps too good a time?"  The Jays brass might have been thinking along those lines.  Gone are Gurriel and Teoscar, two of the Jays talented and popular jokesters.  Hernandez especially will be a hard bat to replace, but the pair did have defensive limitations in outfield defense.  The Jays paid a ton  to bring in Varsho, losing also a prized catching prospect, but he will be a much needed left-handed presence in the line-up, with a big defensive upside and a huge potential on offense.  Veteran Kiermeier adds another left-handed defensive presence in the outfield (if not on offense), IF he remains healthy.  Kiermeier has been a thorn in the Jays' side as a Ray for years, so it will be nice to have him on the home side.   Adding Brandon Belt is a high-risk, high-reward gamble.  Belt, yet another left-handed addition in a previously right-centric line-up, is on a "show me" contract after a serious knee injury limited his playing time last year.On the pitching side, the Jays lost a rock in Ross Stripling and an often used reliever in Phelps.  The fine addition of premium starter Chris Bassitt will ease the pain.  The Jays have two acquisitions from last year, Kikuchi and White, who remain question marks as to usage, and will have Ryu possibly returning. The Jays bolstered their bullpen, trading with Seattle for Swanson, who will improve their late inning relief pitching, an area of concern last year.The young, carefree, if not goofball Jays' style seems on its way out.  Adding Mattingly as bench boss is just another sign the the Jays mean to be taken much more seriously this year.B also for Baltimore. The Orioles were a surprise contender last year and a real thorn in the side of the other AL East contenders, finally falling out of contention late in the season.  Have they done enough to improve on, or even equal, last year's Cinderfellah team? Maybe not..  As far as pitching goes, the Orioles lost Jordan Lyles, who overachieved last year, to free agency, and lost Means to Tommy John. They recently brought in Cole Irvin, losing a decent infield  prospect only, and added veteran Kyle Gibson.  Cole Irvin is a very dependable control starter who throws for a ton of innings.  Gibson is at best  a wild card.  He had some good moments, but could be shockingly poor at times last season.  The Orioles still really need another major league-ready starter to compete.Otherwise the Orioles disappointed the fan base and mostly stood pat.  They did add some veteran presence in catcher McCann and infielder Adam Frasier but these are not earth-shaking moves.  The Orioles will have their trio of very fine young stars, Henderson, Rutschman and pitcher Rodriguez for the full season, and are likely banking on further additions from their well-stocked larder in the minor leagues.  Chances for a post season berth? Definitely, wait and see. I'll check out the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox next..

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NBA: Western Conference Preview

Tuesday, Oct 18, 2022

Southeast DivisionYou’ve got three playoff teams and two non-contending teams here. I’m not exactly certain who will win the Southwest, or if that team even finishes top four in the Western Conference. In the mix are: Memphis (49.5 wins), Dallas (48.5 wins) and New Orleans (44.5 wins). My gut says the Mavs finish first among the three as the Grizzlies definitely won’t match last season’s 56 wins, but the key is do you think they will regress by seven or more games? With several teams in the West now better than they were in 2021-22 and the Grizz losing a few pieces, the chance for heavy regression is there. I think I’m talking myself into the Mavs, who lost Jalen Brunson but should get a MVP caliber season out of Luka Doncic. The Pelicans started horribly last year, but then were basically a .500 team the rest of the way. How much will Zion Williamson play though after sitting out all of last season? Whereas the books are calling for 6.5-win regression from Memphis, they are also calling for 8.5 game improvement from NO. That’s kind of a lot, even if you think Williamson ends up playing in a majority of the games. San Antonio has been a playoff mainstay for two decades, but this season they are a lock for the lottery and (they hope) a top three pick. Both the Spurs and Houston are projected for only 23.5 wins, tied with two other teams in the West + Indiana for fewest in the entire league. No value on playing either win total for me. Northwest DivisionThe Northwest is similar to the Southeast in that you have two teams competing for the top, one clearly in the middle and two clearly at the bottom. At the top, you’re talking Denver and Minnesota. I think the Nuggets finish first and they should be a top four seed in the West pretty easily. Under Michael Malone, the Nuggets have dominated sub-.500 opposition the last two years, going 54-16! Such domination goes a long way towards a successful regular season. Interestingly, Denver and Minnesota were the two top Over teams (in terms of totals) in the league last year. The Timberwolves added Rudy Gobert to a team that more than doubled its win total. Not sure they can crack the top six in the West and I give the Nuggets a clear edge at winning this division.Portland lost both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to injuries last season and they were absolutely atrocious down the stretch as a result (lost last 11 games). Can they get back to 42 wins, which is where they were two years ago? Probably not. But the win total is set at 39.5. If they hit that number, then they are probably in the play-in round. The Blazers were dead last in the league ATS last season at 32-50. Oklahoma City continues to rebuild and Utah, a top three team in the West each of the last two seasons, is set to join them in that process. I like Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, but the Thunder lost a game by 70 points last season. Utah lost Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, thus no team is expected to fall harder. I can actually see both OKC and the Jazz exceeding their win totals, but not by much.Pacific DivisionThis star-studded division is absolutely loaded with three teams projected for 51+ wins, one of them the reigning NBA Champs (Golden State), another the team that finished with the best regular season record last season (Phoenix) and the third being the favorite to win the 2023 NBA Finals (Clippers).Golden State’s win total (53.5) seems high considering they don’t have a lot to prove coming off another championship season. Plus, you just had Draymond Green beat up Jordan Poole. Not optimal! Phoenix (52.5 wins) is a lock to regress this season. But that’s built into the win total. I’d say no value there.With Kawhi Leonard returning, the Clippers are now favored to win the NBA Title. I certainly won’t be betting them to accomplish that feat, at least at this juncture, but finishing with the best regular season record is a distinct possibility. Go Over on 51.5 wins.Oh yeah, what about the Lakers? They win 70% of the time when LeBron James and Anthony Davis both suit up. Problem is, that didn’t happen very often last season. They are projected for 44.5 wins this season. If you think James and Davis can stay healthy, bet the Over as Lakers will then finish in the top six and that’s certainly going to require at least 45 wins. Poor Sacramento. They are doomed to last place and have a projected 33.5 wins. With the Seattle Mariners making the MLB playoffs this year, the Kings now have the distinction of longest postseason drought in all four major sports. Does making the play-in round count as snapping it? I’ll allow you to make an official ruling, but the Kings should battle the Blazers for the final play-in spot and I’d go Over on this win total. 

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NBA: Eastern Conference Preview

Monday, Oct 17, 2022

Atlantic DivisionThe Atlantic is the only one of the Eastern Conference’s three divisions where all five teams have a legit shot at making the playoffs. It’s also a division with three of the East’s four teams that are projected to win at least 50 games. Those would be: Boston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. While Boston (coaching change) and Brooklyn (Durant drama) had their fair share of offseason turmoil, Philly did not and I think the 76ers are worth a shot at +300 to win the Atlantic. I would certainly play them Over their win total of 51.5. After not being in the Top 10 in either offensive or defensive efficiency last season, the Sixers should be Top 10 in both categories now as you’ve got Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey plus better perimeter defense. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t play the win total for either Boston (53.5) or Brooklyn (50.5), though both certainly have the potential to still be top four teams in the East. At the very worst, Toronto and New York should both make the play-in round. The Raptors are projected for 46.5 wins, sixth most in the Conference, and they have gone Over their projected win total each of the last 11 seasons with one exception - the year they had to play home games in Tampa. The Knicks dropped from fourth place in 2020-21 to out of the playoffs last season, so there should be a natural “bounce back” from them as they were still top 10 in defensive efficiency for Tom Thibodeau in 2021-22. I’m a little surprised that the oddsmakers don’t think they’ll win at least two more games compared to last year and would consider playing Over on 38.5 for them. They added Jalen Brunson and really didn’t lose anyone of note. Central DivisionThere seems to be a clear pecking order with the top three in the Central and it goes 1. Milwaukee 2. Cleveland 3. Chicago. The Bucks (51.5) are the only team in the East outside the Atlantic with a win projection north of 50.0. They seem like a lock to win the division and be a top three seed come playoff time. They won 51 games and were the three seed last year. Cleveland has become a trendy team thanks to the addition of PG Donovan Mitchell. No one saw the Cavaliers coming last year as they rose from the depths of the league to play-in team, posting a rare winning record without LeBron James. It would be a big disappointment for them not to finish in the top six this year, but I fear they could be “too trendy” though and would look to go Under on 47.5. Chicago’s ceiling is probably no higher than the play-in round as Lonzo Ball’s knee is a major issue and DeMar DeRozan probably won’t be as clutch as he was a season ago. The Bulls also won 46 games despite a negative scoring differential, so regression was already likely. That’s clearly factored into the projected win total of 41.5.Detroit and Indiana are both bad. With the Pistons, there was at least some optimism before everyone saw how bad they looked offensively in the preseason. They have a projected win total of 29.5. Asking for them to win six more games than last year might be asking too much. Then you have the Pacers and asking anything from them seems like asking for too much. Now 23.5 wins is a really low bar, but the temptation to tank for Victor Wembanyama is there, so stay away.Southeast DivisionMiami and Atlanta will clearly battle for first place in the division. Washington might make the play-in round. Orlando and Charlotte are both non-contenders. That’s the lay of the land here.Miami (48.5) is projected to win three more games than Atlanta (45.5), but I kind of like the value on the Hawks to win the division, thanks to the addition of Dejounte Murray to what was the most efficient offense in the East last season. I know the Hawks had to play their way into the playoffs while the Heat were the East’s top seed. But Eric Spoelstra is going to have to turn in another strong coaching effort with PJ Tucker gone and no viable replacement for him on the roster. The Wizards were a bad team to bet on last year (32-47-3 ATS) and only Portland was worse. It always seems like the Wiz are bad at the defensive end. COVID-related issues derailed them with a terrible December, but that won’t be an issue now. Betting them Over 35.5 wins means all you’re asking is one more win than last year. If Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis both stay healthy (big if), they should be able to do that, right? The problem is the Wizards probably aren’t going to win as many close games. Their 12 wins by three points or less last year were the most in the league. Charlotte has been in the play-in round each of the last two seasons, but is a good candidate to fall off and I’d look to go Under 36.5 wins on them with the Miles Bridges situation still hanging over their head. Orlando’s biggest hope is to finish ahead of Charlotte. Only Indiana is projected for fewer wins among Eastern Conference teams. Of the three projected below 30 wins, I think the Magic would be the best bet to go Over. Rookie Paolo Banchero will have to carry them offensively. 

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MLB: Most/Least Profitable (Through July)

Friday, Jul 29, 2022

We’re almost through July, so let’s check on which teams have been the most profitable to bet on (and which have burned bettors the most).  Most Profitable (All numbers accurate as of 7/29) Baltimore (+20.8 units) - Not only have the Orioles been the best team to bet during the 2022 MLB season, but they have a winning record! This despite having a payroll (excluding money still owed to Chris Davis) that is lower than Max Scherzer’s 2022 salary! Where have the O’s excelled most? Well, at home, where they are up 16.7 units. They’ve also lost just five times in the last 20 games. Oddsmakers have had them favored in only 16 games all season, but that could start to change. They’ve actually been an underdog of +200 or more 18 times, a greater number than how many times they’ve been favored. Take those games away (they are 5-13) and they are even more profitable. Except when they face the Yankees on the road, Baltimore isn’t likely to be +200 or higher on the money line many more times. NY Mets (+16.7) - Last August was when the Mets tanked and ceded the NL East to the eventual World Series Champion Braves. It remains to be seen if NY can capture the pennant this season, but I do expect at least a playoff berth. Unlike Baltimore, the Mets haven’t been very profitable as underdogs, but they are 49-23 as favorites (+15.3), which accounts for most of the profitability. They are also 28-12 vs. the rest of the division. The fact the Mets are 9-1 in games decided in extra innings shows there’s been a little bit of luck going their way. NY Yankees (+15.3) - The best team in baseball has also turned a nice profit. The Yanks have actually lost money on the road, but are 38-12 at home. They’ve lost money facing National League teams and the Astros, so keep that in mind come the postseason. It’s very impressive that of the 31 games the Yankees have played that were decided by four or more runs, they’ve won 27 of them. You’re almost always going to have to lay a steep price to play the Pinstripes (they’ve only been underdogs in eight games), but so far it would have been worth it to bet them every game. Of course, almost no one bets the same team in every game, so perhaps it’s best to tread lightly?  Houston (+11.4) - The second best team in the American League is also in the top five in profitability. When NOT a -200 or higher favorite, the Astros are up 18.4 units. So maybe just avoid them as big favorites? They just dumped a bunch of units last week in Oakland, twice losing as a -200 favorite. It was the first time the ‘Astros were swept all season. Like the Yankees, the ‘Stros are basically this high on the list because they win a lot. You would have to routinely bet them (almost every game) to make money. Beware the runline as well. They are 18-8 in one-run games and if you’re laying the -1.5 in those games, you’re losing money. (I’ll note the Yankees have 21 one-run wins and only one team has more. That is …)  Seattle (+10.0) - The Mariners have rocketed up the list by virtue of going 17-4 over their last 21 games. No team has more one-run victories than their 23. The difference between them and the Astros/Yankees is that the Mariners have obviously not been favored in the majority of those one-run games. Seattle has been an underdog more times (55) than they have been favored (45). Interestingly, in their last 11 games, Seattle is 7-0 vs. Texas and 0-4 vs. Houston. This would be a Wild Card team were the season to end today. I’m very skeptical they stay in that position. Multiple starters are headed for regression, most notably Marco Gonzales, who has the worst FIP of any qualified starter! Least Profitable  LA Angels (-24.8 units) - YIKES! This club has fallen off the proverbial cliff. Reportedly, the Angels are now willing to listen to offers for Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout’s back condition is said to be “rare.” In other words, there will be no turnaround in Anaheim over the next two months.  Consider this: On May 24th, the Angels’ were 10 games over .500. So since then they are 25 games below. Day games are the only situation where the team has turned a profit and that profit is slight. As an underdog, the record is 8-30.  Washington (-17.1) - This team stinks and the oddsmakers know it, so the value in playing against them blindly is probably gone. It’s a slight profit on the road for the Nationals, but they are a dreadful -17.8 units at home. Against the NL Central and NL West, the Nats are actually profitable. The problem has been division games where they are 8-36 and down 22.1 units!  San Francisco (-16.4) - A far cry from last year when the Giants had the best regular season record and were the most profitable team. Regression has been more severe than expected at the betting window. Losing the first seven games after the All-Star Break certainly did not help. All seven games were on the road though. Now they are back in San Francisco for the next week. The Giants have a winning record at home, but are still money losers there. Take away games where the Giants were favorites of -200 or more and they are eight games below .500 overall. Don’t see them getting back into the postseason. Kansas City (-13.2) - Another team that is just plain bad. The Royals haven’t even scored a single run in their last three games heading into Friday. They are slightly above water the 26 times they’ve been favored on the money line (15-11). But other than that, they basically lost two out of every three games.  Chicago Cubs (-12.0) - Always overrated and typically bad, the Cubs have not been a good team to put your money on in 2022. The confines of Wrigley have not been so friendly as the team is -12.9 units there. They’ve been outscored by a lot on the road, yet are basically break even there. Night games have been unkind (-15.8 units). Division games have gone alright (+3.0 units), but what’s surprising is that they have a better combined record against the Brewers and Cardinals than they do against the Reds and Pirates. 

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MLB: Top 5/Bottom 5 Pitchers (Profitability)

Monday, Jul 11, 2022

We’re almost at the All-Star Break, so what I wanted to do today is examine the five most profitable as well as the five least profitable pitchers to bet on during the first half of the 2022 MLB season. Most ProfitableMartin Perez (Texas) - 13-4 team start record (+10.6 units) To be clear, “team start record” is exactly what it says. It is the team’s record when that particular pitcher starts, regardless if the pitcher earned a decision or not. So the Rangers are 13-4 in Perez starts. Bet you didn’t expect to see him atop this list. Perez has a 2.72 ERA and 1.179 WHIP, so he has pitched well. Part of the reason why he tops the list is due to the fact he has a 6-1 team start record as an underdog. The Rangers have also won all eight of Perez’s starts on the road. Will this last? Last time out, he allowed a season-high six runs to Minnesota. It was Perez’s second straight start allowing multiple home runs. He did not have great numbers last season, although once again he was more effective on the road.  2. Joe Musgrove (San Diego) - 12-3 TSR (+8.5 units)  With the exception of a June 23rd start vs. the Phillies - where he allowed six runs - Musgrove has gone at least six innings and allowed three runs or less in every start this season. He has a 2.09 ERA and 0.929 WHIP, clearly a Cy Young worthy campaign. Like Perez, Musgrove has been great on the road where the Padres have won seven of the eight times he’s started. There was a start, May 28th vs. Pittsburgh, where the team lost as a big favorite with Musgrove on the hill. If not for that, he’d probably be #1 on this list. No reason to doubt that Musgrove won’t continue dominating in the second half, especially after he recently tossed seven shutout innings of one-hit ball against the Giants.3. Tony Gonsolin (LA Dodgers) - 13-3 TSR (+8.0 units)  Gonsolin has yet to drop a decision this year as he’s 11-0! The Dodgers are 8-0 when he starts at Chavez Ravine, but 2-2 on the road when he doesn’t factor into the decision. Three of the four games where Gonsolin did not receive a decision were in April. The team lost his May 22nd start vs. Philadelphia, but that’s the only blemish on the TSR since the start of May. It’s eight straight wins with Gonsolin on the mound for Dodger Blue and Gonsolin has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any start! It’s been a ridiculous season with a 1.62 ERA and 0.801 WHIP. Like Musgrove, there’s no reason to believe this won’t continue. Prior to July, Gonsolin hadn’t gone longer than six innings in a start, but he’s gone 14 ⅔ in two starts this month and allowed only three runs. 4. Jameson Taillon (NY Yankees) - 13-4 TSR (+8.0 units)  Like Gonsolin, because of the team he pitches for, Taillon is rarely going to be an underdog. But the Yankees have won all three times they’ve been a dog with Taillon starting. (Conversely, Gonsolin has yet to be priced as an underdog in ANY start). Taillon is the only pitcher in the top five with an ERA north of 3.00 (his is 4.01). While the WHIP is still solid (1.166), there is reason for concern here. After allowing six runs Sunday night to Boston, in just five innings, Taillon has a 6.81 ERA and 1.598 WHIP over his previous seven starts. There’s been zero quality starts in that stretch and I think it’s pretty lucky that the team has still managed to go 5-2. Taillon has allowed five or more runs in three of his last four starts. The Yankees are 0-2 when he pitches in the month of July with him serving up five home runs. One of the losses was to Pittsburgh. Recent form suggests Taillon is likely to drop off this list.5. Logan Gilbert (Seattle) - 13-5 TSR (+7.9 units)  The Mariners are now 29-13 since the start of last season when Gilbert is on the mound. His ERA was not all that impressive in 2021 (4.68). His WHIP has remained pretty consistent over the two year stretch, but the ERA is down almost two full points this year. Gilbert has only eight quality starts in 18 tries. He has a 7-2 TSR as an underdog though, which helps explain why he’s on this list. Five of his six starts in June came against division opponents. Three times in the last four starts, Gilbert has given up two home runs. He’s another one I can see falling off the list. Least Profitable Joan Adon (Washington) - 1-13 TSR (-12.3 units) Oh my. Adon has made just one start since June 17th and true to form it was not good as he allowed four runs in four innings and the Nationals lost. The one time the Nats won an Adon start was back in April. His numbers are exceptionally poor. Following his last start, manager Dave Martinez had this to say. "He's got great stuff. "We just have to continue to work with him on his command." Martinez also indicated that Adon's next scheduled turn in the rotation is to be determined. The only way Adon gets off this list is if he’s removed from the rotation permanently. 2. Frankie Montas (Oakland) - 3-14 TSR (-12.0 units)  Okay. This one is not fair. Montas has a 3.17 ERA and 1.066 WHIP, better numbers than Taillon, who is on the other list. The problem for Montas is that he receives - on average - some of the worst run support in all of baseball. He has 10 quality starts. But the A’s pathetic offense (last in many categories) has scored no more than three runs in 12 of his last 13 outings. Only three times in those 13 outings have they scored more than one run! Note Montas hasn’t pitched since July 3rd when he had to leave with tightness in the back of his throwing shoulder. He may not pitch again before the Break. Hopefully, he’s healthy in time for the start of the second half of the season. Because despite the A’s being a bad team, Montas should start to pick up some wins. 3. Dane Dunning (Texas) - 4-14 TSR (-10.3 units)  The last time that the Rangers won a game Dunning started was May 18th. His only win this year came April 30th. The team is 0-10 his last 10 starts, even though Dunning hasn’t received a decision in more than half of those. His team start record on the road is 0-9 with a 5.52 ERA and 1.686 WHIP. He just allowed four runs in what was his shortest start to date, on Sunday. The numbers at home are pretty decent. A major reason why Dunning is on this list is that he has an 0-8 TSR as a favorite. That’s unusual. If he can get some more favorable matchups at home, the results should improve. 4. Yusei Kikuchi (Toronto) - 5-11 TSR (-10.1 units)  The only three quality starts the Blue Jays have gotten from Kikuchi thus far all came at home. They are 1-7 when he starts on the road, thanks to a 5.93 ERA and 2.049 WHIP. What’s a real concern is that Kikuchi has gone four innings or less in five of the last six starts. He has a 2-6 TSR when favored. Toronto is a good team that can score, so Kikuchi really has no one to blame but himself. 5. Pat Corbin (Washington) - 4-14 TSR (-9.3 units)  With two of the least five profitable pitchers among their ranks, you can see why it’s been such a terrible season in D.C. The numbers are bad with Corbin, though obviously not as bad as Adon. Corbin will remain in the rotation barring injury and recently he has shown signs of a turnaround with two of his last three starts being quality. He even had 12 strikeouts vs. Pittsburgh. Seemingly like everyone else on this list, Corbin has been worse on the road. 

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NBA Conference Finals Preview

Monday, May 16, 2022

Conference Finals PreviewWe’re down to the NBA’s version of the “Final Four” as it’s Celtics vs Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and Mavericks vs. Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.Here’s a preview on both upcoming series.  Celtics vs. Heat - The chalk walked in the East as these are the top two seeds. Boston was the only team to sweep a first round series (over Brooklyn) but was then taken to seven games by Milwaukee. Two of the Celtics’ three losses to the Bucks were by three points or less. Three of the four wins were by double digits. Boston should have won Game 5, so it’s fair to say they were the better team in that last series. Beating Brooklyn and Milwaukee is an impressive path to take here. Miami has beaten Atlanta and Philadelphia, needing five and six games to do so. The Heat have not lost at home in the playoffs and have the home court advantage for the ECF.Boston won two of three regular season meetings. The lone game at Miami was played in November and the Celts won 95-78. They are 3-0 ATS in their last three visits to South Beach and all three of those games stayed Under.The Celtics had the East’s top regular season scoring differential and top scoring defense. If they had home court advantage, they’d be the clear favorite in this series. But they do not. They are still -165 to win the series at Caesars. Miami is #2 in defensive efficiency in the playoffs (Milwaukee was #1) but Boston is #4. Offensively, both are middle of the pack in efficiency and pace.Kyle Lowry is still questionable for Game 1 (hamstring). He has missed six of the last eight games for the Heat and didn’t look good in the two he played. Boston enters the ECF relatively healthy. Jimmy Butler has been the clear standout for Miami. He is averaging 28.7 points and his shooting (52.5% overall, 36.4% from three) has been very good. In particular, Butler’s three-point shooting is way up compared to the regular season.The Celtics are 7-3-1 ATS in the postseason and 7-4 Under. Their games have averaged 210.3 points. The Heat are 7-4 ATS and the Under is 8-2-1. Their 11 playoff games have averaged 204.6 points. Expect low totals in this series. Game 1 opened at 206 and was quickly bet down. Miami is a 1.5-point favorite as of this writing.These are the two franchises with the most ECF appearances, going back to 2005. Miami will be trying to make its sixth NBA Finals in the last 12 years. Boston has lost its last four ECF, two of them to Miami.  Mavericks vs Warriors - After stampeding the Suns in Game 7, Dallas is your surprising Conference Finalist this year. They were the 4-seed and have beaten Utah and Phoenix, needing six and seven games. The Mavs are 8-5 SU in the playoffs, 9-4 ATS and 8-5 Under. Those 13 games have averaged 208.1 points.Golden State is the three seed and now has home court advantage in the WCF. Their playoff games have averaged 224.8 points, a clear outlier from the other three teams discussed today. The Warriors are 8-3 in the playoffs. They needed five games to get rid of the Nuggets and six to get rid of the Grizzlies, who lost Ja Morant along the way. The Warriors are 5-6 ATS and the Under is 7-4. Like Miami, the Warriors have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. They are 6-0 straight up, but just 4-2 ATS. So they are 1-4 ATS on the road. When Dallas is at home, be aware that they allow a league-low 101 points. Golden State allows the second fewest points at home. The Mavs held the Suns to 90 points in Game 7. A trend to be aware of is that the Mavs are 9-0 straight up, 8-0-1 ATS this season if they allowed 90 points or less the last game. Dallas won three of the four regular season matchups. The Over/Under was a 2-2 split. The one road win in the four games came from Dallas, who erased a 12-point halftime deficit on February 27th. Gary Payton II would have likely drawn the defensive assignment against Luka Doncic. But he’s probably out for the series. Doncic averaged 31.5 vs. the Warriors this year. It was the fourth most points scored in a single year against them since Steve Kerr’s first season here (2014-15).Golden State is -260 to win the series at Caesars. 

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MLB: April's Best & Worst

Saturday, Apr 30, 2022

MLB: April’s Best and WorstThe season started a week later than it was supposed to, but we’ve basically got a month’s worth of baseball to look back on.The five most profitable teams to bet on have been the Mets (+7.6 units), Padres (+7.1), Angels (+4.7), Brewers (+4.4) and Yankees (+4.3). As you can see there’s a big gap between the top two and the other three. The Mets have the best overall win percentage in either league right now. San Diego has benefited from recent series with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Angels have won six in a row as of this writing while the Yankees have won seven in a row and are the only AL team with a better run differential than the Halos. Teams that look strong but haven’t been quite as profitable are the Dodgers and Giants. You’re obviously going to have to pay a high tax to bet the Dodgers on a game by game basis. The Giants, who were the most profitable team to bet on last year, aren’t far off from the top five (+4.1 units).The five least profitable teams to bet on have been the Reds (-13.0 units), White Sox (-7.7), Rangers (-7.2), Braves (-6.3) and Tigers (-6.2). It is obviously looking like it will be a very long season in Cincinnati. They’ve scored the fewest number of runs in the National League and given up the most. The White Sox have been a huge disappointment as have the defending World Series Champion Braves. Texas is 2-9 at home. Detroit has scored the fewest runs in MLB and has dropped six in a row coming into the weekend. Two teams that have been bad and sit just outside the bottom five in net units are Baltimore and Washington. Could be an ugly season in the Beltway. Pittsburgh is also bad, but like Baltimore, will be big underdogs most games, somewhat limiting their losses in the race to the bottom of net unitsThe rash of Unders has been a big topic of discussion. Entering play on Saturday, only five teams have gone Over in more games than they’ve gone Under: Reds, Guardians, Rockies, Phillies, Cardinals. The Reds and Guardians are the only two where the Over is hitting 55% of the time. I’ve previously mentioned the Reds’ ineptitude when it come to giving up runs. The Rockies obviously play half their games at Coors Field, which always has an effect. At 9.8 runs per game, Colorado has the highest scoring games in baseball. It’s interesting to see St. Louis on the list as they are giving up only 3.3 runs per game. There are four teams that have gone Under in at least 70 percent of their games: Red Sox, Orioles, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. The Dodgers are allowing only 2.5 runs per game so far. The team whose games have been the lowest scoring on average is Minnesota at 7.2 runs per game. 

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NBA Playoffs: 2nd Round Previews

Saturday, Apr 30, 2022

NBA: Second Round Series Previews Bucks vs. Celtics - The Celtics were the only team to pull off a sweep in the first round, making it look easy against the Nets. The Bucks needed only five games to oust the Bulls. Boston is -185 to win this series. If you like Milwaukee to pull the upset, they are +150. The series outcome with the shortest odds is Boston in seven (+325), followed by Boston in five (+400), then either side in six (+450). Milwaukee in four is the most outrageous outcome at +2000. The Celtics are now only +400 to win the NBA Finals while the Bucks have gone from having the second best odds (+500) to fourth-best (+600). The season series was a 2-2 split with the home team winning all four times. The Over/Under was also a 2-2 split. Three of the four games were played by Christmas, so those results don’t mean much anymore. It is worth noting that Boston has covered nine straight times vs. Milwaukee.What definitely matters is the Celtics have Robert Williams back while the Bucks are probably going to be without second leading scorer Kris Middleton for the duration of this series. Jaylen Brown has said he’s okay for Game 1 despite an injured hamstring. Boston led the league in scoring defense (104.5 points per game) in the regular season, but Milwaukee easily had the best defensive efficiency rating in the first round of the playoffs (93.9).  Warriors vs. Grizzlies - With Memphis having only advanced last night, we’re still seeing some discrepancy in the market when it comes to series price. Golden State, even though it is the lower seed, is favored to win the series. They are as high as -275 at BetMGM but -200 at the SuperBook. The Grizzlies are +210/+175 respectively at those two shops. Memphis won the season series 3-1, including a 28-point beatdown at home in late March. But Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all did not play in that game, which was the Warriors’ worst loss of the season. These were the two highest scoring teams in the first round with Golden State also posting the highest offensive efficiency rating. However, eight of the last ten meetings have gone UnderThe Warriors haven’t played since Wednesday while the Grizz are dealing with a less than 48 hour turnaround between series. Memphis was 8-2 SU and ATS as a home underdog in the regular season. Perhaps some of the skepticism surrounding them is that they trailed Minnesota by double digits in the fourth quarter in all but one of the six games. Three times they overcame a double digit fourth quarter deficit to win.  76ers vs. Heat - This series has taken a dramatic turn before it even began with Joel Embiid being out indefinitely for the 76ers. Philadelphia still has James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, but the odds for Game 1 have shot up based on the Embiid news and the Sixers are now as high as +8.5 at most shops. For Miami, Jimmy Butler has said he’s good to go for Game 1. Butler missed the close out game in the first round vs. Atlanta. Tyler Herro, who is dealing with a cold, also said he’d be ready. Kyle Lowry did not practice on Friday after missing the last two games vs. Atlanta.The regular season was a 2-2 split. Two of the games were played after Harden was traded to Philadelphia. The teams split those, each winning on their home floor. Three of the four games went Under. The most recent went Over.Do not forget that Philadelphia led its first round series with Toronto three games to none. Three of their wins came by double digits and it was a 35-point win in the close out game.  Mavs vs. Suns - Phoenix, who has the league’s best record, is a big -350 favorite to win their second round series. A five-game series win (+280) has the shortest odds, followed by a seven-game series win (+330). It was not a dominant first round performance from the Suns by any means. They needed six games to get rid of New Orleans and posted the worst net efficiency rating of any team that advanced. However, some of that can be pinned on the fact they didn’t have Devin Booker much of the series. Booker is now back. Chris Paul averaged 22.3 points and 11.3 assists in Round 1. Luka Doncic missed the first three games of the first round, but the Mavs still were able to oust the Jazz in six games. Two of the last three games came down to the final possession. Dallas has covered five straight.The line for Game 1 is Phoenix -6. They swept the season series 3-0 and have beaten the Mavericks nine straight times going back to 2020. 

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Final Four Facts

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022

Final Four Facts Villanova vs. Kansas - Villanova is 4-0 ATS in the tournament. Kansas is 2-2 ATS. Villanova has not trailed at halftime in any game. Kansas, the lone 1-seed left, trailed at the half against Miami in the Elite 8, before putting the clamps down in the second half. In three of their four games thus far, the Jayhawks have allowed less than 20 points in one half. The Under is 3-1 for them. Same for ‘Nova with the Under cashing each of the last three. All four tourney opponents have shot worse than 35.7% against KU. Nova has held its last two opponents to 34.4% and 29.8% from the field. At the same time, the Wildcats have shot 37.3% and 28.8% in those same two games. Houston made just 1 of 20 three-point tries against ‘Nova in the Elite 8! Villanova’s own three-point shooting percentage has decreased every game in the tournament, going from 46.4% to 34.8% to 30.0% to 23.8%. Kansas’ last two opponents combined to go 7 of 44 on 3PA.  The Wildcats aren’t just the best free throw shooting team in the country, they are one of the best FT shooting teams in the history of college basketball. Kansas shoots just 72% from the charity stripe. Villanova is 8-3 ATS in neutral site games this season. Kansas is 7-5 ATS. The Under is 9-2 in those same 11 neutral site games for ‘Nova. But the Over is 5-1 this year for KU following a game where they gave up fewer than 60 points. They allowed 50 vs. Miami.The highest seeded team Kansas beat was Providence (#4). The highest seeded team beaten by Villanova was Houston (#5). Jay Wright has fared very well in NCAA Tournament games during his time at Villanova, covering 21 of the last 27. Kansas is 7-20 ATS the previous 27 times they’ve been off a straight-up win by 20 or more points. The initial line move went Kansas’ way. The total is also up half a point.Head to head, Villanova has covered the last five meetings. That goes back to 2013. The last time the teams played was December 2019. Two of the five games were in the NCAA Tournament. North Carolina vs. Duke - UNC is 4-0 ATS in the tournament and going back to the last couple weeks of the regular season, they are on a 10-1 SU run in their previous 11 games, also going 9-2 against the spread. Duke has covered its last three games after a last second layup by Cal State Fullerton handed the Blue Devils a 1.5 point ATS loss in Round 1. After North Carolina’s first two tournament games both went Over (they scored 90+ both times), the Under has hit in each of the last two. They’ve gone from averaging 94 PPG the first two (including OT vs. Baylor) to 71 PPG the last two. Duke has scored at least 78 in all four of its games with the Over sitting at 2-1-1. The Over is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Duke is shooting well over 50% for the NCAA Tournament, but UNC has held three opponents to 35.6% or worse. After facing a 9-seed, 1-seed and 4-seed in the first three rounds, the Tar Heels were a bit lucky to get a 15-seed in the Elite 8. Duke’s journey began by facing a 15-seed. Since then, they’ve gone up against a 7, 3 and 4 seed. Both teams were eliminated by Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. The only other loss for Duke, over their last 15 games, came to North Carolina, in Coach K’s home finale. The final score of that game was 94-81. That was after Duke won the first meeting, 87-67, in Chapel Hill. The last six times these long-time rivals have met, the Over has hit. This O/U line is right in the same neighborhood as those last six. The Tar Heels are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings, but just 5-5 straight up and Duke has come out ahead on the scoreboard in five of the last seven. The Over is 46-18 the last 64 times Duke has taken on a team that has a winning record. The Over has hit six straight times for North Carolina in that very situation.Obviously, Unders dominated in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, going 10-1–1.  See you Saturday!

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NBA: Assessing The Playoff Picture

Tuesday, Mar 29, 2022

NBA: Assessing the Playoff PictureEastern Conference Last month, I told you that Boston would move up the standings and they have. The Celtics are 11-2 in March and both losses came by only three points each. They have the best point differential in the conference and #1 in the entire league in defensive efficiency. It will be interesting to see where Boston finishes, because I think a lot of people will be betting them to come out of the East. Statistically, they are the best team.It’s a four-team race for first with the Celtics, Heat, 76ers and Bucks all separated by just one game in the standings. There’s never been a race that close involving so many teams. The Celtics did just lose their defensive anchor, Robert Williams III, to a knee injury and he’s out for the rest of the regular season, if not longer.Boston has as many 20-plus point wins since January 23rd (12) as any other team from the East has all season! I expect the current top four teams to be the conference semifinalists come playoff time.Chicago and Cleveland, the league’s two biggest surprise teams in the first half of the season, have fallen. At the same time, Toronto has risen, already passing Cleveland and pulling into a fifth place tie with Chicago. Looking at some key numbers, the Bulls fall short of the Raptors and even the Cavaliers. As for which of these three teams end up out of the top six (and in the play-in round), I point to Chicago (although the list of injuries in Cleveland is growing). In addition to telling you Boston would rise last month, I did mention Chicago would falter.Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta will get the other play-in spots. Brooklyn is obviously the most dangerous from that group as Kyrie Irving is now eligible to play home games. The Nets are a league-worst 8-27-1 ATS in home games, but are the one team that could go from the play-in round and make a deep run in the playoffs. Atlanta has been playing better of late (7-3 L10) and is capable of winning two play-in games, if necessary. Western ConferencePhoenix has already clinched home court advantage. What has been most surprising is the Grizzlies, now 18-2 this year when Ja Morant DOESN’T play, solidifying themselves as the second best team in the West. They’ve clinched a playoff berth and with a five game lead over third place Golden State, Memphis should be the #2 seed. After that is where it gets interesting. The Warriors have lost three in a row and are without Steph Curry. They have a 1.5 game lead over Dallas, who just overtook Utah for fourth place. The Jazz have lost four in a row, going cold at the worst possible time. The Mavs and Warriors are two of the league’s very best defensive teams. The Under is 26-11-1 in Dallas home games. The Mavs have also won 18 of their last 22 home games, huge because right now they would be in line to have home court advantage over the Jazz in the first round. Those teams played four times in the regular season and the home team was 4-0. You also can’t rule out Denver, who is sixth and sitting just a half game back of the Jazz. The Nuggets already have a franchise record 23 road wins this season. Minnesota is worthy of moving up into the top six, but faces a two-game deficit with only six to play. The Timberwolves have a better point differential than either the Mavs or Nuggets. They also have the second best net rating in the league since the All-Star Break. At the very worst, the T’wolves should win their first play-in game to qualify for the playoffs. The Clippers, even with five straight losses and no Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, seem to be safe for the play-in round. But I could see them losing twice and not making the final eight.The Pelicans, Lakers and Spurs will compete for the final two play-in spots. With LeBron James’ ankle bothering him, the Lakers are in major trouble. I like the Spurs to jump either the Pelicans or Lakers for a play-in spot. It’s crazy that one of these three teams, or the Clippers, will be the 8-seed. Whoever it winds up being will be “mince meat” for the Suns in the first round. 

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Conference Tourney Time!

Monday, Feb 28, 2022

Conference Tournaments are set to get underway this week and the brackets are set in the Ohio Valley, Big South, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt, SoCon (Southern), Atlantic Sun, Horizon League, NEC, Summit, WCC and Patriot League. Here are a few tidbits that can hopefully enable you to make smarter wagers. Ohio Valley - This tournament takes place in Evansville, IN and the top two teams (Murray State, Belmont) both get double-byes to the semis. So it’s heavily-weighted to the favorites. I don’t think that there will be a ton of value in this particular tournament, but the interesting thing is that Murray State probably does not need to win it. Belmont is a good team and it would be interesting to see the line in a potential tournament final where Murray State had nothing on the line.Big South - Here the top seeds don’t get the double bye. The top three (Longwood, Winthrop and Gardner Webb) seem a cut above the rest. Gardner Webb, the 3-seed, is the highest rated team at KenPom. The team to target may be 4-seed USC Upstate as several teams seeded lower than the Spartans are rated higher at KenPom. This tournament takes place in Charlotte.Missouri Valley - “Arch Madness” (tournament is always held in St. Louis) was turned upside down on the final day of the regular season when Northern Iowa upset Loyola Chicago to claim the top seed. Loyola, who would have been an overwhelming favorite as the top seed, actually fell to the 4-seed! Don’t be surprised if it’s Loyola vs. Missouri State playing in the Final. Loyola probably now needs to win this in order to make the Big Dance.Sun Belt - Texas State is the top seed, but don’t rule out South Alabama (the 5-seed) making a run in Pensacola. The Jaguars have a tough road ahead as they would have to win four times in five days. If they win the first game, they would likely be a favorite over 4-seed Troy and a game with Texas State would be close to a pick ‘em. In the bottom half of the bracket, Coastal Carolina could be a dark horse. This is a wide open tournament.SoCon - Chattanooga and Furman, the top two seeds in Asheville, are both strong. The 3-seed Samford could be prone to getting knocked out early and will probably be a slight underdog in the quarterfinals against 6-seed UNC Greensboro. Compared to Chattanooga, Furman seems like they may have an easier path to the Final. Chattanooga was 2-0 vs. Furman in the regular season. Atlantic Sun - Two of the unluckiest teams in America, Kennesaw State and Eastern Kentucky, will meet in the first round. I am very interested to see if the winner of that matchup can pull an upset over the Western Division winner, Jacksonville State, in the quarterfinals. I think Liberty is the team to beat here. Every game in the A-Sun Tournament takes place at a campus site (of the higher seeded team).Horizon League - Not until the semifinals will the remaining Horizon League teams head to Indianapolis. The first two rounds are played at campus sites (of the higher seeded team). Cleveland State is the top seed here, but recall I played Oakland against CSU last weekend and the Golden Grizzlies (the 5-seed) ran out to a 65-57 win. I happen to think Oakland is the best team in the Horizon, but they are at a severe disadvantage having to play in the first round, then (if they win) going to Cleveland State for the quarterfinals. The bracket is re-seeded in the semis with the highest remaining team playing the lowest-remaining team.NEC - Bryant nabbed the top seed on Saturday, but Wagner is the team to beat in my eyes. Last year, as the top seed, Wagner got upset by Mount St. Mary’s. Now as the 2-seed, the Seahawks are thinking about revenge. All games in the NEC Tournament are played at campus sites (of the higher seed) and there is reseeding (highest seed plays lowest remaining seed) for the semis. Summit - South Dakota State is the only team in the country besides Murray State that did not lose a single conference game all season. That makes the Jackrabbits the runaway favorites in Sioux Falls this weekend. They will have to win three games in four days to do so. But given that they outscored Summit League opponents by 15.5 points per game, maybe that’s not so difficult? WCC - Finally some teams you may be aware of! Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and San Francisco are all likely to get in as at-large teams, though San Francisco is very much on the bubble and cannot afford to be upset in its first game and they could be playing a good BYU team. Not that Gonzaga or St. Mary’s needed the help, but this tournament in Las Vegas greatly favors the top two seeds, who get byes to the semifinals. The third and fourth seeds (Santa Clara and San Francisco) get byes to the quarters. The bottom four teams are at a major disadvantage and have no hope here. There is a massive divide between the top five and bottom five. Patriot - Colgate, the top seed, is a pretty big favorite here and they’ll get to play at home as every game is held at campus sites (of the higher seed). The Raiders won the Tournament last year. 

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NBA: Coming Out Of The Break

Wednesday, Feb 23, 2022

NBA: Coming Out Of The BreakEastern ConferenceThe top four teams in the East are Boston, Miami, Cleveland and Milwaukee. I say that based on two things: point differential and net efficiency. That doesn’t match up with the standings where the top four are Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland. In particular, look for Boston to move up the standings. They are only sixth right now, but statistically have the best profile. Over the last 10 games, they held opponents to an average of 95.9 points per game. The only worry I have is whether or not the All-Star Break “came at the wrong time” and will lead to a loss of momentum.Chicago and Philadelphia will round out the top six, who are all currently separated by only 4.5 games. Really, the thing to look for is Boston and Chicago flipping spots in the pecking order.As for the play-in spots, Toronto, Brooklyn (despite the awful losing streak) and Atlanta look to be safe bets. The last spot will go to either Charlotte or New York. Nothing about the other remaining teams - Washington, Indiana, Orlando and Detroit - says “playoff team.” The Knicks have more ground to make up than the Wizards, believe it or not, so right now I’d say they finish as the team on the outside looking in. Charlotte is somehow 0-6 in overtime games this year, an unfortunate record that will probably improve. Western ConferenceThere’s a clear top four here: Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis and Utah. Utah has actually outscored its opponents - per possession and per game - by a larger margin than Memphis, but trails the Grizzlies by four games. I would be shocked if these teams didn’t finish as the top four at the end of the regular season.Dallas, Denver and Minnesota will battle for the last two remaining spots in the top six, who get to avoid the play-in round. Of those three, Dallas is most likely to finish in front. The Lakers and Clippers are going to be relegated to the play-in round. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, the Lakers are projected for only 37 wins right now. The race for the last play-in spot is going to be interesting. I think San Antonio deserves it. They’ve scored more points than they’ve allowed this year, something that neither the Clippers or Lakers can say. Statistically, the Spurs are having a much better season than the Blazers or Pelicans. Best ATS Teams Memphis 39-20-1 Oklahoma City 37-19-2 Cleveland 33-22-3 Chicago 35-24 Miami 33-24-2 Worst ATS Teams Houston 22-35-1 Brooklyn 22-35-2 Washington 22-33-2 Orlando 25-34-1 Atlanta 25-32-1 Best Over Teams Houston 35-21-2 Minnesota 36-23  Chicago 33-24-2 Miami 34-25 LA Lakers 32-24-2 Best Under Teams Dallas 36-21-2 Cleveland 35-21-2 Philadelphia 34-24 Oklahoma City 33-24-1 Boston 34-25-1

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NBA Teams To Watch

Monday, Jan 31, 2022

NBA Teams To WatchThere’s not that much time left between now and the NBA All-Star Break. But expect some movement in the two conferences. Here’s what to watch for.EastThe top six is currently: Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Brooklyn. The two preseason favorites being fifth and sixth is a little surprising. Milwaukee has dealt with some injuries. Brooklyn hasn’t had its big three of Durant/Irving/Harden together except for a couple of games. Irving can’t play at home as long as he remains unvaccinated. The Nets are 5-19-1 ATS at the Barclays Center. Speaking of surprises, how about Cleveland? Oddsmakers have started to catch up though. The Cavs are just 5-12-1 ATS in the last 18 games. Still, I can see them ending up finishing second to Miami. The Cavs, a young team, will care more about seeding. If there’s a team that might drop a few spots, I think it might be Chicago. They’ve got the lowest point differential of the top six and are just +2.3 per 100 possessions, which is below Boston. Looking at the next four, who would be involved in the play-in round, you’ve got: Charlotte, Toronto, Boston and Atlanta. The latter two (Boston, Atlanta) have more potential to move up, especially the Celtics, who could even break into the top six. Boston has the East’s second best defensive efficiency rating. It’s interesting how Charlotte is first in the league in points scored and last in the conference in points allowed. Atlanta also has some defensive issues, but recently won eight in a row.Teams on the outside looking in are: Washington, New York, Indiana, Detroit & Orlando. The bottom two have no shot. Indiana is 2-10 in games decided by three points or less, so luck has not been on their side. Washington has really started to fall off. New York was a top six team last year and has predictably regressed. I think the gap between these teams and the four who currently occupy spots 7-10 will only widen. WestThe top six is currently: Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis, Utah, Denver and Dallas. Utah has really fallen off. They’ve lost 11 of 13 and key reserve Joe Ingles is out for the year with an injury. So they could be in some trouble. Memphis has been insanely hot, winning 26 of 34. I still think Golden State will overtake Phoenix. Denver and Dallas should remain in the top six. That means teams like the Lakers and Clippers seem resigned to play-in round. The Lakers’ championship window appears to be closed. The Clippers have a lot of big comeback wins and no Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. The LA teams aren’t what they used to be. I think Minnesota is better. The 10th spot is really going to be up for grabs. Portland currently occupies it, but the numbers suggest San Antonio has been better. I can see 45+ losses for whomever finishes 10th and it will probably be one and done in the play-in round. New Orleans, Sacramento, Houston and Oklahoma City just don’t have it this year. At least you can make money betting on the Thunder, who are 30-17 ATS (2nd best in the league). The Spurs have gone Over in 70% of their home games, but go Under 67% of the time on the road. Dallas has gone Under 75% of the time at home. Minnesota has gone Over 73% of the time on the road. 

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The Return of Klay Thompson

Thursday, Jan 06, 2022

Klay Thompson is on pace to make his highly anticipated return this Sunday, when the Golden State Warriors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Klay hasn't played a single minute since landing awkwardly on his leg in the 2019 NBA Finals. After that, he then tore his Achilles in November of 2020. That's now 900+ days of being sidelined. Many people believe that Klay will still be good, but will he ever get back to where he was when he got hurt? Will he look like one of the best 3pt shooters in history again?  Nobody loves the game of basketball more than Klay. After being snubbed from the NBA Top 75 players list, Thompson is more motivated ever to prove the NBA wrong and win another championship this season. Klay is out on the court practicing before every one of the Warriors' games to get shots up. You can tell he wants to be out on the court every second he's watching his team play as well. Over the course of his career, Thompson is shooting an extraordinary 41.9% from deep. He's also accomplished one of the most incredible feats in NBA History. 37pts on 13/13 shooting in a SINGLE QUARTER. I mean that's a great game for most people. He went on to score 52 in the game. Also, Klay once dropped 43pts while taking only 4 dribbles. Some things that this man has done are just out of this world.  Not only is Klay Thompson an excellent shooter, he gets it done time and time again on the defensive side of the ball. People called him one of the "premier defenders in the game" when he was healthy.   While the Warriors are currently sitting on top of the Western Conference with the best record in the entire NBA, Curry has found himself in a bit of a slump. He's only shooting 8/41 from the field, and 2/19 from 3 the past two games. Once Klay returns and is back to playing the way he used to, Golden State will be even more deadly than ever before. Personally, I believe that Klay will still be one of the best in the game, it's just a matter of when. Perhaps, that might happen during this year's playoffs. Tighten your seatbelts and get ready for the Warriors to become a dynasty team all over again. 

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NFL Week 17 Breakdown

Friday, Dec 31, 2021

BEST GAME – Miami at Tennessee (-3.5)Miami 8-7 SU, 8-6-1 ATS, 6-9 O/UTennessee 10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS, 7-8 O/UIntent on outdoing the 1914 Miracle Braves, Miami is now two wins away from grabbing a solid seed in the AFC playoffs, just two months after a 1-7 start that had coach Brian Flores with one foot on a banana peel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa packing his bags in favor of anyone not named Tagovailoa. The Fins dominated yet another no-name quarterback on Monday night, and if they can hold serve against a decent Titans team they’ll go into the final game against New England with a chance to vault past the Patriots. Yikes. The Titans, who needed four of the last five scores in beating the 49ers in Week 16, require this one to stay ahead of a slew of 9-6 teams and get a home playoff game.WORST GAME – New York Giants at Chicago (-6)New York 4-11 SU, 6-9 ATS, 5-9-1 O/UChicago 5-10 SU, 5-10 ATS, 6-9 O/UWhere to start with the dysfunctional Giants? Quarterback? Offensive line? Special teams? Soft defense? Take your pick. Fact is, the next meaningful game the Giants will play is a good 8+ months away, and it will be hard to find anyone who wants a piece of this action, even against a team with its own troubles such as Chicago. Both teams will use the final two games of the season to evaluate what they have in the cupboard and what should be thrown out. Wild guess – both teams will have lots of rookies and new HCs come opening day 2022.LARGEST SPREAD – Jacksonville at New England (-15.5)Jacksonville 2-13 SU, 4-11 ATS, 4-11 O/UNew England 9-6 SU, 9-6 ATS, 7-8 O/UThe last two weeks have turned the tables in the AFC East, and suddenly the Patriots actually NEED this win. They’ve lost two in a row, they need luck to catch Buffalo (the Bills own the tie-breakers) in the division, and opponents are starting to figure out Mac Jones. No one really thinks Bill Belichick will lose at home for the sixth time this season, but covering 15 and a half seems like a heavy lift for a team whose offense has sprung some leaks. Covering such a heavy number could depend on the Jaguars turning the ball over 3 or 4 times, and Jacksonville is certainly capable of that.SMALLEST SPREAD – Cleveland at Pittsburgh (+3)Cleveland 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS, 7-8 O/UPittsburgh 7-7-1 SU, 6-9 ATS, 6-9 O/UFinal game at Heinz for Ben Roethlisberger, who will no doubt try to muster up enough adrenaline to keep the Steelers in the hunt for a playoff berth. Doesn’t mean a lot now with both teams average at best, but Roethlisberger is 23-2-1 vs. Cleveland since he came into the NFL, and undefeated (12-0) at home vs. the Brownies. Still, Pittsburgh is the dog in this one, and for good reason: Four losses in its last six, and coming off a non-competitive 26-point head bashing last Sunday at Kansas City. The Browns, meanwhile, gave Green Bay a good run for its money in losing close, but need to beat Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and hope for some crazy results elsewhere to play beyond the regular season.LARGEST TOTAL – Arizona at Dallas (49.5)Arizona 10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS, 7-8 O/UDallas 11-4 SU, 12-3 ATS, 7-8 O/UThe Cowboys took no prisoners in their 42-point win over the team formerly known as the Redskins last Sunday, no doubt wishing they could have bottled a few of those points and used them this week. The Boys have been the best cover team in the NFL this season but just middling for Over players, but they kept the pedal down against WFT with nearly 500 total yards. The Cardinals want this game but don’t necessarily NEED it as they play the final two games for playoff seeding. They are concerns in Zona about an offense that has produced only 28 points total in the last two games.SMALLEST TOTAL – Carolina at New Orleans (38)Carolina 5-10 SU, 5-10 ATS, 7-8 O/UNew Orleans 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS, 6-8 O/UBoth teams are in quarterback hell. The Panthers can’t seem to make up their mind between veterans Cam Newton and Sam Darnold, with neither able to generate much of an offense. Who plays in this one is anyone’s guess. Both were booed and had to be defended by HC Matt Rhule, who was also booed. Carolina won’t be getting any sympathy in the Big Easy, where the Saints have QB problems so deep that they were begging Drew Brees to come back for the final few games to keep their playoff hopes alive.

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NFL Week 16 Breakdown

Thursday, Dec 23, 2021

BEST GAME – Buffalo at New England (-2.5)Buffalo 8-6 SU, 7-6-1 ATS, 7-7 O/UNew England 9-5 SU, 9-5 ATS, 6-8 O/UThe Patriots had hoped to close the Bills’ coffin in Week 15, but NE’s loss in Indy and Buffalo’s victory over Carolina tightened things up again in the AFC East and set up this division showdown in Foxboro. Miami (7-7 and with six straight wins) still has a puncher’s chance if things break right, but mostly likely the East belongs to the Pats again if they can take care of business on Sunday in the final week of play in calendar year 2021. The season has been full of surprises, no smaller than Bill Belichick actually APOLOGIZING to reporters for his dour non-responsive post-Indy press conference. What Belichick would love for Christmas is a half-decent performance from rookie QB Mac Jones, who was pantsed by the Colts. Buffalo, still bitter from losing to Jones and the Pats in the wind a few weeks ago, no doubt took note. The long-term Sunday forecast for Foxboro on Sunday is sun and light winds. Sorry, Bill.WORST GAME – Jacksonville at New York Jets (-2.5)Jacksonville 2-12 SU, 4-12 ATS, 3-11 O/UNew York 3-11 SU, 4-10 ATS, 8-6 O/UWith negative Urban Meyer stories seemingly every week this season, overall No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence has been able to pretty much escape scrutiny. Turns out Lawrence has taken more than his share of lumps as well. After a decent start Lawrence has struggled as the season has worn on, and last Sunday’s loss to the also-woeful Texans highlighted the regression – 210 yards passing and no touchdowns. In fact, he has just two TDs in his last six games, and his numbers are pretty much down across the board when compared to the first half of the season. If anyone needs the season to end (hopefully without serious injury), it’s Lawrence and the Jags. The Jets are giving a few in this one because the game is in East Rutherford, and the early bettors seem to like their chances of covering.BIGGEST SPREAD – Tampa Bay at Carolina (+10.5)Tampa Bay 10-4 SU, 7-7 ATS, 7-7 O/UCarolina 5-9 SU, 5-9 ATS, 7-7 O/UJob One for Tom Brady and the defending champs is to figure out what the offense is going to look like without wide receiver Chris Godwin, whose ACL tear has sidelined him for the rest of the season. Lots of his targets will no doubt now go to Antonio Brown, who is back from his latest suspension. But can Brown even be counted on going forward, and should the Bucs even go balls to the wall in the final three games to get the top seed in the NFC? Carolina is not likely to get much betting action despite being a double-digit home dog. Since their 3-0 start, the Panthers have won only twice, and have lost five straight home games.SMALLEST SPREAD – Denver at Las Vegas (-1)Denver 7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS, 3-11 O/ULas Vegas 7-7 SU, 5-9 ATS, 7-7 O/UThere are just too many tiebreaker hoops for the Broncos to jump through to get to the playoffs this season even though they are still technically in the hunt. A red zone fumble by QB Drew Lock last week in a loss to Cincinnati  just about nailed down the coffin. The Raiders, OTOH, stayed very much in the hunt thanks to their last-second field goal win over the Covid-ravaged Browns on Monday night. Yes, the delayed game does give the Raiders less prep time for the Broncos, but at least they are still in the playoff picture. Not much early money down yet, but what there is has been mostly on LV.LARGEST TOTAL – Indianapolis at Arizona (49.5)Indianapolis 8-6 SU, 9-5 ATS, 8-6 O/UArizona 10-4 SU, 9-5 ATS, 7-7 O/UEvery team should be able to take a week off, right? Well, last week against Detroit was Arizona’s, and you have the figure that the Cardinals playing at home in Week 16 will move heaven and earth to win this one. They still have a chance to catch Green Bay for the best record in the NFC, and the Colts may be primed for a letdown after their huge win over New England. Arizona figures to emphasize offense after getting shut down by the Lions, and the Cardinal defense will have its hands full with NFL leading rusher Jonathan Taylor. If you prefer to bet the side, bear in mind that the Cardinals have beaten a decent team at home only once this season (Oct. 3, Rams).SMALLEST TOTAL – Miami at New Orleans (38.5)Miami 7-7 SU, 7-6-1 ATS, 6-8 O/UNew Orleans 7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS, 6-8 O/UA rare total in the 30s in a season in which handicappers regularly set multiple totals in the 50s every week. Much of the number reflects Miami’s top-notch defense, which has fueled the Dolphins’ six-game winning streak. But don’t overlook New Orleans’s offensive problems, including ragged QB play from Taysom Hill.

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NFL Week 15 Breakdown

Thursday, Dec 16, 2021

BEST GAME – New England at Indianapolis (-2)New England 9-4 SU, 9-4 ATSIndianapolis 7-6 SU, 8-5 ATSFish-or-cut-bait time for the red-hot Colts, who need this one more than the Patriots do. An Indy loss basically closes the door in the AFC South and would most likely force the Colts to run the table (at Arizona, home vs. Las Vegas, at Jacksonville) to squeak into the playoffs. Any edge Indy might have gained by having Week 14 off is negated by NE also coming off its bye week, with Bill Belichick having 12 days to prepare for Jonathan Taylor. (Taylor is so far ahead in the NFL rushing stats that he could sit out the final four games and probably STILL win that title, but prop bettors should probably take a hard look at the under here.) Playing indoors will probably enable Belichick to remove the choke chain from rookie QB Mac Jones, who was allowed to throw only three times in the Buffalo wind two weeks ago. If you care about weird statistics, the Patriots are unbeaten (6-0) on the road this season. This one might not have the intensity of those many early-2000s Brady-Manning battles, but it has plenty of meaning – and the added juice of two teams that have been reliable covers (combined 17-9 ATS) all season. Oddsmakers originally listed this one as a pick ‘em.WORST GAME – Houston at Jacksonville (-3, O/U 42.5)Houston 2-11 SU, 5-8 ATS, 5-8 O/UJacksonville 2-11 SU, 4-9 ATS, 2-11 O/UCall it the Race to the Bottom Bowl, with the loser of this one still having a puncher’s chance to beat out Detroit for the overall No. 1 pick come next April. Since the Jags already have their quarterback of the future, there is more incentive for Houston to tank this one. Plus, the last thing J-Ville coach Urban Meyer needs right now is more pressure, so he’ll empty the playbook to try to save his job. No matter what, this game is all about the future for both teams, as the present is not all that pleasant. As befitting two offensively-challenged teams, this is also the lowest total on the board (41). Houston’s Davis Mills showed a little zip against Seattle in his late-season QB audition, but Trevor Lawrence is coming off a disastrous 4-interception shutout loss to Tennessee.LARGEST SPREAD – Arizona at Detroit (+14)Arizona 10-3 SU, 9-4 ATSDetroit 1-11-1 SU, 8-5 ATSYes, the Lions got pasted in Denver this past Sunday and yes, 1-11-1 is 1-11-1. But a two-touchdown home dog? For a team that would be around .500 if all its one-score losses were flipped?  The number actually went UP a half-point after Arizona’s loss to the Rams on Monday night in a game which threw a hand grenade in the Cardinals’ march to the NFC West title, best record in the conference and playoff bye. They CAN’T let up now in Detroit.LARGEST TOTAL – Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers (51)Kansas City 9-4, SU, 6-7 ATS, 6-7 O/ULos Angeles 8-5 SU, 7-6 ATS, 6-7 O/UWhatever issues the Chiefs may have had when they were in the midst of that 3-4 start are long since in the rear view mirror. KC has it rolling now, and will bring tons of momentum to the West Coast for this one on Thursday night. It’s doubtful that totals players will shy away from this one even though the Chiefs defense has found its footing and now had held three consecutive opponents to 9 points each. The Chiefs offense is capable of covering the 51 all by itself, although if recent history is any guide the Chargers will hold up their end of the bargain. The LAC have scored at least 37 in three of the last four. The D coordinators won’t be sleeping much as they prep for this one on a short week.SMALLEST TOTAL – Tennessee at Pittsburgh (41.5)Tennessee 9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS, 7-6 O/UPittsburgh 6-6-1 SU, 5-8 ATS, 5-8 O/UThe Houston-Jacksonville game is a half-point smaller, but this game at 41.5 has some significance in that it in all likelihood is the beginning of the end for Steelers warhorse Ben Roethlisberger? Pittsburgh faces a closing grim schedule (after the Titans they’ll be at Kansas City, home vs. Cleveland and at Baltimore). How much gas is left in Ben’s tank is anyone’s guess. The Steelers did score 28 this past Sunday, but that was against a relaxed Vikings defense that was playing with a 29-0 lead. The Titans, meanwhile, are continuing to cope without RB Derrick Henry. They averaged 28 points a game with him, and in five without him they’ve dropped to 19 a game.

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NFL Week 14 Breakdown

Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021

BEST GAME – Los Angeles Rams at Arizona (-3) (Monday night)Los Angeles 8-4 SU, 5-7 ATSArizona 10-2 SU, 9-3 ATSAny team which puts more than 28 points a game on the board every weekend figures to be in Super Bowl contention, but what is most impressive about the Cardinals is the fact that they rarely turn the ball over. Like almost never. This past Sunday’s win over Chicago marked the fifth straight game in which Arizona was turnover-free. The Cards now have a chance to essentially put the NFC West in the duffle bag. The Rams, coming off a win over Jacksonville in what is as close to a bye week as it gets, need to avoid sluggish starts which led to three consecutive November losses. As the home team, Arizona gives the obligatory 3 points in this one, but there’s a real possibility that this contracts to 2.5, so Cardinal backers might want to hold off betting until at least mid-week.WORST GAME – Seattle at Houston (+7.5)Seattle 4-8 SU, 6-6 ATSHouston 2-10 SU, 5-7 ATSLike an empty-nest marriage that crumbles when the kids leave the house, it looks like the Pete Carroll-Russell Wilson union is headed for a breakup this off-season. Nine years of NFC West dominance has come to end in the Pacific Northwest, the losing has taken its toll and it’s hard to see management bringing back the old gang for another rodeo next season. You’ll pardon the Texans if they don’t attend the divorce party, as the lowest-scoring team in the NFL has problems of its own to deal with – namely offense, defense, and special teams. Houston’s shutout loss at home this past Sunday was evidence enough for early bettors to back the Seahawks despite the 7.5 line.BIGGEST SPREAD – Chicago at Green Bay (-12.5)Chicago 4-8 SU, 4-8 ATSGreen Bay 9-3 SU, 10-2 ATSThe Packers have had control of the NFC North for a few months now, and all that remains for them is to compete for playoff seeding. The Bears, who are a five-alarm fire disguised as a football team, should accommodate Green Bay. Full speed ahead in the Land of Cheese and Beer, where Aaron Rodgers has its eyes on the Super Bowl and another MVP Award now that the league is not going to bother him for fibbing about his Covid vaccination status. As of early this week, no one seems to know if Justin Fields’s aching ribs will keep him sidelined, though early bettors don’t seem to care and are heavy on GB.SMALLEST SPREAD – San Francisco at Cincinnati (-1)San Francisco 6-6 SU, 5-7 ATSCincinnati 7-5 SU, 6-6 ATSBlowing a two-score lead and losing in Seattle has taken a lot of the air out of the Niners’ balloon, and made this game pretty much a must-win if they want to play beyond mid-January. San Francisco rarely wins in Seattle, and SF made just enough mistakes to guarantee another loss there. The Bengals, meanwhile, are still very much alive in the playoff hunt despite their loss to the Chargers last weekend. The concern in the Queen City is QB Joe Burrow, who is nursing an injury to his throwing hand.LARGEST TOTAL – Buffalo at Tampa Bay (52.5)Buffalo 7-5 SU, 6-5-1 ATS, 6-6 O/UTampa Bay 9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS, 6-6 O/UAs if things aren’t bad enough (3-4 since Columbus Day) for Buffalo after tumbling to the brink of being on the outside looking in at the playoffs, they have to take on Tom Brady the week after a loss to the Patriots. Talk about seeing ghosts. Monday night’s loss to New England in a howling wind can be tossed out, but losing to Brady & the Bucs could prove damaging to the psyche of the team, its fans, and the entirety of western New York. Tampa Bay figures to do the heavy lifting in this one for Over bettors.SMALLEST TOTAL  -- Detroit at Denver (42)Detroit 1-10-1 SU, 8-4 ATS, 4-8 O/UDenver 6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS, 2-10 O/UNo one likes to go up against a team that is winless late in the season, but Detroit’s win over Minnesota took Denver off the hook in that regard. The Broncos are free to do what they do best – play solid defense, dominate field position and force the Lions to go on long drives that they have generally been not been able to do. Under players on Denver have cashed time and again this season, and Detroit scores on average fewer than 17 ppg.

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NFL Week 13 Breakdown

Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021

BEST GAME – New England at Buffalo (-3)New England 8-4 SU, 8-4 ATSBuffalo 7-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATSAfter a year of calm, petrified townsfolk are seeing lights on again in Dracula’s castle. The Patriots head to western New York having taken over first place in an AFC East that they have owned for most of the past two decades. Can Buffalo, which has a top 5 offense and the best defense in the NFL, derail a Patriot train that has won all five of its road games? The Bills seem trapped in win-one, lose-one mode, but they have a little momentum of their own after a solid T-Day win over New Orleans. This could be the biggest – and most interesting – AFC East game since NE started dominating at the turn of the century. Bills opened as a -3.5 favorite, but the half-point was dropped soon after the Patriots’ dominating victory over Tennessee. If you never bet on a streak to end, consider that the Pats have six straight wins and six straight covers.WORST GAME – Philadelphia at New York Jets (+7)Philadelphia 5-7 SU, 6-6 ATSNew York 3-8 SU, 3-8 ATSSecond straight game in New Jersey for the Eagles, who are probably one loss away from playing out the string. Philly will spend this week trying to fix whatever is wrong with Jalen Hurts, who tossed three interceptions this past Sunday in a devastating loss to the Giants. They hope he’ll find the spark against the woeful Jets, who have been as godawful SU (3-8) as they have been ATS (also 3-8) this season. The rest of the year will be devoted to the development of rookie QB Zach Wilson. Bettors will be keeping an eye on the 7-point spread to see if it moves a half-point either way.LARGEST POINT SPREAD – Jacksonville at Los Angeles Rams (-13.5)Jacksonville 2-9 SU, 4-7 ATSLos Angeles 7-4 SU, 4-7 ATSThree straight defeats have sobered up Rams fans in a hurry, and the last thing they need at this point is an upset loss to the Jaguars heading into their showdown with NFC West-leading Arizona on Dec. 13. The Rams offense completely collapsed in the third period of this past Sunday’s game at Green Bay, and LA needs to just keep things simple and avoid mistakes against the nothing-to-lose Jaguars. Despite the heavy line, early bettors are all over the Rams.SMALLEST POINT SPREAD – Washington at Las Vegas (-2.5)Washington 4-6 SU, 3-7 ATSLas Vegas 6-5 SU, 5-6 ATSBeating the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving has breathed life into the Raiders, who went into the game with consecutive losses to the Giants, Chiefs and Bengals. A loss wouldn’t terminate LV’s playoff chances in a tight AFC, but it would probably force them to win four of their last five (including road games at Kansas City, Cleveland and Indianapolis) to earn the right to play into mid-January.  Washington deserves some credit for not laying down after a 2-6 start.LARGEST TOTAL – Tampa Bay at Atlanta (50.5)Tampa Bay 8-3 SU, 5-6 ATS, 6-5 O/UAtlanta 5-6 SU, 5-6 ATS, 5-6 O/UThe Buccaneers have scored 30 or more in six games this season, and assuming they can keep Tom Brady upright this coming Sunday, the odds are decent that they’ll go 30+ again. The real question here is whether Atlanta’s offense has recovered from a Week 10/11 stretch in which it put up a grand total of three points in eight quarters. The Falcons did find the end zone three times this past Sunday against the Jaguars, so there’s that.SMALLEST TOTAL – New York Giants at Miami (42)New York 4-7 SU, 6-5 ATS, 3-7-1 O/UMiami 5-7 SU, 6-5-1 ATS, 5-7 O/UA four-game winning streak may not have salvaged their season, but the Dolphins have to like their offense after a solid win over Carolina. The Miami defense did score once (blocked punt return), but Tua Tagovailoa at least temporarily tamped down the DeSean Watson-to-South Beach talk with a decent effort – 27 of 31 passing. No such luck in the Meadowlands, where the Giants struggle to score almost every week.

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NFL Week 12 Breakdown

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2021

BEST GAME -- Tennessee at New England (-5.5)Tennessee 8-3 SU, 7-4 ATSNew England 7-4 SU, 7-4 ATSAnd just like that, the Patriots are in first place in the AFC, a mere five games (all wins) after being buried at 2-4 in mid-October. New England has all the ingredients for successful cold-weather / playoff football – a killer defense, a two-pronged (Stevenson and Harris) powerful running game and a mistake-averse quarterback (Jones) who cares more about winning than he does about statistics. Not only that, they get to play at home this week against a Titans team that not only lost, at home, to Houston but had to score late to make the game (22-13) as close as it was. Tennessee figured to have the AFC South wrapped up by Dec. 1, but now has to worry about the surging Colts.WORST GAMENew York Jets at Houston (-3)New York 2-8 SU, 2-8 ATSHouston 2-8 SU, 5-5 ATSAny given Sunday, right? The Texans proved that they can beat one of the best teams in the NFL when they offed the Titans this past Sunday. Now, can they beat one of the worst? We’ll find out when the 2-8 teams claw it out in the Week 12 Dog of the Week. At a minimum, the Texans showed that they have some fight in them after breaking their 8-game losing streak by stunning Tennessee. Outplayed the entire game, Texas turned the tables by intercepting Ryan Tannehill four times, leading you to wonder if they can put a similar hurt on vet Joe Flacco.  Houston is favored by 2.5 on this one, though New York-area money could affect the line toward the end of the week.BIGGEST SPREAD and LARGEST TOTAL – Las Vegas at Dallas (-7.5, 54.5)Las Vegas 5-4 SU, 4-5 ATSDallas 7-3 SU, 8-2 ATSThe Raiders looked like they were going to come out ok post-Gruden, but reality sucks – and so has LV. Three straight losses are on the books, and the next three games include Dallas this Sunday and Kansas City in early December. It’s hard to look at LV’s schedule and figure out where it will get the five wins it will probably need to get to the playoffs. Dallas has different concerns. Right now the Cowboys just want to right the ship after a puzzling loss in Kansas City. There’s no harm in losing to the Chiefs on the road, but the Boys managed to play 60 minutes without scoring a touchdown against one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Dak Prescott was picked twice, and the Dallas offense stalled in the red zone all day and settled for three field goals. The early O/U number was set at 54.5, and it will be interesting to see if that drops as bettors analyze Dallas’ poor offensive showing in KC.SMALLEST SPREAD – Atlanta at Jacksonville (PK)Atlanta 4-6 SU, 4-6 ATSJacksonville 2-8 SU, 4-6 ATSHow bad are things in Atlanta? The Falcons have gone eight straight quarters without scoring a touchdown, and have three total points in that time. They were shut out last Thursday at home by the Patriots, and thus will get some extra time to figure out what is going wrong on offense. A good start might be for Matt Ryan to stop throwing the ball to Falcon opponents – he’s had seven picks in the last two games. Ryan should at least have some time in the pocket as the Jaguars don’t apply too much pocket pressure.SMALLEST TOTAL – Carolina at Miami (43)Carolina 5-6 SU, 5-6 ATSMiami 4-7 SU, 5-5-1 ATSYes, 43.5 is a short number here. But there is no evidence that either the Panthers or Dolphins are getting their acts together offensively. Dolphin games are averaging less than 43 points this season, and the Panthers are even lower at less than 41. Add in the fact that Carolina has one of the better defenses in the league and the arrow trends toward Under. Turnovers are the key here, of course, but both teams take care of the ball. Both coaches are in job preservation mode, and that means fewer chances.

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NFL Week 11 Breakdown

Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021

BEST GAME - Dallas at Kansas City (-2)Dallas 7-2 SU, 8-1 ATSKansas City 6-4 SU, 3-7 ATSWith 8 covers in 9 games, it appears that sports books are still playing catchup with the Cowboys, who are the No. 1 cover team in the NFL. Maybe their loss at home to the Broncos planted some seeds of doubt, but this past Sunday’s disemboweling of the Falcons means that Jerry Jones will arrive in Missouri this coming Sunday with a huge smile on his face. Any why not? The Boys have all but wrapped up the otherwise lethargic NFC East, and the rest of the schedule includes only one legitimate test (Arizona on Jan. 2). Likewise, the Chiefs seem to be – finally – getting their own house in order. With the rest of the AFC West in a fade pattern, KC has taken full advantage. Narrow wins over the Giants and Packers kept the slow-starting Chiefs on life support, and the offense put the pedal to the metal this past Sunday in a convincing 27-point victory over division rival Las Vegas. With both offenses rolling, bettors no doubt will be pounding the Over here – even though the number (54) is the highest on the board for Week 11.WORST GAME – Detroit at Cleveland (-10)Detroit 0-8-1SU, 5-4 ATSCleveland 5-5 SU, 5-5 ATSThe Browns lost by 31 in New England last Sunday, and the ugliness spilled over in the locker room when several Cleveland players blamed the coaching staff for not making adjustments when the Patriots took control of the game. If losing to the red-hot Patriots got them cranky, imagine what a loss to home to Detroit would do. Cleveland’s season of mediocrity has also raised questions about whether Baker Mayfield is the QB going forward. As for the Lions, the heat is off to an extent in that last week’s tie with Pittsburgh means they can’t go 0-17 and beat their own NFL-worst 0-16 record set 13 years ago.BIGGEST SPREAD -- New York Giants at Tampa Bay (-11.5)New York 3-6 SU, 5-4 ATSTampa Bay 6-3 SU, 3-6 ATSTwo losses in row? Tom Brady? Yikes. Well, it happened last November, too, when the Bucs dropped back-to-backs to the Rams and Chiefs. Brady and TB responded with a four-game win streak to end the season, then ran the table on the way to winning the Super Bowl. It could happen again, especially as the Bucs enter the soft underbelly of their schedule, with most of the remaining games dotted with mediocre opponents with no legit chance to make deep playoff runs (Dec. 12 Buffalo being the exception). Still, Tampa Bay’s loss to Washington this past Sunday was a cautionary tale in the Any Given Sunday league. Brady put TB in an early hole with two interceptions, and this time there was no late magic. The Bucs – who BTW have been a poor cover team this season, still should win the NFC South – but they’ll have to work for it.SMALLEST SPREAD -- Cincinnati at Las Vegas (-1)Cincinnati 5-4 SU, 4-5 ATSLas Vegas 5-4 SU, 4-5 ATSNot the best of weeks for the Raiders. First, former coach Jon Gruden went after the league and commissioner in court, then the team was not competitive at home against the Chiefs. Gruden may have gone on offense, but the LV offense was stagnant against a sketchy Chiefs D – and that has to raise lots of red flags. The O-Line bears much of the blame for an offense that has produced only 30 points total in the last two games. When you net only 50 yards on the ground against one of the worst defenses in the league, you need to re-assess. Cincinnati no doubt used tis bye week to do some soul-searching of its own after consecutive losses to the Jets and Browns.SMALLEST TOTAL -- Washington at Carolina (43.5)Washington 3-6 SU, 2-7 ATSCarolina 5-5 SU, 5-5 ATSCam Newton is back. Are the Panthers? Maybe. At least they’re not dead and buried, despite a nightmarish 0-4 October and a stinking loss to the Patriots a week ago. Their three-touchdown win over the best-record-in-the-league-at-the-time Cardinals opened up a playoff avenue for Carolina, who were no doubt energized by Newton’s return. Newton didn’t start, but finished off a few drives by relieving starter P.J. Walker in the red zone, and there will be pressure to start him against the WFT.

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NFL Week 9 Breakdown

Wednesday, Nov 03, 2021

BEST GAME -- Tennessee at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5)Tennessee -- 6-2 SU, 6-2 ATSLos Angeles – 7-1 SU, 4-4 ATSJust when things were about as good as they can get for the Titans, word is out that they may have lost the NFL’s top rusher, Derrick Henry, for the season with a foot injury. On the plus side, Tennessee may have already locked up the weak AFC South. Houston and Jacksonville are already playing out the string, and second-place Indianapolis is three back in the loss column with two losses to Tennessee. So we’ll see how hard the Titans go after the Rams this coming Sunday night. LA needs this one badly to keep pace with 7-1 Arizona, and the Cardinals have a soft November schedule before the two teams meet in mid-December in what could be the deciding game in the NFC West. That might account for the somewhat heavy 6.5 number.WORST GAME -- Houston at Miami (-7)Houston 1-7 SU, 4-4 ATSMiami 1-7 SU, 2-5-1When a team with playoff expectations loses seven straight games and is out of the running before Thanksgiving, critics use one eye to look at the coach and the other on the quarterback. So it is in south Florida today, where Brian Flores and Tua Tagovailoa both have to wonder if they’ll be around next season when the Fins try again to turn things around. Miami’s offense struggled for four quarters this past Sunday against the Bills, setting up a Week 9 battle in a game that has implications for the No. 1 draft choice next spring. Despite Miami’s issues, early bettors still like the Dolphins at -7.BIGGEST SPREADBuffalo at Jacksonville (-14)Buffalo 5-2 SU, 4-2-1 ATSJacksonville 1-6 SU, 2-5 ATSYou figure that the Jags would have shown a little more fight in their 24-points loss to Seattle, what with coming off a bye week and their first win of the year – and the Seahawks forced to use Geno Smith at QB. But it all fell apart early, and now Jacksonville’s mediocre offense has to face the best defense in the NFL. Not many takers for the Jaguars even at +14 and playing at home, even against a Bills team that had trouble moving the ball for three quarters against the Dolphins before breaking it open late. With New England starting to make some noise in the AFC East, the Bills need to maintain focus.SMALLEST SPREAD – Cleveland at Cincinnati (-2.5)Cleveland 4-4 SU, 4-4 ATSCincinnati 5-3 SU, 4-4 ATSWeird season so far in the AFC North, the land of tight betting lines and where no one seems to be able to dominate. Neither the Browns not the Bengals will be devastated by a loss, but a division win is a division win. The Browns will spend the week trying to repair an offense that sprang numerous leaks in an odd 15-10 loss to Pittsburgh this past Sunday, in some way screwing up nearly every offensive possession. Don’t expect much sympathy from the Bengals, whose problems were on the defensive side of the ball in a loss to the Jets and backup QB Mike White.BIGGEST TOTAL – Green Bay at Kansas City (55.5)Green Bay 7-1 SU, 7-1 ATSKansas City 4-4 SU 2-6 ATSThe Chiefs are trying desperately to battle their way back into contention. A .500 record heading into the second half of the season at least keeps them alive although maybe not kicking, and they’ll be emptying the playbook against the Packers in a game that could make or break their season. Green Bay, meanwhile, has been a crummy Over team. In fact, five straight games have gone Under, and the Pack have been unable to break 30 points since the end of September.SMALLEST TOTAL – Chicago at Pittsburgh (40)Chicago 3-5 SU, 3-5 ATSPittsburgh 4-3 SU, 3-4 ATSNo one figured that scoring points would be THIS much of an issue in Chicago, especially after drafting Justin Fields. But here we are, eight weeks in the books, and the Bears have scored more than 20 points only twice this season. The Steelers, who will be on the lookout for a QB of their own when the season in all likelihood ends Ben Roethlisberger’s career, haven’t had a breakout offensive game of their own. It all adds up to a 40-point total on the books – a rarity in today’s NFL.

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NFL Week 8 Breakdown

Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021

BEST GAME – Green Bay at Arizona (-3.5)Green Bay 6-1 SU, 6-1 ATSArizona 7-0 SU, 6-1 ATSThe Packers and Aaron Rodgers haven’t exactly kissed and made up, but their marriage of accommodation appears to be holding firm through the first half of the schedule. Rodgers’s three TD passes and 274 yards through the air offset getting sacked three times by Washington on Sunday, and the Pack are putting some air between themselves and the rest of the NFC North. A lot of credit has to go to a more-than decent defense which held the WFT to three points on four second-half red zone trips. This, despite missing four starters. Whether GB can hold it together twice in five days will be interesting when the Packers hit the road Thursday night against the undefeated and dominant Cardinals. Arizona had the next-beat thing to a bye this past Sunday, with Houston in town, and will have a huge prep edge against Green Bay. This game also has the highest total (53.5) on the board, due no doubt to the Cardinals’ potent offense (7th in the NFL) going against what has to be a rubber-legged GB defense that may or may be near full strength.WORST GAME – Philadelphia at Detroit (+3)Philadelphia 2-5 SU, 3-4 ATSDetroit 0-7 SU, 4-3 ATSWith a 17-game schedule and an extra playoff team in the mix, five losses in seven games may not be the death sentence that it once was. But the Eagles have to right the ship, and fast, after an embarrassing and error-laden loss at Las Vegas. Simply put, Philly couldn’t move the ball until the fourth quarter when it didn’t matter. When your QB (Jalen Hurts) is also your leading rusher, there are problems. But the winless Lions don’t want to hear about anyone’s else’s issues, and it’s no consolation that Detroit has come close several times and actually has a better record ATS than 19 other teams in the NFL.BIGGEST SPREAD – Los Angeles Rams at Houston (+14.5)Los Angeles 6-1 SU, 4-3 ATSHouston 1-6 SU, 3-4 ATSTime for the Rams to make hay while the sun shines, because after this (Lions and Texans back to back) schedule respite, they have division leaders Tennessee, Green Bay and Arizona in three of the next four weeks. Yikes. So it’s imperative that LA – which had problems at home against the Lions and couldn’t put the game away until late – stays focused. All Houston is focused on, meantime, is whether or not Deshaun Watson will be traded. Houston’s defense is not the worst in the league, but the offense just can’t move the ball, leading books to make the Texans a huge home dog in this one.SMALLEST SPREAD – Dallas at Minnesota (+1.5)Dallas 5-1 SU, 6-0 ATS, 5-1 O/UMinnesota 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, 3-3 O/UAfter a long, dark period, things finally seem to be breaking right for the Boys. A bye week followed Dallas’s strenuous overtime victory over the Patriots in Foxboro, gave everyone time to heal before what should be a tight game in Minnesota. The Vikings have been a so-so team, losing close games to powerhouses Arizona and Cincinnati, and are only two possessions from being 5-1 instead of .500. But as Bill Parcells said, “You are what your record says you are,” so the Vikes really need this one badly if they are to make it a race in the NFC North. If things go south in the North this weekend, Minnesota could be three losses down to the Packers.SMALLEST TOTAL – San Francisco at Chicago (39.5)San Francisco 2-4 SU, 3-3 ATS, 3-3 O/UChicago 3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS, 1-6 O/UThis is the only game in the NFL so far this season with a total under 40, according to, and it befits two teams whose offenses are struggling mightily and two quarterbacks who are having trouble getting their teams into the end zone. There are constant questions about SF’s Jimmy Garoppolo, and they are louder still today after what his coach said was his worst game of the season in a loss to Indianapolis. It’s doubtful that Justin Fields sympathizes much after turning the ball over five times (three INTs, two lost fumbles) and his Bears putting up only three points in a loss to Tampa Bay.

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NFL Week 7 Breakdown

Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

BEST GAMECincinnati at Baltimore (-6.5)Cincinnati 4-2 SU, 3-3 ATSBaltimore 5-1 SU, 3-3 ATSEarly showdown in the best division in the AFC;s North, and the Bengals figure to have their hands more than full against a Ravens team that has not lost in regulation this season, has five straight wins in its pocket, is coming off a dominating victory over the more-than-decent Chargers and will be playing at home. Hence the somewhat heavy line. Cincinnati has benefitted from a soft September/October schedule (only one game against a team with a winning record – Green Bay), but that comes to a screeching halt this coming weekend. Joe Burrow & Co. now go from as game against the worst team in the league (Detroit) to a road battle against possibly the best. They’ll more than have their hands full.WORST GAMECarolina at New York Giants (+2.5)Carolina 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATSNew York 1-5 SU, 2-4 ATSThree straight losses after three straight wins have taken the starch out of the Panthers, who should send a bottle of wine to the schedule-maker with the Giants next on the docket. But even a victory over the NYG won’t end questions about QB Sam Darnold, who has been mediocre at best and awful at worst during the skid – six interceptions and one fumble lost. Another dog game in East Rutherford, and the Panthers might be on the prowl for a replacement QB to save their season. Meanwhile, bettors have turned against the Giants big-time, and early money has been 4-1 heavy on Carolina. NY has just not been competitive since an early-October OT win over New Orleans, with back-to-back 24- and 27-point losses.BIGGEST SPREADHouston at Arizona (-17)Houston 1-5 SU, 2-4 ATSArizona 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATSTeams like Houston say that they lack consistency. What they really lack is talent. This big number (Arizona) says as much about the Texans as it does about the unbeaten Cardinals. Since Week 2 the Texans have lost by an average score of 30-8, and playing on the road against a loaded-for-bear team like Arizona is not likely to help things. The Cardinals have four blowout double-digit victories this season, and it will be a shock if this one doesn’t make it five. The only concern in the desert is the status of Kyler Murray’s throwing shoulder, but it was good enough to torch the Browns with four TD passes this past Sunday, and should be plenty good enough against the Texans. Early bettors like Zona to cover the heavy number.SMALLEST SPREADAtlanta at Miami (-1)Atlanta 2-3 SU, 2-3 ATSMiami 1-5 SU, 2-4 ATSThere’s no crime in losing to good teams, but now the Dolphins now are having trouble even with the truly bad ones, and a season that opened with such optimism is now circling the drain. Not even a decent effort from returning-from-injury QB Tua Tagovailoa could take the sting out of Miami’s field-goal loss to helpless and hopeless Jacksonville. The press in Miami, usually rather gentle, is now calling for (another) complete overall. The Falcons, meanwhile, are coming off a bye week where they nursed injuries and plotted for ways to emerge from the mushy middle and make a run at the playoffs. Pretty even game, pretty even early money. Everything points to a coin flip here.BIGGEST TOTALKansas City at Tennessee (56.5)Kansas City 3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS, 4-2 O/UTennessee 4-2 SU, 4-2 ATS, 4-2 O/UNo, thanks. YOU explain how the Titans can lose to the Jets, then two weeks later can come back and knock off perhaps the best team in the conference. Guess it starts with Derrick Henry, who can scorch any defense on any gameday. How much is left in Henry’s legs six days after carrying 20 times against the Bills is anyone’s guess, but know this: The Chiefs have one of the weakest run  defenses in the NFL, so Henry will get his touches. Combine that with the knowledge that KC can be pretty much written in for at least 30 ppg, and even the high total of 56.5 looks attainable.LOWEST TOTALNew York Jets at New England (43)New York 1-4 SU, 1-4 ATS, 2-3 O/UNew England 2-4 SU, 2-4 ATS, 2-4 O/URaise your hand if you thought Gillette Stadium would be a House of Horrors for the Patriots this season. Yet the numbers tell the truth – NE is 0-4 at home. But still a 7-point fave over the bewitched, bothered and bewildered Jets. Over bettors might want to take a hard look here. There are signs that the Pats are easing up on the choke chain with QB Mac Jones, who was more than just a game manager in NE’s OT loss to Dallas. And with a struggling Pats defense, even an offensively-challenged Jets team might be able to move the ball. If history is any guide, however, it’s usually a taffy pull when the Jets journey to Foxboro.

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NFL Week 6 Breakdown

Wednesday, Oct 13, 2021

BEST GAME – Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore (-3)Los Angeles 4-1 SU, 4-1 ATSBaltimore 4-1 SU, 2-3 ATSIt might be time to start taking the Chargers seriously, and maybe get QB Justin Herbert involved in the MVP conversation. Going up against a more-than-decent Browns defense, Herbert merely tossed five touchdown passes and threw for 398 yards. He has zero turnovers in the last three games, and if he can make it four in a row in this battle of division leaders, the LAC will be knee deep in AFC East title talk. But the Ravens never make things easy for anyone in Baltimore, and figure to try to run the ball down the throats of a Charger defense that is ranked dead last against the run this season.WORST GAME – Miami at Jacksonville (+3.5)Miami 1-4 SU, 2-3 ATSJacksonville 0-5 SU, 1-4 ATSOK, if you were the coach of the winless Jags and were full steam ahead toward being the worst team in pro football for the second straight season, you’d want to pound a few and let loose in a bar, too. But the ice is cracking under the feet of Urban Meyer, and if any coach ever needed a win more than Meyer does this week, you name him. The only interesting thing about this game, other than that it will be played in London, is the possible return of Fins QB Tua Tagovailoa. London pub-goers will be ready with their cell phone cameras in case Meyer drops in to check out the local birds on Saturday night.BIGGEST SPREAD – Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants (+10.5)Los Angeles 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATSNew York 1-4 SU, 2-3 ATSThe Giants were hoping that QB Daniel Jones would take a big step in this, his third season. Instead, he was unable to walk without stumbling on Sunday after suffering a concession in a blowout loss to the Cowboys. Now the NYG will probably be without him in Week 6 as they limp through what is looking like yet another lost season. BTW, RB Saquon Barkley and WR Kenny Golladay were also knocked out of the Dallas game. Assuming that the Giants don’t put up much of a fight and use this week to get their key players semi-healthy, the Rams should still be able to cover double-digits as they try to keep pace with undefeated Arizona in the NFC West.SMALLEST SPREAD – Minnesota at Carolina (-1.5)Minnesota 2-3 SU, 2-3 ATSCarolina 3-2 SU, 3-2 ATSGreg Joseph’s field goal as time expired on Sunday saved Minnesota’s victory over winless Detroit, and might have also saved his coach’s job. That it came down to the wire, at home no less, is an indictment of the Vikings, who were roasted for conservative play-calling against the Lions. The Panthers, meanwhile, have their own problems – especially on the offensive line – and are in a fade pattern with two straight losses after a 3-0 start. Oddsmakers opened with this one a PK as both teams will spend this week trying to sort out their myriad issues.LARGEST TOTAL – Kansas City at Washington (55.5)Kansas City 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATSWashington 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATSThe WFT is giving up a ton of points this season – more than 31 a game. The Chiefs respond by saying “Hold my beer,” checking in with a D that has given up more than 33 per. It should all add up to an offensive show in Landover, with offenses dominating against laissez-faire defenders. Both the Chiefs and WFT have been lousy cover teams so far this season, and Washington is a 6-point home dog in this one.SMALLEST TOTAL – Seattle at Pittsburgh (42.5)Seattle 2-3 SU, 2-3 ATSPittsburgh 2-3 SU, 2-3 ATSWith Russell Wilson down for 4 to 8 weeks with an injured throwing hand, the Seattle offense has now been turned over to Gene Smith (he of butt fumble fame). Smith’s job now is to keep the Seahawks afloat until Wilson can return (the time frame is 4 to 8 weeks) for what is believed to be his final season in the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh talk of Ben Roethlisberger walking away mid-season was doused by the Steelers’ win over Denver. Five of 14 games in Week 6, BTW, have totals 50 points or higher. This game opened at Pittsburgh -3.5 before being bet up to 4.5.

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NFL Week 5 Breakdown

Tuesday, Oct 05, 2021

BEST GAME – Buffalo at Kansas City (-2.5)Who knows what these two teams will look like three months from now, but at the moment this one has the feel of a second straight AFC Championship match. The Bills have shaken off whatever problems they had in the opening game against the Steelers, and have taken to ripping the hearts out of their opponents. Their D now has two shutouts in the last three games (Miami, Houston), and is peaking at exactly the right time. Kansas City, meanwhile, has its offense in gear, scoring 30 minimum in every game and erasing concerns about its shaky defense that has made the Chiefs a weak (1-3 ATS) cover team. Bookmakers like this as essentially a field goal game, and early bettors have taken one look at the Bills through four games and many have decided to grab the points even after the number dropped from 3 to 2.5.WORST GAME – New England Houston (+9)The Patriots descend from best game (Week 4 vs. Bucs) to worst (Week 5) as two 1-3 teams go at it. The only interesting subplot to this is Mac Jones’s rapid development as a legit NFL quarterback and so far the best of the five rookie first-rounders. A slip here and Bill Belichick would walking a steep incline trying to make the playoffs, even with an 17th game on the schedule and an expanded playoff field. The line opened at 7 or less but jumped to 9.5 before falling a half-point. Patriots backers could pump it back up when bettors consider Houston’s 40-point shutout loss to the Bills and New England’s near-victory against Brady and Tampa Bay.BIGGEST SPREAD – Miami at Tampa Bay (-10.5)After taking a beating at the hands of the Rams on the West Coast and barely surviving against the Patriots in the Northeast, the Bucs will be glad to get home. And it will be a soft landing against a Dolphins team that is sucking serious wind after three straight losses in what is shaping up as a season to forget. It looks like Jacoby Brissett will be at QB again before Tua Tagovailoa returns the following week in London. Among Miami’s many problems is an offensive line that refuses to get better. Should be a long day for the Fins and some big numbers on the board for Brady and the Bucs. Expect heavy money on TB in this one.SMALLEST SPREAD – Cleveland at Los Angeles Chargers (PK)Several tight lines this week, including Rams/Seahawks and Broncos/Steelers, but the early books have the Browns and Chargers as a PK though some now list it as LA -1. The Chargers are off to a curious start – 3-1 SU and also 3-1 ATS, but with just a so-so offense that has driven Over bettors crazy. None of their four games have beaten the number. Cleveland fans will be keeping a close eye on QB Baker Mayfield, who was awful in the Browns’ skim-of-their-teeth victory over the Vikings.BIGGEST TOTAL – San Francisco at Arizona (53.5)Cheating a tad here as Buffalo/Kansas City (56.5) is mentioned above. Raise your hand if you figured Jimmy Garoppolo would be injured and out before Halloween. The inevitable happened early on Sunday, and now the Niners get to play with their new toy – Trey Lance. And Lance gets to do it on the road against the only undefeated team in the NFC. Welcome aboard, kid, and you had better be able to move the chains because the Cardinals are the highest-scoring team in the NFL through the first month of the season. Kyler Murray is making life miserable for defenses – and did we mention that SF’s D has given up the most points in the NFC West this season?SMALLEST TOTAL – Denver at Pittsburgh (40.5)Soul-searching time in western Pennsylvania, where the Steelers are 1-3 in a division where everyone else is 3-1. Ben Roethlisberger has dropped to 28th in the league QB rankings in what is almost guaranteed to be his final season. And now Ben gets to go up against what many believe is the league’s best defense. So far the offensively-challenged Broncs are hanging in in an AFC West where nobody is under .500. Interesting note: Every game both teams have played this year have gone Under.

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NFL Week 4 Breakdown

Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021

BEST GAME – Tampa Bay at New England (+5.5)Here’s today’s quiz: What is the only team that Tom Brady hasn’t beaten?A – The Patriots.That should all change by early evening next Sunday in Foxboro, where Brady and the Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers figure to lay waste to a Patriots team that is in disarray and has shown no signs that it is much better, if at all, than last year’s 7-9 non-playoff group. The Bucs have a few questions to answer themselves after getting pushed around by the Rams, but they are clearly superior to NE at this point – and Brady should be fuming as he prepares for the Pats this week.The early line had TB favored by the always-awkward 5.5 total, but that could go higher when bettors around the country see clips on just how bad the Patriots played against New Orleans.Unless Brady gets ultra stubborn and hangs around for another decade or so, or switches teams again, this will be his final appearance in Gillette. It will no doubt be an agonizing week for Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, who bet against TB12 once he got on the wrong side of 40.New England is hoping that rookie Mac Jones can develop into a reasonable facsimile of Brady the Game Manager when Brady was a pup in New England. Short passes, no turnovers, long clock-killing drives. Win 20-17 and move on. But that business model was at least temporarily blown to smitherines last Sunday by the Saints, who pressured Jones all day, induced three interceptions and sent the Patriots to 1-2.And now here comes Tom Brady to rub some salt into the wounds.WORST GAME – Detroit at Chicago (-6)Optimism in the Rust Belt is a rare commodity these days as the Lions and Bears are forced to dig themselves out of deep holes before the calendar even turns to October. In Chicago, Justin Fields may be questioning his career choice after the Browns bended, folded and mutilated him to the tune of 9 sacks. Fields completed just 6 of 20 passes for 68 yards. If there is any good news for the Bears it’s that they get two games against the Lions, who are an even hotter mess. Detroit is winless at 0-3, and with a 17th game on the schedule have a puncher’s shot at breaking their own record of 0-16, set in 2008.LARGEST SPREAD – Houston at Buffalo (-16.5)There’s talk that the Texans’ hard-line stance against QB DeShaun Watson might be softening a tad, but even Watson wouldn’t be able to do much against the Bills, who after two straight wins by a combined score of 88-21 look like they might have enough juice to give the Chiefs some problems in the playoffs. Sixteen and a half is a heavy carry, even against Houston, but the Bills have the highest-scoring offense in the AFC and appear to have moved past that (probable one-off) loss to the Steelers on Opening Day. The Texans could somehow score in the low 20s and might still not cover this number.SMALLEST SPREAD – Baltimore at Denver (+1)Denver comes into this one 3-0 SU and 3-0 ATS, but all three of those wins come with giant asterisks. The teams the Broncos have beaten – the Giants, Jaguars and Jets – are a combined and deserved 0-9 today. So the Ravens will be Denver’s first test, and if things go South against Baltimore, at least the Broncos will be 3-1 this time next week. Worse things have happened. Baltimore didn’t deserve to beat Detroit, but Justin Tucker’s NFL-record 66-yard FG as time expired got the job done.LARGEST TOTAL – Kansas City at Philadelphia (54.5)Who else but the Chiefs in this slot again? After being held to 24 points in a somewhat head-scratching loss to the Chargers, no doubt Andy Reid and the offense will work on some things this week. They will need to be ready, because the Eagles defense has shown some life in the early going. BTW, KC and the Chargers put 54 points on the board this past Sunday (30-24 LA), and the O/U number was 55.LOWEST TOTAL – Indianapolis at Miami (45.5)Presumed franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa is out until mid-October, and what that means to the Dolphins in the short term is anyone’s guess. The offense led by backup Jacoby Brissett was passable, but everyone knows Brissette is a stopgap until Tagovailoa comes back and the Fins can really evaluate where they are. The Colts, meanwhile, are four quarters away from cashing in their chips for the season.

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NFL Week 3 Break Down

Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

BEST GAME – Tampa Bay at Los Angeles Rams (-2)Just two weeks into the season, and this is the only game on the board between undefeated teams. Will Tom Brady lose even a smidgeon of the laser-type focus in this game with a trip to New England on the docket in Week 4? Don’t bet on it. TB12 would dearly love to toss a 3-0 record in Belichick’s puss when he plays might well be his final game ever in Gillette, in Week 4. As for the Rams, they’re lovin’ life again with new QB Matthew Stafford, and look like they’ll be in the mix in the unexpectedly tough NFC West. This game opened at -2 and so far has shown no signs of moving either way.WORST GAME – Atlanta at New York Giants (-3)The Falcons were able to hang with the Buccaneers until things went haywire in the late going, and you wonder how long Matt Ryan will be able to stay upright, engaged and competitive. Atlanta has not come close to either a win or a cover this season, and only the Giants’ own early-season ineptitude is keeping this line at a field goal. The Giants have been able to move the ball on offense, but the inability to finish off drives has led to a slew of field goals. This line has bounced around from 1.5 to 3.5, so you might be able to hold off and then hit this one when the number goes your way.LARGEST SPREAD – New York Jets at Denver (-11)The Broncos might be the worst possible opponent right now for shaken Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson, who threw four picks in his first home game and heard a few boos in this past Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. Oddsmakers don’t much like Wilson’s chances of picking himself off the mat; hence the heavy line. Denver has benefitted from a pillow-soft schedule (wins and covers against the Giants and Jaguars), and have their third straight kitten this coming Sunday. They’ll need to make hay while the sun shines, though, as they don’t have another easy game until they catch the Lions in mid-December. The line has already dropped from 11.5 and may fall another half-point when New York bettors check in.SMALLEST SPREAD – Seattle at Minnesota (+1)Seattle would no doubt be favored in this one were it not for its complete fourth-quarter/OT collapse and loss to the Titans in a game that was in the bank and drawing interest before Tennessee turned things around. The Seahawks now have to put that one in the rear view mirror and deal with a decent Vikings (0-2) team that has lost two games by a total of four points. The loser of this one might be ready of therapy. Most of the early money is backing Seattle.LARGEST TOTAL – Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (55)The Chiefs playing at home? Against the Chargers? Len Dawson and Abner Haynes against John Hadl and Lance Alworth? This one has a 1960s AFL feel to it already. Fifty-five could be an appetizing number for Over bettors, even though both LA games this season have gone under. For the record, the highest O/U total in NFL history is believed to be 64 – a 2018 game in Mexico City between the 9-1 Rams and the 9-1 Chiefs. That number could be challenged this season.LOWEST TOTAL – New York Jets at Denver (41.5)Back to Mile High for this one, where fans can look for the Jets to reel in Wilson after letting him throw the ball all over the field early on against the Patriots – and paying a price for doing so. Denver’s game plan is simple – score in the low 20s and let its opponent figure out a way to get more than field goals against one of the best defenses in the league.

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NFL Week 2 Breakdown

Tuesday, Sep 14, 2021

Week 2BEST GAME – San Francisco at Philadelphia (+3.5)The 49ers’ confusing quarterback situation got a little clarity – if only temporarily – when vet Jimmy Garoppolo was solid (314 yards and a TD) in SF’s opening day win at Detroit. Granted, it was just Detroit, but if Jimmy G had peed his pants or – worse – gotten injured again, it might have opened the door for fans to scream for Trey Lance. As it is, Garoppolo at minimum bought some time and a start at Philly in Week 2. We’ll see if spending nearly a full cumulative day in an airplane (to and from Detroit, to Philadelphia) affects the Niners. Early SF money bumped this one up a half-point, to Eagles +3.5.WORST GAME – Detroit at Green Bay (-10.5)Whatever is going on with Aaron Rodgers, it’s pretty clear that leading the Packers to a title this season is not his top priority right now. He looked disinterested and confused against the Saints on opening day, and it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin fans will react if he turns in another stinker in the first home game of what is certainly his final season in Green Bay. Fortunately for the Pack, the Lions are coming to town on Monday night and things are set up nicely for a rebound, so it’s unlikely that Rodgers will have to answer some very probing post-game questions about his motivation, or lack thereof.LARGEST SPREAD – Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-13)The second week of the season, and it’s already back to the drawing board time for the Falcons. Losing at home to a mediocre Eagles team is bad enough, but Atlanta did not have a single offensive play longer than 18 yards, and the only offense it was able to generate came in the form of two field goals. Now the Birds have to fix things on the fly before hitting the road to take on the defending champs, who will have had a few extra days for prep and rest after opening the season this past Thursday night. Brady is Brady, and if he shows his age this season it will most likely be later on. Right now he looks fresh and ready to roll. This game opened at 13.5 and was quickly bet down to 13.SMALLEST SPREAD – New Orleans at Carolina (-3)After the hurricane, the city of New Orleans was in desperate need of a pick-me-up, and Jameis Winston stepped forward in a big way. Five TD passes in a win over the Packers and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers? Anyone see THAT coming? Still, the Panthers are a somewhat puzzling favorite in this one after Carolina had to hold on for dear life in beating the Jets. Winston could be challenged in this one because the Panthers have improved their defense and had six sacks in the opener vs. New York. Long term, keep an eye on Christian McCaffrey, who had 21 carries and nine catches. Thirty touches a game is probably not physically sustainable over a 17-game season.LARGEST TOTAL – Kansas City at Baltimore (55.5)The opposite of limbo – how HIGH can you go? Four games (San Francisco-Philadelphia, Atlanta-Tampa Bay, Dallas-Los Angeles Chargers and this one) all have totals set at 50 or more. The Chiefs had just  enough offensive juice and just enough defensive lapses against the Browns for Over betters in Week 1, and no one really expects the train to slow down. The stars aren’t lined up for the Ravens defense, which had to play in Las Vegas on Monday night, travel back across the country and then get ready for the Chiefs on a short week.LOWEST TOTAL – New York Giants at Washington (41.5) (Thursday night)Under bettors cashed in on opening day, with 10 of the 15 games played through Sunday failing to reach the number. Blame the bookies, who know that the public likes to see scoring, and set the numbers somewhat artificially high to milk that tendency. The Giants and Washington both ran into defensive buzz saws in Week 1, New York rushing for only 60 yards (27 by QB Daniel Jones) in a loss at home to Denver, and WFT losing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to injury and coming up empty (also at home) against the Chargers.

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NFL Week 1 Breakdown

Sunday, Sep 05, 2021

Week 1BEST GAME – Pittsburgh at BuffaloA battle between one team hoping to take the Next Step and another desperate to bleed one more year out of its veteran quarterback. As if emerging QB Josh Allen wasn’t already one of the best in the league, his job got easier with the emergence of RB Devin Singletary as a potent weapon. Meanwhile, the Steelers will be relying on their defense this season and praying that Ben Roethlisberger’s 39-year-old battered body will grind its way through 17 games and one last decent playoff run. This game opened at Bills -6.5, and that number has held steady with early money pretty much evenly divided.WORST GAME – Jacksonville at HoustonAnyone and everyone who follows the NFL seems ready to toss dirt on both teams, and this could be the first time in league history that the No. 1 draft pick is determined on Opening Day. Houston, which still hasn’t figured out what to do with accused miscreant QB Deshaun Watson, is in full 76ers-type tank mode. Meanwhile, new Jags coach Urban Meyer has more than his share of problems repairing a team which lost its last 15 games last season, by an average margin of nearly 13 a game. Still, SOMEONE has to win, and the books like Jacksonville as a 3-point road favorite.LARGEST SPREAD – San Francisco at Detroit (+7.5)It’s always about the future for the Lions, and this season is no different. Sending out Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff is an obvious downgrade, and the receivers are hardly household names. Detroit really needs its O-Line to improve so it can make defenses at least somewhat respect the running game. If that’s not too encouraging, the Lions drew a short straw with SF in the opener. The Niners are a much better team than the injury ravaged 6-10 club of a year ago, and if they sort out the Garoppolo/Lance quarterback situation it could own the NFC West. Simply put, there is a huge talent gap here and the 49ers would have to turn over the ball several times to make this a game.SMALLEST SPREAD – Los Angeles Chargers at Washington (+1)This one opened as a PK until some early Charger cash pushed it to 1. LA has its 10-year franchise quarterback, which is always the most expensive and difficult part of a rebuilding franchise. Now the Chargers just have to build on Justin Herbert’s foundation. HC Brandon Staley figures to make the defense better and avoid last year’s maddening string of close losses. The WFT most likely won’t be able to win the NFC East with 7 or 8 wins this year, but playing in the worst division does have its perks. Can a good draft and athletes all around cover for aging (he turns 39 the day before Thanksgiving) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? This one opened as a PK until some early Charger cash pushed it to Washinton +1.LARGEST TOTAL – Cleveland at Kansas City (53.5)Tough opener for the Browns, who are coming off an 11-win season and want to keep the momentum flowing this season. There will be immediate pressure on a Cleveland secondary which was awful last season and rebuilt over the summer. The good news is that the Browns figure to be able to move the ball against a mediocre Chiefs defense. Over players figure to hit this one hard despite the large number.LOWEST TOTAL – Denver at New York Giants (42.5)Wasn’t that long ago that the average betting total in an NFL game was 41. This week no game is that low, and six games opened at 50 or above (although Seattle-Indianapolis was quickly bet down to 48.5). Bettors are looking at a Giants QB, Daniel Jones, who was just ok in the pre-season, and a Denver defense that will carry the Broncos this year. Hardly a recipe for a lot of points.

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2021-22 NBA: Western Conference Season Win Totals

Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021

Looking at the Over / Under totals for this coming (82-game) NBA season and what has to go right for each team to hit the Over number:DALLAS MAVERICKS (48.5) – We know what megastar Luka Doncic brings to the table, but any chance Over bettors have here lies in him getting along with pouting center Kristaps Porzingis. Will Porzingis get enough touches to feel like he’s a real part of the offense, or will Doncic do his thing and force the big guy to search for table scraps?DENVER NUGGETS (46.5) – The number would be higher were it not for the fact that Jamal Murray (ACL) won’t be ready for the start of the season. Can Denver rely on another MVP-type season from Nikola Jokic? A full season of Aaron Gordon will help, and big things are expected from Michael Porter Jr. after his breakout season in 2020-21.GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (48.5) – Back-to-back severe injuries to Klay Thompson sent the Warriors to the lottery two straight times, and now GS is in no-man’s land – desperate to take advantage of every year they can from Stephen Curry but wanting to play youngsters like James Wiseman. Quite a balancing act. Thompson needs to be Thompson for the Dubs to get near 50 wins and be a factor again in the West.HOUSTON ROCKETS (27.5) – Twenty-eight wins for a team in the infancy stages of a complete rebuild seems a heavy lift, but the Rockets have some talent, they play hard and they have added dynamo rookie Jalen Green to the mix. Green has to figure things out early, and other youngsters have to emerge for Houston to sniff the Play-In tournament.LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (45.5) – Even when he’s healthy, you never know when Kawhi Leonard is going to, you know, play. Now that he’s hurt, the Clips don’t expect him on the court at all this season. And Paul George just doesn’t have the chops to carry this team on his back. So look for a step backward. Whether that’s a fall-off-the-cliff situation or a low-lottery spot is anyone’s guess.LOS ANGELES LAKERS (53.5) – Lots of veterans, lots of load management, lots of depth. The Lakers add Russell Westbrook and banana boat buddy Carmelo Anthony to the rotation, but it once again all hinges on LeBron James holding off Father Time and Anthony Davis staying relatively healthy. A mid-50s win total seems reachable.MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (41.5) – Patient through the rebuild, Grizz fans figure that this will be a turn-the-corner season. Ja Morant should get better, and Memphis is crossing its fingers that talented big Jaren Jackson Jr. will be relatively healthy all year. The key players are all young, but new vets Steven Adams and Rajon Rondo will help settle things down when the waters get choppy.MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (34.5) – Over players might want to take a long look at the Wolves, who recently added Patrick Beverly to make sure the other players don’t fall asleep during games. Anthony Edwards is a star in the making, and Karl-Anthony Towns has not shown himself to be a flight risk (yet, anyway). So there’s hope in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (38.5) – All the franchise’s eggs are in the Zion Williamson basket, and if the Pelicans don’t crush the 38.5 number and get to the playoffs, he may be making trade demands that set back the organization. Again. With Lonzo Ball gone, second-year Kira Lewis should start at PG, though much of the offense will again run through Williamson. Still, this a team is on edge waiting for Zion to decide if he wants to be there long-term.OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (23.5) – Let’s see. There’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And not much else. OKC always seem to play everyone tough, but it’s a talent league – and there’s not much here besides a boatload of first-round draft choices. But that’s for later on, and right now the Thunder will be hard-pressed to win three games a month.PHOENIX SUNS (51.5) – The Suns managed to stay relatively healthy while other teams took turns losing key players to injury. Can the good fortune continue? Will the defending conference champions  downsize Chris Paul’s minutes (he turns 37 next May) to keep him fresh for the playoffs? Load management could keep them short of the 52-30 Over players would need to cash.PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (44.5) – Portland’s business model never seems to change: Get to the playoffs and hope Damian Lillard goes nuts for a month or two, and see what happens. That’s pretty much the plan again, unless management breaks up the Lillard-McCollum backcourt that has started together since 2015. As in New Orleans, there is intense pressure to win.SACRAMENTO KINGS (35.5) – Guard heavy and starving for wings, the Kings could be making a move or two between now and training camp. Buddy Hield is a prime trade candidate. They love newcomer Davion Mitchell, and to see him energizing a defense that last season was one of the worst in NBA history.SAN ANTONIO SPURS (28.5) – Having such a low O/U number seems weird for the Spurs, but they’ve been out of the playoffs for two seasons now, and heading into the season without an obvious All-Star to build around. Maybe Gregg Popovich should have pocketed the Olympic gold and called it quits. This season won’t be easy for him.UTAH JAZZ (51.5) – The Jazz laid it all on the line last season (52-20) but didn’t have another gear for the playoffs. Books see a moderate regression this season, with the same number of wins but over an 82-game slog. Can the Jazz even come close to winning 86 percent of their home games, as they did last season?

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2021-22 NBA: Eastern Conference Season Win Totals

Monday, Aug 16, 2021

Looking at the Over / Under totals for this coming (82-game) NBA season and what has to go right for each team to hit the Over number:ATLANTA HAWKS (47.5) – The Hawks are all in, ponying up the cash to keep forward John Collins and keeping the ball in the hands of Trae Young. They came out of nowhere to make it to the EC finals last season, so opponents won’t be caught by surprise this time around.BOSTON CELTICS (47.5) – Oddsmakers appear to think that last year’s 36-36 season was an aberration. New coach Ime Udoka promises more ball movement and better defense (both were lacking in 2020-21). Can a boatload of above-average veterans (Schroder, Horford, Josh Richardson) lift the overall games of All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum?BROOKLYN NETS (55.5) – Steep hill to climb for a team whose 3-cylinder (Irving, Durant, Harden) engine needs constant repair. Do the stars take things easy, stay healthy and rest up for the playoffs, or do they put the pedal to the metal and lay waste to the league like everyone thinks they can? Answer that and you’ll know whether to play the Over or Under.CHARLOTTE HORNETS (36.5) – Every team dealt with injuries last season, Charlotte among them. But even with LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward apparently healthy again, books figure that the Hornets are a fringe playoffs contender at best. Lots of young talent that needs to take a step forward in the improved East.CHICAGO BULLS (39.5) – Bulls could take a step back (despite adding Lonzo Ball) if they have to cut bait with Laurie Markkanen and get nothing in return, but they still have lots of talent. How can a team with Ball, Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozen and Nikola Vucevic not get to at least .500?CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (28.5) – Are Jarrett Allen and rookie Evan Mobley the new Tim Duncan/David Robinson? And do the Cavs roll with the kids or bleed what they can out of Kevin Love to make a run at the Play-In tournament? Will Collin Sexton blow up team chemistry with crazy shot selection? Should be fun on and off the court with this group.DETROIT PISTONS (25.5) – Detroit hit paydirt with Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey last season, then lucked out with the No. 1 pick and grabbed Cade Cunningham. Add in second-year burner Killian Hayes, and the pieces are in place. If the kids don’t freak out early, the Pistons could be trouble faster than anyone thinks.INDIANA PACERS (43.5) – The Pacers seem paralyzed by fear of falling to the bottom of the conference, so they don’t make big moves that could elevate the franchise. All their key players (Brogdon, Sabonis, LeVert) are in their prime ages (mid- to late-20s), but Indy is still a few stars short of a move up.MIAMI HEAT (48.5) – Pat Riley will worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. For today he has added 35-year-old Kyle Lowry to a starting five that was already more than decent. A rebound year from Victor Oladipo and improvement from coming-of-agers Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson would probably mean 50-plus wins in South Beach.MILWAUKEE BUCKS (54.5) – Would you rather have a trophy or a first-round draft pick? The Bucks figured it out, built around Giannis Antetokounmpo and let nature take its course. Covering 54.5 would mean two wins in every three games for an entire season – tough for a team that could be tempted to rest on its laurels pre-All Star break.NEW YORK KNICKS (40.5) – Oddsmakers apparently don’t like the off-season moves (Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier) all that much, and that should produce a slew over Over wagers from NY-area fans who figure that they at least have to get to .500. Don’t they?ORLANDO MAGIC (24) – If the Magic move Terrance Ross and make no new additions, the entire roster will be under the age of 30, and most will be in their early 20s. Thus the low O/U number. If there is one truism in the Association, it’s that young teams lose. A lot.PHILADELPHIA 76ers (51.5) – Lots of pessimism surrounding this team after yet another playoff flameout, and now management looks like it will have to lower its asking price for one-foot-out-the-door PG Ben Simmons. Philly is just one Joel Embiid injury away from the Play-In tournament.TORONTO RAPTORS (37.5) – Kyle Lowry is gone, Goran Dragic is on board but doesn’t want to be, and Toronto is rebuilding with a group of veterans. Got all that? Raptors aren’t even 100 percent sure they will play their home games in Canada this season.WASHINTON WIZARDS (34.5) – Management has plenty of incentive to win at all costs, since its only real All-Star, Bradley Beal, can walk away next summer. Roster has only spotty talent, however, and they need good health for Beal and a strong season from newcomer Spencer Dinwiddie to get to even 35 wins.

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2021 NFL: Looking at the O/U Totals for the NFC

Thursday, Aug 05, 2021

NFC EASTJerry Jones must be tearing his hair out with the Cowboys failing every year to take advantage in the NFL’s weakest division. Even with six division games against the likes of Washington, the Giants and the Eagles, oddsmakers have set the Boys’ Over / Under total at just 9 (in a 17-game season). Winning double digits used to be ice cream for Dallas, but these days nothing is guaranteed in north Texas. At least the quarterback situation is settled after months of uncertainty, and Dak Prescott is probably the best of a mediocre lot in the division.***It’s entirely possible that both New York teams finish last in their divisions this season. Giants’ O / U is set at 7.5 in most places, and Over bettors would have to see lots go right before cashing. Daniel Jones needs a breakout season. It that doesn’t happen, there’s little chance of getting to 8 wins.***It looks like Washington will roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, and that – along with a solid defense – might be enough to get the Football Team to limp to another East title and a playoff berth. Getting to 9 wins (the O / U is set at 8) seems attainable.***Says a lot about your franchise when a soft schedule in a soft division is one of your top assets, and the O / U is still only 6.5. Then again, maybe last season (4-12, last place) was a one-off for the Birds. Carson Wentz is gone, and no one is really sure if Jalen Hurts is the QB of the future. He’ll have all of this season to establish himself.NFC NORTHGreen Bay fans are now able to sleep at night now that Aaron Rodgers didn’t follow through on his bluff to sit out the season, and oddsmakers have settled on 10 as the Pack’s O / U number. Whether they can get to the 11 needed to cash is another matter, and a lot depends on Rodgers’s frame of mind. Will he show management who’s boss by being a locker room diva, or will he drop the drama and produce the same numbers on the field that he has in the recent past? And what about NEXT year? Will the spring/summer of 2022 bring more of the same?***Minnesota (9) looked ready to pounce if things went south for GB, but then the Vikes developed a QB situation of its own when Kirk Cousins and two backups were sidelined due to Covid concerns. Now coach Mike Zimmer is beside himself, and bettors with Over tickets are wondering if they made a huge mistake.***The Lions (4.5) are the Lions, and it doesn’t appear that much is going to change. Except the quarterback (Matthew Stafford is gone, Kared Goff is in), the head coach (Matt Patricia is out, Dan Campbell is in) and a lot of other players.***The Bears (7.5) are saying that Justin Fields will not be thrown to the wolves right away and that Andy Dalton will start the season under center. One bad loss will probably change that.NFC SOUTHThe Super Bowl-champion Bucs will be running it back with the same cast of characters that flourished under Tom Brady, and if you like the Over you’ll have to swallow hard because the number is most places has been set at an aggressive 12. The uber-competitive Brady enters the season at 44 years old, but what’s lost in the talk about his age is that he has very good offensive players around him – and the Tampa Bay defense isn’t bad, either.***Drew Brees is gone, and while the Saints (9) still have talent, none one knows what’s going to happen under center. Jameis Winston has shown he can still play, but Taysom Hill could beat him out.***Atlanta (projected at 7.5) needs a re-boot, but will run Matt Ryan out for another season. The offense will be different, with Julio Jones gone and rookie TE Kyle Pitts now a primary focus.***Carolina is also at 7.5, and whether you think the Panthers can cover that number depends on how you feel about Jets reject Sam Darnold, who threw more interceptions (11) than TDs (9) last season.NFC WESTAfter all their draft shenanigans, the 49ers could be blowing smoke. But so far they say they REALLY like what they’re seeing in rookie QB Trey Lance, and maybe the plan to start vet Jimmy Garoppolo will be altered before it even gets going. As far as betting goes, can Lance get San Francisco to 11 wins (the O / U is 10.5) in his first season if he DOES get the job?***After last year’s .500 season Arizona is smack dab in the middle of the projection pack again at 8.5, and the feeling is that the Cardinals seem ready to kick things into high gear.***Russell Wilson has been a double-digit winner for Seattle in every year except 2017 (9 wins then), so the 10-win projection this time seems doable.***The Rams (10.5) went 10-6 last season and seem absolutely giddy about their prospects with Matthew Stafford replacing Jared Goff, and an easy schedule that includes the likes of Houston and the Giants makes LA backers smile even more.

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2021 NFL: Looking at the AFC Over/Under Totals

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

AFC EASTCan the Jets get to 7-10 in a season in which the AFC East has three solid teams? Gang Green would probably have to go 2-4 in the division to have a shot at beating the posted 6.5 win total, and it’s hard to see that happening with so much inexperience – including at the two most important spots, quarterback and head coach. New York’s chances of getting to seven wins depends on Zach Wilson having a Justin Herbert-like first season, and the rest of the roster more than pulling its weight for new boss Robert Saleh.***Division favorite Buffalo (10.5) went 6-0 in the East last season, but that is unlikely this time around. OTOH, the Bills have more depth than at any time in the last two decades.***New England’s number (9) seems just about right, but to cash an Over ticket at 10-7 they have to figure out whether they are going to ride it out with Cam Newton or turn the club over to rookie Mac Jones.***Miami is also at 9, and a lot depends on how the Dolphins react to a tough early schedule. There is no easy game until Week 6 (Jacksonville). The Fins got to 10-6 last season, but were even better (11-5) ATS.AFC NORTHSteelers fans weren’t sure that Ben Roethlisberger would be under center again this season, and that pretty much sums up the uncertainty surrounding this franchise. Pittsburgh’s number has been set at a modest 8.5, which befits a team that lost four of its last five last season after starting 11-0. The Steelers are disappearing from annual Super Bowl discussions, and now the question is if – and how – they can maintain their elite status as a playoff team and prevent a slide into the NFL muck. This is perhaps the toughest O / U bet on the board this season.***Will running QB Lamar Jackson actually make it all the way through a 17-game season? Are opponents starting to figure out the Ravens’ offense? If the answer to either question is yes, 11 appears to be a high total.***With an improved secondary and every key player back, Cleveland (10.5) will get a long look from Over players. Getting to 11 would signify that the franchise has indeed turned the corner.***Joe Burrow should be back and healthy, but the low number (6.5) tells us that oddsmakers don’t like the Bengals’ chances in what could be the best division in the NFL.AFC SOUTHCarson Wentz’s foot injury has scrambled the betting for every team in the division. The Colts’ QB still doesn’t know how much time he’ll miss – the team says he will be back at some point in 2021 – and that has taken the Colts’ number completely off the board. Indy was projected at 9.5 before the injury, and that was even with a questionable left side of the O line. Even if the Colts deal for a QB (there was talk of a trade with Minnesota before Covid hit the Vikings’ QB room), the next number will be much lower than 9.5.***If Wentz is missing for the two Titans games (Sept. 26 and Oct. 31), the path to 10 wins (the number is 9.5) gets much easier. A word of caution to those looking at the Over: Tennessee won a lot of tight games last season. If the law of averages catches up with the Titans . . . well, you know.***Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence looks like the real deal, but can he drag the Jags to seven wins? The number is 6.5, and seems just about right. They would likely need three wins in the division to get there.***You would think that a team could go 5-12 just by showing up, but this is Houston and the Deshaun Watson mess and a bad roster all-around says that Under players will be cashing even with the total being a meager 4.5.AFC WESTEighty percent of the offensive line will be newcomers, and that’s a bit of a red flag for anyone figuring that an Over play on Kansas City (12.5) is a lock. Still, there is plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the Chiefs have enough depth there to just wear down teams over the course of the season. Going 5-1 in the division is more than reasonable as the Chargers, Broncos and Raiders are all in the decent-but-not-yet-there muddle.***The Chargers’ number has been pinned at 9.5, so bettors need to decide if LA has improved enough to go 10-7. Only two games last season were blowouts.***The Broncos (8.5) are another team that could go anywhere, but without a franchise QB it’s hard to justify an Over play. There is talent up and down the roster, though, but perhaps not enough to complete for the last of a playmaking QB.***Join the club if you can’t figure out what’s going on in Sin City, where the Raiders (7) have been hemorrhaging players and the quarterback situation always is fluid until David Carr wins the job back.

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Funny Thing, Those NFL Playoffs

Sunday, Jul 25, 2021

You figure if your team is good enough to make it in last year, with some upgrades through the draft, free agency and trades you’d be able to return the following year. But every season roughly half of the teams fall by the wayside. Out with the old, in with the new. So if form holds this coming season, about seven of the 14 qualifiers from last winter will be on the outs, replaced by .  . . who knows?Here are the betting odds, with the three teams who didn’t qualify last season mostly likely to crash the party this time; and the three longest shots among 2020-21’s non-qualifiers.Shortest odds for getting in:San Francisco 49ers (-175) – It’s all about the quarterback, isn’t it? But no one knows right now who SF likes at the position. Always-injured Jimmy Garoppolo somehow remains on the roster, even as first-round draft pick Trey Lance waits his turn. The NFC West sent two teams (Rams, Seahawks) to the playoffs last season, and with seven teams in the post-season mix it’s possible that three teams could make it. The Niners would have to flip a 6-10 record to 10-7 to have a shot, and oddsmakers like their chances of doing just that.Dallas Cowboys (-150) – The Boys are another 6-10 team starving for a playoff berth, Jerry Jones figuring that a 26-year Super Bowl drought is long enough. The good news is that QB Dak Prescott has signed that long-sought contract extension and appears recovered from that ankle injury that shortened his 2020 season. The better news is that the Cowboys play in the NFC East, where Mediocrity is king and 10-7 is likely to be good enough to win it.Miami Dolphins (+130) – That 30-point loss to Buffalo in the season finale last year notwithstanding, the Dolphins feel like the arrow is pointing up. With New England on the skids, it doesn’t appear that the AFC East is a locked door these days. Miami is all in on QB Tua Tagovailoa, after rumors that the Fins would seek to upgrade the position. Speaking of upgrades, Miami has nibbled at the margins, notable wide receiver, but it’s basically the same cast as last season’s.Teams with longest odds to crack the playoff party:Cincinnati Bengals (+450) – In a nutshell, here’s the Bengals’ problem: The other three teams in the AFC North – Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland – had a combined record of 34-14 last season, and all three made the playoffs. At least one of those three will have to have serious engine trouble to open the door for Cincinnati. There are a few encouraging signs, however. QB Joe Burrow appears to be recovered nicely from last year’s season-ending knee injury, and the Bengals uncharacteristically signed 10 free agents.New York Jets (+500) – See you later, Sam Darnold. Hello, Zach Wilson. Welcome to a team that had one of the worst offenses in the NFL last season. Even if Wilson is the real deal, it’s hard to see how he makes the offense considerably better, considering the talent gap at so many spots. Job One for new coach Robert Saleh is making sure that the offensive line is good enough to keep Wilson upright and healthy for the best part of 17 games. Even then, getting to double digits in wins looks like a pipedream.Houston Texans (+750) – Was it all that long ago that Houston had the Defensive Player of the Year (J.J. Watt), one of the best quarterbacks in the league (Deshaun Watson) and one of the NFL’s best wideouts (DeAndre Hopkins)? With Watt and Hopkins in Arizona, and Watson plotting ways to stay out of jail, the cupboard is pretty bare in south Texas. For the record, 30-something Tyrod Taylor will be the fill-in at QB while the front office spends most of the season scouting college signal-callers.

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Suns and Bucks - NBA Finals Preview

Sunday, Jul 04, 2021

It was as incomplete an NBA season as the Association has experienced in more than two decades, or since the owners locked out the players in 1998, shortened the season to 50 games and flat-out canceled the All-Star Game.Yet here we are, finally, with Phoenix and Milwaukee the last two teams standing and ready to begin play and vie for the honor of being the league Covid champion. With so many teams, including the favored and defending champion Lakers, forced to look on helplessly from the sidelines at least partially due to injuries to key players, the spotlight now shines on the Suns and Bucks.Phoenix has opened as a slight -170 betting favorite, due in no small part to the fact that all three of the Suns’ key players – Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton – are running up and down the court and not watching the game on a TV in the trainer’s room. Milwaukee’s all-everything Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t missed that much in the Bucks’ Eastern Conference finals win over the Hawks, but that will change in a hurry when the Finals begin on Tuesday. If Antetokounmpo is anywhere near close to returning, the Bucks (+150 to win the title) aren’t saying. So we all assume that he’s out until he’s not.Phoenix heads into Tuesday night’s opener at home with several distinct advantages:THE SUNS ARE HEALTHY – The starting five of Booker, Paul, Ayton, Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges – is dealing with the usual minor aches and pains, but it will be in tact at least at the start of the series. This could force Milwaukee’s remaining go-to players – Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday – to play extended minutes against a Phoenix team that loves to push the pace. The Bucks will have to figure out a way to not fall off the edge of the Earth when they go to their bench.THE SUNS ARE RESTED – Finishing off the Clippers on June 30 in the Western Conference finals has given the Suns a full week of rest before the opening game (at home, no less), while the Bucks will have just two days off (plus a long plane ride) to get ready. Paul, Ayton and Booker played a combined 117 minutes in the WC Game 6 clincher, and their legs needed some time off.THE SUNS HAVE CHRIS PAUL – Paul’s playoff failings are well-documented, but this is a chance for the 35-year-old veteran to put them all in the rearview mirror and finally get the chip needed to fill out his post-career bio. Paul put the hammer down on LA in the final game of that series, putting together one of the finest games in his career – 41 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and – amazingly – zero turnovers.THE SUNS HAVE MOMENTUM – Seems like just yesterday that the Suns piggy-backed their way into the Bubble only because the NBA wanted to showcase Zion Williamson, then won eight straight games. That should have been a clue that things were different in the desert after a long playoff drought. And when Paul got traded to the Suns by Oklahoma City in the off-season, it provided yet another jolt of energy to the franchise. Phoenix surprised everyone, going 51-21 in the regular season and 42-28-2 ATS (second-best, only to the Knicks).THE SUNS HAVE AYTON – And Ayton is developing into one of the top bigs in the league. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs the Bucks have been able to utilize Brook Lopez’s size to their advantage against smaller centers. That dynamic has been flipped on its head, and now it’s Lopez who will have his hands full against the powerful Ayton.Antetokounmpo or no Antetokounmpo, the Suns appear to have the edge as one of the more interesting NBA Finals in a long time gets under way. Phoenix is a 5.5-point favorite in Game 1. The money line is Phoenix -220, Bucks +190, and the O/U is 217.

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2021 NBA Playoffs: The Western Conference 2nd Round Preview

Monday, Jun 07, 2021

A look at the upcoming Western Conference playoffs:Phoenix vs. DenverSeries odds – Phoenix -225, Denver +180Odds to win Western Conference: Phoenix +290, Denver +900Odds to win NBA title: Phoenix +850, Denver +1800If this is the end of the Lakers’ run with LeBron James, let the record show that execution was carried out by the long-suffering Phoenix Suns, who kicked butt (8-0) in the bubble last fall and picked right off where they left off. If the Suns were bummed out that all the second-best record in the West got them a first-round date with the James / Anthony Davis Lakers, they didn’t show it. Led by Devin Booker, Phoenix bended, folded and mutilated the aging James and the ailing Davis. Phoenix laughed at oddsmakers who made LA the favorite to win its second straight title, then went out and took apart the Lakers in six games. The Suns now flip the script and become the favorites in their West semifinal matchup with a weirdly inconsistent Nuggets team, which is led by consensus league MVP Nikola Jokic. Jokic is as comfortable beyond the 3-point line as he is on the block, and no team is the league has yet figured out exactly what to do about him. As if that wasn’t enough, Phoenix will also have to deal with emerging star Michael Porter Jr., who has stepped up big-time to fill the shoes of injured (and out for the season) guard Jamal Murray. Porter will have his hands full on the defensive end, as no guard tandem in the league is playing better right now than Booker and PG Chris Paul. The No. 2-seed Suns are favored in this series, but it would hardly be a major upset if the Nuggets – even without Murray – figure out a way to get it done.Utah vs. Los Angeles ClippersSeries odds – Utah -123, Los Angeles +113Odds to win Western Conference: Utah +125, Los Angeles +260Odds to win NBA title: Utah +325, Los Angeles +650NBA marketing types are breathing a little easier today after the Clippers were able to advance, and the league dodged a second bullet of having another LA team laid waste in the playoffs. Losing the defending champ Lakers was bad enough, but not having the Clips in even the second round would have been tough to swallow. No worries, though. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George made sure that the home team would win at least one time in the series, and took Game 7 against the Mavericks. Now, just two days later the Clippers must start all over again – against a rested best-in-the-West Utah team that hasn’t played since eliminating Memphis on June 2. The Jazz earned the top seed by winning 52 games (in a full 82-game season that would play out to 59), and would go down in history as the most anonymous NBA champion ever if they can pull it off. Donovan Mitchell is a legit star and Rudy Gobert has been protecting rims for nearly a decade, but after that? There’s a Bogdanovic, but no one really knows which one. And whatever is left of Mike Conley. Jordan Clarkson has been dynamite off the bench. Somehow coach Quinn Snyder makes it all work, and the Jazz will be favored in the series despite the fact that home teams in the Dallas/LA series went 1-6. The Clippers were able to hold off the Mavericks partly because the Mavs just didn’t have the horses to match LA’s production, especially off the bench. Luka Doncic was Luka Doncic (he averaged nearly 40 points in the four games in LA), but the Clippers were more than able to match that with Leonard and George, and LA had an edge in everything else.

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2021 NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference 2nd Round Preview

Friday, Jun 04, 2021

Milwaukee vs. BrooklynSeries odds – Brooklyn -200, Milwaukee +160Odds to win Eastern Conference: Brooklyn -139, Milwaukee +255Odds to win NBA title: Brooklyn +170, Milwaukee +550Road kill in the improved East included last year’s finalists, Boston and Miami, who won a grand total of one game in making graceful exits and turning the spotlight over to the final four. Brooklyn, which completed a Gentleman’s Sweep of the Celtics, looked almost bored at times behind its Big Three of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets will have to pay a little more attention to detail against the Bucks, but Brooklyn is still a heavy favorite to get to the conference semis. Oddsmakers, handicappers and bettors also like them to reach the Finals. Injuries and Irving’s quirks cost Brooklyn the top seed in the East, but the Nets now appear locked, loaded and – most importantly – healthy in anticipation of a long playoff run. There had been concern that the arrival of Harden early in the season would mess with the team’s chemistry and offensive flow, but the Nets’ ISO styler is as simplistic as it is difficult to stop. Harden either shoots or drives, and if he’s double-teamed, some other tremendous shooter (and don’t forget Joe Harris) will get an open look. Easy peasy. On the defensive end  . . . well no one cares all that much about defense when the offense is so good. The Nets averaged more than 119 a game against Boston. Nuff said. Milwaukee should put up more of a fight, though, coming off a vacation of a sweep of the Heat. The Bucks squeaked by in Game 1, but the final three games weren’t close. It all begins and ends with Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course, but it will be curious to see how the Nets deal with Brook Lopez. Brooklyn got away with using Blake Griffin at the 5 against Boston, but that probably won’t get it done against Lopez (who had 25 vs. Miami in the clincher).Atlanta vs. PhiladelphiaSeries odds – Philadelphia -190, Atlanta +155Odds to win Eastern Conference: Philadelphia +450, Atlanta +1500Odds to win NBA title: Philadelphia +1000, Atlanta +3300After years in the Eastern Conference wilderness, the Hawks are finally starting to put it together. They brought in Clint Capela last year, they brought in Lou Williams mid-season this year and they decided to hang on to John Collins not knowing if they will be able to sign Collins this summer. And oh yeah, that Trae Young kid can also play a little. Young basically stole the Knicks’ lunch money four times in Round 1, forcing New York to turn to aging Derrick Rose at the point. No dice. Young & Co. put an end to the Knicks’ feel-good season, and now they turn their attention to Philadelphia. The 76ers are under tremendous pressure to get it done after several playoff flameouts, and they appear to be out of excuses. They have MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who at times (make that most of the time) was impossible to stop in the Round 1 vs. Washington, and they have maybe the best defensive small in the league in Ben Simmons. The trick in this series is 76ers coach Doc Rivers figuring how to deal with things when the Hawks back off Simmons and dare him to shoot. Because Simmons doesn’t shoot from beyond 12 feet. Ever. Philly is a decent favorite in this series, but weird things seem to happen to the Sixers after the regular season ends. And Atlanta is at the top of its game right now. Might be an opening there for Hawk backers to cash.

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A Look at the NBA’s Play-In Tournament

Monday, May 17, 2021

EASTERN CONFERENCETuesdayWashington (8) at Boston (7)Celtics  -1.5      O/U 234Weird season all around, but none weirder than Washington’s. The Wizards opened the season 3-12, and then things started to go bad. There were five- and four-game losing streaks post All-Star Game, but here they are knocking on the door against a gasping Celtics team. Washington rode a resurgent Russell Westbrook to eight straight wins in a 12-5 April that moved the Wizards back in the playoff hunt. The Wizards have more than a puncher’s chance against Boston, which was outscored despite winning two of three against Washington. The Celtics, who are in disarray defensively and still haven’t yet figured out a way to cover for tiny guard Kemba Walker, were torched by Bradley Beal this year. Beal averaged nearly 42 in the three games vs. Boston, which has given up huge nights to numerous guards all year. Jaylen Brown (wrist) is out for the season, leaving the bulk of the scoring load to Walker and Jayson Tatum. Look for Washington to double-team Tatum all night; he struggles to find open teammates when swarmed.TuesdayCharlotte (10) at Indiana (9)Pacers  -3.5    O/U 229Heading into the post-season with five straight losses isn’t quite what Charlotte had in mind. The Hornets will now have to win two straight road games after blowing an 11-point lead and losing to Washington in the final regular season game. That’s a big problem, but not the only big problem for Charlotte. They need to figure out what to do with Pacers bigs Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Sabonis is an all-star who averaged better 20 and 12 this season, and Turner blocks nearly four shots a game and will make things problematic for LaMelo Ball’s drives. If things weren’t bad enough for Charlotte, Swiss army knife Gordon Hayward doesn’t expect to be able to go in the Play-In Tournament; Hayward missed 24 of the Hornets’ 72 games this season, and Charlotte was 8-16 in those games. If there is any consolation for Charlotte, it’s that Indy was atrocious at home this season, going 13-23 – the worst home record of any team in the post-season this year.WESTERN CONFERENCEWednesdaySan Antonio (10) at Memphis (9)Grizzlies -3.5     O/U 225.5How many times has San Antonio played a post-season game and NOT had the best player in the series? Not too often, but that will be the case in this one-and-doner. The Grizzlies feature up-and-coming star Ja Morant and a whole lot of people who know their roles, and accept them. SA got its fill of Morant when the Grizzlies overpowered the Spurs in back-to-back games just before the All-Star break. But that set of games three months of go featured a different San Antonio defense. Since then LaMarcus Aldridge has been jettisoned and a younger 5-man, Jakob Poeltl, has taken over. San Antonio isn’t exactly breezing into the Play-In – the Spurs closed the season with four straight losses. But in a single game, would you bet against any team coached by Gregg Popovich? That would take plenty of courage. The Grizz, meanwhile, are young and strong and running against the wind, and figure to be a tough out if they manage to get past San Antonio and into the playoffs proper.WednesdayGolden State (8) at Los Angeles Lakers (7)Lakers -6.5      O/U 222.5LeBron James saw this one coming a mile away while he was rehabbing a sprained ankle that kept him off the court for several weeks. Now it’s a reality, and while the NBA no doubt is delighted with the TV rating that a James-Steph Curry match will no doubt draw, James will be grouchy as the defending champions face the possibility of having to win one of the next two before even thinking about the real playoffs. The Warriors sans Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant still managed to finish six games over .500 this season in the West, and it’s clear to anyone and everyone that Golden State – which won the NBA title only two years ago – will sink or swim on whether Curry (the NBA scoring champ this season) can continue his torrid shooting. The Lakers, meanwhile, did everything they could to avoid the Play-In, winning their final five games. But they needed help elsewhere, and didn’t get it. To make matters worse, James seemed to re-injure his ankle in the season finale on Sunday. Wild horses won’t keep him off the court against GS, but will he be at 100 percent?

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The Play In Teams

Sunday, May 09, 2021

LeBron James didn’t much like it when the NBA announced that this season would start only a few months after the Bubble Championship series in Orlando, and maybe now we know why.With the start of the playoffs just around the corner, James has been hobbling around on a bad ankle that caused him to miss 24 of the Lakers’ first 67 games. When he comes back is anyone’s guess, and how he’ll play WHEN he does return is also a matter of conjecture.Assuming James does return, there is a distinct possibility that it will be for a Lakers team that will be forced to fight for table scraps along with a few other under-performing teams in the Western Conference Play-In tournament. (Note: James, unsurprisingly, doesn’t like the new format any more than he liked the too-early late start to the season.)Healthy, the Lakers were a solid +400 favorite to win it all again. Anthony Davis, it was figured, was good enough to take some of the pressure off James in James’s 36-year-old season, and the two had enough of a supporting cast to turn things on in the playoffs and grab their 18th world championship.But James’s ankle sprain suffered on March 20 changed everything. LA was 28-14 when James when down, and after that won just 9 of the next 25. Even scarier, James has been musing that he may never be back to 100 percent.Barring a strong finish, the Lakers may have to deal with being the Western Conference’s 7th seed and in a scary first game against the young-and-hungry Grizzlies or the Steph Curry-led Warriors.As for the odds, James’s injury has created a betting opportunity for Lakers backers who believe that the King Unleashed will still find a way to get it done. Uber-talented Brooklyn has leap-frogged LA and is the +220 favorite, but the Lakers remain a favorite at +375 to come out of the West.The Lakers aren’t the only NBA heavy hitter that could be forced to eat humble pie in the Play-In tournament. In the East, either Miami (which reached the Bubble Finals last year) or 17-time World Champion Boston appears likely to finish 7th.Miami has spurted past the listless Celtics with decent play since late April, but the Heat have been playing catchup all year after a dreadful start. Whatever they had bottled in beating Boston to get to the Finals against the Lakers six months ago was lost in a sea of poor defense and poor shooting. The Heat lost a ton of games early despite having double-digit leads, and at their lowest point had fallen to 11th place in the East.The Sons of Pat Riley didn’t figure to be in this position, especially after acquiring Victor Oladipo in a what they thought would be a right-the-ship move. But Oladipo has been out with a knee injury, and at best figures to be back at the start of the playoffs (if the Heat even get in a best-of-seven set). Never high on the Heat to begin with, oddsmakers had Miami at +3400 to win the championship entering this weekend’s play.And speaking of disappointing, say hello to the Boston Celtics, who have been to the EC finals three of the last four seasons but have fallen on hard times. The Veteran Brain Drain (Irving, Marcus Morris, Hayward, Rozier, Theis, Horford) has taken a toll, and the young players have just not developed. On top of everything, All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have not shown to the leaders that the team had hoped. A string of bad losses to non-playoff teams has upset the apple cart big time, and the Celtics are now a long-shot at +6600 to get it together and win the title.Having the Lakers, Heat and Celtics in the Play-In tournament might be great for TV ratings, but it was not what any of those NBA Mt. Rushmore teams had in mind.“Everyone has a plan,” Mike Tyson used to say, “until they get punched in the face.”

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NFL Draft Betting

Monday, Apr 05, 2021

Less than a month to go until the Great Quarterback Draft of 2021. Trade rumors, actual trades, disinformation campaigns, a suspected second-round talent may be going in the top 3. And a prop betting market that will be centered around who will be the SECOND quarterback off the board.Some things for bettors to ponder:1.      WHAT WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN – Barring injury or illness, Trevor Lawrence will be under center when his Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Cincinnati in Week 1. It will be a battle between back-to-back overall No. 1 picks, assuming the Bengals’ Joe Burrow continues to make progress rehabbing his ACL-damaged left knee; surgery took place on Dec. 2, which would make the recovery approximately eight months. Pushing it a bit, but Burrow is reportedly running and ahead of schedule. There is no money to be made on Lawrence; the former Clemson is -10,000 at most books to go No. 1 overall. Passing on Lawrence would set up Urban Meyer as the guy who didn’t draft the NFL’s version of Michael Jordan.2.      THE FUN STARTS AT NO. 2 – The Jets had Lawrence in the palms of their hands last December but messed things up by beating the Chargers just before Christmas and the Browns just after – gift-wrapping him and giving him to the stunned but appreciative Jaguars. So the Jets have to settle, and the betting favorite is BYU’s Zach Wilson, who is listed at about -500 to New York in many books. There are reports that the Jets, who look ready to part ways with 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold, are locked in on Wilson.3.      WHITHER THE 49ERS AT NO. 3? – If the 49ers are trying to confuse everyone, they’re doing a great job of it. Through a trade with the Dolphins (who are now committed 100 percent to Tua Tagovailoa), Frisco is now in a position to jettison injury-in-waiting Jimmy Garoppolo and draft his successor. The question now is who gets to wear that 49ers baseball cap on April 29? If we knew a month ago that SF would somehow swipe No. 3, we would have figured Ohio State’s Justin Fields would be gold at +2000. But now word out of the Bay Area is that Alabama’s Mac Jones is the guy. Sports Betting Dime lists Jones now at +125 to San Francisco. The big question with Jones: Are his college stats a mirage because Alabama’s receivers were so good, or are the receivers’ stats so impressive because Jones is so accurate?4.      WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE FIELDS? – Say hello to the Atlanta Falcons, who could throw a grenade into the draft by moving down and out of the No. 4 spot and opt to build around veteran Matt Ryan. Might be tempting for the Falcons to move down in the first, take impact TE Kyle Pitts, and add draft capital in the process. That scenario gained some steam this past week when questions arose about Fields’s alleged poor work ethic. Denials poured in soon after, but the balloon might have already been popped. You can get Fields at +180 at No. 4, though.5.      IF NOT ATLANTA, THEN WHO? – If Fields is still on the board after Atlanta picks, the next three teams (assuming no trades) up are Cincinnati, Miami, and Detroit – all of whom are set at the QB position. The spotlight then shines on Carolina. Most mock drafts don’t see the uber-athletic Fields dropping past the Panthers, but North Dakota State’s Trey Lance is a possibility if the Fields rumors gain some traction over the next few weeks.6.      WHO ELSE IS HUNTING FOR A QB? – Denver at No. 9 looks ready to go big for a quarterback and trade talk is swirling in Colorado, though it appears their hope that Jones would fall to them appears dim. The 800-pound gorilla in the room, though, is New England. Bill Belichick has famously never drafted a QB in the first round, but there is talk about the Patriots breaking precedent and actually moving up for a QB. Belichick was present for Jones’s Pro Day workout, and the team ignored Fields’s session that was held the same day. That could be just a misdirection play called by the Pats. Whatever the strategy, everyone will be keeping a close eye on New England as the draft nears.7.      THEN THERE’S THIS – Only twice before have QBs gone 1-2-3 in the draft. Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith were the first three off the board in 1999, with only McNabb finding success. This year’s teams are hoping for something like the 1971 draft, when Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, and Dan Pastorini were first, second, and third. History tells us it is likely that at least a few teams picking QBs early this time will be asking themselves, five years down the road, “What were we thinking?” No one wants to be remembered as the guy who drafted the next Couch, Heath Schuler, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Andre Ware, or Johnny Manziel – picks that set their franchises back for years. Caveat emptor.

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Harden For MVP?

Thursday, Apr 01, 2021

One of the few certainties in the NBA is that if you put the ball in the hands of James Harden enough, numbers will accumulate at a rapid rate. Points, of course, but also assists. Opponents will foul him, leading to embarrassing numbers of free throws.You may not give him style points for his ball-dominant isolation style, but when the day is done you can’t argue with the numbers.And because of those numbers, Harden is making the argument – both on the court and to the media – that no one else in the Association is more valuable to his team than he is to the Brooklyn Nets."Do I feel like I belong in it? I feel like I am the MVP," Harden said after he dropped an easy 44 on the Pistons' heads. "I mean, it's just that simple. I don't want to be speaking individually on myself. I am just going to leave it at that." Not leaving it at that, he added: "Numbers are showing it for itself, and we're winning. That's all I can say."Oddsmakers, who had been pushing back against the Harden MVP talk, are just now starting to come around. Listed at +900 only a few weeks again and a pedestrian fifth behind Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo among betting favorites, Harden is now second, at +700.Harden has finished second in the MVP voting three times, and his scoring this year is actually down a bit from the season (2017-18) that he actually won it. But his assists and rebounding totals are higher, and he takes fewer shots – of course, that will happen when you are on the court with two other future Hall of Famers in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.With Durant injured and Irving missing games simply because he’s Irving and that’s what Irving does, the spotlight has been on Harden. And if you believe, like more than a few voters, that the MVP award should go to the best player on the best team, consider that the Nets recently took over first place in the Eastern Conference, and with James and Anthony Davis limping around out West, Brooklyn is now the betting favorite to win the championship.People outside of New York City may not like the way Harden gave up on the Rockets and shot his way out of town after a few weeks this season, but the NBA is what it is, and if it’s results you want, Harden gives them to you.Early MVP buzz centered around Philly’s Embiid, who pre-All Star game was having a career year and leading the 76ers to the top of the East (again, the best player on the best team). But a bone bruise sent Embiid to the sidelines, and by the time he returns he will have missed more than one-fourth of the season with injuries as the Sixers have fallen behind the Nets.Jokic’s Nuggets are a distant 22/1 to win the title, oddsmakers figuring that they would have to pull two major series upsets to even get to the Finals. Then there’s this – if the MVP Award goes to the league’s most valuable player, pull Harden off the Nets and you still have a team that could easily to the Finals. Subtract Jokic from Denver and the Nuggets are a lottery team.But if you want to take the Harden approach and compare numbers, Jokic has a pretty strong argument. He scores (27.2 per game) more than Harden, he rebounds (11.1) more than Harden and he is sixth in the league in assists at 8.6 (behind five guards, one of them being Harden). Plus, Jokic basically brought a slow-starting Nuggets team back from the dead. Denver is on pace to win 45 games in the 72-game season and has a puncher’s chance to finish as high as second in the West. Because of Jokic, mainly.Embiid is likely to be babied by the Sixers for the rest of the season. James also knows nothing much matters until the playoffs, and in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo won’t be going pedal to the metal after winning the award in each of the last two seasons. So it looks like Jokic and Harden in a match race as the NBA season heads to the backstretch.

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NFL Free Agency: Rebuilding the Patriots

Tuesday, Mar 16, 2021

Bill Belichick and his family have deep ties to the Naval Academy, but still, who could have predicted that he would spend like a drunken sailor at the beginning of free agency? It had to be all hands on deck in the Patriots front office this week as they reviewed contracts of a slew of free agents signings when Belichick started re-stocking the shelves on Monday.New tight ends, pass rushers, offensive linemen, wide receivers all rushed through the gates in Foxboro as the Belichick Athletic Club put on a new face after a disaster (for the Pats, anyway) of a season. Seven wins might be cause for celebration in Jacksonville, Detroit, or among Jets fans, but that doesn’t cut it in New England.Oddsmakers who listed New England at 30/1 and even as high as 40/1 to win the Super Bowl next February are no doubt scrambling a bit as they make at least some minor adjustments to reflect the fact that Belichick is tired of being a punching bag and Will Not Take It On The Chin Again this coming fall.But as they assess the re-tooled Pats, Cappers will notice one glaring omission – namely, that New England still doesn’t a quality quarterback, and without a transmission even a Lamborghini is worthless. To say that Cam Newton was mediocre last season would be doing a solid for the former NFL MVP. There were times when he was just awful, and there were times when it was worse than that.But barring a trade for a quarterback, Belichick is pushing his chips all-in on Newton, gambling that last season – no off-season OTAs, restricted training camp, Newton’s bout with Covid, a roster torn apart by virus opt-outs, and one of the worst skill-position groups in franchise history – all conspired against him, and that the football gods will pay him back 10-fold this time around. The Patriots do know that Newton is enormously popular in the locker room, and that has to count for something.And that locker room will have plenty of new faces. Newton will finally have a viable tight end (Jonnu Smith, ex of the Titans) after two early-round draft picks last year were washouts. The receiving corps looks like it will get a complete revamp with the arrivals of Nelson Agholor from the Raiders and Kendrick Bourne from the 49ers. And you can add to that whatever Pats vet Julian Edelman has left in the tank after missing the entire 2020 season with an injury.After getting little pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Belichick bought in four A-level defenders – pass rusher Matthew Judon from the Ravens, ex-Dolphin tackle Davon Godchaux, defensive back Jalen Mills from the Eagles, and tackle Henry Anderson, ex of the Jets.Add to that mix the return of all seven of the eight players who opted out last season due to Covid (OT Marcus Canon returned, then was dealt to Houston), and the team that will take the field on opening day in Atlanta will bear little resemblance to the one that limped off the field in Foxboro last Jan. 3. It had better. Last year’s defense gave up 353 points, the most by a NE team since the 1990 version allowed 446 on the way to a 1-15 season.Psychologists might tell you that the Patriot spending spree was caused by Belichick’s envy in seeing Tom Brady collect a Super Bowl ring this past season, and that visual no doubt made its way up the coach’s notoriously tight rear. No matter the reason, though, it’s clear that Belichick has seen more than enough of 7-9 seasons, and wants back on top badly enough to pay – and pay big – for that opportunity.As to the long-term odds, the newcomers might move the needle a bit. The big question is whether handicappers see New England’s move as accumulating weapons for a new quarterback who would replace Newton. In that respect, all eyes are on Houston, where former NE GM Nick Caserio is now calling the shots; and Seattle, where Russell Wilson exit talk has reached the point where the Seahawks are reviewing film on Jets QB Sam Darnold. If either Watson or Wilson wind up in Foxboro, those 30/1 futures tickets will be worth their weight in gold.

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The Las Vegas Sands Hotel

Sunday, Mar 14, 2021

Las Vegas has been the Restaurant Capital of America, the Convention Capital of America, the Marriage Capital of America, the Divorce Capital of America and, of course, the Gambling Capital of America. All unofficially, of course. It will change to be anything you want it to be, as long as it will bring visitors to the 89109 Zip Code, and as long as those visitors bring money with them and have no problem spending it.Recently significant change came to corporate offices when Las Vegas Sands decided that enough was enough, and it was time to pull up stakes and concentrate on its more lucrative properties in Macau. Only a few months after the death of founder and CEO Sheldon Adelson, eyes were opened in the industry when the property – hotels (Venetian and Palazzo), casino, retail outlets and convention center – was sold to a pair of real estate companies.The new New York-based owners, Apollo Global Management and VICI Properties, are gambling that pent-up demand will bring vacationers, bettors and conventioneers back to Vegas as soon as the pandemic has passed, and appear willing to take the next few months (or more) to get to know the property until that happens.At the height of the pandemic several months ago Las Vegas was basically a ghost town, with many hotels operating only on weekends, if at all, a non-existent entertainment / club scene, minimal gambling with more cleaners than blackjack dealers. Things got so bad that all but one casino pulled the plug on their iconic buffets. Any worse, and there would have been tumbleweed blowing down Las Vegas Boulevard past the Bellagio fountains.Las Vegas Sands obviously didn’t have the stomach to wait for a turnaround that most everyone thinks is coming but can’t say exactly when or to what extent, so it chose discretion over valor and somehow was able to negotiate a deal that puts some $6.25 billion in its bank account as it focuses on its Asian interests. It will now fall on the shoulders of the suits at Apollo and VICI to figure out a way to get people back to the city and convince them to stay and play at the Venetian or Palazzo. Hotel occupancy rates are rising ever so slowly, and the Venetian and Palazzo have a combined 7,117 rooms available 365 days a year. That’s 2,597,705 room nights.[Note: During the 2008 economic meltdown which caused a significant downturn in Vegas, Adelson was famously one of the few hotel owners refusing to cut prices to fill room nights. It will be interesting to see if Apollo follows that model. As of this writing, a weeknight room could be had for $113, with weekend nights running at about $180 – plus resort fees of about $40 a night.]This is Apollo’s second bite of the apple in La Vegas, and the first one didn’t go all that well. In January 2008, a few months before the economy tanked and slipped into a deep recession, Apollo and Texas Pacific Group engineered a $28-billion buyout of Harrah’s Entertainment. Apollo assumed nearly $11 billion in debt in that one, and things went from frying pan to fire, forcing Harrah’s (later called Caesars) to declare bankruptcy and sell. But in the NBA shooters keep shooting even after they miss 6 or 7 shots in a row, and real estate investors invest. It’s what they do. So here we are.The new owners have no choice but to wait. Wait for the vaccine to get into enough arms to make Americans and foreign visitors comfortable enough to visit Vegas again (or for the first time). Wait for the government to ease restrictions. Wait for the convention business to return to pre-Covid levels. Wait for the opportunity to compete with 30 other Strip casinos for gambling dollars. Wait for Americans to forget all about Zoom and put the virus behind them so everyone can have fun again.For Apollo and VICI, that all can’t happen soon enough.

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The Hard Rock Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas is no more.

Monday, Mar 01, 2021

Shame.Michael Jordan used to go there to drag Dennis Rodman out of bed so they could go win playoff games and NBA championships. Ben Affleck was banned from the Hard Rock’s blackjack tables for counting cards. Bruno Mars was busted there for having drugs. Howard Stern, a notorious homebody, did his radio show from there once a year.So many celebrities flocked to the Hard Rock that it was hard to spend a weekend night there and NOT run into one. Simply put, anyone who was anyone who was bored with The Strip party scene hung out either at the Palms one mile north of Las Vegas Boulevard or the Hard Rock one mile south.Later this month or early in April the new owners of the property – a Houston-based private equity company – will open the doors again under the name Virgin Hotel. The mammoth guitar at the property’s entrance is long gone. Instead, Virgin will hope to retain some old customers and develop new ones with across-the-grain consumer-friendly policies such as no resort fees, free parking and free Wi-Fi – all of which have been in short supply in the city in recent years.If the old Hard Rock – which opened in 1990 and had undergone several renovations over its near 30-year run – was Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and pool parties – Virgin is promising a more refined, laid-back vibe. The dance clubs are still there, but it’s clear from those who have seen it that the new owners probably won’t have to worry about undercover police checking for drug deals. Maybe not 50 Cent and maybe not Michael Buble, but something in between.The casino business has been farmed out to Mohegan Sun, the gigantic tribe-owned hotel-casino property that made its mark in southeastern Connecticut. The Virgin gambling area will be just a fraction of the size of Mohegan’s Northeast step-father.The renovation of the hotel end of the property includes plenty of 21st-century technology – lots of outlets for charging electronic devices, keyless room entry and everything you might want to do (order food, check out etc.) from your mobile phone.Opening any business into the headwinds created by the current Covid pandemic and amid various state travel restrictions is tricky and risky business, and Virgin no doubt is no doubt rolling the dice. Some analysts predict that the travel-entertainment industry will roar back big-time as pent-up demand takes effect once the virus’s effects have abated. Others estimate that it could take years before we’re back to pre-pandemic levels. No one really knows for sure. But Virgin bossman Richard Branson got silly rich taking risks growing his empire, and this is just another for him.As for the Hard Rock name itself, we may not have seen the last of it in Vegas. Even as Virgin is putting the finishing touches for its planned March 25 opening, Hard Rock International announced that it has purchased the intellectual property rights to build a new casino in Vegas. So Virgin and Hard Rock might actually be competitors at some point.

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The Jazz Look Great Early

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021

The Lakers’ march to a second consecutive NBA championship has been rudely interrupted by – of all teams – the Utah Jazz.Only a few months ago the Jazz has been basically left for dead. They had departed the Orlando bubble red-faced after somehow managing to spit up a 3-1 series lead against Denver, and as they headed to the off-season everyone in the NBA thought that it might be time to make some major changes on a team that always seemed good but not good enough.Instead, the Jazz did nothing. They got a boost when Bojan Bogdanovic came back healthy after missing the playoffs because of an operation on his right wrist. Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell somehow repaired whatever personal damage was caused by Gobert’s Covid issue, and the Jazz were off to the races.Monday night’s victory over the 76ers was the 8th in a row for the Jazz, who own the NBA’s best records both straight up (23-5) and ATS (21-7) heading into two very interesting games against the Clippers in Los Angeles, on Wednesday and Friday. If the Jazz can take care of business in LA, it sets up another key game against Los Angeles – at home against the Lakers next week. It’s very possible that Utah could enter the month of March only 11 wins short of beating the total number of wins (41.5) oddsmakers had pegged them for for the entire season.Utah opened the season at +4000 to win it all, with 11 teams getting better odds from the books. Those numbers have steadily melted to +1400, with the Jazz now looking up at only the Lakers (+250), Nets (+375), Clippers (+525) and Bucks (+650).Whether the Jazz can keep up anything close to their torrid pace in the strong Western Conference is anyone’s guess. At this writing, they have piggybacked those eight wins in a row with seven straight covers. They are winning more than 82 percent of their games, which would put them on a pace to go 67-15 over a normal 82-game NBA season – better than anyone since the Warriors went off in 2015-16 and set the NBA record with 73 wins.Winning cures all ills, and with the Jazz on a historic roll that brings back memories of the Karl Malone-John Stockton teams, Mitchell and Gobert are on the same page, and talk about trading either one now is met with hearty laughter. Quin Snyder is starting to hear Coach of the Year talk, and the front office is accepting congratulations for the 2019 Christmas Week steal of Jordan Clarkson from the Cavaliers – a move that solidified the bench. Clarkson torched the 76ers for 40 on Monday night and figures to at minimum be in the 6th Man of the Year conversation.So everything is pointing upward for the Jazz. Bettors who have been on Utah this season no doubt are flush, and only time will tell when – or even if – this gravy train will end.

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Get Chiefs +550 To Win the Super Bowl Right Now!

Tuesday, Feb 02, 2021

Like the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl? You can get them at +550.Wait, what?There’s a catch, as there always is. We’re talking about NEXT YEAR’S Super Bowl. William Hill and a few other sites have futures odds already posted for Super Bowl LVI – and in a move that surprises absolutely no one, the Chiefs are heavy favorites.Setting odds for a Super Bowl 12 months in advance is as precarious as betting on it, especially when those in the know are predicting that as many as 10 to 12 teams will have different starting quarterbacks when the new (hopefully Covid-free) season kicks off in September.Barring injury or something unexpected, KC will not be one of the teams in QB transition and will have MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes under center for the fifth season of what should be a long career in the Midwest.After that, things get interesting.***Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers is making noise about not being all that happy with management, is at +900. That ticket could either be gold or fool’s gold, depending on how angry Rodgers is, and whether he demands to be traded or he and the Pack kiss and make up.***Tom Brady will be entering his age 44 season when his Bucs begin their quest to make it two Super Bowls in succession, and right now William Hill will sell you that ticket at +1000. That number could fluctuate considerably depending on how he looks in this Sunday’s SB.***Buffalo (+1100), Baltimore (+1200) and Seattle (+1600) have QB stability on their sides. Cleveland does as well, but books apparently aren’t sold on Baker Mayfield as the Browns can be had at +2500. Miami is also at +2500, perhaps a reflection of the uncertainty about Tua Tagovailoa’s long-term job security.***Three franchises that have been playoff staples over the years – New England, Pittsburgh and New Orleans – are either in QB flux or may be. The Patriots, who will be QB shopping for the second straight season, are a +6000 long shot; no one really knows what will happen in Pittsburgh (+2500) as Ben Roethlisberger and the team stare at the abyss after that stunning playoff loss to Cleveland; and the Saints (+1600) have a smidgeon of stability as they expect to turn things over to backup Jameis Winston.***Remember Joe Burrow? The future of the Bengals franchise was sidelined for the season last November, but word out of Cincinnati is that he’s recovering quicker than expected from that ACL tear and may even be ready for at least part of training camp. Unimpressed with that news, William Hill lists Cincinnati at +10000.***Finally, there is the hot mess that is the Houston Texans. In a case of unrequited love, the Texans heart Watson but the feeling isn’t mutual. Figuring that Watson will have to be traded sometime before next season, the Texans are also at +10000.

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Sheldon Adelson - A Retrospective

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

Coming as it did in the midst of a pandemic claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and less than a week after a mob’s deadly attack on the nation’s Capitol building, the death of Las Vegas icon Sheldon Adelson received less notice than it deserved.Adelson may not have been the self-promoter that Steve Wynn has been, but his influence in the tourism, gambling, and convention businesses range just as far, if not further. And who among us can say we were a major influence in the moving of a United States embassy?Raised in Boston during the Depression, Adelson’s entrepreneurial drive took hold when he was a teen in the post-World War II era and led him to Las Vegas in the post-Mafia 1980s. He purchased the Sands Hotel-Casino (where the Rat Pack had held court a few decades earlier) and quickly attached a convention center to it.A decade later the Sands was razed and its footprint rose the Venetian. Its companion property, the Palazzo, opened next door in 2007 along with a new convention center. While all this was going on, Adelson somehow found time to stretch his empire to the China gambling empire of Macau, where the Sands Macau supposedly was so successful that it returned his $265 million investment in 12 months.While Adelson was certainly passionate about making money, it did not come without controversy. He was an early and vocal critic of online gambling, and more than a few critics said that as a bricks-and-mortar casino owner his stated reason (children’s access to gambling via the Internet) was disingenuous. Adelson also took more than a few hits for ardently opposing efforts to ban smoking in casinos.A fervent supporter of Israel and Jewish causes in the United States, Adelson was a conservative whose political activism led him to the Republican Party. “I’m against very wealthy ¬people attempting to or influencing elections,” he once said. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.” He gave millions to the campaigns of Republican candidates, most notably one Donald J. Trump. The two were tied to the hip (Adelson wanted the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem, and Trump was only too happy to accommodate him) for years until Trump pushed things a little too far.Last August the two spoke on the phone. Adelson wanted to talk about the pandemic and the economy; Trump wanted to talk about why Adelson wasn’t writing checks with more zeroes. Whether they ever made up is uncertain, but not long after that Adelson’s cancer forced him to the sidelines.Hard-right conservative politics notwithstanding, Adelson did receive credit for helping out his workers during the 2008 recession and most recently as jobs were jeopardized during the pandemic, making sure all his employees retained health care insurance. With a net worth of $35 billion, it didn’t put much of a dent in his bottom line.Adelson lived to age 87, blowing past the normal retirement age by more than two decades and giving credence to one other Adelson quote: “The key factor in my strategy is longevity.”

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The Browns Actually Won A Playoff Game

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021

Week 1 of Year 1 of expanded NFL playoffs is in the books, and old-timers who hate change are on the defensive a bit this week. Indianapolis and Chicago, who in any other season would have had the month of January off, became the first 7-seeds in league history to “earn” a playoff berth – and neither completely embarrassed itself.The AFC Colts went into their game against 2-seed Buffalo as solid 7-point dogs, and came within one possession of taking out the Bills. If this was Philip Rivers’s last game in the NFL, he left with his head high (309 yards passing, two TDs) and can tell his grandkids that in his 256th and final game as a pro he at least covered the spread (final 27-24).In the NFC, the 7-seed Bears were a little less tidy. Chicago failed to reach the end zone, was never in the game and failed to cover an 11-point line in losing 21-9 to No. 2 seed New Orleans. Little was expected from Chicago, and little was given.The Big Story, though, took place in Cleveland where the Browns appear to have awoken from a decades-long nap and actually outplayed and out-toughed the Steelers. Outside of the AFC East, where until this year the Patriots have crushed everyone for the last 20 years, no one has owned a team like the Steelers have owned the Browns.All that, though, was tossed out the car window in the first period as the 5.5-point underdog Browns bended, folded and mutilated a tired and depressed Steelers team that only a few months ago was talking about an undefeated season. COVID-ravaged Cleveland led 28-0 before the Steelers coaches even got their virus masks on, and from there it was just filler.Cleveland, seeded 6th, now heads into the Divisional Round against top-seeded Kansas City, and bettors who believe the Browns’ surge has legs can get 10 points in just about any book they want. KC backers can scour books and buy the Chiefs at -9.5, but there has been very little line movement since this went on the board last Sunday night. Bargain-hunters may have to wait until later in the week before they see any line alterations.

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A Quick Look At The NBA After One Week

Thursday, Dec 31, 2020

Repeat after me.It’s early.And it’s a weird season – perhaps the weirdest in NBA history.But maybe, just maybe, there is some money to be made on some early-season games before the inevitable reversion to the mean takes over, or at least until oddsmakers start adjusting their numbers.Orlando, Cleveland, and Atlanta were all figured to bottom-feeders in a beefed-up Eastern Conference this season, but as of New Year’s Eve they were a combined 10-2 against the spread and making money for bettors savvy enough to stay away from teams that had extended stays in the Florida bubble a few months ago.The Magic do have a nice early-season win over Miami (which barely had time to catch its breath after getting to the Finals last season), but its other three wins have come against slow starters Washington (twice) and Oklahoma. Still, quite a turnaround for a franchise that was reportedly considering a teardown. Orlando is being led by reclamation project Markelle Fultz, who after a slew of injuries is finally starting to figure out what the NBA is all about. He’s averaging better than 18 points a game. Bettors would be advised to make hay quickly, though, because the Magic’s schedule gets tougher in mid-January.Cleveland is 3-1 straight up and ATS, also benefitting from a soft early-season schedule. And a bucket of ice water was tossed on the entire team when it somehow managed to find a way to lose at home to the Knicks. Injuries are also starting to take a toll, as first-round pick Isaac Okoro is out with a sprained ankle and vet Kevin Love is down for close to a month with a calf injury. Caveat emptor there, too.In the West, Sacramento may be at long last ready to make money for its backers. The Kings were 3-1 ATS going into their game against Houston on New Year’s Eve, and appear to have a real keeper in Tyrese Haliburton, who fell to them at No. 12 in the draft. The Kings have young legs and a decent foundation. Hopefully, they can avoid wilting when everyone in the Western Conference starts to get serious.On the other end of the spectrum, if you know what’s going on with the Raptors, send a text to HC Nick Nurse ASAP. Toronto (playing home games in Tampa due to Covid) is winless SU, winless ATS, and looks like a very different team than the one that was one or two possessions from reaching the Eastern finals last season.

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Three Darkhorse NBA Teams To Win 2020/21

Monday, Dec 07, 2020

Three Darkhorse NBA Teams To Win 2020/21The Lakers are +275 to repeat in 2020/21. Brooklyn is in second at +525, while the Clippers and Bucks are +600 apiece. These four teams are the favorites to win the NBA championship next year, but there's plenty of value with some of the other teams, except they offer much better odds.Here are three "darkhorse" NBA picks that fall out of these top four favorites.Miami Heat (+1,600): Why not the Heat? How come the Nets are the favorites out of the East? Brooklyn has plenty of talent on paper, but no chemistry whatsoever. Miami shocked the World last year by winning the Eastern Conference and advancing to the NBA Finals, only to fall in six games. Jimmy Butler averaged 19 points, 6.7 boards, six assists, and 1.8 steals per game last year and he'll once again have Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo alongside. Miami also added two-way guard Avery Bradley from the Lakers in the offseason. Denver Nuggets (+2,000): Denver lost some key bench players from last year's team, but it picked up some competent players via free agency in the offseason, including Facundo Campazzo and JaMychal Green. The strength of Denver is its depth, as it still has Majal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic starting, along with Will Barton, Monte Morris, and Bol Bol. Denver enters the 2020/21 season filled with confidence after twice coming back from 3-1 deficits in the playoffs, before eventually succumbing to the eventual champion Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.Dallas Mavericks (+2,500): Luka Doncic and the Mavericks were rolling in the playoffs before fellow star Kristaps Porzingis was injured. With Porzingis back to full health and Doncic entering his third year in the league, the sky really is the limit in Dallas this season (providing everyone stays healthy.) Doncic averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 boards, and 8.8 assists last year. Porzingis won't be in the line-up to start the year, but he'll just make this already stacked team that much stronger for the second-half push. Winning MVP is a very real goal for Doncic this year and he now has the supporting cast to reach even greater heights. If you don't mind tying up some of your bankroll for this length of time, at this price, the Mavericks are definitely worth a second look to win it all in 2020/21 in my opinion.

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The NFL Landscape After Week 10

Monday, Nov 16, 2020

The NFL (and society in general), is learning how to play during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Now there's the hope of a vaccine that could be widely available by the time the 2021/22 season starts.It's been a strange season for many reasons. The landscape in the NFL continues to change from week to week.New England and Buffalo were evenly favored to win the AFC East before the season started, but the Bills have a lock on that spot after Week 10 at 7-3. Miami sits right behind at 6-3 and the Patriots are holding on at 4-5. Pittsburgh is 9-0. Should Big Ben Roehtlisberger be mentioned in the MVP talk?! Or at least as Bounce Back Player Of The Year? Regardless, the Steelers keep managing to find ways to win. Baltimore and Cleveland are both at 6-3 in the AFC North.The AFC South is down to two teams. Houston is 2-7 and Jacksonville is 1-8, but both Indianapolis and Tennessee are tied at 6-3. The Chiefs continue to hold down the top spot in the AFC West at 8-1, while Las Vegas isn't too far behind at 6-3. The Raiders won at Arrow Head a couple of weeks ago, and now the defending champs are in Las Vegas in Week 11 looking for vengeance.The NFC "Least" is the most interesting in my opinion, despite all of the teams struggling. Philadelphia leads at 3-5-1, while New York is right behind at 3-7. The Giants just beat the Eagles as well, so they have the leg up in the tiebreaker this season. Right behind them though is Washington and Dallas at 2-7. Funnily enough, any of these teams still have a mathematical shot at capturing the NFC East title after Week 10.Green Bay leads the NFC North at 7-2, with Chicago in second at 5-5. Minnesota and Detroit are both at 4-5. The NFC South is another competitive division. The Saints are 7-2 and the Bucs are 7-3. New Orleans has already won both games over Tampa Bay this season, meaning that the Saints are in the driver's seat at this point (depending of course on how fast Drew Brees can recover from injury, and how well Jameis Winston can play in relief.) The NFC West is another very interesting one, as all four teams still have a shot at winning the division. Arizona, LA, and Seattle are all at 6-3 (Seattle and Arizona play on Thursday night), while the 49ers are 4-6.A Closer Look At Week 10 "Against-The-Spread"Faves: 9-5 ATSHome fave: 6-3Fave -2.5 or less: 3-0Fave -6 or more: 3-2Double-Digit fave: 0-1Divison fave: 6-1For The Season ATSFaves: 66-79-1 ATSHome fave: 41-53 Fave -2.5 or less: 8-19Fave -6 or more: 31-29-1Double-Digit fave: 5-7-1Division fave: 22-28

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The NFL Landscape After Week 6

Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020

NFL Week 6 is now in the books after having two games play out on Monday Night. In Week 5 there was a game on Tuesday night. There continue to be a few COVID scares here and there, but for the most part, now it does appear as if the teams and the NFL have a handle on it. The NBA, NHL, and MLB have been massive success stories, so a few setbacks here and there were expected as well in the NFL.The landscape in the NFL has changed after Week 5. Buffalo still has top spots in the AFC East at 4-2, but Miami is hot on its heels at 3-3. The AFC North remains one of the most competitive divisions, as Pittsburgh is 5-0, Baltimore is 5-1 and Cleveland is 4-2. Tennessee came from behind in the final moments to knock off Houston at home and it's now 5-0 in the AFC South. The Colts are 4-2. Kansas City avoided another letdown on Monday night with a win and cover in Buffalo and it's now 5-1 and atop the AFC West, with Las Vegas sitting at 3-2. The NFC East continues to be the biggest train-wreck division, as Dallas still leads it at 2-4. Philadelphia is in second at 1-4 and even the 1-5 Giants and Washington Football team still mathematically have a shot at winning the division. The NFC North is also a competitive one, with Chicago at 5-1, the Packers at 4-1, and the Lions at 2-3. The NFC South is also extremely competitive, with Tampa Bay sitting at 4-2, New Orleans at 3-2, and Carolina at 3-3. And finally, we can look at the NFC West, another fantastically competitive division with Seattle at 5-0, Arizona at 4-2, LA at 4-2, and San Francisco at 3-3. From A Betting PerspectiveIt's very interesting to note that this is just the third time in league history that there are two clubs in the same year that have started off 0-6 against-the-spread.In 1984: Houston Oilers/Green Bay PackersIn 2011: Miami Dolphins/St. Louis RamsIn 2020: New York Jets/Dallas Cowboys.A Closer Look At Week 6 "Against-The-Spread"Faves went 5-9 overall. Home faves were 3-6. Faves -2.5/less went 0-5.  Faves -6/more were 1-3.  Double-digit faves were 0-1.For The Season ATSFavorites have gone 43-47-1. Home faves have gone 27-35. Favorites of -2.5/less are 3-14. Faves of -6/more are 21-18-1. Double-digit faves are 3-3-1.

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The NFL Landscape After Week 5

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020

To say this is a "strange" season for everyone involved in sports would be a bit of an understatement. The same could be said for bookmakers, who are struggling to adjust to the circumstances as much as their clientele.NFL Week 5 is now in the books after a rare Tuesday night game which saw the Titans destroy the now 4-1 Bills at home by a score of 42-16. Despite the loss though, the Bills are still in the driver's seat in the AFC East with a 4-1 record (note they have a tough upcoming matchup at home vs. the Chiefs this weekend). The AFC North is the most competitive, with Pittsburgh at 4-0, but with Cleveland and Baltimore sitting just behind at 4-1. Tennessee moves to 4-0 and is tops in the AFC South, with the Colts behind at 3-2 now. The defending Champs are 4-1 and No. 1 in the AFC West, but they come in off their first loss of the year at home to the now 3-2 Las Vegas Raiders. I have played the "under" on the Chiefs season win total and posted that exclusive article on this site a couple of months ago. The NFC East is another very interesting division, as Dallas leads at 2-3, but must now move ahead with Andy Dalton directing the show. Green Bay is getting an exemplary performance from Aaron Rodgers so far this year, as the veteran QB has his team sitting at 4-0 and No. 1 in the NFC North, followed closely by the Bears at 4-1. It's a log-jam in the NFC South, with Carolina, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans all at 3-2 (the lowly Falcons are at 0-5.)The NFC West is always competitive as well and so far the Seahawks are No. 1 at 5-0, followed closely by the Rams at 4-1. A Closer Look At Week 5 ATSFaves went 6-8 overall.  Home faves were 4-6.  Faves -2.5/less went 1-1.  Faves -6/more were 5-5.  Double-digit faves were 1-1.For The Season ATSFavorites have gone 38-38-1. Home faves have gone 24-29. Favorites of -2.5/less are 3-9. Faves of -6/more are 20-15-1. Double-digit faves are 3-2-1A Closer Look At Week 5 O/U StatsO/U went 7-7 in Week 5.  Divisional contests saw the O/U go 2-3.  1 pm games saw the O/U go 2-5.  4 pm game saw the O/U go 3-0.For The Season O/UAll O/U's are 43-33-1.  Divisional games have seen the O/U go 13-7.  1 pm games have seen the O/U go 30-12.  4 pm games have seen the O/U go 5-11-1 this season.

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2020 NFL Season Wins Total Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs

Tuesday, Jun 16, 2020

Kansas City has gone "over" its season win total seven years straight and it's once again favored to win the Super Bowl this time around as well. Pretty much everything has to go right to go 12-4 though (the total at BookMaker is 11.5 wins) and I think that there could be reason to believe that KC will finally take a step back this season and fail to go "over" its season win total.The Chiefs play in a "weak" division, but the AFC West is predicted to be much more competitive this season, as both Denver and Las Vegas have made plenty of moves in the off-season. The Chiefs are a heavy favorite on September 10th to open the season vs. Houston, but that's then followed by an extremely tough stretch which sees them play back to back games road games at the Chargers and Baltimore, followed by New England and Las Vegas at home. Strength of schedule is a key factor in determining season long O/U wagers and it doesn't get any easier for Kansas City after that with back-to-back road games at Buffalo and Denver. That's then followed by home games vs. the Jets and Panthers. After that it's two games on the road in Las Vegas and at Tampa Bay, followed by at home vs. Denver, at Miami, at New Orleans and then it's finished off with back-to-back home games vs. the Falcons and Chargers. One of the crucial factors that KC has had working in its favor over the years has been its "home field" advantage. But, will there even be fans in the stands this season? No matter what happens, this will be a "different" campaign for both players and fans alike and the Chiefs clear "home field advantage" could very well be negated completely this year.Considering all of the different factors I've listed above here, I definitely think that the "under" 11.5 season wins (at +108 odds at BookMaker) for the Kansas City Chiefs is worth a second look this season.

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