World Cup: Can England Solve Sweden’s Stalwart Defense?

England vs. Sweden, 10 a.m. ET, Fox

  • England -112
  • Sweden +390
  • Draw +225

Bet to Watch:

England To Win By 1 Goal +246 

After England won only their second of eight major tournament penalty shootouts, and first at a World Cup, the English media are starting to believe that anything is possible. “Football’s coming home” as far as fans of the Three Lions  are concerned, but if their team is to lift the trophy for the first time in more than 50 years, there are a few roadblocks still to overcome.

Sweden are, without question, a favorable quarterfinal opponent, but that’s not to say Saturday’s match in Samara will be plain sailing for Gareth Southgate’s men. It never is as far as England are concerned, nor is it when they come to blows with this weekend’s challengers.

England have, after all, won just one of their last eight competitive meetings with the Swedes, who have developed a liking for what has become a familiar underdog status under coach Janne Andersson. Indeed, since exiting Euro 2016 and waving goodbye to their greatest-ever player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there has been a realization that without a star name to call upon, the players have needed to accept their limitations and, in a roundabout way, turn that into a strength.

The Scandinavians have shown this summer and well beforehand just how difficult they are to break down, simply by sticking to their rigid positions when out of possession and sitting deep. In the past 18 months, they’ve beaten Portugal, France and Italy, so they aren’t to be underestimated, keeping five clean sheets in their last six matches.

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It’s relatively clear how the pattern of this match will play out, with Sweden having had a lower possession share (36%) at this World Cup than any of the remaining teams. Plus, they’re well-aware that England are struggling to create meaningful chances from open play.

England have the tournament’s top scorer in their ranks, and Harry Kane will know that if he can add to his six-goal tally, he may well wrap up the Golden Boot. While there are those who will point to his duties as the penalty-kick taker as the main reason for his success this summer, he’s taken the chances that have come his way. Plus, his performance against Colombia was arguably the Tottenham star’s best all-around display of the tournament.

Sweden may have conceded only twice, but they have allowed their opponents the most shots on goal (61) of the quarterfinalists, and Kane doesn’t need a second invitation to shoot or indeed score. With odds over evens on the striker to do so at any time, that’s a bet that’s well worth considering, but I like the winning margin odds for England in this one.

It’s never straightforward when they are involved, after all, and Southgate’s charges are the only side remaining that are yet to keep a clean sheet. While their quality should win out, you can bank on a tight result, so England to win by exactly one goal would be my tip.

Senators vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Picks: Vancouver’s Defense Provides Value on the Underdog (Monday, Jan. 25)

Senators vs. Canucks Odds

Senators Odds +132
Canucks Odds -152
Over/Under 6.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds as of Sunday night and via DraftKings.

There is just one NHL game on the schedule on Monday night and it’s a 10 p.m. ET showdown between the two teams at the bottom of the North Division, Vancouver and Ottawa. Not only are the Canucks and Sens in the cellar of the All-Canada Division, but they are the two worst teams in the NHL in terms of points percentage. Bring it on.

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Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators have had some positive moments, but they’re treading water a bit to start 2021. Ottawa is 1-3-1 with a -6 goal differential and has been outscored 10-4 in its last two contests. Nobody was expecting the Sens to contend this season, but going 0-2-1 against the short-handed Jets is a bit of a red flag.

What’s even more concerning is that Ottawa’s expected goals percentage has dropped to 47.3% through five games, with three of them coming against the Jets, who are not a strong 5-on-5 team. The Senators are the worst team in the North Division so you should expect a fair share of stinkers from them, but I thought they’d show better against a flawed team like Winnipeg.


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Ottawa’s biggest issue has been keeping the puck out of its net. The Sens have allowed at least three goals in all five games this season and they are allowing 3.15 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. That doesn’t bode well against an offense like Vancouver’s, especially if the goaltending continues to sputter.

The Senators made a bet that back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray would be able to find his game with them, but the 26-year-old hasn’t been up to scratch and owns a -3.76 GSAx in four starts. Murray, or Marcus Hogberg, will need to step up if Ottawa is going to be effective in playing spoiler in the North. The Sens don’t have the talent nor the depth to contend with most teams in their division, so the margin for error is quite thin and that means they aren’t able to survive lapses from their shot-stopper.


Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks were a polarizing team coming into 2021. There were plenty of people out there that thought Vancouver had enough star talent to contend. But there were also plenty of skeptics who thought that the Canucks’ flaws were significant enough, especially on defense, that they wouldn’t be able to score enough to provide cover for their shortcomings.

So far, it looks like the latter is true as the Canucks are drowning thanks to the league’s leakiest defense. Vancouver has allowed a league-high 33 goals through seven games. That’s 10 more than any other team in the NHL.

Neither Thatcher Demko (-4.36 Goals Saved Above Expectation in 3 games) nor Braden Holtby (-2.24 GSAx in 4 games) have been positive influences in goal, but you can’t blame them for Vancouver’s slow start. The Canucks are allowing the most expected goals and second-most high-danger scoring chances in the NHL, meaning they are making life very hard on their netminders.

Vancouver’s offense has been productive, scoring 2.75 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, but they’ll need to generate more opportunities if the defense continues down this path. Right now the Canucks are relying on their stars to score four or five goals every game and they’re only creating 2.18 xG per 60, so an off night shooting the puck would doom them.

Senators-Canucks Best Bet

The Ottawa Senators are never going to scare anybody offensively. The Senators rank in the middle of the pack with 2.47 G/60, but that number is a bit flattering since they are only creating 2.08 xG/60. That said, even the Senators should find some success against this Vancouver defense.

Favorites, particularly home favorites, are off to a great start in the 2021 NHL season, but I don’t think anybody could feel confident paying this price for a bet on the Vancouver Canucks considering their defensive transgressions. And it’s not like this is a new issue, either. The Canucks were a bottom-10 team in goals and expected goals in 2019/20, too.

The Senators can’t match the Canucks in terms of talent, but there is certainly a viable path to the upset for the Sens on Monday night, especially since the goaltending matchup doesn’t project to be as harrowing as what the Senators saw against Winnipeg.

Vancouver’s defense makes it vulnerable and if the Senators can weather the Canucks’ offensive firepower and stay in this game there should be plenty of chances for them to get a win on Monday night.

The current odds give Ottawa a 43.1% chance of winning on Monday night. I already think that’s a shade low, but there’s a chance that this number climbs a bit as I don’t think many people will be looking to spend their Monday evening sweating the Senators. I wouldn’t go any lower than +130, but I like the value on Ottawa on Monday night.

The Pick: Ottawa Senators +132

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Monday NBA Player Prop Bets, Picks: Zion Williamson, Bully Ball (Jan. 25)

nba player props-odds-picks-january 25-2021

We’re just over a month into the NBA season, and right now our NBA prop plays are at 74-39-2 on the season. We’re hitting nearly two in every three props right now, and every single one of them is coming straight out of the Player Prop tool right here at Action Labs, now up 31.6 units on the season. That’s just about a full unit profit per day.

We’re red hot after a 10-0 stretch the past two days, so be sure you’re following me on the app and grabbing that Action Labs subscription so you can get more than just the three picks in this column.

Let’s see if we can keep our winning streak going riding an equally hot Zion Williamson today. We’ll also take a look at a couple players on the second half of an NBA doubleheader, using recent performances to help inform mismatches we can exploit.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.

Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.

NBA Player Props & Picks

Zion Williamson over 23.5 points (-114)

Spurs at Pelicans -2.5
Time 9 p.m. ET

Editor’s note: The Spurs-Pelicans game has been postponed due to health and safety protocols.

Zion Williamson is having a mini-breakout before our eyes, and the Pelicans are quickly reshaping around him. For the first few weeks of the season, this looked like Brandon Ingram’s team. Ingram was on the ball a lot, and his playmaking was really taking off, but that meant fewer touches for Zion. In the last few weeks, that’s all changed.

Now the Pelicans are giving Zion the ball with the ultimate green light near the rim and asking him to go to work. Check out Zion’s averages over his past seven games: 26.4 points on 17.0 two-point attempts per game, shooting over 61% from the field. Compare that to Zion’s first seven games of the season, when he was at 20.3 points on 14.0 two-point attempts per game at under 54%.

Zion is getting the ball more and doing it closer to the basket. The number of 2’s he’s taking each game and the rate at which he’s scoring them are virtually unmatched in modern basketball. This is bully ball. Zion is just bullying guys in the paint and using his feathery touch and agility to finish with style.

Those splits were even starker before Zion had an off game against the Wolves his last time out, struggling against Minnesota’s Jarred Vanderbilt, maybe their one good defender. He was at 27.7 PPG on over 65% in the six games before that one.

The Spurs don’t have Vanderbilt, and San Antonio is playing small this season with DeMar DeRozan and Keldon Johnson often spending minutes at the four. Neither of those guys has the strength to handle Zion, so he should have another big night. And after his over/under had leapt to 26.5 his last time out and stolen value from us, the off game against the Wolves bought us value back and made Zion a strong play again.

We’re projecting Zion at 27.0 points even, right in range with this recent dominant stretch. This line is 25.5 at some books, so be sure to use the Props Beta tool to find the best line. We’ll play over 23.5 at FanDuel up to -140.

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Bam Adebayo over 5.5 assists (-110)

Heat at Nets +7.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET

Bam Adebayo already broke out in last year’s playoffs. He was the best player on the court in the Eastern Conference Finals and either 1A or 1B to Jimmy Butler the entire postseason for the Heat.

Adebayo’s playoff breakout has continued. He’s being asked to do more than ever with Butler and other Heat players sidelined, and Bam is responding with career-high numbers. He’s up to 20.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, and he’s doing that on a whopping 69% True Shooting. That means Bam is touching the ball more than ever as the offense goes through him, and he’s even better than ever with those touches, creating offense both for himself and for his teammates.

It’s the assists that we’re playing tonight with Butler still missing. Adebayo’s assist rate of 29% is about the same as many NBA point guards, and he’s already had three games this season with at least nine dimes. One of those came his last time out against the Brooklyn Nets, the same team he’ll face again tonight in one of those pandemic doubleheaders.

The Nets have shown no defense to speak of, and DeAndre Jordan has no shot against Adebayo. That should mean plenty of Miami points and another big night from Bam.

Since returning to a shorthanded team after a week away, Adebayo is at 6.2 APG, up even further than his early season numbers. He’s had four, five, six, seven, and nine dimes in those five games, going over in 60% of them and in range on all five.

The James Harden version of the Nets have allowed at least seven assists to the opponent’s leading assist man in every game thus far. Brooklyn’s defense just isn’t going to be very good, and that should let playmakers like Adebayo feast. We’ll play Adebayo’s dimes over to -135. We’re projecting him at 6.3, right in line with his recent play, and it looks like another big night ahead. Grab 5.5 at FanDuel.

Doug McDermott under 4.5 rebounds (-110)

Raptors at Pacers -2
Time 7 p.m. ET

Remember Dougie McBuckets? McDermott put up monster numbers at Creighton but has never lived up to the hype in the NBA. He’s never done much of anything at all, really, other than hit feathery 3-pointers at a 41% career clip.

McDermott is a fan favorite in Indiana, but he’s mostly a back-of-the-rotation bench guy. But the Pacers are quite shorthanded right now, so McDermott is playing bigger minutes. Indiana is missing Caris LeVert after trading Victor Oladipo for him, and T.J. Warren is still sidelined with an injury.

Suddenly, McDermott has started the last four games and put up 16.3 points in 33.8 minutes a game. Shooter’s gonna shoot. McDermott will get his fifth start tonight, matching a career-high for an entire season. But even in all those minutes, Indiana’s starting forward is averaging just 4.5 rebounds a game. McDermott has never been a good rebounder in the NBA. It’s just not his game, and playing so far from the basket so he can spot up certainly doesn’t help.

McDermott’s 6.1% career rebounding rate is very low for a forward. That’s ticked up a bit this year, and he does have three games this season with 8+ rebounds after only recording a handful of such games his entire career. Still, Indiana has a pair of stud rebounders in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, and the best bet is on McDermott shooting instead of rebounding.

Even projecting McDermott at 32.5 starter minutes again tonight, we’ve got him at just 1.8 rebounds against OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and the red-hot Raptors tonight. McDermott had three boards yesterday against the Raptors and has gone under this line in 10 of 16 games.

With the line at 4.5 and our projection at 1.8, that 29.2% edge in our favor is the highest on our Props tool today. We’ll trust the tool and play to -140.

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Texas Tech vs. West Virginia Odds & Pick: Bet the Mountaineers In Big 12 Battle

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-west virginia-texas tech-january 25

Texas Tech vs. West Virginia Odds


Texas Tech Odds
+2.5
West Virginia Odds
-2.5
Moneyline
+116/-136
Over/Under
137.5
Time | TV
Monday, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of Monday morning and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Every Big 12 team finds itself in a battle behind the dominant Baylor Bears. In almost any other conference, teams such as West Virginia and Texas Tech would be contenders for the regular-season title.

Regardless, the Mountaineers and Red Raiders have high postseason aspirations and are legitimate Final Four contenders despite hovering around .500 in conference play, and they’ll meet in Morgantown on Monday night in a battle of teams with similar defensive mindsets.

Which Big 12 powerhouse will earn a huge win in one of the best conferences in the country?

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The Matchup

Since sophomore forward Oscar Tshiebwe left the program at the start of 2021, West Virginia has played its best basketball of the season.

First, it fell just short of a furious comeback at Oklahoma in its first game without Tshiebwe in the lineup. Next, it earned a hard-fought 87-84 road win at Oklahoma State. followed a buzzer-beater loss to Texas. Finally, the Mountaineers came through with a 22-point comfortable road win at Kansas State.

All told, that’s a 2-1 conference road record and a last-second home loss to one of the best teams in the country.

The Mountaineers have dramatically improved their 3-point shooting, ranking first in conference play at 39.1%.

Big man Derek Culver anchors the middle, as he averages 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.  More importantly, Culver is averaging only 2.5 fouls per game, having fouled out of just one game all season.

Since Tshiebwe’s departure, sophomore guard Miles McBride has taken a big step forward on offense. He’s averaging 16 points, four assists, and 2.3 steals while making 11 3-pointers in the past four games.

Texas Tech is again bringing the defensive pressure, as illustrated by its fifth-best ranking in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

However, the Red Raiders have taken a step back in Big 12 play. They’re only fourth-best in defensive efficiency in the conference and allow a Big 12-worst 39.2% from beyond the arc. That’s certainly an ominous sign when facing the best 3-point shooting team in conference play.

Texas Tech has also struggled with turnovers in big games, giving Oklahoma State and Baylor an average of 17 per game in its last two conference losses.

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The key to its offense has been Georgetown transfer Mac McClung (16.3 ppg).

He’s averaging 23 ppg over the Red Raiders past two games but will be facing a West Virginia team that puts tremendous pressure on opposing point guards.

Texas Tech will need McClung to handle “Press Virginia” and be the leading scorer. Look for the Red Raiders to lean on sophomore Terrence Shannon (12.8 ppg) and junior Kyler Edwards (10.1 ppg, 36% 3-point) to support the offense given McClung’s tough matchup.

Head coach Chris Beard will need VCU transfer Marcus Santos-Silva (8.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) to battle with Culver, a rough task for the undersized 6-foot-7 forward.


Betting Analysis & Pick

This is Texas Tech’s third Big 12 road game in the past four contests, and it’s coming off two brutal battles with Texas and Baylor.

Look for Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers to pressure McClung into turnovers while hitting 3s with McBride, senior Taz Sherman (38.9%), and junior guard Sean McNeil (10 ppg, 34% 3-point).

Huggins has enjoyed recent success ATS at home against Texas Tech. The Mountaineers have covered four of their recent matchups against the Red Raiders.

I’m laying the small number with the Mountaineers against a Red Raiders team that will likely be sloppy after two difficult conference matchups.

The opening line of West Virginia -2.5 has dropped to -2, so see if you can get some extra value and maybe grab this number at the Mountaineers -1.5.

Pick: West Virginia -2 (up to -2.5).

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NBA Injury News & Starting Lineups (Jan. 25): Spurs-Pelicans Postponed Due to COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Below are the projected starting lineups for each team playing on Monday’s NBA slate, along with notable injury news for each squad. For real-time updates to these lineups, check out our Action Labs NBA lineups page.

Monday’s NBA Injury News

7:30 p.m. ET Update: Spurs-Pelicans has been postponed on Monday due to COVID-19 contact tracing. Neither team has the required eight players available to suit up.


5:30 p.m. ET Update: Pascal Siakam has been ruled out Monday’s game with knee soreness. Kyle Lowry has been cleared to play.


5 p.m. ET Update: Joel Embiid will sit for the fourth time this season as he’s bothered by a tight back. D’Angelo Russell is “probably unlikely” to play Monday according to coach Saunders as he continues to deal with a quad contusion

George Hill has a sprained right thumb and has been ruled out on Monday. Robert Covington has been diagnosed with a concussion and has been ruled out of Monday’s game


1:30 p.m. ET Update: Jayson Tatum has cleared health and safety protocols and is available to play Monday against the Chicago Bulls.Wendell Carter Jr. remains sidelined Monday for the third straight game due to a bruised quad.

The Orlando Magic will be without Carter-Williams for the 10th straight contest due to a sprained foot. Larry Nance Jr. is out against the Los Angeles Lakers with sprained right wrist on Monday.


There’s a familiar name at the top of the NBA injury report: Joel Embiid. The 76ers’ big man played 35 minutes Saturday night and is listed as questionable with back tightness for Monday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. The Sixers have routinely rested Embiid when they felt it was necessary to preserve him long term and will likely wait before announcing his status tonight.

The Boston Celtics are on the second night of a back-to-back and will be without Kemba Walker for Monday night. However, Jayson Tatum is expected to play tonight on the road against the Chicago Bulls in his first action since contracting COVID-19 earlier this month.

Anthony Davis and LeBron James are on the injury report for the Los Angeles Lakers (James is a regular with an ankle issue), but both players are likely to play through their respective ailments.

Be sure to check the Action Labs NBA page for real time updates.

Monday’s Projected Starting Lineups

Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies (PPD)

This game was postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 contact tracing.


San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans (9 p.m. ET)

This game has been postponed on Monday due to COVID-19 contact tracing.


Charlotte Hornets at Orland Magic (7 p.m. ET)

Hornets Projected Lineup

PG – Devonte’ Graham
SG – Terry Rozier
SF – Gordon Hayward
PF – PJ Washington
C – Bismack Biyombo

Injury news: Nothing new

Magic Projected Lineup

PG – Cole Anthony
SG – Evan Fournier
SF – James Ennis
PF – Aaron Gordon
C – Nikola Vucevic

Injury news: Aaron Gordon is questionable, Michael Carter-Williams (foot) is out.


Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons (7 p.m. ET)

76ers Projected Lineup

PG – Ben Simmons
SG – Seth Curry
SF – Danny Green
PF – Tobias Harris
C – Dwight Howard

Injury news: Joel Embiid (back) is out.

Pistons Projected Lineup

PG – Delon Wright
SG – Wayne Ellington
SF – Jerami Grant
PF – Blake Griffin
C – Mason Plumlee

Injury news: Derrick Rose (knee) is out.


Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers (7 p.m. ET)

Raptors Projected Lineup

PG – Kyle Lowry
SG – Fred VanVleet
SF – OG Anunoby
PF – Pascal Siakam
C – Aron Baynes

Injury news: Kyle Lowry (toe) and Pascal Siakam (groin) are questionable.

Pacers Projected Lineup

PG – Malcolm Brogdon
SG – Edmond Sumner
SF – Justin Holiday
PF – Domantas Sabonis
C – Myles Turner

Injury news: Nothing new


Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets (7:30 p.m. ET)

Heat Projected Lineup

PG – Goran Dragic
SG – Gabe Vincent
SF – Duncan Robinson
PF – Kelly Olynyk
C – Bam Adebayo

Injury news: Jimmy Butler (health protocols), Tyler Herro (neck), Avery Bradley (health protocols), Moe Harkless (thigh), Meyers Leonard (shoulder), and Chris Silva (hip) are out, KZ Okala (knee) is questionable.

Nets Projected Lineup

PG – Kyrie Irving
SG – James Harden
SF – Joe Harris
PF – Kevin Durant
C – DeAndre Jordan

Injury news: Nothing new


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (8 p.m. ET)

Lakers Projected Lineup

PG – Dennis Schroder
SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF – LeBron James
C – Anthony Davis
PF – Marc Gasol

Injury news: LeBron James (ankle) is questionable, Anthony Davis (ankle) is probable.

Cavaliers Projected Lineup

PG – Darius Garland
SG – Collin Sexton
SF – Cedi Osman
PF – Larry Nance Jr.
C – Andre Drummond

Injury news: Nothing new


Denver Nuggets vs. Dallas Mavericks (8:30 p.m. ET)

Nuggets Projected Lineup

PG – Jamal Murray
SG – Gary Harris
SF – Will Barton
C – Paul Millsap
PF – Nikola Jokic

Injury news: Nothing new

Mavericks Projected Lineup

PG – Luka Doncic
SG – Jalen Brunson
SF – Time Hardaway Jr.
C – Josh Green
PF – Kristaps Porzingis

Injury news: Nothing new


Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls (9 p.m. ET)

Celtics Projected Lineup

PG – Marcus Smart
SG – Jaylen Brown
SF – Jayson Tatum
C – Daniel Theis
PF – Tristan Thompson

Injury news: Jayson Tatum (health protocols) is probable, Kemba Walker (rest) is out.

Bulls Projected Lineup

PG – Coby White
SG – Zach LaVine
SF – Patrick Williams
C – Lauri Markkanen
PF – Daniel Gifford

Injury news: Wendell Carter Jr. (quad) is doubtful.


Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET)

Thunder Projected Lineup

PG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG – George Hill
SF – Lu Dort
PF – Darius Bazley
C – Isaiah Roby

Injury news: Nothing new

Trail Blazers Projected Lineup

PG – Damian Lillard
SG – Rodney Hood
SF – Derrick Jones Jr.
PF – Robert Covington
C – Enes Kanter

Injury news: Nothing new


Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors (10 p.m. ET)

Thunder Projected Lineup

PG – D’Angelo Russell
SG – Malik Beasley
SF – Josh Okogie
PF – Jarred Vanderbilt
C – Naz Reid

Injury news: D’Angelo Russell (quad) is questionable.

Warriors Projected Lineup

PG – Stephen Curry
SG – Kelly Oubre
SF – Andrew Wiggins
PF – Draymond Green
C – James Wiseman

Injury news: Nothing new


Phan’s Bet to Watch

As of 5 p.m. ET, Justin Phan sees betting value in four Monday games, including 76ers vs. Pistons. To get instant alerts when he sees an edge and his analysis on those picks, sign up for Action Labs.

NBA Odds & Betting Picks: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Nuggets vs. Mavericks, Timberwolves vs. Warriors (Monday, Jan. 25)

We kick off another week in the NBA with 10 games on Monday night (Kings vs. Grizzlies is postponed), including two national tv matchups: Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets (7:30 p.m. ET) and Minnesota Timberwolves vs.Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET).

Both matchups, among others, made it into our crews’ top plays for Monday night. You can find their analysis and picks on those games below.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a pick to skip ahead
Nets-Lakers-Warriors ML parlay
7:30 p.m. ET
Nuggets -1.5
8:30 p.m. ET

Heat vs. Nets | Lakers vs. Cavaliers | Timberwolves vs. Warriors

Pick
Nets-Lakers-Warriors ML parlay (-102)
Tipoff
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
NBA TV

Brandon Anderson: Some days I just don’t feel like screwing around with spreads and lines and sweating out backdoor covers. Today is one of those days. Instead, I’m putting together what I’m calling the MVP Moneyline Parlay.

We start with the Lakers over the Cavs. LeBron James is 14-1 lifetime against his old team from Cleveland. The one loss came a full decade ago against Cavaliers luminaries Anthony Parker and J.J. Hickson. Cleveland has been better than expected, hanging around .500 with tough defense, but the Cavs still can’t score and the Lakers should handle them with ease.

Next up are the Warriors over the Wolves. Golden State already beat the Wolves once this season — a year ago when they traded for Minnesota’s upcoming 2021 first-round draft pick. The Wolves have been one of the worst teams in the NBA this season and are barely an NBA team at all without Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota can’t score. Steph Curry definitely can. All the better that the Wolves might be missing D’Angelo Russell too.

The last one looks trickiest, just because the Brooklyn Nets can’t seem to beat the Washington Generals without some late game drama, but we’ll trust Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving to outlast Gabe Vincent’s Miami Heat. I know the Nets just lost twice to the Cavs, and I know these Heat just pushed them to the limit on Saturday, but I have to trust the massive talent gap here.

Trust the MVPs. Trust the talent. Parlaying the three moneyline together comes out to almost exactly even odds. I’m keeping it easy tonight and letting the MVPs do the work for me.


» Return to the table of contents «


Nuggets vs. Mavericks

Pick
Nuggets -1.5
Tipoff
8:30 PM ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Raheem Palmer: The last time these two teams played the Nuggets squandered a 12-point second half lead in matter of minutes. While Kristraps Porzingis didn’t play for that matchup, this was otherwise a full strength Mavericks team with Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson and Maxi Kleber who hit the go ahead three in regulation and was 3-of-5 from behind the arc.

While the Mavericks have found something offensively recently playing a starting lineup of Doncic-Brunson-Hardway-Green-Porzingis, they are just 3-4 in their last seven games and are coming off a 133-108 blowout loss at the hands of the Houston Rockets without Victor Oladipo. Kristraps Porzingis hasn’t exactly found his footing since returning from his knee injury and Nikola Jokic should win these minutes.

While the Nuggets are just 9-7 on the year, they’re fifth in SRS (3.23) and have the fifth-highest Net Rating in the league this season. Looking at their Pythagorean Win Expectation, this team is playing more like a 10-6 win team than a 9-7 win team.

When you consider that this Nuggets team has the third most efficient offense in the league scoring 114.9 points per game facing a Mavericks team that is just 20th in Offensive Rating, scoring just 108.1 points per possession over it’s last seven games since they’ve been shorthanded due to COVID-19 concerns, this is a game in which we could see the Nuggets boat race the Mavericks.

There’s been some movement on this game pushing this line from Nuggets +1.5 through the zero making the Nuggets a favorite but I’m not sure that’s enough. I’ll lay the 1.5 and look for the Nuggets to improve on their 9-7 record as Nikola Jokic continues his stellar MVP caliber season.

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Nuggets vs. Mavericks NBA Odds & Picks: Returning Stars Provide Value on Total

Nuggets vs. Mavericks Odds

Nuggets Odds -1.5
Mavericks Odds +1.5
Moneyline -125 / +105
Over/Under 222
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Sunday night and via PointsBet.

After two grueling overtime wins against the Suns over the weekend, the Denver Nuggets head to Dallas for a matchup with the Mavericks.

Dallas is coming off a loss to the Rockets and is continuing to play without several key rotational players and were without Kristaps Porzingis for its last game.

These two teams will meet in a rematch from Jan. 7, where the Mavericks won outright as underdogs in Denver 124-117, going way over the closing total of 225.5.

I count on these high-powered offenses to continue displaying their scoring prowess and see potential value on the total in Monday’s matchup.

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Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets had an amazing weekend, securing dramatic wins on Friday and Saturday in Phoenix. They have found their footing after a 1-4 start and have now won eight of their last 11 games.

The Nuggets are firing on offense, entering Sunday ranked third in Offensive Rating (114.9), per NBA.com Advanced Stats.  Despite playing at a slower pace (26th in the league), they are averaging the fourth most points per game (116.8) in the league.

However, Denver struggled to stop many teams on defense and ranks 20th in Defensive Rating (110.8). They will be facing a dangerous Mavericks team with Porzingis back in the lineup.

The offense revolves around Nikola Jokic, who is nearly averaging a triple-double. Teams have been struggling to stop the versatile big man’s offensive arsenal to destroy teams in the paint, but he can also spread the floor with his excellent shooting.

Jokic’s most impressive quality is his passing skills and ability to set up the offense. He entered Sunday leading the league with 154 assists on the season.

Yes, a 7-footer, leading the league in total assists.

Jamal Murray played on Saturday, despite an injury and gutted through another 43 minutes. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling today as I sit here typing this from my couch.

While there has not been much news on the injury front, it would not surprise me that if Murray gets a night off, so make sure to monitor the Bet Labs Insider tool to monitor his status and follow @FantasyLabsNBA for instant notifications on injury status.

After missing 10 games due to a positive COVID-19 test, Michael Porter Jr. is back in the Nuggets rotation and provided instant offense off the bench against Phoenix. It is worth nothing that the Nuggets defense is a lot worse with Porter on the court.  The On/Off numbers show that dip from 110.9 to 116.5, per Basketball Reference.

Teams that are coming off two consecutive overtime games are 11-4 (73.3%) to the over since 2018, per the Sports Data Query Language database. This is active on the Nuggets.

To help support that conclusion, here are some other trends I found that are active:

  • Since Jokic’s rookie season in the 2015-16, the Nuggets are 20-10 (66.7%) to the over in road games following a back-to-back series.
  • Since Dec. 14, 2019, the Nuggets are 19-8-1 (70.4%) to the over in regular-season games after a win against the spread.
  • This season, the Nuggets are 9-3-1 (75%) to the over when their opponent allowed 100 or more points in their previous game.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are still scraping by with key rotational players missing because of COVID-19 protocol. They picked up two gutsy wins against the Spurs and Pacers with Porzingis back.  However, Dallas had a let-down against the Rockets in the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday.

Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell have all missed seven (or more) games this season. All four average at least 20 minutes per game.

In the six games that Porzingis had played from Jan. 13-23, the Mavericks ranked ninth in Pace (100.75).  Bringing back their talented big man has jumpstarted Dallas’ offense, showing glimpses of last season’s record-setting attack. The Mavs have picked up the tempo and now have a dangerous pair of scorers for opposing teams to defend.

The Mavericks’ overall defense has improved from last season, but in their last six games, they are 27th in Defensive Rating (116.3).  Dallas is finally feeling the effect of having so many rotational players out, and I think the fatigue is really affecting them defensively. This doesn’t bode well entering a matchup with Murray and Jokic.

The Nuggets are allowing 55.3% in Effective Field Goal %, ranked 26th in the league, per NBA.com Advanced Stats. This gives Mavericks players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Jalen Brunson, all proficient shooters from behind the arc, a strong matchup.

Similar to the Nuggets, the Mavericks are off a back-to-back series from Friday and Saturday. In their last 10 games following a back-to-back series dating back to Jan. 17, 2020, they are 8-1-1 (88.9%) to the over, per the SDQL database.

Nuggets-Mavericks Pick

The spread is very tight to me, but I think there is some value on the total. I don’t think the market has sufficiently adjusted for the impact of Porzingis and Porter’s returns, both of whom thrive offensively.

With that in mind, I make the fair total on this game 224. I see the reinvigorated Mavericks edging out the fatigued Nuggets in a close 114-111 game. I recommend a play on the over, but not much higher than the current total of 222.

Pick: Over 222 (up to 222.5)

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76ers vs. Pistons NBA Odds & Picks: Wait for News on Joel Embiid’s Status (Jan. 25)

76ers vs. Pistons Odds

76ers Odds -7
Pistons Odds +7
Moneyline -300 / +240 
Over/Under TBD
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Monday morning and via FanDuel.

It’s the best of the East versus the worst when the 12-5 Philadelphia 76ers meet up with the 3-13 Detroit Pistons Monday night. Detroit folks aren’t exactly unfamiliar with a 3-13 team, am I right Lions fans?

These teams just played Saturday night in Detroit and will now meet again. The Pistons hung in tough in that one, even without Blake Griffin. They ultimately fell short but got the cover, as they have often done this season, with the Sixers winning 114-110.

So will Detroit push Philadelphia again in the rematch, or will the better Sixers team get a stronger performance and find a cover this time?

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Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers finally look like the team we’ve been waiting for them to be over the past few season, and that’s largely because Joel Embiid is finally playing at an MVP level night in and night out. He’s averaging 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds a night and currently has the highest True Shooting (67.4%) of any 25-point scorer in any season in NBA history.

That obviously screams out for a bit of regression, but Embiid has a monster 67.6% Free Throw Rate and is hitting his free throws at a career-best 83%, so this scoring looks legit. If teams can’t stop Embiid in the post and don’t dare send him to the line to earn it, what are they supposed to do?

Well, they can hope Embiid wears down, for one thing. It was a surprise to see Embiid play at all on Saturday since it was the second night of a back-to-back, but he ended up playing 35 minutes after going 30 minutes the night before. Our Action Labs projected lineups list him as questionable for Monday. If Embiid is out, that changes everything on both ends for this team.

We haven’t even mentioned Embiid’s defense yet, but it’s Philadelphia’s defense that has led the way for the team, and that of course starts with Embiid. The Sixers rank top five in Defensive Rating and lead the league in opponent 2-point percentage. They’re funneling opponents toward Embiid and letting him disrupt things from there, and Ben Simmons is doing his job too.

Simmons has struggled to make his usual impact, so it was good to see him aggressive early against the Pistons his last time out. You can see the aggression in Simmons’s 12 trips to the free throw line, and it’s nice to see him hit 10 of the 12 too. It’s actually been Tobias Harris and Seth Curry making much more of an offensive impact for Philly, though Curry has gone from scorching hot to just his usual elite shooting self since his return from injury.

Philadelphia’s bench remains a struggle. The team just hasn’t found reliable depth since going all on in an expensive starting lineup. Dwight Howard is a quality fill-in for Embiid defensively, but the Sixers need more from Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey as bench scorers.

Milton is scoring 15.4 PPG but can run hot and cold, and his minutes have shrunk the last couple games. Maxey has gone MIA entirely with just four points combined in his past three, and his playing time has nearly disappeared too. Who knows what’s happening with that, but Philadelphia is missing his production.


Detroit Pistons

The Pistons certainly have not been good this season, but they’re not nearly as bad as their 3-13 record would indicate. Detroit is more below average than atrocious. The Pistons rank 23rd in Offensive Efficiency and 22nd in Defensive Efficiency with a -4.6 Net Rating.

The underlying numbers suggest Detroit is more like a 6-10 team than a 3-13 one, and that makes sense when you look at how hard the Pistons are fighting. Even with 13 losses, only one of those has come by more than 10 points all season, and there are two losses by a bucket and two more in overtime. The Pistons could easily have a more respectable record if things had bounced their way a bit.

Jerami Grant has been a revelation for Detroit to lead the way. Grant has flourished in his bigger role in Detroit, averaging 24.3 points a game. He’s also starting to take on a bigger playmaking role, looking a bit like Blake Griffin with how he’s playing point forward at times.

Grant has at least three assists in five straight games, averaging 4.6 APG over that stretch. Some books are still listing his assists over at 2.5, so be sure to play that if it’s available. Even at 3.0 or 3.5, an over is worth considering. Grant had a nightmare outing against Philly on Saturday but should bounce back.

The Pistons were also missing Derrick Rose on Saturday, along with Griffin. It should be very encouraging that the Pistons nearly pulled off the upset even missing two of their key players and getting a terrible game from their star, but there’s also some letdown factor there from Philadelphia too, who may not have shown up mentally for a 3-12 team missing their two biggest faces, so don’t read too much into that. Each game is unique.

Detroit is a poor rebounding team, and the Pistons rank dead last in 2-point percentage on offense. Matching the worst 2-point shooting team against the best one defending inside the arc sounds like a serious problem. Detroit shot 23-of-53 on 2s against Philly on Saturday, an ugly 43.3%. But they were saved by 30 free throw attempts and a nice 42.4% behind the arc, with those unexpected points keeping them in the game.

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76ers-Pistons Pick

You can play the surface logic here if you like. The Pistons were missing Griffin and Rose and got a terrible shooting night from Grant and still almost beat the Sixers on Saturday, and the Pistons have hung around in these games and made life uncomfortable for opponents.

That could tempt us to play a Pistons cover or even an upset. Detroit is only 8-7-1 against the spread this season, though. Even as they play in so many relatively close games, the Pistons are not necessarily covering.

An over could be tempting here. Both teams have gone over the expected total in four of five games. The game Saturday closed at 215.5 and went over by almost 10 points. I’d expect that line to tick up a few points accordingly, and that may remove the potential value if it does.

The matchup here says there’s always a chance the Pistons just can’t score on Philly. If Embiid is playing, Detroit is going to have a nightmare trying to score inside the arc. That’s what happens when you’re the worst team in the league already and now you’re facing a Defensive Player of the Year candidate protecting the rim.

The Pistons hung in on Saturday because of their 3-point shooting and additional free throw attempts, and if either of those goes missing, or if the bench doesn’t hold its big advantage, I’m not sure where else they’ll find their margin.

If Embiid doesn’t play on a third game in four days, it wouldn’t be  a surprise. If you see the line creep below five points, that should tell you the books are expecting Embiid to sit.

Philadelphia is 0-3 straight up this season without Embiid, losing by 38 combined to the Cavs, Nuggets, and Grizzlies. If Embiid does sit, as much as Detroit has been hanging around in these games, it’s probably worth a shot at a Pistons money line with nice plus odds.

Be careful about blindly taking an over, assuming Philly’s defense would be worse, because the offense will miss Embiid just as much if he’s out.

If Embiid does play, I’d expect this line to settle in around -7 or -8, a touch below where it closed by tip on Saturday. Even with Detroit keeping it close last time out, that 2-point percentage difference sticks out like a sore thumb. The Sixers have won six times this season by 12 or more points. When they’re locked in, they can really run away with things.

Check the news before playing. If Embiid is in the lineup and expected to be a full go, I’ll play the 76ers up to -7.5. If he’s out, I’ll nibble at a Pistons moneyline instead.

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Oklahoma vs. Texas College Basketball Odds & Pick: Betting Value on Sooners Moneyline

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-oklahoma-texas-january 26

Oklahoma vs. Texas Odds


Oklahoma Odds
+5.5 (-115)
Texas Odds
-5.5 (-105)
Moneyline
+194 / -235
Over/Under
142.5
Time | TV
Tuesday, 7 p.m. | ESPN2
Odds as of Monday evening and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Oklahoma’s victory over Kansas on Saturday was a critical moment in the Big 12 landscape.

The Jayhawks have famously won or shared every Big 12 regular-season crown since 2005. The Sooners’ victory dropped Kansas to sixth place in the conference, leaving the Longhorns and Sooners on the heels of undefeated top dog Baylor.

Texas will look to keep pace with its in-state rival by beating a suddenly surging Sooner team, and it will need to do so without head coach Shaka Smart.

Smart recently tested positive for COVID-19 and will isolate away from the team. That’s a key detail in a game that will go a long way in sorting out which teams can contend for the Big 12 Championship and which will fade back into the middle of the pack.

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When Oklahoma has the ball

The current Longhorn defense may not closely resemble the “Havoc” scheme Smart built at VCU in its ability to create chaos, yet Smart has cultivated a team that knows how to manufacture stops. Texas has done so with athletic lineups that eliminate passing lanes and force poor shot selection.

The Longhorns are allowing the second-lowest assist rate in the nation, with opponents posting an assist on just 35.7 percent of field goals. That ability will be tested against the Sooners, who share the ball extremely well. In Big 12 play, no team has posted a higher assist rate than Oklahoma’s 58.5%.

So much of that passing success comes from Lon Kruger’s guards operating off of ball screens.

Oklahoma has four guards who are capable of creating offense off the dribble, led by Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves. Reaves sees the floor as well as any point guard in the nation and makes the right reads in space to spark Oklahoma’s offense.

The Sooner offense is also taking a step forward with the return of Brady Manek, who missed two recent games with an injury. His spot-on shooting and quick release make him a dangerous pick-and-pop presence or a decoy to draw attention away from the on-ball action.

The Texas guards will need to fight through screens for 40 minutes, and the Longhorn bigs will be repeatedly challenged.

When Texas has the ball

This end of the court will offer a unique test for Texas.

The Longhorns are shooting 3s at a higher rate than any of their Big 12 foes, with more than 42% of their field goal attempts coming from behind the arc in conference play.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, essentially schemes its defense to keep teams outside the 3-point line. Oklahoma’s opponents score 38.3% of their points from long range, putting the Sooners in the top six percentile of teams in Division I in that category.

Kruger prioritizes cutting off the paint over closing out on shooters. That shows in Oklahoma’s ability to defend without fouling; the Sooners have the third-best defensive free-throw rate in the nation.

Texas will be able to find 3-pointers in this game. If the Longhorns aren’t patient enough to find the right opportunities or simply have an off-shooting night, they likely won’t be able to mine enough paint points or free throws to keep pace with the Sooners.

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There are several concerning trends that suggest Texas has played beyond its means to this point in the season.

The Longhorns are 4-1 in one-possession games and just 3-6 against the spread as favorites this season. That has been especially evident in Austin, where the Longhorns are just 2-6 ATS.

They face a red-hot Sooners team that has won three straight outright, including an emotional upset of Kansas, and four in a row ATS.

This game will be decided down the stretch in the half-court. Oklahoma’s ability to defend at a high level without fouling should prove crucial against a Texas team that relies on outside shooting.

It’s also notable that Smart will not be on the sideline for Texas in this game. The Longhorns’ head coach is one of college basketball’s best in-game defensive minds and brings unmatched energy to the Longhorn bench. In a game that promises to be neck-and-neck, his absence will be felt.

For those of you less convinced of this Sooner team on the road, the 4.5-point spread is a decent buffer.

Yet, if the Sooners can keep things that close, there’s no reason to believe they can’t win the game outright. The value on the moneyline is large enough to take that chance.

Pick: Oklahoma ML +164 (down to +145).

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Virginia Sports Betting: BetMGM Sportsbook to Launch Wednesday

virginia sports betting-betmgm sportsbook launch

BetMGM Sportsbook will launch online sports betting in Virginia this Wednesday, Jan. 27, sources tell The Action Network.

Virginia surprisingly launched online sports betting this past Thursday, with FanDuel Sportsbook opening for business right away. Competitor DraftKings Sportsbook joined the party Sunday, and several more books will continue to follow suit over coming weeks.

Not much had been previously known about the launch of betting in Virginia, only that the state was hoping to go live before Super Bowl 55 in February. It launched sooner than expected, and now sportsbooks are scrambling to be live in time for the biggest sporting event of the year.

BetMGM just launched in Michigan Friday, which was its eighth state with fully online betting. They are currently live now in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia; they also have a presence in Nevada, although the state requires in-person registration.

The sports betting landscape is growing at a rapid pace, with many more states — including Arizona, Massachusetts, Ohio and others — hoping to come online within the next year.

Virginia represents a sizable market for sportsbook operators with a population of over 8.5 million people — the 12th-highest in the U.S. We expect to see a competitive landscape, as highlighted by three books already launched in the first few days of legal online betting.

College Basketball Best Bets: Our 3 Favorite Picks for Southern Illinois vs. Indiana State, Arizona State vs. Arizona, More ( Jan. 25)

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-furman-alabama a&m-furman-illinois state-indiana state-arizona state-over under-january 25

Editor’s Note: The Furman-UNC Greensboro and Alabama A&M-Alcorn State games scheduled for Monday night has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Get your week started on the right foot with some Monday night college basketball action.

Our college hoops staff is planning on doing exactly that, and they hand-picked three of their favorite games to break down. 

Most games our staff analyzed happened to be relatively under-the-radar, but they still shared a betting pick for each. Check out full breakdowns for each game below and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.


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College Basketball Odds & Picks

 

Click on a game to skip ahead
Furman vs. UNC Greensboro
Postponed
Southern Illinois vs. Indiana State
7 p.m. ET
Alabama A&M vs. Alcorn State
Postponed
Arizona State vs. Arizona
11 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Monday morning. Specific bet recommendations at the end of each matchup breakdown come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing on Monday morning.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.


Furman vs. UNC Greensboro

By Mike Randle

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-furman-alabama a&m-furman-illinois state-indiana state-over under-january 25
Pick
Furman -4.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
Postponed
TV
ESPNU
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.)

This is the perfect “get-right” spot for the Paladins. 

Both Furman and UNCG were picked as top contenders in the Southern Conference, but both teams enter this game going in different directions. UNCG has won four games in a row and is coming off an impressive eight-point win at Chattanooga. 

Meanwhile, the Paladins enter on a two-game losing streak, with road defeats at VMI and East Tennessee State. 

Furman still has the fifth-most efficient 2-point offense in the country, scoring at over a 60% clip. UNCG’s defense is elite, but its offense can really struggle to score. A 67.7% team free-throw percentage is also always a comfort when laying points against the Spartans.  

Furman needs this game badly and will bring its best effort against a top SoCon rival. 

Despite both teams being atop the conference, this rivalry rarely leads to close games. The winner of the past six games has always been by 10 points or more. I’m betting on the Paladins continuing that trend tonight.


Pick: Furman -4.5


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Southern Illinois vs. Indiana State

By BJ Cunningham

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-furman-alabama a&m-furman-illinois state-indiana state-over under-january 25
Pick
Over 135
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.)

The Salukis have been one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country this year, hitting at almost a 40% clip on the season. However, they only shoot 3s on 37.6% of their field goal attempts, which is not as often as you would think with that type of percentage. 

Interestingly, where Southern Illinois is likely going to find success is inside because Indiana State’s 2-point defense is terrible. The Sycamores are allowing 54.5% from inside the arc and 62% on shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math

Southern Illinois also ranks top-70 in free-throw rate and shoots almost 75% from the charity stripe. So, the Salukis have a bunch of different scoring options tonight. 

Indiana State’s offense has somewhat sputtered since entering conference play, but it’s getting to the free-throw line at an extremely high rate. It leads the Missouri Valley in free-throw rate at 37.7% and also shoots 77.6% when at the line. 

Outside of that, the Sycamores have really struggled shooting the ball but should have a much easier time against the Salukis’ defense. 

Southern Illinois is one of the worst 3-point defenses in the country, allowing 40% from deep. In fact, over the Salukis’ last four conference games, they’re allowing 48.1% from beyond the arc. So, if Indiana State wants to find success offensively tonight, it should turn its attention to the 3. 

I have this game projected for 140.86 points, so I think there’s plenty of value on the over at 135 points.  


Pick: Over 135


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Alabama A&M vs. Alcorn State

By Mike Calabrese

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-furman-alabama a&m-furman-illinois state-indiana state-over under-january 25
Pick
Alabama A&M -4.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
Postponed
TV
ESPN+
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.)

The SWAC standings this time of year can be bewildering to look at. The 10-team league has exactly one program with a winning record overall (Alabama A&M), and most are scraping the bottom of the D-I barrel.

This isn’t new, but it still leads the general public astray when trying to pick sides in SWAC play. 

Tonight’s game is a great example. 

The Bulldogs (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) opened as a 4.5-point favorite, with most of the handle favoring Alcorn State. And while the Braves are 3-1 in SWAC play, it’s pretty easy to see through their recent success. 

As I mentioned at the top, when teams are bad in the SWAC, they’re absolutely dreadful, and those are the teams Alcorn State has been beating. Wins over Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Alabama State are providing the public with a skewed perception of Alcorn State.

Those teams are a collective 4-29 on the season SU. They played one SWAC team with a pulse (Grambling State) and lost by five on the road. 

Aside from my doubts in Alcorn State, I love the Bulldogs in this spot because they have the best defense in the SWAC by a large margin. Alabama A&M has the nation’s best 3-point defense (17.3%) and second-best effective FG% defense (41.1%). 

Offensively, AAMU touts one of the best mid-major duos in Garrett Hicks and Jalen Johnson.

The inside-outside sophomore tandem is averaging 40 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 steals per game. They should eat up an Alcorn State defense buried in the 300s in nearly every meaningful defensive metric (PPG, eFG%, 3-point, FTA). 

I’ll be playing the Bulldogs ATS and parlaying their moneyline (-205) as a tag-on to all my Monday plays to flip the juice in my favor.


Pick: Alabama A&M -4.5


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Arizona State vs. Arizona

By Stuckey

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-furman-alabama a&m-furman-illinois state-indiana state-arizona state-over under-january 25
Pick
Arizona State +4.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
11 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN2
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.)

The Sun Devils have lost quite a few heartbreakers this season but are finally nearing full strength after dealing with a COVID-19 bout and other personnel issues.

This is a team I’m looking to back over the next weeks, starting with a rematch against Arizona tonight from a game it easily could’ve won in the first meeting, which it led by five with 1:30 to go.

Arizona State’s guards should be able to penetrate at will, which should set up some easy offense.


Pick: Arizona State +5


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Heat vs. Nets NBA Odds & Picks: Brooklyn’s Offense Starting to Click (Jan. 25)

nba-betting-odds-picks-net vs. heat-january 25-2021

Heat vs. Nets Odds

Heat Odds +7.5
Nets Odds -7.5
Moneyline -330 /+270
Over/Under 235.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA TV
Odds as of Monday morning and via DraftKings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new wrinkle into the NBA schedule — baseball-style series, with two games against the same team in the same arena.

The Brooklyn Nets will host the Miami Heat just two days after their 128-124 victory in a game in which they led by as much as 18 points before the Heat fought their way back in the fourth quarter.

While the Nets fended off the Heat, there’s cause for concern for one of the NBA’s championship contenders. Oddsmakers haven’t adjusted much coming into the second matchup as the Nets open as 7.5 point favorites with a total of 235.5.

Miami Heat

The Heat have been absolutely decimated by both COVID-19 protocols and injuries this season. All-Star Jimmy Butler has missed seven consecutive games due to COVID-19 protocols and will be out of the duration of this road trip, as will Avery Bradley and Meyers Leonard.

To make matters worse, Tyler Herro didn’t make the trip due to a neck injury and Moe Harkless took a knee to his thigh while driving to the basket on Saturday night and will be out Monday. The Heat have only beat the Pistons and Raptors over their last seven games, going 2-5.

While the Heat have a championship culture with team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra, there’s only so much the culture can do for this team as they were already suffering a post Finals/bubble hangover. And when you compound it with being short handed, it’s clear they’re fighting an uphill battle.

Over the past seven games, the Heat are 25th in Net Rating (-7.2) with an Offensive Rating of 108.1 and a Defensive Rating of 115.3, which would rank 19th and 27th respectively. The Heat are also one of the league’s worst rebounding teams and rank dead last in turnover percentage (14.3%).

Still, the culture does have some impact. They trimmed an 18-point lead down to two in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against the Nets. Bam Adebayo has been a bright spot  as he scored a career high 41 points while adding nine assists and five rebounds. Kendrick Nunn has also been solid off the bench, scoring 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Nets, you have to fight fire with fire or get some stops and without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Avery Bradley, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless, they have an uphill battle doing either.

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Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets picked up their first win of the season with their entire Big 3 in action with Saturday’s win over the Heat, snapping their two-game losing streak in the process. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving scored a combined 71 points, including every point in the fourth quarter. Joe Harris also added 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 7-of-12 from behind the arc. It’s no surprise that this is the fourth-most efficient offense in the league, scoring 114.9 points per 100 possessions this season while having the second-highest eFG% (57.9%).

Unfortunately, the defense is a problem. It ranks 25th among NBA teams, allowing 114.9 points per 100 possessions. They’ve also gotten worse on defense since trading Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs for James Harden.

Losing one of their best rim protecting centers and three wings certainly wasn’t going to help a struggling defense and over the past four games, this team has giving up 121.0 points per 100 possessions, dead last among NBA teams.

To put this in it’s proper context, the 2020 Dallas Mavericks were scoring 115.9 points per 100 possessions and were the most efficient offense in NBA history. The Nets are six points worse than that, so it’s pretty clear that even an 18-point lead isn’t safe if this team isn’t scoring at will.

That said, this team did look more engaged on defense Saturday and they have a massive advantage over the Heat in their ability to close out possessions by rebounding the ball, something the Heat struggle with. Should the Nets avoid turning the ball over as they did on 15.4% of their possessions, they’ll be tough to beat.

Heat-Nets Pick

For three quarters, the Brooklyn Nets dominated the Miami Heat on Saturday night. It took 18 turnovers and a career high 41 points from Bam Adebayo for the Nets to squander an 18-point lead and blow the cover Saturday night.

For a Brooklyn Nets team with championship aspirations led by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, we’re unlikely to see another meltdown like we saw Saturday night against an even more short handed Heat team that is now missing Moe Harkless.

My projections make this game right around the market number of 7 points but I think this line is a bit short. I’ll lay the 7.5 points with the Nets and look for them to get a wire-to-wire victory before heading out on a three-game road trip.

Pick: Brooklyn Nets -7.5

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Super Bowl 55 Odds, Picks & Predictions: The Big Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Spread Betting Edge

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Super Bowl 55 Odds

Chiefs Odds -3
Buccaneers Odds +3
Over/Under 56.5
PRO Projections Chiefs -2.1 | O/U: 56.4
Time | Channel  6:30 p.m. ET | CBS

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Following a flurry of early line movement, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers adjusting from +3.5 to +3 and the total dropping from 57.5 to 56, Super Bowl 55 odds appear to have settled in for the long haul.

It’s not uncommon for the Super Bowl betting market to remain quiet during the off week between Conference Championship Sunday and Super Sunday, but that doesn’t mean bettors should completely ignore the game either.

In fact, this is the precise situation behind the development of our PRO betting tools, which continually aggregate the latest data to unearth the top values available at any given moment.

Despite the early line movement, The Action Network’s NFL PRO Projections still see one Super Bowl 55 bet popping with value — a bet with an insatiable 7.7% edge at the time of writing.

Let’s dive into the Chiefs vs. Bucs edge to jump on right now.

Super Bowl 55 Pick

The Super Bowl 55 spread has steadied at Tampa Bay +3, at varying juice, across the market (click here for the latest Chiefs vs. Buccaneers odds).

And even though this number has already traveled from +3.5 to +3, our NFL model still shows meat left on the Bucs bone.

We project the spread at Tampa Bay +2.1, which is a significant difference from the current spread considering the importance of the number 3 in NFL betting.

It all breaks down to a 7.7% betting edge, which earns an enticing A-minus grade from our PRO Projections feature.

PRO Projections Pick: Buccaneers +3

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Tuesday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City (Jan. 26)

ilkay-guendogan-manchester-city-premier-league-january-26

West Brom vs. Manchester City Odds

West Brom Odds +1500
Manchester City Odds -560
Draw +650
Over/Under 3.25 (+104/-128)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3:15 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

Odds updated as of 3 p.m. ET on Monday and via DraftKings


Manchester City can move to the top of the Premier League table on Tuesday as the Cityzens travel to the West Midlands to take on 19th-place West Brom. Manchester City is the league’s best team on form, but will be without star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne due to injury.

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West Brom

Even though they’re not in last place, the Baggies have been the worst team in the Premier League this season by just about every underlying metric. West Brom is worst in expected goals and worst in expected goals against by more than 0.33 goals per match. The Baggies’ 11 total points are actually more than they really should have (9) when you look at their expected points on Understat.

Last time these two teams met, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and poor finishing from City is the only reason the match wasn’t a total rout. The Baggies are the last team to take points off Man City, but they were beaten on xG 2.59-0.21. West Brom’s only goal came from a fluke own goal and City are in even better attacking form since that match.

West Brom’s xG difference per 90 is the worst not just this season, but of any PL team in the last six years.

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Manchester City

Manchester City’s title hopes were dealt a blow when De Bruyne was announced out for at least the next handful of weeks. He’s averaging 0.96 xG + xA per 90 this season, but City has the return of Gabriel Jesus to look forward to. People will mock his poor finishing — for good reason, he’s a career xG underperformer — but the City attack is much more potent when it can play with a recognized striker. The Cityzens can turn to emerging star Phil Foden and in-form fullback João Cancelo to replace the creative production lost from De Bruyne.

While their shot totals and xGF numbers had dipped significantly in the opening eight matches of the season, they’ve bounced back to normal in recent weeks.

City’s last 10 matches: (league rank)

xG per 90: 2.41 (1st)
xGA per 90: 0.38 (1st)

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My full-strength projections for this match are Manchester City 3.01, West Brom 0.46. Even when taking off for Manchester City’s loss of De Bruyne, the return of Jesus up top should be able to make up for the lost production. City rotated their team in the FA Cup at the weekend, so a regular lineup from the Cityzens should result in an easy victory.

Pick: Man City -2 (-120 or better)

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New York Sports Betting Study Shows Massive Potential For a Competitive Market

new york-sports betting-legal online sports betting-taxes-revenue-andrew cuomo

A long-awaited New York gaming study says the state could bring in nearly $100 million in annual online sports betting tax revenue — assuming it doesn’t follow Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal.

The study from Spectrum Gaming estimated the state’s four commercial casinos and three Native American gaming tribes could take in more than $1 billion in online sports betting bets, which would lead to roughly $100 million in taxes for the state government.

The study assumes at least seven statewide online licenses, or “skins,” between the gaming entities and didn’t consider a sole-source operator, a model supported by Cuomo.

The governor initially stated he wanted a lottery-run, lone operator model before ensuing press statements and his initial budget proposal opened up the potential for an unspecified number of additional sportsbooks. Cuomo said this model would generate $500 million in annual taxes.

De facto sports betting monopolies have been largely decried by industry stakeholders, specifically struggling lottery-run markets such as Oregon and Washington D.C. Industry observers argue a competitive marketplace with as many top operators as possible is the most economically viable and the only way to capture legal bettors away from the black market.

Gaming experts also note that sportsbook licensing fees and renewals are a massive part of a state’s revenues for sports betting, which is a comparatively low-margin offering for gaming providers. New York would potentially lose hundreds of millions of dollars in these fees if it severely restricts eligible operators.

Downsides to Cuomo’s Proposal

Many top brands would be shut out under Cuomo’s proposal, which calls for the mobile sports betting license or licenses to be bid between the four commercial casinos’ retail partners. That would leave at most four legal sportsbooks to choose from, which currently includes DraftKings, FanDuel, BetRivers and Bet365.

The Oneida, partnered with Caesars William Hill, Mohawk (Stars Group – FOX Bet) and Seneca (Kambi) tribes would be left out under Cuomo’s proposal. So, too, would potential horse track-affiliated sportsbooks such as BetMGM at MGM-owned Yonkers Raceway.

Other leading operators that have publicly expressed interest in New York online sports betting such as Penn National’s Barstool Sportsbook would also be shut out.

Cuomo’s plans contrast a multi-operator model under consideration in the legislature and championed by lawmakers in his own party. The latest online sports betting legalization bill would allow each of the seven aforementioned gaming interests two skins apiece, allowing as many as 14 brands to enter the state.

The New York lawmakers’ plan is more similar to the model of neighboring New Jersey, albeit with roughly half the skin count.

The Garden State has become the single largest sports betting market by handle, of which 20 percent — by Cuomo’s own estimate — comes from New Yorkers. Cuomo dismissed the New Jersey model, saying at a press conference earlier this month it makes money for casinos, not the state.

Next Steps for New York Online Sports Betting

At this point, it appears the study, which was originally supposed to be released in 2019, will have little impact on Cuomo’s position. That means the contrasting visions between a multi-operator and single or limited-operator model are still set to collide.

Though Cuomo doubled down on his vision for legal mobile wagering in last week’s budget proposal, formal legislation to do so has not yet been introduced in the legislature. Meanwhile, the multi-operator proposal has advanced out of both the Assembly and Senate’s respective gaming committees.

Unlike other aspects of sports betting legislation such as tax rates or licensing fees, model structure can not be compromised. Cuomo and most fellow Democrats in the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature support sports betting, but to legalize it requires either a competitive market or a limited one.

In absence of one side getting its way over the other, New York mobile sports betting — and what would likely be the nation’s most lucrative market — remains nonexistent.

Sobel’s 2021 Farmers Insurance Open Betting Guide: Matsuyama, Finau and Fritelli Worth Backing at Torrey Pines

When the FedEx Cup was first introduced in late-2005 and implemented two years later, one of the big ideas behind it was to get out of the way of football season.

As it turned out, the idea was better than the execution, as the playoff events still overlapped with games on the gridiron, going directly against the first few weeks of the NFL and NCAA schedules.

Until two years ago, that is, when the PGA TOUR finally solved its self-created problem, ending the season before any meaningful football games had taken place.

Perhaps it’s now time to conceive another football-related solution, as the first three tournaments of 2021 have each concluded while much of the country is more heavily engaged in NFL playoff contests.

First it was the Sentry TOC, which for a few years tried a Monday finish, only to be stonewalled by college football’s national championship game. The weekend rounds were directly against the NFL’s first-round games. Then came the Sony Open, which got the shaft on Sunday, as impending weather forced tee times to be moved up – and therein finished during football games instead of later. And lastly, this past weekend’s American Express, which ended right in the heart of the AFC Championship game.

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I don’t like pointing out a problem without offering a grand solution, but I’m not sure I’ve got one here. The PGA TOUR season can’t restart a few weeks later than it already does and playing final rounds on Saturday or Monday hardly feels like a recipe for greater viewership. The tired refrain is “Get creative!” but I don’t see a logistical creative opportunity that would serve as a perfect fix.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that, in the eyes of many who haven’t yet flipped from football to golf on their TV screens, the season truly restarts this week, with the Farmers Insurance Open featuring many of the game’s big names – and no playoff football to interfere.

If those aforementioned first three events have for years felt like an appetizer, then the annual festivities at Torrey Pines have served as the first bite of a main course – especially in so many cases when seven-time champion Tiger Woods would begin his campaign here.

Woods is, of course, sidelined this week (and for the foreseeable short-term future) following a fifth back procedure, though this one sounds less like an overhaul than a tune-up.

Instead, the field includes past champion Jon Rahm, who also owns a runner-up and a T-5 at this one; Rory McIlroy, who’s finished top-five in each of his two starts here; Xander Schauffele, who’s struggled in his hometown tourney; and Brooks Koepka, in whatever degrees of health and motivation he might bring to the course this week.

While last week’s previous theme of longshot winners didn’t come to fruition, it’s hard to believe that this event’s usual theme of a big-name leaderboard won’t materialize, with so many potential options in the mix.

It’s another theme, though, which helped lead to my first selection in this week’s picks – one which could emerge once again.

Outright Winner

One player to win the tournament.

Hideki Matsuyama (+2500)

If there’s been a recurring theme during the 2020-21 season, it’s that of former winners finally returning to the winner’s circle. From Stewart Cink to Sergio Garcia, from Brian Gay to Harris English, we’ve been treated to a list of champions whose winning ways had stalled for a while. Even last week’s winner, Si Woo Kim, all of 25 years old, had endured nearly four full years since his previous victory. You won’t get rich betting fringe trends, but there’s no denying that Matsuyama could easily be the next player to break a personal drought. Like Kim, it’s been almost four years since Hideki’s last win, though he’s hardly been ineffective in the interim, piling up 19 worldwide top-10s and maintaining a top-10 world ranking.

As usual, putting has already served as his bugaboo this year. He finished T-41 at the 42-player Sentry TOC, while an average putting performance in relation to the field would’ve at least netted him a respectable T-24; he finished T-19 at the Sony Open, as average putting would’ve resulted in a T-3. I’ll bank on him rolling in more putts at a venue where he should be comfortable, having three finishes of 16th-or-better in seven starts, including two of the last three years.

He’ll not only need to roll it better, his ball-striking needs to be impeccable to overcome any miscues with the flatstick, but I do think there’s a strong possibility he steps it up here.

With plenty of other big names, this is a nice number to back Matsuyama to become the latest past champion to rejoin the club.

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Potential selections for one-and-done options.

Xander Schauffele (+1200)

One of these years, Schauffele is going to figure out his hometown event. He doesn’t seem like the type who would be nervy or anxious playing in front of friends and family, but the truth is out there: In five career starts at this event, he owns a T-25 and four MCs. “I’ve missed the cut here a lot,” he said last year, “but it just shows how much I love the event, [because] I keep coming back.” Perhaps friendly confines without friendly faces watching him from outside the ropes will be the right combination this week.

If nothing else, he should be a strong antithetical option for those who want to zig when everyone else is zagging.

Scottie Scheffler (+3500)

Speaking of that strategy, some of you have the opportunity to rub your opponents’ noses in the fact that they played Scheffler in OAD pools last week and he MC’d. It takes some guts to play a guy on the heels of a MC – especially this early in the year, when there isn’t much other usable data – but not all MCs are created equal.

Scheffler posted two under-par rounds last week, so he shouldn’t be too bothered by failing to reach the weekend.

Max Homa (+11000)

Thoughts and prayers to anyone who had a Homa top-20 ticket this past weekend, when he was 54-hole co-leader, but posted a final-round 76 to finish T-21. That one undoubtedly stung not only Homa, but Homa bettors and Homa supporters – of whom there are many.

The good news for all of you, though, is that traditionally over the past few years, his strong results tend to yield more strong results in subsequent weeks. Don’t be surprised if he puts together a nice bounce-back at this one.

Top-Five

One player to finish top-five.

Tony Finau (+450 for top-five)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: This past weekend served as yet another Finau contention – and yet another disappointment, as he could only parlay a share of the 54-hole lead into a solo fourth-place result. Many will look at such a finish as yet another in a long line of setbacks for the long-hitter, but I’ll forever insist that close calls are way more advantageous to future success than mediocre finishes – and it appears Finau feels the same way, at least publicly. “Man, I’m kind of leaving today pretty encouraged,” he said after a respectable final-round 68. “I played nicely. I’ve been working on some things in my golf swing, changed up the putter this week, some positives for me and I like where the game’s at. It’s real early in the calendar year. I didn’t play very good in Maui, so this is actually pretty encouraging for me.”

Even with his latest result notwithstanding, this has been my favorite spot to play Finau for a half-decade now. Since 2015, he’s never finished outside the top-25 in a half-dozen starts, including top-six results in three of the last four years. “Torrey Pines seems like a place that sets up great for me,” he added. “It’s a golf course that I like and have had some success and hopefully I just carry this one over.”

As I’ve written so often in my tournament previews before, if you’re too snake-bitten to back Finau outright anymore, I don’t blame you. That doesn’t mean, though, that you should completely fade him – and especially not this week. I love Finau for yet another top-five at this tourney.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Dylan Fritelli

Top-10

One player to finish top-10.

Dylan Frittelli (+1100 for top-10)

As we witnessed two months ago during the Masters, Frittelli has more than enough game to hang with the big boys. One of my favorite picks to skyrocket in status over the next 12 months, the South African owns a solid arsenal of skills. Essentially, he does everything pretty well. The biggest improvement in his game last year, though, was his driving distance. Just seven starts into the current season, his average drive has already jumped from 291.3 yards to 312.8. That will obviously come in handy at Torrey, where length is a major advantage, especially on the South Course.

Don’t be afraid of Frittelli top-10 wagers becoming a regular ticket. If there’s any trepidation, it’s that each of the last two events showed us we should favor those who’s already played this year, but I’ll buck that trend in this particular instance, because I think this is such a strong play.

Top-20

One player to finish top-20.

Bubba Watson (+225 for top-20)

There are usually three spots on the annual schedule where I target Bubba – and they shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. He’s a multiple winner at Augusta National, TPC River Highlands and Riviera, so those venues make the most sense. Let’s not overlook what he’s done at Torrey, though.

In his first four starts, from 2006-’09, he posted a pair of top-seven finishes. He won this event back in 2011, then played two of the next three years, finishing T-13 and T-23. He then took a half-dozen years off from competing here, returning last year to finish T-6. That’s a pretty strong track record at a place where his length should help.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Bubba Watson

Top-30

One player to finish top-30.

Wyndham Clark 

When trying to prognosticate future long-term success of some young players, there are plenty of metrics and data points we can use to help build – or flatten – our stance. Or we can keep it simple. I’ll choose to employ the latter strategy when it comes to Clark, instead boiling his game down to two easy stats: He hits it far and makes a lot of putts. Those two qualities alone are enough to help us understand that if his irons and wedges are working on a given week, he has a chance to do some serious damage.

I think Clark is going to pop at some point here on the West Coast in the next month-and-a-half, so maybe it’ll be this week. I certainly don’t mind backing him for a conservative play such as this one. 

Top-40

One player to finish top-40.

Justin Suh 

Playing as an unrestricted sponsor exemption, Suh is a guy who might go overlooked this week, but should be a smart play for specific props and as a cheap DFS option.

The California native has played four PGA TOUR events since August and owns three finishes of 21st-or-better so far. He seems to me like the prototypical “guy who needs more reps,” as a 30-start season would no doubt leave him with full status moving forward.

He will, though, have an excellent chance to help that plotline this week.

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Jon Rahm

Yeah, I get it: Naming the highest-ranked player in the field as a “safe option” isn’t exactly expert-level stuff, but there are reasons to believe that despite a win, a runner-up and a T-5 at this event in the last four years, Rahm might be lower-owned than usual this week.

The first mirrors the reason some might have avoided him prior to Kapalua. Switching equipment manufacturers to Callaway offers up an unknown variable, though there is admittedly more of a sample size now than there was then, as he finished T-7 in that one.

The second is due to the reason he was a late withdrawal from last week’s field, as he reported he’d tweaked his back during a training session a few days earlier and didn’t want to risk any further injury. With fellow elite players such as Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele also available, it’s possible that more DFSers might pivot off Rahm than if he was swinging his old sticks and completely healthy.

While I don’t necessarily love chasing his outright number in the betting markets, I do think there’s a chance for some lineup leverage if even just a minimal percentage decide to bypass him.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Jhonnatan Vegas

DFS ‘Dog

A lower-priced option for DFS.

Jhonattan Vegas

Just a few weeks ago, I theorized in my Sony Open preview that Webb Simpson might not have been 100% a few weeks after testing positive for COVID-19 and we should fade him – a fade which nearly resulted in him winning the tourney. Now, I’m not suggesting that a positive test will somehow help a guy play his best golf, but I’m not too concerned about those in this scenario anymore. Vegas tested positive a few weeks ago and has yet to make his 2021 debut, but he’s finished top-30 here in four of the past six years and is another long hitter who should fare well.

Unlike last week, when there were plenty of low-priced contrarian plays, this one will be much tougher to peg those players. Among others I also like are Talor Gooch, Harry Higgs, Kyle Stanley, Luke List and maybe (gulp) Jimmy Walker. 

First-Round Leader

One player to post the low score Thursday.

Cameron Davis

Just like last week, I’ll offer up a reminder that I’m writing this preview before the tee times have been released. For those using books which don’t split FRL bets between the two host courses, utilize the obvious advantage available with players competing on the North Course in the opener.

All things being equal, I like various plays on Davis this week, but I’ll list him here for FRL, ostensibly striking while hot after ranking second in strokes gained tee-to-green in the final round of The AmEx and fourth in strokes gained on approach shots.

Cam Davis. Credit: Gregory Shamus, Getty images.

Matchup Man

One player who should beat comparable players.

Cameron Smith

From two-time champion Jason Day to last year’s winner Marc Leishman to Adam Scott, who had a runner-up in his lone previous start at this event, Aussies have enjoyed a nice run of recent success here. Forgetting the 10 that Australia native Bruce Devlin carded at the final hole in this event back in 1975 – leading to the only internal water hazard on the South Course being dubbed Devlin’s Billabong – those from Down Under have often found themselves Up Over plenty of other players on the leaderboard.

Perhaps there’s a correlation to Aussie success at Kapalua; maybe it has a little something to do with Australians being accustomed to January as the middle of their summer. In any case, Smith was 33rd-or-better at this one in three straight years before last year’s T-64. He didn’t start the year very well during the Hawaii Swing, but those results might just depress his price this week, making him an attractive candidate in some one-on-one matchups. 

The Big Fade

One top player to avoid at this tournament.

Louis Oosthuizen (+6600)

Maybe it’s his lack of flash or ability to stay out of the limelight or his laid-back demeanor, but Oosthuizen has largely kept himself free of any critical analysis throughout his career.

For a guy who’s won a major, finished runner-up at all of ‘em and might own the sweetest swing this side of Ernie Els and Fred Couples, it’s fairly unfathomable that he’s never won a U.S.-based tournament. Even so, he’s the type that many will see in the field this week and throw a dart for top-10/20 props or as a DFS play. And I get it: He’s the type who can play well on any given week. This wouldn’t seem to be that week, though. He’s only played here once previously, failing to break 70 while finishing T-41 four years ago. He also hasn’t played a competitive event in more than two full months.

I don’t hate Oosty by any means, but during a week when so many of the aforementioned top players should perform well – plus those I like and couldn’t fit into the preview, such as Matthew Wolff, Ryan Palmer and Gary Woodland – I can’t see a reason to force Oosthuizen onto your card.

Off Tour

My favorite non-PGA TOUR play of the week.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: Top-five at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (+800)

As I mentioned when writing about Homa above, some players are momentum guys, parlaying one solid performance into another. Well, RCB has fit that profile over the years, too. When he’s cold, he can be really cold, but when he’s got it going, he can hang with some of the world’s best.

Coming off a solo fourth in Abu Dhabi last week, he returns to a venue where he won in 2012, finished runner-up four years later and owns a half-dozen top-20s in the past decade.

Missed cuts here in each of the past two years should help throw some bettors off the scent, but don’t let those results cloud your judgment here. He’s playing well right now and returning to a place where he’s played well in the past.

Tuesday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Newcastle United vs. Leeds United (Jan. 26)

soccer-premier league-betting-odds-picks-predictions-newcastle united-leeds united-jack harrison-january 26

Newcastle vs. Leeds Odds

Newcastle Odds +290
Leeds Odds -112
Draw +280
Over/Under 2.5 (-150/+120) 
Day | Time Tuesday | 1 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

Odds updated as of Monday at 1:15 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Things could get interesting Tuesday in Premier League action when Newcastle United hosts Leeds United in a key match at St. James’ Park.

The Magpies are in a world of trouble at the moment, going winless in nine of their last 10 games across all competitions. Making matters worse is the fact Newcastle has been shut out in seven of those affairs, including four on the bounce, and continues to creep closer to the relegation zone in 16th place.

On the other side, the Peacocks continue to be that Jekyll-and-Hyde outfit that I’ve grown an affinity for in their return to England’s top flight. After winning two in a row, they suffered back-to-back defeats and look to get back to their winning ways with this Tyneside fixture.

If you’re looking for a defensive battle, you might want to find another game to watch. These are two of the worst clubs when it comes to keeping the opposition off the scoreboard, which is supported by the numbers.

Let’s take a look at these sides and see what could in store on the pitch.

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Newcastle

Manager Steve Bruce continues to maintain his spot on the hot seat, with his Magpies sliding down the league table. Newcastle, which has lost four in a row, is just seven points away from the drop zone. That’s clearly cause for concern for a team that’s simply underperformed this season.

Life in northeast England did get a minor ray of light when Allan Saint-Maximin returned as a reserve in the weekend setback against Aston Villa. The star winger missed two months of action dealing with a positive COVID-19 test and the lingering effects of contracting the coronavirus.

Looking at Newcastle’s overall statistics show a club dealing with all sorts of turmoil on the pitch. The Magpies sit on 16.3 expected goals and a disturbing 28.0 expected goals against, resulting in a disappointing -11.7 xGDiff and -0.62 xGDiff/90 minutes.

Newcastle’s xGDiff and xGDiff/90 ranks second to last in the entire league, trailing only lowly West Bromwich Albion (-23.1 xGDiff and 1.21 xGDiff/90) in both categories.

Leeds

The Peacocks continue to be the league’s darlings this season, delivering an entertaining brand of soccer that makes them “must-see TV” every time they step on the pitch.

Marcelo Bielsa’s lads continue to hover right below the top half of the standings, currently sitting in 12th place on 23 points. Leeds has endured consecutive shutout defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion, so getting a positive result is a must for winger Jack Harrison and Company.

When comparing advanced metrics with Newcastle, Leeds is obviously ahead of its foe in all numbers. However, outside of its xG line, the stats are nothing to write home about in any way.

The Peacocks maintain a sizzling 29.6 expected goals, yet parlay the impressive figure with a horrific 32.7 expected goals against that results in a subpar -3.1 xGDiff and -0.17 for xGDiff/90 minutes.

If Leeds can improve even the slightest, plus maintain its scoring prowess, there’s no reason it can’t finish inside the top 10 this season.

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Betting Analysis & Picks

On paper, this match is exactly what it looks like. You have two of the league’s worst defending teams going at it, with both in desperate need of a positive result for their own reasons.

I can’t see either side letting the game come to them, so I am shying away from taking a side and will back the total going over the alternative number of 2.75 goals in this spot. I will also play both teams to score as well.

Despite Newcastle’s offensive woes, I am leaning on the historic perspective of this series and the fact it has scored at least two goals in 12 of its last 15 fixtures against Leeds across all competitions.

Throw in the fact there have been at least three goals in six of the Peacocks’ last seven league affairs, and I like my chances of hitting both wagers.

Pick: Total Over 2.75 Goals (-120) | Both Teams To Score — Yes (-175)

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Perry’s Farmers Insurance Open Betting Preview & Picks: Adam Scott, Jason Day Stand Out at Difficult Torrey Pines

farmers insurance open-odds-picks-pga tour-betting-joshua perry

For the second week in a row, we had an Aussie make a Sunday charge, only to come up a little short.

Cameron Davis closed out the American Express in third as his final round 64 wasn’t enough to pass up Si Woo Kim or Patrick Cantlay.

Now the attention shifts to probably the most important tournament of this early portion of the calendar, The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

This year’s event takes on added importance because the South Course will also host the U.S. Open in June, giving guys who don’t play here often a chance to get a little familiar before the USGA has its way with the place later in the summer.

The course last held both events in 2008. Tiger Woods won both, so it’s hard to say if this event will foreshadow what’s to come this summer or if it was just Tiger dominating in usual Tiger fashion.

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The Courses

For this event, the first two days will be split over Torrey Pines’ South and North courses with the players then using the South course on the weekend to finish.

The South course is a long and difficult par 72 measuring nearly 7,700 yards. On top of the length, it has narrow fairways and deep rough, making it one of the hardest driving tests on the PGA TOUR.

Length is always an advantage here, but more so if golfers can keep the driver in play. It appears like a total driving test, but players with the ability to recover from the rough and have strong shorter games can play well here.

Defending champ Marc Leishman, who we were lucky enough to hit at 50/1 last year, road a strong approach game and a white-hot putter to his win. He hit less than half the fairways a year ago, including just three on Sunday. But he still found the putting surface and had a great day on the greens.

The players will also see Poa Annua greens for the first time this year after three weeks on Bermuda. So this will be a chance to take a look at a few players who have struggled on the greens over the past couple of tournaments and see if they’re better suited to bounce back on a new surface.

The North course is the easier of the two and plays about 450 yards shorter than the South. A player will generally need to have a pretty solid round here, because the South course usually plays too difficult to make up much ground. It plays about 1-2 strokes easier than the South course on any given year.

The Favorites

Jon Rahm (+700) and Rory McIlroy (+800) headline the event this year. Both have strong histories here. Rahm won in his debut in 2017 and has two other top fives. Rory has finished third and fifth the past two seasons and is fresh off another top three result in Abu Dhabi this past weekend.

Xander Schauffele (+1400) and Tony Finau (+1800) make up that next range in the teens. Schauffele is a guy who it feels like should have better results here. He’s only made one cut in five tries and finished 25th. But the course suits his game and I expect him to figure this place out eventually. I was hoping that bad history might drop him into the +2000s this week, but alas, we’re out of luck.

Finau had another close call last week, and enters a tournament that has fit his eye in the past. He’s finished inside the top 25 in all six tries, including a fourth and sixth twice.

A handful of players close out this range between +2500-2800. Of the group, Hideki Matsuyama at +2800 is where I’d look to start. Matsuyama had a great ball striking week at the Sony, but had his usual putting woes. When the TOUR shifts to Poa greens, though, Hideki becomes more of an average putter, and that’s all he really needs to be to contend. Results are hit and miss for him, but he was third here two years ago.

I’ll be steering clear of the other four in this range. Patrick Reed has had a couple solid finishes the past two seasons, but has struggled with his ball striking to begin 2021. Harris English is just too low for me to play anymore. His best results all come from a hot putting week, and at +2500, I’m not going to try to guess if this will be one of them.

Neither Sungjae Im nor Viktor Hovland have shown much yet at this event in their early careers, so I’ll just lay off at their prices and search further down the board.

The Mid-Tier

I’ll try to find a better number later in the week on Hideki. He’s not a guy people really love to bet so there’s a chance he’ll drift down into this range. But in the meantime, there are two guys I will back.

The Aussies have been good to us early in 2021 and we won with one here a year ago. So I’ll be going back to two more this time.

Jason Day and Adam Scott both sit at +4500 on Bet365 and are worth a look for me. Normally I don’t back a player off an extended layoff like Jason Day, who will be making his first start of the new year, but Day has won this event twice after a similar break and was playing well last fall to finish the year.

Scott doesn’t play here often, but did finish runner up in 2019. He’s off an interesting run in Hawaii. He gained five shots off the tee at Sony and almost seven with approach at the TOC. So both those aspects have shown up, now it’s just about lining them up. The putter is also a concern, but for his career, he’s gained strokes on Poa, so he’s worth a look this week.

The Longshots

With those two Aussies along with a potential Hideki play later in the week, I don’t have room for much else on the card. This also hasn’t been a great spot for the underdogs in recent years. Scott Stallings is the only triple-digit winner that past decade. It’s a strong field that usually produces a strong champion.

I’ll will take a chance down here though on Talor Gooch at 100/1 on FanDuel. Gooch is coming off a good ball striking week at the Amex and was third here two years ago.

The Farmers Insurance Card

  • Jason Day +4500 (.73 units)
  • Adam Scott +4500 (.73 units)
  • Talor Gooch +10000 (.33 units)

Total Stake: 1.79 units

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NBA Odds & Pick for Celtics vs. Bulls: Sharps, Betting Systems Agree on Monday’s Spread (Jan. 25)

NBA Odds: Celtics vs. Bulls

Celtics Odds -4
Bulls Odds +4
Over/Under 227.5
PRO Projection BOS -3.4
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV NBCS-BOS
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When tonight’s Celtics-Bulls line opened at Celtics -7, our NBA projection’s model was licking its chops.

As you might have noticed up top, our PRO Projection for this game is a much more gentle 3.4-point edge to the Celtics, which might explain why sharps have been hammering this line in that direction … as told by our PRO Report feature.

Let’s take a look.

Note: Odds, data as of 2 p.m. ET.


NBA Sharp Betting Pick: Celtics vs. Bulls

Sharps and big bettors, who are likely one and the same, have been taking the points since this line opened, bringing the Bulls from +7 (even +8 at the earliest books to market) to a consensus of +4.

Sharp Action

As of writing, the Celtics are tied with the 76ers (-6.5 vs. Detroit) as the most popular spread bet of the day — attracting 71% of tickets hitting this spread. That, combined with the 3-point line move toward Chicago should serve as pretty much a dead giveaway of the sharp side.

Confirming that, two Bet Signals from Action Labs — triggered by instances of market movement caused specifically by sharp action — have revealed professional action hitting the Bulls at +7 and +6.

Sharp Action edge: Bulls

Big Money

And while Chicago may be getting dominated in the betting-ticket department, the Bulls actually have the edge in the actual money distribution.

Their 27% backing has accounted for 54% of the money landing on tonight’s spread, and while that’s certainly not creating a major monetary liability, it does reveal Chicago to be landing much bigger bets — the ones more likely to come from sharps.

Big Money edge: Bulls

PRO Systems

Historically speaking, following tonight’s sort of bet vs. money splits has been a profitable venture.

The Bulls’ significantly higher money than bet percentage fits them into our NBA Tickets vs. Money PRO System, which has covered the spread at a 55% rate on a sample of more than 600 games since 2015 (when we first began collecting money percentage data).

PRO Systems edge: Bulls

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College Basketball Pace Report: Predicting Betting Totals for This Week’s Games (Jan. 25-30)

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-over under-total-adjusted tempo-pace report-january 25-january 30

Much like college football, predicting the pace of a game can lead to gambling opportunities.

Using tempo projections, along with the four factors of college basketball, will help any gambler determine if there’s value in the market. Two teams with a high pace of place that dominate the offensive glass would give value to overs, while teams with a slow tempo and ball security would lean an investor toward an under.

This column will focus on the forthcoming weekly slate and the head-to-head tempo as dictated by KenPom. The projected total is a summation of the two teams with respect to expected points per 100 possessions divided by the expected number of possessions.

Monday, Jan. 25

Loyola-Chicago at Bradley, Projected 125.6

Tempo Rating: 314th at 270th

Leave it to the Missouri Valley Conference to field some of the slowest tempos in the nation. The Ramblers are on a heater, winning nine of their past 10 games with a massive weekend against Drake set for Feb. 13.

These two teams competed this past Sunday with a total of 125 after a combined 5-for-25 effort beyond the arc.

The Loyola defense in the paint is key, ranking 51st nationally while Bradley has the 41st-highest distribution rank in scoring points from 2-point field goals. 

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Tuesday, Jan. 26

Central Michigan at Buffalo, Projected 168.4

Tempo Rating: 31st at 7th

The two fastest teams in the MAC will look to play at warp speed on Tuesday.

Buffalo comes off of two games against other MAC squads that rank in the top five in tempo, and the result was 176 combined points for the Bulls.

Central Michigan may get a bevy of points while the clock is stopped, with a rank of 56th in free-throw rate and Buffalo sitting 302nd in sending opponents to the charity stripe.

The Bulls feast on 2-point field goals and should not yield against a Chippewas squad that ranks 264th in 2-point percentage defense. 

Wednesday, Jan. 27

Wagner at Mount St. Mary’s, Projected 115.7

Tempo Rating: 342nd at 355th

From a tempo perspective, South Carolina hosting Georgia and St John’s traveling to DePaul are four of the fastest 30 teams in the nation.

A game that most might not have their eye on is the sluggish battle between the Mountaineers and Seahawks.

Other than Evansville and Virginia, Mount St. Mary’s is the slowest team in the nation. In Northeast Conference play only, the Mountaineers are dead last on both sides of the ball in turnover percentage but first in defensive effective field goal percentage. 

Thursday, Jan. 28

Villanova at UConn, Projected 127.2

Tempo Rating: 334th at 341st

The Huskies and Wildcats are the two best teams in the Big East as defined by defensive efficiency.

Where possessions could take the entire shot clock is on the offensive side of the ball for Villanova, as Jay Wright’s squad is the top team in the country in offensive turnover percentage.

Free throws should also be considered if looking at an under, as Nova’s offense is just 236th at getting the line and 36th in allowing their opponents a visit to the charity stripe. 

Friday, Jan. 29

North Dakota State at UMKC, Projected 117.7

Tempo Rating: 338th at 354th

Both UMKC and North Dakota State have had fewer points in their back-to-back openers than their game played on the following day.

During Summit League play, the Kangaroos are -42 in point differential in their first game of back-to-backs, while the Bison are -100.

The North Dakota State defense is 26th in free-throw rate, which should be complemented by UMKC’s horrid free-throw shooting of 61%. The Bison have one of the widest margins in Division I play when it comes to rebounding when the Kangaroos are on offense. 

Saturday, Jan. 30

Morgan State at Coppin State, Projected 158.8

Tempo Rating: 32nd and 1st

Do not get up to grab a sandwich when the Eagles host the Bears.

Not only do both teams move at a lightning-quick pace, but each team also loves to shoot from beyond the arc. Coppin State has the 23rd-highest point distribution rate from the 3-point line, which negates a subpar shooting percentage of 30.3%.

Morgan State also rankings in the top 90 in point distribution from downtown, but a large advantage in offensive rebounding will be key to victory.

Watch out for an inflated number with these squads, as Coppin State should get to the free-throw line frequently despite ranking 333rd in shooting percentage.

Michigan Pauses Basketball Program: Where to Find Betting Value in the Big Ten

college-basketball-sharp-betting-picks-auburn-vs-arkansas-ohio-state-vs-michigan-tuesday

It was a bittersweet week for the Michigan Wolverines basketball program. For the first time all season Michigan cracked the top-5 of the AP rankings, but now the team must sit out two weeks due to health and safety protocols.

All Michigan athletics were put on pause following a confirmed case of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant within the department. There were no positive test on the basketball team, but nevertheless there will be no Wolverines games for the next two weeks.

That means Michigan will miss games against Penn State, Indiana Northwestern and Michigan State if the program misses the minimum amount of time.

The health of Michigan’s basketball team and athletic program is obviously the biggest concern here. It does, however, lead to questions for bettors surrounding the Big Ten moving forward.

Two of our college basketball experts weigh in on what’s next for Michigan and where betting opportunities may exist in the conference.

The two-week suspension of the Michigan sports program will have a direct impact on the Big Ten race. The Wolverines were the clear leader in the conference, even with a 75-57 blowout loss at Minnesota. They are currently 8-1 in conference play, but still have six road games scheduled. The pause in the season disrupts the schedule and opens the door for another contender.

I still like Illinois, currently listed with the fourth-best odds at +385. The Illini have the best balance of any team remaining in the conference, ranking eighth in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency per KenPom. With the exception of Connecticut, the last 12 NCAA champions all ranked Top 20 in both categories. Illinois has a great inside-outside duo in Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, and are not overly reliant on the three-pointer to score (27.5% of points, 252nd in the country). The Big Ten is still Michigan’s to lose, but the two-week interruption will open the door for a balanced and talented Illinois team.

With the Big Ten forcing Michigan to go on a two-week hiatus, value in the betting market appears on multiple teams to win the conference.

Illinois looks to be the biggest benefactor to this news and should be worth a look at +700 to win this conference. The Fighting Illini have a dynamic duo of freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu and 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn — both projected to be NBA players next year. Dosunmu is a 6-foot-5 point guard who averages 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Paired with Cockburn, who averages 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, this duo is good enough to beat anyone in the country.

Illinois ends the season facing seven teams inside the top 30, which should help bulk its resume as well as prep them for the conference tournament. With odds of +700 at DraftKings, that implies Illinois has only a 14.29% chance of winning the Big Ten. My rankings have them as a projected 3-seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a 19.55% chance of winning the conference. That’s more than enough value for me to back this Fighting Illini squad.

At the time of writing (late Sunday night), Illinois’s Big Ten Conference Outright Futures odds were as long as +700 at DraftKings.

Tuesday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Southampton vs. Arsenal (Jan. 26)

arsenal-southampton-premier-league-january-26

Southampton vs. Arsenal Odds

Southampton Odds +225
Arsenal Odds +123
Draw +240
Over/Under 2.5 (-107/-117)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3:15 p.m. ET
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Odds updated as of Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


After meeting just three days ago in the FA Cup, Southampton and Arsenal battle again in the Premier League.

Southampton walked away with a 1-0 victory on Saturday in a relatively unexciting fixture, with only 0.58 xG created from open play.

 

Southampton is starting to regress after a torrid start to the season, as they’ve only taken six points from their last six matches. The Saints are also dealing with some injury issues at the moment.

Both starting wing backs Ryan Bertrand and Kyle Walker-Peters, starting central midfielder Oriol Romeu, and starting center back Jannik Vestergaard are going to miss this match. Will they be able to overcome adversity and beat Arsenal for a second time in three days?

The Gunners have rebounded from a terrible run of form in November, as they’ve won four of their last five matches in league play.

During the FA Cup match over the weekend, a lot Arsenal’s main attacking players were rested for most of the match, so they should be able to field their first-choice team.

Arsenal is currently in 11th place and needs this match desperately if they want to have any chance at contending for European football next season.

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Southampton

Regression for the Saints was bound to happen at some point this season. Southampton’s +5 goal differential is severely inflated, as they have a -4.63 expected goal differential on the season.

The main reason for the big discrepancy is due to their incredible good fortune in front of goal. The Saints only have 17.22 xGF on the season, while their actual goal count is 26. In fact, over their last five matches, they’ve only created a total of 2.62 xG.

A lot of that has to do with the 4-4-2 formation they play out of, which is one of the more defensive formations in soccer. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side likes to high press up the field and have their formation morph into a 4-2-2-2 at times.

It worked tremendously against Arsenal on Saturday, as it is what ultimately led to the Gabriel own goal, which ended up being the deciding factor.

Southampton has been solid at the back in their 4-4-2 this season allowing only 1.25 xG per match. In fact in their last two meetings with Arsenal, they’ve allowed the Gunners to only create a total of 1.44 xG. So, it’s safe to say that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s squad matches up well against Arsenal’s attack.

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Arsenal

Why have the Gunners seemingly turned a corner the last five matches? It’s not that they are creating more chances in front of net, it’s that they are creating higher-quality chances.

Arsenal is averaging 1.99 xGF over their last five matches, compared to 1.11 xG in their first 14 matches of the season.

The biggest difference has been their young sensations Bukayo Saka & Emile Smith Rowe who have been creating chances left and right. Mikel Arteta gave Smith Rowe his first Premier League start against Chelsea and ever since the Gunners have looked like a completely different squad.

Over the last five matches, two academy products have combined for three goals and four assists, including this nice goal against Newcastle last Monday.

Another aspect not being talked about enough with the Gunners is their defense this year. Arsenal is fifth in the Premier League in xGA at 1.12 per match and has given up only 0.71 xG over their last four matches.

They allowed the Saints to create only 0.19 xG from open play on Saturday, so will they be able to shut them down again on Tuesday?

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Betting Analysis & Picks

Even with Southampton’s injuries at the back, I think this is going to be another tight affair like we saw on Saturday. The Saints are likely going to sit back to help out some of the new faces in their back line.

I only have 2.29 goals projected for this match, so I am going to back Under 2.5 goals at -117 odds.

Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-117)

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Super Bowl 55 Promo: Bet $20, Win $155 if the National Anthem Lasts 55 Seconds!

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Millions of viewers around the world will have their stopwatches out when Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan sing the national anthem at Super Bowl 55.

This promo at PointsBet Sportsbook makes one of the most popular prop bets of the year an easy win:

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Betting on the national anthem over/under has become a Super Bowl tradition. You’ll typically find over/unders in the two-minute range, and no Super Bowl anthem this century has been shorter than 90 seconds.

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If your original $20+ bet on the game wins, you’ll win that money, too.

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Super Bowl 55 Promo: Bet $20, Win $155 if There’s a Point Scored!

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The Super Bowl is upon us!

We have one heck of a matchup on our hands, and PointsBet Sportsbook has one heck of a promotion to go with it:

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Super Bowl 55 Betting Strategy: The Smart Way To Bet the Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Spread & Over/Under

super-bowl-55-odds-betting-strategy-chiefs-vs-buccaneers-spread-over-under

This initial flurry of Super Bowl 55 odds movement is over, which is quite common when it comes to betting this game.

The Chiefs vs. Buccaneers spread has already dropped from 3.5 to 3, while big bets have driven the Super Bowl total down from an opener of 57.5 to 56.

With the Super Bowl 55 betting market now settled, the big question is how to bet Chiefs vs. Bucs no matter which side or total you like.

Is it smarter to wait in the hopes that future movement makes your bet more valuable? Or is now the time to pounce?

Based on historical NFC betting data and our PRO tools, let’s examine the smart way to approach Super Bowl 55.

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Super Bowl 55 Spread Betting Strategy

If you like the Chiefs …

Early action has already pushed the spread from Kansas City -3.5 to -3 (click here for the latest Super Bowl 55 odds), making the favorite much more appetizing for bettors.

Considering 14.8% of NFL games have finished with a margin of victory of three points since 2003, it’s easy to see the importance of this half-point line move.

The Action Network’s NFL PRO Projections set the Chiefs vs. Bucs spread at Kansas City -2.3, so I’m inclined to gamble and wait on this line.

I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to make another huge half-point adjustment to -2.5 (though it is certainly possible), but I’m also not all that confident this number is going to float back to -3.5 anytime soon either.

It’s reasonable to assume that professionals who do like the Chiefs will wait until closer to game day when betting limits increase to take a market-moving position, so there’s time to wait and see what this spread does in the hope that the number and vig become less punitive for KC bettors.

If you like the Bucs …

Because our model sees a 4.2% edge with Bucs +3 right now, I’m inclined to go ahead and grab that value, even after the line move.

And remember, not all +3s are created equally, so peruse the market for the most accommodating vig associated with those 3 points.

Super Bowl 55 Over/Under Betting Strategy

If you like the over …

The Super Bowl 55 total has already dropped from an opener of 57.5 to 56 thanks to big early bets landing on the under, so the number has already improved if you’ve been looking to play the over.

Still, 56 is about as dead of a number in over/under betting with just 1.2% of games finishing with exactly 56 points scored from 2015 through the end of last season.

And for the record, using data from 2015 is not an arbitrary endpoint — we specifically chose that start date since that’s when the NFL moved back extra-point attempts to the 15-yard line, which has had an effect on scoring compared to games before the rule change.

On the other hand, 3.22% of NFL games over that span have finished with 55 points, making it a much more important line for total bettors.

With this in mind, I’d be willing to gamble a bit that this number continues ticking down, especially considering 94% of the early money is on the under, and prepare myself to jump on 55 if it gets there.

If it doesn’t, anything on the over below 57 is likely fine as that’s the next quasi-important number in NFL total betting.

But if you’re already insisting on betting the over now, be sure to shop the market and lock in one of the shops offering 56.

If you like the under …

Go ahead and snag under 56.5. Enough sportsbooks are still at that number, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to find.

Like I mentioned above, the early money is flowing on the under and the importance of being above 55 is worth locking in right now.

However, if you do want to risk it (which is what we’re all doing in the sports betting game anyway, right?), hold out for 57 and make your move if it gets there.

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Moore: The 10 Best Early Value Plays for NBA MVP

Unbelievably, we’re 20% of the way through the NBA season.

It may feel like too early to talk about the MVP, but this season will accelerate quickly given the scheduling constraints.

The odds for MVP are also still fairly long on the board. No one player has firmly asserted himself as the frontrunner.

Here’s a broad look at the MVP futures and what their cases are relative to their value:

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1. Nikola Jokic (+800, DraftKings)

I covered Jokic’s case last week. The Nuggets have won three in a row since then and seven of their last nine to get over .500. Jokic is still averaging 26-12-10 (after rounding) even with back-to-back  games that brought down his assist numbers against the Suns, who didn’t send double teams at him.

Denver is turning the page on their season, back to full health for the first time this season with JaMychal Green (who missed the first two weeks) and Michael Porter Jr. (who missed three weeks with health protocol quarantine) back.

Wins will only bolster Jokic’s case. He has a number of dominant performances against good teams to back up the stats, and the fact that Denver is largely helpless without him also helps his candidacy.

The big problem might still be narrative. Voters, largely based on the coasts, are not going to be drawn toward Jokic. Joker is funny, but in a quirky way, not in a troll-your-opponent-on-Instagram way or a talk-trash-in-an-interview way.

There’s also concern about his minutes. Jokic is averaging 36 minutes per game, 16th-most per game, and he’s not missing any games. That’s related to how good the rest of the roster is and how much they need him. It makes him more valuable, of course, but it also makes the margin slimmer for Denver.

2. Joel Embiid (10-1, DraftKings)

When Embiid and Seth Curry both play, the Sixers are 9-0 this season. Embiid is averaging 28 points and 12 rebounds per game, with career highs in eFG% and TS% while shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from 3-point range, both for the first time in his career.

With Curry and Embiid on the court, the Sixers are beating opponents by over 20 points per 100 possessions, an absolute shellacking. Philly suffered through a series of losses after missing half their team due to health and safety protocol quarantines, and it still has the best record in the Eastern Conference.

We are approaching that point in the season where analysts and TV networks start to look at the standings and go “Hey, we need to talk about the Sixers!”

Embiid is also popular with the media and voters. He’s done high-profile interviews with multiple ESPN reporters, some of whom have votes.

Additionally, the Sixers are fifth in defense, despite all the absences of starters and an absolutely hilarious game against the Wizards in which no defense was played by anyone as if it was actually against protocol.

For much of the season, before the COVID-19 issues, the 76ers had the NBA’s best defense. Expect them to continue to climb. Embiid makes a massive defensive impact player unlike Jokic (despite Jokic’s high steal rate). Embiid will likely finish as a Defensive Player of the Year vote-getter, and that will wind up as a strong tiebreaker against Jokic if it comes down to the two big men.

If Philly winds up with the 1-seed in the East, Embiid will be the favorite.

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3. LeBron James (+900, BetMGM)

The narrative force.

A considerable bloc of voters last year literally wanted to give James the MVP because he’s old. He’s probably the second player in history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to get credit simply for his age.

Now, the Lakers are clearly the best team in the league, the defending champion, and everyone that voted for Giannis Antetokounmpo last season watched James prove he’s still the best player in the game in the playoffs.

There’s a strong desire to get James a fourth MVP, and pretty much anyone who is a star for a good Lakers team is going to wind up in the conversation. Voters will not miss an opportunity, if presented, to give him credit.

Now, if we actually put his resume up, we hit some trouble. James is averaging his fewest points since his rookie season and fewer assists since his last season in Miami (with a radically different offensive scheme and roster). His effective field goal percentage is the lowest since 2015, and his field goal percentage is the lowest for him since 2007.

Now, a not-great James statistical season is still better than 98% of all players in NBA history. However, the makeup of various voters is such that there will be deep-dive analysts that those numbers will bear discussion.

Anthony Davis is also playing incredibly well, and that will also impact votes. Players with superstar teammates have had a hard time garnering votes in recent seasons. In fact, Davis has a higher statistical probability by Basketball Reference than James.

However, and this is the biggest reason he has good value: James is the default pick. It’s too early to say this, and if you were to say “frontrunner” you would say one of the two players above. But this is the conversation about James:

LeBron is the default. If the Nuggets don’t win enough games, if Embiid misses a bunch of games (as he often does), if the Nets’ defense keeps their win total down, if Kawhi Leonard takes a stretch off as he’s known to, if Luka Doncic doesn’t get back to last year’s success, then even if James doesn’t put himself ahead of the pack, he’ll win. If there’s no clear MVP winner?

He will win.

If you’re looking for the safest bet? It’s LeBron.


4. Kevin Durant (+650, FanDuel)

Durant’s been spectacular this season, and the James Harden trade may not have sunk him the way we thought it might.

In the games since the Nets traded for Harden, Durant’s usage has stayed above 30%, right in line with his season averages. His points have stayed above 30 per game and his assists have stayed above six per game. On the season, Durant is second in the NBA in points per game, 22nd in assists per game and top-40 in rebounds, with 54-48-88 shooting splits.

Brooklyn’s defense is terrible, ranked 25th in the league. But they have the fourth-best offense and wins over Denver, Golden State, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Miami this season.

You would assume that the presence of Kyrie Irving and Harden would drag down his numbers. But if you watch the Nets play, it stands out that Durant is still the engine of the team. He’s what makes Brooklyn go.

Irving has shifted into almost entirely a scoring role, and Harden has shifted into much more of a playmaker. With the fifth-highest pace in the league, there might be enough usage to go around to keep his numbers up.

The Nets’ defense is too poor to put Durant any higher, but if Jokic is No. 1 with the 20th-ranked defense, Durant deserves mention here.


5. Kawhi Leonard (55-1, FanDuel)

Ho-hum, second-best record in the West, a head-to-head win over the Lakers, averaging 25-5-6 on 51-42-90 shooting splits. The Clippers are also 12-3 when Leonard plays this season.

The Clippers’ defense has been pedestrian this season, ranking 16th. Additionally, the defense has been five points better per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court.

But if Leonard’s going to get seriously into the conversation, he has to get there on his strength as the NBA’s best two-way player.

Paul George has also been sensational this season, and as it is with James, there’s a cost to superstar teammates. However, at 55-1 it’s still incredible value for one of the top-five best players in the league.

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6. Giannis Antetokounmpo (+800, FanDuel)

It may seem crazy to put the two-time reigning MVP this low. It may seem crazy to put the player averaging 27-10-5 while shooting 54% from the field for the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

But there are so many factors working against him.

Antetokounmpo is averaging his fewest points, rebounds and assists per game of the last three seasons (his MVP era) on his worst eFG% of that time while playing more minutes.

The Bucks have been far from their usual dominant selves to start the season. They’re second in offense, ninth in defense, second in Net Rating, but they have losses to the Lakers, Jazz, Heat, Nets and Celtics.

What’s their best win? Against the Heat, who they lost to the next night?

Last season, the Bucks’ starting lineup was +18.9 per 100 possessions. This season, +10.4. Now, that’s still great. It’s fourth-best among all lineups this season with at least 100 minutes.

But that, combined with a much worse bench after the Bucks traded a lot of depth to get Jrue Holiday (and not Bogdan Bogdanovic) has resulted in a reduction in their margin for error.

Milwaukee just hasn’t been as dominant this season. Antetokounmpo has not been as dominant this season. That is on top of a voter resistance to voting a player three times in a row; it’s only happened three times in NBA history and not since 1986 with Larry Bird.

Antetokounmpo’s playoff struggles also leave a bad taste. Voters are often willing to forgive it twice, but not a third time.

You would be betting on massive improvement over the course of this season, and a narrative shift to take Giannis.


7. Domantas Sabonis (200-1, BetMGM)

This may seem crazy, but the Pacers are 9-7 despite a litany of injuries and a brutal stretch of injuries, along with the situation with Caris LeVert after trading Victor Oladipo.

Meanwhile, Sabonis has recorded a double-double in 16 straight games, tied with Jokic for the most to start the season.

Sabonis is averaging 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists per game. Barring a run to the 1-seed, I can’t find a path for Sabonis to the MVP, especially given the Pacers actually have a -0.1 Net Rating with him on the floor. But he’s been so sensational and the Pacers have gotten so many good wins, he warrants at least a mention here.

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8. Anthony Davis (25-1, DraftKings)

Davis’ numbers don’t jump off the page at 22-9-4, but he’s considered to be in discussion for Defensive Player of the Year, and again, the Lakers effect is very real. James is his biggest obstacle; it’s just very difficult to win MVP when LeBron is on your team.

The Lakers’ sitting atop the Western Conference is a huge factor here. If James was to take time off for rest or injury, it would open the door for Davis. I’ll include him on this list, but a lot of things would have to fall into place.


9. Luka Doncic (+450, DraftKings)

I can’t put the shortest odds player here for a team that is 8-8 on the season, who is shooting 27.8% from 3-point range.

Doncic’s numbers have been incredible as always, averaging 27-10-10. (Those are after rounding. Remember when averaging a triple-double was a big deal?) But Dallas’ offense has been poor after trading Curry, and with so many players out due to COVID-19 or contact tracing. The offense should improve as both Kristaps Porzingis gets into more of a rhythm and as shooting percentages regress to the norm.

But you’re not buying low at this number, you’re still just 4.5-1 with a lot of a brutal schedule in front, and if Dallas misses the playoffs, not even a 28-point triple-double will get it done.

I don’t see the odds for Doncic getting much shorter until midseason so you have time to wait to see if Dallas can steady itself before buying in.


10. Stephen Curry (10-1)

Curry scored 62 points in a game this season and lit the world on fire, but the Warriors have continued to be inconsistent. They beat the Lakers and then lost to the Knicks.

This is a problem.

Curry’s averages (28-6-6) are up there with Leonard, and his ability to warp the defense is still tremendous. He’s still one of the most impactful players in the league. But Golden State’s offense hasn’t been great even with Curry on the floor.

Curry has to either lead the league in scoring or get his assists up and the Warriors need to finish with at least a top-four record for Curry to get a major push. It’s hard to see those things happening, but keep an eye on him.

2021 Farmers Insurance Open Odds: Jon Rahm the Favorite at Torrey Pines

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The PGA TOUR heads to one of its most iconic venues this week for the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Even though a couple of big names won’t make the trip, this is probably the deepest full-field event we’ve seen so far in the new year.

Jon Rahm, who withdrew from The American Express last week, is back and healthy and tops the board as the +700 ($10 bet wins $70) favorite. The World No. 2 has made one start in 2021, finishing T7 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Prior to that, he strung together back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Zozo and The Masters.

It’s been a bit of a grind for Rory McIlroy over the past 12 months, but the Northern Irishman is fresh off a third-place finish in Dubai last week so he’s getting plenty of respect from bookmakers for the trip to Torrey Pines. McIlroy is just behind Rahm at +850.

Xander Schauffele opened as the third-favorite at +1100. Schauffele didn’t nab a victory in 2020, but he closed the season in some style. He finished fifth at the U.S. Open, second at the CJ Cup and then wrapped up the year with back-to-back T17s at the Zozo and The Masters. Schauffele has made one start in 2021, finishing T5 at the Tournament of Champions.

The American Express was another “close, but no cigar” moment for Tony Finau as he finished fourth after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. Bettors and DFS players often gravitate toward Finau, but he’s up near the top of the board at +1600 this week, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s passed over after another disappointing finish.

There are a couple of intriguing names in the mid-tier, including defending champion Marc Leishman at +4000. The Aussie put together one of the more improbable wins at Torrey Pines in 2020 as he struggled to find fairways but was dialed in with his approach and short game.

After falling out of form for most of 2020, Leishman seemed to find something at Augusta and finished T13. That result was fresh on the mind of bettors after the offseason as Leishman was a chic sleeper pick for the TOC, where he finished T24, and the Sony, where he ended up T4.

Another name to keep an eye on in this range is Gary Woodland. After battling injuries to close out 2020, the 2019 U.S. Open champion looked more like his old self with a top-20 finish at The American Express. You can expect a seemingly healthy Woodland to attract some action at +8000.

Bettors were quickly enamored with Will Zalatoris when he burst onto the scene with a T6 finish at the 2020 U.S. Open. The current Korn Ferry Tour points leader then followed that up with a T6 at the Corales Puntacana before missing the cut at the Sanderson Farms. Zalatoris bounced right back with a T5 at the Shriners.

The fact that this is Zalatoris’ 2021 debut could keep bettors off him, but there could be plenty of people looking to back Zalatoris at +6600.

Zalatoris is one of a handful of young stars making the trip to Torrey Pines. Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, and Matthew Wolff are all between +3000 and +3500 this week. Also in that range is The American Express winner, Si Woo Kim at +3300.

One name to keep an eye on over the next couple of days is Francesco Molinari. The 2018 Open Champion only played three events after the hiatus in 2020, and he missed the cut in two of them, so he’s been off the betting radar for quite some time.

That could change this week. Molinari was hanging around the leaderboard at The American Express, so he could be worth circling at +6600.

GolfBet

Another sleeper who could have some buzz is Byeong-hun An (+9000). The affable-yet-mercurial South Korean hadn’t popped on a leaderboard for quite some time, but he came out of the gates firing at The American Express, which was his 2021 debut. An has a bit of a cult following among golf speculators — I would know since I belong to said cult following — so don’t be surprised if An catches some love as a potential longshot at Torrey Pines.

Speaking of longshots, there are a couple of big names with big prices this week including Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, who are at +6600, +8000 and +15000, respectively.

Here are the full betting odds for the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open:

2021 Farmers Insurance Open Odds

Odds as of Monday at 11 a.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Player Odds
Jon Rahm +700
Rory McIlroy +850
Xander Schauffele +1100
Tony Finau +1600
Harris English +2000
Hideki Matsuyama +2200
Patrick Reed +2200
Viktor Hovland +3000
Jason Day +3300
Billy Horschel +3300
Scottie Scheffler +3300
Si Woo Kim +3300
Matthew Wolff +3300
Brooks Koepka +3500
Sungjae Im +3500
Marc Leishman +4000
Adam Scott +4000
Ryan Palmer +4500
Bubba Watson +4500
Emiliano Grillo +5500
Jason Kokrak +5500
Cameron Smith +6000
Corey Conners +6600
Cameron Davis +6600
Rickie Fowler +6600
John Huh +6600
Francesco Molinari +6600
Louis Oosthuizen +6600
Will Zalatoris +6600
Charles Howell III +7000
Cameron Champ +8000
Talor Gooch +8000
Lanto Griffin +8000
Ryan Moore +8000
Alexander Noren +8000
Jordan Spieth +8000
Gary Woodland +8000
Sam Burns +9000
Byeong Hun An +9000
Joel Dahmen +9000
James Hahn +9000
Carlos Ortiz +9000
Keegan Bradley +10000
Doug Ghim +10000
Charley Hoffman +10000
Max Homa +10000
Mackenzie Hughes +10000
Matt Jones +10000
Russell Knox +10000
Luke List +10000
Rory Sabbatini +10000
Kevin Streelman +10000
Cameron Tringale +10000
Erik van Rooyen +10000
Dylan Frittelli +12500
Lucas Glover +12500
Martin Laird +12500
Henrik Norlander +12500
Kyle Stanley +12500
Richy Werenski +12500
Adam Hadwin +15000
Harry Higgs +15000
Bo Hoag +15000
Tom Hoge +15000
Mark Hubbard +15000
Peter Malnati +15000
Denny McCarthy +15000
Troy Merritt +15000
Phil Mickelson +15000
Doc Redman +15000
Adam Schenk +15000
Scott Stallings +15000
Sepp Straka +15000
Wyndham Clark +17500
Maverick McNealy +17500
Pat Perez +17500
Patrick Rodgers +17500
Harold Varner III +17500
Bronson Burgoon +20000
Tyler Duncan +20000
Kramer Hickok +20000
Keith Mitchell +20000
Scott Piercy +20000
J.T. Poston +20000
Charl Schwartzel +20000
Roger Sloan +20000
Brandt Snedeker +20000
Jhonattan Vegas +20000
J.B. Holmes +25000
Kyoung-Hoon Lee +25000
Danny Lee +25000
Tom Lewis +25000
Matthew NeSmith +25000
Cameron Percy +25000
Chase Seiffert +25000
Brian Stuard +25000
Kristoffer Ventura +25000
Chris Baker +35000
Jason Dufner +35000
Chesson Hadley +35000
Brandon Hagy +35000
Hank Lebioda +35000
Tyler McCumber +35000
Andy Ogletree +35000
Rob Oppenheim +35000
Sam Ryder +35000
Robby Shelton +35000
J.J. Spaun +35000
Robert Streb +35000
Steve Stricker +35000
Justin Suh +35000
Camilo Villegas +35000
Vincent Whaley +35000
Xinjun Zhang +35000
Mark Anderson +50000
Aaron Baddeley +50000
Joseph Bramlett +50000
Ryan Brehm +50000
Scott Brown +50000
Sebastian Cappelen +50000
K.J. Choi +50000
Rhein Gibson +50000
Michael Gligic +50000
Fabian Gomez +50000
Will Gordon +50000
Scott Harrington +50000
David Hearn +50000
Beau Hossler +50000
Satoshi Kodaira +50000
Kelly Kraft +50000
Anirban Lahiri +50000
Satoshi Kodaira +50000
Kelly Kraft +50000
Anirban Lahiri +50000
Jamie Lovemark +50000
Ted Potter Jr. +50000
Seung-Yul Noh +50000
Tyler Strafaci +50000
Sung Kang +50000
Tyler Strafaci +50000
Sung Kang +50000
Ben Taylor +50000
Kevin Tway +50000
Jimmy Walker +50000
Nick Watney +50000
Tim Wilkinson +50000
Rafael Campos +100000
Michael Gellerman +100000
Kamaiu Johnson +100000
Michael Kim +100000
Nelson Ledesma +100000
Hunter Mahan +100000

Super Bowl Odds: Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Spread vs. Our Predictions

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Super Bowl Odds

Chiefs Odds
-3 (-118)
Buccaneers Odds
+3 (-103)
Over/Under
56
Odds as of Monday morning and via DraftKings.

Super Bowl 55 is set.

It wasn’t pretty, but Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staved off a second-half comeback from the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC Championship. That means the Bucs will be the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium.

Tampa Bay will host the Kansas City Chiefs, who quickly overcame a hot start from the Buffalo Bills to claim their second straight AFC crown and secure a chance to defend their title.

Our staff has already calculated early projections, placed their bets and analyzed this matchup from more angles. Find our early reactions below.

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Super Bowl Predictions

We projected a spread using the team ratings of the analysts who power our NFL PRO Projections.

  • Spread: Chiefs -2.3
  • Total: 56.5

Early Super Bowl Picks & Analysis

Over/Under Opens As Highest In Super Bowl History: Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady? No wonder the total opened higher than any closing total. » Read More

Spread Already On the Move: Within an hour of opening, the line moved a half-point. » Read More

Bets We Made Right Away: Sportsbooks offered the hook on the underdog, and our analysts bit. » Read More

Trends That Favor the Chiefs: Matthew Freedman breaks down two trends that support why he likes Kansas City to cover. » Read More

What Home-Field Advantage Really Means For Bucs: Tampa Bay will play the Super Bowl … in Tampa Bay, but our staff doesn’t see much of an advantage as a result. » Read More

Super Bowl Date & Location

  • Date: Sunday, Feb. 7
  • Location: Tampa Bay, Florida

Despite the Pro Bowl cancellation, Super Bowl 55 will still kick off exactly two weeks after Championship Sunday. It’ll be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, which means the Buccaneers will be playing on their home field.

How Kansas City Reached Super Bowl 55

  • Regular Season Record: 14-2
  • Wild Card Round: Bye
  • Divisional Round: Beat the Browns, 22-17
  • AFC Championship: Beat the Bills, 38-24

Patrick Mahomes, that’s how.

The MVP candidate was nearly flawless over the regular season, throwing 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions and finishing second in the NFL with 4,740 yards. He was second in passing yards to Deshaun Watson, and that’s only because Mahomes sat out Week 17 with the Chiefs already owning the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Kansas City’s lone defeat with Mahomes under center came in Week 5 to the Raiders, but the Chiefs responded with a 10-win streak and quickly quieted any concerns that came out of the loss.

Going over their regular-season total of 11.5 wins was never really in doubt.

Even though Kansas City was almost unbeatable on the field, bettors weren’t rewarded. Often faced with large spreads, the Chiefs were 7-8 against the spread in the 15 regular-season games Mahomes started.

odds-projections-super-bowl-matchups
Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes

How Tampa Bay Reached Super Bowl 55

  • Regular Season Record: 11-5
  • Wild Card Round: Beat Washington, 31-23
  • Divisional Round: Beat the Saints, 30-20
  • NFC Championship: Beat the Packers, 31-26

After opening as a +5000 longshot, Tampa Bay skyrocketed up the Super Bowl odds board after signing Tom Brady, emerging from free agency with the fifth-best odds to win the NFC.

And while a pair of losses to the division-winning Saints ultimately kept the Bucs from the NFC South crown and a home playoff game, they still cruised to and through the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Now the question is whether his arsenal of weapons and their stout defense will be enough to secure Brady his seventh ring — at the very least, they’ll have a chance.

Super Bowl 55 Odds, Picks: Big Bets Driving Early Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Over/Under Movement

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Super Bowl 55 Odds

Chiefs Odds -3
Buccaneers Odds +3
Over/Under 56
PRO Projections Chiefs -2.3 | O/U: 56.5
Time | Channel  6:30 p.m. ET | CBS
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Super Bowl 55 is set, and as is often the case in this game, there was a flurry of early Chiefs vs. Buccaneers odds movement immediately after the line opened.

To start, bettors quickly gobbled up the hook to push Tampa Bay down from +3.5 to +3.

Additionally, big early bets came down on the Chiefs vs. Bucs total as well, which initially opened as the highest over/under in Super Bowl history.

Using our Live NFL Odds and public betting data, let’s look at how the Super Bowl 55 total has already moved and the bet already attracting market-moving money.

Super Bowl 55 Odds Movement

As I mentioned above, the Super Bowl 55 opening total of 57.5 was the highest of all-time, well, for a hot minute as the kids was say.

It took less than an hour for this number to drop from 57.5 to the current total of 56 (click here for the latest Super Bowl 55 odds), and big bets are the reason.

The Action Network’s NFL betting data shows 70% of bets have hit the over thus far, yet 94% of the money is on the under.

This is a dead giveaway that oddsmakers are seeing significantly-sized wagers on the under, which is confirmed by the 1.5-point over/under movement.

Want access to PRO betting tools for Super Bowl 55? Test drive a FREE Trial of our Action PRO subscription right now!

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Tuesday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Crystal Palace vs. West Ham United (Jan. 26)

soccer-premier league-betting-odds-picks-predictions-crystal palace-west ham united-michael antonio-january 26

Crystal Palace vs. West Ham Odds

Crystal Palace Odds +215
West Ham Odds +133
Draw +230
Over/Under 2.5 (+108/-136) 
Day | Time Tuesday | 1 p.m. ET
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Odds updated as of Monday afternoon and via DraftKings

Clubs going in opposite directions will battle Tuesday when Crystal Palace welcomes West Ham United to Selhurst Park for their Premier League match.

The Eagles are in quite a rut at the moment, going winless in eight of their last nine contests across all competitions. Those efforts — or lack there of — have seen Crystal Palace slide down the table into 13th place on 23 points.

On the other side, life for the Hammers could not be going any better at the moment. West Ham has been the “Cinderella” of the England’s top-flight ball up to this point, winning five on the bounce and jumping into seventh place.

Needless to say, this is an important fixture and both will be looking to bag all three points. Let’s take a look and see what could in store on the pitch.

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Crystal Palace

Manager Roy Hodgson and his group have some serious soul searching to do if they haven’t done so already.

The Eagles have been downright awful as of late, which was highlighted by their 4-0 shutout loss to Manchester City last time out. How bad was Crystal Palace in that match? Well, it generated 0.0 expected goals in the defeat.

Looking at Crystal Palace’s overall statistics depict a team dripping with mediocrity in the bottom half of the table. The Eagles sit on 17.3 expected goals and subpar 25.4 expected goals against, generating in a disappointing -8.1 xGDiff and -0.42 xGDiff/90 minutes.

Bottom line, Crystal Palace must get things reversed if it has any shot of finishing somewhere just outside the top 10 in the standings.

West Ham

As previously mentioned, the Hammers have been the biggest surprise of all in the league this season. They’ve gone unbeaten in nine of their last 10 games across all competitions, with their lone setback coming via a 3-0 loss to Chelsea more than a month ago at Stamford Bridge.

West Ham, which is just two points behind defending league champion Liverpool in fourth place, has been powered by its ultra-stingy defense. The Hammers have notched five shutouts in their last six contests, which should have them confident facing a foe totally out of sorts at the moment.

Michail Antonio and Tomáš Souček leads an extremely balance offensive attack, each with five goals on the season. West Ham has 27 goals as a club, which should tell you its getting production from all over the pitch.

When comparing advanced metrics with Crystal Palace, West Ham is far and away better than its opponent across the board. The Hammers have a modest 24.7 expected goals and solid 22.2 expected goals against, resulting in a respectable +2.2 xGDiff and +0.12 for xGDiff/90 minutes.

Betting Analysis & Picks

This is another one of those matches where the obvious should be staring right at you. West Ham consistently performs like it belongs among the league’s top half, with a potential Europa League berth within its grasp.

And now the Hammers get an inconsistent Crystal Palace side that can put up solid efforts (see its draws against Leicester City and Arsenal) only to throw in clunkers in their blowout defeats against the likes of Liverpool,  Aston Villa and Manchester City.

That said, I’m going with the in-form outfit and backing West Ham via the Draw No Bet line as my top play.

I will also sprinkle a little on the total going over the number at plus money as well. Crystal Palace has to go after a result, which is going to leave it open to the West Ham counterattack and that could be a nightmare for the host.

Picks: West Ham — Draw No Bet (-150) | Total Over 2.5 Goals (+108)

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Premier League Midweek Projected Odds & Totals (Jan. 26-28)

The Premier League returns this week after most clubs were involved in the FA Cup over the weekend.

The title race is starting to heat up as Manchester United hold a two-point advantage over Manchester City and Leicester City going into this week’s matches. (Table via premierleague.com)

With how busy the European soccer calendar is at the moment, managers might be rotating their squads to rest some players. Therefore, it might be a good idea to wait to place a wager until starting lineups come out prior to kickoff.

You can use these projections to identify early betting value on the opening lines, plus follow me in The Action Network App to see any bets I make throughout the week.

Premier League

Premier League Notes

  • Everton vs. Leicester: The Foxes need this match to keep pace with the two Manchester clubs, while the Toffees are hoping to use their two games in hand to get into the top four. Everton defeated Leicester, 2-0, at the King Power Stadium on Dec. 16, which is the last time the Foxes lost a Premier League match.
  • Tottenham vs. Liverpool: After being upset by Burnley last week, the Reds absolutely need to win this match to stay in the title race. Tottenham is only one point behind Liverpool, so a win would put Spurs back inside the top four. Liverpool has desperately struggled on the road, as they only have one win in their last eight matches away from Anfield. The Reds though have won five straight matches over Tottenham in the Premier League including a dramatic 2-1 win on Dec. 16.

Premier League Injury News

  • Arsenal: Dani Caballos (CM) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) are questionable to play against Southampton.
  • Brighton: Tariq Lamptey (RB) and Danny Welbeck (ST) are out against Fulham. Adam Lallana (CAM) is questionable.
  • Chelsea: N’Golo Kante (CM) is questionable to play against Wolves.
  • Crystal Palace: Jeffrey Schlupp (LM) and Mamadou Sahko (CB) are out against West Ham. Wilfred Zaha (ST) is questionable.
  • Everton: Fabian Delph (LB) is out against Leicester.
  • Fulham: Tom Cairney (CAM) is out against Brighton.
  • Leicester: Jamie Vardy (ST) and Dennis Praet (CAM) are out against Everton.
  • Liverpool: Diogo Jota (CF), Virgil Van Dijk (CB), Naby Keita (CM) and Joe Gomez (CB) are out against Tottenham. Jordan Henderson (CM) is questionable.
  • Manchester City: Kevin de Bruyne (CAM), Sergio Augero (ST) and Nathan Ake (CB) are out against West Brom.
  • Manchester United: Marcus Rashford (ST) is doubtful to face Sheffield United.
  • Newcastle: Ciaran Clark (CB) and DeAndre Yedlin (RB) are out against Leeds.
  • Sheffield United: Sander Berge (CM), Oliver McBurnie (ST), Jack Robinson (CB) and Jack O’Connell (CB) are out against Manchester United. Lys Mousset (ST) is questionable.
  • Southampton: Jannik Vestergaard (CB), Ryan Bertrand (LB), Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) and Oriol Romeu (CM) are out against Arsenal.
  • Tottenham: Giovanni Lo Celso (CM), Serge Aurier (RB) and Matt Doherty (RB) are out against Liverpool.
  • West Brom: Conor Townsend (LB) and Karlan Grant (ST) are out against Manchester City. 
  • West Ham: Arthur Masuaku (LB) is out against Crystal Palace.
  • Wolves: Daniel Pondence (ST) and Raul Jimenez (ST) are out against Chelsea.

2 Super Bowl Betting Trends That Favor the Chiefs To Cover vs. Buccaneers

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One game left: The Super Bowl.

Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes.

Inevitable.

The football gods have been merciful.

Although I’m not a trends bettor, I find that using  our Action Labs database helps me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games.

Let’s take a look at some trends for the early spreads and totals for Packers-Buccaneers and Chiefs-Bills.

All lines are from our NFL Odds page.

Abbreviations: Against the spread (ATS), return on investment (ROI).

Chiefs (-3.5) vs. Buccaneers

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 7 | TV: CBS

When the Chiefs and Buccaneers played in Week 12 at Raymond James Stadium, the Chiefs won by only three points, but they very much controlled the game.

In the first quarter, they sprinted to a 17-0 lead. At the start of the fourth quarter, they were ahead 27-10. Mahomes was a delicious 462-3-0 passing for the Chiefs while Brady was a good-but-not-great 345-3-2 passing.

In a vacuum, I think the Chiefs are more than three points better the Bucs, and I’m not dissuaded by the fact that the Bucs are playing this game in Tampa Bay.

Home-field advantage doesn’t mean as much this year as it usually does, and the fans at the Super Bowl tend not to be the diehards.

Plus, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been dominant on the road, where he is an A-graded 40-22-1 ATS (26.8% ROI).

Similarly, Mahomes is 15-8-1 ATS (28% ROI) on the road.

Finally, as good as Brady has been throughout his career, bettors who have gone against him in the Conference Championships and Super Bowls since 2003 (as far back as our database goes) are 12-9 ATS (10.9% ROI).

This line has opened at -3.5, and I think it will move toward the Bucs from there, so I’m putting some action on the Chiefs now in case I’m wrong, but I’m also planning to bet more on them later if the line hits -3.

  • Action: Chiefs -3.5 (-105) at DraftKings
  • Limit: Chiefs -4.5 (-110)

Matthew Freedman is 1,004-797-37 (55.7%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

Eric Fisher Injures Achilles: What Potential Loss Means for Chiefs In Super Bowl 55 vs. Buccaneers

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With the AFC Championship in hand, the Kansas City Chiefs suffered a tough loss when starting left tackle Eric Fisher left the game with an Achilles injury.

Kansas City cruised to a 38-21 win that didn’t feel that close, but the attention turns to the Super Bowl and whether the Chiefs will have their best offensive lineman available.

Fisher is a key cog on an offensive line already ravaged by injury — he had played in 95% of snaps on the season entering Sunday’s game. He started every game expect Week 17 when the Chiefs rested starters. He was called for just one holding all season.

After the game, head coach Andy Reid told reporters he believed Fisher suffered a tear.

“It doesn’t look too good,” he said.

On its own, the loss doesn’t seem monumental or line-shifting on paper. According to Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, Fisher is the eighth-most valuable player on the Chiefs and worth 0.13 points to the spread. Another one of our NFL experts, Chris Raybon, is on the same page and gives Fisher a 0.15 rating.

Starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been on injured reserve since Week 11 with a back injury. His replacement, Mike Remmers, slid to left tackle to replace Fisher. Stefen Wisniewski came off the bench to fill in at right guard as Andrew Wylie moved to right tackle.

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The depleted line will face a challenge in Tampa Bay, which boasts a defensive line of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul and William Gholston. That doesn’t include linebacker Shaq Barrett, who accounted for three of the team’s five sacks on Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs opened as 3.5-point favorites with a total of 57.5 — the highest in Super Bowl history. The game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 7 (find more information here).

Super Bowl 55 Odds: Early Tampa Bay Action Moving Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Spread

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Super Bowl 55 Odds

Chiefs Odds -3
Buccaneers Odds +3
Over/Under 57.5
Time | Channel  6:30 p.m. ET | CBS
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Well, that didn’t take long.

After the Kansas City Chiefs opened as consensus 3.5-point favorites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Super Bowl 55, early bettors jumped on underdogs to push this line back to 3 (click here for updated Chiefs vs. Buccaneers odds) at the majority of shops across the market.

Frankly, it’s not all that surprising to see bettors happily gobbling up 3.5 points to back Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, especially considering the importance of 3 in NFL betting.

With the number now settled at 3, it’ll be interesting to monitor how long it takes to move off that key number (if it does).

According to our NFL PRO Projections, our model pegs the Super Bowl 55 spread at Chiefs -2.6, so the line is already moving with the projection and could potentially shift even further should the market agree with our number.

Interestingly, 83% of early spread bets and 93% of the money has come in on the Chiefs, showing that it’s likely action from respected players getting down on the Bucs as opposed to an overwhelming influx of one-sided public actoin.

Be sure to download The Action Network’s FREE mobile app for the latest Super Bowl 55 odds, as well who are experts are picking for Chiefs vs. Buccaneers.

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Super Bowl 55 Odds: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over/Under the Highest Super Sunday Total Ever

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Super Bowl 55 Odds

Chiefs Odds -3.5
Buccaneers Odds +3.5
Over/Under 57.5
Time | Channel  6:30 p.m. ET | CBS
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The Super Bowl 55 matchup is officially set with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Chiefs are looking for their second straight championship, while Tom Brady can continue to cement his place in NFL history with a ridiculous seventh Super Bowl ring.

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes looked like his usual self in the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills, which is likely a significant factor regarding the Chiefs vs. Bills over/under, which is the highest in Super Bowl history.

At 57.5 (click here for the latest Super Bowl odds), the current Super Bowl 55 total barely eclipses the New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons over/under from 2017, which closed at 57.

Interestingly, according to our Action Labs database, six Super Bowls have closed with totals of at least 50 points since 2004, five of which went under the closing total.

Per The Action Network’s NFL public betting data, 59% of Super Bowl bettors have jumped on the over. And while the small majority are expecting a higher-scoring Super Bowl, 95% of the money has come in on the under at this point.

Be sure to download our FREE mobile app to monitor live Super Bowl 55 odds, while also following expert betting picks leading up to Chiefs vs. Bills.

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How To Bet Super Bowl 55: Best Online Sportsbooks, States With Legal Betting & More Advice for Buccaneers vs. Chiefs

super bowl-55-raymond james stadium-bucs-chiefs

It’s the biggest sports day of the year, and you’re not quite sure how to bet on the Super Bowl.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Legal sports betting is new to the United States, and with so many options it can be a confusing space to navigate. Not every state has legal betting. Not every book is available in each state. Plus, when it comes to the Super Bowl, the betting menu is so large it can be hard to keep track of what to do.

That’s what we’re here for.

We’ve created what we hope is a one-stop shop for all your Super Bowl betting questions, ranging from tips to books to legal states.

Not only can you bet on a side between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you can bet on total points scored, individual player performances and more.

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Super Bowl Betting Tips

Track Movement

The primary betting markets are open for two full weeks between the time the matchup is set on Championship Sunday and when the Super Bowl finally kicks off, which means the odds see plenty of movement from open to close.

Shop for the Best Lines

In addition to tracking the movement, you’ll want to shop for the best lines across the primary Super Bowl markets. Thankfully, our NFL odds page makes it easy to compare real-time spreads, totals and over/unders from some of the best online sportsbooks.

Super Bowl Betting FAQ

1. How do I bet on the Super Bowl? You can bet on the Super Bowl through online sportsbooks or at physical sportsbook locations. Find reviews and offers for the best online sportsbooks in your state here.

2. Where can I bet on the Super Bowl? You can bet on the Super Bowl in any state with legal sports betting. Twenty states currently offer sports betting in some form: Ten are equipped with full mobile betting, four feature only one mobile betting option, two offer “in-person” online betting, and the remaining four are limited to in-person betting at physical sportsbooks. Find a full list of those states here.

Below is a list of the 11 states with full mobile betting — click any of the following links to find the best sportsbooks in that state:

3. How do I bet on the Super Bowl online? You can bet on the Super Bowl at any sportsbook in the U.S., but we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 online books:

Find reviews and offers for more online sportsbooks here.

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4. What kind of bets can you make on the Super Bowl? The most popular types of bets you can make on the Super Bowl are on the spread, over/under and moneyline.

  • Point spread: Betting the spread means betting on the margin of victory. A minus sign (-) indicates that a team is favored to win by however many points the spread is set at, whereas a plus sign (+) indicates a team is an underdog.
  • Moneyline: Betting the moneyline means betting on which team will win the Super Bowl.
  • Over/under: Betting the over/under (or “total”) is betting on how many total points will be scored in a game. The over means you’re betting on both teams to combine for more points than the line is set at, whereas the under means you’re betting on both teams to combine for fewer points than the line is set at.

There are more ways to bet on the Super Bowl. In fact, sportsbooks offer hundreds of props, ranging from game results to player performances and beyond.

5. How do prop bets work? Prop bets are wagers on specific occurrences within the Super Bowl. There are novelty props, such as what color Gatorade will be poured on the winning coach. There are game props, such as how many points a team will score in the first half. And there are player props, such as how many yards a running back will rush for over the course of the Super Bowl. For game and player props, there’s typically a line set for whatever the occurrence is — such as 13.5 first-half points for a specific team or 44.5 rushing yards for a specific running back — then juice associated with it. (The juice is the cut a sportsbook charges for taking a bet.)

6. What are the odds of a safety in the Super Bowl? Odds that there will be a safety in Super Bowl 55 are not yet released, but historically, safeties have been scored in only nine of the past 54 editions of the game (16.7%).

Super Bowl Betting Trends & Trivia: Favorites vs. Underdogs, All-Time ATS Results, More

The stage is set. Following their respective conference championships, it’ll be the Buccaneers and Chiefs facing off in Super Bowl 55.

Now it’s time to ask some questions.

Which teams tend to cover the spread in the Super Bowl? Do favorites outperform underdogs? Do overs outperform unders? Perhaps most pertinent to this matchup: Does quarterback age play a role in determining betting outcomes?

Below you’ll find the trends that answer those questions, as well as some Super Bowl betting trivia, and the full list of all-time Super Bowl betting results dating back to the very first matchup between the Chiefs and Packers (click here to jump to the list).

Let’s get into it.

Note: You’ll notice some trends — the more basic ones — refer to the all-time sample, whereas others, especially those relating to betting-market activity, are only based on the results in our Action Labs database (which dates back to the 2003 season).

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Super Bowl Betting Trends

Favorites vs. Underdogs

Favorites have gone 28-24-2 (53.8%) all-time against the spread, and 36-18 straight-up. They’re only 10-7 straight-up in our Action Labs database (since SB XXXVIII), though, meaning moneyline underdogs have won 4.2 units over that span.

Overs vs. Unders

Overs have gone 27-26 (50.9%) all-time.

AFC vs. NFC

NFC teams have gone 27-25 (51.9%) against the spread all-time.

Popular vs. Unpopular Sides

Popular sides (teams getting more than 50% of spread tickets) have gone 10-7 (58.8%) against the spread in our Action Labs database.

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Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Evans, Tom Brady

Line Movement

Teams toward which the line moves (ex. -1 to -1.5, +6 to +5.5) have gone 10-5 (66.7%) against the spread in our Action Labs database.

Better vs. Worse Win Percentages

Teams with worse win percentages (including playoffs) have gone 13-1 (92.9%) against the spread in our Action Labs database.

Better vs. Worse ATS Percentages

Teams with worse against-the-spread win percentages (including playoffs) have gone 9-7 (56.3%) against the spread in our Action Labs database.

Older QBs vs. Younger QBs

Older starting quarterbacks have gone 9-8 (52.9%) against the spread in our Action Labs database.

Super Bowl Betting Trivia

Largest spread in a Super Bowl …

-18 (Twice: Colts over Jets in SB III, lost outright, 16-7. 49ers over Chargers in SB XXIX, won and covered, 49-26.)

Highest total in a Super Bowl …

57 (Patriots defeated Falcons, 34-28, in SB LI.)

Lowest total in a Super Bowl …

33 (Three times: Dolphins defeated Vikings, 14-7, in SB VII. Steelers defeated Vikings, 24-7, in SB VIII. Steelers defeated Cowboys, 16-6, in SB IX.)

Biggest upset in a Super Bowl (by point spread) …

+18: Jets defeated Colts in SB III.

Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Namath in Super Bowl III

Team with most Super Bowl ATS wins …

Steelers (5)

Team with most Super Bowl ATS losses …

Patriots (6)

Number of Super Bowls to end in a push …

2 (Packers def. Patriots, 35-21, in SB XXXI, Rams def. Titans, 23-16, in SB XXXIV.)

Tom Brady’s ATS Record in Super Bowls …

4-5. This will be just the second time Brady is an underdog in the Super Bowl. The other time? The Patriots beat the Rams as a 14-point underdog in Super Bowl XXXVI.

All-Time Spread and Over/Under Results

Matchup (O/U) Score Result
LIV: Chiefs -2 vs. 49ers (53) KC, 31-20 Favorite/Under
LIII: Patriots -2.5 vs. Rams (56) NE, 13-3 Favorite/Under
LII: Patriots -4 vs. Eagles (49.5) PHI, 41-33 Underdog/Over
LI: Patriots -3 vs. Falcons (57) NE, 34-28 Favorite/Over
50: Panthers -5 vs. Broncos (43.5) DEN, 24-10 Underdog/Under
XLIX: Seahawks -1 vs. Patriots (47.5) NE, 28-24 Underdog/Over
XLVIII: Broncos -2.5 vs. Seahawks (47.5) SEA, 43-8 Underdog/Over
XLVII: 49ers -4.5 vs. Ravens (47.5) BAL, 34-31 Underdog/Over
XLVI: Patriots -3 vs. Giants (53) NYG, 21-17 Underdog/Under
XLV: Packers -3 vs. Steelers (45) GB, 31-25 Favorite/Over
XLIII: Steelers -6.5 vs. Cardinals (46.5) PIT, 27-23 Underdog/Over
XLIV: Colts -4.5 vs. Saints (56.5) NO, 31-17 Underdog/Under
XLII: Patriots -12.5 vs. Giants (54.5) NYG, 17-14 Underdog/Under
XLI: Colts -6 vs. Bears (47) IND, 29-17 Favorite/Under
XL: Steelers -4 vs. Seahawks (47) PIT, 21-10 Favorite/Under
XXXIX: Patriots -7 vs. Eagles (47) NE, 24-21 Underdog/Under
XXXVIII: Patriots -7 vs. Panthers (38) NE, 32-29 Underdog/Over
XXXVII: Raiders -3.5 vs. Buccaneers (44) TB, 48-21 Underdog/Over
XXXVI: Rams -14 vs. Patriots (53) NE, 20-17 Underdog/Under
XXXV: Ravens -3 vs. Giants (33.5) BAL, 34-7 Favorite/Over
XXXIV: Rams -7 vs. Titans (48) STL, 23-16 Push/Under
XXXIII: Broncos -7.5 vs. Falcons (51.5) DEN, 34-19 Favorite/Over
XXXII: Packers -11.5 vs. Broncos (49) DEN, 31-24 Underdog/Over
XXXI: Packers -14 vs. Patriots (49) GB, 35-21 Push/Over
XXX: Cowboys -13.5 vs. Steelers (52) DAL, 27-17 Underdog/Under
XXIX: 49ers -18 vs. Chargers (54) SF, 49-26 Favorite/Over
XXVIII: Cowboys -10.5 vs. Bills (50.5) DAL, 30-13 Favorite/Under
XXVII: Cowboys -6 vs. Bills (45) DAL, 52-17 Favorite/Over
XXVI: Redskins -7.5 vs. Bills (49) WAS, 37-24 Favorite/Over
XXV: Bills -6.5 vs. Giants (40.5) NYG, 20-19 Underdog/Under
XXIV: 49ers -11.5 vs. Broncos (47) SF, 55-10 Favorite/Over
XXIII: 49ers -7 vs. Bengals (47.5) SF, 20-16 Underdog/Under
XXII: Broncos -3 vs. Redskins (47) WAS, 42-10 Underdog/Over
XXI: Giants -8.5 vs. Broncos (40.5) NYG, 39-20 Favorite/Over
XX: Bears -10 vs. Patriots (37) CHI, 46-10 Favorite/Over
XIX: 49ers -3.5 vs. Dolphins (53.5) SF, 38-16 Favorite/Over
XVIII: Redskins -3 vs. Raiders (48) LAR, 38-9 Underdog/Under
XVII: Dolphins -3 vs. Redskins (36.5) WAS, 27-17 Underdog/Over
XVI: 49ers -1 vs. Bengals (48) SF, 26-21 Favorite/Under
XV: Eagles -3 vs. Raiders (37.5) OAK, 27-10 Underdog/Under
XIV: Steelers -10.5 vs. Rams (36) PIT, 31-19 Favorite/Over
XIII: Steelers -3.5 vs. Cowboys (37) PIT, 35-31 Favorite/Over
XII: Cowboys -6 vs. Broncos (39) DAL, 27-10 Favorite/Under
XI: Raiders -4 vs. Vikings (38) OAK, 32-14 Favorite/Over
X: Steelers -7 vs. Cowboys (36) PIT, 21-17 Underdog/Over
IX: Steelers -3 vs. Vikings (33) PIT, 16-6 Favorite/Under
VIII: Dolphins -6.5 vs. Vikings (33) MIA, 24-7 Favorite/Under
VII: Dolphins -1 vs. Redskins (33) MIA, 14-7 Favorite/Under
VI: Cowboys -6 vs. Dolphins (34) DAL, 24-3 Favorite/Under
V: Colts -2.5 vs. Cowboys (36) BAL, 16-13 Favorite/Under
IV: Vikings -12 vs. Chiefs (39) KC, 23-7 Underdog/Under
III: Colts -18 vs. Jets (40) NYJ, 16-7 Underdog/Under
II: Packers -13.5 vs. Raiders (43) GB, 33-14 Favorite/Over
I: Packers -14 vs. Chiefs (N/A) GB, 35-10 Favorite

Table data via SportsOddsHistory.

Super Bowl Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting the Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Spread

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Super Bowl Odds & Picks

Chiefs Odds
-3.5
Buccaneers Odds
+3.5
Over/Under
57.5
Opening odds as of 9:45 p.m. ET and via DraftKings.

Super Bowl 55 is set — and our staff already has early betting angles. Find their analysis below, complete with what they’ll be looking to bet over the next two weeks.

Buccaneers +3.5

Sean Koerner: I’m in line with the total of 57.5, but I’m projecting the Buccaneers as only 2-point underdogs, so they’re worth locking in +3.5 as I envision that getting bet down to +3.

The Chiefs could have both offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Sammy Watkins return in time for the Super Bowl, which would be huge. However, offensive tackle Eric Fisher is now out with an Achilles injury, which is bad timing considering they will be going up against a stout Buccaneers defensive line.

Tampa Bay will technically have home-field advantage with Raymond James Stadium hosting the Super Bowl, but I doubt crowd noise will be a big enough factor. I expect more of a “corporate” crowd, so I’m giving the Buccaneers only 0.25-0.50 points for home field (as of now) considering they won’t have to travel.

Either way, the play is to lock in Tom Brady and the Bucs at +3.5 — which is already available at DraftKings — because the spread will likely get bet down to the key number of 3.

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Chris Raybon: I would be surprised if a Bucs +3.5 line lasts long, but I would place a wager at that price as my initial projections make this line around +2.5. The Buccaneers did suffer some injuries in the secondary and the status of wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) is up in the air, so it’s possible my projections move in favor of the Chiefs by a few tenths of a point.

I’m already assuming Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, who left the AFC Championship Game with an Achilles injury, will not play. He’s worth roughly 0.15 points to the spread. Patrick Mahomes didn’t scramble much in the AFC Championship Game, but he looked fine moving around in the pocket, so I don’t think his turf toe is enough of an issue to warrant any adjustment.

eric-fisher-injury-achilles-chiefs-super-bowl-55-buccaneers
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Eric Fisher

I’m also not giving Tampa Bay any home-field advantage, though it’s worth noting the reason my number has the Bucs inside a field goal is because their three playoff road wins were impressive — especially back-to-back ones in the Superdome and then at Lambeau Field. In other words, Tampa Bay has a “not being on the road” advantage baked into its power rating, but as of this time, I’m not adding any further adjustment for the Bucs being at home as I would for a normal home game.

As far as the total, my initial projections have it at 57.5, which looks to be in line with the market.

The bottom line is that the Super Bowl market will be very efficient so the biggest edges (and most of my action) will end up being on player props.

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What We’re Looking To Bet

Brandon Anderson: I’ll be watching injury updates very closely for two position groups over the next two weeks. The right (or wrong) update could swing the Super Bowl.

For Tampa Bay, I’m watching the secondary closely, particularly its safeties. They were a big question mark coming into the season but really settled in, thanks in large part to the addition of stud rookie, Antoine Winfield Jr. He was a late scratch for the NFC Championship and I was quite worried against Aaron Rodgers. But Rodgers does not have the fastest man in football, Tyreek Hill.

Now the Bucs could be missing Jordan Whitehead, too, after he left Sunday’s game injured. You need your safeties to tackle tight end Travis Kelce over the middle against the Chiefs. You need them to cover Hill and Mecole Hardman deep when Patrick Mahomes decides to take the top off.

Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy will hunt Tampa safeties mercilessly if there’s a hole there.

On the other side of things, I’ll be watching the updates on Kansas City’s offensive line. It’s not particularly sexy, I know. But as good as Mahomes looked, we know he’s still dealing with that turf toe which limits his mobility some, and we all saw what Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett did to that poor Packers line.

The Chiefs line has not played as well as it did last year, and the team was down a starter heading into the season and then another midseason. Now Kansas City saw injuries to two more linemen in the AFC Championship, including former No. 1 pick Eric Fisher, out with an Achilles with a ton of teammates consoling him.

The Chiefs offense always looks unstoppable but we know everything changes if the quarterback doesn’t have time to throw. Just ask Aaron.

If Tampa is missing safeties, that favors Kansas City and the over. If the Chiefs are missing offensive linemen, that favors the Bucs and the under. In a game with few edges, that could be enough to swing things.

2021 Farmers Insurance Open Buys Fades: Looking Back and Ahead Using Strokes Gained Data

It was a great battle down the stretch at The American Express as Patrick Cantlay fired an unbelievable 11-under 61 in the final round to take the clubhouse lead. In the end,  though, it was Si Woo Kim’s tournament. The young South Korean made putt after putt to remain at the top of the leaderboard before finally overtaking Cantlay with an 19-foot birdie putt on his 71st hole. He would go on to par the 72nd to secure his third TOUR win.

The next stop of the West Coast Swing will come at the scene of this year’s US Open, as the Torrey Pines hosts the Farmers Insurance Open before it also houses the 2021 U.S. Open. Several of the top players in the world will get a look at the major site this week, including Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy.

There will also be a number of players, including Kim, who will make the trip a couple hours southwest to the tournament site just north of San Diego. We know the champion had a great week, so let’s focus on a few others that stand out from a strokes gained perspective heading into the Farmers.

GolfBet

3 Buys for the Farmers Insurance Open

Last week in this same article we highlighted the success and great recent play of Cameron Davis. It paid off nicely with his third-place finish, and I’m going back to the well.

Davis was one poor ball striking round on Friday away from really making a run at the win in La Quinta. He played the weekend in 14-under, including a bogey-free 64 on Sunday. The Australian averaged 2.25 strokes gained per round tee-to-green on the week, despite losing 1.92 strokes in the category on Friday. He was certainly able to find something over the weekend as he gained nearly eight strokes on approach over his final 36 holes, and finished the week fourth in the field with his irons.

I’m looking for him to continue his hot play this week at Torrey Pines, where he has made three straight cuts.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Davis.

Tony Finau fell short of the win once again, as he simply couldn’t keep pace with Kim and Cantlay down the stretch. He didn’t play poorly, but rather he got beat by a couple of guys that played some fantastic golf on Sunday.

One could argue that Torrey Pines better fits Finau’s game than the Stadium Course at The American Express because he can utilize his length more to his advantage. He has shown that to be the case with his results at the Farmers where he has top-18 finishes in each of his last five trips, including three top-sixes.

Finau will roll into San Diego following a great performance where he gained more than nine strokes tee-to-green on the field at PGA West, including 8.2 strokes gained ball striking. Finau will come into the week in great form and looking to build off of some great success both at Torrey Pines and with his recent play.

One of the shining lights of the week at The American Express came in the form of Rickie Fowler. He finally showed some good form as he was able to turn his game around after an over-par first round on Thursday and finish in a tie for 21st.

Tom Hauck/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rickie Fowler.

Fowler played his final 54 holes at 12-under, with ball striking that improved with each round. He really dialed it in tee-to-green on Sunday, gaining 3.53 strokes on the field on his way to a 4-under 66.

This is an important step in the right direction for Fowler, as he is currently on the outside looking in for qualifying for this year’s Masters and really looked lost with his game to close out the Fall Swing. He will look to carry this positive momentum into next week.

The American Express Strokes Gained Data

Buccaneers Won’t Have Much (If Any) Home-Field Advantage vs. Chiefs In Super Bowl 55

buccaneers-home-field-advantage-super-bowl

Tom Brady will have a chance to play for his seventh Super Bowl ring — on his home turf.

With their NFC Championship victory over the Packers, the Buccaneers will be the first NFL team to play in a Super Bowl hosted at their home stadium: Raymond James in Tampa Bay. Only two other teams in league history have made Super Bowls played in their home regions — the 49ers at Stanford Stadium in Super Bowl 19 and the Rams at the Rose Bowl in Super Bowl 14 — but neither was at their home stadiums.

Of course, the ongoing pandemic adds a wrinkle to any potential home-field advantage for the Bucs: Only 22,000 fans will be present, which is roughly 30% of the stadium’s capacity. The league will gift roughly 7,500 tickets to healthcare workers, which means only about 14,500 are available to purchase.

So what type of advantage can we expect the Bucs to have? At least from a betting perspective, not much. Three of the five analysts who power our NFL PRO Projections explains why home-field advantage won’t move their projected point spreads for Super Bowl 55 much (if at all).

How Much Is Home-Field Advantage Worth to the Bucs In Super Bowl 55?

Sean Koerner, Director of Predictive Analytics: Maybe a half point?

I may adjust how much it’s worth once the matchup is set, but I’m expecting more of a “corporate” crowd at Raymond James rather than thousands of diehard Bucs fans.

Maybe the pirate ship in the background will give Bucs players the comfort of playing at home, but I’m not anticipating it to be much of a factor in any of my Super Bowl bets.

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Travis Reed, Data Manager: Nothing.

Home-field advantage can come from three different factors in my opinion: Crowd noise, travel and weather. Florida in February shouldn’t be an issue at all.

This year’s Super Bowl will have limited fans, many of which will be corporate and neutral.

Raheem Palmer, Analyst: Nothing.

As we discussed heading into the playoffs, home-field advantage has been decreasing year-over-year for the past four seasons, with it now worth all but nothing.

The Buccaneers already had one of the lowest home-field advantages in the NFL over the last 10 seasons, and with an improved roster this season, they went 5-3 at home and 6-2 on the road.

I do believe that the NFL teams based in Florida — Miami, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville — have an added home-field advantage in September, given that it’s still hot and they often force opposing teams to wear their dark jerseys, which attract more heat when players are still looking to get into game shape.

With the Dolphins, Buccaneers and Jaguars spending their training camp in hotter climates, they’re typically more prepared for the heat than their opponents. Other than that, though, there’s no weather or altitude advantages for them outside September.

After a full season of limited (or no) fan attendance, we can deduce that much of a team’s home-field advantage comes from crowd noise impacting the road offense. Given the corporate nature of Super Bowl crowds, we’re not likely to see many hardcore or rowdy Buccaneers fans in attendance.

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Stuckey, Analyst: About 0.25 points.

Yes, there will be some fans, but I assume it will be completely corporate so I don’t think that will provide any advantage. Also, the opposing team has two weeks to prepare for this game and choose ideal travel and prep plans.

I do still think the Bucs will have a tiny edge for familiarity with the field, but keep in mind that the Chiefs also already played there earlier this season.

22,000 Fans To Attend Super Bowl 55 Between Chiefs & Buccaneers In Tampa Bay

fans-super-bowl-attendance-allowed-capacity-tampa-bay

Stadiums have been mostly empty all season with many teams not allowing fans, but that will change for Super Bowl 55.

The NFL announced Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay will be allowed 22,000 fans for Super Bowl 55, with 7,500 of those tickets dedicated to vaccinated health care workers.

The decision was made prior to the conference championship games “following discussions with public health officials, including the CDC, the Florida Department of Health, and area hospitals and health care systems,” the league said in a statement.

“These officials reviewed and provided feedback on the NFL’s comprehensive plans that will enable the league to host fans and the vaccinated health care workers in a safe and responsible way,” the statement read.

Coincidentally, the Super Bowl will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who advanced to the championship game with a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers. This will be the first time a team plays in a Super Bowl hosted at its home stadium.

At various points throughout the season, 19 NFL teams have had some number of public fans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Others paused attendance while some allowed just family and friends. None of the stadiums allowed full capacity.

The Kansas City Chiefs were hosting up to 16,000 fans for home games. Others were closer to 5,000.

As mentioned in the NFL’s statement, providing tickets for health care workers was a major part of the allowed attendance.

“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude, we hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings,” Roger Goodell said.

NHL Betting Picks: Our Best Bets for Sunday, January 24, Including Oilers-Jets & More

The NFL may be the story on Sunday, but don’t forget there’s an 11-game NHL slate that gets underway at 12:30 p.m. ET (before the football!) to help you diversify your portfolio. And always remember, the money you win on Red Wings vs. Blackhawks is just as green as the scratch you win on the Conference Championships.

Here are our favorite bets for Sunday’s 11-game NHL slate:

Michael Leboff: Red Wings (+112) over Blackhawks

Puck Drop: 12:30 p.m. ET

After a historically bad performance in 2019/20, the Detroit Red Wings look like a reinvigorated bunch in 2021. Detroit is still one of the worst teams in the NHL, but there’s no question that this version of the Red Wings is much better than the one we saw a year ago.

Outside of a big upgrade in goal, Detroit also brought in some solid depth players to help round out the middle of the roster. Vladislav Namestnikov, Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher are not game-changers, but they are all capable in the right role and give the Wings NHL-caliber players in places where they didn’t have them in 2019/20.

Those kind of modest improvements for bad teams may not land on the radar of Big Hockey Media or with casual fans, but bettors should take note because it can help you beat the rest of the market to a team “on the rise.”

It’s only been five games but so far the biggest improvement for the Wings has been on defense. Last season, Detroit allowed 2.98 goals and 2.6 xG per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. So far in 2021 those numbers have tumbled to 2.02 and 2.21, respectively.

To the naked eye, the improvement comes from the Wings being able to move the puck better. Stecher and Merrill aren’t top-pair rearguards, but they both can make a breakout pass to relieve pressure. That is something the Wings had oodles of trouble with last season.

I think the Chicago Blackhawks will finish in last place in the Central Division. While that isn’t that bold of a prediction as it will almost certainly come down to the Red Wings and Hawks, it is relevant for this matchup because I think that Detroit is slightly better than Chicago’s current roster.

Chicago’s identity is pretty well known. The Blackhawks have some terrific offensive talent headlined by Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, but their defense is shambolic. Chicago finished last in the NHL in expected goals allowed in 2019/20 but their goals allowed was middle of the road thanks to stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford.

Neither Lehner nor Crawford are in the Windy City anymore and the Blackhawks didn’t bring in any proven goalies to shore up the position. Instead, Chicago is rolling with Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.

Lankinen earned the win over Detroit on Friday, so I’m assuming that Jeremy Colliton will go back to him on Sunday, but no matter who gets the nod the Red Wings will have a decided edge in the blue paint.

On paper, these two teams are pretty close with Chicago having the edge in scoring talent, while Detroit projects to have the stronger goaltender and a slightly better team defense.

In a situation like this, I’ll always lean towards the underdog, even on the road. I just have no interest laying juice with the worst defense in the NHL playing in front of an unproven goaltender.

The Red Wings may not be the Lightning, but they have some talented offensive players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Bobby Ryan. It may not be a roster that strikes fear into most teams, but the Red Wings should have plenty of opportunities against the Hawks and I’m betting that Jonathan Bernier (or Thomas Greiss) will make the requisite saves for the Wings to win this game.

One thing to keep an eye on for this tilt is that it could do a pretty big handle, all things considered. The NHL isn’t a huge betting sport, but its Championship Sunday so folks will have their gambling shoes on and a 12:30 p.m. ET start should attract some action from people who normally wouldn’t wager on the NHL, especially a game featuring two of the league’s worst teams.

Casual bettors usually lean toward the favorite and Detroit’s reputation is still sullied from last season, so I would guess that if this line does move, it would be towards Chicago.

Even so, I think this game is pretty close to 50/50, so I’ll take the underdog and would play the Wings down to +107.

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Sam Hitchcock: Golden Knights To Win in Regulation (-109)

Puck Drop: 4 p.m. ET

Raise your hand if you imagined the Arizona Coyotes would look like the better team through three of four games against the Vegas Golden Knights in their regular-season mini-series. Me neither.

The surprises began with Arizona stifling Vegas’ high-powered offense at 5-on-5. Last season, the Golden Knights’ cavalry led the NHL with 2.72 expected goals per 60 minutes. In their three games against Arizona, they have registered a 2.13.

After barely winning two home games that were pocked with lassitude, the Golden Knights were felled 5-2 in Arizona on Friday. It was Vegas’ first loss of the season.

As impressive as Arizona has looked, I am willing to bite my nails and tender a 60-minute line recommendation on DraftKings for the Golden Knights at -109. After three straight games where the more talented, deeper team got outplayed by its plucky-but-flawed adversary, I think the Golden Knights will be fastidious with the details on Sunday afternoon and clean up a litany of errors.

If you are only looking at the box scores, you would think that Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore has been unstoppable in this series. Three goals and two assists in a trio of games are eye-popping numbers. Theodore has been explosive offensively, a lodestar for his stymied forwards. But my goodness, he has struggled mightily defensively.


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Against Arizona, Theodore has a 42.97 expected goals percentage. It gets worse. Vegas has a rate of 37.18 shots against per hour when Theodore is on the ice, which is brutal. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer may want to consider sheltering Theodore, which means matching him up against the Coyotes’ bottom-six forwards, albeit that is more difficult with Arizona having the last change.

The Coyotes’ top-six forwards torched Theodore on Friday night, with the coup de grâce goal coming when both Theodore and Alec Martinez completely missed Conor Garland zooming down the weak side.

Even though it lost the first two games, on Monday and Wednesday, Arizona effectively neutralized Vegas’ neutral-zone ambitions. On stretch passes, the Coyotes’ defensemen were able to step up and choke off the Golden Knights’ transition offense. On Friday, the Golden Knights found more traction on their long passes, which sprung some opportunities off the rush. And yet, Vegas lost on Friday because of wayward defensive coverage and poor puck management. The antidote for both of these maladies is more offensive zone time through the forecheck.

Even if Vegas doesn’t get immediate gratification off the forecheck, like they did on the Reilly Smith goal last Monday, accentuating the forecheck catalyzes other propitious things for the Golden Knights. It allows Vegas to have more faceoff plays, from which it has derived several goal opportunities, and also feature their defensemen as dangerous scoring creators from the blue line.

The Golden Knights will win on Sunday if they slow the game down and keep the puck below Arizona’s circles. Even if it means embracing a Fabian strategy, the Golden Knights can force the Coyotes to chase them around the offensive zone, impairing Arizona’s counterattack and avoiding time trying to exit their own zone. It’s a less risky way of playing, but after three games, it is evident that a track meet still isn’t advisable.

The big story for Arizona is goaltender Darcy Kuemper. With Antti Raanta still injured and unavailable for Sunday, do the Coyotes dare start Kuemper for a fourth game in a row this week — or do they give the nod to third-string goaltender Adin Hill?

In the three games against Vegas, Kuemper has proffered a -0.35 Goals Saved Above Expected. Considering he had the second best GSAx at 8.71 last season, he hasn’t been quite as sharp as Arizona would hope. Vegas has managed to challenge Kuemper by getting a lot of traffic in front of him. If the Coyotes can box out and keep the area around the crease tidy, they can win a low-scoring game simply by Kuemper buoying them.

Shea Theodore. Credit: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images.

As speedy and dynamic as Arizona has looked, there is a terrifying possibility that the Garland-Nick Schmaltz duo has a flat effort and the offense sputters. Considering the Coyotes have been receiving zero scoring from their defensemen, could they survive a muted effort from Garland and Schmaltz?

In the first three games of this matchup, the Garland and Schmaltz line has been a wellspring of offense, tallying 15 shots at 5-on-5. The only game when it did not lead the team in 5-on-5 shots was Friday’s, when the Clayton Keller line eked out six. Still, the Garland line accounted for two of the three 5-on-5 goals.

So, what if Deboer tries to match the Max Pacioretty line against them? Pacioretty is arguably the Golden Knights’ best forward, and in this series, he has a 54.52 expected goals percentage. But he has rarely seen time against Garland and Schmaltz. The Golden Knights are without the last change and one line has been wreaking havoc on them. Deboer needs to have a strategy to mitigate the impact of the Coyotes’ forwards. Having them chase the puck in their own end seems like a logical answer.

If the Coyotes submit another competitive performance, they immediately become a team worth watching because we will have a four-game sample size of them going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s premier teams and more than standing their ground. Considering the moneyline for them in this game is +155, they are evidently undervalued. When they play weaker teams in their division, they may excel.

However, Vegas has not played a complete game against the Coyotes yet. In the third contest, they finally got burned for their lackluster play. Coming off a loss, they will have plenty of mojo, and I am compelled to pick the team with more elite skill and roster talent.

If the Golden Knights slow the pace down and grind at the Coyotes’ defensive corps, they could pull out a multi-goal win. For that reason, I implore bettors to take the 60-minute line for Vegas at -109 on DraftKings.

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Pete Truszkowski: Rangers vs. Penguins Over 6.5 (-115)

  • Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

It’s been a weird start to 2021 for the Penguins. After losing their first two games, the Pens have won three on the spin but they’ve needed extra time for each victory.

Pittsburgh’s goaltenders, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, have struggled out of the gates and that could be a big issue as the team traded two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Matt Murray in the offseason and didn’t bring in a proven goalie to serve as a fallback option.

Jarry was expected to get the lion’s share of the work in goal but he hasn’t started well, posting a -4.88 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in three games. Unfortunately DeSmith hasn’t been much better with a -2.09 GSAx in his three appearances. Both Jarry and DeSmith have had spells of success in their brief careers, but the pressure is on.

Pittsburgh’s defense, which was among the NHL’s best in 2019/20, has not helped as the Penguins rank 30th in 5-on-5 goals against, 23rd in expected goals against and 24th in high-danger chances allowed at 5-on-5.

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The Rangers have the offensive firepower to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s defensive issues. New York ranks fifth in the NHL in expected goals for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season and on an individual level there are few teams that can trot out a lineup with this kind of scoring talent.

As good as the Rangers are going forward, they have some serious flaws on defense. Only the Blackhawks surrendered more expected goals in 2019/20 and while they’ve improved that mark in the early part of 2021, the Rangers still rank in the bottom-10.

I think these teams will be forced to outscore their defensive issues and that could lead to a back-and-forth affair like we saw on Friday night.

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Jeremy Pond: Oilers vs. Jets Under 6.5 (-113)

  • Puck Drop: 9 p.m. ET

We close out the week’s busy slate with a North Division showdown between surging Winnipeg and inconsistent Edmonton at Bell MTS Place.

The Jets enter this contest fresh off a come-from-behind, 6-3 victory over Ottawa on Saturday on home ice. Andrew Copp scored twice and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck did the rest for Winnipeg, stopping 18 shots in the team’s third consecutive win.

On the other side, the Oilers have lost three of their last four games and look to rebound from Friday’s 4-2 defeat at the hands of host Toronto. Edmonton is stuck on four points, putting it six behind league-leading Montreal in the division standings.

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When it comes to advanced metrics, Winnipeg holds a distinct, overall edge in comparison to the Vancouver’s figures in the primary Fenwick statistics.

The Jets sit on 32.04 FF/60 compared to 34.79 FA/60 for a -2.55 differential, which is kind of surprising since you’d think they’d be better given their fast start. In contrast, the Oilers have struggled their way to a 37.52 FF/60 and 42.45 FA/60 for a -4.93 differential.

As for the xGF/xGA battle through 60 minutes, Winnipeg comes in with a 1.93 xGF/60 to 2.25 xGA/60 for a -0.32 differential. And while Edmonton has the better offensive stat (2.32 xGF/60), it’s well back of its foe at 2.48 xGA/60 in the category. That xGA/60 also happens to be one of the worst in the league.

So, if you combine the xGA/60 for both clubs, the simple math adds up to 4.73 xGA/60, which is close to two goals less than the total for this intriguing affair.

That said, I am backing the game to stay under the number in this contest. Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg defense have been solid in their stellar start, and will look to carry the momentum from Saturday’s win into this tilt.

Add in the fact the total has finished at six goals or less in Edmonton’s last four games, and you have to like your chances of hitting this play.

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Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State Odds & Pick: Betting Value on Monday’s Over/Under

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-oklahoma state-iowa state-january 25

Editor’s Note: The Iowa State program announced on Monday night that seven players will miss the team’s game against Oklahoma State. Six players will be inactive due to health and safety protocols.

Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State Odds


Oklahoma State Odds -2.5
Iowa State Odds +2.5
Moneyline -142 / +120
Over/Under 145.5
Time | TV Monday, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Monday at 5:20 p.m. ET and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

It has been a long season both on and off the court for the Iowa State Cyclones. Now, they hope to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Monday night. 

The Cyclones have had their last four games postponed and aim to take the court in what will be their first game in 16 days.

Due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Iowa State locker room, the Cyclones’ had to put a pause to all basketball operations starting Jan. 16. A few days later, they allowed two players in the gym at a time, one at each end, to get some shots up. It’s unconfirmed which players have been affected by COVID-19, but more bench players are set to see more playing time in this matchup.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, it, too, has dealt with the effects of COVID-19.

With games against Oklahoma and West Virginia postponed, the Cowboys returned to play on Saturday and suffered an 81-66 loss to No. 2 Baylor.

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The score in that game is misleading, as Oklahoma State actually led by four at halftime, before being outscored, 49-30, in the second half.

That loss also came without the potential No.  1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Cade Cunningham, who had to sit out of the game because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Cowboys will miss him in this game — one in which scoring won’t come easy for either team.


Head-to-Head Matchup

Head coach Mike Boynton has the 9-4 Cowboys in the middle of the Big 12 standings with a 3-4 conference record.

This team is led by 6-foot-8 point guard Cunningham, who is the leading scorer in the conference, averaging 17.8 points per game while grabbing 6.2 boards and dishing out 3.8 assists per game.

Boynton has hinted that Cunningham will not be available to play on Monday night, which would be devastating for this offense. 

It’s even worse when considering the Cowboys do not have much depth.

They have a short bench and played the last game against Baylor with five players playing 30 or more minutes. It was apparent that those five got tired late, as the Bears ran them out of the gym in the second half. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can get their legs back with a quick turnaround in this matchup. 

Iowa State has had potentially the toughest season of any team in the country. Having played only nine games this season, it looks to put the worst behind it and end the season on a high note.

The Cyclones sit at 2-7 on the year, with their wins coming against 352nd-ranked Arkansas Pine Bluff and 295th-ranked Jackson State.

Five of Iowa State’s seven losses have come in Big 12 play, where it’s been outscored by an average margin of 16.7 points.

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Offensive Woes

Cunningham is essential for this Oklahoma State offense to run. He’s the point guard leader who can do it all.

He shoots the 3 at a 38.8% clip, hits 45.6% of all field goals, and makes plays off the dribble which frees up his teammates as defenders collapse.

When Cunningham has been on the floor with the Cowboys, they’ve averaged 77.1 points per game. In the one game he missed, Oklahoma State scored just 68 points, which included making 41.7% of its 24 3-point attempts. This offense’s identity is Cunningham, and without him on the floor, it’s not the same. 

It’s hard to imagine the Cyclones’ offense as anything but rusty heading into this game.

They’ve gone 16 days without playing a game and had zero team activities throughout that span. Scoring has been a struggle for Iowa State, which averages a measly 68.4 points per game, the third-fewest points in the Big 12.

Similar to Oklahoma State, this is a team that plays just seven players the majority of the game.

Coach Steve Prohm has not confirmed which players were affected by COVID-19 protocols but did say he doesn’t anticipate having a full roster in this matchup. If that includes any of those seven rotation players, the Cyclones will have an even thinner bench than usual. 

Another negative is that Iowa State ranks dead last in the country, taking only 10.2 free throw attempts per game and making an average of 7.7 of those from the charity stripe per game.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Oklahoma State isn’t the same team without Cunningham if he’s indeed ruled out of this matchup. That will be good news for Iowa State, which hopes to keep things close to try and secure its first Big 12 win.

I believe that may be a possibility in a game in which scoring will be at a premium with plenty of bench players getting some run for both teams. 

My projections have this game at 141.50 with both squads at full strength, so I see tremendous value in the under at 145.5 with uncertainty looming on the Iowa State roster.

Pick: Under 145.5 (down to 142.5).

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Super Bowl 55 Tickets Will Be Most Expensive Ever Due to Limited Capacity, Bucs at Home

super bowl tickets-price

The most expensive Super Bowl ticket in NFL history just got more expensive.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game means that for the first time in 55 tries, a team will play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

Combine that with the limited number of seats, and it’s a perfect storm.

A total number of 22,000 fans will be at Super Bowl LV in Tampa on Feb. 6. That includes 7,500 health care workers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Their tickets will be non-transferable. The other 14,500 will be up for grabs and will be fully transferable.

Prices for those 14,500 tickets start at $9,540 a piece and go up to $24,750 each — the most expensive ticket is 13 rows up on the 50-yard line. The first group of rows off the field will be blocked off, as they have been this entire season.

The get-in price for a Super Bowl ticket was about $2,000 cheaper earlier this week, well before the Buccaneers clinched.

The majority of the tickets are being controlled by On Location, which is jointly owned by Endeavor and the NFL.

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Interestingly, Brady’s first Super Bowl, XXXVI, was known as the cheapest Super Bowl on the secondary market in modern history.

Travel to the game was slowed down by reactions to Sept. 11. With the stadium surrounded by steel fences and heavy security, a $400 face value ticket could be had for $100 right before the game.

NHL Odds & Picks for Oilers vs. Jets: Bet Edmonton to Pull Off the Win (Jan. 24)

Oilers vs. Jets Odds

Oilers Odds -137
Jets Odds +118
Over/Under 6.5 (-103/-120)
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Sunday evening and via DraftKings.

Being a hockey handicapper isn’t any different than any other sport.

Like anybody else, you’re a fan of the sport. You look forward to certain matchups. What makes a handicapper and bettor different is the type of matchups that can get you interested in a game.

There’s the good-versus-good contest between teams you think are pretty good. There’s the underrated-overrated game you think provides some — or a ton of– betting value.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets is neither of those.

To be honest, I don’t really think much of these teams. And my model doesn’t think much of either of them. Both are slightly on the positive side of average, with not much mathematically to differentiate the teams.

While we want to use the math element to understand the probability of who’s going to play better, there’s always an angle when it comes to betting.

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Edmonton Oilers

After a 1-3 home start to the season, the Oilers made a trip to Toronto, with bettors, fans and the media expecting two games that looked less like hockey and more like short track speed skating.

What was expected was high-octane offense, a ton of pace and athletes sliding recklessly into the boards.

However, that’s not what happened. Both teams came into the mini-series with a concerted effort to be better defensively, and what resulted likely had Canadians across the country losing interest early.

Connor McDavid scored a goal, but it probably wasn’t one that had the media drooling following the effort. Each team took two points, with both games needing empty-net goals to make the scoreboard look a little prettier. 

This doesn’t sound like resounding support for the Oilers, but it actually is. Restricting the Maple Leafs to just nine High-Danger Chances (HDC) is a step in the right direction after yielding 33 in their first four games of the season.

That should work nicely, as the Oilers make their way back across Canada, with a stop in Winnipeg for a pair of games on the way home.


Winnipeg Jets

If COVID-19 protocols allowed, the Jets would have had some fans in the stands for Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

Unfortunately for Winnipeg, those in the seats would be the Oilers, who had the opportunity to scout their opponent before facing them at MTS Place. 

It hasn’t been a great schedule setup for the Jets early this season. While the Calgary Flames barely ever play, Winnipeg had to do its own personal back-to-back after playing in Toronto last week when it went to Ottawa the next night.

The Jets were soundly outplayed by the Senators on Tuesday, but pulled off a win thanks to a late tying-goal with their goaltender pulled and a subsequent overtime game-winning goal. Winnipeg was good for just a 33 percent Expected Goal share in that contest.

On Saturday, the Jets had business to take care of. As it happens in hockey, they’d built quite a little hate in a three-game set with the Senators. Ottawa literally inserted a player into their lineup — Michael Haley — for the sole purpose of fighting, looking to settle a beef from two nights before.

The Jets trailed 3-2 heading into the third period before a late-game outburst led them a decisive, 6-3 win. If not literally in the stands, Edmonton witnessed the Jets’ best game of the season, already in Winnipeg, sitting and waiting for Ottawa to leave town.

The Jets piled up season-highs with 14 HDC and 2.77 expected goals for (xGF), only to have to play a second back-to-back in a week where the opponent is waiting and watching.

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Oilers-Jets Pick

Expecting the Jets to follow up their best effort of the season with a repeat performance might be asking too much.

The Jets made a big trade Saturday, sending star sniper Patrik Laine to Columbus, but the reinforcement in the form of Pierre-Luc Dubois won’t be ready to hit the ice just yet. Short on players and short on rest? Not ideal. Especially since the Jets gave up 10 HDC for the third time this season, which is something the Oilers would be happy to take advantage of in this spot.

From a rating standpoint, there isn’t much between these two teams, as my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model featured on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast shows the Jets as 2% above average 5-on-5 and the Oilers 6% above. That’s actually an improvement for the Oilers, thanks to their newfound defensive conscience.

My true moneyline makes this game almost a complete Pick’em, but with the market currently sitting at Oilers -127, there’s been an adjustment due to the situation being so favorable for Edmonton

However, I don’t think the adjustment has been made for the Oilers’ potential attitude adjustment.

In a game featuring teams that still have a lot to figure out, I’ll take the side that’s rested and has a plan rather than one that might have given their best in last night’s grudge match.

Pick:  Oilers (-127 or better)

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NBA Odds & Picks for Knicks vs. Trail Blazers: Bet New York to Destroy Portland’s Defense (Jan. 24)

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Knicks vs. Trail Blazers Odds

Knicks Odds +4
Trail Blazers Odds -4
Moneyline +146 / -174
Over/Under 215
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

Odds as of Sunday evening and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The Knicks visit Portland to take on the Trail Blazers in this matchup between two teams that have won three of their last five games. The Knicks have been playing excellent defense this entire season, while the Blazers seemingly do not know what the word “defense” means.

Who will take home this matchup between these two teams who are surprisingly close in terms of Net Rating? (The Blazers are ahead of the Knicks by just 0.3.)

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New York Knicks

The Knicks will be without Austin Rivers and Frank Ntilikina for this game. Rivers is out due to a sore Achilles and he’s been replaced by Alec Burks. The Knicks can’t complain about Burks, either. Per NBA Advanced Stats, when he’s been on the court this season, the Knicks post their best Offensive Rating (112.8) so their offense could see a bit of a boost.

I truly thought the Knicks’ defense was due for some regression given their third-worst expected allowed eFG%, but coach Tom Thibodeau has worked some magic, as they own the best allowed eFG% in the league, per Cleaning the Glass. The reason the Knicks’ expected allowed eFG% is so high is that they give up the 3-point shot at the fifth-highest rate in the league, but they have defended this shot at the best rate in the league, as opponents only shoot 31.1% from 3-point range.

This is something the Knicks will look to build on because if they’re able to force misses, they should win the battle of the glass against the Blazers. The Knicks have the 10th-best rebounding percentage in the league compared to Portland’s 25th-ranked squad, per NBA Advanced Stats.

Considering the Blazers have been without Jusuf Nurkic due to injury, their depth is a bit lacking in the front court. Look for Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle to have big games against Enes Kanter.


Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are in an interesting spot as they have not played since Monday against the Spurs after both of their games against the Grizzlies were postponed this week. Cue the “Rest vs. Rust” debate.

Despite this time off, don’t expect some sudden defensive revelation from the Blazers. They give up 115.4 points per 100 possessions while allowing opponents to shoot a 55.6 eFG%, per Cleaning the Glass. Look at this team — they only have four players that are a plus defensively, and one of them, Nurkic, is out for the next eight weeks.

While the Knicks are not particularly talented offensively, they take the majority of their shots from the rim and the corner 3. The Blazers have done an adequate job defending the rim, but they have allowed their opponents to shoot 45.3% from the corner.

Unless they make a concerted effort to stop the Knicks from taking this shot, they could be in some trouble defensively even against this struggling Knicks’ offense.

nba betting odds and picks-blazers vs. grizzlies-saturday august 15-damian lillard
Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Damian Lillard.

Knicks-Trail Blazers Pick

The Knicks have been the most profitable team to bet on on the moneyline this season, with their 8-9 record returning a whopping 78.1% ROI. On the flip side, the Blazers have been one of just six teams that are profitable as a moneyline favorite with their 7-3 record. However, despite that winning record, they are just 5-5 ATS as a favorite.

Since 2004, home favorites that have had five or more days between games that play opponents on no rest or just one day of rest are 66-74-4 ATS, failing to cover by an average margin of 2.49 points, per BetLabs.

I think this is a good spot to fade Portland. They have not been good ATS as a favorite, and given the time off, they might take some time to get into a rhythm offensively against this Knicks’ defense. Additionally, given their own defensive struggles, the Knicks should be able to string together some offense against the Blazers’ porous defense.

Pick:  Knicks +3

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NBA Odds & Picks for Hawks vs. Bucks: Betting Value Lies on Sunday’s Over/Under (Jan. 24)

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Hawks vs. Bucks Odds

Hawks Odds +8.5
Bucks Odds -8 .5
Moneyline +300 / -375 
Over/Under 230.5 
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA TV

Odds as of Sunday evening and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

After two straight losses against two of the league’s best teams, the Milwaukee Bucks will be looking to get the train back on the tracks against the Atlanta Hawks, who ride into this game red hot.

The focus will surely be on flashy names like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young to produce highlight after highlight in this one, but both defenses could quietly be the real story.

Is there value in attacking the second-highest total on the slate? Let’s dig into the numbers a bit and see if that’s the case.

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Atlanta Hawks

If a matchup with the team who owns the second-best record in the East wasn’t a daunting enough task for the Hawks, they now may need to take on the Bucks shorthanded. The team is listing Young (back) and De’Andre Hunter (knee) as questionable for Sunday’s tilt which could leave them with two holes to fill in their starting lineup. The good news, at the very least, is while Young and Hunter are banged up, the team did just welcome back Danilo Gallinari from injury, and Rajon Rondo was able to return not too long before him.

The status of Young obviously changes this game completely for Atlanta, but for the intents and purposes of this breakdown we’ll assume he’s going to play, and that wouldn’t be outlandish considering the Hawks have had a couple of days off.

Atlanta has made its mark this season on the defensive end, ranking eighth in efficiency, and while it hasn’t been overwhelmingly great defending in the paint, the defense has held opposing teams in check from deep. The Hawks have allowed just 11.7 3s on average, seventh-best in the NBA, and shots have fallen at just a 32.4% clip, second to only the Knicks (31.0%).

The key for the Hawks of late on offense? Slowing things down, it seems.

Atlanta has ranked ninth in pace over the course of the season, but is just 16th in pace over its three-game winning streak. As a result, the Hawks are scoring nearly a point more per 100 possessions, and have seen a 1.7% rise in their True Shooting %.


Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were cruising, having won seven of eight, and then they had to battle the new-look Nets and the brawny Los Angeles Lakers. Neither game was fruitful for Milwaukee, and now the Bucks will be looking to snap the first losing streak of their young season.

With no one listed on the injury report, and three days off ahead of this game due to the postponement of their game against the Wizards, Milwaukee should be well-rested here.

Offensively, the Bucks are making their mark on the break. Milwaukee is getting out in transition more than anyone in the league, at a 22.1% clip, and scoring a league-best 28.3 points per game in transition. The Bucks are also drawing shooting fouls 14.1% of the time in transition, which ranks third. Aside from runnin’, the Bucks are also gunnin’, shooting the sixth-most 3s in the league and getting 38.8% of their points via the 3-ball, which ranks fifth. Shooting has not only been a theme for the Bucks, but their star.

Antetnokoumpo has driven just 10.1 times per game, which ranks 41st in the NBA — far from Luka Doncic (24.9), who sits atop the league in that category. It’s the second-straight season he’s ranked outside the top 40 after finishing inside the top 20 in that category in 2018-19, speaking a little bit to Giannis’ transition into more of a shooter in the past two years. In 2018-19, Antetokounmpo took just 2.8 3s per game, a number which ballooned to 4.7 last season and has grown to 4.9 this year.

On defense, the Bucks have been pretty stout down low, allowing 41.7 points in the paint — the third-best mark in the NBA. Without a dominant force down low for Atlanta, this won’t factor in too much here, although it’s always a plus when you’ve got nimble slashers like Hunter and Cam Reddish on the other end of the floor.

Hawks-Bucks Pick

Both teams rank top-10 in defense, and while the pace numbers wouldn’t lead you to believe this should be an easy under, the pace numbers of late suggest both of these teams are slowing just a little bit.

Yes, while both of these teams have seen a down-tick in pace over the last few games, and transition has been very important to the Bucks, there’s more to the story. Milwaukee ranks 10th-lowest in score frequency on the break, signifying that the game script isn’t as easy to predict as you’d think.

Considering the Hawks’ strength is their ability to defend the three, they match up well against the Bucks, who love to launch from deep. With such a high total, and a few things working against the game going over, I’m inclined to hit the under here.

The over is just 3-12 in Hawks games, and 8-7 in Bucks games this season. I think Atlanta’s lackluster offense, combined with the strength of both defenses is enough to see this one go under.

Pick: Under 230.5 (-110)

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Sunday NHL Odds & Picks for Predators vs. Stars: Bet Nashville In Low-Scoring Affair (Jan. 24)

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Predators vs. Stars Odds

Predators Odds +1.5 (-275)
Stars Odds -1.5 (+220)
Moneyline -100 / -117 
Over/Under 5.5 (+102 / -125)
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds as of Sunday evening and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

New Cowboys kicker Joel Kiviranta came on late and converted the PAT to give Dallas a 7-0 lead… Oh wait, sorry, still have one foot into football season over here. It was the Dallas Stars that hung a touchdown with the extra point on the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

Fortunately, over at THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast we were able to get our easiest win of the young NHL season as the Stars made their long-awaited season debut in style with a 7-0 win.

It wasn’t an easy pick before the game, with the lack of information on the Stars, and Sunday’s selection won’t be any easier to pull the trigger on, especially after what we saw Friday.

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Nashville Predators

The Predators came into Dallas well-rested after a game against the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed, but what they saw in the second period would have taken their breath away. After a scoreless first, the Stars scored five times and the game was over for all intents and purposes. 

As you know by now, we try not to get too blinded by the scoreboard and look deeper into the advanced metrics to see what really happened in the game. When we do that here, it paints quite a different picture. 

For the Predators, their output at 5-on-5 not only wasn’t particularly bad, it was actually their best effort when it comes to Expected Goals For (XGF), as they had a season-best 1.66, per Natural Stat Trick. That’s not wildly impressive, but it’s pretty good when measured up against the 0.82 XGF from the Stars.


Dallas Stars

You’re thinking to yourself, “Hang on, Dallas had only 0.82 XGF 5-on-5 in a game they scored SEVEN times in?!” Well, FIVE power play goals and a short-handed goal would explain that without much effort. If the Stars’ special teams are going to supply six goals per game this season, we can go ahead and pencil them back in the Stanley Cup Finals. On the flip side, if their 5-on-5 play is going to result in a 33% Expected Goal share, then they’ll have a hard time making the playoffs. 

Naturally, it’s going to be somewhere in between, but the overall point is that this game was much less a domination and much more of a fluke. Oddsmakers see this too, as they’re not overreacting to the scoreboard either and keeping the rematch on Sunday as a virtual coin flip with a PK -110 moneyline.

Anton Khudobin recorded the shutout and Juuse Saros had a rough go of it for the Predators but we expect to see each netminder back between the pipes for the rematch. What I don’t expect is Khudobin to be lights-out, nor do I expect Saros to struggle. 

Predators-Stars Pick

Even with the second-period debacle and subsequent hook, Saros still has a plus-rating GSAA (goals saved above average) on the season, so he’s no slouch. I often say there’s no greater motivator for pro athletes than embarrassment and getting beat 7-0 definitely qualifies. 

So while hockey bettors pile onto the Stars on Sunday night based on the lopsided scoreboard, remember that it gets rebooted for puck drop and this game is just as much a coin flip as it was after the first period on Friday. Except we know a little more than we did then. We know that Nashville is more than capable of playing 5-on-5 with the Stars and if this game doesn’t include a parade to the penalty box, the Predators are going to be a good bet by the time they start 0-0 again. 

I’ll wait as long as I can before I make the TWO bets worth our time on Sunday. To try to get the best price I can on the Predators and the Under.

Pick: Predators (-110 or better) and Under (5.5 or better) 

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NHL Odds & Picks for Islanders vs. Devils: Sunday’s Betting Value On New York (Jan. 24)

Islanders vs. Devils Odds

Islanders Odds -160
Jets Odds +135
Over/Under 5.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Sunday evening and via BetMGM.

The New York Islanders will look to repeat Thursday’s performance on Sunday, as they go for their second straight win over the New Jersey Devils. 

In Thursday’s game, the Islanders closed as -180 home favorites after the news that Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood was put on the COVID-19 list. After an impressive performance and a 4-1 victory, the Islanders are much smaller favorites against the same team. 

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New York Islanders

The Islanders’ identity is no secret. This is a team that prides itself on its defensive effort and hindering its opponents’ quality of chances. While some might find the style boring, you can’t argue the results, which included an Eastern Conference finals appearance last season. 

Head coach Barry Trotz must have been happy with his team’s defensive effort on Thursday night. New York held the Devils to just two High-Danger Chances (HDC) at even strength. The Islanders have now given up just five HDC combined in their last two games at 5-on-5. 

The Isles’ top defensive pairing of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech might be the most underrated duo in the league. Pulock is most known for his hard shot and offensive abilities, but he’s also great in his own zone. Pelech’s stick work and body positioning are amongst the best in the league.

In Thursday’s game, the pair held Jack Hughes without a shot on goal and only one attempt after he started the season with six points in three games. 

When the defense breaks down, the Isles can lean on Semyon Varlamov. No goalie in the league has gotten off to a better start than Varlamov, who has started three games and given up just one goal. His 6.3 goals saved above average leads the league by a wide margin. 

While the Isles won’t “wow” anybody offensively, the team has plenty of talent to do damage. On Thursday, the Isles’ top line of Anders Lee, Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle did most of the damage, with Barzal accumulating three points and Eberle scoring twice. Beyond the top line, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau make up a solid secondary group.

New Jersey Devils

While the New Jersey Devils got off to an impressive 2-0-1 start, they found out how quickly things can change because of COVID-19. 

Blackwood appeared on the COVID list right before puck drop on Thursday and has remained on the list through Saturday. There is no word on whether Blackwood has tested positive or if he was just a close contact. 

Blackwood was quickly becoming a story early in the season, coming off a 47-save performance in the Devils win over the Rangers earlier in the week. He has stopped 109 of 115 shots he’s faced this season.

However, with Blackwood unavailable and Corey Crawford’s sudden retirement during training camp, the Devils now have a goalie problem.

Scott Wedgewood got his first NHL start in nearly three years on Thursday. While he wasn’t awful, making 31 saves, his dip in quality from Blackwood was apparent. Wedgewood is 28 years old and has been a minor leaguer for most of his career. The team also claimed Eric Comrie off waivers earlier in the year, but he has struggled mightily in eight career NHL appearances. 

Outside of the goaltending, the Devils are in the midst of a rebuilding project. Their roster has some nice pieces like Hughes, Kyle Palmieri and P.K. Subban, but the holes are common and obvious throughout the lineup. With Nico Hischier still unavailable, the Devils’ offense ranks bottom half of the league in most offensive metrics. 

With Blackwood in net, this team has potential to offer value to bettors throughout the season. They have some nice pieces with a solid goalie, but without Blackwood between the pipes to cover up some deficiencies, New Jersey becomes a lot less appealing.

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Islanders vs. Devils Best Bet

I’m a bit surprised at this line. The Islanders closed as -180 favorites on Thursday at Nassau Coliseum and I don’t think an hourlong trip to Newark warrants a 40-point shift on the moneyline. There are no fans in the building, and the Islanders won’t even have to stay in a hotel. 

The combination of the Devils’ uninspiring offense and the Islanders’ ability to shut teams down makes me believe this is a bad matchup for New Jersey. It’s hard to envision a world where the Devils can generate a lot of offense.

This line seems relatively fair if Blackwood can return for the Devils. In this 2021 world, we have to deal with a lack of information. Like I mentioned earlier, Blackwood could just be a high-risk close contact which would allow him to be activated and play in this game. He also could have tested positive, which would cause him to miss a couple of weeks. 

At this current price, I’m betting the Islanders. I don’t expect the line to move much if Blackwood returns but if he is out, I expect some line movement to make the Isles a larger favorite. In a sense, it’s a bit of a free roll. 

If you want to wait until closer to game-time to make your decision, that’s understandable but you risk missing out on potential value.

Bet: Islanders -129 (up to -135 with Blackwood, up to -145 without)

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Chiefs vs. Bills Odds & Picks: 3 Ways To Bet the Underdog In Sunday’s AFC Championship

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Chiefs vs. Bills Odds

Bills Odds
+3.5
Chiefs Odds
-3.5
Over/Under
54.5
Time
6:40 p.m. ET
TV
CBS
Odds as of early Sunday afternoon and via BetMGM, where you can bet $1 on the Bills or Chiefs moneyline to win $100.

Thanks to their Divisional Round win over the Browns, the Chiefs are hosting their third consecutive AFC Championship Game. Even more fascinating is that they’re just the second team in NFL history to host three straight championship games, with the Eagles doing so between 2002-04. Ironically both teams were coached by Andy Reid, who made the ballsy decision to pass on fourth-and-1 to ice last week’s game with backup quarterback Chad Henne.

The Chiefs now host the red-hot Bills, who are coming off their own Divisional Round win over the Ravens, making that eight straight victories for Buffalo, which has won 11 of its last 12 game — the lone loss over that stretch was to the Cardinals on Kyler Murray’s game-winning Hail Mary to DeAndre Hopkins.

One of the Bills’ few missteps this season was their 26-17 loss to the Chiefs in Week 6. Now the Bills hope to avenge that loss and head to their first Super Bowl since 1994, when they were victorious over … guess who? The Joe Montana-led Chiefs, who the Bills defeated 30-13 in the AFC Championship.

Now 27 years later, the Bills are hoping to repeat history against the reigning Super Bowl champions, who cruised to a 14-2 record with one of the NFL’s best offenses.

Can the Josh Allen and the Bills avenge that early-season loss and make their first Super Bowl appearance in 27 years? Or will Mahomes lead the Chiefs to their second consecutive Super Bowl? Let’s find out!

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Buffalo Bills

The common sentiment surrounding this Bills team at the start of the season was that they were a top tier defense that would likely be wasted by Allen.

That’s been everything but the case.

Allen ranks in the top five in most quarterback metrics, throwing for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions while completing 69.2% of his passes. He’s also rushed for 421 yards and eight touchdowns.

Under coordinator Brian Daboll — who has so far been snubbed for a head coaching gig — this offense ranks rank in the top five of nearly every metric. They’re second in points per game (31.3), fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, third in offensive success rate (50.9%) and fourth in expected points added (EPA) per play. We’ve seen them largely abandon the run recently, particularly coming off last week’s win over the Ravens, in which the Bills rushed only 16 times and once in the first half.

Nonetheless, this offense goes as Allen does.

Brian Daboll-Josh Allen
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Brian Daboll, Josh Allen

While this unit was great in the regular season, they’ve certainly had a drop-off so far in the playoffs. Looking deeper, however, it’s clear they’ve had some bad luck.

In their Wild Card win over the Colts, the Bills had unfavorable field position, starting drives at their own 3-, 15-, 11-, 6- and 4-yard lines. Starting drives this close to your own end zone drastically limit what plays you can call, and yet the Bills still drove the length of the field, scoring touchdowns on drives from their own 4- and 15- yard lines to hang 27 total points on a Colts defense that ranks seventh in DVOA.

In the Bills’ Divisional Round win over the Ravens, wind impacted the offense’s ability to move the ball downfield. Still, they were able to make the big plays to score against a Ravens defense that’s ninth in DVOA.

Although they did record only 17 points and 206 yards of offense against the Chiefs earlier this season, rain and wind drastically impacted the Bills’ output. They were also coming off a short week with the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak delaying their Week 5 matchup to the Tuesday in-between. The Bills were also tasked with facing the Chiefs without right guard Jon Feliciano, who has made a major impact on Allen’s ability to deal with pressure.

When you consider that Allen was dealing with a shoulder injury in that game, it’s clear that the Bills team we saw in Week 6 isn’t the same one we’ll see Sunday.

Given the drop down in class from back-to-back top defenses to a Chiefs defense that ranks 22nd in DVOA, it’s likely we’ll see the Bills’ best offensive performance of the playoffs — expect big days for wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Chiefs S Juan Thornhill

Their first matchup against the Chiefs tells us a lot about what we can expect defensively this Sunday — the Bills designed a game plan that limited deep throws and explosive plays, playing 68% of their snaps with two high safeties. This forced the Chiefs to run the ball more, taking the ball out of Mahomes’ hands.

In some ways, it worked as the Bills were still within one score from winning down the stretch.

How the Bills defend Travis Kelce will be key: They’ve allowed 7.1 yards per catch and a 59% success rate to opposing tight ends, 24th in the NFL. Unlike that first matchup, though, the Bills will have their best coverage linebacker in Matt Milano available. His presence will be huge considering the Bills are 12-0 and have given up only 18 points per game when Milano played this season, compared to 3-3 and 30 points per game without him.


Kansas City Chiefs

The biggest question surrounding the Chiefs is the health of the reigning Super Bowl MVP, who left last Sunday’s game with a concussion. Although Mahomes has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to start on Sunday, he’s also been nursing a turf toe injury.

Nonetheless, numerous clips of him running at practice have been circulating on social media, so you have to assume that we’ll be getting him at close to if not at 100%.

Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes put together another MVP-caliber season — he finished second in passing yards (4,740), fourth in touchdowns (38) and second in ESPN’s Total QBR (82.9) as well as DVOA while throwing just six interceptions all season.

While Mahomes has averaged a league-leading 316 passing yards per game, he had one of his most pedestrian performances against the Bills, completing 21-of-26 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns — and it’s not that it was a bad game, he just didn’t put up the video game numbers we’re used to seeing from this offense.

Rain and weather aside, that Week 6 performance does tell us that the Bills designed a defensive game plan predicated on eliminating deep throws and forcing the Chiefs to run the ball. As a result, Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed 26 times for 161 yards. And in total, the Chiefs rushed 46 times for 245 yards — their most since Week 16 of the 2012 season, when Jamal Charles was their feature back and Romeo Crennel was coaching.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Chiefs simply haven’t been a run-first team in the Andy Reid era, so it speaks volumes that they had nearly double the rushing attempts (46) as they did passing attempts (46) against the Bills.

Now, CEH is listed as questionable for Sunday after an ankle injury limited him in practice. While the expectation is that he should be good to go, it’s likely we’ll see a committee of Edwards-Helaire, Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams. The Chiefs also hope to welcome back wide receiver Sammy Watkins (questionable), who hasn’t played since suffering a calf injury in Week 16.

Despite those key injury considerations, Kelce might be the most important weapon for this offense against a Bills defense that struggle to stop tight ends. In their first matchup, Kelce caught five of seven targets for 65 yards and two touchdowns. And while the Bills have Milano back for this matchup, you can’t stop Kelce — you can only hope to contain him.

Kansas City’s defense ranks 22nd in DVOA, including 16th against the pass and 31st against the run, which could be ideal given Buffalo’s tendency to abandon the run. However, the Chiefs don’t have a great pass rush this season, ranking just 19th in sacks (32) and 18th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate (42%).

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills QB Josh Allen, Chiefs LB Willie Gay Jr. (50), Chiefs DE Frank Clark (55)

In addition, we’re likely to see the Chiefs cornerback depth tested: Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland (concussion, shoulder) and Rashad Fenton (foot) are questionable after being limited in practice all week. While they’re more than capable of overcoming the loss of one of them with cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed as well as safety Tyrann Mathieu also on the roster, we should keep an eye on this unit.

Also it’s important to note that the Chiefs are dead-last in red-zone scoring percentage, allowing touchdowns on a whopping 77.6% of opponents’ trips inside the 20. If the Chiefs are to win, it will be on the back of Mahomes, because this defense is unlikely to hold the Bills to just 17 points again.


Bills-Chiefs Pick

Everything is lining up for the Bills. They’re in the midst of a dream season. They’re 13-3. And their only three losses were to the Titans in game that got delayed due to COVID-19, to the Chiefs in game that was marred by weather issues, and to the Cardinals on that Hail Murray.

Allen has been dominant as an underdog throughout his career: He’s 14-6-2 (70%) as an underdog according to our Action Labs database.

My projections make the Chiefs favorites of only 0.88 points, and while that may come as a surprise, keep in mind that this team hasn’t covered since Week 8 — and against a then-winless Jets. Excluding Week 17 when they rested starters, every single game the Chiefs have played since Week 8 has been decided by one score.

Although some may ague that we should give the Chiefs a boost since they’ve held double-digit leads in many of those games before letting teams back into games toward the end, at some point you have to question if they’re as good as their record indicates. Despite winning 14 games, they have a Pythagorean Expectation of only 10.5 wins — there’s only so many times a team can win one-score games before ending up on the wrong side of variance.

I see these offenses as evenly matched: The Chiefs are second in DVOA, EPA/play and success rate while scoring 29.6 points per game. The Bills are fourth in DVOA, EPA/play and success rate while scoring 31.3 points per game.

Unlike they did against Baker Mayfield, the Chiefs won’t be able to blitz Allen with impunity — he has a 111.6 passer rating when blitzed. While the Chiefs blitzed Allen on 48% of dropbacks in first meeting to some success, this is an area in which Allen has thrived in this season. And given the inclement weather in the first matchup, I see him thriving this time around.

With the Bills owning the better defense, ranking 12th in DVOA compared to the Chiefs at 22nd, this spread is too high. This is a true pick’em for me, and while Mahomes could certainly overcome this, I’m willing to bet against that with him entering this game banged up.

I’ll take the Bills at +3.5 to cover, at +9.5 in 6-point teasers, and for them to win outright and go to their first Super Bowl in 27 years.

PICKS: Bills +3.5; ML +150

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Chiefs vs. Bills Odds & Picks For the AFC Championship: Why We Love Buffalo To Cover This Spread

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Chiefs vs. Bills Odds

Chiefs Odds
-3.5
Bills Odds
+3.5
Total
54.5
Time
6:40 p.m. ET
TV
CBS
Odds as of early Sunday and via BetMGM, where you can bet $1 on the Chiefs-Bills moneyline to win $100.

After days on Patrick Mahomes Watch, the Chiefs star quarterback has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to start his third straight AFC Championship Game. He and the Chiefs will host Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, who are looking to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 27 years.

Can the Bills get it done against the reigning champs? There’s a consensus among our staff that Buffalo will at least cover the spread. Find their picks below.

Chiefs vs. Bills Picks

Click on a pick below to skip ahead to that analysis.

Pick
# of Analysts
Bills Spread
5
Over
1
Under
1

Bills Spread

Analyst
Bet to
Brandon Anderson
+3
Chris Raybon
+3
Matthew Freedman
PK
Raheem Palmer
+3
Sean Koerner
+3

Koerner: According to Mahomes, the toe injury he sustained last Sunday has “gotten a lot better,” but there’s a chance it will limit his mobility in this matchup.

The Chiefs are the NFL’s best team when at full strength. But with Mahomes, Sammy Watkins (questionable), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (questionable) and Bashaud Breeland all banged up, it’s created a small window to bet against them.

The Chiefs haven’t beaten any team by more than six points since Week 8. They allowed teams like the Panthers, Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins and Falcons to hang around and escape with a one-score win. Compare that to the Bills, who closed out the regular season with six straight wins of 10 or more points.

The Bills have shot up to No. 2 in my power ratings, and I have them projected as 2.5-point underdogs for this matchup. The Chiefs winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome, so I’m going to lock in the Bills at +3.5 (down to +3).

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Over

Analyst
Bet to
Chris Raybon
55

Raybon: I backed the Chiefs -6 in their eventual 26-16 win over the Bills in Week 6, but I don’t expect a repeat of that result from a side nor a total perspective.

From a big-picture perspective, the Bills are now the better team in every sense but record: They’re No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, while the Chiefs are sixth. The gap widens when we look only at weighted DVOA (which weights resent games more heavily), as Buffalo is No. 1 while Kansas City remains No. 6. The Chiefs have a small edge over the Bills in weighted DVOA on offense (third vs. fifth), but the Bills have sizable edges on defense (eighth vs. 24th) and special teams (second vs. 11th).

More importantly, the Chiefs are struggling mightily with situational football.

The Chefs rank dead last on defense in red-zone conversion rate and red-zone DVOA, while the Bills rank 13th and ninth. The Chiefs also finished dead last in short yardage on both sides of the ball, which is an edge you don’t want to give away to the Bills, who don’t put much emphasis on the run on either side of the ball but have been good in short-yardage defense (seventh) and respectable on offense (17th). And while both teams are top-five in DVOA on third/fourth-down offense, the Bills are also top-five on defense while the Chiefs rank 19th.

Ultimately, it’s Kansas City’s defensive drop-off that is most concerning: It was sixth in pass DVOA in the first half of the season but 29th in the second half. And while the defense was set up well to defend a Browns offense featuring slot receiver Jarvis Landry as its biggest threat, the Chiefs could struggle against the Bills’ deeper receiving corps.

The Chiefs have been playing Tyrann Mathieu at deep safety much more over the second half of the season in place of the struggling Juan Thornhill, but used Mathieu closer to the line of scrimmage and in the slot against Landry last week. Mathieu gave up -4 yards on six targets with a pick overall, and Landry finished with 20 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. But Kansas City’s cornerbacks allowed a catch on 15-of-18 targets for 153 yards and a touchdown.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Chiefs S Juan Thornhill

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done a good job of scheming them help all season — they allowed the second-fewest yards to wide receivers during the regular season — mostly using two-deep shells. But if he plays two-deep man, he exposes himself to the threat of Josh Allen running, and the Bills can use four-wide looks to carve up the Chiefs in the vertical seams if they leave their cornerbacks close to the line and play two-deep zone.

On the other side of the ball, Buffalo blitzed Mahomes only once on 34 dropbacks (2.9%) in that first matchup. And despite his toe injury, the Bills will likely employ a similar game-plan rather than the blitz-heavy approach they used against the Ravens (30.0%). Buffalo improved from 16th in defensive DVOA over the first half of the season to seventh over the second half thanks to some schematic changes mostly made possible by the return of linebacker Matt Milano, who did not play due to injury in the Week 6 matchup.

While I wouldn’t expect Buffalo to have enough success to keep this game under the total on the basis of its defense, the Bills are now capable of getting a key stop or two that can allow them to keep them in striking distance to win what should be a coin-flip game that should clear the total. I like the over up to 55 points.

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Under

Analyst
Bet to
Matthew Freedman
52.5

Freedman: Even with Mahomes expected to start, I like the under as the Chiefs and Bills combined for just 43 points in Week 6.

The Chiefs defense is schemed to prevent big plays on the perimeter and downfield: In the regular season, they allowed the fewest receptions (169) and second-fewest receiving yards (2,159) to wide receivers.

If the Bills are unable to advance the ball with an aggressive passing attack, they might fall back on the running and short-passing games to extend drives, which will slow the game down and help move the total to the under.

On top of that, Kansas City is a tough place to play. Under head coach Andy Reid, the under at Arrowhead Stadium is 41-28-1 (15.9% ROI, per our Action Labs database).

On top of that, the under in outdoor postseason games is 84-66-4 (8.5% ROI).

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Updated Bills vs. Chiefs Odds: Patrick Mahomes Toe Injury Moving AFC Championship Game Spread

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Bills vs. Chiefs Odds

Bills Odds +3 (-120)
Chiefs Odds -3 (+100)
Over/Under 54.5
PRO Projections Chiefs -2.2 | O/U: 54.6
Time | Channel  6:40 p.m. ET | CBS
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Apparently a toe injury that could require offseason surgery to the NFL’s best quarterback is enough to move a betting line.

The spread for today’s Bills vs. Chiefs AFC Championship Game has remained at Kansas City -3 for most of the weekend, but news of Patrick Mahomes’ turf toe has been enough to convince bettors that Buffalo and the points is the right side of tonight’s matchup.

While Mahomes does plenty of damage from the pocket, his ability to avoid pressure and extend plays and/or gain yardage with his legs makes him truly elite and Andy Reid’s offense one of the toughest to defend in the NFL.

This is largely the reason why the Bills vs. Chiefs spread has now dipped off 3 to 2.5 at a handful of sportsbooks (click here for the latest AFC Championship Game odds), the most important number in NFL spread betting.

Considering 14.8% of NFL games have finished with a margin of victory of three points since 2003, the most recent adjustment from Chiefs -3 to -2.5 is extremely significant.

So be sure to shop for Chiefs -2.5 if that’s the side you like, or lock in Bills +3 if you prefer the road underdogs.

According to the latest NFL betting trends, 54% of tickets and dollars wagered on the spread have come in on the Bills.

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NBA Odds & Betting Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for Hornets-Magic & Wizards-Spurs (Sunday, Jan. 24)

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Rumor has it there are some meaningful football games on tap for Sunday afternoon, but if hoops are on your mind, then you’re in the right place.

With seven games on the Sunday NBA slate (the Kings vs. Grizzlies games has been postponed due to contact tracing), our crew sees betting value in three matchups.

You can check out their analysis and picks on those games below.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers
4 p.m. ET
Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic
7 p.m. ET
Washington Wizards at San Antonio Spurs
8 p.m. ET
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Thunder at Clippers

Picks
Under 222.5 (Parx)
Tipoff
4 p.m. ET
TV
League Pass

Raheem PalmerThese two teams met Friday and we played this total to go over the total of 219. Now they meet again and the total sits at 222.5, which from my view is an overcorrection.

I find it troubling to see such huge adjustments game to game when teams meet twice in a row. We saw this during the playoffs in the NBA bubble. I faded the line move then, and I certainly have no problems fading it now.

The Clippers play at the fourth-slowest pace in the league, and while Oklahoma City tends to play faster, the Clippers scored 123.7 points per possession on Friday and the Thunder scored 1.09 points per possession — both above their season averages — and the game went over by just 7 points.

While the Clippers are 21st in Defensive Rating this season, allowing 112.5 points per possession, they’ve allowed just 108.4 points per possession over the past two weeks, which shows us their defense is improving. I’ll fade this line movement and look for this game to go under the total.
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Hornets at Magic

Picks
Evan Fournier over 15.5 points (-110, DraftKings)
Aaron Gordon over 5.5 assists (+105, DraftKings)
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
League Pass

Editor’s note: Aaron Gordon was ruled out for Sunday’s game with hip and back soreness.

Brandon Anderson: The Orlando Magic are trying, and starting, to figure themselves out.

The Magic are short two starters (and will be for the remainder of the season) with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz out for the year with knee injuries. They were short a third starter the last few weeks, too, in Evan Fournier. All of that has left the Magic extremely shorthanded, especially because this wasn’t exactly a loaded team to start with.

Nikola Vucevic has taken on a monster role to help carry the team, but the Magic have badly lacked playmaking and scoring in recent weeks. They just haven’t had enough of either. Rookie Cole Anthony is starting at point guard and should help in both areas in time, but he’s raw, and many of the Magic role players are best on defense.

But Fournier is back now, and he’s helping with the scoring load immediately. Fournier returns to a veritable buffet of shots, all the shots he can eat. He hoisted 21 shots immediately in his return from injury, then 14 more his last time out, scoring 24 and 26 points in those games, respectively. Fournier’s shots and 3-point attempts are way up from his typical averages, and he’s getting to the line far more often. We may not have a 25 PPG-scorer here, but Fournier should be in the high teens or 20s each time out because the Magic just don’t have any other options. They need all the Fournier shots they can get.

The Magic are also finding some playmaking answers in Aaron Gordon, or “Point Gordon” as I’ve come to calling him. In the last six Magic games, Gordon has recorded eight, three, six, 10, seven and nine dimes. He is running this offense now, averaging 7.1 APG during this stretch, and he’s gone over this 5.5-assist line in five of those six games. Books are starting to catch on, ticking this line up from 4.5 the last couple games, but we’re still getting plus juice here, so I still like it.

I’ll play both props tonight, with Fournier’s scoring and Gordon’s passing leading the way for a revamped Magic team. I prefer Fournier, and so does our Props page by a wide margin, rating it as one of the top prop plays of the day, but I’m happy to play Gordon too. Let’s keep the Magic rolling.

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Washington Wizards vs. San Antonio Spurs

Pick
Over 230.5 (FanDuel)
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Malik Smith: The Wizards haven’t played a game since Jan. 11 and I expect the rust will show immediately. Before their hiatus they had the fourth-worst Defensive Rating (114.4) in the NBA, and after missing six games they are now second-worst.

Even with a high total this feels like a spot to back the over — 68% of the money on this total is landing on the over at the time of writing, according to The Action Network’s public betting data. Both the Wizards and Spurs rank top-10 in Pace this season, but more importantly, the Wizards are the most profitable team to take over on when the total closes above 230 points (7-3 this season).

I don’t expect that time off improved this defense in the slightest so I’m taking the over at FanDuel with confidence up to 235.
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Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins Out vs. Bills, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire Officially Active

chiefs-clyde-edwards-helaire-start-sammy-watkins-injury-report-bills-afc-championship

Update (5:12 p.m. ET): With the AFC Championship set to kickoff in less than 90 minutes, the final status of key Chiefs offensive playmakers was revealed: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is out, along with running back Le’Veon Bell, but rookie RB Clyde Edward-Helaire is officially active.


The Kansas City Chiefs will get rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire back Sunday, but starting wide receiver Sammy Watkins status is more uncertain.

Edwards-Helaire hasn’t played since Week 15 against the New Orleans Saints, but according to multiple reports, he is expected to play.

Meanwhile, Watkins’ status remans up in the air as he continues to deal with a calf injury. NFL Network didn’t expand beyond “game-time decision,” but ESPN’s Adam Schefter went as far as saying the team didn’t “sound optimistic” about his chances. Watkins has been out of action since Week 16.

Watkins’ absence will be more significant than Edwards-Helaire’s return, at least when tied to the spread. Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, makes Watkins worth 0.22 points to the spread. That ranks fifth on the Chiefs when not considering quarterbacks. Edwards-Helaire is not in the top five.

Darrel Williams ran for 78 yards on 13 carries in the playoff win against the Cleveland Browns, handling most of the workload. Le’Veon Bell only carried the ball twice for six yards. He will be out with a knee injury.

Without Watkins, Mecole Hardman stepped into the role behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce with four catches for 58 yards in the Divisional Round. Watkins has 37 catches for 421 yards on the year.

Edwards-Helaire figures to get some looks out of the backfield. He’s caught 36 of 54 targets for 297 yards on the year, in addition to his 4.4 yards per carry average.

That’s all been secondary to the health of Patrick Mahomes, who officially cleared concussion protocol and will start. The bigger news with Mahomes is the turf toe he’s dealing with entering this showdown.

Rangers vs. Penguins Odds & Picks: Why You Should Target the Total

Rangers vs. Penguins Odds

Rangers Odds +123
Penguins Odds -141
Over/Under 6.5
Time 7:00 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.

After a 4-3 come-from-behind shootout win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Rangers again on Sunday evening. 

After closing as consensus -140 favorites in the first meeting, the Penguins are in a similar range in the rematch after coming through for those who backed the favorite. 

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New York Rangers

After being shutout in their season opener, the Rangers’ offense has started to get things going by scoring 11 times in its last three games. This is a good sign for New York since the team is built to outscore its opponents. 

Artemi Panarin was a contender for the Hart Trophy last season and the Russian winger has gotten it going again early this season. Panarin already has five points in just four games, continuing to be one of the more feared offensive players in the league. 

Outside of Panarin, a lot of the Rangers’ top attacking options are off to slow starts. Mika Zibanejad had 75 points in 57 games last season, but he has just two thus far. Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome have just one combined point. The first overall pick of the 2020 draft, Alexis Lafreniere, is yet to record his first career point.

Despite this, the Rangers are still scoring at a good pace. It’ll only improve once some of their top players get settled into the season.

On the bright side, it looks like Kaapo Kakko has taken a step forward after his disappointing rookie season. The No. 2 overall pick from 2019 has scored twice in the last three games. Fellow youngsters Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil are also having productive starts for New York. 

The Rangers need to keep their offense rolling because their defense is a cause for concern. Last season, they finished with the second-worst mark in the league when it came to expected goals against. They’ve been a bit better in that regard to open this season but still find themselves in the bottom 10. 

Last season, the team was bailed out down the stretch by rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin posted a .932 save percentage in 12 games last season and was amongst the favorites to win the Calder Trophy at the beginning of this season. Through two starts, Shesterkin has given up seven goals.  He’s going to have to be better for the Rangers to survive their leaky defense.  

Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s been a weird start to the year for the Penguins. They lost their first two games of the season but rebounded to win their last three, all of which required overtime. 

The biggest issue for the Penguins to begin this season has been in between the pipes. The team traded two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie Matt Murray in the offseason and decided to roll with two young unproven netminders in Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.

To begin the year, Jarry has the second worst goals saved above expectation (GSAx) in the league at -4.88. DeSmith hasn’t been much better at -2.09 GSAx through two starts. Both have had stretches of success in the NHL in previous years but now that the team has been handed over to them, the pressure is on. 

The Penguins are giving up the second-most goals per game at 5-on-5 with 3.7. They are also a bottom-10 team in terms of High-Danger Chances against. The defensive issues are a bit of a surprise as the Penguins were among the league leaders last season in terms of limiting dangerous chances and keeping their expected goals against low. 

Like the Rangers, the Penguins have the ability to put up a crooked number due to their offensive talent. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two generational superstars. Their supporting cast consisting of Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust is more than enough to have a top-end offense. The numbers back that up, as Pittsburgh has scored 13 goals in its last three games. 

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Rangers vs. Penguins Best Bet

While the Penguins are widely seen as the better team, these teams’ style of play to begin the season mirror each other. Both teams are struggling defensively and relying on their offenses to keep them afloat.

These teams played each other on Friday night, and both teams scored three goals in regulation before Pittsburgh won in a shootout.

Whether it’s Jarry or DeSmith in between the pipes for the Penguins, neither has done much to inspire confidence. The team’s defensive play in front of them isn’t helping matters either.

All five Penguins games this far have gone over the total, and the Rangers are a bad team to try and figure out your defensive issues against with an assortment of talented attackers.

On the flipside, the Penguins have an offense that can expose the Rangers’ leaky defense.

In terms of side, I think the line is about right. If you could get the Rangers at better than +130 by Sunday night, I’d strongly consider making a play there. However at +123, the price is a little too low.

My favorite way to attack this game would be the total. I think these teams will try to outscore their defensive issues which could lead to a back and forth affair like we saw on Friday night between these teams.

Pick: Over 6.5 goals

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Sunday NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Celtics’ Brown Highlights Top Plays (Jan. 24)

Sunday is here, and the NBA’s graced us with a full schedule of basketball. The seven-game slate lacks star power, but includes some intriguing matchups, especially in the Eastern Conference. 

For today’s player props, we targeted players in the 7 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET contests to give fans the chance to watch football amid all the NBA games. We finished 2-0 last week, and we’re rolling with a three-guard ticket that features Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and rookie Cole Anthony. That said, let’s dig in.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.

Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.

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NBA Player Props & Picks

Jaylen Brown, Over 26.5 points (-106)

Cavaliers at Celtics Celtics -6.5
Time 7 p.m. ET

Brown is scorching hot right now. He torched the Sixers for 42 points on Friday, tying his season high. Brown’s leaped into a bonafide All-Star this season, largely because of his improved play on both sides of the ball. It also helps he’s been shouldering much of the offensive load with All-Star sidekick Jayson Tatum out of commission with COVID-19 issues.

Brown is averaging 26.9 points per game, shooting a pristine 52.4 percent from the field through 14 games. He comes into Sunday’s tilt facing an 8-7 Cleveland Cavaliers team which put together impressive back-to-back wins against the Brooklyn Nets. This isn’t exactly the “We Believe” Cavs, but they’ve morphed into a respectable team that won’t back down. 

On the other hand, the Celtics have dropped two in a row to Philly and sitin a tight race with a few playoff contending teams. It’s still early in the season, but this has the feels of a statement game playing against Cleveland. Brown’s been a beast in TD Garden, averaging 29.2 points while attempting 20-shot attempts in six home games.

He is the focal point of the Celtics offense, and while Cleveland guards against opposing shooting guards well, it will be a challenge to contain Brown, whose been on a tear over his past five games. The implied game total is 212.5, which doesn’t project as a high-scoring matchup, but we’ve seen Cleveland stay competitive despite being 6.5 point dogs. Our models have Brown scoring 28 points, so feel good about him continuing his hot shooting surge.

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Cole Anthony, Over 3.5 rebounds (-135)

Hornets at Magic Magic -1
Time 7 p.m. ET

The Orlando Magic have been decimated by injuries to their backcourt this season. Markelle Fultz went down with a season-ending ACL injury, and Michael Carter-Williams has missed his last nine games with a foot ailment. Since then, it has been Cole Anthony — the rookie from UNC — who’s now responsible for leading the Magic.

Anthony has been more active rebounding than facilitating thus far, averaging 4.5 rebounds per contest to only 3.2 assists.  Interestingly enough, his rebound market has remained steady at 4.5 rebounds over the past week. The dip to 3.5 rebounds is too hard to pass up, and here’s why.

He faces a Hornets team that’s giving up 5.6 rebounds per game to opposing point guards. The Magic are one-point favorites, and according to Fansure, the rookie’s pulled down 3.5 rebounds in his last seven games as a favorite, with an average of 5.3 rebounds per game over that span.

This matchup’s implied total sits at a modest 214, but Charlotte’s team FG% has dropped to 44% in January and ranks in the bottom-10 overall.

With Anthony playing a shade under 30 minutes per game and limited depth behind him, our projections have him snaring 5.1 rebounds with a bet quality of 10 out of 10.

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Jrue Holiday, Over 16.5 points (-110)

Hawks at Bucks Bucks -8.5
Time 8 p.m. ET

The Bucks take on the Hawks in what should be one of the most entertaining games of the slate. Holiday is coming off a 22-point effort against the Lakers and with the Bucks losing two consecutive contests, this is a prime opportunity for the former All-Star to step up offensively.  

Holiday, the newest acquisition of the Bucks, is in the midst of a down year in scoring. He’s averaging 16.1 points per game and attempting fewer shots than last season (12.8 FGA compared to 16.5 FGA).

He’s also not getting to the line as much as well. This is the first time since the 2014-2015 campaign where he’s attempted less than two free throws a game.

Despite less volume, he’s been more efficient this season, shooting a career-high 49.5% from the field, and is fitting in well as the new point guard on a contending team.

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After all, Holiday is in his 12th season in the league and made a choice to play with more talented players for a legitimate shot at winning a title. 

Back to Holiday and why his 16.5 points are understated. This game carries the highest implied total of 230.5, signaling a high-scoring affair. Trae Young is questionable, but the Hawks defense against opposing points guards is even more suspect.

According to Hashtag Basketball, Atlanta is giving up 23.9 points per game to opposing point guards. The Hawks are one of the worst teams defending the guard position, and Holiday’s track record with two days rest has been strong.

In three games after two days’ rest, Holiday averaging 19.7 points per game. He’s scored at least 21 points in three of his last four contests. Our model projects he’ll score 17.3 points tonight, and with the Bucks needing a win, Holiday has a safe floor to exceed 16.5 points against the Hawks.

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How the Buffalo Bills Were Built Into Super Bowl Contenders (And Why They’re Built To Last)

bills-super-bowl-odds-contenders

Maybe we should have known when Sean McDermott dragged Buffalo to the playoffs in his first year despite a -57 point differential that the Bills would become a force to be reckoned with.

On the eve of the AFC Championship against the Chiefs, the Bills stand No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ weighted overall DVOA, which weights recent games more heavily. That means as the season has worn on, they have essentially become best team in football.

Though the Bills have one of the better draft track records over the past few years — Tre’Davious White, Josh Allen, Matt Milano, Dion Dawkins, Devin Singletary, etc. — what sticks out most in evaluating their success since head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane took over in 2017 is their ability to accurately self-evaluate their strengths and weakness.

Let’s take a look at their rise.

How the Bills Built This Offense

McDermott and Beane not getting deluded by a 9-7 finish in 2017, Buffalo’s first winning season in three years, was key to their long-term success. Despite their record, the Bills’ point differential went from +21 in 2016 to -57 in 2017 — 78-point drop, and it would have been silly (but expected) for them to pat themselves on the back and attempt to build on their nine wins instead of rebuild.

McDermott looked like the world’s biggest idiot for benching starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman in Week 11 of 2017, which resulted in five first-half interceptions and a 54-24 loss. But McDermott has to be given credit for seeing that despite moderate success as the Bills starter (a 22-20 record), Taylor was not the long-term answer. Neither was offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who was fired after just one year.

Brian Daboll was hired as the new offensive coordinator in 2018, then Josh Allen was drafted with the seventh overall pick. In Year 1, Allen looked like nothing but a bigger, stronger but less accurate version of Taylor who scrambled even more. The offense dropped from 22nd in points per game 18.9) to 30th (16.8), but this time McDermott and Beane didn’t give up on the struggling leaders of the offense.

Brian Daboll-Josh Allen
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Brian Daboll, Josh Allen

Instead, they sought to improve the scheme and the players around them. The Bills made what seemed like questionable decisions at the time to sign free-agent wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley.

While Brown was a deep threat, it didn’t change the fact that he had routinely posted one of the lowest catch rates in the league, which didn’t seem like a good match for Allen’s then-inaccurate ways — especially since undrafted rookie receiver Robert Foster had posted a 61.4% catch rate on a 20.7-yard average depth of target the year before and seemed primed to take a second-year leap. And if the Bills were going to roll with deep threats Brown and Foster on the outside, why did they need Beasley when Zay Jones could play inside? Especially since Jones was coming off a major Year 2 leap, posting 56 catches for 652 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns and almost fooling the world into believing he was an NFL-caliber wide receiver.

Demoting what looked like breakout performers on the rise for middling veteran free agents and questionable fits didn’t seem like the best way to develop a young quarterback, but of course, we now know that the moves worked out brilliantly: Brown (72/1,060/6) and Beasley (67/778/6) have posted career years while accounting for nearly half of the team’s targets (45.6%).

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: John Brown, Cole Beasley

Despite their success in the free-agent market with Brown and Beasley, McDermott and Beane didn’t get overconfident and go back to the well to complete their receiving corps the next offseason. Nor did they get fooled into thinking they didn’t need more of a true No. 1 target for Allen, so they went out and traded for Stefon Diggs, giving up a boatload of picks — 2020 first-, fifth- and sixth-rounders and a 2021 fourth — that now look like a pittance after Diggs led the NFL in catches (127) and yards (1,535) this season.

Another sharp but often overlooked decision: Despite Diggs leading the league in deep receiving in 2019 — 635 yards on passes traveling 20-plus yards in the air, according to Pro Football Focus — and Allen’s strong arm, they decided that Diggs would have the most value to the offense as a short-to-intermediate receiver, cutting his deep targets nearly in half (29 to 16) while letting Brown and rookie Gabriel Davis (another quality draft pick) handle the deep routes.

That all laid the groundwork for Allen and the offense to score 31.3 points per game this season, the second-best in the league. Accuracy concerns are a thing of the past, as Allen’s 69.2% completion rate was one of the top 25 in NFL history.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Stefon Diggs.

Allen has also began to master his pocket presence and not rely on running, which he ran less than ever this season.

He was effective at getting the ball out quick when necessary, taking the third-lowest rate of sacks (10.7%) and throwing the third-most touchdowns (12) while under pressure. He also led the league in completion rate on throws in fewer than 2.5 seconds (84.7%). But he was also lethal when buying time, throwing an NFL-high 23 touchdowns on passes that he held the ball for 2.5 seconds or longer.

How Their Defense Evolved Over 2020

Defense has always been McDermott’s calling card, but after finishing in the top seven in DVOA in 2018 and 2019, McDermott’s and Leslie Frazier’s unit was middling for the early part of the year. They did bounce back, improving from 16th in DVOA over the first half of the season to seventh over the second half.

Though some of that improvement was simply due to the return of linebacker Matt Milano, McDermott’s ability to adjust on the fly also came into play. For instance, he realized his attempts to manufacture pressure were not working and cut his safety blitzes nearly in half from 6.3 to 3.3, allowing safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer to focus on keeping things in front of them.

Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer

McDermott’s subtle shifts in scheme after the bye resulted in almost every member of the defense playing better, both in coverage and against the run. Six of their most heavily-used players in coverage saw major decreases in yards per target allowed post-bye:

  • LB Tremaine Edmunds: 12.1 pre-bye, 6.3 post-bye (-5.8 difference)
  • CB Tre’Davious White: 10.7 pre, 6.8 post (-3.9 diff)
  • LB A.J. Klein: 8.1 pre, 4.7 post (-3.4 diff)
  • CB Josh Norman: 8.4 pre, 5.5 post (-2.9 diff)
  • CB Taron Johnson: 8.6 pre, 6.5 post (-2.1 diff)
  • S Micah Hyde: 6.1, 4.8 post (-1.3 diff)

Eight members of the front seven — A.J. Klein, Quinton Jefferson, Ed Oliver, Tremaine Edmunds, Harrison Phillips, Vernon Butler, Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy — saw their PFF run defense grades increase by 20% or more, while two more elevated their play by 6-18% (Mario Addison, Justin Zimmer and A.J. Epenesa).

The shifts also resulted in more pressures for Jerry Hughes, who went from 3.3 per game pre-bye to 4.1 post-bye.

How the Bills Strengthened Special Teams

The Bills have also made massive strides on special teams in the second year under coordinator Heath Farwell, jumping from 21st to fourth in DVOA. The coverage teams have been excellent, ranking first on kickoff expected points added (EPA) and ninth on punt EPA. That improvement is a credit to Farwell, but also to Beane for finding excellent specialists.

Punter Corey Bojorquez was a 2018 undrafted free agent find who finished fourth in gross punting average (50.8), fifth in net average (44.0), fourth in percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (63.4%), and sixth in average hangtime (4.45 seconds) during the regular season.

Despite finding a diamond in the rough in the undrafted free-agent market at one specialist spot in 2018, the Bills didn’t hesitate to spend draft capital at the other two years later, selecting kicker Tyler Bass out of Georgia Southern in the sixth round. Bass hasn’t always been perfect — he’s missed three of his nine kicks in the 30-39 yard range — but he has given them a reliable kicker from log range, nailing 5-of-7 from 50 or more yards. He’s also boomed the third-most touchbacks (71) on the seventh-most average hangtime (4.037 seconds) while finishing third in average starting field position allowed (24.1 yard line).

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Future Is Bright In Buffalo (So Is the Present)

Given the success that McDermott and Beane have had in the draft and free agency, while self-evaluating and adjusting on the fly, and the development of Allen, it’s not crazy to think that the Bills can continue to replicate their success.

But getting to the AFC Championship Game while Allen is still on his rookie contract (which expires after next year) is a big win. It would be silly to assume McDermott and Beane will have as much success roster building once they’re saddled with the huge salary cap hit that Allen now deserves.

With that being said, the keys to being a model NFL franchise such as the Chiefs, Steelers or Packers is the quarterback and the coach — and the Bills have both of those spots well covered.

4 Ways To Bet the AFC Championship: Spread, Total & Prop Picks For Chiefs vs. Bills

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NFL betting markets are generally extremely efficient at this time of year as far as sides and totals are concerned, so the largest edges usually are usually found in player props.

Below are the four props I see the biggest edge on for the Conference Championship slate as well as the spreads and totals I’m betting. I may end up being on additional props leading up to kickoff, so if you’re looking for more action be sure to follow me in the Action Network App.

Editor’s note: Bills-Chiefs picks have been rotated above Bucs-Packers.

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Bills +3; Over 54

I backed the Chiefs -6 in their eventual 26-16 win over the Bills in Week 6, but I don’t expect a repeat of that result from a side nor a total perspective.

From a big-picture perspective, the Bills are now the better team in every sense but record: They’re No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, while the Chiefs are sixth. The gap widens when we look only at weighted DVOA (which weights resent games more heavily), as Buffalo is No. 1 while Kansas City remains No. 6. The Chiefs have a small edge over the Bills in weighted DVOA on offense (third vs. fifth), but the Bills have sizable edges on defense (eighth vs. 24th) and special teams (second vs. 11th).

More importantly, the Chiefs are struggling mightily with situational football.

The Chefs rank dead last on defense in red-zone conversion rate and red-zone DVOA, while the Bills rank 13th and ninth. The Chiefs also finished dead last in short yardage on both sides of the ball, which is an edge you don’t want to give away to the Bills, who don’t put much emphasis on the run on either side of the ball but have been good in short-yardage defense (seventh) and respectable on offense (17th). And while both teams are top-five in DVOA on third/fourth-down offense, the Bills are also top-five on defense while the Chiefs rank 19th.

Ultimately, it’s Kansas City’s defensive drop-off that is most concerning: It was sixth in pass DVOA in the first half of the season but 29th in the second half. And while the defense was set up well to defend a Browns offense featuring slot receiver Jarvis Landry as its biggest threat, the Chiefs could struggle against the Bills’ deeper receiving corps.

The Chiefs have been playing Tyrann Mathieu at deep safety much more over the second half of the season in place of the struggling Juan Thornhill, but used Mathieu closer to the line of scrimmage and in the slot against Landry last week. Mathieu gave up -4 yards on six targets with a pick overall, and Landry finished with 20 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. But Kansas City’s cornerbacks allowed a catch on 15-of-18 targets for 153 yards and a touchdown.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Chiefs S Juan Thornhill

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done a good job of scheming them help all season — they allowed the second-fewest yards to wide receivers during the regular season — mostly using two-deep shells. But if he plays two-deep man, he exposes himself to the threat of Josh Allen running, and the Bills can use four-wide looks to carve up the Chiefs in the vertical seams if they leave their cornerbacks close to the line and play two-deep zone.

On the other side of the ball, Buffalo blitzed Mahomes only once on 34 dropbacks (2.9%) in that first matchup. And despite his toe injury, the Bills will likely employ a similar game-plan rather than the blitz-heavy approach they used against the Ravens (30.0%). Buffalo improved from 16th in defensive DVOA over the first half of the season to seventh over the second half thanks to some schematic changes mostly made possible by the return of linebacker Matt Milano, who did not play due to injury in the Week 6 matchup.

While I wouldn’t expect Buffalo to have enough success to keep this game under the total on the basis of its defense, the Bills are now capable of getting a key stop or two that can allow them to keep them in striking distance to win what should be a coin-flip game that should clear the total. I like the over up to 55 points.

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Darrel Williams Under 36.5 Rush Yards (-105)

Williams received 13-of-15 backfield carries with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out last week, but Edwards-Helaire is slated to return this week and has averaged a 69% share of backfield carries when active (excluding Week 13, when he was active but did not play due to injury).

The Chiefs average 19.5 backfield carries per game this season, meaning the most likely outcome for Williams is 5-8 carries. He averages 4.3 yards per carry this season and 3.8 for his career, so his yardage total is likely to top out in the mid-30s barring another Edwards-Helaire injury.

You can bet this line at FanDuel as of writing.

Limit: Under 35.5 (-120)

Devin Singletary Over 40.5 Rush Yards (-115)

In 14 games without Zack Moss (out, knee), Bills running backs are averaging 80.1 rushing yards per game with a median of 75.5. Singletary played 85.7% of the snaps and handled 81.8% of the backfield carries last week, which puts his true projected median closer to 60 yards.

The market is slightly overweighting Buffalo’s average of 10.5 backfield carries this postseason, but that came against two top-12 run defenses in terms of DVOA in the Colts (ninth) and Ravens (12th), whereas the Chiefs rank 31st.

This is available at FanDuel as of early Sunday afternoon.

Limit: Over 49.5 (-120)

Buccaneers +3.5; Over 51.5

Can the Packers beat a team by more than a field goal that crushed them, 38-10, back in Week 6? Perhaps, but I’m willing to pay to find out.

The Bucs are the better team in terms of Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, and they are top-five on offense and defense, leaving the Packers’ 17th-ranked defense as the weakest unit in this game (outside of special teams, which are both bottom-10).

The Bucs showed the ability to limit the Packers offense, holding them to their lowest point total (10) and total yardage output of the season (201). Keyed by cornerback Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay has also fared better against No. 1 wide receivers (sixth in DVOA) than even Green Bay’s Divisional Round opponent (Los Angeles, 13th in DVOA). The Bucs proved their mettle by holding Michael Thomas catch-less on four targets and 28 pass routes last week while Adams posted a 9/66/1 line on 10 targets and 33 routes against Jalen Ramsey and Co.

Davante-Adams
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Davante Adams

Despite the Bucs defense being able to do what the Rams could not, the more compelling reason for the Bucs being able to hang close in this game is their offense. The Packers ranked No. 1 in scoring offense during the regular season (31.8 per game) and have scored 30 or more points in 13-of-17 games, so the Bucs’ ability to pile up points (30.8 per game, third) will be crucial.

Green Bay also tends to start fast, leading the NFL in first-half scoring (18.7 per game), but Tampa Bay is the league’s second-highest scoring offense in the second half (15.4 per game).

Even without Antonio Brown (out, knee), the Bucs posses enough pass-catching weapons to force Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to keep extra defensive backs on the field. That’s his preferred scheme but wasn’t always the case against the Rams last week (or the Titans in the Packers’ impressive 40-14 win). This should open Tampa Bay’s run game, which posted 35 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans’ second-ranked run defense last week.

On the flip side, the Bucs won’t be able to play as much press man as they did against Drew Brees’ downfield-averse throwing arm. They’ll have to revert to their signature zone blitz scheme with more off coverage, so the defense is unlikely to produce another four-turnover 20-points allowed showing like they did against the Saints. The Packers torched a somewhat similar Rams scheme (albeit with less blitzing) for 507 yards and 32 points last week, so all in all, there should be no shortage of points in this game despite the cold weather at Lambeau Field.

For the reasons outlined above, I like the Bucs and the over here. While winners of the regular-season matchup have gone 55-39 in playoff rematches since 2002, I don’t think Tampa Bay will be able to win with defense this time around. However, the Saints have been the only team all year to beat the Bucs by more than a field goal all season, and only nine of Tom Brady’s 43 postseason starts (20.9%) have ended with his team losing by more than three points. Meanwhile, Rodgers has come out with a win of more than three in only 11-of-20 playoff starts (55.0%), and for what it’s worth, has lost his last three conference championships by an average score of 36.3-21.0 (though none came at Lambeau).

Limits: Buccaneers +3; Over 53.5

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Equanimeous St. Brown Under 1.5 Receptions (-215)

St. Brown has caught more than one pass in a game just once all season in 13 appearances. He ran 11 routes against the Rams in the Divisional Round and averages 8.6 routes run per game this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which isn’t enough to project him anywhere near two catches given his career average of 0.08 receptions per route run.

At 11 routes, he’d project for 0.88 receptions. And at his season average of 8.6 routes run, he would project for 0.69 catches. You can currently bet this line at DraftKings.

Limit: Under 1.5 (-900)

Cameron Brate Over 2.5 Receptions (-140)

Brate has caught three or more passes in six of his past nine games, including four grabs in each of the Bucs’ two postseason contests. He’s run 38 postseason routes to Rob Gronkowski’s 37, and with Antonio Brown (knee) out, we could see even more two-tight end sets from the Bucs.

This is currently available at DraftKings.

Limit: Over 2.5 (-200)

Chiefs vs. Bills Weather Forecast: Expect Strong Winds In Kansas City For AFC Championship

bills-vs-chiefs-weather-forecast-wind-rain-kansas-city-arrowhead-afc-championship-game

Chiefs vs. Bills Odds

Bills Odds +3
Chiefs Odds -3
Over/Under 54.5
PRO Projections Chiefs -2.2 | O/U: 54.6
Time | Channel  6:40 p.m. ET | CBS
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Patrick Mahomes’ injury status has dominated most of the AFC Championship Game news this week and has certainly had an effect on Bills vs. Chiefs betting odds as well.

At the time of writing, Kansas City is a 3-point home favorite (click here for the latest AFC Championship Game odds), with the vig suggesting the market is leaning to -3.5 as well.

With Mahomes expected to play, the Bills vs. Chiefs over/under has stretched to 54.5 (after opening at 51), but bettors should also be aware of the weather forecast for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.

Poor conditions can have a significant effect on scoring, especially for a quarterback dealing with a bad case of turf toe.

Let’s take a look at the latest Bills vs. Chiefs weather forecast, and what it means for AFC Championship Game bettors.

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Bills vs. Chiefs Weather Forecast

According to the National Weather Service, it’s going to be cold, wet and windy in Kansas City.

Temperatures will dip into the mid 30s, while winds will be picking up throughout the night, eventually settling into 8-14 mph breezes and gusts up to 20 mph.

And while it may not be raining at the start of the game, the chances of precipitation increase as the game progresses.

Sports Insights’ hourly weather breakdown isn’t all that bullish that rain will arrive at Arrowhead in time to affect Bills vs. Chiefs, but there will be double-digit winds blowing directly across Arrowhead Stadium.

At the time of writing the Bills vs. Chiefs over/under sits at 54.5, but don’t be surprised to see this number drop as more bettors become aware of the severity of Mahomes’ toe injury as well as the AFC Championship Game weather forecast.

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NFL Prop Bets & Live Betting Strategies For Bills vs. Chiefs

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At this point in the NFL season, the market is usually extremely efficient. From a pure numbers perspective, most professionals are going to have both championship games lined right around a field goal. The margins are minimal.

However, one can still find value on Championship Sunday in the pregame prop and live betting markets. I also believe you can gain an edge by diagnosing how a team might approach a certain game from a scheme perspective.

For example, I was convinced Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would utilize much more press man coverage in the third meeting against the Saints last weekend, which would completely stifle Drew Brees. Fortunately, it played out that way.

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Below I’ll take an in-depth look at both matchups, touching on all three of the aforementioned angles:

  • Schematics
  • Player props
  • Live betting approach

Can either the Bucs or Bills break the current streak of 14 straight conference championship wins for home teams, who are also 10-4 against the spread? Let’s dive in.

Editor’s note: Bucs-Packers has been moved below Bills-Chiefs.


Bills at Chiefs

Spread
Chiefs -3.5
Total
54.5
Time
6:40 p.m. ET
TV
CBS
Odds as of late Friday. Compare real-time lines with our NFL Odds Page.

Similar to the NFC matchup, these two teams also met in a Week 6 game that I also don’t put too much stock into.

Buffalo dared Kansas City to run the ball, which the Chiefs did without much resistance en route to a 26-17 win in Orchard Park. To illustrate just how much things have changed since then, though, the Bills were 6-point home underdogs. Now they’re 3-point road underdogs.

So, what has changed? Well, most importantly, Buffalo’s defense has improved significantly. During the bye week, the Bills made some key schematic changes at linebacker. That group also now features a healthy Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano (who didn’t play in the first meeting).

The defensive line is also playing at a much higher level. In fact, things were so bad along the defensive line early in the season that Sean McDermott healthy-scratched both Harrison Phillips and Trent Murphy for that Week 6 game and replaced them with two practice squad call-ups. This is a completely different and superior front 7 than what the Chiefs saw earlier in the season.

In regards to the secondary, it’s also in much better shape. Starting wide corner Levi Wallace didn’t play in Week 6 and slot corner Taron Johnson (who had the game-changing pick-six against the Ravens last week) has transformed from a liability to an asset in the slot.

fantasy defense rankings-draft
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tre’Davious White

And we already know Buffalo has a lockdown corner in Tre’Davious White and one of the better safety duos in the league.

It’s incredible how much better this Buffalo defense has played after the bye week — there’s a reason it ranks eighth in Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA, which puts less emphasis on early-season results.

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs pass defense has deteriorated over the second half of the year, while the Bills offense has morphed into an unstoppable force.

When the Chiefs Have the Ball

I’m assuming that Patrick Mahomes is a full go at this point. However, there are still some questions about his toe injury — that’s a major factor, in my opinion, because his mobility is one of the reasons he’s the best quarterback in the league.

During last postseason, Mahomes ran it 16 times for 156 yards (excluding kneel downs) in three games for an average of just fewer than 10 yards a pop. His mobility is also what makes him so effective against the blitz, as he led the NFL in almost every single category in that department — despite dealing with subpar offensive line play many times during the season.

As I mentioned previously, the Bills simply sat back and invited the Chiefs to run the ball in the first meeting. They blitzed Mahomes only once on a passing play. However, with the front 7 now fully healthy and playing at a much higher level, I expect Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier (who generally does blitz at an above-average rate) to bring much more pressure against a potentially hobbled Mahomes — specifically up the middle, where I think the Chiefs are vulnerable.

How Buffalo plays this on the outside is intriguing. If Sammy Watkins plays, I think White may shadow Watkins while they provide safety help to wherever Tyreek Hill goes in the formation. The Bills have excelled at taking away explosive passes all season, which is obviously a major key against the Chiefs.

Look, even if Mahomes is indeed hobbled, he’s going to get his against any defense in the NFL — he’s the best quarterback in the league and could go down as the greatest to ever play the position when it’s all said and done. However, given the Bills’ improvements on defense, there’s a path to a few key stops (especially if Mahomes isn’t 100%), and that’s all it might take in this game.

Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes

When the Bills Have the Ball

I expect the Chiefs to play a high frequency of dime, which they play at a top-three rate. They’ll likely have some new looks for Allen that focus on taking away the deep pass by inviting the run and forcing Josh Allen to sustain longer drives down the field.

However, from everything I’ve seen this season, Allen is up to the task. Buffalo should be much more aggressive than the first meeting when it had an uncharacteristic almost even run-pass split. Keep in mind that game was played in less-than-ideal weather conditions with a banged up John Brown. I just don’t see these Kansas City cornerbacks winning too many battles on the outside with Stefon Diggs and Co.

Allen may start slow if he has some nerves while getting a feel for what Kansas City is trying to do defensively, but he should eventually have no issues moving the ball with his elite group of weapons.

How I’m Projecting This To Play Out

Based on more than a full regular-season worth of results, the Bills have been the better overall team. Since that Week 6 loss, their average margin of victory is right around two touchdowns, while the Chiefs’ sits at just under a touchdown.

The Bills have been covering machines, while the Chiefs have failed to cover since a Nov. 1 meeting with the Jets.

Now the question is: Have the Chiefs been coasting all season? Have they just been waiting to flip the switch in the postseason? It’s possible, and we did see some of that in the first half last week, but that Browns defense is a horror show.

However, I simply can’t argue against my numbers at this point. And while I do still give some benefit of the doubt to Mahomes and this excellent coaching staff in my power ratings, I still make this line only Chiefs -2.5 — and that’s assuming they are at full health, which they are not.

I can’t play +3, but would take +3.5, which is available at multiple sportsbooks as of writing. If not, I’ll look for a better position live in a game that will likely provide profitable opportunities when either team is trailing.

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I personally don’t give as much of a bump to Kansas City for home-field advantage here as I do Green Bay. There will be some fans and the Chiefs did benefit from the lone bye in the AFC, but the Bills have been at home for two weeks and are used to playing in similar outdoor conditions.

Also, don’t sleep on the special teams edge for Buffalo. This has been Andy Reid’s worst special teams unit in Kansas City by far. Look out for a big play from return man Andre Roberts against a coverage unit that’s struggled all season.

What Could Go Wrong for the Bills?

  • Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo draws up a brilliant zone-heavy game plan that confuses Josh Allen into key mistakes.
  • The Chiefs really have been coasting and simply flip the switch.
  • Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker makes all of his extra points.
  • Mahomes does Mahomes things.

Favorite Prop Bets

With Zack Moss now out, Devin Singletary should get almost all of the work out of the backfield.

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Singletary

Against the Ravens last weekend, Singletary played 84% of snaps. And as they’ve done all season, I expect the Chiefs to focus on taking away the Bills’ receivers. That should provide ample opportunity for Singletary to get involved in the passing game, especially if Allen is confused by some zone concepts and blitz packages Spagnuolo may have up his sleeve.

The Chiefs have really struggled to defend opposing backs all season, allowing the most receiving yards in this department. From a DVOA perspective, Kansas City’s pass defense ranks 31st against running backs.

Count me in on over 2.5 catches and over 18.5 receiving yards, both of which are available at FanDuel. In 17 games, 13 backs have had a least three catches against the Chiefs.

PICKS: Devin Singletary Over 2.5 Catches; Over 18.5 Rec Yards

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Buccaneers at Packers

Spread
Packers -3.5
Total
51.5
Time
3:05 p.m. ET
TV
FOX
Odds as of late Friday. Compare real-time lines with our NFL Odds Page.

Aaron Rodgers will try to end his streak of three straight losses in the NFC title game while Tom Brady will look to pocket as many NFC championships in one season as Rodgers has in his career.

Brady shouldn’t have any issue with the cold, but Green Bay deserves a home-field advantage bump playing in front of a limited crowd against a warm-weather team. The Packers also had a bye prior to a home game last week, while the Buccaneers hit the road for the third straight week.

Teams playing their third straight road game in the playoffs have gone 3-11 straight up and 4-10 against the spread (ATS) over the past 35 seasons. Interestingly, Rodgers experienced two of those three wins — he was a backup for Brett Favre when the Packers lost to the Giants in 2008, then Rodgers beat the Bears on the road in 2011.

When the Bucs Have the Ball

When Tampa Bay dominated Green Bay way back in Week 6, the offense didn’t have to do much since the defense did all of the dirty work en route to a 38-10 blowout victory.

Brady had an efficient day at the office, but threw for only 166 yards. He fed Rob Gronkowski over the middle (five catches for 78 yards) against a weak coverage group of Packer linebackers, while Ronald Jones eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground.

I just don’t take too much away from that game. This Packers defense is a completely different unit than the one we saw that week. Kenny Clark and Rashan Gary had just returned from injury and were both clearly still limited. Starting cornerback Kevin King also didn’t suit up, although his status is now in question with a back injury.

Speaking of Rashan Gary, he’s been remarkable late in the year, making up for the drop-off in production from Preston Smith. In fact, Gary has been the top rated edge rusher since Week 16, per Pro Football Focus. The Packers can actually once again generate pressure with their front 4, which they need to do since Mike Pettine isn’t a heavy blitz guy.

In that Week 6 meeting, the Packers pressured Brady on only 5-of-27 passing plays. Last week in the Divisional Round, they pressured Rams quarterback Jared Goff on 50% of his dropbacks. Gary was responsible for seven.

The Packers play a lot of Cover 3 and 4, but will use a higher frequency of man against immobile quarterbacks. However, while Brady fits that mold, I don’t expect them to go heavy man here.

Brady has shredded man coverage and really struggled against zone defenses this season, especially Cover 4, which can neutralize the deep pass — a staple of Bruce Arians’ offense. When Brady was in New England, you never wanted to zone the Patriots, but this is a completely different offense.

With all of the Buccaneers’ talented weapons and lack of a reliable check down option, you really want to avoid playing man-to-man against this offense unless you have three elite corners (which the Packers don’t have).

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Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Evans, Tom Brady

The Packers do have one elite cornerback in Jaire Alexander, who was arguably the best in the NFL this season by most metrics. The $64 million dollar question is will he shadow Mike Evans like he did in Week 6? Evans did have only one catch, but he wasn’t completely healthy. Plus, the Packers didn’t have King.

Alexander hasn’t shadowed a receiver in the past two months, including in two matchups against Allen Robinson and the Bears. Even with Antonio Brown out, the Bucs have capable receiving options behind him. However, with King potentially limited, there’s about a 60% chance Alexander will shadow. I had that at around 35% before the Brown and King news.

Regardless, the Packers should go with a heavy dose of Cover 4 to neutralize the Bucs’ vertical aerial attack with two of the best coverage safeties in the NFL over top. I also think the Packers will generate much more pressure with their front than they did earlier this season.

When the Packers Have the Ball

As I mentioned above, the Bucs defense completely stumped the Packers offense in that first meeting. As a result, Rodgers had the worst game of his season by far.

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers

So, what did the Bucs do? Nothing out of the ordinary for them.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles blitzed (which they disguise very well) and played zone on the back end. The offensive line didn’t seem to know who was coming from where, and Rodgers appeared confused by the coverages on the back end. Against the blitz, Rodgers went 6-of-17 for 63 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked three times and finished with a 7.4 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR.

Upon re-watching that game, it’s clear the Packers offense made a few mistakes that they can easily correct. For example, they could mix in more short routes for Rodgers to get the ball out quick if pressured — those throws can also set up deep shots. I also expect them to use more tempo and hard counts in order to provide a better pre-snap read of where the pressure is coming from.

It’s also worth noting that Allen Lazard didn’t play and Davante Adams just returned from injury. Yes, I know the Packers recently lost All Pro tackle David Bakhtiari, but Billy Turner filled in tremendously in his place last week when the offensive line handled the Rams at the line of scrimmage.

I expect the Bucs to once again bring pressure and play more zone on the back-end — that’s what they’ve done most of the season, and it worked like a charm in the first meeting when Rodgers went 10-for-24 for 93 yards against zone coverage. It’s possible they decide to play more man coverage like last week, but I don’t think they go that route often.

Unlike Drew Brees, Rodgers can actually throw it downfield.

If Green Bay has a better read on where the blitzes are coming from this time around, Rodgers should have a field day. For the season, he had the best numbers of any quarterback in the league against zone defenses.

Last week’s win over the Saints is fresh on everyone’s mind, but the Bucs’ secondary really struggled down the stretch, including in the Wild Card Round against Taylor Heinicke. They also could be without safety Antoine Winfield, who has been tremendous in his rookie season.

How I’m Projecting This To Play Out

Not only is this a significantly improved Green Bay defense since that Week 6 affair against Tampa Bay, but I believe the Packers will make the proper adjustments to attack this Buccaneers defense. I expect the Packers to utilize much more varied tempo, hard counts and short passes in order to give Rodgers a read on where the blitzes are coming from and to set up deep shots.

They’ll also benefit from just having played (and dominating) an elite Los Angeles defense that runs some of the same concepts. If Green Bay can get anything on the ground against an elite run defense, I don’t see Tampa Bay getting many stops — especially since Rodgers has been flawless in play-action all season (22 touchdowns to zero interceptions), something the aggressive Bucs defense struggles to defend.

packers-vs-49ers-prop-picks-nfc-championship-game-raybon-2020
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Jones, Aaron Rodgers

The return of Vita Vea could potentially make that task more difficult, but I would imagine he’d be severely limited if he does suit up.

For what it’s worth, Rodgers is 27-12-1 (69%) ATS as home favorite under a touchdown according to our Action Labs data. I think he gets this done and the Packers can make the most impactful changes from the earlier season meeting.

However, from a line value perspective, I can’t bet them at -3.5 — if this line never comes down before kick, I will wait to see if I can get under a field goal live in the first quarter. Keep in mind that Green Bay was the most dominant second-quarter team in the NFL this season by a wide margin.

What Could Go Wrong for the Packers?

A few things could:

  • Todd Bowles could confuses Rodgers again with his blitz packages, forcing a key turnover or two.
  • Packers could struggle to get anything on the ground to set up the play-action.
  • In a matchup of two sloppy special teams units, the Packers make the critical mistake(s).
  • Brady pulls another Brady in January.

Live Betting Over/Under Strategy

I don’t see a ton of value in either pregame total, but will be targeting a live over if we get a slow start in either game.

Over the past 15 years, conference championship games and Super Bowls have had lower-scoring first quarters than the average of all games over that span, while the other three quarters have all had higher averages.

Could a sample size of about 50 games be partly random? Sure. However, I do actually see the logic, so it’s something I can buy into for a no-risk strategy of waiting to see if I can get a nice live over.

There are nerves early in these games. Quarterbacks don’t want to make an early mistake before settling in. Plus, offenses try to get a feel for what the opposing defenses are trying to do in these big games where you can see drastic wrinkles due to the magnitude of these games. And despite these slower starts, conference championship overs have gone 20-11-3 (64.5%)

There are a number of factors working in favor of a live over as well. We have four pass-friendly teams on early downs with dynamic aerial attacks led by arguably the NFL’s four best quarterbacks this season, who each can fly down the field in a two minute drill. I also expect all four teams to play ultra aggressive on fourth downs, which will generally benefit an over.

From a pace perspective, only the Packers don’t rank in the top 11 in neutral game situations (per Football Outsiders) — they actually rank dead last. However, as I stated above, I think they’ll use more tempo.

Lastly, I don’t see many scenarios in which a team can effectively or will decide to start to chew the clock on the ground.

Favorite Prop Bets

Since I anticipate a heavy dose of Cover 4 from Green Bay, Godwin should have a massive day in the slot. He’s usually there about 65% of the time, but that should rise this Sunday — the option routes he can run from the slot are one of the ways you can move the ball effectively against Cover 4.

Even without Brown, I don’t expect Godwin’s slot snaps to be impacted. Godwin played 66% of snaps there in four games without Brown and 66% in 10 games without him.

Chandon Sullivan has been respectable in coverage from the slot, but he’s overmatched here. I expect Brady to feed Godwin early and often, so I fancy over 63.5 yards and over 5.5 catches, both of which are available at DraftKings.

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Let’s just hope he left all of his drops in New Orleans.

I also don’t hate Gronk props in a favorable matchup and just have a feeling AJ Dillon catches a deep ball that the Packers have been setting up recently.

PICKS: Chris Godwin Over 63.5 Rec Yards; Over 5.5 Catches

NFL Playoff Picks For Chiefs vs. Bills: An Underdog & Receiving Under To Bet Sunday

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Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, breaks down his four favorite bets for Championship Sunday. Find his picks below and follow him in the Action app for more.

Editor’s note: Koerner’s picks for Bucs-Packers have been moved below Bills-Chiefs


Bills +3.5 at Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes has cleared the concussion protocol and is set to play in the AFC showdown against the Bills. The toe injury he sustained last Sunday has “gotten a lot better,” according to Mahomes, but there’s a chance it will limit his mobility in this matchup.

The Chiefs are the NFL’s best team when at full strength. But with Mahomes, Sammy Watkins (questionable), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (questionable) and Bashaud Breeland all banged up, it’s created a small window to bet against them.

The Chiefs haven’t beaten any team by more than six points since Week 8. They allowed teams like the Panthers, Raiders, Broncos, Dolphins and Falcons to hang around and escape with a one-score win. Compare that to the Bills, who closed out the regular season with six straight wins of 10 or more points.

The Bills have shot up to No. 2 in my power ratings, and I have them projected as 2.5-point underdogs for this matchup. The Chiefs winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome, so I’m going to lock in the Bills at +3.5 (down to +3).

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Travis Kelce Under 96.5 Rec Yards (-112)

It’s usually never a good idea to fade Kelce, but I have to at this number.

For a sense of how high this number is: Kelce — who set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,416 –managed to clear this number in only seven of 16 games (43.8%). The Bills allowed the second-most yards per game to tight ends (62.5), which is an obvious red flag, but it’s mostly a result of their defense allowing teams soft spots over the middle in their zone-heavy scheme.

Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier do a fantastic job of altering their game plan based on matchup. I expect them to scheme up ways to limit Kelce, just as they did back in Week 6 when they held him to 65 yards (his second-lowest yardage output of the season).

te ppr rankings-fantasy-draft
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Travis Kelce

It’s worth pointing out that the Bills didn’t have Matt Milano for that early-season matchup. Now Milano is back in the lineup and could be in the vicinity for most of Kelce’s targets. As a former college safety, Milano has the size and ability to hang with Kelce. The linebacker also played a role in limiting Ravens tight end Mark Andrews to 28 yards on four catch in last week’s Divisional Round.

FanDuel is offering this at 96.5 as of Saturday night, but I would bet the under down to 92.5 yards.


Buccaneers-Packers Over 51.5

The marquee matchup of the Divisional Round was the Packers’ No. 1 offense against the Rams’ No. 1 defense (based on Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA). Green Bay’s offense came out on top, putting Los Angeles away, 32-18. Now we have a matchup between the top two offenses in weighted DVOA — and I’m projecting the total closer to 54.5, three points higher than the current line (compare real-time odds here).

The Bucs defense will get a massive boost with the return of Vita Vea, who should make their stout run defense (No. 1 in DVOA) even more challenging to run on. That will likely force Aaron Rodgers to throw more, which would only  enhance this game’s scoring environment.

The Packers offensive line finished the regular season first in ESPN’s pass-block win rate and rankings. And despite losing David Bakhtiari to a season-ending injury, this unit is still elite and will be able to keep the pocket clean for Rodgers.

The MVP favorite should be able to pick apart a Buccaneers pass defense that’s been shaky late in the season, allowing massive yardage totals from Jared Goff (376 in Week 11), Patrick Mahomes (462 in Week 12), Matt Ryan (356 in Week 15), and Taylor Heinicke (306 in the Wild Card Round). The Bucs did hold Drew Brees to 134 yards last week, but as I forecasted heading into that game, his inability to throw downfield played right into the Bucs’ hands. His 5.4 average Intended Air Yards ranked second-lowest last week (per NFL NextGenStats). For comparison, Rodgers 10.1 rate ranked second on the week.

The Bucs will need to drastically change their defensive game plan for Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers

The Packers defense has been heating up. Since Week 12, they rank second in sacks per game with 3.43, although their 33.8% pressure rate is the sixth-lowest over that stretch — a more reliable metric for projecting future sack rates. It’s unlikely that they’ll continue their high sack rate, especially against Tom Brady, who gets rid of the ball fast (his 2.57 time to throw ranked ninth out of 41 qualified quarterbacks).

The Bucs have now scored 30 or more points in five straight games. The Packers defense (14th in weighted DVOA) will be the Bucs’ easiest matchup of the playoffs so far, considering they have now faced the Football Team (third) and Saints (second). I don’t expect the absence of Antonio Brown to impact the offense much, either. Backup wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson are more than capable of stepping up as reliable weapons for Brady.

I expect both offenses to be aggressive and put up points as they have all season (the Packers rank first in points per drive while the Bucs rank third). Since I have the total projected closer to 54.5, I would bet the over up to 53.5.

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Ronald Jones Over 33.5 Rush Yards (-115)

I’m taking a swing on this over.

Jones was able to rack up 62 yards last week despite playing through a quad injury. Now it seems like he’s closer to 100% considering he was able to get in a full practice on Friday and has been removed from the injury report altogether.

Leonard Fournette should continue to dominate touches this week and will be heavily used in the passing game. However, Jones should see 8-12 carries against a Packers defense that invites teams to run on them.

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Ronald Jones

The market is setting the bar very low for Jones with this number, which you can get at PointsBet as of Saturday night. I would bet the over up to 37.5 rushing yards.

NFL Odds, Picks & Predictions: Your Championship Sunday Betting Guide

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We’re down to the final three games of the NFL season — and two of them play out on Championship Sunday.

With trips to the Super Bowl at stake, our staff walks you through how they’re betting Packers-Bucs and Chiefs-Bills. Find odds, their picks and more analysis below.

NFL Odds

Spread
Total
Bet Now
Buccaneers at Packers (-3.5)
51.5
Bills at Chiefs (-3.5)
54.5

NFL Picks

Our staff breaks down how they’re betting Sunday’s spreads and totals. Click on any pick below to read more.

Buccaneers at Packers
Pick
# of Analysts
Buccaneers Spread
1
Packers Spread
4
Over
2
Packers 1H Over
1
Bills at Chiefs
Pick
# of Analysts
Bills Spread
5
Over
1
Under
1

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NFL Props

Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, highlights which props he’s betting this Sunday. Click on any pick below to read more.

Ronald Jones Over 33.5 Rush Yards (-115)
Travis Kelce Under 96.5 Rec Yards (-112)

NFL Playoff Previews

Looking for full breakdowns of Sunday’s games? We’ve got you covered with analysis of how each pair of teams matchup.

Packers vs. Bucs

Chiefs vs. Bills

More NFL Playoff Analysis

Live Betting Angles: Stuckey breaks down how he’s looking to play both conference championships in-game. » Read more

How the Bills Got Here: They’re on the cusp of their first Super Bowl appearance in 27 years. But how exactly did they get here? » Read more

Super Bowl Projections: Using the team ratings of the five analysts who power our NFL PRO Projections, we created consensus projections for each team to win the Super Bowl. » Read more

WR/CB Matchup Grades: Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football. Mathew Freedman grades each projected matchup for Sunday’s games. » Read Packers-Bucs or Bills-Chiefs

Packers vs. Buccaneers Weather Forecast: How Snow At Lambeau Could Impact NFC Championship Betting

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Packers vs. Buccaneers Odds

Buccaneers Odds +3
Packers Odds -3
Over/Under 53
PRO Projections Packers -2.6 | O/U: 54.3
Time | Channel  3:05 p.m. ET | FOX

*Odds as of Sunday at 1 p.m. ET

Well, hello snow at Lambeau!

On Sunday morning, ESPN’s Kimberley A. Martin tweeted a picture of Lambeau Field dusted with snow ahead of Sunday’s Buccaneers vs. Packers NFC Championship Game.

January snow in Green Bay isn’t all that uncommon, but just because there’s snow on the field now doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a factor in the game itself.

With that in mind, let’s take a detailed look at the Bucs vs. Packers weather forecast, including the chances we’ll see more snow in Green Bay.

Buccaneers vs. Packers Weather Forecast

The latest Green Bay forecast from the National Weather Service is calling for the snow at Lambeau Field to end by 2 p.m. ET, which is about an hour ahead of today’s Buccaneers vs. Packers kick off.

While temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s throughout the game won’t make for the most pleasant on-field conditions, Sports Insights’ hourly weather shows winds aren’t expected to be much a factor either.

As we know from our Action Labs database, NFL scoring begins to be affected negatively once winds reach double digits, and like the screenshot above details, average breezes aren’t expected to reach that key benchmark.

And from an NFL betting perspective, the market tells us all we need to know about how the Green Bay weather forecast should affect Bucs vs. Packers.

The Bucs vs. Packers over/under has increased from 52 to 53 (click here for the latest NFC Championship Game odds) so far today, suggesting that bettors are expecting plenty of scoring despite the snow currently falling.

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds & Picks: Bet Green Bay To Cover This NFC Championship Spread

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds

Buccaneers Odds
+3
Packers Odds
-3
Over/Under
53
Time
3:05 p.m. ET
TV
FOX
Odds as of noon ET on Sunday and via PointsBet, where you can bet $20 to win $125 if Tom Brady throws for 43+ yards.

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will go head-to-head for the second time this season and only the fourth time in their careers — Brady has won the last two meetings, but Sunday’s matchup will have plenty on the line with the winner representing the NFC in Super Bowl 55.

In Week 6, the Buccaneers used a 28-point outburst in the second quarter to defeat the Packers 38-10 in what turned out to be Rodgers’ worst statistical game of the season. To label this rematch as a revenge game for Rodgers would be selling him short. Rather, this NFC Championship could be the penultimate chapter in what’s been an MVP-caliber season.

The narrative coming into this game will be that Rodgers has struggled in past NFC Championships, with only one win in four attempts. However, the key omission there is that all four of those games took place on the road.

This time around, Green Bay has the home-field advantage, and that could be the missing piece that vaults the Packers back to their second Super Bowl in exactly a decade.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers got a lot of things right when they beat the Packers earlier this season, holding Rodgers to just 160 passing yards and limiting their rushing attack to 94 yards.

Green Bay actually jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the game turned on its head after Rodgers threw a pick-six from his own 22-yard line to Tampa Bay cornerback Jamel Dean. Rodgers then threw another interception on the Packers’ next drive, which was returned to their 2-yard line to set up a short touchdown run by Ronald Jones.

Tampa Bay ended up blitzing Rodgers 18 times, pressuring him on 29.3% of his dropbacks and sacking him four times in the game.

After that impressive defensive performance, one would think other teams would look to follow the blueprint on how to beat Rodgers, but that hasn’t been the case. And since there was no mass-adoption of this strategy across the league, my guess is that Rodgers’ lackluster showing was more of an anomaly than anything.

The Panthers were the only Packers opponent to come close to the Buccaneers’ pressure rate as they went after Rodgers on 27% of his dropbacks. The Packers ended up winning that game, 24-16, but don’t let the scoreline mislead you because it was never that close: Green Bay never trailed and led 21-3 in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay’s best defense will be its offense this time around. By that, I mean the Buccaneers need to control the ball and win the time-of-possession battle. They ranked 21st during the regular season with an average of about 29 minutes per game, but much of that had to do with their lack of commitment to running the ball — they ranked 28th with just 24 rushing attempts per game despite being in the top 10 of Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA.

However, it seems like the Buccaneers are finally getting the message: They’ve averaged 32 rushing attempts in both of their playoff games.

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Ronald Jones

The Bucs have yet to lose a game this season when they’ve run the ball 27 or more times. They’ll need to keep that same approach if they’re to have any chance at controlling the game against a Packers team that led the league with almost 33 minutes of possession per game.

While turnovers played a big role in Tampa Bay’s win over Green Bay in Week 6, they’re hard to quantify in a handicap because of the luck factor attributed to them. Rodgers threw two interceptions in that game — 40% of the interceptions he’s thrown all season. Just in case you’re a bit fuzzy on the math, it means he’s thrown just five interceptions this season, so the chances of him having a repeat performance would be small.

As for injuries, Antonio Brown (knee) has already been ruled out while safety Antoine Whitfield (ankle) is listed as questionable after not practicing on Friday. Jason Pierre-Paul also did not practice, but that shouldn’t be a surprise as he’s been kept out of practice at many points this season, whether for rest or to avoid injury to his barking knee.

Tampa Bay does get a boost with the return of defensive lineman Vita Vea, who has been out since he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5. He’ll be added to their gameday roster.

Green Bay Packers

Having already lost to Tampa Bay earlier this season, you can be certain that Green Bay will watch plenty of film and make the necessary adjustments.

USA Today’s Tom Silverstein detailed a good breakdown on some things that went wrong for the Packers — from the running game to poor decisions by Rodgers in addition to some key personnel not available for the game. And there are already examples that things could be being different this time.

For one, the Packers ran the ball only 21 times in that game, but they’ve averaged 28.25 rushing attempts since that Week 6 loss. Second, Rodgers threw two interceptions, but he’s thrown only three in 12 games since and with each occurring in a different game.

Lastly, Rodgers has all his weapons available as receiver Allen Lazard is back with the team after spending six weeks on injured reserve.

Allen Lazard
Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Allen Lazard

Lazard played a key role in the Packers’ Divisional Round win over the Rams. The Iowa State product was a deep ball threat and was targeted eight times, finishing with four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. I would expect him to be a big part of the game plan as the Bucs defense won’t be able to sell out on the run or blitz as much as they did last time due to Lazard’s ability to get behind them.

A big part of this game will come down to which team can maintain its commitment to running the ball to set up the play-action pass. The Packers showed a willingness to do this last week against the Rams, who finished third in rush DVOA — not only did the Packers run the ball 36 times, but they also finished with 188 yards on the ground.

Tampa Bay has the No. 1 defense in the league, but that shouldn’t dissuade a Green Bay team ranked sixth with 4.8 yards per rush. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are 24th with an average of 4.1 yards per carry.

Packers defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion) has already been ruled out while cornerback Kevin King (back) is listed as questionable. To provide some depth, the Packers signed veteran cornerback Tramon Williams following his release by the Ravens after their Divisional Round loss to the Bills. Williams is familiar with Green Bay’s defensive schemes as he’s already had two stints with the Packers and was a key player during their 2010 Super Bowl run.

Buccaneers-Packers Pick

It was important to assess both teams head-to-head coming into this matchup before addressing why the home-field advantage could tip the scale in Green Bay’s favor.

You’ll hear a lot about how Brady is the GOAT of cold-weather games, but what does that have to do with the Bucs as an overall team?

According to our Action Labs database, the Bucs are 26-48-2 (-23.3 units) against the spread (ATS) in games for which the temperature is below 65 degrees. And in games for which the temperature is below 40 degrees, they’re 1-4 ATS.

I’m not sure if there’s a team in the NFL that has a bigger home-field edge than the Packers — especially if we’re talking about football played during colder months. In Week 16, we saw the Titans look almost helpless at Lambeau Field, with some players even lacking the right footwear to get a firm footing on the surface.

Can we really trust this Tampa team to be in command of even the subtlest of nuances for this game?

Sunday’s temperature could be as low as 26 degrees, with winds up to nine miles per hour. The wind speed could be strong enough that it’s a factor, and I’m not sure if Brady still has the arm strength to handle those conditions.

Green Bay backers would be happy to know that Rodgers has a +44.4% Return On Investment in games for which the temperature is 32 degrees or colder, and he’s 8-1 ATS in his last nine games in this spot.

Here are two more things to keep in mind: The home team has won and covered the spread in all three matchups involving Rodgers and Brady. And home teams in conference championships are 10-4 ATS (+5.31 units) dating back to the 2013 season.

All things seem to point to Green Bay. The Packers were 3-point favorites for much of the week (check real-time odds here) before the consensus number ticked up to -3.5, but now it’s back down to -3 at multiple books, including PointsBet. If you don’t have access to -3, though, it would cost only an additional 15 cents to buy it at a book like BetMGM.

PICK: Packers -3

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Packers vs. Buccaneers Odds & Picks: How To Bet the NFC Championship Spread, Total, More

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Packers vs. Buccaneers Odds

Packers Odds
-3.5
Buccaneers Odds
+3.5
Total
51.5
Time
3:05 p.m. ET
TV
FOX
Odds as of Sunday afternoon and via BetMGM, where you can bet $1 on the Packers-Buccaneers moneyline to win $100.

Expectations weren’t high for the Packers heading into 2020. Sure, they went 13-3 the season before, but their 6-1 record in one-score games suggested they were lucky. Then they spent first-round draft capital on a quarterback, signaling Aaron Rodgers’ Super Bowl window was closing … until he broke it wide open with his best season by multiple metrics.

Now Rodgers and the Packers are back in the NFC Championship Game, looking to punch a ticket to their first Super Bowl since winning it in 2010. They host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to kickoff Championship Sunday with Tom Brady seeking his seventh ring.

Our staff breaks down how they’re betting this game, featuring cases for both sides of the spread and a consensus on the over.

Packers vs. Buccaneers Picks

Click on a pick below to skip ahead to that analysis.

Pick
# of Analysts
Buccaneers Spread
1
Packers Spread
4
Over
2
Packers 1H Over
1

Buccaneers Spread

Analyst
Bet to
Chris Raybon
+3

Raybon: Can the Packers beat a team by more than a field goal that crushed them, 38-10, back in Week 6? Perhaps, but I’m willing to pay to find out.

The Bucs are the better team in terms of Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA, and they are top-five on offense and defense, leaving the Packers’ 17th-ranked defense as the weakest unit in this game (outside of special teams, which are both bottom-10).

The Bucs showed the ability to limit the Packers offense, holding them to their lowest point total (10) and total yardage output of the season (201). Keyed by cornerback Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay has also fared better against No. 1 wide receivers (sixth in DVOA) than even Green Bay’s Divisional Round opponent (Los Angeles, 13th in DVOA). The Bucs proved their mettle by holding Michael Thomas catch-less on four targets and 28 pass routes last week while Adams posted a 9/66/1 line on 10 targets and 33 routes against Jalen Ramsey and Co.

Davante-Adams
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Davante Adams

Despite the Bucs defense being able to do what the Rams could not, the more compelling reason for the Bucs being able to hang close in this game is their offense. The Packers ranked No. 1 in scoring offense during the regular season (31.8 per game) and have scored 30 or more points in 13-of-17 games, so the Bucs’ ability to pile up points (30.8 per game, third) will be crucial.

Green Bay also tends to start fast, leading the NFL in first-half scoring (18.7 per game), but Tampa Bay is the league’s second-highest scoring offense in the second half (15.4 per game).

Even without Antonio Brown (out, knee), the Bucs posses enough pass-catching weapons to force Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to keep extra defensive backs on the field. That’s his preferred scheme but wasn’t always the case against the Rams last week (or the Titans in the Packers’ impressive 40-14 win). This should open Tampa Bay’s run game, which posted 35 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown against New Orleans’ second-ranked run defense last week.

On the flip side, the Bucs won’t be able to play as much press man as they did against Drew Brees’ downfield-averse throwing arm. They’ll have to revert to their signature zone blitz scheme with more off coverage, so the defense is unlikely to produce another four-turnover 20-points allowed showing like they did against the Saints. The Packers torched a somewhat similar Rams scheme (albeit with less blitzing) for 507 yards and 32 points last week, so all in all, there should be no shortage of points in this game despite the cold weather at Lambeau Field.

For the reasons outlined above, I like the Bucs and the over here. While winners of the regular-season matchup have gone 55-39 in playoff rematches since 2002, I don’t think Tampa Bay will be able to win with defense this time around. However, the Saints have been the only team all year to beat the Bucs by more than a field goal all season, and only nine of Tom Brady’s 43 postseason starts (20.9%) have ended with his team losing by more than three points. Meanwhile, Rodgers has come out with a win of more than three in only 11-of-20 playoff starts (55.0%), and for what it’s worth, has lost his last three conference championships by an average score of 36.3-21.0 (though none came at Lambeau).

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Packers Spread

Analyst
Bet to
Brandon Anderson
-3.5
Matthew Freedman
-6
Michael Arinze
-3
Raheem Palmer
-3

Arinze: I assessed both teams head-to-head in my full game preview here, but ultimately, home-field advantage could tip the scale in Green Bay’s favor.

You’ll hear a lot about how Brady is the GOAT of cold-weather games, but what does that have to do with the Bucs as an overall team?

According to our Action Labs database, the Bucs are 26-48-2 (-23.3 units) against the spread (ATS) in games for which the temperature is below 65 degrees. And in games for which the temperature is below 40 degrees, they’re 1-4 ATS.

I’m not sure if there’s a team in the NFL that has a bigger home-field edge than the Packers — especially if we’re talking about football played during colder months. In Week 16, we saw the Titans look almost helpless at Lambeau Field, with some players even lacking the right footwear to get a firm footing on the surface.

Can we really trust this Tampa team to be in command of even the subtlest of nuances for this game?

Sunday’s temperature could be as low as 26 degrees, with winds up to nine miles per hour. The wind speed could be strong enough that it’s a factor, and I’m not sure if Brady still has the arm strength to handle those conditions.

Green Bay backers would be happy to know that Rodgers has a +44.4% Return On Investment in games for which the temperature is 32 degrees or colder, and he’s 8-1 ATS in his last nine games in this spot.

Here are two more things to keep in mind: The home team has won and covered the spread in all three matchups involving Rodgers and Brady. And home teams in conference championships are 10-4 ATS (+5.31 units) dating back to the 2013 season.

All things seem to point to Green Bay. The Packers were 3-point favorites for much of the week (check real-time odds here), but the consensus number has now ticked up to -3.5. I would much rather buy this number down to -3, particularly if the weather conditions impact the scoring.

It would cost only an additional 15 cents at BetMGM to lay the three points at -125, and that’s exactly how I’ll look to play this game.

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Over

Analyst
Bet to
Chris Raybon
53.5
Sean Koerner
53.5

Koerner: The marquee matchup of the Divisional Round was the Packers’ No. 1 offense against the Rams’ No. 1 defense (based on weighted DVOA). Green Bay’s offense came out on top, putting Los Angeles away, 32-18. Now we have a matchup between the top two offenses in weighted DVOA — and I’m projecting the total closer to 54.5, three points higher than the current line.

The Bucs defense will get a massive boost with the return of Vita Vea, who should make their stout run defense (No. 1 in DVOA) even more challenging to run on. That will likely force Aaron Rodgers to throw more, which would only  enhance this game’s scoring environment.

The Packers offensive line finished the regular season first in ESPN’s pass-block win rate and rankings. And despite losing David Bakhtiari to a season-ending injury, this unit is still elite and will be able to keep the pocket clean for Rodgers.

The MVP favorite should be able to pick apart a Buccaneers pass defense that’s been shaky late in the season, allowing massive yardage totals from Jared Goff (376 in Week 11), Patrick Mahomes (462 in Week 12), Matt Ryan (356 in Week 15), and Taylor Heinicke (306 in the Wild Card Round). The Bucs did hold Drew Brees to 134 yards last week, but as I forecasted heading into that game, his inability to throw downfield played right into the Bucs’ hands. His 5.4 average Intended Air Yards ranked second-lowest last week (per NFL NextGenStats). For comparison, Rodgers 10.1 rate ranked second on the week.

The Bucs will need to drastically change their defensive game plan for Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers

The Packers defense has been heating up. Since Week 12, they rank second in sacks per game with 3.43, although their 33.8% pressure rate is the sixth-lowest over that stretch — a more reliable metric for projecting future sack rates. It’s unlikely that they’ll continue their high sack rate, especially against Tom Brady, who gets rid of the ball fast (his 2.57 time to throw ranked ninth out of 41 qualified quarterbacks).

The Bucs have now scored 30 or more points in five straight games. The Packers defense (14th in weighted DVOA) will be the Bucs’ easiest matchup of the playoffs so far, considering they have now faced the Football Team (third) and Saints (second). I don’t expect the absence of Antonio Brown to impact the offense much, either. Backup wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson are more than capable of stepping up as reliable weapons for Brady.

I expect both offenses to be aggressive and put up points as they have all season (the Packers rank first in points per drive while the Bucs rank third). Since I have the total projected closer to 54.5, I would bet the over up to 53.5.

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Packers First-Half Over

Analyst
Bet to
Raheem Palmer
13.5

Palmer: The last time the Packers faced the Buccaneers in Week 6, they jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead before an Aaron Rodgers pick-six and an interception on the following drive put Tampa Bay on Green Bay’s 2-yard line, completely changing the momentum of the game.

The Packers had several things going against them: They were dealing with the absence of Allen Lazard, who missed the game after undergoing core surgery. DeVante Adams wasn’t himself, coming back from an early-season hamstring pull. And things got worse when they lost left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Rick Wagner mid-game.

It’s one thing to come into a game without your starting tackles and have a game plan prepared to protect Rodgers, it’s another to lose them mid-game. Low and behold, the game snowballed out of control and Rodgers was sacked five times for 53 yards, and the Packers didn’t score another point after the first quarter.

Seems like an aberration right?

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers

As I detailed last week, sometimes NFL games take a life of their own — they can spiral out of control and aren’t necessarily indicative of the actual strength of a particular opponent. A turnover or two can completely change outcomes, or one team could get into such a rhythm that the opposing team is on its heels from the opening kickoff.

The Buccaneers were victims in their regular-season matchups against the Saints, but scored 21 points off four Saints turnovers in last week’s 10-point playoff win. While the Buccaneers scored 30 points, they scored just nine on drives that started in their own territory and had just 4.6 yards per play. The key moment came in the third quarter, when the Saints held a 20-13 lead and were driving to score more as Jared Cook fumbled the ball in Bucs territory. Tampa Bay recovered the fumble, subsequently tied the score and never looked back.

While the Buccaneers are giving up just 22.2 points per game and rank in the top-five of nearly all defensive metrics, but I’m not sold on this unit. Washington’s third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke came off the street to replace Alex Smith in a playoff game and carved up this defense, completing 26-of-44 passes for 306 yards and touchdown while scoring 23 points. Even an old and washed Drew Brees resembling Larry Holmes in his 1988 fight vs. Mike Tyson had this unit on the ropes.

Let me remind you: The Buccaneers aren’t facing an undrafted quarterback from Old Dominion or a Brees acting as the real life version of Jack ‘Cap’ Rooney from Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday in the twilight of his career. This is Aaron Rodgers. Nah, not just Aaron Rodgers, it’s Aaron Rodgers on his revenge tour. Do a quick google search for “Aaron Rodgers” and the word “elite” — odds are you’ll find numerous articles from 2019 questioning his status as a top-tier NFL quarterback.

This season, Rodgers put all the critics to bed. Just like I predicted early in the season, Rodgers is the odds-on favorite to win MVP and now has his team in position to win their conference and go to their first Super Bowl since the 2010 season.

Rodgers is first in DVOA, ESPN’s Total QBR, quarterback rating (121.5), EPA/play, success rat, and touchdowns (48) while throwing for 4,299 yards and just five interceptions all season. This offense is first in DVOA, scoring a league-leading 31.8 points per game.

The Packers also have the highest first-half scoring offense, averaging 18.7 points. Take a look at their first-half scoring output for every game of this season.

Opponent
Packers 1H Points
Rams
19
Bears
21
Titans
19
Panthers
21
Lions
14
Eagles
14
Bears
27
Colts
28
Eagles
14
Jags
17
49ers
21
Vikings
14
Texans
21
Buccaneers
10
Falcons
21
Saints
13
Lions
17
Vikings
22

They’ve scored 14 points in 15 of their 17 games this season and scored fewer than 14 points in the first half of games just twice this season.

Matt LaFleur’s offense should be ready for the Buccaneers defense this time given the changes they’ve made, implementing more pre-snap motion to determine where blitzes are coming from. With the Buccaneers being notoriously slow starters this season, the Packers should be able come out hot. I like the Packers’ first-half over at 13.5 points (which you can bet at DraftKings), and I’m not deterred by the chance of snow as wind typically has a greater impact at suppressing scoring outputs.

As far as the full game, I personally have liabilities on this game given that I’m holding 10-1 futures on the Packers to win the NFC. I do think the Buccaneers have some things in their advantage, such as their ability to run the ball on a Packers defense that struggles to stop the run. The Packers defense also has trouble defending the middle of the field. But Bruce Arians’ Bucs aren’t generating the most efficient offense given their “risk it, no biscuit” philosophy, which doesn’t typically play to Brady’s strengths.

With snow in the forecast and the Packers at home, they should cover the 3-point spread as well.

Packers vs. Buccaneers Odds: How Late Money Is Shifting NFC Championship Spread

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds

Buccaneers Odds +3.5
Packers Odds -3.5
Over/Under 53
PRO Projections Packers -2.6 | O/U: 54.3
Time | Channel  3:05 p.m. ET | FOX
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The majority of the past NFL week was spent discussing Patrick Mahomes’ injury status ahead of tonight’s Bills vs. Chiefs AFC Championship Game, but Sunday has brought new and interesting talking points for Buccaneers vs. Packers, including the snow falling in Green Bay.

In addition, Tampa Bay money has hit the market this morning and is having an effect on Bucs vs. Packers betting odds.

Here’s where the NFC Championship Game money is falling and how it’s moving the Buccaneers vs. Packers spread.

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds Movement

As recently as 9:28 a.m. ET, the Buccaneers sat as 3.5-point underdogs against the Packers at PointsBet.

However, that line now sits at +3 as late money has driven the Bucs vs. Packers spread down to the most important number in NFL betting at a handful of sportsbooks across the market.

Since the start of the 2003 season, 14.8% of NFL games have finished with a margin of victory of three points, illustrating why this half-point move is so significant.

The consensus spread still sits at 3.5, so no matter which side of the NFC Championship Game you’re looking to bet, be sure to visit our NFL Live Odds Page to pick off Packers -3 if you like the favorites, or snag one of the shops still hanging Bucs +3.5 if you expect Tom Brady to cover.

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Sunday NHL Odds & Picks for Maple Leafs vs. Flames: Bet On Calgary Against Visiting Toronto

Maple Leafs vs. Flames Odds

Maple Leafs Odds -103
Flames Odds -115
Over/Under 6.5
Time 4 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.

Remember the Flames? Hockey team? Based in Calgary? Ring a bell? No?

I can’t blame you. For reasons that will likely remain unanswered, the Flames haven’t played since Monday. No COVID 19-related scheduling issues, no positive tests or contract tracing. They just haven’t played.

The North Division’s early season scheduling quirk brings the Flames back into the fold after nearly a week off.

A lot has happened since Calgary played last. Not for the Flames, but for their opponent — the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto has played games. A bunch of them. In fact, the Leafs have actually played twice as many games as the Flames this season.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs have a 4-2 record, but it hasn’t been pretty.

They’ve been below-average in the key 5-on-5 metrics that we discuss on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast. Just 6.66 High-Danger Chances (HDC) per game and a sub-standard conversion rate of 10.75% on those chances tell you Toronto’s big-money stars aren’t creating enough chances at even strength, and not converting any better than those paid at a fraction of the price.

The good news for the Leafs is that their opponents haven’t been able to take advantage of the mediocre play 5-on-5, and Toronto has done enough on the power play with an unsustainable 38.9% success rate to give itself the slightest edge in the more games than not. 

Sometimes it’s not even that complicated. Of the Leafs’ four wins, two have come in overtime. The other two were back ends of back-to-backs with Ottawa and Edmonton after losing the first.

We’re yet to see this Leafs outfit win in regulation without needing to get beat first.


Calgary Flames

The Flames’ absence from competition shouldn’t be enough to make you forget them. This is a team my model was lukewarm on to start the season, but that’s mainly thanks to the poor goaltending to which they’d become accustomed and hadn’t officially accounted for the bump they’d get from the addition of Jacob Markstrom.

The former Canucks netminder already has a shutout against his former team and top-10 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) in limited work. The market is catching up, though, as their rating has increased with each game and it’s already approaching the rating of the Leafs, the betting market’s most popular team.

The problem for us with trying to decide whether this rating is appropriate is the obvious one: We haven’t seen the Flames enough.

There was the shoddy defensive performance against the Jets that allowed an Expected Goals Against (xGA) rate of 2.1 in an overtime loss. Then there was the full shutdown for 5 of 6 periods in a mini-sweep of the Canucks.

Ideally, I’d like to see them play a third team for some frame of reference.

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Maple Leafs-Flames Pick

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model makes the Flames the favorite expecting the line to be Calgary -126/Toronto +106, but the question will be whether the market agrees. 

It might depend on Auston Matthews’ availability. If he’s in the lineup, it naturally makes the Leafs more attractive to bettors. After all, Toronto beat Edmonton on Friday without him, so why wouldn’t the Leafs be valuable back at full strength?

The early projections and soft openers suggest that either Matthews remains out or oddsmakers don’t particularly care. So there might not be anything to see here and we can go back to forgetting about Calgary for another day.

However, if the Leafs’ enthusiasts weigh in and push Toronto to a favorite or even close to Pick’em, then we’ll be ready to fire on the Flames.

Pick: Flames (-110 or better; -120 if Matthews sits)

[Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Sunday NHL Odds & Pick for Golden Knights vs. Coyotes: Back Vegas to Rebound With Victory (Jan. 24)

nhl-betting-odds-picks-golden-knights-vs-arizona-coyotes-sunday-january-24

Golden Knights vs. Coyotes Odds

Golden Knights Odds -1.5 
Coyotes Odds +1.5
Moneyline -180 / +155 
Over/Under 5.5 
Time 4 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.

Raise your hand if you imagined the Arizona Coyotes would look like the better team through three of four games against the Vegas Golden Knights in their regular-season mini-series. Me neither.

The surprises began with Arizona stifling Vegas’ high-powered offense at 5-on-5. Last season, the Golden Knights’ cavalry led the NHL with 2.72 expected goals per 60 minutes. In their three games against Arizona, they have registered a 2.13.

After barely winning two home games that were pocked with lassitude, the Golden Knights were felled 5-2 in Arizona on Friday. It was Vegas’ first loss of the season.

As impressive as Arizona has looked, I am willing to bite my nails and tender a 60-minute line recommendation on DraftKings for the Golden Knights at -109. After three straight games where the more talented, deeper team got outplayed by its plucky-but-flawed adversary, I think the Golden Knights will be fastidious with the details on Sunday afternoon and clean up a litany of errors.

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Vegas Golden Knights

If you are only looking at the box scores, you would think that Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore has been unstoppable in this series. Three goals and two assists in a trio of games are eye-popping numbers. Theodore has been explosive offensively, a lodestar for his stymied forwards. But my goodness, he has struggled mightily defensively.

Against Arizona, Theodore has a 42.97 expected goals percentage. It gets worse. Vegas has a rate of 37.18 shots against per hour when Theodore is on the ice, which is brutal. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer may want to consider sheltering Theodore, which means matching him up against the Coyotes’ bottom-six forwards, albeit that is more difficult with Arizona having the last change.

The Coyotes’ top-six forwards torched Theodore on Friday night, with the coup de grâce goal coming when both Theodore and Alec Martinez completely missed Conor Garland zooming down the weak side.

Even though it lost the first two games, on Monday and Wednesday, Arizona effectively neutralized Vegas’ neutral-zone ambitions. On stretch passes, the Coyotes’ defensemen were able to step up and choke off the Golden Knights’ transition offense. On Friday, the Golden Knights found more traction on their long passes, which sprung some opportunities off the rush. And yet, Vegas lost on Friday because of wayward defensive coverage and poor puck management. The antidote for both of these maladies is more offensive zone time through the forecheck.

Even if Vegas doesn’t get immediate gratification off the forecheck, like they did on the Reilly Smith goal last Monday, accentuating the forecheck catalyzes other propitious things for the Golden Knights. It allows Vegas to have more faceoff plays, from which they have derived several goal opportunities, and also feature their defensemen as dangerous scoring creators from the blue line.

The Golden Knights will win on Sunday if they slow the game down and keep the puck below Arizona’s circles. Even if it means embracing a Fabian strategy, the Golden Knights can force the Coyotes to chase them around the offensive zone, impairing Arizona’s counterattack and avoiding time trying to exit their own zone. It’s a less risky way of playing, but after three games, it is evident that a track meet still isn’t advisable.


Arizona Coyotes

The big story for Arizona is goaltender Darcy Kuemper. With Antti Raanta still injured and unavailable for Sunday, do the Coyotes dare start Kuemper for a fourth game in a row this week — or do they give the nod to third-string goaltender Adin Hill?

In the three games against Vegas, Kuemper has proffered a -0.35 Goals Saved Above Expected. Considering he had the second best GSAx at 8.71 last season, he hasn’t been quite as sharp as Arizona would hope. Vegas has managed to challenge Kuemper by getting a lot of traffic in front of him. If the Coyotes can box out and keep the area around the crease tidy, they can win a low-scoring game simply by Kuemper buoying them.

As speedy and dynamic as Arizona has looked, there is a terrifying possibility that the Garland-Nick Schmaltz duo has a flat effort and the offense sputters. Considering the Coyotes have been receiving zero scoring from their defensemen, could they survive a muted effort from Garland and Schmaltz?

In the first three games of this matchup, the Garland and Schmaltz line has been a wellspring of offense, tallying 15 shots at 5-on-5. The only game when it did not lead the team in 5-on-5 shots was Friday’s, when the Clayton Keller line eked out six. Still, the Garland line accounted for two of the three 5-on-5 goals.

So, what if Deboer tries to match the Max Pacioretty line against them? Pacioretty is arguably the Golden Knights’ best forward, and in this series, he has a 54.52 expected goals percentage. But he has rarely seen time against Garland and Schmaltz. The Golden Knights are without the last change and one line has been wreaking havoc on them. Deboer needs to have a strategy to mitigate the impact of the Coyotes’ forwards. Having them chase the puck in their own end seems like a logical answer.

Golden Knights-Coyotes Pick

If the Coyotes submit another competitive performance, they immediately become a team worth watching because we will have a four-game sample size of them going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s premier teams and more than standing their ground. Considering the moneyline for them in this game is +155, they are evidently undervalued. When they play weaker teams in their division, they may excel.

However, Vegas has not played a complete game against the Coyotes yet. In the third contest, they finally got burned for their lackluster play. Coming off a loss, they will have plenty of mojo, and I am compelled to pick the team with more elite skill and roster talent.

If the Golden Knights slow the pace down and grind at the Coyotes’ defensive corps, they could pull out a multi-goal win. For that reason, I implore bettors to take the 60-minute line for Vegas at -109 on DraftKings. Sin City tempts.

Pick: Vegas 60-minute line (-109)

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College Basketball Odds & Pick for Loyola-Chicago vs. Bradley: Back Ramblers To Cover on Sunday

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-loyola chicago-bradley-january 24

Loyola-Chicago vs. Bradley Odds


Loyola-Chicago Odds
-6.5
Bradley Odds
+6.5
Moneyline
-300 / +245
Over/Under
128.5
Time | TV
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN+
Odds as of Saturday morning and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

With Northern Iowa’s recent struggles, the battle for supremacy in the Missouri Valley Conference is wide open.

Two contenders meet on Sunday, with Loyola-Chicago (second in preseason poll) traveling south to Peoria for a matchup with Bradley (third in preseason poll). 

The Braves enter this game shorthanded, so can Loyola-Chicago earn an impressive road win against one the top teams in the conference?

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The Matchup

The centerpiece of the Loyola-Chicago offense is 6-foot-9, 255-pound center Cameron Krutwig. The senior earned preseason All-Missouri Valley honors, and is averaging 15 points, 5.8 rebounds and  1.1 blocks while shooting 61.4% from the field.

Krutwig has scored double-digit points in 11 of the Ramblers’ last 12 games and is yet to accumulate more than three fouls in a game.

Head coach Porter Moser’s offense has been operating as a strong overall unit. In Missouri Valley play, the Ramblers are shooting 61.2% from inside the arc and shooting 37.5% from 3-point range. Guards Lucas Williamson (41.5% 3-point) and Braden Norris (41%) serve as the foundation for the outside balance to Krutwig’s interior presence.

Loyola-Chicago’s interior defense makes it difficult for opponents to find consistent scoring. The Ramblers rank first in conference play in 2-point defensive efficiency, holding opponents to just 41.4% from inside the arc. Their only MVC loss came at Indiana State when the Sycamores shot a blistering 44.4% (8-of-18) from beyond the arc.

In order to stay competitive, the Braves are going to have to generate points from deep. Fortunately, Bradley has several solid options from deep, including senior Elijah Childs (33.3% 3-point), junior Terry Nolan (34.8%) and UMass transfer Sean East (35.9%). 

However, Bradley will be missing two key interior pieces against the Ramblers. Junior 7-foot-1 forward Ari Boya (5.6 points, 6.6 rebounds) is out with a foot injury, and forward Ja’Shon Henry (11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds) is still dealing with the effects of a concussion suffered in practice. 

Without Boya and Henry, the Braves struggled at Illinois State, losing 71-56. They committed 14 turnovers and were outrebounded by the Redbirds, 39-36.

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That bodes poorly against the Ramblers, who rank 15th in the country in defensive rebounding efficiency and third-best in offensive boards in conference play (KenPom).   

The Braves have struggled all season at defending the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot a robust 38.8% from beyond the arc in conference play.

Bradley’s MVC opponents have generated a whopping 48.1% of their points from beyond the arc. This is also a rough matchup against the Ramblers, who rank 56th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (37%). 

Bradley will rely on Childs (14.6 points), Nolan (11.8 points), East (8.5 points), and the streaky Ville Tahvanainen (8.2 points, 38.4% 3-point) to carry the scoring burden without Henry available. They will all need to score to stay within striking distance against a Ramblers team that is on a winning and covering streak.

Loyola-Chicago is 9-3 overall against the spread (ATS), covering in four straight games and seven of their last eight. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

This is normally a great spot to back a conference rival getting points, but Bradley’s injury issues were exposed against an inferior Illinois state opponent.

Under Moser, Loyola-Chicago has been a strong ATS road pick.  In his 10 seasons as head coach, the Ramblers have covered at a 58% rate.

Depending on how the public bets this game, the line could drop slightly closer to tip-off.

I took the Ramblers at the opening number of 6.5, but I would expect that number to decrease. I would take the Ramblers even more if the spread fell below the six-point threshold.

Pick: Loyola-Chicago -6.5 or better.

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds & Picks: Spread & Over/Under Betting Edges for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game

buccaneers-vs-packers-odds-picks-predictions-spread-over-under-betting-nfc-championship-game

Buccaneers vs. Packers Odds

Buccaneers Odds +3.5
Packers Odds -3.5
Over/Under 53
PRO Projections Packers -2.6 | O/U: 54.3
Time | Channel  3:05 p.m. ET | FOX
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I highlighted the enticing Buccaneers vs. Packers over/under value for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game earlier this week, an A-graded, 9.6% edge at the time, according to our NFL PRO Projections.

Like any good model, this Buccaneers vs. Packers line has drifted toward our projection throughout the week, but the movement has not been enough to erase the value of this wager altogether.

In fact, our model is highlighting spread and over/under edges bettors can take advantage of ahead of this afternoon’s NFC Championship Game.

Let’s take a look.

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Buccaneers vs. Packers Over/Under Pick

The Buccaneers vs. Packers over/under has ticked up to 53 (click here for the latest NFL conference championship game odds), but even with the movement still translates to a 3.2% edge when compared to our projected total of 54.3.

According to Football Outsiders’ Offensive DVOA, Green Bay has the NFL’s top offense this season while Tampa Bay checks in third, so these are certainly two teams capable of putting points on the board.

And while Lambeau Field in January is synonymous with poor weather, the current forecast isn’t all that intimidating, so don’t be surprised to see Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady lighting it up this afternoon.

PRO Projections Pick: Over 53

Buccaneers vs. Packers Spread Pick

The Buccaneers vs. Packers over/under has shortened with odds movement throughout the week, but the spread value has largely remained constant.

Our PRO Projections set this spread at Bucs +2.6 which immediately shows promise considering the consensus number of +3.5 is through the key number of 3, the most important line in NFL betting.

With a 3.5% edge, Tampa Bay +3.5 is worth considering as well.

PRO Projections Pick: Bucs +3.5

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DraftKings Goes Live in Virginia Ahead of NFL Conference Championship Games

draftkings launches in virginia

Virginia sports betting went live Thursday, and we thought FanDuel would be in the only book available for at least this weekend.

Then Sunday, without much warning, DraftKings became the second sportsbook to launch in the state.

DraftKings is one of two leaders in the new American sports betting market; FanDuel is the other. Both have used their large databases of existing daily fantasy sports (DFS) users and massive marketing budgets to grow quickly.

DraftKings is running a special promo for new customers in Virginia this weekend: Bet $1, Win $100 on the Packers or Bucs moneyline.

DK offers all the things you’d expect in a mobile sportsbook — clean user experience and interface; some original markets and wagering options; and, quick transactions.

Virginia will become a more competitive market in the coming weeks, with BetMGMBetRiversPointsBet and several others launching soon. That will ultimately be a good thing for consumers.

Virginia should be a boon for U.S. sportsbooks. It has the 12th-largest population in the country and Washington D.C.‘s first year in sports betting has been a disaster. D.C. runs its online betting through the lottery, which means consumers have one option and are getting price gouged.

NBA Injury News & Starting Lineups (Jan. 24): Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam Will Sit Out Sunday

nba injury-news projected-starting-lineups-kyle-lowry-januray-24

Below are the projected starting lineups for each team playing on Sunday’s NBA slate, along with notable injury news for each squad. For real-time updates to these lineups, check out our Action Labs NBA lineups page.

Sunday’s NBA Injury News

12 p.m. ET Update: The Raptors will be without Siakam and Kyle Lowry on Sunday. Siakam is dealing with left knee swelling and Lowry will miss his second game in a row with a toe infection.


The Washington Wizards are on track to play their first game in nearly two weeks after dealing with multiple postponements in the month of January. Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Deni Avdija, Ish Smith, Troy Brown Jr., and Moe Wagner are all still out due to health and safety protocols.

The Wizards’ star point guard, Russell Westbrook, is questionable for their game against the San Antonio Spurs as he continues to deal with a sore left quad.

Atlanta Hawks point guard, Trae Young, is also questionable Sunday. Young hasn’t missed a game this season, but has been dealing with back spasms.

Kyle Lowry’s status is in up in the air — he missed the Toronto Raptors’ last game with a toe infection.

Be sure to check the Action Labs NBA page for real time updates.

Sunday’s Projected Starting Lineups

Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies (PPD)

This game was postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 contact tracing.


Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers (1 p.m. ET)

Raptors Projected Lineup

PG – Fred VanVleet
SG – Norman Powell
SF – OG Anunoby
PF – Chris Boucher
C – Aron Baynes

Injury news: Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are out.

Pacers Projected Lineup

PG – Malcolm Brogdon
SG – Edmond Sumner
SF – Justin Holiday
PF – Domantas Sabonis
C – Myles Turner

Injury news: Nothing new


Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (4 p.m. ET)

Thunder Projected Lineup

PG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG – George Hill
SF – Lu Dort
PF – Darius Bazley
C – Isaiah Roby

Injury news: Nothing new

Clippers Projected Lineup

PG – Patrick Beverley
SG – Paul George
SF – Kawhi Leonard
PF – Nicolas Batum
C – Serge Ibaka

Injury news: Nothing new


Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics (7 p.m. ET)

Cavaliers Projected Lineup

PG – Darius Garland
SG – Collin Sexton
SF – Cedi Osman
PF – Larry Nance Jr.
C – Andre Drummond

Injury news: Nothing new

Celtics Projected Lineup

PG – Kemba Walker
SG – Marcus Smart
SF – Jaylen Brown
C – Grant Williams
PF – Tristan Thompson

Injury news: Payton Pritchard (knee) is out.


Charlotte Hornets at Orland Magic (7 p.m. ET)

Hornets Projected Lineup

PG – Devonte’ Graham
SG – Terry Rozier
SF – Gordon Hayward
PF – PJ Washington
C – Bismack Biyombo

Injury news: Nothing new

Magic Projected Lineup

PG – Cole Anthony
SG – Evan Fournier
SF – James Ennis
PF – Aaron Gordon
C – Nikola Vucevic

Injury news: Michael Carter-Williams (foot) is out.


Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks (8 p.m. ET)

Hawks Projected Lineup

PG – Trae Young
SG – Cam Reddish
SF – De’Andre Hunter
PF – John Collins
C – Clint Capela

Injury news: De’Andre Hunter (knee) and Trae Young (back) are questionable.

Bucks Projected Lineup

PG – Jrue Holiday
SG – Donte DiVincenzo
SF – Khris Middleton
PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo
C – Brook Lopez

Injury news: Nothing new


Washington Wizards at San Antonio Spurs (8 p.m. ET)

Wizards Projected Lineup

PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Bradley Beal
SF – Jerome Robinson
PF – Isaac Bonga
C – Robin Lopez

Injury news: Russell Westbrook (quad) is questionable

Spurs Projected Lineup

PG – Dejounte Murray
SG – Lonnie Walker
SF – DeMar DeRozan
PF – Keldon Johnson
C – LaMarcus Aldridge

Injury news: Dejounte Murray (ankle) is questionable


New York Knicks at Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET)

Knicks Projected Lineup

PG – Elfrid Payton
SG – Austin Rivers
SF – RJ Barrett
PF – Julius Randle
C – Mitchell Robinson

Injury news: Austin Rivers and Frank Ntilikina (knee) are questionable, Reggie Bullock (neck) is doubtful.

Trail Blazers Projected Lineup

PG – Damian Lillard
SG – Rodney Hood
SF – Derrick Jones Jr.
PF – Robert Covington
C – Enes Kanter

Injury news: Nothing new


 

Phan’s Bet to Watch

As of 10 a.m. ET, Justin Phan sees betting value in two Sunday games: Charlotte Hornets vs. Orlando Magic and New York Knicks vs. Portland Trail Blazers. To get instant alerts when he sees an edge and his analysis on those picks, sign up for Action Labs.

Every Promo Code for the First Weekend of Michigan Sports Betting

michigan online sports betting launch-best sportsbook promo codes-betmgm-draftkings-fanduel-betrivers-william hill

The time is finally here: Online sports betting is officially live in the great state of Michigan.

It’s been a long road, as sports betting first launched in March 2020, albeit with restrictions that required bettors to sign up in person at a Michigan casino. That restriction is now gone, though, and adults in the Wolverine State can now simply sign up with their phones or computers anywhere within state lines.

What’s even better: We’ve compiled for you the best promotions and codes for the books live today in Michigan. It doesn’t get much easier than this; just click the links below and take advantage of the free money today.

Best Michigan Sportsbooks and Promo Codes

Click to jump ahead to each section.
BetMGM | PointsBetBetRivers | DraftKings | William HillFanDuel

BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook

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BetMGM is officially live in Michigan, and they’re offering a ton of free promos for this weekend. Take your pick honestly: Want to sweat the NFL Playoffs? Maybe you want to win $100 on Conor McGregor Saturday night. Or perhaps you want to get the $500 deposit match and start using it right away.

BetMGM is one of the best books in the country already, and for good reason: They’re generous with their offers and promos, and they have a very solid website and app for users. They’re a no-brainer add today.

PointsBet Michigan Sportsbook

_BookPromo=623

Point blank, PointsBet is one of the best sportsbooks in the U.S. market. Originally an Australian book, they’ve made a big name for themselves already in the states thanks to their awesome app and creative, custom promos.

And we have an example this weekend! They’re giving out $125 if any NFL QB throws for more yards than their age. It’s hard to beat that level of creativity in addition to free cash.

BetRivers Michigan Sportsbook

_BookPromo=406

BetRivers doesn’t have any specific promos, but a $250 instant deposit match certainly isn’t anything to scoff at. You can use that money towards any bet you want this weekend, be it tonight’s Michigan Wolverines game, tomorrow’s UFC 257 action or Sunday’s NFL Playoffs games.

BetRivers is a very reliable book that’s already launched in several U.S. states: They have very fair odds and a good user experience. It’s very easy to sign up, deposit and start betting, so go ahead and do it.

DraftKings Michigan Sportsbook

_BookPromo=639

I don’t need to tell you about DraftKings. They’re already one of the most recognizable sportsbooks in the country. And for good reason: They have the sleekest app in the industry and offer betting on pretty much everything under the sun.

And they’re also generous with their promotions: Whether you want to bet on the NFL Playoffs or get crazy 257-1 odds on Conor McGregor, there are multiple ways to score some free cash.

They’re another no-brainer add. Take advantage now.

William Hill Michigan Sportsbook

_BookPromo=632

William Hill is one of the oldest sportsbooks in the world, originally starting in Europe but now here in the states. And you know what that means? They know what they’re doing and are incredibly reliable. They also offer odds on pretty much every sport, so any action you want, you’ll get.

You should sign up with William Hill, and they’re sweetening the pot with a $500 risk-free bet you can use on anything this weekend, be it the Wolverines game tonight, UFC 257 tomorrow, the NFL Playoffs Sunday — or anything you want! Maybe you’re a huge soccer fan … your risk-free bet will work on that, too.

FanDuel Michigan Sportsbook

_BookPromo=640

Originally a daily fantasy sports operator, FanDuel quickly moved into the sports betting space in 2018 and has already become one of the biggest books in the industry. They have an awesome app and regularly offer some of the best boosts and promos — both for new and existing users.

And they’re being generous for the Michigan launch, too: You can bet $5 on any NFL team or Conor McGregor, and you’ll win $125 if that bet wins — 25/1 odds, to be exact. That’s an incredible offer, but if you’d rather take the $1,000 risk-free bet, that’s a pretty enticing offer, too!

Sunday NHL Odds & Picks for Red Wings vs. Blackhawks: Underdog Has Value in Detroit-Chicago Battle (Jan. 24)

Red Wings vs. Blackhawks Odds

Red Wings Odds +115
Blackhawks Odds -139
Over/Under TBD
Time 12:30 p.m. ET
TV NBC
Odds as of Saturday at 12 p.m. and via DraftKings.

The Chicago Blackhawks got their first win of 2021 on Friday night, defeating the Red Wings, 4-1, at the United Center. The Hawks were the last team (aside from the Dallas Stars who hadn’t played a game yet) to earn their first victory of 2021.

Chicago closed as a -137 favorite on Friday and has opened in that same range for Sunday’s matinee, which should generate a decent handle since its airing on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET before the NFL games.

Detroit Red Wings

After a historically bad performance in 2019/20, the Detroit Red Wings look like a reinvigorated bunch in 2021. Detroit is still one of the worst teams in the NHL, but there’s no question that this version of the Red Wings is much better than the one we saw a year ago.

Outside of a big upgrade in goal, Detroit also brought in some solid depth players to help round out the middle of the roster. Vladislav Namestnikov, Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher are not game-changers, but they are all capable in the right role and give the Wings NHL-caliber players in places where they didn’t have them in 2019/20. Those kind of modest improvements for bad teams may not land on the radar of Big Hockey Media or with casual fans, but bettors should take note because it can help you beat the rest of the market to a team “on the rise.”

It’s only been five games but so far the biggest improvement for the Wings has been on defense. Last season, Detroit allowed 2.98 goals and 2.6 xG per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. So far in 2021 those numbers have tumbled to 2.02 and 2.21, respectively.

To the naked eye, the improvement comes from the Wings being able to move the puck better. Stecher and Merrill aren’t top-pair rearguards, but they both can make a breakout pass to relieve pressure. That is something the Wings had oodles of trouble with last season.


Chicago Blackhawks

I think the Chicago Blackhawks will finish in last place in the Central Division. While that isn’t that bold of a prediction as it will almost certainly come down to the Red Wings and Hawks, it is relevant for this matchup because I think that Detroit is slightly better than Chicago’s current roster.

Chicago’s identity is pretty well known. The Blackhawks have some terrific offensive talent headlined by Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, but their defense is shambolic. Chicago finished last in the NHL in expected goals allowed in 2019/20 but their goals allowed was middle of the road thanks to stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford.

Neither Lehner nor Crawford are in the Windy City anymore and the Blackhawks didn’t bring in any proven goalies to shore up the position. Instead, Chicago is rolling with Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.

Lankinen earned the win over Detroit on Friday, so I’m assuming that Jeremy Colliton will go back to him on Sunday, but no matter who gets the nod the Red Wings will have a decided edge in the blue paint.

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Red Wings-Blackhawks Pick

On paper, these two teams are pretty close with Chicago having the edge in scoring talent, while Detroit projects to have the stronger goaltender and a slightly better team defense.

In a situation like this, I’ll always lean towards the underdog, even on the road. I just have no interest laying juice with the worst defense in the NHL playing in front of an unproven goaltender.

The Red Wings may not be the Lightning, but they have some talented offensive players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Bobby Ryan. It may not be a roster that strikes fear into most teams, but the Red Wings should have plenty of opportunities against the Hawks and I’m betting that Jonathan Bernier (or Thomas Greiss) will make the requisite saves for the Wings to win this game.

One thing to keep an eye on for this tilt is that it could do a pretty big handle, all things considered. The NHL isn’t a huge betting sport, but its Championship Sunday so folks will have their gambling shoes on and a 12:30 p.m. ET start should attract some action from people who normally wouldn’t wager on the NHL, especially a game featuring two of the worst teams in the NHL. Casual bettors usually lean towards the favorite and Detroit’s reputation is still sullied from last season, so I would guess that if this line does move, it would be towards Chicago.

Even so, I think this game is pretty close to 50/50, so I’ll take the underdog and would play the Wings down to +107.

Pick: Detroit +115

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Manchester United vs. Liverpool Sunday FA Cup Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions for Jan. 24

Manchester United vs. Liverpool Odds

Manchester United Odds +150
Liverpool Odds +163
Draw +265
Over/Under 2.5 (-136 /+110)
Day | Time Sunday | 12 p.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+

Odds updated as of Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Just one week after their Premier League clash at Anfield, Manchester United and Liverpool head east to Old Trafford for a matchup in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The cup can be difficult to predict because some teams tend to put their focus on the league, especially in a position like United find themselves in atop the Premier League.

Let’s see what we can gather that helps us find betting value.

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Manchester United

Here are two players that from what I can gather will be playing against Liverpool for United: Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. Fernandes spoke to the United website about the game and frankly doesn’t miss much action, so I think it’s safe to assume he will be involved. Rashford came on for only the final five minutes in United’s last game against Fulham in midweek, so he’ll be fresh for this game.

In the Premier League, the Red Devils are on fire, undefeated since Nov. 1 with their only draws in that span coming against Manchester City, Leicester City and Liverpool.

While United is hot, there are concerns. Of their 10 wins during this hot stretch, seven have been by one goal, including their last four against Wolves, Aston Villa, Burnley and Fulham. There is a sense that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, while playing well, is narrowly avoiding defeat.

Manchester United’s goalscoring has also dried up over the past five games, in which they have combined to score five goals. They’ve allowed just two goals in that span, a credit to their backline being boosted by Eric Bailly’s recent form.

_BookPromo=49

Liverpool

Speaking of goals drying up, let’s talk about Liverpool.

Since the Reds put in seven against Crystal Palace on Dec. 19, they have scored twice in the Premier League in their last five matches. For an attack like Liverpool, that is unfathomable.

A big reason for that drought is a lack of options going forward at the moment, something Liverpool didn’t have to worry about earlier in the season when new signing Diogo Jota was lighting the Premier League and Champions League up with goals.

Jota has been out with a knee injury since starting a meaningless Champions League game against Midtjylland on Dec. 9. Liverpool have scored more than once just twice in eight Premier League games since then.

In past years, manager Jurgen Klopp has not thought highly of the FA Cup, playing mostly a reserve side in each round. In Round 3 against a team made up of players who feature primarily for the Aston Villa reserve team, though, the Liverpool team sheet featured the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. Thiago, Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all appeared off the bench, as well.

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Betting Analysis & Picks

The Reds’ seven fixtures after this game feature matchups in the league with Tottenham, Manchester City, Leicester and Everton, who are two points back in the league table of Liverpool with two games in hand, as well as the first leg in the Champions League knockout stages against RB Leipzig.

With fixtures coming in hot and heavy for Liverpool, they need to get right quickly. This presents a perfect opportunity for Klopp’s men to do so on a big stage against a big rival.

The matchup last Sunday between these teams saw each side register more than 1.00 expected goals, indicating there were chances to be had. Without replays in the cup, I think Liverpool look to win this one and gather momentum going into the match on Thursday against Spurs.

Neither Salah or Firmino started in the Reds’ loss to Burnley on Thursday, which means both are more likely to be included in the starting lineup for this game.

While the form isn’t there, I trust Liverpool to get right at some point. Assuming Klopp doesn’t start a team primarily made up of reserves and first-team outcasts — in which case I wouldn’t blame anyone for not betting Liverpool — this is a good spot to trust the Reds at plus odds.

Pick: Liverpool +163

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NFL Playoff Injury Report: Latest On Patrick Mahomes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire & More Conference Championship Injuries

nfl-injury-report-playoffs-conference-championships-patrick-mahomes-antonio-brown

All eyes will be on Patrick Mahomes this week as he works his way back from a concussion he sustained in the Divisional Round. He’ll need to clear the league’s protocol before he’s allowed to play this weekend.

We’ll be tracking Mahomes’ status throughout the practice week, so be sure to check back as this page is updated through Sunday.

NFL Injury Report

Latest on NFL Playoff Injuries

Sunday Update

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion/toe): Now clear of the concussion protocol, Mahomes is fully expected to start for Kansas City in the Conference Championship after he was not assigned a game status designation on the Chiefs’ Friday injury report.

However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported this morning that Mahomes’ toe injury has been diagnosed as turf toe, an injury that has caused players like Phillip Lindsay and Antonio Gibson to miss multiple games this season. While the reigning Super Bowl MVP will play, don’t be surprised if his mobility is limited by the injury.

Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip): According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Edwards-Helaire is expected to be available to play in the Conference Championship today, though Le’Veon Bell (knee) is not expected to suit up. CEH was a limited participant in practice throughout the week, while Bell missed practice on Thursday and Friday after not appearing on Wednesday’s injury report.

When Edwards-Helaire was inactive in the Divisional Round, Darrel Williams led the team in both rush attempts (13) and rushing yards (78). Expect Williams to absorb most of the workload that would have gone to Bell on the ground today.

Friday Update

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion/toe): Mahomes does not carry a game status designation on the Chiefs’ Friday injury report, meaning he’s good to go for Sunday’s AFC Championship.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP had spent the majority of the week in the concussion protocol but was able to clear the protocol on Friday afternoon, paving the way for him to be on the field this weekend.

Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (hip): A limited practice participant throughout the week, CEH stands to have a better chance of playing in the Conference Championship than he did last week in the Wildcard Round when he was held out after missing two days of practice leading up to the game.

Edwards-Helaire is officially questionable to play on Sunday, and if he’s unable to go, expect Darrel Williams to continue leading a committee backfield that also includes Le’Veon Bell.

Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (calf): Watkins’ practice participation this week is also encouraging for his availability this weekend. He was unable to practice at all last week, but he got in three limited sessions this week.

Wednesday’s practice was Watkins’ first time back on the practice field since he suffered the calf injury in Week 16, and he feels more likely than not to be active this weekend despite his “questionable” tag.

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Bills WR Gabriel Davis (ankle): Stefon Diggs (oblique), Cole Beasley (knee), and Davis all popped up on the Bills’ injury report this week, but Davis is the lone receiver carrying a game status designation into the weekend.

After missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the rookie practiced in a limited fashion on Friday, and he is officially questionable to face the Chiefs on Sunday.

Davis’ snaps have been trending down since John Brown returned to the lineup in Week 17, and Brown and Isaiah McKenzie would likely absorb Davis’ role in the event Davis is held out of the Conference Championship.

Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee): The Bucs will be without the services of Antonio Brown when they take on the Packers in the NFC Championship after Brown was ruled out by head coach Bruce Arians on Friday.

Tampa Bay is deep at the position, and Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, and Justin Watson should all see their snaps tick up in Brown’s absence.

Early Thursday Update

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion): Mahomes was knocked out of the Chiefs’ AFC Divisional Round victory over the Browns while attempting to rush for a first down in the second half.

The reigning Super Bowl MVP is also battling a toe injury, but the concussion is more likely to affect his availability due to the league’s protocol.

After ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Mahomes was trending in the right direction on Tuesday — noting that “it’s too early to say” whether he’s expected to be active for Sunday — the quarterback opened the practice week as a limited participant on Wednesday. After practice, head coach Andy Reid told reporters that Mahomes has “done well up to this point.”

Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee): Brown was held to a season-low 10 receiving yards in the Divisional Round and was limited in the second half with a knee injury that could jeopardize his status for the conference championship this weekend.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier this week that Brown is currently day-to-day after undergoing an MRI that ruled out structural damage. Then on Thursday afternoon, head coach Bruce Arians told reporters that Brown would be a game-time decision.

Updated Patrick Mahomes Injury Status: Chiefs Quarterback Dealing With Turf Toe in AFC Championship Game vs. Bills

patrick-mahomes-injury-status-updates-chiefs-quarterback-concussion-bills-playoffs

The biggest story for today’s Bills vs. Chiefs AFC Championship Game has been the status of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who suffered from an injured toe and concussion-like symptoms in last weekend’s Divisional Round playoff game against the Browns.

Mahomes cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol earlier this week, paving the way to start today against Buffalo.

However, it appears that Mahomes’ toe injury may be the bigger on-field issue in the AFC title game.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Mahomes has been diagnosed with turf toe in his left foot, which limited his preparation for the Bills in practice this week.

As of 8:50 a.m. ET on Sunday, the injury has yet to have a significant effect on Bills vs. Chiefs odds as Kansas City remains a 3-point favorite over Buffalo while the AFC Championship Game total sits at 54.5.

Be sure to visit our NFL Live Odds Page throughout the day on Sunday for the latest Bills vs. Chiefs line movement.

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Bills vs. Chiefs Odds Movement

Update (2:30 p.m. ET, Friday): With the announcement that Mahomes cleared protocol, the Chiefs moved to 3.5-point favorites at DraftKings with the total bumping up to 54.5. BetMGM and FanDuel remained at -3 with increased vig; FanDuel was at -122, and BetMGM was -115. PointsBet took the game off the board.


Update (3:45 p.m. ET, Thursday): The Chiefs are still -3 on Sunday, but now it’ll cost -115 to back them. The total is 54. BetMGM joined the rest of the market at -3 after staying at -2.5 on Wednesday.


Update (2:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday): There was no line change following practice on Wednesday. The Chiefs remained -3 at DraftKings. Only BetMGM is hanging -2.5 as the spread.


Update (11 a.m. ET, Wednesday): The Chiefs settled at -3 with a total of 53.5 at DraftKings, up 3.5 points from Tuesday morning. Taking the Bills at +3 will cost -117 in juice.


It started on Sunday when Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas released lookahead lines making the Chiefs a 4-point favorite over the Bills. That was before Mahomes went down with an apparent concussion.

DraftKings opened the first line post-injury with the Bills a 1.5-point favorite and the total at 50.5.

By Monday, the line had reached Chiefs -3 with a total of 54.5. On Tuesday morning, the line was back to Chiefs -2.5 with a total of 50.

As always, follow our real-time odds here. 

Patrick Mahomes Injury Updates

Update (2:30 p.m. ET, Friday): Patrick Mahomes told reporters he officially cleared concussion protocol after being evaluated by three different doctors. He is set to start against the Bills on Sunday.


Update (3:45 p.m. ET, Thursday): The Chiefs listed Mahomes as a limited participant, but Andy Reid told reporters the quarterback took the majority of the starter reps.

ESPN reporter Adam Teicher opined that the Chiefs wouldn’t dedicate all this practice time to a quarterback who wasn’t going to play. Mahomes has yet to officially clear concussion protocol with the NFL, however.

Sammy Watkins and Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned to practice. Willie Gay and Le’Veon Bell did not.


Update (2:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday): Andy Reid told reporters that Mahomes “looked good” in his limited participation.

“He is in the protocol, so there’s only certain things he can do, and it’s a limited basis, but today is a limited practice so this fit right into what he can do,” Reid said. “But he took all the snaps and feels good. We just have to follow this protocol as closely as we possibly can.”

Looking at the quote “he took all the snaps” is about as good of an indication as Chiefs fans will get of Kansas City’s intentions this weekend, although the decision comes down to whether or not he passes protocol.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire were also seen at practice on Wednesday. Reid said Thursday will be an important day of practice in determining each player’s status moving forward.

Update (11 a.m. ET, Wednesday): According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Mahomes is expected to participate in a “very light practice” on Wednesday. That’s part of his concussion protocol. Rapoport notes Mahomes is experiencing no symptoms.

The Athletic’s Nate Taylor adds it could just be simple individual work following his concussion protocol process.


Update (3:15 p.m. ET, Tuesday): Adam Schefter reported Mahomes cleared “some big steps” on Monday but that it was too early to make a decision for Sunday’s game. Schefter reports Mahomes is expected to practice on Wednesday.


Andy Reid chose his words carefully, trying to avoid the word “concussion” in his post-game press conference.

“He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we looked at this,” Reid told reporters. “He passed all the deals he needed to pass. So we’ll see where it goes from here.”

FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer expressed optimism, also avoiding “concussion” following the game.

“The thought is he will be OK to play,” he said. “It was almost like he got choked out. Not so much a concussion but still has to go through protocol. He was trying to get himself back in the game. There’s a lot of confidence he’ll be ready to go next week.”

There was no avoiding it, however. Mahomes was officially placed into concussion protocol on Tuesday.

“We’ll just follow that and see how he does here the next couple days,” Reid said.

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AFC Championship Game Odds: How Sportsbooks Approached Patrick Mahomes’ Injury

During the fourth quarter of the Chiefs-Browns game, there were meetings both in person and virtual taking place all over Las Vegas.

At what number should they open the AFC Championship Game?

It was a complex decision.

The Chiefs’ star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, was knocked out of the game and was likely going to have to clear the concussion protocol. The difference between Mahomes playing and his backup Chad Henne playing was worth five to six points.

At the Circa in downtown Las Vegas, the one worry was getting pounded by Bills money.

“We wanted the first money we took to be on the Chiefs,” the Circa’s Chris Bennett said.

Opening number? Bills -2.5.

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Three miles away, at the Superbook, the conversation was completely different.

“We thought Mahomes was going to be fine,” the Superbook’s Eric Osterman said. “And we just thought there was no way the Chiefs or the NFL wouldn’t have Mahomes out there. And we were mostly concerned about a flood of Chiefs money.”

Opening number? Bills +3.

“You have anything between -2.5 and +2.5, there’s not an important number in there,” Osterman said. “We thought three would give Chiefs backers some pause.”

And it did. The market, from the very beginning, thought that Mahomes would play.

Within minutes, the Circa number had met the Superbook’s number — and sure enough Mahomes cleared Concussion Protocol and will play.

At almost every sportsbook, the line hasn’t moved and there’s equal action on both sides of the spread, with a bit more exposure on the Bills because of more of a moneyline play.

Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor UFC 257 Odds & Picks: Betting Value on Quick Finish Saturday Night (Jan. 23)

Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor Odds

Poirier odds
+205
McGregor odds
-305
Over/Under
2.5 (+138/-182) 
Venue
Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time
Approx. 11:55 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings.

We’ve seen two UFC Fight Night events over the past week and it has all led up to the first Pay-Per-View of 2021. Like most of the big events that took places on Fight Island in 2020, UFC 257 should be a good one.

The 11-fight card will feature the return of Conor McGregor in his first action since 2020 in a main event matchup against Dustin Poirier. Poirier is 4-1 over his past five matchups, while McGregor is 3-2 in his past five, but both men will make their Fight Island debut Saturday night.

McGregor, who seems much more subdued compared to previous fights, is a heavy favorite in this matchup against Poirier — he’s a -190 favorite to win by KO/TKO.

Is there value on betting for some fireworks from the Irishman? I’ll break down the angles of Saturday’s main event and you can find my full breakdown of Saturday’s card here.

Tale of the Tape

Poirier McGregor
Record 26-6 (1 NC) 22-4
Avg. Fight Time 10:17 8:20
Height 5’9″ 5’9″
Weight (pounds) 155 lbs. 155 lbs.
Reach (inches) 72″ 74″
Stance Southpaw Southpaw
Date of birth 1/19/89 7/14/88
Sig Strikes Per Min 5.57 5.43
SS Accuracy 50% 49%
SS Absorbed Per Min 4.18 4.40
SS Defense 54% 55%
Take Down Avg 1.46 0.75
TD Acc 35% 62%
TD Def 60% 70%
Submission Avg 1.3 0.0

As we approach fight night, the line on McGregor continues to widen, going from a consensus figure of -240 (implied 70.6%) to -300 (implied 75%) for the first time on Jan. 19, and now further still (data per Sports Insights):

It’s not uncommon to see McGregor become a more substantial favorite after opening lines are released – as the most public fighter on the planet attracts a ton of casual interest.

While some Conor haters are happy to run to the window to bet against him every time – regardless of expectations – plenty more bettors who don’t regularly engage with MMA are hitting McGregor’s knockout prop, win in Round 1 prop, and win inside the distance prop.

Additionally, as a substantial favorite, Conor gets tied into plenty of parlays as well; imagine all of the books that will be sweating McGregor/Chiefs and McGregor/Packers parlays this weekend.

All of that being said, I would have to suspect that the line skews even more heavily towards McGregor by fight time – and if you wait, you might be able to get a better price on Poirier.

Is that something that you want to do, however? My minimum target price on Poirier would be +300 (implied 25%), a three percent edge compared to my projection (28%) – but I would still be hesitant to pull the trigger at that number.

To be very clear — there is no McGregor fanboy in me — I am quite agnostic here; I try to be clear when I have any bias I may be betting on or against.

And while both men have made massive strides as fighters in all areas of their game since their first encounter in 2014 (McGregor closed -280) — and have each held world titles since — I don’t see the rematch playing out in a drastically different manner:

If you’re betting on the Poirier side, you’re banking on Dustin 1) being the larger man; 2) being the better grappler; 3) showing improved durability; 4) having the better gas tank.

Poirier’s stamina is no better than McGregor’s – he was winded in the championship rounds against Dan Hooker in June – and he has continually been clipped early in his fights. While Poirier was able to survive against Hooker, McGregor carries a different level of power – and Dustin doesn’t have the offensive wrestling to tire him out.

McGregor’s defensive grappling (70% takedown defense) has come a long way – surviving for four rounds against Khabib (denied four of seven takedown attempts) and Poirer’s entries (1 of 7 on takedowns vs. Hooker) aren’t in the same stratosphere as the Russian. Even if Poirier does get Conor down, I don’t think he will keep the Irishman down for long.

I suppose Poirier is the better offensive grappler, but Conor is far better defensively.

While Poirier has fought in the 155-pound division longer, McGregor has rebuilt his physique for lightweight (he looks freaking jacked) and carries a two-inch reach advantage. He should be both the longer, and stronger man.

And he’s a master on the feet – the above knockout of Poirier, and many of his other in-cage executions in recent years were planned assaults. Mystic Mac isn’t merely predicting his first-round knockouts – these aren’t just guesses.

McGregor’s 20 finishes (of 22 wins) – all in the first or second round – are largely the product of intense preparation; studying his opponents’ tendencies, and developing a plan of attack:

McGregor is coming into this bout stronger than ever, and Poirer – who just absorbed 155 significant strikes from Dan Hooker, isn’t good enough defensively (54% strike defense) to avoid McGregor’s early wrath (5.43 strikes landed per minute, 49% accuracy).

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Poirier vs. McGregor Betting Pick

Overall, I don’t think that this is a good matchup for Poirier, but I also don’t see value on either moneyline or any bets in the winning method market.

I projected McGregor to win inside the distance at odds of -184 (64.8%), which seems to be the most likely outcome, but I prefer the value on the Under 2.5 rounds up to -200. I have this fight ending inside the distance 82.9% of the time, implied odds of -485, and each of McGregor’s finishes has occurred in the first or second round.

That’s when Poirier is typically at his most vulnerable (absorbed 99 significant strikes against Hooker in two rounds), but it also gives us the out in case McGregor falls into a guillotine or breaks his leg kicking Poirier in the head.

The Pick: Under 2.5 (-182)

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The American Express Round 4 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained Data

The third round at The American Express was filled with drama as 36-hole-leader Sungjae Im came out in control with birdies on his first two holes. Eventually, he made his first questionable decision going for the green in two on the par-5 fifth. He’d bogey there before finding water off the tee on the ninth, and compound that mistake by rinsing it again after a drop. His triple bogey would drop him out of the Top 10 and eventually to 21st.

Max Homa and Tony Finau found similar fates throughout their Saturday rounds, each posting double bogeys, but they bounced back to close in a tie for the lead alongside Si Woo Kim.

Kim took the road less traveled on Moving Day as he seemed to be the only player going along steadily in his bogey-free 67, but a balky putter left a few shots out there for the South Korean. This threesome will make up the final group on Sunday, but they will have plenty of chasers as 12 players are within three shots of the lead heading into the final round.

PGA West has shown to be a great test as there are plenty of birdies available throughout the course, but just one wayward shot can just as easily lead to bogey or worse. It will make for an exhilarating finish on Sunday afternoon, especially with fan favorite Tony Finau seeking his elusive second TOUR win.

Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from Round 3, and see who stands out to bring home the victory.

GolfBet

Strokes Gained Explanation

Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly playing by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.

Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.

Every situation in golf is different — Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.

In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics…

  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
  • Strokes Gained: Approach
  • Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
  • Strokes Gained: Putting
  • Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)

In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.

You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 4

The winner for me tomorrow is still Kim. He has been clearly the most consistent player all week, with two bogey-free rounds on the Stadium Course. He gained 4.26 shots on approach on Saturday, which ranked second in the field only because Cameron Davis had two eagles including one hole out.

Kim has been rock solid this week and unlike the other two in his final group, he has avoided the big number. He also has more experience closing the deal than either of his opponents and will be less susceptible to the pressure of Sunday afternoon.

Kim will likely need to make a few more putts than he did today as the .82 strokes lost putting could come back to bite him if he can’t make birdies. As we’ve noted throughout, there are a ton of birdies available on the course and if anyone in the final group is going to hold onto the lead, they’ll have to make their fair share to avoid being caught from behind.

I’m sticking with my buy on Si Woo (+430 on FanDuel) from Friday as his game is in great form, and he stands out above the rest of his grouping.

[Bet Si Woo Kim now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

I will start by saying I don’t love the odds, but there is no way I can write about strokes gained data this week and not mention Richy Werenski. In my view, he has been the second-best player in the field to Kim with just one bogey through 54 holes.

Werenski now has back-to-back rounds on the Stadium Course during which he has gained more than two shots on the field tee-to-green, including 3.88 gained on Moving Day. He did it primarily with a strong approach game as he gained 3.08 strokes with his irons, and added another 1.25 off-the-tee.

Richy has been fantastic throughout the bag this week, and he too has winning experience. He won the Barracuda Championship over the summer and won’t shy away from the pressure on Sunday.

While I don’t love the +1200 on FanDuel for a guy that was +20000 at the start of the event, it’s a number that’s warranted based on his play this week.

[Bet Richy Werenski now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

Emiliano Grillo came out firing on Saturday as he made the turn with a 5-under 31 and had a two-shot lead in the tournament during that run. Unfortunately, he lost that momentum on the easier back nine, on which he shot 1-over and finished the day two back of the leaders.

The Argentine has always been one of the best ball strikers on TOUR, but it’s been the flat stick that has held him back from more success. The good news is that his putter has been solid in both rounds on the Stadium Course this week, including 1.82 strokes gained on the greens in the third round. It was actually his irons that failed him down the back nine, losing nearly a half shot to the field.

I’m buying in on Grillo at +1600, expecting the strength of his game to bounce back on Sunday, and relying on his solid consistency this week on the greens to continue. He has the skills to make a run and go low enough to steal this thing from the final group.

[Bet Emiliano Grillo now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 4

It’s not that I don’t like Tony Finau or don’t think he’s one of the top players on TOUR, but time and again he gets into these situations and just simply doesn’t come through. My fade of him on Sunday is simply a “show me” play, where I’m willing to fade him, primarily in DFS at high ownership, and let him prove that he can get it done again.

Finau has not yet secured his second TOUR victory, and it has now been just short of five years since his first win in Puerto Rico. He will have to earn it to win on Sunday in La Quinta, and I just don’t have any history to go on to buy into him getting it done.

Russell Knox checks in as my second fade for Sunday. He had the low round of the day on Saturday with a bogey-free, 8-under 64. Knox was able to climb his way into a tie for fifth heading into the final round.

The issue I have with him is similar to what we saw with Brandon Steele last Saturday, where Knox is now pressed to keep a white hot putter going in order to remain in contention. Russell gained 3.56 strokes putting in the third round, as he was dropping them from all over the greens, but to say it was an outlier would be a gross understatement. Knox currently ranks 199th on TOUR in strokes gained putting after finishing 161st in the category last year.

The Scotsman lost 1.68 strokes on these same greens on Friday, and I think he is more likely to duplicate that type of performance. I expect his putting to come crashing back to Earth on Sunday, which will leave him falling down the board.

I know Davis is a scorer, and it’s what makes him a viable DFS play each week he tees it up, but he took that to another level on Saturday. Davis posted two eagles, including one as a 158 yard hole-out from the rough on the Par 4 15th. They would propel him to a 6-under 66 and put him in a tie for 8th going into the final round.

It’s not that I don’t believe the young Australian has the game to hold his spot up top, but rather that this round seemed to come out of the blue and included quite a bit of luck. He lost 2.13 strokes to the field on approach on Friday, but was able to maintain his spot inside the cutline with a hot putter. On Saturday he turned it around to gain 5.12 strokes on the field with his irons, buoyed by his miraculous shot on 15.

I expect him to regress a bit on Sunday, and am fading his ability to contend to win, but his scoring ability likely keeps him in play for DFS Showdown purposes.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 3

UFC 257 Odds & Picks: How to Bet Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler (Saturday, Jan. 23)

dan-hooker-michael-chandler-ufc-257-january-23

Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler Odds

Hooker odds
-143
Chandler odds
+110
Over/Under
2.5 (-124/-104)
Venue
Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time
Approx. 11:30 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Friday evening and via PointsBet

After ruling the Bellator cage for the better part of the last decade, Michael Chandler will finally make his UFC debut in the co-main event of UFC 257, taking on veteran Dan Hooker in a lightweight bout.

Who has the edge, and where can you find betting value? I’ll break down the matchup and betting odds below, and you can find my full breakdown of Saturday’s card here.

Tale of the Tape

Hooker Chandler
Record 20-9 21-5
Avg. Fight Time 10:53 7:27
Height 6’0″ 5’8″
Weight (pounds) 155 lbs. 155 lbs.
Reach (inches) 75″ 71″
Stance Switch Orthodox
Date of birth 2/13/90 4/24/86
Sig Strikes Per Min 4.98 4.08
SS Accuracy 48% 47%
SS Absorbed Per Min 4.89 3.81
SS Defense 52% 52%
Take Down Avg 0.74 2.57
TD Acc 34% 41%
TD Def 79% 80%
Submission Avg 0.3 1.5
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Hooker vs. Chandler Betting Pick

Visually, Chandler seems like a well-rounded contender who is immediately ready for a Lightweight title shot. Still, he’s also 35-years-old, has shown cardio and durability concerns, and is technically a UFC debutant facing an octagon veteran (43% win rate for debutants).

While the late-career UFC jump has worked for some fighters (Alexander Volkov), other supposed stars (Ben Askren) have failed to find immediate success when making the past-their-prime move from the regional scene.

While Chandler offers the best wrestling that Hooker has ever faced, Hooker’s power is an equally new test for Chandler’s chin, as the Kiwi looked sharp in the early stages against Dustin Poirier (winning the first two rounds) and doesn’t have to worry about five rounds of output in this upcoming matchup.

His takedown defense (79%) will obviously be put to the test, and Chandler will hope to set traps and fire off power shots once Hooker starts over-committing to his low guard.

But Hooker can time Chandler’s entries into the pocket – he’s much longer (four inches taller, four inches of reach), and Chandler rarely fires off combinations.

While Chandler is the better athlete, Hooker is much more technical and creative. Expect to see some power knees up the middle – an offensive way to defend Chandler’s takedowns.

He’ll also look to fire his calf kick to try and slow Chandler down, though that kick could leave him exposed to takedown opportunities. If Hooker is landing that kick with consistency, it’s hard to imagine Chandler finding success.

But if Hooker struggles to deal with Chandler’s explosive movements and top control in the first two rounds, he’ll be too far behind on the cards and stuck looking for a late finish.

Hooker’s odds to win inside the distance (projected +152) offer slight value, and Hooker live after Round 1 looks like a solid angle. Still, I’m taking “The Hangman’s” moneyline up to -150, at a three percent edge compared to my projection (63%).

The Pick: Dan Hooker (-143, 1 unit) /Hooker to win Inside the Distance (+180, 0.25u)

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UFC 257 Odds & Picks: How to Bet Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood (Saturday, Jan. 23)

jessica-eye-joanne-calderwood-ufc-257-january-23

Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood Odds

Eye odds
+100
Calderwood odds
-125
Over/Under
2.5 (-371/+270)
Venue
Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time
Approx. 11 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via PointsBet.

It was a tough 2020 for Joanne Calderwood. The Scot was set to fight for a title opportunity, and a meeting with Valentina Shevchenko was scheduled for June. But in March, Shevchenko pulled out with a knee injury, the fight wasn’t rescheduled, and instead, Calderwood fought in August against Jennifer Maia. She lost via armbar submission in the first round.

Calderwood’s road back to the title picture begins Saturday against the woman from whom Shevchenko initially took the belt. Since dropping the women’s flyweight title in June of 2019, Eye has set foot in the Octagon twice, most recently dropping decision to Cynthia Calvillo last June. A win over Calderwood would help move her closer to another title opportunity.

Who has the edge on Saturday, and where is the betting value? I’ll break down the matchup and betting odds below, but you can find my full breakdown of Saturday’s card here.

Tale of the Tape

Eye Calderwood
Record 15-8 (1 NC) 14-5
Avg. Fight Time 14:23 10:45
Height 5’6″ 5’6″
Weight (pounds) 125 lbs. 125 lbs.
Reach (inches) 66″ 65″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 7/27/86 12/23/85
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.65 6.17
SS Accuracy 36% 48%
SS Absorbed Per Min 3.54 4.31
SS Defense 58% 52%
Take Down Avg 0.40 1.90
TD Acc 45% 57%
TD Def 56% 55%
Submission Avg 0.6 0.5
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Eye vs. Calderwood Betting Pick

It’s interesting to see Calderwood both favored and come out as a favorite in the projected odds – Eye has seemingly fought against a higher level of competition and has far more haters than fans.

But Calderwood is the more versatile offensive striker and maintains a higher volume (6.17 to 3.65 strikes landed per minute) of strikes. She is also much more efficient (+1.86 strikes landed per minute, +12% accuracy, -6% defense) in terms of her overall offense.

Eye should be the better grappler and likely the more technical boxer, but wrestling hasn’t been a huge part of her game (0.4 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, 45% accuracy). Unless she changes her approach for Calderwood, I do expect JoJo to finish with more significant strikes.

In the past, Eye has drawn scorn for a boring style, which has led to 11 of her 13 UFC bouts going the distance, and I project this fight to go the full 15 minutes 87% of the time.

While I have yet to place a bet on that distance prop, in theory, I would like it up to -335, at a 10 percentage point edge relative to my projection. And while both fighters offer slight value to win by decision, it’s difficult to pick a side in this fight.

I prefer the Over 2.5 as a parlay piece, but I may lay the juice and bet the distance prop at -320.

The Pick: Parlay – Over 2.5 | Zhumagulov/Albazi Over 2.5 | Lentz/Evloev Over 2.5 (+149)

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UFC 257 Odds & Picks: How to Bet Makhmud Muradov vs. Andrew Sanchez (Saturday, Jan. 23)

Makhmud Muradov vs. Andrew Sanchez Odds

Muradov Odds
-150
Sanchez Odds
+120
Over/Under
2.5 (-156/+115)
Venue
Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time
Approx. 10:30 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Friday evening and via PointsBet

Makhmud Muradov is stepping in for Andre Muniz, who dropped off the card in December because of injury, to take on Andrew Sanchez in a middleweight bout on Saturday night’s UFC 257 card.

It’s been a long road back to the Octagon for Muradov, who has seen his last four fights canceled. We last saw him in action in December 2019 when he scored a third-round knockout against Trevor Smith. He’s 2-0 since joining the UFC and now meets the Ultimate Fighter Season 23 champion.

It’s been an up-and-down career for Sanchez since that victory. He’s fought to a 4-3 record, most recently defeating Wellington Turman via knockout back in August.

Where’s the betting value in this fight? I’ll break down the matchup and betting odds below, and you can find my full breakdown of Saturday’s card here.

Tale of the Tape

Muradov Sanchez
Record 24-6 13-5
Avg. Fight Time 14:35 13:01
Height 6’2″ 6’1″
Weight (pounds) 185 lbs. 185 lbs.
Reach (inches) 75″ 74″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 2/8/90 4/8/88
Sig Strikes Per Min 4.97 4.57
SS Accuracy 41% 44%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.57 4.92
SS Defense 64% 50%
Take Down Avg 0.51 2.16
TD Acc 25% 32%
TD Def 100% 100%
Submission Avg 0.5 0.0
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Muradov vs. Sanchez Betting Pick

Muradov – who fights under Floyd Mayweather’s banner with The Money Team, will hope to extend his 13-fight winning streak against Sanchez – who flattened Wellington Turman with a first-round knockout back in August:

Sanchez is known for gassing later in fights and showed much more aggression in that outing. Still, he’ll likely need to deploy his wrestling against Muradov (2.16 takedowns per 15 minutes, 32% accuracy), who has denied all three takedown attempts he has faced with the promotion.

Muradov is active enough (4.97 strikes landed per minute) on the feet to wear Sanchez down, and I think his defensive wrestling checks out to the point where I’m not particularly worried about him being ragdolled or dominated on the mat on first entry.

If he survives early, I believe that Muradov will begin to look like a massive favorite in this spot. I see slight value on the fight to end inside the distance (projected -124, listed -110) and for Muradov to win inside the distance (projected +122, listed +165), but Sanchez has shown durability until late in fights (both UFC knockout losses in Round 3), and I’m not interested in that sweat.

I prefer Muradov on the moneyline up to -163 (implied 62%), a three percent edge compared to my projected odds (65%).

He seems to have a substantially higher ceiling as a fighter, and I’m expecting to see improvements after a one-year layoff.

The Pick: Makhmud Muradov (-150)

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UFC 257 Odds & Picks: How to Bet Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas (Saturday, Jan. 23)

marina-rodriguez-amanda-ribas-ufc-257-january-23

Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas Odds

Rodriguez odds
+260
Ribas odds
-350
Over/Under
2.5 (-218/+165) 
Venue
Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time
Approx. 10 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Friday evening and via PointsBet

Amanda Ribas has established herself as one of the rising stars of the strawweight division, and she’ll look to move to 5-0 since joining the UFC as she meets fellow Brazilian Marina Rodriguez in the first bout of the pay-per-view portion of the card Saturday night.

Ribas most recently defeated Paige VanZant via submission back in July at UFC 251. Rodriguez is 2-1-2 since joining the company, and is coming off her first loss, a split decision result against Carla Esparza on July 26.

Who has the edge in this one? I’ll break down the matchup and betting odds below, and you can find my full breakdown of Saturday’s card here.

Tale of the Tape

Rodriguez Ribas
Record 12-1-2 10-1
Avg. Fight Time 13:01 9:53
Height 5’6″ 5’3″
Weight (pounds) 115 lbs. 115 lbs.
Reach (inches) 65″ 66″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 4/29/87 8/26/93
Sig Strikes Per Min 5.04 4.71
SS Accuracy 50% 45%
SS Absorbed Per Min 3.31 1.67
SS Defense 52% 73%
Take Down Avg 0.38 2.28
TD Acc 33% 54%
TD Def 61% 85%
Submission Avg 0.2 1.9
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Rodriguez vs. Ribas Betting Pick

I always promise to be upfront about any potential biases, and Amanda Ribas – a rising star in the strawweight division – falls firmly into that category; I am a fan.

Fortunately, I don’t see any betting angle worth playing on this fight, and I don’t have to justify either taking up a position on Ribas or passing on a bet against her.

Rodriguez is stepping in on short notice for Michelle Waterson – and late replacements carry just a 38% win rate in the UFC, but her striking acumen (5.05 strikes landed per minute, 50% accuracy) is superior to Ribas’ – and she should have a major edge on the feet if Ribas doesn’t get the fight to the ground (2.28 takedowns landed per 15 minutes, 54% accuracy).

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, she’s not particularly adept off of her back, so if the black-belt judoka does take her for a ride, she’s likely to remain there for the duration of the round.

As a result, it’s hard to pick against Ribas in this spot – if she sticks to a grappling heavy gameplan, she should win minutes with ease and cruise to her fifth consecutive win with the promotion.

I’ll pass on betting this one, but you can see the other matches I’m betting at UFC 257 in my full breakdown.

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Warriors vs. Jazz Odds & Picks: Back Utah To Cover Number Against Golden State

Warriors vs. Jazz Odds

Warriors Odds +6.5 [BET NOW]
Jazz Odds -6.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +220/-275 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 225.5 [BET NOW]
Time 9:05 p.m. ET
TV NBA TV
Odds as of Friday at 8:45 p.m. ET and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

The Utah Jazz put their seven-game winning streak on the line Saturday when they host the Golden State Warriors.

And while seven consecutive victories in a row is an impressive feat, only one of them came against a team holding better than a .500 winning percentage. The Warriors (8-7) might be a game above the .500 mark, but they will still be the second-best team they have played since starting their recent tear.

Without wingman Klay Thompson, Steph Curry has done whatever he can to keep Golden State afloat. With seven of eight wins coming when Curry has scoered 26 or more points, saying they need him to play well is an understatement.

Developing role players and Thompson being absent might keep this team from being a contender, but Curry has shown he will keep them interesting.

Behind its smothering defense, Utah will make things extra tricky for Curry, though. However, with unlimited range, all he needs is a hot hand to make any defense look like weak.

That said, let’s dig deeper to see if Curry can carry once again or if Utah will be too much in this contest.

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Golden State Warriors

Losing to the New York Knicks on Thursday showed the Warriors’ troubles in supporting Curry. The 119-104 defeat occurred despite him being able to put up 30 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Things might have gone differently had forward Draymond Green not been ejected in the second quarter. 

If Golden State hopes to prevent a repeat of Thursday, its rebounding needs to improve. Being out-rebounded, 55-46, against the Knicks was just the latest instance of being beat on the glass, as it allows 47.4 rebounds per 100 possessions. That’s the fourth-most rebounds yielded in the entire league.

Facing the Jazz, who are ranked first with 49.6 rebounds per 100 possessions, hitting the glass will be even more important.

Offensively, Kelly Oubre needs to improve. With Phoenix last season, Oubre showcased the capability of playing as a secondary scorer by putting up 18.7 points per game, highlighted by 35.2% shooting from three-point land.

This year, the yips have caught him, as those numbers have fallen to 11.9 points per game on 20.7% from deep. If Oubre finds a way to shoot like he did last year, the court should open up for the rest of the offense.

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Utah Jazz

On Thursday, the Jazz were tested by the New Orleans Pelicans after allowing 43 points in the first quarter. Utah also trailed by 12 points entering the second quarter. The Jazz showed their resilience, though, as they immediately fought back and entered halftime up a point.

As its has all season, Utah relied on its three-point shooting to lead it to victory after going 17 of 39 from behind the arc.

While most teams look to rely on the three-point shot, the Jazz have assembled the perfect roster to do so. Six of their eight leaders in minutes shoot better than league-average from three-point range.

Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors are the only players below that mark and they have yet to attempt a three. With their deep and diverse shooting attack, the Jazz sit at an impressive 113.7 Offensive Rating per basketball-reference.

Defensively, Utah attacks the three-point line by forcing teams to take the ball toward Rudy Gobert. Playing into its hands, opponents attempt 61.2 two-point attempts per 100 possessions — the most by a wide margin per basketball-reference.

Having Gobert waiting in the paint makes these shots much more difficult, as opponents shoot only 48.9% on two-point attempts. Being able to attack the three-point line and still prevent teams from scoring inside make this Utah defense exceptionally unique.


Warriors-Jazz Pick

The play of Curry makes the Warriors a team that can erupt on any given night. However, the struggles Golden State has when he goes cold also make it susceptible to a blowout.

Oubre and Andrew Wiggins have the talent to pick up the slack, but have yet to do so. If the past 15 games are any indication of what Saturday holds, overcoming the Jazz lies on Curry’s shoulders.

For the Jazz, extending their win streak should be a matter of failed execution, as their style counters the Warriors. Defensively, this means forcing the Warriors off the three-point line and into two-point range. Offensively, this means slowing the tempo and utilizing their shooters. 

Having the size and rebounding advantage, Utah should force Golden State off its third-fastest pace of 104.1. With things slowed down, the size advantage and elite defense against the long-range shot the Jazz possess will make life much harder for the Warriors.

With signs pointing in favor of Utah, things may get ugly for Golden State. In their seven losses, the Warriors’ average loss margin is 18.7 points. 

Back to Utah to cover the spread and make it eight consecutive wins.

Pick: Jazz -6.5 (play up to -8.5)

[Bet now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior UFC 257 Odds & Picks: Back the Brazilian Underdog (Saturday, Jan. 23)

Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior Odds

Tavares odds -135
Carlos Junior odds +110
Over/Under 2.5 (-185 / +150)
Venue Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi
Time Approx. 9 p.m. ET
Channel ESPN
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via BetMGM.

In one of the more exciting matchups on the undercard, Brad Tavares (17-6) faces off against Antonio Carlos Junior (10-4) in the UFC middleweight division.

Tavares has lost his last two fights but famously went to a decision against current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

Antonio Carlos Junior is no stranger to championship pedigree to himself — he pulled a decision victory over contender Marvin Vettori. Vettori also has a split-decision loss to Adesanya, so there is plenty of common ground between these two. The pedigree is very strong despite the fact that both are on two-fight losing streaks.

So which fighter has the edge in this battle? Both have gone against the best that this division has to offer. Let’s break down the odds for the fight below.

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Tale of the Tape

Tavares Carlos Junior
Record 17-7 11-4
Avg. Fight Time 12:57 11:10
Height 6’1″ 6’2″
Weight (pounds) 185 lbs. 185 lbs.
Reach (inches) 74″ 79″
Stance Southpaw Orthodox
Date of birth 12/21/87 5/16/90
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.00 1.91
SS Accuracy 40% 44%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.76 1.98
SS Defense 55% 53%
Take Down Avg 1.03 3.70
TD Acc 27% 44%
TD Def 77% 53%
Submission Avg 0.0 0.9
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Tavares vs. Carlos Junior Betting Pick

Carlos Junior used to fight at heavyweight back in 2014 before moving to light heavyweight, which means he is a massive middleweight at 6-foot-2.

This fight will come down to Carlos Junior being able to land takedowns in bunches against Tavares. Carlos Junior averages 3.7 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon, and he also does not absorb very much damage — just 1.98 significant strikes absorbed per minute.

Carlos Junior’s strategy remains consistent in all of his fights: He is always looking for the takedown. He is +375 to win this fight via submission, and he has eight submission wins in 15 career fights.

However, Tavares has never been submitted in his UFC career. He has very strong takedown defense, defending takedowns at a 77% rate, which is good for ninth in the middleweight division, per UFC stats.

Tavares was knocked out by Edmen Shahbazyan in his most recent fight but does not typically take that type of damage, nor is Carlos Junior known for that level of striking. I would expect this to be a grueling battle of will that ends on the judge’s scorecards.

The value of Antonio Carlos Junior is phenomenal — I would bet his decision prop down to +240 (29.41% implied), but am getting more than enough value to bet it here at +350 (22.2% implied).

I am confident that neither of these fighters will land a finish in this contest. When betting a fighter to win via decision, it is wise to also take the fight to go to decision. This leaves the option of the other fighter to win on a close judge’s decision. Carlos Junior might be the best value on the card and I’m backing this fight to make it to cards with good odds at BetMGM.

The Pick: Fight to go to Decision -150 | Antonio Carlos Junior via Decision +350

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Odds & Pick for Missouri vs. Tennessee College Basketball: Bet Another Low-Scoring Matchup

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-tennessee-missouri-january 23

Missouri vs. Tennessee Odds


Missouri Odds
+7.5
Tennessee Odds
-7.5
Moneyline
+275 / -340
Over/Under
131.5
Time | TV
8:30 p.m. ET | SEC Network
Odds as of Saturday morning and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Tennessee looks to rebound from a blowout loss at Florida when it hosts 19th-ranked Missouri on Saturday night.

Missouri has been one the biggest surprises in the SEC this season, starting the season 9-0 before losing at home, 73-53, to Tennessee in December.

Its defense has stepped up, while its offense has sputtered during conference play. The Tigers will need their offense to produce better than it did in their first meeting with the Volunteers.

Tennessee has been dominant all season but was embarrassed in Gainesville on Tuesday, losing 75-49.

Now that Kentucky has fallen by the wayside, Tennessee is the best team in the SEC and is favored to win the regular-season title.

However, another loss to drop it to 4-3 in conference play could be detrimental to its title hopes.

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When Missouri has the ball

For Missouri’s offense to be successful, it has to shoot a high percentage inside the arc.

The Tigers are the No. 1 offense in the SEC in 2-point percentage at 57%, per KenPom. Over 41% of their shot attempts come at the rim, and they are shooting a cool 67.3% on those shot attempts, per Hoop-Math.

The problem for Missouri in this matchup is that Tennessee is one of the best teams in the country at defending shots at the rim, allowing only 50.2%.

The Tigers offense also shoots a dismal 27.3% from 3-point range. That was their issue in the first matchup, as they made a total of three shots from beyond the arc.

Tennessee is one of the best defenses in the country because it’s fundamentally sound.

The Vols rank second in the nation in terms of defensive efficiency. Where they excel is turning opponents over, as they’re top-10 in the country in turnover percentage. In the first meeting between these teams, Tennessee forced a whopping 21 turnovers, so the Tigers need to hold onto the ball better if they’re going to avoid a sweep.

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When Tennessee has the ball

The Volunteers offense is designed to get the ball inside to their two best players, Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. The two combined for 24 points the last time these two teams met and are a real matchup problem for Missouri.

However, since SEC play began, the Tennessee offense has really taken a step back, as it’s averaging only 1.02 points per possession. The main problem has been its 3-point shooting, which ranks 10th in the conference at 30.3%.

Another major issue going into Saturday is the status of star freshman Jaden Springer, who is questionable to play. He’s by far the team’s best 3-point threat at 56.2%, so without him, the Vols are going to struggle to find consistent shooting from deep.

The Tigers defense could also be a problem.

Missouri’s defense has been stout during conference play, allowing only 0.96 points per possession. In fact, in the first matchup, the Tigers allowed the Volunteers to score only 1.04 points per possession.

The reason Mizzou’s successful is because it defends the opposing team’s shot at an elite level, allowing only 27.4% from 3-point range and 45.4% from inside the arc.

However, the main issues the Tigers have run into this season is not turning opponents over all while allowing a ridiculous 36.9% free-throw rate in conference play.

So, if the Volunteers want to have success offensively, they have to get to the free-throw line more than seven times as they did in the last meeting.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Despite winning by over 20 points in the last contest, the Vols offense wasn’t that efficient. This is a matchup of two of the top three defenses in the SEC, so I think we will see another low-scoring affair like we did the first time around.

I have only 128.78 points projected for this matchup, so I think there’s a little bit of value on under 131.5 points.

Pick: Under 131.5 points or better

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Rockets vs. Mavericks Odds & Picks: Is Saturday the Start of Dallas’ Climb? (Jan. 23)

nba-odds-picks-houston-rockets-vs-dallas-mavericks-betting-january-23

Rockets vs. Mavericks Odds

Rockets Odds +10
Mavericks Odds -10
Moneyline +390 / -530
Over/Under TBD
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Friday night and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

It’s a Saturday night Lone Star State showdown, as the Dallas Mavericks host the new-look Houston Rockets.

This is the second game in as many nights for both squads and the fifth in the last week for Dallas. I’m intrigued to see if fatigue becomes a factor in this one, especially for the Mavericks, as they most likely will be without impact players Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell once again.

Heading into their Friday matchups, Dallas has lost three of four, and Houston is just reeling.

Yes, the recent addition of Victor Oladipo is cause for cautious optimism and John Wall has been held out with a knee injury (and will be sidelined at least through the weekend), so we will see a better version of the Rockets soo