Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rajon's Sonata

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sports Wagering: NBA

Memphis Grizzlies @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of N/A;
I'm not 100% positive why this particular line is off, since I don't really believe the domestic issues surrounding Hamed Haddadi and his lady are keeping this one off the board. The best info I can find is that Joe Johnson is day-to-day, so kudos to the oddsmakers for being giant vaginas with this one. In any event, I think we can fairly well predict how this game is going to go based on how Memphis handles the Lakers on Tuesday night. That's the huge home game, and this is the potential letdown road game. Memphis has been playing awfully bad away from home, as evidenced by their ugly loss in Cleveland over the weekend. Will playing a better team wake them up, or will Atlanta keep rolling, looking very strong since a players-only meeting held a little less than a week ago. Without a line, and without Joe Johnson, the Hawks change a bit, but Al Horford would become a bigger focal point, and Jamal Crawford can certainly step in and score 25 in a pinch. I feel like, to some degree, the Hawks are just like the Grizzlies, but better at almost every position. Lean to ATLANTA and the UNDER.

Washington Wizards @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
At least with this one, we can put the blame on John Wall's legs. The youngster has run into some early-season, and early-career injury issues, though so far, none seem all that serious. The nagging problems, though, definitely cut into his explosiveness, and Washington has been forced to shut him down for a few games here and there to make sure that when he plays, he's right. In the meantime, Gilbert Arenas has actually done a decent job running the team, and some young big men (Blatche, McGee) look like nice pieces, if they can get healthy, too. And that's really the issue here. Both of these teams have some bruises, but with Wall and McGee out, that certainly sets Washington back a bit more than Toronto's loss of Reggie Evans. Prior to a weak performance against the Hawks, the Raptors had actually started to look borderline functional, and though rebounding is going to require a team-wide bump in effort, Toronto is probably the better team right now, and we'll take a peek when this line comes out. The lack of Wall might push the spread up to 5, though, and that might be too much. Microscopic lean to TORONTO if the spread is low, and to the OVER.

Oklahoma City Thunder (-5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 197.5;
Starting with a pure energy breakdown, you have to think the Thunder should have the slight edge. The Nets are coming off a game last night in New York against an up-tempo opponent, so they're not, presumably, going to be returning off a slower game where they can keep the legs a little fresher. Of course, the Nets have actually been playing decent basketball of late, and covered in all 4 of their back-to-back spots in the month of November, even if barely in a few of them. But saying "barely" actually proves a point that Jersey doesn't necessarily need the 2-point bump from playing in a fatigue spot. It is interesting to note, though, that all 4 of those previous ATS wins came on the road, and only 1 of the 4 was a SU win. Would this line really be at 3 if Jersey hadn't played the previous night? On Oklahoma City's side, they're coming off a dominant defensive final quarter against the Hornets, and this game starts a stretch of 5 road games out of 6 total. It isn't really a look-ahead or letdown spot, in my opinion, so I don't see any strong indicators that we should stay away from either side. This one, ultimately, comes down to whether you think Jersey will tire out or the 2 points are a bonus line value. I lean just slightly to the NETS until they show otherwise, and the UNDER, if the Thunder are truly starting to consider defense.

Detroit Pistons @ Miami Heat (-11) with a total of 192;
It's not necessarily a look-ahead spot for the Heat, but it sure seems like one for LeBron. The King returns to Cleveland tomorrow night on TNT, and as a warm-up, gets to pick on Detroit's complete lack of interior defense. Will he be focused and angry, or will he float around on the perimeter and pop 15 jump shots with his head in the clouds? Detroit in the midst of a brutal 3-game stretch that sees them play Orlando on Tuesday, Miami tonight, and then Orlando again on Friday. Going 1-2 in that stretch has to be Detroit's goal. Thus, my advice would be to watch how Detroit's game with Orlando goes on Tuesday night. If they get pummeled, I might consider backing them here in some sort of bounceback spot. If they just look lethargic and disinterested, I would be fearful that Detroit would care any more in this one. On Miami's side, they are coming off a strong defensive game against the hapless Wizards, and I can't quite decide if I think that is going to be a jumping off point for them, or if beating up on a weak team is giving them a false sense of satisfaction. How will the players-only meeting's effect dwindle over time. WAIT AND SEE on the side, and consider the UNDER.

Portland Trailblazers @ Boston Celtics with a total of N/A;
This just isn't right. We know exactly who is and is not hurt on both teams, so just put out a damn line! Ah, the frustration is starting to build, and we're only in early December. Another line-less breakdown...the Blazers and Celtics are both playing on back-to-back days, and, to me, that's about all you need to know for this game. Portland is coming off a game in Jersey, and Boston is returning home off a revenge game in Cleveland. The Blazers have been one of the League's better teams at dealing with fatigue spots over the last year and change, and Boston has been one of the League's poorer. Why overcomplicate things? Of course, the one huge drawback to taking a shot with the Blazers in a game that, I imagine, will feature a Boston line of somewhere in the 4-5 range, is that Portland has not been playing well. Still, I think they have the pride and the depth to at least keep this game close, so, without a line, I give the slight nod to the BLAZERS, and thanks to both teams playing slower when slightly tired, the UNDER, as well.

Orlando Magic @ Chicago Bulls with a total of N/A;
Word on the street is that Carlos Boozer is actually getting closer to returning, though I doubt he makes an appearance in this one. Taj Gibson is banged up, Derrick Rose's neck is sore, Vince Carter is expected to play for the Magic, and yet again, we have no line. The Bulls come into this one feeling confident about a hugely successful 4-3 circus trip through some of the toughest cities in the Western Conference. The 3 losses came in San Antonio, in Denver, and to the Lakers in LA, while Chicago collected wins over Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Sacramento, those last two in dramatic comebacks. And, after a 7-game, 2-week road trip, Chicago comes home for the first time and has multiple days off to prepare for Orlando. To the naked eye, that might look like Chicago is in a good spot to get ready, but to me, I believe this is the perfect sluggish letdown game for the Bulls. They got what they wanted on the road trip, and the next game is back out on the road against Boston, so other than crowd noise, this home game probably feels a little like still being on the road, except with a bunch of outside responsibilities. Orlando is playing the second half of a back-to-back, so thats's something to consider, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau certainly has a few recipes to throw at the Magic, but in a close game, I think Orlando prevails. Lean to the MAGIC and the UNDER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ New Orleans Hornets with a total of N/A;
Seven games profiled so far, and 5 have been without lines. This is annoying, and a little boring. I'll try to keep it interesting. Stephen Jackson is a maniac! There we go, there's some spice. He is likely suspended for this game following a verbal explosion at an official in the Bobcats' last game. He was ejected from that one, and really, it seemed like he had been one bad call away from losing it all season long. Is it because the Bobcats aren't very good this year? Maybe. Is it because his somewhat slow-developing offense just isn't clicking? Also a possibility. No matter how you look at it, he's out, and the line will reflect that. The Bobcats did have 3 days off prior to this game, though, so if nothing else, they should be rested. New Orleans, meanwhile, seems to be coming back to Earth a little bit. They got out to a crazy-hot start, and now have lost 4 of their last 5 games. They still have Chris Paul, which means they're not going to get blown out very often, but they do seem to be slowing a tad on offense, in particular. What I'm not sure of, though, is whether other teams are adjusting, or whether the Hornets are just going cold. That, to me, makes this game hard to bet. Based on what I expect will be a line slightly too high, I'm expecting a lean to CHARLOTTE, but it's purely a numbers thing, and also the UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Dallas Mavericks (-11) with a total of 203.5;
Don't look now, but the Dallas Mavericks have covered 2 straight home games. I suppose we could argue that one was against the overrated Heat, and the other was against a completely exhausted Houston Rockets team, but a cover is a cover, and they have 2 in a row. The Rockets' lack of depth is a story for another paragraph. This game, though, strikes me as Dallas's one potential letdown spot in a long stretch. Before today, they had played in Oklahoma, in San Antonio, at home against the Heat, at home against the division rival Rockets, and afterwards, Dallas heads up to Utah. What is the motivation to keep blowing out teams like Minnesota? Dallas is rolling, but this big of a number is too much for me to buy. Minnesota, meanwhile, just keeps hanging tough, but finding ways to lose. They lost in Oklahoma after leading for large portions of that game, then lost at home to the Spurs in bonus time. Golden State delivered a good punch to the Wolves' teeth, but this team has the rebounding ability to stay in most games. I'm not sure about defense, though, and making scoring easy for the Mavericks is a bad idea. Gun to my head, I take the WOLVES and the UNDER, but, I dunno...

Los Angeles Lakers (-6) @ Houston Rockets with a total of 208;
This is a hefty price on LA, considering they played last night in Memphis. I mean, I know Houston stinks, but they do like to play the Lakers tough, and for whatever reason, guys like Chase Budinger seem to step up in games like these. Also, when you consider that the Lakers were just 8 point home favorites to the Rockets back on opening night, and are now 6-point favorites on the road on the second half of a back-to-back, that's a 6-point power ranking adjustment. My main concern is that road games seem to be the situations that can sometimes wake up the Lakers, and they always have the ability to put the clamps on, and beat anyone by 25. Still, this line is claiming the Lakers are 11 points better than Houston on a neutral site, and I just can't let that fly. Plus, Houston has actually won 2 straight home games, so maybe there are some signs of life, there? I sure would hope so, given I lean to the ROCKETS and just barely UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Denver Nuggets with a total of N/A;
This line could be off for any number of reasons. The Bucks are likely without Andrew Bogut yet again, and Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden remain questionable. The Nuggets might be without Carmelo Anthony, who apparently got his paws on the same diarrhea soup that got Tim Duncan a couple weeks back. Delightful. In any case, J.R. Smith came alive in the Nuggets last game, so at least we know what Denver would have to do if Melo decided to disappear from the city forever. Believe it or not, I actually kind of like the Nuggets more without Carmelo, at least in the short term. He's an unbelievable talent, and he's absolutely the guy you want on your team when you need to go and get a bucket, but in the normal half-court offense, he's a ball-stopper. I haven't seen much passing from Melo, and, I might argue, a little less lane-driving, too. His assist numbers don't bear that out, but his 2 fewer free throw attempts per game certainly do. I think his absence for a couple nights might actually force the Nuggets to use some penetration and ball-movement (that sounded bad) to get shots, and might help them when he returns. The Bucks are reeling right now, but Denver has a way of letting teams hang around. If this line is huge, stay away. If it seems low, I might still look at the public home team. Eency, weency lean to DENVER and the UNDER, since let's face it, Milwaukee can't score right now.

Indiana Pacers @ Utah Jazz (-8) with a total of 194;
This game falls into that category of plays where the visiting team has to travel late into the night, landing in altitude, and then try to get up and play the Jazz the next day. And Utah knows it. I might argue the Jazz, because of their unrelenting nature, probably do a better job than the Nuggets at exploiting the fatigue of the opposition. Denver used to be that team, since they could run you out of the building, but the Nuggets just run isolation plays now. Utah, meanwhile, has added a big man in Al Jefferson, and Paul Millsap as a stocky, undersized power forward is a scary body for tired teams to contend with, too. Indiana's recent success has come because of their increased effort on the defensive end. With tired legs, you're not going to outshoot the Jazz. Indiana's only hope of winning or covering this game is to try to turn it into a slugfest, with each team trading body blows, since, at least in that type of contest, 8 points becomes tougher to get. I just don't think Indiana is going to have the energy to do it. Utah is putting up monster offensive numbers and defending, winning their last 6 straight games by an average of almost 13 points. Utah is very, very good right now, and I wouldn't step in front of that freight train. I like the JAZZ and I barely like the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-7) @ Los Angeles Clippers with a total of 204;
Wow, this line is high as hell. I mean, I know the Clippers are terrible, but the Spurs are on the second half of a back-to-back that started in Golden State, and this line is suggesting the Spurs are 12-point neutral court favorites here. San Antonio is a great basketball team that has completely owned the Clippers this decade, but we can find value in numbers, and this one looks screwy to me. Looking at the previous two meetings this year, we find that the Spurs were 8-point favorites here in LA in the first, and 13-point favorites at home in the second. However, the Clippers were the team playing in back-to-back spots in those two games, and the Spurs were rested for both. Thus, the Spurs were ranked as a 9-point neutral court favorite in the first game, and an 8-point neutral court favorite in the second. And now, all of a sudden, they're a 12-point neutral court favorite? Neither team has really changed much since the last meeting - the Spurs are still winning, the Clippers are still getting production from Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon and no one else. Chris Kaman is due back soon, but not yet, so what changed? Regardless, if the books are going to give us 3-4 points of line value just from doing some simple arithmetic, I lean CLIPPERS and the OVER.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NBA Playoff Revenge Article

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Specifically, after about five months of sitting around spoiling in the cupboard, cold.

The concept at hand is, of course, NBA Playoff Revenge.

There are very few motivating factors stronger than exacting revenge on the team that ended another's season. No other scenario in sports has the ability to concentrate emotion so profoundly. A playoff series involves multiple games against the same team. They're often five, six, seven games long, each frothing with adrenaline and testosterone, as one team stares into the eyes of the same players every other night. The fact that a fight doesn't occur every night is a testament to the game itself, as the hard fouls start to wear on both the body and mind, and the claws are always on the brink of coming out.

So, after struggling with another club in such a heated spot, failing, and going home without a Championship, the only faces the losing team can see belong to that one team, that one that ended the season.

To be fair, the likelihood that Jason Terry saw Manu Ginobili's visage when he closed his eyes at night is probably a tad overblown, but you know darn well that the day the Mavericks got their schedule for the following season, the red pens came out, and the date with the Spurs got circled. San Antonio took care of Dallas in the 2010 NBA Playoffs in six games, so, on paper, it seems like the series was fairly evenly matched. However, Dallas was the 2nd seed in the vaunted Western Conference, and lost to San Antonio despite home court advantage, and despite San Antonio being ranked the 7th seed. In this particular case, Dallas had playoff revenge on the brain, but also needed to wipe the nasty taste out of its mouth from falling to a lower-ranked team.

Sure enough, November 26th rolled around, just one month into the NBA season, and Dallas was headed to San Antonio. Lo and behold, as a 4-point underdog, the Mavericks beat the Spurs by 9, covering the spread by 13 points, and, to some small degree, bringing relief after an offseason of agitation. Maybe more telling is that the Mavericks held the Spurs to San Antonio's 2nd-lowest shooting percentage of any home game to that point in the season, a sign that Dallas's increased effort led to superior defense.

The best part about NBA Playoff Revenge is that it can net you fifteen golden opportunities that will usually occur in the first two months of the NBA season, every year. And, depending on the level of embarrassment that a particular team may have suffered in the Playoffs - the ego-crushing beating the Magic laid on the Hawks last year comes to mind - and whether that team on revenge actually wins the first meeting (a straight up loss and an ATS win is like a revenge-player's gold mine), you might even squeeze another five to ten high-percentage plays out of corollaries to this stratagem.

Opponents might argue that being "mathematically eliminated" with a week to go in the regular season is pretty frustrating as well, and that ends a team's year, or that playoff elimination is all part of the natural course of the postseason.

To the first point, the frustration over a season ending after an attempt to get into the playoffs often gets pointed inward. These teams seem less inclined to blame the team that delivered the final blow, and instead spend the offseason working on improving enough so that they are not in that same position the following year. This might lead to early-season success, but that is fodder for another column.

To the second point, the results simply speak for themselves. Obviously, with the power shift in the Eastern Conference due to LeBron James departing from Cleveland, a revenge bettor would be wise to throw out the series involving Cleveland and Miami. Outside of those rematches, which one could argue are no longer revenge games, this method of wagering is 8-1 ATS at the end of November. The one loss involved Phoenix falling to the Lakers, a loss the Suns avenged in an early-season rematch. If you backed the Suns a second time, as per the corollary above, you would be sitting pretty on a 9-1 record only a month into the season.

NBA Playoff Revenge is not going to hit every time - after all, no play is perfect. The strategy most likely will not go 90%, either. However, because of a lack of long term memory for most bettors, you can get a huge edge by digging that crumpled up NBA playoff bracket out of the garbage, and riding the losers of yesteryear to winners today.

Backdoored Heat

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sports Wagering: NBA

Boston Celtics (-6.5) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 194.5;
If you want to talk about a team potentially looking past an opponent...it's not who you'd expect! Most of the time when we talk about look-aheads, we're referring to the good team looking past the bad one. Not so much, here. The Boston Celtics play host to Portland tomorrow night, but there's no real rivalry there, and Portland's ongoing health concerns have, to some degree, dropped them out of the elite teams and dropped them back into what I suppose we can refer to as the top of the regular class. Meanwhile, Cleveland hosts Boston tonight, then, after a night to burn posters and spoof Nike ads, Cleveland hosts LeBron and the distressed Heat on Thursday night. We've already heard that the "Q" is going to have greater security for that game with the Heat, and if the rest of the universe is talking about a Cavs game 3 days away (or 2 by the time most of you read this), then I don't think we're going out on a limb to suggest that some of LeBron's former teammates might be looking to that one, as well. Add to that the fact that Boston rolled into Cleveland in their 2nd game of the regular season, sluggish as tree sloths after a season-opening win over the Heat, and you've got revenge on Boston's side. Yep, you heard right - I like the public CELTICS in this one, and the UNDER.

Detroit Pistons @ Orlando Magic (-11) with a total of 192;
Both of these teams get tougher to figure out on a daily basis. One night, the Pistons hang tough with the Dallas Mavericks, only to lose (but cover) in the final few minutes. The next, Detroit gets blasted by the Grizzlies. The Pistons come home and throttle the Bucks, then lose to the Knicks in double-OT. Who shows up in this one? To Detroit's credit, they don't get much in the way of "easy buckets," so having to compete with Dwight Howard probably won't change their gameplan all that much. I guess that's a point for Detroit, but is it really? Both of these teams fire away from outside, so this cover could very well come down to who gets a few threes to drop. Over on the Orlando side, they beat the Heat (who hasn't?), got themselves an ATS push in a win over the Cavs, then narrowly clipped the Wizards. This team is equally unpredictable on a nightly basis. Put two unpredictable teams together and what do you get? That's right, a full diaper of fun. I do bring some tiny good news, though - these two teams play again in about 3 days, so we might be able to take something from this one and apply it to the next meeting. I'm pulling out the gun for this one, and with it pressed to the old noggin, I'd lean ORLANDO and the OVER.

Portland Trailblazers (-3) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 192;
Portland is quietly turning into a bit of a mess. After opening the year 4-1, this team is just 8-8 on the season, and only 2-5 in their last 7 games. The Blazers are coming off a very poor defensive showing in a 98-96 loss at New Jersey as a 4-point road favorite, and with every loss, the pressure mounts. I'm not about to go out on a limb and back a struggling Blazers team, even if it's against one of those weird NBA clubs that has plenty of talent but stinks, regardless. Yes, I'm calling you out, Sixers. If it's some small consolation for Philadelphia, at least they're worse on the road than at home this season. Philadelphia is coming off a nice win over those same Nets that just beat the Blazers, and while the transitive property would have the Sixers beating the Blazers, I expect this to be a pretty good game. Many will blindly back the Blazers, still viewing them as one of the best teams in the NBA, but injuries have really beaten this team down a peg or two, and they need to start grabbing wins where they can get them. Portland also heads to Boston for a back-to-back tomorrow, so we might be able to learn a little something about where the Blazers' focus is from this game. Still, if you're going to bet this game, I think you have to ride the momentum, which isn't necessarily on the side of Philadelphia, but it's nowhere to be found in Portland. Slight lean to PHILADELPHIA and the UNDER.

New Jersey Nets @ New York Knicks (-5) with a total of 202;
After taking a few on the chin in Knicks games last week, I'd be lying if I said I had a great bead on this team. The Knicks started draining threes at a ridiculous clip, and, figuring that statistic would have to regress, it just never did. The Knicks did post one poor shooting night against the Hawks, but outside of that one, they've been pretty consistently 40% or above from beyond the arc, and that's definitely going to get it done. Add to that the fact that they shoot more than a handful, and 40% on a ton of threes is like shooting 60% from 2-pt range. That is tough to beat. The Nets are playing decent team defense, and their slow, plodding pace is helping them take advantage of a solid post player in Brook Lopez and Devin Harris's ability to get near the bucket off the dribble. I'm sure Avery Johnson would like to get some better production from other guys, but a few treys from Anthony Morrow and some offensive rebounds from Kris Humphries will just have to do, for now. I happen to believe this line is pretty darn close to where it should be, but I'll go out on a limb and say that the Nets can't keep up, offensively, and give a tiny nod to the KNICKS and because this is only the 2nd Nets game with a total over 200, I'll take the OVER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-5) @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of 204;
The Lakers are in that lull, again. This team is so damn streaky, and I keep saying in the blog, over and over again. Kudos to our buddy "Sink" for picking up on it and betting the Lakers to go on ATS runs. To put it in perspective, the Lakers have already had two 4-game ATS win streaks, and two 3-game ATS losing streaks, and after all that, are just 9-8 ATS overall. Well, they're in the midst of another 3-game ATS losing skid, but I can't help but wonder if that home loss to the Pacers was the wake-up call. Last time, a long road trip starting in Milwaukee woke them up. Will a 2-game trip to Memphis and Houston do the same, this time? Tough to say, though Memphis is likely to be fairly competitive. They're a stronger home team than road by a pretty wide margin, so while I wouldn't back the Grizzlies away from their building, this seems like a game they might get up for. Everyone always brings a big performance for the Lakers, and you know darn well that Memphis remembers the buzzer-beater Kobe put on them here, at home, in February of last year. Memphis was a 5.5-point underdog in that one, so this line is pretty close, but the fact that it's lower is a little disconcerting. Have we really lost a half-point of value because of the Lakers mini-skid? We need to start being a little more careful, but still a small lean to MEMPHIS and the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-4) @ Golden State Warriors with a total of 213;
The Warriors have quietly covered their last 2 games, and the return of David Lee has powered them back into a land of great confidence that they hadn't known while Lee was out. This is going to be a heck of a test for the Warriors, though, since the Spurs are playing like they're back to being the best in the League. Richard Jefferson is a factor, again, and Manu Ginobili is healthy for the first time in probably 3 years. George Hill is emerging as a solid guard, and Duncan is still Duncan. Golden State can score with most teams, but I just have trouble seeing how the Warriors stay out of foul trouble and win this game. This could very well end up being a close game, with the Spurs on a little west coast swing, and the Warriors working on 2 days of rest, but when I don't believe strongly that a particular team has a great shot to win the game, and is only getting 4 points, that's a tough roll of the dice. San Antonio has seemed will to run and score, so maybe the best idea here is to explore the total. This is a positively huge number for San Antonio, their highest total of the season by a full 1.5 points. Does that mean it's going over, or does that mean we have value playing the under? Tough game, all around. Small lean to the SPURS, and tiny lean to the OVER.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Super Bowl Wagering Guide

Everything you know is wrong. Or, more accurately, everything you know every other day of the year is wrong. On Super Bowl Sunday, the bet that every sharp bettor has avoided like the plague is actually the best wager on the card.

Take the favorite on the money line.

Let the rest of the world push and pull for hours, while you take the play that has had its price deflated by every 10, 50, and 100-dollar wager placed on this fine planet during the two weeks leading up to the fateful Sunday.

The story is simple, but it is worth exploring. Fundamentally, books move lines based on a few key factors. If you are reading this article you likely already know the main ones, but for posterity, a line generally shifts based on either key news (such as injuries, weather, and other notes), or money. Large quantities of money being bet on one side of a line will force the bookmaker to move the line in the direction of the money, so as to induce action on the opposite side, and balance the ledger. Equal action on both sides of a line means a guaranteed win for the books, and that is, obviously, the optimal situation. Most weeks, and even right down to most days, this is perfectly achievable.

The Super Bowl is different, though. Thanks to the wild increase in the number of bettors worldwide, the lines can often behave differently, and thanks to the magic of mid-week adjustments, the sportsbooks remain fairly well protected. Sure, the line will move where the money dictates, but because of less predictable betting patterns and outrageous betting volume, books and lines can be subject to more moves, and that is where you can take advantage.

In no place is that imbalance more evident than the Super Bowl moneylines. Studying money lines year round can be helpful to some degree, but this particular strategy is actually easier than that. For our purposes, the only important research is determining how a particular spread matches up with a moneyline price. Fortunately, certain sportsbooks will list the common spread-to-moneyline conversion rates on football wagers! For instance, a 3-point favorite often corresponds to a moneyline price of roughly -155, while the underdog will settle in the neighborhood of +135. In contrast, a 10-point favorite would likely run you a pretty steep fee of -450 on the moneyline, and net you just +325 on the underdog.

Because of that 20-cent (or larger) window, and because the moneyline betting volume (and the split, thereof) of most standard regular season games is fairly predictable, trying to find value in moneylines without multiple painstaking hours of strict handicapping is difficult. The focus of this strategy, however, is on the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl alone, where everything, as noted above, gets turned on its head.

Take a moment and think back to each of the last ten Super Bowl Sundays. Do not focus on the sheer quantity of guacamole you wedged into your gullet, or where those jalapeƱo poppers disappeared to; do not waste your brainpower trying to recall how the game played out or even what teams played in the actual game; instead, think about the conversations you had with the three people at your party that care the absolute least about sports. Your glasses are working, and you read that correctly. They could be a 16-year old niece, your buddy that works the evening shift in an art gallery, or even your spouse, depending on the relationship - whoever! Think about the messy roll of bills they rifled through to see how much they were willing to bet, and what they said when you tried to explain the different ways that a person can wager on the Super Bowl. What made their eyebrows rise? It probably was not the idea that you can bet on the two teams to play stout defense, play for field position, and get a low-scoring game. It probably was not a bet on the spread, either, since only a seasoned bettor can get truly excited about an underdog only losing by 2 points when that bettor is catching 3.

With a few exceptions, those one-shot gamblers said one of the two following phrases:

"You mean I can put 50 dollars on that team in silver, and if they win, I get 100?" or, "What's a Prop Bet?"

When you consider that the thousands of people that make one bet a year each have 50 dollars to blow, and half of those people uttered phrase number one above in the exact same scenario, that is a boatload of money blasting the underdog on the moneyline that normally would not exist. The most amazing part is that little niece Angie, gallery-employee Todd, and Mrs. Your-Surname will do it each and every year. And who can blame them? They are not in this to invest and make money over a longer haul, they want a quick return to get that electric juicer, and what better way than to try to triple that 50 on one wager? One single 50 dollar bet is not going to have an impact on the line, but a hundred-thousand will.

However, sportsbooks are not going to adjust the spread based on large quantities of money being bet on the moneyline. Instead, those moneyline prices will start to shift. It will not likely be a quick strike, but slowly, over time, the number will move, 5 cents by 5 cents. If the Super Bowl opened with the favorite listed as 4.5-points superior, and the moneyline priced around -200, the spread might stay at 4.5 points (ignoring, for now, money being waged on the spread), but over the course of those two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the moneyline will drop, bit by beautiful bit, until you can likely buy the favorite to win straight up for a price far cheaper than -200. For the sake of argument, assume the moneyline dropped to -155 on the favorite. Thanks to the aforementioned conversion charts, you are aware that the 155-dollar price on the favorite should normally match up with a 3-point spread. You are also fully aware that oddsmakers believe the favorite is 4.5-points better than the inferior club.

Without even knowing the teams involved, you can bet the favorite on the moneyline in this hypothetical scenario, and know you are getting 1.5-points completely free - here, too, you would be nuzzling against the hugely important fall number of "3"! In practice, the move could be any number of points (or dollars); it will vary by year, and could differ depending on your preferred sportsbook, as well. Regardless, the underdog will always get pounded by recreational bettors, and if you consistently grab a favorite at a price off by the spread-equivalent of two-to-three points, you are going to be a winning Super Bowl bettor without putting in more than 5 minutes of work.

There are very few guarantees in wagering, but when a glaring discrepancy in your favor reaches out and slaps you in the face (like you have always wanted to do to that dastardly green on a Roulette wheel), you absolutely must exploit it, and you will take home money over the course of multiple years. Math does not lie. Remember, too, if you are planning to follow this strategy, you must let those novice bettors take whatever time they need to get their tickets printed! It takes four days of pulling apart couch cushions, 2 days to turn over the mattress, 3 days to reach under the seats in the car, 4 more days to round up ten bucks from the receptionists at the office, and one day to place the bet. Have patience, wait for all those bets to drive down the line, and then make your move.

On a year-to-year basis, you are not confined to only grabbing the favorite on the moneyline, though taking at least a small stance annually on that position is certainly wise. It still remains a good idea to break down the game from as many angles as possible, since there are, in fact, other ways to beat the Super Bowl.

Beyond the not-so-subtle value built into betting on inflated money lines and skewed Prop Bets, the Super Bowl remains the most talked-about sporting event of the year from match-up and strategy standpoints. The beauty of all that talk is that it is exploitable!

Year after year bettors are subjected to two weeks of non-stop jabbering by everyone that ever played the game of football at any level, and even a solid handful of those who have not. Sure, some of those egos will be correct, since 14 consecutive days of talking will eventually lend itself to a couple key points, but the absolute biggest thing to take away from those 336 consecutive hours of media coverage is that the oddsmakers already know everything you are hearing. That is an extremely important note, so it bears repeating: the oddsmakers are aware of every not-so-earth-shattering point that your television feeds you.

That thought can be an intimidating one, if you're reacting late. Instead, be proactive, and be ready to take a stance.

The best way to attack the above note is fairly simple - fade the obvious.

Take an example from the recent past. In the 2010 Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by the final score of 31-17. Forgetting for a moment that a late interception returned for a touchdown made the final score look a tad more lopsided than it truly was, fading the obvious would have put you in prime position regardless of how the final drive of the game turned out, since you would have been on the Saints, and if you took the spread, catching points.

To fully understand, one must retreat a month to the start of the NFL Playoffs, and break down not only the two teams that successfully navigated their way to the Super Bowl, but also the clubs that they defeated along the way. Last year, the Saints knocked off the Cardinals and Vikings, and the Colts took care of the Ravens and Jets.

Why is this important? Tracking the ebb and flow (or just the flow, in the case of Indianapolis) can help us understand how the Super Bowl line is what it is.

For the Saints, a blowout win over the Cardinals did little to impress bettors, since Arizona's 51-45 Wild Card game victory over Green Bay exposed Arizona as a team without defense. The Saints were expected to win that game, and when they did, even in its lopsided result, it drew little fanfare. Football fans chalked up that final score to one team out-classing the other. Then, eight days later, the Saints played host to the Vikings. New Orleans squeezed past Brett Favre and company in a back-and-forth game that left bettors once again wondering if the Saints were born winners, or just lucky.

The exact opposite is true of Indianapolis. The Colts' Playoff opener came against the Ravens, a team that had just throttled Tom Brady's Patriots in a Wild Card battle of their own. The Ravens came into that contest as a scary underdog, featuring a defense that had been getting a remarkable level of publicity for forcing turnovers. Surely, they had a shot to upend the Colts, who sleepwalked into the Playoffs after locking up a spot early. Or not. Indianapolis manhandled Baltimore, 20-3, and even though the Colts couldn't run the ball, Joe Flacco never stood a chance. This was Peyton Manning, for goodness sakes.

Indy's next obstacle came in the form of another vaunted defense, and, according to the media, had the perfect recipe to rain on the Colts' parade. The Jets hadn't allowed more than 15 points in 8 straight games, including a late-season 29-15 win over these very same Colts. New York was fresh off holding the high-flying Chargers to just 14 points in San Diego, so they were viewed as a worthy competitor. They weren't. The Jets got out to a quick start, but Indianapolis outscored New York 17-0 in the second half, and went on to a 30-17 win.

The stage was set. The Colts had disposed of the two scariest defenses in the NFL by double digits, and the Saints had beat up on one team without a defense and had to fight a war that most people would probably agree was decided by home field adrenaline. Just by analyzing the route to the Super Bowl, we can already get a firm grasp on how the betting world is viewing these two teams. The Saints, who at one point were 13-0 in the regular season, were now the clear-cut underdog heading into the Super Bowl, largely because of the previous two games. Pretty amazing, right?

It gets better. Those 336 hours of banter only solidified the side of greatest betting value in this showdown! Every day, another bettor turned on his television to hear an expert utter the following phrase: "Nothing can stop Peyton Manning." And every day, another bettor ran to put money on Peyton Manning. Just think of how many times that simple phrase made the airwaves between January 24 and February 7. The number is stratospheric.

The Colts were the obvious choice.

That sentence brings the entire discussion full-circle. The Colts had won their previous two games by an average of 15 points, so the average bettor simply assumed another 10-point win was in the cards against the weakest of the 3 defenses Indy would face in the post-season.

We all know how that turned out.

So, this season, when you are strategizing and breaking down your Super Bowl wager, remember these key points.

First, the traditional sports media outlets only care about what is best for traditional sports media. What this means is that you are going to be given heaping doses of whatever polls indicate you want to hear. They do not know who is going to win, nor do they know the final score - what they do know, however, is that rock music and circus-catch-crushing-hit montages are going to keep TV sets tuned to their network. They also understand that religiously hyping the biggest-name players is like steroids for ratings.

This is when you, as a sharp bettor, need to remember to take a step back, and understand what every other sports fan and sports bettor is hearing and digesting. You are not a sucker.

Second, the linesmakers are not stupid. If you bet on the Colts last year because Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, you have already lost. Manning's prowess was built into the line, and you are not getting the best of the number. Far too many times a bettor explains his logic by vehemently asserting, "I'm betting the better team," flagrantly ignoring the fact that the spread accounts for just that fact. It is very easy to look at a game and only worry about picking the so-called better team. Where you can separate yourself from the pack and take home a big winning ticket this Super Bowl season is by looking at the game and not just selecting the team you think is better, but the team that is getting value against the number.

Finally, third, keep fading the obvious. Do your homework, and dig deep. Do not just look at the final scores of the games leading up to the Super Bowl; rather, understand them. Watch the games and takes notes on how the offenses and defenses are playing. Study how teams make adjustments at half-time, and learn the personalities of the coaches. Dig deeper. If you are making a play based on statistics, make sure those numbers are not the superficial notes you can find on the front page of any gaming portal. Hunt for details on spots where an offensive or defensive line can have an edge; find a match-up on the outside that the offense might try to exploit; read up on how a particular quarterback handles blitzes and hot reads. Keep digging deeper, because those setting the line already know the obvious.

And just like that, you are ready to bet (with confidence) on the Super Bowl!

You set your alarms for Sunday morning to wake up and snatch the juiciest possible moneyline price, and you watched the major sports networks for two straight weeks, waiting for all the suckers to bet what they were told to by analysts reading off a teleprompter. You furiously researched the Wild Card games, the Divisional showdowns, and the Conference Championship grudge matches to make sure no stone was left unturned, and you refused to get lured in by simple and obvious solutions to difficult match-up questions. You properly budgeted those smaller bets on the length of the National Anthem and how many years the halftime act has been performing (hint: too many), and you set up your lounge chair and high-definition television in just the perfect spots.

The only things left to do are leaving time during the week to pick up your winnings, and console everyone else that lost, yet again.

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 6

Weekend Recap: The week of death finally got an adrenaline shot to the heart! Thank goodness, because I'm not sure my already-scuffling male pattern baldness could have taken 2 more days of that garbage.

Saturday, we cashed the 3* GOM on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, giving us a 10-1 record on CFB "Big" Paid Selections since early September. We did drop 2 half-unit Freebies, but that still left us with a net gain of close to 2 units on Saturday.

Sunday, we came right back with more success, hitting on our 2* NFL GOW with the Atlanta Falcons, and splitting the two NFL 1* plays on Minnesota and Seattle. We added a half-unit NBA winner on the Spurs, putting roughly 2.5 units in the wallet.

That puts the weekend at a gain of close to 4.5 units, a much needed START to the rebound from last week's flaming turd of a losing skid.

Today:

Audio Feature: The last couple weeks we featured the likes of our NBA Season Preview Podcast, the home base of podcasting, PregamePodcasts.com, and even the College Football Weekly Show (with guest Pro, Sac Lawson).

This week it's time to point our earphones towards the NFL Weekly MegaCast, the biggest podcast in the history of Pregame. Are you missing out?

Pro Features: Things were rolling when the profile focused on the Weekly Package, so we'll go back to that. Last week was all bad luck. It's cheap, it's relatively short term commitment, it's the 7-day package!

And, of course, the daily package -- I am head over heels for Monday Night Football this week, and haven't been this geeked up for a value spot since back in the first 2-3 weeks of the season!

Now, read the damn blog...

Sports Wagering: NBA

Washington Wizards @ Miami Heat with a total of N/A;
We'll keep this one pretty short and pretty sweet. Be very, very careful fading the Heat the next couple games. Why? Word has it that Miami had a players-only meeting where all the guys got their frustrations out, owned up to the slow start, and decided to play harder and with a greater purpose. And that scares me a little bit. The Hawks had a similar meeting earlier this week, and have since rattled off 3 straight blowouts. If Miami is set to the do same, I don't want to step in front of that freight. Of course, it could be a lot of puffery, so I'm definitely not saying it's the right time to get behind Miami, just put the fade train on hold for a little bit. It's not really a look-ahead or letdown for either team, and it's not really a weird scheduling spot or rivalry. Put all that as a wash, and that meeting potentially looms large on what might actually not be quite a crazy line, just considering how the Heat have stunk, lately. Tiny lean to MIAMI and the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
The Hornets had their letdown game off the 4-game west coast trip, and the Spurs spanked them throughout the second half of Sunday afternoon's tilt. The best part about this game? The Thunder played their back-to-back in the evenings, while New Orleans played in the afternoon on Sunday. So, in some ways, the Hornets should be a little more spry. In other ways, though, the Hornets seem to be leveling off a little bit after a tremendous start. The Thunder don't really cover on defense the way the Spurs do, though they certainly can score. I feel like, to some small degree, the value in this game is probably going to be in the total. Oklahoma City had been playing some high scoring games before faltering a tad in Houston. We know New Orleans doesn't want to get into a running match with teams, since their strength is an ability to score in the half-court (thanks to Chris Paul) better than almost all of their opponents. A big game like this one, with both teams a little tired makes me think we'll see some conservative play, and after an awful defensive effort in the second half against the Spurs, I believe New Orleans will ratchet it up on defense and focus on not turning the ball over. A cautious game lends itself to a small HORNETS lean and UNDER lean.

Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks (-9.5) with a total of 197;
I still can't get on board with the Mavericks at home. I know they beat the Heat (sounds like an advertisement for an Air Conditioning company), but Dallas does have a track record of playing UP to certain competition at home, and then slipping past lesser teams. Just look at Dallas's various marks. They're a perfect 7-0 ATS on the road, 2-5 ATS at home. The two home games they covered? The opener, and the Heat. In between, they failed to cover against the Grizzlies, Nuggets, Celtics (though they did win this one), Hornets (another SU win), Sixers, Bulls and Pistons. There were a few pushes in there, depending on the line, but the fact remains that they cover at home when they get the juices flowing, and a packed house hating LeBron for 48 minutes got the team fired up. This is a bit of a letdown. The Rockets and the Wolves in the next two, and Dallas, off a stretch of games where they played 7 of 8 teams with winning records, will find it hard to get back up for this one. The Rockets have a tiny bit of momentum, too, winning at home over the Thunder, and any good news is something for this team, right? Houston is tough to trust, but the possible mental lapse for Dallas seems pretty big in the next 2 games. Lean to HOUSTON and the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Utah Jazz with a total of N/A;
Utah, with that workmanlike attitude, just keeps stomping. They beat the Lakers, then they still had the fortitude to travel to LA and beat the Clippers over the weekend. This is often a tough spot for road teams, traveling from California back into the altitude, but this time Utah has to do it. They do have a little more time than usual to acclimate, since their Sunday contest was in the afternoon (the Lakers get the evening spotlight, after all), so the line adjustment for back-to-back might be more than necessary. Also, by all indications, Andrew Bogut will not be making this trip to Utah, so Milwaukee is going to have to rely on pure shooting to win. I keep trying to convince myself that Milwaukee is going to be the way to go in this game, but Utah has the look of one of those teams that is just going to keep steamrolling until someone figures out a way to stop them. They might be the Hawks from a few years back, or the Bucks from last year...a team that people expected to take a step back without Boozer, but instead just keeps getting stronger. I hate to say it, but Utah is good enough to cover almost every night. Being relentless is one of the biggest weapons in ATS marks. Lean to the JAZZ and the UNDER.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sports Wagering: NBA

Washington Wizards @ Atlanta Hawks (-8) with a total of 196;
What the heck is wrong with the Hawks? I mean, we knew they beat up on lower-tier teams to get out to their quick start, but getting completely destroyed by Boston, and then playing a thoroughly disinterested defensive game in New Jersey? That's just awful. We know Atlanta has the talent to beat most teams in the NBA, but they seem confused and bewildered and confused by new coach Larry Drew's motion offense. It seems like they slip back into all-isolation plays when things go poorly, so they can fall back on that, but things just aren't right in Atlanta. Washington, as mentioned before, is going to be a wildly inconsistent team all season long, making them a hugely unpredictable team to bet on or against. They're scoring some points lately, that's for sure, and having John Wall makes them a better team, but with both teams falling into the "wild card" type of team, this game is just screaming "pass." Think about it. How can this one turn out? Atlanta could play like they have the last 3-4 games and potentially lose. There's one point for Washington. The Wizards are keeping games relatively close, outside of a blowout loss in Boston. That's two points for Washington. A pretty low line, all things considered - no point awarded. I have trouble making an argument for the Atlanta side, with how their focus has seemed to drift off. Small lean to WASHINGTON and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Clippers (-3) with a total of 194.5;
Epic Thanksgiving night game, eh? This is like community service for TNT. I'm sure the marketing is going to revolve about 99% around Tyreke Evans and Blake Griffin, the promising youngsters from both teams, because the teams themselves are just miserable. The Clippers are 2-13, the Kings are 4-9, and both are decidedly below .500 ATS, as well. The Clippers, somehow, are better ATS, so the only thing we can think is that oddsmakers have the Clippers figured out a little better, and the Kings have continued to get beat even in games where bettors felt they had some advantage. The Clippers are coming off a win in their last game, so you have to wonder if maybe they'll build a little confidence, and I could argue that the Clippers should have won a couple straight if not for an outrageous free throw disparity against the Knicks. Fact is, the Clippers are starting to get open looks on offense, and even if they are undisciplined on defense, they can at least compete. The Kings, meanwhile, seem to struggle for just about every shot. Evans dominates the ball, and it's just far too many plays of waiting for someone to do something. All that said, let's not forget both of these teams really are terrible, and either of them could win on any given night. It seems to me that Turkey Day basketball is just all set to take a back seat to football. Sorry folks, these games blow. If you absolutely must bet it, consider the CLIPPERS and the OVER.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fade Bebe Day

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sports Wagering: NBA

Milwaukee Bucks @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of N/A;
This line is off because of Andrew Bogut's questionable status for the game. All indications are that he will MISS this contest and play later in the week, but oddsmakers would rather play it safe and put out the line a little later. If we've learned anything about Milwaukee, though, it's that these guys are resilient as hell. They lost Bogut before last year's Playoff appearance, and very nearly upset the Hawks. They've been dealing with injuries this year, already, with Carlos Delfino missing time, and Michael Redd hasn't been healthy since 2005. The line is going to look a little inflated, but some of that will be because Cleveland played last night in Indiana. To me, this is a tough game, and I'm betting oddsmakers are really going to try to nail the line as close as possible. I like the Bucks to bounce back off an ugly game, but I happen to think the Cavs are going to play relatively tough. NO LEAN on the side, UNDER on total.

New York Knicks @ Charlotte Bobcats (-4.5) with a total of 206;
Without even knowing what happened last night, there are already a few things wrong with this line. First, the total is a half-point higher than last night's opening mark of 205.5. Charlotte isn't a high scoring team, and the second game of a home-and-home is usually a little more chippy, a little more physical, and the totals usually end up lower, barring a hell of a shooting night by a couple players. Also, yesterday's opening mark of Knicks -3 is 7.5 points away from this one. No one even knows who won yesterday's game yet, so to adjust by an additional 1.5 points is downright silly. Which line is the true line? Both teams are playing their best ball of the season, and neither is going to want to lose both games of this home-and-home, but based on the opening numbers, it would look to be a value on the Knicks and Under. Let's wait and see how Tuesday's game goes, since that is going to play a colossal role in how we bet this one, but at first glance, as noted, KNICKS and UNDER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Toronto Raptors (-5) with a total of 201.5;
This line might look a little high, but it's standard back-to-back adjustment on the Sixers, who are absolutely no better than Toronto. This line, to me, makes sense, in that it basically tells us that oddsmakers have these teams as equals. So, the simple question becomes, "Does Philly deserve the 2 extra points for fatigue?" I happen to think they do not. I know they played last night, but prior to that, the Sixers hadn't played a game since the 19th. They rested the 20th, 21st and 22nd, so back-to-back games shouldn't be that huge of a deal for a pretty darn young team (outside of Brand). The Sixers got Iguodala back, too, who we can only assume will get better with every rust-shaking trip to the court. I'm also a small fan of the revenge angle, though that didn't help us with a play on Philly when they went to Cleveland earlier this year. Still, Toronto beat Philadelphia on the 16th, so it's fresh in everyone's mind, and Philadelphia was a 3-point favorite in that contest. So, there has been no power ranking adjustment for revenge. Does that mean we have a tiny bit of value? It's debatable, but for our purposes, that's enough to get a little lean to PHILADELPHIA and microscopic OVER lean.

New Jersey Nets @ Boston Celtics with a total of N/A;
This is going to be a pretty hefty line, I would imagine, though the health status of Rajon Rondo is still hanging in the air. We saw Boston had no trouble pounding the Atlanta Hawks, but one thing to remember about handicapping is that no team is as good as their best game, and Boston just buried Atlanta early and never looked back. The Nets are playing a back-to-back, and against Boston's suffocating defense the worst offensive team in the NBA might run into some troubles. On top of that, Boston has Shaq patrolling the paint, which should, if nothing else, force Brook Lopez to do a lot of his work a few feet away from the bucket. Devin Harris might give Boston some issues, but I'm not sure what else the Nets can do. Problem is, this line is likely to be way too high to back Boston, and the back door would more than likely be perched open. Without getting any more wordy, I want no part of this game. NO LEAN on side, tiny OVER lean.

Miami Heat @ Orlando Magic with a total of N/A;
How much do we think revenge plays a factor in this one, and once we answer that question, how much do you think oddsmakers have already accounted for it? I desperately want to find a way to back the Magic, but, truth be told, neither of these teams has impressed me much. The Heat are coming off a terribly ugly effort against the Pacers, featuring turnovers by the handful, and just seemed to be out of focus and out of sorts. The Magic return home somewhat humbled by the surging San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio might be playing the best basketball in the NBA and despite the great record, are still slipping under the radar just a tiny bit. In any event, the Magic are playing slightly better defense, but they're vulnerable, and they got manhandled by the Heat in a meeting earlier this year. This is a high-profile showdown, and the Heat are now without Udonis Haslem for, potentially, the season. Let's see where this line comes out, because that can tell us quite a bit, but based loosely on the revenge angle and the idea that the Magic won't miss all their open looks (and the Heat won't make all of theirs) in this rematch, lean to ORLANDO and OVER.

Detroit Pistons @ Memphis Grizzlies (-7) with a total of 194;
This line strikes me as somewhat low. Considering the Pistons were 10 points underdogs in Dallas last night, and now, on back-to-back, they're just 7 point dogs to the Grizz, well, that caught me a little by surprise. But really, looking back at lines from earlier this season, that adds up about right. In any event, the Pistons continue to be a team that finds ways to cover quite a few games, so like usual, we can start with the underdog and work from there. The question is, how much will Detroit have in the tank after the Mavericks game last night. The Grizzlies haven't played in quite some time, so they're likely to be far more energized than the Pistons, and I hate to say it, but that might be enough for me. The Pistons have shot the ball incredibly poorly on the 2nd half of their back-to-backs so far this year, and have somehow found ways to cover a few of those games. It's almost mind-boggling. If they shoot around 40% again in this one, they're going to get steamrolled. The Grizzlies are underachieving so far this year, but they're coming off a nice home win over the Heat, which snapped a 5 game losing streak, and you all know that I like to back decent teams off a long losing skip (or fade them off a long winning run). Lean to MEMPHIS and the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-8) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 213;
The Spurs are straight rolling. They're a spectacular 12-1 on the season, and an even more impressive 9-3 ATS. I only call that more impressive because it's tough to be a big name team and post a winning ATS mark. San Antonio has covered 6 straight, and they're not even letting teams stay close at the end of games. They won with Duncan sick, they crushed with him healthy, and now they take their show on the road and lay a pretty damn big number in Minnesota. I have absolutely zero clue how Minny is coming off an ATS loss in Oklahoma City. In terms of what games in the NBA look "rigged", that was about as close as we've seen so far this year, with the Wolves turning a 2-point deficit into a 10-point loss in the span of about 1 minute of fouling. Just insane. In any event, this game, from a situational angle, screams sandwich for the Spurs. They're coming off a big home win over the Magic, and their next two games are with division rivals Dallas and New Orleans. Sure is tough to go against a team on a 6-game ATS win streak, though. It might be best to just stay out of the Spurs' way and let this thing play itself out. We probably missed the best time to back them, which was against another big name team like Orlando, because laying 8 on the road is tough to do. Pulling out the gun, and putting it to my head, I'd lean MINNESOTA and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-4) with a total of 199;
I don't mean to sound like I'm ditching out on a writeup, but I happen to think this line is right about where it should be, all things considered. The Mavericks are playing a back-to-back, which hasn't really phased them a ton, but the line got its customary 2-point move, and overall, we're being told that Dallas is about a single tally better on a neutral court. I agree. In terms of situational angles, there aren't many. This is a big game for both teams, as I'm sure each would like to establish itself as slightly higher in the Western Conference pecking order. There isn't any big revenge angle to worry about, either. Oklahoma City has won and covered 5 games in a row, though they got a gift against Minnesota, and Dallas continues to play their butts off when they're on the road. Add all that mess together, and you've got yourself a Thunder short home favorite line. Based just on what we've seen from Dallas on the road, I think you have to start with that side and work from there, and much like the concept of Brownian Motion, we then take about 100 steps in random directions, and our net movement is...yep, zero. Lean to DALLAS and the UNDER.

Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets (-5) with a total of 216.5;
This line strikes me as pretty high, but then, the Warriors have gone right down the toilet without David Lee. I mean, I thought they'd struggle, but this is ridiculous. This is a revenge game for Houston, and they have the rare opportunity to pick on a team when they're down. I suppose the question is, what's going to wake up the Warriors, if anything, or do we just have to wait until Lee gets back for this team to start clicking again? Houston has been a bit of a disaster, too, so it's not like laying 5 points with a 3-10 team is easy. Still, the line has to be a small indicator of what to expect. Golden State is shooting outrageously poorly without Lee, and if they roll into Houston and shoot under 43%, they're going to get drilled. The effort is definitely there, the guys are playing hard, and they could explode on any night, but it just doesn't seem like the guys have that hop in their step they had to start the year. This game doesn't feature any particularly interesting scheduling notes, so we'll just roll with the revenge note. I'd say we're fading the slumping team, but that would be mean we couldn't play either club. Tiny lean to HOUSTON and the UNDER.

Chicago Bulls @ Phoenix Suns (-3) with a total of 211;
This could potentially be a tough back-to-back spot for the Bulls, who head to Phoenix off a big-time showdown with the Lakers. I do believe the results of that game with LA will play a role, but not a huge one. Phoenix is clearly a whole heck of a lot better with Steve Nash healthy, but the defense that Phoenix is playing right now is just embarrassing. They've allowed 123, 105, 123 and 116 points in their last 4 games, and opponents are pretty consistently shooting over 50%. It's actually difficult to play such little defense that you can regularly give up 55% shooting nights and it's not considered out of the ordinary. The Bulls have a player that can get points even against good defenses, and that's scary. There are a lot of guys that could potentially put up huge games. I know Chicago might be tired, and this road trip is potentially wearing on them, but unless Phoenix drains 22 threes like they did against the Lakers, I have trouble seeing how that team beats anyone with a competent offense. Let's relax for a few hours and see how Chicago fairs in LA, and reassess. Early on, though, I can't help but think the BULLS are game, and the OVER is in play.

New Orleans Hornets @ Utah Jazz (-4) with a total of 192.5;
Wait, seriously? The Hornets, who only just suffered their 2nd loss of the season, are 4 point underdogs to the Jazz? Something is absolutely a little funny about this. That means the onus is on us (punny) to determine if this line is where it is because Utah just gets respect quicker than New Orleans, or because the Hornets are due to regress a tiny bit? New Orleans has not looked good on this road trip so far, barely winning in Sacramento, and then putting forth a truly lackluster effort against the Clippers in LA. So, which Hornets show up? The one thing that I preached about this team from opening night is that Chris Paul has a way of keeping every game pretty close until the last few minutes. Usually, they win those games, but scores of Hornets games aren't going to be blowouts all that often. That doesn't help us, here. Utah is hosting the Lakers next, so they're going to be on red alert for this homestand, and as I keep bouncing back and forth with these notes, I just have to settle on the idea that maybe these teams are going to basically play to a stalemate. Someone is going to have to win the game, and falling under 4 points means minimal late-game free throw shooting. I have to think this game has a nice shot of coming down to the final minute. You won't win every underdog play in that spot, but you'll win over 50%. Lean to NEW ORLEANS and the OVER.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NFL Vegas Line Error Blog for Week 12

Prelude: Due to a nasty flu, we didn't end up having an NFL blog last week. It felt weird, and didn't help with our handicapping. I award myself two thumbs down for not getting it done.

Anyway, back to the quick PERCEPTION LINE ERROR notes on EVERY game, since, dammit, that's what I've been doing since last December. I will make the following statement, and I challenge anyone to disprove it:

"No one, Pro or otherwise, has broken down, in writing, more games, from a betting standpoint, over the last 12 months, for free, than me."

And no, there are no signs of carpal tunnel yet.

Pro Notes:

1) NFL -- SUNDAY ALL ACCESS PASS -- 9-4 on "BIG" NFL Plays -- it's bounceback time! With 3 games on Thursday, stay tuned for potential updates on BIG plays!

2) CFB -- CFB GAME Of The MONTH -- Our Nine Week Winning Streak Ended Saturday with a Loss on Indiana, but it has been a MONSTER Year, and It Isn't Over Yet -- a Rare 3*!

3) NBA -- Pasted from last week: on average, we'll have about 1.5 plays per day, and given the season is roughly 180 days, and the SEASON PASS is just $495, you're looking at an investment of LESS THAN $2 per play! If you buy the plays individually, it will probably run about $3,000, so...GET THE SEASON PASS - it's the best deal at Pregame.

Week 9 Recap and Lessons Learned: Stick to your routine!

Nothing life-changing about this lesson, but sometimes things change, and you just have to find a way to still try to get things done on their normal schedule, or as close to it as humanly possible.

For instance, I was awfully sick last week, which meant I had the energy in the midday to take care of about half of what I usually do. Of course, because NBA was on a 14-game winning streak, the energy went towards getting NBA work done. But then, as the weekend approached, sufficient energies had not been allocated to football, and the routine was destroyed.

Frantically, I rearranged sleep schedules and other responsibilities to try to get everything done, but it just wasn't/isn't the same.

What have you guys done to help with routines?

Sports Wagering: NFL

Thursday, 12:30pm

New England Patriots (-6.5) @ Detroit Lions with a total of 51;
On perception alone, this one is nearly an automatic play on the Lions. The Patriots are absolutely solid, but laying a TD on the road is a solid 1.5 points more than we should be seeing. You can thank Tom Brady's bonus time on ESPN for that. You can also thank New England picking up that monster win over Pittsburgh 2 weeks back and then hanging on to beat Peyton Manning last week (even though they failed to cover). You might even considering thanking the officials in the Detroit/Dallas game last week for gifting the Cowboys a touchdown on that missed horse-collar. But hey, they're the Lions, right? So, no one ends up caring. Well, we do. Detroit played far better than the final score indicated, and New England has a Monday Night Football date with the Jets coming up next week. This morning sandwich game for New England has "oopsies" written all over it.

Thursday, 4:15pm

New Orleans Saints (-3) @ Dallas Cowboys with a total of 50.5;
Who doesn't love New Orleans right now? Then again, who doesn't suddenly think Dallas is indestructible right now? Not a huge fan of a game where we have two hugely public teams facing off, especially when both teams are actually playing relatively well. I'm tempted to look at the Over, since both teams can definitely score, and the short week makes me think that teams won't have quite the amount of time necessary to gameplan on defense. This one is a fun game to watch, but not quite so to bet.

Thursday, 8:20pm

Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets (-8.5) with a total of 43.5;
This line probably looks inflated on the Jets side, but I'm not quite sure the Bengals haven't given up on the season. They got some turnovers early to run up 28 quick points on the Bills, but once the game settled down and Buffalo stopped turning the ball over, they demolished the Bengals. That defense just wasn't in the game, and why should I think they'll be involved in this one. They only have 2 days to prepare, since they'll probably travel Wednesday, and the Jets can put up some numbers when they actually care to. I suppose the concern is that the Jets might, like the Pats above, be playing with one eye on that Monday Night game with New England. And, truth be told, even though the Bengals might have given up on the season, the Jets aren't actually "trying" until the 4th quarter, or so it seems. So, we might just see a game where no one does anything with urgency until midway through the second half. That makes covering 9 points tough, and it makes field goals seem relevant early on.

Sunday, 1pm

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins (-1.5) with a total of 43;
The Vikings can't look a whole lot worse, and they're still ranked as 1.5-point superior to the Skins on a neutral field. Brett Favre has an incredible impact on lines, since it seems like people just refuse to believe that Minnesota just isn't that good. Now, in terms of pure line value, Washington is probably the way to go. In terms of everything else, I wouldn't touch this game with a 45-foot pole. Yeah, I went down to OSH and picked up a better pole. The Vikings fired Brad Childress, and we saw what happened with Dallas when they disposed of their garbage. Will Minnesota respond in kind? Not a chance I want to take on either side of this one.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) @ Buffalo Bills with a total of 42;
The Steelers put a 32-point hurting on the Raiders last week, so they're not going to be much of a value anymore. The Bills are coming off a monster offensive showing, so they're not that tremendous of a value. This is a spot where we're weighing a public team that's currently a tad overrated against a non-public team that's as close to not-underrated as they'll get. This is definitely a coverable number for Pittsburgh, if they're focused. I can't help but think that Pittsburgh might have taken out its aggression last week against the Raiders. They have a game coming up with the Baltimore Ravens next week, so what, really, is the impetus to beat the pants off the Bills? If this line creeps up over a touchdown, it might be worth considering. A 1-score game is, to me, still a little tough.

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans with a total of N/A;
More coming soon as the QB situation unravels.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Giants (-9.5) with a total of 45.5;
I was actually blown away by this opening number, and, not surprisingly, before we can even write a blog 24 hours later, the line has come down a solid 2 points at some books. How far is too far, though? Jacksonville got away with murder last week, committing 6 turnovers and somehow still winning a game they simply had no business winning. Meanwhile, the Giants turned the ball over 5 times, and like normal, they lost. You just can't play like that and expect to win. So, how do these teams follow up? Jacksonville has a strong rushing attack, but Garrard looked a little out of sorts last week. Manning lost Hakeem Nicks, so he has to deal with a slew of backup receivers. There are a ton of questions to be answered from each team. At 9.5, I like Jacksonville. At the current number, it's a tough call. I think you still have to bank on Jacksonville playing til the final whistle.

Carolina Panthers @ Cleveland Browns with a total of N/A;
Coming soon!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Baltimore Ravens (-9.5) with a total of 42;
I'm not really sure how long it's going to take for the League to take notice of the Buccaneers, because this line is quite hefty. And, much like the Giants/Jags game above, the initial move on this puppy has been straight down, and precipitously. Some of that is because Tampa Bay put a shutout hurting on the Niners last weekend, but on the flip side, Baltimore put a severe 24-point beatdown on the hapless Panthers, as well. But the key point to take away from those games is that not only did the Ravens win the turnover battle, but two of those turnovers led directly to 14 points, and in the span of about 1 minute of football. So, really, they probably shouldn't have covered that game, and Tampa continues to outperform everyone's expectations. And now we're at that part of the season where you sort of "are what you are." Tampa believes in itself, and that team believes it can win every game. I like getting almost 2 scores with the dog.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) @ Chicago Bears with a total of 41.5;
That Bears defense is in for a rude awakening, here. After making Brett Favre look old and Tyler Thigpen look young, the Bears get to face, arguably, the scariest single player in the NFL as 3.5-point home underdogs. From a pure line value standpoint, there's no question that getting over a FG with a competent home team is succulent. The Bears have been running the ball more, executing quicker pass plays, more screens, and trying to limit Cutler's ability to give the game away. So, in effect, they've turned Jay Cutler into Kyle Orton. Congrats, Chicago. Hah. Did the Eagles deserve to cover that game against the Giants? Probably, given New York's turnover issues, the same issues that plague the Bears. However, if Chicago can take care of the ball, they can score on the Eagles defense, which is decent, but not tremendous. To me, there's a key number's worth of line value on this one. I'm not sure that's enough to fade Vick.

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons (Pk) with a total of 47.5;
I know we're supposed to focus more on just line value, but the initial move of this line has stood the hairs straight up on top of my head. Atlanta quickly moved to a 2.5-point home favorite, and there's really no obvious reason why, at least from looking at the last couple weeks. Both of these teams have been winning, and Green Bay has been causing teams to fire Head Coaches. Aaron Rodgers is nearly unstoppable, and Matt Ryan is lethal at home. How can we explain this line shift? To me, this game is going to be decided by 1 score. No one is going to get run out of the building, and neither team is going to be truly "out" of the game until it's over. In most cases, I'd take the underdog, but at less than a FG, the line move really makes you wonder. Also, you have to think that perhaps Green Bay looks a hair better than they are, thanks to playing two teams that seem to have given up on the season. The Packers defense has been coming on strong, and I still find the Falcons defense a little suspect. At a Pk, though, it's a value on Atlanta. At 2.5, it's probably off by a half point.

Sunday, 4:15pm

Miami Dolphins @ Oakland Raiders with a total of N/A;
QB controversy...

Kansas City Chiefs (-1) @ Seattle Seahawks with a total of 43;
This is an intriguing one, since you're basically looking at a pick'em game between the Chiefs, who peaked early, and now are sort of settling back into the middle of the pack, and the Seahawks, who can beat the Cardinals, but outside of that, they seem to be flailing a bit. Early in the year, Seattle was a great team to back at home and a poor team to back on the road, but lately, they're awfully tough to figure out. Some key turnovers led to a failed cover on the road in New Orleans, but Matt Hasselbeck is throwing the ball well and finding guys. I will give the Chiefs credit, though. They are a tough team, and they know this is a winnable game. They also strike me as the team that wants this one more. And even though this line might be inflated a tiny bit on Kansas City's side, I don't think it's near enough to warrant a play on either team. If you're betting this one, you're doing it for other reasons, and those, to me, point to KC.

St. Louis Rams @ Denver Broncos with a total of N/A;
Coming soon!

Sunday, 8:30pm

San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts with a total of N/A;
Coming soon!

Monday, 8:30pm

San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) @ Arizona Cardinals with a total of 38.5;
San Francisco got shut out and looked foolish last weekend in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and if that division weren't such a turd-show, we might be looking to fade the Niners in a season failure letdown spot. Instead, they take their traveling circus on the road to face an Arizona team that, really, can't look a whole lot worse. And this is Monday Night Football? You have to think the Cardinals are going to treat the National ESPN game like it's their superbowl, and the fact that the Niners open up as 5.5 points better than any team on a neutral field is still a joke.

Golden State Brick

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sports Wagering: NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers (-5.5) with a total of 201;
If any game has letdown written on it on today's card, you'd have to think it's this one. The Pacers play the Heat in Miami on Monday night (which will be starting about 3 hours from the time I compose this paragraph), and, barring the Pacers getting completely blown out, coming home to host the "restructured" Cavaliers just doesn't have that same ring as heading on the road to tackle LeBron and his gang of kingly sorts. The Pacers are a team on the rise, there's zero question about that, and last night's game was serving as something of a proving ground -- how will they play against some of the best? And now, to go from playing LeBron's new team to his old, it has all the makings of a game where the Pacers are lackadaisical on defense and just try to outshoot their opponent. This, of course, plays right into Byron Scott's offensive-minded team. And when teams just trade buckets for 48 minutes, the one catching 5.5 points usually covers. Add to that the notes that the Cavs are coming off 2 days of rest and the Pacers could be rather tuckered and that Indiana walloped the Cavs in Cleveland a week ago, by 14 points, and you've got yourself a nice little blend of scheduling, situational, and energy angles. Lean to CAVALIERS and OVER.

Atlanta Hawks (-2.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of a 191.5;
Some might look at this game with the same sentiment as the game above, but I'm not so sure the angles in this one don't balance a tad more. Yes, the Hawks have a big game with Boston on their Monday night schedule, but Atlanta's real "beef" is with Orlando. Boston is a solid opponent, but Atlanta has shown that they can out-athletic the Celtics when they have had to. Heck, the Hawks actually swept the 4-game series from Boston last year. The Celtics were significantly more banged up then than they are this year, though here we are again, Boston without Rajon Rondo (most likely)...in any case, we'll see how that game turns out, but my main point is that I don't believe Atlanta is "getting up" for Boston like they have in the past. Atlanta is confident they can beat the Celtics, and when you approach a game like any other, it minimizes that potential letdown. On the Jersey side, they return home off a marginally successful road trip, marked by being competitive in most games and nabbing a win against the worst team in the NBA (Clippers). So, first game home against arguable letdown - which side do we prefer? To be perfectly honest, New Jersey's slow tempo and all pick-and-roll offense might not work that well against the Hawks. Atlanta can switch just about everything because of sheer athleticism, and the Hawks are a good rebounding team. It happens from time to time, but I like the square HAWKS and the UNDER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Washington Wizards with a total of N/A;
On John Wall, we wait. In the meantime, Gilbert Arenas is destroying. Unfortunately, the Wizards still don't play any defense, so they count on knocking down more shots than their opponent to win, and that's a tough way to take games against anyone better than you. Lucky for Washington, Philadelphia stinks. The Sixers do have reason for optimism, though, in that Andre Iguodala is slated to return from his Achilles injury in this one, and they have desperately needed their playmaker. We've seen nice things from Evan Turner so far this year, and Jrue Holiday is slowly improving, but Spencer Hawes has been terrible. Though, really, when I look at this team, they should win a few games. Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young make for a rather potent scoring duo off the bench, and Elton Brand is playing his best basketball in years. At some point, something is going to click, and Philly is going to rattle off a few wins, but it's tough to pinpoint precisely when that's going to be. Playing some defense might help. But I digress - without John Wall - or, even with him - Washington is going to be frightfully inconsistent this year, and are going to be a tough, tough team to 'cap outside of the obvious scheduling or situational spots. NO LEAN on the side, UNDER lean on total.

Charlotte Bobcats @ New York Knicks (-3) with a total of 205.5;
It's home-and-home time, which means we're in line for at least one bet. These are some of the best value spots of the entire season, so let's just keep our microscopes at the ready. And, with this one, it's on back-to-back days, as well, so that should only make our jobs a tiny bit easier. As far as betting the opener, you guys know my normally conservative stance on the first game of the two - watch and learn. However, if you're feeling spicy, there are a few angles that might point to the road teams doing damage in this home-and-home. First, the Bobcats are coming off a nice respite, not having played since Saturday, and I'm not sure that game should even count as playing. Charlotte clubbed the defenseless Suns, and this team is quietly starting to play better. I'm tempted to just start backing them indiscriminately, so we don't miss the value. It's there, and it's going to start dwindling at some point. New York, additionally, is coming off a wildly successful swing out west, picking up a hard-fought loss in Denver before punching the Kings, Warriors and Clippers in their respective guts. But, coming home off a bonding road trip is even harder than coming home off a poor trip. This is a cross-country travel lag-game, with a team they know they're going to be playing again tomorrow, and I rather doubt the Knicks get to shoot 50+ free throws again. Look at passing on this one, but if you must, CHARLOTTE and UNDER.

Detroit Pistons @ Dallas Mavericks (-10) with a total of 192;
What more can I say? Dallas just continues to find ways to lose ATS at home and win on the road. It just gets sillier with every few games. The last time we talked about Dallas, they were about to host the Chicago Bulls, and promptly lost that game outright. Then, over the weekend, the Mavericks rolled into Atlanta and picked up another tough road win. So, now, back home and laying big points to a slightly-better-than-people-think Pistons team, what could possibly move us off the underdog? The Mavericks play tomorrow in Oklahoma City, a much more compelling game than this one. The Pistons don't really have look-aheads or letdowns, since they're not at odds with any particular team since they, well, got bad. Detroit does play again tomorrow, too, but in Memphis, and the results of this game will play a nice roll in preparing us for that one. Look for Detroit to continue to do just enough, and look for Dallas to continue taking their foot off the gas at just the right times. Lean to DETROIT and the UNDER.

Chicago Bulls @ Los Angeles Lakers (-9) with a total of 203.5;
I know I should be excited about this game, but I'm not, really. Fact is, no one can stop the Lakers offense. They score over 100 almost without fail, and they do it without having to run all that much. It's pretty amazing. So, as a Laker fan, I have no issues. As a man who is hunting for value, I'd like to point to the rather large line and say that Chicago is in business, but the Lakers are on one of those ATS rolls right now, and I'd be a little cautious, even with the line at this extremely large number. The Lakers have covered 4 straight, including demolishing the Warriors on Sunday night, and when LA gets going (and plays defense), they can beat any team in the League by 15 on any night. So, it is with some reticence that I offer the alternative - just watch the Lakers, and as soon as it looks like they're going back to just "playing B+ basketball," fade away. It tends to happen in waves with LA, too. They failed to cover opening night due a clear lack of focus, then rattled off 4 straight covers. Then, they started to relax and went 1-4 ATS. Since Phoenix dropped 22 treys on LA, they've pounded 4 teams. So, just keep an eye on LA, and when they start letting teams creep back into games, that's when we pounce. This could very well be that night, so don't let me completely talk you out of betting Chicago, but I've watched this Lakers team long enough to know that it's best to ride streaks and not try to jump in front of them. NO LEAN on side, total lean OVER.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 5

Weekend Recap: A full, complete, unmitigated disaster everywhere you look. When it rains, it pours, and we managed to find ways to pick losers in some of the most insane ways possible.

The Hoosiers were covering by 10 points with 1 quarter to play, and promptly committed 3 straight turnovers to blow it.

The Clippers let the Knicks shoot over 50 free throws in a regulation length game to give away what should have been a very winnable game.

The Browns forced 6 Jacksonville turnovers (yes, SIX!) and then let Maurice Jones-Drew break off a 75-yard screen pass to blow another cover.

And the nightcap...oh, the nightcap. Eli Manning and the Giants turned the ball over 5 times, but were still a 4th down stop away from, most likely, forcing the Eagles to run some clock and beat them with a FG. Then, with an opportunity to get back into it, Manning fell to the ground on a run and simply lost the ball.

We picked a team with a +6 margin that lost, and a team with a -3 margin that lost. We got beat by Joe Paterno airing it out with a 10-point lead and 3 minutes left. We lost on a 50-yard TD run on 4th-and-1.

Simply, no matter what we tried, we got kicked squarely in the groin. It was the kind of 2-day stretch that can bankrupt a man with no money management. It was the kind of weekend that makes the previous 9 super-successful weekends seem like they never happened.

But, fortunately, they did. And while this weekend makes us all a little more suicidal than we were on Friday, we will live to bet another day.

Today:

Audio Feature: The last couple weeks we featured the likes of our NBA Season Preview Podcast, and the home base of podcasting, PregamePodcasts.com.

Staying with the theme of podcasts, this week's feature is the College Football Weekly Show (with guest Pro, Sac Lawson) -- the College Football season is starting to wind down, and folks not taking a listen for late-season strategies are missing out. Monday through Wednesday I'll be featuring last week's show as a teaser, then we'll switch it up for this coming weekend on Thursday.

Pro Features: The Weekly Package got the spotlight last week, but this week I want to point everyone's attention to the ultra-cheap FLEX ACCESS PACKAGE -- just $195 for a full month of all sports. And don't tell, but you can actually switch Pros 3 times!

And, of course, the daily package -- I'm not touching that Broncos/Chargers game. This is a week to get back to grinding out line value in the NFL, so we'll step back and reassess for week 12. Thus, it's off to the hardwood!

Now, read the damn blog...

Sports Wagering: NBA

Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of N/A;
The only note that stands out about this line-less game is that Boston, so far this year, has been a whole lot slower on the second half of back-to-backs, which hurts their team defense, and hurts their outside shooting. This game, too, the young legs might be hurt. Rajon Rondo missed the game yesterday morning in Toronto, so the engine for the Celtics is making plunking noises, and you have to wonder how they'll handle a fairly physical team like Atlanta. It also strikes me that the Hawks probably want this one more than Boston, but that might be stretching our assumptions too far. Bottom line is that because Boston played yesterday morning, they actually have almost a day and a half to rest up for this one, so the legs might actually be alright, but the line is going to be adjusted 2 points regardless. Too many competing angles, in my opinion, but I will say that I wouldn't be surprised to see some shooting issues for both teams in a heated contest. NO LEAN on the side, lean to the UNDER.

Indiana Pacers @ Miami Heat with a total of N/A;
I would assume this line is off because of the injury to Dwyane Wade. I almost hope he plays through pain, because I feel like his presence will inflate the line to a spot where Indiana has a hope of covering. In my mind, I'm seeing Miami winning this game by just under 10 points, and with Wade playing, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one open near 11. With him out, I'm not sure. Looking at the schedule, this game looks like a potential play on the Pacers. Indiana is coming off a hard-fought home loss to the Magic, but they played their butts off, and actually played some defense. The Pacers also host the Cavaliers tomorrow, which is a trademark letdown game off contests with Orlando and Miami. That makes me think Indiana is going to be amped to play in the House of Kings. On Miami's side, they return home off a disappointing loss in Memphis, and most folks are going to back the Heat on the remedial logic that they "won't look bad two games in a row." However, Miami plays in Orlando in their next contest in a revenge game for the Magic, and you have to think that game is on LeBron's mind. Let's wait on injury news and the opening number, but if things go the way we want, lean to PACERS and the UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
More injury woes, we must be in the middle of the NBA season...or getting there. Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are both game time decisions on this one, so we'll know more soon. The things to remember about this one. The Thunder, with or without superstars, just collected monster road wins in Boston and Milwaukee, and their very next game is with the road warrior Dallas Mavericks. Doesn't this Minnesota home game feel like the perfect spot to relax the sphincter for a day? I'd be very surprised if Oklahoma City played with the same tenacity in this game that they exhibited in their two most recent road wins, or even the two victories prior over Utah and Houston. The thing that does concern me here is that Minnesota has failed to cover their last 2 games, narrowly beating the hapless Clippers before getting smoked by the Lakers. Those 2 ATS losses followed 5 straight ATS wins, so I can't help but think that the Wolves aren't getting such inflated lines right now. Still, they're competing most nights, as Michael Beasley can get his own shot, and Kevin Love is a monster on the boards. The Thunder do a lot of their rebounding by outjumping other teams, so Love should have a shot to get a few off the offensive glass. Slight lean to MINNESOTA, and lean to OVER.

Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets with a total of N/A;
More injury concerns. Will Steve Nash go? Can the Suns compete without him? Are the Rockets really this bad? This could very well be a battle of the ugly if Nash is out. Teams that don't give a flying [censored] about defense just trying to outscore the other. We all know Nash is the issue for the Suns, but Houston's issue is the bench. I had the displeasure of watching a Houston game on Friday, and what absolutely floored me was how pathetic this team looked when the second unit was on the floor. I think hot shooting from Chase Budinger in a few games has masked what is otherwise a terrible bench. Kyle Lowry got inserted into the starting lineup due to Aaron Brooks' injury, and with Yao out, guys have to play out of position. The end result is that they have zero firepower coming off the bench, and if the opponent has ANY, those first 4 minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarters can be disastrous. If Nash is healthy, the Suns have a decent second unit. If Nash is out, the whole ship goes down with him. Tiny lean to PHOENIX, but PASS if Nash is injured, and NO LEAN on total.

Orlando Magic @ San Antonio Spurs (-3.5) with a total of 196;
Wow, apparently the World really loves the Spurs. I suppose San Antonio hasn't given them any reason not to, winning 11 of their first 12 games, including a dominant defensive effort in Utah, and then a beating of the Cavaliers back home the next night. This game will be a real test for the Spurs, playing, arguably, their best competition of the season...but something tells me they'll be up for it. The Magic have a nice record so far this year, but haven't really been that impressive. They rely very heavily on the 3-point shot, same as always, but it just seems like the older bodies are 1 year older, and Rashard Lewis is one year closer to going the way of Hedo Turkoglu. The interior defense is always going to be decent, with Howard near the rim, but the Spurs have a very clever set of schemes to attack most defenses. I will say, the Magic defend the pick-and-roll about as well as any team in the NBA, so we'll see if the Spurs try a few things. One thing is for sure, they'll be trying to get Dwight Howard in foul trouble. Covering 3.5 isn't easy in a tough game, and I worry that we're starting to see a little inflation. Even still, I think the Spurs have the chemistry advantage. Tiny lean to SAN ANTONIO, lean to the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Utah Jazz (-11) with a total of 199.5;
This is a very, very tough spot for the Kings. They played Sunday evening and got locked in an ugly defensive struggle with the New Orleans Hornets that they lost, but covered by a point. Then, they had to hop a plane and head into the altitude in Utah to take on the Jazz. Utah is coming off a nice win in Portland on Saturday, and I must admit, the potential for a letdown here is the one thing keeping me off that Utah side. It's a huge number, and probably inflated even more by the fact that the Kings have been stinking, but those second games in altitude are just a disaster for most teams. We saw the Nets handle themselves pretty well in Denver in just such a spot, but the Nets play a slower game, and the Nuggets are notorious for half-assing games, at least this year. The Jazz are not. Jerry Sloan would not stand for a weak effort, so the thought process is basically that if Utah wants to, they can win this game by 15-20. But off the win in Portland and with a game against New Orleans on the horizon, I am a little scared that we'll see 45 minutes of strong play, which might be enough for a 10-point win, but maybe not 15. Still, situationally, lean to UTAH and the UNDER.

Denver Nuggets @ Golden State Warriors with a total of N/A;
I'm having trouble, after watching the Nuggets in a few games this year, backing this Denver team if they're not personally invested in a game. They're not running and gunning like in years past, and I can't help but feel like they believe they've peaked. Chauncey isn't shooting like he used to, and can't defend like he used to, which has led to Denver becoming a little weak in the pick-and-roll defensively. The Nets exploited that all night long, and the Warriors run an absolute ton of pick and roll plays. Though, for the most part, the ball-handler just drives wildly to the rim and hopes someone else comes open. In truth, I don't think the Nuggets really care enough to cover most big lines, but against a team that doesn't really play any defense, this is just the type of game where Denver might actually play well. Just out and messing around. If David Lee was healthy, and the Warriors had their full complement of "tough guys" I'd lean in their direction, but given the issues that both teams have (mental vs. physical), it's hovering dangerously close to stay-away. Tiny lean to WARRIORS and OVER.

New Orleans Hornets (-6.5) @ Los Angeles Clippers with a total of 197.5;
This is another game where, if the better team cares, they should win by a mile. The Clippers are just plain awful, and the only thing they have going is that Blake Griffin is a beast. The Hornets, though, have a couple large bodies on the interior that can do some boxing out. The Hornets have some big games coming up in Utah and Portland on this 4-game road trip, and while I know this line might be inflated (on the back end of a b2b), I just can't back the Clippers. Add to all that the fact that the Hornets are a perfect 8-0 SU and ATS against the Clippers the last 3+ years, and you've got yourself another series featuring "ownage." Just leave the sharp side alone in this one, and barring this one comes way, way down, avoid the square side, too. NO LEAN on the side, total lean to the UNDER.
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