NFL Underdogs: Week 4 pointspread picks and predictions

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There’s nothing like a good old fashion distraction to hide the ugliness. I do it with my screaming kids, the President does it to the media pretty much every week, and the New York Giants are doing it in Week 4 of the NFL season.

The talk of the Big Apple is rookie QB Daniel Jones and his triumphant debut as the Giants’ new starter, just squeaking out a victory at Tampa Bay last Sunday. Jones passed for two touchdowns and scrambled for two more, ushering in a new era for New York football and putting the dark days of Eli Manning under center to bed.

But while football fans fall in love with “Danny Dimes” they’re blinded to the fact that the G-Men have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. New York has allowed scores of 38, 28, and 31 points through three games, giving up 6.8 yards per play to opponents (second worst) and getting torched for 16 strikes of 20-plus yards, including allowing six plays of 40 yards or more.

When you’re hemorrhaging those kinds of gains, it’s a lot to ask a rookie passer – without his best weapon (Saquon Barkley out with high ankle sprain) – to pick up the slack. And honestly, had the Bucs made that last-second field goal in Week 3, this line could look very different (lookahead lines had Giants -2 before Week 3).

New York’s Week 4 opponents, the Washington Redskins, don’t exactly fill football bettors with confidence. Washington is playing on a short week after a rough home outing on Monday night, losing to a desperate Bears squad and falling to 0-3 on the season.

The Redskins are sitting near the Giants at the bottom of the defensive results, but some of the blame can be put on an offense that has turned the ball over five times in three games and has forced the stop unit to play more than 33 minutes per outing – fourth most in the league. With Barkley out of order, the New York offense (which is averaging a NFL-high 6.3 yards per run) becomes one-dimensional, allowing the Skins to focus on frustrating the rookie.

This line is starting to tick down at some books, so grab the Redskins at a field goal and brace for some ugliness.

PICK: Washington +3

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT DENVER BRONCOS (-3.5, 38.5)

Do we still think Denver has a good defense? Is that still a “thing”?

I’m not a huge stat head but the Broncos’ DVOA at FootballOutsiders has this unit ranked among the bottom feeders of the NFL. Denver is winless through three games, allowing 22.3 points per game despite giving up only 314 yards an outing (ninth in the NFL). What’s more, the Broncos have yet to record a single sack or takeaway in 2019. That’s bonkers.

A deeper dive shows that this methodical Broncos offense, which chews up nearly 32 minutes of clock, has worked to cloak those issue with the stop unit. Opponents have held possession for a mere 28 minutes a contest, scoring almost 0.8 points per minute or 0.4 points per play. The Broncos’ scoring attack has posted totals of 16, 14, and 16 through the first three weeks and runs into a solid Jacksonville defense in Week 4.

The Jaguars pass rush was the star of the show last Thursday, recording what seemed like 100 sacks (actually nine) against a Titans offense that looks pretty similar to the one the Jags will face in Denver Sunday. Broncos QB Joe Flacco has been sacked 11 times already this season, including five against the Packers last week.

As for the Jaguars offense and rookie Gardner Minshew, they benefit from a mini bye coming off the Thursday game in Week 3. That should help with Minshew’s maturation before this big road game as well as give RB Leonard Fournette some time to recharge after fighting through a frustrating night versus the Titans.

I’m taking the points against a 0-3 team that’s worse than it looks. And it looks pretty bad.

PICK: Jacksonville +3.5

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4, 43.5)

I’m back on the 0-3 Bengals and the points for the third time in three weeks. And why not?

Cincy woke up just in time to put 17 second-half points up versus the Bills and steal the cover as a 6-point pup at Buffalo last Sunday. In Week 1, the Bengals’ new up-tempo attack caught the Seahawks by surprise, and kept things close enough to cover the +9.5 as the visitors.

Those results improved Cincinnati to 13-5 ATS on the road going back to 2017, including an 11-5 ATS mark when getting the points in those away contests. And that’s where we find the coolest helmets in football again in Week 4: catching four as the road team on Monday Night Football.

While I love the pace of this Bengals offense, it was actually the defense that got the job done for bettors in the final two quarters against the Bills. The team showed sound tackling for the first time in a long time and kept the Buffalo runners between the hash marks.

Pittsburgh’s 24-20 result in San Francisco wasn’t as close as it seems. The Niners fumbled away the ball three times and Jimmy Garoppolo threw two interceptions, yet the Steelers offense managed only 239 total yards (second lowest for Week 3) and went 3 for 12 on third downs.

And as poor as the Pittsburgh offense is under backup QB Mason Rudolph, the Pittsburgh defense may just as bad. The Steelers were gashed for 21 second-half points by San Francisco and have allowed an average of 18.3 points in the final two frames so far in 2019.

Smells like another backdoor cover for my favorite underdogs.

PICK: Cincinnati +4

Week 3: 2-1 ATS
Season to date: 7-2 ATS

Unbeaten Aztecs to start hot, and the NCAA basketball best bets you need to make this weekend

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The San Diego State Aztecs will look to keep their perfect season going on Sunday, while Texas Tech and Kentucky tangle in a matchup between two Top-20 teams on Saturday night. Rohit Ponnaiya digs into the college basketball odds and brings you his favorite bets and predictions for the weekend.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

The game of the night Friday will take place in the Big East as Marquette tangles with Butler. After falling 76-61 to Villanova on Tuesday (which made us a bit of money), Butler has now lost three straight games after beginning the season with a 15-1 record. In Butler’s last three games they’ve allowed 112.3 points per 100 possessions and a large reason for that is that they’ve been sending opposing teams to the line. Over that three game span they’ve given foes an average of 26.7 free throw attempts per game.

That’s bad news against a Marquette squad that has scored at least 82 points in each of it’s last three games and is led by the leading scorer in the country in Markus Howard. Howard has averaged 35 points per game over his last five contests and has averaged 12.5 FTA over his last two. As a team the Golden Eagles know how to get to the line, attempting 23.6 free throws per game, 18th highest in the country. We like the Over 64.5 on Marquette’s team total. 

EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS

Two Top-20 teams face off in the Lone Star State on Saturday as the Kentucky Wildcats travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech at 6:00 p.m ET. This matchup should get plenty of action with the Red Raiders coming off a Final Four finish while Kentucky is…well Kentucky.

Texas Tech is coming off a road loss against TCU but is 9-1 at home. Chris Beard’s Red Raiders are known for their defensive intensity and this year’s squad ranks 7th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the KenPom rating system. That said, Kentucky ranks 42nd in defensive efficiency and 32nd in offensive efficiency (while Texas Tech ranks 97th on offense).

Kentucky has three guards (Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey) that love to apply pressure on opposing ball-handlers while also being able to create their own shot. With Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery, Calipari’s squad has a (pardon the pun) big edge in size and rebounding ability. And unlike past editions of the Wildcats, this team has plenty of veteran experience so don’t expect them to be rattled playing in hostile territory.

We’re expecting Texas Tech to have the chalk and backing UK as the likely underdog, but if public action makes the Wildcats the faves the value will be on the Red Raiders.

HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN DEVILS

It’s the battle of Arizona on Saturday night as the Arizona State Sun Devils host the Arizona Wildcats. These teams met up on January 4, with the Wildcats routing ASU by a score of 75-47. But don’t expect to see a repeat of that score with the Sun Devils now enjoying home-court advantage.

The Wildcats led by guard Nico Mannion and big man Zeke Nnaji are 13-5 but they have been very beatable when playing outside of Tucson. They’re 9-2 ATS at home but just 1-6 ATS on the road and at neutral sites. They have an average scoring margin of plus-26.6 ppg at home but that falls to minus-1 ppg away from home.

The Sun Devils also play way better in front of their home crowd, outscoring opponents by a margin of plus-15.7 ppg in Tempe, compared to minus-7.2 ppg when they have to travel. Take the home side to cover as underdogs.

THE LAST OF THE UNBEATENS

The last unbeaten team in the country are the No. 4 San Diego Aztecs who head to Vegas to take on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Sunday. The Aztecs have an aggressive defense and have been holding opponents to just 56.7 ppg on 36.7 percent shooting. But SDSU has been effective on the offensive end of the floor as well, ranking 14th in the country in offensive efficiency.

UNLV has been solid, winning seven of the their last nine games and going 6-3 ATS, but they might be out of their depth here. Their two losses during that span were by 14 points against Nevada and seven points against Boise State. The Aztecs beat Nevada by 13 points and clobbered BSU by 18 after leading by 23 points at halftime.

UNLV has been sloppy with the ball turning the ball over 14.6 times per game, second-worst among all Mountain West teams. SDSU has just 11.1 turnovers per game on offense while their pesky defense forces 15.2 TO per game. The full game spread might be a bit too rich for our blood but with the Aztecs fifth in the nation with an average first-half scoring margin of plus-9.2 ppg, look for them to cover the 1H spread. 

MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: DAYTON (17-2 SU, 11-8 ATS, 13-6 O/U)

Dayton is flying up the rankings currently sitting at No. 7. Their 17-2 record is even more impressive when you consider that both defeats were in overtime to quality opponents, falling 90-84 to Kansas and 78-76 to Colorado.

Led by forward Obi Toppin (19.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 62.3 percent shooting) the Flyers are first in the country in field goal percentage at 52.5 percent and rank third in scoring with 83 ppg. On Saturday they take on the Richmond Spiders who can also fill up the basket converting at a clip of 47.5 percent from the field, including a sizzling 57.6 percent from the floor over their last three games. The Over is worth looking at.

NATIONAL TITLE ODDS

Gonzaga isn’t a program to sleep on anymore, currently sitting at No. 1 in the polls and with the best odds to win the National Championship at +1000. The Zags have the top rated offense in the nation, putting up 88.8 ppg on 50.6 percent shooting and those numbers jump up to 93.5 ppg and 52.5 percent at home.

On Saturday, Gonzaga hosts Pacific and will probably be favored by more than 20 points. Gonzaga is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings at home between the two teams dating back to 2016, and the average score of those games was 80-52 in favor of Gonzaga.

If you want to look at a team that’s tumbled down the odds board look no further than the Memphis Tigers who came into the season at +1300 after a terrific recruiting class. After top freshman James Wiseman was suspended and then chose to leave the school, Memphis has looked ugly, coming off a 80-40 smackdown at the hands of Tulsa on Wednesday night. The Tigers currently sit at +6000 odds and even that might be generous. Memphis will try to get back on track on Saturday as they host SMU.

BETTING TRENDS

• By holding Memphis to just 40 points, Tulsa managed to cash the Under for the sixth game in a row. The Golden Hurricanes are 15-4 to the Under and will take on UConn on Sunday. Thanks to a defense that ranks inside the Top-50 teams in the country in opponent FG percentage and an offense that ranks outside the Top-250 in FG percentage, the Huskies have also been a great Under bet, going below the total in 12 of their last 16 contests.

• Virginia has been awful on offense, terrific on defense and plays at the slowest pace in Div 1. But oddsmakers might set the total for their Sunday matchup on the road against Wake Forest a tad too low. The Demon Deacons have gone 8-0-1 to the Over in their last nine games and are 7-1 O/U at home this season.

• Austin Peay is 7-0 ATS in their last seven games overall and is a perfect 6-0 ATS at home this season. On Saturday, the Governors will host the Belmont Bruins in a Ohio Valley Conference matchup. The Bruins are coming off a 10-point loss on the road against Murray State and have failed to cover in their last two away contests.

NHL Midseason betting review: Stanley Cup futures odds and best bets

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With the NHL heading into the All-Star break we take a look the updated futures odds to win the Stanley Cup as well as the best and worst teams to wager on in terms of Moneyline, Puckline and Over/Under bets.

Despite Washington leading the way for the Presidents’ Trophy this season, Tampa Bay still has the best odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are followed by the Boston Bruins and the defending Stanley Cup champions the St. Louis Blues.

On the other hand, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fallen outside the Top-5 and now sit at +2000, while the San Jose Sharks have plummeted from a Stanley Cup contender to a +8000 long shot.

Here are every teams’ odds to win the Stanley Cup, courtesy of the Superbook at Westgate:

Teams Odds to win Stanley Cup (as of Jan 23)
Tampa Bay Lightning +600
Boston Bruins +800
St. Louis Blues +800
Washington Capitals +1,000
Colorado Avalanche +1,000
Vegas Golden Knights +1,000
Pittsburgh Penguins +1,200
Dallas Stars +1,200
Arizona Coyotes +1,600
Florida Panthers +2,000
Toronto Maple Leafs +2,000
Vancouver Canucks +2,000
Edmonton Oilers +2,500
Calgary Flames +2,500
New York Islanders +4,000
Carolina Hurricanes +4,000
Nashville Predators +4,000
Columbus Blue Jackets +4,000
Philadelphia Flyers +5,000
Winnpeg Jets +5,000
Minnesota Wild +6,000
San Jose Sharks +8,000
Montreal Canadiens +10,000
New York Rangers +10,000
Buffalo Sabres +10,000
Chicago Blackhawks +10,000
Los Angelas Kings +50,000
Anahiem Ducks +100,000
Ottawa Senators +200,000
New Jersey Devils +200,000
Detroit Red Wings +1,000,000

The Capitals don’t just have the best record in the league, they’ve also been the best Over bet as well as the top team to back on the moneyline returning a profit of +9.35 units for bettors this season.

Thanks to rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins and a group of forwards that can’t find the back of the net, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been the NHL’s best Under bet. The top team to back on the puckline as a favorite has been the surprising Vancouver Canucks who lead the Pacific Division.

While the Golden Knights were sweating sportsbooks when they made their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago, oddsmakers have made some of that money back this season as the Knights have been the second-worst money team in the league. The Knights are still way ahead of Detroit who has cost bettors dearly with a loss of almost 20 units.

BEST OVER BETS

Teams Over/Under
Washington Capitals 31-18
Florida Panthers 30-17
Nashville Predators 28-17
Toronto Maple Leafs 28-18
Tampa Bay Lightning 27-20

BEST UNDER BETS

Teams Over/Under
Colombus Blue Jackets 18-32
Dallas Stars 16-29
Carolina Hurricanes 21-29
San Jose Sharks 21-28
Calgary Flames 20-27

BEST MONEY BETS

Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Washington Capitals $935
New York Islanders $700
Colombus Blue Jackets $605
Pittsburgh Penguins $596
New York Rangers $567

WORST MONEY BETS

Teams Total Money Won (based on 100$ bets)
Detroit Red Wings $-1992
Las Vegas Golden Knights $-1010
Los Angelas Kings $-916
San Jose Sharks $-895
Toronto Maple Leafs $-829

BEST PUCKLINE TEAMS AT -1.5 

Teams Total Money Won as Puckline Favorite (PL record as favorite)
Vancouver Canucks $840 (11-12)
Colorado Avalanche $771 (14-14)
Chicago Blackhawks $480 (7-8)
Florida Panthers $410 (13-17)
New York Rangers $375 (5-5)