Thursday, September 5, 2019

NFL Preview: Season Begins Tonight as the Bears host the Packers

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears open the 2019 NFL season with an NFC North showdown on Thursday Night Football.
The Bears have been bet down to 3-point favorites after opening at -4, while the total has risen one point. But do either offer value? Are Aaron Rodgers and the Packers being undervalued with Matt LaFleur taking over the helm? Or can the reigning division champion Bears cover this spread with ease?
Our experts break down the season opener from every angle, including game-defining matchups and how they’ll look to bet it.

Packers-Bears Injury Report

Given it’s the first week of the season, both teams enter this game quite healthy. The only true question mark is Bears tight end Trey Burton (groin). He’s been limited in practice, and head coach Matt Nagy called Burton a game-time decision earlier in the week.
If Burton is ruled out, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker would be the next men up. Fantasy implications are minimal from an injury perspective for this game. — Justin Bailey

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Bears -3
  • Projected Total: 46
This line opened Bears -4 and has parked on a key number at -3.
The Packers earned an A in my preseason Buy/Sell Ratings while the Bears earned a D-minus. By default, this leads me to believe the public (and even myself) are letting luck-driven factors from last season to underrate the Packers and overrate the Bears.
If the line were to move at all, at this point, I would think it’s more likely to go back to -3.5 — I’m going to wait and see if that happens before pulling the trigger on the Packers here.
The total is just a tad higher than my projection. And while I wouldn’t say there are significant key numbers for totals — like we see with 3 and 7 for spreads — the gap from 46 to 47 is worth noting. If this total were to be bet up to 47.5, that would offer enough value on the under to trigger a bet.
The Bears defense should still be elite under new coordinator Chuck Pagano, but I expect the Packers to take a leap forward after bolstering their defense with high draft capital and via free agency. — Sean Koerner

Biggest Mismatch

Packers WR Geronimo Allison vs. Bears CB Buster Skrine
Season-to-season regression in the parity-filled NFL is vicious and the Bears are one of my top candidates for negative regression in 2019. They benefited from extreme turnover splits (+12), health luck and one of the easiest schedules — all while going 6-4 in one-possession games.
Meanwhile, the Packers could be one of the most improved teams. They went 3-6 in one-score games, had a dead-even turnover differential and horrible injury luck on defense. (Rodgers was also not healthy.)
This is a passing league and the Chicago secondary was nothing short of elite in 2018 while Green Bay struggled. Well, the Packers secondary should be significantly better for a number of reasons.
1. Their corners are older and more experienced. Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson were thrown into the fire as rookies. The 2018 first-and second-round picks should benefit immensely from that experience. The same can be said about 2017 second-rounder Kevin King, who’s healthy after dealing with injuries the past two years.
2. The Packers added plus-edge rushers in Za’Darius and Preston Smith. The increased pressure should obviously aid the secondary.
3. Most importantly, the safety group should be dramatically better. Safeties are critical in every defense in today’s NFL and maybe even more so in coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. And the Packers safeties were nothing short of a disaster in 2018. Per Pro Football Focus, of the 65 who played a minimum of 300 snaps, Tramon Williams and Kentrell Brice ranked 62nd and 65th in opposing QB rating, respectively. Williams allowed a staggering 150.1 QB rating — 18 points higher than the second-worst. Well, the Packers overhauled the position, bringing in one of the NFL’s best (Adrian Amos) and drafting first-rounder Darnell Savage, who should fit perfectly into Pettine’s robber position.
Now the Bears will still have an elite secondary, one of the NFL’s top five, but it will take a step back with the losses of Amos and Bryce Callahan in the slot.
That brings us to the most important matchup for Thursday night.
You could (rightfully) focus on Khalil Mack against one of the best offensive lines. You could also focus on Tarik Cohen receiving out of the backfield, a major weakness for the Packers defense last season.
But the slot matchup between Allison and Skrine could determine the outcome of this game.
Geronimo Allison
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Geronimo Allison, Kyle Fuller
The Bears have two outstanding corners in Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller on the outside to matchup with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Davante Adams. And even though he’s a downgrade from Amos, HaHa Clinton-Dix is still capable of taking care of an aged Jimmy Graham.
The luxury the Bears will not have is an outstanding slot corner. And not only did they lose Callahan, they replaced him with one of the NFL’s worst slot corners in Skrine.
Among 22 corners with a minimum of 250 snaps in the slot last season, Callahan ranked No. 1 in yards per snap at 0.69 (413 snaps). That’s more than half of how many Skrine allowed (1.52 in 354 snaps), making him the second-worst of the 22. Skrine was also the third-worst in coverage among 86 cornerbacks with a minimum of 300 snaps.
Callahan’s PFF grades the past two seasons were 81.3 and 77.7 compared to Skrine’s 65.9 and 57.3. This is clearly the weak link in the Bears’ secondary and a matchup the Packers must exploit. — Stuckey

PRO System Match

Underdogs have historically performed well in division games as increased familiarity among opponents keeps games competitive, and it’s been profitable to bet small dogs in these matchups to win outright.
Even though teams matching this Pro System have a losing record (105-112-2), we’re still able to turn a profit because we’re making plus-money bets. A $100 gambler would have returned a profit of $4,172 following this strategy since 2003.
The Packers +3 are a match for this Pro System in the opening game of the season. — John Ewing

Expert Pick

Stuckey: Packers +7 or Better Live
I like the Packers and might play them pregame, especially if a +3.5 or +4 pops up again. But I’m most interested in grabbing them live if the Bears get off to a hot start, which they did quite frequently last season.
Plus, it might take a few drives for the new Packers offense to get into a rhythm, especially since Rodgers didn’t play during the preseason. They might need to work out a few kinks, get the timing down and shake the rust over the first few drives.
The Bears offense enjoyed a ton of success in the first quarter as a result of Mitch Trubisky performing significantly better during the scripted plays portion of a game.
Also, the Packers allowed 6.5 points per 1Q (worst), while the Bears only allowed 2.4 (second-best). However, despite all of the Packers struggles and injuries on D, Green Bay actually performed better than the elite Bears defense in the third quarter (3.8 v 4.3), which speaks to solid Pettine adjustments. The same story holds by half.
Defensive Scoring By Half in 2018:
  • First half: Bears 5.8 (first); Packers 14.7 (29th)
  • Second half: Bears 11.4 (16th); Packers 10.3 (11th)
Dream pick: Packers +7 or better live, but I’d also jump at +4.5.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Free College Football Selection: 2nd-Ranked Alabama and Duke Square Off in Season Opener

Second-ranked Alabama begins pursuit of its fifth consecutive College Football Playoff championship appearance when it faces Duke on in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. Game time is set for 12:30 p.m. PT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Crimson Tide is a -33 point favorite. The total is 57.

Last season marked Alabama's fourth 14-win campaign during Nick Saban's tenure. However t
he Crimson Tide lost to Clemson in last season's title game after winning two of the previous three national crowns.

DUKE (2018: 8-5) Senior Quentin Harris is the new quarterback and has big shoes to fill after Daniel Jones was selected sixth overall in the NFL draft by the New York Giants. The Blue Devils allowed an average of 27.4 points last season and suffered a recent blow when senior linebacker Koby Quansah, a team captain with 102 career tackles, suffered a fractured right thumb that will sideline him indefinitely.

ALABAMA (2018: 14-1): The Crimson Tide are stacked offensively. Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season after a spectacular campaign that included 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Jerry Jeudy is one of the nation's top wideouts after catching 68 passes for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns, while fellow junior Najee Harris (783 yards in 2018) opens the campaign as the main ball carrier. 

Alabama has won three of the previous four meetings, the most recent being a 62-13 rout in 2010. Take 'Bama to win another one over the Blue Devils and cover the spread in the process.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

NCAA Football Free Play: Take Colorado in Friday battle with CSU

In-state rivals Colorado and Colorado State open their respective seasons with a non-conference clash in Denver. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. PT at Broncos Stadium, home of the NFL Denver Broncos, where the Buffaloes are favored by -13.5. The total is . With only one winning season since 2005, Colorado has turned to a new coach in first-time head coach Mel Tucker. The former Georgia defensive coordinator makes his debut Friday night as the Buffaloes tangle with rival Colorado State at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver.

Colorado is coming off back-to-back 5-7 finishes and parted ways with Mike MacIntyre after six seasons late last fall. Enter Mel Tucker, who has spent the last three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator and was at Alabama for one season (2015) and served as an NFL assistant in the 10 seasons prior to that. 

There are also increased expectations at Colorado State, which is coming off its first losing season (3-9) in the last six years and is looking to get back on track in head coach Mike Bobo’s fifth season.

COLORADO (2018: 5-7): The Buffs have brought up the rear in the Pac-12 South Division in each of the last two seasons and are predicted to finish last again in the preseason conference media poll. Offensively, senior quarterback Steven Montez is back for his third full season as the team’s starter and will have one of the nation’s best weapons at his disposal in dynamic junior wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards, added 115 rushing yards and totaled 11 touchdowns in nine games before his season was cut short by a toe injury. Defensively, Colorado brings back only four starters, highlighted by junior linebacker Nate Landman(123 total tackles in 2018) and junior defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson (73 total tackles, including nine for losses).

COLORADO STATE (2018: 3-9) The Rams are picked to finish fifth for the second straight season in the six-team Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Much better health fortune, though, is expected for Bobo, who last season dealt with foot numbness caused by a peripheral neuropathy, and he’ll have a returning quarterback to work with in junior Collin Hill, who took the reins in the second half of last season and will be out to improve on his 7:7 TD-to-interception ratio. Defensively, the Rams return six starters from a unit which ranked second to last in the Mountain West and 117th nationally with 36.8 points allowed per game.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thursday Free MLB: Cubs vs. Reds

Take Chicago Cubs -127 over Cincinnati Reds (4:10 p.m. PT Thursday, August 8)

The Cincinnati Reds go for their fourth straight victory when they host the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a four game series. First pitch is slated for 4:10 p.m. PT at Great American Ballpark where the Cubs are -127 moneyline favorites. The total is 9.

Chicago (62-52, 21-23 road) routed Oakland on Wednesday 10-1 for their fifth victory in six tries. The win bolstered the Cubs lead to 3.5 games in the National League Central.

Cincinnati (54-58, 31-26 home) has taken eight of its last 11 to move within seven games of Chicago and 4.5 back of Philadelphia for the second wild card.

It will be a battle of lefthander’s in the series opener as Cole Hamels goes for the Cubs and Alex Wood throws ‘em down for the Reds.

Hamels (6-3, 2.84 ERA) was on the injured list for over a month (oblique strain) but returned on Saturday working five scoreless innings in a win over Milwaukee. He’s allowed just five earned runs in 42 innings over his last seven outings, dating back to June 2.

Wood (1-0, 3.18 ERA) who spent four months on the injured list (back) will be making just his third start of the season. He won his lone start against Chicago last season, surrendering two earned runs in seven innings.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Angels Vie for 6th Straight Win Against Toronto

Andrew Heaney gets the call Wednesday in Toronto
By Bob Harvey

Take Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays over 10 (4:07 p.m. PT Wednesday, June 19)

The LA Angels of Anaheim try for a third straight victory in Toronto when they visit the Blue Jays. Game time is 4:07 p.m. PT at Rogers Centre where the Halos are -130 moneyline favorites. The total is 10.

Los Angeles (37-37, 18-19 road) has won six of its last eight, including Tuesday’s 3-1 victory, to reach the .500 mark for the first time since it was 8-8. Tyler Skaggs worked 7.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits for the victory while Kyle Calhoun and Brian Goodwin each homered.

Toronto (26-47, 12-24 home) has now lost five straight against the Angels allowing 10 homeruns in the process.

Andrew Heaney (0-1, 4.57 ERA) and Aaron Sanchez (3-8, 5.04 ERA) are slated to start.

Heaney is winless in four starts since being activated off the injured list. He has 30 strikeouts in 21.2 innings and is holding opponents to a .185 average on the season. However of the 15 hits he’s allowed, six of those have left the yard. Heaney will be making just his third career start vs. the Blue Jays.

Sanchez has lost seven straight decisions since beating Oakland on April 27. He's 1-4 with a 3.42 ERA in five career games against the Angels. He’s 1-5 with a 6.08 ERA on the road but has been much better at home (3.86 ERA).

The Angels are 17-6 in its last 23 games at Rogers Centre.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Friday Free NBA: Splash Brothers Reunite for Game 4 of the NBA Finals

Klay Thompson returns for Game 4 of the NBA Finals
Take Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors OVER 215 (6 p.m. PT Friday, June 7)

The Golden State Warriors expect both Splash Brothers to play in tonight’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. PT at Oracle Arena where the Warriors are -4.5 point favorites. The total is 215.

Golden State (70-31, 43-56 ATS, 36-14 home) played shorthanded in Wednesday’s 123-109 Game 3 defeat to Toronto. Klay Thompson missed the contest with a calf muscle injury but doctors have given him the green light to play tonight.

Without Thompson, Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney, Stephen Curry was a one-man show in Game 3 netting a game high 47 points for his sixth career playoff 40-point outing as well as securing eight rebounds and dishing out seven assists.

Toronto (72-31, 50-53 ATS, 31-19 road) is now two wins away from the first NBA title in franchise history and it can thank Kahwi Leonard for that. Leonard, who was a finals MVP in San Antonio, scored 30 points in the Game 3 win, his 13th 30-point outing of the postseason. 

The Raptors are now -120 favorites to win the NBA finals thus denying the Warriors a 3-peat. It marks the first time in three years that Golden State hasn’t been favored to win the title.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Short-handed Warriors Favored in Game 3 against Raptors

Golden State is hoping Klay Thompson will be available against Toronto
Take Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors under 213 (6 p.m. PT Wednesday, June 5)

The short-handed Golden State Warriors could be without one of their Splash Brothers when the NBA Finals resume in Oakland. Tip-off for Game 3 is set for 6 p.m. PT at Oracle Arena where the Warriors are -4.5 point favorites. The total is 213. The Bay Area ballers captured Game 2 in Toronto on Sunday 109-104  to square the best-of-seven series at a victory apiece.

Golden State (70-30, 43-55-2 ATS) is holding its breath regarding the status of Klay Thompson, who tweaked his left hamstring in Game 2. The Warriors are already without Kevin Durant (calf) and Kevon Looney who is out for the season with fractured ribs. So far the loss of Durant hasn’t been felt by the Dubs, in fact in the past three years, the Warriors are 35-5 straight up and 25-14-1 ATS when Steph Curry plays, but Kevin Durant doesn’t. In that situation, Golden State has won 32 of their last 34 games overall.

Toronto (71-31, 49-53 ATS) shot itself in the foot on Sunday night by not shooting well from the field (37 percent) Kawhi Leonard was 8 of 20 while the tandem of Pascal Siakam  and Kyle Lowry were a combined 9 of 29. Leonard finished with 34 points and 14 rebounds. He was 16 of 16 from the charity stripe.

During its five year playoff run, Golden State’s is 76-25 (75.3 percent) straight up and 56-44-1 (56 percent) ATS.

NFL Preview: Season Begins Tonight as the Bears host the Packers

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears open the 2019 NFL season with an NFC North showdown on Thursday Night Football. The Bears h...