29 October 2013

Roundtable: NBA Win Totals - Western Conferece

By Pauly
New York City

Here is our roundtable on NBA Eastern Conference Win Totals.

"Fear the beard?"

Out in the wild wild west... The Los Angeles Clippers are the team to beat, but they'll have intense competition for the #1 seed from an aging San Antonio team and an Oklahoma City squad without Russell Westbrook for a quarter of the season. Even mid-level teams like Golden State, Memphis and Houston will be formidable opponents. The West also has a handful of young teams (New Orleans, Portland and Minnesota) jockeying for the last two playoff spots. Meanwhile, Dallas is hoping Dirk Nowitzki still has some gas left in the tank to make a run at the postseason, and the high-flying Denver Nuggets have a new coach with Brian Shaw. Then there's the Lakers, who will go as far as hobbled Kobe Bryant takes them. Although the West is stacked this season, they also have three really bad teams -- Utah, Phoenix, and Sacramento -- that could easily lose 50+ games

The LVH sportsbook in Vegas released these lines at the start of October...


L.A. Clippers — 57
2012-13 Record: 57-25
Championship Odds: 8-1

Pauly: UNDER - The Clippers have top billing in Hollywood these days. After winning 57 games last year, the Clippers were embarrassed by Memphis and bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Head coach Vinny Del Negro got fired, which was the best move the Clips could've made. The worst coaches in the league was replaced by Doc Rivers, who can win big games in the playoffs. On the court, it's still the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul show. They have a strong supporting cast with JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Jared Dudley. The Clips have a legit shot at the #1 seed, but that's only because OKC doesn't have Russell Westbrook.

Derek: UNDER - The Clippers are the team to beat out West with new coach Doc Rivers at the helm, but I don’t see them winning more than 57 games. They’ll probably breeze through the regular season than get knocked off by the Spurs, Thunder or Warriors come playoff time, because Blake Griffin only knows how to dunk and he’s usually banged up toward the end of the season.

Shamus: UNDER - Intriguing context here within which to demonstrate both the worth of Doc Rivers as a coach and how good these Clippers really are as all agree they were limited ultimately by VDN. Besting this line should equal a top seed in a conference full of tough teams. Are the Clippers a #1 seed? I'm thinking more like #3.


San Antonio Spurs — 55.5
2012-13 Record: 58-24
Championship Odds: 8-1

Pauly: OVER - This ancient empire will hang around for another year. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker are a combined 104 years old, but that doesn't matter much because they are ready to pass the torch to the next generation of Spurs like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph. Coach Popovich uses his entire bench and finds a way to win no matter who is on the court. It'll be close, but the Spurs should win in the upper 50s and have a shot at sneaking by the Clippers and stealing the #1 seed.

Derek: OVER - The Spurs just win. Expect them to keep winning unless Father Time catches up with Duncan and company.

Shamus: UNDER - You'd expect the Spurs to continue to be a top tier team, but I'm finally going to bet on slight drop off this time as San Antonio gets caught in between the older guys' decline and the younger guys' rise.


Houston Rockets — 54.5
2012-13 Record: 45-37
Championship Odds: 10-1

Pauly: UNDER - Don't believe the hype. Dwight Howard was supposed to be the savior in Los Angeles, but he showed up with a surgically-repaired back and walked into a team in turmoil. Howard's back is healthier and he no longer works in a "toxic environment" so he should flourish, right? Howard has a fragile ego, which makes him a high-maintenance headache. Can he handle playing second fiddle to James Harden? It'll take a full season or two before Harden-Howard get comfortable playing together. Until that happens, the Rockets are not even the best team in Texas. They'll be lucky to crack 50 wins.

Derek: OVER - The Harden-Howard tandem will interesting to watch. I expect them to kick butt during the regular season. Fear the beard!

Shamus: OVER - James Harden's beard possesses magical properties that include the ability to cast a spell of harmonious contentment over any locker room, including one in which Howard hangs his size 18s.


OKC Thunder — 50.5
2012-13 Record: 60-22
Championship Odds: 9-2

Pauly: OVER - Russell Westbrook is expected to miss 25% of the season, but Kevin Durant is Superman and OKC is strong enough to stay way above .500 during his absence. Serge Ibaka is a human fly swatter and now a legit threat on offense. Reggie Jackson is a capable backup to Westbook, and Jeremy Lamb will finally prove why the Thunder acquired him in the Harden trade. Doesn't matter how many wins OKC gets so long as Westbrook is healthy when the playoffs roll around. So 60 wins is out of reach but 53-54 wins is doable when you have Durant, who can light it up any night.

Derek: OVER - Even if Russell Westbrook isn’t 100%, Kevin Durant will easily carry this team to 50+ wins.

Shamus: OVER - Going over as well, as Durant will carry the team through the less-competitive early portion of the schedule, then as other teams tire during the second half, Westbrook returns to help make the Thunder the best in the West.


Golden State Warriors — 49.5
2012-13 Record:  47-35
Championship Odds: 30-1

Pauly: OVER - The Warriors were one of the most exciting teams to watch last year when Stephen Curry falls into "the zone" and takes over a game by bombing 50+ points. The Warriors' future hinges on Stephen Curry's Golden Ankle. If Curry stays healthy, then the Warriors have a legit shot at 50+ games. Andre Iguodala was a major offseason acquisition that makes an already good team instantly better.The bench is thin, but if Andrew Bogut, David Lee, and Curry remain healthy, then the Warriors can be a Top 3 team in the West. That's right. When the Warriors lock up the #3 seed, just remember you heard it here first.

Derek: OVER - The Warriors have a great young team that can knock any team off in the playoffs. Watch out for this team featuring Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and David Lee.

Shamus: OVER - Lots of fire power, led by Curry who's a wonder to watch and with a big boost this year from Iguodala. Obtaining the latter meant sacrificing some depth, though, which becomes especially significant should Curry or Bogut go down (which both have done before). Still gonna bank on at least 50 in the win column, though.


Memphis Grizzlies — 49
2012-13 Record: 56-26
Championship Odds: 25-1

Pauly: OVER - I don't know what to make of the Griz without Lionel Hollins as the head coach. Hollins really whipped the Griz in shape last year. All five starters are returning (Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Tayshaun Prince), but even with that loaded squad, they might only be the 5th or 6th best team in the West. It's not the fault of Zach Randolph and company that the Western Conference is stacked and the Griz have to fight like hell to fend off Golden State or Houston for the #4 seed.

Derek: OVER - Who doesn't love Zach Randolph's and Marc Gasol's play on the court? This team just finds ways to win.

Shamus: OVER - The West is deep. Unlike the Warriors, the Grizzlies are deep, too, and with a Western Conference finals run under their belts they’ve got some collective experience to help them with the endgame this time around.


Denver Nuggets — 47
2012-13 Record: 57-25
Championship Odds: 40-1

Pauly: UNDER - The Nugs are a good team trying to reinvent themselves, but you usually want to fade a team with identity issues. The Nugs cleaned house in the offseason. George Karl is out and Brian Shaw is in as the new head coach. Shaw ditched Karl's high-flying offensive attack (run-and-gun and chuck as many treys as possible) for a mellower system more traditionally balanced with an emphasis on post play. The Nugs have two big dudes roaming the paint -- JaVale McGee on the block and Mr. Excitable Kenneth Faried -- but they are often inconsistent, which drove George Karl nuts. The Italian Rooster a.k.a. Danilio Gallinari is still out after shredding his knee last season. The Nugs lost Andre Iguodala to free agency so there's a huge hole at #2, but the Nugs have a plethora of point guards -- Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Little Man Nate, and Randy Foye.

Derek: UNDER - Brian Shaw finally gets his shot as the new head coach. The Nugs have a good nucleus, but the West is too tough right now. 

Shamus: UNDER - Going under as well. I like Shaw -- who incidentally replaces last year's NBA Coach of the Year -- and it will be interesting to see if he can actually get his team to slow down. Feel like Denver is kind of halfway to rebuilding mode already, though, and with a new GM might go ahead and move more fully in that direction depending on how things get off the ground.


Dallas Mavericks — 44
2012-13 Record: 41-41
Championship Odds: 30-1

Pauly: UNDER - Oh how the mighty have fallen. The championship squad from 2010-11 is long gone. The new Mavs won't even break .500 this season. Most bookies have Dallas as a potential #7 or #8 seed, but they'll bubble the playoffs with record south of .500. Dirk Nowitzi is healthy, but a desperate Mark Cuban assembled an curious cast of supporting characters including gunslinger Monta Ellis, moody Shawn Marion, out-of-shape Sam Delembert, old-man Vince Carter, and Jose Calderon, who can shoot the three-ball but can't play a lick of defense. Unfortunately, Nowitzki doesn't have enough firepower along side him to handle some of these stacked teams in the West.

Derek: OVER - If Dirk Nowitzi is healthy, the Mavs should kill the over especially after adding Monta Ellis to the team.

Shamus: UNDER - Bubbling the playoffs sounds right to me here, and with a schedule full of tough ones I'd say 40 wins might even be a stretch.


Minnesota Timberwolves — 41
2012-13 Record: 31-51
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: OVER - This could be the breakout year that the T-Wolves have been waiting for for the last... well, since their inception as an expansion team. It's up to the Medicine Gods. Will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love stay healthy? If Love/Rubio can play 150+ combined games, then the T-Wolves should win in the mid-40s and lock up a #7 or #8 seed.

Derek: UNDER - Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are exciting to watch but this team stinks. I expect them to finish under .500.

Shamus: UNDER - They will score points in bunches, but they will give up many, too, usually more to other high-flying conference foes. Love, Pekovic, and Kevin Martin have big ups on the offensive end, but all are liabilities on D. And while Rubio can defend the Wolves would be better off if the point didn't have to work so hard on the other end.


New Orleans Pelicans — 40
2012-13 Record: 27-55
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: UNDER - Not even a name change can help the lowly Hornets-cum-Pelicans. Sure, they acquired Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, but they're not the impact players that can help Anthony "Unibrow" Davis and Ryan Anderson crawl out of the Western Conference basement. Pundits expect the Pelicans to be at least a break-even team. That's lofty hopes for an inexperienced squad. They'll improve upon last year's ugly 27-win season, but fall short of the 40-win mark.

Derek: UNDER - The Pelicans are loaded with young talent, but even new additions Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans can’t save this team from another losing season. Also, is Eric Gordon ever going to be healthy again? They're too loaded at the guard position. I smell a mid-season trade on the horizon.

Shamus: UNDER - I wonder how many teams actually make this specific jump from 27 to 40 wins year-to-year? Winning 40 -- which usually means missing the playoffs and reaching the very bottom of the lottery -- is never the goal, with those approaching it from below generally dealing their way out of contention and only those falling from above actually finishing at the 40-win mark. The Pelicans are in start-over mode. Anyhow, I can't see any team that gives Austin Rivers significant minutes cracking 40.


Portland Trailblazers — 38.5
2012-13 Record: 33-49
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: OVER - I have faith in the Trailblazers. They're young, but they'll surprise a bunch of teams. Management cleared out the bench and brought in some vets -- Robin Lopez, Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright, and Earl Watson -- and then drafted C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe. The starting five looks solid: LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Brook Lopez, Damian Lillard, and Nicolas "Junk Puncher" Batum. Lillard and Batum are rising stars who will help Portland string together enough wins to sneak into the #8 seed.

Derek: OVER - Robin Lopez is a huge addition for this team. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are super studs. A possible playoff run for this team.

Shamus: OVER - Lacking both knowledge and/or opinion here (aside from being a LaMarcus Aldridge fan), I'll go with the consensus here.


Los Angeles Lakers — 33.5
2012-13 Record: 45-37
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: OVER - The Lakers are the biggest shitshow in the NBA ever since Dr. Jerry Buss died. In a city that loves drama, the team is a reality TV casting producer's wet dream: feuding sibling co-owners, a hobbling hall of famer in the twilight of his career, a dinged-up Canadian, a surly Spaniard, and an offensive guru who looks more like a cop than a head coach. Can the Lakers win 34 games? Depends on how fast Kobe returns from his Achilles injury. Pau Gasol struggled to adjust to D'Antoni's offense last season and looked lost in a fog like one of Jeff Spicoli's surfer burnout pals. But Dwight Howard flew the coop, which leaves Gasol as the lone big guy standing. Plus, he's auditioning for a new gig next season. Injury-prone Steve Nash is another year old and another half-step slower. If Nash and Kobe can play 100 combined games this year, then the Lakers can pull out at least 40 wins.

Derek: OVER - The Lakers lost Dwight Howard to free agency so they better hope this is one of those "addition by subtraction" moves, or D'Antoni will be looking for a new job. Fast.

Shamus: UNDER - Expectations plummet after last year's misreading of the Lakers by every NBA pundit, most of whom followed Bill Simmons' lead to pronounce that by dealing Harden, Oklahoma City "handed the Western Conference to the Lakers." Aging Hall of Famers Kobe and Nash will miss more games than they play, and the Lakers will score a decent lottery spot this time around.


Sacramento Kings — 31.5
2012-13 Record: 28-54
Championship Odds: 200-1

Pauly: UNDER - I thought the Kings moving to Seattle were a done deal? Never trust a Maloof. Now the Kings have to stay in Sacramento and beg the locals to come out and support a team that was about to bail on them. If I was a Kings fan, I'd be pissed and boycott the team.  Sucks to be DeMarcus Cousins. Playing for the Kings is like playing in Yugoslavia... no one knows he exists in the obscurity of Sacramento. Cousins is a beast, but too bad he's the best player on a craptacular team that no one gives a rat's ass about.

Derek: UNDER:  DeMarcus Cousins is the only reason to watch the Kings play. I, for one, am pulling for them to move to Seattle. Bring back the Sonics!

Shamus: UNDER - We underwent this weird push-pull with a franchise here in Charlotte during the final years of the Hornets stay. Thing was, the team was winning right up until the end, which tended to obscure the whole owners-versus-the-city imbroglio. Such is not the case for the Kings, who looked like they might move north, but now seem destined to go south.


Utah Jazz — 27.5
2012-13 Record:  43-39
Championship Odds: 200-1

Pauly: OVER - Believe in magical Mormon Underwear! The Jazz are a team in flux and made a big trade to acquire Trey Burke and French wunderkind Rudy Gobert. The Jazz are a young and inexperienced squad (with a promising Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors), but they have a steady-shooting Gordon Hayward, plus Marvin Williams coming off the bench. The o/u of 27.5 seems too low, even for a young team like the Jazz but then again, I doubt they can win more than 35 games with Trey Burke out for two months with a broken finger.

Derek: UNDER - Who's even on this team?

Shamus: UNDER - I stand in solidarity with Derek, marveling with him at Pauly's familiarity with this team.


Phoenix Suns — 21.5
2012-13 Record: 25-57
Championship Odds: 2000-1

Pauly: UNDER - Once again the Suns will be the doormat of the Western Conference. How long before they dump Goran Dragic and/or Marcin Gortat? At least Eric Bledsode and Channing Frye might get some playing time. I feel bad that Jeff Hornacek has to coach through this nightmare season. I hope he has a prescription for Xanax or Valium. He's gonna need it.

Derek: OVER - Eric Bledsode is a great pickup but this team is a bottom dweller.

Shamus: OVER - Last year two teams finished under 21.5, both in the East -- Charlotte (21) and Orlando (20). Meanwhile no one in the West won fewer games than Phoenix. I'll say the Suns set over this line.


ICYMI... check out our roundtable on Eastern Conference Win Totals.

28 October 2013

The Psychology of 57

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

With the World Series going on right now, it's a perfect time to discuss one of the key aspects of sports betting.  Simply put, what does it take to be a winner?  It's a little more complicated than winning over 50% of your wagers.


Most betting experts claim the highest sustainable win percentage against the spread is 57%.  This is a long term figure.  You may run hotter than that for a whole season, but if you bet any volume this is the ceiling of what you can achieve.

So how do you try and get there?  The same way you try to win a series.  Just get four out of seven.  If you can go 4-3 in every seven ATS bets, you are hitting at 57.14%.

Treat every group of seven wagers as your own personal World Series.  Sometimes you will sweep (or worse, you will get swept). Some will be close.  Just keep a running total of your series wins and losses.  If you are over .500 on your series played, guess what?  You are profitable.

There's an old wives' tale about Joe DiMaggio losing an endorsement with Heinz because his hitting streak ended at 56 games.  He may have lost out on pimping condiments but he ended up selling tons of coffee makers.  My point is that even if you don't hit 57%, if you're close you're still profitable.


I find treating 57% as your personal series a quick and easy way to calculate your profitability.  It's much easier to view sports betting as a 4-3 grind, as opposed to a mountain of rake that's difficult to climb.

25 October 2013

Roundtable: NBA Win Totals - Eastern Conference

By Pauly
Worcester, MA


Welcome back to another roundtable discussion with some of our basketball experts. Here is a quick chat about NBA win totals for the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat are the odds-on-favorite to win a third straight NBA title, but D-Rose is finally back from an injury and the Indiana Pacers smell blood in the water. Then there's both NYC teams -- the Knicks and Nets -- looking to inflict some damage before either team implodes. But for totals bettors, more important questions loom, like how bad with the Sixers and Magic be this season?

We're using the win totals that the LVH sportsbook in Vegas originally released at the start of October...

Miami Heat — 60
2012-13 Record: 66-16
Championship Odds: 2-1

Pauly: UNDER - A major injury to one of the Big 3 is the only thing that can derail another title for the Heat. As long as LeBron James is not linked to this Biogenesis steroid scandal, the Heat are going to threepeat. The Heat went on a redonkulous 29-game winning streak last year, but replicating that feat seems improbable. Expect Coach Sploestra to rest his big guns from time to time, which means you'll see a lot more of the Heat's B-Team during the regular season.

Derek: UNDER - Miami will most likely three-peat but the East is too loaded with talent for the Heat to win 60+ games. Plus Dwayne Wade has gotten old fast due to injuries. They signed Greg Oden in the offseason. If he’s healthy... watch out because that means the Heat took care of their only weakness, which is not enough quality big men on the roster.

Shamus: UNDER - Gonna go below 60 as well, thinking mostly of Wade's uncertain health and general championship fatigue.


Chicago Bulls — 56.5
2012-13 Record: 45-37
Championship Odds: 6-1

Pauly: UNDER - D-Rose actually played in a preseason game! Bulls fans will quickly forgive any of D-Rose's transgressions (taking his sweet time to rehab a knee injury) if he can lead the Bulls to a berth in the NBA Finals. The Bulls won 47 games without Rose. Is one man worth 12 more wins? Maybe. But the Bulls will be battling a hard-nosed Indiana Pacers squad for the division crown. I envision a tumultuous initial return for D-Rose before he finally finds his groove mid-season. The Bulls will finish a close second in the Central and slip to a #4 seed.

Derek: UNDER - Rose is back so I expect the Bulls to be the Heat’s biggest competition in the East. Watch out for this team come playoff time. This team is built to knock off the Heat.

Shamus: OVER - It's a solid line, with the Rose factor inspiring a look back to 2011-12 when the Bulls were 50-16 and the No. 1 seed in the East (projects to 62 wins over full sked). With Rose and Oden both representing big unknowns, wouldn’t want to bet this one.


Indiana Pacers — 53.5
2012-13 Record: 49-32
Championship Odds: 15-1

Pauly: OVER - The Pacers are underrated once again. George Paul is the next superstar and ready to break out with a monster season. The Pacers have one of the toughest frontlines in the league with Roy Hibbert, David West, and Danny Granger. The "George" backcourt of George Paul and George Hill will give their opponents a lot of headaches. With Lance Stephenson coming into his own, he has a shot at Sixth Man of the Year. The Pacers have a #2 seed within their grasp and want another crack at Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Derek: OVER - The Pacers are for real. They’re easily the third best team in the East. Paul George and Roy Hibbert are beasts but do they have enough to knock off Chicago or Miami?

Shamus: OVER - A mentally tough squad, with a great leader in Hibbert and talent to spare.


Brooklyn Nets — 52.5
2012-13 Record:  49-33
Championship Odds: 12-1

Pauly: UNDER - Too much hype for the Hipster Nets. Too many alpha males in the locker room, only one ball, and a new head coach who has never coached before. Never. Jason Kidd retired from the Knicks and got tapped by the Russian Mob to coach the Nets. Ah, the kiss of death. The Nets added a pair of ancient Celtics -- Kevin "Honey Nut Cheerios" Garnett and Paul Pierce -- to an already volatile team that imploded late last year. Joe Johnson is a top notch shooter but I'm starting to believe those megalomaniac rumors about Deron Williams. If D-Will is tough to get along with, how will someone like KG fit into the mix? Too much bad chemistry going on in Brooklyn and Jason Kidd is going to blow himself up.

Derek: UNDER - Jason Kidd is the new head coach and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are now on the team. The Nets are much improved for sure and should be interesting to watch but KG and Pierce have seen their better days.

Shamus: UNDER - Saw Paul Pierce play a lot of wild pot-limit Omaha hands this summer at the WSOP. Every hand he played was the equivalent of having the ball with his back to the hoop about thirty feet away and only seconds left on the shot clock. Yet he somehow made it to Day 2 of the event, just like the Nets will somehow win some games they probably shouldn't, but not enough to go over here.


New York Knicks — 49.5
2012-13 Record: 54-28
Championship Odds: 25-1

Pauly: OVER - The Knicks will be dishing and swishing their way to a division title and a #3 seed, as long as JR Smith stays away from the nose candy. The Knicks have enough firepower to win 50+ games with a solid starting five (Ray Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Melo and Tyson Chandler) and a deep bench (JR Smith, Amare Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, and Kenyon Martin). But that's the problem... too many big dogs on one team and not enough balls to go around. Melo and Amare don't mesh. JR Smith is JR Smith but his Sixth Man award might go to his head. Plus, you have to get Andrea Bargnani some touches as well. I'm not envious of head coach Mike Woodson. He has to deal with the man-child James Dolan and the cancerous Isiah Thomas lurking in the shadows, who is eagerly waiting to swoop back in as head coach. Despite the circus-like atmosphere, it'll be the Brooklyn Nets who will implode and the Knicks who remain the toast of the town.

Derek: OVER - If Melo stays healthy, this team will win 50+ games in their sleep. The real questions are how many games will Amare play and how far can they go in the playoffs with a deep Eastern conference to contend with?

Shamus: UNDER - Feel like the Knicks won a few more last year than they should have, and kind of sense some of that same "why aren't we winning?" vibe such as the Lakers experienced last year creeping in and affecting things here in 2013-14.


Washington Wizards — 42
2012-13 Record: 29-53
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: UNDER - The Wiz are still the Wiz. They won't crack 40 wins. Sure, John Wall is supposedly healthy but he has no one to help shoulder the load. Sure he had Nene and Okafor, but they don't exactly instill fear into the minds of opponents. Maybe Bradley Beal will step it up? Keep an eye on Beal. By the end of the season, Wall-Beal can be one of the best backcourts in the Eastern Conference. Don't laugh. I'm serious. Unfortunately, the Wizs' bench is thin and Nene is perpetually injured.

Derek: UNDER - John Wall is a stud but this team blows. They're a few years away from competing.

Shamus: UNDER - Cheese Wiz. Actually they should be kind of an exciting team to watch, but I'm not going as high as above .500 for them yet.


Detroit Pistons — 41
2012-13 Record: 29-53
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: UNDER - The Pistons will play better than last year, yet fall short of 40 wins. Brandon Jennings is a smooth shooter, but he'll have to share the ball with Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups. The big men -- Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe -- are going to have a long season facing the monstrous combos of Roy Hibbert/David West and Joakim Noah/Luol Deng. But the Pistons have Josh "JORTS" Harrellson coming off the bench. That's got to count for something, right?

Derek: OVER - I like the Brandon Jennings-Josh Smith additions combined with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe so I expect them to just barely squeak past the .500 mark.

Shamus: UNDER - I remember when Dean Smith broke the all-time NCAA wins record beating Chauncey Billups's Colorado team (and UNC keeping Billups under wraps to do so). Which was like, last century. And now he's back on the cover of the Pistons yearbook.


Cleveland Cavaliers — 40.5
2012-13 Record: 24-58
Championship Odds: 100-1

Pauly: OVER - Mike Brown is back in Cleveland after he got ran out of town in the wake of the LeBron James free agent debacle, and then got sucked into the Lakers psycho drama last year. Brown is a beaten man seeking redemption. He's now tasked with revitalizing the Cavs. Kyrie Irving is fun to watch and Anderson Varejao has the coolest afro in the game since the halcyon days of the ABA, but even if newly added Andrew Bynum gives an All-Star caliber performance, the Cavs are not strong enough to be in the same league as the top-tiered teams like Miami, Chicago, and Indiana. Alas, because the Eastern Conference is so weak, Mike Brown can sneak the Cavs into the playoffs  with a #7 or #8 seed.

Derek: OVER - Kyrie Irving is one of the best point guards in the league. If new addition Andrew Bynum can return to his old form, this team will surprise the league this year.

Shamus: UNDER - I'm unduly affected here by having watched in person the last regular season game of 2012-13 between the Bobcats and the Cavs, a desperate, miserable affair won by Charlotte and after which both coaches were promptly fired. Irving's a star, Brown will help, and many think the Cavs are a team to watch this year, but I'll say plus-17 games is too big of a leap up.


Atlanta Hawks — 40
2012-13 Record: 44-38
Championship Odds: 200-1

Pauly: UNDER - The Hawks. Such a sad team and another under-appreciated franchise in a fair-weather city that could care less about its NBA team. When that apathy trickles down to the locker room, the team has no incentive to win. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are a nice 1-2 punch, but the Hawks are just cashing paychecks, especially during a transition year. Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose even wondered if the Hawks might be tanking this year. If that's really the mindset in Atlanta, then you want to avoid backing this team.

Derek: UNDER - The Hawks swung and missed on every potential offseason move. They’re in for a long season.

Shamus: OVER - Will be middle-of-the-pack again, mostly beating the bad teams, mostly losing to the good ones, and barely hitting this number to miss the playoffs.


Toronto Raptors — 36.5
2012-13 Record: 34-48
Championship Odds: 200-1

Pauly: UNDER - How long until Canada loses its last NBA franchise? The Raptors have a lot of young players who showed potential, yet never quite got there (e.g. Quentin Richardson, Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough, and D.J. Augustin). Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are solid players, but hoops is a second-class citizen in a hockey-crazy city like Toronto. Heck, the Raptors are probably the city's fourth favorite team behind the Leafs, Argonauts, and the Blue Jays. It's hard to flourish when you're a young player in a not-so-awesome environment. The Raptors will put up a good fight for the first three quarters, but roll over and play dead in the 4Q. It'll be another long season north of the border.

Derek: UNDER - Rudy Gay will wish Memphis never traded him to Canada.

Shamus: OVER - I dunno... I think they actually have enough in a weak conference to sneak into the playoffs.


Milwaukee Bucks — 28.5
2012-13 Record: 38-44
Championship Odds: 1000-1

Pauly: OVER - I loved last season's backcourt of Ellis and Jennings, but both are long gone. The Bucks were overhauled. Again. The Bucks acquired free agents O.J. Mayo and Zaza Pachulia, and also traded for Brandon Knight, Caron Butler and Luke Ridnour. Oh, and I almost forgot about their top draft pick -- 18-year old Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another team stuck in rebuilding year. Don't expect more wins than last season, but they'll be lucky to win 30 games or so.

Derek: UNDER - The Bucks could be in for a long season after they completely over-hauled their team in the offseason.

Shamus: UNDER - Too much reconstruction happening here, although the Bucks will compete more often than not.


Boston Celtics — 27.5
2012-13 Record: 41-40
Championship Odds: 300-1

Pauly: OVER - "Larry Bird is not walking through that door!" Okay, so its Brad Stevens walking through the historic door while the Celtics are in the middle of their CTRL-ALT DELETE season. They'll be bad but Stevens will find a way to squeeze out at least 30 wins when injured Rajon Rondo finally returns to the line up (until then expect the platoon of Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley). Jeff Green is a potential All-Star and it'll be up to him to hold down the fort with rookie Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries soaking up playing time.

Derek: OVER - Only if Rondo is healthy. If not, new coach Brad Stevens is in for a long season.

Shamus: UNDER - If healthy, Rondo will have plenty of triple-doubles, but team will come up short most games. Curious to see how Stevens does at the helm.


Charlotte Bobcats — 27.5
2012-13 Record: 21-61
Championship Odds: 1000-1

Pauly: UNDER - The "Boob-cats" are haunted by the curse of Michael Jordan. I feel bad because North Carolina has a deep and rich tradition in basketball, but it is sad to see their pro team constantly suck eggs. Charlotte is lucky that the Sixers and Magic are really atrocious this season, otherwise they'd be the doormat of the Eastern Conference.

Derek: UNDER - This franchise is a joke.

Shamus: UNDER - I'm a Bobcat "fan" (scare quotes intended) and even I had to look up the name of our new head coach (Steve Clifford). Not much reason for excitement looking ahead to the Bobcats' last meow -- the name changes to Hornets in '14. Heck, Al Jefferson already has gone down with an injury in the preseason. Just can't go over here. But don't worry... it's all part of a long-term "plan" (again, scare quotes intended).


Orlando Magic — 24.5
2012-13 Record: 20-62
Championship Odds: 1000-1

Pauly: UNDER - Ah, the Orlando Tragic might be the worst team in the NBA. Sadly, another young team with third-rate veterans that have no future at all. At least they drafted Victor Oladipo #2 overall, so it can't be all that bad in the land of Disney, right?

Derek: OVER - Barely. Victor Oladipo and Moe Harkless to the rescue!

Shamus: UNDER - Like with the Bobcats, the question is how are they going to score?


Philly 76ers — 16.5
2012-13 Record: 34-48
Championship Odds: 5000-1

Pauly: OVER - The Sixers drafted Michael Carter-Williams. Management hopes MCM and former #2 overall pick Evan Turner can lead this young and rudderless team out of the basement of the Atlantic Division. Let's fade the public here and say the lowly Sixers surprise the East with a 22-win season!

Derek: OVER - The Sixers are in "rebuild mode" after the Bynum trade killed them. They better hope Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams turn into superstars fast.

Shamus: OVER - Will be terribad, no doubt, but I can't see them diving that low. Even the Bobcats won 21 last year.


Here is our roundtable on the NBA Win Totals for the Western Conference.

24 October 2013

NHL: Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton, and the Plight of the Backup Goalie

By Spaceman
Nashville, TN

If you were to put together a list of the most underappreciated positions in all of professional sports, the backup NHL goalie would sit at or near the top. He suits up in his bulky protective gear every night but spends most of his time sitting at the end of a bench, a baseball cap with his team’s logo atop his head instead of a state-of-the-art helmet emblazoned with thematic artwork. If he plays for a mediocre team he might play 30-35 games in the 82-game season. If he plays behind one of the growing numbers of modern workhorse goalies, there’s a chance he might play as few as 10. Even though backup goalies like Tomas Vokoun (Pittsburgh, 2011-12) and Ray Emery (Chicago, 2012-2013) have shown in recent seasons just how important the position can be, the backup remains a relatively anonymous figure in most cities. 

Goalie Carter Hutton joined the Nashville Predators in the 2013 off-season knowing he was more likely to play 10 games than 30. His one game of NHL experience, a start last season for the Chicago Blackhawks where he gave up three goals in a loss, was a big part of that. The bigger part was the fact that the starter’s spot is the property of a large Finnish gentleman named Pekka Rinne. A two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, the 6’5” Rinne has never played fewer than 52 games in a full NHL season; in 2011-12 he appeared in 73 of the team’s 82 games, and in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season he played 43 of 48. With a lifetime 2.36 GAA and .919 save percentage, and five years left on a seven-year contract worth $49 million, the only thing that could oust Pekka Rinne from the net and give Carter Hutton a chance for more than the occasional start would be some sort of injury - and less than a month into the new season, that’s exactly what has happened. 

Carter Hutton, Nashville's new starting goalie. (PHOTO: Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

As of today Hutton, who has exactly three games of NHL experience, is now the team’s de facto starter. Rinne has developed a bacterial infection in his hip, which he was surgically repaired over the summer, and is expected to miss four weeks while he heals up. In one sense this is a highly unusual development in Nashville, where only one young goalie as inexperienced as Hutton has ever been broken in as a starter over the last decade. That was Rinne himself, who had just three games of NHL experience back in 2008-09. But in another sense this is something that has happened here before. Backup goalie Chris Mason had to take over the starting duties late in the 2005-06 season when the aforementioned Tomas Vokoun was sidelined with a blood-clotting condition much like the one that currently has him out fox six months in Pittsburgh; Mason then regained those starting duties in the first half of the 2006-07 season after Vokoun had to have pins put into his thumb.

Hutton’s three games of experience could be troubling, but two of them have come this season and he was excellent in both. His first appearance, in relief of Rinne back on October 3rd, saw him make 21 saves on 22 shots in 50:15. In the second, a start just four days ago in Winnipeg, he stopped 38 of 39 shots from the explosive Jets offense en route to his first NHL win. Toss in the fact that he has a pretty good defense in front of him, led by Shea Weber and Seth Jones, and things start to look a little better. The cherry on top is that he’s been working since training camp with Nashville goalie coach Mitch Korn, who has guided the development of standout netminders like Rinne, Vokoun, and Dominik Hasek during his time in the NHL.

Carter Hutton looked great earlier this week in his second career NHL start.

There's no more anonymity for Hutton now. He’s being thrown directly into the fire: the Predators’ schedule over the four weeks Rinne is expected to miss would be a tough one even for their normal starter, with games against St. Louis (5-1-1), Phoenix (6-2-2), Colorado (8-1-0), Pittsburgh (7-2-0), and Chicago (6-1-2). There are also two games against new Central Division rival Winnipeg (4-5-1), who Hutton beat last Sunday for his first win - and the first one is tonight. 

SO HOW ARE THE PREDS DOING ANYWAY?

The Nashville Predators have actually been playing pretty well since my last post. They went 2-1-1 this past week, improving their overall record to 5-4-1 after starting the season 0-2-0. They started at home on the 17th, playing the Los Angeles Kings to a tie through 65 minutes before losing 2-1 in a wild shootout. On the 19th they went into Bell Center in Montreal and played the same style of gritty defensive game but emerged with a 2-1 win in regulation. The 20th saw Carter Hutton get his 3-1 win over Winnipeg, but on the 22nd the Preds were shut out for the first time this season, falling 2-0 to Minnesota as Rinne was outdone by Josh Harding.

THE GOOD: The defense, guided by new assistant coach Phil Housley, has been getting sharper with each game. Seth Jones got the game-winner in Montreal with 1:27 left, adding to the earlier goal scored by captain Shea Weber. Young forwards Colin Wilson (1g-4a) and Craig Smith (1g-5a), whose continued development is key to the team's offensive plans, have been some of the most effective Nashville players on the ice lately.

THE BAD: Pekka’s out for four weeks. Assistant captain Mike Fisher, who started the season with five points in seven games, has missed the last three games listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Roman Josi remains sidelined with a concussion. Off-season signing Viktor Stalberg has yet to register a point in six games since returning from a shoulder injury.

THE OTHER: Fleet free-agent signing Matt Cullen has shown signs of life, flanked by the equally speedy winger combo of Smith and Gabriel Bourque, but still has just four points in 10 games. Scoring by committee continues to be the standard operating procedure in Nashville: Patric Hornqvist leads the team with three goals, followed by five players (Cullen, Fisher, Eric Nystrom, Weber, Jones) with two markers apiece. Pekka Rinne had given up just three goals on 87 shots in his last 184:21 before being sidelined. The team is 0-1-0 this season when I'm in attendance; hopefully they'll improve on that when I see them play the Jets tonight.

20 October 2013

NFL Week 7: Fade the Jets, Pats Reprise, and Other Degen Donk Gronk Tales

By Pauly
Hampton, VA


The New England Pats are the best banged-up team I have seen in a very long time. Either the system that Belicheck installed is really the cat's balls, or the Pats reserves have stepped up with a rare chance at guaranteed playing time. Whatever is going on in New England... it's working.

Who cares what happened with the first game. Yeah, the Jets kept it close but in the end the better team won. This time around the Jets take on the Pats in their own backyard, but don't let home field advantage fool you. These division games are always tough, but the Pats should easily prevail in this game, especially with the return of the Gronk.

Gronk returns. Yo soy fiesta.

The Jets and Geno Smith's run was short lived. They were getting a ton of accolades and praise for upsetting Atlanta in Atlanta, yet they blew chunks again when they took on a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers squad. The Steelers got on the board first and the Jets were chasing them the rest of the game. I expected the Steelers to win right after their bye week and they did rather easily.

The Jets are now 3-3 and wondering how the hell they can contain Tom Brady and improve to 4-3. hey, 3-3 ain't so bad. Even 3-4 is great compared to the New York Giants' abysmal 0-6 record.
Fade the Jets (3-4 season):
NE Pats -3.5
Aside from fading the Jets, I really don't have a specific game that I love. I have a couple of leans only because I want to bet that a winless teams gets their first win. Besides, I can't pull the trigger on any bet that requires good faith in Jay Cutler.
Leans:
Chicago -1
NY Giants ML
They're Due: The Giants are due for a win. This is the time of the year to bet them big until they finally get their first win. Maybe Eli Manning has solved his temporary color-blindness that had previous afflicted NYC area QBs like Vinny Testaverde and Mark Sanchez.

Da Bears: I dunno about backing the Bears on the road, but Washington has looked awful this year. I suspect RG3 is really like 50% but he's a tough cookie and wanted to get back on the field. Their defense has more holes in it than my oldest pair of underwear. But I always get a little queasy when I put money on Jay Cutler. Am I really that much of a degen that I'm willing to back Cuts and Da Bears?

18 October 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 8

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

The upset watch is back after a short vacation.  Let's try to stay classy, fans!



Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs." If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet. Keep your eye on these games:

BYU at Houston (+310).  This is a classic match-up of a great defense against a high powered offense.  Undefeated Houston averages just under 40 points per game.  Perhaps the freshman QB John O'Korn can keep his composure and notch the win.

TCU (+260) at Oklahoma State.  Both of these teams had high expectations but have already tasted defeat.  The Frogs have played a killer schedule to date and may be better prepared for battle.  The Cowboys seem to struggle playing from behind. 

UCLA (+175) at Stanford.  Utah upset Stanford last week to break the 2nd longest FBS winning streak.  The Bruins come into town undefeated.  This game should come down to the play of the two quarterbacks.  If Brett Hundley can get some good runs, the UCLA passing game should open up.

16 October 2013

NHL: Seth Jones and the Promise Of Youth

By Spaceman
Nashville, TN

Tall, athletic, calm and poised beyond his 18 years, and coming off a hugely successful debut season in the Western Hockey League, Seth Jones was supposed to be the number-one pick at the 2013 NHL draft. At least that’s what the ISS rankings said before, during, and after last year’s junior hockey season. But once the draft arrived the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning all decided they didn’t need a smooth-skating defenseman when there were so many choice forwards in a plum draft class. So Nathan MacKinnon, Alexander Barkov, and Jonathan Drouin all heard their names called before the Portland Winterhawks' defenseman.

Seth Jones, Nashville's unexpected draft bounty (PHOTO: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators had already decided that if Jones were somehow to drop to the fourth pick - their reward for the worst season since the franchise’s expansion days in the late 1990s - they would snap him up. Never mind that a lack of scoring has historically been a major problem for the Preds. His talent level was too much to pass up for a franchise known for turning out All-Star defensemen like Kimmo Timonen, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber, especially given how bad the team’s defense had actually become since Suter’s departure for Minnesota.

The selection of Jones was perhaps a momentary letdown for fans here in Nashville, given just how much offensive firepower was available in this draft and how we’ve longed for a reliable goalscorer since Paul Kariya left town. But his arrival has already paid off. Projections had him playing on the second pair all season as he learned to adjust to the NHL game. But with Roman Josi out of the lineup since the second game of the season thanks to a Steve Downie-induced concussion, Jones has been thrust into the limelight. Now he’s two-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber’s defense partner, averaging 23:06 of ice time a night through his first six NHL games, including playing point alongside Weber on the Preds’ top power play unit. Averaging nearly three shots on goal and two blocked shots per game so far, Jones also notched his first NHL goal the other night and has two assists to go with it.


Of course, NHL history is littered with incoming rookies who posted big numbers only to slow down when the rest of the league finally figures them out. That’s why his current numbers are a lot less important than what I see when I watch him play. He’s an incredibly smooth skater for being 6’4”, which can be attributed to the fact that his dad, former NBA player Popeye Jones, started Seth out on figure skating for two years before hockey on the advice of Joe Sakic. His puckhandling skills are better than most of the team’s blueliners and quite a few of its forwards. He reads developing plays like a veteran, a rarity for rookie defensemen in the world’s fastest league. Most impressively to me, he displays both a willingness to take matters into his own hands when his team is bogged down and an understanding of when to activate this extra gear. It’s the same kind of sense that his teammate Ryan Ellis has, except with the added bonus of an extra six inches and 30 pounds to keep him from being knocked off the puck too easily.

What’s particularly interesting about this is that the Nashville Predators have been notoriously patient in developing not just young defensemen but all of their young players. (The old adage around here is that “the road to Nashville leads through Milwaukee,” a reference to the Admirals AHL farm club.) With fan expectations growing by the year and a team weakened by both injury and free-agent departures, there’s no such luxury for the Preds this year. If they are going to fight for a playoff spot in what’s looking to be an incredibly tough new Central Division, Jones is going to be a big part of the game plan.

SO HOW ARE THE PREDS DOING ANYWAY? 

They’re 3-3-0 after six games, a nice improvement over their 0-2-0 start.

The one loss was the game I happened to buy tickets to, a 4-0 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Way to pick the game there, Spaceman.) The Preds were, to my eyes, pretty easily the superior team for the first 30 minutes of that game, but Jonathan Bernier was rock-solid in goal. The Leafs woke up in the second half of the game and Bernier carried them to the win.

The three wins were all one-goal games, which we’ve come to expect from Barry Trotz’s squads. They picked up their first divisional win by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in the home opener. Then they allowed the New York Islanders just 16 shots on goal to their own tally of 31, but they still only won 3-2. And last night they survived a see-saw battle with the Florida Panthers, posting four goals for the first time this season in a 4-3 win.

THE GOOD: Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher both have two goals now. Shea Weber got off the schneid with his first goal of the season. Craig Smith had a goal and an assist in a very strong performance against Florida. Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones both got their first NHL points in the win over Minnesota. The Preds have outshot four of their six opponents, a big change from last season when shot production was a nightly problem. 

THE BAD: Pekka Rinne has yet to really look like his old two-time Vezina finalist self. This would be worrying if the team were off to a particularly poor start but isn’t a major concern yet since he’s still breaking in his surgically-repaired hip. None of the team’s free-agent signings have made much of an impact on the scoreboard yet, though Eric Nystrom has been surprisingly effective at creating chances and Viktor Stalberg only just came back from a shoulder injury two games ago.

THE OTHER: The teams that have beaten Nashville so far (St. Louis, Colorado, Toronto) have a combined record 16-2-0. The teams the Preds have beaten (Minnesota, NY Islanders, Florida) are a combined 7-9-4.

Heart Stoppage Time

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

Eleven years ago, the U.S. beat Mexico in the World Cup knockout round in South Korea. It remains the biggest ever result for the Yanks, the furthest they've advanced in the Finals. Conversely, the loss was Mexico's biggest nightmare. Their fans' reaction can be summed up in a couple quotes from AP after the game.

"The United States is a country of basketball, not of soccer. Destiny has played a dirty trick on us."

"There has to be an end to this disgrace where (Americans) treat us like rats and idiots."


After the incredible last few minutes of last night's tandem qualifiers, no longer can the U.S. be accused of playing dirty tricks. With two stunning stoppage time goals in Panama, the U.S. not only completed an inspiring comeback, but kept Mexico's World Cup hopes alive with the victory. Had the Panamanians managed to hold their lead, they would be on to a home-and-home playoff with New Zealand for a berth in Brazil. Instead, the U.S. B+ team gifted that task to the Mexicans, who were busy losing 2-1 at Costa Rica.



El Tri fans, please allow me to be the billionth insufferable Yank to tell you, "You're welcome" on the internet.   

American fans are of many minds about these results. Some are angry the U.S. saved their rivals from the abyss of non-qualification. The Yanks had nothing to gain in this final qualifier, having already secured their ticket and top spot in The Hex. As the clocked ticked and results stood, a few minutes of dawdling would have sent Mexico out, their failure good for a belly laugh for the Stars and Stripes. (Imagine, if you will, what might have happened in the exact same circumstance, but with the zapato al otro pie. Do you think Mexico tries to win the game? Or do they just kick the ball into Row Z? I'll make Row Z a -160 favorite.) But the players in the U.S. jersey did have something to play for, a spot on the 23-man roster next summer in Brazil. And they also had that will, the same feeling that I had. No matter the standings, we play to win the game. We want to win the game.

Which is how a lot of fans feel today. We like to win. The American Way. If victory happens to benefit our most bitter rivals, so be it. 

Another faction claims, it's good for the U.S., as a program, as a country with millions of Mexican immigrants, to have Mexico qualify. It's the whole rising tide lifts all boats deal, the geographical rival increases attentions and sponsorship dollars. While true, I don't think Mexico failing to qualify in one cycle--it is just one cycle--wold affect the long-term stability of their team, or their standing in CONCACAF. It would be just a single failure. A failure of monumental proportions, but not one that would short-circuit their future prospects.

In fact, it might even help. With the glut of young Mexican-American players--prospects like Paul Arriola--who can suit up for either team, El Tri might get more than their fair share since that'll be the easiest team to make.

I kid, Paul. Stick with us. You don't want to have to play with that asshole Rafa Marquez. 

Meanwhile, let's pour one out for Panama. Jeez. What were they thinking? If you watch the replay of Graham Zusi's equalizer (which was enough eliminate them), there are three Panama players walking--WALKING!!--25 yards from goal as the U.S. steamed forward. Inexcusable. Two minutes from qualification and they give it up, partly due to laziness. They couldn't possibly have thought it was over. Surely they recall four years ago when the U.S. did the exact same thing to Costa Rica (score late in a meaningless, for the U.S., final qualifier), putting the Ticos out of the tournament and into a playoff.

So, El Tri breathes again to host New Zealand in a month at the Azteca, followed by the return fixture two weeks later. In the interim, we can enjoy poking our rivals. We saved their ass. There is no debate. They owe us. We'll never collect, though. Whatever goodwill the U.S. enjoys in the next couple weeks will have long since dissipated by the next time they head to the Azteca. The vitriol might be even more rabid, if possible. Because the U.S. is on top now, the favorites, the Kings of CONCACAF. And nobody likes the chalk.

Especially one that treats others like rats and idiots.

12 October 2013

NFL Week 6: Fade the Jets, Back the Packers, and Other Degen Tales ofOrdinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


Wait, the Jets are 3-2 and have a winning record? Football Outsiders now lists the Jets as a 36% chance of making the playoffs. Seriously? What the hell are those guys smoking?

The Jets are 3-2 and second in the division behind New England (4-1). Are the Jets legit division contenders? Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here.

The Jets won outright last week (and covered the +8.5 spread) after Mike Nugent and his golden foot boosted the Jets to a 31-28 victory by a last-second FG. Atlanta is vastly overrated. I've been saying that the last two seasons. Variance caught up to the Falcons on Monday night when they lost an ugly home game. Geno Smith didn't look like a rube; he played like a seasoned vet with 3 TD and zero INTs. The Jets executed a near flawless offensive scheme. Can they do it again?

Everyone has been talking about how great the Jets defense is, however, they gave up 28 points to the Falcons. Antonio Cromartie has yet to get an interception. To complicate matters, Cromartie hurt his knee. He was listed as questionable, but he insists he's going to play against Pittsburgh.

The Jets take on a Pittsburgh Steelers' team fresh off a bye. Their last gave was an ugly affair against the Minny Vikings in London. Everyone is rested and Mike Tomlin's teams play well after a bye. Do we keep fading the Jets, or is it time to believe in Geno and Rex and start backing them?

Who am I kidding? I have to stop hitting the hash pipe so early in the morning. The Jets will always break your heart. Happens every time. They lure you in with their sob story... the poor old Jets... and just when you begin to feel sorry for them, they do something stupid like give Mark Sanchez a contract extension, or sign Tim Tebow, or trade their best defender, or... get blown out by the Steelers.
Fade the Jets (2-4 season):
Pitt +2.5
In other action for Week 6, I like two games (Green Bay and Cincy) and leaning another (Indy).
NFL Week 6:
Cincy -5.5
Green Bay -1
Leans: OVER 48.5 GB/Balt and Indy -1.5
Cat Teams: I'm jumping on the Buffalo66 bandwagon. He stalked the opening number and snagged it the moment it got released late Sunday. The Bungals take on his lowly Bills... a team with a dinged up QB.

Road Packers: Green Bay is 0-2 on the road this year and they'll be playing without Clay Matthews. So we should just bet Balt +2.5 and take the home dogs, right? Normally, I'd love a sport like this (backing a home dog), but the line is down to +1. Besides, can anyone stop Super-cheese-man? Who needs defense when you have an overwhelming offensive force? Aaron Rodgers is gonna light up Baltimore in a shootout. Take a look at the OVER while you're at it.

Fade Rivers: Okay, San Diego looked good in their victories. But this is the part of the season when Phil Rivers starts to unravel and he won't have Norv Turner to throw under the bus. Andrew Luck will pull off another West Coast road win.

***
Update:  The Jets are now a pick'em.

09 October 2013

08 October 2013

NHL: Jonathan Quick Scores (On Himself)

Hey, former Conn Smythe winner and Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick: don't drop your stick!

"Wha--?"



Ryan McDonagh gets a shorthanded goal, the New York Rangers get the win, Jonathan Quick gets GIF'ed. Just another day in the NHL.

(GIF via The Score)

07 October 2013

NHL: Steve Downie, Roman Josi, and Seeing Monsters Under The Bed

By Spaceman
Nashville, TN 

As I told you late last week, Nashville Predators fans have grown to expect that their team will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs each spring. What you shouldn’t do, though, is mistake this for confidence in the team. When it comes to hockey, nothing is ever sure in Nashville - not even having a team.

Like Puritan settlers in 17th-century New England who saw their colonies beset on all sides by the Devil himself (or Antonin Scalia in modern America), a lot of Preds fans see their team engaged in a constant, uphill struggle against malevolent outside forces. In the minds of the more paranoid here in Music City, the league itself would rather see teams from larger markets succeed and media outlets never give the team any respect. Just two games into the 2013-14 NHL season we’ve already had our chance to dive in the deep end of this paranoia thanks to the big hit that Colorado’s Steve Downie put on Nashville defenseman Roman Josi in last Friday’s game:


Downie, who left his feet to make the hit, got a two-minute minor penalty for charging, but nothing else. As you can see from the video, Downie himself - not to mention the Colorado announcers - didn’t think his actions even warranted a trip to the sin bin. He did catch Josi’s head, but he also caught Josi’s body. Nashville’s head coach, Barry Trotz, said after the game that he expected the league to suspend Downie because the league itself has been trying to excise such hits from hockey. One of our top local stat-crunchers put together a spreadsheet showing that the league punishes nasty hits against big-market teams more often than it does against the likes of Nashville. Between that, the talk from Trotz, and the lack of a Shana-ban, folks around here are pretty upset with Downie’s only punishment for the hit being a two-minute minor penalty.

Josi, the Preds’ number-two d-man and such a bright hope that he was just signed to a seven-year contract, was left with a concussion and an uncertain timetable for returning to the ice. And the Nashville chattering class was left seeing conspiracies, as noted by my friend and fellow Preds fan Clare Austin on Twitter:
So where does this tendency to see monsters under the bed come from? Some people think that everybody in the South has an inferiority complex, but I don’t think this is really the case. Part of the problem is that human beings are wired to remember negative experiences more strongly than positive ones - and the number of positive memories we have here in Nashville is already a relatively small collection to begin with. There’s also the the fact that the defensive-minded Preds are more likely than a lot of teams to play close games, which leads to an awful lot of heartbreak over 15 years and not a lot of huge wins. Talk about a deck stacked against optimism! Probably the only thing that could change this would be a Stanley Cup parade down lower Broadway - and even then I’d take the under.

I’m not entirely going to discount the possibility that Gary Bettman and company really enjoy screwing Nashville - after all, two lockouts in eight years don’t suggest he's playing for the Good Guys. But I also think that in a fast-paced game where players are allowed to hit each other, bad things are going to happen - especially when an energetic player like Steve Downie’s involved. Put simply, hockey happens - even if it seems sometimes like it happens a bit more around here than elsewhere.

SO HOW ARE THE PREDS DOING SO FAR? 

With two games under their belts, this year’s Nashville Predators squad have compiled a 0-2-0 record. Not a good start, especially considering both losses were against opponents from the new-look Central Division. The good news is that the team hasn’t looked as downright terrible so far as it did last season. Most of St. Louis’ goals on Thursday were of the “perfect bounce” variety, and Colorado never looked to be in full control on Friday.

Seth Jones, the #4 overall pick and Nashville's newest defenseman

The new Eric Nystrom-Mike Fisher-Nick Spaling line has created a lot of chances so far, which is good because most of the other offensive options we were hoping to rely on (Filip Forsberg, Viktor Stalberg) are still sidelined with injuries. Pekka Rinne looked a lot sharper against Colorado than he did in his 10 minutes of ice time against St. Louis. But perhaps most importantly, the defense has made life tough for the opposition, in large part thanks to some fine play from rookie defenseman Seth Jones. Nashville’s first-round pick from this summer’s draft has already shown off his smooth skating and poise under pressure, looking not one bit nervous to be playing in the best league in the world. He’ll take his lumps at some point in this long season, but his presence on the blue line is going to be a very good thing down the line - at least until the monsters under the bed find a way to do him harm.

06 October 2013

NFL Week 5: Fade the Jets on MNF and Other Degen Tales of Ordinary Madness

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


The Jets D took out Tenn's QB Jake Locker and they still lost last Sunday. Why? Geno Smith played like a rookie last Sunday. He's lacking confidence at a time when he should be gaining it. Geno threw 2 INTs and only 1 TD. Sure, Geno spread the ball around, but his favorite target is TE Kellen Winslow and he still continues to struggle trying to link up consistently with Santonio Holmes. On the running side of the ball, the Jets are still below average. Powell had 14 touches for 66 yards. Powell's rush per carry was significantly much better, but he also racked up some yards in garbage time. Bottom line... the Jets are seriously lacking a single rusher than can torch the opposing defense for 100+ yards. Until the Jets can establish a bona fide running attack, Geno Smith will continue to have all the offensive pressure on him.

Atlanta is a team that I haven't liked the last two season. Can you say overrated? Sure, they win (ugly) games but they play down to the level of their opponent. Although Matty Ice is money in home games in Atlanta, I have a feeling that the Falcons might play a stinker on Monday Night Football if they overlook the Jets' defense. Rex Ryan will has his D ready to swarm Matty Ice and do everything possible pull him out of his comfort zone.

Coach Smith needs to get his 2-2 Falcons squad on the right track, which is why he smells a much-desired slump buster. His team is on the cusp of unleashing an old-fashioned ass-kicking on the Jets. Good news for Jets' nation... they get to get embarrassed on national TV!
Fade the Jets (2-3 season):
Atlanta -8.5
For Week 5... I also like three undefeated teams: Seattle, New Orleans, and New England. All three of them happen to be road favorites in tight games. When I put in plays on New England and New Orleans, both were listed as pick'em on Saturday evening. I couldn't pass either up. On Sunday morning, the public has since pushed both over -1 and closer to -1.5 in some spots.

New Orleans is on a mission and Drew Brees looks unstoppable. You just want to get the hell out of the way when a team is super-motivated. In this instance, you have to back Sean Payton's squad on the road even though it appears to be a coinflip on paper.

I like the way new England has played despite their lackluster roster. Somehow, someway both Bill Belicheck and Tom Brady figure out a way to win. They'll do it again.

Seattle's D versus Andree Luck is going to be a hell of a match-up. We'll see if Luck can pull any magic out of his arse. At least he's playing the Seahawks on the road, where they have been vulnerable the last few seasons. But then again, this is a perfect spot to "Fade the Fade." Everyone and their grandmother knows to fade Seattle when they're on the road and back them at home in Seattle. However, this weekend, I'm backing Seattle -1.
Week 5 Picks:
Seattle -1
New Orleans PK
New England PK
I noticed some interesting trends (courtesy of @RJinVegas):

- Dallas is 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games.

- NY Giants and Philly are the two teams who have given up the most points. Possibly lean on the OVER 53.5?

- Green Bay is 8-0 ATS after a bye and Detroit is 0-22 SU (or 4-17-1 ATS) at Lambeau Field.
Week 5 - Leans:
Denver -7.5
OVER 53 NYG/PHI
GB -7

04 October 2013

College Football Upset Watch: Week 6

By Buffalo66
Buffalo, NY

Welcome to the top 25 edition of the upset watch!  Great games to sweat on TV this week!


Each week I get to highlight the games that have "live dogs." If they can pull off the upset, those juicy odds will fatten your wallet. Keep your eye on these games:

Maryland (+600) at Florida State.  The Seminoles have decimated the competition so far, but face a very experienced Terrapins squad.  I'm guessing at some point FSU QB Jameis Winston will make some freshman mistakes.

Ohio State at Northwestern (+240).  Braxton Miller is back for the Buckeyes and that could spell trouble for the Wildcats.  Northwestern's two QB system hopes to keep the OSU secondary confused.  They'll need at least 35 points to pull this one out.

Washington (+260) at Stanford.  Junior RB Bishop Sankey and senior QB Keith Price have impressed every week so far.  But this week they'll face the toughest defense of the season.  The Huskies will have to out rush the Cardinal to make this one close.

03 October 2013

NHL: Expectations, Clown Shoes, and the Nashville Predators

By Spaceman
Nashville, TN

Pauly was nice enough to ask me to write about the NHL at Ocelot Sports this season. Here’s a little something I wrote in advance of my favorite team’s road opener tonight in St. Louis.

There’s a certain comfort that comes from knowing what to expect from the team you love. Jets fans expect their team to be terrible. Yankees fans expect their team to be great. Spurs fans expect Tim Duncan to be dominant again even though he’s eligible for Social Security. Blackhawks fans expect beer, beer, beer, and incessant clips of “Chelsea Dagger.” And Nashville Predators fans expect our team to make the playoffs.

Sure, they were once an expansion team, but that was a long time ago. (This is their 15th year in existence. Tempus fugit!) Starting in their sixth season, just before the 2003-04 lockout, they began their run of making the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons, coming up just three points short the one season where they didn’t make it. Even though they’ve only ever won two series, both first-rounders, the fact is that more often than not they get there and that’s what we’ve come to expect from them.

I'm not saying it's rational, just that we expect it.

During the lockout-shortened season, though, the Preds not only failed to make the playoffs but looked pretty awful along the way. It was hard to endure while it was going on, yet amazingly easy to forget once it was over. Let’s face it, a 48-game season is clown shoes (unless your team wins the Stanley Cup). The added bonus of having junior superstar defenseman Seth Jones fall to fourth in this summer’s NHL draft made the medicine go down even easier.

So going into this season I have two opposing forces tugging at me when I think of the Preds. My heart expects them to be a playoff team: They did it in ’03-’04 and that team really wasn’t very good! They don't have to play the Red Wings six times a season anymore! Playing Winnipeg five times has to be an advantage! My brain, however, says they’re not improved enough to do that: They didn’t bolster their scoring dramatically enough! Their defense isn’t that much better than last year’s porous offering! Everything depends on Pekka Rinne being superhuman and if he goes down they’re relying on a untested goalie!

Somehow the clash of these opposed forces in my head works out to me expecting the Preds to fight all season long for an eighth seed. Those seasons can be tough to take but they’re certainly never boring. If they’re better than I’m expecting, that would be great. And if they’re terrible? It’ll be a lot harder to take than the lockout season was, especially since a terrible season would probably mean injuries to key players and nobody ever wants to see that.

The one upside is that the Preds roster is filled with young talent. Forget about the weak crop of free-agent signings, aside from the currently injured Viktor Stalberg - the home-grown prospects are the main reason for fans to get excited. Swiss defenseman Roman Josi has already proven his worth to the team in two seasons, as has Patric Hornqvist, sometimes known as “Tomas Holmstrom Lite,” in his three. And with Seth Jones and Swedish forward Filip Forsberg ready to play their first full NHL seasons, there’s going to be a lot of improvement between now and April.

I’ll be keeping a weekly diary of the pain here at Ocelot Sports. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Nashville Predators fan for a season - hell, even if you’ve never dared to dream - this will be your chance to find out. If nothing else I can tell you all about the food at Bridgestone Arena - delicacies like chicken and waffles, and bacon on a stick. Mmmmmmmmm, bacon. Game on!