NFL starts TONIGHT! We preview Falcons-Eagles and update weekend point spreads for you. Plus the Cubs avoid a sweep…and Japan makes history at the US Open. You make money in VSiN City!
NFL: Defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles kick off the 2018 season at home vs. the Atlanta Falcons
The last two NFC teams to play in the Super Bowl square off Thursday night on NBC to kick off the new season. Sharps have been betting Atlanta hard in recent days. A line that had been sitting at Philadelphia -4 dropped to Philly -2 when it was confirmed that Carson Wentz wasn’t ready to return to action. Backup quarterback Nick Foles, who played so well in the postseason, wasn’t sharp at all in exhibition action. Many stores in Las Vegas were showing Philadelphia -1 Wednesday evening. And the Westgate actually posted pick-em for the game line in their prestigious handicapping contest.
Be sure you watch VSiN programming throughout the day for market updates. More details on HOW you can do that in a moment. First, a quick stat preview for Falcons-Eagles, using full season numbers from 2017.
Atlanta: 5.9 on offense, 5.1 on defense
Philadelphia: 5.5 on offense, 5.0 on defense
Can’t forget that Atlanta has shown improvement on defense under a new coaching regime. Both teams grade out well on a per-play basis. Atlanta had the more explosive offense, though the Eagles were very efficient.
Atlanta: 45% on offense, 38% on defense
Philadelphia: 42% on offense, 32% on defense
Veteran quarterbacks often shine in this stat…particularly when blessed with weaponry. Atlanta gets the nod at moving the chains. Philadelphia was much better at stopping opponents from doing so. Amid all the hype about Philadelphia’s tricky offense, a defense able to get stops was a nice ace to have up its sleeve.
Red Zone TD Percentage
Atlanta: 49% on offense, 44% on defense
Philadelphia: 64% on offense, 50% on defense
We’re going to pay a lot more attention to this stat in 2018. As we discussed last season, pure yards-per-play seems to be losing part of its predictive value. Moving the ball in the middle of the field doesn’t do you any good if you can’t finish drives. Look at how great Philadelphia was at finishing drives! That 64% mark was second best in the NFL last season. The Eagles were less impressive in YPP and third-down conversions than Atlanta, but knew how to find the end zone.
Philadelphia: plus 11
Philadelphia was also much better in the area of risk/reward. That’s what we meant by efficient in the YPP section. The Eagles protected the ball and found the end zone.
The task for handicappers Thursday is to determine whether Foles and the Eagles are ready for the regular season after enduring what appeared to be a Super Bowl hangover in August. It can be hard for surprise champions to get motivated for “regular” games after climbing to the mountaintop and drinking champagne.
Sharps are betting as if they believe a lack of readiness will reduce efficiency, making Atlanta the superior team.
NFL: Week 1 “market watch”
Let’s update Wednesday night point spreads for the rest of the NFL weekend. There are lines from the South Point at press time.
Pittsburgh (-4/45) at Cleveland
San Francisco at Minnesota (-6/46)
Cincinnati at Indianapolis (-3/48.5)
Buffalo at Baltimore (-7/41)
Jacksonville (-3/43.5) at the NY Giants
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (-9.5/49.5)
Houston at New England (-6.5/51)
Tennessee (-1/45) at Miami
Kansas City at San Diego (-3.5/48)
Seattle at Denver (-3/42.5)
Dallas at Carolina (-3/43)
Washington at Arizona (-1/43.5)
Chicago at Green Bay (-7.5/47.5)
NY Jets at Detroit (-6.5/44.5)
LA Rams (-4/49) at Oakland
Barely any movement at all except for the occasional half-point on totals. That doesn’t mean these lines are frozen for the weekend. Pay close attention to lines around the key numbers of 3 and 7 to see if you can divine sharp intent. Sports books will often increase vigorish near those numbers before moving half a point.
If you like playing teasers, you’ll recall that we talked last season about trying to find six-point moves that cross both the 3 and the 7 in one fell swoop. One reason many stores are dropping Philadelphia to -1 is because they don’t want a flood of teasers featuring Atlanta plus 7.5 or plus 8. The only other “basic strategy” nominee right now is Green Bay. You can move the Packers down from -8 or -7.5 to -2 or -1.5.
College Football: “Market watch” for marquee matchups
Not a lot of great games this weekend in the colleges. The only Thursday nighter up against the NFL is TCU -22 at SMU on ESPN 2. Here are current lines at the South Point for select Saturday TV matchups…
Saturday’s Featured Games (all times Eastern)
Mississippi State (-9/53) at Kansas State (noon on ESPN)
Arizona at Houston (-3.5/71) (noon on ABC)
UCLA at Oklahoma (-30.5/64) (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
Georgia (-10/56.5) at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
Clemson (-12.5/54.5) at Texas A&M (7 p.m. on ESPN)
Penn State (-8.5/56) at Pittsburgh (8 p.m. on ABC)
USC at Stanford (-5/56.5) (8:30 p.m. on FOX)
Michigan State (-6/54) at Arizona State (10:45 p.m. on ESPN)
At first glance, nothing to get excited about in terms of the championship chase. But, upsets do happen in those price ranges (except for UCLA-OU’s monster line). It wouldn’t be a chalk shock if a big-name program was exposed as overrated. Penn State (overtime vs. Appalachian State) and Michigan State (late win over Utah State) barely dodged bullets last week…and will face motivated home underdogs this week.
Two important conference matchups on the slate. Georgia could at least be tested at South Carolina. USC at Stanford is the only game matching league contenders…though they play in different divisions of the Pac 12. Market currently thinks Stanford is the superior neutral field side by a couple of points given the line of Cardinal -3.
As always…watch VSiN daily for the latest from the football markets. Big news Wednesday on how to do that!
MLB Wednesday: Cubs avoid sweep, but Phillies and Dodgers drop series to non-contenders
Chicago felt a lot better about losing a three-game series to Milwaukee than Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers did about losing to Miami and the NY Mets, respectively. Cubs still have some distance in their division, and are a virtual lock for the postseason. Philadelphia’s losing touch with the pack. The Dodgers can’t sustain offensive consistency.
We start our recaps with the two early finishers matching contenders head-to-head.
Chicago Cubs (pick-em) 6, Milwaukee 4
Total Bases Plus Walks: Chicago 21, Milwaukee 15
Starting Pitchers: Quintana 6.2 IP, 2 ER, Chacin 4.2 IP, 3 ER
Bullpen: Chicago 2.1 IP, 2 ER, Milwaukee 4.1 IP, 3 ER
Cubs had to sweat after leading 6-1. But, late inning relief sealed the win. Cubs now 82-57 as they head to Washington for four games. Milwaukee falls to 79-62, four games out of first place, but in very good shape for a Wildcard if it can keep humming along.
Boston (plus 160) 9, Atlanta 8
Total Bases Plus Walks: Boston 19, Atlanta 29
Starting Pitchers: Velazquez 4 IP, 2 ER, Foltynewicz 6 IP, 1 ER
Bullpen: Boston 5 IP, 6 ER, Atlanta 3 IP, 7 ER
Wild game. Atlanta led 7-1, positioned to avoid a sweep and get back on the winning track. Unrelenting Boston, even in a classic “let’s just go catch our plane” get-away spot, scored six runs in the eighth inning…then won it with a two-run homer in the ninth by Brandon Phillips. You can see that Atlanta should have coasted past Boston given offensive bases. Basically a 7-5 type win for the hosts turned into a 9-8 gut punch loss.
That pushes Boston to 97-44 on the season, smirking past its projected Regular Season Win total from betting markets. Atlanta falls to 76-63. A series sweep for the Braves turned out not to be too painful because Philadelphia dropped two of three in Miami.
In other early Wednesday finishers involving playoff contenders…
*St. Louis (pick-em) won at Washington 7-6. Cards have made a habit of jumping to early leads before sweating the ending. Same story here. But, two straight victories push St. Louis to 20-7 its last 27, and 30-16 since the All-Star break. Full season record is 78-62. That’s 16 games over .500. Getting to 90-72 might be good enough to reach the playoffs…and that’s only 18 games over.
*Philadelphia (-190) LOST at Miami 2-1. Tuesday’s win for Philly turned out to be a one-day respite from its recent horror story. Losing a series to Miami is inexcusable (Marlins just 10-23 their last 33). Phillies are now 5-12 their last 17 games, 9-17 their last 26, and 73-66 for the season with most of the teams their chasing maintaining or expanding distance.
*LA Dodgers (-185) LOST to the NY Mets 7-3. The Mets take two of three, scoring 4-4-7 in a pitchers’ park. Amazing what this team has done on the road offensively when compared to its anemic home production. Brutal for the Dodgers to lose this series after sweeping Arizona over the weekend (all in 3-2 nail biters). LAD falls to 76-64 in the crowded NL West race. Every loss hurts their wildcard chances too. (Updating Manny Machado…he left the Orioles with a .387 on-base percentage, and a .575 slugging percentage. As a Dodger, those numbers are .336 and .474. That’s 51 points worse in on-base and 101 points in slugging!)
*Cleveland (-325) beat Kansas City 3-1. Indians now 79-60.
*Houston (-230) beat Minnesota 9-1. Astros now 87-53.
Important series coming up this weekend: Atlanta at Arizona, LA Dodgers at Colorado, and the NY Yankees at Seattle. Houston at Boston isn’t really “important” to the Red Sox…but is a likely ALCS preview that should be played with high intensity.
US Open Wednesday: A jolt from Japan…as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori reach semifinals
Historic day for Japanese tennis. First, Naomi Osaka (-230) easily dispatched with Lesia Tsurenko in straight sets. She became the first Japanese woman to reach the final four of the US Open. Then, Kei Nishikori (plus 145) won a 4-hour marathon over Marin Cilic. First time ever that two Japanese players both reached the semifinals of the same Grand Slam.
Osaka will play Madison Keys Thursday night for a spot in Saturday’s finals. That winner will face the winner of Serena Williams vs. Anastasija Sevastova.
Here are early odds Wednesday night from bookmaker.eu.
Early money lines for Thursday’s Semifinals
Serena Williams (-465) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (plus 370)
Madison Keys (-140) vs. Naomi Osaka (plus 120)
And, now, updated global exchange odds from Betfair to win the tournament…
Serena Williams: risk $1 to win $0.79, risk $0.81 to win $1 that she won’t win
Madison Keys: risk $1 to win $3.30, risk $3.60 to win $1 that she won’t win
Naomi Osaka: risk $1 to win $5.40, risk $5.80 to win $1 that she won’t win
Anastasija Sevastova: risk $1 to win $11.50, risk $12 to win $1 that she won’t win
Nishikori will face Novak Djokovic in Friday’s men’s semifinals. The winner there faces the winner of Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin Del Potro.
Early money lines for Friday’s Semifinals
Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori (no line yet at deadline)
Rafael Nadal (-156) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro (plus 131)
Now the updated Betfair exchange odds to win the event…
Novak Djokovic: risk $1 to win $0.97, risk $1.01 to win $1 that he won’t win
Rafael Nadal: risk $1 to win $2.60, risk $2.65 to win $1 that he won’t win
Juan Martin Del Potro: risk $1 to win $4.80, risk $5 to win $1 that he won’t win
Kei Nishikori: risk $1 to win $14.50, risk $15 to win $1 that he won’t win
We’ll close out the week Friday with game stats from Falcons/Eagles and market updates. See you then!
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