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NFL Power Ratings while you wait on schedule

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

We start with NFL Power Ratings to get you ready for tonight’s 2017 schedule announcement. Then a lot to talk about in NBA, NHL, and MLB!

Use VSiN City’s NFL Power Ratings to Project Week One Lines
Thursday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. here in Las Vegas), the NFL will formally present the official schedule for the 2017 season in a two-hour special televised by the NFL Network. The Westgate has already announced it will post Week One lines for live betting within an hour of those matchups being announced.

To help get you ready for the evening, we’ve updated our estimate of how “the market” will likely be Power Rating all 32 NFL teams heading into the new campaign. You can use these to make your own estimates of for those Week 1 lines.

Estimated “Summer” NFL Power Ratings
86: New England
83: Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh
82: Seattle, Green Bay, Oakland
81: Kansas City, Denver
80: Minnesota, NY Giants, New Orleans
79: Cincinnati, Carolina, Arizona, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Philadelphia
78: Washington, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Houston, Miami, Tennessee
77: Buffalo, Jacksonville, LA Chargers
75: Chicago
74: NY Jets, LA Rams
73: San Francisco, Cleveland

Those numbers are reflective of where teams ended the 2016 season in market pricing, as well as futures prices heading into the 2017 campaign. We won’t tell you they’re perfect. But they’re a good faith assessment that should be pretty close. 

There are prominent rumors that New England will host Kansas City in the season kick-off game on Thursday night of Week One. You can see above that our ratings estimate shows New England at 86, Kansas City at 81. Home field advantage is usually worth three points in the NFL. So, you can assume a “base” starting point of New England -8. Sportsbooks consider the likely betting preferences of their own clientele before posting an official opener. Then, lines can move quickly if opening betting action is decisively one-way…particularly if it’s from the sharpest bettors.

If you read the chart, “LA Chargers” probably jumped out at you. The former San Diego Chargers will be playing in a new home, and may not deserve full home field advantage in the line because of it. The LA Rams were only 1-7 straight up, 1-6-1 ATS in their new home last season.

Early betting action against the Westgate lines will allow observers to further pin down summer Power Ratings from “the market’s” perspective since settled numbers will reflect the assessments of oddsmakers and influential market shapers. VSiN City will keep an eye on developments.

NBA: Favorites hold serve in Washington, Houston, and Golden State
Some in-game drama…but ultimately the teams who were supposed to win took care of business Wednesday in pro hoops.

Washington (-5.5) 109, Atlanta 101

  • Two-Point Pct: Atlanta 47%, Washington 50%
  • Three-Pointers: Atlanta 4/20, Washington 7/22
  • Turnovers: Atlanta 18, Washington 11

A lot of similarities to the opener. Atlanta was more competitive most of the night than the final score makes it sound (Washington has won fourth quarters 35-23 and 38-28). Atlanta couldn’t avoid turnovers at a very fast pace (18-11 here after 19-12 in the opener, at paces of 100 and then 99 possessions). Atlanta couldn’t make treys (now 11 of 45) but made up for that with a zillion free throws (32 of 39 in G1, then 33 of 38 in G2). Virtual clones! The only zig-zagging in the East is in the Toronto/Milwaukee series.

Though Washington only held serve, they’re prohibitive favorites to advance because Atlanta would have to win four of the next five games. The series takes a break until Saturday. If you mentally pencil Washington into the second round, you have to ask WHY ARE THEY FOULING SO MUCH against the worst offense in the playoffs? What’s going to happen when they have to guard an opponent who didn’t finish #27 in offensive efficiency during the regular season? Might be a red flag to stick in your back pocket for awhile.  

Houston (-7.5) 115, Oklahoma City 111

  • Two-Point Pct: OKC 49%, Houston 55%
  • Three-Pointers: OKC 7/30, Houston 11/29
  • Plus Minus: OKC plus 11 with Westbrook, -15 without him

Oklahoma City was getting the best of it deep into the third quarter. But it’s just impossible to escape the reality that a one-man team isn’t going to beat Houston on the road. OKC ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, and got blitzed whenever Russell Westbrook had to take a breather. Westbrook’s plus/minus was plus 11 in 41 minutes…which means the Thunder were a horrendous -15 in the seven minutes he didn’t play.

Why was this result so different than Game 1? Instead of Houston by 31 in a game that landed on 205 points, we had a relative nail-biter that surged late past the market price with a 226. On the team side, OKC won rebounding 48-37 and turnovers 13-7. A great performance on the road at pace in those categories. That’s how they almost stole the win. But, free throw counts were much higher this time around (pace actually fell from 98 to 97 possessions per team). The two teams were 36 of 49 in the opener, 52 of 65 here. 

OKC probably can’t play any better than this, particularly on the road. Yet, it wasn’t enough. Games last four quarters instead of three. Houston takes a 2-0 series lead to OKC for Game Three Friday.

Golden State (-12.5) 110, Portland 81

  • Two-Point Pct: Portland 41%, Golden State 51%
  • Three-Pointers: Portland 7/34, Golden State 10/32
  • Pace: 104 possessions (with a slow fourth quarter)

Kevin Durant might have been out with a strained calf, but Portland never found its legs. Golden State won the first quarter by 16 points, and the third quarter by 16 more in a blowout that sent America to bed early. The game raced by at a frantic pace (despite staying Under by 28 points), which played into the hands of the deeper Warriors. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to shoot just 9 of 34 from the field (1 of 7 on treys). GS will carry a 2-0 series lead to Portland Saturday.

A quick look at Vegas point spreads for the next two nights…

Thursday (Cleveland and San Antonio lead 2-0, Raptors/Bucks is 1-1)

  • Cleveland (-2.5, 211.5) at Indiana; 7 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Toronto at Milwaukee (-1, 197); 8 p.m. ET on NBA Network
  • San Antonio (-3.5, 185.5) at Memphis, 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT

Friday (Chicago and Houston lead 2-0, Clippers/Jazz is 1-1)

  • Boston at Chicago (-2, 207); 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Houston at Oklahoma City; 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • LA Clippers at Utah (-1, 197); 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2

No line had been posted yet in Rockets/Thunder Game 3 as we were preparing this report for you. As with so many other series, Houston will likely be within arm’s reach of pick-em in the site switch, with a total in the mid 220’s.

NHL: Caps back in command, Ducks first thru to second round
Stat briefs from a busy night on the ice…

Washington (-150) 5, Toronto 4

  • Shots: Washington 27, Toronto 34

Not quite the thriller the score suggests. Washington jumped ahead 4-1 in the first period behind a 15-6 shot barrage. A frantic Toronto rally (19-3 in shots in the third period!) could only get within one goal in the final minute of regulation. Caps fans breathe a sigh of relief as the series heads back to Washington Friday for Game 5. 

Ottawa (plus 155) 1, Boston 0

  • Shots: Ottawa 27, Boston 22

The Senators’ shocking dominance of the Bruins continues! This is now a 3-1 series lead for a big dog after a 4-0 regular season sweep. The most surprising thing here is that Boston was outshot at home in a must-win situation despite never even scoring a goal. Where was the desperation? Boston totaled only 10 shots over the final two periods…when the score was either 0-0 or 1-0 against them and the season was on the line. Ottawa will try to wrap things up Friday at home. 

Minnesota (-115) 2, St. Louis 0

  • Shots: Minnesota 28, St. Louis 28

The Wild came out with a sense of urgency, winning shot count 11-4 in the first period. They would be up 2-0 by early in the second period. St. Louis won shots 12-7 in the third period in a failed comeback effort. The Blues still lead the series 3-1 heading to Game 5 Saturday.

Anaheim (pick-em) 3, Calgary 1

  • Shots: Anaheim 25, Calgary 37

Anaheim jumped ahead 2-0 in the first period, hoping to sweep the series in four straight. They would have to hold off a motivated Calgary effort until an empty-netter with six ticks left ended the Flames' season. 

A quick look at tonight’s odds…

  • NY Rangers at Montreal (-150, 4.5--Over -135); 7 p.m. ET on USA Network
  • Columbus at Pittsburgh (-200, 5.5--Over -130)); 7 p.m. ET on NHL Network
  • Chicago at Nashville (-130, 5--Over -140); 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
  • San Jose at Edmonton (-130, 5--Under -130); 10:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network

MLB: You won’t regret making regression your friend
Tuesday in VSiN City, we posted “A Numbers Game” producer Michael Lambourne’s list of pitchers who were likely regress from extreme early season ERA’s toward their more stable xFIP. Several of those pitchers were on the mound Wednesday. 

Disaster Waiting to Happen
Julio Teheran (Braves): 0.95 ERA, 4.49 xFIP; difference of -3.54

Teheran was the only man on this 10-pitcher list to throw. And that disaster didn’t wait long to happen! Teheran allowed 7 earned runs in just 4 innings in a blowout loss to Washington. The Braves trailed 7-3 after five innings, and would go on to lose 14-4 in a pick-em encounter

Better Than ERA Would Suggest

  • Robert Gsellman (Mets): 9.28 ERA, 3.36 xFIP; difference of 5.92
  • Tyler Anderson (Rockies): 8.59 ERA, 4.34 xFIP; difference of 4.25
  • Rick Porcello (Red Sox): 7.56 ERA, 3.75 xFIP; difference of 3.81
  • Tommy Milone (Brewers): 7.36 ERA, 3.93 xFIP; difference of 3.43
  • Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees): 8.36 ERA, 5.10 xFIP; difference of 3.35

Half of the “likely to improve” list was on the mound…and most had a stellar night. A quick review using that same order…

  • Gsellman (9.28 ERA) allowed 3 earned runs in 7 innings (7K’s, 1 walk)
  • Anderson (8.59 ERA) allowed 2 earned runs in 5 innings (5K’s, 1 walk)
  • Porcello (7.56 ERA) allowed 0 earned runs in 7 innings (5K’s, 1 walk)
  • Milone (7.36 ERA) allowed 1 earned run in 5 innings (5K’s, 0 walks)
  • Tanaka (8.36 ERA) allowed 1 earned run in 7 innings (6K’s, 2 walks)

That’s a combined seven earned runs allowed in 31 innings. For a composite 5-man ERA of 2.03. As Harry Carey would have said “Holy Cow!” And check out the strikeout/walk ratios. Five guys with horrific ERA’s entering the day struck out 28 hitters and only waked five.

All from hurlers whom half-hearted “handicapping at a glance” would have been telling you were in bad form. Professional baseball bettors don’t glance at pitcher ERA’s to make their picks. Casual bettors make WAY too many mistakes because they assume ERA is telling a story that it really isn’t. A small recent sampling of ERA is often an “inverse” indicator for what’s about to happen. 

How did those five perform in 5-inning decisions? Unfortunately, bettors backing these pitchers weren’t rewarded as they should have been given those composite stats.

  • Gsellman lost 0-2 with no run support
  • Anderson lost 1-4 as a big dog to Kershaw
  • Porcello lost 0-3 with no run support
  • Milone won 4-1 as a big dog at Wrigley
  • Tanaka won 8-1 as a big favorite

Of course, handicapping offense is also part of the decision-making process. A wash overall for the night if you include fading Teheran. The big payoff on Milone counteracts the favorite money lost on Gsellman and Porcello.

We’ll continue to monitor Michael’s listed pitchers in the coming days when time permits. And, we’ll provide periodic updates of those lists as old names drop out and new names move in. Be sure you check out the daily game-by-game sabermetric handicapping discussions featuring Michael and host Gill Alexander on “A Numbers Game.” You’ve surely discovered that nobody on the media landscape explains the fundamentals of analytics better than Gill Alexander!

(Quick update on a prior story: the Houston Astros played their third straight Under in a four-game home series with the LA Angels Wednesday night. That brings Astros home games to 2-8 to the Under vs. the opening totals, while their road games are 4-1 to the Over. We alerted you to the “pitcher’s park” tendencies of Minute Maid at the start of the season. Last year’s “best pitcher’s park in baseball” has been even more extreme out of the gate n 2017! Houston’s 10 home games have averaged a meager total of 6.1 runs combined for the two teams. Houston’s 5 road games have averaged 11.6 runs.)

“Vegas Dave” Oancea pleads “not guilty” to misuse of Social Security numbers 
We promised to keep you updated on developments in the “Vegas Dave” case. The controversial sports bettor formally pleaded “not guilty” Wednesday to charges that he misused Social Security numbers. 

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jenny Wilson said in a series of tweets that Oancea was taken into custody by Metro Police on an outstanding domestic violence warrant immediately after his arraignment, and noted that the trial date for the new case was set for June 20.

You can follow Wilson on twitter @jennydwilson for continuing coverage through the summer. 

Earlier Wednesday, the Las Vegas Sun ran this story about the dangers of using false Social Security numbers at casinos and sportsbooks.

Here in VSiN City, we encourage you to gamble responsibly and legally. Thanks for joining us today. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback about this newsletter or our daily broadcast content, drop us an email.

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Follow us on Twitter: @VSiNLive.

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