LAS VEGAS-- King Football is back.
It’s amazing. The National Football League turns what should be the equivalent of watching paint dry into must-see TV. Of course I am referring to Thursday night’s filling out of the fall calendar with the release of the 2017 regular-season schedule.
Even before it was announced, oddsmakers here in Vegas were busy preparing to make the lines that they finished last night for those first 16 games. They start with Kansas City getting eight points at New England on Thursday, Sept. 7, and run through the nightcap of the Monday doubleheader on Sept. 11, when Denver is favored by 4½ at home against the Los Angeles Chargers.
While we are ready–and waiting–for some football, we can spend time and money betting on all these games more than any other time between now and the playoffs.
“Week 1 will be the most heavily wagered NFL week of the regular season,” South Point oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo told me on my show on VSiN. “Think about it. These games are going to be up for four months. As visitors come to Las Vegas during the course of the summer they wager on what’s transpiring that day. They also take the opportunity and say, ‘I’m not going to be here for Week 1. These numbers are out. Let me take advantage.’ And they will.”
Some of the other matchups worth noting from Week 1:
- The Cowboys are a 5½-point home favorite against the Giants in the first Sunday night game.
- Atlanta comes back from its Super Bowl LI heartbreak as a six-point favorite at Chicago.
- Coming back from a broken leg Derek Carr and the Raiders are no better than a pick ’em visiting Tennessee.
- Whatever condition Andrew Luck’s shoulder is in, Indianapolis will be a 3½-point underdog visiting the Rams.
- Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are 2½-point home favorites against the Seahawks.
- The Saints are a field-goal underdog in the first Monday night game at Minnesota, which is where everyone wants to wind up next February in Super Bowl LII.
As if all that were not enough, the books have already been taking bets on who will win that Super Bowl not to mention the conference championships with the Patriots favored to meet and beat the Cowboys. But added to the menu this year is next week’s NFL Draft, which is being offered for the first time as a betting proposition here in Nevada.
While you can make bets on how many players may be drafted out of a certain school or conference or at a certain position, you cannot make bets on individual players. There is no legal bet on whether Myles Garrett or Mitch Trubisky will be the first player taken by the Cleveland Browns. But that does not mean individual players will not have an impact.
The Alabama and SEC props could be influenced by the revelation Thursday that former Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster flunked his drug test at this winter’s combine in Indianapolis. NFL.com reported that his urine sample came back diluted, which the league treats the same as a positive for a banned substance.
That is a red flag.
Remember, Foster had already been kicked out of the combine early after he got into a beef with a hospital worker over how long it was taking for his medical tests to be finished. There is also concern about whether he may need an operation to clean up his right shoulder before training camps open. So Foster may be dropping into a later round.
How does the Foster story directly impact draft props? The over-under on Alabama players taken in the first round is 4½ with the under at 120 at South Point. The total on SEC players chosen in Round 1 was set at 11½; the under is at –145. When Foster is actually chosen could tip the balance on both.
Then there is the quarterback prop, which I bet right away when the number was set at 3½. I was lucky to get it at –130 when it opened. Now it is at –175. We know North Carolina’s Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes may go in the first round.
Then there is the young man who made a bold declaration to USA Today, saying “No one else can do what I can do. And I’ve truly figured out in this (draft) process if I can maximize all my potential in every aspect of the game – this is bold – I do have the ability to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. Imagine taking (Tom) Brady’s intellect and Brady’s preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton’s body. Why can’t I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That’s what’s driving me now.”
Folks, that was not Muhammad Ali. That was DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame. He could be the money ball at the books here in Vegas to put the first-round quarterback total over 3½.
The deadline to bet on the NFL Draft is midnight PDT Wednesday night, the eve of the draft. If this goes well, I believe Nevada will legalize betting on the NBA Draft in June. And who knows what’s next? Could we be able to bet on individual players in next year’s NFL Draft? Remember, wagering on the Heisman Trophy winner and baseball’s Most Valuable Players are fair game here, so we shall see.
As I was having a cold one Thursday night, it was not as frigid as the sight on TV of the Indiana Pacers blowing a 26-point lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They missed 16 of their last 24 shots on the way to a 119-114 home-court loss that virtually ended the series. As I heard someone say later, that may be the first time an NBA team has ever won a best-of-seven series 3-0.
Tyronn Lue took a huge gamble late in the third quarter when he sat Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love–and did not put them back in the game. But ask yourself this. How big a gamble was it really by putting the game and perhaps the series on the shoulders of LeBron James? 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists later, Lue had his answer.
However, the best playoff coaching story in the East may be in Chicago. Fred Hoiberg has learned a lot since last year, and he has proven himself to be a very, very bright leader as the Bulls brought a 2-0 series lead back home for Friday night’s third game against the Boston Celtics.
I was around Fred a lot when he was at Iowa State. He had moved down there from the Minnesota Timberwolves front office to take his first coaching job, returning to his old hometown where he was revered. He was nicknamed “The Mayor” in Ames, Iowa. He is as nice a man as you would ever want to be around, but I am here to tell you he has got a tough side with players that people will never see. In private he can get into a player’s wheelhouse and take them to task.
When the Bulls traded Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City in February, that was a pretty big shakeup for a team that at the time was a game below .500. But clearly general manager Gar Forman knew what he was doing.
With some 11th-hour help from a Brooklyn Nets team that inexplicably took the 82nd game off, the Bulls held off Miami, finished 41-41 and got the last spot in the playoffs thanks to a tie-breaker. This is not to say that the Bulls will get much further this spring, especially with Friday morning’s news that Rajon Rondo is out indefinitely with a broken right thumb. But they have given the Celtics big problems.
By the way I felt badly for Charles Barkley when he was taken to task for saying on TNT that he was “uncomfortable” seeing video of Isaiah Thomas in tears before Game 1, reacting to the death of his young sister. He may not have been eloquent, but I knew exactly what Charles was trying to say. There was nothing for anybody to be comfortable about with a tragedy like that.
It is terrible that it happened, and it impacted everybody on that team, especially Thomas’s closest friends on the Celtics. That cannot be ignored, and critics who are jumping on coach Brad Stevens should remember that.
If we are to take a longer view of the Celtics, then GM Danny Ainge has responsibility here, too. He is the one who stocked the roster that is not giving Thomas enough tools to help him on the court in this series. Even so, Ainge and Stevens deserve a ton of credit for their role in the Celtics earning the top seed in the East.
And of course, so does Thomas.
Just like that, the Chicago Blackhawks are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Maybe we should have seen this coming.
Before they were swept out by Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators, the Blackhawks lost their last four regular-season games. Three times in those last eight losses they were also shut out.
I have to believe there is something wrong internally when you lose that many games at the end of what was turning into another successful season. Chicago came into that stretch as the best team in the West, and the ’Hawks were the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
Suddenly they go 0-for-April? There is a major problem there for an organization that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010 but has also been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round the last two years.
I get the feeling we will be hearing much more about this before these playoffs are over.
I have been perpetually entertained throughout the NHL and NBA playoffs by one of the great commercials of my generation.
It is the one for Volkswagen featuring Dean Martin’s song “The Birds and the Bees.” It is the best commercial of the year and better than anything we saw during the Super Bowl.
If you somehow have not seen it, type “Volkswagen Atlas Luv Bug” into YouTube. You will see an update on the old line “if this thing’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.”
We have all been there and done that – or at least we have all dreamed of being there. To carry that idea off so subtly and pull it off with such good taste was not easy. There was a fine line there, and they nailed it. Hats off to director Andreas Nilsson, the agency Deutsch, New York, and to Volkswagen. My next car is going to be an Atlas.
My only question is this. If that ever-expanding family can afford to upgrade to bigger and bigger new VWs, how is it that that couple can’t afford a room?