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Ravens head into 'dress rehearsal' week with win

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

August 21, 2018 12:01 AM

Ravens remain royalty in August with another NFL exhibition win…plus an early look at “dress rehearsal” point spreads. In MLB, Cleveland stays hot with a ticket casher at Fenway. In the WNBA, an expanded stat-based look at the playoffs that begin Tuesday night. Your action is always welcome in VSiN City!

NFL Preseason: Baltimore wins at Indianapolis, but Lamar Jackson still struggling
Death, taxes, and the Baltimore Ravens finding a way to win preseason games straight up. Still haven’t lost an exhibition since 2015. Though, this was another ugly victory. Neither offense impressed outside of Joe Flacco’s limited time on the field. 

Baltimore (-1) 20, Indianapolis 19 
Total Yardage: Baltimore 266, Indianapolis 284
Yards-per-Play: Baltimore 4.0, Indianapolis 4.3
Rushing Yards: Baltimore 139, Indianapolis 69
Passing Stats: Baltimore 20-32-0-127, Indianapolis 22-40-2-215
Turnovers: Baltimore 2, Indianapolis 3
TD Drive Distance: Baltimore 67-27, Indianapolis 51-9

All that buzz about how it’s impossible to play defense in the NFL has calmed down. Remember all those crazy high scoring games through last Thursday? That 51-34 fireworks show at Green Bay was going to be the beginning of a crazy week!

Instead, the last 10 NFL exhibition games have gone Under-Under-Under-Under-Under-Under-Over-Over-Under-Under. That’s eight of the last 10 being defensive struggles relatively speaking. Monday’s Ravens/Colts game only threatened the total of 42 because of two very cheap touchdown drives. 

Baltimore was seemingly comfortable at 20-10, though its last touchdown was on a 27-yard drive. Indianapolis kicked a field goal, then scored on a 9-yard TD drive to get within a point. No coaches want overtime in August! Two-point try failed, making Baltimore a push (unless you bet it early) and Under a winner.

Let’s see how the quarterbacks performed.  

Baltimore Quarterback Stats
Joe Flacco: 7-9-0-72
Lamar Jackson: 7-15-0-49
RGIII: 6-8-0-31

Flacco’s ready for the regular season. RGIII can still be a backup, but the bulk of his career promise is long gone. The most prominent story of the night was how awful rookie Lamar Jackson looked. Third straight game where he has seemed lost at sea. His composite passing line through three games looks like it could be one full game. 18-43-1-201 with 5 sacks. 

Worse…this has come with a head start over the last two opponents (Ravens played in the Hall of Fame game)…while playing for a coach who expects all of his players to perform in August. Jackson’s problem isn’t his teammates, or the schedule. Those are HELPING him! 

Yes, rookies can take awhile to get their feet wet. For now, Jackson is living down to skeptics’ concerns about his NFL-readiness. You can’t win with your feet in this league. His accuracy and reading of mostly vanilla defenses has been abysmal. 

Indianapolis Quarterback Stats
Andrew Luck: 6-13-1-50
Jacoby Brissett: 14-23-0-172
Phillip Walker: 2-4-1-26

Luck has legitimate excuses for his rust. Though, that’s an ugly line for a veteran in August, particularly when you add in two sacks. We know Brissett’s ceiling. Might be midseason before Luck starts to look like his old self (if ever). Worth thinking about in your early season Power Ratings or for Regular Season Win Totals. 

That finishes off week two. Let’s check out early lines for week three. 

NFL: Early lines for Week 3 dress rehearsals
Not every coach takes this third round of action super seriously. Many do, which should provide some great entertainment. Sharps will be looking for matchups of coaches who will be going full throttle vs. those who aren’t. 

Point spreads are from the Monday night board at the South Point (our home base in Las Vegas). Live national telecasts are noted in parenthesis.

Thursday
Philadelphia at Cleveland (-3.5/42) (on FOX)

We can deduce from that line that neither Carson Wentz nor Nick Foles will be on the field. Monitor media coverage to see if Nate Sudfield will be asked to impress…or to safely keep everyone healthy. 

Friday
NY Giants vs. NY Jets (-2/42) (neutral site)
Denver at Washington (-3/43.5)
New England at Carolina (pick-em/46)
Detroit at Tampa Bay (-3/45) (on CBS)
Seattle at Minnesota (-3.5/39.5)
Green Bay at Oakland (-7/41) (on the NFL Network)

Looks like Derek Carr will be back for Oakland, given that huge line vs. the Packers. Green Bay doesn’t treat dress rehearsals as seriously as other teams. Still, the Packers do have some backup quarterbacks capable of hanging around. More on these games later in the week. 

Saturday
Kansas City at Chicago (-2/47.5) (on the NFL Network)
Tennessee at Pittsburgh (-4/45.5) (on the NFL Network)
Houston at LA Rams (-3.5/42)
San Francisco at Indianapolis (no line yet)
Atlanta at Jacksonville (-3/40.5)
Baltimore at Miami (no line yet)
New Orleans at LA Chargers (-2.5/44) (on CBS)

Chicago’s new head coach was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator last season. High Over/Under is almost suggesting a gentleman’s agreement that both first teams are going to get some touchdowns on the board. 

Sunday
Cincinnati at Buffalo (-1.5/41.5) (on FOX)
Arizona at Dallas (-3/43.5) (on NBC)

We’ll provide a more in-depth “market watch” day-by-day. Wanted to get those early lines in front of you as we transition from one week to the next. 

MLB Monday: Cleveland stays hot with 5-4 win at Boston
Cleveland doesn’t actually need to be on a tear right now. The Indians are locked into the AL Central title because nobody else there even has a shot at a winning record. No way Cleveland catches Boston from behind for the #1 seed. Tribe will be facing the winner of the AL West in the divisional round. Though, given Houston’s recent slump…and Oakland’s long overdue-ness to cool down…maybe home field in that series could be captured.

Nice confidence builder Monday night at Fenway…

Cleveland (even) 5, Boston 4 
Total Bases Plus Walks: Cleveland 17, Boston 20
Starting Pitchers: Kluber 6.1 IP, 3 ER, Porcello 7 IP, 5 ER
Bullpen: Cleveland 2.2 IP, 1 ER, Boston 2 IP, 0 ER

That’s now eight of the last nine for Cleveland, and a 13-3 record the last 16 games. Kind of a vultured win here given the counts in Total Bases plus Walks. That stat says it should have been 5-4 the other way (TB plus W divided by four is a rudimentary but surprisingly accurate runs created assessment). Another Over in a Corey Kluber game. Those are 17-4-1 hist last 22 outings. Very rare for a pitcher with a good full season ERA!

Cleveland is now 20 games over .500 at 72-52. Boston is 50 games over at 88-38.

Unfortunately, many of the “pennant race” games this week will be played late on the West Coast. They’ll finish after publication deadlines. Here’s a quick look at early Monday finishers involving contenders.

*Atlanta (plus 110) won at Pittsburgh 1-0. An RBI single from Nick Markakis in the first inning held up. Braves now 69-55 this season, one game ahead of Philadelphia in the NL East. 

*Milwaukee (-230) beat Cincinnati 5-2, after rallying from down 2-0 early in the game. Brewers are now 70-57…three games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. Reds are 1-16 in Homer Bailey’s starts this season. Reason #1000 not to bet “the due theory.” 

WNBA Playoffs: Knockouts begin Tuesday! Let’s run analytics stats for all eight contenders
If you were with us for March Madness or the NBA Playoffs (this year or last), you know we like studying key indicator stats in advance of the postseason. Let’s run some of our favorites for the eight teams battling for the WNBA Championship. 

First, a reminder that Seattle and Atlanta have earned byes into the semifinals as #1 and #2 seeds respectively. Coincidentally, those two are at the top of the league in defensive efficiency (scoring adjusted for pace).

Best Defenses (points allowed/100 possessions)
Atlanta 96.7
Seattle 97.7
Los Angeles 98.5
Minnesota 100.5
Connecticut 100.5
Washington 102.4
Phoenix 102.9
Dallas 104.1

Defense wins championships! You’ll see through today’s discussion that Seattle has the deeper pedigree. But, kudos to Atlanta for earning an extended bye thanks to the best defense in the league. Worth noting the stragglers. Dallas has a horrible defense by playoff standards. Washington and Phoenix are vulnerable despite having marquee talent. 

Best Rebounding Teams (Pct. of available rebounds grabbed)
Connecticut 53.7
Dallas 53.3 
Minnesota 52.8
Seattle 51.2
Atlanta 49.5
Washington 48.7
Phoenix 48.4
Los Angeles 47.3

Only Seattle ranks top four in both defense and rebounding. Two more strikes against Washington and Phoenix. Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner may be tall players. Their teams don’t play tall. Dallas makes up for a soft defense here because Elizabeth Cambage is a force of nature when the ball is near the rim. 

Best Offenses (points scored/100 possessions)
Seattle 107.9
Connecticut 107.7
Phoenix 106.4
Washington 105.7
Dallas 105.7
Los Angeles 101.1
Minnesota 100.0
Atlanta 99.0

Seattle is basically Golden State. More WNBA teams are successfully embracing shooting from distance. Seattle’s doing that while ALSO showcasing elite defense and acceptable rebounding. You may not have heard that the top three teams listed ALL topped the prior best full season efficiency in the league. Part of why ratings and interest are up…the game is evolving toward more efficient offense. (PS: ugly numbers for Atlanta here, who MUST win with defense). 

Made Treys per Game
Seattle 9.0 (and most accurate)
Phoenix 8.5
Washington 8.4
Connecticut 7.6 (second most accurate)
Dallas 6.7 (but worst % in WNBA)
Los Angeles 6.0
Atlanta 5.8
Minnesota 5.4

The three most efficient offenses are all in the top three in made treys per game. Seattle truly played “the beautiful game” this season. Best three-point volume and accuracy. We wanted to note the poor percentage of Dallas. We’ve talked about that through the season in our box score analysis. Dallas launches a lot of treys, but isn’t very good at making them. More issues for Atlanta here too.

Turnover Avoidance (fewest per game)
Los Angeles 10.94
Washington 11.30
Atlanta 12.44 
Seattle 12.62
Phoenix 12.74
Connecticut 12.94
Dallas 13.56
Minnesota 13.62

This loomed very large over college hoops analysis for us. Less of an issue in the NBA because Golden State has the talent to overcome sloppiness (and an arrogance that led to sloppiness with big leads). Sound fundamentals for Atlanta again. Amazing how disappointing Minnesota is across the board. From mediocre to poor by playoff standards. Lynx entered 2018 as the league power. 

Those stats paint the picture pretty well. As of press time late Monday, only a few spots offshore had posted numbers. Point spreads should have settled by late Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s Knockouts
Dallas at Phoenix (-5.5/175)
Minnesota at Los Angeles (-6.5/152.5)

A very high total in Phoenix with two shaky defenses. Is it high enough? Dallas/Las Vegas was a wild shootout last week with everything on the line. LA is being priced like the market believes Minnesota has thrown in the towel. 

Tuesday’s winners advance to another knockout round Thursday. If form holds, the winner of Minnesota/LA will visit #3 seed Washington, while Phoenix visits #4 Connecticut. If Dallas shocks Phoenix, Cambage and company would visit Washington, with the other winner visiting Connecticut. 

WNBA “Market” Power Ratings
88: Seattle 
84: Washington, Connecticut (home) Los Angeles (home)
83: Connecticut (road), Los Angeles (road) 
82: Atlanta 
81: Phoenix, Minnesota
78: Dallas 

Our early look at key stats suggests Seattle is the class of the field by a good bit. Extended rest and home court through the brackets position them as likely champs. 

Composite Offshore Futures
Seattle 13/10 (plus 130)
Atlanta 5/1
Washington 13/2
Connecticut 7/1
Los Angeles 7/1
Phoenix plus 8/1
Minnesota 9/1
Dallas 33/1

Looking forward to covering the market/stat angle of the WNBA postseason for you here in VSiN City. 

Sports Betting Media: David Purdum of ESPN outlines difficulties sharps are having placing bets
Great article Monday from David Purdum of ESPN. If you’re new to sports betting, you may not be aware that many sharps (professional wagerers) have trouble placing bets in Las Vegas because they’ve been banned from various sports books. It doesn’t only happen in blackjack!

It’s also been a common practice in Europe for years. As European shops continue to get a foothold in new US jurisdictions, there is serious concern that bettors who show they can win consistently won’t be allowed to bet. Already rumblings from New Jersey. Please read David’s article for a more comprehensive look. 

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