Looking at NFL Boosts And Super Bowl Odds Of Eight Remaining Playoff Teams

With eight NFL teams still in the running to become Super Bowl champs, NJ sports bettors have a full menu of wagering options with NJ online sportsbooks.

The betting public still expects a Green Bay Packers-Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl.

But there is value everywhere, as the second round of the playoffs begin. This weekend’s games will substantially alter the odds, so New Jersey online sportsbook bettors observe the best deal possible right now.

Here is a look at the latest Super Bowl odds:

But come Sunday night, only four of these teams will be left on the board.

 Eagles are out, but FanDuel offering odds on next coach

And in the spirt of futures, what would an NFL coaching change be without speculation?

FanDuel Sportsbook now has odds on the next Philadelphia Eagles coach to replace Doug Pederson.

Robert Saleh (+200), the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator, was the early favorite but his name is off the board. He is the new head coach of the New York Jets. So who does that leave?

Well, as of Friday afternoon, Duce Staley, the current Eagles assistant head coach and former running back, was leading the field at +200. This is after being +700 earlier this week.

Here are some of the other contenders:

  • Joe Brady +400
  • Mike Kafka +450
  • Brian Daboll +650
  • Eric Bieniemy +700
  • Arthur Smith +800

Any candidate will have to contend with the possibility of meddling from the Eagles front office regarding personnel. It is hard to handicap which candidate can accept that. This scenario changes often, stay tuned.

On to weekend playoff games

Now that the weekend is here, the focus shifts to the four NFL Divisional Playoff games. Here is the schedule:

Significant odds boosts apply to each weekend game. Some may play well into your perception of the game.

Interesting NFL Divisional round options

DraftKings Sportsbook is offering  bettors the option of taking the chalk across the board. The operator has boosted the prospect of all four favorites winning to +365. This shows bettors the premium of the Bucs-Saints and Bills-Ravens as close games.

Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen to secure rushing TDs in the Bills-Ravens game has gone up to +400.

FanDuel Sportsbook is offering  some razzle-dazzle, too.

How do you make money on the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC? They are at +200  at FanDuel. One can succeed by including a Chiefs championship into a previous bet.

The sportsbook posted an interesting elimination special, listing the odds of which teams will eliminate others from the playoffs.

Kansas City to eliminate the Ravens is +260, and  to eliminate the Bills is +195. You are banking on Kansas City beating Cleveland as a lopsided pick and then defeating whomever survives the Bills-Ravens game.  You can even make a few bucks if you play both sides.

This is a neat way to improve your odds on the Chiefs, if you already like them to win the AFC.

Fox Bet + NFL Playoff odds boosts

Here are some boosts available for all four games from Fox Bet.

First up is the Rams-Packers. 

Here’s an even-money shot. Can each team notch two or more touchdowns and one or more field goals? That’s been boosted from -110 to +100, essentially eliminating the vig. This is a statement about whether the Rams can notch two TD’s. They are a ball control offense.

Green Bay QB  Aaron Rodgers to throw two or more touchdowns and 300 or more yards is now paying +300, up from +250. That seems reasonable for him.

The variable is determining how good the Rams defense is. It has been hot lately, but Rodgers is Rodgers. In taking this prop, you are hoping for at least one long completion.

Packer’s receiver Davante Adams to notch more than 100 yards and a touchdown has gone from +250 to +300, which is excellent value.

Looking at Lamar Jackson vs. Josh Allen

Each team to score two touchdowns and notch two field goals is worth +250, boosted from +200. The Bill and Ravens  both accomplished the feat last week.

Can Bills receiver Stefan Diggs tally 100 yards and notch a TD? The yes is +200.

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 146 yards last week. He’s part of a prop this week that plays into that. If Jackson and Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen combine for 125 yards, it will pay +150, up from  +120.

Bets on players to score first or in the first quarter are good complements to anytime scoring, but they come with time risk. With that in mind, Jackson has been boosted from+500 to +600 to score a rushing TD in the first quarter.

Super Bowl champion Chiefs versus Browns

Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes to notch 300 or more passing yards and three or more passing TDs has been boosted from +150 to +200.

Tyreek Hill, raw Chiefs star wide receiver,  is worth +215 if he is able to notch a touchdown and attain 100 yards. These two categories often go together for him as Hill is targeted on many deep balls.

The vig has disappeared for Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. His prop to throw for at least 200 yards and two passing touchdowns has improved from -133 to +100.

There’s a big difference between two touchdowns thrown and three. Just ask the bettors who had Tom Brady to notch three passing scores against the Washington Football Team last week.  Brady’s third TD pass was reversed on replay and the next play was a running score.

The props for Mahomes and Mayfield also indicate the expectation of a high-scoring game.

Speaking of Brady, NFL Divisional Weekend wraps up with Tampa Bay at New Orleans.

Brady is in another touchdown-tossing prop this week. If Brady and Saints quarterback Drew Brees each throw two touchdowns, it pays +150, up from +100.

You can usually count on Brady, but Brees is a mystery. There’s the chance of running back Alvin Kamara or back-up QB Taysom Hill pirating at least one of his scores.

Brees himself nearly collected one last week. He did the flying leap to place the ball over the goal line and quickly pull it back on a QB sneak. However, he pulled the ball back too early. No score.

Then there is Kamara to score a first-quarter touchdown, which is now  paying +400, up from +300.

Michael Thomas of the Saints and Antonio Brown of the Bucs have a yardage prop of 150 combined. Seems like an easy one right?  It is now at +100 after being -125.

On the Tampa Bay end, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans to both score touchdowns has been boosted to +700. You wre weighing the New Orleans defense and Brady’s recent resurgence with Brown into that prop.

AP Photo/Brad Penner

 

NFL Playoff Odds: Stacking Up Final Eight Teams In Divisional Round

Round two of the NFL Playoffs will include underdogs like the Cleveland Browns and LA Rams still playing for a Super Bowl opportunity.

Bring on the NFL Playoffs round two.

While the Philadelphia Eagles’ season is over and fans debate Monday’s firing of head coach Doug Pederson, New Jersey online sports bettors await a stellar second NFL Playoff weekend.

Can the ‘dogs bark again?

NFL Wild Card Weekend  featured a strong performance for the underdogs.  They went 3-2-1 and captured two games outright.

Who shouts loudest this week, when the NFL’s final eight teams go to the divisional round?

Here are the matchups:

Let’s look at each conference and our weekly Odds 5.

Rams preparing for Green Bay + Rodgers

The Los Angeles Rams, who produced a 30-20 road upset over the Seattle Seahawks, invade the top-seeded Green Bay Packers as a decided dog. But when the spread opened at Green Bay -7, Rams betting made the first line move go down to Green Bay -6.5 on Tuesday morning.

The Rams showed the effect of a smothering defense against the Seahawks.

They scored off a sloppy pass by quarterback Russell Wilson and never looked back after the Pick 6 put them ahead 13-3.

Wilson looked overmatched by the big Rams offensive linemen and could not extend drives by scrambling.

Can the Rams put the same pressure on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers?  That’s a major question, but at least the Rams can ask it.

The Packers finished the regular season 13-3 and secured the NFC bye.

Green Bay features Rodgers, the runaway MVP quarterback, star receiver Davante Adams, and a stellar offensive line. The line may indeed be the big story, enabling Rodgers to float throughout the pocket and find receivers who break off their routes and get open.

Rodgers notched a nearly-unheard of 48 touchdowns versus only five interceptions this season. It is one of the finest, and most efficient campaigns a quarterback has ever put together.

It is the highest number of touchdowns passes Rodgers has ever thrown. He also surpassed 4,000 yards for the third straight year. His yardage and touchdown-pass totals will be prime betting targets.

The Rams cannot outgun the Packers. This comes down to whether they can win the battle of ball control.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff did well enough to manage the game in relief last week while Cam Akers supplied a spark in the backfield.

Rams coach Sean McVay improved to 37-0 when his team leads at halftime.

Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees, round 3

The New Orleans Saints  dominated the two earlier matchups against the Tampa Bay Bucs and offseason acquisition Tom Brady. However, this is the one that counts and the NFL betting line was on early gridlock.

It was stuck on New Orleans -3.

If it goes to -2.5, the Saints backers will be all over it. Should it drift to -3.5, here comes Tampa Bay money. Bettors can also buy the line they want, but it’s cheaper if the line goes there in the first place.

The talk is always about how hard it is to beat a team three times in one year. We’ll find out.

Brady was lured from New England to Tampa Bay in order to transform a team that had talent. The Bucs have won their last five.

The Bucs invade the Saints, who waged a close-to-the-vest type of game against the Chicago Bears. It was what the Saints defense prevented, rather than what its offense accomplished, in the 21-9 triumph. But the Saints had receiver Michael Thomas back, and he scored. Quarterback Drew Brees did just enough and running back Alvin Kamara had a good second half.

Brees, Kamara, and Thomas will attract prop betting attention, along with Brady, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown. The Brady-Brown connection is percolating.

NFC extra points: Pederson is out

The Eagles make the hot-stove circuit. There are no NFC playoff matchups involving them, but the Pederson news dominated Monday headlines.
It had looked as though Pederson would be given one more year after Philadelphia’s 4-11-1 season, but his meetings with team owner Jeffrey Lurie appeared to convey no long-term vision.

There was also a clash of ideas regarding Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles have a long-term commitment with Wentz.

Ravens are one hot NFL Playoff team

Look out for the Baltimore Ravens, now winners of six straight. Their crushing ground game was expected in Sunday’s 20-13 triumph over the host Tennessee Titans.

What wasn’t forecast was the tremendous job of limiting “The Beast,” Derrick Henry, to 40 yards. Henry led the league in rushing, eclipsing 2,000 yards, but the Ravens stuffed the line of scrimmage and dared the Titans to beat them through the air.

We have mentioned Baltimore as the team nobody wants to play. They will now visit the Buffalo Bills in a great betting game from both sides. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson as an anytime and first scorer remain popular wagering opportunities.

Baltimore’s defense has suddenly come alive and, combined with a stellar ground game, make the Ravens formidable.

The second-seeded Bills advanced to this conference semifinal, which they’ll host. This was their first playoff win since December 1995.

Buffalo showed playoff jitters in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts before building a 14-point second-half lead and barely hanging on, 27-24. Quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs are Buffalo’s major weapons

Can Browns rock again as double-digit underdog?

The Cleveland Browns visit the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs as a large, double-digit dog. The Browns obtained their first playoff victory in 26 years Sunday night, jumping to leads of 28-0 and 35-7 before coasting home, 48-37. The 28 first-quarter points is the most in an NFL playoff game, post 1970 merger.

Cleveland got its first win in Heinz Field since 2003 and secured its first-ever playoff victory over Pittsburgh. The Steelers, once 11-0, fizzled out and lost five of their last six games, including the Wild Card game.

Cleveland is rocking behind the punishing running game of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the league’s best backfield tandem.

Both players scored (Hunt twice) against Pittsburgh, rendering most of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 500-plus passing yards against Cleveland’s defense an afterthought. The Browns intercepted Roethlisberger four times.

The Chiefs have not resembled their Super Bowl-winning form in a long time. In Week 16, they barely slipped past the Atlanta Falcons. In Week 17, the starters rested. Last week, this team was off.

Can the Chiefs suddenly turn it back on?

Patrick Mahomes has an arsenal of weapons and he usually targets Tyreek Hill early in the game for those thinking first touchdown scorer.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

 

 

Looking At Alabama Versus Ohio State National Championship Game Odds

Highly favored Alabama and underdog Ohio State are both undefeated heading into tonight’s CFP National Championship game.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes are the last two teams standing for tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship.

One team was a season-long front-runner while the other overcame COVID-19 issues.

And here they are, highly favored Alabama and underdog Ohio State, both undefeated and clashing for the national championship title. Both have significant wagering cache with the NJ sports betting crowd.

Here is a closer at the matchup and NCAA National Championship Game odds.

Breaking down Alabama vs. Ohio State

Alabama is 12-0 and favored in the nine-point range across NJ sportsbook apps. Besides being at the top of the rankings most of the year, they are the BCS No. 1 seed. The Crimson Tide defeated Notre Dame 31-14 in the semifinals.

Ohio State, 7-0, almost didn’t qualify for the BCS because it had only played five games entering the final regular-season weekend. It notched No. 6, entered the four-team championship and then scored a significant upset over Clemson, 49-28, as a seven-point dog.

The Crimson Tide attracted the early love of the bettors even at high odds. Here are some key numbers:

  • Alabama garnered 68% of the DraftKings Sportsbook handle entering the weekend.
  • Alabama also secured a majority on the moneyline at 56%, despite its seemingly prohibitive line of -315.
  • Ohio State is an attractive +240 if it can deliver the upset.
  • The over-under of 75.5 has appealed to the under crowd, with 65% thinking the total will go under.

Alabama averages a little more than 48 points per game compared to 43 for Ohio State.

Alabama gives up 19 points per contest, Ohio State 22. The betting crowd seems to be of the belief that defenses will rise to the occasion in this game.

Ohio State has a decided rushing advantage of 272 yards per game compared to 185 for Alabama.

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NJ sportsbooks + National Championship game

From an NJ sports wagering perspective, bettors have a number of options, including a number of different props.

At DraftKings, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is expected to throw at least three touchdown passes. The over 3.5 was paying -103 and the under was -125 as of early this morning. 

Justin Fields of Ohio State has a -129 marker for over 2.5 touchdown passes, while the under was +120. He threw a whopping six in the game of his life in Ohio State’s thrashing of Clemson.

If you take the under in either case, you are hoping for a running back or even a quarterback sneak to steal one of the tallies.

Seeking value for the big names? They will have to be the first touchdown scorer.

On the FanDuel Sportsbook side, Fields’ over-under passing yardage is set at 290.5, with the price at -113. This is a playable bet, especially if you believe he can duplicate the 385-yard total from the Clemson game.

Jones has a standard of 365.5 yards. The over is -120, and the under is -106.

Note the difference between FanDuel and DraftKings if you like the yardage prop. Fields is 309.5 at DraftKings and 290.5 at FanDuel. Jones is 380.5 at DraftKings and 365.5 at FanDuel.

On the touchdown end, Jones has a standard of 3.5, with the over at -128 and the under at -102.

Fields has a playable number at 2.5 touchdowns, with the over at -120 and the under at -106.

Johnny Avello says betting is going well

Ohio State has been the Cinderella team in this matchup.

After making the postseason, the Buckeyes turned in a masterful performance against Clemson. They were unstoppable, amassing a whopping 639 yards. Pretty high numbers for a team getting more than a touchdown in the final.

All that did was spike wagering expectations for this showdown. Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJ Gambling Sites the betting for this game is really going well.

“This is probably going to the biggest handle for a single college football game of all time,” said Avello. “The reason is because the matchup is great. Any time Ohio State is involved in a game, that team seems to be a money magnet. People just love to bet Ohio State, especially with points. We expect to see plenty of Ohio State action.”

The betting sentiment bears him out. The Sugar Bowl, involving Ohio State and Clemson, was DraftKings’ most-wagered bowl game of the season. Alabama-Notre Dame was second.

Ohio State gets the opportunity to complete a season-long redemption mission.  The Buckeyes were beaten in the BCS semifinal 29-23 last year by Clemson after having a 16-0 lead. They avenged the Clemson loss and now seek the Holy Grail.

“They could not stop thinking about that earlier Clemson game since they lost it,” Avello said. “And then some experts came out and called them the 11th best team in the country, and you know they didn’t like that.”

Looking at Justin Fields and Ohio State

There’s another interesting element to this game from a wagering standpoint.

Fields had an outstanding game against Clemson

It was the game of his career. He tossed six — count ’em, six — touchdown passes. Two of them were bombs.

“Fields is a talented kid,” Avello observed.  “I like him a lot. He has a good presence on the field, and he has an awareness of his receivers, and yet there’s another way to look at this. He threw some passes in that game against Clemson in which a fingernail could have separated whether the pass was complete or incomplete. …

“The question is whether he is going to be able to duplicate that against this Alabama team.”

Bettors will soon find out.

As far as watching the game goes, we are hours away from kickoff.

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

NFL Playoff Odds Boosts: Looking at the Brady Versus Smith Showdown

NFL Wild Card Weekend means there will be six, not four, games, and NJ sports betting customers have a full menu of boosts, props and promos.

There are six NFL wild card playoff games this weekend. Many New Jersey sports bettors have already found their edge — or lack of one — regarding the teams and players.

It’s a smaller schedule than the regular season and will push more NJ online sportsbook customers in the direction of boosts, props and promos.

Let’s observe the prolific betting landscape.

Fox Bet boosting Nick Chubb

Can Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns rush for more than 100 yards and score a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers? Fox Bet has boosted it to an eye-opening +400, up from +333. Chubb is certainly capable, and the Browns are a good rushing team.

Chubb accomplished this feat five times during the regular season. The latest was last week, against the Steelers. Pittsburgh, however, rested some key players.

For this realistic possibility to pay that well, the book is saying the public expects the Steelers to dominate and force Cleveland to throw more.

This bet is as much about where one thinks Cleveland will be in the game as whether Chubb can hit the number.

If the bet hits, it pays very well.

How well?

For Derrick Henry to achieve the same totals in the Tennessee Titans-Baltimore Ravens game, the odds are +100 — a staggering difference for the same achievement.

The intangible thrown into the Chubb bet is the absence of Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, who won’t be behind the bench. He’s out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Will this have an effect on the team’s organization?

The bet offers indirect insight on the game. For Chubb’s prop number to be that large, insiders don’t expect him to be a major factor. It would correlate with Pittsburgh dominating the game.

But will the bettors agree?

Tom Brady vs. Alex Smith

Here’s one from the Washington Football TeamTampa Bay Buccaneers Saturday evening game.

Can Tom Brady of Tampa Bay and Alex Smith of Washington each toss two or more touchdowns? It’s +300 for a reason.

Brady has been on a roll, picking apart defenses with 12 touchdowns against only one interception over recent games. But those performances have come against the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions.

Washington hasn’t allowed two passing touchdowns in a game since Week 13 and will be the best defense Brady has seen in several weeks.

Smith did throw two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles in the team’s last game. Plus, Tampa does have a porous defense, so he will have a chance here. But he looks hobbled and can’t extend plays well.

Nonetheless, two touchdowns apiece is not a ridiculous thing to ask.

Colts-Bills kick off Wild Card Weekend

Here’s a prop to make bettors think about where the Indianapolis Colts-Buffalo Bills game will be during the fourth quarter.

Can each team come up with at least two touchdowns and two field goals?

The yes has been boosted from +225 to +250.

It’s a respectable return, because teams are not locked into scoring in each quarter. The key is believing the game will be close enough for a field goal to matter in the fourth quarter. Both teams are not shy about bypassing field goals and going for touchdowns, even in the red zone.

But with everything on the line, they could be tempted to play more conservatively and grab sure points when possible.

The proliferation of two-point attempts has also changed the number of field goals attempted. In taking this bet, you are hoping for a more conventional style of play.

More NFL betting possibilities

Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints to score twice against the Chicago Bears has been added. It’s gone up to +300.

There are some props for Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, but be wary. His status is uncertain versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Here’s an apples-to-apples comparison to benefit line shoppers

FanDuel Sportsbook has boosted the moneyline payout for Buffalo, Seattle and Tampa Bay to win their games from +160 to +190. This is meaningful because most other books have this one in the +160 range.

Thirty basis points is a substantial edge for the bettor.

Moneyline parlays are a good idea in the first place, especially with clear-cut favorites involved. In most instances, bettors will hit the majority of the wagers and always feel as though there’s a good chance this will hit.

The question is whether they can get that last one, and there usually is one difficult or sweat part of the wager, to make the bet pay.

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DraftKings Sportsbook luring newcomers

If you haven’t joined the parade yet, now is an excellent time.

For Wild Card Weekend, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering an easy score for first-time users.

Amid the NFL’s highest-scoring season ever, all you need is a touchdown. It’s what DraftKings likes to refer to as a no-brainer bet. The rules are simple:

  • Sign up for an account using the above link.
  • Deposit at least $5 into your DraftKings Sportsbook account.
  • Bettors will be issued one single-use odds boost (+100) to use for any team to score a touchdown during Wild Card Weekend.
  • The wager must be placed prior to the kickoff of Saturday’s Bills-Colts game.
  • You must select the boost from your betslip before placing the bet.
  • The maximum bet is $50.

There is a similar promo for existing customers, but the maximum wager is $25.

PointsBet says you drink the ‘juice’

PointsBet has an exciting slate of promotions to kick off NFL Wild Card Weekend, including the return of No Juice +100 spread lines. The max bet is $10,000.

This eliminates the vig, or the price of playing the bet, usually 10% of the wager.

The promo has particular significance on large bets. A $10,000 wager will usually result in a vig of about $1,000.

The principle applies for smaller bets, too. A $300 wager, for example, would provide a savings of roughly $30 if the vig vanishes.

William Hill + NFL Saturday playoff bonus

Here’s an if-you-win angle from William Hill. It involves all three Saturday games.

All it takes is wagering at least $50 on a pregame bet, and if you win, bonuses will kick in. Basically, you’ll receive free bet dollars for your team’s top running back’s stats. Here are a few examples:

  • $1 toward a free bet per 10 rushing yards.
  • $6 toward a free bet per rushing touchdown.
  • $6 toward a free bet per receiving touchdown.

Credits will be applied directly to accounts within five business days after the promotion period has expired. The free bet must be used within seven days after it is awarded.

AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

 

 

Football Five: NFL Playoff Odds Heading Into Wild Card Weekend

With six wild card games taking place this weekend, there are plenty of questions to consider as the NFL playoff season gets underway.

Welcome to the NFL playoffs Week 1.

Football Five, make it six, goes one step further this week. There are six playoff games and six key questions that will be answered, deciding who advances.

For the NJ sports betting crowd, action has been brisk enough to move a couple of the lines.

Here’s  a look at the playoff picture.

Can the Buffalo Bills handle the NFL playoff stage?

The Bills haven’t hosted a playoff game in 25 years. However, they were immediately installed as a one-touchdown favorite against the Indianapolis Colts for Saturday’s opening wild card game.

But William Hill still had the line at -6.5 on Tuesday. That’s a difference maker for bettors.

The Buffalo optimism is justified.

Josh Allen has turned into that special quarterback this year, adding a nice passing touch to his well-established running credentials. Stefon Diggs gives him a great target as the league’s leading pass catcher, 127 of them. Isaiah McKenzie had a second-quarter hat trick in the team’s 56-26 season-ending triumph over the Miami Dolphins.

What further helps the implied coronation is local officials allowing roughly 7,000 people to attend the game.

The question is what happens if Buffalo finds itself in a tight game late? The Bills have been playing from ahead, way ahead, in recent games and have been able to remain loose.

Indy will try to keep this tight with a ball-controlled game, hoping Buffalo makes a key mistake.

How does Indianapolis counter?

Jonathan Taylor has become the power back this team has long needed. He brought stability to the Colts, helping minimize mistakes from quarterback Phillip Rivers. Taylor rushed for an insane 253 yards last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is the key to Indy’s chances.

The Colts also have Frank Reich, one of the top coaches in the game and a mastermind behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning season three years ago. Reich was a Bills quarterback in the 1990s.

Reich will try to steal a couple of possessions from Buffalo via long, sustained drives.

The line says Buffalo’s weapons are younger and a bit faster.

Did John Wolford become a veteran for the Rams?

It was John Wolford’s first game as a quarterback. He didn’t find the end zone and threw some interceptions. But Wolford settled down, and his rushing total of 56 yards helped the Rams do just enough to capture a must-win victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.

Can he step it up one more notch against a better Seattle Seahawks team in Saturday’s middle game?

The teams split games on their own fields in the regular season. This is ground-and-pound, methodical football. The Rams will try to stay close enough to take this away from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with a big defensive play.

The spread says bettors favor Wilson’s credentials over Wolford’s — unless Wolford’s running presents problems.

The teams scored 29 total points against each other two weeks ago. Seattle won the game, 20-9. The over-under for this one opened at 43.

Does Washington have any chance against Tampa Bay?

The line says no.

A home playoff team getting more than a touchdown is unusual. And the initial line of the Tampa Bay Bucs -7.5 did not attract Washington money. The line surged to -8.5 early in the week.

The Washington Football Team has epic problems scoring, and the Bucs figure to flush injured quarterback Alex Smith out of the pocket, where he has trouble moving, especially to his right. Tampa does not have a strong defense, but how good does it have to be here?

Washington limped to the wire but captured the NFC East with seven wins. Tampa Bay won 11, including the last four, and Tom Brady has never been better as a Buc than over the last four games. He’s got Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans, along with a premier offensive line. The Tampa Bay mantra is winning shootouts.

The Washington defense is excellent and will make Brady battle for everything, but Brady is playing with renewed purpose now. This team has come together.

For Tampa bettors, the line is getting dicey, and many will tease it down, pay the premium and link this game into another one.

Note that the last two teams to win their divisions with sub .500 records, the 2010 Seahawks and 2014 Carolina Panthers, won their opening-round games. It’s hard to see a three-peat, though.

Who will win Ravens-Titans ground show?

The Ravens opened as slight favorites, the closest game of the first playoff week.

Don’t miss this one, opening Sunday’s schedule, especially if you love running games.

The over-under of 55 is the highest on the board this weekend. Titans running back Derrick Henry will be the subject of a prop-betting frenzy, from total yards to total touchdowns, anytime scoring and being the first touchdown scorer.

Henry surpassed 2,000 yards for the season in this past Sunday’s nail-biter over the Houston Texans. The Ravens stormed for 404 rushing yards, the first time in 20 years an NFL team did that, in crushing the Cincinnati Bengals, 38-3.

This is a Bengals team that had just beaten the Houston Texans, and then the Texans nearly defeated the Titans. That means the Ravens are scaling upward. Does that translate to an edge here?

Offensively, the teams have parity. Ryan Tannehill is an excellent, intelligent quarterback for the Titans. Henry is called “The Beast” for a reason. He has led the league in rushing the last two years. A.J. Brown is a bona fide deep threat for the Titans.

One intangible: The Ravens have been playing good defense, in part because their offense chews up a lot of time. Tennessee has one of the worst playoff defenses.

The defensive edge goes to the Ravens.

The second intangible, however, is the past.

The Titans stunned the Ravens, knocking them from the playoffs last year after Baltimore had compiled a 14-2 record. And earlier this season, the Titans beat the Ravens in overtime.

Do the Titans have the Ravens’ number, or is this Baltimore’s bounce back?

Great game coming.

Is there any NFL playoff love for Da Bears?

According to the odds, no.

The New Orleans Saints are the NFC’s No. 2  seed, which is represented by the opening week’s most lopsided line against the Chicago Bears, the last team to reach the playoffs.

Before bowing to the Green Bay Packers 35-16 last week, the Bears had scored 30 points or more in four straight weeks, a feat they had not accomplished since the 1960s. This is an overmatched Bears team but not a bad one, and the spread is huge.

The Saints should win, but it will be tempting for bettors to tease the line down.

Why is the Browns-Steelers line moving again?

Last week, the Cleveland Browns were -9 when they faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in a must-win situation. They did.

On Tuesday, they were +6 for the rematch, a swing of a whopping 15 points in two days.

What happened?

Pittsburgh had been an underdog for what became Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Browns because it rested key players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Even with that, the Steelers nearly pulled it out and opened for the rematch at -4.5.

But that line moved Tuesday once news broke that head coach Kevin Stefanski won’t coach on Sunday. He tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t be available to lead the team. That’s bound to have some effect, especially regarding communication on the field during the game. Some players also tested positive, but none, as of Tuesday afternoon, were overly significant.

Steelers bettors who jumped on the 4.5 relish that early decision.

Historically, the Steelers have owned the Browns at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh crushed Cleveland there 38-7 midway through the year.

How’s this matchup overall?

The Browns have a better running game; the Steelers own a better passing game and defense. And they have been here before, often. This is Cleveland’s first postseason appearance since 2002.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

 

 

Road To Indiana: All NCAA Tournament Games Will Take Place In Hoosier State

Now that we know where all 67 games of the 2021 NCAA Tournament will be taking place, here’s a look at March Madness odds.

Count it. The NJ sports betting industry just hit a three-pointer. March Madness, two golden words in the American psyche, is back.

Gamblers, sportsbooks and the nation’s college basketball fans are celebrating the rumors that became fact as the new year began.

The NCAA will bring back the NCAA Tournament for 2021 and conduct the entire tournament in Indiana.

The official announcement came Monday afternoon.

2021 NCAA Tournament plans

According to NCAA.com, the majority of the tournament’s 67 games will occur in Indianapolis.

NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said, “The 2021 version of March Madness will be one to remember, if for no other reason than the uniqueness of the event.”

“With the direction of the Men’s Basketball Committee, we are making the most of the circumstances the global pandemic has presented. We’re fortunate to have neighbors and partners in Indianapolis and surrounding communities who not only love the game of basketball as much as anyone else in the country but have a storied history when it comes to staging major sporting events,” said Gavitt.

As far as where the games will be played, the NCAA will be using several locations:

  • Two courts inside Lucas Oil Stadium
  • Bankers Life Fieldhouse
  • Hinkle Fieldhouse
  • Indiana Farmers Coliseum
  • Mackey Arena in West Lafayette
  • Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington

Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14.

And plans remain to have the Final Four on April 3 and 5.

The dates of preliminary-round games are still to be determined.

Looking at March Madness odds

There is still a long way to go before conference champions are crowned and Selection Sunday takes place. However, it’s never too early to look at the NCAA Tournament futures.

NCAA Tournament, a cultural cornerstone, revived

Monday’s March Madness announcement is welcome news for bettors. Remember, the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled. And it coincided with COVID-19 pushing college and pro sports to the sidelines.

Although the NBA’s shutdown last March 11 was the pandemic’s acknowledged reference point, the NCAA had already been canceling conference championships.

That’s why the return of March Madness in any form is a financial and emotional lift.

Many logistics will be called into play here, and the tournament will have a bubble-type structure similar to those used to successfully complete the NBA and NHL 2020 seasons.

As far as the NCAA plans go, the Indiana Convention Center will be used as a practice facility, with multiple courts set up inside the venue.

Marriott properties, an official NCAA corporate partner, will house most of the tournament teams. The hotels are connected to the convention center via skywalks and within a controlled environment. All teams will be housed on dedicated hotel floors, with physically distanced meeting and dining rooms, as well as secure transportation to and from competition venues.

So this may be the move that puts college basketball back on the front burner. The league began its season slowly, with an emphasis on regional games, limited travel and postponements for a couple of weeks when necessary.

March Madness will have a different feel

For operators like DraftKings Sportsbook, the 2020-21 NCAA men’s basketball season continues to be unique.

“College basketball feels different to me right now, but it will get better as we get through this (the pandemic),” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told njgamblingsites.com in late December. “I get it, they are looking after the safety of the students, etc., and they are proceeding with caution.

“After the first of the year, especially, if we get everything under control, and if we feel comfortable heading into March, things should be all right.”

On a related matter, Avello said that although Garden State bettors can’t wager on New Jersey teams, it’s a minuscule liability for the books. Besides Seton Hall, there are few teams that would generate wagering interest for New Jersey gamblers.

“There used to be a law that Nevada bettors could not wager on teams in their state, which primarily meant UNLV and Nevada Reno,” said Avello.  “They changed that law a little over 20 years ago, and you were allowed to bet on those teams.”

“We did not get an abundance of money in the state for them. Customers are not looking at betting ‘their’ home team. It’s one thing if you lived in Boston and you bet the New England Patriots because they covered 70% of the time and made you money, but otherwise I don’t think anybody, regardless of the sport, is going to play the home team consistently,” said Avello.

A closer look at NCAA championship odds

Whomever they back, bettors wager into the lessons of past performance. Most teams will lose at least a handful of games and, throughout the season, top rankings will shift.

Some team in the 11-25 slot usually suffers an upset loss each week. This is a fertile area to bet into.

And the dynamic was even more pronounced last year, as teams in the Top 5 were shifted, too.

With no champion crowned last year, here are some numbers reflecting the betting sentiment. Good prices are still available on the national championship front:

DraftKings has Gonzaga at + 350, less of a deal than a month ago, but still good.

Villanova has rocketed up to No. 2 at +700. Baylor stands third at +800, followed by Wisconsin at +900 and both Houston and Texas at +1100.

There is good value in the Big East with Villanova at +225 and Creighton +375.

But, like all futures bets, the value will diminish for good teams over time.

March Madness futures at FanDuel and William Hill

There is variety at other books, including FanDuel Sportsbook.

Gonzaga (+350) is still the big pick, but Villanova improves to +900 here. And if you like Creighton, the team is +2500 at FanDuel.

At William Hill, the same major characters exist, with some slight wrinkles. Villanova, for instance, is +1000 to win the championship.

Gonzaga, Villanova and Baylor sat atop the college rankings as the year began. Eventually, the ranked teams will provide some sense of the circuit for bettors.

Villanova, which postponed its next three games Monday because of COVID-19 issues, remains an enigma. There will be no data to push the futures price either way.  By the time Villanova resumes, it will have gone through a multiweek break.

This is just part of the puzzle. Short term, some teams have issues. Longer term, meaning March, music has begun for the Big Dance.

Dreamstime photo