Daily Archives

March 25, 2019

Never Too Early: DraftKings, FanDuel Sportsbooks Roll Out NFL Opening Night Lines For 2019

Juan Carlos Blanco March 25, 2019
NFL Opening Lines 2019

College basketball clearly reigns supreme in March sports betting circles. But the NFL always looms large. That seems to be true irrespective of where we stand on the calendar.

From a general fandom perspective, it’s the unfailing pace of the offseason that does the trick.

The “Underwear Olympics” — aka the Combine — in late February/early March. Free agency later that month. The draft (and the hype that precedes it) in April. Mini-camps in May. And full-fledged training camp, along with HBO’s Hard Knocks, beginning in late July.

Now that legalized sports betting is slowly but surely spreading its wings, the drip-drip fashion in which the national Week 1 games are released in the latter stages of March could start taking on added significance. That immediately leads to the first betting lines of the regular season, which equates to another temporary offseason “fix” for the proverbial NFL junkie.

DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook were both glad to oblige on Monday. Each released point spreads for the Green Bay PackersChicago Bears showdown that we now know will officially kick off the 2019 regular season on Thursday, Sept. 5. FanDuel is also listing moneyline odds for the game.

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Bears are early, but narrow, favorites

Unsurprisingly, both sites have the Bears installed as favorites. The fact the game unfolds at Soldier Field would essentially grant Chicago a three-point cushion from the jump.

Interestingly — considering the disparity in the 2018 records of both squads — the oddsmakers aren’t going too far beyond that number. The Bears opened as four-point favorites on FanDuel. DraftKings goes further, shaving a half-point off that number. Moneyline odds on FanDuel sit at -194 for a Chicago win and +166 for a Packers upset.

The Bears bowed out in the wild-card round of the playoffs last year with a heartbreaking 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since-released placekicker Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining to abruptly end Chicago’s season. The Bears secured the NFC Central crown with a 12-4 regular-season mark while allowing the fewest points (283) in the league.

Meanwhile, the Packers saw franchise cornerstone Aaron Rodgers get through the season on essentially one knee. No matter, Rodgers still threw 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He also racked up 4,442 passing yards, the second-highest total of his career. Yet, a defense that allowed 400 points helped lead to a 6-9-1 record, including a 1-7 road tally.

Packers dominate series in recent years

Neither team made any splashes in free agency, either. In fact, the Packers lost long-time but oft-injured Randall Cobb to the Dallas Cowboys. But, Green Bay did prove a tough out for the Bears in their two meetings last season.

Chicago prevailed 24-17 in a Week 15 meeting at Soldier Field, although the game was tied at 14 heading into the final period. However, the Pack had gotten the best of the Bears in a memorable Sunday night season opener at Lambeau. Rodgers bounced back after suffering the knee injury that ultimately would plague him all season to throw three second-half touchdowns for a wild 24-23 win.

Notably, the Bears have dropped five of their last six regular-season meetings with the Packers, and nine of their last 12 overall. That track record —  as well as the impact of a presumably healthy Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur‘s playcalling — may certainly be influencing the relatively narrow line.

In addition to the Packers-Bears divisional showdown, the NFL has announced the defending champion Patriots will headline the 2019 debut of Sunday Night Football against a to-be-determined opponent. The remainder of the NFL regular-season schedule is typically unveiled in mid-to-late April in the days leading up to the draft.

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Sports Betting Feature On 60 Minutes Offers Mostly One-Sided Discussion With Little Insight

Chops March 25, 2019
60 Minutes Sports Betting

Last night, perfectly timed during the midst of March Madness (and for the very first time, mass adoption of March Madness betting in America), 60 Minutes asked, “Will legalized sports betting curtail corruption or encourage it?”

The feature paints the new American sports betting landscape in broad strokes. The overarching theme (in part because it’s March Madness) was, to paraphrase The Simpsons, “Won’t somebody think of the children?” Or more specifically, in this case, the college athletes.

The fix is in

The feature sets an ominous tone at the start by invoking the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Black Sox betting scandal. However, as it relates to potential corruption, most of the focus is (rightfully) around college athletics.

This is something we’ve previously written about at TheLines: Taking a more measured approach toward college sports.

The moral arbiter of the feature is Mike Hamrick, former UNLV athletic director, who now serves the same role at Marshall University. Marshall is in West Virginia, one of the legal sports betting states. Hamrick’s concerns seem mostly about protecting his athletes:

There’s people that will do what they need to do to make a buck at the expense of an 18- or 19-year-old kid.

While game fixing isn’t out of the question (particularly in a more manageable sport like college basketball, where one player can impact a game more easily than football), a less obvious area for corruption is on injury intel.

Insight into injuries provides unpaid college athletes the ability to give gamblers an edge without putting the athlete in danger of actually fixing a game itself.

Hamrick claims other athletic directors have similar concerns, which makes sense. They should. This is a hard one to control at the college level and not something that European sports can be looked to for a successful template. The best answers may be to limit what college wagering is allowed, or to cross your fingers and hope a scandal doesn’t happen early and often.

Reasons for optimism

While 60 Minutes definitely took a darker slant to the piece, there were some positives. It noted that sports betting has undergone a massive shift in perception in the US, from leagues to the public in general. As it noted, pro leagues “transitioned from defense to offense” in terms of sports betting. The MGM signed deals with MLB, NBA, and NHL and Caesars inked one with the NFL.

The show also noted that sports bettors are younger and more affluent than in the past. They’re more likely to watch sports broadcasts longer if they have action on it.

One expert, Ryan Rodenberg, a law professor at FSU, predicts, by the end of this year, 15 states will have some form of legal sports betting with another 12 having laws in the process. This would be a substantial expansion of where we are today, covering over half of the country.

As in-play betting popularity increases, so will total wagering activity. As William Hill’s Joe Asher noted, 50 percent of all betting in Europe (and specifically, betting on soccer) is live/in-play action.

As usual, leave it to the NBA’s Adam Silver to be the shining light of sports betting. Silver says legal betting “dramatically” decreases risk because we access data and technology that helps identify unusual line movement. Basically, moving this into the sunlight decreases risk. Given how the increased media coverage and awareness of sports betting is already a thing, that spotlight will only get brighter.

60 Minutes ignored a Silver staple as well: How sports leagues are pushing “integrity fees” as a means to keep everything legit.

Final takeaways

It would’ve been surprising had 60 Minutes not done a sports betting feature during March Madness. One one hand, this wasn’t so negative that it felt underwritten by Sheldon Adelson, but it was negative enough to cast some aspirations on the industry.

The focus on college sports as being corruptible isn’t outlandish. There should be concerns around college basketball for game fixing and college football for injury intelligence. You’d be naive to think otherwise.

However, to ignore that the pro sports leagues and regulated sportsbooks aren’t diligently working to ensure the integrity of their competitions does the public a disservice. Again, look at England for guidance and data points. For every Daniel Sturridge potential slip-up or fourth tier soccer league fixing scandal, there are billions in legitimate wagers every year without issue. Making mountains out of molehills may grab a few extra eyeballs for a story, but it doesn’t make the story more accurate.

The reality is, sports betting in America is a runaway train now. It’s a giant opportunity for the leagues, casinos and local governments. The positives significantly outweigh the negatives. Not recognizing that and getting on board makes you look outdated, which is precisely what a 50-plus-year-old TV news magazine is in 2019.

One-In-A-Billion March Madness Bracket Still Perfect Entering Sweet 16

Eric Ramsey March 25, 2019
March Madness Perfect Bracket

Ahhh, March Madness — the season in which your co-workers’ college basketball expertise is suddenly rivaled only by their confidence in filling out their bracket(s).

Opening weekend is a national holiday for bettors and water-cooler warriors, usually culminating in the ritualistic burning of said brackets. I introduced mine to a lit match by about dinner time on Thursday. Some of us don’t even have our Final Four teams still intact through the first four days of action.

There is one especially skilled picker on NCAA.com, however, who still has all 16 teams remaining. Not just that, this particular user has correctly picked all 48 games so far — not a blemish to be found on the sheet. It is an unprecedented, one-in-a-billion bracket.

Well… it’s not quite one in a billion.

Using betting data to calculate implied win probabilities, the odds of perfection through opening weekend are about 1 in 817 million.

The math behind a perfect bracket

If you were betting on flips of a coin (for some reason), the math is fairly straightforward.

With a fair coin, you have a 1-in-2 chance of winning a single flip, 1-in-4 of winning two in a row, and so on exponentially. Your odds of winning 48 consecutive coin flips are about 1 in 280 trillion.

Basketball games are not coin flips, though.

Calculating implied odds involves balancing the moneylines on each side of a game (from DraftKings Sportsbook), then multiplying the percentage for each correct pick. We also removed the operators’ vig to give us a better picture of the true odds.

That math gives our brave bracketeer just a 0.00000012 percent chance of perfection through the first two rounds — 1 in 816,927,896. For comparison, your odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are just better than 1 in 300 million.

This perfect-so-far bracket, by the way, has Gonzaga on the top line.

NCAA March Madness last perfect bracket 2019

Perfection not without a few sweats

Despite all of the chalk dust, building the perfect bracket required picking a few big upsets and dodging some bullets along the way.

The betting odds show Liberty as the biggest upset on paper. The Flames closed at +280 for their first-round game against Mississippi State, giving them an implied win probability of barely 25 percent. Ohio State (30.42 percent), UC Irvine (31.46 percent) and Minnesota (33.64 percent) also won one game apiece as substantial underdogs.

A couple of big favorites made brackets sweat on the way to victory, too. Auburn (72.93 percent) gave New Mexico State a look at a game-winning shot on Thursday, and Tennessee (75.95 percent) needed overtime to beat Iowa despite a 25-point lead in the first half of their second-round game.

And, of course, Duke (88.64 percent) had serious trouble with UCF on Sunday night, escaping by just one point. For that matter, Virginia had the highest implied odds (96.63 percent) of the weekend, and even the ‘Hoos had to weather a threat from Gardner-Webb.

In the end though, the perfect bracket came out looking a lot like chalk. The favorites went 16-0 in the second round for the first time ever, and no winner had an implied percentage lower than 57.5 percent.

Check the odds for the Sweet 16 matchups here.

Bracket Busted? DraftKings Sportsbook Is Putting Up $16,000 In The Free Super 16 Challenge

Bart Shirley March 25, 2019
DraftKings Sportsbook Sweet 16

If your bracket is busted or otherwise in flames, don’t despair. DraftKings Sportsbook is running a FREE Super 16 Bracket Contest, offering everyone a chance at a $16,000 prize pool with no entry fee required.

Basically, DraftKings Sportsbook is hosting another, smaller bracket contest after running a free $64,000 contest before the tournament began. As with other contests of this type, all you need to do is select the winners of the remaining 15 games and receive points for correct selections.

  • Sweet 16: 10 points per correct pick
  • Elite 8: 20 points per correct pick
  • Final 4: 40 points per correct pick
  • Championship: 80 points per correct pick

DraftKings is paying a whopping 3,680 places in the Super 16 contest. So, even though most of the awards will be small, it is still quite possible to win some money on this year’s tournament. The winner of this contest will collect $1,000, and the top eight finishers will get at least $100.

The nice thing about this contest is that it is available to everyone. Because it is a free event, residents of all 50 states are eligible to play.

So, there’s really no reason not to get in on the action. Even if your bracket is still doing well, turning down a shot at more free money is just silly.

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This year’s bracket favors the favorites

Ironically enough, a busted bracket in this year’s tournament is likely because the seeding was too accurate. Only one double-digit-seeded team (Oregon) made it to the Sweet 16.

In fact, the selection committee perfectly chose two regions. In both the East and West regions, only the top four seeds remain.

The other two regions are not much more of a deviation, either. The top three seeds in every single region are still alive, and only 5-seed Auburn and 12-seed Oregon are any sort of surprise.

So, a busted bracket is probably because things were a bit too obvious this year. In a sense, everyone outsmarted themselves by expecting more unexpected outcomes.

What’s next in this tournament?

This tournament is notable for not only its conventionality, but also its disparity in performance. Eleven out of the 16 games in the Round of 32 ended with margins of victory in excess of 10 points.

The favorites crushed almost every upstart team with Cinderella dreams. Media darlings like Murray State, Buffalo, and defending champion Villanova all passed out of the tournament with a whisper.

So, it’s tempting to predict that this year’s tournament will proceed as the 2008 tournament did. That year, the four #1 seeds emerged from their respective regions to make the Final Four.

However, the following lower-seeded teams have yet to win a game by less than double digits (with seed in parenthesis):

  • Michigan (2)
  • Michigan State (2)
  • Houston (3)
  • Purdue (3)
  • Texas Tech (3)
  • Oregon (12)

So, none of these teams has had to struggle with its competition yet – a claim that overall #1 seed Duke cannot make. It’s reasonable to assume that at least one of these squads is tough enough to nab one of the Final Four spots.

The question is which one(s) it will be. Make your choices, and play the Free Super 16 Challenge at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Duke Avoids Disaster, Favorites Go 16-0 In NCAA Tournament Second Round

FairwayJay March 25, 2019
Duke Sweet 16

Duke was one of the few favorites that failed to cover the point spread in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils were fortunate to escape with a victory, as UCF was this close to pulling off March’s biggest upset against Duke.

Top-seeded Duke was a 13.5-point favorite over No. 9 Central Florida. After surviving 77-76, No. 1 Duke goes to Washington, DC, for the Sweet 16 and plays fellow ACC-foe Virginia Tech. The winner plays the winner of the Michigan State vs. LSU game and earns a trip to the Final Four next weekend.

All four No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. Every favorite won during the weekend, going 16-0 SU and 11-5 ATS off the closing lines at FanDuel Sportsbook. Tennessee and Virginia Tech both covered the opening numbers in games that landed right near the number but bettors that bet late lost on those favorites.

Favorites go 16-0 in the round of 32

It’s hard to believe not a single upset occurred in the round of 32. Since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, this is the first time all 16 favorites won in the round of 32 and advanced to the Sweet 16. On three previous occasions, 15 of 16 favorites won and advanced out of the round of 32.

Duke was the closest to being eliminated, and it was ever so close after trailing UCF by 4 points in the final two minutes and by 3 points with less than 30 seconds left. Duke’s Zion Williamson made a layup and was fouled with 14 seconds remaining. When Williamson missed the free throw to tie the game, fellow freshman star R.J. Barrett got the offensive rebound and put it back in to give Duke the lead, 77-76.

Following a timeout, that set up the two missed close-in shots by UCF with a layup and tip-in just rolling off the rim to let Duke escape.

Both Duke’s Zion Williamson and UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins scored 32 points.

But most bettors lost on Duke (-13.5), as the Blue Devils took 72 percent of the spread bets at FanDuel Sportsbook. Moneyline bettors may not try that again on a big favorite, as Duke also had 81 percent of the moneyline bets.

Millions of brackets also avoided being busted at Duke is the heavy favorite and most selected team in the brackets to win the National Championship.

Sweet 16 spreads and totals

The lines were set for every Sweet 16 game on Sunday at sportsbooks including DraftKings in New Jersey.

Top seeds Duke and Virginia are both sizeable favorites over Virginia Tech and Oregon, respectively, while No. 1 North Carolina is -5.5 over Auburn. In a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 contest won by underdog Florida State, Gonzaga is -7 over FSU in their West Region matchup in Anaheim, CA.

If the preseason rankings of the top 25 teams, 12 of them have advanced to the Sweet 16. Kansas was the highest-ranked team that did not advance, while Duke has been the favorite from the start of the season and was a prohibitive favorite at 2-1 odds prior to the NCAA Tournament.

#1 Duke vs #4 Virginia TechEastDuke -7144.5Duke -335
Virginia Tech +265
#2 Michigan St. vs #3 LSUEastMSU -6149MSU -265
LSU +215
#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 FSUWestGonzaga -7.5146.5Gonzaga -345
FSU +275
#2 Michigan vs. #3 Texas TechWestMichigan -1.5126.5Michigan -124
Texas Tech +105
#1 Virginia vs. #12 OregonSouthVirginia -8.5118.5Virginia -455
Oregon +360
#2 Tennessee vs. #3 PurdueSouthTennessee -1.5146.5Tennessee -120
Purdue +100
#1 UNC vs. #5 AuburnMidwestUNC -5163.5UNC -220
Auburn +180
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 HoustonMidwestKentucky -2.5134.5Kentucky -148
Houston +123

March Madness Odds: Sweet 16 Spreads, Totals, And Moneylines For Every Game

Brett Collson March 25, 2019
March Madness Sweet 16 Odds

Well, that was a quick week.

The field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament has already been trimmed down to 16 following the first week of March Madness. Now, the stakes increase even more. Only four wins stand between one remaining team and the title.

The Round of 16 will take place on Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29, followed by the Elite 8 on Saturday and Sunday. Final 4 weekend tips off Saturday, April 6 in Minneapolis.

Below are the betting lines for the Sweet 16 matchups at DraftKings Sportsbook, along with futures odds for remaining 16 teams at DraftKings, FanDuel Sportsbook and BetStars in New Jersey.

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds

#1 Duke vs #4 Virginia TechEastDuke -7144.5Duke -335
Virginia Tech +265
#2 Michigan St. vs #3 LSUEastMSU -6149MSU -265
LSU +215
#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 FSUWestGonzaga -7.5146.5Gonzaga -345
FSU +275
#2 Michigan vs. #3 Texas TechWestMichigan -1.5126.5Michigan -124
Texas Tech +105
#1 Virginia vs. #12 OregonSouthVirginia -8.5118.5Virginia -455
Oregon +360
#2 Tennessee vs. #3 PurdueSouthTennessee -1.5146.5Tennessee -120
Purdue +100
#1 UNC vs. #5 AuburnMidwestUNC -5163.5UNC -220
Auburn +180
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 HoustonMidwestKentucky -2.5134.5Kentucky -148
Houston +123

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March Madness Futures Odds

NCAA Tournament Winner

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How to watch the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Thursday, March 28

(1) Gonzaga vs. (4) Florida State  | 7:09 p.m. ET (CBS)
(2) Tennessee vs. (3) Purdue | 7:29 p.m. ET (TBS)
(2) Michigan vs. (3) Texas Tech | Approx. 9:39 p.m. ET (CBS)
(1) Virginia vs. (12) Oregon | Approx. 9:59 p.m. ET (TBS)

Friday, March 29

(2) Michigan State vs. (3) LSU | 7:09 p.m. ET (CBS)
(1) North Carolina vs. (5) Auburn | 7:29 p.m. ET (TBS)
(1) Duke vs. (4) Virginia Tech | Approx. 9:39 p.m. ET (CBS)
(2) Kentucky vs. (3) Houston | Approx. 9:59 p.m. ET (TBS)

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