You’ve surely seen it by now. As the New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game was coming to a frenetic close, Drew Brees threw a pass down the sideline intended for receiver Tommylee Lewis. Lewis was basically assaulted while the ball was in the air by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. It was as clear of a pass interference infraction as you’ll see—except the refs didn’t see it. The non-call likely cost the Saints the game and a trip to the Super Bowl.
It also cost many bettors a win and payout.
Unless you wagered on PointsBet.
JUST IN: @PointsBetUSA, the latest entrant in the NJ mobile betting market, has announced it will refund all wagers on New Orleans Saints spreads & money lines due to the highly controversial non-call (H/T @TheBigLeebowski)
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 21, 2019
PointsBet announced a “Good Karma Payout” program after the blown call. The company “will refund all wagers as bonus bets on New Orleans Saints spreads and money lines due to the highly controversial pass interference inside the final two minutes of the game.”
The announcement has been met with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism. The skeptics will note that the new market entrant likely had minimal handle and exposure, so they stood more to gain off the free press than what little they lost in refunds (fair point by the way, we’re covering it).
From a broader business standpoint, this opens a can of worms not just for PointsBet (and FanDuel, which already refunded Bears bettors after a missed field goal), but other operators. It’s a slippery slope. What qualifies for or are the parameters of a game-altering call? What happens to PointsBet the next time a “bad” call happens and they don’t want to refund wagers? Will they get as much backlash from that as goodwill from this?
The bottom line is this: part of the contract between a bettor and operator is the general understanding that shit happens. Refs will miss calls. Players will get hurt. It’s why they call it sports gambling. There’s risk. We all know that.
New Jersey is a cut-throat and competitive sports betting market. Pennsylvania will soon be as well. Just wait until New York and California launch. Anything to cut through the clutter could be seen as a positive, sure. But cutting through the clutter at the expense of the integrity of a wager or the poor precedence of resetting public expectation is not a good thing.
These types of publicity stunts seldom work long-term and set a poor expectation for the public. Whatever short-term positive bump PointsBet gets, they’ll lose the next time they decide something wasn’t worthy of a refund.
But hey, they got a Darren Rovell tweet out of it, so high-fives all around.
Going into the AFC Championship game, Julian Edelman used the Patriots underdog status as a rallying cry, making #betagainstus a thing.
He almost got the opportunity to do it again, but this time, the betting public was like, “Nah, we got you.”
Rams open as Super Bowl favorites
Immediately after the conclusion of those two thrilling overtime championship games, the Rams opened as a slight favorite to win the Super Bowl at sportsbooks in New Jersey.
That lasted for three minutes.
— TheLines (@TheLinesUS) January 21, 2019
And now it's already moved to Patriots -1 at the Kambi books.
— TheLines (@TheLinesUS) January 21, 2019
— TheLines (@TheLinesUS) January 21, 2019
Patriots are now favorites…
The line quickly moved to the Patriots at -1 to -2.5 in Vegas and NJ. Books are still moving it between those numbers, but it seems to have settled at under three.
Both teams are healthy. Both teams have mastermind head coaches. And the Patriots historically play close Super Bowls. Expect the line to stay firmly settled now at under -3 for the Patriots.
…With the highest total in Super Bowl history
Vegas does expect a high-scoring game, with the over/under set at 58. This makes it the highest total in Super Bowl history, eclipsing the 57-point total placed on Patriots vs. Falcons in 2017.
|NJ Online Sportsbooks||DraftKings||BetStars||FanDuel||Caesars||888sport||SugarHouse|
|Sign-Up Offer||$600 free bets: $100 (10 x $10 on $5 deposit) + $500 match bet||$50 |
free + $500 free bets
|53:1 Moneyline Bet ($5 to win $265)||$10 free||$10 free||$250 match bonus|
(Odds updated 1/22/19)
Two college football powerhouses picked up quarterback transfers from two even bigger (SEC) powerhouses.
One shifted betting futures markets; one didn’t.
Justin Fields bailed on Georgia for Ohio State. Fields was the No. 1 QB prospect in the 2018 class but opted to avoid the grind of SEC defenses for the friendlier confines of the Big 10.
Jalen Hurts, who won a national championship for Alabama as a starter and a second — well, technically as a starter before being benched for Tua Tagovailoa — has now transferred to Oklahoma.
Upon news of the Hurts’ transfer, FanDuel moved Oklahoma’s futures from +2,000 to +1,400. The number dropped back to +1,600 as of Thursday morning.
That’s a sizable jump considering it’s still not 100 percent certain that Hurts will be eligible to start this coming year.
Hurts’ former team, Alabama, remains the national title favorite at +200. Defending champ Clemson sits at +250. Fields’ former team, Georgia, is the third favorite at +750.
Two interesting value plays going into the season include Michigan (+2,000) and Florida (+3,500). If you enjoy lighting money on fire, bet on any PAC-12 team.
College Football National Championship Odds 2019-20
(Odds updated 1/17/19)
|North Carolina State||+16000||+8000||+50000|
|San Diego State||+25000||+50000||+500000|
Things were going so well for DraftKings’ first-ever $2.5 million Sports Betting National Championship.
It was exciting. It brought fun and competition to sports betting.
Unfortunately, DraftKings couldn’t stick the landing.
So what happened at DraftKings was…
Held in New Jersey from Friday through Sunday, the DraftKings Sportsbook event had participants vying for $2.5M in total prizes. Whoever ran their starting bankroll up the highest by the final eligible game (Eagles vs. Saints) would take home $1 million for first.
Read The Lines live blogging of the event here.
Everything was going without a hitch until the very end.
Thanks to some garbage-time scoring, the Chargers vs. Patriots game ran late, ending a few minutes before the start of Eagles vs. Saints.
Bettors who had all or a significant chunk of their bankroll in Chargers vs. Patriots needed those wagers to be settled / graded out in order to get in on the Eagles vs. Saints game.
Some bettors were settled in time.
Buuuuut some weren’t.
And therein lies the rub.
Had Chargers vs. Patriots just gone on a few minutes longer, or had all bets on that game not been settled in time for Eagles vs. Saints, no problem. That’s not what happened.
One particularly high-profile competitor, former ESPN writer Rufus Peabody, was potentially impacted the most. Peabody, who was in first place, had his entire bankroll (save .01) tied up at the start of Eagles vs. Saints.
Balance $0.01. Game: started pic.twitter.com/0uPwb9Gcn3
— Rufus Peabody (@RufusPeabody) January 13, 2019
He ended up finishing third for $250,000.
Others surely were impacted to lesser degrees.
For more details, read Legal Sports Report here.
DraftKings handled this well, right?
DraftKings did quickly put out a statement regarding the controversy:
“The first ever Sports Betting National Championship was an incredibly thrilling event. We recognize that in the rules the scheduled end of betting coincided very closely to the finish of the of Patriots-Chargers game.
While we must follow our contest rules, we sincerely apologize for the experience several customers had where their bets were not graded in time to allow wagering on the Saints-Eagles game. We will learn from this experience and improve upon the rules and experience for future events.”
This is a perfectly fine first-step response. It’s factually accurate. Leading with “incredibly thrilling event” is a little tacky considering how payout timing impacted some participants and the general “come on, DraftKings” public perception building over this miscue. And the reality is they likely have a team of lawyers massaging every word of what the next statement will be. Understandable.
The contest itself was obviously flubbed at the end, and the first response was adequate though not great. DraftKings could have been more emphatic in their remorse and forceful in fixing the situation, but the reality is they quickly had to shift celebratory shilling to disaster mode.
This all sets up an interesting few weeks ahead.
What should DraftKings do now?
This is a difficult situation. First, let’s be clear: the overall concept of the contest was great. It’s a creative and fun way to generate excitement for sports betting, content and publicity for DraftKings, and could have been used as a template in other states.
When you hold events with gaming authority oversight, the very first things you must ask yourself is: “OK, what could go wrong here? And if something do goes wrong, what’s the fix?”
DraftKings might have asked themselves those questions, but they certainly didn’t have any implementable answers.
They’re stuck in impossible situation because of it.
They simply can’t issue Rufus Peabody a “make-good” settlement as that opens up a huge can-of-worms. First, you must trust that Rufus, or anyone else, is telling the truth over whatever wager was going to be placed. It’s possible not entering wagers in the final game was the best thing that could have happened to Rufus or others.
Here’s one suggested route for DraftKings to follow:
- Apologize profusely. Their initial statement, while all true and accurate, lacked a level of contrition for those negatively impacted or understanding of how this situation could snowball.
- Fix the contest rules. This is a given and was already hit upon by DraftKings, but if DraftKings is ever going to be allowed to hold such an event in New Jersey (or elsewhere) again, they must have contest rules that consider all worst-case scenarios and “emergency, break-glass” solutions. There’s a reason why people are playing BetStars and not BetTilt in New Jersey today. It’s because PokerStars had (among other things) an emergency plan it case things hit the fan. Hard lesson learned. DraftKings will hopefully issue their “how we’ll keep this from happening again” in short order.
- Be proactive with NJ Department of Gaming Enforcement. While maybe not this flippantly, DraftKings needs to have their Otter moment with New Jersey gaming. Reasonable people understand we’re all traveling into new frontiers with sports betting in America. In a situation like this, how you handle it usually determines the eventual outcome. Fess up, be proactive, offer solutions, collaborate, move on.
- Wait on NJ for answers. Unfortunately for those impacted, this is the safest route for DraftKings to take. You fall on the sword of New Jersey Gaming. Yes, still be proactive regulators, but ultimately let them dictate the solution. They’re the boss. As long as they’re working with regulators, DraftKings will likely have a say in the final outcome anyway. This is the safest and smartest path to follow.
While a mess, everything preceding the settlement issue was a positive showcase for sports betting. Hopefully, DraftKings gets the next steps right and is afforded a second chance.
After Clemson’s throttling of Alabama in the national championship game, the Tigers find themselves as early favorites to repeat in 2020.
Early futures at DraftKings Sportsbook have Clemson and Alabama at +200 to win the 2020 college football national championship. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Alabama at +170 and Clemson +250. At the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas, Clemson is +180 and Alabama is +250.
Interestingly, before Monday’s national title game, Alabama was the listed favorite at the Westgate. However, given Clemson’s domination, the Tigers went from +350 to +180 by game’s end.
Ohio State (+700 at DraftKings, +850 at FanDuel) and Georgia (+800 at both) are next on the list of 2019-20 title contenders. Michigan and Oklahoma round out the rest of the favorites. All of the odds can be found below.
Notre Dame, which made this year’s playoffs but was embarrassed in the semifinals by Clemson, starts at +3300.
The odds somewhat line up with ESPN’s take on a way-too-early top 25.
Given their recent recruiting classes, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence ascension to likely Heisman favorite, and weak overall division, Clemson seem well-positioned to at least make another CFB playoff. And don’t kid yourself that last night’s national championship game is the end of Alabama’s dynasty. While the SEC will be stronger overall next year, Bama is still the team to beat.
College Football Futures Odds 2019-20
(Odds updated 1/17/19)
|North Carolina State||+16000||+8000||+50000|
|San Diego State||+25000||+50000||+500000|
Of all the major sports leagues, the National Football League always had taken the most draconian public stance against gambling, and more specifically, sports betting.
The NFL has come a long way, baby.
Aside from the issuing of injury reports as its wink-wink, nudge-nudge recognition of sports betting, the NFL hasn’t been kind to those with an affinity toward gambling. This is the same organization which lobbied for and supported the UIGEA, and just a few years ago put the kibosh on Tony Romo’s fantasy sports fan expo in Las Vegas.
With the repeal of PASPA, it was only a matter of time before the NFL got into the sports gambling action. That it got in so aggressively and quickly is somewhat a surprise for the NFL, but it also makes sense.
And after watching its rival MGM ink deals with the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, Caesars going all-in with the NFL seemed like a given. With familiarities between their respective management teams, the road to a smooth and speedy integration exists, as does significant financial upside for both.
What’s the potential impact for consumers?
This deal is wide-reaching for Caesars. Along with their 10 Vegas properties, Caesars operates in 13 states. This provides the NFL with regional properties for fan-based events and promotions, something in Caesars best interest as well as it can drive new, likely younger, customers into properties.
On that note, the likely biggest benefit for Caesars’ customers begins and ends with loyalty programs and points. Caesars Total Rewards could be used for NFL game-specific promotions and contests. Providing incentivized tier credits around NFL promotions would benefit Caesars customers (rewards) and Caesars corporate (building the database).
Further, as stated in the NFL release:
Beginning with the upcoming 2019 NFL playoffs, this multiyear sponsorship is focused on Caesars providing unique experiences for NFL fans by using its casino properties, celebrity chefs, premier music artists and a wide range of entertainment elements.
This creates some interesting potential content plays. Think Gordon Ramsey during a FOX broadcast releasing exclusive recipes, interactive property-centric deals for show tickets, or game/team specific bets all pushed through the Caesars app.
The ability for the NFL to leverage Caesars properties for fan events during an opening weekend, the playoffs and Super Bowl opens the door for interesting fan experiences as well. The Strip (or at least Caesars properties on the Strip) could turn into immediate fan hubs, with music acts and a New Year’s Eve-like feel, with exclusive access for certain events driven through rewards points.
Of course, ideas are one thing, execution is another. There are a lot of moving parts here, but it is in both the NFL’s and Caesars’ best interest to get it right and deliver a little something extra for fans and consumers.
It’s safe to say that 2018 was about as good of a year for sports betting in the U.S. as it could get (Assuming you like sports betting, which if you’re reading this site, it is a safe assumption.).
Can 2019 be better?
Here are 10 bold predictions for the new year. In short, expect more of what made 2018 great.
10. No less than nine states pass sports betting legislation
Why not start with one of the biggest ones?
Of all the states that have introduced sports betting bills, no less than nine will pass legislation in 2019. New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky (via a Churchill Downs push) will lead the way, and these states should follow.
9. But California won’t be one of them
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 147 times, shame on me.
Whoever can finally get the competing California gaming interests to get on the same page needs to work on Palestinian-Israeli relations. The online poker push in California had many starts and stops thanks to card rooms, tribes, tracks and operators never getting on the same page.
The sports betting revenue pie exceeds online poker’s revenue greatly, and there’s real progress being made in the state legislature, but don’t expect California to pass a bill until 2020.
8. The next non-golf, made-for-betting event will be esports
The Match provided the template. Where can it go from there?
They’ll partner with an esports team, draw large viewing from a live stream and draw bettors in-house for real-time wagering on their mobile device.
7. ‘In-stadia’ betting gains momentum
On that note, “in-stadia” betting will gain steam. It won’t just be from whatever smart casino employs in-stadia betting for their esports event.
Las Vegas has shown the way, with the Knights and Lights bringing mobile betting into the arena/pitch.
As other states pass sports betting bills, teams will recognize the enormous potential for fan engagement with in-stadia betting. This won’t be a revenue mover for teams, necessarily, but will provide fans with new content and ways to interact during games.
6. Fiat-to-crypto onboarding solved
The single biggest impediment to crypto adoption on gambling platforms is the fiat-to-crypto onboarding process. There’s a bridge needed for the gap between gambling and crypto enthusiasts.
This issue will be solved in 2019, paving the way for holders to fund gaming accounts with cryptocurrency on a broader scale and more extensive adoption.
5. The NCAA takes a hardline stance
If there’s one potential glaring monkey wrench to trip up sports betting in the U.S., it’s in the college ranks.
The NCAA is rightfully concerned. While professional athletes have too much at stake, in most cases, to be persuaded in bribes or providing confidential information, that’s not the case with unpaid student-athletes.
Expect the NCAA to draw a line in the sand on this issue…
4. … and propose some form of revenue sharing
The model to use gambling as a means of subsidizing education isn’t new. The state of Georgia has used lottery proceeds to fund college scholarships going back to the early ’90s. While the NCAA should take a hardline stance, expect discussions around positive use of sports betting proceeds to further educational opportunities (via scholarships) this year.
3. But don’t expect athlete compensation to be discussed
OK; this isn’t very bold. But that’s not happening.
2. The NFL gets on the integrity fee wagon
The NFL is consistently progressive in making changes and adapting. That has not been the case when it comes to sports betting, as the NBA and Adam Silver have been real advocates and drivers there.
However, that will begin to change in 2019.
The NFL is ruthless in its efficiency in squeezing a dollar out of any and every opportunity, and it’s not going to let the sports betting rocket ship go into orbit without taking a seat in the cockpit with the other leagues. Look for the NFL to push for the most apparent monetization play, integrity fees, in 2019.
1. New Jersey eclipses Nevada in total wagers
We’re going super bold on the last one, as New Jersey has a ways to go still, but hear this out.
New Jersey has a unique pocket of singularly owning the northeast. The northeast is a sports fanatic hotbed, and the total population around New Jersey (when including just New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware) is approximately 39.5 million. That equals the approximate 39 million visitors to Las Vegas a year.
There was no shortage of major sports betting stories this year. Here’s our ranking of the top 10 for 2018.
Top 10 stories of the year
10. Haralabob to the Mavericks
We like to take a bigger picture view of things. Sometimes a smaller story has more significant ramifications.
Take into account Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris (or @Haralabob on Twitter).
Voulgaris is as close to a celebrity (non-touting version) sports bettor as there is. He’s a regular guest on the “Bill Simmons Podcast” with a healthy Twitter following and has no shortage of strong opinions.
Much like how the World Poker Tour and WSOP took poker players out of the backrooms and spawned new celebrities, the legalization of sports betting legitimized some of the more reputable gurus making a good living off the lines.
Mark Cuban snatched up Voulgaris’ analytical acumen for a Mavericks’ front-office job. Long-time bettors Martin de Knijff and Bill Edler are overseeing ways to leverage technology to make sports betting more accessible.
Something like the Haralabos hire probably couldn’t have happened just a few years ago. Sports betting is getting mainstreamed, and its best and brightest are benefiting.
9. The match
While the actual golf and commentating (save Charles Barkley) could’ve been better, The match featuring Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson provided a template for where sports betting can go in the next few years.
This made-for-TV event was also made for betting. Betting information was integrated throughout the broadcast and embedded in the fabric of all facets of the competition (Side sauce, anyone?).
Expect more match-type events with greater fan interactivity and live-betting options in the future. Let’s hope the quality of competition meets the betting potential in the next go-around.
8. Newcomers innovating the market
Sports betting is legal in the US; Nevada must be leading the charge!
As it turns out, Nevada and its technology platforms are the ones who could learn something about sports betting in America (More on this in a later post.).
7. The battle for integrity fees
Has there ever been a less captivating battle than that of pro sports leagues lobbying for integrity fees?
This snoozer won’t go away and it’s understandable. The leagues want to monitor the integrity of their games to ensure the product is honest (fair enough) and charge a fee to do so for their financial benefit (obviously). Even college sports was looking into it (more obviously).
While some of this provided interesting theater, for the most part, integrity fees were like your Trump-loving, Fox-News-watching uncle at Thanksgiving: an annoying but unavoidable part of the discussion.
6. The technology acquisitions
The age-old question: do you build it or buy it?
If you have the money, buy it.
Acquisitions for prospective market entrants or to boost existing products were a sure bet with the Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) repeal.
The Stars Group made a major chess move in acquiring Sky Bet. Paddy Power Betfair (Cougar Mellencamp) bought FanDuel. Scientific Games looked to enhance its product with the acquisition of Don Best (Was the boot camp not included?).
But if it’s not the acquisitions, it’s …
5. … technology partnerships
Hey, it takes a village, right? Whatever you have to do to enter a new market.
4. Pro sports partnerships
Wait, US sports league are striking sports betting partnerships, too?
You’re damn right they are.
As the year comes to a close, there’s been a whirlwind of deal-making for the pro leagues and operators.
The sports betting partnership model has existed for ages in Europe, but it’s a welcome sight with surprisingly rapid adoption in the US.
Pay credit to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being waaaaay ahead of his contemporaries on this one (and knock NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for being far behind while sitting on the biggest betting cash cow out there).
3. The rise of new gambling content
By the second half of 2018, the sports betting floodgates had opened and there was no shortage of new gambling-related programming from companies looking to cash in on the new market. Fox News was in early. ESPN hopped in. Companies like VSIN were well ahead of the game. Um, TheLines.
While sports betting programming has focused on the obvious to start, it will get more interactive and inventive (think “Jackass” for money).
You can bet on that.
2. The early success of sports betting
You may find this shocking, but people like to gamble.
That’s the great thing about sports betting: everyone wins. Except for the losing bettors in New Jersey, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
1. The repeal of PASPA
Putting the repeal of PASPA as the top story of the year is as obvious as listing Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as the best album of the ’90s or the “Godfather” (Part I or II) as the best movie ever. But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not right.
If it weren’t for the PASPA repeal, this list wouldn’t likely exist. It’s ushered in a flood of new money for content, marketing and advertising, and to state coffers.
The repeal of PASPA is not only the biggest sports betting story of the year; it’s the most critical gaming industry story of the century.
UEFA held its Champions League Round of 16 draw at a maddeningly early 6 a.m. EST Monday.
The draw works as follows: teams that finished first in group play are put in Pot 1 and are randomly drawn to play against teams that finished second in Pot 2.
A couple of powerhouse teams were placed in Pot 2 (Liverpool, Ajax, Atletico Madrid) as well as one comically dysfunctional global brand (Manchester United), providing a fair amount of intrigue to the draw.
Also, three of the four English teams that advanced face-off against German squads, lending its way to tired and lame WW2 call-backs already.
Here’s a look at the matchups, odds, and analysis.
Champions Leagues Futures (BetStars Sportsbook)
|Paris St.-Germain (PSG)||France||7/1|
Schalke 04 vs. Manchester City
(These ties offer little intrigue / seem like foregone conclusions)
Manchester City is the current odds-on favorite to win the Champions League (13/5 at BetStars) and have arguably the easiest Round of 16 matchup against Schalke 04.
FiveThirtyEight has City as the top-ranked global team (and favorites at 19% to win the Champions League) right now and Schalke at #49. That 48-team difference is the biggest match-up disparity by far in the Round of 16.
Schalke is closer to relegation than to the top 4 in the Bundesliga this season. They qualified mostly by being in the weakest group (D, won by Porto). Manchester City could rest many of their key starters and still comfortably win this one.
Even playing at home, Schalke is the biggest Leg 1 underdog at +600 to win.
Lyon vs. Barcelona
Barcelona is fourth overall in the Global Club Rankings and Lyon is #34. Unlike Schalke, Lyon is having a respectable Ligue Un season (which isn’t saying that much, it’s Ligue Un), resting third in the table.
Barcelona is Barcelona though, and Lionel Messi is still doing stuff like this. The Camp Nou club is around 9/2 to win the Champions League, and FiveThirtyEight has them second favorite at 14%.
Lyon is at +550 to win Leg 1, not far behind Schalke.
If a Champions League Match Falls in the Woods and No One Is There, Does it Make a Sound?
(This tie won’t be watched outside of Italy and Portugal, and even that’s being generous)
Roma vs. Porto
If you’re a Porto fan or player, buy a lottery ticket.
First, Porto gets placed in by far the easiest group, ending atop the table with the most points of any club. Then, Porto gets one of the weaker Round of 16 opponents in last year’s semi-finalist, Roma.
People are bagging on Porto a bit too much though. Porto has gone a dozen games without a defeat and are confident. They’re a respectable #22 in the Global Club Rankings to free-falling Roma at #31.
However, Roma is +100 to win Leg 1 against Porto’s +290 (and +240 for a draw). Both teams are around 100/1 to win the Champions League. It’ll be an even match that ultimately Porto should be able to squeak by and be the sacrificial lamb for somebody in the Quarters.
Manchester United Needs Its Own Category
Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Has there ever been a sports franchise that has so many people as simultaneously ecstatic and angry as Manchester United this year?
The Red Devils are like the New York Yankees, the biggest brand with the most die-hard fans…and most passionate haters.
Still, what they ’re going through this season is starting to get depressing…
…if it was any club other than Manchester United.
The reality is, who knows what’s going to happen. Will ManU manager Jose Mourinho be sacked by February? Will ManU acquire some much-needed talent during the transfer window eligible to play in the Champions League? Will a frustrated Paul Pogba go streaking during Leg 1 in protest of his benching? Almost anything is on the table.
Except a Manchester United win, if everything remains status quo.
BetStars has PSG at 7/1 to United at 50/1 to win the Champions League.
And betting markets have PSG at +110 to win Leg 1 at Old Trafford to ManU’s +250.
Given Manchester United’s shaky backline and PSG’s dynamic forward trio, this one could get ugly.
Matches with Upset Potential
(These ties could surprise)
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
This one may be the most underrated match-up of the bunch.
While barely qualifying for the Round of 16 and ending up in Pot 2, Tottenham is higher ranked in the Global Club Rankings than Dortmund (#11 to #13) and their futures reflect that as well (25/1 to around 30/1).
However, Dortmund (also known by most Americans as “that team that Pulisic guy is on”) are in fine form, crushing the Bundesliga and sitting atop the table this late for the first time since Jurgen Klopp was doing things like this on their sideline.
If you tune in, expect to see a lot of goals. Don’t expect to see a lot of Pulisic though, as he’s not a regular starter right now for BVB.
Atlético Madrid vs. Juventus
That collective “oh per l’amor di scopare” you heard from Allianz Stadium was when Juventus drew Atlético Madrid.
This is another evenly matched pairing. Atlético steps up in Cup play, winning last year’s Europa League and making the Champions League finals two of the last five years.
Juventus is Juventus and have that preening prima donna Cristiano Ronaldo doing what he does best: scoring a goal a game and crushing souls.
Futures markets have Juventus heavily favored for a Champions League title than Atlético (6/1 to 20/1). While FiveThirtyEight has Atlético Madrid favored to win Leg 1, they expect Juventus to advance. This is one to watch though if you’re looking for some Round of 16 value.
Ajax vs. Real Madrid
This one is pretty straight-forward: Ajax is on the rise and in good form, and Real Madrid is not.
Ajax is at 7% to win the Champions League compared to 5% for last year’s victor in Madrid.
Real Madrid get the “Dallas Cowboys / Pittsburgh Steelers” treatment on futures being a very public team, listed at 12/1 to Ajax’s 80/1. Ajax’s Round of 16 odds reflect a heavy lean on Real Madrid as well. Some of that is understandable as well, given how Luka Modric and Gareth Bale have recently performed on the biggest global stages.
However, unless Real Madrid find last year’s form by February, this one could easily see Ajax advancing.
(This tie could be semi-final or finals match-up any other year, including this one)
Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich
This match-up pits Global Club Ranking #2 (Bayern) vs. #3 (Liverpool). Bayern made the semifinals last year. Liverpool made the finals last year and could’ve won it all had it not been for Sergio Ramos cheap-shotting Loris Karius and Mohammed Salah.
Both teams can score at elite clips. Both teams will be missing key contributors for Leg 1 (Thomas Mueller for Bayern, Virgil van Dijk for Liverpool).
Liverpool is off to a historical start in the Premier League, sitting atop the table without a defeat. Bayern Munich is chasing BVB in the Bundesliga, but are finding their form of late.
Liverpool’s futures at BetStars are 11/1 to Bayern Munich’s 12/1. FiveThirtyEight has Liverpool at a 9% chance to win the Champions League to Bayern’s 10%. Anfield has been a fortress all year for Liverpool, and has them at +100 to win Leg 1.
It’s rare to get two of the top teams on the planet matched in the Round of 16. If the winner of this doesn’t draw Porto or Roma in the Quarters, they’ve done something to piss off the soccer gods. Buckle up for this one.
There are six teams remaining that have a legitimate shot at the college football national championship: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State.
Not having a conference championship game means that Notre Dame is almost assuredly in the four-team playoff. While FiveThirtyEight only lists them as a 77% shot at making the playoffs, there’s no feasible scenario that leaves Notre Dame out. They earned it.
Every other contender plays in a conference championship this weekend. If the results go as expected, there will likely only be one spot that’s really up for debate.
SEC Championship (The Actual National Championship)
Alabama (#1, -225 at BetStars Sportsbook) vs. Georgia (#4, +1400)
This one is a rematch of last year’s national title game, and could serve as this year’s as well. Alabama comes in as a -13.5 favorite, and deservedly so. Georgia is ranked third in ELO and FPI, but Alabama is ranked HISTORICALLY GREAT.
If Georgia pulls the upset, they’re obviously a lock to make the playoffs, but don’t expect their price to go towards Clemson +300 territory. They’d still have to beat Alabama again to win the title, and that’s a tall task to ask.
With a loss, Alabama would likely enter the playoffs again at #4, and likely win again, and even more likely be listed as the favorite.
The ACC Sacrificial Lamb for Clemson Game
Clemson (#2, +333) vs. Pittsburgh
Clemson is undefeated, ranked #2 in ELO and FPI, and has been #2 in each of the CFB committee rankings.
Pittsburgh is 7-5.
While Pittsburgh has been a spoiler in the past, not this year. Maybe Clemson was to become the odds-on favorite with a win and an Alabama loss, but most likely they’d just keep inching up like they have the past few weeks (think +250).
The Big 12 Championship That Will Look More Like a College Basketball Score
Oklahoma (#5, +1700) vs. Texas (#9)
Vegas has the over/under on this one around 78. There will be blood. Points will be scored.
The Sooners are a 7.5-point favorite. They’re 68% to win. They’ve barely escaped some close calls, but this feels like a game they’re going to control. It’s a year too early for Texas. Expect Oklahoma to run up the score if they can. That’s partly why the line is so high. They need a good showing to separate themselves from Ohio State.
The Big 10-Championship-Means-Everything-Game
Ohio State (#6, +1400) vs. Northwestern (#21)
Before blowing Michigan off the field, Ohio State hadn’t really posted many impressive showings.
Now, pundits are questioning the merits of them vs. Oklahoma.
This is a tough game to peg, but will likely really determine the fourth playoff team.
Often, a team that eviscerates a rival in an emotional win comes out a bit lethargic the next week. Northwestern is legit. Ohio State is given a 78% chance to win and they’re a 14-point favorite, but this could end up being a lot closer than people think.
Ultimately, if everything goes as expected, that means Ohio State and Oklahoma will be fighting for the fourth spot. How closely Northwestern keeps this game will go a long way into determining which school gets to play for the national title.