When the extravaganza that is the first round of the NFL Draft unfolds this Thursday, general managers and coaches won’t be the only ones doing the gambling.
Thanks to a number of leading New Jersey operators – FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet and BetStars – Garden State bettors will be able to do their own fair share of prognosticating around the annual player lottery.
We’re almost a full year removed from the Supreme Court’s May 2018 landmark decision that opened up the possibility of non-Nevada sports betting markets via the eradication of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
Thus, in what has been nearly 12 months of sports betting “firsts”, we’re about to commemorate the first year that football/wagering aficionados outside the Silver State can wager legally on a wide array of NFL Draft-based props.
Public interested in No. 1 overall selection
Any time a quarterback is even in the conversation as a potential top overall pick, interest in the draft tends to be stronger overall. We have such a scenario this year with former Oklahoma Sooner Kyler Murray. He earned the buzz with a junior season in which he amassed 5,362 total yards (4,361 passing, 1,001 rushing).
While momentum for the two-way threat as the top selection seems to be on a definite upswing in the eyes of oddsmakers, that’s more of a recent development at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The operator’s representatives confirm that Murray actually opened with +160 odds to be taken at the top of the draft. That checked in just below initial favorite Nick Bosa (+110). Murray was subsequently bet down as low as -1200 after we got wind of a Kliff Kingsbury infatuation in Arizona.
Murray currently sits as the odds-on favorite at -500, with at least an element of doubt persisting with respect to his eventual destination (more on that below).
FanDuel also confirms the top overall draft pick prop has generated the greatest amount of handle thus far.
Meanwhile, it’s OSU’s Bosa that’s actually attracting the highest volume of bets from Garden State bettors as the potential N0. 1 overall selection.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings representatives report Bosa as the recipient of the most wagers to be selected at the top of the draft, with the latter specifying 56.0 percent of bets have come in on the former Buckeye. However, it’s still Murray who’s prompting the most handle at DraftKings in that regard — 56.0 percent of money wagered on the first pick is coming in on the quarterback.
Analyzing the most popular wagers
Team to draft Kyler Murray (all books):
The Cardinals as prohibitive favorites for Murray increasingly appears to make sense, although there’s certainly still a chance a team knocks their socks off with a lucrative enough offer.
It bears noting that a somewhat unlikely source – former NFL receiver Antonio Bryant – recently tweeted that he’s heard from people “inside the Cardinals’ organization” that Ohio State’s Bosa now tops the team’s draft board. But, there’s more billowing smoke than a five-alarm fire this time of year, so that has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Granted, the fact last year’s 10th overall pick Josh Rosen remains on the roster is another proverbial fly in the ointment. However, a draft-day trade of Rosen may well be forthcoming.
Top overall pick (all books):
Murray seems to be the likeliest top pick even if the Cardinals aren’t the team to nab him. That’s the sportsbooks’ prevailing view, as Murray is currently a pretty clear favorite over the next-closest candidate in Bosa.
If the Cards do indeed choose to stick with Rosen – a player the new coaching regime has no inherent loyalty to – they’re probably more likely to take the king’s ransom that will undoubtedly be offered to them for the top selection. That would almost assuredly mean sacrificing a chance at Bosa in the process, since their potential trade partners would come from the No. 6 spot in the round down (with the Raiders at No. 4 as a possible exception).
Team to draft Dwayne Haskins (all books):
The quarterback-needy Giants are getting plenty of local interest as the team to nab the “other” big-name quarterback in this year’s draft. New Jersey bettors are plunking down plenty of cash at FD on Haskins heading to the Big Apple come Thursday. The athletic OSU alum makes for an attractive consolation prize should the G-Men decide the price to move up five spots to grab Murray is too rich.
Notably, the Giants’ NFC East-rival Redskins actually are the current FD Sportsbook favorites (+280) to grab Haskins. While Washington traded for Case Keenum this offseason, the cost was only a 2020 sixth-rounder. Haskins and the team have publicly displayed mutual admiration as well, adding to the intrigue.
But, to secure Haskins, the ‘Skins will presumably need to pay a fairly hefty price to move up from No. 15 and vault ahead of the Giants at No. 6, in the event New York’s reported interest in Jones is nothing but a smokescreen.
Second overall pick (FD Sportsbook, DK Sportsbook, PointsBet):
Bosa is the clear leader across all three books, while Alabama defensive end Quinnen Williams is a locked-in second choice. The current owners of the No. 2 pick, the 49ers, clearly can use the defensive line/pass rushing help that either player could provide in spades after tying for the seventh-fewest sacks (37) last season. And, both the Jets and Raiders, owners of the No. 3 and No. 4 picks, respectively, would undoubtedly stand to benefit from Williams’ vast talent in the interior of their defenses as well.
DraftKings giving local teams plenty of prop-based love
In a nod to three area favorites — the Jets, Giants and Eagles — DraftKings Sportsbook is also rolling out “team specials”. Bettors can find odds on who each of those franchise’s first pick in the draft will be:
Giants (sixth overall pick in 1st round)
- Co-favorites: QBs Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones (+300)
- Most Bet: LB Devin White (+1000)
- Most Money: Haskins
DraftKings oddsmakers clearly see the G-Men going quarterback with their first of two first-round picks. It’s easy to see why. Eli Manning isn’t long for the Big Apple and has no clear-cut successor on the roster. Haskins is widely considered to be a better prospect than Jones. However, Jones amassed a rock-solid college resume as a three-year starter at Duke (8,201 passing yards and 1,323 rushing yards/ 52:29 TD:INT) and turned in an impressive pro day. Recent reports that an unnamed team has Jones as the No. 1 QB on its draft board fuels speculation it could be toss-up between the two signal-callers when it comes to New York’s pick.
Then, White compiled 28.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in three seasons at LSU. He would certainly help shore up a Giants defense that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in rush yards per game allowed (118.6) and tied for second-fewest sacks (30). However, New York appears likely to address their sizable need under center with the first of their two first-round selections.
Jets (third overall pick in 1st round)
- Favorite: DT Ed Oliver (+200)
- Most Bets/Most Money: EDGE Josh Allen (+250)
Oliver seems to be gaining momentum after reports of the Jets’ intense interest. With 53 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in three college seasons at Houston, that news isn’t surprising. That’s especially true when considering New York allowed the seventh-most rush yards per game (126.3) in the NFL last season, along with 16 rushing touchdowns.
However, Kentucky standout Allen is breathing down his neck and is the public’s choice thus far. He brings plenty of impressive credentials in his own right (42 tackles for loss, 31.5 sacks).
Eagles (25th overall pick in 1st round)
- Favorite: RB Joshua Jacobs (+600)
The Eagles have been trying to address the backfield for some time now. Their approach of mix-and-matching specialty backs hasn’t yielded too much success, so the oddsmakers seem to feel they’re most likely to nab the ultra-efficient (5.9 career yards per carry at Alabama) and multi-talented (2,062 total yards from scrimmage) Jacobs.
More NFL Draft betting options?
There’s no shortage of other options available for those who want to wager on more granular scenarios within the three-day event that kicks off this Thursday. If you’re in New Jersey, each of these sportsbooks has wagers and odds available for the NFL Draft:
The NFL may have its fair share of warts. But say this for the nearly 100-year league: It knows how to keep itself relevant year-round.
And legalized sports betting, which the NFL ironically railed against for many years, should lend a significant helping hand moving forward.
As much was evident on April 17 when the release of the league’s official 2019 schedule was piggybacked by another relevant set of numbers — Week 1 NFL lines at New Jersey sportsbooks.
NFL Week 1 Lines 2019
(This article will be updated as more betting options become available)
Release of Week 1 lines becoming rite of spring
Sure, each team’s slate of games for the upcoming season represent information of significant interest for its fans. But for sports bettors, the first point spreads, moneylines and over/unders of a new regular season are akin to the crack of the bat or smell of freshly cut grass baseball purists have waxed poetic about for years.
FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook led the way for New Jersey sportsbooks in releasing those Week 1 lines Wednesday. We previously covered the unveiling of Opening Night lines for the Bears-Packers divisional showdown. That number was interesting in that it projected the 2018 NFC Central champs from the Windy City as only narrow favorites on their home field.
That said, here are four other Week 1 matchups that catch the eye in terms of their line:
Ravens -3.5 at Dolphins (DK and FD)
Baltimore generated an impressive 10-6 record in 2018, while Miami’s 7-9 mark last season might look like stellar in comparison to what this year’s rebuilding squad may generate in their first season under Brian Flores. Then, the Ravens added big names Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas in free agency and will see Lamar Jackson enter training camp as the clear-cut starter after the trade of Joe Flacco to the Broncos.
In turn, the Dolphins have replaced one average signal-caller (Ryan Tannehill) with another (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and were unable to add any notable names thus far this offseason. Thus, a modest 3.5-point advantage on the part of Baltimore may very well be exploitable, considering Miami could certainly be hard-pressed to even sniff the red zone against a Ravens defense that could be even better than its already impressive 2018 version.
Seahawks -7.5 vs. Bengals (DK and FD)
The Seahawks recently commemorated locking down Russell Wilson for another four seasons and seemingly shored up his offensive line with a couple of key free-agent signings in D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati. But, the fact they’re initially projected to be over a touchdown better than the Bengals may partly be a reflection of Cincinnati’s forgettable finish to 2018.
Yes, the Bengals posted an unsightly 6-10 mark last season. However, keep in mind it was Jeff Driskel under center for Cincy over the last six weeks of the season after Andy Dalton suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Week 12. His early exit was preceded by those of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, who last saw the field in Week 8 and Week 4, respectively. The Bengals were an impressive 5-2 (71.4 percent) against the number as road underdogs in 2018, and they could be a sneaky play against the ‘Hawks in the opener at the current spread.
Chiefs -4.5 (FD) and -5 (DK) at Jaguars
The Chiefs took the eventual Super Bowl champs to the limit in last January’s AFC Championship Game before succumbing in overtime, and they finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark. They arguably boast the most exciting young player in the league at quarterback, dynamic playmakers at receiver and tight end, and a running back tandem in Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde that could surprise. That makes the fact they’re anything less than a touchdown favorite against the Jaguars worthy of a double-take.
Sure, Jacksonville will be at home and scored Nick Foles in free agency. But, they have plenty of question marks elsewhere on offense, even when it comes to talented but mercurial running back Leonard Fournette. And, there’s the small matter of Foles not quite looking like himself when he’s not wearing Eagles green. Thus, the present disparity in talent between the teams makes this a spot to potentially jump on.
Saints -7.5 vs. Texans (DK and FD)
There was rightfully no shortage of outrage in the Big Easy about one of the most notorious non-calls in NFL postseason history during last January’s NFC Championship showdown against the Rams. New Orleans will presumably enter training camp with a sizable chip on its shoulder. The offseason signings of Jared Cook and Latavius Murray should help keep the high-octane offensive machine humming. Meanwhile, the defense returns its crucial components from last season, many which could be further improved.
However, at first blush, Houston appears to be at least slightly slighted by the oddsmakers. No slouches themselves with an 11-5 record and AFC South crown in 2018, the Texans return all of their major offensive pieces and will sport a highly potent wide receiver trio if Will Fuller and Keke Coutee can stay healthy. Then, on defense, an intimidating front seven will be supported by what should be an improved secondary following the offseason signings of Tashaun Gipson and Bradley Roby at safety and cornerback, respectively. Considering the Saints were just 3-6 (33.0 percent) against the spread as home favorites last season, this number is interesting to say the least.
DK goes one step further with local teams
In an attempt to give its New Jersey and Pennsylvania customers even more betting incentive, DK Sportsbook has done one better than just releasing opening week lines. It’s additionally rolled out spreads for Week 2-16 games involving the Jets, Giants and Eagles. The bravado stops short of setting a line for Week 17, when there’s no telling who’ll take the field for each squad.
A glance at those long-term numbers reveal a number of interesting projections:
- Jets: The addition of Le’Veon Bell and the expected leap forward by Sam Darnold seem to have oddsmakers bullish on New York. The Jets are only narrow underdogs to the Browns (+3), the Cowboys (+1.5) and the Patriots (+4.5) at home. Then, they’re actually 3.5-point Week 12 favorites against the trendy Raiders at MetLife Stadium.
- Giants: The G-Men’s overall 2019 outlook is bleak as it stands now. However, they’re reasonable underdogs to the Vikings (+4) and Cowboys (+3) at home, as well as to the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers (+3.5). Clearly, the mere presence of Saquon Barkley counts for plenty.
- Eagles: Philly is a bit of a wild card to prognosticate at this point in the offseason. Carson Wentz’s health has a lot to do with that. The uncertain impact of offseason additions Jordan Howard and DeSean Jackson also factors in. But, DK oddsmakers are showing some faith in a resurgence. They currently have the Birds pegged as road favorites against the Falcons in Week 2 (-2.5) and against what’s expected to be an improved Bills squad in the tough environment of New Era Stadium in Week 8 (-3.5). Then, the Eagles are more than a touchdown favorite in three other contests against the weaker trio of the Lions, Giants and Redskins.
Lines (heavily) subject to change
Naturally, these early lines are fully subject to a “knowing only what we know now” disclaimer.
The first notable shift in some could come in just about a week’s time, once the first round of the NFL Draft unfolds. The premium additions each team figures to make will shift the outlook for a good number of them to a certain degree. Looking further ahead to training camp and preseason, the inevitable handful of key injuries that will unfortunately occur will further alter expectations for the squads that fall victim to them.
If it has to do with Kyler Murray, it’s probably hard to pin down. Plenty of defensive players can vouch for that.
But his evasiveness isn’t just limited to the football field. Just ask Texas A&M University. And most recently, the jilted Oakland Athletics.
Given his knack for swerves, plunking down some cash on whether Murray is nabbed with the top pick in the NFL Draft later this month by the Arizona Cardinals might seem like a risky proposition.
Yet there seems to be some certainty developing with respect to Murray in the eyes of oddsmakers. Several New Jersey sportsbooks are increasingly confident the multi-talented, multi-sport star will head to the desert — Arizona, specifically — and become the 32nd quarterback in history to be taken at the top of the draft April 25.
The following are current NFL Draft futures odds on Murray going to the Cardinals:
Cardinals just invested heavy draft capital in a quarterback
The Cardinals are where they are in this year’s draft order courtesy of a 3-13 record in 2018. Yet, unlike many other years where a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is getting buzz as worthy of the top selection, the team holding that pick isn’t a clear-cut candidate to take him.
The reason for that is a tad complex. It just so happens Arizona invested the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft on Josh Rosen. A second-team All-Pac-12 selection in his junior season at UCLA, Rosen declared for last year’s NFL player lottery after throwing for 3,756 yards and generating a 26:10 TD:INT in 2017.
Rosen was named the starter prior to Week 4 by former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks. The often shell-shocked rookie went on to throw for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while adding 138 yards on 23 rushes. To say he was thrust into some tough circumstances is an understatement. In addition to an overall lack of talent around him, Rosen also endured an offensive coordinator change from Mike McCoy to Byron Leftwich.
Therefore, there are enough open questions about Rosen and what he might be capable of with a fresh start in an offense that is extremely quarterback friendly. Enough to at least cast an element of doubt on whether the Cardinals stand pat at No. 1 and take Murray.
New coach’s offense and Murray a match made in football heaven?
The combination of Murray’s tantalizing skill set and the unabashed admiration Arizona’s new head coach displayed for him — albeit months before he was named to replace Wilks — seem to tip the scales in the young signal-caller’s favor.
Kliff Kingsbury will patrol the sidelines at the Cardinals’ head man this fall. As Texas Tech’s head coach, he famously (and perhaps prophetically) proclaimed he’d take Murray with the top overall pick prior to a game against Murray’s Sooners last October. Kingsbury now just happens to be in position to do just that, adding to the intrigue.
Then there’s the fact that on the spectrum of classifying head coaches as either “offensive” or “defensive” in their background, Kingsbury is off the charts in the former. He’s been a quarterback at the college, NFL, NFL Europe and CFL levels. The 39-year-old has enjoyed his greatest success as both player and coach running the wide-open spread offense authored by former Texas Tech and current Washington State head coach Mike Leach.
How much of that system he’ll implement and how well it will translate to the pro game remains to be seen. But having a talent the caliber of Murray — who supplemented his 4,361 passing yards and 42:7 TD:INT last season with 1,001 rushing yards — would seemingly up its chances of thriving.
Cards keeping cards close to the vest
As it always does when a team has a certain amount of flexibility with the top pick, it comes down to a basic equation: the player they’re assured of having versus those they could potentially have, should they trade down.
While naturally playing coy, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim acknowledged as much in a Tuesday press conference with Kingsbury at his side. Keim unsurprisingly played word games with reporters while fielding questions about whether taking a quarterback (i.e. Murray) was or wasn’t a consideration for him.
And, Kingsbury joined the fun by heaping praise on Rosen’s attitude through the first week-plus of classroom work in Arizona’s off-season program. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear he was reading off a teleprompter as part of a concerted effort to find the Cardinals a willing trade partner for the incumbent quarterback.
Handicapping Murray’s destination could certainly be tricky all the way up to Day 1 of the draft. After all, in addition to reports of multiple interested teams in the Cardinals’ pick, there’s technically a remote chance of a highly unlikely but still possible third scenario. One where Arizona stays put at the top and takes another highly rated prospect such as Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams.
Looking at Arizona’s potential trade partners
In an effort to better gauge the overall situation, here’s the quarterback landscape for the nine next-closest teams to the Cardinals in this year’s draft order:
- San Francisco 49ers (2nd overall): Recently signed Jimmy Garoppolo to sizable extension and also have promising Nick Mullens behind him. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- New York Jets (3rd overall): Invested third overall pick in 2018 draft in Sam Darnold. Likely interest in Murray: None
- Oakland Raiders (4th overall): Derek Carr under contract for four more seasons, but HC Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock are QB and personnel gurus, respectively, leaving the door open for a bold move. Likely interest in Murray: Potentially sneaky-high
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5th overall): Jameis Winston’s $20 million-plus player option picked up for ’19, but no long-term deal in place yet. Likely interest in Murray: Difficult to gauge but potentially creeping up
- New York Giants (6th overall): Eli Manning could be on last legs and is definitely on last year of contract. No clear-cut long-term replacement on roster. Likely interest in Murray: Very high
- Jacksonville Jaguars (7th overall): Just took the Nick Foles bait in free agency to the tune of four-year, $88 million contract. Major dead cap charges if cut any time before 2021 season. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- Detroit Lions (8th overall): Matthew Stafford still entrenched as starter and Lions’ position in round dictates steep price to move up to No. 1 overall. Likely interest in Murray: Very low
- Buffalo Bills (9th overall): Invested seventh overall pick in 2018 draft in Josh Allen. Likely interest in Murray: None
- Denver Broncos (10th overall): Traded for stopgap solution Joe Flacco in offseason. No true long-term prospect behind him on roster. Likely interest in Murray: Medium-to-high
And finally, there are a couple of other quarterback-needy teams in selections 11-15 that could certainly have Keim on speed dial over the next week. They are:
- Miami Dolphins (13th overall): Signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal this offseason, but he could be released after the first season with just $1.5 million hit in dead cap money. Likely interest in Murray: High
- Washington Redskins (15th overall): Traded for Case Keenum in offseason, but price was only a 2020 sixth-rounder. Alex Smith’s future also very much in doubt, and rumors of Murray interest abound. Likely interest in Murray: Very high
We’re now starting to get an idea about what teams the sportsbooks like for the 2019 NFL season. DraftKingsSportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have joined CG Technology in releasing their projected win totals for the upcoming year.
So, between the three oddsmakers, we now have some confidence about how each team’s season will go.
2019 NFL win totals
Odds updated 4/14/19
Last year’s elite retain respect
A look at each company’s list reveals a mix of a couple of surprises interspersed with a good number of expected projections.
The defending champion Patriots lead the way with a projected 11-win total after hitting that mark last season. Notably, the last time New England managed less than 11 wins was way back in 2009. That season, they sported a 10-6 record in Tom Brady’s comeback from an ACL tear. The Pats ultimately bowed out with a 33-14 loss to the Ravens in the Wild Card round.
There’s a three-way logjam at second with the remaining members of last season’s final four — the Chiefs, Rams and Saints. All three teams have their projection set at 10.5 wins. Notably, each squad comfortably surpassed that number in 2018. The Chiefs co-led the AFC with 12 victories, while the Rams and Saints were atop the NFC with 13 victories apiece.
Then, the team Kansas City shared top billing with, the Chargers, are bumped down to around 9.5 or 10 projected wins as wagering opens.
Offseason moves have varying degree of impact
Other projected totals of note upon first glance include:
- The Browns jump from a projected six wins in 2018 to a projection of 9.5 for the upcoming season. Not only did Cleveland and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield exceed expectations last season by forging a 7-8-1 record, they did anything but rest on their laurels this offseason. The additions of Odell Beckham, Jr., Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson figure to take both sides of the ball to the next level.
- The Steelers check in at a relatively modest (by their standards) nine wins after trading away Antonio Brown and officially losing Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh has a pair of considerably talented pieces in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner to help cushion those losses. However, the loss of the combined talent level of the two departed players, the roster’s depleted depth and last season’s 9-6-1 mark all play into current expectations.
- The Raiders rivaled the Browns for offseason headlines by snagging the best available receiver this side of Beckham in Brown via trade. Prior to that, they added personnel guru Mike Mayock ahead of a draft where they’ll have three first-round draft picks at their disposal. Oakland also continued its offensive makeover with the addition of productive second-tier pieces Isaiah Crowell and Tyrell Williams. Yet, all that maneuvering only nets two additional wins in the eyes of the oddsmakers. After finishing 4-12 in the first season of Jon Gruden 2.0, Oakland opens with a projected six-win total.
- Dark days appear to be on the horizon in South Florida. The Dolphins netted a 7-9 record under Adam Gase’s final season in 2018. New skipper Brian Flores arrives with plenty of endorsement from both coaches and players on the defending champion Patriots, where he spent 15 seasons honing his craft. However, with questions up and down the roster — including at the all-important quarterback position following a divorce from Ryan Tannehill — Miami brings up the rear with a meager projection of 4.5 wins.
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 Packers–Chicago 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.
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.
With Selection Sunday now in the books, we’re just a day away from First Four play kicking off March Madness season, that annual celebratory period replete with significant diminished workplace productivity, plenty of friendly rivalry and no shortage of imbibing.
Yes, beginning late Sunday night, “bracketology” underwent its annual elevation to official springtime religion for millions of sports fans across the globe.
While brackets are furiously completed in conventional fashion over the early part of this week, TheLines wanted to change up the paradigm just a tad. We completed a bracket of our own, but took a slightly different approach.
For the purposes of this article, we utilized sportsbooks as our exclusive guide for navigating the 68-team tournament. In other words, we went with the assumption that the oddsmakers have each of the first-round matchups pegged correctly in terms of the spread/straight-up winners. All favored teams automatically advance to the second round.
Then, we continue determining winners in each matchup in subsequent rounds based on each team’s futures odds as currently set on DraftKings Sportsbook. We used FanDuel Sportsbook odds as a tiebreaker wherever needed.Bracket
The point spread for each favored first-round team appears in parenthesis next to that team on the bracket with a “-” preceding it.
Moving on to the second round and beyond, futures odds appear in parenthesis next to each team with a “+” preceding it.
Point spreads represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the projected margin of victory for the favored team.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the favorite need that team to win by more than the predicted margin of victory to cash in. If the favored team wins by less than that amount or loses outright, the bettor fails to cash.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the underdog need that team to lose by less than the projected margin of victory for the favorite or win the game outright to cash in.
Futures odds represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the team’s chances of winning the entire tournament. The smaller the number listed as the team futures odds, the greater the chance of that team winning the entire tournament.
Fittingly, Duke has the smallest futures odds at +220. Gonzaga checks in second at +575, Virginia is listed at +650 and North Carolina has +750 odds. Each of those teams opens March Madness seeded at the top of each of their respective regional brackets.
As per our approach to this bracket, they would also ultimately make up our Final Four.
The number constituting a team’s futures odds represents the amount a bettor stands to win on a standard wager of $100 if that team ultimately is crowned national champion.
Where are oddsmakers and the selection committee diverging?
One major takeaway from this sports betting-centered approach to filling out a bracket is unearthing potential sleepers along the way.
A rather revealing practice involves comparing how oddsmakers view a team as compared to how the selection committee slotted them within their regional bracket to open March Madness. In the cases we’re about to cite, there appear to be extenuating circumstances regarding the sportsbooks’ optimism with respect to each team, which we’ve noted in each instance.
Keep the following four teams in mind when attempting to prognosticate this year’s tournament:
Virginia Tech (+3000) ranked No. 4 in East Region below No. 3 LSU (+5000)
- Four-year starting guard Justin Roberts (13.7 PPG, 5.2 APG) returns from a 12-game absence to give the Hokies an all-around boost.
Villanova (+3300) ranked No. 6 in South Region below No. 4 Kansas State (+6000) and No. 5 Wisconsin (+7000)
- Fresh off an unprecedented third straight Big East Tournament title and a 25-9 regular season record,the Wildcats seem somewhat undervalued by the selection committee as they begin their national title defense.
Iowa State (+4000) ranked No. 6 in Midwest Region below No. 4 Kansas (+6000) and same odds as No. 3 Houston and No. 5 Auburn.
- Cyclones strive to maintain late-season momentum that ultimately netted them improbable Big 12 crown.
Louisville (+8000) ranked No. 7 in East Region below No. 5 Mississippi State (+10000) and No. 6 Maryland (+15000)
- Following a one-year tournament hiatus, Cardinals look to make noise under first-year coach Chris Mack after 20-13 regular season.
The Final Four and their journey
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 NC Central/N. Dakota State
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 VCU
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Virginia Tech
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan State
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 Gonzaga
- Wins Championship over No. 1 Virginia
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Gardner-Webb
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Ole Miss
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Kansas State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Tennessee
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 North Carolina
- Loses Championship to No. 1 Duke
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Farleigh-Dickinson/Prairie View A&M
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Syracuse
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Florida State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Duke
North Carolina (+750):
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Iona
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Utah State
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 5 Auburn
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Kentucky
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Virginia
Last Updated: April 5, 2019
It’s as much a rite of spring as melting snow, blooming flowers and daylight savings time: Money changing hands — sometimes in considerably large quantities — on March Madness games.
For decades, that’s happened most commonly via office/friends and family bracket pools. Perhaps less mainstream — but still alive and kicking — is the underground betting market consisting of the friendly neighborhood bookie or the offshore, unregulated sportsbook.
The annual tournament’s do-or-die format and springtime setting make it a sports betting version of Mardi Gras. There are multiple days of thrills, risks, close calls, adult beverages and an overall cascade of highs and lows.
In fact, the only missing piece might be the beads. Well that, and their uniquely creative solicitation methods.
FanDuel Sportsbook offering free-to-play bracket contest
Nik Bonaddio, chief product officer for FanDuel, had confirmed in a February interview on TheLines Podcast that the operator would run a free March Madness bracket contest, similar to what it did for last year on its daily fantasy sports (DFS) site.
Following Selection Sunday, that $250,000 single-entry Bracket Madness Contest is now available on the mobile version of the sportsbook. The good news — besides the fact there’s no cost to enter — is that participants don’t need a perfect bracket in order to cash in. Plus, anyone in the US with a FanDuel account can play for no cost!
Rather, simple participation gives each contestant a chance. Participants earn points for every March Madness game they peg correctly. The top scorer at the end of the tournament wins a $100,000 grand prize. In all, the top 1,000 scores finish in the money. Those qualifying for 2nd-5th place takes home five-figure sums between $10,000 and $25,000.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to expose the sportsbook to people who may be reticent to dive right in,” said Bonaddio. “I think March Madness is a good entry point.”
More than just brackets in FanDuel’s March Madness offerings
Notably, Bracket Madness is far from the only way FanDuel Sportsbook is commemorating the craziness that’s about to ensue on the hardwood for the remainder of the month.
To begin with, FanDuel is offering two rewarding promotions for its Garden State customers:
- Bandwagon Bonus: Place any NCAA championship future, get a $5 bonus for every game your team wins along the way.
- Conference Tournaments: Bet at least $10 on each of 5 or more conference tournament games and we will give you $10 in FanDuel Sportsbook site credit.
The operator is also rolling out a free daily contest — Props Pick ‘Em. Participants will compete for a $10,000 daily jackpot. FanDuel will roll out specific props each day beginning with the kickoff of the First Four on Tuesday, March 19, and contestants will make their selections accordingly. Moreover, the jackpot will roll over to the following day on nights when no one is able to claim it.
Back in February, Bonaddio had hinted that FanDuel would be “leaning in pretty hard” with respect to the variety of kinds of props offered, evoking the operator’s Super Bowl offerings as a good reference point.
The comparison to sports betting’s unofficial one-day national holiday is fitting. After all, an estimated $10 billion was already being bet on March Madness annually before legalized sportsbooks outside of Nevada were nothing more than a pipe dream.
Therefore, FanDuel is ready to capitalize on the most fertile of wagering markets for the first time.
Unprecedented March Madness betting landscape in PASPA-less environment
What’s often been a true statement over the last few months on the sports calendar applies to March Madness as well: The betting environment surrounding this year’s 68-team, single-elimination extravaganza that ultimately decides the NCAA’s Division 1 men’s basketball national champion is going to be different.
Thanks to last May’s Supreme Court decision eradicating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), all manner of legalized March Madness wagering is available for the first time this year to those in the following states (in addition to Nevada):
As has been the case for major events that have transpired since non-Nevada legalized wagering began unfolding this past summer, the availability of legalized betting should increase overall interest exponentially.
The operator opted to prematurely reward those who’d previously bet on “the Beard” to win the 2018-19 NBA MVP award. The announcement of the early payout came shortly after yet another eye-popping stat line by Harden in an interconference battle versus the Boston Celtics:
🚨NBA MVP EARLY PAYOUT ALERT🚨
We've seen enough here at PointsBet HQ. That stepback over Kyrie & Tatum was from a 2 Time MVP Winner…
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 3, 2019
Harden racked up 42 points over 39 minutes in an on-the-road win versus Boston. That pushed his season averages to 36.7 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals over 59 games. The scoring and steal averages both represent career highs.
Among the many highlights of his jaw-dropping campaign is a just-snapped 32-game streak of 30-point efforts. That ranks as the second-longest such stretch in league history.
In other words, the payout seems a reasonably safe proposition at the moment. But, it’s not as if Harden is without competition.
The Thunder’s Paul George likely represents the biggest threat to PointsBet potentially taking a bath on the decision. Like Harden, PG13 is also enjoying a career season. Despite sharing the floor with a former MVP in Russell Westbrook, George leads OKC with a career-best 28.6 points and is notably outpacing Harden in rebounds (8.1) and steals (2.3).
The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the aptly nicknamed “Greek Freak,” is likely the only other relatively serious challenger for the MVP crown. He’s behind both with an average of 27.6 points per game. However, his average of 12.6 rebounds is easily the highest of the trio.
Accordingly, PointsBet currently lists the three, in that order, in terms of current MVP odds:
- Harden: -125
- George: -110
- Giannis: +900
PointsBet’s move comes on heels of FanDuel’s early payout
PointsBet’s move is newsworthy, but not unprecedented, in the New Jersey market it recently entered.
On Dec. 1, FanDuel Sportsbook became the first legal operator in the United States to engage in an early payout. It was one it ultimately wouldn’t have had to make, had it stayed put.
On that date, FanDuel Sportsbook cashed out all customers who’d placed futures bets before Nov. 30 on the Alabama Crimson Tide winning a third national championship in four years.
At the time, the Tide seemingly had a leg up on the handful of potential candidates for the mantle of college football’s top team after another perfect 12-0, regular-season mark. The listed odds (at the time of FanDuel’s decision) of -280 reflected as much.
Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men (and sportsbooks) and all that good stuff.
The Clemson Tigers ultimately handed Nick Saban‘s crew a 44-16 shellacking in the national championship game on Jan. 7.
Ultimately, FanDuel paid out $40,000 on the early bets and an additional $42,000 on winning wagers involving the Tigers. And it’s worth noting the former figure doesn’t include parlay bets including an Alabama win that didn’t close out until after the date of the game.
PointsBet strives to stand out in a crowded field
The Harden payout is the second significant ripple in the NJ sports betting pond that Australia-based PointsBet has made recently.
In the latter portion of February, the operator announced a marketing-focused partnership with Topgolf in the state that will mostly be centered around major sporting events. The most imminent example of such is a March Madness-themed Hole in One competition that will unfold at the Topgolf’s Edison and Mount Laurel locations.
It will feature a $25,000 grand prize to be awarded March 23.
Like FanDuel, PointsBet surely feels reasonably confident that the money it just shelled out was leaving its coffers later this year anyhow.
And if the “never say never” scenario plays out and say that George takes home the MVP in an upset? PointsBet is undoubtedly banking on the goodwill and promotional benefits of its move making it worthwhile over the long term in an increasingly competitive New Jersey market.
Kyler Murray‘s NFL draft position won’t be the only thing on the line when the dynamic Heisman Trophy winner runs the 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine.
Thanks the expansion of legalized sports betting, this year, multiple New Jersey sportsbooks and bettors will also have money at stake on the performances of Murray and his fellow Combine participants in multiple drills.
Combine latest in non-traditional wagering events
For years, the NFL Combine has served as the proverbial oasis in the desert of the offseason for football enthusiasts.
While many of that year’s draft-eligible college prospects display their athletic wares in a multitude of drills, fans are left to dream of what could be if their favorite team nabs one of the best from the college ranks at a position of need.
On its own merits, the annual talent evaluation extravaganza does actually have some redeeming qualities. For example, there’s plenty of elite athleticism demonstrated in tests like the 40-yard dash and quarterback/receiver passing drills.
And for 16 years, the bench press test always carried a bit of extra flavor thanks to inimitable strength coach and spotter John Lott, who encouraged, cajoled and generally worked players into a lather in an attempt to squeeze every last rep out of them.
But this year, there’s the added element of intrigue that may trump all of that — cold, hard cash.
Like the just-completed Oscars and the forthcoming NFL draft, the NFL’s annual “underwear Olympics” is yet another new, rather unlikely, wagerable event this year. BetStars NJ, DraftKings Sportsbook and PointsBet have a robust selection of Combine-based wagers centered on the major drills that will be completed during the five-day period between February 28 and March 4.
Interestingly, each of the three sportsbooks is taking a slightly different tack with the type of wagers offered.
BetStars is focusing on offering odds on all-time records in each drill being eclipsed:
- 60-yard Shuttle (Shelton Gibson’s 2017 record of 10.71 seconds to be broken): No: -250/ Yes: +180
- Bench Press: (Stephen Paea’s 2011 record of 49 reps to be broken): No: -650/Yes: +400
- Broad Jump: (Byron Jones’ 2015 record of 12’3 inches to be broken): No: -500/ Yes: +333
- Vertical Jump: (Chris Conley’s 2015 record of 45.0 inches to be broken): No: -350/Yes: +235
- 40-yard Dash: (John Ross’ 2017 record of 4.22 seconds to be broken): No: -333/Yes: +240
Notably, DK is one of two New Jersey operators currently offering player-specific bets. They’ve unsurprisingly honed in on the two prize quarterbacks in this year’s draft — Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — for one of those wagers:
40-yard Dash Prop
- Kyler Murray: Over 4.39 seconds (-125)/ Under 4.39 seconds (-106)
- Dwayne Haskins: Over 4.80 seconds (-121)/ Under 4.80 seconds (-110)
Then, the raw power of Haskins’ OSU teammate Nick Bosa, who finished his three-year college career with 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks over 29 games, can be wagered on as well:
Bench Press Prop
- Over 27.5 reps: -121
- Under 27.5 reps: -110
Finally, DK is also offering over/under bets on the top overall performances in each of the four most popular drills:
Fastest Overall 40-Yard Dash Time:
Over 4.29 seconds (-115)/Under 4.29 seconds (-115)
Most Bench Press Reps By a Player:
Over 40.5 (+100)/ Under 40.5 (-134)
Highest Vertical Leap By a Player:
Over 43.5 inches (-115)/ Under 43.5 inches (-115)
Longest Broad Jump By a Player:
Over 137 inches (-115)/ Under 137 inches (-115)
For its part, PointsBet is seemingly taking a cue from both of its fellow Garden State sportsbooks in terms of the variety of Combine bet types on its board.
PointsBet is offering both over/under wagers on top numbers for each individual drill and wagers on whether the all-time best performances in each of them will be eclipsed.
- Fastest 40-Yard Dash By Any Player: Over 4.29 seconds (-110)/ Under 4.29 seconds (-110)
- Highest Vertical Jump By Any Player: Over 43.5 inches (-110)/ Under 43.5 inches (-110)
- Most Bench Presses By Any Player: Over 40 reps (-110)/ Under 40 reps (-110)
- Position of Player to Record the Fastest 40-Yard Dash: DB (+100)/ WR (+125)/ RB (+175)
- Record-Breaking 40-Yard Time: Yes (+240)/ No (-334)
- Record-Breaking 60-Yard Shuttle: Yes (+180)/ No (-251)
- Record-Breaking Bench Press Reps: Yes (+400)/ No (-667)
- Record-Breaking Vertical Jump: Yes (+235)/No (-345)
- Record-Breaking Broad Jump: Yes (+333)/No (-501)
Additionally, PointsBet’s player-specific prop for the 40-yard dash actually includes several players in addition to Murray not part of DraftKings’ offerings. That list includes top prospects such as Stanford’s Bryce Love, Penn State’s Trace McSorley, and Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf:
Best 40-Time Over/Under (All odds set at -110):
- Kyler Murray: Over/Under 4.37 seconds
- Bryce Love: Over/Under 4.38 seconds
- Trace McSorley: Over/Under 4.65 seconds
- D.K. Metcalf: Over/Under 4.59 seconds
Although the NFL railed against legalized sports betting for what seemed like forever, top executives in each of its franchises have enthusiastically engaged in a form of high-stakes, league-sanctioned gambling every spring for decades.
More commonly known as the NFL Draft, the late-April ritual sees multiple higher-ups in each organization put the fortunes of both their teams and their reputations as talent evaluators on the line each year with the players they deem worthy of selecting from college football’s ranks.
NJ sportsbooks taking NFL Draft bets for first time
Given that it’s long been a televised extravaganza during a time of year where the average football fan is jonesing for some NFL-related excitement, it’s no surprise the draft has also progressively turned into a betting event for the public. In prior years, Nevada sportsbooks were the place to go for any legalized wagering on the yearly player lottery.
Naturally, the options have expanded significantly ahead of the 2019 edition of the draft. Some New Jersey operators — DraftKings Sportsbook, BetStars, 888 Sport and PointsBet — have jumped on board to varying degree.
BetStars is currently the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to sheer volume of offerings. PointsBet, which just announced a marketing partnership with Topgolf in the state, is a close second for the moment.
Meanwhile, both 888 Sport and DK Sportsbook are playing things close to the vest at this point. Their currently available props center on arguably the most recognizable name in this year’s draft overall — Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray.
Murray’s draft presence driving plenty of betting options
Murray’s recent announcement that he’d forgo a professional baseball career with the Oakland Athletics to pursue football was a boon to the general interest level for this year’s draft. The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner brings some much-needed star power into the first round after racking up a whopping 5,362 total scrimmage yards (4,361 passing, 1,001 rushing) and 54 total touchdowns (42 passing, 12 rushing) in his just-completed junior season.
While the props selections and odds naturally differ from sportsbook to sportsbook, there seems to be consensus in one particular area: the quarterback- and excitement-starved Miami Dolphins, which are believed ready to move on from Ryan Tannehill, are the likeliest landing spot for Murray.
Prior to Murray’s announcement, the top of the draft was poised to be headlined by defense. While OSU’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Alabama’s Quinnen Williams are undeniably blue-chip prospects and make plenty of noise terrorizing quarterbacks, nothing gets buzz going like the signal-callers themselves.
On that note, Bosa’s teammate Dwayne Haskins, who’s shot up draft boards after a 50-touchdown sophomore campaign, is also a first-round luminary. Accordingly, he’s also drawing some draft-prop love as part of the aforementioned voluminous selection of wagers at BetStars.
A closer look at some of the sportsbook’s various draft-based offerings:
Team to draft Kyler Murray:
- Miami Dolphins: +175
- Arizona Cardinals: +333
- Oakland Raiders: +450
- NY Giants: +500
- Jacksonville Jaguars: +600
Kyler Murray Draft Position:
- Under 8.5: -150
- Over 8.5: +115
Team to draft Dwayne Haskins:
- NY Giants: +200
- Washington Redskins: +450
- Oakland Raiders: +550
- Jacksonville Jaguars: +650
- Miami Dolphins: +700
1st QB drafted:
- Haskins: -175
- Murray: +165
As mentioned earlier, PointsBet is already offering a solid menu of draft props as well. The operator even has a “Name A Bet” section that offers some options beyond the more conventional and encompass multiple possible first-round scenarios:
No. 1 pick:
- Nick Bosa: -200
- Quinnen Williams: +350
- Kyler Murray: +450
- Josh Allen: +1200
- Ed Oliver: +1400
- Dwayne Haskins: +1400
Team to Draft Kyler Murray:
- Miami Dolphins: +250
- Jacksonville Jaguars: +350
- Oakland Raiders: +550
- Arizona Cardinals: +600
- NY Giants: +750
Name a Bet:
- First RB selected from Alabama: -501
- Giants to draft 1st round QB: -275
- Kyler Murray drafted top 8: -200
- Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams first two players picked: -167
- Giants, Jags, Dolphins to all draft QB in 1st round: +100
- Kyler Murray as first overall pick: +550
Notably, DK and 888 Sport both currently check in with matching betting options and odds on both Murray’s possible draft position and the top five teams most likely to draft the dynamic quarterback. With the draft still over two months away, there naturally could be plenty of other props added by both operators, as well as others in the state.
Kyler Murray Draft Position:
- Over 6.5: -139
- Under 6.5: +105
Team to Draft Kyler Murray:
- Miami Dolphins: +250
- Jacksonville Jaguars: +400
- Oakland Raiders: +500
- Arizona Cardinals: +600
- NY Giants: +700
Kyler Murray Draft Position:
- Over 6.5: -139
- Under 6.5: +105
Team to Draft Kyler Murray:
- Miami Dolphins: +250
- Jacksonville Jaguars: +400
- Oakland Raiders: +500
- Arizona Cardinals: +600
- NY Giants: +700
FanDuel still in wait-and-see mode?
FanDuel Sportsbook is one major New Jersey sportsbook that’s yet to offer any NFL draft odds. The operator does have NFL futures bets in the form of the next year’s Super Bowl winner, as well as conference champions for the 2019 season.
A request for further clarification on whether the company will eventually offer NFL draft odds is pending a final response as of this writing. However, based on how wagering options have unfolded in New Jersey thus far during the state’s brief history with legalized sports betting, it would appear likely we’ll eventually see FD follow suit to some degree.