Baseball picksJuly 22, 2021

The National League MVP race has become a two-man show. Jacob deGrom recently moved into minus odds (-110) while Fernando Tatis, Jr. has seen his odds to with the NL MVP jump from +180 to +123 over the last couple of weeks. In this piece, I take a look at the frontrunners & if there are any worthy longshots to consider at this point in the season.

National League MVP odds
National League MVP favorite, Jacob deGrom

How it started – The National League MVP odds board opened with young Nationals slugger, Juan Soto at the top with the 2018 AL MVP, Mookie Betts at +750 odds. Fernando Tatis, Jr. opened as the third favorite to win the NL MVP, and his performance so far has been as expected. The current betting favorite, Jacob deGrom, opened at 50-1 to win the NL MVP, and while he’s been great for several years now, not many expected him to have the season he is having. deGrom’s long odds early on were deserved as pitchers rarely win the MVP. Clayton Kershaw won the award in 2014, but before that, you have to go back to Bob Gibson’s magical 1968 season when a pitcher won the NL’s Most Valuable Player award.

How it’s going – Much like the American League, the National League MVP race has turned into a two-man contest with Mets pitcher, Jacob deGrom (-110), and Padres star, Fernando Tatis, Jr (+123). both separating themselves from the pack. And with the third favorite, Braves outfielder and 2018 National League Rookie of the Year, Ronald Acuna, out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, the gap between the top two and the rest of the field is only widening. On top of that, deGrom and Tatis, Jr. are the best players on two of the best teams in the National League. Historic seasons should be rewarded, however, and if deGrom continues his great play (see below), the MVP is his to lose.

National League MVP odds

Jacob deGromPitching: 15 GS, 92.0 IP, 7-2 W/L, 1.08 ERA, 146 K, 0.55 WHIP | Batting: 12 hits, 6 RBI, .364 AVG, .394 SLG – deGrom’s season so far has been one for the ages. And I included his hitting stats here because, in regards to the National League MVP race, they are relevant. The six RBIs he has are more than half of the earned runs he’s given up this season (11). And as has been the unfortunate case with the Mets in recent years, deGrom’s run support in his two losses was ZERO. This while allowing one earned run in each of those games. He has gotten touched up a bit his last three starts, however, giving up seven earned runs during those starts. Proof of his greatness though is that during this “down” stretch, deGrom’s ERA has gone from 0.50 to 1.08. He plays in the #1 media market, his Mets are in 1st place in the National League East, and there have been only a couple sub-1.00 ERAs posted ever. I think the number everyone is looking at now is Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA during the 1968 season.

National League MVP odds

Fernando Tatis, Jr.74 runs, 29 HR, 66 RBI, 22 SB, .295 AVG, 1.029 OPS – The National League leader in home runs has cemented himself as the superstar he was tabbed as when he first suited up for the Padres three seasons ago. El Nino has already set career highs this year in HRs, RBIs, doubles (18), walks (40), and stolen bases. The San Diego shortstop has dealt with some shoulder issues and has missed some games, but in a normal year, when another guy isn’t having one of the greatest seasons ever, Tatis, Jr. would likely be the heavy favorite.

National League MVP odds

Ronald Acuna72 runs, 24 HR, 52 RBI, 17 SB, .283 AVG, .990 OPS (out for rest of season) – There is really no need to spend much time here as this will likely be Acuna’s last week as one of the betting favorites to win the NL MVP, but the star outfielder has been one of the betting favorites all season. Acuna is still third in the National League in HRs and second in runs scored. His injury (torn ACL) was a tough one to take for the Braves as they have championship aspirations. All is not lost yet for the Braves as they are only 4.5 games behind the Mets in the East as we head into the final week of July, but they had been a .500 ballclub with their best player in the line-up, and unless their pitching gets on track, it’s hard seeing Atlanta improving from their first half.

Any longshots? In short, not likely. A guy like Trea Turner (+3250) is having a career year, carrying a .320 BA into the second half with 18 round-trippers and 47 RBI. Duplicating those numbers for the playoff run would be a feat in itself, but it would require that, plus season-ending injuries or complete second-half meltdowns from both of the frontrunners for Trea’s MVP tickets to cash.

Be sure to check out my American League MVP betting analysis.

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Football picksJuly 16, 2021

New England backers are enthusiastic about this year’s group, and the Patriots win total is getting bet up with online sportsbooks. The roster has certainly stabilized in 2021, but is it too soon to start expecting double-digit wins?

patriots win total cam newton

After throwing just eight TDs to 10 interceptions last year, Cam Newton was re-signed with a vote of confidence from Bill Belichick


Patriots Begin Year 2 of Post-Brady Era

Love them or hate them, the New England Patriots were one of the most consistent teams during the Brady-Belichick era. Always favored to win the East, and often coming off a successful playoff run. They didn’t draft a lot of big name, early-round picks but were instead known for value. Linemen and linebackers that would adapt to the Patriot way and learn from some of the best: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Dean Pees, Romeo Crennel.

For bettors, the questions ranged from, “How do Super Bowl champs do against Vegas win totals” to, “Can ANYONE in this division actually pull off an upset?”

This year, the Patriots (7-9) are coming off their worst season since 2000.

There are no statistical models for NFL teams that accomplished what New England did from 2001-19, and are now coming off a sub-500 year. What we can do, though, is look at the futures pricing offered by sportsbooks and make a decision. Is this the year the Pats bounce back, or is last year’s 7-9 record just the beginning of a fallout that will take several seasons to recover from?

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New England Patriots Odds

I’m tracking NFL offseason betting odds for you throughout the summer. Every time a new team preview is added or the futures market takes a significant swing, I’ll post on social media and you can stay up to date as we countdown to kickoff.

For preseason power rankings and Super Bowl odds, visit my NFL Team Previews HQ!

2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 9.5 UN -120
Pre-draft NFL Win Total Odds: 9 OV -145
2020 Record: 7-9
Average Wins 2018-20: 10
Odds to win the Division: +260 (2nd place)
Net Strength of Schedule: 16th easiest

Betting Advice on the Patriots Win Total

If you look back over the past two decades, New England’s season win total followed a very similar path each and every year. See if this sounds familiar.

  • Opens at double-digits
  • Gets bet up throughout the summer
  • Close at an average of 11, juiced to the high-side
  • Pats would then trash the competition, clearing the total by Week 15

From 2010-19, betting New England’s season win total to go OVER produced a 8-0-2 record.

Last year, the Patriots win total opened at 9 and bettors were decidedly cautious. Cam Newton was signed to a one-year deal in June but after missing most of 2019 with a foot injury, no one knew just how mobile he’d be. An abbreviated offseason wouldn’t help, and when you took into account his lack of playmakers, well, the cracks were showing.

The Patriots win total closed at 9 UNDER -140 and like clockwork, the winning tickets were secured by Week 15, only this time it was a big hit for “Under” bettors.

NFL consensus data shows that most bettors have shrugged last year off. The Patriots win total was recently bet up from 9 to 9.5 wins. Odds for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl were paying 30 to 1 just six weeks ago, and they are now only +2200.

New England was 3-3 SU vs. the division last year, ending a four-year run of going 5-1 SU. The Pats posted a winning record against the AFC East every single year since 2000. Betting the Patriots win total to go OVER in 2021 clearly hinges on success vs. the Dolphins and Jets, and New England opens and closes their schedule against Miami.

In-between, they get a lot of their tougher matchups at home. Teams like the Saints, Bucs, Cowboys, Browns, Titans and Bills. Home field advantage is not quite what it used to be, however. Home losses last year were against the Broncos, Niners and Bills. Combined W/L of 24-24 (.500), heavily skewed by Buffalo’s 13-3 SU record.

Pardon me if I don’t share the same optimism as bettors that are moving the Patriots win total up to a juicy 9.5 wins by Week 1.

New England Patriots Trends

As of this writing, the Week 1 line for Miami at New England favors the Pats -2.5 points with a total of 45.5 points.

  • In the past 10 years, Week 1 teams off a 7-9 season have a 15-26-1 ATS (37%) record in Week 1.
  • These same teams possess a record of 24-16-2 OVER (60%) in the opening week and that includes a 11-3 OVER (79%) record in Week 1 the past three seasons.

New England’s defense allowed 5.8 yards per play (YPPL) in 2020, which was their most generous mark since 2011.

  • In the first half of the season, conference home faves that allowed more than 5.4 YPPL last year are 95-140 ATS (40%).

That trend suggests fading the Patriots this year in Week 1 (Dolphins) and Week 7 (Jets).

New England will lose its share of games this year and when they do, watch for matchups against winning teams.

  • If the Patriots are favored by a TD or less in this scenario they are 17-5 ATS (77%) and the UNDER is 15-7 (68%).

Note that the UNDER in this exact setup (above) is on a 11-1 (92%) run since 2013.

In Week 11, the Patriots are in Atlanta for a Thursday nighter against the Falcons. We know Atlanta will bring everything they’ve got to that game, and next up for the Pats is a home date vs. the Titans. That’s a playoff revenge game for the Pats, who have lost twice vs. Tennessee since 2018.

  • Cam Newton is 0-3 SU/ATS his past three games after a Thursday game, scoring 3-19-12 points. All three games stayed UNDER.

He hasn’t been able to get his offense going with the extra prep time and against the Titans, who have a bye week on-deck, New England could be outmatched here.

Patriots Bottom Line

The Patriots added WR Nelson Agholor as a downfield threat for Cam Newton. Kendrick Bourne was also signed to a three-year deal and should see an uptick from his numbers with San Francisco. Bourne had 11 touchdowns with the Niners (2017-20), averaging 2.4 catches for 30.5 yards, but his competition here is Jakobi Myers and N’Keal Harry. Given Bourne’s versatility and the likelihood of O-Co McDaniels getting his tight ends more involved, he should see an increase in snap counts. TEs Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were huge acquisitions.

First round draft pick Mac Jones (Alabama) is considered by many as the future face of the franchise, but whether or not Jones sees the field this year depends on Newton. A classic pocket passer from Nick Saban’s ultra successful program, expectations still need to be tempered.

Recent first round picks for New England include:

  • WR Harry, 2019 (chemistry nightmare)
  • LT Isaiah Wynn, 2018 (missed 14 of 32 games since being drafted)
  • RB Sony Michel, 2018 (shows flashes, but is often injured as well)

To be fair, all three could benefit from stability at QB this season, and that brings us back to the question of Newton. In a recent interview with ESPN, Newton admitted he needs to be better this year and after all that time with Belichick, how could any professional QB not improve on his approach?

There are fewer question marks about Newton’s health this year, and a better supporting cast. Going 8-8 doesn’t sound like too lofty a goal for this franchise, but it would be a step up from last year and keep in mind, the average number of wins since 2010 for any team that was 7-9 last year is 7.5. Nine feels like the real-life target for a Patriots win total, but anymore than that is hard to envision.

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Sports picksJuly 13, 2021

Sandwich, UK – Royal St. George’s Golf Club plays host this week to the 149th Open Championship, and here I have my Open Championship Betting preview for you. The club itself is steeped in history having hosted 14 previous Open Championships. It was founded in 1887 and hosted its first Open in 1894, won by John Henry Taylor. One of Royal St. George’s most famous members was Ian Fleming, and the author of the James Bond series even used the course as a setting for a match between Bond and the main villian in his novel, “Goldfinger.”

Royal St. Geroge’s Golf Club

Past Open winners here include some big names. Harry Vardon (1899, 1911) and Walter Hagen (1922, 1928) both won twice at this venue, but more recently, Greg Norman won The Open here in ’93 with Darren Clarke winning when Royal St. George’s last hosted The Open in 2011. Norman’s four-day total of 267 strokes (-13) in ’93 was the lowest in the history of this event at this location. Taylor shot a 326 when he won the first Open here in 1894. Taylor also earned a whopping 30 English Pounds (approx. $41 USD today) for his victory. This week’s winner will pocket just over $2,000,000 USD. Betting The Open Championship may not be as lucrative as winning it, but hopefully, we can all make a few bucks this weekend.

Royal St. George’s this year will be playing at 7,189 yards to a par of 70. There have been a dozen withdrawals leading up to this week’s event, including Major Champions Zach Johnson (COVID), Bubba Watson (contact tracing), and Hideki Matsuyama (fatigue), but most of the other big names will be there. This includes PGA Champion Phil Mickelson, who tied for 2nd here in 2011, and U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm.
It has not always been the most well-liked stop for the players, however. The undulating fairways and unpredictable wind can make it very frustrating at times with good shots turning into bad shots due to the elements. Four-time Major winner, Brooks Koepka, said of Royal St. George’s, “…quite a few blind tee shots, kind of hitting to nothing…it’s not my favorite of the rotation…” Three-time Champion Golfer of the Year, Gary Player, called Royal St. George’s one of the “easiest” courses in the Open rotation, however. Tell that to Jack Nicklaus, who shot an opening-round 83 here in the 1981 Open. The fairways are wide, which will help when the winds pick up, but many of the bunkers are unforgiving and could create some big scores. As opposed to the U.S. Open where they were actually aiming for bunkers, I think the basic strategy is to stay clear of them, and you may have a chance to go low.

Betting the 2021 Open Championship – The Open tends to bring out the longshots and the veterans and is probably the most difficult to predict of the Major championships. The average age of the Open winner is 35.7 years old, compared to 27.8 for U.S. Open champions, and the average pre-tournament odds of the winners have been 60-1. To boot, 14 of the last 20 Claret Jug winners have won previously during that season. Shane Lowry won the 2019 Open at 80-1 odds, and he was 33 years old at the time. Lowry is currently 40-1 to repeat. The elements are the great equalizer here, and it often comes down to mental fortitude and one’s ability to avoid major trouble down the stretch. And oftentimes with wide-open fields like this one tends to be, Top-10 or Top-20 bets are often more profitable than trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a 60-1 longshot. Even my premium Golf picks are on head-to-head match-ups. Clarke was the 111th-ranked player in the world when he won here in 2011, and Ben Curtis won here in 2003 as the 396th-ranked player in the world.

Who are the betting favorites? Rahm (7-1) is rightfully the betting favorite for the second straight Major. His performance down the stretch at Torrey Pines has to have him feeling good about his chances. And hey, the big Spaniard is stroking the ball as well as anybody has this year.

Brooks Koepka (16-1) is looking to add the Claret Jug to his cache of hardware, and if you’ve watched any Major golf over the past several years, you were likely to see Brooks in the hunt on Sunday. He seems to be past his knee issues and is as likely as anyone to be there again on Sunday afternoon. Koepka is a big-game hunter (half of his wins on Tour are Majors), and you know he dearly wants this one. Just because he doesn’t like the course, it doesn’t mean he can’t play it. Koepka has three career Top-10s at The Open, including a T4 at the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.

Jordan Spieth (14-1) has been getting a lot of love from bettors this week. The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year (Royal Birkdale) has been in fine form for most of the season, and with the way he can roll the ball on and around the greens, Spieth has been installed as one of the betting favorites this week. Spieth has two other Top-10 finishes in his seven Open appearances.

Dustin Johnson (18-1) tied for 2nd, with Mickelson, here in 2011, so his confidence should be high this week. DJ has three Top-10s at the Open, but none since a T9 in 2016. By a quirk in the ranking system, he is the current #1-ranked golfer in the world. Most casual fans, I think, would even tell you that Rahm is atop the Golf World right now, but the fact that a week or two off places DJ back on top tells you how close he was, to begin with.

Jon Rahm

Rory McIlroy (18-1) is again one of the top betting favorites. Despite not having any recent big wins, Rory did finish inside the Top-10 in two of the three Majors played in 2020. He missed the cut at the Masters this year, but McIlroy did show strong last month with a T7 finish at the U.S. Open, and he has five Top-10s at The Open in his 11 appearances, including a win in 2014 at Royal Liverpool.

Justin Thomas (20-1) has never finished in the Top-10 at the Open, but a strong showing at the Scottish Open last weekend has him thinking big things here. In all fairness to JT, he did get himself a T11 at the 2019 Open, and he has been playing a lot more overseas events in an effort to produce stronger showings at this event. Thomas’ ability to scramble around the greens keeps him in rounds, and he seems to have found his driver again.

Sergio Garcia

Any longshots? As stated above, The Open is usually a longshot’s delight. Longshot + elder statesman = Phil Mickelson…right? Phil (80-1) only has four Top-10 finishes in this event in 26 tries. He did lift the Jug at Muirfield in 2013 and is in a good place mentally at this point in his career. A few other competitors to keep on your list of longshots to consider are Harris English (60-1), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (80-1), and Sergio Garcia (70-1). English is quietly having a great year with two wins and a 3rd-place finish at the U.S. Open. He’s also made four of five Open cuts and is a tremendous value at +6000. Bezuidenhout is one of the purest ball-strikers on Tour, and if he’s rolling the ball with any consistency at Royal St. George’s, it will be no surprise to see the South African playing with the leaders over the weekend. He faltered down the stretch of the U.S. Open, but he was in the hunt on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, Sergio’s record at the Open is outstanding. Though he has yet to win the Claret Jug, Garcia has 10 Top-10s in 22 Open starts, including at the ’03 and ’11 Opens here at Royal St. George’s, and a pair of runner-up finishes. Garcia is a proven links player and is surely looking forward to this week.

The first tee times are set for approximately 11:30pm ET on Wednesday night, so make sure you are stocked up on coffee and donuts…or is it tea and crumpets? And be sure to get your Open Championship betting in by then.

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Football picksJuly 11, 2021

Cleveland is trending up in a big way this year and betting the Browns to go OVER their win total and even win the Super Bowl are getting major attention with sportsbooks.

betting the browns run game with Nick Chubb

The Browns ranked Top 5 in every major rushing category and with Nick Chubb behind that powerful O-Line, they’re a force to be reckoned with


Betting the Browns Make Playoffs a Pricey Proposition

The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of developing a new identity. The Dawg Pound doesn’t want this edition to veer too far from the scrappy, old school version – and they won’t. But this Browns team wears the underdog collar well. They play the run and gun style of today’s NFL like a champ, and they get results.

Cleveland snuck into the 2020 playoffs by virtue of a Week 17 win over Pittsburgh. They followed it up with a Wild Card road win in the Steel City, 48-37, and anyone other than a diehard fan can accept that as a successful season.

Earlier in the year, Cleveland was blown away by a then-unbeaten Steelers squad, 38-7. It dropped their record to 4-2 but betting the Browns were going to make the playoffs then was still a longshot. Their other loss was 38-6 in Week 1 against Baltimore and if you can’t win in the tough AFC North, what business do you have in the playoffs anyway?

Betting the Browns to make NFL Playoffs in 2021-22 costs -270 with online sportsbooks.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are regular residents and they’ve earned every ticket. Beating up on the sad sack Browns and Bengals team is one thing, but look at their non-divisional records. Each has won 60% of their non-divisional games since 2007, when Mike Tomlin took over in Pittsburgh. Note: John Harbaugh was named head coach for the Ravens in 2008, taking over for Brian Billick.

Odds for betting the browns to win the AFC North division and make playoffs

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Against All Odds

One day before a Week 16 game vs. the Jets, Cleveland released a statement that they had placed wide receivers Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, along with LB Jacob Phillips.

Cleveland had major Covid issues to deal with in December and it severely hampered their offense during a Week 16 loss to the New York Jets. The difference is that most new era Cleveland teams would’ve folded like a cheap tent. This one didn’t. Betting the Browns to win against the spread in Week 17 at Pittsburgh meant laying seven points and they only won by two, but the follow up on Wild Card weekend is all that matters.

Baker Mayfield is now a bonafide NFL starter, coming off his most successful season by far. Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, compared to the 35 picks in his first two seasons. The big thing is that seven of his eight INTs were in the first seven weeks of the season.

  • From Week’s 8 through 17, Mayfield tossed 11 TDs and just one interception

Cleveland returns five highly rated offensive linemen from last year, and that will boost confidence in any QBs ability to follow up on a breakout season. Pro Football Focus ranks the Browns O-Line at No. 1 overall, ahead of the Colts and Patriots. Also benefiting from the O-Line, while supplementing Mayfield’s playmaking ability, is the two-headed running attack.  

Nick Chubb missed four games last year and Kareem Hunt stepped in on his way to 1,145 total yards from scrimmage. Chubb led the team in rushing yards with 1,067 and when these two are in the lineup, this offense becomes one of the most opportunistic in the league. Chubb’s rushing totals in the first three-years of his four-year rookie deal are 996, 1,494 and 1,067 yards. He may still end up signing an extension before the season begins but either way, betting the Browns to succeed in 2021 means betting on this dynamic run game to crush.

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Cleveland Browns Odds

I’m tracking NFL offseason betting odds for you throughout the summer. Every time a new team preview is added or the futures market takes a significant swing, I’ll post on social media and you can stay up to date as we countdown to kickoff.

For preseason power rankings and Super Bowl odds, visit my NFL Team Previews HQ!

2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 10.5 OV -120
Pre-draft NFL Win Total Odds: 9.5 OV -150
2020 Record: 11-5
Average Wins 2018-20: 8
Odds to win the Division: +150 (2nd place)
Net Strength of Schedule: 11th easiest  

Second-year HC Kevin Stefanski is the offensive mind behind Cleveland’s leap from pretender to contender. This organization spun its wheels with seven head coaches in the decade before Stefanski’s arrival from Minnesota, and all he did was win 11 games plus a divisional playoff road game. Keys to the city, anyone?

Stefanski is paying back at 13-1 for NFL Coach of the Year behind Brandon Staley (10-1) and Bill Belichick (12-1).

The Browns open the season with a rematch in Kansas City and after that, Mayfield and Stefanski will get a huge opportunity to showcase their offseason progression. Houston and Chicago are next, both games in the Dawg Pound.

Win totals for Cleveland are following a predictable path and it’s turning into a costly venture for anyone that is late to the party.

  • Betting the Browns to go OVER 10.5 wins is the current line, up from 9.5 in April.

Cleveland’s divisional odds haven’t changed much over the past few months as they are firmly supplanted in second place behind the Ravens (+120) to win the AFC North. Super Bowl odds are a different story, however.

Betting the Browns to win the Super Bowl has moved from +2500 in March to +1600 in May, down to its current price of +1400. Only one team can win this future but Cleveland is clearly on the radar for long-range bettors.

Cleveland Browns Trends

You want to talk about starting off on the wrong foot, Cleveland is 1-21-1 SU in the past 23 years in their first game of the season.

  • The Browns have a 6-16-1 ATS (27%) record in Week 1 since 1995.

Cleveland showed a shred of promise three years ago when they played to a draw against their nemesis, the Steelers in Week 1. Since then the Brownies have followed it up with blowout losses to the Titans (43-13) and Ravens (38-6). Cleveland visits Kansas City to start the 2021 campaign and the current line is Chiefs -6 points.

  • Cleveland’s record off a win, when they are now facing a team with fewer wins than the Browns, is 7-14 ATS (33%).

Cleveland was live in the above angle six times in 2020, going 2-4 ATS. The Browns learned how to win in 2020 but they’re a letdown team for bettors the following week.

If you’re looking for a contrarian angle that could present value, circle the Week 5, Browns at Chargers matchup. The projected line is Pick ’em and with Cleveland playing their second of back-to-back road games (at Minnesota, Week 4), it won’t surprise me to see this chalk edge towards the homers.

  • Cleveland is 14-10 ATS (58%) in west coast road games, including a 8-6 ATS mark in more recent games.
  • In games that occurred before Week 11, the Browns are 10-5 ATS (67%).

And then the real contrarian angle when when you account for each of these two teams’ 9-7 O/U record last year:

  • Cleveland is on a 6-2 UNDER (75%) run on the left coast its past eight visits.

One of those low scoring games was against the Chargers in 2017. That was LA’s first year out of San Diego and the total for that game was 43. Expect the total for this Week 5 matchup to be closer to 51 points.

The Browns have the 9th best travel schedule in terms of miles, and they also play just one short-week road game (Week 16 at Green Bay), and one game off SNF or MNF (Week 18 vs. Cinci).

  • Cleveland has a 38-25 OVER (60%) record when playing with a rest advantage.

With QB Mayfield at the controls, this trend is 5-3 OVER (63%).

Browns Bottom Line

Ranking just outside the Top 10 is Cleveland’s defensive line, led by Myles Garrett. Betting the Browns lineman to win Defensive Player of the Year honors is a sweet 6-to-1 payback, and he’s surrounded by Aaron Donald (+300) and TJ Watt (+700).

Garrett has had his on-field issues but you can’t complain about the numbers. Already with double-digit sacks in three straight seasons and 18 more QB hits last year, Garrett is now joined by Jadeveon Clowney which reduces opponents’ ability to double team.

DT Malik Jackson takes over for Sheldon Richardson (Vikings). For depth on the line, Takkarist McKinley is on board for a one-year deal, and keep an eye on second-year DT Jordan Elliot. The third-rounder was a full-on backup last year but will see an increased role with the defense in 2021.

Cleveland also drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first round, who could step in right away as a three-down linebacker. And John Johnson III from the Rams is the team’s newest, not-so-secret weapon in the secondary that will provide flexibility in D-Co Joe Woods’ entire scheme.

In the past, betting the Browns to live up to expectations was an express ticket to Letdown City. Present day, it isn’t crazy projecting them to match last year’s 11-win total. Exceeding it could come down to how well this defensive unit gels.

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Baseball picksJuly 10, 2021

With the MLB Mid-Summer Classic just a few days away, the MLB MVP races are taking form. In the first of my two-part series, I am looking into the American League MVP race. Who are the contenders? And who are the pretenders?

AmericanLeagueMVPBettingOdds

American League MVP Betting Odds

How it started – As has been the case for the better part of the last decade, Mike Trout opened as the clear favorite to win the 2021 AL MVP at +200 odds…and rightfully so. The Angels star is a three-time MVP and has never finished outside of the top-5 in MVP voting in his nine years since becoming a full-time player. A calf injury has Trout sidelined through the All-Star break, moving him to longshot status (+4700) for the first time in his career.
Other names atop the preseason AL MVP betting favorites were Yankees slugger, Aaron Judge, and Cleveland star, Jose Ramirez. They both opened at +1200 to win the AL MVP. White Sox outfielder Jose Abreu (+2500) and Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (+2500) also received some preseason love from the lines makers.

American League MVP Betting

How it’s going now – With the exception of Trout, the AL MVP race mostly includes the same cast. The odds have greatly narrowed on Vlad, Jr. (+150) and Shohei Ohtani (-173), and this is clearly a two-man race at this mid-way point of the season. That’s not to say there won’t be somebody entering the race or even exiting. Injuries can happen, any number of guys could go on a tear the second half of the season…there is still a lot of baseball to be played, so this is far from over. And don’t be surprised if Trout inserts himself back in this conversation. Up until about a week ago, Guerrero was the betting favorite to win the AL MVP, but Ohtani has been on a tear at the plate and is now the frontrunner to win the 2021 American League MVP.

American-League-MVP-betting-Ohtani

Shohei OhtaniBatting: 64 runs, 33 HR, 70 RBI, 12 SB, .279 AVG, 1.066 OPS | Pitching: 13 GS, 67.0 IP, 4-1 W/L, 3.49 ERA, 87 K, 1.21 WHIP – The Angels are finally reaping the on-field rewards of winning the Ohtani sweepstakes three years ago. Showtime is more than carrying his weight at the plate. In his third full season, the youngster from Oshu, Japan leads all of MLB in bombs, is third in the AL in RBIs, and is also sixth in the AL in stolen bases. His past month has been one of the best power showcases ever and has created some separation in this MVP race. His 16 HRs in his last 21 games is the most in a 21-game span in AL history. And with the exception of a couple of clunkers, Ohtani has been dealing from the mound, as well. He has allowed 24 runs in 60.0 innings and has 83 Ks to 35 walks. Ohtani’s offensive numbers alone have him in this MVP race, and if he can string together a strong second half on the hill, he will walk away with the American League MVP.

American League MVP Betting

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.68 runs, 28 HR, 73 RBI, 2 SB, .340 AVG, 1.110 OPS – Guerrero might be the scariest hitter in the Bigs right now. He is a very large and powerful man, and he is living up to all of the hype this son of a former American League MVP (Vlad, Sr. – 2004, Angels) has received. Junior is at or near the top of just about every major statistical category this year. He’s first in OPS, first in average, first in RBIs, first in hits, second in HRs, and the Toronto 1B is also fourth in the League in walks. And he has his team in the thick of the Playoffs hunt (7th in AL standings). If he doubles his numbers from the first half, Guerrero may very well win the AL MVP (.340 would be huge!), but he doesn’t even need to be that good if his team is in contention at the end of the summer. His team is also better than the Angels, giving him another leg up on Showtime.

American-League-MVP-betting-Trout

Mike Trout23 runs, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB, .333 AVG, 1.090 OPS (36 games played) – With Trout close to coming back, and with the Halos actually showing some life, I think you have to include the perennial MVP candidate in this discussion. When healthy, he is easily one of the top two or three players in the game, and if the Angels can make a second-half push towards a Wild Card spot (that’s a big IF), Trout is likely to be a major reason. And for that, he deserves an outsider’s shot and could be worth a flier.

American-League-MVP-betting-Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts55 runs, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 5 SB, .321 AVG, .913 OPS – While Bogaerts’ numbers aren’t gaudy, he is the best player on the best team, so far, in the American League East. Not many outside of that clubhouse gave the Red Sox much of a chance this season, but they have parlayed a great start into a 55-34 record. And they are 2.5 games clear of the fading Rays. That, his high batting average, and his ability to come up big when his team needs him (6-for-11 in a recent series vs. NYY with 3 2B) is why Bogaerts is in this race. A couple of things could work against him, however. One is he plays in the same division as Vladamir Guerroro, Jr. (see above for his stud-factor), and two, Xander has gotten a bad rap for his defense. Playing shortstop in the Majors doesn’t seem like an easy task, and I have seen plenty of good-glove from Xander, so I’m willing to give him a pass on that last part.

Any longshots? Beyond the two favorites, they could all be considered longshots at this point. I would tend to look towards players that could improve their numbers from the first half of the season. Mike Trout is probably at the top of that list, but there is the whole “will he and Ohtani take votes from each other?” scenario. Trout is the kind of player that can insert himself back in this equation if he returns to his normal self when returning from the calf injury. The same, “taking votes from each other,” could be said with the Red Sox trio of Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers. Another factor to consider is what teams are likely headed to the postseason, and which of their stars could have a big second half in leading them there…? Do you expect the Yankees to get things together for a Playoffs push (Aaron Judge)?

Be sure to look for my National League MVP betting analysis next week.

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Football picksJuly 8, 2021

The Steelers started the 2020 campaign on an 11-0 winning streak, and looked like one of the teams to beat to get to the Super Bowl. After beating division rival Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, the Steelers had the playoff right at their doorstep. Due to an inability to run the ball and both receivers and tight-ends dropping passes, Pittsburg dropped four of their next five games including a loss to the Browns, who would knock them out of the playoffs in the first round. With essentially the same squad as last year, will this season’s Steelers make the postseason? 

Big-Ben-Steelers

In 2020 Big Ben threw for 3,808 yards for 33 TD’s on 65.6% passing

Betting the Steelers: Boom or Bust

It’s safe to say 2020 was a rollercoaster for Steeler fans, starting off 11-0 to finish with a playoff loss to division rival Browns. There are a lot of questions entering camp this year, from Big Ben’s health (a year older + only played nine out of the 15 games last season), a void at the running back spot, and the drama of the locker room that went down. 

The Steelers have a proud football franchise, hoisting six Lombardi Trophies in their 88-year history. With an aging quarterback and what could be a disastrous O-line, 2021 could be a rough year for Steeler fans. Pittsburg treated the 2021 draft like they just needed to fill a few spots to win a Super Bowl, but this could of take them closer to a total rebuild than the Lombardi.  

It’s not about what you’re capable of, It’s about what you’re willing to do.

Mike Tomlin

Odds for betting the Steelers to win Super Bowl 56 are now listed at +4500 with online sports books. The Steelers have the highest strength of schedule in the league, and end their season with four top-10 opponents. Their schedule will do them no favors, and the fallout from the end of last season could linger on. The sports books seem to be taking this factor into its odds.

Big Ben if healthy he can put up good numbers (2020 was his 3rd best season statistically) and keep the offense in rhythm. With Juju Smith-Schuster taking over the #1 wide-receiver role last season, it took him a few games to adjust to his new role. Additions of Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson helped add depth the the Steelers wideout room. The Steelers also added Alabama rookie running back Najee Harris to help fill the void of James Conner’s exit. 

Defense should be just as solid as it was last year, which ranks 3rd overall last season. Traditionally, Pittsburg have always had a dominate defense and this season looks to be no different. Led by T.J Watt and Devin Bush, who are both looking to go All-Pro this season, this Steelers D brings back a good amount of talent. Can the defense repeat it’s 27 takeaways (2nd best in NFL) or will they see the field to often because of the offense?

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Pittsburgh Steelers Odds

I’m tracking NFL offseason betting odds for you throughout the summer. Every time a new team preview is added or the futures market takes a significant swing, I’ll post on social media and you can stay up to date as we countdown to kickoff.

For preseason power rankings and Super Bowl odds, visit my NFL Team Previews HQ!

  • 2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 8.5 UNDER -140
  • Pre-draft NFL Win Total Odds: 8.5 UNDER -110
  • 2020 Record: 12-4
  • Average Wins 2018-20: 9.67 (so about 10 wins)
  • Odds to win the Division: +400 (finish 3rd place)
  • Net Strength of Schedule: 2nd toughest schedule 

Looks like Pittsburgh (+400) lands 3rd in AFC North Title talks, behind the Ravens (+125) and the Browns (+145). The Win Total Over seems to be a consensus play in the preseason but if the Steelers start off on the wrong foot that number could change drastically. 

Remember, it’s a 18-Week regular season starting this year 

The Steelers schedule won’t do them any favors, along with playing in a tough AFC North. They open the season with a trip to the AFC East champion Bills (Week 1) and have road visits to Green Bay (Week 4), LA Chargers (Week 11), and Kansas City (Week 16). The Steelers also host the Seahawks (Week 6) and the Titans (Week 15) which could both be tough games. 

Pittsburgh were 10-6 (62.5%) ATS last season going 7-7-2 on the Over/Under

Week 8 is the first Steelers-Browns matchup with the teams meeting again in Week 17. They play the hated Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 and a season final Week 18 game which could decide a lot of the playoff picture. Pittsburgh is set to take on the Bengals Week 3 and Week 12 to round out their divisional opponents. 

Pittsburgh Steelers Trends

Heinz Field has been a tough place for teams to get a win, with the Steelers going 35-13 at home since 2015.

  • The Steelers are 1-6 OU (-7.36 ppg) since Oct 01, 2015 as a home dog
  • The Steelers are 12-4-3 ATS (4.84 ppg) since Sep 24, 2000 as a home dog.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has been at the helm since 2007 and during that time the Steelers are 145–78–1 SU (.650)

  • Tomlin is 36-22 ATS (+11.8 Units) in the role of underdog.
  • Since 2010 when the Steelers are playing at home after the bye week they have hit the Over 4-2

Steelers Bottom Line

The question this season will be the play of the O-line and offensive rhythm. The Steelers will have to limit the turnovers in 2021, finishing with a +9 thanks to the defense. The defense should have a similar season to their 2020 run, but will it be enough to navigate their tough schedule? The Steelers were ranked first in DVOA last season where they were very good against the pass.

For more off-season news like contracts and training camp cuts, check out Pro Football Focus.

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