Behind the Mic: NFL Odds

Since there were so many upsets the first two weeks in the NFL, I got to wondering how the Las Vegas odds makers were faring.  Las Vegas is one place with a legal US sports book for gamblers.  There are, also, legal online sites…OR you could choose a local guy, but you should understand that doing that is illegal.

I am certainly aware that no one throws an “illegal procedure” flag on the millions of people who play fantasy football, NFL “tickets” or get into “survivor” pools.  There is no question that being involved in these weekly competitions makes watching the NFL that much more fun and interesting.

But what if we lived in Las Vegas where gambling on the NFL is legal?  Just out of curiosity, I wondered how the gamblers and  the Las Vegas bookies fared in the first two weeks of the NFL season.  According to my research, in week one, the Sunday night game between the Patriots and the Cardinals was the “make or break” match-up for each side.  80% of all the money wagered on that game was on the Cardinals.  After all, Tom Brady was out, Rob Gronkowski was out, and other key players would not play.  Four times as much money was bet on the Cardinals to win and the Cardinals were, also, seven times more likely to be on wagers that included more than one team.

As you know, New England won the game 23-21 on a field goal and many a bettor’s ticket was torn up and thrown away.  As a matter of fact, six underdogs won on the first Sunday, including the Miami Dolphins who were 10.5 point underdogs.  It was a good day for the casinos.

Week two proved even more profitable for Las Vegas.  With the unlikely wins by the Falcons over the Raiders and the Rams beating the Seahawks, Sunday afternoon created a windfall for the sports books.  That scenario got even better when gamblers in Vegas took the Packers over the Vikings in the Sunday night game six times more often than vice versa.  The Vikings won and Sunday became a spectacular day for the “bad guys”.

There was, however, one “feel-good” story for the guy who tries to beat the “house” (and, rarely, if ever does).  One Nevada gambler won $179,940 betting on college football when he placed three separate bets in three different locations.  Believe it or not, he picked twelve out of twelve – TWELVE – college games correctly against the point spread.  Although his name was not divulged, he did say he had made a similar bet every week during college football season for years and this is the first time he has ever won.  I hope that, with his win, he has at least broken even now.  Why do I doubt it?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It probably isn’t news to you if I tell you that you can buy a University of Florida Tim Tebow jersey. It is news if I tell you that you can also buy a Tim Tebow Mets jersey.  He has signed a $100,000 bonus contract with the Mets and was sent to their instructional league at Port St. Lucie, Florida.
  2. What is the story with the Seattle Seahawks offense – 15 points in two weeks and to Miami and the Rams? They do not have a healthy running back and QB Russell Wilson can’t run on a bad ankle.
  3. If Bill Belichick’s Patriots beat Houston this week with their #3 quarterback, then you must admit, even though you may hate him, that he is the best coach in the NFL.
  4. Five years ago, Lafayette traveled to North Dakota State (where Carson Wentz played) to play the Bison. That team has won the national FCS championship every year since 2011.  This past Saturday, they beat #13 Iowa 23-21 of the FBS (those are the big boys).  You can use permanent ink when you pick them to win the FCS title again this year.
  5. On Friday, September 23, RCN-TV offers up undefeated Saucon Valley at Southern Lehigh (7:00pm) followed by Celtic Classic highlights. Lafayette will host nationally ranked Villanova on Saturday.  The live broadcast begins at 6:00pm.

 Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 11-5; Overall – 21-11 – 66% )
Week Three

Houston
Cincinnati
Oakland
Arizona
Baltimore
Miami
Giants
Green Bay
Carolina
Seattle
Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh
Kansas City
San Diego
Dallas
Atlanta
 

Behind the Mic: Common Sense

Thomas Paine wrote three works that, after this weekend, seem appropriate to reflect on as they pertain to the National Anthem and some players in the National Football League.  The titles of these three works speak volumes in themselves – Common Sense, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason.

When I was teaching, I taught a course called “Books That Changed the World” (The Prince, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Mein Kampf, etc.) and one of the books I chose was Common Sense.  It was written in 1776 and its sole purpose was to convince the colonists that breaking away from England to become a separate nation was the only course of action that made sense.  It was this logic, bravery, and determination of the citizenry that led to the forming of the United States of America.

The American Revolution was, in its most fundamental way, a protest and one which had serious consequences.  And because we won the battle, men like Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Paine, and Franklin are all considered heroes today.

So how should we treat those members of the NFL who deem it necessary to send a message of dissatisfaction with the country when our National Anthem is played?  First, we must consider WHY they are protesting.  The players, from what I have gathered, feel there is a racial injustice going on in this country and to ignore that is just plain wrong.  Believe me; I have never felt that I know anything about the effects of racial prejudice.  I am white and I have never been subjected to an attack on me due to my skin pigment.  I read Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin when I was young and it left an indelible impression on me.  Griffin, a white American, darkened his skin and spent six weeks in the Deep South as a black man.  He faced prejudice every single day.  That book opened my eyes.

Thomas Paine expressed what I believe the players feel – “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”  So, the players protest.  In this country, protest was and remains our foundation.  Free speech is what makes America, America.  The message may cause one to suffer consequences, but history has taught us that for every action, there is often a reaction.  Thomas Paine was well aware that a British victory would have meant his death for treason, but as he said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

I would not think of sitting or kneeling when the National Anthem is being played and the players who kneel or raise their fists in protest will most certainly feel the wrath of many.  They should expect that.  But don’t take away their right to seek change and don’t take away the right to criticize them for it.  After all, speaking your mind is truly American.  It is one of our fundamental rights.  That is why there is America.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Well, the Browns didn’t take Carson Wentz in the draft because they felt he wasn’t good enough. They could have. How do you think they feel today?
  2. Some interesting coaching decisions on the first NFL weekend. Hue Jackson of the Browns tried a fake punt in the Eagles game that was unbelievably ill-conceived (the punter was on the line of scrimmage) and led to three easy points for the Birds.  Jack Del Rio of the Raiders, on the other hand, went for two instead of just tying the game against New Orleans with 47 seconds to go.  They were successful and won 35-34.  There’s a fine line between “goat” and “hero”.
  3. The first touchdown on Sunday in the NFL was the Carson Wentz TD pass.
  4. Terrelle Pryor, who is a converted QB now at WR for the Browns, made some great catches Sunday. He is the SAME Terrelle Pryor who was the quarterback at Jeanette High School when they lost to the Lehigh Valley’s Wilson Warriors for the PIAA state football championship in 2006.  Jeanette and Pryor won the State Championship the following year.
  5. Friday, September 16, RCN-TV offers up Parkland at Easton (7:00pm) and Bethlehem Catholic at Nazareth (10:00pm). Lafayette travels to Princeton for a Saturday broadcast at 5:00pm.  You’re invited.

Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 10-6;  Overall – 10-6 – 63% )
Week Two

JETS
DETROIT
HOUSTON
NEW ENGLAND
BALTIMORE
PITTSBURGH
WASHINGTON
GIANTS
CAROLINA
ARIZONA
SEATTLE
DENVER
OAKLAND
SAN DIEGO
GREEN BAY
PHILADELPHIA

Behind the Mic: The NFL-AFC

The first weekend of the 2016 NFL season begins Thursday night, September 8, when the Broncos host the Panthers and it ends on Monday night with the Redskins welcoming the Steelers.  The other teams all play on Sunday.  So that can only mean one thing – it is time for my season outlook.  This week, I will analyze the AFC and do the NFC next week.  Remember everyone is 0-0 at the moment and the aspirations of the fans are running high.  If I dampen your spirit with my thoughts, just remember I don’t know any more than you do and, quite possibly, even less.

AFC EAST 

  1. New EnglandTom Brady will miss four games and Jimmy Garoppolo will take over. It probably will not matter.  Brady comes back stronger and fresher than ever; Garoppolo makes his case to get a big contract and start somewhere else; and, surprise, surprise the Patriots win the division.
  2. Buffalo They had a great draft; will get New England without Brady in one game; and have a good shot at making the playoffs.
  3. Jets Ryan Fitzpatrick has settled his differences and the back-up situation seems muddled at best with three other QB The schedule is murderous at the beginning and they get Brady for both games.
  4. Miami Adam Gase is the new head coach and the Dolphins have had a good preseason. The Dolphins just seem to underachieve.  If Gase can change that mindset, perhaps they can move ahead of the Jets.

AFC NORTH 

  1. Pittsburgh Their offense is virtually unstoppable as long as they stay healthy and avoid any more suspension problems (Le’Veon Bell). They need to improve in the secondary, but if the defense gets even a little better, the Steelers will not only win the division, but could have a shot at another Super Bowl ring.
  2. BaltimoreThey were really banged up last season placing 20 players on the injured reserve list. Since they finish the season with the Patriots, and the Steelers, their final game with the Bengals could be for the playoff spot.
  3. Cincinnati –They are better than the Ravens and they have reached the playoffs for five consecutive years, but something always seems to go wrong here. Their final game with the Ravens could move them up to #2.
  4. Cleveland – It’s Cleveland!

AFC SOUTH 

  1. Jacksonville – This team is solid – QB Blake Bortles is really good. If they can beat out the Texans, they could do well in the playoffs.
  2. Houston – This team could be VERY good. Only playing with a new QB and a new RB could cause some early problems as well as the absence of JJ Watt until his back heals.
  3. Indianapolis Andrew Luck makes them competitive; their defense does not.
  4. Tennessee – A tough schedule and an overall improved division keeps them at the bottom.

AFC WEST 

  1. Kansas City Jamaal Charles is back and he may be just enough to push them over the top. Andy Reid has a winner here.
  2. Denver – Plenty of lost personnel here starting with Peyton Manning, but my gut says they will not miss an offensive beat; defense was hurt more by free agency and the division got tougher.
  3. Oakland – The Raiders have an easier schedule than most, especially at the start. If they get confidence and momentum, they could crack the playoffs.
  4. San Diego – If you can run the ball and stop the run, you can win. The Chargers can’t do either; ergo, they won’t win.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
AFC Playoffs
Championship Game – Steelers vs Patriots
AFC Champions – The Pittsburgh Steelers

My Week One NFL predictions are coming next week.

Behind the Mic: The NFC

Green Bay kicks off to Chicago at 1:00 on Sunday, September 13, and the NFC is underway for the 2015 season.  The Eagles do not play until Monday night at Atlanta, so Philadelphia fans need to be a bit more patient (if that’s possible).  To test your patience even further, here are my projections for the NFC.

NFC WEST 

  1. Seahawks This is the strongest defensive division and Seattle is the best of the best. There is no reason to pick against the Seahawks getting to the division championship again and then on to the conference championship.
  2. Rams Nick Foles opens against the Seahawks in St. Louis. A win here could catapult both him and his team to a very successful season.
  3. Cardinals – They are always a difficult team to figure out. Defensive coach Todd Bowles went to the Jets.  So if defense is better or worse because of that could spell the difference between success and failure for this team.
  4. 49ers Old players gone; tough schedule; rebuilding. None of these aspects are a formula for success.

 NFC SOUTH 

  1. Panthers – They will play against only four playoff teams from last year and QB Cam Newton looked angry and focused in camp. Defense is certainly strong enough to win the division.
  2. Falcons This is just a wild guess, picking them over the Saints, but my prediction is all about new coach Dan Quinn who came over from Seattle. The Falcons will certainly improve defensively.
  3. Saints – TE Jimmy Graham is gone; they lost five straight at the end of last year. Their schedule should help them achieve at least a .500 record.
  4. Bucs Bucs’ QB Jameis Winston vs. Titans’ QB Marcus Mariota in game one. Great scheduling; great matchup, EXCEPT neither team is very good.

NFC NORTH 

  1. Packers With a healthy quarterback, they may have been the best team last year. The loss of Jordy Nelson could really hurt their success, but I think they will adjust.  Home field advantage means more to them than any other team in the league.  They play Chicago away and Seattle at home to start the season.  That is an early barometer.
  2. Vikings– Yes, the Vikings. Adrian Peterson is back and Teddy Bridgewater is good, potentially very good.  Defense is young and solid.  This is a different Vikings team.
  3. Lions – DL Ndamukong Suh (I do not want to type his first name again) was traded to the Dolphins and so, too, is the strength of their defense and a motivational leader.  They should have found a way to keep him.
  4. Bears – Their defense will have a new look, but the offense not so much. If QB Jay Cutler plays well, they could move up past the Lions.

 NFC EAST 

  1. Eagles – Offensive line aside, this is a much better Eagles team. They are loaded with offensive talent and they have surrounded Sam Bradford with outstanding rushers and receivers.  Is the defense good enough?
  2. Cowboys – No offensive line problems here. They may be the best in the NFL.  OR was last season more about DeMarco Murray’s ability?  Time will tell.  Early starts against the Giants, Eagles, Falcons and Saints will offer answers about their defense.
  3. Giants – Defense weaker if DE Jason Pierre-Paul is not effective. Can they run?  Can they protect Eli Manning?  Can they stop the run?  Too many unanswered questions.
  4. Redskins I loved RG III when he came into the league. If his offensive line can protect him, he might return to his earlier form.  The defense needs to help him stay in games.

 NFC Championship Game

                         Seahawks defeat the Packers

The SportsTalk Shop: Eagles Season Recap

One of my pet peeves in the sports broadcasting industry is commentators who make dozens of ridiculous predictions each sports season for the sole purpose of claiming “victory” once one of his/her inane insights happen to come true. These same people will quietly forget or ignore the other, incorrect guesses they made in an effort to make themselves look smarter than they may actually be.

We made our own predictions on an Eagles preview edition of RCN SportsTalk and, in the interest of full disclosure, I went back to see how we did. Here’s the good…and the bad…predictions we made about the Eagles 2013 season, keeping in mind these were made by our panelists and myself several weeks prior to the start of the season.

Preseason prediction #1: The Eagles will end the year with a .500 record or better.
When the team started the year 1-3 and their defense had more holes than Gruyére Swiss, this prediction wasn’t looking too solid. Even when the Eagles lost to the Giants—giving New York their first win of the season—not many people thought this team would break even record-wise, led alone win the division. Between fate (you couldn’t have ask for more opposing teams’ number-one players to go down with injuries), an improved defensive scheme, and an offense that learned to trust new starting quarterback Nick Foles, the team won seven of its last eight games. Despite a frustrating loss to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs, this year’s 10-7 season was a success and built a solid foundation for 2014.

Preseason prediction #2: Michael Vick will start 10-12 games this year.
WRONG! Not one of us on the panel thought that Vick had the slightest chance to go the entire season without missing at least a few games due to injury and/or ineffectiveness. However, Vick went down with debilitating injuries early and often and Nick Foles took full advantage of the increased playing time, turning in a performance for the record books. For a time, he had the highest quarterback passer rating in the HISTORY of the game. Despite a lackluster finish, he ended the year third on the all-time list sandwiched by future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Foles’ rapid ascension to the starting quarterback spot made Vick—even after recovering from injuries–an afterthought by season’s end.

Preseason prediction #3: Nick Foles will finish the year as the starting quarterback.
Correct—but….
Most of our panel believed that Foles would eventually win the job anyway, or he’s be the last QB standing by default. Matt Barkley never did anything to indicate that he would be a signal-caller to run this offense in training camp, and the limited times we saw him during the season suggests he’ll only return next year as a third-stringer at best. I know people don’t want to hear any possibility that Foles DOESN’T return as the starter next year, and I still highly doubt that the team will seriously look to move him. However, there’s a few well-respected Eagles’ journalists that I’ve spoken with that insist the team will at least venture into the possibility of “selling high” and getting a bundle in return for him—or at least, ASKING for a king’s ransom, and keeping Foles if no team bites.

Preseason prediction #4: Mychal Kendricks will emerge as a star.
This prediction came true very early in the season as the second-year, 23-year-old out of California established himself as the top-notch middle linebacker this team has sorely needed since the first departure of Jeremiah Trotter. But what we didn’t foresee back in early August was the way the players around Kendricks would step up their games. Connor Barwin also become a force on defense for the Eagles, disrupting passing lanes and rarely allowing a ball carrier to break free in his territory. By season’s end, Trent Cole looked extremely comfortable after adjusting to his “hybrid” position in the Eagles new 3-4 alignment. Really, there weren’t too many weaknesses in this defense overall—with the exception of depth, especially at outside linebacker and safety. Improving on the core with Kendricks at the center of it all will be the Eagles number one priority this offseason. Adding bigger, taller and stronger players into the fold was a focus of Chip Kelly’s post-season analysis and will be the main mission of the front office this offseason.

Preseason prediction #5: Jeremy Maclin will return next year.
At the time this prediction was made and contrary to many other players like him in the last year of a contract, Maclin had made the classy decision to NOT sit-out of training camp. Perceived as a critical piece of the puzzle in Kelly’s new offense, Maclin participated in preseason drills for the betterment of the team, only to tear his ACL, and lose all negotiating leverage he had when trying to extend his contract.

This will be a key issue for the team to address in the coming months. With the emergence of Riley Cooper as a solid number two receiver (despite that dropped pass over the middle in the Saints game), and another steady season by slot receiver Jason Avant, it appears that Maclin will not have a place on next year’s team. The Eagles have dropped the public relations ball on previous players who gave their heart-and-soul to the team (i.e., Reggie Brown, Brian Dawkins) only to be spurned a respectable offer to return. I know Maclin is not in that group’s class of all-time greats, but if the team is truly looking to embark on a new year, it should bite a small financial bullet and bring Jeremy back. It still remains to be seen if one of the top-skilled position players from a year ago will be back this fall.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Eagles season and on what steps the team needs to take this offseason to further its playoff drive for next season. Post a comment below or email your sports opinions to us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune in on Thursdays at 6pm for the latest local, regional and national sports conversations.