Dec 27, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team running back J.D. McKissic (41) catches a touchdown pass as Carolina Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn (21) defends during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington seeks to claim NFC East by grounding Eagles

The battle for the last playoff spot comes down to the last game of the season and involves one of the last teams anyone thought would be in this position back in September.

The Washington Football Team (6-9), which began the season by abandoning a controversial nickname and ends it by moving on from a controversial quarterback, will clinch the NFC East with a victory Sunday night against the host Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1).

A loss to the Eagles will give the division title and No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs to the winner of Sunday afternoon’s game between the visiting Dallas Cowboys (6-9) and New York Giants (5-10).

Washington played well in two previous appearances in the national spotlight, roasting the Cowboys 41-16 on Thanksgiving Day and defeating the previously unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers 23-17 in a Monday game in Week 13. Both of those wins were on the road.

“The one thing I will say, the other two games we’ve been on the stage: our guys came out and played well and had fun,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to get back to having a little bit of fun. The truth of the matter is we’re playing with house money. That’s the best part about it.”

In his first season on the job, Rivera has Washington on the brink of its first playoff berth since 2015.

“Take the pressure off ourselves and go have fun. That’s the truth of the matter,” Rivera said. “We control our own destiny. It’s in our hands. All the cliches. We’re going to have fun with it and go with it.”

Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins won’t be part of the fun. Washington released the 2019 first-round pick on Monday, the day after he committed three turnovers in a 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers and a few days after he was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captaincy for COVID-19 protocol violations.

Haskins passed for 178 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s season-opening 27-17 victory against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Sixteen weeks later, Haskins is gone and Wentz is on the bench for the fourth straight game since losing his job to rookie Jalen Hurts.

Rivera is hoping Alex Smith will return after missing two games with an injured right calf. If not, Taylor Heinicke will run the offense for Washington. Smith did not practice Wednesday.

The Eagles, who have allowed 1,039 yards in their last two losses, want to make sure whoever is under center for Washington does not have any fun Sunday night.

Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz issued a “no-hat rule” this week, meaning he wants to make sure Washington doesn’t get to celebrate at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We’ve got to have a no-hat rule this week,” he said. “We can’t let opponents put division win hats on at the Linc. There’s a lot of pride in that, and all our focus has to be to accomplishing that this week.”

Nine players did not practice for the Eagles on Wednesday, including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (neck), defensive end Derek Barnett (calf), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (ankle) and tight end Dallas Goedert (calf). Linebacker Duke Riley (biceps) was a limited participant.

In addition to Smith, leading rusher Antonio Gibson (toe) and leading receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) were among the six players held out of practice Wednesday by Washington. Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (ankle) and defensive tackle Tim Settle (shoulder) were limited participants.

–Field Level Media

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 12 Results

It was bound to happen at some point. We had our worst week in months and were the victim of a number of bad beats this week. We went 1-4, but could have easily gone 3-2. It wasn’t pretty, but let’s recap exactly what went wrong and how we can learn from it going into the last five weeks of the season.

LOSS: Redskins +7.5 vs. Cowboys (-110): Cowboys 31, Redskins 23.

Our first bad beat of the week came just as Thanksgiving dinner was settling. Despite a poor showing from Colt McCoy, the Redskins actually gave themselves a chance late in this game. If it weren’t for a missed extra point early in the game, they would have lost by just seven points, helping us get the win.

Of course, our luck ran out and we lost the bet by half a point. This really set the stage for the rest of our bets, because boy, was it a rough weekend. Game after game ended in heartbreak, so one terrible game down, three to go. Total payout: $0.

LOSS: Jaguars -3 at Bills (-120): Bills 24, Jaguars 21.

This game was weird and that strangeness did not work in our favor. Down 14-0, the Jags battled all the way back and scored to go up 21-14. However, the call on the field was changed, giving Jacksonville the ball on the one-yard line. In the aftermath of that play, there was an all-out brawl in which star running back Leonard Fournette was ejected from the game. Fournette had been running the Bills over and the bet was essentially dead after that.

With first and goal from the one, the Jaguars had a penalty, Blake Bortles took a sack, and then Josh Lambo missed a 26-yard field goal. It was as excruciating as it gets. Just one year removed from the AFC Championship Game, the Jaguars have now lost seven straight games and are 3-8. Just like our betting from this week, they have plenty to fix. Total payout: $0.

LOSS: Patriots-Jets OVER 46 points (-110): Patriots 27, Jets 13.

Oh, yet another gut punch. With the Patriots up 27-13 with two minutes left in the game, the Jets had third and two from the three-yard line. Instead of running the ball, knowing you should probably be able to get two yards in two tries, they had 39-year-old Josh McCown attempt two low-percentage passes to the corner of the end zone. To call the play calling in that situation infuriating would be an understatement.

Of course, a touchdown in that situation would have pushed the game total to 47, giving us the over, but the betting gods didn’t want us to have nice things this week. New England took over and sat on the ball and no more points were scored. Total payout: $0.

WIN: 49ers-Buccaneers UNDER 55 (-110): Buccaneers 27, 49ers 9.

Our only win of the weekend was probably the least exciting game as well. When you’re rooting for the under, sometimes you have to root for a bland game and that’s exactly what we got with Bucs-49ers. There was some scoring early, but San Francisco flatlined by the second quarter. It turns out Nick Mullens may not be the answer at quarterback.

By the fourth, this one was a lock, the Buccaneers already firmly in control. The best thing this game did for us was save us the potential embarrassment of an 0-5 week. In a week where everything went wrong, we’ll take it. Total payout: $5.70.

LOSS: Steelers -3 vs. Broncos (-115): Broncos 24, Steelers 17.

Okay, back to the heartbreak. Denver has been frisky lately, but with the Steelers possessing many more offensive weapons, this seemed like an easy pick. However, Denver made it hard on Big Ben and Co. all day long. Two interceptions helped key the win. First, with Pittsburgh up 17-10, the Broncos picked him off near midfield. Had the Steelers scored on that possession, it would have been the nail in the coffin.

Instead, Denver scored to tie it and then scored again to take the lead. This game seemed destined for overtime with the Steelers looking to punch the ball in from the two-yard line. Instead, Big Ben threw a backbreaking interception that sealed the deal and helped the Broncos to their second straight upset win. Last week, that upset helped us. This week, it hurt us. Total payout: $0.

PIGGY BANK: $257.20 (7.2% return on investment)

PICK PERCENTAGE: 57.9% (33-24-3)

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 12 Picks

Our picks continue to hit week after week and we’ll try to avoid a slump in Week 12. Thanksgiving unders are always a solid bet, but oddsmakers have been catching up to that in recent years, so we will stay away. As we have in past weeks, we will split our money between point spreads and over/unders. For five weeks in a row, we’ve gone at least 3-2, let’s make it six in a row, what do you say?

Redskins +7.5 at Cowboys (-110)

This is the only pick we will have from Thanksgiving and I think it’s a good one. QB Alex Smith being out for the year is a big loss for Washington and it will likely end their playoff hopes (although they do play in the NFC East after all). However, backup Colt McCoy has the confidence of the coaching staff, because he knows this offense as well as anybody. He doesn’t have the same capability that Smith does, the Washington’s strength is its defense anyway.

In a rivalry game, even with the Redskins starting a backup quarterback, getting more than a touchdown spread is too good to pass up. We’ve had good luck betting both against and on the Redskins, so let’s keep the good times rolling. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Jaguars -3 at Bills (-120)

Have the Jaguars majorly disappointed this season? Of course they have. Are they on the same level as the Bills? No, they are not. Jacksonville’s defense reminded us how good they can be after shutting down the Steelers for most of last week. If they have a similar performance Sunday, Buffalo isn’t going to score more than 10 points.

The Jaguars are in the middle of an identity crisis right now and their offense is completely out of sorts, but they should be able to score enough to cover a three-point spread. This might not be the most fun game to watch, but it’ll be a lot more fun if it wins you this bet. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.17.

Steelers -3 at Broncos (-115)

We bet on the Broncos to cover +7.5 against the Chargers last week and they won straight up. Against a Steelers team that just got a scare from the Jaguars, they’re primed for a letdown game. Pittsburgh is pushing for a first-round bye in the playoffs and is the much more talented team. The Le’Veon Bell saga behind them, now the Steelers can focus on this year’s playoff push.

Big Ben and the offense finally got going at the end of their game last week and should be able to pick back up where they left off. If past Broncos games are any indication, this should be a close game, but it’s one Pittsburgh should be able to take care of business in. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.35.

Patriots-Jets OVER 46 (-110)

While the Patriots might blow New York out, the New England defense isn’t very good either. Something like a 30-17 game would push this game over. Tom Brady and Co. haven’t been as prolific as of late, so this looks like a potential bounce-back game for them. Let’s say it ends up 37-20, or something along those lines; we’d be completely fine as far as the over goes.

This bet definitely only works if the Patriots contribute to most of the point total. If they stall out in the 20’s, we’re in trouble. However, if they go up over the 30-point mark as a team, this over is almost a sure thing. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.70.

49ers-Buccaneers UNDER 55 (-110)

Yes, both these teams have put up pretty good offensive numbers lately, but neither is very good overall and I just can’t believe they’re going to combine for 56 points or more. I mean, c’mon, Jameis Winston is starting at quarterback for Tampa Bay. He’s going to turn it over in a few key spots. Nick Mullens has been really solid in the first two starts of his career, but will that continue?

We’ll see if he can impress us again, but I’m not buying it. This over would require both teams outplaying projections of where I see them finishing. It should be a competitive game, but it will be in the 20’s, not the 30’s. After going 2-for-2 in over/unders last week, let’s try to duplicate the feat in Week 12. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.70.

Our dream of a 5-for-5 parlay hit would make us a lot of money on a $20 bet. In fact, it would make us a cool $476.93. Keep daring to dream. We’ll check in on these picks early next week.

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 10 Picks

Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL season as we have been on a roll with this column lately. Luck never seems to last long in the sports betting world, but we will ride this wave as long as we can. Since we went 3-0 on point spreads/underdog game picks last week, we’re going back to that well heavily today. We’re going to have four point spread picks with one over/under kicker. There are some interesting lines out there this week, so let’s get to it.

Panthers +4 at Steelers (-115)

Both these teams are red hot and this should be one of the best games of the week. For once, we get a really good Thursday Night game. On a short week, both teams are going to be tired and it might be a little sloppier than we’ve seen from Carolina and Pittsburgh the last several weeks. The nod probably goes to Pittsburgh, because they’re at home, but when it’s two really good teams, you have to take the side getting four points.

We’ll be hoping for a Steelers three-point win or even the Panthers to pull this one out on the road and keep their hot play going. Either of those will win us some money, so we won’t be picky. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.61.

Redskins +135 over Buccaneers

One week after picking against the Redskins when they were home favorites, we’re turning the tables and picking them to win straight up as road dogs this week. Washington was embarrassed by Atlanta in D.C. a week ago and to keep pace with the Eagles, this is a game they have to win. Jameis and Tampa have looked terrible as of late and there’s no reason to think that ends this week.

Look for Washington to get back on track and rather than betting on them +3 with a -115 payout, just go for it and bet them straight up to win at +135 payout. It’s much better value and you have to like their chances of winning outright. The bet: $5 for total payout of $11.75.

Cardinals +17 at Chiefs (-110)

No matter how one-sided the match up, I just can’t bring myself to believe that an NFL team can’t cover a three-score spread. We had this same feeling when we bet the Bills +17 against the Vikings earlier in the season. Somehow, the Bills won that game outright, the biggest upset statistically in a few decades. That ain’t happening with the Cardinals, but Arizona’s defense is nothing to scoff at.

While Kansas City has been blowing most teams out of the water, this feels a lot more like a 10-point game, because the Cardinals are going to try and control the clock and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. If a team can’t cover a 17-point spread, we deserve to lose the bet anyway, so let’s roll with it. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Seahawks +10 at Rams (-110)

Both these teams lost last week and Seattle is now on the brink of falling out of playoff contention. With L.A. losing home field throughout the playoffs for the time being based on their loss to the Saints, each of these teams is going to be playing desperate. Expect the Rams to win this game, but it should be much closer than the spread indicates.

Certainly, Seattle plays much better at home (where they pushed a +3 spread against the Rams earlier this season), but they’ve shown they can hang offensively when they need to. With two opponents so familiar with each other, it’s hard to bet against the team getting 10 points. Betting with the team getting points seems to be the theme this week, but that’s just how the spreads have played out. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

Saints-Bengals OVER 54 (-115)

This very well could be an overreaction on my part to the Saints and Rams shattering my under pick last week (it was 60, the teams combined for 80). However, this really does seem like a solid bet. With A.J. Green out, the Bengals offense will be less dynamic, but as long as they get Joe Mixon in space, that will open up passing lanes for Andy Dalton to hit Tyler Boyd and others.

New Orleans should certainly be seen as the favorite in this game and we will be in good shape if they open up an early lead, because that will force Cincinnati to play catch up. That’s what happened to the Rams last week and we saw the end result there. Here’s to righting that wrong and taking the over this week instead of the under when it comes to the Saints. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.40.

As we do every week, let’s calculate our dream scenario where we go 5-for-5. We’ve been on a hot streak, so never say never. In that case, a $20 parlay would make us $598.95. We’ll keep dreaming of that, but I’m sure you’d all be fine going 3-for-5 every week as we’ve been doing all season long. Happy betting and we will check in after this weekend’s games.

‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 7 Breakdown, Patriots-Bears, Bengals-Chiefs

The post ‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 7 Breakdown, Patriots-Bears, Bengals-Chiefs appeared first on SportsHandle.

On The Pro Football Handle, Las Vegas-based sports talk voice Matt Perrault and veteran bookmaker Robert Walker of USBookmaking dive into select NFL games, line movements and bookmaker liabilities, plus greater sports betting topics and stories that may have nothing to do with football. Walker has seen it all behind the counter and Perrault the same from behind the microphone, so they’ll have you prepared for anything.

It’s NFL Week 7, another Week of the Dog! First the guys run through some of the hot topics in the industry like the USBookmaking sportsbook launch in New Mexico and current laws favoring brick and mortar sportsbooks in Nevada. The games this week are all about the ‘dogs. Which games are advisable to skip, and where’s there an attractive total?  Listen up. 

Spotify fans go here to listen.  Time codes for the episode follow below. Your feedback is welcome at @sports_handle.

0:54 — Recap on the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in a post-PAPSA world.

2:55 — Robert gives describes the launch of the USBookmaking-managed sportsbook in New Mexico.

8:23 — Why does Nevada allow digital sign ups for poker, but not sports betting?  Protectionism.

19:52 — Sports wagering and the future of sports radio and sports media .

23:43 — NFL Week 6 recap and what the guys learned.

24:44New England Patriots -3 at Chicago Bears  — The public is betting Pats like it’s been decided but the guys like Da Bears.

26:50 –Cincinnati Bengals +6 at Kansas City Chiefs — Walker says bet the over or walk away or but Perrault is on Cincy.

30:05 –LA Rams -9.5 at San Francisco 49ers — San Francisco will probably t lose, but will cover. The number is so high it knocks the public out.

33:04Houston Texans +5 at Jacksonville Jaguars — Week 3 the Jags were the  best team in NFL and now in Week 7 they are lost.

36:36 Dallas Cowboys +1  at Washington Redskins — Big handle, good game and pick the winner outright.

38:39 Cleveland Browns +3.5 at Tampa Buccaneers — Tampa Bay makes you never want to watch them play again

41:05 — Tennessee Titans +6.5 vs. LA Chargers (London) — The public is on the Chargers and they’re a good team but the pros are looking Titans here.

42:40 — Detroit Lions -3 at Miami Dolphins— Pros and Joes don’t like The Brockstar. Walk away — this game won’t be on RedZone much this Sunday.

45:00 — New Orleans Saints +2.5 at Baltimore Ravens  — May be a high scoring game, books will need Baltimore and the under.

46:46 — Minnesota Vikings -3.5  at NY Jets — Aren’t the Vikings better than a field goal versus the bangrd up Jets? Walk away.

49:01– NY Giants +4.5 at Atlanta Falcons — ATL is in serious trouble and NY is terrible. If you get over 4 take the Giants, or bet the over.

Have a profitable Week 7, folks. Follow Perrault on Twitter @sportstalkmatt and Walker @robertusfsports.

Thanks for listening and see you back next week, tell a friend, sign up for our newsletter and also check out our Cover City Podcast, featuring sports bettor Eric Rosenthal with guest Warren Sharp this week:

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The post ‘Pro Football Handle’: NFL Week 7 Breakdown, Patriots-Bears, Bengals-Chiefs appeared first on SportsHandle.

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

Ballin' on a Budget Week 3 Picks

After a week that saw us get brutalized as much as the rest of the NFL betting population last week, NFL’s Week 3 provides an opportunity for us to get back on track. To recap how bad last week was for everybody: the 10 most popular team picks in the Vegas Super Contest went a total of 2-8. Pretty much no one had a good week. However, there is plenty to like this week, at least on paper.

As always, remember that we’re ballin’ on a budget, so we have $20 to spend and we’re hoping to spend it wisely on five more games this week. We’re chasing our losses from last week, but that won’t be the case for long. This week, instead of going with three spreads and two over/unders, we’re going with four spreads and just one over/under. Without further adieu, away we go …

Ballin’ on a budget week 3 picks

Packers -3.5 over Redskins (EVEN)

That extra half point is a fickle beast and I debated including this pick in the Week 3 column for that exact reason. With this game being in Washington, there are plenty of scenarios we could see play out where the Packers win by a single field goal and we lose this bet. However, after a frustrating game against the Vikings that they should have won, the Packers should be out for blood in their first road game of the year.

Aaron Rodgers may be on one leg, but he’s better than nearly every other quarterback in the league even with that being the case. Washington showed against the Colts that they are potentially inept on offense without any go-to playmakers. Alex Smith isn’t likely to turn the ball over, but the offense is also more likely to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, which is reason enough to take Green Bay even money at -3.5 instead of -3. The bet: $3 for total payout of $6.

Bills +17.5 over Vikings (-115)

Don’t get me wrong, the Vikings will win this game handily, but 17.5 points in the NFL is a ton. You’re telling me Minnesota has to win by at least three scores to cover the spread. Is that possible? Of course. Is it likely? I don’t think so. Buffalo gets to play indoors and on turf and while they’re facing one of the best defenses in the league, they should be able to move the ball enough, if LeSean McCoy is healthy, to stay within 17 points.

At this point, it appears the Bills and Cardinals are the two worst teams in the league. Most would probably rank the Vikings as one of the best. On any given Sunday, though, I’m not giving the best team in football 17.5 points on the worst team in football. Minnesota could cover, but this line seems like an overreaction to the Bills’ comically bad start. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.61.

Seahawks -1.5 over Cowboys (-110)

This is a real test for Seattle and it might define the rest of Pete Carroll’s tenure with the Seahawks. They sit at 0-2 after losing to two average teams in the Broncos and Bears. Both those games were on the road, though, and they finally get some home cooking in Week 3. This is a huge deal as Seattle traditionally has been an elite home team and an average road team. Over the last four seasons, the Seahawks are a combined 23-9 at home and 18-15-1 on the road.

Dallas is riding high off a 20-13 win over the Giants, whose offensive line looked terrible on Sunday Night Football. Nothing happened in that game to convince me that Dak Prescott is any better than an average quarterback, so he’s not single-handedly going to torch Seattle. Ezekiel Elliott might. The Seahawks’ biggest problem is they don’t have the number of playmakers on that defense that they used to and the offense is banged up. In the end, this game is do or die for Seattle. While they may not make the playoffs this season, they will keep some hope alive by turning away the visiting Cowboys Sunday. The bet: $3 for total payout of $5.73.

Panthers -3 over Bengals (EVEN)

With this bet being even money, there’s great value here. Carolina is back at home and in the last few years, we haven’t really seen the Bengals sustain any type of success. Cincinnati has not won three games in a row since it won its first eight games of the 2015 season. We know they will be without starting running back, Joe Mixon, which is a huge deal. Giovanni Bernard is a great pass catcher out of the backfield, but he’s simply not the same playmaker, every-down back Mixon is.

Carolina showed flashes on offense against the Falcons and being back in a comfortable home environment should help them. They know the NFC South is going to be as tough as always to win and a victory at home this week is vital. Getting that field goal advantage on the line is great, because it allows you some breathing room to earn a push if they do win by just three. The bet: $5 for total payout of $10.

49ers vs. Chiefs UNDER 57 points

You might look at this and scratch your head as the Chiefs just played in a game against the Steelers that reached 79 total points last week. Meanwhile, the 49ers reached a total of exactly 57 in their 30-27 win over the Lions on Sunday. San Francisco’s defense is nothing to write home about, but they have an extra week of film on rookie QB Patrick Mahomes that may take him down a notch. Kansas City’s defense is also pretty stout; they gave up a ton of points to the Steelers, because Pittsburgh was playing catch up and K.C. was playing bend-don’t-break defense.

You’d expect this game to be close, although through two games, I’m still not sure how good either of these two teams is. The Chiefs are at home, so you probably give them the nod in the game, but this has the feel of a 24-17 game, which leaves us 16 points beneath the under with plenty of wiggle room in case the game is a little more offensive than anticipated. This looks like the biggest lock of the week. The bet: $6 for total payout of $11.45.

Bonus picks: A couple other picks I like this week, but am not confident enough in to officially include in the column are: Colts +6.5 at Eagles (-110) and Jets-Browns over 39.5 (-110). Indy has looked good through two games and are visiting an Eagles team coming off a road loss to the Buccaneers. Carson Wentz is back under center for Philly, but how effective will he be? That’s a legitimate question mark and enough to make you consider taking the Colts as almost a touchdown dog. If that line moves up to +7 jump all over it.

In the Jets-Browns game, there’s plenty of reason not to bet. Reason No. 1 would be that you have to watch the game. After that, though, there’s actually plenty of reason to bet this over. Let’s say we anticipate a close game: 23-20 or 27-20 is entirely within the realm of possibility. Each of those types of scores would get us our over. We do run the risk that one of these offenses lays a complete egg, but with an over/under so low, it’s hard to resist taking the over. Plus, that will give you something to root for in an otherwise forgettable Thursday Night game.

Week 1 NFL Picks: Bengals Bite, Vikings’ Might And More

The post TPS Report: Week 1 NFL Picks: Bengals Bite, Vikings’ Might And More appeared first on SportsHandle.

Week 1 is among the more difficult to handicap every NFL season. From Black Monday in early January through the preseason, every team gets recast with new coaches, coordinators, players come and go, schemes change, and in rare but shocking instances, the moving trucks show up overnight and your city loses the damn team entirely. The point is, year over year, every team is a different product, it’s only a matter of degree.

Since the start of the last NFL season, a lot of things have changed both in the NFL and the US sports betting world, and personally in the Smiley household. Put it all together and I wasn’t sure what would become of this column, which has been a joy of mine in some form for five years.

The NFL changes are mostly pretty standard NFL changes. A lot of things change and some remain the same, apparently now including the Atlanta Falcons’ inability to execute in the red zone.


For U.S. sports betting, well, everything has changed. By the end of this year, at least six new states outside Nevada will have legalized sports betting, with retail operations live, with varying level of mobile sport betting accessible. It may be years still before residents of some states have easy access to this Brave New Market  — such as the massive populations of Texas and California — but at least PASPA is gone and the door is now open.

On the personal front… I have always followed a week-to-week process of preparation for the NFL betting slate. It has been thrown into chaos recently. There are new and many responsibilities here at our growing Sports Handle, and more importantly I now have a two-week old son who in the past few days has urinated on my face more than once. Rookie mistake: I’ve learned you don’t leave a male infant’s bottom half uncovered mid-diaper change. I gave the stream a stiff-arm, closed in and let him finish against my open palm, rather than allow a soaking of the carpet or my shirt. He also requires feedings every few hours, which has cut into my sleep reservoir.  This is a Smiley boy, meaning he doesn’t miss a meal. It’s all worth it, of course, but I’m adjusting to a new life (mine and his) every day, and figuring out how to manage and maximize time.

I thought of retiring the Three-Point Stance Report (TPS) in a world where every major and minor publication now has writers making picks and offering gambling breakdowns. Some behind a paywall, others in front. What can Brett Smiley do differently? The answer I determined is just be myself, hopefully turn a few good jokes or phrases, and fall on the right side of 54 percent over the course of this season. Betting on NFL games is my main hobby, so why hang up the column? It’s why Sports Handle was born in the first place.

So the TPS Report marches on. This season we will cover the top five or six NFL games — “top” meaning the ones where I believe I can identify an edge or identify a winning wager, rather than reviewing the entire slate. Let’s get to it: The first NFL Week 1 of the post-PASPA era!

Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 at Indianapolis Colts (Total 48)

I think the Bengals are going to win outright,  but I’ll take the available 2.5 against the semi-trendy pick to bounce back and compete for the AFC South title — the Colts. It’s good to see that franchise QB Andrew Luck’s shoulder is well enough so he can play again in his first regular season game since New Year’s Day in 2017. For reference, that was three weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Make of that what you will.

Luck showed some flashes of his old self in the preseason but temper your expectations about out his walk on the comeback trail. Consider these dispatches:



Capt. Luck is indeed ready but we could feel better about the Colts offense if he wasn’t playing, as ever, behind a mediocre-at-best offensive line that may be without starting left tackle Andrew Castonzo (who has struggled when healthy).

The Tiger men on are going to be bearing down on Luck, while on the other side the Colts see a new-look Bengals offense under coordinator Bill Lazor. A reset Bengals offense with improvements on their offensive line, namely additions of LT Cordy Glenn and 2018 first-rounder Billy Price (Ohio State) at center, will give Andy Dalton time to exploit a young, inexperienced defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.  

The pick: Bengals +2.5. 

Get the remaining picks TPS Report: Week 1 NFL Picks: Bengals Bite, Vikings’ Might And More on SportsHandle.

Eagles have tough task trying to repeat in NFC East

By: Rob Maaddi

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Before they try to become the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles will try to accomplish another tough task.

Winning consecutive NFC East titles is so difficult it hasn’t happened since the Eagles did it four straight seasons from 2001-04. It’s also been 13 years since the New England Patriots were the most recent team to win back-to-back championships.

On paper, the Eagles are deeper and stronger than the squad that beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots 41-33 in February. Franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, playmaking linebacker Jordan Hicks and versatile running back Darren Sproles are returning from injuries that forced them to miss the playoffs.

They also have several new additions, including veteran defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata, and rookie tight end Dallas Goedert.

But the favorites don’t always come out on top and the road won’t be easy for the Eagles in a competitive division.

“Our goal every year is to win the Super Bowl. I can’t tell you how terrifically positioned I think we are,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “It’s a tough, tough league. I don’t think I’ve ever been more fired up for a season than we’re about to undertake, but with a realization that we’re also in the NFC. I compare it to the NBA West. There are many, many teams entering this season that I think can be in the Super Bowl. We have to try to collaborate and grind.”

Standing in Philadelphia’s way will be two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning and the revamped New York Giants, who added running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The Dallas Cowboys expect to have Ezekiel Elliott for a full season and are looking for Dak Prescott to return to his rookie form after a so-so second season. The Washington Redskins acquired a winning quarterback, Alex Smith, to lead the way.

Things to know about the NFC East:

DOMINANT D: Wentz and a high-powered offense that won the Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles get much of the attention in Philly, but Jim Schwartz’s defense was dominant last season and should be even better. The front four led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham is so deep that Bennett, Ngata and Chris Long are rotational players instead of starters. The Eagles also have plenty of depth in the secondary with Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerbacks Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones. If Hicks stays healthy, this unit should dominate again and make it easier for the offense, which may be missing Wentz for a few games.

OLD MAN ELI: Manning may be the oldest player on the Giants, but he has a new offense-minded head coach — Pat Shurmur — and a talented cast of skill players to make his job easier. Barkley bolsters the running attack and gives the offense more balance. He joins star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. A defense that was stellar two years ago still has talent with safety Landon Collins, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, run stuffer Damon Harrison and end Olivier Vernon. If the offense lives up to expectations and the defense returns to form, the Giants could battle for the division.

DEPLETED COWBOYS: Jason Witten retired and Dez Bryant was released, leaving Prescott with fewer weapons. The career of 2016 All-Pro center Travis Frederick is uncertain because of an auto-immune condition, and four-time Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin injured his knee in the preseason, though it appears he’ll be ready for Week 1. Elliott’s success depends on an offensive line that’s the best in the business when healthy. Meanwhile, the defense relies on linebacker Sean Lee. With him, they’re solid, but he has a history of injuries. There’s enough talent in Dallas for the Cowboys to stay in the mix.

ALL ABOUT Ws: Smith is a winner wherever he goes. He was 69-31-1 as a starter for the 49ers and Chiefs since 2011, but only 2-5 in the playoffs. Kirk Cousins put up prolific numbers, but was 26-30-1 with a loss in his only playoff start. Losing rookie running back Derrius Guice hurt an offense lacking talent at the skill spots. Adrian Peterson is nearing the end of his career but has a shot to be a featured back once again. The Redskins will be tough on opponents but don’t have enough pieces to contend.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Redskins.

NFC East Preseason Grades


Key Acquisitions: WR Allen Hurns, LB Leighton Vander Esch, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Tavon Austin, WR Deonte Thompson, FB Jamize Olawale, DE Kony Ealy, OT/OG Connor Williams, TE Dalton Schultz

Key Losses: TE Jason Witten, WR Dez Bryant, LB Anthony Hitchens, OG Jonathan Cooper, CB Orlando Scandrick, RB Alfred Morris, WR Brice Butler, CB Bene Benwikere, LB Kyle Wilber, DE Benson Mayowa, WR Ryan Switzer, FB Keith Smith

Things are never quiet in Dallas, and while the Cowboys didn’t make many flashy moves this spring, change came suddenly in April when two franchise icons with a combined 14 Pro Bowls left in less than a two-week span. Dez Bryant’s departure (via release) was the Cowboys’ choice, but Jason Witten’s retirement caught more than a few by surprise.

What’s left is an offense that must be driven by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, though its stellar front five remains a constant. The O-line got reinforcements in Connor Williams — who could start at left guard — and swing tackle Cameron Fleming, before a record-setting extension for Zack Martin. Receiver and tight end remain a concern, however, with a grab bag of unproven or uninspiring options at both spots. Dallas was probably right to drop out of the Sammy Watkins sweepstakes, but where will the explosive pass plays come from?

The defense lost a few rotation pieces, but much of the same group returns for a unit that quietly ranked eighth in yards and 10th in yards per play last season. First-rounder Leighton Vander Esch should contribute early, but his arrival could be a bad sign for Jaylon Smith’s progress or Sean Lee’s longevity. There are concerns up front, too, as Demarcus Lawrence did not receive the multi-year contract he coveted and starting defensive tackles David Irving (suspension) and Maliek Collins (broken foot) could miss time.

Offseason Grade: C

FLM Take: The Cowboys took care of their O-line, but the skill positions took a hit and few upgrades were made elsewhere.



Key Acquisitions: RB Saquon Barkley, OT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree, RB Jonathan Stewart, OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Kareem Martin, CB William Gay, WR Cody Latimer, S Michael Thomas, P Riley Dixon, LB Lorenzo Carter, DT B.J. Hill; OLB Connor Barwin

Key Losses: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, WR Brandon Marshall, LB Devon Kennard, LB Jonathan Casillas, CB Ross Cockrell, OG D.J. Fluker, OT Bobby Hart, RB Shane Vereen, WR Dwayne Harris, QB Geno Smith, P Brad Wing

New GM Dave Gettleman certainly doesn’t lack conviction. After concluding that Eli Manning still has a few quality years left, Gettleman went all-in on building the Giants’ offensive line and running game, sparing no expense in the process.

Nate Solder’s record-breaking contract ($15.5 million annually, most in NFL history) is tough to swallow, but if it upgrades both tackle spots — with Ereck Flowers moving to the right side — the Giants’ offense should be much better. Patrick Omameh (signed from the Jaguars) and second-rounder Will Hernandez will boost the interior, which has big shoes to will with Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg out the door. On top of it all, Gettleman bet big on Saquon Barkley while passing on a potential QB of the future. If Odell Beckham Jr. returns to 100 percent, and both sides work out a new long term contract, the pieces for an offensive turnaround are in place.

New York’s defense might need more work. Especially after it traded Jason Pierre-Paul, who had nearly a third of the team’s sacks in 2017. Acquiring Alec Ogletree filled a void in the middle, but pass-rush concerns are warranted, as third-round pick Lorenzo Carter remains very raw as a rusher. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could be missed as well, especially with uncertainty about Eli Apple’s reliability.

Offseason Grade: C+

FLM Take: The Giants’ offense should be in for a significant rebound, and a better running game would take pressure off the defense. Still, Gettleman’s approach felt a bit antiquated, and he could rue passing on Sam Darnold.



Key Acquisitions: DE Michael Bennett, WR Mike Wallace, DT Haloti Ngata, TE Dallas Goedert, TE Richard Rodgers, LB Corey Nelson, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Kamar Aiken, RB Matt Jones

Key Losses: DE Vinny Curry, CB Patrick Robinson, LB Mychal Kendricks, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Brent Celek, TE Trey Burton, WR Torrey Smith, DT Beau Allen, S Corey Graham, P Donnie Jones; LB Paul Worrilow

Many Super Bowl teams get gutted during the ensuing free agency, but the Eagles weathered the storm pretty well, managing to re-sign linebacker Nigel Bradham while letting several rotation players walk. Perhaps the two most talented departures came via release, as Philly let Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks go to save cap space.

While some players walked out the door, GM Howie Roseman wasn’t shy about bringing a few in, restocking a deep defensive line with veterans Michael Bennett (via trade) and Haloti Ngata (free agency). He also replaced Torrey Smith with a cheaper, more versatile deep threat in Mike Wallace, while the duo of Richard Rodgers (free agency) and Dallas Goedert (draft) should offset the losses of Brent Celek and Trey Burton at tight end.

The team navigated its delicate quarterback situation well, extending Nick Foles through 2019 while giving him a nice bonus as thanks for helping the team to a Super Bowl LII title. All signs point to Carson Wentz being cleared from his torn ACL to play in Week 1, which should keep Philadelphia in position to again contend for the Lombardi Trophy.

Outside of Goedert, the Eagles didn’t draft many players who are likely to contribute early, and they were one of only two teams (along with the Titans, who had four) to come away with fewer than six selections.

Offseason Grade: B

FLM Take: Few GMs manage the cap as effectively as Roseman, who did well to keep a Super Bowl-caliber team mostly intact. Here’s a look back at his strategy when taking over for Chip Kelly in 2015.



Key Acquisitions: QB Alex Smith, WR Paul Richardson, OLB Pernell McPhee, DT Da’Ron Payne, RB Derrius Guice, CB Orlando Scandrick, QB Kevin Hogan, DT Tim Settle; CB Adonis Alexander

Key Losses: QB Kirk Cousins, CB Kendall Fuller, CB Bashaud Breeland, DE Trent Murphy, C Spencer Long, S DeAngelo Hall, WR Ryan Grant, WR Terrelle Pryor, LB Will Compton, OLB Junior Galette, TE Niles Paul

You can criticize Washington for bungling Kirk Cousins’ contract situation in previous offseasons, but the team did the best it could this spring by landing Alex Smith in the QB carousel. Whether or not the cautious but steady signal-caller will fit perfectly in Jay Gruden’s aggressive offense, Washington was smart to grab a stable chair long before the music stopped.

Other than Smith’s extension (four years, $94 million, $71 million guaranteed) and the signing of wideout Paul Richardson (five years, $45 million), Dan Snyder’s wallet took less of a hit than usual, an approach that should yield compensatory picks for Cousins (third-rounder), Spencer Long (fifth), Ryan Grant (sixth) and Terrelle Pryor (sixth) in 2018. Richardson’s health will be key for a thinned out receiving corps, and 2017 sixth-rounder Chase Roullier must step up to replace Long at the pivot. Getting the dynamic Derrius Guice, who could quickly become an offensive centerpiece, late in Round 2 was a coup.

On defense, rookies Da’Ron Payne and Tim Settle could provide a similar boost to a poor run defense, and talented but injury-prone Pernell McPhee was a great buy-low candidate. The team also re-signed linebacker Zach Brown, but major questions remain at cornerback, where Kendall Fuller (part of the package for Smith) and Bashaud Breeland (unsigned) are gone. 2017 third-rounder Fabian Moreau must step up, especially considering Orlando Scandrick’s decline in recent years.

Offseason Grade: B-

FLM Take: It might not bear out in a tough division, but Washington did well to reload despite losing significant talent.


The Story Behind the Sports Betting Photo Seen Everywhere

The post The Story Behind the Sports Betting Photo Seen Everywhere appeared first on SportsHandle.
If you have read more than a few stories about sports wagering, odds are you have seen this picture above. It was taken on the night of November 15, 2010 at the Mandalay Bay Race & Sports Book on the Las Vegas Strip, when the Michael Vick and Andy Reid-led Philadelphia Eagles annihilated the Washington Redskins by a score of 59-28, during Donovan McNabb’s first and only season in Washington.
The moment was frozen in time by Baishampayan Ghose, a technology entrepreneur (or startup founder) by trade, who at the time was on a road-trip from San Francisco through Las Vegas. “I think I had spent a few days on the strip checking out Las Vegas,” Ghose told Sports Handle in an e-mail.
Since then, here is a sampling of websites where the photo has appeared: Sports Insights, The Postgame, Complex, Vice Sports, the Libertarian-minded website Reason, The Chive, Kentucky’s NPR affiliate WKMS, likewise Nevada’s NPR affiliate KNPR. It’s been featured in the International Business Times, on SCOTUSblog, Gaming Today, Cardplayer, as the icon photo for Twitter user bettingresource and it’s even the main Wikipedia image under the article on sports betting.
The De-Facto Sports Betting Stock Photo Was Taken By a Hobbyist Photographer in 2010
Ghose himself is not a sports bettor. He’s a tech guy who was living and working in San Francisco at the time. “Photography is something I have done from time to time as a hobby,” Ghose said.
Ghose captured the image to signify a “general sports bettor” intently looking at the betting boards. We’ll call the man in the foreground “Bettor X.” Sports Handle tried unsuccessfully to track down Bettor X. (And if you are that person, please reach us at
“The reason I took it was to highlight the meta-ness of the situation: that there is sports betting played on top of other sports, such as football,” Ghose said. “Some people love football, but many others just care about being able to predict the outcome of the game, and probably don’t care as much about the game itself.”
Hit the nail right on the head. Which bucket does Bettor X fall into? Lover of the game, a bettor looking to predict the the outcome of game and pocket a few bills before heading home after a Las Vegas weekend? Maybe he’s both — an Eagles fan who hopefully backed his hometown team and the “over.”
At the time Ghose snapped the image, Bettor X’s fortunes were yet to be determined. That’s former Eagles and now Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy captured on the giant television. The game had not yet started.  By the end of the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game, the Eagles had mounted a 28-0 lead.
McCoy actually was only the third-leading Eagles rusher that night with 43 yards on 11 carries, behind Jerome Harrison (11 for 109 and one TD) and Vick (8 for 80 and 2 TDs).
Ghose, then age 27, provided his take on what he thought Bettor X was thinking about as he was staring intently at the TV screens and betting menus.
“There must have been a lot going on in his mind regarding the outcome of the game and all the events in the game that could be bet on. These guys have real money riding on it, so the stress must be at a different level.”
Ghose added that, “It’s interesting how something designed primarily for entertainment is also a source of income for so many people indirectly. It was interesting for me to observe first-hand. It was my first time experiencing sports betting at such a large scale, so I was quite intrigued then.”
The reason why the photo became so popular? Ghose attributes that to “the liberal, simple, and explicit license…apart from it being a decent picture.”
What he means is that his photograph is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which allows anyone to use the picture freely for any kind of commercial purpose as long as they give the creator credit for the photograph.
It was and is a good picture, and gained popularity due to its free licensing so that everyone may use it as long as they give Ghose the credit he deserves. Like the old saying, if it’s free it’s for me.
Ghose is now 35 and lives in Pune, India. You can find more of his photographs here and who knows, you might come across another hidden gem that starts a ripple in an industry, but if you do just make sure to give Ghose his credit!

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The post The Story Behind the Sports Betting Photo Seen Everywhere appeared first on SportsHandle.