Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pro Football Notes From Las Vegas Heading Into Final Week of Pre-Season

By Micah Roberts

We head into the final week of pre-season where bettors should play with extreme caution as most of the starters are expected to play only a few series, if at all, in what will be of a final audition for the final 75 players on each roster. 22 of those players will be cut and this is their last chance to make an impression on their coaching staff.

The Las Vegas sports books have been loving the pre-season because of all the uncertainties involved in every game. The low spreads on every game have enticed much of the small money on parlays to include the prominent teams as if this were the regular season and the line offered value as was the case with the Patriots home game against St. Louis last week where the Rams won as a short dog.

Although the big pay-day and with large handle for the sports books comes with the regular season, the consistent win with little risk during pre-season has been a nice relief for the books in August after dredging through a month and a half of only baseball where the daily win-loss is a crap shoot.

If looking for any type of trend for the final week of pre-season, you’ll be hard pressed to find a good one. Last year the favorites went 8-8 in the final week with the only trend standing out being the home underdogs going 2-0. Knowing that the second and third stringers are going to get much of the work, the quarterbacks that have looked the best throughout training camp and pre-season look to be the way to go. Cleveland with Seneca Wallace running the show shouldn’t disappoint, same with Marc Bulger in Baltimore. Conversely, look to pick on teams where the back-up has looked bad like Brady Quinn in Denver who can’t seem to find any confidence or rhythm making Eric Mangini looking like man-genius again for dumping Quinn in Cleveland.

Speaking of Cleveland and Mangini, I’m pleasantly surprised about the play of Jake Delhomme during the pre-season. We were all so down on him the last two seasons in Carolina with his bundles of interceptions that took a good Panthers team out of many games, but Delhomme has been the perfect example of just how important experience is. He doesn’t have the strongest arm or the swiftest feet, but what he lacks there he makes up for in smarts. His ability to read what opposing defenses are throwing at him and audible appropriately along the way should make Cleveland much better than last year; that, along with a much improved offensive line look to have the Browns solid contenders to go OVER the 5 ½ season win total posted in the sports books.

Through three pre-season games, Delhomme has completed 79% of his passes, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a QB rating of 110.5. Maybe more importantly through the games is that he has been sacked only once in 48 pass attempts. He’s got a nice back in Jerome Harrison to hand the ball off to, a nice bailout over the middle in former Patriots tight-end Ben Watson and the team has also featured the explosive Josh Cribbs more prominently in their first string offensive schemes. It also looks like the player the Browns got for Quinn from the Broncos, running-back Peyton Hillis, is going to be a nice third-down and goal line back that Delhomme has confidence in during passing situations.

The Browns have two winnable games right out of the gate to kick the season off as 2 ½-point underdogs at Tampa Bay and then a home game against the Chiefs where they‘ll be favored. They could conceivably be 2-0 by the time they start their tough division battles with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- teams they combined to go 1-5 against last year. It may not yet be playoff time for the Browns, but there should be some good times in the Dawg Pound as their beloved team actually competes offensively with their opponents this season.

Washington Hurt-Skins
Donovan McNabb will not be playing this Thursday against the Cardinals in the Redskins final pre-season game and could possibly miss the opener against Dallas. Because of coach Mike Shanahan’s uncertainty over whether McNabb will be ready for the opener, he’s sitting back-up Rex Grossman out for the pre-season finale as well to endure that he’s have one healthy quarterback for Cowboys. John Beck and Richard Bartel will get all the snaps against the Cardinals.

Bradford Passes First Test as Starter
It’s only pre-season, and it was only against the lowly Patriots defense, but Sam Bradford put all his tools on display that made him the first overall draft pick during the Rams 36-35 win at Foxboro. He was sharp and precise giving everyone a look at what may be possible in the near future for the Rams.  

No O-Line in Big D
Maybe we shouldn’t get too excited, but the folks in Cowboy-land have got to feel a little worried about their offensive line woes during pre-season. Tony Romo has only been sacked five times in their four pre-season games, but seems to be pressured every time he goes back to pass resulting in hard knock downs. Someone has to light a fire under this team if they intend to play at home in the Super Bowl like many experts believe, but the Cowboys have the unfortunate disposition of having a quarterback and coach that don’t know how to light that fire.

Michael Jordan’s Underage Son Parties in Las Vegas 
Marcus Jordan’s bragging on Twitter last week about losing $50,000 at the Clubs and Lounges within a Las Vegas casino would have been just that -- simple bragging by a trust-fund kid, but when the fact that Marcus is only 20 years old and he’s tweeting pictures of himself inside these places that are only for those 21 over, then it becomes a problem.

The problem won’t affect the Jordan kid at all and it won‘t affect the relationship Michael Jordan has with the Vegas mega-resort company since he’s a high level VIP. Marcus may get some kind of stern talk from his father or maybe a little lesson on being discreet from his Central Florida basketball coach, but even that is likely to be minimal since it was Michael Jordan and Nike who paid for the school uniforms. The kid will likely be attempting to do the same thing again at some club, somewhere, until he eventually becomes of legal age.

The real problem will stem from the Nevada Gaming Control Board who will be investigating the situation where the casino will probably face fines, which will ultimately lead to more scrutiny among all areas of Las Vegas gaming because this matter has a higher profile case than the regular underage guy caught playing nickel machines.

So when you walk into a sports book as a 30 year old who looks closer to 40 than 20, don’t be surprised to be carded by the teller just as a precaution mandated by the casino. You better believe the NGCB will be proactive on the matter and have a few sting operations to incriminate others. What a perfect weekend for them to find tellers not carding either, the first week of the college and pro football seasons, one of the two busiest weeks of the year.

Realistically, if a 20 year old kid can go fight in America’s wars there should be no reason they can’t choose on their own to drink or gamble, but in Nevada, a rule is a rule, and is something to be abided by, and enforced by everyone who works within those casino walls.

College Football Notes as Season Kicks Off Thursday

By Micah Roberts

The College Football season kicks off this Thursday night and runs through Monday’s big Boise State - Virginia Tech game. Every ranked team will be in action with six of them squaring off against each other. Between the mascots, the marching bands, the student body and the pageantry that college football brings to the sporting table, there isn’t much else that can match it from an excitement level. Every game means something; for the top flight programs, a loss can devastate the season. For the up and coming program, a loss can stunt their bowl chances. Every school has a different agenda and it all plays out well as somewhat of a drama for each over the course of the year.

For the six ranked teams that face off against each other this week, it seems illogical for them to plunge into the season this early against such tough competition. TCU and Boise State have had some creditability issues the last few seasons because of their conference affiliation and playing good teams early is understandable, but with the way the BCS is structured with the power conference teams having an edge, all any of those teams have to do is just beat up on each other within their conference and win out. It makes no sense for a team like LSU to hurt their chances this early in the year by losing to a good North Carolina team.

The team that will be interesting to watch this season is USC who will be ineligible for a bowl. How will this team respond knowing that there is no Championship carrot dangling in front of them like years past to keep them focused and motivated. They are ranked No. 14 in the AP poll and climbing the latter could serve as some motivation, but the seniors and juniors on this squad who know they will never play in a BCS title game have to be a bit torn about their feelings. What’s worse for these kids is that the cool, swanky, surfer guy coach who recruited them isn’t even going along for the ride with them; he bailed, and now the get Lane Kiffin who has shown that he has no loyalty to anything. It’s a tough up hill road for the men of Troy to climb and it begins in Hawaii Thursday where USC is a 21-point favorite. It would be surprising to see Hawaii with it’s depleted offensive line be able to stay within three touchdowns, even with USC’s unknown psyche.      

Here in Las Vegas, we’ll all get the pleasure of welcoming the folks of Wisconsin who play UNLV Saturday night. There will be around 15,000 Badger fans toiling around the city this weekend and I’ve never seen a more likable bunch from any school. The Wisky fans are some of the most pleasant down to earth people and it’s a pleasure to have them here. As for the game, the Rebels are 21-point home underdogs with hopes of shocking the college football world. The Las Vegas sports books are hoping that they do because all the early action has been on Wisconsin and by game time with many of the locals showing little faith in their team, they are bound to lay the points as well.

There are lots of big spreads this week due to the mismatches. Ohio State is a 29 ½-point favorite at home against Marshall. Last year the Buckeyes let a good Navy team sneak up on them and almost lost. Don’t look for that to occur again as they should win by 40 over Marshall. Texas and Florida start new eras with new quarterbacks, but the spread still reflects as if Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were playing. Texas laying 29 at Rice and Florida 36 at home against Miami-Ohio seem a little high with new captains piloting the ship in their first outing.

I’ll be looking for a much improved UCLA squad this year with a nasty defensive squad that should stifle opposing teams offenses all season. UCLA opened a 2-point road favorite, but Kansas State quickly shot up to a 2 ½-point favorite upon news that UCLA starting quarterback Kevin Prince may not play. Sophomore Richard Brehaut has been taking all the snaps in practice the last two weeks and will be ready if Prince can’t go. This is one of those games where I’m going with the coach in their opener. Rick Neuheisel gets his teams fired up for openers everywhere he’s been and has his team believing they can beat anyone. He took a less talented squad to Tennessee last year won at a very tough environment and should do the same this week.    

Reminder, this week is the last chance to enter the college football contests at LeeRoy’s and Station Casinos. Also, if looking to bet college football games that aren’t part of the rotation, check out the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book the day before the game and they’ll have all the “Extra” added games on the board.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Receivers The Most Plentiful Of Positions in This Years Fantasy Football Draft

By Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

If you decide to load up on running backs and take a quarterback in the early rounds of your NFL fantasy draft, don't worry. You'll still be able to get a quality wide receiver.

While there's a sharp drop-off at running back and quarterback after the top 10 at each position, the talent pool is deep at wide receiver and tight end. Most teams have a go-to receiver, as opposed to the running back-by-committee several teams are using. Some pass-happy offenses -- Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis and New Orleans -- will have two or three receivers who post quality numbers.

The names at the top are easy to recite: Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald. But the key is to identify players who are primed for breakout seasons that often make the difference in your fantasy league.

Last year it was Miles Austin and Sidney Rice, who were late-round picks at best before posting top-10 seasons at their position. Austin made 81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Cowboys, and Rice had 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight TDs for the Vikings.

In mock drafts this year, Austin is being selected anywhere from 24th to 30th overall, but he should be going higher. He's likely to put up statistics that rival those of Johnson, the Texans star who is the unanimous No. 1 receiver. In the Cowboys' dynamic offense, Austin should be good for about 95 receptions for 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Rice is another story. The Vikings standout had hip surgery this week and is expected to miss half the season.
The Bears, Redskins and Bills are running new systems, and some players on those teams have great value.
In Chicago, where Mike Martz is running the offense, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu both are being drafted around 120th overall. They should be going a round or two earlier.

Mike Shanahan is the Redskins' new coach and Donovan McNabb their new quarterback, and the offense should be much better because of them. Wide receiver Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley should benefit most.

Chan Gailey takes over as coach of the Bills, and nobody is happier about that than wide receiver Lee Evans. Gailey loves to spread the field with downfield passes, the type of offense to which the speedy Evans is best suited.

Three other receivers who are undervalued:

Jabar Gaffney, Broncos: He has become quarterback Kyle Orton's go-to guy during the preseason after the trade of Brandon Marshall. Remember, Gaffney caught 14 passes for 213 yards in last season's finale. He should have a career year in Denver's pass-first, ask-questions-later offense.

Dexter McCluster, Chiefs: The speedy rookie will line up at running back and wide receiver. Think Percy Harvin from last year with more carries and targets.

Bernard Berrian, Vikings: His stock has risen considerably after Rice's surgery and the uncertainty of Harvin, who has missed most of camp because of migraine headaches.

Click Here To Get List of Roberts Top-50 ranked Wr's and Top-15 TE's.

Micah Roberts has been making player proposition odds for Las Vegas sports books since 1995 and currently covers all sports from a betting perspective for multiple publications. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.

Sam Bradford Impressive in First Rams Start, Patriots Look Troubled

Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Poised and precise, Sam Bradford made an impressive debut as a starting NFL quarterback. It may have earned him the No. 1 job in the regular-season opener.

The top pick in the NFL draft zipped passes between and over defenders, threw for two touchdowns then watched the second half from the sidelines as the St. Louis Rams beat the New England Patriots 36-35 on Josh Brown's 37-yard field goal on the last play Thursday night.

But will Bradford be back under center for the Rams first snap Sept. 12 against the Arizona Cardinals?

"We've got to look at the film," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I want to see how he handled things when there was pressure."

He seemed to do just fine.

Bradford completed his first six passes, finished 15-of-22 for 189 yards and was sacked just once. He rarely got flustered and quickly located open receivers.

"It was a blast out there tonight," he said. "I had fun. I was used to doing what I was doing -- moving the offense up and own the field."

The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner missed most of last season at Oklahoma with a shoulder injury and made his first start since last October. When training camp began, Spagnuolo gave the starting job to A.J. Feeley, but he was sidelined with a sprained right thumb and Bradford got his chance after struggling for two games as a backup.

"He was putting the ball on the money," Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "You can tell he really knows the offense. I'm really impressed with how far he's come in a short time."

Other than Tom Brady, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 273 yards, and rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught two of Brady's three touchdown passes, there was very little impressive about the Patriots (2-1).

St. Louis (2-1) led in time of possession, 43:46 to 16:14, and in offensive yards, 462-288. The Patriots gained more than 10 yards on just four of 11 series while the Rams went nine for 11. And only one of the Patriots possessions lasted more than five plays; the Rams had nine.

"We didn't do well on anything," New England coach Bill Belichick said.

The Patriots offense didn't get a first down until 3:10 remained in the first half and finished with 12. Their defense gave up 30.

"They were able to move the ball at will," safety James Sanders said. "It was demoralizing."

New Rams owner Stan Kroenke had a much different feeling. One day after the NFL approved him, he went into his team's locker room before the game.

"That was terrific," Spagnuolo said. "He stayed for the entire game -- late into the night."

The Patriots had rallied from a 27-14 deficit to a 35-27 lead on Brady's touchdown passes of 65 yards to Randy Moss and 20 yards to Gronkowski and Brian Hoyer's 5-yarder to Sam Aiken with 11:14 left after an interception by Brandon McGowan.

Keith Toston scored on a 2-yard run but an incomplete pass for a conversion left the Rams behind 35-33.

They got the ball back after a punt and kept shredding the defense. Quarterback Keith Null directed a 41-yard drive to the Patriots 19 and Brown won the game with his third field goal.
Bradford led scoring drives on three of his first four series.

He went 4 for 4 for 48 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to Michael Hoomanawanui on his first series. On his third possession, Bradford was 3 for 4 for 48 yards, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Brown for a 10-7 lead.

And on his fourth series, he hooked up with Hoomanawanui again for a 12-yard score and a 17-7 lead. Brown added a 45-yard field goal after Gronkowski's 14-yard touchdown catch, putting St. Louis ahead 20-14 at halftime.

Bradford "made some good throws," Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden said, "but we didn't make a lot of plays to make him look bad."

Another Rams rookie quarterback, free agent Thaddeus Lewis from Duke, led a 15-play, 76-yard march on the first series of the third quarter. It lasted 9 minutes, 19 seconds and ended with a 20-yard scoring pass to Brandon Gibson.

The Patriots had grabbed the lead just 12 seconds into the game on a 97-yard kickoff return by Brandon Tate.

Then Bradford took the field.

"Before I went out there, I took a deep breath and said, 'Do what you know how to do,' " he said.

And that's what he did.

Notes: Donnie Avery, who led Rams receivers with 47 catches last year, "probably has a significant knee injury," Spagnuolo said. Avery was hurt late in the first half when he jumped and landed after a long pass to him fell incomplete. ... The Patriots rushed for just 28 yards on 11 carries. Two Rams runners, Toston with 41 yards and Kenneth Darby with 35, outgained them. ... Wes Welker, playing for the second straight week after major knee surgery in February, had two catches for 41 yards for the Patriots.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Las Vegas Football Betting Notes Through Week 2 Of Pre-Season

By Micah Roberts

NFL Pre-Season Notes
Week 2 of the pre-season saw the largest line move yet with the Giants opening as a pick’em at home against the Steelers. Once all the news started filtering in about Ben Roethlisberger starting, Eli Manning and back-up Jim Sorgi not playing, the Steelers quickly rose to a 6-point favorite. Giants third-stringer Rhett Bomar took all the snaps, but couldn’t overcome the solid second half play of Steelers back-ups Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. The Steelers won 24-17 negating any possible middle opportunities with such a large line movement.

The total in the Steelers game also dropped 3-points from the opener down to 33 ½. The highest total of the week was the Texans and Saints opener of 40 ½, which was then bet to 41 ½ by game time. Pre-season totals over 40 are rarely seen, but in this case, both the odds makers and players were right as the Saints won 38-20.  

Overall, the sports books did very well with Saturday’s 11 pre-season games. All the action is relatively small, but the small money added up when the players parlays went bye-bye thanks to the Steelers, Rams and Lions winning.  

This weekends games will be as close to regular season games that we’ll see during pre-season. Week 3 is where actual first-string game plans are put into action with all the starters playing through at least half-time. Some of the back-ups and hopefuls to make the team even perform better in the second half as they are now more acclimated within their team system. The effort and hustle of these players during the second half can rarely be questioned during week 3 because most are fighting for their livelihood and dreams of making it in the NFL. For many, this is their last chance to impress, if not for their team, then for all the others who may see something in their style of play.    

I never take pre-season to seriously from abetting approach, but I always look for certain things that stand out and are transferable to the regular season. I like to find the nuggets of gold with the second and third string players while watching the second half of games. I also like to look the early rotations and cohesions of the first-strings play, not necessarily scoring points, but the play calling and the affective nature of those attempting to execute from the linemen, prominent new players and who the quarterback targets.  

Through three pre-season games thus far, the Bengals have looked to get three new receivers involved and acclimated into their offense and they all look better than Chad Ochocinco who has only three receptions and isn’t being looked at by quarterback Carson Palmer. Terrell Owens (9 receptions), Jordan Shipley (8) -- a Wes Welker clone, and tight-end Jermaine Gresham (6) have all looked better than the reality TV star.

The Lions might be a good play to over five wins at local sports books just because of their defensive line with the additions of Kyle Vanden Bosch and second overall pick Ndamukong Suh. In their first two pre-season game the Lions D-line have absolutely beat up on the Steelers and Broncos O-lines. With an improved and more confident Matt Stafford not having to play behind so much due to pressure on the opposing quarterback, the Lions could be a thorn in the side to the NFC North playoff hopefuls.

The Raiders are another team that could be worth a shot at betting over on season total wins at six. It’s been kind of nice seeing the Raiders being able to move the ball after three years of Jamarcus Russell’s game. With Jason Campbell throwing affectively -- and smart -- all over the field and Michael Bush’s hard running, the Raiders offense should be vastly improved to go along with an already stout defense.

I had initially thought that the Bears would be much better under Mike Martz offensive system and almost had visions of Jay Cutler doing some of the things Kurt Warner did, but the combination of inexperienced receivers and a bad offensive line should see the team mimic last years floundering squad. I would look for the under eight wins on the season that the books have posted not only because of the bad Bears offense and defense look, but how vastly improved the Lions within their division appear as well.

I’m still undecided about how the Broncos will fare this year. I’m looking at seven wins while most of the sports books have them at 7 ½ for the season. However, Kyle Orton has looked to be one of the more impressive quarterbacks of pre-season. He looks more confident than he has at any stage of his career, including Purdue. Through two pre-season games at just over three quarters of play, Orton has a 116.5 QB rating with 4 TD passes. His favorite target thus -- taking over for Brandon Marshall -- far has been Jabar Gaffney, a big possession receiver who had 6 catches for 98 yards against Detroit Saturday. For fantasy players, Gaffney could be a nice steal at the late rounds of your draft.

Palms Pigskin Payoff
Last week I falsely stated that the Palms “Pigskin Payout” no points contest had a total of $100,000 prize money that they’ll be giving away. That amount given away in the contest would have still been an overlay based on the amount of entry fees taken in, which won’t come close to that figure for the single property run contest. Race and Sports Director Fred Crespi notified me of the error and informed me that the total amount given away in the contest is a whopping $300,000.

$300,000 is a lot of cheese to be given away by one property that likely will take in only about 20% of that amount in actual entry fees which should make this one of the most attractive contests in the city for anyone to play.

$10,000 will be given away as weekly prize money for picking the most winners. The added bonus this year is that they have split the first 16 weeks into quarters with the winner of each quarter winning $20,000. This format should do as intended and keep players coming back all season and not fade out just because they fell in the tank after four weeks. It’s like a new mini-season every four weeks.

LVSC and Kenny White Part Ways
One of the most respected sports betting minds in Las Vegas over the last two decades is no longer head of operations at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Kenny White has been creating the initial Las Vegas line that many of the sports books open with for almost a decade. While creating the lines, White used a democratic philosophy with his LVSC staff where the line would be sent out as a consensus among his line and his five odds makers. More times than not though, White’s individual line would be closer to what actually happened in the game and mirror what way the line actually moved.

White’s specialty centers around all college sports, baseball, and pro football. He has an individual rating system for every player on every team that factors into the lines he makes and spends tireless amounts of time accumulating all the data needed to come up with those ratings. In what may seem odd to many, White says he rarely watches games to not have the data misconstrued, but rather lets the box score of every game from all sports tell the story

White will continue to keep track of all his specialized ratings for his next venture which could turn out to help bettors in the same manner he has helped the sports books over the years. White hasn’t officially announced what that venture will be, but with his sharp eye for what the line should be compared to what it actually is, well, let’s just say that type of information is the kind that most bettors would buy to give them an edge. I’ll have updates on White as I talk with him down the road.  
Buckeye Fans Short Term Memory
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was driving back from West Lafayette to Columbus -- following Ohio State’s 26-18 loss to the Boilermakers as a 13-point favorite  -- when we started listening to all the fans and sports talk show hosts bad mouth the Buck-eyes. One host said, “This is the worst Buckeye crew of all-time and what’s worse is we have to sit through another year of mediocrity next year with the same garbage.”

That loss was heartbreaking as it basically took Ohio State out of the National Title hunt, but the team still eventually won the Rose Bowl and finished 11-2. Well, just last week I was listening to the same radio show when the same host was touting them as National Champs with only the Sept. 11 Miami game getting in their way. The host even touted Terrelle Pryor as the best quarterback in the nation; this after saying last year that he wished Michigan would have signed Pryor coming out of high school.

The Buckeyes are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Alabama and have a pretty soft Big 10 schedule compared to what Alabama has to go through in the SEC and could very well be set-up nicely for a Championship game which is why they are the 4 to 1 favorite in Las Vegas to win the title, but if the rug is pulled from under them before that, I hope I’m there to hear banter on that particular day. It’s pure comedy and one of the best things about big time college football.      

Friday, August 20, 2010

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Mathews Looks To Warrant Serious Consideration as No. 5 RB Drafted

by Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Every year as NFL fantasy drafts near, the biggest dilemma every owner has centers on running backs. The backs are the most eagerly sought after position and can be the foundation for any successful team.

Last season's best first-round bargain ended up being the Titans' Chris Johnson, who ran for more than 2,000 yards in addition to having more than 500 reception yards en route to 16 total touchdowns.
Backs who consistently hurt teams by underachieving were Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson, all of whom were drafted by most within the top six picks.

While Jackson had his second-best career output with 1,416 yards rushing, he scored only four touchdowns. Injuries kept Gore and Turner from living up to the numbers expected of a top-six pick. Forte never got a grip on his role in Jay Cutler's offense.

After scanning each team's rosters, considering their game plans and seeing where some of this year's backs have been taken in mock drafts, there appears to be value for a few this season who warrant earlier consideration because they could become breakout performers.

The first is San Diego rookie Ryan Mathews. In the past two seasons, many blamed the Chargers' lack of production in the running game on a change in offensive philosophy geared more toward quarterback Philip Rivers and the offensive line not doing its job in run-blocking situations.

Perhaps the media and coaching staff were just being kind to future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson by regularly placing blame elsewhere. The reality is that Tomlinson lost a step after seven stellar years in the NFL, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.

Mathews' biggest contribution might be his pass-catching, an amenity that virtually disappeared for Rivers last season, as Tomlinson caught only 20 passes -- the lowest total of his career. Some fantasy players think backup Darren Sproles could see more time with Tomlinson gone, but that notion should be put to rest as Sproles remained a third-down back even as Tomlinson struggled last year.

Look for Mathews to get more than 300 carries and crack 1,400 yards rushing with double-digit touchdowns. The Chargers are going to score lots of points and are helped by playing six games against weak AFC West competition, and Mathews will be the new face of that attack.

After Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice have been taken, Mathews should garner consideration as the fifth back taken.

Other running backs to consider early:

■ Shonn Greene, Jets: He'll be running behind perhaps the NFL's best offensive line and replaces Thomas Jones, who ran for 1,402 yards in 2009. Greene has been drafted as about the 12th back, but he should be looked at earlier than the likes of Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson and Turner.

■ LeSean McCoy, Eagles: He is being drafted by most in the fourth round as the 20th back taken. He takes over the role of Brian Westbrook in coach Andy Reid's West Coast offense, which means his expected receptions and receiving yards will be higher than most backs in the league. He could be one of the best bargains in the draft.

On the web: Roberts Top-50 Running Back Rankings

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director who covers sports for various publications. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.

LVSC on New Path Without Kenny White

   by Matt Youmans
   Las Vegas Review-Journal
In the middle of the desert, Lee Amaitis and Kenny White, two powerful figures in Nevada's sports gaming industry, squared off for a Wild West-style shootout. When the smoke cleared, one was going down.

Movie trailers are dramatic like that. But in reality, that's not how White's dismissal from Las Vegas Sports Consultants went down.
No parting shots were fired, and, to be honest, the two men did not even exchange words before or after White, LVSC's former chief operating officer, was let go Aug. 3.
"I'm not going to comment on Kenny's departure," said Amaitis, president and chief executive officer of Cantor Gaming, which owns LVSC and operates the M Resort sports book. "It's not my policy to talk about people no longer in the firm."

It's an admirable policy, and White, a highly respected oddsmaker, also is choosing the high road.
"As long as I can remember, the sports gaming industry has been a huge passion for me. For 23 years I've devoted every ounce of energy to serving the sports books of Nevada to the best of my ability," White said. "I'd like to thank the many sports book directors, supervisors and my staff for making it a tremendously rewarding experience."

White added that he's "extremely happy" and looking into new business ventures on the other side of the counter. He's also a candidate to be the next baseball coach at Bishop Gorman High School.

Read More Here...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

High End Las Vegas Football Contests

by Micah Roberts

It’s that time of year again! Football is here and if you live in Las Vegas, there isn’t a better place to make some extra cash by entering any one of the many football contests around town. If you don't live in Vegas, all you have to do is make a visit, sign-up, and then have a friend or hire a proxy service to enter your weekly picks. Even if you're not much of a football fan, it’s likely that you’re definitely a cash fan which is what many Las Vegas casinos lay down to entice a visit to their property.
The football season is the one time of the year that a casino marketing department actually get heavily involved with the sports books because there is so much cross-over business from football fans who come in all shapes and sizes that lead to high volumes of play in other parts of the casino. Football appeals to everyone which makes offering contests with huge overlays good business sense.
The overlay is the amount that is offered as opposed to what is actually brought in by entry fees. The Boyd group’s free contest is the ultimate overlay because they are giving away $500,000 this season without taking any entry fee’s. Station Casino’s and the Palms $25 contests never come close in entry fees to reaching what they guarantee in prize money.
Here’s a look at two of the high end contests in Las Vegas beginning with the big grand-Daddy of them all.
Las Vegas Hilton Super Book - Super Contest - Entry Fee: $1,500
Click here to find out more!
If you for “Las Vegas football contest" on Google, just about each of the results that pop up have something to do with the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book’s Super Contest which tells you just how special and renowned the contest truly is as it enters its 21st year. The Hilton casino wasn’t the first to have a football contest, but it was the first to have a high end contest which has attracted a lot of attention from bettors of all kinds over the years garnering national attention.
“If you want to compete against the best handicappers in the land, come play the Super Contest,” said Race and Sports Executive Director Jay Kornegay, “The contest has long storied tradition, well before I arrived here, and the players have continued to keep it’s prestige high.”
The draw of the Super Contest that requires a $1,500 entry fee is the lure of the huge prize structure and being crowned champion of the prestigious contest. Last years winner, Steven Fezzik, won $196,800 for winning by being the most consistent handicapper over 17 weeks. It was Fezzik’s second year in a row winning the Super Contest going back to back, something not even legendary handicapper and former Super Contest winner Mike Lee was able to do..
Beyond winning the top prize, other incentives for players out there is just to see how they match up against the best. Everyone knows someone who thinks they are a great handicapper no matter what city you live in, but with the pressure of having to select the best five games a week where there are some weeks you may only truly like two games, well, that’s where the real challenge is.
“We get all types of bettors playing the contest,” said Kornegay, “By no means is it just a contest where the professional handicappers blow everyone away. We have quite few entries that are pooled together by a group of dealers or bartenders from casinos around town who turn in their picks using a consensus play within their group. We’ve also had winners of the contest who have done it in their first year playing, so it’s a much broader pool than just some of the known names that enter.”
Over the years there have several regular small money bettors that have parlayed their success -- not even winning the Super Contest, just doing well -- that have led to prosperous handicapping careers. It was all because of the weekly exposure gained by people around the world seeing their names near the top of the list when the weekly standings were published.
Every late Saturday afternoon, the Hilton publishes the selections which are eagerly anticipated by bettors from all over the world just to see what the consensus plays are from contestants who are deemed to be serious handicappers as well as the individual plays from the likes of known players like Fezzik.
“A lot of players like to use the consensus plays as a handicapping tool because of the respect they have for the players entered,“ said Kornegay.
The exposure and incremental bets made because of the contest from those entered, and others who just visit to see the picks, is the foundation of what a contest is supposed to achieve. They have created their own niche and market that separates them from everyone else.
The Super Contest rules remain the same. Pick five games a week against the listed spread. All selections must be made by 11 am Saturday for that week’s games and all entry fees are returned as prize money.
This season, Kornegay has made it easier than ever for bettors to get the selections because he’ll be posting them on LVHilton.com.
South Point Sports Book - Friendly Frank’s Pro Championship Challenge: Entry Fee $2,500
This will be the third year the South Point will be offering the high end contest. This is another contest that has a huge overlay possibility. They are guaranteeing $250,000 in prize money regardless if they get the 100 entries it would take to pay for the contest. All additional entries fee’s are paid out to the top four finishers, with the winner guaranteed to win $100,000.
Another attraction to this contest besides the prize money is the bonus money of $50,000 South Point will pay out to contestants who win at a 65% clip or better for the year. All weekly entries must be submitted by 2 pm on Saturday’s.
Station Casinos and Cal-Neva books have eliminated their high end contests for the 2010 season.

Las Vegas Pre-Season Football Betting Notes

by Micah Roberts

Thursday’s NFL action kicked off the season to a starving football audience, albeit pre-season games. The two early moves got there for the players as the Ravens and Raiders won and covered. The Ravens opened as a -3 ½-point favorite and were pushed to five -- where the game eventually landed 17-12 -- while the Raiders as a dog saw action getting +4 ½ and dropping to +3 by kickoff.
Overall, the line moves for the week went 7-7 with the two biggest moves of the week not getting there for the players. The Texans went from pick ’em to -2 ½ at Arizona and lost 19-16. The Rams went from +1 to -2 ½ and lost 28-7 to the Vikings.
Click here to find out more!
It doesn’t take much to move these games. Many of the limits around Las Vegas sports books range from $2,000 to $500 a game with key numbers thought little of, making movement of the games based pretty much on the money alone -- a much different philosophy from the regular season.
Take a look at some of these rosters, in particular for next week’s wave of games and then the final week. In week three of the pre-season, just about every team will play their starters through the first half, and in some instances will go mid-way through the third quarter, but in the weeks sandwiched around that critical week, it’s all about the coaches taking a look at their squad before they decide who makes it and who gets cut.
When making a wager on the games, you’ll want to feel confident about the back-up quarterback and the third-stringer, the guys running the show for the majority of the game. The only team that really gives a good vibe for all three is Baltimore with Joe Flacco, Marc Bulger, and Troy Smith.
Atlanta comes with a seasoned back-up of Chris Redman making them an attractive pre-season team. Even though the Browns have an anemic offensive game plan, Seneca Wallace has always been one of the better pre-season quarterbacks because he makes things happen on the fly, which usually has to happen because not everyone is comfortable with their assignments.
Jimmy Clausen looked outstanding for the Panthers and showed that he has much more confidence out there than the starter Matt Moore. He didn’t look like any rookie I have seen in game conditions recently. He played smart, scanned the field, read defenses, and had that sixth sense of awareness in the pocket. I think he might become a pretty good one.
Bronco Banger
Tim Tebow’s play in the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Cincinnati had mixed reviews. He made some good throws and some bad, he felt the pressure of the pass rush and moved well and then he didn’t. One thing is for sure though; the two Bengals defensive backs who got in his way as he came full speed into the end zone as time expired will find another approach to tackling Tebow should they ever meet again. Three bodies met going full speed, one went in for the touchdown and the other two got knocked down like bowling pins, one of which didn‘t get up until TV coverage stopped. I’m not sure how much playing time we’ll see out of Tebow this year, but Bronco fans are sure to want to see some more of that type of action on offense regardless of where he plays.
Fantasy Stud
This seasons break out fantasy star looks to be Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews whose fresh young legs will fill in for the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. The last two seasons, a lot of the Chargers deficiencies rested with their lack of a running game with blame being placed at Phillip Rivers taking over and wanting to pass along with a struggling run blocking offensive line. But the real culprit was Tomlinson who plain and simply just got old and lost a step.
Mathews has that zip in his step and should put up numbers that would warrant him a legitimate top-five back in the draft. The system he’s in should allow for him to gain over 4 yards per carry which will be a welcome sight for the Chargers who watched Tomlinson gain only 3.3 yards per carry last year. Mathews is the feature back and will score double digit touchdowns and rush for over 1,400 yards, not to mention all the dump offs he’ll get from Rivers as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Las Vegas Football Betting Notes

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today - Las Vegas

Really, Really High-End Contest
The M Resort is going to new heights in Las Vegas with the unveiling of the "Cantor High Stakes" football contest. Entry fee is $100,000 with a goal of getting at least 20 entrants which would make the prize money a cool $2 million.

"We wanted to do something different this year as opposed to what all the other places are doing around town," said M Sports Book Director Mike Colbert. "We’ve already got six entries with commitments from others. With that type of entry fee, I think this appeals to several levels of players ranging from pro athletes, celebrities, professional poker players, high stakes casino gamblers and of course high end sports bettors."

The entrants will have to make five selections a week versus the listed spread. By attracting the kind of personalities that will be able to afford that type of fee, this contest should be a weekly reality TV show on VH-1 or Versus. It’s got everything that a reality show needs: celebrities, people with lots of money – which always creates drama and a big prize at the end of the rainbow. Sounds like a ratings winner to me.

Sports Books Waiting on Favre
Since most of the Las Vegas sports books have week one NFL lines up already, they have already been put into a tough dilemma as we all wait for the Brett Favre soap opera to end. Many sports books opened the Saints at home as a 4-point favorite against the Vikings, but since the latest saga, they have either taken the game off the board or moved the game to -6 or 6½, adjusting as news from the drama leaks out through the press.

Favre is one of the few players in the NFL who is worth 3-points to his team. Should it be announced officially that Favre will not play, expect the line to shoot past the all important barrier of 7 and go right to 7½. So if you’re willing to bet on Favre’s drama – believing he won’t play, laying the Saints right now is the value play.

Preseason Teasers
Not a lot of Las Vegas sports books take NFL preseason teasers because of the uncertainty of who is playing and for how long. All the sides rarely go over a 3-point favorite and none of the totals is over 36 points, so there is a perception that there could be lots of value for the players with teasers in the preseason.

But because of all those uncertainties, it’s just as tough to gauge for the player as it is for the bookmaker, at least until all the good information comes in regarding playing time.

If we look back at the first full week of preseason last year, you’ll see that there was no advantage in playing the teasers, especially with totals. All 16 games were decided over or under the listed total and needed no help from a teaser meaning that there were no two-way wins on any game total. By just laying 11 to 10 odds on a straight bet worrying about one game, you fared much better than laying the juiced up teasers for two games. Overall, totals went 10-6 in favor of the under. Out of the 16 games, five of the games were two-way wins on the sides if using 6½ point teasers.

In the NFL regular season – if the price is right – the sharp players from all over love playing two team teasers because they know that the regular season line is the most proper of any major sport and getting an additional six points is huge value. The preseason a is crap shoot with rag lines and half the teams using the games as a means to learn more about unknown players with little emphasis on winning.

The only advice I could offer on teasers is to go with the biggest moves by game day – some of which can move up to six points – and tease the game the same way the major line moves go. The moves are all based on playing time information and a coach revealing his game plans to the press. The large moves happen because the preseason limits are so small, just because of those types of things. There is no line that a book will stay on because of those factors, which is why you shouldn’t see any book use money (-3 -120) attached to key numbers, like most do in the regular season.

M Resorts In-Game Wagering
This football season will have a new wrinkle with In-Game wagering as it adds player yardage props as the game goes on. Bettors will be able to now bet the game side and totals as well as use their fantasy football knowledge to bet against the house. They’ll have the yardage props available through three quarters of action. During each week of the season they’ll offer the two best games at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. along with the Sunday and Monday night games. The same In-Game wagering system is available at the Venetian and Palazzo as well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Camp Confidential: Bears - NFC North Blog - ESPN

Camp Confidential: Bears - NFC North Blog - ESPN

Broncos Top Two RBs Hurt in First Day of Training Camp

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter have both been injured on the Broncos' first day of training camp.

Moreno was carted off the field after hurting his right leg Sunday, and Buckhalter injured his left leg minutes later.

The Denver Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Moreno suffered a serious right hamstring injury, while Buckhalter pulled his upper back.

About an hour into the workout, Moreno caught a pass in 7-on-7 drills and turned upfield when his leg buckled. He grimaced as he hopped into the team's headquarters for tests. Moreno could miss the rest of camp, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team hadn't confirmed the injury.

Buckhalter hurt his leg about 10 minutes later during the same drill and limped off on his own.

Read More Here....

Las Vegas Sports Books Don't Even Flinch With Owens Signing

The Bengals signing of wide receiver Terrell Owens may have sent shockwaves through Cincinnati and had the folks at VH-1 salivating over a possible ratings spike for the reality shows of him and Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco air on the network, but in Las Vegas Sportsbooks, the reality is that the bookmakers didn’t even blink.“We opened the Bengals at 30/1 at the beginning of the year to win the title,“ said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro, “and now that they got Owens, they should be at 300/1.”

Vaccaro said so in a half jokingly manner, but he’s not alone with his perception of Owens and the detrimental role he could play within a team. Last year with the Bills was the first team where he was somewhat quiet in regards to chastising his teammates. In years past, Owens has questioned everything from his quarterbacks’ sexuality, ones desire to win, to conspiring secret plays with another player, and worst of all, everything played out in the media while Owens and his teams were in contention.

Click here to find out more!
Perhaps last year -- with the Bills losing -- Owens wasn’t on a big enough stage to warrant the media attention he craves that somehow forces him to say exactly what’s on his mind. Or, maybe he’s just grown up a little over the years and now he sees that he has to plead for a near league minimum contract from anyone, and that his past antics have blackballed himself.
“I don’t think Owens makes a difference either way to the Bengals,” says Vaccaro, “but the public does have some interest in him in regards to what he’ll actually do on the season, so we are going to put some individual ‘over-under’ props on him with maybe a season matchup prop between him and Ochocinco.”

Vaccaro and his ace staff lead by the dynamic proposition master, Adam Pullen, immediately offered a few props on the hot topic. The over-under on Owens touchdown receptions was set at 6 (over -145) with receiving yards set at 770 (under -120). Lucky's also posted a duo prop with Ochoconco and Owens asking how many combined receptions the reality stars will have in 2010 with an opening number of 126 (under -120).

The main question to be asked regarding the props, and how well Owens does this year, is how quarterback Carson Palmer is going to have enough balls to go around within their ground orientated offense to satisfy the trio of alpha-dog personalities at wide receiver.

Does the signing of Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant -- a player they paid much more to get than Owens in a four year deal -- mean that the Bengals are now willing to scrap the winning formula from last year to accommodate their high profile wide receiver signings. Something tells me that the Bengals are going to be closer to what they were last season rather than a high flying aerial attack like some believe the case to be because of the signings.

Palmer finished the 2009 season as the 16th rated passer with less pass attempts (466) and yards (3,094) than the top 15 in front of him. Only Donovan McNabb had a lower completion percentage than Palmer (60.5%) among the top-16 rated quarterbacks.

On only one occasion last season did Palmer throw for more than 300 yards, a Week 15 loss to the Chargers (24-27), and in only two instances did Palmer have 40 or more pass attempts.

Then you have the durability of the former USC standout to consider. He missed nearly the entire 2008 season and it’s quite possible that the team felt the best way to keep Palmer healthy in games was to become a run orientated team and not force him to throw so much. The formula worked as the Bengals won their division with Palmer healthy all season.

Last season Owens proved to be valuable once Bills head coach Dick Jauron was fired. Owens gained most of his yardage and touchdowns in the second-half when they decided to use their best weapon, but the Bills still lost more than they won.

Owens is now 36 coming off his worst statistical year of any season since his rookie year that he played 15 games or more. His one-year contract is worth $2 million with another $2 million based on personal incentives. By looking at what direction the team is going in and by having too many receivers who want their catches to achieve their own bonus incentives, look for Owens to come up with a low, but respectable 45 receptions, 750 yards, and 5 touchdowns.