One of the most wonderful times of the year; march madness in college basketball. As a fan of many sports, I can confidently say there’s not much like the first weekend’s onslaught of games seemingly non stop.
So, to give myself extra rooting interest in every game that I watch, I decided to pick every single game of the first round against the spread. This idea has been done before so I am no pioneer, but it makes for fun engagement and as previously mentioned it gives me a little bit of rooting interest.
Here is the disclaimer though; I am not placing actual wagers on these matchups, and a strategy of betting every game in a sport usually doesn’t work well. My goal is to get either 50% of these picks correct or break even on my bankroll.
On the brink of the most disrupting pandemic ever, the winter of 2019 and 2020 brought a long-awaited expansion of the major sports betting markets.
In the state of Michigan, I was able to sign up for five different sports books all within a couple weeks of each other (with significantly good bonuses at the time). So from my experience I will be speaking on the following companies:
From user interface to connected casino/sportsbook/fantasy account balances, FanDuel has been the best sports betting experience for me so far.
The goal for many sports bettors is to make a profit, so it’s nice to know what your accounts net winnings are. FanDuel’s account balance section makes it more than easy to scroll down and have the total amount laid and total amount won back displayed in an instant.
As for the mobile app, it seems to be a much more clean and flowing interface that makes things easier to find. Which leads into the next advantage of FanDuel; it offers EVERYTHING. From same game parlays to boosted odds to can’t lose promos to daily fantasy, the coverage FanDuel offers is second to none.
Each sportsbook has to offer varying odds of some sort for competitive advantage, however time and time again when I do my line shopping I find myself declaring FanDuel as the best odds pretty frequently. With revenue of nearly $900 million in 2020, FanDuel had been the top money maker during the early stages of legalized sports betting expansion, earning the business of many sports bettors alike.
In a market as crowded as the sports betting market right now, being the ‘second best’ sports book is a very big compliment. For a company like Caesars, they got their start in a much more traditional form of betting – casinos.
While the casino business doesn’t directly affect our sports betting experiences, the resources and foundation it provided Caesars to develop a cutting-edge mobile app and memorable marketing materials like this can’t go unmentioned:
My favorite part of the Caesars experience are the occasional super boosts that occur for popular events. At times they will release a Super Boost that has boosted +100 odds for something that almost always happens (like a QB throwing for over 150 yards).
It’s not necessarily a given that all mobile apps feel refreshing to use when searching for bets, but the first two names on my list go above and beyond in their design and interface.
Although FanDuel had dominated the early stages of the industry expansion, DraftKings has been quick to make up the ground. With an estimated $1.8 billion in 2021 revenue, their projections fall evenly with their rivals’ for the year.
In terms of ‘gateway’, DraftKings is a likely first destination for people entering the market due to the massive coverage they possess on national media and partnerships. Becoming a fan favorite sports book was important, so DraftKings developed the ability to host countless promos, bonuses and special boosts.
Without a doubt my favorite moments on DraftKings come when they release ‘Hammer the Over’ specials that lower with each x amount of users placing a bet. The wager amount is limited, but there’s nothing like telling all your friends and family about guaranteed money.
The public sides with DraftKings; on my personal Instagram story, 16 users voted for DraftKings compared to 13 for FanDuel, 9 for Barstool and 7 for Caesars.
The best sign up bonus I ever received was from PointsBet. Using a friends referral code, him and I both received $200 in free bets. Not only that, but unlike many books like MGM, the free bets could be used in any increments – not just $100 per bet or anything else restricting.
Needless to say, I enjoyed becoming a user of PointsBet. I will also say that the best looking dark-mode interface belongs to PointsBet and not DraftKings like many others might think. Maybe it could be that I think the colors red and black are better suited for a sports book than green and black for whatever reason.
PointsBet takes a slightly different approach, they like to offer different odds for alternative lines on games, hence the name of ‘Points Bet’. It’s nice to see the different options available to bettors, and they do a great job of balancing that new atmosphere.
Last and, in my opinion least, is BetMGM. This might be hard to believe if you looked at my investing portfolio, as I do own shares of MGM. However, the betting experience I’ve had while using the BetMGM app is not hard to beat.
To get one thing out of the way; I was not a fan of the helmet icons MGM used during college football season last year. Instead of using just school logos or opting to go no visual at all, they decided on cheesy looking helmet graphics for each college. Despite the creativity involved, the end result was not better than a clean image of a school’s logo.
For a company that trails only FanDuel in market capitalization, I expected more when using their sports book. As PointsBet allowed me to do as I wished with my sign-up bonus free bets, BetMGM locked them as $100 individual free bets, and the payout on the bets didn’t include the free $100 bet!
Since it’s always time to win, the best way to win is by placing the right bets on books with the highest odds. MGM rarely if ever offers a few cents more on a payout compared to the other books mentioned in this article. That reason above all is why they’re ranked last, because it’s not enough to just offer the games – you have to offer a competitive advantage.
All in all, each sports book has its pros and cons just like every other market with options in the world. Don’t forget to sign up for as many books as you can, so the next time you’re looking to place even just one bet, you’re able to ‘shop’ the books for the best price.
Enjoy these short paragraphs for my reasoning on betting these teams this weekend:
NE ML (+170)
I’ll put my money on Bill Belichick in the playoffs against a divisional team he just lost to a few weeks ago. BUF might have the advantage on offense and even overall defensive unit, but NE can scheme up defenses that makes QB’s see ghosts. If J. Allen makes big throws like he did in their last matchup, BUF has a much greater chance at winning. I expect NE to control the game and keep BUF uncomfortable.
Reflection: Well, Josh Allen and the Bills played a literal perfect game. No punts, field goals, or turnovers. All touchdowns. Every time they wanted to score a TD, they did. Take my money.
SF ML (+150)
I always enjoy placing money on good offenses. SF leads the NFL in yards per play at 6.1, followed third by DAL at 6.0. Needless to say the offenses in this matchup are efficient. However, DAL is the worst team in the NFL at committing penalties (on both sides of the ball) and we all know how pivotal a pass interference or holding can be to a game. SF has the kicking advantage which could be a deciding factor in a closely rated matchup such as this one.
Reflection: This one felt a little too mainstream by the time the game rolled around, and SF did exactly what they needed to in order to win; establish the run, limit DAL offense and get creative. Almost gave up a crucial comeback attempt, but prevailed nonetheless.
ARI ML (+155)
We know this ‘upset’ is possible because it has already been done earlier in the year. I know it was early and these teams are at much different places now, however it’s still a divisional game in the playoffs that makes me think it will be closely matched. Would Kingsbury be on the hot seat if they lose this one?
If you’re a fan of college football, or even if you just pay attention to the big games and big schools, it was no doubt that the two best teams in the sport are the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs.
During this national championship, I am excited to see how a few things play out including Bama’s offensive firepower without Metchie III, as well as if Bama’s defense can continue the hot streak they have been playing with. Here are my picks:
Alabama Money Line +125
This could end up being a trap, one that I have fallen victim to before. The line at Georgia -2.5 feels wrong. Based on everything that has unfolded recently, Bama should be the favorite in this game by about a FG.
Since they’re not, I’ll definitely take them at plus-money odds to win outright on the money line. This game is truly a toss up for me, and I probably would take Georgia if their money line price was plus money too.
QB Bryce Young torched the Georgia defense last time out, and it seems like the Alabama offense can operate while supporting the pass AND the run game as the primary force. I expect both teams to take their punches and I’m rooting for an ending like the last time these two teams played in a championship:
Three bets this week, feeling good about all of them. It’s the last week to shake up the draft order, which will cause a new, more accurate edition of my 2022 NFL Mock Draft.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
PHI has been a good team throughout this season, able to control most games with their league leading rushing attack (in terms of yards and rush TD’s), and could potentially be a team to upset someone in the playoffs. With that being said, they have yet to beat a team that’s currently above .500, and DAL is the best team in the league at covering the spread (meaning they can typically handle less talented teams).
Additionally, in today’s NFL I believe the team with a better passing offense has a better chance at winning games for a variety of reasons, and DAL has the better passing QB and WR’s in this matchup.
SEA vs. ARI o47.5 (-110)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Russ and co. are going to want to cook one last time before a potential off-season departure for the franchise QB. A game like this could turn into a shootout and both teams have the playmakers and QB’s to make it happen.
ARI offense has hit a wall lately, but they are still one of the most efficient teams in the NFL, and SEA will have a hard time forcing turnovers against them. It also makes an over easer to bet on when SEA is dead last in offensive turnover percentage, meaning their offense production is more ‘readable’ and ‘predictive’.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I know all about the dominance of SF over LAR in their past six matchups, however I think this spread is an overreaction to recent games as well as over compensating for previous head to head trends.
As many games do, the difference in this spread covering or not could come down to turnovers. Both teams commit turnovers around the same rate, however LAR defense forces turnovers at a top ten percentage (12.9%), compared to SF who is 26th (8.7%).
I’m taking another FG favorite, and this time the biggest mismatch will be the CAR defense against the NYG offense. CAR ranks near the top in categories such as yards per play (5.2), scoring percentage (29.3%) and points per drive (1.68). Meanwhile, the NYG offense has 5.6 yards per play, 35.4% scoring and 1.74 points per drive. If it wasn’t for a OT win against NO, NYG would be winless on the season, and they’ll be without Saquon Barkley in this game who scored twice against NO in that upset.
Reflection: Sam Darnold is not a good NFL quarterback, and the CAR defense was massively inflated due to their easy schedule to start the season. NYG still aren’t a good football team, but I have bet on CAR twice this season and both times they have looked terrible.
CIN +6.5 (-110)
I am betting against a BAL team that outscored CIN a combined 65-6 in the two games last year, but the beginning of this season shows a much improved CIN defense that is able to give the offense enough opportunities to hit their home runs. The BAL offense is among the most dominant in the league, but there can be weaknesses in their pass rush and secondary on the other side of the ball. The only common opponent among the two this year is winless DET, and CIN handled them with much more ease than BAL did. I think the divisional underdog keeps it within a field goal, perhaps something like a 30-27 loss.
Reflection: Probably not a final score many saw coming, but CIN looks to be the real deal. The offense is fully capable of scoring with the best of them and the defense has been among the leagues most surprising this season. BAL didn’t put up much of a fight and now the AFC North looks open for potentially every team.
WSH vs. GB o48.5 (-110)
So far these two teams average out to surpass this total in their games’ combined scores this season. WSH does have enough of an offensive attack to put points on the board, but it has been their poor defense that has caused such high game totals. Their opponents average well over 30 points per game in their last five, and this GB team still has Rodgers and Adams at home where they continue to take care of the football and convert drives into points. Not quite a shootout, but a reasonable score could be 31-20 and we’ll take that.
Reflection: GB did their part, they scored when they had the chance thanks to Aaron Rodgers and company, but WSH was not able to do anything on offense despite GB being without four defensive starters. The WSH defense has not lived up to the hype coming into the season and perhaps their offense is feeling the weight of having a backup take all the snaps under center.
PHI vs. LV u49.0 (-110)
PHI has a very inconsistent offense, scoring on a relatively low 33.8% of their drives. On defense though, PHI has shined more than I expected. Against some of the best offenses (KC, TB, DAL) they broke down, but they have four straight games with a turnover and have not allowed 300+ yards passing in any game yet this year. LV will be looking to throw the ball more often than run, as they have only ran for 100+ yards once this year. I predict a teeter totter game ending somewhere along the lines of 27-20.
Reflection: I was right about the PHI offense, it is extremely inconsistent and they were out of this game before they even got their footing. LV has dealt with plenty of distractions in recent weeks but they showed up against a decent PHI defense and put up 33 points. A garbage time TD prevented this from going under and that has been PHI motto all year.
DET vs. LAR u50.5 (-110)
Forget about Jared Goff’s “revenge game”, DET hasn’t cracked 20 points in five straight games. We all know what the LAR offense is capable of; they own the first rated passing attack in the league at 8.6 NY/A. Couple that with going against the worst pass defense in the league in DET and this could become a very lopsided game, leading to a lot of bleeding clock and unmotivated drives. This game shouldn’t be close, no matter how you stack the pieces. Final score around the likes of 30-17.
Reflection: DET still hasn’t scored 20+ points in any of their last six games, despite showing some trick plays to get a head start early in this game. LAR are as good as any team in the league when they’re firing on all cylinders, and it was nice to see that their offense didn’t have a huge field day in terms of scoring points against a troublesome DET defense.
A very exciting matchup between two of the best young QBs is going to result in Justin Herbert throwing well over 300 yards. In games against above average offenses, BAL has allowed an average of 381 passing yards per game while not showing any signs of having a typical dominant BAL defense. Meanwhile, the LAC have better showings against common opponents in LV and KC.
DAL -3.5 (-112)
This DAL offense should have frequent opportunities to score points given how they average 6.5 yards per play despite the NE defense being among the stingiest this year (5.1 yards per play). I don’t like the NE track record of rookie/unproven QB’s and the one QB that Bill Belichick knows better than anyone else. DAL rolls this one and keeps their momentum.
BUF -5.5 (-110)
Am I the only one wondering why this line is not higher around 8 or 9? On the year, BUF’ margin of victory is 29 points! TEN defense has had issues at times throughout this season but has found a way to limit the points they’ve allowed. However, giving up 6.1 yards per play against Josh Allen and his squad that average 6.0 per play is a recipe for disaster, especially considering the insanely low yards per play (4.3) and points allowed per drive (1.0) by the BUF defense.
MIN vs. CAR u47.5 (-110)
CAR started the season with three straight games of 33 total points and has gone under 47.5 points in all but one game (DAL). MIN is on a three game streak of going under 47.5 points and that couples well with how their offense is not set up to be a super explosive one but rather a consistent and balanced approach averaging a moderate 5.7 yards per play. There may be holes in that CAR defense as evident against DAL, but when the offense is able to hold onto the football they generally take a good amount of time off the clock in doing so.
SEA vs. PIT u42.5 (-115)
This primetime matchup could be a whole lot of nothing. Replacing Russell Wilson will make it hard enough to score 20+ points, and the PIT defense should be getting a few starting bodies back to beef up their fifth best 28.6% pressure rate. The PIT offense got going (kinda) last week, but it’s still a bottom five offense in my NFL model, so with just a couple of wasted possessions they might be falling short of 20+ points as well.
My strategy for this week and weeks ahead: 9 picks and a parlay. The 9 picks include three of the following: favorites, underdogs and totals. The goal is to identify what angle is best to play from given my ranking system, not to achieve a high profit margin (yet).
CIN +3 (-110)
My ranking system likes CIN, and the eye test really likes Joe Burrow. With him at QB, the offense runs like a well oiled machine most of the time, similar to Aaron Rodgers and GB. Surprisingly, the CIN defense ranks in the top five in points per drive, points per 100 yards, yards per play and has the third lowest scoring percentage allowed. That could prove to be the difference maker in this one.
BUF ML (+130)
It’s crazy for me to phantom betting against the combo of Mahomes + Reid, however anytime I can get a moneyline price this good for a super bowl contender, I might as well take it. Especially when the KC defense is among the worst in the league and we all know what the BUF offense is capable of (top five in scoring percentage, 3 straight dominant performances and last years MVP runner up).
SF +5.5 (-110)
ARI has been the best team in football this year according to the eye test, my model, and by record. But, this is a tough divisional opponent that will have the ability to neutralize some of ARI weapons on offense. These defenses are rated almost identical in my model, and if Trey Lance’ running ability can keep Kyler Murray off of the field, SF will have an easier time getting through this one.
CHI vs. LV u44.5 (-110)
With CHI having such abysmal passing numbers this year and LV actually holding their ground through the air, I don’t expect many explosive plays or even much consistent offense in this one. CHI does have the defensive personnel to stifle Derek Carr similar to what LAC did to him last week and if that happens an under could very well be in play.
GB vs CIN o50.5 (-110)
Both of these defenses have played above expectations at times this year, but I do believe these two offenses have great leaders under center that can lead to a high 20’s scoring affair. CIN defense has well above average defense ratings (4th best overall), but facing Aaron Rodgers is a different task than Big Ben or rookie Trevor Lawrence.
NO vs. WFT u43.5 (-110)
Neither defense played up to their potential last week with brutal showings that resulted in a loss. However, NO hasn’t proved they totally can totally score at will with Jameis yet and although Heinecke has posted solid stats this year, I think this NO defense that ranks near the top in many categories can cause WFT to resort to their rushing attack and shorten the game.
LAR ML (-134)
I bet on LAR last week and it ended up being the wrong read, so surely this week they find their way back to the win column. LAR holds a pretty decent edge on SEA in my overall rankings, and on a per drive basis their defense is almost a half point better. I’m also still confident that Matt Stafford makes this LAR offense one of the most dangerous in the league (they are rated #1 in my rankings).
CAR ML (-188)*
This is near the most I’ll ever lay down for a straight moneyline bet at -188. CAR has the type of defense that will win them games from that unit alone. They were picked apart last week but they are a half point better than PHI on a points per drive basis, as well as a full yard better in yards per play. CAR is easy to have confidence in for this matchup considering the common opponent played in back to back weeks didn’t give them as hard of a time as they did PHI.
*If RB McCaffrey is playing
LV -5.5 (-110)
Without David Montgomery, CHI could be without their most reliable and consistent form of offense through the first four games of the season. CHI has the lowest passing NY/A in the NFL at just 3.9, and the LV defense allows the fourth lowest NY/A at just 5.5. Overall there is nearly a 25 point difference in my rating system which shows that LV should have a major upper hand throughout the game.
My strategy for this week and weeks ahead: 9 picks and a parlay. The 9 picks include three of the following: favorites, underdogs and totals. The goal is to identify what angle is best to play from within certain parameters, not to achieve a high profit margin.
NE +7 (-110)
Yep, I am betting on the Patriot way to get it done against what many consider the favorites to repeat as champions. According to my advanced ranking system, these two teams are actually neck and neck with each other, and NE even has the slight edge due to their top five defense and TB falling pretty flat on defense the first three games.
DET ML (+130)
The second worst rated team in my model is CHI, trailing only the saddening NYJ. While DET hasn’t put all the pieces together yet, they rate just below league average on offense and will roll out a far better offensive line and quarterback group. DET has the worst rated defense, but I’ve seen the CHI offense in action and it might not be too hard to scheme up a few stops against them when they need it.
DEN ML (+100)
I know this isn’t traditionally an underdog, but BAL sits at a heftier moneyline price at -112 so technically it is an underdog in regards to the matchup. The two offenses have around the same statistical ranking this season, and while DEN is rated as the second best defense, BAL is way behind as the fifth worst.
CLV vs. MIN o51.5 (-110)
Both of these offenses are top ten in the league when fully healthy when factoring successful play rate, explosive play rate, points per drive and offense scoring percentage. MIN defense has not proven that they’ll be able to slow down this juggernaut CLV offense, and as always the trio of Jefferson, Theilen and Cook can score a few times each game if all goes well.
NYG vs. NO u42.5 (-110)
NYG is beat up on offense, which will make it even harder to score and gain yardage on a top five total defense. On the year NYG has a pretty low explosive play rate at 8%, and the NO defense is sixth in yards per play at 4.7. The NO offense hasn’t necessarily shattered the stat sheet, as they have allowed a very high pressure rate (31.3%) and are bottom five in yards per play (4.3) as well as net yards per passing attempt (4.8).
HOU vs. BUF o47 (-110)
BUF has proven that they are capable of scoring 30+ points on a good defense, and although HOU is onto their backup rookie QB, the game script in this game could play in favor of an over set relatively low.
LAR -4 (-115)
Kyler Murray does not have any career success against LAR as they’ve held him to just a 75.8 rating with 11 sacks, 5 TD’s and 4 INT. They’ve also limited him as a rushing threat with just a 3.54 Y/A in 13 carries. The LAR look like a freight train that can’t be stopped, and their defense looks like it can hang with anyone. I’ll ride them to cover or at least win until something tells me otherwise.
NO -7 (-110)
NYG could be without many of their offensive weapons, which as I alluded to earlier could make it much harder for them to crack one of the best defenses in the league up to this point of the season. NO was ranked very high last season and has many of the same pieces on both sides of the ball, however I still think Jameis Winston is capable of managing this team to some impressive looking wins (as he already has twice).
GB -6.5 (-115)
Two of the most storied franchises in the NFL have been trending in opposite directions. PIT maintains a defensive advantage in this matchup with TJ Watt returning to the field, but statistically GB isn’t far behind. The reason to take the favorite here though is the differences in offense. There is a very clear and significant difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of both offenses, as PIT sits as the second worst offense in successful play rate with marginally lower yards per play and net yards per pass attempt numbers.
My strategy for this week and weeks ahead: 12 picks and a parlay. The 12 picks include three of the following: favorites, underdogs, totals and player props. The goal is to identify what angle is best to play from within certain parameters, not to achieve a high profit margin.
IND +5.5 (-110)
This big of a spread between divisional opponents seems like too much in this spot. Both teams are towards the bottom of the league in terms of statistical performance so far this year, and I think there’s enough flaws in the TEN defense (surprise surprise) to keep them from pulling away in this game. Keep in mind that IND kept it within a field goal against the clear cut #1 team right now in LAR.
KC has played with fire their last three games, and has paid the price in two of them. Given this years advanced ranking system, KC is not the AFC juggernaut due to their poor defensive play (which could be because they’ve played two of the best offensive teams in the league to start the season) and LAC is just two spots behind them, thanks to their . Yet another divisional underdog I’m taking to cover the spread.
The LAR defense that was the best in the league last year looks ready to return to that status. They’re well above average in every ranking statistic, and they still have an unstoppable force in Aaron Donald. At the same time, Brady was sacked three times last week against ATL. The game of the week shouldn’t feature all the fireworks we come to expect from these two teams. Here’s a preview on YouTube.
SF -3 (-115)
Per my ranking system, this is a huge mismatch in favor of SF. They have given Rodgers a hard time in recent years, and the way they can control the field position and pace of this game gives them the upper hand against GB, who through two weeks this season looks like there are some serious concerns. A win against DET does not convince me otherwise, especially when they were going toe to toe throughout the first half.
SEA ML (-125)
In case it isn’t already clear, Russell Wilson is a generational talent. It’s hard to go against him, especially in the first half of the season. The MIN offense has looked like it will go blow for blow with anyone in the league, but they have relied more on explosive plays rather than consistent yardage. SEA averages the most yards per play and is top six in points per drive and offensive success rate, oh they also have a bit of an explosive combination in Wilson and Lockett.
LV -3.5 (-110)
The surprise to start the season has been LV after upsetting the Ravens and Steelers in back to back games. MIA got bullied by one division opponent, and snuck by another with QB making his first ever NFL start. Rankings have this as a major mismatch, and I always trust the better QB to cover the spread when facing a backup.