|Dave Tuley’s ATS report . . .
Favorites went 3-2 ATS in Christmas Day NBA games: Bucks (-10) beat Knicks 109-95, Rockets (+1) upset Thunder 113-109, Celtics (-5) beat 76ers 121-114, Lakers (+9) blew out Warriors 127-101; Jazz (-8.5) routed Trail Blazers 117-96; Games went Under in 3 of 5 contests.
Full betting recaps here.
Here is an update on LeBron’s groin injury that forced him from the Lakers’ victory during the third quarter.
College football . . .
Today kicks off a new stage in the college football bowl season, writes Jeff Fogle.
Here is why:
Pre-Christmas, the vast majority of teams represented “Group of Five” conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt). From this point forward, participants will mostly be from the “Power Five” leagues (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC).
Thus far, advantages at the point of attack have ruled the day. Favorites generally have the better athletes up front. They are 11-3 straight up, 10-3-1 against the spread. Oh, nine of the 10 covering favorites beat the spread by double digits.
Stat notes . . .
- Teams with superior yards-per-play are 13-1 straight up, 13-0-1 ATS, with 10 favorites able to manage advantages of greater than 1.0 per play, eight greater than 2.0 per play.
- Teams with the most rushing yards are 11-3 straight up, 10-3-1 ATS, with some startling blowouts (Army outrushed Houston 507-87, Tulane outrushed Louisiana 337-84, underdog FIU outrushed Toledo 236-134 to name a few).
- Teams winning the turnover category are only 5-3-6 straight up and ATS. There are sometimes long stretches where teams that win this battle cash most of the bowl tickets. Not happening so far.
- The MAC may have been way overpriced. That conference went 1-5 straight up, 1-4-1 ATS, and had two of the three favorites that lost outright…Toledo and Buffalo. The only team with superior YPP to lose a bowl straight up was Eastern Michigan.
Are there reasons why “point of attack” football may be a better indicator NOW than in the past for handicapping success in bowls?
Among the possibilities…
- There are fewer special teams touchdowns because kickoffs can be fair caught to start a drive at the 25-yard line, and because “rugby-style” punts are tougher to catch clean and return the distance.
- An emphasis on “dink and dunk” passing attacks across the sport has cut down on turnover volatility. Offenses that can successfully mix rushing with short passing can drive the field safely.
- Losing offenses that use “dink and dunk” aren’t very good at playing catch up, which makes it difficult for the less physical team to rally from deficits.
Few bettors are yelling “turnovers are killing me!” They’re barely a factor so far. Losing bettors are yelling “why can’t I get a stop?!” before giving up and changing the channel in the third quarter.
Will this week’s bowl slate feature more of the same? It’s not like the lesser leagues have a monopoly on “dink and dunk,” or the big boys haven’t heard about “staying ahead of the chains.”
If you’re trying to pick winners, it wouldn’t hurt to refresh your memories about point-of-attack strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball. That element may not continue cashing at its current pace. But it’s going to matter in games featuring efficient favorites facing dogs who aren’t very good at playing catch up.
NFL Week 17 . . .
Updating our “recent form” drive point lists from last week, these are rankings of points scored and allowed ONLY on drives of 60 yards or more the past five games.
Drive Point Offenses the Last 5 Games: Kansas City 134, LA Chargers 102, Seattle 99, LA Rams 88, Houston 86, Green Bay 86, Miami 86, Pittsburgh 84, New England 81, Oakland 76, Atlanta 74, NY Giants 74, Tennessee 73, Indianapolis 73, Cleveland 73, Baltimore 68, Philadelphia 68, Buffalo 68, Dallas 67, Minnesota 66, Chicago 65, NY Jets 64, Tampa Bay 59, New Orleans 57, Carolina 55, Denver 55, Cincinnati 50, Arizona 47, San Francisco 45, Jacksonville 38, Washington 35, Detroit 32.
Drive Point Defenses the Last 5 Games: Chicago 26, Dallas 41, Tennessee 45, Baltimore 47, Tampa Bay 47, Minnesota 51, Denver 52, LA Chargers 55, Jacksonville 58, LA Rams 60, Cleveland 60, Detroit 60, New Orleans 61, San Francisco 61, Seattle 65, Indianapolis 66, NY Giants 69, Buffalo 69, New England 71, Cincinnati 71, Atlanta 75, Philadelphia 77, Washington 78, Miami 82, Green Bay 83, Houston 89, Carolina 89, Pittsburgh 91, Oakland 92, Arizona 102, NY Jets 109, Kansas City 124.
Contest corner . . .
Here are the Westgate SuperContest standings heading into the final week and final 5 picks: @Pigskin_Junkies has a 1-point lead in the Classic and There Can Only Be 1 on top by 1 point in the Gold.
Full Classic standings here.
Full Gold standings here.
Brent, currently tied for 42nd to remain in contention for top 100 honors and prize money, will be back today with his Guys in the Desert. At 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT, the Week 17 lines for the final week of the SuperContest will be announced.