It's a wonderful time of year – especially for sports bettors! And this week is about as good as it gets.
-- Two sports championships, the NHL Stanley Cup and the (two) NBA conference finals, could be decided within the coming week.
-- Although there's no CFL this year, that other North American football league, the NFL, is now transitioning from early- to mid-season form.
-- And Major League Baseball is fast moving towards playoff time as teams jockey for the final post-season spots.
Oh, and The Masters (golf) is coming up in November. Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. The Masters in November – I'm still trying to visualize that.
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Okay, so we all kinda' expected the favoured Tampa Bay Lightning would rise to the occasion and even things up in Game 2 of the 7-game Stanley Cup finals. But now we're on to Game 3 tonight, and this game and series might be a complete crap shoot.
The way the Stars are playing, and putting the puck near the net with scoring opportunities, this remains a hot team convinced they can beat anyone (just ask the Vegas Golden Knights). Dallas could be a team of destiny, that is, a scrappy group of players that came out of nowhere to win it all, just like the St. Louis Blues a season ago. Tampa Bay has their hands full, for sure. We have a series, folks.
Given the wildly unpredictable way these playoff games have unfolded, with lots of comebacks and even teams bouncing back after crushing defeats, look to back each of these teams off a loss. That means betting the Stars in Game 3, and then betting on the loser of that contest in the next game, and so on. The teams have played well with their backs against the wall, especially Dallas. The Stars are especially worth a wager when we can get them as attractive moneyline underdogs.
The Lakers and Heat jumped out to quick 2-0 starts in their 7-game series, but then the Nuggets and Celtics woke up and said – wait, not so fast.
Denver is the "Cinderella" squad in this year's final four, which wasn't supposed to be here. Their freewheeling style and less pressure in each series up 'til now has served them well. The Nuggets are playing the Lakers tough in every game, and are probably worth backing since they are getting points, and the popular star-studded Lakers usually have to lay a little extra on the number, which gives the dog bettor some value.
Meanwhile, the well-rested Heat came into the conference finals as underdogs but are showing they are every bit as good as Boston, which was taken to the wire in the previous series by Toronto. The lines on upcoming games and the series shows that bettors still are not convinced Miami belongs here. That may serve us well when looking for betting values.
Denver is way too attractive to pass up on the moneyline priced at +200 in Game 4. The line is +6, but the way the Nuggets has played in the last two (losing by 2, then winning by 8), that's an exploitable opportunity.
The Heat might still not be getting enough respect. They lead the series 2-1, but are getting +3 in the next game (Wednesday night). Miami may be worth a bet anytime they're getting points in this series, which looks like a toss-up at this point.
The NFL has been a surprisingly great product the first two weeks, especially since there was no preseason. Play has looked crisp and offenses look to be in top form.
Unfortunately, injuries hit several teams hard in Week #2, which could be a major factor in who becomes favored to win more games and make the post-season. Injuries will be the most important thing to watch when betting on not just Week #3 and #4, but the remainder of the season.
One surprise is that one-third of the NFL still consists of undefeated teams, right now. There are 11 of 32 teams with 2-0 records. It should also be noted that only two underdogs last week won the game outright. So, favoured teams are winning, at least straight up.
There are 11 teams also which are winless at this point, including some surprises. Houston, Philadelphia, and Minnesota – which all made the playoffs last year – are struggling badly. They've looked awful in their first two games.
Look for teams to revert to the mean. That means backing teams that have not played well, so far, especially if they were projected to end up with a winning record. By contrast, look to bet against many 2-0 teams, as oddsmakers have a tendency to inflate the lines and the betting public often overreacts to what happened in the early part of the season.
This means betting on some bad teams, and betting against some good teams. But – at least we'll be getting points.
Also, as an aside – no NFL game this season looks as intriguing as next week's huge Monday Night Football match up. Baltimore and Kansas City, arguably the top two teams in the league, will face off.
Major League Baseball's abbreviated 60-game regular season will wrap up this coming Sunday. With just a few days if full schedule play remaining, several spots in the expanded 16-team playoffs are still up for grabs. It appears the National League is far less certain than the American League, but there's also the possibility of surprises.
Note that the top three seeds in both the AL and NL are the division winners. The next three seeds are the second-place teams. The final two spots will go to the remaining teams with the best W-L records. In the NL -- there are still 12 teams with a chance to make the post-season. In the AL – just 9 teams are alive for 8 slots. Right now, things look like this if the season ended today:
American League Playoff Series – Round 1
Rays (1) vs. Blue Jays (8)
White Sox (2) vs. Indians (7)
Athletics (3) vs. Astros (6)
Twins (4) vs. Yankees (5)
National League Playoff Series – Round 1
Dodgers (1) vs. Phillies (8)
Cubs (2) vs. Reds (7)
Braves (3) vs. Cardinals (6)
Padres (4) vs. Marlins (5)
Look for teams with absolutely nothing to play for – either a playoff spot is already locked up or they're completely out of the post-season – to be good fades. Playoff teams aren't going to stress ace starters or top relievers in meaningless games. And, many bad teams playing out the string already have rosters filled with replacements and future prospects. We want to bet on:
NL – Reds, Phillies, Brewers, Giants, Rockies, and Mets
AL – Indians, Blue Jays, and Mariners
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