The State of the Race: AFC Playoff Picture Mostly Set

 

The field is set in the AFC. Denver wins the West. Houston wins the South. Baltimore wins the North, with New England taking the East. Indianapolis and Cincinnati are the two wild card teams, with some jockeying possible in week 17 to change playoff seeds.

 
1) Houston goes on the road to face Indianapolis needing a win to secure home field advantage. On paper this could be a tough matchup. However, this game is meaningless to the Colts; they are locked into their #5 seed regardless of what happens in week 17. That should mean Houston wins easily, nailing down home field advantage in the process.

2) Denver needs a Houston loss and a win over the Chiefs next Sunday to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A win over Kansas City will be enough to lock in the first round bye and the #2 seed.

 
3) New England needs a win over Miami and losses by Denver and Houston to get the number one seed on the AFC side. A win next Sunday, combined with a loss by one of Denver and Houston, will give the Patriots the second seed in the AFC. The Patriots would be 9-10 point favorites in the first round against either the Colts or Bengals.

 
4) Baltimore can’t earn a first round bye; the best they can do is climb to the #3 seed in the AFC with a win over Cincinnati and a New England loss to Miami.

 
5) Indianapolis will be the number five seed even with a win over the Texans next week. Don’t expect much of an effort from the Colts as they prepare for the playoffs. The Colts should be about six point underdogs to Baltimore in round one.

 
6) Cincinnati is locked into the sixth AFC playoff spot with a probable first round game against the Patriots. Like the Colts, the Bengals will focus on resting key players and getting ready for the playoffs, not on winning week 17. Cincinnati will likely be around a nine point underdog if they face New England in the first round.

Handicapping the NFL West: San Francisco at Seattle

 

SAN FRANCISCO over SEATTLE by 14
The Seahawks are 6-0 straight up and against the spread in Seattle this year, thanks in large part to rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has been spectacular at home, throwing twelve touchdowns with just one pick. His quarterback rating is 118 in Seattle but just 83 on the road. The 49ers brutalized Wilson in the first meeting between these two teams, a 13-6 win by San Francisco at home. Wilson completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, throwing one interception in the process.

 

A bit of the shine has come off this game thanks to the 49ers surprise win over New England last week; what was expected to be a battle for first place in the NFC West has turned into just another game for San Francisco. While it would be nice for the 49ers to clinch the division this week with a win in Seattle, San Francisco could also clinch in week 17 with a win over Arizona. The game opened pick last Sunday, but Seattle money came rolling in and moved the game up to Seattle -2.

The Seahawks have scored 108 points in the last two weeks, becoming the first team since 1950 to put up 50+ points in consecutive weeks. However, the San Francisco defense is a much higher quality than the Buffalos of the world. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have a notoriously contentious relationship, dating back to their college coaching days, and if Harbaugh is going to go to New England and have his team put up 40 points on a coach he respects, can you imagine what he has planned for this week, in a game his team could really use? Carroll has yet to beat Harbaugh in the pros and hasn’t beat him since Mark Sanchez was his starting QB at USC. Expect Harbaugh to do it again this week:

 
San Francisco 23, Seattle 9

Sports Betting: The Slow Death of Sportsbook Review

SBR (SportsbookReview.com) went deep into damage control yesterday as it was revealed BetIslands.ag was closing, stealing all customer funds in the process. BetIslands was a sportsbook essentially developed through the SBR brand. SBR helped promote contests, giveaways, and extremely favorable coverage on its forums and news wire to help build BetIslands. It has been estimated over 350 customers lost a total of $1.5 million in this scandal, a vast majority of those customers coming from SBR.

SBR’s response has been discouraging to most of these users. SBR’s Bill Dozer says the clients bear the bulk of the blame: “A book sponsoring the forum is not a guarantee. Everything on the site, including the posters poll and discussions, is information for users to make their own decisions.”

SBR has repeatedly refused to point out who it is that provided the financial backing for BetIslands, despite the fact that strong ownership was the reason for BI’s miraculous rise in SBR’s ratings. BI went from an ungraded sportsbook to a B rating (upper 10% of all sportsbooks according to SBR’s grading scale) in just over a year. “The owners of books aren’t always public and it’s not up to us to make it so,” said Dozer.

 
Reaction from its posters has been sharp:

 

“I thought SBR was providing transparency, reliable reviews, and disputing claims as well. Turns out their business model is providing a captive audience for the books, marketing/touting to said audience, and profiting from their relationship w/ the books.”

“SBR abused their power to lead everyone to the slaughter, and now turns their head away from people who lost 1.5 millions combined.”

“I spent the last few years criticizing Covers, which is obviously a very crooked site. Now it turns out SBR is on the same level. I was completely fooled.”

 
SBR is in no danger of going out of business like its failed business partner. They have, however, been exposed. Once seen as a light shining on the cockroaches in the online gambling industry, they are now shown to have been a cockroach all along. That sort of reputation is hard to erase.

Sports Betting: Handicapping the NFC East

 

The NFC playoff chase is a muddled mess, and nowhere is this more evident than the NFC East. Simply put, no NFC East team can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16. All three teams (Redskins, Cowboys, and Giants) currently tied for first can win the division, but only Washington and Dallas control their own destiny. The Giants will need help.

 
New York does, however, lock down a playoff spot by winning its final two games. If the Giants lose next week, then the week 17 game between Dallas and Washington will be for first place in the division, regardless of what each team does this weekend.
Here is a breakdown of each team’s odds and what they have to do to win the East:

 
Washington -110 to win the NFC East:
Redskins win the NFC East if:
-Redskins win their last two games OR
-Redskins beat Cowboys in Week 17 and Giants lose in Week 16 or 17.

Dallas +155

Cowboys win the NFC East if:
-Cowboys win their last two games OR
-Cowboys beat Redskins in Week 17 and Giants lose in Week 16 or 17.

New York +400

The Giants win the NFC East if:
-Giants win their last two games AND
-The team that wins the Week 17 Redskins-Cowboys game loses in Week 16

While New York is a long shot to win the division, does it really matter if they do? We’ve seen what they can do, winning the Super Bowl twice in the past five years despite playing at home only once in eight total games. Last year, the Giants were 23-1 to win it all before their opening round game against Atlanta. You won’t be able to get that kind of price this year.

Sportsbook BetIslands.ag Taking on Water

 

The internet sportsbook BetIslands.ag is in trouble, according to various reports on websites focused on the gaming industry. BetIslands general manager Jon Kreta is no longer with the company and all customer payouts have stopped.

 
“We can not make payouts at this time due to our processor being down,” says one BetIslands employee. Customers were last paid on Monday, December 10th. Employees also report that Kreta’s whereabouts are unknown, as is the state of BetIslands’ ownership. Kreta was the face of BetIslands since its inception, and was commonly thought of as the owner by most customers.

 
BetIslands was a fairy tale story at one time. A relatively unknown member of the Jazz group of sportsbooks , its customers insisted BI had cleaned up its act and become a top-notch sportsbook catering to the American and Canadian market in just two short years.

 
Industry watchdog Sportsbookreview.com certainly agreed. SBR began rating BetIslands in March 2011, quickly raising its grade to a B (on an A to F grading scale) while promoting the book to its vast membership. “The veteran ownership group is respected within the industry. BetIslands has excelled with customer support and timely withdrawals,” said one SBR report.

 
SBR has said little of BetIslands demise. “We are trying to get daily updates,” says SBR John on the SBR forums. “We were told there would be a round of payouts tomorrow.”

 
SBR is receiving much of the anger, however. “Of course SBR is to blame here too, they upgraded a book with no history to B,” one member insists. “This rating should be reserved for books that are around for years. Don’t trust SBR ratings anymore, period. They will upgrade anyone up to A- who tells them nice stories and pays the bills.”

There is some hope, however. “I wouldn’t be working today if I didn’t think I’d be paid,” a BetIslands employee said. “And if I’m getting paid, so should the customers.”

NJ Assembly Overwhelmingly Passes Online Gaming Bill

New Jersey took another step towards online gaming today as the state assembly voted by 48-24 margin in favor of legalizing online gaming in the state. The bill will now head to the state Senate on Thursday where it is also expected to pass. What is unknown, however, is Governor Chris Christie’s opinion on the revised bill. Christie vetoed a similar bill two years ago but has offered guarded support for this revised version.

New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak estimated the casinos could gross $100 million annually from online gaming, with 10 percent of the revenues benefitting the state in taxes. Lesniak also believes that online gaming could lead to the addition of hundreds of high-paying technical jobs, as well as the opportunity to run online games for other states as they vote to permit it.

“The Internet has long been a reality, and Internet gaming in New Jersey should now be reality too,” said Assemblyman Ruben Ramos. “We have to move aggressively and thoughtfully to position our gaming industry to succeed, and this is another step toward that goal. It will mean economic growth and job creation for our state.”

“Most everything else has migrated to the Internet and taken advantage of the consumer and revenue options it offers, and New Jersey’s gaming industry should be no different,” said Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. “This is a carefully crafted bill designed to ensure Internet gaming on casino games is offered the right way. It’s a much-needed competitive step forward for our casinos that could also raise more revenue to benefit senior and disabled citizens.”