Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever other holiday you gamblers out there are celebrating. I myself am agnostic, so I have no rooting interest here, but I can appreciate all of you genuinely religious folks (it’s a common misconception that the prospector lifestyle is stuck in the 1800s, we are a progressive and thoughtful people).
Now that’s not at all to say that I don’t think about religion. In fact, I think it’s a lot like sports gambling (yes, this is about to go very far downhill. Maybe skip this part if you don’t like sacrilege). How is that, you ask? Well, my firm belief is that I have no clue what the hell is going to happen when I die, so there is no use in trying to guess myself. BUT, it also makes sense to take a shot that one of these groups is right. As far as I see it, there’s no harm. Either I’m wrong and nothing happens, or I’m right and I get a pay day.
So how do you bet on a religion? Well, like I said, I don’t think it's really possible to know which of them, if any, are correct. The best strategy then, in my opinion, is to go with the biggest “payout.” That makes sense, all things considered. If the odds are equal, you might as well put your money down on the massive payday in stead of the small one. That is why, after long consideration, I’ve firmly planted myself in the Mormon camp. I was raised Catholic, where pretty much everyone is stuck in purgatory after they die because nobody is good enough for heaven. I’ve looked myself in the mirror and I can tell you pretty confidently that I don’t make it into the upper echelon of “good humans.” But Mormons get their own planet when they die. As I understand it, good Mormons can design and live on their planet for eternity in the afterlife. That sounds FUCKING AWESOME. So, if anyone asks, I stand firmly in the “to be a Mormon at a later date” category. Not today, of course, since I like drinking and coffee and gambling. But one day.
Now that you’ve gotten that trip into the inner workings of my messed up brain, let's get back to the world of sports gambling. On to the round up:
⛏️ I’m just going to rip off the band aid and start with Tottenham. My life is pain. I’m not sure any team could go from genuine title contenders to a scattered mess in the course of 8 days, but by god did we do it. Things aren’t all that bad, if we’re being totally honest. This side is good enough to fight for a Champions League spots but not the title, and they’re sitting pretty firmly in that category. But the reliance on defending and lack of attacking impetus is truly concerning, and they need to break out of that strategy real fast. Oh, and Serge Aurier should be sitting on the bench for the rest of the season. That foul to end the first half was as inexplicably stupid as any I’ve ever seen.
⛏️ Liverpool are back. That’s very, very bad for the rest of the League. Time to start praying that things fall apart.
⛏️ City won their match Saturday, but everything feels off about them right now. This used to be a club that went out and attacked and played enjoyable soccer. But watching them against Southampton was boring at best, and they look completely out of sorts on the offensive end. Not that I’m complaining, because fuck City, but it’s bizarre.
⛏️ Thank you Arsenal, for keeping my spirits up despite the motional toll Tottenham’s is taking on my health. You are truly doing the lord’s work.
⛏️ I think if I had to pick one team to watch for the rest of the season, it might be Leeds. They’re a spectacle every time they step on the field, regardless of whether they’re scoring 5 goals or giving up 6. Please keep it up (and lean into the “goals against” part when you play Spurs, if you wouldn’t mind)
⛏️ Nailed my Villa pick. You’re welcome. 2/3 on the Premier League last weekend and I’m showing no signs of slowing down.
⛏️ I believe I mentioned something in my last blog about changing my mind on Wolves every time I watch them play. Well, they just keep proving me right. I guess I should bet on them to have a great game Sunday. And guess who they’re playing...
⛏️ On to college football, it was actually a better weekend than expected. Not from my gambling standpoint of course. I was absolutely AWFUL. Ohio State never even came close to covering, and the ACC Championship missed the over by almost 20. Not a fun time for the Prospector. But there were some close games, so that was cool.
⛏️ I guess I’ll mention the Pac-12. I don’t know why, since it was already irrelevant, but thank you to Oregon for ruining any legitimacy USC thought they had.
⛏️ It was truly funny to see random makeup games scattered in with Conference Championships. Nothing like switching between the ACC Championship and an Ole Miss-LSU game to see who can make it to .500.
⛏️ Ok, so I already mentioned that I was very wrong on the Big 10 title game. To be honest, this team doesn’t have a prayer if Justin Fields plays like he has all season. Clemson will eat him alive with those bad throws, and he is going to have to play and almost perfect game for them to have a chance. Sermon’s rushing performance was an obvious bright spot, and hats off to him. But it’s going to be a bit tougher to run on a Clemson Defense filled with 4 and 5-star recruits than it was on a Northwestern defense filled with white boys.
⛏️ I didn’t pay attention to the Big12 Championship out of principle. The way the CFP Committee has treated them this year shows just how biased that group is. Good for Oklahoma for winning that game, but neither of these teams should ever have been in the Playoff conversation.
⛏️ Congrats to Cincy for the solid AAC Championship and a great season. They probably needed to blow out Tulsa to get any momentum for a playoff spot, but winning that game was still impressive. I’ll be tuning in to their bowl game for sure (more on those in a bit)
⛏️ I’m not sure I have much to say about the ACC Championship. It was pretty self explanatory. The one comment I do have is that the offensive play calling by the Irish was embarrassing. At no point did they even try to push the ball down field, including after they went down and needed points to catch up. It basically just looked like they packed it in, assuming they would get the four-seed. Sadly, they were right.
⛏️ Like I said a couple of weeks ago, Florida might have had the best shot at taking out Alabama (though my mind may have changed after that Clemson performance). It was a great game to watch, unless you like defense.
⛏️ On to Bowls/Playoffs. The CFP choice was right. As pathetic as Notre Dame looked on Saturday, you have to put them in over A&M. The Aggies already got their doors blown off by Alabama, so you might as well give somebody else a shot. And Notre Dame’s win over Clemson, even without Trevor Lawrence, was as good as any win A&M had.
⛏️ Seriously though, these first round matchups are rough. Alabama is a 20-point favorite. 20 points. In the National Semi-Final. Why even bother having the Playoff?
⛏️ Lifting the Bowl requirement for number of wins needed to qualify was a true holiday gift. Nothing more perfectly fits stereotypes like a 6-5 BC team opting out while a 3-7 Mississippi State team happily jumps in to play the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
⛏️ The best non-Playoff game is obviously Georgia-Cincinnati. That is going to be an absolute blast to watch, and I can’t wait to see how the Bearcats match up against a legitimate SEC opponent.
⛏️ Clemson-Alabama, just mark it down right now.
⛏️ On to the NFL, it was strange and kind of annoying to have those Saturday games. They probably should have just pushed them to Sunday and waited for the college season to end. But thank you to the Packers and Panthers for giving me a solid win to make up for my awful college performance.
⛏️ The Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs, officially. It’s a weird feeling as a Pats fan to hear that, but its probably for the best. The Cam Newton experiment failed, and this team needs time to rebuild after losing Tom Brady. The upcoming offseason will be crucial.
⛏️ Oh Atlanta. You majestic, horrifying beast. How is it even possibly to give up 31 points in a half when you start up 17. Just drain the clock with running plays and deep cover defense. I’m truly sorry to anyone who is a Falcons fan, it must be a painful life (but thank you for the Super Bowl)
⛏️ The Lions fired their Special Teams Coordinator on Sunday, following news that he had gone rogue and called a fake pun without the Head Coach’s approval. With all the terrible teams making headlines the Lions has fallen between the cracks a bit, but its nice to be reminded that things are still a mess up in Detroit.
⛏️ The Titans might be good? I don’t know. Derrick Henry definitely is, and that’s all I’ve got for now.
⛏️ I actually double checked after the Texans game to make sure I wasn’t making up the fact that they had lost in and identical fashion two weeks ago. Same opponent, same final drive, same fumble to lose. That’s pretty impressive (or pathetic, you can choose).
⛏️ Boy, was I wrong about the Bears. Trubisky carved up the Vikings and Chicago punted once all game (on their first drive). It feels like things are setting up for the Bears to sneak in to the playoffs, at which point their front office will fuck things up again and re-sign Mitch. I would be very scared if I was a Chicago fan.
⛏️ Did anybody have a better weekend than Trevor Lawrence. I know the Jaguars aren’t the best organization, but they’ve been competitive recently and they seem to at least have a plan. Missing the Jets could be the difference in his career.
⛏️ That Chiefs push hurt really bad. Up 14 with 10 minutes left and the ball, the Chiefs basically had to just grind out the clock. That fumble by Mahomes was brutal, and the defending on that last drive was pathetic. The Chiefs are still better than everyone, as they showed again this weekend, but they’re playing with fire every time they let teams stay close.
⛏️ Browns have basically locked up a playoff spot. 2020 strikes again.
⛏️ The downfall of Tomlin continues. God does it feel good. This was the first bad loss in the streak too. Here’s to hoping things continue to slide
⛏️ The NBA is playing games. Unlike with College Basketball, I won’t even pretend to care. Come find me after the NFL Conference Championships when I start getting desperate for games to bet.
And now, onto my Christmas gifts to all of you (a.k.a. my picks)
Arsenal vs. Chelsea: I know, as a Tottenham fan it probably reads like I’m being incredibly biased against Arsenal. And in fairness, I do get a ton of personal satisfaction of watching them crumble like this. But seriously guys, these lines have not caught up to how bad the Gunners are. I won my readers more money on my Everton pick last week, and Arsenal are showing no signs of improvement. They even got blown out midweek in the EFL cup. So now, we have fifth place Chelsea who are second in the League in goals, up against 15th ranked Arsenal who have 1 point from their last 5 matches. At -110, Chelsea is a steal even at the Emirates. Until Arsenal get this midfield sorted out, they have very little chance of competing against the bigger clubs. Pick: Chelsea ML (-110)
Sheffield vs. Everton: This write up could actually be almost the same as the last one. Pretty much word for word. The only difference would be that in stead of an underperforming club with a big name, its just a terrible team who has 2 points through 14 games. 2. And the 4th-place Toffees, who have beaten Chelsea, Leicester and Arsenal in their last 3 matches, are only -115? This is wild. Sheffield have at least made some progress in the goal scoring department, putting 4 in the back of the net in their last 3 games, but that has still yielded very little in the results column. They might be able to start stealing draws off lower teams like the did against Brighton last week, but that isn’t happening against Everton the way they’re performing right now. Don’t think too much on this one. Pick: Everton ML (-115)
Burnley vs. Leeds: This pick is based on who’s style of play you believe in more. Like I said earlier, Leeds have made a habit of getting into wild shootouts almost every week. It’s a blast to watch, but comes with mixed results. The issue is, you need a team who is willing to oblige you in that game of all out attack. Teams like United and Newcastle will try because they think they have the offensive talent to compete. But Burnley? That’s just not how they roll. They slow the game down, defend well, and hope for a goal or two at best. Burley will be a bit more positive in a game like this because they think they have a chance at picking up 1, or even 3, points, but they’re not going to be fooled into doing it by attacking for 90 minutes. They lose that battle against any team not named Arsenal or Sheffield. On top of that, this Total is skewed by Leeds’ last two matches. Under 2.5 at +134 is solid value, and it’s a number that gets passed very infrequently in Burnley matches (with the exception being games they get blown out by big clubs). I like them to hold their line in this one as well, and make it a dull affair. Not one you’re going to want to watch, but a game where you can make some money. Pick: Under 2.5 (+134)
Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina: One of the beauties of this college football season is that the long gap between Conference Championships and good Bowl Games doesn’t exist. This weekend only has a couple of watchable games, but this one is and I can’t finish 2020 without one more write up on Coastal Carolina. They have been a fun bright spot in a rough sports year. The problem is, trying to bet on bowl games that don’t mean anything is a nightmare. You never have any clue which team is going to show up and care, or if they’re even going to bother playing defense. My major strategy come Bowl Season is to bet the SEC, with the theory being that when you don’t know what’s going to happen your best option is to ride the team with more pure talent. Obviously, neither of these programs are in the SEC though, so that’s out the window. So what do I like? I’m sorry to do it, but give me the points. Coastal has had a great season, and they are a great team, but Liberty is also impressive. Coastal now has a solid win over BYU, but Liberty beat two ACC programs and should have beaten a third were it not for a blocked field goal. Malik Willis is an SEC talent playing at a program way below his skill level, and Hugh Freeze is coaching for his career right now to try to get back into a big job. This game is probably going to be a dog fight between two great small programs, and I can’t give up 7.5 points in a game like that. Pick: Liberty +7.5
Vikings vs. Saints: Since my NCAAF writing is a little thin this week, I’ll try to make up for it with NFL. Probably for the best with how bad I was on last time out. And Week 16 in the NFL starts with a fun matchup that has a great value pick. I love the over here. First and foremost, the Vikings defense has less life than a graveyard. In the last 5 weeks their lowest point total was 26, and they gave up 33 to Mitch Trubisky. Add into that the fact that they’re now eliminated from the playoffs, and they have no reason to compete, meaning Kamara and Brees will carve them up. On the other side of the ball, things are a bit more dicey. As I discussed last week, the Saints style is to slow down the run, and the Vikings rely heavily on Dalvin Cook. But even so, I think that the Vikings will be able to put up points, partially because they have to. Brees will torch the Vikings, which will force Minnesota to start airing the ball out (something they can do effectively with Thielen and Jefferson). If the Vikings had something to play for, I would be worried that they would slow down the game and try to keep things close. But considering their position after last week’s loss, they just have no reason to get into a strategic battle. I think this turns into a shootout in the range of 60+. Pick: Over 51
Dolphins vs. Raiders: Well, it’s about time the Books figured out just how bad the Raiders are. +3, at home, in a game they must win to have a chance at the playoffs is rough, but that’s probably spot on. So why am I betting it? The under is a great choice. The Dolphins are playing solid football, but scoring points is not their strong suit. Other than getting baited into a shootout with the Chiefs and some back door points, the Dolphins haven’t scored more than 22 points in their last 5 games. They are going to run the ball heavily, and try to keep the pressure off Tua as much as possible. The only thing stopping them from doing that is the Raiders defense, which gives up over 30 PPG. But as the better team, I expect the Dolphins to pay their style and try to grind down Las Vegas. The Raiders, meanwhile, have been a total mess and pissed away their playoff hopes with four losses in their last 5. They still have some offensive talent, but they’ve been relying more on Josh Jacobs recently which will burn clock. If the Raiders start turning the ball over and making bad coverage decisions this under could be an issue, but I expect them to make one last stand with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. It’s not my favorite pick of the weekend, but I do like it. Pick: Under 47.5
Giants vs. Ravens: The sun will rise in the East, rain will be followed by a rainbow, and Lamar Jackson will beat up on terrible football teams. Its as easy a bet as there is. Jackson has rightfully taken some heat over his performance in important games, but he makes a meal of weaker defenses every chance he gets. Last week against Jacksonville showed just that. The Giants, meanwhile, threatened to become a legitimate team a few weeks ago with a win over Seattle, but 14+ point losses in the last two weeks against Arizona and Cleveland show they just aren’t ready for the moment. And Lamar will feast on them. If you’re looking for an analytics- heavy pick, this one might not be for you. Luckily, Dimers has one of the best, if not the best, analytics programs around and you can go check out their simulations. But I feel extremely confident that the Ravens will blow the Giants out this weekend. Pick: Ravens -10.5
Titans vs. Packers: This is a weather pick. It’s that simple. The wind is going to be blowing 10+ MPH and it will be snowing in Green Bay on Sunday. At 55.5 points, this over is probably a solid toss up in normal circumstances. Both of these teams average over 30 PPG and give up over 24 PPG, and if the game were being played in a dome I would strongly consider the over. But when things get cold and painful up North for December games, especially ones with big playoff implications, you just see less of those high scoring slugfests. That’s exactly what happened last week in Green Bay, when the Packers only put up 24 against Carolina. If relying on an imperfect expectation of how weather patterns will turn out isn’t how you like to bet, then this pick will not be for you. But if things turn out the way the meteorologists tell me, then I really do like the under in this. 55.5 will be brutally hard to get to, especially with two teams that have solid running backs who will be capable of grinding out the game. Pick: Under 55.5