Brady, Patriots betting favorites hosting Steelers in AFC Championship game

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The feeling that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have one creaky effort out of their system spurs the idea they can continue to be nearly automatic at home. The Patriots are listed as 5.5-point betting favorites against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 50.5-point total for the AFC Championship Game, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Not only has New England long enjoyed the upper hand against the Steelers – 10-3-1 against the spread in their last 14 matchups – but they are also 9-2 ATS on the NFL betting lines in their last 11 home games at Gillette Stadium and 8-1 SU in their last nine home games against teams with winning records.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, who are 13-5 SU and 11-6-1 ATS, are on a nine-win streak thanks to building their offense around shifty and tireless RB Le’Veon Bell. New England’s run defense is far stronger than what Pittsburgh has seen so far in the playoffs, but it’s doubtful Bell’s production will completely dry up since the Patriots are too smart to over-commit to stopping him.

While WR Antonio Brown can be nightmarish to cover, the Steelers’ lack of receiving threats beyond him might make it tough for Roethlisberger to pick apart the Patriots’ pass defense, although his offensive line should be able to give him time to throw.

Having success as an underdog in January is not a role in which the Steelers historically thrive; they are 3-10 SU in their last 13 playoff games as an underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Patriots, who are 15-2 SU and 11-6 ATS, have only been stopped this season when Brady and the offense encounter a dominant pass rush. After a slow start in that phase, Pittsburgh has improved immensely due to the trio of OLB Bud Dupree, ageless OLB James Harrison and DE Stephon Tuitt, who will have to get by the strong pass protection of Patriots RT Marcus Cannon and LT Nate Solder.

The Steelers pass defenders have occasionally been beaten deep. Among the Patriots’ speed receivers, Chris Hogan (thigh) seems more likely to be 100 percent than Malcolm Mitchell (knee). Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman also offer the potential to spread the Steelers thin.

New England, the Super Bowl 51 betting favorites, used leading rusher LeGarrette Blount sparingly in the Divisional Round, which could have been a factor in the Patriots’ offense being sporadic. Blount has had a full week of practice this time.

The visiting team is 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS in the last three years in conference championship games. The total has gone under in the Patriots’ last six AFC Championship Game matchups. The total has gone under in nine of the Steelers’ last 11 games as an underdog.

FTC seeks to block merger of FanDuel and DraftKings

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BOSTON — Federal regulators are challenging the planned merger of FanDuel and DraftKings, saying the combination of the two largest daily fantasy sports sites would create a company controlling more than 90 percent of the market.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that it will file a complaint – along with the attorneys general of California and the District of Columbia – seeking to temporarily stop the deal, pending an administrative trial scheduled for Nov. 21.

Combining the onetime rivals would “deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition,” Tad Lipsky, acting director of the commission’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement.

DraftKing’s Jason Robins and FanDuel’s Nigel Eccles, the CEOs of the two companies, said in a statement that they’re disappointed by the FTC’s decision and are weighing their options.

Daily fantasy sports contests are online games in which players build rosters of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games. They grew in large part from a 2006 federal law that banned online gambling but created a specific niche for fantasy sports.

The FTC, in announcing the complaint, said it wasn’t convinced that other fantasy sports companies could provide sufficient competition if the merger went through.

It also said consumers were unlikely to view other products, including the traditional, season-long fantasy sports competitions played by millions of Americans each year, as a meaningful substitute for the contests offered by the two companies.

Boston-based DraftKings and New York-based FanDuel agreed to merge in November as the industry they helped pioneer fell under intense regulatory scrutiny.

With the two companies engaged in a costly advertising war, state attorneys general, lawmakers and gambling regulators across the country began to question whether the online contests amounted to illegal sports-betting operations.

At the time the merger was announced, the companies maintained their niche business was just a small part of a larger, multibillion dollar fantasy sports industry in which ESPN, Yahoo and other major corporations have long dominated.

The companies said a merger would help them reduce costs as they lobbied for state laws recognizing their legality and fought off legal challenges in court, as well as help them improve their contests.

Both had raised millions of dollars through investors and sponsorships with prominent teams and sports leagues in a few short years but still weren’t profitable.

But the daily fantasy sports industry has sharply contracted in the past year, despite roughly a dozen states adopting new laws and regulations.

More than two-thirds of daily fantasy sports companies have shuttered, changed focus or joined with competitors, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association has said. That’s left DraftKings and FanDuel as the largest remaining operators.

DraftKings, which was founded in 2012, is the currently the largest in terms of entry fees and revenues. FanDuel, which was founded in Scotland in 2009, is the second largest.

Defending champion Patriots among early NFL Week 1 betting favorites

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With the completion of the NFL draft, it’s a bit easier to get a handle on how teams will come out of the gate when the regular season begins in early September.

The Week 1 slate of games begins with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots listed as 7.5-point favorites against the Kansas City Chiefs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Tom Brady and the Patriots are 8-2 straight-up and 6-2-2 against the spread in their last 10 home games where they were favored by at least 6.5 points.

New England is 9-1 SU and 5-4-1 ATS in their last 10 home games played in September. The Chiefs are 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog.

The Dallas Cowboys are favored by 5.5 points against the New York Giants in the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the season. Dallas is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games against the Giants when it was favored. The total has gone under in eight of the teams’ last 10 matchups in Dallas, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC champion, are favored by 6.5 points on the road against the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Atlanta is 7-3 SU and 5-5 ATS in its last 10 games as a road favorite. Since 2009, the Bears are 2-6 SU as a home underdog of 4.0 or more points.

The Detroit Lions are 2.5-point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games in September. Detroit is 8-2 SU and 5-5 ATS in its last 10 home games as a favorite of 4.0 or fewer points.

The Tennessee Titans host the Oakland Raiders in a pick’em. Oakland is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 regular-season road games. Tennessee is 3-6-1 ATS in its last 10 conference home games.

The Washington Redskins are 2.5-point favorites on the NFL point spreads for Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia is 0-3 ATS in its last three games as an underdog of 3.0 or fewer points. Washington is 4-6 SU in its last 10 divisional home games.

The Green Bay Packers are listed as three-point favorites against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is 2-8 both SU and ATS in its last 10 road games in September. Green Bay is 7-0 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven home games against Seattle.

The Minnesota Vikings, who could potentially be facing their former star running back Adrian Peterson, are 3.5-point favorites against the New Orleans Saints in a Week 1 Monday Night Football matchup. Minnesota is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 home games. New Orleans is 6-3-1 ATS in its last 10 conference road games.

And the Denver Broncos are four-point favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second Monday Night Football matchup of opening week. Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) is 1-9 SU in its last 10 divisional road games. Denver is 3-6-1 ATS in its last 10 home games against the Chargers at sports betting sites.