The Weekend Edition: Pursuing a Promising Parlay

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David Malinsky

Friday, October 6, 2017 1:53 PM GMT

Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 1:53 PM GMT

No, parlay isn't always a dirty word. … The jukebox brings the Tom Petty he may have wanted it to bring. …Yes, the Texans defense is better with J.J. Watt, no matter what you might hear on Sunday night.

Point Blank – October 6, 2017

For all of the history and grandeur of Opening Day, Friday brings us my favorite day of the MLB season, the opportunity to go pitch-by-pitch through all four playoff games without the football distraction that Saturday/Sunday will have, and for those of us in Las Vegas the opportunity for something that is unfortunately rather rare – we actually get to watch Clayton Kershaw pitch, something that does not happen often because of the MLB blackout regs and the Dodgers' own snafus with television contracts.

For now there isn’t much coming out of pocket, the markets pretty sharp to the matchups, although I may have some interest in a Cubs series ticket if they lose this evening in Washington. Rather than lock in a +125 this morning, I am going to wait that one out, the form of Stephen Strasburg so dynamic since his return from the DL calling for that. As impressive as his 5-1/0.84 has been, consider that he has not allowed an earned run in 52 of his last 53 innings pitched, and it is easy to understand why. But should Strasburg and the Nats win the opener, I will take a hard look at Chicago when the adjusted series price hits the board (I will note those details in the weekend comments thread; you can join in by clocking the grey balloon in the upper left-hand corner).

That will take most of today’s focus over to football, and as is the case most Fridays the jukebox is in play to help through the long read, this one a bittersweet tribute to Tom Petty. His music will live on through our jukebox for as long as my fingers touch this keyboard, and while the proper song for this moment brought a difficult choice, I decided to let Petty himself push the button. Here is the way he chose to close out the recent 40-year anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers, the final songs from the final night, at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 25.

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Now to the gridirons, including a rare discussion here of that “p” word. …

 

Are markets reading the Michigan QB situation properly? (and why Parlay really isn’t a dirty word)

I don’t write about parlays often because I don’t play them often. I don’t play them often because it is rare that I find enough of an advantage. Most weeks there are a lot of tickets in play, and at the prices they were played at many of them would bring an advantage in a parlay, except that it would have been impossible to do the sequence.

Let me explain – a typical football week brings bets made over various places at various times. Team A is locked in at -3 on Monday, Team K at +7 on Thursday, Team W at +14 right before kickoff on a Saturday. There may be enough advantage on the individual prices on each of those teams, relative to the closing market, that having them together in a parlay is not a negative. You can likely guess the problem already, however: There would have been no opportunity to get all three of those tickets played at the same price points, in the same place, at the same time.

So that is my evergreen answer as to why parlays rarely make the portfolio. This week one has because the sequence allowed, and the house also allowed, and it also leads to a prime handicapping point. There is #350 Michigan and Over (Saturday 7:30 Eastern) against Michigan State in pocket as a two-teamer, with -10 and 40.5 the strike points (wanting to get a win on 41), although it was possible to fill out at 10/39.5 already. Fortunately, it was accepted, some shops leery of Side/Total combinations on the same game because of correlation, but this is a big Saturday night television game, and the straight line is just low enough to allow for it.

Now for the handicapping point – the markets have dropped both the Michigan side and total down for the absence of Wolverines QB Wilton Speight, the oddsmakers adjusting before the send-outs, and then -13 was bet to -10 anyway, and 41.5 (using Pinny, there was actually a 45 at the first joint to post) to 40. I just don’t see much adjustment at all from Speight to John O’Korn. I even know some Wolverine backers who think O’Korn might be better fit for the offense, and I won’t argue with them. So how about some thumbs up for the new starter.

First, Speight is not a dynamic performer. He is capable but lacks a huge upside. His battles in camp to win the job over O’Korn the past two seasons have been close, and the disparity in playing time has been more an indication of how Jim Harbaugh wants to stay with one main QB, rather than a gap between them.

O’Korn may genuinely have more upside. At one point he looked like a potential star, throwing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns as a freshman with Houston in 2013. His 2014 season did not start as well, eventually losing the job to Greg Ward, and in recognizing how difficult it was going to be to win that job back from Ward, O'Korn ended up transferring to Michigan.

O’Korn was terrific after Speight was injured vs. Purdue two weeks ago, completing 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and leading three touchdown drives. Now the bye week brings something he has not had, the opportunity to work with the other starters full-time, so we may see an explosiveness from a talented offense that has not shown to this stage. Remember back to those early-season takes about how red-zone inefficiency has kept the Michigan scoreboards from looking better, and you can see how this became an underrated group.

While Michigan brings added freshness and game-plan focus off of that bye, this is the third straight difficult physical challenge for Michigan State, the Spartans off of Notre Dame and Iowa, and Mark Dantonio’s youngest starting lineup (12 of the 22 are sophomores or freshmen) now has to take to the road for the first time. Each of the RBs in the Spartan rotation are averaging less than 4.0 per carry, a bad weakness to have when going up against an athletic defensive front in a hostile environment -- and a Sparty defensive front that lacks depth also brings vulnerability. They may be on the field a bit too long here, which opens the door for a breakout game from the Wolverine offense.

I have this game graded in the -13.5/45 range, so with the Michigan offense being undersold in both categories, I chose to wheel them together. Why not have some fun every now and then.

Now let’s head to that terrific Chiefs-Texans NFL showdown on Sunday night, to note how sometimes the Sports Mediaverse can mislead when it comes to statistics.

 

Yes, the Texans defense is better with J.J. Watt back, and actually much better than last year (despite what you may hear Sunday night)

There is going to be a little redundancy here for long-time readers, but since some of this came from a different platform, it is worth revisiting here not just in terms of appreciating Houston circa 2017, but also NFL handicapping in general.

To review, I wrote a couple of columns about the Texans defense towards the end of the 2016 season because they were openly talking about being rated #1 in the NFL in defense. They weren’t really that good, but as the campaign reached the final games they had allowed fewer yards than any other team. A big part of that, of course, was being on the field for fewer plays than anyone else (14 fewer than the #2 team, and 73 below league average). But since the majority of the Sports Mediaverse uses those overall stats as their base, the players kept hearing that they were #1, and Romeo Crennel allowed them to feed off that, using it is a motivational tool. The players bought in and created quite a chemistry and work ethic.

Now fast forward to Sunday night vs. Kansas City, and what are you likely to hear? That while the defense has still played well “even with J.J. Watt back they have fallen from #1 to #5 in total defense”. You can ignore that. The defense has been substantially better with Watt on the field, taking that fire of the 2016 unit and adding more fuel to it.

Here is a good way to examine the differences in the counting metrics, the Yards Per Game what you will hear from the talking heads of broadcast media, but the Football Outsiders adjusted numbers bringing a far more sophisticated tracking:

Season     YPG   FO
2016        #1     #11
2017         #5      #2

The defense has gotten better, instead of what might appear to be a decline via the shallow metric of total yards allowed.

Some of the best early-season play from NFL 2017 will be watching that defense take on a Kansas City offense that has been the league’s best through four games. I won’t be in play, the game bringing that classic grade of “Take +3 with either side,” but as you watch don’t be misled if any of the announcers note the Texans defense having fallen a notch. It hasn't.

 

For your listening pleasure

You can hear more thoughts about Chiefs-Texans, along with the other key NFL matchups; some details on Oregon State-USC that you can take to the betting windows; plus Best Bets from Matt Landes and myself on this week’s “House of Yards”. And as always there is something of a high level that you can pour into a glass, which you can also read about as well in the tasting notes below.

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And for your drinking pleasure

And now for a deeper dive into this week’s featured tipple. If you want to follow Matt’s adventures as he literally hops though the hops, you can go to Just_here_for_the_beer.

Brewery: The Lost Abbey
Beer: Ghosts In The Forest
Style: Oak-Aged Wild Ale
ABV: 6%

Ghosts In The Forest may have proven a little too aptly named as a USC fan's viewing companion for football under the Friday night lights in Pullman, but it's a worthy game-viewing companion nevertheless.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Matt had Washington State both plus the points and on the money line, as noted in last weekend’s comments thread. Do not feel sorry for him for a moment.)

Aged 18 months in oak, Ghosts In The Forest pours a cloudy light gold with a one-finger head and thick lacing. Initially it's tart to the tongue with notes of green apple, stone fruit and grapes, but ultimately it's more than meets the senses -- like a fine wine it has nuance that reveals itself over time, with the tartness taming itself as the beer warms, allowing the stone fruit and grape notes to accentuate themselves even more. The overall result is a delicious wild ale that packs plenty of flavor to go along with its oaky, dry finish.

Rating: 4.25

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