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Friday Four-Pack 10.20.23
A wild stat to start. Many Patriots issues. ESPN Bet problem in MA? NFL Picks!
Admit it. You’ve wondered.
Why do these sportsbooks still spend SO much money on advertising? Why are there SO many ads? I mean, hasn’t anyone who is going to bet on sports ALREADY signed up for a legal sports betting account?
I understand how vital player acquisition is to these companies and even I’ve had that thought cross my mind.
And then you come across a stat like this from GeoComply and PlayMA.com. And it kinda blows your mind.
A recent GeoComply report shows how many people in The Bay State were making bets during the first week of NFL action. The report shows 9.2 million Week 1 geolocation checks across GeoComply’s sportsbook customers in Massachusetts between September 3 and September 10. Furthermore, around 59,000 new sports betting accounts were created in that time frame.
Fifty-nine thousand new sports betting accounts! In a week! Almost eight months after betting went legal in Massachusetts! That’s basically the population of Plymouth, MA all signing up for accounts over the course of seven days (shout-out Main Street Sports Bar in Plymouth. They have Bar Yahtzee).
Player acquisition is especially important in Massachusetts, where this is the first “full” football season with legal sports betting. Some studies have suggested mobile sportsbooks see up to 60% of their yearly betting handle during football season.
Expect to see even more sports betting ads everywhere as the season rolls on, especially in Massachusetts. ESPN Bet, formerly the Barstool Sportsbook, has targeted Thanksgiving for the launch of its platform. They’re going to be a major player in the sports betting space.
But ESPN Bet might be dealing with an issue that could delay or even postpone their launch here in Massachusetts.
That and so much more in today’s Four-Pack.
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On an avalanche of questions for the 2023 Patriots…
It’s gotten so bad for the Patriots that on Friday morning, Good Morning Football host Kyle Brandt’s lead thought on the Saints’ loss to the Jags on Thursday Night Football was pointing out how terrible the Pats are to have lost 34-0 to a bad team like New Orleans.
He’s not wrong.
And for newer Patriots fans, this has to be weird. Not only is there no hope for this season, but any hope that the greatest coach in football history will eventually save the day and turn this thing around seems to have evaporated, too.
The Patriots are one of the worst teams in the NFL. They’re likely to be back in the market for a new QB in this year’s draft. And in the market for a new coach in the offseason.
Unless, as Kirk Minihane pointed out on his show Wednesday, let’s say they go out and win six of their final 11 games. Season ends with a not quite embarrassing 7-11 record. At that point, Bill Belichick will need 11 more wins to pass Don Shula for the most wins in NFL history. If you’re Bob Kraft, could you talk yourself into Bill coming back?
Based strictly on the on-field product to start 2023, I hope that’s not the case.
And so you’re left with a massive rebuild heading into 2024. With way more questions than answers.
Let’s say Bill is out. It felt like Jerod Mayo was the hand-picked successor when he turned down other head coach interviews in the offseason to stay here in New England. The team took the unprecedented step of announcing it to the world via press release.
The New England Patriots and Head Coach Bill Belichick have begun contract extension discussions with Jerod Mayo that would keep him with the team long-term. In addition, the team will begin interviewing for offensive coordinator candidates beginning next week.
Former teammate Brandon Spikes called Mayo “Belichick 2.0.” Given how the Belichick Dyntasy is ending, is that a positive selling point to the fanbase?
Tough call for the Krafts. And a weird spot for Mayo, right?
I mentioned on that same Kirk Minihane show that Lions OC Ben Johnson would be my choice to take over for Belichick. The NFL is weighted toward QB play and offense in 2023. Johnson runs a very good offense (4th in DVOA) with just a mid QB (Jared Goff).
I liked this quote from Detroit star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown a few weeks ago, talking about Johnson when he was just a tight ends coach for the Lions.
"The way he's explaining the plays, the way he's detailed with how we've got to run these routes in the red zone, I just knew the way he was talking to us, it just felt different," St. Brown recalled. "I told one of my teammates, I forgot who it was, I was like, 'Bro, when Ben gets up there, he knows exactly what he's talking about, he's telling us what he sees in this play, what he wants us to do. There's no gray area. It's super detailed.'"
Johnson is 37 and on the offensive side of the ball. He’s going to be a head coach next year. I have no clue if he’s the next Mike McDaniel, but I’d be okay if the Patriots decided to bet that he was.
If they’ve already given Mayo the job post-Belichick, did they get Bill O’Brien to agree to stay on and run the offense? Would he want to?
Tanking. Sure, sounds easy. Until you remember the head coach is chasing Shula and the owner is understandably prideful of his organization. Even with the reports of some in the organization already looking ahead to 2024, it seems a stretch.
So yeah, the FULL TANK is probably out. But you better be trading away any players who are not likely to be back next season. But then, is Belichick the one making the trades if he’s not going to be back?
Meanwhile, the fans voting here are apparently all-in on tanking. Or being done with Mac Jones. Or both.
On the owner Bob Kraft. This from Albert Breer this week,
“And I can tell you for sure, Robert hears the criticism. He hears the anger locally. And people in the building know for a fact that he’s hearing the anger from the fanbase,” Breer said. “He’s very cognizant of where his team is in the pecking order of NFL teams, as well. They’re not a marquee team anymore and he took a lot of pride in them being a marquee team for two decades. Right up there with teams like the Cowboys, like the Eagles, like the Giants have been traditionally.”
He’s not wrong about the marquee team thing. I doubt the owner is going to air all of this out on the record during the season. But I also won’t be shocked when Jonathan Kraft shows up on 98.5 The Sports Hub Patriots pregame show fairly soon and speaks directly to the fanbase. He should. It’s overdue.
That Patriots will be more than a touchdown underdog at home this weekend. That has not happened at home since Tom Brady’s first start back in 2001.
Admittedly way more questions than answers right now for a franchise on the cusp of a major overhaul.
On our Week 7 NFL Picks…
Week 1: 2-1
Week 2: 3-0
Week 3: 0-3
Week 4: 3-0
Week 5: 2-1
Week 6: 0-3
Season: 10-8. Blah.
While giving his take on Lions/Ravens this week, heard a public handicapper say Thursday something along the lines of “….there’s weather in Baltimore this week. Wind gusts upwards into the high 20 MHPs…going to shut down the Detroit passing game…”
And if you like the Ravens, that’s fine. But suggesting a wind forecast that’s still 72 hours out is one of the major reasons why is a stretch. And suggesting those winds are going to “shut down the Detroit passing game” seems like a bigger stretch. Especially three days out.
This happens more on the DFS side, but people seem to WAY overate the impact of weather in like 99% of NFL games. I think I called them the “weather worriers” last week…as part of a handicap on a losing bet posted here.
Don’t be a weather worrier. Especially three days out.
Meanwhile, how about the ‘under’ going 12-2-1 last week? Best week for the under in almost 30 years. Let’s see if the totals start to come down over the next few weeks. Then we can bet some overs.
RAMS -3 VS THE STEELERS. (-115, BetMGM). The Rams have played the third-toughest schedule in the league this year. Now they’re home against one of the worst offenses in football and only laying three points? They also come into this game 12th in overall DVOA (Steelers 20th). With the Rams’ RB injuries, the offense can just fire it off to Cooper Kupp and Puce Nacua 30+ times. Not surprised almost 80% of the money is on the Rams here. I am surprised the line is still only three points and will happily lay it. Note - this line is going to -3.5 based on the money. Barstool App is already there -3.5 EVEN.
PACKERS AT BRONCOS UNDER 45. (-110, everywhere) Usually, I’d stay away from an under involving a pathetic defense like the Denver Broncos. They stink. I might even start thinking about an over. But the DVOA Pace numbers give me the confidence to play the under here.
Seconds per play in neutral situations
Seconds per play in the first half
These are two very slow teams. And even with Aaron Jones tracking towards playing on Sunday and the Packers coming off the bye, this thing has no pace whatsoever on paper. Might be a couple of big plays, but under for me.
GABE DAVIS OVER REC YARDS VS PATRIOTS. (33.5, -115, BetMGM) Gabe Davis saw a robust 17 targets in the last two games the Patriots and Bills played a year ago. Combining that with Bill Belichick’s lust for trying to take away the opponent’s best receiver (Diggs) and all of a sudden you have a path for Davis to push this well past the total of 33.5 yards. Might even get it on one play. Note - this line is all over the place, as high as 38.5 at -125. BetMGM is the best number I saw Friday morning. The over is being bet.
Friday Afternoon Update: Wow, this Gabe Davis prop got bet. It’s now anywhere between 38.5 and 40.5 yards everywhere. The 33.5 that was there this morning is long gone.
I still like it, especially given some added context from friend Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald. He texted (after reading the Stack thanks Callahan) that the Patriots are 30th in the league defending opposing team’s No. 2 receivers by DVOA. They’re also 32nd against 3rd WR per Callahan.
So, still a viable play IMO.
On a possible snag for ESPN Bet in Massachusetts…
I had assumed that once Barstool Sports - the No. 1 enemy of MGC Commissioner Eileen O’Brien - was out and ESPN was in, things would go pretty smoothly as Penn Gaming goes from one media giant to another.
But based on a Massachusetts Gaming Commission hearing on Thursday, it might not be that simple.
I can say pretty confidently that ESPN personalities are making picks on games across shows, including their flagship college football show “College Gameday.”
And this is where it gets fuzzy.
Is the MGC going to make sure ESPN’s Pat McAfee doesn’t have something like a “Pat’s Saturday Parlay,” which is a preloaded parlay that is up on the ESPN Bet site/app that he promotes? Like a specific bet, a la the “Can’t Lose Parlay” that Barstool was flagged for.
McAfee did a lot of those for FanDuel. They were very popular. And generated major income and signups for FanDuel.
I’m guessing ESPN would like to do something similar. Is the MGC going to say no?
As of Thursday night, there was a “Kay Adams & Gronk” Same Game Parlay on Fanduel. There’s a “Charissa Thompson’s TNF” Same Game Parlay on DraftKings. These things are everywhere…the MGC is going to tell ESPN that they can’t do one with McAfee and promote it?
And what if the MGC means they don’t want those same ESPN personalities giving picks for any games on TV? Good luck with that. Once ESPN Bet goes live there will be even more betting promotions on ESPN.
The MGC requested more information from ESPN Bet for another hearing in early November. ESPN Bet wants to launch around Thanksgiving. But based on the commentary Thursday, it’s no lock that will happen on-time in Massachusetts.
On a few thoughts I could have just posted on X.com…
Former WEEI host Pete Sheppard has a new radio home - at the soon-to-be-launched Tony Bruno Sports Network.
It’s set to launch on October 30. No reunion in Boston. Pete loves Florida. Gets to stay there and do a morning show. Good for Pete.
Former Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow seems like a nice guy. He apparently has had a big hand in rebuilding the Cubs pitching pipeline in his four years in their front office. But it feels like a major stretch to think he’s ready to take over as the President of Baseball Operations for the Red Sox.
And the much bigger story, of course, is Sam Fuld and others not even wanting to interview for the job.
With the Breeders’ Cup two weeks away I started really prepping and handicapping this week. And I can confidently say that since I’ve been playing the horses seriously, I’ve never been less excited for the event. No buzz.
There’s yard work to be done before our weekly New England Saturday rain event. Comments are open below.
Thanks for reading. Good luck with all your bets.