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Baseball had one of its most exciting weeks of the season with meaningful clashes between teams heavy in the hunt for October, but may have been overlooked by everyone’s focus on the smells and scents of football in the air.

Everyone had been waiting for the Reds to fall from the top of the NL Central since April, but they managed to get decent pitching and lead the league in hitting and slugging throughout the season. Last week, the experts – who had been claiming all year the Cardinals would eventually surpass the Reds just because of pedigree – were right as the Cardinals swept the Reds in a three-game series.

The Reds came into the series leading by two games and left up by one as the Cardinals continued their mastery of the Reds this season taking them to a 10-5 record in the season series. The Reds have one more series remaining with the Cardinals in early September. On the upside for the Reds is that they’ll play very few teams with a winning record for the remainder of the season with most action against the likes of the Astros, Pirates and Brewers down the stretch, which should help their cause in the Wild Card chase if the Cardinals are too tough to catch.

Another surprise team this season similar to the Reds has been the Padres, who entered their weekend series with the Giants leading by two and half games. Just like the Reds, who had one of their players – Brandon Phillips – give their opponent bulletin board material prior to the series, so did the Giants with Jonathan Sanchez who stated the Giants “would sweep and then never look back.” Well, that didn’t happen as the Padres took two of three that included beating Sanchez and Tim Lincecum.

Lucky’s is LeBron A-PROP-olis Central

Looking to capitalize on the all the hype that LeBron James and the Heat have created, Lucky’s sports books in Las Vegas have an entire sheet dedicated for everyone who seems to have an opinion on how they’ll do. If rooting against LeBron, then they have a whole bunch of selections for the bettor to choose from – most of which are at plus money.

Lucky’s has a prop asking whether or not the Heat will win a Championship within the next two seasons with “Yes” at -180 and No at +160. They even have posted a line on the Dec. 2 game at Cleveland making the Heat an 8½-point favorite as well as the Christmas day game when the Heat travel to the Lakers (-2½).

Preseason Football

Thursday’s NFL action kicked off the season to a starving football audience, albeit preseason games. The two early moves got there for the players as the Ravens and Raiders won and covered. The Ravens opened as a -3½-point favorite and were pushed to -5, where the game eventually landed, 17-12, while the Raiders as a dog saw action getting +4½ and dropping to +3 by kickoff.

Overall, the line moves for the week went 7-7 with the two biggest moves of the week not getting there for the players. The Texans went from pick ’em to -2½ at Arizona and lost 19-16. The Rams went from +1 to -2½ and lost 28-7 to the Vikings.

It doesn’t take much to move these games. Many of the limits around Las Vegas sports books range from $2,000 to $500 a game with key numbers getting little regard, unlike the regular season.

Take a look a some of these rosters, in particular for next week’s wave of games and then the final week. In week three of the preseason, just about every team will play their starters through the first half, and in some instances will go mid-way through the third quarter, but in the weeks sandwiched around that critical week, it’s all about the coaches taking a look at their squad.

When making a wager on the games, you’ll want to feel confident about the back-up quarterback and the third-stringer, the guys running the show for the majority of the game. The only team that really gives a good vibe for all three is Baltimore with Joe Flacco, Marc Bulger and Troy Smith.

Atlanta comes with a seasoned back-up of Chris Redman making them an attractive preseason team. Even though the Browns have an anemic offensive game plan, Seneca Wallace has always been one of the better preseason quarterbacks because he makes things happen on the fly, which usually has to happen because not everyone is comfortable with their assignments.

Jimmy Clausen looked outstanding for the Panthers and showed that he has much more confidence out there than the starter Matt Moore. He didn’t look like any rookie I have seen in game conditions recently. He played smart, scanned the field, read defenses and had that sixth sense of awareness in the pocket. I think he might become a pretty good one.

Bronco Banger

Tim Tebow’s play in the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to Cincinnati had mixed reviews. He made some good throws and some bad, he felt the pressure of the pass rush and moved well and then he didn’t. One thing is for sure, though, the two Bengals defensive backs who got in his way as he came full speed into the end zone as time expired will find another approach to tackling Tebow should they ever meet again. Three bodies met going full speed, one went in for the touchdown and the other two got knocked down like bowling pins, one of which didn’t get up until TV coverage stopped. I’m not sure how much playing time we’ll see out of Tebow this year, but Bronco fans are sure to want to see some more of that type of action on offense regardless of where he plays.

Fantasy Stud

This season’s breakout fantasy star appears to be Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews whose fresh young legs will fill in for the departed Ladainian Tomlinson. The last two seasons, a lot of the Chargers deficiencies rested with their lack of a running game with blame being placed at Phillip Rivers taking over and wanting to pass along with a struggling run blocking offensive line. But the real culprit was Tomlinson who plain and simply just got old and lost a step.

Mathews has that zip in his step and should put up numbers that would warrant him a legitimate top-five back in the draft. The system he’s in should allow for him to gain over 4 yards per carry which will be a welcome sight for the Chargers who watched Tomlinson gain only 3.3 yards per carry last year. Mathews is the feature back and will score double digit touchdowns and rush for over 1,400 yards, not to mention all the dump-offs he’ll get from Rivers as well.

 

 

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