Archive for December, 2009

NFL Week 17 Preview

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Much has been decided as the NFL regular season comes to a close, in terms of who’s in the playoffs and where they’ll be seeded. But much also still remains to be determined. Here’s a quick look at the situation as Sunday’s Week 17 slate rolls around.

In the NFC, the playoff teams are set; it’s just the seedings that need to be worked out. New Orleans owns the top seed, and four teams, Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, have shots at the two seed and the second NFC first-round bye. And Green Bay will either be the five or the six seed.

The Cardinals host the Packers (4:15 pm Eastern, Fox) in what has a good chance to be a preview of an NFC Wild Card game of next weekend. The Vikings host the New York Giants (1 pm E, Fox), needing a win and help to claim the two spot. And the Cowboys host the Eagles (4:15 E, Fox) in a winner-take-all battle for the NFC East championship.

As of Thursday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Arizona at -3 over Green Bay, with the Packers getting +160 on the moneyline. Minnesota is giving New York 9 points, with the Giants, who have nothing to play for but pride, getting +330 on the moneyline. And Dallas is favored by 3 points over Philly, with the Eagles getting +140 to win outright.

In the AFC all four divisions have been decided, as have the top two seeds, Indianapolis and San Diego. But the AFC Wild Card situation is almost too convoluted to describe. Let’s just say that seven teams, the Jets, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Steelers, Dolphins, and Jaguars, all still have varying chances to make the playoffs. Only the Jets and Ravens are in win-and-you’re-in situations.

Jacksonville, which has lost three straight games, visits Cleveland, which has won three straight (1 E, CBS); Houston hosts New England, which may rest some starters (1 E, CBS); Pittsburgh visits Miami in a lose-and-you’re-out scenario (1 E, CBS); Denver, which needs a win and help, hosts Kansas City (4:15 E, CBS); Baltimore visits Oakland (4:15 E, CBS); and in the last game of the regular season, New York hosts Cincinnati, which may also rest starters (8:20 E, NBC).

As of Thursday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing the Jags as 1-point underdogs at the Browns; the Texans are listed at -7 over New England, with the Patriots getting +290 on the moneyline; the Broncos are -12.5 over the Chiefs, with KC getting +500 to win outright; the Ravens are -10 over the Raiders, with Oakland getting +425 to pull off the upset; and the Jets are -9.5 over the Bengals, with Cincy getting +380 to win outright.

And Oddsmaker.com is holding off on lining the Steelers-Dolphins game, because of the uncertainty surrounding the availability of Pittsburgh S Troy Polamalu and Miami RB Ricky Williams.

College Football: New Year’s Day Preview

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Amidst the headache cures, college football’s bowl season revs up Friday with a handful of what should be good games to choose from.

The National Hangover Day action begins when the 7-5 Auburn Tigers and 8-4 Northwestern Wildcats meet in the Outback Bowl in Tampa (11 am Eastern, ESPN). AU started 5-0 this year, but lost five of its last seven games to finish in a tie for fourth place in the SEC West. NU, meanwhile, won its last three games to finish fourth in the Big 10.

As of Wednesday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Auburn at -7.5 over Northwestern, with a total of 54. The Wildcats are also getting +260 on the Oddsmaker.com moneyline, with the Tigers giving -320.

In another Big 10/SEC matchup just up I-4 in Orlando, the 9-3 Louisiana State Tigers take on the 10-2 Penn State Nittany Lions in the Capital One Bowl (1 E, ABC). LSU lost three tough SEC games this season, and placed second in the SEC West. PSU lost to only Iowa and Ohio State, finishing third in the Big 10.

Oddsmaker.com is chalking the Lions at -2.5, with a total of 44. Penn State is also giving -135 on the moneyline, with the Tigers getting +115 as the underdogs.

Just up the road in Jacksonville we get the last Bowden Bowl, also known as the Gator Bowl, matching Coach Bowden’s 6-6 Florida State Seminoles against one of his former teams, the 9-3 West Virginia Mountaineers (1 E, CBS). FSU won four of its last six games to finish third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division and get outgoing Coach Bowden one final bowl bid. On the other side of this matchup, WVU won its final two games to finish second in the Big East.

Oddsmaker.com is listing West Virginia at -2.5 over Florida State, with a total of 60.5. The ‘Noles are also getting +120 on the moneyline, with the Mountaineers giving -140.

The New Year’s Day action then moves westward to Pasadena for the Granddaddy of ’em all, the Rose Bowl, pitting the 10-2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. the 10-2 Oregon Ducks (4:30 E, ABC). OSU won the Big 10 this season, the fifth straight year they’ve owned at least a share of that title. But they haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1997. OU, meanwhile, won the Pac-10 championship and is playing in its first Rose Bowl since 1995.

The high-powered Ducks are listed at -4 over the defensive-minded Buckeyes at Oddsmaker.com, with a total of 50.5. Oregon is also giving -175 on the moneyline, with Ohio State getting +155 to win outright.

And in Friday’s nightcap the 12-0 Cincinnati Bearcats, minus their head coach, tangle with the 12-1 Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans (8:30 E, Fox). The Bearcats won the Big East and went undefeated, although three of their last four wins came by two, three, and one point. On the other side, the defending national champion Gators topped the polls all season long, but got upset by Alabama in the SEC championship game.

Oddsmaker.com is listing Florida at -12.5 over Cincinnati, with a total of 57. The Gators are also giving -550 on the moneyline, with the ‘Cats getting +425.

NBA Week Preview

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The NBA regular season turns the calendar on a new year this week as the halfway mark approaches. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s pro hoops action.

Wednesday night’s slate includes two good matchups. In an Eastern Conference clash, the Atlanta Hawks (21-8 through Monday) visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (24-8) at The Q (7 pm Eastern). And in what should be a good interconference bout, the Phoenix Suns (20-12) host the Boston Celtics (23-7) out at the Purple Palace (9 E, NBATV).

Atlanta, which trails first-place Orlando by just a half-game (through Monday’s play) in the Southeast Division, has also been the best team in the league so far this season to put money on; the Hawks are 21-8 vs. the Oddsmaker.com NBA betting lines. Cleveland, meanwhile, leads the Central Division already by 10.5 games, and has won nine of its last 10.

This will be the first meeting this season between these two teams. Last season, the Cavs took three of four games from Atlanta during the regular season, then swept the Hawks in four games in an Eastern Conference semifinals series.

Boston leads the Atlantic Division by nine games, but had lost two straight games after falling at Golden State Monday night. Phoenix only trails the division-leading Los Angeles Lakers by five games in the Pacific, and they beat LA on Monday night. But the Suns have cooled considerably after a hot start, going 6-9 over their last 15 games.

Back in early November Phoenix beat the Celts in Boston 110-103.

Amidst the revelry New Year’s Eve, Thursday’s schedule also features what should be some good action. Down in Houston the probably McGrady-less Rockets (18-13) host the Dallas Mavericks (22-9) at the Toyota Center (7 Eastern). Just down I-10, the San Antonio Spurs (17-11) welcome the Miami Heat (16-12) to The Barn (7 E, TNT). And in the OKC the upstart Thunder (16-14) host the Utah Jazz (17-13) at the Ford Center (8 E).

The Mavs lead the Southwest Division by 3.5 games over the Spurs, and by four games over the Rockets. They’re also 11-4 both straight up and against the Oddsmaker.com pointspreads on the road this season.

After winning 23 games all of last season, Oklahoma City is already two-thirds of the way to topping that this season. And they’re only three games out of first place in the Northwest Division. The Thunder are also 19-11 vs. the numbers this season.

Friday’s slate looks like three mismatches. In Atlanta the Hawks take on the New York Knicks (11-19) at Philips Arena (7:30 E); Up in Minneapolis the Timberwolves (7-24) host the Orlando Magic (22-8) at Target Center (8 E); And out in LA the defending league champion Lakers (24-6) run with the Sacramento Kings (14-16) at Staples Center (10:30 E).

The Lakers and Celtics still top the Oddsmaker.com NBA championship betting board at +200. They’re followed by, among others, the Magic at +250, the Cavs at +500, the Mavs and Suns at +1,000, the Spurs at +1,500, the Hawks at +4,000, the Jazz and Rockets at +7,500, the Thunder at +10,000, the Kings at +12,500, the Heat and Knicks at +15,000, and the Timberwolves at +60,000.

College Football Weekend Bowl Preview

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The bowl season rolls on into a Christmas weekend full of action. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s college football matchups, and the Oddsmaker.com numbers that go with them.

The Mountain West Conference takes on the Pac-10 Wednesday night when the Utah Utes (9-3) and Cal Bears (8-4) go at it in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego (8 pm Eastern, ESPN). Utah lost two of its last three regular-season games to finish third in the MWC, while Cal lost its season finale badly to Washington, and finished fifth in the Pac-10.

The Utes and Bears played one common opponent this season; Utah lost at Oregon in Week 3 by a score of 31-24, while the following week Cal went to Eugene and got clobbered 42-3.

As of Tuesday afternoon Oddsmaker.com is listing Cal at -3 for Wednesday’s game over Utah, with a total of 52.5.

The Nevada Wolf Pack (8-4) and SMU Mustangs (7-5) must have good travel agents, because they’ll spend Christmas Eve in Honolulu, playing the Hawaii Bowl (8 E, ESPN). Nevada recovered from an 0-3 start this season to win eight straight before losing their season finale at Boise State, and finished in second place in the WAC. Southern Methodist won four of its last five games to finish tied for first in the C-USA West, although they lost the tie-breaker to Houston.

Oddsmaker.com is listing the Pack at -12.5 over the Ponies, with a total of 73.

College football takes Christmas Day off, but the action picks up again Saturday when the Ohio Bobcats (9-4) tangle with Marshall’s Thundering Herd (6-6) in the Little Caesar’s Bowl (1 pm Eastern, ESPN) at Ford Field in Detroit. After that, the Pitt Panthers (9-3) and North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) meet in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte (4:30, ESPN). And the disappointing USC Trojans (8-4) and Boston College Eagles (8-4) cap off Saturday night in the Emerald Bowl (8, ESPN) in San Francisco.

Ohio is listed at -3 over Marshall at Oddsmaker.com, with a total of 49.5.

The Panthers are giving the Heels 2.5 points on the Oddsmaker.com betting line, with a total of 44.5.

And Southern Cal is listed at -8 over BC at Oddsmaker.com, with a total of 45.

Sunday night it’s an ACC/SEC battle when the Clemson Tigers (8-5) and Kentucky Wildcats (7-5) play the Music City Bowl in Nashville (8:15 pm, ESPN). Kentucky started 2-3 this year, then won five of its last seven to reach a bowl for the fourth straight year. Clemson also started 2-3, then won six in a row before losing its last two. The Tigers will be playing in a bowl for the fifth straight season.

Kentucky upset Clemson 28-20 in a memorable Music City Bowl three years ago.

Oddsmaker.com is listing Clemson at -7 over the ‘Cats, with a total of 52.

And Monday night the SEC takes on the Big 12 when the Georgia Bulldogs (7-5) and Texas A&M Aggies (6-6) play the Independence Bowl in Shreveport (5 pm Eastern, ESPN2).

Oddsmaker.com is chalking Georgia at -7 over A&M, with a total of 65.5.

Bettors should check back at Oddsmaker.com for updated odds on these and all the bowl games, right through the BCS championship game Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl.

NFL Weekend Preview

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

As this NFL regular season comes to a climax it’s still got a little bit of everything; a team chasing perfection, a battle for home-field advantage, some still-to-be-settled divisional races, and an eight-team free-for-all for two Wild Card spots on the AFC side of the bracket.

Here’s a quick look at some of this weekend’s NFL action, and the Oddsmaker.com lines that go with it.

The NFL doesn’t always schedule games for Christmas Day, but this year they offer up a good tiding in the form of an AFC showdown when the streaking San Diego Chargers visit the surging Tennessee Titans on Friday night (7:30 pm Eastern, NFL Network). San Diego has won nine games in a row and can clinch the remaining AFC first-round playoff bye with one more win. Tennessee, meanwhile, has reached 7-7 after an 0-6 start, and is looking to make the playoffs as a Cinderella story.

As of Tuesday night Oddsmaker.com is listing the Titans as three-point favorites over the Bolts, with a total of 47.5.

The action moves to Sunday when the top-seeded team in the NFC, the 13-1 New Orleans Saints, look to lock up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs when they host the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 pm Eastern, Fox). New Orleans is listed at -14 over Tampa, with a total of 50.

In the NFC East, the 10-4 and first-place Philadelphia Eagles host the owners of the six seed in the AFC, the 8-6 Denver Broncos (4:15 E, CBS); the second-place 9-5 Dallas Cowboys visit the 4-10 Washington Redskins (8:20 E, NBC); and the 8-6 and third-place New York Giants host the 6-8 Carolina Panthers (1 E, Fox).

Oddsmaker.com is listing Philly at -7 over Denver, with an OVER/UNDER of 41.5; Dallas is -7 over woeful Washington, with a total of 42; and the G-Men are -7 over the Panthers, with an O/U of 42.5.

And the 9-5 Green Bay Packers, who own the five seed in the NFC at the moment, can solidify their playoff possibilities when they host the 5-9 Seattle Seahawks (1 E, Fox). Oddsmaker.com is chalking Green Bay at -14 over Seattle, with a total of 42.

The AFC playoff situation is a big mess, so let’s just say this; Indianapolis and San Diego have clinched their divisions, Cincinnati and New England lead theirs, and eight teams either at 8-6 or 7-7 are battling for the two AFC Wild Card spots.

In Foxboro Sunday, the 9-5 Patriots are 7.5-point home favorites at Oddsmaker.com over the 7-7 Jacksonville Jaguars (1 E, CBS); the 7-7 Houston Texans are +3 at the 7-7 Miami Dolphins (1 E, CBS); the 7-7 Pittsburgh Steelers are two-point home chalk over the 7-7 Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game (1 E, CBS); and the 7-7 New York Jets are getting six points at the amazing 14-0 Colts (4:15, CBS).

And Monday night in Chicago the 11-3 Minnesota Vikings, in search of a first-round playoff bye, are listed as 7-point road favorites over the 5-9 Bears at Soldier Field (8:30 E, ESPN).

NBA: Christmas Day Preview

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Amidst all the hullabaloo this week, what with the parties and the dinners and the screaming kids and the last-minute panic about what to get that certain person who will make you rue the day if you screw it up, the NBA offers hoops handicappers a Christmas Day five-pack for your viewing pleasure. And in that giving spirit, Oddsmaker.com will be offering the action that makes the games all that much more entertaining.

The action starts early on Friday when the New York Knicks (10-17 through Sunday’s play) host the Miami Heat (13-12) at MSG (noon Eastern, ESPN). New York recently won six of eight games as they try to recover from that 1-9 start. Miami, meanwhile, has slowed after a quick start, winning just six of its last 16 games.

These two teams met in the season opener, which the Heat won 115-93 in Miami.

Next up, it’s a battle between two of the beasts of the East when the Boston Celtics (21-5) visit the defending conference champion Orlando Magic (20-7) at the O–Rena (2:30 pm, ABC). Boston already leads the Atlantic Division by 10 games, and recently reeled off 11 wins in a row. Orlando, on the other hand, is only a half-game up on the Atlanta Hawks in the Southwest Division, and is “only” 4-3 over its last seven games.

These two teams met a month ago in Boston, where the Magic came away with an 83-78 victory.

The action then shifts westward when the LeBron and Shaq Traveling Circus, also known as the Cleveland Cavaliers (20-8), hits LaLa Land to take on Kobe and the Lakers (22-4) at Staples Center (5 E, ABC). Cleveland owns a seven-game lead in the Central, and just had a five-game winning streak snapped. Defending league champion Los Angeles, meanwhile, owns the best record in the Association so far this season, and a 4.5-game lead in the Pacific Division.

LA swept the two games with the Cavs last year, and both games went UNDER the posted totals.

The other LA team, the somewhat surprising Clippers (12-14), then gets a chance to play in primetime when they run with the Phoenix Suns (18-9) at the Purple Palace (8 E, ESPN). A season after going 19-63, the Clips recently won three of four and are trying to close in on .500. Phoenix, meanwhile, is the Lakers’ closest competitor in the Pacific, and is 16-11 against the Oddsmaker.com pointspreads this season.

These two teams met opening night in LA, with the Suns winning 109-107.

And in the Christmas nightcap, the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets (19-9) visit Portland to tangle with the Trail Blazers (17-12) at the Rose Garden (10:30 E, ESPN). Denver recently lost four of seven games, while Portland won three of four. So the Nuggets lead the Blazers by 2.5 games in the Northwest.

Denver won at Portland back in October in the first meeting this season between these teams 97-94.

Bettors should also check out the NBA futures market at Oddsmaker.com, where the Lakers and Celtics are listed as co-favorites at +200 to win the NBA championship this season. They’re followed by, among others, the Magic at +250, the Cavs at +500, the Nuggets and Suns at +1,000, the Blazers at +3,000, the Clippers at +10,000, and the Knicks and the Heat at +15,000.

NFL Weekend Preview

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Two teams are still undefeated as this NFL regular season approaches the finish line, but only three teams have clinched playoff spots. The rest is a mess, and should make for good spirited play throughout the remaining three weeks.

The Week 15 action begins Thursday night as the Indianapolis Colts go for their 23rd consecutive regular-season victory when they visit a Jacksonville Jaguars team that owns its playoff destiny (8:20 pm Eastern, NFL).

The Colts, though, have already clinched the top AFC playoff seeding, and will likely rest starters over their last three games. The Jags, meanwhile, at 7-6, own the six seed in the AFC at the moment, and can make the playoffs if they win out.

As of Thursday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Indy at -3 over J-Ville, with a total of 42.5. The Jags are also getting +155 on the Oddsmaker.com moneyline.

The NFL also gives its other undefeated team its own night this week when the New Orleans Saints host the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday (8:20 pm Eastern, NFL). New Orleans has already clinched a first-round playoff bye, but still needs to win to nail down home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Dallas, meanwhile, at 8-5, owns the six seed in the NFC at the moment, but has lost two straight. And they’ve still got to play a rivalry game at Washington, and host Philadelphia.

Oddsmaker.com is offering the Saints at -7 over the Cowboys, with a total of 53. The Pokes are also getting +250 on the moneyline.

In the only other game this weekend that matches teams with winning records, the streaking San Diego Chargers, the leaders in the AFC West, host the Cincinnati Bengals, leaders of the AFC North (Sunday, 4pm Eastern, CBS). At the moment, the Chargers are the two seed in the AFC, the Bengals the three seed. So this game could determine who gets the other AFC first-round playoff bye.

The Cincy team and staff will have more on their minds than football Sunday, after the death of injured WR Chris Henry on Thursday morning.

The Bolts are listed at -6.5 over Cincy at Oddsmaker.com, with a total of 43.5.

Elsewhere around the NFL on Sunday, the fading defending Super Bowl champion Steelers are 1-point home favorites over the 9-4 Packers (1pm Eastern, Fox); the 9-4 Eagles are 8.5-point home chalk over the 6-7 49ers (1pm Eastern, Fox); and the 11-2 Vikings are 9-point road faves at 5-8 Carolina (8:20pm Eastern, NBC).

Through the first 10 weeks of this season, the totals had trended slightly toward the OVER. But over the last four weeks, with some colder weather, injuries, and tight games, the totals have gone 21-42. On the season, the totals are 94-110.

College Football Bowl Previews

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

That most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us. No, we’re not talking about the upcoming holidays and the parties that go with them, although that’s all good in itself. We’re talking bowl games, and lots of them, on an almost-nightly basis, for the next three weeks. Here’s a quick look at this weekend’s opening batch of bowls, and their accompanying Oddsmaker.com numbers.

The bowl season begins Saturday afternoon when 8-4 Fresno State, the third-place team in the WAC this year, faces off against 6-6 Wyoming, the fifth-place team in the Mountain West, in the New Mexico Bowl down in Albuquerque (3:30 pm Eastern, ESPN).

The Bulldogs started 1-3 this season, but won seven of their last eight to reach the New Mexico Bowl for the second straight season. The Cowboys, meanwhile, started 1-2, then won three in a row, then lost three in a row, then won two of their last three to earn their first bowl bid in five years.

As of Wednesday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Fresno State at -11.5 over Wyoming, with a total of 55.

The action moves to the Florida coast Saturday night when 8-4 Central Florida, which finished second in the C-USA East this season, takes on 8-4 Rutgers, which tied for fourth place in the Big East, in the St. Petersburg Bowl (7 Eastern, ESPN2).

The Scarlet Knights got to 7-2 about a month ago, but lost two of their last three. Nonetheless, they’ll play in a bowl for the fifth straight season. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, started 3-3, then won five of their last six, and are playing in a bowl after missing out last season.

Oddsmaker.com is lining this game with Rutgers favored by 2.5 points over UCF, with a total of 44.

Then Sunday night 9-3 Middle Tennessee State, the second-place team in the Sun Belt, goes up against 7-5 Southern Miss, which came a win away from playing in the Conference USA championship game, in the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome (7 Eastern, ESPN).

The Blue Raiders started 3-3 this season, but finished with a six-game winning streak to earn their first bowl bid in three seasons. The only thing that kept them from a Sun Belt championship was an early-season loss to eventual conference champ Troy.

The Golden Eagles won their first three games this season, then lost three in a row, and had to replace their starting quarterback because of an injury. But with back-up Martevious Young compiling a 13/1 TD/INT ratio in relief, Southern Miss got within one win of the C-USA East Division title. And they’ll be playing in a bowl for the eighth straight season.

The Eagles won last year’s New Orleans Bowl, beating Troy 30-27 in overtime.

Oddsmaker.com is listing Southern Miss at -3.5 over MTSU, with a total of 58.5.

The bowl action continues next week with the Las Vegas Bowl Tuesday, which matches 10-2 BYU vs. 8-4 Oregon State (7 Eastern, ESPN); the Poinsettia Bowl from San Diego on Wednesday, matching 9-3 Utah vs. 9-4 California (7 Eastern, ESPN); and the Hawaii Bowl Thursday, pitting 7-5 SMU vs. 8-4 Nevada in what might be a shootout (7 Eastern, ESPN).

As of Wednesday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing the Beavers at -2.5 over the Cougars, with a total of 60; the Bears at -3.5 over the Utes, with a total of 53; and the Wolf Pack at -14.5 over the upstart Mustangs, with a total of 73.

NBA Week Preview

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The NBA regular season continues its roll toward the turn of the year, with relatively few surprises thus far. Here’s a quick look at some of this week’s action, and a few facts hoops handicappers may find pertinent.

Wednesday the 18-4 Los Angeles Lakers, who have played 17 of their first 22 games this season at Staples Center, continue a five-game road trip with a stop in Milwaukee for a game with rookie sparkplug Brandon Jennings and his 11-11 Milwaukee Bucks (8 pm ET).

Pacific Division-leading LA just had an 11-game winning streak snapped in Utah. Milwaukee, meanwhile, a year after going 34–48, has split its first 22 games, and sits in second place in the Central Division.

The Bucks have been one of the more frequent OVER plays so far this season, going 14-8 on the Oddsmaker.com NBA betting totals through Monday’s action.

Also Wednesday the 18-7 Dallas Mavericks, the leaders of the Southwest Division, visit Kevin Durant and the 12-11 Oklahoma City Thunder (8 ET, ESPN). And the 13-10 Houston Rockets visit the 18-7 and Northwest-leading Denver Nuggets (9 ET).

Both OKC and H-Town have been good bets so far this season, both going 14-9 vs. the Oddsmaker.com pointspreads.

Thursday a good Southeast Division battle takes place in Miami between the division-leading 18-6 Orlando Magic and the 11-11 Heat (7:30 ET, TNT). And the handicappers’ Association nightcap pits the 16-8 Phoenix Suns at the 14-11 Portland Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, TNT).

Phoenix may lead the league in scoring this season, and rank 27th in scoring defense, but they’re 7-15 on the totals so far.

Friday’s slate provides us a good interconference bout as the 14-10 Utah Jazz visit the 17-6 Atlanta Hawks (7:30 ET). Coach Sloan’s crew has won seven of its last 10 games, and they stopped the Lakers’ recent winning streak with a victory in Salt Lake Saturday night. Atlanta, meanwhile, has won four straight, and only trails first-place Orlando by a half-game in the Southeast Division.

The Hawks are also a league-best 17-6 vs. the pointspreads this season. And Utah leads the league in OVERS, going 15-9 on the totals.

Also Friday, those .500 Bucks hit Cleveland to take on the 17-7 Cavs (8 ET, ESPN), Houston visits Dallas (8:30 ET), and in a rematch of the 1975 NBA championship series (well, sort of), the 7-15 Washington Bullets/Wizards, recent losers of five games in a row, visit the 7-17 Golden State Warriors (10:30 ET, ESPN), losers of eight of their last 10.

Rick Barry and Elvin Hayes, where are you?

Washington is 6-15 vs. the numbers this season, better than only the Chicago Bulls, who are 5-15 ATS.

Bettors should check out the updated NBA futures market at Oddsmaker.com for prices on all the division titles, the conference championships and the NBA crown. As of Tuesday morning the Lakers, Magic and Boston Celtics top our NBA championship betting board at +200, followed by, among others, the Cavaliers at +500, the Nuggets and Suns at +1,000, the Mavericks at +1,200, the Blazers at +3,000, the Hawks at +4,000, the Wizards at +7,000, the Jazz and Rockets at +7,500, the Bucks and Heat at +15,000, and the Warriors at +25,000.

NFL Weekend Preview

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The NFL regular season heads into the home stretch this weekend, with those teams in the lead trying to lock down playoff positions, and those in the middle trying to make up ground. Here’s a quick look at some of Week 14’s bigger games, and the Oddsmaker.com numbers that go along with them.

In Indianapolis the 12-0 Colts go for a new league record when they shoot for their 22nd-consecutive regular-season victory against the 8-4 Denver Broncos (1 pm ET, CBS). Indy is undefeated, but they’ve had some close calls this year. Last week’s solid win over resurgent Tennessee, however, was not one of them.

Denver, meanwhile, has for the moment regained its balance, after losing four in a row. The Broncos beat the New York Giants soundly on Thanksgiving night, then pounded Kansas City last week. So Denver only trails the first-place San Diego Chargers by one game in the AFC West, and would be the five seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today.

As of Thursday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Indianapolis at -7 over the Broncos, with a total of 44.

Week 14 offers two excellent interconference matchups. In a battle of first-place teams up in Minneapolis the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings, coming off a loss in Arizona, host the 9-3 Cincinnati Bengals (1 pm ET, CBS). Minnesota needs one more win to nail down the NFC North, but they’ve fallen two games behind the undefeated New Orleans Saints in the race for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Cincy, meanwhile, suddenly leads the AFC North by three games, and has a chance to earn a first-round playoff bye.

Oddsmaker.com is listing the Vikings at -6.5 over the Bengals, with a total of 44.

And in another meeting of division leaders down in Big D the 8-4 Dallas Cowboys, losers at the Giants last week, host the 9-3 San Diego Chargers, winners of seven straight games (4:15 pm ET, CBS). Oddsmaker is listing Dallas at -3 over the Bolts, with a total of 48.5.

And, of course, key divisional bouts abound. In Chicago the struggling 5-7 Bears are getting 3.5 points as they look to spoil the playoff hopes of the 8-4 Green Bay Packers in the 179th all-time meeting between those teams (1 pm ET, Fox). In Atlanta, the 12-0 Saints are giving 10.5 points as they continue their trek toward perfection and possibly knock the 6-6 Falcons out of the playoff race (1 pm ET, Fox). Then Sunday night in New Jersey the 7-5 Giants are giving the 8-4 Philadelphia Eagles one point, as both teams try to solidify their playoff situations (8:20 pm ET, NBC). And Monday night out on the Left Coast the 8-4 Arizona Cardinals are giving 3.5 points as they try to clinch their second straight NFC West title with a win over the 5-7 49ers in San Francisco (8:30 pm ET, ESPN).

And in a key game in the AFC Wild Card race the 7-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, who would be in if the postseason started today, are listed as 2.5-point home favorites over the 6-6 Miami Dolphins, who are coming off that big upset of New England last week (1 pm ET, CBS).

Bettors should also check out the updated NFL futures market at Oddsmaker.com. As of Thursday morning New Orleans tops our updated Super Bowl 44 betting board at +200, followed by, among others, Indianapolis at +300, Minnesota at +600, New England and San Diego at +800, Arizona and Cincinnati at +1,500, and Green Bay and Philadelphia at +2,000.