Hernandez’s Issues Illustrate That Little Has Changed

Hernandez
Hernandez
Hernandez's situation is unfortunately all too familiar despite the NFL's attempts to curb them.

The police in Massachusettes yesterday arrested Aaron Hernandez taking him in cuffs from his home around 9am. Within about 90 minutes, the New England Patriots cut ties with Hernandez by releasing him. This signaled that the Pats’ felt this was more than just an obstruction of justice charge and they were right. Hernandez was charged with six felonies including first-degree murder and the store inside of Gillette Stadium had already removed everything related to Hernandez from their shelves.

Regardless of what comes out of the pending Aaron Hernandez trial, a troubling trend has continued in the world of professional athletics and in the NFL in particular. Back in 2000, Baltimore Ravens’ star Ray Lewis was involved in a double-murder yet to what extent no one will ever know. He eventually plead to a charge of obstruction of justice which ironically is what Hernandez was facing before the murder charge was filed. Like the current case, Lewis’ had evidence come up missing or had evidence tampered with as well but this isn’t the point.

Over the last 13 years since the Lewis incident, we have seen similar brushes with the law with NFL players in which they are surrounded by their ‘friends.’ From Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones to Michael Vick to the infamous Vikings’ cruise, we have seen players surround themselves with people they believe to be their friends yet take advantage of them and their celebrity.

What is sad is that many of these individuals who find themselves part of an athlete’s ‘entourage’ are in fact lifelong friends who are genuinely wanted to be around but what is occurring is that these friends are taking advantage of the wealth and privilege of their professional football playing friends.

Adam Jones
Is Pacman really the guy we want speaking to NFL rookies?

In the current situation with Aaron Hernandez, many things have been coming to light about his past and none of them appear to be good. This current investigation may in fact be Hernandez’s third incident involving a shooting and there has been significant links to gang activity as well.

While having former players like LaVarr Arrington and Desmond Howard there were positive moves as was the addition of Niners’ tight end Vernon Davis who has matured a lot in his time in the league, the NFL still doesn’t do enough to make guys aware of what dangers are out there lurking. To their credit, the league did address the rookies in terms of sexual harassment and abuse but players still don’t understand how easily they can find themselves in a heap of trouble.

NFL players must recognize who their friends are versus who their ‘acquaintances’ are because the distinction can often be the difference between having a successful, long-term NFL career and one littered with poor judgement. When Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation was discovered, the majority of people involved in it with him were lifelong friends. Did none of these guys understand what they were doing was wrong? The culture for so many of these players is to put their friends above everything else. It’s often admirable, but at the same time it’s also dangerous and leads to the problems that are facing Aaron Hernandez today.

How the Issues in New England Could Alter Your Wagering

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez
Hernandez's pending arrest is already changing the Pats' forutnes for 2013.

There was once a time when there were teams in the National Football League that seemed immune from the off-field problems of their players. Teams like New England, Pittsburgh and San Francisco were becoming poster children of how to keep players in line when they were on the line of scrimmage.

Those days are long over in Pittsburgh and now New England has even been penetrated by negative off-field news and this is far from just a ‘minor issue.’

An arrest warrant is expected today for Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez on a charge of obstruction of justice. Hernandez is at the very least going to be in in trouble for destroying evidence such as home video surveillance equipment and a cell phone. Those charges could be ramped up if further evidence implicates him in the death of a friend and semi-pro football player who Hernandez was with just hours before he was believed to have died.

This is the cherry on a sundae of odd and unfortunate happenings in New England of late and taken as a whole, you have to consider strongly whether you feel the Patriots can remain a solid contender for the AFC East title, the AFC Title and a Super Bowl Title.

Gronk
Gronkowski is expected to be on the PUP list to start the season leaving the Pats with fewer weapons.

Much was going to be expected of Hernandez going into the season considering that his fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off both back and yet another forearm surgery. ‘Gronk’ is expected to start the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) List. Also this month the Pats’ signed Tim Tebow who was thought to be done with his NFL career at least as a quarterback. New England claims he was signed as a QB and that’s where he reportedly worked during the team’s mini-camp last week.

I’d be re-miss if I didn’t mention that Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft is also missing a Super Bowl ring which he alleges was taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting. Putin claims it was a gift and the ring is now in a library in Russia. While this may not impact what happens on the field in 2013, it is however just another sign that the normally infallible Patriots are taking shots from all sides.

Right now over at bovada.com, if you look at the over/under for expected win totals by NFL teams this season you’ll notice they are listed in alphabetical order and when you get down to the “N’s” you find no New England Patriots. There is a clear reason for that because until more is known about Hernandez’s playing status, it would not be in your best interest to wager on them. With no Hernandez, no Gronkowski and oh ya, now Wes Welker, this offense looks more and more less potent.

The Patriots are still currently listed at 8/1 to win the Super Bowl which puts them behind San Francisco and Denver. I fully expect those odds to drop over the coming weeks. They are also listed at 3/1 to win the AFC and are listed only behind Denver. I would have to expect those numbers to change as well.

The good news for the Patriots is that the AFC East is not expected to be overly challenging. The New York Jets are in a potentially ugly QB situation while Buffalo is dealing with a new coach and QB questions of their own. Only the Miami Dolphins appear to be a challenge right now with what they’ve done in free agency but they have a second-year QB from whom much is expected.

Any way you slice it, the Patriots are in unfamiliar territory right now and these individual events grouped together signal serious caution for you and your wagering possibilities.

Did You Really Think I Wasn’t Going to Mention Tebow?

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow
Tebow will be used in many ways by the Patriots but I don't think QB will be one of them.

Here are several pieces of advice for you in terms of your television viewing and radio listening if you aren’t a fan of new New England Patriots’ quarterback Tim Tebow. First, avoid ESPN like its a sexually transmitted disease. The Mothership’s infatuation with Tebow hit epic proportions when he was traded to the New York Jets following the 2011 season. Rumors are, and I stress these are rumors with some validation, is that ESPN has already appealed to the Patriots to allow them to access to training camp.

Secondly, avoid ESPN radio as well. Oh they’ll claim they are just going to ‘touch’ on Tebow being in New England but then they end up spending an hour or more. See ‘Mike and Mike’ or ‘The Herd’ for examples. Third, avoid visiting the NFL.com website. Why? Because they will hype Tebow being back in the league as much as ESPN will and especially when it comes to hocking jerseys and t-shirts with ‘Tebow’ on them somewhere.

In all fairness, I don’t blame Tim Tebow for the attention he draws. There are other guys in the league and in other sports who seek out way more attention than he does but he is a magnet for it and now that he has a new team, the attention will grow like crazy. Toss in the fact he is in New England with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and you have the makings for an absolute circus.

Bill Belichick
‘The Hoodie’ likes the challenge of making Tebow into something and don’t think he doesn’t.

So what does the signing of Tebow mean for you in terms of wagering? Well, a lot actually. First of all, if you are going to participate in any of the prop bets recently put out by our friends over at Bovada.com, then you first must have to have faith that Tebow makes the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Those odds are currently at ‘Yes/-400’ and ‘No/+250.’

Tebow signed a two-year deal with the Pats but it has no guaranteed money. His deal basically means that if he doesn’t make the roster, New England will not be hit in any way in terms of the salary cap. Therefore, there’s no sweat off of the backs of Bob Kraft and company if he doesn’t make the team. Personally, I think he makes it so it’s a ‘yes’ from me.

Will he start a game at QB in 2013 for New England? Here are your current odds. ‘Yes/+600’ and ‘No/-1200.’ The Patriots claim they have signed him as a ‘quarterback’ but I’m not buying it. Sitting behind Brady is Ryan Mallett who is a big, strong-armed proto-typical QB and Tebow is nowhere near as talented as Mallett is. With Brady approaching his late thirties, I just can’t see Belichick relying on Tim Tebow to back him up. The Pats did try to trade Mallett this offseason but I believe that was in an effort to score more draft picks. I would go with a big ‘no’ here.

Will Tebow throw a TD Pass in 2013? ‘Yes/+200’ and ‘No/-300.’ I’m actually going to say ‘yes’ here but not because he’ll be a QB but because Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will find a way to use him offensively.

Tebow’s total rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2013? ‘Over/Under 1.5.’ This one is a little tougher, but I just don’t believe Bill Belichick would go get Tebow (other than he’s best buds with Urban Meyer) for just any reason. I look for Tebow to be used in a number of different situations and with that said, I like the ‘over’ here.

Of course all this is moot if he doesn’t make the team but I guarantee he’ll work his tail off to make it.

Bills’ Manuel Better Live Up to His Own Comments

E.J.Manuel
E.J.Manuel
Manuel had better play well if he thinks the Bills' offense is so easy.

There are times when I sit down at the computer to crank out my daily articles for the site rarely do I find myself without anything to discuss. The National Hockey League Playoffs are in their second round series while the National Basketball Association is already into the conference finals. In case you missed it, the Bruins took a 2-0 lead over the Rangers while on the hardwood, the Spurs sent a very clear message to the Grizzlies with a blowout win in game one of the Western Conference Finals.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators are scoreless through one period up in Canada as I type.

There was one snippet from the weekend that caught my eye and it had to do with a league whose season is still a few months away. The National Football League is in the midst of what they call their “OTA’s” or Official Team Activities and for any organization the number one goal in these practices is to remain healthy first and foremost.

What caught my eye was a statement by the first round pick of the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback E.J. Manuel said in a radio interview from the rookie symposium that “The Bills offense is easier to learn than the one I had at Florida State.” On the surface, it’s rookie making an obscure comment but there really are no such comments in the sports world today.

The fact that the Bills took Manuel as high as they did already puts pressure on the organization and Manuel himself to produce soon. Toss in the fact that this class will no doubt be compared to the rookie quarterback class of last year, but the pressure to produce for long-suffering franchise will be immense. Personally I don’t think its’ fair for Manuel or any other QB to be compared to Andrew Luck, RGIII or Russell Wilson but such is the nature of today’s 24/7 NFL.

Kevin Kolb
Kolb may be on the bench if the Bills choose to go with Manuel.

The issue I see with Manuel’s comment is that all he does by making it is open himself up to criticism should things not go so well for him. Remember, this was seen as a fairly risky pick by the QB-starved Bills because most of the top draft experts and gurus had Manuel going in the second, third or fourth round.

Obviously Manuel has tremendous physical skills and is potentially a big-time quarterback, but the red flags on Manuel go almost hand-in-hand with his comments. While physically gifted, Manuel made a lot of mental errors at Florida State which resulted in poor decisions and turnovers. If Manuel has some real poor games to open the season, assuming he is the starter of course ahead of Kevin Kolb, then this comment will surely come back to haunt him.

New Bills’ coach Doug Marrone will be in an interesting position with regard to his quarterback as the season nears. The Bills signed Kolb with the expectation that he would more than likely be the starter with whomever they would draft waiting in the wings. Of course many thought Marrone would draft his former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib but that wasn’t the case. Kolb of course comes off a brutal stay in Arizona where he was signed to a big contract following a good showing in Philadelphia.

My guess right now is that there will be a lot of pressure on Marrone to start Manuel and he will if the pre-season determines the two men to be even, but if he isn’t picking up things as well as claims to be, the Kevin Kolb era in Buffalo will be underway.

Prop Bets Can Make Your Draft-Viewing Experience Better

Mel Kiper

 

Mel Kiper
If you have to look at Mel Kiper all weekend you might as well try earning some money off the guy.

The National Football League Draft can be an exciting time for fans and the media but it can also be as boring as watching paint dry. In one of the few quality acts under the leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league finally changed the amount of time teams had on the clock and it has been a welcome change for most fans.

It is often during this time of year where my friends and I long for something to wager a few bucks on. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is long since over and our Masters’ Pool is history as well. Betting on the NBA and NHL playoffs is fun, but they take so long to play out many of us actually lose interest.

With the NFL Draft ready to roll Thursday night from New York City, you may have some rare and unique opportunities to bet some dough on prime-time affair. Rather than take a drink every time Chris Berman makes a stupid nickname comment, there are some opportunities to actually put together a fun evening for you and some friends and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Unless you want it to of course…

The Draft Prediction Wager – This is one is pretty simple but should require a good deal of prior knowledge of potential draft picks. Just write down in order the picks you believe will happen in the first round.

Do not include trades and points are given for having the player selected at the same exact number in the draft. The monetary amount you choose is up to you but certainly make it worth your while.

 

SEC
Will you bet the SEC has the most players selected this weekend in the Draft?

The Conference Winner Wager – This one is a total no-brainer. Write down the NCAA Football conference that you believe will have the most guys selected in the first round. Take it to the next level by doing it for the whole draft.  SEC anyone?

The Position Wager – So, you think wide receivers will dominate the first round? Then put your money where your mouth is big guy? Lay money on which position you believe is the one most selected in the first round. Use first pick of the second round as a tie-breaker or until the tied positions are selected again the second round.

The Berman-isms Wager – This of course will force you to watch the first round of the NFL Draft on ESPN so you have my apologies. In order to do this one, you’ll need to decide just what a ‘Berman-ism’ is. The group can do this on a case-by-case basis but you should have some clearly defined rules prior to the start.

The group should establish an over/under number and then you personally have to decide whether Berman will go over or stay under that number. This one is obviously a little bit subjective so please make sure you define your expectations clearly.

The Kiper-McShay Wager – Have printouts of both experts’ mock drafts and prior to the start of the first round, lay money on which guy gets the most correct. You can choose to do this a couple of ways. You can either wager on the number they get exactly right, meaning player at the specific number of the first round or you can wager on which guy gets the most guys selected in the first round period.

If you wanted to break from the ESPN monopoly, you could also include Mike Mayock’s mock draft. He is of course from the NFL Network.

These are but a few of the ways you can enjoy the draft without being bored out of your mind and as always, enjoy your adult beverages and wagers responsibly.

Football Futures Because… Why the Heck Not?

Anquan Boldin
Anquan Boldin
Boldin will now be under the rule of the 'other' Harbaugh brother in San Francisco.

Major League Baseball is now underway despite the cold that gripped several stadiums on opening day yesterday. College Basketball has reached its’ own pinnacle with the Final Four set for Saturday and Monday night in Atlanta. The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association are just a few weeks from their respective playoff seasons so you’d think football would be far from the minds of many right? Not for this guy.

Now that National Football League’s free agency has made its’ way through the weeks of major signings and comings and goings, I think now is a nice time to look at each team’s odds of winning the Super Bowl in 2014. These are odds that reflect the most recent moves in the world of free agency.

San Francisco 7/1 -The Niners traded for one of the guys that helped beat them in Super Bowl XLVII in Anquan Boldin and also sent QB Alex Smith to Kansas City. If they can upgrade their secondary, they are clearly the best team.

Denver 15/2 – The Broncos got a two-for-one in signing Wes Welker. First they get a great receiver and secondly they take him from an AFC power in New England. The problem? I just don’t have faith in Peyton Manning in the playoffs.

New England 15/2 – The Pats will need to be good in the draft with a limited number of picks and I believe the loss of Welker will be a bigger factor than they currently think it will.

Seattle 10/1 – They’ve added Percy Harvin and defensive end Cliff Avril and frankly, they should be the favorite in the NFC. If they get home-field advantage in the playoffs I expect them to be in Super Bowl XLVIII. Questions at tackle and defensive tackle may cause struggles.

Atlanta 12/1 – Tony Gonzalez returns and Stephen Jackson comes over from the Rams but can the Falcons re-group after coming so close to the Super Bowl? Matt Ryan needs to prove he is elite by getting to the Super Bowl. Until then I don’t touch the Falcons.

Aaron Rodgers
I have a feeling Rodgers and the Pack will make another run at the Super Bowl.

Green Bay 12/1 – The Packers lose Greg Jennings to the rival Vikings but I’m OK with the receiving corps Aaron Rodgers has. They still need to upgrade at running back and on defense, but this would be a team I like in 2013 behind Rodgers.

Baltimore 16/1 – Just too many losses via trade and free agency despite Rice and Flacco returning.

New Orleans 16/1 – I fully expect a ‘Sean Payton revenge tour’ in 2013 but a lot will ride on the defense. I wouldn’t blame you if you pulled the trigger one them.

Houston 16/1 – Huge upgrade at safety with Ed Reed but the question now is can Matt Schaub carrying them to the next level? For me, I say “no.”

Pittsburgh 20/1 – Way too many holes to fill with Mike Wallace gone, no real starter at running back and questions at linebacker. Just can’t recommend them this year.

NY Giants 20/1 – NYG always seem to bounce back from bad years so I like the Giants.

Chicago 25/1 – The loss of Brian Urlacher will hurt on the field and in the locker room. I say stay away.

Dallas 25/1 – Tony Romo gets an extension? No thanks.

Washington 25/1 – If RGIII is ready to go then pull the trigger. He is that dynamic.

Philadelphia 30/1 – Sorry but I see nothing but problems in Philly.

Cincinnati 35/1 – Love the talent in Cincy but I lack faith in Andy Dalton.

Detroit 35/1 – Still questions on both sides of the ball and no compliment for Megatron.

Indianapolis 35/1 – Way too low for a playoff team led by a young stud at QB. Pull the trigger on the Colts.

Miami 35/1 – I will say this, playoffs yes, but Super Bowl? Not yet.

Minnesota 40/1 – Adrian Peterson will have a great season but nothing like his MVP one. Ponder just not enough.

San Diego 40/1 – Too many question marks including Philip Rivers.

Kansas City 45/1 – You heard it here first. Chiefs make the playoffs but no way they win the Super Bowl.

Carolina 50/1 – I sense major issues in Carolina. Stay away!

Tampa Bay 50/1 – This is Josh Freeman’s make or break year. No Super Bowl though.

NY Jets 60/1 – Can you say “butt fumble?”

St. Louis 60/1 – They are much improved with Jake Long aboard but not a Super Bowl team yet.

Cleveland 75/1 – Several good upgrades but not enough to make me think anything other than AFC North cellar.

Oakland 75/1 – No.

Arizona 100/1 – No way.

Buffalo 100/1 – No freaking way.

Tennessee 100/1 – No enough weapons.

Jacksonville 150/1 – Can MJD throw, block and tackle too?

Trades, Free Agency Change 2014 Super Bowl Odds Already

Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin
The trade of Percy Harvin has already impacted the odds of both teams in terms of getting to the Super Bowl.

I’ve been telling you for the last several weeks that in order to place money on a strong pick for the 2014 Super Bowl in New York that you really need to study free agency and the NFL Draft. When players change hands, it isn’t just one team that is affected, it’s two. Already we’ve seen some odds on potential Super Bowl favorites change over the last 24 hours due to two trades. Both of these trades occurred just hours before the official start of the NFL’s calendar year.

In one case, the Minnesota Vikings sent Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks picks that included a first-rounder as part of the deal. While not every sports book moved the Seahawks off their most recent odds, some did. I saw some that listed Seattle at 7 to 1 on winning the Super Bowl and after the trade, I saw the number change to 5 to 1.

Those that chose to stay on their current odds with Seattle cited Harvin’s injury history and potential problem as a head case. This is after all why the Vikes dealt him. As I mentioned, free agency and trades don’t change one team’s fortunes, they will essentially change both. In one case, the Vikings went from 20 to 1 to win the Super Bowl to 25 to 1 after the Harvin trade.

Anquan Boldin
Boldin instantly moved the odds for San Francisco to get to the Super Bowl.

The other big move made on Monday was the Baltimore Ravens sending Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round draft choice. This move was simply a matter of trying to get something rather than nothing. Boldin was not going to take a pay cut and the Ravens were wise to at least get something for him. Otherwise he would have been released and Baltimore would have gotten nothing for him.

Many have suggested the 6th round in return for arguably the best player of the NFL playoffs was perhaps a ‘family discount’ between the Harbaugh brothers. I don’t see it that way though. Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome need something for Boldin if he wasn’t going to stay so he took the offer.

The Niners were one of the teams that moved favorably on most Vegas boards following the deal. In one particular instance, they went from 7 to 1 to 5 to 1 in terms of winning the Super Bowl. Baltimore meanwhile, dropped even though the Ravens were already considered the seventh or eighth best team before the deal. As of this writing, the Ravens have lost Boldin through the trade, Paul Kruger to the Browns and Danelle Ellerbe to the Dolphins in free agency.

Look for Miami to jump significantly now that they have not only signed Ellerbe, but signed free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace as well. With Wallace out of Pittsburgh and James Harrison released earlier this week, look for the Steelers move from their current 18 to 1 to closer to 25 to 1. I say that because Rashard Mendenhall may also sign elsewhere too.

The major issue with free agency is just how much does it really change a team’s fortunes? We’ve seen teams like Washington and Philadelphia spend like crazy on free agent acquisitions and big names but the result has been far from successful. This is why it’s so important to see not only who a team signs but what is the expectation? Is the guy a plug-in starter or is he nothing more than depth? These are questions you need answers to in order to make an informed wager.

Of course the draft coming in April will also require your due diligence in terms of viewing just where guys end up and how they impact a team’s odds on winning the Super Bowl. Don’t just throw your money at the sexy pick here people, due some work and you’ll find it can pay off.

NFL Free Agency; Legal Tampering?

Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace
With the free agency period hours away, we can assume Mike Wallace's agent has already had talks with several teams.

The term ‘tampering’ has really only one meaning but it is often used in a number of different ways and one of those of course is when it comes to free agency in professional sports. This Tuesday begins the free agency period in the National Football League and this past Saturday began what the NFL calls ‘legal tampering.’

This is where teams who covet certain free agents can start talking to them without fear of repurcussion. In other words, this is what amounts to what I called  earlier ‘legal tampering.’ The problem is, are we really supposed to believe this is the only time when tampering occurs?

Cliff Avril
There are already reports that Avril has heard from the Colts.

Pre-free agency talks are basically the NFL’s version of ‘covert affairs.’ Some of the top free agent players like Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace and Detroit’s Cliff Avril are expected to be courted by several different teams in an effort to secure their services. While these particular teams may not have necessarily spoken directly to Wallace and Avril, you can bet your bottom dollar their agents were working phones better than Labor Day Telethon celebrity.

The disturbing part about this is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acts as though this tampering doesn’t happen. He clearly believes that by allowing the ‘legal tampering’ period three days prior to the actual signing period that agents and teams would never break this rule. This is one of many disturbing problems Goodell avoids dealing with. He often reminds me of the one kid in the pool playing ‘Marco Polo’ who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding any other kids simply because he just doesn’t stop and think.

Why else do the Adam Schefters and Chris Mortenson’s of the world consistently know what player is being contacted by what team?

Oh sure you can put two and two together and assume that a team that desperately needs a pass rushing defenseive end would likely seek a guy like Avril but no always. Therefore reporters rely on agents and publicity guys to let them know absolutely what is going on with the free agent moves.

I guarantee that even before Tuesday’s deadline is passed you’ll hear about who has a tentative deal with who and so on. What you as a bettor of the game of football can take from all of the free agency is actually a lot. Sometimes football futures look awfully appetizing even as early as May or June and knowing where free agents land can help you decide just where to lay your money down.

Obviously you’re going to know where a Mike Wallace or a Cliff Avril land in free agency, but sometimes knowing where the solid back-ups and the more obscure offensive or defensive lineman. While free agents signings don’t always pay dividends immediately in terms of titles they can certainly do that in the long run.

The biggest reason I suggest, hint-hint,  that teams are tampering illegally prior to the ‘legal tampering period’ is money. With the hard cap the National Football League has for its’ 32 teams, that means each organization must meet cap limits at certain points during the off-season. When a team is looking at specific free agents, it must plan for the potential salary for that player. For teams like the Cleveland Browns for example who have a lot of cap space available, this doesn’t mean quite as much. They’ll have some wiggle room much more so than say a team like Dallas that is right against the cap.

This is why tampering happens whether it’s legal or not and if you think it doesn’t then man, do I have a deal for you!