Each Monday, our “What’s on Tap” series previews the week ahead in the world of sports betting. Come here for a summary of upcoming financial happenings, legislative and regulatory meetings, industry conferences, top games scheduled for the week, and much more. Also, check out our weekly review “Get a Grip” for a look back at last week’s notable news.
Monday, December 20
Pennsylvania to report Nov. sports betting figures
Pennsylvania sportsbooks set a monthly record for sports betting handle in October with $776.3 million wagered, eclipsing the previous high by more than $150 million. It translated to gross gaming revenue of $42.3 million at a hold of 5.4%. Over the first 10 months of the year, taxable sports betting revenue statewide reached $257.6 million, a sliver of the $3.9 billion produced across the Pennsylvania gambling industry. For 2021 as a whole, the state’s sportsbooks are projected to produce taxable revenue of $307.6 million, according to predictions from Penn Bets. Analysts will receive stronger indications of the state’s 2021 figures on Monday when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is expected to report November gambling results.
Rare MNF doubleheader due to COVID-19 delay
Typically, the NFL limits doubleheaders on Monday nights to the opening week of the regular season as a way to celebrate the return of football. Last year, though, the NFL had several doubleheaders on Monday nights when the spread of COVID-19 forced the league to move a number of games from their regularly scheduled kickoffs. For the first three months of this season, the NFL did not have a single postponement due to the pandemic. This week, however, the NFL was forced to postpone three games amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
The opener on Monday features the Cleveland Browns against the Las Vegas Raiders in a matchup originally scheduled for two nights earlier. The Browns had approximately two dozen players in the league’s COVID-19 protocols last week, headlined by quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and offensive tackle Jedrick Willis. The line has fluctuated, with Cleveland jumping two points to -3 on Friday after the NFL moved the game to Monday night. The Raiders were then favored by nearly that much Monday morning after announcement that neither Mayfield nor Case Keenum would play, leaving the Browns to start third-string quarterback Nick Mullens.
Browns COVID List:
John Johnson III
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) December 19, 2021
The Bears will host the Vikings in the nightcap in a game featuring NFC North rivals. Minnesota is coming off a 36-28 win over Pittsburgh in Week 14, a game the Vikings had led 29-0. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook gashed the Steelers’ front seven with a season-high 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota is a 6-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook.
Tuesday, December 21
Eagles, Rams host home games after Omicron postponements
Besides the Raiders-Browns game, the NFL also postponed two other matchups in Week 15: Rams-Seahawks in Los Angeles and Eagles-Washington Football Team in Philadelphia. Both games will be played Tuesday evening in another doubleheader.
No game in recent memory has seen such wild fluctuations as the Eagles-Washington one. The Eagles opened as 4-point favorites, a number that ballooned as high as 12.5 as reports surfaced that Washington had up to 21 players on the NFL’s protocol list. The list included Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, Washington’s top two quarterbacks. But on Saturday night, Washington coach Ron Rivera expressed optimism that Allen would be cleared by kickoff. As of Sunday afternoon, the line fell to Eagles -6.5, which held steady on Monday.
Check out this Eagles line movement 👀🏈
Sunday night: Eagles -4
Wednesday: Eagles -7
Thursday: Eagles -9.5
Current: Eagles -12 https://t.co/40kv8fLwMs
— Caesars Sportsbook (@CaesarsSports) December 17, 2021
Much like Washington, the Rams dealt with a litany of COVID-19 cases over the last week. On Saturday, the Rams took six players off the COVID list, most notably wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Darrell Henderson. But the Rams placed two additional players on the list, ESPN.com reported. The Rams are 7-point favorites over the Seahawks at DraftKings.
UTSA takes on San Diego State in Cafe Frisco Bowl
University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) opened the season with 11 straight wins, becoming one of the last NCAA FBS teams across the nation to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. Despite a late-season loss to North Texas, the Roadrunners (11-1) rebounded to beat Western Kentucky in the Conference USA championship. On Tuesday, UTSA will face No. 24 San Diego State in the Cafe Frisco Bowl. It marks the first time the Roadrunners will face an AP Top 25 team this season. The Aztecs have notched wins over two Pac-12 opponents in Utah and Arizona this season, as well as a victory over Boise State. UTSA is a 2-point favorite at FanDuel.
Other lines for bowl games this week (FanDuel):
- Myrtle Beach Bowl: Tulsa -9 Old Dominion
- Potato Bowl: Wyoming -3 Kent State
- Frisco Football Classic: Miami (Ohio) -3 North Texas
- Gasparilla Bowl: Florida -6.5 UCF
- Hawaii Bowl: Memphis -7.5 Hawaii
- Camellia Bowl: Georgia State -4.5 Ball State
Thursday, December 23
NHL holds final games before Christmas break
Six games are on the schedule on Thursday, including a matchup in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and their bitter in-state rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. The bigger news surrounds the teams that are not playing. The NHL postponed eight other games scheduled on Thursday night, including six involving Canadian teams because of the spread of COVID-19.
Citing the continuing spread of the virus, the league suspended all cross-border travel on Sunday through the Christmas break, which begins on Dec. 24. As of Sunday night, the NHL has postponed 27 games this season due to the outbreak.
The large number of postponements has decreased the likelihood that NHL players will take part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, ESPN reported on Sunday. The NHL has until Jan. 10 to pull its players out of the Olympics without incurring financial penalty, according to ESPN.com.
Saturday, December 25
Nets-Lakers highlight NBA Christmas Day slate
There are five games on the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule, including a potential finals preview in Los Angeles where the Lakers will face the Brooklyn Nets. But Brooklyn has been hit hard by the COVID surge, as all-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Saturday. Last week, a short-handed Nets team defeated the Raptors in overtime despite having seven players in the league’s protocols. The Lakers, meanwhile, will be without all-star Anthony Davis, who is out about a month with an MCL sprain.
Of the top six betting favorites at PointsBet on the futures market, five will be in action on Saturday. The defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks will face the Boston Celtics in Milwaukee, followed by a matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in Phoenix. The two Western Conference leaders have met twice this season, with each team winning once.
Over the last week, a who’s who of NBA stars have entered the league’s protocols. The potential absence of some of the league’s marquee players could dull the entertainment value of the Christmas Day schedule. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, entered the protocols on Dec. 14.
NBA Players Entering Protocols Since Opening Night
(10-Day Moving Average) pic.twitter.com/hA4YawqQVt
— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) December 17, 2021
As of Sunday afternoon, Antetokounmpo was joined on the protocol list by a host of players whose teams are scheduled to play on Christmas Day, including James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bobby Portis, Donte DiVincenzo, R.J. Barrett, Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Jordan Poole.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel also entered the league’s protocols, the team announced Sunday morning. Vogel will be replaced by assistant coach David Fizdale. The Lakers have two more games before Christmas Day — a home matchup against the Suns on Tuesday and another at home against the Spurs on Thursday.
NBA futures odds at PointsBet:
- Nets — +275
- Warriors — +500
- Bucks — +650
- Suns — +700
- Jazz — +900
- Lakers — +1100
Sunday, December 26
Will logjam in AFC playoff race clear up after several key matchups?
With three weeks left in the regular season, 13 teams are still alive for the AFC playoff race with records of 6-7 or better. The Bengals took the lead in the AFC North Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens’ 31-30 defeat by the Green Bay Packers. The Bengals and Ravens, both 8-6, will meet Sunday in Cincinnati with the division lead on the line. The Bengals are 2.5-point favorites over the Ravens at Caesars Sportsbook; the total is 43.5.
The Kansas City Chiefs will bring a seven-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger’s final game at Arrowhead Stadium. With the Ravens’ defeat, the Steelers are only a half-game out of first in the AFC North. The Chiefs opened as 10.5-point favorites. The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, travel to Foxborough in Week 16 trailing the New England Patriots by one game in the AFC East. Expect Mac Jones to drop back more than he did last month when he only attempted three passes against the Bills on a gusty night in Orchard Park. The Patriots opened as 1.5-point favorites.
— Jason Wolf (@JasonWolf) December 20, 2021
In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings in a game with considerable wild card implications. Both teams will face a short week after the delays due to COVID. The Rams are 3-point favorites; the total is 49.5.