Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Three years ago at this time, with the domestic sports world otherwise shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Draft proposition wagers filled the betting apps of virtually every sports book in town.
Draft betting offerings have decreased every year since with hardly any options available at all this time around. STN Sports, Circa Sports, Caesars/William Hill and Boyd Sports are the only shops with any draft betting at all ahead of Thursday’s start of this year’s event in Kansas City.
There’s also less intrigue on the No. 1 overall pick where Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is the Carolina Panthers’ presumed selection at odds of -1200 (i.e. risking $1200 to win $100) at Boyd. So, don’t expect a decent-sized winner here like last year this same week in the column when I picked off one of the few remaining 2-to-1 prices on Travon Walker to go No. 1 overall.
Out of obligation, I will kick things off in this week’s Weekend Wagers with a single draft bet — Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski to go ahead of Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson at +115 (risking $100 to win $115, for accounting purposes) at Circa.
It’s no guarantee Skoronski is the first offensive lineman taken, but he seems to be higher on more teams’ boards than Johnson, making +115 a worthwhile price.
That’s the smallest play of the week, as I’ve got bets on eight other sports below looking to build on a successful outing last time. The column has nearly doubled its bottom line on the year over the last week, thanks mostly to a pair of UFC wagers and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s Defensive Player of the Year nod.
Read below for this week’s weekend wagers. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at publication time with the sports book notes. Plays outside of the column will be linked and tracked in the record at the bottom of the page.
MLB (1-2, -$160): Miami Marlins +125 at Cleveland Guardians (Wynn)
$160 to win $200
Two former Cy Young winners square off this afternoon against mediocre opposing offenses. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Miami’s Sandy Alcantara should be able to suppress scoring, meaning neither team should be available at this high of a price. Alcantara hasn’t been as effective early in the season as he was during last year’s Cy Young run, but the Marlins’ team around him has been better. The bullpen has been around league average, and the offense has at least been opportunistic and come through in big spots. That may not be a sustainable formula long-term but it should work fine to give the Marlins a chance against the Guardians. This should be something like 4-3 or 2-1 game either way, so give me the plus money.
NBA (6-6, $515): Memphis Grizzlies +5 at Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 (Circa Sports)
$220 to win $200
This line must assume Ja Morant is going to miss his second straight game in the series, but that seems far from certain. The fourth-year superstar was reportedly somewhat close to playing in Game 2 and should be further along in his recovery from a knee injury with three days in between games. But even if he doesn’t play, the Grizzlies should be competitive with — if not outright beat — the Lakers. For two straight years, they’ve performed above expectation without Mortant in the lineup. Morant is a phenomenal talent and their best player but there’s enough sample size to indicate that he shouldn’t he be worth this large of a move on the spread. Memphis closed a 5.5-point favorite in Game 1 at home, meaning with Morant it should only be about a 1-point underdog here.
USFL (0-0, $0): Memphis Showboats +7.5 at Birmingham Stallions (STN Sports)
$220 to win $200
Memphis fell 27-23 at Philadelphia, but it showed it’s moved past the Tampa Bay Bandits’ days of last year. The Showboats look much improved under new quarterback Brady White, actually outgaining the Stars, last year’s league runner-up, 5.4 to 4.8 yards per play. The defending champion Stallions picked up where they left off last year in Week 1, stomping the New Jersey Generals 27-10. Birmingham still looks like the team to beat, but a lot is uncertain early in the season, and it shouldn’t be laying more than a touchdown against another good team. The former Bandits, now Showboats might not have been a good team in Tampa Bay, but it looks like they’ve gone up a notch in Memphis.
Boxing (0-0, $0): Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia over 7.5 rounds at -155 (South Point)
$310 to win $200
This number was as low as -120 early in the week, which was obviously preferable, but there’s still a little room for value left at the current price. Both Davis and Garcia have power, but in the biggest fight of the year so far, they should proceed with a more cautious approach against each other. Especially Davis, who’s more defensive-minded and will be looking to minimize Garcia’s chances to land one of his big, patented left hooks. A finish by either fighter shouldn’t be ruled out, but it’s far more likely to come in the later stages of the bout. The sold-out crowd at T-Mobile Arena, one that paid top dollar for this fight, should be getting their money’s worth in terms of fight length.
UFC (8-4, $1,348): Curtis Blaydes -160 vs. Sergei Pavlovich at UFC Fight Night (STN Sports)
$320 to win $200
For the third straight week, I’m drawn to the short-priced favorite in a UFC main event. The 32-year-old Blaydes is a sleeping giant at heavyweight, a fighter who could realistically give current champion Jon Jones a real test if he can secure a title shot. Blaydes’ wrestling might be the best in the division, and he should be able to use the pressure to take Pavlovich out of his game. The Russian heavy-hitter has knocked out five straight opponents in the first round, but Blaydes isn’t going to give him ayn easy looks. Pavlovich is completely unproven later in fights, and Blaydes should be able to drag this bout there. It’s just a coincidence that I’ve cashed on so many small favorites in recent UFC main events, and it won’t last forever, but the run should continue this week.
NASCAR (2-3, -$110): Ryan Blaney -110 vs. William Byron head-to-head at Geico 500 (Caesars/William Hill)
$220 to win $200
Blaney might be the best superspeedway driver in NASCAR right now. Ford is certainly the best superspeedway manufacturer in NASCAR right now. There’s always going to be a lot of variance at Talladega given the likelihood of a major accident, but taking top-flight Ford drivers against their counterparts looks like a shrewd strategy. That really rings true with Blaney, who’s a co-favorite to win the race with teammate Joey Logano at 10-to-1 at most sports books. One shop (BetMGM) still has Blaney at 12-to-1, which might be worth an outright wager. But betting outrights in the column has sunk this category in the last couple races including two weeks ago when I picked up a dreaded second-place with Tyler Reddick in the Bristol dirt event. For Talladega, I’ll stick to a matchup in hopes of getting back in the win column.
NHL (2-4, -$480): Toronto Maple Leafs -158 adjusted series price vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Circa)
$316 to win $200
Toronto was mostly around -150 to win the series going into the playoffs, and it’s amazing that the line has only marginally increased through two games. Yes, Tampa Bay blasted Toronto 7-3 in Game 1 but that feels like an outlier and highly unlikely to repeat. Maybe it could at full-strength but the Lightning aren’t anywhere close to that healthy with Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak and Michael Eyssimont all hurt with their status for at least the next couple games in doubt. Toronto already had a personnel advantage. With the Lightning’s injury issues, it’s now amplified. Tampa Bay has owned Toronto in the playoffs recently, but the curse should be broken this year.
Golf (1-3, -$10): Patrick Cantlay to win the PGA Championship at 24-to-1 (Boyd Sports)
$100 to win $2,400
Every sports book now has odds up for the next major, scheduled for May 18-21 at Oak Hill in upstate New York, so it’s time to start picking off some value. Golf might have a Big Three right now with Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy but Cantlay isn’t as far back as the fourth best in the world as perception indicates. He doesn’t have the splashy wins of the aforementioned three, but he’s been just as effective on a shot-by-shot basis. It’s only a matter of time until he cashes in on the consistency with a big-time victory. Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy are all currently somewhere between 8- and 10-to-1 to win the PGA Championship. Cantlay shouldn’t be that low, but the gap should be smaller than this.
Weekend betting column year to date: 28-31-1, $1,638
Weekend betting column all-time: 507-528-6, $19,764.95
Previous pending future wagers: Vegas Golden Knights at 15-to-1 to win the 2023 Stanley Cup ($200 to win $3,000); Giannis Antetokounmpo to win NBA MVP at 7-to-1 ($300 to win $2,100); Minnesota Timberwolves to win Western Conference at 15-to-1 ($100 to win $1,500); Minnesota Timberwolves to win NBA Finals at 33-to-1 ($75 to win $2,475); Boston Celtics to win the NBA Finals at 7-to-1 ($300 to win $2,100); Luka Doncic to win NBA MVP at 4-to-1 ($450 to win $1,800); Texas to win the College Football Playoff at 30-to-1 ($100 to win $3,000); Tanner Mordecai to win the Heisman Trophy at 200-to-1 ($30 to win $6,000); Atlanta Braves at 5-to-1 to win the National League ($300 to win $1,500; Atlanta Braves at 10-to-1 to win the World Series ($300 to win $3,000); Buffalo Bills at 9-to-1 to win Super Bowl 58 ($300 to win $2,700); Manchester City to win English Premier League at +125 ($200 to win $250); Winnipeg Jets +150 series price vs. Vegas Golden Knights ($150 to win $225); New Orleans Breakers to win USFL title at 7-to-1 ($200 to win $1,400)
Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or