Kylian Mbappe and France will easily cash the over if Poland doesn’t change its tactics

Poland is already overmatched against France. If it sits back, it’s guaranteed embarrassment.

On paper, France and Poland’s game in the Round of 16 couldn’t be a bigger mismatch.

The French, led by Kylian Mbappe, are the defending World Cup champions for a good reason. Between Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, and Antoine Griezmann, among others, France have a bevy of world class finishers who have been there and done that. They have a squad of heroes from top to bottom.

On the flip side, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski is one of the greatest goal-scorers ever. But the Poles are only playing beyond the group stage for the first time in over three decades for a good reason, too. This team has one hero, and they ask him to put out all of the fires across Metropolis, even though he’s not from Krypton and has human limitations.

But the way the Poles play — a backward, conservative, defensive counter style — is just them begging to get destroyed by the world’s premier soccer power.

You see, while Poland can’t match France in talent at all, if it concedes possession voluntarily, hoping to counter with Lewandowski on a handful of chance opportunities, it’s writing its own death sentence. We saw evidence of this firsthand against Lionel Messi’s juggernaut in Argentina. The Argentinians are far more balanced and gifted than the Poles, but Poland had no interest in sustaining consistent offensive pressure from its 4-4-2 formation.

This was how Lewandowski’s bunch lined up:

Credit: ESPN

As usual, the Poles decided to set their defensive back line almost right by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny. A midfield led by Piotr Zieliński, in turn, topped that initial defensive shell, trying to form a tight bubble while hoping an overaggressive Argentina would leave a gap for a pass to Lewandowski going the other way. The key word there is hope. 

As these conservative strategies often tend to do, Poland’s shell invited Messi and Co. to sustain relentless pressure as they pounded the Poles with 23 shots (13 on goal). On the flip side, Poland’s offense (three shots, none on goal) was nonexistent. Leaving Lewandowski and whoever his partner striker is on a distant island allowed Argentina to effortlessly double or even triple-team the superstar striker into irrelevance on the pitch. This is how Poland has usually played in Lewandowski’s decade of international play — trying to protect its inferior overall talent — while hoping Lewandowski goes super-Saiyan. Again: It’s not hard to see why this is the first time Poland’s played beyond the group stage since 1986.

Unfortunately, a No. 9 like Lewandowski needs better service and support to wreak havoc. If you allow the defense to isolate him, he becomes just Another Guy like anyone. And if the other team — like Argentina in the Group C finale — is locked-in possession-wise (74 percent!), there won’t be many chances to push the ball the other way, hoping for a quality shot attempt. You need the ball to do damage and to protect your defense. A novel concept, I know.

If Szczęsny doesn’t stand on his head in an all-time performance, a final 2-0 margin from that Argentina match is probably more in the range of 4-0 or 5-0 (if not more). Asking him to do the same for 120-plus minutes and in a penalty kick shootout (the only “realistic” way Poland could win against France) is a Herculean task with the tactic his team utilizes. 

All this to say: France should be heavily favored to continue its World Cup quest to repeat and demolish Poland. Where Argentina fell short on finishes, the French assuredly will not, no matter how well Szczęsny plays. But if the Poles don’t even attempt to attack with regularity from their defensive shell, if they cede ground by default to the more talented squad — we’ll have one heck of a French rout on our hands this Sunday. Book it.

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Anthony Davis’ blocks and Stephen Curry’s 3-pointers are a few props to bet on ahead of Friday’s NBA action

Previewing the best player props ahead of tonight’s NBA action on ESPN.

In the blink of an eye, we’re at the quarter-way mark of the NBA season, with still many surprising findings.

In California, both the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers got off to horrid starts before rebounding somewhat to get themselves to .500 (Warriors) or closer to it (Lakers). Out in the midwest, the Chicago Bulls hardly resemble the gutsy regular-season team they were a season ago, while the Milwaukee Bucks are quietly playing some of the best basketball in the NBA and flying under the radar.

Well, I guess not everything is a surprise.

The four teams are in action tonight as part of ESPN’s NBA doubleheader. Could we see any surprising performances by some key players?

Here’s a look at which players’ props stand out as ones to bet on this Friday night.

All odds via BetMGM

Full 2022 World Cup Round of 16 betting odds, including updated title odds

Betting odds for each match in the Round of 16, including USA vs. Netherlands.

With the group stage of the 2022 World Cup all wrapped up following the final four matches Friday, it’s time to take a look at where the betting odds stand as the tournament advances to a single-elimination format for the Round of 16.

The knockout stages begins Saturday with none other than the United States, which gets set to match up against Netherlands. While the U.S. is an underdog, it isn’t as big a dog as other teams across the eight games being played through Tuesday.

Here’s a look at all of those matchups and updated title odds entering the Round of 16.

Alberta becomes second Canadian province to ban UFC betting over integrity issues

Alberta joins Ontario in banning UFC betting.

Alberta has joined Ontario in banning wagers on UFC events, according to reports Friday that cite a statement from Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

According to the statement, Alberta stopped offering and accepting UFC bets effective Thursday, the same day Ontario also banned UFC wagers due to concerns about the UFC’s non-compliance with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s betting integrity requirements.

The Ontario commission said it learned of publicized alleged incidents in recent weeks, including possible betting by UFC insiders and reports of suspicious betting patterns in other jurisdictions.

Alberta also cited possible risks of wagering integrity as its reason.

Retired fighter and current coach James Krause’s license was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the UFC announced Friday per ESPN’s David Purdham. It was not immediately clear if the suspension was related to the bans in Canada.

Pending bets on the UFC in Alberta were voided and returned to players.

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Netherlands is no juggernaut and the USMNT have a golden opportunity to advance in the World Cup

The U.S. has its best shot to advance to the quarterfinals in a long time.

If you stripped away all context from the United States Men’s National Team’s matchup with the Netherlands in the Round of 16, you’d wonder how the USMNT could possibly survive the “Oranje.” Take a closer look and, whoa, wait — you realize the current Dutch squad is actually a shell of the team featuring Arjen Robben, Wesley Schneider, and Robin Van Persie that lost in the 2010 World Cup Final.

(Robin Williams in Jumanji voice): What year is it???

At this incredibly late realization, I tell you the USMNT should not be intimidated by the modern iteration of the famed Scandivanian Orange in the least. If anything, this is one of the more favorable matchups on paper for an American squad that seems primed to finally make a deep World Cup run.

It’s easy to say that Memphis Depay and Co. should have the edge over USMNT. After all, they had relatively little trouble running rampant through Group A of this World Cup. The Dutch recorded two clean sheets, conceded just one goal and otherwise mostly did what they pleased to their group. At the moment, the young Cody Gakpo (three goals) could be in line for the Golden Boot, and the Dutch play a quality, balanced attacking style out of a solid 3-4-1-2 formation. Given their established reputation of past success, they might be a legit dark horse for a solid run through the knockout stages.

On the other hand, we saw cracks in the Dutch armor against Ecuador. The speed of the Ecuadorian team, led by Enner Valencia, saw it pepper the fateful Orange with 15 shots (four on goal), while the Netherlands barely sustained any offense (two shots; one on goal) in a 1-1 draw. On a better day for Ecuador, they rout the Netherlands, upsetting a traditional European power.

On paper, the USMNT have more firepower and better defensive integrity to make the Dutch regret avoidable mistakes. Thanks to the efforts of lightning-quick talismans like Tyler Adams, the U.S. conceded just one goal in the group stage, even nullifying the offense of a World Cup favorite in England. (Not to mention that a healthy Christian Pulisic might be the best player on the field and can influence the action the most as a true No. 10.) Aside from a glaring gap of a truly great striker — the reason the USMNT offense can often be underwhelming in the final third — there’s enough American speed here to push most comers, especially if those opponents don’t bring their A-game.

Plus, seriously, look at this underlying statistical performance from Adams against England — who is, once again, a huge World Cup favorite and a true soccer titan. It’s absurd:

I’m not sure if this iteration of the Dutch even if have an A-game! That is unless Robben is coming out of retirement at 38 years old. (I wouldn’t advise that.)

Nonetheless, I understand the aversion to favoring the USMNT on a platform they’ve failed to advance past since 2002. Younger squads like this must prove they belong before you start betting on their success. But the Dutch — currently No. 8 in FIFA’s official World Rankings — have the pungent scent of “overrated”. The expectation from the international community will be that they dispatch the pesky, upstart Americans. But I wouldn’t overlook the USMNT here. I see a straight-line path to the quarterfinals for an “underdog” already punching above its weight class on the world stage.

I believe that they will … put up a great fight.

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Prince’s NFL Player Props: Miles Sanders, Matt Ryan and more Week 13 picks

The best NFL Week 13 player prop bets.

OK, so I’m batting .500 over the last couple of weeks. Not terrible, but definitely not something I’m prepared to settle for either.

My record won’t even out until I start stringing together some winning weeks, so that’s what we’re aiming for here.

The problem in Week 12 is that I bet against Jalen Hurts again, and that hasn’t worked out for me all year. So this week we’re going with the bold strategy of betting against…Miles Sanders, his teammate coming off a season-high of rushing yards.

What can I say. I’m a glutton for punishment. Let’s get into Week 13.

Week 12: 3-3

2022 record: 27-38

NBA Analytics Awards 1.0: Using advanced stats to determine the league’s best players this season

What do the numbers say about the MVP? Rookie of the Year? Defensive Player of the Year?

As part of a new series at For The Win, we are examining who should win major NBA awards based on what we can learn from advanced analytics.

Of course, numbers aren’t the only thing we should consider when making these predictions. But they do remove some bias we have about narratives, and while using one stat may not tell the whole story, various formulas that yield similar results can provide a notable context in these decisions.

We used a methodology originally suggested by Owen Phillips, who now works in analytics for the Knicks.

The first step was finding which metrics to use. For this survey, we included the metrics deemed as the most trustworthy by NBA executives when asked by HoopsHype. (We’ve included more information on where you can find each metric at the bottom of the page.)

Based on a tip from another individual who works in a front office for an NBA team, because each of these metrics is graded on different scales, we adjusted for playing time by multiplying their impact contribution on each metric by the percentage of possible minutes they have played for their team so far this season.

We then standardized each score by finding the Z-score for each player in each metric. The Z-score measures how many standard deviations from the mean for each data point. If a Z-score is 0, that means the player is exactly league average.

As the last step, we took the average Z-score that a player had across each metric. Because these metrics are not perfect, however, we removed the outliers of the highest overall Z-score and the lowest overall Z-score. Finally, this gave us our results you will find below.

If all of this sounds like a lot of numbers, don’t worry! Just take a look at the “score” for a clean metric that summarizes overall productivity. 

For comparison, we’ve also included the latest betting odds for each award. Hopefully, the advanced metrics can provide context as you consider which future bets to place.

NOTE: The metrics pulled directly from the HoopsHype survey included Daily Plus-Minus (DPM), Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM), RAPTOR (FiveThirtyEight), Real Plus-Minus (ESPN), Box Plus-Minus (Basketball-Reference), Player Efficiency Rating (Basketball-Reference), Win Shares (Basketball-Reference), kWPA (Inpredictable).

We also added the model of Box Plus-Minus from Backpicks.com, Daily-Updated Rating of Individual Performance (DRIP), Stable Player Impact (SPI), and Global Rating (HoopsHype).

LEBRON (BBall-Index) was not included because the data has not been published yet this season. However, if it’s publicly available by our next update, LEBRON will also be calculated.

Fans had so many jokes about the Drew Brees getting struck by lightning promo that backfired

So many jokes.

It was quite a Friday morning on Twitter as people were extremely concerned about Drew Brees’s health.

That’s because there was a video that went viral of the former New Orleans Saints quarterback getting hit by lightning (although it was pretty clear that it was fake). Thanks to a tweet from PointsBet Sportsbook, fans soon realized this was probably a promo of some sort, and a video that dropped later in the morning confirmed as much.

Was it a good idea to fake Brees getting struck by lightning as a promo? Well, we’re here talking about it, for what it’s worth.

Here’s a roundup of tweets all about that:

MLB Free Agency Tracker 2022-23: Jacob deGrom lands in Texas, Aaron Judge still needs a team and the biggest names on the market

We’re following the MLB offseason action all winter long

The World Series may be over but the baseball calendar marches on.

While the Houston Astros are still reveling in their 4-2 series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, players and teams are already plotting how to take them down next season.

As the hot stove starts to heat up, the Los Angeles Dodgers are already the odds-on favorites to win the 2023 World Series, but there’s much to be decided before then—like which team is going to sign megastar Aaron Judge after one of the best contract-year performances in sports history.

But the pursuit of Judge is just one aspect of this winter’s star-studded free agent class.

As players continue opting out of their contracts and hitting the open market, we’ll continue updating the list below. You can also find updated World Series odds here as players begin to sign and lines continue to move.

No, Drew Brees didn’t get struck by lightning while filming a commercial

This had people worried for a minute.

Drew Brees is OK!

Why do I bring this up? Because on Friday morning, a tweet came across my timeline from PointsBet Sportsbook: “We are aware of the media coverage regarding PointsBet brand ambassador Drew Brees. We are in communication with Brees’ team and will continue to monitor events throughout the coming hours. At this stage we will not be making any further comment.”

That’s … curious.

So I went searching like everyone else to see what they might be referring to, and there’s a video going around of what appeared to be Brees getting struck by lightning while filming something:

What the what?! And why would a brand tweet about “the media coverage” of Brees?

Turns out: Maybe it’s an attempt at a promotion of some sort (PointsBet has something call Lightning Bets). Because this report dropped soon after:

Whew. Glad this wasn’t real!!

UPDATE: Here’s the other part of the promo:

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