What’s On Tap: NFL Week 18, FCS Championship, And Kyrie’s Potential Return

The post What’s On Tap: NFL Week 18, FCS Championship, And Kyrie’s Potential Return appeared first on SportsHandle.

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, January 3

Steelers favored over Browns in Big Ben’s possible final home game

Ahead of Monday night’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns, Ben Roethlisberger told reporters last week that “all signs are pointing” to the appearance on Monday Night Football being his final home game at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion, is widely expected to retire at season’s end.

Wins by several AFC teams on Sunday eliminated the Browns from playoff contention. The Steelers, though, still have an outside shot of earning a wild card spot. At 7-7-1, the Steelers need to win their two remaining games and need a loss by the Colts against the Jacksonville Jaguars to receive a playoff spot. Pittsburgh is a 3-point favorite at Barstool Sportsbook; the total is 43.

Tuesday, January 4

Flames continue road swing with key matchup against Panthers

Over the first half of the NHL season, the Calgary Flames have been one of the league’s most impressive teams with a Western Conference best plus-27 goal differential. But the Flames have been sidelined by COVID-19, with eight of their last nine games postponed by the pandemic. When the Flames returned to the ice last week in a 6-4 win over Seattle, it marked their first game in nearly three weeks.

Last week, the NHL announced the postponement of eight additional games due to COVID-19 attendance restrictions in Canada. Among the games, the league postponed the Flames’ upcoming home matchups against the New York Islanders on Jan. 11 and the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 15. Following Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers, the Flames will have games at Tampa Bay and Carolina to end the four-game road trip.

At BetMGM, the Flames have odds of 10/1 to win the Western Conference. Only the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Minnesota Wild have better odds. The Panthers, meanwhile, entered Monday with 46 points, two points behind the Washington Capitals for most in the league. Florida has odds of +425 to win the Eastern Conference, good for second at BetMGM behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Wednesday, January 5

Irving available for possible season debut against the Pacers

The Brooklyn Nets are opening the new year with consecutive home games before traveling to Indianapolis to face the Pacers Wednesday night. Following his formal return to the team last month, Nets guard Kyrie Irving could make his season debut against the Pacers. The Nets announced in October that Irving would be ineligible to practice or participate in games until he became eligible as a full participant with the team. A New York City mandate prohibits NBA players from playing in games unless they receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Nets later reversed course, allowing Irving to participate in road contests even though he apparently remains unvaccinated. A source told ESPN that the Nets are preparing for Irving’s return on Wednesday. As of Monday, the Nets ranked second in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Chicago Bulls. At PointsBet, the Nets are the overwhelming favorite to win the 2022 NBA championship far ahead of the Golden State Warriors, the second choice on the futures market.

NBA Championship futures at PointsBet 

  • Nets — +260
  • Warriors — +500
  • Bucks — +700
  • Suns — +700
  • Jazz — +1000
  • Lakers — +1100
  • Bulls — +2500

Thursday, January 6

PGA Tour returns for Sentry Tournament of Champions

After a lengthy off-season, the PGA Tour returns Thursday for the first event of the 2022 calendar year. A talented field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii is headlined by Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, the two highest-ranked players in the world. In total, 38 of the 39 winners from the PGA Tour’s 2021 calendar year will be at Kapalua for the tournament.

Rahm is a 7/1 favorite to win the tournament at DraftKings, ahead of Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay, who are both 11/1. Phil Mickelson will take part in the Sentry Tournament of Champions for the first time in 21 years. Mickelson has odds of 130/1 to win the tourney. Defending champion Harris English, meanwhile, has odds of 30/1 to repeat at Kapalua.

Saturday, January 8

NDSU pursues eighth national title over last decade

No program in college football has been more dominant over the last decade than North Dakota State, which won the FCS national title in every season from 2011 through 2015, along with a three-peat from 2017-2019. The Bison can notch one more on Saturday with a victory over Montana State in the national championship.

During the FCS Playoffs, North Dakota State’s vaunted defense has allowed only 20 points overall (6.66 points per game). The Bison will face an upstart Montana State team that thrashed top-seeded Sam Houston State 42-19 in the quarterfinals, then followed it up with a 31-17 win over South Dakota State in the semis. North Dakota State is an 8-point favorite over the eighth-seeded Bobcats at DraftKings; the total is 43.

Sunday, January 9

ATP Cup finals in Sydney

Patterned after the team tennis format popularized by the Davis Cup, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) unveiled the ATP Cup in 2020. The 16-nation event held each year in Australia serves as a warmup for this month’s Australian Open, the year’s first grand slam. Already, tournament favorite Italy was upset by Australia on Jan. 2, while Great Britain outlasted Germany in group play. The winners from four groups in round-robin play will advance to the semifinals, ahead of Sunday’s final.

Despite the absence of Rafael Nadal, Spain moved to +250 favorites at FanDuel by virtue of Italy’s defeat. Besides Nadal, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, and Andrey Rublev all withdrew from the event. Serbia won the inaugural ATP Cup in 2020, followed by Russia last year. The finals will be held eight days before the start of the Australian Open.

Titans look to clinch homefield advantage

A last-second loss by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 opens the door for the Tennessee Titans to capture homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs. The Titans would clinch the top seed in the AFC with a win in Week 18 over the Houston Texans. Tennessee opened as a 10.5-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook; the total is 43.

In Las Vegas, the Raiders will host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football with a playoff spot on the line. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 28-14 in Week 4 in the season’s first meeting between the teams. Los Angeles opened as a 3-point favorite on the road. Two playoff spots are still up for grabs in the AFC, with one wild card spot still undecided in the NFC. The San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts can clinch wild card berths with wins on Sunday.

Other Week 18 games with playoff implications: 

  • Saints (-4.5) at Falcons
  • Steelers (+5) at Ravens
  • 49ers (+5.5) at Rams
  • Colts (-14.5) at Jags

A number of season-long props will also be on the line in the final week of the regular season. Ahead of Week 17, DraftKings offered a prop on whether any player would break the NFL regular-season record for receptions (+150 on the “yes”). Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas set the record with 149 catches in 2019. The prop is essentially a bet on if Cooper Kupp will break the record. Kupp needs 12 catches Sunday against the 49ers to finish the season with 150. Kupp also needs 136 receiving yards to set the NFL record (+175) for receiving yards in a single season.

Have a good week, everyone!

The post What’s On Tap: NFL Week 18, FCS Championship, And Kyrie’s Potential Return appeared first on SportsHandle.