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The Daily Line: Week 1 football picks

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USA TODAY

The Daily Line: Week 1 football picks

The Supreme Court opened the door for sports betting legalization with its May ruling that struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. Sports betting is not yet legal in Illinois, but with football season underway, former Northwestern offensive lineman Eric Olson will take a weekly look at the odds surrounding the action on the field.

It is here. Football season is upon us. The best time of year has begun. By way of introduction, I am Eric Olson. I played football for Northwestern from 2012- 2016, started over 30 games at Right Tackle, got a Master’s in Predictive Analytics and love to look at football through the eyes of a sports bettor. I will be writing up my weekly NFL, and a few college picks here at NBC Sports Chicago. With the legalization of sports betting in a handful of states already, and possibly growing to others soon, there will be a lot of new interest and increased awareness on the sports betting factors around the games this year.    The best pieces of advice I can give you are: #1 Don’t bet what you can’t afford #2 If it feels too good to be true, it probably is. And #3 If it feels ugly when you place it, good. Other than that, let’s have some fun and hopefully have some success along the way.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants, 9/9 12:00pm CT

The Line: Jaguars -3

Betting Percentage Split: 50/50

The play: Giants +3

The Jacksonville Jaguars wildly overachieved in 2017. The New York Giants wildly under achieved in 2017. Week 1 is a phenomenal time to exploit biases like this from the previous season. In fact, teams that won under six games the year before are an incredible 59% against the spread in week 1 of the following year over the last 8 years. The Giants are not a 3-13 team based on the talent on their roster. Odell is happy, McAdoo and his stupid haircut are out, Saquon is in, the OL is revamped and seemingly there is actually some sort of balance in the locker room. The Jaguars may have the best defense in league for a second straight year, but that doesn’t mean they will recapture the spark they had in 2017. Bortles is still a very, very average NFL quarterback and I am not ready to pencil this team as the new AFC powerhouse for years to come like some people seem so set to do. Take advantage of this situational play and take the team that under achieved the previous year at home getting points with a veteran QB.

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings, 9/9 12:00pm CT

The Line: Vikings  -6.5

Betting Percentage Split: 66% of tickets on the Vikings

The play: Vikings -6.5

Everybody and their mother have the 49ers as their ‘surprise’ team this year. People love to talk about how Jimmy G went 5-0 in his first 5 starts, but look past the fact that he had a pedestrian 7:5 interception to TD ratio, he won his last two games against a Rams team that sat all of their starters and a Jags team that already clinched their division; not to mention, the Niners had one of and will have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Vikings return nearly their entire NFC Championship Game roster, make a lateral (maybe slightly upward) move at QB and add Sheldon Richardson to their already stacked defensive line. Simply put, there is nothing, I mean nothing, better than fading over-hyped teams in the NFL. Give me the Vikes to show up at home in week 1 (6-3 ATS at home last year) and take 49ers under 8.5 wins while you’re at it too.

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers, 9/9 3:25pm CT

The Line: Panthers -3 (+100)

Betting Percentage Split: 72% of tickets on the Panthers

The play: Cowboys +3

This is an interesting spot for a lot reasons. Two talented teams with a lot of question marks coming into the season. From a betting perspective, we also see one of the most public teams in all of sports (Cowboys) getting only 28% percent of bets. Furthermore, we have seen this line move the opposite direction of the ticket count (you can get -2.5 in some places). In the betting world this is called ‘Reverse Line Movement’ and it usually is an indicator that professional bettors are targeting a particular side. I love siding with the pros here and taking the underdog Cowboys when the public has hopped off their bandwagon. The Panthers lost pro-bowl guard Andrew Norwell in the offseason and will be without Left Tackle Matt Kalil, and possibly Right Tackle Daryl Williams, in week 1, giving what was one of the best units in football last year a ton of questions heading into the season. I like the Panthers to regress this year and the Cowboys to take a few steps forward from their disappointing 2017 campaign. Give me the contrarian Cowboys (a phrase you will not hear often) in week 1 winning outright.

Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins , 9/9 3:25pm CT

The Line: Titans -2

Betting Percentage Split: 66% of tickets on the Titans

The play: Dolphins +2

The NFL is a strange league, especially when it comes to gambling. The Dolphins went 6-10 last year, got rid of two of their biggest stars in Ndamuking Suh and Jarvis Landry (and Jay Ajayi late last season as well), have injury concerns at QB and play a playoff team in week 1 with a QB who many people think is poised to make the proverbial leap this year. Well, I am not one of those people and I am not a believer in this Titans teams. While getting rid of talent like Suh, Landry and Ajayi may look bad on paper, not only do player acquisitions matter far less than the public perceives them to in the NFL, there was a method to Adam Gase’s madness. He has publicly stated that he got rid of these players, who were often polarizing personalities, to change the locker room culture and instill a level of stability. Will this translate to prolonged success in Miami? I’m not ready to make that leap, however I am ready to say it gives them enough of a spark in week 1 at home to beat an overvalued Titans team. Take the Dolphins and the points.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers , 9/9 7:20pm CT

The Line: Packers -7/-7.5

Betting Percentage Split: 53% of tickets on the Packers

The play: Packers – 7/7.5

Somehow, after being one of the most boring teams in the NFL for the past couple years, the Bears are a part one of the most exciting and anticipated games of the weekend. Between the Khalil Mack addition, Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury, Nagy coaching his first game and Trubisky finally getting some freedom, this game has some genuinely interesting storylines to follow. From a gambling perspective, this game was as high as Packers -8.5 at one point and since the Khalil Mack addition it has moved all the way to -7 in some places. With the betting ticket disparity being so even, it’s most likely not professional action moving the line, rather bookmakers knowing that the public will be willing to pay a steeper price for the Bears with added excitement. Khalil Mack is a phenomenal player, as a former offensive lineman, players like him give me nightmares, however, on Sunday, his role will be limited and not nearly worth the 1.5 points they are giving him. Take advantage of this Vegas overreaction and take the Packers at -7 if you can get ‘em.

Bonus College Game:

Duke vs. Northwestern, 9/8 11:00 am CT

The Line: Northwestern -3

Betting Percentage Split: 75% of tickets on Northwestern

The play: Northwestern -3

Full transparency here: I am going to take Northwestern every week. While I hate seeing the public all over the Cats, as we typically fair better in the underdog role, this line indicates that these teams would be a pick-em on neutral field. I do not believe this to be an accurate assessment of these two teams. The two biggest questions coming into the season for NU were the health of Clayton Thorson and who was going to replace the production of RB Justin Jackson. Well, in week 1, Clayton looked phenomenal in his limited role, which will only increase week to week, and Jeremy Larkin went for 143 yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries in his debut as the starting RB. The Cats had arguably one of the most impressive week 1 victories going on the road, in prime time, against an upstart conference foe in Purdue and I love them to carry their 9 game win streak into this game and keep rolling. In what was by far their most disappointing result of the season, Northwestern got rolled by Duke last year, give me the Cats, all day, at home, in this revenge spot.

Kaplan: Chet Coppock's impact on my career

Kaplan: Chet Coppock's impact on my career

The death of legendary Chicago sportscaster Chet Coppock has stoked many memories for me because of the lengthy history he and I had, particularly the huge role he played in my life. I would not be writing this nor would I be broadcasting on radio and TV without him taking me under his wing and giving an inexperienced kid from Skokie a chance to be on the air in Chicago.

Prior to entering the broadcasting profession I was a college basketball coach at Northern Illinois University from 1982-86. Like so many in the coaching profession, I lost my job when my head coach lost his job and I wondered aloud what the heck I was going to do with my life. I knew I had to be in the sports world and I knew deep down that I wanted to be on air. I started a college basketball recruiting newsletter that coaches and fans subscribed to and as I tried to market it I sent a letter to the biggest name in Chicago sports broadcasting that I could think of, Chet Coppock. He was a fixture on radio five nights a week in CHicago.

I distinctly remember walking into my house and seeing the message light blinking on my recorder. "Hey David, okay kid I'll give ya a shot! Tonight, let's talk college basketball. Bring your 'A' game! This is Chet Coppock from Coppock on Sports. Call me back!"

Wow! I was actually going to be on with the one and only Chet Coppock? The Big Rock Candy Mountain himself? I knew it was a big opportunity but I had no idea at that time that that phone call would change my life forever. Chet Coppock gave me a shot and he would become the single biggest professional influence in my career. Regularly he would have me on to talk about college basketball and the recruiting world. DePaul and Illinois basketball were hot topics.

It was always a huge thing to be on his show.

Fast forward to March of 1989. It is a Tuesday night, two days before the start of the NCAA Tournament, and I get a call from then-University of Arizona assistant basketball coach Kevin O'Neill, who was then and remains one of my closest friends in the world. K-O, as he is known, calls me in the early evening to tell me he has a great source telling him then-Michigan head basketball coach Bill Frieder is going to be named the new head coach at Arizona State the next day.

After I make a handful of phone calls to confirm the story, I call Chet.

He is on the air hosting the Doug Collins show, the head coach of the Chicago Bulls at the time. Chet comes to the phone during a commercial break and I tell him my scoop.

"I'll put you right on but if you're wrong I will bury you in this town and you will never get a broadcasting gig," Chet said. "Do you still want to come on? Do you feel confident enough in your story?"

Yes, I told him.

I go on the air, reveal the news and Collins tells me no way that is going to happen. He is a former assistant coach at Arizona State and he, like many others, did not believe the story was accurate. 

The next day the story breaks and the USA Today credits "Coppock on Sports in Chicago."

From that day forward Chet was a huge influence on my broadcasting career and he opened doors for me that I would never have been able to open myself.  Without him I would never be doing what I am doing today.

Rest in peace my friend. You will always be remembered as a legend.

NBC Sports Chicago announces multi-year media rights deal with White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago announces multi-year media rights deal with White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks

STAMFORD, Conn., and CHICAGO, Ill. – January 2, 2019 – NBC Sports Chicago and the White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks today announced a multi-year media rights deal that provides NBC Sports Chicago with exclusive local, multi-platform media rights to present game coverage of all three teams starting with the 2019-2020 season. The deal is subject to formal documentation and pending MLB, NBA and NHL approval.

NBC Sports Chicago and NBC Sports Chicago+ will be the exclusive regional home for all regular season games, pre-season/spring training, and the first round of post-season coverage for the Bulls and Blackhawks. This new agreement also enables the continuation of all games to be streamed on NBCSportsChicago.com and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

“The Chicago White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks have provided countless memorable moments for this city’s fans, and NBC Sports Chicago has been dedicated to immersive coverage of each and every one,” said David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks and Platform & Content Strategy. “This is a significant agreement, and we are proud to continue to provide the most comprehensive, multi-platform coverage of these historic franchises.”

“We are very pleased to extend our relationship with our partners at NBC Sports Chicago,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, Chicago Bulls/White Sox Chairman. “In addition to being the experts in consistently delivering the finest game and surrounding game coverage in the business, it is their year-round commitment to providing our fans with innovative and entertaining multi-platform content that makes NBC Sports Chicago among the very best in the regional sports industry. Chicago sports fans are the greatest, and we are pleased that this agreement allows for the very best access to Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox live action and content.”

“Blackhawks fans should be very excited that we are continuing our partnership with NBC Sports Chicago. In addition to raising the bar on our game day broadcasts, NBC Sports Chicago has elevated non-game day television coverage and evolved their digital and social media platforms into some of the most viewer-friendly in the industry,” said Rocky Wirtz, Chicago Blackhawks Chairman.