Redskins

Column: New Jersey betting should be a sure thing

Column: New Jersey betting should be a sure thing

LAS VEGAS (AP) The bookies in this gambling city are grumbling a bit, which is always good news for those inclined to wager a few bucks on their favorite NFL team. Profits are down this season, thanks to some top teams that fans couldn't stop putting money on.

Nothing particularly innovative about their winning strategy. Not with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers covering the spread almost every time they took the field the last half of the season.

``It's easy to pick teams that are doing good,'' said Jimmy Vaccaro, a longtime oddsmaker who has seen just about every trend - except a losing year for bookies - in 38 years behind the betting counter.

No reason to worry. The playoffs will surely be money makers, and Monday night's BCS game with a dream betting matchup of Notre Dame and Alabama could draw the most money ever bet on a college game.

Football fans love to gamble, and they've been doing it in this city's legal sports books for decades now. Millions of dollars change hands every NFL weekend between gamblers who think they know more than oddsmakers and the bookies who usually do know more than the people handing them money.

But what happens in Vegas doesn't just stay in Vegas. The lines are made here, but it's not hard to find illegal bookies in most major cities who will offer the same bets.

Add in the online sports books and the money wagered on an NFL season is generally measured in the billions, not millions. Huge sums ride on every pass, every call and every missed tackle.

Yet somehow the integrity of the NFL remains intact. There's not a whiff of scandal, not a reason to suspect anything might be amiss.

That's what makes the reaction of America's biggest sports leagues to attempts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey so laughable.

From the NFL to the NBA, they're united against efforts by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to sidestep a federal ban and allow wagering on games. The NCAA has joined the fight in a federal court in Newark, and baseball Commissioner Bud Selig seems to take it as a personal affront.

``I have to say to you I'm appalled,'' Selig said in a deposition filed in the case. ``I'm really appalled.''

It's hardly surprising that the leagues are lined up against sports betting, mostly because their thought process is so rooted in the past. They see gambling on their games as a threat cooked up in a back room somewhere by shady criminals just waiting for the chance to blackmail a troubled quarterback and fix the outcome of games.

Somehow, though, London - which has at least one betting parlor on every major street - managed to hold an entire Olympics without any problems, while offering bets on everything from Usain Bolt winning the 100 to Michael Phelps getting seven golds. The NFL, meanwhile, hosts a game in London every year and hasn't complained yet about fans being able to bet their favorite on their way to the stadium.

There's nothing more immoral about it than betting on the stock market. Nothing more criminal than cashing in on your fantasy league's pot of cash.

The reality is that people want to bet on games and will do so whether it's legal or not. And if there is ever an attempt to fix a game, it's going to be discovered first by the legal bookies in this city that track every dollar on every game and know before anyone that something fishy is going on.

``It defies common sense that somehow the leagues are better off and the world is a better place where hundreds of billions are being wagered illegally,'' said Joe Asher, who runs United States operations for the British betting house William Hill. ``The idea that it is of benefit to a league when their fans are wagering with criminals rather than having a system where sports betting is regulated and run by honorable people who have undergone thorough investigations is ridiculous.''

Don't tell that to NBA Commissioner David Stern, who seemed nearly apoplectic when asked in his deposition on how legal betting in New Jersey could hurt his league.

``The one thing I'm certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it's doing and doesn't care because all it's interested in is making a buck or two, and they don't care that it's at our potential loss,'' Stern said.

Just what that loss would be is hard to understand. If anything, major sports leagues - the NFL in particular - have benefited from legal sports betting, with the betting line always a prominent part of any discussion leading up to a big game. It's part of the fabric of big-time sports, and without it we'd never know that Alabama is a 9.5-point favorite over Notre Dame in the BCS game.

Still, allowing legal betting in New Jersey would be a game changer. It would give millions of fans easy access to the betting counter in an area of the country where the passion for sports runs deep and remove much of the stigma still attached to an industry that grew up on the fringe of respectability.

It will also make some people a lot of money. Legal sports book operators would surely profit, as would New Jersey in the taxes it collects on the bets.

About the only ones who won't make money are the leagues themselves, at least not directly. Unlike almost everything else they're involved with, they won't get a cut of the action.

That means millions - and potentially billions - of dollars going into someone else's pockets.

And maybe that's the real reason why they protest so loud.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Dwayne Haskins played really well Sunday against the Eagles, and it wasn't just on certain drives or in specific situations. Haskins put together a complete and encouraging performance in Week 15, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

But the Redskins' coaching staff, and most notably Kevin O'Connell, should be praised as well for setting Haskins up to shine versus Philly.

Here are three things O'Connell and the offense did at FedEx Field that contributed to the rookie's best effort as a pro.

They were more aggressive on early downs

The following two things are true: 1) Bill Callahan loves Adrian Peterson, and 2) Adrian Peterson has a legitimate shot at rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. Because of those two facts, it felt like Sunday was setting up to be the Peterson Show, especially on first down.

It wasn't, though, and that greatly benefitted Haskins.

No. 7 found Terry McLaurin for a nine-yarder to start the contest, a throw that allowed the QB to settle into a nice rhythm from the start. The 75-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to McLaurin was also a first down toss, one that featured play-action:

A first down pass in the second quarter, meanwhile, led to a defensive pass interference that advanced the ball 14 yards. On that possession, Haskins would eventually find Steven Sims for a score. 

Throughout the matchup, the Burgundy and Gold seemed more comfortable with trusting Haskins to attack the Eagles, and that's something he very much enjoyed.

"I hope to continue to do it," he told reporters postgame.

They targeted Steven Sims a bunch

Want another example of O'Connell's influence over the gameplan? Look no further than how much Sims was involved.

Overall, Sims was targeted 11 times, and while he only hauled in five of those passes, he's a guy worth looking to often. O'Connell has talked for weeks now about how much he wants to use Sims, and while it may sound odd to say that an undrafted receiver from Kansas deserves lots of chances on a unit that includes McLaurin and Peterson, it's true.

He's really difficult for defensive backs to stay in front of and he's shown a penchant for making some tremendous grabs, including his toe-tapper for his first career receiving TD on Sunday.  

"I'm seeing everything and I'm playing faster," Sims said in the locker room. 

O'Connell and Haskins are seeing him, too, and his larger role is giving Haskins another weapon to rely on.

They introduced a creative option play

In addition to the uptick in aggressiveness, the Redskins also were more creative against the Eagles than they had been lately. The best example of that is the option they introduced and executed perfectly on two separate snaps.

On the first option, Haskins fake-tossed it to Peterson before lateraling it to him a second later. The fake from Haskins was a nifty way to buy more time for the play to develop and it set Peterson up to pick up a first down:

They went back to it again in the third quarter, but this time, Haskins kept the ball and cut upfield for a 23-yard gain:

Watch any NFL game on any weekend, and you'll see offenses trying new concepts and surprising defenses with those concepts. In Week 15, the Redskins were finally one of those offenses, and the group as a whole was the most effective its been under Haskins. And for that, both the player and the staff should be recognized.

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

The entire Donald Dell interview with Mark Lerner can be seen Tuesday, December 17, at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

For seven seasons, the Nationals and Bryce Harper enjoyed a happy marriage that included four NL East division titles, an MVP award and the respect from the rest of the league as legitimate playoff contenders year in and year out.

But principal managing owner Mark Lerner knew their relationship might not last forever. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Donald Dell, Lerner talked about how the team balanced making a business decision with the personal side of hoping to extend Harper when he hit free agency last offseason.

“We all like Bryce but at the end of the day, there’s the economic factor, there’s other factors that come into it: clubhouse, interaction with teammates, everything you could imagine in a decision about a free agent,” Lerner said.

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the record for the most expensive contract in MLB history. The Nationals reportedly made him an offer for 10 years and $300 million that included $100 million in deferrals at the end of the 2018 season.

“He [was] a free agent for a reason, he earned that right,” Lerner said. “It’s his decision and his family’s decision where they play. And he chose to move on. He obviously got an incredible offer.

“Everybody seems to forget it’s not just a bidding war to get the players, the player has to want to play here and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

By the time Harper signed with Philadelphia in early March, the Nationals had already reported to Spring Training with starter Patrick Corbin signed to a six-year, $140 million deal as well as a slew of new faces on the roster that had joined the club through free agency. Lerner said Washington never heard back from Harper and didn’t want to wait for him to make a decision.

“We were moving down a different path at that point anyhow,” Lerner said. “Because, as you may recall, Bryce had not given us a response through his agent Scott Boras and we had decisions we had to make so we didn’t get caught waiting too long for him to find out we can’t get other players to replace him.

“And our choice at that point in time was either wait for him or we had the opportunity to sign Patrick Corbin. And we chose to sign Patrick Corbin and get another great starter, which has worked out great, and it was really more us at that point to say, ‘We have to move on.’”

The Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019 while Harper posted an .882 OPS with 35 home runs in 157 games for the 81-81 Phillies. But as division rivals, Harper and the Nationals will see each other plenty over the next 12 years he’s locked into Philadelphia.

Only time will tell which side ends up wondering what could’ve been.

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