What’s On Tap: The Week Ahead In Sports Betting: NBA Season Tip-Off, Christmas Football, And A Bowl Season Unlike Any Other

Each Monday, our “What’s On Tap,” series will preview 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 and Wide World of Gambling at US Bets for a look back at last week’s relevant news.

Monday, December 21

2020 bowl season kicks off

Nearly a dozen college football bowls have been canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. A condensed bowl season still debuts Monday with the Myrtle Beach Bowl in Conway, S.C. Following a solid 8-3 regular season, Appalachian State enters the matchup as 19.5-point favorites over North Texas. Expect fireworks in Conway. The North Texas Mean Green (4-5) allowed at least 40 points six times, including a season-high 65 in a 30-point loss to SMU on Sept. 19. The Appalachian State Mountaineers, meanwhile, average 31.8 points per game. The total has hovered around 63 points.

Steelers heavily favored on Monday Night Football

After a scintillating 11-0 start, the Steelers have suddenly lost two straight to drop below the Chiefs for the top record in the AFC. Pittsburgh looks to get back on track Monday night when it faces the Bengals in Cincinnati. Since Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury on Nov. 22, the Bengals have looked anemic on offense, averaging just 220 net yards per game. Cincinnati also has one of the league’s worst run defenses, surrendering more than 125 yards per game on the ground. The Steelers are 14-point favorites on the Vegas consensus, a 2.5-point jump from the opening line. The total is 40.

Tuesday, December 22

Lakers-Clippers face off on opening night

The Lakers open their title defense Tuesday night with a juicy matchup against the Clippers, their hometown rivals. The two L.A. teams were expected to meet in the Western Conference Finals, before the Nuggets stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to shock the Clippers. At DraftKings, the Lakers open as +300 favorites to win the 2021 NBA Championship. As of Dec. 15, wagers on the Lakers comprised approximately 37% of the overall handle. The nightcap will be preceded by a matchup between two other Finals contenders — the Nets and the Warriors. After sitting out last season with an Achilles injury, Kevin Durant faces his former team for the first time. The Nets have odds of +600 to win the championship.

Other NBA Championship futures odds at DraftKings:

  • Bucks +550, 2% of the handle
  • Celtics, +1300, 2% of the handle
  • Heat, +1500, 3% of the handle
  • Nuggets, +2200, 5% of the handle
  • Sixers, +2500, 10% of the handle
  • Warriors, +3000, 7% of the handle
  • Blazers, +5000, 4% of the handle

Friday, December 25

Rare NFL clash on Christmas Day

Unlike Thanksgiving, a fixture on the annual schedule, Christmas Day games are not common in the NFL. When the Saints host the Vikings Friday, it will mark the 20th Christmas Day game in league history. Hampered by sore ribs, Drew Brees looked shaky in Sunday’s 32-29 loss to the Chiefs. The Vikings, meanwhile, are on the verge of dropping out of playoff contention after a disappointing 33-27 loss to the Bears. Minnesota ended the Saints’ season last year with a shocking upset in the opening round of the playoffs. The Saints open as 7.5-point favorites. The total is 52.

Saturday, December 26

Brady, Bucs headline NFL tripleheader

The Bucs inched toward a playoff spot Sunday with a gritty 31-27 win over the Falcons. Tom Brady threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns in rallying Tampa Bay from a 17-0 halftime deficit. Now, the Bucs likely need just one victory in their final two games to clinch a berth in the postseason. The Bucs opened as 7.5-point favorites over the Lions. Tampa is also trying to stave off a surging Cardinals (8-6) team, which outlasted the Eagles on Sunday for its second straight win. The Cardinals are a 3.5-point favorite over the 49ers in Glendale, Ariz. In the nightcap, the Raiders (7-7) host the Dolphins in Las Vegas. A loss by either team will place a dent into their playoff hopes. The Dolphins are a slight 2.5-point favorites.

Have a good week, everyone!

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