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Why I Don’t Agree With New York Banning DraftKings and FanDuel

On Tuesday, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman ordered daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets by state residents, arguing that the companies’ games are considered illegal gambling, according to state law. I disagree with the decision, which affects me as a New York resident who has been playing in NFL contests on DraftKings this season. The companies plan to appeal the decision.

For some background, DFS companies are legal under federal law; a 2006 federal law exempted fantasy sports from a prohibition that was instituted on online gaming, under the guidance that it is a game of skill as opposed to luck. Schneiderman apparently doesn’t agree that DFS is legal under that law, saying “it is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.”

In his letter to DraftKings, Scheiderman stressed some of the differences between DFS and traditional, seasonlong fantasy sports that makes DFS illegal while the seasonlong variety is legal, including that the “instant gratification” makes it easy to play DFS, which has “no long-term strategy.” He also argues that DFS is closer to poker — in that a small number of pros profit at the expense of more-casual players — than a lottery. According to Schneiderman’s investigation of the site’s data, the top one percent of winners get the majority of the winnings.

Let me address the points made by Schneiderman. First, I think comparing DFS to poker hurts his argument because I have long argued that poker is a game of skill that, like DFS, should be exempt from that 2006 ban on online gambling. Schneiderman seems to think that because the outcome of the contests relies on outside forces that the DFS players cannot control — namely the athletes — there’s no skill involved in winning at DFS. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, DFS participants have no control over the performance of the players they select, but there is skill involved in choosing which players you want on your team. The people who do it right study stats of previous games and the players’ matchups in the coming games to determine who to select — you’re not randomly selecting players with no basis for your choices.

This also goes into my counterargument to Schneiderman’s point that the top one percent of DraftKings players win the most money. Many of them are DFS professionals who do it full-time. They spend hours, and even days, to select their lineups each week. Conversely, a casual player like me often spends some time on Sunday morning choosing players before the kickoff the 1:00 games. Naturally, you would expect the people who are able to put more time and research into it to win more often — and that would kind of indicate there’s some skill involved in DFS, not that it’s a “multibillion-dollar scheme,” which was the conclusion that Schneiderman jumped to.

Further, those DFS pros are wagering a lot of money, with the possibility of a large payout. So, of course, they’re going to get the majority of the winnings when most DFS players are probably closer to me; I play in one $3 contest a week, and sometimes add a second, similarly priced contest. I don’t expect to win thousands of dollars when I’m wagering so little. I’ve won $10 each of the past two weeks, which is a decent return on my small investment.

Going back to Schneiderman’s letter, he charges that DraftKings promotes its games as “a path to easy riches that anyone can win,” enticing player with claims of becoming a millionaire. That scenario sounds familiar. Where have I previously heard claims of easy riches and becoming a millionaire? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m thinking of New York Lottery commercials. Of course, that’s it.

So how do DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s claims of winning big differ from the New York Lottery’s? Simple. New York runs its lottery and profits from the people who gamble on it, hoping to win millions in contests in which they have no control over the outcome. Which is pretty much the argument Schneiderman makes for banning DFS — which, I should point out, New York doesn’t make any money off of. And that, in my opinion, is why Schneiderman is going after the DFS companies — he wants his share of the pie from the more than 500,000 New Yorkers who play DFS, according to DraftKings spokeswoman Sabrina Macias.

The fact that Schneiderman only banned DraftKings and FanDuel — by far the two largest and most successful DFS operations — and not the other, smaller sites that run DFS games seems to confirm my suspicion that it’s about money. He is going after the two sites that make the most money off of DFS becasue the state stands to gain the most by going after those two sites.

So the solution is simple. Rather than banning DFS, New York should regulate and tax it. By regulating it, the state can control how DraftKIngs and FanDuel run their games, to make sure it’s not the “scheme” that Schneiderman thinks the sites are running. By taxing it, New York gets its share of the millions of dollars that the sites take in from New York residents. New York is obviously not opposed to gambling; in addition to the lottery, the state regulates the New York Racing Association, which runs several horse racing tracks across the state, and a couple years ago legalized casino gaming other than the Indian casinos that have long operated on Indian reservations in the state.

Thoughts?

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are up next on our previews of all 32 NFL teams, continuing to make our way through the AFC East which the Pats won last season.

Deflategate was at the center of the Patriots’ offseason for a second straight year, finally reaching its conclusion with QB Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season, allowing he team to get a chance to see if QB Jimmy Garoppolo could be the quarterback of the future after the 39-year-old Brady retires. Other bad news for the Patriots comes in the form of injuries, including RB Dion Lewis, who had a breakout season in 2015 before a torn ACL ending his season early. He was on track to return this season, but recent news of him needing a second knee surgery results in him being out indefinitely. In other injury news, C Shaq Mason does not have a timetable to return for a broken hand, and OT Sebastian Vollmer is expected to land on injured reserve after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Despite being 38 last season, Brady continued to put up impressive numbers. He completed 64% of his passes for 4,770 yards and 36 touchdowns to go along with just 7 interceptions. It’s not surprising that TE Rob Gronkowski was Brady’s leading receiver, hauling in 72 receptions for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing a game. WRs Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman put up comparable numbers to each other. In 14 games — seven starts — Amendola had 65 receptions for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns while Edelman went 61/692/7 in nine games. After Lewis went down after 7 games, RB LeGarrette Blount took over as the main running back, carrying the ball 165 times for 703 yards and 6 touchdowns in six starts. RB James White only had 22 carries last season but played a decent part in the passing game, with 40 receptions for 410 yards and 4 touchdowns.

With reports pegging Lewis as missing 8-10 weeks, Blount and White are going to have to carry the bulk of the rushing workload for at least the first half of the season, unless the Patriots sign a free agent running back to provide some depth. The other injuries to the offensive line will make it harder for Garoppolo to find success as he fills in for Brady for the team’s first four games. Garoppolo, who was the Patriots’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft, has thrown just 31 passes in regular-season games in relief of Brady over the last two seasons. He has completed 20 of them for 188 yards and 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Obviously that small sample size doesn’t give the team much of an idea what to expect from Garoppolo as he prepares to be the starting quarterback for the first quarter of the season. The team traded for TE Martellus Bennett from the Bears to provide a bonafide 1-2 punch at the position with Gronkowski, harkening back to the days of Gronkowski and TE Aaron Hernandez both providing good offensive numbers from the position.

The first four games on the schedule are going to set the stage for how much of a cushion the team can have in its record when getting Brady back in Week 5. During Brady’s suspension, the Patriots visit the Cardinals in the Week 1 Sunday night game, then head home for Weeks 2 and 3, taking on the Dolphins and Texans, respectively. A visit to Buffalo to take on the Bills in Week 4 leads into Brady’s return, a road game against the Browns. The Patriots host the Seahawks for the Sunday night game in Week 10, following a Week 9 bye. The Patriots get another Sunday night matchup, at the Jets, in Week 12. The season ends with a road game at the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos in Week 15 and home games against the Jets and Dolphins, respectively, in Weeks 16 and 17.  Even with the Patriots missing the first four games — I have them going 2-2 in that span — I projected them to go 13-3, a game better than last season, but that may be a bit optimistic now with the news of the most recent injuries and surgeries to Lewis, Vollmer and Mason.

Source: http://www.patriots.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Miami Dolphins

Our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue as we move on to the next team in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins, who finished in last place in the division last season.

After two straight 8-8 finishes, the Dolphins took a step back in 2015, going 6-10. The team lost starting RB Lamar Miller to free agency but signed oft-injured RB Arian Foster, who has the potential to put up big numbers when he’s able to take the field. He’ll be splitting rushing duties with RB Jay Ajayi, who has the edge to take over as the starter with Miller now on the Texans.

QB Ryan Tannehill put up some of the best stats of his career last season, throwing for 4,208 yards and 24 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions. HIs favorite target was WR Jarvis Landry, who had 110 receptions for 1,157 yards but just 4 touchdowns in 14 starts. WR Rishard Matthews added 43 receptions, 662 yards and 4 touchdowns to Tannehill’s totals. TE Jordan Cameron caught 35 balls for 386 yards and 3 touchdowns. In limited playing time in his rookie season — nine games, no starts — Ajayi carried the ball 49 times for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. With the Texans last season, Foster played in just four games, gaining 163 yards with 1 touchdown on 63 rushes. The defense ranked in the bottom half of the league with 389 points allowed and 13 interceptions.

The Dolphins pretty much know what they’re getting out of their passing game this year, with Tannehill throwing to the likes of Landry, Cameron and WR Kenny Stills, but it’s the running game where the team has question mark.s Ajayi has never started a game and it’s unknown how he’ll handle a full-season workload. Then there’s Foster, who can be among the league’s best running backs when he plays, but the question is how much he’ll play; he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012 and has played in eight or fewer games two of the last three seasons.

The Dolphins’ schedule begins with two road games against playoff teams from last season: at the Seahawks in Week 1 and at the Patriots, who will be without QB Tom Brady, in Week 2. The Dolphins get their first home game at their newly renovated stadium in Week 3 against the Browns before hitting the road again in Week 4 to face another AFC North team, the Bengals. The Steelers come to Miami to face the Dolphins in Week 6. Things get a little easier for the Dolphins after their Week 8 bye until they host the Cardinals in Week 14. The team finishes the season with three straight divisional games, at the Jets in Week 15, at the Bills in Week 16 and hosting Brady and the Patriots in Week 17. If the running game comes together like the Dolphins hope it will, I think they can end the season with their first winning record since 2008.

Source: http://www.miamidolphins.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Buffalo Bills

The AFC East is the next division in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Buffalo Bills, who finished in third place in the division last season.

It hasn’t been a good preseason for the Bills. They have lost some key defensive players to injuries, including rookie LB Reggie Ragland, who is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL, and fellow rookie LB Shaq Lawson could be out until Week 8 with a shoulder injury. LB IK Enemkpali, who was expected to fill in for Lawson, also suffered a season-ending ACL injury and was subsequently cut by the team. Then there’s DT Marcell Dareus, who has been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and has since announced that he has decided to enter a rehab program to try to get help. And RB Karlos Williams, who is also facing a four-game suspension, was recently cut by the team.

QB Tyrod Taylor started 14 games in his first year getting a chance to start, completing nearly 64% of his passes for 3,035 yards and 20 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. He also got things done on the ground, rushing 104 times for 568 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Sammy Watkins had 60 receptions for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns in 13 games while TE Charles Clay caught 51 balls 528 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first season with the team. WR Robert Woods put up similar numbers, 47 receptions for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground, RB LeSean McCoy had 203 carries for 895 yards and 3 touchdowns in 12 games. RB Mike Gillislee, who could compete for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart with Williams gone, had just 47 carries last season for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns in five games, including one start. The defense was middle of the pack, giving up 359 points but was in the top 10 in the league with 17 interceptions.

With the injuries to the defense, the Bills are going to have to rely on the offense more than they might want to. The running game could be taking a step back without Williams, who did well last season when filling in when McCoy was injured. The Bills did sign veteran RB Reggie Bush recently, and he is currently No. 2 on the depth chart, though he hasn’t played close to a full season since playing 14 games in 2013 so there’s no guarantee he’ll be available for all of the 2016 season. If Bush misses time, Gillislee will have to step up as the change-of-pack back for McCoy. The question in the receiving game lies with Watkins, who is recovering from offseason foot surgery, although he is expected to be ready to start the season.

The Bills kick off their schedule with a road game at the Ravens before hosting the Jets and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. In Week 4, they head to Foxboro to take on the Tom Brady-less Patriots in the final week of the quarterback’s Deflategate suspension. Brady will be playing for the return matchup with the Patriots in Week 8, leading into a Week 9 Monday night contest at the Seahawks, which comes before the Bills’ Week 10 bye. They face the Bengals on the road in Week 11 coming out of the bye. The BIlls get a three-game homestand in Weeks 14-16, facing the Steelers, Browns and Dolphins, respectively. Their season ends with a Week 17 battle at the Jets. I’m not high on the Bills this season, projecting them to regress from their 8-8 record of a season ago.

Source: http://www.buffalobills.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As we conclude our previews of NFC South teams with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are coming off a last-place finish last year, we reach the halfway point of our previews of all  32 NFL teams

Selecting QB Jameis Winston in the 2015 draft gave the Bucs four more wins last season than they had in 2014, but that brought them up to just a 6-10 record, a fifth-straight losing season for the team. There’s not much on the team other than Winston, though, so it’s looking like it’ll be at least another year before the Bucs break that streak.

In his rookie season, Winston putting up decent numbers for a first-year quarterback, throwing for 4,042 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He added 6 rushing touchdowns to his stat line on 54 carries. Leading the receiving core was WR Mike Evans, who caught 71 passes for 1,206 yards but just 3 touchdowns. Veteran WR Vincent Jackson started just nine games due to injury, ending the year with 33 receptions for 543 yards and 3 touchdowns. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who started three games, tied for the team lead with 4 receiving touchdowns on 21 catches. RB Doug Martin bounced back from a disappointing 2014 to run for 1,402 yards and 6 touchdowns on 288 carries. Backup RB Charles Sims had 529 rushes on 107 carries but was a big part of the passing game, with 51 receptions for 561 yards and 4 touchdowns. Defensively, the team was near the bottom of the league in points allowed, giving up 417 to the opposition, and tallying 11 interceptions.

The Bucs didn’t add any significant pieces to the offense this offseason, opting to focus on the defense in the draft, going with CB Vernon Hargreaves in the first round and DE Noah Spence in the second to join the likes of DT Gerald McCoy, DE Robert Ayers and CB Brent Grimes on that side of the ball. That means the offense will likely look similar to what it was last season, with Winston and Evans leading the way for their second season together. The team has to hope that Martin puts up numbers similar to 2015 rather than 2014; the latter would hurt the team in the running game. Seferian-Jenkins has the potential to be among the league’s top tight ends, starting just 12 games total in his first two seasons in the league due to injuries. If he can get to the next level, that would provide the offense with a significant boost in production.

The Bucs face a tough schedule, which begins with consecutive road games at the Falcons and Cardinals. That is followed by back-to-back games at home, against the Rams in Week 3 and the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos in Week 4. Week 5 sees them playing the other team that played in Super Bowl 50, when they visit the Panthers for a Monday night contest. Later in the season, the Bucs visit the Chiefs in Week 11 before hosting the Seahawks in Week 12. Both games against the Saints come late in the season in Weeks 14 and 16, with a road game at the Cowboys sandwiched in between. And the season ends with the second game against the Panthers, this one in Tampa. Lots of good offenses await the Bucs on the schedule this season, and with a subpar defense, it’s not looking like the Bucs will win many games this season.

Source: http://www.buccaneers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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NFL: New York Giants at New Orleans Saints

3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New Orleans Saints

We continue in the NFC South as part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, with the New Orleans Saints, who finished in third place in the division last season.

The Saints look to get back to the winning ways they enjoyed for much of the early part of this decade following consecutive 7-9 seasons. Their window of opportunity is likely closing, with QB Drew Brees entering his age-37 season. Their hopes for a good season have already taken a blow with first-round draft pick DT Sheldon Rankins suffering a broken fibula that will require him to undergo surgery, with the team hoping that his recovery time is about six weeks, but it could be longer depending on the severity of the injury.

In 15 games last season, Brees completed 68% of his passes for 4,870 yards and 32 touchdowns, in addition to 11 interceptions. The biggest beneficiary of his impressive passing numbers was WR Brandin Cooks, who had 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and 9 touchdowns in his sophomore season. TE Ben Watson caught 74 balls for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns. Rookie WR Willie Snead put up decent numbers, as well, with 69 receptions for 984 yards, but just 3 touchdowns. RB Mark Ingram‘s 166 rushes led the team, as did his 769 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns in 12 games, 10 starts. The defense was the worst in the league in terms of points allowed, giving up 476 points, and had just 9 interceptions, tied for the third-fewest in the league.

The passing game should have another good season, with the likes of Cooks, Watson and Snead catching the ball from Brees. Ingram was the lone bright spot in the running game, but RB Tim Hightower put up some good stats late in the season after being signed by the team in November. He is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Ingram and could prove to be a viable change-of-pace back for the Saints. The defense could be the ultimate determining factor in how the Saints’ season goes. The team tried to address the D by drafting Rankins, but his injury will be a setback to his development and will likely

Exploring the Saints’ schedule, they get a home game with the Raiders to begin the season before heading to Jersey to take on the Giants in Week 2. After their Week 5 bye, they face three teams that made the playoffs last season: they host the Panthers in Week 6, visit the Chiefs in Week 7 and head back home for a meeting with the Seahawks in Week 8. They get a bit of a reprieve after that brutal stretch when they visit the 49ers in Santa Clara in Week 9. Their second game with the Panthers is a Thursday night battle in Week 11. Week 15 presents another challenging game on the road, when they visit the Cardinals. After that, they host the Buccaneers in Week 16 and end their season at the Falcons in Week 17. This is not an easy schedule for the Saints, and that is reflected in my projection for them. I have them going 6-10, a game worse than they’ve done each of the past two seasons.

Source: http://www.neworleanssaints.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Carolina Panthers

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we move on to the next team in the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers, who won the division last season.

The Panthers went 15-1 last season en route to winning the NFC South and eventually advancing to Super Bowl 50, when they lost to the Broncos. QB Cam Newton won the league’s MVP last season, and this year he is getting back WR Kelvin Benjamin, an offensive weapon who missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL he suffered in August.

On his way to earning MVP honors, Newton threw for 3,857 yards and 35 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. He also added 10 rushing touchdowns to his offensive output, with 636 yards on 132 carries. RB Jonathan Stewart was the team’s leading rusher, with 242 carries for 989 yards and 6 touchdowns in 13 games, his best numbers since 2009. TE Greg Olsen was the team’s best pass-catcher, with 77 receptions for 1,104 yards and 7 touchdowns. WR Ted Ginn Jr. was the leader at that position, catching 44 balls for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns. The defense was among the league’s best, giving up 308 points — sixth-fewest in the NFL — and tallying a league-best 24 interceptions.

The Panthers have a tough road ahead if they want to repeat the 15-1 performance they had last season. If Benjamin can return to the form he showed in his rookie season in 2014, he will provide another strong option in the passing game to complement Olsen, who is one of the best tight ends in the league. Having Stewart as the main option out of the backfield is always a concern because of durability issues he has had throughout his career. Even last year, when he had one of his best seasons, he missed three games.

Looking ahead to this year’s schedule, the Panthers get a shot at redemption on the opening night of the regular season, heading to Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos in Week 1. They face another playoff team in the Vikings at home in Week 3. Coming off their Week 7 bye, the Panthers host the Cardinals in Week 8. After a Week 9 visit to Los Angeles to duel with the Rams, the Panthers return home in Week 10 to host the Chiefs. The team heads west in Weeks 12 and 13, with games against the Raiders and Seahawks, respectively. After visiting the Redskins for a Monday night game in Week 15, the schedule eases up a bit in the final two weeks, with a home game against the Falcons on deck for Week 16, followed by a Week 17 road game against QB Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. Overall, it’s a fairly tough slate for the defending NFC champions, but I’m projecting them to match their record from last season, with another 15-1 record. Will they make a repeat Super Bowl appearance to go along with that record? We’ll find out in our playoff preview in a couple weeks.

Source: http://www.panthers.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Atlanta Falcons

As our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue, we turn our attention to the NFC South, beginning the division with the Atlanta Falcons, who finished in second place in the mediocre division last season.

The Falcons finished last season 8-8, an improvement over the prior two years but a disappointing season for a team with a strong QB-WR combo in Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. The team goes into 2016 with largely the same offense as last season, minus veteran WR Roddy White, who was released in the offseason. The team signed WR Mohamed Sanu to slot in opposite Jones in the receiving game.

In 2015, Ryan completed 66% of his passes for 4,591 yards, 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Jones had an impressive 136 receptions on 203 targets, for 1,871 yards and 8 touchdowns. In the running game, RB Devonta Freeman had a breakout season — getting a chance because of an early-season injury to RB Tevin Coleman — with 1,056 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on 265 carries over 15 games, 13 starts. He added 73 receptions — second on the team behind Jones — for 578 yards and 3 receiving touhdowns. Coleman ended the season starting just three games and carrying the ball 87 times for 392 yards and 1 touchdown. The defense was right around the middle of the pack last season.

Coleman could be a key to success this season for the Falcons as the second-year back looks to stay healthy and get in a full season of action. That would take some of the load off of Freeman’s shoulders, allowing him to get by with fewer touches to stay fresh deeper into the season. Sanu replaces White as the starting wide receiver opposite Jones. He’s never had more than 56 receptions in any of his four seasons with the Bengals, but he’s never had a full workload throughout the course of a season like he is expected to have this season. If he can be productive and a strong complement to Jones, that could provide a boost to the offense.

The first difficult stretch of the Falcons’ schedule comes in Weeks 3 through 6, when they host the Panthers, then head west to face the Broncos and Seahawks. Another playoff team is on the docket in Week 8 when the Falcons host the Packers. After a Week 11 bye, the Falcons host the Cardinals and Chiefs in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively. The Falcons visit the Panthers in Week 16, then end the season with a home game against the Saints in Week 17. The Falcons are tied for the toughest schedule in the league this season, based on last year’s records, with six playoff teams on their schedule, including both teams that played in Super Bowl 50. With that schedule, I think the Falcons will take a step back, which is why I’m projecting a six-win season for he team.

Source: http://www.atlantafalcons.com, http:/www.pro-football-reference.com

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