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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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My NFL Picks Week 3: QB Jacoby Brissett leads the Patriots into battle against the Texans

Week 2 saw some injuries to teams’ key players, including Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo. With a short week leading into their Thursday night matchup with the Texans, the Patriots are turning to rookie third-string QB Jacoby Brissett to hold down the fort until QB Tom Brady returns from his Deflategate suspension following Week 4. In other notable games coming up this week, the Packers look to bounce back from a Week 2 loss to the Vikings when they play the Lions at home, and the Steelers head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a battle of undefeated in-state rivals. I went 7-9 last week to put me at an even 16-16 through the first two weeks of the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football
Texans at Patriots (-0.5) – The Texans have a good defense and with Brissett making his first career start and TE Rob Gronkowski potentially missing the game, I think the Texans defense will be able to keep the Patriots offense from getting a lot of points.

Sunday 1PM games
Cardinals at Bills (+4.5) – The Bills haven’t gotten off to a good start to the season. They’ve been able to put up points in the first two games, but their defense also given up a lot of points. I think the Cardinals will be able to score with QB Carson Palmer leading the way and they’ll be too much for the Bills to overcome.
Broncos at Bengals (-2.5) – I’m surprised the Bengals are favored. I think the Broncos are the better team overall, with one of the league’s best defenses and an offense that has done better than expected thus far. I think the Broncos win outright, let alone get within the 2.5 points.
Browns at Dolphins (-9.5) – Against most teams, I think I would lay the 9.5 points against the Browns, but the Dolphins haven’t looked good in their first couple of games. I expect the Dolphins to win the game, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to think they’ll win by double digits, which is what they’d have to do to cover this spread.
Lions at Packers (-7.5) – Here’s another game where I think the favorite will win the game but not cover. The Packers offense didn’t look good last week and the Lions can put points on the board so I expect them to keep it relatively close. I think Packers win by less than a touchdown.
Raiders at Titans (-1.5) – Neither of these teams has looked very good yet. The Raiders were a trendy playoff pick for this season but haven’t lived up to the hype. I don’t like picking west coast teams heading east, but I the Titans aren’t very good so I think the Raiders have a better-than-average chance to pull out the victory.
Vikings at Panthers (-6.5) Both teams looked good in their wins last week, but RB Adrian Peterson is now out for the season after tearing his meniscus in Week 2 against the Packers. Combine that with QB Sam Bradford under center and I expect the Vikings offense to be worse than last week. The Panthers are also likely to be without RB Jonathan Stewart, but that should have less than a negative effect than Peterson’s absence for the Vikings. Give me QB Cam Newton over Bradford in this one.
Redskins at Giants (4.5) – The Giants put up a surprisingly low score against a bad Saints defense last week, while poor play by QB Kirk Cousins reportedly led to tension in the locker room. I think the Giants will win the game at home, but I think it’ll be close so I’ll take the points with Washington.
Ravens at Jaguars (+0.5) – The Ravens offense has looked better than I expected so far this season and the Jaguars defense hasn’t lived up to expectations. With a .5-point spread, the Ravens simply have to win the game to cover, and I think they’ll do that.

Sunday 4PM games
Rams at Buccaneers (-4.5) – Through two games, the Rams have scored only nine points and not gotten into the end zone. They have a decent defense but their offense leaves something to be desired. I think QB Jameis Winston can help the Bucs score enough points to win by a touchdown or so, so I think Tampa Bay covers.
49ers at Seahawks (-9.5) – With QB Russell Wilson nursing a bad ankle, the Seahawks scored just three points last week. The Seahawks’ offensive line doesn’t seem to be very good right now. I think 9.5 points is way too much for the Seahawks to be favored by at this points so I’ll go with the 49ers and the points.
Chargers at Colts (-2.5)After losing WR Keenan Allen to a season-ending injury in Week 1, the Chargers lost RB Danny Woodhead to a torn ACL last week. Those injuries will negatively affect the offense. The Colts have a bad defense, but their offense can score. With the Chargers’ injury woes, I expect the Colts to cover.
Jets at Chiefs (-2.5) – The Chiefs only scored 12 points against the Texans last week while the Jets scored 37 against the Bills. With an extended period of rest following a Thursday night game in Week 2, I think the Jets will be able to go into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs, who haven’t looked like the same team from last year so far in 2016.
Steelers at Eagles (+3.5) – Rookie QB Carson Wentz has looked good in his first two games, but that was against bad teams in the Bears and Browns. The Steelers will provide Wentz with his first real challenge in the NFL and I think he’ll struggle a bit. I’ll take the team with QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB DeAngelo Williams on offense.

Sunday Night Football
Bears at Cowboys (-5.5)The Bears haven’t looked good in their first two games, while the Cowboys have done respectably without QB Tony Romo. The Cowboys offense should be able to score on the Bears defense, and with QB Jay Cutler likely missing the game for the Bears with a thumb injury Chicago’s offensive output should be limited.

Monday Night Football
Falcons at Saints (-3.5)I think these teams are pretty evenly matched. Both have good offenses but suspect defenses. Saints QB Drew Brees seems to play better at home than he does on the road so I’ll give the Saints the win at the Superdome.

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My NFL Picks Week 2: The Vikings open their new stadium against the Packers and Peyton’s former teams meet

With just one week of the 2016 NFL season in the books, we’re still trying to get a sense of how good or bad some teams are. There are a few notable matchups in Week 2, beginning with a Thursday night battle between AFC East rivals when the Jets visit the Bills. QB Jimmy Garoppolo looks to go 2-0 as a fill-in for Tom Brady on Sunday as the Patriots visit the Dolphins in the other AFC East game. A new era begins for the Vikings with the first regular-season game played at their new stadium, US Bank Stadium, against their NFC North rivals, the Packers. Peyton Manning’s two former teams play each other in Denver as the Colts look to get in the win column against the Broncos, who pulled off a somewhat-surprising victory over Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 1. I went 9-7 last week, though I missed a couple of those losses by just .5 points. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Thursday Night Football
Jets at Bills (-0.5)

Sunday 1PM games
Bengals at Steelers (-3.5)
Ravens at Browns (+7.5)
Cowboys at Redskins (-2.5)
Titans at Lions (-5.5)
Chiefs at Texans (-2.5)
Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5)
Saints at Giants (-5.5)
49ers at Panthers (-13.5)

Sunday 4PM games
Seahawks at Rams (+5.5)
Buccaneers at Cardinals (-6.5)
Falcons at Raiders (-4.5)
Colts at Broncos (-5.5)
Jaguars at Chargers (-2.5)

Sunday Night Football
Packers at Vikings (+2.5)

Monday Night Football
Eagles at Bears (-2.5)

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My NFL Picks Week 1: Can the Patriots beat the Cardinals without Brady and Gronkowski?

We have one NFL game in the books, 255 more to go in the 2016 regular season. With the bulk of the Week 1 games still to come, it’s time to make my picks for the opening week of the season. One of the featured games this week features a matchup of playoff teams in the desert when the Patriots travel to face the Cardinals. The visitors are shorthanded, though, thanks to QB Tom Brady‘s Deflategate suspension that will keep him out of action for the first four weeks and a lingering injury that is going to keep TE Rob Gronkowski from making the trip to Glendale for the team’s season opener on Sunday night. It’ll be a tough test for QB Jimmy Garoppolo in his first career start. Another game to keep an eye on is the Giants at the Cowboys as the Cowboys will be starting a pair of rookies in QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. in the NFC East rivalry game. I started the week going 0-1 in the Thursday night game. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick is in red

Sunday 1PM games
Buccaneers at Falcons (-3.5)
Bills at Ravens (-3.5)
Bears at Texans (-4.5)
Bengals at Jets (+1.5)
Browns at Eagles (-6.5)
Packers at Jaguars (+4.5)
Vikings at Titans (+2.5)
Chargers at Chiefs (-7.5)
Raiders at Saints (-1.5)

Sunday 4PM games
Dolphins at Seahawks (-9.5)
Giants
 at Cowboys (-3.5)
Lions at Colts (-5.5)

Sunday Night Football
Patriots at Cardinals (-5.5)

Monday Night Football
Steelers at Redskins (+3.5)
Rams at 49ers (+2.5)

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Playoff predictions and Super Bowl LI winner

Time to finish up the season preview posts with my predictions for the NFL playoffs, based on how they are seeded per the season records I came up with. Now I’ll predict each of the playoff games to ultimately get a winner in Super Bowl LI.

AFC Playoff Seeds
1-Chiefs
2-Bengals
3-Patriots
4-Texans
5-Steelers
6-Broncos

NFC Playoff Seeds
1-Panthers
2-Seahawks
3-Packers
4-Redskins
5-Cardinals
6-Lions

AFC Wild Card Round

Texans defeat Steelers
Patriots defeat Broncos

AFC Divisional Round

Texans defeat Bengals
Patriots defeat Chiefs

AFC Championship Game

Patriots defeat Texans

NFC Wild Card Round

Cardinals over Redskins
Packers over Lions

NFC Divisional Round

Seahawks defeat Cardinals
Packers defeat Panthers

NFC Championship Game

Packers defeat Seahawks

Super Bowl

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I’m picking the Packers to beat the Seahawks in the NFC Championship for a second straight season, while Tom Brady and the Patriots would make it to another Super Bowl if this scenario pans out. They would, however, lose to the Packers to give Aaron Rodgers his second Super Bowl title.

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Season predictions

Here are my predictions for how the 2016 NFL season will play out. I went through and picked who I think will win each game and these are the final records, standings and playoff seedings. Thanks to the NFL Playoff Predictor for making it easy to track everything. Some records won’t necessarily match what I had in each team’s write-up because I’ve gone back and picked each game a second time, using new information from the preseason, such as the Vikings’ injury to Teddy Bridgewater and subsequent trade for Sam Bradford, which lowered my expectations for their season.

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AFC East
Patriots 12-4
Jets 9-7
Dolphins 7-9
Bills 6-10

AFC North
Bengals 13-3
Steelers 12-4
Ravens 4-12
Browns 3-13

AFC South
Texans 11-5
Colts 9-7
Jaguars 5-11
Titans 2-14

AFC West
Chiefs 15-1
Broncos 11-5
Raiders 10-6
Chargers 5-11

AFC Playoff Seeds
1-Chiefs
2-Bengals
3-Patriots
4-Texans
5-Steelers
6-Broncos

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NFC East
Redskins 11-5
Giants 8-8
Cowboys 6-10
Eagles 5-11

NFC North
Packers 13-3
Lions 11-5
Vikings 7-9
Bears 4-12

NFC South
Panthers 13-3
Saints 9-7
Falcons 4-12
Buccaneers 3-13

NFC West
Seahawks 13-3
Cardinals 11-5
Rams 3-13
49ers 1-15

NFC Playoff Seeds
1-Panthers
2-Seahawks
3-Packers
4-Redskins
5-Cardinals
6-Lions

You can check out my game-by-game picks here. Coming this weekend, I’ll make my postseason picks, including the Super Bowl and my picks for Week 1’s games.

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Apple’s new product announcements highlighted by iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus

Wednesday was the day that Apple holds its annual event to announce the latest additions to its iPhone lineup, in addition to other products. This time around, the big announcements at the event were the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which don’t feature many external design changes from the previous generation iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus model but do feature some notable changes, including the controversial removal of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

The iPhone 7 is the smaller of the two devices, weighing in with a 4.7-inch Retina HD screen with 326 ppi resolution compared to the iPhone 7 Plus’ 5.5-inch Retina HD screen that comes with slightly higher 401 ppi resolution. Both are equipped with a A10 processor and 7 MP front-facing camera. The 7 comes with a 12 MP rear camera with 5x optical zoom while the 7 Plus has a dual-camera setup on the back of the device, with 12 MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras featuring 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. A Touch ID fingerprint sensor is built into the home button on both models with Apple Pay functionality. The devices are also the first iPhones to be water-resistant.

For the first time, Apple is releasing iPhones that come with a base storage option bigger than 16 GB. The phones come with storage options of 32 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB. With the lack of a headphone jack, Apple is including a pair of Lightning earbuds, which connect to the device’s Lightning port, as well as a Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle to allow users to use standard 3.5mm earbuds.

Color options include rose gold, gold, silver, black and jet black (with the latter only available in the two larger storage sizes). As with other recent iPhone models, both the 7 and 7 Plus include the cellular bands needed to operate on all of the major U.S. carriers — including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — in addition to the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Both also come with iOS 10, the latest version of the operating system which is scheduled to exit its beta on September 13.

The iPhone 7 Plus color options

The iPhone 7 Plus in its various color options

Pre-orders begin this Friday, September 9, with the U.S. release date scheduled for a week later on September 16. The iPhone 7 starts at $649 for the 32 GB model, with pricing for the iPhone 7 Plus starting at $769.

You can get full specs and more for the devices at Apple’s site here.

Apple Watch Series 2

Apple Watch Series 2

Also announced at the event was the Apple Watch Series 2, which has a similar design to the original Apple Watch. Its upgrades include built-in GPS and 50 meters of water-resistance.  The Series 2 has similar battery life — 18 hours — as the original. The Apple Watch Series 2 has the same pre-order and release dates as the iPhone 7 models. Pricing starts at $369, while the original Apple Watch is getting a faster processor and a price break, bring its base price down to $269.

Full details on the Apple Watch Series 2 can be found here.

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Previewing NFL Kickoff 2016: Panthers at Broncos

For the first time since the NFL started the Thursday night Kickoff game to begin the season, the season opener features a rematch of the previous season’s Super Bowl matchup. That means the Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers in Denver on Thursday night. Although they’re the defending champs, the Broncos will have a new look at a key position, with inexperienced QB Trevor Siemian under center. The Broncos were able to re-sign LB Von Miller to continue leading their defense for the foreseeable future.

QB Cam Newton leads the Panthers into Denver hoping to get revenge against the Broncos. He’ll be leading an offense that looks familiar to what the team had last season, with the addition of WR Kelvin Benjamin, who missed the entire 2015 season after tearing his ACL in training camp. On defense, the team will be without CB Josh Norman, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent.

Having Siemian at quarterback rather than QBs Peyton Manning — even with his diminished ability — or Brock Osweiler is a big blow to the team. Siemian will have to rely on WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to help bail him out if his throws aren’t the best, and RB C.J. Anderson will have a bigger role than last season to take some of the pressure off of the young passer.

Both teams have a good defense so it’ll likely be a low-scoring game, which is what the Broncos will need if they want to win. The higher the score, the bigger advantage the Panthers have with Newton, the reigning league MVP, leading the team on offense. Losing Norman hurts the Panthers’ D, but the rest of the crew, including LB Luke Kuechly, should still have enough to make life difficult for Siemian, who took one snap last season — a kneel-down. I’m expecting a heavy dose of the run game from Denver on Thursday, The Panthers defense allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the league last season, so Anderson and backup RB Devontae Booker will have to work hard to gain yards. On the other side of the ball, Newton will be facing the best passing defense from 2015 and that limited him to just 265 yards and 0 touchdowns with 1 interception in the Super Bowl. He’ll need to do better than that to keep the offense on the field. Overall, the Panthers are the more complete team on both sides of the ball.

The over/under on the game is 42. I think it’ll be a low-scoring game, and I’m going to go under that total. I’m picking the Panthers to win the game, 21-13 (covering the 2.5-point spread on ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em, to avenge the Super Bowl loss from February.

Stay tuned later in the week for my season preview and playoff predictions, along with the rest of my Week 1 picks.

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