It’s your favorite time of the week: Football Friday! Today’s newsletter is packed with picks to get you all the way through to Monday without having to do any thinking or research of your own. Just how you like it!
Before we get to the picks, though, I want to update you all on the situation in my fantasy league I wrote about earlier in the week. I heard from plenty of you about what you think should’ve been done in the league, and every single response said that our commissioner should overrule the drops and put the players back on the roster of the team throwing a temper tantrum. Well, he didn’t. He let it stand, and I was pretty annoyed about it until this morning.
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That’s when I got the notification that, somehow, someway, my waiver claim on Chris Carson went through. Yep, even though I was last in the waiver order due to having the best record in the league, I was able to add a second-round pick to my roster. I still don’t agree with the decision, but I’ll accept it! Also, let this serve as a lesson to you. If you’re in a fantasy football league, pay attention to what other owners are doing, not just your team. You never know when you’ll be able to benefit from somebody else’s stupidity.
Let the Football Friday Festivities begin!
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
? The Hot Ticket
? Knicks at Bucks, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 217 (-110): You’re probably tired of me taking unders in NBA games in this newsletter, and I understand it’s not as “fun” to bet an under as it is an over, but that’s part of the reason unders tend to be more profitable in every sport! Not many people like to root against points being scored.
So you’re just going to have to deal with it because this under is far and away my favorite NBA play for Friday night. The totals in Bucks games have been too high all season, which is why the under has gone 6-2 in Milwaukee’s first eight games. This is despite the fact the Bucks rank 15th in defensive rating and sixth in pace. The Knicks are a bit different. Their defensive rating ranks 23rd in the league, but it’s offset by the glacial pace this team moves at. They rank 27th in the league in pace, which limits the number of overall possessions. The Knicks are just very efficient offensively, but I’m not sure their current numbers (3rd in offensive rating and true shooting percentage) are sustainable based on the team’s roster.
Matchup-wise, I think the Bucks pair well with what the Knicks like to do offensively, and at home, I think we’ll see one of Milwaukee’s better defensive efforts of the season tonight.
Key Trend: The under is 16-5-1 in Milwaukee’s last 22 home games.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine’s Projection Model has a lean on one side of the total in this game too. Does it agree with me? Or is it a big, stupid jerkface? Find out!
? The Picks? NFL
Broncos at Cowboys, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Broncos +10 (-110) — Dak Prescott missed Dallas’ win over Minnesota on Sunday night, as Cooper Rush stepped in and performed admirably. As of now, all signs point to Dak returning against Denver this week, but there’s a decent chance he won’t be 100% if he plays. There’s also a chance the Cowboys will look at their opponent and their division and opt to let Dak rest another week, knowing they can win this game without him. That’s the ideal scenario for taking the Broncos here.
But it’s not a scenario we should rely on. Nor does it matter much to me because I’m on the Broncos either way. For all the flaws Denver has on offense, it’s still an excellent defensive team. It ranks fourth in the NFL in points allowed per drive and second in success rate. Even though it traded Von Miller, he’s not the same devastating force he has been in the past. And while the Broncos aren’t great offensively, the Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been spectacular. Yes, it’s made plenty of big plays, but you can’t rely on turnovers being turned into touchdowns every week, particularly against a Denver offense that doesn’t take many risks.
Key Trend: Denver is 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games against winning teams.
Packers at Chiefs, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Chiefs Over 27.5 (-110) — So, we found out that the Packers will be without Aaron Rodgers after he tested positive for COVID-19. As you’d expect, this had a major impact on both the spread and the total. Before Rodgers’ diagnosis became public, the Chiefs were favored by a point, and the total was at 54.5. As of publication of this column, the spread has moved to Chiefs -7.5, and the total is at 48. So, basically, Rodgers is worth a touchdown.
But I don’t want to figure out how his absence impacts the Packers; I just want to take advantage of it with the Chiefs. You see, while all the attention will be on Rodgers, he’s not the only player the Packers are missing. A quick look at their injured list shows a lot of key players on the defensive side of the ball have already been ruled out or are questionable. Now that Packers defense will have to help cover for a young, inexperienced QB in Jordan Love, who is a lot more likely to put them in bad positions than Rodgers ever has.
And its facing a Kansas City offense that could really use a chance to show off and dominate somebody. Once the dam breaks, I don’t see this Chiefs offense slowing down, and there’s a good chance that happens Sunday afternoon.
Key Trend: Even a struggling Chiefs offense has scored 28 points or more in six of eight games this season
? College Football
No. 13 Auburn at No. 14 Texas A&M, Saturday, 3:30 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 49.5 (-110) — Do you trust either of these offenses right now? To Zach Calzada’s credit, he’s improved seemingly every week as Texas A&M’s starting quarterback after a slow start. The crescendo was the win over Alabama, but he’s continued putting up solid numbers against Missouri and South Carolina. Of course, neither team is good defensively. On the other side, Bo Nix lit up Arkansas and Ole Miss the last couple of weeks, but a lot of teams have done that.
So which quarterbacks show up this weekend? My inkling is that an Auburn offense that has struggled against solid defensive fronts will return to form against the Aggies. I also expect the Texas A&M offense to come back to Earth a bit against a solid Auburn defense. In the end, I think we end up with an entertaining, close affair in College Station, but not one that lights up the scoreboard too often.
Key Trend: The under is 5-2 in Texas A&M’s last seven games as a favorite.
Army at Air Force, Saturday, 11:30 a.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 37.5 (-110) — Let me bust out the same script I’ve been using in games between service academies for the last however many years. Ahem: Since 2005, the under is 39-9-1 when service academies play. That’s because service academies run option offenses. That means they run the ball a lot! Army runs the ball 89.1% of the time, while Air Force runs 87.8% of the time. Those are the two highest rushing rates in the country (Navy, another option offense, is third). When teams run the ball, the clock does not stop. When the clock doesn’t stop, it limits the overall number of possessions each team has, which puts a serious cap on how many points will be scored.
And that’s why the under cashes so frequently in games between service academies. If you think the total is too low, I get it, but don’t be scared. The last 10 games between academies (since 2018) have averaged 33.2 points per game, and that includes a 34-25 Navy win over Air Force in 2019.
Key Trend: The under is 39-9-1 in games between service academies since 2005.
Manchester United vs. Manchester City, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. | TV: NBCSN
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-160) — Manchester City have been in a bit of a rut lately. Now, they’re still Manchester City, so the word rut is relative, but this team hasn’t been operating at max capacity. That’s particularly true on the defensive end where they’ve let teams who wouldn’t typically score against them do just that. There was last week’s 2-0 loss to Crystal Palace, but even Club Brugge managed to draw even at 1-1 during the Champions League this week before City stormed back. Before that, Brighton put one in the net, and numbers suggest they could have had another. There’s wiggle room in that Man City defense.
And while City have still been great everywhere, they do allow more chances away from home, which is where they’ll be in spirit this week at Old Trafford. As for the Red Devils, we were able to take advantage of the narrative last week by picking them to win, and while I’m not nearly as confident in United getting a result this weekend, I believe they can get at least one goal. That’s likely all we’ll need to hit this over, and even if United doesn’t score, City’s capable of putting up at least three on its own.
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Inter Milan (+119) — While AC Milan are off to a fantastic start to the season, there’s been a theme to their performances. I’m not going to go as far as calling Milan bumslayers in the Barcelona mold, but they haven’t been all that different. I know they’re in a tough Champions League group, but we shouldn’t ignore that they’ve managed only a point in four matches. In Serie A, Milan have picked up impressive wins against Lazio, Atalanta and Roma, but those last two wins included shaky defensive performances.
And that last part is what has me worried. If we pick apart Inter’s resume, we can say some of the same things we’ve said about Milan, but while Inter have been worse defensively on the season, they’ve been much better as of late. Inter have won three straight matches since a 1-1 draw with Juventus and allowed only 1.2 expected goals (xG) across those three matches. AC Milan have allowed fewer than 1.0 xG only twice in its last eight matches. The average xG allowed per match in that span has been 1.13, or nearly as much as Inter’s allowed in their last three combined. Milan have been able to get away with that against weaker teams, but it’ll come back to haunt you against the better ones, and that’s what I’m betting happens this weekend.
? SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine expert Alex Selesnick (aka PropStarz) is up 120 units on NFL futures and NFL prop bets the past two seasons, and now he has released his coveted and profitable top props for Week 9.
?⚽ Football Friday Bonanza Parlay
We’re taking one favorite from our three favorite kinds of football and putting them in a parlay for the weekend. It pays +102.