It’s the first official Football Friday of the year. We’ve had college football for the past few weeks, but now the NFL is back to grace us with its presence and commercial breaks. There are so many! You tend to forget that when you’re dying to come back during the offseason, the first game of the season arrives. Unlike Sunday, when multiple games are going on and you have NFL Redzone, this opener is the only game in progress. When it goes commercial, you go with it.
And it goes, and it goes, and it goes again.
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As boring as it may be, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. I just wish last night’s game was better. Or at least as good as the following stories you’re about to read. They are all fantastic.
Now, before we get to football, let’s bet on a baseball game.
All Eastern times and odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The hot ticket
Rays to the Yankees, 7:05 p.m. | Television: ESPN+
New York Yankees -110
- Key trend: The Yankees have won five of the last seven meetings in New York.
- The pick: Yankees (-110)
It’s been months since I’ve included a baseball game in the newsletter! Things have changed so much since the last time that now it’s the Yankees who are undervalued against the Rays. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to be the Rays who get overlooked, but I guess overreacting works both ways when it comes to sports in New York.
The Yankees are not respected enough there. Yes, their lead over Tampa in the division has shrunk to 4.5 games after looking insurmountable. But guess what? Even with the Yankees’ poor showing lately, there’s no metric that suggests they shouldn’t be favored at home against Tampa. Not when the Rays have gone 2-5 in their last seven games at Yankee Stadium.
Frankie Montas will take the mound for the Yankees tonight, and while he hasn’t pitched well since his trade, he’s better than the results showed. It’s the contact that’s the problem. On the other side is Drew Rasmussen, who sports a 2.70 ERA, but his stats suggest he’s been a bit lucky this season. He has an average takedown rate and allows a lot of hard contacts. It’s never a good combination against this Yankees formation.
Here’s what SportsLine has to say about the game: The projection model doesn’t see much value on the money line or the total, but it does have level B play on the run line available.
💰 NFL and college football picks
Steelers at Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m. | Television: CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers +6.5
Pick: Steelers +6.5 (-110) — One of the things that struck me Thursday night was how out of sync the Rams offense was. Matthew Stafford had elbow surgery in the offseason and missed preseason. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow also didn’t throw a pass in the preseason. Not only did he not play any matches, but he also ran out of time due to a ruptured appendix.
Meanwhile, Mitch Trubisky saw plenty of shots in games and preseason camp as he competed for the starting job alongside rookie Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph. I won’t be surprised if the Steelers are the sharpest offense Sunday in Cincinnati, and I won’t be surprised if they win outright either. Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh teams always do well as underdogs, so if I can get almost a touchdown with them this weekend, I’ll take it.
Key trend: The Steelers are 35-15-2 ATS in their last 52 games as an underdog.
Raiders at Chargers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | Television: CBS
Las Vegas Raiders +3.5
Pick: Raiders +3.5 (-110) — AFC West will be one of the most entertaining divisions to watch this season, but although the Chiefs and Chargers are considered the favorites, I don’t think the gap between them and the Raiders is significant. Las Vegas’ offense received a huge boost this offseason when it added Davante Adams.
Sure, I just told you how badly I’m obliterating the Bengals because of the time Joe Burrow missed in camp, but Derek Carr didn’t play in the preseason either. Well, neither does Justin Herbert! It cancels!
Also note that the QB’s performance could be shaky this week across the league. Anyway, as far as this game goes, my numbers tell me the Raiders are undervalued here. The Chargers don’t have much – if any – home-field advantage, so the fact that the Raiders are on the road here doesn’t worry me at all. Take the points, but don’t be surprised when the Raiders win.
Key trend: The underdog has covered 19 of the last 26 encounters.
No.1 Alabama at Texas, Saturday, 12 p.m. | Television: Fox
Alabama Crimson Tide -20
The pick: Alabama -20 (-110) — It’s the biggest college football game of the week in the eyes of many, but will it be one of the best? As I work hard to erase the narrative of Nick Saban dominating former assistants telling everyone he lost two of his last three to them, something tells me Steve Sarkisian won’t make it three on four. Texas has consistently been one of the most overrated teams in the betting market over the past few years, especially at the start of the season.
Texas will however score points. Sarkisian is an excellent playmaker, and the Horns have plenty of attacking talent. However, that defense was so bad last season, and I’m not ready to trust him to stop an Alabama offense that looked dominant against Utah State last week. The Crimson Tide had 55 points and 559 yards … and still took the final 25 minutes of the game. Seriously, it was 55-0 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter against a team that won the Mountain West last year. I won’t be surprised to see Texas have offensive success here, but you can’t count on it to stop Alabama.
Key trend: Texas is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games.
Kansas at West Virginia, Saturday, 6 p.m. | Television: ESPN+
Kansas Jayhawks +13.5
Pick: Kansas +13.5 (-110) — What a terrifying place: betting on the Kansas Jayhawks. These are the same Kansas Jayhawks who are 15-79 in the college football playoff era (since 2014) and just 36-56-2 ATS in that era. But you know what? The market sleeps on Rock Chalk this weekend. The market does not yet realize the emerging power built by Lance Leipold in Lawrence.
OK, soaring power is a bit too much, but Kansas is improving. The underlying metrics I use to assess teams have improved since Leipold took over last season. Kansas isn’t good enough to reach a bowling game, but it’s good enough to sneak up on some teams. The key to it all is his rushing attack. Like teams from Leipold to Buffalo, Kansas is great at finding explosive running plays. This was highlighted last week against Tennessee Tech, but while I don’t place too much emphasis on it — it’s Tennessee Tech, after all — West Virginia’s leading defense and overall tackle seemed suspects against Pitt last week.
Kansas is going to keep this one closer than you think.
Key trend: There are no supporting trends as we bet on Kansas football, and Kansas has been doing very badly for a very long time. So far. Now it’s just bad normal.
No. 9 Baylor at No. 21 BYU, Saturday, 10:15 p.m. | Television: ESPN
The choice: more than 53.5 (-110) — The total seems too low! That doesn’t give enough respect to what should be a good quarterback battle between BYU’s Jaren Hall and Baylor’s Blake Shapen. Now, I have some concerns about potential offensive absences for BYU, and we all know Dave Aranda’s Baylor defense is salty, but the line still looks off. These teams played in Waco last season, with Baylor winning 38-24.
I don’t know how this game can score lower than Provo given the Bears’ QB upgrade (sorry, Gerry Bohanon, nothing personal). In last year’s game, Baylor did a great job of slowing down BYU’s running game, but Hall threw for 342 yards on the Bears. On the other side, Baylor has been rushing all over BYU, with Abram Smith for 188 yards and Trestan Ebner for 95. Both are gone this year, but Baylor split the carries last week and seem to have some good options available. Meanwhile, BYU blew the USF defense out of the water, but the Bulls offense found room to work. This one could reach the bet before the end of the third quarter.
Key trend: Over is 9-4 in Baylor’s last 13 non-conference games and 4-1 in BYU’s last five home games.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine’s RJ White shares his five SuperContest picks after hitting nearly 57% of his contest plays over the past seven years.
Parlay weekend ⚽
I don’t have the usual football picks for you this weekend, but I have a parlay if you’re looking for some action to tide you over. This pays +177.
- Inter Milano (-235)
- Atalanta (-320)
- Bayern Munich (-650)
- Real Madrid (-355)