Clippers won’t have trouble scoring vs. Pelicans, plus WFT is a live dog and other best weekend bets

Are the Patriots good? I’ve been wrestling with this for a little over a week now, and I don’t know if I know the Patriots are good, and I don’t want to admit it, or if they’re not good, and I’m just scared they are. Because, honestly, haven’t we all had enough of the Patriots by now?

I remember back in 2001 when some guy named Tom Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory. I was rooting for Brady and the Patriots then because they were the underdog. It’s crazy to think of the Patriots as an underdog now, 20 years and another five Super Bowl trophies later.

I’d been hoping that the Patriots dynasty would finally end when Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against the Patriots. They’ve won me a lot of money over the years, including that very first Super Bowl win, so I’ll be eternally grateful for them. I just like to see things change up once in a while. I thought that would happen when Brady left, and it appeared to be the case for a season. But now Mac Jones is looking like an absolute steal for Bill Belichick, and the Patriots have won five straight. Aside from a 27-24 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles, they’ve all been dominant wins too.

So are the Patriots still good? Are we going to see them reach another Super Bowl? If they do, I hope they’re the underdog in the game, and history repeats itself. But maybe let’s hold off on another 20 years of dominance this time?

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Football Friday.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏀Clippers at Pelicans, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Clippers Over 108.5 (-120)
: I planned to take the over in this game, but I decided we’re better off relying on the Clippers alone after looking a little closer. I mean, the biggest reason this game’s total felt too low to me was the New Orleans defense. It’s terrible! The Pelicans are 2-14 for a reason: they cannot stop anybody from scoring. Even in this new/old version of the NBA, where refs are letting defenders get away with a lot more contact, the Pelicans don’t seem willing to do much on the defensive end.

While the 111.4 points per game the Pels allow ranks 26th in the NBA, that number alone doesn’t tell the story. When you break things down by the number of possessions in each game, New Orleans’ defensive rating of 113.2 per 100 possessions is the worst in the league by a significant margin. Memphis is 29th at 112.1.

Meanwhile, the Clippers offense hasn’t been great itself, as it ranks only 18th in the NBA with an offensive rating of 106.5. What’s odd about that number, though, is the Clippers rank in the top 10 in effective field goal rate and true shooting rate, which suggests to me that their offensive rating is due for some progression. What better time to get right than against the worst defense in the league?

Key Trend: The Clippers are averaging 108.3 points per game while the Pelicans are allowing 111.4.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model likes a play on the total too, but are we in agreement?

💰 The Picks


Getty Images

Colts at Bills, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS

Latest Odds:

Over 49.5

The Pick: Over 49.5 (-110) — In short, this total is giving too much credit to the Buffalo defense and not paying enough respect to other facets of this matchup. The primary facet is the two offenses on display. Buffalo leads the NFL with an impressive 2.7 points scored per possession and Indianapolis isn’t far behind at 2.33 (11th). If we look at the last month of the season, the Colts’ 2.54 points per drive rank third in the NFL while Buffalo’s 2.33 rank seventh.

This is all a fancy way of saying that these are two potent offenses, and in the modern game of football, offenses overcome great defenses a lot more often.

Of course, while Buffalo’s defense has been one of the best in the league by any available metric, it doesn’t hurt my confidence knowing the Colts defense is playing in this game, too. While the Colts defense has been mostly average, its struggles in the red zone are hard to ignore. Indianapolis ranks 24th in the league in defensive red-zone efficiency and 26th in goal-to-go efficiency. This means we probably won’t see the Bills settling for too many field goals.

Key Trend: The over is 6-1 in Indianapolis’ last seven road games.

Football Team at Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: FOX

Latest Odds:

Washington Football Team

The Pick: Football Team +3.5 (-120) — Yeah, I’m just not willing to trust Cam Newton as a favorite when he’s fresh off the street. I know he saw snaps last week, but they were in red-zone situations in which he’s thrived during his entire career. I’m not ready to buy that his first game as a starter will go as smoothly when he’s running the entire show. I mean, last week was great, but I do remember the last four years. There’s a reason Cam was available to come “save” the Panthers last week.

Plus, he’ll be going against Ron Rivera, the coach who knows him better than anybody else in the NFL. Rivera knows Cam’s strengths and weaknesses and will be able to exploit them. I love Washington as a live dog this week, but I’m going to take the points to play it safe. There’s no need to tempt fate.

Key Trend: Carolina is 1-6 ATS in its last seven as a home favorite.

🏈 College Football

No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: ABC

Latest Odds:

Michigan State Spartans

The Pick: Michigan State +19 (-110) — One of the more interesting parts of this week is the look-ahead factor. Not only is next week the final week of the regular season, but it’s rivalry week. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but Ohio State has a rather big rivalry with Michigan that’s important to them. Perhaps this is why the Buckeyes have failed to cover a spread in their last seven games ahead of the Michigan rivalry (last year’s game was canceled).

When you look at that trend and combine it with the fact that this spread seems pretty disrespectful of the Spartans, it’s hard not to lean Sparty’s way. Plus, after watching Ohio State play with its food far too often, I’m not ready to buy the idea that it’s suddenly flipped the switch because it pounded a Purdue team coming off a huge win. I mean, Purdue did still score 31 points in that game. While Michigan State’s defense gives up a lot of yards, it tightens up in the red zone, which happens to be an area the Ohio State offense has struggled most of the season. The Buckeyes win, but not nearly as easily as the spread suggests.

Key Trend: Ohio State has failed to cover the week before games against Michigan in seven straight seasons.

UCLA at USC, Saturday, 4 p.m | TV: FOX

Latest Odds:

UCLA Bruins

The Pick: UCLA -3.5 (-110) — I don’t like a lot of what I’ve seen from USC lately, and how could I? The Trojans lost their best player (wide receiver Drake London) to a season-ending injury and enter this game having lost three of their last four, with the lone win being a close call against 1-9 Arizona. That’s been something of a theme with these Trojans. Their four wins have come against San Jose State, Washington State, Colorado and Arizona. Combined, those teams are 14-27. The Trojans have lost all four of their games against teams with winning records.

There’s a reason Clay Helton was fired!

Now, I can say some of the same things about UCLA. When going against the better teams of the Pac-12, it’s come up short, though the 20-point loss at Utah was the only time it didn’t look competitive. However, the Bruins have beaten the teams they’re better than with relative ease. UCLA is a better football team than USC. Let’s not overthink it.

Key Trends: USC is 5-16 ATS in its last 21 games as an underdog.

If you’d like to see more of my college football picks for the weekend, you can find them in my weekly column, The Six Pack.

⚽ Soccer

Liverpool vs. Arsenal, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: NBC
The Pick: Under 3.5 (-145) — 
Handicapping soccer isn’t easy to begin with, and it’s more difficult coming off an international break. Some clubs are more affected by players traveling than others, and then there are the teams that were in good form before the break. You can’t be sure they’ll return and pick up right where they left off. This is why Arsenal fans are likely worried. The team had won four straight matches before the break and is on a 10-match unbeaten streak. After a slow start to the season, it looked as if the team had finally figured out what Mikel Arteta wanted it to do, and everything was working.

But what if time apart ruins that? And what if your first match back is at Anfield against Liverpool? One thing that worries me about Arsenal in this spot is that, even while it was winning, its attack wasn’t as potent as you’d like to see against a stronger team. Arsenal racked up goals and xG against teams like Aston Villa and Watford but was a bit more reserved elsewhere. Now, they’re on the road where they’ve been much worse all season long against a Liverpool side I believe to be a lot better. I think the Gunners do everything they can to muddy this one up and keep within range, which should lead to a lower-scoring affair.

Key Trend: Liverpool has shut out nine of its 17 opponents across all competitions this season.

Inter Milan vs. Napoli, Sunday, 12 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Napoli or Draw (-150) — 
This is a massive match in Serie A, as Napoli find themselves tied with AC Milan atop the table, and Inter Milan — last year’s champion — isn’t far behind both. These matches will decide who wins the league this season, and this one isn’t coming at the best of times for Inter. Even off the break, Inter is dealing with injuries to key players. Reports out of Italy are skeptical that either Edin Dzeko, Alexis Sanchez or Stefan de Vrij will be able to play, and there are doubts about Lautaro Martinez as well. On the other side, Napoli is as close to 100% as any team can expect at this point in the season.

Still, even without some key players, Inter is a deeper squad than Napoli and more capable of withstanding their absences. The question is, how effective can Inter be at cracking the best defense in Europe? There are 98 clubs in Europe’s top five leagues, and none of them have allowed fewer goals or have a lower expected goals allowed (xGA) than Napoli (Chelsea is tied with Napoli with only four goals allowed, but has played one fewer match and has a much higher xGA). Defending had been a weak point for Napoli last season, and it’s the first thing new manager Luciano Spalletti set out to fix. He’s done so, and it’s that defense that will get Napoli out of San Siro with at least a point.

Key Trend: Napoli has allowed only four goals in 12 matches, the best mark in Europe.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine expert Alex Selesnick (aka PropStarz) is up 122 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 11.

🏀 The Friday Night Over/Under Parlay

It’s Friday night, so let’s stay up late and sweat out a college basketball parlay. This one pays +264.

  • Kentucky/Ohio Under 150 (-110)
  • UNLV/Michigan Over 135.5 (-110)

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