Don’t trust Daniel Jones or Mac Jones as favorites, plus other best bets for this weekend

Yesterday I told you about how I lied to a stranger I met while walking my dog. If you missed yesterday’s newsletter, first of all, shame on you. There’s no excuse for that. But since I’m a forgiving person, I’ll just tell you that I was walking the dog while wearing a Stanford football shirt, and when a stranger walking his dog asked me about it, I told him I played football at Stanford.

Well, there’s an update to this story. I saw the same person while walking my dog this morning, but I was wearing a Utah football hoodie because I told you I own a trillion different college football shirts and hoodies. Since it’d be hard to explain to this person why I’m suddenly wearing a Utah hoodie, I did the only thing I could think of doing: I crossed the street and went in the opposite direction before the person noticed me.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive!

Anyway, while I deal with the consequences of my actions, you get comfortable and prepare yourself for another massive Friday Football Edition of the HQ PM newsletter.

Now here are almost as many picks for the weekend as I have college football shirts.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Middle Tennessee at Charlotte, 6:30 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Middle Tennessee +3 (-110)
: I like what Will Healy has done with this Charlotte program in a short amount of time, but my numbers tell me this line is off a bit. It’s likely because Charlotte is 2-1 with a win over Duke, but Charlotte is getting too much credit for that win. Duke is likely to be the worst team in the ACC this year. Since then, the 49ers got by Gardner-Webb 38-10 before falling on the road to Georgia State 20-9 last week.

MTSU has had a much more difficult path to start the season. The Blue Raiders began the year with a 50-15 win over Monmouth but then lost their last two on the road against Virginia Tech and UTSA. This season, Virginia Tech could win the ACC Coastal, while UTSA should be considered the favorite to win Conference USA alongside Marshall. In other words, while Charlotte’s a solid team, this will be the easiest test the Blue Raiders have had since their opener, and I think they’ll bounce back.

Truth be told, on a neutral field, my numbers have MTSU as being a point better than the Niners, and Charlotte’s homefield advantage at Jerry Richardson Stadium isn’t worth four points in my book! MTSU has struggled to run the ball this season, but I expect they’ll find more success against a Charlotte defense allowing 5.96 yards per carry so far this season, and that will keep them in the game.

Key Trend: Charlotte is 3-6 ATS in its last nine games as a home favorite.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has a lean on the spread tonight, but it much prefers a play on the total.

💰 The Picks

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Saints at Patriots, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Saints +3 (-110) — 
I’m just not ready to trust Mac Jones as a favorite — yet. The Patriots failed to cover as favorites against Miami in Week 1, and, while they did cover as favorites against the Jets last week, it’s the Jets. Zach Wilson throwing four interceptions had a lot to do with it. To this point, Jones has been nothing but a game manager. He’s thrown one touchdown and has not turned the ball over. His 6.77 yards per attempt ranks 24th in the NFL, and, while that’s ahead of Jameis Winston (6.17), it’s not good enough to convince me to rely on the Patriots ever pulling away in this game.

Sure, Winston can throw four interceptions with the best of them himself, but I have confidence in Sean Payton to put together a game plan to keep the Saints in this game against a Patriots offense that does not scare me. I don’t hate the under here, either, but I much prefer getting a field goal with New Orleans.

Key Trend: New Orleans is 22-7 ATS in its last 29 games as an underdog.

Falcons at Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Falcons +3 (-120) — 
A big part of life is doing things you don’t necessarily want to do, and this pick is life. No, I’m not excited to be out here taking the Falcons. Atlanta could prove to be the worst team in the NFC, if not the entire league. But even if that’s the case, are they that much worse than this Giants team? Yes, Daniel Jones has shown some flashes of competence to begin 2021, but there’s always a turnover right around the corner.

Much like Mac Jones, I’m not willing to trust Daniel Jones as a favorite, nor should I be. Daniel Jones has been favored six times as a starter during his NFL career, and he’s 2-4 ATS. Both covers have come against Washington. Plus, while Atlanta’s defense ranks 27th in the NFL in points allowed per drive at 2.91, the Giants have been slightly worse, allowing 3 points per drive. This will be one of those games that neither team deserves to win, and in cases like these, I love the underdog.

Key Trend: The Giants are 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight games as a home favorite.

🏈 College Football

No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Notre Dame +6.5 (-115) — 
Dare I say it? Dare I utter the phrase that is sure to doom me? Yes, I dare. The wrong team is favored here. The game is being played at Soldier Field in Chicago — basically halfway between both campuses — so it’s a perfect neutral site. Both teams have been somewhat lackluster to start the season, and while Wisconsin had an extra week to prepare, I’m concerned about its offense.

The Badgers have averaged 1.61 points per possession through two games, which ranks 90th nationally. A lack of explosive plays is the primary reason. Wisconsin has only three plays of 20 yards or more, making it difficult to score consistently. While the Irish haven’t been amazing, they’ve been much better offensively and solid defensively. Give me the team that has at least shown it can score points against good defenses.

Key Trend: Wisconsin is only 2-5 ATS in its last seven as a favorite

No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Texas A&M -5.5 (-110) — 
This is a huge game for me personally because I’ve been saying Arkansas might be the second-best team in the SEC West behind Alabama on the Cover 3 Podcast for the last few weeks. Naturally, that means I’m taking the Razorbacks in this spot, right? Well, no. I have some concerns about the Hogs heading into this neutral-site matchup on Saturday.

Arkansas is dealing with injuries along the offensive line. Namely, starting center Ricky Stromberg and right tackle Dalton Wagner have missed practice time this week. We don’t know what their status will be for Saturday’s game, and while I have a ton of respect for any offensive line coached by Sam Pittman, Texas A&M is a terrible team to be facing when yours is at less than full strength.

If Arkansas is missing starters up front, it’s hard to imagine it will be able to move the ball consistently enough to stay within a touchdown of the Aggies. That’s why I have to back Texas A&M here. The good news, though, is that if Arkansas loses I can still maintain my take that it’s the second-best team in the SEC West and would’ve won if it had its entire offensive line. It’s important to find the silver lining.

Key Trend: Texas A&M is 5-1 ATS in its last six as a favorite.

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

⚽ Soccer

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Inter Milan vs. Atalanta, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-140) — 
Goals, goals, goals. I’m expecting lots of goals in this matchup. No team in Serie A has scored more goals than Inter’s 18 this season, as the team hasn’t had many problems replacing players like Romelu Lukaku. Of course, Inter has been relatively lucky with its finishing as those 18 goals have come on an xG of only 9.8, but they have such high-quality finishers that it’s only natural they’ll overperform their xG most of the time. Also, Inter’s defending has left something to be desired at times, as it has allowed at least one goal in each of its last four matches.

That’s excellent news for Atalanta, who could use a bounce or two. The darlings of Italy are off to a sluggish start. This team has scored an average of 2.47 goals per match over the last two seasons but has managed only six goals in five matches so far this season. Their xG of 7.5 hasn’t been much better, but Atalanta’s track record and style of play suggest a breakthrough is coming soon. I think it will be on Saturday in a match I can see finishing 3-2.

Key Trend: Inter’s five Serie A matches this season have averaged 4.6 goals with at least four scored in each.

Lazio vs. Roma, Sunday, 12 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network/Paramount+
The Pick: Roma (+160) — 
The Derby della Capitale is one of the most heated rivalries in Serie A. It’s the Roman equivalent of the Cubs and White Sox in that two teams share the same city, and you grow up rooting for one or the other. That’s it. What makes it more spectacular is that the teams share a stadium, and there’s been plenty of history (both good and bad) between the teams and their fans. It’s a fantastic spectacle every time they meet, and Sunday’s meeting won’t be any different.

Jose Mourinho’s start at Roma has been near perfect, as the club sits fourth in Serie A, while Maurizio Sarri’s start at Lazio hasn’t been as smooth. Lazio sits in seventh, but it’s been somewhat stop-and-go thus far. I’m a huge Sarri fan — his time at Napoli has endeared him to me forever — but I’m backing Roma in this spot. Lazio’s two wins came by a combined 9-2 score over Empoli and Spezia, both of whom will struggle to survive relegation. Since that 2-0 start in the league, Lazio has drawn twice and lost to AC Milan 2-0. In expected goals (xG), it’s been outscored 6.0-3.3, and Lazio needed a late equalizer to avoid a loss to Torino earlier this week. Meanwhile, Roma had one slip-up against Verona but has looked dominant the rest of the time.

Key Trend: Roma has one seven of its eight matches across all competitions under Jose Mourinho.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Six different SportsLine experts have put in spread bets for tonight’s college football game between Syracuse and Liberty, and they’re all on the same side.

🏈⚽ Football Variety Hour Parlay

Three different kinds of football, six legs = one parlay paying +151.

  • Florida Gators (-1400)
  • Oklahoma Sooners (-900)
  • Ravens (-420)
  • Broncos (-650)
  • Paris St. Germain (-510)
  • Napoli (-430)

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