There’s an interesting new name about to hit the wide receiver free-agent market. Reports surfaced Friday that the Cowboys are planning to release Amari Cooper if they can’t find a trade partner for him. Considering the $20 million due to Cooper later this month, it’s hard to imagine they’ll find somebody willing to trade for him when they can just wait and try to sign him for less.
Regardless of the salary, Cooper is an exciting name to add to the market. Chris Godwin is the biggest name right now, but he’s coming off a torn ACL, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the 2022 season. Then there’s Mike Williams, but most expect the Chargers to franchise him.
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Cooper might become the most attractive option out there once he’s available. While he might seem older because he’s been in the league for seven seasons, Cooper will only be 28 in June. He’s also shown to be durable, appearing in 112 games (including the postseason) over those seven years. He should have plenty of suitors.
Now let’s try and raise some funds to sign Amari Cooper.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
? The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The Bulls are 4-11 ATS against teams with a win percentage of 60% of higher this season.
- The Pick: Bucks -5 (-110)
I might be a Bulls fan, but I’m the kind of Bulls fan who can be honest with himself. I’ve loved watching them play this season after so many years of bad Bulls basketball, but I understand this team has flaws even with a record of 39-24. It has not shown much ability to compete with the best teams in the NBA. Aside from the Bulls, there are eight teams in the NBA with a winning percentage of .600 or better. The Bulls are 2-13 against them straight up and 4-11 ATS. Results like that don’t bode well for the postseason, but I’ll be happy as long as the Bulls get out of the first round. Anything from that point on is gravy.
Tonight’s matchup against Milwaukee is one of those odd quirks of NBA scheduling in that they share a division, yet it’s March and this is only the second time they’ve played all season. The Bulls lost the first matchup, 94-90, in Milwaukee. It was the night Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen was ejected for a flagrant foul that broke Alex Caruso‘s wrist, and, while I’m sure the Bulls wouldn’t mind getting revenge for that, I have difficulty seeing it happening.
The Bulls recently added Tristan Thompson for some interior defending, but I don’t see an answer for Giannis and everything the Bucks can do. Chicago will have to try and outscore the Bucks tonight, and while I believe all things are possible through DeMar DeRozan, I don’t see it happening. DeRozan has cooled off after going scorched Earth in February. Even if DeRozan does go off again, it’s hard to imagine the Bulls getting enough stops against a Milwaukee offense that’s been incredible over its last 10 games.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model has an A-graded play on the spread tonight, but are the two of us in agreement?
? The Picks
The Pick: Timberwolves -9.5 (-110) — Every year in the NBA, there’s a small-market team that’s better than expected, but it feels like nobody knows it because they’re in a small market and never featured in national games. This year that team is Minnesota. The Wolves are 34-29 and would get to host a play-in game for a playoff spot if the regular season ended right now. Karl-Anthony Towns has played well, while Anthony Edwards is dunking on everybody. Rookie Jarred Vanderbilt has become the hipster Rookie of the Year, and there’s just an overwhelming level of competence around this team we’re not used to seeing.
The Wolves won’t have Anthony Edwards tonight as he deals with knee tendinitis, but they’re still favored by this much for a reason. The Thunder will be missing a host of players as well, including Josh Giddey and Lu Dort. Suffice it to say that as good as Edwards is, the Wolves still have KAT and D’Angelo Russell behind him. The Thunder do not. Believe me when I tell you it feels unnatural to take Minnesota as this considerable of a road favorite, but it’s the right play.
Key Trend: Minnesota is 4-1 ATS in its last five as a road favorite.
? College Basketball
Central Michigan at Akron, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Over 135.5 (-110) — This newsletter didn’t feel like it had enough of a degenerate flavor, so I figured I’d add some MAC basketball to the card. Just to keep our street cred. It’s the regular-season finale for both squads, and I get the sense that it’s a lot more exciting to Central Michigan because they’ve been playing like they want the season to be over with for a while. The Chippewas are 7-21 overall and 6-11 in the MAC. But that record is somewhat misleading, as they began the season 5-4 in conference play before losing seven of their last eight.
They face an Akron squad that’s been one of the conference’s better teams on both ends of the court but is still nothing special on the defensive end. While the Zips don’t move quickly on offense, they’re efficient and shouldn’t have much difficulty putting up points against this Central Michigan defense. But while Akron has been decent enough defensively, it’s really struggled to defend the three-point line as opponents have shot 35.5% from three against it this season. Shooting the three seems to be the only thing Central Michigan has had consistent success doing this season, so this is a matchup the Chippewas can exploit too.
Key Trend: The over is 9-4 in Akron’s last 13 home games.
Newcastle United vs. Brighton, Saturday, 10 a.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Newcastle (+170) — Since joining the Premier League in 2017, Brighton has amassed an xG (expected goals) of 202.34. It has scored 173 goals. That difference of -29.34 between its xG and goals scored is the worst in the Premier League in that time and ranks 134th of the 135 clubs to play in Europe’s top five leagues since then (Serie A’s Cagliari is at -30.19). Brighton does everything you need to do to score goals except for the scoring goals part! It’s comical.
Brighton has also been much worse on the road this season, and that’s where it is to face a red-hot Newcastle team. Newcastle got some new billionaire owners, spent money in January, and shockingly, it’s playing better. After managing one win in its first 22 matches across all competitions, Newcastle has won four of its last five. It’s done so because its defense has picked up tremendously and allowed an inconsistent attack time to figure itself out. As of late, Brighton’s attack has disappeared as it hasn’t scored (shocker!) in its last three matches and has posted an xG of only 1.8 in that span. We’re getting Newcastle at a price that does not reflect how these two have played over the last month.
Key Trend: Newcastle has won four of its last five.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. | TV: USA
The Pick: Manchester City -1.5 (+105) — Manchester City has hit a slight speed bump lately, but it’s more of a results-based speed bump than a process speed bump. In reality, City’s been just about the same club we’ve seen all season. In its 1-1 draw with Southampton, it led the xG battle 1.5-1.0. In a 3-2 loss to Tottenham two weeks ago, City won the xG battle 2.2-1.8. Sure, it’s slipped a bit defensively at times, but it’s also scored at least one goal in 24 straight matches. Since the 1-1 draw with Southampton, City has averaged 2.9 goals over seven matches. At no point has it stopped being the best team in the world. Manchester United stopped being the best team in the world a long time ago, and that isn’t likely to change this weekend.
While derby matches like this one are certainly “throw out the record books!” affairs — United has won three of its last four matches against City at Etihad Stadium — there’s little reason to be confident about Sunday. United look like a team managed by somebody who knows he won’t be there after the season, and the players are playing like they know he won’t be managing them after the season. There’s no real identity or plan. Or, there might be, but it never seems to make itself known in matches. In other words, they’re precisely the kind of team City should pick apart. I don’t know how many goals will be scored, but I’m confident City wins by two or more often enough to justify the price we’ve been offered.
Key Trend: Manchester City is averaging 2.9 goales over its last seven matches and has scored in 24 straight.
Napoli vs. AC Milan, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Over 2.5 (+100) — If it feels like every weekend in Serie A, there’s another match between the top two teams in the league, it’s because there is. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen Inter atop the table, followed by AC Milan, and now it’s Napoli’s turn after Fabian Ruiz’s last-minute goal gave the partenopei a win over Lazio (and a win for our over 2.5) last weekend. Who will be in first come the end of this weekend? Well, if either one of these teams picks up a win here, it’ll be them.
Much like last week’s Napoli/Inter match, I don’t have a great feeling either way about the outcome of the match. What I’m confident in is that goals will be scored. Napoli remains the best defensive team in Italy from a goals allowed and an expected goals (xG) allowed perspective, but their form has dipped lately. Napoli has allowed at least one goal in its last five matches (8 allowed on 6.6 xG). Milan has struggled defensively in its last two matches against Salernitana and Udinese and has been much worse on the road than at home all season (17 goals allowed in 13 away matches compared to 12 allowed in 14 home). This match should resemble what we saw with Napoli and Lazio last week, though I’d appreciate it if they don’t make us work so hard for that third goal.
Key Trend: Napoli has allowed at least one goal in its last five matches.
? SportsLine Pick of the Day: The NASCAR season continues in Las Vegas this weekend and you don’t want to tune in or bet it without seeing what SportsLine’s Mike McClure has to say first.
? Tonight’s Parlay
We’ve been running so hot with our parlays lately that I’m wondering if they’re the only picks I should be giving out. Tonight’s pays +129.
- Winthrop (-320)
- Missouri State (-700)
- Mercer (-300)
- BYU (-700)