Why Knicks-Raptors won’t be a shootout, plus best NFL bets for a crucial Week 18

The first week of 2023 is in the books. Did it treat you well? Are you finding it better than 2022 so far? If so, that’s great! If not, would a newsletter full of picks to get you through the weekend make things better?

I hope so, because that’s all I have to offer. The NFL wraps up its regular season this weekend, and I’ve got a few picks there, as well as basketball picks (both NBA and college) tonight and soccer to get you through until Monday. Then I’ll return and tell you everything you need to know for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

But first, let’s catch up on the latest news.

To the weekend!

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

? The Hot Ticket

Knicks at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass

Latest Odds:

Under 216

  • Key Trend: The under is 11-5 in the Knicks’ last 16 road games
  • The Pick: Under 218 (-110)

Before I get to this pick, I’d like to thank the Orlando Magic for their second-half performance last night. Memphis had a 65-43 lead at halftime, and Orlando could’ve easily packed it in and called it an evening. Thankfully, the Magic are too young to know any better and thought they could make a game of it in the second half. And they did! Orlando scored 72 points in the second half and only lost by eight, helping us hit our over. We appreciate it.

Let’s hope the Knicks and Raptors do their part tonight, except let’s miss every shot instead of making them all.

When I’m picking an under in an NBA game, I frequently look for elite defensive teams. That’s not the case here. Neither of these teams is bad defensively, but they’re more “above average” than good, with the Knicks ranking eighth in defensive efficiency and the Raptors 13th. However, while the Knicks are decent on the offensive end, ranking 10th in efficiency, neither one moves quickly.

The Knicks rank 23rd in pace, while the Raptors are 24th. So we’ve got two slow-moving teams with good defenses and offenses that aren’t great. Those aren’t the kind of matchups that lead to high-scoring affairs, and when you bake in the familiarity of being in the same division and seeing each other a lot, the odds of this one becoming a shootout decrease even further.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model is a bigger fan of the spread in this game than the total.

? The Picks


? College Basketball

Canisius at Manhattan, 7 p.m | TV: ESPN+

Latest Odds:

Manhattan Jaspers

The Pick: Manhattan +1.5 (-110) — Oh yeah, we’re getting down in the muck tonight. That glorious Friday night MAACtion muck. Mucktion? Let’s workshop it.

Anyway, tonight we’re betting on the 4-9 home team that’s lost two straight and six of its last seven as an underdog against the 2-11 team that’s lost nine straight. While Rick Pitino’s Iona team is solid, the rest of this conference is a crapshoot, and I’m not big on taking road favorites that are 0-7 in true road games this season, losing by an average of 13.9 points per game.

Also, Canisius (the road favorite) hasn’t played a home game since Nov. 20 and won’t play at home until Jan. 13. Canisius has been horrific offensively and defensively, though it’s been strong on the boards. That could be a factor tonight, but Manhattan is the better shooting team, and making shots is rather important in the sport of basketball.


Titans at Jaguars, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. | TV: ESPN

Latest Odds:

Tennessee Titans

The Pick: Titans +6.5 (-110) — The Jaguars are too obvious a play to take them. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to me. The Titans have lost six straight games, including a 36-22 loss at home to these same Jaguars. They’re also starting Josh Dobbs at QB again, a week after he went 20/39 for 232 yards (a whopping 5.9 per!) in a 27-13 loss to Dallas.

But the Titans have been off for nearly 10 days, while the Jaguars had to play six days ago. Sure, they didn’t have to play all that hard in a 31-3 win over Houston, but this late in the season, rest matters a lot. Those extra days have given Tennessee time to heal and extra time to prepare for a winner-take-all game. I don’t know if that’s enough to win this one, but getting nearly a touchdown seems excessive.

Rams at Seahawks, Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | TV: Fox

Latest Odds:

Los Angeles Rams

The Pick: Rams +6 (-110) — One of the most common refrains you hear in the last week of the NFL season is, “they have nothing to play for.” Everybody says it, and everybody bets against the team with “nothing to play for.” This leads to tremendous value on teams with “nothing to play for!” Remember, the other side of “nothing to play for” is “this team has nothing to lose.”

Meanwhile, Seattle’s entire season comes down to this game. The Seahawks can’t get to the playoffs without a win. All the pressure is on them, and while Geno Smith and Seattle have been a nice story this year, it’s not as if they’ve been lighting it up to finish the season. They beat the Jets last week, but they’ve lost five of their last seven. The Rams have been awful on the road this season, but I think they can hang around in this one. 

⚽ Soccer

Juventus vs. Udinese, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Under 2.5 (-115) — 
Serie A returned to action earlier this week, and Juventus picked up where it left off: playing a boring match and getting three points. I tell you, watching Max Allegri’s Juventus side play is like looking back in time, but I won’t judge because it works a lot better than what Juventus was trying to do. Juve has won seven straight Serie A matches and hasn’t allowed a goal in any of them. At home, Juve has allowed three goals in eight matches all season.

I expect Saturday to be another turgid affair. Udinese has been one of the higher-scoring teams in the league this season, but it’s overperformed its xG (expected goals) and has fared better at home than on the road. Plus, Gerard Deulofeu, Udinese’s primary creative engine, isn’t expected to play in this match due to a foot injury (there’s also been transfer speculation about him). I don’t see Udinese being the team to finally crack Juve without him, and while Juventus may get three on its own, it’ll happen by chance more than intent.

AC Milan vs. Roma, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: AC Milan (-118) — 
It’s hard not to do victory laps about Roma, especially with so much of the season left to play, but I’m enjoying it too much. Over the summer, Roma made a few big moves, namely bringing in Paulo Dybala, and since their names were recognizable, Roma was pegged as the surprise team heading into the season. Meanwhile, Napoli lost the names everyone recognized and replaced them with players they hadn’t heard of, so Napoli was going to fall off the face of the Earth. Now, here we are, and Napoli leads the league by five points while Roma sits sixth and could be in seventh by the time the weekend ends.

While Napoli’s lead is significant, AC Milan is a serious threat to catch it and take the league. It has a potent attack and an outstanding defense, and I love it in this matchup. Roma is one of those teams that routinely fools the market with its xG numbers because it’s a team filled with volume shooters who aren’t good finishers. As a result, they often struggle against good teams while overwhelming the bad ones. Take Milan.

? SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Projection Model has an A-graded play in the NBA tonight in which it sees one team getting points when it should be the favorite. But which team is it? Well, click this link and find out.

Source link