Troy Aikman has turned on the Cowboys! OK, maybe that's extreme, but Aikman shared some thoughts about the Cowboys' game plan in their loss to San Francisco on the radio in Dallas today. Specifically, the way the Cowboys used CeeDee Lamb.
"There was a lot of single coverage on CeeDee Lamb," Aikman said. "I hate going back to (when I was playing) because nobody cares, but what I see around the league -- it's not just Dallas, I've seen it with a lot of teams -- a lot of these offenses want to scheme things. The coordinators, it's all about scheme, rather than, 'This corner is playing soft. He's scared to death.' Just run the route tree. Run a comeback. Run a dig route. Run a curl. Run anything.
"... (Michael Irvin) would've had 10 catches at halftime if they played us the way they played CeeDee Lamb in that game. ... The game is not that difficult. If I've got a great player at wide receiver and a corner is playing him in single coverage, throw him the ball. He's going to win most of the time."
Lamb finished the game with only one catch for 21 yards on five targets. Aikman does touch on an interesting point and something that isn't often considered. Every NFL fan wants a great schematic offensive coach these days, but at some point, an offense can become too reliant on the scheme. While a play is designed to get a specific receiver open, sometimes a QB needs to feel free to improvise and get off-script. It's not a coincidence that nearly every great QB you can think of often changed plays at the line of scrimmage or improvised based on what the defense was showing.
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On Sunday against the 49ers, the Cowboys were too loyal to the script. The same thing happened to Kyler Murray and the Cardinals Sunday night. It's not just about getting a great offensive mind. It's finding a balance between the play-caller and the QB in charge of running the play. When you get that, great things happen.
- Bruce Arians has been fined $50,000 for smacking his player in the back of the helmet.
- We have ranked the eight remaining playoff teams, because we always need somebody to call the worst.
- We sure would like to see these trades if baseball ever comes back.
- The college teams hit hardest by players leaving early for the NFL Draft.
All right, time to follow our scheme for tonight's bets, and improvise if needed.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Alabama -4 (-110): Here's a philosophy that isn't highly scientific but has served me well over the years. When you're betting college football or basketball, and a ranked team is an underdog to an unranked team, you want to bet the unranked team more often than not. While a lot of us can bet on our phones these days, those giant buildings in the desert they used to force us to travel to if we wanted to bet weren't just the byproduct of luck.
There are a few reasons why Alabama is the right side tonight. The first is that Alabama is much better than its record suggests. The Crimson Tide have lost three straight to drop to 11-6 on the season and out of the rankings, but are still ranked 16th by KenPom and 24th by the NCAA's NET rankings. Two of the three losses in this streak came on the road, while the other was at home against an Auburn team that might be the best in the country right now.
And speaking of playing on the road, that's something LSU hasn't done much of! At the end of December, you may remember when I wrote in this newsletter that you should take Auburn as a home favorite against LSU, and Auburn covered. That was LSU's first road game of the season. Tonight is their third, and while LSU beat Florida in Gainesville, Alabama's a better team than Florida. Alabama is also an excellent offensive rebounding team, and that's an area the Tide should be able to exploit against an LSU team that is ordinary on the defensive glass. Those extra possessions will come in handy for us.
Key Trend: The favorite is 20-6-1 ATS in the last 27 meetings.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you don't care what I think you can always check out what SportsLine's Projection Model has to say.
🏀 College Basketball
The Pick: Over 135.5 (-110) -- This is simply a case of my numbers telling me the total is a few points lower than where it should be, so let's bet on a La Salle defense that's been terrible all season continuing to be terrible. The Explorers (I love nontraditional names) are only 6-8 on the season, with an offense that ranks 244th nationally in KenPom's adjusted efficiency and a defense that's 229th. Rhode Island is much better, as it's 11-4, but its offense isn't spectacular (98th). The Rams also move deliberately on offense, limiting possessions and leading to lower totals like this.
Still, this is a matchup the Rams offense can exploit. They've been strong from three this season, shooting 37.9% (22nd), and the La Salle defense is horrible defending the perimeter. Opponents are shooting 35.5% from three (274th) against the Explorers this season. The Rams don't shoot from three often, but I'm expecting them to get more open looks than usual tonight, and should they take advantage of them, we'll cruise past this total. Hell, we still could even if we don't. As for why we don't just lay the 13 points with Rhode Island, the Rams aren't deep, so if they're up late, odds are we'll see the bench unit, and I don't trust them to hold the lead ...but that could help get us over.
Key Trend: The over is 10-3 following La Salle's last 13 wins (La Salle beat St. Joe's on Monday).
Hornets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 219.5 (-110) -- Let's see, we've got a favorite, and we've got an over, so that means it's time for an under. To the NBA! Let's start with the fact that it's dangerous to take an under when these two play because it hasn't worked out well lately (the over is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings), but this total is a little too high for my tastes.
The Celtics have been one of the NBA's biggest disappointments this season, but the only reason they've managed to keep their heads above water has been their defense. The Celtics rank sixth in the league in defensive rating. To help with that defense and help offset an offense that is just "let Jayson or Jaylen run isolation and hope they score," they move at a slow pace offensively, ranking 25th in the league.
They're going to try to slow things down tonight, too. The Hornets rank third in the NBA in offensive rating and want to get out in transition and speed opponents up, so the best way to beat them is to slow them down and get them into the halfcourt. Playing at home and being a solid defensive team, the Celtics can do that tonight. The Hornets offense isn't nearly as efficient when that happens, so there's a good chance Charlotte struggles to score at its usual rate.
Key Trend: The under is 8-3 in Boston's last 11 as a favorite.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model's favorite NBA play of the night is on the spread between the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors.
⛳ The American Express Top 10s
We're betting on each of these golfers to finish in the top 10 this week.
- Jhonattan Vegas (+550)
- Kevin Streelman (+800)
- Harold Varner (+800)
- Emiliano Grillo (+900)
- Alex Smalley (+1000)