Hello and Happy Wednesday, everyone, it's me, Tom Fornelli, and I'm happy to be back writing today's newsletter. I'd like to thank Tyler Sullivan for filling in for me on Monday and Chris Bengel for continuing to be such a massive help on Tuesdays. I don't know about you, but I had a hectic weekend that included writing over 10,000 words about bowl games and placing my Heisman Trophy vote.
I don't know what was more difficult: writing the 10,000-word feature or whittling down my Heisman ballot to only three players.
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I'm not allowed to tell you who I voted for until after the winner is revealed, but I want to talk about the reaction to the finalists. While this year was challenging, the truth is it is every year. Even in seasons when there's going to be an obvious winner, figuring out the other two names to include on your ballot is hard to do because you're always leaving deserving players off. This year, the snubs brought up most often are Alabama's Will Anderson and Michigan State's Kenneth Walker. The finalists are announced, and anger ensues.
Heisman voters are called clueless because they left a player off, or they're told they're biased toward a position, team or region of the country. Some probably are! But most of us put a lot of thought into their ballot, and it's impossible not to snub some players. But rest assured, any player who isn't a finalist who you think should've been a finalist was definitely on my ballot. I voted for all the snubs. Sometimes twice!
- Speaking of difficult votes, the CBS Sports All-American Teams have been released.
- Tiger Woods will be back on the course next weekend, alongside his son.
- If Big Ben is done, who might succeed him in Pittsburgh?
- These seven teams could soon make a coaching change.
I'm told gambling is just like riding a bike, so let's start pedaling.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Mavericks +3.5 (-110): The Grizzlies are one of the hotter teams in the NBA. They've won five straight and have climbed to the top half of the Western Conference playoff picture, ahead of the Clippers and Lakers. What's truly remarkable is the Grizzlies have done all this without Ja Morant, who has been out with a knee injury for all five games.
And tonight is the night we bet on this run to end. It's an excellent sign for the overall strength of this Grizzlies roster that it can withstand the loss of its best player and win games, but Memphis being a 3.5-point favorite in this spot is a little too much. One thing I always look for when handicapping NBA games is teams with bad defenses being favored because it's hard to cover a spread when you don't defend. Memphis' defensive rating of 110.7 ranks 25th in the league.
While the Mavs haven't been much better defensively, they have Luka Doncic, and he's a matchup nightmare for everybody. The Grizzlies beat Dallas on Saturday, but the rematch should be more difficult because now the Mavericks know how the Grizzlies are going to attack them without Morant. The Grizzlies might stretch the win streak to six tonight, but they could just as easily run out of gas, so I'll be on the Mavs.
Key Trend: Dallas is 5-1 ATS in its last six road games.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model has a B-graded play on both the spread and the moneyline, while SportsLine expert Micah Roberts thinks it's the total you should attack.
💰 The Picks
The Pick: Under 208 (-110) -- If you're like me, you spent a portion of your Tuesday on the NBA Trade Machine trying to see if there are any trades that make sense for your favorite NBA team after hearing that the Pacers are looking to kick off a rebuild. While I think Caris LeVert could do a lot of good for the Bulls, I did not find a trade that made sense for both sides. Don't worry, I was able to put on my brave face and carry on living.
As for this game, I've gone over it a few times already this season with the Knicks. While their defensive rating hasn't been great (23rd overall), defense is still at the heart of what Tom Thibodeau wants to do and the team's overall approach. It's also been better on the road, where the team's defensive rating drops from 110.0 to 108.5. Now, 1.5 points per 100 possessions might not seem like much to you, but it matters. The Knicks also move slower on the road, as they're pace ranks 29th in the league away from Madison Square Garden. That matches up well with an Indiana team that ranks 22nd in the league in pace and 14th in defensive rating.
Key Trend: The under is 7-4 in Knicks road games this season.
Avalanche at Rangers, 7 p.m. | TV: NHL Network
The Pick: Rangers (+145) -- You know it's not a great night on the board when I'm putting an NHL pick in the newsletter, and that's certainly the case. That said, I do think there's pretty good value on the Rangers here! While I don't understand the intricacies of hockey the same way I do other sports (SHOOT THE PUCK!!!!), there are some trends I look for when it comes to betting it that have proven fruitful.
One of them is fading teams toward the back end of road trips. Colorado comes to New York tonight for the final game of a five-game road trip that took them through Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa) and then to Philly on Monday. The first game of the road trip was a week ago tonight, so this is Colorado's fifth game in eight nights. They'll be facing a Rangers team that was in Chicago last night but has won seven straight, outscoring opponents 28-12 in that stretch. Give me the hot team over the tired one.
Key Trend: The home team has won five straight between these two.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: While I'm betting the total in the game, the SportsLine Projection Model's favorite NBA play of the day is on the spread between the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.
🏀 Tonight's Parlay
Tonight's parlay is a four-leg college basketball moneyline play. There's not a lot I like individually on the board -- hockey made today's letter! -- but there's some value on this parlay that pays +141.
- Penn State (-330)
- VCU (-440)
- BYU (-280)
- San Diego State (-900)