So baseball will probably look a little different when it returns from its lockout. It's safe to assume the days of pitchers hitting are over. MLB has been holding onto the universal DH as a cookie for these negotiations and will use it. We'll also probably see a larger MLB postseason with more teams because the playoffs are where the money is in the league's television deals.

That's fine. I'm not particularly excited about more teams making the playoffs, but it isn't a dealbreaker. Still, the one change I really want to see and have wanted to see for years is one that isn't likely to come.

Get rid of the leagues. The only reason the American and National Leagues still existed was the DH rule. There's no need for separate leagues if the DH is gone, so get rid of them and realign the sport. Unlike the NFL and NBA, baseball is not a national sport where fans care about all the teams and players. They care about their team and their local rivals. So play to that. Realign the league geographically. Look at how successful interleague play was when the New York teams played meaningful games, and the same thing happened in Chicago, Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Make that the norm! The Yankees and Mets should be fighting for a division title, just like the Cubs and White Sox should be! It will make the regular season far more interesting for everybody involved, leading to more money for everybody.

Baseball can't lock us out of these picks, so let's get to them.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Cowboys at Saints, 8:20 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Cowboys Over 26.5 (-115)
: This game is not easy to get a read on. The Saints will be without Alvin Kamara again and Taysom Hill is starting at QB. There just isn't much history of New Orleans without Kamara and with Hill to work with and get an idea of what to expect. I spent a long time trying to figure it out on my own before a thought occurred to me.

What if we just didn't? What if we ignored the Saints offense and instead focused on what we do know?

So that's what I did, and it all led to the Cowboys team over. Dallas has one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. In games started by Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are averaging 2.43 points per possession with a success rate of 45.1%. Those numbers would rank 9th and 5th respectively in the NFL (they rank 10th and 7th overall). And the Cowboys have done all this despite dealing with injuries all year. Well, tonight is the first time the Cowboys will have their full complement of receivers on the field at the same time, and they'll all be going against a Saints defense that has not played well lately.

While the focus is on the offensive injuries, New Orleans is banged up defensively, too. The Saints rank 10th in points allowed per possession on the season but in November they ranked 27th, allowing 2.48 points per drive.

Finally, Mike McCarthy will miss this game after testing positive for COVID, and I don't think that's a bad thing for the Dallas offense! Kellen Moore might feel a bit more freedom calling plays tonight than he would've if McCarthy were around.

Key Trend: The Saints have allowed at least 27 points in four of their last five games.

Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine's Emory Hunt is 30-20-1 ATS in picks involving the Dallas Cowboys and he has a play on the spread available for tonight.

💰 The Picks

USA Today


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

Latest Odds: Over 216

The Pick: Over 216 (-110) -- I know we've been securing our retirement funds by betting unders in the NBA this season, but the best value I can find in The Association tonight is on the over in this total. It's just a little too low by my estimates. While neither team has had an elite offense this season, the Bucks rank 10th in the league in defensive rating and Toronto isn't far behind in 13th. More important to our interests is the pace at which the Bucks play: sixth. Now, Toronto is way down in 28th, but with Milwaukee being the better team, it should dictate the pace.

Considering the Raptors rank 24th in the NBA in defensive rating, it's hard to imagine they'll be able to dictate anything. Milwaukee's defense is much better than Toronto's, but it's not great, either. The Bucks rank 11th in defensive rating, and another thing we should adjust for is that the Bucks played on Wednesday, beating Charlotte 127-125. I won't be surprised if that effort takes a little something out of Milwaukee's legs tonight and leaves the Bucks a bit more susceptible on the defensive end. I don't expect the same kind of offensive explosion we saw last night, but I think this game finishes closer to 220 than 216.

Key Trend: The over is 6-2 in Toronto's last eight as an underdog.

🏀 College Basketball

Oregon State at Cal, 10:30 p.m. | TV: Pac-12 Network

Latest Odds: Oregon State Beavers +2.5

The Pick: Oregon State +2.5 (-110) -- This is not a sexy matchup, but these are often the games where you can find the most value. Cal is off to a 3-4 start with wins against San Diego, Southern Utah and Fresno State. None of them appear in the top 100 of KenPom ratings. Oregon State is worse, at 1-6, with its sole win coming against Portland State in the opener. It's been six straight losses for the Beavs since, but they've played a more difficult schedule than the Bears.

While Cal's defensive rating has been strong, it's also somewhat misleading due to the competition. The truth is the Bears have just been excellent on the defensive glass, which isn't a surprise due to their size. However, Oregon State has plenty of its own size, which should help offset that a bit. Finally, Oregon State has shot only 28.8% from three this season. That's horrible, but the players on this team are better shooters than that number suggests. It's going to improve, and considering how well opponents have shot from three against Cal, there's a good chance the improvement starts tonight.

Key Trend: Oregon State is 14-3 ATS in its last 17 road games.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model is sharing its five favorite props for Thursday Night Football.

🏀 Tonight's Parlay

A simple four-leg college basketball parlay for tonight that pays +117.

  • Towson (-550)
  • TCU (-400)
  • UC San Diego (-300)
  • Belmont (-1000)