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USATSI

Hello! It's nice to see you've emerged from your turkey coma and joined us in the world of the people who need to figure out how to return to work after a long weekend filled with food and football. I do not have this problem because I spent the entire weekend working.

One of the odd side effects of covering college football for a living is explaining to family members who are on holiday how it's your busiest work weekend of the season. Not only do you have rivalry week going on, but then you've got the coaching carousel spinning at full speed before the transfer portal opens and signing day comes.

And if that sentence was confusing to you as a person who follows sports, imagine trying to explain it to people who don't. Maybe they'd better understand the situation if they were better-read like you'll be after checking out these stories.

Now let's figure out what to do with ourselves on the first day with only one football game to watch in what feels like 20 years.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook


🔥 The Hot Ticket

Steelers at Colts, 8:15 p.m. | TV: ESPN

Latest Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5
  • Key Trend: The Steelers are 48-30-5 ATS as underdogs under Mike Tomlin
  • The Pick: Steelers +2 (-105)

There are few things I enjoy doing more than betting the Pittsburgh Steelers as an underdog. It's been a profitable principle since Mike Tomlin took over from Bill Cowher. Since 2007, the Steelers are 48-30-5 ATS as underdogs, including a mark of 33-25-2 as road dogs. Underestimating the Steelers is the worst thing anybody could do, and I love this play tonight -- and not just for the trend but for the matchup.

It's hard to understate how important T.J. Watt is to the Steelers. Tonight he'll be going against an Indianapolis offense that's improved under Jeff Saturday but has had a difficult time keeping Matt Ryan upright all season. Ryan has been sacked on 7.5% of dropbacks, which ranks 23rd among qualified QBs. As a team, the Colts rank 28th in sack rate allowed and 22nd in pressure rate allowed.

I'm sure they'll lean on the rushing game to slow the Pittsburgh pass rush tonight, but I'm not sure how effective that plan will be. The Steelers' defense ranks sixth in the league in success rate against the run. Plus, even if the Colts have success rushing the ball, that will keep the clock running and limit the overall possessions in the game. It'll be imperative for the Colts to finish their drives with touchdowns to cover this spread, but the Colts' offense ranks 30th in the league in red zone TD rate.

Now, I say all this, and it makes it look great for the Steelers, but believe me, I'm not ignoring the fact Kenny Pickett is Pittsburgh's QB. The rookie's passer rating of 71.8% ranks 35th of 35 qualified QBs, and his interception rate ranks 34th. If the Steelers don't cover, I'm very confident it will be due to Pickett turning the ball over multiple times. But considering the pressure I expect the Steelers to put on Matt Ryan, there's just as good a chance that the Colts will turn the ball over a few times too.

Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: RJ White is 56-32-4 ATS in his last 92 picks involving the Steelers and he has a play available tonight waiting for you.


💰 NBA Picks

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Hawks at 76ers, 7 p.m. | TV: NBA TV

Latest Odds: Under 220.5

The Pick: Under 221 (-110) -- I've already mentioned it in the newsletter this season, but one of the more interesting things about the Hawks this season is how much better they've been defensively and how much worse they've been offensively compared to last year. The Hawks had an offensive efficiency of 115.4 last year and a defensive efficiency of 113.7. This year the offensive number has dropped to 110.4, while the defensive number sits at 111.1.

The market hasn't entirely caught on to the changes. Tonight's matchup is a tough road game against the team that ranks fourth in the league in defensive efficiency. The most important news of the evening is that after missing the last few games with a foot injury, Joel Embiid has been upgraded to questionable, and that's typically a sign that a player will return. That will only help the Sixers on the defensive end, which makes the under even more appealing.

Magic at Nets, 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass

Latest Odds: Orlando Magic +12

The Pick: Magic +10 (-110) -- The Magic are not good. They are an interesting team full of intriguing players. However, they are a live dog catching 10 points against the Nets tonight. The Nets have been playing better lately, but they aren't immune to relaxing against lesser opponents and will see the Magic as one tonight.

Furthermore, Brooklyn played Sunday night. The Magic played last night too, but they're a much younger roster and aren't as likely to be negatively impacted by it as the Nets are. The Nets are only 2-3 ATS on the second leg of a back-to-back this season and went 4-9-1 ATS in that situation last season. Asking them to cover 10 points in this situation is a lot.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Projection Model has only one A-graded play in the NBA tonight, and it's on the total between the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.