It's Thursday, which means we're all a little bit closer to the weekend, and that's exciting news to me. I haven't been this excited about a weekend of sports in a few months. Not only do we still have baseball going on with some interesting division and playoff races, but the NFL preseason is kicking into high gear too.

Plus, the club soccer season is entering its second week of action, and it includes the season openers in Italy's Serie A (and you can watch every single match on Paramount+).

In other words, it feels like there's a real variety to what we can watch and bet on this weekend, and we just don't get a lot of that over the summer. Sure, it'll be a lot more fun when regular season NFL and college football join the party, but it won't be long now until they do.

It's almost fall, and fall is the best sports time of the year. Until then, we'll just have to fill the time the best way we can, so let's start by catching up on our reading for today.

OK, let's bet on some preseason football.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Patriots at Eagles, 7:30 p.m. | TV: NFL Network
The Pick: Under 38.5 (-110)
: Do I have you betting on preseason NFL action? I sure do! Now, relax. Just because I'm telling you to bet on a preseason game doesn't mean you have to watch it. Sometimes it's better to place the bet and check out the results later. This is one of those times.

Betting preseason NFL action might seem like some degenerate stuff, but there's a lot of value to be found on preseason NFL games since they aren't bet on nearly as heavily as regular-season games, particularly when it comes to the under.

NFL teams don't score a lot of points in the preseason. They're running the most basic version of their offense because they don't want to put anything on tape, and they're trying to learn what players on the roster are capable of pulling off. It's the same on the defensive side of the ball, where nobody is trying to trick you. In the end, you get boring preseason games that feature low scores.

Don't believe me? Well, what if I told you that the under has gone 13-3 so far this preseason? Now, what if I told you that the under is 6-0 in every preseason game with a total of 37 points or higher this year? Would that grab your attention?

Key Trend: The under has gone 13-3 in the preseason so far.

Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine expert Emory Hunt, who is 32-17-1 on his last 50 picks involving the Eagles, has released his pick for Thursday's preseason game between New England and Philadelphia.

💰 The Picks



Twins at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB Network
The Pick: Yankees -1.5 (-140) -- 
Right now, the plan is to keep riding the Yankees until they give us a reason not to. New York comes into this series having just swept Boston to move into second place in the division and they have won six straight overall. They're facing a Minnesota team in full-blown rebuild mode after trading nearly everything of value before the deadline.

Tonight the Yankees will face Minnesota starter John Gant, who recently came over from St. Louis, and he's not the most intimidating presence. On the season, Gant has a strikeout rate of only 18.1% and an astronomically high walk rate of 15.2%. While he hasn't allowed a lot of home runs, you never want to trust a pitcher who walks that many hitters in a place like Yankee Stadium.

Key Trend: Seven of New York's last eight wins have come by at least two runs.

Brewers at Cardinals, 7:45 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: A Run to be scored in the 1st inning (-110) -- 
OK, we're forced to get a bit specific here. There are only four MLB games on the slate tonight, but I do believe there's a lot of value on a spot like this that never gets a lot of action. Mostly, we're betting against St. Louis starter Jon Lester.

On the season, Lester has been poor. He has an ERA of 5.32, doesn't strike anybody out, his walk rate is high and he allows plenty of dingers. What stands out the most, however, is how terrible he's been in the first inning. Lester has allowed 22 runs in the first inning this season, as batters have hit .321/.398/.564 against him in the first frame.

For additional context, Lester has allowed 62 runs this season in 91.1 innings. Or, to put it another way, 35.5% of the runs Lester has allowed this year have come in the first inning, even though the first inning only accounts for 20.9% of the innings he's pitched.

Key Trend: Jon Lester has allowed 22 runs in 19 first innings this season.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Mixed martial arts expert Ian Parker has revealed his top selections for Saturday's UFC event in Las Vegas.

⚽ Serie A Future

The Serie A season begins this weekend with every match available on Paramount+, which is awesome because Serie A is one of the most entertaining soccer leagues in the world. So this week, I'm going to include Serie A futures for us to bet before the season begins.

The Pick: Udinese to be relegated (+600): One of the things that makes European soccer great -- or terrible, depending on your perspective -- is that nobody is guaranteed anything. You can't tank for a better draft pick because in Europe, if you finish in last, you're kicked out of the league. In Serie A, the three teams that finish at the bottom of the standings are relegated to Serie B. It's usually newly-promoted teams suffering this fate, but I get the sense that Udinese might be in more danger than most realize.

Udinese has been in Serie A since 1996, but they've spent the last eight seasons finishing anywhere between 12th and 17th place. Last year the team finished in 14th, and it sold its best player, Rodrigo de Paul, to Atlético Madrid in Spain this summer. While the team got a good amount of money for him, I don't see anything they've done with it to make me confident that they'll be able to maintain the level of play they were at last season

I think this team will be flirting with relegation most of the season, and there's a chance they could slip into the bottom three.