The NFL is confident, and how could it not be? It is the juggernaut of American sports. It is the one thing that nearly every one of you reading this newsletter spends your Sundays doing in the fall. Sure, some of you might be into the NBA while others aren't. Then there are the NHL fans and MLB lovers. But all of you love the NFL.
And the NFL knows that, so that's why it isn't afraid to put your love to the test. Last Thursday when the season began, and we had the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs going against the Texans. Well, this week, you're getting the Bengals and Browns. Sure, it's a matchup of two former Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 picks, but it's also the Bengals and Browns.
It's like when your mom made sure you ate your vegetables even though you just wanted to eat your dessert and go watch cartoons. You ate them because you loved your mom and trusted what she told you. And now you're going to eat your Bengals and Browns cause the NFL is telling you to. Of course, we're also going to bet on it, and while I'll have my pick for you coming up, you can read our NFL team's thoughts here.
Here's what else is happening right now:
- Speaking of the Browns, you know how you hated quarantining and not having any sports? Odell Beckham loved it.
- Beckham's teammate Jarvis Landry is expected to suit up tonight.
- Brett Favre isn't sure Bruce Arians should be criticizing Tom Brady publicly.
- Our Matt Norlander sat down with NCAA big-wig Dan Gavitt to get an idea of what the college basketball season will look like.
All right, now let's get this money.
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🏆 The Hot Ticket
🏈 Browns vs. Bengals, 8:20 p.m. | TV: NFL Network
The Pick: Bengals +6 (-110): It's difficult for me to back the Browns in this spot simply because the thing the Browns do best is let you down. They've been doing it to their fans for years, and gamblers as well. We're talking about a team that has gone 29-51-1 ATS since the 2015 season, including the 2018 season, when they were 10-6 ATS! Granted, they've done better as a favorite (8-9-1), but I'm not trusting them here. Last week I was on the Bengals (and lucky to get them at +3.5 before the line shrank) against the Chargers, and I like them again here. Since the start of the 2014 season, underdogs of between 5 and 13 points (in other words, not awful teams, but not good teams) in divisional games are 95-67-6 ATS. That includes a mark of 16-6-2 last year.
Furthermore, even as a rookie, I have more faith in Joe Burrow to stay within himself and make plays than I do Baker Mayfield. I had high hopes for Mayfield coming out of college, but so far, he just hasn't shown any growth or consistency in Cleveland. It's hard to back him, particularly as a favorite.
Key Trend: Cincinnati is 9-2 ATS in the last 11 games between these teams.
🏀 NBA | Today's full schedule
Celtics vs. Heat, 7 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Heat +2.5 (-110) -- I'm starting to come around on the idea of just never betting against the Miami Heat. While they were only 2-6 ATS in their eight "regular season" games in the bubble, they've been a covering machine since the playoffs started. In 11 playoff games, the Heat are 10-1 ATS (!). The only time they didn't cover was Game Four against Milwaukee. That night, the Heat were two-point underdogs and lost by three. So they're a basket away from being 11-0 ATS in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Celtics have only managed to cover twice in the last six games they've been favored. Give me Jimmy G. Buckets -- The G Stands For "Gets Covers" -- and the Heat.
Key Trend: The Heat are 7-3 ATS in the last 10 against Boston.
⚾ MLB | Today's full schedule
Mets at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Phillies (-124) -- The Phillies bullpen let us down on Wednesday night, but the hope here is that they won't even need their bullpen tonight. Aaron Nola is getting the start for Philadelphia, and he's having a terrific season and has long been a thorn in the Mets' side. In his career against the Mets, Nola has made 15 starts and gone 8-2 with a 3.00 ERA over 90 innings. He's struck out 107 while allowing 70 hits.
Key Trend: The Phillies are 10-5 in Nola's 15 starts against the Mets.
Cardinals at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Pirates (+147) -- While the Cardinals have dominated the Pirates the last couple of years, this is one of those spots where I like to take a flyer on an underdog. Dakota Hudson starts for the Cards, and he's a guy who pitches to contact. That's usually fine as long as you don't walk many batters, but Hudson has a walk rate of 10.9% in the last two seasons, which isn't great. Furthermore, Pirates hitters have done pretty well against him. According to Statcast, they have an xwOBA (expected wOBA) of .370 against Hudson. That's not great news for Hudson, so at this price, I think the Pirates are worth a punt.
Key Trend: The Pirates are 6-6 (+2.97 units) as home dogs against the NL Central this season.
SportsLine lock of the day: The SportsLine Projection Model is heavily favoring one side of Cardinals vs. Pirates at 7:05 p.m. ET. SportsLine subscribers can get picks for that game, and for every other MLB game today, here.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Jayson Tatum ($16K FD/$9.8K DK) -- If you're playing the single-game slate in the NBA tonight, you're going to want Tatum in your lineup. I might be on the Heat to cover, but Tatum will have a big game regardless. He's been a beast as of late, taking over for the Celtics to finish off Toronto, and he finished Game 1 against Miami with 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. Productive night!
Jaylen Brown ($13.5K FD/$7.7K DK) -- I love Jaylen Brown as a player, but I'm not a huge fan of him in this series. Odds are he'll be in a lot of your opponent's lineups, but you should keep him out of yours. It's not that he's going to have a bad game, it's just that his production isn't likely to exceed what you're paying for him. I'd rather have Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart than Brown tonight.
Full lineup advice
SportsLine's team of DFS insiders has you covered for daily fantasy sports. Mike McClure has won almost $2 million playing DFS and is one of the top MLB DFS experts anywhere. Check out his MLB picks here, and be sure to see what he's picking for NBA DFS here too. Use SportsLine's all-new DFS Optimizer to get optimal NFL DFS picks from 10,000 simulations.
⚾ Stack Attack
Every day during the MLB season we're going to pick a pitcher to attack by taking home run props on several different players from the same team. Tonight we are attacking Colorado Rockies starter, Kyle Freeland.
Freeland does well at Coors Field, but he's a pitcher who doesn't miss bats pitching in Coors Field. He's going to give up bombs. It's just what happens, and we should take advantage with these Dodgers hitters.
- Mookie Betts +333
- Will Smith +400
- Chris Taylor +500