Best bets for the weekend, plus a simple approach to betting the over-under for playoff baseball games

Hello, and welcome to a very special edition of Football Friday! What’s special about it? Well, it’s got baseball picks too! Baseball is a lot like football when you think about it. They’re both sports, they play on Sundays and there’s a ball involved. I mean, I’m not even sure how we can tell the difference, but it’s definitely proof that we’re the most intelligent creatures on Earth.

Unless there’s some super-smart fish in a part of the ocean we haven’t found yet. Do you ever think about that kind of stuff and get freaked out? Like, we know more about the moon and other planets than we do about what’s on the bottom of the ocean. There could be an entire society of superintelligent fish down there, plotting our demise, and there isn’t a thing we can do about it.

Are we doomed? Maybe! I’m not a scientist, but it is entirely possible this society of superintelligent fish could soon overrun us with weapons capabilities we can’t even fathom. We aren’t prepared for it! If they attack, there’s nothing we can do! You can’t fight a land or air war on the bottom of the ocean! We can’t even fight a sea battle down there!

Oh man, that’s terrifying to think about. Let’s distract ourselves with sports news and gambling advice so we can enjoy our weekends.

To the picks!

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Dodgers at Giants, 9:37 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: Over 7 (-120)
: OK, so here’s my simple approach to betting baseball playoff games. If the total for the game is 7.5 or higher, I tell myself I’m taking the under and then see if I can talk myself out of it. If the total is seven or lower, I go through the same process, except I tell myself I’m taking the over. It’s dumb and basic as hell, but you know what? It’s worked pretty well for me over the years.

I am unable to talk myself out of taking the over here. These teams didn’t win 107 and 106 games this season just because they can pitch and play defense. They hit the hell out of the ball, too. The Giants ranked fifth in baseball in wOBA, just ahead of the Dodgers in sixth. In run rate, the Dodgers were fifth and the Giants eighth. In dinger rate (technical term), they ranked third and fourth. They’re also two of the top three most patient teams in the league, finishing second and third in walk rate.

While I have a lot of respect for tonight’s starting pitchers, neither are untouchable. Walker Buehler gives up a lot of fly balls and a good amount of hard contact. Logan Webb has gone largely unnoticed this season, but he’s not some unhittable phenom; he just does a fantastic job of keeping the ball on the ground. We don’t need an offensive explosion; we just need two great offenses to have their average night.

Key Trend: The over is 5-1 in San Francisco’s last six games as a dog.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine expert Larry Hartstein is 35-18 on his last 53 picks involving the Dodgers, and he has a pick posted for tonight’s game.

💰 The Picks

⚾ MLB Playoffs

Red Sox at Rays, 7:02 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Red Sox (+130) — 
I know Chris Sale hasn’t pitched a lot this season and that he was kind of meh (for Chris Sale) over his final few starts, but … he’s still Chris Sale, and his team is an underdog. We don’t get these opportunities very often. Meanwhile, the Rays will start Shane Baz, who made his MLB debut *checks calendar* less than three weeks ago. Baz has pitched 13.1 innings over three starts, and, while he’s been phenomenal, this will be his fourth career start.

In a playoff game. Against Chris Sale.

My theory is that Baz won’t be in the game for very long before Tampa turns the ball over to the bullpen, but there’s a good enough chance that Baz will feel the nerves early, and the Red Sox will be able to pounce on him. And you know who I don’t want to face when I’m trailing? Chris Sale. The Red Sox don’t have the bullpen Tampa does, but this is still a dangerous offense capable of doing damage. The Red Sox are live dogs tonight.

Key Trend: The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 playoff games as an underdog.


Patriots at Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Texans +9 (-110) — 
It’s important to eat your vegetables. Sure, they don’t always taste as good as the other options, but they’re part of a balanced diet. This week, the Texans are our vegetables. Just hold your nose and shove them down your throat as quickly as possible because, as bad as the Texans are, I’m not here to trust a team with Mac Jones at QB as nearly a double-digit favorite on the road.

I thought I was losing my mind on Sunday night with the praise Cris Collinsworth was heaping on Jones. Sure, Jones completed 77.5 percent of his passes in the rain against Tampa, but his average pass covered 5.15 air yards. Of the 40 passes Jones threw last week, 24 were either thrown behind the line of scrimmage or fewer than 5 yards away from it. Sure, Jones can dink and dunk the Patriots to a win here, but he won’t dink and dunk them to a 10-point win.

Key Trend: The Patriots are 2-7 ATS in their last nine games as a favorite.

Lions at Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Lions +10 (-110) — 
The Lions lost to the Bears 24-14 in Chicago last week and are back on the road for another divisional matchup this week. While the final score doesn’t show it, the Lions weren’t awful against the Bears. From a success-rate standpoint, it was one of their better performances of the season, and a lot like our last pick, I’m not ready to trust the Vikings as nearly double-digit favorites.

The Vikings’ offense has not been great. While Minnesota is scoring 23.5 points per game as a team, its offense has scored 21.75 points per game, which ranks 18th in the league. Its average of 1.98 points per possession ranks 21st and is the same as Detroit’s. Then there’s the Minnesota defense that ranks 16th in the league in success rate. Don’t get me wrong, the Vikings are the better team in this matchup and should win, but they’re more mediocre than good. I don’t trust mediocre teams to cover spreads this large in the NFL.

Key Trend: The Vikings are 0-6 ATS in their last six as a favorite.

🏈 College Football

No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 21 Texas, Saturday, 12 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Under 63.5 (-110) — 
I swear, the total for this game is posted too high every season, and this year is no different. Now, that doesn’t mean this game isn’t capable of going crazy. Last year’s game finished 53-45, but it needed four overtimes to get there. The score was only 31-31 when regulation ended and that 62 points is where this game typically ends. The total has dropped nearly two touchdowns from last season’s meeting, but I still think it finishes under.

Oklahoma still has one of the best offenses in the country from a success rate standpoint, ranking third. The difference this season is that the explosiveness we’ve come to expect hasn’t been there. That’s made it more difficult for the Sooners to put up the kind of high scores we’ve grown accustomed to, and I see a similar situation playing out Saturday. I also see a Texas offense that has looked awesome against the likes of Louisiana, Rice and Texas Tech, but struggled to move the ball well against Arkansas and TCU. Both of those teams have good defenses, and both games were on the road. This game is at a neutral site, but Oklahoma’s defense is in the same tier as Hogs and Frogs, so I don’t see the Longhorns moving the ball at will.

Key Trend: The under is 4-1 in Oklahoma’s last five Big 12 games.

No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa, Saturday, 4 p.m. | TV: FOX
The Pick: Iowa -1.5 (-110) — 
I have not been shy with my critiques of the Iowa offense this season. It’s a unit that by just about every measure — be it a traditional stat or an advanced metric — has been awful. Iowa hasn’t been able to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown consistently. However, it’s been more successful after turnovers, which provide shorter fields. I also came away encouraged by what I saw from the Iowa offense against Maryland last week, as it was its best performance of the season.

Penn State’s defense is better than Maryland’s, but something else in this matchup concerns me. Quarterback Sean Clifford got off to a nice start and exceeded my expectations, but he looked shaky last week against Indiana, even though the Nittany Lions won 24-0. Now I’m being asked to trust him on the road in a tough environment against a defense that forces mistakes more than any other. I have to believe Clifford turns the ball over at least once, and in a game like this one, that might be all it takes.

Key Trend: The favorite has covered four of the last five meetings.

You can find all my college football picks for the weekend in my weekly column, The Six Pack.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: CBS mixed martial arts and boxing analyst Brandon Wise has released his picks for Saturday’s showdown between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

🏈 Saturday Parlay

A five-leg college football moneyline parlay paying +107.

  • Tennessee (-430)
  • Toledo (-475)
  • Missouri (-1100)
  • North Carolina (-900)
  • Georgia (-700)

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