NFL divisional round best bets and LeBron’s Lakers take on Zion’s Pelicans in Los Angeles

Hello and happy Friday. I hope you’ve had a good week. I know that James Harden did because he was finally able to grumble his way out of Houston and get to Brooklyn, where he’s been reunited with Kevin Durant.

Would he have had as much fun in Philadelphia with Joel Embiid? We’ll never know, but it might not have been because the Nets offer — that included the Pacers and Cavaliers — was the best offer. No, James Harden might be in Brooklyn because Houston owner Tilman Fertitta was upset with former Houston, and current Philadelphia general manager, Daryl Morey.’s Brad Botkin wrote about a Yahoo report that Fertitta wouldn’t let the Rockets do a deal with the Sixers, even though Philly’s reported offer included Ben Simmons. Now, I have no idea how this trade will work out for the Rockets in the long run, but the Rockets didn’t get a player as good as Simmons back in the short-term.

Whatever the case, as a fan of a team whose owner recently went over the head of his employees to hire his 76-year old friend to manage his baseball team, I can empathize with Rockets fans who might be annoyed that their owner is possibly putting his personal grievances over what might be better for the franchise.

Elsewhere today:

All right, now let’s get to the picks. I have a couple of NBA plays on Friday night for you, as well as three NFL picks to get you through the entire weekend.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Grizzlies at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Grizzlies +1.5 (-110)
: Do you remember Wednesday’s newsletter? It was in that newsletter when I told you to take the Grizzlies +2.5 on the road against Minnesota because Minnesota was one of the worst teams in the NBA, and it didn’t deserve to be favored over anybody. Even a Grizzlies team without two of its best players. Well, I was right. Minnesota didn’t deserve it, and not only did the Grizzlies cover, but they also won 118-107.

And now we’re here again, with the Wolves once again favored at home against a Grizzlies team that is better than it is. A Grizzlies team that might get Ja Morant back tonight. Now, there’s a part of me that wonders if Morant’s return could work against Memphis as he tries to work out any possible rust, be it with his body or his teammates. Still, the key foundation of Wednesday night’s pick remains intact. The Wolves stink and don’t deserve to be favored against anybody. It’s principle.

Key Trend: Minnesota is 2-7 ATS in its last nine as a favorite.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: Does the Advanced Computer Model stand for principle, or does it only care about numbers? Have both forces combined to form one Super Pick? Only one way to find out!

💰The Picks

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Pelicans at Lakers, 10 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Pelicans +10 (-110) — 
There are a couple of simple factors at play here for me. One is that, as is often the case with the Lakers or any team with LeBron James, Los Angeles is slightly overvalued on this line. They’re a public team, and books need to account for that. The other is that I like double-digit underdogs in NBA games, particularly when they aren’t bad teams. And New Orleans isn’t a bad team. It’s only 4-6, but its average point differential is even. On the defensive end, this is a team that ranks in the top 10 in defensive efficiency and has the kind of size and rebounding you need to keep the Lakers honest. Not having Lonzo Ball hurts a little, but when you factor in the chance that either LeBron or Anthony Davis could sit out (both are listed as questionable), it provides a little more motivation to make this play. To be clear, I still like it even if both play.

Key Trend: The Lakers are 2-6 ATS in their last eight home games.


Rams at Packers, Saturday, 4:35 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Packers -6.5 (-110) — 
There’s been a lot of talk about playing in cold-weather conditions regarding this weekend’s games, and we just cannot overlook the fact that Aaron Rodgers really does play well in cold weather. In a season without a home-field advantage thanks to empty stadiums, this is an area where the Packers have a serious one. Rodgers and the Packers know how to play in these conditions and are built to take advantage of them. The Rams aren’t.

It’s not a large sample size, but we’ve seen Jared Goff make two starts in temperatures below freezing. Both came in the 2018 season on the road against the Broncos and Bears. Goff completed only 47.2% (34/72) of his passes for 381 yards (5.3 YPA) with no touchdowns and five interceptions. Both Goff and Rodgers are from California and played at Cal. One has adapted to adverse weather conditions. The other hasn’t. Back the one who has.

Key Trend: Green Bay is 6-2 ATS in its last eight playoff games.

Ravens at Bills, Saturday, 8:15 p.m | TV: NBC
The Pick: Under 49.5 (-110) — 
We’ve also heard this week about how Lamar Jackson has never played in snow before. Current forecasts are calling for cold and snow in Buffalo because it’s Buffalo in January. I’m just not sure how much of an impact that will have on Lamar because while he hasn’t played in the snow, he has played in the cold. It’s not like division rivals Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati are in warm-weather climates. I don’t see the weather impacting one team more than the other.

Instead, what I see is the weather impacting the way each team plays. It’s not only going to be cold with snow in the forecast, but high winds as well. The weather may force both teams to keep the ball on the ground more often than usual, and it could impact Josh Allen and Buffalo’s desire to throw downfield. You know, assuming there’s any force in nature that can affect Josh Allen’s lasers. Either way, I see the weather putting a cramp in both offenses and affecting the kicking game as well, so with all that in mind, this total seems a little too high.

Key Trend: The under is 5-1 in Baltimore’s last six road games.

Browns at Chiefs, Sunday, 3:05 p.m | TV: CBS, CBS All Access
The Pick: Chiefs -10 (-105) — 
It sounds crazy to say it about an NFL playoff game, but this has to be a letdown spot for Cleveland, right? I mean, not only did the Browns end their playoff drought this season, but they won a playoff game! And they did so against the team in their division that has tortured them for decades! All while their coach was stuck in a basement isolating. I mean, the Browns have already won their Super Bowl, and now they have to face what might be the best team in the NFL.

Also, while the Browns won last week, I can’t ignore how the win came. The Steelers essentially handed the Browns a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Once the Steelers stopped turning the ball over repeatedly, they outscored the Browns 37-20 over the final three quarters. Something tells me that the Chiefs aren’t going to open the game by snapping the ball 20 yards past Patrick Mahomes into the end zone. The Browns defense hasn’t been good this year, and now it’s facing one of the two best offenses in the game. I don’t expect this one to be all that competitive.

Key Trend: Cleveland is 4-11 ATS in its last 15 road games.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Larry Hartstein is 16-3 on his spread picks involving Cleveland or Kansas City and just released another for their Sunday meeting in the divisional round.

💸 The DFS Rundown

Star Plays

PG: DeAaron Fox, Kings
SG: Paul George, Clippers
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
PF: Julius Randle, Knicks
C: Nikola Vucevic, Magic

Value Plays

PG: George Hill, Thunder
SG: Eric Bledsoe, Pelicans
SF: Josh Hart, Pelicans
PF: Tristan Thompson, Celtics
C: Mitchell Robinson, Knicks

Full lineup advice

Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.

 🏀 NBA Player Props

  • MIL Brook Lopez Over 0.5 assists (-160)
  • DAL Tim Hardaway Jr. Over 2.5 assists (+150)
  • ORL Nikola Vucevic Over 3.5 assists (+105)
  • NYK Julius Randle Over 10.5 rebounds (-105)


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