Take Aaron Judge to hit No. 61 tonight | Vikings, Jaguars lead Football Friday picks

Week 3 of the NFL season is one of the most important weeks of the season, even if it’s not treated that way. As we enter the weekend, 11 teams in the league are either 2-0 or 0-2, meaning seasons could be decided this week.

I’m serious! I know there are still 14 games to go after this week, but we already know that teams that start 0-2 miss the playoffs far more often than not. Teams that start 0-3 are practically dead in the water. So there are five fan bases going into this weekend with that guillotine hanging over their head. I mean, can you imagine it? You spend the entire offseason waiting for the new season to begin. You talk yourself into believing this is the year, and then it’s all over three weeks later?

On the other side of that coin, while it’s not a guarantee, with so many playoff spots in the NFL now, it’s hard to miss the playoffs if you start 3-0. As long as you avoid calamitous injuries or an epic collapse, you’re in an excellent position for a wild-card berth, at the very least. So six teams could achieve that this weekend.

So, as I said, it’s a massive week in the NFL. Unless your team is 1-1, then it’s just another week, but you should probably win to be safe.

Now let’s start this Football Friday with a baseball bet!

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Red Sox at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. | TV: Apple TV+

  • Key Trend: Aaron Judge hits dingers frequently
  • The Pick: Aaron Judge to Hit a HR (+265)

Let me start by saying that while I think it’s cool that Aaron Judge has hit 60 home runs, and is one away from tying Roger Maris’ 61 dingers in a single season, the amount of attention being paid to it is a bit much. He’s trying to set a team record. Not the MLB record. That record has been broken multiple times. Whether you like it or not, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001. In 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70, and Sammy Sosa hit 66. The following season, McGwire hit 65, and Sosa hit 63. Then, just for good measure, Sosa hit 64 in 2001.

Maris’ once iconic record of 61 home runs in a season now ranks seventh all-time. When Aaron Judge goes deep again, he will be tied for seventh all-time. Yet the coverage it’s getting is akin to Judge setting the all-time mark, and it’s only because he’s a Yankee. If Aaron Judge played for the Oakland Athletics, his 60 home runs would be discussed but wouldn’t garner nearly so much attention.

Jonathan Coachman is joined by Emory Hunt , Chip Patterson and Allan Bell to dish out Friday’s best bets. Download and follow The Early Edge on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  

All of this shows the power of annoying Yankees fans, like the editor of this newsletter. So, I’m betting on Judge to tie the mark tonight for a few reasons. The primary reason is I like the matchup tonight against Red Sox starter Rich Hill. I like Judge’s matchup against nearly every pitcher in the league because he’s a giant man who hits ball far. The second reason is that if Judge hits the “historic” dinger tonight, it will annoy many Yankees fans. Tonight’s game is on Apple TV+, a streaming service not everybody has. And, since baseball fans are typically stuck in 1955 (I’m a baseball fan, I’m throwing myself into this pile), they hate anything new, like baseball on streaming services or broadcasts that don’t feature their home booth. So people love to complain about Apple TV+’s MLB broadcasts. I think they’re fine. The picture is amazing.

Anyway, the point is that Aaron Judge hitting No. 61 on a service a lot of Yankees fans don’t have with an announcing crew that isn’t their own will annoy the living hell out of them, and I want that to happen. And I want to make money while doing it.

So join me in rooting for “history” tonight. Go, Aaron Judge, go!

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’re looking for a traditional bet on this one, SportsLine’s John Bollman believes one side of the total is offering good value.

💰The Picks

🏈 College Football

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Maryland at No. 4 Michigan, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Michigan -17 (-110) — 
There’s a simple way to approach betting Maryland, which is off to a 3-0 start and has outscored opponents 121-58. When Maryland is playing a team it should beat, it will beat that team far more often than not. It’ll even stunt on them given the opportunity. However, when Maryland plays a better team, it gets obliterated. In five games against Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan last season, the Terps went 0-5 and were outscored 247-84. Michigan beat Maryland 59-18.

In fact, Michigan has won the last six meetings by a combined score of 261-59. That’s an average margin of 33.7 points per game. While the Wolverines have not been tested yet, I don’t think Maryland will provide much of a test, either. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa still takes far too many chances with the ball, and he gets away with them against average defenses. Michigan’s defense isn’t average, though. It will get pressure on him, he will panic, and he will throw it to the Wolverines. I’ve seen it far too many times to expect this week to be any different.

Duke at Kansas, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: FS1
The Pick: Kansas -7 (-110) — 
I am not abandoning my Jayhawks. They aren’t a lock because I have more faith in Michigan against Maryland, but the market is still underrating the Jayhawks. It’s certainly corrected course a little following road wins against West Virginia and Houston, but it’s overrating Duke a little here.

Like Kansas, Duke is off to a surprising 3-0 start. The primary difference is Kansas has picked up tough road wins. In contrast, Duke has played what might be two of the worst FBS teams in the country (Temple and Northwestern) and an FCS opponent in North Carolina A&T. The Blue Devils defense hasn’t seen anything like this Kansas offense yet. I don’t think the Blue Devils have the talent to slow down what has genuinely been an elite Kansas attack. Let’s ride this Jayhawks wave until we crash upon the stony shore.

No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 23 Texas A&M, Saturday, 7 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Arkansas +2 (-110) — 
Yeah, I will not be betting on the Aggies soon. The offense is … well … offensive. As I wrote last week when we took the under in Texas A&M’s game against Miami (and cashed easily), if it weren’t for Iowa’s comically bad offense, more people would notice A&M’s isn’t much better. The Aggies rank 105th nationally in points per drive (1.72), 104th in success rate (37.3%) and 85th in EPA/play (-0.03). It’s not that coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t know how to coordinate an offense. It’s that his offense is far too complicated for college, where players are only allowed so much time to “study.” There’s a reason so many college offenses are simplified, but Fisher refuses to simplify his offense or hand the reins to somebody else. You see the result.

You know who runs a simple offense, one that scores a lot of points and is explosive? Arkansas! Now, Arkansas’ pass defense is suspect, but that’s partially by design (there’s a lot of bend-but-don’t-break to it). It doesn’t worry me against Texas A&M, which can’t pass efficiently against anybody. I’m taking the points, but if you want to take Arkansas straight up, I won’t try to talk you out of it.


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Lions at Vikings, Sunday, 1 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Vikings -6 (-110) — 
While I’ve been impressed by the Lions through the first two weeks of the season, I’m grading them on a Detroit Lions curve. You know, the same way you say a baby is “walking” after it takes its first few steps before falling on its butt. If you did that, nobody would say you were walking. They’d say you fell down. I think there’s a good chance the Lions will fall down this week. They hung with Philadelphia and beat Washington last week, but both games were at home. This week they’re on the road to face a division rival that got killed by the same Eagles team the Lions hung with.

And I think that 24-7 loss has the market underrating the Vikings slightly here. That game was on the road. At home in Week 1 against Green Bay, the Vikings dominated and won 23-7. Here, in a friendlier environment and away from those primetime lights that cause Kirk Cousins to shrink, I expect Minnesota to perform much better and keep the Lions at bay.

Jaguars at Chargers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Jaguars +7 (-110) — 
What I propose here is that the Jaguars might not suck. I’m not ready to say it emphatically, but my interest is piqued, at the very least. The team has acquired some interesting pieces over the offseason to raise the floor, but what’s stood out is that Trevor Lawrence might be turning the corner. After looking like most rookie quarterbacks last season, Lawrence seems much more comfortable in the Jacksonville offense through two games. He tore the Colts apart last week, completing 25 of 30 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. While expecting that every week is asking a lot, all we need is for Lawrence and the Jaguars to hang within a touchdown.

Yes, it’s a road game, but it’s SoFi Stadium. The place where the Chargers and Rams often have to use silent counts because the opposing fans are making too much noise. Also, we don’t know how healthy Justin Herbert is. He was hurt at the end of the Chargers’ loss to Kansas City last Thursday and has been limited in practice this week. He’s going to start the game, but will he finish it? And will he be 100%? Those are a lot of unanswered questions about an important player to want to trust the team they play for to cover a full touchdown, isn’t it? I certainly think so.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine’s resident prop guru Alex Selesnick has listed all his favorite NFL player prop bets for Week 3.

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