It's the first official Football Friday of the year. We've had college football going on the last few weeks, but now the NFL has returned to grace us with its presence and commercial breaks. There are just so many of them! You tend to forget that when you're dying for it to return during the offseason, then that first game of the season comes. Unlike Sunday when multiple games are happening and you have NFL Redzone, that opener is the only game going. When it goes to commercial, you go with it.
And it goes, and it goes, and it goes again.
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As annoying as it can be, it's a price I'm willing to pay. I only wish the game last night had been better. Or at least as good as the following stories you're about to read. They are all fantastic.
- MLB is making some big rule changes next season, including banning shifts.
- As the new season begins, talks between the Ravens and Lamar Jackson end.
- Russell Wilson says Seattle tried to trade him "a couple of times."
- Your college football viewing guide for Saturday.
Now, before we get to the football, let's bet on a baseball game.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
- Key Trend: The Yankees have won five of the last seven meetings in New York.
- The Pick: Yankees (-110)
It feels like months since I included a baseball game in the newsletter! Things have changed so much since the last time that now it's the Yankees being undervalued against the Rays. That's not how this is supposed to work. It's supposed to be the Rays who are overlooked, but I suppose the overreactions work both ways when it comes to sports in New York.
The Yankees aren't getting enough respect in this spot. Yes, their lead on Tampa in the division has shrunk to 4.5 games after once seeming insurmountable. But guess what? Even with how poorly the Yankees have played lately, there isn't a metric that suggests they shouldn't be favored at home against Tampa. Not when the Rays have gone 2-5 in their last seven games at Yankee Stadium.
Frankie Montas will take the mound for the Yankees tonight, and while he hasn't pitched well since being traded, he's better than the results have shown. It's the contact that's been the problem. On the other side is Drew Rasmussen, who sports an ERA of 2.70, but his metrics suggest he's been a bit lucky this season. He has an average strikeout rate and allows a lot of hard contact. That's never a great combination against this Yankees lineup.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model doesn't see much value on the money line or total, but it has a B-graded play on the run line available.
💰 NFL and College Football Picks
Steelers at Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Steelers +6.5 (-110) -- One of the things that struck me Thursday night was how out of sync the Rams offense looked. Matthew Stafford had surgery on his elbow in the offseason and sat out the preseason. Cincinnati's Joe Burrow didn't throw a pass in the preseason, either. Not only did he not play in games, but he also missed time due to an appendix rupture.
Meanwhile, Mitch Trubisky saw plenty of snaps in preseason games and camp as he was competing for the starting job alongside rookie Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph. I won't be surprised if the Steelers are the sharper offense on Sunday in Cincinnati, nor will I be surprised if they win outright. Mike Tomlin's Pittsburgh teams always perform well as underdogs, so if I can get nearly a touchdown with them this weekend, I'll take it.
Key Trend: The Steelers are 35-15-2 ATS in their last 52 as an underdog.
Raiders at Chargers, Sunday, 4:25 p.m | TV: CBS
The Pick: Raiders +3.5 (-110) -- The AFC West will be one of the most entertaining divisions to watch this season, but while the Chiefs and Chargers are considered the favorites, I don't think the gap between them and the Raiders is significant. Las Vegas' offense received a massive boost in the offseason when it added Davante Adams.
Of course, I just told you about how I'm fading the Bengals because of the time Joe Burrow missed in camp, but Derek Carr didn't play in the preseason, either. Well, neither did Justin Herbert! It cancels out!
Also, note to self: QB performance might be shaky this week all over the league. Anyway, as for this game, my numbers tell me the Raiders are being undervalued here. The Chargers don't have much -- if any -- of a homefield advantage, so the Raiders being on the road here doesn't worry me in the slightest. Take the points, but don't be surprised when the Raiders win outright.
Key Trend: The underdog has covered 19 of the last 26 meetings.
No.1 Alabama at Texas, Saturday, 12 p.m | TV: Fox
The Pick: Alabama -20 (-110) -- It's the biggest college football game of the week in the eyes of many, but will it be one of the best? While I'm working hard to erase the narrative about Nick Saban dominating former assistants by telling everybody that he has lost two of his last three against them, something tells me Steve Sarkisian won't make it three of four. Texas has continuously been one of the most overrated teams in the betting market over the last few years, particularly early in the season.
Texas is going to score points, however. Sarkisian is an excellent play caller, and the Horns have a lot of offensive talent. However, that defense was so bad last season, and I'm not ready to trust it to stop an Alabama offense that looked dominant against Utah State last week. The Crimson Tide put up 55 points and 559 yards ... and still took the final 25 minutes of the game off. Seriously, it was 55-0 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter against a team that won the Mountain West last year. I won't be surprised to see Texas have offensive success here, but you can't count on it to stop Alabama.
Key Trend: Texas is only 2-6 ATS in its last eight games.
Kansas at West Virginia, Saturday, 6 p.m | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Kansas +13.5 (-110) -- What a terrifying place to be: betting on the Kansas Jayhawks. These are the same Kansas Jayhawks that are 15-79 in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014) and only 36-56-2 ATS in that time. But you know what? The market is sleeping on Rock Chalk this weekend. The market does not yet realize the burgeoning power being built by Lance Leipold in Lawrence.
OK, burgeoning power is a bit much, but Kansas is improving. The underlying metrics I use to rate teams have been improving since Leipold took over last season. Kansas isn't good enough to reach a bowl game, but it is good enough to sneak up on some teams. The key to it all is its rushing attack. Like Leipold's teams at Buffalo, Kansas is great at finding explosive rushing plays. That was on full display last week against Tennessee Tech, but while I don't put too much stock in that -- it's Tennessee Tech, after all -- West Virginia's rush defense and overall tackling looked suspect against Pitt last week.
Kansas is going to keep this one closer than you think.
Key Trend: There are no trends to support this because we're betting on Kansas football, and Kansas has been very bad for a very long time. Until now. Now it's just normal bad.
No. 9 Baylor at No. 21 BYU, Saturday, 10:15 p.m | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Over 53.5 (-110) -- The total looks too low! It's not giving nearly enough respect to what should be a good battle of quarterbacks in BYU's Jaren Hall and Baylor's Blake Shapen. Now, I have some concerns about potential absences on offense for BYU, and we all know Dave Aranda's Baylor defense is salty, but the line still seems off. These teams played in Waco last season, with Baylor winning 38-24.
I don't know how this game can be lower scoring in Provo considering the Bears' upgrade at QB (sorry, Gerry Bohanon, nothing personal). In last year's game, Baylor did a great job of slowing the BYU run game, but Hall threw for 342 yards on the Bears. On the other side, Baylor ran all over BYU, with Abram Smith going for 188 yards and Trestan Ebner going for 95. Both are gone this year, but Baylor spread the carries around last week and appears to have good options available. Meanwhile, BYU blew USF's defense out of the water, but the Bulls offense found room to work. This one might hit the over before the end of the third quarter.
Key Trend: The over is 9-4 in Baylor's last 13 nonconference games and 4-1 in BYU's last five home games.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's R.J. White shares his five SuperContest picks after hitting on close to 57 percent of his contest plays over the last seven years.
Weekend Parlay ⚽
I don't have the usual soccer picks for you this weekend, but I do have a parlay if you're looking for some action to tide you over. It pays +177.
- Inter Milan (-235)
- Atalanta (-320)
- Bayern Munich (-650)
- Real Madrid (-355)