Hey, have you been listening to the new Taylor Swift album today? I haven't, but seemingly everybody I follow on Twitter has been, because it's all anybody is talking about. It's led me to conclude that Taylor Swift is the millennial sportswriter's answer to what Bruce Springsteen is to the boomer sportswriter. So the same young bucks who used to make fun of the old farts with their Springsteen infatuation have morphed into them and don't even realize it.
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It amuses me greatly. I've never gotten into Taylor Swift, and I don't begrudge anybody who does, but the teenager-ish infatuation many 30-somethings have with her is a bit off-putting. Anyway, I'm going to listen to some Phoebe Bridgers, who is Taylor Swift for those who experience existential dread. You read these stories and then dig into all the picks I have for you this weekend.
The following picks are for Swifties and non-Swifties alike.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: Joe Musgrove has a K rate of 27.8% in his last nine starts
- The Pick: Joe Musgrove Over 5.5 Strikeouts (-120)
There were a lot of complaints about MLB's postseason format when the Dodgers, Braves and Mets (they won 64.4% of their games this season) were eliminated earlier than expected, and we were left with the Phillies and Padres (a combined 54.3%). While I'm not a fan of MLB's postseason format, my biggest problem with how the National League played out wasn't with the format. Nor was it that I consider the Phillies and Padres to be "inferior" teams compared to those other three options.
No, my biggest problem is that these two teams are too similar, and it's hard to break down this series. There isn't a significant advantage that either side has over the other in any area, and that makes it more difficult to bet. However, tonight presents a matchup advantage that we can exploit.
The Phillies swung at 48.3% of pitches in the regular season, which was the 10th-highest rate in the league. They were even more aggressive outside the strike zone, with a swing rate of 34.3%, which was the fifth-highest in MLB. That's good news for San Diego starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. Musgrove does an excellent job of inducing swings and misses outside the zone. Hitters had a swinging strike rate outside the zone of 35.5% against him this season, which ranked 15th among qualified starters.
Furthermore, Musgrove's strikeout rate of 24.9% on the season is 10% above the league average; that rate has climbed to 27.8% over his last nine starts. That, combined with Musgrove routinely pitching deeper into games than most starters, makes the over on his strikeout prop appealing tonight.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model has broken this game down and believes the run line is offering the best value.
💰 The Picks
🏈 College Football
No. 9 UCLA at No. 10 Oregon, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Over 70.5 (-110) -- Raise your hand if you looked at the schedule over the summer and pointed to this game as a top-10 matchup. The Ducks have rebounded well from their opening-week annihilation at the hands of Georgia, and UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Now, both meet in Eugene in a game that could easily decide one of the two available spots in the Pac-12 Championship Game (it could also be a rematch).
My heart and mind tell me we're going to see a lot of points scored in this game. Oregon and UCLA both do an excellent job offensively on first and second down, which puts them in a great position on third, and sometimes, fourth down. It's no surprise, then, that they have two of the best offenses on third and fourth down. But guess what? Defensively, they're both bad on third and fourth downs! Oregon's defense has been porous in general, particularly against the pass, but neither one of these teams does a good job of getting off the field.
So, we have two offenses that are excellent at moving the chains against two defenses that can't get off the field. Does that sound like the kind of combination that leads to stops?
Purdue at Wisconsin, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Purdue +2.5 (-110) -- This line is disrespectful to Purdue and, according to most Purdue fans, I hate the Boilermakers. So if I think they're being disrespected, imagine how they feel. One of the great ironies about Wisconsin's subpar season is that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard was handed the keys to the program during the season his defense has failed to meet its usual standard.
The Badgers have been abused on first and second downs, and a pass rush that was once fierce is pretty tame (they are 41st in pressure rate). That's not a great combination against one of the few Big Ten teams that's happy to drop back and test you vertically in the passing game. Purdue should find success in the passing game and put Wisconsin in the uncomfortable position of having to score points and keep up. While the Badgers are still effective on the ground with Braelon Allen, the Purdue defense has been much better against the run than the pass.
The Boilermakers can put Wisconsin in third-and-long situations, which will not work in the Badgers' favor. Purdue wins this one more often than not, but I'll happily play it a little safer with the points, too.
No. 17 Kansas State at No. 8 TCU, Saturday, 8 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Kansas State +3.5 (-115) -- The letdown has to come at some point, right? I keep waiting for it with TCU. I expected it last week, and for a while it looked as if I might be right. The Horned Frogs have now beaten rival SMU, throttled Oklahoma by 31, outlasted Kansas and knocked off a top-10 team in Oklahoma State, all in four consecutive weeks.
Either TCU is a much better team than any of us anticipated -- it very well might be, but it had a preseason win total of 6.5 -- or things will begin to even out soon. At the risk of being labeled a hater, the latter is the more likely scenario, particularly with a defense that has shown to be porous. Furthermore, there are extremely high winds expected for this game, which will have a more significant impact on TCU's offense than Kansas State's. The Kansas State offense will also provide a unique challenge for this Horned Frogs defense. The Wildcats can use their rushing attack to keep the TCU offense off the field and the game close, so I'm taking the points.
Giants at Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Giants +3 (-110) -- This line stinks to high heaven and makes no sense. The natural reaction of most is to think the books know something the rest of us don't, and that's why the Jaguars are favored. Well, I don't care. I'm taking the Giants.
Yes, New York is not as good as their record. Offensively they rank 24th in the league in success rate, but they do a good job of finishing drives when they reach the red zone. Defensively, they're one of the best in the league at keeping teams out of the end zone and holding them to field goals. The Jaguars have been bad in the red zone and are one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league. That's not a combination I like to bet as a favorite. Perhaps that's part of why Jacksonville is only 4-11 ATS as a favorite since 2018 and 2-7 ATS as a home favorite.
Falcons at Bengals, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Bengals -6.5 (-110) -- The Falcons are 6-0 ATS this season and covering by an average of 6.9 points per game? They're the perfect lousy football team for fans. They keep games close and entertaining but make sure to lose in the end to improve their draft pick next spring. And they keep covering the spread, so you can bet on them and still win when they lose! My dream is for the Chicago Bears to follow this formula instead of just being awful and making me want to cry.
Anyway, the run won't last forever, and this strikes me as the week it ends. The Bengals' defense has been one of the best in the league this season, and the offense is rounding into form after a slow start. Cincy had a success rate of 38.3% and averaged 1.78 points per drive in its first three games, but those numbers have increased to 48.1% and 2.47 in the three games since. I like that trend to continue at home Sunday and for the Bengals to hand Atlanta its first spread loss of the season. As long as this sits under seven points, hammer it.
Chelsea vs. Manchester United, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: NBC
The Pick: Chelsea (+110) -- This is a huge match and a bit tricky to figure out. Chelsea sits fourth in the Premier League, one point ahead of Manchester United in fifth. Considering neither of these teams wants to spend next year in the Europa League, getting three points here is massive. But while Chelsea hasn't lost under Graham Potter, they've looked unsure of themselves in attack the last few matches. They beat Aston Villa 2-0 last weekend, but their first goal came due to Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings' botched header falling right in front of Mason Mount in front of goal, and he easily slotted the ball home. The second goal came on a Mount free kick in which Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez misjudged where the ball was going.
Chelsea struggled to create chances of its own in the rest of the match, and that was the case against Brentford in a 0-0 draw Wednesday. Meanwhile, United are coming off a 2-0 win over Tottenham that is easily their best performance since beating Arsenal in September. But since this is United, the only thing anybody is talking about is Cristiano Ronaldo being a baby and refusing to come in as a sub and leaving the bench early. He's not available for this one, but that's not impacting my pick. The biggest factor here is how much worse United has performed on the road this season. It's won three of five matches but been outscored 11-7 with an expected goals (xG) differential of -1.9 in those matches. Chelsea has been much better at home too, so I'm giving the Blues the advantage in this one.
Roma vs. Napoli, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Roma (+185) -- I've been looking forward to this match all season. During the summer, Napoli underwent a significant rebuild of its squad and was written off by most pundits. Roma signed some names people knew and was christened the "Serie A darkhorse" and picked to finish ahead of Napoli. Well, insert the Michael Jordan, "and I took that personally" meme right here because I took that personally, and I'm thrilled my beloved Napoli is sitting in first place in Serie A and crushing the Champions League as well.
Of course, it's not like Roma has been bad. It's in fourth place, and its xG numbers say it should be doing much better. So, as much as it pains me to do this, I like Roma in this matchup. As incredible as Napoli has been, it has to have a letdown or setback at some point, and this feels like a prime spot for it to happen. While Napoli continues to score goals at an incredible rate, defensively, they've been moving in the wrong direction lately. I think it catches up to them Sunday in Rome.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's Larry Hartstein has shared his best spread bets for the NFL this weekend.