Saturday, June 22, 2024

Why neither team deserves to be favored in Steelers vs. Vikings, plus other best bets for Thursday

The thing about getting older is that you don’t realize you’re getting older. Once in a while, something happens to let you know that it has been happening. I had one such moment on Wednesday.

At the front of my house in Chicago, we have two large, concrete flower pots, one on each side of the steps leading up to our front door. We woke up last week to notice one was missing. Now, it had stormed overnight, but these things are extremely heavy. We didn’t think the thing had just blown over but instead assumed some drunk idiot stole it on a dare. Well, it turns out, it had blown over. It fell off the ledge and was wedged between the branches of a shrub and in the dirt. Unfortunately, picking it up and putting it back wasn’t as easy as you’d think.

Remember, it blew over during a storm, which meant the ground was wet and had become mud. But a weird thing happened following that storm. Something that happens in Chicago far more than it should: temperatures dipped well below freezing the following day. So that mud the pot had seeped into was no longer mud. It was frozen earth. So now I had to wait a couple of days for it to warm up enough to get the thing out of the ground, which I did yesterday.

But, again, this thing is burdensome, and it was now filled with semi-frozen dirt. It took me a while, but I was finally able to get it out from the ground, finagle it out of the bush without hurting the bush, and then carry it up the steps and back to its rightful place by our front door.

And I wanted to die afterward. Tom in his twenties wouldn’t have had any problem picking that thing up and putting it back, but Tom now? It’s 24 hours later, and I still haven’t fully recovered.

Read tonight’s picks while I get out the heating pad for my back.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Steelers at Vikings, 8:20 p.m. | TV: FOX

Latest Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers +3

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The Pick: Steelers +3 (+105): It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these in the newsletter, but tonight we’ve got ourselves a Nobody Deserves To Be Favored matchup for Thursday Night Football. Neither one of these teams inspires much confidence. The Vikings are 5-7, and, while that might be good enough for second place in the NFC North, that doesn’t mean it’s good. I mean, unless you think good teams lose to the Detroit Lions because that’s what the Vikings did on Sunday.

Do you think good teams lose to the Lions? I didn’t think you did.

Of course, it’s not as if the Steelers are good, either. Even if Pittsburgh has a winning record at 6-5-1, it has a point differential of -42 on the season, though that’s somewhat skewed by the 41-10 loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago. Still, Ben Roethlisberger looks older and slower than ever before, and his arm has been sapped of all its zip.

But I still like the Steelers because three points seem like one or two too many to rely on the Vikings to cover. Minnesota has been favored five times this season, and it’s covered only once in those five games — a 34-28 win over Carolina that was on the road. As home favorites, the Vikings are 0-2. As for Pittsburgh, as has always been the case under Mike Tomlin, they’re fantastic in the underdog role. They’re 5-2 ATS as dogs this season and 20-6 ATS as underdogs since the start of 2017.

Key Trend: The Steelers are 20-6 ATS as underdogs since 2017.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine’s RJ White is 38-19-3 ATS in his last 60 picks involving the Vikings, and he’s got a play for tonight’s game too.

💰 The Picks



Lakers at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass

Latest Odds: Los Angeles Lakers -4

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The Pick: Lakers -3.5 (-110) — Hey, we bet against the Grizzlies last night, and it worked, so why not do it again? Seriously, the problems I had with Memphis last night haven’t changed, only the role. Last night Memphis were favorites at home against Dallas, tonight they’re home dogs to the Lakers, and they’re still without Ja Morant. Meanwhile, the Lakers are expected to have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook tonight.

The Lakers are a difficult team to get a handle on. From a talent perspective, they’re one of the best teams in the league — but they don’t play that way. There are four future Hall of Famers on the roster all looking to get acclimated to playing alongside one another, but with LeBron and others missing so much time due to rest and injuries, they haven’t figured it out yet. The reason I like them here is that they’ve still been solid defensively, ranking 15th in the league in defensive rating. Memphis still ranks 25th. So I’ll take the healthy Lakers team over the bad defensive team missing its most important offensive player.

Key Trend: There isn’t a trend that supports this play so let’s just pretend the Lakers have covered the last million meetings with the Grizzlies.

🏀 College Basketball

No. 1 Purdue at Rutgers, 7 p.m. | TV: Big Ten Network

The Pick: Rutgers +13.5 (-110) — 
I’m taking a shot here. I like to fade highly-ranked college teams because they’re often overvalued on the market, and this is a pretty good spot to go against Purdue. First of all, the Boilermakers are legitimately good. They’re 8-0 and have picked up wins over North Carolina, Villanova, Florida State and Iowa. The combination of 7’4 Zach Edey and 6’10 Trevion Williams causes opponents a lot of problems and will be a giant pain in the butt for Rutgers tonight.

But there are factors in play we need to consider tonight.

One is that No. 1 next to Purdue’s name — the first time the program has ever been ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, by the way — but more important, this is Purdue’s first road game of the season. The wins over North Carolina and Villanova came at a neutral site, and the other six wins were all at Mackey Arena. While a road game at Rutgers isn’t the most raucous atmosphere out there, playing a conference opponent for your first road test can be difficult, and Rutgers does have enough size and length to at least cope with Edey and Williams. Purdue will win this game, but Rutgers will make it uncomfortable.

Key Trend: Rutgers is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven as a home dog.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Check out what the SportsLine Projection Model thinks about tonight’s rivalry game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones.

🏀 Tonight’s Parlay

Let’s try and stay hot on the hardwood with another winning college basketball parlay. Tonight’s pays +100.

  • Fordham (-330)
  • Kent State (-260)
  • New Mexico (-900)

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