Thursday, January 27, 2022

There’s no way Big Ben will have a terrible final home game, plus other best bets for Monday

Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading the words of a champion. Yes, that’s right, I won a fantasy league this weekend, and it felt amazing. I have been in this league run by one of my best friends and old college roommate since 2011, and in those 11 seasons, I have compiled the best win-loss record overall by far and made the playoffs eight times, but until this season, I had never won it.

And what a rollercoaster ride it was. On the one hand, I was smart enough to draft Ja’Marr Chase a round earlier than experts suggested because, as a college football writer, I was well aware of how good Ja’Marr Chase is, and of how he works with Joe Burrow. On the other hand, I also had Antonio Brown in my starting lineup, but my team was so good that I had a player quit during the game and still won by 47 points.

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Hell, my bench had 80 points too. It might have been the most dominant fantasy football team I’ve ever had, which is why I was convinced all along that I would reach the title game and lose. Again. But I didn’t. I won.

I am a champion. Worship me. Oh, and read these stories too.

Let’s see if I can make champions of you, too.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Browns at Steelers, 8:15 p.m. | TV: ESPN

The Pick: Ben Roethlisberger Over 1.5 TD (+100)
: Tonight is probably Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game as a Pittsburgh Steeler, and we’re rolling with the vibes, baby. I mean, Ben’s not going to have a terrible final home game, is he? OK, so he might, but I’d rather bet on the happy ending than the sad one here, and we’ve got good reason to.

Roethlisberger is likely to end up in the Hall of Fame, and the Cleveland Browns will have helped him get there. Ben has won more games (25) against the Browns than any other team in the league. Seriously, the Steelers have gone 25-2-1 against Cleveland when Big Ben starts the game. The only team he’s thrown more touchdowns against is Cincinnati (47 to 42). He’s killed the Browns.

And do you know which NFL team has one of the highest touchdown rates allowed this year? That’s right, it’s the Browns. Cleveland ranks 29th in the league, allowing 5.4% of the passes attempted against them to end in touchdowns. Only the Lions, Washington and Bears are worse.

It’s fate. Ben’s throwing at least two tuddies tonight.

Key Trend: Roethlisberger has thrown an average of 1.5 touchdowns per game against Cleveland in his career.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’d rather bet on analysis than vibes, that’s fine. SportsLine’s R.J. White is 51-29-4 ATS in his last 84 picks involving the Steelers, and he’s got a pick available for tonight too.

💰 The Picks


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🏀College Basketball

No. 24 Wisconsin at No. 3 Purdue, 7 p.m. | TV: Big Ten Network

Latest Odds: Purdue Boilermakers -12.5

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The Pick: Purdue -12.5 (-110) — Big Ten conference play tips off in full-force tonight with a game between two ranked teams, but just because both are ranked doesn’t mean they’re on the same level. Purdue is a team that can make a serious run in the tournament this year and possibly win a national title. Wisconsin is a team that is likely to be in the tournament, and everything after that is gravy.

This is an awful matchup for Wisconsin, not just because Purdue can overwhelm it with size. Purdue is an elite offense that can score from everywhere on the court thanks to the spacing Trevion Williams and Zach Edey provide by sucking the defense into the paint. Meanwhile, Wisconsin cannot shoot, and the one thing it does well on offense is take care of the basketball. It ranks second nationally in turnover rate.

The problem is Purdue doesn’t rely on forcing turnovers to defend. It ranks 316th in turnover rate. Instead, it relies on having two giant people in the lane that you have to score over, and it’s hard to do. Especially if you can’t shoot, and the Badgers rank 288th nationally in eFG%. Take the Boilermakers.

Key Trend: The favorite is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

Maryland at Iowa, 9 p.m. | TV: Big Ten Network

Latest Odds: Maryland Terrapins +9

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The Pick: Maryland +9 (-110) — There’s value on the Terps here because they’re not a great team, but they’re better than their 8-4 record suggests. They’re also 3-1 since Danny Manning took over for Mark Turgeon. Still, more than anything, this is me betting against the Iowa defense because I never like to trust the Hawkeyes to cover spreads this large against other Big Ten teams.

When Iowa is playing well on offense — particularly at home — it can overwhelm any team in the country. There is no such thing as a bad shot for a Hawkeye, especially if it goes in. That’s why the Hawkeyes rank fourth nationally in offensive efficiency. Still, it’s hard to overlook that these numbers have been put up against one of the weakest schedules in the country (KenPom ranks Iowa’s schedule 284th).

The Hawkeyes have only played five games against top-100 teams, according to KenPom, and they’re 2-3 in those games. Defensively, even against this schedule, the Hawkeyes rank 115th nationally in efficiency. So they might win, and if they go supernova, they’ll probably cover. But more often than not, the Terps will cover this spread.

Key Trend: Iowa is 2-3 against top-100 teams according to KenPom.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model’s favorite NBA play tonight is on one side of the total between the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat.

🏈 Bonus Pick For Tuesday

LSU vs. Kansas State, Tuesday, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN

The Pick: Kansas State -4.5 (-110) — 
I’m not writing tomorrow’s newsletter, but there is one more bowl game on Tuesday night, and I want to make sure you get in on it now. LSU is barely LSU at this point. Ed Orgeron isn’t sticking around for this one, and there are too many players who have either opted out or entered the transfer portal to list. And that’s impacted the line, but there’s still some possible value left.

LSU released its depth chart, and freshman Garrett Nussmeier is at QB1, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to play. Earlier this season, Nussmeier opted to sit out the rest of the year to preserve his redshirt, and playing in the Texas Bowl would burn it. He’s appealed to the NCAA to be allowed to play and keep his redshirt, but there is far from a guarantee the NCAA will allow him to do so. 

If he can’t play, the backup QB on LSU’s depth chart is Tavion Faulk, the son of former LSU RB Kevin Faulk. If the Tigers are forced to turn to Faulk, their offense will likely look a lot different than the one they ran during the regular season, which could give them an advantage early, but is more likely to work against them in the long run.

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