How to bet on the very mediocre NL East, plus last minute Kentucky Derby tips and other top picks

Can you see the smile on my face as you read this? It hasn’t come off in the last 20 hours, ever since the Chicago Bears moved up in the first round of the NFL Draft to take Justin Fields.

As somebody who works in sports, I’m the one my friends and family view as “the sports person,” so before any major sporting event in Chicago, I get a bunch of texts asking me what my thoughts are. Heading into Thursday night, I was peppered with “what are the Bears going to do?” My answer always began with some variation on “well the pipe dream is get Justin Fields,” and then it would finish with more likely outcomes.

But then the pipe dream came true, and for the first time in a long time, Chicago Bears fans are optimistic about their quarterback situation. That this all happened hours after news began surfacing that Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay made Thursday night the greatest night in franchise history since the team won Super Bowl XX.

I say that with my tongue slightly in cheek, but honestly, I don’t think it’s far off from the truth. The Bears have been bad for a long time! Anyway, the NFL Draft resumes tonight, and I know I’ll be watching it in its entirety, but I’ll also be betting on actual games. Before we get to which ones, let’s catch up on today’s reading.

Now let’s start the weekend with some winners.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

Marlins at Nationals, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Nationals (+120)
: My numbers tell me the wrong team is favored in this spot, and I’m happy to take the Nationals all the way down to +100 if it gets there. Yes, the Nats are in last place in the NL East at 9-12, but the Marlins are only a half-game ahead of them in the standings at 11-13. And while the Nats are without Juan Soto, it’s not as if the Marlins aren’t dealing with injuries of their own. Starling Marte is hurt, as are Jazz Chisholm and Brian Anderson.

Also, the NL East is approaching NFC East territory in that I’m not sure anybody in the division deserves to be favored over anybody else. I am legitimately going to begin tracking underdog performance in NL East divisional games from this point forward to see if there’s anything to it.

But as for this matchup, I like Miami starter Pablo Lopez, but not enough to justify the Marlins’ price. Washington’s Jon Lester is past his prime, but the Washington bullpen has been solid, and the Nats offense is better than Miami’s, even without Soto.

Key Trend: Washington has won 53 of the last 72 meetings in Washington.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model is a strong level of confidence in a money line play here tonight too, but is it on the same team?

💰 The Picks


Red Sox at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Under 8.5 (-115) — 
If you’ve been subscribing to this newsletter since the beginning, you might remember a trend we discovered involving Rangers home games last year. In short, when the roof is closed at Globe Life Field, the park plays differently. It’s very much a pitcher’s park when closed, and the ball flies when open.

Well, with cool temperatures and rain in the forecast tonight, the roof will be closed. In 33 games with a closed roof since the park opened, the under has gone 20-11-2, and it’s 7-1 this season. So, with it closed tonight and the Rangers offense still being rather anemic, we’re riding the trend once again.

Key Trend: The under us 7-1 in Rangers home games when the roof is closed this season.

⚽ Soccer

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. | TV: NBCSN
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-140) —
I can’t lie. A small part of me worried that City might get caught in a look-ahead spot here, considering it’s amid a Champions League semi with Paris Saint-Germain. Then I remembered it’s City, and Pep Guardiola is a madman. This match might see a couple of key players rest, but their replacements are still better than anybody on Palace not named Wilfried Zaha.

That said, I’m not overlooking Crystal Palace here. This is a team destined to finish mid-table, but it’s also a team that’s been able to find the back of the net a lot more consistently. The Eagles have scored in five straight, and that includes matches against Tottenham, Chelsea and Leicester City. Of course, they’ve also been pretty horrific defensively, so they might not have to score in this match for the over to hit. Man City will get at least two. Where the third or fourth goals come from, I don’t care. Just so long as they come.

Key Trend: Man City’s last 12 Premier League matches have averaged 3.4 goals each.

Sampdoria vs. Roma, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Roma (+140) — 
There’s a theme to Roma’s season. Against the top of Serie A, it’s helpless. Against everyone else, it’s fine. In 10 matches against the top six clubs in Italy (Inter, AC Milan, Juventus, Atalanta, Napoli and Lazio), Roma hasn’t won a single match. It has four draws and six losses, and it has been outscored 25-10. In Roma’s other 23 Serie A matches, it has 16 wins, three draws and four losses, outscoring opponents 48-26.

Yet the performances against the top six affect Roma’s overall value in the market, which gives us a chance to take advantage here against a Sampdoria side that sits in ninth place but isn’t as good as its standing suggests. It has a goal differential of -4 on the year and an xG differential of -10.9. Oh, and when Roma and Sampdoria played earlier this season, Roma dominated. The final was only 1-0, but Roma had an xG advantage of 2.1 to Sampdoria’s 0.4 and dominated possession.

Key Trend: Roma has won 16 of its 23 matches against Serie A teams outside the top six.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Kentucky Derby is this weekend and horse racing handicapper extraordinaire Jody Demling has hit the Derby-Oaks double nine times in the last 12 years and just locked in his picks for the race.

💸 The DFS Rundown


Building Blocks

PG: Jrue Holiday, Bucks
SG: Tyrese Haliburton, Kings
SF: Khris Middleton, Bucks
PF: Thaddeus Young, Bulls
C: Nikola Vucevic, Bulls

Value Plays

PG: Coby White, Bulls
SG: Evan Fournie, Celtics
SF: Rui Hachimura, Wizards
PF: Alize Johnson, Nets
C: Richaun Holmes, Kings

Full lineup advice

Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.  

⚾ MLB Stack Attack

Getty Images

We’re betting on these three Bronx Bombers to drop some bombs tonight.

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