Football Friday is finally back | Weekend best bets for MLB, Premier League and Serie A
Hello and welcome to the first Football Friday edition of the 2022 season newsletter. We’re still a few weeks away from the start of the NFL regular season, but college football starts on Saturday, so I’ve got a packed letter for you this afternoon .
I’ve got two MLB tips for you tonight, two more college football tips for Saturday, and three football bets to get you through the weekend. Seriously, it’s a lot, but before we get to the tips, let’s catch up on some of the biggest stories of the day.
Good. Buckle up. Football Friday starts now.
All Eastern times and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The hot ticket
Watchmen at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. | TV: Apple TV
- key trend: Seattle has won five of their last seven meetings.
- The Choice: Seafarer (-105)
So far this season we have futures on the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox to win the AL Central, so naturally the Cleveland Guardians have taken control of the division as we near September. But while the Guardians are in the best position to win the AL Central, it’s important to remember that the division is still mediocre.
Yes, Cleveland is 66-57 on the season, but it went 31-24 against the Central. It’s only 35-33 against the rest of the MLB. So you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t fall out the window to set the Guardians as street favorites against a Seattle team with a better overall record (68-57) while playing in the tougher division.
The Guardians are favored because Shane Bieber will start, and he’s lived up to his tally as the team’s ace this year, posting a 3.10 ERA with excellent strikeout and walk rates. But Seattle starter Logan Gilbert is no pushover. Gilbert has an ERA of 3.52 and an excellent walk rate. Both are backed by excellent bullpens, but Seattle has the stronger offense in the matchup.
Cleveland relies on a lot of contact but offers little power (he’s ranked 29th in HR% and 26th in ISO), making it difficult to rely on to score many runs. It might not take many with Bieber on the mound, but Seattle’s offense has hit the ball well over the past week while Cleveland’s has struggled.
This is what SportsLine says about the game: The projection model doesn’t see much value on either side of the money line, but does have B-rated plays on both the total and run lines.
Reds at Nationals, 7:05 p.m. | Television: MLB.TV
The Choice: Red (+140) — Any chance of the Nationals fading as favorites is a chance I’m willing to take, especially when they face off against the perpetually underrated Reds. To be honest, I don’t understand this line at all. Cade Cavalli will make his MLB debut on the mound for the Nats tonight, but while he’s one of the team’s brightest prospects, it’s still his first MLB start. No offense to teams in the International League, where Cavalli has a 3.71 ERA spanning 97 innings this season, but it’s not quite the same. Plus, as promising as Cavalli is, he’s like many young pitchers in that he’s had serious control issues up to this point.
Yes, it’s hard to put too much faith in the Reds tonight with Mike Minor and his 5.50 ERA in 53 starts since 2020, but the Reds’ offense has been superior to Washington’s lately. I don’t expect this to be a low scoring game. So if you prefer Over you have my support but better value is with the Reds.
🏈 College Soccer
Nebraska vs. Northwestern, Saturday 12:30 p.m. | TV: fox
The Choice: Below 51.5 (-110) — The season kicks off in Ireland with a Big Ten clash between two sides who have lost their last six games of the 2021 season. In fact, Nebraska’s last win of 2021 was a 56-7 loss to Northwestern. Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost is coming into the season in one of the hottest spots in the country, and the prevailing theory is that he needs to reach at least one bowl game to keep his job. Winning this game would be a boost to that goal. Northwestern, meanwhile, won the Big Ten West in 2020 but followed that up in 2021 with a 3-9 run after the defense fell off a cliff under first-year defense coordinator Jim O’Neil.
Honestly, this game is not easy to understand. With the spread giving Nebraska a little too much credit, the under seems like the smarter play. The Huskers have a new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, who helped guide Pitt to an ACC title last season, and new QB in Texas transfer Casey Thompson. It’s not unreasonable to expect all these new parts to stumble out of the gate. Also, O’Neil is entering his sophomore year as the Wildcats’ DC, and a young defense is older now. Given that defense is a big part of the program’s identity, I expect the Wildcats to stiffen up in 2022. Even if they don’t, I don’t expect their offense to score many points. I see a low-scoring issue regardless of Nebraska’s margin of victory, and Northwestern’s road to victory isn’t a shootout. Every way I break this game down suggests going with the under.
Nevada, New Mexico, Saturday, 10 p.m. | TV: ESPN2
The Pick: State of New Mexico +8.5 (-110) — You know it’s week 0 where we bet on a New Mexico state program that has run 8-30 since 2018. While it seems crazy to pit the Aggies against a Nevada team that won 8-5 last year, the Wolf Pack is a completely different team in 2022. First off, QB Carson Strong and WR Romeo Doubs are in the NFL. Additionally, coach Jay Norvell, who won 33-26 in five seasons, left Colorado State. That’s the same Colorado State program that ran the same five 18-35 seasons.
Norvell also took his coaching staff and a few key players with him via the transfer portal. What remains is a new head coach, Ken Wilson, who is familiar with the program, having served as an assistant at Reno from 1989 to 2012. The only time he did not coach Nevada in that span was when he was the school’s Associate AD. He’s never been a head coach and is inheriting a roster that’s nowhere near what the team had last year, and I don’t think most power ratings got that.
Meanwhile, New Mexico State is managed by first-year coach Jerry Kill. While the Aggies are destined to fight, Kill has plenty of experience in making the most of what’s available to him and plays a style of football designed to keep things close. I think the Aggies can do this Saturday.
Brighton vs Leeds United, Saturday 10am | TV: United States
The Choice: Brighton (-115) — Will Graham Potter do what Thomas Tuchel wouldn’t do last week and simply play the ball over the Leeds United press to get his striker the ball against Leeds defenders in space? My suspicion is yes! Both teams are currently in the top five in the Premier League but Brighton have the best chance of hanging out at the cool kid’s table all season. As exciting as Leeds’ style can be, it’s not just chaotic on the pitch. The lows match the highs and Brighton are a team I believe are capable of dealing with whatever Leeds are about to throw at them.
Brighton are still behind on their xG (Brighton’s going to Brighton) but defensively it was spectacular so it didn’t matter. After three games, it ranks third in the Premier League in xG allowed (2.49) and is much better in xG allowed of shots on target (0.84). Basically, opponents are throwing prayers into the net because Brighton don’t allow good shots. While Chelsea gave Leeds chances last week, Brighton will make it much harder for them and I’m skeptical Leeds are good enough to get them.
Juventus vs Roma, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The pick: Juventus (+135) — I’m a big believer in fading out the narrative early in the season when we don’t have a lot of data to work with. Roma have been one of the most overhyped teams in Serie A this summer and in Europe. This is what happens when a team goes on a shopping spree with a famous manager and signs names that people know. Roma, a team that had improved under Jose Mourinho last season but were far from perfect, were suddenly a top-four team in Italy and would be in contention for the Scudetto. I didn’t buy it then and I won’t buy it now, even though Roma won their first two games.
Roma have so far clearly underperformed their expected targets (xG). It leads Serie A with an xG of 5.23 but has only scored two goals. However, I don’t think it’s as much bad luck as it is inefficient shots. Roma have fired more shots than any other team in the league, but their xG per shot sits sixth. This also happened against two sides (Salernitana and Cremonese) who will probably fight relegation all year round. So if Roma can’t finish efficiently against them, why should I have confidence against Juventus? Juve haven’t been particularly good at the start of the year but they are by far the best team Roma have faced and are also the first team set to test a Roma defense that looked vulnerable against the league’s best teams last year . We’ll see if signing all these strikers this summer has solved that problem. It’s not my suspicion.
Nottingham Forest vs Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday 11:30am | TV: United States
The Choice: About 2.5 (-135) — Nottingham spent big bucks in the transfer window to put together a team that can play the way manager Steve Cooper wants and also play well enough to survive after promotion to the Premier League. I cheer them on because I love watching them play, but the pragmatist in me is wondering how they’ll feel about it in December. As for this weekend, Tottenham doesn’t seem like a great matchup for Forest to me. Forest want to stay on the ball, but Antonio Conte is happy to give them that. Conte’s teams are built on being tough to break defensively and quick to hit the counter after dispossessing the opponent.
Nottingham will give them plenty of opportunities to do that and I worry about his ability to stop Harry Kane and company. To be honest, I think Tottenham could win this match alone. Still, I’m betting on the overall score of the game because as good as Tottenham were defensively earlier in the season, Forest are dangerous with the ball and capable of getting at least one of their own.
🔒 SportsLine Picks of the Day: Illinois host Wyoming in their season opener on Saturday and the projection model sees a lot of value in the spread.