It’s that time of the week again. With frigid temperatures in this weekend’s forecast, it’s the perfect environment to stay inside and get hot betting the football board.
Speaking of getting hot, I’m 6-0 in my last half-dozen NFL picks, so for the first time this season, this column will feature a majority of professional football plays.
But first, some transparency.
After an unimpressive 1-2 college football performance last week, the Packers rallied and the Chargers kept it close enough on Sunday to bring me back over .500 for the weekend.
This column now stands at 38-22 (63.3 percent) overall, 20-16 in college and 18-6 — yes 75 percent — in NFL.
There were a lot of games I considered for this 11th edition of Weekend Wagers, but only a handful I fell in love with, which shows the same responsible restraint I encourage you to also display when considering tailing or fading the following picks...
Game 1: Western Kentucky at Auburn (4 p.m., SEC Network)
If you tuned in to the immediate postgame following Auburn’s 13-10 win over Texas A&M last Saturday night, you would’ve thought they had just won the SEC Championship.
That was not the case. Instead, the Tigers picked up just their fourth win, but the fact it was their first under former player–turned–interim coach Cadillac Williams was the reason for their wild celebration.
It’s going to be tough for them to duplicate that energy, especially against a Western Kentucky offense that is pretty much the polar opposite of the Aggies’, as the Hilltoppers are averaging 37.9 points per game under QB Austin Reed, who has nine touchdown passes to his name over the last two weeks.
If the Hilltoppers are going to cover the early-week touchdown spread, they’ll likely have to turn the contest into somewhat of a shootout, and that’s exactly what I expect them to do.
Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the game outright.
The pick: Western Kentucky +7.
Game 2: No. 7 USC at No. 16 UCLA (8 p.m., FOX)
Here lies what many are looking at as the most entertaining matchup today, as USC now stands as the Pac-12’s last hope of being represented in this year’s College Football Playoff following Oregon’s annual late-season letdown and Arizona stunning UCLA last Friday and Saturday.
The Trojans head to the Rose Bowl needing a win as a slim 2-point favorite. The total as of Friday night is a towering 76 points.
The Bruins are coming off a home loss to an Arizona team whose preseason win total was three, yet a week later, the Wildcats aren’t even field goal underdogs to the seventh-ranked team in the country? Seems suspicious.
USC QB Caleb Williams is a couple more big wins from potentially backdooring his way into the Heisman Trophy, but he won’t be flanked by Travis Dye, who was carted off the field against Colorado with an apparent leg injury.
That will likely lead to the Trojans struggling to establish the run, and I trust UCLA’s secondary enough to keep this one close, if not allow them to play full spoiler and win outright.
Because I like UCLA and a lot of points, I’ll throw the Bruins and the over in a teaser and enjoy this nightcap in its entirety.
The pick: UCLA +7.5 and over 66.5 (-115).
Game 3: LA Rams at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m., not televised locally)
Each week, it seems like I have one pick I’m more confident in than the rest. This isn’t my game of the week.
It’s my game of the year.
For reasons I don’t know, the failing Saints continue to start lackluster Andy Dalton under center instead of spark plugs Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill.
On the other sideline, the Rams have posted 14, 13 and 17 points in their last three contests, and now are without reigning Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp at wide receiver for the foreseeable future.
With both defenses being just about the only respectable unit on either of these teams, I’d be shocked if the victor can put up 20 points.
And as long as that doesn’t happen, there’s no way the total could go over 39.5 points.
The pick: Under 39.5.
Game 4: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., not televised locally)
The Cowboys are looking to bounce back from a collapse of epic proportions against the Packers a week ago, while the Vikings are riding high off winning what is being talked about as the game of the year to this point in Buffalo last Sunday.
And this game is in Minnesota, so the Vikings should be favored by four or five points, right? Wrong.
This is one of the “casino builder” games for Vegas, and I don’t intend on falling for it.
Since 2017, Kirk Cousins is 16-28-2 against the spread following an outright win, the least profitable QB in the NFL over that span.
I expect Micah Parsons and company to give Minnesota’s offensive line its biggest challenge yet and come away with a pivotal road win.
The pick: Cowboys moneyline (-115).
Game 5: Kansas City Chiefs at LA Chargers (Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC)
I teased the Chargers in primetime a week ago and it worked, and now I find myself going back to that same well.
Home divisional underdogs are one of my favorite NFL trends to follow, as they’re hitting at nearly a 65 percent clip over the last five seasons, and unders in divisional games in Week 11 or later with a total over 44.5 cash at 60 percent with a 17 percent return on investment.
Chiefs are overdue for a wakeup call, and this is a prime spot for it.
Win or lose, this should be an exciting game. Hopefully this teaser wins.
The pick: Chargers +11.5 and under 59.5 (-110).