Every weekend when I fly out of Las Vegas for the next Raider game, I always grab a window seat on the right side of the airplane, so I can see the new stadium rising alongside I-15. The work completed gives you an idea of what a wonderful addition this will be for the Las Vegas skyline. If I can plagiarize a line from my old drinking buddy, Harry Caray, the Raiders are coming, tra-la, tra-la.
They are also trying to make it two victories in a row Sunday in Carson, Calif., against the Los Angeles Chargers. The schedule says it’s a road game, but there will be more Raider fans in StubHub than Charger fans. So here’s your chance to grab the Raiders as a “home” underdog. The Raiders opened catching 6½, and that’s already down to 4½. If they win this game, the Raiders vault into the thick of the AFC West battle.
The key game in the division will be Kansas City –3 at home to Jacksonville. Quarterback Pat Mahomes has been better than advertised for the Chiefs. He has thrown for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns without a single interception. As of right now he is the next big thing in the NFL. But the Jaguars present the toughest defense that Mahomes has seen so far, allowing 15, 20, 9 and 12 points in their first four games, winning three of them. The Patriots hung the only 20 on them, so this is a defense that ranks at the very top of the NFL with their only question mark whether you’re going to get the good Bortles or the bad Bortles on offense.
Switching to the colleges, the three teams with the best bodies of work so far are Notre Dame, Ohio State and, yes, LSU. Granted, all three would be underdogs against Alabama, but the Tide’s victories so far are far less impressive than those for the three.
LSU –2½ at Florida
The trickiest test Saturday for our final four challengers is at The Swamp. The Gators always play the Tigers tough, and Dan Mullen is a coaching upgrade this season. LSU must win to remain a contender, because both Georgia and Alabama are on the schedule. LSU’s defense (featuring several future NFL players) rules this day, and the Tigers cover, but it won’t be easy in Gainesville.
Notre Dame –6½ at Virginia Tech
If the Irish run the table, they are a lock for the four-team college playoff. Blacksburg is a tricky road spot for any team, but Notre Dame doesn’t figure to lose to a Hokie squad that fell to Old Dominion. Take the Irish and lay the points.
Ohio State –25 vs. Indiana
The Hoosiers have lost the last 23 games to the Buckeyes, but they’ve covered the point spreads their last four visits to Columbus. Last week the Buckeyes won a gut-check game in Happy Valley aided by Penn State’s shaky play-calling. Be careful backing Ohio State here. The Buckeyes might just win comfortably without covering the number. In other words, Indiana looks good with the points.
Alabama –34 at Arkansas
Nick Saban has failed to cover in the Tide’s last two games against Texas A&M and Louisiana-Lafayette. This will be different. It will be high Tide all game long in Fayetteville against a reeling Razorback team that is only 0-4 against FBS teams, and it has covered only one spread out of five games. ’Bama rolls – and covers.
Have a nice weekend, and cash some tickets.