It’s coming. We are a week from real games, as the NFL exhibition slate has mercifully ended and fantasy drafts can now commence without fear of losing a player during the preseason. It is time to strategize about survivor plays, finalize futures portfolios and just be generally freaking excited! This time last year we had no fans at games and no college football for many programs. We enter this Labor Day weekend with a full slate of exciting NCAA matchups, including 14 games Thursday night. Until then, we have the Orioles to bet against every day. Life is good. Now let’s find some winners to make it even better ...
Phillies (+ 400) To Win NL East
As of Tuesday morning, the Phillies were within 3.5 games of the division-leading Braves, but the Braves had to face Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer in Los Angeles the next two nights. That’s not the only schedule edge that favors the Phillies. Each team plays the Rockies in the next couple of weeks. But the Braves have to visit Colorado this weekend for four games at Coors Field, where the Rockies are remarkably 21 games over .500. Meanwhile, the Phillies host the Rockies next week, and Colorado was somehow 32 games under .500 on the road. The Phillies also have three home games against the Cubs, who were 6-21 since dismembering their team at the trade deadline, and four home games against the 48-83 Pirates. Three more home games against the 40-90 Orioles and a series with the free-falling Mets, in addition to a series with the Marlins, make for a schedule that even the untrustworthy and inconsistent Phillies should mow through. At this price, if the Phillies can catch the Braves or even cut the gap to a game or so, you can buy back on the Braves and lock in a profit. You also have the option to wait and let the Phillies’ favorable schedule play out and simply bet the Braves the last weekend when they play the Phillies head to head. The Phils’ September schedule is simply one of the easier ones I’ve ever seen, and getting them at + 300 or better is too good to pass up. The Phillies have gone from way back in the middle of the year, when they were as high as 12-1 to win the division, to gaining a two-game lead in early August and becoming the betting favorites, and going back to 5.5 games out last week and to become huge underdogs once again. The schedule suggests we might be in for one more twist in the final weeks of the season.
Saints Under 9 Wins
A famous ad campaign’s slogan was “Just Say No” to drugs. I feel the same way about turnovers. The NFL is flooded with high-powered offenses and dynamic quarterbacks. If you can’t keep up, you are simply left behind. The days of Trent Dilfer game-managing his team to a low-scoring Super Bowl run no longer exist. It’s a quarterback league that requires teams to match other potent offenses if they want to have a chance. It’s hard to score all the points you need when you don’t have possession of the football. We know the stat and we hear it all the time, but Jameis Winston throwing 30 interceptions is just not something that can be overlooked, overcome or coached out of him. Some contend Sean Payton can fix Winston, just as many believed Bruce Arians would. I’m just not convinced that the bad decision-making and poor accuracy can be corrected. Winston also fumbled 12 times in 2019, his last full season as a starter, and will not have as many deep threats as he did with the Bucs. Michael Thomas will miss a significant chunk of the season, and he thrives more in the underneath and intermediate routes even when healthy. The Saints have a first-place schedule and a quarterback who has never sniffed the playoffs or a .500 season and who threw 28 interceptions in two seasons in college. It’s possible that midway through the year the Saints brass will realize the answer at quarterback is not on the roster and perhaps make some decisions based on what’s better for their draft position, where they can find the long-term solution with a higher draft choice. It’s a rebuilding year in New Orleans, and Under 9 is the play.