After the American League kicked off the fun in the 2020 MLB Playoffs, now it's time for the National League to get in on the action.
The action is going to be fast and furious around baseball. After trying to get a handle on the four series around the American League yesterday, now we take a stab at predicting the four series in the National League.
It's a shame we couldn't get a longer series between the Reds and Braves. Cincinnati has one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, while Atlanta has one of the strongest lineups. The Reds will look to Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray to lead them to an upset of the NL East champion Atlanta Braves.
The best pitcher in the National League this year has been Trevor Bauer, who struck out 100 batters this year and posted a microscopic 1.73 ERA. Castillo struggled early in the season, but turned things around in September, as he was nearly unhittable in the final month of the regular season. If Sonny Gray is healthy after missing his last couple starts of the season, the Reds could be a sleeper in the National League.
On short rest, @BauerOutage made his case for NL Cy Young. 🔥 (MLB x @NikeDiamond) https://t.co/EDtt7OzZMo— MLB (@MLB)1600911938.0
Of course Cincinnati will need a little offense to help out their pitching staff. Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, and Eugenio Suarez can all provide power at the plate. The question is can they do it consistently? More heroics are going to needed from new second baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit six home runs in September.
There might not be a lineup in the National League that is feared more than that of the Atlanta Braves. Marcell Ozuna and Freddie Freeman combined to hit 31 homers and drive in 109 runs this year. Dansby Swanson started to live up to the hype that came with being the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. All that and we still haven't even mentioned Ronald Acuna Jr., who struggled this year but still hit 14 homers.
The biggest concern for the Braves is going to be pitching. Max Fried emerged as the ace of the staff this year, posting a 7-0 record. The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Ian Anderson only has six career starts, while Kyle Wright was just 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA. The Braves lost Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels for the year because of injuries, or else the rotation wouldn't be a cause for concern for Atlanta.
I wonder how much energy the Reds used just trying to make the playoffs. Now Cincinnati has to hit the road and take on one of the best teams in baseball. The Reds have the pitching to win this series, I'm just not sure they can outhit the Braves in Atlanta. Bauer wins the first game for Cincinnati before Atlanta rallies to win the next two games to move on to the next round of the playoffs. Atlanta in 3 games.
Imagine how insane you would have thought someone was if they told you before the season that the Miami Marlins would make the playoffs this year. Even with expanded playoffs, the Marlins were coming off a 2019 season in which they lost 105 games. Miami now joins the 2017 Minnesota Twins as the only teams in baseball history to make the playoffs a year after losing at least 100 games. Don Mattingly deserves consideration for NL Manager of the year after what he has done with this Marlins team.
The key to Miami's offense is Brian Anderson. The third baseman led the team with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs this year. Jesus Aguilar adds a bit of pop to the lineup to compliment Anderson, while shortstop Miguel Rojas hit .304 this season.
Pitching is what helped earn Miami a playoff spot this year. Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, and Sixto Sanchez did a lot of the heavy lifting at the top of the rotation, while Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler were on the money in relief when they were handed the game. Boxberger finished the season with six holds, while Kintzler secured 12 saves.
Miami Marlins clinch first playoff berth since 2003 on anniversary of Jose Fernandez's death https://t.co/AhLaAlv2G2— CBS Sports MLB (@CBS Sports MLB)1601091894.0
A team a little more familiar with the playoffs of late has been the Chicago Cubs, who won the World Series in 2016. The Cubs won the NL Central despite some struggles from Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber. Baez and Bryant both barely hit over .200 this season, while Schwarber finished the regular season with a .188 batting average. Even with their struggles, the Cubs lineup is still dangerous, especially when you add in Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, and Willson Contreras.
Pitching is where the Cubs created a lot of their success this year. Yu Darvish had a bounce-back year, going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and 93 strikeouts. Kyle Hendricks will take the ball in the first game of the series against the Marlins. Alec Mills threw a no-hitter a few ago against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jon Lester doesn't have the same stuff as he used to, but he gives the rotation some veteran grit.
Miami is perfect when they make the playoffs. The Marlins have won the World Series in each of their two previous playoff appearances. The streak ends this year, as the Cubs get some revenge for Steve Bartman. Chicago in 2 games.
What a contrast in styles between St. Louis and San Diego. Smallball taking on the power game of the Padres. The Cardinals finished last in baseball this year with just 51 home runs, while the Padres mashed 95 taters. Paul Goldschmidt did his best to jumpstart the offense of the Cardinals this year with a .304 batting average. Brad Miller hit a team-high seven homers.
The Cardinals will have to hope their pitching can hold up to give them a shot at knocking off the Padres. Kwang-Hyun Kim gets the ball in Game 1 after going 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his MLB season after spending the last 12 years with SK Wyverns in the KBO. The ageless Adam Wainwright will follow Kim, and if the series goes to a deciding third game, Jack Flaherty will hope to redeem himself after a season that saw his ERA balloon to 4.91.
FERNANDO TATIS JR. WITH A 600 FOOT MOON BOMB https://t.co/6OV5RGNcOu— Jared Carrabis (@Jared Carrabis)1601089665.0
San Diego knew they were building for the future, I just don't think they were prepared for the future to be now. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado have formed one of the most feared duos in baseball, combining for 33 homers and driving in 92 runs this year. Along with Tatis and Machado, Trent Grisham hit 10 homers and swiped 10 bases. Wil Myers had a resurgence, hitting over .253 for the first time since 2013, when he was the AL Rookie of the year. All that and we haven't even mentioned Eric Hosmer.
The Padres might have better odds in the playoffs if the status of pitchers Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger was known. Clevinger and Lamet are both dealing with arm injuries and they might not be able to pitch against the Cardinals. Clevinger was acquired from the Cleveland Indians prior to the trade deadline, while Lamet struck out 93 batters and posted a 2.09 ERA. Zach Davies will get the nod in the series opener, and we could see Chris Paddack and Garrett Richards if Lamet and Clevinger can't pitch.
The Cardinals have the experience but I don't see how they are going to keep up with the Padres here. Tatis, Machado, and the rest of the offense of the Padres will be too much for St. Louis to handle. San Diego in 2 games.
This series has the possibility of getting very ugly, very fast. The Brewers snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season with a 29-31 record. Their prize? They get to take on a Dodgers team whose 43-17 record was the best in baseball this year. Just two years removed from winning the NL MVP, Christian Yelich looked like anything but that this year, hitting just .205 and driving in 22 runs in 58 games this year. Aside from Yelich and Keston Hiura, and an aging Ryan Braun, there isn't much to the Milwaukee offense.
The pitching for the Brewers isn't much better. Brandon Woodruff pitched like an ace this year, striking out 91 in 73.2 innings. Milwaukee suffered a big blow when Corbin Burnes suffered an oblique injury and won't be available for this series. The Brewers have a good bullpen with Devin Williams and Josh Hader, but Milwaukee not have a chance to put them in position to try and close out a game against the Dodgers.
We’ve got more work to do but tonight, we celebrate. https://t.co/YQoL1pDgYy— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Los Angeles Dodgers)1600839971.0
If the Dodgers can't win it all this year, it's hard to see them winning a World Series anytime soon. Los Angeles has a perfect mix of hitting and pitching. The Dodgers have been so close to winning a title before, it feels like this is the year they exercise those demons. The pitching staff hasn't been overworked this year, which should allow guys like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler to pitch deeper into games, if needed. Even if the starters can't go more than five or six innings, Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Jake McGee, and others can pick up the slack from the bullpen.
The acquisition of Mookie Betts could be what pushes the Dodgers over the top and finally gets them a title. Betts has led the offense, which is seeing Cody Bellinger improve at the plate as the year moves along. Justin Turner missed some time due to injury this season, but his return makes a dangerous offense even better. Don't forget about Corey Seager, who is putting together his best season since 2016.
Anything can happen in a three-game playoff series, but if Milwaukee eliminates the Dodgers, it will be one of the biggest upsets in baseball history. Los Angeles is better at pretty much every position. I'd be shocked if this even goes to a third game. Los Angeles in 2 games.
It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.