Hello, and happy Thursday afternoon. I don’t know how things have been going for you today, but the best word to describe what my life has been since the alarm didn’t go off and I realized I’d overslept by a half-hour is “hectic.” It’s felt like I’ve been trying to catch up on everything ever since, and every time I do catch up more is thrown at me.
I hope your day has been less stressful. If it hasn’t, maybe you can take solace in the knowledge that the NFL appears to be trying to fight back against the cesspool that is the NFC East? Yes, as you might know (or maybe you didn’t), there are supposed to be 14 playoff teams in the NFL this year, seven per conference. Well, with COVID-19 looming like a very dark cloud over everything at the moment, the NFL is reportedly considering a contingency plan that would expand the playoffs to 16 teams.
Not only would that mean more teams, but as our John Breech details, the eight teams in each conference would be seeded by win percentage. So, unlike previous seasons, whichever team fails the least and manages to win the NFC East with six wins this year will NOT get a home playoff game. Instead, they’d likely be the No. 8 seed and have to play the best team in the league.
In other words, justice will be served.
OK, let’s make some money
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Packers at 49ers, 8:20 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: 49ers Over 20.5 (-105): There is a lot we don’t know about this game, and it’s incredibly difficult to get a handle on. We know that if it weren’t for all the players that the 49ers will be missing (Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and maybe Kendrick Bourne are just a few of the latest), there’s no way the Packers would be favored by a touchdown on the road. Still, there are a lot of key players missing, so it isn’t easy to gauge if that line is too large a swing or not. We also know that the Packers will be without Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon at running back.
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What we don’t know is whether regular starter Aaron Jones will be available at running back. Nor do we know if starting left tackle David Bakhtiari will play. If both are ruled out, I’d strongly consider taking the 49ers and the points, so keep an eye on that situation. But, based on what we know now, I think there’s value on the 49ers team total, even missing so many starters. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook ate the Packers defense alive last week, finishing with 226 total yards and four touchdowns. Green Bay’s defense ranks 29th in the NFL in defensive DVOA, and it’s 22nd against the run. The Packers rush defense has a success rate against of 42.3%, which ranks 19th in the NFL, and overall the Packers defense has allowed 2.57 points per possession, which ranks 20th.
Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play-callers in the NFL, and even if he’s missing so many key starters, I expect he’ll gameplan a way to move the ball against a bad Packers defense. I don’t think asking for 21 points is that difficult in this spot.
Key Trend: The 49ers are averaging 26 points per game this season.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: How does the Advanced Computer Model feel about tonight’s game? It’s leaning pretty heavily toward two different plays.
🏈 College Football
Utah State at Nevada, 7 p.m | TV: FS1
The Pick: Over 56 (-110) — This line opened with Nevada as a 14-point favorite earlier, but it has since been bet up to Nevada -18. That means all the value on the Wolf Pack is gone because they’re the right side to play. At least, they were, and even with this spread growing, I still don’t see enough value to take Utah State. The Aggies have been awful through two games, but they’ve also had to play two of the Mountain West’s best teams in Boise State and San Diego State. So they’re probably not as bad as they’ve looked, but Nevada might be the third-best team in the conference! It might be the best! It certainly has a fantastic QB in Carson Strong, and I’m confident the Pack will put up plenty of points on this Utah State defense. I’m also confident that the Aggies will find enough success to push us over a total, I believe is just a bit too low.
Key Trend: The over has gone 4-0 the last four times Utah State has been an underdog.
Wyoming at Colorado State, 9 p.m | TV: CBS Sports Network
The Pick: Colorado State +3.5 (-110) — Wyoming looked great last week against Hawaii, using Xazavian Valladay and Trey Smith to run all over the Warriors. That hid the fact that freshman QB Levi Williams wasn’t able to do much of anything in the passing game. Through two games, Williams is completing 51% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt with a touchdown and an interception. That’s why Wyoming is happy to run the ball, but that won’t be as easy against Colorado State. Their defensive success rate against the run ranks second in the Mountain West, behind San Diego State.
We also saw Nevada tear Wyoming’s defense apart through the air, passing for 420 yards and four touchdowns in Wyoming’s season-opening loss. Hawaii wasn’t capable of doing that. Colorado State, should Patrick O’Brian start at QB for Colorado State (and I expect him to), can do a better job of attacking Wyoming’s defensive weakness. So I believe there’s value on the Rams as a home dog here.
Key Trend: Colorado State is 5-2 ATS in its last seven home games.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine expert R.J. White has been crushing the NFL all season and he has a pick for tonight’s game between the Packers and 49ers here.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Your MVP or Captain
Aaron Rodgers — Listen, everybody is going to have Aaron Rodgers in their lineups tonight. You should too, because it’s highly likely he’ll be the highest-scoring player in the game. So, if you’re doing one lineup, have Rodgers in your MVP spot and look to beat everyone elsewhere in your lineup. But, if you’re doing multiple lineups, consider fading Rodgers with Nick Mullens as your MVP in a couple of spots, or Davante Adams if you think that’s too crazy.
Jerick McKinnon — I expect the 49ers offense to lean heavily on its run game and running backs tonight, so there’s value in both McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty. Of the two, I predict Hasty will be higher-owned, so McKinnon is both a value play and a slight contrarian play as well. That could pay significant dividends if McKinnon has a big game. Another back I’d consider is Green Bay’s Dexter Williams. Even if Aaron Jones plays, Williams is likely to get a few carries tonight. If you’re doing multiple lineups, I’d stick him in one or two as a potential lottery ticket in larger tournaments.
Full lineup advice
SportsLine’s team of DFS insiders has you covered for daily fantasy sports. Mike McClure has won almost $2 million playing DFS, and Jacob Gibbs was ranked as one of the nation’s most accurate Fantasy experts last year. Plus, use SportsLine’s all-new DFS Optimizer to get optimal NFL DFS picks from 10,000 simulations.
🏈 Thursday Night Football Props
- Aaron Rodgers Under 12.5 rushing yards (-110)
- Nick Mullens Under 213.5 passing yards (+100)
- Jerick McKinnon Under 27.5 receiving yards (-130)
- Jordan Reed to score a TD (+225)