Will we get a close football game on Saturday?
Just one of the three games on the docket has a point spread less than a touchdown at BetMGM as the NFL begins Week 18 and the FCS champion is crowned.
Let’s start with the NFL, which kicks off Week 18 with the Kansas City Chiefs’ trip to Denver (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC). The Chiefs are favored by 10.5 points as they hope to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and the Broncos are already eliminated from playoff contention.
The Chiefs need to beat Denver and hope the Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans to get the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. If the Chiefs win and the Titans win, the Chiefs are the No. 2 seed. If the Chiefs lose, they can drop all the way to the No. 4 seed, depending on what the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills do in Week 18. The Chiefs lost to the Titans, Bills and Bengals and lose tiebreakers to all of them.
Kansas City has beaten Denver in 12 consecutive games dating to November 2015. That win in Denver broke a seven-game losing streak to the Broncos and started a run that’s continued to 2022.
We’re thinking the over may be in play in Denver despite backup QB Drew Lock getting another start for the Broncos. The total for the game is 45, and four of the past five games in Denver between the two teams have gone over that total.
Saturday night has the closest game on paper of the weekend. The Dallas Cowboys are favored by 4.5 points at the Philadelphia Eagles (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC). Both teams are dealing with COVID-19 cases across their rosters and many key contributors could be missing as each team ramps up for the playoffs.
Micah Parsons and Tyron Smith are currently on the COVID-19 list for the Cowboys and are set to miss the game while the Eagles have 12 players on the list. Ten of those Eagles players went on the COVID list on Jan. 3 and might be back for the game.
The Eagles also have less to play for on Saturday night than the Cowboys do. Dallas still has a shot at getting to as high as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs if the Rams, Buccaneers and Cardinals all lose, while Philadelphia is locked into either the No. 6 or No. 7 seed depending on what the 49ers do in the final week of the season.
While the Eagles could be missing more players than the Cowboys, the loss of Parsons will have the biggest impact. The rookie from Penn State has been one of the best defensive weapons in the NFL in 2022 as Dallas’ defense has become a stingy unit.
We're rolling with the Cowboys here, just because we're not sure if the Eagles will want to push it with so many players on the COVID list this week and a road playoff game next week assured.
Can North Dakota State win the FCS title again?
North Dakota State is aiming for its ninth FCS title in the past 11 seasons on Saturday. The Bison are 7.5-point favorites over Montana State (Noon ET, ESPN2) in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State has appeared in eight of the last 10 FCS title games and won each of them. That’s an incredible run of title game success.
Montana State is in its first FCS title game since 1984 when it beat Louisiana Tech for the title. The team’s 2021 playoff run has come after Tommy Mellott was inserted as the team’s starting QB ahead of Matthew McKay. Mellott, a freshman, has rushed for 705 yards on 110 attempts and is tied for the team lead with 10 rushing TDs. He’s thrown just 50 passes this season and completed 26 for 461 yards.
North Dakota State, meanwhile, has thrown for just 2,137 yards as a team while rushing for over 3,800. This is going to be a game that doesn’t feature much passing, and we’re backing North Dakota State and under 41.5. Hopefully Montana State can keep it close, but if NDSU gets out to an early 14-0 lead, the Bobcats are going to have a hard time coming back.
Rahm now Tournament of Champions favorite
Jon Rahm has taken over favorite status at the Sentry Tournament of Champions after he was 7-under par in the first round. Rahm (+400) is a shot back of Cam Smith (+650) after most of the field was under par on Thursday at the Plantation course in Kapalua.
Justin Thomas, the 2020 champion of the tournament, entered the weekend as the favorite. But he was one of the few golfers who didn’t break par on Thursday. Thomas is now +15000 to win the tournament. Patrick Reed was the most popular pick of bettors to win the tournament and his odds are now up to +25000. Reed and Thomas each shot a 1-over 74 along with Lucas Glover. Those three golfers were the only ones among the 38 in the field to not at least shoot even par.
Who cashed tickets Thursday?
Knicks’ bettors were thrilled with RJ Barrett’s absurd buzzer-beater on Thursday night in a 108-105 win over the Celtics. The Knicks entered the game as 2.5-point underdogs and the over hit as well as the pregame total was 207.5 points.
The Pelicans also covered against the Warriors in a 101-96 win at home. Golden State was without Steph Curry and Draymond Green along with Juan Toscano-Anderson. Coach Steve Kerr spread the minutes around in their absence; nine players played over 19 minutes while four Pelicans starters logged at least 31 minutes.