WEEKLY DIGEST: Woodbine and NFL Week 2

We’re back for a second go-around, and this week’s horse racing action takes me to Woodbine. A track I was fortunate enough to go to back in June, Saturday’s card features three Grade 1 races and a bunch of full fields elsewhere on the program. As a reminder, Woodbine’s wagering menu includes multi-race wagers at 20-cent minimums, rather than 50, which allows folks to go a bit deeper.

Meanwhile, Week 2 of the NFL is already underway. From an optics standpoint, there aren’t a lot of eye-catching matchups on Sunday’s slate. However, a few spreads hit me as extremely bettable.

Let’s dive in!


Woodbine, Race 6: A field of 12 2-year-olds will go two turns. #10 STATE OF MIND is the 3-1 morning line favorite, and I don’t think she’s totally illogical. However, the far outside post is a problem, and 3-1 just hits me as too short a price.

I much prefer fellow second-time starter #5 BIJOU BABY. She debuted going six furlongs, and given that she’s a daughter of turf stayer Point of Entry, chances are that isn’t what she wants to do. Still, she made up a lot of ground while closing into a pretty slow pace. I’m expecting significant improvement given the experience and the added distance.

If you want to go even deeper, #3 OUR LIBERTY BELLE isn’t without a shot at a big price. She hasn’t run well in two turf starts, but her works over the synthetic course are pretty sharp and she adds blinkers in her first two-turn outing. Bijou Baby is my top pick, but I’ll have this one on a few tickets, too.

Woodbine, Race 9: This is the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, and the headliner here is #5 MODERN GAMES. The last time he shipped overseas was for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Things went great for him, as he won, but not for those who bet on him, as he was declared a non-starter following a head-scratching series of events.

A repeat of his runner-up finish in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes would give Modern Games a big chance, but the likely price seems too short. I prefer two others.

My top pick is #2 IVAR. He’s clearly had his issues, judging by the layoff lines, but when he’s right, he’s a handful. He’s finished up close in back-to-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and he should get plenty of pace to run at in this spot.

I’ll also pose a question: Is Modern Games that much better than fellow European runner #4 FINEST SOUND? Their Timeform ratings are pretty similar, and the latter runner will be at least five times the price. Jockey Andrea Atzeni has had success over this turf course in the past, and I think this one’s live.

Woodbine, Race 10: Simply put, I want no part of any runner coming out of the Catch A Glimpse. I’m simply not impressed by the race and very much prefer a new face in the Grade 1 Natalma.

#3 G LAURIE was very impressive in winning her debut by six lengths. Graham Motion’s runners aren’t always fully cranked at first asking, but she drew away powerfully, and that day’s third-place finisher has since come back to win.

I know the speed figures weren’t particularly kind to that race, but I’m banking on there being far more in the tank. Add in that I’m just not crazy about this field in general, and I think G Laurie represents a very attractive betting proposition.



Bucs -2.5 over Saints: This spread has come down over the past few days as a result of some injury-related uncertainty on the Tampa Bay offense. However, while I’ll admit the injury report is unsettling, I think this is a “buy low” opportunity.

Tampa Bay’s defense swarmed the Cowboys last Sunday night. Even before Dak Prescott left the game, Dallas couldn’t get anything going the entire game. Tom Brady may not have all of his weapons on Sunday, but I don’t think he needs them. I’ll take the Bucs in a slow-paced game where their defense gets a chance to shine.

Panthers/Giants OVER 43.5: I’m not exactly bullish about offenses led by Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones, but both of these teams face significantly weaker defenses than the ones they lined up against in Week 1. Saquon Barkley looked healthy in Big Blue’s stunning win over Tennessee, and Mayfield was at least able to engineer a few good drives against a solid Cleveland defense.

43.5 just seems a bit low to me. It’s possible this becomes a game of attrition and I look pretty silly, but I’ll gamble that each offense appreciates a bit of class relief, to steal a horse racing term. 27-17 is a winner, and that seems likely enough for me to take a shot.

Bears +10 over Packers: I watched all of the Bears’ season opener last weekend. It was ugly. Soldier Field’s turf was a mess, and for the first half, Chicago’s offense was, too. However, they did at least rally to win, and the Bears then sat back and watched the Vikings decimate Gang Green.

Mind you, I’m not saying Chicago is a likely winner. I think Green Bay is significantly sharper in the second week of the season. However, there are question marks here, especially with the Packers’ wide receiver corps. I think it’s likely Green Bay wins, but double-digits just seems like too big a spread.

Vikings +2.5 over Eagles: The second of two games on Monday comes to us from Philadelphia. The Eagles won their lid-lifter, but they survived some anxious moments against a Detroit Lions team that still has some work to do.

I’m not sold on any NFC East team. The Eagles may be the best of the bunch, but I’m eager to take the points with a Vikings team that seems to boast a higher-powered offense, even in a road game. The money line (Minnesota is between +115 and +125 as of this writing) may be worth a small shot, too.

WEEKLY DIGEST: Kentucky Downs and NFL Week 1

I dug that tweet back up and pinned it to my Twitter page because, for the next nine months, I go from “younger guy who knows Saratoga” to “younger guy a surprising amount of people in horse racing wish would go away.” No such luck.

I’ll be putting together weekly content focused on horse racing and the NFL. Perhaps I’ll also throw in some college football plays as the season rolls on. If there’s something you want to see in this space, let me know. I’m an easy guy to contact, and I want to do what I can to appeal to an audience that (I hope!) enjoyed my stuff for most of the summer.

This weekend’s horse racing action takes me to Kentucky Downs for a power-packed Saturday card. Meanwhile, it’s Week 1 in the NFL, and I’ve got some strong opinions there, too. Let’s dive in!


Kentucky Downs, Race 4: One of my bigger plays of the day comes in this maiden race for fillies and mares. I’m very much against #7 HERINGTON ROCKET at her likely price. Perhaps she’s good enough to win, but she’s had chances in each of her last two outings in New York against suspect groups. Anything close to the 5/2 morning line hits me as an underlay.

I much prefer #3 HEDY LAMARR, who gets back to turf and has done her best running on that surface. As a 2-year-old last year, she chased Consumer Spending twice, ran second at Aqueduct, and then went to the sidelines for five months after a lackluster performance at Gulfstream. However, her comeback race at Churchill Downs was quite good, and a similar type of effort gives her a big chance here. 6-1 seems like a very fair price, and I’ll happily take it come post time.

Kentucky Downs, Race 7: This is the Grade 2 FanDuel Turf Sprint, and it’s drawn a field that includes #12 ARREST ME RED, one of the top horses in this division. His best race absolutely wins this, but the 9/5 morning line price seems short given the far outside post and the fact that he won’t be alone up front.

I’ll take a swing with #7 GREGORIAN CHANT. The 10-1 shot makes his local debut, but has run very well coming down the hill at Santa Anita. Form from that course often translates well to this one, and his form looks far better if you toss his two runs in the Grade 1 Jaipur the last two years. He probably just doesn’t like Belmont Park, and if he channels the races he’s run elsewhere, I think he’s got more than a puncher’s chance at springing an upset.

Kentucky Downs, Race 11: The Grade 3 Mint Ladies Sprint houses my last spot play, and it’s not #10 CAMPANELLE. I respect her talent, to be sure, but she’s crossed the wire first just once in the last two years.

I think the early pace will be pretty hot, and with that in mind, I want #6 TOBYS HEART, who was very impressive in victory here last year. She wants to sit back and make one big late run, and that running style should mesh well with the race shape. Add in that she’s shown an affinity for this course, one several of her rivals will be running over for the first time, and I think there’s a lot to like.


Colts -7 over Texans: This line opened with Indianapolis giving 8 1/2 points. It’s down to seven, and I cannot understand why. The Texans have significant issues at quarterback, and while rookie running back Dameon Pierce has significant steam, make no mistake about one thing: This is not a good football team.

The Colts, meanwhile, have won 20 games the last two years and have a legitimate chance to win the AFC South. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this was a double-digit spread. Seeing a number of just seven means I have to endorse Indianapolis in this spot.

Ravens -7 over Jets: In a similar vein, the New York Jets…stink. This is especially true of this version of Gang Green, which boasts a depleted offensive line and a backup quarterback.

I’m not the biggest believer in Baltimore. Lamar Jackson will need to rely on all of his skills with a roster lacking depth at the skill positions around him. However, the Ravens should be up to the task against a banged-up Jets team, and it’s another instance where the spread just seems too low.

Chargers/Raiders OVER 52: This should be a lot of fun to watch. Both teams have explosive offenses that can put up points in a hurry. Both teams also have secondaries with lots of question marks. I’m expecting a fair amount of big plays from both sides, and I’ll happily sit back and root for as many points as each team can muster.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Nov. 15, 2020 (Week 10)

Last week: 1-3
2020 season: 21-13-2 (61.8%)

All lines and totals are courtesy of America’s Line. All DFS costs are courtesy of DraftKings.

Packers -13.5 over Jaguars

Jacksonville nearly pulled off a sizable upset last week against Houston. The Jaguars played hard and had a chance to tie with a two-point conversion, but the attempt failed and the Texans survived. This week, however, holds a much taller task for the Jags, who will once again trot out backup quarterback Jake Luton against the 6-2 Packers at Lambeau Field.

The half-point here is crucial. If this was a 14-point spread, it would look significantly less appetizing. However, in a world where a 28-14, “not as close as it looked” victory is a win for Green Bay backers, I want as much of Gang Green as I can get.

Chargers/Dolphins: OVER 48.5

By and large, I thought the totals were pretty spot-on this week. This one, however, seems a few points low. Justin Herbert may be the best offensive rookie in football, and the Dolphins have shown they’re a competent offensive squad with a special teams unit that can make big plays.

This hits me as a 28-24 sort of game, with both defenses showing up but not being totally immune to big plays. I’m looking forward to seeing two rookie quarterbacks in action, and I’m rooting for them to put up plenty of points.

Ravens -7 over Patriots

This line confuses me. I know the Baltimore offense has been inconsistent, but the Patriots nearly lost to the bottom-feeding Jets on Monday Night Football and will be coming in on a short week. Perhaps the presence of Bill Belichick is keeping this line tighter than it should be, but whatever the case is, I feel like Baltimore should be a double-digit favorite.

The Patriots…are simply not good. The shine’s come off of Cam Newton, who has no wide receiving corps to work with, and while the defense hasn’t been awful, it also hasn’t been good enough to completely stop opposing playmakers. I think Baltimore wins and wins comfortably, far more comfortably than the seven-point spread would suggest.

Bears +3 over Vikings

Initially, I wanted no part of this game. I thought Chicago giving two, as the Bears were when wagering opened, was a decent line. However, with news that David Montgomery won’t suit up, the line has shifted five points, and I think that’s an overcorrection.

Yes, Chicago losing Montgomery will hurt. However, while the Vikings have won two in a row, it’s not like they were overwhelming in last week’s win over the Lions. The Bears, meanwhile, have been competitive against far better squads the last two weeks and should relish the class relief. I can’t pass up the chance to get three with the Bears here, and Chicago’s money line (+$160 as of this writing) wouldn’t be the worst bet in the world, either.


QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT ($6,200)
WR Diontae Johnson, PIT ($5,200)
TE Eric Ebron, PIT ($4,400)

The undefeated Steelers face the Bengals, whose secondary has been ravaged by injuries and COVID-19. With that in mind, I think Sunday will be a great day for the Pittsburgh aerial attack, and that bodes well for this mini-stack. Johnson and Ebron are also pretty low-investment guys this week, which opens room in the budget for other playmakers.

WR Travis Fulgham, PHI ($6,400)

Fulgham has been a revelation for the Eagles, who moreso resemble a MASH unit than a football team. A sixth-round pick in 2019, he’s seen 41 targets the past four weeks and has found the end zone three times.

Philadelphia gets the woeful Giants on Sunday. Between his apparent talent and his likely volume, I like his chances at another big day. $6,400 isn’t a bargain price tag, but here you get a #1 wide receiver for high-end #2 money.

RB Duke Johnson, HOU ($5,000)

One of my players to watch last week, David Johnson, left the game early with an injury, which opened the door for Houston’s OTHER D. Johnson to shine. Duke will once again be the featured back this week in a game at Cleveland where heavy winds could keep the ball on the ground for most of the afternoon.

Duke doesn’t have the highest ceiling, and he managed just 73 yards on 20 touches a week ago. However, he did find the end zone, and with his likely workload, I need to buy low. A similar output Sunday would make him a bargain. Improvement after a week with the first-team offense would make him a steal.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Nov. 1, 2020 (Week Eight)

I know you’re probably here for football, but I need to give a few cheap plugs for stuff I’ll be doing this week. We’re less than a week from the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can create some cool content and help others do the same.

We’ll be doing two episodes of “Champagne and J.D.” this week. Ren Carothers will join us Wednesday to preview the Friday slate, while Nick Hines will return for his second appearance to discuss the Saturday program. I’m proud to call both Ren and Nick friends of mine, and I’ve learned a great deal from them. You won’t want to miss this, so head to the “Champagne and J.D.” YouTube channel and hit the “subscribe” button.

I’ll also be part of Gino Buccola’s Murderer’s Row-ish lineup of guests on his podcast, “That’s What G Said.” Darin Zoccali and I will join Gino to talk about the Turf and Filly and Mare Turf, and given some of our past episodes where we’ve dived into fields and wagering strategies, this’ll be even more good stuff for you to sink your teeth into ahead of racing’s year-end championship event.

Anyway, on to the week eight slate of NFL picks, plays, and daily fantasy players to watch! Last week was another good one, as a 3-1 mark moved me to 19-8-1 on the season. As usual, point spreads and totals are courtesy of America’s Line, and daily fantasy costs are courtesy of DraftKings. Let’s get to it!


Titans/Bengals: OVER 51

I’m really looking forward to watching this one, for a lot of reasons. These are two offenses that can put up a lot of points, and I think the public might be sleeping on that fact just a bit. The total opened at 52.5 and has actually drifted down a bit, which surprises me.

The Titans did just record their first loss of the season against Pittsburgh, but they still put up 24 points against a top-tier defense. Meanwhile, the Bengals have gone over the total in three of their last four games and have positively crushed the number each of the last two weeks. They’ll likely be playing from behind, and I think that could set things up for a shootout (more on that in the DFS section).

51 seems too low. With 31-20 being a push, this is probably my best bet of the weekend, and I’m hoping for carnage.

Bills -4.5 over Patriots

Given the way San Francisco took New England behind the woodshed last weekend, I’m stunned the line is this low. Honestly, I think a big reason for that is the New England stigma in the AFC East. Take that fact out of the equation, and this hits me as two or three points too low.

Buffalo did not look good last week, when they had to come from behind to beat the woeful Jets. With that said, New England will be without Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore for this game, and I simply don’t think they’ve got the firepower to keep up with Josh Allen and company. This hits me as a 24-14 sort of game, which would be a comfortable cover for Buffalo.

Seahawks -3 over 49ers

This is the contest many are seeing as the game of the week, and for good reason. These two NFC West rivals are loaded with talent, and the last three meetings between these two teams have been decided by a total of 11 points.

My question: Are George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk enough to match Russell Wilson and company? I simply don’t think so. Perhaps Kyle Shanahan has fun stuff cooked up, but this game looks to be a high-scoring one, and Seattle just seems to have far more weapons. It doesn’t surprise me that the spread is narrow, and it’s not like it’d be shocking if San Francisco covered or even won outright, but give me the Seahawks in what seems like a 38-31 kind of game.

Bucs -12.5 over Giants

No two ways around it, gang: The Giants are bad. They’re not historically bad, like their fellow MetLife Stadium residents, but they’re bad, and I just cannot see a way in which this one is even remotely close.

Tom Brady has the Tampa Bay offense humming right now, and the Bucs defense is a top-10 unit that’s second-best in the entire league against the run. Add in the friendlier-than-expected spread, which I’d anticipated being 14 or 15 points, and I’ll gladly back the Bucs in this Monday night tilt.


WR Tyler Boyd, CIN ($6,600)
QB Joe Burrow, CIN ($6,200)
WR A.J. Green, CIN ($4,500)

Need an economical mini-stack that may not draw much attention? Consider Cincinnati, which will likely be throwing early and often against the Titans. Burrow has thrown for 300 yards or more in five of his last six games, and while Boyd has drawn most of the targets, Green stepped up with a big game last week, one that indicates he could finally be rounding back into form.

If you want to bet on the Bengals even more, running back Giovani Bernard is available for a reasonable price tag as well ($5,800). However, my biggest bet is on the Cincinnati passing attack, one that I’m hoping holds up its end of the bargain in a shootout.

WR Brandon Aiyuk, SF ($5,800)

Aiyuk doesn’t touch the ball much, but when he does, he’s a threat to take it the distance from wherever he is on the field. That’s a recipe for success against a Seattle defense that’s every bit as poor as the team’s offense is sharp. I think he’ll have several opportunities at big plays in a game where San Francisco will need as many of them as they can get, and he only needs to convert on one or two to make this modest price tag a bargain.

TE Darren Waller, LV ($5,600)

I usually don’t like to splurge on the tight end position, and this is a bit more than I’d prefer to spend. However, Waller, one of last year’s revelations, is reasserting himself as one of the league’s top weapons at the tight end spot. He’s been targeted 16 times over his last two games and has scored in each of those contests, which is appealing enough. Add in that the Raiders are playing Cleveland, whose defense is one of the worst in the league against tight ends, and I think there’s a lot that says Waller will have another big game Sunday.

Green Bay Packers DEF ($2,900)

On paper, Minnesota’s offense looks quite good. However, I think their numbers are a bit inflated after high-scoring games against the Falcons, Seahawks, and Texans, three defenses who have been exploited by many teams so far this year.

Green Bay’s defense has, for the most part, been a solid, if unspectacular, unit to this point in the season. They looked strong in holding Houston to 20 points a week ago, and held Atlanta to 16 earlier this month. At this price, I’m buying a lot of shares and using the savings on other positions.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Oct. 25, 2020 (Week Seven)

Last week’s article went on Twitter as opposed to my website, and for good reason. Work’s been running me ragged, and I simply didn’t have the time to write something fancy. However, I’m back for the final NFL Sunday of October, and after going 3-1 last weekend, I carry a 16-7-1 mark into week seven.

As usual, all point spreads and over/under totals come courtesy of America’s Line, and all DFS costs come courtesy of DraftKings. Let’s take a look!


Bills -10 over Jets

I’d love to provide some substantial mathematical analysis. I really wish I could get more creative than stating the obvious, which is that the Jets are one of the worst teams in recent NFL history. To me, it doesn’t even matter that they’re likely getting Sam Darnold back from a shoulder injury.

The Bills have dropped two in a row and will likely be playing angry in this spot. With Miami just a game back in the AFC East standings, they can’t simply take this contest for granted. I think the Bills cruise to an easy victory here, and that the 10-point spread could easily be three or four points higher.

Chiefs -7 over Broncos

Denver pulled off a shocking upset of New England last week, one that likely knocked plenty of people out of survivor pools. However, they did it against a Patriot offense that could not move the football. Kicker Brandon McManus had a busy day and came through when he had to.

I don’t see a similar game script coming to pass here. Kansas City’s offense has far more firepower, and while the Broncos aren’t a bad team (especially now that some starters have healed up), I can’t see them keeping pace with the reigning champs.

Jacksonville/LA Chargers: OVER 49

On paper, this may be the least appealing game of the late window of games. However, the total hits me as far too low. The Charger offense has shown life since Justin Herbert took over, and they’ve lost a pair of high-scoring games where that unit has kept it close against Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s offense is streaky, but they can put points on the board and their defense has looked lackluster all season long.

49 hits me as far too low. I think this is a potential shootout, and that these two teams clear that bar with room to spare.

Rams -6 over Bears

The 2020 Chicago Bears may be the worst 5-1 team in NFL history. They’ve won several games in pretty ugly fashion, and shaky play from the quarterback position has made every offensive drive an adventure.

In this one, the Bears get to face Aaron Donald and the Rams defense, which is coming off a subpar performance against the 49ers last week after two straight strong showings against overmatched NFC East teams. I think LA comes out angry, and that the Bears will have a tough time moving the football.


WR Kenny Golladay, DET ($6,700)
QB Matthew Stafford, DET ($6,500)
TE T.J. Hockenson, DET ($5,000)

The Lions get the Falcons this week, and this game looks like a track meet in the making. The Falcons boast a high-scoring offense and a defense that doesn’t put up much in the way of resistance. That’s a recipe for a mini-stack, and with these three Detroit playmakers, I can form one without breaking the bank.

If you want an even bigger stack, running back D’Andre Swift, who had a breakout game last week against Jacksonville, is available for $5,400. However, the committee Detroit has been going with in the backfield means I’m not quite as bullish on Swift as I am about his three teammates.

RB David Johnson, HOU ($5,300)

Perhaps David Johnson isn’t the explosive playmaker we saw in Arizona a few seasons ago, but he’s established himself as a high-floor option heading into Sunday’s tilt with Green Bay. The Texans showed life last week after the organization fired Bill O’Brien, and they’ll be in position to play another high-scoring game against the Packers this weekend.

If you want another Texan to watch, tight end Darren Fells may be worth considering at his $4,100 price point. He’s caught touchdowns in back-to-back games and will see tons of snaps with fellow tight end Jordan Akins likely out this weekend.

WR Corey Davis, TEN ($4,800)

Davis was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and will return to action Sunday. Before going to the sidelines, he caught 15 passes in three games and was one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite targets. He’s fresh, and with Pittsburgh’s offense moving the ball well, Tennessee may need to respond with aerial aggression. At his price, I think Davis is a fun flex play.