NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 20, 2020 (Week Two)

Last week was a pretty big one for me against the spread. I got off to a 4-0 start to the season, no thanks to Stephen Gostkowski, who blew several kicks against the Broncos before putting the game-winner through the uprights.

Week two is now upon us, and in several of these games, I’m going against one of my bigger gambling axioms. I usually don’t like betting teams from the west in games that begin at 1 pm Eastern time. While 10 am Pacific time is a good starting time for games for viewers, it’s often not the case for players, as those teams can often come out sluggish. Still, there are a few games where the spreads are too appetizing to pass up.

As usual, spreads are courtesy of America’s Line. I’m switching it up for daily fantasy, though, and moving to DraftKings. Why? Well, I made some money there in week one after being given $10 in their season-opening promotion, so it makes sense to churn there.

Enough small talk; let’s get down to it!

PICKS/PLAYS

49ers -7 over Jets

Yeah, there’s no sugar-coating this one: The Jets are rotten. Their offense looked positively inept in a season-opening loss to the Bills, and their defense looked outgunned by an offense that’s far from bad, but isn’t a top-tier unit. Add in that San Francisco will likely be playing angry after blowing a lead against Arizona, and I can’t go anywhere else.

If you’re a Jets fan, the one saving grace is that San Francisco will likely lean on the running game heavily, which will keep the total points down. I contemplated playing the under for that reason, but the total drifted down a few points late in the week, so I’m staying away from that. Still, the 49ers should roll here.

Rams +1.5 over Eagles

In my weekly spot on Gino Buccola’s podcast, Darin Zoccali asked me where I’d go in a survivor pool this week. I probably should’ve said San Francisco, but I went with the Rams against the Eagles. Even with the home-field advantage, I’m stunned the Eagles are favored in this spot.

Philadelphia’s offensive line was manhandled by Washington last week. Carson Wentz had very little time to throw, and I can’t see those circumstances getting better with Aaron Donald lining up on the other side on Sunday. Add in that the Rams went on the road to defeat a talented Dallas team last week, and my confidence gets even higher.

I’d consider a money-line play here as well, and I’d likely back the Rams if they were giving this spread instead of getting it. Until the Eagles have something resembling a healthy offensive line, I can’t endorse them against a talented defense.

Carolina/Tampa Bay: OVER 47.5

I liked Carolina’s offense and detested Carolina’s defense even before last week’s shootout against Las Vegas, which soared over the total. This week, they face off with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, who lost a shootout in New Orleans but return home here.

This may not be the most fun game to watch. Tampa Bay is favored by 8.5 points, and that’s a legitimate spread. Still, 31-17 puts a game over the total, and I think this game could be a shootout. Perhaps Tampa Bay’s defense is better than they showed in the opener, but I doubt the same can be said for Carolina. I think at least one side has no trouble putting up points, so this is a fairly easy call for me.

Chiefs -8.5 over Chargers

There’s a sizable gap in confidence between my first three picks and this one, which closes out my action for the weekend. I would’ve loved Kansas City giving 5.5, as they were to start the week, but the number has moved up considerably, and for good reason.

The Chargers survived a season opener with Cincinnati. Joe Burrow did everything he could despite his offensive line being horribly overmatched, only to see Randy Bullock push a potential game-tying field goal. LA’s offense, meanwhile, didn’t exactly set the world on fire behind new quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and I just can’t see how they’ll keep up with the high-flying Chiefs in this one.

Kansas City just seems to have too many weapons, even for a competent defense like the Chargers have. I don’t think this is a blowout, but it seems like a game the reigning Super Bowl champions win by two touchdowns or so.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Dak Prescott, DAL ($6,800)
WR Amari Cooper, DAL ($6,300)
WR Michael Gallup, DAL ($5,600)

I love when I can lump multiple players into one entry for the same reason. In this case, that reason is simple: The Falcons defense showed in week one that they still have significant issues.

I want as many Cowboys as I can afford this week, and the above three are all reasonably-priced. If you want to put Ezekiel Elliot in here as well, you can do that, but he doesn’t come cheap ($8,200). My guess is the Cowboys are in line to put up a lot of points this week, so I’m maximizing my chances at a big total if they see fit to throw the ball up and down the field at will.

RB J.K. Dobbins, BAL ($5,100)

Dobbins found the end zone twice in his NFL debut and certainly seems to have earned a role in Baltimore’s backfield. This week, the Ravens get the Texans, and this hits me as another game where a lot of points will be scored.

It’s tough to have too much confidence in a running back that hasn’t shown he can catch the ball, so there’s some risk here. Still, if Dobbins is the goal-line back, he’s going to get some opportunities to punch it in.

TE Logan Thomas, WAS ($3,600)

The Washington tight end with two first names saw eight targets in week one and turned one of them into a touchdown. He’s a fascinating story as a former Virginia Tech quarterback finding professional success at a different position, and I think he draws a solid matchup against Arizona.

The Cardinals have plenty of offensive firepower, and if the Washington that fell behind 17-0 early against Philadelphia shows up, they’ll likely have to throw a lot from a very early juncture. Terry McLaurin will see plenty of targets outside, but Thomas has gotten the attention of Dwayne Haskins as well. At his price tag, he hits me as one of the biggest bargains of the week.

NFL Picks, Plays, and Daily Fantasy: Sept. 13, 2020 (Week One)

Many years ago, college-aged Andrew huddled over a keyboard while following an ESPN.com live chat with fantasy analyst Matthew Berry. As a TV/Radio major in college with a heavy emphasis on sports media production, I eagerly asked (probably more than once) what advice he would give aspiring people looking to go down this road as a career path.

Proof that this happened (Willie Garson also verified the second story).

His response: “Circle me like a vulture and wait for me to die.”

In a lot of ways, I’ve kind of done that. I went to college in central New York (Ithaca College, though, not Syracuse). I moved to California to work in television, and have kept my hands in a lot of projects over the years in an attempt to keep myself busy and “build a brand,” as the cool kids say.

Last year, I tried something new on my Twitter account. I set about picking four games a week against NFL point spreads. I posted a solid 33-23 record, good for just shy of 59%. This came while also winning my main fantasy football league (thank you, fellow GM’s in this keeper league, for allowing me to take Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley in the same draft).

I thought to myself, “maybe I know a little something here.” I’ve got a website, I’ve got a bit of a following, and with the 2020 Saratoga season in the books, I’ve made like Styx, have too much (clap clap) time on my hands, and it’s ticking away at my sanity (good luck getting that out of your heads, everybody).

With that in mind, I’m going deeper into NFL football coverage this year, from both a betting and fantasy standpoint. In short, I’ll be writing more stuff, and I’ll be doing more videos. My goal with this is the same as it is with my horse racing content. I want to create content that appeals to a wide variety of fans and players, with the goal of giving that audience something they’ll enjoy and maybe even learn from.

I’ll dip my toe into the water with plays on four NFL games this weekend, plus a few players to watch if you’re diving into daily fantasy action during the first week of the season. Note that all odds, spreads, and player costs are as of Saturday afternoon, courtesy of America’s Line and Fanduel. Also, my plays go in chronological order, not in order of confidence.

If you’ve got something you want to see, or if you’re from a company and looking to work with a handicapper, I’m an easy guy to find. You can tweet me at @AndrewChampagne or use this site’s “contact” page. That’s connected to my email address, and I read everything that comes in.

Enough exposition; on with the show!

PICKS/PLAYS

Packers +3.5 over Vikings

In this case, the half-point is key. I like the Vikings as a team, even after the loss of Stefon Diggs. They’re balanced on offense, and they’ve got legitimate playmakers on defense. However, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, and with the Packers seeming to send a very clear message to him in the offseason, I’m banking on him playing with a chip on his shoulder.

With very little in the way of time to prepare for the season, I’m going with experience under center. The Vikings might win, but the Packers getting more than a field goal here makes them the play.

Seattle/Atlanta: OVER 49

This is one of two games that hits me as a track meet waiting to happen. Both teams have explosive offenses, and the dome setting means there won’t be any weather interference. I think Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan will both have big days, and this total just seems too low. 28-21 is a push, and I think that’s a worst-case scenario.

This is one of two games in the early window that hits me as a shootout. Give me lots of points in the Peach State, and I’ll be a happy bettor.

Las Vegas/Carolina: OVER 46.5

This is the other potential shootout, and in this case, I think the total is way too low. Both offenses have surprising firepower and motivated quarterbacks, and both defenses have major question marks. While I’m not sure how “good” these teams are, I think this might be the most entertaining game to watch on the first Sunday of the season.

Not only do I think you want the “over” here, I also think you want a few players in daily fantasy lineups, as they’ll be relative bargains. For now, though, just give me points, regardless of where they’re coming from.

Titans +3 over Broncos

This line seems wrong to me. Tennessee is coming off a season in which they found their quarterback (the revitalized Ryan Tannehill) and advanced to the AFC Championship game. Their 2020 campaign starts with a trip to Denver, where they’ll face a Broncos squad that just lost Von Miller for the year and may be without Courtland Sutton after a mid-week injury.

I love the Titans getting three points here, and I’d also consider a money-line play as well. I believe they’re better than most people think, and I’m going to keep a close eye on their point spreads in the early part of the season in hopes of a few cheap scores before lines adjust accordingly.

DAILY FANTASY PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Teddy Bridgewater, CAR ($6,800)
WR Hunter Renfrow, LV ($5,200)

Remember what I said about how I see the Las Vegas/Carolina game? I think you want to load up on Raiders and Panthers, and not just Christian McCaffery, either.

Teddy Bridgewater will have McCaffery, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson at his disposal this year, and Carolina’s porous defense will ensure he gets the green light to take shots downfield with surprising regularity. He’s one of the cheapest quarterbacks available this week, and buying low on Bridgewater allows you to spend elsewhere.

Renfrow, meanwhile, worked his way into a slot receiver role with the Raiders as a rookie and saw 18 targets in the last two games of the 2019 season. His figure hits me as a steal, and I think he’ll see plenty of looks against a suspect secondary.

WR Terry McLaurin, WAS ($6,500)

At this point, who else does Washington have? I think McLaurin will be peppered by targets in a game where his team could be playing from behind early. I had figured his asking price would be far greater than this number, one that could allow you to also pick up a legitimate stud (someone like Michael Thomas at $8,800) or a playmaker in a situation to do damage (perhaps Chris Godwin at $7,700).

McLaurin’s floor is high, and his ceiling is as lofty as almost anyone else at the position. He may see some double-teams, but I simply think his likely volume makes him too attractive to ignore.

RB Raheem Mostert, SF ($6,200)

San Francisco does have options at running back, but Mostert should get the lion’s share of the carries in a run-friendly offense. He flashed plenty of talent last season when rushing for nearly six yards per carry, and second-leading rusher Matt Brieda is now in Miami. Jerick McKinnon will take some of those carries, but questions remain about how healthy he is after missing the last two seasons due to injuries.

Mostert should be in line for a big year, and that starts with a friendly matchup against Arizona. I’m banking on the Niner defense giving Kyler Murray and company major problems while the offense runs the ball early and often. This is another case where a talented player has a high floor and a favorable situation, and I need to buy as much Mostert stock as I can.

Detroit DEF ($3,700)

In general, betting against Mitchell Trubisky seems like a smart strategy. The Lions have done significant work to overhaul their defense, and they’ll be at home for the 2020 opener. Will home-field advantage matter as much during the COVID-19 pandemic? We don’t know that yet, but we do know Detroit’s asking price is in the lower half of the league. That seems way too low, and I think they’ll outperform that figure.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 2/11/20

RECORD: 25-10

Happy news is always appreciated around here, so it’s with great delight that I use this space to wish my big sister, Alex, a happy birthday. As I said in a toast at her wedding several years ago, she’s a tough act to follow. She got her J.D. from NYU, made partner at a high-powered law firm in New York City, and has two beautiful daughters…while her goofball brother made a living writing and reporting about horses turning left.

My sister’s always encouraged me to be me. She’s one of my biggest fans, and I hope she knows I’m one of hers, too. Love you, Alex! Go play “Chutes and Ladders” with the kids.

MONDAY’S RESULTS: The return to this space was a good one. Underdog Colgate won outright over BU, Baylor covered by a half-point at Texas, and both plays wound up in the left-hand column.

TUESDAY’S PLAY: I’ve only got one play for Tuesday’s college basketball slate, and it comes in the Big 10. Red-hot Penn State travels to Purdue in a game that could have big bubble implications for the Boilermakers. The number that intrigues me here isn’t the spread, but the total. Both teams can score, so the 134.5-point total seems a bit low to me. I’m taking the over and rooting for lots of offense.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 2/10/20

RECORD: 23-10

As some of you know, I got in a pretty bad car accident last week where I was t-boned by a pick-up truck. Before I dive into my analysis, here are some things I learned from that experience (or, in some cases, things that were reinforced).

1) Don’t get t-boned by a pick-up truck.

2) If you must get t-boned by a pick-up truck, do it in a Nissan Altima. The car’s almost certainly totaled, but I walked away from the accident with no major injuries.

3) Life’s short. I was t-boned on the passenger’s side of the car, and I was thankfully alone. If I get hit on the driver’s side, the best-case scenario is that I’m seriously hurt. The worst-case scenario, well…

4) Sports are diversions.

5) There are lots of good people in the world, as evidenced by the outpouring of well-wishes I received last week. If you sent me something, know that I appreciate it greatly.

This leads to how I’m going to approach this section for the next week or so. Because I’ve been juggling other stuff (not to mention a busy time at the real job), I haven’t offered anything since the Super Bowl. However, I decided to concentrate on a “play of the day,” rather than several plays each day, largely because I believe concentrated, focused gambling strategies are what pay off in the long run, so I can’t, in good conscience, give out seven plays and be back on track.

With that in mind, I’ll middle this a bit. I’ll be offering two plays a day until I’m caught up, barring a situation where I simply only like one game. I’ll hopefully be back on track sooner rather than later, and with a little luck, it’ll be with continued success.

MONDAY’S PLAYS: My primary action comes in the Lone Star State. #1 Baylor heads to Texas and is giving just 6.5 points. I understand that it’s a road game, but the Longhorns aren’t exactly setting the world on fire and the Bears may be the best team in the country. I’ll take the visitors to cover the spread.

In addition, there’s a fun Patriot League matchup in New England, as Colgate travels to Boston University. The visiting Raiders have quietly put up a 19-6 record to this point in the season, including a 10-2 mark in conference play, and beat the Terriers by nine earlier this year. With all that said, why are the Raiders 1.5-point underdogs? I’ll take Colgate here and hope they complete the season sweep.

Andrew’s Play of the Day: 1/30/20

RECORD: 20-9

Larry Collmus is out as the head announcer at the New York Racing Association. The change was made after Collmus served five years in that post after replacing Tom Durkin and, for my money, did as good a job as anyone on the planet could have in that capacity.

I’m not here to speculate on what happened. However, a lot of people on social media were quick to do just that, and many of those posts did something that I take plenty of exception to. If you made a post along the lines of, “I think Larry should wind up at (insert track that already has an announcer here),” pay close attention: You were wrong.

If Larry Collmus (or any other announcer, for that matter) gets a job somewhere where someone else is currently employed, it means the second person lost it and has to find an opening on a carousel that seems to have fewer and fewer spots each time it turns. Rooting for that to happen, at a time when a lot of people in racing have lost their jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with talent, stinks to high heaven. It’s one thing to wish for Larry (an excellent announcer and a really good guy) to land on his feet, but this behavior was several steps too far.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: We split yesterday’s action after a too-busy Tuesday kept me off the grid. Seton Hall and DePaul went under, but Navy covered an 11-point spread against Holy Cross to salvage the day.

THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’m headed to the Big 10 for a clash in Champaign. The Illinois Fighting Illini host the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, and the spread here puzzles me. Illinois is red-hot, has home-court advantage, and yet is only a five-point favorite over a team that’s shot better than 38.3% from the floor just once over its last four games. Give me the Illini in this spot, as I think they cover pretty easily.