LAYING THE POINTS

Here's your hard-luck NFL gambling guide for this weekend

Do the opposite! Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

Recently a new neighbor asked me, "You're in the lame street media (here we go), you got any picks for the games this week?"

You came to the right guy. I work down the hall from the ESPN 97.5 guys. I hear things. You want games? I got games.

I told him: take Alabama (-18.5) over Notre Dame, Clemson (-7.5) over Ohio State, and just because you seem like a good person, here's a third one, the Titans (-7 over Texans). The numbers are too low. These games are guaranteed wipeouts.

Three for three, baby. All losers. Alabama and the Titans didn't cover and Clemson lost outright. I'm good like that. I don't bet because, borrowing from Michael Corleone in Godfather II, the greatest movie ever made, if history has taught me anything, it's that I stink at betting on sports.

I used to work in Phoenix – the boys and me, we all got pretty heavy into sports betting. There was a shuttle flight to Las Vegas. We'd go up after work, sometimes during lunch. Been there, done that, lost my paycheck. True story, swear: I once bet a six-team parlay, all favorites. If they all hit, that's 45 to 1 odds. That's some sweet action. I lost all six games. That's just as hard as winning all six.

If I bet $20 on the Harlem Globetrotters, that would be the night the Washington Generals won, which they haven't done since 1972. If I bet on a 5th grade production of Moby Dick, Ahab would catch the whale and buy drinks for everybody at the Krusty Krab.

When it comes to sports betting, I am George Costanza: "Every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong, be it something to wear, something to eat, it's all been wrong."

So in the spirit of Bizarro World, where "us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty. Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect," here are my "guaranteed loser" picks for this weekend's NFL Divisional Round playoff games. You know what to do.

Remember, the winners of this weekend's games advance to their respective Conference Championship game.

For Houston Texans fans, let me explain what a Conference Championship game is, because your team has never gotten that far. Conference Championship games are reserved for teams that go deep in the playoffs, with the winners advancing to the Super Bowl. Now, the Super Bowl is a game…

Kansas City Chiefs (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns: Don't be fooled by the Browns' destruction of the Steelers last weekend. The Steelers were sitting ducks, the most overrated, under-achieving team in the league down the stretch. Security guards at his home stadium think Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield's first name is "Parker." The Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes romp, 45-18. Take the Chiefs.

Buffalo Bills (-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens: The Bills are my favorite team to watch this season. Quarterback Josh Allen is the real deal, cannon arm, can run, team believes in him. The Ravens were impressive last week against Tennessee (I lost that one, too), but they have a running back playing quarterback. All in on the Bills, 35-31.

Green Bay Packers (-6.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is this year's MVP. Every team should draft a quarterback just to rile up their guy. The team with the better quarterback and better receivers wins in the NFL. That's Green Bay. Although Jake from State Farm says there is no Rodgers Rate, back the Pack, 42-17.

New Orleans Saints (-4) vs. Tampa Bay Bucs: a few years ago, I asked a former NFL quarterback who used to work with me for his Super Bowl pick. He said, "Never bet against Tom Brady in a big game." I took his advice. Ouch! These teams have played twice this year with the Saints winning both times. They say it's hard to beat a team three times, but it's really not. One team is clearly better, and it's the Saints, 27-16.

There you go, four guaranteed losers. See you at your inbox.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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