FALCON POINTS

Strangest Kentucky Derby in years will take some creative betting

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The Kentucky Derby, usually a staple on the first Saturday in May, will instead be run on the first Saturday in September due to the Rona outbreak. There will be no fans in the stands, and the favorite, Tiz the Law, enters having already won the Belmont and Travers Stakes. Traditionally, the race is the first test in the Triple Crown. This year, it will be the second, with the Preakness closing things out.

Looking a little ahead, if Tiz the Law wins this, he could be going for the Covid Triple Crown in three weeks at Pimlico, possibly facing off with brilliant filly Gamine if she wins the Oaks on Friday. It would be an incredible matchup that would bring a lot of attention to the race.

But first things first. Tiz the Law has to win the Derby first. He will go into the gate as the shortest price favorite in years, probably lower than his 3-5 morning line. He is proven at the distance, has won six of his seven starts including five in a row and towers above a field that frankly isn't very good. If you are taking a shot against him, your one selling point is his only loss came as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, site of the Derby.

Art Collector was going to take a lot of money, but he is sitting out with a minor injury, which leaves really only Honor A.P. (4-1) and Authentic (8-1) as viable options. But Authentic does not seem to want any part of a mile and a quarter, and Honor A.P. just might not be good enough. He was second in his last start in a four-horse field, and his win in the Santa Anita Derby was against six other horses, with only Authentic a real threat in that one.

So making money on the race is going to take some creativity. A long shot to watch is Max Player, who was third twice behind Tiz the Law. He seems to want more distance, has been working well at Churchill and switches to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen. He is 30-1 in the morning line and should be every bit of that. While it is hard to see anyone beating Tiz the Law, there is no reason Max Player can't out finish the rest of the field.

Some ways to approach the race might include a Tiz the Law with Max Player will ALL trifecta, and a Tiz the Law with ALL with Max Player. If Tiz wins and Max his the board, it could produce a decent payout. I would also consider playing Max Player across the board, weighted heavier toward third and second than first, a strong exacta box with Tiz the Law, and smaller exacta boxes keying Max Player with as many horses as possible first and second just in case something goes wrong with Tiz the Law. That would include horses like the 1-3-5-7-8-9-12-15-16-17-18.

Stay tuned; premium plays (including undercard plays) will be up on pregame later this week. If you need a place to bet, check out BUSR or mybookie. And check back to this article later in the week as things may get adjusted or added based on scratches or news.

As of now, the weather forecast looks good, so it should be a fast track, but keep an eye out for updates.

Good luck on your wagers.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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