Major League Baseball’s regular season came to an end on Sunday, and let me be the first to say: FINALLY. I’ve been waiting for playoff baseball for over a month, and even with the wild card drama over the weekend, it wasn’t enough for me.

While I’m very much looking forward to the postseason — and not just because my White Sox are in it — I have to remind you all that MLB has the dumbest playoff format of any major American sport. I say this as somebody who makes their living covering college football, where they choose four teams out of 130 for their playoff that has no actual structure to it, so you know I mean it.

The common complaint about MLB’s format is that they force teams to play a one-game series following a 162-game season. In years like this one, that leads to the 106-win Dodgers needing to beat the 90-win Cardinals to survive. That’s dumb! The team with the second-best record in the sport should be comfortably in that sports’ playoff structure!

What makes matters worse is that if the Dodgers beat the Cardinals on Wednesday, they have to face the 107-win San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the 95-win Brewers and 88-win Braves are locked to face one another in their Divisional Round series. What sense does that make? If the Dodgers win, they should face the 88-win Atlanta Braves, and if the Cardinals win, they should face the 107-win Giants. The best team in the league shouldn’t have to face the second-best team in the league in the first round. It should always face the “worst” remaining team.

Of course, I’m complaining about this, but none of it matters, anyway. The White Sox are going 11-0 against anybody they throw in front of them, anyway.

Now let’s discuss the final football game of Week 4.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

🏈 Raiders at Chargers, 8:15 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Raiders +3 (-105)
: This is not an easy game to figure out. Going by traditional metrics, the Raiders have been one of the best offenses in the NFL this season. The offense is scoring 29.33 points per game, which ranks fifth in the league. Their 6.28 yards per play ranks eighth, as does the 2.38 points they’re scoring per drive. Yet, when we look at success rate on offense, the Raiders rank 20th at 42.4%. That’s a sign that the current performance will be difficult to maintain, and many are saying tonight’s the night it starts.

After all, the Chargers have allowed only 20 points per game despite playing games against the Chiefs and Cowboys. But then there are the other numbers! While they haven’t allowed many points, the Chargers have a defensive success rate of only 49.7%, which ranks 31st in the league! The average Chargers defensive possession has lasted 6.85 plays (30th) and covered 42.4 yards (31st).

So how is it that the Chargers have allowed so few points? Well, it’s because the defense has only been on the field for nine possessions per game so far, and the NFL average after yesterday is 10.7. So now the question is, which unit has been more misleading? The Raiders offense or the Chargers defense?

In this day and age of football, the defenses usually get exposed before the offenses do, so I’m backing the underdog in a game I expect to be pretty close.

Key Trend: The Raiders are 5-1 ATS in their last six as an underdog while the Chargers are 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 as a home favorite.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine’s Mike Tierney is 25-13-1 in his last 39 ATS picks involving the Chargers, and he’s got a play available for tonight’s game too.

💰 The Picks

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🏈 More Monday Night Football picks

The Pick: Austin Ekeler Over 36.5 receiving yards (-120): The Raiders defense is one of the most zone-heavy in the NFL, which is good news for anybody who has Austin Ekeler in a PPR fantasy league. The Raiders have played zone coverage 80.1% of the time, which trails only Seattle and Philadelphia. Ever since Justin Herbert became the Chargers starting quarterback last season, Ekeler has been one of his go-to targets against zone coverages.

As is the case against any defense, Keenan Allen is the most-targeted player against zone, seeing 105 targets from Herbert. Ekeler is next in line with 59, but Ekeler has played four fewer games and has a much higher catch rate (88.1%) against zone than Allen (70.5%). This is due to Ekeler being an underneath option, as most of those catches have come behind the line of scrimmage, giving Ekeler room to maneuver after making the grab. Given Ekeler’s likely high usage in the passing game and his ability to pick up yardage afterward (an average of 8.88 yards after the catch against zone), I can see Ekeler finishing somewhere near 50 yards receiving relatively easily.

Key Trend: Austin Ekeler has averaged 39.7 receiving yards per game with Justin Herbert.

The Pick: Bryan Edwards Over 34.5 receiving yards (-115): I get the sense the market hasn’t caught onto Bryan Edwards yet, because this yardage total is too low based on what we’ve seen from him this season. Edwards isn’t a target-hog, as he comes into tonight with only 13 on the season. That ranks fifth on the Raiders, where Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow command most of the attention in the passing game. But it’s that limited usage leading to this total being low because Edwards has been remarkably efficient with his targets.

While he’s fifth on the team in targets, he’s third on the team in air yards (how many yards past the line of scrimmage the pass travels) with 205, behind only Waller (350) and Henry Ruggs (309). That’s an average of 15.77 air yards per target, which is second on the team behind Ruggs (16.26). In other words, Edwards is used as a big-play option, so he doesn’t need a lot of looks to get us past this yardage total. That’s why he has yet to finish any game this season with fewer than 40 yards receiving, even though he hasn’t caught more than four passes in any game.

Key Trend: Edwards is averaging 70 receiving yards per game, and has had at least 40 yards in every game this season.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine’s Advanced Projection Model, which is up almost $7,800, has five strong player prop bets for tonight’s game.

⚾ Wild Card Parlay

It’s playoff baseball, and that means its time for low-scoring affair. Let’s bet on both Wild Card games staying under with a parlay that pays +273.

  • Red Sox/Yankees Under 8.5 (-105)
  • Dodgers/Cardinals Under 7.5 (-110)


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