Each week TheLines looks ahead to what should be some of the most wagered-on sporting events. Here is the preview for the week of Monday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 13.
BYU at Navy (Monday, September 7)
This is college football’s only Monday night game of the season, so enjoy it. After a weekend of (hopefully safe and social distanced) Labor Day fun, everyone will be looking to unwind and forget that work returns the next day. Fortunately, BYU and Navy will be here to offer a great game to help with that. This is a rare matchup: the teams have met just twice ever, with each taking a game (Navy in 1978, BYU in 1989). BYU (-1.5) is a slight favorite over Navy (+106), but it’s worth taking a look at the over/under in this one, which is currently at 49.5. The stigma of these teams might seem like low-scoring and grinding football, but last season both teams combined to played in five regular season games that went over 50 points.
Celtics vs. Raptors series
When Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Raptors were called dead in the water and looked like they were in over their skis. The next two games went to Toronto behind some great defense and a stellar team effort. Seven different Raptors have scored double digits in the two wins. The Celtics are favored by just a point in Monday night’s Game 5, and whichever team comes out on the losing end will have zero room for error going forward. Since the seven-game series was adopted in 1984, teams to win Game 5 and go up 3-2 win the series 86.8% of the time (46 of 53 series). Basically, history doesn’t bode well for whoever comes up short on Monday. Game 6 of the series is slated for Wednesday and a potential Game 7 would be Friday.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals
And then there were four. The sixth-seeded New York Islanders have been the story of the postseason – forcing (and winning) a Game 7 against top-seeded Philadelphia after two overtimes last round. Facing them is Tampa Bay, which has taken care of both series’ in just five games (albeit, their first round against the Blue Jackets was extremely competitive). The Golden Knights hold the best odds to take the Stanley Cup (+165), followed by the Lightning (+185), the Islanders (+600), and the Stars (+700). Dallas and Las Vegas started their series Sunday and New York and Tampa Bay begin their series Monday.
NFL Week 1
We’ve all been waiting a long time for this. No league’s return has the same profundity that the NFL will this week. The defending-champion Chiefs face the Texans on Thursday night to begin the season, which in itself should make a great watch. KC (-9.5) opens as a big favorite, but this game should be more akin to their playoff matchup. Sunday games of note include the Packers at the Vikings (-2.5), Tom Brady and the Bucs at the Saints (-3.5), and the Cowboys (-2.5) at the Rams. The NFL is the most bet-on sport and its return marks another milestone of returning to normalcy.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Iowa State (Saturday, September 12)
Week 2 of the college football season was supposed to have marquee games like Ohio State and Oregon, but the reshuffling of schedules has left us with some OK matchups. A sneaky good one to keep an eye on is the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Iowa State (-11). The Cyclones are favored pretty heavily at home, but ULL pieced together one of the better seasons in the country behind over 250 rushing yards a game. They also boasted a top-10 scoring offense (37.9) and top-20 scoring defense (19.7). Brock Purdy returns for No. 23 Iowa State and they should win, but if any team is on upset watch this week, this is the game you’ll find it in.