What are the Odds: Pittsburgh wins in Oakland, Army beats Navy



The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Oakland Raiders this Sunday. (Sam Riche/TNS)

By Colin Martin, Staff Writer

Conference championship weekend beat me up pretty bad — I went 2-4 in my picks. Alabama shockingly didn’t cover the spread against Georgia, as they had to rely on backup veteran quarterback Jalen Hurts for the win.

As for the Pitt ACC Championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was there in person to watch the best team in college football — it wasn’t Pitt. And boy, was it worth standing in the rain and driving seven hours in a sedan with five guys. Clemson looked unstoppable and I think they have a good chance at beating Alabama in the National Championship game after they dismantle Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl semi-final.

With my record now sitting at a mediocre 34-32, I’m looking to have a strong weekend of picks. College football season is in winter break mode before the bowl games start up, but there’s still the classic Army vs. Navy game. We’ll also take a look at an NBA game as the season comes into form, along with an NFL pick during fantasy playoff season.

Projected point total for football games. Graphic by Jon Moss | Staff Writer

Navy (3-9) vs. Army (9-2)

Spread: Army -7

Over/under: 40

Analysis: The annual rivalry game takes place for the 119th time in the usual location — historic Philadelphia. One of my favorite parts of the Army-Navy game in recent years has been the impressive and fun uniforms each team wears. This year, Nike made Army a uniform inspired by the 1st Infantry Division, nicknamed Big Red One, that fought in World War I and was the first permanent division in the Army. The uniform diverges from the team’s usual black and gold, and is instead completely black head to toe with red accents on the numbers and letters. The Navy uniform, designed by local Maryland company Under Armour, is inspired by the history of the team mascot — the billy goat. The mascot is seen on the team’s gold helmet, gloves and cleats, while the rest of the uniform is in traditional white with blue and gold numbers.

It looks like Army will win both the uniform battle and the game itself. The Black Knights have had a great season so far, going 9-2 and currently riding a seven-game win streak. Their last loss was Sept. 22 when they lost to College Football Playoff-bound No. 5 Oklahoma 28-21 in overtime. The Navy Midshipmen have had a polar opposite season, going 3-9, including a seven-game losing streak during the middle of the year. Navy ended its losing streak when it beat Tulsa, 37-29, two weeks ago. Enjoy this triple-option offense spectacle that will remind people of their middle-school football days when that style of offense was used commonly.

Bet: Take Army to cover and bet the under.

Projected point totals for football games. Graphic by Jon Moss | Staff Writer

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-10)

Spread: Pittsburgh -10.5

Over/under: 51.5

Analysis: The Pittsburgh Steelers will start their third string running back this weekend — if you count Le’Veon Bell — as starter James Conner sits out with a sprained ankle. The loss of Conner is huge, as the second-year running back out of Pitt is fifth in the NFL with 909 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Expect the Steelers to play rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley in the backfield. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could have a big day if the team decides to rely on the pass. The Steelers need a bounce-back win after last week’s loss to the LA Chargers. Luckily, the Raiders are as easy an opponent as you can get.

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has struggled tremendously in his first year back coaching in the NFL after working as an analyst at ESPN for a few years. The team traded away one of the best defensive players in the league, Khalil Mack, to Chicago and then traded former top 10 draft pick, Amari Cooper, to Dallas a few weeks later. Quarterback Derek Carr has struggled for most of this season, after looking much more promising in years past. It wouldn’t be a shock if the team moves on from Carr and trades him for more draft picks to a team like Jacksonville or the New York Giants. The Raiders will keep it somewhat close with the Steelers longer than they should because that’s how Pittsburgh plays against bad teams. But, eventually, the Steelers will take a lead that Oakland won’t be able to overcome.

Bet: The Raiders will somehow cover and bet the under.

Projected point totals for basketball games. Graphic by Jon Moss | Staff Writer

Toronto Raptors (21-5) vs. Brooklyn Nets (8-18)

Spread: Toronto -9

Over/under: 221

Analysis: In case you didn’t know, I’m one of only a few die-hard Brooklyn Nets fans in the world. Growing up watching the Nets play in New Jersey was the best, as the team was filled with stars like Vince Carter and Jason Kidd. They went to back-to-back NBA Finals, losing both times. Looking back, it seems like those days were 50 years ago, not 15. The Nets have been a disaster since moving to Brooklyn in 2012. But the team is on the rise and rebuilding, as they have a few good young pieces like Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert. If they continue losing, they’ll also have a chance to draft a young star — preferably Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett, both from Duke. As for the game Friday night, the Nets have a tendency to score well and play zero defense, so expect them to keep up with Toronto but blow it at the end.

The new-look Toronto Raptors have enjoyed star Kawhi Leonard during his first year with the team. The small forward has averaged 26.1 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. He’s continued to show why he’s the best defensive player in the NBA, ranking sixth in the league in steals with 1.75 per game. Leonard and fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry should break down the Nets and eventually pull away with foul shots. Brooklyn is 3-10 at home this season and that poor record will likely continue.

Bet: Brooklyn covers at home and bet the under.