It’s one-stop shopping for this week’s “Five sports, five bets” column. All the following wagers come from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
I typically try to include several books here, searching around town for the best line on my chosen sides. But the world’s largest sports book happened to have the best offering on every side I wanted to back this week.
Other than that small difference, the format remains the same as the last seven weeks since this piece debuted. With sports ranging from stock-car racing to soccer, and bets from those that will take a maximum of 15 minutes to play out to half of a year, I’m out to find value on a variety of sports.
Read below for this week’s picks. Records are attached individually by league with the monetary figure calculating the success of a hypothetical bettor placing a $100 wager on every pick that’s run in the column. Odds are the best currently available in Las Vegas at publication time.
MLS Soccer (1-0, $91): Houston Dynamo plus-0.5 (minus-125) vs. Portland Timbers
Many who follow American soccer might look at this pairing in Group F of the MLS is Back Tournament and see a mismatch. That might be a misconception.
Portland may have managed more recent, high-level success but the gap between the clubs is shrinking. Dating back to last season, including this year’s three matches, the two sides’ expected-goal differential figures are nearly identical.
Even if they weren’t, Houston might represent value here. Depth is of the utmost importance in this tournament, and Portland’s was already shaky at best when three role players were either injured or opted out of the competition.
Then, in its first game in Orlando, Dario Zuparic picked up two yellow cards so he’ll also be unavailable today. Houston isn’t a contender in Orlando, despite an opening-match draw with favorite LAFC.
But the Dynamo are more than capable of at least battling the Timbers to a draw.
UFC (4-2, $21): Kelvin Gastelum minus-110 vs. Jack Hermansson at UFC Fight Night: Figueiredo vs. Benavidez 2
Buy low on the former “The Ultimate Fighter” winner and interim title challenger in the co-feature of the third straight fight card in Abu Dhabi.
Gastelum has lost two straight, and three of his last five, but those defeats can be forgiven considering they came against champion Israel Adesanya, former champion Chris Weidman and brawler Darren Till. This is a better matchup for the 28-year-old Gastelum, who should be able to use his pressure and wrestling to stifle the 32-year-old Hermansson.
This line opened at Gastelum minus-150 before shooting down. Expect it to climb back up before fight time.
Get on Gastelum while it’s hanging around pick’em.
NASCAR (4-2, $276): Alex Bowman plus-130 vs. Kurt Busch at O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports’ Chevrolet Camaro has been one of the fastest cars in the NASCAR Cup Series all season.
That fact is lost on bettors considering his recent struggles, which aren’t as relevant as the market makes out. Most of the track types over the last few weeks weren’t suited to Bowman’s strengths, unlike Texas Speedway where this week’s race takes place.
The relatively standard, 1.5-mile oval should allow Bowman to rediscover some of his early-season speed when he was arguably behind only teammate Chase Elliott for the fastest in the series. He’s not going to win, at least not this week, but he has superior equipment to Kurt Busch and should be able to wield it effectively in a venue that’s more comfortable to him.
Nippon Professional Baseball (0-0): Rakuten Golden Eagles 5-to-1 to win Japan Championship Series
Through 24 games, the de facto all-star team put together by former Dodgers pitcher Kazuhia Ishii, Rakuten’s current general manager, has a run differential of plus-55.
That’s the best in Japan by six runs despite facing one of the tougher earlier schedules by virtue of the league’s altered six-game series setup for this year. There’s no reason the Golden Eagles should be co-favorites alongside the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, which in fairness have taken four of six games in the head-to-head matchup so far, and Yomiuri Giants.
They stand alone as the best team in NPB. Ishii has built an incredible roster that will only increase its advantage as the season draws on.
Major League Baseball is expected to return next Thursday, and as exciting as that may sound, it’s been fun to become familiar with the professional game in Korea and Japan. With two future bets already pending in the Korean Baseball Organization League, consider this a sign-off to covering America’s pastime in the Eastern Hemisphere.
NFL (0-0): Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East at minus-110
Save the arguments on whether the Cowboys erred or not by failing to agree on a long-term deal with Dak Prescott going into the season.
For betting purposes, all that matters is this year, and there’s no other team in the NFC that looks so much further ahead than the rest of their division. This future price has steamed up to minus-140 or minus-150 at every other spot in town, but it hasn’t gotten hit sufficiently at the Westgate just yet.
Hammer it before it moves, much like the way the Cowboys will do to their opposition all year. I also bet Dallas to win the Super Bowl and NFC at big prices but wanted to put a safer and special play in the column.
Prescott won’t have to worry about getting paid appropriately after this season.
Lifetime column record: 16-8-1, $628
Previous, pending bets: NC Dinos will not win KBO Series at minus-230; Calgary Flames to win playoff series against Winnipeg Jets at minus-120; Indianapolis Colts over 9 wins at minus-125; Kiwoom Heroes to win KBO Series at plus-600; New York Jets to win the AFC East at 9-to-1