Monthly Archive 24 January 2024


Draymond Green says Grizzlies’ GG Jackson II had a grudge against Steph Curry before beating the Warriors

Monday marked the long-awaited return of Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. However, Green’s return was spoiled by the Memphis Grizzlies as they defeated the Warriors 116-107 despite being shorthanded in the matchup.

One of the biggest reasons for the Grizzlies’ success was the play of rookie forward GG Jackson II. Jackson, who is the NBA’s youngest player at just 19 years old, ended up scoring 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting while also securing six rebounds in the win.

Jackson certainly had some added motivation for the contest as he revealed to Green that he was actually uninvited from Steph Curry’s camp in his younger days.

“[GG Jackson] waited for Steph at the half court line. He said, ‘Man, I got uninvited from your camp.’ Steph was like, ‘I remember that.’ I learned that it was very personal for GG,” Green said on The Volume Sports.

Green added that Jackson should definitely be invited to Curry’s camp this coming summer.

Jackson thrived off the bench for the Grizzlies as he connected on five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc. He was one of six Memphis players that finished the game in double figures. Only Vince Williams Jr. (24 points) scored more than Jackson.


2024 NBA picks, January 17 predictions from proven model

The Detroit Pistons will face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit is 4-36 overall and 2-17 at home, while Minnesota is 28-11 overall and 12-9 on the road. The Timberwolves have won five of the last seven meetings between these two teams.

The Timberwolves are favored by 11.5 points in the latest Pistons vs. Timberwolves odds, and the over/under is 223 points. Before entering any Timberwolves vs. Pistons picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Minnesota vs. Detroit. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA betting lines for the game:

Pistons vs. Timberwolves spread: Pistons +11.5
Pistons vs. Timberwolves over/under: 223 points
Pistons vs. Timberwolves money line: Pistons: +502, Timberwolves: -704
Pistons vs. Timberwolves picks: See picks here
What you need to know about the Pistons
The Pistons had to suffer through a seven-game losing streak, but that streak is no more. Detroit walked away with a 129-117 victory over Washington on Monday.

The Pistons’ victory was a true team effort, with many players turning in solid performances. Perhaps the best among them was Alec Burks, who went 8 for 12 from beyond the arc en route to 34 points and two assists. That’s the first time this season that Burks scored 30 or more points. Another player making a difference was Jalen Duren, who dropped a double-double with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

What you need to know about the Timberwolves
Meanwhile, winning is just a little bit easier when your shooting is a whole 13.3% better than the opposition, a fact the Timberwolves proved on Sunday. They secured a 109-105 victory over the Clippers. The win made it back-to-back victories for Minnesota.

Anthony Edwards was the offensive standout in that matchup, recording 33 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. For the season, Edwards is averaging 26.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

How to make Timberwolves vs. Pistons picks
The model has simulated Pistons vs. Timberwolves 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Over, and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in almost 60% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.


2024 NBA picks, January 17 predictions from proven model

We’ve got another exciting Eastern Conference matchup on Wednesday’s NBA schedule as the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat are set to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto is 15-25 overall and 9-10 at home, while Miami is 24-16 overall and 12-9 on the road. The Raptors have won three of the last four head-to-head meetings with the Heat outright, and they’ve covered the spread in four of five.

This season, the Raptors are 20-20 against the spread while the Heat are 19-20-1 against the number. On Wednesday, Miami is favored by 1.5 points in the latest Raptors vs. Heat odds, per SportsLine consensus, and the over/under is 227.5 points. Before entering any Heat vs. Raptors picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Miami vs. Toronto. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Heat vs. Raptors:

Raptors vs. Heat spread: Raptors +1.5
Raptors vs. Heat over/under: 227.5 points
Raptors vs. Heat money line: Raptors: +106, Heat: -125
Raptors vs. Heat picks: See picks at SportsLine
What you need to know about the Raptors
The Raptors fell 105-96 to the Boston Celtics on Monday. Recent acquisition RJ Barrett had 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the loss, and Immanuel Quickley, another part of the OG Anunoby trade with the Knicks, had 21 points, six rebounds and three assists.

However, Toronto shot just 40.0% from the floor and went a staggering 4-for-32 from the 3-point line. It was the worst shooting performance from beyond the arc of the season for the Raptors, and it should come as no surprise that they are 0-4 when they shoot worse than 20% from deep as a team. Jakob Poeltl (ankle) is out for Wednesday, while Gary Trent Jr. (illness) is questionable. See which team to pick here.

What you need to know about the Heat
Meanwhile, it may have taken overtime to finish the job, but the Heat ultimately got the result they hoped for on Monday. They escaped with a win against the Brooklyn Nets, 96-95. The Heat can attribute much of their success to Jimmy Butler, who scored 31 points to go along with five rebounds.

It was Butler’s first game back after missing more than two weeks with a foot injury and he didn’t appear to be restricted, playing 40 minutes in the victory. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo both secured double-doubles in the win, with Herro putting up 29 points and 11 rebounds while Adebayo had 11 points and 20 rebounds. Miami will be without Jaime Jaquez Jr. (groin) and Kevin Love (knee) for Wednesday. See which team to pick here.

Key Betting Info
The Raptors will be relying on another big game from Scottie Barnes to pull off a victory. For the season, Barnes has averaged 20.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest.

Some of the betting trends to consider are:

The Heat are 9-5-1 against the spread in their last 15 games when the spread was between -4 to -1.
The Heat are 11-8-2 against the spread in their last 21 games when on the road.
The Raptors are 12-12 against the spread in their last 24 games when not the favorite.
How to make Raptors vs. Heat picks
The model has simulated Raptors vs. Heat 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under and it also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.


How Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II quickly turned into one of Dallas’ most important players

If you believe in the multiverse then there’s a world in which the Dallas Mavericks don’t rest their starters for the final two games of last season, win both, still miss the Play-In Tournament but lose their draft pick to the New York Knicks to complete the last bit of the Kristaps Porzingis trade from 2019. In that world, Dereck Lively II is drafted elsewhere, and the Mavericks are either paying Clint Capela the remaining $42.86 million of his contract after trading for him, digging the bottom of the barrel to find a center in free agency or trotting out Dwight Powell as their starting center once again.

All of those realities are significantly worse than this one where Lively — with only 30 games under his belt — has already become Dallas’ best center since Tyson Chandler in 2011. The bar is incredibly low to claim that title, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that as a rookie Lively is one of the most important players on this Mavs roster every night. He proved that once again Monday afternoon against the Pelicans, where he returned from a five-game absence due to a left ankle sprain and immediately made an impact. It was a modest statline — six points, 12 rebounds — but seven of those boards were on the offensive glass, which led to crucial second-chance opportunities for Dallas to sneak out a win without Luka Doncic.

“His offensive rebounds — they gave us second opportunities — and then his defensive rebounds were huge for us, which we missed in that first game [against New Orleans],” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said of Lively following the win. “I thought late in the game, he came up with some great opportunities for us to get second or third opportunities at the basket, which we needed. Just his presence on the floor — the guys trust him. For his first game back for a while, I thought he did great. We missed him and we’re happy that he’s back.”

Lively’s performance gave the perfect side-by-side example of how the Mavericks play with and without him. Two days prior to Monday’s meeting with the Pelicans, the Mavericks faced New Orleans without Lively, and were defenseless against Jonas Valanciunas, who couldn’t be kept off the glass. Five of Valanciunas’ 12 rebounds where on the offensive end, and the Pelicans benefited with 24 second-chance points en route to a win. For a team that is already incredibly porous on defense, giving up multiple opportunities in one possession isn’t what you want. When Lively returned to the lineup on Monday, he made sure not to make Saturday’s game a repeat.

One of the reads on the 7-foot-1 Lively when he was going through the draft process was that his defensive abilities would translate quickly due to his size and athleticism. His long frame makes him an obvious rim protector and his effort and willingness to do the simple things — like boxing out — make him a headache to account for when the shot goes up. There were several times in Monday’s game where Lively was getting to offensive rebounds that most bigs in the league wouldn’t put in the effort to grab, but there he is, fighting for positioning and giving the Mavericks multiple opportunities to get a bucket.

“He rebounds. He rebounds the ball extremely well,” Pelicans guard CJ McCollum said of Lively. “He’s a good roller, so you have to be prepared for him. Those pick-and-rolls with [Kyrie Irving], he just gave them energy, gave them life, second chances, and those things. [He] hurt us tonight.”

Lively’s offensive rebounding against the Pelicans was like that popcorn kernel you can constantly feel but can’t get out of your teeth. There was one possession in the fourth quarter where even the Pelicans announcers couldn’t help but throw their hands up in exasperation at New Orleans’ inability to box out Lively.

The first rebound broke Lively’s way while Valanciunas tried to keep him from getting the ball, but there are very few bigs in the league who would make a legitimate play to contest that rebound. But it was the second offensive board, which led to a Tim Hardaway Jr. 3-pointer to cut New Orleans’ lead to 111-109, that should be used as teaching material on the do’s and don’ts of boxing out and crashing the glass. That’s the one that had Pelicans play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers saying “Lively again, does anybody want to put a body on the guy?” On the next possession, Lively was there…again, grabbing his seventh offensive board of the night, which again led to a Hardaway triple to give Dallas the late lead.

“Whether he gets the ball or not, he’s always hunting the rebound,” New Orleans star Zion Williamson said on Lively’s impact.

It’s not just the rebounding that elevates the way Dallas plays, either. Lively’s presence is so immense on defense that when he’s on the floor the Mavericks have a near top-10 ranked defense, compared to the 26th-ranked defense they have when he sits.

“He means so much to this team and this organization,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said of Lively after Monday’s win. “He does an amazing job of clogging up the paint, talking on defense, blocking shots. He is a really great anchor for us down there on the defensive end. He helps us tremendously, especially working with T.Y. [Tyson Chandler], [Powell], who has been a running mate with Luka during his time here in Dallas. [Lively] has been a sponge, really listening to those two. He is really doing a phenomenal job.”

Surely the Mavericks couldn’t have predicted that Lively would be this important to the team this early on. Even on offense he’s made an instant connection with both Irving and Doncic in pick-and-roll situations. He ranks in the 82nd percentile in pick-and-rolls, generating 1.339 points per possession. His leaping ability makes him a threat every time he’s cutting to the rim, and while he often catches lobs, he’s shown promise in being able to put the ball on the deck, back someone down and get his own basket either with a little baby hook shot over defenders, or through a variety of layups.

Lively making an immediate impact doesn’t just help the Mavericks this season, it also bodes well for their future. Heading into this season there were reports that people within Dallas’ organization feared Doncic could request a trade as early as the summer of 2024. Doncic said recently that he’s happy where he’s at with the Mavs, but that can always change, especially if the Mavericks miss the postseason for a second straight year.

But as of right now, Dallas’ future is looking brighter than it did when they were getting condemned for tanking the final two games of last season to try and keep their draft pick rather than compete for a play-in spot. You know, the draft pick that allowed them to eventually select Lively No. 12 overall after trading the No. 10 pick to the Thunder in an effort to get off Davis Bertans’ albatross contract.

Thanks to that controversial decision, the Mavericks are now sitting fifth in the West, and Lively’s looking like a franchise center. The craziest part is, Lively hasn’t even turned 20 yet. If this is the starting point of his career, just imagine how dominant he’ll be three, four years down the line. Now that’s a scary thought.


2024 NBA picks, January 17 predictions from proven model

The New Orleans Pelicans will face off against the Charlotte Hornets at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Smoothie King Center. New Orleans is 24-17 overall and 12-8 at home, while Charlotte is 8-29 overall and 4-16 on the road. The two franchises met on Dec. 15 with the Pelicans capturing a 112-107 victory, but the Hornets were able to cover the 9.5-point spread.

However, the Pelicans have been the far more profitable team against the spread this season, going 23-17-1 against the number while the Hornets have gone 14-23. New Orleans is favored by 12 points in the latest Pelicans vs. Hornets odds, per SportsLine consensus, and the over/under is 229 points. Before entering any Hornets vs. Pelicans picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Charlotte vs. New Orleans. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Hornets vs. Pelicans:

Pelicans vs. Hornets spread: Pelicans -12
Pelicans vs. Hornets over/under: 229 points
Pelicans vs. Hornets money line: Pelicans: -755, Hornets: +531
Pelicans vs. Hornets picks: See picks at SportsLine
What you need to know about the Pelicans
The Pelicans took a 125-120 hit to the loss column at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. Zion Williamson scored 30 points in the loss and CJ McCollum had 23 points, six rebounds and four assists. However, New Orleans went just 7-for-23 from the 3-point line while Dallas went 18-for-43 from beyond the arc.

New Orleans is the current No. 6 seed in the Western Conference with wins in 12 of its last 18 games. Having Williamson, McCollum and Brandon Ingram all healthy again gives the franchise a talented core, and the New Orleans rotation can go as deep as 11 so expect it to throw bodies at a banged up Hornets squad. See which team to pick here.

What you need to know about the Hornets
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ recent rough patch got a bit rougher on Sunday after their fifth straight loss. They took a 104-87 bruising from Miami. The Hornets have struggled against the Heat recently, as their contest on Sunday was their fourth consecutive lost matchup.

Terry Rozier scored 26 points in the loss while LaMelo Ball produced 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for his sixth double-double of the year. Miles Bridges also had 20 points and seven rebounds but the rest of the roster combined for 20 points and only made eight field-goal attempts. Charlotte will be without Gordon Hayward (calf) and Mark Williams (back) on Wednesday, while rookie Brandon Miller (back) is listed as questionable. See which team to pick here.

Key Betting Info
Rozier will likely loom large in the final result, win or lose. For the season, he has averaged 24.0 points, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

Some of the betting trends to consider are:

The Hornets are 10-20-2 against the spread in their last 32 games after a day off.
The Hornets are 7-13 against the spread in their last 20 games when on the road.
The Pelicans are 11-11 against the spread in their last 22 games when favored.
How to make Pelicans vs. Hornets picks
The model has simulated Pelicans vs. Hornets 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that hits over 50% of the time. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.


2024 NBA picks, January 17 predictions from proven model

We’ve got another exciting Southeast Division matchup on the NBA schedule as the Atlanta Hawks and the Orlando Magic are set to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday at State Farm Arena. Atlanta is 16-23 overall and 7-11 at home, while Orlando is 22-18 overall and 9-13 on the road. The Hawks have dominated this series in recent years, winning seven of the last 10 meetings against the Magic.

The Hawks are favored by 4 points in the latest Hawks vs. Magic odds, and the over/under is 232 points. Before entering any Magic vs. Hawks picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 13 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a sizzling 42-23 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning nearly $2,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Orlando vs. Atlanta. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA betting lines for the game:

Hawks vs. Magic spread: Hawks -4
Hawks vs. Magic over/under: 232 points
Hawks vs. Magic money line: Hawks: -167, Magic: +141
Hawks vs. Magic picks: See picks here
What you need to know about the Hawks
Atlanta walked away with a 109-99 win over San Antonio on Monday. The Hawks ran away with 69 points in the first half. Trae Young was his usual excellent self, shooting 6-for-11 from long range and dropping a double-double with 36 points and 13 assists. For the season, Young is averaging 27.5 points, 10.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The Hawks are 5-1 in their last six meetings at home against the Magic. However, Atlanta is just 3-13 against the spread in its last 16 home games overall.

What you need to know about the Magic
The Magic can finally bid farewell to their three-game losing streak thanks to their game on Monday. They managed a 98-94 victory over the Knicks. Paolo Banchero paced the Magic against New York, recording 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. Banchero is averaging 22.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game this season.

Orlando is averaging 112.2 points per game this season. Defensively, the Magic are giving up 111.2 points per game, the fourth-fewest in the NBA.

How to make Hawks vs. Magic picks
The model has simulated Hawks vs. Magic 10,000 times and the results are in. We can tell you that the model is leaning Under, and it’s also generated a point-spread pick that is hitting in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.


Daryl Johnston reflects on USFL’s regular season, previews upcoming playoffs from Canton, Ohio

Daryl Johnston is used to making history. As the Dallas Cowboys fullback, Johnston helped Emmitt Smith become the NFL’s all-time career rushing leader. He was a key member of a Cowboys team that won three tiles in a four-year span.

Johnston, over two decades removed from his last NFL game, is helping make history again. The USFL’s executive vice president of football operations, Johnston has played an integral role in the league’s inaugural season. He’s proud of many of the things the league has accomplished so far, specifically one thing that may be overlooked.

“Finishing the regular season,” Johnston said in an interview with CBS Sports. “It’s been a long time since one of the spring alternative leagues has pulled that off. A lot of hard work by a lot of great people. We told everybody we’re going to be just like the teams in our league. We’re not going to be at our best in Week 1. We want to be at our best as we finish the regular season and head into the playoffs, and I think we’ve done that. We’ve learned a lot.”

Being adaptable and responding quickly to feedback — from the league’s teams as well as the viewing audience — was one of the USFL’s main strengths during the regular season. One of the biggest in-season changes the league made was implementing a running clock in an effort to speed up the game. Another notable change was implemented last weekend, the final week of the regular season. With two 1-8 teams prepared to face each other, Johnston announced that the winner of the game would receive the first overall pick in next year’s draft, adding intrigue and stakes to a game between the league’s bottom two teams.

“I think one of the great things we’ve done is we’ve adjusted on the fly when there’s been things that we could do that would be best for the league,” Johnston said. “We’ve done it for players when there was something that we felt would be best for our players. … I think the best thing for us during the course of the season was that we were always reacting in the moment. There were certain things that we had to do in real time. I’m not going to say we were perfect, but that’s one of the things I was really proud of.”

The USFL season started out with a bang, as the Birmingham Stallions and New Jersey Generals staged a highly competitive game in front of a prime-time audience. Excitement continued throughout the season, with one of the main storylines being the Stallions’ 8-0 start. New stars also emerged, none bigger than Generals receiver KaVontae Turpin, who was named the league’s MVP earlier this week.

USFL MVP @KaVontaeTurpin has been absolutely electric this season ⚡️⚡️

Who’s excited to watch the MVP in action this Saturday in the Inaugural Playoffs? ✋

— USFL (@USFL) June 22, 2022
The Stallions and Generals represent half of the field that will partake in the USFL’s postseason, which will kick off this Saturday with games between the Generals and the Philadelphia Stars and the Stallions taking on the New Orleans Breakers.

Johnston is anticipating two exciting, tightly contested contests. In the game pitting the Generals against the Stars, Johnston believes that the outcome could come down to how much success Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor and New York’s running game can have against Philadelphia’s stout defensive front. For Saturday’s nightcap, Johnston feels that the Breakers are capable of upsetting the Stallions after coming up just short in both of their regular-season meetings.

The USFL’s postseason will take place inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which sits just a short walk away from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The winners of Saturdays games will meet in the USFL Championship Game, which will be played on July 3.

“I don’t think you could have scripted something better for Year 1,” Johnston said. “Very, very competitive games all season long, then to finish the regular season and go to Canton for the playoffs. That’s like a fairy tale. I’m thrilled, and I know there’s a lot of guys that are going to be there this weekend that have never been. It’s one of the things that we wanted to do as a league is to make sure they got to experience the Hall of Fame. See the guys who’ve come before them who built this game, sacrificed a lot so they can have what they have today.”


USFL will return for second season, will play in multiple hub cities with no expansion in 2023

The USFL will accomplish a feat no spring football league not affiliated with the NFL has reached since the original the league that bears its name — have a second season. Executive producer Eric Shanks told Sports Business Journal the USFL will return for a second season and all eight teams from its inaugural season in 2022 will also be back.

The league will continue to hold office in Birmingham, the city where the USFL played all of its regular-season games in 2022. The central hub of Birmingham won’t be the only city where USFL teams will play next season, as the league plans to have all eight teams play in two to four markets in 2023 — with the eventual plan for all eight teams to play in their respective market.

While the USFL does have plans to expand, that isn’t expected to happen until 2024 if the league gets to a Year 3. The USFL will be competing with the XFL — which will have a relaunch in 2023 after two attempts where the league didn’t last a full season.

“We have a multiyear plan to build this football business,” Shanks said to Sports Business Journal. “If anything, the success of season one makes me even more excited than we were before going into Season 2 and beyond.”

The league will also start the week after the Masters and end July 4 weekend, same as this season. The XFL plans to begin play in February 2023 — one week after the Super Bowl — and end in early May of that season. The USFL and XFL will go head-to-head for a few weeks in late April and early May.

The USFL is the first spring football league to play a second season since the original USFL existed between 1983 to 1985. The XFL lasted just one season in 2001 while the Alliance of American Football failed to finish its season in 2019 and XFL 2.0 suffered the same fate in 2020. The United Football League lasted four seasons from 2009 to 2012, but that was played in the fall. NFL Europe lasted from 1991 to 2007, but that was affiliated with the NFL.

The next step for the USFL is to establish a fanbase across the United States, especially since there will be competition from another league in established markets.


Who we’ve got as Philadelphia Stars, Birmingham Stallions battle for crown

The 2022 USFL Championship is upon us, and the final matchup of the year will feature one team that was the favorite all season, and another that rode a late surge all the way to the “Spring League Super Bowl.” It’s the Philadelphia Stars vs. the Birmingham Stallions.

The Stars upset the New Jersey Generals in the first round of the playoffs thanks to a Maurice Alexander Jr. punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which handed Mike Reilly’s team their first loss since Week 1 of the regular season. As for the Stallions, they ended a four-game, against-the-spread losing streak to down the New Orleans Breakers, 31-17.

The Stars and Stallions last faced off in Week 5 back on May 15. The Stallions escaped with a 30-17 victory, but it was a one-score game entering the final quarter. In fact, the Stars actually held a three-point lead at halftime! The contest was very even. Both offenses averaged about five yards per play, both scored two red zone touchdowns and both turned the ball over two times. Should we expect another close game on Sunday?

Congrats to the USFL for completing a successful season. Below, our CBS Sports staff will give their picks for Sunday’s matchup. Before we jump in, here’s everything you need to know about the final game of the 2022 USFL season. For a full breakdown of this matchup, check out Tyler Sullivan’s piece, here.

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook

Birmingham Stallions (-4.5) vs. Philadelphia Stars
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Fox)
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
ATS records: Stallions (7-4), Stars (6-5)
Over/Under 45.5 (-110)

Jared Dubin: Stallions -4.5

“Stallions is a cooler name than Stars and that’s all I know about either team.”

John Breech: Stallions -4.5

“I watched two USFL games all year, so I don’t think I qualify as an expert here. However, I am an expert in marital relations and my wife is from Birmingham, so I’ll be going with the Stallions to win and cover.”

Patrik Walker: Stars +4.5

“This one’s for all the marbles, folks. It’s been an intriguing maiden voyage for the USFL, to say the least, but it all comes down to who wants it more — to be the first-ever champion of the league. On one side, you have a talented team from Philadelphia who has shown an ability to win in multiple ways, but they’re up against a gritty, hard-nosed squad from Birmingham who often looks to impose its will on opponents. This could go to the wire, but I don’t expect a high-scoring game, and if that prediction holds true, I believe the Stallions ride off into the sunset with the victory after having used their punishing run game to set up the critical big play downfield. 21-17, Stallions.”

Tyler Sullivan: Stallions -4.5

“Birmingham has been the team to beat all season and for good reason. They can put up points in all three phases, which was on full display last week against the Breakers when the offense, defense, and special teams all scored touchdowns during a 21-point second quarter. The Stallions defense has arguably the best pass rush in the USFL, which could pose similar problems to what Stars QB Case Cookus faced last time out against the Generals. In that win, he only completed 50% of his throws. If Birmingham forces him into similar production, Philadelphia won’t have a shot. While a lot of the attention will be on Birmingham’s stout defense vs. the high-flying Philadelphia offense, the Stars defense could be their demise. During the regular season, they were tied for the most points allowed per game. Birmingham is the more well-rounded club and should be able to win the title by a touchdown.”

Brett Anderson: Stars +4.5

“The Stallions were the best team in the regular season, but here’s the thing — they were the ONLY HOME TEAM. I’m not saying the 15,000 or so Birmingham fans that came to cheer them on (at least early on) swayed things tremendously, but that was still 15,000 or so more than any other team had. In Canton the Stallions don’t have that advantage, and now they’re playing the red-hot Stars, who have won five of their last six and have scored the most points in the USFL. Birmingham was the only team to beat Philly by more than one score all season, but in the title game the Stars should not only keep it within 4.5, they could win outright.”

Jordan Dajani: Stars +4.5

“Last week was a trip. With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Generals up four points on the Stars, I was feeling pretty good about our chances of covering 4.5 points. Then, Alexander returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown right after the two minute warning. Luis Perez was unable to engineer a game-winning drive, and that was that.

We also missed on the Breakers-Stallions game. New Orleans was down just four points entering the fourth quarter, but Birmingham scored 10 unanswered in the final stanza to put the game away. Bottom line, it was the worst week of USFL betting for me this season. Looking forward to this week, don’t the Stars have a bit of “team of destiny” feel to them? This is a club that went through some ups and downs, and even had to replace their starting quarterback early in the season. I was very impressed that Philly jumped out to a double-digit lead last week, and then scored what was the game-winning play on special teams. This team is hungry in all three facets of the game.

For my Super Bowl pick earlier this year, I took the Los Angeles Rams to win, but the Cincinnati Bengals — the supposed team of destiny — to cover 3.5 points. I’m going to do the same thing here. Give me the points with the Stars, who are very much live to win this game.”


Why start-up league should feel confident about returning in 2021 despite coronavirus shutdown

Not even larger-than-life Vincent Kennedy McMahon could do anything about the spread of the coronavirus. Following massive cancellations and postponements across the sports world on Thursday due to COVID-19 fears, the XFL followed suit and canceled the remainder of its 2020 season.

Unlike other sports — NCAA college basketball, for example, canceled all of its tournaments in a matter of hours early Thursday afternoon — the XFL took its time, finally releasing a statement a little after 7 p.m. ET. The day-long radio silence was frustrating, but it made sense. This is a start-up league we’re talking about here and there is one major consideration many other sports didn’t have: if the XFL ended its season early, would it be able to come back for a second one?

The league says it is committed to playing a full season in 2021. If nothing else, Renegades coach Bob Stoops plans to be back.

I just met with @XFLRenegades coach Bob Stoops. He said today felt like the end of a season and not a goodbye. I also asked him if he plans to be back in 2021. “That’s what I anticipate. That’s what I’m intending to do, but you don’t know where you’ll be at this time next year.”

— Joseph Hoyt (@JoeJHoyt) March 13, 2020
While there are no guarantees that “there’s always next year,” surely the league would not have said as much if it didn’t feel confident in the longterm relationship with its partners — in broadcasting and beyond. That includes betting. Remember after Week 1, when bookmakers boasted massive betting handles roughly 20 times greater than the AAF’s opening weekend in 2019?

Attendance was up, as well. AAF games averaged about 15,000 fans per home game. Through the first four weeks, XFL home teams were averaging about 18,600. That’s not a massive difference, and keep in mind the AAF lasted three more weeks before folding. Still, even though the XFL was not banking on attendance to stay afloat financially, it was outpacing its spring football counterpart.

Above all, the XFL was drama-free. It was enjoyable and, by and large, well-run. The in-game access separated it from a lot of other sports. The entertainment value was always there, even if there were stretches when the football itself hadn’t quite caught up. The biggest controversy was an officiating gaffe at the end of the Week 5 game between Houston and Seattle, and even that was solved efficiently and transparently.

Conversely, the AAF was dealing with some issue — mostly about money and control — practically every week. Hardly anything was ever business as usual. And therein lies the biggest reason why the XFL has more than a puncher’s chance to come back in 2021: the AAF folded because control owner Tom Dundon didn’t share the same vision as CEO Charlie Ebersol; the XFL season ended because of an act of God. Nobody — not the NBA, not the PGA, not even late-night talk shows — have been immune to that.

None of this has been fair and at first this feels like a spring football league just isn’t meant to be, but there are obviously bigger concerns at hand. The XFL did the right thing by canceling the season, giving fans a refund, paying out its players and allowing them to be picked up by the NFL in free agency. One XFL front office source also told CBS Sports that since they are salaried, many people behind the scenes still have jobs. But that was McMahon’s M.O. when his league failed the first time around. One former AAF and coach told CBS Sports last year that McMahon paid out every coach for the remainder of their contract when the first edition of the XFL fell through.

That’s not to say there won’t be hard-working people affected by the XFL’s cancellation. Stadium workers all across the country are out of luck. That’s true across a lot of sports. There’s a wider economic problem this country will be facing in the coming months as a result of the coronavirus. Retail, service and public events industries could take massive hits. And with school cancellations across the country, healthcare workers, teachers and students are being hurt. But what matters most during this pandemic is the health and safety of everyone. The XFL may have come to that official conclusion later than others, but it came to it all the same.

The foreseeable future will be tough on a lot of people. Sports are often used as a form of escapism during hard times and now those have been taken away, too. Social distancing will be difficult for long stretches of time. But this is a serious matter — it’s not “just the flu.” And the massive number of event/sports cancellations shows that people get this. If people are smart and take the proper precautions, though, we can get through it together. It will be a great day when life as we know it returns to a semblance of normalcy.

When that day comes, I remain confident the XFL will be there.