October is a month where the sports world intersects. Of course, many people associate beautiful foliage with weekends spent tossing around the football and nights watching the World Series. Auston Matthews, however, would like to remind us that hockey season is underway, too. Thank God for his historic four-goal outburst last night in his debut with the Maple Leafs, and to a lesser extent Conor McDavid’s two-goal performance for Edmonton. Had anyone been paying attention to the NHL prior to Wednesday night? I’ve felt like practically the only person in upstate New York aware that a new season was about to begin, much less excited about it. Nonetheless, the top pick from last year’s draft put the sports world on notice that the NHL season has begun; and in two weeks, the NBA will tip-off and we’ll finally get to see if any team can hold a candle to the new super team in the Bay Area. It’s truly an exciting time in sports.
All this brings me to tonight. The marquee event is certainly Game 5 between the Dodgers and Nationals. Max Scherzer will be on the hill for Washington, which means the Nats are the clear favorites. However, we’ve seen strange things happen in elimination playoff games before, haven’t we? Just ask the Giants. Over on CBS, we actually have a Thursday Night football game that won’t be a shit-show (hopefully). Trevor Siemian will be back under center as the Broncos travel to play a San Diego team hoping to salvage its season after a 1-4 start. If the Chargers’ recent fourth-quarter performances are an indication, we’ll be in for a dramatic final two minutes. And finally, my Bruins start their season tonight in Columbus. Early season games such as this are by no means must-see television, yet it’s always refreshing to see your team open up a new campaign, particularly after how disappointing each of the past two seasons were for the B’s.
Here are my picks for each of these three events.
Denver Broncos (4-1) vs San Diego Chargers (1-4)
Spread: DEN -3.5 Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: DEN (6) > SD (14)
Public Betting: DEN 69%
Key Stat: San Diego is 7th in offensive efficiency, but they’ve played the league’s 31st toughest slate of defenses
The Chargers should not be 1-4. In fact, judging by their point differential and their ranking in DVOA, they profile more as a 3-2 rather than a 1-4 team. Nonetheless, I don’t think this will be the game where San Diego turns things around. The Chargers offense has been potent through five games, but they’ve played some of the weakest defenses in the league, including Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Oakland who each rank in the bottom three in opponent yards per play. Denver’s defense is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Let’s not forget that this San Diego offense is also without two of their top playmakers in Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead. A few of their lineman are banged up as well: Starting guard Orlando Franklin and right tackle Joseph Barksdale are both questionable. If neither is 100 percent, that bodes well for Von Miller and Denver’s vaunted pass rush.
Final point: I think the recent history between these two teams is noteworthy. Denver has won the last five meetings and they’ve held San Diego to just 14.8 points per game. As long as Trevor Siemian is effective coming off a shoulder injury sustained two weeks ago–which, admittedly, is a big if–the Broncos won’t have too much trouble tonight.
Denver 24, San Diego 17
Expect some goals to be scored tonight. Boston and Columbus both ranked near the bottom in goals against last year, and given the fact that neither team upgraded their defense, there is little to think that either side will improve dramatically. As for who I think will win the game, the Bruins got off to a horrific start last season by dropping their first three contests while allowing a total of sixteen goals. I have to think that Claude Julien will emphasize the importance of these early-season battles.
Boston 4, Columbus 3
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