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Betting Primer ahead of a Packed Sports Weekend

Thursday Night Football, playoff baseball and college football are all on today

Good morning, and thank you for starting your day with Winners Club! I hope you’re having a better week than the Yankees. As always, there’s plenty of betting picks to prepare you for a jam-packed weekend. And we’ve got fantasy football advice galore. Plus, I analyzed the production and workload of running back duos on the same team. Let’s get right into it with today’s essential articles.


ALDS Betting Analysis: The American League Division Series begins today with the White Sox vs. Astros and the Red Sox vs. Rays. Frankie Taddeo offers picks for each series and gives you the info you need to know about each team before you place your bets.

Sep 20, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Brett Phillips (35), right fielder Manuel Margot (13),  center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) and teammates celebrate as they beat the Toronto Blue Jays  at Tropicana Field.

TNF Player Props: The Rams are road favorites (-2.5 on SI Sportsbook) in a divisional showdown with the Seahawks. Jennifer Piacenti has player prop betting picks for tonight’s game, which has the second-highest Over/Under this week.

Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Michael Fabiano is confident in Damien Williams’ ability to fill in for David Montgomery against the Raiders. And his start of the week at running back is a player who everyone has been talking about who also has a good matchup. Find out who it is in Fabiano’s weekly column.

Player Rankings and Projections: The Panthers are hopeful Christian McCaffrey can make his return against the Eagles this Sunday. If he does, Shawn Childs projects him to finish in a familiar place: The top running back play of the week. See how the rest of his projections and rankings shake out.

Week 5 NFL Line Movement: Frankie Taddeo is following the money ahead of this weekend’s games. Tom Brady faces a familiar opponent when the Bucs play the Dolphins in Tampa on Sunday. This game has the biggest spread of the week and it’s already moved 2.5 points.

Checking in on Same-Team Running Back Duos

Projecting carry distribution and usage in crowded backfields is one of the most difficult offseason tasks. Thankfully, we now have a big enough sample size to draw some conclusions based on how running back pairs have performed and been utilized through four games. I broke those relationships down into three distinct categories:

(All stats via and Pro Football Reference)


Browns — Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb


The Browns lead the NFL in rushing thanks to their dual threat on the ground. Hunt serves as the primary pass-catching back, and actually leads the team in receiving, while Chubb handles the brunt of the work on the ground. So far, Hunt and Chubb have been true complements to one another in real life and for fantasy as they were last year. This is the best running back duo in football.

Lions — D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams


Detroit established its plan for utilizing its running backs in Week 1, and it kept Williams extremely relevant for fantasy and allowed Swift to dominate in the receiving game. Swift is second among running backs in receptions and receiving yards and Williams has been the better rusher to date. Pounding the ball with two backs fits the Lions’ new culture and it’s working for fantasy football, too.

Clear Hierarchy

Cowboys — Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard

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It appeared early in the season that Pollard might pose a threat to Dallas’ $15 million man, Elliott. After four games and north of 200 yards over the last two, Elliott has asserted himself as the true lead back and Pollard has been relegated to the limited use he saw in 2020. Pollard can pop, as he did in Week 2, but the touches and snap counts show this is Elliott’s backfield.

Colts — Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines


Taylor has not been what fantasy managers drafted him to be, but Hines is not at fault. The two have actually coexisted as they did a season ago. The Colts’ offense is to blame for Taylor’s struggles. In Indianapolis’ first win of the season, Taylor ran for over 100 yards last week. Similarly, in the Colts’ two biggest losses in Weeks 1 and 3, Hines saw his volume increase with a negative game script.

It’s Complicated

Eagles — Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell


Since Sanders surpassed 100 total yards in a Week 1 win, he’s only seen his opportunities decrease. Sanders only saw six opportunities in a loss to the Cowboys. Last week against the Chiefs, rookie Gainwell had one more opportunity than Sanders. Though Sanders has been a more efficient runner and pass-catcher, Gainwell has been more involved in the passing game. The running back usage in Philadelphia has been odd, and quarterback Jalen Hurts caps the floor of any Eagles running back as the team’s leading rusher.

Falcons — Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis


Patterson’s record-breaking efficiency won’t keep up if he sees more work, but he has to get more touches eventually with his mind-blowing touchdown rate and rushing and receiving numbers. Patterson is doing a lot with a little and accounts for more than half of the Falcons’ touchdowns while Davis has shouldered the vast majority of rushes as well as healthy involvement in the passing game with poor marks to show for it. Davis is not the player he was filling in for Christian McCaffrey in Carolina last year and Patterson is hitting a late-career breakout.

Subscriber Questions

Do you need help setting your lineup? Are you unsure whether to pull the trigger on a trade? Send your questions and concerns over to or hit me up on Twitter at @Kkylewood and I’ll answer them in Sunday’s newsletter.

Play of the Day and Games I’m Watching

Play of the Day: I’m calling my shot on Van Jefferson tonight. In DFS, he’s the fifth-most expensive receiver behind Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Robert Woods. Jefferson has drawn six targets in each of the Rams’ last two games and set a career high in receiving yards against Arizona. Seattle has a porous secondary and Matthew Stafford should be able to connect with the second-year wideout with the defense focused on Kupp. To this point in the season, Jefferson has outproduced Woods and I like him as a value play tonight.

Games I’m Watching: Cincinnati is a home win away from being a top-four team in the nation. No. 4 Penn State and No. 3 Iowa play each other on Saturday and someone has to lose. The No. 5 Bearcats play unranked Temple Friday night at 7 p.m. (EST) on ESPN. SI Sportsbook has Cincinnati as 29-point favorites. This may be the closest a G5 team has been to the College Football Playoff, and the Bearcats will be favored in the remainder of their games.

Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Wilson Huber (2) carries the ball while celebrating recovering a fumble on a kick off in the first half of the NCAA football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

Speaking of that Big Ten battle… I’ll be tuning in to see the Hawkeyes host the Nittany Lions at 4 p.m. (EST) Saturday on Fox. Iowa is a two-point favorite on SI Sportsbook. Both teams have multiple wins over top-25 teams, though the Hawkeyes have been the more complete team on both sides of the ball. Conference supremacy and advantageous position in the CFP ranking are on the line in Iowa City.

We have quite the weekend of sports ahead of us. Enjoy it, win big and I’ll be back Sunday morning ahead of the NFL games.