Why are the Raptors 2-8 but favorites over the Hornets?

Create: 2021-01-14
Update: 2021-01-14
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Thursday, January 14, 2021
During 17 seasons as a head coach at the college level, Urban Meyer lost 32 games. Now he's on the verge of taking over an NFL team that lost 15 games this season.
If Urban Meyer does take over in Jacksonville, that's only one of the reasons it'll be an interesting story to follow. We can't forget that, after an 8-5 record in 2010, Meyer stepped away from the Florida Gators (where he lost 15 games in six seasons) due to health reasons. He took a year off before returning at Ohio State, where he completely reshaped the way the Big Ten worked and thought about recruiting, turning the Buckeyes program into one that would not only compete for Big Ten titles but national titles. He won his third in 2014 and stepped down following a 2018 season that saw the Buckeyes lose only once but included off-field issues that wore on him as the season progressed.
So it's natural to wonder how a hyper-competitive personality like Meyer, a man who takes losing so personally, is going to fair at the NFL level. I mean, it's fair to wonder how any coach will make the transition from college to the NFL, or vice versa, but this is the most interesting case I think we'll see.
Urban Meyer hates losing, and now he's joining a league that saw a team lose more games than it won but still win its division. Of course, if you're going to take over a 1-15 team like the one Meyer is, it's best to do so with a team that will draft Trevor Lawrence and has a lot more draft picks and cap space. The pieces are in place to turn Jacksonville around relatively quickly.
I just hope Meyer can figure out a way to accept losses without taking them so personally.
Maybe he should read more? Start here: 
  • Jonathan Jones has more on the Meyer hire.
  • Alabama QB Mac Jones might have eye-popping numbers, but that doesn't mean he's an elite NFL prospect.
  • Some people have too much money.
  • Winners and losers of the James Harden trade.
And now, we move onto tonight's picks while the Chicago Blackhawks continue to live rent free in Pete Blackburn's head. 
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Hornets at Raptors, 7:30 p.m. | TV: League Pass
The Pick: Hornets +8.5 (-110)
: I'm at a weird spot with the Raptors. They enter tonight's game with a 2-8 record, but they aren't nearly as bad as that record indicates. Their eight losses have come by an average of 6.5 points, and their average point differential on the season is -1.4 per game. That suggests the wins will come soon. At the same time, while Toronto is better than 2-8, I don't know that it's a lot better, nor do I think it's 8.5 points better than Charlotte in this spot.
The Hornets are 6-6 and look like a solid contender for a playoff spot in the East. This is primarily due to a defense that currently ranks seventh in the league in efficiency. The Raptors don't rank in the top half of the league on either offense or defense. So I'm going to take the team that's been playing better, even if that team might not be the better team at the end of the season.
Key Trend: Charlotte is 15-5-1 ATS in its last 21 as an underdog.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: You can find out what the Advanced Computer Model and our SportsLine experts think about tonight's game here.
💰 The Picks
🏀 College Basketball
Purdue at Indiana, 7 p.m. | TV: FS1
The Pick: Purdue +3.5 (-110) -- 
The Big Ten is an absolute meatgrinder this season. Essentially, any team that isn't Nebraska is capable of beating another on any given night. Because of this, I'm inclined to look at underdogs in any Big Ten game that doesn't involve one of the conference's elite teams (Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and maaaaaybe Wisconsin). When you get to that middle tier of the conference, everybody is so similar that it's hard to imagine one pulling too far away from the other during a game, and that's what I see when I look at this matchup of state rivals.
The Hoosiers have been better than the Boilermakers defensively, but they don't shoot the ball particularly well. That, combined with Purdue's size and rebounding, as well as a deeper rotation, makes me think the Boilermakers are live dogs in this spot. The points are a much smarter play than the money line, though.
Key Trend: Indiana is 1-4 against teams ranked in KenPom's top 40 this season. Purdue is 38th.
Washington at USC, 9:30 p.m. | TV: Pac-12 Network
The Pick: Washington +14 (-110) -- 
It isn't fun, but one of the best ways to make money betting college basketball has always been betting on bad teams to cover the spread against good teams. The theory is simple. Nobody wants to bet on bad teams, which often leads to inflated lines that offer value with those bad teams. This is one of those times.
Washington is 1-9 and taking on a USC team that is 9-2. The thing about the Trojans, though, is that they don't have what anybody would consider a "resume" win. In fact, their two chances to pick up resume wins (UConn and Colorado) have been their two losses. They're strong defensively, but they don't shoot the ball particularly well. They do have a significant size and talent edge on the Huskies in this spot, which is why the Trojans will win the game. But by more than 14 points? I'm not so sure.
Key Trend: There are no trends that support this play, but I will point out that this newsletter didn't get a single pick wrong on Wednesday.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Legendary NFL handicapper Hank Goldberg is on a 48-31-2 run with his best bets. Here are his top three plays for the Divisional Round.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Star Plays
PG: Malcolm Brogdon, Pacers
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Spurts
SF: Gordon Hayward, Hornets
PF: Christian Wood, Rockets
C: Joel Embiid, Sixers
Value Plays
PG: Gabe Vincent, Heat
SG: Sterling Brown, Rockets
SF: Precious Achiuwa, Heat
PF: Kelly Olynyk, Heat
C: Bismack Biyombo, Hornets
Full lineup advice
Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.
 🏀 NBA Player Props
  • Stephen Curry Over 4.5 rebounds (-130)
  • Tobias Harris Over 2.5 assists (-130)
  • Pascal Siakam Over 4.5 assists (-110)
  • Robert Covington Under 9.5 points (-125)
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