Liverpool will try to maintain their perfect start to the season with a victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Jurgen Klopp’s men have opened up an early five point gap at the top of the Premier League table and we are tipping them for victory in our first Gameweek 6 prediction.
With the MLS season coming to a close teams are aiming to secure home advantage for the new single-elimination format MLS Playoffs.
New York City have all but secured top seeding in the Eastern Conference while Carlos Vela’s Los Angeles FC already know they will be playing their Conference Semi-Final at home in the Banc of California Stadium.
Atlanta United vs San Jose Earthquakes, 21st September 3:30PM
All conquering Atlanta United face a difficult test against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday afternoon. Frank de Boer’s side have a short preparation time having faced Cincinnati FC on Thursday night. The current MLS Cup holders have already secured their post-season place but they still have an outside chance of clawing back Eastern Conference rivals NYCFC and claiming top seed.
Looking ahead to this game, a lot with rely on the broad shoulders of last season’s MVP Josef Martinez. Atlanta’s powerful striker has scored in 15 straight games and he’s on course to break the 30-goal mark once more. San José have recently got into the habit of dominating possession in games before going on to lose 2-1.
A repeat of that result may be on the cards here.
New England Revolution vs Real Salt Lake, 21st September 7:30PM
An interesting East-West match up between two teams on the playoff bubble. New England currently sit in 7th in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire with a game in-hand. There has been plenty of excitement in the Revolution’s games but unfortunately for manager Bruce Arena, most of the goals have come at the wrong end of the pitch. Despite only losing 10 games all season, they have conceded a staggering 52 goals.
Salt Lake are in 4th place in the congested Western Conference. They will probably spend the next few weeks looking over their shoulder with 8th place FC Dallas only three points behind. Six points in their next three games should be enough to see them through to the playoffs and they have every chance of picking up a win in Foxborough on Saturday. Expect there to be plenty of goals in this one.
Los Angeles FC vs Toronto FC, 21st September, 10:30PM
Western Conference leaders Los Angeles FC face Toronto FC at home on Saturday night. This match sees Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley face his father’s team. Former Swansea and USMNT Coach Bob Bradley will be in the dugout for LAFC.
The Black and Gold are going through a slump, four straight matches without a win. They ripped through the Western Conference in the early season and they have established a 14-point gap between them and nearest rivals Seattle. They have secured a bye into the Conference Semi-Finals already and they may just be easing off as we head towards the post-season.
In contrast, Toronto have found a good vein of form. The Reds are unbeaten in their last seven league games including a recent win against Colorado. A win for the Canadians in this fixture will all but guarantee home advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Expect Toronto to pull off a shock against the league leaders.
As we march into the final six weeks of the CFL regular season, the Grey Cup begins to loom large and the contenders are mounting to tackle the firm hold the Stampeders have on the fabled trophy.
Now, it’s worth noting that Toronto are all but out of playoff contention with six games to go, as are the Lions and the Redblacks – but Edmonton are perhaps the team that need wins the most now, if they’re to grab onto the tails of the Roughriders and grab that final playoff spot.
This is set to be an intriguing weekend in the CFL as the Stampeders still have questions to answer, despite rattling off three in a row, while the Alouettes will have their mettle tested against a playoff bound team and the Redblacks and Lions vent their season-long frustrations in TD Place Stadium. And yes, I understand how ironically named that place is.
Stampeders @ Argonauts (+7): -110
Friday 20th September, 7PM
As of right now, the Stampeders are 200 points shy of their regular season total from last year. Admittedly they’ve lost some key pieces but play-calling has left a lot to be desired. There was a brief display of defiance as the three-game streak suggests there’s life in the old dog yet to come out as the #1 seed, but as of right now, they’ve some ground to make up on the Blue Bombers.
Toronto are leaking points, but they are coming in fresh off a bye and this could vey easily refocus the minds. They’ve had a long time to think on the 46 points they put against Ottawa, but more importantly, they had time to reflect on the season-low 17 points they gave up. If you forgive the Hamilton loss, and you should, there’s real signs here that Corey Chamblin is figuring out how to maximise his unit.
Blue Bombers @ Alouettes (+2.5): -110
Saturday 21st September, 4PM
The Blue Bombers have undoubtedly been the standout performers in the CFL to date, but they’ve been in a lot of close games on the road.
Perhaps this is factored into the spread, but there does seem to be a huge disparity in the home and road performances when considering Winnipeg. Geographically, that makes a tonne of sense – and Montreal is no easy-going road trip.
William Stanback can control the clock and without Matt Nichols to dig them out of a hole, Chris Streveler could really struggle to force the ball down the field.
If the Alouettes are clever here, they can take a sizeable lead in at the half and watch Winnipeg rue the loss of Nichols to IR.
Lions (-3) @ RedBlacks: -110
Saturday 21st September, 7PM
It’s not hard to separate the Lions and the RedBlacks in your head. One is better than the other, despite the win-loss record reads.
In a way, it looks far worse for BC simply because they’re trying to swim up in a division considerably tougher, but any analytics will show you that these Lions, on their day, have something about them.
If you take their last two road games for example – they’ve fallen by five to Montreal and just three to the East-leading Tiger-Cats.
It always felt like they just need that win (they hadn’t won since Week 4) to spur them into life. They got that in some fashion over Ottawa last week – and the 24-point differential tells the full story, no matter the clichés.
Expect this game to be tighter, but the RedBlacks haven’t put up 20 points in a home game since Week 2.
BET: BC Lions (-3) @ -110
As Bob Dylan once famously sang, the quarterbacks, they are a-changin’. I think.
What once was is no more and the league is moving on. This week’s selections are all headed by quarterbacks under the age of 27 and for good reason.
This is mere coincidence of course, as the reasons for these selections is far more articulate, I promise.
Tennessee (-1.5) @ Jacksonville: -112
Thursday 19th September, 8:20PM
These early lines can be funny. I don’t really understand how Tennessee can be three-point favourites to turn over Indianapolis, then be single-point favourites to beat Jacksonville.
Now, there’s the six point swing that you allow for home/road disparity, but even then, the point-and-a-half between the Jags and Colts seems farcical.
The way in which Tennessee lost last week can easily concern, and I understand where it comes from, but Henry does his best work outside the tackles, and this is where Jacksonville can be caught out.
While the Titans are weak in pass protection right now, they’ll benefit from a Jags defence that’s got to be wary of the run-option with Mariota. There’s little to no safety help you need to be afraid of, and Myles Jack has lost a step from this time last year.
Tennessee leave Florida with the win.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco (-6.5): -108
Sunday 21st September, 4:25PM
The 49ers are the surprise of the season thus far. Well, the good surprise anyway.
Their defence is a top-six unit, they’ve got a young, gifted quarterback who’s not chasing a contract and they’re now playing at home in September.
A cross-country flight is a good enough reason to hand a team a four-point advantage in my book, especially an east coast team coming to California.
But the heat will be a factor here, as will the fact the entire Steelers offence is based around Ben’s audibles and weird knack of throwing balls in areas you would never design.
Mason Rudolph isn’t filling boots, he’s filling craters. And he’s about to be found out by a rabid group in Santa Clara.
Baltimore @ Kansas City (-7): -105
Sunday 21st September, 1PM
This is the one that most people will scoff at.
But the point remains – there isn’t a single throw that Mahomes can’t make, and that the strength of this Ravens defence is in their heavy personnel. Keeping them in base defence or going up against 12 personnel is not going to benefit you.
However, if you test their cornerback depth, they’ll give up points.
This is why personnel groupings need to be analysed more and more as teams grow into their schemes. Predictability is what kills you and the Chiefs’ offensive playbook has more niche plays than any other in football.
Baltimore’s does not, and the one thing that Lamar Jackson hasn’t faced yet is an interior pass rush. There is no better AFC interior defender than the animal that is Chris Jones.
Once they play contain on the back-end, the Ravens simply don’t have the talent at receiver to get separation.
A touchdown in the difference is slightly underestimating this Chiefs unit and I’m happy to be on board.
Blue Jays @ Orioles Series Preview
Toronto Blue Jays (59-91) Baltimore Orioles (49-101)
If you could name this series, you’d probably dub it the ‘at least we’re not the Detroit Tigers’ three-gamer. That’s, of course, being cynical, but bar some farm system magic, neither of these rosters will get the blood pumping too quickly over the next few years.
Perhaps this is a case of just where things lie. While the Orioles are already there, it’s likely that both these teams are worthy of losing 100 games, it could well be the six games they face against the Camden Yards dwellers that saves them the shame.
Half of the Toronto Blue Jays’ last twelve games come against baseball’s second-worst team, and while it doesn’t make for an exciting trip to the ballpark, this may act as one final chance to see just where the rotation lies, on top of just how quickly prospects can make the step up to the bigs.
Because, let’s face it, a lineup featuring prospects like Bichette and Guerrero Jr. should get people excited. Pieces like Grichuk probably haven’t worked out, and him hitting below his career average at the age of 28 isn’t really a good sign. His .235 will be one of the biggest disappointments since acquiring him from St. Louis.
There’s no doubt that Toronto will be looking to outfielders in their rebuild, as their infield looks set for 2020, if they’re willing to accept Brandon Drury’s prone to a bad year. Unless of course, he’s never quite recovered from that broken hand a year ago.
Expect Charlie Montoyo to experiment with the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup here, with the emphasis on base-running improvement and plate patience.
The Orioles will probably resist the urge to bring Adley Rutschman into the fold, and while he’s likely a shoo-in to be the best catcher in baseball in a couple of years, he’s focusing now on the playoffs in the South Atlantic League.
Wild Card Run-Ins:
The exciting part of this season is that there’s no clear runaway in either Wild Card race. Oakland currently lead the AL, despite losing the series opener to the Royals. They had won six straight prior to this and will still be favourites to take over .500 between the remainder of the series against Kansas City and the hosting of the Rangers, starting Friday night.
Tampa Bay may well have won 13 of their last 17, but they’re facing an eight-game run-in against the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees while Cleveland have home comforts with the Tigers and Phillies before going to Chicago to take on the White Sox over three games.
In the National League, the Nats look primed to see off all competition bar Milwaukee and Chicago. But they need to find their stride again. A couple of starts are due up for the beef of the rotation, and they’ll need them given recent form. Their final series with Cleveland may determine their Wild Card fate.
The Cubs may be the form team in baseball right now, and their astounding 47-run series against Pittsburgh might be enough of a boost to see them fend off advances from Milwaukee. The Brewers need to take at least two games, if not sweep the Padres in Miller Park this week, and if they don’t, that could be the end of the interest.