Wiseguys? Mike Valenti Starts 1-4 In NFL Picks As Michigan Media Backs 49ers

Written By Matt Schoch on September 14, 2021

We love our sports critics, who opine about the performance of Michigan’s athletes and teams for a living.

We do that a little bit here. too, and many of these folks are friends of PlayMichigan. So we mean it we say this: There’s nothing wrong with some spicy hot takes in the media world.

But we decided to turn the tables a little here and keep tabs on some performances this fall.

With Michigan online sports betting off the ground for its first full football season, PlayMichigan will be tracking NFL picks of media members throughout the market.

We’re judging picks based on their own spreads and formats, and we’ll pass along the results each week.

May the best talking heads (and writing wrists) win!

Detroit gambling trend-setter Mike Valenti starts off slow; Rico Beard hot

Here’s where we hand some credit to Mike Valenti.

The now-longtime 97.1 The Ticket drive-time radio host has been talking gambling on the market’s most mainstream media entity for years. So when sports gambling launched in Michigan, Valenti was well-positioned to be an authority on content.

Last summer, Valenti was joined on his radio show by co-host Rico Beard. The pair, along with a couple producers, make NFL football picks each week and we’re going along for the ride.

This week, Valenti took three losers in Colts +3, Chiefs -5.5 and Washington +1, with Beard winning the other side in all three games.

Both men went against Valenti’s favorite team, the New York Giants, taking Broncos -3 for the win.

Finally, both men were Goff’d by the Lions, as the backdoor cover heard around the state victimized Valenti and Beard, who both had 49ers -8.5.

Beard went 4-1 and Valenti was 1-4.

Detroit News: Columnists Niyo, Wojo lead the way

(Matt’s full disclosure: I do some occasional freelance work for the Detroit News and know all these guys pretty well, for what it’s worth.)

The Detroit News sports section has you covered with their weekly NFL picks, a sports section staple since essentially the beginning of time.

Interestingly, unlike with the Valenti show, the San Fran backers actually won here, as the News picked the game at -7.5. As we’re grading these picks, we’re taking pickers at their word for checking the current spreads as they make their selections.

We also don’t quite know what to do about Lions beat reporter Justin Rogers. As he readily admits, Rogers (one of my favorite dudes) mails these picks in each year. This year, he’s going with the home teams (Lions on Sunday) in the published picks, but also picked San Fran and the spread here. We’re calling it a non-pick for him (shrug emoji).

Through Week 1, we’ve got the columnists deadlocked in the lead, as John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski went 10-6. Rogers went 6-9, while James Hawkins, the Michigan basketball beat writer, was 6-10.

Notably, everyone’s “best bet” lost this week. Wojo took the Packers -3 and the others had the Chiefs -6.

Detroit Free Press: Lions pickers fall victim to backdoor cover

In a somewhat baffling turn of events, after many years of NFL picks by writers, the Detroit Free Press has 86’d the practice right now that gambling is legal for readers.

However, we did find Lions picks, so we’ll grade those.

There, the quartet of Jeff Seidel, Shawn Windsor, Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez guessed the score.

I made this criteria before the backdoor cover, I swear, but I determined that we’ll take those score predictions and put them up against the kickoff spread for their “bets.”

Each of the four would’ve been going with 49ers -9.5 under that scenario, all losers.

So, 0-1 for all those guys.

Any other NFL pickers we’re missing?

We put this call out on Twitter on Sunday too, but are there any other Michigan media members out there making picks that we should include in our tracking? Reach out (@Play_Michigan) and let us know if there are. It would be great to get some women in the mix, too.

We also want to draw attention to our colleagues across our PlayUSA network who are also pick-tracking this year:

Wiseguys: PlayMichigan’s NFL media picks tracker

Here’s the final winners grid, which we will update each week:

PickerWinsLossesTiesWin percentage
Rico Beard, 971 The Ticket410.800
John Niyo, Detroit News1060.625
Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News1060.625
Justin Rogers, Detroit News690.400
James Hawkins, Detroit News6100.375
Mike Valenti, 971 The Ticket140.200
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press010.000
Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press010.000
Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press010.000
Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press010.000

May the best — or maybe least-worst, we’ll see! — mind win!

Photo by Andrey Popov/Dreamstime
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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