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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|02-18-11||Kent State v. Drexel -5||Top||66-73||Win||100||11 h 19 m||Show|
I'm playing on DREXEL. The Dragons have failed to cover a few in a row. That's worked in our favor, as its helped to keep the line lower than it could have been. I believe that it will prove to be too low.
While only 7-7 on the road, Drexel is a solid 10-2 when listed as the home team. The Dragons have outscored opponents by a 66.4 to 54.3 margin in those games. Visiting teams are hitting a mere 38.2% of their shots when playing here.
The Dragons lost their last game, a 51-43 setback at NC-Wilmington. They're 4-2 SU/ATS the last six times they were off a conference loss though.
Additionally, they won their last home game, a 2-point victory vs. William & Mary. While that didn't result in a cover, it was the type of victory a team can build momentum from - as they hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to get the win.
Coach Bruiser Flint noted how important his team win one like that, stating: "We had been losing a lot of games where we needed to make a tough basket or get a tough rebound."
The Dragons are 8-2 SU and 6-2 ATS in non-conference games. They're 18-11 ATS in non-conference lined games the past few seasons.
The Golden Flashes are also very tough (13-1) at home. They're only 5-7 on the road though.
It should be noted that the Golden Flashes are a poor 11-18 ATS the past few seasons, when listed as underdogs. During that stretch, they've gone only 11-26 ATS in non-conference lined games.
In addition to playing at home, the Dragons have had an extra day's worth of rest in between games. They last played on 2/15. The Golden Flashes last played on 2/16. It should be also noted that their 2/16 game (a 86-80 loss at Miami Ohio) went to Overtime. Therefore, not only was a potentially "deflating" loss but they also really had to "leave it all on the floor." Note that the Golden Flashes are 1-4 ATS the last five times that they allowed 80 or more points in their previous game and 6-9 ATS their last 15 lined games, when playing with one day or less worth of rest in between games.
The Dragons are 28-11 at home the past few seasons. I expect them to improve on those stats, covering the relatively small number along the way. *10
|02-16-11||Miami Heat v. Toronto Raptors +9.5||Top||103-95||Win||100||9 h 25 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. *10 This one sets up nicely for the home team. The Raptors had each of the last two days off. The Heat are off a big game vs. Indiana. In addition to playing the second of back to back games, they're now playing their third game in the past four days.
Note that Toronto is 18-12 SU the past few seasons, when playing with two day's rest in between games. Considering their poor overall record during that stretch, they've clearly enjoyed playing with an extra day's rest. They're a respectable 4-3-1 ATS this season, when playing with two day's rest in between games.
The Raptors are starting to play better, having won a couple of games recently. Last time out, they defeated the Clippers. Note that they're also 4-3-1 ATS when coming off an "upset" victory. Playing with "double-revenge," they should be highly motivated here.
Its more than the two losses that will have the Raptors "fired up" here though. Both of those games were at Miami - that means that this is the first time that Chris Bosh will have returned to Toronto. That will ensure the Raptors have the full support of their fans, as they'll be out in full force to "boo" their former star.
As Toronto's Sonny Weems noted: "The fans think he
|02-14-11||Kansas v. Kansas State +5.5||Top||68-84||Win||100||11 h 53 m||Show|
I'm playing on KANSAS STATE. I played against the Wildcats on the weekend. That was at Colorado though and one of my reasons for playing against them was that I felt that they could get caught "looking ahead" to their Big Monday showdown vs. rival Kansas. Well, there's no looking ahead this time - as the big game is finally here. Facing Kansas on National TV is always a big deal. Doing so in front of the home fans and doing so when attempting to avenge a blowout loss at Kansas, make this a huge game. I expect the home underdog Wildcats to respond with their very best effort.
True, the Wildcats lost some players - they've still got Jacob Pullen though and they're still very tough at home.
Kansas' Marcus Morris noted: "They have lost pieces. But they're still going to give it their best shot. They play hard just like we play hard. Their fans are going to be juiced. We're going to be No. 1 going in there. It's going to be a tough environment. Basically, it's going to be a man's game."
The Wildcats are 13-6 SU the past few seasons, when coming off a conference loss. That includes a 3-2 ATS mark this season. They gave the Jayhawks all they could handle in last year's regular season game here, eventually losing by two. I expect this one to also come down to the wire and am grabbing all the points I can get. *10
|02-14-11||Portland Trail Blazers v. Minnesota Timberwolves +3||Top||95-81||Loss||-110||10 h 20 m||Show|
I'm playing on MINNESOTA. I like how this one sets up for the home team. Not only are the T-Wolves playing at home, where they're a much better team, but they've also got the schedule in their favor. Playing with "triple-revenge," I also expect them to be the "hungrier" team.
While the T-Wolves had yesterday off, the Blazers were involved in a hard-fought win at Detroit, a game which was close the entire way. In addition to playing the second of back to back games, the Blazers are now playing their third road game in the past four days.
While the Blazers have a far better overall record, the difference between Portland's road record and Minnesota's home record, isn't as big as many might assume. The T-Wolves are 9-17 at home. With a win yesterday, the Blazers are now 12-17 on the road.
The Blazers, still dealing with numerous injuries, return home after this. They've got "bigger" games vs. the Hornets, Lakers and Nuggets on deck. It would be easy to overlook an opponent which they have long dominated.
On the other hand, having lost all three meetings with Portland this season, the young T-Wolves should view this as a "big game" and I expect them to give their very best effort. Note that they hope to get Beasley back in the lineup tonight - he's missed the last three games.
Tonight's O/U is currently in the low 200s. That's high for Portland but low for the T-Wolves. Note that the Blazers are 1-3 ATS this season when playing a road game with an O/U line in the 200 to 204.5 range. Meanwhile, Minnesota checks in at 5-3 ATS when playing a home game with an O/U line in that range. They badly need a victory and I look for them to go all out to get one here. *10
|02-14-11||Atlanta Hawks -4.5 v. Detroit Pistons||Top||94-79||Win||100||10 h 34 m||Show|
I'm playing on ATLANTA. If I'm "laying points," I'd typically prefer to be doing so on a home team. This one sets up very nicely for the road favorite though.
While the Hawks had yesterday off, the Pistons are playing the second of back to back games and their fifth game in the past seven days. Yesterday, they were involved in a hard fought game vs. Portland.
In addition to having the "fresher legs," there are a couple of important reasons why I expect the Hawks to be extremely motivated here.
For starters, this is the first game of an 8-game road trip. Its arguably the "easiest" of the eight cities which they'll visit and they know its important to take advantage of the winnable game and start the trip on the right foot.
Additionally, the Hawks are coming off back to back losses - each of them painful in a different way. Two games ago, they got completely embarrassed by the 76ers. Last game, they came out determined to bounce back and played a great first half, seemingly en route to blowing out Charlotte. The Bobcats rallied and beat them at the buzzer though. Those losses should provide the Hawks with some extra "urgency" here and Saturday's blown lead should ensure they "keep the pedal to the metal" the entire way here.
Also, even further motivation comes from the fact that the Pistons blew them out the last time that they played here. The Hawks view themselves as a far superior team than Detroit and should be determined to deliver a much better effort.
With yesterday's loss, the Pistons are now an awful 19-35-1 ATS (11-44 SU) the past few years, when facing a team with a winning record, during the second half of the season. I see those stats getting even worse after tonight's game. *10
|02-12-11||Dallas Mavericks v. Houston Rockets +1.5||Top||106-102||Loss||-110||9 h 6 m||Show|
I'm playing on HOUSTON. The Mavericks have won both of this season's earlier meetings. Both of those games were at Dallas though. With this one being played at Houston, I expect the Rockets to return the favor.
The Mavericks have been a "streaky" team. In early January, they lost six straight. With Dirk back in the lineup, they closed out January and began February by winning 10 straight. The last four of those victories all came by single-digits though with three of them coming by four or fewer points. It finally caught up with them last time though, as they lost by one point at Denver. Having had their winning streak snapped, I expect them to stumble again here.
While the Mavs have fared well against winning teams, note that they're only 8-15-1 ATS when facing teams with a losing record.
Even though the Mavs had last night off, they're still playing their third game in four days here and their sixth game in the past nine. Only one of those games came at home - meaning they could easily be feeling a little "road weary" here.
The Rockets also lost their last game, getting upset by Minnesota, after having won three straight. That was their second game in two nights though and their third in the past four. They've now had three days off, as the loss vs. the T-Wolves was on 2/8. That should mean that they have the "fresher legs" here. Note that the Rockets are 8-5 SU the past few seasons, when playing with three or more day's rest in between games.
During that stretch, the Rockets are also an extremely solid 24-12 SU and 22-14 ATS when coming off an "upset" loss. Playing with "double-revenge," I expect them to bounce back and improve on those stats here. *10
|02-12-11||North Carolina v. Clemson||Top||64-62||Loss||-110||13 h 34 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEMSON. I won with the Tigers two Saturdays ago, part of a 5-0 card. As they are here, the Tigers were playing an "early" home game, while attempting to avenge an earlier loss. The Tigers rewarded me by destroying a solid Florida State team. While they're playing another quality team here, I expect the Tigers to again reward me with a victory.
Admittedly, the Tar Heels have been playing well lately. However, I believe this will be a tough spot for them. Not only is Clemson a very difficult venue to win at, but the Tar Heels are off an emotional game vs. arch-rival Duke. While all games vs. Duke are "big," this one figures to be particularly difficult to "bounce back" from. That's because the Tar Heels lost (79-73) in a game in which they held a 16-point lead and in which they appeared to be in complete control of.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was quoted as saying: "To say it's extremely disappointing would be an understatement."
While the Tar Heels have the (slightly) better overall record, the Tigers' home record is far better than the Tar Heels' mark on the road. North Carolina is now 7-5 on the road. Clemson, on the other hand, is 13-1 at home. That includes a perfect mark in home conference games and a perfect mark in home games in 2011.
In fact, looking back further and we find that Clemson has won 13 of its last 14 ACC home games - the only loss came against eventual NCAA champion Duke, last season.
Looking at this season's earlier meeting and we find that, although they lost by 10, the Tigers were "right there." In fact, that game was tied with only about minutes left in the second half.
An even closer look reveals that Clemson seniors Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt really struggled in that game. Grant hit only one of his 12 shots - the worst shooting performance of his career. Meanwhile, Stitt was an ugly 3-for-15. Playing at home, in what could be their final matchup against the Tar Heels, both figure to be highly motivated to make amends. Considering that both players average in double-digits in scoring - hitting 43.8% and 59.6% of their shots respectively, its fairly safe to expect them to be much better than a combined 4 of 27!
Note that the Tigers are a solid 7-5 SU/ATS the past dozen times that they attempted to avenge an earlier road loss, including 2-1 SU/ATS their last three in that situation.
While we know UNC can score, note that Clemson leads the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 60 points per game. That number dips all the way down to a mere 57.8 points per game allowed here at home. Visiting teams are averaging only 37.9% of their shots here.
Note that the Tar Heels are only 13-19 ATS the past few seasons when facing a team which allows 64 or fewer points per game. That includes a 7-11 ATS mark their last 18 games against teams which allow 64 or fewer points per game, after at least 15 games of the season have been played.
While they never win at Chapel Hill, (literally) the Tigers hammered the Tar Heels here last season. They led 50-32 by halftime in that game and cruised to a 83-64 victory. While it may not be quite that "easy" this afternoon, playing on their home floor, I expect another victory for the revenge-minded Tigers. *10
|02-09-11||San Antonio Spurs v. Toronto Raptors +7.5||Top||111-100||Loss||-110||8 h 14 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. These teams both played road games last night. The Raptors hung around for a while at Milwaukee, but eventually got blown out. The Spurs were challenged by the Pistons most of the way, but pulled away for a double-digit win, down the stretch. I expect the Spurs to have their hands full the entire way tonight though.
While the Raptors continue to struggle on the road, they're generally far more competitive at home. They won their last game here, snapping a losing streak in the process. While that only brought them to 8-12 their last 20 games here, a closer look reveals that five of those losses came by seven or fewer points. (In other words, they'd be 13-7 ATS in those games, if they were getting more than seven points to work with.)
Speaking of "close games," the Raptors already played the Spurs fairly tough at San Antonio. Listed as +12 point underdogs, they lost by nine. Note that they were up 53-42 at halftime of that game.
Including that result, the Raptors have seen six straight meetings with the Spurs decided by 10 or fewer points. Four of those were decided by seven or less. In fact, the last two meetings here at Toronto both resulted in outright Raptor wins. They beat the Spurs by a score of 91-86 here last season and by a score of 91-89 here in 2009.
Looking back further and we find that seven straight meetings here at Toronto were decided by single-digits, six of those by seven or less. The average score of those games was 96.1 to 94.3, in favor of the Spurs. With the Spurs right in the middle of their long "rodeo" trip, I expect this one to also come down to the wire. *10
|02-09-11||Memphis v. Central Florida -2||Top||63-62||Loss||-110||8 h 45 m||Show|
I'm playing on CENTRAL FLORIDA. With the Knights on a losing streak and with the Tigers off a big upset win over Gonzaga, many will likely be quick to back the visitors in this one. However, with the game being played at Central Florida, I expect the Knights to have the advantage.
Central Florida is 11-3 at home this season. The Knights are averaging 69.2 here while holding visiting teams to 57.2 points scored on defense.
On the other hand, the Tigers are 3-3 while on the road this season. While the Tigers are averaging a respectable 71.0 points on the road, they're also allowing a whopping 76.5 points in those games.
While the win at Gonzaga was certainly impressive, note that the Tigers are 2-10 ATS their last 12 lined games, when coming off a non-conference game. Also, note that they lost their last two conference games, each coming against teams with a worse overall record than the Knights. Their last CUSA road game resulted in a 15 point loss, at Marshall.
Admittedly, the Knights have really struggled in conference play. They're still 32-12 SU their last 44 home games though, going 58-17 their last 75 here, 34-17 SU their last 51 home lined games. (I mention the "SU" stats, as a SU victory should also result in an ATS victory here.)
The Knights have come close recently, losing each of their last two games by seven or fewer points. After a loss at ECU in their last game, UCF coach Donnie Jones was quoted as saying: "I thought we played hard in the first half. I thought we were right where we needed to be. I thought Marcus really did a good job of keeping us in the game. We needed somebody else at times tonight, and it was unfortunate we weren't able to get that."
Jordan would finish with 24 points on 6-of-14 shooting, going 10-of-14 from the free throw line.
Back at home and absolutely desperate to snap their skid, I expect the Knights to give Jordan more help this time and for them to bounce back with a badly needed victory. *10
|02-08-11||Creighton v. Drake +1.5||Top||64-67||Win||100||9 h 3 m||Show|
I'm playing on DRAKE. The Bluejays come in with the better overall record and they're already 1-0 in the season series. However, a closer look reveals that the earlier meeting was at Creighton and that the Bulldogs' home record is actually superior to the Bluejays' road record. With this evening's game being played at Drake, I expect the Bulldogs to have the advantage.
The Bulldogs are off back to back "upset" wins. They began the month by going on the road and destroying Southern Illinois by 21 points. Next, they returned home and knocked off Northern Iowa. That brings them to a a perfect 4-0 ATS their last four games.
The Bulldogs have outscored teams by an average margin of 67.2 to 62.1 here at home.
On the other hand, the Bluejays have lost four straight on the road. They've been outscored by a 67.1 to 65.6 margin when playing away from Creighton.
Note that the Bluejays are 13-18 ATS the past few seasons, when coming off a conference win. During the same stretch, the Bulldogs were 11-8 ATS when coming off a conference win.
As they did last season, the Bulldogs lost an early January game at Creighton. Last season, in a game which was essentially a "pick'em" (Drake was -1) the Bulldogs avenged that loss by earning a 79-74 victory at home. Playing at home, playing arguably their best basketball, and again playing with "revenge," I expect them to "shock" their "higher rated" guests once again. *10
|02-08-11||San Antonio Spurs v. Detroit Pistons +7||Top||100-89||Loss||-110||9 h 10 m||Show|
I'm playing on DETROIT. These teams split a pair of meetings last season. The Spurs won and covered at San Antonio. However, the Pistons scored an outright 109-101 "upset," as 5-point underdogs, when the teams met here at Detroit. While tonight's number is even more "generous," with tonight's game being played at The Palace of Auburn Hills, I expect the Pistons to have the edge once again.
As you're probably aware, the Spurs have been very good this season. You may also know that they're currently smack dab in the middle of their annual "rodeo" road trip. This will mark the fourth game of their 9-game trip. Note that prior to the current trip, they only played one home game and that was preceded by three on the road. That makes this their 8th straight game, which was played in a different city. That can start to wear on a team, even one as talented as the Spurs.
True, San Antonio has had a few day's off, having last played on 2/4. The extra rest probably came at a good time, as they'd played some tough games, as well as having played three in four nights. However, you might be surprised to learn that the Spurs are only 3-8 ATS (4-7 SU!) the last 11 times that they played with three day's rest in between games.
As for the Pistons, who have had the past two day's off, they've quietly been playing quite well. In fact, they won each of their last two games by double-digits, most recently a 89-78 win at Milwaukee - generally not an "easy" venue to win at. Looking back further and we find the Pistons at 8-5 ATS their last 13 games. That includes outright victories vs. the likes of Dallas, Orlando and Phoenix.
During that stretch, the Pistons also lost by only four points at Boston and by only a single point at Miami. For the season, they're a very solid 15-10 ATS when facing a team with a winning record.
While SU victories have been hard to come by on the road, the Pistons are a respectable 13-11 SU at home, going 14-10 ATS. That includes a 4-1 ATS mark when playing a home game with an O/U line in the 190 to 194.5 range. They're an outstanding 14-7 SU/ATS in that situation the past few seasons.
Including last season's victory, the Pistons are 7-3 SU/ATS their last 10 home games vs. the Spurs, going 12-7 SU/ATS the last 19.
A look at last year's meetings shows that both were very "close," each closer than the final score indicates. The Spurs ended up winning "big" at San Antonio. However, that game was close right up until the final frame. The Pistons were winning after the first quarter and were still tied in the fourth. The Spurs pulled away late, making the score seem far more lopsided than it really was.
Meanwhile, the game here was tied after the first quarter, tied after the second quarter and tied after regulation. (The Pistons pulled away in OT.) I feel that this one will also "come down to the wire" and am grabbing all those generous points. *10
|02-07-11||Boston Celtics v. Charlotte Bobcats +5||Top||89-94||Win||100||9 h 48 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHARLOTTE. After wrapping up a successful 4-2 road trip, the Bobcats had high hopes for their 3-game homestand vs. three of the top teams (Miami, Dallas, Boston) in the league. They viewed those three games as a "test" about how well they measured up against the best in the NBA and really wanted to score a couple of "upsets." Things haven't gotten as planned though, as they've already dropped the first two games. With the schedule strongly in their favor, I expect them to bounce back with their best effort here.
While the Bobcats had yesterday off, the Celtics were busy hosting the Magic. Naturally, given that they are two of the top teams in the East and given that the Magic beat them on Christmas Day (Boston did avenge that loss with a close 3-point home win on 1/17) that was a big game for the Celtics. The Celtics were also off a game vs. Dallas (another big game) on Friday. That makes this their third game in four days. Additionally, they've got a huge showdown vs. the Lakers on deck. Having played all those "big games" and with LA on deck, it should be easy for them to overlook the "lowly" Bobcats.
On the other hand, the Bobcats should be extremely "hungry" and focused on the task at hand. Not only do they badly want to earn a victory against an elite team and to avoid going winless in the 3-game homestand, but they're also playing with "double-revenge." The Celtics absolutely embarrassed them here earlier in the season (93-62) and then beat them again when the teams met at Boston. That one was much closer (89-84) with the Bobcats earning the cover.
While its been some time since they beat them outright, including the pointspread win at Boston, the Bobcats are 13-6 ATS the last 19 meetings in the series. I expect them to deliver a highly motivated effort and look for them to improve on those stats here. *10
|02-07-11||Youngstown State v. Wright State -12.5||Top||70-74||Loss||-110||9 h 51 m||Show|
I'm playing on WRIGHT STATE. The Raiders may have lost a couple of key players from last year's team. However, I believe that they're still more than capable of beating up on the Penguins, particularly when playing here at Wright State.
These teams already faced each other once this season. The Raiders won that one by four points (66-62) but failed to cover by a bucket. That was at Youngstown State though, where the Penguins have proven that they can compete. (The Penguins recently even beat Butler there and lost their last one in OT.) Playing on the road has been a different story for the Penguins though.
The Penguins are 0-10 on the road and that includes a dismal 2-7 (22%) ATS mark in road lined games. Their last road game came at Illinois Chicago, facing a team which is just 6-18 overall. The Penguins still lost by 22 points, 83-61. (They were outrebounded by a 53-26 margin in that game!) Prior to that, their previous road game came at Loyola-Illinois. While the Ramblers are only 4-9 in Horizon League play, they still crushed the Penguins by 13 points.
Overall, the Penguins are getting outscored by an average score of 79.9 to 64.4 when playing on the road. They've shot 39% in those games while their hosts have shot 48%. In fact, they haven't won a
On the other hand, the Raiders are 11-1 at home. They average nearly 70 points per game here and allow less than 59. With a couple of tough road games coming up, they'd love to build some confidence and momentum by earning a convining "blowout" victory.
A look at the earlier meeting shows that the Raiders won despite hitting a mere 32.2% from the field and committing 14 turnovers. In fact, they were losing that one by 10 points with less than seven minutes remaining. If Youngstown State couldn't win that one, with the Raiders practically "handing it to them on silver platter," I feel that they'll have little hope here.
Indeed, the Raiders are a perfect 10-0 the last 10 times that they were a host in this series. They've beaten the Penguins by double-digits in seven of the last eight meetings here.
The Raiders had their "wake up call" in the earlier meeting and needed an 18-4 run to close things out. This time, playing at home, I expect them to bring that type of intensity from the opening tipoff and look for that to lead to another one-sided victory. *10
|02-06-11||Pittsburgh Steelers v. Green Bay Packers -2.5||Top||25-31||Win||100||320 h 9 m||Show|
I'm playing on GREEN BAY. Last year, I rode Drew Brees and the Saints to the Superbowl. This year, I'm riding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Everyone knew the Packers were a really good team. However, given the path that they had to take to get here, most didn't expect them to get this far. I wasn't one of them - as I've believed in this team from the beginning.
In the "Wildcard Round," the Packers had to play at Philadelphia. With the Eagles having enjoyed such a strong year and given Michael Vick's popularity and exceptional season, the Eagles were a popular choice. In my writeup for that game, one of my many comments was that "I'll take Aaron Rodgers over Michael Vick." Of course, Green Bay would go on to earn the victory.
I've continued to rave about Rodgers - although by now, he's no longer exactly "flying under the radar." The Packers' QB is currently "in a major zone." He gets the ball out quickly and accurately, makes great decisions and is willing to take off and beat opposing defenses with his feet.
When Rodgers does make a mistake, which hasn't happened often in these playoffs, he's generally quick to redeem himself and/or to do everything in his power to help fix the problem. Last week's interception against the Bears was an excellent example of that. After being picked, Rodgers didn't even hang his head for a second. Rather, he tracked down Brian Urlacher and tackled him in the open field - very likely saving a touchdown.
Rodgers is also extremely "tough." Time after time again, he picks himself up and shakes off a big hit.
Rodgers has now clearly established himself among the top quarterbacks in the game. Yet, he knows that until he wins the Superbowl, there will still always be Packer fans who rank him below Brett Favre. He knows that this is his chance to fully emerge from Favre's long shadow, once and for all.
Of course, the Packers are about a lot more than Aaron Rodgers and the offense. The defense is also outstanding. In fact, the Packers allowed the fewest points in the entire NFC. They were completely dominant on that side of the ball at Chicago two weeks ago - a game that easily could have been more one-sided. It was only fitting that the defense "sealed the deal" scoring the winning touchdown on an interception return and then closing things out with another INT to snuff out the Bears' final drive.
I'll admit, I didn't play on the Packers in their second playoff game at Atlanta. I didn't go against them either though. Rather, I easily won a big play with the 'over' in that game. (I had also won with the 'under' when the same teams met in the reg. season.) I didn't want to play against the Packers - but I also felt the 'over' offered even better value.
As many of you know, I came back with a big play on Green Bay again in the Championship game. The Packers jumped all over the Bears and never looked back. (Ok, it got a little tense at the end!) Once again, winning away from Green Bay proved to be no problem. That's victories at Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago, the three top division winners (Seattle was the other) in the NFC.
One of the big reasons that I rode the Saints in last year's playoffs is because I had a great deal of respect for their coaching staff. That's one of the reasons why I've been riding the Packers this year. I really like BOTH their offensive and defensive play-calling and feel the tandem of McCarthey and Capers is among the very best in the game.
Of course, the Steelers possess many of the same characteristics that the Packers do and I also have a ton of respect for them. (I also won with them in the Championship Rd.) They've got an extremely tough quarterback. Rothlisberger is an excellent leader and, like Rodgers, can beat teams with both his arm and his legs. Obviously, "Big Ben" knows how to win. The Steelers also have a terrific defense and they're also well-coached.
Pittsburgh backers are likely argue that the Steelers' "big game" experience will give them an advantage. After all, they've been here before, winning in both 2006 and 2009. I don't expect that to be as "big a deal" as many will make it out to be though. In fact, one could argue that the Packers will be "hungrier," as they haven't won one in the "Rodgers era."
Rothlisberger didn't seem to be bothered by it too much against the Jets and I've already acknowledged he's an extremely tough QB. However, one thing I noticed was that he took a hard knee to the thigh. That isn't likely to get much notice, however those type of things can take a long time to recover properly and tend to tighten up more after the game, particularly as it was so cold. While I don't expect this to be a major issue, if if it even slows down Rothlisberger slightly and/or makes him think twice about running for a split second, it could have an effect.
Despite playing at home, the Steelers were somewhat fortunate to beat Baltimore, as they were on the verge of defeat and had to rally back. Then, in control against the Jets, they let New York come back and make things interesting. While the Packers allowed the Bears to do the same, they destroyed the Falcons - at the Georgia Dome - where visiting teams nearly never win.
While I respect the Steelers, I feel the Packers are currently playing at an even higher level and peaking at the perfect time. Rodgers steps out of Favre's shadow permanently and the Pack cover the small number along the way. *10
|02-05-11||Indiana St v. Missouri State -10||Top||66-73||Loss||-110||4 h 27 m||Show|
I'm playing on MISSOURI STATE. The Bears are fairly heavy favorites for this afternoon's game against Indiana State. However, given the venue, situation, disparity in talent and history here, I feel the line could easily be higher.
The Bears have been in first in the Missouri Valley Conference standings most of the year. Off back to back losses, that's no longer the case. That should provide some added motivation here. Of course, the fact that Indiana State already beat them should also give Missouri State plenty of incentive to "bring their A-Game."
A look at Missouri State's three conference losses shows that two of them came on the road, including the 1-point loss at Indiana State. While they also dropped their most recent home game, a 1-point loss vs. Northern Iowa, the Bears remain an outstanding 19-1 their last 20 games here. That included an 11-1 mark here this season. They've outscored opponents by an average of 74.5 to 59.2 here. While they've hit nearly 51% of their shots here, visiting teams are hitting less than 44% of theirs.
Indiana State, on the other hand, has won only four of 13 road games. The Sycamores hit only 40.1% of their shots away from home. Note that the Sycamores have lost four straight games and that three of those losses came by double-digits. Last time out, they were beaten by 16 vs. Wichita State. Their most recent road game (at Creighton on 1/29) resulted in a 14 point loss.
While the Sycamores started out well, lately they've been bad on both sides of the ball. Their last two opponents have both hit better than 46% of their shots, each scoring a minimum of 70 points.
Coach Greg Lansing recently told the Omaha World-Herald: "We've gotten away from having more of a defensive identity, and we need to continue to work on that."
On offense, one of the Sycamores' big problems is that swingman Aaron Carter has been really struggling. Carter took only two shots and scored two points against Wichita State on Feb. 1. He was also 0-for-6 against Creighton on Jan. 29. With Carter "off his game," the Sycamores have become far easier to defend.
Missouri State's Kyle Weems is a candidate for Missouri Valley Player of the Year and is a true "star." He leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks. He's only one of five Bears averaging greater than nine points per game though.
The Bears are 8-0 when senior center Will Creekmore, their second leading scorer, scores 13 or more points. Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin said this of Creekmore: "He got big blocks, made big baskets, got big rebounds. But he's a guy that has a passion for success and just wants to win." --
While they failed to cover against them here last season, winning by "only" seven points, the Bears are still an outstanding 11-5 ATS (15-1 SU!) the last 16 times that they were a host in this series. Four of the last six meetings here have seen the Bears win by a minimum of 19 points. Playing with "revenge" and angry that their home winning streak was recently snapped, I expect another double-digit victory for the Bears this afternoon. *10
|02-04-11||Minnesota Timberwolves v. Toronto Raptors -3.5||Top||100-111||Win||100||9 h 48 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. The Raptors have now lost 12 in a row. That losing streak will keep many bettors from backing them here. However, I believe that they'll rise to the occasion and snap their skid this evening.
These same two teams met last week, at Minnesota. I had the T-Wolves for that 1/29 game and they simply crushed the Raptors. At the time, both teams were coming off a game the previous night. Given that the Raptors' game the previous night (vs. Milwaukee) had gone to OT and with the game being played at Minnesota, I felt the T-Wolves would have the edge. That proved to be the case. Minnesota jumped out to a double-digit halftime lead and pulled away even further in the second half.
The Raptors shot horribly, making only 34 of their 101 (33.7%) shots. Toronto coach Jay Triano wasn't at all happy with his team. He was quoted as saying: "I've never been in a game where you've missed 67 shots..."
The Raptors are back home now though. Having had yesterday off and not having played back to back games all week, they're also far better rested than they were for the game at Minnesota. That's important for a team which is still less than 100% healthy.
While the losing streak has now gone on for a long time, the Raptors are still playing hard. In their two games since playing at Minnesota, they battled against both Indiana and Atlanta. While they failed to cover the spread in either, it wasn't due to a lack of effort. (They would have covered at Indiana, if not for a Pacers' 3-pointer at the buzzer.)
Note that the Raptors are a respectable 14-10-1 ATS (16-9 SU) the last 25 times that they were listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range, including 4-2 ATS in that situation this season. On the other hand, during the same stretch, the T-Wolves are 6-9 ATS (4-11 SU) when listed as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range, including 0-2 SU/ATS in that role this season.
Last week's result notwithstanding, the Raptors have dominated this series. In fact, even including last week's loss, they're still a commanding 12-1 SU and 11-2 ATS their last 13 meetings with Minnesota. That includes a perfect 6-0 SU (5-1 ATS) mark the last six meetings here at Toronto. The Raptors won those six games by an average of 10.8 points per game.
Keep in mind that Minnesota has won only one road game since early November and is 2-22 on the road for the season.
After this, the Raptors play at Milwaukee (not an easy place to win) and then host a pair of quality Western Conference opponents, San Antonio and Portland. In other words, if they don't take advantage of this "winnable" game, they may have to wait some time before snapping their skid. They know that this offers their best opportunity for a victory and I look for them to go all out and get it, covering the relatively small number along the way. *10
|02-03-11||San Antonio Spurs v. Los Angeles Lakers -3||Top||89-88||Loss||-110||11 h 37 m||Show|
I'm playing on LA. The Spurs may have the best overall record in the West. However, the Lakers are still the champs and their home record is still (slightly) superior to the Spurs' road record. With this game being played at LA, I expect the champs to have the advantage.
While the Spurs are a very solid 15-6 (71.4%) on the road, at 19-7, the Lakers' home winning percentage (73%) is even better. Note that the Spurs are only 5-4 on the road in 2011 while the Lakers are 8-2 their last 10 at home.
Naturally, this is a very big game for both teams. Both are comfortably on top of their divisions. However, they also both know that this game could well play a pivotal role in determining which team has homecourt advantage, if/when they meet each other in the playoffs.
While that should ensure that both teams are "highly motivated," I expect the Lakers to be even "hungrier" than their guests. That's because they're the ones chasing the Spurs in the overall race AND because they already lost at San Antonio this season. Additionally, the fact that they just recently lost on National TV (vs. the Celtics) figures to provide some added incentive. This is their chance to show the world that "they're still here" and that they're still the team to beat in the West.
Note that the Lakers are 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS the last 10 times that they were a host in this series. All eight of those victories came by a minimum of four points and they came by an average of 12.6 points.
It should also be noted that the Lakers were favored by a minimum of -5 points in seven of their last eight home meeting with the Spurs. The only time that they were favored by less (they were -2.5 point home favorites vs. the Spurs last Feb. 8th) was a game in which Kobe didn't play. Tonight's line is considerably lower, which I feel provides us with excellent line value.
While the Lakers may be without Bynum, they've gotten used to playing without him and are fully capable of winning even if he's not in the lineup. Bynum was out last game and Odom stepped into the starting lineup and scored 20 points while adding 20 rebounds.
As Kobe noted: "People forget how well he was playing when Drew was down. He's capable of doing that and stepping in and having huge games like this."
The Lakers are 50-16 SU the last 66 times that they attempted to avenge an earlier loss. I expect them to improve on those stats, covering the small number along the way. *10
|02-03-11||Miami Heat v. Orlando Magic -1||Top||104-100||Loss||-115||10 h 49 m||Show|
I'm playing on ORLANDO. These teams have faced each other twice so far this season. Both games came back in the fall. In each case, the home team earned a convincing victory. The Heat won the first meeting, at Miami, by a score of 96-70. A few weeks later, playing at Orlando, the Magic returned the favor. Laying -3.5 points, they won that 11/24 meeting by a score of 104-95. With this game being played at Orlando, I expect the Magic to have the advantage once again.
I successfully played against the Magic in their last game. That was on the road (at Memphis) though and they were playing the second of back to back games. Therefore, given that situation and with this "big game" on deck, I wasn't surprised that they lost.
The Magic are back home now though and they're also well-rested, having last played on 1/31. In addition to having won nine of their last 10 here at Orlando, note that the Magic are also an impressive 29-10 SU and 23-15-1 ATS the past few seasons, when playing with two day's rest in between games.
Like their hosts, the Heat have also been off since 1/31. Unlike their hosts, playing with two day's rest in between games has not been kind to them. In fact, the Heat are only 19-20 SU and 15-24 ATS the past few seasons, when playing with two day's rest in between games. That includes an ugly 1-7 ATS mark their last eight in that situation.
The Heat have gone 3-5 ATS in divisional games this season and 22-24 ATS the past few. During that stretch, the Magic are 29-19 ATS (37-11 SU) when facing a divisional opponent.
With an O/U line in the high 190s, its also worth noting that the Magic are 18-2 SU and 13-7 ATS the last 20 times that they played a home game with an O/U line in the 195 to 199.5 range.
Including this season's victory here, the Magic are 8-1 SU and 7-1-1 ATS the last nine times that they were a host in this series. Obviously, its a very big game for both teams - and we know Lebron wants to beat the Magic. However, with the game here at Orlando and with the Magic trailing the Heat in the division standings, I feel that winning this game is even more important to the Magic. I expect them to rise to the occasion and look for them to come away with the important victory. *10
|02-02-11||Rutgers v. St. Johns -8.5||Top||56-58||Loss||-110||10 h 51 m||Show|
I'm playing on ST JOHN'S. The important question here is how will St. John's respond to its impressive upset victory over Duke. will the Red Storm suffer a "letdown" or will they build positive momentum and confidence from the victory? Playing at home and facing a Rutgers team which tends to struggle on the road, I expect the answer to prove to be the latter.
Including the 93-78 win over Duke, St. John's has topped the 80 point mark five times this season. The Red Storm have followed up the first four by going 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in their next four games.
Note that St. John's is 2-1 ATS (3-0 SU) the past few seasons, when listed as a home favorite in the -6.5 to -9 range.
The Scarlet Knights gave everything they had last time out and very nearly upset Pittsburgh. They still lost though - the type of defeat that can be "deflating." They're 1-3 on the road in 2011. All three losses came by double-digits.
These teams met twice last season. In each case, the home team won by double-digits. The loss at Rutgers was a very costly one for the Red Storm though. They haven't forgotten and I expect another win and cover for the home team here. *10
|02-02-11||Indiana Pacers v. Cleveland Cavaliers +6||Top||117-112||Win||100||9 h 52 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEVELAND. As you know, the Cavaliers have not been a good team this season. In fact, at 8-40, they've got the worst record in the entire league. Everyone else knows they "stink" too though - and as a result many are reluctant to back them. Even "bad" teams can be in good spots for pointspread success though. In this case, I believe the Cavs are offering excellent value.
While everyone knows that the Cavs have been "brutal," many probably don't realize that their home record is actually very nearly identical to Indiana's road record. The Cavs are 5-15 at home. The Pacers are 6-16 on the road. The Cavs have been outscored by 7.3 points at home, an average score of 101 to 93.7. Meanwhile, the Pacers have been outscored by 6.7 points on the road, 101.9 to 95.2.
Yet, despite those nearly identical records, the Pacers are fairly heavy road favorites. In my opinion, that's based more on perception than reality.
True, the Pacers are off a big win and cover. However, that was at home against a depleted Toronto team which has a losing streak almost as long as Cleveland's. Now the Pacers are on the road, where they've gone just 1-7 SU in 2011.
Also, in regards to Indiana's big win over Toronto, note that the Pacers were energized by the coaching change and jumped all over the Raptors - yet they blew a large (48-28) lead and nearly didn't cover. In fact, if the Pacers didn't make a meaningless 3-pointer (teams almost never shoot in that situation, when leading!) with one second left, they wouldn't have covered.
In other words, Pacer backers were very fortunate to win that one by 11. Note that Indiana is an ugly 1-8 SU (2-6-1 ATS) the last nine times it was off a double-digit victory.
Even with the win over Toronto, the Pacers are still 2-7 overall since mid-January. Both wins came at home. The other was against the Nets, a team which is 3-23 on the road.
While Indiana has been fortunate to face a couple of teams which are a combined 8-44 on the road, the Cavs have faced nothing but top tier opponents recently. Five of their last six games have come on the road and their lone home game was vs. a solid Denver squad. Their last four opponents overall have been Miami, Orlando, Denver and Boston. In other words, a home game against the Pacers offers them their best shot at a win in quite some time. That's particularly true with two of their next three again on the road.
Knowing that this should offer their best shot at a victory in some time, the Cavs should be highly motivated to play their best here. Additional motivation comes from the fact that they're already 0-3 against the Pacers this season and will be looking to avoid the series sweep.
Considering that they were favored when they hosted the Pacers earlier in the season (and only getting +5 their first trip to Indiana) I feel that the line is much too high. I'll grab all those generous points but look for the Cavs to step up and finally win one. *10
|02-02-11||Philadelphia 76ers v. New Jersey Nets +2||Top||106-92||Loss||-110||9 h 44 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW JERSEY. These teams are both off big wins over Denver. The 76ers beat the Nuggets by a score of 110-99 on Sunday. The following night, the Nets knocked off the Nuggets by a 115-99 score. While those victories were both impressive, with tonight's game being played at New Jersey, I expect the Nets to have the advantage.
Homecourt advantage is important for almost all teams in the league. That's particularly true for these two teams though. The 76ers are a very solid 15-8 at home. However, they're an ugly 6-18 on the road. On the other hand, the Nets are an awful 3-23 on the road but a respectable 12-11 here at New Jersey.
Yet, despite the Nets' home record being far superior to the 76ers' road record, the 76ers are favored. I feel that provides us with excellent value on what should be a highly motivated home underdog.
True, the 76ers did beat the Nets here earlier. New Jersey is currently playing a lot better now than it was when these teams met here in mid December, at least here at home. In fact, since that 12/14 meeting, the Nets have gone an impressive 8-3 SU/ATS in 11 games here. That includes a 3-0 SU mark their last three games here and a 5-1 SU/ATS mark their last six here. During those six homes, which date back to 1/19, the Nets only loss came by a single point, vs. Dallas on 1/22. Clearly, this is an improved team from the one that hosted the 76ers six weeks ago. Yet, the line is pretty much identical.
Even with the earlier 76ers victory here, the Nets are still 4-1 ATS the last five times that they were a host in this series. Playing with "double-revenge" and playing arguably their best basketball in recent memory, I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-31-11||Texas v. Texas A&M +1.5||Top||69-49||Loss||-110||10 h 22 m||Show|
I'm playing on TEXAS [email protected] Ranked #7 in the country, the Longhorns come in with the higher ranking. They've already beaten the Aggies at home. However, the Aggies are also ranked (#13) and now its their turn to be the host. They've dominated the Longhorns here in recent seasons and I look for them to score the minor upset here this evening.
Including the 81-60 beatdown on Jan. 19th, the Aggies have now lost nine straight games at Texas. However, including a 74-58 victory here last February, they're also a perfect 6-0 the last six times that they faced the Longhorns here at College Station. They dropped 43 on the Longhorns in the second half of last year's game here and have outscored Texas by a 75.8 to 62.2 margin during the 6-game winning streak here.
True, the Longhorns are off a big blowout win while the Aggies are off a loss. However, the Aggies loss came on the road while the Longhorns' win came at home. More importantly, note that the Longhorns are an awful 7-18 ATS the last 25 times that they were off a conference win AND that the Aggies are 11-3 ATS, when off a conference loss, during the same stretch.
The Aggies are also a perfect 8-0 ATS in lined games the past few seasons, after scoring 60 or fewer points in their previous game.
The Aggies are 3-0 SU/ATS the last three times that they were home underdogs of three or fewer points. In fact, they've won 14 straight here overall.
The Aggies haven't forgotten the blowout loss at Texas. As Texas A&M forward Nathan Walkup noted: "We got punked."
The Aggies are 3-1 ATS the last four times that they attempted to avenge a blowout loss of 20 or more points and 9-4 SU the last 13 times that they attempted to avenge an earlier road loss, overall. Its payback time. *10
|01-31-11||Orlando Magic v. Memphis Grizzlies +2||Top||97-100||Win||100||10 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on MEMPHIS. Everyone knows that the Magic are a good team. Many still aren't aware that the Grizzlies are actually also a very solid team. As a result, even though the Magic have the better overall record, the Grizzlies have been a far better team at the betting window. Indeed, the Magic are a money-burning 21-25-1 (45.6%) ATS on the season. On the other hand, the Grizzlies are a profitable 29-18-1 (61.7%) ATS. That includes an excellent 5-1 ATS mark their last six. Given the schedule, situation and venue, I feel the Grizzlies have an excellent shot at improving on those stats this evening. (In fact, I feel they should be the team which is favored here.)
While the Magic may have the better overall record, a closer look reveals that the Grizzlies' home record is actually superior to Orlando's road record. The Magic are an impressive 18-6 at home but they're only a mediocre 13-11 when playing outside of Orlando. That includes an ugly 1-5 SU/ATS mark as road favorites of three or fewer points. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are a poor 10-17 on the road but a very solid 14-7 (13-7-1 ATS) here at Memphis.
Given those home/road records, its no surprise that the Magic won when these teams faced each other at Orlando. That 89-72 Orlando victory occurred way back on 11/15 though and the Grizzlies are in the midst of a 5-game losing streak. Now, as already noted, they're playing much better. Last time out, they erased a large 21-point deficit to beat the 76ers. That should give the Grizzlies both positive momentum and the confidence. Note that they had yesterday off.
The Grizzlies should be extremely motivated here. In addition to the fact that they're playing with "revenge," they have a chance to move above .500 for the first time in months. With a victory tonight, they also know that they can also make Lionel Hollins become the franchise
|01-30-11||Washington v. Washington State +4||Top||80-87||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON STATE. Naturally, as meetings between these two rivals always are, this is a very big game for both these teams. This one is particularly important as both teams are very close to each other, in terms of overall records. The Huskies are 15-4. The Cougars are 14-6. Therefore, both teams should be extremely motivated to earn a victory. The game is arguably more important for the Cougars though. Playing in Pullman, I expect them to have the advantage.
Washington State's coach Ken Bone knows the importance of winning tonight's game and how much it would mean to his program. He was quoted as saying: "I don't think they're going to drop out of the Top 25 or the Top 20 this season. So I think it would be a huge win for our program."
His players also understand how critical this is. Washington State's Klay Thompson commented: "We need this one on our resume." Thompson, who leads the Cougars with 22.2 points per game, should be extremely motivated for a big game - and its good to see him acknowledging the importance of this game. He's struggled against the Huskies in the past and I expect an improved performance from him to help put them over the top.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar knows Thompson has a better supporting cast this season though, which should help to get him more looks than he had in last season's 7-point loss against the Huskies here. Romar was quoted as saying: "They have more weapons. You could kind of key in on Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore last year. Now DeAngelo is playing well on the post and Faisal Aden is scoring - he can go out and score 20, 25 points."
The Cougars did lose their most recent game here. However, that loss came by only two points and their three previous home games ALL resulted in double-digit victories. Note that they're 2-0 SU/ATS in 2011, when off a conference loss.
While Washington is on a roll and is admittedly a very good team, I believe that the Cougars, who have beaten up on some relatively solid non-conference teams like Gonzaga, Portland, Baylor and Mississippi State, are also quite a lot stronger than many realize.
The Cougars, who allow only 58.7 points per game here, are 12-8 ATS the last 20 times that they were listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. I expect them to deliver a highly motivated effort here and look for them to improve on those stats with a strong shot at the outright upset. *10
|01-30-11||New Orleans Hornets v. Phoenix Suns -1.5||Top||102-104||Win||100||9 h 40 m||Show|
I'm playing on PHOENIX. The Suns are a team which has always been able to put up points. Lately, they've started to show that they can also get it done on the other side of the ball. I won with the Suns in their last game. Listed as underdogs, they destroyed Boston by double-digits. The really impressive part was that they held the Celtics to a mere 71 points. That was the fewest points which the Suns had allowed since 2001. Off that superb performance, I expect the Suns to bring both positive momentum and confidence into today's game.
Michael Pietrus, one of five Suns to score in double-digits against the Celtics said this of his new team's defensive play against Boston: "I've heard about how the Suns are soft. That's not going to happen this year. We're not going to be soft. I'm going to make sure when we come out on the floor, we're going to come out hard."
Even with Friday's great defensive effort, the Suns are still allowing 107 points per game, 104.9 here in the desert. However, note that the Hornets are only 7-13 ATS their last 20 games against teams which allow 99 or more points per game. Looking back further finds the Hornets at a money-burning 44-72-1 ATS against teams which allow 99 or more points over the past few seasons.
In addition to having both "confidence" and "momentum," the Suns have the advantage of playing on their home floor. Additionally, they've got the schedule in their favor. While Phoenix had yesterday off, New Orleans played at Sacramento, less than 24 hours ago.
The Suns are 4-1 SU/ATS the last five meetings in this series. They won the last two games here by scores of 120-106 and 124-104. I expect another victory here. *10
|01-29-11||Brigham Young v. New Mexico +3.5||Top||77-86||Win||100||5 h 23 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW MEXICO. BYU comes in on a roll and with an impressive record. Off their biggest win of the season, the Cougars may be ripe for a "letdown" though. Even if they are fully "up" for the game, I expect them to have their hands full.
Admittedly, the Lobos (14-7) haven't yet looked much like the team that had 30 wins last season. They "got back on track" in a big way last time out though, destroying TCU by a score of 71-46. That's the type of victory a team can build positive momentum from and I look for them to do just that.
The fact that the Lobos delivered a "dominant defensive performance" (TCU shot 33.9% and scored 46 points) against the Horned Frogs is noteworthy. The Lobos are 6-1 SU (5-1 ATS) the last seven times that they held their previous opponent to 60 or fewer points.
True, the Lobos did lose their only other game against a ranked team this season, as they lost 87-77 vs. San Diego State a couple of weeks ago. However, keep in mind that they'd previously won five straight against the Associated Press Top 25. They enter this afternoon's game with more confidence and feel that they've got something to prove.
As Drew Gordon, who's coming off a "double-double" noted: "We have a big top-ten team coming in. It's a good chance to test where we are again."
Yes, the Cougars have a bigtime star player in Jimmer Fredette. While he'll surely put up some big numbers, the Lobos should do a better job against him than other teams have recently. He's averaging only 11.8 points in six meetings against the Lobos, although he did score 27 here last January.
Note that even with the win over SD. St. the Cougars are still only 6-9 ATS against winning teams this season. Its also worth mentioning that they're 5-9 ATS the last few seasons when playing a game with an O/U line in the 150s.
While they may not have a (potential) future NBA star like Fredette, the Lobos have some weapons of their own. New Mexico's Dairese Gary averaged 24 points while shooting 59.1 percent in the two game against BYU last season. He's one of four Lobos averaging greater
Speaking of those two games, the Lobos won both of them. Just like this season, BYU had a 20-1 record when it came here last season. The Lobos came away with the upset. Note that both games last season were decided by four or fewer points. With the support of their home crowd and catching BYU off the big win over Sd. State, I look for the Lobos to stun the Cougars once again. *10 MWC GOY
|01-28-11||New York Knicks v. Atlanta Hawks -6.5||Top||102-111||Win||100||9 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on ATLANTA. Give the Knicks some credit for beating Miami last night. They fought hard and "gutted" out a victory. That said, they were playing at home and they were catching Miami without Bosh and with Lebron playing at less than 100%. They were also extremely "motivated" for that game and had talking about how important it was etc. (If you watched, you would have noticed a number of "stars" in attendance and seen that there was some extra excitement in the air.)
Off such a "big" win, I feel that it will be easy for this relatively young team to have an emotional "letdown." However, even if they do manage to put last night's game out of their heads and fully focus on the task at hand, I expect them to be in trouble tonight.
While the Knicks were "leaving everything on the floor," the Hawks had last night off. That should give them a significant advantage. Again, keep in mind that not all "back to back situations" should be viewed equally - and I feel that last night's game will take more out of the Knicks than some other games would have.
Admittedly, the Hawks been a somewhat inconsistent team recently. Some nights, they look like a team capable of beating anyone. Other nights, they seemingly don't show the same kind of intensity. Last time out, they lost by eight at Milwaukee. In their previous game, they won by 16 at Charlotte. Those were both on the road - in their previous road game, they won outright at Miami. However, its the Hawks' last home game which I believe will have a real motivating effect here. That came exactly one week ago, on 1/21. The Hawks were coming off their big win over Miami (sound familiar NY?) and were hosting the Hornets. The had a major letdown and were beaten by a score of 100-59. For a team that prides itself in being tough to beat on this floor, that was an extremely embarrassing loss.
Keep in mind that the Hawks are still a highly impressive 85-30 here in Atlanta, the past few seasons. Indeed, this is not a team which loses by 40+ here very often!
They already beat the Knicks by nine (at NY) in this season's only previous meeting. They jumped all over them in that game and were leading by 10 at the end of the first quarter and by 18 at halftime. Looking to erase last Friday's loss from their home fans' memory, I expect the Hawks to be "ready to go" from the opening tip, once again. *10
|01-27-11||Vanderbilt v. Mississippi State +7||Top||81-74||Push||0||9 h 44 m||Show|
I'm playing on MISSISSIPPI STATE. I won a big play on the Commodores in their last game. Playing at home and playing their final "non-conference" game of the season, they took care of a good St Mary's team, with relative ease. Clearly, this is a very capable team. However, while the Commodores have proven to be extremely tough at home, they've been vulnerable on the road. That said, I expect them to have their hands full the entire way this evening.
All four of Vanderbilt's losses have come on the road. In the Commodores' last road game, they were beaten by three at Tennessee. Prior to that, they lost by eight at South Carolina. (The blew big leads in each of those games.) In fact, they have yet to win an SEC road game. (They also lost at Missouri and lost a neutral court game vs. West Virginia, at Peurto Rico.)
In addition to their "road woes," it should also be noted the Commodores are dealing with some injury issues. Andre Walker has missed 10 of the last 11 with first mononeucleosis and now a sprained ankle. Center Festus Ezeli was limited to 18 minutes with tendinitis in a knee against Saint Mary's. Additionally, Steve Tchiengang played only 13 against St. Mary's due to a sore ankle.
On top of that, starter Brad Tinsley missed practice Tuesday due to an illness that had him at the student health center overnight.
Like their guests, the Bulldogs have had some issues on the road. Last time out, they were thumped at Georgia. They've been much better at home though. In their last game here, they crushed Auburn by 19 points. (Prior to that, they won at Ole Miss.)
After that victory, coach Stansbury said this of his team: "These guys have fought through a lot of things to get themselves just to this point now. Naturally, you learn some things through it, and it's brought some guys together."
While the Commodores have shown that they can put up plenty of points (they're averaging 78.7 per game) the Bulldogs are an outstanding 17-5 ATS the past few seasons, when facing a team which scores 77 or more points per game.
The Bulldogs are also 3-0 ATS the last three times that they were listed as home underdogs in the +6.5 to +9 range. Even with the loss at Georgia, they've got a renewed sense of confidence from the two previous wins. I expect Stansbury to his team ready to go and look for them to improve on their stats as home underdogs of this size. *10
|01-26-11||Orlando Magic v. Indiana Pacers +6||Top||111-96||Loss||-115||9 h 39 m||Show|
I'm playing on INDIANA. The Pacers narrowly earned the cover, when these teams met here in November. Getting +4.5 or +5 points, Indiana lost by four. Much has changed since that 11/20 meeting. However, I feel that value lies with the Pacers once again.
Its true that the Pacers have struggled lately - they've lost five in a row. Those struggles have helped to drive this line higher, providing us with some extra value.
However, a closer look reveals that the Pacers' recent problems have come primarily on the road, as have each of their last four losses. While they haven't been "spectacular" here, they have been relatively solid - at least much better than they've been on the road. They've alternated home wins and losses in 2011 and have won six of their 11 home games, since the beginning of December. They're 8-6-1 ATS their last 15 games here, including 3-1 ATS the last four.
While the Pacers are 8-7 SU and 8-6-1 ATS here since mid-November, a closer look shows that three of the losses (incl. the one vs. Orlando) came by four or fewer points. In other words, they would have been 11-4 ATS, if getting at least +5 to work with in those games.
While they went on a great run through the holidays, the Magic haven't been all that impressive the past couple of weeks. They're 4-4 SU (3-4-1 ATS) since 1/12 and three of the four victories were by single-digits, two by six or fewer points. Note that six of their last eight games have been decided by seven or fewer points.
In their last game, laying -12 points, the Magic were defeated by Detroit. Many might automatically assume that an "elite" team like Orlando would respond well to that type of "embarrassment." However, that's not the case. The last 10 times that they were coming off an "upset," loss, the Magic have gone an ugly 2-8 ATS, winning only three of those games SU.
Including the earlier cover, the Pacers are 6-2-2 ATS the last 10 times that they were a host in this series. Desperate to get back in track, I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-26-11||Villanova v. Providence +6||Top||68-83||Win||100||7 h 57 m||Show|
I'm playing on PROVIDENCE. The Wildcats have on a terrific roll and they were very impressive on Saturday. After a rare loss (at UConn) they bounced back and destroyed the Orange, at Syracuse. That has everyone talking about how good the Wildcats are. In fact, after that game, my assistant even got an email asking if Ben thought the Wildcats were a good "futures" bet. While I do really respect Villanova, I also feel that all that recent "hype" has caused this evening's line to become inflated.
Perhaps more importantly, I also feel that this will prove to be a very difficult scheduling spot. Not only are they off the huge win at Syracuse, potentially cause for a "letdown" all by itself, but they're also now playing their third straight road game - the first time that they have done so all season. Additionally, they've got a huge showdown vs. Georgetown on deck. Having just played UConn and Syracuse and with Georgetown (followed by Marquette and WVU) on deck, it should be easy to get caught looking past Providence.
That will prove costly though, as the Friars are very capable at home. Just ask Louisville. Last game here, getting five points, the Friars knocked off Louisville. In their previous game here, getting +5.5 points, the Friars lost by four vs. Pittsburgh.
Overall, the Friars are 6-3 ATS in home lined games and they're 4-2 ATS as underdogs. The last meeting between these teams on this floor was decided by three points, a 94-91 Villanova victory. I won't be surprised if this one also comes down to the wire and am grabbing all those generous points. *10
|01-25-11||Auburn v. Arkansas -14.5||Top||64-73||Loss||-110||10 h 45 m||Show|
I'm playing on ARKANSAS. At first glance this spread seems quite high. However, given the talent difference between the teams, I feel that it could easily be higher.
While Auburn checks in at 7-12, Arkansas is 12-6. The Tigers are 0-3 on the road, 0-4 if counting neutral court games. They were outscored by a 71.7 to 55.7 margin in those games. They're 0-5 in conference play, getting outscored by a 67.6 to 54.6 margin.
Like its guests, Arkansas is also winless in its "true" road games. However, they're an outstanding 12-2 in home/neutral court games. They've outscored opponents by a 77.8 to 61.4 margin here.
While the Razorbacks haven't always been a great favorite, they've been solid as home favorites of size. They're 6-3-2 ATS (11-0 SU) the last 11 times that they were home favorites in the -12.5 to -15 range.
With an O/U line in the high 120s, its also worth noting that the Razorbacks are a profitable 6-1 ATS (7-0 SU) the last seven times that they played a home game with an O/U line in the 120s.
Off an ugly performance at Florida on Saturday, which saw them score a season-low 49 points, the Razorbacks should be extremely motivated to lay a beating on someone. That's particularly true with another tough road game (Vanderbilt) on deck. The Razorbacks are already 2-0 SU/ATS this season, after scoring 60 or fewer points in their last game, defeating the likes of Tennessee and Alabama in those games. I expect them to bounce back with another win and cover here. *10
|01-24-11||Washington Wizards +7.5 v. New York Knicks||Top||106-115||Loss||-110||9 h 35 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON. I won with the Wizards in their last game, an impressive upset victory over Boston. I've won with them a few times this season, while also winning by going against them. In each case, I played on them at home while playing against them on the road. With the Wizards on the road this evening, many will probably assume that I'll be going against them here. That's not the case though.
By now, its no secret that the Wizards have been pretty bad (ok, terrible) on the road. In fact, most know that they still haven't even won a game away from Washington. As a result, very few will be willing to back them away from Washington. The oddsmakers know this and are forced to make the number extra high, to try and balance things out. Given the current play of the two teams, even given the venue, I feel that's providing us with excellent value on the underdogs.
The Wizards have now won three of their last five and five of their last eight. While that success has come at home, it eventually has to be "contagious" and make its way on to the road. Note that the Wizards have been close in a number of road games and that they've faded in the second half or fourth quarter. (I played against them in their last road game and that was the case.) Saturday's victory over Boston was the type of win that a young team can really build momentum from though.
The veteran Celtics jumped all over the Wizards right out of the gate. Off a loss vs. the Suns the previous night, the Wizards could have easily folded. They didn't though. Rather, they took the Celtics' "initial flurry of punches," fought back and scored the "upset." The Celts are an elite team and I expect that comeback win to give the Wizards plenty of confidence tonight, even if they're not in their own building.
Unlike their guests, the Knicks aren't currently playing well. In fact, they've lost six straight games. Yet, here they are laying a very big number, due to Washington's road record. Given the Knicks' current level of play, I feel that's asking far too much.
Note that New York is only 5-11 ATS the last 16 times it was a home favorites in the -6.5 to -9 range. That includes a money-burning 1-5 ATS mark its last six in that role.
The Wizards play with "double-revenge," as the Knicks have beaten them in both this season's meetings, most recently a 6-point NY win at Washington on 12/10. Note that the Wizards, who led that game in the second half, are 6-2 ATS the last eight times that they attempted to avenge a home loss.
Even as I've played against them on the road over the season, I've noted things like "the Wizards will eventually win one on the road, it just won't be tonight." Well, tonight's the night that I think they just might break the goose egg. At the very least, I expect a highly motivated effort, leading to at least another cover. *10
|01-24-11||Memphis Grizzlies v. Toronto Raptors +4||Top||100-98||Win||100||8 h 15 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. The Raptors are off back to back blowout losses and have now dropped seven straight games. The last five of those came on the road though and the first three losses came by an average of only five points, all by single-digits. It wasn't until the end of the trip, when they were taking on the likes of Orlando and Miami, that they "wore down" and were blown out. They're back home though and have had a day off to "recharge" their batteries, if only partially. I expect a far better performance.
Despite their recent losing streak, the Raptors are still not of striking distance for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
That said, they know this is a critical stretch for them. They've got some "winnable" games coming up and this is one of them.
True, the Raptors are dealing with several injury problems (many teams are) and its also true that Memphis should enjoy an advantage "in the paint." The Grizzlies have that advantage against most teams though (and they're still only 8-16 on the road) and the Raptors have the ability to beat them on the fast-break and from the outside.
While the final score at Miami was a "lopsided" one, note that the Raptors showed a lot of heart. Down 26 points, they battled all the way back to trim the lead to seven points, with six minutes to play.
Coach Jay Triano noted: "I give our guys credit because there
|01-24-11||William Mary v. Northeastern -4.5||Top||67-70||Loss||-110||8 h 53 m||Show|
I'm playing on NORTHEASTERN. Losers of nine straight games, the Huskies desperately need a victory. I feel that William and Mary will prove to be the perfect opponent to get one.
There's no question that the Huskies are "rebuilding" this year and that they're going to have trouble competing with the "heavyweights" in the Colonial Athletic Conference. However, they should be able to earn some victories over the league's lesser opponents, one of whom they'll host tonight.
Yes, the Huskies have been struggling and are on a big losing streak. However, in fairness, a look at their last seven games shows that they came against the TOP seven teams (in terms of current standings) in their conference. Also, five of those games, including each of the last three, came on the road. With another road game on deck, its imperative to take advantage of this rare "winnable" game.
Note that William and Mary is 1-8 SU on the road, 1-6 in lined games. The Tribe were outscored by a 71-61 margin in those games. Looking back further finds them at a dismal 37-122 their last 159 road lined games. Clearly, this team has a history of trouble winning away from home.
Note that the Tribe are 8-15 ATS the last 23 times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range.
While they were beaten by two points on a neutral floor (when listed as the home team) last March, he Huskies have dominated The Tribe on this floor. In three meetings here, since 2006, they've gone 3-0 SU/ATS. They won those games by 15, 9 and 16 points.
Northeastern coach Bill Coen recently said this of his team: "I'm proud of our kids' resolve," he said. "We lost some tough games this year. We're not where we want to be. Our kids are still fighting and trying to learn and that's important." Coen knows his "kids" need a victory to help them start "getting to be where they want to be." I expect them to be ready to go from the opening tip, continuing their homecourt dominance in this series. *10
|01-23-11||NY Jets v. Pittsburgh Steelers -3||Top||19-24||Win||100||160 h 6 m||Show|
I'm playing on PITTSBURGH. Both teams are off an impressive victories. The Steelers looked down and out but showed an ability to come from behind and fought all the way back to knock off a good Baltimore team. The Jets were also impressive, they avenged an earlier blowout loss and knocked off the mighty Patriots.
Some will argue that the Jets were more impressive last week. While that may be true, I also feel that their game will take a bigger toll. Obviously, they absolutely want to win here and advance to the Superbowl. However, when their coach called last week's game "the second biggest game in Jets history," and when they made such a big deal about it, a small "letdown" is only natural.
Even if they lose here, the Jets can still be somewhat pleased with themselves. They weren't supposed to beat the Pats and they did. They celebrated like they'd never been here before. On the other hand, the Steelers expected to be here. Anything short of a victory here is a major disappointment.
The Jets have proven that they can win in a hostile environment. They haven't faced a defense like this one in these playoffs though . This will be their third straight road game. That might not be so bad if it wasn't also their fifth road game in the past six weeks.
The Steelers, on the other hand, are playing at home for the second straight week. Prior to that, they had a bye. Before that, they'd played three of four here at home and the lone road game was only at Cleveland. They also played last Saturday, while the Jets played on Sunday. An extra day doesn't sound like much - but it can be helpful at this time of year.
The Jets did beat the Steelers here in the regular season. However, they know first-hand that regular season results often differ from playoff ones. After all, they'd been absolutely destroyed by the Pats in their previous trip here. The two teams in the NFC Championship also provided us with examples that reg. season head-to-head results don't always mean much. The Packers lost at Atlanta in the regular season but won huge there in the playoffs. The Bears were beaten by the Seahawks, at Chicago, during the regular season. Yet, they beat them convincingly in the playoffs.
Also, if you remember the earlier meeting, the Jets scored a 97-yard TD on the opening kickoff. Take that away and it could easily have been a different result. Note that the Steelers outgained them by a 378-276 margin in total yards.
It should also be noted that the Steelers have been dominant in the 'revenge' role. Playing in front of the home fans, I expect them to avenge the earlier loss, covering the small number along the way. *10
|01-23-11||Green Bay Packers -3 v. Chicago Bears||Top||21-14||Win||100||157 h 53 m||Show|
I'm playing on GREEN BAY. I respect the Bears and enjoyed last week's win over Seattle. I also respect the fact that they're playing at home and that they're the division champions. That said, I believe that the Packers are currently the "stronger" team.
While the Bears did have the better regular season record, statistically, Green Bay was better on both sides of the ball. The Packers scored 54 more points than the Bears and they also allowed 46 fewer. Additionally, while Chicago's win vs. Seattle was impressive, the Packers victory at Atlanta was even more so. Keep in mind that the Falcons practically never lose at home and that the Packers went in there and destroyed them.
The Packers have dealt with a ton of injury problems this season and it seemingly only made them stronger. They're healthier now and clicking on all cylinders.
With playoff victories at a pair of extremely difficult venues, Philadelphia and Atlanta, they've shown that they're fully capable of winning of winning anywhere. Unlike the Seahawks, they won't be bothered by any potentially nasty Chicago weather.
I also like the fact that the Packers played on Saturday last week, while the Bears played on Sunday. An extra day doesn't sound like much - but it can be helpful - particularly for a team which has been involved in a number of big road games.
I respect Lovie Smith but I like Mike McCarthy even more. With Mike Martz on board, I also think the Bears are more likely to make a potentially costly play-calling error. Remember last week's gem? Up 28-3 in the fourth quarter and with no reason to throw the ball, the Bears decided to throw a pass - with their running back. Of course, it was picked off and it ended up giving the Seahawks life when they previously had none.
I respect the Cutler. However, I believe Rodgers is even better. When I played on the Packers against the Eagles, I said that "I'll take Rodgers over Vick." The same goes here. He's playing as well (or arguably better) than any QB in the league.
Yes, the Bears won by three points when the teams met here back in September. (That result worked just fine with me as I had a big play on the 'under' 45.5 points.) However, that easily could have gone the other way. The Packers had a commanding 379 to 276 edge in total yards. They ran far more plays and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes, to Chicago's 24. In other words, the Bears were somewhat fortunate.
Even with the "close loss" here in September, the Packers are still an outstanding 14-5 SU (13-6 ATS) their last 19 games here. They've been playing at a very high level on both sides of the ball and I look for them to get it done here once again. *10
|01-22-11||Boston Celtics v. Washington Wizards +7.5||Top||83-85||Win||100||8 h 23 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON. Both teams played last night. The Celtics won with ease against Utah. The Wizards were blown out by Phoenix. Off last night's results, many will be hesitant to back the home underdog here. That's worked in our favor as an already "generous" line has started to climb even favor. Perhaps more importantly, I expect last night's results to help make the Wizards the slightly "hungrier" team.
The Celtics are on a roll. They just crushed a good Western Conference team last night and they already beat the Wizards by double-digits this season. As a result, it should be easy for them to take tonight's game a little "lightly."
On the other hand, the Wizards should be motivated to bounce back with a big performance. While they still haven't found that elusive first road victory, prior to last night, they'd been really "rolling" at home.
Even with last night's loss, the Wizards still have a respectable (winning) record here on the season and they've still won four of their last five here. Recent comments (before yesterday's loss) show how much better the Wizards feel here at home. They'll be anxious to get that "feeling" back immediately.
Washington's Andray Blatche recently said this of his team: "When we're home, we have so much more energy and focus. When we're away, we're in the game into the fourth quarter and we lose that focus..."
Washington's John wall had similar thoughts: "At home, we've got so much energy and extra bounce in our step on defense. On the road, it
|01-22-11||Detroit -4.5 v. Youngstown State||Top||73-69||Loss||-110||8 h 20 m||Show|
I'm playing on DETROIT. While I don't regularly lay points on the road, I believe that there's a big difference in class (and size) between these teams. The Penguins were the worst team in the Horizon League last season, finishing 2-16. Off to a 1-7 start in Horizon League play, they may be even worse this season. Their lone conference win so far came by two points against Illinois-Chicago, a team as bad as they are.
A few recent losses notwithstanding, the Titans are a far more talented team. Detroit was a 20 win team last season, finishing 9-9 in Horizon League play. The Titans had arugably even better talent than that record though and they're determined to challenge the top teams in the conference this season. That hasn't happened for them yet though, as they've lost three straight. Those losses came against the three teams (Butler, Clev. State, Valparaiso) which are currently #1, #2 and #3 in the conference standings. Naturally, this is a major step down in class. With two more road games on deck after this, they can't afford another slip up here.
It should be noted that the Titans have a major size advantage. The tallest players in Youngstown State's regular rotation are 6-foot-8 Dan Boudler and 6-7 Damian Eargle. By comparison, Detroit has a huge frontcourt with the likes of 6-11 LaMarcus Lowe, 6-10 Eli Holman and 6-8 Nick Minnerath.
Both teams have had some recent struggles. The Titans have the talent to break out of it though, while the Penguins' struggles are likely to continue the rest of the season. The Titans are 2-0 SU/ATS here the past two seasons, including an 8-point win here last year. Desperate for a victory and with a number of matchup advantages, I look for another Detroit win and cover here. *10
|01-22-11||St Mary's CA v. Vanderbilt -4.5||Top||70-89||Win||100||3 h 21 m||Show|
I'm playing on VANDERBILT. I really like how this one sets up for the home team. The Commodores are 0-4 ATS in their last four games. That's helped to provide us with some added line value. A closer look shows that two of those ATS losses were on the road, at South Carolina and Tennessee. The other two were at home. In each of those cases, the Commodores won the game SU but narrowly failed to cover. They beat Georgia by seven, when laying -8.5 and they beat Ole Miss by 10, when laying -10.5. In other words, in each case, they were a bucket away from covering.
Lets not forget that the Commodores are 100% perfect at home this season.
The fact that they beat Ole Miss by 10 last time out gives the Commodores some momentum here. Their next game is a "conference" game, but it comes against Miss. State, a team from the SEC West, which isn't exactly an "archrival." So, there should be "looking ahead." Rather, they should be extremely "fired up" at the chance to host a Top 25 team, particularly as the Gaels are the last non-conference opponent that they'll face the entire regular season.
We know St. Mary's tends to fare well outside of its conference. Vanderbilt isn't too shabby in that department either. In fact, the Commodores are 11-2 SU and 7-2 ATS against non-conf. foes already this season. Also, note that Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings has an outstanding 103-8 record in home non-conference games.
Obviously, St. Mary's would love to come in here and knock off a team from the SEC. They know a win here would gain them a lot of recognition and that it would go a long way in wrapping up an invitation to the Big Dance. However, unlike their hosts, the Gaels could also easily get caught looking ahead. That's because they've got a huge showdown at Gonzaga on deck. That's followed by a game at Portland. Currently, St. Mary's is on top of the West Coast Conference with Portland and Gonzaga at #2 and #3. Naturally, those will both be very "big" games.
While the Gaels have been on an impressive run, its come largely against mediocre/weak opposition. In fact, they've been favored by more than eight points in every single one of their games since 12/1. They've only lost twice all season - those games both came away from home - the last two times that they weren't heavy favorites. They lost by 14 at San Diego State and by one in a neutral court game vs. BYU. While there's no real "shame" in either of those losses (both BYU and SD. St. are in the Top 10) the point is that the Gaels aren't unbeatable away from home.
Did you know that St. Marry's is only 5-10-1 ATS (4-12 SU) the last 16 times it was a road underdog in the +3.5 to +6 range?
While they narrowly missed covering, I like what I saw from the Commodores down the stretch in their last game, against Ole Miss. After struggling in the second half of their first three SEC games, the Commodores finally got it done in the second half vs. the Rebels. Vanderbilt outscored the Rebels by a 45-32 margin in the second half, outrebounding them 24-13.
The Commodores, 2-1 against ranked teams, have won 20 consecutive non-conference games here at Memorial Gym. They're also 24-4 SU and 16-9 ATS the last 28 times that they scored 80 or more in their previous game. I expect them to build some positive momentum from the big second half against Ole Miss and for them to keep that streak in tact with a solid win and cover here. *10
|01-21-11||Houston Rockets v. Memphis Grizzlies -3.5||Top||110-115||Win||100||19 h 56 m||Show|
I'm playing on MEMPHIS. The Rockets have been playing well of late and bring a 3-game winning streak into tonight's game. That's helped to provide us with a very low number on the home team. I feel that it will prove to be too low.
Note that the Rockets are a money-burning 9-16 ATS the last 25 times that they'd won their previous three games.
Homecourt is very important to both these teams. The Rockets are 12-9 at home but only 8-14 on the road. There's been an even bigger disparity for Memphis. The Grizzlies are an ugly 7-16 on the road. However, they're an impressive 12-7 here at Memphis.
While they Grizzlies are off back to back losses, the latest of those came by only one point, in OT. Additionally, they'd won five of their previous seven games. Note that they've beaten the likes of the LA Lakers, Oklahoma City, Utah and Dallas.
Despite losing both this season's meetings with the Rockets, a high-scoring and "defensively-challenged" team, the Grizzlies are still a profitable 15-7 ATS against teams which score 99 or more points per game.
The Grizzlies are also a lucrative 14-8-1 ATS when playing with 'revenge' from an earlier loss. Knowing that the Rockets are directly ahead of them in the Western Conf. playoff race and playing with "double-revenge," I expect the "highly motivated" Grizzlies to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-21-11||Phoenix Suns v. Washington Wizards -1||Top||109-91||Loss||-105||18 h 41 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON. I successfully played "against" the Wizards in their last game. They lost by 13 against the Bucks. In their previous game, I successfully played "on" the Wizards. Listed as underdogs vs. Utah, they led the entire way and won by seven.
So, why play ON the Wizards one game and AGAINST them the next? Well, I had other reasons - but the most important reason was the venue. When I played against the Wizards, they were on the road, at Milwaukee. When I played on them, they were at home, hosting the Jazz. Homecourt is always significant. However, that's particularly been the case for the Wizards, arguably more so than for any other team.
For the season, the Wizards are now 0-20 SU on the road. That's resulted in an awful 4-16 record at the betting window. Each of their last four road losses has come by double-digits.
Recent games here at Washington have been a different story though. I already mentioned they beat the Jazz in their last game here - arguably a better team than the one they'll face today. A closer look reveals that they've now won four straight games here. Looking back further shows that they've won five of six here and 12 of 20 on the season.
Prior to the loss at Milwaukee, Washington's Andray Blatche said this of his team: "When we're home, we have so much more energy and focus. When we're away, we're in the game into the fourth quarter and we lose that focus..."
After the loss at Milwaukee, Washington's John wall commented: "At home, we've got so much energy and extra bounce in our step on defense. On the road, it
|01-21-11||Wisconsin-Milwaukee +9 v. Valparaiso||Top||43-60||Loss||-105||9 h 43 m||Show|
I'm playing on WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE. While Valparaiso has gotten off to the better start, I believe these teams are quite evenly matched. That being the case, I feel this line is generously high.
Yes, the Crusaders have been playing well. In fact, they're #1 in the Horizon League at the moment and their only conference loss came on the road at Butler. The Panthers believe that they can beat this team though and they know this is a golden opportunity to gain some important ground.
Keep in mind that the Panthers hammered Butler by 24 points, 76-52, ending the Bulldogs' Horizon League record 22-game winning streak. In other words, this Wisconsin-Milwaukee team is capable of defeating any team in the conference.
The Panthers are off a tough 6-point loss in their last game, one which they could have easily won. They've had plenty of time to "recover" though, as the game was on 1/15. Their previous game resulted in a 12-point victory. Note that they're 3-1 ATS the last four times that they played with five or six day's rest. During that stretch, they've also gone 10-6 ATS when coming off a conference loss.
It should also be mentioned that the Panthers are in one of their best roles here. They're 12-7 ATS the last 19 times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +9.5 to +12 range and that includes a perfect 4-0 ATS mark their last four in that situation.
Overall, the Panthers are 3-2 in 2011 and both their losses came by six points or less. Both their 2011 road games were very close, a 3-point win at Detroit and a 5-point loss at Green Bay.
Speaking of close games, fans of the Horizon League may recall that these teams played a couple of "thrillers" against each other last season. The Panthers won 85-82 when the teams met at Milwaukee. They won that one by hitting a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left. The game here at Valparaiso was even closer. The Crusaders won that one by a single point (55-54) thanks to a steal and layin by Brandon McPherson with 0.9 seconds left. I feel that this one could also easily "come down to the wire" and will gladly grab all the points that I can get. *10
|01-20-11||Gonzaga v. Santa Clara +8.5||Top||71-85||Win||100||10 h 4 m||Show|
I'm playing on SANTA CLARA. I feel that this line is too high. The Broncos were blown out in their last game. That was on the road (at St. Mary's) though. They've been far more competitive at home and I expect them to bounce back with a big effort.
Note that the Broncos are a profitable 12-7 SU/ATS the past few seasons when coming off a conference loss. After this season's previous conference loss, they responded with a solid win and cover in their next game. None of their home losses have come by greater than 11 points.
Gonzaga, on the other hand, has gone a fairly poor 13-15 ATS the past few seasons, when coming off a conference victory.
The Bulldogs have had some impressive blowout victories on their home floor. However, a look at their road and/or neutral court wins show that NONE have come by more than 10 points. They have one 10-point win, a 4-point win, a 4-point loss, a 22-point loss, a 3-point win and a 17-point loss. Granted, many of those games were against elite teams. However, the point is that they haven't yet shown an ability to go on the road and crush a team.
Interestingly, note that the Broncos and Bulldogs did have a non-conference opponent, as they both lost against Washington State. Gonzaga lost against the cougars by 22 points. Santa Clara lost against them by only six.
The Bulldogs are 1-4-1 ATS the last six times that they were road favorites in the -9.5 to -12 range. During that stretch, the Broncos were 2-0 ATS as home underdogs in the +9.5 to +12 range.
Last January, the Bulldogs came in here and were laying -12 points. The Broncos game them all they could handle and let almost the entire way. Santa Clara had a 38-33 halftime lead and was up by double-digits in the second half. The Broncos eventually lost by seven. I look for them to earn at least another cover here. *10
|01-19-11||Iowa v. Ohio State -19.5||Top||48-70||Win||100||8 h 0 m||Show|
I'm playing on OHIO STATE. At first glance, this line seems rather high. After all, Iowa usually fields a competitive team and the Buckeyes have been involved in a number of close games lately. However, I believe the line could easily be higher. Lets take a closer look.
True, Iowa has had some solid teams in the past. However, this year's team doesn't currently fall into that category. The Hawkeyes are 7-10 overall. Some of those wins have come against really weak opposition too. Iowa fans probably figured something was wrong when the Hawkeyes began the season with a double-digit loss vs. S. Dakota State.
More recently, since blowing out a fairly weak LA Tech team on 12/21, the Hawkeyes have lost five straight games, all in conference play. Four of those losses came by double-digits, including both on the road. Two losses came by 19 or more, including a 23 point loss at Purdue. Their average halftime deficit was by greater than 15 points. Coincidentally, their only "competitive loss" came against these same Buckeyes, a 5-point Ohio State win on 1/4.
The Buckeyes have failed to cover four straight. That's helped to keep the line a little lower than it could have been. This is still a team fully capable of winning in "blowout" fashion though and with tougher games (at Illinois and vs. Purdue) on deck, I expect them to be "all business" from the opening tip here.
Keep in mind that before their recent 4-game "poinstpread skid," the Buckeyes had been on a 4-0 ATS (5-0 SU) run, winning those five games by an average of 33.2 points per game.
Coach Thad Matta said this of his team's #1 ranking: "I'd trade (the No. 1 ranking) right now for better defense." He knows his team needs to improve and I expect a dominant defensive effort here. Matta also knows that his team was the only one not to blow out the Hawkeyes - a fact that he'll surely make his players aware of. The Buckeyes should "keep the pedal to the metal" the whole way.
Ohio State has beaten Iowa five straight times and seven of eight, including five consecutive victories in Columbus. While the last one here came by "only" 10 points, I look for this one to come by more than 20. *10
|01-18-11||Tennessee +4 v. Georgia||Top||59-57||Win||100||8 h 58 m||Show|
I'm playing on TENNESSEE. The Bulldogs have been on a nice roll and are off an impressive win at Ole Miss. I feel this will be a tough spot for them. For starters, they're facing a talented and hungry opponent, one which has dominated them over the years. Additionally, this is the Bulldogs' first game back home after last week's weather (snow and ice) kept them on the road for five days. They've been home for a couple of days now, but could easily have spent part of the past couple of days telling stories about their "adventure." (They drove roughly 550 miles on the bus.)
While I feel that the Bulldogs' "first game back from an adventure" may be challenging, I really like how this one sets up for the Volunteers. Admittedly, Tennessee has been somewhat inconsistent at times so far this season. They're off a "momentum-building" victory over a good Vanderbilt team though, a game which saw them fight back from a 17 point deficit. That's the type of victory this team needed and I look for them to build off it.
Don't underestimate this team. The Vols are always dangerous and that's still the case. They won seven in a row to start the season, including victories over the likes of Missouri State, Virginia Commonwealth, Villanova and Pittsburgh. They did lose their last road game (at Arkansas) but that came by only three points.
True, the Vols will be without Coach Bruce Pearl. He's currently serving a suspension and didn't make the trip here. Pearl will definitely have reminded his team what happened here last season though. The Vols came in, ranked #8 in the country, and were beaten by double-digits. Don't think that they can't win here though. Prior to that, the Vols had won 10 straight in the series. Also, they followed up that loss with a 9-point win at Tennessee.
Looking back further and we find that the Vols are 14-4 SU and 13-5 ATS the last 18 meetings in the series.
The Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS they're last five as favorites and they're 2-3 ATS their last five as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. They're also 3-7 ATS (0-10 SU!) the last 10 times that they were off a victory over a conference opponent.
The Vols are 2-0 ATS as underdogs, both wins came in outright fashion. They won at Pittsburgh and they beat Villanova at MSG. I'll gladly grab as many points as I can get, but I look for another outright "upset" here. *10
|01-17-11||Toronto Raptors +8.5 v. New Orleans Hornets||Top||81-85||Win||100||5 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. The Hornets are on a winning streak and they have a solid record at home. Those factors have helped lead to quite a large line this afternoon. I believe that its too high.
Both teams have been involved in a number of close games recently. New Orleans has seen seven straight games decided by single-digits. Six of those were decided by seven or less. Meanwhile, Toronto has seen four straight games decided by six or fewer points.
While the Hornets are an impressive 15-5 at home, they've only outscored opponents by an average of 5.5 points here.
While the Raptors are an equally unimpressive 5-15 on the road, they've only been outscored by an average of 6.4 points away from Toronto.
The Raptors generally have no trouble scoring points. They're averaging greater than 100 points per game, both at home and on the road. Defense is their problem, as they allow 104.9 points per game. The Hornets don't dominate poor/mediocre defensive teams the way that one might expect though. In fact, the opposite is true - at least from an "ATS" perspective.
New Orleans is an awful 43-70-1 ATS the past few seasons against teams which allow 99 or more points per game. That's just 38%. That includes a 6-11 ATS mark this season.
Given those stats, its not all that surprising to learn that the Raptors were 2-0 ATS in this series last season. In fact, they won both games outright, including a 17-point victory (as +4.5 point underdogs) here at New Orleans.
While the Raptors overall record admittedly isn't that good, they still aren't far out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Despite dealing with some injuries, they're playing hard right now (better than their record indicates) and I expect them to give their hosts all that they can handle. *10
|01-16-11||Butler v. Wright State +5||Top||64-69||Win||100||8 h 51 m||Show|
I'm playing on WRIGHT STATE. I've had a good handle on the Bulldogs for some time and they were really good to me down the stretch last season. I successfully played on the 'under' when they faced these same Wright State Raiders in the Horizon Conference Tourney Finals (Butler allowed only 45 points!) and proceeded to ride them the entire tournament. I had them against UTEP, Syracuse, Kansas State AND Michigan State. (I also stayed off them in their only tournament ATS loss, a 2-point win as a -4.5 pt favorite.) I then won with the Bulldogs/Blue Devils 'under' in the final.
While I still really respect the Bulldogs and as good as they were to me last season, I feel that they're over-valued here. They've still got some excellent talent and are still very well-coached. However, this isn't the same team as last season. Not without Gordon Hayward (and Willie Veasley.) They should still win their conference but I certainly don't anticipate another trip to the Final 4.
Last year is fresh in everyone's memories still though and the Bulldogs' lines are starting to creep higher and higher. That's particularly true with them coming off a blowout win over Detroit on Friday. Give them credit for an excellent game. However, note that Detroit, which was playing without its center (Eli Holman was serving a 1-game suspension) played them equally for the second half
Granted, like Butler, Wright State also suffered some losses from last season. They were a 20 win team last season though (2nd best in the Horizon) and still have plenty of talent.
It helps that senior N'Gai Evans has developed into one of the conference's top point guards. Loyola coach Jim Whitesell recently said this of him to the Dayton Daily News: "Look where he's at. He's definitely a guard that really controls the tempo, takes care of it, makes breakdown plays, can shoot the basketball. He probably wasn't a great shooter when he got to Wright State, but he worked on it and he's done a nice job."
The Raiders are also highly motivated for some payback, after the way the Bulldogs embarrassed them in last year's tournament.
The Raiders did lose 71-60 on Friday. They may have been caught looking ahead to this one though. Prior to that they'd won four straight and eight of their last nine games. (The lone loss came on the road and was by only 4 points.) Also, note that they're 10-3 SU the last 13 times that they were off a conference loss and 18-7 SU (14-7 ATS in lined games) after scoring 60 or less in their previous game.
The Raiders are also 9-5 ATS the last 14 times that they were listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. Note that all nine pointspread wins also resulted in SU wins. I'll grab all the points they're offering and won't be surprised by another outright upset. *10
|01-16-11||Seattle Seahawks v. Chicago Bears -10||Top||24-35||Win||100||141 h 15 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHICAGO. While I successfully rode the Saints last year, I had the Seahawks in last weekend's upset win. I also had them when they beat the Rams the previous week, in order to even qualify for the playoffs. Therefore, I'm not shocked that they knocked off the defending champs and made it this far. Give the Hawks credit, they came to win and they played hard the entire way. I expect their "magical run" to hit a brick wall on Sunday afternoon though.
As pointed out each of the last two weeks (and several times throughout the year) the Hawks are an entirely different team when they play at Seattle. They've got very passionate fans and that helps give them a strong homefield advantage. Additionally, being on the West Coast, they get to catch most teams after they traveled from a large distance. Last week, I noted that playing on the West Coast, on a short week" (Seatte/NO was played on Saturday) was going to be difficult for the Saints.
This week, however, the Hawks are on the road. As noted, the road has not been kind to them. They were 2-6 SU/ATS away from Seattle this season. They're now an awful 7-17 ATS (5-19 SU) away from Seattle, the past few seasons.
This week, while they have had an extra day's worth of rest (due to playing on Saturday last week) they're up against a very well-rested Chicago team AND they're playing an EARLY game in the Eastern Time Zone. Keep in mind that 1pm EST = 10am PST.
Looking at the Hawks' last three road games and we find that they lost by scores of 38-15, 40-21 and 34-19. In fact, ALL six of their road losses came by double-digits. Their other three road losses came by scores of 31-14, 20-3 and 33-3. Those three were against some pretty mediocre (at best) competition too, as they came vs. Denver, St. Louis and Oakland - three teams which failed to make the playoffs.
One of Seattle's road wins came at Arizona, one of the weaker teams in the league. The other came right here at Chicago, a 23-20 victory back on 10/17.
While some may think that result gives Seattle an advantage, the Hawks know first hand that regular season success against an opponent doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot, during the playoffs. After all, Seattle was blown out by New Orleans during the regular season.
Note that the Bears have won seven of their last 10, when facing an opponent which defeated them in the previous meeting, incl. 2-0 SU/ATS their last two in that situation this season.
Even with the earlier win here and last week's upset, the Seahawks are still just 3-5 SU/ATS against teams with a winning record. They're now an awful 6-15-1 ATS (4-18 SU) their last 22 against winning teams.
The Bears have quietly played very well down the stretch. They were 7-2 since the beginning of November. One loss came vs. the Patriots and the other loss came at Green Bay, when the Bears had clinched the division the Packers were in a "must win" spot.
The Seahawks can already hang their heads high. No matter what happens here, they've over-achieved and will be heroes to most their home fans. On the other hand, anything less than victory will be considered a major disappointment in Chicago. I expect the Bears to deliver that victory for the home fans, doing so in convincing fashion. *10
|01-15-11||Georgia v. Mississippi -4||Top||98-76||Loss||-110||15 h 59 m||Show|
I'm playing on MISSISSIPPI. I really like how this one sets up for the home team. The Rebels are off back to back losses and have started SEC play with an 0-2 record. That has worked in our favor in a couple of ways. For starters, its helped us in terms of line value. Additionally, it should ensure that we get an extremely motivated effort.
Keep in mind that Ole Miss has not started 0-3 in conference action since the 2004 season. Also, keep in mind that the Rebels won the SEC Western Division title last year and that they were were picked by the media to finish second in the West this season. In other words, this is a talented team, which knows how to win.
Not that they should need any extra incentive, but additional motivation is provided to the Rebels by the fact that this is the first "ranked opponent" that they'll play this season.
Yes, the Bulldogs come in with the the #24 ranking in the country. With all-SEC first teamers Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, they've certainly got some "star power." However, their supporting cast isn't all that intimidating and I believe the Rebels are favored for good reason. While Georgia is 12-3, lets not forget that the Bulldogs were just 14-17 last season.
In other words, unlike the Rebels, this team still is relatively new to winning. Having seen their 9-game winning streak snapped last time out, I feel that they'll be ripe for an "emotional letdown" here.
The Bulldogs did earn an impressive home win vs. Kentucky to start conference play and are perfect at home. The loss at Vanderbilt last time out shows that winning away from home likely won't be easy. Before that, note that the Bulldogs previous road game came against "Mercer," a team from the Atlantic Sun Conference which was 4-12, entering Friday's action. The Bulldogs did beat Mercer, but they only did so by three points.
In addition to suffering their first loss in several weeks last time out and now playing their second straight road game, note that the Bulldogs have also been dealing with some "adversity," in terms of their travel schedule. The Bulldogs left Athens last Tuesday by bus, headed toward Nashville amid uncertain travel conditions. They were stranded in Nashville for Wednesday and Thursday nights, unable to land a plane at their home airport. They arrived in Oxford by bus on Friday afternoon.
While Georgia has a 65-39 lead in the "all-time" series, the Rebels are 4-1 against the Bulldogs since Adam Kennedy became coach. The last meeting here resulted in a 22-point (69-47) blowout victory for the Rebels, who were laying -10.5 points.
Speaking of Kennedy, he's led Ole Miss to an outstanding 67-13 record at home during his tenure. Kennedy called his players' effort "pathetic" last time out and its safe to say he expects a much better effort here.
While the Bulldogs have been tough defensively, they're also the lowest scoring team in the SEC West. On the other hand, Ole Miss can flat out score. The Rebels rank third among SEC teams (and 42nd in nation) with an impressive 76.8 points per game. The Rebels have eclipsed 80 points six times this year and they've even reached triple digits twice.
It helps that the Rebels make the most of their "easy" points. The Rebels lead all SEC teams and rank 28th in the nation with an excellent 74.7 free-throw percentage. They've shot 80 percent or better in six games this season.
Its still early but the Rebels, who still want to qualify for an at-large-big for the NCAA Tournament, know that this is a very important game. That's particularly true, given that they've got back to back road games, followed by home games vs. Tennessee and Kentucky, on deck. I expect them to deliver a highly motivated effort and for that to lead to a much-needed win and cover. *10
|01-14-11||Los Angeles Clippers v. Golden State Warriors -3.5||Top||112-122||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
I'm playing on GOLDEN STATE. The Clippers are clearly an improved team of late and they enter tonight's game on a rare 3-game winning streak. With Blake Griffin delivering "highlight reel dunks" on a nightly basis, they're also getting a fair amount of play on "sports center" and other sports/news programs. Given the added TV time and the fact that they just pulled off a big upset win over Miami, many are starting to believe that this team is the "real deal." In my opinion, that's caused them to be slightly over-valued here.
While the Clippers do have some decent young talent, a closer look reveals that the majority of their success has come at home and that they're still a poor 3-11 on the road. Note that two of those wins came by a single point and that two of them came at Detroit and at Sacramento. (Neither the Kings, nor the Pistons, currently has a winning record at home.) Tonight, they'll be up against a team which has "quietly" been playing very well at home.
The Warriors did lose their last game here. However, that was against the Lakers. They only lost by five though and they played well.
Coach Smart was quoted as saying: "We are showing you can compete against some of the best teams in the league. We've shown that we can do that. I said earlier, if we can take care of the basketball we will have a chance every night to win."
Prior to the loss vs. the Lakers, the Warriors had won three straight games here. Those victories came by an average of greater than 13 points. They're 11-8 their last 19 here, including 9-7 this season.
While they lost at LA, the Warriors have dominated the Clippers here at LA. They beat them by double-digits here already this season and are 9-1 SU the last 10 times that they hosted the Clippers. Note that ALL nine of those victories came by a minimum of six points and that they came by an average of 13.9 points. In other words, they haven't been close.
The Clippers are an ugly 24-41 ATS the past 65 times that they had won their previous three games. That includes a 2-4 ATS (1-5 SU) record their last six in that situation. With the O/U line having climbed above the 200 mark, note that they're also 5-10 ATS (2-13 SU) the last few seasons, when playing a road game with an O/U line of 210 or greater.
The Warriors are 7-4 ATS (8-3 SU) when laying points this season. They're also a lucrative 50-33 ATS the last few seasons, when playing a home game with an O/U line of 210 or greater. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-12-11||New York Knicks v. Utah Jazz -6.5||Top||125-131||Loss||-110||11 h 44 m||Show|
I'm playing on UTAH. The situation favors the home team here. While the Jazz have had the past few days off, the Knicks are off a big win at Portland last night. In addition to playing their second game in two nights, the Knicks will now be playing their fourth game in the past six days. Playing at this difficult venue, I expect it to catch up with them here.
Yes, the Knicks have been playing improved defense and yes, last night's victory was impressive. Its often hard to play that type of defense when playing the second of back to back games. That's particularly true against a Jazz team that averages greater than 100 points per game at home.
Note that the Knicks have been fortunate to avoid playing back to back games for some time. The last time that they played the second of back to back games was back on 12/18. In that game, they lost 109-102 against lowly Cleveland. Note that victory was Cleveland's only win since 11/27. To put it another way, the Cavs are 1-21 SU since late November and the only time that they won, was when they caught the Knicks playing the second of back to back games.
Prior to that, the Knicks played the second of back to back games on 12/6, a home game vs. Minnesota. They covered the spread by half a point in that one, but still gave up a whopping 114 points.
Prior to that, the Knicks played the second of back to back games on 11/28, at Detroit. They also covered the spread in that one, but still gave up a whopping 116 points.
That makes it three times that the Knicks have played the second of b2b games, since late November. All three games came against relatively weak opposition and yet they gave up 109, 114 and 116 points. Tonight's opponent is obviously much stronger. Additionally, it should be noted that the Jazz are an impressive 18-1 when scoring 100 or more points.
The Jazz have dominated teams from the Eastern Conference this season. They're 12-2 SU and 11-3 ATS their last 14 non-conf. games. Looking back a bit further and we find that they're also 16-6 ATS (18-4 SU) their last 22 against teams from the Atlantic Division. They've beaten the Knicks four straight times here and they were laying double-digits for each of the last three of those. Tonight's line is far lower. Given the scheduling situation, I feel that provides us with excellent value. *10
|01-10-11||Oregon +3 v. Auburn||Top||19-22||Push||0||10 h 49 m||Show|
I'm playing on OREGON. By now, most everything has been said about this game. Everyone knows both teams are undefeated and that both looked very good. Many will point to the fact that Auburn has the "best player" and that they played in the better conference. However, when its all said and done, I feel that Oregon will be the team left standing.
Many believe that the SEC still remains #1. Its been the dominant conference for years now. Many of their teams didn't far particularly well in the bowls this season though. At the least, they didn't "completely dominate." True, Alabama looked very good in dismantling Michigan State and Miss. State looked equally impressive in crushing Michigan. Also, LSU pretty much had its way with A&M. However, look at some of the other games. Florida did beat Penn State, but the cover came on a late interception. Meanwhile, Tennessee lost. Georgia lost. South Carolina lost. Arkansas was beaten by Ohio State. Most recently, Kentucky was blown out by Pittsburgh.
Some Pac-10 highlights saw Stanford destroy Virginia Tech 40-12 while Washington had its way with Nebraska. True, neither of those opponents were from the SEC. However, they were both still considered to be very good teams. Note that Oregon pounded both Stanford and Washington.
True, he SEC has won six national titles in the 12 years, while the Pac-10 has won only one. Note that none of the SEC's six BCS title victories came against a Pac-10 school though. This was especially true in 2003, when LSU and USC shared the championship. Had those teams met for the title, USC would have been favored ...
USC coach Lane Kiffin noted: "It's an interesting argument. In normal years, the SEC is stronger every year. This is the one year when it may have flopped." (Of course, Kiffin has some first-hand knowledge, as he's also a former SEC coach.
That's a debate which will be settled on the field tonight. However, my point is that the SEC isn't head and shoulders above the Pac-10 right now, today. Yet, the perception that it is so much better, is helping us, as that's the reason Auburn is favored.
While Auburn is 0-2 ATS (1-1 SU) the last two times it played with two or more week's rest, during the same stretch, the Ducks were 4-1 SU/ATS when they did so. During that time, Oregon was 5-2 SU/ATS when playing a line with a -3 to +3 range. Looking back further and we find the Ducks at an impressive 37-16 ATS in that role. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-10-11||Memphis Grizzlies v. Charlotte Bobcats +2.5||Top||82-96||Win||100||8 h 21 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHARLOTTE. Naturally, if this game was being played at Memphis, the Grizzlies would be favored. In fact, that should currently be the case if the game was being played at a neutral site. However, this game is being played at Charlotte and the Grizzlies are still favored. I feel that's providing excellent value with the home underdog.
Of course, the oddsmakers are merely trying to provide a number which will balance the action. In this case, the majority of the public bettors prefer the Grizzlies and view them as the stronger team, so they don't mind laying a small number.
To the Grizzlies credit, they have won some big games this season. However, a recent win at LA notwithstanding, the vast majority of those "big wins" were at home. This is still a team which has trouble on the road. For the season, the Grizzlies are only 6-14 on the road. On the other hand, the Bobcats are a far better 9-9 at home.
The Bobcats did get blown out at Memphis earlier - no surprise given their poor road stats and the Grizzlies excellent home record. They've beaten the Grizzlies three straight times here at Charlotte though, two of those victories coming by double-digits.
In addition to the fact that they're now playing at home, the Bobcats are also playing much better than they were when they faced the Grizzlies at Memphis. They've won four of six since the coaching change and are enjoying playing under Silas much better than they were under Brown.
Stephen Jackson was quoted as saying: "It's kind of like losing a team. Nobody wanted to play no more. Everybody wanted to play a different style than we were playing. We didn
|01-09-11||Miami Heat v. Portland Trail Blazers +5.5||Top||107-100||Loss||-110||11 h 45 m||Show|
I'm playing on PORTLAND. The Heat had real trouble with their last opponent, as the Bucks took them to Overtime. Playing at an arguably even more difficult venue, I expect them to have their hands full once again.
The Heat, who managed only 36 second half points, indicated that they didn't mind being tested. Coach Erik Spoelstra was quoted as saying: "I like these type of games..."
Sometimes players and coaches need to be careful what they wish for though.
While most are aware of Miami's current road streak, many may not realize that the Blazers have "quietly" won eight in a row at home. True, they've been playing with Brandon Roy, but that hasn't been stopping them from winning. Wesley Matthews has certainly helped to pick up the slack. He had 36 last time out and is averaging greater than 21 points per game during the Blazers' home winning streak.
The Blazers 12-3 home record, which is a higher winning percentage than Miami's 14-5 road record, is no fluke. Portland was 60-22 here the previous two seasons.
Rarely home underdogs of this size, the Blazers are 3-1 ATS the past few seasons, when listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range.
It should also be noted that the Blazers are 4-0 at home against Eastern Conference teams this season. I expect them to earn at least another cover here. *10
|01-08-11||Boston Celtics v. Chicago Bulls -2||Top||79-90||Win||100||9 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHICAGO. These teams both played last night. The Bulls lost at Philadelphia. Playing at home, the Celtics beat up on the Raptors. While Boston's game was arguably "easier" last night, I really like how this one sets up for Chicago.
For starters, the fact that the Bulls lost last night, their second straight defeat, should give them more of a sense of urgency here. Note that both losses were on the road and that the Bulls are a perfect 5-0 their last five home games. (They won those games by 96 combined points!)
Also, while the Bulls should be feeling a little "desperate," the Celtics could be feeling a little "complacent." Note that they're an ugly 3-9 ATS the last dozen times that they were off a double-digit victory. They're a money-burning 32-47-1 ATS their last 80 in that situation.
While the Celtics are 3-6 ATS when playing the second of back to back games, the Bulls are 5-5 ATS. Seven of those were outright victories.
The Celtics have admittedly got a very impressive overall record and its true that they've now won four straight again. The last three of those came at home though and three of those games came against weaker opposition. Note that the Celts, who had previously lost three of four, are just 7-12 ATS the last few seasons, after having played three or more consecutive home games.
The Bulls have added motivation from the fact the the Celtics have already beaten them in both this season's previous meetings. Both those games were at Chicago though. The Bulls won by eight the last time that they hosted the Celtics and they're 3-1 the last four meetings here. Looking back further and we find that the Bulls are 13-7 the last 20 times that they hosted the Celts and 19-9 the last 28.
Including a cover in this season's first meeting at Boston, the Bulls are 12-5 SU/ATS against teams which score 99 or more points per game. Playing with "double-revenge," I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|01-07-11||Texas A&M +3 v. LSU||Top||24-41||Loss||-125||10 h 32 m||Show|
I'm playing on TEXAS A&M. With the perception that teams from the SEC are in a class of their won, the line has been climbing on LSU. The SEC has hardly been unbeatable though. True, Alabama looked very good in dismantling Michigan State and Miss. State looked equally impressive in crushing Michigan. However, look at some of the other games. Florida did beat Penn State, but the cover came on a late interception. Meanwhile, Tennessee lost. Georgia lost. South Carolina lost. Most recently, Arkansas was beaten by Ohio State.
Speaking of Arkansas, that's the same Razorback team which defeated LSU, in the Tigers most recent game. That was just LSU's second defeat of the season. Given that their only other loss came vs. Auburn, that loss cost them a shot at a much bigger bowl. (They were 7-0 before the Auburn loss, so actually were thinking National title before that.) While the Tigers are still saying all the right things about being happy to be here, there still has to be a feeling of "what could have been."
On the other hand, the Aggies should definitely be happy to be here. Coach Sherman was quoted as saying: "As a football team we are very excited about playing in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. This is a great reward for a group of players and coaches who have worked hard. Our players have family and friends who will be able to attend and we know we will face a quality SEC opponent."
In addition to potentially being the "hungrier" team, the Aggies also enter as the "hotter" team. They closed out the season with six straight victories. While Kansas (who the Aggies crushed 45-10) was a bit "easy" this season, those other five games came against the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. In other words, their winning streak is legit.
LSU does have a very good defense and did manage some big wins this season. The Tigers were also "fortunate" a couple of times though and they're still a money-burning 7-13 ATS their last 20 against teams with a winning record.
The Aggies are 3-1 ATS the last four times that they played a game with a line in the +3 to -3 range. They're also 5-0 ATS the last five times that they were off a conference victory. Playing in Texas and motivated from last year's blowout bowl loss to an SEC team, I expect the Aggies to keep on rolling. *10
|01-06-11||Denver Nuggets v. Sacramento Kings +5||Top||102-122||Win||100||11 h 13 m||Show|
I'm playing on SACRAMENTO. The Nuggets recently won and covered in this season's only previous meeting. That New Year's Day game was played at Denver though. This evening's rematch will be played at Sacramento, where the Kings have long enjoyed success against the Nuggets.
Including a pair of close wins right around this time last season (Sacramento won 106-101 on 12/28/09 and 102-100 on 1/9/10) the Kings are a commanding 24-3 the last 27 times that they were a host in this series.
In addition to having homecourt advantage, the Kings have the schedule in their favor. They had yesterday off. The Nuggets played poorly in losing to the Clippers. They're now a money-burning 5-13-2 ATS when laying points.
Coach George Karl commented: "We weren't good at either end of the court. Most nights this year we've had something going and tonight our defense wasn't good enough and our offense wasn't good enough."
The Nuggets have now lost 10 of 13 road games since early November. They're also just 20-28-2 ATS (23-27 SU) the past 50 times that they played the second of back to back games. Yet, despite their struggles on the road, their struggles here at ARCO and their sub-par stats when playing the second of back to back games, the Nuggets find themselves laying points on the road. I feel that provides us with plenty of value on what I expect to be a highly motivated home underdog.
With the exception of the loss at Denver, the Kings have been very competitive since Christmas. They lost by one vs. the Clippers on 12/27. Next, they beat Memphis by two points. That was followed by the game at Denver which was followed by a 5-point win vs. the Suns and a 6-point loss vs. the Hawks.
In addition to playing with recent 'revenge,' the Kings know that after this game that they will head out on a lengthy Eastern road trip. That should make winning a game at home, before they go, that much more important to them. The Kings also don't get an opportunity to play many home "TV" games, which should also help to motivate them to play their best.
Three of the last four meetings between these teams were decided by five or fewer points. Those games were decided by an average of only 3.3 points. In what could easily be another close one, I'll grab all the points I can get. *10
|01-05-11||Portland Trail Blazers v. Houston Rockets -6||Top||103-100||Loss||-110||10 h 36 m||Show|
I'm playing on HOUSTON. I really like how this one sets up for the Rockets. Houston just faced the Blazers at Portland a few nights ago. Playing on their homecourt, the Blazers won by a score of 100-85.
Given the Rockets' road record and Portland's success at home, the fact that the Blazers won that game wasn't all that surprising. The Blazers are now 12-3 at home. (They were 26-15 and 34-7 at home the past two seasons.) On the other hand, the Rockets are just 6-13 on the road.
Tonight's game is at Houston though, which is an entirely different story. While the Rockets are a healthy 10-5 at home, the Blazers are an ugly 6-14 on the road. (*Note that Houston is 9-1 its L10 here. That includes a win over the Lakers and the lone loss came against Miami. Eight of the nine wins came by 7 or more points.)
Portland's poor road record includes a loss at Dallas last night. (*The Blazers went a dismal 33 for 79 from the floor, including 4 for 16 on 3-pointers.) Houston had last night off.
In the past, some of you may remember that I've pointed out that the Blazers have actually been a pretty good team, when playing the second of back to back games. That doesn't mean that they prefer to be in that situation though - and not all b2b spots are "created equally" either. This one figures to be particularly tough. I say that because last night's game was a hard-fought "defensive battle." Making matters worse, the Blazers were up 77-72 but Dallas outscored them 12-4 down the stretch for a 84-81 win. That type of defeat can be deflating.
Making the back to back spot more difficult, Portland is without star guard Brandon Roy, sidelined indefinitely with a left knee injury. (Of course, center Greg Oden is also out for the season with a left knee injury.) The Blazers did get Joel Przybilla back last night. However, he went scoreless in 2:50. So, they can't expect any immediate miracles from him.
In addition to the back to back spot, Portland will now be playing its third game in the past four nights. This will also mark its sixth game in the past 10 days. Throw in all the extra "craziness" associated with the holidays and that's a pretty gruelling stretch.
Note that the Blazers did play back to back games once already during their current 6-games in 10 days stretch. After playing a close game at Utah on 12/27, they were blown out 95-77 at Denver, the following night. Note that the Blazers are just 8-12-1 ATS (5-16 SU) as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range the past few seasons.
As noted, the Rockets, 10-6-2 ATS the last 18 times they were facing an opponent which defeated them in the most recent meeting, just lost at Portland. They did beat the Blazers here earlier though. Including that result, they're a perfect 9-0 SU the last nine times they were a host in this series. Catching the Blazers without Roy and off last night's deflating loss, I expect the Rockets to improve on those stats, covering the relatively small number along the way. *10
|01-02-11||St. Louis Rams v. Seattle Seahawks +3||Top||6-16||Win||100||82 h 52 m||Show|
I'm playing on SEATTLE. This is it. Despite both teams coming in with losing records, the winner of this game will take the NFC West and make the playoffs. I believe that home field will ultimately prove to be the difference.
At 7-8, the Rams have the slightly better overall record. However, that's thanks in large part to their 5-2 record at home. On the road, this team is only 2-5. They've been outscored by an average of 24.4 to 17.9 in those games.
Like the Rams, the Seahawks have been much better at home. With last week's loss at Tampa, they're now an ugly 2-6 on the road. However, they're a respectable 4-3 when playing here in the Pacific Northwest.
Besides the fact that they're playing a meaningful game in January, the big news for the Seahawks is the health of Matt Hasselbeck. Currently, it appears that Hasselbeck is out and Whitehurst is in. However, that could still change.
Coach Pete Carroll was quoted as saying the following on Wednesday: "Like I told you earlier, we're going with Charlie. He's ready to go. Matt is moving around. He was in the pool today. He is not going to take this in any other way
|01-02-11||Jacksonville Jaguars v. Houston Texans -3||Top||17-34||Win||100||60 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on HOUSTON. Many will automatically assume that the Jaguars "want this game more" than the Texans. The logic being that the Jags still have a shot at making the playoffs while the Texans do not. The part about the Jags still being alive for the playoffs is true. Its also true that the Texans won't be going to the playoffs, no matter what happens today. That's been factored into the line as we're getting a better line on Houston than we would have otherwise. Personally, I don't expect the Jags to want this game more. In fact, I believe that we'll find that its Houston which proves to be the "hungrier" team.
As mentioned, the Jags still have a mathematical shot at making the playoffs. However, even the Jacksonville players know that's not all that realistic.
Even if they do manage to win here, they need the Titans to go into Indianapolis and beat the Colts. Given how well the Colts have played lately and the fact that they are double-digit favorites, the Jags have to figure that Indianapolis will at least win that game outright.
True, Del Rio and the Jags are saying all the right things about wanting to win and finishing up strong etc. That's easier said than done though and they know that they wouldn't be in this position (relying on another team to help them) if they could have just taken care of business the past couple of weeks.
Making the Jags' chances even more bleak, they won't be without starting QB David Garrard. That means Trent Edwards is expected to get the call.(Edwards went 14 of 24 for 140 yards with two interceptions when Garrard left a 30-3 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 18.)
It looks like the Jags may also be without Maurice Jones-Drew again. Drew, who has 1300+ rushing yards on the season, missed last week's game (20-17 OT loss to Washington) and the Jags managed only 79 yards on the ground.
On the surface, the Texans seemingly don't have as much to play for. However, I expect them to be "highly motivated." They've got a coach on the hot seat. They're playing their final game of the year, looking to "spoil" any chance their division rival has of the playoffs AND they're looking to snap their longest losing streak in years. Additionally, they're playing with 'revenge' from a painful loss suffered at Jacksonville earlier in the season. (You may remember the earlier meeting. I call it a "painful" loss as the Jags won on an improbable 50-yard highlight reel TD pass as time expired.)
In addition to being 6-2 ATS the last eight times that they hosted the Jags, note that the Texans are 10-4 ATS the last 14 times that they were playing with 'revenge.'
Playing with 'revenge' and playing their final game of the season, I expect a highly "motivated" effort as they snap their losing streak and make sure the Jags don't make the playoffs without them. *10
|01-01-11||TCU -2 v. Wisconsin||Top||21-19||Push||0||438 h 13 m||Show|
I'm playing on TCU. Naturally, with a combined record of 23-1, these are both very good teams. Not only have both won, they've both won big. While TCU has the better record, many will point to the fact that Wisconsin played a tougher schedule. While the Mountain West Conference has a few good teams, the Big Ten is stronger, from top to bottom. I don't think the gap was quite as big this season, as the national media is making it out to be though. I also don't think the Horned Frogs should be "penalized" for what conference they play in. After all, they simply dismantled teams in their conference.
Indeed, with the exception of a 40-35 win vs. San Diego State, the Frogs beat every team in the MWC by double-digits. I had San Diego State when the Aztecs covered against the Frogs so that did not surprise me. Not only are the Aztecs a very solid team but they were catching TCU off its "game of the year," a 47-7 dismantling of the previously undefeated Utes, at Utah. Other notable conference victories included a 31-3 blowout of BYU and a 38-7 win and cover vs. Air Force. I had the Frogs in that one and pointed out that I felt they'd be the only team to "blow out" the Falcons. That proved to be the case as Air Force didn't lose any other game by more than five points all year. (lost by five vs. Utah, by three at Oklahoma and by two San Diego State.) In other words, blowing out the Falcons by 31 points was actually quite impressive.
While the non-conference schedule admittedly wasn't that difficult, the Frogs did face both Oregon State and Baylor, a couple of relatively capable teams. TCU won those games by a combined score of 75-31.
In four road games this season, the Frogs won by a combined score of 188-30!
Yes, Wisconsin deserves credit for beating both Ohio State and Michigan. Note that the victory vs. Ohio State came at home though and that this year's Michigan team wasn't as good as usual. The Badgers did also win at Iowa, another "quality" victory. That only came by a single point though and the Badgers won it on fake punt.
Other road games saw the Badgers win at UNLV and Purdue. Both those teams were relatively weak. Their other road game came at Michigan State and the Badgers lost that one by 10. Their non-conference schedule included a 1-point home win vs. Arizona State and games against teams like San Jose State and Austin Peay. They've gotten a lot of recognition for some major "blowouts" down the stretch. However, they came at home against the likes of Indiana and Northwestern.
In other words, while the Badgers did play a "few" tough conference games, it wasn't like they were playing an "SEC" schedule. Therefore, I don't think the argument about them playing a "vastly superior schedule" holds that much weight.
The Horned Frogs may be favored here but they don't feel that they're getting much respect. They keep hearing how the "big bad Badgers" are going to "steamroll" them. I feel that will give them a chip on their shoulder and I expect them to respond accordingly.
This is a team which believes it may well be the most talented in the entire country. It thought so last season, too. This is their chance to finally earn some respect.
Speaking of last season, I like the fact that the Frogs were an undefeated team which lost a big (17-10 loss vs. Boise in the Fiesta) bowl game, beaten thanks in part to a fake punt. This year's team, which brought back 16 starters, including QB Dalton, hasn't forgotten. This is a very well-coached team and Patterson will be sure that his players know that life doesn't often provide second chances and that one needs to make the most of them when they come around.
Patterson was quoted as saying: "I have always said it doesn't matter what conference you are in, you should be judged by what type of football team you have. We feel like we have a very good football team."
Speaking of Dalton, he had 26 TDs with only 6 INTs. He rushed for over 400 yards and was sacked only eight times. He has continued to improve each season and this year had his career best 66.2 completion percentage, and a career best nine yards per pass attempt. While he'll rely on his powerful running game a lot, I also expect Dalton to be much better than he was in last year's bowl game, when he threw three interceptions.
Note that Dalton, the nation's active wins leader with 41 career victories, had previously been a bowl-game MVP twice.
On the other side of the ball, TCU, which has out-gained 32 of its last 33 opponents, allowed 215 yards per game - by far the fewest in the country.
Last year was TCU's BCS debut. Now, the Frogs are "experienced." While I really respect the Badgers, I fully expect the Frogs to prove to be both the better and the "hungrier" team, covering the small number along the way. *10
|12-31-10||Florida State +3 v. South Carolina||Top||26-17||Win||100||417 h 48 m||Show|
I'm playing on FLORIDA STATE. These teams had a similar W/L pattern down the stretch. They both lost in their conference championship game, after both having won three straight to get there.
Of course, both teams are disappointed to have lost that conference championship game. That doesn't mean that they don't want to win this game though. The perception is that this year was South Carolina's chance. Its probably true that this is/was Spurrier's best team here so far. I wouldn't say that this was their one chance though. In fact, looking ahead to next season and the Gamecocks have a chance to be even better. The Seminoles, of course, have talent every season. This year's team was extra "special" in my opinion, though. While it wasn't what they hoped for, a win here will get them 10 wins for the first time since 2003, a notable accomplishment in Fisher's first year without Bowden. In my opinion, this year's team has shown more heart than we've seen from recent FSU teams, while displaying more of a "never-quit attitude."
While the Seminoles hope that Christian Ponder will be back and healthy for the game, they've got an extremely capable backup in EJ Manuel, who did a solid job against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. "We have all the confidence in the world when EJ is out there," Fisher said. "The players have confidence in him and he is the future of this program." Whoever is behind center has plenty of weapons at his disposal - the Seminoles returned nine offensive starters from last year's team.
Both teams also have very similar stats. Both finished the season at 9-4. South Carolina averaged 32 points per game. Florida State averaged 31.8. (*Note that the Seminoles scored 30.5 on the road while the Gamecocks scored 26.3 on the road.)
South Carolina allowed 22.9 points. Florida State was a bit better in that department, allowing only 19.8. (That means the Seminoles outscored teams by 12 ppg while the Gamecocks outscored them by 9.1 ppg)
Yet, despite the similar numbers, the Gamecocks are laying points. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that they are an SEC team and the SEC is still considered to be the strongest conference. I won't disagree about the SEC being the best and its true that the Gamecocks had to play some very tough opponents. In fact, they played Auburn twice (lost both games) Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Alabama, to name a few.
I had them against Alabama and while they certainly deserve credit for that impressive win, it was a great "setup." Not only were the Gamecocks at home, but they were coming off a bye and they were catching the Tide off a big win vs. Florida. They caught Georgia early in the season when the Bulldogs weren't playing well yet and the Gators weren't as good this year as they've been. They were blown out by Arkansas (21 point loss) and they also lost vs. a mediocre Kentucky team. They did beat Tennessee but the Vols are also down a notch from what we've seen in the past. It should also be noted that South Carolina did look very good in beating up on Clemson - other victories came against the likes of Southern Miss, Furman and Troy. Ok, I'll admit, it was indeed quite a challenging schedule. However, with the exception of the win vs. Alabama - and I noted that why I played on the Gamecocks in that one and that it was a favorable setup - this is not a team which has "blown me away." Given the opportunity to avenge the earlier loss vs. Auburn, the Gamecocks were destroyed by a score of 56-17.
A look at the Seminoles' schedule reveals that perhaps the difference in quality of opponents played isn't as big as many would have you believe. No, the Seminoles did not have to contend with Auburn or Alabama. They did have to play at Oklahoma though - a far more difficult non-conference game than the Gamecocks had. I successfully played on the Sooners in that game, so wasn't surprised that the Seminoles stumbled. Their next two losses (vs. NC State and UNC) both came by four points or less though - and easily could have been victories.
Like South Carolina, the Seminoles defeated Clemson. Like South Carolina, they blew out Florida. Other notable blowout wins include a 34-10 pasting of BYU and an impressive 45-17 win at Miami. Therefore, while they didn't play in the SEC and while some may disagree, I would argue that the Seminoles' schedule was comparable to South Carolina's schedule, in terms of difficulty. At the very least, it wasn't "world's apart," as seems to be the popular opinion.
Yet, the fact that South Carolina hails from the "mighty SEC" and the perception that the Gamecocks have played a far tougher schedule is the main reason why we're getting extra points to work with on the Seminoles. While I expect the Seminoles to win outright, I also know that those points could prove valuable. Consider that four of Florida State's final seven games were decided by five points or less.
Even with the victory over Clemson, note that the Gamecocks are still 2-3 ATS the last five times that they were favored by four or less. On the other hand, including last year's 33-21 bowl win vs. West Virginia, a game in which I also played Florida State, the Seminoles are 4-1 ATS the last five times that they were underdogs of four or less. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|12-31-10||Atlanta Thrashers v. New Jersey Devils -1.5||Top||1-3||Win||250||6 h 23 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW JERSEY. The Devils desperately need a victory and I feel that this will be the perfect spot to get one. They played well enough to get one in their last game but didn't catch any breaks. After that game, players from the opposing Rangers were commenting that they were fortunate to win and mentioning that the Devils were a better team than their record indicated. New Jersey held a commanding 44-26 edge in shots on goal. That type of effort typically leads to a victory.
The Devils, who had yesterday off, catch Atlanta off a shootout victory over Boston yesterday. Prior to that, the Thrashers had lost four straight.
So, they haven't exactly been playing great hockey either. Note that the Thrashers are only 2-7 the last nine times that they played the second of back to back games.
In addition to the fact that they're trying to avoid losing seven straight games for the first time in nearly 25 years, the Devils have serious "payback" on their minds. That's because the Thrashers embarrassed them by a 7-1 score at Atlanta earlier. The fact that the Devils have some former Thrashers (Kovalchuk, Hedberg) in the lineup should make avenging that loss even more important.
Even with their recent skid, the Devils are still 40-22 (+9.5) the last 62 times that they lost their previous three games. I expect them to deliver the same type of effort that they did on Wednesday, only this time I look for it to translate to a much needed two points. *10
|12-31-10||Golden State Warriors v. Charlotte Bobcats -2.5||Top||96-95||Loss||-110||4 h 20 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHARLOTTE. Given the Hornets' recent improved play, I feel that this line is too low. The Bobcats are 2-0 since the coaching change and they've won those games by five and nine points. With Silas encouraging them to run, the players are clearly loving the shift in offensive philosophy.
Charlotte guard D.J. Augustin, who has 55 points on 20-of-29 shooting in the two games under Silas, was quoted as saying: "I think everybody is loving it right now. Before, we were trying to run the play all the way through and getting shot clock violations. Now guys are getting open shots and taking them."
Stephen Jackson, who scored a season-high 38 points last time out, added: "It's a good feeling knowing the coaches are allowing you to use your brain and make basketball plays and not be sort of a robot out there."
While their road numbers are admittedly pretty ugly, the Bobcats have now climbed above the .500 mark at home. Keep in mind that this team was 31-10 here last season. That ranked among the best home records in the Eastern Conference.
The Warriors are also above .500 at home. However, they're just 4-13 on the road. Keep in mind that this team was 8-33 on the road last season. That ranked among the worst road records in the Western Conference.
The Warriors have won three of four. However, two of those came at home and the other was an OT win at Sacramento - not nearly as difficult a venue as this one. Also, in their last game, they lost by double-digits at Atlanta. As noted, their overall road numbers are less than stellar.
The Hornets won both last season's meetings by double-digits. They were favored at Golden State and they were laying by -10 points (and still covered) here at Charlotte. Including those results, they're an outstanding 16-5 ATS (17-4 SU) their last 21 against Pacific Division teams. I expect them to improve on those numbers here. *10
|12-30-10||Kansas State v. Syracuse||Top||34-36||Win||100||5 h 48 m||Show|
I'm playing on SYRACUSE. Long before my time, the Orange were involved in the first college football game at the "original" Yankee Stadium. The history books show that they won that Oct. 23, 1923 game by a 3-0 score, over Pittsburgh. One day, I expect the history books to also show that the Orange won the first game ever at the "new" Yankee Stadium.
While both teams were somewhat "up and down" this season, both are happy to be here. Neither program has been to a bowl for some time and both will be anxious to take the next step and earn a victory. The fact that the game is in the Bronx figures to have some added significance to the Orange though, particularly head coach Doug Marrone.
Marrone, a Bronx native, was quoted as saying: "When the announcement was made that a bowl game was going to be played in Yankee Stadium for the first time, my thought was that if we were not going to play in a BCS game, then how great would it be to play in the first college bowl game in Yankee Stadium in my first head coaching job. The opportunity to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in my hometown is part of the whole dream. New York State is our foundation. This is another step in our return to prominence."
Both teams like to run the ball and both have very capable rushing attacks. The Wildcats did average considerably more points on the season. However, the Orange have a far better defense. While winning the turnover battle is also always critical, I believe that the team that does a better job in stopping its opponent from running the ball will have an excellent shot at winning this game. I believe that team will be Syracuse.
I successfully played against the Wildcats in their last game and saw them surrender 41 points and 298 rushing yards vs. lowly North Texas. (Nebraska rushed for 451 against them.) Over their last three games, the Wildcats allowed 232, 251 and 298 rushing yards, giving up a total of 123 points. That's more points than the Orange have given up over their last six games.
Snyder's Wildcats didn't fare well off their bye this year, getting crushed (at home) by Nebraska. On the other hand, given the extra time, Marrone has the Orange ready to go. Off their bye, the Orange traveled to South Florida and won outright as +8 point underdogs, holding the Bulls to nine points. Including that result, they're 4-0 ATS when playing with two or more week's worth of rest. I expect Marrone to have them ready to go once again. *10
|12-29-10||Arizona +6 v. Oklahoma State||Top||10-36||Loss||-120||21 h 51 m||Show|
I'm playing on ARIZONA. The Cowboys had a much better record this season. They were 10-2 SU and 9-3 ATS. The Wildcats were 7-5 SU and 5-6 ATS. Those records have Oklahoma State listed as a solid favorite and with many expecting them to record a convincing victory. As often seems to be the case, I see things differently.
In most cases, for the "bigger" January bowl games, both teams are happy to be there. December bowl games are a bit different though. Some teams are happy to be there and/or have much to prove. Other teams, usually ones who had a chance of something bigger right up until the end of the season, aren't necessarily thrilled to be involved in a "smaller" bowl game and have a feeling about "what could have been." I believe that this is one of those cases.
Naturally, Arizona would have preferred to be playing on New Year's Day, too. However, the Wildcat players have been aware that wasn't realistic ever since a Nov. 6th loss at Stanford, which triggered a losing streak. Therefore, they've had plenty of time to get used to the idea that they weren't going to any big bowl game. In fact, the chance to play a quality Big 12 team actually is better than it could have been, given the 7-5 record. This team, which started 7-1, believes its better than its overall record indicated. They don't like the way that they closed the season and this is a chance to redeem themselves. Also, throw in the fact that they got crushed by a team from the Big 12 (Nebraska) and I believe that we'll see a very motivated group of Wildcats.
Coach Stoops was quoted as saying: "It's great to be the first league team to play in this first year of the new Alamo Bowl affiliation with the conference. Our players are excited to be playing in an outstanding bowl against a quality opponent like Oklahoma State."
On the other hand, even though it was a great year, the Cowboys figure to be somewhat disappointed about not being involved in a bigger game. They finished in a 3-way tie on top of the Big 12 South but didn't get a chance to play for the Big 12 Championship. They know that things would have been different if they beat Oklahoma in their final game. Seeing the Sooners get a New Year's Day bowl game (Fiesta) vs. an opponent (UConn) which is arguably not as good as this Arizona team that they will face, also figures to rub them the wrong way.
Yes, Oklahoma State is very good offensively. In fact, they averaged more than 500 yards per game, the #1 mark in the country. They also have a suspect defense though. They gave up 27.7 points per game with opposing teams generating more than 400 yards per game.
Keep in mind Arizona is actually a very talented team. The Wildcats were 7-1 at one point, including wins vs. the likes of Iowa and California. The Wildcats only lost two games by more than three points all season and those were both on the road, at Stanford and at Oregon. Their "worst" home loss was a 3-point setback vs. USC.
While the Wildcats don't have quite the ridiculous offensive numbers that the Cowboys do, they are very capable on that side of the ball. They averaged 29.7 points per game on the season. They were able to score on the road too, averaging 28 points per game on the road, while putting up an impressive 477.4 yards.
Its on the defensive side of the ball that Arizona should have the advantage. The Wildcats allowed 21.6 points and 342 yards per game. They also held five opponents to 14 or fewer points.
Note that two of Oklahoma State's victories (Troy and Texas [email protected]) this season came by a field goal. Also, note that three of Arizona's losses (USC, Oregon State) came by three or fewer points. They also won a game (Cal) by a single point. While I believe the Wildcats have an excellent shot at the outright "shocker," in a game that could also easily come down to the wire, I'll gladly grab the points. *10
|12-28-10||Orlando Magic v. Cleveland Cavaliers +8||Top||110-95||Loss||-110||9 h 59 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEVELAND. As you're probably aware, the Magic are playing very well right now. With Lebron no longer in Cleveland, they're also a far better overall team than the Cavaliers. Everyone else is aware of the same thing though and that's caused the Magic to be laying quite a large number. Given the situation, I feel that it will prove to be too big.
While the Cavs had last night off, the Magic played at New Jersey. Granted, that game didn't come down to the wire or go to OT or anything. However, they still had to play. Now, in addition to playing the second of back to back games, the Magic will also be playing their sixth game in the past nine days here. Throw in Christmas in the middle of all that, plus the fact that they just made some major trades, and the Magic could easily be feeling some fatigue here.
Note that even with last night's victory, the Magic are still an ugly 4-11 ATS on the road this season. They're also 7-11 ATS the past few seasons when listed as road favorites in the -6.5 to -9 range.
The Cavs may have won just one of six games over the last two weeks, however, they've been fairly competitive. During that stretch, four of those five losses came by 11 or less, including a 6-point loss at Miami and a 1-point loss in their last home game. A closer look reveals that the Cavs have only played four home games over the past three weeks. Only of those games resulted in a loss of greater than five points.
The defense has played a big part in keeping the Cavs respectable of late. They've held their last two opponents to double-digits in scoring and they've allowed 102 or fewer in four straight. For the season, they allow a reasonable 97 per game, here at Cleveland.
Note that the Cavs, who have seen each of their last three games finish 'under' the total, are 16-7 ATS the last three times that they were off three or more consecutive games which stayed below the total.
This is the Cavs' final home game of 2010. Playing with 'revenge' from an 11 point loss at Orlando and having the "fresher legs," I expect them to give their best effort and for that to lead to at least a cover. *10
|12-28-10||North Carolina State v. West Virginia -3||Top||23-7||Loss||-105||9 h 41 m||Show|
I'm playing on WEST VIRGINIA. Give the Wolfpack credit for a great season and for making it this far. I believe that they'll find themselves in over their heads here though.
I played against the Mountaineers in last year's bowl game. Listed as small favorites, they lost 33-21 to Florida State. That team wasn't rolling the way that this year's team was though and that loss, also against an ACC opponent, should provide them with some added motivation here.
Last year, WVU entered its bowl game having gone 4-2 SU (3-3 ATS) its final six games. However, a closer look at those four victories shows that they came by 3, 3, 8 and 4 points.
This year, the Mountaineers enter their bowl game having gone 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS their final four games. They scored 35 or more in three of those games and won the four by a combined score of 124-44. Coincidentally, those four teams (Pitt, Cincy, Rutgers, Louisville) were the exact same four teams that they faced to close out last season. While some of those opponents (Cincy) admittedly weren't as good as they were last season, there's still no denying that this year's WVU team enters its bowl playing better football than last year's team.
While many tend to make jokes about the Big East, the Mountaineers are a very talented team. They've got a balanced offense which is clicking right now and which can beat teams with both the run and the pass. Perhaps more importantly, they've got an extremely stingy defense. Indeed, the Mountaineers allowed an average of just 12.7 points per game on the season. Opposing teams gained just 251.3 yards per game. Those numbers rose on the road - but not my much. On the road, WVU allowed 15.4 points per game and 281 yards.
A closer look reveal that the Mountaineers never gave up over 21 points this entire season. Additionally, the 15 TDs they allowed were the fewest in the entire country. They were very tough against both the run and pass.
The Wolfpack had a strong offense this season, thanks largely to QB Russell Wilson. Wilson had an exceptional season. He's hasn't faced many defenses like this one though and he doesn't have the type of balanced offense that WVU brings to the table. Facing a WVU defense which had 22 takeaways and 40 sacks, I won't be surprised if he run into some trouble.
Its on the other side of the ball that the Mountaineers have the real advantage though. While they allow less than 13 points per game, the Wolfpack come in allowing 22.5 per game. That number climbs to 26.5 (373 total yards) on the road.
The Mountaineers were 2-0 SU/ATS when playing with two or more week's worth of rest this season. They won those games by scores of 49-10 and 37-10. I expect them to be ready to go here. *10
|12-27-10||Los Angeles Clippers v. Sacramento Kings -1.5||Top||100-99||Loss||-110||11 h 30 m||Show|
I'm playing on SACRAMENTO. The Kings are playing with 'double-revenge' here, as the Clippers have beaten them in both this season's previous meetings. Combine that with the fact that the Kings desperately need a victory and I expect a highly motivated effort from the home team here.
Yes, the Clippers did win both previous meetings. They were both at LA though. Now, the teams meet at ARCO Arena. That's significant as the Kings are 22-2 the last 24 times that they faced the Clippers here, including 5-0 the last five.
While the Kings have had a few days off, the Clippers are off a hard-fought win over the Suns. Even with a rare win in that situation at Chicago recently, they're still 13-38 SU the past few seasons, when playing the second of back to back games.
Having lost three straight games here by single digits, the Kings know that they need to take advantage of this "winnable" home game. They're 18-11 ATS the past few seasons, after having played their previous three games at home. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|12-26-10||San Diego Chargers v. Cincinnati Bengals +9||Top||20-34||Win||100||14 h 58 m||Show|
I'm playing on CINCINNATI. I won with the Bengals last week. At the time, I acknowledged that they were among the most disappointing teams in the league. However, I also noted that they were more talented than their record indicated and that I felt they were going to fight hard for the victory. That proved to be the case. Playing with 'revenge,' they knocked off the Browns. While this week's opponent is considerably more difficult, I again expect a highly motivated effort from the Bengals and once again feel that they're providing us with excellent value.
Speaking of value, you may recall that these teams faced each other almost exactly a year ago, in Week 15 of the regular season. The Bengals, who were playing with heavy hearts due to the loss of teammate Chris Henry, were listed as +6.5 point underdogs for that 12/20/09 game. I successfully played on them in that game. While the Chargers had won eight in a row and were trying to clinch a division title, the Bengals gave them all they could handle. The Chargers would ultimately win by three points, on a 52 yard field goal with three seconds left.
That game was at San Diego and the Chargers were in excellent form and needing a victory to secure a first round bye. The Chargers are again playing well. Again, they need a victory. (In fact, they need this one even more, as they're currently not in the playoffs.) However, the game is at Cincinnati, not San Diego. Yet, despite the change of venues, the Chargers are now laying more points than they were for last year's game. Even though the Bengals haven't been nearly as good as they were last season, I still believe that's very generous.
Keep in mind that the Chargers are only 2-4 SU/ATS on the road. That includes a 0-3 SU/ATS mark when playing a road game with an O/U line in the 42.5 to 45 range. In fact, the Chargers are an awful 1-8 ATS (3-6 SU) their last nine in that situation. Only one road game all season resulted in a win by greater than six points.
Also, keep in mind that the Bengals are 2-0 ATS their last two games here at home. Prior to beating Cleveland, they lost by only four vs. New Orleans here. Note that the Bengals have also stayed within six of Baltimore here while defeating Baltimore here outright. As disappointing a season as its been, the Bengals have still only lost one game here by more than eight points here all season. That was against Buffalo, a game which they were winning by 31-14 at halftime. In other words, with the exception of one second half meltdown, this team has been extremely competitive at home, far more so than many probably realize.
Note that the Bengals also lost by seven or less at a pair of tough road venues, Indianapolis and Atlanta. This is a team which has proven its still capable of playing tough against good teams.
True, the Bengals will be without Terrell Owens. While Owens is still a capable player, his absence could easily prove to be a case of addition by subtraction. While one can't blame Owens for all the Bengals' problems, there's no denying that the team has taken a step backward since his arrival.
The Bengals, 6-2 SU the last eight times that they were off a win vs. a divsional opponent, figure to have plenty of motivation. This is their chance to avenge last year's heartbreaker while also helping to keep the Chargers out of the playoffs. Playing their home finale, I expect a highly motivated effort from the Bengals, as they build some positive momentum from last week's victory and close out their home season by earning at least another cover. *10
|12-26-10||Detroit Lions v. Miami Dolphins -3||Top||34-27||Loss||-120||11 h 54 m||Show|
I'm playing on MIAMI. The Lions finally earned a road victory last week, their first in more than three years. Can they do it two weeks in a row? I believe the answer will prove to be no.
Off that "big" win, and with their home finale coming against division rival Minnesota on deck, I feel that the Lions may have a bit of a letdown here. Note that the Lions also may be without QB Drew Stanton, who threw for more than 250 yards in last week's victory. He finished last week's game but hurt his left shoulder. Also, note that Hill has not played since breaking his right index finger on Thanksgiving Day.
On the other hand, I expect the Dolphins to deliver an extremely motivated effort. After all, this is their home finale. This is a team which has played well on the road but which has struggled at home. Playing their final home game of the season, they'd really like to give the home fans a victory. Note that next week's game is at New England. Naturally, a home game against Detroit offers a better shot a victory than a road game at Detroit.
Miami coach Tony Sparano was quoted as saying: "I just need to get my team ready to play this week. That's all I need to do. That's my concern."
The fact that this line has fallen is significant. Note that the Dolphins are 16-9 ATS the last 25 times that they played a game with a line in the +3 to -3 range. During that span, the Lions were only 2-5-1 ATS when playing a game with a line in that range.
The Dolphins are 5-0 SU and 4-0-1 or 4-1 ATS the last five times that they faced the Lions. That includes a 3-0 SU/ATS mark this millennium. The Dolphins won those games by scores of 27-10, 49-21 and 23-8. I expect the Dolphins to step up and deliver another convincing victory here, improving to 7-4 ATS the last 11 times that they were favored by four or less. *10
|12-26-10||Baltimore Ravens v. Cleveland Browns +4||Top||20-10||Loss||-105||11 h 52 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEVELAND. I've successfully played against the Browns each of the last two weeks. Last week, I played against them when they lost at Cincinnati. The previous week, I played against them when they lost at Buffalo. This game sets up differently though and I feel that the time is right to get back on the Browns.
In each of the Browns last two games, in addition to being on the road, the Browns were facing "losing" teams. Their opponents really needed a victory and in each of those cases, I felt that the Browns may not be quite as "hungry." I don't expect that to be the case here.
Last week, the Browns were playing on the road vs. a division rival which was playing with 'revenge.' This week, the Browns are at home. Also, having lost at Baltimore earlier, they're now the ones who are playing with 'revenge.' Note that the Browns are 2-0 ATS the last two times that they attempted to avenge an earlier loss, going 8-5 ATS in that situation the past few seasons.
While the revenge-minded Browns should be fired up to get back in front of the home fans, off a huge victory, the Ravens may have some trouble getting up for the lowly Browns. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that they won't be motivated to win, as every game is critical for them right now. Plus, the Browns are a hated division foe. Still, having just beaten the defending world champs and with their reg. season home finale on deck, a 'revenge' game vs. the Bengals, all I'm saying is that they may take the Browns for granted, if only a little.
The fact that the Ravens are a winning team instead of a losing one is also significant. When matched up against bad teams, the Browns haven't played particularly well. However, the Browns have gone 4-4 SU against teams with a winning record, seemingly elevating their game against better opposition. That includes double-digit victories vs. the likes of New England and New Orleans.
The Browns are 7-4 ATS the last 11 times that they were off a loss vs. a divisional opponent and 3-1 ATS the last four times that they were off back to back losses. They played the Ravens tough at Baltimore earlier in the season. With the situation and venue in their favor, I look for them to bounce back and give the Ravens all they can handle once again. The line moving in our favor provides even further value. *10
|12-25-10||Dallas Cowboys v. Arizona Cardinals +7.5||Top||26-27||Win||100||52 h 5 m||Show|
I'm playing on ARIZONA. I successfully played against Arizona last week. The Cardinals lost at Carolina. The previous week, I successfully played on Arizona. Playing at home, the Cardinals destroyed Denver. While there were more factors involved, one of the primary reasons why I played on the Cardinals one week and against them the next, was that I felt that they would be the more "motivated" team (the team which "wanted it more") in one game and not in the other. This week, I again feel that the Cards will be the "hungrier" team and therefore believe that it will again prove to be an excellent spot to play on them.
While the playoffs are a distant memory, I say that the Cards will be motivated for a couple of reasons. For starters, its been a long season and they're looking to go out with some positive momentum. They were beaten by lowly Carolina last week and a win against "America's Team" on National TV figures to take some of the sting out of that loss and the season, if only a little. Additionally, it should be noted that this is their home finale.
Like the Cards, the Cowboys are looking to close out on a winning note, despite being out of the playoff picture. Clearly, they've been a much improved team. That said, I feel that they may not take this one quite as seriously as Arizona. I say that because they've been off a number of games that could all be considered "bigger" than this one - and because they've got a date with hated Philadelphia on deck. The "bigger" games that I'm referring to are against New Orleans (the defending champs) on Thanksgiving, followed by the Colts and then division games vs. the Eagles and Redskins. After games like that and with a rematch vs. Philly on deck, a road contest vs. Arizona may not have that much "appeal."
Regardless of how the Cowboys view this game, the fact is that they simply haven't been good as favorites. Indeed, they're only 1-6 ATS when laying points, losing five of those games outright. Note that each of their last four games was decided by a field goal or less.
While the Cards haven't been good as underdogs overall, they have managed a 2-0 ATS record when listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +7 point range. They're now 3-0 ATS in that role the past couple of seasons. (All three victories were outright.)
These teams last met in 2008. That one was close, being decided by six points. (Arizona won 30-24 as a +4.5 point dog). I look for this one to also be close and am grabbing the points with the motivated home underdog. *10
|12-25-10||Miami Heat v. Los Angeles Lakers -3||Top||96-80||Loss||-110||7 h 3 m||Show|
I'm playing on the LA LAKERS. Many expect this to be a Finals Preview - and there's a reasonable chance that it will be. Whether or not that proves to be the case, the game should have a "playoff feel." With it being played at LA and with the line being so low, I believe that the home team is providing us with excellent value.
Yes, the Heat have been rolling. Yes, they dispatched of Phoenix with relative ease a couple of nights ago. The Suns aren't what they used to be though and we saw what happened to the Heat in their previous game, a home loss to the Mavericks.
Note that the Heat are a mediocre 7-5 SU against teams from the West. (Lakers are 10-3 SU against teams from the East.) The Heat are also 0-2 ATS as underdogs, losing by nine and 11 points, including 0-1 ATS as road underdogs of three or fewer points.
The Lakers were beaten by the Bucks last time out. They're 31-12 SU off an upset loss though, going 19-6 SU over that time, when off a double-digit loss.
Phil Jackson noted: "I thought their comeuppance might come against Miami, but Milwaukee delivered the blow. So maybe it got their attention so they can get focused on basketball."
It should also be noted that the Lakers are 16-3 SU and 13-6 ATS the last few seasons, when playing with three or more day's rest in between games.
This game is about more than stats though. Its about pride and making a statement. The last thing Kobe and co. want is to see Lebron's new team come in and beat them on their home floor, in front of the Christmas Day audience. (As if they didn't dislike him enough already, Lebron didn't make any friends by essentially undermining the player's union with his recent comments.) I expect the Lakers to be at their very best and for that to lead to a win and cover. *10
|12-24-10||Tulsa v. Hawaii -10||Top||62-35||Loss||-105||9 h 27 m||Show|
I'm playing on HAWAII. I successfully played against the Warriors when they were blown out 42-7 on 11/6. That was at Boise though, facing a very good Broncos team on the blue turf. While Hawaii got destroyed in that game, I've been really impressed with how the Warriors have responded. It would have been easy to hang their heads and/or to "go through the motions", particularly when they accepted this bowl bid very early on. The Warriors didn't though. Rather, they responded by closing out the season on a 3-0 SU/ATS roll, winning by a combined score of 159-52. Naturally, they would have preferred to be playing on New Year's Day (what team wouldn't) but the fact that they did accept this bowl bid early on has given them plenty of time to get used to the idea. Spending Christmas at home, when you go to school in Hawaii, isn't so bad, anyway. (However, the exotic location can sometimes prove distracting to visiting teams.)
Note that the Warriors are 6-0 their last six games here. Five of the victories came by a minimum of 20 points. During that span, the only team to stay within single digits was a very good Nevada team - the Warriors beat the Wolfpack by six. In fact, the only loss the Warriors had here all season was against USC way back in Week 1. Hawaii was still getting used to its new team, yet nearly scored the outright victory.
The Golden Hurricane have also had a strong season. Like the Warriors, they were blown out in one game. (They were crushed by Oklahoma State) Like the Warriors, they responded well and closed out the season on a winning roll.
Tulsa certainly has a capable offense. The Golden Hurricane average 39.7 points and 503.5 yards. Those numbers are extremely close to Hawaii's 39.9 points and 496.8 yards. Although it should be noted that Tulsa averaged "only" 33.2 points and 438.3 yards on the road while Hawaii averaged 45 points and 555.7 yards at home.
Its on the defensive side of the ball that the Warriors figure to have the advantage though. They allowed 22.7 points per game on the season, including 19.4 here at home. Opposing teams managed only 317.3 yards per game here. On the other hand, Tulsa allowed a whopping 32.7 points per road game while allowing opposing teams to pile up 470.2 total yards per road game.
Tulsa has been particularly bad against the pass. In fact, the Golden Hurricane have one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, allowing an obscene 305.7 yards per game. As usual, Hawaii has the type of passing attack which is capable of taking advantage of a suspect secondary. The fact that Warriors lost this event the last time (2 years ago vs. ND) they were here figures to provide some added motivation. They were 7-0 ATS as favorites this season and I expect them to pad those stats with another double-digit win. *10
|12-23-10||San Antonio Spurs v. Orlando Magic -2.5||Top||101-123||Win||100||10 h 38 m||Show|
I'm playing on ORLANDO. Talk about "baptism by fire" for the new Orlando lineup. Since the lineup changes, the Magic began by playing at Atlanta, which has been a difficult venue for a few years now. Then, they came home to face a red hot Dallas team with the second best record in the West.
Now, they take on the only team which is ahead of the Mavericks, the NBA leading San Antonio Spurs. I like how the game set ups for the Magic though.
Orlando now has played a couple of games with its new lineup. Players are becoming more comfortable with each other. The Magic actually competed really hard vs. the Mavs, Dallas just shot the ball really well and brought its "A-Game." More often than not, that type of effort will get them a "W." I expect a highly motivated effort tonight, only this time I expect the Magic to find a way to earn the victory.
Not only are the Spurs off a hard fought game vs. Denver last night, but this will be their sixth game in the past nine days. One of those went to OT and a few others went right down to the wire, so they've really been working hard. In other words, fatigue could easily be a factor.
The Magic already lost by 11 at San Antonio, which gives them the added motivation of playing with 'revenge,' not that they should need any added incentive. Note that they also lost (by 12) at San Antonio last season. Yet, when the teams met here at Orlando, the Magic won by 26 points, earning a commanding 110-84 victory.
The Magic are 50-24 SU the past few seasons when playing with 'revenge.' I expect them to improve on those stats here, covering the small number along the way. *10
|12-23-10||Navy v. San Diego State -3||Top||14-35||Win||100||10 h 34 m||Show|
I'm playing on SAN DIEGO STATE. Everyone saw Navy win and cover vs. Army in the final week of the regular season. Even though Army had a real shot at covering at the end and actually outgained the Midshipmen, the fact that Navy won has lingered in the minds of many casual bettors. While they know Navy and see them every year, many of these same bettors don't know much about San Diego State, which remains relatively unknown. That's helped in causing this line to fall considerably from its opener. What many don't seem to realize is that the Aztecs are a very good team. In fact, I already would have liked them before the line move - now, getting a better line, I like them even more.
I successfully played on the Aztecs in their game against TCU. While the Aztecs lost that game, the fact that they lost by only five (at TCU) was actually an accomplishment in itself, when considering that no other team stayed that close to the Horned Frogs all season. Oregon State stayed within nine of TCU but BYU, Utah, Baylor and Air Force lost by a combined score of 161-27. None of San Diego State's other losses came by greater than four points.
Note that the Aztecs only home loss all season came vs. Utah (lost by 4) and that came right after the near upset of TCU, so the Aztecs may have been a little flat. I mention the Aztecs' home record as this game will be played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Note that San Diego State outscored opponents by a 36.8 to 17.2 margin at home this season, outgaining teams by a 497.5 to 322.3 count.
Don't think that the Aztecs are disappointed not to be going somewhere a little further from home though. Indeed, with this being their first bowl game since 1998, they're more than happy to be here and to show the nation how far they've come. Getting to play at San Diego gives them that much more confidence.
Head Coach Brady Hoke noted: "We are excited to be playing a bowl game here in San Diego in front of our great students, fans and community."
Before closing it should also be noted that these teams did have a common opponent (Air Force) this season. The Aztecs beat Air Force. The Midshipmen did not. Not just happy to be here, playing at Qualcomm, I look for the Aztecs to earn a bowl victory, covering the small number along the way. *10
|12-22-10||Xavier +6 v. Gonzaga||Top||54-64||Loss||-110||13 h 41 m||Show|
I'm playing on XAVIER. The Bulldogs finally beat a nationally ranked opponent last time out, knocking off Baylor by a score of 68-64. They'd previously lost four matchups against nationally ranked opponents. While they deserve credit for beating Baylor, I feel that Gonzaga may be growing a little weary. Sure, they've had a few days off and yes this game is back in Spokane. However, it really has been quite a gruelling early season schedule. Off the big win vs. Baylor and with Christmas on deck, I could see them let down slightly here. That will prove costly though as Xavier, as usual, is very capable. Making matters worse for Gonzaga, Steven Gray, who left last game with back spasms, is currently questionable. Assuming he even plays, he could easily be at less than 100%. (Not only does Gray have more than 1000 career points, he's the lone senior on the team.)
The Musketeers check in with a 7-2 record. Yet, partly because they've failed to cover a few in a row, and partly because of Gonzaga's win over Baylor, we're getting a very generous amount of points to work with.
Xavier has four players averaging in double figures in scoring led by junior Tu Holloway (21.3 ppg.), sophomore Mark Lyons (13.7 ppg.), junior Kenny Frease (11.9 ppg.) and senior Jamel McLean (10.5 ppg.).
With an O/U line currently in the low 140s, the expected 'pace' of this game figures to favor the visitors. Note that Gonzaga is 13-22-1 ATS the past few seasons when playing a game with an O/U line in the 140s. (That includes a 2-7 ATS mark at home with an O/U line in the 140-144.5 range.) During that span, the Musketeers were 15-5 ATS (16-4 SU) when playing a game with a total in the 140s.
The Musketeers know how big Gonzaga has gotten over the years and as a fellow "Jesuit school," I expect them to be very motivated to come in here and score an upset. They're 3-0 SU the last three times that they'd failed to cover in three or more straight games. I'll grab the points but won't be surprised to see the Musketeers score another outright win. *10
|12-22-10||Utah +17.5 v. Boise State||Top||3-26||Loss||-115||10 h 38 m||Show|
I'm playing on UTAH. I had the Utes as my "Bowl GOY" in their bowl win against Alabama a couple of years ago. Listed as +9.5 point underdogs, most weren't giving them much of a chance. Yet, they rose to the occasion and delivered a 31-17 upset. I had a number of reasons for making them such a big play - one of them was that I felt they were the team which would be "happier" to be there. This year, the Utes are again matched up against an elite team and this time they're an even bigger underdog. Once again, however, I feel that they'll be the team which is "happier to be here." Once again, despite the huge number, I feel that they've got a real shot at the outright win.
Of course, winning at bowl games is nothing new for this well-coached Utah program. Including last year's double-digit win over Cal, the Utes have won nine consecutive postseason games. That's currently the longest streak in the country and the second best of all-time.
Naturally, Utah would have liked to been involved in a bigger bowl game. In fact, for a time the Utes were really thinking big. However, the Utes have known that wasn't "reality" for quite some time, as they lost in early November to TCU.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had this to say after his Utes accepted the invitation to be here: "We are very excited about our invitation to play in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. It's been a while since we have played a bowl game in Las Vegas and our players and coaches are looking forward to the opportunity. We are proud to represent the Mountain West Conference in its top bowl game and anticipate a strong turnout by our fans."
While the Utes are expected to be without QB Jordan Wynn, backup Terrance Cain has enjoyed success when given the opportunity and he's surrounded by plenty of weapons.
While the Broncos will also say that they are happy to be here, the reality is that this is not even close to where they wanted to be. The Broncos and their fans thought they had a real shot to play for the National title, right up until their kicker missed some critical field goals that cost them the game against Nevada. That heartbreaker came in late November, so they haven't had nearly as much chance to "accept their fate."
While there is no denying that Boise is an extremely talented team, the Utes are no slouches either. They're very well-coached and are looking to redeem themselves from the embarrassing beatings handed to them by TCU and Notre Dame.
The Utes are 43-22-1 ATS the last 66 times that they were listed as underdogs. During that stretch, they were also 26-10 ATS (30-6 SU) when playing with two or more week's worth of rest. I expect them to pad those stats here. *10
|12-21-10||Louisville v. Southern Mississippi +3||Top||31-28||Push||0||19 h 31 m||Show|
I'm playing on SOUTHERN MISS. Despite going only 6-6 SU on the season, the Cardinals find themselves favored over a Southern Miss. team which was 8-4. I feel that provides us with excellent value.
Louisville is favored, even with its inferior record, primarily for a couple of reasons. For starters, the Big East is considered to be a stronger conference than Conference USA. I'll agree with that. However, its not exactly the SEC and the Cardinals were still 3-4 in Conference play.
Louisville's victories came against Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas State, Memphis, Connecticut, Syracuse and Rutgers. The Cardinals lost to most of the better teams in the Big East (West Virg, Pitt, USF, Cincy) and their only "difficult" non-conference game (Oregon State) resulted in a loss.
The Golden Eagles may have hailed from the weaker conference but at least they had a winning record (5-3) in conference play. Their most difficult non-conference game (at South Carolina) was arguably far more difficult than Louisville's toughest non-conf. game at Oregon State. They beat a WAC opponent (LA Tech) while also beating a Big 12 team (Kansas) by double-digits. Granted, those teams weren't that great - however, the point is that the Golden Eagles did win, both inside and outside their conference. (It should also be noted that Southern Miss went on the road at Central Florida and won by double-digits. That was the only conference loss for UCF, which finished 8-1 in conference play.)
Coincidentally, these teams had a common opponent in Memphis. Both teams won convincingly. Louisville got to face the Tigers at Louisville and won 56-0. Southern Miss had to face the Tigers at Memphis, which obviously is more difficult than playing at home, and won 41-19. Both teams held a commanding edge in total yards. I would argue that those victories were equally impressive. Louisville won by more but did so at home. While that point is debatable - and really a matter of what impresses you more, I find it interesting that both teams were laying exactly the same number of points (-16.5) for their game vs. Memphis. In other words, given that Southern Miss. played the Tigers on the road, the Golden Eagles were being given considerably more respect by the oddsmakers, at the time.
The Golden Eagles are an experienced bowl team, as they've been "bowling" in 12 of the last 13 years. Note that they've gone 7-5 in the previous 12 of those. The fact that one of those losses came last season figures to have them extra hungry here and they should be happy to have a chance to beat a team from the Big East.
Coach Larry Fedora was quoted as saying: "We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in St. Petersburg in Florida. It is a great area with great weather and we have the opportunity to play a quality opponent from the Big East. We are thrilled about being able to play another game."
The Golden Eagles have a balanced offense, which is very capable of both running and passing. QB Austin Davis completed over 60 percent of his passes and had 18 TDs with only six interceptions. While he's thrown for more than 240 yards per game, he's complemented by a potent ground game which averaged greater than 200 yards per game, featuring a number of talented backs. I feel they'll have some success on the ground against the Cardinals.
The Golden Eagles are generally fairly tough against the run as they allowed a respectable 3.6 yards per carry. If they have a weakness, its in the secondary. However, with Louisville's QB situation somewhat unsettled and Louisville being primarily a running team, the Cardinals don't necessarily have the offense to exploit that.
Another reason that Louisville is favored is that the Cardinals were more impressive in the final game of the regular season. And, the final game tends to leave a lasting impression in people's minds. However, let's keep in mind who the opposing teams were. Louisville beat up on a bad Rutgers team, one which finished 1-6 in Big East play. Southern Miss lost a close one (6 point loss) at Tulsa, the best team from the CUSA West Division.
Other than that six point loss at Tulsa, and their opening loss at South Carolina, note that the Golden Eagles' other two losses both came by only one point.
Additionally, in regards to the results from the final game, note that Cardinals 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS the last four times that they were coming off a conference victory. On the other hand, the Golden Eagles are 2-0 SU/ATS off this season's previous two conference losses.
The Golden Eagles are 18-9-1 against Louisville. They lost the last meeting (in 2009) but that loss came by two points on a last minute field goal. While I look for the Golden Eagles to win this game outright, in a game that could also be close, I'll gladly grab any points they're offering. *10
|12-21-10||Dallas Mavericks v. Orlando Magic -3||Top||105-99||Loss||-110||8 h 26 m||Show|
I'm playing on ORLANDO. The Mavericks are playing very well right now. However, I like how this one sets up for the Magic. Both teams played last night. You probably saw that the Mavericks went to Miami and upset the Heat. Meanwhile, the Magic lost at Atlanta. I expect that to cause Orlando to be the "hungrier" team here.
The Mavs don't play again until 12/27. Off last night's big win, thinking about their plans for their holidays, I could see them becoming a little "complacent" here and/or "flat."
On the other hand, the Magic really need a win. They've been mired in a skid and with another red hot opponent (Spurs) on deck, before Boston on Christmas Day, they badly need to get on track - and the holidays should be the furthest thing from their mind.
While its true that the new Magic roster didn't look that great last night, they've now got a game under their belts together. This is their chance to play together in front of the home fans. Beating the team that just beat Miami would be a great way to start the "new era."
The Magic are 14-5 ATS the last 19 times that they were favored by four or fewer points. I expect them to rise to the occasion and improve on those stats here. *10
|12-19-10||Cleveland Browns v. Cincinnati Bengals -1||Top||17-19||Win||100||26 h 19 m||Show|
I'm playing on CINCINNATI. The Bengals may be the most disappointing team in the AFC this season, if not the entire NFL. Expected to contend for the playoffs, they've fizzled. There's still some talent on this team though. Stepping down in class and playing with 'revenge' against a division and instate 'rival,' I feel that this will prove to be an excellent spot for them to earn a badly needed victory.
While the Browns have won some big games for me, I successfully played against them last week. Here's an excerpt from that writeup, as I feel its still somewhat applicable here.
"Give the Browns credit. Like the Bills, they've been competitive nearly every week. Unlike the Bills, they've actually won some of their games. In fact, a few of their wins were against some really good teams. The Browns still aren't going to the playoffs though - and they're still just 2-4 on the road. They did win at Miami last week - but that came on a field goal on the game's final play and the Browns hardly looked "dominant."
Cleveland would go on to lose 13-6, allowing Buffalo the chance to earn a rare victory.
With that loss, Cleveland is now 2-5 on the road. While they'd surely love to kick/sweep the Bengals while they're down, playing their third consecutive game away from Cleveland, I feel that the Browns may be getting a little "road-weary" here.
On the other hand, as Buffalo did last week, the Bengals know that this is their best chance to earn a badly needed victory. They just played New Orleans and Pittsburgh, the two most recent Super Bowl winners, and their final two games come against San Diego and Baltimore - two of the top teams in the AFC - both of which figure to really "need" a victory, to improve their playoff position.
Throw in the fact that the Browns already beat them earlier in the season, a game in which the Bengals had a 413 to 295 edge in total yards, and I expect the Bengals to have plenty of "motivation" for this one. Even with earlier loss, the Bengals have still won nine of 12 overall against the Browns?. That includes a 16-7 victory here last season. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|12-19-10||Arizona Cardinals v. Carolina Panthers -2.5||Top||12-19||Win||100||26 h 4 m||Show|
I'm playing on CAROLINA. I played on both these teams last Sunday, going 1-1. Arizona came through for me with flying colors. Carolina did not. I'm going back with the Panthers here though. These teams have both been major disappointments this season. Therefore, this game will mean nothing in terms of making the playoffs. In these types of "meaningless" games, determining which team "wants it more" takes on added significance. In this case, I believe that the Panthers will be the more "motivated" team.
True, Arizona has a better record overall. It's also true that the Cardinals were much more impressive last week. However, lets keep in mind that it was the Cardinals' third straight home game and that they were taking on a Denver team which was reeling from having just replaced its coach.
Now, the Cards will be on the road and taking on a "desperate" team which is playing its final home game of the season. That's a big difference, particularly when Arizona is expected to be going with a rookie quarterback (Skelton) who will be making his first career road start. Note that even though Arizona scored 43 points last week, Skelton was still a modest 15 of 30 for 146 yards.
While the Panthers have admittedly struggled, in their defense, they play in a far more difficult division than the Cardinals. They play two games against teams like Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa while the Cards are contending with the likes of Seattle, SF and St. Louis, twice per season.
Note that Arizona has been outscored by an average of 29.2 to 13.5 on the road. While they've been giving up 391.5 yards per game on the road, the Panthers have allowed a far more respectable 317.1 per game at home.
When they do get to take on a "weaker" team, over the years, the Panthers have generally made the most of it. While they're only 2-2 ATS against teams with a losing record this season, if we look back further we find that they're an outstanding 57-34-1 ATS (58-34 SU) their last 92 games against teams with a losing record. Of course, those past Carolina teams were a lot more successful than this one. However, my point is that Coach Fox typically makes the most out of "winnable" games. With the Panthers final two games coming on the road at Pittsburgh and at Atlanta, he knows the importance of this one.
Speaking of Fox, he also typically gets results at this time of year. Last week's loss notwithstanding, the Panthers are still an excellent 41-22-1 ATS their last 64 games played in the month of December.
I had a big play on the Cards when they beat the Panthers in the playoffs a couple of seasons ago. The Panthers are a perfect 6-0 the last six regular season meetings though and they ran all over the Cards last season. In fact, they ran the ball 44 times for a very impressive 270 yards in that game. Having also just ran the ball well against the Falcons (28 carries, 212 yards) I expect the Panthers, 13-7 ATS their last 20 against teams from the NFC West, to have success on the ground again here.
While the backs will surely see a lot of action, for once, the Panthers should also have the more experienced starting QB. Combine that with a superior defense and the fact that I believe they will "want it more," and I believe it adds up to them continuing their regular season dominance in the series, while covering the small number along the way. *10
|12-18-10||Ohio +2.5 v. Troy State||Top||21-48||Loss||-110||19 h 39 m||Show|
|12-18-10||Texas v. North Carolina -2||Top||78-76||Loss||-110||15 h 33 m||Show|
I'm playing on NORTH CAROLINA. I had a big winner (103-90) on Texas when these teams met last season, almost exactly one year ago today. That was at Arlington though and the Longhorns were ranked #2 in the country.
That was the second-most points the Tar Heels have allowed under Williams, topped only by Wake Forest's 119 in a triple-overtime victory in December 2003. After that game, Roy Williams was quoted as saying: "It's not always something we're not doing. They're ranked second in the country for a reason."
As usual, the Longhorns are good again this year - however, they're not as powerful as they were at this time last season. They check in ranked #22. Additionally, this time, the game will be played at Greensboro, North Carolina. Big difference.
Don't think the Tar Heels have forgotten that Texas scored triple-digits against them last season. Indeed, at the time, it was the second-most points the Tar Heels have allowed under Williams, topped only by Wake Forest's 119 in a triple-overtime victory in December 2003.
The Longhorns have not been good underdogs, going just 4-8 ATS (2-10 SU) the last 12 times they were getting points. During that stretch, they were also just 5-17 ATS on the road.
Even with last season's loss, the Tar Heels are still 6-3 SU/ATS their last nine against teams from the Big 12. I expect them to pad those stats here, serving up some "payback" along the way. *10
|12-17-10||Utah Jazz v. New Orleans Hornets +1.5||Top||71-100||Win||100||9 h 6 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW ORLEANS. Admittedly, the Hornets haven't covered the spread too often lately. They're 0-3-1 ATS their last four games and only one of those resulted in a SU victory. However, that "SU" victory came in their last game - and I believe that it was the type of win that they'll really be able to build some positive momentum from.
I say that the Hornets are off a "momentum-building" victory as they were down by as many as 23 points in the second half, yet still rallied to earn the victory. Often, that type of win can be "just what the doctor ordered."
The Jazz are playing well and have the better overall record. However, lets not lose sight of the fact that the Hornets still have the better home record (10-3) than the Jazz (7-3) do on the road.
Looking back further, however, and we find the Jazz at just 44-56 SU their last 100 road games. During that stretch, the Hornets were 63-34 SU at home. In this case, with the Hornets listed as slight underdogs, of course a SU victory will result in a 'cover.' I believe that provides us with excellent value.
The Hornets have plenty of motivation. They're playing with 'revenge' as they lost at Utah earlier. The Jazz also beat them the last time here at New Orleans. However, Chris Paul didn't play in that one. While Williams has traditionally gotten the better of him, I expect Paul and his supporting cast to come up big here, scoring the minor upset and improving to 9-6 SU the last 15 times that they were playing with 'revenge.' *10
|12-16-10||San Antonio Spurs v. Denver Nuggets +2||Top||113-112||Win||100||12 h 15 m||Show|
I'm playing on DENVER. While San Antonio is red hot, this is a difficult spot. The Spurs are playing the second of back to back games here, as they're off a very close win vs. the Bucks last night. They've been fortunate that they haven't had to play back to back games since 12/1, when they faced the Clippers. I had LA in that game, so enjoyed watching the Spurs lose outright. (Its no coincidence that was the last time that they even lost a game.) Including that 12/1 setback, the Spurs are just 18-20 ATS in the second of back to back games the past few seasons, not one of their best roles.
Not all back to back spots are equal either. This one figures to be challenging. For starters, last night's game was of the "hard-fought" variety. Additionally, they're in the high altitude of Denver, where the Nuggets are extremely tough to beat. In fact, at 11-1 (91.7%) the Nuggets currently have the best home winning percentage in the entire NBA.
The Nuggets will be going for their 11th straight home win here and their 45 home wins since the beginning of 2009-10 is the most in the NBA.
Yet, despite the homecourt and scheduling advantage, the Nuggets find themselves as underdogs. That's due in large part to the Spurs' superior overall record (Nuggets have struggled away from Denver) and also due to the fact that Billups is expected to be out again for the Nuggets. The Nuggets did just fine without him last game though as Ty Lawson started (had 16 points and 6 assists) and the Nuggets crushed a good Orlando team by 17 points. Including that result, the Nuggets are 4-2 ATS (all four ATS wins were also SU wins) the last six times that they were home underdogs of three or fewer points. Knowing that they'll be battling these same Spurs at San Antonio in a few days (teams play at SA on 12/22) I expect the Nuggets to continue their strong play here, taking care of business in front of the home fans once again. *10
|12-14-10||Philadelphia 76ers v. New Jersey Nets +1.5||Top||82-77||Loss||-110||7 h 13 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW JERSEY. These teams met on 11/27. The 76'ers won that one, in blowout fashion. At the time, even though the game was at Philadelphia, the Nets were only a 1-point underdog. Now, only a few weeks later, the teams are playing at New Jersey. Yet, despite the change in venues, the line hasn't really changed. I feel that provides us with excellent value with the home 'underdog' Nets.
True, the 76'ers have had some success lately. That's come at Philly though. In fact, they're a dismal 1-10 on the road, only Washington (0-12) in worse in the Eastern Conference.
True, the Nets have really struggled, since the loss at Philly. However, in fairness, they've only played four home games, since that time. A look at those games shows that the opponents were Portland, Oklahoma City, Boston and the Lakers. (Those are four pretty good teams!) With the exception of a blowout loss to Boston (no real shame in that) New Jersey was very respectable in the other games. The Nets beat Portland by two, lost by only three vs. OKC and by only seven vs the Lakers.
Looking back further and we find that the Nets really haven't had that many 'non-playoff' teams play here. Prior to the loss at Philly, the Nets had only played two home games over the previous two weeks. Those games came against Atlanta (a 6 point win) and Orlando (a 1 point loss.)
In other words, while the 76ers have admittedly been playing better basketball (at home) of late, they still represent a step down in class from recent teams which have visited here. Note that the Nets are a perfect 4-0 ATS the last four times that they were a host in this series. Playing with 'revenge' from the earlier loss and "desperate" for a victory, I look for the Nets to improve on those stats here. *10
|12-13-10||Baltimore Ravens v. Houston Texans +3||Top||34-28||Loss||-100||10 h 18 m||Show|
I'm playing on HOUSTON. The Ravens are an excellent team at home. Even with a tough loss last week, they're still 5-1 at Baltimore. They've only been mediocre on the road though, going 3-3.
Granted, they have played at some tough venues. Still, they haven't played at the same level away from home. The last time that they were a road favorite of this size, they lost outright at Cincinnati. While a Monday Night game is generally reason enough for players to get excited, I feel that the Ravens are in a tough spot. Last week's game vs. Pittsburgh was their "game of the year" and they blew their chance, a game they easily could have won. That may have caused some to think "what could have been" over the past week. Off that defeat and with a home date vs. the defending Super Bowl champs on deck, a game vs. a "sub-500" team may not receive their complete attention. We saw what happened to the Jets yesterday, who had lost their "game of the year" the previous week.
Taking this game for granted will prove costly, as the Texans are better than their record indicates. While their recent losing skid will keep them out of the playoffs (barring a miracle) the Texans aren't going to quite. In their last game here, they beat the Titans by a score of 20-0. We know they've long had a capable offense but the Texans allowed a mere 162 total yards in that game. They're now 12-8 SU their last 20 home games and they've always been tough at home at this time of the year. In fact, the Texans are a perfect 9-0 SU/ATS their last nine December home games. They were underdogs in a few of those games, too.
The Ravens offense has struggled of late. Now, Baltimore will be without tight end Todd Heap, as he injured his hamstring last week. Heap is third on the team in receiving yards (546) and fourth in receptions (37) this season.
Even if the Texans don't really believe making a playoff run is a possibility, I feel that they'll be "fired up" here. While Monday Night games haven't been that common for the Texans, they already got to play one this season. That was at Indianapolis though, so winning was going to be tough. They lost 31-17. I feel that the fact that the Texans also lost last season's lone Monday night game (20-17 loss vs. the Titans) figures to provide them with plenty of motivation here. The Texans believe that they're better than their record shows and know that this is their chance to prove it to the National audience. In addition to their outstanding home record in December, the Texans are 7-4-1 ATS (7-5 SU) the last dozen times that they were listed as home underdogs of three points or less. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|12-12-10||Kansas City Chiefs v. San Diego Chargers -9||Top||0-31||Win||100||21 h 5 m||Show|
I'm playing on SAN DIEGO. I won with the Chiefs (and also won with the 'under') when these teams faced each other back in September. Therefore, I wasn't particularly surprised to see the Chiefs score the upset in that game. At the time, I pointed out that I felt they were "going to be an improved team." I'll admit, however, I didn't expect them to be in first place in the division by the time that this week's rematch rolled around.
That's the case though, which makes this an absolutely huge game for the Chargers, essentially a "must win." I expect them to respond with their best effort.
Give the Raiders credit for beating the Chargers last week. However, note that they did benefit from some early San Diego miscues, including a big muffed punt by Sproles, who eventually got knocked out of the game. Take that away and the game could easily have gone the other way. A look back to the first meeting shows that the Chiefs were also rather fornuate. In fact, the Chargers had a whopping 389 to 197 advantage in total yards in that game, to go along with a commanding 37:28 to 22.32 edge in terms of time of possession. Note that the Chiefs benefited from very nasty weather and were extremely motivated by the fact that they were playing their first game in their new stadium and their first home Monday night game in years.
There won't be any surprising the Chargers this week though and the Chiefs won't have their home fans cheering them on. In fact, it now appears that they may not even have their starting QB, as Cassel didn't practice on Thursday. That would mean Croyle would get the call - and his career record as a starter is less than stellar. Its hard to imagine him going into San Diego and being asked to do much. (I based my original play on Cassel, but am happy with either.) Either way, I expect whoever is behind center to find the going tough, against what figures to be an extremely determined and focused San Diego defense. Keep in mind that before last week's disappointing loss, the Charger "D" went to Indianapolis and held Manning and the Colts to 14 points.
The Chargers are 5-3 SU/ATS the past few seasons, when attempting to avenge an earlier loss. During that stretch they were 3-1 SU/ATS when coming off a division loss and 5-2 ATS (6-1 SU) when listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -7 range. While things are certainly a lot closer than in the past, until the Chiefs beat them here at San Diego, I still feel the Chargers are the class of this division. I expect that to be the case here. *10
|12-12-10||Cleveland Browns v. Buffalo Bills -1||Top||6-13||Win||100||17 h 53 m||Show|
I'm playing on BUFFALO. I successfully played against the Bills when they were blown out (38-7) last week. That was on the road though and they were coming off a "heartbreaker" the previous week. I feel that this week's spot is significantly more favorable.
Its been a trying year for the Bills. They haven't "quit" though and have been competitive nearly every week. While I enjoyed watching them get blown out last week, I saw that they continued to fight the entire way. Having wagered on the 'under' in the 2nd half, I was paying closer attention to "garbage time" than I normally would have.)
This week, in addition to returning home, the Bills take a step down in class. Give the Browns credit. Like the Bills, they've been competitive nearly every week. Unlike the Bills, they've actually won some of their games. In fact, a few of their wins were against some really good teams.
The Browns still aren't going to the playoffs though - and they're still just 2-4 on the road. They did win at Miami last week - but that came on a field goal on the game's final play and the Browns hardly looked "dominant." Indeed, the managed only 12 first downs and 252 total yards. Now, they play the middle of three straight road games. With next week's coming against their "instate rival" (Bengals) it may be tough to get up for a game against the "lowly" Bills.
That shouldn't be the case for the Bills. As mentioned, this is a team which has been fighting hard the whole season but coming up just short.
After this, their final three games all come against the other AFC East teams (Jets, Pats, Dolphins) and the games against NY and Miami are on the road. That leaves a date with the Patriots for their home finale. In other words, the Bills know that this is their best chance to give the home fans one last victory. I expect that to make them the more "motivated" team, which often can be the deciding factor at this time of the season, between non-playoff teams.
The Bills may gain some added motivation from the fact that the Browns narrowly defeated them each of the last two seasons. Last year, the teams played an "ugly game" which the Browns ended up winning 6-3. Buffalo had a solid advantage in total yards in that game though and the Browns' passing "attack" as just 2 for 17. While we didn't see it last week, the Bills offense has started to come around. I expect a highly motivated effort and for that to lead to a rare victory. *10
|12-12-10||Atlanta Falcons v. Carolina Panthers +8||Top||31-10||Loss||-105||17 h 52 m||Show|
I'm playing on CAROLINA. The Falcons are a good team. The Panthers have not been a good team, this season. That's factored into the line though, as the Panthers are playing at home, yet getting more than a touchdown. Given the situation, I feel that provides us with solid value with the home underdog.
The Falcons are off back to back "big wins," including one of their biggest of the season last week. Now, they're playing the second of back to back road games (they also play on the road next week) for just the second time this season. The first time (10/17) resulted in a 14-point loss. Note that they were also 0-2 SU last season, when playing the second of back to back road games.
The Panthers, who haven't lost seven in a row since 2002, aren't going to quit. Not in a division game against a team which may well make some noise in the playoffs. This is their chance to show they can still compete with a top tier team. (They do face the Falcons again in the final week of the reg. season but that will be at Atlanta where the Falcons have been 'unbeatable.')
Coach Fox was quoted as saying this of his team: "We're going to coach our rear ends off. These guys will play their rear ends off. Hopefully we can get some results."
Speaking of Fox, his teams have gone 6-1-1 ATS (6-2 SU) in the final four weeks of the regular season the past two years. I look for them to surprise here, giving the Falcons all they can handle the entire way. *10
|12-11-10||New Mexico State +14 v. New Mexico||Top||62-78||Loss||-110||10 h 21 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW MEXICO STATE. The Aggies battle in-state rival New Mexico for the second time in a week as part of a
|12-11-10||Cleveland Cavaliers +8.5 v. Houston Rockets||Top||95-110||Loss||-110||10 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEVELAND. Since being embarrassed by Lebron and the Heat, the Cavaliers have admittedly really struggled. They did play the Bulls fairly tough (5 point loss) last time out though and they've got the schedule in their favor here.
The Cavs know that they're being trashed by the media and I expect them to show some pride here. With three more difficult road games on deck, they know that starting off the current trip with a good effort is extremely important.
While the Cavs haven't played since 12/8, the Rockets are off a hard-fought loss at Milwaukee last night. In addition to being just 3-5 ATS as favorites, the Rockets are only 2-3 ATS (1-4 SU) when playing the second of back to back games. Their lone SU win (vs. Minnesota) in that situation was more than a month ago. Given those stats and the Rockets' 8-14 overall record, I don't feel that they should be laying more than a "touchdown" here.
After last night's loss, Houston's Lowry noted: "We didn't do enough. We let them get some shots that we shouldn't have. We made some mental mistakes and mistakes that we could have avoided. And they made us pay for it."
After the 'cover' vs. the Bulls, Cleveland's coach Byron Scott commented: "We played hard for 48 minutes. If we play hard like that, I can live with that." I expect the Cavs to again "play hard" and look for that type of determination to lead to at least a cover. *10
|12-10-10||Houston Rockets v. Milwaukee Bucks -3.5||Top||91-97||Win||100||10 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on MILWAUKEE. The Bucks got a much needed victory in their last game, a 2-point win over an Indiana team which had been playing quite well. I expect the Bucks, who hit the winning shot at the buzzer of that game, to build some positive momentum off that "close win" and for them to string together another victory.
While this season didn't start off well, the Bucks have been very solid at home in recent years and they're now starting to shown real signs of coming around. Before the victory over the Pacers, they lost (vs. Miami) but before that they beat Orlando.
Much of that has to do with the return of Andrew Bogut, who had been out with injury. Since returning, the Bucks center has averaged 19.7 points and 14 rebounds. After hitting the winner vs. Indiana, Bogut was quoted as saying: "The Pacers have beaten some good teams and to get a win like this it feels good to get this in the final seconds. We knew it was going to be a tough night and hopefully we can get things rolling."
Tonight, they'll also be facing a team which has started to play better basketball. The Rockets have won three of their last four, including a 14 point home win over the Pistons last time out. They're still "banged up" though and they're still an ugly 3-9 on the road though, where they give up a whopping 109.4 points per game, allowing opponents to hit 47.8% of their shots. (*By comparison, the Bucks allow 89.6 points at home, with opposing teams shooting 44.9%.)
Note that the Rockets are a money-burning 21-32-1 ATS, the past 2+ seasons, when off a double-digit victory. During that stretch, they've also gone 12-17 ATS, after allowing 85 or fewer points, 8-15 ATS against teams from the Central and 8-10 ATS when playing a road game with an O/U line in the 195 to 199.5 range.
On the other hand, during that stretch, the Bucks are 14-6 ATS when playing a home game with an O/U line in the 195 to 199.5 range. They're also 13-7-1 ATS after having played three straight games at home and 17-10 ATS when listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. I expect those stats to improve here, as homecourt and superior defense prove to be the difference. *10
|12-09-10||Indianapolis Colts v. Tennessee Titans +3.5||Top||30-28||Win||100||33 h 22 m||Show|
I'm playing on TENNESSEE. Both these teams have struggled recently and both are desperate for a victory here. Many can't possibly imagine the Colts struggling like this. However, the reality is that they've got some serious issues. They've got no running game, the defense has struggled and Manning has thrown 11 interceptions in his last three games. Now, they'll take on a Titans team which has 15 interceptions on the season, eighth best in the league.
True, the Titans have their own issues, the biggest problem being a lack offense. They'll finally have the same QB (Collins) making consecutive starts though, the first time that they've been able to say since Vince Young beat the Cowboys and Jaguars in Weeks 5 and 6. I expect that "continuity" to have a positive effect.
The Titans should also be able to get their ground game going again, as the Colts have allowed an average of 171.3 rushing yards during their 3-game skid.
Yes, the Colts badly (desperately) need a victory. However, there's a chance that they could still make the playoffs, even with a loss here. That's not the case for Titans though. They know that their entire season is done, if they lose here. No exceptions. I won't say they "want it" any more than the Colts - I only point it out as many may think that they're already out of the playoff race, when they are actually still mathematically alive.
As Tennessee defensive tackle Jovan Haye said after last week's loss: "We can't lick our wounds for too long. We've got the Colts on Thursday. Five-game losing streak. The only way to stop the bleeding is to win the game."
While some may point to the fact that the Colts have enjoyed a lot of success in their Thursday games, the Titans haven't been too shabby in that department either. They're 4-1 ATS their last five games played on a Thursday. Personally, I don't put too much stock into those past Thursday records. However, I do like the fact that the Titans played at home last week, so that there was no added travel time to cut into an already "short week."
Perhaps more importantly, the Titans are 3-1 ATS the last four times that they hosted the Colts. Note that two of those meetings were decided by three or fewer points. Also, note that the Colts have now seen three of their last five decided by a field goal or less. With both teams in "must win mode," I could easily see this one also coming down to the wire. That said, with the line having climbed from its opener, I feel we're getting excellent value with the home underdog. *10
|12-08-10||Washington Wizards v. Sacramento Kings -4||Top||91-116||Win||100||12 h 38 m||Show|
I'm playing on SACRAMENTO. The Wizards, now 0-11 away from Washington, are going to win a road game some time. Given the fact that the Kings are struggling, they probably feel that tonight could be "the night." The Kings, who have lost eight straight, arguably "need" a home win every bit as much as the Wizards need a road win though (if not more) and I feel that they'll have the advantage tonight.
While Sacramento had last night off, the Wizards were involved in a fairly hard-fought game vs. the Lakers. Thanks to a big night from Nick Young, an LA native, they were able to stay in the game almost the entire way. Give them credit for doing so, but that also caused them to extend themselves more than they would have in a blowout loss. Now, playing their third road game in the past four nights, fatigue could well be a factor here.
While Sacramento's Tyreke Evans has been bothered by plantar fascititis, Washington may well be without Andray Blatche again. Blatche, who missed last night's game, is averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Its certainly been a rocky start for the Kings. They've been playing hard recently though and they very nearly beat Dallas in their last game here. Naturally, the Wizards represent a step down in class from the Mavericks. Their next game comes against Miami and than they take to the road and don't return home until December 19th. That makes taking advantage of this winnable game that much more critical.
The Wizards are 6-14-1 ATS (3-18 SU) the last 21 times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. The last time that they played the second of back to back games (11/17 at Boston) they lost by 31 points. I expect the Kings to be the "fresher" team down the stretch and I look for that to translate to a much needed win and cover. *10
|12-05-10||Buffalo Bills v. Minnesota Vikings -4.5||Top||14-38||Win||100||4 h 39 m||Show|
I'm playing on MINNESOTA. The Bills have been playing arguably "better football" than the Vikings over the past several weeks. Indeed, they deserve credit for "playing hard," despite having no chance of making the playoffs. The Vikings are still the "better team" though and I feel that they'll have the advantage here.
For starters, lets not forget that the Bills are just 1-4 on the road. They're giving up more than 30 (30.6) points per game away from Buffalo and opposing teams are averaging 386 total yards in those games. On the other hand, despite all this season's struggles, the Vikings still have a winning record (3-2) at home, having outgained opponents by a 345.4 to 268.8 margin here.
In addition to having home field advantage, I believe that last week's results favor the Vikings. Both teams covered the spread. However, while the Bills lost a "heartbreaker" to the Steelers, the Vikings bounced back with a badly needed victory vs. the Redskins. I feel that the Vikes will be able to build from that win while the Bills may be rather deflated, after that tough loss.
It should be noted that the Bills were fortunate to even be in last week's game as it easily could have been a blowout in the first half. For the game, they were badly outgained and the 200+ rushing yards that they allowed does not bode well for them here.
The Vikes are still 9-6 ATS (12-3 SU) the last 15 times that they were favored in the -3.5 to -9.5 range. With this number having fallen a bit from its opener, I look for them to build off last week's win and improve on those stats here. *10
|12-04-10||Nebraska v. Oklahoma -4||Top||20-23||Loss||-110||9 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on OKLAHOMA. This is a big game featuring a pair of big name programs. Both teams are talented, well-coached and playing well. The Huskers, who head to the Big 10 next season, would love to exit the Big 12 on top. Many will expect them to do so. I'm not one of them. While the Big 12 conference may have belonged to the Huskers in the late 90s, for the most part, its belonged to Oklahoma (and Texas) since that time. The last thing Stoops and the Sooners want to do is to let the Huskers leave as the best team. Anyway, my point is that while some may expect Nebraska to be the more motivated team, in my opinion, both teams should be equally "hungry." That said, it should come down to talent and matchups and I feel that will provide Oklahoma with the advantage.
The Huskers beat the Sooners last season. That was at Lincoln though, while tonight's game will be at Arlington. The Huskers won that game in large part because they were able to shut down Oklahoma QB Landry Jones. He's got another year under his belt now though and he's on absolute fire at the moment. In fact, he's thrown for 1,853 yards in his last five games - the best total in the country since Oct. 30 - and a whopping 17 touchdowns. While the Nebraska defense remains worthy of respect, I expect Jones to have a MUCH better showing here than he did last season.
While Oklahoma should benefit from improved QB play from last season, Nebraska has some issues behind center. QB Taylor Martinez, the player largely responsible for the Huskers' offensive success this season, is banged up with an ankle injury. He'll probably see at least some playing time here, but as running is a big part of his game, an ankle injury figures to have an effect.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was quoted as saying: "We'll play the guy we feel is going to give us the best chance to win the game, and it might be a combination of the two."
Stoops may not always come through in the bowls but his Sooners are 4-0 in the Big 12 Championship game since 2004. That includes a 21-7 win over the Huskers in 2006. I expect another victory for Stoops' crew here and look for them to cover the small number along the way, avenging last season's loss and improving to 8-3-1 ATS the last dozen times that they played on a neutral field with an O/U line in the 52 to 56 range. *10
|12-04-10||Nevada v. Louisiana Tech +8.5||Top||35-17||Loss||-110||5 h 38 m||Show|
I'm playing on LA TECH. I had Nevada last week. However, I feel this will prove to be an excellent spot to go against them.
If there's ever a good spot for a letdown for the Wolfpack, this figures to be it. Nevada coach Chris Ault called last week's win: "It is the greatest victory this university's ever had in football I can tell you that. I wasn't here in 1898, but some of my players think I was."
Off a victory of that magnitude, even though this is still a big game, it may be easy for the Wolfpack to "relax" a little vs. lightly regarded LA Tech. That will prove costly though as the Bulldogs are quietly playing well. Note that Nevada is just 3-6 ATS the last nine times it was favored in the -3.5 to -10 range, including an 0-2 ATS mark as a road favorite in the -7.5 to -10 range.
The Bulldogs are off back to back road wins, scoring 86 combined points in the process. They're 2-2 SU their last four home games but both losses came by six points or less, one by only a single point.
Looking back further and we find the Bulldogs at a profitable 11-3 ATS their last 14 home lined games. They're also an excellent 11-2 ATS their last 13 games against teams with a winning record, going 6-2-1 ATS the last nine times that they were underdogs in the +3.5 to +10 range.
The Bulldogs were blown out at Nevada last season but they played the Wolfpack tough when the teams met here in 2008, losing by only four. Playing their final home game and desperate to become bowl eligible, I expect them to give their guests all they can handle again here. *10
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