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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|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
|12-03-10||Illinois v. Fresno State +6||Top||23-25||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
I'm playing on FRESNO STATE. The Illini have been a more "profitable" team than the Bulldogs. Illinois is a lucrative 8-3 ATS on the season. Fresno State, on the hand, is just 4-6 ATS in its lined games. However, at 7-4 SU, Fresno State still has the better SU record, as Illinois is only 6-5. In this case, a SU win will also ensure an ATS victory. In fact, we're even getting more than a field goal to work with on the home underdog. I believe that provides us with excellent value.
The Bulldogs have long been excellent as home underdogs in this range. They're 6-2 ATS the last eight times that they were listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +7 range. Five of those games resulted in outright wins.
On the other hand, during the same stretch, the Illini were 1-3-1 ATS (2-3) SU, when listed as road favorites in the -3.5 to -7 range. They're 6-11 ATS as favorites overall the past few seasons, 0-3 ATS as road favorites.
While the Illini offense has been clicking, the defense has been vulnerable. In fact, they've given up more than 130 points their past three games. The Illini did have last week off - but this is still a long ways from home - for a regular season non-conference game, against a team which traditionally isn't a 'rival,' even one which beat them (53-52) last season.
This game may not have an impact on where the Bulldogs go bowling. Its still their final home game of the season though, the final home game ever for the seniors. It also may have an impact on Pat Hill's future. Even though, he's got a contract, until the Bulldogs start beating the likes of Nevada and Boise, Hill's job may not be entirely secure. A victory on National TV here would go a long way, particularly with the 51-0 loss to Boise still in everyone's recent memory. In other words, there should be no shortage of motivation.
These teams met last season and played a thriller that was decided by a single point. Additionally, the Bulldogs have seen three of their last four games decided by six points or less while the Illini have seen two of their last three decided by four or less. Given those results, I feel that this one could also easily come down to the wire and am grabbing the points. *10
|12-01-10||San Antonio Spurs v. Los Angeles Clippers +7.5||Top||85-90||Win||100||12 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on the LA CLIPPERS. The Spurs have been great on the road. In fact, with another win last night, they're now a perfect 8-0 away from home. I feel that this will be a tough spot for them. Not only is it the second of back to back games but its also the Spurs third road game in the last four night and they're eighth game in the last 13 days. That's a lot of basketball - even if some of the victories were relatively easy. With a return to San Antonio to follow, it may be easy to look past the lowly Clippers, a team which they've dominated.
I expect that to prove costly though. The Clippers have been more competitive recently, as evidenced by their 3-1 ATS record the past four games. While the Spurs were involved in a "fast tempo" game at Golden State, the Clippers had last night off. They're playing with "double-revenge" here and also looking to avoid the seasons series sweep, as they've already lost both games vs. the Spurs this season. Note that both losses came by 12 or less with the game here at LA being decided by single-digits.
Speaking of the earlier meeting here at LA, note that last time it was the Clippers who were playing the second of back to back games (they'd played at Dallas the previous night) while the Spurs came in "rested."
True, the Spurs have been really clicking offensively. However, note that the Clippers are 6-3 ATS against teams which average more than 99 points per game. Playing without Kaman and Davis, the Clippers 'stung' a red hot Hornets team a little more than a week ago. I had them in that game and feel that they're also capable of giving the Spurs all that they can handle here. *10
|12-01-10||Detroit Pistons v. Miami Heat -11.5||Top||72-97||Win||100||9 h 34 m||Show|
I'm playing on MIAMI. The Heat have certainly been costly for their backers. They finally snapped their losing streak last time out but failed to cover the spread, once again. They did win that game by 11 points, so weren't that far off from covering. Tonight's line is lower than that one was (it was -13.5) yet I feel that its got potential to be an even more lopsided result.
True, the Heat have a much anticipated game at Cleveland on deck. Given that it's "Lebron's homecoming," that's certainly a game that a team could "look ahead" too. That said, the last thing Lebron and co. want to do is to lose another game, right before tomorrow's "big game." Rather, they'd much prefer to return to Cleveland with some momentum - and what better way than by blowing out the Pistons.
I feel that the Pistons are "ripe to get blown out." They were involved in a hard-fought game at Orlando last night. While they eventually lost by 11, they were winning at halftime. Those types of losses tend to be more "draining," physically and/or mentally. Note that the Pistons are a money-burning 10-33 SU and 16-26-1 ATS the past 2+ seasons, when playing the second of back to back games. The last time that they did so, they lost 104-85 at Memphis. Including that blowout loss, the Pistons will be playing their sixth game in the past nine days. (Note that they've got an immediate rematch with Orlando on deck for Friday, so could potentially also be thinking about the return trip home for that game.)
The Heat are 6-1 ATS against the Pistons since the beginning of 2009. Two of three meetings in 2010 resulted in Miami "blowout wins" of 17 (92-65 and 98-81) or greater points. I don't expect tomorrow's trip to Cleveland to prevent them from improving on those stats here. *10
|11-28-10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Baltimore Ravens -7||Top||10-17||Push||0||6 h 45 m||Show|
I'm playing on BALTIMORE. The Bucs are playing well and they've beaten me a couple of times in recent weeks. I expect their recent run of pointspread success to come to an end here though.
I successfully played against the Ravens a couple of weeks ago. That was on the road, at Atlanta, though. Even at the time, I noted that I really respected the Ravens, just that I knew how tough the Falcons were extremely tough at home. In fact, Atlanta is one of only five teams which is undefeated at home. Another of those teams? You guessed it - Baltimore.
While the Ravens lost that game at Atlanta by a 26-21 margin, they showed plenty of character, battling back from a big deficit. That's their only loss over the past month and they followed it up with a convincing 24-point victory.
At home, the Ravens are a perfect 4-0. Their last game here was against Miami on 11/7 and they won by a score of 26-10. Including that result, three of their four victories here came by at least a touchdown. Looking back further and we find the Ravens at an outstanding 16-4 SU and 13-7 ATS their last 20 games here.
Not surprisingly, the Ravens are also a profitable 16-8 ATS (20-4 SU) as favorites over the past few seasons. That includes a 7-3 ATS (9-1 SU) record as favorites in the -3.5 to -9.5 range.
This will be the Bucs' final game against teams from the AFC North. They eked out 3-point victories over the Browns and Bengals, teams which are a combined 5-16 on the season. However, when stepping up against the Steelers, they were blown out by a score of 38-13. Note that Ravens and Steelers are both currently sitting at 7-3 and that the Ravens won outright at Pittsburgh. While I've come to respect the Bucs, I believe that the Ravens are better on both sides of the ball and I look for them to demonstrate it here. *10
|11-27-10||Kansas State v. North Texas +15||Top||49-41||Win||100||6 h 45 m||Show|
I'm playing on NORTH TEXAS. Some may argue that the Wildcats have more to play for. They've got six wins on the season. However, they're off back to back losses and a seventh victory would strengthen their case for a bowl bid. In my opinion, however, the Mean Green have every bit as much to play for, if not more.
Not only is this the home finale for the Mean Green but its also their final home game ever at Fouts Field. Naturally, they'd really like to close the doors with a victory.
True, the Wildcats play in a much better conference than North Texas. They've been inconsistent though and with four losses in their last five games, I don't feel that they deserve to be laying 2+ touchdowns here. Not when they're below .500 on the road, where they give up more than 444 yards and 31 points per game. Note that this is the third straight road game for the Wildcats, who gave up 44 points and nearly 500 yards at Colorado last week.
While outright wins haven't been easy to come by, the Mean Green have been competitive nearly every week, for the past couple of months. They're 3-5 SU their last eight games but only one of those eight games resulted in a loss of greater than 12 points - and that was more than a month ago, before the coaching chance. In their last home game, the Mean Green covered vs. a solid Troy team, losing by six.
Note that the Mean Green lead the Sun Belt Conference and rank among the top 25 teams in the country in terms of rushing offense. They've averaged 193.5 yards per game on the ground. They'll be up against a K-State defense which has been abused on the ground for weeks now.
Clearly, North Texas has played much better under Mike Canales, who is 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS as interim coach. Canales is a candidate to keep the job and one would have to think that a win here would certainly improve his chances. I expect Canales to have the Mean Green ready and I look for them to be in this one the entire way. *10
|11-27-10||Washington Huskies v. California -6.5||Top||16-13||Loss||-110||5 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on CALIFORNIA. I had a big win with the Huskies in their last game. That was a home win vs. UCLA though, on a rare Thursday night game in Washington. I knew the Huskies hadn't beaten UCLA in recent seasons and I knew they'd be hungry to do in front of the national audience, particularly as it was the final home game of Locker and the Huskies' many other seniors career. The Huskies rose to the occasion and came through with a double-digit win. Now, however, they step up in class to take on a California team which will be playing its home finale and which figures to be extremely motivated.
Cal has a ton to play for. The Bears come off back to back losses. Those games were against Oregon and Stanford though, teams that defeated the Huskies by a combined score of 94-16. So, they'll be looking to snap their skid. Most importantly, they also need a win to reach 6-6 on the season which would make them bowl eligible. Additionally, the Huskies upset them last season, embarrassing them in the process. Lastly, this is their home finale and the final game at Memorial Stadium until 2012, as it will undergo renovations.
While the Huskies did beat them 42-10 at Washington last season, the Bears pounded them 48-7 when the teams met here in 2008. True, the Huskies also need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive. However, while this is Cal's final game, the Huskies would have to win here and then also go on the road and win at Washington State. Yes, they'd love to win both those games. However, having won their home finale - even if they lose this one - if they can beat rival Washington State next week, the Huskies would still probably be somewhat happy with themselves - even though they'd never admit it. Not so for Cal. Anything less than a win here will be a major disappointment for the Bears. Note that Cal has gone to seven straight bowls.
Even with last week's win, the Huskies are still 4-6 and QB Locker is still struggling and still less than 100% healthy. Last week, it was the ground game, not Locker, which won it for the Huskies. He was just 10-of-21 for 68 yds with an INT last week. For the season, the Huskies are only 1-3 on the road, where they've been outscored by an average score of 37.7 to 19.7.
The Bears have been much better at home than on the road all season. The only two losses here were against Oregon and Stanford and they nearly beat the Ducks, losing by a score of only 15-13. Even factoring in the blowout loss to Stanford, the Bears are still outscoring opponents by a commanding 36 to 16 margin here. Opposing teams are managing a mere 247 yards per game here.
While the Huskies are 2-10 SU/ATS the last 12 times that they played a road game where the total ranged between 49.5 and 52, the Bears are a perfect 5-0 SU/ATS when playing a home game with a total in the 49.5 to 52 range and a perfect 10-0 SU/ATS when playing a home game with a total in the 49.5 to 56 range.
The Bears don't lose two in a row often. They're 3-0 SU/ATS the last three times that they did though. I expect them to pad those stats with a convincing win and cover to close out Memorial Stadium this afternoon. *10
|11-26-10||Boise State v. Nevada +14.5||Top||31-34||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEVADA. I narrowly won with the Wolfpack when these teams faced each other last season. Getting +12 or +13 points, Nevada rallied from a larger deficit and lost by 11. The previous season's game, the most recent here at Nevada, also finished very close to the number. Boise State was favored by -6.5 points and won by seven. This year's game is back at Nevada. Yet, we're getting an even higher number on the underdog Wolfpack than we were for last year's game on the blue turf. With all due respect to the Broncos, who are indeed a very strong team, I believe that provides excellent value with the home underdog.
Boise State has yet to really be challenged since the opening week of the season and the Broncos did come through for me in a big way against Hawaii. That was at home though and their road schedule has been quite 'easy.' To their credit, the Broncos did win a close game vs. a good Virginia Tech team at a 'neutral site.' However, just like last season, when they caught Oregon in the opening week, they may have been fortunate to face the Hokies before they really got rolling. Either way, that was the Broncos only difficult game, that wasn't on the blue turf, and they only won by three points. Other road games came at Idaho, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Wyoming. Idaho, San Jose St. and New Mexico St. all have losing records and are a combined 3-16 in WAC play. Meanwhile, Wyoming is 3-9 on the season and 1-7 in the Mountain West.
Needless to say, Nevada is a far better team and a far more difficult venue than Wyoming, New Mex. St, San Jose St or Idaho. Indeed, the Wolfpack are 10-1 on the season including 6-0 at home. While Boise squeaked past V-Tech in non-conference action, Nevada beat both California AND BYU by double-digits, when stepping outside the WAC.
Since their lone defeat (lost by 6 at Hawaii) the Wolfpack are averaging greater than 50 points per game. They've got the offense to go toe to toe vs. the Broncos and I look for them to do just that, improving to 9-3 ATS in November the past three seasons. *10
|11-26-10||New Orleans Hornets v. Portland Trail Blazers -3||Top||97-78||Loss||-110||12 h 32 m||Show|
I'm playing on PORTLAND. While I respect the Hornets, I've had some success going against them recently. They got off to such a hot start that I felt that they'd become somewhat over-valued. I also felt that they were "playing above their heads" a little and expected them to come back down to earth, if only slightly. I played against them in the first game of their current road trip, at Sacramento on 11/21. They won but didn't cover. I also played against them at LA the following night, they lost outright vs. the Clippers. I didn't touch the Hornets' next game. However, they got blown out by 18 points (105-87) at Utah. Off back to back losses, they'd definitely like to bounce back here. However, those losses reveal that things aren't quite as "rosy" in New Orleans, as many previously thought. More importantly, they'll be taking on a talented Portland team, which is very tough at home and which is determined to serve up some "payback" from an earlier loss at New Orleans.
While the Hornets are playing their fourth road game in the past six days, the Blazers haven't played a single game during that stretch. Their last game was on 11/26, a 103-94 loss to Utah. Sometimes, such a long break can hurt a team. However, in this case, I expect it to help the Blazers. That's because it should have allowed Brandon Roy time to properly heal. In fact, with the added rest, the Blazers might even get a few minutes from Joel Przybilla - although I won't expect much of a contribution there. Either way, as the game progresses, I'd prefer to have the well-rested home team as opposed to a visiting team which is playing in its fourth different city in the past six days. Note that the Blazers are 8-3 SU the past few seasons, when playing with three or more day's rest in between games.
Speaking of road trips, while the Hornets may be looking forward to returning home (and to a big showdown vs. the Spurs), the Blazers know that they head out on the road for four games after this. That, combined with the fact that the Hornets already beat them, should provide plenty of motivation. The Blazers are an outstanding 18-9 ATS (22-5 SU) the past 2+ seasons, when coming off a SU loss as a favorite. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|11-25-10||Texas A&M v. Texas +3.5||Top||24-17||Loss||-105||22 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on TEXAS. I won with the Longhorns last week. Laying roughly three touchdowns against Florida Atlantic, they won by a score of 51-17, recording more than 500 yards of offense. That victory snapped a 4-game losing skid and kept their bowl hopes alive. Having gotten the monkey off their back, if only partially, I expect the Longhorns to build some positive momentum and look for them to follow it up with another victory here.
The Aggies are also off a victory and they've admittedly been playing very well in recent weeks. They're far from unbeatable on the road though. In four games away from College Station, they've gone 2-2. They won at Baylor and Kansas while losing at Oklahoma State and a "neutral site" (Arlington) game vs. Arkansas.
While the Aggies would clearly love to win, the Longhorns have plenty of motivation. Not only would a victory, on National TV, help to ease their disappointment but it would also make them bowl eligible. As Mack Brown noted: "If we can do our job Thursday night, there's absolutely no doubt that we'll be excited to go wherever. There's no such thing as a bad bowl."
Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho added. "...This is going to be the biggest game of the season, but if we take what we did Saturday and improve on it, we are going to do very well."
Yes, the Aggies come in with the higher ranking. The Longhorns are still arguably the more talented team though and they've playing at home. Its also interesting to note that the last time these teams faced each other when only Texas A&M was ranked was back in 1998. The Aggies were #6 at the time while the Longhorns were unranked. Texas still won.
With an O/U line in the high 40s, note that the Aggies are a dismal 2-12 ATS the last 14 times that they played a road game with an O/U line in the 45.5 to 49 range and 4-10 ATS when playing on a Thursday. During the same stretch, the Longhorns have gone 9-4 ATS when playing a home game with an O/U line in the 45.5 to 49 range and 6-3 SU/ATS when playing on a Thursday. I'll grab the points but I look for the Longhorns, 16-1 SU their last 17 home finales, to improve on those stats by scoring the outright "upset." *10
|11-25-10||New England Patriots v. Detroit Lions +7||Top||45-24||Loss||-105||15 h 26 m||Show|
I'm playing on DETROIT. The Lions getting blown out on Thanksgiving morning has become somewhat of a tradition. Facing a red hot New England team, most of the betting public will expect another mismatch. This year's team has been far more competitive than recent versions though and I feel that they're providing us with excellent value.
The Lions failed to cover last week. However, they still held a 338 to 265 advantage in total yards. Additionally, they've still gone a highly profitable 7-2-1 ATS on the season. Five of their SU losses this season have been by five points or less. They've been particularly tough at home. In fact, they're a perfect 4-0 ATS (2-2 SU) here, outscoring teams by an average of 33.2 to 22.2.
On the other hand, the Pats are 3-2 SU/ATS on the road, outscoring opponents by a modest 26.2 to 24.4 margin. Note that New England was outgained by an average of 385.6 to 294.2 in those games, in terms of total yards.
While playing on Thanksgiving is always a special "treat" for teams, I feel that the Pats could be susceptible to overlooking the Lions here. After all, they're off back to back huge conference games (Steelers and Colts) AND they've got a huge divisional showdown vs. the Jets on deck.
For all this season's success, note that the Pats are just 2-4-1 ATS when laying points, including 0-1 SU/ATS when listed as road favorites in the -3.5 to -7 range. That loss was against Cleveland a few weeks back, the last time that the Pats played a team with a losing record. I had a big play on the Browns in that game and thought that getting +4 points at the time was generous. Now, we're getting even more points to work with and given how competitive the Lions have been at home, I feel that's just too much.
The bottom line is that I really don't feel that there's as big a gap between these teams as indicated by the records. They've averaged nearly an identical number of yards per game on offense and Detroit is actually allowing less yards per game on defense. This is the Lions' chance to show the national audience that things really are different this season. I look for them to do just that by taking this game down to the wire with a solid shot at the outright upset. *10
|11-22-10||New Orleans Hornets v. Los Angeles Clippers +5.5||Top||95-99||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
I'm playing on the LA CLIPPERS. I successfully played against the Hornets yesterday. That result worked out well, in terms of setting up today's play. Not only did the Hornets (barely) fail to cover, but they won their game outright. So, I got to cash yesterday's basketball ticket AND the Hornets may be slightly more complacent today, then they would have been if they'd lost yesterday. Off that result, now playing their third game in four days AND with a bigger game vs. Utah on deck, I feel that the Hornets may have some trouble focusing on the lowly Clippers.
The Clippers are somewhat more talented than their record indicates though and they're capable of surprising. While they're a modest 8-7 ATS the last 15 times that they were home underdogs in the +6 to +9.5 range, during the same stretch, the Hornets were 2-3 ATS when listed as road favorites in the -6 to -9.5 range and just 42-55-1 ATS as favorites, overall.
Admittedly, the Clippers have had trouble getting wins lately and they've also had trouble beating the Hornets in recent years. They're still playing hard though and I believe that they can take some positives from Saturday's loss. Coach Del Negro was quoted as saying: "...I'm happy with the way we battled. We had opportunities there, kept fighting to cut the lead, but we battled and fought and tried to grind it out. Blake shot it real well, we were aggressive the whole game..."
While they only have one win in their last 11 games, only three of those games (and only one at home) resulted in a double-digit loss. In other words, they've been more competitive than one would imagine, if only looking at the recent record. One of those double-digit losses came at New Orleans, putting the Clippers in the 'revenge' role here.
As noted yesterday, the Hornets also tend to fare poorly against "defensively challenged" teams. Including yesterday's result, they're now a money-burning 39-61-1 ATS the last 101 times that they faced a team which allows 99 or more points per game. They're likely to have a few new faces in the lineup tonight (due to their recent trade) and that may take a bit of adjusting. All things considered, I feel that the situation favors the revenge-minded Clippers and I look for them to give their guests a much tougher game than expected. *10
|11-22-10||Denver Broncos v. San Diego Chargers -8.5||Top||14-35||Win||100||10 h 38 m||Show|
I'm playing on SAN DIEGO. The Broncos earned a big win vs. KC last week, doing San Diego a favor in the process. Don't expect the Chargers to show them any kindness here though. The Chargers got off to their typically slow start and are now having to dig their way out of a hole. With the Chiefs winning again yesterday, (Raiders lost) the Chargers know that they absolutely need this one. That's particularly true, given that they're 0-2 in the division. A win here and they tie Oakland and stay within a game of the Chiefs.
Of course, one could argue that the 3-6 Broncos need the game even more. However, I'd argue that the Broncos don't truly believe that they can come all the way back to win the division, while the Chargers still expect to do so.
While the Broncos did manage to beat up on the Chiefs, they'd gone 0-4 SU/ATS in their previous four games. Those losses came by an average of 17.75 points. The Chargers, who had last week off, are 2-0 SU/ATS their last two games, beating Tennessee by eight and winning at Houston by six.
For the season, the Chargers are 3-1 SU/ATS at home, outscoring opponents by an average score of 33 to 17.7. They've outgained opponents by a commanding average of 428.7 to 255.7 mark, in terms of total yards per home game. Conversely, the Broncos are 1-3 SU/ATS on the road.
The Broncos are 1-5 ats the last six times that they were off a division win and 2-9 ats (1-10 su) the last 11 times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +7.5 to +10 range. During the same stretch, the Chargers were 15-6 ATS when listed as home favorites in the -7.5 to -10 range. I expect them to improve on those stats with a convincing double-digit win here. *10
|11-21-10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. San Francisco 49ers -3||Top||21-0||Loss||-135||6 h 31 m||Show|
I'm playing on SAN FRANCISCO. The Bucs (6-3) have a much better record. However, I believe that the 49'ers are favored for good reason.
The 49ers are only 3-6 on the season. However, two of those victories came in their last two games. Also, all three of their victories came when they were listed as the 'home' team. This is a team which is feeling no pressure and which is playing with a renewed sense of confidence.
Frank Gore was quoted as saying: "When we go out there, it's just like we
|11-21-10||Green Bay Packers v. Minnesota Vikings +3||Top||31-3||Loss||-100||2 h 10 m||Show|
I'm playing on MINNESOTA. I've played against the Vikings a lot of times since late last season and I won with Green Bay when these teams met earlier. The primary reason that I played against the Vikings at various times was that I felt that they were over-valued. An important key to beating the NFL pointspread is knowing when to "buy low" though, while "selling high." In this case, due to recent results, I now believe that the Packers have become the team which is a little 'over valued' while the Vikings are now beginning to present much better line value. Indeed, consider that the Vikings were + 2.5 point underdogs at Lambeau. Now, the Vikings are even (slightly) bigger underdogs, even though the game is being played at Minnesota.
While the Packers have been better overall, keep in mind that the Vikings actually have a better home record (3-1) than the Packers do on the road.
The Packers are coming off a bye. Given that they've been dealing with injury issues all season, they surely welcomed the break. That said, they were off three straight victories and a break can sometimes kill a team's momentum. Note that Green Bay is just 4-7 ATS the last 11 times it was favored by four points or less.
The Vikings know that their season is likely done. That said, they also know that its not quite mathematically over yet and that a victory here would keep their flickering hopes alive. As a result, I don't expect there to be any "quit." Cornerback Lito Sheppard noted: "It's not like we're not playing. We're playing hard. It's not even about the coaches. Each individual in here has a job to do and is going to be held accountable regardless of if the coach is here or not. We understand that."
Of course, this also figures to be Favre's final game vs. the Packers. While the future Hall-Of-Fame QB may be downplaying it, I expect him to rise to the occasion. He was quoted as saying: "We can't be concerned about anything else but winning the football game."
The Vikings are 17-3 SU their last 20 games here, including a 30-23 win over the Packers last season. With seven straight meetings between these teams, here at Minnesota, decided by seven or less, I'll grab the points. However, I expect the Vikings to improve on those stats by scoring the outright upset. *10
|11-20-10||New York Knicks v. Los Angeles Clippers -1||Top||124-115||Loss||-110||12 h 1 m||Show|
I'm playing on the LA CLIPPERS. The Clippers are on a losing streak and are off to a bad start to the season. Nothing new about that. This team does have some talent though and tonight's game sets up very favorably for them to get a much-needed victory.
On Tuesday, the Knicks went into Denver and lost by two points (120-118) to the Nuggets. The following night, they were involved in another hard-fought game, this time earning a 113-106 victory at Sacramento. After having Thursday off, last night, the Knicks knocked off the Warriors by a score of 125-119. That makes this the Knicks' fourth game in the past five days - with each of the first three being played at a very "up tempo" pace. That said, I expect fatigue to be a factor here.
Note that even with Wednesday's win at Sacramento, the Knicks are still 12-28 SU the last 40 times that they played the second of back to back games.
The Clippers have had some pointspread success against "high-scoring" teams and they're 10-3 SU the last 13 times that they hosted the Knicks. I expect them to be both the "fresher" and the "hungrier" team here and for that to lead to a much-needed victory. *10
|11-20-10||San Jose State +29.5 v. Hawaii||Top||7-41||Loss||-105||26 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on SAN JOSE STATE. I successfully played against the Warriors in their last game, a blowout loss at Boise State. They're back home now and they've had an extra week to "lick their wounds" and to prepare for San Jose State. As a result, most will expect them to bounce back with a blowout victory. After all, they'd been pretty impressive before those loss to the Broncos. While they may indeed bounce back with a solid win, in my opinion, asking them to win by greater than four touchdowns is asking too much.
The Warriors, 1-2 SU/ATS the last three times they were coming off a bye, had a big winning streak snapped in the loss at Boise. That was a huge game for them - this one is not. I believe that it will have been hard for them to put Boise out of their heads these past two weeks and that fully focusing on San Jose State will have been difficult. Keep in mind that the Warriors have already accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl.
The Spartans haven't been winning. However, they have been competitive - at least recently. Last week, they lost by four points vs. Utah State. The previous week, in their last road game, they lost by two at New Mexico State. Before that they lost by 15 vs. Fresno State and before that they lost by 22 at Nevada. Other than the Nevada game, which was still a cover, their only "blowout loss" in conference play was vs. Boise State. As already mentioned, Hawaii was also blown out by the Broncos.
These Spartans are a "battle-tested bunch" and their ugly overall record is due in part to the fact that they played a killer non-conference schedule. They began the season at Alabama. The next week, they were at Wisconsin. Two weeks later, they were at Utah.
Overall, the Spartans have been outgained pretty significantly - again, that's partly due to the schedule. However, over their last three games they've only been outgained by a 437 to 406 margin, in terms of total yards. Led by senior quarterback Jordan La Secla, the Spartans have thrown for 300-plus yards in three straight games with seven touchdown passes.
The Spartans finished only 2-10 last season but still played Hawaii very tough, as they have for a few seasons in a row now. The Warriors won last season's meeting by a 17-10 score, in overtime. The previous season, at Hawaii, San Jose State scored an outright win. Before that, in 2007, the Spartans hung within seven, losing 42-35. I look for this one to be closer than most are expecting once again and am grabbing the generous points. *10
|11-20-10||Florida Atlantic v. Texas -21||Top||17-51||Win||100||5 h 13 m||Show|
I'm playing on TEXAS. As you know, its been a very disappointing season for the Longhorns. A "blowout" win over Florida Atlantic won't change that fact. That said, it would make this team feel a lot better about itself. It would also keep the Longhorns' "bowl" hopes alive and give them some much needed momentum for next week's final vs. Texas A&M. The Longhorns have serious talent edges in this game and I expect them to come together and demonstrate that this afternoon.
While there's no denying Texas has the talent and athletic advantage, some may fear that the Longhorns have quit on the season. I don't expect that to be an issue though. Coach Mack Brown concurs. He was quoted as saying: "We've asked the kids to make sure they've committed for 12 days on Saturday. ... We want the kids to keep fighting. We said you cannot have the season you want, but you can't ever quit. If you quit, what an awful message to you in the rest of your life -- I don't see them doing that."
While the Longhorns are 14-0 SU against teams currently in the Sun Belt, the Owls are 0-5 SU/ATS their last five against teams from the Big 12.
The Owls have been terrible in non-conference road games for years. The last time that they played a non-conference opponent with any type of talent on 10/2, when they visited South Florida. That resulted in a 31-3 blowout loss. Including that result, they're just 7-12 SU/ATS on the road, the past few seasons.
Given the fact that they need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive, there will be no looking past the Owls. Texas senior James Kirkendoll said this of the team's current state of mind: "I think at this point we have a sense of urgency. It doesn't matter who we play. We have to win the next two games if we want to go to a bowl game."
These teams met here in 2008. Before the game Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger suggested that Texas was "soft" and vulnerable against "smash-mouth football." The Longhorns went on to punish the Owls with a commanding 232-37 edge on the ground, which led to a 31-13 advantage in first downs. The final score was 52-10 in favor of the Longhorns. They've got a lot of frustration to take out and I look for a similarly lopsided result here. *10
|11-19-10||New Jersey Nets v. Sacramento Kings -3.5||Top||81-86||Win||100||11 h 17 m||Show|
I'm playing on SACRAMENTO. The Kings could badly use a victory and tonight should provide an excellent opportunity to earn one. These teams already faced each other a few weeks ago. The Kings were in great shape to win that game, as they were up by eight points with less than four minutes to play. However, the Nets outscored them 17-3 down the stretch, en route to a 106-100 victory. That was at New Jersey though. Tonight's game is at Sacramento, where the Kings have been much better for years.
Admittedly, the Nets have been better defensively than the Kings. Note that the Nets are just 22-56 SU and 31-46-1 ATS the past seasons when matched up against a team which allows 99 or more per game.
The Kings have the edge on the offensive side of the ball. They average more than 100 points per game while New Jersey averages only 92.8.
The Nets are playing their third straight road game and play at Denver tomorrow. Note that they're already 0-2 when playing the front end of back to back games so far this season.
The Kings also lost at New Jersey last season - not many teams did. However, they won by double-digits when the teams played here at Sacramento. That brought them to 10-1 SU and 7-3-1 ATS the last 11 times that they were a host in this series. Desperate for a victory and playing with revenge for last month's setback, I expect them to continue that homecourt series dominance this evening. *10
|11-19-10||Fresno State +30.5 v. Boise State||Top||0-51||Loss||-110||11 h 13 m||Show|
I'm playing on FRESNO STATE. There is no denying that the Broncos are a powerful team, particularly here on their blue turf. Indeed, they've outscored opponents by an average of 46.2 to 16.2 in going undefeated here this season. Tonight's opponent is a lot more talented than the majority of the other teams that the Broncos have been beating up on recently. That said, I believe this line is too high.
The Bulldogs lost their last game. That was by just a single point vs. a potent Nevada team though. Speaking of the Wolfpack, note that Boise plays at Nevada next week. As the Broncos have had that game circled, as this season's one possible stumbling block, it may be pretty easy to look past Frenso here, particularly considering that they've (mostly) handled the Broncos with ease over the years. (Fresno did win 27-7 in 2005.)
Speaking of Nevada, the Bulldogs very nearly beat the Wolfpack last week. They were winning in the fourth quarter and lost by a score of 35-34.
While that was certainly a tough loss, it also showed that the Bulldogs are capable of trading punches with a high-scoring team - there were seven lead changes in that game. Granted, a home game against Nevada is a whole different story from a game on the blue turf, against this Bronco team.
However, my point is that Fresno has been playing at a high level and should have confidence to believe it can compete. Prior to that, the Bulldogs had won three straight, outscoring opponents by a 106-62 margin. Two of those wins came on the road.
While the Boise run defense is admittedly very good, Fresno's Robbie Rouse has rushed for more than 500 yards the past two weeks alone. By keeping the clock moving, the Fresno ground game should help lessen the amount of time that Kellen Moore and the Boise offense spends on the field.
Speaking of Moore, he'll be up against a Fresno State defense which is holding opponents to 193.9 passing yards per game. In the WAC, only Boise allows less. The Broncos are currently giving up 165.9.
The Bulldogs, who lost by 17 vs. Boise last season, are 4-2 ATS the last six times that they were underdogs of greater than three touchdowns. I expect them to improve on those stats tonight, giving their hosts a tougher game than most are expecting and hanging within the inflated number. *10
|11-18-10||UCLA Bruins v. Washington Huskies -2||Top||7-24||Win||100||33 h 15 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON. These teams both had last week off. That break figures to have come at a better time for the Huskies. That's because they'd been absolutely destroyed in their last three games, losing by a combined score of 138-30. In fairness, those three games came against three of the best teams in the conference (Arizona, Stanford and Oregon) and two of them came on the road.
That said, after losing three in a row by 30 or more, a break was much-needed. On the other hand, after beating Oregon State last time out, the Bruins probably wouldn't have minded if they played at Washington last week. Also, the added time gives the Huskies more time to prepare for the "pistol" offense, which UCLA has been running.
While the Bruins do have the slightly better record, they've still lost their last two road games by a combined score of 95-20. Looking back further and we find the Bruins at an ugly 5-15 SU their last 20 road games.
Admittedly, the Bruins have dominated the Huskies, from a w/l standpoint, in recent years. UCLA is 3-0 SU the last three meetings and 11-3 SU the last 14. However, a closer look reveals that the Huskies have actually gone 3-2 ATS the last five meetings. Last season's meeting, which was played at UCLA, was decided by a single point, 24-23 in favor of the Bruins. The Huskies brought back more returning starters (18-13) from those teams than did the Bruins, incl. QB Jake Locker.
Speaking of Locker, while he's still listed as questionable, I fully expect him to get the start here. After Tuesday's practice Coach Sarkisian 'tweeted,' "Jake Locker is cleared to play!"
Clearly, this was not the year that Locker had in mind. However, this is a chance for some redemption. He gets to play his final home game ever and he gets to do it on National TV, against a team which has always dominated his team. A big win here will go a LONG way. He's highly talented and I expect him to be the "leader" that his team needs here.
Thursday games don't come around here very often. In fact, the Huskies haven't played anywhere on a Thursday since a 1999 game at BYU. That makes this is a very BIG game, particularly with former coach Neuhisal returning to town. Even bigger, the Huskies need to win this game to keep their bowl hopes alive. Find a way to win here - and there's still hope. Needless to say, the crowd should be very enthusiastic.
Locker is just one of 16 seniors playing their final home game. Its been a long haul and this is their chance to go out on top. Wearing their black uniforms and with the crowd all in black, I expect Locker and co. to come away with the victory, covering the small number along the way. *10
|11-17-10||Miami v. Akron +9.5||Top||19-14||Win||100||7 h 21 m||Show|
I'm playing on AKRON. Miami Ohio has a winning record and comes in on a roll. Akron is winless. No brainer on the visitors, right? Not in my opinion!
This is a huge game for the Zips. This is their chance to earn a win and to do it on "TV" (ESPNU). I believe that they've got the "situation" in their favor. Akron was competitive last time out. Playing on the road, at Ball State, they lost by seven. That was back on 11/6, so they've had plenty of preparation time.
Miami Ohio, which has shown a tendency to let teams back in the game, is also off a close road game. The Redhawks won by three, at Bowling Green. They've had a "normal" week of rest, as that game was also on a Wednesday. However, this will be their third straight road game, which can be challenging. In fact, this is their fifth road game in their past six games.
The Redhawks have won three of their last four games. However, the three wins came by an average of only seven points. In fact, only one of the Redhawks six road games resulted in a win of greater than seven points and that came by just 12.
Even with last week's victory, the Redhawks are still 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS in November the past few seasons. With an O/U line in the high 40s, it also worth noting that the Redhawks are a dismal 1-11 SU/ATS the last dozen times that they played a road game with an O/U line in the 45.5 to 49 range, incl. 0-5 SU/ATS their last five in that situation.
The Redhawks, who have a banged-up starting QB, haven't fared as well as road favorites in this range. With Akron, 14-5 its last 19 November home games, "desperate" for a win, I'm grabbing all the points that I can get. *10
|11-15-10||Philadelphia Eagles v. Washington Redskins +3.5||Top||59-28||Loss||-110||10 h 8 m||Show|
I'm playing on WASHINGTON. I won with the Skins when they defeated the Eagles on 10/3. The Skins may have been a little fortunate to get the outright win there, as the Eagles had an advantage in overall total yards. However, the 'cover' was never really in jeopardy. Due in large part to that result, many will be quick to back the 'revenge-minded' Eagles here. They'll have the idea that the Eagles couldn't possibly lose both games to McNabb's new team. In my opinion, that perception has created excellent value with the home underdog. Indeed, we're getting nearly as many points with the Skins tonight as we were for the game at Philadelphia.
I successfully played against the Skins in their last game. However, at the time, they were playing their second straight road game and they were catching the Lions off a bye. This time, the Skins are the ones at home AND they're the ones who are now coming off a bye. Big difference.
Since losing the 10/3 game to the Skins, the Eagles have been perfect at home. They beat the Falcons by 14 and the Colts by two. However, they've been far from "dominant" on the road. In their last road game, they were destroyed 37-19 at Tennessee. They did beat up on the Jaguars, at Jacksonville. Their other two road games both resulted in 3-point victories, at Detroit and at San Francisco. Dating back to last season, only of their last six road games resulted in a win by greater than three points.
It's also worth noting that Reid's Eagles are just 3-7 ATS their last 10 games played in the month of November.
Additionally, note that the Shanahan is an impressive 11-4 SU when coming off a bye.
Speaking of Shanahan, you probably heard the McNabb got benched for the final minutes of the loss at Detroit. While he's been dealing with some hamstring issues, the bye figures to have come at the right time, both for him and for the team. Note that McNabb also got benched in 2008, when still with the Eagles. He responded by throwing 14 touchdowns (and just five interceptions) while leading the Eagles on a 6-2 run the rest of the season and all the way to the NFC title game. I expect him to play tonight and I expect him to respond well, again.
These teams typically play close games against each other. Including Washington's 5-point win earlier, the last eight meetings have ALL been decided by 10 points or less. With the Skins off a bye and desperate to remain in the divisional race, I look for this one to also come down to the wire and am grabbing the generous points. *10
|11-15-10||Minnesota Timberwolves v. Charlotte Bobcats -9||Top||110-113||Loss||-110||8 h 8 m||Show|
I'm playing on CHARLOTTE. I've had the Bobcats in each of their past three home games, going 2-0-1 ATS. In all three cases, the Bobcats were "getting points" against an elite team. They lost by three points vs. the Magic, four points vs. the Spurs and by one point vs. the Jazz. While those losses had to have been frustrating, this evening, the Bobcats will take a significant step down in class. With the schedule in their favor, I expect them to respond with a convincing double-digit victory.
The T-Wolves come to town on quite the roll and you probably heard about Kevin Love's big "30-30" game. In fact, with another cover yesterday, they're a perfect 4-0 ATS their last four games. This is a tough spot for them though. Not only did they play yesterday, but they also will be playing their ninth game in the past 14 days, including their fifth in the last seven. That's a very gruelling stretch, particularly as those games were all fairly "hard-fought."
While this is arguably more difficult than a "typical" back to back spot, its still worth noting that the T-Wolves are 1-2 SU/ATS when playing the second of back to back games. They did beat Sacramento on 11/10. However, both their previous games, when playing for the second time in two days, resulted in losses of 20 or more points. They lost 109-89 at Memphis and 128-86 at Orlando.
Including that loss at Memphis, they're just 9-14 ATS (5-18 SU) the last 23 times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +6.5 to +9 range.
While the Bobcats' offense has yet to really start fully clicking, the defense continues to be mostly solid. That's not the case for the T-Wolves, who allow 109.4 points per game, incl. a whopping 112.1 on the road. That's significant as we find the Bobcats at an impressive 51-34-1 ATS the past few seasons, when facing a team which allows 99 or more points per game.
The Bobcats beat the T-Wolves by 13 here last season and by 10 in 2008. They're 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in six all-time home meetings vs. the T-Wolves and I look for them to continue that dominance here. *10
|11-14-10||Carolina Panthers +7.5 v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Top||16-31||Loss||-105||3 h 36 m||Show|
I'm playing on CAROLINA. These teams both suffered a "divisional loss" last week. Carolina got crushed by New Orleans. Tampa "hung around" and lost by six at Atlanta. While Tampa's loss was "more impressive," I feel that it will be the more difficult of the two losses to "bounce back" from.
While the Panthers weren't in their game for long, the Bucs hung around and remained in the game, despite being badly outgained. In fact, in the end, they had a chance to win the game outright.
That was a "huge" game, as the Bucs would have been alone, on top of the division, if they'd pulled it off. However, with the loss, they now find themselves behind both the Saints and the Falcons in the division race. While there's still a lot of football left, realistically, the Bucs know that they aren't likely to overtake either of those teams, let alone both. Keep in mind that they're a young team, which had been 'over-achieving.' Dealing with that "reality" and thinking about "what could have been" can be difficult.
Of course, the Bucs aren't that great off a division game, no matter what the circumstances. They're just 4-9 SU/ATS the last 13 times that they were off a divisional game, including 0-2 ATS this season. They're 3-5 ATS (2-6 SU) when off a divisional loss.
While the Bucs did win 20-7 at Carolina, that was their only victory this season which came by greater than three points.
The Panthers have none of that. Their season is a writeoff and they were blown out last week. Don't think that they won't be motivated though. For starters, this is a divisional game and that should be plenty of motivation by itself. Additionally, the Panthers are off their worst loss of the season. No team likes to be blown out two weeks in a row. Note that prior to last week's loss, the Panthers had only lost one other game (this season) by 14 or more points. They responded to that game by beating the 49'ers outright, their lone win of the season.
Additional motivation for the Panthers is provided by the fact that the Bucs beat them earlier this season. Note that the Panthers are an outstanding 9-2 SU/ATS the last 11 times that they were attempting to avenge an earlier loss.
Even with the earlier loss, the Panthers are also 11-4 SU and 10-5 ATS their last 15 meetings with the Bucs. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|11-13-10||South Carolina v. Florida -6.5||Top||36-14||Loss||-110||30 h 31 m||Show|
I'm playing on FLORIDA. The Gamecocks have been good to me in recent seasons, both on and against. This season, I've only been involved in one of their games. I had a big (10*) play on them in their game against Alabama. Getting +6.5 or +7 points, the Gamecocks won the game outright. While that win showed the Gamecocks are capable of beating any opponent, it should be noted that it came at home. It should also be noted that South Carolina has been inconsistent since that victory. In fact, even though they've been favored in all four games, they're just 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS since the win over Alabama. Last time out, they were crushed 41-20 by Arkansas. Now, they'll face a talented Florida team which has started to click on all cylinders, seemingly just at the right time.
Both teams come in at 6-3 and both are 4-3 in conference play. That makes this is an absolutely huge game, for both teams. Indeed, the winner heads to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
Obviously, South Carolina desperately wants this game. The program has never been there. The Gamecocks have been humbled by Florida over and over again and got absolutely destroyed last season. Of course, there's also the "Spurrier factor," as the former Gator legend would dearly love a win on Saturday.
Don't think the Gators don't want this game every bit as much though. Center Mike Pouncey had this to say of the Gators' mindset and about what this week's game means: "...I feel like we're back on track. It means a lot. Our whole goal in the offseason is to get to Atlanta. If you would have told me we would have lost three games and still had a chance to win this last game and go to the SEC championship, I wouldn't take it back for nothing in the world."
We can probably cut South Carolina a little slack for last week's blowout loss vs. Arkansas. After all, the Gamecocks knew they were going to have to beat Florida, no matter what happened. That said, they still would have surely preferred to be heading into this week's game with some positive momentum and one can't simply ignore the fact that they were outgained by a 443-295 margin.
On the other hand, the Gators followed up a momentum-building victory over Georgia by destroying Vanderbilt. They outgained the Commodores by a 480-109 margin. Admittedly, Arkansas is a much tougher opponent than Vanderbilt. However, my point is that the Gators enter the game with positive momentum, while the Gamecocks do not.
While the Gamecocks did manage a win at Vanderbilt in their last road game, they're still an awful 4-11 their last 15 road games, going 1-4 ATS in the last five of those.
South Carolina's secondary is an area of weakness that Florida should be able to exploit. The Gamecocks' pass defense (264.7 yards per game) ranks just 109th in the nation. Note that Chris Culliver is out for the season and fellow starting cornerback C.C. Whitlock is currently recovering from a concussion. Speaking of "pass defense," note that the Florida secondary has 18 interceptions, tied for first in the country.
Florida coach Urban Meyer had this to say of his team: "It's not how you start; it's how you finish, and I think we're finishing strong." Speaking of finishing strong, note that Meyer's Gators are now a perfect 10-0 SU in November the past 2+ seasons, going 7-2 ATS in lined games. In fact, my assistant tells me that the Gators are 19-0 their last 19 November games, going 11-2 ATS their last 13.
Its also worth noting that the Gators are 9-2 SU/ATS the last 11 times that they were listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -7 range. I expect Meyer's team to keep on rolling for another day, recording another double-digit victory and continuing the Gators' long-standing dominance in this "rivalry." *10
|11-13-10||Utah v. Notre Dame +6||Top||3-28||Win||100||52 h 33 m||Show|
I'm playing on NOTRE DAME. Last Saturday, I successfully played against a couple of teams (Michigan State and Missouri) which had just suffered their first loss. In each case, they'd been undefeated and really starting to "dream big." In each case, those dreams were shattered with a blowout loss. Neither was able to respond with a cover. This week, Utah is among the teams which is coming off its first loss. Once again, just like the Spartans and Tigers, the Utes were really starting to get excited about their bowl prospects. However, playing one of their biggest games in years, they were absolutely destroyed by TCU. They'd love to immediately "bounce back" with a blowout victory of their own and many will expect them to. That's a lot easier said than done though. While the Utes are a well-coached team, the players are still only kids. Seeing all one's dreams suddenly go "up in smoke" is difficult and emotional losses generally do have an affect.
Don't expect the Irish to "feel sorry" for the Utes though. They've had a disappointing season thus far. A big win over a Top 20 team like Utah would get them to .500 and would make things seem a whole lot better. It would also get them back to .500 on the season.
While the Utes were busy getting crushed, the Irish had last week off. That bye came at a good time as it allowed the Irish more time to prepare for a tough Utah team. That figures to be particularly valuable for freshman QB Tommy Rees. Note that Rees came on in relief of Crist last game and threw for over 330 yards with four touchdowns. Of course, it helps having a bigtime receiver like Michael Floyd to throw to. Note that Rees and Floyd connected on 11 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns,
Coach Kelly said this of Rees: "You can see the strengths that Tommy has in picking up a game plan, where it comes natural to him. It's you go into a practice and he understands what you're trying to accomplish..."
For all their overall success, the Utes are just 2-5 ATS the last seven times that they were listed as favorite in the -3.5 to -10 range. During that stretch, the Irish are 4-2-1 ATS as underdogs in the +3.5 to +10 range and 3-0 ATS when coming off a bye. I expect them to improve on those stats here. *10
|11-12-10||Utah Jazz v. Atlanta Hawks -4||Top||90-86||Loss||-110||9 h 47 m||Show|
I'm playing on ATLANTA. The Jazz come in as the "hotter" team. In fact, they're off back to back upset victories at Miami and Orlando. Pretty impressive stuff. Off those two wins, they may be patting themselves on the back a bit here though and it could be easy to let their guard down, if only slightly. That will prove costly though as the Hawks are generally very strong on this floor and as they should be extremely "hungry" tonight.
Indeed, the Hawks have lost three straight games and should be desperate to get back on track. Note that the Hawks are a profitable 8-4-1 ATS since the start of the 2008 season, when off three or more consecutive losses. Also, note that they haven't lost three straight home games (they've currently lost b2b games here) since the 2007/2008 season.
Atlanta's Josh Smith had this to say: "We'll figure out what's going wrong, and we'll fix it really quick."
Before "writing off" the Hawks because of their current losing streak, lets not forget that they're still a solid 6-3 on the season. Perhaps more important, keep in mind that this team went an awesome 34-7 SU here last regular season, after going an impressive 31-10 here the previous season. During the same stretch, the Jazz were a combined 36-46 on the road.
The Hawks are a solid 16-11 ATS (20-7 SU) the past 2+ seasons when listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. During that stretch, the Jazz were a money-burning 7-14 ATS (6-15 SU) when listed as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range.
The Hawks swept the Jazz last season and they're 3-0 SU/ATS the last three series meetings here at Atlanta. That includes a 96-83 victory here last season. I expect them to continue that success here, bouncing back with a much needed win and cover. *10
|11-11-10||Baltimore Ravens v. Atlanta Falcons -1.5||Top||21-26||Win||100||82 h 3 m||Show|
I'm playing on ATLANTA. I had the Falcons on Sunday, so was giving their game extra attention while it was live. Though that play turned out to be a loser, I still saw a lot of good things from the Falcons. Note that Altanta held a solid 365 to 278 edge in total yards and a commanding 26-14 advantage in first downs. They still won their game by six points, more than enough for a cover here, and are now an impressive 6-2 SU on the season. Their only two losses came on the road, at Pittsburgh and at Philadelphia, neither an easy place to win.
With last week's victory, the Falcons are now 4-0 at home. They've outscored opponents by an average score of 30.7 to 18.5 here, outgaining them by a 404.5 to 319 margin. Looking back further and we find that the Falcons are a perfect 13-0 the last 13 times that Matt Ryan has started here at the Georgia Dome. Last time out, Ryan was 24 of 36 for 235 yards and a TD. The previous game, he went 24 for 33 for 299 yards and three TDs. Last week's victory brought him to an incredible 17-1 SU for his career at home. (We can look at SU stats, as a SU win should provide an ATS win.)
Given their record here at home, the Falcons are loaded with confidence. After a big goal line stand helped preserve the victory over the Bucs, Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson said this of his team: "We know how to win. This team has done a great job of finishing. When our backs are against the wall, we can find a way to win the football game."
Of course, the Ravens are no slouches either. In fact, they're a very good team. They're not unbeatable on the road though, as evidenced by their 2-2 SU record away from Baltimore. While both teams will be playing on a "short week," having to do so on the road can be challenging. While the Ravens "D" has admittedly been excellent, they've only scored an average of 14.2 points in their four road games, averaging 309 yards. As already noted the Falcons score more than 30 per game at home while averaging more than 400 yards.
With an O/U line of 43, note that the Ravens are just 2-6 SU the last eight times that they played a road game with an O/U line in the 42.5 to 45 range, going 6-14 SU their last 20 in that situation. On the other hand, Atlanta is 8-1 SU its last nine home games with an O/U line in the 42.5 to 45 range. With all due respect to the Ravens, I expect Atlanta's home field advantage to again prove the difference here. *10
|11-09-10||New York Knicks v. Milwaukee Bucks -4.5||Top||80-107||Win||100||10 h 33 m||Show|
I'm playing on MILWAUKEE. The Bucks have gotten off to a slow (2-5) start. They're better than that record indicates though, particularly here at home. In fairness to the Bucks, four of their games have come on the road and two of their three home games came against tough Western Conference opponents. They did win their only home game vs. an Eastern Conf. opponent, a double-digit victory over the Bobcats. In fact, a closer look reveals that they're 3-0 ATS (2-1 SU) against teams from the Eastern Conference. The lone loss came by just three points, in OT, at Boston. Also, before jumping to any hasty conclusions based on the Bucks slow start, keep in mind that they were 28-13 on this floor last season. This evening they should be highly motivated for a victory and they'll be facing a Knicks team which they have previously dominated.
Granted, this is a different New York team. Stoudemire is a bigtime talent and should only make this team better. That's not necessarily going to happen overnight though. We saw evidence of that last game. The Knicks shot made just five of 24 fourth quarter shots and were held without a field goal for the final four minutes.
After that game, a 106-96 home loss to a struggling Philadelphia team, Stoudemire was quoted as saying: "We are a very young team and making young mistakes..." Keep in mind that that Knicks are starting a pair of rookies, while also still adjusting to the lineup changes.
The Bucks are 6-1 SU/ATS their last seven against the Knicks. The last meeting came in February, at New York. Bogut was absolutely dominant. Not only did he score 24 points but he grabbed a whopping 20 rebounds while blocking five shots and contesting numerous others. That performance helped the Bucks limit NY to a mere 67 points. The Knicks made only 33.8 of their field goals. The last meeting here at Milwaukee saw the Bucks hammer the Knicks by a 102-87 margin. The Bucks were up 66-35 by halftime and put it on "cruise control" the rest of the way.
The Bucks are 15-9 ATS (17-7 SU) the last 24 times that they were listed as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. During that that stretch, they've gone a profitable 16-9 ATS when coming off a game in which they scored 85 or fewer points and an outstanding 48-24-3 ATS when facing a team which allows 99 or more points per game. Desperate for a victory, I expect the Bucks to continue their dominance in this series, covering the relatively small number along the way. *10
|11-08-10||Pittsburgh Steelers v. Cincinnati Bengals +6.5||Top||27-21||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
I'm playing on CINCINNATI. I've successfully played against Pittsburgh each of the past two weeks. Its certainly not that I don't respect the Steelers as a team. Rather, its a case of the betting public giving them too much respect. While I rarely play against a team three weeks in a row, I feel that Pittsburgh is again overvalued here. The fact that this is a Monday night game and that they've had success on Mondays, under Tomlin, has helped to drive the line up even further .Note that the line has climbed from its opener, providing even further line value with the home underdog Bengals.
Also, note that Cincinnati is 2-1 SU/ATS the last 2+ seasons when listed as a home underdog in the +3.5 to +7 range.
While teams like the Cowboys and Vikings have been considered major flops in the AFC, the Bengals have been among the more disappointing teams in the AFC. That doesn't mean that they're not going to play hard here though. This is still a talented team, one which won the division last season, and this is still a Monday Night game against a hated rival. As QB Palmer had to say: "... in no way are we packing it in."
While the Bengals struggles are well documented, the Steelers have been having some problems of their own of late. Their run defense is so good that teams have begun to attack them through the air. That's proven successful as opposing teams are averaging a whopping 261.5 passing yards against Pittsburgh over the last four games. While the Cincy pass attack admittedly hasn't been as potent as we've seen in the past, I believe that Palmer and co. are also fully capable of having success through the air.
There's rarely any "looking ahead" or "looking back" when facing a divisional rival on Monday Night. That said, it should be noted that this is somewhat of a difficult scheduling spot for the Steelers. They're off a game vs. the defending world champs and they've got New England on deck, a team they are battling for the top spot in the AFC and who they could meet in the playoffs.
While the Steelers had their way with the Bengals in 2008, Cincy won both meetings last season. Both games were close, each being decided by six or fewer points. The game here at Cincinnati finished with a score of 23-20. I could easily see this one also going down to the wire and am grabbing the generous points. *10
|11-07-10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Atlanta Falcons -8.5||Top||21-27||Loss||-105||51 h 27 m||Show|
I'm playing on ATLANTA. A couple of months ago, few would have anticipated this being a huge game in the NFC South. That's the case though. The winner of this game improve to 6-2 and gain sole possession of first place in the division. The loser may find itself overtaken by the Saints and all the way down in third. While the teams have equal (5-2) records, I believe that the Falcons are the stronger team. With the game being played at Atlanta, I expect them to prove it, in convincing fashion.
Give the Bucs credit. Getting to 5-2, no matter how a team does it, is an accomplishment. That said, a closer look inside the Bucs numbers shows that they've been rather fortunate. For the season, they've been outscored by a 163-130 margin. (Atlanta's numbers are the opposite. The Falcons have outscored teams by a 169-133 count.) That works out to opposing teams outscoring them by an average margin of 23.3 to 19.4. The Bucs have also been outgained by an average of 359.9 to 321.7, in terms of yards per game. Opposing teams are averaging six yards per play. Note the type of numbers one would expect from a 5-2 team.
The reason that the Bucs have been able to achieve that record, despite their poor stats, is that they've won close games against bad or mediocre teams and then gotten blown out when they've stepped up in competition. They've earned close wins vs. Cleveland, Carolina, Cincy (that was a miracle win) St Louis and Arizona. However, when facing the Steelers and Saints, they were beaten by scores of 38-13 and 31-6.
Despite getting blown out in those games, Tampa's coach (Rasheem Morris) has called the Bucs the "best team in the NFC." That should give the Falcons plenty of motivation to "teach them a lesson," - not that they should be in need of any added motivation.
Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson had this to say: "We feel like we're the best team. I guess we'll see on Sunday. Someone is walking out of here 6-2. We think it's going to be us."
The Falcons are a perfect 3-0 here at home. They've won those games by an average score of 32 to 17.7. In their three games here, they've outgained teams by an average of 417.7 to 332.7, in terms of total yards. This year's 3-0 home record is no surprise. That's because the Falcons are very tough to beat here. In fact, the Falcons are a perfect 12-0 the last 12 times that Matt Ryan has started here at the Georgia Dome. Last time out. Ryan went 24 for 33 for 299 yards and three TDs. That victory brought him to an incredible 16-1 for his career at home.
In addition to enjoying their significant homefield advantage, the Falcons have the schedule in their favor. Last week, they had a bye. Prior to that, they'd played here at home. (Last year, coming off their bye week, the Falcons destroyed the 49'ers by a score of 45-10.) On the other hand, the Bucs are off a hard-fought game at Arizona last week and are now playing the second of back to back road games, for the first time this season. They were 1-2 SU/ATS in that situation last season, both losses came by double-digits.
Its also worth noting that the Bucs are 3-5 ATS the last eight times that they were off back to back victories. Earlier this season, after winning two straight, they lost 38-13.
The Falcons were laying -13 for last year's home game against the Bucs. Even though this year's game "sets up" very well for Atlanta, we're getting a much lower number to work with. I feel that provides us with excellent value. The Falcons are 13-6 ATS (16-3 SU) at home, since the start of the 2008/2009 season. That includes a 2-0 SU/ATS mark when they've been listed as home favorites in the -7.5 to -10 range. They beat Tampa by 10 last meeting (had a 397-206 edge in yards) and I expect them to pad those stats with another double-digit victory here. *10
|11-07-10||New England Patriots v. Cleveland Browns +5||Top||14-34||Win||100||12 h 4 m||Show|
I'm playing on CLEVELAND. Off five straight wins, the Patriots are quickly becoming a favorite of the betting public again. I feel that this will be a very tough spot for them though.
New England comes off a big game and a relatively "hard fought" win vs. Brett Favre's Vikings. I call it a "big game" as the Vikes were a playoff team last season and were pretty much in a "must win" spot. Additionally, there's the extra "hype" that comes anytime Brett Favre is involved in a game. In last week's case, there was also the return of Randy Moss to New England.
Prior to last week's home game vs. the Vikings, the Pats were out on the West Coast for another "big game" vs. the Chargers. I call that one a "big game" as the Chargers have been a playoff team for several years and because the Patriots have played a few memorable playoff games against them and therefore have a bit of a rivalry built up. Prior to that it was Baltimore (another "good" team) and before that, the Pats played three straight divisional games.
On deck, they've got a game against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are a natural rival as they're the last AFC team to win the Superbowl and they're currently a team which the Pats are batting for the top overall spot in the AFC and/or which they could meet in the playoffs. Having played all those "big" games and with another "big" one on deck, it may be easy to look past the "lowly" Browns, a team which has struggled for many years now. I expect that to prove costly.
While New England was busy battling with Minnesota, the Browns had a bye last week. Prior to that bye, they traveled to New Orleans and beat the World Champs by double-digits. That victory should give them the confidence to know that they can beat anyone. They're now 3-2-1 ATS as underdogs this season and have been far more competitive than their 2-5 record indicates. Three of their games have been decided by three or fewer points and four of their five losses came by 10 or less.
Of course, the Browns should be highly motivated to score the upset here. Not only do the Pats have the best record in the AFC but the city of Cleveland (along with Coach Mangini) doesn't much care for Belichick, a former Browns coach.
The Browns, 2-0 ATS their last two against AFC East teams, are 6-3-1 ATS the last 10 times that they played a home game with an O/U line in the 42.5 to 45 range, including 3-0-1 ATS their last four in that situation. Off their bye and catching the Pats in a difficult scheduling spot, I expect them to improve on those stats this afternoon. *10
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