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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|10-22-17||Falcons +3.5 v. Patriots||Top||7-23||Loss||-115||128 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a Super Bowl rematch at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night (NBC), as the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots. The Falcons led 21-3 at the half of last year's Super Bowl and 28-3 in the third quarter of last season's game. However, the Patriots engineered the greatest comeback in the history of the NFL's 'ultimate game,' leaving the Falcons and their fans stunned with a 34-28 OT final which produced the fifth championship of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era (or should that read, the Brady/Belichick era?). The 2017 versions of the teams meet Sunday night and each team has reason to "not be confident!' Atlanta opened 3-0 but back-to-back losses to the Bills and Dolphins leaves them just 3-2 (blew a 17-0 halftime lead at home to Miami last Sunday). The Pats are 4-2 but easily could have lost at home to Houston and last Sunday, were the beneficiaries of a highly-controversial fumble/touchback call in their 24-17 win at the Jets.
Atlanta: Matt Ryan was deservedly the MVP of the 2016 season, throwing for 4,944 yards with 38 TDs and seven INTs for a 117.1 QB rating. However, after five games, he's got a 6-6 ratio and a QB rating of just 87.3. The RB tandem of Freeman (353 YR on 4.5 YPC with 5 TDs plus 11 catches) and Coleman (213 YR on 5.6 YPC with 1 TD plus 14 catches) is still potent but the Falcons' offense has looked 'off!' Atlanta led the NFL in scoring (33.8 PPG) in 2016, while finishing second in total yards (415.8 YPG). Here in 2017, those numbers are 24.2 PPG (12th) on 378.4 YPG (5th). The defense has allowed about 60 YPG more than in 2016 and 25,4 PPG, after allowing 21.8 PPG last season.
New England. What to make of the Pats in 2017? Brady is still awesome, with 13 TDs and just two INTs (106.9 QB rating), leading an offense averaging 28.7 PPG (5th-best). The Pats lead the nFL in passing (309.8 YPG), which is the reason the team also owns the most YPG (412.0 per), in the entire NFL. However, no team has allowed more overall yards (440.7 per) or passing yards (324,8 per) than New England. All six opposing QBs have thrown for 300-plus yards against New England (never happened before), as the Pats' pass D has allowed 14 TDs and has just five INTs (104.4 opposing QB rating is third-worst in the NFL).
The pick: No way Atlanta can be brimming with confidence after it incredibly blew a 17-0 halftime lead in its 20-17 home upset loss to previously-struggling Miami last Sunday. Add to that, the fact that the Pats lost their most recent home game (33-30 in Week in Week 4 to that Panthers) and that New England hasn’t dropped consecutive home games since 2008. The poinstspread is surely not much of an impost but this New England team is just "not right" here in 2017. The Falcons own a much-better balanced offense and neither team's defense seems capable of stopping the opposing team's offense. I WANT the points. Make Atlanta an 8* play.
|10-22-17||Bengals v. Steelers OVER 41||Top||14-29||Win||100||124 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: Two bitter AFC North rivals square off Sunday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals opened the 2017 season losing two games at home (scored only nine points) but a Week 3 OT loss at Green Bay (just 27-24), helped turn their season around. The Bengals have won at Cincy 31-7 and then back home against Buffalo (20-16) since, so they'll have a chance to get back to .500 with a win here against the hated-Steelers. Pittsburgh will be looking to maintain its place atop the AFC North (curently 4-20, after handing KC its first loos of the 2017 season last Sunday on the road. Pittsburgh won 19-13 at Arrowhead, holding the Chiefs to just 251 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, RB Le’Veon Bell had his best game of 2017, rushing for 179 yards and a TD, while Antonio Brown led Pittsburgh with 8 catches for 155 yards and the team’s lone receiving TD (now there's a shocker!). As for Big Ben, he bounced back from a four-INT game in Week 5, by completing 17 of 25 for 252 yards (one TD and one INT).
Cincinnati: The Bengals started slowly offensively in 2017 (see above) and remain low in most offensive categories. Cincy ranks 30th with 16.8 YPG on 311.0 YPG, which ranks 24th. QB Andy Dalton had a 'nightmare' of a first game (four INTs and a lost fumble) but competed 80.7% against Creen Bay and Cleveland (6 TDs / 0 INTs), before throwing two INTs in the win over Buffalo in Week 5. He will eventually need help from a running game averaging just 84.0 YPG (28th). Keeping Cincy 'alive' is a defense which ranks second in scoring (16.2 PPG) and total yards (262.8 YPG).
Pittsburgh: No one really bought Big Ben's "Maybe I don't have it anymore" lament and looking around the AFC, isn't Pittsburgh as likely as any team to be playing in a second straight AFC championship game. Big Ben's a proven winner and in Bell and Brown, the Steelers may just have the best RB and WR in all of the NFL (name a better set of teammates!). Pittsburgh's offense will be just fine by year's end and as always, the defense is near the top in most categories. How about 4th in points allowed (17.0 PPG) and 3rd in yards allowed (272.0 YPG)
The pick: Big Ben is in his 14th year (hard to believe) and while it's been slow-sledding, expect him to be just fine, working with Bell and Brown. As for the Bengals, the team's 'ugly' 0-2 start is behind them and a Week 6 bye may have been "just what the doctor ordered." Two defenses usually spell 'under' but "not so fast!" You have two QBs more than capable of putting up points and in Brown and A.J. Green, two of the NFL's very best WRs, as well. Also, there is talk that the bye week has allowed WR John Ross (Cincy's No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft out of Washington) enough time to get over a knee injury that bothered him all season. Surprise, this game is headed over. Make it an 8* play.
|10-22-17||Panthers -3 v. Bears||Top||3-17||Loss||-120||120 h 13 m||Show|
Carolina: Newton was Carolina's lone offensive producer against the Eagles, as ran for 71 yards (on 11 attempts), while the rest of the team had just nine rushing yards on 14 carries. That won't work! Newton was forced to throw 52 times, completing 28 for 239 yards with one TD, three INTs and a QB rating of 48.5. That was quite a drop off from him completing 77.4 percent for 671 yards with six TDs and just one INT in back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit. The good news so far is that Carolina's D ranks 4th in total yards (280.0 YPG) and 9th in points allowed, at 20.3 PPG (down from 25.1 PPG in 2016).
Chicago: Mitch Trubisky will make his third career start in this one. He earned his first victory last week but has passed for only 241 yards in his two starts, with two TDs and an interception (owns a 73.3 QB rating). He has averaged only 20.5 passes per game, as the Bears continue to rely heavily on the ground game, which is No. 1 in the NFC and No. 3 in the NFL at 136.0 YPG. RB Jordan Howard has amassed 495 rushing yards (167 yards in Week 6) and four TDs through his his first six games. The Bears are averaging just 17.5 PPG (28th) and that won't get the job done with the defense allowing 24.7 PPG (25th).
The pick: The Bears come into this contest 0-7 SU and just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games following a SU win (beat the Ravens in Week 6), while the Panthers are 3-0 SU & ATS on the road in 2017 (one of five NFL teams that are unbeaten away from home in 2017). Cam Newton vs. Mitch Trubisky seems like a total mismatch plus Chicago's rushing attack will get a severe test against Carolina's rush D, which comes in allowing only 83.3 YPG to rank 5th-best in the NFL. Carolina has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Make the Panthers a 10* play.
|10-22-17||Jets +3.5 v. Dolphins||Top||28-31||Win||100||120 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: Long-time AFC East rivals the NY Jets and Miami Dolphins meet Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. The 3-3 Jets are coming off a controversial 24-17 home loss to the Pats in Week 6, while the Dolphins improved to 3-2 with their best effort of the season, a 20-17 comeback win on the road over the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. The Jets squandered a 14-0 lead but were hurt when an apparent TD was ruled a fumble and a touchback on a still-controversial call, eventually losing 24-17. The Dolphins fell behind the Falcons 17-0 at halftime last Sunday but somehow came back to win 2017.
NY Jets: "I think the whole stadium felt (the call) was wrong," Jets safety Jamal Adams told the media in New York. However, the Jets know they have to move on. Journeyman QB Josh McCown completed 75.0% of his throws in the Jets' three-game winning streak and then passed for 354 yards in the loss to the Pats. McCown is going to need more help from New York's "no-name" RBs, as New York ranks a modest 18th in averaging 105.2 YPG on the ground. Overall, the Jets average just 318.7 YPG (21st) and ranks 26th in scoring at 18.2 PPG. The Jets' D is allowing 358.0 YPG (24th) but only 21.7 PPG, which ranks 12th
Miami: The Dolphins took the field for the second half of last week's game in Atlanta, down 17-0. It continued a sad trend for Miami, as the team's offense had scored just one non-garbage-time TD over the past 15 quarters. However, Miami scored two TDs in the third quarter, before Cody Parkey added two FGs in the fourth quarter to get Miami the "W." Miami’s offense had been dismal until its third-quarter revival against the Falcons, although it was good news that RB Jay Ajayi broke out of a slump with 130 rushing yards last week. QB Jay Cutler's "un-retirement" has not gone well, as he has just five TD passes and four INTs with Miami ranking 32nd in passing offense with 155.4 YPG (Cutler's QB rating is a poor 75.2). Defensively, the Dolphins have been very good, allowing just 16.8 PPG to rank 3rd.
The pick: It's just Week 7 but this is the second meeting of 2017 for these division rivals. The teams met at MetLife Stadium in Week 3, when the Dolphins were a six-point road favorite and the Jets won handily, 20-6. Both teams have greatly surpassed preseason expectations, with both defenses showing well. However, despite Miami's remarkable second-half comeback last week, they come into this game ranked last in scoring (12.2 PPG), last in total offense (242.8 YPG), last in passing yards (155.4 YPG) and 27th in rushing offense (87.4 YPG). How does one lay points with this team? In fact, Miami is a money-burning 4-12 ATS the last 16 times when favored, going back to the latter part of 2014. Make the Jets an 8* play.
|10-21-17||USC +3.5 v. Notre Dame||Top||14-49||Loss||-110||127 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The USC/Notre Dame rivalry is one of CFB's classics. USC comes in 6-1, after escaping with a 28-27 win last Saturday over Utah. The Trojans trailed 21-7 at the half and walked away with the win only when Utah failed on a late two-point conversion try. Notre Dame upped its record to 5-1 after winning at North Carolina 33-10 on Oct. 7th, without starting QB Brandon Winbush. The Fighting Irish led 16-7 at the half and kept the pressure on with a 487-265 yardage advantage in the 23-point win, despite QB Ian Book throwing for only 146 yards with one TD and two INTs.
USC: The Trojans rolled up 532 total yards against Utah but still barely eked out a win. Sam Darnold was a Heisman-favorite entering thi season but after throwing 31 TDs and just nine INTs in 2016, he's already thrown nine INTs in 2017, along with 15 TDs. RB Ronald Jones II (640 YR / 6.3 YPC / 8 TDs) is a quality back and leads a running game averaging 180.6 YPG (54th). USC's defense is allowing 385.4 YPG (67th) and 23.7 PPG (52nd).
Notre Dame: The Irish really need a healhty Winbush here (Irish had a bye last weekend), as Book is not ready for primetime. That said, Notre Dame's rushing game is first-class, led by Josh Adams, who has run for 776 yards (9.0 YPC) and five TDs. The Irish are averaging 308.0 YPG on the ground, which ranks 5th. The defense could be up to the task of slowing USC's Jones, as it has allowed just one rushing TD and a modest 16.8 PPG on the season (15th). Notre Dame has already exceeded its 2016 win total, when the Irish finished 4-8, after opening the season ranked 10th in the AP's preseason poll.
The pick: The rivalry between No. 11 USC and No. 13 Notre Dame stands as one of the most hallowed in college football, with a lineage that transcends individual season records."I think it's the best inter-sectional rivalry in college sports," USC head coach Clay Helton said. With a combined 22 national championships and 14 Heisman Trophy winners between the programs, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry has the hardware to back up Helton's claim. Both teams enter Saturday's matchup at Notre Dame Stadium ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 2009, and the 89th installment of the series will likely see the winner move into the top-10, as well as keep its CFP hopes alive. Notre Dame failed at home in its biggest test so far in 2017 (a 20-19 loos to Georgia) and I wouldn't want to be laying any points at all here, vs. the Trojans. USC was expected to be the class of the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season and could just re-establish themselves as the conference's best again, with a non-conference win at South Bend. Make USC a 10* play.
|10-21-17||Oregon +7 v. UCLA||Top||14-31||Loss||-115||124 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Oregon Ducks dropped to 4-3 (1-3 Pac-12) on the season after falling to the Stanford Cardinal 49-7, this past Saturday. The Ducks will visit the Rose Bowl this Saturday to face the UCLA Bruins, who dropped to 3-3 (1-2 Pac-12) on the season after falling to the Arizona Wildcats 47-30, last weekend. Oregon won 10-plus games every season from 2008 through 2014 but after a 9-4 season in 2016, fell to 4-8 last year. UCLA was also 4-8 in 2016, after Jim Mora had led the Bruins to four straight bowl games and a 37-16 overall record in his first four seasons in LA.
Oregon: The Ducks' offense has really struggled since losing QB Justin Herbert to a collarbone injury Sep. 30 against Cal. Herbert was completing 68.3 percent of his passes with nine TDs and just two INTs but in the two games he's missed since, Oregon QBs have thrown for just 178 yards with one TD and four INTs, with the Ducks scoring 10 and seven points, respectively, in back-to-back losses. The running game is excellent though, averaging 244.6 YPG (18th), led by Freeman (797 YR with 10 TDs) and Benoit (361 YR with 8 TDs). Oregon's defense has allowed 30.3 PPG (89th) but in term of yards allowed, the Ducks are better than that, ranking 43rd in allowing 362.0 YPG.
UCLA: The Bruins began the year un-ranked but after opening 2-0, snuck into the AP poll at No. 25. However, UCLA lost back-to-back games from there at Memphis (allowed 48 poinst) and at Stanford (allowed 58 points). After beating Colorado 27-23 at home, UCLA's defense again got 'spanked,' allowing 47 points in a loss at Arizona. QB Josh Rosen is a "big-time" talent and UCLA ranks second in the nation averaging 399.7 YPG through the air. Rosen is completing 64.2% with 17 TDs and eight INTs, despite a non-existent running game which averaged 127.5 YPG (104th). However, with UCLA's defense, Rosen finds himself typically playing "catch up." The Bruins are allowing 40.5 PPG (125th) on 523.0 YPG (127th).
The pick: Led by Freeman (plus Benoit's no slouch), the Oregon running game should 'run wild' against a UCLA rush D allowing 313.0 YPG (129th), as well as 6.6 YPC! This is hardly a matchup that bodes well for UCLA being able to beat Oregon for the first time since 2007. UCLA's next win will be the 600th in program history but do not expect that win to come here, as Oregon wins its seventh in a row over the Bruins. Make the Ducks an 8* play.
|10-21-17||Maryland v. Wisconsin -24||Top||13-38||Win||100||120 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Maryland Terrapins (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) travel to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), who are currently ranked No. 5. Terps shocked Texas in their season-opener, winning 51-41 as an 18-point road dog but come in having lost three of their last four. Wisconsin has taken control of the Big Ten's West Division at 3-0, with no other team checking in any better than 2-2.
Maryland: The Terps have fallen off quite dramatically since their opening week win over Texas and have been outscored 99-35 in their last two games. QB Max Bortenschlager is completing just 50.9 percent of his passes (only 106 attempts) for 561 yards with six TDs and two INTs. Maryland ranks just 117th in yards passing, averaging just 161.0 YPG. Maryland's ground game is averaging 178.1 YPG (57th), led by and Ty Johnson (488 YR / 7.2 YPC). Maryland averages 31.7 PPG but that doesn't help much with the defense allowing 36.5 PPG (115th).
Wisconsin: The Badgers look to move to 7-0 and keep themselves in the thick of the college football playoff conversation. QB Alex Hornibrook is completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,210 yards with 11 TDs and six INTs. Wisconsin averages 36.3 PPG (27th) and a big reason is a ground game averaging 264.5 YPG (13th). Freshman Jonathan Taylor is Wisconsin's "next great RB," rushing for 986 yards on 7.8 YPC with 10 TDs. He had with 219 yards last week (his third 200-plus game of 2017) and will surely match the NCAA record for fewest games needed to reach 1,000 yards (seven). Nothing new on the defensive side of the ball for Wisconsin here in 2017, as the Badgers are allowing only 13.3 YPG (5th) on 265.0 YPG (6th).
The pick: Wisconsin is just 1-3 ATS at home in 2017 but the Badgers have the rush D (78.8 YPG ranks 4th) to contain Maryland's running game, which will put way too much pressure on QB Bortenschlage, who really isn't ready for primetime. The Terps have allowed 99 combined points in back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Northwestern and are very likely to allow 40-plus points here.The Badgers are outscoring opponents 119-24 in the second half and pull away here for the cover. Make Wisconsin an 8* play.
|10-21-17||Oklahoma State v. Texas OVER 64.5||Top||13-10||Loss||-110||46 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) Oklahoma State Cowboys are ranked 10th in the latest AP poll and travel to Austin to play the (3-3, 2-1 Big 12) Texas Longhorns at Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. OSU brings the nation's No. 1 offense (617.2 YPG) and its No. 2 scoring offense (48.8 PPG) into the contest, after gaining a school-record 747 yards in a 59-16 rout of Baylor last Saturday. The Longhorns are off their annual Red River Showdown against Oklahoma, a game in which Texas rebound from a 23-10 deficit to take a 24-23 4th-quarter lead, only to lose 29-24.
Oklahoma State: QB Mason Rudolph is completing 66.7 percent with 19 TDs and just four INTs, with OSU leading the nation with 411.2 YPG through the air. Considering how "pass-happy" the offense is, it's impressive that the Cowboys are also averaging 199.5 YPG on the ground (on 5.4 YPC), led by RB Hill's 633 yards on 6.0 YPC. With the kind of numbers OSU's offense puts up, the defense has to be good but not great. That's a fair description for an OSU stop-unit that's allowing 24.3 PPG (56th).
Texas: Steve Buechele opened the season as Texas' starting QB but it was freshman Sam Ehlinger who led the comeback against Texas. He's completing just 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,178 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions but does have has at least one TD pass in all four of his games this season. Of greater importance is his ability to run, as Ehlinger has rushed for 217 yards (5.2 YPC) in the Longhorns' last two games. He will start in this one, leading an offense averaging 33.7 PPG (41st). Defensively, Texas is allowing 24.7 PPG on 381.5 YPG but it's hard to ignore the 518 yards it allowed last Saturday to Oklahoma, a team with a similar QB to Rudolph, in Baker Mayfield.
The pick: Oklahoma State was a trendy pick to make the four-team College Football Playoff but that was before it was upset at home 44-31 by TCU back on Sep. 23. TCU is now the leader of the pack in the Big 12 and currently ranks 4th in the latest AP poll. OSU is quite 'dead' yet but the Cowboys no longer have any margin of error. The Longhorns hold a 24-7 series lead over Oklahoma State and a 15-5 advantage in Austin but the Cowboys have put their mark on the series by winning five of the past seven meetings. In fact, after losing 15 of 16 times in Austin, the Cowboys have won the last four meetings in Austin, marking the longest winning streak against Texas at home by one team. Here's the catch though, Tom Herman’s Houston & Texas teams are a perfect 7-0 ATS as an underdog! Best way to go here is an 8* on the Over, as the Texas D won't be able to stop Rudolph and Co, while Ehlinger's dual-threat ability will allow Texas to score as well.
|10-20-17||Air Force -5.5 v. Nevada||Top||45-42||Loss||-105||105 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: It's MWC play on Friday night at MacKay Stadium when the Nevada Wolf Pack host the Air Force Falcons. The Falcons opened with a 67-0 win over VMI but then lost four in a row. In the last two losses of the team's skid, Air Force allowed 56 points at New Mexico and then 48 at home to Navy. However, after falling behind UNLV by 27 points, Air force rallied for a 34-30 win. Nevada opened 2017 with five straight losses, before winning 35-21 at home over at Hawaii but lost last Saturday 44-42 at Colorado State.
Air Force: The Falcons rallied last Saturday, despite six fumbles (four lost), as QB Arion Worthman rushed for five TDs. He's completing just 49.2% for YPG but has eight TDs and just one INT. He's also the team's leading rusher (550 YR and 10 TDs), as the Falcons rank 6th in the nation averaging 304.0 YPG on the ground. Air Force is allowing 31.8 PPG (101st).
Nevada: The Wolf Pack come off of a near upset of MWC favorite Colorado State in a 44-42 loss (as 25-point underdog) but that leaves the team just 1-6 (1-2 in MWC play). QB Gangi is completing a modest 58.8 percent but has 14 TD passes (eight the last two games) and just six INTs. RB Moore (442 YR / 5.7 YPC) lead a the rushing attack taht averages only 128.6 YPG (101st) and Nevada averages a modest 25.3 PPG (91st). The defense allows 35.6 PPG (112th).
The pick: CBSC televises this game but really, who cares? Air Force is off a 10-3 season and is just 2-4 heading into this game. The Falcons have been to nine bowls in the last 10 seasons and need a win here to have any chance of extending that run. Make Air Force a 10* play.
|10-20-17||Western Kentucky v. Old Dominion OVER 47||Top||35-31||Win||100||29 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: Western Kentucky opened 1-2 but enter Friday's game on a three-game winning streak (but just 1-2 ATS). The Hilltoppers go for their 4th straight win with a visit to the Old Dominion Monarchs, who are 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS. Both schools reside in the East Division of C-USA, with Western Ky sitting at 2-1 and ODU at 0-2.
Western Kentucky: Jeff Brohm took over at Western Ky when Bobby Petrino left for Louisville and led the Hilltoppers to three straight bowl berths. Western Ky won all three of those bowl games, although Brohm took the Purdue job prior to last year's bowl win. Mike Sanford Jr. is a first-time head coach and his offense has averaged only 25.5 PPG (87th), after Brohm's three teams averaged 44.4, 44.3 and 45.5 PPG. However, the defense allows a modest 18.2 PPG (19th) on 340.5 YPG (34th). In comparison, Western Ky had allowed 25.9 and 24.6 PPG the last two seasons.
Old Dominion: Monarch fans may already be looking ahead to the start of basketball season. The offense stinks, averaging 17.0 PPG (123rd) on 287.3 YPG (126th). The defense is no better, allowing 34.7 PPG (110th) on 436.8 YPG (103rd). ODU has a freshman QB in Steven Williams and RBs Ray Lawry (back healthy) and Jeremy Cox have underachieved.
The pick: Western Kentucky is coming off a 45-16 victory versus the Charlotte 49ers on Saturday and while the Hilltoppers didn't run the ball well, QB Mike White completed 33 of 47 for 398 yards with five TDs. I realize this is not the Western Ky offense of the last three seasons but these two schools have met just three times, all coming these last three season. Western Ky has won all three, with the final scores being 59-24, 55-30 and 66-51. Doing the math, that's an average final of 95.0 PPG. Yes, make the Over an 8* play.
|10-19-17||Chiefs v. Raiders UNDER 47.5||Top||30-31||Loss||-110||56 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chiefs welcomed the Steelers to Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday as the NFL's lone unbeaten team at 5-0 (also 5-0 ATS). Kansas City entered last week's game averaging nearly 33 points through its first five victories but its offense was bottled up (held to 13 points on 251 yards) while its 27th-ranked run defense (130.7 YPG) was stampeded for 194 yards.The Raiders were a 'sexy' pick to strongly compete for the AFC title in 2017 and after opening with a 26-16 win at Tennessee and then routing the Jets 45-10 at home, expectations were "off the chart." However, as the Raiders get set to host one of their most-hated rivals (from the days of the original AFL), Oakland will be trying to snap a four-game losing streak.
Kansas City: QB Alex Smith did not have his best game of 2017 in KC's 19-13 loss to the Steelers but he does enter this contest having completed 72.9 percent of his passes
Oakland: QB Derek Carr got off to a great start but a fractured bone in his back has slowed him. He returned to the lineup after missing one game last Sunday but he had another mediocre game in the Raiders' 17-16 home loss to the Rams (171 YP / one TD / 2 INTs / 67.5 QB rating) and now has four interceptions in his past three contests, after tossing only six picks in the entire 2016 season.
The pick: The Chiefs travel to Oakland Thursday night, looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since October of 2015. What's more, the Chiefs have won nine straight road games. The Chiefs are 14-3 ATS in their last 17 road games and 11-3 ATS in their last 14 meetings in Oakland. That said, I think we'll get an "all-out" effort from the Raiders in this one. However, in the team's four-game skid, Oakland has scored 10, 10, 17 and 16 points (that's just 13.3 PPG). That brings in this stat..."the under" is 18-6 in the last 24 meeting between these hated rivals. Make the under a 10* play in this one.
|10-19-17||Memphis v. Houston -2.5||Top||42-38||Loss||-118||80 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-1 (2-1 in the AAC) Memphis Tigers handed Navy its first loss of the season last Saturday. edging the Midshipmen 30-27. The victory allowed the Tigers to move into the latest AP poll at No. 25, for the first time since 2015. Memphis' lone loss in 2017 has come 40-13 at UCF but I should note that UCF is one of just eight unbeaten FBS teams and is currently ranked 20th in the AP poll. It's an AAC game Thursday night game when the Tigers visit TDECU Stadium and Houston on ESPN. The Cougars will be looking to atone for 45-17 upset loss at struggling Tulsa (2-5). Houston welcomes Memphis with 4-2 overall record (2-1 in the AAC).
Memphis: QB Riley Ferguson is completing just 59.3 percent of his passes but has thrown for for 1,814 yards, 19 TDs and just five INTs. The Memphis ground game is averaging 180.2 YPG (55th), led by Henderson (542 yards / 8.1 YPC) and Taylor (307 YR / 5.4 YPC). WR Anthony Miller has 45 catches and nine TDs, although nine different players have at least one TD catch. Memphis is averaging 40.3 PPG (12th) but allowing 33.8 PPG (109th) on 477.5 YPG (116th).
Houston: This is Major Applewhite's first season at Houston, taking over for Tom Herman (now at Texas). Applewhite opened the season with Kyle Allen as his starting QB but after a 27-24 at home to Texas Tech, he gave the starting job to Kyle Postma. The Cougars won the first two games Postma started but then came last Saturday's 'ugly' 45-17 loss at Tulsa. Allen has attempted 104 passes (76.9%) for 751 yards with four TDs and four INTs, while Postma has 122 pass attempts (65.6%) for 805 yards with four TDs and five INTs. Houston's ground game is averaging 161.8 YPG (69th), led by Catalon (431 YR / 4.8 YPC) and Birden (227 YR / 5.8 YPC). Houston is averaging just 25.5 PPG (86th), down from 40.4 and 35.8 PPG the last two seasons. However, the defense has been solid, allowing 21.0 PPG (39th), which is in keeping with the team averaging between 20.8 and 23.5 PPG the previous four seasons.
The pick: Memphis has won 11 straight regular-season non-Saturday games, including six on the road but the Cougars have won 11 straight conference home games, as well as six of the past seven against Memphis. The Tigers are coming off a huge win over Navy plus beat Houston last season 48-44, snapping a six-game losing streak in the series that dated to 2006. Cougars get their revenge. Make Houston a 10* play.
|10-16-17||Colts v. Titans -7.5||Top||22-36||Win||100||34 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: Preseason expectations were running high in Tennessee, after the Titans went 9-7 in 2016, losing the AFC South to the Texans on a tie-breaker. The Titans 'laid an egg' in Week 1 in a 26-16 home loss to the Raiders but rebounded with wins at Jacksonville and home to Seattle, to get back on track. However, the Titans were pulverized 57-14 in Week 4 at Houston and followed with a 16-10 loss in Miami last week, while seeing starting QB Marcus Mariota go down with a hamstring injury. The Colts know all to well about an injury to their starting QB, as Andrew Luck has yet to see action in 2017 and does not have an exact timetable to return from his shoulder woes. However, Indy has seen its offense take significant strides as Jacoby Brissett has gotten acclimated under center in place, with the Colts splitting his four games as the team's starting QB (Colts are 2-3, overall).
Indianapolis: Brissett threw for a career-high 314 yards and rushed for a TD last week as the Colts collected their second victory against a win-less team with a 26-23 overtime triumph over San Francisco (also beat the now 0-6 Browns at home in Week 2). T.Y. Hilton had seven catches for 177 yards last week. Rookie RB Marlon Mack has given the Colts' running game a boost, with a 22-yard TD plus his 35-yard run set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning 51-yard FGl in overtime. Veteran Frank Gore moved into seventh place in NFL history with 13,304 yards rushing. Still, the Colts average only 100.0 YPG on the ground (20th) and their 19.4 PPG ranks only 22nd. The defense is a big problem, as the Colts rank last by allowing 31.8 PPG and 30th (of 32 teams) in total D (393.4 YPG), as well as passing yards (294.0 YPG).
Tennessee: The Titans may be staring at another game without Marcus Mariota (hamstring) in its lineup. Mariota is hopeful that he can play. Matt Cassel came in after he got hurt last Sunday at Miami and was 21 of 32 for 141 yards (no completion longer than 17 yards) and was sacked six times! Tennessee's bread and butter has been its rushing attack but DeMarco Murray has just 89 yards on the ground in his last two contests, as Miami limited the team to only 69 yards on 20 carries last week. The Titans still rank 7th in rushing on the season, at 124.8 YPG. The defense (not helped by allowing Houtson 57 points in Week 4), is one spot behind the Colts in points allowed, at 28.4 per game (31st).
The pick: It's fairly likely that ESPN would not have picked this as a Monday night game if it knew that Matt Cassel and Jacoby Brissett could be the opposing QBs. However, it seems as if Mariota will be able to play and there should be plenty of motivation on the Tennessee side, to get its season headed back in the right direction plus to end what has to be a wildly frustrating 11-game losing streak against the Colts (mostly at the hands of Andrew Luck). Brissett has surely been an excellent pickup (savior?) for Indy but let's not forget his only two wins have come over the Browns and 49ers, who check in a combined 0-12 in 2017. Make Tennessee a 10* play.
|10-15-17||Giants v. Broncos UNDER 40||Top||23-10||Win||100||128 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The NY Giants are playing in prime time for the third time in six weeks, when they welcome the Broncos to MetLife Stadium on NBC's Sunday night football. The Giants, who went 11-5 last season, have opened 0-5 and are practically guaranteed to miss the postseason for the fifth time in six years since the team won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2011 season. The Broncos are off a bye week and check in at 3-1, with all three wins coming at home (2-0-1 ATS).
Denver: The Broncos are hardly a dominant team, losing 26-16 at Buffalo in Week 3 and needing a last-second interception to beat Oakland prior to the bye. However, Denver played its beat game of the season here at home in Week 2, dominating the Cowboys 42-17. QB Trevor Siemian is completing 62.7% with seven TDs and four INTs (89.0 QB rating). C.J. Anderson has run for 330 yard, leading a running game averaging 143.0 YPG (3rd). There is nothing wrong with the Broncos' defense, which is allowing a league-low 260.8 YPG, including ranking No. 1 against the run (50.8 YPG). Denver is allowing 18.5 PPG to rank 7th.
NY Giants: Eli Manning receives most of the 'heat' but the Giants have virtually no running game, averaging 77.8 YPG (30th). RB Paul Perkins was unable to practice Wednesday, leaving Orleans Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman to lead a backfield that has done little. Eli is completing 67.8% but with eight TDs and five INTs (89.1 QB rating). Week 5 was not good to him, as he lost his three top WRs to ankle injuries, including Odell Beckham Jr, possibly for the year. Manning himself was examined for neck issues after the game.
The pick: Eli's receiving corps is devastated and he has no running game, as he looks to take on an outstanding Denver defense, coming off a bye week. As for Denver's offense, excluding the team's 42-point outburst against Dallas, Denver is averaging 18.7 PPG. This game has "under, written all over it!" Make the Under an 8* play.
|10-15-17||Bucs -2 v. Cardinals||Top||33-38||Loss||-113||124 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona is the site of this Week 6 game between the 2-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2-3 Arizona Cardinals. The Bucs played a Week 5 home game vs. the Pats on Thursday night but lost 19-14, partly because PK Nick Folk missed three FGs. The Cardinals are hoping to climb back to .500, after a 34-7 loss last Sunday at Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay: First things first. Folk's first season with Tampa Bay is over as he was placed on injured reserve with a "minor injury" classification, meaning the team must release him once he becomes healthy. Replacing Folk will be Patrick Murray, who appeared in two games for Cleveland last season after converting 20-of-24 field-goal attempts for the Buccaneers in 2014 (Heeee's back!). The Bucs need more consistency from QB Winston. He's got four TDs and zero INTs with a 103.6 QB rating in Tampa Bay's two wins but has three TDs and three INTs with an 83.6 QB rating in the team's two losses. The Bucs average just 86.0 YPG on the ground (27th) but it's good news that RB Doug Martin returned from his suspension vs. the Pats and gained 74 yards on 13 carries
Arizona: The Cards allowed 419 yards of total offense at Philadelphia and checks in allowing 25.0 PPG (27th) on the season. QB Carson Palmer and the Arizona offense ranks second in passing yards (289.0 YPG) but the team is averaging only 16.2 PPG (29th). One of the issues is the NFL's werst rushing attack, as Arizona has averaged 51.8 YPG to rank dead-last, as does the team's 2.6 YPC average! Arizona obtained 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson from New Orleans on Tuesday with hopes that the 32-year-old will resemble his former self after enduring a miserable four-game tenure with the Saints (ran for 81 yards on 27 carries, averaging 3.0 YPC).
The pick: Arizona is 2-3 with its two wins coming in OT victories at Indy and at home vs. San Francisco. Those two teams are a combined 2-8 SU and Arizona failed to cover either win. That means the Cards enter this game 0-5 ATS on the season. Adding insult to injury, the Cardinals had 13 players listed on their injury report earlier in the week and nine of them were starters, including All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with a sore quadriceps. This marks only Tampa Bay's second road game of 2017 but it should be noted that the Bucs were 6-2 ATS on the road in 2016. The Cards have a 'washed-up' QB in Palmer and have now added a 'washed-up' RB in Adrian Peterson. That's hardly a good 'daily double!' Make the Bucs are 8* play.
|10-15-17||Patriots v. Jets OVER 47.5||Top||24-17||Loss||-110||121 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a Week 6 game featuring AFC East rivals at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, as the New England Patriots visit the New York Jets. Who could have ever predicted in Week 1 that both teams would be 3-2 heading into this contest, meaning the winner will take the early AFC East lead. this contest. After all, the Pats are defending Super Bowl champs and the Jets, after a summer 'fire sale,' seemed destined to be one of a handful of teams that woiuld be in teh mix for teh NFL 2018 Daraft's No. 1 overall pick. However, the Pats were upended in the 2017 season-opener at home by the Chiefs and need to eke out an 'ugly' 189-14 win in Week 5 at Tampa Bay just to reach 3-2. Meanwhile, after opening 0-2, the Jets have gone 3-0 SU & ATS the last three weeks, with the team's defense holding those three opponents to just 40 combined points (13.3 PPG).
New England: There's nothing wrong with Tom Brady, as he's completing 68.2% with 11 TDs and just one interception, giving him a QB rating of 112.0. The Pats rank first in passing (320.4 YPG), the main reason New England ranks first overall in total yards (419.4 YPG), while checking in at third in scoring at 29.6 PPG. Brady's accomplished all this with injuries to some of his key receivers plus playing behind an OL that's allowed him to be sacked 16 times. Brady has also has to make up for a defense, which has been unable to stop anyone, particularly through the air, allowing an NFL-worst 323.4 YPG (12 TDs allowed with just three INTs for a an opposing QB rating of 109.2). The Pats allow 28.4 PPG to rank 30th.
NY Jets: There was talk the Jets would threaten the Browns and that the loser of their Week 5 meeting could go 0-16, after two weeks. However, after losing 45-10 in Oakland in Week 2, the Jets have managed to win and cover three straight. Granted, their 'victims' have been the Dolphins, Jags and Browns (Cleveland will make a strong run at 0-16!) but still, allowing just 13.3 PPG in their winning streak is impressive. Josh McCown, a journeyman who toiled for the Browns last season, has completed 63 of 84 passes in the winning streak (that's 75.0%), twice recording QB ratings of better than 100.0. The Jets don't have a big-name RB but still have maneged to average 111.4 YPG to rank 13th.
The pick: The Pats will take the field looking for their 11th win in 13 regular-season meetings against Jets. OK, Brady is arguably the best QB in NFL history, winning five Super Bowls while playing for only the New England Patriots since he was drafted in the sixth round. He has a 186-54 career regular-season record and 25-9 mark in the playoffs. Meanwhile, McCown has been on 10 different NFL rosters since he was drafted in the third round in 2002. His career record as a starter is 21-44 career record and he has never sniffed the playoffs. No contest, right? Well, New England has allowed at least 33 points in three of five games this year and even in last weeks' 19-14 win, Winston threw for 334 yards against the Pats' defense-less secondary, plus needed Buc PK Nick Folk to miss three FGs to avoid another loss. McCown will do damage to New England's secondary, just like every QB has so far this season. However, Brady will 'light up' the Jets' D, as well. Make the Over an 8* play.
|10-15-17||Lions v. Saints -4.5||Top||38-52||Win||100||121 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Lions opened the 2017 season 2-0 but have lost two of their last three and head to New Orleans at 3-2 to take on the rejuvenated Saints. New Orleans opened its season with double-digit losses at Minnesota and home to New England but then shocked the Panthers 34-13 in Carolina in Week 3, before beating the Dolphins 20-0 in a Week 4 London game. The first bye week was in Week 5 and the Saints were one of four teams getting an early rest. The Saints return to the playing field on Sunday and welcome a Lions team to the Superdome but the Lions have beaten the Saints in each of the last three seasons, 24-23 in Detroit in 2014, then 35-27 and 28-13 the last two years here in New Orleans.
Detroit: The Lions' plus-9 turnover margin had been a key to the team's 3-1 start but they couldn't force a TO against the Panthers last Sunday, as Cam Newton ripped Detroit's pass D for 355 yards and three TDs. QB Matthew Stafford is completing 64.6% with nine TDs and just one INT but the Lions rank just 23rd in passing (200.6 YPG). RB Ameer Abdullah had a career-high 94 yards in the Week 4 win at Minnesota but has done little in the team's other four games, averaging less than 50 yards per. As a team, Detroit is averaging just 87.6 YPG on the ground to rank 26th. Detroit has allowed a modest 19.4 PPG (11th) but a concern, after Newton ripped open the team's secondary, is that the Lions are starting to look like the pass D which allowed a historic (not in a good way) 72.7% completion rate in 2016, with 33 TD passes allowed, just 10 INTs and an opposing QB rating of 106.5 (NFL-worst in 2016).
New Orleans. Drew Brees has watched the game film of Newton picking apart that Detroit pass D and he must be salivating. Brees hasn't thrown an interception in 152 attempts so far in 2017, while tossing eight TDs passes and earning a QB rating of 108.3. The "unhappy" Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona this week, which should make things more pleasant on the sidelines, give Mark Ingram a jolt of confidence plus get more "PT" for impressive rookie QB Alvin Kamara. Let's also note the incredible turnaround of New Orleans' pass D. New Orleans allowed a league-worst 777 passing yards (along with six TD passes) in opening 0-2 but in holding the Panthers and Dolphins to a combined 13 points in Week 3 & 4 wins, the Saints shut down Newton (167 yards with no TD passes and three INTs for a QB rating of 43.8) and Cutler (164 yards and one INT for a QB rating of 71.1).
The pick. It's just not Brees who has been mistake-free, as the Saints are the only team to have no yet committed a turnover in 2017. In the process, they have become just the third NFL team since 1935 to open the season without a TO through its first four games (pretty heady stuff). Sure, the Saints are only 11-14 at the Superdome since 2014 but with a younger, more talented defense, there are signs the team is beginning to rise above mediocrity on that side of the ball. As for the Brees-led offense, there is nothing mediocre about them! Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|10-14-17||Oregon v. Stanford OVER 61.5||Top||7-49||Loss||-105||121 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The Stanford Cardinal began the 2017 season ranked 14th in the AP's preseason poll but dropped out after back-to-back road losses at USC (42-24) and San Diego State (20-17). However, the Cardinal eked out a 20-17 win at Utah (then ranked 20th) last Saturday, giving them a third straight win. Stanford is back in the top-25 (at No. 23) and will welcome the 4-2 Oregon Ducks to Stanford Stadium on Saturday night. Both teams are 4-2 but while Stanford is 3-1 in Pac 12 play, Oregon is just 1-2.
Oregon: The Ducks opened the season 3-0 but have lost two of three conference games, after falling 33-10 at home last Saturday to Washington State (Cougars are currently ranked 8th). New head coach Willie Taggart lost starting QB Sean Hebert (9 TDs and 2 INTs, while completing 68.3 %) early on in Oregon's 45-24 home win over Cal and on Sep. 30. Braxton Burmeister has stepped in to complete 57.1 percent of his passes for 149 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Burmeister enters this game with just 28 career pass attempts under his belt. The running game averages a healthy 239.3 YPG (20th) and the Ducks enter this contest averaging 43.0 PPG (11th). The defense has allowed just 338.3 YPG (29th) but allows 27.2 PPG, to rank 76th.
Stanford: There's a saying that goes when a team has two starting QBs, it often has none. Keller Chryst and K.J. Costello have combined for seven touchdown passes and two interceptions this season but Stanford averages only 188.3 YPG through the air (93rd). However, Stanford just may have the nation's best RB in Bryce Love, who leads the way with 1,240 yards (10.5 YPC) and nine TDs. As a team, Stanford ranks 14th in rushing yards at 260.0 YPG. The D allows 434.8 YPG (102nd) but somehow has held opponents to a modest 24.5 PPG (55th).
The pick: Burmeister was a highly-touted QB coming in and should be much better here, in his second start. That Stanford defense has given up way too many yards to keep opponents under 25 points. Let's remember that Oregon was the nation's highest-scoring team heading into last Saturday's home game against Washington State but true freshman Burmeister struggled in his first start, with Oregon getting hammered 33-10 by the Cougars 33-10. The usually supportive crowd at Autzen Stadium booed the Ducks, so being on the road this weekend may be a blessing. Oregon's rush D has been outstanding so far but that D hasn't seen the likes of Stanford's Love. These teams have scored 74 and 78 points in meetings the last two seasons and this over/number comes in way too low. Make the Over a 10* play.
|10-14-17||Ohio State -24 v. Nebraska||Top||56-14||Win||100||117 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ohio State Buckeyes are 5-1 (3-0 Big Ten) and ranked No. 9 in the latest AP poll as they head to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the 3-3 (2-1 Big Ten) Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Ohio State's season (meaning CFP hopes) took a huge hit with its 31-16 home loss to Oklahoma back on Sep. 9 but the Buckeyes have won four straight since, while averaging 52.5 PPG. Nebraska was within seven points of No. 7 Wisconsin entering the fourth quarter last week but dropped a 38-17 decision after winning its first two Big Ten contests. However, a non-conference loss at Oregon and a 21-17 non-conference home loss to Northern Illinois (as a 10 1/2-point favorite), leaves Nebarska at 3-3 and in danger of falling under .500 with a loss here.
Ohio State: J.T. Barrett under-performed against Oklahoma but has 13 TD passes without an INT (in 104 attempts), In Ohio State's current run. Dobbins (669 yards on 7.6 YPC and 4 TDs) has taken up the slack for Mike Weber, last year's 1,000-yard RB, who has not been healthy for much of 2017 (has 103 yards rushing the last two games, with four TDs). The offense has great balance, 320.3 YPG through the air (4th) and 247.7 YPG on the ground (18th), to average 45.8 PPG (4th). Urban Meyer teams always play D and this year's team is no exception, allowing 15.7 PPG (10th) on 290.7 YPG (14th).
Nebraska: Much was expected from Tulane transfer Tanner Lee but the QB has been a huge disappointment. He's completing only 54.0 percent and has almost as many INTs (10), as TD passes (11). Nebraska's ground game is averaging only 148.5 YPG (82nd) with Devine Ozigbo leading the way with a modest 327 yards. Defensively, Nebraska is allowing 26.7 PPG (73rd) and will get its sternest test, here.
The pick: Anyone doubting Barrett should be quiet now and as noted, his counterpart Lee, has been a fairly huge bust! With Nebraska relatively new to the Big Ten, the schools have met just five times, with Ohio State winning four of those meetings. Sure, Ohio State is a huge favorite on the road but since coming to Columbus, Meyer's teams are a remarkable 36-2 SU on the road, including 21-1 in conference road games. I'll 'live dangerously' and lay the points against an over-matched Nebraska team. Make Ohio State an 8* play.
|10-14-17||Oklahoma v. Texas OVER 62.5||Top||29-24||Loss||-110||113 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns will meet Saturday at the Cotton Bowl on ESPN for the latest edition of the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners will 'limp in' off yet another shocking early-to-mid-season loss. "Big Game Bob" may be gone, but Oklahoma's penchant for losing games that it should win, is still "alive and well." Oklahoma climbed as high as No. 2 in the rankings after beating Ohio State on the road Sep. 9, but the Sooners have struggled in three games since, winning the first two (1-1 ATS) before last week's 'ugly' 38-31 loss to Iowa State in Norman, where Oklahoma closed as a 31-point favorite. It marks the SEVENTH consecutive season in which the Sooners have lost as a double-digit favorite. Tom Herman became a star in two years at Houston and was a 'natural' for the Texas job. The Longhorns opened the season ranked in the AP's preseason poll but promptly lost at home 51-41 to Maryland, as an 18-point favorite. However, the Longhorns have rebounded well, going 3-1 since, with their only loss being a 27-24 double-OT defeat at USC. Texas holds a 61-45-5 lead in the series, which began in 1900 and has been played at the Texas State Fair annually since 1929. Herman and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley will be making their head coaching debuts in the Red River Showdown, marking the first time since 1947, when Blair Cherry's Longhorns beat Bud Wilkinson's Sooners, 34-14, that the rivalry has featured new coaches on both sidelines.
Oklahoma: QB Baker Mayfield completed 70.9% last season with 40 TDs and eight INTs. He's been just as good so far in 2017 (better?), completing 74.6% with 15 TDs and not a single INT in 134 pass attempts. Oklahoma ranks fifth in passing yards (3984.4 per) and secnd in total offense (587.0 YPG), while scoring 44.6 PPG (6th). The defense has been adequate, allowing 23.2 PPG (46th) on 356.0 YPG (44th). However, that's after allowing an average of 486 yards and 39.5 points over its last two games against Baylor and Iowa State? For Lincoln Riley (Stoops' replacement), this game will be HUGE. "I think in the past after a tough loss -- we haven't had many around here -- but when we've had them, we've been able to respond regardless of who we've played," Riley said. "I would hope that we have enough pride -- and I feel we do have enough pride as a team -- that we'd be motivated to go play Norman Junior High this week."
Texas: It won't be Norman Junior High this week for Riley and Oklahoma but rather Texas. You can assured that Tom Herman knows what this game means. What happens here, could set the tone for the remainder of the Longhorns' season. Herman has been coy about who his starting QB will be after sophomore starter Shane Buechele missed the Kansas State victory with a sprained ankle, with freshman Sam Ehlinger passing for 380 yards and two TDs, while also rushing for 107 more Saturday. Buechele is a good QB but many think Ehlinger has proven to be much more than valuable backup. The Texas defense has "picked itself up" after that embarrassing opening 51-41 loss to Maryland, allowing just 17.0 PPG the last four games (down to 23.8 PPG on the season).
The pick: Oklahoma lost another game as a double-digit favorite, so what else is new? However, here's a stat one can't ignore. The Sooners haven't lost back-to-back regular-season games since 1999, Bob Stoops' first season in Norman (that's a long time!). Oklahoma has scored at least 30 points in a school-record 15 consecutive games and go back and check out Mayfield's numbers this season (see above). The Sooners will be tough to keep off the scoreboard in this one but I also believe the Longhorns offense will "come to play." Make the Over an 8* play.
|10-14-17||Michigan -6.5 v. Indiana||Top||27-20||Win||100||110 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 4-1 Michigan Wolverines lost at home to Michigan State last Saturday, falling from 7th in the AP poll to 17th. Jim Harbaugh is now just 1-4 SU vs. key Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, something the Michigan faithful are clearly not happy about. The Wolverines look to bounce back this Saturday with a 12 noon ET kickoff in Bloomington, with the 3-2 Indiana Hoosiers (0-2 in Big Ten play) welcoming Michigan to town for the school's Homecoming game. No one will be surprised to learn that Michigan leads the series 56-9 or even that the Hoosiers have lost 35 of their last 36 meetings with the Wolverines, including 21 straight.
Michigan: Wilton Speight won the QB battle against John O'Koren but was hardly establishing himself as the clear choice as Michigan's No. 1 QB. However, a season-ending injury to Speight at Purdue on Sep. 23 (back fractures), ended any debate. O'Korn played well enough at Purdue, completing 18 of 26 for 270 yards with one TD and one INT, as Michigan won 28-14. It's true that Michigan's offense wasn't exactly lighting things up with Speight on the field but the Wolverines couldn't get anything going at all last week with O'Korn leading the way, scoring just 10 points, going 5-17 on third down and turning the ball over five times. O'Korn was 16 of 35 for 198 yards without a TD and threw three INTs. It didn't help Speight and it won't help O'Korn that Michigan's running game is only mediocre, averaging 167.8 YPG (62nd). Last year's team averaged 213 per! Defensively, despite losing 10 of 11 starters from last year's unit, Michigan ranks first in total D (213.0 YPG) and just 13.6 PPG, which ranks 7th.
Indiana: The Hoosiers opened their season in an August 31 game at home against Ohio State (lost 49-21) but have won three of four since. However, that loss came 45-14 at Penn State on Sep. 30. Indiana's 34-17 at Virginia looks good (Cavs are 4-1) but the team's other two wins mean little, besting Georgia Southern and Charleston Southern in Bloomington. Richard Lagow began the year as Indiana's starting QB and threw for 410 against Ohio State but redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey replaced him the following game after Lagow struggled. Ramsey led Indiana to that 34-17 win while completing 16 of 20 for 173 yards with two TDs and zero INTs. After Indiana was embarrassed at Penn State, Ramsey was given his first career start last Saturday. Sure, it was only against Charleston Southern, but he threw for 321 yards and two TDs. He also added 54 rushing yards and a third TD. Another freshman, WR Taysir Mack hauled in a career-high seven receptions for 111 yards and a pair of TDs to become the first Indiana freshman to surpass 100 receiving yards in a game since Tandon Doss achieved the feat in 2008. Indiana's defense allowed 27.2 PPG in 2016, after six consecutive seasons of allowing 30-plus PPG. It's improved on that again so far in 2017, allowing 25.6 PPG (59th).
The pick: The Hoosiers' last win over Michigan was 30 years ago in Bloomington and Indiana won't end its 21-game long streak to Michigan here. However, should one "take the points?" Maybe, if Michigan had not lost last Saturday to Michigan State. This is just wrong time, wrong place for Indiana and losses of 49-21 and 45-14 against Penn State loom here as a reminder as to why to NOT take the points. Make Michigan an 8* play.
|10-13-17||Washington State v. California +14||Top||3-37||Win||100||96 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington State Cougars are 6-0 (3-0 in the Pac 12) for the first time since 2001. The Cougars moved into the AP's top-10 (at No. 8) after winning 33-10 at Oregon last Saturday. The Cal Golden Bears welcome the Cougars to Memorial Stadium on Friday night, off a 38-7 loss at current No. 7 Washington last Saturday in Seattle. Cal sits 3-3 overall but 0-3 in Pac 12 play.
Washington State. Mike Leach suffered through two 3-9 seasons in his first three years at Cal but came into 2017 off back-to-back 9-4 and 8-5 records the last two seasons. He's got an outstanding QB in Luke Falk, who likely isn't getting getting enough Heisman hype. Falk is completing 71.8 percent with 19 TDs and just two INTs, while climbing up the leader boards for career marks in both the Pac 12 and among all FBS schools. All this, despite getting much help from a running game that averages 96.8 YPG (123rd). Still, WSU is averaging 39.7 PPG (20th) on 474.7 YPG (23rd). A huge improvement has come on the defensive side of the ball. Leach's last two teams held opponents to 27.7 and 26.4 PPG, respectively, after his first three teams in Pullman allowed 33.7, 32.5 and 38.6 PPG. Here in 2017, Wazzu is holding opponents to just 18.5 PPG (23rd) on 276.2 YPG (11th). Now that's an improvement!
California: Cal opened 3-0 in non-conference play but has lost Pac 12 games 30-20 to USC, 45-24 at Oregon and 38-7 at Washington, a game in which the Bears were held to 93 yards of total offense. After averaging 37.1 PPG last season, Cal is averaging just 24.3 PPG (96th) in 2017. However, while Cal allowed 42.6 PPG in 2016, the Bears have held opponents to 29.8 PPG in 2017 (ranks 89th but that's almost two TDs per game less!).
The pick: Cal's been outscored by an average of 20.7 PPG in its 0-3 Pac 12 start and as first-year head coach Justin Wilcox put it, “We just, across the board, have got to be better. It’s hard right now. We’re sitting at 3-3, we’ve lost three in a row, we haven’t played well enough. We’ve got to be better.” While the Bears’ offense is in disarray, the defense continues to show steady improvement. I'll note that Leach's team is 16-7 ATS a visitor since 2013 but only 2-3 ATS as a road favorite in that span. Here, the Cougars are favored by about two TDs. That's too much. Make Cal a 10* play.
|10-12-17||Eagles +3.5 v. Panthers||Top||28-23||Win||100||56 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia Eagles opened the 2016 season 3-0 in September, behind rookie QB Carson Wentz. However, Wentz and his team cooled off fairly quickly, losing nine of their next 11 games, before ending the season with back-to-back wins in Weeks 16 and 17 to finish 7-9. The Eagles are at it again in 2017, opening 4-1 and the question is, is this real or is it Memorex? We may get our answer Thursday night, when the Eagles travel to Bank of America Stadium to take on the 4-1 Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were 15-1 in 2015 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl but fell from first to last in the NFC South in 2016, going 6-10. However, this year's team and particularly QB Cam Newton, are beginning to look much more like the 2015 team than last year's sad-sack unit. Again, we may just learn something about the Panthers here on Thursday night, as well.
Philadelphia: Wentz continues to make converts of the non-believers, as he's leading an offense averaging 27.4 PPG (7th). He's completing 62.1% with 10 TDs and just three INTs (97.7 QB rating), while the Eagles rank 8th in passing (259.0 YPG). RB LeGarrette Blount is starting to make an impact (323 yards rushing) and the Eagles' 138.8 YPG on the ground ranks 5th. The defense is allowing 19.8 PPG (13th) and excels in stopping opponents' ground game, allowing just 62.8 YPG (2nd-best). The problem against Carolina and Newton may be, that Philly's pass D allows 283.2 YPG, which ranks 29th of 32 teams.
Carolina: The Panthers opened 2-0 but were hardly impressive in doing so, beating the sad-sack 49ers 23-3 and the Bills 9-3. When Carolina lost 34-13 at home to the then 0-2 Saints 34-13 in Week 3, with Newton passing for just 167 yards and throwing three INTs (QB rating of 43.8), critics were everywhere. However, what a difference a couple of weeks can make. Newton led the Panthers to a 33-30 win at New England in Week 5 and then at Detroit last Sunday, 27-24. He's earned QB ratings of 130.8 and 141.8, while throwing for 671 yards and six TDs (just one INT in 61 attempts). He has a trio of quality receivers in Kelvin Benjamin, Ed Dickson and Devin Funchess (not to mention rookie RB Christian McCaffrey's 27 catches) but Carolina's ground game needs to improve (its 98.6 YPG ranks only 19th). Defensively, Carolina is allowing only 274.0 YPG (3rd) and just 18.8 PPG (9th), down from 25.1 PPG in 2016.
The pick: All but four of last week's 14 games were decided by six points or fewer but Philadelphia was one of the exceptions, routing the Cardinals 34-7. Philly fans are clearly riding high but while the Eagles' bandwagon is becoming crowded let's insert here that Philly's current three-game win streak has come over the Giants, Chargers and Cardinals, who are a combined 2-13 SU. Then again, here's the other side of that. The Eagles only loss of the 2017 season is 27-20 at the Chiefs, who are 5-0 SU and ATS. Love what Newton's done the last two weeks but the Panthers are 0-2 ATS at home in 2017 (averaging just 11.0 PPG), after going 3-5 ATS at home in 2016. I'm taking the points and making the Eagles an 8* play.
|10-12-17||Texas State v. UL-Lafayette UNDER 58||Top||7-24||Win||100||69 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Sun Belt Conference takes 'center stage' for a second straight night, as the Texas State Bobcats go on the road to face the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in a Thursday night matchup on ESPNU (South Alabama played at Troy Wednesday night on ESPN2). Texas State is 1-5 (0-2 in SBC play) and ULL is 2-3 (1-1 in SBC play). Texas State is off 3-9 and 2-10 season, so a 1-5 start is no surprise. ULL went 6-6 in the 2016 regular season, then lost 28-21 in the New Orleans Bowl. BTW, ULL has played in the New Orleans Bowl five times since 2011, winning four in a row before last year's loss (ULL went 4-8 in 2015).
Texas State: The Bobcats won their 2017 opener 20-11 over Houston Baptist but have lost five in a row since, failing to cover the last three. Texas State lost 45-27 to visiting UL-Monroe in its last game, allowing 589 overall yards, including 433 through the air. The Bobcats scored 20 points in the first quarter but just seven points the rest of the way. The team's offense has been awful, scoring only 14.5 PPG (125th) on 300.7 YPG (124th). The defense has collapsed the last three games, allowing 44, 45 and 45 points. It comes in allowing 33.7 PPG on the season (106th), on 410.8 YPG (87th).
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns won 21-16 as a six point road underdog last Saturday at Idaho, the team's first ATS win of the season. ULL averages 37.0 PPG (29th) on 418.2 YPG (60th) but the team's defense is a mess, allowing 46.2 PPG (129th) on 506.6 YPG (125th). These defense numbers are this bad despite the fact that ULL held Idaho to just 16 points on 279 yards last Saturday.
The pick: As I continue point out, I've consistently won in 2017 by going under high totals. That's not exactly the case here but like with Idaho, the Texas State offense (averaging only 14.5 PPG) is one ULL's defense can handle. I'm making the Under a 10* play.
|10-11-17||South Alabama +17 v. Troy||Top||19-8||Win||100||46 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The Troy Trojans are coming off 10-3 season (including a 28-23 bowl win over Ohio) with 14 returning starters, including eight on offense. Troy lost its season opener 24-13 at Boise State but has since won four in a row, including the team's "historic 24-21 win at LSU on Sep. 30 as about a three-TD underdog (that win ended LSU's 49-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents). Troy did not play last Saturday and now hosts South Alabama in this Wednesday game. The Jags also went 'bowling' last year, although the team was just 6-6, before getting routed in the Arizona Bowl 45-21 by Air Force to finish 6-7. Preseason predictions had the Jags possibly getting back to another bowl game but the Jags are just 1-4, with the team's lone win coming 45-0 over Alabama A&M.
South Alabama: Like Troy, South Alabama was off the first Saturday in October and last played at La. Tech on Sep. 30, losing 34-16. USA only trailed 17-16 after three quarters but the Bulldogs took control with a 17-0 fourth quarter run to finish the game. South Alabama was out-gained 479-333 and gave the ball away twice while committing seven penalties. The offense has not done much, averaging 22.6 PPG (200th) on 329.0 YPG (113th). The good news is that the Jags' starting QB, Cole Garvin, returned from an injury vs. La Tech,. He was just 21 of 45 for 235 yards with one TD and two INTs but he now has a game under his belt plus has had the first 10 days of October to practice. RB Xavier Johnson gives his some 'cover,' as he's run for 345 yards on 6.1 YPC (4 TDs). The defense is hardly much of a 'stop unit' though, allowing 30.8 PPG (91st) on 421.2 YPG (86th).
Troy: The Trojans need to 'come down' from that LSU shocker and the good news is, the team has had a 10-day break since that Sep. 30 win. The Trojans are looking to win for a fifth straight time and enter having gone 7-1 SU at home since the start of the 2016 season. QB Brandon Silvers had 22 TD passes last season in leading Troy to an average of 33.7 PPG but after five games of the 2017 season, he has just two TD passes and while the Trojans are averaging 431.2 YPG (49th), they are scoring just 24.0 PPG (99th). Defense has been the key, as Troy is allowing only 18.6 PPG (24th) on 344.6 YPG (32nd)
The pick: Sure, Troy has had some extra time off to "take in" its thrilling upset of LSU in "Death Valley" but while I noted earlier that Troy comes in on a 7-1 SU run at home since the beginning of the 2016 season, I'll add here that the Trojans are just 2-6 ATS in those games. In fact, while Troy checks in at 14-4 SU since the start of 2016, it is also a money-burning 4-10 ATS when favored in that span, including 0-3 so far in 2017. Make that 0-4 in 2017 as a favorite! Take the points and make South Alabama a 10* play.
|10-09-17||Vikings -3 v. Bears||Top||20-17||Push||0||31 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a MNF game featuring two teams from what was once the NFL's "Black and Blue Division," now the NFC North. The 2-2 Minnesota Vikings will visit Chicago's Soldier Field on ESPN to take on the 1-3 Bears. The Vikings are hoping that Sam Bradford is ready to return as the team's starting QB for this one (after sustaining a knee injury in Minnesota's season opener), while the Bears will hand the starting QB job over to Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft out of North Carolina. He'll make his NFL debut after off-season acquisition Mike Glennon committed four turnovers in Chicago's 35-14 loss to Green Bay on Sep. 28.
Minnesota: The Vikings' two wins this season have come at home (29-19 over the Saints and 34-17 over the Bucs), while Minnesota has lost 26-9 at Pittsburgh and last week at home to the Lions, 14-7. Keenum has completed 61.0% for 755 yards with three TDs and zero INTs (94.4 QB rating) but he's not Bradford. The former Heisman-winner and No. 1 overall draft pick set an NFL single-season record by completing 71.6% of his passes in 2016 and against New Orlean in Week 1, connected on 27 of 32 (that's 84.0%) for 346 yards with three TDs and did not throw a pick (143.0 QB rating). The Vikings not only fell to Detroit last week but also lost rookie RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State) to a torn left ACL that will cost him the remainder of the season. Cook had rushed for 354 yards in three-plus contests and will be replaced by Latavius Murray (signed a three-year, $15 million deal in the off-season). He will inherit the bulk of the workload but note he's coming off ankle surgery during the off-season that still has him feeling less than 100 percent (has just 38 yards rushing this season). Defensively, the Vikings rank T-8th in points allowed (19.0 per) and 12th in total yards (318.0 YPG).
Chicago: It didn't take long for Chicago to sour on Glennon (anyone know what the team liked about him in the first place?) and Trubisky will have an opportunity to showcase his abilities in front of millions of viewers, as he makes his debut on MNF. "Ifeel like I'm ready," Trubisky said to reporters this week. "I'm excited. I'm just going to take it day by day and prepare as hard as I possibly can for every single look and situation we can get on Monday. I'm going to be dependent on my teammates a lot. My job is to get the ball to the playmakers and just be a distributor and manage the offense and do the best I can." He doesn't figure to get too much help from Chiacgo's average at-best running game plus while the Chicago defense has allowed 306.2 YPG (9th), the Bears have allowed 26.0 PPG, which ranks 27th.
The pick: The return of Bradford would be HUGE news for Minnesota (he's listed as questionable) but the Vikings will also be buoyed by the fact that WR Michael Floyd has also been reinstated after a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Floyd joins a talented group of WRs that includes Stefon Diggs (22 catches / 17.8 YPC and Adam Thielen (24 catches / 14.9 YPC). Whether it's Bradford (hopefully) or Kennum, I'll take the Vikings against Trubuiskty, who had just one season of note at North Carolina. Trubisky had his moments in the preseason but playing against disinterested starters and backups is quite different than playing a division rival on MNF in one's first-ever NFL start. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|10-08-17||Chiefs v. Texans UNDER 47||Top||42-34||Loss||-110||142 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: Through the season's first four weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs stand alone as the NFL's lone unbeaten team at 4-0. The Chiefs are also a perfect 4-0 ATS after their 'miracle' finish last Monday night against the Redskins. The Chiefs are back on in primetime again in Week 5, this time in Houston against the 2-2 Texans for a SNF game at NRG Stadium on NBC. Houston's 19-12 win last season over KC ended a three-game losing streak in the series, including a 33-0 playoff rout in January 2016.
Kansas City: QB Alex Smith has played superbly for the Chiefs, who have scored at least 21 second-half points in three of their four victories. He's been stuck with the label of "game manager" for years but has eight TD passes without an interceptions (121 attempts) plus leads the NFL in both QB rating (124.2) and completing percentage (76.0%). Nothing "game-manager-like" in those numbers! Smith is not alone in being a major contributor to KC's offense in 2017. Rookie RB Kareem Hunt (Toledo) has rushed for more than 100 yards three times and has 502 yards on the season, averaging 7.4 YPC with four TDs. Throw in 13 catches with two more TDs and he's been the league's best back 25 percent of the way through NFL 2017. TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill each have a team-high 21 catches, with two TD receptions apiece. Kansas City's offense ranks 2nd in both points scored (30.5 per) and total yards (405,2 per). The defense allows 359.5 YPG to rank 26th but only allows 19.2 PPG, which ranks 10th.
Houston: Bill O'Brien may never live down his decision to open the season with Tom Savage at QB over Deshaun Watson but now that he's "seen the light," the Texans are only looking forward. The Texans have been a different team since handing the keys of the offense to Watson, who accounted for five TDs in last week's 57-14 demolition of visiting Tennessee. Watson guided Clemson to back-to-back national championship showdowns with Alabama, shredding the Tide's defense in both games, while claiming the title in last January's rematch. Watson threw for 283 yards and four TDs plus ran for another score last Sunday, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. DeAndre Hopkins is Watson's favorite target with 31 receptions but fellow WR Will Fuller returned from injury to make a splashy debut against the Titans with a pair of TDs among his four catches. RB Lamar Miller scored his first two TDs of the season last week, piling up 131 yards from scrimmage, while Watson's running ability and rookie RB D'Onta Foreman provide solid complements (Texans average 139.8 YPG rushing to rank fifth). Houston's defense led the NFL in total yards allowed in 2016 (301.3 YPG) and while the Texans are allowing fewer yards in 2017 (291.5 YPG), that figure ranks only fifth-best.
The pick: Yes, the Smith and Hunt duo plus the play of Deshaun Watson make this look like an attractive over play. However, these are two outstanding defensive teams (KC's YPG stats so far, not withstanding), so the play here is an 8* on the Under.
|10-08-17||Seahawks +2.5 v. Rams||Top||16-10||Win||100||138 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Seattle Seahawks needed a breakout game (win) last Sunday night and the sad-sack Colts played the perfect foil, as the Seattle romped to a 46-18 victory. That evened the team's record at 2-2 and now in Week 5, the Seahawks will travel to Los Angeles to take on one of 2017's surprise NFL teams, the Rams. The Rams were 4-12 in 2016, the team's first season back in LA (had moved to St Louis for the start of the season), finishing as the NFL's most-impotent offense (14.0 PPG on 262.7 YPG). However, QB Jared Goff (0-7 as a starter as a rookie), has led a turnaround that has the Rams 3-1 and looking for a third straight win in this contest with Seattle.
Seattle:The Seahawks didn't score a TD in either of its first two games (21 points on seven FGs) and while the Seahawks put up 27 points at Tennessee, the defense allowed 33 points on 420 yards. Russell Wilson had a breakout" game against the Titans, completing 29 of 49 for 373 yards with four TDs and had 295 yards plus two more TDs against the Colts. The Seattle offense which has scored just 21 points in Weeks 1 and 2, has scored 73 points the last two games. Maybe more importantly, after allowing Tennessee to roll up 420 yards in Week 3, Seattle's defense looked more like the one we've seen in recent years, allowing the Colts to gain only 237 total yards.
LA Rams: Jared Goff has played like a No. 1 overall pick through four games, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,072 yards with seven TDs and just one interception in 117 attempts (QB rating of 112.2). RB Todd Gurley has 362 rushing yards with four TDs plus leads the team with 20 catches. Goff also has developing 'go-to' WRs in Sammy Watkins (14 catches) and Robert Woods (12). After averaging woeful totals on offense in 2016 (see above), the 2017 Rams are the NFL's top-scoring team (35.5 PPG) on 386.5 YPG (5th). However, the defense adds little 'cover,' ranking 28th in points allowed (26.2 per) on 2367.8 YPG (ranks 27th).
The pick: Seattle's offense found its groove in the second half against the Titans and 'poured it on' in the second half of last Sunday night's against the Colts. The Seahawks rolled up a season-high 194 rushing yards last Sunday night, while QB Wilson had the most accurate game of his career in connecting on 21 of 26 passes. The defense isn't as elite as its been in the past but it was much better in Week 4. Sure, the Rams' offense will be a tougher test but Seattle's offense shouldn't have much trouble against a Rams defense which ranks among the worst in the NFL. Let's not forget that Seattle has won at least 10 games in each of the past five seasons, while the Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003! Make Seattle a 10* play.
|10-08-17||Bills v. Bengals OVER 38.5||Top||16-20||Loss||-110||134 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The Buffalo Bills last made the playoffs back in 1999, the longest postseason drought of any NFL team. However, they visit Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday with a surprising 3-1 record. The Bengals opened 0-3 in 2017 but were able to win their first game of the season last Sunday 31-7, although it came over the hapless (helpless?) Browns.
Buffalo: New head coach Sean McDermott is riding high but is also savvy enough not to take the 1-3 Bengals lightly."This is a team that has been in the playoffs the last 'X' amount of years," McDermott told reporters. ”Anyone who looks at a record at this point in the season is making a huge mistake. This is a good football team." Buffalo's Week 3 home win over Denver was nice but its 23-17 in Atlanta over the previously unbeaten Falcons got everyone's attention. The Bills led the NFL in rushing last year at 164.4 YPG but this year Buffalo has struggled, averaging only 112.8 YPG (26th). McCoy had 110 yards in Week 1 but over the last three games, which included impressive wins over the Broncos and Falcons, he has only 106 yards, while averaging just 2.3 YPC! I'm not sure what to make of QB Tyrod Taylor but the bottom line is, he leads an offense averaging just 18.2 PPG (23rd) on 284.2 YPG (29th). Buffalo's defense has been the key so far, allowing a league-low 13.5 PPG on 306.0 YPG (8th).
Cincinnati: Bengal fans were calling for Andy Dalton to be benched after Cincy opened with back-to-back home losses to the Ravens and Texans, while failing to reach the end zone (had scored just nine points). However, after throwing four INTs in Week 1, Dalton hasn't had one since, plus he's completed 80.8 percent of his throws the last two games, passing for 498 yards and six TDs! The Bengals took the Packers to OT at Greem Bay (lost 27-24) but then won 31-7 at Cleveland. Dalton is not getting much help from his running game, as rookie Joe Mixon has been a major disappointment (2.6 YPC) and the ground game averages only 88.8 YPG on 3.3 YPC. Like Buffalo, the Cincy defense has been excellent, ranking third in both points scored (16.8 PPG) and 273.2 YPG.
The pick: Does a matchup between two top defenses spell an under? Let me first say that I'm not so sure Cincy's defense is all that good. The Bengals have faced Joe Flacco (on the downside of his career), Deshaun Watson (in his first NFL start) and DeShone Kizer, who is not an NFL QB. When facing Rodgers, he lit them up for 313 yards and three TDs. Taylor is no Rodgers but I look for the Bills to score more than expected. As for the Bengals, since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator these last two weeks, Andy Dalton has looked more comfortable, with the Bengals averaging 27.5 PPG (Dalton has six TDS without an INT). This low number means the 8* play is on the Over.
|10-08-17||Panthers +3 v. Lions||Top||27-24||Win||100||134 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: Ford Field in Detroit is the site of a Week 5 game between a pair of 3-1 teams. The Panthers went from a 15-1 regular season and a Super Bowl loss to the Broncos in 2015, to a 6-10 record in 2016, which left them in last-place in the NFC South. The Detroit Lions were 9-7 last year (lost in the wild card round), the team's third postseason appearance in the last six years. That said, expectations were pretty low entering 2017, so the team's 3-1 start is a surprise, especially since its lone loss (30-26 to the Falcons), was to say the least, highly controversial.
Carolina: The Panthers won 33-30 last Sunday at New England, with QB Cam Newton reminding all of his MVP-like talent. He completed 22 of 29 for 316 yards and three TDs plus ran for 44 yards and another score. Jonathan Stewart had his best game of 2017 so far, gaining 68 yards on 14 carries. However, Newton's positive mojo has been interrupted
Detroit: QB Matthew Stafford has shown a newfound maturity (signed a 'monster' deal prior to the season), throwing seven TD passes with only one interception in 138 attempts. RB Ameer Abdullah appears headed for a breakout season, after rushing for a career-high 94 yards and a TD in last week’s 14-7 triumph at Minnesota.The third-year RB from Nebraska had 597 yards as a rookie but played in just two games last season. He has 257 yards after four games in 2017, putting him on pace for a 1,00-yard season. The Lions are just a half-yard shy of being the only undefeated team in the NFC. Detroit lost its last home game when, upon an officials' review, Golden Tate was ruled just short of the goal line in the closing seconds against Atlanta. The game ended on that play, because a 10-second runoff was required after the review because the Lions didn't have any timeouts left.
The pick: Noting all of the above, I'm still skeptical about this Detroit team. The Lions have been extremely opportunistic on both sides of the ball, ranking 10th in scoring offense (24.8 PPG) and fourth in scoring defense (17.5 PPG) despite being 24th in total offense (just 299.8 YPG) and 15th in total defense. Their plus-9 turnover margin has played a huge role in that and the question I have is, can they keep it up? Throw in that PK Matt Prater has made an NFL-record four FGs of 55 yards or longer this season, after just four games. It's called "regression to the mean." Make Carolina an 8* play.
|10-07-17||Michigan State +13 v. Michigan||Top||14-10||Win||100||117 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: Michigan State was a huge flop in 2016, opening No. 12 in the AP's preseason poll but wound up finishing with a 3-9 record. However, the Spartans are 3-1 (1-0 Big Ten) to open 2017, having lost to only current No. 21, Notre Dame. Jim Harbaugh has led Michigan to back-to-back 10-3 seasons and his Wolverines opened No. 11 in this season's AP preseason poll. Now, four games into the 2017 season, Michigan is 4-0 (1-0 Big Ten) and ranked No. 7. Wilton Speight and John O'Korn battled for the starting QB job in the spring, with Speight winning. However, O'Korn came off the bench to replace Speight last week vs. Purdue and was impressive (18-of-26 for 270 yards and a TD). Speight will miss "multiple weeks," according to Harbaugh, so it's now OKorn's job.
Michigan State: The Spartans are 3-1 SU & ATS so far but all games have come at home. They look for a "statement victory" when they take to the road for the first time this season on Saturday. QB Brian Lewerke is completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 963 yards with eight TDs and just two interceptions. Lewerke also leads the way with 248 rushing yards (2 TDs), as MSU averages 187.5 YPG (52nd). Defensively, Michigan State is allowing just 18.0 PPG (21st) on 248.3 YPG (4th).
Michigan: The Wolverines average a modest 223.0 YPG passing (72nd), regardless of who has been under center (mostly Speight). The ground game is averaging 184.2 YPG (53rd), led by Ty Isaac (356 yards and just one TD). Defense is Michigan's strong suit again in 2017, despite the Wolves' losing 10 of 11 starters from last year's unit. No matter, Michigan is allowing 13.5 PPG (8th) on 203.2 YPG, which is best in the nation!
The pick: This is the 110th meeting (has been contested each year since 1945!) with Michigan leading 69-35-5. However, aren't we talking pointspreads here? If so, you may be interested that Michigan State is on a current nine-game ATS winning streak in its series with “big brother” Michigan. Expect a defensive battle, so taking all these points is the way to go. Make Michigan State an 8* play.
|10-07-17||Maryland v. Ohio State OVER 58.5||Top||14-62||Win||100||114 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: Ohio State (4-1, 2-0 in Big Ten) will host Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday. Urban Meyer leads his No. 10 Buckeyes against one of his former assistants for the second week in row, this time around it's D.J. Durkin. This is Durkin's second season at Maryland and the Terps opened the season with a win a shocking 51-41 win Texas (+18) and have also added a 31-24 road win at Minnesota last Saturday (as a two-TD dog), to open Big Ten play. Maryland doesn't appear to be as over-matched as the 6-7 team that was clobbered 62-3 by Ohio State last year. Ohio State is trying to put its 31-16 home loss to Oklahoma behind them, in an effort to climb back into the CFP discussion. Dominating wins over Army, UNLV and Rutgers don't hurt the Buckeyes' chances but also don't help all that much, either.
Maryland: The Terrapins rebounded from a surprising home loss to Central Florida by winning 31-24 at Minnesota last week to open its Big Ten slate. However, let's note that UCF is 3-0 and currently ranked 25th in the latest AP poll. Sophomore Max Bortenschlager completed 18-of-28 passes for 154 yards and two TDs plus also ran for a score against Minnesota in his first start after the Terrapins’ top two quarterbacks, Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome, went down with season-ending knee injuries. RB Ty Johnson has 411 rushing yards on 8.9 YPC with four TDs, leading a ground game that averages 233.5 YPG (24th) on 5.7 YPC with 12 scores. Defensively, Maryland is allowing 30.0 PPG (92nd) and will be severely tested by an Ohio State offense which has scored 148 points over the last three games since the loss to Oklahoma!
Ohio State: J.T. Barrett 'laid an egg' against Oklahoma but has comlalted 71.2 percent for 765 yards with 10 TDs (no INTs over 73 attempts) , while adding 125 rushing yards and another TD in OSU's three-game winning streak. Freshman RB Dobbins has 573 yards (7.6 YPC) and three TDs on the season, leading a ground game accounting for 241.0 YPG (20th). The defense is holding opponents to 160.0 YPG (16) on 335.6 YPG (34th).
The pick: Barrett has been outstanding the last three games and on the season, has 13 TD passes spread around over nine different players. Freshman J.K. Dobbins has been terrific and now Mike Weber, who ran for 1069 yards last year on 6.0 YP is back, running for three scores against Rutgers after struggling with hamstring issues. The Ohio State defense has allowed fewer than 100 passing yards in each of the last three games, after averaging 403 in the team's first two. With all due respect to Bortenschlager, he is the team's third-team QB. I'll note that Ohio State is just 6-12 its last 18 laying more than 21 points but Meyer's Ohio State teams have a 17-1 SU record in October since 2012. He's shown no mercy against ex-assistant Chris Ash, beating Rutgers 56-0 and 54-0. He took Durkin's Maryland team 'to the woodshed' last year (62-3). You may want to "think twice" about laying the big price but OSU has averaged a notch under 50 PPG its last three and will 'cover' most of this over/under number itself. Make the Over an 8* play.
|10-07-17||Notre Dame v. North Carolina +16||Top||33-10||Loss||-110||113 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 21 Notre Dame will bring its 4-1 record to Chapel Hill to take on the 1-4 Tar Heels. The Fighting Irish's lone loss came 20-19 against Georgia, which is now 5-0 and ranked 5th in the latest AP poll. The Irish are a complete football team, which is hardly the case with the Tar Heels. North Carolina has allowed at least 27 points in all four of its losses and 23 in its lone win, beating ODU 53-23. However, ODU's only wins have come against FCS Albany and UMass, a team which owns the longest active losing streak among FBS teams (nine). Against Va Tech, ODU lost 38-0!
Notre Dame: I stated that Notre Dame is a complete football team but that's when QB Barndon Wimbush and RB Josh Adams are healthy. Wimbush is a true multi-threat, passing for 783 yards with six TDs and two INTs, while rushing for 402 yards (5.9 YPC) with eight TDs, Adams lead the team with 658 rush yards (9.0 YPC) and four TDs. Notre Dame is averaging a whopping 301.4 YPG on the ground (7th), a big reason the team has averaged 41.4 PPG (14th). The defense has been solid, allowing just 18.2 PPG (23rd).
North Carolina: QB Chazz Surratt has thrown for 988 yards with five TDs and two interceptions, while Jordan Brown is the top rusher for North Carolina with 269 yards and three TDs on 5.0 YPC. The defense allowed 403yards rushing (6.1 YPC) against Ga. Tech (lost 33-7) and now must contend with ND's ground 'assault!' That hardly seems likely, as the Tar Heels rank 113th in allowing 221.8 YPG on the ground.
The pick: QB Surratt is a freshman who beat out transfer Brandon Harris for the job of replacing No. 2 overall NFL pick Mitchell Trubisky and he's just one of the many new personnel changes on offense for North Carolina. Notre Dame has been dominant outside of its tough one-point loss to Georgia but here, the numbers just seems unseasonably (or is that unreasonably?) high, especially if Winbush and Adams are limited. Take the huge home dog and make North Carolina a 10* play.
|10-07-17||Pittsburgh v. Syracuse -4.5||Top||24-27||Loss||-110||110 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: A pair of 2-3 schools (both 0-1 in the ACC) will meet early Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome, when Pittsburgh visits Syracuse. The Panthers own wins over Youngstown State (FCS) and Rice (1-4), while losing to ranked teams Penn State (current No. 4) and Oklahoma State (current No. 15), as well as 3-1 Georgia Tech. Syracuse owns wins over Central Connecticut State and Central Michigan in its first three games (lost to MTSU in between), then lost its last two to LSU and NC State.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are off a 42-10 win over Rice (snapping a three-game losing streak), as QB Max Browne was 28-of-32 for 410 yards (just the ninth 400-yard passing game in school history) and four TDs and zero TDs. It was the best performance of his career. Browne gets very little help from Pitt's running game, which averages only 114.4 YPG (110th). Despite last week';s 42 points, Pitt is averaging a modest 24.4 PPG, which ranks 98th. The same is true for Pitt's D, as despite holding Rice to just 10 points, the Panthers are allowing 31.6 PPG (101st) on 441.2 YPG (105th).
Syracuse: The Orange lost 33-25 to the Wolfpack at NC State in their last game but QB Eric Dungey went 30-of-47 for 385 yards, one score and a pick, while also leading the with 16 carries for 44 yards and two TDs rushing. Dungey has averaged 287.4 YPG through the air (Syracuse ranks 15th in passing YPG)) with seven TDs, along with 277 rushing yards and another seven TDs. WR Ervin Philips was named ACC Receiver of the Week after breaking school and conference records with 17 receptions for a career-high 188 yards against the Wolfpack. Despite a reasonably taxing early schedule, the Syracuse defense is allowing 24.4 PPG (55th) on 357.6 YPG (50th).
The pick: These schools have played every year since 1955 and the Panthers have won 13 of the last 15. However, Syracuse is the better team here in 2017 and won't forget that Pittsburgh won a 76-61 shootout against them in the regular-season finale for both teams last season, a contest which was the highest-scoring game in FBS history. Syracuse gets the win and cover this time around (10*).
|10-06-17||Boise State v. BYU OVER 44||Top||24-7||Loss||-110||96 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Friday night football on ESPN will feature the 1-4 BYU Cougars hosting the 2-2 Boise State Broncos. The Cougars are desperately trying to save their season, as it sure looks as if BYU's streak of 12 consecutive bowl appearances is in real danger. Boise State has been to 15 straight bowls but with road games here at BYU and and next weekend at San Diego State (currently 5-0 and ranked No. 19 in the latest AP poll), it hardly looks like "smooth sailing" for the Broncos, either.
Boise State: The Broncos fell 42-23 at home in their last game (Sep. 22), making it Boise State’s worst home loss since 2001. QB Brett Rypien was 24 of 42 for 285 yards without a TD pass and one INT vs. the Cavs. He's had a injury-marred season and is not even Boise's clear-cut No. 1 QB. To emphasize the Broncos' woes, I'll note that the team's "other QB," Montell Cozart, is the team's leading rusher with 191 yards. Boise State is averaging just 118.0 YPG on the ground (104th). The Broncos are averaging 29.8 PPG and it's been quite awhile since the team hasn't averaged at least 30 PPG (I quickly looked back eight years and all seasonal averages were 30-plus points). The defense comes in allowing 29.0 PPG (8656th).
BYU: Speaking of a lack of scoring, it's hard to fathom seeing a BYU team averaging only 12.6 PPG (126th). The Cougars can't pass (152.6 YPG ranks 118th) or run (104.0 YPG also ranks 118th), leaving them 129th overall in total yards at 256.6 YPG! The Cougars opened with an unimpressive 20-6 home win over Portland State and enter this game on a four-game slide. BYU led 21-7 a minute and a half into the second quarter against Utah State in its last game but then allowed 33 unanswered points, mostly due to seven turnovers. Ouch. Koy Detmer Jr. stepped in for injured QB Beau Hoge (who was already playing for No. 1 QB Mangum) and things went from bad to worse. Detmer took over and went seven of 20 with no scores and three interceptions of his own. Hoge is listed as questionable coming into this game. The BYU defense has played as well as one could expect, considering the fact that the team's offense gives them no 'cover.' The Cougars are allowing 26.4 PPG (72nd) on 381.6 YPG (68th).
The pick: With BYU and Boise State's recent (and not-so recent) history, who could have imagined them playing a game against each other and having the over/under number open 45? My sinning totals this year have often been playing "under" and on "inflated numbers" but here, it's just the opposite. Current 2017 form keeps this number low but it's TOO low. Both schools didn't play last weekend so make the Over an 8* play.
|10-05-17||Patriots -5 v. Bucs||Top||19-14||Push||0||70 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Thursday Night football on CBS to open NFL Week 5 of the 2017 season. The 2-2 New England Patriots will visit Raymond James Stadium to take on the 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There was talk prior to the season that the Pats just could go 16-0 in 2017 but not only are the Pats just 2-2, they are a last-second Brady TD pass against Houston in Week 3 from being 1-3! Tampa Bay saw its Week 1 games vs. the Dolphins postponed to later in the season due to Hurricane Irma and enters 2-1 after edging the Giants 25-23 last Sunday at home, on 34-yard FG with no time left on the clock. There is not a lot of history between the two clubs, with the Pats leading the all-time series 6-2.
New England: Tom Brady may be 40 years-old but he is NOT the problem for New England. He's completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 1,399 yards (Pats rank 1st with 328.3 YPG through the air) with 10 TDs and not a single interception in 155 attempts (QB rating is 116.6). New featured runner Mike Gillislee is sitting on 57 carries for 194 yards with four TDs but hasn't topped 70 yards in a game (Pats average 95.5 rushing YPG to rank 20th). TE Rob Gronkowski is New England’s top receiver with 20 receptions for 318 yards and two TDs. New England is averaging 32.2 PPG (2nd), so again, that's not the problem. The issue is, the Patriots are off to their worst defensive start under coach Bill Belichick, having allowed 128 points and 1,827 total yards, an average of 32.0 PPG (31st) and 456.8 yards YPG (32nd). According to STATS, since the 1970 NFL merger, it's the most points allowed in the first four games by a team that had the best scoring defense in the previous season (Pats allowed just 15.6 PPG in 2016).
Tampa Bay: Expectations were high for the Bucs entering 2017.QB Jameis Winston came up big in Sunday's 25-23 home win against the Giants, going 5-for-5 on the final drive that led to the game-winning FG as time expired. He was 22-for-38 with 332 yards and three touchdowns against the Giants but in the team's 34-17 loss in Week 3 at Minnesota, he threw three INTs and fumbled twice (did not lose one, though). Still, consistency is Winston's problem (safe to say he's no Brady). Tampa Bay has had no running game, averaging 84.7 YPG to rank 26th but the good news is, Doug Martin returns after a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs (he sat out the final week of 2016). Martin's had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his previous five years. The defense ranks 30th in yards allowed (394.3 per game) but is a middle-of-the-pack 16th in points allowed (21.3 PPG).
The pick: The Bucs need to run the ball better and while Martin is back with the team, it's unclear how much of a role he will play in his season debut. I noted Tampa Bay's overall defensive stats above but will add that most of the damage against the Bucs has come through the air, as they rank 31st in allowing 315.7 YPG. How can that be good news against Brady, who was 9-0 on Thursday nights until New England lost to Kansas City in its season opener? The Pats were a perfect 8-0 SU on the road in 2016 and won their lone road game of 2017 against New Orleans, 36-20. Like in this contest, the Pats were coming off a loss vs. the Saints and after taking down New Orleans, the Pats improved to an impressive 43-6 SU off a loss! How does one buck that trend? With a victory on Thursday night, Brady (185-54) will tie Brett Favre (186-112) and Peyton Manning (186-79) for the most regular-season wins in NFL history. Expect Brady to chalk up another 'notch' on his ever-growing NFL legacy. Lay the points and make the Pats a 10* play.
|10-05-17||Louisville -4 v. NC State||Top||25-39||Loss||-110||69 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: Louisville and NC State are both 4-1 as the two ACC schools meet Thursday night on ESPN at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. Louisville comes in ranked 14th and NC State just entered the AP top-25 for the first time this past Sunday, at No. 24. Louisville's loss came to current No. 2 Clemson, while NC State lost to South Carolina of the SEC. Both schools are in the ACC's Atlantic Division, which Clemson leads at 3-0. Since Louisville lost to Clemson, it is 1-1 in league play and can ill-afford another league loss to NC State, which comes into this game at 2-0. The series history reveals that Louisiille has won six of the seven all-time meetings, with the Wolfpack's lone win coming in the 2011 Belk Bowl, before Louisville joined the ACC.
Louisville: The Cardinals feature reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and while it's highly-unlikely that Jackson will repeat, he's having an excellent season. He's completing 64.0% for an average of 327.2 YPG passing with 13 TDs and just three INTs. He's Louisville's leading rusher as well, rushing for 437 yards (6.1 YPC) and five TDs, for a unit averaging 210.2 YPG on the ground (33rd). The Card are putting up 40.0 PPG (23rd) and allowing 24.6 PPG (51st), although they are doing better in yards allowed, ranking 27th at 317.6 YPG.
NC State: The Wolfpack opened up the year with a home loss to South Carolina but has rattled off four straight wins over Marshall, Furman, Florida State and Syracuse. Three of the wins are no big deal and the FSU win's value is TBD! QB Ryan Finley has completed 71.9% for an average of 280.6 YPG through the air, throwing nine TD passes and not a single interception in 192 pass attempts. The running game is average at-best (168.2 YPG ranks 64th), as is the team's defense, which allows 23.4 PPG (52nd) on 370.4 YPG (60th).
It's been "hard times" at Louisville as of late with the revelations surounding the basketball program but that's unlikely to faze the football team. As noted above, NC State's wins have hardly been impressive (jury is still out on the FSU win) and just how did the Wolfpack lose at home to South Carolina, if it's really a top-25 team? Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is 14-0 against North Carolina-based schools and Lamar Jackson just 'destroyed' NC State's defense in last year's meeting, accounting for 431 yards of total offense and four TDs in a 54-13 win. Is this game "too much" for NC State? Maybe so, as the last time NC State won a game between two ranked teams in Raleigh came all the way back in 1992, against Wake Forest (not exactly a FB power!). Make Louisville a 10* play.
|10-02-17||Redskins v. Chiefs OVER 49||Top||20-29||Push||0||45 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs come into Week 4 as one of just two unbeaten teams in the NFL (defending champion Atlanta is the other, pending its Sunday game home game with the Bills). KC will welcome the 2-1 Redskins to Arrowhead Stadium for MNF, with Washington coming off an impressive 27-10 win over KC's AFC West rival Oakland in Week 3's SNF contest. This series dates back to 1971, when Hank Stram's last great Chiefs team beat George Allen's first Washington team at old Municipal Stadium in an exciting 27-20 final. KC owns the series, winning eight of nine, with the last meeting coming in 2013, when KC routed Washington 45-10 in Arrowhead.
Washington: The Redskins lost their opener, at home to the Eagles but then won 27-20 out in LA over the Rams, before shutting down David Carr and the Oakland offense (Raiders were held to 128 yards and seven FDs!) in a 27-10 home win in Week 3. QB Kirk Cousins was 25-of-30 for 365 yards and three TDs against the Raiders and has completed 68.0 percent for 784 yards with five TDs and just one INT on the season (105.3 QB rating). The running game does not have an established star but ranks sixth in averaging 136.3 YPG. The defense is allowing 20.0 PPG (10th) on 276.0 YPG (5th).
Kansas City: QB Alex Smith has always been best-known as a "game manager" but he's completing 77.4 percent for 774 yards with seven TDs and zero INTs (132.7 QB rating leads the NFL!). He has more 'weapons' that ever-before, with WR Hill (16 catches for two TDs), TE Kelce (14 catches) plus rookie RB Kareem Hunt has been 2017's "breakout star." The former Toledo Rocket has 401 yards rushing (8.5 YPC) and four TDs plus nine catches, including two TDs! KC is averaging 31.0 PPG on 397.3 YPG, ranking third in both categories. The defense has allowed a modest 19.0 PPG (7th) but also 369.0 YPG (27th), including 257.3 YPG through the air (23rd).
The pick: Andy Reid-coached teams have always been known for their defense and special teams play but with a somewhat conservative offense. However, the Chiefs are averaging 31.0 PPG so far in 2017 and suddenly, have become a "big-play" team. The Chiefs enter this contest having recorded at least one TD of more than 50 yards in an NFL-record nine straight regular-season games. "We've got big-play guys that can go, when given the opportunity. (They) can take it the distance," an elated Alex Smith was quoted as saying. He's right but also, expect Washington's Kirk Cousins to "show up" for this MNF showdown. Both teams have balanced offenses (see above for a reminder) and the play here is a 10* on the over.
|10-01-17||Colts v. Seahawks -13||Top||18-46||Win||100||144 h 20 m||Show|
Indianapolis: With Luck still on the shelf, the Colts made a trade with the Pats to get QB Jacoby Brissett after they were routed 46-9 by the Rams in Week 1. Brissett was a noticeable improvement over Scott Tolzein and the Colts took the Cards to OT before losing in Week 2. Then last Sunday, Brissett led the Colts with 259 passing yards and a TD on 17 of 24 passing, while also notching a pair of rushing TDs. He became the first QB in franchise history to rush for two TDs, pass for another and throw for at least 250 yards! T.Y. Hilton had a huge game with seven catches for 153 yards with one TD. The running game still needs to improve, as the Colts are averaging 81.0 YPG (25th). After getting shredded by the Rams for 46 points, Indy's D held the Cardinals to 16 points in an OT, then had a sack and three interceptions against the Browns.
Seattle: The Seahawks didn't score a TD in either of its first two games (21 points on seven FGs) and while the Seahawks put up 27 points at Tennessee, the defense allowed 33 points on 420 yards. Russell Wilson had a breakout" game last Sunday, completing 29 of 49 for 373 yards with four TDs but to no avail with Seattle's defense going 'south!' Like th Colts, Seattele needs to get its running going, averaging only 96.7 YPG (19th) through the first three games. Getting back to Seattle's defense, it has long prided itself on not allowing a 100-yard rusher but it has now allowed one in back-to-back weeks and was gashed for 195 yards on the ground by DeMarco Murray (115) and the Titans last Sunday.
The pick: Sure, Brissett gives the Colts a better shot but note the team's two competitive games were at home, while Indy was crushed in its lone road game (see above). The Seahawks are in unfamiliar territory at 1-2 and have hardly resembled the team that has won at least 10 games in each of the past five seasons. However, Seattle's offense finally came to life after two ugly efforts to open the season and should have few problems scoring here against the Colts D. Seattle's D is off an embarrassing effort and will rebound in this one. Look out Mr. Brissett. Make Seattle an 8* play.
|10-01-17||Eagles +1 v. Chargers||Top||26-24||Win||100||140 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia Eagles are off to a solid 2-1 start in 2017 (QB Carson Wentz is now 5-1 in September games) but Sunday is October 1st and the Eagles are traveling cross-country for their Week 4 game. However, the good news is, Philly's opponent is the now-Los Angeles Chargers (at StubHub Center in Carson, Ca.), who have opened 0-3 in 2017, after ending the 2016 season 0-5 (combined run of 0-8 SU and 0-7-1 ATS).
Philadelphia: Wentz has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 816 yards with five TDs and two INTs (90.3 QB rating). He's led the Eagles to 25.7 PPG (10th), somewhat helped by a running game averaging 119.3 YPG (9th) but on a solid 4.5 YPC. LeGarrette Blount has underachieved so far, with only 113 yards in three games (we'll see?). Philly's secondary noticeably wore down in last Sunday's narrow 27-24 win over N.Y. Giants (New York scored all 24 of its points in the fourth quarter) and on the season, Philly has allowed 22.7 PPG (20th) on 321.0 YPG (21st).
LA Chargers: The Chargers opened with two close losses (24-21 at Denver & 19-7 at home vs. Miami). They then lost 24-10 at home to KC last week, although they held KC to a modest 311 yards (three Rivers INTS led to 17 points!). LA has allowed 22.3 PPG (a little worse than average (ranks 19th) on 322.7 YPG, which is a little better than average (ranks 13th). QB Philip Rivers went 20-of-40 for 237 yards and three picks against KC and comes in completing 65.2% for 760 yards with four TDs and four INTs. The running game is once again proving to be a liability. Gordon is averaging 48.7 YPG on 3.3 YPC and the team checks in at 70.7 YPG rushing, ranking 27th. The Chargers will be in for a very long season if they can't average more than the 16.0 points they have through three games (ranks 26th)!
The pick: This marks the Chargers' third straight home game and while two of the team's three losses this year have been closely contested (lost by three and two points), the Chargers are making a habit of losing "the close ones." The team has seemingly mastered the art of losing close games. It lost an NFL-high eight games last year by seven points less and has already lost two more in that range in 2017. With just nine wins since the beginning of the 2015 season (two-plus seasons), I want no part of the Chargers against a Philly team which just may be 'sneaky good!' Make the Eagles a 10* play.
|10-01-17||Jaguars v. Jets OVER 39||Top||20-23||Win||100||137 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Jacksonville Jaguars return from London after pounding the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 last Sunday, one of the more surprising Week 3 outcomes. The 37-point win represents the Jaguars' largest margin of victory in 10 years and they'll try to ride that positive mojo into their Week encounter at MetLife Stadium this Sunday against the NY Jets. How about the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets? They nearly earned their first shutout in eight seasons, dominating the Dolphins by teh score of 20-6, with Miami not getting on the board until the game's final play!
Jacksonville: The Jags sit 2-1 for the first time since 2007. Blake Bortles nearly lost his starting job during the preseason, coming off a poor 2016. He's only completing 59.6 percent (no big deal) and the Jags rank 23rd in passing YPG (193.3) but he's got six TDs passes (had four vs. the Ravens) and only TWO interceptions. "The biggest thing with Blake is probably psychological. I think mentally, him understanding that we're only going as far as he takes us," said TE Marcedes Lewis. BTW...Lewis caught three of Bortles' four touchdown passes against the Ravens. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette has 199 rushing yards this season and while that may not seem like a big deal to many, it's the most by any Jacksonville player through their first three career games plus he has scored one TD in all three games. The D has been terrific, ranking second in total yards (259.7 per) and 4th in points (17.0 per).
NY Jets: Speaking of a good defensive effort, the Jets, after some were waxing on about the team having a win-less season, completely shut down the Dolphins, holding them out of the end zone until the game's final play, while allowing just 225 yards for the entire contest. Much-maligned QB Josh McCown had another efficient game (18 of 23 for 249 yards), including a 69-yard TD pass to Robby Anderson. There hasn't been much offense from New York, with the Jets averaging 280.7 YPG (27th) on 17.3 PPG (22nd). The D will be tested by the Jags' offense, as New York ranks 23rd in scoring (24.0 PPG) and 24th in yards allowed (347.7 per).
The pick: Seeing the Jags as a road favorite is disconcerting. They are favored on the road for the first time since they played the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 with Curtis Painter filling in for the injured Peyton Manning. When Jacksonville won 29-7 at Houston in Week 1, it was only the third time Bortles had won the road in 23 tries! The key here is this very low over/under number. Scoring was low in Weeks 1 & 2 but Week 3 games averaging just a tick under 50 PPG. Jags playing with confidence plus McCown may just surprise again. Make the Over an 8* play.
|10-01-17||Saints -2.5 v. Dolphins||Top||20-0||Win||100||134 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The NFL will play a second straight game in London and the fans at Wembley Stadium are hoping to see a more competitive game than the Jags' surprising 44-7 rout of the Ravens last Sunday. The Saints opened their 2017 season by losing 29-19 at Minnesota in Week 1 and 36-20 at home vs. the Pats in Week 2. The Saints earned their first win of the season 34-13 in Carolina this past Sunday against the Panthers. The Dolphins make the trek "across the pond" at 1-1. The team's Week 1 game vs. Tampa Bay was postponed due to Hurricane Irma and after a 19-17 Week 2 win over the Chargers in LA and a 20-6 loss on the road to the NY Jets last Sunday, the Dolphins will be on the road (and how!) for a third consecutive contest.
New Orleans: The age-less Drew Brees was 22-of-29 for 220 yards and three TDs in last Sunday's win and enters this contest completing 68.5 percent for 867 yards (Saints rank 5th in passing YPG) with six TDs and not a single INT in 111 attempts! Adrian Peterson has been a non-factor (77 yards on 3.3 YPC), as the running game has not been much of a help, averaging 96.7 YPG (18th). Defense has been a major concern in recent years for New Orleans and that's true again so far in 2017, as the Saints are allowing 26.0 PPG (30th) on 437.7 YPG (31st).
Miami: The jury is still out on Jay Cutler, who is completing 64.9 percent but for only 450 yards (Miami ranks 21st in passing YPG) with two TDs and one INT. Cutler has gotten no help from a running game averaging 70.5 YPG (29th) and Miami enters averaging only 12.5 PPG (30th) on 280.5 YPG (28th). The defense has allowed 351.5 YPG (25th) but only 18.5 PPG (6th). The team will have to cut down on those yards, or that scoring average will almost surely rise.
The pick: Brees is still on top of his game and Miami is allowing 8.6 yards per pass play, the worst mark in the NFL. The London folks may be in for quite a display from the veteran. Miami's offense is coming off an embarrassing performance in last week's 20-6 loss to the Jets, avoiding a shutout by scoring in garbage time on the game's final play. That last game was a disaster," Miami head coach Gase said. "That's obvious, and it's embarrassing." He may have seen nothing yet. 2017 could be a long year for the Dolphins. Yes, New Orleans has its defensive problems but does Miami have the players to take advantage? I think not! Meanwhile, the Saints have lost to two quality teams (Vikings and Pats) and the team has yet to commit a turnover. I'll throw in that the Saints are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 October games and while maybe it means nothing, it's not a bad thing. Make New Orleans an 8* play.
|09-30-17||Oklahoma State -10 v. Texas Tech||Top||41-34||Loss||-110||105 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma State opened the season by beating Tulsa (59-24), South Alabama (44-7) and Pittsburgh (59-21) but was humbled at home last Saturday 44-31 by TCU, being done in by four turnovers. The Cowboys had fans dreaming of a Big 12 title and possible berth in the College Football Playoff but now Oklahoma State just looks to get back on track with a ninth straight win against Texas Tech when the Cowboys visit the 3-0 Red Raiders on Saturday in Lubbock. Texas Tech forced five turnovers in its 27-24 road win over Houston last week and are currently second in FBS in turnover margin (plus-2.3 per game).
Oklahoma State: QB Mason Rudolph threw for 398 yards against the Horned Frogs but had two interceptions and lost a fumble, dashing his early-season push for the Heisman Trophy. He is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,533 yards with 13 touchdowns and three INTs. He has a deep receiving corps with four players with 14 or more catches, combining for 12 TD receptions. WR James Washington leads the way with 19 catches for 520 yards and four TDs, averaging 27.4 YPC. The running game averages 175.0 YOPG (5.0 YPC), led by the duo of Hill (352 yards on 5.7 YPC) and King (210 yards on 6.5 YPC). The defense has allowed 24.0 PPG (61st) on 366.0 YPG (53rd).
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are ninth in scoring (45.0 PPG) on 587.3 YPG (4th). QB Nic Shimonek is completing 73.6 percent for 1,248 yards with 11 TDs and one interception. WR Keke Coutee has 28 catches for 446 yards and four scores. Defensively, Texas Tech is allowing 26.3 PPG (73rd) on 407.3 YPG (85th). That may not seem like a big deal but note that Texas Tech allowed 43.5 PPG on 554 YPG last season.
The pick: Texas Tech rallied from a second half, double-digit deficit last year, only to lose 45-44 on a missed extra point with 1:44 left in the game. The Cowboys come to Lubbock in an attempt to extend their eight-game winning streak in the series. Oklahoma State dropped nine places in this week's Associated Press poll (falling from No. 6 to No. 15), so this is a "MUST win." Considering that the Red Raiders are just 6-29 SU vs. ranked teams, the 8* play is on Oklahoma State.
|09-30-17||Ohio State -29.5 v. Rutgers||Top||56-0||Win||100||104 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ohio State Buckeyes may never overcome that home loss to Oklahoma and qualify for the CFP, unless the team "runs the table." Ohio State is 3-1 (1-0 Big Ten) and will visit High Point Solutions Stadium in New Brunswick, NJ to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-3, 0-1 Big Ten). These schools had never met until Rutgers joined the Big Ten and Ohio State has won by scores of 58-0 (2016), 49-7 (2015) and 56-17(2014). Safe to predict the Buckeyes won't lose here, either.
Ohio State: J.T. Barrett was not up to the task vs. Oklahoma (zero passing or rushing TDs with one INT) but has completed 37-of-50 passes with seven scoring TDs and zero interceptions in victories over Army (38-7) and UNLV (54-21) the last two weeks. In last week's game vs. UNLV, Ohio State had seven different players catch a TD pass. Barrett is completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 966 yards with 10 TDs and one interception, while adding rushing yards ( TDs). OSU has excellent offensively balance, passing for 319.2 YPG and 229.8 YPG on the ground. J.K. Dobbins leads the way with 520 yards (7.5 YPC) and three touchdowns. More good news is that sophomore RB Mike Weber has been cleared to play after being bothered by a hamstring injury that has limited him to seven carries after he rushed for 1,096 yards last year. Defensively, Ohio State is allowing 20.0 PPG (38th) on 367.2 YPG (56th).
Rutgers: Head coach Chris Ash was an Urban Meyer assistant and may be re-thinking his decision to take the Rutgers job. The Scarlet Knights were 2-10 last year (won home games over Howard and New Mexico) and have opened 1-3 in his second year (lone win over Morgan State at home!). The good news in New Jersey is that the Rutgers' D is allowing 18.2 PPG (28th) on 298.2 YPG (24th). That's down from 37.5 PPG allowed in 2016 on 451 YPG! Rutgers has QB woes for the last few seasons and the team's latest starter is Kyle Bolin, who is completing just 57.3 percent of his passes for 642 yards with three TDs and six INTs. The offense averages only 326.8 YPG (111th) and is a little better in scoring, averaging 27.2 PPG (83rd).
The pick: I just noted that Rutgers is averaging 27.2 PPG but that's because the Scarlet Knights scored 65 points against Morgan State. In its other three games, Rutgers has averaged a paltry 14.7 PPG. How can this team 'hang' with Ohio State? Urban Meyer is in his sixth season at Ohio State and comes to Rutgers having gone 23-1 SU on the road. Yes, this is an imposing pointspread but as noted above, in three meetings the last three years, Ohio Stat has out-scored Rutgers by a combined 163-24. That's 54.3-to-8.0 PPG! Lay the points and make Ohio State an 8* play.
|09-30-17||Navy v. Tulsa UNDER 72.5||Top||31-21||Win||100||100 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Navy is 3-0 to open the 2017 season (2-0 in AAC play) and looks to start 4-0 for the second time in three years when it visits the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa Saturday at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulsa could use a feel good victory here, as the Golden Hurricane have opened 1-3, with the team's lone win coming 66-42 over ULL (another 1-3 school) at home. However, losing at home 16-13 to New Mexico last Saturday hardly inspires much confidence, plus the team lost a 54-51 hesrt-breaker at Toledo the week before!
Navy: I'm a huge fan of head coach Ken Niumatalolo and Navy's overall discipline. QB Zach Abey is completing just 36 percent of his passes but he has made the most of his nine completions, throwing for 295 yards and three TDs. His strength is leading a rushing attack which averages 393.0 YPG (2nd), after Navy rushed for 569 yards in last week's 42-32 victory over Cincinnati (the second-most in program history!). Abey has 471 rushing yards (5.8 YPC) and four TDs. Navy is averaging 35.7 PPG, well on its way to its fifth consecutive season in which the Midshipmen will have averaged better than 31.8 PPG! Navy allowed 31.0 PPG in 2016 but just 24.0 PPG so far in 2017, an improvement of a TD per game!
Tulsa: QB Chad President is completing a modest 55.9 percent of his passes for 677 yards with just one TD and one interception. That's hardly the standard for past Tulsa QBs. However, Tulsa's ground game is averaging 311.5 YPG (4th), the reason Tulsa checks in scoring 38.5 PPG. The problem for Tulsa is, its defense is allowing 42.8 PPG (124th) on 590.2 YPG (129th).
The pick: OK, so here we go again. Regulars are well aware that I've 'made a killing' with my CFB totals in 2017, specializing in going under on over/under numbers like this, which are 'sky high.' Let's chalk up another one here. Make the Under an 8* play.
|09-30-17||Northwestern v. Wisconsin -14.5||Top||24-33||Loss||-110||97 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: The 2-1 Northwestern Wildcats and 3-0 Wisconsin Badgers meet Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Both are members of the Big Ten West and this marks the conference opener for each school. The Wildcats own home wins over Nevada (31-20) and Bowling Green (49-7) but couldn't handle the Blue Devils at Durham, falling 41-17 to Duke (currently 4-0). Wisconsin opened its season with 59-10 and 31-14 home wins over Utah State and Florida Atlantic, respectively, before winning 40-6 at BYU. Both teams come into this contest off a bye. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 58-35-5 and note that the home team has won eight of the last 10, recently.
Northwestern: The Wildcats are averaging 32.3 PPG (58th) on 459.0 YPG (45th). QB Clayton Thorson is completing 63.9 percent of his passes for 842 yards with four TDs and three INTs. The Wildcats' ground game is averaging 160.3 YPG (74th), led by RB Justin Jackson. He's now a senior and entered his final season off three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (he's on the verge of breaking the school's rushing record). Jackson was held to 18 yards at Duke but topped 100 yards in Northwestern's two wins (248 yards with four TDs, overall). Defensively, Northwestern is allowing 22.7 PPG (52nd) on 410.3 YPG (90th).
Wisconsin: The Badgers were ranked 9th in the AP's preseason poll and are currently ranked 10th. QB Alex Hornibrook is completing 70 percent of his passes for 701 yards (Wisconsin averages 235.7 YPG through the air) with eight TDs and just one INT. He's greatly aided by a Wisconsin ground game averaging 275.3 YPG (12th), led by RB Jonathan Taylor (438 yards on 8.3 YPC with five TDs). On the other side of the ball, not much is different than from years past. Wisconsin currently checks in allowing just 10.0 PPG (5th) on 248.0 YPG (7th).
The pick: This Wisconsin offense wasn't up to the task of winning at Durham against Duke. No way it wins here at Camp Randall. The Badgers defense is a 'horse of a different color,' coming off holding BYU to 192 total yards and it has yet to allow a SINGLE point in the second halves of its three games to-date! Wisconsin entered the 2017 season having gone 60-9 SU at home the previous 10 seasons (that's less than one loss per season). Don't expect a loss here either and if fact, lay the points and make the Badgers a 10* play.
|09-29-17||BYU v. Utah State OVER 46||Top||24-40||Win||100||81 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The BYU Cougars have opened the season 1-3 and Friday night will travel to Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah to take on the 2-2 Utah State Aggies. The Cougars were off last Saturday, after losing 40-6 at home to Wisconsin on Sep. 16. The Cougars were out-gained by the Badgers 491-to-192 in total yards, as the the team's season-long offensive woes continued (BYU ranks 130th in scoring at 9.8 YPC). Utah State improved to 2-2 on the season after defeating San Jose State 61-10 this past Saturday. The Aggies jumped all over Spartans, scoring the game's first 55 points and out-gained them by a margin of 589-to-171 in total yards.
BYU: It's hard to imagine that BYU, a school known for its offensive prowess over the years, ranks 130th in scoring and 129th in total yards (221.8 YPG). Tanner Mangum was named the starting QB prior to the season but suffered a leg injury during the final play of the Cougars' 19-13 loss to Utah on Sep. 9. Beau Hoge started in place of Mangum against the Badgers, completing 11 of 20 passes for 111 yards and two interceptions in what was the first start of his collegiate career. According to BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, Mangum's availability against the Aggies is still up in the air (note: Mangum took the field as a team captain wearing a protective boot and with an accompanying riding scooter prior to the Cougars' 40-6 loss to Wisconsin). Defensively, BYU has allowed 27.0 PPG (53rd) on 404.0 YPG (82nd).
Utah State: Dominating San Jose State is nothing to brag too much about. Leading the way for Utah State was QB Kent Myers, who completed 18-24 passes for 181 yards and two TDs with an INT. The Aggies are averaging 33.0 PPG (56th) on 439.0 YPG (55th) with nice balance (264.0 passing / 175.0 rushing). Defensively, the Aggies are allowing an average of 32.0 PPG (103rd) on 385.0 YPG (66th). Utah State has been helped by forced nine turnovers in four games.
The pick: This is the 87th meeting of this series (BYU leads 48-35-3) but I'll note that Utah State has won seven straight home games against non-conference opponents. BYU comes in with an offense which has done nothing but the Cougars are dropping way down in class after losses to LSU, Utah and Wisconsin (combined 10-1 SU). The Cougars have dominated this series since 1983 (won 25 of 28) and I see a "breakout performance." This 'low' total sets up a 10* play on the Over.
|09-29-17||Miami-FL -7 v. Duke||Top||31-6||Win||100||80 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Hurricanes have two scheduled saffected by Hurrican Irma and enter this Saturday game playing for just the third time this year, instead of the fifth. No. 14 Miami is currently sitting at 2-0, following a 41-13 win over Bethune-Cookman (9/2), a canceled game against Arkansas State (9/9) a postponed game with Florida State (9/16) and a 52-30 victory over Toledo. Miami will travel to Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham to face the 4-0 Duke Blue Devils, who are aiming for their first 5-0 start since the 1994 team opened 7-0. This marks the 15th meeting between the Hurricanes and Blue Devils since the series began in 1976, with Miami holding a 12-2 series advantage.
Miami-Fl: The 'Canes have averaged 46.5 PPG (8th) on 571.0 YPG (6th) but of course, their two opponents have been Bethune-Cookman and Toledo. QB Brad Kaaya has moved on, replaced by Malik Rosier. He's completed 68.8% for 688 yards with six TDs and just one INT. RB Mark Walton has 353 rushing yards (204 on just 11 carries vs. Toledo) and is averaging a whopping 13.0 YPC with three TDs. Miami's D has yet to be tested but comes in allowing 21.5 PPG (47th).
Duke: The Blue Devils have an offense capable of testing Miami's D. Duke comes in averaging 40.5 PPG (23rd) on 471.0 YPG (38th). QB Daniel Jones s completing 61.9% for 904 yards with five TDs and two INTs. He's also a running threat, gaining 141 yards with three TDs. The rushing attack averages 228.0 YPG (27th), led by the duo of Shaun Wilson (349 yards / 5.9 YPC) and Brittain Brown (35 yards / 6.7 YPC). Duke's defense owns impressive numbers, allowing 15.2 PPG (17th) on 271.8 YPG (16th), including just 75.5 YPG on the round (5th).
The pick: Sure, Miami owns a 12-2 series lead but the Blue Devils will certainly remember the last time the Hurricanes visited Durham (in 2015), as Miami pulled out the 30-27 victory with a controversial last-gasp 91-yard kickoff return that featured eight laterals and four missed calls that resulted in suspensions for the ACC officiating crew. Last year, Miami topped Duke 40-21 in Miami Garden, Fl, behind 396 passing yards and four TD passes from Kaaya. Revenge is clearly with Duke but this is easily the Blue Devils' biggest test. Duke opened with three home games and had plenty against 1-3 North Carolina. Miami has a make-up game next Saturday with Florida State but a loss here makes that encounter significantly less important. Miami won't need any late-game heroics in this one. Make Miami an 8* play.
|09-28-17||Bears v. Packers UNDER 45.5||Top||14-35||Loss||-110||72 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The NFL's longest rivalry resumes in Week 4's Thursday night game on CBS. The 1-2 Chicago Bears and 2-1 Green Bay Packers meet at Lambeau Field. Back on Sep. 25, 1960, the Chicago Bears, who were coached by the legendary George Halas, beat the Green Bay Packers, who were coached by the future legend Vince Lombardi, 17-14. That victory gave the Bears he Bears a commanding 50-26-6 edge in the series. However, after the Packers swept last year's two games, the series is knotted at 94-94-6. That means that with a victory tonight, the Packers could take the series lead for the first time since 1932!
Chicago: Many are not sold on Chicago's current starting QB Mike Glennon. He is completing 67.3 percent of his passes but for a modest 615 yards (Chicago ranks 27th in passing yards), while tossing three TDs and three INTs, giving him a QB rating of only 79.8. However, in fairness, Chicago's wide receiver corps have been ravaged by injury, The running game has been a nice surprise, averaging 121.7 YPG (8th) on 5.0 YPC, led by Howard (197 yards on 4.4 YPC with 3 TDs) and Cohen (157 yards on 6.5 YPC). Chicago will need to find a way to score more, as it is averaging only 15.7 PPG (28th). The defense has been average, allowing 23.0 PPG (21st) on 321.7 YPG (12th). The strength is its rush D, holding opponents to 83.7 YPG to rank 8th.
Green Bay: Rodgers is second in the league with 967 yards passing, exceeding 300 in each of the first three games. Although most teams would be just fine with their starting QB owning a passer rating of 93.1, it marks just the third time Rodgers' QB rating is below 100 in the 10 seasons since he took over as Green Bay's starter. Rodgers has attempted at least 42 passes in each game behind a banged-up offensive line, among the reasons he has been sacked a league-high 13 times. Running back Ty Montgomery, despite leading the team with 18 receptions, has rushed for only 124 yards in three games (3.0 YPC). Green Bay comes in averaging only 69.0 YPG on the ground, ranking 29th in the league. The defense has allowed a modest 296.7 YPG (8th-best) but also 22.3 PPG, just 18th-best.
The pick: Rodgers has 17 TD passes versus just one interception in his last six meetings with Chicago and he's 15-4 against Chicago with a QB rating of 105.7. I'm not about to go against "the Pack," especially since Chicago comes in on a nine-game road losing streak (last road win was Week 16 of the 2015 season at Tampa Bay). However, the Bears have been quietly playing better than expected. Chicago lost to the defending NFC champion Falcons by just six points in Week 1 and are coming off a shocking home upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers. in OT last Sunday. Meanwhile, the Packers are still dealing with offensive line issues to the point they’re signing players off of other teams practice squads in hopes of patching things up. Both teams are off OT wins and playing on a short week. The play here is a 10* on the Under.
|09-28-17||Texas -6.5 v. Iowa State||Top||17-7||Win||100||57 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Texas Longhorns and Iowa State Cyclones meet Thursday night on ESPN at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. It's the Big-12 opener for both teams, although the 2-1 team is Iowa State, not Texas. The Cyclones are a 44-41 overtime loss to Iowa on Sep 9 away from a 3-0 start, opening the season with a 42-24 home victory over Northern Iowa and winning at Akron 41-14 on Sept. 16. The Longhorns began the 2017 season ranked 23rd in the AP's preseason poll but opened it with a 51-41 home loss to Maryland, before following with a 56-0 home victory over woeful San Jose State. Texas' best performance of the season came in a hard-fought OT loss at USC (currently ranked 5th). Texas defeated Iowa State 27-6 last season in Austin and leads the all-time series 12-2, including going 5-1 in Ames
Texas: Tom Herman was Iowa State's offensive coordinator from 2009-11 and helped guide the Cyclones to a pair of bowl games. He left there to be Urban Meyer's OC at Ohio State and then made a big 'splash' as Houston's head coach in 2015 and 2016, landing him the Texas job. Things have have not gone smoothly so far. It hasn't helped that sophomore QB Shane Buechele, who passed for 375 yards and two TDs and ran for another TD against Maryland, has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. However, he is expected to return here, although All-American left tackle Connor Williams (sprained MCL and PCL) is not around to block for him on an already thin OL. Sure, Texas ran for 406 yards against San Jose State but the Longhorns ran for only 98 yards (31 carries) against Maryland and had just 68 yards rushing on 35 attempts versus USC! The defense was awful vs. Maryland (allowed 51 points on 482 yards) but redeemed itself vs. USC. Which one shows up here?
Iowa State: Junior QB Jacob Park is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 935 yards with eight TDs and just two INTs. Iowa State ranks ranks 14th in the NCAA in passing (311.7 YPG) and Park now owns four 300-yard passing games in his six career starts. He has a terrific target in senior WR Allen Lazard, a preseason All-American who has 19 receptions for 178 yards and three TDs and is the active NCAA career leader in consecutive games with a reception (38). The running game averages 152.0 YPG, just 82nd in the nation. The defense is at best, mediocre, allowing 27.3 PPG (78th) on 402.0 YPG (80th).
The pick: Iowa State has an offense which can produce, as noted by 'ringing up' 38 points in regulation against an Iowa team, which almost upset Penn State last Saturday, holding the Nittany Lions to 21 points! Then again, the Nittany Lions did 'run all over' the Hawkeyes, gaining 579 yards. It's true that Iowa State is 7-1 ATS its last eight home games but with Buechele returning at QB, the Texas offense should be up to the task. Texas fans finally got a glimpse of a better future when Tom Herman almost pulled an upset at USC with backup QB Ehlinger. Here, they get to see "the Full Monty!" Make Texas a 10* play.
|09-25-17||Cowboys -2.5 v. Cardinals||Top||28-17||Win||100||20 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: University of Phoenix Stadium will be the site of Week 3's Monday Night Football game on ESPN, as the 1-1 Cowboys travel to meet the 1-1 Cardinals. Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott has been mired in controversy as he awaits word on the stay of his six-game suspension stemming from domestic-abuse allegations, plus his effort (or lack thereof) was questioned inside his own locker room after the team's humbling 42-17 loss last Sunday in Denver. As for Arizona, the Cards escaped with a three-point OT win at Indy last Sunday and will play a game in their own stadium for the first time since August 19(preseason Week 2). These teams opened the 2017 preseason schedule in Canton, with the Cowboys winning 20-18. Dallas: Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett wasn't pleased with Elliott's hustle or competitiveness when the RB showed zero-to-little interest in turning into a defensive player following two Dak Prescott interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD and one during which Elliott turned away from the play with his hand on his hips. Elliott had just rushing nine attempts against Denver (eight yards!) and that played a significant role in Dak Prescott attempting a career-high 50 passes last week. Only Aaron Rodgers (92) has more pass attempts after Week 2 than Prescott, who has 89. The Cowboys are averaging 245.5 YPG through the air and just 84.5 YPG rushing. That's a far cry from the excellent balance the team had in 2016, going 13-3 SU & 10-6 ATS (226.9 YPG passing and 149.8 YPG rushing, which ranked second in the NFL). Arizona: The Cards are also worried about their running game. The Cardinals lost star RB David Johnson to a left wrist injury in Week 1, then Kerwynn Williams was the starter against the Colts last week. However, after averaging just 64.0 YPG rushing in the first two weeks (to rank 30th of 32 teams), it appears Bruce Arians will turn to veteran Chris Johnson against the Cowboys. Carson Palmer was 19-of-36 passing with 332 yards, one TD and one INT last week, after throwing three INTs with a 53.1 QB rating in the loss at Detroit. The pick: The Cowboys are dealing with some injuries but it was their pride and ego that were wounded the most during the rout at the hands of the Broncos. However, Dallas looked pretty darn good against the Giants and I'm not about to 'cry Uncle,' just yet. That's especially true here against the Cards, who look like a shell of the team that went all the way to the NFC championship game just two seasons ago (2015). The Cards are very fortunate to be 1-1 and I'm not convinced they are any better than the 7-8-1 team of 2016. Arizona heads into this game just 4-11 ATS in its last 15 home games, including the postseason. Make Dallas a 10* play.
|09-24-17||Raiders v. Redskins UNDER 54||Top||10-27||Win||100||129 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Sunday night NFL action on NBC from FedEx Field, as the 2-0 Oakland Raiders visit the 1-1 Washington Redskins. The Raiders have quickly established that last year's 12-4 season was no fluke, beating the Titans 26-16 in Tennessee (impressive win) and then routing the Jets back in Oakland, 45-20. The Redskins were upset at home in Week 1 by the Eagles (30-17) but the team's 27-20 Week 2 win in LA over the Rams is starting to look better, after the Rams have scored 46 and 41 points in their other two games to open the 2017 season.
Oakland: Derek Carr is completing 75.0 percent of his passes for 492 yards with five TDs and zero INTs (126.5 QB rating) five touchdowns and zero interceptions. WRs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have combined for 258 receiving yards and four TDs while TE Jared Cook has nine receptions. Crabtree has 20 TD catches since the start of the 2015 season, tying him for fourth in the NFL in that span (pretty sweet FA pick-up!). The running game is chipping in 144.5 YPG (5th), while averaging a healthy 5.2 YPC. With the offense averaging 35.5 PPG (2nd-best), the defense is doing just fine in allowing 18.0 PPG (10th).
Washington: QB Kirk Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season but is off to a slow start (only 419 passing yards) after losing his starting WRs in free agency. He is trying to establish a rapport with Terrelle Pryor (eight catches for just 97 yards without a TD catch) and it sure won't help if TE Jordan Reed plus starting RB Rob Kelley both miss (each is listed as questionable due to injuries). However, third-down back Chris Thompson and rookie Samaje Perine filled in nicely for a ground game that produced 229 yards against the Rams. Washington's defense ranks 26th in both points allowed (25.0 per) and total yards (350.0 per), although the team's rush D is allowing just 77.5 YPG. However, Carson Wentz riddled the Washington secondary for 307 yards in the air in Week 1 and stopping Carr may be a 'bridge too far.'
The pick: The Raiders enter this contest on an impressive 11-2 ATS run over their last 13 road game (most as an underdog, though) plus QB Carr, who began his career with 10 consecutive defeats, comes in 14-3 over his last 17 starts! However, Washington head coach Jay Gruden has his own spread success lately as well, as he's 15-7 ATS his last 22 regular season games. Tough call on the side but this is Week 3's highest total (could climb even higher by game time) and like in Week 1 at Tennessee, expect an Under for the Raiders on the road. Make it an 8* play.
|09-24-17||Seahawks +3 v. Titans||Top||27-33||Loss||-110||124 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans square off in Week 3 NFL action from Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Both teams are 1-1 and the loser will not be a "happy camper." The Seahawks' offense has been "missing in action" after two weeks, averaging 10.5 PPG to rank 29th of 32 teams on 268.5 YPG (27th). Tennessee appeared to find its offense in the second half of last week's 37-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars but now will be severely tested by on of the NFL's best defenses these last five-plus years in Seattle.
Seattle: The Seahawks were held without a TD in Week 1 at Green Bay and then were able to generate just 13 points (one TD) against a San Francisco defense which just allowed 41 point to the Rams on Thursday night. Russell Wilson passed for 198 yards and a TD on 23 of 39 passing, against the 49ers and rookie RB Chris Carson led Seattle’s ground game with 93 yards on 20 carries. As it has for some time now, Seattle's defense is off to a typically strong start, allowing 13.0 PPG (5th) on 309.0 YPG (13th).
Tennessee: The Titans lost 26-16 at home to the Raiders in Week 1 but I think most are now aware that the Raiders are a quality team. The Titans found their offense in the second half of last week's win at Jacksonville, scoring 31 points. QB Mariota finished with 215 yards (one TD / one INT). RB Derrick Henry led with 92 yards rushing (on just 14 carries) with one TD. The Titans defense recorded two sacks, two interceptions and forced two fumbles, while holding the Jags to just 310 yards of total offense.
The pick: I like the Titans quite a bit but Tennessee is 7-22-2 ATS in its last 31 home games (5-9-1 as a home favorite since 2013). The underdog is 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings between these two teams and Seattle is11-5-3 as a road underdog since 2011, including 2-0 in 2016. Make Seattle a 10* play.
|09-24-17||Texans v. Patriots OVER 43.5||Top||33-36||Win||100||121 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Texans and the New England Patriots square off in Week 3 NFL action from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, a rematch of the Patriots' 34-16 win in last season's Divisional Round of the playoffs when Houston was without injured star J.J. Watt. He is back and healthy (although he's sack-less) plus Houston is a banged-up football team. Both teams are 1-1, losing their openers before winning in Week 2. Houston won 13-9 at Cincinnati with Deshaun Watson making his first NFL start, while Brady rebounded from his awful Week 1 performance by ripping the Saints for 447 yards and three TDs on 30 of 39 passing in the Pats' 36-20 win.
Houston: No one can say a 13-9 win over the struggling Bengals is a big deal. Deshaun Watson completed 15 of 24 passing for only 125 yards (no TDs or INTs) but led Houston in rushing with 67 yards, including a spectacular 49-yard TD scamper. RB Lamar Miller added 61 yards on the ground with his team-leading 18 carries, while DeAndre Hopkins was one of just four Texans’ receivers to catch a pass in the win, leading the team with seven receptions for 73 yards. The Texans, who finished No. 1 total defense last season (301.3 YPG) even without Watt for most of the year, recovered a fumble, made three sacks and held Cincy to just 295 yards and without a TD (three FGs). Then again, it was against the Bengals, not Brady and the Pats.
New England: There was more than a little 'chatter' after Brady was held without a TD pass in New England's opener against the Chiefs (Brady had the league's lowest passer rating after that humbling 42-27 setback to Kansas City). However, the doubters have all been quieted, after his Week 2 effort at New Orleans (see above). The Pats head into this contest averaging 31.5 PPG (5th) on 341.5 YPG through the air (No. 1 in the NFL). There could be some concern with the defense though, as after allowing an NFL-low 15.6 PPG in 2016, on 326.4 YPG (6th), the Pats are allowing 31.0 PPG (30th) on 483.0 YPG (31st).
The pick: The Patriots took it to the Texans last season, winning both meetings, including a 27-0 shutout win in Week 3 (Brady was still serving his suspension) and then that 34-16 win in the playoffs. Deshaun Watson had a solid first start but beating the sad-sack Bengals is one thing, beating the Pats of Brady and Belichick, is another. Rookie QBs are 5-15 (in the first or only meeting of a rookie season) against Belichick through his time in New England. The Foxboro numbers are even scarier, 0-8 with five TDs, 16 INTs and a 50.7 passer rating. Add to that, the fact that the Texans have never won in Foxboro (0-5) and are 1-8 overall against the Patriots, with six straight losses. I'd say lay it with the Pats but I'm troubled by New England's D so far and I like what I see from Watson. Make the Over an 8* play.
|09-24-17||East Carolina +4.5 v. Connecticut||Top||41-38||Win||100||13 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The East Carolina Pirates have opened the season 0-3 and seek the team's first win of the new year Sunday against the 1-1 UConn Huskies at Rentschler Field in Storrs, Ct. ESPNU will televise this AAC matchup of teams each coming off 3-9 seasons. Both schools were scheduled to be off this weekend but the game was moved ahead in to accommodate UConn, which had its Sep. 9 game with USF postponed due to Hurricane Irma. These schools met last season in Greenville, with the Pirates rolling to a 41-3 victory.
UConn: The Huskies' offense is slightly better than ECU's, averaging 436.0 YPG (54th) but it is scoring only 22.5 PPG (105th), which is to say it' has underachieved. On the defensive side of the ball, UConn has allowed 536.5 YPG (125th) but a more modest 29.0 PPG (85th). QB Bryant Shirreffs is now a senior and is completing 69.2 percent of his passes but for only 351 yards (in two games) with three TDs and one interception. The UConn Huskies ground game is not all bad, averaging 183.5 yards YPG (54th).
The pick: OK, the Pirates haven't won a road game since 2015 (0-7 SU & ATS) and the team enters this rare Sunday game on a 1-12 ATS run but UConn comes in on an 0-12 ATS run as a home favorite, last covering in that role in the team's 2012 season-opener over UMass. Make East Carolina
|09-24-17||Ravens -4 v. Jaguars||Top||7-44||Loss||-105||118 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The NFL's first "London game" of the 2017 season features the 2-0 Baltimore Ravens taking on the 1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars "across the pond" at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday morning. This will be Jacksonville's fifth straight year playing a game in London but it is a first for Baltimore. The Ravens played the entire preseason without starting QB Joe Flacco but went 4-0, anyway. As Baltimore had insisted, Flacco was ready for Week 1 and while he's been mediocre at best, the Ravens are off to a 2-0 start with a 20-0 win at Cincy and 24-10 home win over the Browns. The Jags opened their 2017 season by upsetting the Texans 29-7 in Houston but then severely disappointed their home crowd by losing 37-16 to the Titans, last Sunday in Jacksonville.
Baltimore: Flacco has passed for just 338 yards (Ravens rank 31st of 32 teams in passing yards), as the team's deep threats (Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman) have been non-existent thus far, combining for three catches for just 20 yards receiving. However, the running game is averaging 146.5 YPG (3rd). Once again, Baltimore is relying on its defense, as the Ravens have allowed just 5.0 PPG (2nd) on 303.5 YPG (10th). The Baltimore D has four INTs in each of of its first two games, along with two recovered fumbles plus eight sacks!
Jacksonville: Rookie RB Leonard Fournettehad 100 yards rushing in his debut but was held to just 40 yards by the Titans. The Jags are counting on him, as his success is paramount to Doug Marrone's offensive designs as the Jaguars try to rein in the turnover-plagued Bortles. The much-maligned Bortles is completing only 56.4% for 348 yards (Jags rank 28th in passing yards) with two TDs and two INTs (QB rating of 72.4). In the Jags' Week 1 win, Bortles attempted a career-low 21 passes. "However, we can find ways to win, if it's throwing it 50 times or five times, I'm more than willing to do that and fine with it," Bortles said after that game. "It's not, 'I'm mad because we're not throwing the ball enough.' It's not that. I couldn't care less. Anyone believe him? Think that anyone in the organization has much faith in Bortles?
The pick: This is the 21st regular-season meeting between the teams and the Jaguars surprisingly lead the series, 11-9 (note: the Ravens and Jaguars were former division rivals in the AFC Central until 2001). Series history means little in this one but as we saw in Week 2, but the fact Bortles reverted to a familiar form with two ill-timed picks and general ineffectiveness in that lopsided loss to the Titans, does. Anyone expect him to deal effectively with this 'nasty' Baltimore D (see above to be reminded)? Not I. Make Baltimore an 8* play.
|09-23-17||Notre Dame -5 v. Michigan State||Top||38-18||Win||100||104 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Michigan State Spartans meet Saturday at Spartan Stadium, the site of one of CFB's many "Game of the Century" contests through the years, back on November 19, 1966 (ended in one of CFB's most famous ties, 10-10). Both schools opened the 2016 season ranked, Michigan State at No. 12 and Notre Dame at No. 10. However, the Spartans finished 3-9 and Notre Dame just 4-8. Less was expected from these legendary programs here in 2017. Notre Dame has opened 2-1, losing only 20-19 to Georgia, which is currently ranked 11th. Michigan State is 2-0, winning home games against MAC schools Bowling Green (35-10) and Western Michigan (28-14). The Spartans had a bye last weekend and this home game against Notre dame represents the school's third home game in a season in which the Spartans open with four consecutive home contests (Iowa visits East Lansing, next Saturday).
Notre Dame: Much was expected of new starting QB Brandon Wimbush. His passing numbers are underwhelming after three games (50.5% for 491 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs) but he's run for 314 yards (6.4 YPC) and six TDs. ND's rushing game has been spectacular, averaging 330.7 YPG to rank 5th in the nation (RB Josh Adams leads the way with 443 yards on 7.9 YPC with two TDs). Defensively, Notre Dame is allowing 18.7 PPG.
Michigan State: QB Brian Lewerke is completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 411 yards with four TDs and just one interception. Lewerke is also the team's leading rusher (150 yards on 8.8 YPC) for a running game which averages 255.5 YPG. Defensively, Michigan State is allowing 12.0 PPG (12th) and the team's 203.5 YPG allowed ranks second in the entire nation. The question is, MSU's competition so far has not been the best.
The pick: Michigan State ranks second among opponents in all-time victories (29) over Notre Dame, trailing only USC (37). With its stout defense, many feel like the Spartans as a home dog is the play. However, I differ. Notre Dame's rushing attack is dominant and its defense has looked way better than last year's unit, which allowed 27.8 PPG. Notre Dame has converted all of its red zone opportunities, tied with 19 other schools at 100%. However, no team has as had as many opportunities as The Irish, who are 19-for-19. Make Notre Dame a 10* play.
|09-23-17||Arkansas State v. SMU UNDER 73||Top||21-44||Win||100||103 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The 1-1 Arkansas State Red Wolves of the Sun Belt will travel to Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas to take of the AAC's SMU Mustangs, who have opened their season 2-1. The Red Wolves opened with a tightly-contested 43-36 loss in Lincoln against Nebraska, before seeing their game with Miami-Fla. canceled to due to Hurricane Irma. ASU picked up its first win of 2017 by routing Arkansas-Pine Bluff at home, 48-3 last Saturday. SMU opened its season with home wins over SF Austin (58-14) and North Texas (54-32) but then could not slow down then-No. 20 TCU last Saturday in Fort Worth, losing 56-36. SMU gets Arkansas St. this Saturday and then UConn next Saturday (both at home), so the Mustangs have to be 'smelling' a 4-1 start, not bad for a program that was just 5-7 last year, plus 2-10 and 1-11 the previous two seasons.
Arkansas State: QB Justice Hansen is completing 70.7 percent of his passes for 751 yards with eight TDs and just two interceptions. It's only two games but ASU's 385.5 YPG through the air ranks 8th-best in the nation. The defense had its problems with Nebraska (43 points allowed on 463 yards) but then the three points allowed vs. Ark-Pine Bluff, makes the defensive stat sheet look somewhat better.
SMU: QB Ben Hicks is completing just 48.4 percent of his passes but he's thrown for 729 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions. Hicks and Rafe Peavey have combined for nine touchdown passes this season and an average of 318.3 YPG passing (20th-best). Freeman (151 yards) and Jones (150 yards) lead a rushing attack which averages 155.3 YPG. All told, it has translated into 49.3 PPG or 6th-best in the nation. SMU couldn't stop TCU at all (56 points on 619 yards) and will enter this game with its defense allowing 34.0 PPG (105th).
The pick: OK, so is the Over the play? I've had great success so far in 2017 by "playing under" on more than a few of these games with extremely high totals. That's the angle once again here, as I make the Under an 8* play.
|09-23-17||Louisiana Tech v. South Carolina -8||Top||16-17||Loss||-115||100 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: A pair of 2-1 teams square off on Saturday at Columbia, South Carolina, as Louisiana Tech takes on South Carolina. The Bulldogs routed Nothwestern State 52-24 to open the season but then found themselves on the wrong side of a 57-21 score at home vs. Mississippi State in their second game (just ask LSU if Miss. St. is any good). South Carolina opened 2-0 in 2017 but will need to find a way to win without its top playmaker, something it couldn't do last Saturday. WR Deebo Samuel had five TDs in the team's first two games (both wins) and then had a 68-yard TD catch on the first play from scrimmage in last week's game vs. Kentucky. However, he suffered a broken left leg and was lost for the season, as South Carolina went on to lose 23-13.
La. Tech: Head coach Skip Holtz has led the Bulldogs to three consecutive nine-win seasons, each ending in a bowl victory. This year's starting QB is J'Mar Smith, who's thrown for 722 yards, including three plays of 53 yards or longer, but has completed barely half of his passes (51.5%). Smith had 306 yards passing in the win over Western Ky, completing 22 of 39 (one TD and one INT). La. Tech averages 32.0 PPG but allows 34.3 per, ranking 108th in the nation.
South Carolina: QB Jake Bentley threw for 304 yards and two TDs against Kentucky but he also was intercepted twice. The Gamecocks have averaged only 85.7 YPG on the ground (121st) and now that Samuels is out, South Carolina will need to find a way to perk up its offense. "I think we've got some capable guys," head coach Will Muschamp told the media on how he might replace Samuel. "Shi Smith is a freshman we are trying to train up. Bryan Edwards has been a dependable guy. Next man up has to be our mentality." Muschamp can rely on his solid defense, which has allowed 21.3 PPG.
The pick: After getting smoked by Miss. State 57-21, La. Tech is eager to show it can compete with an SEC opponent. However, if only wishing could make it so. La. Tech is just 2-9 SU in non-conference away games under Holtz. Not enough points here to take the Bulldogs (a C-USA team) against an SEC opponent. Make South Carolina an 8* play.
|09-23-17||NC State v. Florida State -11||Top||27-21||Loss||-110||96 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida State Seminoles opened their 2017 season against preseason No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta. FSU not only lost a game back on Sep. 2, it also lost its starting QB, Deondre Francois to a season-ending knee injury. To add insult to injury, the Seminoles have not played since that game, as the effects of Hurricane Irma have forced the Seminoles to cancel/postpone games against ULM (9/9) and Miami-Fl (9/16). This marks CFB's fourth full weekend and FSU will finally be playing its second game of the 2017 season, when it hosts 2-1 NC State. The Wolfpack opened with a 35-28 home to loss to South Carolina but then beat Marshall 37-20 and Furman 49-16. FSU won 24-20 at NC State last season, giving them eight wins over the last 10 meetings (FSU leads the series 25-11 all-time).
NC State: QB Ryan Finley had a solid season in 2016 for NC State, throwing for 3,059 yards with 18 TDs and just eight INTs. He's completing 75.6% for 987 yards (6 TDs / 0 INTs) after three games in 2017, as the Wolfpack are averaging 334.7 YPG through the air to rank 13th in the nation. The NC State defense was solid last season (allowed 22.8 PPG) and comes into this game allowing 23.7 PPG.
Florida State: The Seminoles' offense couldn't dent Alabama's defense in their lone 2017 game, scoring just seven points on 250 total yards (just 40 yards rushing). However, the defense played extremely well, holding The Tide to just 269 yards. Florida State will turn the offense over to freshman James Blackman, who will be the first true freshman to start at QB for the Seminoles since 1985. The good news is, he's had some extra time to study the playbook and practice with the first team during the layoff. “He has presence and poise,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’ve always said the No. 1 thing (quarterbacks) have to have, barring anything, I always look at it very early on, I say the No. 1 thing is presence. … They just have presence. When they talk, there’s a natural command to what they do and how they carry themselves. And I think James does that."
The pick: Still fuming from a 24-7 season-opening loss to Alabama on Sep. 2, then seeing its next two games get washed out because of Hurricane Irma, Florida State enters Saturday's contest having not played a game in three weeks. Florida State's 21-day stretch between games is tied for the third-longest layoff between regular-season games in the same season in program history. My bet says the NC State is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lay it with FSU and make them an 8* play.
|09-22-17||Virginia v. Boise State OVER 51.5||Top||42-23||Win||100||80 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: Friday night CFB on ESPN comes from Albertsons Stadium (home of the famous "Blue Turf'), as the 2-1 Boise State Broncos host the 2-1 Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs have opened the 2017 season with three consecutive home games, beating William & Mary 28-10, losing 34-17 to Indiana and then topping UConn, 38-18. The Broncos own home wins over Troy (24-13) and New Mexico (28-14), sandwiched around a 47-44 triple-OT loss at Washington State. The schools have only met once before, with Boise State crushing the Cavs 56-14 at Charlottesville in 2015. Virginia was just 4-8 taht season but fell to 2-10 last year, in Bronco Mendenhall's first season at Virginia.
|09-21-17||Rams v. 49ers +3||Top||41-39||Win||100||56 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The 0-2 San Francisco 49ers will host the 1-1 LA Rams Thursday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Thursday. The Rams routed the Colts 46-9 in Week 1 but then lost 27-20 to Washington in Week 2. The team will play its first road game of the season here, traveling on a short week, although the trip to Santa Clara is not much of a travel issue. As for the 49ers, they are 0-2 after a 23-3 home loss to the Panthers in Week 1 and a 12-9 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 2. The Rams are coming off a 4-12 season and the 49ers off a 2-14 one, so it's fair to say both teams have this one 'circled' as a rare "winning opportunity."
LA Rams: Jared Goff struggled when he played in 2016, after being the NFL's No. 1 overall pick in April. Goff completed just 54.6% in his seven games with five TDs, seven INTs and five lost fumbles (he was 0-5 as a starter). He had a breakout game in Week 1 by completing 21 of 29 for 306 yards with one TD, no INTs and a 117.9 QB rating. However, he was more average against Washington, going 15 of 25 for 224 yards with one TD, one INT and an 86.1 rating. RB Todd Gurley had just 41 yards in Week 1 in the win but looked better with 88 yards (5.5 YPC) in the loss, plus he's caught eight passes for 104 yards. Goff's improved play certainly makes the Ram's a much superior offensive team, averaging 33.0 PPG (LA averaged NFL lows of 14.0 PPG and 262.7 YPG in 2016). The Rams D has allowed 18.0 PPG (11th) on 305.3 YPG (13th) through two games, after allowing 24.6 PPG on 337.0 YPG in 2016.
San Francisco: The 49ers have a new head coach (Kyle Shanahan) and a new starting QB (Brian Hoyer) and so far, the offense has been pathetic. Hoyer has completed 62.9% and thrown for only 292 yards without a a TD pass (two INTs) and currently owns a 60.7 QB rating. RB Carlos Hyde has 169 yards rushing on 7.0 YPC but the team has averaged 6.0 PPG, amazingly ranking 31st of 32 teams (talk about a lack of scoring!). SF does rank dead-last (32nd) in total yards, at 232.5 YPG. Considering the team's woeful offensive performance, the defense has played well. San Francisco ranks 10th in both points allowed (17.5 per) on 299.5 YPG.
The pick: I noted at the top that both teams have to feel like this is a winnable one. However, the 49ers have to realize just how important winning here, is. The 49ers play their next three games on the road, return home to play the Cowboys and then travel cross-country to play the Eagles. Lose here and an 0-8 start looks pretty feasible. San Francisco just dominated the Rams at this venue last year, winning 28-0 and then upset the Rams later in the Coliseum, 22-21. Make San Francisco an 8* play.
|09-21-17||Temple v. South Florida -20.5||Top||7-43||Win||100||56 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 2-1 Temple Owls will visit Tampa and Raymond James Stadium Thursday night on ESPN to take on the 3-0 South Florida Bulls, who are currently ranked No. 21 in the AP poll. The Bulls will have a short week for the second game in a row, having played Illinois last Friday night, when they pulled away to an easy 47-23 victory, with 680 yards of total offense. Temple's new head coach Geoff Collins knows what his team is in for, as on Monday he said, "They have tremendous athletes across the board -- a big, physical offensive line and a dynamic quarterback who can hurt you with his arm and hurt you with his legs. They're a complete offense."
Temple: The Owls are coming off back-to-back 10-4 seasons but reaching double digit wins this year may be a stretch. Temple opened with the 2017 season with a 49-16 loss at Notre Dame, before beating Villanova and UMass (schools better-known for their basketball programs) by only a combined 11 points! QB Logan Marchi has taken over for the graduated Walker and has looked pretty good. He's thrown for 767 yards with five TDs and zero INTs. However, the running game, which averaged just over 175 YPG in 2016, has averaged a woeful 94.3 YPG (117th) on 2.9 YPC after three games (two coming against cupcakes 'Nova and UMass). Forget the team's defensive numbers against Villanova and U Mass and concentrate on the 49 points and 606 yards the Owls allowed at Notre Dame and one has to believe Temple is in deep trouble in this contest.
USF: Quinton Flowers has yet to 'explode' after three games (678 passing yards with 8 TDs and 2 INTs plus 243 yards rushing and 2 TDs) but the key is he's got USF's offense clicking on all cylinders. USF averages 40.0 PPG on 522.3 YPG (15th), including 281.3 YPG rushing (13th). RBs Tice (256 yards & 4 TDs) and Johnson (215 yards) give the Bulls quite a solid duo to complement Flowers' rushing ability (note: he rushed for 1,530 yards in 2016 on 7.7 YPC and scored 18 TDs!). The Bulls' D has been more than "good enough," allowing 20.7 PPG (48th) on 323.3 YPG (42nd).
The pick: The Bulls enter this game having scored 30-plus points in 20 straight games and just how will Temple's D (see Notre Dame stats above!) be able to keep USF in check on its home field? Making matters worse for Temple is that the Owls beat USF last season in Philly, 46-30. As the saying goes, "revenge is a dish best served cold." USF is 8-2-1 ATS as a home favorite since 2015. Make the Bulls a 10* play.
|09-18-17||Lions v. Giants -3||Top||24-10||Loss||-110||35 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The 1-0 Detroit Lions visit MetLife Stadium and the 0-1 New York Giants for MNF on ESPN. Matthew Stafford completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 292 yards with four TDs and just one INT in Detroit's 35-23 Week 1 home win over Arizona. As for the Giants, they look for a bounce back performance after losing 19-3 at the Dallas Cowboys on SNF in Week 1. Manning completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 220 yards but did not lead the Giants into the end zone, while tossing one INT and getting sacked three times.
Detroit: The passing game graded out as an "A" in Week 1, with Golden Tate reeling in 10 catches for 107 yards, rookie Kenny Golladay grabbing four catches and making a favorable impression with a pair of fourth-quarter TD plus RB Theo Riddick also had six catches with a TD reception,. However, the rushing attack ran for just 82 yards (3.0 YPC) leaving head coach Jim Caldwell to say, "It needs work. We just got to keep working at it and (it's) not where we want it yet." The Lions' D was fine against the Cards, holding them to 308 yards (but 24 FDs) and 23 points, while forcing four TOs (three INTs).
NY Giants: The offense was mostly revamped in the off-season with the additions of WR Brandon Marshall, TEs Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram, plus the promotion of Paul Perkins to starting RB. The mainstays are QB Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham, Jr. OBJ sat out Week 1 and New York's offense couldn't get out of its own way. I noted Eli's numbers above and as a team, the Giants totaled a modest 233 yards on 13 FDs (4 of 12 on third-downs). Perkins ran for 16 yards (seven carries), as the team had just 35 yards rushing (2.9 YPC). The Giants' D, considering it got no relief from its offense, did well to hold the Cowboys to 19 points.
The pick: Obviously, an OBJ return would be huge for the Giants but his status is iffy, as would be his contributions if he did play. The Lions didn't pull away from the Cards in Week 1 until the fourth quarter and I'm still not ready to trust that defense. I did allow 24 FDs but was 'saved' by forcing four TOs. However, the Lions' pass D allowed opposing QBs to complete a historic 72.7 percent of their pass attempts in 2016, while the defensehad just 14 takeaways, tying them for 28th (with the Jets). As for that Giants' D, it did its best last week vs. Dallas and let's not forget how good it was last year, when the Giants allowed only 17.8 PPG (2nd-best in the NFL) plus went from allowing an NFL-high 420.3 YPG in 2015, to allowing 339.7 YPG in 2016. Detroit is a different team away from its dome (12-20 SU the last four seasons) and I'm "all over" the Giants as a 10* play.
|09-17-17||Packers v. Falcons OVER 53.5||Top||23-34||Win||100||102 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Packers opened the 2017 season with a solid 17-9 home win over the Seattle Seahawks, while the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons won their season opener 23-17 at Chicago. The two teams meet Sunday night in Atlanta, for the Falcons' first regular season game in their new home, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Packers most recent visit to Atlanta is one the team would rather forget. Green Bay entered last season's NFC conference championship game on an eight-game winning streak but was never in it against Atlanta, falling behind by 24 points at halftime in a 44-21 blowout. "If you're thinking about last year and talking about last year, you're just wasting time and energy," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. The Falcons will be looking to beat Green Bay for the third time in just 11 months, as they squeezed out a 33-32 victory at home last October on a last-minute TD pass from Matt Ryan
Green Bay: The Packers may have scored just 17 points against the Seahawks in Week 1 but Aaron Rodgers threw for 311 yards (had one TD pass and one INT). RB Ty Montgomery had 93 total yards and a touchdown, while WRs Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson combined for 16 receptions and a score last week. Defensively, the Packers held Seattle to just 225 yards of total offense on 12 FDs (3 for 12 on 3rd down), while getting three sacks and forcing a fumble. Green Bay's offense helped the defense by dominating the T.O.P. battle. 39:13-to-20:47.
Atlanta: While the Packers earned an impressive victory against a fellow NFC powerhouse last week, the Falcons needed Brooks Reed's fourth-and-goal sack to hold off the rebuilding Bears, 23-17. However, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was pleased with the ending, perhaps in no small part because of how his team couldn't hold off the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. "I wasn't disappointed that we had to go all the way to the end," he said. "Those are kind of the finishes that as a coach you hope you can put your team into some of those spots and have some resiliency there at the end. It took all day, for sure." Ryan connected on an 88-yard scoring strike to TE Austin Hooper in the fourth quarter and finished with 321 yards passing in the season opener. However, The backfield tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman was a big disppointment, combined for only 53 yards rushing on 20 carries in Week 1.
The pick: Ryan has put up huge numbers over the past three matchups against the Packers, passing for 1,055 yards with 11 TDs against just one interception (passed for seven TDs and no picks in LY’s pair of wins over GB). WR Julio Jones torched Green Bay in the NFC title game with nine catches for 180 yards and two scores plus had an 11-catch, 259-yard monster performance against the Packers back in 2014. The again. don't expect Rodgers to take a backseat in this matchup. After all, he has a QB rating of 117.0 in seven matchups against Atlanta, throwing for 29 TD passes against two picks. These two teams have combined for at least 65 points in each of the last three meetings (including LY's NFC title game), so why should it be any different here? Make the Over an 8* play.
|09-17-17||Jets +14 v. Raiders||Top||20-45||Loss||-105||98 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The New York Jets head to Oakland in Week 2 to take on the Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum. Not much is expected from the Jets in 2017 and that's just what we all saw in Week 1. New York gained just 214 yards (11 FDs) in Buffalo, while the Bills gained 408 yards. The Jets allowed the Bills to rush for 190 yards (4.5 YPC) and were able to only run for 38 yards themselves (2.5 YPC). Maybe the Jest were lucky to lose by just nine points. In contrast, the Raiders impressed in their 26-16 Week 1 at Tennessee. QB Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the team this off-season, has clearly recovered nicely from the broken fibula is suffered in Week 16 last season. He completed 22 of 32 passes against the Titans for 262 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Marshawn Lynch ran for 76 yards against the Titans in his first game following a one-year retirement.
NY Jets: Looking for positives from Week 1, former Raider Josh McCown completed 26-of-39 passes for 187 yards and ran for the Jets' lone TD versus the Bills. His top target was Jermaine Kearse, who had seven catches for 59 yards in his debut with the club. However, RBs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell MUST do better. The good news is that they are very capable and have a history of being effective players. Maybe New York's best performances in Week 1 came from its kickers. Chandler Catanzaro converted a pair of long FGs (48 & 52 yards) plus had three kickoffs go for touchbacks. Punter Lachlan Edwards averaged 43.7 yards on six punts.
Oakland: The Raiders' 12-4 record in 2016 ended 13 consecutive non-winning and playoff-less seasons for Oakland (going back to the 2002 season, when the Raiders lost to the Bucs in the Super Bowl). Expectations were high coming into 2017 and the team's Week 1 performance at Tennessee may have cured any doubters. Carr was excellent (see above), completing passes to eight different receivers, with Michael Crabtree making a team-high six catches for 83 yards. Speaking of special teams play, Oakland just may have found a suitable replacement for Sebastian Janikowski, who has been placed on injured reserve with a back injury. Giorgio Tavecchio, who was 9-for-11 on FG attempts during the preseason, converted all four of his attempts against Tennessee, including a pair from 52 yards out. His performance earned him the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor.
The pick: Oakland's Derek Carr has a high-quality WR duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree plus a good TE in Jared Cook. Lynch may have turned back the clock and will at worst, vastly improve the rushing game in 2017. As for Josh McCown, he no longer owns a legit deep threat, as the Jets could arguably own the worst offense in the NFL after discarding their top play-makers prior to the start of this season. All that said, aren't we asking an awful lot from this Oakland team? There was just one double-digit favorite in Week 1 (Steelers closed minus-10 at the Browns) and here in Week 2, Oakland (about a two-TD favorite over the Jets), is the lone double-digit favorite of Week 2. Note that the Steelers barely eked out a three-point win over the Browns in Week 1 and the next-highest favorite in Week 1 was the Pats. In case you have forgotten, the Pats were routed 42-27 at home vs. the Chiefs, as a nine-point choice. Take the huge points and make the Jets a 10* play.
|09-17-17||Patriots v. Saints OVER 55.5||Top||36-20||Win||100||95 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints meet Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with both teams looking for their first win of 2017. The defending Super Bowl champions have had 10 days to stew over their shocking 42-27 season-opening home loss to the KC Chiefs on the season's first Thursday night game, while the Saints look to get things straightened on defense, as well as on offense, as the team was uncharacteristically impotent on the offensive side of the ball a 29-19 Monday night road loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The New Patriots have not started a season 0-2 since 2001, while the Saints hope to avoid losing the first two games of the season for the fourth consecutive season!
New England: Can you believe that Brady Brady is ranked dead-last in the league with a completion percentage of 44. , after going 16 of 26 without a TD pass in the Pats' season opener? What's more, he has glaring issues at WR with Julian Edelman out for the year, Malcolm Mitchell on injured reserve and Danny Amendola is in the NFL's concussion protocol. Also, Brady's security blanket, TE Rob Gronkowski, looked rusty in the loss to the Chiefs, catching just two passes for 33 yards. New RB Mike Gillislee did rush for three TDs in Week 1 but the Patriots were also stuffed on three short-yardage situations. Then there is the New England defense which allowed 537 yards (!!!) to the Chiefs plus the 42 points KC scored were the most allowed since coach Bill Belichick arrived in New England!
New Orleans: The Saints are also looking for answers in Week 2. "A sense of urgency has been created," acknowledged Drew Brees. "It's very important. It's our home opener, and we want to get back on track." New Orleans struggled to get un-tracked offensively at Minnesota but the team is a different animal when playing on the fast track of the Superdome. Brees finished with 291 yards and a TD plus Adrian Peterson tied for the team high with 18 yards on six carries in his debut with New Orleans. Coming off a 2016 season in which Minnesota was among the league's worst with averages of 375.4 YPG and 28.4 PPG allowed, the Saints surrendered 470 total yards and 29 points to the Vikings.
The pick: New England is a remarkable 42-6 SU following a loss since 2004 and plays its first road game of 2017 here, after going a perfect 8-0 on the road last season. As noted above, Brees acknowledged "a sense of urgency." Here's why. Another slow start could prove devastating to the Saints. New Orleans has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. The Saints started 0-2 in 2014, 0-3 in 2015 and 0-3 last season. In fact, since owning an 11-5 record back on Dec. 29, 2013, the Saints have gone 1,358 days without a winning record. Can the Saints win on Sunday? New England's 'bounce-back' history says no but Brees is averaging 357.7 YPG passing in his last 15 home games. On the other side, anyone NOT think Brady will have something to prove off that embarrassment against the Chiefs? Make the Over an 8* play.
|09-17-17||Eagles +6 v. Chiefs||Top||20-27||Loss||-110||95 h 51 m||Show|
The set up: The Philadelphia Eagles will venture into Arrowhead Stadium for a Week 2 game with the Kansas City Chiefs. It's a 'family reunion' of sorts, as new Philly head coach Doug Pederson played for Andy Reid (current KC head coach) in Green Bay and Philadelphia, before joining his coaching staffs with the Eagles and Chiefs. Pederson was Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2013-15, so he has a great understanding of the team's offense. The Eagles won 30-17 at Washington last Sunday but no team's Week 1 win was more impressive than KC's season-opening win 42-27 at New England, as nine-point underdogs.
Philadelphia: QB Carson Wentz had a strong opener, going 26-of-39 for 307 yards with two TDs and an interception. However, the Eagles will need more from the running game, as LeGarrette Blount finished with only 46 yards on 14 carries against Washington (Eagles ran for only 58 yards as a team on 2.4 YPC!). A juiced-up pass rush harried Washington's Kirk Cousins all game, accounting for four sacks. The defense forced four turnovers in Week 1, including one fumble recovery which was returned 20 yards for a TD.
Kansas City: Andy Reid went against type in allowing Alex Smith to 'fire deep' against the Pats and it paid huge dividends. Smith completed 28 of 35 for 368 yards (4 TDs / 0 INTs / 148.6 QB rating) plus rookie RB Karrem Hunt ran for 148 yards and a TD (8.7 YPC) and caught five passes, including a 78-yard TD. WR Hill had seven catches for 133 yards, including a 75-yard TD. Then there was the KC defense which held Brady without a TD pass on 36 attempts (just 16 completions).
The pick: Would it be possible for the Chiefs to match their Week 1 performance? I think not and that improved Philly defense (especially its ability to pressure the QB), may make it very difficult (if not impossible) for Alex Smith to repeat his Week 1 performance. Philly QB Wentz is playing with an upgraded roster on both sides of the ball and let's note that this second-year player is now a perfect 4-0 SU & ATS in September games. Can you say upset? Make the Eagles an 8* play.
|09-16-17||San Jose State v. Utah OVER 60||Top||16-54||Win||100||80 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 1-2 San Jose State Spartans will visit Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City to take on the 2-0 Utah Utes this Saturday night. The Utes are not ranked in the AP poll but do check in at No. 24 in the coaches' poll. The Spartans own a 43-13 home win over Cal-Poly but have lost 42-22 at home to USF (season-opener) and last Saturday lost 56-0 at Texas. The Utes opened with a 37-16 home win over North Dakota and then improved to 2-0 on the season by defeating BYU 19-13 at Provo this past Saturday. Utah jumped out to a 19-6 lead with 2:35 left in the 3rd quarter and were able to survive a late BYU comeback in the 4th.
San Jose State: The Spartans opened the season with a first-year head coach in Brent Brennan and have played three QBs so far with red-shirt freshman Montel Aaron making his first start in the loss to Texas. The Spartans are averaging only 18.7 PPG (110th) on 346.7 YPG (99th). The defense was gashed for 623 total yards by Texas, including 406 yards and six TDs on the ground. San Jose St. is allowing 37.0 PPG (115th) on 468.0 YPG (112th).
Utah: Tyler Huntley is the team's new QB and he's a true dual-threat. He has completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 527 yards (one TD / one INT) and is also he team’s leading rusher with 159 yards on 37 attempts (three rushing TDs). Huntley's top target is Oregon transfer Darren Carrington, who has 17 catches for 256 yards and a TD. The Utes are averaging a modest 28.0 PPG (87th) on offense but the defense has been excellent, allowing 14.5 PPG (30th) on 235.5 YPG (17th).
The pick: Utah holds a 7-1 lead in the series between these former WAC rivals, including a 34-16 road win last season in San Jose. The Utes are 23-1 in non-conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Utah hasn't had a breakout offensive effort yet but I expect one here vs. San Jose State, which was routed by Texas last week (see above) and as noted above, has allowed 37.0 PPG (115th) on 468.0 YPG (112th). The Over is an 8* play.
|09-16-17||Clemson v. Louisville +3.5||Top||47-21||Loss||-110||78 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney claims he loves playing in big games and his team's showdown against Louisville on Saturday night certainly qualifies. ABC will be on hand as current AP No. 3 Clemson (2-0) and the defending national champs, travel to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky. to take on 2-0 Louisville, which is currently ranked 14th in the AP poll. Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson almost single-handedly lifted Louisville to victory in last year's contest at Clemson, totaling 457 yards and accounting for four TDs in a game that wasn't decided until Louisville came up one yard shy of a first down at the Clemson 3-yard line in the final seconds (Clemson won 42-36). Clemson has won all three previous meetings between the two schools, although each has been decided by six points or less.
Clemson: New Tiger QB Kelly Bryant has passed early tests (68.6% completions with one TD & one INT plus 136 yards rushing on 5.2 YPC with three TDs). However, after routing Kent State 56-3 (665 total yards), the Tigers gained just 281 yards in their 14-6 win over Auburn. So far, the key has been Clemson's defense. The Tigers' defensive front, anchored by All-America candidates Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence at tackle, plus Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell at end, may be the best in the country. Clemson had 11 sacks, one shy of the school record against Auburn last Saturday. The Tigers rank second nationally in total defense (118.5 YPG) and sacks and are in the top-10 in seven defensive categories. Clemson has not allowed a TD this season and held Auburn to 117 total yards (13 FDs), including 15 second-half yards! Amazingly, Clemson's allowing 4.5 PPG but that ranks just THIRD (?).
Louisville: Jackson's performance last season in “Death Valley” set up his "Heisman-push" (295 YP / 162 YR / 3 total TDs). Only Archie Griffin has won two Heismans (back-to-back in 1974 and 1975) but Jackson is not about to relinquish his Heisman without a fight after 525 yards of total offense at North Carolina. He enters this game with 771 passing yards and a 5-0 ratio plus 239 rushing yards with three TDs after just two games. Jackson has became only the second player in FBS history to have at least 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in consecutive games.
The pick: Clemson has won 10 consecutive games on opponents’ home fields but Louisville is still smarting from last year's loss in Death Valley. There is no doubt that Clemson's defense is special but it couldn't contain Jackson at home last year (see above). How can it do better here at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville? "We've had three really good battles with them – had our opportunities and have come up short – so this is something that is really important to our players,” Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino told reporters. “First of all, we should have confidence that we're there and that we can play, but it is up to us to win the game.”I agree and will make Louisville my 10* CFB Game of the Year!
|09-16-17||Louisiana Tech v. Western Kentucky UNDER 61.5||Top||23-22||Win||100||77 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will travel to L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers this Saturday night. Both teams have opened 1-1. La. Tech opened with a 52-24 home win over Northwestern St. but was no match for Mississippi State last Saturday at home, losing 57-21. La. Tech took a quick 9-0 lead early in the 1st quarter but couldn’t fight back after 36 unanswered points by Mississippi State gave them a 36-9 lead with :41 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Western Kentucky opened with a 31-17 win over Eastern Ky but then lost 20-7 at Illinois this past Saturday, as a six-point road favorite. The schools have met just seven times with La.Tech leading 4-3. However, after beating Western Ky 55-52 at home during the 2016 regular season, the Bulldogs lost 58-44 at Western Ky in the C-USA championship game.La. Tech: The Bulldogs averaged 44.3 PPG last season but Skip Holtz' team may struggle some on offense this year. La. Tech is averaging 36.5 PPG (47th) but QB J’Mar Smith has completed only 48.3% of his passes for 2 TD sand an INT while averaging 208.0 passing YPG (note: last year's starter Ryan Higgins passed for 4,617 yards with a 41-8 ratio). The team's running game is averaging a respectable 186.5 YPG to rank 56th. Defense is a problem though, as the Bulldogs have allowed 40.5 PPG (121st).Western Ky: The Hilltoppers are coming off seasons of averaging 44.4, 44.3 and 45.5 PPG. However, just four offensive starters are back. Yes, one of them his QB Mike White, who threw for 4,363 yards with a 37-7 ratio, but after two games, he's got just one TD pass in 74 attempts, while averaging a modest 251.0 YPG. Forget those 40-plus PPG averages of the previous three seasons, as the Hilltoppers are averaging only 19.0 PPG (109th) here in 2017. The good news for Western Ky is the defense is a allowing just 18.5 PPG (47th). The pick: At the moment, it sure looks as if the Hilltoppers miss head coach Jeff Brohm (he's now at Purdue), as Mike White and the offense is not "hitting on all cylinders" for new head coach Mike Sanford. Then again, the Western Ky defense looks very good. La. Tech is scoring (36.5 PPG) but allows even more (40.5 PPG). These two schools were the preseason favorites to return to the C-USA title game but at this stage of the season, both teams have plenty of kinks to work. The two meetings last year in which the finals were 55-52 and 58-44 keep this total WAY higher than it should be. Make the Under an 8* play.
|09-16-17||Tennessee +5.5 v. Florida||Top||20-26||Loss||-120||74 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: SEC East rivals Tennessee and Florida square off in Gainesville at "The Swamp" on Saturday. The Vols come in 2-0 and ranked No. 23 in the latest AP poll, while the 0-1 Gators are still in the top-25, at No. 24. The Volunteers made a remarkable comeback vs. Ga. Tech on Labor Day evening in Atlanta, rallying from a two-TD deficit in the 4th quarter to send the game to OT. The Vols would win 42-41, when they squashed a Ga. Tech two-point try in the second OT. Win No. 2 came much easier, beating FCS Indiana State 42-7. The Gators canceled last Saturday's home game with Northern Colorado due to Hurricane Irma and could have really used the work. Florida opened its season with a marquee matchup against Michigan on September 2 in Arlington (Jerry's House) and were just awful. Michigan beat Florida 33-17 but the final is not the half of it! Both Florida TDs were scored on interceptions returned for a TD, meaning the Florida offense put just three points on the board. The Gators were held to 192 totals yards, gaining just 13 FDs (went 2 of 13 on 3rd down conversion attempts). The Volunteers come to Gainesville on Saturday after winning 38-28 at home last season, a victory which snapped an 11-game losing streak in the series.
Tennessee: The Vols are 2-0 but there is plenty of room for improvement, head coach Butch Jones said. "We have a lot of work to do with this football team, and that starts with our overall physicality," Jones said. "I didn't think we played to the level of physicality that's up to our standard and expectations." Joshua Dobbs in now in the NFL and it looks as Jr. Quinten Dormady is emerging as the Vols' full-time QB over Jarrett Guarantano. Dormady enters the week with a passer rating of 143.7 to go along with 415 passing yards, four TDs and an interception. The Volunteers are averaging 42.0 PPG (27th) thanks not only to the offense, but to strong work on special teams and defense. Freshman Ty Chandler returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown last weekend, marking the team’s ninth punt- or kickoff-return TD since 2015.
Florida: QB Feleipe Franks will start against Tennessee after an up-and-down debut against Michigan. The red-shirt freshman completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards and showed some scrambling ability before being pulled after losing a fumble while going for a first down in the third quarter. If he can't do the job, though, coach Jim McElwain could turn to Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire (9 of 17 for 106 yards in the opener as a replacement for Franks) or even part-time 2016 starter Luke Del Rio, possibly in a two-minute situation. Regardless of which QB takes the most snaps, he could sure use more help from the running game, which gained only 11 yards on 27 carries in the opening loss to Michigan.
The pick: Sure, Florida is well-rested and anxious to redeem itself off that Michigan 'nightmare.' The Gators also have revenge from last year's 10-pont loss at Tennessee, which ended an 11-game winning streak in the series for Florida. However, the Gators are totally unsettled at QB and off the Michigan game, have little or no running game. Also, last year's win and cover by the home team (Tennessee), snapped a 6-0-1 ATS streak by the road team in this bitter rivalry. I want any points I can get. Make the Vols an 8* play.
|09-16-17||Baylor +14.5 v. Duke||Top||20-34||Win||100||70 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: I wonder if Matt Rhule would like to reconsider taking the Baylor job and leaving Temple? Baylor has not only opened 0-2, the Bears have lost outright as a 33 1/2-point favorite against Liberty and then as a 12 1/2-point favorite against UT-San Antonio, both at home! Here, the Bears will take an eight-game regular season losing streak to Durham, North Carolina to face Duke. The Blue Devils took FCS foe North Carolina Central 'to the woodshed' 60-7 in their season-opener and then dismantled Northwestern 41-17 last week (out-gained the Wildcats 538-to191). This marks Duke's third straight home game and it's Homecoming!
Baylor: The Bears won 10-plus games in four of five seasons from 2011 through 2015 and opened 2016 at 6-0. Baylor entered Game 7 of the season at No. 8 when it lost 35-34 at Texas. The Bears ended the regular season on a six-game slide but then upset Boise State 31-12 in the Cactus Bowl, as about a TD underdog. Matt Ruhle was terrific at Temple, going 10-4 in 2015 and 10-3 last year, before taking the Baylor job prior to Temple losing its bowl game. Baylor is trying to recover from the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university and resulted in the firing of former head coach Art Briles in May 2016. Rhule has completely junked the Art Briles offense and Arizona transfer QB Anu Solomon has struggled, completing 43.6% in the team's first two games. Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel, as Baylor's pass defense yielded only 155 yards passing to UT San Antonio, after surrendering an incredible 447 yards in the opener.
Duke: The Blue Devils entered last season off four consecutive bowl appearances but stumbled to a 4-8 season. However, head coach David Cutcliffe's 10th season in Durham is off to a exciting start. Dual-threat QB Daniel Jones has completed 68.6% for 518 yards (4 TDs / 1 INT) and rushed for 127 yards (6.4 YPC) and three more TDs. Duke is averaging 50.5 PPG (10th) on 531.0 YPG (18th) plus a defense which allowed 28.2 PPG in 2016, has allowed 12.0 PPG (19th) on 174.5 YPG (7th).
The pick: Heading into this game, there can be no doubt that we have two teams heading in opposite directions. Baylor has more issues than most people realized, while Duke is simply cruising. The Blue Devils are a splendid 18-2 in their last 20 regular season non-conference games (the most successful streak in program history) but it's just hard to get may head around the fact that Duke, DUKE, is a two-TD favorite over Baylor. Rhule announced during the week that Arizona graduate transfer Solomon will be replaced by sophomore Zach Smith against Duke. Smith started four games last season and completed 116-of-196 passes for 1,526 yards with 13 TDs and seven INTs. Take the points and make Baylor an 8* play.
|09-15-17||Illinois v. South Florida OVER 55.5||Top||23-47||Win||100||53 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: Illinois and South Florida are both 2-0 to open the 2017 season, although it's the lesser-known school from Tampa which is the ranked team, at No. 21 in the latest AP poll. Illinois is off a 3-9 season in Lovie Smith's first year as head coach and the Fighting Illini haven't had a winning season since their 20-14 bowl win over UCLA in 2011 allowed them to finish 7-6. Meanwhile, Willie Taggert rejuvenated the USF program, going 8-5 in 2015 and 11-2 in 2016, including an exciting 46-39 OT win over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. Taggert used his success to land the Oregon job but Charlie Strong brings solid credentials to the program, despite his lack of success at Texas. USF had its game last week at Connecticut cancelled, due to complications with Hurricane Irma.
Illinois: Ilinois goes after its third straight victory to open the season and Lovie Smith will be returning to 'the scene of the crime,' as Tampa is home to the NFL’s Buccaneers, which was his previous job before landing at Illinois. The Fighting Illini opened with an unimpressive 24-21 home win over Ball State but then as a six-point home 'dog to Western Kentucky, won 20-7. Lovie's always been known as a defensive coach and through two games, Illinois is allowing 14.0 PPG (28th) on 309.5 YPG (48th). However, the team's offense is another story. Illinois averages a woeful 258.0 YPG (123rd), due to anemic passing attack with ranks 120th, averaging 126.0 YPG. In the most important offensive stat of all, points scored, Illinois is T-100th at 22.0 PPG.
USF: Taggert may be in Oregon but he left behind QB Quinton Flowers for Charlie Strong. Flowers threw for 2,812 yards with a 24-7 ratio last year, while rushing for 1,530 yards and another 18 TDs. He's not off to a Lamar Jackson-like start in 2017 (398 passing yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT plus 137 rushing yards with just 1 TD) but he has led the Bulls to 42 and 31 points. USF ranks 44th in scoring (36.5 PPG) and 51st in total yards (443.5 YPG). The defense, which allowed 31.6 PPG in 2017, is off to an excellent start, allowing 19.5 PPG (50th) on 308.0 YPG (42nd). That said, the competition has not been all that tough.
The pick: The Fighting Illini have proven to be offensively challenged so far but USF's early defensive numbers are a bit of a mirage. As for Illinois' defense, it gets a severe test here from USF, which has scored at least 30 points in 19 straight games! I believe USF will dictate this contest and with a total in the mid-50s (note: the lowest final score for an USF game in 2017 was 60 points!), the Over is an 8* play.
|09-14-17||Texans +6.5 v. Bengals||Top||13-9||Win||100||30 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals each flopped badly at home in their respective 2017 season-openers. The Texans, as 5 1/2-point favorites over the Jags, lost 29-7 and the Bengals, as a three-point favorite over the Ravens, lost 20-0. The Texans gained just 203 total yards (the Jags' 10 sacks were a huge part of that!), while Cincy QB Andy Dalton threw four INTs (plus lost a fumble for five total TOs!), as the Bengals gained only 221 yards and got shut out at home for the first time since 2001.
Houston: The Texans traded up in the first round of the 2017 Draft and selected Clemson QB Deshaun Watson 12th overall, but head coach Bill O'Brien stood firm on his commitment to fourth-year veteran Tom Savage as his starting signal-caller, citing both experience and familiarity with the offense as primary reasons behind that decision. However, Savage's "experience" resume stated that he had only played in five career games with just 92 passes attempts and (zero career TD passes! It was fair to say choosing Savage as the starter qualified as an "interesting choice." Thirty minutes into the first game of the season, O'Brien flip-flopped, benching Savage at the half of the Texans' embarrassing 29-7 home loss. Savage was 7 of 13 for 62 yards (0 TDs / 0 INTs) and was sacked six times and the Texans trailed 19-0. O'Brien felt that the mobile Watson could effectively elude pressure and provide the Texans a sorely needed offensive spark. However, the Jaguars sacked Watson four times and he was just 12 of 23 for 102 yards with a TD and an INT. Houston's rushing attack mustered just 93 yards.
Cincinnati: The Bengals managed a measly 221 total yards on 58 plays with Andy Dalton 'laying an egg.' It was a woeful performance by the vet, as he completed 16 of 31 for 170 yards with five turnovers (4 INTs). He posted a 28.4 QB rating, delivering his worst showing since Nov. 6, 2014, when he passed for 86 yards with three interceptions in a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. For all the promise assigned to rookie RB Joe Mixon, he produced just nine yards on eight carries in his debut. The Bengals' amassed only 77 yards rushing (3.5 YPC) as a team. The defense was fine, as Flacco completed just 9 of 17 for 121 yards (1 TD / 1 INT). Yes, the Ravens did rush for 157 yards but averaged just 3.7 YPC.
The pick: Lost in the abysmal performance by Dalton was the solid play of Cincinnati's defense. However, can one really trust Dalton to bounce back against a quality Houston defense? Remember, the Texans led the NFL in yards allowed last season (301.3 YPG), despite All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt missing all but three games. Also, Cincy's running game needs to get straightened out. Deshaun Watson will be Houston's starter on Thursday and I expect him to really test that Cincy D. Also, let's not ignore that Houston has won seven of the last eight meetings between these two teams (including the postseason) and held Cincinnati to 10 points (in 2016) and six points (in 2015) in wins these last two seasons. Make Houston a 8* play.
|09-14-17||New Mexico +15.5 v. Boise State||Top||14-28||Win||100||30 h 55 m||Show|
\The set-up: The New Mexico Lobos take their 1-1 record to Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho (home of the famous Blue Turf) to face the the 1-1 Boise State Broncos Thursday night in college football action on ESPN. New Mexico opened with a 38-14 home win over Abilene Christian but then lost 30-28 (again, at home) last Saturday to in-state rival New Mexico State. Boise State opened 2017 with a less-than-impressive 24-13 home win over Troy and then last Saturday night at Washington State, lost 47-44 in a three-OT thriller. What a contrast in both of last week's results. New Mexico trailed 30-5 into the 4th-quarter last week and its 23-point final period left them two points shy, when a two-point try failed. As for Boise, the Broncos held a 21-point lead midway through the 4th quarter but couldn’t hold onto that lead after the Cougars tied the game at 31 with just 1:44 left in regulation. Boise State then lost in three OTs.
New Mexico: The Lobos made a strong comeback but came up just short at NMSU. QB Lamar Jordan threw for a career-high 213 yards in the team's season-opening win and while no player ran for more than 65 yards, the Lobos ran for 259. However, against NMSU, Jordan was benched, as Tevaka Tuioti completed 10 of 19 passes for 151 yards and two TDs, while leading a comeback that just fell short. Jordan's starting job might be in jeopardy. Defensively, New Mexico is holding its opponents to an average of 22.0 PPG, not bad for a unit which allowed 31.5 PPG last year. However, the Lobos allowed Boise State QB Brett Rypien to throw for 391 yards and four TDs in a 49-21 loss in 2016.
Boise State: Like New Mexico, Boise State turned to its backup QB last weekend. Montell Cozart went 12-20 with 161 yards passing, two TDs plus added 72 yards and a TD on the ground, after starting QB Brett Rypien left the game early with an undisclosed injury. Although Rypien is coming off two excellent seasons, throwing for 3353 yards (20-8 ratio) as a freshman and for 3646 yards (24-8 ratio) as a sophomore, he was just 13 of 23 for 160 yards without a TD vs. Troy. He left with an early injury last week, after completing 7 of 8 passes for 76 yards. Boise State's defense allowed 433 passing yards against Washington State but only 22 rushing yards, on 27 attempts.
The pick: Brett Rypien is likely out for this game as he recovers from a head injury, so all eyes will be on Montell Cozart to take care of the ball against an opportunistic Lobos defense (Broncos got in trouble last week when the Cougars returned a fumble and an interception for TDs). The last time the Lobos came to Boise in 2015, New Mexico (a 31-point underdog) won 31-24 over a then 7-2 Broncos team. The Broncos are not the 10-3 team they were in 2016. Note that Boise Stae was 0-6 ATS at home in 2016 and barely covered against Troy as a 10 1/2-point choice in an 11-point win to open 2017. Take the points and make New Mexico a 10* play.
|09-11-17||Saints +3.5 v. Vikings||Top||19-29||Loss||-110||250 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The NFL serves up a MNF doubleheader with the New Orleans Saints visiting the Minnesota in the first half. One can't ignore the irony, as after serving as the face of the Minnesota Vikings' franchise for the majority of his 10-year career, Adrian Peterson brings his new club, the New Orleans Saints, into U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night. The 2012 NFL MVP hopes to show his-former team that he still has plenty left in the tank. "Of course I want to stick it to them. I want to stick it to everyone we play," the 32-year-old Peterson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "But going back to Minnesota, playing the Vikings? Yeah, I want to stick it to them."
New Orleans: The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009 and through 2013, made the playoffs in four of five years. However, last year's 7-9 season marked the third straight year New Orleans has gone exactly 7-9, naturally missing the playoffs each time. The Saints finished the preseason with a 2-2 record and opens 2017 with Drew Brees at QB for another season. Brees put up yet another 5,000 yard season, throwing for 5,208 yards, 37 TDs and 15 INTs. WR Brandin Cook is now in New England but Michael Thomas was terrific in his rookie season of 2016 (will hope to replicate the success from his rookie season in 2016 (92 catches for 1137 yards with 9 TDs). Ted Ginn Jr. joins the fray to add a speed threat for the Saints on the outside (also adds as a special-teamer). We know this, that like Brady, Brees has "made do" with whomever lines up as his pass-catchers over his career. The "unknown" is, where will Adrian Peterson fit in the offense? Many expect Mark Ingram to lead the ground game for the Saints heading into the season, after coming off career highs in rushing yards (1,043), yards from scrimmage (1,362) and total TDs (10). New Orleans' defense has languished near the bottom of the NFL for the last three seasons, including a 31st rank in points allowed in 2016 at 28.4. Enough said.
Minnesota: The Vikings made the postseason in 2015 (can anyone forget their hard-breaking loss to Seattle in that one?), although that was the team's lone winning season from from 2013 through 2016 (went 8-8 last year). Mike Zimmer had been a preseason 'monster,' going 12-1 in his first three seasons as Minnesota's head coach but this year's team went 2-2 this preseason. Sam Bradford benefited from a short-yardage passing game to set an NFL record for completion percentage last season (71.6%), due in large part to the team's inability to run the ball. Minnesota hopes it has addressed its sputtering running game by selecting Florida State's Dalvin Cook in the second round of the 2017 draft and acquiring Latavius Murray in the off-season (TBD). However, Minnesota boasted five Pro Bowl selections on its defense which ranked third in the league last season in yards allowed per game (314.9 per). The Vikings return nearly every starter.
The pick: The Vikings shocked everyone by opening 5-0 SU & ATS in 2016 but a Week 6 bye seemingly derailed their season. After returning, Minnesota finished 3-8 SU & 4-7 ATS. I, for one, believe the team's 5-0 start was a 'mirage' and the rest of Minnesota's season is what we will see more of in 2017. Historically, the Saints have been a great home team but a poor road one. However, that was surely NOT the case in 2016, as the Saints were a highly-profitable 7-1 ATS on the road, including 6-1 as a road dog (note: Saints are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 road games). Is this strictly an offense vs. defense matchup? Not so fast. The New Orleans' defense made some good additions and played with improved resolve in the preseason. Take the points and make the Saints a 10* play.
|09-10-17||Giants v. Cowboys UNDER 48||Top||3-19||Win||100||227 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants to cap off a busy "Opening Day" of NFL action as the two long-time NFC East rivals meet in AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas) for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Here's the big news and I'll copy it directly from reports. Federal judge Amos Mazzant granted a request by the NFL Players Association on Friday for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the six-game suspension for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was already eligible to play in Sunday's season opener against the New York Giants, but his suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy was to begin Monday. With the injunction granted, Elliott likely will be able to continue playing as the legal process plays out.
NY Giants: New York rebounded from three consecutive losing seasons to earn its first postseason berth since 2011, sparked by a defense that led the NFC with an average of 17.8 PPG allowed, almost 10 points per game less than it allowed in 2015 (27.6). The Giants also went from last in the entire NFL in yards allowed (420.3 per game) to 10th at 339.7 YPG. QB Eli Manning threw for 26 TDs against 16 INTs, while reaching 4,000 yards (4,027) for the sixth time in his career, despite a running game that averaged only 88.3 YPG (29th) and produced a league-worst six rushing TDs. The Giants added two pieces to the passing game by signing six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and making rookie TE Evan Engram their first-round draft pick out of .OBJ is coming off huge season, catching a career-high 101 passes for 10 TDs but his status remains unknown for this contest, after a preseason injury.
Dallas: Rookies Elliott (led NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards) and Prescott (23 TDs against only four INTs for a 104.9 QB rating) led Dallas to last year's 13-3 (10-6 ATS) record. Now, both seem to be ready for a sophomore encore. the Dallas D allowed 343.9 YPG which ranked 14th but more importantly, held opponents to just 19.1 PPG, fifth-best in the NFL. However, the Cowboys will be missing three defensive linemen due to suspension on Sunday night..
The pick: The Cowboys were 7-1 at home last season but that lone loss came to the Giants 20-19 in Week 1 at Dallas, Then, New York held Dallas to 260 yards in defeating the Cowboys 10-7 in Week 14 at MetLife Stadium, completing the season sweep. Note that Elliott was held to 162 yards on the ground in two meetings against the Giants in 2016. If anyone in the league can "tough-talk" the Cowboys, it could be the Giants. New York held Dallas's powerful offense in check both times last year (to 19 and 7 points!) but also note, the Giants scored just 20 and 10 points, themselves. Make the Under an 8*
|09-10-17||Colts +3.5 v. Rams||Top||9-46||Loss||-105||99 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Rams will be kicking off their NFL season at LA's Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. The Colts lost their first two preseason games against the Lions (24-10) and Cowboys (24-19), but won the final two against the Steelers (19-15) and Bengals (7-6). Indy is off back-to-back 8-8 seasons, both affected by Andrew Luck's injury woes. The Rams' return to LA didn't go well in 2016, as they lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish 4-12. The Rams have now missed the playoffs for 12 straight years and recorded 13 straight non-winning seasons (8-8 in both 2006 and 2004). The Rams won their first two preseason games, 13-10 over the Cowboys and 24-21 over the Raiders but then dropped their last two, 21-19 versus the Chargers and 24-10 in Green Bay.
Indianapolis: The Colts will be without star QB Andrew Luck against the Rams. Scott Tolzien will make his fourth career start in place of Luck. Tolzien's main target will be T.Y. Hilton, who led the NFL last year with 1,448 receiving yards and is one of four players in league history with at least 850 yards and five touchdown catches in each of his first five seasons. Frank Gore rushed for 1,025 yards last season, becoming the first Indianapolis running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since Joseph Addai accomplished the feat in 2007. Gore is looking to become the fifth player in NFL history to hit the mark in 10 different campaigns.
LA Rams: New head coach Sean McVay will step in and look to reverse what's been a losing situation for the Rams. It doesn't help that Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (the team's top defensive player) is expected to miss Week 1 as he continues to hold out for a new contract. Los Angeles' defense ranked ninth in the league last season but figures to struggle without Donald - something new coordinator Wade Phillips will attempt to avoid. RB Todd Gurley had 1,212 yards from scrimmage in 2016, marking the second straight season he has registered at least 1,200. WR Austin is a triple threat, after a season in which he had 52 catches for 509 yards (3 TDs), gained 364 yards on 44 punt returns and added 159 yards and a score on 28 rushes. Last year's overall No. 1 pick, Jared Goff, opens the season as the starter (54.6% with 5-7 ratio & 63.6 QB rating in 2016).
The pick: The Colts' D is among the bottom-half of all defenses but the Rams owned the NFL's worst offense in 2016, averaging league-lows in both points (14.0) and yards (262.7). The jury is still out on Goff and he will take the field Sunday, 0-7 as an NFL starter. In losing 11 of their last 12 games in 2016, the Rams went 1-10-1 ATS in those contests. After a 9-3 Week 2 shocker over Seattle, the Rams lost their final seven home games, going 0-6-1 ATS. No way Rams should be laying points. Make Indy an 8* play.
|09-10-17||Jaguars v. Texans -4||Top||29-7||Loss||-110||2858 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Texans are off back-to-back playoff appearances, including the franchise's first-playoff win last year. Even though Houston has made a postseason
Jacksonville: Yes, the Jags have a string of six consecutive losing seasons but the team is far from pessimistic about 2017. The defense ranked sixth in yards allowed in 2016 (321.7 YPG) but gave up 25.0 PPG due to poor offensive production and a minus-16 TO ratio (third-worst in the NFL). The addition of RB Leonard Fournette and WR Dede Westbrook in the draft is good news but the QB position is, to say the least, iffy. Jacksonville needs solid QB play to take the next step but after a huge drop-off in his 2016 performance (off a promising 2015 one), Bortles didn't showcase that improvement in the preseason. With a chance to move ahead of Bortles in the preseason, veteran Chad Henne failed to do so.
Houston: The Texans traded embattled QB Brock Osweiler before the draft, then took Clemson's Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick. However, Tom Savage will get the start at QB. He has just two starts under his belt, both coming last season when starter Brock Osweiler proved too ineffective to maintain the charade of his reliability and trust. Savage has only played in five career games and attempted just 92 passes (zero career TD passes!) It's fair to say choosing Savage as the starter qualifies as an "interesting choice." All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt missed all but three games last season after undergoing two back operations but Houston still led the NFL in yards allowed (301.3 YPG). Think his return will hurt?
The pick: Doug Marrone, who was 15-17 in two seasons with the Bills and served as interim coach for the final two games last season for Jacksonville, is the Jaguars' fifth head coach. I have to wonder what he really offers and will Bortles be able to focus on his play, while blocking out that noise of disappointment from fans? Houston has won six straight in the series, meaning Bortles has yet to beat this Romeo Crennel-led defense (note: Jags are just 2-22 on the road the last three seasons, overall!). Bortles has just six TD passes vs. eight picks in those games. I'd rather see Clemson rookie Deshaun Watson at QB but for this matchup with Jacksonville, Savage appears to be a serviceable option. Make Houston an 8* play.
|09-10-17||Jets +7 v. Bills||Top||12-21||Loss||-105||219 h 22 m||Show|
NY Jets: This team has gotten rid of most of its offensive veterans and then traded its star player on defense, Sheldon Richardson, just last week to the Seahawks. The 38-year-old Josh McCown played fairly well in the second half of last season with the Cleveland Browns and becomes the Jets' starting QB. However, he did not epect to have much help from his receiving corps, and that was before Quincy Enunwa was lost to a season-ending neck injury in the off-season. Aging running back Matt Forte and all-purpose threat Bilal Powell are the team's top play-makers. All-in-all, New York's defense hung in there last year, allowing 342.4 YPG to rank 11th in total D.
Buffalo: First-year head coach Sean McDermott said he intends to lean heavily on dual-threat running back LeSean McCoy (1,267 rush yards & 13 TDs plus 50 receptions last season). That would make sense and he's also happy to see that Tyrod Taylor cleared concussion protocol just in time to get the nod at QB. Taylor completed 61.7% for 3023 yards last season plus ran for 580 (6.1 YPC) and six more TDs. Rex Ryan was supposed to be a defensive gluru but Buffao's defense ranked behind that of New York's last season, allowing 357.0 YPG (19th).
The pick: Due to the lack of offensive weapons on both sides, this game looks to be a low-scoring affair and that favors the underdog Jets. Let's also not forget that the Jets beat the Bills in both of last year's meetings, 37-31 in a Week 2 Thursday night game at home and then 31-10 up in Buffalo in Week 17. Grab the points and make the Jets a 10* play.
|09-09-17||Boise State +10.5 v. Washington State||Top||44-47||Win||100||82 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 1-0 Boise State Broncos will travel to Marin Stadium in Pullman, Washington to take on the 20th-ranked 1-0 Washington State Cougars this Saturday night. Washington State opened 24th in AP's preseason poll, just the third time in school-history that the Cougars were a top-25 team in the preseason. The team's 31-0 win over Montana State last Saturday marked the school's first season-opening win since Mike Leach took over in 2012 and the Cougars moved up to No. 20. Boise State is off a 10-3 season in 2016, one which included a 31-28 home win over Washington State. The Cougars rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter in that one and QB Luke Falk, who threw for 480 yards, had a last-second heave batted down. Boise State escaped with its 34th consecutive home win against a non-conference opponent at the time.
Boise State: The Broncos were unimpressive in last week's 24-13 at home win over Troy. QB Brett Rypien is coming off two excellent seasons, throwing for 3353 yards (20-8 ratio) as a freshman and for 3646 yards (24-8 ratio) as a sophomore. He was just 13 of 23 for 160 yards without a TD vs. Troy. He was sacked four times and threw an interception that was returned for a TD. In fact, backup QB Montell Cozart, a graduate transfer from Kansas, led the Broncos to both of their offensive TDs (he was 6 of 9 for 50 yards with one TD pass and 0 INTs plus had 36 rush yards). Boise State has had solid defenses through most of the team's recent outstanding successes and at least against Troy, looked good, holding the Trojans to 215 yards and 11 FDs.
Washington State: QBs like Sam Darnold (USC), Baker Mayfield (Okla), Lamar Jackson (Louisville) and JT Barrett (Ohio St) all get more Heisman hype but WSU's Luke Falk may be the best QB in college football. If that's not true, he may at worst, have the best numbers. He completed his first 20 passes last week and finished 33 of 39 for 311 yards with three TDs and zero INTs. I won't bore you. Check out his career stats. He'll finish his career among the very best in all of CFB history. Leach's first five defenses at Washington State have allowed 33.7 PPG, 32.5 PPG, 38.6 PPG, 27.7 PPG and 26.4 PPG. It's been a slight improvement these last two seasons and nine starters return. It's hard to judge after a home win over Montana State but the Cougars did allow just 143 yards, seven FDs and allowied Montana State to convert just 1 of 11 third downs.
The pick: Washington State is playing with a big revenge motive plus some say that there is a QB controversy brewing at Boise after HC Bryan Harsin yanked starter Rypien in favor of backup Cozart, However, Harsin reiterated earlier this week that Rypien's status as the starter has not changed. I don't see how one can trust Washington State as this much of a favorite over a Boise Stae team that hasn't been an underdog since meeting Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2014 season. BTW,...Boise State (+3) won that game, 38-30. Take the points and make Boise State an 8* play.
|09-09-17||Stanford v. USC -6||Top||24-42||Win||100||80 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 14 Stanford returns from a 62-7 rout of Rice (Aug. 26 in Sydney, Australia) to play No. 6 USC this Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Stanford dominated Rice on both sides of the football and had no trouble securing the victory after taking a 41-0 lead at halftime. The 4th-ranked Trojans had all they could handle against Western Michigan last Saturday but was able to pull away. USC found themselves in a battle as the game was tied at 21 all at the end of the 3rd quarter but a 14-point scoring outburst over a 36 second span late in the 4th quarter led to a 49-21 win.
Stanford: The Cardinal out-gained Rice 656-241 in total yards. RB Bryce Love had 180 rushing yards and a TD on just 13 carries (13.8 YPC) plus fellow RB Scarlett had 59 yards (7.4 TPC) plus three TDs. Stanford has to be very encouraged by the play of QB Keller Chryst, who was injured throughout spring practice. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 253 yards and 2 TDs. Chryst took over for Ryan Burns last year in late October and led Stanford to six straight wins, while throwing 10 TDs and just one INT. Stanford ranked 18th in scoring defense last year (20.4 PPG) and should once again be one of the better defenses in the country led by secondary of Justin Reid and Quenton Meeks. The Cardinal held Rice, which averaged 215 YPG passing in 2016, to just 95 passing yards.
USC: Heisman Trophy candidate QB Sam Darnold threw for 289 yards on 23 of 33 but did not throw a TD pass and was intercepted twice. RB Ronald Jones II ran for 159 yards and three TDs, as the Trojans did present a balanced offense (289 passing yards and 232 rushing yards). The Trojans allowed 24.2 PPG last year (38th) but despite returning seven starters in 2017, allowed 31 points to Western Michigan.
The pick: This is a possible preview of the 2017 Pac-12 title game. Stanford won three conference championships from 2012 to 2015 and last year 's 10-3 record marked Stanford's sixth season with 10-plus victories since 2010. USC entered 2017 as the Pac-12 favorite and Darnold as a Heisman-favorite. USC, after Darnold took over at QB, won its final nine games, capped by a thrilling 52-49 win over Penn St. in the Rose Bowl. This rivalry changed dramatically back in 2007, when Stanford, coached by Jim Harbaugh and a 41-point underdog at USC, pulled the shocking 24-23 upset. Stanford is 8-3 SU against USC since then, including three straight wins. However, USC's "close call" last week sets up as the perfect motivator for USC, which comes into this game having won 10 straight at home. This one will "make or break" USC's season. My bet says make USC a 10* play.
|09-09-17||Middle Tennessee State v. Syracuse UNDER 77||Top||30-23||Win||100||75 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders opened their 2017 season with a 28-6 loss at home to Vanderbilt and now visit the Syracuse Orange this Saturday at the Carrier Dome in search of their first win. Syracuse is home for a second straight weekend, romping 50-7 over Central Connecticut State to open its 2017 season. MTSU went 8-5 overall in 2016 (5-3 in C-USA play), including a 52-35 loss in the Hawaii Bowl to the home-standing Rainbow Warriors. Dino Babers used back-to-back bowl appearances at Bowling Green to get the head job at Syracuse but in his first season (2016), finished just 4-8 (2-6 in the ACC). The two schools are meeting for the first time as FBS members.
Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders were shut down against Vanderbilt, falling behind 14-0 after the first quarter. MTSU didn't crack Vandy's end zone until the fourth quarter, well after the outcome had been decided. The offense was held to a modest 215 yards. QB Brent Stocksrtill, who threw for over 4000 yards (30-9 ratio) in 2015 and for 3233 yards in 2016 (31-7 ratio), was held to 166 yards with one TD and one INT. MTSU ran for only 49 yards on 26 attempts.
Syracuse: The Orange totally out-classed Central Connecticut State, opening up a 31-0 advantage at halftime, before coasting the rest of the way. The Orange had a dominant 586-167 advantage in total offense and racked up 34 FDs to Central Connecticut’s eight. QB Eric Dungey was outstanding, completing 28 of 36 passes for 328 yards with three TDs (he also ran 51 yards and two scores on the ground).
The pick: The Syracuse defense had no problem with Central Connecticut State but let's not forget that the Orange allowed 38.6 PPG. Yes, 10 starters return but the MTSU offense will be a much tougher test. The Blue Raiders were shut down by the Vandy defense but this team did average 39.7 PPG last season. The 'catch' here though is, the over/under number is currently in the mid-70s. MTSU struggled with Vandy's D (at home!), so while the Syracuse D is much 'softer,' this is a road game. Note that MTSU enters on a 3-19 run in road openers. Make the Under an 8* play.
|09-09-17||Iowa -2.5 v. Iowa State||Top||44-41||Win||100||71 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: In-state bragging rights are at stake as the Iowa Hawkeyes visit rival Iowa State in Ames for the annual Cy-Hawk Trophy series. Both teams are coming off wins in the opening weekend, with Iowa man-handling the Wyoming Cowboys and potential NFL first-round draft pick QB Josh Allen in a 24-3 defeat in Iowa City, while Iowa State beat Northern Iowa 42-24, although it wasn't as easy convincing as the final score would indicate. This will be the 65th meeting in the series, with Iowa holding a 42-22 all-time advantage. The Hawkeyes are 18-8 all-time in games played in Ames, including winning two straight at Jack Trice Stadium.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes won their first game on defense, holding a Wyoming team which averaged 35.9 PPG on 435 YPG to three points and 233 total yards. QB Allen completed 23 of 40 for just 174 yards with two INTs. Iowa QB Stanley was only 8 of 15 for 125 yards but threw three TDs, RB Wadley ran for 116 yards.
Iowa State: Iowa State fell behind 7-0 in the 1st quarter against NIU but then twice intercepted Panther QB Dunne and returned each for TDs. Take away those two picks and the game was pretty even. Iowa State QB Jacob Park completed 77.1 percent of his passes for 271 yards with two TDs and one INT in last week's win. The running game had just 134 yards and the defense allowed 24 points on 378 yards (21 FDs).
The pick: Iowa has won its last two visits to Ames and last year in Iowa City, dominated Iowa State in a 42-3 win. The 'gap' between the two schools has not changed that dramatically since then. The Hawkeyes' D is the difference in this one with a modest pointspread. Make Iowa an 8* play.
|09-07-17||Chiefs +9 v. Patriots||Top||42-27||Win||100||155 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots open up the 2017 NFL season Thursday at Gillette Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday night on NBC. The Pats were 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS this preseason plus saw Julian Edelman go down with a season-ending injury. The Chiefs, coming off a 12-4 record in 2016 (won AFC West), were 2-2 SU & ATS this preseason.
Kansas City: Andy Reid has led the Chiefs to the playoffs in three of his four seasons in KC (arrived in 2013), winning 11, 11 and 12 games in his postseason years, while missing in 2014 at 9-7. The offense will look similar to last year's unit with Alex Smith at QB (1st-round pick Pat Mahomes II is in the wings) plus WR Tyreek Hill doing a little bit of everything and TE Travis Kelce continuing to prove he's one of the best at his position in the NFL. RB Spencer Ware may be lost for the season (injured in Week 3 of the preseason) but a combination of Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller may work. The Chiefs own one of the best secondary’s in the league and in Reid's four season has allowed 19.1, 17.6, 17.9 and 19.4 PPG.
New England: Sure, Edelman's loss hurts but hasn't Tom Brady consistently been great under almost all circumstances? The addition of deep-threat WR Brandin Cooks from the Saints plus a now-healthy Gronk will surely give him ample targets. Defensively, the Patriots allowed a league-low 250 points last year (15.6 per) and have three all-pros from a year ago in Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler and Dont'a Hightower.
The pick: The Pats, including the postseason, were 16-3 ATS last season and enter 2017 having lost only four regular season home games since the 2014 season. However, the Chiefs have gone 12-7 ATS as underdogs under Reid plus open the 2017 on a six-game road winning streak from 2016. Take the points and make the Chiefs a 10* play.
|09-04-17||Tennessee -3.5 v. Georgia Tech||Top||42-41||Loss||-110||19 h 33 m||Show|
|09-03-17||Texas A&M +4.5 v. UCLA||Top||44-45||Win||100||13 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: UCLA was ranked 16th in the 2016 preseason poll and opened its season at College Station with a game against unranked Texas A&M. The Aggies came away with a 31-24 upset in OT (the Bruins were favored by 3 1/2 points), a win which jump-started A&M's season. Texas A&M would open 6-0, rising to No. 6 in the AP poll before losing 33-14 at No. 1 Alabama. A&M's season unraveled from there, finishing 8-5 after a 33-28 Texas Bowl loss to Kansas State. UCLA never recovered from its season-opening loss to A&M. Things went from bad to worse when starting QB Josh Rosen suffered shoulder and leg injuries at Arizona State in a 23-20 loss. He never returned to the field of play and UCLA would finish 4-8, its first losing season under Jim More (he had led UCLA to a 37-16 record from 2012-1015). UCLA and Texas A&M meet in a season opener for the second consecutive season on Sunday, this time at the Rose Bowl. Neither team is ranked and both will be looking for strong starts after poor finishes last season (the Aggies lost four of their final five games, while the Bruins dropped six of their last seven).
Texas A&M: Former Aggies QB Trevor Knight is now trying to claim a roster spot with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and the Aggies have yet to name a starting QB as Jake Hubenak, Nick Starkel, and Kellen Mond have continued to battle to earn the starting nod. A bigger loss is DE Myles Garrett, who was the NFL's overall No. 1 draft pick in April (Browns). He was a huge part in Rosen being pressure all game last season (Rosen was sacked five times and threw three INTs). Two key offensive performers do return, sophomore RB Trayveon Williams (1,057 yards 6.8 YPC and eight TDs) plus WR Christian Kirk for his junior year. He caught 83 passes last season (nine TDs), after making 80 receptions as a freshman. The defense returns seven starters but obviously can't replace Garrett.
UCLA: Naturally, the return of Rosen is a key for the Bruins. Expect him to be eager to play well after last year's injuries preventing him from improving on his 3,670-yard, 23-TD effort as a freshman (he garnered Heisman Trophy conversation at this time last year). A MUST for UCLA will be improving a rushing attack which averaged a pathetic 84.2 YPG on 2.9 YPC to rank 127th in the nation. In Mora's first four years in LA, his Bruin teams had averaged about 194 YPG on the ground..
The pick: It would be easy to say UCLA here, based strictly on the revenge motive. However, Mora replaced some of his top offensive coaches after last year's disappointing campaign but lo and behold, Noel Mazzone (former OC at UCLA) and former backup QB Jerry Neuheisel, are both now employed by A&M. Kevin Sumlin opens his sixth season at A&M and he owns quite a record against non-SEC teams in his tenure, going 18-2 SU. I'll take any points available and make A&M a 10* play.
|09-02-17||Florida State +7.5 v. Alabama||Top||7-24||Loss||-135||124 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: It's safe to say that Saturday's showdown between preseason No. 3 Florida State and No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta (at Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium) is the marquee matchup of the opening week of CFB 2017. To say the least, this is a special game, as it marks just the fourth-ever opener all-time of top-five opponents and the first-ever between top-three opponents. Alabama lost 35-31 to Clemson on a last-second TD in the College Football Playoff title game last January, bidding for a perfect 15-0 season and a second straight national championship. The Florida State Seminoles finished 10-3 last season, capped by an impressive 33-32 victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl as a seven-point TD.
Florida State: The Seminoles will not have RB Dalvin Cook, who was taken in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. However, QB Deondre Francois is back, after throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 TDs as a red-shirt freshman. Replacing Cook (FSU's all-time leading rusher) will not be easy but junior Jacques Patrick and freshman Cam Akers are talented. However, the OL needs to improve over last year’s bunch is FSU wants to be in the national title discussion. FSU's defense allowed 25.0 PPG last season, just the second time in the last seven years that an FSU defense had allowed more than 20 points. The good news is that nine regulars return on defense plus will have star safety Derwin James back at full strength after he played just two games in 2016 because of a knee injury.Alabama: The superlatives are endless when discussing the Crimson Tide, as Saban's team seeks its fifth national title in nine seasons. Alabama lost 11 players to the NFL draft. Jalen Hurts returns and is the first Tide QB to return since AJ McCarron in 2013. He accounted for 36 TDs last season, passing for 2,780 yards and rushing for 954. RBs Damien Harris (1,007 yards) and Bo Scarbrough (954 yards) both return but TE Howard and WR Stewart are both gone. The OL figures to be just as good in 2017. Sure the defense has lost seven starters to the NFL Draft (three in the first round) but no one doubts that the Tide will once again feature one of the nation's best defense units. The pick: The College Football Playoff will be decided this season in Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and it seems only fitting that the first college game at the $1.5 billion replacement for the Georgia Dome will likely help determine who is playing on Jan. 8. I won't ignore the fact that Alabama has won by 10 points or more in 40 of its last 45 regular season games but....These are the two winningest college programs since 2010 and FSU is a perfect 4-0 ATS as an underdog the last two seasons. Make FSU an 8* play.
|09-02-17||Louisville v. Purdue UNDER 68||Top||35-28||Win||100||123 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Louisville Cardinals, ranked 16th in the AP's preseason poll, will open the 2017 season against the Purdue Boilermakers, led by new head coach Jeff Brohm. The game will be played at at Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), the home of the Colts. It's only fitting that Brohm's first game as Purdue's head coach comes against his alma mater, where he was Louisville's starting QB for two seasons in the early 1990s.
Louisville: Bobby Petrino can coach (forget about the off-field stuff) and his Cardinals were 9-1 through 10 games last season (lone loss at Clemson by six points) and ranked No. 3, before imploding. However, a 36-10 loss at Houston was followed by an embarrassing 41-38 loss at home to Kentucky (as a nearly four-TD favorite) to end the regular season. Louisville was then man-handled by LSU, 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. However, the team's late-season collapse didn't prevent QB Lamar Jackson from winning the Heisman (it shouldn't have). Jackson passed for 3,543 yards and 30 TDs last year while rushing for 1,571 yards and another 21 scores! Jackson lost a few key contributors but he's so talented, don't expect too much of a drop-off in 2017. That said, don't expect a second straight Heisman, either.
Purdue. Brohm come to Purdue from Western Ky, where he turned the the Hilltoppers into the nation's highest-scoring team at 45.5 PPG in 2016. David Blough is Purdue's returning starter at QB but Brohm says he likes three of his QBs and would not be afraid to use all of them with Blough struggling with a sore shoulder (he suffered a strained right shoulder during an August 12 scrimmage). To be competitive, Purdue needs to score, as its defense ranked 117th in the nation last year, allowing 38.3 PPG.
The pick: Brohm was an asistant at Western Ky when Petrino was hired as the Hilltoppers head coach. Petrino has said he is thrilled that Brohm landed a Power-5 conference coaching position. He expects his former assistant will turn around a Purdue program that has gone just 9-39 the past four seasons with only three victories in Big Ten conference play. However, that may be wishful thinking right now. Louisville has the best QB on the field (in the country?) but did lose a lot of key players, including most of the offensive line. It may take Louisville a few games to jell. The Boilermakers have lost nine of their last 10 non-home games and are a near-4 TD underdog here, so expect a loss. However, don't expect Petrino to run up the score and thisov er/under number is too high. Make Louisville/Purdue a 10* Under play.
|09-02-17||Michigan v. Florida OVER 44.5||Top||33-17||Win||100||120 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Two CFB superpowers open Saturday in this game at "Jerry's House" in Arlington, Texas, with No. 11 Michigan taking on No. 17 Florida. This marks the first time these two legendary programs have met in regular season, although Michigan has won all three bowl meetings, including a 41-7 beat-down of an injury-riddled Florida offense in the Citrus Bowl following the 2015 season.
Michigan: Jim Harbaugh took over Michigan in 2015, inheriting a team which was just 5-7 the previous year. His first team went 10-3, including that previously-mentioned bowl win over Florida and then last year's team again went 10-3. However, that doesn't tell the entire story. Michigan opened 9-0 and was ranked No. 2 in the nation when it lost 14-13 at Iowa. An unimpressive 20-10 win over Indiana followed and then Michigan lost a controversial double-OT at Columbus to Ohio State, 30-27. The Wolverines capped its season with a 33-32 loss to FSU in the Orange Bowl. Harbaugh's an intense coach and will be looking to quickly establish his team after last year's poor finish (three losses in its last four games). Harbaugh can easily rub people the wrong way. He refused to release his team's playing roster until Wednesday, declined to formally announce his quarterback and then went overboard by insinuating Florida coach Jim McElwain was the one playing games by initially not revealing his team's signal-caller. Harbaugh can play all the "head games" he wants but he needs to replace 10 starters off last year unit, which was one of the nation's best (allowed 14.1 PPG on just over 262 yards per). I'm still not quite sure who will be Michigan's starting QB for most of this year.
Florida: Jim McElwain begins his third season with the Gators, after going 10-4 and 9-4 in 2015 and 2016. He is dealing with two key issues in this contest. The big story is the suspension of seven players, including 2016 leading receiver and special teams stud Antonio Callaway (54 catches and 721 receiving yards with four TDs in 2016) and defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis, for misuse of school funds. The other question mark is who will start under center. RS freshman Feleipe Franks started the spring game for the Gators and played well enough to be considered for the starting job, while Luke Del Rio is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and then there’s the wild card in Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. In the end, McElwain named Franks as the starter on Wednesday. Franks threw for 2,766 yards and 35 TDs during his senior season at Wakulla High School in Crawfordville, Fla. The defense took a big on hit, with only five starters returning from last season and don't expect the Gators to match last year's numbers of 16.8 PPG on about 293 YPG.
The pick: I'm no fan of either of Michigan's two QBs, Wilton Speight or John O’Korn and I believe Michigan's preseason ranking of No. 11 is based more on Harbuagh's notoriety. After all, Michigan had a school-record 11 players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, meaning there are many new faces in new roles all over the field. Let me add that Florida has won 27 consecutive season openers, the best streak in the nation. The Gators will likely remember that recent Citrus Bowl loss to the Wolverines but after careful consideration I prefer to make the Over an 8* play.
|09-02-17||Ball State v. Illinois -7||Top||21-24||Loss||-107||116 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ball State Cardinals will visit Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana to take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois in Saturday college football action. The Illini are coming off a 3-9 season and last finished with a winning year back in 2011 (7-6). Ball State is off a 4-8 season and has won just 12 combined games the last three seasons, after going to back-to-back bowl games in 2012 (10-3) and 2013 (9-4). The two schools have met just once before, back in 2007 with Illinois winning 28-17 at home.
Ball State: The Cardinals return eight starters, although Jack Milas is replacing Riley Neal as the starting QB. Milas has 314 career pass attempts but the bulk of those reps came during the 2014 season, as he attempted only 38 passes in 2016 ((Neal attempted 394 in 2016 but had just 13 TDs and 12 INTs). While Milas gets back in the swing of things, he can rely on RB James Gilbert, who had 1,220 yards last season (5.3 YPC) and 12 TDs. The defense has just four returning starters but maybe that's a good thing, after allowing 35.8 and 30.1 PPG the last two seasons.
Illinois: Lovie's Smith first season at Illinois hardly went well, as the Illini were 3-9 (5-7 ATS) and just 2-7 in Big Ten play. There was a QB 'battle' in the spring and Smith has named inexperienced junior Chayce Crouch the starting QB. This year's offense can't be as bad as last year's, which averaged a woeful 19.7 PPG, getting held to 10 or less points four times last year. Crouch is more of a dual-threat and RB Kendrick Foster returns after rushing for 720 yards (5.7 YPC) and seven TDs. More will be expected from WRs Malik Turner and Sam Mays (especially Turner, who caught 46 balls with six TDs). Lovie must improve his defense, as the team allowed 31.9 PPG in Smith's first season, more than a TD higher than the 2015 unit did (23.9).
The pick: This line opened has high as minus-11 in some places but it's down to about a TD as of Friday afternoon. Not sure what the attraction of Ball State is, as the Cardinals are on a 3-18 SU run in true road openers. What's more, Ball State is 3-26-1 SU vs. current Big Ten teams with all three of those wins coming against Indiana (how the little school from Muncie, Indian has loved upsetting the boys from Bloomington!). Meanwhile, Lovie needs a win here, as high-scoring and dangerous Western Ky is up next, before a road game at ranked USF. Note that Indiana has won 19 straight home openers and the average margin of victory has been almost four TDs (26 points)! Ball State is a team the Illini can handle. Make Illinois an 8* play.
|09-01-17||Washington v. Rutgers +27.5||Top||30-14||Win||100||100 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Huskies will make the long cross-country trip to the East Coast on Friday night, where they will take on Rutgers in New Brunswick. Chris Peterson 'hit gold' in his third season at Seattle, leading the Huskies into the CFP, before they lost 24-7 to Alabama. Washington would finish 12-2 and has opened the 2017 season ranked No. 8 in the AP's preseason poll. Chris Ash, a key assistant under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, knew taking the Rutgers job wouldn’t be a 'walk in the park' but it's doubtful he anticipated the bottom falling out to the extent it did last season. Rutgers 2016 season opened with a 48-13 loss at Washington (Huskies led 48-3 into the fourth quarter) and after two home wins over Howard and New Mexico, Rutgers would go on to lose all nine games in Big Ten play to finish 2-10. I'm not sure Ash and Rutgers are all too happy to see Washington again, in the team's 2017 opener, even if it is in New Brunswick.
Washington: The Huskies' defense allowed just 17.7 PPG in 2016 (on 316.1 YPG) but lost five starters to the NFL. CBs Kevin King (Packers) and Sidney Jones (Eagles) plus S Budda Baker (Cardinals) all went in the top-43. Clearly, the Husky secondary needs some rebuilding. Washington also lost speedy WR John Ross (81 catches and 17 TDs), as he was chosen ninth overall by the Bengals. However, the Huskies are still deep in proven play-makers. That starts will QB Jake Browning, who threw for 3430 yards with 43 TDs and just nine INTs in 2016, helping the Huskies roll up a school-record 585 points (41.8 PPG on 456.9 YPG). RB Gaskin is off back-to-back 1300-yard rushing seasons. Ross is gone at WR but Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher will keep Rutgers' secondary busy. Pettis is also an outstanding kick-returner, who has five career punt return TDs, one off the Pac-12 record held by California's DeSean Jackson.
Rutgers: Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill is the new OC at Rutgers and he gets a new QB in Louisville graduate Kyle Bolin and word is, he's fitting in well. Dangerous WR/KR Janarion Grant is back after missing the last eight games of last season with an ankle injury (when he went down, the Rutgers offense went 'south!'). Rutgers also owns a deep stable of RBs, the best of whom is Robert Martin. The defense was often over-matched last season (allowed 37.5 PPG and just over 450 YPG) but eight starters do return. With Kill on board to take over the offense, Ash (a DC under Meyer), will devote most of his energy on that defense.
The pick: It should be noted that Rutgers' defense suffered as a result of the team's offensive ineptitude last season, being forced to stay on the field far too long and in terrible field position. With a much better QB situation and the return of play-maker Grant, that should change in 2017. Can it change enough to compete with a team like Washington? If the question is, will there be an upset, the answer is no. However, while Rutgers has virtually no chance of winning, staying within this HUGE number is more than realistic. Make Rutgers a 10* play.
|08-31-17||Buffalo +28 v. Minnesota||Top||7-17||Win||100||1729 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Buffalo Bulls kick off their 2017 season with a road trip to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Head coach HC Lance Leipold led the Bulls to a 5-7 season in his first year at the school but the Bulls clearly regressed in 2016, falling to 2-10, which included a season-opening home loss to Albany (as a three-TD favorite!). It would seem that there is no way to go but up in 2017. Minnesota has been to five consecutive bowl games, after back-to-back 3-9 seasons in 2010 and 2011. P.J. Fleck, who worked a minor miracle at Western Michigan, represents a 180-degree turn from previous “old school” coaches Tracy Claeys and Jerry Kill in Minneapolis. Fleck now moves to a bigger stage with his “row the boat” attitude.
Buffalo: Buffalo was terrible on both sides of the ball last season, ranking 126th in averaging 16.5 PPG, while allowing and 32.0 PPG. The good news is, 14 starters return (plus both kickers) but the Bulls do have a long way to go. QB Tyree Jackson returns and at 6-7, 245-lbs, he can be an imposing presence. It sure will help that four OL starters are also back. Eight starters return from LY's pourus defense. Is it a "glass half full" outlook or, “same-old, same-old?”
Minnesota: Fleck used his ingenuity on the field and his youthful enthusiasm on the recruiting trail to raise the Broncos to new heights. As noted, Minnesota's been to five straight bowl games and last year's nine wins marks the second-most wins in a season since the school entered the Big 10 back in 1953 (the 2003 team went 10-3). This is NOT a "re-build." The first hurdle for Fleck will be finding an answer at QB. Will it be RS senior Conor Rhoda for one season, 6-5 RS soph QB Demry Croft, or juco Neil McLaurin for a few seasons, or one of five freshmen QBs for down the road? RBs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combined for 1808 rushing yards and 21 TDs last season, the top two TEs are back and the left side of the OL is a wall with T Donnell Greene and G Garrison Wright. The Gophers ranked 22nd in points allowed (22.1 per) in 2016 but just five starers return. The key returnees are LBs Jonathan Celestin (2nd with 80 tackles LY) and Blake Cashman (led the team with 7½ sacks), plus safeties Duke McGhee and Antoine Winfield Jr.
The pick: I'll note that Buffalo is on a 2-17 SU run in road openers, with seven straight losses by an average margin of 19 PPG. However, please note that the line is this contest opened with Buffalo about a four-TD favorite. Sure, Minnesota was 6-1 SU last season at home but note that the Gophers were 0-5 ATS as a home favorite against FBS opponents in 2016. Take those 'monster' points and make Buffalo a 10* play.
|08-26-17||Oregon State +2.5 v. Colorado State||Top||27-58||Loss||-110||1604 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Oregon State Beavers, coming off a 4-8 season, will play the Colorado State Rams (7-6 in 2016) at Fort Collins, in the Ram's new on-campus stadium (yet to be named). It's rare that a Pac-12 team visits a MWC school and this marks Oregon State's first-ever visit to Fort Collins, as the two schools meet for just the third time ever (last meeting was in Corvallis back in 1975!).
Oregon State: The Beavers are off a 4-8 season but that was an improvement from the 2-10 record the school posted in head coach Gary Anderson's first year at Corvallis (2015). However, the former Utah State and Wisconsin head coach is feeling quite optimistic heading going into 2017. The Beavers finished their season with impressive wins against Arizona and Oregon. The season-ending win over the University of Oregon, which allowed OSU to finish ahead of the Ducks in the Pac-12 North, provided a singular, long-lasting pleasure in Corvallis, which has helped fuel this year's optimism. Utah State transfer QB Darell Garretson started the first six games of 2016 for the Beavers, going 2-4 SU in a mixed performance (50.0% with three TDs and four INTs), before suffering a fractured ankle. That forced Marcus Maryion into action, with the then-sophomore also going 2-4 SU, but with a much stronger arm. He completed 59.4% with 10 TDs and five INTs. He threw five TD passes in the win over Arizona and had one TD pass plus 81 yards rushing in the win over Oregon). That said, Jake Luton, a JUCO transfer, has been named the starter for opening day. Oregon State will rely heavily on RB Ryan Nall, who finished last season with 13 TDs and 951 rushing yards. To compete in the Pac-12, OSU will have to improve offensively, after averaging 26.2 PPG (105th in the nation). The defense has allowed more than 30.5 PPG (last year's average) in four consecutive seasons, as well as an average of about 440.0 YPG in that span, as well.
Colorado State: The Rams have gone 7-6 in each of Mike Bobo's first two years at CSU, with both years ending in a bowl loss. The Rams finished the season strong winning four of their last five regular season games. The offense averaged 35.5 PPG on 462.5 (217.8 rushing and 244.7 passing). Dual threat QB Nick Stevens (64.2% with 19 TD passes) completed 75% in four straight games last year and accounted for five scores in 61-50 loss to Idaho in the Potato Bowl. WR Michael Gallup (76 catches for 1,272 receiving yards and 14 TDs) is Stevens' top weapon plus RBs Dalyn Dawkins (919 rush yards) and Izzy Matthews (734 yards & 13 TDs) are both back. The defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed 30.4 PPG (81st) on 419.2 YPG (69th).
The pick: The Rams have won their last four home openers, as part of a current 20-3 run in home openers plus Oregon State visits Fort Collins looking to end a steak of 13 consecutive road losses. However, the modest pointspread alerts us to that fact that Oregon State is no longer a pushover. I'm a big fan of Gary Andersen and it was in his third year at Utah State that he got that program turned around. 2017 is his third year in Corvallis and I expect Oregon Sate to spring the minor upset, jump-staring what could be a 3-0 start for the Beavers in 2017 (home games with Portland St. and Minnesota are up next). Make OSU a 10* play.
|02-05-17||Patriots -3 v. Falcons||Top||34-28||Win||100||294 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Falcons are in the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history (joined the NFL for the 1966 season), while the Pats will be making a record 9th appearance, one more than the Cowboys and Steelers. Dan Quinn is in just his second season as a head coach and owns a 19-13 career record, not including his 2-0 playoff record this season (obviously, his first Super Bowl appearnce. Bill Belichick coached the Browns for five years (just 36-44 and 1-1 in the postseason) but is in his 17th season with the Pats, going 201-71 (.739) in the regular season plus 24-9 in the postseason. This is his 7th Super Bowl appearance (4-2 in first six), an all-time record. Atlanta's Matt Ryan entered the season 1-4 in his postseason career but with wins over the Seahawks and Packers, he has a chance to even that record at 4-4 by winning his first-ever appearance in a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Tom Brady joins his head coach by making a record 7th Super Bowl appearance (naturally, 4-2 like Belichick) and owns a record 24 playoff wins by a starting QB, against nine losses. Atlanta: Dan Quinn’s first season as the Falcons’ head coach saw Atlanta begin 5-0 and 6-1. However, a 23-20 Week 8 home loss to the Bucs in OT began a six-game slide with the Falcons finishing 8-8. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan had topped 4,000 yards in five consecutive seasons but he was also coming off a campaign in which he threw the second-fewest TD passes (21) and second-most INTs (16) of his eight-year career. There were legitimate questions being asked as the season opened as to whether Ryan’s moniker of “Matty Ice" had in fact, begun to melt away! Numbers don’t lie. Ryan was entering the fourth season of a five-year, $103.75 million contract that he received after taking the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2012 but Atlanta was just 18-30 in the first three years of that contract. Well, all Ryan did was pass for 4,944 yards with 38-7 ratio & 117.1 QB rating) the regular season. He then completed 70.7% for 730 yards with a 7-0 ratio & 132.6 QB rating in two playoff wins. Matt Ryan's career year, a terrific RB duo of Freeman & Coleman (both can run, catch and run after the catch), an excellent receiving corps led by Julio Jones, a superb solid offensive line that has had the same linemen start every game and all master-minded by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It's created a juggernaut that led the NFL in scoring at 33.8 PPG and finished second with 415.8 YPG. Then came playoff wins which ended the seasons of former Super Bowl-winning QBs Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, as Ryan led Atlanta to 36 and 44 points! We all know the defense has had its problems but will it matter? New England: Tom Brady sat out the season's first four games (you may have heard why) but returned to throw for 3,554 yards in just 12 games, completing 67.4 percent with 28 TDs and two INTs (112.2 QB rating). Most of that came without Gronk but with Brady, it just never seems to matter who his receivers are. Houston held the Pats to 98 yards rushing (yards on 3.6 YPC) in New England's first playoff game plus was able to force Brady into just 18 completions in 38 attempts while intercepting him twice (Brady had been picked off just twice in 432 regular season attempts). Houston also recovered a New England fumble but the Pats still managed to score 34 points and cover an outrageously high pointspread. Brady made sure the Pats' AFC title game against the Steelers was not going to be a nail-biter. He completed 32 of 42 for 384 yards (a franchise record for the postseason) with three TDs and no INTs (127.5 QB rating). The unheralded Hogan caught nine for 180 yards (two TDs) and Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards (one TD). For all the talk about New England's offense, the Patriots permitted a league-low 15.6 PPG in the regular season, as the Pats held six of their last seven opponents to 17 points or less. Then came the game against Houston, which was held to 285 yards and 16 points (went 3 of 16 on third down!), while Osweiler was intercepted three times and sacked another three times. The Steelers only scored 17 points with their final TD coming with about 3 1/2 minutes left (can you say concession?).
The pick: New England owns the big-game pedigree, the superior defense, a well-balanced offense led by Brady and Belichick has had two weeks of preparation. The Falcons are not used to this kind of buildup and media attention, while its defense ranked 27th in points allowed (25.4 PPG), 25th in yards allowed (371.2 YPG), were 26th in third-down defense and last in red-zone defense. Bottom line is this. Brady’s "redemption tour" has now reached the Super Bowl and one could argue that this will be Brady’s biggest game of his long and magnificent career. He has a chance to stamp his reputation as the G.O.A.T. Don't bet against him. New England is a 10* play.
|02-05-17||Patriots v. Falcons OVER 58.5||Top||34-28||Win||100||294 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Falcons are in the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history (joined the NFL for the 1966 season), while the Pats will be making a record 9th appearance, one more than the Cowboys and Steelers. Dan Quinn is in just his second season as a head coach and owns a 19-13 career record, not including his 2-0 playoff record this season (obviously, his first Super Bowl appearnce. Bill Belichick coached the Browns for five years (just 36-44 and 1-1 in the postseason) but is in his 17th season with the Pats, going 201-71 (.739) in the regular season plus 24-9 in the postseason. This is his 7th Super Bowl appearance (4-2 in first six), an all-time record. Atlanta's Matt Ryan entered the season 1-4 in his postseason career but with wins over the Seahawks and Packers, he has a chance to even that record at 4-4 by winning his first-ever appearance in a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Tom Brady joins his head coach by making a record 7th Super Bowl appearance (naturally, 4-2 like Belichick) and owns a record 24 playoff wins by a starting QB, against nine losses. Atlanta: Matt Ryan opened 2016 in the fourth season of a five-year, $103.75 million contract that he received after taking the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2012 but Atlanta was just 18-30 in the first three years of that contract. Well, all Ryan did was pass for 4,944 yards with 38-7 ratio & 117.1 QB rating) the regular season. He then completed 70.7% for 730 yards with a 7-0 ratio & 132.6 QB rating in two playoff wins. Matt Ryan's career year, a terrific RB duo of Freeman & Coleman (both can run, catch and run after the catch), an excellent receiving corps led by Julio Jones, a superb solid offensive line that has had the same linemen start every game and all master-minded by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It's created a juggernaut that led the NFL in scoring at 33.8 PPG and finished second with 415.8 YPG. Then came playoff wins which ended the seasons of former Super Bowl-winning QBs Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, as Ryan led Atlanta to 36 and 44 points! However, we all know the defense has had its problems, ranking 27th in points allowed (25.4 PPG), 25th in yards allowed (371.2 YPG), were 26th in third-down defense and last in red-zone defense during the regular seaon. New England: Tom Brady sat out the season's first four games (you may have heard why) but returned to throw for 3,554 yards in just 12 games, completing 67.4 percent with 28 TDs and two INTs (112.2 QB rating). Most of that came without Gronk but with Brady, it just never seems to matter who his receivers are. Houston held the Pats to 98 yards rushing (yards on 3.6 YPC) in New England's first playoff game plus was able to force Brady into just 18 completions in 38 attempts while intercepting him twice (Brady had been picked off just twice in 432 regular season attempts). Houston also recovered a New England fumble but the Pats still managed to score 34 points and cover an outrageously high pointspread. Brady made sure the Pats' AFC title game against the Steelers was not going to be a nail-biter. He completed 32 of 42 for 384 yards (a franchise record for the postseason) with three TDs and no INTs (127.5 QB rating). The unheralded Hogan caught nine for 180 yards (two TDs) and Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards (one TD).
The pick: For all the talk about New England's offense, the Patriots permitted a league-low 15.6 PPG in the regular season, as the Pats held six of their last seven opponents to 17 points or less. Then came the playoffs, holding Houston to 16 points and Pittsburgh to 17. However, Holding teh Falcons in check is quite another story, as this is teh best offense the NFL has seen since teh 2007 Pats. As for the Pats, Brady wants badly to be there when Goodell hands over the Lombardi Trophy and just how will Atlanta's suspect defense slow down the Pats? The Over is a 10* play.
|01-22-17||Steelers v. Patriots OVER 50||Top||17-36||Win||100||151 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: Ben Roethlisberger is playing in the AFC championship game for the fifth time in his 13-year career but his first since 2010. His opposite number in his first-ever AFC championship game (in the 2004 season, his rookie year) was Tom Brady, who will line up for the Pats opposite Big Ben in Sunday's game as well. For Brady, it's his 11th conference game appearance, including an NFL record sixth in a row for Brady and the Pats. Big Ben owns two Super Bowl rings and is sixth with 13 all-time playoff wins, while Brady has four rings and the most playoff wins of any QB in NFL history with 23. Pittsburgh: The Steelers have won won nine consecutive games since a 35-30 loss to the Cowboys back on Nov. 13a nd while Big Ben has surely had a lot to do with Pittsburgh's success, the season "turned" for the Steelers when the team's coaches decided to make RB Le'Veon Bell a main focus of the offense. He led Pittsburgh to six straight wins, which clinched the AFC North from Weeks 11-16 (he sat out Pittsburgh’s Week 17 win), averaging 139.2 YPG on the ground plus added 42.6 YPG receiving (that’s 181.8 YPG from scrimmage!). Then came 167 rushing yards in the wild card win over the Dolphins, setting a new franchise single-game playoff record. If that wasn't enough, Bell broke his own record last Sunday night in Pittsburgh's 18-16 win at KC, running for 170 yards. There really aren't words to describe how well Bell is playing. That said, don't forget Big Ben, who threw for 3,819 yards (in 14 games) with 29 TDs and just 13 INTs or WR Antonio Brown, who caught 106 passes with 12 TDs! Roethlisberger's had a quiet postseason so far, while Antonio Brown has made more noise from the locker room than on the field. However, I expect to 'hear' plenty from both on Sunday. Pittsburgh's defense did not have an overall dominant season but from Weeks 11-16, when it clinched the team's division title, the Steelers led the league with 21 sacks, while allowing just 16.2 PPG. Then came the wild card win in which the Dolphins were held to 12 points and then the Chiefs to 16. New England: However, keeping the Pats in check at home, is quite another matter. Houston led the NFL in yards allowed this season and last weekend, held the Pats to 98 yards rushing (on 3.6 YPC) plus was able to force Brady into just 18 completions in 38 attempts while intercepting him twice (Brady had been picked off just twice in 432 regular season attempts). Houston also recovered a New England fumble but the Pats still managed to score 34 points and cover an outrageously high pointspread. However, anyone expect Brady to play that poorly again? He sat out the season's first four games (you may have heard why) but returned to throw for 3,554 yards in just 12 games, completing 67.4 percent with 28 TDs and two INTs (112.2 QB rating). Most of that came without Gronk but with Brady, it just never seems to matter who his receivers are. For all the talk about New England's offense, the Patriots permitted a league-low 15.6 PPG in the regular season and ranked third in rushing defense (88.6 YPG) on 3.9 YPC. The Pats held six of their last seven opponents to 17 points or less. Then came the game against Houston, which was held to 285 yards and 16 points (went 3 of 16 on third down!), while Osweiler was intercepted three times and sacked another three times.
The pick: So what we have is two playoff-tested QBs leading offenses which can score but both face defensive units at the top of their respective games. Let me note that the Steelers haven’t faced a strong offense or an elite QB since November and this elite QB (Brady), is coming off a very un-Brady-like performance. Brady was suspended for the Pats' first three home games but in the six he's played this year (including last weekend), New England has averaged 31,7 PPG. The Steelers weren't able to finish off drives against KC (settled for six FGs) but in order to stay close to New England, the Steelers will have to put the ball in the end zone. I'm not about to buck New England at home but also I'm not willing to lay this many points to a team on a nine-game winning streak. Instead, the Over is a 10* play.
|01-22-17||Packers +4 v. Falcons||Top||21-44||Loss||-110||148 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: All four teams playing on Championship Sunday feature terrific QBs but Rodgers against Ryan in the NFC championship game may offer the most intrigue. Rodgers has proven (at least so far) to be Nostradamus, as he told reporters that after Green Bay had fallen to 4-6 with a 42-24 loss at Washington in Week 10, that the Packers were capable of running the table. That's exactly what happened plus Green Bay has added 38-13 and 34-31 wins in the postseason, to enter Sunday's game on an eight-game winning streak. The Falcons were the NFC's No. 1 seed back in 2012 but lost in the NFC championship game to the 49ers but three non-playoff seasons followed, as Atlanta went 4-14, 6-10 and 8-8 (after a 6-1 start!). However. Matt Ryan had a "career year" (see below) for Atlanta in 2016, leading the NFL's highest scoring offense (33.8 PPG) to an 11-5 record and the NFC's No. 2 seed. Now, in the Falcons' final game in the Georgia Dome, he gets a chance to put his past playoff 'demons' aside and lead Atlanta to its second-ever Super Bowl appearance by besting Rodgers and the Packers. Pretty sweet story-line, isn't it? Green Bay: Rodgers finally threw an interception last time out, his first since the team's Week 9 loss at Tennessee but that's 'splitting hairs.' After a slow start to the 2016 season, Rodgers finished with an NFL-high 40 TD passes and just seven INTs (QB rating of 104.2), leading Green Bay into the postseason for the eighth straight year. He hasn't slowed down in the playoffs, passing for 362 yards and four TDs in a 38-13 win over the Giants, despite Jordy Nelson leaving that game with a rib injury. Without Nelson against Dallas, Rodgers threw for 356 yards with two TDs, as the Packers won 34-31 with the game-winning FG coming on the final play! Rodgers has 21 TDs and just one INT in Green Bay's current 8-0 run (his INT last weekend is Green Bay's lone TO in the last six games!), one in which the Packers have averaged PPG, including scoring 30 points or more in each of the last six games. Then there is the Green Bay defense, which allowed 24.2 PPG on the season (to rank 21st), but has held opponents to 19.5 PPG during its winning run. Atlanta: Ryan led Atlanta to 71 more points than any team in the NFL during the regular season. He passed for 4,944 yards, while throwing for 38 TDs and just seven INTs. His 117.1 QB rating not only led the NFL, but was the fifth-best in NFL history. He topped 100 in passer rating in 12 of 16 regular-season games, then did it again against Seattle (125.7) in the divisional round when threw for 338 yards with three TDs and zero INTs against Seattle. Julio Jones (83 catches for 1,409 yards) is one of the NFL's best WRs and the RB duo of Freeman and Coleman has turned into a real 'weapon.' Freeman gained 1,541 yards from scrimmage during the regular season and scored 13 TDs, while Coleman 941 yards from scrimmage with 11 TDs (his 13.6 YPC average is better than many of the league's top WRs!). Of course, Atlanta's defense is its Achilles' heel, allowing 25.4 PPG (27th) on 371.2 YPG (25th). The pick: However, defense will not win this game. When these teams met back in Week 8, the Packers took the lead with just under four minutes to go in what had been a back-and-forth contest. However, Ryan drove the Falcons on a 75-yard TD, 11-play drive and with the extra point, won 33-32. I realize much is being made of Ryan exorcising his playoff demons (he had been 1-4 in his postseason career) by playing well in beating Seattle last weekend but remember, Seattle had struggled all season long away from home, averaging just 14.8 PPG in road games. Just how will the Atlanta defense slow down Rodgers and why would anyone want to give Green Bay a "margin of error," by making them an underdog. Green Bay is a 10* NFL Game of the Year.
|01-15-17||Packers +4.5 v. Cowboys||Top||34-31||Win||100||101 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Green Bay Packers struggled early on against the Giants on wild card weekend but in the end, pulled away for a 38-13 win. The Packers are in the postseason for the eighth consecutive year wand will take a seven-game winning streak into their game at Dallas this Sunday. The Cowboys are in the postseason for only the second time in seven years but get set to host the Packers as the NFC's No. 1 seed, after going 13-3 during the regular season. Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers finished the regular season with an NFL-high 40 TD passes and just seven INTs, after he struggled down the stretch last season and in the early going of 2016. He started poorly against the Giants last Sunday but even though Jordy Nelson was lost to a rib injury in the first half, Rodgers threw for 362 yards and four TDs. Adams caught eight passes for 125 yards (TD) and Cobb five for 116 yards with three TDs. Nelson and his NFL-leading 14 TD catches won't play against the Cowboys but Rodgers remains confident facing Dallas' 26th-ranked pass defense (260.4 YPG). Green Bay's offense draws most of the headlines but during the team's seven-game winning streak, the much-maligned Packers D has allowed just 17.9 PPG.
Dallas: Dak Prescott was the steal of the NFL draft as a fourth-round selection and he's made everyone in Big D forget about Tony Romo. He completed 67.8% of his passes for 3,667 yards with 23 TDs and just four INTs, while running for six scores, Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott, may be the best one-two rookie combo in NFL history. Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards (on 5.1 YPC with 15 TDs). The Cowboys have controlled the line of scrimmage offensively, by rushing for 149.8 YPG (2nd) on 4.8 YPC. The Dallas D ranks first in rushing yards allowed (83.5 YPG on only 3.9 YPC) and while the secondary has been a problem, teh Cowboys finished the regular season 5th in points allowed (19.1 PPG).
The pick: "They were off last week, and they're hosting the game (Sunday), so there's extra pressure on them as the No. 1 seed to win," Rodgers told reporters. "And we're coming in with a lot of confidence and riding the streak. We're feeling good about the way we've been playing." Maybe we should trust Rodgers, as proved to be a man of his word when he told reporters that the Green Bay Packers were capable of running the table to secure a playoff bid when the team was just 4-6. Seven wins later and here they are. Rodgers has thrown 19 TDs and not a single interception in Green Bay's streak (Packers haven't turned the ball over in their last five games). Meanwhile, The Cowboys were just 1-5 ATS their last six games of the regular season and Dallas owns an 'ugly' playoff resume since the team's last Super Bowl win (after the 1995 season), going 3-8 SU. Make Green Bay a 10* play.
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