Chuck’s Choices: NFL Picks Week 8

LV SportsbookLast Week: 5-0

Season: 20-10 (.667)

It was a wonderful weekend at Chuck’s Choices, as the staff of handicapping geniuses (myself, Steve the desert tortoise and Kennedy, my 8-year old upstairs neighbor) swept the board in Week 7. Success is never sweeter than when it comes on the heels of a 2-3 performance in Week 6.

There isn’t much to choose from this week, as the Patriots have already played, Steve refuses to make a wager on any American football game played in another country, and Kennedy still thinks the Broncos’ offense can outscore their defense. Nonetheless, that still leaves us with 11 games from which to choose. Here is our best effort for a second week in a row of undefeatedness. (Yes, I had to teach that last word to my spell-checker.) First team named is Chuck’s Choice for that game. Home teams are in ALL Caps. Point spreads used are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas, via Sportsmemo.com, and current as of Friday night, October 30.

 

FALCONS (-7) over Buccaneers

Fantasy Football Matt Ryan

Atlanta went 1-1 on their 2-game road trip and they were almost 0-2, narrowly escaping Tennessee last weekend. This all happened after starting out 5-0 and looking like one of the favorites in the NFC. Two clunkers in a row is all that is needed to to get the team’s–and Coach Dan Quinn’s–attention. The were thrown into a couple of tough spots in the last few weeks, but now it’s “home sweet home” for the Birds. It is risky to ask a team to win by more than a touchdown in a divisional game, but the Falcons have the guns, and QB Matt Ryan, to do it. The Bucs suffered an emotional loss in giving up a big lead at Washington last week, and look to be in a bad spot on the road again. Atlanta’s high-flying offense gets back on track.  Falcons 37, Buccaneers 17

SAINTS (-3) over Giants

If you watched the Giants’ win over Dallas last week, you know that they could have–and probably should have–lost that game. The Saints, on the other hand, are a team rejuvenated after a second straight win. There is a good energy around this New Orleans team, as they appear to have regained their rhythm. Heading back to the SuperDome after a big road win won’t hurt, either. We’re looking for the Saints to reclaim that home-field magic they so often enjoyed in seasons past. Fantasy-wise, neither team is good against running backs.  More rushing plays mean a lower total, so betting under 50 might work here too.  Saints 21, Giants 10 

Chargers (+3 1/2) over RAVENS

NFL Phillip RiversYes, it is gutsy to take a west coast team playing the early game on the east coast, but it is hard to resist the Chargers here who, at 2-5, have lost to some pretty formidable competition (Bengals, Vikings, Steelers, Packers, Raiders). I can’t help but think back to last year, when the Bolts went into Baltimore in late November and won the game, outright, over a much better team than the one they will play on Sunday. The Chargers are in a desperate frame of mind, and we can expect a focused effort from them this week. Baltimore is simply not a good team anymore. Since losing Terrell Suggs, the Ravens defense sorely lacks the energy that used to be their signature. In fact, they rank second-to-last in fantasy points surrendered to opposing wide receivers. This is a good spot for Philip Rivers and his WRs, and a good spot for the team. Chargers 39, Ravens 31

Titans (+4 1/2) over TEXANS

It is a scary proposition picking the Titans one the road. This is Halloween weekend, however, so we needed at least one of these. There isn’t much more to say except that Tennessee never gives up, and Houston is in disarray, already wondering who their new coach will be. If you are worried about Zach Mettenberger being the quarterback this week, don’t. He has all the arm that is needed to poke new holes in the Swiss Cheese that is the Texans defense. Money line? Maybe. Titans 31, Texans 13

COWBOYS (+5 1/2) over Seahawks

So what, by beating the 49ers did Seattle become a team good enough to lay 6 points on the road? This game opened at 6, and has been bet down to 5.5 by all of the drooling fans of “America’s Team.” Dallas should have won their game last week against the Giants, if not for some very unfortunate late turnovers. Dez Bryant will probably return this week for the ‘Boys, and that will give them an emotional lift–as if they needed one. One of my favorite handicappers, R.J. Bell at Pregame.com, points out that Seattle, after a win the their division, is 13-34 against the spread. I have heard opinions from sports experts that the Cowboys, despite their 2-4 record, are still the best team in the NFC East. Cowboys 24, Seahawks 17

 

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Chuck’s Choices: NFL Picks Week 7

LV SportsbookLast Week 2-3

Season 15-10

Yes, last week was a stinker, hitting on the Browns and Titans, and being narrowly defeated in picks on the Patriots (-9) and the Chiefs (+4.5). The big loss was the Cardinals, losing straight up as favorites to the Steelers. Onward and upward, nose to the grindstone and all that as we look forward to a new week.

Here is how things shake out for Week 7:

NFL Andy Reid

Andy Reid tries, again, to turn the corner in KC.

CHIEFS (-3) over Steelers–Yes, we are rolling the dice again with the Kansas City Chiefs, and there are plenty of reasons. The first of which is the absence of Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers. I know, I know, Landry Jones lit up the Arizona defense last week. The caveat there is that the Cardinals spent the entire week preparing for Michael Vick. The KC defense is fully aware that Jones will be QB for the Steelers, and they will be ready. According to Pregame.com, Pittsburgh is 14-22 on the road against the spread, and 3-9 ATS outside of the Eastern Time Zone. In addition, they are +6 in turnovers this season and, sooner or later those even out. Chiefs 29, Steelers 16

DOLPHINS (-4.5) over Texans–I love playing a hot hand, and the Dolphins are a hot hand. In picking them last week over the Titans, I was looking for the team to respond to the firing of both the head coach and defensive coordinator over their recent bye week. The response was positive. Remember, this Miami team was expected to have the talent to challenge in the AFC East this year. The talent is still there, and now the motivation is too. You Fantasy might do well to consider picking up some of the discarded Dolphins players in the coming weeks. The Texans are beginning to contemplate who their coach will be next year. Where in the heck is their defense? Dolphins 35, Texans 20

Zach Mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger steps in for Marcus Mariota in Tennessee.

TITANS (+6) over Falcons–Yes, we are aware the Falcons lost their first game last week. Yes, we know Zach Mettenberger will be QBing the Titans. When Tennessee was contemplating their draft last April, they seriously considered trading away their first pick because they believed Mettenberger could be their franchise QB. The bottom line is, Mettenberger is no stiff. The fact is, when a team has to go to their backup QB, it usually follows that the rest of the team raises their level of play. This is a great spot to get a good effort from the Titans this week, and this is the first time the Falcons will play on natural turf. Tennessee’s defense (3rd in the NFL in YPG) is good enough to slow down the Atlanta offense enough to keep it close in the fourth quarter. Let’s call it Falcons 21, Titans 20

Saints (+4) over COLTS–I’m still not a believer in the Colts. Even though they got a back-door cover against the Patriots last week, that fake-punt, swinging gate, Three Stooges play did nothing to endear Chuck Pagano to the Indy front office. It is hard to win when there is dissension anywhere on a team. When the problems manifest at the top, nothing short of a major change will fix it. Yes, the  Saints are not as good on the road, but this is an indoor road game against a reeling opponent. It’s mostly a feeling, but it feels saintly. Saints 36, Colts 31

Carolina Panthers

The “D” is something special this year in Carolina.

PANTHERS (-3) over Eagles–It is hard to do, but even in winning last Monday night, the Eagles failed to impress. When a team has a big victory like the Panthers had last week in Seattle, it might be a good time to go against them. The exception is when that team has as awesome a defense as Carolina. A great defense is hardly ever up-and-down, as evidenced by the success of Seattle the past three years. It is always a good idea to take a team with a great defense if they are giving up a field goal or less. Things are rolling in Carolina, and it doesn’t look like Philadelphia has the guns to slow them down.  Panthers 17, Eagles 10

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Chuck’s Choices: NFL Picks Week 6

LV SportsbookLast Publish (Week 4): 3-2

Season: 13-7 (.650)

Because of a glitch which will not be discussed on this page, Chuck’s Choices, which had been running under the title Inside the Lines on another website, was not published last week. Since my picks were unable to be viewed, it would be misleading to include them in my season total. For that reason, we will pick up where we left off (with a 3-2 record in Week 4) and move on with a smile and a positive attitude. For the rest of the season you will find Chuck’s Choices right where they belong—on Chuck’s World, for as long as I create this crazy column.

Three years ago—after a hiatus of some 30 years—I was talked into joining another Fantasy Football league by my brother, Gary. Little did I know how much my research each week in putting my fantasy team together would give me clarity into the probability of some teams beating the Las Vegas point spreads each week. There is a certain amount of knowledge which can be gleaned each week, simply by knowing that Team A is 3rd in the NFL in points allowed to running backs, and is a 7-point underdog this week to Team B. In other words, fantasy research is, in essence, real world research. My choices to beat the spreads each week include much reading on football and gaming websites like SportsMemo and Pregame.com, but there is also as much time spent on the ESPN Fantasy Football website digesting information from Matthew Berry and the rest of the fantasy experts. This is the reason why, in some of my capsules, you might see fantasy tidbits thrown in as well. It is the ultimate “fantasy meets reality” scenario.

On to Week 6 of the NFL season. May all your parlays come true. (Home Team in ALL CAPS)

Andy Reid coaches well on the road.

Andy Reid coaches well on the road.

Chiefs (+4.5) vs VIKINGS—The Chiefs are 1-4 this season, but are probably better than some 3-2 teams. They opened the season with a win over Houston, but have since lost games to the Broncos, Packers, Bengals and Bears. With the exception of Chicago, it has been a “Murderer’s Row” of a schedule. They have not given up on the season, and Coach Andy Reid can motivate his team on the road (84-54 against the spread). In their last 20 road games, Kansas City has lost against the spread only six times. Fantasy-wise, the Chiefs are strong against running backs, and may force Teddy Bridgewater to win the game with his arm. With Jamaal Charles out for the season with a knee injury, the Vikings defense will have to respect both the run and pass. In this scenario, I will take more than a field goal. Chiefs 27, Vikings 23

Josh McCown looks to put up some early TDs against the Broncos "D".

Cleveland QB Josh McCown

BROWNS (+4) vs. Broncos—It is hard to pick against the Broncos, but this game is simply a feeling. If Broncos fans are honest, they will admit their team has been extremely fortunate in reaching their undefeated 5-0 record. They got a pick-6 late in the game to beat the Ravens in Week 1, a fumble return for a TD to defeat the Chiefs in Week 2, and they beat the Raiders last week without scoring an offensive touchdown. Down through the years, when Denver had their great teams, their stumbling block was always their first venture into the early game in the Eastern Time Zone. The absence of DE Demarcus Ware won’t help, either. Look for the Browns to score a few early TDs before the Broncos defense wakes up on Sunday morning. Cleveland hangs on for, at worst, the point spread win. Browns 17, Broncos 10

Ndamakong Suh leads the new attitude in Miami.

Ndamakong Suh leads the new attitude in Miami.

Dolphins (+1) vs. TITANS—There is always an infusion of both energy and positive attitude that comes with a coaching change, and we get a double-dose in this game for the Dolphins. Coach Joe Philbin was fired following the team’s loss to the Jets in London two weeks ago. The most important change, however, happened when new coach Dan Campbell fired defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, replacing him with defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo and reassigning several others on the staff. Reading between the lines, the players really seemed to want the change at the top on defense. When the season started, the Dolphins seemed to have the talent to challenge New England for the top spot in the AFC East. It is hard to say if they are that good, but they do have the talent on both sides of the ball to embrace the change and beat Tennessee. If these coaching changes mean anything at all to the Dolphins players, they had better bring it to the field quickly. New defensive schemes should be enough to stifle Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense. Anything the Miami offense can contribute is gravy. Dolphins 27, Titans 9

Bruce Arians lead his Cards against his former team.

Bruce Arians lead his Cards against his former team.

Cardinals (-4) vs. STEELERS—It is very hard to pick a favorite on the road—especially on their second straight foray into an early game in the east. The Cardinals, however, are a bird of a different color this year. Coach Bruce Arians seems to have the golden touch in preparing his team each week and the Steelers will, once again, be without QB Ben Roethlisberger. Even with the win last Monday night in San Diego, Pittsburgh was unimpressive—especially QB Michael Vick. There is a bit of extra incentive for Arians in this game, as he was fired as the Steelers’ OC in 2011. Arizona has always had a great defense, and now the offense, behind QB Carson Palmer, is beginning to reach that same “juggernaut” status. Cardinals 31, Steelers 17

Patriots (-9) vs. COLTS—It is time to jump on the runaway locomotive called the New England Patriots and ride it out. The Pats are on an exhibition tour of the U.S., and the next stop is Indianapolis. Coach Bill Belichick seems determined to not only beat teams, but whip them into submission. The “Deflategate” scandal has put a scowl on the faces of every New England player, and they are taking no prisoners. Now they visit the home of the team who ratted them out to the NFL for a contest they have had circled on their calendar since Brady was freed in the week before the season began. If the Patriots have a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter of this game, there will be no taking time off of the clock. Belichick will be trying to score at every moment, and then deny it in his news conference after the game. The amazing part is that New England has the team to do it. Patriots 45, Colts 13

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Chuck’s Choices 2015-Week 1

LV SportsbookWelcome to Chuck’s Choices, formerly NFL Best Bets, where we humbled the point spread in 2014 to the tune of 51-30 for a winning percentage of .629. The staff (comprised of me, a Desert Tortoise named Steve, and my upstairs neighbor Kennedy) was surprised and delighted to finish the season with such a strong record, and was mostly proud that we did not have a losing week.

Many people ask me what the secret is to picking winners in the NFL. It is a simple thing I discovered late in 2013. I do NOT bet on these games. I have no control over what Steve and Kennedy do with this information, but the minute I decide to bet even a $5 parlay on my picks of the week, they will go down harder than RGIII on a straight drop-back against the Detroit Lions’ defense. There is something to be said about making picks against the spread without the threat of losing my hard-earned cash. It is the fun of sports gambling without the risk.

With that being said, I must give fair warning that wagering on Week 1 of the NFL season is almost as risky as betting on the pre-season. Even though we think we know much about these teams, it is a good idea to forget almost everything you saw in the four “practice” games. In Week 1, it is perhaps most important to look at trends and motivation. It is also a time to look at biases that still exist from last year which may not hold true as the new season starts.

Without further ado, and we could all do with a little less ado in our lives, here are Chuck’s Choices for the very first weekend of the NFL season in 2015. As always, the home team is in ALL CAPS.

Darelle Revis

Darelle Revis is back with a strong Jets defense

NEW YORK JETS (-3.5) over Cleveland—I cringed when I saw that extra half point added to the line on the Jets side late in the week. Nonetheless, I am taking New York in my eliminator challenge this week, and will hope my instincts are good enough that they are a touchdown better than the Browns. We will see a lot of RB Isaiah Crowell for Cleveland and Chris Ivory for the Jets, but the difference is crafty veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for New York. He has some good targets in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and the other side does not. This should be a low-scoring game, but the LV over/under (39.5) reflects that. According to R.J. Bell at Pregame.com, since resuming the franchise 16 years ago, the Browns are 1-15 straight up and 4-12 against the spread  in season openers. Jets by 10

UNDER 49 Green Bay at CHICAGO—Each of these teams has suffered key losses over the summer to players who were vital to their offenses. The Packers are without standout WR Jordy Nelson for the season due to a knee injury, and WR Randall Cobb is nursing a sprained AC joint. He will play, but admits his shoulder is still sore and he has been practicing on ways to fall on it that won’t create further damage. On the Bears’ side, first-round draft choice Kevin White is probably out for the season with a stress fracture in his shin and WR Alshon Jeffrey still is not 100 per cent with a bad calf. WR Eddie Royal, who was expected to carry much of the load, is bothered by a hip injury. All of this adds up to one thing—a heavy dose of the running game by both teams. More running plays mean more time taken off of the clock, and fewer big plays. A steady dose of Eddie Lacy for the Pack and Matt Forte for the Bears will keep the final total under the number. Packers 17-14

Jeff Fisher

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher loves beating the Seahawks

ST. LOUIS (+4) over Seattle—If there is one thing Rams Coach Jeff Fisher is maniacal about it is beating the teams in his division. The Rams have beaten the Seahawks in St. Louis twice in the past three years, and in the other game Seattle escaped with a 14-9 win. Sure, the Seahawks may have one of the premiere defenses in the league, but the Rams’ “D” is pretty darned good, too. This one will be hard-fought to the end, with a field goal making the difference either way. Might as well call the upset. Rams by 3

UNDER 48 Baltimore at DENVER—I wanted to pick the Broncos to cover the 4-and-a-half-point spread, but I have to see if Peyton Manning is still winging touchdowns like always, or if there is more of an emphasis on the running game in the Mile High City this year. The thing that is most certain in this game is that the Broncos have a great defense this year and the Ravens are in the first year of a new offense under former Bears Coach Marc Trestman. Baltimore may adapt to the new system after four or five games, but I don’t expect much from them right out of the gate—especially in the altitude against a relentless defense led by a linebacking corps of Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Demarcus Ware. The Ravens might shut down Peyton Manning. The Broncos will shut down Joe Flacco. Broncos 21-10

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson gives Vikings fans reason for optimism

Minnesota (-2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO—The only positive note coming from San Francisco during the off-season has been the journey of Australian Rugby player Jarryd Hayne to make it in the NFL. There have been nothing but great stories coming out of Vikings camp. Adrian Peterson comes off of a year without any bumps and bruises. Teddy Bridgewater can only get better in his second season. The Vikings have been virtually injury-free. One of the riskiest things in a handicapper’s life is taking a road favorite on Monday night. The 49ers present no case for the home dog in this contest. Vikings by 17

(Point spreads are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas, as posted on Sportsmemo.com)

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Fantasy Football Vault: Week 1

Fantasy FootballAfter a hiatus of around 25 years, I finally re-caught the fantasy football bug three years ago. My best finish has been runner-up in 2013. I am a purist in the fact that I will only play in one league at a time, and I know many of my friends are of the same mindset. Then there are the true fanatics in my circles who participate in up to 10 leagues each season. For my money, multiple leagues take most of the fun out of it. It is hard enough rooting for my guys as the Red Zone Channel chugs along each Sunday of the NFL season. If I owned several teams, I feel I would inevitably be rooting for—and against—at least one player each week (I would also get nothing done in my “real” life). I respect the people who own more than one team for their gonzoness. I cannot, however, be one of you.

With that off my chest, I will open the Fantasy Football Vault (otherwise known as my sometimes-sideways logical brain) and spew my opinions on a few of the things which have rattled through the gray matter imprisoned in my cranium over the summer. Please bear in mind that these slants are mine, but there is always room for yours in the “comments” section. In fact, I encourage them. I will even reveal the roster of my 2015 team, The Surgin’ Generals, at the end of this column. Here’s hoping The Vault will yield at least one golden nugget you will find useful as you march toward your league title this season.

Yes, but for how long?

Fantasy Football

Arian Foster

We didn’t even make it to the pre-season games before Arian Foster went down with another one of those pesky soft-tissue injuries. Now we learn, from Coach Bill O’Brien, that Foster is ahead of schedule and “I think he’ll be back sooner, rather than later.” Anyone who has ever owned Foster, and I am among them, knows what an inconvenience it has been each Sunday to bite your nails and hang on every injury report and speculation coming out of the NFL Network, Twitter, Facebook and anyplace else on the world wide web up until kickoff time to see if he will be active for the Texans’ game. First, let me say that one of my biggest Pet Peeves is when so-called “fantasy experts” will downgrade a player because they think he will get injured, or his body will break down from overuse, e.g. DeMarco Murray. Foster, on the other hand, is a proven injury risk. It doesn’t matter if he comes back “sooner rather than later,” he will be out again with another injury sooner rather than later again.

Belichick Roulette

New England Tom BradyDoes it make sense to own anyone on the New England Patriots besides Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski? Coach Bill Belichick has already thrown the fantasy world a curve in cutting Jonas Gray, and the season hasn’t even begun. If you ever start a Patriot running back and he has a great game, sell him as soon as you can. Belichick will make sure someone else gets the ball next Sunday. This is not a criticism of Belichick—it is more a tribute to his genius, and probably a reason why he has all of those rings. “We’re on to Cincinnati…”

The best Belichick impression

Chip KellyPhiladelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly is doing his best be the Belichick of the NFC. The Eagles are going to score points in bunches this year, but who will get the bulk of the fantasy scores outside of Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray? There was a conversation on Twitter about the “high-scoring” Eagles, and I put in my two-cents-worth, wondering if there were too many stars on the team to really be able to be confident in anyone breaking the bank in fantasy football scoring. One guy chimed in with something like, “Don’t worry, Philadelphia will score enough for everyone to get their points.” The thing to remember is that nothing is certain, and before you add any of the “other” Eagles, let them play a few games and see who is trending. Ryan Matthews certainly could be a fantasy gold mine if Kelly really wants to limit the amount of touches for Murray, who carried the ball almost 300 times last season for the Cowboys. Jordan Matthews looks to be the lead receiver, but rookie Nelson Agholor could take some targets from him, along with all of the running backs. It is no secret that Kelly loves to involve his offensive backfield in the passing game. At tight end, Zach Ertz has been predicted to have a breakout year by some experts. To make things more confusing, Ertz is battling a sports hernia and is doubtful for the opener in Atlanta. Finally, with all of the touchdowns expected from the Eagles, kicker Cody Parkey should be a sure thing, right? This is Chip Kelly, and the 2-point conversion is 12 yards closer to the goal line than the 1-point kick.

It’s all an illusion

Every year I have to remind myself not to overreact to everything—or anything—I see in the pre-season. It is perhaps more important to remember that 90 per cent of the general public is overreacting to those meaningless games. Ameer Abdullah, a rookie running back for the Detroit Lions, made one impressive 45-yard run in his first pre-season game. In that one feat, Abdullah went from a great 10th or 11th round sleeper pick to an 8th or 9th round reach. His current ADP in ESPN draft leagues is 88.1, and he was taken at No. 52 in my league. That is no surprise, as Abdullah played his college ball in Nebraska and many of us hail from the Cornhusker State. Another example is Latavius Murray, RB for the Oakland Raiders. Murray burst onto the scene last year in a Thursday game against the Chiefs(112 yards; 2 TD) after playing behind Darren McFadden most of the year. He has done nothing in the pre-season. I suspect, however, that with the passing game expected to excel behind QB Derek Carr and rookie WR Amari Cooper, more running room should be created for the hard-running Murray. I have a feeling that the Raiders offense was very vanilla under new Coach Jack Del Rio, and things could get very exciting for the Black & Silver this year. I am high on the Raiders in 2015.

With that, it is time to unveil the Surgin’ Generals roster for 2015:

Surgin' Generals Fantasy Football Team

Many of you will probably notice that I am deep in wide receivers and a bit top-heavy in running backs. My conundrum will come in Week 7 when both CJ Anderson and Eddie Lacy have their bye weeks. My bench includes several “flyer” RBs who may or may not have a prominent place on their teams by the 7th week. There might be much activity on the waiver wire and trading block for me that week.

I am most proud of my acquisition of Tom Brady in the 5th round (this was before he got his suspension lifted), and discovering Davante Adams available with the 86th pick in the ninth round (Jordy Nelson suffered his injury just a few hours before our draft).

Have a great season, and good luck!

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NFL Best Bets: Week 9

NFL Best Bets Cincinnati BengalsWith the change in the clocks comes a change in convention for the Week 9 edition of Best Bets. In a weekend where not a lot of point spread winners jumped off of the page, this week’s picks will include some “over/under” choices. Here’s hoping the maxim “Fall Back” does not apply to the selections this week.

Best Bets took another baby step in Week 8, as the picks went 3-2 again, bringing the season total to a respectable 20-15. Last Sunday got off to a rocky start, as the Lions fell behind 21-0 to the Falcons in London and had to scramble to just win the game. Having to give 5.5 points, the game was decided early in Las Vegas. The Colts were also losers on both the scoreboard and the tote board, but wins by the Chiefs, Texans and Saints saved the weekend. Here are another five winning sides for this weekend, with the home teams in ALL CAPS:

NFL Phillip RiversChargers (+2.5) over DOLPHINS The Chargers have lost two straight to division rivals Kansas City and Denver, and now must win to keep pace in the AFC West. Normally it is a good strategy to bet against west coast teams who travel to the eastern time-zone for an early game. The Chargers, though, are one team which has bucked that trend. Keep in mind, also, the change in clocks on Saturday night. That extra hour of sleep could not hurt. According to Pregame.com and R. J. Bell, under coach Mike McCoy the Chargers are 13-3 against non-divisional opponents. Miami, as a home favorite, is 10-36 against the spread.

Jaguars/BENGALS over 43.5 Jacksonville is 27th against the pass and 20th against the run. Cincinnati is 23rd in the NFL against the pass and 29th against the run. With Giovanni Bernard out for the Bengals, they will concentrate more on their passing game, especially if A. J. Green is back in the lineup. Andy Dalton will find little resistance in this game, but Blake Bortles will also find his share of success. If the Jags can push across two touchdowns, the Bengals need just 20 to push the number up and over.

VIKINGS (-1) over Redskins The Redskins had a tough divisional win over the Cowboys on Monday night, and now take to the road against an opponent everyone assumes they can beat. Trouble is, the Vikings see the Redskins as someone they can beat too. The public will be all over Washington because of their big win last week, and the public will be disappointed. Despite last week’s emotional win over Dallas, or perhaps because of it, the Redskins are in a tough spot this week against the Vikings.

NFL Marshawn LynchRaiders/SEAHAWKS under 43 The things that make the Seahawks such a good home team are the noise level and intimidation of their 12th man on opposing offenses in Seattle. The Raiders are averaging 12 points per game on the road, and it is safe to say that none of their road games has approached the level of home field advantage they will face against the Seahawks. On the other hand, while Seattle is a great team on their home field, they have not scored more than 30 points in a game since opening weekend. Add in the fact that there is rain in the forecast and Seattle has stressed the importance of the running game this week and it all adds up to a final score of something like 20-7.

Colts/GIANTS over 51 Simply put, the Giants defense has not been able to put pressure on the quarterback this year. That is bad news when the opposing quarterback is Andrew Luck. There is also word that the Giants want to throw down the field more this week. This is a big number to try to get over. If it happens, however, this should be a very entertaining Monday Night Football game. The weather forecast calls for clear skies and a 90 per cent chance of a track meet.

Chuck Podhaisky
@Chuck_pod

Sources:
PreGame

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Fantasy Football: Week 9 Bye-Week Subs

Fantasy Football Denard RobinsonThis is one of those weeks that will separate the men and women from the boys and girls in Fantasy Football. This is when hard work and diligence pays off. There are six teams on bye this week, and it is going to take some shrewd maneuvering to find able replacements for players like Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson and Eddie Lacy to name a few. The Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers and Titans are all taking the week off, and fantasy owners are scrambling to find one-week replacements. For those owners who do not have adequate backups for the stars on leave, here is a look at some of the top players who have a good chance of being available to help in week 9.

Fantasy Football Brandon LaFellWR Brandon LaFell, Patriots LaFell has quickly risen to prominence as one of the receivers QB Tom Brady trusts for New England. There are a couple of caveats. First is that thing called “Patriot roulette.” Coach Bill Belichick seems to pick a new name out of the hat to feature each week. If LaFell is the lucky guy this week, it will be a high reward. His numbers for the past six weeks look like this: 4, 17, 2, 21, 5, 18. If this sequence holds true, this will be a single-digit fantasy week. The only other thing to beware of is that, at last check, the weather forecast was calling for 30-40 mph winds in Foxboro on Sunday. Check the weather forecast before you start LaFell, who has been the most added player this week, but is still available in around 35 per cent of leagues.

WR Andrew Hawkins, Browns QB Brian Hoyer has taken a liking to Hawkins in the past two weeks. He has scored 14.5 and 18.3 points in his last two outings against Jacksonville and Oakland. This week the Browns face Tampa Bay, which ranks last in the league against receivers. Hawkins is the top-scoring WR for the Browns this season, and should remain there for the next few weeks until Josh Gordon returns from his suspension in week 11. Hawkins is still available in 45 per cent of leagues.

RB Denard Robinson, Jaguars Robinson is the most added RB this week, but is still available in almost 25 per cent of leagues. He has scored in double-digits in his last two games, and now goes up against the 24th ranked team against running backs—the Cincinnati Bengals. The only warning here is that he plays for a Jacksonville team that has averaged only 21 points in the last four weeks.

Fantasy Football Charles SimsRB Charles Sims, Buccaneers Check the Tampa Bay injury report before starting Sims this week. He is a rookie on whom the Buccaneers were very high before the season, but has been on the IR because of an ankle injury suffered in the pre-season. Because of the fact that Tampa Bay has been disappointed in the performance of expected workhorses Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey, Sims is an interesting proposition if he is active. The consensus among fantasy experts is that owners who pick him up should wait another week and see how he produces before putting him in the lineup. Desperate owners should know he is a high risk/high reward play this week.

RB Jonas Gray, Patriots Again, anyone picking up Gray will be at the mercy of the whims of Belichick. After Stephan Ridley went down for New England, it was thought that Brandon Bolden would pick up the slack along with Shane Vereen. There was even talk that James White would get the call. As it turns out, Gray got 17 carries for 86 yards last week against the Bears. If it is windy on Sunday and the Patriots emphasize the ground game, Gray could be the guy. Then again, so could Vereen, White or Bolden. Where the Patriots are concerned, expect the unexpected.

Fantasy Football Robert Griffin IIIQB Robert Griffin III, Redskins It was a surprise that RGIII is back this week and, if he really is going to start, he makes an interesting pickup for owners in need of a bye-week band-aid at quarterback. It must be kept in mind, however, that the Vikings allow the 2nd fewest points to opposing QBs, and Griffin will probably be a bit rusty. He may be worth a try, however, in a week where few quarterbacks are available.

QB Brian Hoyer, Browns Where availability is concerned, bye-week quarterback replacement do not get much better than Hoyer. Available in over 70 per cent of leagues, Hoyer is at home against Tampa Bay—the 29th ranked team against QBs. He is averaging over 18 points per game, and if you throw out the 6.7-point clunker at Jacksonville two weeks ago, he is over 20.

Tight Ends There is not much available at the tight end position and there has not been much all season. The interesting names available out there include Heath Miller of the Steelers, who is 53 per cent available. Miller had 7 receptions for 112 yards last week, but performances like that are more the exception than the rule. He is also facing the Ravens this week, who are 3rd in the NFL against tight ends. Another possibility is Luke Wilson of the Seahawks, against the Raiders who are 15th against tight ends. Seattle, however, has not been scoring a lot of points, and is expected to keep the ball on the ground this week against an Oakland defense that ranks 28th against the run. If the weather is windy in Massachusetts, and the Patriots are forced to stick to the ground and the short passing game, Tim Wright might be a profitable play against Denver. The Broncos are 24th against tight ends, and will be paying a lot of attention to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Chuck Podhaisky
@Chuck_pod

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