Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday's Bettors ATS Bowl Game Preview

2 pm EST- New Mexico Bowl- Temple (-7) vs. Wyoming O/U 51- Neither of these teams was expected to have 8 wins at the beginning of the season; however, both these squads established strong offensive identities and achieved many of their preseason goals. The travel edge here goes to Wyoming as they will have a short jaunt over to New Mexico to play in a stadium they visit every other season in conference play. Both teams should be highly motivated entering this contest with no coaching or off-the-field issues.

Temple's strong rushing attack, led by Bernard Pierce, keys their team's success, and Wyoming's rushing D has proven to be vulnerable against tough competition (333 yards to Nebraska, 318 to Utah State, 390 to TCU and 312 to Air Force, 282 to San Diego State and 200 to Boise State). This should prove to be the difference in this game as Temple's D has proven to be of high quality most of the season. Wyoming's spread attack is formidable, however, and I'm not willing to go against a team that covered and won at Air Force and SD St. and covered at Boise.

Play- No play on the spread but slight lean towards Temple -7. Play the over at 51 as both teams should have offensive success throughout the game.

5:30 pm EST- Idaho Potato Bowl- Utah St. (-1.5) vs. Ohio -1.5 O/U 61.5- Another distinct travel advantage against the MAC team as must travel west to face a Utah St team with a short commute and experience on the blue turf at Boise from last season. The motivation edge is also strongly in Utah St's favor as they enter their first bowl game since the 1990's, while Ohio must rebound from collapsing with a 20-0 halftime lead to lose the MAC championship game. Utah St also enters this game off of 5 consecutive wins after impressive early season tight losses at Auburn and BYU.

Play- I expect Utah St to have a terrific showing against a reeling Ohio team who has failed to cover their last 3 bowl games. Play Utah St. -1.5. No play or lean on the Over/Under.

9:00 pm EST- New Orleans Bowl- SD St. (-5) vs. La-Lafayette O/U 59.5
- The Ragin Cajuns will be making their first bowl appearance in 41 years when they take the field Saturday night. They have a distinct travel advantage playing in their home state. Additionally, they have sold 18,500 tickets to the game, while SD St has only sold 1,000. This will be a home-field crowd for LaLaf tonight.

From an x's and o's standpoint, SD St. is clearly a better team playing in a tougher league. Their star sophomore RB Ronnie Hillman is NFL caliber and should have a great game. If SD St can limit turnovers (10th in the nation in TO margin) and get Hillman going, they should be able to put up points against a team that allowed 61 points to Okla St and 45 points to Ariz in their two games against higher competition this year. Lafayette's offense can put up points in bunches as well. They scored 34 and 37, respectively, in those losses at Okla St and Ariz. Their 31.8 ppg is good for 31st in the nation. Their

Play- With the home crowd behind them, the Cajuns should be able to cover the 5 points. Strong Lean LaLafayette +5. The over at 59.5 could also be attainable with two efficient offenses playing. Slight lean over 59.5

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Picking Every Week 15 NFL Game ATS

Pick in CAPS

Jacksonville (+12) @ ATLANTA

Jacksonville has been playing with some intensity under interim head coach Mel Tucker.  Look for Jones-Drew to continue having success on the ground, and I expect a few turnovers from Matt Ryan.  I think this one stays close, but I can't legitimately put my money on the Jaguars, and the Falcons are good at stopping the run.  If Blaine Gabbert is forced to win this game, it's going to be a long day for the Jaguars.  But the Falcons are 2-2-2 ATS at home this year, which isn't very compelling.  All things considered, I would steer clear of this line, but for our compulsive bettors, take the Falcons.

Atlanta 28, Jacksonville 14

DALLAS (-7) @ Tampa Bay

Dallas has had two heart-breaking games in a row, and they just lost Demarco Murray for the year.  Needless to say, luck has not been on their side.  But I see this as one of the more favorable lines this week.  The Bucs have lost 7 straight, and they looked absolutely awful last week against the Jags.  The Cowboys are mad, and the Bucs just made themselves Dallas' punching bag for the week.  Take the Cowboys and get some free money.

Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 17

Washington (+7) @ NY GIANTS

The last time these two teams met, the Redskins came away with a two touchdown win in Week 1.  The game will be completely different this time around, as the Redskins offense, and in particular offensive line, has been decimated by injuries.  I'd expect the Giants to pressure Rex Grossman, and he will make some costly mistakes.  Look for the Giants to win this one by a few scores.

NY Giants 31, Washington 19

GREEN BAY (-14) @ Kansas City

The Chiefs looked awful last week.  They have Tyler Palko at quarterback.  I don't care how solid the defense plays, they won't keep this game within 14 points.  Green Bay all the way in this one.

Green Bay 38, Kansas City 7

NEW ORLEANS (-7) @ Minnesota

The Saints are always clicking on all cylinders when they play indoors, so barring another Metrodome collapse, I see this one being a blowout.  Also, the Saints are playing for the division and a first round bye, so a victory is huge for them.

New Orleans 38, Minnesota 24

SEATTLE (+3.5) @ Chicago

I was pretty surprised to see the Seahawks getting points in this one, considering how well the defense has been playing.  I think the Hawks win this game, as Caleb Hanie has really been struggling at QB for the Bears.  Also, the Over/Under is 36, and I'd be very inclined to take the UNDER in this one.

Seattle 17, Chicago 10

Carolina (+6.5) @ HOUSTON

Houston is 9-3-1 ATS this year, including 4-1-1 at home.  Despite losing their starting quarterback, best wide receiver, and best defensive player, they are finding ways to win and cover.  This week, Wade Phillips took a leave of absence, but I expect the running game to excel against a porous Panthers defense.  Look for Foster and Tate to both have big days.

Houston 31, Carolina 21

TENNESSEE (-7) @ Indianapolis

Indianapolis is 1-5 ATS this year at home, and they might be the worst team in NFL history without Manning.  On the other hand, Tennessee has played well on the road this year, and you pretty much have to take them in this one.  The Titans have a good defense, and the Colts will struggle to score just like last week against the Ravens.

Tennesse 24, Indianapolis 13

CINCINNATI (-6.5) @ St. Louis

St. Louis is 2-11 ATS this year, and their two covers have been in their 2 victories.  They won't win this game, and they won't cover.  Bengals defense is too tough.

Cincinnati 27, St. Louis 14

DETROIT (-1.5) @ Oakland

The Raiders haven't looked good lately, and Carson Palmer has been turnover prone.  Also, the Raiders have struggled ATS at home this year.  I would pick the Lions here, but it is not one of the better lines this week.  The Raiders are a decent football team, so they could always surprise you.

Detroit 28, Oakland 24

NEW ENGLAND (-6) @ Denver

Denver is 1-4-1 ATS at home this year, and they haven't been great in the first three quarters.  If Tim Tebow and the offense can show up and play all four quarters, then they have a legitimate chance of winning this game.  But I see the Patriots racking up an insurmountable lead early, and the Broncos doing their best to come back late.  I like New England here.

New England 31, Denver 23

New York Jets (+3) @ PHILADELPHIA

I'm not buying into the Jets offense suddenly being good, or Shonn Greene suddenly being a great running back.  I think this team is brought back down to Earth this week, and the Eagles win by a good margin.  The Eagles still have two things to play for:  they are holding onto slim playoff hopes, and if that doesn't work out they may still be able to end this season with their pride (although unlikely).  I like the Eagles.

Philadelphia 31, New York Jets 21

Cleveland (+7) @ ARIZONA

If there's one thing I learned the past two weeks, it's don't bet against the Cardinals at home.  They have looked rock solid these past few weeks, and this defense is playing as well as anyone right now.  Couple that with Larry Fitzgerald playing like we are used to, and you have a recipe for victory.

Arizona 24, Cleveland 9

BALTIMORE (-2.5) @ San Diego

I laughed a little when I saw this line.  San Diego isn't good.  Ravens win.

Baltimore 24, San Diego 17

Pittsburgh (+2.5) @ SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco is 6-0-1 ATS at home this year.  This is the only reason I picked the 49ers.  Before seeing that statistic, I was leaning heavily towards the Steelers.  I would steer clear of this one, as this game is the definition of a toss-up.

San Francisco 16, Pittsburgh 13

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tebowmania: Is it Warranted?

In Week 7, we were awed by Tim's final three minutes against Miami, in which the Broncos became the first team to win a game after trailing by 15 points through 57 minutes of play.  After one game as the starter in Denver, even if it was against a winless Dolphins team, Tebow was able to create a reputation, an almost super-human aura.

But then Week 8 rolled around, Tebow completed only 18 of his 39 passes, threw an interception, and fumbled once in a 45-10 drubbing at the hands of the Lions.  Maybe he's not so great after all.

Give it another week, and we are back on the Tim Tebow emotional roller coaster.  Against the Raiders, Tebow rushed and passed for over 100 yards and was able to stay turnover free in a 38-24 victory.  Maybe he's got it after all, despite his subpar passing performances.  After all, he's taking care of the football.

Week 10 is when we finally realized what Tim Tebow was all about.  Against the Chiefs, in a 17-10 victory, Tim went the entire first half without completing a pass, and he finished 2 for 8 on the day.  But only two things mattered that Sunday--one of those Tebow completions went for 56 yards and a touchdown in the 4th quarter, and the Broncos won the game.

Week 11...Game-winning drive against the Jets.  Week 12...Game-winning drive in overtime against the Chargers.  Week 13...Game-winning drive against the Vikings.  Week 14...Game-winning drive in overtime against the Bears.  On the third day, He rose again in fulfillment of the scripture.

But in all seriousness, the Tim Tebow=Jesus equation isn't that far off.  I haven't seen anything like this in sports, and, needless to say, Tebow (and the art of Tebowing) has become a phenomenon.  But who deserves the credit in these recent victories, 7 out of 8 since Tebow took over at quarterback.  Is it Tebow himself?  Is it Matt Prater, whose right foot has won four games on its own?  Is it the Broncos defense, who has stymied defenses since Tebow took over?  Is it the NFL, for giving the Broncos a manageable schedule during the Tebow stretch?  We were left scratching our heads over this team's turnaround, and we latched on to Tebow, the current figurehead of the team.

Whether you love Tebow or hate him, think he's responsible or don't, one things for sure--this Broncos defense, with the exception of the Lions game, has been on another level during the Tebow era.  Von Miller has stepped up his play, and he is stating his case for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Champ Bailey has surged as of late, after a slow start had people questioning his age and ability.  This unit has been able to force timely turnovers, especially the last two games, and they have put Tebow in positions to succeed.  But somebody has to take the ball into the endzone, and that somebody is Tim Tebow.  And this same unit was on the field during Kyle Orton's 1-4 start, struggling mightily.  This could have been due to Orton's turnover problems, and the Broncos defense constantly defending a shorter field.  If there's one thing Tebow has proven, he is careful with the football in his hands.  He makes good decisions, and as a result he has only thrown two interceptions all year.

at Miami, Detroit, at Oakland, at Kansas City, New York Jets, at San Diego, at Minnesota, Chicago.  Not exactly Amen Corner, but not easy either.  Five teams with winning records, and the Broncos were able to beat four of them.  They also beat two teams that they had previously lost to with Kyle Orton at quarterback.  And, Tebow had to play these two teams (Oakland and San Diego) on the road, while Orton played them in the comfort of Mile High.  So we can't chalk this turnaround up to scheduling, either.

So, the defense is the same.  The schedule is the same, if not slightly harder.  The supporting cast on offense is the same.  The quarterback is different.  Ding, ding, ding.  I think we found our answer.

Tim Tebow hasn't put up gaudy numbers or great statistics, but his team has won 7 out of 8 since he took over at quarterback.  This team has rallied around an unselfish leader, who brings out the best in this entire team.  With every comeback victory, the Broncos gain more and more confidence, and it is Tim Tebow that instills this confidence week after week.  The defense knows if they can get the ball back for Tim late in the 4th, he will win the game for them, and it makes them work that much harder.  Everyone on the field is working to put this team in a position to win, knowing Tebow will take care of the rest.  Despite not having prototypical quarterback skills, Tim Tebow has proven that he has every single intangible that one could ever want in a quarterback.  And it all starts with his presence as the leader in the locker room.

I can't imagine these comebacks will last even into the next couple weeks.  Eventually Tebow will have to figure out how to play for the other 55 minutes of a game.  But something tells me he will figure it out, and he deserves to be the starting quarterback next year.  The Elway-Tebow relationship (I'd like to call it the Elbow relationship from now on) has to work, because Tebow has captured the hearts and minds of America, and he's 7-1 in the process.

We will find out what Tebow is really made of against New England in Denver, but I'll put my money on a Broncos' overtime win.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NFL Week 14 reflections

1) Tebow does it again (or did Marion Barber do it) - It’s truly amazing how the Broncos keep winning when they are consistently put in statistically unfavorable positions in the 4th quarter. The Chicago game was especially absurd considering all the Bears needed was for Marion Barber to go down in bounds at the end or regulation or not fumble in OT and they win. Instead, Tebow marches the troops twice and Matt Prater kicks two game 50-yard FG’s to win the game. Incredibly (considering they started 1-4), Denver appears poised for a playoff berth now with a one game lead and tiebreaker edge on Oakland. The only problem: Pittsburgh or Baltimore waits in the wildcard round.

2) No One wants the NFC east or wildcard spots – Last week, every NFC wild card contender lost. Little changed this week by way of performance. Atlanta and the NY Giants needed massive comebacks to win and Detroit made a miraculous goal line stand to defeat the Vikings. The Bears collapsed with help from Marion Barber and the Cowboys self-destructed thanks to horrible clock management. But the fact is, no one looked good or made a statement. At this point, Atlanta looks secure as long as they take care of business against the lowly Bucs and Jags, but everyone else has a ton of work left. It will be interesting to see if anyone shows up next week.

Atl (8-5) vs Jax (4-9)

Det (8-5) at Oak (7-6)

NYG (7-6) vs Wash (4-9)

Chi (7-6) vs Sea (6-7)

Dal (7-6) at TB (4-9)

3) Seattle and Arizona should have played the first half of the season!After terrible starts (Sea 2-6 and Ariz 1-6), both teams sit precariously at 6-7 with 5 teams ahead of them for the two wild card berths. Both teams salvaged their season the same way: with terrific defensive efforts (Ariz 17.5 ppg last 6 and Sea 14.8 ppg last 5) and consistently effective special teams units. Neither team has stellar QB play, but they have bruising rb’s in Lynch and Wells, respectively, that help control the clock. Had the season started in November, these teams would be right in the playoff mix; unfortunately, they might have started playing a little too late. It will be interesting if both teams win their next two games setting up a potential meaningful finale at Arizona in the season’s final week, but numerous teams need to lose for that to happen.

4) Houston keeps on winning – Despite injuries to several of their best players in Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Andre Johnson, the Texans continue to find a way to win ballgames. They have currently won 7 straight, including these last two with their third-string QB in TJ Yates against above .500 competition. They continue to play terrific defense and dominate teams with their spectacular offensive line. Currently, they are still in position to receive a 1st-round bye in the playoffs, and with a less-than-daunting schedule remaining (vs Car, at Indy, vs Tenn), expect the Texans to remain a factor in the AFC home-field scenario.