The Carnival is Coming to A Close

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Since January 20 of this year – hell, since the start of the 2016 Presidential campaign in what seems like eons ago but was only about two years back – the people of the States of America have been subjected to a macabre three-ring circus that is the Confederacy of Dunces united under Orange Foolius. Like a drunken clown with Tourette’s, the SCROTUS (So-Called Ruler of the United States) has veered from one controversy to another, infuriating opponents, supporters, and the entirety of the world as a whole and sometimes at in one statement. With this Mr. Hyde approach, many say that the embarrassment in the White House is distracting the public from some of the more heinous aspects of his Confederacy’s actions.

There is some truth to this. As a friend has pointed out to me several times (and we’ve debated heartily), instead of taking action to relieve Puerto Rico from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, the Jackass-in-Chief decided to launch his crusade regarding an issue that had all but died, the protests of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick regarding the treatment of young blacks at the hands of law enforcement and the general inequality that still exists in the country. Continuing a streak of disingenuous behavior that has been a hallmark of his existence, let alone his stint as the SCROTUS, Orange Foolius instead wrongly made the protest about dissing the military, the National Anthem, and the flag, which of course whipped up the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of his slavering base. This served to distract the public for quite a few days as more than three million Puerto Ricans, without power, food, and potable water, suffered after the storms of Maria had passed.

Now, however, perhaps the carnival is coming to a close.

Yesterday the Vice Chucklehead, the Albino Howler Monkey to the twisted organ grinder that the SCROTUS is, decided he would insert himself into the mix. In a $250,000+ bill to the taxpayers – he came from Los Angeles to Indianapolis (reportedly to see the game, which was honoring future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s number retirement into the Colts Ring of Honor), then returned to Los Angeles once his panties got in a twist – Vice Chucklehead saw the 49ers continue the protest that EVERY TEAM in the National Football League is now doing. With his Victoria’s Secret finery firmly twisted in his rectal cavity, he walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium in a snit, purportedly as a part of a plan between him and Orange Foolius.

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In the past, there would have been plenty of dithering over the Albino Howler Monkey’s actions. Instead, there has been a blistering rebuttal of his actions and the fabricated plan by him and the SCROTUS to continue pushing the divisive issue. Indianapolis Star sportswriter Gregg Doyle penned a searing takedown of Chucklehead, blasting him for a political grandstanding that even Stevie Wonder could see. CNN pointed out the costs of the charade while NFL players and social media castigated the duo for the futility of their divisiveness.

There are signs that the patience of the people for the BS this administration is dishing out is coming to a head elsewhere. Although he is in the middle of a primary fight that could determine whether he’ll remain in the Senate, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has issued a tome where he rips the takeover of the Republican Party. Entitled Conscience of a Conservative, Flake repeatedly attacked Orange Foolius, his abrasive, wafer-thin skin attacks on opponents and allies alike and his attempted takeover of the GOP. His fellow Arizonan, Senator John McCain, has also stood against the SCROTUS on several occasions, most notably the health care discussion.

The blasting from inside the party has recently come to head, however. Over the weekend, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who will resign his seat and not seek reelection in 2018, was the target of the Twitter screed of a 13-year old girl – oh, wait, that’s the ignoramus who squeaked his way into the most powerful position in the world. In several Tweets, the SCROTUS piled lie upon lie ON AN ALLY HE NEEDS TO PASS FOREIGN POLICY LEGISLATION. These were easily swatted aside by Corker and his aides, who repeatedly pointed out where the SCROTUS was a lying bastard while calling his administration an “adult day care” where someone had “missed a shift.”

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These actions are a noted change from what has preceded. In the past (this writer included), the press and the people have been peering too closely into the abyss, trying to divinate from the tea leaves, the cryptic tweets and the tossed off statements (like the “calm before the storm” comments from SCROTUS last week during a dinner with high-ranking military members) as to what the jackass is intending to do. This isn’t a criticism of the press or the public as this is what we’ve become used to…you know, when we have sane people that were in positions of power and took under consideration what might be in the best interest of the nation rather than just themselves. With the Carnival Barker in charge, however, people may be realizing it’s time that there was a change.

It has SLOWLY become obvious that people aren’t paying as much attention to what SCROTUS says as what’s going on with actions in the Congress and on the foreign policy stage. For example, while Orange Foolius and his Albino Howler Monkey continue the organ grinder ploy in Indy, there has been moves towards nonrenewal of the Iranian nuclear deal, something that the SCROTUS has been advised against by virtually every breathing human in the administration. There is also the Russian investigation ongoing, which is a Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn plea bargain away from finding serious criminal and electoral misconduct by the SCROTUS campaign leading to the 2016 election by special investigator Robert Mueller.

These things…and many others…aren’t escaping the attention of the people. At least those that are on watch.

The filtering of the white noise BS from this supposed head of state is only the start, however. It is time that people across the board – from the media, to those in either party, to worldwide leaders – finally stand up against the stain that is tarnishing what the country is about. Call the SCROTUS on his falsehoods, his lies and his “smoke and mirrors” attempts to divert attention from his complete and total inanity and inability to even act like a human being, let alone the leader of the free world. Call him out on his blatant racism and support for white nationalists, the Nazi Party and the KKK, which he continues with his dog-whistle actions regarding the NFL and his treatment of the Puerto Rican people (compared to Texas and Florida). CALL HIM OUT…the painfully vain, thin-skinned narcissistic bastard wouldn’t be able to handle it.

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It is time to start to watch this scumbag, his words, and his actions. The carnival sideshow is over and it is time to hold this person responsible rather than allow him to shift the blame elsewhere (another dubious trait he has). It is time to make sure the “adults in the room” – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a “dead man walking”…he’ll be out in a month) – ride this petulant child and make damn sure he doesn’t make a misstep that would inflict further damage on this country or the world. And it is time to make this SCROTUS act like he either wants to be the leader of the country or pitch him aside, starting with the 2018 midterms.

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Super Bowl 50, Part Two: So Who Wins the Big Game? Depends On What the Bet Is…

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After two weeks of hype, waiting, practice and some drama – people tried to turn Panthers QB Cam Newton’s “black quarterback” comments into a controversy, without much success, and the Broncos practice team player S Ryan Murphy was sent back to Denver (and will probably be cut from the team at first opportunity) after being questioned in a prostitution sting – we’ve actually come to the point where the teams will actually play the game. The Carolina Panthers, the champions of the NFC, will square off against the Denver Broncos, the victors of the AFC, to determine who will receive the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the 50th time in the National Football League’s history. The two teams that have made it this far have definitely shown they are worthy contenders for the crown.

For the Carolina Panthers, if you would have told them in Training Camp they would be playing in the Super Bowl, they would have thanked you. Coming off a 7-8-1 season – although the champions of the NFC South – the Panthers weren’t exactly scaring anyone. The team had let RB DeAngelo Williams go to the Pittsburgh Steelers, preferring to stick with Jonathan Stewart as the full-time running back, and during Training Camp lost their electrifying WR Kelvin Benjamin to a devastating knee injury. While Newton was a known commodity, it was expected that the Panthers would have some difficulties doing much of anything with a revamped offensive line, a no-name wide receiving corps and a suspect defensive unit.

For the Denver Broncos, it almost seemed as if this was their final shot. After being crushed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos came back and won the AFC West again with a 12-4 record. After taking their first round bye, however, they were upset in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year by QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. This led to the firing of John Fox, the hiring of new head coach Gary Kubiak and the “now or never” approach as QB Peyton Manning entered his third year at the helm of the Broncos and they came into this season with questions lingering about his health.

As they always say, that’s why they play the game. Carolina rocketed off on a 14-game winning streak, only losing to the Atlanta Falcons on the road late in the season, before righting the ship and beating their last three opponents (last regular season game against lowly Tampa Bay and two postseason games against Seattle and Arizona) by a combined 118-49 score. Denver, despite losing Manning for more than a quarter of the year, rode the #1 defense in the NFL to a punishing victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.

In taking a look at Super Bowl 50, we’re going to break down the offense, the defense, the special teams and the coaching. Then we’ll reveal our all-important pick…but be assured, there’s many ways to win on Super Bowl Sunday.

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks – When it comes to the men running the teams, it is difficult to say who has the edge. Athleticism definitely would go to Newton, but experience would by far go to Manning. Both fit perfectly into their own systems, have faced adversity during the season and pulled their team through the problems. If you’re really going to get nit-picky, Manning’s been to this dance four times now (he’s 1-2 in his previous trips), while Newton is making his first appearance. By the slimmest of margins, Manning will take the edge in this category. EDGE:  BRONCOS

Running Backs – This category is a no-brainer. When Manning is on the field, the running game is somewhat of a second thought, used more as a change-up from the passing game than the “run the ball to set up the pass” style of the Panthers. The Panthers will pound a defense mercilessly, even when it doesn’t look like it is doing anything. The Panthers philosophy is that, eventually, the running game will weaken a defense after enough time that Stewart will break out on a run. Stewart, who finished the season 11 yards short of 1000 yards (and missed the final two regular season games) has been outstanding during the playoffs; expect him to at the minimum keep the Broncos defense honest by adding the potential for a running attack alongside Newton’s running and passing abilities. EDGE:  PANTHERS

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – This one is going to be a push. Manning has WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as his options but, even though he had a decent season, Thomas led the team in dropped passes, letting a ball hit the turf on roughly 5% of his targets. Newton’s favorite target, TE Greg Olsen, can be shut down if a team is willing to risk putting a defensive back on him. The Broncos may try this, but they have to be concerned that WR Ted Ginn, Jr. (who led the Panthers with 10 TD receptions) or Devin Funchess (5 TD receptions) doesn’t burn them somehow. As I said, this is…EDGE:  PUSH

Offensive Line – The Denver offensive line has been held together with baling wire and bubble gum for much of the year. The exact opposite holds true for Carolina, which has been able to have a relatively steady lineup through the entire year. This is going to benefit the Panthers greatly as the Broncos, with the #1 defense in the NFL, are a tenacious and aggressive unit who will look to pressure Newton into mistakes. Whichever side controls the game will probably dictate which way the Super Bowl goes but, for the purposes that we have spelled out here, I’ve got to give…EDGE:  PANTHERS

DEFENSE

Defensive Line/Linebackers – Both teams have front sevens that are the best in the game today. The Broncos are technically ranked as the #1 defense in the NFL, but the Panthers gave up fewer points per game than their counterparts from the Rocky Mountains. Both teams are led by a tandem of outstanding linebackers – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware for the Broncos, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis (who is expected to see a great deal of action despite having a broken arm sustained in the NFC Championship Game) for the Panthers – but it is the Broncos who have the better pass rush, sacking the opposing quarterback 59 times during the season versus the Panthers’ 44.

Defensive Backs – Counteracting the front seven is the fact that the Panthers led the league in takeaways (+20) versus the Broncos (-4). The Panthers intercepted the ball 24 times during the season versus the Broncos’ 14, with Panthers DB Josh Norman having a breakout rookie season in returning two of his four picks for touchdowns and, with teams trying to avoid him, Kurt Coleman ending the year among the league leaders in interceptions with seven. The best Bronco in that category was DB Aqib Talib, who could only pull in three on the season (although he did return two for touchdowns).

The effectiveness of Davis could very well be the linchpin of which defense will have the better success. Without Davis, the Broncos will be able to focus more on occupying Kuechly and be able to have their offense dictate more of the game. If Davis is able to play effectively, it could be a long day for Manning. Both teams, at their current strength this moment, have to be rated…EDGE:  PUSH

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is a category that the Panthers have firm control over. Ginn is the teams punt returner and he is a threat to break a game wide open at any moment with the ball in his hands. Their kick returning duties have been in the hands of Fozzy Whittaker, who averages nearly 24 yards per return. The Broncos counter with Sanders, who has more fair catches than returns this season on punts, and Omar Bolden, who has only 15 kickoff returns this season.

The kicking games rate about even, although the distance is going to be tough to judge. Denver’s kickers, P Britton Colquitt and K Brandon McManus, have the advantage of kicking in the rarefied air of the Rocky Mountains, thus their distance statistics might not be applicable kicking at sea level in California. Carolina P Brad Nortman and K Graham Gano did outstanding jobs in 2015, with Gano especially sound at distance through the season.

The pick in this aspect of the contest will have to go to the boys from the NFC. With both Ginn and Whittaker, they possess the threats that can break the game open…the Broncos, not so much. EDGE:  PANTHERS

COACHING

There is no way to choose one coaching squad over the other in this contest. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has been to the Super Bowl as a player (he backed up John Elway in Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV, all losses) and as an assistant coach (with the winning San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX and with the winning Broncos in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII), but this is his first trip as the man in charge. The same can be said for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who was a part of arguably one of the greatest Super Bowl teams in history (the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears) as a player, but this is his first trip as a head coach. Thus, this is definitely EDGE:  PUSH

SUPER BOWL 50

As was stated at the start, it depends what you’re betting on as to which way to take the winner in this situation.

For some people, they want to just bet the straight game itself. I pick one team, you take the other and may the best team win. If that is the case, then I would have to say that you would have to pick the Panthers in this game. Both defenses are going to cause fits for Newton and Manning but, by the second quarter, I can see both of them beginning to figure out some things that will work. Manning might be able to get some of the passing game operational – if his patchwork line can keep the Panther D off of him long enough – and, for Newton, the Panthers might be able to start running the ball effectively enough to be able to start the freewheeling Panther passing game (it also would open up the pass/run option for Newton…look for the Broncos to play Newton for the run until he beats them with his arm a couple of times). Newton has more weapons at his disposal and a better defense, hence I believe the Panthers will take the game.

For the more traditional bettor out there, here’s how you’ve seen me put it all year:

(home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Carolina Panthers vs. DENVER BRONCOS (+5); OVER 44

Once Manning and Newton get things figured out, then the game will get exciting. The line originally opened up at Panthers -4 and, if it had stayed at that point, I would have taken the Panthers because I see a final of 28-24 with the Panthers winning (that would be a push, if you’re keeping score at home). That extra point going against the Panthers switches my pick to the Broncos, who I believe will cover the spread and, between the two teams, they will go OVER the 44 projected points; hell, it could be something along the lines of 38-34, even, if the offenses erupt early.

This isn’t a contradiction; this is simply a demonstration on how it depends on what your betting as to what your pick might be!

Conference Championships:  2-2
Overall Season:  55-37-5

All in all, it has been a good season. Once we add these three picks in (the straight game pick of the Panthers, the spread pick of the Broncos and the O/U), I will have an even 100 picks for the 2015-16 NFL season. I would have preferred a better record than 55% – and may earn it with the final three picks of the year – but it goes to show how difficult it is to bet any sporting contest. After Super Bowl Sunday, we will have to go into a slumber until next September, when the pigskin will come out for real once again and the prognostications will arise from their slumber…maybe for better but potentially for worse!

NFL Week 17 Predictions: Final Playoff Spots Yet to Be Determined

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After four long months of football, the National Football League has not yet determined the 12 teams that will vie for the right to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 50 a little more than a month from now. In one conference, the six teams have been determined but not their actual positions. In the other, there are still a couple of spots up for grabs, with one team guaranteed not to be too pleased when the season ends on Sunday night.

In the NFC, the six teams are set. Winning the NFC East is the Washington Redskins, while the Carolina Panthers (NFC South) and Arizona Cardinals (NFC West) will vie for home field advantage through the playoffs (they already have seized the first round byes). If Carolina wins, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Charlotte; if Carolina loses and Arizona wins, then the Cards will bring teams to the desert with home field advantage. Where it gets interesting is in the NFC North.

The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings will meet on Sunday night on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Wisconsin with the NFC North title on the line for the winner. That victor has the dubious task of hosting the Seattle Seahawks, the #6 seed in the NFC, while the loser would have to hit the road as the #5 seed to take on #4 Washington in the Wild Card Round (there are some permutations that see Seattle moving up, but let’s stick with this for right now). It is that classic question…do you tank a bit to get the easier game against a perceived weaker opponent in Washington or do you go all out to win the division, with the reward the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks?

The picture in the AFC isn’t quite as clear as the NFC has become. The only thing that is set in stone is that the New England Patriots (AFC East champion) and the Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North champion) have solidified spots in the playoffs. The Denver Broncos, who currently lead the Kansas City Chiefs by a game in the AFC West, have to win on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers to lock up the division and a first round bye (the Patriots would take the other). If they lose, there is a chance that they will fall all the way to the #5 or #6 seed in the AFC.

The other division titlist is still up for grabs, too. Right now the Houston Texans have a one game edge over the Indianapolis Colts, but a loss by the Texans to the Jacksonville Jaguars opens the door slightly for the Colts to take the AFC South (if they are able to beat the Tennessee Titans). There are also two teams contending for one Wild Card, with the situation taken care of if the New York Jets simply defeat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (the Pittsburgh Steelers, the other team vying for the Wild Card, needs the Jets to lose and to beat the Cleveland Browns if they are to be the final Wild Card team).

There are plenty of lines waiting to be written about the 2015-2016 NFL season, even on Week 17. As it is the final week of the season, putting a few bets out there (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing) is a bit more difficult, but it does give you a bit more excitement while watching the games.

(Home teams in CAPS, pick in bold)

New York Jets (-3) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 41

With a win in this game, the Jets can clinch the #5 seed in the AFC. If you had said that to the Jets hierarchy prior to the start of the season that the final game of the year they would be playing to get in the playoffs, they would have been jumping for joy. Alas, a loss by the Jets to their former Head Coach Rex Ryan (and a win by the Steelers) would bump them from the playoffs.

There’s just too many injuries on the Bills side of the ball for that to happen, however. RB LeSean McCoy is out for the game, further reducing the tools that QB Tyrod Taylor has to go to on offense. The weather isn’t going to help either team (snow is predicted with the winds around 16 MPH), so we’re also taking the UNDER on this game.

Seattle Seahawks vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-6.5); OVER 47

As one of the most prolific offenses in the NFC, the Cardinals still have a chance to take down the NFC home field advantage with a win here and a loss by the Panthers. Both teams will be playing at the same time, so there will be some “scoreboard watching” done, but the Cards have the most to play for out of the two teams.

Seattle is scraping into the playoffs this year, with injuries to TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch and others (Graham and Lynch are out Sunday), but QB Russell Wilson has stepped up and is playing his best football of the season. It won’t be enough here as Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has an array of weapons at his disposal (and will use them frequently) and one of the toughest defenses in the game. The Seahawks, who aren’t going to move out of the Wild Card win or lose, might just let this one go to rest up for next week’s first playoff game.

Minnesota Vikings vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3); UNDER 44

To be honest, neither team really impresses me, even this late in the season. Sure, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has come back with a Renaissance season, but QB Teddy Bridgewater has been rather inconsistent behind him. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has had to deal with a rash of injuries on his offense, which brought about an inconsistent running game and a midseason swoon that nearly jeopardized their trek to the playoffs.

On what is going to be a cold night in Green Bay (temperature expected to be 23 degrees at game time tonight), the defenses are going to be what dictate the game. I personally like the Packer defense at home, even though the statistics say that the Vikings are the better defense (ranked 14th in the league against the Pack’s 19th). It could be another fluke game that’s decided by a “Hail Mary” …like the Packers have already used earlier this year.

Last Week:  3-2-1
Overall:  42-29-5

A case where just a couple of points prevented a good weekend from being a great one. The Jets and Pats eked the OVER at 26-20 (we took the UNDER at 45.5) and got a push out of the Broncos/Bengals game while missing the O/U there (picked OVER 39.5, actual 37). Hope the last week of the season is kind as we get ready to enter into the postseason.

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Why I Don’t Even Look At Thursday Night Football for Betting

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Throughout this National Football League season, I’ve offered picks for the Sunday clashes between teams and, on some occasions, have even went into the Monday night game to make a pick. The one thing that you haven’t seen me do, however, is offer any picks for the Thursday night games. There are a couple of reasons for this (beyond the fact that, you know, betting on sports is illegal in most jurisdictions).

I personally have never liked the Thursday night games. The Thursday night game is a direct derivative from the Thanksgiving Day games that were traditionally the stronghold of the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. In 1934, the Lions originally did the Thanksgiving game as a marketing trick to draw attention away from the Detroit Tigers (back in those days, baseball was almost as omnipotent as the NFL is today) and get fans excited about the Lions. In 1966, the NFL wanted a second team to have a game on Turkey Day and the Cowboys jumped at the opportunity.

Now usually those two games were just fine but, in 2006, the NFL decided that they needed a third game on Thanksgiving Day to promote their fledgling NFL Network. Initially it was only an eight game schedule that started on Thanksgiving but, in 2012, Thursday Night Football became a staple of the NFL season in running every week but the final one of the season. With this move, however, has come some disagreement.

Many people, including players in the game and some fans, have said the games on Thursday aren’t as good as those games at their regular times because the players have a shortened rest and preparation schedule (three days) to get ready for the games. Research into this has supposedly shown that the level of play in the game is at least that of an average NFL game, but it hasn’t been able to quiet the critics. In another area, there is additional argument that isn’t going away anytime soon.

In 2014, Houston Texans RB Arian Foster accused the NFL of being hypocritical in their drive for “player safety” by having the players make the quick turnaround to play on Thursdays. This season, Seattle Seahawks DB Richard Sherman has made the same comments, but the NFL cites a study that says fewer injuries happen in the Thursday night games than in the Sunday/Monday games. It is a bone of contention between the players’ association and the NFL and it doesn’t look like it is going to be solved anytime soon.

The reasons I don’t even look at the Thursday night games are because of the above mentioned reasons. If it takes the normal NFL team an entire week to prepare a game plan and recover from the previous week’s battle, why would the product or the players be in better shape if you gave them half that time? I usually am someone who will look at a report and take it under consideration. I also remember that the NFL once said that concussions weren’t a problem in the game and see where that is now?

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Washington Redskins vs CHICAGO BEARS (-3); UNDER 43.5

If you’ve been in a cave of late, the Washington Redskins are still in first place in the putrid NFC East with their 5-7 record. They could have “seized control” of the division with a win against Dallas last Monday night but weren’t able to close the deal at home. What makes you think that they are going to be able to beat a Bears team that, after being hit with an array of injuries, is still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot and getting healthy?

I’ve never had a problem with Bears QB Jay Cutler, especially at home in Soldier Field, and he should have a field day against a so-so defense from the ’Skins. Yes, Cutler’s mates in RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffrey and TE Martellus Bennett will have to be on the top of their games also, but the Redskins have yet to win a game on the road this season; they aren’t going to start winning them now.

San Diego Chargers (+11) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS; UNDER 44.5

I know it has been a tough season for the Chargers, but they haven’t quite reached the point where a Chiefs team with similar injury issues is a double digit favorite over them. This game seems to be more about what was done on November 22, when the Chiefs went into sunny Southern California and completely undressed the Chargers 33-3. While I don’t see the Chargers winning this game outright, they are going to keep it closer than that game in November.

I still have a great deal of trust in ‘Bolts QB Philip Rivers and he still has TE Antonio Gates and RB Danny Woodhead pushing the offense for the team. They will have to protect better against an aggressive Chiefs defense, which was the undoing of the Chargers in the previous meeting. This isn’t going to be an exciting game – something about it just screams 17-13 or around there – so if you have a different viewing option, be sure to take it.

Indianapolis Colts (+2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS; UNDER 46.5

The Colts can do a great deal for themselves in their pursuit of the AFC South championship if they can put away the pesky Jaguars. QB Tim Hasselbeck has done quite well in replacing an injured Andrew Luck, keeping the ship upright until meeting the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. A win by the Colts here would put the Jags three games back with three to go (leaving the Colts to get Luck back in time to keep the Texans at bay).

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has been turning heads in the factor that nobody thought he was still in the league anymore. Surprisingly, the Jags’ passing game is better than the Colts’ (a situation that wouldn’t be if Luck were under center), but the 40-year old Hasselbeck has too much “age and treachery” in his war chest to lose this game. Back on October 4, the team’s played in Indy with the Colts taking a 16-13 victory; expect a repeat of that game today in Jacksonville.

Last week:  4-2
Overall:  36-26-3

After the disaster that was Week 11, it was nice to book a winning weekend. While the Raiders didn’t cut the mustard against the Chiefs, the two teams were well over the O/U. That inexplicable loss by the New York Giants in overtime against the New York Jets hurt, but we got the under on that. Monday night was a jewel as we nailed the game (Cowboys were +3.5 and won outright) and the O/U (a paltry 35 points). Perhaps we can duplicate that effort today and improve on the record even more.

NFL Week 13 Predictions: IF The Playoffs Started Today…

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We’re reaching crunch time of the National Football League season. Technically no one has been eliminated from the playoff race as of yet – even the Tennessee Titans at 2-9 still have a mathematical shot at a Wild Card spot, one that could come through if everyone else passed out in front of them and couldn’t complete the season – but the top of the standings are beginning to get a bit clearer. If the playoffs started today, it is clear that the paths to the conference championships will go through Foxboro and Charlotte.

American Football Conference

Even though they were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten in a stunning game against Denver last week, the New England Patriots have a comfortable schedule coming up. A home game against Philadelphia, a road trek against an improving Houston Texans squad, a home game against Tennessee and a roadie with the New York Jets will take them through the remainder of the month, with one win guaranteeing them the AFC East title. If they are able to sweep those four games (which will be tough with the team roster looking like a MASH unit), they should lock up home field for the playoffs.

After the Pats, the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals are fighting it out for the two slot. The key game here will be on December 28 when the two teams meet in the Rocky Mountains. Both teams have similar schedules down the stretch, so the winner of this game is probably going to be your second seed and the loser the third seed. The final division winner will come down between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston, who play on December 20; your winner in that game wins the division.

As far as the Wild Cards I’d love to take the Jets, but they have a brutal stretch of games (New York Giants, Tennessee, at Dallas and New England over the next four weeks) so I have to count them out. Likewise for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have back to back games at Cincy and at home against Denver. I see the Kansas City Chiefs and the loser of the Indianapolis/Houston game on December 20 getting the Wild Card bids.

National Football Conference

Basically running away and hiding from the division, the Carolina Panthers are the lone undefeated team left in the NFL, one year removed from winning the NFC South with a losing record (7-8-1). They have a two game edge over the Arizona Cardinals for the top slot in the NFC, but there is some concern that the Panthers may not drive to the end of the season. With their next win, the Panthers will win the division crown to lock up their playoff slot (which could occur today) and some rest might be in order.

The Cardinals have their own concerns for the second slot on the ladder. The Minnesota Vikings are lurking one game back at 8-3 and will probably decide the second slot when they play this Thursday night in the Desert. Whoever comes out the winner in that game will take the second seed in the conference. The final slot will come out of the NFC East, which is a cesspool. Right now, the Washington Redskins (yes, that team) has somehow worked its way into the lead. Although they are tied with the Giants right now and only a game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles, the ‘Skins have the easiest trek the remainder of the way; let’s give the East to Washington because whomever it is coming out with that title will lose to the Wild Card team they play.

One of the Wild Card slots is firmly determined. The Green Bay Packers might be a sneaky and dangerous team if they can get in through the Wild Card (and, at 8-4, still have a shot at the division crown). Whoever doesn’t win the NFC North will be one of the Wild Cards. The second slot will come down between two dangerous teams, the Atlanta Falcons and the defending two-time NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Of those two teams, Seattle has the easiest schedule (the Falcons still have the Panthers twice on their board), so put in the dangerous ‘Hawks as the sixth seed.

We’ve still got a month of the season remaining, so this situation will be in flux. Right now, let’s take a look at this week’s games and some of the options you might have on the board (you know, if you’re in an area where you can legally bet the games!).

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+3); OVER 45

These two teams will play each other twice over the next five weeks and it could determine the playoff fortunes for one of the squads. The Raiders are building a young, strong offense behind QB Derek Carr, RB Latavius Murray and WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The Chiefs may have a way to shut down the Silver and Black, however, with the 10th ranked defense in the NFL.

You have to be able to score, however. Chiefs QB Alex Smith has watched as his weapons have dropped away during the season, first RB Jamaal Charles and then RB Charcandrick West. Add in the factor that TE Travis Kelce is nursing some injuries and I don’t see how the Chiefs can mount any offensive attack against the Raiders, who definitely aren’t being shown any respect with their home game.

New York Jets vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5); UNDER 46.5

Both teams in this game need the win to keep the embers of a chance at the playoffs alive. The Giants also still have the potential of winning the NFC East in their sights and winning this game would keep them in that mix. The odd thing about this game is that it started out as a “pick ‘em” and has swung those 2.5 points in just a few days; I don’t see why that has come about.

To be fair, QB Eli Manning has been doing it with smoke and mirrors for the last couple of years in reality, but it is something that he’s become used to. The Giant defense has been stout but will face some challenges from the Jets passing game and especially WR Brandon Marshall. It will definitely be a slugfest and, with the Giant fans holding the “home team” edge for this game, I see them willing the Gotham City Giants to a slim win over their housemates in the Meadowlands.

Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS; UNDER 41.5

Sure, I know that QB Tony Romo was absolutely crushed by the Panthers defense on Thanksgiving Day and is done for the year. I also know that the ‘Pokes will have had 11 days to prepare QB Matt Cassel for this game, which might be the closest the Cowboys will get to anything with a playoff feel in 2015. Add in the fact that the ‘Skins now have the burden of playing as the favorite – instead of the underdog role that they relish – and I see Dallas pulling off a major upset here, just to make the NFC East a bit more convoluted.

Week 11:  1-4-1
Overall:  32-24-3

Not going to lie to you, after the performance in Week 11, it was best that I took a week off on Week 12. When your analysis of the action isn’t exactly working, it is best to step away from the fray for a spell until you’ve righted the chakras. This week, the chakras seem to be aligned and things should get back on track.

NFL Week 10 Predictions: Always Beware the Half-Point

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For those that watch the National Football League closely, one of the things that is often looked at, after the injury report, is the lines on the games (you know, if you can legally do that type of thing where you’re at). The information, for the most part, is pretty straightforward, but there is those times when the sharps hedge their bets and put a mysterious “.5” on the end of their point spreads. Whereas a rookie bettor may not keep an eye on this, an experienced player always is wary of that half-point.

You will usually see that half-point come up in the OVER/UNDER numbers, but it is something that can occasionally have an impact on the spread. For example, one of this weekend’s big games is the New England Patriots heading to the Big Apple to take on the New York Giants. At this time, the Pats are a 7.5 point favorite over the G-Men and that half-point makes a huge difference because a touchdown victory in the game still means that, as a bettor, you’ll lose your bet. In many NFL games, a touchdown in difference is not uncommon, similar to that of a three-or-four point difference in score. When you see a 3.5 or 4.5 point spread in that it (like the 7.5 point spread), that means the sharps are hedging a bit on what could be one of the common outcomes of a football score.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Miami Dolphins (+6) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES; OVER 50

It has been a close race to see which division in the NFL will replicate what the NFC South did in its 2014 of futility. If you’ll recall, last year the Carolina Panthers finished the season at 7-8-1 (a losing record) but were the South champions and, as such, hosted a playoff game. There are two divisions this year that are looking to repeat that dubious distinction.

One of them is the Eagles who, at 4-4, are in the thick of the division title chase in the NFC East (they wouldn’t even be in second in any other division except the pitiful AFC South, where they would actually lead the Indianapolis Colts (4-4)). Only a half-game behind the Giants and a game up on the Washington Redskins, the Eagles know pretty much their only shot at the playoffs will be winning the East. While some might not think these inter-conference games mean anything, they do go on the record and a loss by the Eagles here would be potentially disastrous to their dreams.

The Dolphins have been showing signs of life under new Head Coach Dan Campbell, going 2-2 since canning Joe Philbin back in October. Averaging 25.5 points per game since the coaching change, QB Ryan Tannehill has been showing some of the skills that were seen when he was drafted and RB Lamar Miller has been thundering out of the backfield. The Dolphins may not win this game, but they will keep it close in a shootout with the Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+1); OVER 43.5

This is honestly one of the tougher games to pick on the Week 10 schedule. The Cowboys, in the midst of a six game losing streak, are looking for a victim to right their ship. Unfortunately, their ship is sailing at the Buccaneers, who have been impressive and maddening and sometimes in the same game. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stated that, once QB Tony Romo is ready to return to action, then Head Coach Jason Garrett will put him back on the field with no concern whether the ‘Pokes can make the playoffs or not. That seems to be about par for explaining the inanity of the Cowboys’ season.

No matter who has been under center since Romo’s injury, the ‘Boys have had difficulties. First with Brandon Weeden and then Matt Cassel, the Cowboys offense has sputtered, averaging only18.8 points per game. The Bucs have shown the ability to surprise, defeating the Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago, as rookie QB Jameis Winston becomes more accustom to the NFL game.

I find it a bit surprising that the Cowboys are favored in this game. While there have been some close calls over their six game skid, the ‘Boys don’t seem to be completely behind Cassel, seemingly biding their time until Romo makes his return. When the spread is this close, I normally lean towards the home team. Watch out for that half-point on the OVER/UNDER, as we discussed above; a 23-20 game will be exciting, but it will also be a loser if you pick the OVER (we believe this will be a shootout).

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (-4.5); UNDER 47.5

This is a great bet, but it won’t be a great game to watch. Both teams are going to slog it out, especially the Ravens after the season-ending injury to WR Steve Smith. Ravens QB Joe Flacco and RB Justin Forsett both have been carrying the load for the team and, coming off a big win over the San Diego Chargers last weekend, are looking to get a win streak going with their second home game in a row (and the midpoint of a three-game home stand).

Jacksonville may be turning a corner, but the finish of that turn isn’t going to be this weekend. At 2-6, they still have a shot at AFC South division title (the Colts, 4-5, lead). They barely average 20 points per game, however, and have a veritable “who’s that?” making up the offense with QB Blake Bortles (believe it or not, Bortles is second on the team in rushing (178 yards) behind RB T. J. Yelden (470 yards on the season)).

Note the half-point on both the spread and the O/U…the sharps don’t even have a solid feel for what will occur. Normally this is a game that you’d want to stay away from, but I see some good value in it with a good Ravens team, comfortable at home, handling their business against a not-so-good road team in the Jags.

Last Week:  3-3 Overall:  28-17-2

For the third consecutive week, a .500 record. To be able to make ANYTHING out of sports betting, you have to at least win two of three bets (.667). If you’re winning at a 70% clip, that is outstanding. If you’re winning at a 50% rate, you are actually losing; the juice will eventually eat a bankroll without some winning weekends. Although the overall is ahead of that 50% rate (59.6%, to be exact), that isn’t hitting the optimum two-thirds level a sports bettor would like. Looking to get back to that level and a good Week 10 would help in that effort.

NFL Week 9 Predictions: Teams Already Blowing Up To Rebuild For Next Season

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Although technically there are no teams eliminated from playoff contention yet, there are a couple National Football League franchises that have begun to blow everything up in looking towards next season. This may sound weird only nine weeks into the season but, by using the last half of the 2015 season as a way to look over their current personnel, many teams will have a head start on knowing what they need to look for come the 2016 NFL Draft or free agency. Sure, these teams may miss not being around for the playoffs, but they’ll be able to rebuild quicker and be more competitive in the future through blowing apart any semblance of a team that will contend this season (at least that’s the theory).

The latest team to go about waving the white flag for 2015 is the San Francisco 49ers. Mired at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC West, the ‘Niners traded away arguably one of their best assets, TE Vernon Davis, to the Denver Broncos this week for basically a bag of Ramen noodles. After trading Davis, Head Coach Jim Tomsula, despite feverishly backing him all season, benched starting QB Colin Kaepernick in favor of QB Blaine Gabbert, who last started a game in 2013 with the powerful perennial contenders the Jacksonville Jaguars. After the defections from their defense during the offseason, the players on the offense who left (Frank Gore, wherefore art thou?) and these moves by the front office, the surrender banner is up in the City by the Bay.

That banner is also flying on the shores of Lake Huron. The Detroit Lions (1-7, last in the NFC North) fired several offensive coaches prior to their trip to London to play the Kansas City Chiefs and, upon their return, cleared the front office last week by getting rid of General Manager Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand. Following the bloodletting, Owner Martha Firestone Ford ironically said the team wasn’t “giving up” the season, a statement that ranks up there in truthfulness right alongside “I have complete confidence in my Head Coach.” The only thing they’ve got left to cut is players and more coaches, with Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s seat perhaps the hottest of them all.

The reason we bring these situations up? If you’re betting on the games (you know, if you live in an area where that kind of thing is legal), you always like to know when teams are just trying to get through the year, pick up that paycheck each week and look to either getting ready for next season or getting away from the team they are on. There’s are several other teams that might fall into this list in the next couple of weeks (Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers…we’re looking at you, guys), but always try to keep a pulse on what the mental state of a team is like when looking over the lines.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Green Bay Packers vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (+2.5); OVER 46.5

It was amazing to watch that game last week between the Packers and the Broncos and watch as the Broncos defense completely stifled Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Here was a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player being completely stuffed by the Broncos, throwing for only 77 yards FOR THE ENTIRE GAME. While the Panthers don’t have (we think) the same defense as the Broncos, they are going to be scouring that Bronco/Packer game film to find some tricks to use against the Pack again.

I really don’t see how the Packers, on the road for the second week in a row and coming off a devastating loss, are favored heading into this game. Sure, the Panthers allowed a sputtering Indianapolis Colts squad back into their contest on Monday night before eking out a win to go 7-0, but the ‘Cats ruled the game for the most part on both sides of the ball. With QB Cam Newton getting more comfortable with his receiving corps, TE Greg Olsen doing a Southern impersonation of Rob Gronkowski and RB Jonathan Stewart continually and consistently pounding the ball on the ground, this should be a game that the Panthers win outright.

Oakland Raiders vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4.5); UNDER 48.5

The Raiders have been gaining respectability over the past few weeks and, if you can believe it, are currently battling with the New York Jets and the Steelers for the two playoff spots in the AFC (if the playoffs started today). This would be a good time for them to pull out a victory, on the road at Heinz Field against the men from Steel City, and improve their chances for making the playoff for the first time since 2002.

Something is going to have to give in this game. Will Raiders QB Derek Carr and rookie WR Amari Cooper be able to run roughshod over a Steeler D that resembles more of an “Aluminum Foil” Curtain than Steel, or will a rested QB Ben Roethlisberger (back from his injury and working off the rust last week) and WR Antonio Brown bring the firepower back to the Steeler passing game while RB DeAngelo Williams picks up the slack after the season-ending injury to Le’veon Bell? My pick goes to the Steelers, who battled the AFC Central leading Cincinnati Bengals all the way to the end in a 16-10 loss and showed they might not be a team you want to sleep on for the remainder of the season.

Tennessee Titans vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-7.5); OVER 48

What the hell happened to Saints QB Drew Brees last week? His historic performance (505 yards, 7 TDs) against the New York Giants (in the third highest scoring output in regular-season NFL history, 52-49) might signify that the Bayou Boys may have started to wake up from their early season slumbers. That has probably come at a good time as Carolina (undefeated) and the Atlanta Falcons (6-2, two games ahead but lost the first meeting with the Saints) were threatening to run off with the NFC South.

The Titans aren’t exactly going to throw any fear into the face of Brees or the Saints. Although their defense is holding teams to 22.7 points per game (expect the Saints to have that in the first half on Sunday), Titans QB Marcus Mariota has cooled off after his quick start and the offense is only mustering up slightly more than 18 points a game. Firing former Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt during the week also isn’t going to make for a well-rehearsed game plan, so expect the Saints to administer another drubbing.

Last Week:  3-3
Overall:  25-14-2

Another grotesque weekend in breaking even. Despite being Nostradamus on the Seattle/Dallas game (nailing Dallas plus points and the under), I crapped the bed the rest of the way. Only the low scoring 49ers/Rams game eked me out a .500 weekend as everything else went wrong. The record looks good for the overall year, the past couple of weeks needed some work; we’re going to get that started this week.