2015 NFL Postseason Picks, Divisional Round: What Does That Bye Week Do?

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The first round of the National Football League postseason is in the books and the games had a bit of everything for the fans. Fluke missed field goal to snatch victory away from your favorite team? We see you over there shaking your heads, Vikings fans. Inexplicable mental meltdowns letting your arch-rival get into position for a chip shot field goal? Put your hands up, Bengals fans. The other games…not really worth mentioning as they were beat downs. But it is a new week and it is time to ask that question…just what was that bye week that the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals fought the entire season for worth?

Since 1990, when the NFL went to the 12-team format for the playoffs, the teams that took the #1 seed in the NFC or the AFC went on to win the Super Bowl on 11 occasions, with last year’s Patriots team the last to pull off the trick (and the Seattle Seahawks the year before the last NFC team to do it). The news isn’t quite so good when it comes to the #2 seeds, however; on six occasions, the #2 seed from the NFC or the AFC has been able to reach football’s ultimate prize. If you do the math, that means that the odds are pretty good that we should see a #1 or #2 seed win the Super Bowl.

So which ones will get there this year? And which ones won’t? That’s not the object when it comes to betting on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing). The object is to put the best bet down that you can and, with the way some of these games are looking this week, there should be a decent shot at making some money.

(home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-5); UNDER 43

The Patriots needed the week off more than they might have led the nation to believe, with WR Julian Edelman banged up but healthier now and another week of recuperation for WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski, who is still nursing a bum knee. It also gave QB Tom Brady a bit more time to shake off some nagging injuries that had plagued him. But just when things were going well for the Pats, the midweek incident regarding DE Chandler Jones and his hospitalization – for what? That’s the $64,000 question (it is rumored to have been synthetic marijuana that caused a bad reaction, not an overdose) – seems to have caused some consternation for Dark Hoodie (head coach Bill Belichick) and the rest of the Empire.

The Chiefs are just glad to have reached this point, especially with their #1 WR Jeremy Maclin expected to have little to no impact on the game due to leg injuries suffered in the win over the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. QB Alex Smith has carried the team, without star running back Jamaal Charles and now Maclin, about as far as he can; it would take a Herculean effort from both sides of the Chiefs – offense and defense – for a miracle to be pulled out at Gillette Stadium.

Expect this game to be one where the weather has a tremendous effect on how the play is conducted. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 30s with light rain all through the afternoon, making moving the ball through the air difficult. Coming into the Patriots’ lair and beating them is difficult under the best of conditions, thus I am going to take the Pats but also the UNDER in the game.

Green Bay Packers (+7) vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS; OVER 49.5

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has already stated that this will not be a repeat of the two teams’ most recent game. In Week 16, Rodgers had arguably his worst week as a professional football player when he fumbled twice, had an interception and was sacked nine times as the Cardinals undressed the Packers 38-8 in front of a national television audience. The beating was so thorough that, the very next week, the Pack went out and lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings to lose the NFC North division title but still sew up a Wild Card berth.

That seems to have worked out well for Rodgers and the Packers, however. They seem to have righted the ship in thumping the NFC East Champion Washington Redskins 35-18 in the Wild Card round last weekend, while the Vikings are now sitting at home after their debacle against the Seahawks at home. The big question now is can Rodgers back up his words that this will not be a repeat of the game just three weeks ago.

The defense of the Packers will definitely have to find some answers against the #1 offense in the NFL. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has Big Red running on all cylinders at this point in the season, averaging 30 points a game and racking up 408 yards in total offense. It isn’t just about the offense with the Cards, however, the defense is second against the pass and eighth against the rush (just ask Rodgers about that pass rush, too). I think that Rodgers and the Packers will keep it closer this time, they just won’t be able to pull off the win in a game that will be a shootout.

Seattle Seahawks vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-1.5); UNDER 44

Something’s got to give here. These two teams look very similar on paper…they like to run the ball, have excellent quarterbacks who like to pass the ball but aren’t afraid to take off on the run and strong defenses who will punish the opposition. So who is going to be able to impose their will in this game?

The two teams met earlier this year and it was a barnburner. Seattle led for most of the contest but Panthers QB Cam Newton led his team to touchdowns on their final two possessions to take a 27-23 victory in the Pacific Northwest back in October to preserve what was then a still-unbeaten season. This time around, due to the Panthers’ #1 seed and the Seahawks’ unlikely victory over the Vikings last week, the game will be at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, where rain is expected with temperatures in the 30s.

After sitting out the game against the Vikings, Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch is expected to be back on the field for the Seahawks and they could use him, especially with TE Jimmy Graham out. The Panthers are at full strength for the fight and they will need everyone for the battle. This is one game that I wouldn’t be surprised to see go either way (in fact, if it isn’t down to a “pick ‘em” by game time on Sunday, I will be surprised) but, due to the defensive strength of each team, it will be UNDER 44 points for both teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+7.5) vs. DENVER BRONCOS; UNDER 40

Call this one “The Game That Might Have Been If It Weren’t for Injuries.” Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who has been sitting since it seems the middle of the season with his plantar fasciitis injury – and with QB Brock Osweiler doing a fine job in his absence – will be under center when the team takes the field at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, but the big question will be just how healed is the future Hall of Famer. The Steelers defense may not be the “Steel Curtain” of old, but they will pursue the veteran Manning and it might be something that has an effect on the game.

Oh, wait…this would be true if the Steelers offense didn’t resemble a M*A*S*H unit. After the brutal hit from Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict that knocked his head into the Ohio River, Steelers WR Antonio Brown will be out for Sunday’s tilt with a concussion, joining RBs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the sidelines and marking the first time in playoff history a team will be without its leading rushers and receiver for a playoff game. QB Ben Roethlisberger might have been able to overcome this problem but, due to another hit from Burfict, his throwing arm is being held on by baling wire and bubble gum; a simple breath from Broncos LB DeMarcus Ware might send Big Ben to the sidelines.

There is a huge chance this game will be played between Osweiler and Steelers backup QB Landry Jones, especially if the defenses get to the fragile Manning and Roethlisberger early. With this in mind, it is going to be a close game, the Steelers will cover the spread and might steal it, and the score will be UNDER the 40-point line (think 17-14 or something like that).

Last Week:  4-2
Overall:  48-35-5

Nailed the Seahawks/Vikings game to start off 2-0 and picked right with Green Bay in a pick ‘em game (don’t even ask about the O/U). When it came to the National Championship, I was one of those that was the beneficiary of that “back door” touchdown at the end by Clemson; instead of going 0-2 on that one, that late touchdown allowed me to cover the spread and split (missed the OVER/UNDER badly!). With four games this weekend, it will be a chance to really make some moves!

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2015 NFL Postseason Picks: During The “One and Done,” Always Look for Home Edge

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The 2015 National Football League playoffs began with a bang yesterday. Despite the fact that there was one snooze fest of a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans (and, if I had made a choice, would have gone for the favored Chiefs team), the nightcap between the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers was just what everyone loves about playoff football. A hard-hitting and aggressive contest between two teams that just didn’t like each other (and, for the sake of honesty, I have to say I’d have taken the home-dog Bengals there, with the Steelers without RB DeAngelo Williams), the final two minutes of the contest will go down in the annals of NFL history as to what NOT to do when it comes to playoff time. So how can Sunday’s action top what occurred on Saturday?

When it comes to these “one and done” playoff games – where one team wins and moves on and the other is “done” for the playoffs – you’ve always got to look at the home team and their edges for the game. Normally in the playoffs, the squad with the better record host these games to give them the perceived “home field advantage” and, as such, an extra two or three points when the line is set on the game (you know, if you can actually bet on something like that where you are). In the case of both of today’s home teams, that perceived advantage isn’t helping them much.

As an added bonus for those that have been following my prognostications for the season, we’ve come to the final game of the college football season. On Monday night, the College Football Playoff National Championship Game (couldn’t come up with something with a little more pizazz, NCAA?) will take place between the #1 Clemson Tigers and the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide. We’ll take a quick look at that (for entertainment pleasure, of course) as the college guys we’ll be watching next year on Sundays decide their ultimate champion.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Seattle Seahawks vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+4); UNDER 39.5

This sounded like it was going to be a great matchup when it was set under the playoff format, then Old Man Winter raised his ugly head. The Vikings no longer play in the Metrodome (they are playing at the University of Minnesota’s stadium until a new, publicly-funded domed stadium can be built in downtown Minneapolis for them), but they have acclimated themselves well to playing outdoors football in the North. The question will be can either team play in the conditions that are expected on Sunday.

The HIGH temperature on Sunday is expected to be -1 degree, with winds gusting up to 20 MPH making the wind chill dip even deeper on the dial (I’m no meteorologist, but those conditions produce around a -22-degree wind chill, if my calculations are correct). It doesn’t lend itself well for any type of passing game, which has developed into a strength for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, but sets up for a “ground and pound” game from both sides. The Vikings hold the edge there with the NFL’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, and the Seahawks cannot counter him as Marshawn Lynch is out for the game.

Taking the Vikings here may sound crazy – especially considering that the Seahawks thumped the Horned Norsemen 38-7 only a month ago – but these are now two totally different teams. Back then, it was the Vikings who were bitten by the injury bug; now it is the Seahawks. They may not win outright, but I see the Vikings keeping this closer than the spread. With the running games being prominently featured, don’t expect a massive amount of scoring, either.

Green Bay Packers (PICK ‘EM) vs. Washington Redskins; UNDER 46

After leading their division for much of the season, the loss in the final game of the year to the Vikings by the Packers has sent them on the road for essentially the entirety of their playoff run (the only way the Pack can have a home game is if Seattle makes it to the NFC Championship Game with the Packers). They did get a bit of a reprieve for that loss, however, as they get to face Washington on the road rather than face the Seahawks at home. If there’s a better choice in the playoffs, it hasn’t made itself apparent yet.

In contrast with the conditions the fans in Minnesota will be subjected to, the Washington area will be positively balmy at 55 degrees. This doesn’t serve well for the ‘Skins, who will have to watch as Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, whose offense has slowly gotten healthier around him, wields his magic. This isn’t to say that QB Kirk Cousins, who has done an admirable job leading a team that wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in another division, doesn’t have his weapons, he just doesn’t have as many as Rodgers does. Add into the fact that the Packers defense is looking to feast (ranked 15th, compared to the 28th ranked Redskins) and I’ve got to go with the Pack and the UNDER in the game (there’s a reason we are going under here; 9 of the top 10 rushing attacks are in these playoffs and rushing games make for lower scoring contests).

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. CLEMSON TIGERS (+7); UNDER 50.5

After playing since the halls of higher education opened up this fall, these two teams – Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide and Dabo Swinney’s Tigers – have emerged from a complicated computer program, a meeting between the supposed brightest minds in the collegiate football world and a four team playoff system to enter the field tomorrow with the chance to take home college football’s second-ever National Championship game. From the time that the two teams were determined – with Alabama rolling the Michigan State Spartans 38-0 and Clemson popping Oklahoma in the mouth 37-17 – Alabama has been the favorite of the books, with the line not budging an inch off that mark. Only the O/U has come down (three points) in the last week.

The way that the Tide decimated Sparty, that line isn’t out of line (no pun intended), but this is something that Swinney and the Tigers have thrived on all season. They have gotten little to no respect from anyone on their march towards the championship. First they were supposed to lose to such football powerhouses as Notre Dame and Florida State; they defeated them. Oklahoma was actually favored over the Tigers in the Orange Bowl, but the Tigers silenced the critics. The final step would be a defeat of Saban and his Tide and it isn’t out of the question. At the least, Clemson will cover the spread and the score will go UNDER.

Last Week:  2-4
Overall:  44-33-5

Not a great way to wrap up the regular season. But that is a foregone situation now, it is time to go about getting some great scores in the postseason!

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 5 Picks: Some Weeks Betting ISN’T A Good Idea

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We’ve past the quarter pole in the 16-game race in the National Football League and there have been a few things established to this point. Don’t bet against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots; the NFC East is wide open, with three teams at .500 and the fourth only a game behind them; there is no dominant team in the NFC yet, and there are some weeks you shouldn’t be betting the games (you know, if wagering on sporting events is legal in your area)!

There are several games on today’s schedule that have seen big swings in their opening lines or have such a wide spread it is difficult to decide which end of the game to take. For example, the Buffalo/Tennessee game started out with the visiting Bills the favorite, giving up three points to the Titans and rookie Marcus Mariota. Then injuries to Bills RBs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams were announced and the line swung all the way over to a “pick ‘em” game.

Another good example is the New England/Dallas game. With the Patriots giving up nine points and on the road, the thought might be to take the Cowboys. With the ‘Boys’ depleted resources after the injuries to QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant and the continued lackluster performance of backup QB Brandon Weeden and the rest of the ‘Pokes, however, maybe the sharps got this one right.

Normally it is a good idea to sit out weekends like this, but there are a couple of nice opportunities out there. Coming off a nice Week 4 performance, looking to continue the run.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Chicago Bears (+9) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS; UNDER 45

Neither of these teams has shown themselves to be an offensive juggernaut, especially the Bears with the injuries they’ve had. Both are “run first” oriented offenses that look to establish their big stars, Bears RB Matt Forte and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, and both have solid defenses that will look to stuff those running games. As such, it’s going to be a low-scoring affair and closer than the nine points that the Chiefs are giving up. Especially with QB Jay Cutler back under center, take the Bears and the under for a nice pickup.

Seattle Seahawks (+3) vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS; OVER 43.5

Even though Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch is out for the game, I still like the Seahawks on the road in Cincy. QB Russell Wilson has plenty of other options to work with, including TE Jimmy Graham and WR Doug Baldwin, and should be able to put up some numbers against the Bengal D. The “Legion of Boom” looks like it is returning to form after the comeback of DB Kam Chancellor, also. With both teams combined averaging over 50 points per game, the OVER is also a good pick here.

Arizona Cardinals (-3.5) vs. DETROIT LIONS; OVER 46

Even though they burned me last weekend (more on that in a bit), I am going to take the road-favorite Cardinals in this game. Averaging 37 points per game, the Cardinals are coming off a shocking loss to the St. Louis Rams and looking to take their frustrations out on someone. Their victim this week, the Lions, have yet to win a game and, even with WR Calvin Johnson and QB Matthew Stafford, are only averaging 14 points per game this year. It could get ugly quickly in the Motor City, not only in this game but also in the front offices of the Lions over the next couple of weeks; to say that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell’s seat is a little warm would be a huge understatement.

Last week:  4-1 Overall:  14-8-1

The only thing that kept me from a 5-0 weekend were those previously mentioned Cardinals. Although we got the O/U right in that Cardinal/Ram game, the stunning straight up upset out of the Rams knocked off the 7-point favorite Arizona. That was the only blemish on what was otherwise a really good weekend.

NFL Week 2 Picks: Abnormalities Leave Bettors Wanting More Info

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The first week of the National Football League season is in the books and there are plenty of unanswered questions that leave those that wager on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can LEGALLY place a bet) in a difficult spot. Are the New York Jets THAT good that they laid 31 on the Cleveland Browns (let’s be honest, after Browns QB Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a concussion, ushering in Johnny Manziel to show again why he shouldn’t be playing quarterback in the NFL)? Have the years finally caught up with Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (I think I’ve seen mannequins move better and have more zip on the ball than Peyton has in the first two games)? Has New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin finally lost his mind?

The first four weeks of an NFL season are really a feeling out process. You have to be able to crunch the information from all the teams, figure in for those “weird” games when the outcome should have been different (we’re looking at you, Kansas City Chiefs) and make a solid decision on limited information. Some of the matchups this weekend that I’ve decided to offer a pick with seem to be gift wrapped from the bookies, though.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

New England Patriots (+1) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 44

Inter-division games are always a tough pick because they usually are a rivalry game. With the AFC East, every other team in the division considers the Patriots an “arch rival” while the Patriots wonder what these teams are talking about; the Pats have won the division title in 11 of the past 13 years, not exactly something that rivalries are made of. If there’s a game with head coaches Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan involved in it, however, there is going to be some heat in the game.

The Patriots utilized the usual suspects on offense – QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Shane Vereen – to effectively whip the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and, with 10 days to rest up for the Bills, I don’t see how they’re going to lose this one. I’ve also got to question just how good the Jets’ defense is. They had a great game against the Browns, but that was after the injury to McCown sent Manziel into the game to turn the ball over to them twice. I’d like to see them stand up against a team that doesn’t lose their starting quarterback in the first game.

This is going to be a bit of a slugfest, though. I don’t see the two teams scoring more than 44 points, hence I’ll take the UNDER there. As to the game, you’re giving me Brady AND a point? I’ll take it.

Baltimore Ravens vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+6.5)

The Ravens looked anemic against Denver last Sunday night. No running game to speak of and, without that, QB Joe Flacco’s play-action passing game has a bit of a problem getting started up. Still, there are more concerns about this team, whom many thought might be challenging for another trip to the playoffs.

The Raiders…what can you say about the boys by the Bay? QB Derek Carr went down early in the action with an injury (he is expected to start on Sunday) and the Silver and Black never even got the engines started in losing to the Bengals. I don’t expect the Raiders to win this game but I do expect them to make it much more competitive than Week 1 (even the Raiders have some pride to their game). That 6.5 points is just a bit too juicy to pass up, so let’s see if the Raiders have some resolve and come back strong.

Seattle Seahawks vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3), UNDER 49

Seattle was shocked in Week 1 in going on the road and losing to the St. Louis Rams in a game that the ‘Hawks had to scramble to get back into (Seattle outscored the Rams 18-7 in the fourth quarter) before losing in overtime. It isn’t clear if DB Kam Chancellor’s contract holdout is causing issues to their once vaunted defense, it isn’t clear if QB Russell Wilson’s big new contract has satiated his drive, it isn’t clear if RB Marshawn Lynch is just having issues, period. What is clear is that the Seahawks can ill-afford to go to 0-2 on the season, especially giving up a game to a team that may be a divisional champion.

The Packers seem to keep plugging in players to maintain the smooth running of the ship. After losing WR Jordy Nelson to a knee injury in pre-season, all they did was go and get James Jones back on the roster. All James would do is light up the Chicago Bears defense for two TDs (James had six for the Raiders in 2014) in their victory. Alongside fellow WR Randall Cobb, QB Aaron Rodgers has plenty of options on the offensive end of the ball (hey, we didn’t even talk about RB Eddie Lacy).

The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home and they are looking for some revenge after losing to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game to close last season. Look for them to cover the spread, but it’s going to be something along the lines of 21-17 or 17-13 on Sunday night.

CURRENT RECORD:  4-2-1

Not a bad week overall for Week 1. Could have been better if the Patriots had not given up the late TD to the Steelers in the opener (that was the push on the board with the Pats -7) and there had been a real game between the Browns and Jets. Then again, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s fourth quarter heroics did save our OVER bet (the 27-26 final went over 51.5), so maybe we shouldn’t complain.

It promises to be another interesting week in the NFL. Over the next couple of weeks, some trends will begin to emerge and players can begin to use them accordingly.

Fantasy Sports…It’s Skill! It’s All Skill!

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The upcoming National Football League season is nearly upon us and we all know what that means. No, it doesn’t mean 16 (or more, counting the playoffs) weekends of watching grown men pound each other into a stupor over an inflated pig’s external organ, trying to push through the armada defending a goal to score the ultimate victory. It means that we get to choose up players and try to prove to our friends and loved ones that we know more than even the best NFL general manager through the machination known as Fantasy Football.

Sure, there are other sports that have their fantasy seasons. The origination of “fantasy” sports can be traced back to the end of World War II, but many believe the true version of fantasy sports began with what was called Rotisserie baseball in the mid-1970s. Owners, playing through the entire season, would choose a roster of players from the actual Major League Baseball teams. The owners would then earn points on how their players performed and, at the end of the year, the champion would be crowned through who earned the most points. The idea of fantasy baseball took off in the early 1980s with players starting to pick up on the intricacies of the game and media outlets offering in-depth box scores on the games that were played (can you even imagine sitting down with a prehistoric computer – or, worse yet, a pen and paper – to compute the fantasy scoring for a league?).

If there was a major professional sport that thrived under the advent of Fantasy, however, it was professional football. With teams playing once per week, Fantasy players could choose up teams and compete against each other on a weekly basis rather than just the season as a whole. Although baseball might have borne the fantasy game, it was football that truly lit the spark.

In 2014, Vox.com estimates that the yearly revenues generated from fantasy sports was $1.4 billion in the United States and that is probably on the conservative end. Pro football heavily dominated the breakdown, generating over 36% of the action, while baseball took up the second place slot with almost 19% (surprisingly, auto racing was the third-most “fantasized” sport, according to Vox). The companies that were benefitting the most from the activity were such industry powerhouses as Yahoo!, ESPN and CBS, who operated their own fantasy leagues for both fun (re:  no cost) and for profit (entry fees paid back to players), not to mention the individual professional sports leagues operating their own Fantasy games.

2014 was also about the time that the phenomenon known as Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) came about full bore. With DFS, baseball now had its little niche in the fantasy world that had pretty much been taken over by professional football and other sports could pick up on some of the glory that the NFL got from its one game a week schedule. While DFS has been an activity that many have gotten into as an extension of yearly fantasy sports, it has also drawn the attention from law enforcement and the politicos.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 was written to shut down the financing of online gambling transactions (think of online casinos, bingo and online poker), but there were several segments of the gaming industry that were excluded from the law. Horse racing (as a carrot to the horse racing industry in the United States), lotteries and fantasy gaming, then in its infancy online. With that carve out from the UIGEA, the DFS sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings are quite pleased to let everyone know that it is “legal” to play. Lawmakers will be rethinking this strategy but, with so many of the professional sports leagues and mainstream media involved in the game, it is highly likely they won’t touch it.

The reasons for fantasy sports – and horse racing along with it – receiving the legislative exemption is because many consider both activities to have a “skill” element that raises it above the bar of luck-based gambling (such as casino games that include poker). This skill element allows for a player, through knowledgeable study and examination of the variables of the game, to pick a better team (or a better horse) than someone who simply walks in off the street and tries to play the game. Which makes the results from my Fantasy Football draft on Sunday a good testing ground.

In previous years (and we’re talking for about a decade here), I pored over Fantasy Football magazines, ESPN.com, NFL.com and several other outlets looking for that edge in the fantasy game that would drive me to a championship. Alas, over the years I have only captured one championship, which pushes me to compete even harder and drink even harder when I’m sweating Marshawn Lynch having to make up a 25 point deficit on Monday Night Football. Those years I didn’t win, I would think that I had the “greatest team ever assembled” until they came crashing down in a heap at the bottom of the standings.

This year, I’d gone through the preparations but I’ve gotten a bit wiser about the proceedings. While I can research the players and teams from here until the Super Bowl, I am not Peyton Manning; I cannot have an effect on the outcome of the games because I am not out on the field performing the activity. Nowadays, I head into my fantasy draft looking to have fun and, if possible, win some extra cash, but not to put myself through Hell in doing so. Then the following happened, which is where the experiment will begin.

On Sunday, I was settling in to get ready for my Fantasy draft when my lovely wife said she needed to get some more clothes for her position as a professor at a major university. The best mall is a 45-mile drive from our home, hence we and our son hopped in the car and headed over to let her shop. After three-plus hours of shopping (and our son’s multiple rides on a carousel in the mall and ice cream bribery) and a dented credit card, we returned home with several outfits for her and me wondering how my Fantasy draft had gone.

With the fifth pick in the first round, I was able to pick up Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles through the auto-draft procedures (when someone isn’t physically able to make the picks, sites will pick the best available player for the absent owner) and it only got better from there. In Round 2, it was Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A. J. Green; Round 3 was a little weak in Chicago Bears wide out Alshon Jeffrey, but the next two rounds were golden.

Round 4 was nice in that it gave me a versatile but injury-prone running back in Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers, but it was Round 5 where I made my biggest steal. With a four-game suspension hanging over his head, everyone in our league had passed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and my computerized picker was able to snap him up without hesitation. Even if Brady is out for those first four games (and after getting a solid backup in the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler), he’s worth having for that “Fuck You” mentality he’s going to have for the remainder of the season (and whenever he starts playing, he’ll have that “Fuck You” mentality after all he has been through).

Overall, the automated draft picked out a team (my team isn’t creatively named, the “Southern WarLordz” but it’s a visual image that is threatening) that looks to be pretty solid and, with Brady, potentially one with a sneaky chance of winning the title. If it is the case that I should win this year’s championship, then the bullshit of fantasy sports being a “skill” activity would be shot down as anyone who lets the auto-drafter pick for them isn’t using any skill at all in their attempt at winning. I guess we will see how it plays out over the season…in the fantasy world, at least.