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Thursday, October 23, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 8: Ravens Vs. Bengals

Baltimore Ravens Vs Cincinnati Bengals: BAL -1 (Pinnacle

Market Watch

What a difference a week makes. The Ravens were +3.5 point dogs before Week 7 action. Once the dust settled over the weekend, this line reopened at -2.5, and quickly got bet down to -1.5. Since then it's been nothing but Ravens money. In fact, it just crossed over 0 and we are now seeing the Bengals as +1 point dogs. 68% of the bets agree with the line move.

Bottom Line

It wasn't that long ago that I would've looked at you sideways if you said you wanted to fade the Bengals at home. Before the Panthers game they had covered every regular season home spread going back to the start of last year.  It was an under-the-radar home field edge, but I'm not so sure it will matter much this week.

The biggest surprise for me is the deficiencies on this Bengals defense. The only category they rank in the top 10 in is pass defense. That's a good component to have in today's NFL, but they are surprisingly average everywhere else, and flat out bad with their drive success rate. That's not good considering how well the Baltimore offense is playing. I've never been a fan of Flacco, but there's no denying how well he's playing. On top of that, he's getting really good protection up front.

Can the Cincy offense do enough to keep up? I don't think so. I don't think AJ Green will play, and even if he does how effective will he be? Just as concerning is the status of Bernard. Without these guys healthy, it's no wonder that they've had a poor drive success rate this season, and Dalton isn't coming up with big plays on third down. This week they'll have the pleasure of going up against a defense that is equally good against the run and the pass, and near the top in red zone stops.

Despite the line move, I'm fine playing this side at the current number. It hasn't crossed through any key numbers, so I'm simply counting on the Ravens to win the game. Given the mismatches, I expect that to happen.

NFL Pick: BAL -1.

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NFL Predictions 2014 Week 8: Bills Vs. Jets

Buffalo Bills Vs. New York Jets: BUF +3 (-115) (Bovada)

Market Watch

In last week's look-ahead line this was a 'pick em' game. It reopened at -2.5 after Week 7, and now we're seeing a move to -3.  Someone needs to explain this to me because I don't get it. It also looks like I'm in the minority as 59% of the bets are on the J-E-T-S.

Bottom Line

When the Seattle Seahawks first acquired Percy Harvin, there were some fantastic articles written about how he could enhance their offense. A lot of it consisted of the variety you could employ with a Wilson and Lynch in the backfield. The Jets have no such weapons, so I don't expect him to be a savior for New York.

Will he improve it? Of course. This offense was without any legitimate threat all season. Decker provided an option, but not enough to scare anybody. Geno Smith is playing as bad as anyone at the position, and they sit near the bottom of every meaningful offensive category - including turnovers.

Defense to the rescue? Not so far. They can shut down the run, but they curiously rank really low on third down and inside their own 20. I guess that isn't all that surprising when they can't stop anybody in the air.

This pick isn't a big endorsement of the Bills either, but I trust them with Orton at QB much more than Manuel. Their defense should be able to slow down the Jets offense enough to win this game outright, so I'm more than happy to take the points, too.

NFL Pick: BUF +3.

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NFL Predictions 2014 Week 8: Colts Vs. Steelers

Indianapolis Colts Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: IND -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Before Week 7 the Colts were -1.5 point favorites for this game. After they beat up on the Bengals it reopened at -2.5. Even a Steelers win in prime-time could do nothing to slow down the money on Indy. It was promptly moved to -2.75, and we've now seen a full move to -3. I don't think anyone with eyes trust Pittsburgh right now, and a massive 89% of the bets are on the road team here.

Bottom Line

It's not just the eye test though. The numbers mirror exactly what we are seeing in Steelers games. The OL is flat out bad and they can't score once they get inside the 20. The pass defense can't stop anybody on the other side of the ball, and they can't get to the QB up front.

It couldn't be any different for Indy. Andrew Luck is firmly establishing himself among the elite at the position and he's finally getting good protection from his OL. On defense, they actually rank near the top against the pass, they are finding ways to pressure the QB, and they have one of the better drive success rates in the NFL. Who would've thought this was possible a month ago? Not me.

If that wasn't enough, the Colts also have one of the better average starting field positions, and special teams rankings, too.

I'm not saying that Indy will walk away with a double-digit road win, but the possibility is very real. This game has mismatch written all over it.

NFL Pick: IND -3.

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NFL Predictions 2014 Week 8: Lions Vs. Falcons

Detroit Lions Vs. Atlanta Falcons: DET -3.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

The look-ahead line had this game at -3.5, but it reopened at the same number once Week 7 action was done. Is there a chance that this goes down to -3?  I'd be surprised. I think this line should be higher, so I'm comfortable laying the hook. So far, about  55% of the action is on the Lions.

Bottom Line

The biggest stat that jumps out at us for this game is the horrendous 0-4 road record for the Falcons. Technically this one is being played in England, but I still consider it a road game for Atlanta.

On the field, things don't look to get much better for the Falcons. Of the 12 statistical categories I look at, they only rank in the top 10 in two of them - red zone offense (but trending down), and special teams. The Lions are not only good in their red zone defense, but they are trending even higher in the last few games.

And let's get real, the only chance Atlanta have this year is if their offense can win them games. That's bad news this week because they face the best statistical defense in the league. Detroit are tops vs the run and pass, drive success rate, and are near the top on third down and in the red zone. Add in all the OL woes for the Falcons, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Things aren't all roses and rainbows for the Lions on the other side of the ball. Stafford is playing like an average QB, the OL is worse than last year, and they can't run the ball. Take comfort though because the Falcons are abysmal on defense. It doesn't matter which category we look at, they are near the bottom of the barrel.

NFL Pick: DET -3.5.

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NFL Predictions 2014 Week 8: Packers Vs. Saints

Green Bay Packers Vs. New Orleans Saints: GB +1.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Talk about a curious point spread. A week ago in the advanced line at Westgate, this game was listed at a 'pick em'. The Saints blew a two score lead in Detroit, while the Packers blew out the Panthers. For some reason the line reopened at Saints -1.5 on Sunday night. This isn't a significant line move, but it doesn't make any sense either. Obviously, we are seeing 4 out of every 5 tickets being printed on Green Bay.

Bottom Line

Part of the reason why the Saints are still favored in this game is thanks to their amazing ATS record at home. Before the Bucs game, they had covered all of them going back to 2010 (if memory serves). That's quite impressive given how much they are inflated on the spread. Usually I'd have a lot of respect for that and either play them or pass, but I can't look beyond the mismatches on paper.

What are those mismatches? Well clearly Rodgers is on fire. A really good passing game is only getting better as they rank near the top in most offensive categories, including red zone offense. The Saints rank near the bottom in these areas, and they're trending downwards in red zone defense.

The matchup on the other side of the ball is a bit more of a mixed bag. The Packers pass defense is actually pretty good statistically, which doesn't quite match what we are seeing with our eyes, but this unit isn't as bad as people think. These two are also going in opposite directions on third down. For whatever reason the Saints offense is still not hitting on all cylinders, and the big problem that stands out is their turnover margin, which ranks near the bottom of the NFL (Green Bay are near the top in this category).

I'll ride the Packers train until I see a reason not to.

NFL Pick: GB +1.5.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NFL Betting Preview 2014 Week 8: Chargers Vs. Broncos

San Diego Chargers Vs. Denver Broncos

Market Watch

This is one of the more interesting point spreads on the board for Week 8. In the advanced line at
Westgate, the Broncos were -6.5 point favorites. After Week 7 action it reopened at -7, and it's been promptly bet off that key number. It currently sits at -7.5, but there are also -8's out there too. I think this line is pretty accurate. To no one's surprise, 61% of the early tickets are on the home team.

Bottom Line

I had this game circled a few weeks ago with the intentions of making a play on the Chargers. Everything about them indicated they were a strong AFC darkhorse contender.

Is that still the case? Well, that depends. Now that we have more numbers to look at, there are some red flags to know about if you like San Diego in this spot.

First, the good news though. The offense is just about as good as they look to the eye test. Rivers is playing at an MVP level, they don't give up a lot of sacks, and their drive success rate ranks near the top. They also have one of the better average starting field positions. The bad news is they can't run the ball, which could be a problem against this Denver team. They are also just average converting their drives into touchdowns. Not good.

There's worse news on the defensive side. Yes, they are much improved from last year, and that's good when you go up against anyone not named the Broncos, but they are failing to come up with big plays in the make or break situations. When your defense struggles on third down and inside the red zone, Peyton Manning is primed for a big day.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we think Rivers can keep up with Peyton. I'd like to say yes, but the reality is this Denver defense is ranked pretty high in all the important categories.

The Chargers were able to defeat the Broncos last year, but given the improvements that Denver have made on D, I'd be surprised if that happens again. The only play I'd consider here is Denver -7, which is already gone. The other option is to put them in a teaser.

Read more: Week 8 picks.

Monday, October 20, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 8 Picks

Peyton Manning put on a record setting show as Week 7 is in the books. Underdogs came out on top for the first time since Week 2, going 8-7 ATS. For the year, favorites have a slight lead 53-50-2.

Around town, Football Outsiders continued to lose going 7-8 ATS, now 41-60-1 on the season. Las Vegas SuperContest top 5 consensus picks went 3-2 ATS, improving to 20-15 on the year.

Last week I tweeted out the season records from "Pros & Joes" according to Jay Fornegay and Todd Furhman. Each week they say who the "sharps" like and who the "public" are backing. Through 8 weeks the reports from Fuhrman are: pros 21-19-2, joes 17-17-2.  Fornegay: pros 16-21-1, joes: 23-19-2.

Take these with a big grain of salt though. We already know who the public like thanks to services like Sports Insights, and we know where the sharp money is going by monitoring opening/closing line movement. I also don't think there is a big gap between these groups anymore, but that's a rant for another day.

My picks were a mixed bag. ATS I went 1-3, but they were a lot closer than the record suggests. The Andy Reid post-bye streak rolled on as KC were fully deserving of that win and cover.  I expected a close affair between the Saints/Lions, but wound up on the wrong side of it. Finally, the Giants couldn't stay within a TD of the Cowboys as Dallas kicked a late insurance FG to seal the deal. On the bright side, both teasers cashed fairly easily as the Packers, Ravens, and Broncos won huge. Sometimes I think I should just play every teaser team ATS too.

We're almost at the midway point of the season, and opening Week 8 lines are already up. Check back throughout the week for all the updates.

Survivor Pick

The three main picks receiving votes in Week 7 were the Patriots, Seahawks, and "Other", which I assume meant the Cowboys. If you hitched your wagon to Seattle, my condolences. It looked like they were going to pull it out, but a brave fake punt and iffy call by the ref did them in.

Week 8: pending

Week 7: Patriots
Week 6: Broncos
Week 5: Saints
Week 4: Chargers
Week 3Colts
Week 2: Packers
Week 1: Bears