Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: Top 50 Player Props of the Season

These are my top 50 player props for the 2011 NFL season.  I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just props and carry a large degree of variance.  They are more intended for some extra fun for those that like a little bit extra on the games.  The public love to bet the over on the skill position players, but the best rule of thumb for season-long props is the under due to the injury factor.  Most (if not all) players suffer some kind of injury of one kind or another throughout the season.  It usually only takes one or two missed games before their projected totals become unattainable.  Players with an injury history and/or age concerns are primary targets for these props.  Also, players with a high reputation or too much hype will have inflated lines.  All the following props can all be found at Bodog.



Kevin Kolb U3650 Passing Yards
Not enough targets, unproven, questionable O-line.

Todd Heap U625 Receiving Yards
Injury history, unproven QB.

Michael Turner U1250 Rushing Yards
Shift in offensive philosophy, aging.

Ricky Williams U450 Rushing Yards
Aging, new offense, non-guaranteed reps.

Ed Reed U5.5 Interceptions
Injury concerns.

Fred Jackson U800 Rushing Yards
In competition for #1 RB spot, time-share, won't be playing with a lead a lot.

Shawn Merriman U5.5 Sacks
Major injury concerns.

Cam Newton U2750 Passing Yards
Very raw, might not start entire season, limited preparation time.

Brandon Lafell U500 Receiving Yards
Rookie QB, too much competition for #2 WR spot, unproven.

Jeremy Shockey U300 Receiving Yards
Behind Olsen, rookie QB, injury concerns.

Marion Barber U450 Rushing Yards
Limited reps, injury concerns.

Andy Dalton U2700 Passing Yards
Rookie QB, bad organization, raw receiving options.

Cedric Benson U1100 Rushing Yards
Will face 8 in the box, questionable motivation, off-field concerns.

Colt McCoy U3250 Passing Yards
New system, no deep threat receiving options, over-hyped.

DeMarcus Ware U14.5 Sacks
Will see first signs of production slip.

Knowshon Moreno U850 Rushing Yards
Injury concerns, time-share.

Jahvid Best U1050 Rushing/Receiving Yards
Injury concerns.

Brandon Pettigrew O550 Receiving Yards
Will face favorable matchups, potent offense, under-the-radar tight end.

Will Ndamukong Suh get fined by the NFL during the season?
Yes. Already stated he won't change his playing style after his preseason fine.

Donald Driver U575 Receiving Yards
Will see less targets, stacked WR corp, aging, injury concern.

Arian Foster U1300 Rushing Yards
Injury concerns, won't be a secret to opposing defenses in 2011.

Andre Johnson U1400 Receiving Yards
Injury concerns.

Joseph Addai U750 Rushing Yards
Injury concerns, time-share.

Austin Collie U775 Receiving Yards
Injury concerns, too much depth at WR.

Dallas Clark U900 Receiving Yards
Injury concerns, aging.

David Garrard U2500 Passing Yards
Might lose his job, injury concerns, aging.

Jamaal Charles O1250 Rushing Yards
Could win rushing title, will see increased reps.

Reggie Bush U650 Rushing Yards
Can't run between the tackles, specialty player, injury concerns, change in offensive philosophy.

Donovan Mcnabb U3200 Passing Yards
Aging, injury concerns, questionable receiving targets, could lose his job.

Adrian Peterson U1375 Rushing Yards
Will face 8 in the box, injury concerns.

Jared Allen U11.5 Sacks
Lost quality players on the D-line, aging, more double-coverage.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis U800 Rushing Yards
Belichick too unpredictable with his RBs, unproven.

Drew Brees U4500 Receiving Yards
Inflated line, improved running game, tougher schedule.

Mark Ingram U850 Rushing Yards
Rookie RB, time-share.

Eli Manning U3900 Passing Yards
Lost Boss and Smith, will rely heavily on running game, inconsistent QB.

Ladainian Tomlinson U800 Rushing Yards
Aging, injury concerns, time-share, less reps, wears down.

Jason Campbell U3200 Passing Yards
Bad WR targets, injury concerns, run-first team, inconsistent QB.

Terrelle Pryor U0.5 Starts
Too raw, no preparation, low on depth chart.

Michael Vick U3500 Passing Yards
Could regress, never a proficient passer, injury concerns.

LeSean McCoy O9.5 Rushing/Receiving TDs
Underrated RB on the rise, elite pass-catcher, safety outlet for Vick.

James Harrison U10.5 Sacks
Could start the year slow after offseason back surgery, injury concerns.

Antonio Gates U1025 Receiving Yards
Injury concerns.

Michael Crabtree U750 Receiving Yards
New system, injury concerns, unproven, bad QB.

Tavaris Jackson U2475 Passing Yards
Horrible QB, could lose job.

Marshawn Lynch U800 Rushing Yards
Injury concerns, bad offense.

Sidney Rice U875 Receiving Yards
Great talent, bad QB.

Steven Jackson U1150 Rushing Yards
Lost a step, less reps, aging, injury concerns.

Kellen Winslow U725 Receiving Yards
Injury concerns, overrated QB.

Matt Hasselbeck U3000 Passing Yards
New system, aging, injury concerns, could lose job.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 NFL Super Bowl Prediction

Last year I predicted IND and GB to make it to the Super Bowl before the season started, so I got half of the puzzle right.  I add these picks more for fun as I don't put a lot of value in Super Bowl futures.  Most fans want to lay a wager on their favorite team or hope for some value in a team off the radar.  So despite the fact that this is a prediction sure to go wrong, these are my teams for the 2011 Super Bowl.

UPDATE: Post-regular season Super Bowl Prediction

 
San Diego Chargers defeat Green Bay Packers

I was very high on SD last year despite their troubles with turnovers and special teams.  They couldn't get it together long enough to make a run, but I believe this year will be very different.  PIT have the easiest schedule in the league so it will be hard to beat them out for a first round bye, but wherever they are seeded I think they can get the job done.  I just don't see many weaknesses across the board and believe this could finally be their time. Right now they sit at +1100 to win it all depending where you shop.

GB is still the best team in the NFL in my opinion.  Not just because they won the Super Bowl, but because they virtually return the same team in tact and have a bunch of players returning from the injured list.  Rodgers does have a history of concussions though so he could be vulnerable to miss time behind that offensive line.  Last year I said they can make it if they avoid serious injuries and they overcome those setbacks to win it all!  They are still the cream of the crop in the NFC and my pick to make it back to the big dance again.


Two long-shots that I like to win the Super Bowl are...

Houston Texans and Detroit Lions - I realize they are the "sexy" picks this year, but the evidence doesn't lie.  HOU might have the most potent offense in the AFC and if Phillips can make their defense a top 15 unit, I like their chances to beat anybody.  Right now their odds range anywhere  from +2500 to +4500!   The Lions are not only my upset pick in the NFC, but I think they have a real chance at winning their division.  Their defensive line will create serious problems for GB and their offense should be able to put up enough points to stay in the game.  Like HOU, much will depend on how much their defense will improve.  Either way, these teams still have the best darkhorse odds on the card despite their hype.

2011 Week 1 NFL Predictions

The regular season is just around the corner!  Week 4 NFL-X action is in the books and it capped off 8 straight preseason winning weeks.

But now it's time to turn our attention to the real show.  As it stands now the action sits on 10 of the 16 week 1 favorites.  Many sharps believe this will be a year of "haves" and "have nots".  They also think there will be much fewer surprises to start the year than previous seasons.

Do I believe this too?  I'm halfway there. Nothing in the preseason has really changed my opinion of things and I believe the current point spreads are very sharp (keep an eye on what the public does over the next 10 days).  But until we see all these teams in action we don't really know who's ahead of the learning curve and who has a ways to go.  I'm taking a bit more of a selective approach to start 2011, but I feel as confident as ever in my picks.

I won't be playing many totals this season because they jumped the shark in 2010.  If you only concentrate on my predictions for sides, I almost hit 60%.  The rule changes have encouraged far more scoring and old "under strategies" no longer apply.  This season another curve ball is being thrown into the mix with the kickoff rule.  How will all this shake out with totals?  We'll see.  But I know what my strengths are and I know when to back off when something isn't working.  If I catch wind of a trend or see a total that can't be passed up, I won't hesitate to add it to the card.

I'd like to also take a moment to thank everyone for their comments, mochas, and overall support.  It's very much appreciated and my goal is to continue and pump out winners and have an even better season than last year.  We're all in this together to beat the books and if I've helped you with your picks that's the bottom line.  I love to cap games, beat the point spread, and write about football.  This doesn't mean that I can reveal my system, but I provide as much information as possible to give you more to think about.

I encourage you to continue with the comments and questions.  If you just want to say thanks, say that I suck, or just want to talk football/handicapping--let me know.

Most of all, best of luck this season!  Let's get it.

Week 1 Predictions
Week 1 Teasers
Week 1 Previews
Week 1 Market Watch

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week 1 NFL Predictions: September 11, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE #3: News just broke that Peyton needs more medical treatment and is out "indefinitely".   I hope you all jumped on HOU before it was -7.   The whole world jumped on DET +3 and the line has dropped.  I like DET to win this game straight up, so if you got the +3 you're sitting on bonus points.

Philadelphia Eagles @ St Louis Rams: PHI -4.5

The line opened at -3.5 and moved a full point after free agency.  It's moved to -5 since I've posted this play, but I like PHI at anything under a touchdown. 

The hype regarding the "dream team" got a little out of control, but a large proportion of it is legitimately justified.  They didn't spend irresponsibly like a lot of other teams in the league (hello CAR/WSH).  The last time they made this kind of splash in free agency they started the year 7-0 and went on to appear in the Super Bowl.

PHI is still fielding calls about Samuel, but at this point it looks like they will keep him.  This isn't good news if your name is Sam Bradford.  I've very, very high on the kid, but he has a sub-standard receiving corp to throw to and he forget about throwing towards Asomugha.  STL's best chance will be to ride Steven Jackson all day long and try to hit rookie Kendricks in the middle of the field against a young group of linebackers. Adding a mauler like Dahl to the line should improve a running game that lacked consistency last year and Sims-Walker will give Bradford at least one "name" receiver to make some plays.  Look for Bradford to find guys like Amendola in the short-passing game as they try to keep the ball away from Vick and company. Can this strategy work?  Absolutely it can. Will it? I'm banking that it won't.  PHI's defense is designed to play with the lead and I'm not sure how long STL can hold them off the scoreboard.  Guys like Babin, Cole, Jenkins, and Patterson are going to push up the field and let Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asomugha pick off errant throws.

The true test for STL will be whether or not their defense can contain all the weapons they'll see across the field.  Coach Spags is very familiar with PHI and should be able to come up with schemes to give PHI some trouble.  Adding Mikell gives them an added dimension to stabilize the secondary and they'll need his experience to slow down a versatile PHI offense.  Maclin will be back, but it's uncertain how effective he'll be after dealing with significant health concerns this offseason.  But this offense can hurt you in so many different ways.  If D-Jax isn't open on the deep routes, they'll get him the ball on end-arounds.  Celek and Avant are great options to have and should be open on critical 3rd down plays over the middle. 

STL will undoubtedly attack PHI's offensive line. It appears as though they will start two rookies at C and RG respectively.  Todd Herremans has been temporarily moved to RT while Winston Justice recovers from injury.  It won't matter how many flashy names a team has on the field if the O-line is riddled with holes.  Yet, despite all the headlines this group has garnered, I trust in the new O-line coach Howard Mudd to have a plan for opening day.  Vick isn't the greatest at picking up the blitz, but he has one of the best up and coming check down guys in Lesean McCoy to bail him out.  He had more catches than any other RB last year and that trend will continue for the first month of the season as this team continues to iron out the kinks.

STL should hang in there for a while and could make it interesting, but at the end of the day PHI will show the league that they only have one goal for 2011--to win the Super Bowl.  Prediction: Bank PHI -4.5.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DET +3

One of the biggest questions for DET heading into 2011 was the health of Mathew Stafford. Now that he's survived the preseason without an injury, I can safely give this play a green light.

This is a game I had circled on the board the day it went up.  69% of the action has come in on DET and I couldn't agree more.  Giving them 3 points against an overrated TB team is like Christmas in September.  Both teams bring stability and continuity into 2011, but DET has the better group of young players, a returning starting quarterback, and a better offseason.  Wright, Durant, and Tulloch aren't additions that will garner front page news, but they are really solid moves for a defense that needed all the help it could get.  Bringing back Houston was also a smart choice.  I expect a big collective improvement from the defense and they will give Freeman and company problems in the season opener.

TB's offense relies a lot on smart decisions, discipline, and efficiency.  Freeman, Blount, and Williams is an impressive trio of youngsters, but the dropoff is notable after that.  Game-breakers and quality depth guys are in short supply.

Yet, the bigger problem for TB will come from their defense. This unit will have its hands full with Stafford, Johnson, Burleson, Pettigrew and Best coming to town. Losing Leshoure was a setback for DET, but they brought in an underrated Harrison to shore up the position.  TB's pass rush and run-stopping were major questions marks in the offseason and not much was done to fix the situation.  They drafted two DT, but both have durability issues and it's doubtful either one will turn things around in week 1.  Look for Stafford and company to win the time of possession, get the lead, and let their D-line tee off on Freeman. Prediction: Bank DET +3.

Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears: ATL -2

This is another matchup that brings a good amount of continuity into 2011.  79% of the bets are coming in on ATL and we've seen the line move accordingly.  It appears as if I'm not the only one who views CHI as the average team that they are. I won't be surprised if ATL is favored by a field goal sometime before kickoff arrives. 

The offseason strategy for ATL was very interesting.  Instead of focusing on the defense in the draft, they decided to sell the farm for Julio Jones and make the offense more explosive.  In free agency, they managed to get Ray Edwards to team with Abraham on the D-line.  They could have lost up to 3 O-linemen, but only lost Dahl.  Almost all the boxes in the "needs" department have been checked.  The only thing ATL need to do now is take the next step.

They should be able to get off to a good start against a very overrated CHI team.  Right away they'll be able to give CHI problems as they lineup against a scotch-taped O-line.  Abraham, Edwards, Babineaux, and Jerry can all get to the quarterback.  Cutler now has Willaims to throw to and Barber in the backfield, but do either of these additions strike fear into anyone?  CHI has huge problems controlling the clock and sustaining drives and it's doubtful Martz is going to warp this group into the "greatest show on grass" in week 1.  Grimes and Robinson are going to give CHI's sub-par receiving corp a long afternoon.  On the flip side, CHI's secondary will have trouble matching up against White, Jones, and Douglas.  Gonzalez is the perfect safety vale for Ryan and Turner/Snelling can pound the rock keeping the defense honest.

The only thing CHI have going for them outside of home field advantage is the possibility of a return game.  Bryant hasn't been driving the ball out of the end zone like most kickers.  Prediction: Bank ATL -2.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans: HOU -5

Many insiders believe that Peyton Manning is going to suit up against HOU on September 11th.  The line has been put back up on the board and it currently sits at -5 at 5 Dimes

I thought HOU was going to win the AFC South this year before the Peyton news and now I think it's a foregone conclusion.

The main challenge will be slowing down Peyton and company if he plays because of the brand new defensive scheme under Wade Phillips.  Their new shiny secondary will be tested from the get-go and no one knows for sure how Mario Williams will adjust to the OLB position.  He was up and down in the preseason so that's a situation to keep an eye on.  The key question though is have they closed the gap enough for their offense to win them games? I originally thought that IND would be able to exploit HOU's new scheme to start the year, but now I'm not so sure.  Peyton won't have much practice time and if he does play he'll be behind an O-line with big, big question marks on it--not to mention a rookie starting LT to protect his blind side.  HOU piled up a lot of sacks in the preseason so there is hope on the horizon that this team can get turned around. 

Making matters worse is the fact that they still have problems on the defensive side. Losing Session and replacing him with depth guys isn't the best blueprint.  HOU should have plenty of opportunities for big plays and attacking them up the middle.  Freeney and Mathis's effectiveness will be reduced a lot of IND fall behind in games and that could be the case in this matchup. Foster is nursing a hamstring injury, but even if he is out Tate can carry the load for a game and provide enough balance for the win.

I realize that 5 is often considered a "dead number", but I believe this is a calculated risk.  IND wouldn't have gone out and spent the kind of money on Kerry Collins if they believed Peyton was going to be fine, and even if he does play there will be timing and protection issues.  I feel confident that HOU can cover with Manning, and if he doesn't suit up in week 1 this line will be considered a serious bargain.  In fact, I consider anything under a touchdown has value.  Prediction: Bank HOU -5.

2011 NFL Preseason Predictions

UPDATE: ATL, SD, and GB crapped the bed this week.  The most surprising was GB, but that's the risk you take when you are laying 9 points on the road.  I expected more out of SD, but give ARI credit for winning the intensity battle and making the big plays.

MIA covered by half a point if you grabbed the early line. HOU made it look easy and that was the most surprising line of the week. I'm not sure what the books were thinking with that one. PHI took care of business against an inferior CLE team and STL covered against lackluster KC.
NO cashed with ease.

With 7 winning preseason weeks in a row I'm looking to make it a clean sweep!  Week 4 will be a bit different because most of the starters will sit, so my plays might be out a bit later than usual after we know what the game plans are.  


Week 1 Predictions: August 11, 2011
Week 1 Predictions: August 12, 2011
Week 1 Predictions: August 13, 2011 

Week 2 Predictions: August 18, 2011
Week 2 Predictions: August 19, 2011
Week 2 Predictions: August 20, 2011
Week 2 Predictions: August 21, 2011 

Week 3 Predictions: August 25, 2011
Week 3 Predictions: August 26, 2011
Week 3 Predictions: August 27, 2011
Week 3 Predictions: August 28, 2011 

Week 4 Predictions: September 01, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: September 01, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

We finally come to the final week of the preseason. I might be adding a play or two on Wednesday or early Thursday, but for now I only have three plays for week 4.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets: PHI -3

If you never bet against strong trends, I suggest you skip right ahead to the next pick.  Andy Reid is 11-12-1 ATS on the road, 11-18 ATS as a favorite, and a whopping 2-10 straight up in week 4.  Based on this I should be staying far, far away from this game.  Yet, it's one of my favorite games of the week.

Unlike years past, we now sit in the middle of the post-lockout world.  Opportunities to coach up new players have been few and far between.  Vince Young is still learning the first few pages of the complicated WCO playbook and he'll get the start in this game.  As you have seen this preseason it hasn't always been pretty when he's been out there, but he has made plays with his legs and he's not an NFL rookie.  He should be good for a score or two before he gives way to Mike Kafka.  And speaking of Kafka, he's been one of the more under-the-radar 3rd string QB's of the preseason.  He's seeing the field much better than last year and hasn't looked out of place.  I expect him to put up some points as he is slated to get extended playing time in this one.  Keep an eye out for Dion Lewis as the featured RB, too.  He's been making plays all preseason despite his miniature frame.

On defense, this is Juan Castillo's big chance to be a defensive coordinator in this league.  He's waited 11 years for the opportunity and he loves to coach.  He won't have the same caliber roster to work with, but you can be sure that he'll be using every play to hone his playcalling and improving the depth on the team.

As for the Jets, don't be surprised if you see the watered down version.  It's not very often that a team must play another game after such a quick turnaround.  Thanks to the hurricane, NY only get two days off before they suit it up again for their final preseason game.  Brunell has been ruled out which means Greg McElroy will get the start.  He's looked pretty good this preseason, but the cards are stacked against him in this game.  Prediction: Bank PHI -3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Redskins: WSH -7

7 points is a lot to lay for a preseason game, but when you consider the circumstances it doesn't seem so far-fetched. No defensive starters for TB will play any significant playing time in this game.  This is music to the ears of the WSH QB's.  Grossman and Beck are in the most competitive position battle of the preseason and Shanahan has stated that their starters will play up to a half of football in week 4.  When you consider that the guy who doesn't start is going to want to put up good numbers too, this play becomes a no-brainer.  A QB competition is always a big advantage in the preseason.  Did I mention that Shanahan has a winning record ATS in the preseason at home and as a favorite.  Oh yeah, he's also 10-3 in week 4.  Prediction: Bank WSH -7.

St Louis Rams @ Jacksonville Jaguars: STL +3.5

Right now places like 5 Dimes still have STL at +3.5, but if you can't get that I would still make this a play at +3.  This is another game where I'm going against conventional wisdom.  Jack Del Rio is 7-1 in week 4 action.  But keep in mind he is also average as a favorite and at home ATS.  In this specific matchup, JAX's starters aren't going to get a long look.  Del Rio has publicly said he's more concerned about keeping his guys healthy.

STL is taking a little bit different approach.  He says the starters could play "the entire first quarter....and more than a normal fourth preseason game."  Boosting our chances is the sudden competition for the backup QB spot.  AJ Feeley was considered a lock for the position but coach Spags said that Thad Lewis has made big strides in the system over the past couple weeks and will battle for the backup spot.  Whether this is real or just manufactured competition is beyond the point.  The only thing that matters is that it's on record and I expect these QB's to respond.  I'll gladly take the points and roll with the Rams.  Prediction: Bank STL +3.


NFL Preseason Predictions: August 28, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

New Orleans Saints vs Oakland Raiders: NO -4.5
It shouldn't surprise anyone that OAK laid an egg last week.  On talent alone they should have been able to take care of a SF team very much in transition, but when you're a bad organization like OAK you come to expect these kinds of letdowns. This doesn't mean I think NO will roll over them with ease, but it's hard to imagine that they can bring enough to the table and hang in there with the starters for three quarters.

Campbell left with a concussion last week, but he didn't exactly look great while he was healthy. The dynamic duo of Edwards and Boller were much less effective than the prior week.  We shouldn't be shocked by the inconsistency, but QB competition is supposed to bring out the best in players.  Despite working on their red zone play all week in practice, OAK still had monumental problems finding the end zone against SF.  On the bright side, their own red zone defense played well--although that's not really a consolation prize when you consider the opponent. The secondary still let Smith blaze up and down the field as if he were Joe Montana and those question marks aren't going away anytime soon.  Now they have the challenge of shutting down a top five QB in Drew Brees.  Adding insult to injury is the play of their front seven. This group couldn't sustain very much pressure on Smith and gave up huge yards on the ground. Amazingly though, their offensive line has played pretty good through two weeks.  They are weak where they should be strong, and strong where they should be weak.  Such is life in Raider-Land.  Kevin Boss is "week to week" with a knee injury, McFadden is still practicing in shells, and who knows how long Campbell can play following his concussion. 

For the Saints, Sean Peyton is 8-2 ATS on the road and 4-1 in week 3 of the preseason.  That is a great combination going into Sunday's game. They didn't have their best outing against HOU last week, but the first-team offense finally showed signs of life with some nice drives.  The running game was solid and any remnants of Reggie Bush are all but forgotten.  The second-team offensive line did have issues protecting Chase Daniel, but the kid is a gamer and managed to make some plays.  The offense is the least of our concerns.  What Gregg Williams will be focusing on in this game is the play from his first-team defense.  After basking in the glow of their week 1 performance, they got outworked and outplayed all over the field against HOU.  Since this is the the official dress rehearsal for the regular season, you can bet that Williams will have his guys on point in a nationally televised game.  They'll do it without Aubrayo Franklin thanks to a MCL sprain, but their blitz-happy attack should be just fine against a hobbled and inconsistent OAK offense.  I would be willing to lay up to a touchdown for this game, but I'll gladly drop 4.5 and call it a day.  Prediction: Bank NO -4.5.

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 27, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE: Lots of action coming in on HOU and MIA.  Line has gone as high as -3  for HOU at some places and +4 for MIA.

UPDATE #2: Added ATL +3.  The line continues to move towards +3 as the weekend approaches.

UPDATE#3: Added SD -1 1st half.  The line for the HOU game has crossed the 3 and sits at -4.  I would consider a lean on that, but it sat at -3 or better all week.  ATL has moved to +3 and MIA to +3.5.  That is a lot of lost value if you waited until game day to pull the trigger.

San Diego Chargers vs Arizona Cardinals: SD -1 1st Half
Last week I took SD in the 1st half vs DAL and it paid off and I like them again in this spot vs ARI.  SD's first teamers went touchdown, punt, field goal, touchdown, touchdown on their first 5 possessions this preseason.  Rivers and Jackson is one of the best QB-WR tandems in the league and Mathews is looking like he can break out at RB.   Defensively, their first teamers have been just as strong.  They have 1 interception, forced 7 punts, and only allowed 1 scoring drive on 9 possessions.  Rookie DE Corey Liuget has been a preseason revelation and should continue that thrust against a shaky ARI O-line.



Many expect Norv Turner's team to get off to their perennial slow start again this year, but I don't things will follow that script this year.  A closer look at their camp reveals that they are paying extra attention to the details and making a concerted effort to start strong.  This week they traveled to ARI on Friday, one day early, instead of the usual game day trip.  It is little differences like this that are making a bigger overall impact on the 2011 approach.  The starters are expected to go into the 3rd quarter, but this week we've seen a lot of teams pull back at halftime.


There is a lot of hype surrounding Kevin Kolb this year, but most of it is a mirage.  He has only started 7 games in this league and got thrown head first into a brand new offense.  This makes him closer to a rookie than a legitimate starting QB.  Kurt Warner won't even give his stamp of approval yet and holds a lot of reservations about Kolb's ability to be "the guy".  Last week against GB Kolb should have been picked off 3 times.  His throws were often erratic and he takes too many unnecessary sacks due to his questionable pocket awareness.  He stares down Fitzgerald at times and forces the ball to him far too often.  Later on in the season he could round into form because he does show flashes of being a starter and has good mobility.  ARI's running game has been decent, but they suffered a major blow when Ryan Williams tore up his knee. 


Defensively is where ARI is going to be severely challenged.  Their secondary has been riddled with questions from the get-go and we saw what Rivers did to the DAL defensive backs last week.  Also, this unit still takes too many penalties and misses too many tackles.  The front four have been decent with the pass rush, but they haven't gotten much from their linebackers.  The general vibe might be good around this club, but they aren't ready for prime-time just yet.  Wisenhunt is 2-5-1 ATS at home and I expect them to be down after two quarters on Saturday.  Prediction: Bank SD -1 1st Half.

Houston Texans vs San Francisco 49ers: HOU -1

This line is hovering around the -1 mark, but I'd play anything less than -3.  Kubiak is 7-3 ATS on the road and 9-2 ATS as an underdog.  HOU should have little trouble improving on those numbers on Saturday night when they travel to San Francisco.  Kubiak said the starters will play at least 3 quarters and that they are treating this as a regular season game.  SF is taking a training camp approach.  49ers defensive coordinator let it slip on Monday that they are more focused on installing some new packages and play calls.  When you have the main three guys on HOU's offense clicking on all cylinders, experimenting with defensive schemes doesn't sound like a recipe for success.  

SF love to dink and dunk their way down the field with the short stuff and pound the rock in the running game, but HOU's defense excelled in this area against the Saints and it continued with the second-team as well.  Ryans and Cushing will get extended playing time together and Joseph could debut in the secondary.  HOU's defense has been putting up a lot of sacks this preseason and they'll be looking to adding some run-stuffing to their repertoire on Saturday.  The transition to a 3-4 scheme isn't going to happen overnight. Mario Williams made some big strides at linebacker in week 2, so Alex Smith and company will need to be aware of his presence at all times.  SF's offensive line opened some eyes last week, but this group is far from solidified.

SF will bring some confidence into this game after they improved so much against OAK.  One thing to be wary of will be their lack of defensive line depth.  This will cause a lot of problems going against a dominating HOU offensive line.  HOU's line isn't filled with house-hold names, but they bring continuity into the 2011 season and blow holes side open for their backs.  Schaub will severely test a suspect secondary.  It's possible that he's on the cusp of leading HOU to new heights.  Even if SF do happen to fight and scratch their way into a competitive 4th quarter, Colin Kaepernick is not likely to outplay Matt Leinart--and who knew we would ever say Leinart has a favorable matchup?  Roll with the future AFC South division winners and lay the point.  UPDATE: Harbaugh has changed the game-plan for this one. He says the 2nd/3rd stringers will be coming into the game earlier than previously stated--even getting time against HOU's 1st teamers.  Alex Smith will leave early for Kaepernick and return to run the two-minute drill before halftime. Great news for our play.  Prediction: Bank HOU -1. 

Miami Dolphins vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: MIA +4.5
TB got absolutely trounced in week 2 after coming into the game with warm and fuzzy feelings from the week before. They had no answer for the hurry up style Belichick threw at them and the game was over at halftime.  Now they face another AFC East team who bring their own brand of success to the table.  Sparano is 6-1 ATS on the road, 2-1 in week 3, 10-3 straight up, and 4-0 as an underdog in the preseason.  He played things down in week 1, but they've responded with a quick 2-0 mark to start off 2011.

MIA will test TB once again in the air as they are demonstrating a pass-first mentality this year.  In fact, their new spread offense produced passes in 13 of their 21 first-down opportunities last week.  That is a far cry from the wild-cat run-first approach from prior years.  Henne did a good job silencing some critics last week and his stats would have been even better if he connected on one of his bombs to Gates. He also lined up at shotgun a dozen times in the first half against CAR.  Many wondered how Brian Daboll's offense would translate from CLE to MIA and they are finally beginning to see the impact.

Aqib Talib might make an appearance and make life more difficult for a quarter or two, but he is still nursing a sore hamstring and could be more concerned about his appointment with Roger Goodell.  Henne is also unlikely to face any kind of fierce pass rush from a defensive line that lacks a headliner.  Reggie Bush actually ran through the tackles for once in his life and had some success.  I don't expect that to last, but it's a good sign that he's willing to do it. MIA are still looking to improve their goal-line scoring and it's looking more and more like they'll be doing it without a legitimate pass-catching tight-end.  Look for rookie Daniel Thomas to get more opportunities inside the 10 yard line.  Thankfully, they have a top-flight defense to fall back on and they will cause a lot of problems for Freeman and company.

Raheem Morris is 0-2 in week 3, 1-4 ATS at home, and only 2-2 as a favorite.  Some of this is understandable given the rebuilding mode the team has been in over recent seasons, but they are still a far cry away from being a bonafide playoff roster just yet.  Their youth got exposed last week as there were tons of missed assignments and mental mistakes.  Their offensive line got abused and they lost a lot of one on one battles.  That's not good news when questions continue to circle around LaGarrette Blount. He's still a work in progress and there isn't much to speak of behind him. Things shouldn't be quite so bad against a team like MIA, but to lay 4.5 points is asking a lot from a team still trying to build an identity.  This game might ultimately be decided in the 4th quarter by either Matt Moore or Josh Johnson, but either way it's doubtful TB will have enough to cover a soft line.  Look for the fins' to improve to an undefeated 3-0 ATS.  Prediction: Bank MIA +4.5.

Atlanta Falcons vs Pittsburgh Steelers: ATL +3.5

ATL opened at +4.5 and was quickly jumped on by the early birds.  It now sits at +3.5 with hints that it could move to +3.  Mike Smith is 3-0 in week 3 and 5-1 as an underdog in the preseason. Everything that is coming out of the Falcons camp this week is pointing towards a step up in the preseason tempo and a continuation of these trends.  Like most teams, ATL didn't game plan at all for the first two games, but Mike Smith has said that they want to get back to a regular season schedule against PIT.  They are watching film and putting together some specific schemes to play the Steelers.  Smith wants to instill a real season routine in his guys which includes putting on a game face for the 3rd quarter.

I was very high on ATL last year and I think they have a chance to be even better this year.  Newly acquired Ray Edwards is schedules to make his debut and could see as much as a quarter of snaps on Saturday.  ATL have already had good pressure on the QB in their first two outings and Smith has been pleased with his first-team defense, so throwing in a stud on the D-line will be an additional boost.  Big Ben showed his ability to escape the rush against PHI, but he'll have to do it all over again behind a questionable offensive line.

Matt Ryan is even going back to watch tape from the week 1 matchup they had vs PIT in 2010.  The personnel is largely the same for both teams, so we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  All week they've practiced on improving their performance on third and long and want to use this game as a real test for the start of the season.  Look for Ryan to continue and find guys like Douglas on the outside as Jones has really opened things up for this offense. 

Not a lot of information leaks out of PIT's camp in the preseason, but they are in a prime spot for a letdown this week.  UPDATE: Cotchery, Scott, McFadden are all questionable. Taylor is out.  Tomlin said the starters will play at least a half, which is less than what most other coaches are saying this week. They put a stamp of approval on their roster on national TV against the over-hyped Eagles so there won't be as much to prove this time around.  PIT know who they are and what they have heading into the regular season.  This doesn't mean I expect PIT to roll over and lay down for ATL because they won't, but it won't be easy to replicate that regular season feel from a week ago.  I like the Falcons in this spot and I like them even more with the hook.  Prediction: Bank ATL +3.5.

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 26, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE #2: The line in the GB/IND game is moving back up to -8.5/-9 after a short dip to -8.  Seems like the Kerry Collins hype was short-lived.

Friday night features a couple of teams that have been all-star fade material up until this point and bookmakers haven't done enough to make us think twice heading into week 3.     

Green Bay Packers vs Indianapolis Colts: GB -9
The bookmakers could probably ask us to lay 20 points and I would still roll with the Packers in this game. If Peyton Manning was playing, I would likely take a pass and watch as a fan. But with him on the sidelines until the regular season, facing the Colts has been the biggest no-brainer of the preseason.  I'm not sure how much analysis is required here because even after IND got severely outplayed against WSH, team GM Chris Polian said, "If they start giving out trophies and people's jobs depend on preseason we'd have to re-evaluate our approach at that point," "But it doesn't count."  Jim Caldwell may try to save face and act upset, but in reality this organization could care less what the final score is.  Caldwell is 0-2 in week 3 games, 2-4 ATS at home, 1-9 straight up, and 2-7 as an underdog. When given the opportunity to play for pride and rebound at home against WSH, they got outscored 415-150 in total yardage, 215-55 in rushing, 22-8 in 1st downs, and 36:29-23:31 in time of possession.  Could IND come out with more effort in week 3?  Possibly, but it's very unlikely it will be enough to cover the spread. 

Things couldn't be more different for GB.  The team doesn't have a lot of free agents or young guys to acclimate into the system, but they continue to go out and put up points on the board.  The O-line will focus on keeping Rodgers upright on Friday, but outside of that it's business as usual.  The trio of Rodgers, Flynn, and Harrell have been outstanding as the three have combined for 619 yards and 5 TDs.  Ryan Grant is also running strong coming off his season-ending knee injury.  Look for Dom Capers to give Painter and Orlosky all they can handle as GB cruise to another win.   Prediction: Bank GB -9.

St Louis Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs: STL -2

This game opened at a pick em, but it's quickly been bet up to -2 and -2.5 at some places. I would try to grab anything less than -3.

There's a good reason why STL is seeing the early money.  They are 4-0 ATS on the road under Spagnuolo, 2-0 in week 3, and 8-2 straight up.  Yes the offense was less than perfect against TEN and Steven Jackson had very few holes to run through, but coach Spags said the offense "relaxed a bit" after their 83 yard touchdown to open the game.  TEN gashed them for big runs in the cut-back lanes, but they've made it a priority to improve their tackling and maintain their gap integrity for Friday's regular season tune-up. UPDATE: The Rams have pumped in crowd noise during practice to prepare for the noise at Arrowhead.  This should give you an idea at how coach Spags is approaching this game.  Bradford also expects to play three full quarters. STL is still a team on the rise with a quarterback excited to take this team to the next level. 

The chance to improve couldn't have come at a better time.  Under Haley, KC is 1-9 straight up, 0-2 in week 3, 0-4-1 ATS at home, and 0-7 as an underdog.  Give them credit for improving their compete level against BAL, but the backups are so far behind the 8-ball that it wasn't really a contest in the 4th quarter.  The defense continues to be two steps behind the offense in practice, and Haley is still preaching fundamentals and getting ready for week 1 of the season. UPDATE: Jamaal Charles tweaked his leg in practice, so I won't be surprised if Haley plays him conservatively on Friday.  Tyler Palko played better, but he's still Tyler Palko.  If KC wasn't playing an up and coming team I'd have reason to pause, but there is nothing to indicate the result will be any different for a 3rd consecutive week.  Fade the Chiefs until further notice.  Prediction: Bank STL -2

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 25, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE #2: The line has crossed the 7 at most places and even sits at -8 at a few others.  Given how bad the books have gotten beat the 1st two weeks, it's hard to blame them for making such a move.  They've taken a ton of the value out of this play.

UPDATE#3: Books moving line back to -7.  I was a little surprised they crossed 7 as I'm sure a lot of people grabbed the middle opportunity.  But these things happen much more in preseason than the regular season.

Cleveland Browns vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -6

The "dream team" enjoyed some grade "A" humble pie last week and you can be sure this squad still has a bitter taste in its mouth.  Yes it was the preseason, but it was also on national TV.  Reid has come out and said the starters will play into the 3rd quarter (and maybe 3 full quarters) on Thursday night.  UPDATE: Mike Patterson is cleared to play in Thursday's game. This will be a much welcomed addition to shore up the run defense--especially if Hillis gets some reps. Look for the starting crew to right the ship and build some chemistry heading into the season.  The O-line is still riddled with questions on Vick's blindside, but CLE's pass rush is less than stellar.  As it stands now, King Dunlap is handling the right tackle duties while Ryan Harris and Winston Justice are out with injuries.  PHI will provide him with help because once Dunlap gives up half a step, he’s beat.  DET exposed CLE's backups last week and that lack of quality depth is going to hurt them in the 4th quarter.

CLE do have some positives to bring into this game--starting with Colt McCoy.  The kid has been lights out this preseason despite facing significant pressure and being without starting tailback Peyton Hillis.  The run defense looks improved, but PHI is a pass-happy team. The Eagles will stretch the field and force them to cover every inch of the field.

On the flip side, CLE have a lot of things to worry about on Thursday.  First up, they could be without 8 significant players that includes Massaquoi, Hillis, Moore, and Cribbs.  Massaquoi is the closest thing this team has to a number one receiver. Greg Little has talent, but he’s working on raw ability alone at this point. If Hillis could go he would give McCoy some much needed blitz pickup skills.  Moore and Cribbs have done an excellent job creating mismatches in the short-passing game and exploiting zones over the middle this preseason.  Without these two in the lineup, McCoy is going to find life difficult under pressure.

Making matters worse, this is an offense that is predicated largely on rhythm and timing.  When you have the kind of pass rush that PHI has, McCoy could sputter.  CLE have enough trouble overcoming their own mistakes (dropped passes, penalties, missed tackles, fumbles), so this game will likely be chalked up to a "learning experience".  Seneca Wallace, once thought to be a major asset because he was familiar with the WCO, has suddenly become a liability as the backup.  He's been off-target for much of the preseason. When you matchup the starters for 3 quarters, CLE are simply too out-matched and undermanned to keep this within a touchdown. UPDATE: Pat Shurmer said the starters will play at least a half, and possibly into the 3rd quarter.  Moore returned to practice, but it's unknown if or how long he will play on Thursday.   Prediction: Bank PHI -6.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 21, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

San Diego Chargers vs Dallas Cowboys: SD +.5 1st Half

If it wasn't for Steven McGee I would make this a full game play, but SD simply doesn't have the QB depth to reliably matchup.  McGee could certainly fall back to earth this week, but I feel much stronger about the first 30 minutes of this game. 

SD has been putting extra emphasis on their special teams play this preseason and things kicked off with a great start vs SEA.  New special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is well-respected among the players and he's determined to right the ship.   The number one offense and number one defense got off to a blazing start last week and all indications point to another huge year on both sides of the ball.  Last year camp was held hostage by the holdouts of Jackson and McNeill, but this year's group has contract harmony and everyone is on the same page.  Against DAL, Turner has come out and said that his first stringers will get close to a half (if not the whole half) and that they are treating it like a real regular season game.  They spent the week installing the most critical installations of the playbook. This is bad news for a DAL team that is still trying to regain their identity.

DAL is still experimenting on their O-line and the LG position is up for grabs.  Keep an eye on how well the pocket holds up against a top flight defense.  Munusky's defense is swarming and aggressive.  Austin is hobbled with a hamstring strain so it's unsure how much he'll play on Sunday.  In fact, the 1st stringers might not even play the whole half according to Garret.  He said they will play "into the 2nd quarter", but like most coaches he'll evaluate how the flow of the game is.  On defense, things are very much a work in progress.  The secondary got lit up against a trio of sub-par QB's in week 1 and that doesn't bode well when a guy named Rivers is coming to town.  Grab the half point and play the Super Chargers.  Prediction: Bank SD +.5 1st Half. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 20, 2011

UPDATE: Line has moved to -3 for SEA.  5dimes still has it at -2.5.

UPDATE#2: Might be adding another play for Saturday depending on info/line movement.

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Tennessee Titans vs St Louis Rams: STL -3

5 Dimes has had STL at -3 all week, but I wanted to wait until more books moved the line before I put this out as a play (although I do highly recommend having an account at 5 Dimes.)   All reports indicate that TEN were very impressive in their week 1 game against MIN, but a closer look reveals some misconceptions.  Yes their defense played inspired ball, but they shut down a MIN offense that had problems all over the field.  Hasselbeck was a bright spot on offense, but let's not get carried away with Jake Locker.  Everyone saw the strong arm and improvisational skills for the touchdown, but if you watched the entire game you would have seen how many times he overthrew receivers.  Granted it was his first live NFL action, but this kid has a lot of work to do before he can be counted on as a legitimate NFL quarterback.  Munchak told his team to play with pride and that's what they did, but they'll need more than effort to topple STL on Saturday night.

Coach Spags indicated that the starters will get close to, if not the entire first half in this game.  This gives them an immediate edge over TEN because the Titans won't have Johnson at RB or Britt at WR.  Jackson will get some time, but he'll make way for Norwood/Williams before the rest of the starters.  The offensive line has looked good protecting Bradford and this second year QB is determined to make that big leap this season.  This fits perfectly with Spagnuolo's philosophy because he's 7-2 straight up as a preseason coach.  Bradford has looked much more confident, prepared, and comfortable this year.  The transition to Mcdaniels offense has been smooth as they've meshed some of the old system with the new one.  Right now most of the playbook is in place and should be much further ahead in their development than TEN's offense.  AJ Feeley isn't the best backup in the league, but he's should be able to out-duel Locker in the 2nd half.  Locker was correct when he said he expects to see more pressure from STL's defense than he did vs MIN's.  They won't make life easy on him and there is a lot of competition at a lot of positions so there won't be a dramatic fall off in intensity with STL's 2nd stringers.  Lay the points and take the home team--they are on the rise. Prediction: Bank STL -3.

Oakland Raiders vs San Fransisco 49ers: OAK +3

One of the biggest bright spots for OAK in week 1 was the fact that Jason Campbell remained upright.  Offensive line is one of the biggest question marks surrounding this team in 2011.   They may catch another break this week as defensive line depth isn't one of SF's strengths.  In fact, the entire SF defense has been suspect even before camp opened.  They haven't looked good in practices, lost 4 starters to injury/free agency, and now must "buy-in" and start from scratch.  OAK have a good QB battle going on for the 2nd spot and Boller/Edwards looked pretty good last week.  Advantage--Raiders.

Offensively, things don't get much prettier for SF.  Yes they weren't expecting rabid cover zero blitzing schemes from Williams in week 1, but both Smith and Kaepernick failed to respond.  The offensive game-plan is far behind schedule and the pass protection has been worse than anticipated.  The offense has worked on handing the blitz in practice, but they've been riddled with mistakes and sloppy play all week.  Making matters worse is the fact that OAK's strength is their ability to generate pressure without blitzing. Their front seven is very stout so Smith/Kaepernick will need to be more accurate to beat the coverage.  On the bright side, OAK has struggled in the secondary--especially after losing Asomugha.  Still, when a team is starting from scratch and installing new systems across the board, they are going to enter the game at a disadvantage.  I expect a better effort from SF, but not a better result.  Take the points and ride the Black and Silver.  Prediction: Bank OAK +3.

Minnesota Vikings vs Seattle Seahawks: SEA -2.5

MIN was my big disappointment from week 1.  I expected a whole lot more from Mcnabb and Webb, but their effort remained ugly from the get-go.  Given Webb's performance, he's been demoted to the 3rd string crew for week 2 which means Christian Ponder will get significant playing time with the two's.  But the question marks go far beyond the quarterback play for the Vikings.  The offense is still very much a work in progress and questions linger at wide receiver and running back.  The secondary struggled and there were glaring breakdowns on the offensive line.

Granted, it's important not to overreact to one week of preseason football and guys like Allen, Williams, and Winfield didn't play a single snap, but it's not a good sign when the question marks go right across the board.  Shiancoe will not play and don't expect a lot from Peterson either. UPDATE: Harvin ruled out.

SEA came through in week 1 like I expected.  The combination of Whitehurst and Portis at QB provided enough offense in the 2nd half to pull out the win.  Jackson has already been anointed the starting job, but that will continue to be a source of contention if Whitehurst outplays him for a 2nd straight week.  I like this kind of QB competition for my preseason picks and this game carries added interest for the former Vikings on the roster (Jackson, Rice, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell).   Williams is on track to return after suffering a toe injury.   Also look for some nice returns on special teams as Longwell isn't the most prolific touchback kicker.  Prediction: Bank SEA -2.5.

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 19, 2011

UPDATE #3: The line for BAL has moved to -6.5 and in some places -7. There are also signs that WSH is moving to -6.  The juice on ATL has gone to -120. 

UPDATE #4: DET/CLE game added to the card. 

UPDATE#5: The line for the WSH game has come back down to -4.5.  Shop around for the best price.

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Washington Redskins vs Indianapolis Colts: WSH -4.5

Giving up 4.5 points on the road in the preseason is a lot, but when you consider how profitable it has been to fade IND over the years 4.5 seems like a gift.  Jim Caldwell is now 1-8 straight up and 2-6 as an underdog ATS.  In fact, there is a lot more going for WSH in this game other than having IND as an opponent. 

People love to bet on Mike Shanahan in the preseason.  Year after year he continues to improve his record ATS and there's little reason to think he'll stop now.  John Beck practiced yesterday and is expected to play on Friday.  Beck himself isn't much to get excited about, but what is important is that he'll drive a quarterback competition to it's maximum.  He and Grossman will want to impress his coaches and teammates so points will be a high priority. IND have questionable depth in their secondary, so that is a matchup I like. Outside of Moss, WR remains a question mark, but look for more competition on the outside as well as hard running from Tim Hightower.  Cooley remains out, but it won't matter much.  On defense, WSH is looking to improve and actually have some nice pieces to work with on this side of the ball.  They'll give Painter and Orlovsky all they can handle.  Fade the Colts until further notice. Prediction: Bank WSH -4.5.

Atlanta Falcons vs Jacksonville Jaguars: ATL +3

Mike Smith decided to give John Parker Wilson extra reps in week 1 and now he's out with a concussion.  Things were looking great for ATL up until that point, but a turnover and a kick return gave MIA the points they needed for the win.  I don't expect the same misfortune this time around now that Chris Redman is taking over 2nd team duties.  Smith's overall preseason record isn't great, but a closer look reveals he is 4-1 as an underdog and 5-1 on the road.  Both of those factors apply in week 2.

On the flip side, Del Rio is much worse at home and as a favorite than he is on the road and as a dog.  For JAX, Kampman and MJD remain on the sidelines and won't play on Friday and Session and Jennings have been held out of practice due to head injuries.  Garrard  and Lewis are expected to play, but as long as Gabbert is scheduled for a lot of playing time, I like this matchup.  Prediction: Bank ATL +3.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Baltimore Ravens: BAL -6

-6 is a high number to lay for the preseason, but when it comes to teams like IND and KC, it's not hard to pull the trigger.  Todd Haley is now 1-8 straight up, 0-2 in week 2, 0-6 ATS as dog, and 0-4 ATS on road.  Some wondered whether KC was in for a bounce-back week against BAL, but Todd Haley has already come out and confirmed that his approach won't change for Friday night's game.  Instead, he's focusing more on getting his team into "shape" and prepared for the regular season.  Every coach is handling the post-lockout world differently, and Haley is taking the slow cautious road.  To make matters worse, KC has one of the worst backup QB situations in the NFL.  

BAL wasn't exactly inspiring in their game vs PHI either.  They have considerable trouble on their offensive line (especially at LT) and the pass rush wasn't too great on the other side either.   Tyrod Taylor was inconsistent, but I like his athleticism and ability to make plays when things break down.  Yet, this play has more to do with fading KC than anything to do with BAL.  Prediction: Bank BAL -6.


Detroit Lions vs Cleveland Browns: DET +2.5, OVER 36.5

Two teams that made a splash in week 1 square off on Friday night and both have the ability to put up some points.   DET under Schwartz is 3-1 as an underdog, 7-2 straight up, and 6-1 ATS in his last 7.   Starters should get about a half and Johnson and Pettigrew are probable to play.  Harrison and Bell will also get more quality reps behind Best. The focus in camp this week has been installing more offense and putting points on the board.  This is not about to be a grinding knock-down drag-out game.  Stafford, Hill, and Stanton will be winging it and attacking a new defensive scheme. There have been a lot of defensive breakdowns around the league thus far, and you are seeing even more with teams implementing significant changes.  Last week CLE's first team defense struggled mightily against a pass-heavy offense.

Pat Shurmer is trying to get his own passing game caught up to speed which is why you saw them bomb it down field so many times against GB.  Expect McCoy to take it to the air again in week 2 as he's eager to solidify his spot as a starting QB.  He worked hard in the offseason to improve and he'll have an entire half of football to show his stuff.  McCoy will also get the chance to do it against a limping secondary--Houston and Wright are questionable with hamstring strains, although both have returned to practice and Wright would love to play against his former team. Wallace is an inconsistent QB, but he's more familiar with the WCO than McCoy or Jarrett so he should be good for a score or two.  CLE's last 7 preseason games have gone over the total and I believe that trend will continue.  Both of these teams believe they are on the rise, but I'm choosing sides and riding with DET.  Stability, QB depth, and a hungry defense should be enough to take care of a CLE team still trying to line up in the right position.  Prediction: Bank DET +2.5 and OVER 36.5.

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 18, 2011

UPDATE: The line for PHI has started to move to 3. I still like it as a play at 3, but grabbing the hook is always important--especially considering that games in the preseason land on 3 more often than the regular season.

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Philadelphia Eagles vs Pittsburgh Steelers: PHI +3.5

I'm a little surprised PHI is being given the hook in this game because I would have made it a play even at +3.   Week 1 trends don't favor Andy Reid, but they do in week 2 where he is 10-2 ATS.  I'm in agreement with the latter this year because of the changes they not only made with their roster, but also with their coaching staff. 

It's no secret that PIT is experimenting on their offensive line.  It was a problem last year and it's on track to be a problem this year.  On Thursday they will be playing their 3rd option at the RG spot.  Outside of Pouncey, the entire line has question marks. Jim Washburn got a lot of energy and production from his D-line in week 1 and expect to see more of the same vs PIT.  This year the lines on both sides of the ball are being coached up to play more aggressively and push upfield rather than holding their ground. 

Vince Young might not know the offense yet, but he's still better than most backup quarterbacks in the league.  He's surrounded with good depth players and solid coaching.  Behind him is Mike Kafka.  He had one bad interception last week, but overall he looked pretty good.  PHI should be able to win the battle of 1st stringers and they also have an edge with QB depth as well.  Their jobs will be made even easier with Ike Taylor hobbled with an injury.  McFadden is hobbled with a hamstring, but check his status later in the week.  If both are out, D-Jax could have a free ride to an early score.  Fly with the Birds and take the points.  UPDATE: Reid has confirmed that the starters will play the entire first half.  Prediction: Bank PHI +3.5.

Friday, August 12, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 13, 2011

Week 1 has gotten off to a good start with the exception of ATL.  Mike Smith decided to flip the script and won't be receiving a Christmas card from me this year after keeping Redman on the sidelines.  But let's move on and see what's on the schedule for Saturday.

Green Bay Packers vs Cleveland Browns: OVER 35

If it wasn't for Seneca Wallace I'd like GB in this game, but he is too much of a wild card to play the Packers with any confidence.  Instead, I like this game to go over.  10 of the last 12 GB preseason games have gone over the total, as well as 5 of the last 6 preseason games for CLE.  This might not mean much given the sample size and all the variables, but all the ingredients are in place to believe these trends will continue.
Pat Shurmur is determined to make his mark on this CLE team and get some early production out of them this preseason.  Yes, the same can be said for SF and CIN (and look how they performed yesterday), but I believe that all three CLE quarterbacks are capable of putting up some points.   McCoy will get time with the starters in the 1st quarter, while Wallace should play the 2nd and 3rd.  Jarrett Brown will likely get mop-up duty.  What I like about the latter two guys is their mobility.  You've seen how many times plays have broken down in these early games and it pays to have QB's who can run around and make things happen.  

On the other side, CLE is trying to install a 4-3 defense and they have a horrible punting situation right now.  This should provide more than enough opportunities for Matt Flynn to put some drives together.  All reports indicate that he's made more strides this year.  Behind him you have Justin Harrell who is being called the best 3rd string QB GB has had in 6 years.  Also don't be surprised if Randall Cobb makes some big plays in the return game.  The Packers just got back from the White House and might still be basking in that Super Bowl after-glow.  Prediction: Bank OVER 35.

Indianapolis Colts vs St Louis Rams: STL -7

The worst kept secret in the NFL is that IND doesn't care about the preseason whatsoever.  I was planning on using STL in a teaser, but I decided to take them straight after everything I've read.  The only thing worse than the Colts in the preseason is the Colts in the preseason without Peyton Manning.  Under Jim Caldwell, IND is 0-3 on the road ATS, 2-5 as an underdog ATS, 1-7 straight up, and 0-2 in the 1st week.  
Painter, Orlovsky, and Davis are scheduled to handle the action and they are not exactly the most inspiring trio.  Caldwell doesn't do any preparation as he is most concerned about getting through the game without any injuries to their fragile set of skill players.  They are planning on using five drafted rookies and 15 undrafted free agents against STL. 

Things will get ugly for STL in the 2nd half, but they should be able to build up a nice lead before Taylor Potts and/or Thad Lewis take over.  The Rams bring stability at QB with Bradford and Feeley and coach Spags has proven that he likes to win in the preseason (6-2 over the last two seasons).   In fact, Bradford has openly said that he wants to play more than one or two series in this game and that he's going to try to score a touchdown everytime he gets the ball.  This is a refreshing approach because so many coaches and quarterbacks around the league are simply worried about understanding the playbook and limiting mistakes this year.  Norwood and Cadillac will backup Jackson at RB and there is heavy competition at the WR spot.  Also keep an eye on RC TE Lance Kendricks. Roll with the Rams and lay the points. Prediction: Bank STL -7.

Minnesota Vikings vs Tennessee Titans: MIN +3.5

If you shop around you can find the hook for MIN, but I would still make this a play at +3 as well.  There are no trends to speak for either side as MIN and TEN have new coaches that were promoted from within.   At first glance, you would think that there isn't really much that differentiates these teams in this game.  Both have brought in veteran WCO quarterbacks and plan to groom newly drafted rookies behind them.  
Not so fast my friend.  Christian Ponder hasn't been the greatest in camp so far and he's not a lock to have the number two QB position behind Mcnabb.  He did receive a partial playbook at the draft, but the Vikings are protecting him a bit and plan to start him as the number three guy for this game.  Joe Webb has a better grasp on the offense and will likely be with the second team.  He also has great athletic ability to compensate for a glitchy game-plan.  Mcnabb knows the language of this offense and should be good to go from the start.

Things aren't as promising for TEN.  Hasselbeck has had a lot of trouble understanding the verbiage of this system and is only scheduled to play one series (maybe two depending on the drive).  After that it's the Jake Locker show.  All TEN coaches are looking for from him is to "handle pressure, stay patient, and manage the clock".   The playbook has been stripped down to its bare bones for this matchup.  Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson won't play and that should limit TEN's ability to put up quick points in the first quarter.  Coach Munchack has said that they haven't scripted any plays and have only prepared for "situations".  After Locker, Rusty Smith will come in and do his best not to embarrass himself.  I believe the wrong team is favored in this one.  Prediction: Bank MIN +3.5.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 12, 2011

For latest odds check out 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Detroit Lions: DET -4

In a normal preseason year taking DET in this spot would be a questionable decision.  Teams with new skill players and new coaching staffs like to build a strong, winning culture in the preseason.  However, in week 1 of the 2011 preseason we must balance new vs time.

CIN haven't had nearly as much time as they would like with their roster.  There is continuity on defense (which is good for the preseason), but the offense is so far behind that Friday's game against DET is going to look like a nasty train wreck.  All reports indicate that Lewis is planning on giving Dalton extra reps with the first team to get him more acclimated with the WCO.   Jay Gruden knows how to simply things, but keep in mind we are talking about a rookie who didn't see any offseason OTAs.  When tested with some Mike Zimmer blitzes, Dalton's head was spinning.  Gradkowski offers some credibility as his backup, but he hasn't look good in camp thus far.  Jordan Palmer is only receiving about 10-15% of the reps in practice.  Lewis even stated that LeFevour will see time at QB. 

DET had a setback when their lost their rookie RB Leshoure to an injury, but they didn't waste anytime bringing in replacements.  Harrison and Bell might not see much time (if any) on Friday, but the RB position isn't what's going to make or break the result of this game.  DET have the luxury of bringing established stability to week 1 of the preseason with the combination of wanting to improve a young roster.  They have a great QB rotation with Stafford, Hill, and Stanton, so moving the ball down the field and scoring some points shouldn't be a problem vs CIN.

Schwartz has a very good preseason record while Lewis has remained average.  CIN has the greater motivation, but it's unlikely they will see any improvements or results until later in the preseason.  Prediction: Bank DET -4.

UPDATE: Line movement has DET down to -3 if you shop around, so if you can grab this number that's a bonus.  A ton of people jumped on CIN +5 when the lines opened and now the majority are on DET.  A lot of sharps try to position themselves for middles in the preseason.


Miami Dolphins vs Atlanta Falcons: ATL -2

Tony Sparano has a sparkling 3-0 record as an underdog in the preseason and a 5-1 record against the spread on the road.  However, he recently came out and said that they are treating their game vs ATL as a scrimmage rather than a game.  In fact, they won't even be game-planning for ATL whatsoever.

Ok so this isn't breaking news.  Most teams will be treating their opening preseason game like a scrimmage, but MIA are putting an exclamation point on it.  Henne has been struggling in camp thus far and they signed Matt Moore to back him up.  Moore has only been one of the worst QB's in NFL history.  Granted, Chris Redman isn't exactly a pro-bowler himself, but he won't have to learn a new offense like the MIA QB's do.

This won't be a pretty game by any means, but I'll be shocked if MIA can put enough together to come out with a win on Friday.  Prediction: Bank ATL -2.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Kansas City Chiefs: TB -2.5

TB is a young team and Morris doesn't have a lot of preseason history under his belt, but KC have almost every preseason trend working against them.  Over the last four years they are 2-15 ATS.  Under Haley they are 0-3-1 ATS at home, 0-5 ATS as an underdog, 1-7 straight up, and 0-2 in the first week of preaseason.

As I read the press clippings and scan the newswires nothing looks like its about to change in KC this year.  Haley has been very public about the challenges of the post-lockout training camp.  He is more concerned about his young guys knowing the plays rather than putting points on the board.  The QB situation is pretty bleak.  Palko is the number 2 behind Cassel, but not many people expect him to have that position to start the season.  He's been cut by more teams than I can count in his short career.  The number 3 is a guy named Ricky Stanzi--a 5th round pick out of Iowa.  If anything happens to Cassel, KC's season will go up in flames.

For TB, Josh Freeman is having a home-coming of sorts as he grew up a huge Chiefs fan.   Morris has said that he wants him in there longer than usual and it's possible he even plays into the 2nd quarter.  The first team offensive line will also stay in as long as Freeman does, so protection break-downs should be kept to a minimum going up against KC's 2nd string skeleton-crew.  They are also very high on Josh Johnson's progress as a backup.  I like these guys to have a lead going into the 4th quarter and it should be enough to ward off any potential comeback by KC's 3rd string rejects.  Prediction: Bank TB -2.5.

NFL Preseason Predictions: August 11, 2011

As most of you know this preseason is a little different compared to years past.  Some traditional trends still apply, but following them blindly is never a good idea. For example, many people published predictions and placed action on games, only to backtrack and hedge the other side due to new information.  Waiting for player rotations and coaches intentions may cost us a couple points on the line, but it's much better than being stuck with an early position that no longer has value at all.

More games in the preseason land on the "3" than in the regular season, so grabbing the hook or playing that number is even more imperative than usual.  Luckily for us, bookmakers aren't as scared to move off of 3 like they are during the season.

To kickoff the 2011 slate of games, many coaches are openly talking about their reluctance to put any of their top players on the field at all.  This means team depth and backup quarterbacks become even more important for week 1.

For latest odds check out 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Baltimore Ravens vs Philadelphia Eagles: PHI -3

When the lines opened BAL received a flood of action (70%).  It's hard to blame them since PHI was favored by 3.5/4 points.  Reid is 0-7 ATS in week 1 preseason at home and Harbaugh is 4-2 in week 1 on the road.  Yet, when picking games it's vital to know when to ride a trend and when to ignore it.  The action on BAL has dropped to 63% since Saturday. 

This game is a time to ignore previous results and go with the information at hand.  Reid has said that his 1st team starters will play a quarter and Young will take over to play the 2nd quarter with the 2nd stringers.  Reid has said this before, but usually pulls the starters before this--especially when a key player takes a scary hit.  Young is like a rookie when you consider his knowledge of the WCO, but he's still a legitimate QB in this league.  The best news about the PHI QB situation is Mike Kafka.  News out of PHI camp is that he's throwing much better this year than ever before.  He's gotten stronger and now looks like an NFLer on the field.  He won't be Joe Montana on Thursday night, but he's further along than Young in this system and should be able to put some points on the board in the 2nd half. 

Harbaugh says his vets will only play a series or two and Tyrod Taylor will play 2 and a half quarters after that.  It doesn't get any better with Hunter Cantwell as your #3.

Throw out the record books and ride PHI as the home-team favorite. Prediction: PHI -3.

Seattle Seahawks vs San Diego Chargers: SEA +3.5

Norv Turner has earned a legitimate reputation for starting a season slow, but this applies to the preseason as well.  In his career he is 0-6 ATS in preseason openers.  This year you can expect the team to place a heavy emphasis on improving their special teams play given what happened last year.  Rivers is expected to play a couple of series, but Turner has said that he wants to "be smart" with his starters.  Many key players won't dress for this game.  SD is relying on Volek and Tolzien to lead the offense, but that will be asking a lot for two guys who already have their positions on the depth chart cemented in stone.

SEA bring a much more enthusiastic and competitive vibe to the preseason opener.  Jackson is slated to start, with Whitehurst backing him up.  Neither player will want to go through the motions given the amount of scrutiny that will be placed on both of them.  Whitehurst has even more motivation since Carroll has already named Jackson the regular season starter.  Expect to see a lot of Josh Portis in the second half and there is a lot of buzz around camp that he could be a darkhorse QB of the future.  He is blessed with a lot of natural ability and has a pretty good grasp on the base offensive scheme.

Underdogs getting more than 3 points in the 1st week of preseason are over 65% ATS.  Prediction: SEA +3.5.

More predictions coming soon...


Thursday, August 4, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: How to Approach the Preseason/September

The worst kept secret of the 2011 NFL season is the impact the lockout has had.  How will this year be different than year's past?  What are the some of the key factors to watch for when making your predictions?  Should you be more cautious in the preseason and September or should you be full steam ahead?  Let's take a look what has changed and what has stayed the same.



New coaches and schemes
There are a whopping 18 teams that are either bringing in a new head coach or offensive/defensive coordinator.  With the condensed offseason and limited amount of time for new signal callers to implement their systems there are going to be a lot of teams that start slow out of the gate.  Most of these coaches will be focusing on basic schemes until the core players get a firm grasp on things.

MIA - offensive coordinator
SD - defensive coordinator
KC - offensive coordinator
OAK - head coach, defensive/offensive coordinator
DEN - head coach, offensive coordinator
CLE - head coach
CIN - offensive coordinator
JAX - defensive coordinator
HOU - defensive coordinator
TEN - head coach
PHI - defensive coordinator
DAL - head coach*, defensive coordinator
STL - offensive coordinator
SF - head coach, offensive/defensive coordinator
ARI - defensive coordinator
MIN - head coach*
CAR - head coach, offensive/defensive coordinators

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a quick overview of some of the more important changes for 2011. 

New Quarterbacks
No other position on the field impacts the Vegas numbers more than the QB position.  This doesn't mean that lines will automatically be adjusted if someone new comes in.  It depends on the talent level of the QB, his familiarity with the offense/coaches, who they are replacing, and the players that surround him.  Some teams might not have "new" QBs per se, but will have guys starting full-time for the very first time.

MIA - Orton/Beck?
DEN - Tebow?
CLE - McCoy
CIN - Dalton
TEN - Hasselbeck
WSH - Grossman?
SEA - T Jackson/Whitehurst
ARI - Kolb
MIN - Mcnabb
CAR - Newton?

Continuity
In contrast, which teams are returning the same coaches, systems, and quarterbacks?  This will dramatically lesson the learning curve as the season kicks off.

NE, NYJ, BUF, PIT, BAL, IND, NYG, GB, CHI, DET, ATL, NO, and TB all fall into this category for 2011.

Motivation
Throughout the season a team's motivation can either be high or low depending on the position they find themselves in.  To start the season, every team's motivation will be sky high.  In the preseason, teams coming off a losing season will be highly motivated to instill a "winning culture" while established teams want to avoid injuries.

Offense vs Defense
Offenses usually take long than defenses to start a season, but in the post-lockout era this factor is even more amplified.   O-lines will have more trouble adjusting the protections for oncoming blitzes and quarterbacks will need a good handle on the offense to read the pressure.  The complexity of both offense and defense will be scaled back for most teams, but ugly offenses will make the UNDER play very popular in the opening weeks for some games.

2010 Regular Season/Free Agency
Most people picking games to start the new season will base a lot of their opinions on over-hyped and overrated factors.  What people remember from last year heavily influences perceptions and who teams acquired in the offseason is typically overblown.  Be cautious how much you rate new roster changes into your evaluations.

Information
In the preseason, information is widely available to the public regarding coaching plans and player activity.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd stringer playing times are often announced before a preseason game as well as which big names will be resting or starting.  Keeping a close eye on this information will be more important this year because the lockout will change playing times compared to previous years as coaches try to get their players ready. 

Team Depth
Which teams have quality backup quarterbacks and overall 2nd stringers?  This is a big clue as to who will ultimately win and/or cover in the preseason.  The more impact positions that have a competition going the better--especially at quarterback.  Motivation will be high to produce as much as possible to solidify their spots.  Also consider which teams are young and eager to improve and which teams are older and want to take it easy.  

Historical Trends
Coaches that have been in place for longer than a year or two will already have a routine for how they play the preseason.  Some coaches put a higher priority on winning than others.  There are also other trends to look for in terms of average scoring per week, etc.

This isn't a complete list of factors, but it covers a lot of the more prominent things to consider for the 2011 preseason and early weeks of the regular season.

What it All Means
Usually the preseason is a great opportunity to pad the bankroll for the regular season. Sharp (professional betters) action outweighs the public during the exhibition games while public action outweighs sharp action in the regular season.  But this year we should be more selective in the preseason because Vegas has adjusted most of their lines and it's not as easy to take advantage of the numbers as it was in previous years.  Sharps will snag the opening lines and make it very difficult for the rest to get the best numbers.  This doesn't mean there won't be value, but keep this in mind as you sift through the early games.  With the information I've listed above you should be able to have a big leg up on the general public in the preseason.  Also, once the games begin for real books MUST raise their totals numbers and given the impact of the lockout this year, it will be a good opportunity to take advantage in September as well.

Coming soon: some early thoughts on the early Vegas lines (season win totals, week 1, etc).