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NFL Week 3 Picks 2016 (September 22-26)

Coming back from a holiday always gives me the blues, but you have to get back going with normal life. I will say it was great watching the ...

Saturday, 24 September 2016

NFL Week 3 Picks 2016 (September 22-26)

Coming back from a holiday always gives me the blues, but you have to get back going with normal life. I will say it was great watching the NFL in Vegas even if the games start at 10am on a Sunday morning (Saturday nights in Vegas are unbelievably good).

The reaction of so many when Denver stripped Andrew Luck and scored a front door cover with less than two minutes on the clock was the same as mine as it cost me a second winning week. The Broncos had no right to cover against Indianapolis in what was a close game until the final two minutes and it was the Defensive unit that won the game for them.

Hopefully Week 3 won't see that kind of bad break and I can get back to winning ways.

Arizona Cardinals @ Buffalo Bills Pick: This spread looks a little smelly when you think of the way both the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills are perceived, but I can't help but buy it. I can't imagine how Arizona would be favoured by less than a Touchdown in this game when you consider how bad Buffalo have been on both sides of the ball even if the Bills have had a few more days to prepare for the game.

Greg Roman was surprisingly released as the Offensive Co-Ordinator in the wake of the loss to the New York Jets, especially when you think Buffalo scored 31 points in that game. The Defensive unit let them down and both Ryan brothers are on the hot seat coming into this game as the Bills continue to struggle.

Buffalo have been outplayed in both losses this season and they are going to have it tough again when you think they will struggle to run the ball. LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor have plenty of mobility behind Center, but Buffalo are averaging just 3.5 yards per rush attempt and the Cardinals Defensive Line has proven they can shut down teams in those situations.

This will be a game in which Taylor is going to need his legs to escape the pressure that Arizona bring up front, but he can't afford to make mistakes throwing the ball against this Secondary. Under pressure that can happen and Buffalo are missing Sammy Watkins too which is going to make it tough for them to move the ball with any consistency in this one.

Some out there have suggested that Carson Palmer is on the decline, but he didn't play that badly last week in the win over Tampa Bay at home. I still think Palmer has something in the tank for an Arizona team in win now mode, and I think Palmer will have a big game against Buffalo.

He might be under pressure up front, but the Buffalo Secondary has had some big holes and I think the Cardinals can make them pay with the Receivers they have. David Johnson is someone you can check down to coming out of the backfield and I think Arizona will have more success moving the chains on Sunday than their counterparts.

One concern will be trying to run the ball effectively and protecting Palmer is another, but Buffalo will need turnovers to win this game. They might get some chances with Arizona throwing the ball around, but Palmer should have a big enough game to come through.

The Cardinals are 12-1 against the spread in road games against teams with losing records and they are a strong road favourite under Bruce Arians going 8-3 against the spread in that spot since 2013. Being 0-2 will keep Buffalo focused rather than looking ahead to New England next week, and they are 9-3 against the spread as the home underdog since 2013, but they were beaten easily in that spot last week.

I am not sure that Buffalo might be falling out of love with Rex Ryan and I think Arizona can make them pay and move back into a winning record.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers Pick: How many other 2-0 teams would be considered such an underdog as the Minnesota Vikings are this week? However that is the case with Minnesota Vikings because of the injuries they have suffered in the first month of the season with a starting Quarter Back already out for the season and now joined by Adrian Peterson, the starting Running Back, and have some issues on the Offensive Line.

The fact they are taking on the NFC representative from the last Super Bowl, on the road no less, is also factoring into the spread this week.

Sam Bradford might only recently have come into the Vikings locker room, but he looked very comfortable with his new teammates in the win over the Green Bay Packers. Bradford made some big time throws and has locked in with Stefon Diggs, and he might have had a chance to follow that up IF Peterson had not been ruled out for some time.

Now the Panthers don't have to worry about loading the box and stopping Peterson which might have seen Bradford attack a Secondary which has underperformed so far. Instead the Panthers can concentrate on getting better results from the Secondary and feel they can slow down the rushing Offense with the Offensive Line already struggling to open holes for Peterson.

Carolina should be able to put plenty of pressure on Bradford, but they might have their own issues running the ball. Jonathan Stewart is out and Minnesota have shut down Tennessee and Green Bay from running the ball against mobile Quarter Backs so even Cam Newton might find himself bottled up in this one.

While the Panthers have some big Receivers who can make plays for them, Newton will have to be able to handle the pressure that Minnesota are likely to get on him. He has not been that clean in his play just yet, but Carolina have been playing well at home and I think the entire squad will be looking for a big performance after the troubles in Charlotte this week.

They have been a good home favourite to back of late as they are now 13-4-2 against the spread in that position since 2013. This Minnesota Defensive unit is more than legit, but I think they might struggle to score too many points themselves and I can see Carolina pulling away late thanks to some big plays from Cam Newton and I like them to cover this number.

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers Pick: After losing a game to an injury-riddled Minnesota Vikings team in Week 2, the questions about the Green Bay Packers have been coming thick and fast. There is even some suggestion that Aaron Rodgers is on the decline with statistics from recent games not exactly flattering one of the best Quarter Backs in the NFL.

Now I am sure Rodgers will want you to 'R-E-L-A-X', but the questions about the Packers will only double if they were to fall to 1-2 this week. Injuries in the Detroit Lions Defensive unit could make things a little more comfortable for the Packers this week, but their Offensive unit has to find a way to earn more consistency.

Being back at home might help too, but it could all begin for Rodgers by Eddie Lacy and James Starks running the ball more efficiently than they have. They should have a chance to establish the run, especially as Detroit are giving up 5.1 yards per carry in their two games, and that might open things up for Rodgers.

Ziggy Ansah is set to miss out and that takes away some of the pass rush pressure that Detroit would have been looking to get on Rodgers. Green Bay's Offensive Line have struggled in protection at times, but missing Ansah might mean the holes in the Secondary look wider than normal. However, Green Bay are yet to get on the same page when it comes to the passing game and failing to do that again will give the Lions a chance to keep up with them on the scoreboard.

It won't be easy for Detroit who can't expect to run the ball all too effectively against this Defensive Line which will put more pressure on Matt Stafford at Quarter Back. Ameer Abdullah is out, but Theo Riddick could still do some damage from out of the backfield which might be the best way any 'run' game is established for Detroit.

Stafford might not have a fit Clay Matthews to deal with which will be useful behind this Offensive Line which has not protected the Quarter Back as well as they would have liked. However giving Stafford time means he can hit big Receivers downfield as Green Bay have some issues in the Secondary which won't have been helped by Sam Shield having to pass concussion tests before he is allowed to play.

I think that will see Detroit moving the chains and this looks a lot of points for them to be given. The Packers have had a losing record as the home favourite in Division games in two of the last three years and they were beaten by Detroit here last season.

If the Offense is still struggling to find a way to consistently move the chains, I do think the Lions can make these points look very useful and I will back them to cover even in a losing effort.

MY PICKS: Arizona Cardinals - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers - 7 Points @ 1.95 William Hill (2 Units)
Detroit Lions + 7 Points @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Oakland Raiders - 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Philadelphia Eagles + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
San Diego Chargers + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 William Hill (1 Unit)

Week 2: 5-5, - 0.70 Units (20 Units Staked, - 3.50% Yield)
week 1: 4-3-1, + 0.29 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.93% Yield)

College Football Week 4 Picks 2016 (September 24th)

I can't believe we have already reached Week 4 of the College Football season.

This week I am going to simply put up the picks I have from the games to be played through Saturday as I've just come back from my trip to the West Coast of the United States. Week 5's thread will be back to the usual breakdowns of the picks and why I have made them.

The last two weeks have been tough with little luck and poor picks mixed in to make it a poor start to the season. Hopefully I can begin to get that turned around in Week 4.

MY PICKS: Mississippi Rebels - 7 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Tennessee Volunteers - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 17.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys + 8 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
South Carolina Gamecocks + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Stanford Cardinal - 3 Points @ 1.87 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

Week 3: 4-6, - 2.23 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
Week 2: 4-5, - 1.32 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.67% Yield)
Week 1: 6-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)

Season 2016: 14-16, - 2.97 Units (30 Units Staked, - 9.9% Yield)

Season 201587-77-2, + 2.77 Units (166 Units Staked, + 1.67% Yield)
Season 201475-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% Yield)
Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (September 24-26)

I am only just back from Los Angeles and Las Vegas so the threads this weekend will all be shortened and should be back to normal from the middle of next week.

Manchester United v Leicester City PickIt has been a difficult week for Jose Mourinho, but he would have been relieved his Manchester United team avoided any upset in the English Football League Cup when beating Northampton Town during the week. This is another big test for Manchester United having lost back to back Premier League games and it might also be a big test of the Mourinho character as he tries to solve the Wayne Rooney conundrum.

Rooney has been a player on the decline for a few years which has been papered over by some poor performances from those around him. However he is looking to be the problem more and more and Mourinho has to see what the fans have been seeing for years and the same thing the media chooses to ignore.

The England captain is terrible in possession and the only passes he can make with confidence are usually from his own half and going back towards his own goal. His presence in the team is making it harder for Paul Pogba to flourish and Rooney has to be dropped.

Otherwise another poor performance from Rooney will result in another potentially damaging loss against an improving Leicester City who are now comfortable playing with the tag of Champions. They are not as strong at the back, but Leicester City have shown they do have goals in the side and I can see this live Saturday lunchtime kick off perhaps being one of the more entertaining ones of the weekend.

Both games last season ended with both teams scoring and the same occurred in the Community Shield with a winner being found by Manchester United. I do think both teams will likely hit the back of the net in this one too, but once again I will be looking for a winner and I will back at least three goals to be shared out between the two clubs.

Bournemouth v Everton PickThis is another Premier League game which looks like it could produce a few chances at both ends and I am looking for Bournemouth and Everton to share three goals between them.

There will be plenty of attacking play in the game and I think both managers are going to expect a reaction to poor exits in the English Football League Cup that both suffered during the week.

Everton have shown they have got some goals in the side, while Bournemouth are more than capable in front of their own fans. If Romelu Lukaku misses out it would be a blow to Everton, but I think he will play and this feels like a game that might end up 2-1 either way.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur PickThe loss of Harry Kane is a blow for Tottenham Hotspur, but the England international has not exactly been in the best of form and I don't think his team will miss too many beats.

I certainly think they can still go to Middlesbrough and come away with the three points as Aitor Karanka tries to get more attacking threat from his side. The home side won't be an easy out for any team at the Riverside Stadium, but a team like Tottenham Hotspur have shown they can win on their travels under Mauricio Pochettino.

At odds against, I do think Tottenham Hotspur can make the odds count and I will back them to win.

Swansea City v Manchester City PickIf anyone saw the Swansea City Premier League game against Chelsea, there has to be some trepidation in the home team ranks as to what might happen on Saturday. Yes, Swansea City earned a 2-2 draw with Chelsea, but they could have been 0-4 down by half time and a team like Manchester City are playing well enough to take the chances if they come their way.

I do think Francesco Guidolin is on the verge of being let go and the players might have given up playing for him.

With Sergio Aguero back, I think Manchester City will be too strong and I am going to back them to not only win, but win by a margin bigger than on Wednesday night.

MY PICKS: Manchester United-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 2.15 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update33-22-1, + 26.82 Units (103 Units Staked, + 26.03% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Thursday, 15 September 2016

NFL Week 2 Picks 2016 (September 15-19)

The NFL Week 2 Picks will be on this shortened thread and published while I am going to be on holiday... I've been able to put up some analysis for a few of the picks, but not all of them and this thread might not be back to usual until Week 4 if I don't have enough time from returning home and being able to set up the Picks.

The research has been done before I went over to the States for these games.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: The NFC North was expected to be a battle between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings through the entire season before Teddy Brdgewater went down with an injury. The Quarter Back has been lost for the season and the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford as the Vikings are seen to be in a win now position.

The Defensive unit is legit and any team that can look to ride the back of Adrian Peterson are going to be dangerous. Minnesota don’t really want to be looking to Shaun Hill at Quarter Back for too long and I would be surprised if Bradford is not given the start in Week 2.

Only big time Defensive turnovers which led to Touchdowns from that unit helped Minnesota overcome the Tennessee Titans on the road last week. It was an issue for the Offense to move the ball against a fairly average Defense that the Titans own, but that isn’t the case for the Green Bay Packers.

There are some injuries in the Secondary following a win last weekend in Jacksonville with Sam Shields expected to sit. However the Packers played the run well and I can see them loading the box and forcing Minnesota to look elsewhere than pounding the ball with Peterson.

I expect Green Bay to have success slowing down the run and they will get plenty of pressure on whichever Quarter Back is behind this Offensive Line. Clay Matthews is back in his familiar spot and seemed to be everywhere last week, while neither Bradford nor Hill are going to escape the pocket to make plays too often.

The key for Minnesota if they are going to open their new Stadium with a regular season win over a Divisional rival is being able to slow down the Green Bay Packers Offense. You have to say it is a big task for any team in the NFL to have success keeping Aaron Rodgers from scoring points and he was brilliant again in the win over Jacksonville.

Some outrageous plays were made as Rodgers moved around in the pocket and that included a Touchdown pass thrown to Devante Adams while in the grips of a Defender who was pulling Rodgers back. This Vikings Defense is very strong, but it will be tough to limit Rodgers who is being ably backed up by a fit Eddie Lacy at Running Back.

If Minnesota move men into coverage, Rodgers is happy to take the yards on the ground, while loading the box means he can throw to his Receivers who are good enough to make plays. The returning Jordy Nelson is a huge boost for Green Bay and I expect him to get stronger as the season goes on, while the likes of Adams and Randall Cobb will find more space now Nelson is back in the line up.

I am finding it difficult to imagine how Minnesota can not only keep Rodgers quiet, but also to score enough points to beat Green Bay. The spread can play mind games with us when you imagine it is two or three point short because the layers don’t often get things wrong, but I can’t see why you should ignore Rodgers and Green Bay trying to cover less than a Field Goal here.

Playing back to back road games is a tough task, while Minnesota have the excitement of opening a new Stadium. However teams are just 1-4 when doing that in recent seasons and I like the Packers in this one to show they are still the cream of the NFC North Division.

The Packers are 9-3 against the spread as the away favourite in Division games. Surprisingly they are not as effective as a small favourite of three points or fewer as you may imagine, but I think Green Bay cover this spread in the late Sunday night game.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans Pick: Both Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs come into this regular season game with a 1-0 record, but I am trying to figure who was the more unimpressive. At this point of the season a win is a win, but both the Chiefs and Texans could easily be coming into this one at 0-1.

The Chiefs in particularly somehow came out with a win against the San Diego Chargers despite trailing 24-3 at one point in that game at home. While you have to give Kansas City credit for the fightback to win, I can’t help wondering that the Chargers threw away the victory and Kansas City will have to be a lot better in Week 2.

It will be much more difficult against the Houston Texans this time around who the Chiefs have beaten in the Play Offs in each of the last couple of seasons. The Chiefs did win here in the regular season last season too as well as in the Play Offs, but they are going to have a more difficult time establishing the run meaning more emphasis on Alex Smith making the plays.

Smith has played well with his short passes and check downs but he is going to have to scramble and make some plays with his legs in this one. That is because the Houston Texans will likely get plenty of pressure against an Offensive Line that has struggled at times even if JJ Watt remains limited.

The bigger reason that I do think the Texans will be able to get some revenge on the Chiefs is the improvement they have made to their team Offensively. There were some teething problems on that side of the ball against the under-rated Chicago Bears, which is understandable with some new players at the skilled positions.

However they got a little something going in the second half with Brock Osweiler settling in at Quarter Back and Lamar Miller running the ball effectively. Both players could have their success in this one, especially Osweiler who won’t have too much pressure from the Chiefs front seven who are missing Justin Houston.

Miller is a threat Receiving the ball out of the backfield, while the Texans have brought in Will Fuller in the Draft to give DeAndre Hopkins some help in the Receiving department. Braxton Miller is another player taken in the Draft to provide more weapons in the passing game to complement what Hopkins will give them, although it does have to be said that the Kansas City Secondary is pretty good.

However the lack of pressure up front means Osweiler should have time to make plays to a host of options he has in the Receiving department. That should give Houston the chance to move the chains fairly consistently in this game and much better than when they were shut out in the Play Offs by the Chiefs.

It also should mean the Texans can earn some revenge over Kansas City and I like them to cover what looks a number that should be at least a Field Goal rather than below that key number. The Texans are now 8-3 against the spread as the home favourite under Bill O'Brien and they are 4-1 against the spread when favoured by three points or fewer.

Under Andy Reid, Kansas City are 3-5 against the spread as the road underdog when facing a non-Division opponent and I think the Texans cover the number on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers Pick: There was to be no revenge for the Super Bowl loss for the Carolina Panthers as they were downed by the Denver Broncos in Week 1. They have had a few extra days to get ready for Week 2 and I am expecting the Panthers to bounce back with a big victory on Sunday.

They are facing a San Franciso 49ers team that were dominating winners on Monday Night Football in Week 1, but there are some similarities with the 2015 season. The 49ers upset the Minnesota Vikings as the underdog in Week 1 on Monday Night Football last season and then travelled east for a road game where they were blasted out by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Panthers look a stronger team on both sides of the ball and they have had a little more time to prepare for the game. On the other hand San Francisco are on a short week, which is always difficult, and they will need a lot more out of their Offense to earn some success in this game.

One area that the Panthers will look to strengthen is the run Defense having allowed CJ Anderson to have too much success in Week 1. Carlos Hyde is a decent Back when you take away the concussion issues, but the Panthers might be more willing to load the box and look for Blaine Gabbert to beat them than they even were when it came to Trevor Siemian.

Gabbert did have a clean pocket when it comes to making plays last week, but I am not sure if that more to do with the Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line underachieving than the San Francisco Offensive Line being that good. Carolina should generate more pressure on Gabbert and I think the 49ers Offense will be bogged down more often than not.

It was the San Franciso Defense that impressed so much last week after looking to be heading into a transitioning year on that side of the ball. However Case Keenum is not Cam Newton and the Panthers have plenty of Offensive weapons that are going to give the 49ers lots to think about. Covering Devin Funchess, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen is going to be tough, especially when you think Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Fozzie Whittaker should be able to establish the run against them.

Double digit favourites can be difficult to trust, but Carolina have destroyed four of the last five teams they have faced at home. All of those four wins have come by at least 28 points per game and the Panthers had a huge lead against Seattle in the exception before the Seahawks fought back. I think the 49ers speed will mean they are worn down on Offense as Carolina make some big defensive plays to cover the 13.5 points this week.

Tennessee Titans @ Detroit Lions Pick: It is funny how one week in the NFL can change the views about a team so significantly as the Detroit Lions win at Indianapolis Colts has done. Both teams are seen in a different light going into Week 2, although the answer is that they are both somewhere in the middle.

Playing a home opener should keep the Lions focused, but this is not a great spot for them when you think they are going on the road to the Green Bay Packers next weekend. However, I still think Detroit will be too good for the Tennessee Titans who struggled in Week 1 as they made too many mistakes against an Offensively weak Minnesota Vikings team.

It was the Offense who threw away the chance of winning that game and it began with the fact that Tennessee could not run the ball effectively against Minnesota. DeMarco Murray should have better success in this one after watching Frank Gore have success for the Indianapolis Colts against the Detroit Defensive Line last week.

Being able to establish the run is going to make life a little more comfortable for Marcos Mariota who would otherwise be under intense pressure from the likes of Ziggy Ansah who can get hits on the Quarter Back.

Mariota doesn't have the same skill players at the Wide Receiver position as Andrew Luck and the Colts but he should have some success against this Secondary that struggled last week. He still won't want this to develop into a shoot out with the Lions who looked very comfortable with Matt Stafford at Quarter Back last week.

Stafford didn't face a lot of pressure last week and was able to carve up the Colts all day- he should have the time to his his playmakers in this one too even if Tennessee are not as bad in the Secondary as Indianapolis. Giving Stafford time will make life easy for the Quarter Back who has players like Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Eric Ebron who are able to make the big catches.

One thing Tennessee need to be given credit for last week is the way they shut down Adrian Peterson, but that might have been because they didn't respect Shaun Hill at Quarter Back. That isn't the case with Stafford behind Center and I can see Detroit establishing Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick as they did in the Week 1 win on the road.

The Titans have been an awful 4-11 against the spread as the road underdog the last couple of seasons although they have been much worse in Divisional games in that spot. They are off a loss they will feel they gave away and they are 4-10 against the spread when given between 3.5 and 9.5 points on the road the last couple of years.

Detroit are now 8-1-1 against the spread when coming off a win as the underdog and they are 8-2-1 against the spread as the home favourite under Jim Caldwell. That reads 6-1-1 against the spread when facing non-Division teams at home and I like the Lions to back up their Week 1 success with a win by a Touchdown in Week 2.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: Teams in the AFC North don't like each other, but the Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry with the Cincinnati Bengals might be the one filled with most disdain these days. Anyone who saw their Play Off game against each other last year will have seen that while the Bengals have been blamed for targeting injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Both teams won in Week 1 and they are expected to battle for the AFC North title through the season, even more so than the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are coming in off a short week having been part of the Monday Night Football doubleheader, but they are still seen as a healthy favourite to see off the Bengals at home who are playing back to back road games to open the 2016 season.

Bell is missing this game for the Steelers because of a suspension, but DeAngelo  Williams showed he is one of the best back ups in the League. He dominated against the Washington Redskins and would have been encouraged with the way Matt Forte was able to establish the run against the Bengals last week. Cincinnati are missing Vontaze Burfict to suspension for his actions in the Wild Card loss to the Steelers last year, but I still think the Bengals Defensive Line will be better this week.

I don't think Cincinnati will have much of an answer for Antonio Brown, but their best bet will be to get some pressure on Roethlisberger. Washington were able to do that for a while which led to an Interception and another fumble which was recovered by Pittsburgh, while the Steelers do have some question marks outside of Brown in the Receiving positions.

This might still develop into something of a shoot out and Andy Dalton showed last week he can make the big plays at the moments they are needed. Unlike against the Jets, Dalton should be helped by Jeremy Hill establishing something of a running threat in this one which will open up the passing lanes.

Like Pittsburgh, there is a significant drop off from AJ Green to the Number 2 Receiver in Cincinnati these days. Tyler Eifert is out, but Green should still win plenty of his battles outside and I can see him matching Brown for a big game. The Steelers did allow Kirk Cousins and the Redskins move the ball fairly consistently through the air even before they had a big lead to protect so it is not that difficult to see a situation where Dalton can do the same for the Bengals.

The Bengals are now 13-5-2 against the spread as the road underdog in recent seasons and they are 4-1 in this spot against Divisional opponents the last couple of seasons. Pittsburgh have been a good favourite to back at home in recent years, but I think getting the hook on the Bengals is hard to ignore in a game where a Field Goal win looks the most likely outcome.

MY PICKS: Green Bay Packer - 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Houston Texans - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Caroline Panthers - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Detroit Lions - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Cincinnati Bengals + 3.5 Points @ 1.87 William Hill (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys + 2.5 Points @ 2.05 Paddy Power (2 Units)
New York Giants - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 6 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Los Angeles Rams + 7 Points @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (September 16-18)

My trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas means I am putting up my picks from the weekend football from just the Premier League this week.

I have detailed breakdowns of five of the games, but I will add any other picks in the 'My Picks' section once the rest of the European games have been completed this week.

Chelsea v Liverpool PickFriday Night Football is a new feature of the Premier League and they can't have asked for many better games to open this round of fixtures when Chelsea take on Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The start made by both teams suggests they are going to be challenging for Champions League spots at the very least this season and the fact this game is on a Friday during a Champions League week highlights why both Chelsea and Liverpool fans will feel this can be a big season for them.

Unlike their top four rivals, Chelsea and Liverpool won't have any European commitments this season and that means having a week to prepare for League games for the most part. They won't be able to take any advantage of that lack of European football this week, but it is something to keep in mind going forward into the busy months before Christmas.

Antonio Conte's run of wins as Chelsea manager did come to an end last week against Swansea City although they were unfortunate to only draw having dominated the first 60 minutes. However I have felt Chelsea have been a little fortunate to have had won three Premier League games and I do believe this is by far the biggest test Conte has faced in his short time in England.

They are facing a confident Liverpool side that would have taken 7 points if offered to them when looking at the four League games they have played. I do think Jurgen Klopp's side will be stronger when they play the better teams who won't sit back and offer no space to Liverpool and so I think this is the kind of game where the German manager will thrive the most.

I've pointed out the success Liverpool have had against teams that finished above them last season with Klopp at the helm. This is a team with enough quality to punish teams that will come onto them and the Liverpool record at Stamford Bridge can't be ignored either with 1 loss from 8 visits in all competitions.

Liverpool have avoided defeat in two visits to the capital already this season at top four clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and I do think they make it three in a row. A Chelsea win last weekend would have had them even shorter than they are, but backing Liverpool to avoid defeat still is a big enough price to tempt me in.

Hull City v Arsenal PickHow impressive have Hull City been in their opening four League games? Far from the club that were supposed to be in disarray and go down with a record low points total, the Hull City players have pulled together and their character and determination has been clear to see.

While most clubs would not have enjoyed the two week international break for the gap in momentum, Hull City might have been happy to give their starting eleven a real rest. Some of those players were representing their country, notably standout performer Robert Snodgrass, but any rest Hull City get will be appreciated as they likely begin the same starting eleven for the fifth League game in a row.

At least Hull City will have had a week to prepare for this game unlike Arsenal who have been in Champions League action in Paris during the week. For a long time Arsenal were given the run around by Paris Saint-Germain and they should really have lost the game with the chances they gave up to the home team in that game.

However The Gunners did avoid defeat and that means the poor start that Arsenal made does seem to be forgotten and beating Southampton last week with a controversial penalty has moved The Gunners into a decent position in the Premier League. This is the kind of game that Hull City wouldn't really want to play with Arsenal capable of creating plenty of chances and scoring plenty of goals, while most of these players will remember the 0-4 home loss in the FA Cup a few months ago.

As hard as Hull City work defensively, Arsenal will pass, pass and pass the ball to tire them out and they have players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez that can create and score goals. Arsenal have enjoyed recent visits to the KC Stadium and I think they can succeed where Manchester United failed and that is winning this game with at least a two goal margin between themselves and Hull City.

Manchester City v Bournemouth PickThere isn't going to be much of a surprise to any team with the way Manchester City approach games, but stopping them is going to be a tough ask for most. I think that will especially be the case at The Etihad Stadium even if the best results Manchester City have put together in the early season games have come away from home.

The problem I see for Bournemouth in this game is that they like to play their football and that is only going to play into Manchester City's hands. Sergio Aguero being absent is a big blow for any team, but Manchester City will have their spaces in this one and they have plenty of goals in the side through Kevin De Bruyne and Nolito which should make them too strong for Bournemouth.

Aguero only scored 1 of the 9 goals Manchester City scored against Bournemouth in the 2015/16 season so even his absence might not prevent the home team from securing another comfortable win.

There are some defensive vulnerabilities that Bournemouth will look to exploit, but they won't have a big share of possession and I think Manchester City wear them down while putting up another three points on the board. I will be looking for the home team to make it three wins in a row against Bournemouth by at least two goals.

Everton v Middlesbrough PickRomelu Lukaku scored twice on international duty with Belgium and backed that up with all three goals in the Everton 0-3 win at Sunderland on Monday night. This is a player that hits goals in patches and Ronald Koeman will be very happy if his striker is about to go on a goal scoring run for Everton.

That would only aid a team that have made a very positive start to the new season and who have a run of very agreeable fixtures as far it looks on paper. Ronald Koeman has already begun to turn around the fortunes of Everton defensively compared with the Roberto Martinez era and they have enough attacking talent to score goals.

It is a work in progress, but Koeman has to be very happy with what he has seen although it is premature to suggest Everton are a top four candidate. They've made use of the fixtures they have had and Middlesbrough are coming into this fixture having lost their first Premier League game against Crystal Palace at home last weekend.

Aitor Karanka will make Middlesbrough difficult to beat, but a lack of goals might be a concern for them going forward. There has been some investment in the final third which could pay off if Middlesbrough can get those players settled, but this is going to be a difficult ground for any team to visit this season and I think Everton will be strong enough to break them down over ninety minutes.

It will be a battle, but I wouldn't be surprised if Lukaku gets on the scoreboard again and helps Everton earn another three points this weekend.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City PickThere is much at stake for both Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes in this live Sunday football offering when Crystal Palace host Stoke City. Both teams are expected to be in the top half of the table considering the investment they have made this summer in the playing staff, but both have perhaps underachieved at the moment.

At least Crystal Palace have earned a win last weekend and I do think the performances of both teams will see an entertaining game. Usually you might not associate these clubs with entertainment, but both are much improved as attacking forces under their current managers and I think that will show up on Sunday.

Becoming more adventurous going forward has meant there are more spaces for teams to exploit against them and that has seen both Crystal Palace and Stoke City look a little weaker defensively.

There is some real attacking talent in both squads and I can see these teams combining to create chances and score goals. 8 of the last 12 fixtures between these clubs have produced at least three goals and that includes both League games last season.

With Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bony leading the line for both clubs and definitely capable of scoring goals from the service they will get, I will look for Crystal Palace and Stoke City to share out three goals in this one at odds against.

MY PICKS: Liverpool + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.72 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.04 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

College Football Week 3 Picks 2016 (September 17th)

Just in case you are unaware, I am going to be posting my College Football Picks from Week 3 in this thread, but I am not going to have my usual full breakdown of the picks and why I have picked these games.

I will do that for five of the games, but the rest of the picks will be in the 'My Picks' section of the thread.

Why have I done this? Well I am flying out to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for eight days and I won't be taking my laptop with me as it is all about partying and enjoying a break. I will post Week 4 Picks from the College Football season on Saturday 24th September, but it will again be mainly my picks without the explanations due to time constraints, but I will back to the usual threads when College Football Week 5 rolls around.

Florida State Seminoles @ Louisville Cardinals Pick: The winner of the ACC Atlantic are expected to win the Conference in the Championship Game and them move onto the Play Offs. There are three teams in this Division that will legitimately believe they can go on and win the National Championship and two of those teams are facing one another in Week 3 of the 2016 season.

Many would have circled October 29th as the day the ACC Atlantic would have been decided when the Clemson Tigers visited the Florida State Seminoles, but the Louisville Cardinals have been so impressive in the first two weeks that they have joined those two teams as the elite in the Division.

The next three weeks will see Louisville host Florida State and face Clemson on the road and they will believe they can win these games with Lamar Jackson in the form he has displayed. Jackson was expected to be amongst the best Quarter Backs in the Conference, but he has even surpassed those expectations with the games against Charlotte and Syracuse.

Louisville have put up 132 points in those two games, but Bobby Petrino will be the first to tell you that this is a significant leap in terms of talent they are facing. Jackson is going to be challenged by the Florida State Seminoles Defensive Line which should be strong against the run all season and they have also generated plenty of pressure on Quarter Backs.

Jackson's mobility will mean he can escape some of the pressure, although the Offensive Line is going to face the toughest assignment so far in this young season. One area the Quarter Back may thrive is throwing the ball against a Secondary that has given up too many big plays for Jimbo Fisher's liking and who have lost Derwin James at Safety, a player who was the second highest tackler for the Defense last season.

His absence should give Jackson a chance to continue to make big plays through the air, but I think the Seminoles will have the most success slowing him down so far with their Defensive Line likely to create pressure and prevent Louisville from running the ball all over them.

I also think the Florida State Offense is going to be able to give Louisville plenty to think about in this game after seeing Deondre Francois play well as a Freshman at Quarter Back. Francois isn't as mobile as Jackson but he only has 16 fewer passing yards and 2 fewer Touchdowns, yet he has faced Mississippi and had 419 passing yards against them. It is his first road test, but Francois will be aided by Dalvin Cook who is one of the leading Heisman contenders.

While the Cardinals have begun the season playing the run well, they haven't played a team like Florida State who have brought back 11 starters from the Offense of last season. Cook will trouble them and Francois showed more wheels last week and I like the Seminoles to win here if their young Quarter Back can avoid the pressures that come with a first road start.

Florida State have thrived as a single digit road favourite over the last five years as they have gone 6-1 against the spread in that spot. The Cardinals are not a home underdog too often so they have to feel they have been disrespected in this one considering how they have begun the season, but I think the Seminoles could win it all this year and are the better team.

After some twists and turns in this one, I think Florida State come through and they cover this number on the road.

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Mississippi Rebels Pick: Nick Saban has created plenty of history in his time as Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he is hoping to avoid another piece by avoiding defeat to the same team three years in a row. That has never happened to him in his ten years as Head Coach in Tuscaloosa and the Crimson Tide should have plenty of motivation as they have double revenge on their side in their trip to Oxford.

Chad Kelly was huge for the Rebels in their upset of Alabama, although they were aided massively by the five turnovers they created. Now Mississippi have just 5 starters on both sides of the ball and have already faced one of the elite teams in the nation in the Florida State Seminoles and have come up short.

Mississippi blew a big lead in that defeat to Florida State and they were outgained by 200 yards in that game. Hugh Freeze has spoken of the excitement of playing Alabama, but I think it is easy to forget that the Rebels don't look up to their level this time around.

Of course they may pick up five turnovers again which is going to be difficult for any team to overcome at any level. It is well established that it is going to be difficult to run the ball against Alabama and Mississippi have already struggled once against a strong Defensive Line when averaging 2.7 yards per carry against the Florida State Seminoles in Week 1.

Some adjustments can be made, but it does look a game that will be resting on Chad Kelly's arm after he threw for 341 passing yards against the Crimson Tide last season. Breaking in new faces in the Receiving corps and trying to build a rapport with them has seen Kelly make a few mistakes this season and he will also be under immense pressure from the Alabama Defensive Line and front seven who have been creating Sacks.

It will be tough for the Rebels to move the chains consistently in this one and they don't have the same Defensive performances to suggest they can keep Alabama from doing that. With this Offensive Line, Alabama would always find a Running Back to take advantage of the holes being created and that looks to be Damian Harris who is averaging 9.15 yards per carry on his own.

There looks to be little doubt that the Crimson Tide can establish the run in this one which will only make Jalen Hurts a bigger threat at Quarter Back. Hurts is a freshman but won the job with his performance in Week 1 and he should have success throwing against this Secondary with some big Receivers who are amongst the better ones in the Conference.

Mississippi have created limited pressure in their first two games and Alabama look in a very strong position to not only earn revenge for back to back defeats to the Rebels but to do it in style. I respect how well Mississippi have played as the home underdog under Hugh Freeze when it comes to covering the number, but only a huge number of turnovers will allow them to cover this time around.

I don't think those will come about and the Crimson Tide were 3-0 against the spread as the home favourite last season. I will back them to cover in this one.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: When the Oklahoma Sooners scheduled their 2016 season, they could not have foreseen that the Houston Cougars would be one of the stronger teams outside of the Power 5 Conferences. A loss in the opening game to the Cougars means Oklahoma are walking a tightrope when it comes to their Play Off spot so a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes is arguably the last thing they needed in a non-Conference game.

It can work to the Sooners advantage if they can win this game as they would move up the polls with a victory, but the Buckeyes look an improved team despite all of the players leaving from the last NFL Draft. Ohio State have been very good under Urban Meyer going 50-4 since he arrived as Head Coach and there are players here who want to right the wrongs of last season when they clearly underachieved.

This is the first test for the Buckeyes having beaten two overmatched teams to begin the season. Playing on the road in Norman has never been easy as the Sooners have a 96-8 record at home under Bob Stoops, but it has to be noted that 5 of those losses have come in the last four seasons and they are 20-15 against top 10 opponents.

A key battle looks to be the Oklahoma Offensive Line against the Ohio State Defensive Line when it comes to establishing the run. Everyone knows that the Sooners have a strong Running Back corps and an experienced O-Line, but the question is how this young Ohio State Defensive Line can cope in a hostile environment. They showed against Notre Dame in the Bowl last year that they are going to be strong and have opened this one by giving up just 2 yards per carry.

The Buckeyes should be able to bring the pressure on Baker Mayfield too at Quarter Back and that is where the Sooners Offensive Line has had a difficult time. They have given up a number of Sacks so even a Joey Bosa-less Defensive Line should be able to get after Mayfield which should see Ohio State perhaps pick up some turnovers and at least slow down this passing Offense.

There will be a battle when it comes to the Sooners establishing the run, but the same can be said on the other side of the ball. The Oklahoma Defensive Line have only allowed a little over 83 yards per game on the ground and they are doing that at 2.4 yards per carry, and they did deal with a mobile Quarter Back in their opening game against the Houston Cougars who they held to 2.7 yards per carry.

However a key difference between these teams which might prove to be the reason one team wins and the other loses is the Oklahoma passing Defense which has struggled in the first two games. Ohio State have started slowly in their last game on Offense, but JT Barrett is an experienced Quarter Back who should be able to make big plays in the passing game and that should give Ohio State the slight edge in this one and help them win a huge game on the road.

I expect the Buckeyes can move the chains through the air with a little more consistency than Oklahoma as the teams have generated a different level of pass rush in their opening games. The Buckeyes are 10-1 against the spread in the four years under Meyer where they are either a single digit favourite or underdog.

I do think Oklahoma have to be respected as a strong underdog with Bob Stoops as Head Coach, but I will back the Buckeyes to record a big win on the road and cover this number.

Michigan State Spartans @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: This is the big non-Conference games that the Michigan State Spartans will be playing this season and they are coming off a bye before heading to South Bend. Both the Spartans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are hoping to make it to the Play Offs, but the Fighting Irish have less room for mistakes having already been beaten by the Texas Longhorns to open the season.

Brian Kelly will feel his team can run the table now they have decided DeShone Kizer is going to be the starting Quarter Back going forward. Kizer showed he was more than capable of leading the Fighting Irish last season but this is going to be a tough test for the Offense against a Spartans Defensive unit that looks stronger than last year.

It is going to be difficult to run the ball against Michigan State all season and that means there will be more pressure on Kizer to make plays with his arm. The Spartans Secondary also looks improved from last season, but I do think Kizer will be able to do that having showed plenty since starting in the 2015 season.

The key for Notre Dame in this game is going to be improving the Defensive work having given up 50 points to Texas in their opening week loss. I expect that Defensive unit to have improved since Week 1 and they are facing a Michigan State Offense that has just 4 returning starters and who have lost their Quarter Back to the NFL.

Notre Dame have showed that improvement on the Defensive Line and they might be able to force Michigan State into third and long situations and pressurise an inexperienced Quarter Back in a truly tough road start. Tyler O'Connor did beat Ohio State in a start last season, but that was thanks to a strong Defensive unit rather than his 89 passing yards and he could be under pressure in this one if the Offensive Line hasn't worked out the issues in pass protection.

I really like Mark Dantonio as Head Coach and I do think he would have done plenty of good work in the bye week to prepare for this game. The Spartans are 6-1 against the spread as the road underdog which also should give them respect and the public are pounding the Spartans with more than a Touchdown start.

However I think the Spartans are facing a really difficult challenge this week against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame are 2-0 against the spread when favoured by more than a Touchdown but fewer than double digits at home and I think they are the stronger team on both sides of the ball. The Offense should be able to score between 24-31 points against the Spartans and I am not sure Michigan State will have enough points to keep up with them and I will be looking for the Fighting Irish to cover this big number.

Miami Hurricanes @ Appalachian State Mountaineers Pick: After seeing how well the Tennessee Volunteers played in their win over the Virginia Tech Hokies, Appalachian State Mountaineers performance in Week 1 looks even more impressive. It took Tennessee until Overtime to beat the Mountaineers at home and now Appalachian State host the Miami Hurricanes looking to spring a surprise.

The Mountaineers bounced back from their loss to Tennessee by recording a comfortable win over Old Dominion at home last week. However I think the Mountaineers will be tested this week as they are now not going to be an unknown quantity like they were in Week 1 against Tennessee and that should mean the Hurricanes are ready for what is coming.

Appalachian State will look to run the ball behind a strong Offensive Line and then use experienced Quarter Back Taylor Lamb to make one or two really big plays with his arm. They used that to good effect against the Volunteers but this young Miami Defensive Line have played the run effectively so far this season.

There are big expectations for the Defensive Line and how they play the run and so far the Hurricanes have lived up to those, although this is the best team they have played. Slowing down the run has given the pass Defense time to make plays too and I think the Hurricanes will be able to slow down Appalachian State enough to give themselves every chance of winning this one on the road.

Miami have been able to generate plenty of pressure on the Quarter Back which has led to Interceptions and keeping Appalachian State in third and long spots will give the Hurricanes a big edge.

On the other side of the ball, Miami have been able to run behind this Offensive Line which is very experienced now. They should be able to establish the run against Appalachian State and Miami have a Quarter Back in Brad Kaaya who is amongst the best in the nation.

Establishing the run has meant Kaaya has not been needed so much through the first two games, but he will be set up to make big plays in this one. The Mountaineers have played well on the Defensive side of the ball, but this is a step up in level from Week 2 and I think the Hurricanes are going to score enough points to cover this number.

Appalachian State have been one of the hottest teams in the nation since the middle of the 2014 season and they are 18-3 since then straight up. The Hurricanes have not been the best road favourite to back in recent seasons, but I think this edition is one of their stronger teams and seeing what Appalachian State did in Week 1 at Tennessee will give them the film to work out how best to beat them here.

Playing on the road is tough for a young team, but I think they are stronger in the trenches and have an experienced Quarter Back to win this by at least four points.

MY PICKS: Florida State Seminoles - 2 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 2 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Vanderbilt Commodores + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Boston College Eagles + 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Navy Midshipmen - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Duke Blue Devils + 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

Week 2: 4-5, - 1.32 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.67% Yield)
Week 16-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)

Season 201587-77-2, + 2.77 Units (166 Units Staked, + 1.67% Yield)
Season 201475-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% Yield)
Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (September 13-15)

This is going to be a busy week of football with every night having at least one live game in England.

However it is the start of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage that will be the focus before the second Friday Night Football of the season when Chelsea host Liverpool.

For me much of the football I will be watching will be in Los Angeles and Las Vegas as I am off for a few days from this Wednesday through to the following Friday. I will have created a thread for the NFL, College Football and Weekend Football for the Premier League, but I am not sure all of those will be published before I go.

I will just have to access those with my mobile and make sure they go live before the games this weekend. In some cases it will simply be a short thread with the picks without the reasoning and others might have some games with the reasoning and the rest of the picks in the 'MY PICKS' section of any thread.

Basel v Ludogorets Pick: The Champions League Group containing Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain is made up by Basel and Ludogorets and they might be playing for third place and a spot in the Europa League Knock Out Stage. Basel have upset the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in the Group Stage of the Champions League so Arsenal have to beware, but it would still be a big upset if they could do that this season.

This game could be key to determine which of these teams finish third in the Group and Basel have to feel home advantage is going to be key for them. They have beaten Ludogorets in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 Champions League seasons with comfortable wins in Basel and I think the home team will earn the three points in this one.

Basel have won all 8 games they have played in all competitions this season and they have lost 1 of their last 8 home European games which includes fixtures against the likes of Fiorentina and Sevilla. They have the deeper European experience than Ludogorets and I would be a little nervous if I supported the away team considering the amount of goals they have conceded on their travels.

You have to give Ludogorets credit for draws against Red Star Belgrade and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League Qualifiers, but I think Basel represent another improvement in quality Ludogorets are facing. It might be the closest margin of defeat for Ludogorets when they visit Basel having gone down 2-0 and 4-0 previously, but I do believe it will be a margin of defeat.

I will back Basel to begin this Group with a win which will put some pressure on the two big names in the section, particularly the loser of their first match in Paris on the same night.

Benfica v Besiktas PickThis looks a tight Group with Dynamo Kiev and Napoli making up the quartet with Benfica and Besiktas and so the three home games are going to be very important for the teams that want to move through to the Second Round. Benfica have the better recent experience having reached the Champions League Quarter Final last season compared with Besiktas who were knocked out of the Europa League Group Stage.

Both teams have opened the season in good form but, as I have mentioned, home form is going to be key and Benfica have won plenty of home Champions League games in recent years. Only Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, two of the four Semi Finalists in 2016, avoided defeat here last season and Benfica did win the other three games they played at home in the Champions League.

Compared to that, Besiktas have struggled away from home and the Turkish Champions are a much different threat on their travels. Benfica proved to be a little too good for Galatasaray when they played in the Group Stage last season, while Besiktas lost in Lisbon against Sporting in the Europa League Group Stage.

I do think Benfica will be a little too good for them on the day as they have made a strong start to the season. So have Besiktas but home advantage should be all important for Benfica even though Jonas looks set to miss out and I will back Benfica to take the three points.

Manchester City v Borussia Monchengladbach PickThere should be plenty of confidence coursing through the Manchester City veins heading into the opening Group game of the Champions League with their last two League performances showing off the best this squad has. Add Sergio Aguero to the mix and Manchester City will be expected to make a really positive start to the Group Stage which also includes two matches with Barcelona in the next few weeks.

Manchester City will be expected to move through to the Second Round with Barcelona, but they need to get off to a winning start to give them the momentum for the two matches with the Spanish Champions. They will be well aware of what Borussia Monchengladbach bring to the table considering Manchester City met them twice in the Group Stage last season, while Pep Guardiola was managing in the Bundesliga against them the last couple of years.

I expect a lot of attacking football in this one with both clubs comfortable getting on the front foot but perhaps not as strong defensively as they would like to be. However the Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 loss at Freiburg shows that they remain a team that might be a little hit or miss away from home having finished with the 12th best away record in the Bundesliga last season.

They also had lost 3 of 5 away European games before the 1-3 win over Young Boys in the Play Offs and now face a Manchester City team that have won 4 of 6 at The Etihad Stadium in the Champions League. I expect Manchester City to win and I will look for them to cover the Asian Handicap despite only 1 of their last 12 home Champions League games ending with a win by at least two goals.

That did come against Borussia Monchengladbach and I think Manchester City will be the stronger team in the final third and can eventually pull away in this one and earn a vital three points.

Paris Saint-Germain v Arsenal PickParis Saint-Germain are the odds on favourites to win this opening Champions League Group game but I am not sure I would be comfortable backing them in that spot. They have not been playing up to their level in the last couple of League games as they continue to understand what Unai Emery wants from them and Paris Saint-Germain have won just half of their last 6 Champions League games at home.

They do have goals in the side which makes them dangerous and those goals remain despite Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving on to Manchester United. Players like Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria are real threats in the final third and I think they will give Arsenal some problems, especially as the latter have only had a single clean sheet in four games this season.

However I do also think Paris Saint-Germain are vulnerable when teams go on the attack against them and Arsene Wenger will usually put out a side that will get forward to score goals. The likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are top players that can cause problems for any team in Europe on their day and Paris Saint-Germain are a team that will leave spaces at the back when looking to score goals.

Over the last three seasons, Paris Saint-Germain have entertained Chelsea three times and Manchester City once and 3 of those 4 home games have ended with at least three goals scored. With the defensive issues both teams have had this season, I think both Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal can combine for at least three goals in this one as both look to take a big step towards winning this Group with Basel and Ludogorets to come.

5 of the last 7 away Champions League games that Arsenal have been involved in have reached that number and I will back goals from this fixture.

PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid Pick: These teams met in the Second Round of the Champions League last season and you have to say all credit to PSV Eindhoven for taking that tie all the way to penalties. Anyone who watched any of those games would have seen Atletico Madrid dominate the shot count but fail to break down PSV Eindhoven in 210 total minutes of football before coming through a penalty shoot out success.

They meet again in the opening Group game of the 2016/17 Champions League season and it looks a big ask for PSV Eindhoven to make it back into the Knock Out Stage. This time they are facing Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the Group Stage although PSV Eindhoven will have a chance if they can match the three Group wins they secured twelve months ago.

It seems unlikely that they can do that this time around with the improved quality they are facing especially as last season they were a First Seed. PSV will be difficult to play at home but Atletico Madrid are coming off a really impressive 0-4 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday to get their season going.

Back to back draws with newly promoted clubs had people questioning whether Diego Simeone's time at the club needed to come to an end, but that looks foolish. The players clearly still enjoy playing for Simeone and the win and performance on Saturday should give Atletico Madrid the confidence to win here.

They had their chances to do that in their goalless draw in Eindhoven back in February, and Atletico Madrid now have Kevin Gameiro as another forward option. I expect they do enough to win this one and will back them to do so.

Derby County v Ipswich Town PickIt has been a tough start to the new season for Derby County who were expected to challenge for promotion under Nigel Pearson, but it is only a start and things can quickly be turned around.

That might not happen this week and I would not be keen on backing Derby County at odds on to beat an Ipswich Town team they have not earned the three points against in any of their last 8 home games.

The results might not have been that impressive for Ipswich Town either, but they have played better than the points indicate and look a team that can score here. One goal might be enough to avoid defeat against a Derby County team that are integrating a new look attack and who have only scored a single goal in the League this season.

Going back to last season, Derby County have not scored in any of their last 5 League games at the iPro Stadium and only managed 2 goals in total against Grimsby Town and Carlisle United in the English Football League Cup. While I do think they will turn things around with the talent in the squad, I am going to back Ipswich Town to earn something from this game at odds against.

Norwich City v Wigan Athletic PickThe layers have made Norwich City a really strong favourite to win this League game and the recent form is certainly pointing in their direction. However you would have to be a little concerned that Norwich City conceded twice at home on Saturday and also to Coventry City in the English Football League Cup, while Wigan Athletic have scored in every away game they have played this season.

With that in mind I do think Wigan Athletic can get amongst the goals in this one, although their own defensive issues have meant they have lost a 0-1 leads in two of their three away Championship games.

The Latics have conceded twice in all of their away games this season and I think this is a game that will provide at least three goals to be shared out between the clubs. Both teams should create chances and I think the most likely result is a 2-1 win for Norwich City so backing at least three goals to be scored is my pick.

Queens Park Rangers v Newcastle United PickThis is a big test for Newcastle United, but they overcame a difficult one on Saturday when beating Derby County at the iPro Stadium. While Queens Park Rangers have been in better form than Derby County, I think they will do well to contain a Newcastle United team that have been flying in recent weeks.

They have got the Rafa Benitez defensive shape which has seen them keep 4 clean sheets in a row, but Newcastle United also have the quality in the final third to create chances and score goals.

Queens Park Rangers were strong at home in the League last season and have begun the season in decent form under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. There have been some signs that they are having it a little more difficult of late with some tough results against them and I think Newcastle United can take advantage.

The Magpies lost here two seasons ago, but had won on 3 of 4 previous visits and they can't be ignored at odds against in current form with the strength of squad Newcastle United have.

Sheffield Wednesday v Bristol City PickYou have to give Bristol City a lot of credit for earning 10 points from 18 in the Championship when you think they have played all three teams that were relegated from the Premier League last season. Their two losses this season have come against two of those three teams but Bristol City have been playing with a lot of character and determination.

Coming back from 2-0 down at Rotherham United to earn a draw has kept Bristol City in the top half of the table, but it is a big challenge for them to travel to Sheffield Wednesday. Going 2-0 down here will be much more difficult to recover and I do thinK Sheffield Wednesday are going to take advantage of a vulnerable Bristol City defence in this one.

Snapping a 5 game run without a win would have given Sheffield Wednesday a big boost of confidence over the weekend and I think The Owls can back that up on Tuesday. They did have to come from behind to beat Wigan Athletic, but Sheffield Wednesday might have a little more control in this one and I think they can earn the three points in more routine manner by scoring first and controlling much of the match.

Wolves v Barnsley PickOne of the issues that Wolves are still trying to resolve is the lack of goals they are scoring which is preventing them making a significant move up the League table. A lack of goals could be costly when Barnsley come to town having been one of the free-scoring teams in the Division with an old school 4-4-2 system in place.

Barnsley are the highest scorers in the League, but they have been hurt by having one of the weaker defences and they will push this Wolves team.

It has been tough for Wolves to play the consistent football that will put together the wins they are looking for, but the way Barnsley play means there should be chances at both ends. At some point Barnsley will likely change their style to be more conservative when they hit a rough patch of form, but they are scoring plenty of goals at the moment and I expect them to make a game of this.

Home advantage has seen Wolves being hard to beat in recent games, but they will be challenged by Barnsley and I think we will see at least three goals shared out by these teams.

Club Brugge v Leicester City PickIt has been a difficult start to the new season for Leicester City although I don't want to be too harsh on a club that has had a difficult set of fixtures. Away games at an excited, newly promoted side and at Liverpool in their opening home fixture plus playing Arsenal at home is tough sledging for any team and Leicester City have found it difficult.

The defensive shape that had proven so important for them in the 2015/16 season has not been replicated while teams in the Premier League know a little more about what Leicester City want to do. The loss of N'Golo Kante has looked bigger and bigger in each passing week, but Leicester City have also been missing the fortunes that aided them early in the last season.

A game at Club Brugge is a big test for Leicester City who don't have a lot of European experience in their ranks. However Club Brugge have been in poor form in the defence of their own title won last season and the onus is on the Belgian side to get forward which should mean Leicester City have spaces to exploit.

Even though Leicester City have not played in Europe in recent years, their style will be familiar with the Premier League a well watched League around the world. I don't think anything will surprise Club Brugge but I do think Leicester City will be dangerous on the counter attack in this one and have the goals in the side to win this game.

They look a big price to win at a venue where Manchester United were dominant winners last season and Club Brugge have lost 3 of their last 4 at home in European competition. Club Brugge are conceding plenty of goals in the League themselves and I can see three goals shared out in this one, but I think Leicester City look a big price to open the Champions League campaign with a win.

I am going to say Leicester City's price has been affected by the poor opening, but those fixtures have been tougher than this one and I will back The Foxes at what looks a big price.

Juventus v Sevilla Pick: These two teams do look to be the ones to beat in this Champions League Group, but I also think Juventus are considerably stronger than the other three teams in the section. The Old Lady of Italian football looks improved to the point of being a genuine contender to win the Champions League this season and I think they can put together a statement win in this one.

While Sevilla might have won the Europa League again last season to get back into the Champions League, they did struggle in this competition last season when facing the better teams. A defeat to Juventus in Turin and two defeats to Manchester City meant Sevilla had to settle for a drop into the Europa League and they are also dealing with a new voice in the dressing room this time around.

Jorge Sampaoli is a top name in management after performing so well for the Chile national team, but Sevilla are still learning what he wants from them. They were fortunate to beat Las Palmas on Saturday and Sevilla somehow came away with a goalless draw from a visit to Villarreal.

Those performances won't inspire confidence though and playing like that in Juventus is only going to see this fixture end in the same way it did last year and that is a comfortable Juventus win. I really do think the Italian Champions have invested the Paul Pogba money very effectively and I will back them to win this by a couple of goals and put down a marker for the rest of the Champions League campaign.

Porto v Copenhagen Pick: These two teams join Leicester City and Club Brugge in the Group and all four teams will believe they can make the Second Round. Porto may feel they have the edge in terms of experience at the European level over the other four teams, but they are not the Porto team of recent years which have made it to the business end of the Champions League.

In saying that, I do think Porto can make a strong start to the Group ahead of the big game at Leicester City. The Play Off win over Roma is a standout result for Porto and that should give them confidence even if they are facing a Copenhagen team that have won a number of Qualifiers to get here.

That will make Copenhagen feel they can belong at this level but they are still trying to bridge the gap between their domestic competition and those they will see in the Champions League Group. I think Copenhagen will work hard and try and make life as difficult as possible for Porto, but ultimately I think the home team will be too strong.

It is important for Porto to get off to a good start in the Group and they have been playing well enough at home to think they win this by a couple of goals.

Real Madrid v Sporting Lisbon Pick: Over recent years, Real Madrid have tended to make light work of the majority of teams they face in the Champions League. With Cristiano Ronaldo back and ready to face the club where it all began for him, I think Sporting Lisbon are going to do very well to keep this one close.

The Portuguese team simply don't travel that well in European football and now face the defending Champions League winners in their opening Group game. They will have needed to improve drastically in defensive areas if they are going to compete with Real Madrid as Sporting Lisbon conceded twice in 4 of their 5 away European games last season and actually conceded three or more 3 times.

We all know how many goals Real Madrid can score at home and 7 of their last 10 home Group games have seen them win by at least three goals or more. That is quite a remarkable statistic when you consider some of those wins have come against Ajax, Galatasaray, Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk have been part of those teams to be crushed here.

I don't think Sporting Lisbon are much stronger than those teams mentioned and they might get overawed like many others in Real Madrid during the Group Stage. At odds against, I will look for Real Madrid to cover the Asian Handicap and secure another big home win in the Champions League Group Stage.

Tottenham Hotspur v Monaco PickFrom a financial point of view it is clear why Tottenham Hotspur are playing their home Champions League games at Wembley Stadium, but their rivals Arsenal will be the first to say losing home advantage for financial gain is not the smartest policy. Arsenal lost 2 of their 3 home games at Wembley Stadium in the 1999/2000 Champions League season and it is clear how important home form is in the Champions League.

Losing that is a blow on the field for Tottenham Hotspur, but they do have a Group they will be expected to negotiate through to the Second Round. With games against Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow to come, Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to get off to the perfect start by earning three important points in this one.

They looked good in the 0-4 at Stoke City although it has been a mixed start in terms of results and performances for Tottenham Hotspur so far. They did play well in the Europa League the last couple of years which will give this young squad confidence, but how they adjust to playing at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane is going to be key.

All of the teams look quite evenly matched in this Group, although I do think Tottenham Hotspur are the best of the four teams. They did beat a strong looking Monaco 4-1 at home in the Europa League Group Stage last season, but Monaco have opened this season in very strong form which includes a win in Villarreal and a home victory over Paris Saint-Germain.

Monaco have won 5 in a row in all competitions, but they don't have the best travelling record in European competition which could prove to be the difficulty of getting out of this Group. They have some quality players like Joao Moutinho and Radamel Falcao as well as Fabinho who has been linked with Manchester United, but Monaco have lost half of their last 6 away games in Europe.

I doubt very much we will see Tottenham Hotspur match the 4-1 win of last season over Monaco as they get used to the new surroundings. However I do think they will have just enough to open their Wembley Stadium games with a victory and I will back Tottenham Hotspur to do that against this solid Monaco team.

Feyenoord v Manchester United PickThere are likely to be plenty of changes in the Manchester United starting eleven for this game as they begin the Thursday-Sunday portion of the season which has affected so many clubs in England in the past. The good news for Jose Mourinho is that this is not a long trip for Manchester United as he looks to help the club bounce back from their disappointing defeat in the Manchester derby.

It will be far from an easy game in Rotterdam as Feyenoord have begun the season in fine form and also have been a tough place to play in European football. They did not play in Europe last season, but Feyenoord had won 4 in a row at home in the Europa League before the 1-2 defeat to Roma in the Last 32 two seasons ago.

Feyenoord have been scoring plenty of goals at home to open the season and they will surely have a go at Manchester United who will have a changed backline. That lack of familiarity early in the season can lead to mistakes and I do think Feyenoord will score in this one.

On the other hand I can see the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford causing plenty of problems for the Dutch side in this one.

I certainly feel there will be goals in this one and I am not confident of backing Manchester United at odds on when you think they have lost 4 of their last 5 away European games. Goals have been seen in those games and Feyenoord should play their part too and I will back at least three to be shared out at a bigger price than a Manchester United away win.

Rapid Vienna v Genk PickThese two teams look the weakest in the Group, but the winning team in the opening game in the section will believe they can build the momentum to challenge Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao.

The home advantage should give Rapid Vienna enough of an edge to beat Genk, although the latter need to be respected having lost just 1 of their last 12 away Europa League games. Rapid Vienna have been beaten in 2 of their last 3 at home in the competition too, but they did win all 3 Group games last season and I think they can get off to a winning start.

Rapid Vienna haven't scored in their last 2 home games, but they are facing a team that was beaten without scoring at Gent and Standard Liege. I don't think there is a big difference between the talent levels of the teams from Belgium and Austria, but I do believe playing at home gives Rapid Vienna enough of an advantage to come through with a narrow win.

That will give them confidence to upset the Spanish or Italian side that makes up the Group and I will look for Rapid Vienna to earn the three points.

Sassuolo v Athletic Bilbao PickThis should be a good game between Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao who look to be the best teams in this Europa League Group. Both teams may have hoped for better starts to the new season, but they have both been beaten by the reigning Champions in Italy and Spain respectively.

The momentum might be behind Athletic Bilbao who won their most recent game compared with Sassuolo who have not won in 3 games and lost back to back ones going into this fixture.

Sassuolo have been conceding goals at an alarming rate of late, but they have scored plenty of goals in front of their own fans which makes them dangerous. I did consider Athletic Bilbao to win here as they have won 4 of their last 5 away Europa League games, but the standout trend in their matches recently have been the amount of goals scored and conceded.

The home team have been doing the same and I think the teams can combine to score at least three goals in this one at odds against.

Konyaspor v Shakhtar Donetsk PickKonyaspor are in a difficult Group when you think of the lack of experience they have in the Europa League, but the most difficult test might be the one right out of the gate. For a team making their debut in European competition, Konyaspor might have wished for a much better game than facing Shakhtar Donetsk who reached the Semi Final of the Europa League just a few months ago.

A defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League shows that this is not the same strong Shakhtar Donetsk of years gone past, but they have won 4 of their last 6 away games in Europe. Add the fact they have won at Istanbul Basaksehir already just last month and I think Shakhtar Donetsk can head to Konyaspor with plenty of confidence behind them.

No doubt that it is never easy to play in Turkey for a visiting team, but Shakhtar Donetsk have recent experience of that and that could be an important factor in this match. The team they beat are leading the Turkish domestic League and I think getting odds against on Shakhtar Donetsk winning here has to be taken.

Southampton v Sparta Prague PickWhen you look at the market you have to say that Southampton look short considering they have yet to win under Claude Puel and are facing a team that reached the Quarter Final of the Europa League last season.

I do think they are the most likely winner, but Southampton have been conceding plenty of goals themselves and I expect them to be tested by Sparta Prague in this one. Sparta Prague played really well away from home in this competition last season and I can see them creating some chances, but ultimately I do think Southampton will find a narrow win.

Both teams are likely to score, but my feeling that Southampton win for the first time this season although that means I will prefer backing there being at least three goals in this one rather than picking a winner. I do think Sparta Prague will give it a go at St Mary's knowing a win will give them a great chance to reach the Last 32, while Southampton will have focused on trying to earn three wins at home in the Group.

It does come together to suggest a 2-1 scoreline is most likely so backing at least three goals to be scored at a little under odds against appeals most.

MY PICKS: Basel @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benfica @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Ipswich Town + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Norwich City-Wigan Athletic Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Newcastle United @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sheffield Wednesday @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Wolves-Barnsley Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City @ 2.50 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juventus - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Porto - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feyenoord-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Rapid Vienna @ 1.82 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Sassuolo-Athletic Bilbao Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Sparta Prague Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)

September Update15-13-1, + 9.86 Units (49 Units Staked, + 20.12% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)