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NFL Week 14 Picks 2019 (December 5-9)

This is it. This is now the final stretch towards the PlayOffs and we have begun to see a number of teams being eliminated while others are ...

Friday, 13 December 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (December 14-16)

The games keep coming thick and fast for those clubs in the English Leagues and it is another round of Premier League fixtures upon us this weekend.

These come at the end of the final Group fixtures in the Champions League and Europa League and fans of the English Premier League clubs will all be looking forward to where they may be heading in February when those competitions resume. Those ties will be drawn out on Monday so the focus this weekend will solely be on the Premier League at the start of a week in which the majority of teams will know will be their final chance to rest up wary legs ahead of the festive schedule.

The likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Aston Villa and Leicester City do have Cup commitments to come this week, but the other fourteen Premier League clubs will have a week to prepare for their next fixture following this one. We then have a thirteen day period in which FOUR full rounds of Premier League fixtures are going to be played including the traditional Boxing Day and New Year's Day commitments.

We do have a Winter Break this year... Except that is going to come in the second week of February and that means the festive time of the season is as busy as it ever is. Most managers won't appreciate the short time between games, and for fans it can also be stressful particularly those who make the effort to travel to fixtures.

Those sitting down in their warm homes to watch the games probably can't get enough with live fixtures throughout those thirteen days mentioned.

November was a pretty miserable month for the Football Picks, but December has opened much better and it was another winning week last time out. The Fantasy game did not go nearly as well for me as I continue to arrogantly overlook Leicester City much as I did four years ago, although I have at least been smart enough to ride them on their strong winning run as far as the Picks go.

My Fantasy thoughts were GW17 will be seen below as I consider the use of my first Wild Card of the season, but before that let's get on with the Picks from the games to come over this weekend.

Liverpool v Watford Pick: The first Premier League game of the weekend comes from Anfield and Liverpool are very firm favourites to extend their lead at the top of the table for a few hours at least.

A solid win at Salzburg in the Champions League during the week has helped Liverpool into the Last 16 draw in that competition and they continue having to face a busy fixture list during this festive month. Jurgen Klopp has rotated his squad efficiently, but there are plenty of days between the Salzburg, Watford and then the World Club Cup Semi Final to ensure he can pick the players he wants.

On recent showings it doesn’t really matter what kind of team is selected by Klopp as Liverpool have worked their past teams comfortably. Changed teams beat Everton 5-2 here and Bournemouth 0-3 at the Vitality Stadium and I think it is going to be a very difficult match for their visitors.

For the third time this season Watford players will have to listen to a new voice leading the dressing room. Nigel Pearson has surprisingly been given the task of picking the players up as they have found themselves 6 points from safety while occupying bottom place in the Premier League table.

The Hornets were a touch unfortunate not to beat Crystal Palace at home last weekend, but prior to that their three losses in a row had come in games they had been dominated. Better finishing from opponents would have seen heavier losses for Watford and Pearson is likely going to want his team to get back to basics and at least defend better than they have been.

However it is a big ask of them with injuries piling up and I think Watford might be in for another forgettable visit to this ground.

The last six visits have all ended in losses, but the last three have come by five goal margins each time as Watford have been outscored 16-1 in that time.

I can only see a relatively comfortable win for Liverpool who have had back to back clean sheets this week. Only two of Liverpool’s eight home wins have come by more than two goal margins which is needed to cover this Asian Handicap, but I think Liverpool will earn a push at the very least and recent history suggests they can blow this short of confidence Watford team away.

Burnley v Newcastle United Pick: These teams have slipped past one another in the last couple of weeks as Burnley’s form has plummeted at the same time Newcastle United have begun producing some big results.

It might have changed the feeling around the two clubs too, but I think you have to look a little deeper at the factors in play to determine what has been happening.

Newcastle United have earned 7 points from a possible 9, but to say they have been a touch fortunate might be an understatement. These two teams have both hosted Manchester City in the last couple of weeks and the underlying numbers were superior for Burnley compared with Newcastle United, but Burnley were beaten 1-4 and Newcastle United drew 2-2.

Even in the last couple of wins earned by The Magpies you could point out that they have been on the right side of the luck and I do think that is something that can’t be ignored.

Burnley have been very poor the last couple of games in terms of their defensive performances, but Sean Dyche has had a week to work with his players and I would expect them to be a lot better on Saturday. Aside from the Manchester City defeat, Burnley have actually played well at home and deserved more than what they got in their defeats to Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

Those teams mentioned are also stronger than Newcastle United in general and I can see Burnley bouncing back for a win this weekend. Being able to back them on the Asian Handicap which returns half the stake in the event of a draw is tough to pass up and I will look for the home team to return to winning ways on Saturday.

Chelsea v Bournemouth Pick: For the most part I do think Chelsea fans are going to accept their current position as a young team continues to lack the consistency that those fans have become accustomed to. However Frank Lampard will point out how well his team are doing considering they are in the top four in the Premier League and in the Last 16 of the Champions League.

Recent results might have been disappointing and Chelsea concede too many goals, but they have flourished going forward and the removal of the transfer ban could see them improve further in January.

In saying all that, Chelsea are a pretty hard team to get a strong read on. They do play some very good football, but they are not clinical in the final third and that has meant some tighter than expected games. Take Tuesday as an example as Chelsea hammered Lille for a large majority of the fixture, but conceded and had to hold on a little bit in the 2-1 win.

Every team will come to Stamford Bridge and think they do have a chance to score goals, but Bournemouth might be short of some firepower this weekend. Injuries have really hurt a team who have lost 5 Premier League games in a row and 5 of their last 6 away from home in all competitions and it was more of the same last weekend.

Both Nathan Ake and Callum Wilson are set to miss out and that really hurts Bournemouth on both sides of the field. It may make it more difficult to keep a Chelsea team at bay who have been creating a lot of chances, while the loss of a threat like Wilson should make things a touch easier for Chelsea to deal with too.

Bournemouth have won 2 of their 4 visits to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and they have been largely competitive in games. However they needed two very late goals to claw back a 3-0 deficit to Tottenham Hotspur in their last visit to London a couple of weeks ago and I think Chelsea can win by a comfortable margin.

The Blues are hard to trust to do that considering the amount of goals they have been conceding, but I think they have the attacking threats to pull away for a solid win this weekend.

Leicester City v Norwich City Pick: In the last few weeks Leicester City have been easy winners for anyone reading my picks, but they have perhaps been found out now by the layers.

During that time we have been able to comfortably back Leicester City at - 0.25 and - 1.25 on the Asian Handicap in home games in the Premier League, while we also hit a couple of games where we could back Leicester City to win fixtures that feature at least two goals.

All of those markets have been comfortably dominated by Leicester City in their 9 game winning run, but the layers are now asking them to cover a much bigger handicap. Forget about backing Leicester City to win a game with two or more goals as that is very, very short too, but I do think Brendan Rodgers has his team playing with a lot of confidence at the moment.

It is hard to see Norwich City changing that, although Leicester City have to be focused. They do have a big League Cup Quarter Final coming up in the week before facing Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, so it is easy for fans and players to take a fixture like this for granted, but I would expect Rodgers to have drilled professionalism into his team.

If that is the case, I do think Norwich City will have a very difficult day as they continue to allow teams to create too many chances against them. Daniel Farke wants his team to play in a particular way, but that has not really worked out as planned and Norwich City are a team who can be punished by one like Leicester City.

I am going to take some of the juice out of this price as it is hard to see Leicester City clearing the bigger Asian Handicap. While they can do it when at their best, Leicester City have only won 1 of their 8 home League games by more than a two goal margin.

However 4 of those games have ended with wins by exactly two goals and so backing The Foxes to cover the smaller Asian Handicap is reasonable enough at the price.

Sheffield United v Aston Villa Pick: These two teams were both promoted together last season and both should be happy with the way things have gone for them so far in the 2019/20 campaign.

The happier are going to be Sheffield United, but they needed to come from behind to beat Norwich City last weekend and snap a run of 4 games without a win in the Premier League. Last time out here they were beaten 0-2 by Newcastle United and that makes it very hard to look at the odds on quotes for a home win and be satisfied with the price.

On the other hand Aston Villa have also been in poor recent form, although they have been involved in a difficult part of their fixture list having faced all of the current top six in their last 7 Premier League games. It won't surprise that they have lost a fair few of those games, but Aston Villa were only narrowly seen off by Chelsea and earned a draw at Old Trafford in the last couple of weeks.

Those results have to be respected and I think Aston Villa play enough attacking football to cause problems for the hosts. Defensively they look very vulnerable though and I think it makes this a very difficult game to call.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out appeals and both League games between Sheffield United and Aston Villa produced at least five goals last season. Recent Sheffield United games have perhaps been a little harder to get a read on with the team capable of strong defence, but also showing they can create chances and score goals.

However Aston Villa games have largely featured plenty of goal-mouth activity and I think that will be the case when these teams meet for the first time as Premier League clubs since 2006/07.

Southampton v West Ham United Pick: In the last couple of months I have mentioned a few times that Southampton home games tend to be high-scoring and both teams scoring has been a regular occurrence.

For a long time the layers seemed to ignore this despite all the underlying stats suggesting it was not just a lucky trend, but one where teams were both creating chances and being challenged by Southampton regularly.

Now the layers are winning with very short prices on both the over 2.5 goals and both teams to score market. Some of that may also be down to the opponent as West Ham United have continued to concede far too many goals, but also score a fair few themselves.

Southampton have won back to back home games which has seen them placed at odds on to win this one, but that looks incredibly short to me. As good as they have been to win those games, you can't ignore one was against Watford and the other against Norwich City, while Southampton needed late goals to overturn the 0-1 deficit they faced against The Hornets.

They are facing another team who are struggling so Southampton are rightly expected to win this game, but I would want a better price than I am seeing. Even backing goals might not be ideal in this one considering how poor West Ham United have been away from home in recent games and the fact they have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 on their travels in the Premier League.

Games between these two teams have been high-scoring in recent times, but I think this one I can move past.

Manchester United v Everton PickAfter beating Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, facing AZ Alkmaar was a slightly flatter game for Manchester United and for the first half you could see that in the performance.

However Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly fired up the players and reminded them of their responsibilities and Manchester United went on to win the game 4-0 and top their Europa League Group. They can put that competition to the back of their mind for a couple of months, while Manchester United will be hoping they can keep the momentum going with a fourth win in a row.

They are back at Old Trafford for the second of three straight games here and Manchester United have begun to find a lot more goals in recent games. They have scored at least twice in 5 straight in all competitions here and unsurprisingly Manchester United have managed to win 4 of those games with the sole exception being a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

Confidence is flowing through the squad at the moment and some of the key performers have been well rested on Thursday so they should be ready to go.

The same can be said of Everton though after being fired up by former player turned interim manager Duncan Ferguson who was beloved at the club. The fans will get behind Ferguson, someone I have admired for his play, and he was someone who loved scoring against Manchester United from his days on the field.

Duncan Ferguson will be hoping to take that former pedigree against Manchester United into his managerial career, but he is dealing with a few injuries in the Everton squad. It also doesn't help that the side are playing away from Goodison Park and Everton have been conceding far too many goals on their travels which makes it hard to see them earning a result here.

Manchester United have not have many clean sheets and I have no doubt that will encourage Everton, but I do think the defensive concerns override the ones at the other end. Injuries are not helping the cause for Everton and they have conceded at least two goals in 5 of their last 7 away Premier League games.

The recent record at Old Trafford does not make for great reading either for Everton and I think Manchester United can keep the positive vibe going through another weekend. A rested set of players can come out and secure the win and I will back Manchester United to do that in a game featuring two or more goals too.

Wolves v Tottenham Hotspur PickI was a little surprised to note that this is not a game that was selected for television coverage considering how much fun the two Premier League games played between Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur were in the 2018/19 campaign.

Both were won by the away team who needed three goals to secure the points and it could be more attacking football on display on Sunday.

The television companies surprised me, but so did the layers who have Tottenham Hotspur as favourites to win here. Jose Mourinho has made an immediate impact since taking over what was an underachieving team, but 3 of the 4 wins earned have been secured at home.

As they did under Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur have struggled on their travels and they have been beaten at Manchester United and Bayern Munich in their last couple away from home. The latter was a dead rubber, but Tottenham Hotspur continue to concede goals for fun and only in 1 of the 6 games under Mourinho have they allowed fewer than two goals.

Wolves have been strong and they have managed their European and domestic commitments better than most would have expected. Over the last sixteen months they have constantly shown they can give the top teams something to think about and I don't think they will be intimidated by Tottenham Hotspur, especially not when you consider they have won 3 of their last 4 here.

The home team have been creating chances and scoring goals and that gives them every chance of upsetting Tottenham Hotspur in this one. I can only imagine it will be a fixture that features goals considering the recent form of the two clubs, but I can see Wolves avoiding defeat and that makes me want to go for a 'same game multi' at Paddy Power.

Backing Wolves to avoid defeat and adding the fixture to be one that features two or more goals can be found at odds against at that layer. Considering the recent level of Tottenham Hotspur it is very difficult to imagine them failing to score, but they concede enough to give the home team confidence to maintain their unbeaten run here and that looks the selection for me.

Arsenal v Manchester City PickIf you are someone who enjoys watching high-scoring football matches I do think this could be the right match for you on Sunday afternoon when Arsenal host Manchester City.

Neither team has looked very comfortable at the back and teams are able to create chances against them, while both Arsenal and Manchester City have been productive in the final third when looking to attack.

Goals can quickly change games and I do feel the team to get their nose in front in this one will be difficult to pull back. I don't think either is playing with a lot of confidence, but both Arsenal and Manchester City have recovered from being a goal behind in matches this week and that may be the only encouragement for whichever team concedes first.

Arsenal are going to be playing in a difficult environment as the fans have been quick to get on the backs of players at the Emirates Stadium. I do think that is contributing to the poor run here and losing home matches to Eintracht Frankfurt and Brighton is not ideal preparation for a fixture like this one.

They have to deal with a Manchester City team who have arguably produced their two best away performances in wins over Burnley and Dinamo Zagreb this month. Playing away from home has given Manchester City the chance to exploit more gaps as their hosts have come onto them and I do think the defending Champions are still playing well enough to believe they can win here.

As I have mentioned, I would not be surprised if both teams score in this fixture and I am expecting goals. However my bigger feeling is that Manchester City are going to continue to be too good for an Arsenal team who have defended very, very poorly and I like the visitors to win here.

They have beaten Arsenal 5 times in a row and all of those wins have come by two or more goal margins including the last 2 at the Emirates Stadium. If Manchester City score first I can see them really hurting Arsenal with the spaces that are likely to be left behind by the home team and I will look for Pep Guardiola's to get back to winning ways in the Premier League in an Asian Handicap covering effort.

Crystal Palace v Brighton Pick: Monday Night Football might not look that appealing on first glance, but any derby game should bring plenty on intensity to the fore.

The M23 rivalry is a strange one as Crystal Palace and Brighton really aren’t that close in terms of distance. It developed in a different way to most rivalries, but that does not mean it is any less fierce and there should be plenty of passion on display in the stands.

The atmosphere will help, but the bigger factor here is the improving Brighton team who are learning more and more about the style Graham Potter wants them to use. There is no doubting that The Seagulls are a lot more pleasing on the eye than when under the guidance of Chris Hughton, but importantly it is a style that is producing positive results too.

Brighton’s win over Arsenal and the draw with Wolves shows what they can achieve, although it is also a style that has made Brighton a little less solid defensively. That is the balancing act Graham Potter is playing with, but it does mean Brighton games have featured more goals than previous seasons.

Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace can’t really say the same though as they continue to be a functional side that relies on one or two special moments to win games. At home it has been hard for them as teams won’t be as open to leave spaces for Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to exploit, but Crystal Palace have been dragged into high-scoring games by Brighton in recent times.

In fact the last four times this derby has been played it has featured at least three goals scored. I can see both teams having their chances in this one with Brighton showing good threat in the final third without being as tough defensively.

A lack of creativity continues to hurt Crystal Palace, but I expect them to have one or two more chances than usual at Selhurst Park and backing at least three goals to be shared out at a big price is the selection for the last Premier League match of this round of fixtures.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.71 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.62 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sheffield United-Aston Villa Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.15 Coral (2 Units)
Wolves/Draw Double Chance & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.07 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Brighton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)

December 2019/209-6, + 4.56 Units (30 Units Staked, + 15.20% Yield)
November 2019/209-16, - 12.66 Units (50 Units Staked, - 25.32% Yield)
October 2019/2016-14-2, + 6.14 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.90% Yield)
September 2019/2013-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)
August 2019/2014-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football GameWeek 17
Just like Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, my first reaction to seeing Jamie Vardy had scored yet again was 'hang on, this is going to be bad'.

And it was.

I had a terrible GameWeek 16 and one which has seen me fail to Qualify for the FPL Cup after a lowly 48 points for the week.

The last month has been pretty terrible to be honest and it has seen what was a very positive start lose a lot of momentum. The Vardy run has been a killer and it is more irritating that he has got away with some real luck in that time with a couple of penalties including a retaken one which produced a massive swing for those who had him in their squad and especially those who had Captained him.

Some may say it is my own arrogance that is doing me in, but I mentioned Vardy before the Southampton game and decided to go a different way when he was valued at less than 9 million. Now he is over 10 million and with the couple of big League games coming up I am going to take the pain of knowing he is facing a defensively inept Norwich City this weekend.

Another aspect which has hurt during this Leicester City run is the lack of returns from Youri Tielemans who was someone else I had considered removing from the squad. While the fixtures were decent I decided to leave him in, but have had little reward although he does have one more week to make up for it.

The Captain pick continues to let me down too an dI have left far too many points out there, although the frustration is expected to continue during the festive period when players are rotated in and out during a hectic time of the year.

Thank God for Anthony Martial and Danny Ings who at least helped me produce a semi-competitive score and I know am in a position where I believe I am going to be using my WildCard next weekend.

I can carry two transfers over and make enough changes to have a full eleven next week despite Liverpool and West Ham United not being in action, but my decision is leaning that way because I have gone big at the back with the League leaders (and typical they get a clean sheet on the one day when one of those defenders is rested having failed to have one in eleven previous games).

While both Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have produced returns, a difficult run is coming up for Liverpool and as I don't support them I am hoping it will be one where they can drop points. It will mean making changes at the back, but I feel those are best served if I can make big improvements in the midfield and attacking areas to make those transfers worthwhile.

The reality is I am not making a vast change to the process- the Wild Card was either going to be used for the Boxing Day fixtures or the GW18 coming up, so I am maintaining what I want to do with my squad.

With that in mind I should have a fuller FPL portion of this thread next week as I write down some of my decision making in reshaping the squad. This week I am going to use my one transfer to remove Fiyako Tomori from my squad, although it is not one that is going to affect the first eleven I am selecting.

48 points was a terrible score last week, I am expecting a lot better this time around.

My GW17 Team
David De Gea- Manchester United have found some form and I do think the underlying statistics suggest they will get back amongst the clean sheets sooner than later. The next three games might be that opportunity for the team.

Andrew Robertson- rotation is a concern for Liverpool, but this is the biggest game they play this week. A chance for a third clean sheet in a row.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: one more booking will mean a suspension for the right back and that would come against Leicester City on Boxing Day if he gets it here. It might mean the full back is rested to avoid that scenario which would not be a big surprise despite Liverpool defensive injuries.

Caglar Soyuncu- Leicester City host Norwich City who have struggled for goals away from home all season.

Sadio Mane (C)- was rested against Bournemouth, but Liverpool played last Tuesday and will be next out with the first team on Wednesday. It should mean Mane is starting against Watford who have conceded 16 goals in their last three visits to Anfield.

Raheem Sterling- people are jumping off the Raheem Sterling bandwagon at an alarming rate, but he should have an opportunity to punish them against Arsenal.

Anthony Martial (VC)- a goal in the Manchester derby should give Anthony Martial a lot of confidence. Got 60 more minutes in the Europa League to build sharpness and is the Manchester United Number 9.

Youri Tielemans- has not really provided an attacking return even if he remains a quality midfielder. One more chance to impress me from a stats view, I already know he is someone I would love in the Manchester United midfield.

Dele Alli- a tough game at Wolves this weekend, but Alli was rested during the week and is Jose Mourinho's 'main man' in the Number 10 position at Tottenham Hotspur.

Lys Mousset- was taken off early last Sunday, but Chris Wilder says that had nothing to do with an injury. Should get the start against a defensively suspect Aston Villa.

Danny Ings- I brought him in because of the Southampton fixture list and Danny Ings has not disappointed. You would think he will have one or two chances to keep his own goal streak going when facing West Ham United at home.

Bench- Michael McGovern, John Lundstram (I don't mind him as the first sub as a potential midfielder coming in to play against Aston Villa who concede a lot of goals), Serge Aurier (Now this is the transfer I am using this week even though I am keeping Aurier as my second sub- my thinking is that he has established himself as the right back of choice at Tottenham Hotspur and offers attacking returns, while I think he has the potential of improving in value. A game at Wolves and then home against Chelsea isn't easy, but Spurs have a good set of matches after that in which I will be using Aurier more often than not and only 300K more expensive than Tomori who has been banged up), Xande Silva

Thursday, 12 December 2019

NFL Week 15 Picks 2019 (December 12-16)

Unsurprisingly with three weeks left of the regular season we are beginning to see some separation at the top of the NFL standings.

Week 14 is in the books and you have to think that all roads in the AFC are going to go through Baltimore after the Ravens won and the New England Patriots were beaten again. That gives them a 1.5 game lead for the top Seed in the AFC with three games left to play and the Ravens are huge favourites to win on Thursday Night Football and virtually wrap up the Number 1 Seed in the Conference.

Despite the win over the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, the San Francisco 49ers can't feel so secure with their current hold of the Number 1 Seed in the NFC. They may hold the tie-breaker over the Saints and the Green Bay Packers, the two teams immediately below them, but the 49ers are far from a sure thing to even win the NFC West with a game lead over the Seattle Seahawks but having lost the first game to them at home and needing to win in Seattle later in the season.

The Los Angeles Rams are also surging in the NFC West and there is still a chance for the Division to have three representatives in the PlayOffs, although Los Angeles have little room for error now.

The Chicago Bears are also alive as they look to recover from a miserable middle of the 2019 season, but it is a shame that it looks like being a situation where a team with a winning record is potentially left out for a Division winner without one. That is down to the NFC East where the two leading teams are both at 6-7 with three games to play and no one will be rushing out to bet against there being an 8-8 team playing in the post-season while one with a winning record sits out.

The picture in the AFC looks much clearer as the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens are all looking like they are set to play January Football. However the AFC South is effectively dealing with a couple of play in games down the stretch with the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans tied up at 8-5 and facing each other both in Week 15 and Week 17.

Some haven't liked Divisional games being played so close together, especially those involving the same teams, but the broadcasters will be over the moon and that second game is almost certainly going to be the Sunday Night Football offering in Week 17. Both could still potentially edge out the Pittsburgh Steelers for the final Wild Card spot, although I think it is unlikely considering the way the schedule has panned out for those three teams.

The NFC L(East)- does anyone want to make the PlayOffs from the NFC Least? The Dallas Cowboys have lost three in a row to open the door for the teams chasing them and then the Philadelphia Eagles have done their best to not take advantage.

After losing to the lowly Miami Dolphins in Week 13, the Eagles needed to recover from a 17-3 deficit and also score a game winning Touchdown in Overtime to see off the New York Giants and tie up with the Cowboys at 6-7 in the Division.

Every game is very important for the Eagles who must win out to see off the Cowboys thanks to the Divisional records off the two teams. On the other hand Dallas know a win in Week 16 when they visit Philadelphia will be enough, but neither team is playing with a lot of belief at the moment and I really am finding it tough to figure out who is going to be hosting a PlayOff Game on the opening weekend of January 2020.

A once really competitive Division that was providing Super Bowl Champions has fallen off the standards of yesteryear, but I would not want to rule out the Division Champion when it comes to the Wild Card. They are going to face either San Francisco or Seattle and I can the road team being a big favourite, but teams who have struggled for winning records and made the post-season have been competitive to say the least.

Seattle were famously the first team to make the PlayOffs with a losing record and went on to upset the New Orleans Saints thanks to Marshawn Lynch in the Wild Card. Since then an 8-8 Denver Broncos team used a bit of Tim Tebow magic to make the PlayOffs and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers, while a 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers made the PlayOffs in 2014 and ALSO won a Wild Card Game.

It is something to keep in mind for January, and we could get a very good number to get behind regardless of whether the Cowboys or Eagles are hosting that game.

Is the Tom Brady time over?- I don't want to be the guy who draws a line through Tom Brady at any time considering the successes he has had with New England throughout his time in the NFL, but it does feel different this time.

To answer my question, even with that in mind, I would still say 'no'.

However I can't ignore the gathering momentum behind the feeling that Tom Brady will not be playing with the New England Patriots beyond this season and I do think we will see the six time Super Bowl winning Quarter Back in a different uniform next season. So if the question was whether the Brady era in New England is over I would be leaning towards 'yes'.

I don't think he has played badly, but the New England Offensive unit is missing a lot of talent and it is hard to see them going very deep in the PlayOffs. Losing home advantage throughout is one thing, but New England have lost to the other three current Divisional leaders and it is hard to ignore that kind of issue.

We have seen them bounce back many times from situations similar to this, but it feels different for the Patriots and they are not my favourite to win the AFC anymore. Unless a young group of Receivers or one of the veterans outside of Julian Edelman get hot, the New England defence of their Super Bowl crown could easily end before the Championship Round this time around.

That might not sound like a big statement to make, but consider New England have reached the last eight AFC Championship Games and it takes on another meaning.

Will the NFC side of the PlayOffs live up to the hype?- I'll be honest, the NFL PlayOffs are brilliant no matter who is taking part, but this year it really feels like the NFC have produced four or five top quality teams that will all believe they can win the Super Bowl.

I can't wait for the NFC games throughout January and I think all five will be very good to watch and especially if the New Orleans-San Francisco game from Week 14 is anything to go by.

If the PlayOffs were to begin today, the Wild Card Round would be Seattle @ Dallas and Minnesota @ New Orleans.

We could then have New Orleans @ Green Bay and Seattle @ San Francisco in the Divisional Round with the winners facing off for the NFC crown.

There isn't a bad game amongst those and I can't think these will let down the fans who have to be really looking forward to the Football in the New Year.

It is not to say the AFC side of the bracket is going to be poor, but it does look weaker in comparison and I would not be surprised if the winner of the NFC is able to use the momentum gained to go on and win the Super Bowl.

Predicting the Twelve PlayOff Teams: Every week I am using the PlayOff machine to see how things have been affected when the official results for the previous week are in the books.

Last week I still had the Oakland Raiders making the final twelve teams, but their loss to the Tennessee Titans coupled with Pittsburgh's win in Arizona looks to have put pay to that.

My updated prediction for the PlayOff teams in the AFC is: Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.

For the NFC: New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

My Top Five
For the first time this season I had to drop the New England Patriots down my Rankings as they have not been able to recover from their setbacks like previous years.

Something doesn't feel right in Foxboro right now and I didn't have them as my favourites to win the AFC last week, but a further drop out of my top five is necessary for now.

The NFC is looks to have the greater depth, but while one AFC keep winning they are the team to beat in the NFL this season.

1) Baltimore Ravens- they were my Number 1 last week and the Ravens keep beating whoever is put in front of them. Lamar Jackson's PlayOff experience from last season should help him when dealing with the new expectation and pressure that will be on his shoulders if the Ravens wrap up the top Seed in the AFC.

2) San Francisco 49ers- there is no guarantee the 49ers finish with the top Seed in the NFC, but I had to move them from Number 3 to Number 2 in my Rankings. Injuries to a couple of key players on the Defensive unit could be a problem and it is a much tougher road if you have to win three road games to make the Super Bowl compared with hosting two.

3) New Orleans Saints- I only 'punished' New Orleans by one place for losing at home last week because they pushed the 49ers all the way and could easily have won.

They can still finish with the best record in the NFC is Seattle can win the NFC West and they can win out. Hosting the PlayOffs might make the Saints favourites if they can fix one or two Defensive issues that have cropped up.

4) Kansas City Chiefs- another team I had to move up one place after the win in Foxboro. Patrick Mahomes is a bit banged up as is the depth at Running Back, but Kansas City have shown some real improvement Defensively which eases pressure on Mahomes and company.

Keep that up and they will be the nearest challengers to the Ravens.

5) Green Bay Packers- any team who have Aaron Rodgers will be dangerous in the PlayOffs even if the Packers have yet to really convince. I have them only very slightly above the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots for this spot, but things could change with my immediate feeling going into Week 15 that the Chicago Bears will give them a lot to think in their upcoming game.

My Bottom Five
32) Cincinnati Bengals- a refresh is going to begin at Cincinnati in the off-season and it will likely be led by selecting Joe Burrow as the Number 1 Pick in the NFL Draft.

31) New York Giants- the big effort on Monday Night Football might have been the last chance to play spoiler for the Giants who blew a 17-3 lead with Eli Manning back under Center.

30) Detroit Lions- there are a number of teams who I believe will be looking for Head Coaches at the end of the season... This is one of them.

29) Washington Redskins- they are playing with some spirit, but there is a lot of work for the Redskins to do.

28) Miami Dolphins- another team playing with a lot of spirit. The team is willing but the talent is simply not there, although I love what Brian Flores has brought into the team as the Head Coach and the culture he is putting together.

Week 15 Picks
After four winning weeks in a row, the run came to an end in the worst way in Week 14 and it is going to be difficult to be in a winning position by the time the PlayOffs begin.

The last season was a very good one for the Picks, but I need to be a little better this time around. I did get into a good roll over the previous four weeks and I think that is something to build upon.

Making sure I put enough stock in all of the factors in Week 15 is the key, although I won't be getting involved in the Thursday Night Football game which features the Baltimore Ravens as a very big favourite.

Hopefully those I do select in Week 15 can be stronger than those teams I had picked in Week 14.


Week 14: 2-5, - 6.36 Units (14 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 135-3, + 3.26 Units (16 Units Staked, + 20.38% Yield)
Week 124-2, + 3.20 Units (12 Units Staked, + 26.67% Yield)
Week 114-3-1, + 1.48 Units (16 Units Staked, + 9.25% Yield)
Week 104-3, + 1.10 Units (14 Units Staked, + 7.86% Yield)
Week 94-4, - 0.64 Units (16 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 82-4, - 4.20 Units (12 Units Staked, - 35% Yield)
Week 72-4, - 4.10 Units (12 Units Staked, - 34.17% Yield)
Week 66-3, + 4.84 Units (18 Units Staked, + 26.89% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 2.72 Units (18 Units Staked, - 15.11% Yield)
Week 43-6, - 6.54 Units (18 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)
Week 35-2, + 3.28 Units (12 Units Staked, + 27.33% Yield)
Week 23-4, - 2.70 Units (14 Units Staked, - 19.29% Yield)
Week 14-4, + 0.16 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Season 201952-52-1, - 9.94 Units (207 Units Staked, - 4.80% Yield)

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Boxing Picks 2019- Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua 2 (December 7th)

Things were supposed to go very differently for Anthony Joshua when he headed over the pond to make his American debut at Madison Square Garden on June 1st earlier this year, but the stunning upset at the hands of Andy Ruiz Jr has changed the layout of the Heavyweight Division.

In early December Joshua heads over to Saudi Arabia to try and redeem himself and once again put his name alongside Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury as the leading lights of the Heavyweight scene. This is a big moment for Joshua and all his fans as he looks to avoid a second straight loss that will likely put him to the back of the line and end any realistic hopes of a Unification fight for at least eighteen months.

Some suggest the career is on the line too, although Joshua has denied those and is instead focusing solely on trying to make sure he is on the winning side of this one.

The card in Saudi Arabia is a Heavyweight loaded one and also features the return of Dillian Whyte who was cleared by UKAD having supposedly failed a test before his win over Oscar Rivas in July. He will have a keen eye on the main event too as his best chance of finally securing a Heavyweight title shot may be if Joshua is able to win and set up a huge fight back in the United Kingdom next year.

Others like Filip Hrgovic and the winner of Michael Hunter vs Alexander Povetkin are also trying to get into the World title mix in what is a busier Division than we have seen for years.

Things will definitely look clearer for the contenders at the end of Saturday evening depending who wins the main event and how much governing bodies are going to be pushing their mandatories in the months ahead.

The card in Saudi Arabia is getting the majority of the attention in the Boxing world this weekend, but there are another couple of World Title holders in action this weekend. The main interest there has to be the return of Jermall Charlo as he takes on Dennis Hogan, while British fight fans will also see Chris Eubank Jr for the first time since beating James DeGale in a grudge fight earlier this year.

At the end of November the Boxing Picks returned to a positive position thanks to Deontay Wilder's 7th Round defeat of Luis Ortiz, but there are a couple of big weekends to come in 2019 to determine whether this year will be a success to back up 2018. It hasn't been perfect to say the least, but finishing up in the black is always a positive and that has to be the aim.

Mahammadrasul Majidov vs Tom Little
This is a Heavyweight loaded card in Saudi Arabia and the one that is going to kick off the big punching evening of Boxing is this bout between 1-0 Mahammadrasul Majidov against Tom Little from the United Kingdom.

You will probably hear it at least once during this one that Majidov holds a win over Anthony Joshua from his amateur days, but the professional game is very different. At 33 years old time is not really on his side and I expect him to be pushed forward very much in the same manner Joe Joyce is being pushed, another fighter that Majidov has faced in the amateurs.

If you are being brutally honest, Majidov was not very impressive in his first professional bout and Tom Little is going to come into this one and give it a go. A controversial stoppage against David Price was the last time we saw Little in the ring, but that was almost a year ago and I am surprised by that considering he is always seemingly around Eddie Hearn asking for an opportunity.

I don't think Little is better than the likes of David Allen though and the best thing he can be is perhaps a little durable. It took Filip Hrgovic Four Rounds to get rid of Little and Daniel Dubois a touch longer in Five Rounds and anything other than a Majidov stoppage would be hard to really appreciate.

He should have the power and the technique to start putting it on Little at some point in the middle of this fight, but I do think Majidov is going to have to spend a little time breaking down his opponent. My feeling is that this won't go further than the likes of Hrgovic, Dubois and David Price, but either a Fourth or Fifth Round stoppage makes it difficult to back Majidov on the Grouped Round market because it is being split right on those numbers.

However you can back this fight to have fewer than Six Rounds and I think that is where my focus will be. I don't think Majidov is going to want to keep Little around and I can see his superior amateur skills helping create openings leading to some big shots around the halfway mark that gets the job done.

Filip Hrgovic vs Eric Molina
There are some big things expected of 27 year old Croatian Filip Hrgovic who looks to put a former World Title challenger on his resume when taking on Eric Molina on Saturday.

The big punching Hrgovic has only seen two of his nine professional bouts reach the cards while the other seven have all ended relatively early. There might be some suggestion that Hrgovic does not carry his power that well when you see that anyone getting out of the Fourth Round has managed to hear the bell and both were in Eight Rounders where he would have had time to find a finish if he could.

One of those was against Kevin Johnson who has long been a fighter that will give prospects some Rounds under their belt, but Hrgovic failed to stop Sean Turner who was beaten very quickly by Nathan Gormon since then.

Sometimes it is the way it goes, but I do think Hrgovic can make a big statement on Saturday when taking on Molina.

Eric Molina has been in with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder while also facing contender Dominic Breazeale although all ended with the Texan being stopped. All five professional losses have come via stoppage and three of those have been very early and Drummer Boy has had one fight in over two years which doesn't bode well for him.

My feeling is that Hrgovic is going to be able to catch Molina cold in this one too and he has shown he can be a finisher when the situation arises. This is the third fight Hrgovic will be having in 2019 and the previous two opponents have lasted a combined Four Rounds.

I don't think the Croatian will have to go looking for Molina in this one and I can see him finishing the fight in the first Four Rounds as he has done many times already.

Dillian Whyte vs Mariusz Wach
There is clearly a lot of anger inside Dillian Whyte at the moment after UKAD finally released a statement that cleared him of any wrongdoing ahead of his fight with Oscar Rivas. Just a day or two after beating Rivas, a report was released that Whyte had adverse findings in a drug test and was only cleared on the morning of the fight, something the British fighter had been saying was not as it sounded.

It has taken UKAD a few months to sort themselves out, but Whyte has seen his career just stall following the reports. It saw the WBC remove him from their World Rankings and Whyte would normally have been looking to headline his own fight in December is instead on the Anthony Joshua undercard in Saudi Arabia.

He did weigh in very heavy for this one, but I think Whyte is going to be looking to take his anger out of Mariusz Wach who is best known for going the distance with Wladimir Klitschko when losing to the long-time Heavyweight Champion.

The big Pole is 39 years old now and that fight for the World Title was over seven years ago and so Wach has seen better days. Some of his resistance might have eroded away with three of his last four defeats coming by stoppage including one against Jarrell Miller.

This is going to be Wach's third fight in four months, but his previous two opponents were nothing to write home about and this is a big step up. Even his defeats to the likes of Miller and Martin Bakole are against opponents who are not quite as good as Whyte and I think Wach is going to do well to survive this one.

He is a big guy and he has shown some durability, while I do have to wonder how Whyte is going to carry his additional weight. However Wach has shown he slows down in the second half of fights and begins to ship far too much punishment which is going to give the referee or corner a chance to stop this.

Dillian Whyte should be ready to unload some big shots when the chance presents, although he did struggle when facing Robert Helenius who was happy to survive very early on. That might be the Wach method and so I do think there is a chance that Whyte will win an easy Unanimous Decision, especially while carrying his weight.

However I think Whyte will soon realise he is facing someone who doesn't have a lot coming back and that will drive him forward for the stoppage. I think he will be keen to draw a line under the UKAD issue and that should see him unload some big shots in the second half which eventually sees Wach wilt under the pressure.

Alexander Povetkin vs Michael Hunter
The main support in Saudi Arabia is the crossroads fight between Alexander Povetkin and Michael Hunter with both potentially going to be in line to fight the likes of Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua (if he wins his rematch) over the coming months.

This is a WBA Eliminator so the winner will be ready to take on either Manuel Charr for the Regular Belt or have a shot at the Super Champion whether that is Joshua or Andy Ruiz Jr.

Alexander Povetkin has to know he won't have too many more opportunities to challenge for a World Title having come up short against Anthony Joshua in 2018. If he loses he will go to the back of the line and at 40 years old you have to question how much the Russian has left in the tank.

He did beat Hughie Fury in a boring fight back in August, but this should be a lot more interesting as Michael Hunter continues to surprise in the Heavyweight Division. His move from Cruiserweight to Heavyweight did not come with the same hoopla as Oleksandr Usyk's, but that remains the sole defeat for Hunter who has won six in a row since that defeat and all in this Division.

Two of those wins have been against unbeaten fighters in what have to be considered upsets, but this time Hunter is in front of the layers and is favoured to beat Povetkin. Michael Hunter has spoken of stopping the former World Champion, but I am more leaning towards the American winning by a Decision.

Back in his prime Povetkin would have the power and the skills to really give Hunter massive problems, but I am beginning to feel he is a faded force these days. While I think Povetkin still has some pop, I do think he is a fighter that might quickly wear down and as long as Hunter is sensible he should be able to win this fight without putting himself in massive danger.

Michael Hunter clearly has some pop considering he had four stoppages in a row before the Decision win over Sergey Kuzmin. He also put Kuzmin down during that fight and I would not be massively surprised if a tired Povetkin is perhaps pulled out late in the fight.

However the sensible play looks to be backing the American to just pick his shots and not get into a firefight with Povetkin. That should lead to a win on the cards for Hunter and at odds against that is the play.

Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua II
The first thing I had to do is look back to June 1st and read what I had wrote about a fight I thought was going to be won by Anthony Joshua and fairly early on too.

I expected Joshua to fight to his size and win the fight, but I did mention the fast hands of Ruiz Jr and that the fight could be interesting if Joshua wants to get into a firefight, but there was no way I really believed anything but a comfortable Joshua win was on the cards.

We all saw what happened in Madison Square Garden that evening and it changed the lives of both fighters who looked to be on very different paths on May 31st.

Now we get into the rematch and once again everyone is talking about the Ruiz Jr weight- I am not convinced he didn't load his clothes to make himself scale heavier than he is, but it does raise a couple of questions about whether Ruiz Jr has been enjoying life a little too much since it all changed for him thanks to a huge left hook that landed in the Third Round.

It does feel like many have forgotten that Joshua actually scored the first Knock Down on the day, but you can't ignore the kind of long beating he then suffered. Yes he wasn't helped by a clear concussion that knocked his equilibrium out of sync, but it is the kind of loss that is vastly different to the one suffered by Lennox Lewis in his defeat to Hasim Rahman that so many are comparing this rematch to.

In fact it was much more like the sustained beating that Mike Tyson took against Buster Douglas and we did not get to see that rematch. In the Heavyweight Division I can rarely remember one fighter being knocked around as much as Joshua was that has had an immediate rematch and won that fight.

The biggest factor may be how much Andy Ruiz Jr wants this, but he does sound like a fighter that had less 'x' factors that Douglas had before his win over Tyson when the stars aligned for him. This time it feels like Ruiz Jr was just the better Boxer and his fast hands and ability to take a shot being superior to Anthony Joshua gives him the edge.

Anthony Joshua does look like has employed more sparring and is looking to have improved his own Boxing skills which have been questioned by many even before the defeat to Ruiz Jr in June. However it took Wladimir Klitschko some time to erase his demons after his initial losses and I do think Joshua is going to have to ride out a storm in this one at some point.

Much will depend on how he handles that- does he bite down on the gum-shield or does the mind go back to Madison Square Garden?

I would love to see Anthony Joshua win.

Some of the casual fans and their overrating of his abilities can be annoying, but I like Joshua and I think he would be bringing some big fights back to the United Kingdom.

However I can't shake the feeling that the first loss was so devastating and Joshua really hasn't had a lot of time to make massive adjustments. Everything he is learning is not going to be in the muscle memory which means resorting to type when things get tough and that is where Ruiz Jr could take us back to New York City.

The added weight on the scales does raise some doubts about Ruiz Jr, but my head is overruling my heart and thinks the Champion retains via a stoppage. I don't think he is looking for this to go longer than last time which could give Anthony Joshua a chance too and I can't ignore the fact that he put Ruiz Jr down early.

With that in mind I have to say I like the price on seeing less than Nine Rounds in this one which is close to odds against. I hope Joshua is the one landing the big punches early, but like the Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz fight recently, my underlying feeling is that this one goes shorter than the first bout.

Chris Eubank Jr vs Matvey Korobov
The win over James DeGale should really have sparked something in Chris Eubank Jr, but to the surprise of everyone he has not been in action since then.

I am not sure who his matchmaker is, but picking Matvey Korobov for his return opponent looks a strange decision. Twelve months ago Korobov was a very unfortunate losing fighter when challenging Jermall Charlo for the Middleweight Title, but he was not so good in his most recent outing as he looks to get back into a position to rematch Charlo.

That is what Eubank Jr wants to do and I do think this is going to be a real learning fight for the British fighter. The southpaw he faces looks to have better Boxing skills, but Eubank Jr has determination and a high workrate which I think is going to be key for him on Saturday.

You do have to respect Korobov and what he is going to bring to the table, but I do think the sheer will of Eubank Jr may help him get over the line. I can see a situation where Korobov wins four out of six of the early Rounds, but Eubank Jr is able to drag him into a real fight which sees him wear down the 36 year old.

He might be behind going into the second half of the fight, but Eubank Jr will be looking to make a statement before he likely calls out Charlo for a World Title fight in 2020. I think Eubank Jr can do that with a late stoppage here as he puts his shots together late against an awkward opponent.

Jermall Charlo vs Dennis Hogan
The WBC Middleweight Title is on the line when Jermall Charlo takes in his second fight of 2019 and it is against a stubborn Dennis Hogan who many thought did beat Jaime Mungaia back in April.

You can't ignore the fact that Hogan is coming up in weight this time and I think the performance against Mungaia is perhaps a touch over-rated against a fighter that is struggling to make the 154 limit.

This time he is taking on someone who has plenty of power at 160 and I think Charlo is looking for a big performance after perhaps losing a touch of motivation in his last couple of fights. He is saying all of the right things ahead of this one and I do think Hogan is going to find it very hard to take the accumulation of shots he is likely going to have to if he wants to get to the cards this time.

I think that is a big ask for him though and I am looking for Charlo to wear down and break down the tough Irishman who fights out of Australia. It is the fact he is coming up in weight which I think leads to Hogan being stopped for the first time as he perhaps does not have the same resistance in this Division and Charlo is one of the bigger hitters out there at 160.

It won't be easy for the Texan, but I do think Jermall Charlo can find a late stoppage in this one.

MY PICKS: Mahammadrasul Majidov-Tom Little Under Six Rounds @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Filip Hrgovic to Win Between 1-4 @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Dillian Whyte to Win Between 6-10 @ 2.62 William Hill (2 Units)
Michael Hunter to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Ruiz Jr-Anthony Joshua Under Nine Rounds @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Chris Eubank Jr to Win Between 7-12 @ 4.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Jermall Charlo to Win Between 7-12 @ 3.25 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Boxing Picks 2019: 24-47, + 1.43 Units (109 Units Staked, + 1.31% Yield)