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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

College Football Week 5 Picks 2013 (September 26-28)

It was the toughest week I have faced in the NCAA College Football ranks last weekend, but I do feel that a few little things could have gone my way and it would have been a much more positive week.

Don't get me wrong, some of the picks I made were terrible especially the Cincinnati one to cover 23 points as they only scored 14 in their game.

My faith in the Michigan Wolverines was not rewarded either as they kept turning the ball over, although the Wolverines are still one of the unbeaten teams in the country.

However, Pittsburgh and Louisiana gave up Touchdowns in the last couple of minutes which changed those picks from covering the spread to failing to do so, while Kansas State did everything wrong in their loss to Texas as they twice fumbled the ball in within the Longhorns 30 and thus failed to cover when one Touchdown would have given them the chance to.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are still the Number 1 Ranked team in the country, but they haven't looked that good in the opening three games they have played and I am not convinced that they merit that position. However, as Ric Flair once put it, 'to be the man, you have to beat the man' and until that time, I would not expect the voters to jump off the two time defending Champions' bandwagon.

There are a number of schools that are lining up behind Alabama who have a test against Ole Miss this weekend, but there needs to be improvements if the Crimson Tide are to three-peat. The win at Texas A&M is the one impressive result that Alabama have on their record, but the likes of the LSU Tigers and an improving Auburn could pose problems as well as the winner of the SEC East if the Crimson Tide do get to the SEC Championship Game.

Miami Hurricanes @ South Florida Bulls Pick: The Miami Defense have looked very good so far this season and I can see them giving South Florida a lot of problems in this one. Unless the Bulls have sorted out their issues at Quarter Back, it is going to be tough for South Florida to compete in this game.

Miami should be more consistent moving the chains in this one and I am looking for their Defense to create a couple of big turnovers to help cover this spread.

The Hurricanes are facing their first road test which can be tough, but South Florida have been beaten by much weaker teams than Miami and I believe the road team is going to win this by three Touchdowns.

Northern Illinois Huskies @ Purdue Boilermakers Pick: The Purdue Boilermakers are coming in off a heavy beating sustained at the hands of Wisconsin and I am not sure how focused they will be against a non-Conference opponent with a bye looming.

The Boilermakers haven't been a great home underdog in the last three years and their Offense could be made to look a little one-dimensional in this one.

That is where Northern Illinois' balanced Offense may end up having the more consistent success in this game, while the Huskies are 4-2 against the spread as the road favourite in the last year. The Huskies already have beaten the Iowa Hawkeyes from the Big 10 and I don't think Purdue are as good as that team.

Virginia Cavaliers @ Pittsburgh Panthers Pick: The Pittsburgh Panthers scored a lot of points in their last couple of games and I think they are going to cause problems for Virginia which could be compounded if David Watford continues struggling to look after the ball.

The turnovers could be the key for Pittsburgh in this one and the game could get out of hand if they build a lead and force Virginia away from rushing the ball.

Pittsburgh could move to 2-1 in the ACC and 2-0 in the Coastal Division in their first year in the Conference and really put themselves in a position to challenge for the Division title and a place in the Championship Game.

I'll be looking for them to create a couple more turnovers that leads to a ten point win.

Iowa Hawkeyes @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick: Both teams will look to run the ball against the other in this one as that is the strength of the Offenses, but both Defenses will feel they can at least restrict that aspect of the game and force the other to go to the air to win this game.

Iowa have the edge when it comes to throwing the ball, although it is the Minnesota Defense that will feel they can get the most pressure on the Quarter Back in the game.

I also still have a little more faith in the Golden Gophers running game, while Iowa are only 2-5 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons. Minnesota have also won 3 of their last 4 home games in the series so I will take the points in this one.

Houston Cougars @ USTA Roadrunners Pick: This is the first inter-State game between these two schools and I am expecting the Cougars to come out on top in this one.

Houston should have more consistency moving the ball in this game, although both teams will have their successes at times. What may turn out to be the difference is the fact that Houston's Defense have at least created some turnovers and giving their Offense extra possessions could be critical to their chances of winning the game.

The Cougars have also improved to 7-4 against the spread as the road favourite in the last couple of years, including winning 2 games in that spot this season, and I like them to win this one by a field goal at least.

Arkansas State Red Wolves @ Missouri Tigers Pick: Both teams will have their successes moving the ball in this game and both should be able to score points, although Missouri are likely to have more creases to their Offense which will give them a more consistency in sustaining drives.

The Missouri Defense has also been responsible for creating turnovers and that should help them get ahead and force Arkansas State to try and throw the ball to get back into things.

With Adam Kennedy perhaps not completely comfortable in doing that, I expect Missouri can move away from Arkansas State and cover the spread.

California Golden Bears @ Oregon Ducks Pick: This is a huge spread, but I have a feeling it is going to be a long day for the California Golden Bears and I expect Oregon to make a statement about their intent in the Pac-12 this season.

I do think California will sustain some drives and score points, but Oregon play so quickly and can score quickly that even a 5 + Touchdown margin may not be enough for the Golden Bears.

The backdoor cover is a possibility with the Offense that California have, but Oregon is the play for me.

Fresno State Bulldogs @ Hawaii Warriors Pick: There is a clear difference in terms of talents in the two teams and I expect Fresno State to underline their win over Boise State against the correct opponent for them.

Of course this is the perfect letdown spot for a team that put in a lot of effort to win the game last Friday, but they won't want to lose their grip on the Mountain West West Division and a chance to win a Conference title so I expect the team to be focused.

Hawaii make too many mistakes to keep this close and I expect the Bullogs to win this fairly comfortably.

MY PICKS: Miami Hurricanes - 16 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Northern Illinois Huskies - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Panthers - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Minnesota Golden Gophers + 2 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Missouri Tigers - 21.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 37 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Fresno State Bulldogs - 17.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Week 4: 2-6, - 4.08 Units (8 Units Staked, - 51% Yield)
Week 35-2-1, + 2.77 Units (8 Units Staked, + 34.63% Yield)
Week 26-2, + 3.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 44.38% Yield)
Week 14-3, + 0.74 Units (7 Units Staked, + 10.57% Yield)

Season 201317-13-1, + 2.98 Units (31 Units Staked, + 9.61% 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)

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (September 28-30)

It's the final weekend of September and the season does feel like it's in full gear now with the Champions League kicked off and the Premier League getting close to settling down.

So far, so good is the analysis of the picks this month, although another solid weekend will at least give me the chance to erase what happened in August when a terrible last two weeks left the picks in disarray.

I have written down a few thoughts from last weekend's football which can be read here.

Also, you can read the latest 'United Corner' covering up to the Liverpool game and devoted solely from the perspective of the Manchester United fan in me- that can be read here.

Aston Villa v Manchester City Pick: Manchester City have another big game coming up against Bayern Munich this week in the Champions League, but they cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in this one and 'waste' the result they got in the Manchester derby by dropping points here.

I do expect changes from the side that won the derby last Sunday as Manuel Pellegrini will want to keep his squad fresh, but I don't think we will see a much weakened team as there is a lot of depth, expectedly, at City.

This is the kind of game that Manchester City have to win if they are serious about winning the Premier League title, especially considering Aston Villa have lost to 6 of the top 7 at home last season and have already been beaten by Liverpool at Villa Park.

Villa's game is much more suited to playing away from home where they can lull teams onto them and then use their pace on the counter, but Gabby Agbonlahor is carrying a knock and the dangerous Christian Benteke has been ruled out until next month.

It only took a special goal from Wayne Rooney to stop Manchester City's run of clean sheets last weekend and I think they can get back to that and win this game with a clean sheet which is offered at a nice price by Coral. With Vincent Kompany back, City have looked more composed at the back and they have kept clean sheets in their last 3 against Aston Villa, including back to back games at Villa Park.

Fulham v Cardiff City Pick: I am sure both managers will enter this game with a real belief that they can win the match and just ease some of the anxiety felt by the supporters, even at this early stage of the new season.

Fulham are probably the more desperate to win after their side was booed off following the 1-1 draw with West Brom in their most recent League game here, while there were chants directed at the manager Martin Jol.

I am convinced there are goals in the Fulham side and the return of Dimitar Berbatov makes them more dangerous going forward, while the win over Everton in the League Cup will be a real mental boost for the players.

They hadn't won a home game since April 1st before Tuesday night so that will help the players in this one and I am not sure Cardiff are going to have enough to keep the home side from winning this.

It will likely be close, but I expect Fulham to pick up the three points and hold off Cardiff in this one.

Manchester United v West Brom Pick: I am expecting Manchester United to continue trying to get back to basics in this game and that means defending much better than they did last Sunday.

At home, United have kept clean sheets in 3 of their 4 games in all competitions this season and I think the absence of Shane Long will aid them on that front this week. After the defeat last weekend, David Moyes will have full focus on this game so I don't expect players to be rested for the Champions League game on Wednesday night.

I will be the first to admit that United haven't looked imperious too often this season, but I am expecting West Brom to try and make this difficult for them and I am not sure what kind of ambition they will show.

West Brom have failed to score in 4 of their last 5 Premier League visits to Old Trafford, while they failed to do the same at any of the other sides that finished in the top four last season. It took a late United goal to win this game 2-0 last season and while I do expect a home win by a couple of goals, I believe the 'Win to Nil' option is the better pick.

Stoke City v Norwich City Pick: I was hoping to find Stoke City at a slightly higher price this weekend, but the layers must have been as impressed as I have been with their performances to open this season.

The results have also been good for Stoke and they have the physicality mixed with some strong passing displays that gives them a different feel to when Tony Pulis was in charge at the Brittania Stadium.

However, Stoke are not one of these sides that are going to blow anyone away so Norwich City will certainly feel they have a chance of picking up a result here. My only concern is that the away side have looked a little devoid of ideas in attacking positions and merely lumping the ball into the box from wide areas should be dealt with by both Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth.

I would imagine Mark Hughes has been working on set pieces through the week after conceding 3 goals in that manner at Arsenal and if they get that right, it is hard to see Norwich troubling the scoreboard. Norwich struggled to create chances against ten man Hull City in a recent away game and I do believe Stoke will win this game.

Everton v Newcastle United Pick: These two sides have been involved in some high scoring games in recent years and I do think that is the way to go in this game. Everton are the more likely winners of the match, but they are far too short against a Newcastle United team that have goals in the side and who are as capable of surprising for the win as they are in getting thumped.

The last 5 fixtures between these teams have produced 17 goals, while 5 of the last 6 at Goodison Park have seen at least 3 goals scored.

Roberto Martinez' Everton may have two clean sheets at home, but that hides the fact that there have been chances at both ends in their home games and I expect there will be more chances in this one.

At 1.92, goals look the call.

MY PICKS: Manchester City Win to Nil @ 2.88 Coral (2 Units)
Fulham @ 2.15 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 2.35 Coral (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.05 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Everton-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

September Update10-8, + 7.40 Units (29 Units Staked, + 25.52% Yield)

August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

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

Friday, 27 September 2013

United Corner- Manchester derby, Champions League and League Cup (September 27)

United Corner- Champions League Match Day 1, Manchester Derby, Capital One Cup and month ahead (September 27th)

Coming out of an international break is always tough for the bigger teams in the European Leagues as they are obviously filled with more talent than some of the other teams and that can lead to slow starts in the first League matches after those breaks. That is the only reason I can offer up for Manchester United's uninspired performance against Crystal Palace on September 14 as United lacked the tempo that has been a feature of their game over the years.

I honestly sat at Old Trafford that day and was not convinced of where United were going to find an opening until the Crystal Palace player was sent off at the end of the first half. Anderson was a major disappointment and there also seemed to be a fear from the two central midfielders to try and fizz the ball to the wide players who certainly had created room at times.

The final pass was also poor for the majority of the game, but three days later all seemed to be back to the level that was required. In the Champions League opener, United put in their best performance not just of this season, but going back a few months into the end of the reign of Sir Alex and the only negative was conceding two goals out of nothing.

There was tempo and pace that was missing days earlier and even Antonio Valencia was showing signs of some of his old form and I can't have been the only one that went into the Manchester derby in much better heart than I had thought I would after the performance on Saturday.

Unfortunately for United, they didn't get going at all in the Manchester derby on Sunday as the pace and power of Manchester City overran United and made them look a little old at times. It wasn't a freak result like the one City had at Old Trafford a couple of years ago and they were well worthy of the margin of victory with my personal opinion being that they did ease off after scoring the fourth as it was a case of job done.

Too many of the starting eleven under-performed and that isn't something you can afford in a game of this magnitude. I would be surprised if Ashley Young is given another League start in the next couple of weeks before the next set of international fixtures, especially with the return of Nani to the fold, while Robin Van Persie was another miss.

David Moyes was right in saying this was not the time to worry too much, even though it was a poor performance and he is right as City would have given any team in Europe trouble with the manner in which they played. However, I would be a little concerned with the ease in which some of their goals came as the midfield failed to track runners while Maruoane Fellaini has to learn that you can't switch off for a moment, but the big game against Liverpool at least allowed United to erase Sunday as soon as possible.

Obviously the big concern was that United would not get the desired result from the game against Liverpool on Wednesday night and the pressure on David Moyes would have increased, not necessarily from the fans that attend Old Trafford, but those who seem to ignorantly write stupid statements on the social networks and the media who need to fill the back pages.

When the team news was announced, I won't lie and say I wasn't concerned as Liverpool certainly played their strongest team while United made a number of changes, but the result was the most important factor of the night and that is what we achieved from the game. Liverpool may have felt hard done by as they did seem to create more opportunities, but the final ball let them down and there wasn't that much to separate the sides which is a testimony to the squad players United can call on.

It was announced after the game that David Moyes had made the best start to a Manchester United manager's career since Sir Matt Busby in 1946 as Moyes had overseen 5 wins from the first 8 games, a far cry from all the negative noise that came out after Sunday's result.

I do find it strange that so many so called Manchester United fans have been on David Moyes back to the extent that they have at times, especially considering I have sympathy for the start that he was handed in the Premier League.

Some will tell you that United picked up 7 points from the same fixtures against Swansea, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City last season, but it would be harsh to criticise Moyes considering the manner in which those points came last year. At Anfield, Liverpool had a man sent off in the first half, at City we had blown a 0-2 lead and were definitely looking the less likely to win that game so I think Moyes is probably only a point under a par performance.

The next six weeks are much more critical for Moyes though as United have games against West Brom, at Sunderland, Southampton, Stoke and at Fulham before the home game against Arsenal and I think anything less than 13 points from those five games would be a disappointment and would put United in a tough spot compared with the likely leaders by that point.

The Champions League fixtures make it tough for an inexperienced manager as to keeping the squad as fresh as possible, but the words of Ryan Giggs will help Moyes through that and I do think United are going to be in a much stronger position by November 2nd.

My last thought for this post: Please, please, please don't be that person that goes up to people to show how smart and savvy you are with the statistic that David Moyes has had a better start in his first 8 games than Sir Alex Ferguson.

Unless you're an idiot, that would hardly surprise you considering the state of the club in November 1986 compared with July 2013 so let's just leave that statistic in with the large pile of useless ones that people quote to prove a point.

Weekend Review (September 22-23)

My views on the Manchester derby from a predominantly Manchester United view can be found on the latest 'United Corner' which can be read here.

These are just some of my thoughts from the last weekend of football.

Liverpool's early start: In a world of social media like Facebook and Twitter, you can really see the 'giddy-o-meter' of fans and track the ups and downs of where a team is and one such team was Liverpool after the first month of the season.

At that point, Liverpool had won three straight games, albeit with the aid of a Stoke City penalty miss on the opening day of the season, and there were some murmurings that Liverpool could make the top four and a Champions League place or maybe even challenge for the title that they haven't won in 23 years.

There didn't seem to be too many worries about the fact that the side had won all three League games by the same 1-0 scoreline, but they have failed to win a game since September 1st and have now lost their last couple of games, one in the League Cup by 1-0 scores.

Luis Suarez' return will help the Liverpool side in terms of goals, but the loss of Philip Coutinho is a major miss over the next month and I think they will return to the mean and that is likely going to be more dropped points in the coming games. I'm not a big fan of Daniel Sturridge despite the hot start to the new season and I just think fans should take it easy before jumping on a bandwagon that may not be moving.

Hull City potential for survival: Steve Bruce has prior experience of helping teams survive in the top flight and he has seemingly put together a squad at Hull City that could potentially do the same despite a lot of people tipping them to go straight back down.

The result at St James' Park last week was impressive, but Hull also performed very well at Manchester City and were arguably unfortunate to not pick up any points from that game. A lot will likely depend on their form at home and so the game against West Ham United this weekend could be a very important one as I am sure Bruce will look at games like those as ones he has to win.

Hull would have seen the 1-1 home draw with Cardiff City as two dropped points and while it is still too early to make snap judgements, there does seem to be enough about the newly named Tigers to ensure a second season in the top flight.

Crystal Palace's problems: While Hull City fans can perhaps look ahead with some positive thoughts about the season, I think it is a lot harder for Crystal Palace fans to be feeling the same way.

There have been times when I have been impressed with what Palace have brought to the table and they certainly pushed Tottenham Hotspur while looking fairly solid until having a man sent off against Manchester United.

Positives from those games were erased though in the manner they were outplayed so easily by Swansea at Selhurst Park last Sunday and that has to concern Ian Holloway as to whether his squad have enough quality to survive in the top flight after losing players like Wilfried Zaha to Manchester United and Glenn Murray to injury.

Goals are going to be a problem if the early games are anything to go by and they face a big test of their credentials to stay in the Premier League when they travel to Southampton this week.

Manchester City's performance: I was actually surprised to read in some quarters that Manchester City's performance in the Manchester derby was good, but not great and a lot of the game was more to do with how ordinary Manchester United looked.

I would disagree with that sentiment completely as the pace and tempo that City used in that game was the difference and they are the first team that made some of the United players look 'old' as it was put to me while watching the game.

There won't be too many teams that can live with City if they can replicate that performance in other games this season and I don't think anyone should try and downplay what they did last weekend and just accept it as a top performance and move on.

Queens Park Rangers favourites for promotion: It has always been said that teams that don't play well but pick up positive results are destined for big seasons and Queens Park Rangers fit into that category in the early stages of the Championship.

They are winning a lot of games 1-0, but you have to be impressed with the signings made and I think it will take a few more games for them to click as a team and then Rangers will be very tough to stop. Tom Carroll could really show his quality at this level and he will dictate play, while the likes of Andrew Johnson and Charlie Austin will score goals.

A quick look at the squad shows the talent that is available for Harry Redknapp and the squad wouldn't look out of place in the Premier League and I do think QPR are going to be tough to stop. Of course, I could look a fool in three months time predicting anything in a Division like the Championship which has so many strange results every weekend, but Queens Park Rangers look a little too good for their rivals and I would expect them to earn automatic promotion.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

NFL Week 4 Picks 2013 (September 26-30)

It felt like a really tough Week 3, but the results weren't as bad as I perhaps expected- I will go into that before the Week 4 picks, but some of the tough breaks that went against the picks I made could have made this a much worse week than it turned out to be.

Week 3 Thoughts
Dallas Cowboys in control of the NFC East: It has been a while since the Dallas Cowboys were in the Play Offs, but they look like they could break that recent streak by winning the NFC East this season, especially if they can consistently perform to the level they did in Week 3.

Dallas are a talented team that has had the problem of playing flawless football one week against a tough opponent, but then making the stupid mistakes that cost them a much more winnable game the week after. The Cowboys moved to 2-1 last weekend, but importantly saw the rest of the NFC East all lose and Dallas do look the best team in the Division.

Two game leads over the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins don't mean anything after three games of the season, but the latter two teams have some serious issues to rectify, while the Philadelphia Eagles haven't played well since Week 1.

On current form and the way these teams are heading, even a late season collapse that has affected Dallas in recent years won't be detrimental to them moving into the post-season. All four NFC East teams are on the road this weekend and Dallas could certainly extend their lead in the Division if they can prove themselves as one of the better teams in the NFL and beat the San Diego Chargers in California.

It's too early to crown the Denver Broncos as the AFC representative in the SuperBowl: I love the way the Denver Broncos have been playing to open the new season and they do look the best team in the AFC at this moment of time, but it's too early to see suggest no other team has a chance in the AFC to play in the SuperBowl.

Peyton Manning has carved up teams in the regular season, but it is hard to ignore the fact that his teams have eight times lost their first game in the Play Offs and they have only reached 2 SuperBowls in his time as a Quarter Back. I love the way Manning plays and his Offensive weapons look incredibly difficult to stop, but Denver were beaten in their first Play Off game last season and it is rare to see teams start off so hot and hold that level for the whole season.

In recent seasons, we have seen teams get hot in December and use that to propel themselves through to the Play Offs so that would be another reason to hold off crowing Denver anything before the end of September, although I do consider them the Number 1 team in my Rankings right now.

Aldon Smith should not have been playing last weekend: It is clear that Aldon Smith has a big future in the NFL, but the recently turned 24 year old has some personal demons to deal with as he was arrested for his second DUI on Friday.

Smith has since checked in to a rehab centre which means he will be missing the next month for the San Francisco 49ers, but that makes me question why he was playing against Indianapolis if there were some question marks as to how he was feeling mentally for that game.

The 49ers were flat and I don't want to put that on the Smith issue (the lack of Offensive weapons was the bigger problem), but you would have expected the young man not to have been put on the field if there was even a suggestion that he wanted to go and get some help in rehab.

I would say that issue was badly handled by San Francisco whose team on the field is also in a spot of bother ahead of a big NFC West game on Thursday Night Football.

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers getting into it on the bench: There are some people out there that love to make a big thing out of any thing they see and the arrival of mediums like Twitter means there is the instant response of millions of people.

It was no surprise that some believe there is a rift in the Green Bay Packers between Head Coach and Quarter Back, but I am not one of them- these are two competitive men that want to win every game and the Packers are 1-2 so some disagreements are to be expected.

With a bye week up next, I am expecting the Packers to get back into the groove in Week 5 and this incident will long be forgotten by then.

How long before Josh Freeman is benched? There are some issues that Josh Freeman may be going through on a personal level, but it is clear that Greg Schiano isn't a fan and I don't think Freeman sees his contract extended beyond this season at Tampa Bay.

There are times Freeman has looked good, but he makes too many mistakes and misses Receivers- Tampa Bay's Defense has kept them in games this season, bar the idiotic penalty from that unit that cost them their game at the New York Jets in Week 1, but the Offense has failed to put the points on the board which has led the team to a 0-3 start.

I'm not sure Mike Glennon is the answer just yet because of his mobility issues and he is a rookie who you don't want to put in a pressure situation that could slow down his improvement with confidence possibly being affected. Either Tampa Bay could trade for a starter to carry them through this season, or they could use their bye week in Week 5 to help Glennon through but I would be surprised if the move is made this week.

EDIT: I was writing this small section on Tuesday, but have seen that the move to Mike Glennon may have been made on Wednesday.

A possible London franchise by the end of the decade? That was what was written in the Daily Telegraph as the NFL heads to London for the first of two regular season games this time around, but I think one of the main points was ignored and is still to be discussed going forward.

While the London games sell-out, I am still very much convinced it is down to the fact that these are rare games and seen as a 'special event' rather than enough to sustain a franchise. I could be wrong, but I don't know how many fans of the NFL would be willing to set aside their own team to support a new franchise eight times a year.

I particularly would wonder how many people would pay to watch a full season at Wembley Stadium if a team as bad as the Jacksonville Jaguars was the franchise over here- would the ticket sales be adversely affected if the team started 0-4 or had three consecutive losing seasons?

I always would say yes- fans will come to one or two games, maybe where their favourite team is coming to town as the road team, but I can't imagine they would sell enough season tickets to make a franchise sustainable unless they were winning... The bottom line is, a winning franchise is not going to move from their current market (unless Los Angeles put in an offer they couldn't refuse) and that means any London team would likely be a 'bad' team and I don't believe we would see sell outs on a weekly basis unless a big name team was playing here.

London team watch: Talking about the London games, how about those teams going 1-11 heading into Week 4 with half the 0-3 teams in the NFL being scheduled to come over here.

Top Five
1) Denver Broncos (3-0): Even after what I have said above, this Offense looks like it will be very tough to stop, especially if their Running Backs can also get large chunks of yardage off the ground.

2) Seattle Seahawks (3-0): At the moment, there is no better team in the NFC.

3) New England Patriots (3-0): The New England Patriots Offense looked a little better on Sunday and I think they will only improve with the impending return of Rob Gronkowski.

4) New Orleans Saints (3-0): The Offense finally played up to what is expected of them, but there is still more room for improvement while Rob Ryan continues to get the best out of this Defense.

5) Chicago Bears (3-0): There have been a lot of positives on both sides of the ball for the Bears which continued with a total beating of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.

Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3): I'd be surprised if Jacksonville move out of this position during the course of the season and if they don't 'win' the Number 1 Pick in the NFL Draft.

31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3): The Defense is better than advertised, but the Offense can't score points and that means they won't be winning games any time soon unless that changes.

30) Minnesota Vikings (0-3): Adrian Peterson's daughter put it best: 'I can't believe you lost to the Browns'.

29) New York Giants (0-3): The Giants hit a real low by failing to score against the Carolina Panthers and ending up on the wrong end of a 38-0 shelling.

28) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3): Pittsburgh have looked old, the Offense has struggled to maintain drives and are making too many mistakes, while the Defense can't win games on their own. London is very lucky to have the Steelers and the Vikings this weekend(!)

Week 4 Picks
Both the NFL and the NCAA College Football picks saw some late touchdowns go against them, but it could have been so much worse this week and I am glad to get out of it with the season still on the right side of zero.

Last weekend was weird in a number of ways- look at some of the strange plays that went against the picks during Week 3: I backed the Houston Texans and if someone had said they had only given up 65 yards at half time, you would never have guessed that they would be down by 11 points.

The Ravens had a pick-six and a punt return for Touchdowns, although they were much improved in the second half.

How about Green Bay leading by 3 with minutes ticking down and fumbling the ball on a fourth and inches when close to field goal range- that ball was returned for the winning Touchdown and saw that pick go down.

San Diego were up 4 points when giving up a Hail Mary Touchdown pass to Tennessee which saw that pick end in a push- it made it worse that the Titans, with Jake Locker, drove the length of the field in 2 minutes with no time outs.

Atlanta were up by 3 points with 4 minutes left and the ball on the Miami 20- Matt Bryant missed the 35 yard field goal that would have meant the Falcons would cover even if the Dolphins scored the winning Touchdown, but the miss and the ensuing Touchdown meant they missed the cover by 1 point.

Even with all that bad luck at the end of games, the picks ended with only a slight loss and that means we still see a profit for the season. Hopefully Week 4 isn't so erratic in terms of those plays at the end of games going against me after last weekend.

San Francisco 49ers @ St Louis Rams Pick: This is a big NFC West battle between two teams that are coming off back to back losses.

With one defeat already to a Divisional rival, the game is arguably more important for the San Francisco 49ers than the St Louis Rams who beat Arizona to open the season. The media have been focusing on Colin Kaepernick this week after his lacklustre performances against Seattle and Indianapolis, but Vernon Davis could be back in the line up and the Rams have given up a lot of yardage through the air.

After the way DeMarco Murray hammered the Rams on the ground, San Francisco's Offense should get on track this week with Kaepernick and Frank Gore being able to run the ball. The 49ers are likely going to stop a St Louis Offense being able to do the same as they are moving the ball at just 3.2 yards per clip this season and that means the pressure will be on Sam Bradford to keep the Offense on the field with his arm.

Bradford should have some success moving the ball through the air, but it is a big ask to do that throughout the game against this pass rush, even in the absence of Aldon Smith.

St Louis did give San Francisco problems last season, but the latter are 5-2-1 against the spread when coming off a loss even after the defeat to Indianapolis and they can bounce back here. 

Arizona Cardinals @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made the change at Quarter Back, but things could easily get worse before they get better for them as they play their last game before the bye.

Everything I have read suggests Mike Glennon is not ready to come in and play, but I believe Josh Freeman had lost all support and the move was always going to be made sooner rather than later. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams both a little banged up, it will be tough for Glennon to move the chains through the air in this one, even though Arizona have given up a lot of yards this season albeit against pretty solid signal callers.

Doug Martin may struggle to run the ball meaning the pressure will be on Glennon in this one and that isn't a great spot for the Buccaneers to be in.

The Cardinals stayed on the East Coast last week and I think Carson Palmer can make enough plays to help them come through a tough road game and get back to 2-2 in the NFC West. Arizona are 8-5 against the spread as the road underdog in the last couple of seasons and this Tampa Bay team doesn't deserve to be a favourite on current performances and with a rookie Quarter Back making his first start.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings (in London) Pick: I know Minnesota have lost their starting Quarter Back, but it is not like they have a rookie or an inexperienced player taking over and I am not sure Pittsburgh deserve to be a field goal favourite over anyone right now.

I do think the Steelers are the better team in terms of talent, especially on the Defensive side of the ball, but they haven't played well enough to be the favourite by this margin.

Ben Roethlisberger will have success throwing the ball, but he will need his Offensive Line to be at their best and I also believe we are going to see a big game from Adrian Peterson with Jeremy Fulton opening holes for him.

If Peterson gets rumbling, Matt Cassel can make enough plays to help Minnesota cover this spread. Pittsburgh have been a poor favourite over the last twelve months, going 2-9 against the spread in that spot, and I think they've struggled enough this season to think they are laying too much in terms of points.

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: I would be surprised if Indianapolis are not able to move the chains all day in this one and they look a team on the up. This could be a perfect letdown spot for them after their success at San Francisco last week, but playing a Divisional rival should keep them focused on the task at hand.

Indianapolis have a pretty balanced Offense, while Jacksonville have struggled in all three facets of an NFL game.

It will be hard for Blaine Gabbert to move the chains considering the pass rush that will likely be in his face, especially if the Jaguars go down by a couple of scores and I like the Colts to cover in this one.

The Jaguars are 5-12 against the spread as the home underdog in recent years and Indianapolis should prove to be good enough to cover for the second season in a row.

Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans Pick: There could be a lot of problems for Houston in this game if Andre Johnson is ruled out and I do think the line movement has changed enough for me to take an interest in the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle's Defense will give Matt Schaub plenty of problems and this game could be more important to the Seahawks who want to show they are for real, while Houston could be flat after a poor loss in Baltimore.

It is easy to see that Houston could be 0-3 coming into this game as they recovered from a big deficit to beat San Diego in Week 1 and needed overtime after coming back from 8 points down to beat Tennessee before the loss last week.

I do feel Russell Wilson will make a couple more big plays than Matt Schaub in this one and that could be the difference in the game so I will back the Seattle team to win this game and cover the spread.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Denver Broncos Pick: Stopping Peyton Manning is going to be very difficult for the Philadelphia Eagles in this game and I think their Defense could have a hard time catching their breath in the altitude of Colorado. That will only make stopping Manning that much more difficult and there is no doubt that the Broncos will score points in this one.

The Eagles Defense could struggle in this altitude as they may have to last long drives against a methodical Manning, getting no time to recover their breath if the Offense keeps playing as fast as they do. If Michael Vick turns the ball over or the Eagles have a three and out, the Defense will not have much rest and that doesn't bode well for them.

With the way Denver's Offense has clicked early in the season, it is hard to see how they will be stopped in this one and I do like them to record yet another big win.

I just believe the Broncos will force turnovers and use those extra possessions to good advantage which will set them up for a cover of what looks a large spread at first glance.

Denver have improved to 7-2 against the spread as the home favourite with Peyton Manning behind Center.

Dallas Cowboys @ San Diego Chargers Pick: Out of the two teams, the Dallas Cowboys have the talent level and personnel on the Offense to move the chains with more consistency of the two teams and I do like the Cowboys to do that.

There will be times that Philip Rivers gets hot, but his Offensive Line could have at least 2 new starters this week and that doesn't bode well against a Dallas team that has managed to put a lot of pressure on the opposition Quarter Back through the first three weeks of the season.

If Dallas get that push up front, Rivers can get flustered and this Defense has shown a new found love for turning the ball over and that could be a big difference in the game.

As long as the Cowboys avoid mistakes when they have the ball, I see Dallas moving the chains whether they take to the air or pound the ball on the ground and I like the Cowboys to move to 3-1 in this one and perhaps increase their lead in the NFC East.

Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints Pick: As a Miami Dolphins fan, it has been a long time since the team has started 3-0 and earning a place in the Play Offs is the expectation for the team now.

However, I have watched every one of their games this season from start to finish and I have seen a team that has just gotten the breaks at certain times which has helped them get to this record. The game against Atlanta saw Ryan Tennehill engineer an awesome drive that resulted in the winning Touchdown with seconds left to play, but the Dolphins were outgained in yardage for the third straight game and were fortunate to win that game that the Falcons seemed to dominate.

Injuries are also hurting on the Defensive side of the ball in this one and I think it is a big ask for them to come to the Saints home with those injuries and win.

Ryan Tannehill is likely to find himself under pressure all night with the blitzes and pressure the Saints are able to generate and it will be tough for him to keep making plays against this Rob Ryan Defense.

I also have a feeling that this game doesn't matter as much to Miami as it does for New Orleans- the Dolphins host Baltimore next week in what could be a pivotal game for the Wild Card spots, while New Orleans will have seen the Atlanta defeat last night and figure this to be a big opportunity to increase their lead in the NFC South.

New Orleans have been dominant at home under Sean Payton, especially in primetime games. They are 9-3 against the spread in night games at home since Drew Brees signed from the San Diego Chargers, while they are 28-13 against the spread as the home favourite in recent seasons.

The Saints have covered as the home favourite in both games they have played here this season and I like them to make this three in a row.

MY PICKS: San Francisco 49ers - 3 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Minnesota Vikings + 3 Points @ 1.90 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Indianapolis Colts - 8 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 7 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Week 3: 3-4-1, - 1.10 Units
Week 26-1, + 6.46 Units
Week 15-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 201314-11-1, + 1.86 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Saturday, 21 September 2013

College Football Week 4 Picks 2013 (September 19-21)

The new College Football season is taking shape, but it is a dominant school from the last few seasons that could be playing for the National Championship again this time around. The Alabama Crimson Tide's biggest obstacle to reaching the big game was always going to be the game at College Station, but last week they managed to shut down the Texas A&M Aggies just enough to pull the victory.

The rest of the schedule is manageable for the Crimson Tide and they could have the chance to three-peat as National Champions.

The fight for the place in the National Championship Game is still ongoing with a number of unbeaten teams, but I would still figure the winner of the Oregon-Stanford game to be played later this year may determine which team is likely to face a team from the SEC, although Clemson are still going to believe they can have an impact too. As we reach the fourth week of the season, things may still remain a little murky until the next month when all Conference play gets going.

Toledo Rockets @ Central Michigan Chippewas Pick: The Toledo Rockets have won the last 3 games in the series against Central Michigan and will be expected to get their Conference schedule off to a positive start in this one.

Central Michigan played well last season and could cause some problems through the air for the Rockets Defense, but they are a little one-dimensional and I expect Toledo's pass rush to help disrupt drives and give the Rockets a chance to win this game by a couple of Touchdowns.

I believe Toledo have enough balance in their Offense to keep the chains moving when they have the ball and that consistency could prove to be the difference in the game.

Pittsburgh Panthers @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: Both of these Offenses should have success in this game, but I believe the edge will go to the Pittsburgh Panthers when it is all said and done and that is mainly down to the fact that I believe their pass rush may just rush Duke a little more into making mistakes or not sustaining their drives.

The Panthers have also been a little more effective at running the ball of the two teams and that should open their passing lanes as the game develops.

Pittsburgh are 7-3 against the spread as the road favourite in recent games in that spot, while Duke have gone just 1-3 against the spread as the home underdog over the last year.

Kent State Golden Flashes @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The Penn State Nittany Lions have an edge in terms of talent and can put their full focus into this game with a bye week next up ahead of Conference play.

It isn't the same case for Kent State who are coming off a tough game at LSU last weekend and may already be looking ahead to their first MAC Conference game at Western Michigan next week.

The talent edge and ability should give Penn State the chance to move the chains with much more consistency this week and I like them to cover the spread. The Nittany Lions have been a solid home favourite under Bill O'Brien too and I expect them to make up for the surprise loss they suffered at home last week.

Cincinnati Bearcats @ Miami (Ohio) Redhawks Pick: Cincinnati have dominated this series in recent years and seem to have a clear edge on both sides of the ball to think they should be able to see off the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks fairly comfortably.

The Bearcats should put up plenty of points themselves and if the Redhawks have struggled to get their Offense on track after two weeks since their last game, this could be a long day for Miami again.

Cincinnati are 8-5 against the spread as the road favourite in recent seasons and have won their last 7 games against Miami (Ohio) by 28 points per game. Even the injury to Munchie Legaux won't slow down this Bearcats Offense and I expect them to move the chains at will throughout this game and not lose focus with a bye to follow the game.

Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns @ Akron Zips Pick: It was a very impressive performance from the Akron Zips last week, but they were also pretty bad in their first two games of the season so I don't want to read too much into one performance, even against a team as talented as Michigan.

It will be tough for Akron to keep up with the Louisiana Offense in this one as far as I am concerned and they may just be a little flat after pushing Michigan as far as they did last week.

The Ragin' Cajuns will find their points in this one and the pressure will be on Akron to keep up, while the Zips are 3-10 against the spread as the home underdog over the last three years.

Oregon State Beavers @ San Diego State Aztecs Pick: Both teams should be able to move the chains with their passing performances in this one, but I do feel Oregon State have the slight edge in a couple of departments that should let them get away with another win.

Sean Mannion makes less mistakes than the Quarter Backs San Diego State will call upon, while the Beavers Defense gets more pressure on the man behind Center and that could also lead to drives stalling or mistakes being made.

In a game where both Offenses have the edge, that little factor can make all the difference and I like Oregon State to find a way to pull away and cover.

Michigan Wolverines @ Connecticut Huskies Pick: I am expecting a much stronger performance from Michigan after their escape last week and this looks a good game for them to get back on the horse in impressive fashion.

Brady Hoke was just happy his team escaped with a win last week, but he will be expecting a lot more from them this week and they do seem to have the edge on both sides of the ball.

Connecticut will make some plays to stay in the game for a while, but the pressure may prove too much for Chandler Whitmer who has thrown more Interceptions than Touchdowns so far in his career at the Huskies. I expect Michigan have a couple of turnovers to move away from Connecticut in this one.

Kansas State Wildcats @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Once again, Mack Brown is under pressure as the Texas Longhorns have started 1-2 and this has become an increasingly important game for the Head Coach with rumours that the likes of Nick Saban have been sounded out to take over.

Texas have been absolutely embarrassing against the run as they have allowed over 300 yards per game on the ground alone and Kansas State should be come the latest to keep the chains moving by simply running the ball.

Confidence has to be a little battered in the home squad, but they should be able to move the chains themselves, although they have lost 5 straight years to the Wildcats.

Texas are just 9-15 against the spread as the home favourite in recent years while Kansas State are 15-3 against the spread as the road underdog- with current form also in mind, the Wildcats are my pick.

MY PICKS: Toledo Rockets - 11.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Panthers - 4 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions - 22 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 23.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns - 6 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oregon State Beavers - 8 Points @ 2.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 19.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Kansas State Wildcats + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 3: 5-2-1, + 2.77 Units (8 Units Staked, + 34.63% Yield)
Week 26-2, + 3.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 44.38% Yield)
Week 14-3, + 0.74 Units (7 Units Staked, + 10.57% Yield)

Season 201315-7-1, + 7.06 Units (23 Units Staked, + 30.70% 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)

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (September 21-22)

It has just been one of those weeks when there has been a lot going on, so I haven't been able to put down a long post.

The Champions League games were probably about as interesting as they get during the first round of matches in the Group Stage, but now we move on to domestic matters as the Premier League and other top flight Leagues continue.

Norwich City v Aston Villa Pick: Away games will certainly still suit Aston Villa more than at home where the onus is on them to attack and the pace they employ in counter attacks will help them out here.

I know Norwich City have a strong home record in recent games and have yet to lose here this season, but they have been fortunate and I think Aston Villa are a stronger team.

Paul Lambert led Villa to 2 wins over Norwich City last season and I think the 3.10 on offer for an away win is too big to ignore.

Newcastle United v Hull City Pick: I am not overly impressed with Newcastle United at odds on to win this game, but they have shown some signs of turning their season around and I do think they have more match winners than Hull City.

The latter have enjoyed visits to St James' Park in the last twenty years, but Newcastle will create chances here and I think their form in recent games gives them the edge. While Hull City looked threatening at times in their games at Chelsea and Manchester City, they still need to find an attacking edge to their play to take the chances they are creating.

That could be a problem for Hull throughout the season as they have scored just 2 goals in their 4 Premier League games and also failed to score at Leyton Orient in the League Cup (in the normal 90 minutes at least).

With Newcastle finding wins in their last 3 games in all competitions, you have to think the Magpies can fly high enough to claim another 3 points in this one.

West Brom v Sunderland Pick: A lack of confidence in both squads makes it tough to make a pick with real confidence, but I do think West Brom at odds against is the call considering their recent success in the fixture.

West Brom haven't scored at home yet, but they have brought in more attacking talent including Stephane Sessegnon from Sunderland and I believe that makes the difference in the game.

The Baggies have also dominated their recent home games against Sunderland and they will enter this game in a more positive frame of mind after earning a late point at Fulham last weekend.

I do think Sunderland also need time to adjust to all the new faces in the dressing room and West Brom at 2.10 looks the call.

Chelsea v Fulham Pick: Chelsea are finding it tough to find their identity under Jose Mourinho and that reached a new low since the Portuguese manager returned to Stamford Bridge with a 1-2 home loss against Basel in the Champions League.

There just isn't the confidence that Chelsea can create enough chances to win games while keeping their own back door shut, especially with the way Mourinho has set his team up to play.

I still don't understand why he can't find a way to give Juan Mata a place in the starting eleven and I do think Fulham have enough attacking options to cause problems, even if some of the fans are beginning to get on Martin Jol's back after Fulham dropped points at home last week.

Fulham are not the pushover of old times on their travels, but Craven Cottage is no longer a fortress either that it had become in recent years. With Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and Darren Bent to call upon, I wouldn't be surprised if both teams score in this one.

Arsenal v Stoke City Pick: Even in the absence of Santi Cazorla, Arsenal will likely create enough chances in this one to win fairly comfortably I would imagine, although they are in a different situation of perhaps having to break down a team with a lot of men behind the ball.

Most of the real flowing football has been played away from the Emirates Stadium this season and that might be shown up in this one as their counter attacking at pace won't be at full effect in this game.

However, confidence has to be incredibly high at the moment in the Arsenal camp and I do expect them to win this game by at least a couple of goals.

Cardiff City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: I have been impressed with the way Tottenham Hotspur have gone about their business in their opening weeks of the season and Christian Eriksen has the potential to be the game changing player they have missed since selling Rafael Van der Vaart.

A game at Cardiff City will be a real test for any side in the Premier League this season as Manchester City have found out, but both City and Everton will feel they should have come away with three points if they had a little more luck.

It won't be easy for Spurs, but I think they have enough talent to score here and as long as they don't make the mistakes that blighted Manchester City here, I would expect Tottenham to find a way to pick up the three points.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa @ 3.10 Coral (1 Unit)
Newcastle United @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
West Brom @ 2.10 Coral (2 Units)
Chelsea-Fulham Both Teams to Score @ 2.20 William Hill (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

September Update6-6, + 2.10 Units (19 Units Staked, + 11.05% Yield)

August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

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

Thursday, 19 September 2013

NFL Week 3 Picks 2013 (September 19-23)

The second week of the new NFL season is already in the books and we are already beginning to see those teams that could be in for a long season and those that are looking to make waves. Below I have a few thoughts from last week, the new top five and bottom five and then the picks for Week 3.

Week 2 Thoughts
All the 0-2 teams are in desperation mode when it comes to making the Play Offs: Over the last four years, no team that has begun the season 0-2 have gone on to make the Play Offs and that doesn't bode well for some of the teams in the NFL this time around.

While there are some teams that have unsurprisingly lost two games in a row, for example the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the likes of Washington and Minnesota, who made the Play Offs last season, and Pittsburgh and the New York Giants will be extremely disappointed with their starts.

I think the stat is that only 10% of teams that have started 0-2 have made it to the Play Offs since 1990 and I wouldn't want to back any of these teams bucking the trend. If someone held a gun to my head, I would perhaps say one of the NFC East teams could possibly become one of the few teams that does make the post-season after this start as that Division doesn't look like one that will be dominated by any single team.

The New York Giants started 2007 with this record and won the SuperBowl- while I would be surprised if they manage that again, they and Washington are the teams most likely to get themselves out of this hole in my opinion, but this weekend is huge for both teams with a winnable games at Carolina and hosting Detroit respectively.

New England will get better as their Receivers spend more time in their system: I know a lot of people are down on the New England Patriots, but it seems to have been forgotten that they are 2-0 and they remain the team to beat in the AFC East.

There is a lot of inexperience in the Receiving corps for the Patriots, but you can look at things the other way round and say the Receivers are getting in a position to make catches but are perhaps being hindered by nerves with too many drops.

I can only see that area improving as they get more and more comfortable playing in the system and also having more time spent with Tom Brady in practice. The return of Rob Gronkowski may also relieve some of the pressure on the younger players on the roster and I do expect this Offense to improve as the season goes on.

How much fun to be a London NFL fan: With tickets being priced up to £100, how many people are going to be impressed that the four teams coming over to London are a combined 1-7 after the first two weeks of the season?

You'll get the spin from the TV networks and NFL UK as to the merits of the teams, and I am looking forward to seeing the likes of Troy Polamalu and Adrian Peterson, but these are some bad teams coming over this time around outside of the San Francisco 49ers.

The best thing is London gets to 'enjoy' the terrible Jaguars for another four years after this one and that is a team that looks like it is going to get a lot worse before things turn around.

Trent Richadson traded to the Indianapolis Colts: This was a late piece of business as I was actually putting this thread together and I was stunned by Cleveland's decision to move Trent Richardson on considering he was their first pick in the Draft last year.

To compound things, Cleveland actually gave up a few picks to move up and take St Louis Rams Number 2 Pick last year, but the new regime have made it clear that they need to start all over again on Offense.

The Defense looks good, but the Browns are going to struggle to score a lot of points this season although they are bringing in Willis McGahee in to take over as the starting Running Back by all accounts. Now the fans have to go through a season of struggle after all the excitement in pre-season, but Cleveland could make a real push for the Number 1 pick in the Draft as they 'challenge' Jacksonville for that position.

Indianapolis will be happy with what they have picked up and Trent Richardson is going to be a serviceable Running Back for them, but the Colts have a lot of problems on the Offensive Line and their Defense and I am not sure this move helps them make it back to the Play Offs this season.

However, Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw will give the Colts a strong rushing game and that may give Andrew Luck a little more time in the pocket and this does look a good move for them.

Top Five
1) Denver Broncos (2-0): Another beating was handed out by the Denver Broncos last weekend and there is a lot of positives about this squad.

2) Seattle Seahawks (2-0): After a tough first week of the season, Seattle's second consecutive blowout of the San Francisco 49ers gives them control of the NFC West and potential claim to being the best team in this Conference.

3) New England Patriots (2-0): Despite some of the Offensive mishaps, the Patriots are still unbeaten and the Defense looks like it can contain opponents enough to help New England continue winning.

4) Houston Texans (2-0): Houston could easily be 0-2 as they have recovered to win their first two games and that character and heart is hard to ignore.

5) New Orleans Saints (2-0): New Orleans should have blown out Tampa Bay last week, but they let them hang around as the Offense is still not quite on the same page.

Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2): The Offense could barely do anything right against Oakland last weekend and the team now go into Week 3 as a massive 20 point underdog at Seattle.

31) Cleveland Browns (0-2): Brandon Weeden is out, Trent Richardson is gone as the two First Round Draft choices from last season are no good for the Browns. The Week 13 home game against Jacksonville may decide which of those teams 'wins' the Number 1 pick in the Draft.

30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2): The Defense kept them in the game against New Orleans last weekend, but the Offense had another terrible game. Josh Freeman wants out by all accounts and the Buccaneers don't seem to be heading anywhere.

29) Carolina Panthers (0-2): What a way to lose a game- Carolina gave up a Touchdown with seconds remaining in Buffalo and this is another Offense not quite on the same page as one another.

28) Washington Redskins (0-2): Robert Griffin is hobbled and the Defense can't stop anybody which leaves the Redskins in a tough spot in the NFC East.

Week 3 Picks
Barring an awful Offensive performance from the New Orleans Saints, it was a very strong week for the picks in Week 2 and that has brought the season back into the black. This week has a lot more close games to pick from and hopefully the picks can continue with the momentum of last week.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: It is not very often that the SuperBowl Champions and the Baltimore Ravens will be set as an underdog at home, but I still believe that the Houston Texans are going to be a little too good and win this game.

I am not as high on Joe Flacco as some seem to be and Baltimore have lost a lot of key pieces in the off-season and don't quite look themselves at the moment. They were sloppy last week in a win over Cleveland and the Ravens are still getting some kinks out of their performance.

It is not as though the Texans have been winning games easily. but I think they will be able to move the chains a little more consistently of the two teams. Both will likely go to the air to move the Offenses and I like Andre Johnson/DeAndre Hopkins to make more plays than Torrey Smith/Marlo Brown and I like Houston.

However, I don't want to under-estimate a Baltimore team that have to be a little mad that they are dogged at home so I will keep units to a minimum.

New York Giants @ Carolina Panthers Pick: Both of these teams need to win this game desperately, but I do think the New York Giants are going to be a little too good for Carolina this week.

The Panthers are going into a bye to try and right their ship, but they haven't performed well in this spot over the last four years, losing all 4 games against the spread ahead of their bye.

Carolina just haven't looked like they are consistently on the same page and I am expecting a big day from Eli Manning to prove the difference between the teams. It will put Ron Rivera very much on the hot seat in Carolina, but the Giants do look a better team with more upside in this game.

New York are also 18-11 against the spread as the road favourite in recent years.

Green Bay Packers @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: Green Bay will be going into their bye next week and they have performed well in that position in recent years and I expect them to win this game too.

The Packers should have enough Offense to make life tough for Cincinnati and I still believe the Green Bay Defense is a little under-rated. They played well against Washington last weekend and a lot of the yards they gave up came after Green Bay had built a big lead in the game.

This is also a tough spot for Cincinnati as the game is coming between two Divisional games and the Bengals are also on a short week. They could keep up for a while, but the pressure of being in a shoot-out may work against Andy Dalton in the end and he may make one mistake that leaves Green Bay with the win.

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The New Orleans Saints have been a strong home favourite under Sean Payton and this is a tough place for any visiting team to play and I expect the same for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend.

I just feel the New Orleans Defense will be able to make enough big plays to set them on their way in this one, while the passing attack led by Drew Brees may be able to get back on track after a couple of inconsistent weeks.

Arizona just haven't defended the pass well enough and Larry Fitzgerald being banged up will make it more difficult for Carson Palmer to keep up in this one.

San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans Pick: This is a tough spot for the Tennessee Titans after they blew a big lead against their Divisional rivals the Houston Texans last week and now they have to deal with Kenny Britt and his throwing his toys out of the pram.

Tennessee are up against a San Diego Defense that has struggled to defend the pass and is playing back to back road games, although I am not convinced that Jake Locker is capable of taking advantage of that consistently.

Philip Rivers is playing very effectively from the Quarter Back position for San Diego and I expect he will make some plays in this one, but he has to be careful of the Tennessee pass rush which has produced 7 sacks already this season. Ryan Mathews should find some running room to ease the pressure on Rivers and the Chargers are 5-2 against the spread as the road underdog since the beginning of last season.

There is every chance Tennessee struggle to get up for this game after coming so close to knocking off Houston and I'll take the points but only for a unit.

Atlanta Falcons @ Miami Dolphins Pick: While I have been impressed with the way Miami have begun this season, I don't think I am ready to see the Dolphins as a favourite to beat a team as talented as Atlanta.

Granted, the Falcons are missing a number of key players, while others are banged up, coming into this week, but they have an advantage at the Quarter Back position and I don't like Miami's chances of slowing down Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez in this game.

The Dolphins will get pressure on Ryan and that will give them a real chance to move to 3-0, but Atlanta have such a powerful Offense that you have to think Miami are going to feel the pressure of staying with them at times.

It should be a close game and so taking the points may be the best option.

Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: It will come down to whether Jay Cutler can steer clear of some of the mistakes that have blighted his career as to whether Chicago can remain unbeaten or whether Pittsburgh can get their own season back on track.

However, it is hard to see how the Steelers move the chains in this one after their poor Offensive showing the first two weeks of the season, especially against a tough Bears Defense.

The Bears have been a decent road favourite in recent years (9-3 against the spread in last few years), while teams playing in London have a poor record against the spread in their final game before travelling to the United Kingdom as the Steelers will be doing next Sunday.

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos Pick: The way the Denver Broncos have played makes them the big favourite to win this game and move to 3-0, but Peyton Manning will have to be careful now the Offensive Line has a new Left Tackle to protect his blind side.

Oakland certainly get some pressure on the Quarter Back having picked up 9 sacks already, but Manning is capable of getting the ball out of his hands quick enough to negate that and he has plenty of weapons to choose from. Knowshon Moreno provided an effective ground game too last week, although it has been tough to run against the Raiders so far. However, I expect Manning throwing the ball will open up the running lanes and the Broncos should be able to score plenty of points against a banged up Secondary.

That means the pressure will be on Terrelle Pryor to keep the Raiders in the game- while he has shown plenty of athleticism behind Center, Pryor will need to make plays with his arm if Oakland are to make this a competitive game. Denver have shut down the running game of Baltimore and the New York Giants this season, but it is possible to move the chains through the air against them.

That is an area that will improve now Champ Bailey is expected to return, while Denver have got some pressure up front. The Oakland Wide Receivers have been guilty of too many drops early in the season and that will be a problem in a game where Denver are unlikely to make those mistakes.

The Broncos beat Oakland comfortably twice last season and they are 3-1 against the spread as a double-digit favourite. 

MY PICKS: Houston Texans - 1 Point @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
New York Giants - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 2.5 Points @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
San Diego Chargers + 3 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Atlanta Falcons + 2.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chicago Bears - 1.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 14.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Week 2: 6-1, + 6.46 Units
Week 1: 5-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 2013: 11-7, + 2.96 Units
Season 2012: - 4.78 Units

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Midweek Football Post 2013 (September 17-19)

The European Champions League and Europa League Group Stage kick off this week and it will be interesting to see if the English sides can improve on their fortunes from last season in the former competition. There were no English teams in the Quarter Finals last year, although Manchester United will still feel aggrieved in the manner in which they were beaten by Real Madrid in the last 16.

Looking at the teams in the Champions League, I would be surprised if we do see an English winner this time around as Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all look a little too good for the teams from Britain. I believe the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus could be real dark horses in the competition, although the latter will have to show some marked improvement from their 0-4 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Quarter Final last year.

I am expecting Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea to make it through to the last 16 at the very least this season, although I have made my reservations about thinking the United Group is anything but a walkover before. Arsenal and in particular Celtic are going to have a very tough task in even coming through the Group Stage, but I expect the former to sneak through and the latter to exit Europe completely.

Napoli and Borussia Dortmund will certainly make life tough for Arsenal who could have expected a far easier path through to the next stage as one of the top seeds, but they seem to have taken the place of Manchester City who have had the tough draw in the last two seasons.

The Europa League is always much tougher to predict a winner as some teams really do see it as a distraction, while adding eight teams that finished third in their Group in the Champions League just makes things all the more murkier. Over the last couple of seasons, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have all finished in a position to fall into this competition so picking a winner before the knock-out stage is difficult.

Bayern Munich v CSKA Moscow Pick: There have been plenty of changes at Bayern Munich this summer and there are still some adjustments being made by the players now they have a new voice to listen to in the dressing room. Pep Guardiola has taken over from Jupp Heynekes and is demanding a more possession based approach rather than the direct, attacking style that the latter used to win the treble last season.

I still expect Bayern Munich to be too strong for a CSKA Moscow team that will travel to Germany without Alan Dzagoev, but they will have to be patient as the Russian side will look to defend in numbers.

However, Bayern have plenty of match winners in their squad and are going to be tough to contain for 90 minutes as Chelsea found when defending in numbers in their recent European Super Cup game. Bayern won 4 of their 6 home games in the Champions League by at least 2 goals with half of those games ending in 3 + wins.

CSKA were beaten 4-1 in their last Champions League away game at Real Madrid in the last 16 in 2012 and they may just be beaten fairly comfortably in this first game of the Group, although they will already have targeted the other 5 games as the ones where they are most likely to gather points to move on to the last 16.

Manchester United v Bayer Leverkusen Pick: There has to be a real improvement in performance if Manchester United are going to have a productive month with the number of big games coming up.

It was lethargic and uninspired at times on Saturday and I don't know what would have happened if Crystal Palace didn't have a man sent off and conceded a controversial penalty. Palace created enough problems to think United won't have things their own way in this one and a lot will depend on how ambitious Bayer Leverkusen are in this first game of the Group.

European teams have come to Old Trafford and caused problems and that may make life a little more to United's liking as there is more space to create their own chances.

United look incredibly short considering the way they have performed in their opening four League games, but there could be goals in this one if Leverkusen come out to play. The latter won at Bayern Munich so clearly are capable of winning here and this looks like being a game that will end with a 2-1 scoreline.

Olympiacos v Paris Saint-Germain Pick: I really don't like under-estimating a team like Olympiacos at home as they have had some big performances in recent years here in the Champions League. They have scored plenty of goals in front of their own fans and Michel, the manager, has indicated that he will want his side to get on the front foot in this one.

Over the last couple of seasons, Arsenal have lost here twice and Borussia Dortmund have lost here once. That should keep Paris Saint-Germain focused on the task at hand and make it clear that this won't be a walkover of a game.

I was impressed with the way PSG played away from home last season, winning tough games in Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kiev and Valencia and they too were comfortable scoring goals on their travels. That is not a surprise considering the talent they have secured since their Middle East owners took over the club.

I think it is tough to pick a winner, but I think the over 2.5 goals is being priced a tad too high and that is where I will make my pick. It is likely that both teams will score in this one, so a winner would need two goals to take the points and I do think both teams will be looking for those points.

Real Sociedad v Shakhtar Donetsk Pick: This is an important game for both teams, even at this early stage of the Group, as both will look to earn their points from games outside of the two they have against Manchester United.

I really like the youthful exuberance of Real Sociedad and I am expecting a lot from this side in the Group and I can see them pose a lot of problems for Shakhtar Donetsk in this one. While the latter has more European experience, they have lost a few really talented pieces of their squad and it will take their new signings a little time to get used to this level of football too.

Real Sociedad play in a tough League and we have seen how well the Spanish sides have done in recent seasons- last year 3 of the 8 Quarter Finalists came from Spain and I do believe the home side are going to get off to a good start.

It will be close, but Real Sociedad to nick a win looks the call at odds against.

Chelsea v Basel Pick: Jose Mourinho hasn't exactly seen his side fire on all cylinders for a prolonged period since returning to Stamford Bridge and I think he will want more from his side after their 1-0 loss at Everton on Saturday.

Basel have proven themselves to be a really awkward side for English sides to play in the last couple of years as they have avoided defeat in 4 games against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur before Chelsea did the double over them in the Semi Final.

There will be some tension in the home side that they will look to exploit, but Chelsea also do look a little too talented in the forward positions and I expect them to create chances.

It will be close for a while, but I expect Chelsea to pick up another home win in this competition and I will back them to win by a couple of goals at least.

Marseille v Arsenal Pick: This could be a very tense game as both teams know how tough this Group is potentially going to be and I do think it will be decided by a goal for either team.

I can't separate them in terms of a winner, but I don't anticipate a lot of goals in this one and a low-scoring draw is very much in play too. Arsenal have played well in the last few weeks, but I think Marseille present a much stronger challenge than the ones they have faced away from home this season.

I was considering going for under 1.5 goals as that is a big player when English sides visit Marseille in recent years, but Arsenal's attacking potential does make that a little too risky for me and I will instead play under 2.5 goals at a decent looking price.

Atletico Madrid v Zenit St Petersburg Pick: Atletico Madrid have been tipped up as a dark horse to win the Champions League and there is plenty of quality to go with the high work rate in the squad that Diego Simeone has put together at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico brushed aside most of their competition at home last season, although will have painful memories of the last time a side from Russia visited them as they were beaten 0-2 by Rubin Kazan in the Europa League last 32 while defending their title last season.

However, Zenit St Petersburg haven't been the best travellers in the Champions League and have scored just 1 goal in their last 5 away from home and that means it is no surprise they have lost 3 of those games.

That run includes a 3-0 defeat in Malaga last season and they may return from Spain with nothing again this time around. Hulk has form in scoring here against Atletico during his Porto days, but he may be absent for Zenit and I do think they will have a much tougher scoring goals than they did against Nordsjaelland and Pacos de Ferreira in the qualifiers.

Austria Vienna v Porto Pick: There is a big difference in terms of experience in this match, while I also believe Porto are a lot stronger in terms of the talent they can put on to the field for this Group game.

Credit to this Austria Vienna side for knocking out Dinamo Zagreb and making it through to the Group Stage of the Champions League in its current format for the first time, but Porto are a couple of levels higher in terms of quality.

Porto should be confident from a strong start made to the new season and they did secure a 0-2 win at the aforementioned Dinamo Zagreb in this opening game last season. I expect them to have a similar kind of result in this one and put themselves in a strong position in the Group even at this early point.

MY PICKS: Bayern Munich -  2 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Manchester United-Bayer Leverkusen Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Olympiacos-PSG Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Real Sociedad @ 2.30 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Marseille-Arsenal Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Stan James (1 Unit)
Atletico Madrid Win to Nil @ 2.40 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Porto - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

September Update: 3-2, + 2.10 Units (11 Units Staked, + 19.09% Yield)

August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

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