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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Tennis Picks 2014 (January 1st)

I hope everyone had a great New Year doing whatever they did and I hope 2014 is a great year for everyone.

The first days of the tennis season have begun and we are moving through the tournament with Second Round matches to be played on Wednesday 1st January 2014. The likes of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have moved through in Doha and now Roger Federer begins his new season in Brisbane.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Marin Cilic: This was a tournament where Grigor Dimitrov reached the Final last season and he has made a positive start to the First Round with a comfortable win over Robin Haase.

I expect he can prove to be too strong for Marin Cilic after the Croatian battled through against Denis Istomin in the First Round, although it won't be easy.

I like the fact that Dimitrov is perhaps a little stronger when it comes to the serve and might be able to earn a few more cheaper points in this one. There is also the feeling that Cilic may still be recovering from the four month suspension he had to serve from Wimbledon and that may see him just lose a little focus at the wrong time in this kind of match.

Cilic did serve well against Istomin in the last Round, but Dimitrov is a better returner and I think he proves too tough to come through with a 76, 64 win.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Matthew Ebden: Matthew Ebden is playing in front of home support for the first month of the season and came through a First Round match comfortably enough to set himself up for this Second Round match against the Number 2 seed.

It isn't a great match up for Ebden as Nishikori is capable of making the best players hit one more ball and he should be able to expose the flaws in the Australian's game by forcing him to hit closer and closer to the lines.

Kei Nishikori is not someone I hold a lot of faith in because he hasn't found the balance to become a real threat at the Grand Slam level- personally I feel you have to have a big 'get out of jail' shot in the locker in those events and he offers too many chances to his opponents.

He has beaten Ebden in their two previous meetings, although it took five sets to see him off at the Australian Open a couple of years ago. On this occasion, I think it could go more along the same lines as their match at Wimbledon last summer, and I like Nishikori to come through 64, 64.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Benjamin Becker: Benjamin Becker will always be known as the man who ended in Andre Agassi's professional career, and that has proven to be the highest point of his life on the Tour.

Sometimes I do watch Becker play and feel he should have done better with the tools at his disposal, but he is far too inconsistent off the ground and can be vulnerable if the serve is not working as well as it can at times.

If Becker serves well, he can certainly make it a tough match for Stanislas Wawrinka to overcome, but if he is slightly below his game, it will make life that much easier for the Swiss player. Wawrinka is coming off his best year on the Tour when he made it to the World Tour Finals in London and will be looking to build on that.

He does look the best player by some distance in the Chennai tournament, but he has to avoid being caught cold in his first match of the week against a player that has one win under his belt. If Wawrinka comes out with the right mentality, I do think he will win this one 63, 64.

Richard Gasquet v Gael Monfils: This looks the match of the day in Doha and the layers are finding it tough to separate the two Frenchmen although I am surprised that it is Gael Monfils set as the favourite and not Richard Gasquet.

Gasquet is the defending Champion at the event and has also won 3 of the last 4 matches between these two. He has looked far more confident over the last twelve months and is capable of some stunning tennis that may be a little too good for Gael Monfils in this Second Round.

There is no doubt that Monfils has the better athletic attributes as he is much faster around the court, but he has been guilty of being too passive when it comes to shot selection and that may just allow Gasquet to control the rallies. Monfils ability to get the ball back in play can be a problem if his opponent makes too many mistakes, but the confidence in the Gasquet game may see him deal with those issues.

It is unlikely to be decided in straight sets, and Monfils is a former Finalist in Doha, but I like Gasquet for a small interest in this one.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet 365 (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Richard Gasquet @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

Weekly Update: 2-2, + 0.73 Units (6 Units, + 12.17% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2013 (December 31st)

The first tournaments of the season have already got under way and you can see the outright picks I have made from the events in Brisbane and Doha here.

It can be a little bit of a minefield early in the season as the long lay off for many players between competitive matches can see a little bit of rustiness in the play. That makes the possibility of surprise results that much more of a problem to contend with, although players do take these tournaments extremely seriously as they look to put early points in the bank and get a lot of playing time ahead of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.

For many, winning at the Australian Open is not a realistic goal for this first month of the season, but they can set the standard for the season with strong tournaments. We have seen how quickly players can move up, and down the Rankings, by picking up some early momentum, but also be aware of the difficulties that come with the early matches back on the grind of the tennis Tour.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 games v Mikhail Kukushkin: Feliciano Lopez had to contend with injuries in the early portion of the season but he was playing some effective tennis after the French Open and I think this match is a good chance for him to get off to a win for the season.

He has the big lefty-serve that can be a potent weapon when he is on his game, while the ability to close the net makes it tough for the lesser players on the Tour to consistently pass Lopez when he is looking to volley.

There is no doubt that the Lopez return game is not the most effective part of his game, especially with a back hand that he prefers to slice a return back into play than actually hit over the ball. It won't be easy to find too many chances to break the Mikhail Kukushkin serve if the Kazakh players brings in his top form.

Kukushkin can make life tough for opponents by winning easy points off his first serve, but he has not performed too well on the hard courts when it comes to full ATP Tour events. It will also be interesting to see how Kukushkin's shoulder is doing as an injury to that part of his body ended his season early last year and I like Lopez to find a 76, 64 win.

Jeremy Chardy win 2-0 v Adrian Mannarino: I don't think either of these players is really good enough to be a top 20 player on a regular basis on the ATP Tour, but I do feel there is more upside in the Jeremy Chardy game compared with Adrian Mannarino.

While Chardy has been able to surprise some of the bigger names in the sport, including a win over Juan Martin Del Potro at the Australian Open last season, Adrian Mannarino has generally found the upper echelon of the men's game to be far too good.

He has still done well to enter the top 60 by the end of the season, but I don't know how much further up the Rankings he can go if he starts playing more ATP level events. He has struggled in his three matches against Chardy, losing all three without winning a set, and that is down to the fact that Mannarino will not get as many cheap points behind his serve.

Mannarino has to work for every point he earns and that can bring a lot of pressure mentally, especially of Chardy is serving well and getting through his service games with a little more comfort. A small interest in Chardy to continue his dominance of his compatriot is the call and I will back him to win this in straight sets.

Mousa Zayed + 11.5 games v Andy Murray: This is nothing but a pick on the principle that no tennis player should be given this many games in a professional tournament, even against someone as good as Andy Murray.

This 19 year old local kid might easily lose the match with a double bagel, but Andy Murray is going to want to test things out on court and that could lead to Zayed sneaking a game in this one after he won just 3 games against Gael Monfils last season.

If Murray is concentrating fully on getting through in double quick time, he will win this easily and might win without dropping a game, but I think he may just be thinking of getting some tennis under his legs and may complacently lose a game.

Either way, at evens, you have to have the small interest on Mousa Zayed to find a game.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Lukas Rosol: The World Number 1 will play his first official match of the season on Tuesday and will be facing a familiar face across the court and one that Rafael Nadal will certainly not have the fondest memories of.

Lukas Rosol stunned Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012 which sparked a seven month absence from the Tour for the Spaniard, but I expect Nadal to get a measure of revenge in this one.

Let's face facts, Rosol caught lightning in a bottle in that match on Centre Court 18 months ago and it is a big ask for him to hit the stunning winners time after time in this one as it took back then to see off Nadal. Don't expect Nadal to be laid back for this one as he gets the chance to earn a measure of revenge for that surprise loss and Rosol hasn't played well against the big names on the ATP Tour since that win over the Spaniard.

Rosol was handed a bagel by David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic (twice) during the 2013 season and I believe a motivated Nadal will find at least two breaks of serve in a single set to put himself in a strong position to cover this number of games. Nadal has played so well over the last few months and has been recharged with the break from competitive tennis and I will back him to make a good start with a 62, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy Win 2-0 @ 2.63 William Hill (1 Unit)
Mousa Zayed + 11.5 Games @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monday, 30 December 2013

Tennis Outright Picks 2013 (December 29-January 5)

The calendar year of 2013 seems to have gone by in a flash for me this season and I know I am not the only person out there that can't believe almost two months have passed since the World Tour Finals were completed in London.

It all means that a new tennis season is beginning this week with tournaments to be played in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai and we will also be seeing some of the biggest names on both the ATP and WTA Tour in those tournaments. That is not a surprise considering the first Grand Slam tournament of the season takes place in a couple of weeks and the long lay off means no player wants to turn up at Melbourne Park under-prepared.

I am expecting some changes in the World Rankings this season- we will still see the top three players on the ATP Tour, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, leading the way but I am expecting Juan Martin Del Potro to prove himself a genuine Grand Slam threat and get closer to those names.

David Ferrer slipping in the Rankings won't be a surprise after his end to last season, although that might have been down to an injury he was potentially carrying, while Roger Federer is looking to get back to his best.

Younger players will be looking to make their own impact and I can see this being another fabulous year on the Tour.

However, I do hope that this season proves to be a better one than last year when things didn't go at all the way I expected in the final months after Wimbledon, while I also didn't have a very good time picking winners of the tournaments outright. Some of those were unfortunate, but plenty were poor picks and I will be looking to improve on the numbers from last season.

Either way, I hope we all have a season of great tennis to watch and some great moments to remember as the season goes on.

ATP Brisbane
It was a real surprise to see Roger Federer decide to play in Brisbane this season as he usually takes in the big money tournament in Doha, but it is clear he is trying to do everything in his power to ensure he can once again move into the mix when it comes to Grand Slam titles.

Last year was a poor one by the standards that Federer has set in the past and he had to wait six months before picking up what would be the only title he would win in 2013. That came in Halle, but relatively early defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open just underlined what a poor season it had been.

Federer will begin this week as the favourite to pick up the title in Brisbane which had been won by Andy Murray last year and the draw has been kind to him. Even a couple of years ago, Federer at evens to win in this field would have prompted me to back him with big units, but my enthusiasm has been reduced by last year.

I do think Federer will be too good for the likes of Jarkko Nieminen, Dmitry Tursunov and Sam Querrey in the top quarter of the draw, although old rival Julien Benneteau may be a threat for Federer. Kevin Anderson may be the big threat in the top half of the draw with his serve and heavy game, but I would be more than a little surprised if Federer, who showed some semblance of decent form in his last three tournaments, isn't in the Final at the weekend.

The bottom half of the draw has a number of players that could potentially cause Federer problems in the Final with the likes of Feliciano Lopez, Lleyton Hewitt, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and last season's Finalist Grigor Dimitrov all potentially troublesome for the former World Number 1. However, you would think that Federer would have enough confidence behind him if he gets through to the Final to see off any of those potential rivals and I will have an interest in Federer to win here.

ATP Doha
The favourite to win this week in Doha is unsurprising the Number 1 player in the Rankings, Rafael Nadal, but he has regularly failed to take the title home here and looks a vulnerable favourite despite a stellar 2013 season.

The draw isn't a bad one, but facing a dangerous opponent like Ernests Gulbis early in the tournament could be one to watch for Nadal, while Tomas Berdych and Philipp Kohlschreiber will hope to break their long losing run to the Spaniard in the first tournament of the season.

I won't look too far down the list for a potential winner of the tournament as Andy Murray continues working his way back into tournament play after missing the last three months of the last season with a back injury. Murray won one match and lost one match at an exhibition tournament last week which would have helped, and he has been a regular title winner early in the season.

He has won the last two seasons at Brisbane to open the tournament and also won 6 of 7 matches at the Hopman Cup in singles play in the two years prior to taking on the Brisbane tournament. Murray couldn't have asked for a better way to work his way into this event as he takes on a Wild Card first up and then will potentially play Florian Mayer and Fernando Verdasco.

A Semi Final against last season's winner here, Richard Gasquet, or David Ferrer could be the first test that Murray faces in the tournament where his lack of matches in recent months may be exposed, but I would expect the British player to come through a match against either of those players.

I'd only have a small interest in Murray considering the doubts I still have, but he has made fast starts to the previous seasons to suggest he could do the same here.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray @ 4.50 Stan James (1 Unit)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Sunday, 29 December 2013

NFL Week 17 Picks 2013 (December 29)

The Christmas period is always a busy time of the year with friends and family to meet and greet and that means this Week 17 post is only concentrating on the picks from the games.

Last week was another disappointing one, although it was the change in the final minute of the New Orleans-Carolina game that made it a bigger loss than it should perhaps have been. Week 17 is one that you have to tread carefully through, but hopefully I can end the regular season on a positive note and then get set for the Play Offs.

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Pick: The Miami Dolphins have to win this game if they are to make the Play Offs, although they also can make it with a loss for the Baltimore Ravens and a win for the San Diego Chargers. In fact, there are a number of different permutations for the Dolphins to get into the Play Offs, although the one that makes the most sense is finding a way to win this game.

With the 'must win' nature of the game, the layers are taking no chances with the Miami price, although I do feel they may be giving the Dolphins too many points to cover. As well as the Dolphins have done at times this season, their Offensive Line could have a big issue in trying to contain the pressure that the Jets bring up front and that may lead to drives faltering and a lot of punts as it did for Miami last weekend in Buffalo.

Geno Smith and the New York Jets Offense hasn't been as effective on the road though and that is a concern. However, they have been pounding the ball on the ground with decent results over the last three weeks, while the Miami pass Defense has just faltered a little bit of late which could give Smith the chance to find Receivers downfield.

Smith will be under pressure from the Miami pass rush though, so their own drives may also be curtailed at times by sacks and tackles for loss in the backfield, but either way, the 6.5 point head start for the road team looks hard to ignore.

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers really need to catch lightning in a bottle if they are to make it back into the Play Offs this season as they need to win this game and have Baltimore, Miami and San Diego all lose.

The Steelers never recovered from their 0-4 start, although they have made a good fist of it, and I still think they can end the season with some positives by getting back to 0.500 with a win over the Cleveland Browns.

Pittsburgh have found a nice way to get their Offense going and I think they will have a lot of success against a Browns Defense that has lost their way in recent weeks. Joe Haden is expected to sit which will give Antonio Brown more room to make his plays, while the Cleveland run Defense has worn down which should give Le'Veon Bell a chance to have a big game.

I expect Josh Gordon will make his yards too, even with Jason Campbell throwing to him, but the Browns have struggled down the stretch. If they catch the same form that pushed New England all the way, this could be close, but Cleveland have fallen apart too often and I like the Steelers in this one.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: Baltimore 'must win' this game if they are to make the Play Offs, although they also need some help from elsewhere if they are to have a chance to continue defending their Super Bowl title going into January.

The Ravens survived a Week 15 game at Detroit thanks to Justin Tucker's 61 yard Field Goal, but they were pummelled by New England at home last week and won't be playing a team resting their starters in this game. Joe Flacco is hurt and the Offense has been out of sync for most of the season and that doesn't bode well against a Bengals team that has been much stronger at home than on the road.

Baltimore will look to their Defense to try and keep this a close game but they won't win unless they are more effective in the red zone where they have settled for too many Field Goals in place on Touchdowns. If the Ravens can slow the Cincinnati rushing attack, they should have an opportunity to make plays through the air thanks to the pass rush pressure they should be able to get on Andy Dalton.

This again looks like a game where the road team is perhaps being given too many points and I will take those for a small interest.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Pick: If this game was going to be played indoors, I could see the teams combining for over 80 points between them, but the weather conditions for Chicago on Sunday call for snow and wind.

That might not be enough to slow down either Offense though as neither Defense has shown an ability to slow down teams rushing the ball and I think Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte are both going to have the chance to have huge games for their respective teams.

The weather conditions may at least give the Defensive units the chance to load the box a little more and keep the running attack contained, but there are plenty of weapons in the passing game and it would take a lot of guts, or naivety, to allow the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and the returning Randall Cobb room to manoeuvre in man coverage.

That is especially true now that Aaron Rodgers is back for the Green Bay Packers and I have a feeling that he has been itching to get back on the field for at least two weeks. Rodgers is someone who will come out with a point to prove, as he has shown in the past by not letting go where he was drafted.

I also believe in Rodgers to not make the mistakes that could be critical in a game where both Offenses should be able to move the chains and I can't say the same about Jay Cutler. Cutler has been bailed out in a game at Cleveland when he made mistakes early and this is the kind of game he would make big mistakes and cost the Bears their place in the Play Offs.

Green Bay's red zone Offense hasn't been as effective as Chicago's, no matter who has started at Quarter Back, which is a concern, but I like the Packers to be too good and win this game.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Pick: The New England Patriots should be able to secure a top two seed in the AFC on Sunday afternoon as they entertain a Buffalo Bills team that may still be patting themselves on the back for potentially ruining the season for the Miami Dolphins.

There is no doubt that the Bills would love to play spoiler for the Patriots too and make life difficult for the latter when it comes to trying to win the Super Bowl, but it would also be foolish to ignore the fact that Buffalo haven't been as good on the road. They have won at Miami and Jacksonville, but also blown out fairly convincingly by Pittsburgh and New Orleans and I would place New England in the company of the latter teams.

It won't always be a straight-forward game for New England as their Offense might find it harder to move the chains with the pressure that Buffalo will bring against Tom Brady. However, I am expecting them to establish a running attack that will slow down that pass rush just enough to give Brady a chance to find his Receivers.

As hard as it could be for New England, I also think Buffalo will struggle with Thad Lewis at Quarter Back, particularly if the Patriots can continue to play the run effectively. Keeping Lewis in third and long will only lead to mistakes that New England can capitalise on and force punts or turnovers.

The Patriots have everything to gain in this game and I think they will prove too strong for Buffalo and I do like them to cover the spread.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints Pick: You would have to have had your head buried in the sand not to know that the New Orleans Saints team is not as good on the road as they are at home, but they will still be kicking themselves for losing the game in Carolina in the manner they did.

That means the Saints fans will be cheering for their hated rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, in the early kick off to give New Orleans the chance to finish with the Number 2 seed in the Conference, although there is still a big motivation to win this game just to enter the sweepstakes of the post-season.

New Orleans have been much more effective at home where they have failed to score fewer than 23 points all season, reaching at least 31 points in 6 of their last 7 games in this Dome. Contrast that with failing to put up more than 17 points in any of their last 4 games on the road and I expect a better performance from the Offense this week and I do believe they will put up a number of points against this Defense.

As well as the Buccaneers have played on that side of the ball recently, that was against much lesser Quarter Backs than Drew Brees who will be able to get the ball to his play-makers, be it Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles or Kenny Stills.

I do also think Tampa Bay will have success against a banged up Secondary, although Mike Glennon has to avoid the pressure brought by the pass rush if they are to have success. It will also be a big help if Bobby Rainey can get something going on the ground against a Saints Defense that has struggled to contain the running attack in recent weeks.

However, I don't believe the Buccaneers can have sustained success and I figure them to lose a high scoring game in which they fail to get the cover.

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders Pick: The Denver Broncos have motivation and an Offense that should give them a very good chance of covering this large spread against the Oakland Raiders. Since Peyton Manning arrived, Denver have won each game against Oakland by at least 13 points per game and the way the Oakland Defense has played of late suggests that streak will be extended to at least four games.

It is boring to go over what this Denver Offense should be able to do as they have put up big points through the season and have so many weapons, even without Wes Welker. Oakland have given up almost 40 points per game in their last 3 games and I think Denver will get into the 30's again at the very least unless pulling starters late in the game.

The key for Oakland to keep this game competitive is whether they can have success running the ball, the power of this Offense, to keep Manning off the field for long periods. The Raiders might have some success with this game plan, but Denver put up points so quickly that even those drives may not be enough to help the Raiders cover in this one.

Denver seem to have too much motivation and too much Offensive power for Oakland in this game and I like them to cover the big spread.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: This game looked to be the deciding one in the NFC East for a little while now and it is a shame that Tony Romo will not be able to go for the Dallas Cowboys, although I also feel a lot of people are disregarding Kyle Orton far too early.

We all know how bad the Dallas Defense has been all season and injuries to the likes of Sean Lee are really hard to overcome, but this is a game where the whole team will look to rally one more time. They also have seen this Offense once before and proved they can slow it down somewhat, although the Defense has more injuries since then and Philadelphia have certainly improved.

Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy will have their success in the game, but I think people are too quick to overlook the match up problems that the likes of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will cause on the other side. Kyle Orton has to prove that he has been worth the money paid to him to be the back up and this is the reason he has been paid so much.

Must win games over the years haven't favoured the favourites too much in this situation, while home underdogs have found a way to cover the spread. I can see the Cowboys rallying around their back up Quarter Back and making big plays on both sides of the ball at times, although I think they may fall short in actually winning the game.

Either way, the almost Touchdown head start they are getting looks far too much for this game and I like the Cowboys with the points.

MY PICKS: New York Jets + 6.5 Points @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 6.5 Points @ 1.83 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Baltimore Ravens + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Green Bay Packers - 3 Points @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 11 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denver Broncos -10 Points @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Week 16: 4-6, - 4.23 Units
Week 152-6, - 5.32 Units
Week 145-4, + 0.54 Units
Week 136-4-1, + 3.65 Units
Week 126-4, + 1.43 Units
Week 116-2, + 7.59 Units
Week 104-4, + 0.86 Units
Week 92-5, - 4.24 Units
Week 85-3, + 4.64 Units
Week 77-2, + 5.70 Units
Week 62-7, - 8.15 Units
Week 54-4, + 0.35 Units
Week 47-1, + 9.27 Units
Week 33-4-1, - 1.10 Units
Week 26-1, + 6.46 Units
Week 15-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 201374-63-2, + 13.95 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (December 28-29)

The games come thick and fast in the Premier League during the busy Christmas period and teams will have no more than 72 hours to prepare for this set of games after playing on Boxing Day. Some teams will have even less time as they are in the second game of a trio of games which began on Thursday, will play again this weekend and then once more on Wednesday on New Year's Day.

I would watch out for team news in these games as some managers will rest players in preparation for more 'winnable games' while tiredness is a big factor during this time of year. I wouldn't change it for a 'winter break' though as there really isn't anything better than the football we get to see during this time when other European Leagues have shut down.

It has been a strong month for the football picks and hopefully that will end with another positive weekend to put 2013 to bed in the best possible way.

West Ham United v West Brom Pick: It turned out to be a terrible Boxing Day for West Ham United fans as their team not only blew a 1-0 lead over Arsenal at Upton Park, but the three teams in the relegation zone all one to drop West Ham into the bottom three.

Some will be calling for Sam Allardyce to be removed as manager, but I believe the owners are very much behind the manager and I still believe he is the best man to get West Ham out of trouble. The January transfer window opening can't come soon enough for the manager, but this is also a game that he would have targeted to earn three points from.

I was surprised by West Brom's result at Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day and it will be interesting to see how much the players have in the tank considering this game will be played on Saturday lunchtime.

Neither team can really rely on a defence to win them this game and I do think we will see goals in this one. West Ham don't have a lot of goals in the side, but Carlton Cole has shown signs of resolving some of those issues, while the return of Kevin Nolan gives them a threat from midfield. I don't think a draw does much for either side so both should push for goals and I think a small interest on at least three goals being scored looks the call.

Manchester City v Crystal Palace Pick: With a game coming just 48 hours after Boxing Day, it would be foolish of managers not to make some changes and that should help Manchester City a little more with the size of squad at their disposal compared with Crystal Palace.

It's not like Manchester City need much help at home so far this season as they have generally put teams to the sword here and the added issue for Tony Pulis of keeping players fresh for their next game against Norwich City may come into play.

In all honesty, Crystal Palace are probably ahead of the curve from these two games in quick succession as anything more than 1 point would be seen as a success. With that in mind, I think Tony Pulis is going to feel a little more comfortable making changes to his first team and that may lead to another comfortable home win for Manchester City.

Even without Sergio Aguero, Manchester City have a lot of attacking talent at their disposal and they should be able to cover what initially looks a big Asian Handicap. I feel a little more comfortable knowing that 4 of 5 Premier League visits for Pulis with his Stoke City side ended in 3-0 losses at this Stadium, including the last 3 in a row and I feel there is too much momentum behind the home team in this one.

Norwich City v Manchester United Pick: The odds for a Manchester United win look very short again this weekend considering how much trouble they have had at Carrow Road in recent games and the fact that United are conceding as many goals as they have been.

The defending was poor at the beginning of the game at Hull City, and the home side also had other chances during the game to at least cause problems. These are areas that I expect Norwich City to expose in this game, although Nemanja Vidic may return to the heart of the defence to provide leadership and discipline.

It may not be enough to keep Norwich City from scoring in this game as they have proved capable of doing that at Carrow Road. Anyone who saw their performance against Chelsea earlier this season will know that Norwich are capable of pushing the best teams in the Premier League at home so this won't be a cakewalk for Manchester United.

However, there is a feeling that Manchester United have turned a corner in their belief and confidence and I think that could be enough to help them win this game. There are goals in the United side and I believe they will also be able to expose some of the issues Norwich City have at the back, especially without Michael Turner marshalling the home side.

It won't be easy, but I think Manchester United outscore Norwich City in this one and win a game in which both teams score.

Cardiff City v Sunderland Pick: Can things get any more crazy at Cardiff City? It seems the 'foreseeable future' meant just a couple of days after Christmas Day as Vincent Tan decided to sack Malky Mackay as manager.

How will the fans and players be feeling about all the uncertainty that has enveloped the club over the last few weeks? If the 0-3 home loss to Southampton is anything to read into, it will be a big ask for Cardiff City to pick themselves up for this game against a suddenly resilient Sunderland team.

Sunderland have been struggling for goals away from home and that remains a concern for them, but they earned a vital three points thanks to a 0-1 win at Everton a couple of days ago and that means Sunderland have also kept clean sheets in their last 3 away games in the Premier League.

If they can show more composure in front of goal, Sunderland can win this game against a demoralised squad that may only be picked up by the right appointment. Off the back of a bad home loss, it will be tough for Cardiff to get a positive result in this one and I sense Gus Poyet will be telling his troops that they won't have a better chance to win and get that much closer to escaping the bottom three.

A small interest on Sunderland in the 'Draw No Bet' market could be the best call for this game.

Everton v Southampton Pick: I will say Tottenham Hotspur might be able to take advantage of a Stoke City side that may be a little tired after playing on Boxing Day with nine men and that is my biggest concern for Everton in this game as they lost Tim Howard early against Sunderland.

Everton actually played well in that game and were perhaps a little unfortunate not to get anything out of that game and I also believe there is a confidence in this side that won't have been dented too much by the loss on Boxing Day.

Losing Gareth Barry and Tim Howard could be more of a problem to overcome against a Southampton side that have been erratic but tough to play against this season. Southampton haven't been as good away from home in recent weeks, but a couple of more positive performances at Newcastle United and Cardiff City will give them more confidence too.

Both teams have been surprisingly successful up to this point, but I think home advantage may prove to be the difference in this Sunday afternoon game. Everton have been more reliable to back this season at home, even at odds on, and I expect them to bounce back in this game, especially with the goals they had been scoring before the game against Sunderland.

Newcastle United v Arsenal Pick: The television cameras have certainly picked one of the best looking games of the weekend this Sunday afternoon as Newcastle United get set to host Arsenal in a clash that has a number of ramifications for the top places and the chase for the Champions League.

It is still too early for teams to secure their places in the top four, but Newcastle United can look to make a statement of their chances as they complete their games against the other sides in the top places. Newcastle have beaten Chelsea here and also forced a draw against Liverpool despite having ten men and will certainly not roll over for Arsenal.

Newcastle score goals and are backed by a loud crowd that seems to get the best out of the squad, while having the chance to play a Stoke City team with nine men on Thursday should mean they have kept some energy in reserve for this game.

All in all, Arsenal look far too short to win this game considering how well Newcastle United have played in recent weeks, while they are tough at St James' Park anyway. Arsenal have not found it easy against the better teams away from home, losing both away games against sides in the top ten in the Premier League.

Arsenal have also won just 3 of their last 8 visits to Newcastle United and backing the home side to avoid defeat at slightly under odds against looks the best call.

Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City Pick: There was plenty of attacking intent from Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day, but they still looked a little shaky at the back in what ended a 1-1 draw against West Brom at White Hart Lane.

Tim Sherwood will want the team to get forward and score goals, but is still finding his feet as a manager and he needs a little more luck for his side if they are to win the three points in this one.

Tottenham Hotspur could potentially be aided by the fact that Stoke City had to play so long on Thursday afternoon with only nine men and there could be a few tired legs in the squad that might see them fall away in this one. Mark Hughes won't want Stoke to embarrass themselves, but they have conceded far too many goals away from home in recent weeks and Spurs may be able to take advantage with a little more luck and composure in front of goal.

I backed Spurs to win by a couple of goals on Boxing Day, but they couldn't get over the line in that one. I will go back to the well in this one and hope they have a little more luck when the chances come and can take advantage of a bit of tiredness that must have set in for Stoke after their exertions on Boxing Day.

Chelsea v Liverpool Pick: It would have been hard to be anything other than impressed with the way Liverpool played against Manchester City on Boxing Day, although how they recover in time for this game will be important for their chances of picking up some points.

After losing at City and Arsenal, it is important for Liverpool to find a way to prove they are capable of mixing with those sides challenging for the Premier League title. Recent years have seen Liverpool enjoying a lot of success at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea have certainly looked vulnerable enough to think the away side can get something from this game.

Chelsea will be expected to take the game to Liverpool and that may see them caught on the counter-attack and more composure from the away side in those positions will see them able to nick something here. I don't think Chelsea pose the same attacking threat as Manchester City either and don't believe they will score enough goals not to give Liverpool a chance in this one.

I am not sure Liverpool have enough to earn the three points in this game, but they are certainly capable of at least earning a point. This has all the makings of a close game where a draw wouldn't be the worst result for Liverpool and I think they deserve a small interest against a Chelsea side that is struggling with its identity when I have seen them play this season.

MY PICKS: West Ham United-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester United Win @ 3.30 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Sunderland Draw No Bet @ 2.25 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Everton @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Newcastle United + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

December Update16-12-1, + 14.34 Units (54 Units Staked, + 26.56% Yield)

November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/1463-63-1, + 2.55 Units (200 Units Staked, + 1.28% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day Football Picks 2013 (December 26th)

So has everyone filled themselves up with turkey and mulled wine this Christmas? I hope everyone had a nice time, but the best part of Christmas has to be the football that we get and Boxing Day is shaping up to be full of quality on the field, a perfect way to rest off the over-eating fans have done the day before.

We are not at the half way stage of the Premier League campaign in terms of games, but Christmas has regularly provided some sort of insight into what to expect over the final five months of the season. Being bottom of the table on Christmas morning has pretty much spelled curtains when it comes to survival for that team, although Gus Poyet and his Sunderland side will be hoping they can emulate West Brom in 2005 and upset the odds.

Poyet will feel his Sunderland team are far from cut off at the bottom of the table with 4 points separating them from West Ham United in the final spot outside of the relegation zone, although he will need his team to start winning games and then to work some magic in the January transfer window.

On the other end of the spectrum, Liverpool's main goal of finishing in the top four places of the League has history behind them now they have finished top of the pile in time for Christmas morning. Over the last few years, teams in that position haven't finished outside of the top four, although it has been pointed out to me that this season is developing in a very different way and with so little to choose between the top eight sides, that trend may not be in as strong a position as previous years.

I'm yet to be convinced about Liverpool as a title challenger, but their start to the season certainly makes them a threat when it comes down to where the top four places end up, especially if they can keep Luis Suarez fit and have Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge return from injury. While a lot of their rivals for those positions will also be negotiating European football from February onwards, Liverpool have a clear run at finishing in the top four and are genuine contenders for those positions.

It is perhaps arguable that they won't have too many better chances to finish in those positions if they steer clear of injury with their full focus on the Premier League and potentially an FA Cup run.

The next four days will tell us all we need to know about Liverpool as they face back to back away tests at Manchester City and Chelsea, while it also may become clearer which teams will be challenging for the Premier League title. Manchester City are definitely improving away from home and look the team to beat, while there are doubts about Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal although I think the latter of those sides will be a threat if they keep swatting away the 'lesser' teams in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur under a new manager are only 6 points behind Liverpool and will be a threat for the top four if Tim Sherwood gets his ideas across, something he looks capable of if taking the win at Southampton as any indication of their potential. And don't forget an improving Manchester United who have the pedigree in the squad to go on a long winning run and an Everton team that have attached onto Roberto Martinez' ideas very quickly and, like neighbours Liverpool, have no distractions with European football.

All in all, both ends of the table look to have fascinating stories to develop and the next week is important for all of those sides to pick up points as we have three matches in quick succession. Nothing will be cleared up after those matches, but the table begins to take shape for the months ahead. With the way the Premier League has gone this season, I am expecting a lot of twists and turns along the way.

Hull City v Manchester United Pick: After being ruled out of the Premier League title by some of the 'experts' on TV, Manchester United have quietly gone about their business and picked up some real form after the lows of back to back League defeats at Old Trafford.

4 wins in a row in all competitions have seen United reach the last 16 in the Champions League, the Semi Final of the League Cup and get a little closer to the Premier League leaders. I would be surprised if United are able to string together enough positive results to win the title this season, but the top four is more than a distinct possibility and the side can get a little closer and apply more pressure with a win in the early kick off on Boxing Day.

It certainly won't be easy for Manchester United to pick up the three points against a Hull City side that don't concede too many goals in front of their own fans and have already seen off Liverpool here this season. However, Hull City have found it a little more difficult to score goals in recent games at the KC Stadium, failing to find the net in 3 of their last 5 games, but it's a testament to their resiliency that Hull have lost just 1 home game all season and that alone makes the United odds on quote look ridiculously short.

I do think United can win this game, but it'll be tough and tight throughout and the best way to back the away side may be for them to win by a single goal margin. Manchester United won by a single goal at Sunderland and were holding on to a one goal lead at Cardiff City before a late sucker punch from the home side. I don't believe Hull will roll over in this one and it could be a tense game for Manchester United but one where their recent confidence formed from 4 wins in a row could make the difference in a close game.

Chelsea v Swansea Pick: I don't think Chelsea fans would be too disappointed with the point picked up at Arsenal on Monday night, but they will expect the side to put three points in the bank before the big game against Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.

Chelsea should be too strong for a Swansea side that is struggling through injuries and have been far too inconsistent in recent games. I am concerned with Chelsea's inconsistent results themselves, but they have generally proved good enough to win at home although the last two wins have been nervy affairs.

The good news for Jose Mourinho is Swansea are unlikely to come here to shut up shop and they will allow Chelsea to play their football. That could be enough for the creative players in the Chelsea side to be able to create chances for the Blues, although they will need more help from a collection of strikers that have struggled if they are to win this one with a little more comfort.

Swansea played well at Manchester City recently and were unlucky to lose as easily as they did, but they concede goals and might struggle to trouble Chelsea without Nathan Dyer and Michu in the line up. I will look to Chelsea to pick up a confidence boosting win to take into the game against Liverpool and cover the Asian Handicap.

Everton v Sunderland Pick: Over recent years, backing Everton at short odds to win games at Goodison Park rarely were successful forays, but Roberto Martinez may be helping them shed those issues this season as he looks to guide the team into the Champions League.

Everton are in very good form and have also thumped the likes of Stoke City and Fulham in their most recent games at home, while the attacking football that Martinez likes playing has led to Everton scoring at least three goals in their last 3 Premier Leagues at Goodison.

All of that doesn't bode well for Sunderland who remain bottom of the table, although they have shown a little more resiliency in their play since Gus Poyet took over as manager. Most of their more positive results have come at the Stadium of Light though, but a lack of goals is costing Sunderland the chance to pick up more points.

They have earned goalless draws in their last 2 away games in the Premier League, but Sunderland have now failed to score in 6 straight away games and that is going to be a concern against an Everton side that is likely going to score goals. If Everton continue their recent run of goals at home, it is hard to see Sunderland ending this one with anything other than a defeat by a couple of goals at the least.

Newcastle United v Stoke City Pick: There aren't too many teams that can say they are in the same kind of form that Newcastle United have shown in the last six weeks and I expect the home side will prove to be a little too strong for Stoke City in this Boxing Day clash.

Newcastle should really have continued their recent winning run at St James' Park when faced with Southampton as Loic Remy missed a glorious chance to win that game, although it was probably a fair result as both teams shared the points. They have been playing better and better in recent weeks and I think there is a real confidence in a side that doesn't have European football to worry about which has kept the squad fresher than the same time last year.

That can prove to be the real difference for them in the last five months of this season, although Newcastle United have to add to the squad and not lose some vital members that are attracting attention from 'bigger' clubs.

I don't think the Champions League is quite in their reach, but I think they can at least get a little closer to the top four with a win on Boxing Day. Stoke City have conceded a fair few goals away from home and are clearly not as strong away from the Brittania Stadium as they are in front of their own fans.

Stoke can be a stubborn side though so they can't be under-estimated, although I do believe there is enough creative quality in this Newcastle side to find a winner in the game.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Pick: I wasn't sure about the appointment of Tim Sherwood before watching the Tottenham Hotspur game last weekend and he is clearly freeing up a team that had been too restricted in their play from earlier in the season. I have been saying for a while that Harry Redknapp would have got more from the squad than Andre Villas-Boas, and it seems Sherwood is from the same cloth as Redknapp.

Of course we don't know if he has the same motivational effect that Redknapp could have on a squad, but Sherwood looks very likely to play attacking formations and utilise the quality that Spurs clearly have in the squad.

I would be surprised if Sherwood takes a step back since being officially appointed as permanent manager of the club, so I expect an attacking line up to take the field and one that could pose plenty of problems for West Brom.

West Brom have looked unsure of themselves in recent games and their poor run of form has extended to 7 games as they have slipped closer to the relegation zone than the club would want. Steve Clarke deserved more time, but the Premier League is big business and West Brom can't afford to drop out of the top flight so felt the change had to be made.

I just feel this could be a bad time to visit White Hart Lane with the confidence perhaps returned to the side after an important win at Southampton last weekend. Tottenham Hotspur have goals in them and I like them to win this game and cover the Asian Handicap which returns as a push if Spurs win by a single goal.

West Ham United v Arsenal Pick: It wasn't the game that the television cameras would have been hoping for when they placed Arsenal and Chelsea in the sole Monday night slot earlier this week, but it could be an important point for the home side as they continue challenging for the Premier League title.

Arsenal have been strong in games where they are expected to win this season and that is the main reason that they are as high in the table as they are, especially considering Arsenal have won 2 of their 6 games against teams in the top eight so far.

There are goals in the Arsenal side as shown by the 3 they scored at Cardiff City and Manchester City in recent weeks and that is going to be a problem for West Ham United to overcome. It is highlighted by the fact that West Ham have conceded 3 goals to Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea at Upton Park this season and the lack of goals makes this a big ask for them to earn something from the game.

Sam Allardyce might be under pressure by the fans, but I think he will be given time to turn things around at Upton Park, although his side could potentially fall into the bottom three if they lose on Thursday.

I also feel there is the chance that West Ham will be looking ahead to Saturday when they have a much more 'winnable' home game in the early kick off against West Brom and I like Arsenal to prove to be too much for the Hammers here. Arsenal's last two wins here have come by more than a single goal margin and I like them to win this game by covering the Asian Handicap.

Manchester City v Liverpool Pick: For the second home game in a row, Manchester City will be hosting the Premier League leaders and I think it is worth staying on the bandwagon and backing them to win yet another game at the Etihad Stadium.

I have been impressed with the Liverpool performance at White Hart Lane, but that was against a Tottenham Hotspur side that had seemingly lost faith with their manager Andre Villas-Boas and they are not the same side away from Anfield.

Luis Suarez has been in top form and will provide a threat for Manchester City's defence that has struggled to keep clean sheets. However, it will be tough for Suarez to do it all without Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard especially against a rampant Manchester City side in front of their own fans.

The absence of Sergio Aguero has to be a concern, but Manuel Pellegrini has options up front and I think Manchester City's power will be too much for Liverpool in this one.

MY PICKS: Manchester United to win by One Goal @ 3.60 Ladbrokes(1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Newcastle United @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

December Update16-12-1, + 12.34 Units (41 Units Staked, + 30.10% Yield)

November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/1463-63-1, + 2.55 Units (200 Units Staked, + 1.28% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Sunday, 22 December 2013

NFL Week 16 Picks 2013 (December 22-23)

The strange results and performances throughout Week 15 meant the winning run for the picks ended in strong fashion, but the season as a whole remains in a good position. The weirdest thing about Week 15 to me was the amount of Divisional leaders that lost matches.

In fact, out of the 8 Divisional leaders at the start of Week 15, 6 were beaten outright let alone fail to cover the spread as the likes of Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Detroit all lost as pretty big favourites.

It happens sometimes that all the 'Any Given Sunday' nature of the NFL is highlighted in one weekend, but that leaves a number of questions for those teams and their Play Off ambitions going into the final two weeks of the season.

Week 15 Thoughts
So many Play Off implications: What can you say about Week 15 when it comes to Play Off implications through the NFL? Every where you looked, teams wins and losses have pushed others into more difficult positions and that is shown by the uncertainty of the seedings as we go into the final two weeks of the season.

Seattle have locked up home-field advantage in the NFC if they can win one more game or San Francisco fail to win one of their last two games, but that is the only team that I would be confident of picking their spot in the seedings.

New Orleans lost last week and will likely be the Number 5 seed if they fail to beat Carolina this weekend, while the Panthers would then receive a bye into the Divisional Round with two wins. The NFC North and East are wide open Divisions that will secure Number 3 and Number 4, but it is anyone's guess as to which sides land where.

The AFC is no easier as Denver were shocked last Thursday Night to open the door for New England or even Kansas City to finish with home-field advantage through the Play Offs, while teams like Cincinnati could finish with the Number 1 seed or fail to even reach the post-season depending on whether they win or lose their remaining two games.

This should be another exciting weekend as some aspects of the Play Offs will certainly be cleared up, but right now there are a number of teams that will feel they are in control of their own destiny if they can win out.

Who is more likely to shoot themselves in the foot- Detroit or Dallas? I've very rarely seen two teams like the Lions and Cowboys who seem to find the most bizarre ways to try and screw up their own chances.

The Cowboys are at least still have their own destiny in their hands as they will win the NFC East if they win out, although I wouldn't be rushing to back them to do that. On the other hand, Detroit looked to have total control in the NFC North after sweeping Chicago and beating Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, but they have faltered badly in the last couple of weeks and now need help to get back into the Play Offs.

Both teams are guilty of doing stupid things, be it penalties to stall drives or bad play-calling that results in getting away from a very effective running game and leading to Interceptions.

The fans are unhappy and there are rumours that the Head Coaches of both teams will be shown the door if they do fail to reach the Play Offs, and things need to change drastically if they are to get back into the Play Off mix.

Watch out for the crazy plays: There are a few teams that have nothing to lose in the final couple of weeks of the season and they are dangerous not just for their care-free attitude, but the fact that the play-callers will dial up the funky plays to keep the chains moving.

These teams will regularly go for their fourth down conversions, will utilise fake punts and also the onside kick.

We saw St Louis use the onside kick in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints last week and over the years you will see strange results and crazy plays working to keep teams moving the chains and it is something to consider when capping the last couple of weeks.

My Play Off teams: For the first time in a while, I have seen changes in my Play Off predictions because of all the weird results last week.

AFC- 1) Denver, 2) New England, 3) Cincinnati, 4) Indianapolis, 5) Kansas City, 6) Miami

NFC- 1) Seattle, 2) Carolina, 3) Philadelphia, 4) Green Bay, 5) New Orleans, 6) San Francisco

Top Ten
1) Seattle Seahawks (12-2): Going to be tough to knock them off at home once they look up the Number 1 seed in the NFC.

2) Denver Broncos (11-3): Defense has to play a lot better to reach the Super Bowl let alone win it.

3) San Francisco 49ers (10-4): Improving at the right time and getting healthier for a deep Play Off run.

4) Kansas City Chiefs (11-3): Not convinced, but beginning to put up big Offensive numbers.

5) Carolina Panthers (10-4): Will know all we need to know after their game with New Orleans this weekend.

6) New Orleans Saints (10-4): This is a huge game for the Saints as a loss will likely mean they need to win 3 road games to make the Play Offs.

7) New England Patriots (10-4): I don't think they have enough talent around Tom Brady to win it all, but still a dangerous team in one off games, especially at home.

8) Arizona Cardinals (9-5): Big ask to make the Play Offs and will be very disappointed to miss out with the way they have been playing down the stretch on both sides of the ball.

9) Cincinnati Bengals (9-5): A bad loss at Pittsburgh and will miss out on the post-season with two losses and Miami and Baltimore to win out... Home games with Minnesota and Baltimore should see them avoid that fate.

10) Chicago Bears (8-6): Could win the NFC North this weekend with a win at Philadelphia and defeats for Green Bay and Detroit, but most likely to go down to the home game against the Packers in Week 17.

Bottom Five
32) Houston Texans (2-12): Twelve straight losses and home date with the top team in the AFC.

31) Washington Redskins (3-11): Another loss, although at least showed signs of life and can try and ruin Dallas' season this week.

30) Oakland Radiers (4-10): Heavy defeat at home and rumours of a Coaching change coming.

29) Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10): Signs that Gus Bradley could turn this organisation around, but a big Draft coming.

28) Cleveland Browns (4-10): Injuries have taken their toll and this team is still rebuilding.

Week 16 Picks
It was a bad week last time around, but a number of surprising results meant it was always going to be a tough week to keep the winning run going. It was actually my worst week since Week 6, but the season has still been successful so far and I just want to end the regular season with the positives of the season intact.

This week there are big games taking place all over the United States and we will know a lot more about which twelve teams will be playing in January.

Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: With these two teams currently in Number 4 and Number 5 spots in the AFC, there is every chance that they will be playing one another in the Wild Card Weekend of the Play Offs in two weeks time, albeit in Indianapolis.

That may make Chuck Pegano play this game a little more conservatively so not to give the Chiefs too many looks at what they will expect to see in two weeks time, while the game is certainly more important for Kansas City who could still win home-field advantage through the Play Offs with two wins and a loss for Denver.

Andy Reid's team has picked up Offensively in recent weeks and Jamaal Charles could have another big game following his exploits from last week against Oakland. The Colts have struggled to stop the run and are not getting off the field on third downs, while Charles is also a big threat coming out of the backfield to catch passes and rip of huge gains from space.

Indianapolis should have some success running the ball themselves, but there is still too much inconsistency from the Offense in the absence of Reggie Wayne. The game simply doesn't mean as much to the Colts and I will take a small interest in the Chiefs to win this game and cover the spread.

Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: The Minnesota Vikings players may not be using the 'spoiler' word in the locker room, but they have certainly been doing that for the likes of Chicago and Philadelphia, while the recent tie with the Green Bay Packers could potentially keep that Divisional rival out of the Play Offs.

Minnesota are playing well and I do think they can cause Cincinnati some problems, but the Bengals Defense is also better than the ones Matt Cassel has seen since returning as the starting Quarter Back. The running game may struggle to get established which means the pressure is on Cassel to make the plays with his arm and I am not completely convinced he can do that with sustained success.

I also think it will be tough for the Vikings Defense to keep this Bengals team from scoring points with the whole team perhaps beginning to be worn down, although the pass rush has heated up somewhat of late.

Andy Dalton should help the Bengals move the chains with his arm against this Secondary, while whoever starts at Running Back may find more running lanes than if they would have played Minnesota earlier in the season.

The game also means that much more to Cincinnati who won't want to leave their post-season chances down to the last game and will want to build some momentum after a poor loss at Pittsburgh last week. While Minnesota have been playing much better of late, there is also a chance that this team saves its remaining energy for the Week 17 tilt with the Detroit Lions at home.

The chance to knock out a desperate Divisional rival will keep the team motivated, but may also see them overlook this game on the road as it is between two big home games. The spread is a big one, but I do fancy the Bengals to win this one by double digits so will back them to cover and potentially put one foot into the Play Offs.

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans Pick: As good as Denver have looked for much of the season, I would be concerned about their Defense if the fans are already thinking about booking flights to New York for early February. When the games in January get going, Denver have to find a way to get off the field and get the ball back in the hands of Peyton Manning if they are to get through a couple of games, at the least, to get to the Super Bowl.

I don't think it will be as much of a problem for Peyton Manning and Denver in this game against a Houston team that will be missing their two Running Backs and also have a Quarter Back under Center that the fans will be heckling as they have all season. I expect the Broncos Defense to be able to at least control the Houston drives, while they could also turn the ball over if Schaub hasn't learnt how to protect the ball more effectively.

I also believe Manning and the Denver Offense will have been able to learn from the mistakes they made against San Diego in their last game and I fully expect them to get back on track. Manning is in line to smash Tom Brady's record of Touchdown passes thrown in an individual season and also reach 5000 passing yards for the first time, with both potentially occurring in this game.

Denver should be able to score points on a Defense that has struggled to contain Andrew Luck and Tom Brady in games over the last three weeks and the indoor track should only aid the Broncos further. There is plenty of motivation for Denver to win this game with the Number 1 seed on the line and I think they see off Houston and cover this spread.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills Pick: They might not be going to the Play Offs yet again, but the Buffalo Bills would love to play spoiler for two Divisional rivals down the stretch starting with this home game against the Miami Dolphins.

EJ Manuel can't go this week, but Thad Lewis will come in as Quarter Back knowing his only win as a starter came against the Dolphins earlier this season. He is similar to Manuel in the way Lewis plays the game, although he is not as talented as the rookie from Florida State.

It might not be a repeat for Lewis in winning against the Dolphins again though as the Miami Defense has been playing at a very high level. Miami will get pressure up front, while the Defense has played the run a little better in recent games and may be able to keep tabs on CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson out of the backfield.

I also don't think the Bills will be able to move the ball at will through the air now Stevie Johnson is ruled out and the way the Miami Secondary has played, even through some injuries to starting players in those positions.

Ryan Tannehill will also be under pressure, while the weather in December in Buffalo is tough to negotiate. However, Miami have found a real running game in recent weeks and I think they can pound the Bills up front and keep the Offense in third and manageable situations. That should negate the pass rush just enough for Miami to fling the ball downfield, although it has to be said that Buffalo's Secondary is also much improved since players have returned from injuries.

This will certainly be a close game, but I do like the Dolphins to come through for a small interest.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Pick: This is a big statement game for the New Orleans Saints who would need to wrap up the Number 2 seed in the NFC to give them a real chance to win the Conference Championship and earn the right to play in the Super Bowl next February.

There is no doubt that it would be easier for the Saints to win this one road game which would earn them the NFC South title than it would be to win a potential three road games to get through to the Super Bowl in the Play Offs.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees will not be happy to hear everyone talking about their poor record on the road, particularly the fact they have lost 4 of their last 5 road games including at teams with losing records like the New York Jets and the St Louis Rams.

Brees will know he has what it takes to beat this Secondary with the weapons New Orleans have, but the conditions won't be the best for the passing game if the wind and rain sweep through the early afternoon in Carolina. The running game is not dominant enough to keep the Saints going in this one, but I still expect some big plays to be made to the Receiving corps at his disposal.

The Saints will need Brees to avoid the turnovers that have hurt him on the road and have led to losses for New Orleans, but I expect a response from the poor performance at St Louis which had embarrassed Payton and co.

I also expect a much better performance from Carolina than the one they put in during Week 14 on the road at New Orleans, but they have to punctuate drives with Touchdowns and not Field Goals if they are to win this game. Ron Rivera will gamble I feel, but I also think Sean Payton and the Saints are going to have a much better reaction than they did in their game with St Louis.

Maybe this upcoming game took away the focus required from New Orleans that was required, but I want the points on my side in this one.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins Pick: There isn't much you can say about the Dallas Cowboys and their poor performances in their last couple of games which has left them in a precarious position in the NFC East, although still in control of their own destiny. However, they have to win out now to guarantee a place in the Play Offs, while a loss in this one will open the door for the Philadelphia Eagles to secure the Division with a win in the late game.

Dallas won't want to be watching the late game with sweaty palms and I do think they will be good enough to beat a Washington Redskins team that has swept a few issues under the carpet with a close to Atlanta last week.

But it was another loss and as much as Washington will want to knock off the Cowboys, it is a big ask for them to do so. I do think Alfred Morris will have a big game, but Dallas have shown they have been capable of turning the ball over and those extra possessions may prove to the be the difference in the game.

The best thing to happen to the Coaches could be the expected weather on Sunday afternoon which will make it tough to throw the ball with consistency and that means Dallas will use DeMarco Murray to the extent he deserves. While there have been some concerns about how much of a workload he can carry, Murray has been battering Defenses and should be able to keep the Cowboys moving the ball in this one.

It will also ease the pressure on Tony Romo who can sometimes push too hard, which causes mistakes, although the Quarter Back will also feel he can have a big game against this Secondary.

Kirk Cousins will have success too, but can he avoid the mistakes behind this Offensive Line to keep Washington in front in this game. Personally I think this is going to be a close game, but I just like the Dallas team enough to win this game and cover, although I am disappointed that the spread has hit the key number of 3 after being at 2.5 for much of the week.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: Going against the Seattle Seahawks in their home stadium is a quick path to the poor house, but I can't help think that Arizona have been given too many points in this one.

As well as Seattle have played all season, the Cardinals have been in tremendous form themselves in recent weeks and are a desperate team trying to rally for a place in the Play Offs. There is every chance they can still make the post-season, but will likely need to win out and get some help from elsewhere, but they should remain focused here and also will want to erase the memories of their 58-0 beating here last season.

Carson Palmer will be under some pressure, and he will certainly be hoping that Larry Fitzgerald is cleared in time to play, but he could have some success passing the ball if he plays as well as he has in recent weeks.

More importantly, I think the Arizona Defense is playing at a very high level and could do enough to at least limit the Seattle Offense, as long as Palmer and the Offense don't turn the ball over in bad areas. Marshawn Lynch's impact may not be as great with the way Arizona have played the run, and Russell Wilson may be under pressure and forced to throw into a Secondary that is much improved.

I do think Seattle will have too much in their locker and will come through, but they may be given a scare first. I will look for Palmer and the Arizona Offense to at least reach 17 points in this one and that may be too big a number for Seattle to cover.

New York Giants @ Detroit Lions Pick: This game is clearly one that could very much be decided on which of the two teams looks after the ball the most effectively. Eli Manning leads the NFL with the number of Interceptions thrown, but Matthew Stafford has been guilty of seeing some of his passes ending up in the wrong hands and that effectively has cost Detroit the chance to control their own destiny in the NFL.

Detroit have the Offense to put up plenty of points if they can avoid the mistakes that cost them the game against Baltimore, although Stafford could do with some help from Receivers not called Calvin Johnson. It has become clear that Stafford will force the ball in Megatron's direction in pressure situations and that has seen teams jump routes which could potentially be a problem against a Giants Defense that hasn't given up despite the 5-9 record.

However, Manning has been guilty of making a lot of obvious mistakes and I do think he will struggle to sustain drives and is likely to turn the ball over in this one. Victor Cruz is out to make life easier for the Detroit Secondary, especially as Eli Manning hasn't had the same connection with Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle is still developing.

Andre Brown could have a big game, but it becomes a vicious circle for the Giants when they are behind and need to throw to get back into the game. Eli Manning will also be pressured all day by the Defensive Line of the Lions and I think Detroit will also play a cleaner game with the pressure effectively off their shoulders after back to back losses.

If Manning does throw Interceptions in bad areas, Detroit should take advantage of short fields and I think the Lions win this one big with Matt Stafford avoiding the turnovers that blighted his game on Monday Night Football.

New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: It is not often that the New England Patriots will lose back to back games with Tom Brady under Center and they certainly can't afford to slip up again if they want to secure a bye in the first round of the Play Offs.

Facing the Baltimore Ravens is perhaps not what they needed right now as the Ravens have played them tough each time they have met the last few years including a win in the Play Off last season and a home win against New England last year.

However, Baltimore's Offense has continued to struggle to put up Touchdowns and that will give Brady and co a real chance of springing what would be considered a surprise. Brady should have a more effective running game on his side which will at least keep the yards being churned out, although the Ravens pressure up front and the Secondary could disrupt the passing game.

As I said though, Baltimore's Offense settles for Field Goals so often and I think Joe Flacco will find it tough to find his Receivers. The long pass has struggled to show up, while Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce haven't helped out by struggling to get the rushing game established to the extent that Defenses have to respect it.

This has all the makings of another close game and I do think it is worth having the points onside, although only for a small interest under the key number of 3.

Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: This is the final game at Candlestick Park, barring a Week 17 which sees the 49ers overtake the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, and I expect San Francisco to put on a performance for their fans.

They should be far too good for the Atlanta Falcons who may potentially be looking ahead to playing spoiler for the Carolina Panthers next week, while the talent levels are far apart for each team going into this game.

Colin Kaepernick should have a big game with Michael Crabtree back to join Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin in the passing game that should be able to dissect a Atlanta Secondary that has struggled all season. With the power running game expected to get established, I like Kaepernick's chances to hit passes downfield and have a big game at Quarter Back with the 49ers building a lot of momentum going into the Play Offs.

The 49ers have the motivation of clinching a Play Off place without the headache of having to win in Arizona for that place and I expect a much better performance than the Chicago Bears put in against Philadelphia on Sunday night.

I also think the injuries in the Atlanta roster won't help the Falcons and I think Matt Ryan will be under pressure throughout the game and may struggle to move the chains with consistency. Steven Jackson won't be as big a factor as he has been in recent games. I don't think the Falcons can keep up as San Francisco look to say goodbye to their home for what could be the last time and I like the 49ers to win big.

MY PICKS: Kansas City Chiefs - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bengals - 9 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 10 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Miami Dolphins - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
New Orleans Saints + 3 Points @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 3 Points @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals + 10 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Detroit Lions - 10 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
New England Patriots + 2 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
San Francisco 49ers - 14 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Week 15: 2-6, - 5.32 Units
Week 145-4, + 0.54 Units
Week 136-4-1, + 3.65 Units
Week 126-4, + 1.43 Units
Week 116-2, + 7.59 Units
Week 104-4, + 0.86 Units
Week 92-5, - 4.24 Units
Week 85-3, + 4.64 Units
Week 77-2, + 5.70 Units
Week 62-7, - 8.15 Units
Week 54-4, + 0.35 Units
Week 47-1, + 9.27 Units
Week 33-4-1, - 1.10 Units
Week 26-1, + 6.46 Units
Week 15-6, - 3.50 Units

Season 201370-57-2, + 18.18 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Saturday, 21 December 2013

College Football Bowl Game Picks 2013 (December 21-January 6)

This is the final season of the BCS Bowl Games and is the start of a busy three week period where College teams will complete their seasons which will culminate in the National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers.

Is that the right Championship Game? When it comes to the criteria set out by those that pick the BCS Games, I can't disagree that those two teams deserve their shot to win the big prize, but I have a nagging feeling that the best team, the Alabama Crimson Tide, are missing out.

Next season that will be less of a concern as the Play Off comes into effect, but for now I do think we will see a good National Championship Game although I have a clear favourite in mind.

Over the next three weeks, I won't have picks from every Bowl game as some of them are particularly hard to read, but hopefully it will be a post-season as successful as the last two years and will help the year end with a winning record after the disappointment of last season.

Colorado State Rams v Washington State Cougars Pick: It would be a huge surprise if this isn't a high-scoring game to open the Bowl season up in College Football as both Secondaries have struggled against the pass this season. They both combine for around 65 points per game, while they Defenses give up an average of 60 points per game combined.

The Washington State Cougars at least showed some good form down the stretch by winning 2 of their last 3 games and they are keen to give their Seniors something to remember after making the post-season for the first time in over ten years.

Washington State will also feel their Defense will find a way to create more turnovers than their Colorado State counter-parts, although they will need Connor Halliday to look after the ball better than he has for most of the season at Quarter Back for the Cougars.

If, and it is a big if, Halliday can look after the ball, I think Washington State have been playing at a much higher level than Colorado State through the season and will prove too good for the Rams. It might need a late turnover, or a big Defensive stand to see the job through, but the Cougars do look the better team and I like them to win the first Bowl game of the season and cover the spread.

USC Trojans v Fresno State Bulldogs Pick: You have to believe that both of these teams had bigger Bowls in mind at the start of the season so we could see a flat performance at times. However, I think the Fresno State Bulldogs will want to finish their season on a higher note than the USC Trojans who will be having a new Head Coach taking over for next season and have lost their inspirational Coach O.

I do think this Trojans team will expose the Defensive problems Fresno State have had for much of the season, but I also think Derek Carr and this Bulldogs Offense is capable of moving the chains.

This is a big game for Carr as he will want to escape the shadow his big brother left in the NFL, one that may put off a few suitors of his in the NFL Draft next year.  Playing well against this Secondary will at least have people sit up and take notice of his chance to make it as a starter at the next level, although he will know the Trojans have been pretty good defending the pass all season.

As I said, I think motivation may be the biggest issue for USC to overcome and that means the 6 point head start for Fresno State is just high enough to keep me interested.

December 26th
Pittsburgh Panthers v Bowling Green Falcons Pick: You don't really know how teams are going to approach the Bowl Games outside of the top BCS Bowls, but you have to imagine that the Bowling Green Falcons are going to want to end their season on a high after winning the MAC Championship.

The Falcons match up well with the Pittsburgh Offense as they are better at defending the pass than the run and they may just restrict what the Panthers are able to do.

I also will be looking for Bowling Green to have slightly more success when they have the ball in their own hands and should prove too strong for Pittsburgh when they have the ball in their hands. The number is under the Touchdown mark and I think Bowling Green could cover.

Northern Illinois Huskies v Utah State Aggies Pick: Both of these teams lost their Conference Championship Game so the team that has recovered better mentally will be the one that should walk away with the win from this pick 'em game.

The fact that this is Jordan Lynch's last game for Northern Illinois should focus the Huskies in this one and I think they may have a little too Offense for the Utah State team to deal with.

Utah State will certainly feel their ability to stop the run will help them in this one, but Jordan Lynch at Quarter Back is a problem that is not easy to defend, although he may have to rely on his arm more than his feet in this one to keep the chains moving.

I also have no doubt that the Aggies will have their success with the ball in the hands of their Offense, but I will back Northern Illinois to rally around Lynch and send off their Quarter Back with one more win under their belt.

December 28th
Louisville Cardinals v Miami Hurricanes Pick: This could have been a Bowl Game with a much bigger national interest if these teams could have maintained their form from early in the season throughout the year. While the Louisville Cardinals remained solid enough outside of their one loss, the Miami Hurricanes fell apart after a loss to the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles and that not only cost them an outside shot at the National Championship, but also any chance of winning the ACC Championship.

Miami will want to prove themselves against one of the better teams they would have faced this season, but the absence of Duke Johnson has proved tough to overcome for the team.

That may prove to be the case in this one against a Louisville Defense that has generally been strong and will look to pressure Stephen Morris in the pocket. If they can keep the Hurricanes in third and long situations by shutting down the running game, the Cardinals could perhaps force Morris into mistakes that he has limited in his last four starts.

On the other hand, I think Teddy Bridgewater is going to have a strong game thanks to a rush attack that should have a lot more success than the one at Miami. By establishing that and ripping yards off on the ground, Bridgewater can use the play-action to move the ball down the field and slow down the Hurricanes pass rush just enough to make big plays.

Bridgewater is still not sure if he will make himself eligible for the NFL Draft at the end of the season, but his team mates and fans will want to show Louisville could have even more success next season if he stays and I expect a big performance from them. I like the Cardinals to cover this spread against a tough Miami team that may make one or two mistakes more that costs them the win.

Kansas State Wildcats v Michigan Wolverines Pick: There were some signs that Michigan were getting back to their best early in the season, but it ended on a sour note and even coming close to knocking off Ohio State won't satisfy a rabid fanbase that will want so much more next season.

Without Devin Gardner in this Bowl Game, it is a big ask for the Defense to step up enough and Shane Morris to plug the gap at Quarter Back as a freshman. There have been freshman successes at other schools in the last twelve months to not want to under-estimate Morris, but the Kansas State Defense has played well, while they should be able to contain the rushing attack and keep Morris in third and long situations.

That will be a problem for Michigan in this game and one where I believe Kansas State will dominate field position and also have more success moving the chains and sustaining drives.

The Wildcats should be able to have some success throwing or running the ball and may take advantage of any demoralising figures in Michigan's rank now that their Quarter Back is missing the game. Will this game mean much to the Wolverines after putting in a lot of effort to beat Ohio State? I am not sure about that motivation for a non-Conference team that they have no rivalry with and without their starting Quarter Back.

I like Kansas State to find a way to cover the spread.

December 30th
Oregon Ducks v Texas Longhorns Pick: There should be some added motivation in the Texas Longhorns team to send Mack Brown off with another win as Head Coach, but this isn't a great match up for them on paper against an explosive Oregon Ducks team.

Oregon won't be happy with the season they have put in as they have failed to achieve their goals of at least winning the Pac-12 and possibly earning another shot at the National Championship.

Marcus Mariota is coming back to school next year, but this will be as healthy as the Quarter Back has felt in a while and I think he will help the Offense earn yards through the air and on the ground against this Texas Defense.

He will need more help from the Defense himself though as the Oregon unit gave up at least 35 points in their last two games. I am not convinced Texas have enough Offense to take advantage of any lapses in concentration, although the fact their long-term Head Coach is moving on has to be a motivational took that they can use to inspire them in this one. Even with that in mind, I like Oregon to come through with a big performance.

December 31st
Virginia Tech Hokies v UCLA Bruins Pick: This looks a decent game which may come down to whether UCLA have enough to impose their Offense on the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The Hokies Defense has been strong at getting after the Quarter Back, stop the run effectively with just 3 yards per carry given up, and create turnovers, but that will all be tested by the Bruins. How they deal with Brett Hundley and his ability to run and throw the ball from the Quarter Back position is going to be key to stopping the Bruins in this one, although UCLA will point to the fact that only the very best teams in the Pac-12 have beaten them this season.

Virginia Tech should have success throwing the ball against UCLA's Secondary, but Logan Thomas has to take care of the ball better than he has for much of the season. The pressure has been on Thomas because the Hokies have struggled to run the ball and that could be the case again in this one.

If the UCLA Bruins can pin back their ears and get after Thomas, I do favour them to win this game, but the Touchdown head start may be too much to overcome.

Mississippi State Bulldogs v Rice Owls Pick: I am a little surprised that the Conference-USA Champions, the Rice Owls, are being given a Touchdown head start in this game where we could see a lot of Offense on both sides of the ball.

The Bulldogs have had a disappointing season, but they rallied with back to back overtime wins to get into this Bowl Game and that could motivate them to finish the season with a high.

Looking after the ball will be the key to winning this game for either team as both should have success moving the chains throughout the game. I think the Rice Owls can at least control the clock better than the Bulldogs I feel and that will be critical for them to cover the spread in this one.

Duke Blue Devils v Texas A&M Aggies Pick: This could be the last time Johnny Football takes the field in the College Football ranks, although Manziel has suggested he may come back to College Station if he is not going to be picked in the First Round.

It has been an exciting, but ultimately disappointing season for the Aggies who may have been looking to push for a place in the National Championship Game but finished with an 8-4 record. The Duke Blue Devils may be more known in basketball circles, but they have had a strong season and won't be disheartened by the defeat against the Florida State Seminoles.

Anything other than a high-scoring game would be a shock, and both teams may also turn the ball over, but I think ultimately Johnny Manziel makes more plays and signs off on a two year strong career at this level with the win for the Aggies and the cover.

January 1st
LSU Tigers v Iowa Hawkeyes Pick: Zach Mettenberger is out for the Tigers after suffering an ACL injury, but Les Miles believes his team won't miss a beat against a Big Ten school that may struggle to cope with the 'big boy' football played in the SEC.

Anthony Jennings will be Quarter Back for LSU and he has been given high praise from Miles and I believe the Tigers Offense won't miss too much of a beat. Much of their success will come on the ground, even though Iowa's Defense played that well this season and that should keep Jennings in a good position to make third down conversions to keep the chains moving.

I do think Iowa will be able to have some success with the ball in their hands too, but they haven't played many Defenses as good as LSU's this season and were beaten fairly easily by the leading teams in the Big Ten, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The Tigers can match up with those three and I like them to cover.

Stanford Cardinal v Michigan State Spartans Pick: Any time two Defensive powerhouses like these teams meet, the likelihood of it being a low-scoring game means taking the points on the underdog is the way to go.

That is especially true where Michigan State are getting almost a Touchdown head start in this one and I like the Spartans to keep it close, even if they can't quite get the win.

Both teams are very effective at shutting down the running game, but don't be surprised if both stubbornly continue pounding the rock which will take time off the clock and mean teams will have to sustain long drives to score.

The Spartans should have the edge when it comes to throwing the ball, although their Defensive unit may miss Max Bullough who is the Quarter Back for that unit. That may give Stanford just enough room to secure a win, but the Spartans will make it tough throughout the game and I'll take the points.

UCF Knights v Baylor Bears: There are a number of Bowl Games being played on New Year's Day, but the most exciting one Offensively could come in the final game of the day between the UCF Knights and the Baylor Bears.

Both schools have Quarter Backs that should have a big impact on this Bowl Game, although I think the difference may come in the Defensive play with the Baylor Bears unit capable of turning over the ball and also stopping the ground attack.

Making the UCF Knights one-dimensional will give Baylor a great chance to get the ball in the hands of their Offense in good field position in this game and it looks a tougher ask for the Knights Defense to do the same for UCF.

The Knights did surprise Louisville to win the American Atlantic Conference, but Baylor have an even better Offense and I like them to win this one big.

January 2nd
Oklahoma Sooners v Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: It wasn't much fun watching LSU give up a 96 yard kick return when leading by 14 and less than two minutes left in the game, nor some of the ticky-tacky calls being made against Baylor that didn't seem to be produced when UCF did something similar.

Hopefully the Alabama Crimson Tide have picked themselves up from the disappointment of missing their chance to play for the National Championship again because I do think they are the better team and should have the motivation to end AJ McCarron's career at this level on a high.

McCarron is expected to miss the Senior Bowl so this is his last chance to show NFL scouts what he has in his locker, but I don't expect him to be more than a Second/Third Round pick in the Draft.

The Quarter Back should be able to make nice plays in this one thanks to the Alabama running game which should have lanes to pick up huge yards. That means McCarron can make plays from third and short situations and it will be tough for the Sooners Defense to slow them down.

If the Crimson Tide are fully focused, you have to think they can expose the uncertainty at the Oklahoma Quarter Back position by shutting down the run game and forcing the Sooners to throw. It as been a tough season for Bob Stoops and his team when throwing the ball and I don't think they will have a lot of joy with this Defense in front of them. Alabama stay checked in, I think they cover.

January 6th
Florida State Seminoles v Auburn Tigers Pick: This is the right game to decide the National Championship, although I won't lie and say I can't wait for the Play Offs next season as I do believe that is a much fairer way of deciding a title with the Conferences as split as they are at the NCAA level.

The Auburn Tigers have played well at times, but there is no doubt that they have ridden their luck too in their wins over Georgia and Alabama, the former much more than the latter. However, this Defense they are facing is one of the better ones they would have seen this season and I expect the Coaches to have studied the tape of the LSU Tigers game against Auburn to find a way to keep Nick Marshall and the Offense contained.

It is tough to pass against the Seminoles and I think the bigger problem for the Tigers is finding a way to slow down Jameis Winston and this Florida State Offense. Auburn have struggled against the pass and the rush for much of the season and I think the Seminoles will expose those problems and end the recent domination of the National Championship by the SEC.

Florida State have blown out almost every team they have played and score plenty of points. I think Auburn make it competitive for a while, but the pressure of keeping up with the scoreboard pressure may prove too much for the Tigers to overcome. The Seminoles to win this one and cover the spread is my choice.

MY PICKS: 21/12 Washington State Cougars - 5.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
21/12 Fresno State Bulldogs + 6 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
26/12 Bowling Green Falcons - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
26/12 Northern Illinois Huskies @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
28/12 Louisville Cardinals - 6 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
28/12 Kansas State Wildcats - 7 Points @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
30/12 Oregon Ducks - 14.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
31/12 Virginia Tech Hokies + 7 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
31/12 Rice Owls + 7 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
31/12 Texas A&M Aggies - 13 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
01/01 LSU Tigers - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
01/01 Michigan State Spartans + 6.5 Points @ 2.05 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
01/01 Baylor Bears - 17 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
02/01 Alabama Crimson Tide - 17 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
06/01 Florida State Seminoles - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Bowl Games Update: 4-11, - 6.95 Units

Week 15: 4-3, + 0.79 Units (7 Units Staked, + 11.29% Yield)
Week 144-6, - 2 Units (10 Units Staked, - 20% Yield)
Week 135-3, + 1.77 Units (8 Units Staked, + 22.13% Yield)
Week 122-6, - 4 Units (8 Units Staked, - 50% Yield)
Week 117-2, + 4.59 Units (9 Units Staked, + 51% Yield)
Week 106-3-1, + 2.69 Units (10 Units Staked, + 26.9% Yield)
Week 94-4, - 0.23 Units (8 Units Staked, - 2.86% Yield)
Week 86-2, + 3.58 Units (8 Units Staked, + 44.75% Yield)
Week 73-6, - 3.26 Units (9 Units Staked, - 36.22% Yield)
Week 63-5, - 2.08 Units (8 Units Staked, - 26% Yield)
Week 56-2, + 3.66 Units (8 Units Staked, + 45.75% Yield)
Week 42-6, - 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 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)

Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)