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Monday, 28 December 2015

NBA Picks December 2015 (December 28-31)

There are just four days left of the 2015 calendar year and the final December Picks from the NBA will be made on this thread.

Monday 28th December
The final pick I made last week missed out by a couple of points as the New York Knicks failed to stay within the points, but it still meant back to back winning weeks.

That has improved the monthly numbers and hopefully the last four days go the same way.

LA Lakers @ Charlotte Hornets Pick: Asking certain teams to cover big spreads can be problematic, but the LA Lakers do look like one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets are amongst some of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and Al Jefferson's return only bolsters their line up.

The Hornets haven't been in great form of late, but they did beat the Memphis Grizzlies last time out although that is only the second win in seven games for Charlotte.

Charlotte have also been much better at home when it comes to the Defensive side of the court and that can help them find a way to cruise past the Lakers. A bigger problem for the road team is they might have to do without Kobe Bryant for this game, or at least have him in limited minutes, and many of their games have ended in one sided losses as the talent level is just not up to par.

The Lakers are 0-3 against the spread in games where they are set as the road underdog of between 12.5 and 18 points this season. They are also 2-8 against the spread when facing a team with a winning record on the road and I think Charlotte can cover a big number.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Utah Jazz Pick: The Philadelphia 76ers finally won a road game last time out against the Phoenix Suns but they are still considered a big road underdog in their visit to the Utah Jazz.

However, I think the 76ers can be backed again especially if Derrick Favors is sitting for the Jazz and I am not sure Utah deserve to be asked to cover this many points.

The Jazz did blow out Philadelphia earlier this season and two of their last three home games against the 76ers would have seen them cover this spread. However, Utah have just two wins in their last eight which will have sapped some confidence from their play and they have just been struggling with their scoring of late.

Double digits look tough to cover for Utah and I will back the 76ers with the points.

Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors Pick: It is rare that the Sacramento Kings are being given as many points as this on the road, but the situation suggests it might not be enough. The Kings are 2-0 against the spread in the last three seasons when given between 12.5 and 15 points on the road, but they are facing a team that has dominated them.

The Golden State Warriors will play for the first time since Christmas Day and they are a team that are used to these big spreads. They are 11-7 against the spread as the home favourite of between 12.5 and 15 points over the last couple of seasons including going 2-0 this season.

The Warriors have also beaten the Sacramento Kings by at least nineteen points per game in their last four home games against them. With the scoring power they have and Sacramento on a back to back, I have to think Golden State can get unplugged in this one and win going away.

I do think the Kings are a solid line up that will give Golden State some problems, but I fully expect the Warriors to come through and win this by a wide, wide margin.

Tuesday 29th December
The Charlotte Hornets barely failed to cover in their win over the LA Lakers, but it wasn't looking a great day with the 76ers in the process of a blow out in the first half. However Philadelphia rallied while the Golden State Warriors showed they are going to be incredibly tough to beat this season by destroying the Sacramento Kings in the second half to record another big home win against them.

That has brought the week up in a positive manner and continues what has been a solid couple of weeks at the end of December.

Detroit Pistons @ New York Knicks Pick: Both the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons are coming off disappointing losses to the Boston Celtics as they get ready to meet at Madison Square Garden. Both teams are looking to snap their losing runs and I am favouring the Detroit Pistons to get the job done and win here as the road favourite.

There seems to be a lot more consistent scoring on the Detroit side of the court and I think that is a big difference maker in this game. New York know Carmelo Anthony will get his numbers but Kristaps Porzingis has had an inconsistent month as he has hit something like a rookie wall.

It hasn't helped the Knicks who have just had a difficult time at both ends of the court during their four game losing run. The Knicks are also just 5-10 against the spread as the small home underdog of three points or fewer over the last couple of years.

Detroit don't have a great record at Madison Square Garden, but they have won their last couple of games here and I think they can cover here with the additional scoring they have through their rotation compared with New York.

Atlanta Hawks @ Houston Rockets Pick: There was some anger in Houston after the Rockets failed to back up their win over the San Antonio Spurs by losing to the New Orleans Pelicans. The inconsistencies in Houston have been a cause for concern all season and JB Bickerstaff didn't hold back from his assessment of how badly the Rockets need to get their winning mentality back.

Houston have to stay focused on the Atlanta Hawks despite the fact they are hosting the Golden State Warriors before the end of the calendar year. The Hawks might have seen their six game winning run come to an end on Monday and they are just 3-5 against the spread when playing on back to back nights this season.

Despite the loss to the Pelicans, there have been improvements Defensively from the Rockets which has shown up in recent games and I think they are going to be too good for a tired Atlanta team. The Hawks can put everything into this game knowing they won't be scheduled to play another game until next week, but Houston are 1-0 against the spread when favoured by three points or fewer at home.

The Hawks have struggled in Houston going 4-11-1 against the spread in their last sixteen games here. I like the Rockets to at least respond to Bickerstaff's disappointment from the last game and will back them to cover.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Cleveland Cavaliers might have snapped their two game losing run but they are on a back to back and have struggled to a 1-4 record against the spread in those games. Kyrie Irving will be rested in this game, but the Cavaliers are far healthier than the Denver Nuggets and I think they can win this game and cover.

Denver have lost five of their last six games and will be missing Danilo Gallinari and Emmanuel Mudiay on Tuesday.

The Nuggets have struggled mightily from a Defensive standpoint and they will be tested by Cleveland who look better on both ends of the court. The poor record on back to back games has to be a concern for Cleveland backers, but they should be the stronger team on the court.

Cleveland are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games in Denver and I like them to cover in this one.

Wednesday 30 December
It hasn't happened to me often so far this season, but the way the Houston Rockets collapsed in the second half of their loss to the Atlanta Hawks, who were on a back to back, is a joke. The Rockets need to make the personnel moves that they should have perhaps thought about before making the decision to fire Kevin McHale, but it does feel this team missed their window to reach the NBA Finals last season.

Dwight Howard has been rumoured to be asking for a trade and maybe Houston need to think if there is a way to turn this season because this current group are not getting it done. James Harden hasn't looked himself either and to be below 0.500 after thirty-three games is really disappointing for the Rockets.

The Western Conference doesn't look as strong as it has in previous years so Houston are still very much in contention for a Play Off spot, but they wanted more this season and need to make the personnel changes to do that.

And anyone who saw the end of the Cleveland win over Denver will know those teams were happy to settle for a push with the Cavs giving up buckets and the Nuggets not wanting to foul.

Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The Indiana Pacers have two games left in 2015 and I do wonder if they will be fully focused on this game and not on the home one to finish the calendar year. However, the Chicago Bulls are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and I expect the Pacers to be motivated to try and knock them off for a second time this season having split the first two games.

Indiana would love for Paul George to rediscover his shooting as he has struggled badly over the last week, but the team have rallied to win their last couple of games. That will give the Pacers some confidence and they are facing one of the more inconsistent teams in the Eastern Conference.

There is plenty to like about Chicago, but the team don't look completely on board with the new ideas being bounced around by Fred Hoiberg. The second unit has taken a hit with Joakim Noah out, but the Bulls are potentially looking to trade him or Taj Gibson to provide more outside shooting.

The Bulls are just 9-11 against the spread when favoured by between 3.5 and 6 points at home and Indiana have proved to be a tough road underdog. I think Indiana play them tough here and can make a small number of points prove to be the difference in a cover or non-cover.

Utah Jazz @ Minnesota Timberwolves Pick: Two of the more disappointing teams in the Western Conference meet just a couple of days before the end of the 2015 calendar year. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz were both coming into the season with some big expectations, but those have failed to materialise to this point and both have a lot to do to get into the Play Off mix in the West.

It is arguable that both might have preferred this game to be played in Utah- there is no doubting the Jazz are better at home, while the Timberwolves have been much stronger on the road.

I can't imagine confidence is that high for either team at this moment even if Utah have had more wins of late. That might play a factor, and the Jazz have a very good record in Minnesota while the Timberwolves have struggled in their position as a home favourite.

Utah are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games in Minnesota and I do think the wrong team is favoured here. Backing them with the points against a young Timberwolves team that have seemingly lost their way looks the call.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Sacramento Kings Pick: The Sacramento Kings blew a half time lead against the Golden State Warriors but they might have lost more when DeMarcus Cousins was ejected. Cousins might be forced to sit out this game through suspension, and that makes the 76ers an attractive spread to back for the third time in a row.

Philadelphia have covered in their last couple of games and they were perhaps a little fortunate to do that, especially in the game with Utah.

However, the 76ers have shown some character for much of the season and I think the Sacramento Kings won't be focused too much without their best player. I expect the Kings to win but covering almost double digits in terms of points might be beyond them in this one.

The 76ers have covered in their last seven games in Sacramento and the Kings are just 3-11 against the spread when favoured between 6.5 and 12 points.

MY PICKS: 28/12 Charlotte Hornets - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
28/12 Philadelphia 76ers + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
28/12 Golden State Warriors - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
29/12 Detroit Pistons - 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
29/12 Houston Rockets - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/12 Cleveland Cavaliers - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
30/12 Indiana Pacers + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
30/12 Utah Jazz + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
30/12 Philadelphia 76ers + 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

December 28-31 Update: 4-4-1, - 0.36 Units

December 21-27 Final7-5-1, + 1.35 Units
December 14-20 Final9-3-1, + 5.19 Units
December 7-13 Final2-4, - 2.14 Units
December 1-6 Final5-5, - 0.37 Units
December Update23-17-2, + 4.03 Units

November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 201632-26-1, + 3.26 Units

Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

Friday, 25 December 2015

College Football Bowl Game Picks 2015 (December 26-31)

The first set of Bowl Games have gone by and I have to say I should have gone with my gut a little more than I did, although the line moves just put me off enough on a couple of them.

Disappointed there, but hopefully means I am finding the right blend between searching for the motivation, or lack of motivation teams have at this time of the year, as well as the ability of the teams from different Conferences that are playing each other.

This thread will cover the Bowl Games through to New Year's Eve which includes both Play Off Semi Finals this season- I am not a fan of those games being played on New Year's Eve to be honest although things will have to be fixed if that isn't essentially an annual occurrence. Eight of the next eleven Semi Final Bowl Games are set for New Year's Eve and I do think there will be a ratings hit from the viewers if they are kept in their current spots.

Saturday 26th December
There are a full slate of games on Boxing Day as the Bowl Games return from a day of rest on Christmas Day.

On Saturday there are six games set back to back through the day from 11am Eastern Time until just after midnight Eastern Time so plenty of Football to look forward to.

It will be a full schedule through the next few days before the gap to the National Championship and it should be a fun time.

Marshall Thundering Herd v Connecticut Huskies Pick: The opening game on Boxing Day comes from Florida, but it might not be the highest scoring of games.

Both the Marshall Thundering Herd and Connecticut Huskies look like they have the kind of Defensive units that will give the Offenses on the field a lot of trouble. What can make the difference in this game?

I think it comes from the Thundering Herd have the better Offense taking to the field and can make more plays than their counterparts which helps them move clear.

Neither team is expected to run the ball all that effectively, but Marshall should have a little more success doing that which will give them the chance to move the ball through the air. Chase Litton has played well since taking over at Quarter Back but is still relatively experienced, while not tackling some of the better teams in the nation.

However, Litton did only throw seven Interceptions which is key against this ball-hawking Connecticut Secondary that will look to spark a win with turnovers. My concern for Marshall comes from losing the turnover battle, but I think their Special Teams unit also can make bigger plays which should set the team up with better field position for much of the game.

Bryant Shirreff is back at Quarter Back for the Huskies after suffering a concussion and he may have success against this Marshall Secondary that has given up big yards through the air over the last three games of the season. Generally they have been better over the course of the year, but that has to be a concern if Shirreff is ready to go at full speed.

He will need to be because the Marshall Defensive Line has been excellent and should shut down any running game as they have despite the big yards through the air. They are also able to get after the Quarter Back and I would worry for Shirreff if he takes any big hits.

I think Marshall will be the team that makes the bigger players from all three units and I like them to cover this spread by winning by at least a Touchdown. The extra post-season experience should aid them too and I do like Marshall.

Washington State Cougars v Miami Hurricanes Pick: From one game that might not produce a lot of points to another which could be one of the highest-scoring Bowl Games of the lot.

Both the Washington State Cougars and the Miami Hurricanes have the kind of Offenses that can get unplugged in a hurry and I can see both hitting at least thirty points and go much further too. The weather shouldn't pose too many problems and I like the chance of scoring which makes the 62 point total set by the layers an attractive margin to pass.

Both teams also ended with 8-4 records, but must be feeling contrasting emotions going into the off-season following this game. Miami have appointed Mark Richt as the new Head Coach and I expect them put in a solid effort for well-liked Larry Scott who was the interim Head Coach and has gone 4-1 in his five games.

It has been tough to run the ball for the Miami Hurricanes all season, but they will have a chance to do that in this one. That should only help Brad Kaaya who has put up some big numbers but has been asked to do a lot for the team with their inability to run the ball.

Kaaya might be in more favourable positions and should have plenty of success throwing against a Secondary that showed holes in the final games of the season. The Quarter Back has been well-protected and should have time to hit his trio of Receivers who all have great statistical numbers thanks to Kaaya.

On the other side of the ball, Luke Falk is back in action at Quarter Back for Washington State and the 'Air Raid' system used by Mike Leach has gotten plenty out of him when he has been on the field. Falk had been out due to concussion, but should have a chance to feel his way into this game because the Cougars should be able to establish the run and keep him in third and short spots.

One problem for Falk is that Washington State have relied heavily on the pass in the system they run, but this Miami Secondary is pretty stout. They get a lot of pressure up front which should find their way to getting Falk on the ground while Interceptions have been a problem for the Cougars and something Miami are able to do.

Those extra possessions could be key and I am not sure the right team is being favoured here. The money has come in for Miami which has taken this spread below the Field Goal mark, but I think that isn't an issue here and I really believe Miami can win this outright.

I will still take the points in this spot, but look for the underdog to perhaps win this one outright.

Nebraska Cornhuskers v UCLA Bruins Pick: There is no hiding from the fact that the Nebraska Cornhuskers have had a poor season and that they are very lucky to be invited to a Bowl Game. It is not thanks to their play on the field, but very good academics as Nebraska are one of three 5-7 teams who were asked to make up the numbers after the Bowl Games failed to reach the required number of participants with six wins.

Mike Riley will take this game seriously you imagine to prove Nebraska are not as far away as their record suggests. The Cornhuskers were very competitive in all of their games and even beat Big Ten Champions Michigan State during the regular season.

On the other hand I do wonder about UCLA's motivation having failed to win the Pac-12 and perhaps hoping to play in a much more prestigious Bowl Game, one on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. That will have knocked some motivation for this one and I think they are being asked to cover a big number in this one.

Running the ball for either team is going to be difficult, but there is room to make some plays against the Secondary units that will be taking to the field. My one worry has to be Tommy Armstrong's mentality having thrown a number of Interceptions down the stretch that proved critical against his team. However Armstrong did have over 3000 yards this season and UCLA's Defensive unit is not as strong without the likes of Myles Jack leading the way.

The UCLA Defensive unit didn't make too many Interceptions down the stretch and I can see Armstrong keeping Nebraska at least close enough to cover this number. Of course Overtime doesn't guarantee success in the College Football game, but I think Nebraska have played hard all season and could be taking on a de-motivated team.

UCLA have the edge with the game being played a lot closer to their campus than Nebraska's but I think the Cornhuskers can do enough to keep this close and improve their 4-1 record against the spread as the underdog this season.

Tuesday 29th December
I am going to get a few picks out for the upcoming Bowl Games with the end of the calendar year meaning timing is not on my side in getting them out individually from a day by day standpoint.

The Saturday Picks saw the games go 2-1 in our favour and this thread will hold the Bowl Games through New Year's Eve with a new thread started for the New Year Day games until the end of the season.

Air Force Falcons v California Golden Bears Pick: There is a feeling that this could have been a much bigger season for the California Golden Bears and the Air Force Falcons, although both have finished with winning records. California looked like a genuine contender to win the Pac-12 earlier in the season but then ultimately struggled to play against the best in the Conference, while Air Force reached the Mountain West Conference Championship Game before losing.

That has set up these teams to meet in the Armed Forces Bowl and it could be a special game for the viewers if their last meeting in 2007 is anything to go by. Back then the Golden Bears came back from 21 points to beat Air Force and the expectation is that we are going to see another close game.

A close game, but one that I think the California Golden Bears can eventually prevail behind their Quarter Back who is tipped for an impact at the next level.

Jared Goff threw for over 4000 yards this season with his 37 Touchdown passes to 13 Interceptions some nice numbers to take into the combine. It is expected that Goff will declare his intentions to leave for the NFL following this game but he might not have a huge game as expected because he is facing a Secondary that has been smart and held teams to less than 200 passing yards per game this season.

Air Force played Michigan State earlier this season but Connor Cook had just under 250 passing yards with 4 Touchdown passes in that game for the Spartans. Goff will expect to match those numbers, but it won't be all down to him as the Falcons have seen their Defensive Line worn down and have been trampled to end the season.

Daniel Lasco may then become the star of the show for the Golden Bears and running the ball effectively will open the pass for Goff to show off what the NFL scouts are looking for.

The Falcons will counter with a very strong running game of their own as Karson Roberts runs the triple option for the team. Roberts and Jacobi Owens should have a strong day against a Golden Bears Defensive unit that have struggled against the run through the season and won't have seen a triple option Offense all season and may just struggle with reads for a little while in this game.

However, the Golden Bears will know that Roberts just struggled with the pass so getting into a lead and forcing the Air Force Offense to have to throw the ball could be a key to success. Roberts has been solid for much of the season when asked to throw but he struggled a little down the stretch and can be a difference maker.

Their one common opponent is the San Diego State Aztecs but that might not be as relevant now as California played them in Week 2 and Air Force in Week 14.

California don't have the edge when it comes to the way they have played against the spread in the last few weeks. However, they look to have the better team and I think they will use their preparation time to effectively win what might be a road game as it is played close to the Air Force campus. Covering seven points won't be easy, but I expect a double digit win for California with a late turnover perhaps making the difference.

Baylor Bears v North Carolina Tar Heels Pick: At this time of the season motivation is certainly going to play a big part in how a team performs in the Bowl Games. No team wants to lose, but the Baylor Bears are really hurt at the moment and are playing in a Bowl Game that no one would have picked at the start of this season.

It was all about the National Championship for Baylor or at least a game on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but they struggled down the stretch to end up in this game.

For the North Carolina Tar Heels this has been a very good season with eleven wins on the board and playing in the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels showed they are a very good team by pushing the unbeaten Clemson Tigers in the Championship Game and the feeling I have is they want to finish this season with the positives while Baylor are perhaps looking ahead to next season.

Chris Johnson will get the start for the Bears at Quarter Back, but he is arguably the fourth choice for Baylor having begun the season as a Wide Receiver. He won't be helped by the fact that starting Running Back Shock Linwood and top Receiver Corey Coleman will be missing.

The much vaunted passing Offense for the Bears did struggle through their injuries at Quarter Back in the final weeks of the season and Johnson will have to be aware of a Secondary that has been able to turn the ball over. Add in the pressure North Carolina get up front and Baylor may struggle to pass the ball, although Johnny Jefferson can have a decent game running the ball for them.

A stunning season for North Carolina might not have ended with an ACC Championship, but they surpassed all expectations especially those off the back of a Week 1 loss to rivals South Carolina. The key for North Carolina is how their Offense does against the running Defense of the Bears which looks to match the strength of both teams up against each other.

Marquise Williams might provide a way to open that up for the Tar Heels though as he has been throwing the ball very well at Quarter Back to end the season. If Williams can continue doing that against this Secondary, it might just open up a few more running lanes that can help the Tar Heels run the plays that make them more comfortable.

Of course I anticipate that North Carolina will have their successes doing that against a banged up team that perhaps is happy to put an end to this season. The Tar Heels have gone 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games against a team with a winning record and I think they are more motivated and, perhaps more importantly, much healthier and I believe North Carolina can find a way to get this cover at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Colorado State Rams v Nevada Wolf Pack Pick: The chance to get to a Bowl Game shows you have had a successful season, but neither the Colorado State Rams nor the Nevada Wolf Pack will be that happy with the scheduling. In fact the Mountain West as a Conference felt disrespected after two teams from the same Conference are set to meet in a Bowl Game for the first time since 1979.

Craig Thompson, the Mountain West commissioner, made his feelings known when it became clear that two of his teams were to face each other. It is done now though and at least it can be said that Colorado State and Nevada will be playing for the first time this season.

There are some similarities between the teams who are evenly matched and both are going to try and play this game in a similar manner.

Running the ball is going to be key for the Offenses and both should have a chance against Defenses that struggled in that regards. James Butler and Don Jackson both reached 1000 rushing yards for Nevada this season in their pistol formation that has proved very good at churning out yards on the ground.

However, Nevada just began to struggle down the stretch as their yards per carry dropped to 3.8 yards, although the expectation is that they will come alive in this game as Colorado State continue to struggle to stop the run. The Rams do find penetration though when trying to get to the Quarter Back and the Secondary has played well so any struggles to run the ball for the Wolf Pack could be hard to make up for.

It becomes doubly difficult if the Rams continue to run the ball as effectively as they have done through the course of the season. Colorado State would have taken note of the way the Nevada Defensive Line have given up 5.5 yards per carry in their last three games and will be music to the Rams ears having produced 6.2 yards per carry in the same stretch.

That should only make life all the more comfortable for Nick Stevens who had almost 2400 passing yards and led the Mountain West with 21 Touchdown passes. Stevens might not need to make too many throws in this one but has shown he is capable of doing that and the Nevada Secondary isn't as strong as the one Colorado State will put onto the field and it looks like the Rams will have the advantage in this one.

Colorado State have covered the last two years they have played Nevada with two wins coming by 21 points in 2013 and 7 points last season. You do have a feeling that both teams would have preferred a different opponent for their Bowl appearance, but the Rams have also been in better form down the stretch and I like them to cover the Field Goal number of points in Arizona.

Wednesday 30 December
Memphis Tigers v Auburn Tigers Pick: The Memphis Tigers have lost their Head Coach and will be led by an interim Head Coach for the Bowl Game, while the Auburn Tigers might be one of the biggest disappointments in the SEC. Auburn were supposed to be one of the real contenders in the SEC West, but finished just 2-6 in the Conference and now the battle of the Tigers is the last game left on a miserable season in the Birmingham Bowl.

Memphis shouldn't be intimidated having already beaten the Ole Miss Rebels from the SEC West this season, but they had some bad losses down the stretch that prevented a New Year's Day appearance. A lot of the players will be back next season which should be motivation enough, although Paxton Lynch is coming in at Quarter Back being projected as the top player in his position in the next NFL Draft.

Lynch was very impressive in his game against an SEC Defense against the Rebels and had almost 400 passing yards on the day with 3 Touchdowns and a single Interception. The Quarter Back is expected to be well protected and should have a chance for another big game to bolster his NFL stock especially if Memphis are able to run the ball as effectively as expected.

That running game will only be boosted if Lynch is throwing the ball well and I do think Memphis could have a very good game. How competitive the game is will come down to the Auburn Tigers who have to be de-motivated at the end of a really disappointing season.

The uncertainty at Quarter Back has blighted Auburn through the season although they have Jeremy Johnson back under Center despite Johnson losing his starting job half way through the season. Johnson has been very erratic and he is going to have a tough match up with the Memphis Secondary that picked up their play down the stretch thanks to some immense pass rush pressure being found up front.

Auburn can't rely on their running game providing the Offensive unit a spark either because that is an area Memphis have thrived for most of the season. Some will say they don't play the same level of Offensive Line as they will see in this game, but Memphis held Mississippi to 1.7 yards per carry earlier in the season so won't be intimidated by the challenge put in front of them.

Will Muschamp has also moved on as Defensive Co-Ordinator so Auburn have other issues to worry about and I think all the keys are pointing to Memphis potentially winning this game outright. The spread has moved up to the key number of three in the last few days, but I still like Memphis and will back them with the points in this Bowl Game.

Mississippi State Bulldogs v North Carolina State Wolfpack Pick: This time last year the Mississippi State Bulldogs were wiped out in a Bowl Game after just missing out on the National Championship Play Off. This time the mindset should be more positive as they make the trip to Charlotte where the North Carolina State Wolfpack should receive the majority of the support.

After a really good start to the season, the Wolfpack struggled down the stretch and were actually beaten in five of their last eight games. Those losses did come against an increased level of competition and the feeling is that the Mississippi State Bulldogs might fit into the same category.

Mississippi State did lose four times this season, but the majority of those were to the better teams in the SEC West. They might not feel losing the Egg Bowl to rivals Mississippi is a game they should be losing as Dak Prescott ends his College career before moving onto the NFL.

I am anticipating a fun game between these teams which may feature more points than some think. Both teams should be able to establish the run which should open things up for Prescott for the Bulldogs and for Jacoby Brissett for North Carolina State.

The key for Mississippi State is going to be looking after the ball with turnovers killing them towards the end of the season. Prescott only had 4 Interceptions all season but this is the kind of game where looking after the ball could prove to be critical in deciding the winner. If the Bulldogs are able to do that, they look a team that can run the ball and pass the ball effectively and keep the chains moving consistently through this game.

One of the criticisms of the North Carolina State team through the season was the inability to bring their performances up to the level of competition they were playing. So they won the games expected, but struggled in the others on both sides of the ball and that has to be a concern when going up against a team from the SEC.

Brissett will be put under pressure by an effective pass rush that Mississippi State can generate, although the Quarter Back should have some help from the run game. The performances in the big games have to be a worry for the Wolfpack though and I think that is where Mississippi State Bulldogs will prove too strong on the day.

The crowd will be behind North Carolina State, but I look for Mississippi State to cover this game.

Thursday 31 December
Clemson Tigers v Oklahoma Sooners Pick: Playing in the National Championship Play Off should be motivation enough for both the Clemson Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners, but the latter might be using the 2014 Bowl Season as added reason to want to win this game. Last year it was the Clemson Tigers who whipped Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl although both Head Coaches have declined to read too much into that game, which I happen to agree with.

If this was another Bowl Game and not one that will lead to playing for the National Championship, I would expect that game from last season to motivate Oklahoma massively. However, both the Sooners and Tigers have bigger fish to fry and this looks a very good Semi Final for those not out partying on New Year's Eve to enjoy.

I have little doubt that Clemson's Head Coach Dabo Swinney is using the fact that Clemson are the underdogs to motivate his unbeaten troops. He has to be using the fact that no one seems to believe in his team to get them pumped for this big game against what many consider to be the favourites to win the National Championship.

Deshaun Watson is the star for the Clemson Tigers and he is a dual-threat Quarter Back that will give any team in the nation fits. Clemson would have seen Oklahoma's Defensive unit just wear down a little down the stretch and Watson is capable of making enough big plays with his arms and legs to get the Tigers moving in this one.

Wayne Gallman will join Watson to help the Tigers churn out some yards on the ground and make sure Clemson are in third and manageable spots, especially as the Sooners were giving up 4.1 yards per carry in their last three. Watson has then been well protected by his Offensive Line and can have the time to hit a Secondary that has allowed 270 yards per game through the air in their games with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State, although the Quarter Back has made a couple of mistakes with Interceptions which can be a problem against this ball-hawking Secondary.

Watson won't be the only star Quarter Back on the field as Baker Mayfield leads the Oklahoma Sooners into the game. Mayfield has played with a chip on his shoulder all season and is leading a hot Oklahoma team into this game, although he is facing a tough Defensive unit that has sparked the Clemson unbeaten season.

Mayfield will be able to hand the ball off to Samaje Perine who has been running the ball very effectively and joins the Quarter Back in helping the Sooners pump out 5.2 yards per carry. They are facing a very tough Defensive Line that hasn't given up too much on the ground and that could be one of the keys to this contest as there is a big difference between third and manageable and third and long for the Sooners Offense.

That is because the Offensive Line has struggled to pass protect effectively and they will be under immense pressure from the Clemson Defensive Line. I think the Tigers can win that battle in the trenches and get to Baker Mayfield although covering Sterling Shepard is going to far from easy even for this Secondary.

Creating sacks will at least stall some Oklahoma drives which is key if Watson can't control the 11 Interceptions he has already thrown this season on the other side of the ball. I like the way the Clemson Defense does match up against the Oklahoma Offense though and I think this has all the hallmarks of a very close game that could easily decided by whichever teams holds the ball last.

I love the way Dabo Swinney has prepared his teams in the post-season as they have won their last three Bowl Games despite being the underdog in each. Clemson are also 4-0 against the spread in their last four neutral site games and Oklahoma are 0-3 against the spread in their last three neutral site games including their one sole loss this season coming in the Red River Rivalry game played on a neutral field.

Getting more than a Field Goal worth of points looks to much to ignore here and I will back Clemson Tigers to at least cover with a sneaky suspicion they might win this outright.

Alabama Crimson Tide v Michigan State Spartans Pick: The Alabama Crimson Tide are back into the National Championship Play Off for a second year in a row. However they will be looking for much better than last year when they were beaten in the Semi Final by Big Ten Ohio State as they come into this one facing another Big Ten representative in the Michigan State Spartans.

Alabama were over a Touchdown favourite to beat Ohio State last season and they are once again a big favourite to beat a Big Ten Champion this time around. Aside from a one point loss to Nebraska, Michigan State have come through a tough schedule with wins over Michigan and Ohio State and Mark Dantonio has thrived when leading his team into a game as the underdog.

The Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry is going to carry the ball a lot for the Alabama Crimson Tide but I am not sure that this is a great match up for him. Of course Henry can wear down opponents and end up breaking through with some big yards, but the Spartans should be well prepared to try and stop the Running Back and did only give up 3.3 yards per carry over the last three games of the season.

That could mean it is up to Jake Coker to make the necessary plays to keep the chains moving in this one although he hasn't been asked to be more than a game manager for much of this season. Coker has thrown 17 Touchdown passes, but has coupled that with 8 Interceptions and has to be wary of a Spartans Secondary that has been able to turn the ball over.

Michigan State have less of a concern at Quarter Back with Connor Cook expected to be fully healthy from a shoulder injury that affected him down the stretch. Cook is likely to declare for the NFL Draft at the end of the post-season and has every chance of ending his time at Michigan State by surpassing Kirk Cousins' passing yardage mark although this is easily the toughest Secondary Cook would have faced this season.

The Crimson Tide have allowed fewer than 185 passing yards through the course of the season and they get enough pressure up front to rush Quarter Backs. This is all off the back of a stifling run Defense that is likely to contain LJ Scott after holding teams to 2.4 yards per carry through the season.

All of that means there will be more pressure on Cook as he looks for Aaron Burbridge to help make the plays to give the Spartans a shot a the upset in the second National Championship Semi Final.

I can understand why Michigan State have been set as such a big underdog as they had a flukey play to beat the Michigan Wolverines and needed a big time effort from Scott to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game. These kind of games will stick in the mind, but the public seem to be heavily behind the Spartans even if the sharp money has moved the spread in favour of the Crimson Tide.

Michigan State had been unimpressive in victories earlier in the season too while Alabama have won their last five games all by double digits. However I have a feeling this is going to be a low-scoring game and that automatically makes the points on offer for the Spartans look very appealing, especially at double digits.

The Spartans have been well prepared for the post-season by Dantonio and that has shown up with four straight Bowl Games, all as the underdog against the spread. Alabama have complained in the past about being worn down by the SEC schedule and they have failed to cover, or win, as a big favourite in their last two December Bowl Games.

While I do think Alabama get some revenge on the Big Ten for their loss to Ohio State last season, this might be too many points for them to cover if Connor Cook can make some plays for Michigan State. Therefore I will take the points on offer in this one.

MY PICKS: Marshall Thundering Herd - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
California Golden Bears - 7 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
North Carolina Tar Heels - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Colorado State Rams - 3 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
Memphis Tigers + 3 Points @ 2.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Mississippi State Bulldogs - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers + 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans + 10 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

December 26-31 Update: 5-5, - 0.23 Units

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (26th December)

The Boxing Day fixtures start an eight day period when the majority of the top English teams will play three times as the squads are tested to the fullest.

At the end of that we will see the January transfer window opened as teams try to hold onto what they have while others strengthen for the big push towards the end of the season.

Let's see how things pan out by the end of the next week as some big games are played at the top and bottom of the Premier League before teams can begin to address their issues.

Stoke City v Manchester United Pick: It was an intriguing week at Old Trafford as rumours began to flow that Louis Van Gaal wasn't too far from the sack, but the Dutchman will take charge for the trip to Stoke City on Boxing Day. However I am not sure Van Gaal can survive another defeat and he could have asked for a much better couple of days than facing a trip to Stoke City and a home game with Chelsea.

There is no disguising the poor form Manchester United have been in as they look to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat. Injuries haven't helped Van Gaal, but the defensive strength they have shown has also seemed to have vanished as Manchester United have conceded at least two goals in their last three games.

The lack of goals that Manchester United have produced all season makes that a tally too difficult to overcome and it is now 6 games without a win for the club. Manchester United have only scored more than one goal in 2 of their last 13 games in all competitions and this is going to be a huge test for them to see if the players are still behind the manager.

Stoke City were beaten 1-2 by Crystal Palace here last weekend, but that game could easily have gone the other way while the side have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City in two previous home games in the Premier League. There is plenty of attacking talent that can give Manchester United's defence another problem and I think the home team are a huge price to win this game.

I seriously hope I am wrong, but Manchester United have won just 1 of their last 4 Premier League games at The Brittania Stadium. They lost here two seasons ago under David Moyes and were behind last season before earning a 1-1 draw.

I am just not sure this current group of players is completely behind Van Gaal and conceding the first goal to Stoke City might see the team produce a performance similar to the one that ended David Moyes' reign at Everton. At the price, you'd be foolish to ignore the home win in my opinion even if my heart is really hoping Manchester United can turn things around.

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace Pick: There aren't many teams that have a better three game stretch than Bournemouth who have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and West Brom to move out of the bottom three. It is no surprise they are favoured to make it four in a row against Crystal Palace at home this Boxing Day, but I am more interested in the away underdog.

That is because Crystal Palace continue to be very effective away from home as they showed in a 1-2 win at Stoke City last weekend. Of course Crystal Palace will give teams a chance to get on the front foot, one that Bournemouth will take advantage of, but that opens up the counter attack where Alan Pardew's men are most effective.

And for all the success Bournemouth have had of late, they would have lost 3 in a row at home prior to the win over Manchester United if not somehow coming back from two goals down against Everton. This is a Crystal Palace side that has won 5 of 9 away games in the Premier League this season too and I really think they are worth a small interest to come out with the three points on Boxing Day.

Crystal Palace have rarely failed to find the net away from home and I do think Bournemouth have perhaps been over-rated by some positive results. I simply don't think they are as good as the results they have produced and I like the away team for a small interest.

Chelsea v Watford PickThere looked to be a lot more freedom in the Chelsea performance last weekend as they brushed aside Sunderland 3-1 at home, although I have no doubt they were helped by the team they were facing. However you can't ignore the fact that the players had seemingly had enough of Jose Mourinho and I can really see the side going on a bit of a run of successes.

That isn't to say it will be anything but a tough test against Watford who have proven they are more than capable of gelling a squad of players at the Premier League level. There is pace in the forward areas that makes them dangerous and Watford won't be intimidated by heading to Stamford Bridge having won 4 Premier League games in a row.

However, the game is at Stamford Bridge and I think that makes a big difference.

Guus Hiddink is clearly a popular figure for those Chelsea players left here from his last spell as interim manager and I do think he will get the team playing for him. Chelsea have too much talent to be left near the bottom of the table and I have already said I believe they will put a bit of a run together to spark a real move up the League table.

I am expecting Chelsea to use their talented attacking footballers to find a way past Watford on Boxing Day and I like them to win by a couple of goals.

Manchester City v Sunderland PickI think the biggest disappointment of the 2-1 loss to Arsenal will be the way Manchester City defended at key times of the match. The goal just seconds before half time that was conceded was a killer blow for Manchester City and I am expecting a response from the players.

The likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero are getting back to fitness and I wouldn't be surprised if one of those players is rested or put on limited minutes on Saturday.

However, Manchester City have enough quality to think they can beat Sunderland at home especially with the way the latter have defended on their travels. Sunderland are conceding far too many goals and the layers have appreciated that by asking Manchester City to cover a big spread to earn the win.

Instead I think there is a good reason to back Manchester City to score at least three goals on Saturday. That is a number they have reached in 6 of their last 10 games at The Etihad Stadium in all competitions and one that Sunderland have conceded in 4 of their last 6 away games.

That includes at Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool and Manchester City have a team that can match those which is what I am expecting on Boxing Day.

Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City PickLast weekend was a stunning result for Norwich City in going to Manchester United and winning the game deservedly despite some poor recent away results. That might be a big reason why they are expected to give Tottenham Hotspur something to think about this weekend, but I can't help think Manchester United are not in as strong form as Spurs and I expect a much different result.

That isn't to say Tottenham Hotspur are anything but inconsistent as shown with a win at Southampton just a week after losing here to Newcastle United. That defeat does go against recent trends though as Tottenham Hotspur had won 4 of their last 5 home games before the loss to Newcastle and I think they can bounce back at White Hart Lane.

There has been a week of preparation for this game so tiredness shouldn't be a factor and I think Spurs are the better team.

For all the credit that Norwich City deserve having won at Old Trafford, this is a team that were fortunate in losing by single goal margins at Manchester City and Chelsea. Both of those teams had enough chances to win a couple of games and I think Tottenham Hotspur will take advantage of Alex Neil perhaps focusing on the home game with Aston Villa just two days later which is arguably the more important game.

Norwich City will expect to win that one rather than this game and I think Spurs win this by a couple of goals.

Newcastle United v Everton PickThe second live game on Boxing Day comes from St James' Park and I think this has the potential of being a pretty entertaining game between two teams that have looked positive going forward. Neither has shown enough defensively to think they are going to gain too many clean sheets of late and I think the fans and the viewers could have an enjoyable game to watch.

Picking a winner is much more difficult as both teams can make a good case of doing that. The draws in recent Everton games would put me off backing them as the favourite here, but Newcastle United have had two good wins before the draw with Aston Villa, a game they had enough chances to win.

The one scoreline that I perhaps fear the most in this game is 1-1 which looks a real player, but I think both managers are desperate for the three points. It looks like being a game that will see both Newcastle United and Everton attacking for the points that is valuable for them to achieve their goals and picking up momentum at the start of a busy period.

As long as there isn't a deluge of rain like what we saw last weekend here, I think there is every chance we can see at least three goals shared between these teams.

Southampton v Arsenal PickThe Premier League has been an inconsistent Division throughout the 2015/16 season and that has made things difficult to predict as times. From week to week we have seen teams produce some very good stuff and then followed that with some complete rubbish or vice versa.

Therefore I do have this gut feeling that Southampton may just surprise Arsenal this weekend especially as the latter are coming in off the high of beating Manchester City. However, I have to use the eye test and say Arsenal should not be odds against to win here on current form and for that reason The Gunners have to be backed to win and potentially move to the top of the table ahead of the end of the calendar year.

Arsenal have had a couple of impressive away wins behind them and will be expected to match North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur who won at St Mary's last weekend. That 0-2 win over Southampton has not impressed Ronald Koeman who believes his team are making too many individual mistakes at the moment which are costing them a chance to reverse recent form.

And recent form hasn't been good for Southampton who have also lost 3 of their last 4 games at home in all competitions which includes a thumping from Liverpool in the Capital One Cup. That has definitely knocked some confidence compared with Arsenal who are flying at the moment and so I am surprised they are odds against to win this Premier League game.

It hasn't been a great venue for Arsenal to visit in recent years, but I think they can reverse that on Boxing Day and have to be backed at the prices on offer.

MY PICKS: Stoke City @ 3.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Crystal Palace @ 3.10 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 (2 Units)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 2.15 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

December Update12-19, - 8.52 Units (52 Units Staked, - 16.38% Yield)

November Final: 11-19-1, - 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, - 25.37% Yield)
October Final16-25, - 13.51 Units (79.50 Units Staked, - 16.99% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% Yield)
August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1672-105-5, - 46.61 Units (342 Units Staked, - 13.63% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)

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

Thursday, 24 December 2015

NFL Week 16 Picks 2015 (December 24-28)

There are only two weeks left of the regular season in the NFL as more teams begin to punch their tickets into the Play Offs.

Nothing has been set in stone in terms of Seedings but that could all change at the end of Week 16 as the likes of the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals can lock down positions.

It is almost certain that the Seattle Seahawks will finish as the Number 5 Seed in the NFC, but that potentially changes down the stretch too and so every team in the chase for Play Off spots have things they still want to achieve.

Week 16 Picks
What was the most frustrating part of Week 15 for me personally? It has to be the Denver Broncos collapse in their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers which meant that pick was a push and I ended up with the smallest of losses.

I wasn't helped by some of the 'square' choices all dominating to the extent they did in Week 15, but it was overall a week that could have been a lot worse if not for my one 'square' choice of the Arizona Cardinals coming through and covering easily on the road at the Philadelphia Eagles.

I won't be making a pick from the LA Bowl that is being played on Thursday Night Football this week as I can't call it between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, but I will begin my picks from the big Saturday NFC East battle.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: There is every chance the NFC East Division could be decided this weekend if the Washington Redskins can win on Saturday night. They travel to the Philadelphia Eagles knowing that, but a loss could open up a number of possibilities for the Eagles and the New York Giants which makes this Saturday's NFL game something special to look forward to.

It is a huge game for Chip Kelly whose future as Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles could be decided if his team fails to show up. The Defensive unit has to play better than they have in recent games, while ending the season with a losing record after missing the Play Offs last year and in the first of his years picking the personnel might not be respected by the fans in attendance.

Both teams will feel their lack of an effective running game is a big disappointment over the course of the season, but they can't ask for better opponents to turn things around against. Matt Jones and Alfred Morris take on a Defensive Line that has allowed 5.1 yards per carry over the last three games, while Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews and perhaps DeMarco Murray have seen Washington allow 5.5 yards per carry themselves.

Out of the two teams, I do think the Eagles are more likely to establish the run, but the key for both teams will be getting Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford comfortable.

Kirk Cousins has been hot, hot, hot of late, but there is no doubting that this is a Quarter Back that hasn't played as well on the road. Beating the Chicago Bears is all good, but the Interceptions have come thick and fast on the road for Cousins and the Offensive Line hasn't protected him as well.

This week he is battling a Secondary that has allowed some big numbers so I expect Cousins to have a solid game, especially if health means inexperienced Corners for Philadelphia. Jordan Reed is a big time target, while DeSean Jackson has loved to show the Eagles what they are missing since they allowed him to move across to the Redskins.

However, I think Sam Bradford can also have a bounce back game this week as injuries have cost Washington their experience in the Secondary. If the running game is working like I think it might, Philadelphia have a great chance of extending drives and making sure the NFC East is still alive for another week.

Washington have given up plenty of yards through the air against Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler and Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford wasn't playing badly last week against Arizona until the game got out of hand. Bradford can't throw the Interceptions he did that effectively killed Philadelphia, but running the ball well should prevent that being as big a concern and he did look after the ball fairly well against New England and Buffalo in previous two games.

The Redskins are a popular choice as the road underdog in this game and they are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight visits to Philadelphia. However, I think their road play has not been good enough and I backed them as the underdog last week, but I have to pick the Eagles to cover this spread.

New England Patriots @ New York Jets Pick: After the slaughter the Vegas books took from the public, it might not be wise to go with a publicly backed team this week. However, I think the New England Patriots are the better team taking to the field against the New York Jets and I think they can win this game and cover what looks a trap spread when you first look at it.

The Patriots have been banged up on both sides of the ball, but Danny Amendola is potentially back to give Tom Brady more weapons Offensively while Julian Edelman is questionable. With Rob Gronkowski back, the Patriots should be able to move the chains through the air against a Secondary that has surprisingly given up some big yards.

It will be about Brady's arm as the New York Jets continue to clamp down on the rushing Offense teams throw at them. With LeGarrette Blount out I can't see New England being able to have an effective rushing Offense to help Brady, while the other concern for the Quarter Back has to be a fierce pass rush that the Jets generate against his Offensive Line which has struggled.

So I can see New England having some drives stalled thanks to the Jets' disruption up front, but Brady makes the adjustments and I still think they can score enough points to force the Jets to keep up with them.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing really well in recent weeks and the pressure will be on his arm again as the Jets have struggled to run the ball in those games. It won't be much easier against the Patriots Defensive Line and Jamie Collins being back at Linebacker and I am not sure Chris Ivory gets going here which ups the pressure on Fitzpatrick.

He has dealt with that well in recent games as he has led the Jets to the brink of the Play Offs as both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have made big plays in the passing game. Bill Belichick has been known to take away one of the players that opposing Quarter Backs rely upon and that might be key here, especially with the way Malcolm Butler has been playing at Corner Back for much of the season.

The New England Secondary has played better than expected and recent games have seen an improvement although not against Quarter Backs in the same form as Fitzpatrick. They have been aided by pressure up front and can get after Fitzpatrick which can help the Secondary too and the Patriots can turn around a recent 1-5-1 record against the spread against the New York Jets.

It is a big game for both teams but I think New England can make enough plays on both sides of the ball to match their seven point win at home.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: The Kansas City Chiefs have an outside chance to win the AFC West if they can win out and the Denver Broncos are defeated, but the bigger goal is just to make the Play Offs as a Wild Card team. If the Chiefs win their remaining two games, they will be playing in the post-season and so any kind of win is important to them.

That makes this spread look too high for me as the Chiefs haven't shown they are capable of blowing teams out Offensively and I do think Johnny Manziel has played better than expected for the Cleveland Browns. If Manziel can look after the ball, the Browns have enough to at least keep this close as long as they are not focusing on trying to ruin the Pittsburgh Steelers season next week.

Kansas City have been outgained in terms of yardage in three of their last four games and that is a better indication of what is happening in their games than the final scores. I fully expect the Chiefs to be able to establish the run, which shortens the game immediately, but their passing Offense hasn't exactly been lighting things up of late.

Alex Smith does make a lot of completions, but they are short yardage gains and I expect the Quarter Back to be put under immense pressure from the Cleveland pass rush. Smith might not turn the ball over much, but he will eat some Sacks and covering double digits is a big ask unless helped by the Cleveland mistakes or Manziel playing a lot worse than he has in his last two starts.

Manziel has been helped by the fact that Cleveland have been able to establish the run, although he is capable of moving the chains in that way which helps. That should also help the Offensive Line who will be put under pressure by a strong Kansas City pass rush which is still capable of getting after the Quarter Back even in the absence of Justin Houston as they have proved.

There are some definite holes in the Chiefs Secondary that Manziel should be able to exploit, but the whole key to this game is making sure turnovers are not fatal. That did for Baltimore and Oakland against Kansas City in recent weeks and is a concern, but I think Cleveland can keep this close.

The public money is very much behind the Kansas City Chiefs who have a long winning run, but the spread is coming down which suggests the 'sharp' money is on the Browns. I like that thinking and I will back Cleveland to cover in a series where the underdog has gone 4-1 against the spread in the last five games between these teams.

Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills Pick: Neither team has much to play for now, but I am wondering if Kellen Moore is good enough to Quarter Back at the NFL level. That alone makes me believe the home team will win this game and likely cover once they pick off a couple of Interceptions, especially if Dallas are also missing Dez Bryant.

LeSean McCoy is out for Buffalo, but Karlos Williams is a decent back up and Tyrod Taylor has shown he can make the big throws from Quarter Back to give the Bills a chance to win this game.

It is a big spread when you think how well the Cowboys have played Defensively, but I can see turnovers being a factor and that simply tires a Defense out.

I can see Dallas running the ball very effectively but Buffalo might sell out to defend the run and hope to force Moore to make the plays with his arm which could be the difference maker in the game. I will only have a small interest in Buffalo because of the lack of motivation, but I expect Rex Ryan to make the right Defensive calls to force mistakes from Kellen Moore.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The Carolina Panthers remain unbeaten and hammered the Atlanta Falcons just two weeks ago, which means the last two games against their Divisional rivals have seen them win by at least thirty-one points each time.

I don't think the Panthers win as easily as that again, but I do think they will shut down the Falcons and put another strong win on the board as they go for the unbeaten season. Jonathan Stewart might be out, but Carolina didn't have much of a problem running the ball next week as teams continue to find it difficult to prevent Cam Newton throwing the ball to his Receivers deep down the field.

Cameron Artis-Payne is likely to get the majority of the carries for Carolina and can back up his solid week against the New York Giants. The Falcons worn down at the front and I fully expect Carolina to run the ball effectively which only exposes the holes in the Secondary that have been there for most of the season.

Cam Newton is unlikely to be under immense pressure in this one and I think he is going to be looking for another big game against a Divisional rival that is disliked. Newton should be able to go deep to Ted Ginn when he looks for him, but he has been firing the ball to all of his Receivers and I think the Falcons will have another difficult day stopping the likely MVP of the NFL.

There is a chance that Atlanta can also establish the run which will be key for them as Devonta Freeman gets to run the ball against a team that has allowed over 5 yards per carry in their last three games. However there wasn't many holes that Atlanta could blow open two weeks ago and I do wonder if the Panthers raise their game another notch to shut them down this week.

Playing behind a big deficit won't help matters, but I don't know how Matt Ryan can move the chains consistently with a pass rush surrounding him and Julio Jones being blanketed by Josh Norman again. There has been a lot of talking from the other Receivers the Falcons have but that should only inspire the Carolina Panthers Defensive unit a little more and Ryan has been guilty of some bad Interceptions which could potentially show up again.

Carolina have improved to 6-1 against the spread in the last seven games against Atlanta and I do think they are the far superior team. Divisional games can be tough, especially on the road, but Carolina crushed Atlanta here last season and I like them to win by at least seven this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: This should have been a game that had so many Play Off implications, or so the NFL thought when they put together their schedule for Week 16. Instead the Baltimore Ravens have fallen apart thanks to key injuries on both side of the ball and it is the Pittsburgh Steelers who have something to play for beyond the regular season.

If the Patriots beat the Jets, a win for the Steelers here will put them into the Play Offs, but I have to think Baltimore would love to play spoilers in their last truly 'big' game of the year. Unfortunately I don't think they have enough to really knock the Steelers off their stride, especially after Pittsburgh came back from a big deficit to beat Denver last week and momentum is behind them.

Ben Roethlisberger has been playing very well thanks to a trio of Receivers that will make big plays for him in Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. I find it hard to see how the Baltimore Ravens will slow that trio down although their Defensive effort has been commendable despite all the problems they have had.

Pittsburgh have been helped by DeAngelo Williams taking over from Le'Veon Bell effectively and he will also find a little room to move the chains on the ground. That will only open things up more for the Steelers who have every chance of embarrassing a long-time rival while they are down.

It is still unclear who will begin at Quarter Back for Baltimore as Matt Schaub is trying to recover from injury while some suggest Ryan Mallett will be analysed this week. Whoever is back there is going to be under pressure from a surprisingly effective Pittsburgh pass rush and they won't be expecting too much support from the rushing Offense.

However, the Quarter Back will find some holes in the Pittsburgh Secondary that could see them have some success throwing the ball. One big concern for Baltimore has been the inability to protect the ball against Interceptions and this Steelers Defense might bend, but they can pick off balls which could be critical in getting over this number of points.

It is a huge spread for a road Divisional game, but I am finding it hard to see Baltimore scoring enough points to keep up with Pittsburgh over the sixty minutes. I think the Defensive unit will play tough out of pride, but turnovers could be key as this Steelers team can score plenty of points and the additional possessions should be enough to see them win big.

Pittsburgh are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games in Baltimore, but obviously they haven't been asked to cover this number too often. However, I think the momentum from last week carries over this week and I like Pittsburgh to find a way to win by at least ten points.

St Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The NFC West has been decided, but the Seattle Seahawks will look to continue with their momentum and hope to wrap up the Number 5 Seed in the NFC. The Arizona Cardinals have gotten away from Seattle, but the Seahawks are one of the form teams in the NFL and also have the experience of playing December-February football over the last couple of years.

There will be a bit of revenge on the Seattle minds as they head into Week 16 after losing to Divisional rivals the St Louis Rams in Week 1 and I think they will play with that added motivation behind them. The Rams have won two in a row, but they have been outgained in both games in terms of yardage and this is a difficult Stadium to visit as they well know.

The Rams are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight visits to Seattle and recent performances suggests that is unlikely to change.

St Louis have an Offensive issue of being over-reliant on Todd Gurley and the running game to get them moving but I am not sure the rookie is going to have a lot of success. The Seahawks have thrived on stopping the run and their weakness has been through the air as the Legion of Boom have made some poor mistakes by the standards they have set.

Unfortunately I don't think Case Keenum is the Quarter Back to make Seattle pay and St Louis might struggle to move the chains with anything approaching consistency this week. Keenum will likely be under some pressure and Seattle have found a way to shut down the pass against better passers than the one they face this week and it could be a long day for the Rams.

It is harder seeing that being an issue for Seattle who should still be able to run the ball with Christine Michael taking over from the injured Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. Michael had a fairly strong game last week and figures to find some room against this St Louis Defensive Line which is better rushing the passer than shutting down running lanes.

The Offensive Line have also offered better protection to Russell Wilson who has responded by putting together a few really good games to get into late MVP contention. Doug Baldwin being ruled out would be a blow with the Wide Receiver in great recent form, but I still think Wilson can find his targets down the field and the balanced Offense could be key for the home team.

Seattle have a bunch of momentum behind them at the moment and I think they are going to be better on both sides of the ball in this one. The Seahawks have won four of their last five home games against St Louis by double digits and momentum plus motivation of revenge makes me favour them to win this by a wide margin too.

Remaining three picks are below.

MY PICKS: Philadelphia Eagles - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 3 Points @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Carolina Panthers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 9.5 Points @ 1.90 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 12 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New York Giants + 7 Points @ 1.85 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Week 15: 3-4-2, - 0.18 Units
Week 148-2, + 10.12 Units
Week 138-3, + 8.06 Units
Week 122-10, - 14.18 Units
Week 113-4-1, - 1.38 Units
Week 103-6, - 5.54 Units
Week 96-2, + 8.08 Units
Week 80-1, - 1 Unit
Week 72-4, - 4.23 Units
Week 63-5-1, - 3.33 Units
Week 53-5-1, - 3.48 Units
Week 44-3-1, + 2.24 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.03 Units
Week 24-5, - 1.71 Units
Week 15-2-1, + 6.46 Units

Season 201562-58-7, + 9.96 Units
Season 201477-80-2, - 8.47 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units