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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 30 September 2016

College Football Week 5 Picks 2016 (September 30-October 1)

The College Football season had been a difficult one for the picks, but last week was a big turnaround and has almost pulled the picks back into the black.

Week 4 proved to be a very good week, although it could have been a lot better if some of the later games had come back in my favour. I won't get too greedy though and will simply be hoping I can build on the momentum of Week 4 and take that into Week 5 which I am beginning with a pick from the Friday game between Stanford and Washington.

Stanford Cardinal @ Washington Huskies Pick: When you look at the Pac-12 North, you have to think these two teams are the pick of the Division and the winner of this game will be favourite to play in the Championship Game in December. Home field advantage has seen the Washington Huskies come into this game as the favourite, but I do have to say I am leaning towards the Stanford Cardinal earning a big win on the road.

For my pick they don't even have to win though as Stanford are being given more than a Field Goal worth of points in this one who are 3-1-1 against the spread under David Shaw.

Stanford are very heavily reliant on Christian McCaffrey who is the key to so much that they want to do Offensively. He can run the ball, but is also effective coming out of the backfield or lining up as a Receiver and every team in the nation knows they need to keep tabs on this kid, but struggle to do that.

This might be the first big test the Washington Defensive Line have to face this season, but this was always expected to be the strength of the Defensive unit and McCaffrey will have a tough night in the office. That will only heap the pressure on Ryan Burns at Quarter Back as teams have not respected the pass but he has been protected by this Offensive Line.

The key for the Cardinal is going to be their own Defensive unit which has played very well to open the season despite facing Kansas State, USC and UCLA. The numbers have still been good though and Stanford will believe they can give Jake Browning and his two Running Backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman their most difficult test of the season too.

Stanford have only allowed 3.1 yards per carry and keeping Washington in third and long spots will make it difficult for Browning to convert those. The Quarter Back will have seen some of the holes in the Cardinal Secondary, but he has not been protected the best by this Offensive Line and could be under siege if the Running Backs are not able to keep the Huskies in third and manageable situations.

I do think Browning makes some big plays too, but McCaffrey can do the same for Stanford to keep this game close. The Cardinal have gotten the better of Washington in recent years, but this might be the best Huskies team in that time so I can understand why they are favoured. However I do think Stanford will feel disrespected as a rare underdog in Conference play after winning the Pac-12 in two of the last three seasons and I will take more than Field Goal worth of points in this one.

Texas Longhorns @ Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: The Big 12 Conference play has gotten underway and both the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys were hoping to be amongst the leading contenders in the Conference. That is still the case for Texas, but the Cowboys were beaten by the Baylor Bears last week and the two losses on the season means they are only one more away from matching the number of losses from the whole of 2015.

This is going to be another close match in a Conference where many of the teams seem evenly matched, although none of them look likely to be a contender for a Play Off position this time around. There have been some big losses suffered by teams from the Conference and both Texas and Oklahoma State have lost to non-Conference opponents this season.

The Longhorns were looking a real threat at the top of the Big 12, but their defeat to California coupled with their best win over Notre Dame not looking as strong after four weeks raises questions for Charlie Strong as Head Coach. A lot of what Texas want to do begins by running the ball effectively, but that might not be easy for them this week against a team allowing just 3.6 yards per play on the ground.

Shane Buechele has played well for Texas at Quarter Back and much of this game might be resting on his arm against an Oklahoma State Secondary that has struggled. However it might be more difficult from third and long situations for a young Quarter Back especially as he is expected to face some pressure up front from the Cowboys pass rush.

Overall Texas are happy with the way the Offense has produced, but they have been less impressed with a Defensive unit that has given up at least 43 points in two of their three games this season. Strong is going to making some changes to the Defense in the bye week, but it will be tested by Mason Rudolph and a powerful Oklahoma State passing game.

Where the Longhorns will expect to have success is by stopping the run and also putting pressure on Randolph at the Quarter Back position which might lead to some mistakes. Turnovers are going to be key for Oklahoma State who have had nine in their favour, but given away eight and it was turnovers that prevented them from beating Baylor on the road last week.

There really isn't a lot between these teams and I do think that the winning team is going to be the one that either has the ball last or wins the turnover battle. I'd be surprised if either team is able to pull away, but I do have to point out the road team has dominated the series in recent years.

The Longhorns have not been a good road underdog to back with Charlie Strong as Head Coach, but I think he has had enough time to prepare for this game which can make a difference. Both teams should have success moving the ball, but I think the Texas Defensive pass rush can force Randolph into a couple more mistakes and I like the Longhorns with the points in this one.

Miami Hurricanes @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: I really do like the look of this Miami Hurricanes team this season and I think they will be too strong for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as they begin their ACC Conference play this season. The Yellow Jackets have already had one Conference game when handled at home by the Clemson Tigers and they will want to show there is much more about them following their 3-9 2015 season.

The numbers don't look too bad for Georgia Tech over the course of four games, but they have struggled mightily when facing the better teams on their schedule. Georgia Tech were outgained by 82 yards in a win over Boston College and then 318 yards in their loss to Clemson and Miami are much closer to the latter than the former.

One area in which Georgia Tech might feel they can at least compete with Miami will be in the trenches as they look to slow down a rushing Offense that have averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Of course the Hurricanes have been playing a soft part of their schedule but Mark Walton has been running the ball effectively with the other two Running Backs on the depth chart who helped the Hurricanes punish their first two opponents.

They haven't needed Brad Kaaya much so far this season even if he had a big game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers two weeks ago. Kaaya has been well protected by this Offensive Line and the Yellow Jackets don't exactly have a fierce pass rush which should mean the Quarter Back who has thrown for over 3000 yards in each of the last two seasons has a chance of making some big plays downfield. That will especially be the case if Georgia Tech try to stack the box to stop the run and I think the Hurricanes will move the chains consistently through this game.

I am also not sure how Georgia Tech will get enough Offense of their own to keep up with the Hurricanes. We all know that Paul Johnson is going to run the triple option Offense, but Miami have had two weeks to prepare for this and their Defensive Line have been brilliant so far with just 1.8 yards per play against them when rushing the ball.

Most of the teams aren't really up to the standard of Georgia Tech that Miami have shut down, but they played well against Appalachian State and the Hurricanes are getting a lot of penetration up front. The Yellow Jackets have not run the ball as well as they would have liked and that has not been helped by Justin Thomas struggling to throw the ball from Quarter Back.

While the option is the first call for Thomas, he has to provide a threat throwing the ball to open up the running lanes and that hasn't happened so far. The Hurricanes Secondary haven't given up many yards with the pressure they are getting up front and Georgia Tech could have a hard time maintaining drives in this one.

The Yellow Jackets are just 3-7 against the spread as the home underdog with Paul Johnson as Head Coach and I don't think they are doing enough Offensively to stay with Miami in this one. I will back the Hurricanes to cover a big number on the road and move onto the huge home game with Florida State next week.

Navy Midshipmen @ Air Force Falcons Pick: The Navy Midshipmen have suffered some big injuries to open the season but that has not slowed them down although this is the biggest test they would have faced in the 2016 season. Navy are unbeaten, but so are the Air Force Falcons who opened up Conference play with a win last week and are looking to go 4-0 themselves for the first time since 2003.

No one will be surprised by what we are going to see in this one as both teams will look to run the ball and control the clock. The layers are very much behind the Falcons because their rushing Defense has been much stronger than Navy's so far, but I like the Midshipmen having had a couple of weeks to prepare for this game.

While they were resting, the Falcons had a really tough win at Utah State last week and that might show up here. The key for Air Force might be how well the Defensive Line has shown up so far to stop the run compared with the Navy's Defensive Line that have given up 4.2 yards per carry.

If Air Force can slow down Navy they might have a chance to not only win the game, but to actually go on and win handily, but I think the bye week is huge for the Midshipmen. I also think Will Worth is a better passer than he has shown for Navy so far and the Air Force Secondary have had a hard time which could see the Midshipmen make some big plays through the air.

Navy have won three of the last four in the series and getting a Touchdown worth of points looks like too many for the Midshipmen in this one.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: The Tennessee Volunteers are yet to really produce a solid game from the First Quarter through to the end of the game, but they have remained unbeaten through the first four weeks of the season. They were the consensus pick to win the SEC East and will be in a very strong position to do that already if they can beat the Georgia Bulldogs on the road on Saturday.

The Volunteers snapped a long losing run against the Florida Gators last week having come back from a big deficit at the end of the first half with some huge plays in the second. After struggling to put away the Appalachian State Mountaineers and Ohio Bobcats plus needing a big second half to overturn a deficit to Virginia Tech, there will still be questions about the Volunteers but I see a team that is going to be improving in each passing week.

They haven't won in Georgia since 2006, but they are facing a Bulldogs squad that were beaten easily at the Mississippi Rebels last week and who barely got by the Missouri Tigers prior to that. Now they could be going into this one without their best Offensive player in Nick Chubb and I think Tennessee can get a stranglehold on the Division by beating another of the leading contenders.

Last week Georgia were criticised for their poor tackling and that won't cut it against Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd this week. Tennessee should be able to establish Hurd in this one against the Bulldogs Defensive Line which is giving up 4.4 yards per carry and doing that will open up the passing lanes for Dobbs who has to limit the mistakes to make sure the Volunteers can achieve all they expect this season.

Dobbs has started slowly in some games before picking up his play, but he should be able to have a decent game both running and passing if Hurd is running the ball as he should be able to. The Georgia Secondary has also struggled and Tennessee should be able to move the ball effectively throughout this contest.

The Tennessee Defensive Line has also shown improvement this season as expected and I am struggling to see how Georgia will be able to run the ball consistently without Chubb. The Bulldogs still should have some success when handing the ball to Sony Michel and Brian Herrien but Tennessee should be able to force Georgia into enough third and long situations to force Jacob Eason to make some big plays to keep them in the game.

Eason will be much happier playing at home after struggling massively on the road at Mississippi last week. He hasn't been protected as well as he would like, but the Tennessee pass rush has not been as effective as they would have wanted and that is the one knock against the Volunteers. However the Secondary has played well without turning the ball over and I think the Defensive unit will make it very difficult for Georgia to score enough points to stay with Tennessee in this one.

You might think Georgia would be a team that thrives when being written off, especially at home, but they are just 0-2-1 against the spread in this spot over the last few years. This is the first true road game for Tennessee which can make things difficult, but I like the experience of the Volunteers who are also 3-1 against the spread as the road favourite under Butch Jones. It might be close for a while, but I expect some big plays in the second half to help Tennessee pull away in this one and I will back them to cover on the road.

North Carolina Tar Heels @ Florida State Seminoles Pick: If someone wanted me to pick the highest scoring game of the week, I might be tempted to go with the Florida State Seminoles hosting the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both Offenses look like they are going to have a fairly comfortable time moving the chains in this one so some might be surprised that I think the Seminoles are still going to be able to cover a double digit spread.

That is partly because I really do think the Seminoles Defensive unit are underachieving and they are better than what they have shown so far this season. They are in for a big test against the Tar Heels who have very strong balance on the Offensive side of the ball, but who need to bounce back from a poor day rushing the ball in Week 4.

Before that the North Carolina rushing attack had produced some big numbers including against the Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC against whom they averaged 8.4 yards per carry. However, the Tar Heels were shockingly held to just 18 total rushing yards by the Pittsburgh Panthers last week although this looks a bounce back opportunity with Florida State giving up 5 yards per carry themselves.

Mitch Trubisky is the Quarter Back and no one was worried about Marquise Williams moving on at the end of last season with the experience that Trubisky has earned the last couple of seasons. He has shown he is more than capable by helping the team average over 330 yards per game through the air and Trubisky has over 1300 passing yards already.

That is where Florida State will feel they can win some battles though as their Secondary hasn't played badly thanks to the pressure they have been able to get up front. Being able to somehow limit the rushing Offense will give Florida State the chance to slow down drives and perhaps hold North Carolina to Field Goals rather than Touchdowns which is important when it comes to covering this number.

After the blowout to the Louisville Cardinals, Florida State bounced back to beat a solid South Florida team on the road. They should be capable of running the ball effectively against a North Carolina team that gave up almost 300 rushing yards to the Pittsburgh Panthers last week and Dalvin Cook looked back to his best last week and I expect him to have a big game this week.

Cook running the ball effectively will be a big boost for Deondre Francois at Quarter Back with the young man not playing badly in 2016. He has looked after the ball and keeping him in third and short will allow him to make plays with his legs as well as being able to move the chains behind an Offensive Line that hasn't been as good in pass protection as they have in paving the way with the rushing lanes.

It does have to be said that the North Carolina Secondary is one of the better ones in the ACC and they have played well. But if the Tar Heels can't stop the Florida State rushing attack it is going to be a long day for them and I can see the Seminoles converting more drives into Touchdowns than the Tar Heels will.

That should see them move away in the second half as long as they are not overlooking North Carolina at the big game at Miami next week. After losing to Louisville in the manner they did, Florida State should remain focused and the Tar Heels are just 4-7 against the spread as the road underdog under Larry Fedora.

North Carolina lost by 9 points to Georgia in Week 1 and I think they might not be able to stay with Florida State in this one as I look for the latter to cover the double digit spread.

Wisconsin Badgers @ Michigan Wolverines Pick: Jim Harbaugh came back to alma mater in a bid to restore the Michigan Wolverines and they look a team that could challenge for the National title this season. They were much improved last year and have started with four straight wins in dominating fashion, although there is the small matter of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Division who might have something to say about any National title aspirations the Wolverines have.

This might also be the first real test for the Michigan Wolverines as they host the Wisconsin Badgers, another unbeaten team, on Saturday. Wisconsin have the better wins on paper with a victory over the LSU Tigers followed by one at Michigan State last week, but I am not sure if either of those teams were a little overrated going into the game with the Badgers.

I am much more confident about the Michigan Wolverines and I think they can put together a statement win and give them confidence to take into the rest of the season. I do think Harbaugh already pumps his team up to believe in themselves and he looks a perfect fit for College Football where his personality is rubbing off on new players far quicker than it would in the NFL, although Harbaugh had plenty of success with San Francisco too.

Michigan have relied on a committee at Running Back this season but it has worked for them as they are averaging 5.4 yards per carry, but they are facing a really strong Defensive Line. The Badgers have shown that by slowing down the rushing Offense of both Michigan State and LSU already and it might mean Michigan are looking for more out of Wilton Speight than they have needed so far.

Speight has only thrown for 875 passing yards this season for Michigan but he should be given time to throw against this Wisconsin Secondary. It looks a tough unit to play though as the Badgers are allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game even if they are less experienced than 2015 and the Wolverines will be looking for their own Defensive unit to give their Offense good field position and get into a position to win this game.

There hasn't been a lot of room to score points against the Michigan Wolverines because they have been very effective at stopping the run. That is the start for any good Defensive unit and Wisconsin don't look like they will be able to establish a strong running game in this one.

The difference between the Defenses on display is that Michigan's Secondary have been well protected by a fierce pass rush that the front seven have generated. The Wisconsin Offensive Line has a couple of injuries which may make it even more difficult to keep the Wolverines off of Alex Hornibrook who has been asked to look after the ball at Quarter Back and rely on his Defense to help him win games.

Hornibrook has made some solid plays, but the Michigan Defensive unit might be the best he has faced and I think they are going to be able to create a couple of turnovers which will help them pull away from the Badgers. I think Wisconsin have overachieved and I am not completely sold on them just yet, while Michigan have improved to 7-3 against the spread as the home favourite since Harbaugh took over as Head Coach.

Harbaugh teams have always been a strong home favourite to back and they are now 34-20 against the spread in that spot since his time with the Stanford Cardinal. I think this game will be close for a while, especially on the spread, but I think the Michigan Defensive unit can make enough plays to put the Offense in a good position to come through with a big win on Saturday and perhaps move even higher in the current Rankings.

Illinois Fighting Illini @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: Last season the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished with a 6-7 record, but they lost so many games in heartbreaking fashion that big things were expected of them this time around. One of those tough losses came at the Illinois Fighting Illini, but this time around Nebraska are 4-0 and have had a tight win rather than a loss on their record.

The Cornhuskers have a very experienced Quarter Back in Tommy Armstrong Junior and he has shown that in four very good performances. His ability to run the ball coupled with a solid Running Back unit has helped the Nebraska Cornhuskers punish teams on the ground and the Illinois Defensive Line have not exactly been watertight.

Last time out they gave up 287 rushing yards to Western Michigan in a loss and you have to think Nebraska will be able to rip off some big gains although they will want to improve on their fumbling issues. Armstrong is capable of playing the read zone effectively and Nebraska should ensure the Quarter Back is not having to throw from third and long spots.

Been able to run the ball should slow down the Illinois pass rush which has been very effective in the early portion of the season. They are now facing a strong Offensive Line which has protected Armstrong and the Quarter Back will be able to make some big plays with his arm if Illinois are forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the Cornhuskers from running the ball as they should be capable of doing.

The bare statistics suggest Illinois should be able to have some success running the ball too against a Nebraska team that have given up 4.7 yards per carry. However they were held to just 3 total yards on the ground when losing to Western Michigan two weeks ago and Lovie Smith has to have worked out the kinks if the Fighting Illini are going to make this a competitive game.

It might be an idea for Nebraska to try and force Wes Lunt to beat them from the Quarter Back position as the Illinois Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection. The Cornhuskers have been able to get to the Quarter Back and keeping the Fighting Illini in third and long spots will be a win for them while also giving them a chance to earn Sacks and perhaps even Interceptions as Lunt is forced to throw into a Secondary that have turned the ball over.

Lunt is a capable Quarter Back, but being able to be effective consistently behind this Offensive Line will be difficult if Illinois are not able to run the ball. Turnovers are an issue and could allow the Cornhuskers to pull away in a game where I think they will be difficult to stop when they have the ball in their hands.

The Cornhuskers were a poor home favourite to back last season but they have gone 2-0-1 against the spread in that spot this season. Illinois are 4-13 against the spread as a road underdog in recent seasons while this is their first road game of the season which will make life tough for them. It is a huge number, but turnovers can see Nebraska push ahead and clear it in the second half and I will back them to cover this one.

Louisville Cardinals @ Clemson Tigers Pick: When you look at the schedule, a Louisville Cardinals win on Saturday would make them a big favourite to reach the final four Play Off. They have already beaten the Florida State Seminoles in what is arguably the best Division in College Football, but now the Louisville Cardinals go on the road to face the Clemson Tigers who barely came up short in a loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship Game last season.

All of the talk surrounds Lamar Jackson who has come on leaps and bounds from the 2015 season and is a leading contender to win the Heisman Trophy. It has been some start from Jackson who has 13 Touchdown passes and 12 Touchdown rushing in four games for Louisville and this is a team that have already played on the road this season so won't be overawed about heading to Clemson for the night game.

Jackson has combined with Brandon Radcliff to see Louisville average over 300 rushing yards per game this season, but they are going up against the best Defensive unit they have faced in 2016. The Tigers Defensive Line has prided itself on stopping the run and that looks to be a key battle in this game although they will have had added confidence after shutting down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last week.

The difference is that Jackson is going to be a threat in the passing game although the pass rush that Clemson have generated should mean they can put a spy on the Quarter Back and try and slow him down. Clemson haven't given up much at all on the Defensive side of the ball and have turned the ball over, but this is the hardest test they would have faced too.

With the Offense rolling, the Louisville Cardinals Defensive unit have been very good and been able to take their opportunities to harass opposition Quarter Backs. They played very well in beating the Florida State Seminoles, but now face Deshaun Watson who was expecting to be a Heisman contender this season too.

Watson has been strong throwing the ball and it might be up to him to make some big plays in this one if Clemson are going to win the game because the rushing Offense has not been in sync. They are unlikely to get things rolling against the Louisville Cardinals Defensive Line either and that means Watson will be having to make the plays with his arm to keep the chains moving.

That won't be easy for him but this is an Offensive unit that averaged almost 40 points per game last season and have 8 of the starters back. Watson has been well protected and keeping the fierce Louisville pass rush off him will be key for this Offensive Line in what could be more of a Defensive battle than some people may think.

I do think the Tigers have to be disrespected as the home underdog in this one with all the money siding with the Louisville Cardinals. I love how Louisville have been playing but Clemson were in the National Championship Game last season and have plenty of experience. Clemson haven't been a great home underdog to back, but I expect they will have been fired up for this one and they have won the last two games against Louisville in each of the last two seasons.

The home underdog should be backed in this one in what could be a decider as to which team makes the Play Offs in December.

Arizona State Sun Devils @ USC Trojans Pick: It has been a really disappointing start to the season for the USC Trojans who have been dropped to 1-3 and there is little to look forward to down the stretch. Even getting into the Pac-12 Championship Game looks to be beyond them having dropped to 0-2 in Conference play and I am not sure how anyone is backing them to cover double digits with any kind of confidence.

Then again not a lot of people are as they face the unbeaten Arizona State Sun Devils and the public seem to be siding with the Sun Devils. That does worry me especially when you consider how bad the Arizona State Secondary is and the chances of them giving up plenty of points in this one, but I do think the Sun Devils are ultimately the right side.

It hasn't been an issue for Arizona State to stop the run this season and that could be critical against a USC Offense that is led by a very inexperienced Quarter Back this week. Sam Darnold played well in his first start, but he won't have Justin Davis and Ronald Jones ripping off big yards and that means the pressure will be on the Freshman to make the plays with his arms to move the chains.

I do think Darnold can have a big game statistically against a Secondary that have allowed over 400 passing yards on average per game this season, but he will have to handle the pass rush that can be generated. It is also difficult for young players to always understand what they need to do when in third and long and needing a little more time to let Receivers get downfield might see the pass rush pressure get to him.

However, as I have said, I do think USC will be able to move the chains, but I also think the Arizona State Offense is able to have success in this one too.

The run Defense has really let the USC Trojans down through their first four games and Arizona State certainly have the Running Backs to take advantage. With USC giving up 4.7 yards per carry, Arizona State should find themselves in a position to move the chains consistently and it will also open things up for the play-action as Manny Wilkins has played well at Quarter Back once the run has been established.

He might not need to make a lot of throws, but Wilkins should be able to have some success even against this Secondary with USC likely to need more men at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. The Trojans have struggled to generate an effective pass rush too so Wilkins is expected to have time to make his plays and from third and manageable he should be able to keep the Sun Devils moving the chains and make this something of a shoot out.

There are still some kinks being worked out by the USC Trojans though at 1-3 and I would be surprised if they are able to see off Arizona State easily. This looks a lot of points for a Freshman Quarter Back to cover and especially with a team that might not win either line of scrimmage and I will take the points here.

MY PICKS: Stanford Cardinal + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Miami Hurricanes - 7 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
Navy Midshipmen + 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Tennessee Volunteers - 3 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 10.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 20 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers + 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Arizona State Sun Devils + 10 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Week 4: 6-3, + 2.59 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.78% Yield)
Week 34-6, - 2.23 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
Week 24-5, - 1.32 Units (9 Units Staked, - 14.67% Yield)
Week 16-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)

Season 201620-19, - 0.38 Units (39 Units Staked, - 0.01% Yield)

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

Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (September 30-October 2)

What a week for English Football and I don't mean the fact that every team playing in European competition came back without falling to defeat either!

Big Sam Allardyce, the England manager appointed in August, was sacked after being caught in a newspaper sting which has affected managers and assistant managers through the top two Divisions.

I was a fan of the Allardyce appointment, but that doesn't mean I thought he was whiter than white although I don't think he had a leg to stand on once he was caught selling his services to the 'foreign businessmen' he had just met. In light of that one incident alone I am sure Allardyce might have been given the support to keep him in the England job, but this is the latest in a long line of dubious activities around him and there is no way anyone can suggest this was a one off mistake.

That ultimately was enough to make his position untenable and Allardyce had to fall on his greedy sword at a time when his sole interests should have been doing the job he wanted for all his life. For so long Allardyce has seemingly got away with issues that he has been challenged with and I think he believed he was never going to be caught with his hands in the till until now.

The next few months are going to be interesting to see if the FA make any regulations to oust the potential corruption that is rife in the game, while the papers will concentrate on who will be the next England manager. Gareth Southgate takes over for the next month and the three World Cup Qualifiers to be played in that time and I do wonder if he will remain in charge until next summer at the very least.

September proved to be a very good month for the picks and put the season in a strong position. However October and November have proven to be tough months for my picks in the last couple of years so I won't be getting overexcited about this start.

Instead I will look to focus and get October off to a solid start this weekend.

Everton v Crystal Palace PickThe opening game of the Premier League weekend comes on Friday night again this week in the final round of games before the two week international break. This has the potential of another really good Friday night game after the Chelsea v Liverpool game last week and it is the other side from Merseyside that will be involved.

Everton have made a very good start under Ronald Koeman, but I have felt they have taken advantage of the set of fixtures given to them. The bubble might have burst somewhat when Koeman made changes to his starting eleven in the English Football League Cup which led to an upset at the hands of Norwich City.

A stronger team came out last weekend and were beaten at Bournemouth, but being back at home should give Everton enough confidence they can go into the break with three more points added to the board.

I do think Crystal Palace will play their part though as a team in strong form with 3 consecutive wins behind them in the Premier League. The signings of Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend look to have improved Alan Pardew's options and both players have been important in their 3 game winning run in the League with important goals.

Crystal Palace have scored 9 goals in their last 3 League games and they have the pace to cause Everton plenty of problems and I am looking for an exciting game. Both teams have pace and goalscoring threats in the final third and both are led by Belgian strikers who have been scoring goals in Romelu Lukaku and Benteke.

Last season it may have ended 1-1 here, but the fixture here has usually reached the three goal mark in the last few seasons. In fact 6 of the previous 7 games at Goodison Park between Everton and Crystal Palace had reached that mark before last season and I can see both teams scoring in this one too.

Both Koeman and Pardew won't put the breaks on their sides in this one either as I think they will both believe it is a game from which they can take three points. With the way both have performed in attacking areas over the last month, I am expecting at least three goals in this one and will back that to happen.

Hull City v Chelsea PickThere was a lot of praise for Antonio Conte after the start made by Chelsea, but I have been saying for a while that I felt their results had not been an indication of the performances being produced. I really didn't fancy Chelsea at home against Liverpool and I still think The Blues are a little overrated going into this weekend as a short favourite to win at Hull City.

However I couldn't back Hull City who have been overrated themselves after a very good start and who have been giving up far too many chances for a team that had opened the season with 3 wins in all competitions. They have struggled since then and were hammered by Arsenal and Liverpool over the last two weeks with red cards affecting their game plan in both games.

Another red card in the first half is not going to make it easy for this small squad who might be glad of the two week break between this and the next Premier League game to catch their breath. At the KC Stadium Hull City will be expected to try and attack but that might play into the Chelsea hands who have plenty of pace in the counter attack.

As a Hull City fan you have to feel there will be chances to be created in this one against a defensive unit that has looked very vulnerable. The return of John Terry would be huge for Chelsea, but they have only kept 1 clean sheet all season and Hull City have scored in 2 of their 3 home games in the League and in each of their last 4 in all competitions.

My lean is towards Chelsea earning a narrow win, but I think they are going to have to score at least twice to do that. They have conceded at least twice in their last 4 games in all competitions and Hull City will cause them some problems with the set pieces from Richard Snodgrass already a big part of their attacking plans.

It just looks another game where both teams can score and there should be enough chances for the teams to combine for at least three goals in this one. Neither Hull City nor Chelsea can look to their defensive performances with much confidence at the moment and I will look for this Premier League game to feature at least three goals this weekend.

Manchester United v Stoke City PickSome of the performances still need improving for Manchester United who continue to be a work in progress under Jose Mourinho who is trying to change the mindset of the players. He will be desperate to put another win on the board on Sunday to try and keep the pressure on the leaders while also giving Manchester United some momentum to take into the international break.

The fixtures coming out of that break are very difficult with games against Liverpool, Fenerbahce, Chelsea and Manchester City over a ten day period in three different competitions. Manchester United would like to go into those with 4 wins in a row behind them and they are facing a Stoke City team that have looked out of sync through the first two months of the season.

No one would have tipped Stoke City for relegation and no one in positions of power are panicking about a poor start to the season. However the fans will be a little concerned and will be looking for Mark Hughes to turn things around very quickly.

It is not likely to happen at Old Trafford with Stoke City proving to be much easier to play against these days and having a really poor record in this Stadium. They have lost on their last 13 trips to Old Trafford and were beaten 3-0 here last season and the changes to the way you can defend set pieces certainly makes the Stoke City team look even more susceptible to conceding goals from those situations.

The worry for Hughes has to be the way his Stoke City have tended to collapse in recent games and I do think they could have a long day in the office. The early start after the late Thursday game is not ideal for Manchester United but they have shown they can score goals and I think Stoke City might struggle to contain them if they fall behind in this one.

Stoke City have now conceded at least four goals in half of their last 12 Premier League games and were beaten 4-1 at Crystal Palace two weeks ago. I think this one might not get as out of hand as that, but I expect Manchester United to be too strong on the day and I will back them to win this by a couple of goals, the third time in four Premier League games at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho.

Leicester City v Southampton PickThis might not be a live game on Sunday, but it certainly looks a Premier League game in which both Leicester City and Southampton will believe they can take the three points. I expect both managers will feel that way as they get set for a two week break from the Premier League having come off solid European performances.

Southampton have kept 5 clean sheets in a row which makes them a tough test for any team in the Premier League. They had won 4 in a row before the draw in Israel on Thursday and many of the first team players were rested so they could be ready for this game at the King Power Stadium without the travel making them too fatigued.

This is a Stadium in which Leicester City have played well this season and is perhaps hidden by the poor away performances in the League. They have scored plenty of goals at home and have won 3 of their last 4 games here in all competitions and I expect The Foxes to be a little too good for Southampton on the day.

There won't be much between the teams and I can't imagine it being settled by anything other than a single goal margin. If Leicester City can score first I think they will be hard to peg back and backing them to win at odds against looks a tempting enough price in this one.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City PickThe Premier League has produced a number of really high-scoring games through the first two months of the season and that is shown by the statistics where the top fourteen clubs are averaging 2.50 goals or better in their games so far.

I have picked a couple of other matches where I am expecting the teams to combine for at least three goals and this is the third of those games this weekend.

Both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have had some issues defensively that the other will expect to expose on Sunday in the second live game on the day. Even without Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur have shown they can score goals although this is a big test for them against a team that has been rampant in the Premier League.

However the most vulnerable area of the Manchester City team remains the defence and they have now conceded in their last 5 away games in all competitions. They didn't look impressive in that area against Celtic and Tottenham Hotspur have the quality in the final third to hurt them.

On the other hand, Manchester City have scored at least twice in every away game they have played under Pep Guardiola and looked a big threat every time they came forward against Celtic. I do think Tottenham Hotspur are a better team than Celtic and the absence of Kevin De Bruyne will likely have a bigger impact in this game than it did on Wednesday, especially with Nolito out as well.

In saying that, Manchester City will continue to play in the style Pep Guardiola will be expecting and that means a lot of attacking football with perhaps some lapses at the back. With the way their games have been played this season coupled with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City being a fixture that has produced goals and I will back at least three goals to be shared out in this game on Sunday afternoon.

Burnley v Arsenal Pick: The final game of the Premier League weekend is a big one at the top and bottom of the table and it is a big question for Arsenal to answer. After some stunning results of late, this is the kind of game that Arsenal would fail to win in previous seasons, but doing it here will show the rest of the Premier League that they are ready to challenge for the title.

Going to Turf Moor won't be easy for any team and Burnley have already beaten Liverpool and Watford here with the former result looking very impressive. However I think they might have caught Liverpool cold and this is a team that doesn't really score enough goals and will be challenged by an Arsenal team that are flying in front of goal.

There is pace and creativity in the Arsenal final third and I think they are the kind of team that will give Burnley a lot of problems unless Sean Dyche's men get an early goal as they did against Liverpool. At some point I would expect Arsenal to turn up the pressure and that to eventually wear down Burnley in this one.

The layers aren't taking any chances with the Arsenal price though and that is a concern. They are being asked to cover two goals for a full payout on the Asian Handicap but I do think Arsenal are capable of doing that in their current form and they did crush Hull City away from home two weeks ago, albeit helped out with the Jake Livermore sending off.

I am impressed with the Burnley home results so far this season, but Arsenal can become the second team to win at Turf Moor in the Premier League and I do think they are playing well enough to cover the Asian Handicap here.

MY PICKS: Everton-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Hull City-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Leicester City @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Final43-28-1, + 35.17 Units (133 Units Staked, + 26.44% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)
Season 2016/17: 73-66-3, + 26.17 Units (257 Units Staked, + 10.18% Yield)

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

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

Tennis Picks 2016 (September 30th)

There was a much better set of results on Thursday which is helping move the week back in a positive direction, but it wasn't a perfect day and that means room for improvement is there.

We have reached the Quarter Finals in the majority of the tournaments being played this week and the Semi Finals in the Wuhan tournament as the Asian swing gets set to move onto a couple of really big events at the beginning of October.

At this stage of the tennis season the focus is on getting to the World Tour Finals/End of Year Championships for the players at the forefront of the ATP and WTA Tours and that should keep players motivated as they try to secure their positions in the top eight. The WTA Tour comes to an end sooner than the ATP Tour and this is the final month of the 2016 season for the women players compared with the men who have a couple of extra weeks to play.

Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: One of the more memorable moments on the Tour this season has to be the way Grigor Dimitrov forfeited in his defeat to Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in the Final in Istanbul. It was during the height of Dimitrov's poor performances in 2016 when he fell apart in the third set decider but there have been signs over the last couple of months that he is finding his game again.

I am not ready to see Dimitrov take on the best players on the Tour as I do feel he will ultimately come up short in those matches, but he should be confident of earning some revenge over Schwartzman. The match in Istanbul was very close until the final set and Dimitrov is playing at a better level now which makes me think he can have a relatively straight-forward win in this one.

The Dimitrov game is still a little uncertain at times as he is not getting enough of the first serve and continues to make plenty of errors off the ground. However there have been more signs of Dimitrov finding his consistency and the hard courts should favour him more than Schwartzman which should give him the edge in the match.

I do think the Schwartzman serve can be vulnerable even if he has recorded two very good wins already in Chengdu this week. I am expecting Dimitrov to have his chances to break serve in the match and I think he is going to be strong enough at the key moments to come through with a 63, 64 win.

Dominic Thiem - 4.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: There is every chance that Dominic Thiem is going to be a part of the World Tour Finals for the first time in his career, but he still has work to do if he wants to make that a reality. Winning the tournament in Chengdu would be huge for him as he tries to improve from his current position of Number 7 in the Race to London and also to earn some momentum to take into the big events coming up.

2016 has already been a memorable year for Thiem and he was a fairly routine winner in the Second Round to move into this Quarter Final. He will have to be better if Thiem is going to find a way to get past Albert Ramos-Vinolas even if the Spaniard is most happy on the clay courts.

However his lefty serve will always be awkward for players to deal with even if it isn't the most powerful shot on the Tour. When Ramos-Vinolas is not able to hit his spots, I do think the serve is going to be attacked by Thiem who won't be afraid of using his backhand to hit heavily into the Ramos-Vinolas forehand and earn something from that.

Thiem will need some time to adjust to what he is seeing from Ramos-Vinolas in their first match on the Tour. He has shown he can do that and begin to turn matches in his favour and I think that is what happens here as the young Austrian comes through a tight first set to win this one 76, 62.

Dominika Cibulkova + 2.5 games v Svetlana Kuznetsova: The first Semi Final in Wuhan is perhaps a surprising one that not many would have picked before the tournament began. Both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dominika Cibulkova are solid players on the Tour, but have come through a half of the draw that did contain Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova so their presence in the Semi Final is unexpected.

This match will have a big impact on the Race to Singapore though with Cibulkova going into the tournament in Number 7 spot and Kuznetsova Number 11 and the winner will believe they have made a huge step to playing in the elite eight. However there is plenty of the line with a place in the Wuhan Final at stake so I am not going to believe the players are worrying about their position in Singapore instead of the immediate match in front of them.

I can't imagine this will be anything but a close and competitive match between two players who have played seven times previously but not since the 2011 season. Both Kuznetsova and Cibulkova came through tough matches on Thursday to get to the Semi Final and you have to think Kuznetsova is favourite as her opponent had to win two matches on Thursday to get through to this one.

I do have to respect the fact that Cibulkova had those tough matches on Thursday, but this is not a match that will have too many gruelling rallies with both players big time shotmakers. I think Kuznetsova has the edge on the serve, but she has lost four in a row to Cibulkova and that will be something these players might remember even if it was five years ago when they last met. I am a fan of Cibulkova and I think she can make this competitive by forcing Kuznetsova into some mistakes as she fights fire with fire and I will take the games being offered.

Simona Halep - 2.5 games v Petra Kvitova: It will be strange to watch the WTA End of Year Championships and not have Petra Kvitova involved, but her 2016 has been one of disappointment. This week has been far from a disappointment though and Kvitova has been in impressive form, although the challenge in front of her is arguably the most difficult one she will have faced.

That might sound funny considering she has beaten the US Open Champion and current World Number 1 Angelique Kerber, but physically I don't think Kvitova can be anything near where she wants when taking on Simona Halep. Beating Johanna Konta in straight sets was very important for Kvitova to get some more time to rest, but someone like Halep can force her into the really long rallies she would like to avoid.

Halep also has won all three previous matches between these players including when they played in the Fed Cup earlier this year. The Romanian will be playing in Singapore at the end of October and she has been in fine form over the last two months while her confidence should mean she is not going to be intimidated by the raw power Kvitova has been displaying in Wuhan.

I do think there will be moments that Kvitova is able to penetrate the Halep defences and the serving edge definitely goes to the former too. She has been playing well enough to win this match, but I think Halep is in the better place physically and has the mental edge having won all previous matches against Kvitova and I like Halep to come through with a 36, 63, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 8-8, - 2.56 Units (32 Units Staked, - 8% Yield)

Thursday, 29 September 2016

NFL Week 4 Picks 2016 (September 29-October 3)

It has been a couple of frustrating weeks for the NFL Picks with Indianapolis first blowing a cover and then earning one with scores inside the last two minutes of games. That's pretty annoying when you think it would have just taken one or two stops to turn this season around into a positive position, but I have at least felt I have not been too far away from a really big week.

Week 4 begins on Thursday 29th September with Thursday Night Football between Cincinnati and Miami and I am looking for a much better week to get this season moving in a position I expect it to go.

Picks from Week 4 will come out in the next couple of days once they are finalised, but I do have an offering from the Thursday Night game this week.

Miami Dolphins @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: The second this game saw the spread move above seven points, I was keen on getting on the underdog and my favourite NFL team the Miami Dolphins. It has not been a great start to the season and Miami did their best to blow the game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, but they have put a win up and I loved Head Coach Adam Gase's reaction to the bumbling manner in which it came.

The 1-2 record the Miami Dolphins have is pretty much where they would have expected to be after three games, but the Cincinnati Bengals will be disappointed with their own 1-2 record heading into Week 4. They can't afford another slip this week with games against Dallas, New England and Washington to come before the bye week.

But those challenges might also mean Cincinnati are not completely focused on the Miami Dolphins having played Pittsburgh and Denver the last couple of weeks and with Andy Dalton looking a little banged up. His Offensive Line has not helped his cause especially with Tyler Eifert still missing and Muhammad Sanu moving on to Atlanta.

The Sacks given up by Cincinnati as Dalton perhaps has to hold onto the ball a little longer when AJ Green is double teamed is going to be an issue against the Miami Defensive Line. This is where the strength of the Miami Defensive unit lies and I think Dalton will be under siege for much of this game especially if the Miami Offense can sustain drives and give the Defensive Line the rest they need.

The rushing Defense is still an issue for Miami and so Jeremy Hill may be able to rip off some big gains to help Dalton remain in third and manageable spots. However the Bengals have not been opening holes as they would have liked and the Dolphins have to feel they can make some big plays up front which protects the Secondary and Linebackers who have not been as strong.

Arian Foster looks like he will be missing for Miami again, but Jarvis Landry is expected to suit up. The Miami Offensive Line have not done a good job opening holes for the Running Backs even if Jay Ajayi did score the winning Touchdown on the ground last week against the Cleveland Browns. The Dolphins are unlikely to have much success against the Bengals Defensive unit who will have Vontaze Burfict back at Linebacker to improve that rushing Defense a bit more.

That means the pressure is on Ryan Tannehill who looks unlikely to be the long time answer at Quarter Back for the Miami Dolphins. He has been fairly well protected and has two very good Receivers in Landry and DeVante Parker who can make plays for him, but Tannehill can be guilty of the big turnover which can cost his team.

Tannehill should have plenty of opportunity for a good night statistically and I do think Miami can move the chains consistently which makes this number of points vey appealing. Miami are 8-3 against the spread as the road underdog in games against teams that are not in the same Division and I think they will score enough points to make it very difficult for Cincinnati to cover the spread in the Thursday Night Football game.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Pick: Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts came into the 2016 season with big expectations, but both have struggled through the first month of the season. This game is being played in London this year and could easily be featuring two 0-3 teams if not for a late big play from the Colts to beat the San Diego Chargers in Week 3.

This is a huge moment for Gus Bradley as Head Coach for the Jaguars who were really expected to take a significant step forward in 2016. Two close losses at home against the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens and a blowout defeat the San Diego Chargers has put Bradley firmly on the hot seat and he wouldn't be the first Head Coach to lose his job after a defeat in London.

As has been the case through the history of the NFL, failing to be able to run the ball puts too much pressure on an Offense and that has been a big problem for Jacksonville. They are only averaging 2.8 yards per carry as TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory have failed to produce and there isn't likely to be a lot of room up front in this one as that is an area with an injury hit Indianapolis Defense has played well.

Being kept in third and long means Blake Bortles is having to throw from behind the chains, but I also think the Quarter Back has not progressed to where I thought he would be in 2016. Bortles had a solid 2015, but the expectation was to build on that although the reality is that he has 5 Touchdown passes and 6 Interceptions through the first three weeks of the season.

The Colts are still banged up in the Secondary so Bortles has a chance for his best game of the season, but his Offensive Line hasn't always held up in pass protection. I am not sure the Colts pass rush is the best, but Bortles will need time for his Receivers to get downfield and should be able to move the chains if he is given that time and can avoid the big mistakes that have cost the Jaguars.

Gus Bradley is known for his time as Defensive Co-Ordinator with the Seattle Seahawks and his Jaguars team have actually played well on that side of the ball. They have a solid Defensive Line which should be able to limit what Frank Gore can do on the ground and the pressure up front is going to be key to stop Andrew Luck who has been inconsistent in 2016 himself.

Luck isn't operating behind the best Offensive Line, but the turnovers attributed to him have many times been from mistakes of his own. The Colts still have a high-octane passing Offense, but Luck will know he needs to be better if they are going to get back to the Play Offs having missed out last season despite being a pre-season favourite to win the Super Bowl.

There have been signs of improvement the last couple of weeks as Indianapolis were close to beating Denver on the road and then came back and beat the San Diego Chargers last week. I do think the Colts are the better team in this game and I am not sure the Jaguars are fully behind their Head Coach at the moment which can show up in these London games.

The Jaguars are just 1-2 against the spread and straight up in London and Indianapolis are 5-2 against the spread against them with Luck at Quarter Back. I think the Colts have played better than the record suggests the last couple of weeks and I can see them making a couple of big plays on the Defensive side of the ball to slow down Jacksonville drives and win this game.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: There wouldn't have been many fans who would have predicted the Atlanta Falcons would be sitting in a better position than the Carolina Panthers going into their Week 4 NFC South battle. Even fewer would have anticipated that after seeing Atlanta beaten at home by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, but the Falcons have bounced back with impressive wins over the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints, both on the road.

The Atlanta Offense has been rolling through the first three weeks of the season and they have scored at least 24 points in every game, while hitting 35 or more in their two wins. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are arguably the best duo at Running Back in the NFL and Matt Ryan continues to play as one of the better Quarter Backs in the League with a very solid Receiving unit.

I do think it is fair to say that the Falcons have not exactly been battling the elite Defenses in the NFL and while Carolina are not up with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, they are certainly better than what Atlanta have seen. To be fair to the Panthers, their 1-2 record is more down to Offensive struggles than Defensively and I can see them slowing down the Falcons.

The Defensive Line were very strong against the run last season and they have been able to hold teams to 3.4 yards per carry this time around. That might mean Atlanta employing more screens to get the likes of Coleman and Freeman into space, but ultimately Carolina should feel they can force the Falcons into third and long situations.

A Secondary that lost Josh Norman during the off-season have also not been too bad, although they haven't been helped by the Offensive turnovers. They have been able to turn the ball over and Matt Ryan will be under pressure by the pass rush up front which could see drives stall and having to settle for Field Goals rather than Touchdowns this week.

As I have said, the Carolina 1-2 record is thanks to Offensive mishaps as the Panthers have battled two of the best Defenses in the NFL in Denver and Minnesota. Cam Newton has struggled in those games, but this is a big chance for him to have a bounce back game in a Stadium where the Panthers lost their unbeaten record last season.

From one of the top Defenses, Carolina are now battling one of the worst in the NFL and I can't see Atlanta being able to create the issues Denver and Minnesota have. They have struggled to stop the run and I expect the Panthers will be able to do that even in the absence of Jonathan Stewart although the concern is that Newton was a little banged up last week and might not be risking picking up First Downs with his legs.

Newton's arm should suffice against a team giving up over 300 passing yards per game this season and who have allowed at least 28 points in every game. It does look like Newton has been under siege behind his Offensive Line, but those stats are skewed by the Defenses he has faced and I am not sure Atlanta are going to have the success the Broncos and Vikings did in bringing down the Quarter Back.

With Receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen to call upon, Newton is going to have his way with this Secondary and the revenge angle from last season as well as trying to erase the performance of Week 3 should be motivation enough.

My concern is that Carolina have not been a great favourite to back on the road but I think they are the better team. If this develops into a shoot out, you have to think the Panthers Defensive unit is stronger and can make the big plays to prevent Touchdowns. Atlanta are 7-2 against the spread as the home underdog but I will look for these teams to be leaving Week 4 with the same 2-2 record and will back the Panthers to have a rare cover on the road at Atlanta.

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears Pick: I hate looking at a spread and thinking 'how can Team A be so small a favourite to win?' but that is how I am feeling looking at the Detroit Lions when they visit the Chicago Bears. The home team are in disarray at the moment and they are lacking leaders, while injuries are severely restricting what the Chicago Bears are able to do.

Jay Cutler looks likely to be sitting again which mean Brian Hoyer gets the keys to the Offense for a second week in a row. Usually you would say he can hand the ball over to his Running Back against a Detroit Defensive Line that has struggled to stop the run this season, but Jeremy Langford has been ruled out too which means rookie Jordan Howard will try and make a big impact on the game.

The Bears haven't been able to stick with a running game simply as they have been far behind in the last couple of weeks, but the Offensive Line can have success opening holes for Howard while this game is close. However the Bears will struggle if they have to move away from the run and throw the ball as Hoyer can be hit and miss at Quarter Back.

Hoyer won't be helped by the fact that Alshon Jeffrey is banged up and Kevin White is still trying to find his feet at the NFL level following his injury which ruled him out through 2015. The Offensive Line has not been very good in pass protection but Detroit might be missing Ziggy Ansah again this week although I still think the Lions will be able to get after Hoyer in the obvious passing situations.

The Lions are looking to recover from back to back losses too, although they will feel they are to blame for not having a winning record. Matt Stafford and the Offense have played well but penalties have stalled drives and they will know they need to clean up their play if they are going to challenge in a Division where both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings play.

It does have to be noted that the Chicago Defense hasn't played terribly, but they are being hurt with more and more injuries on a weekly basis. In Week 2 they allowed rookie sensation Carson Wentz to carve them up through the air and Week 3 it was the Dallas rushing Offense that ran them over. Theo Riddick gives Detroit the balance to go with Matt Stafford at Quarter Back and that is important for the Lions.

Even in the departure of Calvin Johnson, Detroit have been able to throw the ball effectively with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones a solid Receiving corps and Eric Ebron a very good pass catching Tight End. Kyle Fuller is the latest Defensive player to go down for Chicago and his the best player in the Secondary which makes it a big worry for the Bears in trying to slow down the Detroit Lions.

Chicago are now 1-11 in their last 12 games at Soldier Field and they are 2-10 against the spread while the Lions have won 6 in a row in the series. I really just don't see how the Bears can keep up with a strong Detroit Offensive line up and I am going to back the Lions who are not the best away favourite in recent seasons.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Pick: Tom Brady might not have played through the first three weeks of the season, but the New England Patriots have not been bothered in the slightest as they have gone 3-0. It speaks volumes for how good Bill Belichick is that they have even gone down to their third string Quarter Back and won games, but it does look like Jimmy Garoppolo will be back behind Center having missed the win over Houston.

The Patriots have had a few extra days to prepare for their latest clash against a Rex Ryan squad when they face the Buffalo Bills in Week 4. It is going to be a challenge for the Patriots although Garoppolo has surprised with how well he has played in his time under Center.

He might be demanded to do more this week though as LeGarrette Blount is unlikely to find the running lanes he has in the opening three weeks. While the Buffalo Defensive unit has underachieved, they have been strong when it comes to stopping the run having held teams to under 100 yards per game at 3.4 yards per carry.

If they can limit the impact Blount is having on the game, New England will be forced to throw the ball behind an Offensive Line that is going to face the exotic blitzes that Ryan is likely to throw at them. That might give Garoppolo, or Jacoby Brissett something to think about even if the Buffalo Secondary has struggled against the pass.

Julian Edelman might have a decent game with Danny Amendola, but Rob Gronkowski is still coming back from an injury and is clearly not at 100%. The Bills have played well Defensively in the majority of their games so far this season even if it is possible to pass against them, but that hasn't shown up on the scoreboard as often.

The Bills Defense is going to need to play well if there is any hope of an upset because the Offensive unit have lost Sammy Watkins who is one of their best playmakers when healthy. New England had a huge performance in shutting out the Houston Texans, but the Defensive unit can be worn down and are missing a couple of key players including Rob Ninkovich.

Buffalo will likely be using a lot of LeSean McCoy who had a big game against Arizona last week and Tyrod Taylor is a threat to run the ball every time he has it at Quarter Back. With the Patriots allowing 4.4 yards per carry, Buffalo can control the clock as long as this is close with their ability to run the ball and that may open up a few passing lanes even though Watkins is out.

Teams have had to throw against New England to try and beat them which has not helped the numbers in the Secondary but it is difficult to know who will step up in place of Watkins. If the Patriots load the box, Buffalo might be dared to throw and that would worry me as Taylor has not shown the same poise which got him his huge contract extension.

Rex Ryan teams have gone 3-0-1 against the spread in their last 4 visits to New England with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. They are getting plenty of points in this one too and I think Buffalo will be able to cover even if it comes in the same manner as Miami when coming back to get within seven. Having more than a Touchdown worth of points looks too many to be giving the Bills and I will back Rex Ryan to find a cover in New England yet again.

Seattle Seahawks @ New York Jets Pick: With the spread as it is and with the New York Jets having been blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs last week I was expecting the public to be pounding the Seattle Seahawks. Surprisingly that is not the case with Vegas looking at a 50-50 split on the tickets so far, but I am going to have a small interest in the New York Jets with the points.

I simply can't back Ryan Fitzpatrick off a performance like he had at Kansas City and with both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall either banged up or out. He is facing an even better Defensive unit with the Seahawks in town and I am wondering how many points the Jets are going to score.

So why do I think they can cover with less than a Touchdown lead? Simply that I don't think Seattle are going to be scoring points for fun in this one either as Russell Wilson is banged up. The fact he is playing behind an Offensive Line which has more holes than a cheese is an issue against the strength of the Jets Defensive unit up front and Wilson may not be able to escape pressure as usual with both legs banged up.

Christine Michael has played well in place of the now retired Marshawn Lynch, but the Jets are very good against the run so the pressure will be on Wilson to make plays. He can throw the ball up and hope Jimmy Graham makes some big plays for him, but Seattle have been having a hard time scoring outside of playing San Francisco and this looks another game when they might struggle.

I do wish this was at least three points in favour of the Jets but I think they can be backed for a small interest as Seattle look to get healthier in their bye week next week.

Denver Broncos @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: There are a few small road favourites that I seem to be backing this week and that includes the Denver Broncos who are travelling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they look to move to 4-0 on the season.

It has been a tough start for Tampa Bay who have dropped to 1-2 despite winning at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. They have made mistakes in the losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams which the Buccaneers have not been able to overcome, and mistakes against this Denver team is only going to lead to another loss.

The Broncos have loved feasting on mistakes made by the Offenses they have faced and they remain one of the best Defensive units in the NFL. Doug Martin looks to be missing again for the Buccaneers which is a big weapon they are losing and it will be up to Charles Sims to find a way to run the ball against the Broncos.

That is more to do with the Offensive Line struggling to open consistent holes for Tampa Bay than Denver's early performances against the run though. It might mean Sims can have some success in this one but the bigger question is about Jameis Winston and whether he can have a cleaner game than the last couple of games have been.

I like Winston, but he is in for a big challenge against the Broncos team who have a fierce pass rush and will get after the Quarter Back any time he is in obvious passing situations. There will be times Winston can throw it up for Mike Evans to make plays, but to get the chains moving consistently does look very tough for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this game.

Trevor Siemian might be 3-0 as a starter but the first two games he has to have been thanking the Defensive unit for those wins. Last week he did have his best game for Denver in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals and Siemian has to feel he can back that up against this Secondary which has struggled to stop passing units.

Both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were very much in action last week and Siemian will be looking to feed his top Receivers against this Secondary who have struggled for much of the season. Teams have dared the Broncos to throw with their inexperienced Quarter Back but Tampa Bay will have to show they can defend the pass better than they have if they are going to have success in this one.

The Buccaneers have been strong against the run which might mean they can devote more men to the coverage perhaps, but a similar level of performance to last week will give Siemian a chance to give Denver another win behind his arm. I do think Tampa Bay are better than their record, but moving the chains consistently without mistakes against this Broncos team will be tough and Tampa Bay are a poor 7-20-1 against the spread as the home underdog since 2009.

I would have preferred this to be under three points, but I do think the Broncos are the better team and can cover on the road.

New Orleans Saints @ San Diego Chargers Pick: There looks to be no change in the New Orleans Saints Defensive performances this season and that is going to make it very difficult to win games. Sean Payton has to be on the hot seat as the Head Coach despite winning a Super Bowl for the Saints and they are in a desperate position to avoid a 0-4 start when they travel to the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers must be wondering how they are 1-2 themselves with a big lead blown at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 and then losing in Week 3 inside the last two minutes against the Indianapolis Colts. The suggestions they are still looking to move from San Diego to Los Angeles won't help matters if they lose again, but the Chargers have won their only home game and will expect to make it two from two in California.

It is hard to see how the New Orleans Saints will be able to slow down the Chargers when Philipp Rivers has the ball in his hands. They can't stop the run so Melvin Gordon could have a very big game, and there has been limited pass rush pressure which means the Secondary has been carved up.

There might be some encouragement that the likes of Kenny Vaccaro could return this week which will give New Orleans some real help in the Secondary. However I have to think San Diego are going to have a real chance to score 28 points or more, but the key for me is that I think the New Orleans Saints are able to match them score for score.

That makes the four points spread look a touch too high to me, especially if Drew Brees can get back to the mistake free Football he had been playing before the Interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons. Turnovers could be a huge part of this game with the team winning that battle likely to win the game, but New Orleans can match San Diego if it comes to simply looking at the potential for scoring drives.

Payton has complained that there hasn't been the balance on the Offense he would have liked and that means seeing more of Mark Ingram this week. He should be able to establish the run as long as New Orleans aren't chasing the game too much, and that will make life all the more comfortable for Brees who was a former Chargers starting Quarter Back.

Brees is facing a Secondary that have given up big yardage through the air and the quickness of the Quarter Back's throws means the Chargers pass rush is unlikely to rattle him. The Saints have never been as good outdoors as they have inside Domes, but Brees should be more than aware of how the conditions will play in San Diego and I think he will have a huge game statistically.

That should see the Saints stay with San Diego and potentially upset them outright, but taking the points with a team who are 6-3-1 against the spread as the road underdog in recent games is worth taking.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: Week 3 was an embarrassment for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they did see Le'Veon Bell return in time for Week 4 and the side are 2-1 which is a decent enough start to the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to bounce back from that hammering at the Philadelphia Eagles and with Bell back in the line up they look a lot more dangerous Offensively than they have.

The Steelers need all of the Offensive help they can get with Antonio Brown not being supported by the rest of the Receiving corps since Martavis Bryant went down with suspension. DeAngelo Williams has played well when running the ball, but Bell is a big threat catching the ball and gives the Steelers another crease.

Bell may also be lined up in the slot so the Kansas City Chiefs will have to keep an eye on the Running Back who has been chomping at the bit to go. The Chiefs Defensive unit could be missing Marcus Peters, who some say is the best Corner Back in the NFL, and they have not been as effective shutting down the running game as they perhaps would have liked.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers should show they are better than they showed in Week 3 and I do think they can move the chains effectively in this one. I am looking for Bell to have a big game, not just because I have him in my Fantasy Football team, but he is one of the most diverse Running Backs in the League and can be a threat carrying or catching.

The Chiefs should have their success too because the Steelers have generated next to nothing pass rush. That should mean Alex Smith can use his check down passes to success with time to keep the chains moving and I do think he will have a decent game too.

While it is close, Kansas City can use the returning Jamaal Charles to join Spencer Ware in having some success running the ball, although that is not likely to be a strong point of attack for the Chiefs. Both players are a threat in the screen game though and that might be the best way Kansas City can keep the chains moving in this one with the Steelers having a few issues Defensively when it comes to their health.

It will work while the game is close, but Pittsburgh have a quick strike Offense and I can see the Chiefs struggling to stay with them if they fall a couple of scores behind. I do think Pittsburgh are the better team and look underrated after being blown out in Week 3 and I do expect a response from them.

Pittsburgh are 12-6 against the spread as the home favourite and I think they can improve on that again in Week 4 as they cover against the Kansas City Chiefs in a primetime Sunday game.

New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: The Minnesota Vikings have battled through the injuries they have suffered on the Offensive side of the ball and they are looking to remain one of three teams to be unbeaten in the 2016 season. A win would mean they are one of two teams that have gotten to 4-0 as their new Stadium gets ready to host Monday Night Football for the first time.

Their opponents the New York Giants might believe they should be coming into Week 4 at 3-0 too, but they blew a big lead in losing at home to Washington last week. Now they face arguably the top two teams in the NFC in back to back road games on primetime and injuries in the Secondary certainly make the Giants vulnerable here.

The Giants will look to make Minnesota a little one-dimensional as they have actually played the run pretty well this season and won't be worried about Adrian Peterson. I don't think the Giants will respect the likes of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon as much and instead might devote more men into coverage to protect the banged up Secondary.

It might not matter with the way Sam Bradford has played the last two weeks as he refuses to make the mistakes that can cost the Vikings and instead is convinced the Defensive unit will help him when things are not going smoothly Offensively. That is a smart way to work and I think Bradford can have a decent outing, particularly linking up with Stefon Diggs, but the headlines are likely to be grabbed by the Defense again this week.

There is no doubting that Eli Manning and the New York Giants have a strong passing game, but the Quarter Back is likely to be under siege every time he steps back to throw. The Vikings have a fierce pass rush which has made Quarter Backs like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton find nowhere to go and Manning is not nearly as mobile as those two while also playing behind an Offensive Line that might struggle to contain those rushes.

It's not like the Giants can establish a strong running game to take the heat away either so Manning could be under considerable pressure to find the time to hit his triple threat at Receiver. There will be times the Giants are able to do that, but I can see a lot of their drives bogging down as penalties, Sacks, and Manning have to look for the check down pass prevents them from sustaining any consistency Offensively.

The Minnesota Defense has made some big plays already in the opening month of the season and I can see that unit making the difference in this one too. Last December they picked off Manning three times and forced three fumbles (although didn't recover one of those) in a blow out of the Giants at home and I think the Defense is going to make those kind of big plays to help Minnesota cover this number on Monday Night Football too.

I'd be surprised if it is another blow out considering the injuries Minnesota have and the strength New York have up front, even with the injuries in the Secondary, but I do think the Vikings pull away in this one. Picking a favourite in a primetime game isn't the best option with the struggles they have had recently, but Minnesota can make it three from three in Week 4 and I am going to back them to cover in this one.

MY PICKS: Miami Dolphins + 8 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 2 Points @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers - 3 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Detroit Lions - 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills + 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
New York Jets + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Denver Broncos - 3 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

New Orleans Saints + 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings - 4 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Week 3: 2-3-1, - 2.27 Units (10 Units Staked, - 22.70% Yield)
Week 25-5, - 0.70 Units (20 Units Staked, - 3.50% Yield)
week 14-3-1, + 0.29 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.93% Yield)