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

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

Monday, 31 October 2016

Paris Masters Tennis Picks 2016 (October 31st)

Another week is in the books and congratulations have to be offered to Dominika Cibulkova who took the Agnieszka Radwanska route to winning the WTA Finals having recovered from losing her first two Group matches before winning three matches in a row to win the title.

That was impressive from Cibulkova, while Sunday also saw Andy Murray win the title in Vienna and inch a little closer to the World Number 1 spot on the ATP Tour, while Marin Cilic's title win in Basel means he has got a little closer to a place in London for the World Tour Finals.

With Rafael Nadal already out for the rest of the season, Cilic has moved into a top eight spot but the event in Paris has regularly been the one that decides who can make the Tour Finals and who can't. Six of the places have been set with Gael Monfils confirmed for a place in London, so he has decided to rest up this week, but there are a number of players fighting for the remaining two places.

It makes the event in Paris an important one for a number of reasons and every player here can focus with this being the last event of the season for most. Anyone chasing points can give their all knowing the World Tour Finals won't begin until a week after the Final is played here and I hope for a good solid week of tennis to come.

The WTA Tour isn't quite finished either with the Elite Trophy beginning on Tuesday and played through the week- anyone in Britain will be all too aware of that as Johanna Konta finishes her season at the event after barely missing out for a place in Singapore at the WTA Finals.

It was another winning week for the picks, but I still can be a little frustrated that Andy Murray didn't cover in his title win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray dominated, had plenty of chances to earn a double break in the second set, and only had one poor service game which cost him the cover despite looking set to do so.

After the way last Wednesday went down, things most definitely could have been worse so I won't be too upset over the way things turned out.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 1.5 games v Fabio Fognini: It has only been a couple of weeks since Pablo Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini were competing against one another in the Final of the ATP Moscow event. On that occasion it was Carreno Busta who came from a set down to beat the Italian and take the title home while he also made it two wins from two matches on the pro Tour against Fognini.

That was the one week that both Carreno Busta and Fognini have really put some results together since the US Open with a lot of inconsistent performances prior to that. It was no surprise that neither was really able to back up the success with a strong week at their events last week, but fatigue shouldn't be an issue in the opening match at the Paris Masters.

The losses suffered by Carreno Busta since the US Open have also mainly come against a higher level of quality than the defeats Fognini has suffered so I do think the Spaniard has an edge on the form. He hadn't previously enjoyed playing on the hard courts as much as he has seemingly had in recent weeks, which is a concern, but Carreno Busta might be getting to grips with the surface a little more.

This is also not a match up where Fognini will blast him off the court and Carreno Busta will feel he can rally with Fognini and get the better of him. The Paris courts in this indoor tournament have played fast in the past, which should aid Carreno Busta with the slightly stronger serve and I think the Spaniard moves through to the Second Round with a 46, 64, 64 win.

Robin Haase - 1.5 games v Fernando Verdasco: This has as much to do with wanting to oppose Fernando Verdasco as well as backing Robin Haase, although I would be lying if I am not putting more stock in the recent form shown by the veteran Spaniard. At this point of the season, I am not sure where Verdasco is going to find the motivation to end 2016 with a positive run at the Paris Masters with little chance of being Seeded at the first Grand Slam of the 2017 season in Australia.

Verdasco was beaten in the First Round at the US Open following a run to the Quarter Final in Winston Salem and that means he has lost eight of his last nine matches including the last four in a row. Defeats to Mikael Ymer and Pablo Carreno Busta, who had just won the Moscow title days before, in straight sets are not a good look for Verdasco and he has lost his last eight sets he has played.

Robin Haase has come through the Qualifiers for a second tournament in a row and has the tools to be successful on the indoor hard courts from a physical point of view at least. I do think Haase struggles with the mental aspect and having lost two of his last three matches against Verdasco it can be difficult to trust the Dutchman in this one.

Confidence might have come from Challenger wins on clay courts, but the Qualifier win over Nikoloz Basilashvili can't be underestimated since the latter beat Tomas Berdych last week. If Haase serves well he can definitely put the pressure on Verdasco who has been struggling behind his own serve and I think Haase is in the better form of late.

I wouldn't be surprised if Haase drops a set, although I do think he can come through with a 36, 63, 64 win and a place in the Second Round where he will face Andy Murray.

Stephane Robert + 1.5 games v Albert Ramos-Vinolas: Albert Ramos-Vinolas is very likely to be Seeded when the Australian Open rolls around in January but the hard courts remain one of his weaker surfaces as he has to battle for every point he wins. There have been some positive runs like reaching the Final in Chengdu, but Ramos-Vinolas still has a losing record on the surface.

2016 will be seen as a positive one for the Spaniard who is going to end with a career best World Ranking and there have been some really positive performances from Ramos-Vinolas. He has to take that confidence into next season, because I think he might have some issues against Stephane Robert who has been given a Wild Card into this Paris Masters.

I think one of the home favourites means Robert will be given plenty of support in the last match of the day and he has shown he can be very competitive in recent matches. The concern is that Robert hasn't finished well when he has had players under the cosh and that has prevented him winning matches that he perhaps should have done.

That was the case again last week as Robert should have beaten Philipp Kohlschreiber but was beaten in a final set tie-breaker. With a strong run in Moscow behind him and seeing some of the losses that Ramos-Vinolas has had of late makes Robert look a player I want to back even with the limited games he is being given with a potential upset a real possibility in this First Round match.

MY PICKS: Pablo Carreno Busta - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Robin Haase - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stephane Robert + 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Season 2016- 16.58 Units (1925 Units Staked, - 0.01% Yield)
Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Sunday, 30 October 2016

NFL Week 8 Picks 2016 (October 27-31)

The last couple of weeks have been more positive for the NFL Picks but I am now looking to use that momentum to take into the next few weeks and get this season back into a position I want.

We are in the midst of the bye weeks at the moment and the last game in London is also due to be played at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in Week 8. Back to back games in London is another step towards eventually putting a franchise in London, but the first step might be to increase the number of games to four.

That is half a home season for any franchise in London and I think we might get two back to back weeks of games next season. Perhaps the NFL even thinks about having all four games played back to back as there is a feeling that any team based in London would have their home games played in chunks and then head to the United States for a 'road trip' rather than the current format of how home and road games are split for teams in the NFL.

The fans at Wembley Stadium are arguably going to see the best of the three games when Washington take on Cincinnati this weekend, but I don't think it is a stretch to say that the six teams that were sent over to England are not amongst the best in the NFL. With potentially more games to come next season, fans in London might expect to see better teams next time around, while the likes of Germany, Mexico and even China could join the International Series in the coming seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Redskins Pick: The final game in London of the International Series 2016 is played this weekend at Wembley Stadium with rumours that next season we will see that number of games go from three to four games. Other nations are also looking to attract some regular season action, including Germany in Europe, while the NFL continues to push for the idea of a London franchise in the future.

It is the turn of the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins to entertain the London crowd who will be in for another early start in Week 8 of the NFL. Both teams have so much to gain and much to lose this week which makes it a very big game as they look to chase down the leaders in their respective Divisions.

Both teams will head into their bye week at the end of this game so both Washington and Cincinnati can be completely focused on the task at hand.

The teams seem to be quite evenly matched so I was interested with whoever was going to be the dog, but I am particularly interested with the Redskins as the underdog. At the start of the week they were getting the full complement of Field Goal points which would have been impossible to ignore, but I still like the Redskins with the start.

They look to be getting two key pieces in action at both ends of the field as Josh Norman and Jordan Reed look set to play a part in this one. The Norman factor is huge as Washington will feel he can match up well with AJ Green and take away a big threat from the Cincinnati Bengals, although Tyler Eifert might be more of a factor in this game.

Taking away Green would make life very difficult for Andy Dalton who has already been under some immense pressure behind this Offensive Line. That is a problem when you think of the pass rush that Washington can generate so Dalton has to be decisive when he is making throws as he will be surrounded by the likes of Ryan Kerrigan in those spots.

One way to ease any pass rush and generate some yards will be to give the ball to Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard who should be able to find some room to hit Washington on the ground. The Redskins have struggled to contain the run and Cincinnati have shown they can get the ball moving on the ground which is going to be huge if Dalton cannot rely on his main Receiving weapon.

Running the ball should be an effective tool for Washington too although Matt Jones has been guilty of too many fumbles which might see his participation in this one being limited. Last week the Jones fumble might have been the decisive moment in a three point loss to the Detroit Lions and it looks like Chris Thompson might be the beneficiary as he could earn the start against a Bengals Defensive Line that have allowed 5.6 yards per carry over their last three games.

The Washington Offensive Line have paved the way for their Running Backs and Washington should be able to establish the run to take some of the pressure off of Kirk Cousins. It should mean Cousins is well protected when he does decide to throw the ball against a Bengals Secondary that have struggled with age and loss of key players becoming a factor. Cousins had a big game last week against Detroit and can pick up from where he left off, especially with Reed perhaps back who has been a favourite target.

Turnovers are likely to be a key part of the game in which I think both teams will have their successes moving the chains. I do think the Bengals have been a little fortunate to have a 3-4 record, while Washington have outgained their last three opponents. It looks like a close game and there isn't much between them, but I think the Redskins can earn the upset at Wembley Stadium and I like them with the points in this one.

There should be enough consistency in the Washington Offense to keep things rolling while Dalton might just force things to AJ Green one too many times. I also think the Redskins pass rush can put the Bengals in third and very long spots at times and I will back Washington with the points.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills Pick: The public have shown little appetite to jump off the New England Patriots bandwagon which has been rolling, and covering at the window, since Tom Brady returned from his suspension. The Patriots are in their familiar position of leading the AFC East and have a two game lead over the Buffalo Bills who are the sole team to have beaten them this season.

The Bills have a lot of injuries to contend with this time around and are coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins, but there won't be much sympathy shown by the Patriots. The Buffalo win in New England came against third string Quarter Back Jacoby Brissett who had a thumb issue, and the Patriots won't have forgotten being shut out at home a few weeks ago.

Buffalo have to have some concerns that their Defensive Line is having a few issues defending the run, but they might have Marcell Dareus back this week. That will help the Bills who have just been trampled by Jay Ajayi and the Miami Dolphins and are giving up 5 yards per carry over their last three games and now they are facing LeGarrette Blount who is off a week where he punished the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Blount should be able to have a solid day because the presence of Brady at Quarter Back means the Bills might be more worried about defending the pass than stopping the run. The New England Running Back is someone who looks to wear down Defenses before making big gains in the second half and that might be the outcome of this one as Buffalo's Defense spends more time on the field than they would like.

The Bills can generate some pass rush pressure to try and slow down Brady and what he is able to do but Rob Gronkowski looks like he is back to 100% and the Patriots will be able to make the plays we all know they can.

Bigger problems for Buffalo have come on the Offensive side of the ball where they have a number of injuries to key playmakers including LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. The injuries on the Wide Receiver unit is going to make life difficult for Tyrod Taylor to make plays through the air, especially as the Buffalo Offensive Line have been much happier running the ball than protecting their Quarter Back.

Instead the line of scrimmage might determine how much success the Bills are able to have in this game with their ability to run the ball going up against the New England Defensive Line who have allowed fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground and just haven't given up too many big plays.

With McCoy banged up at best, Buffalo might have a difficult time running the ball outside of Taylor using the option and even that might not be enough against Bill Belichick who will surely dare the Bills to beat New England through the air.

Revenge is on the mind for New England having lost at home to the Bills and the Patriots know a win here would virtually put the Division back in their hands. Over the last five seasons, New England have lost the first of their two Divisional games against an opponent only twice. Both times the Patriots have crushed that team in the second game and I am backing the Patriots to improve their 10-2 record against the spread in Buffalo by winning by a Touchdown at least in Week 8.

Detroit Lions @ Houston Texans Pick: The Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans both have the same 4-3 record in the NFL this season, but their respective Divisions means one is leading their Division and one is only in third spot. The Texans are in an atrocious AFC South that someone has to win, but the Lions are unfortunate in having both the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings to contend with.

I don't think either team is particularly worthy of being one with a winning record after seven weeks of the season and both have some serious issues they will look to resolve in the coming weeks. The edge in terms of the schedule might be with Houston who are at home in Week 8 before heading into the bye week, while the Detroit Lions have the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings next up on deck.

The Lions are not good enough to be looking ahead to any game and can't ignore the challenge that is in front of them this week. Matthew Stafford has been playing very well at Quarter Back despite losing Calvin Johnson to retirement but this is a big test for him against a Houston Secondary that have played well and can get some pass rush pressure up front.

One of the issues for Stafford, despite the gaudy numbers, is getting on the same page as his Receivers and that has led to some miscommunication and Interceptions. The pressure is likely to be on Stafford to keep things going because Detroit have struggled to run the ball all season and it should also allow Houston to pin back their ears and try and get after Stafford and force the quick throws into a tough Secondary.

Brock Osweiler is under pressure for a different reason with people openly questioning whether Houston have wasted their money on what doesn't look to be a franchise Quarter Back. He struggled on his return to Denver last week, but Osweiler might be happier being back at home with his best games all coming in front of his own fans.

The Quarter Back should have a big chance to bounce back against a Detroit Secondary who have allowed almost 275 yards per game through the air on the season. There are still times that Osweiler can look like more than a serviceable player at his position, but he has to avoid the big turnovers which have blighted him while also trying to get on the same page as DeAndre Hopkins.

It would be a big game chance for Lamar Miller if he is able to go for Houston as this looks an opportunity to run the ball against the Lions Defensive Line which has been hit by injuries. They have struggled to contain the run, but Miller is banged up and that might mean Houston hoping Alfred Blue can come in and be productive his place. Blue isn't a bad back up though and the Texans have been at their best when running the ball which will take some of the pressure from Osweiler.

I do like the Houston chances to bounce back as they have been better at home. Despite the Lions winning three games in a row and having momentum, it has to be said they have actually been outgained in all of those games and have perhaps been benefiting from some mistakes from their opponents.

Houston have earned more yards than their opponents in each of their home games and they have won all of those games and I like their chances on both sides of the ball to do that in this one. The Texans are actually a strong home favourite to back under Bill O'Brien and I think they can beat Detroit and go into the bye week with some positives behind them.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: The AFC West looks a strong Division this season with three of the four teams at 4-2 or better and the San Diego Chargers certainly better than their 3-4 record indicates. The pick of the teams might actually be the Kansas City Chiefs despite the headlines the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders might be receiving and they are actually heading to the Indianapolis Colts as favourites.

The Colts might not be the fancy dark horse to win the Super Bowl this season, but they are in contention in the terrible AFC South where no one team looks to be the stand out. They would have been leading the Division if not blowing a big lead at the Houston Texans a couple of weeks ago, while Andrew Luck has consistently shown why he was held in such high regard by dragging this team up by the shoelaces at times.

Luck has the potential to have a really big game for the Indianapolis Colts as he is facing a Secondary who have regressed thanks to the limited pressure they have been able to get up front. Justin Houston has been a big miss and it might mean Luck has more time than he has been used to behind an awful Offensive Line and that will give him times to make his plays down the field.

The Chiefs have allowed almost 290 passing yards per game through their last three games and and Luck remains one of the best Quarter Backs in the NFL who should be able to find a number of Receivers in this one with the time I expect him to have. It won't be all about Luck either as the Chiefs Defensive Line have struggled so expect a healthy dose of Frank Gore to keep Indianapolis in third and manageable spots.

Running the ball is not going to be an issue for Kansas City either with Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles likely to have some big gains on the ground. The Chiefs have been focused on the long drives grinding things out on the ground and face an Indianapolis Defensive Line that has given up 5.4 yards per carry over the last three games with some issues up front and in the Linebacker unit.

It should mean Alex Smith can play his usual Alex Smith game and that is to make plenty of short yardage passes and keep the chains moving behind a strong running game. He is asked to looked after the ball and not make the mistakes that will cost Kansas State and Smith has shown an appetite for doing that over the last few seasons in the League.

Smith isn't exactly going to be throwing into a stellar Secondary and running the ball as effectively as Kansas City can will just open up play action and easy completions for the Quarter Back.

Both teams look like they can move the chains, but I am stunned to see the Chiefs as the road favourite here. They have been solid as the road favourite against the spread but Indianapolis are 8-0 against the spread when set as the home underdog since Andrew Luck has been drafted.

The number just feels wrong and getting a full three points with the Colts looks too many for Kansas City to cover here so I will back the underdog in this one.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos Pick: It is not often that you will get through seven weeks of the NFL season and see a team that has a losing record but has actually scored more points than they have allowed. That is where the San Diego Chargers find themselves, but two wins in a row means they are back to 3-4 and being able to sweep the Denver Broncos will mean the Chargers are very much back in contention in the AFC West.

The Broncos just snapped a two game losing run by beating down their former Quarter Back Brock Osweiler who was miffed enough with the organisation for going with Peyton Manning in last year's Play Offs that he moved onto Houston in Free Agency. You can imagine how much that bothered the Denver players and in Week 8 they are playing with revenge on their minds against the Chargers who inflicted their second loss of the season in Week 6.

I won't be the first to say it makes no sense to me for two Divisional rivals to play each other twice in three weeks but that is where Denver and San Diego will find themselves.

It is the Broncos who are favoured like they were on the road at San Diego two weeks ago, but I think Philipp Rivers and the Chargers are in the kind of form where they will feel they can earn the sweep. San Diego have struggled to run the ball with some consistency, but Melvin Gordon's best game of the season came against this Denver Defensive Line and I imagine the Chargers will look for Gordon to keep the Offense in third and manageable spots.

I am also a big fan of Rivers and the way he seems to make any Receivers he plays with better than they perhaps are. If Gordon is establishing the run, it does mean Rivers might escape some of the pressure that Denver are capable of getting up front with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. The Denver Secondary have played well with that pressure in the face of the Quarter Back, but Rivers is one cool customer and can make plays while avoiding the big mistakes to give the Broncos extra possessions.

The Chargers also produced their best Defensive effort in the win over Denver which was a highly emotional one as San Diego effectively saved their season two weeks ago. The Defensive Line has been bolstered by Joey Bosa's arrival to the NFL, but they have still have had some difficulty containing the run and Denver should see Devontae Booker have another big game after some very good touches against Houston.

Booker is the main Running Back with CJ Anderson out for a few weeks and he had a stellar career with the Utah Utes in College to suggest he can make the step up. Denver have been able to open the running lanes so Booker should be able to have some nice numbers, and the Broncos will likely have to rely on the run to be in a position to move the chains.

While the San Diego Secondary have struggled at times, Denver may be without Demaryius Thomas and Trevor Siemian has been asked to manage games rather than win them himself. The young Quarter Back has had his best game in terms of completions against San Diego, but he helped Denver to just 13 points as he was put under pressure from the Chargers pass rush and that can help slow down some drives in this one too.

It looks like being a close game and that is why I love San Diego with the points, especially getting more than a Field Goal worth of points. The Chargers are 11-2 against the spread as the road underdog in Division games having already covered in losing efforts at Kansas City and Oakland already and I trust Rivers to help make some big plays to help them cover here.

There isn't a lot between these teams and the layers have recognised that, but not to the enough as far as I am concerned and I am going to take the Chargers with the points.

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons both have winning records for the season but there is still some questions for both teams to answer as they head into Week 8 of the NFL season. This is the time of the season where no one can win the Super Bowl, but teams are looking to build the chemistry and the momentum that can spark a strong Play Off run, while a game like this one could have huge Play Off implications down the stretch.

This is the first time since September 18th, Week 2, that the Green Bay Packers are playing on the road and they are also considered the underdog in the game.

That has to bother Aaron Rodgers, but the Quarter Back looks like one that may have regressed from his prime having made some errant throws or missing Receivers that he wouldn't have done in the past. Rodgers has still not got on the same page as Jordy Nelson who has struggled since returning from his knee injury, while injuries on both sides of the ball have hurt the Packers.

The Packers have had ten days to prepare for this game having beaten the hapless Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football in Week 7. Eddie Lacy is not going to be around so the Packers could have an even tougher time trying to run the ball against the Atlanta Defensive Line who have actually impressed by holding teams to under 100 yards per game on the ground and at 3.8 yards per game on the season.

It means it will be down to Rodgers to make the plays through the air he did connect on against the Chicago Bears to get the chains moving. This does look a good match up for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing Offense especially as Atlanta have struggled for an effective pass rush and the Packers have improved to 285 yards per game through the air in their last three games. Some of that was down to having to throw to catch up but they have been better passing the ball although Rodgers needs to keep away from the expensive Interceptions he has thrown.

Passing the ball hasn't been a problem for the Atlanta Falcons with Julio Jones and Matt Ryan connecting with one another for big gains. With the injuries in the Green Bay Secondary, Ryan should be able to make some big plays although he will need to avoid the pressure that has come from the Green Bay Packers pass rush as well as behind this Offensive Line which has struggled.

Ryan will be the key for the Atlanta Falcons moving the chains with Tevin Coleman out and Devonta Freeman banged up. Freeman is a threat catching the ball out of the backfield too, but the hip issue is a concern and Atlanta are trying to establish the run against a team that have remained stout up front through the injuries to the Secondary. However, third and long won't always hinder Matt Ryan who can throw the ball up to the humongous Jones to out-jump any Defender who tries to oppose him.

This has the makings of a shoot out, but Atlanta Falcons are also having to look ahead to the short week and facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a big Divisional game that has all sorts of repercussions for them. No one is going to overlook Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, but it is something that potentially comes in for a team that has lost two in a row and know they can win a weak NFC South by winning Divisional games.

Green Bay have not been a great road underdog to back, which is a surprise when you think who they have at Quarter Back, but the extra preparation time could be key for them. The Packers have covered the last three times coming off a Thursday Night Football game with that extra prep time and I think Rodgers can out-duel Ryan. However, I will take the full three points available and look for the Packers to keep this one close.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: There was supposed to be a Quarter Back change in Dallas following their bye week but Dak Prescott's performance means a controversy has developed instead. Tony Romo is very much on the road to recovery, but the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys are no longer considered his team and the veteran Quarter Back may have to bide his time as Prescott continues carrying the keys to the Offense.

On Sunday Night Football the NFC East Division lead is on the line when the Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in what looks a competitive Division. With Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot playing to the level they are, it looks like a rookie show as Philadelphia continue playing Carson Wentz at Quarter Back too.

It is no surprise that Dallas are leaving things as they are and not making an unnecessary change at Quarter Back having won five games in a row and their sole loss this season came by a single point. Prescott has played smart, which is a huge compliment to a rookie Quarter Back, and that has meant not turning the ball over and simply taking what is given to him.

Prescott has been well protected behind his Offensive Line, but I have to still give a lot of credit for the Quarter Back for continuing to make plays even with Dez Bryant out of the line up. The likes of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley have stepped up for Prescott and he should have some success throwing the ball even against this solid Philadelphia Secondary which is ably backed up by immense pass rush pressure generated up front.

Prescott can thank Beasley and Williams, but he might want to thank Ezekiel Elliot and this Offensive Line even more. They have solid numbers running the ball over the course of the season, but Dallas have improved those numbers to 188 yards per game at 5.6 yards per carry in the three games prior to the bye week with Elliot looking like everything they expected at Running Back. This looks a good match up for Dallas against a Philadelphia Defensive Line who have allowed 4.5 yards per carry on the season and should keep Prescott in manageable down and distance.

While Prescott looks strong at Quarter Back, Carson Wentz has just had a few weaker games for the Eagles after a stunning start to his career. A part of the problem has been Jordan Matthews being banged up, while Wentz hasn't been able to escape the pressure behind an Offensive Line who have lost a huge piece in Lane Johnson to suspension. Dallas have been surprisingly effective getting to the Quarter Back so Wentz could find time limited to throw into this Secondary who have also looked better than last season.

Even an opportunity to run the ball and make things a little easier for their rookie Quarter Back is going to be difficult for Philadelphia with the Cowboys improving in that regards in recent games. Ryan Mathews should have some success, but Dallas are likely to test Carson Wentz and see if his recent regression towards the mean for a rookie Quarter Back continues.

The Cowboys are able to take that pressure off of Dak Prescott by running the ball as we all know they can and the Eagles don't look to have the Defensive Line to stop Dallas being able to do that. Dallas have lost their last 3 home games against Philadelphia, and the public seem to be having a hard time separating them. However the spread has moved in favour of Dallas which suggests the sharp money is on them and I think the Cowboys not only win, but win well and cover this spread.

MY PICKS: Washington Redskins + 3 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 6 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Houston Texans - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 3 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
San Diego Chargers + 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 3 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Week 7: 5-3, + 3.36 Units (16 Units Staked, + 21% Yield)
Week 6: 3-3, - 0.46 Units (12 Units Staked, - 3.83% Yield)
Week 52-3-1, - 2.36 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19.67% Yield)
Week 45-5, + 0.26 Units (19 Units Staked, + 1.37% Yield)
Week 32-3-1, - 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)

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 30th)

There might be an Elite Trophy tournament being played in China next week, but for most fans this will be considered the end of the WTA season when the Final of the WTA Finals is played between Angelique Kerber and Dominika Cibulkova who have already played once before in the Groups.

I will never understand the reasoning behind the WTA season ending with the Elite Trophy rather than the WTA Finals, although it has been announced that it is going to be looked at and we could potentially see that change by the 2017 season.

Sunday will also see the tournaments in Vienna and Basel come to a close with the Finals of those events while the Paris Masters completes the Qualifiers ahead of that tournament beginning on Monday.

Saturday proved to be another strong day for the picks with the four made seeing one voided because of a withdrawal and the other three producing winners. That has completely turned around the horrific Wednesday when the picks went 1-6 and looked destined to see me end this week with a losing record, but now I am almost assured of a solid end to the week.

I want to underline it with three winners on Sunday to ensure a strong week as I have a pick from each of the three Finals that will be played.

Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: The World Number 1 is the deserved favourite to win the WTA Finals and I think there are a lot of factors pointing her way. Angelique Kerber has gotten stronger and stronger in each match played in Singapore since being pushed all the way by Dominika Cibulkova in her first match in the Group and a second win over the Slovakian would be enough to add this title to the Australian and US Open titles she won during the season.

I have a lot of respect for Cibulkova and I am surprised she is being given a game more in this Final than she was in the Group match against one another. Part of the reason has to be that Cibulkova has needed three sets to win her last two matches compared with Kerber who has barely lost games in that time, but I think Cibulkova has the kind of fight in her game to not allow herself to fall apart.

Cibulkova will very much know she is going to have a few weeks off from the Tour after this match so has every reason to leave it all out there and the Kerber serve has not been firing to the point that her opponent can't feel she won't get opportunities to break serve. Her own serve is a concern, especially if fatigue issues are in play, but I can see Cibulkova having some success in this one to make it a close match.

Almost nothing separated them when the played last week and Cibulkova can take heart from that performance. She will need to win a few big points to make sure she keeps this competitive, but I will back Cibulkova with a healthy amount of games being offered to her in this Final of the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Kei Nishikori - 1.5 games v Marin Cilic: Both of these players might feel they had a bit of an escape in their respective Semi Final matches to eventually get through to the Final in Basel. Kei Nishikori went match point down to Gilles Muller before turning things in his favour, while Marin Cilic also had to come from a set down to beat Mischa Zverev having come close to the brink of defeat in the second set.

It is Nishikori who has managed to get the better of Marin Cilic in their previous matches with a 7-4 lead, but one of those defeats did come in the Final of the US Open 2014. That is by far the biggest match these two have played against one another but Nishikori had won twice in a row since that match against Cilic before being forced to retire at Wimbledon back in July.

You can see why Nishikori would match up well with Cilic- while the power is clearly with the Croatian, Cilic's consistency can be hard to call upon and that is where Nishikori will continue to get lots of balls in play and pressure the second serves he sees. Cilic might hit a few more aces, but Nishikori won't let that bother him and I think something similar will occur in this Final.

The points mean more to Cilic who is chasing a place in London for the ATP World Tour Finals, but I think Nishikori will prove too strong on the day by dragging Cilic deep into a third set. It can lead to a 36, 63, 64 win for Nishikori as he wears down his opponent and I will back the Japanese player to lift the title in Basel on Sunday afternoon.

Andy Murray - 4.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Two players who are familiar with each other on and off the court will contest the Final in Vienna as Andy Murray takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the title. Both players have plenty of motivation to win here with Murray looking to close the gap on Novak Djokovic to the World Number 1 spot and Tsonga hoping to add vital points in a last ditch effort to make it to the World Tour Finals in London.

Murray was the recipient of a bye through to the Final when David Ferrer withdrew before the two players were to take to the court and that could be important. Especially so when you think Tsonga had to beat Ivo Karlovic in three sets where he expended a lot of emotional energy in recovering a second set break and then having to overcome his own serve being broken when ahead in the third set.

That emotional energy being sapped can really take something out of a player and I think it could work against Tsonga. I do have to respect that he has given Murray plenty of trouble in their past meetings with his big serve and the capability of playing some really special tennis which opens up break point opportunities.

However I am not sure the court is going to help his serve be as potent as it can be and Tsonga may have to work harder for his points which can be tough when you're not at the top of your game. The serve has really not been firing as it can with three breaks given up to Ivo Karlovic and Tsonga also having a few issues against Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Murray has shown he can be devastating against the biggest servers if they are not hitting their marks when he crushed John Isner here in the Quarter Final and I think the rest he has received the last couple of days plays out here. After a few issues on serve, Murray can eventually take control in a 64, 63 win and another title to add to his name.

MY PICKS: Dominika Cibulkova + 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 20-15, + 7.18 Units (70 Units Staked, + 10.26% Yield)

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (October 29-31)

This has been a poor month for the football picks with too many late goals hurting the picks and effectively sending those picks going backwards.

Last week it was West Brom scoring late after taking a battering from Liverpool to prevent a two goal loss, during the week it was Chelsea scoring with the last kick of the game to score the third goal of that game with West Ham United. Just those two picks alone, which are far from the only late goals that have gone against me in October, would have seen this month in a much stronger position and I am disappointed by that.

This weekend is now an important one to make sure October doesn't end with negative momentum to take into November and the host of matches that are due to be played. It is also a big one for a number of teams in their domestic Leagues as they try and get some points on the board and start moving towards a really busy time in the English calendar.

There is one more international break coming up at the end of next weekend's games and then it is a clear run for a few months where all of the competitions begin to take shape.

Sunderland v Arsenal PickThis has become a really big game for David Moyes if his plan is to have a long-term future as Sunderland manager because another defeat would surely put his position under the microscope. It has been a really poor start for Moyes but some of that is down to the misfortune that has hurt his Sunderland team.

A late goal cost Sunderland a point at West Ham United last weekend and they also have blown a 2-0 home lead over Crystal Palace in what turned out to be an eventual 2-3 defeat. That has to have knocked the confidence of the manager and the players who have now failed to score in any of their last 3 games in all competitions.

Things won't have been helped by Moyes' comments about the standard of the squad at his disposal and this looks a bad game for Sunderland to be facing on Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal are looking to bounce back from two points dropped against Middlesbrough at home last week and you have to think there will be a response to that game. They have played well away from home with plenty of goals in the side making life difficult for opponents and it is hard to see how Sunderland will stay with them if they get behind.

A lack of goals for the home team coupled with the quality in the Arsenal squad would mean it is a surprise if The Gunners aren't winning this game this weekend. I expect a better performance than the one they produced last week as Arsenal go into a big week which ends with the home game against Tottenham Hotspur. I think Arsenal begin the week with a fairly comfortable afternoon in the North East and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Manchester United v Burnley PickWednesday night and the win over Manchester City, regardless of the quality of the starting line up Pep Guardiola picked, was a big moment for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. Coming out of a difficult four game run with a couple of wins under their belt and a draw at Anfield is not a bad return, but of course the focus was always going to be on the collapse at Stamford Bridge.

Conceding after less than a minute is played is absolutely the worst way Manchester United could have started that game and it was always going to be a difficult afternoon from that point. The scoreline most definitely flattered Chelsea with a couple of counter attack goals as Manchester United got closer to perhaps making a game of things.

Jose Mourinho has admitted he wanted a Premier League game immediately after the defeat at Stamford Bridge and I think this could be a difficult afternoon for Burnley. Manchester United have played well at Old Trafford for the most part this season and they created enough chances in the last Premier League game here against Stoke City to win two games.

It also can't be ignored the difficulty that Burnley have had setting up effectively away from home. They have been beaten comfortably by Chelsea, Leicester City and Southampton already and Burnley have seemed to have fallen apart when the first goal has been conceded as they have struggled with the balance between attack and defence at that point.

Burnley have gotten further and further into games before conceding, but that hasn't stopped them allowing three goals in each away game they have played in the Premier League. If Burnley get to that position at Old Trafford I think they are going to struggle to get near the Asian Handicap.

Backing Manchester United to win by at least two goals will return half the stake and the other will be a winner. But it is easy to see Manchester United match the results Chelsea and Leicester City have earned in this one for the full payout too.

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City Pick: The suggestions are that Harry Kane will be back in the Tottenham Hotspur squad next Sunday when they play in the North London derby and recent games have suggested that Tottenham Hotspur have missed Kane. They scored at Liverpool during the week, but Tottenham Hotspur had back to back goalless draws with Bayer Leverkusen and Bournemouth prior to that in which they looked to be missing that final piece up front.

They are back at White Hart Lane for the first time since beating Manchester City in the Premier League and Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping that sparks their form. This is a big week ahead for Tottenham Hotspur who face Leicester City and Arsenal in the League around a big Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen and I can see them getting off to a positive start.

Being at home is one factor, but the fact they are playing Leicester City who have been conceding goals at an alarming rate on their travels has to give Tottenham Hotspur confidence. There are some suggesting Claudio Ranieri should rest players for the Champions League game in Denmark on Wednesday, but I can't see that happening.

For starters that game is on Wednesday so plenty of rest time before then, the second factor is that Leicester City have put themselves in a really strong position in the Champions League Group and can afford not to win that game. I don't think Leicester City ever play to lose, but earning three points in the Premier League is definitely more important for them and I can see The Foxes being dangerous when Tottenham Hotspur push forward.

Tottenham Hotspur don't concede too many goals at White Hart Lane, but Leicester City have created chances away from home and I can see at least three goals being shared out by these teams. I do think Leicester City are underachieving at the moment, but can start building momentum with the fixtures they have coming up although that might have to wait another week and I think goals might be the order of the day.

West Brom v Manchester City Pick: Tony Pulis has been rewarded for his work at The Hawthornes by having his contract extended as manager which has also put to rest those rumours that he has been unhappy at West Brom. Pulis does exactly what is says on the tin and that is to keep teams in the Premier League which seems to be the limit of West Brom's ambitions at this moment in time.

The last couple of games has seen West Brom draw with Tottenham Hotspur here and narrowly lose to Liverpool at Anfield, but Pulis can thank Ben Foster for two big performances in keeping the score down. It is another test for Foster when Manchester City come to town looking to snap a 6 game run without a win.

Pep Guardiola has been given something of a pass for the Manchester City results of late and another failure to win will give them no momentum to take into the Barcelona game during the week. Kevin De Bruyne could return having missed the Manchester derby in the English Football League Cup Fourth Round during the week, while the continued deployment of Sergio Aguero on the bench is a big surprise.

You still have to think Manchester City have enough quality to see off West Brom although the concern is the way they have continued to make mistakes defensively. Giving West Brom something to hold onto will make life very difficult for Manchester City because the home team are going to defend deep and in large numbers to keep the away team at bay.

Barring another masterclass from Foster, I think West Brom are going to struggle here. Manchester City have looked threatening enough going forward and the chances created by Tottenham Hotspur here a couple of weeks ago are unlikely to be missed by Manchester City at the same rate as Tottenham Hotspur did.

I think it is a matter of time before Manchester City click again and I think that might happen here as West Brom let them have the possession and build the pressure and I will back Manchester City to cover the Asian Handicap.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool PickThe closest Liverpool have come to winning a top flight title since 1990 has to have been the 2013/14 season and it is the 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park which is the game where most focus when they talk about how Liverpool blew the opportunity to win the title. Liverpool led 0-3 that day before being pegged back, but both Tony Pulis and Brendan Rodgers manage elsewhere these days.

Now it is Alan Pardew and Jurgen Klopp who will be leading their teams into battle in the second live offering on Saturday in the Premier League.

This looks like it could be an entertaining game as both Crystal Palace and Liverpool will feel they can get plenty of joy in the final third in this game and the right passes in that area should lead to chances and goals.

Christian Benteke should be fired up for Crystal Palace as he will feel he owes them a performance having missed a penalty in the last game at Selhurst Park and also playing against the club who felt he was surplus to requirements this summer.

Crystal Palace will need their forward players at their best against a Liverpool team that have scored plenty of goals in recent weeks and this looks like a game that will produce goals. Recent history suggests the same with both League games between them ending with at least three goals scored last season.

The last 5 games at Selhurst Park have also seen at least three goals shared out and Liverpool have shown they can be as good going forward as they are vulnerable at the back. With the goalkeeper struggling from crosses, Crystal Palace have the quality from set pieces and with their wide play to give him problems and it is also difficult to see how Liverpool will fail to score having scored at least twice in their last 3 away games.

The odds are tempting enough and I will back at least three goals to be shared out by these teams on Saturday afternoon.

It's been a busier week than usual for me with things coming up in the evenings when I usually put these threads together. That means I've simply added the Sunday and Monday Picks below without a full break of the game.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.12 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Everton-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update25-37-2, - 21.09 Units (123 Units Staked, - 17.15% Yield)

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 2016/1773-66-3, + 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)

WTA Finals Picks 2016 (October 29th)

The Semi Finals in Basel, Vienna and the WTA Finals take place on Saturday as the tournaments from this week have reached the business end of the events. The 2016 season is fast coming to a close and there is less than a month left now before we get to the off-season.

After a really poor Wednesday, the picks have turned around the last couple of days and that has put the week back into a positive position. With two days left of this week, I am looking to get a couple more wins on the board and really get the week ended in a strong manner before the Paris Masters gets going.

We also have the WTA Elite Trophy being played next week, which is strange timing to say the least, and the run to the ATP World Tour Finals will be the big headline maker in Paris.

Dominika Cibulkova v Svetlana Kuznetsova: I am not reading too much into Svetlana Kuznetsova's loss to Garbine Muguruza in her final Group match when her place had already been assured in the Semi Final. There had to be some form of not giving it her all as Kuznetsova looked to save energy for this Semi Final and I think it is more unfortunate that she is in the first Semi Final rather than the second.

Her match with Dominika Cibulkova looks a difficult one as the Slovakian looks to do what Agnieszka Radwanska did last season and that is lose her first two matches in Singapore but still go on and win the tournament. I do think Cibulkova looks very strong at this moment and can look to take advantage of any lingering fatigue that Kuznetsova is trying to avoid.

There is something different about Cibulkova compared with Karolina Pliskova and Agnieszka Radwanska who both served for the match against Kuznetsova already this week. Both lost, but Cibulkova has a little bit more weight behind her shots on both wings which will see her able to dictate points against Kuznetsova at times, while she can also fatigue her opponent further by extending the rallies behind her quality.

It is Cibulkova who has won the last five matches these players have played against one another which includes a three set win in Wuhan earlier in the month. There wasn't much between them on that day, but Kuznetsova is a lot more battered at this point and I don't think Cibulkova lets her off the hook like Radwanska and Pliskova did and I will back the 'Pocket Rocket' to earn her place in the Final.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: This is going to be the first time in the 2016 season (and the only time) that Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska will play one another on the Tour. Surprisingly it is Radwanska who holds the 6-5 head to head advantage and won their most recent match in Beijing in October 2015, but Kerber is the new World Number 1 and has proved to be a markedly improved player in 2016.

That can be seen in comments about the performances in Singapore twelve months ago and has given Kerber the motivation to underline her fantastic 2016 season. There is a lot to admire about Kerber's game which has moved on from being very defensive, but also one that can quickly go on the offensive and make things happen.

It isn't always easy to do that against someone like Radwanska who is happy to stay out on court all day until the errors come. I do think that style is beginning to take its toll on her body and Radwanska perhaps fatigues more these days than she did in her prime and I can see that being a difference maker in this match. The Radwanska serve is very inconsistent too, although this looks like the kind of match that will feature plenty of break points.

Out of the two players I do trust Kerber to play the big moments better than Radwanska at this moment in their careers. Winning the big matches Kerber has should give her the confidence to make the big plays when necessary and although it might take some time to take complete control of this match, I do think Kerber can eventually come through with a 75, 64 win and a place in the Final on Sunday.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v David Ferrer: I couldn't be anything but impressed with the way that Andy Murray dealt with John Isner in the Quarter Final in Vienna and it was the kind of easy night he would have appreciated. That is down to some of the fatigue issues he might have having played a lot of tennis of late, but Murray is now a big favourite to go on and win the title here and put pressure on Novak Djokovic in the World Number 1 position.

Andy Murray will be very happy with the match up with David Ferrer who is definitely not performing at the same level as he was in his prime. This is not someone who is going to overpower Murray and Ferrer no longer is able to hold himself in rallies as long as he used to be able to against some of the better players on the Tour.

Unforced errors have become an issue for the Spaniard and a player like Murray will look to expose that, while Ferrer also had to dig down deep to win his Quarter Final match against Victor Troicki. That might have taken something from the Ferrer tank who has slipped down the World Rankings and who was beaten very easily by Murray when they played Shanghai.

Ferrer is still able to have some success against the Murray serve which can be a little erratic at times, but the problem has been winning points consistently on his own serve. Some of the rallies could be epic and really fun to watch, but I think Murray is able to get into a position to win more than he loses and I like the British player to take another step towards the World Number 1 spot with a 64, 62 win.

Mischa Zverev + 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: I wanted to add this pick yesterday but the markets had not been released and I was also waiting to see if Mischa Zverev was going to be given enough games to be attractive to back. I would say this is enough games for me.

Marin Cilic has played really well this week and looks like a player rounding into form to end 2016 with some strong results. He has some big matches left to play and is playing well enough to win this match with some comfort. However, I don't think Zverev is going to roll over for him despite all the tennis he has played having to come through the Qualifiers to earn his place in the main draw.

You have to respect the results that Zverev has produced with only one set dropped and that coming against Stan Wawrinka. There is no doubting the talent he does have with injuries being a bigger factor in his Ranking than performance and Zverev also pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in a loss to the World Number 1 in Shanghai.

Matches between Cilic and Zverev have been competitive for the most part and a good serving day from Zverev should make these games very appealing.

MY PICKS: Dominika Cibulkova @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Mischa Zverev + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 17-15, + 1.92 Units (64 Units Staked, + 3% Yield)