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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (September 15-17)

The first round of Champions League and Europa League Group games are now in the books and it has proved to be a good week for all of the En...

Sunday, 17 September 2017

NFL Week 2 Picks 2017 (September 14-18)

Arizona Cardinals @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: Week 1 could not have gone any worse for these two teams who may have seen their Super Bowl window close over the last couple of years. The Arizona Cardinals came into 2017 hoping Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald can give them one more solid year, but Palmer's decline from last season looks like one that he won't be able to reverse.

Losing David Johnson to injury really hurt the Arizona Cardinals with the Running Back being a huge part of the Offensive game plan that Bruce Arians had. The Head Coach was already disappointed by the lack of effort from the Receivers before the season began and now the Cardinals may be forced to throw the ball a lot more than they would wish.

That won't bode well for them after seeing the Offensive Line fall apart under the immense pressure the Detroit Lions were able to put on them. While I think Palmer has declined as a Quarter Back, it won't help matters when he is given as little time as he was in Week 1 which in turn led to some really poor Interceptions throw.

At least this week Palmer may feel he can get a little more time in the pocket as the Indianapolis Colts have not really generated a huge pass rush for some time. That lack of pressure and missing a key player in Vontae Davis in the Secondary allowed Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams have the kind of statistical day that that franchise may not have seen since they used to send out the 'Greatest Show on Turf' in the early part of the century.

Giving Palmer time should see the Quarter Back still able to make some plays and this may be one game where the absence of David Johnson is not felt as much as it will in the weeks ahead.

The Offensive problems have been clear to anyone who has watched the Arizona Cardinals over the last twelve months, but the Defensive unit continue to play at a decent level. They could have a really good day if Indianapolis continue to start Scott Tolzien at Quarter Back after he threw two pick-sixes last week in the blow out loss to the Rams.

Tolzien is playing because Andrew Luck is still out with an injury and he has looked as bad as most expected he may be. There is a feeling that Chuck Pagano is going to start Jacoby Brissett who has been signed from the New England Patriots in a trade earlier this month and Brissett may be a huge upgrade even if he does not know the Offensive game plan as well as he would want.

No matter who begins at Quarter Back, the banged up Offensive Line is going to do well to keep them well protected and offer them the time to throw the ball downfield. Chandler Jones could have a big game getting pressure on the Offensive Line and the Cardinals will feel they have the Secondary to cover the Indianapolis Receiving weapons especially if Tolzien/Brissett are throwing under duress.

Arizona played the run effectively in Week 1 and they do look capable of preventing the Colts building too much from there. That means it will be down to the Quarter Back to keep them in this one and that looks a tall order.

Neither team is a good one so backing one as a road favourite of this number looks a terrible decision on the face of things. However I do think the Cardinals have enough Offensive power to give them every chance of winning this one by double digits against an Indianapolis team who stunk in Week 1 and look pretty terrible across the board. At least the Cardinals have some positives about them and I think they can cover the absence of David Johnson this week as I look for them to be stronger on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage to win and cover on the road.

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: The last time the Tennessee Titans visited the Jacksonville Jaguars they lost Marcus Mariota to a severe injury and they were blown out here by their Divisional rival. Mariota has returned in time for the 2017 season and him and the Titans will be looking to get some revenge over the Jaguars, while also getting back to 1-1 after dropping their home opener to the much fancied Oakland Raiders.

It will be a confident Jacksonville who take to the field having knocked off the AFC South Champions Houston Texans on the road last week as the Jaguars took them to Sack City. The Jaguars were able to dominate the line of scrimmage with new signing Calais Campbell showing why he was paid as much as he was to hold the centre of the Defensive Line.

The Titans are not intimidated by what the Jaguars did last week as they will feel their Offensive Line is superior to the one that the Houston Texans have. They have also spoken about the mobility of Mariota which means he can get away from the pass rush better than Tom Savage and the Quarter Back has shown he can make plays on the run which is a problem for a Secondary who may be missing Jalen Ramsay.

Another factor that could be key is the way the Titans are able to run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield. Running the ball effectively is another way of slowing down the pass rush and Tennessee do think they can pick up chunks of yards on the ground against any team they play which is another way they can move the chains in this one.

This does feel like a game in which Tennessee will have success moving the chains, but the Jaguars may be confident in their own Offensive unit even if Allan Robinson has been ruled out for the season. Losing Robinson is big for Blake Bortles who may be in the last chance saloon to prove he is the Quarter Back of the franchise, but he will have been overjoyed to see Leonard Fournette running the ball as well as he did in his NFL debut.

However he many not find the same running lanes in this one with the Titans strong up front and looking to show their dominance at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Secondary may not be as strong, but Tennessee will be looking to contain Fournette and then send pressure to get after Bortles at Quarter Back and look for the mistakes that have usually blighted the Quarter Back's career in the NFL.

Any time you feel a team is going to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball you have to think that team is going to win the game. The Tennessee Titans look the team to do that in this Divisional game, although they have lost on their last three visits here which does temper some of the enthusiasm.

On the other hand Tennessee have to motivated for revenge after losing their Play Off bid here and Marcus Mariota is surely keen to exorcise memories of the injury suffered here. The Jaguars are also heading to London for the first NFL International Series game and you can't ignored the 10-20-2 record teams have against the spread prior to travelling across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jacksonville are also 2-6 against the spread when coming off a blow out win of 14 points or more and I am going to look for the Titans to earn the win and cover on the road this week.

Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick:The one thing you don't want to do after Week 1 of the NFL is having a massive overreaction to the set of results that come back. If this game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings was played last week without any results, I am not sure the spread would not be a little bit bigger than the one we have seen.

In saying that, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still pretty big favourites to win this game and I do think they can get the better of the Vikings in this battle of two 1-0 teams. The stronger performance in Week 1 did come from the Vikings, but they are on a short week and there are still some questions to be answered about their team in general.

The biggest one may be the status of Sam Bradford who had some soreness in the knees after the Monday Night Football win over the New Orleans Saints. It does look like Bradford will play this week, but he has to expect a much tougher test from the Steelers compared with the one he saw against the Saints Defensive unit last week.

Bradford had a huge game against New Orleans, but he was given plenty of time up front and that may not be the case when he goes up against the Steelers. Last week Pittsburgh managed to get into the backfield against the Cleveland Browns who have a decent enough Offensive Line or at least one that compares with the Vikings one and so it may be a lot more difficult for Bradford to make plays, especially if his knees means the mobility is limited too.

Usually Bradford may decide to lean on his running game, but this is going to be a much tougher day for Dalvin Cook than it was on Monday in his first NFL game. The Steel Curtain may not be as strong as it once was, but Pittsburgh managed to shut down Isaiah Crowell last week and they can at least limit Cook which may just slow down the entire Minnesota Offensive unit.

However to cover this kind of number it will need Pittsburgh to be much more on the same page Offensively than they were in the win over Cleveland. Le'Veon Bell was particularly quiet as he only just returned to the team after holding out, and Bell may have some real problems in this one with the way Minnesota's Defensive Line played last week. Instead Bell could be a threat as a Receiver here as the Steelers lean on Ben Roethlisberger to make the plays at Quarter Back after a pretty average week of his own.

Roethlisberger does play much better at home than on the road and he will likely be encouraged by the way the New Orleans Offensive unit were able to make plays through the air in Week 1. With Antonio Brown, Bell and Martavis Bryant in the line up, the Steelers should be able to make some big plays through the air against a decent Minnesota Defense.

It looks like the Steelers are not a public backed team this week against the spread and I very much prefer backing them when that is the case. While I have to respect the points this solid Minnesota team are getting, Pittsburgh are much stronger at home and I think they can make the plays on both sides of the ball to win this game by around a Touchdown which will be enough to cover this number.

Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: There is a lot of excitement in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers camp for the kind of season they can have in 2017, but the players will go into Week 2 thinking about all the people who have been affected by Hurricane Irma. Irma meant the Tampa Bay opener at the Miami Dolphins was cancelled and so the players might be a little undercooked for this one.

They are facing the Chicago Bears who came so close to upsetting NFC Champions the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 and will hope that is a sign of how they can exceed expectations in 2017. The Bears may have some insight in this one from their new Quarter Back Mike Glennon who came to Chicago after beginning his NFL career with the Buccaneers.

Glennon didn't have to do a lot last week with the Chicago running game working wonders against the Falcons. The Bears will be hoping Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen can continue where they left off last week, but that might not be so easy against the Buccaneers who have a Defensive Line that should be capable of stopping the run.

Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker are capable of slowing down the Bears and then being able to get a real push through the interior which should open up the Buccaneers pass rush. The Chicago Offensive Line didn't mind opening running lanes, but they did not have a lot of success blocking the pass rush last week and that could be a real problem for them against Tampa Bay.

It will be a problem if the new look Tampa Bay Offensive unit is as good as people expect them to be. Jameis Winston is showing why he was picked Number 1 overall in the Draft as the face of the franchise, but he now has been given new weapons in OJ Howard and DeSean Jackson to join Mike Evans and I would expect Winston to have some nice numbers this season.

Winston will be throwing against a banged up Secondary who gave up over 300 passing yards to Matt Ryan last week and Winston has to feel he can pick up from that. There are a lot of Offensive weapons to cover and the Offensive Line looks like one that could be better than what they showed in 2016. The Bears pass rush has to be respected, but I think Winston will find enough time to make some big plays downfield.

Running the ball will be more difficult as Tampa Bay make do without Doug Martin and against a Bears Defensive unit whose strength may be stopping the run. Jerrell Freeman was injured last week and that is a blow for Chicago, one that may take some replacing.

Tampa Bay blew out Chicago at home last season and I am not going to overly concern myself at their lack of playing time due to the cancellation last week. The Buccaneers look like they could be one of the best teams in the NFC this season and I think they can take advantage of a Bears team who put in a huge effort last weekend and will face three established teams in Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Minnesota after this.

I will look for Chicago to perhaps overlook this game and Tampa Bay to show enough Defensively to force Mike Glennon to make a mistake or two. They will know what Glennon is capable of and I will look for Jameis Winston to show why he was given the starter job at Tampa Bay with another big performance employing some of his new toys on the Offense for a win and a cover here.

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders Pick: This is one of the two really big mismatches as far as the oddsmakers are concerned in Week 2 and I am going to back the favourites to cover a big spread. That is a square way of thinking with the sharps already backing the New York Jets, but the Jets may be as bad as any team that has ever played in the NFL.

They are also facing a team in the Oakland Raiders who may be one of the favourites to win the Super Bowl and who have underlined their potential with a win at the Tennessee Titans last week. Derek Carr is back from a serious injury and looked like he had never been away, while the arrival of Marshawn Lynch has given the whole Offensive unit a boost.

There is a real feeling to say that the Raiders have the best Offensive Line in the NFL and now they are able to pave the way for Beast Mode which has to encourage them and motivate them to play hard. It makes it all the better for Lynch that he should have room to rumble simply because of the other Offensive weapons Oakland have around him which means the concentration can't be fully focused on slowing down Lynch.

Carr has two huge Receiving threats in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, while Jared Cook has come in from the Green Bay Packers at Tight End and this is going to be a huge challenge for a Jets team who are lacking talent. Even the Defensive Line was not up to the standard that would have been expected of New York and barring mistakes from the Oakland Raiders, this looks a team who can move the ball up and down the field.

The Defensive talent isn't up to scratch for the Jets, but there isn't much hope on the Offensive side of the ball until they get to the NFL Draft next April and pick the future franchise Quarter Back. Josh McCown has veteran experience, but there isn't a lot of places he can throw the ball and that is going to be a big problem for the Jets through the course of the season.

For all the Offensive power Oakland have, there are some questions about them Defensively that will need to be answered, although I don't anticipate them being asked here. The Jets struggled to run the ball in Buffalo last week and this is a long trip for them to make in Week 2 before facing a Divisional rival at home next week.

Motivation becomes a question for a dressing room that has tried to be see a better set of characters come together, but this feels a long season for them. With a spread like this it only takes a couple of things to go wrong, a turnover or two, which can see the underdog stay with the favourite, but I am struggling to see how the Jets score enough points here.

I do think Oakland should have their way with the Jets Defensive unit and I am looking for the Raiders to produce a big win here.

Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos Pick: Whenever you look at the games upcoming on a Monday, you may have an idea of the kind of spreads you are expecting to see. I think most would have tabbed Denver Broncos as likely going into this Week 2 contest as the favourite with the game being played at Mile High, but it is the Dallas Cowboys who have been set as the team laying the points.

That is something of a surprise even if the Cowboys looked very good in beating the New York Giants last week. The strength of that win depends on how much you like the Giants as a football team in 2017, especially without Odell Beckham Jr.

Ezekiel Elliot looks set to play the full season for the Cowboys which is a huge bonus for Dallas, but they weren't all on the same page Offensively against a solid Giants Defensive unit. Now they face another strong Defensive team who will be looking to use that side of the ball to give them the chance to win games knowing the Offense is not going to be putting up a lot of points like they did in the first couple of years with Peyton Manning at Quarter Back.

The Broncos did shut down the Los Angeles Chargers' Running Backs last week, but they also held a big lead which meant the Chargers had to abandon that side of their game. This is a bigger test against the Dallas Offensive Line, even if it is one that is perhaps not as good as it was in 2016. Denver didn't get the pressure up front they would have liked in Week 1, but there is a very strong Secondary behind them which is capable of having success against Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams.

Dallas should still have their successes Offensively which means it will be up to Denver to show they can keep up on a short week having played the second of the Monday Night Football games in Week 1.

Over the last twelve months there have been big questions about the Denver Offensive unit which is being led by Trevor Siemian. The Quarter Back position should really have been taken over by Paxton Lynch in 2017, but Siemian was able to beat him out in preseason and he didn't play badly last week.

There were times he was guilty of holding the ball for too long as Siemian took too many Sacks last week which could be a problem in this one with the way the Cowboys generated a pass rush in Week 1. However that came against an Offensive Line that is not considered as strong as the one the Broncos will trot out onto the field and that is going to be a key battle in this one.

Dallas played well up front last week which is going to be a challenge for the Denver Broncos who will be looking to set up the run before the pass. Siemian himself showed he had some wheels last week and Denver also have CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles capable of running the ball.

The injury to Orlando Scandrick may also open up more holes in the Secondary for Siemian to exploit and I think there is every chance for Denver to earn the upset in this one.

Taking the points with the home underdog looks prudent when you think Denver are 19-9 against the spread as the home underdog. It would have been great if you could have got the Broncos with the full Field Goal worth of points, but they can win this one outright and I will take the Denver Broncos with the points.

Washington Redskins @ Los Angeles Rams Pick: This is already a big game in the NFC when one team is coming in off a blow out and the other was a home loser in Week 1. The Los Angeles Rams really impressed when beating Indianapolis Colts, but that was a much weaker team than the one they will face when the Washington Redskins come to town.

The Redskins were beaten at home by the Philadelphia Eagles and that already puts them in a weak position in the tough NFC East. There are questions about the Washington team this year which looks weaker across the board, but they still have some Offensive firepower which has to be respected.

Kirk Cousins is playing behind an Offensive Line which struggled in protection last week and now face another big test in the Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line which has Aaron Donald back in the heart of the line. The Rams managed to rattle Scott Tolzien into some big mistakes last week, and they should be able to at least rush Cousins with the way his protection broke down in the loss to the Eagles.

It should be noted that Philadelphia have one of the better Defensive Lines out there, but the Rams might be right up alongside them and so there should be plenty of penetration getting into the Washington backfield.

Most teams may look to run the ball to slow down any pass rush pressure, but that is not likely to be the case for Washington. While they will try to get the ball moving on the ground, the Offensive Line struggled to make holes in Week 1 and they won't find a lot more room to move the ball on the ground against the Rams.

You have to think things will be a lot more difficult for the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff after a huge win last week over the Colts. Despite the Redskins having a Secondary that gave up some big numbers last week, it is difficult to know exactly where Goff is in his career having had a poor 2016 but looking a completely different player in the opening week of 2017.

Goff should be afforded time to make some big plays down field in this one and the confidence can't be asked to be any higher going into Week 2. It would be nice if the Offensive Line can get some holes opened for Todd Gurley who was more of a threat coming out of the backfield than when he was running the ball, but that might not be possible this week either.

That was the biggest concern for the Rams after Week 1 and they are facing a Washington Defensive Line who shut down Philadelphia on the ground last week too. Gurley may still be good enough to catch a few balls out of the backfield which he can turn into big gains and I do like the Rams to make it back to back wins.

Sean McVay is the Head Coach for Los Angeles and is facing his former team having been a Co-Ordinator in Washington last season and that has to be motivation for the Rams. Washington are 2-6 against the spread in the last eight against the Rams and they are 1-4 against the spread when they are coming off a blow out loss at home.

I do think the Los Angeles Rams are the team to back here despite the desperate nature that Washington may have after dropping the game last week. The Redskins have a long trip out to Los Angeles and I think McVay will set up a game plan that the Los Angeles Rams can execute to beat Washington and cover this number.

The Los Angeles Defensive unit can make the difference in the game and I will look for the home favourite to cover the number.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The final pick from the Sunday NFL games in Week 2 sees me looking to back the other big favourite to win. The Seattle Seahawks are off a loss which means they should be focused against a Divisional rival San Francisco 49ers who were also beaten in Week 1.

The difference between the teams is the expectation levels with the Seahawks expected to make the Play Offs and the 49ers likely heading for a top five NFL Draft Pick in April. You have to expect San Francisco will come out for a big fight against a Divisional rival like Seattle, but the talent difference on both sides of the ball makes it difficult to see anything other than a fairly comfortable home win.

San Francisco struggled Offensively in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers and I still believe the Seahawks have one of the better Defensive units in the NFL. The 49ers couldn't get going on the ground last week against the Panthers and the feeling is they will be shut down by the Seattle Defensive Line which is stout against the run but also capable of getting to the Quarter Back with a limited pass rush.

That is an issue for Brian Hoyer who was hit and Sacked plenty of times last week and now faces a fearsome Defensive Line that likes to set the tone for the rest of the team. Jeremy Lane is back after being ejected last week to improve the Secondary and I am not sure Hoyer is going to have a lot of extended successes moving the chains in this one.

Points will thus be difficult to come by unless the Seattle Seahawks are turning the ball over in their own half of the field. It has been difficult in recent years for the San Francisco 49ers when coming to Seattle having failed to score more than 18 points in their last few visits here and that looks to be the case again in Week 2 of 2017.

Seattle will have some issues to resolve of their own after they struggled Offensively in Week 1 at the Green Bay Packers when the Offensive Line broke down. It might not be so obvious in this game as the 49ers have not really got a team with the kind of pass rush pressure that many other teams in the NFC can generate and even the limited pressure should be escaped by Russell Wilson who is strong outside of the pocket.

Overall the San Francisco Defensive unit didn't play badly in Week 1, but I think that has more to do with Carolina than their own play. Losing Rueben Foster at Linebacker is a blow and I do think the Seahawks can establish the run against them in Week 2 which will set them up to move the chains.

It won't always be easy for Seattle whose Offense is still a work in progress to say the least, The 49ers will play up to try and compete, but they are 0-5-1 against the spread in their last six games in Seattle and I think they will struggle again to put the points on the board to stay within this number. The last two games here in Seattle have ended in 16 and 19 point wins for the Seahawks and I think they can get to that kind of margin again in this one.

I like the fact Seattle are 20-8 against the spread in their last twenty-eight games following a loss. This is a big number but the Seahawks are good enough to cover it and I will back them to do that.

MY PICKS: Arizona Cardinals - 6.5 Points @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tennessee Titans - 1 Point @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Oakland Raiders - 13.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denver Broncos + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Los Angeles Rams - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Boxing Picks 2017- Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin (September 16th)

2017 has already been a spectacular year for Boxing fans, but things might just have reached the pinnacle when Canelo Alvarez faces Gennady Golovkin in Las Vegas in a legitimate 'best versus best' contest that it has been billed as.

This has to be the most anticipated fights of this generation as the two leading Middleweights meet in the centre of the ring.

Across the pond in London we will see the only Middleweight belt that is not on the line in Vegas being fought out between Billy Joe Saunders and Willie Monroe with the winner of that one likely to be matched up with the winner of the Canelo-GGG fight early in 2018. That all depends on the winner of the fight though as Canelo has an immediate rematch clause if he loses, but Golovkin is not going to have the same opportunity, at least not contractually.

The World Boxing Super Series also got underway last week and the first fight in the Super-Middleweight tournament takes place in Liverpool. The Super Series looks set to give us some really good fights in the months ahead until the Finals take place in May 2018 and I am looking forward to a tournament that may introduce new weight classes to this format in 2018 if this tournament and the Cruiserweight one goes as well as expected.

Callum Smith vs Erik Skoglund
The World Boxing Super Series Super-Middleweight tournament really looks a strong line up with only James DeGale missing to make it the perfect eight boxers in the draw as far as I am concerned.

The winner of the tournament is going to be a star and Callum Smith have been tipped up for that position for a number of years. He has been frustrated with a delay in his World Title challenge and it led to him deciding to skip his mandatory position and instead chase World prizes in this tournament where George Groves has brought his title into the mix.

As a 'Seed', Smith got the chance to pick his opponent in the Quarter Final and he also has home advantage with this fight taking place in Liverpool. Smith chose unbeaten Erik Skoglund who has decided to come down from Light-Heavyweight for a chance to enter the Super-Middleweight tournament.

Skoglund is not the bigger man in this one though and his resume is not exactly filled with a lot of recognisable names and I do wonder if the step up to face Smith is one he can handle. His fights have taken place in Sweden and Denmark so this is a huge test of his belief as he travels to an opponent's back yard for a tough opening fight in the tournament.

This isn't an easy fight for Smith either, but I do think he has picked Skoglund knowing he has the size to keep him on the end of the jab and some thudding shots. The Smith resume has just faltered in recent fights as he has waited for his mandatory shot for the WBC Title to materialise, but I still think he has been ticking along at a higher level than Skoglund and I think that will show up in this one.

I do believe Smith will earn the stoppage, but he may have to wait until the second half of the fight as he breaks down Skoglund before ending things.

Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin
This is the fight all Boxing fans should be looking forward to.

Everyone will have landed in their respective camps and there won't be many sitting on the fence as people voice their opinions on this fight.

Personally I have thought Gennady Golovkin was the man at this weight class and I am not going to shift my mind now as I try and escape the building hype around the biggest fight we have prepared for since Manny Pacquiao took on Floyd Mayweather. That fight was a real anti-climax, but I am not expecting this one to be between two fine fighters who won't need to go looking for the other.

The reason so many seem to have flipped to the Canelo Alvarez side has to have something to do with the last two Triple G fights. Kell Brook had his success and I thought the Daniel Jacobs performance also came close to seeing Golovkin upset, and many think that is the blueprint for how to beat the Kazakhstan war horse.

I think both have been overplayed- Brook had has much success as Amir Khan was having against Canelo before both fighters were eventually stopped, and Jacobs came in much bigger than anticipated and had to pick himself up off the floor in that fight.

This time I think Golovkin will be the bigger fighter in the ring and while Canelo is a very good boxer, keeping GGG off has proven to be difficult. Canelo is not as slick as Daniel Jacobs and I am not sure he has enough power, despite having plenty, to keep Golovkin from coming forward and cutting the ring off.

Canelo is a great counter puncher, but GGG doesn't seem to get fazed and his own thudding power may prove the difference towards the end of this fight. At some point I do think GGG will have his man in trouble and it will be how much Canelo can weather to determine if he can get through this fight.

Earning a decision in Las Vegas against the home fighter is going to be very, very difficult for Golovkin and I do think the only way he wins this is by stoppage. I can see Canelo making the better start, but Golovkin edging more and more into the fight in the second half when he is able to start really applying the pressure on his opponent.

A cumulation of punches is what Golovkin uses to wear down opponents and that has every chance of happening here. This is a fight that is going to be a lot of fun to watch on Saturday evening, but I will stick with my original thought when this fight was announced and that is Golovkin by late stoppage.

MY PICKS: Callum Smith Win Between 7-12 @ 3.20 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Gennady Golovkin Win Between 7-12 @ 4.33 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)

College Football Week 3 Picks 2017 (September 16th)

The College Football 2017 season has already reached the third week and there have been plenty of big games played already which will likely have ramifications later in the season.

It is a tough spot for teams who are trying to put together the eye-catching schedules which can lead to a Play Off berth, especially those who fall to defeat like Florida State did against Alabama and Ohio State did against Oklahoma in Week 2.

Those losses can be overcome, but losing two games in a season is going to be a tough sell to enter the final four Play Offs and that means there are a number of teams who can't afford another let down in the remainder of the season. It does put a lot of pressure on teams both at the players and management level and it will be interesting to see how teams cope.

With a holiday and time constraints, it has meant the early picks have come out a little later or without the breakdown I have wanted, but that is not the case in Week 3. The College Football Picks will all come from the Saturday games that are still on the schedule with a couple of cancellations taking place, and I am looking for a first really positive week of the season.

On Saturday you can watch out for my Boxing Picks from the huge Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin card, and later in the evening or on Sunday morning the NFL Picks from Week 2 will also be posted.

Let's look forward to a strong weekend with some solid games to enjoy.

Kansas Jayhawks @ Ohio Bobcats Pick: This was supposed to be the year when Head Coach David Beatty was able to win more games than he has in the last two years here in Kansas, and they have begun the season 1-1. However we are almost ready for Big 12 Conference play and the Jayhawks will be heading to the Ohio Bobcats looking for revenge for a home loss to this opponent last season.

On that day the Bobcats were the underdog, but they pulled out to a 25-0 lead before holding on for the win and this time around Ohio are a pretty strong favourite. I like the Bobcats in this spot as they look to bounce back from the loss at the Purdue Boilermakers in Week 2 as I do think they can match up well with the Kansas Jayhawks who were beaten by Central Michigan who are not expected to be as strong in the MAC Conference as Ohio.

Peyton Bender was the scheduled starter for the Jayhawks going into the season and he is playing at a decent level for Kansas which should keep them competitive in this game. The Quarter Back has some nice numbers in the first couple of games for Kansas this season, and he should have some success in this one despite the Bobcats playing well in the Secondary and earning plenty of pressure up front.

The pressure will be on Bender if Kansas continue to struggle to run the ball effectively as they have so far. The Jayhawks had difficulty getting the run going against the Central Michigan Defensive Line which is matched by the talent that the Ohio Defensive Line have and that will mean it could come down to how well Bender plays as to how competitive this game can be.

A key to the entire outcome of this game may be how well the Kansas Jayhawks can continue to defend the run after making a strong start there. That may be partly down to a really poor Secondary who have struggled, but in this one it could be important when you consider how much the Bobcats want to run the ball themselves.

Kansas' Defensive Line is a strength of their Defensive unit, but they will be challenged by the Bobcats here considering how well Ohio have been able to run the ball. Nathan Rourke has helped Ohio from the Quarter Back position with some solid gains on the ground, but he has shown that he can throw the ball very well and we may get to see more of that in this one with the problems the Jayhawks have had in the Secondary.

Backing Ohio as a home favourite had not been much fun last season, but they have been a solid team in non-Conference games against the spread. The Bobcats will have seen what their fellow MAC team Central Michigan were able to do against Kansas last week and I think they can prove to be good enough to win this game by around 10-14 points and I will look for them to cover this number.

Oklahoma State Cowboys @ Pittsburgh Panthers Pick: After falling short in a loss to rivals Penn State in Week 2, the Pittsburgh Panthers are trying to pick themselves up by getting ready for a revenge mission with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Last season the Cowboys produced a huge Offensive day to beat the Panthers in Stillwater, but even a team that has lost the experience that Pittsburgh have will know how important it is for them to perform much better in 2017.

Defensive strength in the base of this Pittsburgh team so they will be looking to show that last season was an exception to the level the Panthers will usually produce.

It will be a big challenge for Pittsburgh who are facing an Oklahoma State team who have scored at least 44 points in the two opening games they have played in 2017. The Cowboys have been really balanced on the Offensive side of the ball and they will feel they can move the chains in this one either through the air or on the ground.

Mason Rudolph is expected to be one of the leading Quarter Backs taken in the NFL Draft next April and he has shown why with 8 Touchdown passes thrown and no Interceptions. With the Cowboys showing they can run the ball effectively, and likely to have real success on the ground in this one, Rudolph should be given the time to pick apart a Secondary and a Defensive unit who have returned just four starters on that side of the ball.

Oklahoma State should have success moving the chains throughout the afternoon, but I do like the Panthers with the points because I am expecting them to do the same. One of the concerns has to be that Max Browne is not going to be able to play at Quarter Back for Pittsburgh having been banged up last week in the loss against Penn State, although it does look like Browne will begin.

There is a hope they can protect Browne better than they have through the first two weeks of the season as Pittsburgh have allowed their Quarter Back to be Sacked 8 times, but the game plan is likely to be clear for the Panthers. They will know the Cowboys have a really strong Offensive unit that will look to strike quickly, so Pittsburgh will look to counter by running the ball at their Defensive unit and trying to extend drives to knock their visitors out of their rhythm.

The Cowboys should be able to get after Browne when he drops back and they have played well against the run so far this season. However this is the first big challenge they have and Oklahoma State have to avoid the upset and overlooking Pittsburgh to the big game with the TCU Horned Frogs coming next week.

That could contribute to the Panthers being able to cover with the points they are getting as the sharps have begun to get behind Pittsburgh too. The public are behind Oklahoma State but this spread has come in by a couple of points in favour of the Panthers and the Cowboys are 3-8-2 against the spread in their last thirteen as the road favourite.

The Cowboys Defensive unit have overachieved so far this season, and I will look for the Pittsburgh Panthers to at least stay within the spread. It feels like this could be a close game and Pittsburgh should be able to produce a big effort despite going down to rival Penn State last weekend especially as Pittsburgh have revenge on their minds for a loss to the Cowboys in 2016.

Northern Illinois Huskies @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: Mike Riley was not happy with his Nebraska Cornhuskers team for playing so poorly in the first half against the Oregon Ducks in Week 2 before seeing their comeback end a little short. Riley has said that his team have missed a big opportunity in winning a huge road game in Oregon and so it is up to Nebraska to try and get back to winning ways ahead of the start of their Big Ten Conference play in Week 4.

The early season numbers are not always important for teams because of the scheduling being the way it is as some teams do place games against overmatched opposition on their season list. That can make it hard to know exactly what to expect and I think the Northern Illinois Huskies Defensive unit is going to be tested far more than they have been so far this season.

The Huskies Secondary is a good one though and deserves respect, although they won't have faced an NFL calibre Quarter Back like Tanner Lee. It has been a tough start for the Nebraska Quarter Back with Lee guilty of too many Interceptions, while his Offensive Line could have helped him a lot more than they have.

Bigger expectations were had for the Offensive Line but that has shown up in the way they have been able to run the ball rather than protected the Quarter Back. They are going up a Northern Illinois Defensive Line that has played well to this point, but this is the biggest challenge they would have faced and I would expect the Cornhuskers to be able to create holes for their Backs.

Running the ball effectively would help slow down the pass rush that Lee has to see and give Nebraska the chance to have a successful Offensive day from the outset rather than when they are chasing the game as they were in Week 2.

The key to this spread is going to come down to whether the Cornhuskers can begin to turn around their Defensive performances through the first couple of weeks. A change in Co-Ordinator has not helped the six returning starters find their groove in the new system and you would have to think that the Huskies can have some success when they do have the ball in the hands of their Offense.

Rod Carey uses a system which will keep making the Huskies an Offensive powerhouse despite the five returning starters they have. That should give this Cornhuskers Defense a few problems of their own during the course of this game, but I would expect Nebraska to begin to wear down Northern Illinois with the superior talent they should have on both sides of the ball.

Northern Illinois have been really good as the road underdog under Carey's guidance, but I think Nebraska come out with something to prove after narrowly losing at Oregon. I will be looking for the Cornhuskers to find their way to a win by closer to three Touchdowns and that will be enough to cover this point spread.

UCLA Bruins @ Memphis Tigers Pick: This is absolutely a square pick and one that I have toyed with putting on the bench before finally deciding to take the UCLA Bruins to beat the Memphis Tigers on the road.

Everyone wants to back 'Chosen Rosen', Josh Rosen, who has led a powerful UCLA Offense to back to back wins and has produced 9 Touchdowns since the end of the first half in Week 1. The Bruins have already made big headlines when coming back from a ridiculous deficit to beat the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 1 and last week they were much more dominant.

Rosen has been the focal point for the UCLA Offense and he won't have too many people questioning why this Quarter Back is considered one of the top Draft prospects for the NFL next April. He is facing a Memphis Secondary which has some talent in it, but I do think Rosen is going to have another big statistical game and his performance and that side of the ball is not going to be the reason why the layers are offering such a small spread.

On the other side of the ball UCLA are going to be missing some key Defensive players through injury and suspension and they simply haven't played that well Defensively. Now they face a Memphis team who are expected to have one of the better Offenses in the American Athletic Conference and that all begins with Riley Ferguson at Quarter Back who threw for over 3600 yards last season when replacing Paxton Lynch.

Ferguson's presence means UCLA have to pay attention to the Quarter Back even if the Tigers are likely to go the same way as the two previous teams that UCLA have played. Namely they are going to run the ball down their throat.

The Bruins have not been able to slow down the run at all this season and Memphis have three talented Running Backs who should be able to take advantage. That is why this is a square pick because Memphis have every chance of controlling the clock and limiting the time Rosen spends on the field to do his own thing, and that should mean Memphis have a chance for the upset.

However the lack of playing time due to a game being cancelled in Week 2 means Memphis could be a little undercooked to take on an opponent as good as the UCLA Bruins. I think the Defensive unit could struggle to stop Rosen having his way and at some point the Tigers may end up making a mistake as they try and stay with the UCLA Bruins in what could be a fascinating game.

UCLA do have a big game at Stanford on deck, but I am going with them to keep the momentum behind them in a win by around a Touchdown on Saturday. The Defensive unit will have to step up at some point to stop the Memphis run, but I will look for the lack of playing time to maybe affect the Tigers at a key moment to allow UCLA to cover.

Central Michigan Chippewas @ Syracuse Orange Pick: There are some serious expectations with the Syracuse Orange this season having returned so many starters on both sides of the ball, but the loss to Middle Tennessee in Week 2 was a really disappointing one. Now they face a tough test in the Central Michigan Chippewas who have beaten one Power 5 team already this season and look plenty talented themselves.

The Chippewas got the better of the Kansas Jayhawks in Week 2 and that came as the underdog, although this game does mean back to back road games which can be difficult to negotiate. However there is a real confidence that Central Michigan can have a really big season in the MAC and putting another win on the board will have them half way to the six wins to become Bowl eligible.

It won't come easy against a Syracuse team who will be desperate to bounce back from an upset loss here last week. The Orange have so many starters back on both sides of the ball which means they should be familiar with the systems put in place by Dino Babers and they should be able to have their successes in this one.

Eric Dungey has been throwing the ball well enough for Syracuse and he has two solid Receivers which gives the Orange every chance to keep the chains moving in this one. This is a Central Michigan Secondary who have given away plenty of yards through the air through the first two weeks of the season although they have been able to find turnovers to prevent teams from overpowering them on the scoreboard.

I do think Dungey will have a decent game although he will be put under pressure by a solid Chippewas pass rush who who are up against a Syracuse Offensive Line which has been challenged. Running the ball has not been so easy for Syracuse which means Central Michigan should know what is coming in this one, although defending against the pass will be difficult with the way Dungey has been playing at Quarter Back.

Shane Morris has come in from Michigan to lead the way for the Chippewas at Quarter Back and his play is the reason Central Michigan were able to upset Kansas last week. They are facing a Syracuse Defensive unit that returned ten starters from last season and who have played pretty well through the first couple of weeks, although they have not really faced an Offensive of the capabilities of this Central Michigan one.

Morris has been well protected and given the time to move the chains through the air and having their top four Receivers back from last season has also helped their cause. Playing behind an experienced Offensive Line means the Quarter Back has been given the time to find those Receivers, while they have also opened up holes for some solid gains on the ground which gives Central Michigan a chance of the upset for the second week in a row.

I am not sure they are going to actually complete the outright win, but Central Michigan seem to be getting plenty of points in this one. Central Michigan are 5-1 against the spread in games as the road underdog under John Bonamego as Head Coach and I do like the Chippewas with the points to keep this one close behind their strong Offensive outputs.

SMU Mustangs @ TCU Horned Frogs Pick: The biggest factor in this game for the TCU Horned Frogs is overlooking the SMU Mustangs and focusing on a big game with the Oklahoma State Cowboys next week. The rivalry should mean the Horned Frogs are focused on the task at hand as an intriguing battle between Defense and Offense comes into play.

For years the TCU Horned Frogs based their success on how well they could play Defensively and this current team does look strong on that side of the ball. They will be tested in the Big 12 and an early test comes from the Mustangs Offensive unit who have begun the season very well.

It has to be said immediately that putting up a lot of points against the likes of Stephen F Austin and North Texas is nothing like trying to do the same against the Horned Frogs. Raising their game to this level is not going to be an easy task for SMU despite how well they have played and how much confidence they have picked up.

Running the ball against this TCU Defensive Line is going to be very difficult for SMU as TCU showed in a dominant win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in Week 2. That has been the start of the TCU dominance by shutting down the run and then producing a really strong pass rush that has been able to knock teams out of their stride.

While the Mustangs have produced some nice numbers through the air, they now face a Defensive unit that have been able to put immense pressure on the Quarter Backs they have faced. While that has not led to the Interceptions TCU may have wanted, it has seen their Secondary given up less than 100 yards per game through the air and given the Horned Frogs the platform for success.

Kenny Hill is back for a second season with the Horned Frogs at Quarter Back, but he has not really ever reached the potential some believe he had from his first appearance at Quarter Back for the Texas A&M Aggies. Interceptions are still an issue for Hill, but he should have a decent day against a SMU Secondary that have struggled to slow down the pass despite being able to generate an effective pass rush.

The Horned Frogs will be looking to establish the run in this one as that is the base from which Hill can have success. While the Mustang Defensive Line has made a good start to the 2017 season, they have not faced a team like TCU nor have they been behind or in close games when teams can continue to use the ground assault to set up their Offensive play.

That is unlikely to be the case in this one and I expect the Horned Frogs to control both lines of scrimmage which should set them up for a big win. The last four wins for TCU in this old rivalry have come by at least 19 points per game and three of those wins have come by at least 30 points including last season.

TCU were a terrible 0-6 against the spread as the home favourite in the 2016 season and they missed the cover in their first home game this season by a single point. However I think they can show their dominance in this one in a rivalry they have gotten the better of the Mustangs and I will look for at least a three Touchdown difference between them on the day.

The remaining three picks from Week 3 can be found below.

MY PICKS: Ohio Bobcats - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Panthers + 11 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Central Michigan Chippewas + 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
TCU Horned Frogs - 20 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Kansas State Wildcats - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 3 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
USC Trojans - 15.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Friday, 15 September 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (September 15-17)

The first round of Champions League and Europa League Group games are now in the books and it has proved to be a good week for all of the English clubs that don't play in Liverpool.

Both Liverpool and Everton were the only teams that failed to win this week, but the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal were all winners to make a good start to their individual Group campaigns.

The big story of the week looks to be about the 20,000 Koln supporters who came to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday and decided that many of them would buy tickets in the Arsenal stands. There has been a split in the opinion with some people suggesting the whole incident has been overhyped, while others think it is the biggest disgrace in years.

I'm torn- as a football fan I thought the Koln fans were brilliant and they didn't come to cause trouble, but on the other hand this arguably the most tribal of sports around the world which is why segregation is so important. In this case we were lucky to see the Koln supporters coming for a good time and to support their team, but other clubs have a much deeper hooligan side which would have caused massive problems for fans with families and so I can see both points of views.

The ramifications will go on throughout the next few weeks as UEFA come into things and more and more people write their opinion on the matter. It is likely that UEFA will come down hard on Arsenal and Koln, but it will be interesting if other clubs decide to follow the Koln fans route in the coming months ahead.

On Friday we have the return of the Premier League which culminates in two big games on Sunday as four of the top seven face one another. Games keep coming thick and fast in September in a busy month before the next international break which begins in early October and so this is already a time when rotation will be rife.

Next week we have the English League Cup where many managers will change their starting line ups and then we have another two rounds of domestic action around Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League.

Bournemouth v Brighton Pick: With Brighton earning promotion to the Premier League last season, there will be a few more south coast derby games to be played and this is the first of them this season. Brighton and Bournemouth may usually fight it out for the summer tourist season on the beaches, but there are an important three Premier League points on the line when they open up this weekend's action on Friday Night Football.

It is a big game for Bournemouth who are trying to earn their first points of the season having lost all 4 Premier League games. They were unfortunate to lose 1-2 against Manchester City in their last home game, but overall Bournemouth have not played that well and the 0-2 loss to Watford here was a particularly poor result.

They have won 14 of their 38 home Premier League games over the last couple of seasons though and Bournemouth have generally been better against the weaker teams in the Premier League. Last season Bournemouth won 9 out of 19 League games at home and 7 of those wins came against teams that finished below them in the table.

I do think Bournemouth are better than what they have shown so far and I do expect this side to score goals, even if they have failed to get going on that front in the 2017/18 season. Underestimating Brighton shouldn't be an issue either as Brighton have earned 4 points so far and come into the game unbeaten in 3 in all competitions.

The win over West Brom last weekend will make Brighton feel they belong at this level and adds to the point they earned at Watford. However you have to wonder if this side has enough goals in the squad and that will be a challenge for them until January at least when Chris Hughton may be able to bring in some reinforcements.

The lack of goals may show up here even if Brighton have made up for that by looking a little more organised defensively. That does make them a dangerous opponent for Bournemouth who do allow teams the space to create chances against them, but I think this is ultimately the kind of game that Bournemouth should be winning.

It feels like a matter of time before Bournemouth find improvements in their results and a similar display to the one they produced against Manchester City should see that improvement begin here. Bournemouth have a decent home record against Brighton over the years and I will look for The Cherries to earn the three points on Friday.

The first goal will be crucial I feel, but I will look for Eddie Howe to find the right formula here and Bournemouth to win the fixture at odds against.

Huddersfield Town v Leicester City Pick: There is going to be a real interest to see how Huddersfield Town bounce back from the disappointment of losing their first League game back in the top flight. We have seen many promoted clubs make strong starts to their Premier League seasons before hitting the wall following a loss and that is something David Wagner will be desperate to avoid.

No one will have any doubt of the importance of the home form for Huddersfield Town if they are going to surprisingly avoid an immediate return to the Championship. As much as they have earned the respect from their form in August, there is still a feeling that goals might be difficult to come by for The Terriers and that means relying on the defensive performances they have produced so far.

Conceding their first goals of the new season in the Premier League will have dented that confidence and I think Leicester City are a dangerous team for Huddersfield Town to face. With more expectation to get forward at home, Leicester City play the kind of away football that could see them threaten Huddersfield Town in this fixture with the pacy counter attack they employ.

Leicester City have played much better under Craig Shakespeare as they have gone back to the basics which saw them win 11 out of 19 away League games two seasons ago. They won 2 of their last 5 Premier League away games last season and should have won at Arsenal on the opening weekend of this one.

Goals haven't been a problem for Leicester City under Craig Shakespeare and I think this is a side that is better than their points suggest as they have been through a difficult start to the fixtures. With the talent they have on the counter, I can see Leicester City causing problems for Huddersfield Town in this one and I do think they are capable of winning here.

My fear for Huddersfield Town is that they will struggle to match the goals that Leicester City can produce and I will back the latter on the Asian Handicap which will return half a stake if the match does end in a draw.

Liverpool v Burnley Pick: Roy Keane was brutal in his assessment of what to expect from Liverpool this season when it comes to winning the biggest prizes, but his verdict has only been highlighted as a former Manchester United Captain in my opinion. Keane is far from the only one who has been heavily critical of the Liverpool defensive performances with former Liverpool players Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness also making their disdain clear.

The poor defensive performances over the last week have really highlighted the problem for Liverpool having conceded 7 goals to Manchester City and Sevilla combined. However this weekend they are not facing a team with the same kind of quality in the final third and Liverpool have kept a couple of clean sheets at Anfield in the Premier League.

Missing Sadio Mane is a clear blow for Liverpool's attacking intent, especially as Philippe Coutinho looked short of match fitness in his cameo during the week against Sevilla. The Brazilian was welcomed back by the crowd, but Jurgen Klopp may decide to begin Daniel Sturridge rather than Coutinho in this one although Liverpool will still be really strong going forward.

They should cause problems for a Burnley side who will miss the presence of Tom Heaton in goal, although Sean Dyche's men have really played well so far this season. They may have ridden their luck to beat Crystal Palace last weekend, but Burnley have to be respected for the win at Chelsea and the draw at Tottenham Hotspur.

That is much better form than they had for much of last season away from home, although I have to give Burnley credit for at least being competitive. Only 5 of their 19 away games saw Burnley lose by more than a couple of goals and so this is a side that will be tough to beat.

However Liverpool are a rampant side at Anfield and the key for Burnley is to try and stay in the game early on. That may be difficult with a new goalkeeper between the sticks which may make them a little more edgy than if Heaton was there and I do think Liverpool may prove too strong.

9 of Liverpool's 12 home League wins came by more than a single goal margin and they have already thumped a poor Arsenal side at Anfield. This one will likely be tight at the end with Burnley expected to cause some problems going forward, but they will have to defend a lot better than they did against Crystal Palace and I will back Liverpool to win and cover the Asian Handicap even without Sadio Mane.

Watford v Manchester City Pick: This past week has shown what Manchester City can do when they turn on the style, although the win over Liverpool perhaps flattered them in what was a close game before Sadio Mane's sending off. On the other hand Manchester City were anything but flattered when hammering Dutch Champions Feyenoord 0-4 during the week in a game where they could have scored double that amount.

There are plenty of options for Pep Guardiola when it comes to picking his starting eleven, but his team should be fresh having coasted to the win on Wednesday. The last week has not been the most taxing for the players and so Manchester City are rightly set as big favourites to win here.

That might be disrespecting Watford who have played well under Marco Silva and look like they can cause problems for any team they face. Silva's Hull City also performed very well at home under his watch last season and Watford have already held Liverpool to a draw here this season.

Watford have not really competed against the top teams in previous seasons with a couple of exceptions to that rule. It is only a few months since they were hammered 0-5 by Manchester City on this ground, but the current Watford team look much more confident and are playing for their manager unlike their reaction on the final day of last season.

The Hornets have only failed to score in the game against Brighton when reduced to ten men very early on, but I think they can cause Manchester City one or two problems in this one. I certainly expect more positive attacking intention than Feyenoord produced and Watford will have seen how Bournemouth gave Pep Guardiola's men difficulties.

Expect this Watford team to look to take advantage of the counter attack with some pace in the forward areas and I do think they are capable of breaching the Manchester City back line. Set pieces will also be important for them, although it is hard to imagine Watford keeping Manchester City from scoring here too.

Marco Silva's teams have been strong at home, including Hull City, but this is a big challenge for him and Watford this week. The Asian Handicap is harder to read as Watford do look more competitive under the Portuguese manager, while they have played with confidence.

However I think this Manchester City team have been very strong and having a small interest in them winning a match in which both teams score looks worth taking on.

West Brom v West Ham United Pick: At first glance a lot of people would probably suggest that this game has the makings of being the last one to be shown on any highlight programme you may watch on Saturday evening. West Brom are far from the most glamorous teams in the Premier League, while West Ham United had been out of form prior to the win over Huddersfield Town on Monday night.

However I think the layers are taking a chance by offering at least three goals to be shared out at odds against here.

For starters this has been a fixture that has produced goals with the last 3 overall seeing at least three goals shared out as well as the last 3 played at The Hawthorns.

West Brom have tended to be a better scoring team at home which should mean they go on the attack against a West Ham United side that have conceded 10 goals in 3 away games this season. Even a poor display from Huddersfield Town saw them open up West Ham United for a couple of big chances and so West Brom have to be feeling confident of their chances of scoring one or two goals.

On the other hand, the strong defensive performances of the opening 2 Premier League games by West Brom have not looked so good over the last couple of games. They are facing a West Ham United team who have Andy Carroll back to pose more problems for defences and a team who have created chances this season even if the results have been disappointing.

13 of the 19 West Ham United away League games last season featured at least three goals each time and the same has happened in all 3 away games this season. With the fixture being a high scoring one in the last couple of years, the same may happen here, and it certainly shouldn't be an odds against price against a West Brom team who saw 9 of 19 home League games end with three or more goals shared out last season too.

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City Pick: I am not one who really believes Tottenham Hotspur were 'cursed' playing games at Wembley Stadium, but I do think the players will take time getting comfortable in their surroundings. It isn't helped by the fact that away teams will visit Wembley Stadium and the players should automatically raise their game at playing at such a famous venue and that is likely to be a bigger factor than any 'curse' when Tottenham Hotspur finish with a worse record than they had at White Hart Lane last season.

To be fair, Tottenham Hotspur could not have done much better than winning 17 of 19 home games like they did last season. They have failed to win any of their 2 Premier League games here, but Tottenham Hotspur have perhaps been unfortunate in both and that does not bode well for Swansea City.

Last season Swansea City were beaten easily by Tottenham Hotspur in both Premier League games and have lost their two best players since then. Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony will need some time before they are at their very best and it all seems to be adding up to a difficult day for Swansea City in the capital.

Swansea City are unbeaten in 5 away games in all competitions, but only the draw at Manchester United has come against one of the top teams in England. They are definitely facing one of those on Saturday and Tottenham Hotspur should be confident after dismissing Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at Wembley Stadium during the week.

Harry Kane has scored four goals in his last couple of games for Spurs and I do think they are going to be too strong for Swansea City. Tottenham Hotspur did win half of their 8 games following a European match last season and I think they can earn back to back wins at Wembley Stadium on Saturday and by a fairly comfortable margin so will look to back Spurs to cover the Asian Handicap.

Chelsea v Arsenal Pick: This is a big London derby for both Chelsea and Arsenal who both have different things to prove this weekend. Chelsea had a disappointing opening weekend defeat to Burnley, but they have won 4 in a row since then and now can lay down a marker to show they are ready to defend their Premier League title they won last May.

On the other hand Arsenal have to show their defeat to Liverpool last month was an exception to the performances they will produce in the big games this season. The problem is that the level they produced that day at Anfield has been more common in big games involving Arsenal than not and The Gunners will be under pressure to show something different here.

Arsenal have won just 2 of their last 18 away games against teams that have finished in the top seven in the Premier League over the last three seasons. Last season they were beaten in 5 of 6 games at the top seven teams and there have been enough performances like they produced in the 4-0 loss at Liverpool to make the fans worry for these kinds of games.

This has not been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent years as they have suffered 5 consecutive losses at Stamford Bridge and the last 4 of those have come by two or more goals on the day. With Chelsea showing improvement and getting back to a full squad of players to pick from, it is hard to imagine Arsenal turning that around here on Sunday.

The away side are coming in with a little more confidence having won back to back games this week, but Arsenal have lost 8 of their last 12 away games in all competitions including both played in the Premier League this season.

It does feel Chelsea are the stronger team both in the tactics and the quality they can depend upon. I just can't see Arsenal avoiding the mistakes at the back that have blighted them in many big games and I am going to back Chelsea to secure the three points on Sunday.

Manchester United v Everton Pick: The Premier League fixture list has been kind to open the season for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho's squad have taken advantage of that, although they will feel two points were dropped last week at Stoke City. This is the first time that Manchester United will play a side that finished in the top half last season and this is a chance for the side to show they are genuine title challengers.

Last season Manchester United won 5 of 18 games against teams that finished in the top half and that was a big reason they failed to make the top four in the Premier League. The form at Old Trafford generally wasn't good enough either and so this is a big game for Manchester United despite how poorly Everton have been playing.

It is one thing losing 3 consecutive games and conceding 8 goals without scoring one of your own- but it is another all together when none of the defeats have flattered you and could have been a lot worse on another day.

That is where Everton are after losing 2-0 at Chelsea, 0-3 at home against Tottenham Hotspur and then 3-0 in Italy against Atalanta. Despite the money invested in the squad, Everton were extremely poor in all three of those games and they could have been beaten by a lot wider margins in all of those defeats.

Both games between these teams were close last season with the home team needing late equalisers to earn a draw. You also have to expect Everton are going to be better than they have been in recent games, but they won't have a lot of time to prepare for this one and I am looking for Manchester United to take advantage of the lack of confidence Ronald Koeman's men.

The loss of Paul Pogba will be felt in games, but I think Jose Mourinho has options in this home game and I think Manchester United will prove too strong. Romelu Lukaku should get the better of Wayne Rooney in a fixture that features strikers that have swapped teams during the summer transfer window and I do think Manchester United are playing well enough to win this one.

With the way Everton have been playing, Manchester United could win their 4th game in a row at Old Trafford in the 2017/18 season and another by at least two goals. I have to think Everton cannot defend as poorly as they have in their last three games, but Manchester United are in decent form and I expect them to be too strong for Everton during the ninety minutes and can cover the Asian Handicap.

Millwall v Leeds United Pick: This has proven to be a tough ground for Leeds United to visit in recent years, but the current crop of players have to be feeling confident of snapping a run of 7 losses in 8 previous visits to the New Den. It has been three years since Millwall last hosted Leeds United, but the latter are much improved having come close to a top six finish last season and following that up with a decent start to the 2017/18 season.

Thomas Christiansen has come in as manager and Leeds United have been playing very well under him, particularly away from home where they have won all 3 League games they have played and scored at least twice in each win.

None of the sides they have faced are expected to be good enough to finish in the top six, but Millwall are one who will likely be fighting against relegation this season. Millwall have played much better at home having scored 8 of their 10 League goals at the New Den and that makes them a team to respect.

Millwall have also been much stronger defensively at home and this is not going to be an easy game for either them or Leeds United. The layers understand that and have a big price on picking a winner, but that looks a difficult option here.

The first goal looks to be so important, but I do think Leeds United are playing well enough to keep their positive run going. They haven't played well here which is a concern in backing them, but you get a decent price on the Asian Handicap which returns the stake in case of a draw.

Backing Leeds United with that security looks a decent price for a side that have scored at least twice in each away game this season. Leeds United are playing with plenty of belief at the moment too and I will look for them to keep the good run going despite the issues they've had in facing Millwall at the New Den.

Sheffield United v Norwich City Pick: The current form of these two teams does give the edge to Sheffield United who have been very good at home compared with Norwich City who have conceded four goals in their last couple of away games, both unsurprisingly ended in defeat.

Sheffield United have won 10 of their last 11 home games going back to last season, while Norwich City have won 1 of 11 away games.

All of that points to Sheffield United being the right side to back, but you have to remember that this is a side that were playing in League One last season and Norwich City are only eighteen months removed from being a Premier League club. The Sheffield United home wins have been solid, but only the one against Derby County can be considered against one of the better teams at this level, and that does raise some concerns.

However this is a Norwich City side who were beaten 4-0 at newly promoted Millwall and so I am very much behind Sheffield United being the right side. They look a big price to back in the win-draw-win market, but I think they still look an appealing price on the Asian Handicap where the stake will be returned if the match ends in a draw.

The draw is a possibility if Norwich City play up to the level they can, but I would lean towards Sheffield United having the edge at Bramall Lane in this one.

Barnsley v Aston Villa Pick: The fans have begun to turn on Steve Bruce as his management of Aston Villa has failed to produce the results that would be expected considering the kind of investment that has been made in the club. The pressure is on Bruce to put some wins together and start moving up the League table if he is to remain as manager of Aston Villa, but I am not sure he will get his wish to start a positive run here.

This has been a tough venue for teams to earn victories since Barnsley moved back into the Championship, although the test for the club is turning some of the 11 home draws into wins this time around. Barnsley have made a positive start in doing that with 4 wins from 5 games here in all competitions and confidence has to be flowing.

Barnsley have not enjoyed much success against Aston Villa at home having failed to beat them in 9 attempts, but they did earn a draw last season to snap a run of 5 consecutive home losses to Villa. They also won at Villa Park and I think Barnsley have a system that works for them and has proven to be very effective.

4 of their 6 home losses last season did come against sides that finished above Barnsley in the League table, but Aston Villa have not exactly lit things up on their travels. Aston Villa have won 4 of their 26 away Championship games over the last thirteen months and I think they look awfully short to win here when you factor in that poor record.

Add in the fact that Barnsley have lost just 7 of 26 home League games in the last thirteen months themselves and I would be surprised if the home side are not capable of at least earning a point here. Barnsley have been scoring plenty of goals in recent home games with 13 goals scored in 5 games at Oakwell in all competitions and I will look to back them with the start on the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth @ 2.20 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Leicester City - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet365 (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win and Both Teams to Score @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
West Brom-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Leeds United 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sheffield United 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet365 (2 Units)
Barnsley + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update: 9-8-2, + 1.52 Units (37 Units Staked, + 4.11% Yield)