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Thursday, 30 November 2017

NFL Week 13 Picks 2017 (November 30-December 4)

With the bye weeks over and only five weeks of the regular season remaining this is the time of the season when teams are looking to get on a positive roll as the Play Offs fast approach.

You are beginning to see the better teams separate from the others, although the chase for the Wild Card spot in the both the AFC and NFC are going to go down to the wire.

One team that was officially eliminated last week were the New York Giants and it was later decided that Eli Manning would no longer be the starting Quarter Back for the rest of the season. The two time Super Bowl Champion has not had much help with his top Receivers all banged up, a porous Offensive Line and a rushing Offense that has not been able to produce consistently, so it was something of a surprise to hear Manning had been demoted behind Geno Smith and Davis Webb.

Most former New York Giants players have reacted negatively to the decision which is likely going to spark the beginning of the end of Manning's time here in New York, while the Quarter Back himself was clearly emotional.

You have to say it was not a great look for the Giants who have been a mess this season and I think the treatment of Manning is in poor taste. I get you want to see what you have at Quarter Back with Smith and Webb behind Manning, while the chances of a higher Draft Pick are increased with either of those two behind Center, but this felt like something more and I would be stunned if Manning is the starting Quarter Back for the Giants in Week 1 of the 2018 season.

For other teams the focus will remain on the field as many look to move into a position to challenge for a Wild Card spot in the Play Offs. The top five have not changed too much for me in recent weeks and I think these teams have begun to separate from the rest and at this stage I would be stunned if any of them were to miss the Play Offs.

1) Philadelphia Eagles (10-1): This looks the most likely Super Bowl candidate from the NFC and the franchise have history when they have gotten to this kind of position before to make it to the big game.

2) New England Patriots (9-2): The defending Super Bowl Champions will be tough to stop getting back to the big game if they can secure home field advantage through the Play Offs.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2): The Offense is getting close to top speed just in time for the Play Offs, while the Defensive young core will feel they can make the plays to take their team to the Super Bowl.

4) Minnesota Vikings (9-2): A win in Detroit on Thanksgiving has given the Minnesota Vikings complete control of the NFC North and they have shown they can win big games.

5) Los Angeles Rams (8-3): There are a few NFC teams with an 8-3 record, but the Los Angeles Rams look the most balanced on both sides of the ball. They have every chance of winning the NFC West, although that will likely mean hosting a Wild Card Game in January. However that is still a huge improvement for this floundering franchise.

There are a few teams dangerously making their move up the standings with the stand out team perhaps being the Los Angeles Chargers who are closing in on the free falling Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.

Now who would have predicted not one, but both Los Angeles teams making the Play Offs? That has become a real thing.

In fact I made a few predictions for the way the Play Offs will shake out by predicting each of the remaining games on the schedule. Now that can obviously change week by week when the upsets occur, which will happen in the NFL, but right now the twelve teams I have making the Play Offs are as follows:

AFC: New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

NFC: Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta and Carolina.

Two representatives from both the AFC South and AFC West as well as three teams from the NFC South means there will be little room for error for those teams. I also had the Rams and Chargers both winning their Divisions, which would have been a huge price if you had predicted that back in September (or even after the Chargers really poor start).

The way it broke down also suggested a 10-6 Baltimore and 10-6 Seattle would both miss out in the AFC and NFC respectively, but there is a lot of football and injuries to negotiate before you get down to the Play Offs.

I also note how much the NFC South teams still have to play one another and that could quickly change the Play Off picture if one team begins to dominate against the others.

So has everyone noticed how much the favourites have been dominating in the NFL since Week 7? It hasn't even mattered when teams have been asked to cover big numbers, and the favourites are covering at almost 70% since Week 7.

That's plain ridiculous when it comes to handicapping games because the points can be so appealing at times, but it seems the luck has just come down on the side of the favourites. I've been on the right side of a couple of those with the Jaguars covering two weeks ago on a fumble returned for a Touchdown and Carolina hitting a Field Goal last week to beat the New York Jets. However the Carolina win was balanced out by the Giants loss who only saw Washington cover with a late kick in that one too.

But overall I have been taking plenty of dogs and not getting much barking going on.

Now you have to be careful in seeing whether numbers are being inflated by the oddsmakers who are trying to bounce back from what has been a terrible time for them. I am trying to do the same with some positive steps made in Week 12, although I did hate myself for picking the Steelers after seeing how the favourites performed earlier in the day.

Pittsburgh unsurprisingly kept things close with the Green Bay Packers and never looked like covering a huge spread to save the Vegas strip from having to knock down a couple of casinos. Fortunately I was on the right side of the Buffalo pick which was a rare underdog showing some life in Week 12, but again I would urge some caution because there is going to be a weekend sooner or later where the favourites get absolutely smashed to bits.

Now onto the Week 13 Picks.

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: At the start of the week I was surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys as the slight favourites in this Thursday Night Football game, but that number has switched a couple of points to make the Washington Redskins favourites the closer we get to kick off.

That could be down to a couple of reasons.

The first is that the Washington Offensive Line looks like it could be close to full health this week and that is so important to how the Redskins can perform. The second is that Sean Lee is almost certainly to be missing for yet another game for the Dallas Cowboys and this is a Defensive unit who have struggled without their influential leader.

Kirk Cousins has to be feeling good if his Offensive Line is anything close to full health as that may give him a little more time to make his plays. It is a shame for Washington that their Receivers have also been banged up with both Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Reed absent, but there are still some talented players here and Cousins has found a way to make the big throws.

Interceptions can sometimes blight the Cousins performance, but in general he has been able to look after the ball, while the Cowboys Secondary have not been able to turn the ball over as frequently as they would have liked. The Redskins can also use Samaje Perine as a ball catching Running Back out of the backfield and I do think they will be able to move the chains in this one with Dallas still trying to work things out without Lee in the line up.

A healthier Offensive Line could also be in play for the Dallas Cowboys which is going to be absolutely huge for them considering how well the Washington Redskins have been able to get to the Quarter Back. In the last few weeks it has felt like Dak Prescott is playing behind the opponent's Defensive Line with how frequently he has had pressure in his face and the mobile Quarter Back has taken a number of big hits and Sacks.

The injuries up front are a big reason Dallas have not been able to score more than 9 points in any of their last three games and there are murmurings of discontent around Head Coach Jason Garrett too. However, having a healthier Offensive Line should give Prescott enough time to try and make his plays downfield, although he has to be careful throwing against a Washington Secondary that have played well.

It is hard to think the pocket will be completely clean either with the likes of Ryan Kerrigan capable of beating out a Lineman who may not be at 100%. That is where Prescott has to lean on the running game that has still churned out the yards even without Ezekiel Elliot in the line up, and I expect the Cowboys will have success doing that as long as this game is close.

Prescott has to look after the ball though and Interceptions have really been a problem for him in recent games. That has something to do with the pressure and hits he has taken, but the Redskins Secondary have thrived in taking the ball away and they could have a couple of turnovers on their way to a big road win.

The Cowboys did beat the Washington Redskins on the road earlier in the season, but they have not played them as well at home. In fact Dallas are 1-9 against the spread in their last 10 home games against the Redskins, while the road team has covered in the last seven in this series.

Washington have been good on the road under Jay Gruden and they are 12-4 against the spread in their last sixteen road games. They haven't always produced their best against the NFC East, but I like Washington in this Divisional game and I think they can get the better of the Dallas Cowboys in a game in which the loser is almost certainly out of the Play Off running.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills Pick: It has been a long wait for the Buffalo Bills to earn their way into Play Off Football and recent results had been going against them in their bid to snap a long run without reaching the Play Offs. However the big win at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12 has reignited the push, although they can't afford to drop too many games going forward with just five games left to go this season.

Even with that in mind, it is a big ask for the Buffalo Bills to beat the New England Patriots who look to be rounding into the form that took them all the way to the Super Bowl last season. They have a 3 game led in the AFC East over the Buffalo Bills with five games left to play and the bigger picture for the Patriots is trying to get into a position where they can earn their place as the Number 1 Seed in the AFC.

That may come down to the game with the Pittsburgh Steelers which is still to come, but Bill Belichick won't be looking ahead as that is not his style. His teams have dominated the Buffalo Bills in his time with the New England Patriots and this is another game where the Patriots should be able to get the better of their Divisional rivals.

Belichick does have a few injuries in his Defensive unit that will bother him, but he is also one of the smartest Head Coaches out there that will look to make Buffalo uncomfortable when they have the ball in their hands. Taking away what the Bills perceive to be their biggest weapon will be what Belichick will have focused on and that means New England playing the run effectively and making sure LeSean McCoy is not allowed to dominate.

At the start of the season it would have seemed like Buffalo would have had some success running the ball, but New England have been improving on the Defensive Line. At the same time Buffalo have had some difficulty in their run blocking and the Patriots should have success slowing them down with a spy on Tyrod Taylor at Quarter Back.

Taylor doesn't make a lot of mistakes at Quarter Back but he isn't blessed with a lot of weapons in the passing game so the key for Buffalo is making sure they can run the ball effectively. Injuries in the New England Linebacker corps won't help the Patriots, but I still expect them to game plan effectively and I would imagine New England are able to do well enough Defensively to give Tom Brady and the Offensive unit the chance to win this one.

Tom Brady has loved facing the Bills throughout his career and he should have enough help in this one from his rushing attack to not have to do it all himself. The Bills traded away Marcel Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their run Defense has suffered since then which is an area New England can take advantage of to keep Brady in third and manageable down and distance.

It wasn't that long ago when New Orleans used Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to devastating effect against the Buffalo Bills and I can see New England doing the same with the likes of Dion Lewis and James White likely to have big games along with Rex Burkhead.

Being able to run the ball effectively against the Bills means teams have not needed to throw the ball against them which may have contributed to the Secondary's numbers. The Bills do have some talent in the Secondary, but Tom Brady is playing at a high level and I expect him to find the holes in this one and I can see New England covering a big number.

Tom Brady has owned the Bills and the New England Patriots are 11-2 against the spread in the last thirteen games in Buffalo. The last three wins have come by 15, 8 and 16 point margins for the New England Patriots and they are also 12-2 against the spread in the last fourteen road games.

Add in the fact that Buffalo are 12-27-2 against the spread in the last forty-one home games against a team with a winning record on the road and I will look for the Patriots to cover this big number.

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans Pick: The Houston Texans looked very happy about their future when watching Deshaun Watson lead them to an embarrassingly one-sided win over the Tennessee Titans earlier this season. Since then Watson has been lost to an ACL injury and that means the Quarter Back position has been manned by Tom Savage in his stead.

Savage has already shown he is little more than a back up level Quarter Back and another back breaking Interception saw the Houston Texans lose at the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. That has all but ended any lingering Play Off hopes, but they have been playing hard which will give Bill O'Brien some belief in the future prospects of the team once Watson is back in time for the 2018 season.

For now they look in a tough situation when travelling for the second time in the space of a few days and facing a Titans team who will be backed by the fans baying for blood. The players will also be well aware of how they felt when being battered in Houston and the revenge angle can't be underplayed despite Tennessee's lofty position in the Division compared with Houston.

The Titans have won five of their last six games too, although they haven't always convinced in that run. Winning those games does breed confidence though and I think the Titans will be able to beat a team who are playing back to back road games which can be tough in the NFL especially when one of those was on Monday Night Football.

It won't necessarily be an easy game for Tennessee by any stretch of the imagination as there are some kinks to work out for them. DeMarco Murray is banged up and the rushing Offense has been affected by that, while the Houston Defensive Line have continued to play very well.

There will be pressure on Marcus Mariota when he does drop back to throw too, while the Quarter Back has been guilty of some poor throws which have led to Interceptions and that could keep the Texans around in this one. However I also think the Texans Secondary is one where there are a few more holes and I would think Mariota can make enough plays through the air to put the Titans in a strong position.

You would have to say Houston would have every chance of the upset if Watson was at Quarter Back, but teams have not been respecting Savage the same way and I think the Titans Defensive unit can make some big plays. Like Houston, it has been tough to run the ball against Tennessee and I don't think the Texans are going to be able to have a lot of success on the ground with the Titans wanting to make sure they force Tom Savage to beat them.

Tennessee have also been able to get plenty of pressure up front so Savage won't have a lot of time to throw from third and long spots. He has shown that pressure can lead to mistakes and I can see the Titans being able to force a couple of errant throws which may lead to a couple of turnovers that helps Tennessee pull away.

The Titans have not been a great team to back at home with some poor numbers, but the favourite is 6-1 against the spread in the last seven in this series. I expect a fully focused Tennessee team to take to the field after what happened in Houston and they can win this one and cover the spread.

Had a busy Week so the rest of the Sunday NFL Picks are in the 'MY PICKS' section below.

MY PICKS: Washington Redskins - 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Tennessee Titans - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts + 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Los Angeles Chargers - 13 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (November 28-29)

There is a quick turnaround in the Premier League this week with an additional midweek round of games.

Now we have gotten into the 'festive' period, there are plenty of rounds of fixtures to be played from November 18th through to the Third Round of the FA Cup which begins on January 5th.

Look out for the rotation as managers look to keep their players as fresh as possible for the second half of the season, while there is also the factor of having big games ahead that may make managers want to wrap some of their stars in cotton wool. You have to factor everything in when trying to make the right picks from a difficult League.

The Premier League games are split over two days with four played on Tuesday and the remaining six games played on Wednesday. The picks from both days are below.

Brighton v Crystal Palace Pick: There are a good run of games in front of Crystal Palace so you can't underestimate how important the late winner over Stoke City. The performances have not been bad, but the players will have needed the three points to show their hard work is going to pay off and Roy Hodgson has been getting a tune out of his Crystal Palace side.

Now the question is can Hodgson get something similar out of his side when they leave Selhurst Park having yet to win a point on their travels and still searching for a first Premier League away goal.

The performances in the 1-0 loss at Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur perhaps deserved more than Crystal Palace got and I think that will offer Hodgson and his players some encouragement. Of course it won't be easy against a Brighton side who have been in decent form themselves.

The highest praise offered to Brighton came from Jose Mourinho on Saturday after the Manchester United manager proclaimed them giving his side the 'hardest game' of the season. Brighton were unfortunate to lose at Old Trafford considering how they played, but Chris Hughton will be acutely aware that points are worth a lot more than praise.

It has been a little more difficult for Brighton at the Amex Stadium where they have to be more proactive. That has perhaps left Brighton a little vulnerable defensively and Crystal Palace will believe they can create chances here.

Brighton too will feel confident about their chances having scored plenty of goals at home in recent games. However they have not been able to produce the wins with 3 consecutive draws here and this fierce rivalry may produce another close contest.

Crystal Palace have won 3 of their last 4 at Brighton and they have the quality in the final third to really put a decent run together. However I think Brighton have been tough enough at home to earn something here too and the two sets of fans may have to settle for a point which keeps things ticking along for both clubs ahead of this difficult period of games.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: You have to wonder about the mindset of a manager who has claimed 'only the big two competitions' mean anything for Tottenham Hotspur but also suggesting that the title race is run for his side after a third of the season is completed. Mauricio Pochettino has rightly been praised for the work he has done at Tottenham Hotspur, but silverware has to be won to really underline it and they look some way off that.

It's hard to get too down on Tottenham Hotspur though as they have tended to react in the right way to what have been perceived to be underwhelming performances. That could happen again on Tuesday and I do think Tottenham Hotspur can secure another win at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester City have just lost a bit of momentum in recent games and I do think this is a group of players who have not been able to match the top teams since winning the Premier League. That may have something to do with teams coming here with a little more focus knowing The Foxes were Champions just eighteen months ago and those top teams have generally left feeling happy.

Claude Puel will likely set up Leicester City to frustrate and hit Tottenham Hotspur on the counter attack, but it is hard to ignore the fact that Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have all won Premier League games here. I do think Leicester City can cause problems when they hit Spurs on the counter, but defensively they are not as sound as they were when winning the League title and Tottenham Hotspur have enjoyed recent visits here.

The Tottenham Hotspur away performances coupled with their ability to pick themselves up from poor results should come into play here. It won't be an easy game for the visitors, but I am going to back Tottenham Hotspur to leave the King Power Stadium with three points.

Watford v Manchester United Pick: This is the live offering on Tuesday evening from the Premier League and it has all the makings of an entertaining game between Watford and Manchester United.

Marco Silva has already guided Hull City to a win and a draw with Manchester United since arriving in England in January 2017 and his Watford team have not made life easy for any team they have played this season. Even in the 0-6 home loss to Manchester City Watford created chances and they have also earned a result with Liverpool and beaten Arsenal at Vicarage Road this season.

The system won't change from Silva who has also seen his Watford team score twice at Stamford Bridge as well as in those home games with Liverpool and Arsenal. At the same time, Watford have been vulnerable at the back where they have conceded at least three times in the matches with Liverpool and Manchester City here as well as the trip to Chelsea.

Goals have not been as free flowing in recent Manchester United games with the defensive side of things being Jose Mourinho's strength but it may be tough for the side to earn the three points without scoring at least twice here. In recent away games Manchester United have been more vulnerable and back to to back 1-0 losses are a concern, although there were chances created at Chelsea and Basel in those losses.

At Watford I imagine Manchester United will be able to create more opportunities and I do think there are going to be goals in this fixture. The last couple at Vicarage Road over the last couple of years have seen at least three shared out each time and I think both teams are going to look to get forward in this one for an important three points.

I do think Manchester United look short considering recent away form and the goals Watford have produced, and backing at least three goals is a more appealing price overall. That has hit in all 4 of Watford's games against teams that finished in the top six last season and I will be expecting both teams to score at least once in this one.

I am leaning towards Manchester United finding the goals to win the game, but I will back the fixture to feature at least three here.

Arsenal v Huddersfield Town Pick: At this time of the season you will begin to see the squad depth of clubs really begin to be tested and that may be the case for Huddersfield Town ahead of another big game for the club. This is when the manager earns the money they are paid as they look to make sure players are ready to compete every few days, but I have to say this looks a very difficult spot for Huddersfield Town.

First off they have been in a really difficult game on Sunday against Manchester City when they spent long periods without the ball. That means so much work being done off the ball and that is going to mean some fatigued bodies on Wednesday.

Now they are likely to be doing a lot of chasing again when they travel to the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal have been very strong in the Premier League going back to last season. The Gunners also had to put in a huge effort to win 0-1 at Burnley in controversial fashion on Sunday, but Arsene Wenger definitely has a few more options at his disposal than David Wagner.

Even with a few changes, Arsenal should be too good for a Huddersfield Town team who have struggled to create chances away from home. They haven't scored away from home in the Premier League since their 0-3 win at Crystal Palace, while Huddersfield Town are not as strong defensively on their travels as they are at the John Smith's Stadium.

There is the distraction of the home fixture with Manchester United for Arsenal to consider, but I think they will dominate this one and keep the momentum in the League going. Arsenal have conceded a single goal in their last 5 home Premier League games and I will look for them to win this with a clean sheet.

Chelsea v Swansea City Pick: Some may already believe the title is over as far as defending Champions Chelsea are concerned, but Antonio Conte is not the kind of character who will give up on things so easily. His Chelsea side have definitely been showing some improved performances in recent weeks and they played well enough to come back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday.

Back to back home games does give Chelsea the chance to put some solid results in the books as they face Swansea City and Newcastle United in the Premier League over the next few days. The Blues will be big favourites to win both of those and I would expect them to that.

The layers think the same with Chelsea being asked to cover a big Asian Handicap when you think they are likely to make some changes to their starting eleven for this fixture. With so many games in a short period of time, Chelsea do have some depth they can lean upon and the players coming in like Cesc Fabregas and Willian are in good form to make an impact.

It is definitely a tough game for the Swansea City players to deal with as they continue to struggle in front of goal in their bid to get themselves out of the bottom three. Paul Clement is under pressure as manager and can't call upon Tammy Abraham in this one which makes it that much harder for Swansea City to find the goals they will need to earn something here.

Swansea City have made life awkward for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in a couple of away games this season and they have not conceded a lot of goals on their travels. The draw at Wembley and the narrow 2-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium where Swansea City had the lead shows Swansea City can be dangerous, but I think Chelsea are in good enough form to break them down.

Like many others this week, Chelsea are being asked to cover a big Asian Handicap, but I am simply going to look for them to shut Swansea City out in a comfortable home win.

Everton v West Ham United Pick: Neither Everton or West Ham United came into the 2017/18 season with anything other than some lofty ambitions, but a really poor start has left both clubs battling against relegation. Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic have both moved on, but Everton have yet to replace the former as their downward spiral continues.

On Wednesday they will be faced by a ghost of many Christmases past when David Moyes returns to Goodison Park with his new West Ham United club. Moyes has yet to really make the kind of impact he would have wanted with his new club and the strength of the fixtures ahead has to be a worry for West Ham United fans if they are still in the bottom three after this one.

There has been some encouragement as West Ham United have created chances in the two games under Moyes, but they are lacking that little bit of quality in the final third. It won't suddenly arrive here, but what West Ham United will do is make sure they put plenty of balls in the box and test the nerves of the Everton defence who have been conceding goals for fun.

Michael Keane and Leighton Baines have both been the latest to be hit with the injury bug and both are doubtful for this one which only puts more pressure on Everton. David Unsworth has not got them defending very well and the lack of confidence means West Ham United should have every chance to score here and perhaps even win the game.

On the other hand, it has to be said that West Ham United are still making the kind of defensive mistakes that Everton can punish. While the home team have conceded plenty of goals, they have found their way to scoring a fair few under Unsworth and I do think the mistakes these two teams can make defensively will be exploited by their opponents.

There is some big work to do at both clubs to ensure they are not slipping out of the Premier League. Everton look ridiculously short when you think how they have played of late, while West Ham United concede too many to trust. The layers may think the tension of this game means goals are hard to find, but I think the defensive problems will see mistakes made and lead to chances and I will look for at least three to be shared out here.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: When you can win games when not completely at your best, you have a team capable of winning the Premier League title and Manchester City very much look like one that is going to go all the way. There are plenty of games to come to change things, but the manner of their 1-2 win at Huddersfield Town will have been a real blow to their rivals who may have thought Manchester City were going to drop unexpected points.

It looks unlikely that Manchester City will drop any more in the next seven days when the side host both Southampton and West Ham United before the Manchester derby. That could mean they are going into the first Manchester derby of the season with a huge lead knowing Manchester United have two tough away games in the same time, although Pep Guardiola will be focusing on his own team.

The last couple of games have not been as dominant from Manchester City as we have come to expect, although they have continued to make much of the running and were perhaps unfortunate to be a goal down against Huddersfield Town on Sunday. At home they should have plenty of the play in this one too, although Southampton should be respected with some pace in the final third which can be dangerous on the counter attack.

However Southampton have struggled for consistency in front of goal and they have failed to find the net in 11 of their last 19 League games. They have been beaten without scoring against Manchester United and Liverpool already this season and the fixtures have not been the most taxing outside of those games for Southampton which underlines the struggles.

Last season Southampton snapped a 6 game losing run in this Stadium, but I think the trend may return this time around. They won't have a lot of chances to make an impact in this one and Manchester City should prove too good for them.

3 of the last 5 home Manchester City games have ended with a win to nil for Guardiola's men, and I think coupled with Southampton's issues in front of goal it makes the odds against quotes for that to happen again look very appealing here.

Stoke City v Liverpool Pick: When you make the kind of decisions Jurgen Klopp did with his starting eleven for the fixture with Chelsea on Saturday, you have to expect to be questioned about it and the manager has to accept that. This is a big season for Liverpool who can't afford to drop out of the top four if Klopp's ambitions are to be met here at Anfield, but they have to find some consistency.

Defensively Liverpool remain a real work in progress and they have to be careful at grounds like this one where Stoke City have the quality in the final third to cause some problems. However Liverpool will feel they can pose plenty of questions of their own when they get forward with the problems Stoke City have had in defensive areas recently too and this feels like a fixture that may produce a few goals.

Stoke City have been involved in some high scoring games in recent weeks and Liverpool can say the same. Both Manchester United and Chelsea have visited the Bet365 Stadium this season and both games featured four goals shared out, while there have been at least four goals scored in the last 4 Liverpool away games in all competitions.

The Potters also had back to back 2-2 draws prior to the 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace and this really does feel like a game in which both teams will score and cause problems for the other for much of the day. With Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino back in the starting line up, Liverpool can make up for some of the defensive deficiencies they have, but they don't look a team that will be hard to create chances against either.

With the goals both teams have been scoring and conceding, I will look for four goals shared out of this one.

MY PICKS: Brighton-Crystal Palace Draw @ 3.25 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Watford-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 1.95 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.55 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

November Update: 25-23-1, + 4.45 Units (92 Units Staked, + 4.84% Yield)

Friday, 24 November 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (November 24-26)

There are two quick rounds of Premier League Football to come in the next few days and I am going to continue splitting them into the Weekend and Midweek Football threads.

It does mean managers have to rotate the squads and make sure players are fresh for the big games ahead and that is something that you should take note of.

You can read my short piece about Manchester United that I wrote seven days ago here.

Then it is on to the picks for the weekend.

West Ham United v Leicester City Pick: Both Leicester City and West Ham United have recently made changes in the manager's office, but while The Foxes made an immediate upturn in results, West Ham United are hoping to David Moyes can have the same impact for them.

Moyes was not an inspiring choice of manager as far as the fans or the media will go and I certainly don't think he 'deserves' a shot back in the Premier League after three really poor performances as manager of Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. His experiences at Everton are still giving Moyes something owners look for, but failing at West Ham United could easily be the end of his managerial career.

Having another week to work with the players should mean a better performance against Leicester City than the one produced at Watford, although there were some positive signs. On another day West Ham United would have found the goal at key times to have a chance of a positive result, but defensively they look like a team that are going to concede plenty of goals.

I would expect Leicester City to create chances with the spaces they should be able to operate in away from home. Prior to the loss to Manchester City, Leicester City had scored at least twice in 4 straight games in all competitions including in their last couple of away games at Swansea City and Stoke City.

Like the home team, I do think Leicester City are far from a secure defensive operation and there is every chance this is a game that will feature goals.

Before last week Leicester City might have been a slight underdog here which would have made them a tempting pick this weekend, but they are odds on even when backing them on the 'draw no bet' market. With a strong recent record against West Ham United, I imagine Leicester City will have their supporters, but their own defensive issues puts me off backing them here.

Instead I think backing there being at least three goals could pay off at a slightly better price than backing Leicester City 'draw no bet'. West Ham United still look very insecure defensively, but they should be able to create chances too and 8 of the last 10 between these two clubs have ended with at least three goals shared out.

4 of the last 5 at West Ham United have also featured at least three goals and goals have flowed in recent West Ham United home and Leicester City away games.

Look for goals on the latest edition of Friday Night Football.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City Pick: While there have been some plaudits for the way Crystal Palace have been playing in recent weeks, Roy Hodgson would much rather be criticised and have seen his side earn more points. They have been a little unfortunate to not back up the win over Chelsea with at least one more, but the confidence looks to be returning to the side.

Perhaps just as importantly is the improving health of the squad which means Hodgson has the chance to play all of his main attacking talent this weekend after Christian Benteke returned. With the way Crystal Palace have been playing, you have to think a second win of the season is not too far away although backing them at short odds is not for me.

Crystal Palace have won 3 in a row at home against Stoke City which has to be considered, but any team who has defended as poorly as they have at times can be hard to trust at just over odds against. That is particularly the case when you think Stoke City have also been improving and have begun to create chances at a good rate.

Mark Hughes has seen his side score at least twice in 4 of their last 6 games and the creative players like Xherdan Shaqiri are in strong form. It is hard to imagine Stoke City not being able to create chances here at Selhurst Park and scoring goals against Crystal Palace here, although Stoke City's own defensive flaws are likely to be exposed.

The chance of seeing at least three goals in this one is actually a bigger price than Crystal Palace to win, but I think the latter will need at least two goals to secure a victory. Both teams should be able to score at least once and the 1-1 draw is perhaps the biggest concern to the pick, but goals have been flowing for both clubs in recent weeks.

With the defensive problems both teams have been having I think there will be at least three goals shared out between these clubs. That would have been a winner in the last 3 home Crystal Palace games and has also hit in 5 of the last 6 Stoke City games overall.

Both teams have conceded two goals a number of times, but also scored plenty in recent weeks and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a big price.

Manchester United v Brighton Pick: This is the kind of fixture that Brighton fans would have been dreaming of when coming so close to getting back into the top flight in recent years. There won't be a big expectation of getting a result from the fans who will simply enjoy making the long journey up to Old Trafford, but the players might feel a little more confident.

Brighton are unbeaten in 5 games in the Premier League and they have won at both West Ham United and Swansea City in that time. Of course this is a far different challenge when heading on their travels to face one of the top six teams and Brighton have already comfortably been dismissed at Arsenal where they were beaten 2-0.

Now they have to face a Manchester United team who have been dominant at Old Trafford where they have scored plenty of goals this season. Coming off the disappointment of the 1-0 loss in Basel should refocus the players ahead of a really busy run of games, while Manchester United have to feel good about the chances created in Switzerland as they look to get back to winning ways.

This is a Manchester United team who have shown they can wear down teams at Old Trafford with only Tottenham Hotspur leaving conceding less than two goals. In 4 of their last 6 at Old Trafford Manchester United have managed to hit four goals and they won't take the foot off the gas in this one with goal difference likely to be a potential factor later in the season.

As strong as Brighton have been in recent games, they will try and shut up shop and frustrate Manchester United, but the home team have shown they can break through against defensively minded teams this time around. Brighton have conceded twice at Leicester City and Arsenal and I think Manchester United are more than capable of surpassing that number.

I was tempted in backing the home team to cover the Asian Handicap, but the full pay out is only received in a three goal win. Recent weeks have seen Manchester United a little more vulnerable at the back than earlier this season so Brighton have a chance to play their part, and you can get a similar price to United on the Asian Handicap as you can if backing them to win a game that features at least three goals.

That looks more tempting than backing a big Manchester United win and I will back the home team to win in a game that has at least three goals shared out.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: There has to be some distraction at Vicarage Road with the Everton bid to prise away Marco Silva as their new manager, but so far Watford have continued to perform and I don't think that changes this weekend. At the time of writing Marco Silva remains the Watford manager and they look a little under-rated heading to St James' Park for this latest Premier League game.

Newcastle United have lost 3 in a row themselves, but I think too much stock is being placed in the fact they have had stronger results at home. Last time out Newcastle United were beaten 0-1 by Bournemouth, while they have needed a late goal to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 before that.

Defensively Rafa Benitez does set up Newcastle United to be tough, but they have lost Jamaal Lascelles to injury and I think that has had an impact in their recent results. Losing the captain at the heart of the defence is tough to replace and Newcastle United have other defensive injuries.

They are also expected to be much more positive at St James' Park and that could play into the counter attacking ability of Watford. This is a team who have scored twice in every away Premier League game this season and I expect they would have been a lot shorter if holding onto their 1-2 lead at Chelsea and 0-2 lead at Everton in two away games Watford have lost prior to this one.

The fact Watford can score those goals is an obvious appeal as Newcastle United have looked a little unsure of themselves in the final third. They should create chances against a Watford defence that has conceded 9 goals in their last 3 away games, but I think it would be a big ask for Newcastle United to beat Watford if the visitors hit their goals mark here.

Like Bournemouth, Watford will have their own chances here and they have played well enough to think they will take those when they come their way. I was tempted to pick Watford to win here, but those recent away collapses have to be a concern from a mental point of view and whether Watford get nervy down the stretch.

However I like the price on Watford avoiding a loss here and I will back them to do that. They can score goals away from home and the win over West Ham United will have restored some confidence that may have been lost before that, while Newcastle United have lost 3 in a row in the League.

Swansea City v Bournemouth Pick: It feels like Premier League clubs are beginning to panic a little earlier than usual this season and five managers have seen their jobs disappear before we have even hit December. That number may easily become six if Paul Clement is not careful as Swansea City have slipped into the bottom three.

Losing 7 of 8 games in all competitions including the last 4 Premier League games will not make Clement sit any easier, while they have been beaten by both Leicester City and Brighton in their last couple at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea City have been struggling for goals which is not a good look when you can't stop conceding and there is some real pressure on Clement to get things right.

Another defeat on Saturday may see Swansea City become the latest club to make a managerial move and they are running into Bournemouth at a tough time.

Eddie Howe has helped Bournemouth onto a run of 4 wins in 5 games and this is a squad of players who have had their confidence restored with those performances. They have started producing more wins and Bournemouth have kept clean sheets in their last couple of games which has to be encouraging for Eddie Howe.

They can earn another win on Saturday and look a big price to do that considering Bournemouth beat Swansea City at home and away last season. However I think the more prudent way to back the away side is on the Asian Handicap at a little under odds against knowing the draw would return the stake.

It is hard to see Swansea City winning this one on their current form, and their last couple of home losses have come against teams who I don't consider better than Bournemouth. With the goals Bournemouth have begun to produce, I think one would be enough to avoid a loss and could be enough to win this game and I will back Bournemouth on the Asian Handicap.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Pick: Tony Pulis has been under pressure for some time with the style of football never giving him much in the goodwill bank from the fans when the results were not being produced. The Baggies were heading one way under his watch and West Brom had to make the decision to look elsewhere.

That means Gary Megson will take charge of West Brom this weekend and I am not sure the fans are going to be enjoying vastly different football. Megson will look to make sure West Brom are hard to beat and frustrate Tottenham Hotspur, but that is much harder to do when the confidence has taken the blows the West Brom players have been suffering.

Now they face a Tottenham Hotspur team who want to make up for the North London derby defeat to Arsenal and who earned a very good win in Dortmund during the week. Harry Kane was back amongst the goals and Tottenham Hotspur had an all around better performance than the one they produced at the Emirates Stadium.

I expect they can use that momentum going into this weekend and Tottenham Hotspur have been winning more games at Wembley Stadium nowadays. The 'curse' has well and truly been removed, although they have yet to truly convince at home when teams set up to defend deep.

I can't imagine that is a big problem for them this weekend as West Brom may just have a hard time picking themselves up after losing their manager. There is some uncertainty there and Tottenham Hotspur should be hungry to try and get back to winning ways in the Premier League.

In recent years West Brom have been a thorn in the side of Tottenham Hotspur, but they did thump them 4-0 at White Hart Lane last season. While they may not get to that margin of victory again, I think Tottenham Hotspur are able to win by a couple of goals on the night and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Liverpool v Chelsea Pick: The big games in the Premier League are coming thick and fast during the busy November and December fixtures and the game of the weekend comes from Anfield where Liverpool take on Chelsea. Two of the top five meeting will always be an important event and both Liverpool and Chelsea know how much the three points will mean.

Both played away from home in the Champions League this past week, but Antonio Conte was once again upset that his Chelsea side have to play a Saturday afternoon game with a day less rest than their opponent. Conte has to be careful that he doesn't give off that negative vibe to his Chelsea players in what is going to be a tough away game at Anfield.

Chelsea have a very strong recent record at Anfield with 6 visits without a defeat, but the last 3 have all ended 1-1 and Liverpool have been playing much better at home in recent weeks. The goals have been flying in, but defensively Liverpool have looked a mess and Chelsea have to feel they can exploit those issues in what looks to be a good game of football.

At Stamford Bridge the goals have tended to come a little easier than they have at Anfield, but this has all the makings of a fixture that will produce at least three goals. Liverpool have been able to get on the front foot at Anfield, but Chelsea will feel they can win this game if they weather the early storm and it will be interesting to see how Antonio Conte will set his team up.

I imagine the system is in place already with Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata leading the line and Chelsea should have chances on the counter attack throughout this one. However they will have to show some toughness in defence against a rampant Liverpool front four who should all earn a start in this one and picking a winner doesn't look an easy task.

Liverpool have been much stronger at home both in terms of results and defensively, while Chelsea have suffered a couple of poor losses away from home recently. However their record here and style of play should cause Liverpool problems too and I think the recent trend of low scoring games at Anfield may be snapped here.

4 of the last 5 at Anfield have finished under 2.5 goals, but the last 4 have also seen both teams score. I wouldn't put anyone off having a small interest in the 1-1 scoreline which has occurred 3 times in a row between these teams at Anfield, but I do think both are playing very well and we may get another goal from one of the teams in this one.

I will back at least three goals to be shared out here.

Huddersfield Town v Manchester City Pick: The layers are not expecting anything but a fairly comfortable day for Manchester City as they visit Huddersfield Town and it is hard to argue against that.

However anyone steaming into the short odds for a Manchester City win would do well to remember it has only been a few weeks since Huddersfield Town beat Manchester United 2-1 here.

On that day it was a poor performance from Manchester United and a couple of big mistakes that put them in a 2-0 hole, but Manchester City should be well rested and I don't foresee them making those same mistakes. Instead I would imagine they will come out and look to force Huddersfield Town to submit in the same manner others have through Manchester City working the ball around and tiring out their opponents.

It is no surprise that so many of Manchester City's goals have come in the second half with that in mind, but in this one they could get after Huddersfield Town much earlier like Tottenham Hotspur did. Positive starts have been made by Manchester City and I think the likes of Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus will be itching to return having been rested during the week.

The attacking threat Manchester City bring should be too much for Huddersfield Town and I think the home team will only have limited chances to play a part in this one. The possession should be dominated by Manchester City and I think Huddersfield Town may struggle to have an impact with a rested Manchester City likely to be putting them under plenty of pressure throughout.

Anything other than a Manchester City win would be a big surprise, and the angle I am going for is the away side winning with a clean sheet. The possession means it can be tough to get after Manchester City, especially with the limited time Huddersfield Town are going to have in this one, and I think it will be tough for the home team.

Manchester City got one last week and I will look for them to win with a clean sheet this week too at a decent looking price.

MY PICKS: West Ham United-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United & Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Watford + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth 0 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

College Football Week 13 Picks 2017 (November 23-25)

It is the start of rivalry week in the College Football regular season and this is the last chance for many teams to impress or knock off a rival bidding for big things in the remainder of the year.

We have only got a couple of the Championship Games set in stone and a number of Divisions will be decided with the two contending teams facing one another in Week 14 with the big one in the Iron Bowl that will decide the SEC West.

It's going to be a really fun week which covers three days as the Thanksgiving Weekend gives the Colleges a chance to play Friday day football as well as on Saturday.

The College Football Week 13 Picks will be on this thread and come out over the next couple of days.

Miami Hurricanes @ Pittsburgh Panthers Pick: The ACC Championship Game has already been set when the Miami Hurricanes take on the Clemson Tigers, but there are other big prizes in play for the Hurricanes. Winning out would mean a spot in the College Football Play Off next month and the Hurricanes have shown they have plenty of heart and desire when coming from a big hole to knock off the Virginia Cavaliers last week.

The Hurricanes can't make another poor start against the Pittsburgh Panthers who have improved in recent weeks and only narrowly were beaten by the Virginia Tech Hokies in Week 12. They put in a big effort into that game as they needed to win out to have a chance of becoming Bowl eligible, so I do wonder if the Panthers may just have lost some focus for the final game of the regular season.

Being able to spoil a season for an opponent should at least make the Pittsburgh players want to perform in their final home game, but emotionally they have had a big let down missing out on a Bowl game for the first time in a decade. Now they also have to play against one of the better Defensive teams in the ACC and one who have thrived on being able to spark the rest of the team.

It was a big Defensive effort which helped the Hurricanes turn around their deficit to Virginia last week and Pittsburgh should find themselves in some tough spots in this one too. The Panthers had some difficulty running the ball last week and the Miami Defensive Line have prided themselves on being able to force teams into third and long situations when their Defense can really begin to make some big plays.

Darrin Cole has had a strong season at Running Back, but it may be difficult to end his home campaign with another big day if the Hurricanes show up on the Defensive Line. It could mean pressure on Kenny Pickett who may take over from Ben DiNucci at Quarter Back from the start after coming in and performing respectively last week.

Pickett is being faced by a strong Miami Secondary who have been able to make some big plays and turn the ball over, and that has to be a concern with the inexperience the Panthers could be going with. Playing from third and long will also mean the struggles of the Pittsburgh Offensive Line in pass protection could show up with Miami very capable of getting to the Quarter Back. That pressure has led to the mistakes that the Secondary have picked off and all in all it feels like a tough day in the office for the Panthers.

Where Pittsburgh may feel they have a chance to at least keep this competitive is the way they have been playing Defensively in recent games. They've found the formula up front to stop the run after struggling for much of the season while that has also meant an improvement in the pass Defense with the Secondary capable of making a few stops from third and long.

The run Defense will be challenged this week though as the Miami Hurricanes continue to churn out plenty of yards on the ground thanks in part to having a mobile Quarter Back who is willing to make plays with his legs. It could be the key to the entire outcome of this game as the team who dominates the line of scrimmage on this side of the ball are likely going to have the success in the overall game.

If Miami are able to get the run going as they have been all season, I think the Hurricanes can pull away with their strong Defensive efforts likely to lead to a couple of turnovers. Running the ball also keeps Malik Rosier in manageable down and distance and I think that is a key for the Quarter Back who showed he can make plays through the air when not forced into tough downs and distance.

Rosier has to take care of the ball, but he has shown he can exploit some of the holes that still remain in the Pittsburgh Secondary and I like the Hurricanes here.

Playing in the cold conditions is a difficult challenge for Miami at this time of the year, but a team who can run the ball and stop the run as well as they can are built to play in December and January. The Panthers also have to deal with being knocked out of Bowl eligibility last week and the Hurricanes are 4-0 against the spread in their last four visits to Pittsburgh.

The Panthers also 1-5 against the spread in their last six hosting a team with a winning record on the road and 7-19 against the spread in their last twenty-six at home. I will back the Miami Hurricanes to win this one by a couple of Touchdowns and cover the spread.

South Florida Bulls @ UCF Knights Pick: This is a big rivalry game and it is going to determine whether the South Florida Bulls or the UCF Knights are playing in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game next week.

The Knights have the better record and also have the chance of appearing in one of the big Bowl Games in the next month if they can win out.

However I do think the Bulls have the ability to challenge them on both sides of the ball. With that in mind I think South Florida are under-rated here and are receiving far too many points.

They should be able to run the ball effectively to control the clock and I think the Bulls can play enough solid Defense to rattle the Knights. I actually think there is every chance South Florida wins this game outright so taking them with the points is the way to go.

Georgia Bulldogs @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Pick: There is a lot on the line for both of these teams with the Georgia Bulldogs hoping to remain in contention for a College Football Play Off berth and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets still trying to earn the one win which will make them Bowl eligible.

The rivalry just adds spice to this game in the final week of the regular season.

Expect to see both teams looking to run the ball for much of the afternoon and the ones who are able to do that more effectively are going to win the game. The Yellow Jackets have a triple option Offense which can be difficult to prepare for, but the Georgia Bulldogs play them every season and that should give them every chance to win the battle at the lie of scrimmage.

It is never an easy game when you play a rival who wants to play spoiler and that is where the Bulldogs have to be careful. That issue becomes more difficult with the Georgia Tech players desperate to get to the Bowl game of their own and it will be up to the Bulldogs Defensive Line to play at a high level and make sure they limit the damage done through the air.

On the other side of the ball I would expect the Bulldogs to establish both Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel against a Yellow Jackets team who have struggled against the run all season. Now they face one of the best rushing teams in the nation and I do think Georgia should be able to move the ball up and down the field for much of the day as they did against the Kentucky Wildcats last week.

Neither Quarter Back will be hoping to be too involved in this one as both teams look to run the ball as much as possible, but that is where Georgia do still have the edge and I like the Bulldogs even as a big road favourite.

Georgia are 8-0 against the spread in their last eight games at Georgia Tech. They are also 7-1 against the spread in their last eight on the road, and while the Yellow Jackets have some strong numbers of their own I do like the Bulldogs here.

The Clemson Tigers won by 14 here and I think Georgia Tech have had some disappointing losses of late which has to have affected the confidence. I will look for the Georgia Bulldogs to cover the spread in their march towards the SEC Championship Game and keep alive their hopes of making it into the top four of the College Football Play Off Rankings.

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Auburn Tigers Pick: The SEC West Division is up for grabs in the Iron Bowl on Saturday and this will also mean a chance to play for the SEC Championship and a shot to get into the College Football Play Off. It is quite a simple situation for both Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers with the losing team likely out of contention for a final four berth.

There is no love lost between these teams and this has the makings of another classic to rival the 2013 game which was won on a returned Field Goal attempt by the Auburn Tigers. That was the last time Auburn won in this series, but they are at home, playing well and I like the Tigers to keep this one close.

The key to the outcome of this game is going to be on the line of scrimmage where both Alabama and Auburn have been able to run the ball very well, but face strong Defensive Lines who pride themselves on shutting down teams on the ground. I think both teams will feel they can have some success running the ball, but I am not sure there will be much consistency despite the fact that both teams will continue trying to establish a run game.

Out of the two teams, I do think Auburn may have slightly better success on the ground against the injuries that the Crimson Tide have suffered on the Defensive side of the ball. That is going to be so important for them because I give the considerable edge to the Crimson Tide when it will come to throwing the ball.

Jalen Hurts is a Quarter Back that doesn't make many mistakes and he is mobile enough to make some plays on the ground too. However the Offensive Line has made it difficult to give Hurts a lot of time and the Auburn pass rush should be able to rattle him if they can keep the Crimson Tide in third and long spots for much of the day.

It has been much harder to pass on the Alabama Secondary than it has on the Auburn one and that is why the task for the Tigers is to make sure the run is established.

Alabama are 4-2 against the spread in the last six against Auburn, but I do like the home underdog who have knocked off the unbeaten Georgia Bulldogs here two weeks ago. Now they should be plenty confident of beating the Alabama Crimson Tide considering the injuries the Crimson Tide are dealing with.

I can only see this being a close and competitive game and I will back the Auburn Tigers with the points in this one.

Wisconsin Badgers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Pick: Things are beginning to become clear for the Wisconsin Badgers who may be unbeaten but have not had the faith of the Play Off Committee when it comes to their Ranking. No one in Wisconsin should be overly concerned about that because they have been punished for what is perceived to be a weak schedule, but they have already confirmed their spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and winning out will result in a Play Off berth.

Putting together impressive wins will help and the Badgers have been doing that in recent weeks and I do think they have every chance of putting another in the books this week.

There will be plenty of motivation in the Minnesota Golden Gophers side of the ball too as they are still a win away from becoming Bowl eligible. However it has been a tough road over the last few weeks for the Golden Gophers in PJ Fleck's first season as Head Coach and that has seen Minnesota drop six of their last eight games.

It is going to be a real challenge for the Golden Gophers to do enough Offensively to give Wisconsin something to worry about. Playing against one of the best Defensive units in the nation won't help and the problems begin up front as the Golden Gophers are unlikely to be able to run the ball even close to as efficiently as they have in recent games.

Being unable to run the ball is not going to end well for Minnesota whose Offensive Line has had problems in pass protection and now face one of the strongest pass rushes out there. It feels like Minnesota will struggle for any Offensive consistency and turnovers could also be an issue for them.

On the other line of scrimmage, the Wisconsin Badgers Offensive Line is likely going to push around the Minnesota Defensive Line and that should see them rip off plenty of long gains on the ground. The Badgers have been very strong rushing anyway and Minnesota have allowed 5.7 yards per carry over their last three games with almost 240 yards per game given up on the ground.

That will just ease the pressure on Alex Hornibrook who has not played well at Quarter Back but who has seen his mistakes papered over by this run. While Hornibrook can make some plays, he is very much going to be an afterthought in this game with the Badgers expected to keep most of the plays on the ground and play some strong Defense to win this one.

In recent years the underdog has gotten the better of this series, but I don't think that will happen here. Wisconsin need to keep winning and impressing so I don't think they take the foot off the gas in this one and they are 9-1 against the spread in the last ten road games.

PJ Fleck has gotten players up for these games as the underdog, but it is a work in progress at Minnesota and I will look for the Wisconsin Badgers to make some big plays and cover a big number on the road.

The rest of the Week 13 Picks can be found below.

MY PICKS: Miami Hurricanes - 12 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
South Florida Bulls + 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 11 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Auburn Tigers + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 17 Points @ 2.00 Coral (1 Unit)
Northwestern Wildcats - 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Colorado Buffaloes + 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)