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Saturday, 29 September 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (September 29-October 1)

It has been an up and down September for the Football Picks but there is still one more round of fixtures to be played this month.

This is the last week before we enter the second international break of the 2018/19 season but there are some big matches to come with two rounds of domestic fixtures in the top flights of European Leagues as well as Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League.

Managers will be beginning to feel the pressure as we enter the third month of the season when the domestic Leagues begin to take shape and they will recognise that the international break could be seen as a time when changes can be made if things have not gone as expected.

That is a fear for me at Manchester United with the continued fall out between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho leading the headlines in the Premier League. It makes Saturday afternoon a huge game for Manchester United who open the Premier League weekend with a trip to the London Stadium against an improving West Ham United, while the big game of the week will take place in West London as two of the top three meet.

With that in mind, let's get on with the Weekend Football Picks.

West Ham United v Manchester United Pick: To say all is not well at Manchester United may be the biggest understatement of the year as the club lurch from one poor result to another. Surprisingly it has been the form at Old Trafford which has been letting them down, while the reality show drama between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho is beginning to divide the supporters into two camps.

The majority of match going Reds are still very much behind the manager ahead of a player who has not found the consistency expected of him as he is involved in his third season since returning to Manchester.

However the toxic atmosphere is not going to aid the players and I do worry about where this season is going.

In saying that, Manchester United have performed better away from home where there seem to be more room for the team to operate in the counter attacking style preferred by the manager. With the home teams expected to get forward, Manchester United have scored at least twice in every away game they have played this season and have won their last 3.

West Ham United won't roll over for Manchester United after earning a goalless draw with Chelsea last weekend and then beating Macclesfield Town 8-0 in the League Cup. A key for the home team is getting Marko Arnautovic back, but they will have to be better defensively than they were last weekend when only poor finishing cost Chelsea the chance of taking away the three points.

The Hammers can play their part against a Manchester United team lacking some confidence at the moment, but I do like the visitors winning at the London Stadium. Manchester United have found their attacking moves a little easier to put together away from home and are creating chances in those games.

They will likely need to score at least twice to win here so backing Manchester United to win a game featuring two or more goals looks much more appealing than backing them to win at odds on quotes.

Arsenal v Watford Pick: A real rivalry has built up between Arsenal and Watford over the last couple of years mainly thanks to comments made by Troy Deeney when he accused the Arsenal players of 'lacking cojones'. He is sure to get a huge 'welcome' on Saturday afternoon as these teams meet in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium.

Watford will make the short journey to Arsenal in confident mood after a very strong start to the new season, but they are also facing a team with more momentum having put together 6 straight wins in all competitions.

It has to be said that Arsenal have not always been convincing and last Sunday could have been a different story if Everton had taken the lead when creating some decent chances. The home side will have to be a lot better from the off to avoid giving Watford the chance to get a foothold into the game, although I do worry for The Hornets who have lost some key players to injury and suspension in defensive areas.

They have already allowed teams to create some good chances against them and this Arsenal team have scored at least twice in 4 straight games at the Emirates Stadium. With the attacking players Unai Emery can call upon I do think Arsenal are going to be a little too much for Watford to handle especially with the defensive injuries they have at the moment.

I wouldn't be surprised if Watford cause problems for Arsenal with the two up front different to what other teams will use against them. However I think Arsenal will create the chances that will help them win and cover the Asian Handicap in this Saturday afternoon fixture.

Everton v Fulham PickThis looks like it could produce one of the better Premier League games of the weekend with both Everton and Fulham looking decent going forward, but defensively vulnerable.

The layers have picked up on that by shortening the price of seeing at least three goals shared out here, but I will keep goals in mind when it comes to the pick.

I am confused by some of the reports that the players at Everton are not completely on board with the Marco Silva training methods, but that does happen when the results have not been as strong as expected. The manager should be given time and the return of Richarlison is a boost for a team who could have earned more from the Emirates Stadium with a bit more fortune last Sunday.

Being back at home should be a big help for Everton who will be able to create chances against this Fulham team and I do give them a narrow edge to beat out their visitors.

You have to respect Fulham for the chances they create and against a defensively vulnerable Everton they should have successes. However Fulham will need to ride their luck somewhat to get a result here and I think the best way to go forward with a selection here is picking Everton to win a game featuring two or more goals.

Huddersfield Town v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The last month has been tough for Tottenham Hotspur but the win at the Amex Stadium last Saturday is a huge boost for the confidence of the players. The losses to Watford and Inter Milan in previous games had been very unfortunate as Tottenham Hotspur led in both and should really have done enough to avoid defeat at the least, but I think they will be feeling much better after winning at Brighton.

They should be good enough to back that up with a win at out of form Huddersfield Town who are having a very difficult time at both ends of the field. Defensively they have not been good enough, but Huddersfield Town struggle for goals too and all together it is the perfect storm for relegation.

David Wagner won't have given up after six Premier League games have been played, but the poor form Huddersfield Town have displayed goes back to February. They won't be expected to get too much out of this one, but there may be an opportunity if Tottenham Hotspur are distracted.

Key players were rested in the penalty shoot out win over Watford in the League Cup, but Tottenham Hotspur have a huge Champions League game with Barcelona to come during the week. The pressure on that game has been intensified by losing to Inter Milan on Match Day 1 and a distracted Tottenham Hotspur could be punished by unexpectedly dropping points here.

Personally I think the back to back Premier League losses at Watford and at home to Liverpool would have focused Tottenham Hotspur and they won't want to lose more ground to the leaders before the end of September. They were very strong at Brighton and Huddersfield Town are not as good as Chris Hughton's men so I would expect Spurs to have too much for them here.

Tottenham Hotspur won both League games against Huddersfield Town by at least two goals last season. The Terriers have also taken two heavy losses to Manchester City and Chelsea this season and I will back Tottenham Hotspur on the Asian Handicap to win here.

Manchester City v Brighton Pick: The key for Manchester City this weekend is not overlooking the opponent in front of them and focusing on the big games with Hoffenheim and Liverpool coming up.

In reality a focused Manchester City should have far too much for Brighton and I expect they will come out strongly and ensure a comfortable win is produced.

The worry for Brighton has to be the way they have been defending with some big chances created against them and now facing an attacking team like Manchester City you would have to think those defensive issues will be magnified.

Manchester City may not have a 100% Premier League record, but they have been looking very good going forward and I expect they will win this by a comfortable margin on the day. The Asian Handicap is a big one, but Manchester City have looked like they could score three or more in this one and that will give them every chance of covering the number.

Brighton will look to be organised, but they have conceded far too many goals to open the 2018/19 season and I expect Manchester City to secure a big win.

Newcastle United v Leicester City Pick: It is something of a surprise to me that Newcastle United have been set as the favourites to win this fixture when you think of the form that the two teams have been in.

There was always a worry that Newcastle United would struggle for goals this season with the signings made in the forward areas, but the bigger concern for the fans has to be the defensive performances. The goalless draw at Selhurst Park might suggest a corner is being turned, but Newcastle United were very, very fortunate there and will have to be a lot better to beat Leicester City.

You can't ignore the fact that Leicester City have lost 5 of their last 6 away games in the Premier League.

However this is a team who have looked capable of creating chances on their travels and who have enjoyed coming to St James' Park in the last couple of visits. On both occasions Leicester City have scored three times and they are playing well enough to avoid defeat here.

Newcastle United have had a week to prepare for this game which will make it tougher for Leicester City, but I will back the away side with a start on the Asian Handicap.

Wolves v Southampton Pick: As well as Wolves have played this season I do think they are still finding their feet in the final third in the Premier League and that has seen them struggle to score the goals that their chances created would have expected to produce. At some point you would think they will put the composure together to find the right final ball or the right shot to start putting teams to the sword, but at the moment it makes the odds on quotes for a home look very short.

They are also facing a Southampton team who are well rested having seen their League Cup tie moved to next Tuesday. Add in Danny Ings' availability and Southampton could be a dangerous opponent this weekend.

Defensively they have had their issues and teams have created good chances against them which will encourage Wolves who like to get forward. It does make it hard to imagine the home team not scoring in this one, although Southampton have been very good on the counter attack away from home and have players in Ings and Charlie Austin who can score goals.

Picking a winner is thus a little more difficult and Southampton will likely play their part in a good football game.

I do think the layers are underestimating the chance of seeing at least three goals shared out with the way Wolves and Southampton have played at home/away respectively. Much will depend on whether the teams have the right shooting boots on for this one, but if they do I can see at least three goals shared out in a decent, entertaining fixture on Saturday.

Chelsea v Liverpool Pick: Two stronger than expected teams played in the League Cup Third Round tie between Chelsea and Liverpool on Wednesday and that may mean Chelsea have the slight mental edge going into this big Premier League game on Saturday afternoon.

However I don't think you can read too much into things as both teams will also make some key changes to this one.

Instead I do think you can take on board the style of play both clubs produced in the League Cup tie and expect to see more of the same on Saturday. Both Chelsea and Liverpool want to get forward and score goals and I think they do match up well with each other.

The amount of chances created in the League Cup tie may have been contributed by the defensive changes made by the two managers, but the attacking style of both teams should mean there are more to come in this one.

I am a little surprised to see Chelsea as the home underdog and I did consider backing The Blues with a start on the Asian Handicap. However that is a similar price to the one for at least three goals to be shared out here and that will be my selection from the fixture.

Cardiff City v Burnley Pick: This may not be the 'Super Sunday' fixture people would have signed up for despite the advertisement every week by the television companies, but it is a big one for both Cardiff City and Burnley.

Points in matches between these teams could be key in determining the bottom three places and both Neil Warnock and Sean Dyche will have circled it as a fixture their team can win.

Cardiff City might be in a poor run of results, but facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in 3 straight Premier League games would be a tough run for any team to manage. They didn't perform too badly in the first couple of those games, but Cardiff City will have had some of the confidence knocked out of them by the amount of goals they have conceded.

However Cardiff City have shown in games against Newcastle United and Arsenal that they can get into good positions and Burnley have not played well away from home. It would not be a big surprise if Cardiff City were to score here, but I think the layers have underestimated the chances of seeing both teams score when you consider some of the chances Burnley have created in their recent matches too.

You can't deny Cardiff City can be vulnerable defensively and backing both teams to score in a tight fixture looks a price worth getting involved with.

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace Pick: The last game of the Premier League weekend comes from the Vitality Stadium on Monday evening and this could be a good one between Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

The home team should make the running in the fixture and that should produce an open game. Bournemouth have been winning plenty of games and scoring goals for fun at the Vitality Stadium which is making up for some of the defensive issues they have continued to have under Eddie Howe.

The Cherries have won 5 of their last 6 home games in all competitions and they have scored at least twice in each of their 5 games played here in the 2018/19 season. However Bournemouth have also conceded at least two goals in 3 of their last 4 home games in all competitions which should encourage Crystal Palace who will be looking to strike on the counter attack.

I would be a little worried about the lack of goals Crystal Palace have produced in recent games, but the chances have been coming and I do think they can get involved in this one. Roy Hodgson's team have played well away from home so they could be dangerous for Bournemouth, but goals is my biggest expectation in this one.

Backing at least three to be scored between the teams on Monday Night Football looks the way to go with the 2-1 scoreline either way looking the most likely result. Another 2-2 can't be ruled out either having seen both Premier League games between these clubs end with that scoreline in the 2017/18 season so backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a decent way to approach this one.

MY PICKS: Manchester United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.72 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Wolves-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.66 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cardiff City-Burnley Both Teams to Score @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

September Update: 20-20, + 0.02 Units (80 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

College Football Week 5 Picks 2018 (September 29th)

I hadn't enjoyed the first three weeks of the College Football season with some up and down results, but Week 4 proved to be the best week so far of the 2018 season.

It gives me something to build on as we enter Week 5 when some of the potential Play Off scenarios will begin to clear up with some big games in the Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences.

There is also an important Notre Dame-Stanford game to be played in Week 5 which is certainly going to put the losing team in a very difficult position to make the final four.

All of that makes for another fun weekend of College Football games and my Picks from Week 5 can be seen below.

Central Michigan Chippewas @ Michigan State Spartans Pick: It will take something quite astonishing for the 1-3 Central Michigan Chippewas to upset the 2-1 Michigan State Spartans, but let's be honest this pick has nothing to do with which team I think is going to win the game. Instead my belief is the Michigan State Spartans will be able to do enough on both sides of the ball to win and cover what looks to be a very big number on paper.

Games like this are usually used as teaching moments for players by the bigger schools and that can make it easier for the underdog to find a backdoor cover with these kinds of big numbers. That is a potential worry for me, but Michigan State have been far from at their best in 2018 and I think Mark Dantonio will be looking for his team to secure a big win before they enter their tough Big Ten stretch of games that are left.

The Spartans are in a tough Division with the likes of Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan all considered better teams than Michigan State. However they did get off to a positive 1-0 start in Conference play by winning on the road at the Indiana Hoosiers in Week 4.

There is still room for improvement as I have alluded to and the return of LJ Scott could be the key for the Michigan State Spartans. While the Running Back won't have his health put in jeopardy by playing the full game in Week 5, I do think Scott's return can help spark a running game that has been struggling in his absence.

More was expected from the Michigan State Offensive Line than we have seen, but they can get uncorked against a Central Michigan team who have allowed almost 200 yards per game on the ground and that despite facing three out of four teams who are significantly weaker than Michigan State.

Running the ball eases the pressure on Quarter Back Brian Lewerke who has some good numbers but who has been blighted with 4 Interceptions to go with the 5 Touchdown passes he has thrown. With a strong running game next to him, Lewerke should be able to have some real success against the Chippewas Secondary and it will also bode well for the Spartans in the Big Ten games they have remaining.

Central Michigan were beaten by 20 points the last time they visited Spartan Stadium in 2015, but they are going to need some luck in this one after a pretty rough start to the season. It looks like the Chippewas will be going forward with Tommy Lazzaro as the Quarter Back for the foreseeable future as he offers a running threat to the position which may be the spark they need to get some consistency from the Offense.

This doesn't look the weekend for that consistency to be displayed though as the Spartans continue to be a tough Defensive unit that may match up very well with Central Michigan. The Spartans have only allowed 1.1 yards per carry to opposing teams this season which means Lazzaro is going to have to have a monster game to change things and prevent being left in third and long on a regular basis.

While the Spartans Secondary have struggled at times, Central Michigan may not be able to take full advantage. For starters the Offensive Line is going to do well to keep Michigan State out of the backfield on obvious passing downs while turnovers have been a feature of this Spartans Secondary that can provide them the extra possessions to cover a spread which is larger than four converted Touchdowns.

The Chippewas have been strong against the spread this season which I have to respect, but Michigan State will be playing with a point to prove to themselves and I think they clear the number and improve their 4-2 record against the spread as the home favourite over the last thirteen months.

Syracuse Orange @ Clemson Tigers Pick: Not many would have tipped up two 4-0 teams from the ACC meeting when looking at this game in Week 5, but that is where the Clemson Tigers and Syracuse Orange find themselves. The Tigers being here is no surprise as one of the leading contenders to make the College Football Play Offs, while they are searching for a 5-0 start to a season for the fourth consecutive year.

On the other hand the Orange are 4-0 for just the third time in almost 60 years and they have already upset the Florida State Seminoles in this Division in 2018.

Make no mistake about it that this is a big step up from the Seminoles to the Tigers especially with this game being on the road for Syracuse. They are now facing a team who are tipped to return to the College Football Play Off and that means everything Syracuse do has to be almost perfect.

The Tigers will be playing with revenge too which cannot be underestimated. That loss in Syracuse put Clemson in danger of missing the Play Offs and they were the only team beat the Tigers in the regular season which won't have been easily forgotten.

Clemson have made a big move at Quarter Back by announcing Trevor Lawrence as the starter which resulted in Kelly Bryant asking for a transfer. Much of the success of this season is going to depend on whether Lawrence can find the consistency to guide Clemson into the Play Offs, but so far the Quarter Back has looked very strong and provides a real balance to the Tigers Offensive unit with a strong arm displayed.

Lawrence could announce himself on the big stage with a strong showing against the Syracuse Orange Secondary which has shown it has some holes despite the 4-0 start. The key for Syracuse will be to get their pass rush pinning their ears back and getting after Lawrence and perhaps forcing some mistakes throwing into a ball-hawking Secondary, but it will be all the more difficult if the Orange can't stop Clemson running the ball.

So far it has been a struggle for teams to do that and so it won't be a big surprise if Clemson are moving the chains throughout this game and forcing Syracuse to try and keep up in a potential shoot out.

Last week Syracuse could not shut down the Connecticut Huskies on the ground so they have to believe they are going to need to score points to earn the upset here. There is a chance they can do that with a dual threat Quarter Back in Eric Dungey who has been in fine form in 2018 and the whole team look much more comfortable in Don Babers systems in the third year under this Head Coach.

The dual threat of Dungey should mean Syracuse can at least run the ball bette than other opponents that Clemson have faced have been able to do. It will be key for the Orange as it can help slow down what has been a fierce pass rush that the Tigers have produced and that will at least give Syracuse the chance to stay within a big number in this Week 5 game.

Syracuse have gone 7-3 against the spread as the road underdog under Babers and I think he can help find a few big plays that helps Syracuse cover, although another upset of the Tigers looks beyond them.

Cincinnati Bearcats @ Connecticut Huskies Pick: After completing the non-Conference portion of their schedule with a 4-0 record thanks to a couple of road upsets, the Cincinnati Bearcats play their first American Athletic Conference game of the 2018 season. They are going into Week 5 as a huge favourite to get the better of the Connecticut Huskies who are 1-3 and have been having some major problems Defensively.

Randy Edsall will be given time as the Head Coach of the Huskies to let his recruiting come to fruition, but this season looks a difficult one for the team to suffer through. They only had 2 returning starters Defensively and Edsall is going to give a lot of young players a chance in the hope that the experiences will see them grow into a tough unit in 2019.

The three games against the FBS teams for the Huskies have been pretty horrific viewing. They have given up at least 49 points in each of those losses and being outgained in terms of yards by at least 166 each time which is not going to be a good formula in trying to win games.

Offensively Connecticut could be dangerous if teams completely disregard them as a viable team and that is what makes these kind of big numbers tough for teams to cover. The Huskies have shown they can run the ball and so the Cincinnati Bearcats Defensive Line have to shown their strength up front after making a very strong start to the season.

This is the key battle in the trenches to determine if Connecticut can do enough to at least cover the number for the firs time this season, but I do lean towards the Bearcats to win up front. It will put some immense pressure on whoever gets the call as the Quarter Back in Week 5 as they could find themselves under pressure from the pass rush while throwing into a Secondary that have played well to open 2018.

Running the ball should be much less of a chore for the Bearcats throughout this game and I think that is where they can take off huge chunks of yardage and open things up for the passing game. The Bearcats Offensive Line have opened up some big holes for Michael Warren II already, but now face a horrific Connecticut Defensive Line who have allowed 309 yards on the ground per game and at a staggering 8 yards per carry.

With Cincinnati likely moving the chains with ease on the ground, Desmond Ridder should be able to have his best passing game at Quarter Back. The Huskies inexperienced Secondary have allowed 355 passing yards per game and play-action could be huge for Ridder who is also capable of making plays with his legs and it all points to a strong win for the Bearcats.

Backing a road favourite to cover can be haphazard, especially when they are perhaps not one of the strongest teams in the College Football world. However I do think the Huskies are one of the weakest teams in the FBS, and even searching for revenge for a single point loss to the Bearcats at the end of the 2017 regular season may not be enough to make this a close contest.

The favourite is 6-2 against the spread in the last eight of this series and I will look for Cincinnati to improve that number.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Georgia Bulldogs Pick: This is an SEC Conference game so you can understand why the public are backing the 2-2 Tennessee Volunteers who have been given a huge start on the handicap. They may have been blown out at home in their first SEC game by the Florida Gators, but Joe Public are convinced that having over four converted Touchdowns worth of points is enough to back the underdog.

Usually I wouldn't argue too much with that but the Georgia Bulldogs look a team on a mission to get back to the College Football Play Offs and win the National Title after losing the Championship Game in 2017. Some will argue the Bulldogs blew their opportunity to do that when losing in Overtime, but they've brought back enough key players to believe they can go one better this time around.

Blowing out two of the better teams in the SEC East on the road should be an encouragement to the chances of doing that, but Georgia have high expectations and Head Coach Kirby Smart has been demanding better from the players. That only highlights how good Smart thinks this Georgia team can be and I don't anticipate any foot coming off the gas in this one if they can get on top of Tennessee.

Revenge may motivate the Volunteers who were blown out 41-0 at home by the Bulldogs last season, but beating them in Athens is a big test. The last three teams to visit Sanford Stadium have been brutalised between the hedges and this Bulldogs team looks Offensively very strong.

I expect they are going to be able to run the ball with consistency this weekend having seen the Offensive Line called out by Kirby Smart last week. Running the ball is the staple of this Bulldogs Offense and opens everything else up and they should have success against a Volunteers Defensive Line that has allowed 4.6 yards per carry on the season.

That will make things that much easier for Jacob Fromm who took over as the starting Quarter Back midway during the 2017 season from Jacob Eason who has since transferred to the Washington Huskies. Fromm should find plenty of time to throw the ball if the Bulldogs are running it as effectively as they should be able to do and that should see Georgia score plenty of points.

The key for the cover will be the support from the Defensive unit and after seeing Tennessee turn the ball over six times last week it is possible the Bulldogs will get that too. So far in 2018 the Volunteers have beaten the two teams they would have expected to do, but they have been blown out by the West Virginia Mountaineers and Florida Gators and neither team is up to the level that this Georgia team can reach.

Jarrett Guarantano is expected to remain in as the starting Quarter Back despite being banged around by the Gators last week, but he will need to be supported by the run to have consistent success moving the chains. However running the ball against Georgia is far from an easy task and there will be more pressure on Guarantano if his team have fallen into an early hole.

He won't be under siege from the Georgia pass rush, but Guarantano will find it tough to find holes in this Bulldogs Secondary and the chance of seeing more turnovers can't be ignored. Those could be critical in Georgia being able to cover what is a huge number on paper but going against the public looks a decent spot for me here.

Games between these Divisional rivals have tended to be very close in the past, but last year the Bulldogs destroyed Tennessee on the road and can do the same at home in 2018. Kirby Smart has demanded his team play better and they can give him a big win to make a statement in this tough Conference.

The Bulldogs didn't cover a similar number in a home win over Missouri in 2017, but I don't think Tennessee will be able to score as many points as they did and that should give Georgia the chance to pull away.

Texas Longhorns @ Kansas State Wildcats Pick: Bill Synder's Kansas State Wildcats have a deserved reputation for being a tough home underdog to oppose with a strong record against the numbers since he returned as Head Coach of the school. That always makes it tough to oppose them in this spot, but I do think the current version of the Wildcats is going to have a tough time against the improving Texas Longhorns.

It is a a big season for Tom Herman in Texas even though this is only his second year as the Head Coach of a proud school. However the 7-6 record in 2017 coupled with an opening week upset defeat at the Maryland Terrapins has increased the pressure on what was seen to be a huge appointment when Herman first arrived as Head Coach.

The criticism of losing the recruiting battle in the rich fields of Texas is going to be levelled at Herman again if Texas are not contenders in the Big 12 this season, but the Longhorns have bounced back from their loss to Maryland and come into Week 5 with a 3-1 record. That includes an upset win over the TCU Horned Frogs in Week 4, but Herman will be preaching it is all about backing that up in Week 5.

Kansas State are 2-2 in 2018, but their two losses to Mississippi State Bulldogs and West Virginia Mountaineers have come by 21 points and 29 points respectively. They have been outgained by at least 146 yards in both losses too and the Wildcats will have to be a lot better to move the ball against the Longhorns Defensive unit.

It all begins up front for the Longhorns who have been strong on the Defensive Line and they will feel they can get the better of the Wildcats Offensive Line who have not opened the kind of holes Synder would have expected of them. The Head Coach is demanding an all around improvement from Kansas State, but even their dual threat Quarter Backs might not be able to get a lot of change from the Texas Defensive Line when it comes to running the ball.

Both Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton have not been as consistent through the air as they would have hoped to be from the Quarter Back position. Some of the issues have come in protection and that has led to more mistakes than a team like the Kansas City Wildcats would be hoping for and it all leads to a pressurised situation for the team trying to beat better ones.

Running the ball has been an issue for the Texas Longhorns this season but this game might provide them the best chance to get untracked. You have to expect they will stay with the run as long as possible and the Longhorns will be facing a Kansas State Defensive Line who have allowed 5.6 yards per carry so I do expect an improvement in the Texas numbers this week.

It should be music to the ears of Quarter Back Sam Ehlinger who has carried Texas to success since the opening week defeat at Maryland. Since then Ehlinger has thrown 9 Touchdown passes with no Interceptions and I would expect him to have a very strong game if the Longhorns are running the ball even slightly better than they have been.

With a limited pass rush to face, Ehlinger may have time to make his plays against a Secondary who have created some turnovers but who have also given up some decent amount of yards. It will bode well for the Longhorns and I do think another clean game from the Quarter Back will make it very difficult to beat them this week and perhaps even to keep it close.

Texas do have a terrible record against the spread when facing Kansas State in recent games which is a concern. The Red River Rivalry game is up next too which may be a distraction, but I like the way Texas match up with the Wildcats and will look for them to win by double digits here.

Florida Gators @ Mississippi State Bulldogs Pick: There will be some serious emotions all around in this SEC Conference game as Dan Mullen returns to Starkville after deciding to end his nine year tenure as Head Coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs to take the same role with the Florida Gators.

The fans will appreciate what Mullen did for their team in his time with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but the early return means there should be plenty of familiarity around which can help the new Florida Head Coach. It could also be a game with some serious Bowl implications as Florida come in with a 1-1 SEC record and Mississippi State are 0-1 and both teams have suffered surprising losses to the Kentucky Wildcats.

Another Conference loss for either team could make it very difficult to reach the six wins they will need to become Bowl eligibility, while it won't be lost on either how important winning out could be if they want to take part in a really big Bowl.

Mullen was taking over a good situation with the Florida Gators even if the team finished with a poor 4-7 record in the 2017 season. It was a season of injury and upheaval for the Gators and the team have looked very much capable of finishing with a winning record this time around.

They look a team who should be able to give Mississippi State's Defensive Line something to think about as there has been a regression with the rushing Defense numbers as the competition has stepped up. This week they face a very tough Florida Offensive Line who have been able to create spaces to run the ball and they will be looking to get that aspect of their game established to keep things in check for Quarter Back Feleipe Franks.

Franks will have to be careful against the Bulldogs Secondary which has played well, while the pass rush is one to be respected. However I would think Mullen has got the right plays up his sleeve to make sure the Gators have enough success Offensively to give the Bulldogs a real game as the road underdog.

It is that knowledge that could be important in trying to slow down Nick Fitzgerald when he is running the Mississippi State Offense. Things begin up front and the Florida Defensive Line has been something of a disappointment when it comes to stopping the run this season which is an area the Bulldogs will look to exploit.

Fitzgerald is a dual threat Quarter Back, but the Bulldogs have been able to make significant gains on the ground behind whoever runs thanks to the Offensive Line play. I can see the Bulldogs bullying the Florida Defensive Line like other teams have this season and that should mean Fitzgerald is able to find time to throw into the Secondary which is the strength of the Gators team.

Looking after the ball is going to be very important for both teams and the one that does that better is likely going to come away with the victory. Dan Mullen's knowledge of the Bulldogs has to be a huge factor and his Bulldogs team were 9-5 against the spread as a road underdog in his last five seasons.

With the points being given to the road team in this one, I will back Florida to at least keep this close with the inside information Dan Mullen will have given his new team all week.

Utah Utes @ Washington State Cougars Pick: There may have been an outside hope for the Utah Utes to win the Pac-12 Conference and then move into the College Football Play Offs, but that is over after going 2-1 in the early portion of the 2018 season. The loss to the Washington Huskies prior to the bye week has already put the Utes in a tough position when it comes to getting into the Pac-12 Championship Game, but that position will even tougher if they drop this game in Week 5.

The Washington Huskies were expected to take a step back under Mike Leach after losing some key players and that was despite finishing three successive seasons with a winning record. However they have been better than advertised with a 3-1 start to 2018, although they have also dropped their opening Pac-12 Conference game.

Much will always depend on how effective the 'Air Raid' system is working to determine how well Leach's teams do and they have opened up with some strong numbers despite losing one Quarter Back to the NFL and the player most likely to take over that spot sadly committed suicide.

The Cougars have an experienced Quarter Back who came in as a transfer and they have averaged over 400 passing yards per game to give themselves a chance in every game they have played. There is a real challenge in front of them though as they face one of the better Defensive units in College Football and it is going to be a test for Gardner Minshew to move the chains with any consistency.

The Quarter Back will not really be helped by a running game so everything will be on the Minshew arm. He will have to be wary of some of the pressure the Utes have generated up front as well as looking after the ball if the Cougars are going to have a chance of the upset despite being at home.

A bigger factor that could help Washington State might be how well the Defensive unit has played which could be a surprise to read. The Offense usually generates the headlines, but the Defensive unit returned 6 starters from the strong 2017 team and they look capable of putting the pressure on Utah's struggling Offensive unit.

Zack Moss has been able to run the ball well enough for the Utes and has helped the team generate 4.7 yards per carry, but it won't be easy against this Cougars Defensive Line who have opened up the season strong up front. Last season Washington State held teams to 4.2 yards per carry, but they opened up 2018 by holding teams to 3.2 yards per carry and it will be important for Washington State to try and force Utah to become one-dimensional.

You can't dispute that Tyler Huntley has played well enough at Quarter Back, but it will be a tough game for him if the Cougars are able to restrict the Moss and the rushing Offense. Huntley has some decent numbers, but his Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection and Washington State have generated plenty of pressure up front to think they can put the Quarter Back in an uncomfortable position.

The Washington State Secondary have played the pass well enough so far this season but the pressure up front has seen them turn the ball over and that could be the difference maker in a close game.

Washington State are 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series between these Conference rivals while they are also 3-1 against the spread in the last three seasons as the home underdog. I will look for the Cougars to do enough to cover as the home underdog here too and will have the small amount of points on my side.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The biggest game of the weekend comes from the Big Ten and the winner of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Ohio State Buckeyes game will have the inside track to win the Division. That will mean they go into the Big Ten Championship Game as the favourite to win the Conference and then earn a spot in the College Football Play Off in December.

You can only underestimate how important this game is for both teams in a tough Big Ten East Division in which they reside and the night game setting makes this an exciting game to watch.

Both teams are unbeaten and have rarely looked like losing that record in their opening four games and both come into this weekend off strong wins so there won't be many excuses offered from the losing team.

Mike Weber is a key player for the Buckeyes and the Running Back is expected to be passed fit for this Week 5 game. He will be key in trying to establish the run for Ohio State against a strong Penn State Defensive Line and that could be a key battle in the outcome of the game.

If the Buckeyes can run the ball effectively they will make life that much easier for Dwayne Haskins who has shown he can be a dual threat from the Quarter Back position. Haskins will help Weber in establishing the run, and he has been very strong throwing the ball with just one pick in 2018.

That balance is important for Ohio State who will be faced with a Penn State pass rush that will believe they can challenge the Buckeyes Offensive Line and at least put Haskins under some real pressure. Even then it is hard to imagine Ohio State don't put up some decent numbers in this game as they try to silence what is going to be a loud and hostile crowd.

Penn State have a strong dual threat Quarter Back of their own in Trace McSorley who is a leading Heisman contender in 2018. When they lost Saquon Barkley to the NFL it was supposed to be very tough for Penn State to fill his shoes, but the team have got together to produce some very strong rushing numbers which have been helped by what McSorley has been able to do.

Miles Sanders is going to have a bigger role from Running Back too but it is very important for Penn State to establish the run. As strong as McSorley's numbers have been on the ground, he has thrown an Interception in two straight games and has to be kept in third and manageable to be most effective.

If he can do that McSorley could have a decent passing game too as it will slow down an Ohio State pass rush which has lost a key piece in Nick Bosa. The absence of Bosa will be music to the ears of the Penn State Offensive Line and they will believe they can give their Quarter Back time to make some big plays in this one.

The Ohio State Secondary has been able to make some plays to turn the ball over which has to be considered by McSorley and the picks he has thrown in back to back games. Playing a clean game will be imperative for both teams and I am surprised the Nittany Lions are getting more than a Field Goal worth of points in what is likely to be a close and competitive game.

The home team is 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series and Penn State are 3-1 against the spread against the Buckeyes under James Franklin. I do think Penn State can win this game outright and going against the public in what is the biggest game of the weekend is not a position I am disappointed in being.

Taking the points with the home underdog looks the right play here.

MY PICKS: Michigan State Spartans - 28.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Syracuse Orange + 25 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 17 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 31 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas Longhorns - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Florida + 7 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Washington State Cougars + 1.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Penn State Nittany Lions + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Week 4: 7-4, + 2.41 Units (11 Units Staked, + 21.91% Yield)
Week 3: 5-5, - 0.55 Units (10 Units Staked, - 5.5% Yield)
Week 2: 6-5, + 0.52 Units (11 Units Staked, + 4.73% Yield)

Friday, 28 September 2018

Boxing Picks 2018- George Groves vs Callum Smith (September 28th)

September has been a very good month for Boxing fans with a couple of very good main events over the last two weekends, but there is plenty more excitement to come in the months leading up to Christmas.

First this month comes to a close with the conclusion of the World Boxing Super Series Season One with the Final of the Super Middleweight tournament taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday.

It is an all British Final too which will have built up some anticipation back home, but I do think some of the hype has been missing because the fight is taking place on foreign soil. If this had been at the O2 Arena or Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom it would have been a huge occasion, but the money in Saudi Arabia could not be ignored and especially not when the Cruiserweight Final rumoured for Jeddah took place in Moscow.

Local customs means the Final will take place on Friday rather than Saturday as would be the norm, but there are other decent fights taking place this weekend with the likes of Joe Joyce, Jorge Linares and James DeGale in action. Any Boxing Picks from those fights will be added to this thread.

This past week we have also had confirmation of two fights I am very much looking forward to- the first is in Manchester between Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew and the second is the big Heavyweight fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury which has been confirmed for Los Angeles.

It's a very good time to be a Boxing fan to say the least.

And if the rumours are to be believed, there could be at least two more huge fights put together before the end of the year while the start of the Second Season of the World Boxing Super Series is also just a week away.

Last week was another good one for the Boxing Picks with more positive gains made, although it was close to being a huge week if David Price's bicep could have lasted one more Round. His health is obviously more important, but it is another setback for Price although I would expect to see the Liverpudlian back in the ring in 2019.

Hopefully we can keep the positive September gains going through another week with the selections from this weekend's fights.

Chris Eubank Jr vs JJ McDonagh
It is something of a surprise that Chris Eubank Jr has spent so long out of the ring after losing his grudge fight with George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series Semi Final.

He looked to have come out of that fight in better health than the winner, but Eubank Jr's confidence would have been dented and I am guessing he just needed some time to reevaluate where he was heading.

The rumour is that Eubank Jr and James DeGale could be meeting in a grudge fight in December with both fighters in action this weekend. If they both win that could be a fight that is announced next week and I do think this is nothing more than Eubank Jr getting some rust out of himself.

I am sure JJ McDonagh isn't heading to Saudi Arabia to make up the numbers and he is talking a very good game. However this is a huge step up for the Irishman and he i going to have to display some toughness if he is going to give Eubank Jr some Rounds in this one.

There is nothing on the record to suggest McDonagh is going to be able to secure the upset and I think this may be a showcase fight for Eubank Jr. He should be able to let his hands go and I think that could see him end the fight relatively early with the referee perhaps jumping in to stop things.

I do think McDonagh can tough out the first couple of Rounds, but Eubank Jr may keep the fast hands going and earn the stoppage in either Round 3 or Round 4 which is worth a small interest.

George Groves vs Callum Smith
Where the Cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series tournament crowned an undisputed Champion and one who looks to be going on to much bigger things, the Super Middleweight tournament did not have all the belts on the line.

However the tournament has gained such a traction over the last twelve months that Ring Magazine are putting their belt on the winner which means either George Groves or Callum Smith will be considered the Number 1 Super Middleweight in the world.

That will open the door for some huge fights with the likes of James DeGale and Rocky Fielding being considered for December, but neither Groves or Smith can afford to look over this Final.

George Groves has the experience and the superior wins in his career, while also being involved in much bigger fights and occasions than Smith. The only real doubt around the WBA Champion is the shoulder injury he suffered in the win over Chris Eubank Jr in the Semi Final and whether that is fully healed or whether Groves goes into this Final with some doubts.

It is a worry because it was a very bad injury, but Groves has sounded pretty content with his recovery.

A couple of years ago I was pretty high on Callum Smith as the best of a strong fighting family. He looked to be progressing very well but he has underwhelmed in the World Boxing Super Series and that despite not facing top quality opposition either.

I do think Smith will be motivated in this one and that a lack of motivation may have contributed to sub par performances. However I am not convinced he is making weight as well as he would like and this is a big step up on anyone he has faced in his career.

The win over Rocky Fielding looks much better since the latter won a World Title, but Smith has not progressed as I would have liked to have seen since then. The lack of experience of fighting someone of the quality of Groves could come out here and I like the veteran to produce one more good win before contemplating his next move in his career.

It is possible Groves still hits hard enough to earn a stoppage, but the most likely outcome feels like the veteran using his wiles to do enough to pile up the Rounds and eventually be awarded the Unanimous Decision. Both fighters could then consider a move up to Light-Heavyweight, but I think Smith will come again like Groves did after losing his first three Title challenges.

MY PICKS: Chris Eubank Jr Win Between 3-4 @ 6.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
George Groves @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Boxing 2018 Update: 27-47, + 12.44 Units (113 Units Staked, + 11.01% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2018 (September 28th)

The tournaments being played across Asia are coming to a close and we have reached at least the Quarter Final stage of all of those events.

The Asian swing in the back end of a season can be tough to read with tiredness a real factor to be considered, although there are plenty of players chasing a strong end to the season to set themselves up for 2019.

We also have the race for the WTA Finals and the ATP World Tour Finals to be completed as well as the season ending World Number 1 spots on both Tours which will begin to be cleared up in the month ahead.

For now let's get this week in the books with another busy day of Tennis on Friday, My selections for the day can be seen below.

MY PICKS: Qiang Wang - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Aryna Sabalenka - 1.5 Games @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Joao Sousa - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Alex De Minaur - 1.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Andy Murray - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 7-11, - 10 Units (36 Units Staked, - 27.78% Yield)

Thursday, 27 September 2018

NFL Week 4 Picks 2018 (September 27-October 1)

It was never going to be about maintaining the level of success I had with the NFL Picks through the first couple of weeks because those were winners at an unsustainable level for anyone.

The key was to make sure I didn't hit a really poor week and at least I avoided that for the most part in Week 3.

I am a little irritated with myself for the unit on the Minnesota Vikings having reminded myself all week as to why I didn't want to back them, but it is a mistake I won't be looking to repeat. The other selections were ones that I would have made again and things could have been a lot worse in Week 3 than they turned out to be.

Going into the late Sunday afternoon games it looked like being another decent week to be fair, but the Los Angeles Chargers and Chicago Bears both missed out on the cover despite having some real chances to do that.

Hopefully Week 4 is going to be better and I am beginning this week's selections with Thursday Night Football. It is one of the better Thursday Night Football games of the season and one that could be repeated in the Play Offs in January, while my remaining selections will be added to this thread in the next couple of days.

Minnesota Vikings @ Los Angeles Rams Pick: It was one of the biggest upsets in the last thirty years as the Minnesota Vikings were beaten as an almost three Touchdown home favourite in Week 3. A lack of intensity was clear in the opening minutes of the First Quarter against the Buffalo Bills and it was a bad loss to take to drop the team to 1-1-1 in 2018.

Now they face what many consider to be the team to beat in the NFC as they head to Los Angeles to take on the unbeaten Rams who improved to 3-0 with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3. While that was a solid win for the Rams, this is a team who have not exactly beaten any team of serious note so far in 2018 and facing this Minnesota Vikings team is a whole different story to playing Oakland, Arizona and the Chargers.

The Rams have improved their Offensive output in each passing week having scored 33 points in Week 1, 34 points in Week 2 and then 35 points in Week 3. They will be looking to keep that power scoring going against one of the best NFL Defenses, but I do think things will be tougher all around for them even though Head Coach Sean McVay has proven to be an Offensive mastermind.

Everson Griffen is absent for the Vikings which is a big blow to their ability to get pressure on Jared Goff, but Minnesota are making the right decision in helping Griffen improve his life. He has been struggling to cope of late and the Vikings should be more ready to go without him in the weeks ahead than they may have been on Sunday when Griffen's problems hit the public domain.

Goff has been well protected by his Offensive Line anyway and the McVay play calls are inventive to say the least so I do expect the Rams to have their success moving the chains. However I don't think the Vikings will make as many poor decisions in coverage as they did against the Bills especially with a Secondary as good as the one they have.

Todd Gurley may not have a lot of success running the ball, but he should be a factor out of the backfield and Goff may also make some plays with his legs like Josh Allen did against the Vikings last week.

The question then becomes whether Kirk Cousins can bounce back from a rough outing against the Buffalo Bills when his two early fumbles put his team in a big hole in the First Quarter. He would be much happier if Dalvin Cook is passed fit for this game having been held out against the Buffalo Bills as it has been possible to run the ball against a fierce Los Angeles Defensive Line, but the pressure will mainly be on the Quarter Back to make the correct decisions.

I do think Cousins' chances will be bolstered by the injuries to the two starting Corner Backs the Los Angeles Rams would usually play. Both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are expected to sit out on Thursday Night Football and that means Sam Shields is going to be the best of the Corner Backs the Rams can put on the field.

Cousins has a decent set of Receivers who should be able to find gaps in the Secondary, but the Quarter Back wants to be protected by the Offensive Line better than he has. With the power the Rams have on the Defensive Line Cousins will have to move around the pocket before finding his Receivers, but he has to make sure he keeps a handle on the ball much better than he did against the Bills when getting strip Sacked twice in the First Quarter.

He has shown in the past he is capable of doing that and this looks a lot of points for the Minnesota Vikings to be receiving. The number has been affected by the poor performance against the Buffalo Bills, but I think Minnesota are much better than what they showed in Week 3.

The Rams have been a very strong home favourite to back under Sean McVay, but I do think this is a lot of points for the visitors to be getting. Kirk Cousins was poor in Week 3, but the absence of the two Los Angeles Corner Backs should mean he has every chance to bounce back and being able to get more than a converted Touchdown in terms of points looks too many for the Vikings.

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: These two NFC teams may both be coming into Week 4 with a 1-2 record, but the momentum will be with the Detroit Lions who won their first game of the 2018 season in Week 3. It was an impressive win too as they beat the favourites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, in the prime time game on Sunday evening while the Dallas Cowboys had been beaten at the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the day.

Both teams will recognise the importance of winning this game as they both reside in Divisions where most will expect at least one better team to be involved in. At this moment the NFC North and the NFC East have not had a team come flying out of the blocks which will ease some pressure on the Lions and Cowboys, but it is a big game regardless.

Losing the likes of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten was always going to be a problem for the Dallas Cowboys, but injuries on the Offensive Line have weakened what has been one of the stronger units in the NFL in the last couple of years. Most of the attention will be on the loss of the Receivers as no one else has stepped up yet, but it is important for Dallas to try and control the clock and make sure they are using Ezekiel Elliot as much as possible.

Despite the injuries on the Offensive Line, Dallas have actually run the ball for 6.0 yards per carry in 2018 and the Detroit Defensive Line has not performed well against the run. They may sell out and look to prevent Elliot from getting loose and force the pressure on a struggling pass game, but Dak Prescott is also capable of making plays with his legs and the Cowboys should have success on the ground as long as they remain in the game.

It is very important for Dallas who have struggled to move the ball in the air and who have had issues protecting Prescott at Quarter Back. The Lions have been able to get a pass rush going which will be slowed down if Dallas can run the ball effectively and that will also open things up for Prescott to try and make plays with a little more time.

There have been issues for Dallas Offensively, but the Defensive unit have stepped up to try and help them through games as much as possible. The Defensive Line has been very strong against the run and making Detroit a little one-dimensional would be huge for the Cowboys if they are going to win this home game.

Matthew Stafford is a Quarter Back who can have huge statistical games in the air which has to be respected, but the Dallas Secondary haven't played too badly. They have restricted the Carolina Panthers to 16 points and held the New York Giants to 13 points so there will be a confidence they can make the big plays to prevent Stafford from overwhelming them through the air.

Stopping the run will allow Dallas to unleash what has been a strong pass rush to this point of the season although Stafford is a Quarter Back who will look to get the ball out of his hands very quickly. However keeping Detroit in third and long down and distance would mean Stafford could need slightly more time and this could be a chance for the Cowboys to pick up their first Interception of the 2018 season.

I do like the Cowboys having a chance to control the clock on the ground and having that open things up for Dak Prescott through the air. The Lions are off a big win as the home underdog, but they have gone 2-4-1 against the spread after winning a game as the underdog. The Lions are also a poor 8-16-1 against the spread as an underdog of 3 points or less, while Dallas may have a poor home record as the favourite, but are 6-2-1 against the spread as a favourite by 3 or fewer points.

Ezekiel Elliot could have one of his better games in Week 4 and I will back the Dallas Cowboys to win and cover.

Buffalo Bills @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The 1-1-1 record for the Green Bay Packers will be a slight worry for the fans, but there are still some question marks about Aaron Rodgers and the knee injury he suffered in Week 1. The idea is for the Packers to get through the next three or four weeks and then hope the bye week is enough for Rodgers to get healthier as Green Bay will only go as far as their star Quarter Back can carry them.

They will want to avoid the pitfalls that befell their Divisional rivals the Minnesota Vikings who perhaps overlooked the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 and fell to a heavy home loss despite being an almost three Touchdown favourite to win. It is the first win for the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 season which didn't look very promising after the first couple of losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers which saw the Offense turned over to top Draft Pick Josh Allen.

The Quarter Back played well enough in his first NFL start last week in Minnesota, but he was helped by the poor performance from the Vikings and won't be expecting the Green Bay Packers to shoot themselves in the foot as convincingly as their hosts did in Week 3.

Allen was able to make some plays with his legs to help keep the chains moving last week, but he would have been much happier if LeSean McCoy was available at Running Back. Without their star player the Bills have struggled to open holes up front and that may be the case again in Week 4 even though they are facing a Green Bay Defensive Line who lost Muhammed Wilkerson last week.

The Packers have given up 4.7 yards per carry so far this season, but I think they will look to lock down up front and make sure Allen is having to try and beat them through the air. That could be a problem for the Bills whose Offensive Line has struggled in pass protection and need to be kept in third and manageable spots to make sure they are able to move the chains with consistency.

There are some holes in the Green Bay Secondary that can be exploited, but Allen could find himself facing significant pressure from the pass rush if the running game is not able to get on track. The other problem for the Bills is they are not a team built to be involved in shoot outs but could find themselves having to throw to keep up with the Packers in this one.

Aaron Rodgers is clearly not as healthy as he would want to be but he has still managed to make big plays down the field and even the absence of Randall Cobb is unlikely to slow him down. He is not able to move around the pocket as he would if his knee was at 100% which has led to an increase in Sacks taken, but Rodgers has shown he is still a competent Quarter Back even on one leg.

This game may be on his arm because the Packers may not get a lot of room to run the ball with consistency in this one unless Buffalo are dropping more men into coverage. I don't think they will change their schemes too much even if the Secondary have given up some big yards, but slowing down the Green Bay Offensive unit may be too much for them.

Green Bay are off a loss as the favourite and they have tended to bounce back effectively in the past. Add in the fact that Buffalo have really struggled off the back of an upset win with a 6-22-2 record agains the spread in the game following an upset win as the underdog and I do like the Green Bay Packers to cover this big number.

The number is 8 points fewer than last week and I don't think the Packers are that much worse than the Minnesota Vikings having come close to beating them here already this season if not for a bogus 'roughing the passer' call against Clay Matthews. However it is still a big number and that has to be respected and the key for the Packers is to make sure they are not overlooking Buffalo as their Divisional rivals did, while a banged up Aaron Rodgers has to keep himself clear of the big hits.

I do like the Packers to bounce back from the loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 4.

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: The Houston Texans looked to have found a franchise Quarter Back in the 2017 season when Deshaun Watson showed off the kind of talent he possessed. The season ended with an injury, but there was much excitement in Houston that their team could take a positive step forward when he returned in time for the 2018 season.

It has been disappointing so far as the Texans are 0-3, but they can only look at themselves and accept they have shot themselves in the foot. They are still in the AFC South Division which has two leaders with 2-1 records, but the Texans will also know a defeat to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4 could mean the 2018 season is going to be a lost one for them.

The Colts have a returning Quarter Back leading the way with Andrew Luck back behind Center, but he has yet to show he is back to his very best. The Colts are 1-2 having narrowly been beaten by the Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles last week, but it was the Offensive struggles that really let them down.

Any questions about how strong Luck's shoulder is was answered by the fact he was not used for the Hail Mary throw at the end of the game that may have seen Indianapolis upset Philadelphia. Luck is only just averaging over 200 passing yards per game and that has seen the Colts struggle to move the ball with any consistency when you add those numbers to the poor rushing attack.

A lack of run game means the Colts are relying on Luck to make plays and I think he will have some success with the short crossing routes and I can see TY Hilton picking up his yards. However Luck is also going to be put under pressure by the Houston pass rush which should beat out the Indianapolis Offensive Line and that could lead to the Texans finally creating a turnover or two in this one.

There have been some aspects of the Indianapolis Defensive unit that you have to admire with a couple of solid Draft picks looking they can make a big impact in the NFL in the years ahead. However they are going to have a hard time shutting down a Houston Offense that have a number of playmakers and look like the are on the right road to getting things turned around in 2018.

With Watson at Quarter Back the Texans have a player capable of running to make First Downs himself and he has helped Houston produce some decent numbers on the ground. They will be looking to keep Watson in manageable down and distance which can give the Quarter Back the chance to make some big plays down the field as well as giving the Offensive Line more of a chance to protect Watson better than they have.

Indianapolis will get after Watson if they are able to pin back their ears in obvious passing situations, but otherwise I would expect a big game from the Quarter Back in this one. The Colts Secondary have given up some big plays through the air and I like Houston moving the chains and being in a position to earn the 'upset' on the road.

Taking care of the ball is key for the Quarter Back and you would think the Red Zone issues will begin to fix up with the more Football they get under their belts. The Houston Texans can also extend the run of the road team in the recent games between them and Colts with that team being 5-2-1 against the spread in the last eight.

Houston have earned more yards than each of their last two opponents and that is a positive sign considering they have suffered close losses. You have to think that will be turned around sooner rather than later and I think Houston can out-score an Indianapolis Offensive unit that have not been consistent enough in the 2018 season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Chicago Bears Pick: These two NFC teams come into Week 4 with a 2-1 record and they are both going to be heading into a bye week following this game. Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have shown flashes of overachieving this season, but the momentum is with the home team Chicago who have won two in a row while the Buccaneers were losing on Monday Night Football six days ago.

There are going to be some questions for Tampa Bay to answer having seen Ryan Fitzpatrick produce three huge statistical games at Quarter Back in relief of Jameis Winston. The latter has been suspended but is back and Fitzpatrick has just seen his grip on the Quarter Back job loosened by his turnovers which proved so costly in the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

This is going to be a tough place to try and bounce back for Fitzpatrick as the Chicago Bears Defensive unit have stepped up their level since bringing in Khalil Mack in a trade from the Oakland Athletics. Mack has been a disruptive force on the Defensive Line and the rest of the Bears are playing with confidence to think they can give Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a real challenge to move the ball with the consistency they have shown through the first three weeks.

It is all going to be on Fitzpatrick as the Buccaneers have not really offered much of a run game to support the Quarter Back. That is not likely to change against the Bears Defensive Line who have given up just 3.4 yards per carry and so Fitzpatrick will have to make sure his Offensive Line can protect him from the likes of Mack throughout this game.

I would be surprised if Mike Evans is not able to make some big plays for Fitzpatrick in the passing game, but the Quarter Back's protection in the pocket has not been as strong as he would have liked. Ryan Fitzpatrick can make some plays with his legs, but he should find himself under immense pressure throughout much of the afternoon and has to be wary of the Chicago Secondary who have been able to turn the ball over.

Tampa Bay will have generally been happy with their passing game, but the Chicago Bears know they need to see more from Mitchell Trubisky if they are going to be a dark horse for Super Bowl success. The young Quarter Back is only in his second year in the NFL, but Trubisky has struggled although this could be the weakest Defense he has faced.

It will be up to Trubisky to make some big plays if the Bears are going to win this game because the Tampa Bay strength on the Defensive unit is up front where they have been strong against the run and able to produce a strong pass rush. That means the Quarter Back won't be able to rely on Jordan Howard pounding the ball, although Chicago will stick with the game plan and perhaps even ask Trubisky to make some plays with his legs to avoid the pressure the Buccaneers have been able to bring.

The Offensive Line has not been that strong in protection, but Trubisky could still have a strong game against a banged up Tampa Bay Secondary who have given up some huge yards. You can't blame them for that when considering they have faced Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger already this season, two Quarter Backs levels above Trubisky, but Nick Foles also made some strong plays and so I do think the young Chicago signal caller can have a good game.

He may be supported by the Defense creating turnovers and perhaps even adding a score or two and I do like the Bears to make it three wins in a row. The short week for the Buccaneers makes it tougher for them and I am not sure Fitzpatrick is capable of having a huge game against this Defensive unit but instead this is the kind of game in which he would make those back breaking turnovers.

It's not the biggest spread of the weekend as the layers are not convinced by Mitchell Trubisky, but I like the Bears to cover.

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots Pick: In the last fifteen years you would say the New England Patriots have been there or thereabouts when it comes to representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. A great dynasty has been built by Bill Belichick with Tom Brady as his Quarter Back, but 2018 has not started in the manner that most would have expected.

Back to back heavy losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions has dropped the Patriots to 1-2 in the AFC East, but they remain the team to beat and the Miami Dolphins will be the first to admit that. The Dolphins head to Foxboro with a 3-0 record, but they have not exactly faced the toughest of opposition and Miami fans all of the world will know this is a real test of Adam Gase and his players to show if they are for real or not.

Over the last few years the Patriots have dominated their Divisional rivals and the Dolphins have been no different. However this New England team may be the weakest it has been in a long time and that has to encourage the Dolphins even though they have to play on the road.

Rex Burkhead has gone down with an injury and that means New England will lean on Sonny Michel to try and establish the run. It won't be easy for the rookie Running Back considering how well the Miami Dolphins have stopped the run and that is even though they cut Ndamukong Suh in the off-season.

The Dolphins Defensive Line have held their first three opponents to 3.3 yards per carry and they will be looking to make New England have to make plays from third and long. Tom Brady has lost some key weapons in the passing game and New England have yet to give Josh Gordon the green light to be involved and that has meant there hasn't been the consistent Receivers to make plays as in previous years.

Julian Edelman has been a big miss for the Patriots but he is back from suspension for this game and that is a huge plus for Brady. I do think he will make it easier for Brady to make plays through the air, but he will have to have better protection from the Offensive Line to keep the Miami pass rush from disrupting things.

I have little doubt Brady will have his successes though as Miami try to find a way to replace William Hayes up front. The Dolphins Secondary is far from watertight and the only way they can expect to slow down New England is by making sure they are at least forcing Brady to move in the pocket and begin to feel the phantom pressure.

Another way for Miami to protect the Secondary is to put together some long drives with the power running coupled with Ryan Tannehill looking after the ball being a success for them so far. Miami will feel they can establish the run against the Patriots who are allowing 4.7 yards per carry on the season, especially as Tannehill has looked strong off an ACL injury and been able to make some plays with his legs as well as his arm.

Tannehill may not be the most popular Quarter Back Miami have had, but he is a level above Jay Cutler and Adam Gase has been working very well with him. The Dolphins have a strong record with Tannehill and Gase together and they will feel they can make plays against this Patriots Secondary as long as the run is established.

That would open up play-action and also slow down the New England pass rush, but so far Tannehill has been well protected and he has made the right decisions with the ball. Playing a clean game is key for the Dolphins if they want to upset what has become the annual AFC East Champions on the road and that would also see the Dolphins open up a commanding lead in the Division.

Miami are 5-3 against the spread as the road underdog under Adam Gase and with Ryan Tannehill Quarter Backing the team. New England do have some strong numbers as the home favourite in their Divisional games, but they are back in action on Thursday Night Football, which can be a distraction, and this Patriots team may not be as strong as past versions.

Edelman's return may be the spark that helps the Patriots win this game, but I am going to have a small interest in Miami covering.

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals Pick: The Los Angeles Rams are 4-0 and look like a genuine Super Bowl contender which means the other three teams in the NFC West are likely going to be fighting for a Wild Card spot. None of those three teams have a winning record, although the Seattle Seahawks did win their first game in the 2018 season in Week 3 and will be looking to move back to 0.500 on the season.

They certainly look in a better place than their hosts the Arizona Cardinals who are 0-3 and have had enough of watching Sam Bradford check the ball down and then make mistakes to prevent the Offensive unit getting anything going. The decision has been made by Steve Wilks to turn the Offense over to Josh Rosen, but it feels like this is going to be a tough learning curve for the rookie Quarter Back who was caught yawning on the sidelines two weeks ago.

Arizona's big hope is that Rosen can spark something Offensively which can at least get the Cardinals moving in the right direction. It is not an easy match up for him against the Seattle Defense which has got a number of players back from injury despite the famous 'Legion of Boom' breaking up over the last ten months.

Earl Thomas continues to show he is one of the premier Safeties in the League, while Bobby Wagner is expected to play and the Seahawks will feel they can put the clamps on David Johnson trying to run the ball for the Cardinals. I expect the game plan will be to make sure Johnson is accounted for on every play and then force Rosen to make the big plays in his first start in the NFL.

Rosen will be hoping he gets better protection than Sam Bradford had been enjoying because the Seahawks have found a way to get to the Quarter Back up front. That has helped the passing numbers and has also meant Quarter Backs are likely to make mistakes throwing into this Secondary with players swarming around them.

That could be a big issue for Rosen in this one and I do think the Seahawks can hold the Cardinals Offense like many others have so far.

Seattle look like they are potentially getting healthier on the Offensive side of the ball too with Doug Baldwin approaching a return to the team. That is so important for the team as Baldwin is clearly the most trustworthy Receiver they have and will always be a big target for Russell Wilson.

Wilson is going to have all the pressure on his shoulders this week as he won't be expecting to have a lot of support from Chris Carson at Running Back. Carson had a surprisingly good week running against the Cowboys in Week 3, but this Arizona Defensive Line is playing well up front and the Seattle Offensive Line are not likely to win those battles.

It also means Wilson is going to have to scramble to make plays with the pass rush led by Chandler Jones likely to be in Wilson's face throughout this one. However Wilson has shown he can make some big plays on the run and the Arizona Secondary is not as strong as it was a couple of years ago so a returning Baldwin could have a big game or at least offer a distraction to open things up for one of the other Receivers.

With the potential of Rosen turning the ball over a couple of times in this game, I do like the Seattle Seahawks to win and cover here. The Seahawks have a strong 4-0-1 record against the spread in their last five games in Arizona and the Cardinals are 1-3-1 against the spread in their last five games as a home underdog in a Divisional game.

Backing a road favourite in the NFL can be a haphazard living, but I like the Seahawks to give the rookie Quarter Back some real exotic looks and that should lead to a couple of key turnovers to win and cover.

New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants Pick: The New York Giants earned their first win of the season in Week 3 and that moves them back to 1-2 and looking to get a little closer to the Divisional leader and Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. They are going to be at their best to compete with the New Orleans Saints in Week 4, although the Saints have yet to convince in 2018 despite coming into the season as one of the favourites to challenge for the Super Bowl.

The Saints are 2-1, but they could easily be 0-3 if Cleveland had hit any of a number of Field Goals to beat them in the SuperDome, while they needed Overtime in Week 3 to edge out the Atlanta Falcons.

All credit has to be given to New Orleans for finding wins in those games, but this is a team who have notoriously struggled when playing outdoors and have to do that this week for the first time in 2018. Any team who has Drew Brees leading the Offensive unit are going to be tough to beat, but New Orleans have missed Mark Ingram who completes his suspension in Week 4.

Alvin Kamara remains a dynamic option for New Orleans coming out of the backfield as a Receiver, but the Saints have not been able to run the ball as well as they would have liked in Ingram's absence. That hasn't prevented Drew Brees putting up some huge numbers, although he has yet to play outdoors and that is where this Hall of Fame Quarter Back can have some problems.

Brees should be able to connect with Michael Thomas against a New York Giants Defensive unit that have given up 232 passing yards per game and who have not faced a Quarter Back up to the level of the one they are facing in Week 4. The Giants will try to get some pressure up front to at least give Brees something to think about, but they will need a below par effort from the New Orleans Saints Offense to give them a chance.

If they get that then the Giants will feel they can pick up from where they left off against the Houston Texans in Week 4 and can keep the Offense rolling. Eli Manning has had the look of a Quarter Back whose best years are behind him, but he had his best game last week and Manning is facing a New Orleans Defensive unit that have taken a step back from where they were performing in 2017.

Saquon Barkley has been strong for the Giants since being picked ahead of Sam Darnold, but the Offensive Line has yet to really open the holes for him that they would have liked. It won't be much easier to do that against the Saints who have played the run well and seen teams instead look to exploit the problems in the Secondary.

You can't ignore the Receiving weapons Manning has with the Giants although he will have to hope the Offensive Line can give him time to find them down the field. So far the Giants have struggled to protect Manning, but last week they looked a little better after making changes on the Offensive Line, although the Saints have found pressure easier to come by than the Houston Texans.

Even the pressure has not been enough for the New Orleans Saints to protect a young Secondary who have just taken a step back from the level they showed in 2017. The numbers have been ugly and the Giants will believe in the likes of Odell Beckham Jr winning their battles to give Manning the chance to keep the chains moving with some consistency.

I do think that ability to score points is going to help the Giants as the home underdog and I like their chances of pushing the Saints all the way. Back to back road games is tough in the NFL, while the first outdoors game of the season is going to be a different factor for the Saints to deal with.

New Orleans look to be the better team which makes it dangerous to oppose them, but getting over the key number of 3 in this one makes the home underdog appealing to back.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: None of the teams in the AFC North have a losing record after three weeks of the 2018 season, but there is plenty on the line when the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers renew their rivalry on Sunday Night Football in Week 4.

The Ravens come in with a 2-1 record while the Steelers are 1-1-1 after tying with the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. Both teams recorded very important wins in Week 3, but that won't mean a lot when these two play on Sunday as the focus will be completely on this game.

In years gone by this would have been considered a Defensive battle with both teams looking to pound the ball down the throat of the other and then look for their Quarter Backs to make one or two big plays to turn the tide in favour of one or the other.

That may not be the case in 2018 as the pass has been a huge weapon for the Ravens and the Steelers and I do expect the teams to try and air things out on Sunday.

Baltimore will be comfortable with Joe Flacco running things for the Offensive unit as the Super Bowl winning Quarter Back looks to have been inspired by the selection of Lamar Jackson in the 2018 Draft. The Ravens have needed Flacco playing at the level he has because they have not been able to run the ball as well as they would have liked, but that could potentially change this week too.

While the Ravens have not played well enough from the Running Back position, they are facing a Pittsburgh Defensive Line that has given up 4.6 yards per carry. Part of the problem for the Steelers is that they have struggled against the pass and so may have to drop more men into coverage which makes the draw play a potentially big one for the Ravens as they try and establish the run.

It will be important for the Baltimore Offensive Line as they have struggled in pass protection and now face a decent Pittsburgh pass rush. Running the ball may help give Flacco a little more time to dissect a Steelers Secondary which has given up 288 passing yards per game including over 400 to Ryan Fitzpatrick who came up just short of the comeback on Monday Night Football.

Flacco has helped the Ravens just shy of 300 passing yards per game and I do think he can help Baltimore make some big plays in the air in what could be a potential shoot out with the Steelers in Week 4.

The absence of Le'Veon Bell has been the big story around the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the 2018 season, but Antonio Brown has also been frustrated as the Steelers have not come out of the gates as quickly as they would have liked.

James Connor has actually played well enough in the absence of Bell and the Running Back should have some success against this Baltimore Defensive Line which has not been as stout as they have been in recent years. So far the Ravens have given up 4.2 yards per carry and so it is feasible that the Steelers get the run established to try and east the burden on Ben Roethlisberger at Quarter Back.

Roethlisberger has been forced to cover up the deficiencies of the Pittsburgh Secondary by getting involved in a couple of shoot outs and that has seen the passing numbers look huge from a statistic point of view. However this week he is facing a Baltimore Secondary that has played the pass very well and who have gotten some strong pressure up front which may make it that much more difficult for Big Ben to move the chains through the air.

The Quarter Back has not been protected as well as he would have liked, while Interceptions have been an issue for Roethlisberger. There will be times where Pittsburgh get their yards through the air, especially with the Receivers they have, but overall it looks a tough game for them and I do like the Baltimore Ravens with the start.

Baltimore are 3-0-1 against the spread in their last four visits to Pittsburgh, while the underdog is now 5-1-1 against the spread in the last seven in this series. I just feel the better Defensive unit can make the key plays on the day and that should see the Ravens have every chance to cover when they play on Sunday Night Football against their hosts who are also on the short week.

MY PICKS: Minnesota Vikings + 7.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 9 Points @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Houston Texans + 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chicago Bears - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Miami Dolphins + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Seattle Seahawks - 3 Points @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
New York Giants + 3.5 Points @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens + 3 Points @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Week 3: 5-5, - 1.42 Units (17 Units Staked, - 8.35% Yield)
Week 2: 6-1, + 9.46 Units (14 Units Staked, + 67.57% Yield)
Week 1: 6-2, + 7.34 Units (16 Units Staked, + 45.88% Yield)