Featured post

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

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

Monday, 31 December 2018

Tennis Picks 2019 (December 31st 2018)

You can begin to understand why some tennis players believe they don't get enough rest time when you see the new Tennis season come round as quickly as it feels the 2019 season has.

And it isn't like players get to spend the first month working their way into form because the first Grand Slam of the 2019 is literally beginning in less than two weeks time at the Australian Open.

That has notoriously been a very difficult Slam to predict with the number of upsets that tend to come up, while rule changes means the break down of the handicaps will be a little different when we get around to that tournament.

Before then this is a week where we have five different Ranking tournaments being played and that means it is a good chance to see which players are going to potentially be a threat in Melbourne. Some of the biggest names won't play a lot of tennis before the Australian Open begins, but the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are in tournament action and this is the most vital week for many of the top names as they won't play the week prior to the start of the Australian Open.

With the New Year festivities to come over the next couple of days, my concentration is likely going to focus on the ATP tournament being played in Doha with more time to research those selections until we crack into 2019.

Next week I am planning to write a longer post about the 2019 season in general and there will be limited Tennis Picks until the Australian Open begins in a couple of weeks time.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 games v Matteo Berrettini: The First Round match between Roberto Bautista Agut and Matteo Berrettini is an interesting one on the hard courts in Doha.

It was not the best 2018 season for Bautista Agut who had some personal issues in his life which may have affected the consistency he could bring to the court. The numbers on the hard court came down from the 2017 ones, but Bautista Agut is still a very competent player on this surface.

He will want to get a little more out of the serve on the faster surfaces to make life a little easier for him, but the Spaniard is a hard worker and will always give his best on the court. The returning could be key against the young Italian Berrettini who had a career year and is up inside the top 60 of the World Rankings which means he is close to getting into a position to automatically earn a place in the main draw of all the tournaments on the ATP Tour.

Berrettini will be looking to build on his 2018 immediately in 2019 as he doesn't have a lot of points to defend through the first three months of the season. A couple of good runs will really see his World Ranking boosted, but the draw could have been kinder to him in Doha.

He has beaten Roberto Bautista Agut in 2018 when winning the title in Gstaad on the clay courts and Berrettini is someone who is arguably more comfortable on the hard courts. On this surface his serve can be a big weapon, but improvement in the World Rankings will come if Berrettini can get a little more out of his return game.

The Italian should have chances to attack the weaker Bautista Agut serve, and he is a threat in this match if he is serving as well as he can. However I do think the courts in Doha may favour Bautista Agut a little more and I think he can win the first match he plays in 2018 although I would not be surprised to see at least one tie-breaker needed.

It won't take a lot for Berrettini to really kick on now he should be playing ATP Tour matches regularly, but I think this draw could be a tough one to overcome and Bautista Agut can earn a measure of revenge for a loss to the Italian in 2018.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: It is quite surprising to me that Fernando Verdasco has managed to get into a position where is going to be Seeded at the Australian Open despite the veteran being a lot more erratic on the court these days. With the Spaniard at Number 28 in the World Rankings, he would not have been Seeded if the Grand Slam tournaments had followed through with a plan to half the number of Seeds at those events, although that was later scrapped and the 32 Seed system will remain.

It is good news for Verdasco who had another decent year on the hard courts even if the 18-14 record does not really indicate that as much as the numbers do. The Spaniard was holding serve at over 80% of the time on this surface, which is a strong number, but Verdasco continues to show enough from the return game to really put pressure on opponents.

I am always wary about veterans though as they can quickly fall off a cliff in terms of their performances on the court, but Verdasco should be safe enough when taking on an opponent who is older than him in the First Round.

Paolo Lorenzi has made the main draw as a Lucky Loser after being beaten in the Second Qualifying Round and the Italian is coming off a difficult season. Injuries have seen the World Ranking drop outside the top 100 for Lorenzi and so it is imperative he puts a few runs together so he can get back into a position where he automatically makes the main draw for Grand Slam tournaments in the year ahead.

The Lorenzi serve is always a vulnerable one and I do think he is going to have a difficult time breaking back in matches like this one if he is not able to hold onto his own serve. The match up with Verdasco is a tough one for Lorenzi anyway as shown by his three previous losses to the Spaniard without winning a set.

Lorenzi does have two matches under his belt in Doha which will help him I think as there has to be some kinks for Verdasco to play out on the court in a first competitive match for two months. However at some point I would expect the Spaniard to start getting some joy from the return of serve and just wearing down an opponent he has gotten the better of in previous matches on the Tour.

It can be hard to trust Verdasco to cover numbers like this one, but he should have the tennis to do that against Lorenzi with a break more in each set of a straight sets win.

MY PICKS: Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Sunday, 30 December 2018

NFL Week 17 Picks 2018 (December 30th)

A lot of things have been decided in the NFL regular season as we approach the Play Offs which begin next week.

Week 17 can be a very difficult time to make Picks considering we have to second guess so many Head Coaches while other teams are perhaps already looking forward to a new era with current Head Coaches expected to be fired.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills Pick: A miracle play at the end of Week 14 will have given the Miami Dolphins (7-8) the belief they could challenge for a Play Off spot, but back to back losses have ended those hopes. It has been suggested this past week that Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, was absolutely livid with the performance in the home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16 which ended Miami's interest in reaching the post-season.

The anger could lead to wholesale changes at Miami who have been struggling for almost twenty years to get the right ideas invested into the team. Adam Gase has had some success as Head Coach of the team, but he could be on the way out if reports are to be believed and I think Ryan Tannehill could be playing his last game as Quarter Back.

Tannehill himself has stated his desire to finish his career with the Miami Dolphins, but he is owed a lot of money in the 2019 season and Miami may be looking for the next Quarter Back to trust who could finally replace Dan Marino.

An injury is not helping Tannehill prove that he could be the man to invest in at Quarter Back beyond this season and a defeat to the Buffalo Bills (5-10) could end all hopes of that happening. Buffalo have lost three of their last four games, but they are playing with the motivation of revenge having been beaten in South Florida in a game the Bills will have felt they could have won.

Josh Allen has to develop his passing for the NFL, but the young Quarter Back has shown he can make big plays with his legs and should have success against the Dolphins Defensive Line which has struggled to stop the run. The last three games have seen Miami show improvement in clamping down on the run, but Buffalo should still have success against a team who may not be playing hard with the rumoured changes to come.

Allen has to beware of the Miami pass rush, but he can scramble from pressure and he should have some success throwing down the field. To be fair to the Quarter Back he has not really had the support in the skill positions that a rookie player would need if they are to make a big impact in the NFL, but even then I expect Allen to have success in this game.

I do think Miami should be able to move the ball too even though Frank Gore has been lost for the season with an injury. Kalen Ballage has come in to fill Gore's gap in the backfield and he has sparked a strong running game for the Dolphins who will be facing a Buffalo Defensive Line which has struggled in recent games when it comes to stopping the run.

Ballage is going to be a key to this game if the Dolphins are going to at least make it competitive as Tannehill is not expected to have much joy throwing the ball. He has not really been given the time to find Receivers downfield and the Buffalo Secondary have been playing well.

It is very difficult to believe in Miami though with the uncertainty surrounding the Head Coach and the Quarter Back and they have a very poor record in Buffalo anyway. Neither team has a good home/road record against the spread, but the Bills should be favoured in the conditions and with the other factors involved and I think they will win and cover as Miami reset once again.

New York Jets @ New England Patriots Pick: In recent years it has become familiar to have seen the New England Patriots (10-5) have nothing to play for in Week 17 of the regular season as they have usually wrapped up their Bye Week in the Play Offs. This season is a little different with a feeling that the Patriots dynasty with Tom Brady at Quarter Back is perhaps coming to an end, but New England can earn the Number 2 Seed at the very least with a home win on Sunday.

They host the New York Jets (4-11) who perhaps lost in the best way in Week 16- Sam Darnold showed why he was picked so high in the last NFL Draft, but the Jets did not win a game that may adversely affect the position in the 2019 Draft.

Don't tell the players that though as the Jets will head to Foxboro looking to play spoiler for New England and force their Divisional rivals to host a game on Wild Card Weekend next week. However injuries may make life that much more difficult for the Jets on the Offensive side of the ball, while Head Coach Todd Bowles is almost certainly going to be fired in the next couple of days meaning players are perhaps not willing to put it all on the line for him.

This is going to be the first time Sam Darnold faces a Bill Belichick led Defensive unit and I think the Patriots will look to force the rookie into some mistakes. Darnold has not been as good on the road as he has been at home and while there have been promising moments from him in 2018, there have also been the tough learning curve that rookie signal callers have to go through.

The Jets could see their running game at least offer Darnold more support than it has in recent games as they face the New England Defensive Line which has given up huge plays on the ground. However they were able to contain Buffalo to some extent in Week 16 and I think Belichick will want to force a young Quarter Back to throw to move the ball on the Patriots.

Throwing the ball has been something of a problem for New England in recent games with suggestions Tom Brady is not at 100%. Brady wasn't the issue last week, but Rob Gronkowski looks the shadow of the player that terrorised the NFL from the Tight End position while Josh Gordon's absence means the Patriots can't stretch the field as they would like.

I would still expect to see Julian Edelman making some big plays for the Patriots, but the focus could be back on the running game which pounded the Buffalo Bills down last week. The Bills are a stronger Defensive Line than the one the Jets have when it comes to stopping the run and I expect Sony Michel to pick up from where he left off in Week 16 while being complemented by James White and Rex Burkhead.

The Jets do get a lot of pressure up front which is the only chance they have of slowing down the New England Patriots, but if they are stuck trying to defend third and short spots I would expect the home team to make some big plays throughout the game.

It should mean the Patriots can secure a comfortable win on the day and only a late Buffalo Touchdown pass inside the last two minutes of the Week 16 game allowed the Bills to get within this number. Sam Darnold could potentially do the same, but I think New England will score more points than in Week 16 too and I do think they can cover here.

New York have been getting plenty of joy against the spread in recent games against New England, but they are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six against the AFC East. They are also 2-8 against the spread in their last ten against a team with a winning home record and New England tend to blow away those teams they are expected to beat and especially at home.

It is a big number, but New England can find a way to cover.

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints Pick: There are always some situations which have been cleared up in the NFL regular season by the time we get to Week 17 and one of those is the reward of the Number 1 Seed in the NFC. The New Orleans Saints (13-2) wrapped that up over the last couple of weeks and they are going to be the favourites to reach the Super Bowl from this Conference as it can be very difficult to win a game in the SuperDome.

They will have a Bye through the Wild Card Round of the Play Offs next week, but Sean Payton will still give the likes of Drew Brees a chance to recharge the batteries, while other starters won't be expected to play for much more than one half of Football. It is Teddy Bridgewater who will get his first extended period of time on the field after a devastating injury suffered with the Minnesota Vikings which has been a huge setback in his career.

Bridgewater will lead the Saints into this Divisional game with the Carolina Panthers (6-9) who have dropped seven games in a row to miss out on the Play Offs. The players have played hard for Ron Rivera even when things spiralled out of control, but the Panthers may decide it is time to move on from the Head Coach while they have already shut down Cam Newton for the season at Quarter Back.

An injury to his backup in the loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16 means Carolina will likely turn to Kyle Allen at Quarter Back and I do believe that is going to make it very difficult for the Panthers to move the chains. Allen may have a little more success than anticipated because the Saints could be resting key players on the Defensive Line and in the Secondary, but he didn't show a lot when coming in against the Falcons and will have needed a big week of practice to be competitive in this one.

The game plan will likely involve a lot of Christian McCaffrey which won't be a surprise to anyone reading this. He could have more success than anticipated because he could be playing the second string New Orleans Defensive Linemen, while McCaffrey has proved to be a huge weapon coming out of the backfield.

Kyle Allen may also have a little more success throwing the ball if the Saints are perhaps not as focused as they would like to be and that may at least see the Quarter Back help keep this close.

I liked Teddy Bridgewater at Minnesota, but it will be very difficult to come in and produce a big game against a Carolina team who may be looking for revenge for a home loss to the Saints in Week 15. It may be that Bridgewater is more effective running the ball than throwing it considering some of the struggles Carolina had on the ground last week in the defeat to Atlanta, but I expect the Panthers to play harder against the Saints with a revenge on their minds.

Carolina's Defensive unit can put in one more big performance and they have played the pass pretty well in recent games to think they can at least slow down the Saints in this one.

With this many points given to the road underdog, I do like backing Carolina here.

The underdog is 8-1 against the spread in the last nine in this series, while the Saints have an awful 5-16 record against the spread in their last twenty-one Week 17 games and will now be resting players. Sean Payton is a big part of that poor Week 17 record and the road team has a very strong record against the spread in this series that I do believe Carolina are worthy of a small interest with the points.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants Pick: It doesn't feel that long ago when Jason Garrett looked to be on a very hot seat as far as it came to being the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) Head Coach. Wins in six of their last seven games not only got things turned around for the Cowboys, but it was good enough for Dallas to win the NFC East and lock in the Number 4 Seed in the NFC Play Offs.

While Dak Prescott may be pushing for a start against a Divisional rival who were disrespectful to him earlier in the season, Garrett has indicated that the preparations have begun for the Wild Card Play Off game and that means starters will be rested.

Prescott is one of those expected to sit as are the likes of Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence with the Play Offs now the priority. It is a big reason the New York Giants (5-10) are favoured to win this game which could be the last of Eli Manning's career in Gotham.

Odell Beckham Jr is expected to end another season with multiple games missed through injury, but the Giants will be giving their big name players a chance to end the regular season in the right way. Things will have to change in the off-season for the Giants if they are going to get closer to a return to the top of the NFC and so the players involved should play hard to prove they can be kept onboard and help improve the future with the team.

The Giants would have a tough test against the Dallas Defense in a usual week, but the expected rest for the starters should make it a bit easier for them to move the chains. Dallas may look to clamp down on Saquon Barkley and force Manning to beat them through the air, but Barkley has proven he can have an impact on the game by catching the ball out of the backfield and New York should have the ability to move the ball.

The key to the spread is how much time the starters will get to play for Dallas, but even those players could have some problems moving the chains against an improved New York Defensive unit. The Giants have found a way to clamp down on the run, while the Secondary have made some big plays to stop teams being able to pass on them with comfort throughout games.

Interceptions have been the key for the Giants Secondary and that could be a real issue for the Cowboys with a backup Quarter Back in the game and I do like New York to cover in this one.

The Cowboys could easily be focused on preparing for next week instead of worrying about the close of the regular season with a Number 4 Seed already locked up. That lack of motivation involved in this Week 17 game and the expectation that a number of backups will be in the game for Dallas makes the New York Giants an appealing home favourite to back.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: There won't be too many great memories to take from the 2018 season for either of this NFC South teams who will finish off the regular season in a Week 17 game to be played in Florida. The Atlanta Falcons (6-9) have won two in a row and will be looking to keep the momentum going through one more game, although their goal back in August would have been to play in a home Super Bowl.

The season has been no less disappointing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10) who have lost three in a row to confirm a season with double digit defeats. It is hard to envision Dirk Koetter being kept on as Head Coach and so I am not sure how hard the players will perform for a lame duck Head Coach when there is nothing much on the line for them.

Koetter has been in charge for three years and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been floundering and not shown the improvement the fans would have wanted. Jameis Winston did go into bat for the Head Coach, but the Quarter Back's future with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is uncertain and he could be looking for a new landing spot in the coming months.

Winston may not be the only big name departure from the Buccaneers with DeSean Jackson openly stating his unhappiness with the team. For now the Quarter Back has to try and show off some of the skills that made him the top Draft Pick for the Buccaneers as other teams perhaps begin evaluating whether it is worth potentially picking up Winston if he is available in the weeks ahead.

He should finally see some support from the running game despite the struggles Tampa Bay have had in establishing the run this season and that should at least make things a little easier for Winston. Without a running game in support, Tampa Bay are going to find it very difficult to throw the ball with any consistency against an Atlanta Secondary that have played well in recent weeks.

That success has been aided by the pass rush which has come alive in the last few games and the Falcons should certainly have the edge against the Tampa Bay Offensive Line which has struggled to protect whichever Quarter Back has lined up behind Center.

Moving the ball should be a lot more consistent for the Atlanta Falcons even if they are not as strong on the road as they are at home. The Offensive side of the ball has worked well for them for much of the season, but the Falcons have made critical mistakes at key times which have prevented them from winning games they arguably should have.

Over the last couple of games Atlanta have been much more consistent with their play with Matt Ryan being supported by a very strong rushing attack led by Tevin Coleman and Brian Hill who broke out for 100 yards on the ground last week. Even if Coleman can't go, Hill may be able to pick up from where he left off in Week 16. Being able to run the ball effectively opens up the passing lanes for Matt Ryan who has some very strong Receivers here and the Quarter Back has some decent numbers throughout 2018.

The Buccaneers can get some pressure up front when playing hard, but I am not sure the pass rushers will be at the top of their game. That may mean Ryan has a chance to expose the injuries in the Secondary and I like the Atlanta Falcons to have the more consistent success moving the chains and thus they look worth backing as the underdog.

Atlanta have won on three of their last four visits to Tampa Bay and can win this one too.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: There is no love lost between these teams and this may be the best chance for Cleveland to get some revenge over Baltimore for stealing their team over twenty years ago. The Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) might be out of the Play Offs, but don't worry about the motivation for a team who have long been in the doldrums of the NFL as they have a chance to end the 2018 season with four straight wins and the chance to play spoiler here is something that will be right up Baker Mayfield's street.

Things are also very clear for the Baltimore Ravens (9-6) who will secure the AFC North Division if they win or if the Pittsburgh Steelers lose. John Harbaugh will only be worrying about the things the Ravens can control and that is winning this game after being sparked by Lamar Jackson at Quarter Back.

Jackson is a work in progress as far as throwing the ball is concerned, but he has clearly got the support of the players to a greater extent than Joe Flacco ever has. It meant Harbaugh sticking with the hot hand of Jackson who has helped the Ravens become a very strong power running team that won't make mistakes and will then lean on a strong Defensive unit to make sure they are winning games.

The rookie Quarter Back has helped the Ravens get into a position to win the AFC North and he will be expected to keep the positive vibes going in this Week 17 game. A few weeks ago you would have thought the strong running game of the Ravens would be a real worry for the Cleveland Defensive Line, but in recent games the Browns have clamped down on the run and that makes this game more interesting.

Containing the Ravens won't be easy because of the athleticism of Jackson at Quarter Back which means he can make some huge runs of his own. The Browns will have to look to set the edge on the Defensive Line and try and force Baltimore into mistakes Offensively, but teams have found it quite difficult to stop the Ravens and Cleveland may be another.

The Browns do have the ability to get into the backfield and make plays, but they can't completely ignore what Jackson can do through the air. Having respect for the passing game, but effectively making sure they can control the trenches is the key for the Browns and recent games suggest they can find a formula to at least limit the amount of points scored by Baltimore.

There may not be a Play Off berth on the line for Cleveland, but I think Baker Mayfield will love this situation and I expect the Quarter Back to produce a big game with that in mind. Ruining the season for other teams is Mayfield's kind of thing and the whole Offensive unit has followed the lead of the Quarter Back.

A real key to this game for the Browns is how well Nick Chubb can do when it comes to running the ball. The Cleveland Offensive Line have managed to open some big holes for their Running Back, but they are up against one of the better Defensive Lines in the NFL and it is going to be very difficult to keep earning chunk yards on the ground as they have been.

It means it could be down to Mayfield and the passing game to give the Browns a chance to move the chains and I think the Quarter Back can have some success. He has been well protected in recent games and Cleveland have some decent playmakers in the passing game to support Mayfield and this has the feeling of being a close game with the pressure on the home team to secure the win and a Play Off berth.

The Browns do have a poor 1-5 record against the spread in their last six against the Baltimore Ravens, but it does feel this is a new era in Cleveland. They are 3-1-1 against the spread in their last five against a team with a winning record at home, and they are playing a Ravens team who are just 1-4 against the spread in their last five home games.

The pressure is on the Ravens and they will just want to get away with any kind of win so covering this number may be beyond them. I will look for the Browns with the points here.

Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: When you have a record like the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) you would hope that at least the Division title has been secured. However two losses in a row have actually opened the door for the Los Angeles Chargers to win the AFC West and also secure the Number 1 Seed so there is plenty of work for the Chiefs to do at Arrowhead.

They face a Divisional rival in the Oakland Raiders (4-11) who have won two of their las three games and look to play spoiler in Week 17. Jon Gruden is clearly making some big moves for the Raiders who are coming in off an emotional Monday Night win which could be the last game they play in Oakland with the 2019 home games up in the air ahead of a move to Las Vegas.

An emotional night and a short week could leave Oakland vulnerable in Week 17 as players begin to wonder what the future may hold for them. They are playing well enough Offensively to have some success in this game with the feeling this could be the last game played by Derek Carr at Quarter Back for Oakland.

Carr is the key for the Raiders as he closes in on a 4000 passing yard year for Oakland, but Gruden is clearly not sold on the Quarter Back while the team-mates have not been convinced about their leader either. He has not been supported by much of a running game, but Oakland could get on track in this one considering how badly the Chiefs have played the run.

You can't really count on that happening on a short week though and instead it will be up to Carr to have to throw the ball to make plays. It won't be easy to do that if Oakland are not able to at least put him in third and manageable spots because the Chiefs have the kind of pass rush which will disrupt the Oakland Offensive Line.

Carr has tried to negate that by throwing the ball much quicker than he would want to, but that means Oakland are checking down a lot and I think the Raiders may not have the consistent success they would need to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs Offensive unit.

The decision to cut Kareem Hunt, which was the right one, has just knocked the Chiefs a little out of sync and they need to find someone who can consistently run the ball. Damien Williams has not played badly but he could have a difficult day against an improved Oakland Defensive Line, although Mahomes is capable of opening up running lanes with the success he has had throwing the ball.

Recent numbers against the pass have been improved from the Raiders too, but they have not faced a Quarter Back like Mahomes and I think they will struggle to stop the Chiefs moving the ball around the field for as long as they want. The motivation to lock up the Number 1 Seed should mean Andy Reid does not let up until the game is firmly in hand and the emotional effort put in a few days ago may have seen Oakland leave something out on the field.

This is a big number but Kansas City are 4-1 against the spread in their last five at home against the Raiders. Oakland are also 2-9-1 against the spread in their last twelve games against a team with a winning record at home, while they are 1-10 against the spread off a straight up win.

Despite the number, I think the Chiefs can find a cover and they are worth backing in one of the later slots in Week 17.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to be a top Receiver in the NFL so it hurt to see him having the costly fumble which has not only cost the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) a chance to tie the game at New Orleans in Week 16, but also means their destiny in now out of their hands. The Steelers will be considered the best team that fails to make the Play Offs if they can't get things turned around in Week 17, but Mike Tomlin will be reminding his players they can only control what they do in this final game of the regular season.

Pittsburgh have to win and then either hope the Baltimore Ravens were to lose or the Indianapolis trip to the Tennessee Titans ends in a tie. To say it is very short odds on the Steelers missing the Play Offs will not be an understatement, but a chance exists and I would expect to see the Steelers to win this game and by a good margin too.

The Steelers should be able to establish the run even if James Connor is still not healthy enough to return and that should mean Ben Roethlisberger is going to find some big passing lanes to exploit. There are rumours that Antonio Brown is potentially going to miss out, but I would expect him to start and even without him the Steelers have some serious talent that should be able to exploit the banged up Cincinnati Secondary.

It would be a surprise if the Bengals rolled over for the Steelers considering the rivalry that exists between these Divisional rivals. However they are banged up on both sides of the ball and that will make it very difficult for them in this road game against a motivated opponent.

In recent games Cincinnati have been able to at least rely on Joe Mixon to make some plays on the ground and give Jeff Driskel a chance to make plays as he took over from Andy Dalton at Quarter Back. It is going to be much tougher for Mixon to have a big game running the ball against Pittsburgh considering how tough the Steelers Defensive Line has been in recent weeks and that means the pressure will be on the Quarter Back to produce.

Driskel does not have AJ Green to throw to and Tyler Boyd could be limited at best which means he will have to rely on checking down to the likes of Mixon. However the Bengals struggling to run the ball would mean having to make plays from third and long situations and Pittsburgh's pass rush could then have the big impact in the game.

Make no mistake this is a very big spread for the Steelers to cover and plays into the fact that they HAVE to win if they are going to make the Play Offs. The Bengals do have a very poor record against the spread against Pittsburgh though and the Steelers have been cashing in at the window at home.

Cincinnati haven't been blown out many times this season and covered as a 17 point dog at the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this month. However the players could have had enough of this season and I will look for a small interest in the Steelers being able to win and cover.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) were expected to be in a transition having moved away from the 'Legion of Boom' and investing in new Defensive players. However Bobby Wagner has helped gel the Defensive unit together better than expected and a power running team with Russell Wilson at Quarter Back have secured a Play Off spot.

Pete Carroll is not expected to call off the starters as he will want his Seattle team to keep the momentum behind them ahead of the Wild Card Play Off game to be played next weekend. That has been the way Carroll has always played these 'dead rubber' games in the past and there is also the motivation for the Seahawks to make sure they end with the Number 5 Seed and avoid a tough trip to the Chicago Bears in the Play Offs.

It would be a huge surprise if the Seahawks were not able to beat the Arizona Cardinals (3-12) who have been in uncompetitive in three straight losses. Head Coach Steve Wilks has almost been resigned to his fate of losing his job at the end of the regular season and the Cardinals players have not really been able to perform well enough to believe they want to keep him around.

Josh Rosen has really had a hard time in his rookie year at Quarter Back, but he has not exactly been helped by the turnstiles being used on the Offensive Line who have offered next to no protection. Rosen is expected to be put under pressure by the Seattle pass rush whenever he drops back to throw, while his own accuracy has not been where he would have wanted.

Teams have not really respected the pass when they have played the Cardinals and that has made it very difficult for David Johnson to have the kind of impact he would have liked. Johnson is clearly the best player on the Offensive unit and he could have some success against the Seahawks Defensive Line, although for the most part I expect to see drives stalled and perhaps some turnovers created.

Seattle should be a little more comfortable moving the ball as Chris Carson is expected to have another big game running the ball. The Cardinals Defensive Line has been worn down when it comes to stopping the run and Seattle have shown they will line up the Offensive Line to create power running lanes which then makes life that much easier for Russell Wilson at Quarter Back.

Wilson has been put under pressure behind an Offensive Line that doesn't protect him as well as they help the Running Backs run the ball. However Wilson can extend plays with his legs and he should be able to move the ball from third and short spots for much of this game.

The Seahawks did have a narrow win on the road over Arizona earlier this season and they have lost three home games in a row to the Cardinals, but they look much stronger than their visitors this time around.

Arizona are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games overall, while Seattle have a very good looking 35-16-1 record against the spread when facing a team with a losing record on the road. It is a big number, but Seattle should be very motivated here and can become the fourth team in a row to crush the Arizona Cardinals who probably can't wait to put an end to the 2018 season.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans Pick: No one was surprised to hear that this game was flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot in Week 17 as the winner will be making the Play Offs and the losing team will be ending their 2018 season. So much is on the line, but the news has not been good for the Tennessee Titans (9-6) who have ruled out Quarter Back Marcus Mariota which means Blaine Gabbert will get the start for them in this pivotal game.

The Titans have almost been in Play Off mode for a month as they have managed to stay alive in the race for the post-season with four straight wins. They have begun to dominate teams on the ground, but they are going to need to be at their best if they are going to beat the Indianapolis Colts (9-6).

Andrew Luck did not look completely like his old self earlier in the season, but he has grown in each passing week and has been very important to the revival of the Colts. The Colts started the season at 1-5, but they have won eight of their last nine games to give themselves an opportunity and this may be a team that not many of the other Play Off teams really want to see.

It hasn't been all about Luck as credit has to be given to the likes of Marlon Mack, TY Hilton and Eric Ebron although the latter will need to get through a late test to determine his availability for this game. Mack is the Running Back and he could have a hard day running the ball when you think of how well the Titans have clamped down on the Backs they have faced in recent games.

Tennessee have played some very good Backs in that time, but the threat of Luck could open up more running lanes as the Titans look to prevent the Quarter Back throwing the ball around the field. Luck has been well protected by his Offensive Line so will believe he can make some big plays in this one, but the Titans have to be respected for the Defensive performances in the last few weeks.

If Marcus Mariota was starting I would give the Titans more of a chance, but Blaine Gabbert is a pretty poor Quarter Back. He doesn't scramble as well as Mariota and that should mean the Colts can showcase how much they have improved Defensively.

The Defensive Line have been able to clamp down on the run for much of the season and I think Indianapolis will be focusing on stopping Derrick Henry and making Gabbert feel he has to throw the ball for successful drives to be put together. Stopping Henry entirely won't be easy, but I do think the Colts have the personnel to have success and that should give them every chance of winning this game.

Teams have had some success throwing the ball against the Colts Secondary, but I am not sure Gabbert is going to be able to replicate that. It makes it hard to believe in the home underdog in this big Sunday Night Football game and I think the Titans will be undone by the Colts power scoring.

The favourite is 4-0 against the spread in the last four in this series and I think that run can be extended thanks to the injury suffered by Mariota.

MY PICKS: Buffalo Bills - 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 13.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
New York Giants - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atlanta Falcons - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 7 Points @ 1.86 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 13 Points @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Saturday, 22 December 2018

NFL Week 16 Picks 2018 (December 22-24)

Like Week 15, we start Week 16 on Saturday in the 2018 season as we get down to determining those teams who are going to be playing Football in January and those who will be preparing for changes ahead of the 2019 season.

There were no Picks last weekend because of events outside of my control, but the Week 16 Picks will be added to this thread in the next several hours.

Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans Pick: In Week 16 of the NFL season there are always going to be games of tremendous importance and it no longer matters whether the games you are playing are Divisional, Conference or non-Conference ones at this stage of the regular season. The two teams who open up Week 16 will know all about it when the television cameras head to Nashville for this Saturday afternoon game.

The Tennessee Titans (8-6) are hosting this one and they are chasing what is likely to be the Number 6 Seed in the AFC, although the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens are their main rivals for that spot. The Titans have won two games in a row when it looked like their season might be going down the toilet and that will give them confidence to take into this game.

Their opponents are the Washington Redskins (7-7) who came back to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15 to stay alive in the NFC East. The win over the Jaguars means Washington are just a game behind the Dallas Cowboys for the Division lead with two games left to play, but the Redskins will only be able to overcome all of their injuries and make the Play Offs if they win out and receive a bit of luck from other teams in the Conference.

Washington are down to their fourth choice Quarter Back having seen Alex Smith and Colt McCoy lost to serious injury, while the decision to pick Mark Sanchez to come in was quickly realised to be a poor choice. Now it is Josh Johnson who will be playing for the Redskins at Quarter Back and leading the team to a win in Jacksonville means the fans will be behind him even if many are questioning why Washington refused to consider Colin Kaepernick.

That decision may be the one that prevents Washington in making the Play Offs, but they don't deserve much else when giving Sanchez an undeserved shot at redemption in the NFL. I don't like being too harsh on players, but Johnson is not a serviceable Quarter Back at this level and Washington are going to have to use a lot of deception if they want to move the ball in this one.

Running the ball straight at the Titans will not really work with the Tennessee Defensive Line showing they can clamp down on the run all season. They've been even more improved in that department as they have embarked on a winning run to close out the season and keeping Washington in third and long spots will mean the Titans are exactly where they want to be.

Johnson isn't going to have a lot of time even if he was a prototypical NFL Quarter Back because the Offensive Line is banged up and the Titans have a powerful front four who can get to the Quarter Back. The pressure up front has meant it is difficult to throw the ball against this Secondary and I do think Tennessee's Defensive unit is going to make it very difficult for Johnson and Adrian Peterson to get going and thus make it hard for the Redskins to move the chains consistently.

Being alive in the Play Off race should give Washington plenty of motivation to perform, but the Defensive Line and Linebackers have to show they are willing to make the big tackles to do that. It has been possible for teams to run the ball on the Redskins of late and Tennessee might be playing as well as any team when it comes to crashing through the trenches with their Running Backs.

Derrick Henry has been the star over the last couple of weeks and he can continue from where he left off in Week 15. In recent games the Redskins have given up some big yards on the ground and Henry could be able to have a huge game in what is usually Championship Weekend for Fantasy Football players around the world.

Marcus Mariota is able to run the ball from the Quarter Back position too, although the Titans won't risk their starter and instead will use Henry and Dion Lewis in tandem in the backfield. The Quarter Back has not been concerned with how the Titans have looked to win games and I don't think he will mind not having to throw the ball as long as Henry and Lewis continue to rip off huge gains.

It will open up the play-action passes for Mariota and I do think it could be difficult for Washington to remain motivated if they are struggling in the trenches on both sides of the ball. We saw them collapse against the New York Giants, while their Play Off hopes may still be alive but they are also facing a very motivated Tennessee team.

The Redskins had been blown out in back to back games before the win over the Jaguars in Week 15 and I think they could suffer a big loss here. The spread is a big one, but Tennessee have won a couple of games in a row by a wide margin and they are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine home games.

As well as Washington did to win last week, they will have much more trouble stopping the Tennessee Offensive Line from opening lanes for Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. They have struggled to back up straight wins in the last couple of years as the Redskins are 5-11 against the spread in the last sixteen after a win and I am going to have a small interest on Tennessee being able to come through with a big win that ends Washington's season.

Baltimore Ravens @ Los Angeles Chargers Pick: All credit has to be given to Head Coach Anthony Lynn who decided he would go for two points at the end of regulation in Week 15 as the Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) managed to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and earn a Play Off spot. If you think the team will be satisfied with that then you would be mistaken and the Chargers will know if they win out and the Chiefs trip up then it will be Los Angeles receiving the Bye through to the Divisional Round of the post-season.

In fact winning out and finishing 13-3 will be enough for the Chargers to have home field advantage throughout the Play Offs if the Chiefs lose one of their final two games. That has to be giving Philip Rivers huge motivation as he is also one of the leading contenders to win the MVP award while he may not have too many more chances to reach a maiden Super Bowl.

Week 15 looks a difficult game for the Chargers though as they host the Play Off chasing Baltimore Ravens (8-6) who have found a spark since Lamar Jackson was given the starting Quarter Back spot ahead of Joe Flacco. That has been a decision that has not gone down well with Flacco, but the Baltimore players are much more confident in Jackson and they have responded with four wins from five games with the sole loss coming in Overtime at the Kansas City Chiefs.

It may not be an ideal match up for the Ravens as they are facing a Chargers Defensive Line who have really tightened up against the run. In general the Defensive unit have been playing very well, but Jackson is a different kind of Quarter Back than to any they have seen so far this season with Baltimore essentially using the run option to get things going for their team.

The Baltimore Offensive Line has relished blocking for the Running Backs and Quarter Back to move the chains on the ground, but Jackson is a capable passer too. He hasn't shown that too much at the moment, but running the ball should mean the Ravens are able to employ pass-action and at least give their young Quarter Back to make plays down the field.

This is going to be a test for Jackson at Quarter Back, but veteran Philip Rivers is not going to have things all his own way when playing one of the top Defenses in the NFL. I love how Rivers has been playing for the Chargers and they are looking more dangerous when you think Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen both are expected to be available for their starts.

Gordon has been banged up and I am not sure he is going to be able to have a huge game here considering how well Baltimore have played the run. I also think Gordon will have to share carries in the backfield as the Chargers won't want him running on empty in January so the Ravens could at least force Rivers to try and beat them through the air.

There is no doubt Rivers is playing some confident Football at Quarter Back and the way he rallied his team to beat Kansas City underlined that. However this week he is playing a much better Secondary than the one the Chiefs have and Rivers found himself under siege last week by the Kansas City pass rush and there could be something similar at play in Week 16.

Baltimore are able to get to the Quarter Back and the Chargers Offensive Line are going to have trouble giving Rivers a lot of time to make his plays, although shutting down the veteran completely is asking a lot. What I do think will happen is that Baltimore will be able to control the clock with the Offense and the Defensive unit will be able to keep them in this game and so getting more than a Field Goal worth of points is appealing.

The underdog has gone 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series. Baltimore have an 18-7-4 record against the spread in their last twenty-nine road games against a team with a winning record at home, while the Chargers are just 2-5 against the spread in home games since moving to Los Angeles.

Both teams have plenty on the line on Saturday, but I will take the points with the road underdog and make a play on the Baltimore Ravens.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Miami Dolphins PickOnly a miracle play at the end of the Divisional Game against the New England Patriots in Week 14 kept alive the hopes of the Miami Dolphins to make the Play Offs. However they were crushed without much of a fight in Minnesota to drop back to 7-7 and that means the Dolphins are clinging onto their post-season hopes by their fingernails as they look to win out in the final two weeks of the regular season and hope for plenty of help.

With the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers dominating the AFC West it does mean one of those teams would take one of the two AFC Wild Card spots. That has left Miami as one of a number of teams battling out for the final Wild Card spot, but the loss to the Minnesota Vikings means the Dolphins are already at least one game behind a number of other teams which means chances of reaching the Play Offs are slim to say the least.

They are still far better than the disappointing Jacksonville Jaguars who have followed up a run to the AFC Championship Game by producing a 4-10 record. Instead of cutting Blake Bortles at the end of the 2017 season, the Jaguars were fooled by the run to the Championship Game that they had a serviceable Quarter Back and they have found out the hard way in 2018 that Bortles is not good enough for them.

Cody Kessler has not really impressed in relief so the Jaguars look to be a team that is going to be looking for a new Quarter Back in the off-season. The most likely suggestion is they look to bring in a veteran that can help a talented Defensive unit take the team very far into the Play Offs in what is a small window of success open for Jacksonville.

The Jaguars won't worry about trying to get Kessler to produce the kind of game that he has not been able to since taking over as starter of the team from Bortles. Instead the Jaguars will look to have the kind of success many teams have had against the Miami Dolphins and that is by running the ball and then attacking the Secondary with play-action passes once the pass rush has been negated.

Leonard Fournette could be missing for Jacksonville, although I still expect the Jaguars to have some big runs on the ground. Any time Miami can at least make some stops they should have a chance to get to Kessler and that is going to be the key for them.

If the Dolphins can stall a couple of drives, they will feel their own Offensive Line is playing well enough to open some big holes for the Running Backs in this one. Frank Gore has suffered a season ending injury, but Miami showed they can crack some big runs without last week in the defeat in Minnesota and they are facing a Jacksonville Defensive Line that has been gashed in recent games.

It will be music to Ryan Tannehill's ears if Miami can dominate on the ground and ease any pass rush he is going to be facing from the Jaguars. The Offensive Line has not really protected Tannehill as they would like and the Quarter Back has had his fair share of injuries over the last couple of years and he could be a little banged up here which means he will need more support from the running game.

Tannehill has played better at home and Miami as a whole have been strong in front of their own fans which may give them the edge here. Motivation for Jacksonville is hard to determine, but I have a feeling they may be more interested in trying to play spoiler at the Houston Texans in Week 17 than facing Miami in Week 16 even though this is an in-State rivalry.

In this series the favourite has improved to 5-2 against the spread in the last seven between these teams. The Dolphins are also 6-1 against the spread at home this season and I think they can round out their home schedule with another win to just about stay alive in the Play Off race for one more week.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Pick: I don't like the New England Patriots, but I absolutely respect them and it has become something of the norm to expect this team to not only make the Play Offs, but have home field advantage in January. Go back a couple of weeks and you would think they are very much on course to do that, but back to back losses to the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers have knocked the Patriots down to 9-5 for the season and they are chasing a Bye through to the Divisional Round.

When you have become so used to seeing a team dominate like the Patriots have tended to do, it is no surprise that people have questions about what is going wrong. This week there have been suggestions that Tom Brady is playing through some kind of injury, while New England had some bad news when Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely as off-field issues continue to blight his career.

Rob Gronkowski has not played as well as expected and all in all things don't feel great for the New England Patriots.

However I think you can write them off at your peril and the feeling is that they will bounce back and produce a big game against Divisional rival the Buffalo Bills who are 5-9 in what is a rebuilding year. Even though a losing record has long been secured, the Bills are clearly playing with some heart and determination and that has seen them put more wins on the board than losses over their last five games.

Josh Allen may split opinions as to whether he can be a franchise Quarter Back for the Bills but he has been playing well enough. The majority of the positive plays Allen has put together have been with his legs though and Buffalo are going to try and become the latest team who can rip off some huge gains on the ground against New England whose Defensive Line has been suffering.

This is a Bill Belichick Defensive unit though and I think he is going to focus on making sure the rookie, who didn't play against New England earlier in the season, is not able to have the success that has made him comfortable in games. I would expect Belichick has spent the entire week focusing his Defensive play-callers on working out a way to clamp down on the run and make sure Allen has to beat them with his arm.

LeSean McCoy will likely be able to suit up to give Buffalo another running threat, but his biggest impact may be to catch the ball out of the backfield. Josh Allen should be able to make some decent throws in this one, but he could be under pressure from the Patriots pass rush if the run game has been controlled and Allen has also had a tendency to throw a pick too.

In that case the Buffalo Defensive unit have to step up as they have continued to play at a high level for much of the season. This is a team that is strong up front and has a Secondary who thrive thanks to the pressure those players on the Defensive Line get up front.

Tom Brady had some success against them earlier in the season though and the likes of Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead can help spark some of the run game in this one. The latter two could be a big threat coming out of the backfield, while Julian Edelman will look to find the soft spots in the Secondary and step up his play with Josh Gordon sidelined.

New England have dominated the last four games in this series and I think they are going to be able to bounce back from back to back losses and get back on the winning trail. The Patriots have covered in each of the last four games against the Buffalo Bills and they are 5-1 against the spread at home this season while finding a way to dominate their Divisional rivals again.

The Patriots have some stunning home numbers, especially against teams with losing records, and the Buffalo Bills are just 4-10 against the spread in their last fourteen Divisional games.

I know the consecutive losses the Patriots have suffered makes it hard to trust them, but this is the kind of spot in which New England have USUALLY thrived. Since 2001 they have gone 8-3 against the spread when playing of back to back losses and they have won those games by an average of 17 points per game.

It makes it a little more comfortable to back a team to cover this kind of monster spread and I will look for New England to show they are not quite as finished as some have suggested over the last couple of weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: You don't want to lose momentum in Week 15 of the NFL regular season when chasing spots in the Play Offs, but the Dallas Cowboys feel their defeat to the Indianapolis Colts will stand them in good stead. That loss dropped them to 8-6 for the season which means they are a game clear of the Philadelphia Eagles going into Week 16, but two wins over the Eagles means the Cowboys are still firmly in control of earning a Play Off spot for the second season in a row.

A win in Week 16 will do it for the Dallas Cowboys, but they will be feeling intense pressure if they are not able to get the better of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whose season is effectively over. The Buccaneers are a disappointing 5-9 for the season and they are about to make some big changes with likely moves as far as the Head Coach and potentially the Quarter Back position are concerned.

Jameis Winston may essentially be auditioning for his next job in the final two weeks of the season and he is coming off a tough outing against the Baltimore Ravens when the entire Tampa Bay team struggled for Offensive consistency. Everyone knows how strong the Ravens are Defensively, but the Dallas Cowboys will feel they are playing at a very good level and can also shut down what Tampa Bay want to do.

Running the ball against a strong Defensive Line has been very difficult of late and the pressure Dallas can get up front has led to improved numbers from the Secondary too. I would expect the Cowboys may be able to break through this Tampa Bay Offensive Line and force Winston to move around the pocket before trying to hit Mike Evans down the field.

Evans is going to make some big plays as the top Receiver he is, but the Cowboys have been very good Defensively and will believe they can stall enough drives to give the ball back to Dak Prescott and his Offense.

It's hard to know what to feel about Dak Prescott and whether he really is the franchise Quarter Back that the Cowboys think he is. The arrival of Amari Cooper has been a boost for Prescott and the Cowboys, but they may go back to their fundamentals in this one and that is running the ball for much of the afternoon through Ezekiel Elliot.

The Buccaneers Defensive Line has really struggled when it comes to stopping the run and I am not sure how high the motivation will be to get down and dirty in the trenches in this one. There are a couple of banged up players on the Offensive Line for the Cowboys, but I think they will still enjoy getting a push and opening things up for Elliot who should be able to crack some big runs.

That only makes life easier for Prescott who should be able to use play-action and run-option plays to make sure he is able to throw the ball to Cooper. Last week the connection struggled as the Cowboys made numerous mistakes in the Indianapolis half of the field and failed to convert a number of Fourth Down attempts, but I expect a much more focused effort from Dallas this week and I do like them to win this game and by some comfortable margin too.

Dallas have bounced back from blow out losses by going 5-1 against the spread in their last six games following a loss by 14 points or more. The Cowboys are also 4-1 against the spread in their last five at home and I think they may be facing an opponent who is not completely focused in wanting to dig deep enough to win this game so I do like the home team here.

New York Giants @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: At this point of the season motivation of players has to be considered when spreads are being created for games and I have no doubt that is part of the reason why the Indianapolis Colts are seen as such strong favourites to beat the New York Giants.

The Colts are 8-6 and still very much chasing a place in the Play Offs which begin in a couple of weeks time and they need to win this game and then are potentially locked into a winner takes all game with the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. On the other hand the New York Giants are 5-9 and were officially knocked out of the Play Offs last week when beaten by the Tennessee Titans.

Add in the fact that Odell Beckham Jr is going to be sitting again and the Giants are playing a non-Conference game and the motivation simply may not be there. An even greater factor could be that the Giants are looking past the Colts as they finish off the season hosting the Dallas Cowboys and could potentially have a chance to ruin the season of one of their biggest rivals.

Aside from a really strange performance at the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Indianapolis Colts have been flying in recent weeks as Andrew Luck has really settled back into the team. No will doubt the talent Luck has at Quarter Back and he has sparked this team, although give a huge amount of credit to the Offensive Line who have been able to give Luck all the time he needs to throw the ball.

Indianapolis have plenty of balance Offensively too and Marlon Mack's performances have cooled down suggestions the Colts will make a play for Le'Veon Bell in Free Agency. Mack was the superior Running Back on the field in Week 15 despite sharing the limelight with Ezekiel Elliot and the Colts should be very comfortable moving the chains however they want to do it in Week 16.

That should especially be the case if the Giants are not playing quite as hard as they could and it means pressure on Eli Manning and the Giants Offense to try and keep up with the Colts. Manning is surely playing his last couple of games for the New York Giants and is looking to bounce back from a performance in which his team failed to score a point, although it is tough without Beckham Jr on the field.

Saquon Barkley has been huge for the Giants and proven his worth as a high Draft Pick, but the Colts have been strong up front and found a way to shut down the run. I am convinced the focus will be on stopping Barkley by any means necessary and making Manning ask more out of the other playmakers on the field and that would be the smart Defensive move with OBJ out of the team.

The Colts Defensive unit have perhaps flown under the radar with fans concentrating on how well Andrew Luck and the Offense have been playing. However this is an Indianapolis Defense which is much improved from last season and have an ability to slow the run and get to the Quarter Back, while the Secondary have been able to make plays against opponents throwing under pressure.

It would not be a big surprise if the Colts create one or two turnovers to really take control of this game and I like them to win and cover. I have to respect the Giants for covering in their last six road games, but the focus could be on finishing up against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 and trying to play spoiler for them rather than a non-Conference opponent they see once every four years.

The Giants are also 4-10-1 against the spread in their last fifteen games against a team with a winning record at home. Add in how well the Colts have played against teams with losing records and I will look for the home team to cover a big number.

Green Bay Packers @ New York Jets Pick: Aaron Rodgers has declared he is going to finish up the season for the Green Bay Packers in what has been a poor season by the standards set by this team. At 5-8-1 the season is over and Rodgers has been playing through multiple injuries which meant it was suggested Green Bay shut him down for 2018, but Rodgers himself wants to be a leader by taking to the field in the last two weeks of the regular season.

It is all change for the Green Bay Packers in the off-season with some serious decisions to be made. A new Head Coach is coming in and Clay Matthews needs his contract rejigged so there are questions about a team who are desperate to help Rodgers win a second Super Bowl ring which is the minimum they would have expected with the best Quarter Back in the NFL.

With Rodgers declared available, I can't say I am surprised the public are pounding the Packers in Week 16 against the New York Jets who are putting the finishing touches on another losing season. There may be changes in the Jets management roles in the weeks ahead too, but this is a team who have been competitive no matter what the 4-10 record will suggest.

That competitiveness may be the reason the sharps are on the Jets this week with the spread coming down below a key number 3 in a number of places ahead of this game. You can still find the full Field Goal start with the Jets and that is the play in this one as far as I am concerned.

Sam Darnold is playing Quarter Back for the Jets as he looks to take on more experience while growing as the franchise Quarter Back of this team. Darnold has played well at home to be honest and I think he can have a good game against an injury hit Green Bay Secondary that may be playing out the string.

The Quarter Back showed an ability to scramble away from pressure in the loss to the Houston Texans in Week 15 and Darnold should be able to have success finding Robby Anderson down the field when he is given some time. He should be aided by the Jets being able to run the ball against a weakened Green Bay Defensive Line and I think the Jets can give their visitors all they can handle.

I would expect Green Bay to be able to move the chains too as long as they making the right play calls- when you have a Quarter Back like Aaron Rodgers it can be easy to decide to pass way more than you run the ball, but Joe Philbin has to have done some homework and that means giving the ball to Jamaal Williams to run the ball.

Williams takes over from Aaron Jones and played well in the Week 15 defeat to the Chicago Bears and he should have more room for success against this New York Defensive Line. The Green Bay Offensive Line have paved the way for some big runs, but they have not been so effective protecting Rodgers when he drops back to throw. And that is an area where the Jets will feel they can really get after Rodgers who may be a little gimpy from the knee and hamstring issues he has been dealing with.

Rodgers doesn't turn the ball over too often, but I do think the Jets can stall some drives and I like them with the points. The Jets are 9-1 against the spread when set as the home underdog off a home loss and Green Bay have struggled on the road all season both straight up and against the spread.

The underdog are 3-1-1 against the spread in the last five in the series between these teams and I like the Jets here.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers Pick: He hasn't looked right for a few weeks now and the decision has finally been made by the Carolina Panthers that they will not play Cam Newton in Week 16 and he is very unlikely to play in Week 17. It isn't a surprise after the Panthers were beaten at home by the New Orleans Saints in Week 15 which has seen their record slip to 6-8 and with their Play Off hopes in tatters after six straight losses.

It is the kind of losing streak which will have Head Coach Ron Rivera sitting on the hot seat as Black Monday approaches. At one point it looked like the Carolina Panthers would be able to challenge the New Orleans Saints for the best record in the NFC, but instead they will be missing out on the Play Offs and wondering what might have been this season.

The same could be said for the Atlanta Falcons who are 5-9 and arguably the biggest disappointment in the NFL along with the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is so much talent on the Falcons roster, but the window for success in the NFL is very small and there has to be some questions as to how 2019 can be a lot better than this season has been.

Julio Jones is banged up and could be missing for the Falcons in Week 16, but they are still favoured to win on the road against an opponent who could be deflated after events in Week 15. Losing a game they should have won to stay alive in the Play Off mix and then seeing the starting Quarter Back shut down will hurt and it is Taylor Heinicke who will be making his first career start at that position.

Without Cam Newton, you have to believe the Falcons are going to look for a way to slow down the run by clamping down on Christian McCaffrey who has had a very strong season for the Panthers. His threat is helped by the running ability of Newton, but I don't think the Falcons will respect Heinicke in the same way and instead will try and force the inexperienced Quarter Back to beat them through the air.

By forcing Heinicke to throw the ball, I do think the Falcons are going to be in a position to stall drives as the Secondary have improved in recent games. They crushed Josh Rosen last week and I don't think Carolina have the playmakers outside of McCaffrey who can really hurt the Falcons consistently so the visitors have every chance of winning this game.

The spread moved a whole six points once Newton was ruled out, although my one doubt about backing Atlanta is how poorly they have played. Matt Ryan and the Offense have not been anything like as good on the road as they have been at home and even then they have struggled in most venues this season.

Losing Jones would be a blow, but I think Atlanta will be able to rip off some big runs through Tevin Coleman in this one as the Panthers energy level may not be where it was against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. The Defensive players may be focused on the revenge game with the Saints in Week 17 which could prevent New Orleans finishing with the best record in the NFC, and that could mean Atlanta are able to take advantage of this spot.

Matt Ryan has to be aware of the pressure Carolina can get up front, but running the ball should slow down any pass rush and I do like the Falcons here.

Atlanta have matched up well with Carolina in recent meetings as they are 5-1 against the spread in the last six between these Divisional rivals. Both teams have struggled when playing teams with losing records as they have not been able to cover the spread, but the Falcons look like they could have the energy to find the win in this one against an inexperienced Quarter Back and a Defensive unit that is just off an A++ effort.

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: If you think the Chicago Bears are going to be satisfied as NFC North Champions behind their 10-4 record you will have to think again. This is a team that believes they can win the Super Bowl and that means finishing out the season hard enough to try and secure a Bye into the Divisional Round of the Play Offs by winning out.

They will have to be careful when they head west to take on the San Francisco 49ers considering how much confidence their hosts must have picked up. This is the third home game in a row for the 49ers and they have won the last two as the underdog so they won't worry about their spot here as they bid to improve their 4-10 record in what has been a disappointing season.

High hopes have long gone with injuries hurting the 49ers, but they remain competitive and wins over Play Off chasing teams Denver and Seattle show how tough they can be at home. There has been some fortune attached to those wins and Nick Mullens and the Offensive unit may need more of that if they are going to be competitive against the Chicago Bears who look to be heating up at just the right time.

The Bears will feel they have enough Offensively to move the chains consistently in this one. As well as San Francisco did in controlling Philip Lindsay when he played for the Broncos here, the Defensive Line has struggled against the run and they are going to get a heavy dose of that from the Chicago Bears who also have a Quarter Back capable of making plays with his legs.

That should give the Chicago Offensive Line time to protect Mitchell Trubisky when he does step back to throw the ball and I think the Bears will be able to score their points.

However, like with every game this season, the key is the Chicago Defensive unit who may be the very best in the NFL. Matt Breida may actually have more room to run the ball than he has in recent games as there has been some problems for the Bears to stop the run on the Defensive Line. In recent games Breida has been a threat but has not exploded for huge gains and the 49ers will need him if they are going to create a third upset at home in a row.

Nick Mullens will need everything Breida can get on the ground because he is likely to be under intense pressure whenever he is in obvious passing downs. The San Francisco Offensive Line is not the best anyway, but now they face a Bears Defensive Line that loves causing havoc in the backfield and I think it will be difficult for Mullens to move the ball through the air barring more funny stuff from the officials like we have seen in the Seattle win last week.

The Bears also create a lot of turnovers so they will feel they can give their Offensive unit more possessions and I like Chicago to keep their chances of receiving a top two Seed by winning this week.

Chicago do have a poor recent record in San Francisco, but this is the best Bears team to visit in a long time. Despite the home covers in each of the past two weeks, San Francisco are just 7-15 against the spread in their last twenty-two home games and they are 7-17-1 against the spread in their last twenty-five when playing a team with a winning record.

The Bears are now 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games and I will roll with them through one more week at least.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The pressure on the Pittsburgh Steelers has built up, but they have only themselves to blame after blowing games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders. A battling win over the New England Patriots helped their cause in Week 15, but the tie with the Cleveland Browns very early in the season means the Steelers are 8-5-1 and just behind the Baltimore Ravens who are flying towards the Play Offs.

It does mean the Steelers either need to win both of their remaining games or hope to split their final two games and hope the Ravens slip up in Week 17. A team with the Super Bowl aspirations Pittsburgh had back in August will have some major questions to answer if they are failing to make the Play Offs so the Steelers have to find their best in Week 16.

Only the best is expected to be good enough when the Steelers visit the New Orleans Saints who have a 12-2 record and one more win will be enough for the Saints to make sure they hold home field advantage through the Play Offs. The Saints showed they can win in a different way when beating the Carolina Panthers in a low-scoring battle in Week 15, but that was on the road and New Orleans have been considerably better at home.

Much is likely to be on the shoulders of Drew Brees who has not been at his best in this month. While the Saints have two dynamic Running Backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been very good at playing the run so their biggest impacts will potentially be as Backs coming out and catching short passes from their Quarter Back.

Drew Brees should still have time to pass the ball even in obvious passing downs because of the performance of his Offensive Line. He is also facing a Pittsburgh Secondary which has holes in it, but Brees has to hope some of the other Receivers step up outside of Michael Thomas who is likely to be followed by Joe Haden.

I do think some will, but New Orleans have some questions to answer about themselves Offensively, although the Saints are also much improved Defensively.

The Steelers will be hoping James Connor is going to be able to play this week, but they showed in the win over New England that the Offensive Line is very capable of paving the way for whoever starts in the backfield. It is likely to be more difficult against the New Orleans Saints whose Defensive Line has played very well in clamping down on the run, but they have just been in a physical game with the Panthers and that may offer Pittsburgh more chances to establish the run.

The Secondary have stepped up in recent games too which will give New Orleans encouragement, but stopping the Pittsburgh Steelers through the air is difficult. JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a huge weapon for the Steelers and he is expected to suit up which makes it difficult to control him and Antonio Brown and I would expect Ben Roethlisberger to have a solid game here.

It makes the points being given to the Steelers that much more appealing.

Pittsburgh are 19-6-2 against the spread in their last twenty-seven games against a team with a winning record at home although it is never easy to oppose the New Orleans Saints at home. The Saints have some incredible numbers, but the Steelers are desperate and I think Big Ben can at least produce a drive to get within this number.

MY PICKS: Tennessee Titans - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Baltimore Ravens + 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Miami Dolphins - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
New England Patriots - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
New York Jets + 3 Points @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Atlanta Falcons - 3 Points @ 2.05 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Chicago Bears - 4 Points @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)