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Monday, 30 December 2019

College Football Bowl Picks 2019 Part Two (December 30-January 6)

The first half of the Bowl Season is in the books for the 2019 College Football season and we have got the National Championship Game that most would have wanted when the two Tigers, LSU and Clemson, meet in New Orleans in two weeks time.

That is no disrespect to the Ohio State Buckeyes who were very unfortunate with a couple of calls in their narrow loss to Clemson, but the defending Champions looking for a third title in four years versus the best team from the SEC in 2019 looks a top match up. Joe Burrow vs Trevor Lawrence could be a potential contest in the NFL PlayOffs in years to come with both expected to be the Number 1 Overall Pick in the Draft in 2020 and 2021 respectively and I am very much looking forward to that big game on Monday 13th January.

In this thread I am going to cover the Bowl Games which will complete the post-season and I will have a separate post for the National Championship Game which is played a few days after the final Bowl Game of this part of the season.

Monday 30th December
Western Michigan Broncos vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Pick: At this time of the Bowl season there are some very big games put together, although some of those lose their lustre when players decide they would rather save their bodies for the NFL Draft. On paper this might not be one of the Bowl Games that will grab a lot of headlines, but for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Western Michigan Broncos it is all that matters.

Both teams didn't quite have enough to reach their respective Conference Championship Games, but reaching a Bowl is a big achievement. The Hilltoppers in particular have bounced back from a disappointing 2018 to move from a 3-9 record to an 8-4 one in Tyson Helton's first year as the Head Coach in Bowling Green.

It is back to back winning seasons for Tim Lester as Head Coach of Western Michigan, but he will be looking for a Bowl win this time around having seen his team blown out by the BYU Cougars in 2018. That dropped the Broncos to 7-6 that season, but Lester will be keen to keep the positive trend going with this team having finished with six wins in 2017 and then seven wins in 2018.

At 7-5 the Broncos can reach eight wins for the first time under the Head Coach having been a very strong team under PJ Fleck before he took over as the top man in Minnesota. Western Michigan did lose their last regular season game which stopped some of the momentum they had been building, while the Hilltoppers have won three in a row.

It may be the reason they are favoured to win this Bowl Game, but I do think the underdog with the points could be the right play.

Both teams look like they can strike a balance Offensively which should see them move the chains through strong running attacks, but the Broncos Secondary has perhaps made one or two bigger plays of late which suggests they could stall a drive or two.

Realistically both teams should have enough ability to run the ball and it could come down to which of the teams makes the fewer mistakes. Even then I do think getting more than a Field Goal worth of points with the Western Michigan Broncos looks like being too many to ignore with the game potentially coming down to which of the teams holds the ball last to determine the winner.

This may not be the game that most will be tuning into this week, but that's not the point and taking the underdog to cover looks the right play.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs California Golden Bears Pick: Lovie Smith was under some pressure going into his fourth year as the Head Coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini, and they looked way too short of winning enough games to become Bowl eligible this season when losing to Eastern Michigan. However the Fighting Illini have shown some heart to put some upsets on the board on their way to a 7-5 record and that means a first winning season since 2011.

The school have been speaking about the importance of playing in this Bowl and what is can do for Illinois going forward so there should be plenty of motivation in the ranks of a team who have not played in a Bowl since 2014.

Illinois are taking on the California Golden Bears who have produced seven wins for the second season in a row under Justin Wilcox. A 4-0 start to the season had some dreaming of much bigger things than the opening to the 2019 year, but California dropped five of six in the middle of the year and only bounced back with two wins at the end of the regular season to match the seven wins earned in 2018.

There has only been one season since 2010 that California have won at least eight games so there is plenty on the line for them as well as Illinois. The strong Defensive performances have been the foundation of the success for the Golden Bears in 2019, but they have perhaps lacked something Offensively which has prevented them from having a much stronger record.

The Golden Bears should be able to have a bit more success Offensively in this one if the Fighting Illini have not been able to sort out some of the issues on the Defensive Line. In the last three games Illinois gave up far too many big gains on the ground and being able to control the clock should put the Golden Bears in a strong position.

There is a bit more experience from the Quarter Back position compared with last season, but California have not been consistent throwing the ball. They will have to run to make sure they are in front of the chains and at least giving their Defensive unit strong field positions to work with.

Running the ball is going to be far from easy for the Fighting Illini and that has to be a concern for the team. However they could have better success throwing the ball compared with the Golden Bears whose Secondary ended the regular season by giving up some big yards through the air.

Brandon Peters could be back for Illinois at Quarter Back which would be a huge boost for a team looking to take advantage of any issues California continue to have in the Secondary. He missed the final regular season game, but should be out of concussion protocol in time for the Bowl Game which means a lot to the development of the Fighting Illini to take into the 2020 season.

A couple of key players are missing in the California Secondary and so Illinois might be able to score enough points to stay competitive against this mark. California have a poor recent record when set as the favourite and when they are playing on neutral field, while Illinois have been a solid underdog and neutral field team to back against the spread.

It might have a feel of a home game for the Golden Bears with the location of this Bowl, but I think the underdog can do enough to stay with California, especially with the healthy number of points being given to them.

Virginia Cavaliers vs Florida Gators Pick: When you are playing in the SEC you know there is very little room for error if you want to make the College Football PlayOff or even making one of the other Big Bowl Games. The Florida Gators have reached the ten win mark for the second season in a row under Head Coach Dan Mullen, but they were not able to win the SEC East and now will be looking to go one better than 2018 by winning an eleventh game in the post-season.

They will play the Virginia Cavaliers in the Orange Bowl in Miami.

The Cavaliers finished as the beaten team in the ACC Championship Game when they were crushed by the Clemson Tigers, but they have secured back to back winning seasons under Bronco Mendenhall. A win in the Bowl Game would actually give Virginia a ten win season, but they have already secured more wins than in the 2018 season to continue their development under a Head Coach with a strong reputation.

This is a very big test for Virginia though and they will appreciate they are facing one of the best teams from the loaded SEC. The Florida Gators have based their successes on a very strong Defensive unit, although one or two key players will be missing as they look to get themselves set to play at the next level.

Even then it will be very difficult for the Cavaliers to move the ball on the ground and that puts pressure on Bryce Perkins at Quarter Back even with his dual-threat ability. Perkins showed in the ACC Championship Game that he can have a big impact even against the better Defensive units in College Football when taking it to the Clemson Tigers, but it won't be easy to keep trying to convert from third and long spots.

One problem in being behind the chains is trying to throw against a very good Secondary, although one or two key players sitting out will help Perkins. The second issue is that the Florida Gators have a pass rush that has been living in the backfield of every opponent they have faced and that is the kind of pressure that can lead to errant throws from any Quarter Back when the pocket begins to collapse all around them.

While I do think Bryce Perkins can have some strong drives, I also think the Florida Defense will be tough to do that against on a consistent basis. With that in mind I feel the Gators can make enough stops to give their Offensive unit a chance to shine and make some of the headlines too.

Like Virginia, Florida may have one or two issues in establishing the run against a decent Cavaliers Defensive Line. They have shown signs of being worn down at the end of the regular season, but the Cavaliers are well rested and they can at least force Kyle Trask to beat them with his arm from the Quarter Back position.

Trask has really sparked the passing game in Florida and will be back to Quarter Back the team in 2020. He had some huge games in the final weeks of the regular season and would have taken note of some of the holes that have been exploited in the Virginia Secondary, especially by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Now Florida aren't as good as Clemson and Kyle Trask is not quite Trevor Lawrence, but the Quarter Back can have a solid outing which can put Florida in a position to win and also cover this number.

A Cavaliers pass rush can cause one or two problems for the Gators but this feels like a game in which the SEC team will have the superior support and can pull away. Both Clemson and Notre Dame won by wide enough margins to cover this number and I think the Gators are going to be able to do the same.

MY PICKS: Western Michigan Broncos + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Illinois Fighting Illini + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Florida Gators - 14.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Bowl Update: 5-7, - 2.28 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19% Yield)

Week 15: 6-3, + 2.45 Units (9 Units Staked, + 27.22% Yield)
Week 14: 4-5, - 1.22 Units (9 Units Staked, - 13.56% Yield)
Week 13: 4-3, + 0.64 Units (7 Units Staked, + 9.14% Yield)
Week 12: 6-3, + 2.53 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.11% Yield)
Week 11: 5-3, + 1.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 19.38% Yield)
Week 10: 4-1, + 2.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 54.60% Yield)
Week 9: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 8: 4-4-1, - 0.47 Units (9 Units Staked, - 5.22% Yield)
Week 7: 3-3, - 0.24 Units (6 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 6: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.42% Yield)
Week 5: 6-1, + 4.40 Units (7 Units Staked, + 62.86% Yield)
Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 60-52-1, + 2.66 Units (113 Units Staked, + 2.35% Yield)

Sunday, 29 December 2019

NFL Week 17 Picks 2019 (December 29th)

This is very much the time of the year that we all want to enjoy with families so this is a shorter NFL Picks thread than I have had for much of the season.

Any additional Picks will be placed in this thread on Sunday.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Pick: The six places in the NFC bracket of the NFL PlayOffs have been decided, but the final Seedings are still up for grabs. That includes the Number 1 Seed in the Conference which will give a team the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl without leaving home and that has to be the target for the New Orleans Saints who look in a good position at 12-3.

A win on Sunday coupled with losses for the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers would guarantee the Saints the Number 1 Seed, but they have to make sure they focus on this one game and see how they land. Anything less than a win and the Saints could find themselves having to play on Wild Card Weekend next week and that has to be motivation enough for them.

I would expect the Carolina Panthers to want to try and play spoiler for their Divisional rival, but they dropped to 5-10 last week and have lost seven times in a row. In Week 16 they were beaten heavily at the Indianapolis Colts who destroyed Carolina in the Special Teams area, while the uncertainty surrounding the future of some members of the team and who will be the Head Coach is certainly not going to be helping things.

Last week the Panthers gave the ball to Will Grier to see what the young Quarter Back could offer a team that might be moving on from Cam Newton and who have not been convinced by Kyle Allen at that position. It was a very difficult debut for Grier who was not helped by anyone other than Christian McCaffrey, but relying on one special player makes it difficult for any team to produce a big performance.

The Panthers are going to lean on McCaffrey in this one and they will be encouraged by some of the big yards given up by the Saints Defensive Line throughout the season. Injuries on the Defensive Line have hurt New Orleans, but I am not sure there will be a big respect for what Will Grier will be able to do in the passing game and that means the Saints can concentrate on trying to shut down McCaffrey.

Janoris Jenkins has arrived in New Orleans to give them some additional support in the Secondary and I do think the Saints can limit what Grier is able to do through the air. The young Quarter Back won't have much success if the New Orleans Saints are able to force Carolina to fall behind the chains and get the pass rush ramped up against what has been a questionable Offensive Line for the Panthers to say the least.

Inexperience is not the word you would use with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees looks to be peaking for another run at the Super Bowl. His last two performances have seen him snap Peyton Manning's record for Touchdown passes thrown in the regular season and he dominated a Tennessee Secondary last week to keep the momentum going.

There is no doubt that he is facing a pretty weak Defensive unit on Sunday in Week 17 and you have to wonder how the Panthers are going to slow down this New Orleans Offense. The Saints have not been particularly strong at running the ball in recent games, but Alvin Kamara had a big performance in Week 16 and he should be able to get something going against a porous Carolina Defensive Line.

I do think Kamara will have success and that is only going to open things up for the Saints when it comes to passing through the air. Michael Thomas is next to unstoppable and the balance that New Orleans should be able to find from an Offensive standpoint is likely going to put them in a position to win and cover this number, even if it is a very big one for a road team.

After covering last week, New Orleans have maintained their very good road record against the spread and I think they push ahead and earn another one here. They should be highly motivated to win and Carolina have a young Quarter Back who will make mistakes, while New Orleans are also 4-1 against the spread in their last five visits to this NFC South Divisional rival.

No doubt this is a very big spread, but New Orleans should find a way to score enough points to cover.

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: They are already on the clock as far as the NFL Draft is concerned and that should mean the Cincinnati Bengals can look to pull out all of the tricks to try and end this miserable season on a high. Andy Dalton is likely playing his last game at Quarter Back for the Bengals with the team expected to choose Joe Burrow with the Number 1 Overall selection in the Draft, while other players are going to be trying to prove to the team that they are capable of helping in the rebuild.

They should be motivated to get one over on their Divisional rivals Cleveland Browns in this Week 17 game and the Bengals have every chance of doing that against a team who look to be imploding from within.

Freddie Kitchens doesn't have the kind of respect you would think for a Head Coach at any level, while the top skill players don't particularly want to play for the Browns. Baker Mayfield has also been banged up and it makes it very hard to see them as the road favourite and see all of the public money that is coming down on them.

If Kitchens was a better Coach you may expect a game-plan that is going to feature a lot of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt whether running the ball or taking short passes from Mayfield and finding room to run. The Bengals Defensive Line have really been struggling to clamp down on the run and I do think Cleveland have been happiest when the Offensive Line is asked to block downfield and get Chubb or Hunt going.

That will also be important in keeping Mayfield in a position to try and make some plays through the air in what has been a difficult 2019 for the Quarter Back. He does have two very good Receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr, but neither has been particularly happy and both believe their Quarter Back and the play-calling have not been getting the ball in their hands as much as they should do.

It is possible for both to have a very good game, but I think the health of Mayfield has to be questioned and the way they fell apart in the home loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 has to be a concern. That would have meant a lot to Cleveland but they came up short and I am not sure whether they will care as much about beating the team with the worst record in the NFL.

The Browns won the first meeting between these teams, but it was a competitive game and I think this one can go the same way. Andy Dalton being back at the Quarter Back position has given the Bengals some fire and they will believe they match up well with the Browns Defensive unit which has been struggling massively.

Losing Myles Garrett would have hurt, but I also think a team who have lacked belief in their Coaching staff has not had the required effort needed on the field. Teams have been able to run all over Cleveland in their last three games and Joe Mixon has been ending the season with some momentum which can be summed up with a big performance from the Running Back in Week 17.

With Dalton back at Quarter Back, Cleveland can't just look to try and slow Mixon and hope they can shut down Cincinnati, especially as the Secondary have given up some big yards through the air. Again you have to wonder what the motivation for the Browns will be after a disappointing season and the way they have been performing down the stretch and I do believe Dalton can help lead the Bengals to a potential upset here.

Neither team has many trends they can write home about, but Cincinnati are 8-2 against the spread in their last ten against the Browns and I will take the points on offer with the home team.

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions Pick: After the upset of Divisional rivals Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers improved to 12-3 and will be looking for another victory which should be enough to earn at least a Bye into the Divisional Round of the NFL PlayOffs. There are still one or two questions surrounding the Packers which has many not really believing this is a Super Bowl team in the making, but the Packers keep winning games and will be difficult to knock off if Aaron Rodgers rounds into form.

They go into Week 17 as big road favourites to knock off the Detroit Lions who have had a disappointing 2019 season which has them going into the final game of the regular season with a 3-11-1 record. The Lions have lost eight in a row this season and they have lost starting Quarter Back Matthew Stafford to injury, although the lost season is not one that has worried the ownership enough to want to make Coaching changes.

We could yet see a change of opinion on that front, but for now the Lions are looking to try and stay the course with a system being put in place that will supposedly lead to successes in the years ahead.

It is hard to imagine seeing too many successes for them in this one game though as the regular season comes to an end for a team who have not performed to the level that was expected coming into the season. There had been some early hints that 2019 was going to be a big year for the Detroit Lions, but injuries have hurt the team and none more than losing Quarter Back Matthew Stafford.

In his place David Blough has been looking to impress with his ability as a starter, but it hasn't been the case for much of the time the Quarter Back has played. While there have been some good moments for Blough, the Lions have not scored more than 20 points in any of the four games he has started and now they have to face a Green Bay Defensive unit which has been one of the big strengths of a team at 12-3 for the season.

You can't just look at the Quarter Back and blame him for some of the Offensive issues, but the Lions have not been able to run the ball as they would have liked. Surprisingly Kerryon Johnson was back for the Lions at Running Back in Week 16 after missing multiple weeks through injury, but even with him back on the depth chart it won't be easy for the Lions to establish the run against a Green Bay Defensive Line which has held teams to under 4 yards per carry in their last three games.

David Blough has been somewhat inconsistent throwing the ball and won't be helped by the injuries which have shorn him of some of his big threats in the passing game. The Detroit Offensive Line has not really been able to help him with much pass protection so it looks unlikely that the two Smiths at Defensive End are likely to be causing havoc in the backfield for Green Bay. That pressure could lead to mistakes throwing against an improved Packers Secondary and the feeling is that the visitors will be able to limit the threat Detroit can pose Offensively.

There has to still be one or two questions about whether Green Bay could cover this kind of number with the lack of Offensive production we have seen for much of the season. The Green Bay Offense looks like it doesn't match up as well with the Detroit Defense as you may have thought with the team capable of running the ball better than they have been when it comes to throwing even with Aaron Rodgers at Quarter Back.

Both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have been powerful runners behind this Offensive Line, but the Lions have been pretty stout up front down the stretch. At the same time they are giving up almost 300 passing yards per game in their last three games, although Aaron Rodgers has yet to have a really big performance in 2019 and has admitted he doesn't need to throw a bunch of Touchdowns for the Packers to be successful.

I do think Jones and Williams will have some joy on the ground, while both could be effective as Receivers coming out of the backfield. Aaron Rodgers may also find more time to throw down the field considering the lack of pass rush Detroit have been able to generate and I think that gives the Packers a chance of keeping the ball moving.

You have to believe the Lions are going to be highly motivated to try and play spoiler in their final home game of the season, but they do look short of what the Green Bay Packers bring to the table. The win on Monday Night Football in Minnesota has improved the very good trend of backing Green Bay in road games and I think they are going to have too much for Detroit with enough big plays on both side of the ball to pull away for a healthy win.

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: There is no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys roster is better than the 7-8 record they hold in the 2019 season, but at least they still have one last shot to make the PlayOffs as NFC East Champions. After losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16, Dallas have lost control of their own fate, although the Cowboys can win and then hope for an Eagles loss to finish as the Division winner.

The loss to the Eagles did feel like the end of the world for some Cowboys fans and not many will expect them to have a reprieve here which means big questions for Jerry Jones to answer as soon as the season is concluded. Jason Garrett's role as Head Coach has to be something that is going to be challenged, but he has to focus on things that he can control and that means winning in Week 17 and see how the chips fall.

Last week the Cowboys did not look like they were comfortable with either the game-plan or some of the pain that their top players are dealing with. One of those was Dak Prescott who has been struggling with accuracy ever since he banged his shoulder and hand and I do think the Cowboys need to give him a better chance to keep the chains moving.

Dallas can do that if they keep things simple and we have been hearing all week that the team need to lean on the Offensive Line and get Ezekiel Elliot running the ball. It has baffled me for some time that the Cowboys have not been able to use Elliot more than they have in recent weeks, and it would be negligent on their part if they are not able to establish the run behind the Running Back.

In recent games the Washington Defensive Line has struggled to stop the run and Elliot should be able to make some big gains on the ground. That will make sure the limited Washington pass rush is just eased off, while keeping Dak Prescott in third and manageable will at least make it easier to target what is a very good Receiving corps.

Injuries in the Washington Secondary and on the Defensive Line has just left them susceptible to the pass and I think Prescott will be able to have a decent outing. Even then it can't be ignored that he has not been at his best as he plays through an injury and I think it has to be factored in that the Cowboys could pull the Quarter Back if the Eagles are up big in their game and Prescott is not at 100%.

The Cowboys are big favourites to win this game and I do think they are going to be able to move the ball well in this one, although covering this number won't be easy. They are facing a Washington Redskins team who have lost three in a row and who will be targeting the Number 2 Pick in the next Draft which could mean bringing in someone like Chase Young.

However Washington are going to want to give a Divisional rival something to think about in a game which means more to them than it does for the Redskins. Dwayne Haskins is out for the season, but Case Keenum will start for the Redskins at Quarter Back and he will want to remind teams looking for a stopgap at that position that he could be someone they want to think about bringing in.

Keenum is going to be able to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson to keep the Cowboys honest, but the holes in the Dallas Secondary won't be lost on him. I do think there is a lack of talent to support Keenum as Washington are already thinking about the 2020 season, but even then you would think the Redskins can have some success as long as their Quarter Back does not make the back-breaking mistakes which have blighted him throughout his career.

While they have not faced too many top teams, Washington have been very competitive in their last five games. They pushed the Eagles all the way in a 10 point loss a couple of weeks ago and the Redskins were very close to winning that game outright, while the experience of Keenum should keep them competitive in this one too against a Dallas team who have a losing record in case they are over-rated by some.

The last three games between these teams have been decided by ten points or less, and the Redskins are 8-3 against the spread in their last eleven in Dallas.

Dallas have dominated the NFC East in recent games with a 14-3 record against the spread in their last seventeen against Divisional rivals. The Cowboys are 1-4 against the spread in their last five as a favourite though, while Washington are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight as the road underdog.

This looks a very big number considering the atmosphere that Dallas could be playing in and I do think Washington will do enough to keep this close enough to cover.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams Pick: There was still a glimmer of hope for the Los Angeles Rams to make the PlayOffs going into Week 16, but the narrow loss to the San Francisco 49ers have ended their chances. They have had an additional day to prepare for the Week 17 game against another Divisional rival, although you will have to question how much motivation is still going to keep the locker room going after missing out on the post-season.

However the Rams could benefit from facing a struggling Arizona Cardinals team who have won two in a row, but who could be without a number of key players that have been limited in practice during the week. The Cardinals stunned the Seattle Seahawks on the road last week and they beat the Cleveland Browns as a home underdog in Week 15, but Arizona have a poor recent record against the Rams which is going to need changing.

That might not happen at the end of the 2019 season with Kyler Murray limited at Quarter Back after picking up an injury in Week 16. I have little reason to believe the Cardinals will risk their young Quarter Back in what is a meaningless game for them and that could mean Brett Hundley is starting for them in that position.

Hundley played well enough in relief of Murray last week, but this time he is going to be facing a strong Los Angeles Defensive unit. That may give the Rams a chance to try and crack down on Kenyan Drake and David Johnson when it comes to running the ball, although the Los Angeles Defensive Line has struggled to clamp down on the run all season.

We know the backup Quarter Back is not as strong as Murray when it comes to running the ball, but Brett Hundley is someone who can move the chains with his legs. It does make it feel like a game in which the Cardinals will be able to establish the run and at least give themselves an opportunity even with the injuries, plus it would be important to at least slow down the Rams pass rush.

If they are behind the chains Arizona will find it very difficult to convert drives into points. You do have to wonder about the Rams mindset off the back of a loss which has knocked them out of the PlayOffs, but this is a Secondary which has improved against the pass since Jalen Ramsey arrived. Unfortunately Ramsey is not playing for the Rams in Week 17, but that will be balanced off if Kyler Murray is limited or if Brett Hundley is starting for him.

It won't just been the Cardinals who will be using backups, but the same could be said for the Los Angeles Rams whose Head Coach Sean McVay admitted he will be resting anyone who is dealing with an injury. The Rams have nothing to play for, which means key players could be left out and that makes it hard to get a really good read on the game.

What can be seen is that the Arizona Cardinals Defensive unit have played well down the stretch, although they could be missing Chandler Jones for this game. If Jones can suit up, the Cardinals should find a way to get a pass rush going, while the Defensive Line have been pretty stout against the run in recent games. Todd Gurley could be missing for the Rams too which could make things easier for Arizona to clamp down on the run and that could give the Cardinals a strong foundation to build their success upon.

There have been some nice performances from the Rams when it comes to passing the ball, but if Jared Goff is given some reps off it may make it more difficult for them to move the ball in this one. The Cardinals have had issues stopping the pass for much of this season, but again there have been signs of improvement in the last three weeks and I think the motivation of the home team has to be questioned in this one.

It certainly makes it hard to believe they are going to cover this spread and I think the underdog could be worth backing even though Arizona have a poor recent record against the Rams.

The Rams have a good set of recent trends, but Arizona are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight as the road underdog. Both teams are potentially going with backups in key areas, but I think the Cardinals may want this a bit more than the Rams and it will be tough for the home team to cover this number with the improvements made by Arizona down the stretch.

After the huge effort Los Angeles put in to the Week 16 defeat at San Francisco I think the Rams might be mentally not ready to do the same here so taking the points look the play.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants Pick: Things have become very clear for the Philadelphia Eagles after beating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16 and they will be playing in the post-season if they win or the Cowboys lose in Week 17. If the Eagles are able to claim the NFC East Division, they are going to be hosting either the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round of the PlayOffs, but they can't focus on anything but this game having been in PlayOff mode for the entire month.

Any loss in that time would have likely meant the Eagles were out of contention to make the PlayOffs so the players have rallied together at just the right time to produce a three game winning run. Injuries have been piling up, but Carson Wentz has shown a real desire to carry this team and is justifying why the Eagles were happy enough to let Nick Foles go and get fully behind Wentz at Quarter Back.

Earlier this month the Eagles needed to recover from a big deficit to the beat the New York Giants, but you have to think the latter do have one big effort left for them. The Giants have won two in a row, although the one change from the first meeting between these Divisional rivals is the return of Daniel Jones at Quarter Back.

In Week 14 it was Eli Manning leading the New York Giants, but Jones can have similar success as the veteran. He will be backed up by Saquon Barkley who was restricted to 66 yards in the first game, but the Giants Offensive Line have opened more holes of late and the Eagles Defensive Line has just had one or two issues slowing the run.

I expect Barkley to have a bit more success than in their Week 14 meeting, but the Giants will lean on Daniel Jones against what has been a vulnerable Philadelphia Secondary. The Quarter Back should have his full complement of Wide Receivers and the Philadelphia pass rush may not be able to impact the game like they would want and that gives the Giants every chance of pushing their NFC East rivals all the way.

The Eagles should also have a very successful passing day against this Giants Secondary, but there are one or two things that may favour the home team which can see them involved in a very competitive game. The first is the fact that New York have been playing the run pretty well in recent games and the Defensive Line may find a way to stop Miles Sanders, although I do think the Running Back could be a major factor coming out of the backfield as a safety blanket for Carson Wentz.

If the Giants can push Philadelphia behind the chains they have the pass rush which can harass Carson Wentz and force him to get the ball out of his hands quicker than he may like.

It could lead to drives being stalled and the second reason you have to believe the Giants could potentially cause an upset is all of the injuries Philadelphia are dealing with in the Receiving units. It may mean some inconsistent drives for the Eagles and I do like the points being given to the underdog even if Carson Wentz is throwing into a Secondary which has struggled to stop anyone down the stretch.

The Giants have not been a good home underdog to back, but I think we get an A plus effort from them as they look to play spoiler for a rival. The Eagles have done enough to win games, but they have not blown anyone away and the underdog is 4-1 against the spread in the last five in this series.

MY PICKS: New Orleans Saints - 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Cincinnati Bengals + 2.5 Points @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Washington Redskins + 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals + 6.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
New York Giants + 4 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Boxing Day Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (December 26-27)

Let's be honest, this is a time of the year where most of us will be spending time with families so there is only limited time to produce the three threads needed to cover the Premier League fixtures and Fantasy Football plays.

I am going to get into it with the Picks from the Boxing Day round of games below followed by my GW19 team which is not going to have any transfers added to it after I played my Wild Card in GW18 as I had mentioned.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton Pick: I was largely disappointed with the Tottenham Hotspur performance on Sunday, but the continued defensive errors will be frustrating Jose Mourinho. There is nothing I can say to justify the penalty given away by Spurs in the loss to Chelsea which came in injury time at the end of the first half, but the lack of a real threat in the final third reminded me of the levels produced against Manchester United earlier this month.

It is something Mourinho is going to have to fix if Tottenham Hotspur are going to get closer to the top four, but they have at least played well against the teams lower down the Premier League table. Since the new manager has arrived, Tottenham Hotspur have beaten West Ham United, Bournemouth and Burnley and Spurs have scored plenty of goals in those games.

Losing Heung-Min Son to suspension is a blow to the team, but there is enough quality in the final third to believe they can cover for that in their next three games beginning with this one against Brighton.

I do like what Graham Potter is doing with Brighton and they are a much more pleasing team to watch, although results will ultimately determine whether or not this is a successful season. It does look like Brighton are going to have to avoid the drop, while they did recently win down the road at the Emirates Stadium, but this is a team that has mainly struggled for form away from home.

They do attack teams and that has resulted in a few goals, but Brighton have not defended well and they do offer up chances. I think that will be the case on Boxing Day and Tottenham Hotspur can exploit that in a win as I look for them to bounce back from the loss to Chelsea by seeing off Brighton in a game that I expect features two or more goals.

Aston Villa v Norwich City Pick: After seeing the Aston Villa performance in the 1-3 home loss to Southampton last Saturday I don't think you could reasonably back them with any expectation. That makes them a very short price to win this big fixture, although Norwich City have looked vulnerable away from home for much of the season.

A couple of weeks ago I would have been more comfortable in backing Aston Villa, but that defeat to Southampton coupled with the fact that Norwich City have found positive results at Everton and Leicester City recently makes it a much harder game to read.

Like Saturday I would not be surprised if both teams score and at least three goals are shared out on the day, but those markets are plenty short too.

It could be a fun game for the neutrals to enjoy, but a tense one for two sets of fans hoping for a late Christmas present as they bid to avoid the drop into the Championship. Personally I think there are better options you can back out there.

Bournemouth v Arsenal Pick: The Arsenal trip to Everton was a miserable game of football on the field and the most intriguing aspect of the day was the away fans turning on Arsenal TV, a fan YouTube Channel which irritates me and finally seems to be grating on those who follow this club around the world.

It shows the kind of divide that exists at Arsenal and Mikel Arteta can't be underestimating the tough job in front of him as a rookie manager. Two years ago it was considered that Arteta was not experienced enough to take over at Arsenal, but he has been learning under Pep Guardiola since then and the Spaniard is confident he can get this club turned around.

His first team selection is going to be interesting and there are a number of injury issues and suspensions to deal with.

At least Arsenal secured a clean sheet on Saturday as they have looked like a team who will score goals. The clean sheet will be a boost to the defence and to Arteta and I think they will be able to get the better of their hosts on Boxing Day.

Bournemouth are in miserable form and they are missing some big time players in the squad ahead of this fixture. The 0-1 defeat to Burnley at the Vitality Stadium means Bournemouth have not scored in their last 2 games here, while Bournemouth have lost 6 of their last 7 overall including the last 3 in a row in front of their own fans.

They don't have the best record against Arsenal and you have to think The Gunners will find enough in the final third to secure a vital three points on Boxing Day. It won't come easy and the first goal is going to be huge for both clubs, but I think Arsenal have shown a little more in the final third in creating chances of late and that can see them win at odds against before two big home games against Chelsea and Manchester United.

Chelsea v Southampton Pick: In recent weeks we have seen Chelsea earn some big results and fail to follow them up and so that is the challenge for Frank Lampard and his players on Boxing Day when they host Southampton.

The win at Tottenham Hotspur was very deserved for Chelsea, but they have lost 2 of their last 3 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge. Those losses to West Ham United and Bournemouth are not against the best teams in the Premier League and Chelsea have found it difficult when they have not taken the early chances they have created.

It will be encouraging for Southampton who impressively saw off Aston Villa on Saturday and who have scored in 11 away games in a row in all competitions. That includes scoring at Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City (twice) and Arsenal so playing at Stamford Bridge should hold no fear for The Saints who have nothing to lose having moved out of the bottom three.

No one will expect anything from Southampton, and they had lost 4 of 6 on their travels before the win over Aston Villa. With that in mind this feels like a game in which they can play their part, but the defensive problems are likely going to give Chelsea ample chances to still come away with a win.

Chelsea have not had the best recent home record against Southampton with 2 wins from their last 5 at Stamford Bridge against them. That might make some reconsider the very short odds on the home win, but I think Chelsea have been creating chances and should be very confident after winning so well at Tottenham Hotspur.

A home win in a game that features three or more goals looks the outcome of this one.

Crystal Palace v West Ham United Pick: Having had the weekend off I can make a reasonable case to back West Ham United to win at Selhurst Park, but I don't want to underestimate the home team.

Roy Hodgson's men are lacking goals and they are not defending as well as the run of clean sheets are suggesting. They have conceded in their last 2 Premier League games and Crystal Palace don't look capable of winning games if they do that, but West Ham United have been porous defensively which makes them hard to trust too.

I can see both teams coming in with belief, but it might be a tight game with all three results something you can make a case for. Again there look to be better options out there on Boxing Day through to the late Friday night game and I will look at those instead.

Everton v Burnley Pick: This is an important game for both Burnley and Everton who are coming off League fixtures in which they have earned clean sheets.

Managing the first of two games to be played in three days is challenging for every manager in the League, but it might be a bigger test for Carlo Ancelotti who will want to get a first hand experience of the squad he has inherited at Goodison Park.

The appointment of Ancelotti looks a real coup for Everton who are trying to break into the 'top six club' in the Premier League. A suggestion has been made that Ancelotti will be given serious funds to change the squad, but Everton might not be the most appealing destination for the big names so the Italian's Coaching skills will be tested here.

Everton have played well at home over the last twelve months, although they are in the midst of some poor form here. Scoring goals remains a big problem for the team, but they should have chances against a Burnley team who have not looked completely watertight at the back.

On the other hand Burnley have shown they have a style which can cause problems with two big strikers capable of causing havoc. They were not at their best at Bournemouth, but the weather conditions were pretty terrible and I think Burnley have shown enough in the final third in the last month to believe they can at least score here.

It makes this a hard game to read, but I do think Everton will have a bounce thanks to the excitement of having someone like Carlo Ancelotti taking over as manager. Before the goalless draw with Arsenal, Everton had scored three against Chelsea and two against Leicester City in games here and I think they will play their part in a surprisingly high-scoring game.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out is the selection.

Sheffield United v Watford Pick: The strong win over Manchester United will have just given the Watford squad an injection of confidence to take into the three games to be played across a seven day period.

However Watford can't expect to have things as comfortable as they were at Vicarage Road when they visit Sheffield United who have won 3 in a row in the Premier League.

Sheffield United have proven to be a very good Premier League team with a solid balance between attack and defence and they are now finding the end product to the chances being created. It is a different kind of test when you are expected to win games, and Sheffield United were beaten by Newcastle United in that spot recently, but the victory over Aston Villa suggests Chris Wilder has kept his squad's feet firmly planted on the ground.

As strong as the Watford performance and result was on Sunday, they are a team who will have had one less day to recover and have lost 3 away games in a row while conceding at least twice each time. Defensively there are some major injury concerns and Ben Foster is going to need to have a big game if Watford are able to earn a positive result.

Watford have also struggled for goals and I think there is enough there to back Sheffield United to win this game. It might be closer than some think because The Blades are unlikely to cut through teams constantly and especially not without the clinical finishing that others in the League can offer, but even then I believe the home team create enough to win this game.

They failed at odds on to beat Newcastle United, but I think Sheffield United make up for that on Boxing Day.

Manchester United v Newcastle United Pick: It really felt like Manchester United hit rock bottom on Sunday after losing to the club propping up the rest in the Premier League. At this stage of the rebuild Manchester United are going to have setbacks, but the limp performance until it was too late suggests a deeper issue and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is back under the gun.

The return of Paul Pogba was a positive, but Manchester United need to quickly bounce back ahead of two tough looking away games at Burnley and Arsenal. They host Newcastle United on Boxing Day and the 4 draws from the last 6 Premier League games at Old Trafford is just not good enough for a team that is better than the 8th place they occupy.

Games at home have at least seen Manchester United produce a few more chances in recent weeks and I do think they could be facing Newcastle United at the right time. At this stage of the season managers have to balance their squads with games coming very quickly and I would not be surprised if Steve Bruce will be keeping some players held back for a much more winnable home game against Everton which is played forty-eight hours after this one is concluded.

Bruce has said as much by hinting some players are not able to play twice in a short space of time and I think that could leave Newcastle United vulnerable. They are already weakened at the back with injuries taking a toll and losing Paul Dummett is another blow that should give Manchester United a chance to take advantage.

I expect changes in the home team too after a slow tempo was set by the starters on Sunday. Expect the likes of Andreas Pereira and possibly Brandon Williams being drafted in, while Mason Greenwood must deserve an opportunity.

The biggest key could be a return to starting action for Paul Pogba who made a big difference in the time he was on the pitch on Sunday. A player who is looking to pass the ball forward with quality has been missing and Pogba showed enough to believe two more days of training will be good enough for him to start as long as he has not had a negative reaction to the first football played since the end of September.

I think Pogba will help break down a Newcastle United team that will be looking to sit in deep and I would not be surprised if Bruce has targeted the two home games coming up as being more important than this one. It might offer Manchester United a rare opportunity to beat a club sitting below them in the Premier League table and I think the home team can be backed to cover the Asian Handicap considering the chances they have been creating and the addition of Pogba to the starting ine up.

Manchester United are not easy to back at the prices for obvious reasons, but I think they should have enough to beat a Newcastle United team who have lost 5 of their last 7 away from home.

Leicester City v Liverpool Pick: The final Premier League game to be played on Boxing Day is a big one as it is being competed by the current top two in the table, but some of the power of the match has to have been lost by the manner in which Leicester City were beaten by Manchester City on Saturday.

Just judging that one result you can't really criticise Brendan Rodgers and his players as many will have been outplayed by Manchester City.

But this has come at a time when Manchester City have looked vulnerable and Leicester City were trying to show they are genuine title contenders. Instead of showing that, The Foxes were beaten convincingly and are 10 points behind Liverpool having played a game more.

Anything less than a win would make it very difficult to believe Leicester City will be able to close that gap in the second half of the season. They have to knock Liverpool's confidence by beating them and hoping others can follow suit, but it won't be easy for Leicester City having been given the runaround by Manchester City just a few days ago.

Thankfully for them, Liverpool needed Extra Time to win the World Club Cup against Flamengo on Saturday and will be travelling back to England to prepare for this Premier League game. The League leaders are missing some defenders and Fabinho which may give Leicester City some encouragement, especially when you see chances the likes of Watford and Monterrey have created against Liverpool of late.

Controlling the front three is a difficult task though and games between Leicester City and Liverpool have been high-scoring ones in recent seasons. They already shared out three goals at Anfield this season which means 6 of the last 7 Premier League games between the clubs have resulted in that total mark being hit.

4 of the last 5 Premier League games between these clubs at the King Power Stadium have also seen three or more goals shared out and I would be surprised if both teams do not score here. The 1-1 won't be a bad result for Liverpool who will be happy to maintain the gap to Leicester City, but the home team pushing on could leave them open at the back and I will look for three or more goals to be shared out on Boxing Day.

Wolves v Manchester City Pick: It does feel like the Premier League title is going to be beyond Manchester City already as they face an eleven point deficit to leaders Liverpool who have a game in hand. Pep Guardiola is hoping the likes of Leicester City, Wolves and Sheffield United can step up when they face Liverpool, but his own Manchester City team face each of those opponents in the immediate game before they go on and face Liverpool.

Last Saturday Manchester City came from behind to beat Leicester City convincingly at the Etihad Stadium and they have some momentum behind them. There is no doubt that Manchester City are a team who could string ten or eleven League wins in a row and they are going to be a tough test for anyone they face.

There have been times Manchester City have not convinced at the back though and those vulnerabilities have been exposed by teams who can counter with pace. One of those was Wolves who won 0-2 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season and I think the home team are going to pose plenty of questions for Manchester City on Friday evening.

Wolves have been in good form and they should have at least avoided a defeat when hosting Tottenham Hotspur in their last game here. There are still some questions about them from a defensive point of view though and I think this is a game that can see both teams having their chances to score.

That has been the outcome in 6 of the last 7 away Manchester City games played in all competitions while it has also happened in 4 of the last 5 home Wolves Premier League games. I would be surprised if Manchester City didn't score as they have been very productive in the final third all season and have Sergio Aguero back in contention, while Wolves have been creative in the final third and will exploit spaces that Manchester City leave behind.

It is an attractive price and I think backing both teams to score is the right play.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea & Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.86 Coral (2 Units)
Everton-Burnley Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Sheffield United @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Leicester City-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.66 Bet365 (2 Units)
Wolves-Manchester City Both Teams to Score @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

December 2019/20: 12-10, + 1.40 Units (44 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
November 2019/209-16, - 12.66 Units (50 Units Staked, - 25.32% Yield)
October 2019/2016-14-2, + 6.14 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.90% Yield)
September 2019/2013-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)
August 2019/2014-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football GameWeek 19
I don't know what has happened over the last month, but the slip from around 75K in the FPL game to down to 800K has been as frustrating as it could be.

It goes back to all of the early mistakes with my Captain and those points that have been left on the table, but I have also not had a lot of luck with the players picked. Twice in the last six weeks my Captain has had a goal ruled out by the nonsense VAR system used by the Premier League, while I seem to be on the wrong side of some form (Todd Cantwell, I hope you are well).

We have only reached the halfway mark of the season though and I am not going to worry too much about the slide knowing things could quickly change back in my favour. The decision to still manage without the top two Leicester City players has continued to hurt me, but I am not going to let this season go the way of the 2015/16 campaign and that was in my mind when making my Wild Card selections.

This week I won't be making any transfers as I had looked to put a squad together that could negotiate the GW18 and GW19 schedules. I am also going to stick with one Captain during this very busy festive period, although bringing in Harry Kane to do that job was not an effective one as I finished with the same amount of points as the average.

My GW19 Fantasy Team
Paulo Gazzaniga- the performance in GW18 summed up my last month... He doesn't just concede twice, but concedes the most ridiculous penalty you will see. Would have underlined the nonsense of the last month if he had been sent off, but a home game with Brighton is a chance to make amends.

Serge Aurier- might not be the best defender in the world, but a real outlet for Spurs in system used by Jose Mourinho and can get amongst the goals and assists.

Harry Maguire- am I biased because I support Manchester United? Maybe, but I do think United can keep a clean sheet on Boxing Day, although I might not bet on that.

John Lundstram- the FPL cult hero has a home game with Watford.

Jack Grealish- one of the rare successes of my Wild Card, Grealish scored again on Saturday and is a big threat for Aston Villa against a defensively weak Norwich City.

Christian Pulisic- did not play on Sunday in the win at Tottenham Hotspur, but I think his underlying stats have been good. Needs a goal, maybe a risky pick if he doesn't start, but I think the American is a good price for now.

Sadio Mane- coming back from Qatar, Liverpool look stronger favourites to win the Premier League title. Winning at the King Power Stadium won't be easy but Mane is a big threat for the League leaders.

Kevin De Bruyne- a cramp ended his game against Leicester City, but he should be good to go by Friday. The Belgian has been in great form for Manchester City.

Wesley- he hasn't scored in months in the Premier League, but Wesley is a stats play considering the chances that have come his way. The goal against Liverpool in the League Cup has to have boosted confidence, but he is a short-term option with games coming up for Aston Villa.

Marcus Rashford- the return of Paul Pogba should boost the Marcus Rashford chances for attacking returns. I think he has been in good form and there are some good fixtures ahead until United travel to Liverpool.

Harry Kane (C)- he has been back in more attacking positions under Mourinho than he was at the end of Mauricio Pochettino's era at Tottenham Hotspur. On penalties and with games against Brighton, Norwich City and Southampton to come I will back Harry Kane as my Captain for the entire festive period.

Bench- Micahel McGovern, James Ward-Prowse (away game at Chelsea, but I don't mind the Southampton midfielder as first sub as he has the set piece threat to surprise), Caglar Soyuncu (hard to expect a clean sheet against Liverpool, but I doubt Leicester City concede more than two goals), Federico Fernandez (there might be some changes to the Newcastle United starting eleven which weakens them for the trip to Old Trafford).

Saturday, 21 December 2019

NFL Week 16 Picks 2019 (December 21-23)

As we get down to the final couple of weeks of the NFL regular season it means the Thursday Night Football feature of the first fifteen weeks of the season is over.

Instead in Week 16 we have three games scheduled to be played back to back on Saturday with the remaining thirteen games set for Sunday and Monday. Unsurprisingly there are some huge games to come this week as we move to within two weeks of the start of the NFL PlayOffs and some Divisions will finally be given the clarity that has been missing.

Most notable is the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles which is going to determine the destiny of the NFC East. If the Cowboys win they can rest players in Week 17 as they will have secured the Division, while the Eagles remain in a position where they can win out and take the crown and not many would expect them to slip up in Week 17 if they are able to see off Dallas on Sunday.

Another big game comes on Monday Night Football as the Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings with both still in a position to win the NFC North. Like the East, one of those teams, Green Bay, can win the Division with a victory, while the Vikings will need to win both remaining games and hope the Packers slip again.

Seeding is also going to be impacted by the games played this week, while the final spot in the AFC PlayOffs will be fought out through the last two weeks of the regular season. All in all it makes for an exciting time ahead of the NFL PlayOffs which are about as fun as any sporting event you will get to witness over a calendar year.

Week 16 Picks
Week 15...

Honestly I wish I could erase it from my memory with some bad breaks added to back Picks resulting in a killer week.

For the second time in the space of a few weeks I was undone by a Defensive player scoring with double zeroes on the clock as a team tried to find a miracle play deep in their own territory. First it was the San Francisco 49ers and this week it was the Philadelphia Eagles and you really cannot make that up.

Added to that was the frustration of Seattle giving up fourteen points in the last five minutes of their game with the Carolina Panthers while leading 30-10. The Seahawks won, which is all they will care about, but a winning Pick turned into a push and just those two games alone broke the back of the Week 15 performance.

It has been my worst season for a long time, and the chances of having a winning year like 2018 has diminished massively. Back to back miserable weeks have destroyed those chances to be perfectly honest, but it is no point chasing after those results.

Instead I will stick to the process, which has been impacted by ridiculously poor luck at times, and I will be looking for six winning weeks in a row to end the 2019 season.

Picks will be added to this thread and hopefully I can begin the 'six winning weeks' right here in Week 16.

Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: The first game of Week 16 is going to come from Florida in the early afternoon spot as non-Conference opponents meet. There is plenty on the line for the visitors Houston Texans who moved to 9-5 with a vital win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 and a win would lock up the AFC South and a likely spot in the Wild Card Round barring some improbable results in the final nine days of the season.

The spot is not ideal for Houston who play this game between the double header against their main Divisional rivals Tennessee and the win last week has put them in a very strong position even if they were to lose this game. I don't think anyone associated with Houston are going to want to let the Divisional race go down to the final weekend and they control their own destiny, but the Texans will also win the Division if the Titans fail to beat New Orleans at home on Sunday so there is a chance to 'take a breath' here.

They can't afford to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even if the PlayOffs are long gone for the NFC South team in what has proven to be a very tough Conference. The Buccaneers have actually won four games in a row though and they are back up to 7-7 as they chase a winning record for the first time since 2016 and only the second time since 2010.

Bruce Arians has shown he can mould this team and turn around their fortunes, but it is Jameis Winston who has really given the team something to think about. At 3-7 it was looking like the former Number 1 Pick in the Draft was going to be released, but Winston has produced some staggering numbers during this winning run and he is the first Quarter Back in NFL history who has thrown for at least 450 passing yards in back to back games.

It might be more difficult for Winston this week as he will be missing both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, two Receivers who are about as good as any tandem in the NFL. This means relying on some lesser lights, but it didn't hinder the Buccaneers too much in Week 15 and they are facing a Houston Secondary which has struggled as injuries and a lack of a pass rush have been difficult to disguise.

Jameis Winston can be guilty of holding onto the ball for too long and Interceptions continue to blight his game, but Arians is actually happy with what he has seen from the Quarter Back. I think the Buccaneers will continue to lean on the Winston arm in this one especially as they have not been able to run the ball with any kind of consistency and I don't think Tampa Bay will expose some of those issues that Houston have had on the Defensive Line.

It is possible that Winston's last two games will just have Houston drop one or two more men into coverage and that can aid the Tampa Bay rushing numbers, but either way I do think the Quarter Back can have another big showing.

And with that in mind I think there is every chance we are going to see a shoot out here where the team with the ball last can win outright. Deshaun Watson and the Houston Offense will not have missed the amount of yards that Tampa Bay have also been allowing and Bill O'Brien will be urging his players to not rely on other teams for their PlayOff spot but go out and take it.

Much is going to rely on Watson and the passing game because it has been very difficult to run against the Tampa Bay Defensive Line all season. In 2019 they are allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, but have improved that to 2.8 yards per carry in their last three games and the Buccaneers should not fear what Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson bring to the table.

The latter could be more of an issue when it comes to seeping out of the backfield and becoming a check down target for Watson, but for the most part it is going to be about the talented Texans Receivers going up against a vulnerable Secondary. Those Secondary numbers have looked better in recent games, but Deshaun Watson is a much better Quarter Back than Nick Foles, Jacoby Brissett and David Blough and he will find the openings.

One concern for Watson will be dealing with the Tampa Bay pass rush considering his propensity to throw Interceptions when put under pressure. I love what Watson brings to the table, but when he feels that pressure he can force throws and I think that may give the Buccaneers a chance to stall some drives, especially when they get the Texans into third and long spots.

Even with the injuries this feels like a good spot to back the Buccaneers even if their season is over. The Texans can win and earn their spot in the PlayOffs, but the schedule is as poor as it can be and getting a start with Jameis Winston in his current form and fighting to reman the Tampa Bay starter looks hard to ignore.

Houston have played well on the road, but you can't ignore the fact they are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven as the favourite. The Buccaneers have not been a good home team to back against the spread, but I think the spot and the fact they could easily throw a backdoor cover in this one against a porous Houston Secondary is enough reason to take the points on offer.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Pick: There is still a chance for the Buffalo Bills to dethrone the New England Patriots and win the AFC East, although they are going to need to win out and hope the Patriots lose both remaining regular season games.

At least one of those games is in the control of Buffalo who visit Foxboro with their 10-4 record in Week 16 of the regular season. They are a game behind the New England Patriots at 11-3, but the Bills will lose the tie-breaker if they finish with the same record and Buffalo will need help from rivals the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 to have a chance of overtaking the Super Bowl Champions.

All Buffalo will be concentrating on is winning this game which will secure the Number 5 Seed in the AFC at the very least and a return to the PlayOffs. Credit has to be given to Sean McDermott deserves a lot of credit for the overall development of this team and the Bills have a legitimate Defensive unit and an improving Quarter Back in Josh Allen which is going to be encouraging for the fan base.

The win at the Pittsburgh Steelers last week showed Buffalo that they can handle the pressure of big games on the road, but they can only further that belief within themselves by winning in Foxboro. Of course that won't be easy after New England snapped their two game losing run with a big win at the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15, but things are not going the way the Patriots have come to expect and even that win came in a game in which the Bengals earned more yards.

Most of the struggles have been on the Offensive side of the ball and amazingly a team with an 11-3 record did not get one player from the Offense being picked for the Pro Bowl. That underlines how poorly the Patriots have played as Tom Brady has not had any consistent help from his Receivers who are either inexperienced or not good enough to fill the gap that was left by Rob Gronkowski.

It would be more than a surprise if Brady was to have a big game against this Buffalo Defensive unit which seems to be getting better and better. When these teams met at the end of September, Tom Brady has just 150 passing yards and I am not sure he is going to be much better in this one with Buffalo capable of shutting down things through and air and bringing a strong pass rush to the table

Instead the Patriots will rely on Sony Michel and James White to try and establish the run and give Brady a chance of making short completions to keep the chains moving. Stopping the run has been the one weakness of the Bills Defense through much of the season, but it is all relative and they have looked a little better in recent games and McDermott is going to believe his team will avoid being blown out.

The key for Buffalo is seeing how much they have learned from scoring just 10 points against the Patriots in their first meeting in 2019. Josh Allen was Sacked five times that day, but I have been really impressed with his development and Allen is coming off a strong enough showing to believe he can keep things rolling.

However they are facing the strength of the Patriots team which has been the much improved Defense that has been the basis of their success. In recent games New England have strengthened their play on the Defensive Line which, like Buffalo, had been one of the weaknesses on that side of the ball that teams have tried to exploit.

Even then you have to like what Joe Mixon did for the Bengals in Week 15 and Buffalo will be looking for Josh Allen to use his legs and be well supported by both Devin Singletary and Frank Gore. The Bills be looking to keep themselves in front of the chains which will be important for them if they are going to earn the upset here and avoiding penalties has to be urged to the players before this game kicks off.

I do like how Josh Allen is throwing the ball, but I don't think he can expect John Brown and his small Receiving corps to have a lot of success in this one. The Patriots Secondary are dangerous with an ability to make big plays and turn field position very quickly so Allen is going to have to be careful with the ball and make sure he doesn't make the mistakes to cost his team.

Both Offensive units will be thinking the same way and the team that can limit the mistakes will likely win this game. I think Buffalo were the better team when they met in September, but they still fell short against the long-term dominant team in the AFC East and it is hard to imagine them winning here in Foxboro.

However they are 3-1-1 against the spread in their last five visits to New England and the Bills are 5-0-1 against the spread in their last six as the road underdog.

It has long been a short journey to the poor house when backing against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, but they are 1-5 against the spread in their last six when playing teams with a winning record. This is a lot of points to cover if you believe the Patriots are going to struggle to crack 20 points and I think Buffalo have the momentum to run the AFC East leaders very close in this game.

Josh Allen can make one or two big throws to keep Buffalo in this one even if they may narrowly miss the upset on the road.

Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: A defeat to the Atlanta Falcons is not a fatal one for the San Francisco 49ers who know they can finish with the Number 1 Seed in the NFC if they win out. It was perhaps not a major surprise that an injury hit 49ers team struggled as much as they did in Week 15 against a motivated Atlanta team trying to show their beleaguered Head Coach that they are still behind him.

This week there will be no excuses for San Francisco and another defeat will likely end their chances of the top Seed in the NFC. They will still have a chance to win the Division, but momentum is a big thing for teams just two weeks out from the PlayOffs and I think that is something that Kyle Shanahan will be preaching to his players.

San Francisco look much healthier coming into Week 16 which bodes well for them and I think we will see a much better all around effort. They are also going to be facing a Los Angeles Rams team who dropped to 8-6 in Week 15 in a road loss to the Dallas Cowboys, one that is likely going to see the team that finished as NFC Champions last season miss the PlayOffs completely in this one.

There is still an outside chance for the Rams, but they have to win out and a lot of things need to break their way- most projections give them a 5% chance of making the PlayOffs and those are odds I would not be keen on backing especially in light of the performance against the Dallas Cowboys who did whatever they liked Offensively.

Last week it was the 49ers who had been suffering, but the Secondary and Jared Goff might be hurting for the Los Angeles Rams going into Week 16. Goff definitely did something to his thumb in the loss to Dallas and there is every chance that he will be anything but at 100% for this game against a team who didn't give him much to work with the first time they met this season.

The Rams will have to lean on Todd Gurley and hope the Running Back can at least give the team a chance to move the ball. Throughout the season the one weak point of the 49ers Defense has been when it comes to stopping the run, but if the Secondary is back to full health I do think they can take chances to step up and make sure they force Jared Goff to beat them by taking away Gurley.

Throwing the ball against this Secondary is not going to be easy for Goff if he is having some trouble with his thumb, although the 49ers numbers are skewed by the 46 points allowed at the New Orleans Saints. That game has not had a massive dent on the season numbers, and I do think the 49ers will be able to make life very difficult for Jared Goff in this one.

I would expect the San Francisco pass rush to also be a little more effective in this game and they can pressure the Rams into mistakes, although expecting them to restrict Los Angeles to 7 points is unlikely to happen again.

At the same time I do think the 49ers are in a much better place Offensively than where they were when the teams met in mid-October. Jimmy Garoppolo has gotten back to the kind of level that had many questioning the New England Patriots for trading away the Quarter Back and I do think he is comfortably over the ACL injury suffered last season which had him playing a touch nervous earlier in the season.

This time Garoppolo is facing a Rams Secondary which has added Jalen Ramsey and improved significantly with him in the line up. However injuries have left the Rams vulnerable and we saw that last week in their defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, while it is very likely that Garoppolo will simply look to avoid Ramsey by throwing away from him.

The reality also is that the San Francisco 49ers are a team who love pounding the ball right down the throat of their opponents and they would have seen the success Dallas had doing that last week. All season it has been an Achilles Heel for the Rams and I imagine the 49ers are going to have a lot of success running the ball and opening things up for the play-action for Garoppolo.

San Francisco should be able to have the more consistent success of these two teams and I think that will help them come through with a win and a cover. The fact that the Rams have essentially blown their chance of making the PlayOffs has to be a factor here and I am not sure the Quarter Back is healthy enough to take on a Defensive team as good as the one the 49ers have.

There are some good trends that favour the Rams, but I think it is a good thing for San Francisco backers that they were beaten last week too. That should focus the 49ers who are the better team and with the higher motivation to perform and I will look for them to win by a Touchdown to earn the cover here.

New Orleans Saints @ Tennessee Titans Pick: They may have lost a big Divisional game at home in Week 15, but the Tennessee Titans remain alive in their bid for a place in the PlayOffs. At 8-6 the reality is that the Titans need to win out and a defeat on Sunday will be enough to see them scrambling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.

They will need some luck at that point, but the Titans also know back to back wins might be good enough to take them to the post-season. There is even the possibility that the AFC South Division will be on the line in Week 17 if the Titans win and the Houston Texans fail to do that when the play on Saturday, but Mike Vrabel and his players have to focus on the team in front of them.

It is far from an easy game for the Titans when they host the New Orleans Saints in the final game to be played in Tennessee this regular season. The Saints crushed the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football which has taken them to 11-3 for the season and New Orleans have to be looking to win out and hope that is enough to at least give them a Bye through to the Divisional Round when they will host at least one PlayOff game.

For a while you would automatically be looking to fade New Orleans when they play outside of their home SuperDome, but this is a team with an improving record against the spread on the road. You have to respect that and the performance of Drew Brees on Monday Night Football when he snapped record for Touchdown passes thrown in the regular season while only having one incompletion on the night.

Drew Brees can pick up from where he left on Monday as he faces a Tennessee team which is dealing with a couple of key injuries in the Secondary. That has been part of the problem for them in slowing down the pass in recent games, although it has been a season long concern too, and Brees should be able to find some holes to exploit with Michael Thomas his main threat that no one has been able to really slow down.

It will be on Brees arm in Week 16 because it is hard to run against the Titans Defensive Line which has been clamping down on teams and holding them to 4 yards per carry in the last three games. Alvin Kamara has not been as effective this season without complement Mark Ingram, but I do think Brees will need to use him as a check down in the passing game with the Titans capable of getting pressure up front and at least force the ball out of the Quarter Back's hands quicker than he may want.

Even then I can't see the Titans completely shutting down the powerful New Orleans Offensive unit, but they will feel they can bounce back and have a big performance after losing to the Houston Texans at home. That loss is a bad one to take at this stage of the season, especially as Tennessee looked the better team for much of the game, but Ryan Tannehill and company are playing well enough to bounce back in the right way.

Unlike the Saints, I do think Tennessee have a much better chance of establishing the run through the slightly banged up Derrick Henry. It is very much the key to the entire game plan as it opens things up for Tannehill when it comes to the passing side of the attack, and the injuries on the New Orleans Defensive Line has given teams a chance to really pound the rock against them.

That is important to control the clock and try and cool down the New Orleans Offense by keeping them on the sidelines, and it will also give time for Ryan Tannehill to help his team get back to winning ways. The former Miami Dolphin Quarter Back has been in good form since taking over as starter for Tennessee and even though New Orleans have signed reinforcements to the Secondary we may not see the full impact of that until Janoris Jenkins settles into the game plan in the next couple of weeks.

The pass rush pressure could be a problem for Tannehill to deal with, but if Tennessee are running the ball as effectively as they have been I think they can get into a position to earn the upset.

There are some very impressive trends behind New Orleans, but they are facing a Tennessee team who are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight as the home underdog. This game means plenty to the Titans and I think that will see them keep this competitive, while having the chance to oppose the public and the Saints on a short week is the play.

I would have loved to have waited to get a full three points on this one, but I will take the Titans with the start.

Carolina Panthers @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: A six game losing run has cost the Carolina Panthers the chance of reaching the PlayOffs and a four game losing run has done the same for the Indianapolis Colts. These two teams meet in Week 16 of the NFL season and you do have to wonder how much focus these two teams will have on a non-Conference game with nothing on the line.

Well it isn't completely nothing for teams who will want to show they have pieces that should be kept together for a much better 2020. Two Quarter Backs will want to display they can perhaps be potential leaders for their respective teams and there is some pressure on Jacoby Brissett at the Colts having struggled in recent weeks in a long season when Indianapolis were looking to replace Andrew Luck.

That pressure won't be as significant on Will Grier who is going to make his debut for the Carolina Panthers who have pulled the plug on Kyle Allen. All of the statistics suggested Allen was not going to be the right player to take Carolina forward and the team have a big decision to make in the off-season as to whether they want to trade away Cam Newton or go back to the veteran as the starter for the team.

Will Grier has two games to try and show what he can offer Carolina and he is facing an injury hit Indianapolis team whose Secondary have been struggling in recent games. Even then you are not completely sure how a young Quarter Back will cope, but Grier can also look to lean on Christian McCaffrey and at least be given the chance to make plays from third and manageable spots.

It might not be the game in which McCaffrey can have a huge game on the ground, but he will be used by Grier when he slips out of the backfield and this is a chance for the Quarter Back to have a strong outing.

I expect running the ball will be easier for the Colts even though Marlon Mack has not been at his best since returning from an injury. That isn't a massive concern for me though because the Panthers Defensive Line has been porous on the ground and it would be a surprise if the Colts are not able to get something going which could mean a game that goes by a little quicker than others kicking off at the 1pm slot.

By attacking teams on the ground Jacoby Brissett is saved from having to try and win games without some injured Receivers which have hurt the Indianapolis consistency. There have been some decent throws made by Brissett, but he does lack consistency and he will be put under pressure by the Panthers pass rush.

That makes it difficult to believe in the Colts and asking them to cover what looks to be a very big line, even though Carolina have been lacking intensity too. Both teams have lost too many games in a row which leads me to believe it will be another close one on Sunday.

Indianapolis are 1-6-2 against the spread in their last nine games against a team with a losing record and I will take the points with the visitors and look for them to keep this close enough.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets Pick: A home defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 means the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to need to win out to guarantee their spot in the PlayOffs. Mike Tomlin deserves a lot of credit for the Steelers to even be this close to the PlayOffs considering the injuries and departures suffered by Pittsburgh over the last several months.

The 8-6 record is the same one as the Tennessee Titans hold, but Pittsburgh look to be edging them in terms of the tie-breaker and destiny is within their own control. They are favourites to win in Week 16 and Pittsburgh fans will be in a rare position of hoping the Baltimore Ravens also win which could mean they will be resting players in Week 17 as that win would secure Baltimore the Number 1 Seed in the AFC.

It all sounds well and good for the Steelers, but they have to make sure they don't overlook a New York Jets team that looks healthier than they were last week. The season might be over for the Jets, but they can play spoiler in the last couple of weeks as they face the Steelers and Bills and that should inspire some players who are also going to be questioning where their future lies.

One of those that should be looking to have a huge game is Le'Veon Bell who is expecting to hear it from the Steelers fans travelling to New Jersey after sitting out the entire 2018 season while in Pittsburgh. As much as Bell will want to have a big impact in the game, there have not been great running room for him behind the Jets Offensive Line and Bell has not been employed as he would have liked by the game planning Head Coach Adam Gase has put together throughout the season.

I do think the team mates for Bell will want to show their support for the Running Back, but it may be Sam Darnold who actually pushes the Jets forward in this one. This is not an easy game for the Quarter Back who saw 'ghosts' when playing the New England Patriots and now has to deal with another Defensive unit which does build plenty of pressure up front.

The pass rush has resulted in Interceptions and the Pittsburgh Secondary have played well in recent games which does make it hard to see Darnold having a huge game. However the Quarter Back does have some talented players that can make plays for him and it is still very hard to look at the spread and work out how Devlin Hodges is leading a game as a road favourite.

Hodges has been little more than a game manager for the Steelers, but he is coming off a rough outing against the Bills. Granted Buffalo have a much better Secondary than the one that New York Jets will be running out there, but a healthier Jets team are no slouches either.

Jamal Adams is trending towards playing which is a huge boost for the Jets and the Steelers are going to have to use James Connor and hope he can keep Hodges in manageable downs and distances. I do think Connor can have some success with the way the Jets Defensive Line has tried to control things up front, but I can't have the Steelers in such a strong position on the spread.

It feels like a spread that is taking into consideration how much this game means to the Steelers, but the Jets have been a team that have performed well as a narrow underdog. They are 3-1 against the spread this season when given less than 7 points as the underdog, while they are 7-2-1 against the spread in their last ten against a team with a winning record on the road.

Pittsburgh have some nice trends favouring them, but they are just 12-27-2 against the spread in their last forty-one when facing a team with a losing record at home. It can be easy to just think you can turn up and win games, but the Jets have fought hard in the second half of the season and I think this is enough points with which to back the home underdog.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns Pick: They might be one win away from securing the Number 1 Seed in the AFC and making sure the PlayOffs run through their own, but don't think for a minute that this game doesn't mean even more to the Baltimore Ravens. A 12-2 record underlines how well Baltimore have played in the regular season, but one of those losses came to the Cleveland Browns whose hopes of making the PlayOffs are on life support.

The Browns blew out the Ravens on the road, but that has proven to be a high point in the season for them and they need to win out and hope a lot of things go their way to turn it around at this late stage. The blow out at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15 suggests the players don't really believe they are going to do that, while there is a disharmony in the locker room that has seen some key players openly courting opponents to 'come and get them' in the off-season.

Cleveland will have some big decisions to make in the off-season after the disappointment of last season, although it should not take much to motivate them or the fans when the Baltimore Ravens come calling. Motivation is one thing, but I do think this is going to be a huge test for a banged up Baker Mayfield who looked a little beaten last week.

While the game is close the game plan should be simple for Cleveland considering the obvious issues that the Baltimore Defensive Line have had in controlling the run. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield, Cleveland should be able to pound the ball with some real success in this one, although you can't really trust the Coaching to stick with the obvious play after what we have seen all season.

It is also a plan that works while things are close, but it could be difficult for Cleveland if they begin to chase points. The Baltimore pass rush has come alive in recent games which has led to improved play from the Secondary, while neither Jarvis Landry or Odell Beckham Jr sound like they are too happy playing in Cleveland and have been banged up.

That makes it hard to see how Cleveland would have consistent success throwing the ball so it is key they keep this one close and at least stick to the plan from the opening.

Running the ball is going to be prevalent in this game with Baltimore basing a lot of their success on the legs of Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram. The injuries and suspensions on the Defensive Line have just seen teams begin to dominate Cleveland in the trenches and the performance of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15 will be offering the Ravens massive encouragement that they can do the same.

I do think Baltimore will be able to have a lot of success pounding the rock as they have throughout the season and they are better Coached than Cleveland which will make a big difference to them. In recent games Jackson has not had the same passing threat, but those numbers were being skewed after facing the Buffalo and San Francisco Secondaries which are amongst the very best in the NFL, while last week Jackson was looking like the dual-threat we have seen all season.

With the pass rush losing some of its potency thanks to Myles Garrett's suspension, Lamar Jackson should have time to attack a Secondary that might be forced to play in one on one coverage so more players can come up and stop the run. The balance Baltimore should have will give them every chance of recording another dominant win against one of the lesser teams in the NFL and the motivation for revenge simply can't be ignored.

Baltimore have had a few additional days to prepare for this game which will suit John Harbaugh just fine and I am looking for the Ravens to come up with a big win on the road.

The Ravens are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games as the road favourites while the Browns have a miserable 7-18 record against the spread in their last twenty-five as the home underdog. Cleveland also have a miserable record when playing teams with winning records and they are 2-8-1 against the spread in their last ten at home against the Ravens.

There is no doubt this is a very big number to cover on the road, but Baltimore shouldn't want to put the handbrake on at any time and that can lead to a big win.

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles Pick: Excuses are going to be in short supply for either the Dallas Cowboys or the Philadelphia Eagles for a lost 2019 season as one is certainly going to be missing the PlayOffs. This is essentially a PlayOff game in Week 16 with the winner taking control of the NFC East.

Well for the Dallas Cowboys it means more as a win will secure the Division title for the second season in a row and also mean holding the Number 4 Seed no matter what happens in Week 17. Late scores helped the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants and Washington Redskins in consecutive weeks, and their situation is very clear too as they need to win out to secure their place back in the post-season.

No one is going to be forgiving their team for letting them down, and I am not surprised this is the big game of the week the networks wanted to broadcast.

At this stage of the regular season injuries are going to be an issue throughout the League, but I do think the Eagles and Cowboys have more than what would be their fair share. The Eagles have had Carson Wentz looking like he is as healthy as he has been in Week 16 for a couple of seasons, but his Receiving corps is banged up and Lane Johnson is set to miss another game which is going to make it very difficult to find the consistency Philadelphia want to see.

There have been moments Wentz has taken some criticism, but I do think it is harsh on him considering the supporting cast. A lot of pressure is going to be on Wentz' shoulders because the Cowboys have actually been strong at defending the run for the most part of late, although injuries might have weakened them up front too.

The Eagles would love to establish the run which will open things up for their Quarter Back and I do think Carson Wentz could have a very successful day if they can do that. Dallas have been criticised for playing with a basic pass protection and one that is easy to read for Quarter Backs pre-snap and that has seen the Cowboys give up some big yards in recent games.

You can't really trust the Philadelphia Receivers completely without Alshon Jeffrey around, but they can still make some plays for Wentz and I do think there is a chance for the Eagles to have a decent day Offensively.

It is something you have to question about Dallas who have a banged up Dak Prescott taking limited snaps in practice during the week. I don't think he is going to have a lot throws in this one considering the problems he has had being able to throw the ball over the past few days and like the Eagles, Dallas are going to want to pound the rock with Ezekiel Elliot.

Elliot powered the win over the Eagles at home, but you do have to wonder if he can replicate the performance against this strong Defensive Line. The weaknesses are in the Secondary, but if Prescott is not able to throw with the kind of accuracy he would like, I do think it will be difficult for Dallas to win here.

Gripping the ball with limitations will be a problem for Prescott who is going to be facing a strong pass rush too and I think turnovers may provide the difference on the day. If the Eagles sense Prescott is not comfortable throwing, that could also see them double down on clamping down on Elliot and putting Dallas into a tough situation to keep the ball moving.

I am surprised by how poor Philadelphia's record is as the home underdog, while Dallas are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven here. However it feels like Carson Wentz is in a better position to expose issues in the opponent's Secondary compared with what could be a banged up Dak Prescott and I will take the points with the home team here.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: Things have become very simple for the Seattle Seahawks after Week 15 and that is they will finish with the Number 1 Seed in the NFC if they win their remaining two games. However they are involved in the very tight NFC West which means a defeat in either of their remaining two games, especially the one next week, could see the Seahawks drop to the Number 5 Seed in the Conference and having to likely win three road games to make the Super Bowl.

With that in mind it could be easy for the 11-3 Seahawks to perhaps overlook this opponent and focus on the big game with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17 which will decide the Division.

Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson won't want to lose their grip on the Number 1 Seed by losing, but the Seahawks have been involved in so many close games that it is not impossible to believe they can win another tight one in Week 16.

Two games are left for the Seahawks in the regular season and the first of those is against the Arizona Cardinals who are coming off a solid win over the Cleveland Browns. The Cardinals have had an inconsistent season which is not a surprise with both a rookie Head Coach and Quarter Back, but Kyler Murray has shown enough to believe he can be a solid performer at this level.

The passing side of his game is going to need some time to improve, but Murray is a threat with his legs and the Cardinals should have some real joy with Kenyan Drake and David Johnson also capable of rushing the ball. All season the Seahawks have not been very good at stopping the run and with the injuries they are suffering on the Defensive side of the ball it would be a real surprise if they have a very strong day up front in this one.

I also have to say those injuries are going to contribute to the Secondary perhaps being vulnerable so Kyler Murray might have one of his better games all around in this one.

It is definitely the kind of performance you would expect where Arizona can score enough points to stay within this spread. That is no disrespect to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but I am not sure why they will want to blow out the Cardinals and so winning by a wide margin to cover this spread is the furthest thing from their minds.

Like Arizona, I do think Seattle will be able to pound the ball with success against the weakness of the Cardinals Defensive Line. Chris Carson had a big week in the win over Carolina and he should pick up from where he left off while Wilson is also capable of ripping off some gains with his legs when the pocket collapses.

There continue to be Offensive Line concerns when it comes to pass protection and Arizona do generate a good pass rush, but it might not be critical to the outcome if Seattle are running the ball as they should be able to. It should also mean Russell Wilson is able to use run-option and play-action to open up the passing game and there are some vulnerabilities in the Arizona Secondary which can be exposed.

The Seahawks might not have the biggest names on the Receiving unit, but they are talented playmakers which can help Russell Wilson put his team in a position to win the game.

We all know playing here is a huge advantage to Seattle, but they are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven at home, while they are also 2-5 against the spread in their last seven as the home favourite.

It has been a struggle at times for Arizona in the 2019 season, but they are 9-4-1 against the spread in their last fourteen games as the underdog. The underdog has also thrived in this NFC West rivalry game and the road team is 8-1-1 against the spread in the last ten between these teams which backs the decision to take the points with the Cardinals.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Chicago Bears Pick: This game was not flexed out of the Sunday Night Football slot a couple of weeks ago as it looked like it could be very important for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears. However both teams have virtually concluded their regular season with the Chiefs likely heading to the Wild Card Round of the PlayOffs and the Chicago Bears missing out completely.

Even then other networks were not happy about losing their top games of Week 16 and it means this game remains where it is. If New England have been beaten on Saturday this could be a much more important game for the Chiefs who would love to get a Bye into the Divisional Round, while it is also the first time Matt Nagy will be Coaching against his mentor Andy Reid.

Nagy has admitted it is going to be a strange situation for him, while he has some big decisions to make in the off-season with the Bears. The biggest is dealing with Mitchell Trubisky and whether Matt Nagy believes he is a Quarter Back that can take the Bears to the next level after a mixed season in 2019.

In recent games Trubisky has shown he can be a productive player at this level, but a poor start in Green Bay cost the Bears and the loss knocked them out of the PlayOffs. He has not been as willing as a runner as in the last couple of years in the NFL, but Trubisky is likely going to need to make sure he is willing to scramble for some yards in this one.

Chicago have not run the ball as well as they would have liked, and this is going to be a challenge for them against a much improved Kansas City Defensive Line. There are still one or two holes that teams in the PlayOffs will be looking to exploit, but the whole Chiefs Defensive unit have shown improvement down the stretch which makes them dangerous in the post-season.

The Bears do have some Receiving threats who will feel they can win their battles on the outside, but the Chiefs Secondary have looked better and I think it will be difficult for Chicago to make consistent plays in this game.

A strong pass rush is helping the Kansas City Secondary too and I do think they are going to make some stops which gives Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Offense a real chance of a strong showing.

Much is going to depend on Mahomes who played well in cold conditions in Week 15. The Chiefs have not been able to run the ball very effectively as they have been dipping deep into the depth chart thanks to injuries, but Damien Williams is possibly back to give them a slight boost.

Even then I am not sure they are going to be able to rip off some big gains and it will be up to Mahomes to show off his arm strength. Everyone in the NFL knows how capable Mahomes is throwing the ball and from awkward spots on the field and I don't think he will be able to be slowed down by a Bears Secondary which has just struggled of late.

The pass rush has not been very good in recent games and you have to wonder how much energy the home team will have with the PlayOffs gone thanks to a loss to the hated Green Bay Packers. Chicago finish the season with another Divisional rival so it would not be a huge surprise if they are not able to produce a top effort in this one even on Sunday Night Football.

Chicago have been a very good home underdog to back, but this is almost a meaningless game between two Divisional rivals and they are 1-6 against the spread following a loss. The Chiefs have been a strong road team to back under Andy Reid and I am going to join the public in backing them to cover on the road.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: A loss for the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday has confirmed the Minnesota Vikings spot in the PlayOffs and there has been talk that they will shut down Dalvin Cook for the last two weeks of the regular season. The star Running Back is missing out on Monday Night Football, but the Vikings also know they need to win out and hope the Green Bay Packers lose in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions to have any chance of winning the NFC North and hosting a PlayOff game.

It is something of a long shot for the Vikings especially when you think Green Bay finish up with the Detroit Lions, while they are also unlikely to improve their Number 6 Seed in the NFC.

Playing a Divisional rival is going to be motivation anyway, but you do have to wonder if the Vikings are keen to show off too much of their creases Offensively or Defensively when there is every chance they could play the Green Bay Packers again in the PlayOffs. Mike Zimmer is going to want to keep one or two things under his hat before potentially playing the Packers in just two weeks time and it does make me wonder if we are going to see a top effort from them even in this prime time spot.

Being without Dalvin Cook is a huge blow, but Kirk Cousins has to be given some credit for his play over the last several weeks. This is a Quarter Back who has rightly been criticised or performances in big games in the past, but Cousins has been playing more level headed and avoiding the mistakes which have blighted him. The Vikings want him to be more than a game manager, but Minnesota also believe their Defensive unit and run game can carry them some way.

If Cook was playing I think the Vikings would have been able to pound the rock with some success, but they are going to be down to a third string Running Back. In recent games Green Bay have shown some strength on the Defensive Line too and it might force Kirk Cousins to have to make some big plays through the air to keep the chains moving.

With Adam Thielen back in the line up, Cousins could have some successes in this one even against a decent Green Bay Secondary. Stefon Diggs is another threat for the Vikings, while Kirk Cousins has been well protected by his Offensive Line in recent games to think they can move the ball, although perhaps not with the consistency they would want.

The game is a big one for the Green Bay Packers as they have a chance to not only clinch the Division, but remain in the hunt for a top two Seed in the NFC which is going to be huge for them. It would mean at least one home game in the PlayOffs and also having a Bye through to the Divisional Round, although there are still some question marks about whether the Packers have enough Offense to have a very deep run in the post-season.

Some might criticise me for saying that about any team led by Aaron Rodgers, but the Packers have scored more than 24 points once in their last six games. There has been something of a shift in the way that Green Bay want to approach things as they look to pound the ball to open up the passing game and it has been a successful part of their Offense.

The Aaron making a real impact for Green Bay is Jones, not Rodgers, and I think he and Julian Williams can do the same running the ball for the Packers in this one. While the Vikings are known for their strong Defensive play, they have given up 4.2 yards per carry in their last three games and I think the run will be something the Packers can establish here.

Both Jones and Williams are likely going to be used by Aaron Rodgers as threats coming out of the backfield too, especially as a way to just ease the Minnesota pass rush which has been firing. Davante Adams is a Receiving threat for Green Bay too and I do think Rodgers can find him out of play-action if they are running the ball like they can and it should give the visiting Packers a chance to keep this one close.

Mike Zimmer does regularly have his team playing their best Football which makes Minnesota a very strong team to back against the spread with a lot more wins than losses on those marks. However this is a game that might not mean as much to them as it does to the Green Bay Packers and that motivation as well as getting points with a Quarter Back like Aaron Rodgers makes the visiting team the one I want to get behind.

The Packers have not had much success here in recent seasons against the spread, but I will take the points here with a more motivated visitor. It should be a fun game to watch even if not having the same meaning it might have done for both a couple of weeks ago and I will look for the Packers to cover even if they are not able to win the game.

MY PICKS: Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 3.5 Points @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
San Francisco 49ers - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Tennessee Titans + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New York Jets + 3 Points @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 9.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles + 2 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals + 8.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs - 6 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 4.5 Points @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Week 15: 1-7-1, - 12.28 Units (18 Units Staked, - 68.22% Yield)
Week 142-5, - 6.36 Units (14 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 135-3, + 3.26 Units (16 Units Staked, + 20.38% Yield)
Week 124-2, + 3.20 Units (12 Units Staked, + 26.67% Yield)
Week 114-3-1, + 1.48 Units (16 Units Staked, + 9.25% Yield)
Week 104-3, + 1.10 Units (14 Units Staked, + 7.86% Yield)
Week 94-4, - 0.64 Units (16 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 82-4, - 4.20 Units (12 Units Staked, - 35% Yield)
Week 72-4, - 4.10 Units (12 Units Staked, - 34.17% Yield)
Week 66-3, + 4.84 Units (18 Units Staked, + 26.89% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 2.72 Units (18 Units Staked, - 15.11% Yield)
Week 43-6, - 6.54 Units (18 Units Staked, - 36.33% Yield)
Week 35-2, + 3.28 Units (12 Units Staked, + 27.33% Yield)
Week 23-4, - 2.70 Units (14 Units Staked, - 19.29% Yield)
Week 14-4, + 0.16 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Season 201953-59-2, - 22.22 Units (225 Units Staked, - 9.88% Yield)