January 2016

Football picksJanuary 21, 2016

Manning vs. Brady in the AFC Championship GameYes, it’s Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning once again with all the chips on the table, but although we are pretty confident we have the Tom Brady of old calling signals for the New England Patriots, do we simply have an old Peyton Manning at quarterback for the Denver Broncos as the AFC title game approaches?

The Broncos, currently 13-4 straight-up and 7-7-3 against the football pointspread, have the #1 defense in the NFL. They are the best in terms of yardage surrendered per drive and per game; they are best, for all intents and purposes, against the pass, as they have yielded just 5.6 yards per attempt and recorded 52 sacks on the regular season, and they have allowed just 3.3 yards per carry on the part of their opponents. Such a team would appear to be a great candidate for success as a home underdog, especially considering that they have a five-time MVP at quarterback who has started in 25 playoff games.

But then again, maybe that legendary quarterback is their principal liability here.

In the reduced juice NFL playoff odds that have been established on this game by the people at BetAnySports, the Patriots are spotting the Broncos a few points at Sports Authority Field:

New England Patriots -3 (-110)

Denver Broncos +3 (+100)

Over 44.5 points -108

Under 44.5 points -102

Of course, Manning was out with a foot injury (the plantar fascia) while Brock Osweiler took over and did a serviceable job. One of those games Osweiler started was a victory over these Patriots at Mile High, where the Broncos came back from 14 points down and eventually won in overtime. That is, in fact, how they wind up playing at home in this championship game.

Anyone who was looking for some real answers as to whether Manning still “had it” to compete at a championship level may have had to come away from last weekend’s game grading it “incomplete.” For the edification of BetAnySports patrons reading this, what we mean is that he completed 21 of 37 passes, about 57%, which is not far off what he did in regular season, where he was slightly under 60%. He threw for six yards an attempt, which is not awe-inspiring, but once again, reflective of the limited range of what he can do. He had several guys drop passes on him, which is something that perhaps can be corrected.

Maybe the most important statistic we can look at is that he did not throw an interception. The reason that is important, this season more than others, is that when the regular season ended, he had thrown the second most pickoffs of any QB in the league (17), and that was in just ten games. It is obviously going to be very critical that he keep the ball out of enemy hands.

If you are interested in Manning’s overall playoff ledger, he has a 63.7% completion rate with 38 touchdowns and 24 interceptions, and has averaged 6.9 yards per pass. The TD-INT ratio and per-attempt figure are down from his overall career totals, which is understandable because he’s facing better teams, along with weather factors and the like. You can even see some rather lengthy analysis that suggests he has been a better playoff quarterback than Brady, relative to expectation and external support.

The operative thought here is that Manning is as smart as they come at the line of scrimmage when it comes to deciding which play to run. We’re sure that from a cerebral standpoint, he can match wits with Bill Belichick and his defensive staff.

The question is, can he then send the message from his head to his arm with enough effectiveness?


Football picksJanuary 21, 2016

Sunday Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots NFL AFC Championship Game Picks & PredictionsYou might expect that a team which lost two of its starting offensive linemen, its top two running backs, a couple of wide receivers – including a star for a considerable period – and a few defensive starters, including a Pro Bowl linebacker, would not have even gotten to the AFC Championship Game in the first place, much less find themselves a favorite to reach the Super Bowl. But when you consider that we are talking about the New England Patriots, you can completely understand it. This banged-up team will do battle with the zc on Sunday at 3 PM ET at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The question is who will come out ahead in NFL game picks and predictions?

This is another of those “Brady vs. Manning” matchups, although it doesn’t necessarily shape up to be a classic one, unless Manning somehow reaches back a couple of years to find something he has not really shown in the 2015 campaign. While Denver has more offensive speed on the outside, and probably the better running game, Brady has the two best pass-catchers on the field for HIS purposes, and that looms large, as this is a team that is nothing if not the greatest collection of improvisers during this NFL generation.

New England and Denver both finished the season with 12-4 records, but Denver gets to host this game by virtue of their regular season victory, an overtime affair where they had to come back TWICE from 14-point deficits. In that game, Brock Osweiler was the QB for the Denver Broncos, but Peyton Manning is back in the saddle again and will make his 26th post-season start.

In the reduced juice pro football betting odds, as they are posted at BetAnySports, the Patriots are the road favorites:

View - Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots NFL AFC Championship Game Consensus Picks

New England Patriots -3 (-110)

Denver Broncos +3 (+100)

Over 44.5 points -108

Under 44.5 points -102

View - Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots NFL AFC Championship Game Matchup

A lot of people talk about the injuries in the Patriots’ backfield, and the fact that they are reliant on Steven Jackson, a guy who is aging and somewhat limited. But the New England running game hardly existed in that encounter, gaining just 39 yards. They just didn’t bother with it; Brady threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Belichick would tell you this is not being “one-dimensional,” but rather, it is just “situational football,” and indeed, a lot of those short throws from Brady are like long handoffs.

The Patriots did not have the services of wide receiver Julian Edelman in that game, and the numbers bear out the fact that he is a real difference-maker. New England was just two of 13 on third down in that game with Denver, and indeed as a team they were just 31% in those situations without him. Edelman came back from injury against Kansas City, and as BetAnySports Betting Sportsbook patrons saw, they converted six of 12 on third down, as he caught ten passes for 100 yards. Danny Amendola is also available for the pats now, as is left tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

Oh, and by the way, the Patriots ran for just 38 yards against the Chiefs, which didn’t necessarily prevent them from breaking KC’s eleven-game winning streak.


Football picksJanuary 21, 2016

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals NFL NFL Conference Championship Game PicksYou might say that the Carolina Panthers could be considered the most opportunistic defense in the NFL. When you have forced more takeaways than anyone else, it’s not hard to earn that distinction. If a team can avoid handing them the ball the cheap way, they might have a key to victory in NFL game picks.

Obviously the Seattle Seahawks were unable to do that, at least early on, as Russell Wilson tossed two interceptions that led to Carolina points and eventually a 31-24 victory. So one would have to speculate as to what the Arizona Cardinals can do in that regard as these teams meet up on Sunday at 6:40 PM ET at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Arizona’s offense is not only deep and well-conceived, it isn’t the type that looks for yardage in small doses either. The Cards have averaged 6.4 yards per play and led the NFL with 38.6 yards per drive. But in terms of turnovers per drive, they rank only 20th, and even though Carson Palmer threw for 349 and three TD’s, he was also intercepted twice. The 26-20 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers last week was Palmer’s first post-season win.

In the reduced juice NFL playoff betting odds posted on this game at BetAnySports, the Cardinals are catching points:

View - Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals NFL NFL Conference Championship Game Consensus Picks

Carolina Panthers -3 (-110)

Arizona Cardinals +3 (+100) 

Over 47.5 points -108

Under 47.5 points -102

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals NFL NFL Conference Championship Game Matchup

Yeah, the playoff thing is what really casts some doubts about Palmer, especially as he looked shaky in some red zone situations. But at age 36, there is little doubt that he has made a complete comeback from injury, throwing for a career-high 4671 yards and 35 touchdowns, as he would seem to be an ideal triggerman for Bruce Arians’ down-the-field offense.

Of course, Arians can’t work miracles, and so as Palmer was out with a knee injury, and backup Drew Stanton was injured as well, the Cards had to go with Ryan Lindley against the 7-8-1 Panthers in a home playoff game last January. Arizona actually had two touchdown drives, albeit on short fields (30 and 17 yards, after a punt fumble and interception), but they had only 78 net yards on the day, setting an all-time NFL post-season low.

Barring a complete catastrophe, the Cards will be better-equipped. And BetAnySports Sportsbook patrons have seen a collection of wide receivers on the Arizona side that are going to seriously threaten the Carolina secondary. There are guys like John Brown (65 catches, 1003 yards) and Michael Floyd (52 receptions, 849 yards), and let’s not forget about rookie JJ Nelson (27.2-yard average), who can REALLY stretch the field.

Then there is Larry Fitzgerald, who comes through when the stakes are highest. Fitzgerald had one of his greatest days last weekend, as he caught eight passes for 176 yards, including the crucial 75-yard catch-and-run in overtime, AND the subsequent winning forward pitch from Palmer from five yards out.

And the Panthers will have to be very mindful of David Johnson, the rookie out of Northern Iowa who caught 36 passes for 457 yards AND also ran for 581 yards on a 4.6-yard average as he had to plug the hole left by Chris Johnson’s injury. He had 78 yards from scrimmage last week.

The Panthers have several All-Pro performers on the stop unit, but they may have to be everywhere to keep up with the Cards’ wide-open offensive attack, IF Palmer can keep things under control.


Football picksJanuary 15, 2016

Sunday Green Bay Packers vs Arizona Cardinals in NFL NFC Divisional Playoff Picks & PredictionsThe Green Bay Packers rolled snake eyes the last time they went out west to face the Arizona Cardinals, and that wasn’t very long ago at all. After a lackluster performance down the stretch, did Green Bay really get itself on the right track last week against Washington? That would certainly impact the result of Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round playoff game with Bruce Arians’ team, which is scheduled to kick off at 8:15 PM ET at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.

Green Bay (now 11-6 straight-up, 10-7 ATS, including playoffs) started out very slow against the Redskins, and it looked like they were going to go quietly. But suddenly Aaron Rodgers got hot, and the offensive unit scored on five straight possessions. As it turns out, Rodgers’ playoff experience was a big factor in the 35-18 victory. Of course, the Packers get off to that slow a start again, they are going to find themselves in trouble against the explosive Cardinals, who are #1 in the league in yards produced on a per-drive basis.

It was just a few weeks ago that these teams met, and Arizona punished the Packers, registering nine sacks and holding Green Bay two 178 yards in a 38-8 pasting. We have seen the Minnesota Vikings (last week) rebound from a shellacking they took at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks to take things down to the wire and cover the spread in NFL predictions and picks. Will the same thing happen with Mike McCarthy’s team?

In the NFL odds posted on this game, the Cardinals are rather solid favorites to get themselves into the NFC championship game:

Green Bay Packers vs Arizona Cardinals in NFL NFC Divisional Playoff Consensus Picks

Arizona Cardinals -7 (-105)

Green Bay Packers +7 (-105)

Over 50 points -102

Under 50 points -108

Click Here to View - Green Bay Packers vs Arizona Cardinals in NFL NFC Divisional Playoff Matchup

How far do the Packers really have to go to come away with a victory here? Clearly they are counting on getting some plays from an aging receiver (James Jones) and mixing things up offensively, such as making Randall Cobb switch around from the wide receiver spot to the backfield and back again. That’s good; they need some imagination. And McCarthy reassumed the playcalling duties not very long ago, which makes Rodgers more comfortable. Green Bay should have a healthier offensive line in this game than it did last week in Washington, and this is the spot where they probably need it. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has missed the last three games, and whose absence was really felt as Rodgers was taking the heat in Glendale a few weeks ago, could be back in action. And that could make a world of difference in terms of protection.

What should BetAnySports patrons take from Green Bay’s efforts in cooling down Kirk Cousins last week, especially considering how proficient he had been on his home field? That’s something that has to factor into it, when you consider the handicapping formula. Also, consider that while Rodgers has been through a lot of post-season games and won a Super Bowl, while his counterpart, Carson Palmer, has never emerged victorious in a playoff game.

Arizona has scored 51 touchdowns from scrimmage this season, and 35 of them have come at the hand of Palmer, who has averaged a monster 8.7 yards per attempt to this season, two full yards per pass more than Rodgers has. If you know Arians, you know that he looks for big plays downfield (and has the personell to get it done), so the Green Bay secondary has to be up to the task. And it would help if the Packers got a pass rush; they are very capable of getting to the quarterback, as their 43 sacks on the regular season would indicate.


Football picksJanuary 15, 2016

Saturday New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs NFL Divisional Playoff Picks & PredictionsThe New England Patriots really took it on the chin last season when they were playing the Kansas City Chiefs, and don’t think they don’t remember that. That 41-14 loss was a turning point in New England’s season, as the team went on to win at the Super Bowl. On Saturday afternoon, the Pats will try to slow down the Kansas City freight train, which has now racked up eleven straight victories, as they meet in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, beginning at 4:35 PM ET at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. Also keep in mind that while CBS is televising the game live.

NFL playoff bettors had to be very impressed by Kansas City’s 30-0 shutout of Houston last week. In that game they had five takeaways, and brought their season total of interceptions up to 26. This is one of the things that has been a key to their success this season, as they are +18 in turnover margin. It is obvious the part of head coach Andy Reid’s formula, but you have to wonder how that formula is going to work against the team that has turned the ball over fewer times than anyone else in the National Football League (only 14).

New England lost its last two games of the season, bringing its record to 12-4 straight-up (7-7-2 ATS) in NFL picks and predictions, and they lost potential home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as a result. But it was Bill Belichick’s priority to keep some of his more important people healthy and rested, and he hopes that will bear fruit, as wide receiver Julian Edelman and left tackle Sebastian Vollmer will return to the lineup this week.

In the NFL playoff betting odds posted on this game, the Patriots are the favorites at home:

New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs NFL Divisional Playoff Consensus Picks

New England Patriots -5 (-103)

Kansas City Chiefs +5 (-107) 

Over 42 points -105

Under 42 points -105

View this Matchup - New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs NFL Divisional Playoff 

The Patriots started the season with a 10-0 record, then went 2-4 after that. It is not just coincidental that this happened, in large part, while Edelman was injured. This team has averaged only 18 first downs over their last seven games. And Tom Brady, who completed 69% of his passes when Edelman was on the field, has only been 59% accurate without him. Those people who want to be skeptical about the defending Super Bowl champions may want to digest the fact that they have played only three teams that made this year’s playoffs.

But, by design, they should be about as healthy as they have been for a while. Edelman has been practicing for a couple of weeks, so the foot has healed to the point where he can play. Brady, who suffered an ankle injury in the season finale against Miami, has shaken that off, more or less. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has had a sore knee, but he should be good to go as well.

RealBet Sportsbook is also keeping a close eye on an injury on the Kansas City side. Jeremy Maclin, it appears, has a high ankle sprain, and will unquestionably not be 100% for this matchup. Maclin is vital to the Chiefs’ offense, as he provided a downfield element, catching 87 passes for 1088 yards and eight touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Kansas City got ZERO touchdowns out of wide receivers last season.

Belichick’s modus operandi has been to take away the other team’s best receiver, and so we suppose he’ll have to make a determination as to whether that is going to be Maclin or tight end Travis Kelce, who had 72 receptions on the regular season and went for 128 yards last week against the Texans. But make no mistake about it; even though Alex Smith has done well in playoff games (10 touchdown passes and only one interception in four starts), his options in the aerial attack are somewhat limited. And New England recorded 49 quarterback sacks on the season, which would seem to bite into a potential weakness, as Smith has been sacked 48 times, including the playoff game.


Football picksJanuary 15, 2016

Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers NFL Divisional Playoff Picks & PredictionsThere is little question that one of the low points of the Seattle Seahawks’ season took place when they play host to the Carolina Panthers in their sixth game of the season. Carolina was 5-0 going into that game, but still, there were not a lot of believers. Seattle had led by 13 points, but Cam Newton, a leading contender for MVP honors, rallied his team on two 80-yard drives in the final four minutes to shock Seattle at Century Link Field (27-23). Now these teams meet again, this time at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, in a 1:05 PM ET start on Sunday, with a trip to the NFC Championship Game at stake.

Yes, Seattle was lucky to get out of its wild-card round game alive. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh had to miss a chip shot field goal in the final seconds for them to advance by a 10-9 margin in one of the coldest games in NFL history. But the conditions will be a little bit different in Carolina, and the Seahawks don’t lose much of their potency, at least defensively, on the road. In fact, they are even stronger, as the statistics will bear out in NFL football picks & predictions.

Carolina (15-1 straight-up, 11-5 ATS), of course, was threatening to become only the third team since the merger to go through an entire regular season undefeated, but they lost in the next-to-last game to the Atlanta Falcons. They face the prospect of having to win in the final week to even secure the home-field advantage in the conference, because Arizona was hot on its heels. But Carolina has the friendly environment for this one, and that would seem to mean something, since they averaged 33 points a game at home.

In the reduced juice football playoff betting odds posted on this game, Carolina is the favorite at home:

Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers NFL Divisional Playoff Consensus Picks

Carolina Panthers -2.5 (-105)

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 (-105)

Over 44 points -102

Under 44 points -108

View this Matchup - Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers NFL Divisional Playoff

The question you may want to ask yourself when handicapping this game is whether Seattle’s rather drab offensive performance in Minnesota was an anomaly because of the weather. Certainly it is unusual for those kinds of conditions to exist, and for three quarters this team was held scoreless. Of course, there is another side to that coin as well. We know that the Seahawks, who have made it to the last two Super Bowls as the NFC representative, are conditioned to come on strong toward the end of the season, and indeed they only lost twice after the defeat to the Panthers dropped their record to 2-4. Both of those losses were at home, but on the road this team really sizzled down the stretch, winning their last six as a visitor and allowing only ONE offensive touchdown in those games. That’s right; the opposing team – that is, the HOME team – crossed the goal line only once against this defense during that stretch.

So BetAnySports patrons may want to consider whether Newton, who has completed 59.7% of his passes this season, has enough options at his disposal to exploit this Seattle stop unit. If there is something encouraging, it is that tight ends have caught 75 passes for 873 yards against Seattle this season, and the Panthers have one of the best in the business in Greg Olson (77 receptions, 1104 yards). So this will be the challenge for Newton – getting Olson free, as no doubt Kam Chancellor and his buddies in the secondary will be loaded up to stop him.

Let’s not forget that Russell Wilson threw 24 touchdown passes with only one interception over the last seven games of the regular season, and he injected himself into the MVP argument alongside Newton, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady. Marshall and Lynch, who missed the game and Minnesota because of is abdominal injury, might make it into the lineup here; that final decision has not been made yet, although it’s been said that he looks very good at the moment.


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