Camellia Bowl Betting Preview: South Alabama Jaguars vs. Bowling Green Falcons
Tags: College Football South Alabama Jaguars Sun Belt Bowling Green Falcons MAC Drew Martin Camellia Bowl - Montgomery, Ala.
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
Saturday, 6:15 pm PT - ESPN
Bowling Green -1 O/U 55
South Alabama -2.5 O/U 53.5
Drew Martin’s Recommendation:
The Bowling Green Falcons and the South Alabama Jaguars square off Saturday night in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in Montgomery Alabama. It’s the Falcons third straight bowl game as winners of the MAC’s East Division. South Alabama will be making its first bowl appearance in school history. The Jags are the “youngest” FBS team to ever reach a bowl game (surpassing the previous mark held by Florida Atlantic). The Camellia Bowl has some interesting dynamics at play including strength of schedule, travel, and coaching changes.
The Falcons run over 80 plays per game with most of it coming via the pass. They lost arguably the best player in the MAC when starting quarterback Matt Johnson went down with a hip injury and was lost for the season. Sophomore James Knapke took over and performed well in the early going, but his performance diminished in the last few weeks of the season, so much so that he was pulled against Toledo for a true freshman.
South Alabama became bowl eligible despite sporting one of the worst offense’s in the Sun Belt. The future looks bright however as they bring in former UAB offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, who will call the plays on Saturday. Note that Vincent also served as USA’s QB coach a few years back and will reportedly run the same offense. Overall, the reports out of Jags camp have been positive.
"That's the best practice we've had all year long,'' tight ends coach John Turner offered after the Jags went through a one hour and 45-minute practice at Huntingdon College Wednesday afternoon.
"We had a good day today,'' head coach Joey Jones said. "The people here in Montgomery have been so hospitable and they've made it fun. But we've got to separate the business and pleasure. They came out and worked today in practice and we had a good day.''
Talent, power rating, or strength of schedule wise, there isn't much that separate these two squads. The one thing that stands out is the despite struggling to move the football at times, South Alabama still outgained conference foes on a yards per play basis. Bowling Green, which has received much fanfare for its up-tempo attack, was actually outgained in MAC play due to an extremely porous defense. Also note that the Falcons slowed down their offensive pace the back half of the season; something that will only help a very capable South Alabama stop unit. Coupled with the MAC's much publicized postseason shortcomings (2-9 SU/ATS last two years) we'll lay the short price with the Jaguars.
College Basketball Betting News and Notes 12-19-2014
Submitted by Andrew Lange
Tags: College Basketball Andrew Lange
Ohio State vs. North Carolina (Chicago)
Tar Heels have plenty of issues but the huge advantage in this one is that they've played five quality top 25 caliber teams. Ohio State meanwhile caught Marquette early and battled back but was for the most part manhandled by Louisville. They've been stationed in Columbus playing nothing but glorified practices. Good for confidence, bad for asking them to flip the switch away from home against comparable competition.
Northern Iowa vs. Iowa (Des Moines)
Prior to allowing 90 to rival Iowa State, I've been impressed with Iowa's defense. The offense though has struggled vs. quality foes and Northern Iowa guards about as good as anyone in the country outside of top-tier bullies like Kentucky and Louisville. Would expect Iowa's best effort with over a week to prep after aforementioned blowout loss to Cyclones. Expect to see Hawkeyes in the -2/-2.5 range.
Oklahoma vs. Washington (Las Vegas)
Huskies are undefeated and while the schedule comes up light, this looks to be one of Romar's most complete teams. He's had more talent but they've bought in to guarding which has always been an issue. Center Robert Upshaw is a difference maker and a must have against Sooners' front line. Expect tempo but also some shoddy outside shooting -- something both teams are notorious for.
West Virginia vs. NC State (MSG)
This is such a Huggins team: low shooting percentages across the board, chuck it up and go get it off the glass, and force a boatload of turnovers. Not sure how well that's going to hold up during conference play but they should own the glass with NC State pretty weak in the frontcourt. Wolfpack will continue to be all (vs. Tennessee) or nothing (vs. Wofford) with having to rely so much on guards.
Purdue vs. Notre Dame (Indianapolis)
Irish have looked pretty good, particularly on offense but per usual, the numbers are skewed thanks to SIX GAMES (!!!) vs. 300 or worse teams. Boilers still a work in progress -- they have the pieces but the defense is still spotty. I don't think it's an effort deal but should be better with two 7-footers patrolling the paint.
VCU at Cincinnati
Pretty simple formula vs. VCU: find a way to hang on to the ball and easy buckets await. Easy buckets and Cincinnati usually don't mix however and turnovers have been an issue. I got over 28.5 total turnovers in this one.
Butler vs. Indiana (Indianapolis)
Curious to see whether or not Butler is willing to play Indiana's up-tempo game. They showed no fear in doing so vs. North Carolina (152 possessions). Still waiting for Indiana to take multiple punches and win a grinder. Seems like quality wins only come when they're at home and able to run.
UCLA vs. Kentucky (Chicago)
In three games vs. Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Gonzaga, I've saw UCLA’s offense "work" for maybe 20 minutes -- and most of that was at home in the second half trailing by margin vs. Gonzaga. Bruins are really struggling without those easy transition points and Alford trying to dial up halfcourt sets scares me. Now they face Kentucky. Good luck. Cats finally got to run a little vs. North Carolina; a welcomed site for the players who I imagine didn't sign up for 56-point showings at home vs. Columbia. They'll run vs. UCLA but pace could get bogged down with Bruins, like everyone else, unable to get many good looks in the half court.
College Basketball Betting Free Play: Eastern Washington Eagles at California Golden Bears
Submitted by ICC
Tags: College Basketball Eastern Washington Eagles California Golden Bears Ian Cameron
Eastern Washington +6.5 at California O/U 141
Recommendation: Eastern Washington
My clients and I recently cashed a winning ticket supporting the Eastern Washington Eagles in their spread covering 81-77 loss at undefeated Washington. The Eagles led by double digits at one point but the Huskies kept chipping away at the lead and eventually got the win. EWU suffered a somewhat inevitable hangover in their next game losing 76-52 at Sam Houston State but I think the Eagles are talented enough to bounce back with a much better effort. This is a squad that has four starters back and a very experienced backcourt featuring Tyler Harvey, Drew Brandon, and Parker Kelly. They have some size inside as well with forward Venky Jois averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Cuonzo Martin’s Cal squad has played stellar defense to this point but you could make a solid argument they haven’t played many capable offenses. Guard Jabari Bird Is likely to miss his fourth straight game with a foot injury. The Golden Bears have stalled in the three games without Bird on the floor, failing to top 67 points against Nevada, Wyoming and Princeton. The Eagles went on the road and beat the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall and they hung tough at SMU losing by nine points but covered the spread wire-to-wire. They are a perfect 9-0 ATS in their last nine lined road games dating back to last year. Plus the points is the call in this one.
NFL Betting Podcast 12-19-2014 with Sportsmemo Handicappers Teddy Covers and Erin Rynning
Tags: NFL Teddy Covers Erin Rynning
College Basketball Betting Podcast 12-19-2014 with Sportsmemo Handicapper Brent Crow
Tags: College Basketball Brent Crow Andrew Lange
Friday's Sportsmemo Podcast featured Sportsmemo Handicapper Brent Crow. Brent and host Andrew Lange talked about Saturday's marquee matchups.
Brent Crow - College Basketball Saturday
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NBA Handicapper Free Play: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets
Submitted by Teddy Covers
Tags: NBA New Orleans Pelicans Houston Rockets Teddy Covers
New Orleans +4.5 at Houston O/U 201
Recommendation: New Orleans
The Rockets failed to cover the spread in all four meetings against the Pelicans last year. I’m not expecting Houston to match up any better against New Orleans in their first meeting of the 2014-15 campaign.
Houston is coming off a hard fought OT win in the Mile High altitude of Denver last night. Every starter played at least 42 minutes; while only two reserves got more than seven minutes of floor time. Expect a relatively sluggish showing here. The Rockets haven’t been able to by margin in any recent back-2-back situation, even when they were fresher than they are tonight. The Kings took them to overtime in their last back-2-back set. They beat slumping Phoenix by only five in their try before that. And we saw the Rockets worst loss of the year – by 26 at Memphis – on the second night of back-2-backs last month.
This is a very easy trip for New Orleans, just a single road game with short travel to Houston. And New Orleans has really found some excellent offensive rhythm over the course of the last few weeks, averaging more than 112 points per game while going 5-1 ATS in their last six contests. That was on full display as they rallied from behind in the fourth quarter against Utah in their last game; hanging 41 points on the Jazz in the fourth quarter alone.
Anthony Davis is argubly the best player in the league RIGHT NOW. The backcourt combo of Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday has really started to gell. And sharpshooters Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers, Jimmer Fredette and Luke Babbitt have given head coach Monty Williams a full complement of role players to work with, something that has been lacking in New Orleans in every recent season. The Pelicans have a trio of shot blockers as well, a rock solid defensive squad in the paint thanks to the long arms of Davis, Omer Asik and Jeff Withey. I’m expecting the outright upset, but taking the points with New Orleans offers a nice little cushion in case they fall just short.
College Football Bowl Betting Podcast with Sportsmemo Handicapper Rob Veno 12-18-2014
Tags: College Football Rob Veno Andrew Lange
NFL Gambling Alert: Bears to start Clausen vs. Lions
Tags: NFL Chicago Bears Detroit Lions
The Chicago Bears have decided to start Jimmy Clausen
vs. Detroit. The Lions, who are in the hunt for one of the top two seeds in the NFC, opened -6.5/-7 but have since been bet up to as high as -9.
"We haven't been able to do the things that we want to get done," he said. "We're working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I'm trying to give you the most truthful answer, and that is, we've seen moments of it, but it's not where we need to go. It's not where we need to be. But it's not all about Jay. It's about our entire offense, working together to get it done."
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Betting Preview: Western Michigan Broncos vs. Air Force Falcons
Submitted by Andrew Lange
Tags: Collge Football Western Michigan Broncos MAC Air Force Falcons Mountain West Andrew Lange Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Boise, Idaho
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
Saturday, 2:45 pm PT - ESPN
Western Michigan -2 O.U 56.5
Air Force -1 O/U 58
Rob Veno's Power Rating:
Air Force -0.5
Quite a turnaround for Western Michigan who in PJ Fleck's second season improved to 8-4 after only one victory in 2013. They were the most complete team in the MAC ranking third in both total offense (443 ypg) and total defense (355 ypg) in conference play. Air Force wasn't nearly as impressive ranking 6th and 7th respectively in the Mountain West. The Falcons though played in the tougher conference and Mountain Division which has a chance (if Air Force and Utah State wins) to produce four 10-win or better squads.
One of the concerns with Western Michigan is not only the lack of competition but their performance against comparable and/or better competition. They routinely fell short from a straight up perspective, including as a big favorite in the de facto MAC Championship play-in game against Northern Illinois. The Broncos' "best" win came against a five-loss Central Michigan squad that ranks outside the Sagarin top 100. Air Force meanwhile scored multiple quality wins including Boise State and Colorado State who are a combined 22-4. There are however some soft wins which keep their strength of schedule (110) not too far removed from the Broncos (130). But in terms of the number of quality games, Air Force was far more challenged.
Next angle to consider is Western Michigan's unfamiliarity with the option. Fleck summed up his team's preparation:
"We've got about 8-9 practices to install a completely new defense. What makes them complicated is they are not just triple option all the time… Half the time it is triple option, half the time it's 11 personnel normal offense," Fleck said.
And while WMU's overall defensive numbers look good, they had significant trouble stopping the run. In their four "toughest games" against Purdue, Virginia Tech, Toledo, and Northern Illinois, the Broncos allowed 964 yards (6.18 ypc). So don't be fooled by their seasonal mark of 4.22 ypc. On the flip side, WMU will be able to move the football, particularly through the air. Another case where seasonal stats can be deceiving: Air Force's 255.91 ypg and 55.6% pass defense jumps to 316.6 ypg and 57.4% when you eliminate three games vs. option opponents. So while Western Michigan will be at a disadvantage against the option, they can easily offset it with one of the better passing attacks in the country (166.7 QB rating, 5th nationally).
Lastly, the MAC has really eroded over the last few seasons and has been an easy fade for bettors in the postseason. Just in the last two years, the MAC is a dismal 2-9 SU/ATS in the postseason. And with the exception of Northern Illinois' Orange Bowl appearance against Florida State, the competition was very comparable with the Sun Belt, C-USA, and Mountain West.
Western Michigan opened as a 2-point favorite and while there has been some Air Force/anti-MAC money, the game has rightfully settled in the pick 'em range.
Sports Betting Podcast 12-17-2014 with Sportsmemo Handicappers Brent Crow and Erin Rynning
Tags: College Basketball NBA Brent Crow Erin Rynning
NBA Handicapper Free Play: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers
Submitted by Rob Veno
Tags: NBA Milwaukee Bucks Portland Trail Blazers Rob Veno
Milwaukee at Portland -9.5 O/U 203
The loss of rookie Jabari Parker leaves a gaping hole in Milwaukee’s starting lineup that’s likely to show up in this contest. A frontcourt that is already minus PF Ersan Ilyasova and C John Henson is now down to just one legitimate paint player in starting C Larry Sanders. Fundamentally it could have been a worse matchup for the Bucks had Portland starting C Robin Lopez not broke his hand Monday night against San Antonio, but still the combination of PF LaMarcus Aldridge and veteran C Chris Kaman could overwhelm Milwaukee inside. Additionally, once Sanders goes to the bench it just might be a party at the rim for all Blazers who want to either penetrate the lane or post up since Milwaukee’s bench is full of finesse players. Portland’s FG% is only middle of the pack this season (45.2%) but that number goes significantly up in this situation. Bucks have been a solid offensive team for Jason Kidd thus far but losing Parker who was getting comfortable as one of the top two offensive options will cause a reshuffling of roles. Doubtful that perimeter based Milwaukee offense can keep pace with Portland and also doubtful that their lack of defensive presence can match up since Blazers FGA% ranks #5 in the league at 43.1%. Number is tall at -9.5 but Portland has been a solid 8-4 ATS at home this year and has enough advantages tonight to at least match that.
College Football Gambling: Florida State doesn't know why its an underdog vs. Oregon
Tags: College Football Florida State Seminoles Oregon Ducks
The Florida State Seminoles are double-dipping on the underdog angle
vs. Oregon. The players are apparently miffed that despite 29 consecutive wins they are catching points. The coaching staff meanwhile doesn't pay to that sort of stuff. What we do know is everyone is "aware." It's the first time FSU has been priced as a dog since early 2011.
"To be honest, I don't feel like the underdog. I don't think this team feels like the underdog," Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey said. "We shouldn't feel like the underdog. We're the ones who won 29 in a row. What are we scared of? Why are we the underdog? I don't really understand that."
"I never know if we were a nine-point favorite or a nine-point underdog," said Fisher during a news conference featuring all four of the CFP semifinal head coaches, "I never pay any attention to that."
College Football Handicapping: Mississippi State loses defensive coordinator
Tags: College Football Mississippi State Bulldogs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Mississippi State will have to prepare for Georgia Tech's option without its defensive coordinator
as Geoff Collins recently took the same gig at Florida. The Bulldogs, who haven't faced a true option team since 2009's 42-31 loss to Tech, will also be short-handed at the safety position
"We'll look at all that stuff. I don't know," Mullen said. "We always play great defense here. We play great defense no matter what coach is going to be here. As long as I'm the head coach, we'll always play great defense here."
"I thought Geoff did a great job here and pleased with what he's done," Mullen said. "Our psycho defense will continue to be a psycho defense on the field. That's our program, that's what we play here. Whoever the D-coordinator is, we're going to play that great defense."
College Football Betting: Notre Dame to use two quarterbacks vs. LSU
Tags: College Football Notre Dame Fighting Irish LSU Tigers
Notre Dame plans on using two quarterbacks
for its Music City Bowl matchup vs. LSU. Everett Golson has obviously had issues with turnovers while Malik Zaire showed flashes of competence in the team's blowout loss to USC. Note that Golson is right-handed while Zaire is left-handed
something that could impact the passing game.
“Both have skill sets that are a little bit different that we’ll use in the game,” Kelly said. “We’ll go with their strengths and call upon those strengths in the game. I feel very confident I can manage both of them.”
College Football Gambling: No reason to expect better defense from North Carolina
Tags: College Football North Carolina Tar Heels Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Not a shock to see North Carolina part ways with defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. The Tar Heels were one of the nation's worst defenses and in reading about Koenning's departure, it is easy to see why. Players saying there was "energy" in only one game this season
vs. rival Duke. Talk about a lack of work ethic
. Different defensive units not in the same meeting
. A total mess and not something that is going to be cured prior to a post-Christmas Day bowl game in Detroit. Their opponent, Rutgers doesn't have impressive seasonal numbers but hung 40+ against the similarly soft defenses of Washington State, Indiana, and Maryland.
“We just didn't get up when we needed to get up for the games,” Scott said. “The only game I can honestly say we got riled up for was Duke. And I guess we were playing for the (Victory) Bell. But we came into N.C. State just lazy and not really as focused as we were the week before. And it happened like that the majority of the season. Not necessarily the young guys, but even the older guys – myself included sometimes. We were just lazy with our work ethic during the week.”
“It'll be different for the fact that he's the play caller, but at the same time coach Disch and Vic always worked together throughout the defensive calls and stuff. So they both called (plays) in the past and now that coach Vic is gone now we'll just have to worry about Disch. It's also a plus because the corners and the safeties are in the same room now, back to how we used to have it.”
"He's very energetic and he's a little out there," linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said of Disch. "But it's something we need. He's more energetic than coach Vic, and he's more aggressive.
"In practice the other day, we did 2-minute drill and I think we blitzed five out of the six plays. So he's really wanting to get after the quarterback. He's got a lot of faith in his DBs just to hold up back there."
Harry Reid is turning into Sheldon Adelson Jr.
Harry Reid says he expects anti-online gambling efforts on a nationwide level to strengthen in 2015. While Reid says he does support online poker, a lot of the spew
coming from his mouth sounds pretty damn similar to old fogey Sheldon Adelson’s agenda.
“I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country. I think it is an invitation to crime. I think it is hard to control for crime when you’ve got brick-and-mortar places, let alone something up in the sky someplace, and it is very bad for children.”
College Basketball Betting Free Play: Arizona State Sun Devils at Marquette Golden Eagles
Submitted by Andrew Lange
Tags: College Basketball Arizona State Sun Devils Marquette Golden Eagles Andrew Lange
Arizona State at Marquette
Recommendation: Under 61.5 1st half
I’ve had Marquette pegged as an "under" squad. With only eight available players, the Golden Eagles have been forced to slow down the tempo as well as play zone. Their last game vs. Wisconsin featured only 108 possessions and 87 points. Probably won't see that type of extreme tonight but first-year head coach Steve Wojechowski knows that muddying up the game gives his short-handed squad their best chance to win. Also note that guard Deonte Burton left the team and they added 6-11 center Luke Fisher who originally played at Indiana. The Golden Eagles are in desperate need of size in the paint so the recent “transaction” is really addition by subtraction defensively. Arizona State has been playing at a relatively moderate pace but they've been ultra-efficient thus far hitting nearly 41% of their 3's and 53% of their 2's. Not sure however how long they'll be able to keep that up, especially on the road vs. a capable defense. In their last road game at Texas A&M there were only 120 possessions but 143 points. That is an outlier-type performance and if the Sun Devils are going to play games at that slow of a pace, then more often than not, their games scores will be in the 120's rather than the 132 we see tonight. We'll look to play this game under the total of 61.5 for the first half.
College Football Handicapping: Liberty Bowl expects to be up-tempo
Tags: College Football West Virginia Mountaineers Texas A&M Aggies Big XII SEC
Not a surprise but Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is expecting their Liberty Bowl matchup vs. West Virginia to feature "lots of plays
." The total opened 64 and has since been bet up to 67.
“Both teams need to get to bed early because there’s going to be a lot of plays in this game,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said, noting their no-huddle, up-tempo styles.
Sports Betting Podcast 12-16-2014 with Sportsmemo Handicappers Ian Cameron and Teddy Covers
Tags: NHL NBA Ian Cameron Teddy Covers
ONLINE SPECIAL: Discounted Weekly Hoops
Tags: NHL NBA Ian Cameron Teddy Covers
NFL Monday Night Football Betting Consensus: Saints look to be headed to -3.5
Tags: NFL New Orleans Saints Chicago Bears
Here are the top consensus bets (side, total, and moneyline) for tonight's Monday Night Football game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears courtesy of Bookmaker. A lot of offshore sportsbooks are hanging on the -3 for dear life with the juice now -130/-135. Seen a small tick down on the total with the weather expected to be rainy and foggy. Note that the percentages are based on the number of bets made not total handle.
74.2% - New Orleans -3
62.6% - Over 53.5
53.8% - New Orleans -190
Sports Betting Podcast 12-15-2014 with Sportsmemo Handicappers Teddy Covers and Rob Veno
Tags: NFL NBA Teddy Covers Rob Veno
Teddy Covers' Las Vegas Wiseguy Report: NFC Playoff Contenders
Submitted by Teddy Covers
Tags: NFL Teddy Covers
Week 15 of the NFL season is in the books and four teams have emerged as clear co-favorites to win the Super Bowl. Green Bay and Seattle are at the top of the power ratings spectrum in the NFC while Denver and New England look poised for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
In my Wiseguy Report over the next two weeks, I’m going to poke holes in every other team that is still alive in the playoff chase. Can any of the fringe contenders knock off the favorites when January rolls around? Read on to find out. This week I’ll focus on the second tier contenders in the NFC, and next week, I’ll shift my focus to the AFC.
The Dallas Cowboys have looked good on national TV repeatedly this year. They are a perfect 7-0 SU on the road, including impressive wins at Seattle and Philly. But the Cowboys have at least one fundamental flaw – their defense isn’t much better than it was last year when the Cowboys ranked at or near the bottom of nearly every statistical category.
In 2013, the Cowboys stop unit was ridiculed nationally, allowing 6.1 yards per play (ranked #30 out of 32 teams), 4.7 yards per rush (also ranked #30) and 7.8 yards per pass (28th). In 2014, the talking heads on TV continue to babble about their improved defense, but those numbers haven’t improved significantly in any category; a stop unit that is ranked well below average.
Dallas has been able to mask their defensive deficiencies thanks to an offense that has been able to dominate the time of possession battle on DeMarco Murray’s strong legs, keeping that stop unit off the field for extended stretches of play. But there’s no way to trust the Cowboys defense to get stops against elite quarterbacks, a fundamental flaw when assessing their Super Bowl chances.
The wiseguy betting markets have been fading the Arizona Cardinals since September; a team that many sharps hate with vitriolic passion by this stage of the season because they’ve lost so much money betting against them! We saw that on full display again this past week, when the 6-8 Rams were six point favorites over the Cardinals by kickoff thanks to a bevy of anti-Zona sentiment in the markets in the hours before kickoff.
That repeated anti-Arizona sentiment in the markets has allowed savvy bettors to cash in riding this team throughout the course of the regular season; the single best pointspread team in the NFL through Week 15. But when it comes to playoff time, limited offensive teams like the Cards have a long track record of crumbling. And now that head coach Bruce Arians is down to a choice between third stringer Ryan Lindley and fourth stringer Logan Thomas as his starting quarterback moving forward following injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, this team is clearly in the pretender category when it comes to January football.
When was the last time a gimmicky offense with a second tier quarterback won the Super Bowl? If you said never, you are probably correct. That certainly doesn’t bode well for the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly leads the league in non-offensive touchdowns this year by a wide margin – they’ve lived off of big plays on defense and special teams. But when it comes to fundamentals on both sides of the football, the Eagles come up short.
Philly’s receiving corps is limited; an offense that misses DeSean Jackson more than they’ll ever let on. QB Marc Sanchez doesn’t look all that much better here than he did in New York and Philly’s offensive line has been getting beaten off the ball repeatedly in recent weeks, unable to open holes for LeSean McCoy (5.1 yards per carry in 2013, 4.1 yards per carry this year). Defensively, the Eagles haven’t been able to get third down stops, resulting in a stop unit that has been on the field for more than 40 minutes in each of the last two weeks, getting crushed in the time-of-possession battle. Chip Kelly’s quest for a title won’t end any time soon!
I happen to think that the Detroit Lions are the only NFC team that has a shot of knocking off the two contenders. Of course, anyone from Michigan will laugh at that statement, knowing all too well the Lions extended history of futility. Detroit’s last playoff win came in the divisional round of the 1991 postseason. Their playoff victory prior to that came in the 1957 Championship Game, when Bobby Layne led them to a title. In their only playoff game of the 21st century, Detroit gave up 45 points in a loss to the Saints in the 2011 Wild Card round. From a recent history perspective, the Lions are every bit as dicey as the Cowboys, and from a long term history perspective, Detroit ranks right there with Cleveland at the bottom of the NFL spectrum.
That being said, this is the best Lions team since Barry Sanders retired and Wayne Fontes was finally run out of town. On a yards per play differential basis, Detroit ranks behind only the Seahawks and Packers in the NFC. Defensively, they have allowed less than five yards per snap this year, one of only four teams to do so (Denver, Seattle and Buffalo are the other three). The Lions are 10-4 to the Under this year, and three of their four Over cashes have come in games where they have scored 34+.
We saw this defense shut down Aaron Rodgers in the first meeting against the Packers, holding Green Bay to a season low seven point effort. They shut down Drew Brees and Matt Ryan as well. Only once all year has this stop unit allowed more than 24 points, at New England against Tom Brady – no shame in that. There’s enough elite level offensive talent on this roster to give Detroit a fighting chance moving forward, and their track record in close games has given them a level of confidence they’ve been missing for decades.
I supposed I am obliged to include the NFC South division winner in this analysis. The team that emerges between Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina is going to be a big home underdog in their Wild Card Round playoff game and an even bigger road underdog the following week if they are lucky enough to survive the first weekend.
The Atlanta Falcons defense came into Week 15 ranked dead last in that key wiseguy statistical metric defensive yards per play allowed. Their statistical numbers are actually worse than they appear, because the Falcons have faced a litany of bad quarterbacks and bad offensive teams, including Arizona, Cleveland, Carolina and Tampa Bay in the last six weeks alone.
The Carolina Panthers just lost starting QB Cam Newton to a back injury from a car accident he suffered last week, taking a bad offense and making it that much worse, at least for the short term. That being said, the Panthers have, by far, the best defense of any team in this division. But their signature win came back in Week 2 against the Lions – despite plenty of opportunities against a particularly tough slate of foes, Carolina hasn’t been able to beat any of them.
The New Orleans Saints were good enough to beat Green Bay, and they’ve got a Super Bowl winning coach and QB. But New Orleans just allowed 41 points in a home loss to Carolina’s limited offense, their fourth consecutive defeat on what had previously been one of the strongest home fields in the NFL. Rob Ryan’s defense is not what is was during the Saints Super Bowl run, to put it mildly, and neither are the weapons surrounding Brees. Like Atlanta and Carolina, New Orleans isn’t even close to being good enough to win three games in January to reach the Super Bowl.
Follow me on twitter @teddy_covers.
NHL Handicapper Free Play: Ottawa Senators at Buffalo Sabres
Submitted by Sammy P Sports
Tags: NFL Ottawa Senators Buffalo Sabres Sammy P
Ottawa at Buffalo +125 O/U 5
Perhaps no one has had a bigger turnaround to their season than the Buffalo Sabres. This was a team that was all but forgotten after a 3-15 start to the season. The Sabres have since rattled off a 9-3 record where they have consistently been +150 underdogs or more. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth has been outstanding during this stretch giving up just two goals a game. Buffalo has shown a propensity to struggle scoring goals all season, but they have figured out a way to win the low scoring, one-goal games. At the other end of the ice, Ottawa has seen major changes of late and they are headed in an opposite direction. Ottawa fired head coach Paul MacLean last week. They haven’t responded the way one would think when losing a coach, and new coach Dave Cameron certainly has his hands full with this group of players. Expect a very low scoring game here tonight with plenty of value on a home dog that has shown no signs of stopping the positive run they've been on.
NFL Handicapping: Remaining schedules for potential playoff teams
Quick list of the remaining two games for NFL teams in the playoff hunt.
Atlanta: at New Orleans, vs. Carolina
Arizona: vs. Seattle, at San Francisco
Carolina: vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta
Dallas: vs. Indianapolis, at Washington
Detroit: at Chicago, at Green Bay
Green Bay: at Tampa Bay, vs. Detroit
New Orleans: vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay
Philadelphia: at Washington, at NY Giants
Seattle: at Arizona, vs. St. Louis
Baltimore: at Houston, vs. Cleveland
Buffalo: at Oakland, at New England
Cincinnati: vs. Denver, at Pittsburgh
Denver: at Cincinnati, vs. Oakland
Indianapolis: at Dallas, at Tennessee
Kansas City: at Pittsburgh, vs. San Diego
New England: at NY Jets, vs. Buffalo
Pittsburgh: vs. Kansas City, vs. Cincinnati
San Diego: at San Francisco, at Kansas City