Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

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Miami @ ClevelandFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Over 41FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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If this game was played a year ago at this time you would be insane not to jump all over the under with a number this high. However, that was then, and this is now. The Dolphins made some upgrades to their offense especially at the wide receiver position which will enable them to be a more dynamic unit in 2013. The new head coach of the Cleveland Browns Rob Chudzinski is a brilliant young offensive mind, and I look for his team to improve dramatically on that side of the ball. Both starting quarterbacks enter their second year in the NFL after being thrown to the wolves a year ago and accounting themselves admirably. This will be a more entertaining game than the general public is expecting
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Any home favorite or underdog of 2.0 or less that's playing in their opening game of the season, they won 5 games or less in the previous season, and the total is 41.0 or more has seen all 6 of those games go over the total since the start of the 1980 season. Those 6 games averaged a combined 56.3 points per game. Play on this game to go over the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Harry Bondi's Bulletin

NFL BEST BETS

ARIZONA (+5) over St. Louis
The Cardinals were the surprise of the early season in 2012, sprinting out to a 4-0 record, including a shocking win at New England. But things went bad in a hurry as the Cards dropped 11 of their final 12 games, missing the playoffs for a third-consecutive year and costing Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt his job. With expectations low in 2013, Arizona will be improved this season and it starts with a defense that ranked in the Top-10 of the NFL last year. The offense was dismal, but the front office upgraded the offensive line and after using a horrid combination of four players at QB last year, Carson Palmer is entrenched as this year’s starter. New Head Coach Bruce Arians comes over from the Colts and is deadset on utilizing All-World WR Larry Fitzgerald like he used Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis. With a much-improved offense and an underrated defense, we’ll gladly grab the points here against a St. Louis team that improved to 7-8-1 last year after a two-win season in 2012, but four of those wins were by six points or less. The Rams have only been a favorite six times since December of 2010 and they are 0-6 ATS in those games. Take the points. 23-17

CAROLINA (+3) over Seattle
The Seahawks and their fans have been saying “Super Bowl or Bust” all preseason. Those are lofty expectations for a franchise that’s missed the playoffs three out of the last five years. Add in the fact that they have a huge Sunday Night ESPN home opener vs. San Francisco on deck and you can see why this is a perfect spot to be on the Panthers, who went 6-1 in their final seven games last year. Upset! 27-20

UNDER 46.5 POINTS - Vikings at Lions
In our NFL Regular Season Over/UnderWin Total Best Bet Report, we went UNDER 7.5 WINS on the Vikings. The offense is a onetrick pony and even though the pony (Adrian Peterson) is a thoroughbred, the Purple aren’t going to score many points and will be an “UNDER” team all season. Let’s jump on that trend in Week 1 before the oddsmaker catches up. UNDER

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Bob Balfe

Dodgers -145

This is a playoff atmosphere and in that I am going to take the better baseball team and one of the best pitchers in the game. The Dodgers are on a mini losing streak and need to break out of that with their ace on the mound as they head into the playoffs. Take L.A

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Craig Davis

Today's free play of the day is on the SF 49ers over the Green Bay Packers. Sorry Packers fans, but this could be a long season for your group with very little change on defense (where they struggled last year) and an unproven run game.

Sure, Eddie Lacy is a big time talent coming out of college, but what has he proven since coming to the NFL? To date... NOTHING.

The Packers have to have a run game in order to make things easier on QB Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.

And speaking of that... Rodgers will be without Greg Jennings for the first time since taking over the starting job from Brett Favre.

He's got a gimpy Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to go along with James Jones. Then he's got a often lazy Jermichael Finley at TE to complete the cloudy picture.

On the other side, the Niners feel like they have some unfinished business to take care of and didn't have a ton of personnel changes which definitely plays in their favor.

Aside from not having Michael Crabtree in the passing game, the Niners still have their dynamic QB, a stable of RBs, and Vernon Davis.

I think the Niners win by 10, covering this low number.

4♦ SAN FRANCISCO

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Jeff Benton

Your Sunday freebie will be to lay the double-digits with the Indianapolis Colts as they host the Oakland Raiders.

Indy was one of the surprise teams last season, as the Colts caught lightning in a bottle and made it all the way to the postseason in Andrew Luck's first season under center.

I expect things to be just as rosy for Indy this season, as the Colts have hired Luck's former offensive coordinator at Stanford, Pep Hamilton, which should make young Mr. Luck feel plenty more comfortable as Indianapolis eases into the West Coast system.

The Colts also shored up their defense in the off-season, and I just do not see this Oakland team which does not have a proven quarterback it can turn to as the season gets underway, scoring too many points on the road this afternoon.

The Raiders went 4-6-1 against the spread last season in the underdog role, while the Colts covered 7 of their 8 home games a season ago.

Chuck Pagano has laid the foundation, now it is time to see it grow a little bit further this season, as for Oakland, that foundation is still shifting sands.

Lay it with the Colts.

2♦ INDIANAPOLIS

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Brad Wilton

Sunday's free play comes in the NFL as I back the Falcons and Saints to make their way Over the posted total.

Yes, this is the biggest total on the Week One schedule, but I can easily see this game ending up with 60 points or better combined before it goes final.

The Falcons played both of their postseason games last year Over the total, and it is doubtful to me that they will be able to stop Drew Brees and company often enough to keep the Saints from getting 5 or 6 scores this afternoon.

Conversely, it remains to be seen if Rob Ryan's defense is going to be able to keep Matt Ryan and company from getting at least 4 or 5 scores. The Saints played 4 of their final 6 games last year Over the total, and 5 of their 8 home dates last season also went Over the total. Included was a 31-27 win against the Falcons that made its way Over the posted price.

Each of the last 5 series meetings between the teams played at the Superdome have played Over, so go Over the total with the season-opener here in 2013.

4♦ ATLANTA-NEW ORLEANS OVER

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Brett Atkins

Off my free winner on Georgia over South Carolina, today I want you taking the Cincinnati Bengals in Chicago, and I suggest you buy the half point on this 3-point pup against the Bears.

And it's not just because I actually enjoyed this year's edition of Hard Knocks, I just think the Bengals are that much improved and will be looking to flex their muscles in the first game against a tough opponent that isn't an AFC North team, but that plays like one. This is a great season-opening test.

Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in more than 30 years, and there is excitement about the possibility of being labeled a division favorite.

Andy Dalton is 19-13 (.594) as a starter, the highest all-time win percentage by a Bengals quarterback (minimum 20 starts), and I have a feeling we're going to see him and wideout A.J. Green hook up a lot in this game.

On defense, well, last year's stop unit set a franchise record with 51 sacks — 12' by defensive tackle Geno Atkins and 11' by defensive end Michael Johnson. Atkins just inked five-year deal through 2018, and he'll be out to prove his worth and wreak havoc. And I love that, cause I've never been a fan of Jay Cutler. This offense of Chicago's is a mystery, as the Bears hired Marc Trestman as coach to replace fired Lovie Smith after they missed the postseason for the fifth time in six years.

Cincinnati is the better play in this game.

4♦ CINCINNATI

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Chris Jordan

My free winner for Sunday is on the New Orleans Saints laying the points against the Atlanta Falcons, and due to the fact we're seeing a 3-point spread, I want you buying the half point off and laying only 2' points. In the event this game goes to 3', go ahead and buy the half point back down to 3.

I'm sorry, but I'm not buying into the same reasons the Atlanta Falcons everyone else is, and I think Who Dat is back with Sean Payton back at the helm.

Sure, the Saints' defense was the worst in the history of Pop Warner football last season, and the way it allowed points and yardage was ridiculous. Good thing is, it can only get better. And you can't tell me that unit won't be out to improve immediately.

Heck, even without Payton and that defense, the Falcons struggled last year in New Orleans. They struggle on defense when they visit the Saints and can't even cover the tight ends. Enter Jimmie Graham. There's a going to be a big problem for Atlanta's linebackers.

Sorry, but at home back together again, I'm with the Saints lighting up the scoreboard, and drastically improving on D.

5♦ NEW ORLEANS

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New England -10 over BUFFALO:  The Pats have owned this series and in their last 9 games played here they are 7-1-1 and have outscored the Bills by 20 ppg in those 9 games. Here we have a rookie NFL coach, a rookie QB, and some injury problems for Buffalo in their, facing Brady, Belichick and a host of young WR's that looked very good in the preseason.  I look for Brady to go off here, especially after what Payton Manning did on Thursday. New England has also upgraded their defense and should be able to stop a less than average Buffalo passing game. New England is excited to be playing real ball and will take out their offseason frustrations on a Buffalo in this one, while at the same time sending a message to the rest of the league that they shouldn't be forgotten. Pats by at least 17 here.
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Tampa Bay/ NY Jets Under 40:  Let's face it this year the Jets are not going to win games by their defense. Geno Smith is not ready to be an NFL QB and that should have the Jets relying more on their run game this year, until Sanchez comes back. The Tampa defense struggled in the preseason, but they also played Baltimore, New England and Washington in three of their games and all 3 of those teams are high scoring teams. The only weak offense they played in the preseason was in the dress rehearsal game vs Miami and they held the Fish to just 16 points in the game and I can tell you this, the Miami offense is better than the Jet offense. The Jet defense played pretty well in the preseason and is the strength of this team, while the Tampa offense struggled in the preseason, averaging just 16.5 ppg in their 4 games. The Last 6 games in this series has averaged just 30.5 ppg, with the Under going 1-5. I expect another one in the low 30's between these teams here. 
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San Francisco/ Green Bay Under 49.5: (Added) I know that this has been a high scoring series as 56.2 ppg have been scored between these teams in the last 5 meetings, but i feel that today will be a bit different. The Packers had a rough time scoring in the preseason (9.3 ppg), thanks to many offensive injuries and even though Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will go in this one, the timing has to be off between Rodgers and those guys. The Packers will also be taking on an excellent defensive team in the Niners, who allowed just 10.8 ppg in the preaseason and who always plays great defense at home. Even when their backups were in their on defense, the Niners were able to shut down their opponents in the preseason. This is a deep and talented defense. Speaking of defense, the Packers displayed some of it in the preseason, allowing just 17.8 ppg in their 4 games. Yes The Niners offense has been more high scoring with Colin running the show, but I expect the Green Bay defense to step up and keep him under wraps in this one. This does not have the feel of a shootout like last year's playoff game, as I am expecting a bit more running and defense than the game that put up 76 points last year.42 points at most here.   
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Denver/ Baltimore Over 48: I have to feel this will be an uptempo game on both sides, which should lead to plenty of points. The Broncos have some injury woes on the OL, but still Peyton is behind center and he has plenty of weapons to get the ball to, including newly acquired Wes Welker. The bigger problem for Denver comes on defense, where they lost Von Miller (suspension) and Champ Bailey (Foot), so I expect the Raven to put up some points on them. The Ravens defense is banged up as well, plus Reed and Lewis are gone from this unit this year. I see some early season growing pains from the Raven defense this year. Both teams are hurting on the defensive side of the ball and with two very good offenses attack those units I expect plenty of points in this one. Yes
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Indianapolis/ Oakland Under 47:  The Oakland Raiders have little in the way of playmakers on offense and Terell Pryor will not step in and just take this offense to new heights. The Colts secondary is more than good enough to shut down receivers like Danarius Moore and Rod Streater, plus their pass rush will have Pryor running for his life  and that is something that he does do well and more running from him will also keep the clock running. The Colts will throw the ball allot for sure, but the Oakland secondary isnt terribly bad and they do get a boost with the return of Charles Woodson. We also note that the Colts are 5-0 to the UNDER in their last 5 games when playing the first of BB home games, while the UNDER is 5-1 in Oakland's last 6 games as a dog of 9 or more. You want another trend? How about Game 1 home teams that play in a dome and have an OU line of 49 or less are 14-4-1 to the Under. Look for this one to finish right around 40 points.
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CAROLINA +3 over Seattle:  Seattle is a very good team, but I just don't see Wilson having the same success as last year as teams now have some film on him. Also hurting the Seahawks in this one will be suspensions and injuries on the defensive side of the ball. that is not god when you're about to face Cam Newton and company, who feel they have something to prove this year. The Panther defense looked very good down the stretch and could be an even better group this year. Seattle will be in the thick of the NFC West all year, but I feel they will not start off on the right foot. The are missing some key pieces and am not expecting Wilson to have a good start to the year.
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Arizona +4 over ST LOUIS: Play ON any road dog in a conference game if they won between 25% and 40% of their games last year and are facing a team that had a losing record last year. This trend is courtesy of Stat Fox and has gone 24-3 ATS the last 10 years.

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Arizona vs. St. LouisFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: ArizonaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Arizona opened 4-0 in 2012 and traveled to St Louis for a Thursday night Week 5 game with the Rams. The Cards were a two-point road favorite and as it would turn out, the team's season unraveled that night in a 17-3 loss.  Arizona would win just ONE game the rest of the year, 38-10 over the Lions at home in Week 15 (note: the Lions finished 2012 on an eight-game losing streak). The powers that be have scheduled Arizona’s first game of 2013 at the ‘scene of the crime,’ as the Cards take on the Rams in St Louis in Week 1.
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The Rams are coming off a 7-8-1 season in Jeff Fisher’s first year as head coach in St Louis, quite an improvement from the team’s 2-14 record in 2011 (note: Rams had also had ‘nightmare’ seasons in 2007, 2008 and 2009, going a collective 6-32). The Rams were a pleasant surprise last year, especially considering they owned the best record within the NFC West, going 4-1-1. Fisher will not see Ken Whisenhunt across the sidelines this year, as he was let go after last year’s collapse. replaced by Bruce Arians, who made a HUGE name fort himself in helping lead the Colts to a terrific season last year.
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Arians took over as interim head coach for Chuck Pagano, who left the Colts to begin treatment for leukemia. Indianapolis went 9-3 under Arians, tying an NFL record for the most wins by an interim head coach. Arians now gets his first official NFL head coaching job, even though he won Coach of the Year honors in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts. "It's extremely exciting for me. It's something I never thought would happen. Last year was an unbelievable fairy tale ride for all of us, and the biggest part of that fairy tale was seeing Chuck (Pagano) get well and come back for that last game," Arians said. "But, yeah, it proves something to me. Whether it happened or not, I was satisfied that I had my taste and it was good. I could do the job, and (Cardinals owner Michael) Bidwell gave me the honor of being a head coach."
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This game features two QBs who have each won the Heisman Trophy and been selected as the overall No. 1 pick in an NFL draft. Both Carson Palmer (Arizona) and Sam Bradford (St Louis) are coming off solid seasons. Palmer threw for 4,018 yards with 22 TDs and 14 INTs last year for the Raiders. It was his third career 4,000-yard passing season. Bradford had a career year with 3,702 passing yards, 21 TDs and 13 INTs. Considering Arizona finished last in the league with an average of 75.3 rushing YPG last season and the Rams’ Steven Jackson opted out of the final year of his contract (leaving as the Rams' all-time leading rusher with a streak of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons), I see this game being driven and decided by the passing game and I say advantage, Arizona.
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Arizona had won seven straight trips to St Louis before last year's Week 5 loss and the Rams won the rematch in the desert on Nov. 25. Still, the Cardinals have won SEVEN of the last 10 meetings. Take the points.

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Dave Price

Detroit Tigers -121

The Royals have been playing well but can't be trusted with Chen on the mound against Detroit's big bats. The Tigers are sticking at a .286 clip and should have no problem getting to Chen. He has a 5.44 ERA in 17 starts versus the Tigers, who have touched him for 6 runs in each of his last 2 starts against them. The Royals are just 1-5 in Chen's last 6 starts versus Detroit. The Tigers are in better hands with Fister, who has a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts versus Kansas City. The Tigers are 5-2 in his last 7 starts versus the Royals, including 2-0 in his last 2. Detroit has won 8 of his last 10 starts overall. Take the Tigers.

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Joe Duffy

Arizona Cardinals vs. St Louis Rams    
Play: St Louis Rams -3½

We have faded new Cardinals QB Carson Palmer many times. While he is no doubt an upgrade from the stiffs the Redbirds have had since Kurt Warner, he is still grossly overrated.

He isn’t mobile, and playing in an offense where he must hold the ball to let downfield routes develop, this will be a bad matchup against the Rams’ pass rush.

Their offensive line suffered a big loss with the season-ending leg injury to LG Jonathan Cooper during the preseason. Cooper was the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. Daryn Colledge has moved from RG to LG; Paul Fanaika, who wasn’t even in the league last year, is the new starting right guard.

Things are not much better on defense. Two new safeties and are expected to have six new starters overall on defense. One veteran mainstay, linebacker Daryl Washington, will miss the first four games under league suspension.

Our pendulum theory, another of our successful ones, applies here. The Rams swept the series last year after Arizona had dominated the series.

The Rams Sam Bradford has had his ups and downs, but a guy with great upside has much better weapons with tight end Jared Cook, receiver Tavon Austin leading the way. Austin will probably be the rookie of the year. He is a big-time playmaker.

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WINNIPEG +8½ over SaskatchewanFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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There’s really no reason to go into all the numbers here. Anyone who knows or watches this league is quite aware that Saskatchewan has been a force while the Blue Bombers have been a joke. At 8-1, the Roughriders are widely expected to waltz into Winnipeg and win Sunday’s Banjo Bowl. Logically, 8-1 versus 1-8 should be no contest, especially when there is a half-season of turmoil attached to the latter record. Winnipeg has also started three different quarterbacks this season with results that do not evoke images of Peyton Manning. Whereas the Bombers seem to draw the name of their starting quarterback out of a hat, the Roughriders boast a passer (Darian Durant) who has thrown 21 touchdown passes and only one interception. Whereas the Bombers tend to underutilize their talented tailback, Chad Simpson, the Roughriders habitually feed the football to Kory Sheets, who is on pace to set CFL single-season records for rushing yardage and carries. The Rough Riders are this year’s favorite to win the Grey Cup.
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Thing is, it’s rarely as easy as it seems. Saskatchewan is a team that can easily lose focus and not show up, as they did in recent games at home to Montreal and last week, also at home to these same Bombers in the first half and much of the second half. Sure the Riders won 48-25 but that game was 31-25 with nine minutes to go in the game. A pro football team, whether it be the NFL or CFL, will at some point respond to being humiliated each week. After seven straight losses, the time for that to happen is today in this annual event (Banjo Bowl) that usually brings out the best in Winnipeg. The Bombers are not as bad as their record. They have decent players throughout their line-up and they are not going to just lie down in this one. Defensive end Alex Hall, for example, has a league-high 11 sacks and overall, the Bombers lead the league in sackings. The compellingly unpredictable nature of the CFL is unalterable over time. The only way of explaining an inexplicable result is to say: “That’s the CFL.’’ This one has the feel to it and it would not surprise us one bit to see the inexplicable happen here.
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Jeff Alexander

Tampa Bay Rays -140

The Rays are struggling, but they have the right guy on the mound to help them avoid being swept. The Rays are 19-7 in Moore's last 26 starts, 11-2 in his last 13 road starts and 4-0 in his last 4 starts versus losing clubs. He has a 3.02 road ERA on the season and a 1.80 ERA in 3 starts versus Seattle. I should also mention how much trouble Seattle has had with southpaws lately. The M's are 1-8 in their last 9 games versus a left-handed starter and 0-5 in their last 5 home games versus a lefty starter. Ramirez is 5-1 through 9 starts but is fortunate to have a winning record considering he has a 5.06 ERA in these games. His ERA jumps to 6.26 in the 4 home starts he's made. We'll bet the Rays.

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Atlanta / New Orleans Over 55FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Atlanta walked on water last year with a 14-4 SU record. They played an overall weak schedule and caught the good teams they played at the right time. But after an 11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS beginning, the bubble burst when the competition stiffened; the Falcons finished 3-3 SU, 2-4 ATS losing in the second round of the playoffs to San Francisco. This is a team who survived in the airways as they were outrushed 124/4.8 to 91/3.9. Offensive skill position players are top notch, with QB Ryan and WR duo of White and Jones joined by TE Gonzalez. They will be joined by RB Jackson, who may struggle a bit behind a still questionable OL. Atlanta clearly made their secondary a priority in the draft (4 in the first 7 rounds). But today they may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Following a vintage season in 2011 in which the Saints went 14-4 SU, 13-5 ATS, they struggled without the leadership of HC Payton following Bountygate. Now Payton returns with an offense virtually intact from the 2011 team. The object is for the addition of new DC Rob Ryan, to improve a stop that allowed 28/440, more yards than any other team in NFL history. But what intrigues this bureau the most is whether the Saints can duplicate their 9-0 SU ATS home season of 2011, in which they defeated foes by an average of 22 PPG. Don’t be surprised if QB Brees and this veteran offense make a good start toward matching that record in Game 1.
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Dallas -3FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Hardly a Technician's Dream Game favoring my selection in this game. The Cowboys enter 2013 on a run of 3-17 ATS as home favorite. Under 3rd year HC Garrett, they are mediocre 16-16 SU, 11-20 ATS. This perennial playoff team has now missed the playoffs 3 consecutive years. Last year, they were outrushed 124/4.5 to 79/3.6. With plenty of OL questions abounding, the combination of QB Romo to WR Bryant may just not be enough to get the job done. Especially when considering that Romo is 11-25 ATS in divisional play. That is in direct contrast to the technical numbers of the visitors. The HC Coughlin/QB Manning tandem now stands 45-28 ATS away and 37-21 ATS as dog. Those numbers have gotten better of late with the Giants entering on a run of 8-3 ATS road dog L2Y. Playing in Dallas has not been an issue for the Gmen who are 4-0 SU ATS at this site with wins of 5, 3, 6 and 2 points. Let's give the Cowboys one contrary chance to turn around all those numbers in a home opener against a hated divisional rival in a contest they have pointed for the entire offseason.

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SPORTS WAGERS

BUFFALO +10 over New England

We’re always on the lookout for popular, overpriced teams and that comes into play here. This line is based on pedigree, history and the popularity of the Patriots. Oddsmakers have all the data to see which way the bettors lean in the first few weeks of the season and that luxury allows them to inflate lines. This line is inflated because the Patriots swept the Bills last year while scoring a ton of points. They won 52-38 in Buffalo and later 37-31 at home. The Patriots have won nine of the last ten match-ups and there is little they enjoy more than beating up the Bills. Add in a desire to show the world that Tom Brady is just fine and most assume this will be another beat-down. We see it differently. The Patriots have many sore issues. Aaron Hernandez has gone from tight end to ending his career with a bullet. Rob Gronkowski is injured.  Wes Welker had a tiff with Bill Belichick and left for the Broncos. Basically about 85% of the receptions from last year are on the sideline or just plain gone. That leaves undrafted Zach Sudfeld to be the primary tight end this week. Sudfeld is the man until Gronk returns assuming Brady still uses tight ends the same. Tom Brady is still Tom Brady and he’s still likely going to put up some points here. It sure doesn’t hurt that the Pats running game with Stevan Ridley carrying the load, could rack up yards here. Still, with so many new faces for Brady to throw to, it’s not going to be as easy in the past. New England’s defense was ranked 24th out of 32 teams last year. That was against a rather easy schedule that saw the Pats play Jacksonville, St. Louis, Miami twice, the Jets twice, Buffalo twice, Arizona and Tennessee. They have done little to upgrade and that’s a serious problem. When you’re laying this type of lumber on the road, only a 20-point lead or better will feel comfortable.

Buffalo’s defense was shredded quite a bit last season but they still allowed fewer yards per game than the Patriots. That was with an offense that could not produce and that meant the defense was on the field far too often. This year, the Bills offense has weapons. E.J. Manuel is fearless and talented. He’s still a rookie and he’s almost guaranteed to make some mistakes but he will not get flustered and he won’t be overwhelmed by this stage. The Bills are headed in the right direction with a team stocked with young talent. The Bills brought in new head coach Doug Marrone and his offense coordinator both from Syracuse. Marrone was the original architect of the Saints prolific offense and seeks to install that sort of scheme with the Bills. C.J. Spiller enters his fourth NFL season and finally had a breakout in 2012 when he ran for 1244 yards and added 43 catches for 459 yards and a total of eight touchdowns. He ended the year on a very high note and the new regime of Marrone has claimed they want to use him as a workhorse back who also receives. Steve Johnson has been a solid 1000 yard receiver for each of the last three seasons. The Bills also added 2.09 pick Robert Woods from USC as the #2 and 3.16 pick for Marquise Goodwin to compete with T.J. Graham as the #3 wideout. The Bills spent big money in the NFL draft for three impact offensive players and that will pay dividends. Woods has already impressed enough to secure the #2 spot. If Doug Marrone still has any New Orleans left in him, here is where the benefit will be felt. Aside from QB, Buffalo has better or equal talent in all the skilled offensive positions. They are not going to lay down here. The Bills have a new outlook, new coaches and plenty of optimism to pull off this upset or at the very least stay well within this range.


Tennessee +6½ over PITTSBURGH

We’re not even convinced that the Steelers are the better team here. They’re the more popular team by a landslide but they’re now without Heath Miller, Mike Wallace and their new star RB, Le'Veon Bell is out. The Steelers offense completely lost their punch. This is a team that did not score more than 27 points in any game last season and they’re certainly no better this season. Ben Roethlisberger had another down year in 2012 when he suffered a shoulder and rib injury. He also had a knee scope done in the offseason. Big Ben is not getting better, he’s not getting younger and he doesn’t have the same weapons he’s had in the past. When Mike Tomlin took over this team, they were hard-nosed and they were good. Poor drafting, a brutal offensive line, no running game and a deteriorating roster puts the Steelers in the same class as a lot of below .500 teams.

The third season of HC Mike Munchak is under way and still they want to see Jake Locker become the quarterback they thought they were drafting in the first round of 2011. Locker has only played in 16 games over those two seasons thanks to a shoulder injury last year. This is clearly Munchak's team by now and reports are that Locker had a very good camp. The Titans have upgraded in several areas including the offensive line and receivers and they also have a guy named Chris Johnson running the ball. Chris Johnson set himself up to be disappointing after rushing for 2006 yards in just his second season. The reality is that he has been above 4.0 yards per carry each season and has never rushed for fewer than 1047 yards. He gained 1243 in 2012 along with 232 more yards as a receiver and Tennessee has a very capable #2 running back in Shonn Greene. Tennessee’s defense is pretty much unchanged from a year ago but they don’t have a lot of offense to deal with here. This one is likely going to be a street-fight that comes down to the wire. We’re calling the Titans to win outright but these ridiculous points being offered are simply too juicy to pass up on.


ST. LOUIS -3½ over Arizona

The Cardinals have been in the same boat as the Jaguars, Jets and Chiefs over the past three years but they are not being treated as such on this opening day. This line opened at Arizona -4½ but has been bet right down this morning (Sunday) to -3½ and that prompts us to step in. The reason for the optimism surrounding the Cardinals is that Bruce Arians was hired and he brings his offensive mastermind style to the desert where offense has all but disappeared. New players and new schemes all around no doubt take time to come to fruition but the team looks vastly upgraded even before it ever steps onto the field. However, the Cardinals have a long way back to respectability and a start away from home makes a win this week a tall order.The Cardinals have produced one of the worst passing attacks for the last couple of seasons as the team tried to convince themselves that Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Derek Anderson could get the job done. They could not. The team has languished in mediocrity since Kurt Warner left so now the upgrade is with Carson Palmer but we’re not buying that upgrade until we see it. Palmer is way past his prime, he’s an “old” 34 years of age and has taken a serious beating over the years. Signed for 13 million by the Raiders, Oakland was willing to part with Palmer for nothing in return and was thrilled to get him off the payroll. The Cardinals strength is in their wide receivers but with no running game, it’s also one–dimensional. The Rams defense continues to improve with CB Cortland Finnegan and LC James Laurinaitus. Last year both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady had big games in St. Louis but in the other six home games, the Rams allowed just one passing touchdown.

The Rams enter into 2013 with a defense that has greatly improved and a completely retooled offense. Surprisingly the Rams did not elect to really replace the departed Steven Jackson other than fill in with the depth already on the roster. That tells us something. The Rams are no longer a run-first attack using Jackson. It now joins the rest of the league with a pass-first scheme that now has plenty of targets for Sam Bradford. It is not nearly as much fun playing the Rams since Jeff Fisher took over and Fisher, unlike last year, has the luxury of knowing what he has and how to utilize them. The same can’t be said for Bruce Arians and while the Cardinals figure to be better over time, they are getting way too much credit by the betting public on this Sunday morning. We’ll side with the books in this one. 


JACKSONVILLE +4 over Kansas City

The Jaguars are projected to be horrible. They have no fans and they are the least followed team in the NFL by a wide margin. Jacksonville is also coming off a 2-14 season. In the June draft, when it was Jacksonville’s turn on the clock, everyone went to their fridge or the bathroom. Nobody cares about this team and nobody talks about them. The players know it and they’ll come into this season with a chip on their shoulder in much the same way the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL did two years ago when they were expected to move elsewhere and written off for dead before the season even started. Jacksonville is in that same boat. The Jags hired Gus Bradley as head coach after he ran the Seattle defense for the last four seasons. The offense will be run by Jedd Fisch who coached with the Seahawks when he met Bradley and who comes off running innovative offenses in college. His last job was running the University of Miami's offense for the last two years. Fisch inherits a group of players who might actually have more talent than we could know so far and his challenge will be turning high draft picks from the last couple of seasons into productive players. Blaine Gabbert is back for his third season. He missed six games last year with a nerve problem in his arm and was outplayed by journeyman Chad Henne. Gabbert is no lock to get the start here because of an injured thumb but if he can’t go, Chad Henne will and there is not a lot that separates the two anyway. Maurice Jones-Drew comes off a terrible season where he held out then showed up with his tail between his legs and nothing to show for it. And MJD then struggled for a few weeks before getting a Lis Franc injury that cut his season off at week seven. But Jones was a top five back for the three previous seasons and at the age of 28 he still has plenty in the tank. His rehab has gone well and he is expected to be 100% for this first game of the year. How he fits into the new offense is not really an issue - he is by far the best weapon of the offense and he's playing for a major payday next year somewhere else so motivation or lack thereof will not be a factor.

The Chiefs are getting a lot of hype with three Pro Bowl linebackers and a Pro Bowl safety in the forms of Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry. They have a stud RB in Jamaal Charles and they also have a proven head coach in Andy Reid and an experienced QB in Alex Smith. On paper it all looks pretty but Kansas City also went 2-14 last season. The Chiefs had the worst QB and WR stats in the entire league in 2012 so how this all meshes is pure speculation. These are two very bad teams looking to bounce back to respectability using all new coaches. It is premature to rely on Alex Smith against a defense that only allowed seven passing touchdowns to visitors last year. It’s also premature to label Reid as the teams’ savior. Reid had mega talent in Philadelphia for years and couldn’t do a damn thing with it. Pro sports history is lined with teams that were projected to challenge for a championship after making significant upgrades in the off-season but did not come close to meeting expectations. This year’s Toronto Blue Jays and Anaheim Angels come to mind, as does the L.A. Lakers and numerous others over the years. The Kansas City Chiefs have that hype surrounding them and even though it’s just Week 1, it’s a sell-high opportunity. Alex Smith is adequate, nothing more. Andy Reid is old-school and old-school coaches rarely do well anymore. Practically the entire betting world is on the Chiefs here and that’s another huge red flag. The oddsmakers were very aware that putting out a small number (line opened at -3) would attract a ton of Kansas City money and it did just that and will attract more. The oddsmakers could have put out a -6 here and not sway a single bet but they didn’t. They made the Chiefs a small, enticing favorite and the public is eating it up. We urge you not to follow suit. This is the trap of the day.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

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Chicago Bears over Cincinnati BengalsSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Bengals actually went 6-2 on the road last season, a feat that will be very difficult to repeat even as Cincinnati is emerging as one of the top teams in the AFC. The Bengals will be an attractive underdog given the coaching staff transition for the Bears but it is not a role that Cincinnati has fared well in recently. Chicago has been a strong early season performer in recent years and the new offense has a lot of potential as the Bears have elite skill players to go with an always solid play-making defense. Most assume the Bengals will be one of the best defensive teams in the NFL this season but the schedule looks much tougher this year and this will be a Bears offense that has some unknowns this early in the year. Chicago in the Cutler era has lived and died by turnovers and protection and in week 1 it may be tough for the Bengals to be overly aggressive on defense. Chicago has won eight of the last 10 home openers and this is a short price at home for a team that did win 10 games last season despite the changes.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Harry Bondi

NY GIANTS (+3.5) over Dallas

We have UNDER 8.5 wins for the Cowboys in our NFL Regular Season Win Total Best Bet Report where we explain that Dallas went 8-8 last year and did nothing in the offseason that makes us think they are a better team in 2013. “Jerry’s World” has hardly been a home field advantage for the Cowboys and their prime time dud of a QB. Dallas is 3-13 at home the last three seasons and Tony Romo’s career ATS record at home is 19-30, including an 11-25 mark against divisional opponents. The Boys are also a dismal 5-14 ATS as a chalk in their last 15 chances. Now, they’re laying 3.5 points to a Giants team that has the better head coach and better quarterback? The G-Men are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 when catching points and cash in again as underdogs here on Sunday Night Football.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Wunderdog

Toronto at Minnesota
Pick: Minnesota -103

In an even game, according to the oddsmakers, Toronto has an uneven starter going in Esmil Rogers (4-7, 4.76 ERA); with the team 2-7 his last nine starts. This is a tough situational spot for the Blue Jays, the end of a six-game road trip which saw them out in Arizona before this. Rogers is 3-4 on the road with a 4.55 ERA as opponents hit .290 off him. Minnesota goes with starter Andrew Albers, who has had his struggles on the road, but he loves this park. Albers has a 2.74 ERA at home in 23 innings this season, where opponents hit .193 off him. Play the Twins.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

John Ryan

Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies

The simulator shows a high probability that Philadelphia will win this game and sweep the Braves in this three-game set. The Braves are experimenting with the Uptons and had them batting 1-2 in the lineup last night. That led to 6 combined strikeouts by the brothers with BJ striking out four times. They also used a ton of relief pitchers in last night's game where the Phillies closer Papelbon blew another save opportunity allowing a 2 run homer. The Braves then had to use Freddie Garcia in the bottom of the ninth and he allowed a home run to SS Galvis, who is hardly known for power hitting. The Phillies are putting in a Triple-A roster lineup nearly everyday and using this time to evaluate some of the strong talent they have in the farm system. This group is really starting to come together and playing as a unit. Several of these players, most notably 3B Ashe, have been on strong hitting streaks recently. I strongly believe that this Phillies lineup will get to Maholm in a very big way. Hamels has struggled in his career in day starts, but he will - for once - get enough run support to get the win. Maholm is just 1-14 (-13.1 Units) against the money line in road games when playing against a bad team (Win Pct. 38% to 46%) in the second half of the season since 1997. (Team's Record) Take Philadelphia.

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