Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Bruce Marshall

San Diego vs. Tennessee
Pick: Tennessee

At some point, QB Jake Locker (only 137 ypg passing) needs to demonstrate a bit more dynamism for us to keep shading Tennessee, which has played better than expected from gate. But offseason defensive upgrades have added a few needed  playmakers to the Titan stop unit mix.  And early looks at the new San Diego “D” (31 ppg) suggest it is hardly the old Steelers Steel Curtain reincarnated.  Unlike Eagles, Titans well-equipped to slow pace and play keepaway with CJ2K, and Philip Rivers likely without preferred target Malcolm Floyd (carried off field at Philly) this week.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Teddy Covers

St. Louis vs. Dallas
Pick: St. Louis

Even after their fraudulent cover (six Giants turnovers) on opening night, the Cowboys are still a woeful 2-10 ATS in their last dozen in Arlington; 4-13 ATS dating back to the start of the 2011 campaign.  And there’s no reason to think that the 2013 Cowboys will be any better at covering spreads as home chalk. 

The Cowboys have key injuries on both sides of the ball already, including DE Anthony Spencer, WR Dez Bryant, DE DeMarcus Ware and CB Morris Claiborne; all of whom are banged up right now even if they suit up on Sunday.  Monte Kiffin’s Cover-2 defense is looking every bit as suspect as Rob Ryan’s defense was last year. That’s particularly bad news against a Rams offense that is going to spread the field and play uptempo football; a style the Cowboys have repeatedly struggled to contain.

St Louis got off to a terrible start last week at Atlanta, but they nearly rallied back for the win.  In Week 1, they also were outplayed early, but that time they did rally back for the victory against Arizona.  This is a team playing well during crunch time, and not giving up when trailing – the backdoor should be open should we need it.  And it’s surely worth noting Fisher’s 11-4 ATS mark as an underdog since he arrived in St Louis, a continuation of his moneymaking history in this role with the Titans.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Steve Merril

Houston vs. Baltimore
Pick: Houston

The Ravens’ defense has been torched for 5.9 yards per play which is much worse than the Texans allowing 4.3 yards per play.  Houston has played significantly better football so far so we’ll lay the short price with the Texans on Sunday afternoon.

Houston looked like the best team in the NFL when they opened the 2012 season at 11-1.  The Texans have come out strong once again this season even though it doesn’t look that way on the scoreboard.  Houston won their season opener 31-28 at San Diego and beat Tennessee 30-24 in overtime last week.  While both wins were close on the scoreboard, Houston dominated both games as they held a 51-28 first down edge while out-gaining those opponents 901-511.  That’s clear domination on both sides of the ball despite winning both games by a combined 9 points.

Baltimore has not looked good in either of their first two games.  They were blown out 49-27 at Denver in their season opener and they barely beat the Browns last week 14-6.  The Ravens haven’t been able to run the ball (2.8 yards per rush) and Ray Rice has been declared out for this game.  He is a major piece of the Ravens’ offense, and without him on the field, it’s hard to imagine Baltimore moving the ball with consistency.  The Ravens’ defense has been torched for 5.9 yards per play which is much worse than the Texans allowing 4.3 yards per play.  Houston has played significantly better football so far so we’ll lay the short price with the Texans on Sunday afternoon.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Scott Spreitzer

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Prediction: New Orleans Saints

We cashed with the Cardinals in week-1 and I like what new HC Bruce Arians has brought to this team. But they're in a tough spot on Sunday. Arizona's secondary, while owning some talent, is young and they're allowing 286 yards passing per game. They'll face their toughest test yet against Drew Brees and the league's 5th ranked passing offense that gains over 318 yards passing per game, thus far. Keeping up with the Saints will not be easy, especially with the way the Saints' new look defense is performing and also due to a banged-up Arizona receiving corps. We also have no doubt New Orleans' DC Rob Ryan will "bring it" against a drop-back traditional QB in Carson Palmer. The Saints are on a 17-5 ATS run at home and I'm expecting a wide-margin win on Sunday. I'm recommending a play on the Saints, minus the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Jimmy Boyd

Baltimore Ravens +1½

There is a lot of value on the Ravens getting points at home against the Texans. Houston's defense has been horrible this year. They are giving up an average of 26 points per game. As far as total yardage goes, Houston is in line with any other average defense, but the fact that they give up so many points off that yardage tells me this red zone defense is not good.

The Ravens are coming off a confidence boosting performance last week against the Cleveland Browns. After getting torched in the season opener, they responded by holding Cleveland to just six-points. Their run defense has been solid, allowing just 65 yards per game and three yards per carry. That should interrupt the offensive flow of this Houston team that relies heavily on Arian Foster's ability to run the ball.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Kyle Hunter

Chargers vs. Titans
Play: Over 42½

The San Diego Chargers offense has been able to move the ball very well in their first two games. Phillip Rivers makes a lot of mistakes, but he can lead his team down the field as well. The Chargers defense is one of the worst in the league, and Chris Johnson should get going against this weak defensive front. The Titans defense looked great against Pittsburgh, but that was more about the Steelers bad offense than the Titans defense being good. This number is set too low. Take the over.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Nick Parsons

Dodgers vs.Padres
Play: Under 7

The visitors' starting pitcher is 7-0 with a 1.61 ERA over his last nine starts.

The home sides' hurler is coming off perhaps the best start of his entire career.

With these two competent men on the bump, I believe runs will be at a premium this afternoon.

Zack Greinke (14-3, 2.74 ERA)

Greinke continues to impress down the stretch and is coming off another victory vs. the D-Backs on Tuesday, allowing two runs off six hits and one walk while striking out five over six frames in his team's eventual 9-3 victory.

The veteran has now given up two earned runs or fewer in each of his last 10 starts.

Note that Greinke has been particularly effective on the road as well, 7-2 with a very respectable 3.42 ERA.

Andrew Cashner (9-8, 3.40 ERA)

Cashner is coming off a brilliant outing, one-hitting the Pirates in a complete game shutout on Monday.

The big right-hander has given up just four earned runs over his last 37 2/3's innings of work.

Note that he owns a spectacular 5-3, 2.14 ERA home record.

The Bottom Line

Note that Greinke is 3-0 with a tiny 2.08 ERA in four career starts vs.the Friars.

Not to be outdone, Cashner owns a minuscule 1.20 ERA in two starts vs. LA this year.

Enough said. Consider a second look at the "under" in this matchup.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Jack Jones

New England Patriots -7

Rarely will you get the Patriots as a favorite of a touchdown or less when playing at home. Due to a shaky start, they are certainly undervalued heading into this contest with the Buccaneers. It was going to take some time for Tom Brady to get accustomed to his new receivers, and that has been the case. However, after playing together for three weeks, you can bet the kinks will start working themselves out in the near future.

In the meantime, the Patriots’ defense is getting overlooked. This is one of the most improved units in the entire league in 2013. New England has held its first two opponents to averages of 15.5 points and 302.0 total yards per game. It has also forced six turnovers in the early going. This defense picked off Geno Smith three times in the fourth quarter alone last week to seal the victory.

Playing with three extra days of rest since last playing on Thursday, September 12 will give the Patriots an advantage in this one. Those extra three days are crucial for Brady to work things out with his receivers and get on the same page. Tampa Bay is going to have a hard time keeping up on the scoreboard with the way its offense has played this season. It has only averaged 15.5 points and 261.5 total yards per game as Josh Freeman continues to struggle at the quarterback position.

Tampa Bay is 3-11 against the spread after two or more consecutive losses over the last three seasons. New England is 10-2 against the number off a division game over the last three seasons. Belichick is 14-3 against the spread after gaining 4 or less yards per game in the previous game as the coach of New England. The Patriots are 21-6 against the number in their last 27 games after accumulating less than 250 total yards in their previous game. Bet the Patriots at a great price Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

DB Consensus

Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Chicago Bears

The (2-0) Chicago Bears travel to Heinz field to take on the (0-2) Pittsburgh Steelers. Desperation fills the air in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers look totally different from team that won Superbowls in 2006 and 2009. Through two games the Steelers have produced 9 and 10 points, and a TOTAL of 75 rushing yards. Big Ben and offensive coordinator Todd Haley are butting heads, the WR's are complaining about lack of catches, and the whole offense looks out of sync. Now the Bears come to town sporting their normal stingy defense and a revamped offensive attack. Chicago has balance on offense so far, rushing for 104ypg and passing for 267. The "new look" offense is getting the ball out quicker, Cutler is getting sacked less, and it's producing results, with the Bears averaging 27.5ppg. Despite Pittsburgh's desperate need for a win, expect Chicago to dominate the line of scrimmage and get the W.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Andy Iskoe

Tennessee -3

Kudos for the Chargers who made the tough trip east and controlled the game pace in their 33-30 upset win at Philadelphia. But now they must make another long trip to face an improved Titans team that nearly won at Houston after winning at Pittsburgh to open the season. This is Tennessee's home opener and the fans have been given reasons to be optimistic. Both teams are 2-0 ATS with all 4 covers coming as underdogs. San Diego has the more potent offense but also the more vulnerable defense. The Chargers are also more prone to turning the ball over, especially RB Mathews. The Chargers have had great success in this series, however, winning all 6 meetings over the past decade including both games on this field. But most of the wins came when the Chargers were one of the most talented teams in the league and a regular Playoff contender. Now they are more of a team in transition with a first year coach. The preference is for the energized home team with the better defense.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

Green Bay -2.5 over CINCINNATI: The Bengals are in a tough spot here, coming off their Monday nighter vs bitter rival Pittsburgh and must face a Packers team with a hot QB and a very good defense. Also making matter worse for the Bengals is the fact that they are 1-7 ATS following a win over Pittsburgh, plus we note that teams are just 5-16 ATS after facing Pittsburgh if they are home and facing a .500 or worse opponent. The Packer have a very solid from 7 and they spent the last 2 weeks vs mobile QB, but to day they face Andy Dalton who is a very pedestrian QB and that should help this Packers team pressure him into some costly mistakes. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball we have a hot QB in Rodgers, who has 7 TDP to just 1 INT and their running game is starting to get going as well. The Bengals defense is solid, but they are not facing a pathetic Steelers offense this week and this defense did struggle vs the Bears, allowing them 242 yards passing in the game. Clear edge to the Packers on offense, and I give them the slight edge on defense, pus they have the situational edge as well. Packers by at least a TD here.   

Atlanta +1 Over MIAMI: Miami Dolphins, meet reality. Im not saying this isnt a good team, but I feel they may be just a bit overconfident after taking their first two games on the road. Yes they won at Cleveland, but Cmon, that team is a mess and then they won at Indianapolis, a team that has no running game, no OL and will be taking a step back from last years surprising showing. Despite the 2-0 start Miami was still outgained in the two games and their pass defense comes in ranked 20th in the league, as they allowed 315 yards to Indy and 244 yards to Cleveland. Now, teams in their home openers are just 5-20-1 ATS, in non-conference games, if they won their first two games on the road, yet were outgained in both. Also speaking of home home openers, we not that the Fish are just 2-8 ATS in their last 10, while Miami is also 0-7-1 ATS the last 8 in the series. Not many coaches take Inter-conference games all too seriously, but Mike Smith does as he is 16-4 SU and 15-5 ATS in such games. We have yet to see Atlanta's best this year and while Miami is improved, i just don't see them stacking up to Atlanta on either side of the ball in this one. Look for the Falcons to take a close one here. 

Seattle/ Jacksonville Under 41: This Jacksonville offense is the poorest that the NFL has seen in a long time, as they have put up just 213 ppg and 5.5 ppg on the year. The prospects don't look much better for them improving on those numbers as they will be taking on the best defense in the league and the Seahawks proved just that last week vs San Francisco. Seattle has allowed just 230 ypg on the year, including just 207 yards last week to the Niners, plus they have given up just 10 to points on the year so far. Really don't see the Jags getting more than 6 or 7 in this one and they could even get shut out. On the other side of the Ball the Jags have played well on defense, ranking 9th in total defense and 2nd vs the pass. They do rank 31st vs the run and in this game all the Seahawks may have to do is run the ball and play great defense. I don't even think putting up more than 31 points is even on their radar for this one. They know they don't have to do allot on offense to win it. 28-7 sounds about right here. 

2 UNIT PLAYS

NY Giants -1 over CAROLINA: The Giants are the better team here. Carolina has struggled on defense and their offense has been sluggish. Teams are figuring out Newton I think, plus they don't have a good ground game to take the pressure off him. The Giants have been a turnover machine this year, but I say that ends here as they take this game with the better offense and better defense.

New England/ Tampa Bay Under 44: The Pats offense is still a mess and the Bucs offense isn't all that better. Both teams have shown they can play some tough defense this year and that should be key here in keeping the scoring down. Not sure if either team will reach 20 points in this one as the game is played in the 30's.

Cleveland/ Minnesota Under 41: Boy, how will the Browns score? They have no Richardson and are using a 3rd string QB that has just 1 career start. That should negate a poor Minnesota pass defense, but the Browns also have no OL, which should help unleash a very tough pass rush for the Vikes, led by Jared Allen. The Browns defense has been very solid this year and will get a heavy dose of AP, which should eat plenty of clock. Another game clearly to be played in the 30's. 

1 UNIT PLAY

Detroit Washington Over 48.5: I see a lot of points here. Both offenses are very good, while both defenses are very bad. this one should be fun.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

SPORTS WAGERS

MIAMI -1½ over Atlanta

The Falcons come in at 1-1 after a road loss in New Orleans followed by a home win over the Rams last week. Atlanta stormed out to a quick 24-3 first half lead against St. Louis and held on for a 31-24 win but impressive it was not. Two weeks in and the Falcons offense that seemed to have been upgraded so far has been no better than 2012 and maybe slightly worse. That is related to the schedule though and the fact that once again the Falcons seem to be a different team when they are at home than on the road. Now they face a very good defense with a banged up offense and that makes this one not nearly as no-brainer as it may have seemed using 2012 sensibilities. The Falcons essentially have no running game (Steven Jackson faced his old team and ran three times for no game before leaving injured) and they come in with numerous injuries to key offensive personnel. 

Miami is still undervalued and that allows us to step in and play them at a cheap price. The Dolphins are 2-0 after two road wins in Cleveland and Indianapolis. The Dolphins played great defense and Ryan Tannehill threw for 319 yards and one score while Lamar Miller was much better when he ran 14 times for 69 yards and one score. Mike Wallace (9-115, TD) had his coming out party now that Joe Haden was not dancing with him. Tight end Charles Clay (5-109) caught a 67-yard pass and also turned back into a fullback so he could punch in the one-yard touchdown run. Miami continues to spread the ball around offensively. Tannehill is not getting the headlines like Russell Wilson in Seattle or RG3 in Washington but he’s slowly but surely becoming as reliable as some of the top QB’s in this league. Atlanta has surrendered 350 passing yards in both games and things don’t figure to get any better here because Atlanta is almost always worse on the road. This is the Fins home opener and their 2-0 record is no fluke. They have scored points at key times in both games. The defense has held at key times as well. The Dolphins are playing smart football and they’re playing good football. QB Ryan Tannehill is playing with a ton of confidence and he’s going to get a hero’s welcome this week because it’s been a long, long time since the Fish had a reliable QB that can take them deep into the playoffs. Tannehill is that guy and now is the time to get behind the Fish because after this win, they will no longer be undervalued.

Note: Pinnacle has this line at -2½ -109 and Bet365 has it at -2½ -115 so shop around for best line. Regardless, we'd still be comfortable spotting 2½.


Cleveland +7 over MINNESOTA

Brandon Weeden is out, we all knew that but as soon as Trent Richardson was traded earlier in the week, the money starting flowing in on the Vikings and it hasn’t stopped since. The 0-2 Vikes opened as a 5-point choice and that number is all the way up to -7 now and anytime money is pouring in on one side, it should raise some red flags. So now let’s compare the two teams. Cleveland has no QB and no RB game to speak of but what they do have is a huge chip on their shoulder and one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Browns allowed just 0.9 yards per rush in Week 1 against the Dolphins, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times. Against the Ravens, Cleveland gave up 2.8 yards per rush and got to Flacco twice. Cleveland has allowed just 37 points in two games and will now have its easiest assignment of the year when facing the Vikings pathetically inept QB, Chritian Ponder.

Given the choice between Christian Ponder and Brian Hoyer, it’s a no-brainer and it’s not in Ponders’ favor. Ponder is a mechanical and mental mess. Ponder is afraid to throw the ball to a receiver that isn’t at least three yards clear of a defender. He continues to slide out of the pocket at the first sign of trouble instead of stepping up into it and he needs receivers to run virtually perfect routes, otherwise he's always a threat to throw a pick-six. Had Ndamukong Suh not been a punk in Week 1, Ponder would have thrown a Pick-6. Last Sunday at Chicago, he did and his team lost by one point. Note to Ponder: Do what you do best, son. Take the snap, turn around, give the ball to A.P. and get out of his way. 

Brian Hoyer played in two games (one start) with the Cardinals last season, passing for 330 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He's clearly not an NFL- ready quarterback at this stage but he doesn’t have to be against a Vikings defense that has allowed 440 yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 32.5 points (30th).

Minnesota’s two losses have both been flattering. They lost by 10 to Detroit but should’ve lost by 20. They lost by a point to the Bears after numerous breaks and bounces, not to mention four Bears turnovers. The Vikes went 0-3 in the red zone last week and they were also torched for 307 yards on punt and kick-off returns. In summarizing, the Vikes have the NFL’s worst QB, the defense hasn’t been able to get off the field, special teams are horrible and they also have a coach that is starting to throw his assistants and everyone else under the bus, ala Mike Shanahan.

Contrary to what you’re being told over and over by the media, the Brownies have not thrown in the towel. They actually made a great move by dumping Richardson and it’ll pay off in the long run. RB’s in this league are a dime a dozen and they’re only as good as their surroundings. Through 32 games, only nine players have had 100-yard rushing games, including QB Terrelle Pryor. The numbers doubled in Week 2 (from three to six). Only two running backs are averaging 100 yards a game (LeSean McCoy and Doug Martin) and only eight are averaging 75 yards or a more a game. Meanwhile, there have been 23, 300-yard passing days in 32 games, including Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Robert Griffin III each doing it twice. It used to be the only elite, pass-happy QBs threw for 4,000 yards in a season. Through 2 weeks, 19 QBs are on pace to throw for 4,000. We mention this because Richardson’s departure is not as impactful as the media is leading you to believe. Richardson had 58 yards on 18 carries in Week 2 and 47 yards on 13 carries in Week 1. The media has written off the Brownies for dead. We guarantee you in this day and age, that the players and coaches have been reading and hearing about it too. Weeden will be back next week. The players and coaches will band together this week and show the entire football world that they are not dead. This is a winnable game and frankly, we wouldn’t spot 7 points with the Vikings against a CFL team, let alone this Cleveland team with a great defense and a huge chip on its shoulders.   


St. Louis +173 over DALLAS

In Week 1, the Rams needed a 14-0 fourth quarter to squeak by the Cardinals. The Rams then get offered 6 points in Atlanta last week and found themselves down 24-3 at the half. They made it closer in the second half but so what. They lost rather easily in the minds of those who bet and that’s really all that matters. The point is, the Rams stock did not increase with that performance last week (or in Week 1) yet they’re being offered significantly less points in Dallas. Why? Dallas is every bit as good as Atlanta but this line does not reflect that. There are times when you have to read between the lines and this is one of those times. Dallas is a poor favorite. When expected to win, they rarely do. They were handed a victory in Week 1 when the G-Men turned it over six times and they could not score more than 16 points in a loss to KC last week. Additionally, the Cowboys have serious issues on both lines and when you’re inferior on the line on both sides of the ball, it’s a huge handicap to overcome.

The Rams have not played to their potential yet. They’ve had two outstanding second halves in both their games so far and they’re on the verge of a solid 60-minute effort. Jeff Fisher is one of the best coaches in the league in preparation and he’s also one of the best when taking points. In fact, Fisher is 11-4 against the number over his last 15 games when being offered a margin. Additionally, QB Sam Bradford has yet to be sacked and he’s been as good as anyone in finding open receivers. A good QB with time will shred any defense and Bradford is more than good. Dallas is still Dallas. They make too many mental and physical mistakes, they’re not well-coached or disciplined and they’re always ripe to get upset. The Rams are none of the above. St. Louis is strong in the trenches, they get after the opposing QB’s, they protect their own QB and they’re vastly superior here on both the offensive and defensive lines. We could take the points here but we’re suggesting we’re not going to need them, as we get a pretty sweet take-back on the better team. Rams outright.


Kansas City +3 over PHILLY

Chip Kelley’s offense looked unstoppable in Week 1 but we were quick to point out that it was an offense that had never been seen before and therefore the Redskins could not prepare for it. As it turns out, Washington’s defense is proving to be one of the league’s worst so far. Furthermore, that “great offense” could not keep pace with the visiting Chargers last week. This week, on a short week no less, this rookie coach will now have three days to prepare for a great defense against a veteran coach with huge motivation that knows these Eagles better than himself.

Bringing in Andy Reid raised expectations for the Chiefs offense but little did we know that it would make the defense second only to the Seahawks in points allowed. This is a big test this week since the previous road game went well in Jacksonville but they are not being touted as the hot new offense in the NFL. However, last week, K.C.’s defense held the capable Dallas offense to just 16 points overall and just six points after the first quarter. The Chiefs forced Dallas to abandon the running game completely because the ‘Boys could not move forward on the ground. The Eagles will present new problems but Reid does know what his opponent is capable of and exactly which one will do it while Philly Chip knows nothing about the Chiefs. Alex Smith is not terrible, not bad, and maybe good. Game Manager good. He has not only thrown for two scores in both games but he's starting to run more. Against the Cowboys, Smith took off eight times and gained 57 yards for a career high. It adds a nice element to the offense and a new wrinkle for opposing defenses to consider. Alex Smith knows how to win and rarely has a bad game. Smith now faces a team that has allowed over 320 yards to both opponents. The Chiefs offense hasn’t gotten in gear yet but that figures to change here because Philly’s defense is horrible.

As the media hypes up Chip Kelly for being an offensive innovator, they seemed to forget that you have to play defense too. The problem with the Eagles offense is, when it succeeds, it’s off the field in two minutes and the defense is sent back out. When it fails, the defense is back out in 30 seconds. This ain’t the Pac 10, Chipper and while the Eagles are a fun and entertaining team to watch, they are a bad team to spot points with because the defense can’t get off the field and that offense is going to look worse week by week as top teams and defensive coordinators make adjustments. We get the better team, the much better defense, a veteran coach that has prepped many times for every situation and we also get to take back some points with juice. We’ll gladly get in line for that.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

SPORTS WAGERS

B.C. Lions +5½ over SASKATCHEWAN

As back-to-back 9-point favorites over the Argos and Bombers the past two weeks, Saskatchewan not only failed to cover, they lost outright and now they’re giving away just 3½-points less to the best team out of that bunch. The reason the Riders are favored by 5½ is because B.C’s QB, Travis Lulay is out for a couple of weeks and we say bring it on. Lulay getting injured may turn out to a blessing in disguise. Lulay has been nothing but ordinary the entire season but his replacement this week, Thomas DeMarco (not Buck Pierce) is anything but ordinary. For the first time this year, the B.C. Lions offense looked like a well-oiled machine under Thomas. Thomas came in and played a near-flawless stretch by reading and beating blitzes, running for a first down, throwing a TD pass to Marco Iannuzzi, and just generally settling the nerves of Lions’ fans who had feared the worst when Lulay went down. In the Lions locker room after the game, Thomas received one of the game balls and the players responded by chanting “Tommy”. This is one of those moments that can change the course of a season, as every teammate is pulling for DeMarco and that’s huge. B.C. is coming off a 36-14 win over the Alouettes and they figure to carry that momentum into this game and even dig down deeper in support of DeMarco’s first start.

Meanwhile, the Riders have suddenly turned into a mess. They’ve been regressing for seven weeks and now the loss of Kory Sheets hurts the Riders more than the loss of Travis Lulay hurts the Lions. From a bevy of bad decisions made by QB Darian Durant, who has a history of going off the rails, to numerous turnovers and penalties, to the issue of three players, including two high-profile stars, who have been charged with aggravated assault following an incident in Regina last month, Saskatchewan is coming apart at the seams. About this time every year, the truth about every team in the CFL gets exposed and right now the Riders are a team to avoid, especially when being asked to win by a margin. Frame of mind, momentum and current form all heavily favor the visitor and that’s the way we’re going to play it.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Joe Gavazzi

Detroit +1

All is not right with the Redskins. Last year, with a healthy QB Griffin, they averaged 166/5.2 overland. Griffin is still not the same runner he was following his knee surgery, and the Skins are running less than 18 times per game for only 91 RYPG. They have played 2 of the highest scoring offenses in the league in Philly and Green Bay, but they haven't even been close to slowing down those offenses. After 2 games the Redskins are allowing 36 PPG, 512 YPG, and 7.3 YP play. Most disturbing is a defensive front that has been gashed for an NFL worst 201/5.5. Despite a big passing offense, Detroit is at least trying to balance their attack by running 40% of their plays, 27 times a game. Surely they will have more success against the Redskins' defensive front. With success in that area, it opens up the aerial attack for QB Stafford to WR Johnson. A late loss at Arizona following their game 1 home comeback vs the Vikings will leave this team hungry for success against the desperate 0-2 SU ATS Redskins.

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Andre Gomes

San Diego Chargers +3

San Diego is coming from an excellent win at Philadelphia last week, even though they were on a poor physical spot, after playing at home a Monday Night Football game. The Chargers ripped apart the Eagles's defense with 126 rushing yards and 419 passing yards! San Diego killed a lot of time to stop Philadelphia from getting the ball as much as possible and this is why they had the ball for 40:17! When they had the ball, Philadelphia's offense was effective, but San Diego eventually won the game due to an excellent offensive game.

Tennessee is coming from a really close loss at Houston, where they almost won the game in lucky fashion. The Titans' defense looked good once again, with their pass defense limiting Matt Schaub to just 26/48 C/ATT (54% pass completion), 298 yards and two interceptions! Tennessee's offense was similar to what they had done back in Week 1 against the Steelers: avoid pressure on Locker and use some heavy running. Locker struggled at times with a 17/30 C/ATT for just 148 yards, but he avoided turnovers quite well. Houston dominated the game stats wise, but Tennessee almost won the game due to being turnover-free the whole game.

For today, we have a nice matchup between a good offensive team (with poor defense) versus a decent (so far) defensive team with a poor offense. However, I really believe that San Diego's offensive quality is more legit than Tennessee's defensive quality. San Diego's offense has been great this season. The OL has been better this season, but the offensive success of the Chargers comes from the fact that Philip Rivers isn't taking a lot of risky shots, preferring to pass the ball to the RB's Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead, besides the TE Antonio Gates. Tennessee's defense played well on the first two games of the season, but Pittsburgh's offense is completely depleted, while against Houston, Matt Schaub burned himself by throwing too much risky attempting. San Diego has a more conservative playbook this season and I expect them to expose Titans's overrated pass defense in here.

On the other side, San Diego's defense allowed 31 and 30 points on their first two games of the season, but I believe that they are underrated. Houston scored just 14 points on the first three quarters of the MNF game, until the Chargers had a complete meltdown that included an interception return TD on a Rivers' pass. At Philadelphia, San Diego's defense struggled by not being able to stop Philadelphia's running game and also allowing a lot of big passing plays. The good news for the Chargers is that Tennessee's running game isn't as good as Philadelphia's, with Chris Johnson coming from 25+25 carries on the first two games of the season, while Tennessee's passing game is subpar, doesn't take a lot of risks, so we won't see Locker trying to expose the Chargers's secondary issues with big bombs.

I don't believe Tennessee is a better team than San Diego at all. The Titans's defense is being quite overrated in here and I expect San Diego's effective short passing game to expose them today. On the other side, the Titans' offense isn't good enough to expose some of the issues that San Diego's defense showed against Houston and Philadelphia, two much better offensive teams than Tennessee. Therefore, looking at the current line, I'll be taking San Diego in here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

SPORTS WAGERS

Toronto +147 over BOSTON

The Red Sox are home free and with just six games remaining, you know for sure that they’re going to be taking it a little easier in the final week. The Red Sox don’t need to steal a base or focus intently on every pitch. This club is going to the playoffs and they will only wait to see who they are playing now. R.A. Dickey gets the start today and manage John Farrell is likely going to be sitting some of his regulars. Knuckleballers have a history of throwing off some batters’ timing for a few days and that’s the last thing that these Red Sox player’s need. Besides, Dickey is at the top of his game with a 4-0 record over his past five starts to go along with a skill supported 2.73 ERA in which he’s struck out 26 batters over 33 frames. Dickey’s line-drive rate after the all-star break is an elite 17% and at this price he offers up a some great value.

Felix Doubront is filling in for now, as John Farrell sets up his rotation for the playoffs. Doubront has allowed 10 runs in two September starts in just 7.1 innings of work. Doubront maintained an impressive strikeout rate and xERA growth for most of the year after stepping into the rotation following some Boston injuries. However, Doubront’s real control gains remain elusive and gopheritis has killed him for two straight seasons. An abysmal .894 OPS with RISP and a .815 OPS at Fenway (.732 on the road) says there's plenty of work to be done. In this meaningless game, Doubront is a huge risk at this price against a very live Blue Jays team.


Texas +108 over KANSAS CITY ( 5 inn)

Alexi Ogando did everything Texas could ask in his 2011 conversion from reliever to starter but then ended up without a rotation chair for all of 2012, despite SPs dropping like flies around him. In 2102 his skills snapped right back to match prior bullpen work (2010). Ogando has shown he can thrive in either role. Ogando has touched the upper-90s with his heater since his most recent return from the DL. Keep in mind, though, that Ogando will almost certainly not throw deep enough into this or any other start to qualify for a win, so his value is in the first five innings and therefore, we’ll play it that way. Since his return, Ogando has made one start and four relief appearances over 11 frames and has a K/BB split of 2/9. He also has an outstanding 56% groundball rate and an incredible 4% line-drive rate. That line-drive rate is unsustainable but the point is, Ogando has never looked better. He’s always had nasty stuff and he appears to be getting stronger.

The same can’t be said for James Shields. Shields has some nice surface stats (12-9, 3.33 ERA) but there are warning signs galore in his profile. Shields’ is already up to 214 innings this season. He’s averaged over 200 a season over the past four years and there are not many starters in the majors that have logged more innings over that stretch. That mileage is taking a toll. Over his past five starts, Shields has an alarming 38%/31%/31% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball rate. His hit rate this season is at a career high 31% but over his last five starts, covering 39 innings, Shields’ hit rate is at 40%. Shields’ is laboring down the stretch and in a pennant race the toll these innings take get magnified because every pitch matters. In that regard, we like a much fresher Alexi Ogando to be in front after the first five innings.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Nelly

Tampa Bay Buccaneers + over New England Patriots

The Buccaneers found a way to lose again despite a strong effort against New Orleans. While the defense continues to stuff the run and make plays, the penalties have been extremely costly as this team continues to play with little discipline. New England has won ugly so far this season and there are serious limitations on offense even with Tom Brady still under center. If not for four turnovers the Patriots likely would have lost as huge favorites last week as the offense netted just 239 total yards. New England is not likely to be able to run the ball against Tampa Bay and there simply are few options in the passing game. Tampa Bay looks headed towards an ugly season but this team will likely continue to be a strong underdog performer as they were last season. Only three teams rushed for more yards than Tampa Bay last week as Doug Martin continues to emerge as one of the league's top running backs and while Josh Freeman deserves criticism he has always been a player with a high ceiling but through inconsistency. While these teams have opposite records the gap between these teams may not be significant as the wins for New England came against likely two of the worst teams in the NFL while Tampa Bay played right with the Saints last week.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Harry Bondi

NY JETS (-2.5) over Buffalo

As bad as the offseason was for Rex Ryan and the Jets, the team could easily be 2-0 right now. The defense has been stout, allowing 15 points per game and today they face Bills QB EJ Manuel, who will be making his first NFL start on the road. "Sexy Rexy" is 5-1 SU against rookie QBs in his career, with the lone loss coming last year against All-Pro Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. The Bills are 2-13 SU and 5-10 ATS in their last 15 road games, so we'll gladly lay the small number here with the home team.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Bob Balfe

Houston Texans -2.5

Joe Flacco just had a kid. I wonder how he slept this week. Ray Rice won’t be the lineup and they are thin at receiver. Simply put its going to be tough for them to score on this defense. Baltimore is thin on the defensive line and this is not that once scary defense that we all have known in the past. They are not healthy on offense and I just don’t see how they score in this game. Houston is a more balanced team on both sides of the ball and should win this game. Take the Texans.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 22

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Arizona Cardinals to cover the number vs. the unbeaten New Orleans Saints.

While I do believe the Saints are the better team with the better overall talent, I also believe Arizona is much better than they were a year ago and more than capable of keeping this game close... within a touchdown for sure.

Carson Palmer is starting to develop a nice chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald. I'm also quite impressed with the way he spread the ball around in last week's come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions.

They are starting to get their run game going with a stable of reliable running backs and I've been more than impressed with TE Rob Housler... both blocking and in the pass game.

While their defense is young, it's getting better and I believe they'll surprise the Saints with how fast they fly to the ball.

Drew Brees and the Saints looked very pedestrian last week in their comeback win over the Tampa Bay Bucs, but they still managed to find a way to win the game.

I believe that's what they'll do again today. New Orleans isn't looking for style points... they simply want to win the game, and my research tells me they'll find a way to win, but it won't be by more than a touchdown.

Take the Cardinals to keep this game within the number as your free play of the day.

2♦ ARIZONA

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