Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Mike O'ConnorFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Houston (+5.5) 22 INDIANAPOLIS 27FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The wakeup call was sounded this past week with the firing of HC Gary Kubiak after their 20-27 loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville after a terrible performance by an underachieving team. Despite outgaining the Jaguars 406 yards at 5.1 yppl to 281 yards at 4.9 yppl, they continuously shot themselves in the foot with poor penalties and uninspired play. I’m sure the firing got a lot of player’s attention and as a result I expect a better performance this week against the Colts, who they surrendered a 21-3 halftime lead to before losing 24-27 back in week 9. In this matchup both teams should be able to run the ball effectively, but the Colts have been below average passing the pass since WR Reggie Wayne has been out, and may struggle once again here against a Texans team that has been very good defending the pass (allowing 184 yards at 5.9 yps against teams that gain 223 yards at 6.1 yps on average). Offensively, Houston may have some opportunities against a Colts pass defense that is allowing 243 yards at 7.0 yps against teams that gain 235 yards at 6.4 yps on average. The Texans qualify in a 43-16 situation and my model only favors the Colts in this spot by (-3.9) but this Colt team is very good off of a loss (9-0 SU and ATS) the past two seasons and after their 28-42 beat down in Cincinnati last week, I expect them to play better at home in this spot as they look to gain some momentum as they head into the playoffs. I’ll lean slightly to the Texans plus the points.
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Philadelphia (-5) 28 MINNESOTA 18FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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After trailing 0-14 last week against the Lions, the Eagles made some adjustments to take advantage of the slippery playing conditions by abandoning the outside running game which was smothered early, to a more direct between the tackles approach, where defenders couldn’t gain traction inside. It worked as the Eagles came back to win 34-20 behind 301 rushing yards at 6.8 ypr. While it’s not rocket science, that’s the mark of a smart coach, one who is adaptable to game specific conditions and is willing to make changes on the fly. With the Cowboys loss to the Bears on Monday night, the Eagles are in the driver seat in the NFC East with a one game lead and will look to improve their position with a win in Minnesota. In their current five game winning streak the Eagles have outscored opponents 31.4 – 18.0, and after some early defensive issues, the Eagles have allowed just 17.4 points per game in their last seven. They’ll face a Vikings team that lost a tough one last week 26-29 to the Ravens and is really banged up with multiple injuries in their RB and TE groups as well as their defensive backfield. Philadelphia has multiple offensive and defensive advantages in this game and with the Vikings main offensive threat RB Adrian Peterson questionable with a foot injury and his backup Gerhart hobbled with a hamstring, this could be a long day for the Vikings. The only worry here for me is the threat of a letdown for the Eagles as they may be starting to feel a bit too good about themselves after their big win last week and with a big Sunday night showdown at home against the Bears next week looming. My model likes the Eagles here (-8.2) assuming Peterson plays and I also have a negative 186-300-17 statistical indicator that plays against the Vikings in this spot. I do have a 30-10 situation that applies to the Vikings but it’s not real strong. With some concern at this point about a letdown, I’ll lean with the Eagles minus the points.
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ATLANTA (-7) 32 Washington 22FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Redskins are a mess right now with the coach attempting to manipulate his way out while still getting paid, a QB/owner relationship that has undermined the coaches’ authority, and a defense that has been just awful this season. That being said, it’s hard to say how this team will play as backup QB Kirk Cousins takes over for Robert Griffin, and what their mental state is at this point. It’s probably not very good as most players expect a coaching change and lots of turnover in the offseason, and with nothing to play for right now this team could go in the tank. From a production standpoint, the QB change makes sense as Griffin has not played well and Cousins brings something different to the table that Atlanta will have to try and prepare for but it may not make much of a difference if the team around him has mailed it in. On the other side, the Falcons have also had a poor season but without the drama in Washington, and with some improvement in recent weeks as some players have come back and gotten a bit healthier, they will look to finish the season strong and head into the off-season with some positive momentum. Washington qualifies in a 155-89-11 situation and my model favors the Falcons by (-7.3) but I don’t have any faith in the Redskins at this point. After their blowout 10-45 home loss last week to the Chiefs and now travelling to play in Atlanta, who has been tough to beat at home, they will travel back to Washington to play division rival Dallas next week in a game that they might have some more focus on. Despite the situation, I don’t like the spot at all for Washington and will lean with the Falcons minus the points.
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San Francisco (-5) 21 TAMPA BAY 15FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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With their 19-17 home win against the division rival Seahawks last week, the 49ers improved their record to 9-4 and are currently the 6th seed in the NFL playoff picture with a one game lead over the Cardinals for the final wildcard spot. This is a tough spot for the 49ers as they just played a difficult game against their main division rival and now travel cross country to play a 4-9 Tampa team in a 10AM PST start time game before heading back home to play on Monday night football next week against the Falcons. The Bucs have clearly gained momentum after their 0-8 start and are 4-1 SU their last five games and 5-1 ATS in their last six. They will look to continue their positive momentum here and finish out the season strong against a 49ers team that may get caught flat. My model favors the 49ers here (-7.2) and I also have a statistical indicator that plays against the Bucs that is (186-300-17). Despite the technical support, I can’t overlook the spot and as a result I’ll offer a weak lean to the 49ers minus the points.
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OAKLAND (+4.5) 20 Kansas City 21FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Chiefs come into this game off of an easy 45-10 wipeout of the Redskins in Washington in a game that was never in question and look to pull even with the Broncos at 11 wins after Denver’s 20-27 loss to the Chargers on Thursday night. After losing three straight games, the Chiefs seemed to get back on track last week but the reality of it is that the Redskins were falling apart at the seams internally and that became public knowledge after the Shanahan news story broke and the subsequent developments in the story this week. The Chiefs aren’t as good as they played last week and season numbers show a team that is slightly below average overall from an adjusted yppl perspective. They have been opportunistic and have also had some luck on their side with a league leading +15 turnover differential (+7 in net fumbles). On the other side, the Raiders come off of a 27-37 loss to the Jets and have now lost three in a row and five of their last six. They have played better at home, with a 3-3 SU and ATS mark while the Chiefs are 5-1 SU and ATS on the road this season. Oakland qualifies in a 179-84-5 situation and my model only favors the Chiefs by -3.2 here so based on the numbers I like the Raiders plus the points.
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New Orleans (-6.5) 29 ST. LOUIS 18FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Saints come into this game off of a huge 31-13 win at home against the Panthers for the division lead. Their defense played well overall, holding Carolina to 239 total yards at 3.9 yppl while their offense rolled up 374 yards at 6.3 yppl. This week they face a Rams team that has not been able to stop the pass this year (allowing 249 yards at 7.1 yps against teams that gain 227 yards at 6.2 yps) and the Saints should be able to carve them up with a passing offense that has my #3 rating. The St. Louis offense will be hard pressed to keep up as they have some real problems offensively with a banged up and shuffled offensive line protecting a below average second string QB who will be throwing to subpar receivers. The Rams are going to rely on their good ground game to keep them in this one and they actually have a good match-up against a Saints defense that is not very good against the run. I’m sure Saints DC Rob Ryan has consulted with his brother Rex, who as HC of the Jets watched Kellen Clemens operate this Brian Shottenheimer offense for years when they were both with the Jets and may have some good information on tendencies and areas of vulnerability that he will look to exploit. This obviously isn’t a great spot for the Saints coming off two huge primetime games with a game against the Panthers on deck next week but New Orleans knows that they can’t afford to lose this game as they can still lose the division to the Panthers. I have situations going both ways in this one but my model favors the Saints here (-8.9) and with strong passing match-ups and good information on their side I like the Saints.
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TENNESSEE (+2.5) 21 Arizona 19FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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With their convincing 30-10 win last week at home against the Rams, the Cardinals moved their record to 8-5 and are currently the 7th seed as they continue to fight for a potential wildcard playoff berth. Their defense has been very good this season, and last week continued their good play at home as they held the Rams offense to 257 total yards at 5.1 yppl with four sacks and two interceptions. They haven’t been quite as good on the road this year with just a 2-4 record (they are 6-1 at home), and will travel this week to Tennessee to face the Titans. After jumping out to an early 21-10 lead last week in Denver, the Titans ended up being outscored the rest of the game 7-41 before eventually losing, 28-51. Overall, the Titans are a slightly below average team, and after a 3-1 start they have dropped seven of their last nine. HC Mike Munchak’s job is in jeopardy but is well liked within the organization and this is a team that should continue to play hard for him the rest of the season. This is the time of year where analyzing what a teams motivations are come into a different sort of focus, as teams with losing records experience a lot of uncertainty with potential coaching/personnel changes looming on the horizon. While not completely mathematically eliminated, the Titans are a long shot at a wildcard at this point, but still cling to the 10th seed and are classified as being still in the hunt. As a result, and with support for their HC, I expect the Titans to play well in this spot. In addition, this is a divisional sandwich spot for the Cardinals with difficult games the next two weeks against the Seahawks and 49ers. Arizona could get caught here overlooking a team that they probably shouldn’t. There is technical support on the Titans side as well as they qualify in a 30-10 situation and also benefit from a negative 83-168-9 situation that plays against the Cardinals. I like the Titans plus the points.
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Green Bay (+7) 23 DALLAS 28FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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With their 22-21 win last week at home against the Falcons, the Packers remain in playoff contention with a 6-6-1 record and are currently projected as the 10th seed in the NFC. They were hoping for the return of QB Aaron Rodgers this week but he is out for this game and that leaves Matt Flynn to run the offense. Since Aaron Rodgers left the Chicago game with his injury, the Green Bay passing offense has been terrible as you might expect. The combination of Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn have been a huge downgrade with a combined (-71.7 passing yards per game relative to Aaron Rodgers average, with a 3.9 INT% and just a .01 TD%. The good news for the Packers is that this week they face a Cowboys defense that is allowing 428 yards at 6.3 yppl and have been bad against the run and the pass. Dallas is another team fighting for playoff positioning with a chance at either their division title or a wild card berth but took a step back in their 28-45 loss in Chicago on Monday night where their defense was exploited by the Bears both on the ground and in the air to the tune of 491 total yards at 7.2 yppl. While the Cowboys ran the ball well (199 yards at 7.4 ypr), they couldn’t generate much through the air as Tony Romo was only able to pass for 130 yards at 4.8 yps. Adjusted season numbers show the Cowboys to be a below average team, both offensively and on defense, but their +12 turnover differential (including +6 in net fumbles) is 3rd best in the league so there has been some luck involved in their success. The Packers benefit from a negative 57-115-3 situation that plays against the Cowboys here and my model favors Dallas by (-6.3). I’ll lean with the Packers plus the points.

Cincinnati (-2) 24 PITTSBURGH 20

Off of a 42-28 home win last week against the Colts, Cincinnati now has a two game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North and will look to increase their lead in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Bengals seem to be hitting their stride, winning their last three against Cleveland, San Diego and Indianapolis by an average score of 33.3 – 19.3. With a chance to beat division rival Pittsburgh in front of a national audience on Sunday night, the Bengals will be fired up to perform well. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, comes off of a heartbreaking home loss to the Dolphins in a game that they thought they had won on the last play, before it was determined that Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds before going into the end zone. That loss essentially eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention this season, and I’m sure was a tough pill to swallow. They’ll look to rebound this week with revenge for an earlier 10-20 loss in Cincinnati in Week 2 but will have a hard time against a solid Bengals team that has some good match-ups in their favor. Behind a banged up and shuffled offensive line, Pittsburgh has not been able to run the ball very well this season (averaging 78 yards at 3.5 ypr against teams that allow 113 yards at 4.2 ypr) and will face a Bengals rush defense that has been pretty good in allowing 98 yards at 4.1 ypr against teams that gain 106 yards at 4.2 ypr on average. They’ll have to pass the ball effectively to win the game and they have the ability to do that but Cincinnati’s pass defense has been one of the league’s best so I’m not sure how successful they’ll be. On the other side, the Bengals offense has been above average and will face a Steelers defense that has been banged up and is a bit below average overall. This game is really a toss up to me as I don’t have any situations in play and my model only favors the Bengals by (-2.3) here. With some favorable matchups I’ll lean slightly to the Bengals minus the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Bob Balfe

St. Louis Rams +6

The Saints as we all know are pretty much flawless in their own building, but when you get the crowd noise against them we all have seen how they can get beat. The Rams matchup very well against them on defense and really have the ability to get after the quarterback. New Orleans is weak with their front 7 and corners due to injury. I expect the Rams to play well enough at home to have a chance to win this game outright. Take St. Louis

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Harry Bondi

New England / Miami Under 45.5

Today, we look to South Florida where we'll take advantage of the trend that says divisional games this late in the season typically go under the total. What's more, this series has gone under in three straight and the Patriots have gone under in five of their last six AFC East games while the Dolphins have gone under in seven of their last eight divisional affairs. The loss of Rob Gronkowski for the New England offense will also be a friend to the under since the team has averaged 11 points less per game when he is not on the field. Go under!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Jimmy Boyd

Tampa Bay Buccaneers +5½

I think their is a lot of value on Tampa Bay today since they face a 49ers team that is coming off their biggest win of the season. The Buccaneers are playing well in the second half of the season. They have won four of their last five games, and have covered the spread in five of their last six. They have played from the underdog position several times, and two of their recent victories have come against teams that have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this year.

The 49ers rely heavily on their ability to run the ball in order to win games. They face a Buccaneers defense that has played extremely well at home. Tampa Bay is holding opponents to 20.6 points per game in home games, and they have allowed a mere 88 rushing yards per game in those games. The 49ers get almost half of their total yardage on the ground in road games this season, and if they are unable to gain yardage on rushing attempts it will put them in a very tough spot.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Doug Upstone

Portland Trailblazers vs. Detroit Pistons    
Play: Portland Trailblazers -3½

On Sunday, Play Against underdogs like Detroit, an average shooting team (43.5-45.5%), against an average defensive team (43.5-45.5%) like Portland, in a game involving two good rebounding teams (+3 to +5.5 reb/game). This NBA free pick is a sharp 38-12, 76% the last 16 years.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Jim Feist

Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves

The loss of Center Marc Gasol has really hit the Grizzlies hard. Memphis is on a slide of late, going 3-7 both S/U and ATS in their last 10 games. But more importantly, they have been getting beat at home, losing four of their last six at the FedEx Forum. In fact, the Grizzlies are 3-10 ATS at home for the entire season. Minnesota hasn't fared much better, though the Wolves have won two of their last three games both S/U and ATS. Also disturbing for the Grizzlies is the lack of chemistry the team has had in previous years. This likely is because of the loss of former head coach Lionel Hollins. What makes this all the stranger was that Hollins led Memphis to their best season in franchise history. Yet he's out and Dave Joerger is in and not making the front office look to good to the fans. Coaches can make a big difference on and off the court and this team just isn't the same under Joerger. I'm taking the T'Wolves here on Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

SPORTS WAGERS

Philadelphia +132 over WASHINGTON

OT included. Unless they get better defensively, the Capitals will continue to fight it almost every night. Washington is five games over .500 but that record is heading south because the Caps can’t keep allowing 40 shots on net a game and expect to win. In fact, Washington has the worst shot differential per game in the league over the past month and there is no end in sight. The Capitals can roll out one of the deadliest power play units in the NHL but the inconsistent and at times uninspired 5-on-5 play that has been an issue in past seasons continues to be the bugaboo of this team. Washington does not have a single, reliable, legitimate top-four defensemen and no defensive zone presence whatsoever. The Caps are an easy team to create scoring chances against and that makes them a big risk as a favorite. Washington head coach Adam Oates verges on OCD when it comes to his philosophy on matching right- versus left-handed shooting defense pairs. With the dregs he has to work with, it does not matter.

The Flyers are as inconsistent as any team in the league but they are just as likely to beat anyone as they are to lose to anyone. In other words, as the chalk, Philadelphia is unappealing but as a pooch against this weak defensive group there is value in playing them. Philadelphia is 3-3-1 over their past seven. Its three losses over that span were against three Western teams in Chicago, Minnesota and Dallas. When playing the weaker East, Philly has recent wins over Montreal and Detroit and an OT loss against Ottawa. In three of their last six games, the Flyers have held the opposition to 23 shots on net or fewer. The Flyers are a fringe playoff team but they are certainly no worse than the Capitals and they figure to show up after losing 7-0 here on November 1.     

Los Angeles +123 over CHICAGO

OT included. Perhaps the Blackhawks are getting just a bit too much credit right now. Sure, they may have taken the Maple Leafs lightly last night but they were soundly outplayed and could not come close to stopping the Maple Leafs attack. A close look at the Blackhawks recently reveals a team that has lost four of their past seven games. In fact, when Chicago scored 19 goals in three consecutive games against Philly, Florida and Dallas, they scored them on just 88 shots on net for an unsustainable shooting percentage of over 20%. In two of those three wins, they were outshot 30-23 by Philly and 35-32 by Florida. No question the Blackhawks are an elite team but the Kings are playing too good right now to ignore as a pooch.

The Kings are, in many ways, the Pacific Division's mirror image of the St. Louis Blues: a big, well-constructed team built to grind opponents into a pulp in the postseason. The big difference is that Los Angeles relies less on scoring and more on defense than even the stingy Blues and they lead the NHL in goals-against average. The Kings conclude a four-game trip here after winning the first three in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa and outscoring that trio 14-3. L.A. is unbeaten in December and anytime we can take back a tag on a team like this, you can usually pencil us in and we make no exception here.

Florida +177 over MONTREAL

OT included. The Canadiens have one regulation goal over their past three games and that includes games against the Islanders and Flyers, two teams that can’t keep the puck out of their own net. Montreal played hard last night but mustered just 25 shots on net against an Islander team that regularly gives up 40. Now the Canadiens will play their third game in four days and it’s not an easy one.

The Panthers come in as perhaps the most undervalued team in the NHL. They have won four of their past five games with only loss over that span occurring against the Blackhawks. The Panthers have outshot and out-chanced six of their past eight opponents. Vincent Viola's first few months as an NHL owner have been encouraging, as he has let his front office make hockey decisions that seem to be focused on long-term, on-ice benefits over short term, off-ice finances and the Panthers are responding. Florida still has leaks but they are loaded with young talent that shows up every night and right now they’re on a bit of a roll. A rested and confident Panthers, taking back a big price tag are certainly worthy of a wager in this favorable scheduling spot.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

DAVE COKIN

NEW YORK JETS VS CAROLINA PANTHERS
PLAY: CAROLINA PANTHERS -10

Will the real Carolina Panthers please stand up? I think we’re going to find out all we need to know about this team today. The 8-0 run for Carolina came to an end with a thud last Sunday at the Superdome. Now we’ll see if they are mentally tough enough to put that in the rear view mirror, or whether there’s a carryover. In the process, we should be able to determine whether this team is a legitimate contender or just another pretender that had a nice roll.

If the Panthers are for real, they should crush the Jets. The visitors are 6-7 but are not s good football team. The Jets have also been outrageously awful following a win. They’re 0-5 for the season off a victory, and those last four losses in this situation have been by an astonishing combined score of 124-30.

This is also a bad matchup for the Jets, as Geno Smith doesn’t figure to do well against the outstanding Carolina defense. Unfortunately for Smith, when he struggles, it’s really ugly and he can become a turnover machine. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t cough it up at least a couple of times today.

It’s my view that just getting away with a win isn’t enough for Carolina. They obviously need to accomplish that feat first, or their grasp on a wild card spot could get very tenuous. But I really feel as though this team needs to make a declaration of sorts today by slamming an inferior opponent they have a real chance to dominate.

I’m of the opinion this Carolina team is the real deal. They’re not the best team in the league, but they’re much better than they showed at New Orleans, and might well be as high as #3 in the overall NFL pecking order. If that’s the case, they’ll blow out the Jets. I expect that to happen, and recommend laying the lumber with the Panthers today.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Richard Witt

tAMPA bAY +5.5

Since their too-easy dismantling of the Redskins in that Monday-nighter, Jim Harbaugh has played it EXCEEDINGLY close to the vest on the offensive side with his Niners.   It's as if he doesn't trust Colin K to put it in the air, in the red zone . . . his problem, not ours, as given Frisco's current offensive posturing this number is very generous to the home hosts, given their current defensive prowess.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Chris Jordan

My free play for Sunday is on Chicago over the Cleveland Browns, as I see the Bears feeding off their huge win over Dallas on Monday and carrying the momentum into this game.

This is a big game for the Bears, who are back in contention in the NFC North. Though the Lions lead the division and own the tiebreaker with the season sweep, Chicago has an outside shot at winning the division.

The one obstacle for the Bears, who have lost their last two road games - at St. Louis and Minnesota - they haven't won away from Soldier Field since Nov. 4. And to get to the playoffs, that's going to have to stop, beginning today.

After visiting Cleveland, the Bears go to Philadelphia before their final home game, against NFC North-rival Green Bay. This might be a good spot for the Bears to start, since the last time Cleveland played at home it allowed a late lead and was beaten by a late Jaguars touchdown that was scored in the final minute.

Look for the Bears to expose Cleveland on defense, while Jay Cutler is back under center for an offense that is averaging 28.3 points per game, the team's highest total since the 1985 team won the Super Bowl.

In their last nine games against teams out of the black and blue division, the Browns are mired in a 2-7 slide both SU and ATS.

5♦ CHICAGO BEARS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Jeff Benton

Your Sunday freebie is the Over in the Philadelphia-Minnesota game.

I know Adrian Peterson is not at 100%, but the basis for this selection really hinges on the terrible Minnesota defense that once again was gouged last week in the snow at Baltimore as the Vikings went Over the total for the 10th time in 13 games this season!

Minnesota is also 6-1 Over the total their last 7 games played at Mall of America Field dating back to last season. You think Shady McCoy is licking his chops to get his motor going against this porous defense or what?

The Eagles snapped a string of 3 straight Unders with last week's 34-20 win in the snow against the Lions, and they are 5-1 Over the total on the road this season as well.

Look for the points to once again add up as the Eagles and the Vikings head Over the total.

3♦ PHILADELPHIA-MINNESOTA OVER

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Craig Davis

Nope, I don't care that Green Bay will be without Aaron Rodgers under center again. I only care that both of these defenses are playing terrible right now and I think a few college teams might be able to come in here and move the ball.

Did you see Dallas Monday night??

That was one of the worst, most pathetic defensive performances that I can remember not only in Dallas but in the entire NFL. Yes, I realize they've got some injuries on that side of the ball, but that's still no excuse for what we saw Monday night and several other times this season.

Monte Kiffin has no business being an NFL defensive coordinator! He's completely lost his mind if he things the 2013 season is anything like when he was coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs to a championship in the early 2000s. For crying out loud the players were all running to the wrong places and allowing Chicago receivers to run free right from the point of attack.

Like I said, it's the worst defense I can remember seeing in the NFL and the Packers, even with Matt Flynn, should be able to score 21 points without even trying.

On the other side, Dallas has at least been able to move the ball against most teams, scoring nearly 28 points per game despite their ugly 7-6 record. With a smooth transition from more of a heavy passing team to a team that at least is starting to acknowledge the run game, the Cowboys seem to be more balanced and even tougher to stop.

I expect a finish around 30-24, so take this game to go OVER the posted total as your free play of the day.

3♦ GREEN BAY-DALLAS OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Scott Delaney

My free play for Sunday is on the Bears/Browns game going over the posted number, as I expect these two to get into the mid-40s.

Chicago has been scoring a lot of points this season - the most since the franchise played and won the 1985 Super Bowl - averaging 28.3 points per game with the league's seventh-ranked offense. And that's paced on the fifth-best passing game in the league.

Today the Bears welcome back Jay Cutler, who is supposed to start after missing the past four games with ankle sprain. With so much controversy the past week surrounding his return, and the fact the Bears are sidelining Josh McCown, who has played splendid in Cutler's absence, I expect the regular starter to flourish. And if he doesn't, well, it's not as if McCown won't be available.

Cleveland has lost four in row and seven of eight since opening 3-2, and though its season is all but over, this team is going to challenge once pressed into a fast-paced game with the league's 10th-ranked passing offense.

The Bears have gone over in three of their last four games and in nine of their 13 games this season. The Browns, meanwhile, have soared past the number in two straight, three of four and in eight of their last 11.

Play this one high.

3♦ Bears/Browns Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Brad Wilton

After getting manhandled by New Orleans last Sunday night, and having New Orleans once again on their dance card next Sunday, I will look for Carolina to take care of business in this "sandwich" game versus the Jets.

Carolina has won and covered each of their last 5 games at home, and they are also allowing a stingy 10 points per game in their home games this season.

Hard to see the Jets who are on a 2-4 straight up and against the spread slide stepping up against one of the better stop units in the NFL. Prior to last week's 37 point eruption, New York had tallied only 20 points total in their 3 previous games - all losses.

New York is just 1-5 straight up on the road this year, and they have failed 4 of their last 5 on the highway against the math.

Lay it with Carolina.

2♦ CAROLINA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Brett Atkins

Sunday's complimentary winner is on the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins going Over the posted number in what should be a high-scoring game.

The Patriots are just one win away from their fifth straight division title, so you can expect to see some fireworks out of them today in Miami. New England has had to play catch up in its last three games, including last week, when quarterback Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns over the final 61 seconds to beat the Browns, 27-26.

It's not as if New England doesn't know how to play offensively, it's just been waiting til the end of games to do so. Today might not be the best of days to follow that pattern, as Miami is dangerous. In fact, the Fins are in after an improbable comeback of their own, as they rallied thrice against the Steeles last week to pull out a 34-28 win at Pittsburgh.

While the Pats are aiming for a division title, Miami is looking to stay alive in the playoff race. Last week's win over the Steelers tied Miami for the sixth-best record in the race for one of the AFC's six playoff berths.

The Dolphins have looked better on offense of late, so I suspect we're going to see a high-scoring game. Miami snapped a string of three straight games staying under, with last week's high-scoring game that went over. The Patriots, meanwhile, have gone over in three straight and in six of eight.

Play this one high.

4♦ Dolphins/Patriots Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Sean Michaels

Time to get back on the Carolina Panthers' bandwagon as they lay the 10 points today at home against the New York Jets.

I wasn't sure how Carolina would fare last Sunday night at New Orleans. The Panthers had reeled off eight straight wins, beating San Fran and New England along the way, but I was worried that the Saints would be out for atonement after an embarrassing performance in that Monday night loss at Seattle.

It was a good thing I was leery as the Saints rolled 31-13.

But now the Panthers are back at home and should get back on the winning track against the Jets, who are 1-5 on the road. Their defense should put plenty of pressure on Mr. Turnover, Geno Smith, as the rookie quarterback has been intercepted 21 times this year while throwing only 10 touchdown passes.

I'm not expecting Carolina to score 30, but the Panthers won't need too because their defense will get the stops and deliver in a low-scoring win and cover as they improve to 7-0 here in Vegas when laying six-or-more points this season.

2♦ CAROLINA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Brady Kannon

Tennessee +3

The Arizona Cardinals have one of the best records against the spread in the NFL this season, including 4-straight ATS wins. They are now not only being noticed by the bookmakers but also the general public as a real contender. My feeling is that this has created some inflation in today's line at Tennessee. The Titans are a decent team with a very good defense, and we get them at home, where not long ago they were a 4-point underdog to The 49'ers. Is Arizona only 1-point different than San Francisco? I don't think so.. so again, I feel the 3-points gives us some line value. My overall numbers actually make this game Pick 'Em or even Tennessee favored by a point. Furthermore, The Cardinals are 0-and-5 ATS as a road favorite off of a SUATS win. The Titans, by contrast, are 5-and-0 SUATS when playing off of two straight losses and matched against a non-division opponent. Finally, with playoff implications on the line, The Cardinals are well aware that next up they have Seattle and San Francisco - while Tennessee gets Jacksonville and Houston and a chance to finish with a .500 season. Situation, line, and numbers point to The Titans today in the music city. Grabbing the field goal is the tune we are singing.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Andre Gomes

Rockets / Kings Over 213.5

Playing the OVER with the Kings has been one of my favorite plays as of late and for today we have another good matchup that ultimately will lead to a shootout contest.

The Kings' perimeter defense has been awful for quite some time since rookie Ben McLemore and Derrick Williams were promoted to the starting lineup, then Isaiah Thomas replaced Vasquez as the full time PG, and finally we have now Rudy Gay as their starting SF. We are talking about a nice collection of bad individual defensive players so the team's outcome couldn't be any different.

I had a play w/ Phoenix (-6) in their last game as I expected Bledsoe and Dragic to completely destroy the Kings bad defense and indeed that happened:

Eric Bledsoe, 11-16 FG, 4-4 FT, 28 points & 8 assists

Goran Dragic, 10-14 FG, 5-7 FT, 29 points & 3 assists

The Suns scored 20 fast break points, they were efficient from the outside w/ 12-24 3pts and they also scored efficiently down low w/ 48 points in the paint! The Rockets will offer a similar matchup as they have Harden/Lin to attack them off the dribble, they are a good 3pts shooting team and obviously they are one of the best transition teams in the league as well so I don't the Kings defense will be able to slow down the Rockets offense.

On the other side, the Kings have now a pretty decent offensive team w/ Isaiah Thomas running the show. They are attacking the rim as well and I didn't like the way the Rockets defended the rim in their last game @GSW - they allowed GSW to score 66 points while allowing 27-38 FG in that area!

I expect this contest to be a run and gun game with both offenses having the edge vs. defense.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Tony George

Miami Pk

Looks like a trap line folks. I would say this set up and scenario look like a definite take on the Pats laying less than a field goal to a lesser opponent. I have seen this time and time again. But one key thing, as a matter of fact numerous things bother me about this game.

In the past 3 weeks the Pats have been down double digits in each of those 3 games in the first half, and we are talking some bad teams too. Houston and Cleveland were both wins for the Pats, but they won those games against bottom feeders by a combined 4 points and now lay 2 points to a decent Miami team with a good defense on the road.

This is where a straight up bet on the home dog is not recommended other than a free lean, however with Denver losing on Thursday this game takes on a whole new meaning to home field in the playoffs for New England and I feel the focus will be there so this gives me pause on a full fledged 1 unit move. No doubt the offense has a new dynamic with New England with Gronk out, but I honestly feel this is a tough spot for a team struggling against Miami whose defense in their last 3 games have averaged giving up only 290 yards a game versus the Pats defense who in the same timeframe have averaged giving up a whopping 420 yards per game against some bad teams.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 15

Carlos Salazar

New Orleans Saints -6

The St. Louis Rams have really struggled the last few weeks stopping any offense much less the Saints in a dome. New Orleans will keep the offense churning as they get out to an early lead and win this one with ease. Lay the 6 points as the Saints win by at least 17.

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