Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

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Tony KarpinskiFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas CowboysSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Dallas Cowboys +7½FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Lets finally look at the game of the weekend, Philadelphia traveling to Dallas, for all the marbles. This is the biggest game in Foles career and no one is giving the Cowboys a chance without Romo. I expect the Eagles to be attacking Orton all day long, with more blitzes than the Eagles typically do but Kyle is a veteran with a full week to prepare and playing at home. Demarco Murray, again, is the key for Dallas even more, with his 5.4 YPC and 9 TDs, I anticipate him to get a workload. Look for Orton to target Witten and Dez Bryant and the rest of the receiving crew. I don't think Dallas wins this one, but I'll take the 7 pts with Dallas.

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Bryan LeonardFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Jacksonville +11FORFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Week 17 handicapping in our eyes is all about value. Teams that are in must win situations are going to be overpriced. Teams with nothing to play for are going to be undervalued. Unlike college football where many teams throw in the towel late in the season, these are professionals who are playing for a paycheck. Therefore we are able to take advantage of line value going against the grain in the final week.
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The Colts can clinch a first round buy with a win here coupled with a New England loss and a Cincinnati loss or tie. Both the Patriots and Bengals are roughly 7 point favorites so for both of those teams to lose is a long shot. Yet the lookahead line on this game a week ago was roughly 5 to 6 points less than the current number as of this writing. Chances are Indy wins this game but to expect them to win by a margin may be too much to ask.
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The Jaguars have played much better ball the second half of the season and this team doesn't have any quit in them. This is a club that still comes to the park each and every week expecting to win the game. That's all we ask here with a line of this magnitude. Too many points for the Colts to lay.

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Bryan PowerFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Carolina vs. AtlantaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: AtlantaFORFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Needing only a SU win to secure the NFC South and a 1st round bye, I feel Carolina is overvalued this week as it visits the Georgia Dome.
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I've had great success in the past wagering on Falcons games.  Including a winner with the Over Monday night, I'm on an 18-4 run w/ "premium" releases in their games.  For a team that has enjoyed such a dominant homefield advantage w/ Matt Ryan at QB, it's very difficult to fathom the fact this will be the third time this season they have been a home dog.  The last came against New Orleans and they covered for me in wire to wire fashion, losing only 17-13.  They're in a similar price range here against a Panthers team whose last five wins have all been by 10 points or less, four of them by four points or less!
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Atlanta has covered four of its last five games overall, four of those games being decided by four points or less.  Carolina has been a road favorite four times this season and failed to cover three times, twice losing outright, though both those games came early in the season.  Last week saw the Panthers escape with a crucial victory at home over the Saints despite not converting a single third-down! Cam Newton had only 116 yards passing before the final drive and this week will be without his top WR Steve Smith.   Take the points.

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Aaron's Analysis

Washington Redskins +3.5

The Washington Redskins (3-12) take on the New York Giants (6-9) in East Rutherford on Sunday. Both of these teams enter this one wanting to end their disappointing seasons on a winning note. The Redskins have lost seven straight, while the Giants have lost three of their last five. Over the last two games with Kirk Cousins taking over at quarterback, it can be safe to say the Redskins posted two moral victories in defeat, as they dropped games to Atlanta and Dallas by mere margins of one point each. Despite knocking the Detroit Lions out of the playoffs with a 23-20 overtime victory last week, the Giants were outgained in that one 355-279. They were the benefactors of three Lion turnovers, and it may be argued that the Lions once again beat themselves. Prior to last week the Giants were blasted by the combined score of 60-14 versus San Diego and Seattle. On December 1, the Giants beat the Redskins in the nation’s capital, but were outgained 323-286. Robert Griffin III was able to complete 24 of 32 passes for 207 yards and 1 TD for the Redskins. Making a big contribution for the Giants in that one was receiver Victor Cruz, as he caught six passes for 80 yards. Unfortunately for the Giants, Cruz will miss this week’s game with a knee injury. Like RG3, Kirk Cousins should be able to have success versus the Giant secondary in this one. Over the past two games versus Atlanta and Dallas, Cousins has passed for 578 yards and 4 TDs. Redskin receiver Pierre Garcon, who caught nine passes for 61 yards with RG3 in the first game, has been an absolute beast since Cousins took over. Over the last two games, Garcon has caught 18 passes for 273 yards and 2 TDs. On the season, he has caught an impressive 107 passes for 1,290 yards and 5 TDs. In just the last two games with Cousins he has gotten nearly half his season TD total and more than a sixth of his total receiving yards. Versus a Giant secondary allowing 227.5 yards per game, Cousins, Garcon and the Redskin passing effort should be able to have much success. Along with Garcon, the Redskins have capable receivers in Santana Moss (40 catches for 439 yards and 2 TDs) and Aldrick Robinson (15 catches for 332 yards and 2 TDs). The Redskins rank #5 in the league in rushing, as they average 138.2 yards per game on the ground. Although it can be argued that much can be attributed to the efforts of Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have managed to eclipse 100+ yards in team rushing over the last two games with Cousins, a combined 203 yards. Back Alfred Morris has stepped it up to compensate for Griffin not being in the lineup, as he has carried the ball 42 times for 186 yards with 1 TD over the last two games, at 4.4 yards per carry. Over the course of the season Morris has 1,213 rushing yards with 7 TDs to go along with 57 yards receiving. Roy Helu has also contributed 487 scrimmage yards and 4 TDs. Morris and the Redskins should be able to put up some yards on the ground here, as the Giants have allowed a staggering 141.3 yards per game over their last four contests, 110.1 on the season. The Giants overall woes can be attributed to their inability to run the ball, as they rank #31 in the league with an average of just 80.7 yards per game, and that number drops to 59.5 over their last four contests. Although it looked as if they were going to have to go with Michael Cox at running back for this one, it appears both Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis (concussion) have been medically cleared to play. Looking at how terrible the Giants have been running the ball this year, it doesn’t appear to matter who’s in the backfield for them. In the first matchup the Giants were able run the ball for just 80 yards. The Redskin defense should be able to handle the Giant’s rushing efforts in this one as well, as they have allowed just 109.8 yards per game (#14 in the league), and only 98 in their last eight contests. The Redskins have also defended the pass quite well as of late, allowing an average of just 190.8 yards per game over their last four. Giant QB Eli Manning has struggled this season, with just 17 TD passes, and a horrendous 26 interceptions, while getting sacked 38 times. The Redskins should be able to apply the heat in this one, as they have gotten 35 sacks defensively this season. Although they might be without their number one pass rusher, linebacker Brian Orakpo (10 sacks) here (questionable, groin), they still have others that can also take Manning down, such as linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (8.5 sacks). Cousins, Garcon and Morris should enjoy success offensively in this one for the Redskins. Their defense should also fare well versus Manning and the poor ground game of the Giants.

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Harry BondiFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Baltimore / Cincinnati Under 44FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Divisional games late in the season tend to be low scoring and this game will be no different. In fact, both of these teams have trended toward the under in divisional play with the Bengals going under in six of their last eight AFC North games and the Ravens going under in seven of their last 10. When these two teams met back in November, Baltimore prevailed in a 20-17 decision, despite gaining just 189 yards of total offense. QB Joe Flacco isn’t 100 percent healthy so look for Baltimore to play it conservatively on offense and try to win it with defense. Cinci has also gone under in 22 of its last 31 December games, so let’s follow the trends and go under.

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Rob VincilettiFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Washington Redskins vs. NY GiantsFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Washington Redskins +3½FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Redskins have covered 4 of the last 5 as a road dog of 3 or less points. Division road dogs in the final week that have revenge if they are under .500 and playing a team like the Giants that come in off a dog win have covered 14 of 16 dating back to the late seventies. The Skins have covered 7 of 8 after playing Dallas. The Giants are 1-9 ats as a home favorite off a road game and have lost the last 2 here vs the Skins. Washington is 9-0 ats as a dog if they lost their last game by 3 or less and have also covered the spread in 7 straight off a loss if they were winning after the 3rd quarter last week. Look for Washington to get the cash today play the points.


Rob Vinciletti's Featured Package

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Joseph D'AmicoFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego ChargersSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Kansas City Chiefs +9½FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Kansas City is in payback mode here as the Chiefs lost the first meeting, 41-38 five weeks ago. They also come in upset after an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Colts LW, 23-7. Going into the post season, they want to keep their morale up with a win here. San Diego can pass the ball behind the arm of Phillip Rivers but let's face it, the QB has problems in this situation. To make matters worse, Kansas City is ranked 4th on defense, allowing a mere 18.5 PPG. The Chargers are looking to keep their season going and the Chiefs are wild-card bound. With Jamaal Charles (1287 YR and 12 TD's) running the ball, KC will control the tempo and the clock here. Remember that the Chiefs have a great team with an incredible collection of backups and are 6-1 ATS on the road this season. This is way too many points to give this them here. Take Kansas City.

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Andy IskoeFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Jets / Dolphins Under 41FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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A Miami win combined with a loss by either Baltimore or San Diego earns the Dolphins the second AFC Wild Card. The Jets are playing to finish 8-8 which would be Miami's record as well should the Jets prevail. Miami won the earlier meeting 23-3 but are off of their worst effort of the season, a 19-0 loss at Buffalo in which the Fish gained just 103 total yards. 5 of their last 6 meetings have produced fewer than 40 total points and neither team has an above average offense this season.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Charlie ScottFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas CowboysSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Dallas Cowboys +7FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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I'll take a shot with the Home Dog Cowboys getting a TD from division rival Eagles. In the NFL when the Star QB gets injured, playing the backup QB in his first start with practice time has had success. Orten should be fine until Teams get some game film on him. Wait until almost game time time to bet and You might get a better #

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ATLANTA +6½ over CarolinaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Carolina can clinch the NFC South division title and a first-round bye with a CAROLINA win or tie or a NEW ORLEANS loss or tie. In other words, the Panthers will likely get a first round home game and not a bye. The bottom line is that the Panthers are going to the playoffs but they have been much better at home than they’ve been on the road. The Panthers final two road games were both non-covers against Miami, a 20-16 win, followed by a blowout loss at New Orleans. Cam Newton continues to post mediocre stats as a passer and that makes the Panthers too risky as road chalk in the final week of the year.
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The season ends mercifully for the Falcons who just never had a chance this season with injuries all over the team. Roddy White required nearly the entire season to get healthy and into gear. Julio Jones was not only lost along the way but the jury is still out on how well or even if he can return next year. The defense was decimated early on and still struggles to recover. The offensive line was no help but at least Atlanta has not given up. Matt Ryan is still a very good QB and the Falcons have been in every one of their games over the past five weeks. They put up a huge fight against San Fran last week in a 34-24 loss. Prior to that, the Dirty Birds last four games were all decided by four points or less with Atlanta winning two and losing two. The Falcons figure to show up again in their final game of the year with a chance for redemption after they lost 34-10 to these Panthers back in Week 9. Also, these teams that are locked into a playoff spot subconsciously want to emerge from the regular season finale unhurt. Whether they admit it or not, Carolina already has in their minds that they will have to play next week and might not exert their top effort. Atlanta has a decent chance of winning outright here and that makes the points very appealing. 
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Cleveland +7 over PITTSBURGHFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff berth with a PITTSBURGH win + MIAMI loss + BALTIMORE loss + SAN DIEGO loss. Mathematically, the Steelers have a chance but realistically the chance is remote. Still, this is one of those games in which the public is heavily backing the team with a shot at the playoffs against a team with no shot. The “must-win” angle if you will, which we consider to be about the lamest angle in all of sports. When you watch the NFL pre-game shows tomorrow or listen to NFL radio shows over the next 24 hours, you will hear the “must-win angle” being used over and over and over again. These teams in these situations are poor bets for several reasons. First, the line is inflated because the oddsmakers have the data that supports the ‘must-win’ team will be heavily bet. Second, the team that is out of the playoffs is virtually free-rolling. The Brownies have nothing to lose here. They will play with no pressure but a strong desire to knock the Steelers out because misery loves company and this is a hated rival.
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Pittsburgh was written off for dead several weeks ago after a 55-31 loss to the Broncos. With all the pressure off them, the Steelers proceeded to run off seven wins in a row, capped by last week’s win in Green Bay to put them in this position. All of a sudden the Steelers will once again play a game under pressure and will be taken very seriously by the opposition. This is a classic case of so many things. We have the buy-low, sell high profitable angle working in our favor. We have an inflated line due to Pittsburgh reeling off seven in a row and being one of the most popular teams in the NFL. We have the Brownies losing six in a row and heading home after this one, meaning their stock is as low as it was when they dropped the first two games of the year and traded Trent Richardson before their Week 3 game in Minnesota. Incidentally, Minnesota was a 7-point choice in that game and nobody gave Cleveland a chance. The Brownies won that game 31-27. Don’t be surprised to see something similar here, which prompts us to accept these inflated points. 
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Baltimore +6 over CINCINNATIFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cincinnati can clinch a first-round bye with a CINCINNATI win + a NEW ENGLAND loss. For Baltimore, it’s a little more complicated. Baltimore can clinch a playoff berth with BAL win + SAN DIEGO loss or tie, BALTIMORE win + MIAMI loss or tie, BALTIMORE  tie + MIAMI loss + SAN DIEGO loss or tie, BALTIMORE tie + MIAMI tie + SAN DIEGO loss or MIAMI loss + SAN DIEGO loss + PITT loss or tie. There is seemingly a lot on the line in this game for both but really there isn't since the Ravens are unlikely to reach the Wildcard and the Bengals will be playing in the first round barring a shocking loss by the Patriots but that doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t show up.
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One of the biggest mistakes bettors make is to come off a team after wagering on them the previous week in a game they lost. The Bengals were a 2-point choice last week against the Patriots and were walloped 41-7. Now the Ravens go from a 2-point choice to a 6-point dog in the span of a week against lesser competition. This number is an absolute overreaction to that embarrassing loss last week. For those that played the Ravens last week, indeed that game was a turnoff but don’t be afraid to play come right back on them. The Bengals are very aware of the situation, knowing the only way they get a bye is if Buffalo goes into New England and wins outright. What that means is that Cincinnati players and coaches will be more interested in staying healthy and getting ready to host a playoff game. These two typically play very close games and some high percentage angles come into play as well. Teams that get blown out the previous week usually respond well the next week. Teams headed to the playoffs have a low ATS percentage in the final week of the season. Finally, we have the overreaction theory in play as well. Cincinnati has been very good at home this year but the “right side” here is Baltimore and the points.
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CHICAGO +3 over Green BayFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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It’s not complicated. The winner here wins the division and will host a Wild Card team while the loser packs up and goes home. Each week it sounds better that Aaron Rodgers can return and each week it doesn't happen. His broken collarbone was expected to take longer than this to heal but Rodgers has been cleared and will finally step in. When you combine Rodgers starting with the Bears unforgettable beat down in Philadelphia last week, it makes it difficult to pull the trigger on Chicago and very easy to pull the trigger on the Pack. However, in what is expected to be an extremely cold day at windy Soldier Field, one has to wonder effective or ineffective Rodgers will be. Is this a desperate attempt by the Packers to save their season or is Rodgers really ready to play.
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The Bears catch a break with Clay Matthews likely to miss this week when he broke his thumb again in the loss to the Steelers. The Packers are bottom 10 in all positional categories and already gave up 27 points to Chicago in Green Bay. In the last month, the Packers never allow fewer than two passing scores and high yardage in every road game. In the Packers past two road games they were shredded for 40 points in Detroit and 26 in Dallas in that miracle win. As bad as the Bears defense has been, Green Bay’s hasn’t been much better at all. With all the marbles up for grabs, we much prefer the home side getting points against a team that is decimated by injuries with a rusty QB stepping into extreme weather conditions. NO BETS.   
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Houston +7 over TENNESSEEFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This is one of the rare Week 17 games with no playoff implications and there is only one thing preventing us from making this a wager on the Texans. Houston will wrap up the #1 choice in the June draft should they lose this one and the coach may have instructions to do just that. Still, we like the Texans chances of losing by less than 7 than more by 7 because Tennessee is a bad football team that is a huge risk spotting significant points. And while the Texans were eliminated from post season play weeks ago, the Titans season officially ended last week when some other AFC teams emerged victorious. Tennessee may be completely unmotivated and dejected this week. The promise for the Titans that started the season is long gone and like so many other teams, the Titans will be in the market for a new quarterback and likely new coaches as well. We wouldn’t spot 7 points on the Titans with counterfeit money and that brings us to the Texans.
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Arian Foster is on injured reserve. Ben Tate is on injured reserve. Newly signed Deji Karim just broke his collar bone and will be on injured reserve. Jonathan Grimes is expected to be the starter at tailback because Dennis Johnson is questionable with a hip injury and he's not the answer when healthy anyway. This backfield has been drained. The worst year in franchise history comes to a close and the head coach search is already underway. The pursuit of a franchise quarterback is probably not over with Case Keenum regressing badly after starting out with two impressive games. He's only thrown for one touchdown over his last four starts. Keenum remains day-to-day with a thumb injury so the final game may end up back up with Matt Schaub and that’s the key here. Schaub had an off year playing for a team with a no heart. His career isn’t over and he has a chance to prove so in this one. Even if the Texans were given instructions by the owner or GM to lose, that doesn’t mean they will oblige. Both coach and QB want to be employed somewhere next season and we’re suggesting they will do everything in their power to win. NO BETS. 
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OAKLAND +12 over DenverFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Denver can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a DENVER win or tie or a NEW ENGKAND loss or tie. If both the Pats and Broncos win this week, they get a first round bye anyway. There are a number of inflated lines this week, with oddsmakers adjusting for teams battling for playoff position. It's just a matter of finding the right ones to fade and which ones to avoid. The bad news for the Broncos is that LB Von Miller tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season which puts a dent in a defense that already gives up plenty of points. Wes Welker is still not cleared from his concussion and since it was his second, he’s very likely to not play this week even if he does clear all the protocols. With that, we can’t get on board with an inflated number on team that is heading to the playoffs and wants to avoid more injuries. 
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HC Dennis Allen is on the hot seat and losing the last five games is not making the case that he needs another season. He named Terrelle Pryor as the starter this week over Matt McGloin who was only 1-5 thanks to playing Houston once. This always dysfunctional Raiders team is headed into an offseason with even more question marks than usual. Chances are that there will be a new head coach, quarterback and running back next season and it’s a huge guess as to how they will respond this week. However, this is a big percentage play, as home dogs of +8 or more are 27-5 ATS (84.4 percent) over the past four years. No way are we going against that. NO BETS.

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Carolina +131 over TORONTOFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. The Buffalo Sabres have 10 wins in 38 games. Two of those wins have come against the Maple Leafs. In two other games against the Maple Leafs, Buffalo lost one in OT and lost one in regulation, 4-2. In the 4-2 loss, Buffalo outshot the Leafs 35-22. The Maple Leafs could easily be 0-4 against the Sabres this year and if not for the outstanding goaltending by Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, they would be 0-4. Toronto has five wins in its last 17 games with four of those occurring in OT. That’s one regulation win in their past 17 games. Many of Toronto’s wins have been undeserving and many of its losses have been flattering scores, like the 2-1 loss to the Rangers just before the break. The Leafs looked they were killing a 40-minute penalty in the final two periods, scored a fluke goal in the final minute and probably should have lost that game 6-0. With the Winter Classic on deck (a crowd of 100,000 will watch from the stands and millions will watch on TV) and having been the NHL’s worst team over the past 45 days, the Maple Leafs are a favorite that should be avoided because their chances of losing are far greater than their chances of winning.
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By contrast, the Hurricanes are among the most undervalued teams in the NHL. Carolina keeps outplaying and outworking the opposition but they can’t buy a win. Prior to the break, the ‘Canes lost 4-3 to the Jackets but out-chanced them 24-16 and outshot them 33-25. After the break, Carolina had a similar game against Pittsburgh, outshooting and out-chancing them as well in another 4-3 loss. The ‘Canes have outshot six of their past eight opponents and their strong play and hard work will inevitably start paying off soon. Carolina is the beneficiary of a schedule that sees them playing the Maple Leafs the game prior to the Winter Classic and there is no way we’re passing up on this opportunity.
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DALLAS +101 over St. LouisFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. Difficult spot for the Blue Notes in that they are without several key players and will play in Dallas less than 24 hours after defeating Chicago last night. St. Louis rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie it in the second period and then fell behind 5-3 early in the third. With less than four minutes remaining, St. Louis scored twice to tie it before winning it in a shootout. It was an extremely emotional and satisfying win but it should be noted the Blues scored five goals on 25 shots on net. St. Louis will now play one of the NHL’s hottest and most talented squads.
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Dallas is rested after a 4-1 win over Nashville on Friday after the X-Mas break. The Stars have picked up nine out of a possible 10 points over their past five games with wins over Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Nashville and a shootout loss to San Jose. They outshot the Sharks 46-39 in that extra time loss. Against Nashville, Los Angeles and Vancouver, Dallas scored 13 times while allowing just four goals against. The Stars are just hitting their peak. They’ve got a slew of proven offensive talent, they have outstanding developing talent and they have breakout experts Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski to feed them the puck. That should bode well here against a Blue Notes team that is hugely flawed in net, as both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott (today’s starter) have been dreadful, especially in the past month. The Stars are playing with a swagger and confidence that we have not seen from this outfit in a long time and could not have handpicked a better time to face the Blues. Wrong aside favored.
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Anaheim +143 over SAN JOSEFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. How can we not take the Ducks here? First, Anaheim has a huge edge in net with whomever they use (likely Hiller) against Antti Niemi and his brutal .890 save percentage over his past 16 starts. Secondly, the Ducks are the NHL’s hottest team with 10 straight wins to tie Chicago for the most points in the NHL. If this were Chicago playing in San Jose tonight, the line would be much less, which confirms just how much value there is in playing the Ducks here. It gets even better. Anaheim is playing outstanding defense as well. The Ducks have held their last seven opponents to 25 shots on net or fewer and four of those they held to 21 shots or fewer. Anaheim has allowed two goals or less in nine of their past 10 games and they’ve also won six straight on the road. When looking for an overlay, look no further.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Bob Balfe

Falcons + 6 over Panthers

The NFL is about story lines.  The Falcons have had a tough year, but that was due to injury.  Matt Ryan is a great QB and this team has a lot of pride.  The story line today is Tony Gonzalez playing in his last game.  This guy is the definition of a class act and will be missed in this ever changing league.  Carolina does not blow teams out and on turf will want to be careful heading into the playoffs to not get any other of their super stars hurt.  Steve Smith is out and is questionable for the playoffs.  This team does not really have much offensive firepower.  I like Atlanta to win this game at home sending Gonzalez out on top.  Take the Falcons

Eagles -6.5 over Cowboys

I was going to take the Eagles in this game prior to Romo being declared out.  Here is the bottom line.  If the Eagles can’t beat a backup in Kyle Orton then they don’t deserve to make the playoffs, but what does Orton have that scares you?  The real problem is not the QB, but this Dallas Defense.  The Cowboys can’t stop the run and the Eagles have the best running back in the NFC and the best running offensive line.  If Dallas has to throw to get back in the game it is just a matter of time before Orton makes a big mistake.  Pick the winner and let the spread take care of itself.  Take the Eagles

Dolphins -5.5 over Jets

This is the team I was high on 2 weeks ago to get into the playoffs and be a sleeper at 70/1 to get to the Super Bowl.  This defense is really good, but the offense looked horrible last week to Buffalo.  The NFL is all about matchups.  Miami crushed the Jets just a few weeks ago and really left a ton of points off the board in the first half.  The Jets’ offense is just not good enough to stay in this game.  This is a must win at home for the Dolphins.  Look for them to get a big boost from their defense and to put this game away early.  Take Miami

49ers -1 over Cardinals

I was pulling for the Falcons last week so this would be a meaningful game.  It still is for the Cardinals, but they are going to be doing a lot of scoreboard watching in game and I just don’t think Carson Palmer is the guy that is going to win this game.  The 49ers still can get a #1 seeding.  It is not probable, but they do have something to play for and they are flying high from that emotional MNF game.  Look for them to build on that today.  All they have to do is win the game.  Arizona had a great year, but they come up just short at making the playoffs.  The 49ers do not want to lose heading into the playoffs.  Take the 49ers.

Chiefs +9 over Chargers

IF all goes as I predict then the Chargers are already out of the playoffs by the time this game starts.  This line is based on the Chiefs still having a chance.  Baltimore and Miami would have to both lose and still this Chiefs Defense gives up about 18 points a game.  We all know how hard it is to win by double digits in the NFL this year.  This Chiefs team does not want to lose any momentum on Defense heading into the playoffs.  Even if the Chiefs rest players this is too many points.  What would the motivation be for San Diego knowing they are out of the playoffs?  Take Kansas City.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Larry Ness

Lions at Vikings
Play: Over

A month ago, the Detroit Lions were in control of the NFC North but they enter Week 17 with nothing more to play for than a .500 record. Three straight losses doomed the team's playoffs hopes, ensuring their most recent late-season collapse. The Lions have lost FIVE of their last six, posting a minus-15 turnover differential during that span.

As for the Vikings, a team which made the playoffs in 2012 at 10-6, did themselves in by losing SEVEN of their first eight. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier now find themselves in similarly dubious situations, potentially coaching the last game for their respective teams. "For our players, it's important that they focus on the task," Frazier said. "That's what I'm asking them to do, and I need to do the same thing. It's very, very important if you want to have a chance to win these games down the stretch that I stay focused on what's involved with leading our team, and I want them to follow. It's important I handle it the right way."

Frazier has seen his team play hard the second half of the season, as the Vikings had covered SIX of their previous seven games, before running into red-hot Cincinnati on the road last Sunday. However, the Vikings should like their chances knowing that Detroit has lost 14 of its last 15 trips to Minnesota, with its lone win since 1997 coming in 2011.

All that said, the Vikings are allowing a league-high 30.5 PPG and are just 18 points away from yielding the highest total in franchise history. The team's defensive struggles have led to 13 of Minnesota's 15 games going over the total in 2013. The Lions season is over but I see no reason at all for this NOT to be a high-scoring game in the Metrodome's final contest.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

John Ryan

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Prediction: Carolina Panthers

Atlanta nearly pulled off a major upset of the 49ers this past Monday Night, but an 89-yard pick six ended that threat very late in the game. Carolina still has a ton to play for after securing their first playoff berth in five seasons. They still have a shot at the NFC South Division Title and an outside shot at the No.1 seed. Not bad after a 1/3 start to the season. The simulator shows a high probability that Carolina will win this game by 7 or more points. Supporting this graded play is a proven system posting a 29-6 mark for 83% winners since 1983. Play on road favorites of 3.5 to 10 points that is an average offensive team gaining between 4.9 and 5.4 YPP and is now facing a struggling defense allowing >=5.8 YPP after 8+ games have been completed. This system is 3-0 ATS this season and 7-1 ATS over the past five seasons. Of the numerous projections, one stands out showing that Atlanta will gain fewer than 75 rushing yards. In past games, the Falcons are just 3-5 ATS this seasons and 5-14 ATS the past three seasons when gaining less than 75 rushing yards. Steven Smith will out for this game with a strained ACL, but will be in top form for the playoff run. Cam newton has been largely inconsistent at times, especially when facing pressure where he has posted a miserable 65 QB rating with 8 INT. When not pressured he has posted a 99 QB rating. Problem for Atlanta is they have not put pressure on any one QB all season and I don't see them doing it today either. Atlanta's DE Massaquoi and Umenyiora have combined for 64 QB pressures and there are 10 DE playing in 4-3 schemes that have 60+ just on their own merit. Moreover, the Carolina OL has been one of the better run units in the NFL this seasons, especially when going to their left behind LT Jordan Gross. Take Carolina.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Jeff Alexander

New Orleans Saints -11

The Saints need a win to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and I expect them to get the job done at home where they have been unbeatable. New Orleans is 7-0 at home this season, winning these games by 17.4 points on average with 5 of the victories coming by at least 18 points. The Saints have spent the last two weeks on the road, coming up short in both games. However, they are 6-0 ATS in home games after a 2 game road trip over the last 3 seasons, winning by an average of 29.3 points in this spot. The Saints are also 9-1 ATS in home games off a road loss over the last 3 seasons, winning by an average of 21.1 points in this spot. New Orleans smoked the Bucs 41-0 in last season's meeting at the Superdome. Bet the Saints.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Doug Upstone

Brown vs. Niagara    
Play: Brown +1

On Sunday, Play On road teams as an favorite or pick like Brown, an average shooting team (42.5-45%), against a defensive team allowing 47.5% or higher shooting percentage, after a game where the team made 20% or fewer of their three-point shots. This college basketball free play is a rock solid 28-7 ATS, 80 percent.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Dave Price

Minnesota Vikings -2½

The Lions have nothing left to play for. The NFC North division was handed to them on a platter with the Bears and Packers suffering major injuries, but they have dropped five of their last six and have been eliminated from playoff contention. Minnesota has had a miserable season as well, but this is its final game in the Metrodome, and I expect it to leave it all on the field for the fans. "We realize that there is one week left in the fight," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We need to get a win at home to put the Metrodome to sleep. We have to bring our best game." Detroit has a terrible track record in the Metrodome, losing 14 of its last 15 trips there. The Metrodome has been good to Minnesota backers in the second half of the season. In fact, the Vikings are 6-0 ATS in home games in the second half of the season the last two seasons, winning these contests by an average score of 32.8 to 24.8. The Vikes were dismantled in Cincinnati last week, but they are on a 10-1 ATS run in home games after a loss of 21 or more points. Minnesota has won its last three at home with the last two wins coming over the Bears and Eagles. The Lions play their home games in an indoor facility, but they haven't had success in other indoor venues going 0-7 ATS in indoor road games under Jim Schwartz. They haven't just lost these games, they've lost them by an average score of 32.4 to 19.2. Matthew Stafford is really struggling, and his top target (Calvin Johnson) is dealing with knee and ankle issues that will affect his play if he decides to give it a try. Plus, the numbers say Detroit won't be able to recover from its most recent blow. The Lions are on a 4-13 ATS slide following an extremely close home loss of 3 points or less. Lay the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Jack Jones

St Louis Rams +12½

The Rams clearly have not packed it in. Instead, they have won four of their last six games overall with two of three of those victoreis coming against playoff contenders. What’s most impressive about this stretch is that all four victories over Indianapolis (38-8), Chicago (42-21), New Orleans (27-16) and Tampa Bay (23-13) came by double-digits. Jeff Fisher has gotten his team to save his best football for last, and there aren’t many teams who would want to play the Rams right now.

St. Louis will be out for revenge from a 9-14 home loss to Seattle in their first meeting of the season. There’s no question that the Rams should have won that contest as they outgained the Seahawks 339-135 for the game. Zach Stacy rushed for 134 yards as the Rams put up 200 yards on the ground as a team. They limited the Seahawks to just 44 rushing yards on 15 carries. Russell Wilson was held to 10 of 18 passing for 139 yards as the Seattle offense simply could not get going, but they found a way to win in the end.

Considering each of the last three meetings in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less, there’s a good chance this one goes right down to the wire as well. St. Louis has the ability to run the football and move the change with consistency, making life easier on Clemens. In fact, the Rams have rushed for 100 or more yards in eight consecutive games, averaging 155.6 yards per game on the ground during this stretch. Stacy and company have clearly been getting it done.

The Rams are 6-0 against the spread when playing against a team with a winning percentage of 75% or better over the past two seasons. The Rams are 8-0 against the number versus good offensive teams that average 5.65 or more yards per play in the second half of the season over the past two seasons. Jeff Fisher is 9-1 against the spread in road games off two consecutive home wins in all games he has coached. After losing to the Cardinals 10-17 at home last week, the Seahawks are clearly beatable at CenturyLink Field. Bet the Rams Sunday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

Jim Feist

Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder
Pick: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are off to a good early season start, posting a 19-12 record through their first 31 games. The Rockets had to play Saturday at home, winning over the New Orleans Pelicans, 107-98. Houston is in the second of a back-to-back spot here on Sunday. But don't let that scare you off the Rockets. In the last 8 times the Rockets have been in this back-to-back spot, they are 7-0-1 ATS. OKC is off to another great start, winning 24 of their first 29 games. The Rockets last loss was on Dec 22 at home of all places where they dropped a 104-98 decision to the Raptors. The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak. ATS the Thunder haven't been quite as good, covering just three of their last seven games. The dog has had the upper hand in this series of late, covering four of the last five games. Houston has the depth to play in this spot and getting the points here is too good to pass up on. Take the Houston Rockets.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, December 29

DAVE COKIN

WASHINGTON REDSKINS VS NEW YORK GIANTS
PLAY: NEW YORK GIANTS -3

The seemingly endless rundown of ramifications involving potential playoff spots means there are some absolutely huge games on today’s NFL slate. But I’m looking at a clash between two teams playing out the string to get me a winner today.

There’s very little on the line as the Redskins and Giants close out mutually disappointing 2013 campaigns. But I think there could be a substantial difference in the mindsets of this pair as they drop the curtain on a year they’d probably both like to forget.

The Giants at least have some momentum heading into this finale. They got an exciting overtime win at Detroit last Sunday, and after starting the year 0-6, the Giants have actually gone 6-3 in their last nine outings. The defense is well above league average on the metrics. The offense sure isn’t, and the special teams play has been spotty. But I don’t look at the Giants and see a terrible team.

I don’t like this spot for the Redskins. Yes, they’ve competed hard the last couple weeks in losing back to back one-point decisions. They certainly haven’t been worse since benching Griffin and putting Cousins behind center. But this is still a bad football team. They’re bottom tier in all three overall categories, and the special teams are truly abysmal.

I see last week’s loss to Dallas being an absolute mental crusher for the Redskins. They wanted that one badly, and losing it the way they did had to be demoralizing. So now we’ve got a team that’s going to be making major changes in both the coaching and the roster, having to travel for a meaningless end of the season game. That’s just not a great situation.

The Giants can use the end of the season as a springboard for 2014. Coughlin is not going anywhere according to most reports, and the key players should still be wearing the same jerseys come next training camp.

From a statistical standpoint, the game is lined right about where it ought to be. So this isn’t about value. It’s more a fade of a bad team that could be in a mail it in spot after the devastating loss last week. The Giants are the slightly better team at a minimum but I much prefer them from a mental stance. I’ll give the points here and will back the Giants.

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