Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

John Wilson

Houston vs. Vanderbilt    
Play: Houston +2½

Vanderbilt is still a favorite with the oddsmaker despite losing QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, leaving them with Patton Robinette, a player with a 10% lower completion percentage who gets sacked twice as often and intercepted at a higher rate. We had a tight race going in without even considering the QB change, and that pretty much clinches it for us.

Neither offense seems like it has its shit together right now. Neither team can run the ball well, and the defenses are good against the pass. But Vanderbilt has quarterback issues, and that probably docks them about a touchdown at least.

The yardage estimate started with Vandy ahead by 3 but in the end they were down by 7. And that has no adjustment for missing a senior quarterback and replacing him with a freshman. Our power rating doesn't call it an upset, but I guess it counts; we take Houston to win.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Jeff Alexander

LA Clippers +8

Oddsmakers have overcompensated for the loss of Chris Paul with this line. Darren Collison is a solid replacement, and I expect the Clippers to rally here in the wake of Paul's injury. San Antonio has a nice record but has come up short repeatedly against top competition. Consider that it is 0-9 ATS this season versus team that outscore the opposition by 3.0 points per game or more. It has lost these games by an average of 6.7 points. The Spurs are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 home games and 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600. The Clippers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games and 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games versus a team with a winning home record. The underdog is 6-0 ATS in the last 6 meetings.

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Kansas City -102 over INDIANAPOLISSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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It would not be difficult at all to make a case for the Colts. They were the hotter team down the stretch with three straight wins, all by 16 points or more. One of those victories occurred in Kansas City by a score of 23-7. Furthermore, the propensity for most bettors in a close matchup is to side with the better QB and in that regard Andrew Luck is perceived to be much better than Alex Smith. Additionally, the home team has more appeal but we have our concerns. One of our concerns is that the line has been coming down when all the data shows that Indy is taking most of the money. That’s a huge red flag. Another concern for Colts backers should be that this year’s edition won a lot of games they had no business winning. In many of their wins, Indianapolis pulled a rabbit out of their hats after being dominated in time of possession and total yards.
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Looking back at the Chiefs loss to Indianapolis shows that the Chiefs ran through the Colts defense on the opening drive and subsequently pulled up the reins. At that point, Kansas City knew they were pretty much locked into the #5 seed and there would be a good chance they would be seeing the Colts again. K.C. committed three crucial turnovers in that game and one of them was a fumble by backup RB Knile Davis. That won’t happen here. In fact, we’re suggesting that the Chiefs sort of sat back in the final two weeks of the season because Andy Reid did not want to show his best hand. Alex Smith matched everything that Andrew Luck accomplished this season in terms of yardage and accuracy and the Chiefs defense is far better than anything the Colts offer. The Colts are not as good as they currently seem and Andy Reid knows exactly how to prepare for a team that is weaker than his.
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New Orleans +138 over PHILADELPHIASERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Are the Eagles capable of blowing out the Saints? No. Are the Saints capable of blowing out the Eagles? Indeed they are and it’s for that reason among others that we are taking the Saints and the value here. The only issue here of course is that New Orleans is not known for its ability to thrive on the road in cold weather but that doesn’t concern us one bit. You might be influenced by all that you read or hear regarding that but don’t buy it. It’s been proven over and over, especially this season that talent prevails over the elements and Drew Brees is at the top of his game.
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Brees concluding yet another great year as an elite quarterback and he even added rushing scores to his repertoire with two over the final three games. What is even more powerful is that the offense enters the post season with a healthy crew. Brees passed for 5162 yards and 39 touchdowns and he also posted four or more touchdowns in six different games. Brees and the rest of that potent offense will now face the worst defense of all playoff teams and one of the worst overall in the entire league. Somebody from the NFC East had to qualify for the playoffs and in this case it was the Eagles but rarely has a team that has given up as many points and yards as Philadelphia did this season qualified for the playoffs. The Eagles secondary is weakest in the NFL that ranks 32 out of 32 teams. The cold weather isn’t going to help them.
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The Eagles salvaged their season by winning seven of their last eight games with the Chip Kelly offense coming into better focus as the season progressed. The only odd part of them being here is that they are one of the very rare teams that struggle much more at home than on the road. Nick Foles did not really get going until week six but he's far exceeded all expectations and sent Michael Vick to the bench. However, Foles thrived on the road against weak defenses. When the defensive efforts were stronger, Foles was right around the 200 passing yards mark and this is without question the best defense he will have faced the entire year. Philadelphia was the beneficiary of the NFL”s weakest schedule in the second half that opened with a game in Oakland followed by games against Green Bay (-Aaron Rodgers), Washington, Arizona, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas. None of those teams are in the playoffs and all of them with the exception of Arizona played garbage defense. Philadelphia is getting way too much credit here because of their hot finish but it’s all smoke and mirrors. The Saints played a more difficult schedule than the Eagles, they have the better QB and the better defense and they’re getting points. We’re not going to need the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Chris Jordan

My free play for Saturday is in college hoops, as I like the Duke Blue Devils to crash the Catholic party in South Bend, and score the huge win over Notre Dame.

The Devils have begun the season impressive as usual, and plenty primed for the annual rigors of playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke rolls into final non-conference game before opening up with Georgia Tech having won five straight. And in all five wins, Duke has won by double digits, and has seemingly gotten better with each victory. The Devils beat Michigan by 10 on Dec. 3, and just knocked off Elon by 38 points on New Year's Eve.

Duke's only two losses this season have come at the hands of Kansas and Arizona. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has been inconsistent and hasn't been able to string together a pair off solid wins since the beginning of December. The Irish have alternated wins and losses since Dec. 9, when they got past Bryant. Along the way, the Catholics lost to North Dakota State, and barely got past Canisius.

Duke will prove to be too much in this one, and steals the road win at South Bend.

1♦ DUKE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Jeff Benton

Don't mind laying a few points with Florida State at home against Virginia.

Both team sporting similar records, but Virginia has not shown that they can step up and win on the road just yet, as Tony Bennett's team has lost both of their true road games this season both straight up and against the spread, and there last win in Tallahassee comes back in 2007.

Florida State has won all 5 of their home games this year, and they are 8-2 against the spread their last 10 lined games played at the Tucker Center.

The Sems are on an 8-1 straight up series run versus their conference rival, and they have covered in 5 of the last 7 series showdowns as well.

The Cavs have lost 3 of their last 5 coming into this one, while the Sems are riding a nice 4 game win streak, including a solid win and cover over a tough Massachusetts team.

Stick with the hot team here and play Florida State to hold serve at home against the poor-traveling Wahoos.

4♦ FLORIDA STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Craig Davis

Today's free play is on the Minnesota T'Wolves over the OKC Thunder.

For starters, this represents the fourth game for the Thunder in which they haven't had PG Russell Westbrook.  It also represents the fourth quarter meltdowns the Thunder have had in their last two games.

OKC was leading the Raptors by 25 at one point, leading the Blazers by 19 and the Nets by 15, Westbrook or not, this team is good enough to not let these teams back into games but they are sincerely giving it the best effort they possibly can.

But like any team in their circumstance, how effective can you be?

As for Minnesota... while they might not be a playoff team, they're still playing very well at home, as Minnesota has only dropped four games at home and now they welcome a team that is clearly reeling and a bit desperate.

Take Minny as your free play of the day.

1♦ MINNESOTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Scott Delaney

My free play for Saturday is on the Compass Bowl total, and I'm playing it Under.

Houston boasts a battery of  quarterback John O'Korn and receiver Deontay Greenberry, but Vanderbilt has a stellar defensive unit that I think will slow things down and instill a physical spring in it step to keep the Cougars at bay. After all, the Commodores are favored in this one, so the're not going to get pushed around either.

The Commodores' secondary includes safety Kenny Ladler, who doesn't allow a lot of excitement on his island. He'll have the dubious task of stopping Houston's Deontay Greenberry, a sophomore wideout who led the Cougars with 76 catches for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Greennberry is on of the main reasons the Cougars put the points up they do, but it's no secret, so that doen't help.

The Commodores simply counter with Ladler, a senior who led the SEC with five forced fumbles and who ranked second with five interceptions and 60 solo tackles. And remember, though the SEC had what some might consider a downer of a year - compared to how it's used to playing - the Commodores still come from that stringent league that has been represented in the BCS title game 11 times.

Let's count on a physical game here, and the number to stay low.

2♦ Houston/Vanderbilt Under

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Brad Wilton

This is not the same Miami-Florida team that went deep in the Dance last March.
Jimmy Larranaga's team is just 8-5 straight up this year, and even though the 'Canes are riding a 3 game winning streak, 2 of the wins were non-lined games.

Now Miami must step up and play new conference rival Syracuse at the Carrier Dome this Saturday afternoon, and I have a feeling Miami is going to lose touch with the undefeated Orange.

Syracuse is off to a 13-0 start, and almost as impressive is the fact the Orange have covered their last pair as the favorite and 6 of their last 7 when laying points this year.

C.J. Fair leds the home team to a pull away win and cover over Miami in this Saturday afternoon affair, as the Orange move their mark to a perfect 14-0 straight up, and make it 7 of 8 covers when laying the wood.

3♦ SYRACUSE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Sean Michaels

I like Michigan State (-3') in triple revenge at Indiana today.

The Spartans were sluggish in their Big Ten opener at Penn State earlier this week, but then used a second-half, 39-16 surge to roll to the 16-point win. They also won their prior road game, 92-78 at Texas.

The Hoosiers opened conference play with an 83-80 overtime loss at Illinois. They were done in by 23 turnovers and by getting outscored in the paint by 20 points by the Illini.

Indiana is not the Indiana team we saw last year as Tom Crean is trying to compensate for the depatures of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. They've already lost by 17 at Syracuse and seven at home versus Notre Dame.

While the Hoosiers feature two freshman starters, the Spartans arrive with a veteran lineup led by perhaps the best backcourt duo in the country, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, who combine for 33.2 points, 7.8 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. Throw in Adreian Payne (17 ppg) to anchor a talented frontcourt, and Tom Izzo's team - back at full strength for the first time since early December - is tough to beat.

Added advantage for Michigan State: it's winter break so not as many students will be on hand at Assembly Hall today in Bloomington.

2♦ MICHIGAN STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Dayton at MississippiFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: DaytonFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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With shot selection of headstrong G Marshall Henderson (19.1 ppg, but just 36% from floor) still leaving something to be desired, Ole Miss' efforts have been understandably choppy to date. Much prefer the steadier performance pattern of Archie Miller's Dayton bunch that first impressed in Maui. In sharp contrast to the bombs-away Henderson, the Flyers' Ohio State transfer G Jordan Sibert (13 ppg and 50%FGs) is blending effectively with the other Flyers, who continue to share the ball effectively and work consistently on the stop end.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

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N.Y. Rangers +115 over TORONTOFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. The Maple Leafs have picked up points in six straight games but five of those went into OT. The Leafs have been close to winning six in a row/and or losing six in a row but not a lot has changed. In a snowy blizzard in the Winter Classic, the Leafs allowed 43 shots on net and once again Jonathan Bernier bailed them out. You simply can’t keep hanging your goaltender out to dry and expect positive results every night but this is more than that. The Maple Leafs have not been involved in many big games over the years. They had a big playoff series with the Bruins last season but imagine what would have happened had they played another game after winning or losing that series in Game 7. The Leafs Winter Classic Game was huge. They had the 24/7 cameras rolling on them for a couple of weeks and they were headline news in Canada and Toronto for three consecutive days heading into the game. It was the biggest crowd ever to watch a NHL hockey game and millions on TV also watched. It was a celebration that lasted well into the next day making this as big a letdown spot as any regular season game that the Maple Leafs have ever played in their storied history.
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The Rangers lost in Pittsburgh last night 5-2 but it was not because they played badly. They lost because Henrik Lundqvist once again stunk the joint up by allowing all five goals on 28 shots (.821 save %). The Rangers fired away 35 on Marc Andre Fleury. On Dec 20, in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders, Lundqvist allowed four goals on 15 shots (.769 save %) and was subsequently replaced by the superior Cam Talbot the next game. The Rangers went on to win that game, 4-1 over Minnesota and subsequently won three of their next four before last night. The Rangers are playing outstanding hockey. When they lose it’s because Lundqvist has been dreadful. When the Blue Shirts played the Leafs on Decemeber 23rd it looked like a 40-minute Ranger power-play in the final two periods in which New York out-shot Toronto 31-13. Tonight, Cam Talbot gets the call and we get to take back a price against a weak Toronto defense in a hugely vulnerable spot.   
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DALLAS -½ +125 over DetroitFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. Well, if we played against the Maple Leafs because of the letdown spot, we can certainly apply the same theory to fading the Red Wings. Despite losing the Classic, Detroit still played their hearts out and even raised their sticks at center ice for several seconds to salute the crowd when it was over. The Red Wings remained on the ice for several minutes after the game, not only salute the crowd but to take in the atmosphere and excitement one last time, as it was a once in a lifetime event. One game removed from the Classic, the Red Wings don’t figure to be nearly as sharp and we still don’t trust Jimmy Howard and won’t until we see him regain his old form.
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Dallas remains one of the most undervalued squads in the game. They are coming off a 6-4 loss to Montreal but blame that one on goaltending, as Kari Lehtonen was awful. When you score four times on Carey Price you’re supposed to win. Still, Dallas has defeated almost every power in the league this season. The Stars have victories over Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Chicago and Vancouver, not to mention an OT loss to the Blue Notes in a game they outshot St. Louis 30-22. Dallas has picked up points in 16 of its last 23 games. Rarely do they get out-played or out-worked and in a favorable spot, Dallas should once again have a big edge in all key stats that include scoring chances, time in opposition’s end and shots on net.
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New Jersey -½ +145 over BUFFALOSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. We’re not sure folks understand just how good this Devils team is. New Jersey is 10th in the East with 42 points and they’re four points back of Detroit for the final playoff spot. Trust us when we suggest that the Devils would have at least 14 more points if they used Corey Schneider as their #1 goaltender instead of Martin Brodeur. The Devils allow the least amount of shots on net in the NHL but Brodeur’s save percentage in half of the 24 games he’s played to this point was under .875 and that includes last night’s .792 save percentage against Chicago. The Devils deserved better last night and they have deserved better on many other nights this season when Brodeur cost them 2 points. No team is as efficient as the Devils at keeping the opposition out of their own end and moving the puck out quickly. When Schneider is in net (he’s tonight’s confirmed starter), the Devils chances of winning increase dramatically. The best part is that Schneider has a huge chip on his shoulder for not only being the backup to Brodeur but for also being left off Team USA in the upcoming Olympics. Playing in the second game of back-to-backs, the Devils are 9-2 this season.
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The Sabres are playing better lately but this team cannot score and that’s a huge problem against a team like the Devils that allow less scoring chances than any team in the league. Buffalo has scored two goals or less in five of its past six games. They have scored just once in its past two games against Winnipeg and Minnesota and its 72 goals scored this season is an incredible 24 goals fewer than the Calgary Flames for the least amount of goals in the game. If this were an elite team like Boston, Pittsburgh, L.A, St. Louis, San Jose, Anaheim or Vancouver playing in Buffalo they would be all be minus a half puck and minus juice. Marty Brodeur is the only thing preventing the Devils from elite status but this line does not reflect that, thus resulting in this huge underlay.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

LT ProfitsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Kansas City Vs IndianapolisFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Indianapolis +123FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This line has done a complete flip-flop since the Indianapolis Colts opened up as -2½ favorites, and we now feel that the Colts offer good money line value as home dogs to the Kansas City Chiefs, who went just 2-5 in their last seven games with those two wins coming vs. the terrible Raiders and Redskins. Indianapolis is getting no respect here for a team that went into Kansas City and dominated the Chiefs 23-7 two weeks ago, and that also had an identical record as Kansas City at 11-5 while facing a tougher schedule. The Colts also went 6-2 at home including wins over the Seahawks and Broncos, who just happen to be the current favorites to represent their conferences in the Super Bowl. Also remember Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith has never won a road playoff game. The Colts are 12-2 ATS in their last 14 games after gaining more than 250 passing yards in their previous game.
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Rider Vs SienaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Siena -2FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Siena Saints are 5-9 while the Rider Broncs are 7-5, but the Saints have faced a tougher schedule and have won three straight games at home vs. respectable non-conference opponents in St Bonaventure, Hofstra and Fordham. The win over St. Bonaventure was especially promising as it was the only win by either team vs. a school currently in the Pomeroy Top 100. The Saints are also an excellent offensive rebounding team, ranking 12th in the entire country in that department, and they should dominate the second-chance opportunities here. Rider has shot the ball very well, but you must keep in mind the competition as the seven wins by the Broncs have come vs. a Quinnipiac team ranked 147th on Pomeroy and vs. six teams ranked 225th or worse. Rider is also a dismal 328th in defensive efficiency. Siena is 6-1-1 ATS in its last eight home games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

NellyFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Indiana Pacers - over New Orleans PelicansSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This looks like a challenging spot for the Pelicans with a third road game in four days to start 2014. Travel to Minneapolis to Boston and now to Indianapolis has made for a hectic three days and after stealing a narrow win at the Garden last night this could be a tough turnaround. The Pelicans out-shot Boston 49 percent to less than 35 percent last night but won by just three despite also holding big edges at the free throw line and in three-point makes. The Pacers enter this game off an embarrassing 13-point defeat at Toronto, currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA. That snapped a five-game slide in which the Pacers won by at least 14 points in every game. Indiana won by five in New Orleans early this season and that was a sloppy performance for Indiana with 18 turnovers. The edge on defense should be dramatic for Indiana in this matchup. The Pacers are 15-1 S/U at home with a 11-4 ATS mark and while this is a big spread the Pacers are 14-5 ATS this season as a favorite of six or more points while New Orleans is 0-3 ATS when dogged by at least nine points this season.

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NHL PredictionsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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San Jose Sharks -120FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Sharks are coming off a 5-1 win over Edmonton on Thursday, and they've now won 5 of their last 6 games overall. During that 6 game stretch they've scored 23 goals or 3.83 goals per game. San Jose is 26-9-6 on the season and 11-8-3 on the road. Colorado has bounced back from 4 straight losses with wins over Columbus and Philadelphia at home. Included in one of those four straight losses was a 5-2 shootout loss in San Jose where they were out shot 45-33. Over the Avs last 6 games they allowed 21 goals against or 3.5 per game. Colorado is 25-11-4 on the year and 14-5-2 at home. Take note that the Sharks are 4-1 in their last 5 vs a team with a winning record and 8-2 in their last 10 Saturday games. The Avalanche are 0-4 in their last 4 vs Western Conference teams and 0-4 in their last 4 vs a team with a winning % above .600. The Sharks are 19-7 in these two teams last 26 meetings. The Avs aren't playing their best hockey right now, and that's showing with their record against teams with high winning %'s. I'm on the Sharks.
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Hurricanes / Islanders Over 5.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Hurricanes have won two straight games scoring 4 and 5 goals in those two games, and they've had a number of high scoring games lately. Totals in their past 7 games have been 7, 9, 7, 7, 7, 5, and 6. They've given up 3+ goals in 7 straight games. The Islanders have won 3 straight and 5 of their last 7 games overall. During that span they've scored 3+ goals in 6 of 7 games. These two teams have met twice this season with one game finishing 4-3 for 7 total goals, and the other a low scoring 1-0 game. While we've seen mixed results this year, the OVER is 18-7-1 in their last 26 meetings overall and 4-0 in their last 4 meetings in New York. The OVER is 6-0-1 in the Canes last 7 overall and 9-4-2 in their last 15 road games. The OVER is 36-17-4 in the Islanders last 54 games following a win. Take the OVER tonight at a good price between two teams that have been playing wide open games lately.
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St. Louis Blues -½ -125FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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There has been a trend the last few picks for me. I cashed in on the Sharks Thursday night, then the Ducks last night, and now we look to keep it going with the Blues tonight. What is the trend you ask? Well tonight we look to rake in some more dough on a team that is excellent at home. I went through the dominance of the Sharks and Ducks at home in my prior two writeups, and tonight I'll repeat that with the Blues. St. Louis holds a 16-3-2 record at home, with their latest two wins at home coming against two of the NHL's best teams, the Kings and Blackhawks. Their last home loss came against the Sharks, a great team in their own right. In this regard, the Blues have been battle tested at home. They haven't been beating up on cream puffs. They don't have any weaknesses to note, as they are averaging 3.50 goals per game and only allowing 2.27 goals a game. That is some of the best numbers you will find in the NHL today. Conversely, the Blue Jackets are one of the more vanilla teams in the league. They are scoring 2.66 goals a game and giving up 2.83, so that is average results. I'll look to take advantage of a team that has been superb at home again tonight. After the Blues beat the Jackets 4-3 a few weeks ago in Columbus, look for them to down them again at home.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, January 4

River City Sharps

Florida St -3½

Leonard Hamilton appears to have another good, athletic squad at Florida State and they bring a 9-3 record into their home game tonight with 9-4 Virginia. The Seminoles already boast several real quality wins over A-10 heavyweights UMass and VCU and they have won four in a row. For Tony Bennett and Virginia, they are coming off an embarrassing 35-point loss at Tennessee and we expect them to improve that effort today. With that said, however, we think the Seminoles are simply too deep and athletic for a Virginia teams that seems to get pushed around easily and also hits really bad scoring droughts.Virginia is 16-33 ATS as a road underdog of 6 points or less or pick since 1997 and Florida State is 8-2 ATS in all games this season. Too much Seminoles today for the Wahoos.

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