Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 7

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 7

William Holloway

Mariners -138

The Mariners cant afford any losses as they make a playoff push, especially to the worst team in baseball. The Mariners will also try to bolster their playoff hopes by sending James Paxton to the mound. Paxton (5-1, 1.91 ERA) improved to 8-1 after Tuesdays victory over the A’s. The Mariners should be in great position to get their sixth straight win while playing a Rangers team who has lost 9 of 10.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 7

Andy Iskoe

Ravens -1

Cincinnati has made the Playoffs each of the past three seasons but has yet to win a Playoff game. They start this season with new coordinators on both sides of the football. After winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago Baltimore suffered fate similar to many recent champs, losing key players to retirement or free agency and having the big target on their backs. The Ravens were a respectable 8-8 after 5 straight Playoff seasons. They rate the edge both at QB and head coach and start the season with a hunger to return to the Playoffs. Even with RB Ray Rice suspended the for first two games the Ravens have adequate backups and have improved their receiving corps as well as their defensive talent. After a not surprising down season in 2013 the Ravens, who have proven i‚n the Harbaugh/Flacco era that they can win big games, should get off to a winning start in a key home Divisional contest.

Falcons +3

This is an NFC South Divisional clash between a pair of teams with elite quarterbacks and proven head coaches. A³tlanta seeks to rebound from a disappointing 4-12 season in 2013 after hosing and losing the previous NFC Title game. Injuries had much to do with the Falcons’ decline last season which put consistent pressure on a vulnerable defense. The Saints’’ defense improved greatly last season and is poised to build on that this season. The 2014 Falcons figure to be less like the 2013 edition and more like the team that won 10 or more games and made the Playoffs in 4 of 5 seasons from 2008 through 2012 which makes for an attractive home underdog in a series that has seen the underdog cash more often than not over the past decade.

Chiefs -3

Kansas City started last season 9-0 before going 2-5 and then dropping a wild Wild Card game to Indianapolis. The early season success may have been due to the preparation of first season coach Andy Reid and his familiarity with the 3 NFC East teams who the Chiefs defeated in weeks two through four. Tennessee takes a step backwards with a new head coach and although Ken Whisenhunt is highly thought of the roster is not strong enough to suggest early season success. The Chiefs are another team in need of a good opening day effort with two road games on deck. QB Alex Smith is a decent "game manager" with an elite RB (Jamaal Charles) and an aggressive defense. If this game is played in November the Titans might be the better team as the gap between these teams is narrowing. But for now the Chiefs have the edge and, playing on a historically home field, look to put the disappo‚intment of last season behind them while the Titans begin a new era.

Browns / Steelers Under 41.5

This is a Divisional game between a Cleveland team many believe is on the rise and a Pittsburgh team that may be showing signs of decline following a pair of 8-8 seasons. And while that indeed may be true there is still a sizeable gap both in terms of talent and overall strength of their organizations. Pittsburgh is an elite franchise with Mike Tomlin entering his eighth season as Steelers coach and only Pittsburgh’s third head coach since 1969. Coach Mike Pettine ushers in a new era in Cleveland football, the seventh such era since the Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999. And QB Brian Hoyer is the Browns’ twelfth different Opening Day starter over these 15 seasons. With two tough road games up next, the Steelers cannot afford to take this game or this opponent lightly. But the best play in this ga‚me is the UNDER. Cleveland has a very solid defense but a very limited offense -- traits that are well suited for low scoring games. And this has been a low scoring series in recent seasons. Even as scoring has been up leaguewide over the past several sesaons, with average points per game rising steadily, the Browns and Steelers continue to play physical, defensive battles. The last 6 games between these teams have produce 27, 38, 34, 34, 22 and 17 total points. Because of the increased scoring there are a few points of extra value in this total, which more properly should be priced in th3 37 to 38 points range.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 7

Vegas Butcher

Tennessee Titans +3

As was discussed in my NFL Preview I expect this Titans team to be very competitive this year (I have them winning their division) and against a Chiefs team that is bound to regress I expect them to hold their own. The odds dropped on this one but even at +3, I like the value on the Titans. They’re a young team and under Whisenhunt’s tutelage I expect them to take the big step forward today. Just like I outlined in the NFL Preview Titans barely lost to the Chiefs last year, when a lot of ‘unusual’ things happened in that game. If they play a cleaner game today, I expect the results to be different. Titans win this one and +3 just adds additional value.

Baltimore Ravens -1

Like I’ve mentioned in my NFL Preview post, Baltimore was laying -2 at home against Cincy last year. An improved squad this season, they’re only laying -1 this time around. I like the value we are getting with the home team. AFC North battles tend to be close hard-fought contests, with home teams often pulling out wins, while losing on the road in the rematches. Baltimore is the home team today and I think we’ll see an improved team from last year, especially on the offensive end where Kubiak took over. Expect a close game between two teams that are very familiar with one another, with home team having the edge late.

Teaser (6.5 pts): Pittsburgh Steelers +1 / St Louis Rams +4

I’ve broken both teams down here NFL Preview, so you can read that over if you wish, but the key to this play is that I believe there’s too much value on the Rams. They were listed at -6 earlier in the summer, dropped to -3.5 after Bradford injury and are now at -2.5. That’s a 3.5-point swing pretty much due to Bradford getting injured. Too big of a swing, as Bradford is as mediocre QB as you get in this league. By teasing this even further, we go from Rams -6 to Rams +4 today, a 10-point difference. That’s a lot of pure value that I can’t pass up.

As far as Steelers go, they will have a huge advantage on the offensive end in this one. They are also at home, and I’ve described earlier that home teams in AFC North tend to be very competitive. Finally, Roethlisberger is 9-0 in his career against the Browns while playing at home. I fully expect him to be 10-0 after this game.

Teaser (6.5 pts): Pittsburgh Steelers +1 / Denver Broncos -1

Sorry to keep bringing this up, but all the relevant analysis is in here for this Denver/Colts game: NFL Preview. Basically the idea was that Denver was playing ‘out of their element’ in last year’s meeting @ Indianapolis and they made too many mental mistakes there. Plus Mathis was an absolute terror on the defensive end which caused major problems for Manning and Co. Well, Manning will get his left-tackle back this season, Mathis is suspended for this one, and now the game is in Denver. I expect a much different result in this one. At -6.5 I’d play Denver all day, and maybe even at -7. But the spread shifted a bit so I’ll simply teaser the Broncos down.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 7

OC Dooley

Bengals / Ravens Under 43½

One of the keys to this total surrounds the offseason controversy involving Baltimore star running back Ray Rice who is suspended for this contest.  In addition both offenses are adjusting to brand new coordinators which will ultimately slow their progression.  With Jay Gruden now employed as a head coach the Bengals no longer have their long time offensive leader while the Ravens are now going with the schemes of ex-Texans head coach Gary Kubiak who has been “demoted” into the coordinator role. Most reading this analysis will remember when current Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis directed one of the NFL’s all-time best DEFENSES in what was a Baltimore Super Bowl campaign.  The situation for the Baltimore stop-unit is radically different as opposed to a year ago at this time when they the “then” defending Super Bowl champs traveled to Denver and were shredded to the tune of 49 points in an ugly defeat.  That week-one contest marked the first time the Ravens took the field WITHOUT the now retired defensive leader Ray Rice along with other key veterans.  Basically the Ravens went from the Super Bowl to “out” of the playoffs due to defensive shortcomings and have had a full year to develop younger and more effective personnel

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