Thursday, 23 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 23rd)

If someone had told me that the match had finished 60, 62, there would have been absolutely no way I would have believed that Simona Halep was the victor over Serena Williams- I even had to look at the score twice again to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong as the World Number 1 was given one of her biggest beatings on a tennis court.

That result hasn't ended Williams' participation at the WTA Finals, but it does mean she needs to beat Eugenie Bouchard, preferably in straight sets, and hope Simona Halep can give Ana Ivanovic either a competitive match that goes into three sets or the Romanian can simply win the match and the Group.


With the Race to London taking centre stage on the ATP Tour, Tomas Berdych was the only player that has yet to secure his place in the Tour Finals that was beaten in competition which could have opened the door for the likes of Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov to make up some points on him if not overtake him.

With Rafael Nadal looking pretty good in Basel and Novak Djokovic admitting he is preparing for Paris after his wife gave birth to a baby boy, the top eight players may be ready to take their place in London after all. That means every point is going to matter in the bid to sow up those places with just two weeks to go until we know the final line up in London for the event which will begin on November 9th.


Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: The winner of this match will likely have booked their place in the Semi Final of the WTA Finals and I think the Dane Caroline Wozniacki is going to have a little bit too much for Agnieszka Radwanska.

Of course one of the concerns is that Wozniacki had to dig really deep within herself to beat Maria Sharapova just two days ago and it would be interesting to see if she has left something on the court.

Agnieszka Radwanska had a much easier time in her win over Petra Kvitova, which was something of a surprise considering Radwanska's late season form.

Both players produce a similar style of tennis which should make this another competitive match, but I think Wozniacki is able to back up her win over Radwanska from the Cincinnati event, their only match of the year. That ended Wozniacki's three match losing run in the head to head and I think Wozniacki has the slightly better serve which could prove to be a difference maker.

I won't be that surprised if we did see a final set decider for the first time this week, but Wozniacki might just have the edge to come through with a 75, 46, 63 win.


Jeremy Chardy v Alexandr Dolgopolov: This Second Round match comes between two players who will be meeting for the fourth time this season as Alexandr Dolgopolov looks to level the head to head with Jeremy Chardy having won the last match between them.

Chardy is a player that can frustrate me as he can make a rash of errors to lose matches comprehensively, but I am surprised he has been set as the underdog in this match. It seems to be an overreaction to Dolgopolov's dismantling of Gilles Simon in the First Round, especially as that was his first win since coming back from surgery.

The indoor hard courts should really aid both of these players you would feel as they have decent first serves, but neither Chardy nor Dolgopolov have had a sustained success on the surface.

The Frenchman has been in better form of the two players of late with more wins to his name and I am interested to see how Dolgopolov will try to back up his first win in months with another match so soon after that one. I wouldn't be surprised to see this go the distance with both players sometimes very erratic on the court, but I think the underdog can come through with a win.


Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Thomaz Bellucci: Coming through the qualifiers and winning a match on the main draw should have given Thomaz Bellucci some confidence ahead of this Second Round match against Roberto Bautista Agut and may also have eased a couple of my concerns in backing the Spaniard.

Bautista Agut was the far better player when seeing off Santiago Giraldo on Wednesday, but he had a long week in Moscow last week that saw him come a little short when losing in the Final. However, he had a couple of days to recover and Bellucci has played more tennis in the last few days than Bautista Agut so tiredness may affect the Brazilian more in this match.

The lefty serve will take some reading for Bautista Agut, but he can frustrate opponents with his defence as he did to Giraldo and I can see the same fate eventually befalling Bellucci. There are times I have watched Bellucci and been impressed with the talent he possesses, but Bautista Agut is having a great season and he looks like a man determined to end 2014 in the right way.

If Bautista Agut is protecting his serve as well as he did on Wednesday, he could wear down Bellucci in this one and eventually come through 75, 64.


Kenny De Schepper + 2.5 games v Ivo Karlovic: This isn't a lot of games to take to the bank, but Kenny De Schepper has a big enough serve to force a couple of tie-breaks even if he doesn't quite have enough to see off Ivo Karlovic. The veteran Karlovic has been playing well in recent weeks and has had a big 2014 season to move back into the top 32 in the World Rankings, but he doesn't get a lot of joy when it comes to return games and is still heavily reliant on his own big serve.

This match is likely to have a lot of quick games with both players much more effective when having the first strike of their serve and I think break points will come at a premium. It might take just one break for Karlovic for him to cover this number, but the opposite view is that one break for De Schepper may make it almost impossible for Karlovic to do that.

When they met a couple of years ago, it was no surprise that Karlovic needed two tie-breakers to win the match and De Schepper will have some confidence having won a couple of qualifiers to reach this Second Round match.

I'll be looking for De Schepper to use that confidence to keep this match very close and will take the games on offer.


Roger Federer - 5.5 games v Denis Istomin: The lure of finishing with the year end World Number 1 position is keeping Roger Federer focused for the final three weeks of the Tour ahead of his first appearance in the Davis Cup Final.

He was brutal in dismissing Gilles Muller in the First Round in Basel, but Denis Istomin showed twelve months ago that he can be a decent indoor hard court player when pushing Federer in a three set loss.

That was about as tough as Istomin has ever made it for Federer and my criticism of the Uzbekistan player is that he doesn't seem to give himself a real shot of beating the top players on the Tour. I am not convinced he believes he can win these kinds of matches and I think making it as competitive as last season would constitute a success for him.

I think Federer is playing better than he was twelve months ago and I don't think this match will go the distance although it would be less surprising if the score from the last two sets is repeated again.


Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 games v Vasek Pospisil: A late bid for a place in the World Tour Finals means Grigor Dimitrov has played a lot of tennis in the last month and I am not sure if that contributed to some of his problems in the First Round against Alexander Zverev.

A bigger issue may have been a lack of familiarity with Zverev's game that allowed his opponent to dominate the first set before Dimitrov dug deep within himself to turn the match around and keep his hopes of reaching London alive.

Vasek Pospisil is less of a mystery and I think that will help Dimitrov in this Second Round match and I do think the layers have made a mistake with this spread. I figured it would be at least one game higher, while I never expected this to be at odds against.

Pospisil does have a serve that should work wonders on the indoor hard courts, and that showed up when he reached the Semi Final here last season. However, he found Roger Federer a little too good in that match and Grigor Dimitrov might be better placed after his First Round scare.

We will likely see at least one tie-breaker, but I think Dimitrov has an effective enough return to find a break or two which can help him cover the number.

MY PICKS: Caroline Wozniacki - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jeremy Chardy @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kenny De Schepper + 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 2.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-8, - 10.66 Units (22 Units Staked, - 48.45% Yield)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 22nd)

It has been a pretty poor first couple of days for the tennis picks including the terrible Tuesday where all four picks went down the drain- it was one of those days when you couldn't even point to bad luck as all four picks were pretty terrible.

On Wednesday, the WTA Finals move to the second set of round robin matches, while the tournaments in Basel and Valencia both really get going. After the really poor Tuesday action, I am hoping that Wednesday proves to be a more productive day as some of the biggest names in the sport are all in action.


Rafael Nadal - 4.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Any time a player comes through the qualifiers into the main draw, they have to be respected, especially when that player wins a match in the First Round too. Pierre-Hugues Herbert has had to battle hard to come through to this marquee match against Rafael Nadal, although he will need to hope that the latter is off his game somewhat for the shock result to have a chance of coming in.

Nadal was brutally efficient in dealing with Simone Bolelli in the First Round, although there remain some issues with his health that have yet to determine his participation in London for the Tour Finals. The Spaniard also admitted he was a little surprised with his performance in the First Round, but I still think Nadal should be far too good for a player ranked outside the top 100 and who spends the majority of his time on the Challenger Tour.

Of course a spread like this can be dangerous for Nadal who generally prefers serving second, while Herbert is someone that pushed Novak Djokovic fairly hard a year ago on an indoor court in Paris. However, Nadal won't give up any point and I think he will wear down his opponent in this Second Round match and come through with a 64, 63 win.


Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: The big problem at this time of the season is trying to work out the motivation of players with the end of the season fast approaching. I think Santiago Giraldo could be facing a problem in that regards as he has lost his last three matches and I think Roberto Bautista Agut is going to be a little too consistent for the Colombian.

As big as Giraldo can play at times, Bautista Agut has a decent enough defence to force him to try and hit closer and closer to the lines and eventually leading to the mistakes that the Spaniard will thrive upon.

One concern is that Bautista Agut had a long week in Moscow reaching the Final there on Sunday, but I also think this has been a career year for Bautista Agut and one that he would surely like to end on a high.

Eventually I look for Bautista Agut to just have a little too much for Giraldo which leads to a 64, 64 win.


Serena Williams - 4.5 games v Simona Halep: Both of these players won their first round robin match at the WTA Finals which has given them a great chance of reaching the Semi Finals and the winner will most likely have booked their place in the last four of the final tournament of the season.

Serena Williams battled deep within herself to see of Ana Ivanovic in her first match, while Simona Halep had a much 'easier' day in the office with a convincing win over Eugenie Bouchard that was very one sided.

As consistent as Halep has been, it will be very difficult for her to keep up with Williams who should be able to play first strike tennis which makes her so effective a player. Keeping Halep on the backfoot should allow Williams to dominate the match in terms of pace and eventually breaking down the Romanian who could potentially want to leave something in the tank for her final round robin match against Ana Ivanovic.

Williams has to serve better than she has since the US Open if she is to make this a match she can win with room to spare on the scoreboard, but her power should give her the edge. Keeping the unforced errors to a minimum should be achievable as I expect Williams to earn the short ball and that should be enough to see her come through with a 64, 63 win.


Eugenie Bouchard + 3.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: With both players losing the first round robin matches, this is a must win match for Eugenie Bouchard and Ana Ivanovic and I do think we will see more out of the Canadian than we did a couple of days ago.

On that occasion, too many unforced errors from the Bouchard racquet made life very easy for Simona Halep as she fell behind very quickly in the first set and Bouchard made it clear that she realises she has to be more consistent when dealing with the competition in the WTA Finals.

Ana Ivanovic played Serena Williams very tough in her opening loss, but also went down in straight sets and her own inconsistencies make her a vulnerable favourite. Bouchard has won their two previous matches including coming from a set behind to beat Ivanovic at the Australian Open earlier this season and I think she can make this a competitive match.

The number of games given to Bouchard suggests that winning a set will be enough to help her cover as long as that set is won in any way other than a tie-breaker and this does look a three set match in the making. There should be a few breaks of serve each way, but I like Bouchard to at least keep it much closer than she did against Halep in a huge match for both players with ambitions of making it through to the Semi Finals.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard + 3.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-6, - 10.16 Units (14 Units Staked, - 72.57% Yield)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 21st)

I was out at a wonderful talk given by the incomparable Roy Keane which means I won't have the time for my normal post for the tennis picks from matches to be played on Tuesday.

The first day was a mixed bag with both picks from the WTA Finals falling by the wayside, but Rafael Nadal was a very convincing winner in Basel to move into the Second Round of a tournament loaded with some big names.

MY PICKS: John Isner @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Milos Raonic - 3.5 Games @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 2.16 Units (6 Units Staked, - 36% Yield)

Monday, 20 October 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (October 20th)

This is the final week of the WTA Tour in the 2014 season with the Finals taking place in Singapore as the top eight players in the world fight out for the last prize of the year. We also are going to see two ATP 500 events which could really begin to highlight which eight players will be competing in the ATP World Tour Finals in three weeks time as five of the eight participants have been confirmed.


Well that might be pushing things as Rafael Nadal has booked his place in London for the Tour Finals, but admitted last week that he is going to take part in Basel and then reevaluate whether he will take his place in London. Nadal has been suffering with his appendix and is certainly going to have to go in for surgery, but he was hoping to delay that until the end of the season, although those plans look to have changed following his surprise loss in Shanghai.

I do believe Nadal wanted to end the season with some positive momentum, but he had a long time off the Tour and I think I would have advised him to sit out before the appendix issue showed up as the indoor hard court season hasn't been the most productive for him. Of course winning the Tour Finals is arguably the last prize in tennis that Nadal needs to win and it is clear that means something to him as he has previously argued for the surface to also be changed rather than consistently played on indoor hard courts.

I think that was the motivation for him to come back and compete, but at this stage it wouldn't be a surprise to hear he has pulled out of the event, although it might need an early exit in Basel for that to come about.


If Nadal does decide to miss the Tour Finals, it will make the final two weeks a little less exciting to see which players make it to London- Kei Nishikori is almost certainly going to be the sixth man which means that four players are fighting for two places, but the exit of Nadal would open up another place to lessen the intrigue just a little.

Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych strengthened their positions last week by beating David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov in Finals, the current Number 9 and Number 10 in the Race to London. All four players are in action in Basel/Valencia this week which could be the pivotal one in determining which players are competing in the Tour Finals, although the last Masters event in Paris presents a lot of points to earn too.


I took a week off from the picks last week as I tend to do at this time of the season, but the season still looks to be an improvement on the 2013 one although not to the levels of 2011 and 2012. There have been some real ups and downs during the last ten months, but hopefully a strong last month will end the 2014 with a positive feeling.


Rafael Nadal - 3.5 games v Simone Bolelli: After all I have said about Rafael Nadal and his health, this is the kind of match that the Spaniard should be winning fairly comfortably and I think there has been an overreaction to some of his health concerns. There is no doubt that Nadal isn't at 100% with the appendix bothering him, but I imagine he has taken his place in the Basel draw because he feels he is capable of bringing some quality tennis to the court and that may be too much for Simone Bolelli to match.

I always respect a qualifier as they will have become accustomed to the conditions compared with the other players in the draw and Simone Bolelli had to dig deep to come through those qualifying rounds. He won both matches in three sets and the indoor courts should aid him in this match with the serve one of the weapons he has when it is firing on all cylinders.

The first serve should give Bolelli a chance, but he needs to make sure he gets a high percentage in play if he is to surprise Nadal for the first time having lost all three previous matches against him. The issues Nadal is having with his health has to give the Italian some more belief in creating an upset, but I am not sure he has the full mental belief to win a match like this.

Nadal will have to play better than he did in his loss to Feliciano Lopez in Shanghai, but I was still expecting this handicap to be at least a game higher and I can see Bolelli fighting hard in the first set before falling away in a 76, 63 loss.


Serena Williams - 4.5 games v Ana Ivanovic: The big question about the WTA Finals is the health of a number of players taking part considering all the withdrawals the top players were having in the final weeks of the season.

They have all arrived in Singapore for the final tournament of the season which suggests those withdrawals were more for cautionary reasons and the first group games will be played over the next couple of days.

I fancy Serena Williams to get off to a strong start against Ana Ivanovic despite the distraction of what a Russian official said when describing the Williams sisters as the 'Williams brothers' on Russian TV. Williams has made it clear how much that has angered her, but I can see her coming out and putting on a statement match to try and focus on the tennis.

Ana Ivanovic has given Williams fits in two matches this season, winning one of those at the Australian Open, and she has been in decent form with plenty of wins behind her. However, the Serb can sometimes be rattled by the best players on the Tour and quickly get down on herself if she doesn't immediately open competitively and the first few games will say a lot about this match.

If Williams makes a fast start, Ivanovic could be blown away and focus on her remaining two matches as her best bet of getting out of the group and I can see the American producing a 63, 63 sort of win.


Eugenie Bouchard v Simona Halep: Eugenie Bouchard can sometimes be a frustrating player to watch as her style of play can lead to a lot of errors which looks like she is giving away a match, but her power is also the reason she has reached the business end of some many big tournaments this season.

The young Canadian is making her first appearance in the WTA Finals, but so is opponent Simona Halep so I do think there will be nerves on both sides of the net. That is going to be coupled with the additional pressure of believing this is the match that has to be won if they are to progress to the Semi Finals and I think this will be closely contested.

Halep is the better mover and defender of the two, but Bouchard does have the shot-making to hit through her as long as she is serving well and cutting down on the unforced errors. Generally the indoor hard courts have favoured Bouchard of the two players and I think she can back up her win over the Romanian at Wimbledon by beating her here too in what has been set as a pick 'em match. 

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Serena Williams - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)

Season 2014+ 28.14 Units (1505.5 Units Staked, + 1.87% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (October 18-20)

The domestic football is back in action from Saturday 18th October following another two week break where the international football took centre stage and it will be another busy month of games in the Premier League and European competitions before the final international break until March.

I don't think I have ever enjoyed the mismatch qualifiers that usually take place during these breaks, although Dutch and German fans would probably call these matches anything but ones where they have dominated. Both Holland and Germany have made a poor start to their European Championship qualifiers, but the new format means both are still likely to qualify for the tournament in France which would make the whole qualification period a bit of a farce.

England have picked up nine points from their games to present a strong position in the Group, although Roy Hodgson just can't seem to get out of his own way with more criticisms of his training methods following his revelations about Raheem Sterling. It does feel a real club vs country row is developing between Liverpool and England, although both Hodgson and Brendan Rodgers have played down reports suggesting that is the case.


For now Rodgers can try and concentrate on revitalising Liverpool's season which has been poor to this point with a number of points dropped- fans believing they were going to challenge for the Premier League title have been given a rude awakening of what happens when a team is being asked to play a number of games in a short period as Liverpool are this season with the added Champions League games.

It is a big week for Liverpool in that regards with Real Madrid to visit Anfield during the week and they can't afford to lose both of those games after losing in Basel in the last round of games.


The next month is also an exciting time for Manchester United fans as it will give us a real idea of where United stand compared with the title favourites. After the game at the Hawthornes on Monday night, Manchester United face Chelsea and Manchester City in back to back Premier League games and we will see a realistic position for the side as games reach the 10 played mark.

Going into the international break in 4th spot was a positive, but United are likely to kick off on Monday a couple of places lower down the table at least in what is a very tight Premier League table at this moment.


The only team seemingly pulling away at the moment are Chelsea who have already faced the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal and some are even suggesting the Blues can go unbeaten. It seems a stretch to think that despite the positive start as an injury to Diego Costa will restrict what Chelsea bring to the table and I think they will still be going to Old Trafford next week with something to prove about their title credentials against a rested and hopefully fitter Manchester United squad.


The picks have not been very good to open the season and I am hoping the international break will start settling things down for myself, although I have to be a little better too. With the added preparation for this weekend games, I am hoping it will be a start to move into a positive direction and then look to kick on from there.


Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The international break is not just a momentum breaker for teams in domestic action, but it also poses problems for some of the best teams as their players won't arrive back to training until a few days before the next round of fixtures. The travelling is another factor that can play a real part in team selections, but this should be an important enough game for both managers to pick their strongest line ups.

Both teams are also involved in European action during the week which can also influence team selection, especially in the case of Manchester City who travel to Moscow for an early Tuesday game, but the early start should give the both managers a little more free reign.

Manchester City have proved a real nightmare for Tottenham Hotspur in recent games, something the BT Sport adverts have been playing up on, including scoring 11 times against them last season. They have dominated them at the Etihad Stadium since Peter Crouch's winner for the North London side that saw Spurs enter the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City, and the home side are certainly right to be favoured.

They do look a little short considering Tottenham's recent form away from home where they had the lead at Arsenal and should have won at Sunderland, but it is hard to see Manchester City continue to struggle at the Etihad Stadium. Goals have been a problem for City in front of their own fans as they have drawn with the likes of Chelsea and Roma in their most recent games, but there is too much attacking potential to really believe that continues.

The lack of real pace in the Tottenham Hotspur back line could be exposed by Manchester City, although I think Spurs have enough about them to cause some problems on the break. The counter attack has really been an issue for Manchester City to deal with, but the return of Fernandinho will help bolster their defensive shape.

Manuel Pellegrini has struggled to get the best out of Yaya Toure to this point as he has been using the Ivorian in a defensive two in midfield which has curtailed some of his explosiveness, but the goal against Aston Villa may see a change in form for Toure.

I think Manchester City will win this game, but it might not be as straight-forward as the short odds suggest. Goals have been a real feature of recent games between these two sides that like to play their football and it is unlikely to change this weekend so backing Manchester City to come out on the right end of a high-scoring game could be the right selection.


Arsenal v Hull City: The injuries in the Arsenal squad have to be concerning for the home fans heading into this game as Hull City have proven to be a difficult team to shake off for teams that have played them this season. Hull showed their heart and belief in coming back from 0-2 down against Manchester City to level the game before eventually being seen off, but that should show Arsenal that this is far from an easy three points.

Missing the likes of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey in the midfield are big losses for Arsenal, but they should at least have Danny Welbeck available and it might give the team a little more balance for Ozil out of the team. I am a fan of the German playmaker, but he can be wasted playing on the far left for Arsenal and his absence may give Arsene Wenger less of an issue picking the right players for the right spots.

Defensive injuries and suspensions should give Hull City some belief they can come to the Emirates Stadium and cause a surprise as they did in their first season in the Premier League during the 2008/09 season, but I am not convinced that will happen.

Hull are conceding too many goals recently, despite the clean sheet against Crystal Palace, and this Arsenal team does have goals in them with the likes of Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshire pulling the strings.

I believe that will lead to a win by a couple of goals for Arsenal although any goal for Hull City will make that difficult to overcome. However, Arsenal beat Hull City comfortably enough in the Premier League in both games last season and I think they will be able to score the goals to see off the Tigers and earn an important three points to get the side moving in the right direction up the table.


Crystal Palace v Chelsea Pick: After Tony Pulis departed Crystal Palace, I really did think the side could be in a spot of bother, but they appointed another man-motivator in Neil Warnock who had the side going in the right direction. Personally I am not that big a fan of Warnock, but this is the kind of game where he really will get his players pumped up and he will be looking to for Crystal Palace to rattle Chelsea ahead of a Champions League game and a visit to Manchester United.

However, Chelsea are playing Maribor at home on Tuesday night and will be confident they can get through that match without too many problems and Jose Mourinho will want his side to keep the pressure on their title rivals, even at this early stage of the season.

Chelsea have looked very good going forward so far this season and I would be surprised if Mourinho puts the shackles on his team after the way they have performed in their early games. Their ability on the counter attack has shown up away from home where Chelsea have won 3 of their 4 away games this season including scoring plenty of goals in wins at Burnley and Everton.

Even the 0-1 win at Sporting Lisbon doesn't highlight the number of chances Chelsea created in that game and in Diego Costa they have one of the better finishers in the Premier League.

The side did lose here last season which should motivate them to right that result, while Crystal Palace were beaten comfortably by the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City at home during that campaign. Even Liverpool had a huge lead at Selhurst Park before inexplicably collapsing and I don't think Chelsea have that kind of collapse in their make up.

I am expecting a fairly routine win for Chelsea on Saturday and I will back them to win by a couple of goals, even away from home.


Everton v Aston Villa Pick: One of the main criticisms I have pointed out about Roberto Martinez' managerial career is the amount of goals his teams have conceded and I made that point again last season when so many Everton fans were jumping on the Spaniard's bandwagon and being overly-critical of former manager David Moyes.

Some claimed Moyes had been holding back Everton and while Martinez had improved some of the attacking play, he had inherited a very solid team that had been left behind by his predecessor and not one that was lacking attacking talent. I did say the big task for Martinez will be keeping Everton a solid team defensively that Moyes had created and this season the injuries as well as the lack of depth has been shown up.

Phil Jagielka believes Everton have been punished for every mistake, but the defending hasn't been good enough and that has to be a concern for fans that took note of Roberto Martinez' time at Wigan Athletic.

After a poor start to the season, Everton need to start winning games if they are to challenge for a top four berth like some expected of them, but that does mean reducing the amount of goals conceded. Everton have had just one clean sheet this season and that is an area where Aston Villa can use their counter-attacking style of play to punish an Everton team that will be pushing forward for three points.

Aston Villa have been shown that the top teams are generally a little too good for them at the moment, but they can cause problems for Everton with their pace in forward areas, while Christian Benteke may be ready to start. I do think Everton will turn around their form and start winning games, but this one won't be easy and they may have to score at least twice to get the job done.

Their form at home against Aston Villa in recent seasons hasn't been the best, but Everton managed to come through with the three points last season and I think they can win back to back League games at Goodison Park against them for the first time since 2004. However, I won't be surprised if Everton's defensive problems continue to create an issue for them and the home side win a game where both teams score.


Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool Pick: The first live game on Sunday comes from West London as Queens Park Rangers look to earn manager Harry Redknapp an important three points against Liverpool. All of the talk this week has been about the disagreement between Brendan Rodgers and England manager Roy Hodgson in their handling of some of the younger Liverpool players, but that was overshadowed by the news that Daniel Sturridge will be out of action potentially until after the next international break.

Liverpool have certainly lacked a bit of potency without Sturridge and the summer departure of Luis Suarez, while Mario Balotelli hasn't really settled in at Anfield in the manner that Rodgers would have liked. The side also have to concentrate on this important Premier League game which comes just a few days before Real Madrid will be visiting Liverpool in the Champions League.

The player at the heart of the latest storm between Liverpool and England, Raheem Sterling, should be available for selection against his former club and he could be the key for Liverpool if they are to win this game. They look short considering they have won 1 of 4 away games in all competitions and the fact that Liverpool have lost 3 of those games, but Sterling has been one of the few bright notes for the side.

He has scored in his last 2 Premier League away games, both in London, and Sterling could be the man to break the deadlock in this one with Liverpool lacking a lot of goals from other areas. Sterling will be playing high up the pitch and Queens Park Rangers will be very wary of the pace that he will provide, while the side have conceded first in 2 of their 3 home League games.

QPR did show some heart in coming back twice to earn a draw with Stoke City in their last home game and Redknapp will know they won't have too many better occasions to play and beat a team like Liverpool. I am not convinced they will do that, and I think the player at the centre of the storm this last week following his request not to start against Estonia could be worth backing to open the scoring in this game.


West Brom v Manchester United Pick: This has been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United in recent seasons, but this Manchester United team have been suffering with some doubts defensively that will make this a more difficult task to continue their record of being unbeaten in 10 League visits to this ground of which they have won 9.

Defensively there are some problems, but the two week international break might have given the chance for the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans to return and offer some experience at centre half for Manchester United. Also, there is little doubt that this Manchester United team have goals in them and I think they can become the latest team to expose some of the defensive frailties that West Brom have shown themselves.

It's a tough position for West Brom to be in- they are at home so will be expected to get forward and attack, but they will also need to be aware of the pace and quality Manchester United have in forward positions. I would find it surprising if Alan Irvine doesn't at least set up his side to try and challenge some of the weaknesses United have shown at the back, but that should also allow Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie and Radamel Falcao to flourish in space they should enjoy.

I do think Manchester United can win here as they should have done at Leicester City and there are far bigger tests on the horizon for the side. I was then torn between two picks because United are very short in the prices considering some of their defensive problems and a lack of away wins in recent games.

Either backing Manchester United to win a high-scoring game or backing the side to win a game where both teams score look the best way to get on the away side in this one, especially considering the last 10 League games at the Hawthornes between these teams have ended with at least three goals scored.

Of those 10 games, West Brom have scored in 7 of them, while the Baggies have scored in 12 of their last 14 home Premier League games. However one of those failures came against Manchester United, and I think it could make a lot more sense backing the away side to win a high-scoring game which is slightly lower priced than backing them to win a game where both teams score.

I believe Manchester United will have a few high-scoring games this season, but they are more than capable of scoring three goals themselves as they did in the 0-3 win here last season and that will be my pick.

MY PICKS: Manchester City Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.33 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.40 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Raheem Sterling First Goalscorer @ 7.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester United Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)

October Update6-8, - 2.83 Units (27 Units Staked, - 10.48% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/1520-40, - 22.20 Units (92 Units Staked, - 24.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

College Football Week 8 Picks 2014 (October 17-18)

The last two weeks of my picks have been absolutely brutal in relation to the College Football games, but I really do feel that a little bit of luck would have switched so much last weekend.

Some were just plain awful picks, but turnovers are the one factor that you can't really factor in, especially not through fumbles. It felt that every team I picked last week decided to shoot themselves in the foot, and I was frustrated and angry to say the least.


Notre Dame, Auburn and Baylor all decided to spot teams huge leads and while two of those came back to remain unbeaten, they all failed to cover thanks to their poor starts. At one point, I even tweeted out that the Fighting Irish and Auburn had played around ten minutes combined but had committed four turnovers which had resulted in both teams being 14-0 down early in those games.

Baylor got into the act too as nothing seemed to go my way with all those turnovers resulting in a 21 point edge to the teams that I hadn't backed in terms of points off turnovers. It isn't just earning a change in possession, it was the fact that all three teams were either throwing pick-sixes, or turning the ball over within their own 30 yard line giving their Defenses almost no chance to keep points off the board.


My only hope is that some of that misfortune lands on my side going forward if this season isn't going to be a total write off for the picks with a big hole to get out of. You can't get too frustrated though and look for a recovery all in one week, but it has to be built up over the remaining six weeks of the regular season and hopefully push into a positive during the Bowl season.


After Week 7, there are only 6 unbeaten teams left in the nation and two of those will be facing off when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish visit the Florida State Seminoles in the late Saturday game. There is now every chance that a Conference winner of two with a loss on their record will take part in the final four Play Off for the National Championship, although you would think Florida State and Baylor are looking to end the season unbeaten to guarantee their places.

The winner of the SEC is almost guaranteed to be placed in the Play Off and I would likely say the winner of the Pac-12 would currently be ahead of the winner of the Big Ten, although these things can change. A loss for Baylor would almost certainly end the chances of the Big 12 being represented unless other Conference Champions have two losses on the record, although that is just my personal opinion and a problem the Big 12 were always going to have without a Championship Game.


Fresno State Bulldogs @ Boise State Broncos Pick: There is a real chance that these two schools could be competing for the Mountain West Championship this season as the two leading contenders in the Mountain and West Division, although the losing team will be playing catch up in their respective Division.

Boise State have the advantage of home field this season and have some momentum clawed back after losing to Air Force by whipping Nevada, while the Fresno State Bulldogs need to recover from a very poor loss to the UNLV Rebels.

The more balance Offensive success should be found by the Broncos who might have as much success running the ball as they do throwing it and that balance could be the key for sustaining drives and winning this game. Establishing a run slows down the pass rush just enough, although Interceptions have been a problem for Boise State, but being in third and manageable situations should work to their favour.

On the other hand, Fresno State will have success throwing the ball, but Boise State could shut down the rushing Offense and keep the Bulldogs in third and long, obviously a much tougher position to prevent the stalling of drives. The Boise State pass rush should be very effective and I can see a couple of turnovers coming their way with the ball-hawking Secondary and may prove to be the difference between these Conference rivals.

The Broncos have won the last 8 games in the series against the spread and I will back them to make that nine in a row this week as a couple of turnovers allows them to pull away from the Bulldogs.


Kansas State Wildcats @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: I really wish this spread had stayed above the double digit mark that it had opened up with, but Kansas State have proved to be a popular choice and I still think there is something to be said to take the Wildcats with a Touchdown head-start in this game.

Bill Snyder has had a bye week to organise the game plan to take advantage of the Oklahoma Sooners, while the home team have also come off two tough games and have begun to look a little vulnerable.

Trevor Knight has made one too many mistakes at Quarter Back and Kansas City could force Knight to make the plays by slowing down the rushing Offense that the Sooners will run.

On the other hand, Jake Waters should have a real shot of producing big numbers in this game against a Secondary that has struggled and I am not impressed by Oklahoma's numbers against Texas last week when they were outgained by 250 total yards.

Kansas State have a 4-1 record against the spread in their last 5 visits to Norman, including winning straight up twice in their last four games here, while the Wildcats are also 13-2 against the spread as the underdog over the last three and a half seasons. They are 12-3 against the spread as the road underdog since Bill Snyder returned as Head Coach and this is a team that thrives when being ruled out.

My one doubt is that Oklahoma have won all 15 games played after the Red River Rivalry game against Texas under Bob Stoops, but I still think the extra time afforded to Snyder to prepare for this game will pay dividends.


Syracuse Orange @ Wake Forest Demon Deacons Pick: The Syracuse Orange have had a couple of tough games against unbeaten teams Notre Dame and Florida State over the last month, but this game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons should be more up their street even if Wake Forest are coming in off a bye.

Even though the Orange are playing with a backup Quarter Back, they showed they can move the chains with their ability to run the ball, although it will still be a tough afternoon against a Demon Deacons Defense that has played fairly well at times.

However, they haven't been the best at stopping the run and that is where Syracuse can get their Offense in a good position to at least score points, while Wake Forest have to hope the bye week can change their own Offensive problems.

Wake Forest just haven't been able to run the ball, while the Offensive Line can't protect the Quarter Back and it may be tough for them get a lot of change out of this Syracuse Defense. Syracuse have had some big defeats recently, but they won't have too many better chances to get back to winning ways and potentially get a little closer to becoming Bowl eligible.

There is no doubt that this is an unfamiliar position for Syracuse to be favoured on the road, but they did win in such a situation comfortably earlier in the season and I think they win here.


Baylor Bears @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: If you like high-powered Offenses, this Big 12 game should be right up your alley, especially if the last couple of games between the Baylor Bears and West Virginia Mountaineers is anything to go by. Those two games have come just a couple of points short of combining for 250 points and the feeling is that we will see another high-scoring game between the teams on Saturday.

Both are coming off the high of big comeback wins last weekend as Baylor somehow remained unbeaten against the TCU Horned Frogs and West Virginia came from 14 down to beat the Texas Tech Red Raiders, so both teams have put in some real emotional effort in the last seven days.

Bryce Petty and Clint Trickett have shown their ability to throw from Quarter Back already and both should have decent days, but there are a couple of differences between the Offenses that should give Baylor the edge. The first of those is the Offensive Line and pass rush pressure should provide a cleaner pocket for Petty of the two Quarter Backs.

The second is that Petty can rely on Shock Linwood and the Baylor rushing Offense to set him up in more manageable down and distance compared with the West Virginia counterparts and those issues might just see Trickett make a couple of critical errors that turns the tide in Baylor's favour.

The Oklahoma Sooners won by 12 points here earlier this season and Baylor will certainly feel they can come very close to matching that kind of margin of victory. That dropped West Virginia to 2-4 against the spread as the home underdog under Dana Holgersen while the Bears are 3-0 against the spread as the road favourite this season.


Iowa Hawkeyes @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: The Iowa Hawkeyes could be the favourite to represent the Big Ten West in the Conference Championship Game this season, but even Head Coach Kirk Ferentz admitted you don't know anything about a team until they play on the road. The Maryland Terrapins have had a bye week to prepare for the game and it is a Homecoming game, but I still believe the Hawkeyes can make this a very competitive game.

The Hawkeyes have had three straight wins coming into this one with some momentum and they should find some success running the ball which will also open things up for Jake Rudock who will be part of a rotation at Quarter Back.

Iowa's Defense will feel they can slow down the Maryland rush yards to point of making it tough to throw against their Secondary and they have played well by holding teams to 200 passing yards per game. The Defensive Line will find some pressure on CJ Brown at Quarter Back, who also has to be on a short leash having been pulled during the rout by the Ohio State Buckeyes last time out, and that could lead to Interceptions which is an area where the Hawkeyes have thrived.

Maryland haven't played well as a favourite of late as they are 1-6 against the spread in that position in their last 7 games, while the Hawkeyes have covered as the road underdog in the last 3 times they have been in that spot.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: Both schools are coming off a bye after important Big Ten wins and the winner of this game will certainly be in line to challenge Michigan State for the Division in the Big Ten East.

When I first saw the point spread, I was extremely surprised, but the number has kept increasing in favour of the Ohio State Buckeyes who people can't get enough of and I think that it has reached a level where the Rutgers Scarlet Knights look the right side.

The only team that both have played is at the Navy Midshipmen and both Ohio State and Rutgers won that game, while the Scarlet Knights outgained Navy by 3 more yards than the Buckeyes.

Gary Nova has avoided some of the turnovers that have plagued him as the Quarter Back of Rutgers and he should help the team move the chains in this one, although it is clear that Ohio State might have a slightly easier time to do that. JT Barrett has replaced Braxton Miller at Quarter Back when the latter was injured and lost for the season and Barrett has produced some big numbers, while he should be aided by the establishing the run.

However, this Rutgers Defensive Line will be able to get some real pressure on Barrett which could stall drives if not result in turnovers and I do think Nova makes enough plays through the air to keep this within a three Touchdown loss for the Scarlet Knights.

Even though the Ohio State Buckeyes are coming in off three large victories, Rutgers are 7-2 against the spread as the road underdog with Kyle Flood as Head Coach and they can make this somewhat competitive.


Michigan State Spartans @ Indiana Hoosiers Pick: The next two games for the Michigan State Spartans following this one will tell Mark Dantonio all he needs to know of the chances for his team to be playing in the final four Play Off for the National Championship. That doesn't mean they can overlook the Indiana Hoosiers despite the loss of their starting Quarter Back and Dantonio has made it clear there are still things for the Spartans to iron out if they are to win the Big Ten Conference.

Indiana losing Nate Sudfeld is a huge blow to their chances of not just causing a surprise in this game, but also of becoming Bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. Looking at their schedule it was clear that winning half of their last six games would have been tough with Sudfeld behind Center, but it is going to be a much more difficult task with the inexperienced Chris Covington at Quarter Back.

The Spartans Defense may initially look to shut down Tevin Coleman as much as possible and force Covington to move the chains with his arm, while this unit is also trying to prove they are ready for the big games with Michigan and Ohio State to come.

Michigan State have definitely looked very good Offensively, albeit against some overmatched opposition, and Connor Cook should have a strong day against the Indiana Secondary which could produce one of the easier wins the Spartans have had at Indiana in recent visits.

They might not have covered last week, but Michigan State are 9-2 against the spread as the road favourite in the last five seasons and they may improve those numbers this week.


Texas A&M Aggies @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: Everyone seems to be very down on the Alabama Crimson Tide after their performance against the Arkansas Razorbacks last week, but it might not be a big surprise that they had a mental letdown considering they lost their unbeaten record the week before in unfortunate circumstances.

The Crimson Tide outgained Mississippi in that loss, but they did remain in the hunt for a spot in the first Play Off with the win at Arkansas, although the criticism has annoyed Nick Saban no end.

With the public seemingly off the Alabama bandwagon, I think this is a good chance to back the Crimson Tide at home considering I believe this Offense is going to have a lot of success against the Texas A&M Aggies Defense. Some believed the Aggies Defense had improved markedly from last season, but they are still susceptible to the run and I can see Alabama dominating the trenches and controlling the clock.

Kenny Hill has played well for the Aggies, but has struggled the last two weeks as he has seen some really strong Defenses in Mississippi State and Ole Miss, especially when his team have not established a run. That could be a case for them this week with the Crimson Tide again dominating the trench on this side of the ball and forcing Hill to throw from third and long.

He has been Intercepted 5 times in the last two games and I think the Crimson Tide could be set up in short field to punish Texas A&M. The Aggies were beaten easily the last two weeks by the top two teams in the SEC West, and they are now 1-3 against the spread as the road underdog in SEC games over the last twelve months.

Alabama have covered in 6 straight home games as the favourite against SEC teams since their surprising loss to Johnny Manziel and this Aggies team in 2012 and I will look for them to be the stronger unit on both sides of the ball to secure a big win in Week 8.


New Mexico Lobos @ Air Force Falcons Pick: The Mountain West Mountain Division looks fairly wide open, although I don't think either the Air Force Falcons or the New Mexico Lobos will be threatening to win the Division.

The Falcons are only 1-2 in the Conference, while New Mexico are 0-2, but Air Force have already won 4 games this season which means another win pushes them a little closer to becoming Bowl eligible at least.

Air Force should be able to run the ball very effectively in this game and that will be the main way the Offense moves the chains with the situation calling for a pass also likely to be a successful venture for the Falcons.

It also does feel like the Lobos match up poorly against the Air Force Defense with their Offense mainly coming on the ground. That is where the Falcons have actually played pretty well, although the problems have been covering the pass, but New Mexico have averaged a little over 13 throws per game.

One major concern would be that Air Force have been a terrible home favourite to back to cover the spread, but I do feel there is enough in this game for them to come through by double digits.


Marshall Thundering Herd @ Florida International Golden Panthers Pick: The Marshall Thundering Herd have lived up to the expectations that many had for them as being the best team outside of the Power Conferences and they have been handling their business effectively with at least 42 points scored in every game this season.

They don't have an easy game against the Florida International Golden Panthers Defense which has played well this season, but Rakeem Cato presents a dual problem for them to deal with and it could be tough to slow down Marshall all that much.

A bigger problem for Florida International will be getting the Offense going if they do want to try and keep up with the Marshall Offense and that is an area they have struggled in all season. The Golden Panthers Offense is ranked at 119th out of 125 schools this season in total Offense and freshman Quarter Back Alex McGough has made too many mistakes.

Last week Florida International were beaten because they gave up five turnovers and those extra possessions will be feasted on by the Thundering Herd this week. Marshall dominated Florida International last season where they had more than double the total yards that the Golden Panthers put up and I am not sure there has been enough of a bridge in the gap between these schools.

The Golden Panthers are just 5-9 against the spread as the home underdog over the last two and a half seasons and Marshall might have a little too much Offense for them to deal with on Saturday.


Kentucky Wildcats @ LSU Tigers Pick: Over the last few seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats have been a whipping boy in the SEC with only one season where they have finished at least 4-4 in Conference play over the last ten seasons.

Mark Stoops may be working wonders for the Wildcats who have every chance of winning the SEC East having already gone 2-1 in Conference play while some of the other teams in this Division have been lacking consistency. Even the one loss came in overtime at the Florida Gators and Kentucky will go to Death Vally feeling they are at least on a more level playing field with the LSU Tigers.

The Tigers already look out of contention in the loaded SEC West having gone 1-2 in Conference play, but they did beat Florida on the road last week to avoid losing their first three Conference games for the first time since 1999.

The LSU Defense has struggled against the run this season and that is an area of the game where Kentucky certainly will feel confident of getting some large numbers, while Patrick Towles has avoided making mistakes at Quarter Back which will be key too. LSU's Offense has also been struggling for consistency and might have a difficult test against this Kentucky Wildcat Defense.

The Wildcats get pass pressure up front and they have been decent against the run, but Kentucky haven't faced this level of opposition consistently this season.

Kentucky are 3-2 against the spread as the road underdog under Mark Stoops and this looks a big spread at over ten points in their favour.


Stanford Cardinal @ Arizona State Sun Devils Pick: The Stanford Cardinal are most likely out of the Play Off mix for the National Championship regardless of whether they win the Pac-12 or not, but they can play spoiler for the rest of the teams in the Conference. There is a real chance they can win the Pac-12 North Division, although it will mean winning at the Oregon Ducks for Stanford to achieve that.

They also can't afford to overlook the Arizona State Sun Devils who won the Pac-12 South last season, although Stanford beat them twice including in the Conference Championship Game.

Stanford should have success moving the ball in this one, but their Offense has been inconsistent at best, while they sometimes get in their own way and that is the biggest hindrance to them this week. The Sun Devils have not contained the run or the pass that effectively so Kevin Hogan could have a strong game, although he needs to steer clear of turnovers and try to turn drives into Touchdowns rather than Field Goals if they are to win here.

The Defense has definitely kept Stanford in some games and this is one of the best units in the nation which will give the Arizona State Offense a difficult challenge to overcome. While the Sun Devils have move the ball effectively, the Cardinal have allowed just 3 yards per carry and also give up just 138 passing yards per game which will present Arizona State with a huge challenge to overcome.

The Cardinal have won 4 in a row in the series, going 3-0-1 against the spread in those games, while Arizona State are 2-6 against the spread as the underdog since Todd Graham took over as Head Coach (0-2 as the home underdog). I will look for the Stanford Defense to make enough plays to stall drives and the Offense to finally show some life and overcome the Sun Devils.

MY PICKS: Boise State Broncos - 17 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Kansas State Wildcats + 7 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Syracuse Orange - 5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Iowa Hawkeyes + 5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights + 22 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 15 Points @ 1.92 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Air Force Falcons - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Marshall Thundering Herd - 22.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Kentucky Wildcats + 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Stanford Cardinal - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Week 7: 3-8, - 5.31 Units (11 Units Staked, - 48.27% Yield)
Week 62-7, - 5.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 57% Yield)
Week 54-5, - 1.13 Units (9 Units Staked, - 12.56% Yield)
Week 46-5, + 0.58 Units (11 Units Staked, + 5.27% Yield)
Week 33-7-1, - 4.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 38% Yield)
Week 25-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 201429-42-1, - 14.58 Units (72 Units Staked, - 20.25% Yield)
Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

NFL Week 7 Picks 2014 (October 16-20)

Last week was one of the toughest weeks of the season for me with a number of games going against what I expected, but hopefully that isn't the start of a trend after a decent start to the season.


Week 6 Thoughts
Joe Philbin's time as Dolphins Head Coach is about up: It hasn't been much fun being a Miami Dolphins fan for many a year now, but there were seemingly some signs of a positive year developing except Joe Philbin's poor Head Coaching for the team saw the Dolphins drop a game they had no business losing.

After limp efforts in Week 16 and 17 last season with the Play Offs in their own destiny, many were surprised that Joe Philbin was called back as Head Coach, particularly with the awful Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal that affected the team, but brought back he was.

Beating the New England Patriots in Week 1 this season raised hopes, but defeats at Buffalo and at home against Kansas City reduced the expectations and the loss to the Green Bay Packers was heartbreaking last week to drop Miami to 2-3 in what looked an open AFC East.

The play-calling cost Miami at the end of the game, including throwing the ball on second down with a little over two minutes left, while the time out call on a Green Bay fourth down with time ticking was one of the poorest decisions Philbin could have made. Give Aaron Rodgers time to think of a play and you can pretty much call the game!

The fake spike that led to the Packers moving the ball down to the five yard line was just the icing on a miserable cake for Miami with games like this potentially costing them a Play Off berth later in the season. Failure to make the post-season will surely spell the end of the Philbin era as he is just 17-20 as Head Coach to this point.


How many more beatings are Tampa Bay going to take? How embarrassing for the Buccaneers- after giving up 56 points to Atlanta a few weeks ago, they followed that with the 38 points Baltimore scored in ONE HALF last week.

Spending all that money on Josh McCown looks every bit the desperate move that people thought it was in Free Agency, while the Defense has not picked up the new system that is being asked of them.

The only good news for Lovie Smith and his new Coaching staff is that Tampa Bay look like they are going to have a very high Draft pick next April, one that could see them picking a Quarter Back they truly believe in with Mike Glennon being a pick of the previous regime.

There is one other bit of good news to be honest- Tampa Bay are on a bye this week and probably will avoid another blow out.


So does everyone still think New England are done? It was only two weeks ago that New England were being written off in the AFC and Tom Brady was 'finished' as an elite Quarter Back, but dominating wins over the last two weeks have changed all those perceptions.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I neither think New England are as bad as they looked at Kansas City as they are as good as they looked against Cincinnati, but they remain the best team in the AFC East and look set to go into the Play Offs with one of the better records in the Conference.

I still wouldn't rate New England as good as San Diego, Denver or Indianapolis in the AFC, but the Patriots have shown how quickly things can change in the NFL, particularly when it comes to the casual fans, and those reactions certainly make a difference in the spreads we see on a weekly basis.

The Patriots have big tests ahead to see where they really stand, but I think it is very unlikely we hear calls for Brady to benched.


Kirk Cousins is not good enough to be a starter in the NFL: Talking about Quarter Backs that shouldn't be benched leads to a few thoughts on another that has just about given up his chances of being a starter in the NFL as far as I am concerned.

Kirk Cousins was seen as the better fit in Jay Gruden's system than Robert Griffin III and many Washington fans were hoping to see Cousins start at Quarter Back. After RG3 was injured, Cousins played well against Jacksonville, but which Quarter Back won't this season, and also produced a solid game against Philadelphia, but the last two weeks have been horrific.

Back breaking Interceptions have cost Washington games against the New York Giants, but in particular the one against Arizona last week when the Offense gave up the ball four times in the Fourth Quarter alone in a 10 point loss.

It was so bad that some are calling for Colt McCoy to replace Cousins, while RG3 has been called the definite starter as soon as he is ready- with a Quarter Back heavy class ready to come out of College next season, Cousins is unlikely to be given a starting job and looks set for a career back up role in the hope he can come in and do a 'Josh McCown' at some point.


Denver Broncos are the most popular team in the NFL: That is according to a recent poll conducted and just goes to show how quick many people are going to be to jump onto a successful bandwagon, one of my biggest pet hates in being a sports fan.

The leaps that Denver have made from the polls conducted in 2011 to now just highlights that fact, while the top eight teams are all those who have been very successful in recent years aside from the Dallas Cowboys who remain as high as Number 4.

Some have historically big fan bases like Dallas, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the New York Giants, but teams like Seattle and Denver are perhaps boosted by the success of their recent teams.


Top Ten
1) San Diego Chargers (5-1): I had San Diego Number 1 last week and won't be moving them even if they had a closer than expected win at the Oakland Raiders last week.

2) Denver Broncos (4-1): Who'd have thunk it? The AFC West has the two best teams in the NFL right now as far as I am concerned, although the Broncos can certainly move up my Rankings if they can beat San Francisco and San Diego in the space of four days next week.

3) Dallas Cowboys (5-1): How many people are laughing at me placing Dallas as high as Number 4 now? I backed Seattle last week to see off these Cowboys, but they might be even better than I thought, although in a dangerous game in Week 7 against Divisional rivals the New York Giants.

4) Philadelphia Eagles (5-1): Arguably their best game of the season saw Philadelphia crush the New York Giants, but Nick Foles has to make better decisions for the Eagles to challenge for the Super Bowl.

5) San Francisco 49ers (4-2): Three straight wins has cooled suggestions the players are not behind Jim Harbaugh, but a huge statement game for them this weekend at the Denver Broncos.

6) Indianapolis Colts (4-2): I predicted the Indianapolis Colts to finish with the best record in the AFC this season and that remains a real possibility thanks to playing in the awful AFC South.

7) Seattle Seahawks (3-2): That was an appalling loss to the Dallas Cowboys after being battered in almost all three phases of the game and even the 7 point loss doesn't highlight the Dallas dominance.

8) Green Bay Packers (4-2): They escaped with a win from Miami, but Aaron Rodgers playing at this level is going to be very difficult to beat.

9) New England Patriots (4-2): The Patriots have looked themselves over the last two weeks, but I am not convinced about this team being as good as they have shown.

10) Arizona Cardinals (4-1): Arizona have a strong record, but the game with Washington would have been much closer if the Redskins Offense hadn't imploded in the Fourth Quarter and they need Carson Palmer to remain healthy.



Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6): Gus Bradley can take a portion of the blame that Jacksonville remain winless after deciding on a long Field Goal with time expiring last week, but he certainly could have gained a few more yards before asking Josh Scobee to have a go from 55 yards out.

31) Oakland Raiders (0-5): I still believe Derek Carr can be a Quarter Back in the NFL and he was so close to causing the surprise against the San Diego Chargers last week. Oakland may not get that close to a win again though.

30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5): The blow out losses to Atlanta and Baltimore are absolutely embarrassing for a team that expected to challenge in the NFC South.

29) Washington Redskins (1-5): Kirk Cousins isn't the ready-made starter that some Washington fans expected, but they do have a winnable game this week when they host Tennessee.

28) New York Jets (1-5): Five straight losses with Geno Smith struggling and Rex Ryan just about done as Head Coach and a promising season that began with a win over Oakland has quickly become a nightmare.


Week 7 Picks
I wasn't a big fan of the games scheduled for Week 6 and I am glad I sat on the side of caution with so many games going the way of the highly picked teams and I didn't have too many of them on my list. The Green Bay Packers game was a bit misfortunate as the Packers were under a Field Goal favourite to win on Sunday, but were dead on the number when I locked in the picks on Saturday evening.

That has happened a couple of times and does make me wonder if I should hold back on a couple of picks until Sunday to see where the line moves, but it is not always easy to make the right read with sharp money moving those lines between the end of the College games on Saturday evening and the NFL ones on Sunday.

The Week 6 picks have seen me have the second losing week of the season, but that does mean the season tally is still in a healthy spot and hopefully can start moving in the right direction again after three fairly non-plus weeks.


New York Jets @ New England Patriots Pick: Thursday Night Football games have been something of a disappointment for the television network as each week has just seen blow out after blow out occurring. It looked like last week was going to be the same before the Houston Texans rallied to make a very competitive game with the Indianapolis Colts and I can see this AFC East Divisional game being closer than anticipated.

The New York Jets have been pretty poor over the last few games, but they were very competitive against the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots seem to get the best effort that the Jets are able to muster up. That is shown by the last three games in New England all being won by the Patriots, but by a combined 15 points, while the Jets did finally knock off the Patriots last season at home, their first win over New England since beating them in the Play Offs of the 2010 season.

Everyone is going to back on the New England bandwagon this week after back to back impressive victories, but I think the Jets Defense can definitely make this a more competitive game as long as Geno Smith doesn't throw Interceptions in his own half of the field.

The Jets get plenty of pressure up front which will provide a real test for the New England Offensive Line that had been abused by the Kansas City Chiefs and it might just slow down Tom Brady enough once the pressure is in his face. I still expect Brady will have a decent game because the Jets Secondary is an abomination, but the pressure up front has been a problem for Brady and can at least stall some drives.

Add in the fact that the Jets have played the run effectively and New England are without Stevan Ridley and there is enough to suggest the Patriots won't be moving the ball freely all evening.

Geno Smith is a problem though with his mistakes costing the Jets a couple of games already, but he might be aided by Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson considering the Patriots have struggled against the run this season. Ivory has previous against New England with a 100 yard game against them last season, while the Patriots are giving up 4.2 yards per carry.

Keeping Smith in third and manageable positions is imperative for this Offense that is dealing with a decent Patriots pass rush and the ability to create turnovers, but he will need Eric Decker to find a way to get open as he is clearly the best Wide Receiver on the Jets roster.

The Jets are also 5-2 against the spread as the road underdog in Divisional games over the last three seasons, while they are also 3-1 against the spread in the last four games in New England. The weather also makes points potentially at a premium on Thursday and I think the Jets can run the ball better than the Patriots so I'll have a small interest on the road team with the points.


Atlanta Falcons @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: This isn't the best spot for the Baltimore Ravens which is the biggest concern I have for them this weekend as they follow this game with back to back road games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, two big AFC North rivals. A game against a non-Conference foe wouldn't normally matter, but the North looks a very tough Division where every win should make the difference and that should keep the Ravens plenty focused.

It is also a tough position for the Atlanta Falcons who are coming off three straight losses and knowing they have to travel to London for a game against the Detroit Lions immediately following this one.

If Baltimore are fully focused as I imagine they should be, it is going to be a very long day in the office for the Atlanta Defense which has struggled for stops. The Ravens are coming off a very strong Offensive showing and Joe Flacco should have plenty of time to add to his season numbers, while also knowing he can lean on a decent rushing attack led by Justin Forsett to keep the Ravens in solid downs and distance.

On the other hand, Matt Ryan might not have the luxury of being in short yardage situations to pass and his Offensive Line has really struggled to keep the pressure off their Quarter Back. Ryan has made some big plays downfield to Julio Jones, but he still needs some time and is seemingly being hit constantly when he drops back to pass.

The Atlanta Offensive Line has not played well and even the Ravens will feel they can get after Ryan despite not having a lot of success rushing the Quarter Back this season. That will make it tough for the Falcons to keep drives moving and it could be another tough day for Ryan at Quarter Back.

Baltimore have dominated the two NFC South teams they have already faced this season and they have been a very strong home team under John Harbaugh. I would expect them to win this by a Touchdown and cover the number on offer.


Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars Pick: I know the Cleveland Browns have been playing very well this season and exceeding expectations, but doesn't it seem funny to anyone that they are considered the same level as the Indianapolis Colts if this spread is to be believed.

The Colts were 6 points favourites here in Jacksonville earlier in the season and Cleveland are going to go off a little short of that mark which looks remarkably high on first glance. Yes, the Browns are the better team, but a lot of their games have been very close this season and the Jaguars have shown some life last week in their close loss to Tennessee.

Bryan Hoyer has been very good at Quarter Back, but might not have the strong support on the ground that he received last week considering the strength of the Jaguars Defense is on the Defensive Line. They have gotten pressure on the Quarter Back from that position too, although Hoyer should still have a big game as the Jacksonville Secondary has been terrible with a lot of blown coverages.

Blake Bortles has made mistakes that rookie Quarter Backs have done through the NFL history, but he has also shown his upside at times, although with a limited cast around him. Bortles could have a decent game against a Cleveland Secondary that may be missing one of their starting Corner Backs, while the Jaguars have a chance to establish a running game to ease the pressure on their Quarter Back for the first time.

After coming off a big win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is a tough spot for Cleveland and I really think this is too big a spread for the road favourite, although I can't have more than a minimum interest on the Jaguars who have found ways to miss covers all season.


Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: When I first looked at the spreads this week, this game jumped off the page and I will admit it looks about as square a pick as you are going to see.

The Indianapolis Colts have been in very strong form in recent weeks, even if they have beaten three AFC South teams that are not exactly the best opposition in the NFL, but the home win over the Baltimore Ravens was much more impressive.

On the other hand, the Cincinnati Bengals have allowed far too many points over the last two games and are a little banged up on both sides of the ball. The lack of pressure they have got up front also will give Andrew Luck plenty of time to attack the Secondary and he has enough Receiving options to keep the chains moving.

Andy Dalton will be missing his biggest Receiving threat in AJ Green and while they managed without him last week in scoring 37 points against the Carolina Panthers, it might not be so easy against the Colts Defense which has gotten a strong pass rush. Dalton might not have the same time to dissect the Secondary as he had last week and that could see drives stalling.

However, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill should have strong games establishing the run which could give the Bengals a chance for the upset if they can control the clock, sustain drives and importantly keep Luck on the sidelines.

Indianapolis are playing with revenge for their loss to the Bengals last season and will know a win in this game could be important when it comes down to which teams receive a bye in the Wild Card Round of the Play Offs later in the season. Like I said, I am not a fan when things seem 'obvious', but the Colts have looked the better team over the last three weeks and I will back them to cover this Field Goal spread.


Miami Dolphins @ Chicago Bears Pick: This was another one of those spreads that may have jumped off the page for people capping Week 7 in the NFL, but I am actually likely to be going against perceptions.

The Miami Dolphins were an underdog by more than a Field Goal when the spread first hit the books, but that has come down to land on the three points line although I still think the Dolphins are worth backing this week.

Brandon Marshall may have a big game against the team that traded him away to Chicago with a point to prove, but Jay Cutler is likely to be under immense pressure for much of the afternoon. He won't have a lot of support from establishing the run and that should give Cameron Wake and Oliver Vernon the chance to put pressure on the Quarter Back and perhaps force a couple of mistakes.

As inconsistent and mistake-prone Ryan Tannehill has been, Miami can give the ball to Lamar Miller to rip off big gains on the ground, and Tannehill also showed he can run the read-option effectively. Keeping Tannehill in third and short spots should keep the pressure off of the Quarter Back, even if Chicago haven't earned a lot of pressure up front, and will ease any mental burden to make a lot of big plays.

The Bears are also just 8-14-1 against the spread in their last 23 games as the favourite, while Miami have a stunning 17-3 record against the spread as the road underdog by five points or fewer in the last six seasons.

I do wish the spread was still above the Field Goal line, but Miami might just be one of the surprises of Week 6.


Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The Green Bay Packers have been playing very well in recent weeks and they showed their mettle in coming back to beat the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. The Packers should have a very strong day Offensively behind Aaron Rodgers, especially if Eddie Lacy and James Starks can provide a strong running game for Rodgers.

The Carolina Defense has struggled without Greg Hardy and it does feel they are a touch over-rated despite the fact they have given up at least 37 points in 3 of their last 4 games.

Cam Newton looked good against the Cincinnati Bengals and looks like he has finally shook off the niggles he has been carrying, but he might be asked to do plenty on his own if the Panthers are to cause a surprise. The Packers Defense should be a little more ready for the read-option Offense that Miami employed very effectively against them last week, while Newton doesn't have De'Angelo Williams in the backfield to keep the Packers more honest.

It looks like a game that could develop into something of a shoot-out, but it does look difficult for the Panthers to keep up with Green Bay who have been in a very good place mentally over the last three weeks.

If Newton is throwing the ball around to keep up, this Packers Secondary is one that is capable of making the big turnover and that should help Green Bay pull away.

While the game should be close for a while, eventually I would imagine the Packers are able to prevail by at least a Touchdown as Aaron Rodgers improves his 20-8 record against the spread when set as the home favourite.


Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers Pick: A quick look at my Power Rankings above will show you that I have a lot of respect for this San Diego Chargers team so the question has to be why do I like taking Kansas City with the points this week?

Andy Reid has historically been very good coming off a bye week and I expect he will have prepared the Chiefs effectively in a game that is very important for them if they have a real ambition of returning to the Play Offs out of the tough AFC West.

I also believe this is a pretty bad spot for the San Diego Chargers who visit the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football in Week 8 in a game that will determine which team will lead the AFC West. This is a Divisional game so remains important for the Chargers, but it is also very possible they can be looking ahead to that game against Denver which has much bigger Play Off implications.

Both games between these teams were won by San Diego last season, but both only by a Field Goal each time and Jamaal Charles could have a big game running the ball to keep the Chiefs in manageable down and distance, an area where Alex Smith can shine at Quarter Back.

The Chiefs can also get a lot of pressure up front to cover the deficiencies in the Secondary, but San Diego could also have a strong game running the ball. Both teams are matched up quite well and I think this is going to produce a close fought game on Sunday afternoon.

San Diego are only 2-5 against the spread in their last 7 home games as the favourite against a Divisional opponent and I like backing the Chiefs in this spot with the points who are also 4-2 against the spread as the road underdog since Andy Reid arrived as Head Coach.


Arizona Cardinals @ Oakland Raiders Pick: The second most square pick of the week I am making is taking the Arizona Cardinals to beak the Oakland Raiders on the road and cover what doesn't look the biggest spread.

My concern for the Raiders is that they emptied the tank both mentally and physically in coming up short against a Divisional rival San Diego at home last week and facing a non-Conference opponent might not get the juices running as much.

The return of Carson Palmer certainly sparked the Arizona Offense last week and the veteran Quarter Back should be able to make use of all the weapons at his disposal without too much pressure in this one. He got Larry Fitzgerald going in the win over Washington last week and the Cardinals should move the chains effectively for much of the afternoon, while also getting Andre Ellington going on the ground.

I am quite the fan of Derek Carr and definitely think he will make a starting Quarter Back in the NFL and he showed what he is capable of last week. He should have some success again this week against this Secondary that has two top Corner Backs, but struggle because they are not getting a lot of pressure up front.

However, the difference could be that Oakland are not able to run the ball effectively which could give Carr tough down and distance to work with and potentially lead to some turnovers. Arizona showed they can turn the ball over well last week and I think they are going to be able to pull away thanks to a turnover or two more than Oakland can produce.

Oakland are just 1-7 against the spread when off a win over the last couple of years- they were so close to winning last week that they could have spent too much energy in that game and that statistic shows Oakland can struggle to back up solid performances. The Raiders are also 4-8 against the spread as the home underdog in that time and I think the Cardinals might take advantage for the cover.


New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: Anyone watching Week 6 action will likely be very high on the Dallas Cowboys to knock off the New York Giants, but this looks a big spread that the Cowboys failed to cover against the Houston Texans and I like the Giants to play this close.

Dallas should have a lot of success moving the ball through their Offense, of that I have little doubt, but I also think the New York Giants can move the ball on the ground and that may shorten this game.

Houston showed you can run the ball against Dallas and I think that will be the game plan for the Giants, although the New York Offensive Line has struggled to open holes consistently for their Running Back. Andre Williams had a strong College career with Boston College, but he was bottled up for the most part by the Eagles last week so it will also be important for Eli Manning to keep the Defense honest with passes.

Most will see this as the chance for Dallas to really put the hammer down on a Giants team that were blown out in Philadelphia, but the Giants are a tough team that have shown they are a tough underdog to see off usually.

The Giants are 12-5 against the spread as the road underdog in Divisional games, while Dallas haven't had a lot of success in the position of a home favourite. I think the Cowboys will win which is the only bothersome for me in taking the New York Giants to cover the spread, but with the number close to a Touchdown, it looks a very big number to cover in a game that could see some long drives behind running plays.

0 Unit Picks: Washington Redskins - 5.5 Points, Seattle Seahawks - 6 Points, Minnesota Vikings + 5 Points, New Orleans Saints + 1.5 Points, Denver Broncos - 7 Points

MY PICKS: New York Jets + 9.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Baltimore Ravens - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jacksonville Jaguars + 5.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Indianapolis Colts - 3 Points @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Miami Dolphins + 3 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs + 3.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
New York Giants + 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Week 6: 2-3-1, - 2.46 Units
Week 53-4-1, + 0.84 Units
Week 44-4, + 0.02 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.82 Units
Week 25-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 201425-22-2, + 6.54 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units