Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (September 17th)

This is one of those weeks where there isn't the range of tennis matches that have appealed to me and so Tuesday proved to be a day where I didn't have any picks. That came after the sole pick from Monday's tennis proved to be a winning one as Gilles Muller did have enough to beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin and I do think the big man could be worth following in the Second Round too.

There are a few tournaments being played on the WTA Tour in Asia, but I am sticking to the ATP Metz event for my picks this week so far.

Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: These two players are only separated by one position in the World Rankings, but I think it is the slightly lower Ranked player, Jan-Lennard Struff, that can come through this First Round match.

It would certainly have made me feel better if Struff wasn't coming off a tournament on the clay courts, a tournament where he was beaten in the Final by Dustin Brown. Struff hasn't really pushed on to the same extent as he would have wanted with a lot of losses on his record over the last three months, but he did reach a Semi Final on the indoor hard courts earlier this year.

The next couple of months could be critical for Struff as he doesn't have a lot of points to defend and can make a real move up the Rankings. The German has a decent serve that should set him up, while the biggest benefit for him is that Dusan Lajovic is coming off a long Davis Cup tie.

Serbia's tie with India had to be prolonged until Monday and Lajovic has had a long journey to France and could be undercooked for this tournament. With the Asian swing upcoming, I was surprised Lajovic wanted to come to Europe for one event, and I am not sure how prepared he can be for this match.

If tiredness also plays a part, it might be tough for Lajovic to stay with Struff and eventually see the latter move through in two tight sets.

Gilles Muller + 3.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Gilles Muller should be better prepared for this Second Round match than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who had to play a Davis Cup tie on the clay courts of Paris over the weekend. With the serve that Muller possesses, he could make life very difficult for the home favourite despite Tsonga being very capable on the indoor hard courts.

There will be the opportunity for the Frenchman to take his shots against Muller and I do think his own serve will help him get through his own service games, but this match has all the hallmarks of tight tie-breaks making the difference.

An early break would give Tsonga a real chance to cover if he is serving first like he prefers, but I also think he may have to warm into the match on the conditions that will be different to what he has seen of late.

By that time, the first set could have whizzed by to a tie-break and this could easily be a 76, 64 win for Tsonga although Muller will feel he has a big opportunity to cause another surprise win over a French player this week.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 Games @ 1.75 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Gilles Muller + 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-0, + 2.10 Units (2 Units Staked, + 105% Yield)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (September 16-18)

This has usually been a time of the season that is one of excitement as the Champions League gets back underway, but this time around it just highlights what a poor season Manchester United had in the last campaign.

It is up to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City to represent the English teams this time around, although I am not one of these fans that says 'we should support all the English teams'. The only reason I would want any of them to stick around is to keep the two games a week continuing to help Manchester United who will only be interested in Premier League games, but I very much oppose any of them winning the Champions League.

Everton and Tottenham Hotspur are the two English representatives in the Europa League and there is a much bigger incentive to win the tournament these days. The winner of the competition is given a place in the Champions League and both Roberto Martinez and Mauricio Pochettino may feel this is the best avenue for their teams to get into the premier competition of European football.

However, there are a lot of games to get through in the Europa League, plus having to deal with those sides that exit the Champions League in the Group Stage, and it certainly isn't an easy way to get into a competition that both clubs desire.

I am not sure whether the winning team takes away a place from the nation they represent, but as far as I am aware, that won't be the case.

After a brutal August, September started much better for the picks with a successful weekend and I hope there will be more success this week as the Champions League and Europa League games take centre stage.

Monaco v Bayer Leverkusen Pick: Over the last few years, there has been a lot of love for the German Bundesliga from fans through Europe and the latest to become a 'trendy pick' could be Bayer Leverkusen. The side have made a strong start to their domestic campaign having come through the Play Offs to reach the Group Stage of the Champions League and they are favoured to win in Monaco in their opening game of the section.

Despite a couple of years of heavy investment, Monaco have taken a step back from that policy this season and have seen the likes of James Rodrguez and Radamel Falcao depart before the Champions League has begun.

The change in mindset has been reflected on the pitch where Monaco have won just 1 of their first 5 League games and have lost 3 of those games to sap the confidence ahead of their return to the Champions League. Monaco haven't won any of their last 4 home games going back to last season and now face a Bayer Leverkusen team that have scored at least 2 goals in every game they have played this season.

Bayer Leverkusen clearly have found a productive way to get forward, but it also has to be noted that they have conceded plenty of goals too- they have conceded at least 2 goals in three straight games and have failed to win any of their last 2 games.

Goals could be in the offing in this game too with that kind of performances being produced by the German side. Monaco will be expected to attack at home if they are to come through this section and reach the Last 16 and I think the layers have been a little generous with the offer for goals.

Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal Pick: The second game of the day where I do think there will be goals is the one between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, two teams that have become very familiar with one another over the last couple of seasons.

This will be the third time in four seasons that Dortmund and Arsenal have been placed with one another in the Group Stage and both will believe they can advance from the section so these games could determine who finishes top of the section.

Arsenal have won 2 of the 4 games they have played in the last couple of years, including a 0-1 win here last season, while Dortmund have yet to beat them at home with their sole win coming last season at the Emirates Stadium.

These two teams both prefer the attacking part of football and it is no real surprise to me that so many goals have been produced in their respective games in the Champions League. However, that hasn't always been the case when they have played one another as both games in Germany have finished with fewer than three goals.

The Gunners do have some defensive problems going into the game that Dortmund will feel they can exploit though, while Dortmund themselves can be susceptible to the counter attack with the pace Arsenal have in forward areas. The layers are taking no chances with the price, but I do think we will see at least three goals in this game.

Liverpool v Ludogorets Pick: It has been a long time coming for the Liverpool fans as they make their return to the premier competition of European football and I think the majority of those fans attending Anfield will be expecting an easy win. As well as Ludogorets have played domestically, this is a serious step up in level for the Bulgarian Champions and it will be a tough task for them to even think about getting back into the Europa League.

However, to disrespect Ludogorets may be a mistake and it is not one that Brendan Rodgers will be making by overlooking the challenge in front of them. The Liverpool manager admitted he has been preparing as if Ludogorets were Real Madrid and I think he will be looking for a big performance to bounce back from the surprise loss to Aston Villa last weekend.

I don't put that down to Liverpool looking ahead to this game, I think they simply missed the pace of Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling to start the game and can at least look to the latter in this one.

Mario Balotelli has to prove he is more than a risk taken by Liverpool and I do expect the home side to prove too strong for Ludogorets, although it might be by a tighter scoreline than the layers believe.

One aspect where Ludogorets may struggle is creating too many chances and they were beaten without scoring at Valencia in the Europa League last season as well as at Steaua Bucharest and Basel in this competition in the last twelve months. Liverpool are not the greatest defence in the world and that remains their big achilles heel, but they look a decent shout at odds against to win with a clean sheet.

Real Madrid v Basel Pick: This has been an incredibly disappointing start for Real Madrid following the Champions League success that came to the side in May and they will be desperate to get back to winning ways. Losing games is one thing, but the manner of the defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid would have hurt the Real Madrid fans and players and I do think there will be a response.

They are playing a team with plenty of European experience having played some of the best sides through the continent during their time in the Champions League. Basel beat Chelsea home and away last season to show their capabilities, but they have also taken some heavy defeats at the likes of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Juventus over the years on their travels.

Real Madrid have shown a real desire to score plenty of goals in the Champions League and still look very dangerous going forward with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to call upon. Losing Angel Di Maria seems to have upset Ronaldo, but I think Real Madrid are more likely to come together than really be ripped apart at the seams just yet.

That attacking talent could be tough to contain for Basel, especially if they fall behind early, and I think the home team will be looking to score plenty of goals in this one. I don't expect the Swiss team to roll over with their experience, but the three goals conceded at Grasshoppers has to be a concern and I think Real Madrid will record a big win.

MY PICKS: Monaco-Bayer Leverkusen Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Borussia Dortmund-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update: 5-2, + 7.02 Units (12 Units Staked, + 58.5% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/158-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% 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)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (September 15th)

The Davis Cup Final between France and Switzerland was set this weekend and that looks to be the best match up that is out there with the French getting the chance to host the Final. That will be make up the final matches of the 2014 season a couple of weeks after the ATP World Tour Finals are completed and I think it is a very close tie that is going to be tough to separate the two teams.

Of course Switzerland have the 'biggest name' in Roger Federer, but someone like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will certainly believe he can play a big enough match to win a rubber against him and then the likes of Gael Monfils/Richard Gasquet will believe they too can do enough against Stan Wawrinka.

The edge in the Doubles will be on the side of the French team, even if Federer and Wawrinka revisit their team that won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, and I think it is going to be a tough tie for Switzerland to win on the road. It will also be fascinating to see what kind of surface the French pick for the tie as Federer is one of the premier indoor hard court players in the world and both he and Wawrinka could be well set after the ATP World Tour Finals on that surface. However, I also believe the Swiss team will feel they can find the edge on a clay court and that is certainly a tie that is going to be a lot of fun to watch at the end of November.

The Davis Cup can be put to the back-burner for now as the next six weeks is all about which players can qualify for the World Tour Finals to be played in London. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all qualified already, although I do wonder if Nadal will take his place back on the Tour before the 2015 season after being forced out of the summer hard court tournaments with a wrist injury.

That could open the door for whoever finishes 9th in the race to London, a race which looks to be one that could go down to the wire. Andy Murray claimed it isn't a big goal of his to qualify for London, but he has taken a couple of Wild Cards to add to his remaining tournaments so it is clearly more important than he has let on.

Personally I already feel the top 11 in the Race to London are too far clear of players below them to be caught in the remaining weeks, while Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori should make up the next three places.

That would leave five players fighting for the remaining two places (assuming Rafael Nadal does take part in London) and I think all five will be battling very hard to make the final event of the year. There are doubts about all of them with David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych not in the greatest of form, while Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov are just as likely to win a tournament as go out in the First Round.

Andy Murray showed some signs of recovery at the US Open after an underwhelming 2014 to that point and he clearly believes he is playing well enough to make London by taking those extra tournaments onto his schedule.

This week won't clear up too many issues with the one tournament in Metz, but things will certainly have some clarity to them when the Asian swing kicks off in seven days time.

Gilles Muller v Edouard Roger-Vasselin: The tournament in Metz has been won by a Frenchman for the last five years it has been run and the two favourites are Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

While both are coming off a successful Davis Cup tie success over the Czech Republic, the transition from the clay courts to the fast indoor hard courts will be tough for them so I won't make an outright pick this week.

The first Monday here has only two main draw matches scheduled with both involving French players for the home crowd to get behind. The second of those involves Edouard Roger-Vasselin who has been in poor form over the summer and now takes on a huge server in the form of Gilles Muller.

While Roger-Vasselin has a decent indoor hard court record over the last few seasons, he could feel the mental pressure of trying to stay with Muller- if the latter is serving well, it will be very difficult to break his serve and that scoreboard pressure could be tough to overcome for Roger-Vasselin.

Muller has been winning a lot of matches on the Challenger circuit and that can only have built his confidence for the indoor hard court season, even if he did suffer a disappointing First Round loss at the US Open.

Even with that poor loss in mind, Muller has won 11 of his 16 indoor hard court matches this season, albeit at the Challenger level, and he might be able to serve his way into the Second Round as the underdog.

MY PICK: Gilles Muller @ 2.05 Stan James (2 Units)

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (September 13-15)

Was that really a two week international break? Seriously? It has felt a lifetime since the Premier League closed for the internationals, but finally domestic football is back and we have some really good games to be played this weekend.

The next month has the start of the Champions League and also we will start seeing the Premier League take shape as teams have settled down following the close of the transfer window.

As a Manchester United fan, there is a renewed expectation that the season really will kick on from here now the signings that Louis Van Gaal has wanted have been brought into the club. It was a big spend and there is little doubt that Manchester United are expecting to finish in the Champions League places this season.

That is no guarantee with the way the teams in the Premier League are set up and I think it will be a big task for United to move into those positions if they don't find a way to gel quickly- however, the quality of the players that have been signed suggests United can score goals and start winning games beginning with this weekend.

When the Falcao story broke, the first reaction was 'we don't need him' but as soon as he was signed the excitement has continued to build. His goalscoring ability is not in doubt and you just can't ever be disappointed when a player that you have personally valued incredibly highly walks through the door of your club.

I am a big Juan Mata fan too and it seems harsh that he is the player that looks most in danger of losing his spot- the Spaniard is one of the smartest footballers we have and I think he would have a field day being able to play higher up the pitch and picking the runs of Angel Di Maria, Falcao and Robin Van Persie. Unfortunately for now, it looks like United will go with the work ethic of Wayne Rooney, although he is as far from a 'Number 10' as I have seen considering his lack of awareness of picking killer balls.

If I was Louis Van Gaal and I was adamant I wanted to continue with the formation that I have set out, I would play: De Gea, Jones, Evans, Rojo, Valencia, Di Maria, Herrera, Blind, Mata, Van Persie and Falcao as my starting XI when everyone is fit to play.

Wayne Rooney could be an impact sub or swapped around with one of the forwards depending on his form, while players like Michael Carrick, Luke Shaw and Adnan Januzaj could be used when the system needs changing or to give other players the chance to rest.

Phil Jones has already been ruled out on Sunday, but there is also room for Van Gaal to play a 4-3-3 formation to get the best out of the squad he has at his disposal and I think it is just as exciting trying to see how Manchester United will be lining up moving forward.

August has proven to be a tough month for the picks for the second season in a row and that means playing catch up again. Last year, September proved to be a much more profitable month so hopefully that will be the case again to get the picks moving in a positive direction again.

Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: What a way for the Premier League to restart following the international break- the Champions try to bounce back from a shocking 0-1 home loss against Stoke City, while Arsenal will be hoping that Danny Welbeck can bring in the form he showed for England after signing from Manchester United.

Recent games between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium haven't produced a lot of goals which is surprising considering the attacking intent that both Arsenal and Manchester City try and play with.

On the other hand, games at the Etihad Stadium have produced a large number of goals, although I do think this game could be an exception to the recent trend.

Coming out of an international break there is also the chance that the teams could start slowly too so why do I think there will be goals? I don't think either manager will be doubting the ability of their team to score goals if they get forward and there is should be chances created.

I would also worry about the defensive frailties that Arsenal have shown early in the season and Manchester City could definitely highlight those. On the other hand, Arsenal have a lot pace in forward positions that could hurt Manchester City's defence which can be susceptible to speedier players.

A draw isn't the worst result for either team at this stage of the season, but I don't think either manager will ask his team to sit back looking for that and so seeing a game with at least three goals is the call, even if the last two live games on BT Sport have been goalless draws.

Chelsea v Swansea Pick: Two teams that have won all three games to open the Premier League season will meet at Stamford Bridge and I do think Chelsea are more likely to come out of it with their 100% record intact.

However, it won't be a straight-forward win as Swansea have the pace to hurt Chelsea on the counter attack in this game. They have shown that to devastating effect when they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and Swansea would have seen the chances that Leicester City had when they visited this ground.

Even in the absence of Diego Costa, Chelsea still have enough firepower to win this game with Loic Remy or Didier Drogba leading the line, while they don't concede a lot of home goals under Jose Mourinho.

In saying that, I think they have been more adventurous going forward and that does make them a little more vulnerable at the back. While Chelsea will score goals, I think Swansea will have their chances too and they should be able to score at least once in the game.

Southampton v Newcastle United Pick: The Premier League has a few inconsistent teams that can surprise anyone on their day and I think both of these teams do fall into that kind of category. For as well as Southampton have played at Liverpool and West Ham United, they failed to beat West Brom at home. On the other hand, Newcastle United were positive in a loss to Manchester City, but struggled during games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

That does make this a slightly tougher game to predict, but I do think Southampton are the right favourites to win the game with Ronald Koeman stamping his authority on the new squad of players effectively. They continue playing the possession football they have become known for over the last couple of seasons and Southampton can create chances.

Southampton should have more control of this game considering the form that Newcastle United have shown over the last few months, winning just 1 of their last 11 games in the Premier League and losing 6 of their last 8 away games in the League.

Alan Pardew doesn't have the support of the stands and I think the goals they conceded against Crystal Palace has to be a concern. They have a chance in this game with Southampton expected to push on for the win, but I think Newcastle United will struggle to keep the home team from scoring.

I was hoping for better odds for the home win, but Southampton should still oblige and I will back them to beat Newcastle United on Saturday.

Stoke City v Leicester City Pick: It would be far too easy to take the Stoke City home loss against Aston Villa to open the new season and believe this team isn't the same force at home as they have been since returning to the top flight. However, their win at Manchester City will have renewed the confidence of the fans going to the Brittania Stadium this weekend and I think the players will also be keen to get back out onto the football pitch after the international break.

They can't afford to take Leicester City lightly as the newly-promoted team have shown some real heart and determination in their Premier League games to date. They have battled back twice to earn a draw against Everton and also came from behind to draw with Arsenal, while the performance at Stamford Bridge was very positive.

It is all pointing to Leicester City having a positive Premier League season, although Nigel Pearson will be hoping the side can record a win sooner rather than later just to ease any pressure that could build.

Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case this weekend at a venue where Stoke City generally produce their most effective football. The Potters play a more expansive style of football under Mark Hughes than they produced under Tony Pulis, but they haven't lost their ability to win games at home, Aston Villa being an exception in my opinion.

Stoke City at odds against looks the call to back up their win over Manchester City and earn another three points.

West Brom v Everton Pick: With the way these two teams have begun playing this season, there should be goals in the game especially considering the amount of goals both West Brom and Everton have been conceding.

Both teams suffered heavy losses in the final game before the latest international break so both managers will be keen to consign that result to history by earning a much more positive result in this one.

I can't imagine either Alan Irvine or Roberto Martinez believing a draw would be a good result and so I do think it will be an entertaining afternoon for the fans in attendance.

As poorly as Everton have defended at times, most noticeably in the goals conceded to Chelsea in their last game, they have also scored plenty of goals and I think they will pose problems for West Brom on Saturday. The fact is that West Brom have failed to score in their last two games and their confidence can't be very high considering the long run without a run of wins going back to last season (7 without a win, 1 win in last 12 home games).

I expect Everton can take advantage of that and earn their first win of the season, although they have to show more resolve if they are in the lead following the results against Leicester City and Arsenal.

Liverpool v Aston Villa Pick: Losing Luis Suarez in the summer transfer window and Daniel Sturridge perhaps missing this game with an injury will make life tougher for Liverpool on Saturday to overcome an Aston Villa team that have been playing with some confidence.

However, Aston Villa have played well against teams that are perhaps a level below the standard that Liverpool have been playing at over the last twelve months and I do think the home team will have a little too much for them this weekend.

Even without the two star forwards from last season, Mario Balotelli is a capable replacement, while Raheem Sterling is enjoying the space he operates in further up the field. Liverpool will still create chances, although they have to defend better where they have sometimes shown some vulnerabilities.

Missing Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson may weaken Liverpool further at the back so there is every chance that Aston Villa can counter-attack for a goal at a ground where they have proven difficult to beat in recent seasons despite general struggles in the League season.

However, that record isn't enough to deter me from believing Liverpool are the likely winners in this game. My initial thought was backing Liverpool to win by a couple of goals, but those odds are poor to say the least, while Aston Villa could score once which will make it difficult for Liverpool to cover a two goal margin.

I do think there will be goals in the game and so backing Liverpool to win a game where three or four goals are scored looks to be the best way forward. That would have been a winner in 4 of the last 6 home games Liverpool have played in the Premier League and looks to be worth an interest at a big looking price.

Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers Pick: Ed Woodward announced the financial statement for Manchester United on Wednesday and began the Conference by describing this as the beginning of 'something special' for the club. Paddy Crerand was another who believes the 'season starts here' for Manchester United after a lot of investment in the transfer window including bringing in Radamel Falcao.

Louis Van Gaal now has to find a way to get the best out of all the attacking talent that has been invested in for the club, while he will also hoping Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo offer more protection for a vulnerable defence.

There is renewed expectation from the fans who have felt a little disappointed with the performances in the first four games of the season and I think the next month is very important for Manchester United.

Games against Leicester City and West Ham United conclude the month and Manchester United need to win the next three games if they have serious ambitions of finishing in the top four this season. While other teams begin focusing on European football, Manchester United can put all their energy into the Premier League and I think Queens Park Rangers could be in for a tough afternoon.

Harry Redknapp's men were poor in their loss to Tottenham Hotspur and they have struggled for goals early in the new season. Sandro may give them more help defensively, but they could be in big trouble if they concede early on Sunday with the Manchester United crowd baying for a big performance from the home team.

The lack of pace at the back is another issue for Redknapp to try and disguise and I think it may be beyond them as Manchester United win this by a couple of goals or more.

MY PICKS: Arsenal-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chelsea Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Southampton @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win and 3 or 4 Total Goals in the Match @ 2.80 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)

August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/15: 8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% 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)

Friday, 12 September 2014

College Football Week 3 Picks 2014 (September 12-13)

There weren't a lot of marquee games in Week 2 of the College Football season, but the Big Ten would have been wishing there were even fewer as their teams lost in three of the biggest games of the week.

Outside of the Stanford-USC game, the focus really was on the Michigan State Spartans, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines who faced the Oregon Ducks, Virginia Tech Hokies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish respectively.

All of those teams were beaten by double digits and only Michigan State can really hold their head up, results which also means the Big Ten could be the power Conference looking in when the four teams are picked for the Play Offs.

The only way that may change is if the Michigan State Spartans can run the Conference table and win the Big Ten Championship Game, but I already think the losses for Ohio State and Michigan are going to be too hurtful to overcome.

Of course that could change if the other Conferences don't have clear winners, but the SEC winner is unlikely to lose more than one game on the season and there is also a feeling that two teams could be picked from that Conference. The Pac-12 winner is likely to take one spot and Florida State will be tabbed for another place as long as they remain unbeaten this season on their way to winning the ACC (arguably Florida State get in even with one loss as long as they win the ACC).

The Big 12 may be hurt by a lack of a Championship Game, but the Oklahoma Sooners or the Baylor Bears will feel they have a huge chance of making the final four as long as they can win that Conference and not be beaten by any team outside of the other.

There are even fewer 'big' games on the schedule in Week 3 than there was last week and that can sometimes make it more difficult to find the right picks as teams rest starters in non-Conference play when up by big numbers. This is also the time of the season when you have to start focusing on schedules and see the motivation for teams in games and that is a big factor that has to be considered.

Last week saw one play change the momentum from a winning week to a losing one- I had some poor picks too, so it wasn't all bad fortune, but Michigan State and Arizona were a couple of plays away from finding a cover.

The Spartans allowed Oregon to score a late touchdown to put the exclamation point on their win after Michigan State were 25 points ahead of the spread when leading by 12 at the beginning of the third quarter. Arizona allowed UTSA to convert a fourth and long when up by 10 and that eventual Touchdown led to a three point win and failure to cover.

It means Week 2 produced a slight loss, although I am still in the positive for the season, but I would like to see a bit of a kick on from here.

Toledo Rockets @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: How frustrating must it have been for the Cincinnati Bearcats to have watched teams starting their season, yet having to wait not one, but two weeks before they can ready for game week? Cincinnati won't have to worry about another break for the next 8 weeks and will be itching to go against a State rival that has lost a key part of their Offense.

There isn't any pure game video or performances to analyse for the Bearcats, but their Defense figures to be one of the stronger ones around following last season and bringing back enough experience. They are tough to run the ball against and that might be a problem for Toledo this week with a back up Quarter Back taking over from Philipp Ely.

That should allow Cincinnati's Defense to focus on slowing down Kareem Hunt who has started the season very strongly, especially as the Bearcats haven't given up 4 yards a carry in a number of years.

Logan Woodside would then be forced to make plays with his arm against a strong Linebacker corps and an experienced Secondary which could make it tough work for Toledo to move the chains.

Gunner Kiel is making his first start for Cincinnati since transferring from Notre Dame, although Tommy Tuberville is also planning on giving Munchie Legaux some work behind Center after he recovered from an injury suffered last season. Kiel should have some joy against a Toledo Secondary that is giving up over 330 passing yards per game, especially if the Offensive Line can maintain their protection against a decent pass rush generated by the Rockets.

Cincinnati may also have some trouble running the ball, but Toledo could be looking ahead to the big game with the Ball State Cardinals next week and the Bearcats may move away with the win and cover.

West Virginia Mountaineers @ Maryland Terrapins Pick: In the early stage of a new season, it can be easy to overreact to one or two results and the performance the West Virginia Mountaineers produced against the Alabama Crimson Tide may have boosted they hype surrounding the Big 12 school.

That performance in Week 1 was impressive, but West Virginia have another tough test in their first true road game of the season at the unbeaten Maryland Terrapins. This a revenge game for the Mountaineers after a 37-0 beatdown here last season that was described as being 'whipped on all three sides of the ball' by Dana Holgorsen.

As well as West Virginia have played, they have struggled to run the ball and that will mean this game could come down to the arm of Clint Trickett who has yet to throw an Interception for the Mountaineers. However, he could be under pressure by the Maryland pass rush, especially in third and long situations and that could lead to the mistakes he has avoided so far.

On the other side of the ball, Maryland have been able to run the ball and that is an area where they can hurt West Virginia, especially with dual-threat Quarter Back CJ Brown behind Center. Maryland should have enough to take advantage of a Defense that was heavily punished by Alabama on the ground and that will keep Brown in third and manageable situations.

The West Virginia pass Defense has been in good shape to open the season, earning pressure on the Quarter Backs, while Maryland have given up too many turnovers which almost cost them at USF last week. Maryland have the experience and West Virginia could be caught looking ahead to the big Conference game against Oklahoma next week and that may all lead to a Maryland win and cover.

Kansas Jayhawks @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: There won't be too many people rushing to back the Duke Blue Devils to win another ACC Coastal Division after reaching the Championship Game last season, but this is still a team that has a lot experience from 2013 and could be a dangerous one through the season.

Duke have won their opening two games and now David Cutcliffe will be going against a friend in Charlie Weis as the Blue Devils welcome an improved Kansas Jayhawks team to Durham.

However, Kansas have won just 6 games over the last three seasons and barely beating an FCS school isn't the best preparation to go into this game. I have little doubt that Duke will be able to move the chains both through the air and on the ground in this game, while the Offensive Line has protected Anthony Boone.

Boone has avoided the mistakes that tainted his performances last season, although the Kansas Jayhawks Defense could be a much improved unit despite the performance last week against SE Missouri State.

On the other side of the ball, Kansas may be more reliant on their passing game than they would have wanted after losing James Sims and then the top two Running Backs left on the depth chart in the off-season. Montell Cozart was effective at Quarter Back as he threw for a little under 200 yards with 3 Touchdown passes, but he could be under pressure from the pass rush that Duke have been able to generate so far.

The Blue Devils have improved to 7-1-1 against the spread as a home favourite over the last two seasons and they are strong in non-Conference games. Kansas dropped to 1-6 against the spread against non-Conference teams under Charlie Weis last week and I think they may find it hard to stay with Duke in this one.

Arkansas Razorbacks @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: This is the second biggest Big 12 versus SEC games of the week and I think it is one that the Big 12 can win, although it certainly is expected to be as tight as the layers believe.

It hasn't been a great start to the season for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but they have found enough Offense to come through two games they were expected to win easily. They should have real success against Arkansas too when they have the ball as the Razorbacks have struggled against the run and the pass.

Even an FCS school managed to move the ball through the air against Arkansas last week and I do believe Davis Webb will have a big game at Quarter Back considering the protection he has been afforded by the Offensive Line.

The bigger issue for Texas Tech is on the other side of the ball and how they are going to slow down an Arkansas rushing Offense that has averaged 324 yards per game at 9.4 yards per carry. It was the UTEP Miners that battered the Red Raiders on the ground last week and the likes of Alex Collins should have another big game here.

There is little doubt that the Red Raiders will be gashed at times, which is a problem in terms of time of possession, but they are playing an Arkansas team that are 1-9 on the road over the last two seasons. The Razorbacks have also lost their last 3 road games at non-Conference opponents over the last ten years and I think Texas Tech can find enough points to see off Arkansas.

However, I will be hoping the Red Raiders have cleaned up some of their mistakes from the first two weeks which will give them a real opportunity to move to 3-0.

Iowa State Cyclones @ Iowa Hawkeyes Pick: Last week I thought the Iowa State Cyclones would have struggled against the Kansas State Wildcats, but they were so very close to a surprise win.

With this being a local rivalry, there is little doubt they will be fired up to produce a surprise at the Iowa Hawkeyes, but emotionally it will be tough to pick themselves up after coming so close to a win in Week 2.

Iowa will be moving into Conference play next week, but they won't want to let go of local bragging rights after losing this game in 2011 and 2012 before winning on the road last season.

Games between these teams have been close the last three years, but the Hawkeyes may have an easier time this time around as they should be able to run the ball very effectively which will open up the passing lanes. Iowa are moving the chains at 6.3 yards per carry and should be able to find holes against this Offensive Line who have given up 267 yards per game on the ground.

Jake Rudock will then have the chance to make plays at Quarter Back with the protection he has had and I do think the Hawkeyes can move up and down the field.

The difference maker in the game is the fact that Iowa have been able to shut down the rushing Offense and that will leave Sam Richardson in a tough place to make plays. Third and long will leave the door open for the Iowa Defensive Line to penetrate the Offensive Line and get after Richardson and I can see them picking up a couple of key sacks and Interceptions to turn the momentum in their favour.

ULM Warhawks @ LSU Tigers Pick: The problem with big spreads like this is that they can be covered by the lesser team in two different ways- the first is that the game is far more competitive than I imagined it would be; the second is that the 'better' team goes up very big and then rotates the line up to give their starters some rest and test the back ups in a live game.

That is the fear for the LSU Tigers who are moving into their first Conference game next week, but this is also a school that has hammered home the point of their dominance in this State when playing the ULM Warhawks in the past.

The Warhawks also got beaten badly by the two top 25 teams they played last season, losing by 34 in Oklahoma and 63 in Baylor. However, ULM have made a decent start to the season on both sides of the ball and could be a little more competitive early in the game.

In saying that, I expect the LSU Tigers Running Back by committee approach to wear down the Warhawks who are coming off a close win in a Conference game and know the talent they are going up against has increased by a few levels.

The Warhawks are a decent road underdog in the Todd Berry era, but they have struggled in Death Valley and I think the Tigers will wear them down and eventually come through with the cover of this near five Touchdown spread.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons @ Utah State Aggies Pick: Both Offenses look like they will be the weaker unit in the battle with the opposite Defense, but the Utah State Aggies might be able to take advantage of their ability to run the ball to take control of the game.

Chuckie Keeton has the experience at Quarter Back to lead the Aggies to the win, but he has to cut out the mistakes he has made in the first two games if Utah State are to cover the spread. On the other hand, John Wolford looks like he will be in more difficult situations behind an Offensive Line that has struggled in pass protection.

Unlike Keeton, Wolford can't rely on an effective running game to at least keep him in third and manageable situations and that could lead to more mistakes and the chance for Utah State to create short fields for the Offense.

Utah State have also been strong in non-Conference games in recent seasons, while they are 8-3 against the spread as the home favourite in their last 11 games in that situation. Contrast that to a Wake Forest team that is one of the most inexperienced in the nation and one that has shown little in the way of Offense to open the season and I like Utah State to find the cover.

Tennessee Volunteers @ Oklahoma Sooners Pick: The Oklahoma Sooners and Tennessee Volunteers will feel their Defensive Lines can make all the difference in this game and it is the edge on the Offensive Line that the Sooners have that can help them pull away from their visitors.

The Oklahoma Offensive Line has been solid in pass protection, but has been very good at opening up running lanes which should keep the Sooners in manageable situations to move the chains with some consistency. As well as Tennessee have done in penetrating the backfield in their first two games, they could be worn down by the rushing ability of this Sooners team.

On the other hand, Tennessee's Offensive Line doesn't have the same experience and have struggled both in opening rushing lanes and protecting Justin Worley. As well as the Quarter Back has played, he could find himself under pressure from the Sooner pass rush and forced into the mistakes that have blighted him in the past.

That should lead to giving Oklahoma the chance to pull away in this home game, especially as Bob Stoops will not let off the gas against the 'hated' SEC where he will want to really cause some shockwaves with a big win.

Even with a Conference game next on the deck, Oklahoma are unlikely to let up and they are 10-4 against the spread in their last 14 games against non-Conference opponents. The Sooners have also been a strong home favourite under Bob Stoops and they take on a Volunteers team that was 1-3 against the spread as the road underdog under Butch Jones last season.

I imagine this will be close for a half, but the better talent is on the Oklahoma Sooners sideline and they should pull away for the win and cover thanks to a couple of key turnovers.

Texas Longhorns v UCLA Bruins Pick: I wasn’t sure about getting involved in this game to be honest, but I think the UCLA Bruins have enough going for them to put together a statement win. The game may be played on a neutral site, but Dallas, Texas should be full of Longhorn fans so this is a tough road environment for the Bruins to be heading into.

However, the Texas Longhorns are going to need more from Tyrone Swoopes as the back up Quarter Back and are missing a number of key pieces on the Offensive Line and Wide Receiver positions which suggests another Offensive struggle is possible.

I do think the Longhorns Defense is going to get plenty of pressure on Brett Hundley against an Offensive Line that has struggled to open the season. It’ll be tough for the Quarter Back if the UCLA team can’t find some better running lanes too, especially moving into Conference play, but the Bruins should find enough passing from Hundley to win this game.

Both teams will move into a bye week following this game and then enter Conference play so I expect both to give it their all- I just feel Texas are still in a transition under the new guidance of Charlie Strong and UCLA can take advantage with a couple of big plays leading to a double digit win.

Rice Owls @ Texas A&M Aggies Pick: This is another very big number for a team to cover with the exact same problems that could affect the LSU Tigers- teams will start giving their back ups the chance if they are in a big lead and that means Rice could have the chance for a backdoor cover with such a huge head-start.

However, the Texas A&M Aggies are still getting their new Offense in full sync and are using the next two weeks to do just that before they renew SEC play.

They should be able to move up and down the field all day in this one against a Rice Defense that may have a few new looks with two weeks to prepare for this game, but also one that was gashed by Notre Dame both through the air and on the ground.

On the other hand, I imagine the Aggies Defense can force Driphus Jackson into awkward third down situations by shutting down the rushing Offense and then use their pass rush to force turnovers.

The extra preparation time for the Rice Owls is a concern, but I think they made the game last season more competitive than Kevin Sumlin would have wanted and I expect the Head Coach to have his team ready to make this an 'easier' night.

Nevada Wolf Pack @ Arizona Wildcats Pick: Only a crucial fourth down conversion has prevented the Arizona Wildcats from winning both games while covering the spread, but I think they will cover against the Nevada Wolf Pack at home.

Arizona have shown they are able to run the ball and pass the ball effectively and I think their Offense will move the chains with consistency through the day against Nevada. While the Wolf Pack have only allowed 97 yards per game, they did face the one-dimensional Washington State Cougars last week and the Wildcats are far more balanced to take advantage of the 4.8 yards per carry the Wolf Pack have allowed.

That will open up the passing lanes against this Secondary, although Arizona must stay in third and manageable situations to keep the pass rush off of the Quarter Back.

With the Wildcats playing the run effectively from a Defensive standpoint, they could make Nevada rely heavily on the pass and that should play into Arizona's hands as the game develops.

There is more experience on the Nevada side of the field, but they have struggled as a road underdog under Brian Polian and I think the Wildcats have too much scoring for them to deal with.

MY PICKS: Cincinnati Bearcats - 10 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Maryland Terrapins - 3 Points @ 1.92 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Duke Blue Devils - 14 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas Tech Red Raiders - 1 Point @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Iowa Hawkeyes - 12.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 31 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Utah State Aggies - 15 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 21 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 7 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 31.5 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Arizona Wildcats - 18 Points @ 1.94 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 2: 5-6, - 1.18 Units (11 Units Staked, - 10.72% Yield)
Week 16-4, + 1.77 Units (10 Units Staked, + 11.7% Yield)

Season 201411-10, + 0.59 Units (21 Units Staked, + 2.81% 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)

Davis Cup Tennis Picks 2014 (September 12th)

The US Open might now be in the history books as one of the more surprising men's Grand Slam winners for quite a few years took the title in Marin Cilic on the final Monday of the tournament. I have been talking up Cilic's credentials for about eighteen months as I have been impressed with the added aggression that he has shown in his play, but I didn't think he had quite enough to come through seven best of five set matches to win a Major tournament.

Like Juan Martin Del Potro when he won the US Open back in 2009, Marin Cilic has skipped a level as he is yet to win a Masters title before winning his first Grand Slam. His 2015 season will be interesting to see if he can back up this success, although the more immediate test will be seeing if Cilic can pick up enough points over the next two months to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Both Finalists from the US Open will be looking to kick on and join the top three players in the World in London, although the likes of Andy Murray are sure to push them all the way. That is the biggest draw left at the end of the season with the Tour moving to Asia before the final few tournaments at indoor events in Europe.

First of all, there is the matter of deciding which two teams will be competing for the Davis Cup, one of the few things in tennis that Roger Federer has not achieved. I backed Switzerland to win the Davis Cup as soon as it became clear that both Federer and Stan Wawrinka were going to commit to it and the Swiss are strong favourites to see off Italy at home on a indoor hard court.

The second Semi Final is much tougher to predict despite France seemingly having more depth than the Czech Republic and also playing at home. However, the Czech Republic have won the last two Davis Cup titles, including on the road in Serbia last season, and I think they have three players in Tomas Berdych, Lukas Rosol and Radek Stepanek that will believe in their ability to find a way to win three rubbers this weekend at the famous Roland Garros venue.

The US Open was a successful one for the picks and made up, if not completely, for a poor summer on the hard courts for my picks. I couldn't catch a break in Toronto/Montreal and Cincinnati, but the majority of the surprise results at Flushing Meadows were thankfully avoided.

The picks still took a pretty big hit this summer, which was a real disappointment, although I will be hoping that the US Open sparks a decent end to the season which can provide some more successes.

Tomas Berdych - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: The first rubber in the Semi Final between France and the Czech Republic features a match between two players that will both have full belief in their ability to get their nation off to a strong start.

While Tomas Berdych representing the Czech Republic wasn't much of a surprise at all, France picking Richard Gasquet ahead of the in-form Gael Monfils wasn't what I was expecting.

Gasquet is a solid player on the clay courts, but he has only won 2 of his last 6 Davis Cup ties played on clay courts compared with Berdych who has won 6 in a row on the surface.

Neither of these players can point to a really strong summer of tennis, although Berdych did reach the Quarter Final at the US Open and also reached the same stage at the French Open so this venue won't intimidate him. Berdych can use his big serve to set up the points in this one, and I also believe he will have more of a chance to get involved in the Gasquet service games.

The Frenchman does have all the shots in his arsenal to extend rallies and stretch Berdych, but I think the stronger man will come through and I have less issues about Berdych's physical well-being compared with Gasquet.

I believe this match will likely go into four sets, but Berdych will be able to come through and cover these games.

Lukas Rosol + 6.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: If you asked these two players on which surface they would be preferring to play this match, I think Lukas Rosol would be very comfortable in picking a clay court, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga may have pointed to a faster surface.

That isn't to say Tsonga hasn't had success on the clay courts in the past, especially here at Roland Garros, but I also think that makes this match have all the potential of being closer than the spread may have you believe.

My biggest issue against Lukas Rosol is the way he can fall apart in matches and quickly go through a rash of errors that can see him lose sets comfortably. He has a huge serve and heavy forehand that should be a great combination, but Rosol has to cut out the errors that can rear their head from nowhere and cause him to fall into big holes.

That would be my concern in this one if he loses heart and falls into a 61 set loss, but I do think the surface gives him half a chance of taking at least one, possibly two, sets off of Tsonga despite the serve the latter also produces.

However, I think the shift in surface could affect Tsonga's game more than Rosol's and the latter has a chance of springing a surprise, although I would imagine the Frenchman will ride the emotion of the crowd to a four set win, albeit one that might not have enough to cover the games here.

Roger Federer - 7.5 games v Simone Bolelli: I really do think the Switzerland team is in a great position to reach the Final of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1992 and Roger Federer can win the first rubber of this Semi Final against Simone Bolelli.

I was wondering how Federer would deal with the disappointment of losing to Marin Cilic in the US Open Semi Final last week, but he seems in pretty good spirits and is still one of the best indoor players in the world.

That means this tie should play firmly into his hands and I expect Federer to really dominate Bolelli whose best days are behind him while the Italian is also very much a clay court player these days. Bolelli actually has a decent serve that should work well on the indoor hard courts considering the speed of the surface, but I think any extended rallies will be asking too much for him to get his timing right and Federer should win the majority of them.

It might start off tight, but I think Federer will end up coming through this match 64, 62, 63.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Fabio Fognini: Following Roger Federer, I would also be expecting Stan Wawrinka to be able to dictate play against Fabio Fognini on an indoor hard court and I think he can take advantage of the Italian's unfamiliarity with the surface.

Of course Fognini has played on the surface, but his results haven't been the best and I think his serve is vulnerable on a court where first strike tennis can be so effective.

My other concern for Fognini is how much fight he is willing to show if he falls behind and Simone Bolelli has already lost the first rubber as I expect him to. Stan Wawrinka has a big serve that could frustrate Fognini and the additional power on the Swiss side of the net will be tough to defend on this kind of surface where attacking tennis can pay off so well.

These two haven't met on any other surface than clay courts in the past and Wawrinka has won 4 of their previous 5 meetings despite that being Fognini's best surface. If the Italian loses a bit of heart, Wawrinka could be able to move the final set to cover this number in a 63, 64, 62 win.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Lukas Rosol + 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 7.5 Games @ 1.90 Unibet (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Season 2014+ 25.64 Units (1365.5 Units Staked, + 1.88% 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

Thursday, 11 September 2014

NFL Week 2 Picks 2014 (September 11-15)

The NFL was back last weekend and it was great to watch competitive Football again, although the number of surprise results through the League wasn't the best for my picks. The underdogs barked loudly through Week 1, although there were plenty of teams guilty of losing huge leads and Jon Gruden made a strong point on Monday Night Football that it could be an early season conditioning thing.

With the slate of Thursday Night Football games through the season, hopefully my Week 1 form, which has been poor for three straight years, can be turned around.

Week 1 Thoughts
Ray Rice out of the NFL?: For all the anticipation for Week 1, the biggest news story actually broke on Monday when the Ray Rice video of him hitting his fiancĂ© was released by TMZ.

Understandably, there was a host of people voicing their displeasure about the video and Rice's two game suspension was once again highlighted as a joke by the NFL, something which had been said when the suspension was first announced.

The Baltimore Ravens had no choice but to release Rice with rumours suggesting the Running Back hadn't been forthright with his version of events compared to the video, but the NFL then took things a step further by banning Rice indefinitely.

That was soon followed by an email sent to the other 31 teams in the NFL that any contract with Rice would not be ratified and the Canadian Football League making a statement that they would be honouring the suspension set out by the NFL too.

It does seem that Rice's career is now over in the NFL- he looks certain to sit out this season and I already had my doubts about how effective he could be after his struggles in 2013. The video is damning and it will make it very hard for a team to give Rice a second chance whenever the suspension is lifted, but this is a League that has forgiven the likes of Michael Vick in the past.

Seeing is always harder than imagining though and that video will haunt Rice for the rest of his life, but I have a feeling someone will end up taking a chance on him in the future, even if the Back is never going to be the same player again.

Will there be a repeat of Super Bowl XLVIII: The Seattle Seahawks were dominant in their win over the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos held off the Indianapolis Colts as both teams remain the favourite to win their respective Conferences and set up a repeat of the last Super Bowl.

In answering this question, a simple yes will suffice- Denver will be visiting Seattle next week, but that might be the only repeat of the Super Bowl XLVIII that we will see this season.

Out of the two teams, I still think the Denver Broncos are in the stronger position in the 'weaker' AFC, but their schedule could mean having to win on the road to make it back to the Play Offs.

On the other hand, Seattle looked very good in Week 1, but they too have a schedule that might mean needing to win away from the comforts of home and there hasn't been a repeat Super Bowl since the end of the 1993 season when Dallas beat Buffalo in the big game again.

The odds are against a repeat happening, while it has will also be 10 years by the time the Super Bowl rolls around that a team that played in the Super Bowl the year before returns for another crack at the Championship. That was New England who won back to back Super Bowls as Seattle look to be come the first team to retain their title since the Patriots.

Try not to overreact to Week 1 results: Teams are rarely as good, or bad, as what they have displayed in Week 1 so I wouldn't go overboard on statements like the 'Atlanta Falcons are a dark horse for the Super Bowl' or 'there is a new order in the AFC'.

We won't have a better idea about where teams stand until after Week 4, but I wouldn't rule out teams like New England because they had a poor first game and similarly wouldn't read too much into Atlanta's win over a Divisional rival at home.

There is some excitement in the fan bases of teams like the Miami Dolphins who surpassed most expectations, but those have to be tempered until the team shows some consistency, especially after opening 3-0 last season before falling away.

The New York Giants could be in for another tough season: The Detroit Lions are rightly getting a lot of praise for how they played on the first Monday Night Football game of the season, but the New York Giants were absolutely terrible in that game.

The new West Coast Offense didn't look right in the pre-season and wasn't much better on Monday as Eli Manning and his Receivers continue reading different pages. Eli summed that up with this reaction during the loss on Monday Night.

New York couldn't run the ball that effectively, while the Offensive Line seemingly allowed Detroit to pressure Manning all evening and I don't know if this team is capable of turning things around from a poor 2013 season. Defensively they also blew too many coverages and allowed the Lions to make some big plays and Tom Coughlin may not be long for the Head Coach role here.

Some Giants fans may also feel it is better their team has a hard time in a Quarter Back heavy class coming up in the next Draft and I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants are thinking of the future already. Eli Manning doesn't look like he has a lot left in the tank, but his and the teams only benefit is playing in a weak looking NFC East where none of the teams impressed this weekend.

Everybody was kung-fu fighting: One of the most bizarre plays of the week was this one involving Antonio Brown and the Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning.

Top Five
1) Seattle Seahawks (1-0): Super Bowl Champions and blasting one of the top teams in the NFC by 20 points at home.

2) Denver Broncos (1-0): Still look the class of the AFC, even if they almost blew a 24 point lead in their win over the Indianapolis Colts, especially with a Defense that looks improved.

3) San Francisco 49ers (1-0): Rumours that players have lost faith in Jim Harbaugh which will be an interesting story line to follow if the 49ers lose a couple of games in a row.

4) Cincinnati Bengals (1-0): That could be a critical Divisional win on the road at the Baltimore Ravens.

5) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0): The Steelers almost blew a big lead against Cleveland at home, but they have won 7 of their last 9 games now and will be looking to heap more misery on the Baltimore Ravens.

Bottom Five
32) Washington Redskins (0-1): It was a poor performance from the Washington Redskins, but they won't have a better chance to bounce back in Week 2 than by hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars.

31) Oakland Raiders (0-1): It's tough playing on the East Coast in an early game, but Oakland really struggled against the New York Jets.

30) New York Giants (0-1): Another poor Offensive showing and the Giants looked tired despite it only being the first game of a long season.

29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1): Losing to the Carolina Panthers is one thing, but losing to a team missing Cam Newton and starting Derek Anderson at Quarter Back has to be disconcerting to the locals.

28) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1): Feels harsh putting them here, but the Jaguars blew a big lead in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and two missed Field Goals while leading by 17 were critical mistakes.

Week 2 Picks
I was feeling very disappointed in Week 1 with the way some of the picks went down as New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Denver all blew double digit leads in the first half of their games and failed to cover.

I had a bit of fortune go my way with the late Philadelphia cover, but I would have ended with a winning record if the luck had gone the other way and teams that should have covered did, and those that shouldn't have covered didn't. Some may have noticed that I limited the picks to minimum stakes as Week 1 has not been kind to me over the last couple of seasons and that worked out for the best with the way the games ended up coming up.

It was also a week where the majority of turnovers went against the teams I picked, but I will take the positives in seeing my picks get into strong positions even if they failed to cover in the end.

Hopefully Week 2 will prove to be much more productive.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: What a terrible week it has been for the Baltimore Ravens- they lost their opening game of the season at home, to a Divisional rival no less, and then the video showing exactly what Ray Rice did to his fiancĂ© came out on Monday morning.

That has overshadowed the entire Week 1 schedule and it was no surprise when Rice was released and the NFL decided to suspend him indefinitely from the League as I have discussed above.

How will the Ravens respond to the entire furore that has been surrounding the organisation on a short week as they get set to face another Divisional rival with the prospect of falling into a 0-2 hole. The game is at home so I expect the fans to come out and really get behind their team, but Joe Flacco needs to play better and the entire Defense has to pull together if they are going to see off Pittsburgh.

The loss of Rice is a big story, but Baltimore would have been preparing for this game without him anyway, and I do think Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce have the chance for surprising success in this one. The Steelers were shredded by the Cleveland Browns using the run and the no-huddle Offense and I expect Baltimore to try and follow that second half blueprint set by the Browns and not make Flacco throw it 62 times as they did on Sunday.

That should open the passing lanes for Flacco if the ground game is established and I do think the Ravens have enough playmakers to certainly score points against this Defense.

There will also be the belief that Le'Veon Bell won't have the huge game he did in the first half against Cleveland as the Ravens shut down Giovani Bernard effectively on Sunday. I figure Baltimore will find a way to get some pressure against this Offensive Line if they can keep the Steelers in third and long situations, although the Ravens barely got near Andy Dalton in the Cincinnati game. However, they should be fired up to put this week behind them and give Ravens Nation something to smile about.

I do think Big Ben makes plays, as he always does, and the Steelers have a 3-0 record against the spread in the most recent games in this series. They are also 3-1 against the spread in this stadium, although I haven't forgotten seeing Mike Tomlin prevent a Touchdown last season by interfering with Jacoby Jones on a kick return which prevented a Ravens cover ultimately.

However, I think the public are pounding the Steelers and Baltimore may surprise by covering tonight. They should keep Flacco in manageable situations more than Pittsburgh do for Roethlisberger and the weather is calling for rain which means the Ravens superior run Defense could make all the difference.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Redskins Pick: Before I go any further, I am not one of these RG3 fan boys that won't hear anything bad about a Quarter Back that is beginning to look like another bust in the NFL.

He was supposed to be much happier with Jay Gruden as Head Coach, but the confidence looks shot at the moment, although I do think this match up with the Jacksonville Jaguars could help Griffin. Alfred Morris should be able to establish a decent ground attack and Griffin will find some seams in the Secondary that can be exploited.

Of course, Griffin will have to show a lot better mobility against a Jaguars pass rush that will give this Offensive Line fits, but I do think the Redskins will find a way to move the chains. Another benefit for Washington is a Defense that played pretty well last week against Houston facing Chad Henne and a Jaguars Offense that took advantage of Philadelphia miscues last week.

Back to back road games against non-Conference opponents are tough to get yourself ready for and Jacksonville could be focusing on their home opener against the best team in their Division, the Indianapolis Colts which is played next week. The Jaguars also dropped to 1-5-1 against the spread against non-Conference teams on the road in their last 7 games in that situation and I think Washington are worth a small interest to get back on track despite a lot of people perhaps losing faith in them.

Dallas Cowboys @ Tennessee Titans Pick: Before the season started, the loss of Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware weakened a Dallas Defense that was miserable last season, but that unit actually played pretty well against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.

It was actually the poor play of the Offense, which many expected to at least score enough points to make Dallas competitive, that lost the Cowboys the game with three killer turnovers in the first half. Tony Romo made some bad throws, but I expect Dallas to bounce back and keep this game competitive this week.

DeMarco Murray ran hard enough to suggest he can at least establish a running game and I do think the Offensive Line will also play better when they are not being forced to throw early in the game. Romo has another week to get himself comfortable, although Tennessee have gotten decent pressure up front against Kansas City to think they could have a field day on Romo if Dallas fall into another early hole.

On the other hand, I do expect Jake Locker to have success throwing against this Dallas Secondary, although his Offensive Line didn't play well in pass protection last week. Granted that was against a Kansas City team that has a far more consistent pass rush than Dallas, but the Cowboys can take heart from that performance.

Like Dallas, I expect Tennessee to establish a decent running attack, but I just feel there has been an overreaction to the way these two teams played last week. The Titans benefited from the turnovers, while Dallas missed a couple of chances to pick up an Interception or two themselves and this has the makings of a field goal result to me.

New England Patriots @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: Overreaction to Week 1 results can't be escaped, especially when some are talking about the New England Patriots and Tom Brady as being 'over the hill' and having no chance of reaching the Super Bowl... It makes such little sense considering they have struggled in Miami many times over recent years and the Dolphins are certainly a more improved team than some may want to believe.

The second half saw the Patriots wilt in the heat as the Dolphins took control, but those conditions are not an issue this week and New England should be much more ready for the Minnesota Vikings.

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings respond to the Adrian Peterson situation- it is different to the Baltimore Ravens who played hard in the light of the Ray Rice release, but that Running Back wasn't scheduled to play anyway against Pittsburgh.

I am sure Peterson was going to be a big part of the Offense for the Minnesota Vikings after seeing Knowshow Moreno dominate the Patriots last week, but now they will need Matt Asiata to fill in effectively or it could quickly become a long day for Matt Cassel. I expect the Vikings to continue using Cordarrelle Patterson with sweeps and coming out of the backfield as a form of establishing a running game, but those moves should be less of a surprise to New England than it was to the St Louis Rams.

Cassel is a familiar face to the New England organisation and could be tempted into making mistakes that the likes of Darrelle Revis can highlight.

I would also be surprised if Tom Brady doesn't have a big comeback game after the talk of the last week in the media and the Patriots should be fully focused with an 'easy' game against Oakland next on deck.

New England are 14-9 against the spread with Tom Brady at Quarter Back when they are coming off a loss and I think they good enough to beat Minnesota despite the difference in performances last week. The spread has moved up three points thanks to Adrian Peterson missing the game, but I still think the Patriots can find a cover.

Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals Pick: This has all the makings of a shoot-out with two Offenses that should be able to move the chains all day long, although the key to the game will be whether Cincinnati's pass rush can get enough pressure to disrupt Matt Ryan from finding the time to hit his big time Receivers.

I do think Cincinnati will have the most success with the ball in their hand as they should have a strong balance between the run and the pass, while I think Atlanta may have a harder time establishing Steven Jackson.

The game is also in the middle of a NFC South sandwich for the Falcons so might not be as important as their Thursday night game against Tampa Bay, while the Bengals are 8-2-1 against the spread as the home favourite over the last two seasons.

Of course any team that has Julio Jones and Roddy White are going to be able to move the ball through the air and will always have a chance in a high-scoring game, but the Falcons also have to pick themselves up from an emotional win last weekend. Again, this game shouldn't mean as much to them compared with the one coming up in four days time against Tampa Bay and I think Cincinnati win this by a Touchdown in what could be a game decided by whichever team has the ball last.

New York Jets @ Green Bay Packers Pick: It is easy for people to overreact to what they have seen in Week 1 of the new season, but I have little doubt that the Green Bay Packers are far better than they showed in Seattle. The injury to Bryan Bulaga stunted what they wanted to do on Offense and the game quickly got away from them after a close first half in which the Packers went in to the dressing room with the lead.

While the New York Jets can get some pressure up front, I still expect Aaron Rodgers to bounce back with a much bigger performance throwing the ball against a Secondary that is missing a number of starters. Even the return of Dee Milliner for a few snaps won't be enough to slow down Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, while Eddie Lacy should be starting and is capable of banging out a number of yards on the ground.

With the expectation Green Bay are going to move the chains against this Jets Defense, the big question is how long can New York rely on their rushing Offense to stay in the game. The Jets should find room to move the ball with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory in the absence of BJ Raji, but Geno Smith has to avoid the mistakes that have cost him at various times through last season.

I do like the Packers this week to bounce back with the additional time they have had to prepare for this game. With big NFC North road battles in Week 3 and 4 to come, Green Bay can't afford to take the Jets likely and I think the Packers will prove to be too strong.

They are a strong home favourite when Aaron Rodgers is playing behind Center, while the Quarter Back is 6-2 against the spread as a favourite of more than a Touchdown when coming off a loss.

Green Bay should find a couple of turnovers in this game by bamboozling Geno Smith under pressure to keep the Jets in the game and that should lead to a win by double digits.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos Pick: It was extremely frustrating to see the Denver Broncos score the first 24 points in the game against the Indianapolis Colts last week, but still need to stop the Colts from tying the game in the second half with time running out.

The 7 point win saw the best of the Offense, but that side of the ball stuttered in the second half and saw their own Defense worn down as they were on the field for far too long.

However, I think the difference between Andrew Luck and Alex Smith is night and day when it comes to trying to lead a comeback of that side and I think the Kansas City Chiefs will be in big trouble if they fall into a hole like that. Smith is a game manager and is not the Quarter Back you want to see leading a huge comeback, although I don't think he will make the mistakes that cost the Chiefs the loss against Tennessee last week.

I would also be more than a little surprised if Jamaal Charles isn't asked to do a lot more work this week, but it might not matter with the Defensive injuries that Kansas City are working through.

Even the pass rush might not be that effective with the speed in which Peyton Manning gets the ball out of his hands and I think Denver will be able to move the chains all day. They should surpass the 27 points they scored at home last season against the Chiefs and get closer to the 35 they scored on the road as the Chiefs Secondary is just not as good as a season ago.

Denver failed to cover at home last week, but remain a very strong home favourite against the spread, while they are 9-3 against the spread as a double digit favourite over the last two seasons.

If the Broncos get to 34 points or better, I think they will beat the Kansas City Chiefs by at least two Touchdowns and will back them to cover a big number.

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: This is a big game for both teams who have real ambitions of going deep into the Play Offs as the San Francisco 49ers open their brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

I think both Offenses will feel they can rely on an effective running game to set up their teams and I do believe Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde and Matt Forte could all put up decent numbers in the game.

The big difference may be which of the teams can look after the ball best and Jay Cutler showed off his 'bad' side again last week with a crucial Interception thrown in the Fourth Quarter. However, it was the terrible decision to throw across his own body straight at one of the huge Defensive Linemen that would have worried the Bears fans and they are desperate to avoid a 0-2 hole.

San Francisco have shown they can still get pressure on an Offensive Line in the absence of Aldon Smith and the Chicago one is banged up so this could be a tough night for Cutler to avoid the pressure and the mistakes that have blighted his career.

Both Quarter Backs do have big time Receivers that can make plays, but I think Colin Kaepernick will be throwing from a cleaner pocket, while also having more mobility than Cutler to pick up first downs on the ground. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are all capable of finding their seams to keep the chains moving and all are very good at bringing in the ball.

The 49ers have dominated the Bears when the latter have come out to California, including a 25 point win in Kaepernick's first start for the 49ers, and they have been a strong home favourite.

They are also 13-5 against the spread when favoured by between 3.5 and 9.5 points under Jim Harbaugh, while the Bears are 2-6 against the spread as the road underdog over the last two seasons.

Picks from Games Without Unit Interest: Miami Dolphins + 1 Point, Arizona Cardinals - 1.5 Points, Cleveland Browns + 6.5 Points, Detroit Lions + 2.5 Points, St Louis Rams + 5.5 Points, Seattle Seahawks - 5.5 Points, Oakland Raiders + 3 Points

MY PICKS: Baltimore Ravens - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Washington Redskins - 6 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
New England Patriots - 5.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cincinnati Bengals - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 7.5 Points @ 1.97 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 13 Points @ 2.02 Pinnacle (2 Units)
San Francisco 49ers - 7 Points @ Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Week 1: 3-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 2014: 3-6, - 3.18 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units