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United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th)

United Corner- Manchester United, New Season, Increased Expectations (August 11th 2017) If you were going to grade the 2016/17 season...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (November 29-30)

Last weekend was a huge result for Manchester United as they beat one of the top teams in England and a definite rival for a place in the top four which remains the absolute minimum expectation for Louis Van Gaal this season.

While some, Gary Neville for instance, was convinced United deserved their win with a 'second goal coming' ever since United made it 0-1, I was happier that the side could ride their luck a little and manage to secure a vital away win, the first of the season.

With a little more composure in the final third and better finishing, Arsenal would likely have had the lead way before Antonio Valencia's deflected effort went in just before the hour mark. Manchester United didn't have a shot on target until after they had gone 0-1 up, and I am still not convinced United would have had enough to come back and win the game if they had fallen behind in the first half hour. In all honesty, I think Arsenal may have pushed on and won the game from that point.


Still, United secured a vital three points which should give the team plenty of confidence although I was quite interested to read a small piece in one of the national newspapers that compared Manchester United to the Netherlands team in the World Cup.

It was interesting because I said that is who United reminded me of when watching the game at Arsenal- both teams had put a number of bodies in the way to try and hide the deficiencies at the back and then hope the magic up front can produce a winning result.

For Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder use Angel Di Maria and Wayne Rooney and I don't know if that will ever be good enough to remain competitive in a full season rather than a short tournament that the World Cup is.


The good news was hearing Louis Van Gaal talk about wanting to boss games a little more and to beat teams more easily than Manchester United have been doing so far this season. That satisfied me because it is clear the manager wants to see United improve their control of games which has seen too many end with United hanging on a touch and winning by the minimum margin. Van Gaal clearly doesn't want that either so it will be good to see United put that into action over the next couple of games as they host Hull City and Stoke City in the next few days.


One major bookmaker has already paid out on Chelsea winning the Premier League this season- I would love to know what kind of payout that was or if that is nothing more than a publicity stunt no matter how well Chelsea have played so far to this point.

While I think they are strong favourites to win the title, if Manchester City can go on a run over the festive period of winning 6 of 7 or win 8 in a row as Manuel Pellegrini has suggested they do, Chelsea may see their lead trimmed very quickly. Every team has a blip in the course of a season and Chelsea have yet to have theirs, while long-term injuries to either Diego Costa or Cesc Fabregas would put more pressure in Jose Mourinho's men.

Favourites yes... But I am not close to crowning Chelsea as Champions with less than a third of the season in the books.


West Brom v Arsenal Pick: This looks like a game that could open the Premier League weekend in entertaining style for those who are going to be watching on television and I would be surprised if we don't see a few goals in the game.

As strong as Arsenal have looked going forward, they still seem very vulnerable defensively and those are areas that West Brom may be able to exploit with the speed they have in their own forward positions. The home team will also be able to play on the counter-attack at times with Arsenal expected to have the majority of the possession and that also seems to suit West Brom a little more.

However, West Brom won't get much out of this game if they don't improve defensively themselves after a couple of pretty poor performances on that front. Chelsea could have scored as many as they liked last week, while West Brom have conceded at least twice in 6 of their 8 home games this season in all competitions. Oxford United from League Two are one of the sides that didn't reach that number and Arsenal are certainly capable of doing that this weekend.

On the other hand, West Brom have scored at least twice in 4 of their 6 home games in the Premier League and with the defensive problems that Arsenal have shown, they must feel they will be able to perhaps extend that run.

Last season saw these sides draw twice at the Hawthornes by the same 1-1 scoreline, but the previous 5 League games between them here have seen at least three goals scored and I am expecting goals this weekend.


Liverpool v Stoke City Pick: It seems the layers are beginning to doubt what Liverpool are bringing to the table as they are quite a big price to beat Stoke City, although this has been a tough Premier League fixture for the home team in recent years.

There have been so many things wrong at Liverpool this season with the defence continuing to make the mistakes that are costing the team too many goals, while losing Daniel Sturridge to injury and Luis Suarez to Barcelona has destroyed the free-scoring team this was last season.

It was never going to be easy to replace those goals that those two strikers produced, but the signings of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert looked very shaky anyway and neither has produced enough. Lambert may be turning a corner with goals in his last two games and this is the kind of game where his physical strength can help Liverpool, but Stoke City have produced a couple of big away wins already this season and will feel they can do the same here.

I would be concerned with the injuries they are dealing with and the illness that has spread through the squad and that might be a problem if tiredness and fatigue affects them as the game goes on. Stoke have been able to score goals away from home, but they have also been conceding too many of late with both Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers scoring at least twice against them.

Not many would be surprised if Stoke City scored in this game themselves, but I do think Liverpool can build on what they earned in Bulgaria and I believe the home side can win a game that could see both teams score at least once.


Manchester United v Hull City Pick: One thing that has noticeably been changing in recent Manchester United games compared to some of the earlier ones is the performances in the last fifteen matches of games. Initially that was where the team seemed to tire and give opponents a chance to get back into games and create chances, but Manchester United have turned that around in the last few weeks.

Manchester United scored late goals to salvage draws against West Brom and Chelsea, while they could have gotten something late from the Manchester derby. They also scored late goals against Arsenal and had chances to extend the lead against Crystal Palace as the game wore on and that can only mean good things for Manchester United.

Aside from the game against Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United haven't really won games by comfortable margins at Old Trafford, but there has been some extenuating circumstances for that in my opinion. Against West Ham United, Manchester United were playing with ten men for the last half hour, while the side hit the post and had a couple of half-chances to extend that lead against Crystal Palace.

A game against a Hull City side that might be short of confidence should give Manchester United a chance to win this game fairly comfortably even though Steve Bruce's side have made life tough for teams they have played this season. Hull have earned draws at Arsenal and Liverpool, but Manchester United have a lot of firepower and seem to be getting healthier in defensive positions.

Hull City might have conceded just one goal in their last 2 away games, but had conceded at least twice in 4 consecutive games on their travels before that and Manchester United have momentum behind them. Manchester United have been able to score plenty of goals against Hull City in recent games and I think they win this by at least two goals.


Queens Park Rangers v Leicester City Pick: There is no doubt to me that this is one very important game for both Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City and there seems to be a little more momentum behind the home team.

The results might not have been there in terms of wins for Queens Park Rangers, but they shouldn't have lost to Liverpool at home and were just ten minutes from beating Manchester City here too. Goals haven't been a problem for QPR, especially at home, and Charlie Austin is a striker on form to the extent that some are calling for an England call up.

Leonardo Ulloa, on the other hand, hasn't been doing the business for Leicester City despite a fast start to the season and has been one of the reasons that the Foxes haven't scored in the last five games. Leicester City have also conceded at least two goals in 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and that could be a problem when they visit this part of West London where Queens Park Rangers have been playing pretty well in recent weeks.

Leicester City did beat Queens Park Rangers twice last season which should give them confidence, but they will need to start scoring goals and that makes it hard to really trust them on current form. With QPR scoring at least twice in their last 4 home games and Leicester conceding plenty of goals in recent weeks, I am sure the home team will have their supporters for the win this week.

The lack of wins puts me off backing QPR to do that and instead I will back them to hit at least two goals again- they have done that in failing to beat Stoke City, Liverpool and Manchester City and while it should be enough to win this game, it is virtually the same price as Rangers winning this game and I think it provides better value in this game.


West Ham United v Newcastle United Pick: Two teams that have played some attacking football of late with pace and power meet on Saturday and I can't imagine either Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew will want to settle for a draw in this one.

That should mean there are goals in the game with both teams showing an ability to create chances in recent weeks. The returning players for West Ham United will certainly make a difference for a team that should really have earned a lot more than the one point from the last two games that they have picked up.

West Ham played well against Aston Villa at home and at Everton and they will create chances against a Newcastle team that has a couple of defensive issues coming into the weekend. On the other hand, the pace in the forward positions for Newcastle are likely to give a Winston Reid-less defence some issues too and it is something that the Magpies have scored twice in their last three away games.

This is also a fixture that has regularly produced a fair few goals and 7 of the last 9 at Upton Park between these teams have seen at least three goals shared by the sides.

Add in the fact that 4 of the last 5 West Ham United home games and 4 of the last 7 Newcastle United away games have seen at least three goals scored and I think the layers are under-estimating the chances of there being at least three goals shared between these teams this weekend.


Sunderland v Chelsea Pick: As I said above, some are already paying out on Chelsea winning the Premier League title this season, but there are plenty of tough tests still remaining and Sunderland were one of the bogey teams for Chelsea last season.

Sunderland beat Chelsea 2-1 in the League Cup Quarter Final and also beat them 1-2 at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, a result that effectively ended Chelsea's title challenge last season, and you have to think they will at least give this a right go.

The Stadium of Light hasn't been a good venue for Sunderland against Chelsea in the Premier League as they have lost 9 straight times at home against the Blues. The win in the League Cup snapped that run, but this is a Chelsea team playing with a lot of confidence and have plenty of goals in the side.

The Black Cats have only lost 1 of their last 4 home games in all competitions, but they haven't faced the best teams in the Premier League in that stretch outside of Arsenal who were the team to beat them. I expect Chelsea to win this game, but Sunderland shouldn't be intimidated by them having beaten them the last two times they have played each other.

I do think Sunderland give this a go and there is a remarkable trend that needs following in this one for me- Chelsea have won their last 6 League games here where both teams have scored and 8 of their last 9 wins at the Stadium of Light have also involved both teams scoring. Add in the fact that both teams have scored the last 5 times Sunderland and Chelsea have played one another and I think that might be the most effective way to back the away side to continue their strong form in the Premier League.


Southampton v Manchester City Pick: Will that Sergio Aguero hat-trick against Bayern Munich be the turning point when it comes to Manchester City's season? They have every chance of progressing to the Last 16 in the Champions League thanks to their 3-2 win over Bayern Munich, but Manchester City will want to try and use that momentum into the Premier League as they look for a third consecutive win.

However, David Silva remains absent and now they travel to Southampton who have been one of the surprise packages in the Premier League and who feel this game sets a standard for them for the rest of the season. While most are not ready to believe Southampton are a candidate for a top four berth, the next three games against Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it clear as to what the Saints are capable of achieving.

Southampton have won 5 straight Premier League games at St Mary's and they have some pace and quality in the final third to really cause this Manchester City defence some problems. They have also been very strong themselves when it comes to defensive performances with only 1 goal conceded at home in the League all season, but Manchester City have the likes of Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero who can create chances and score goals.

The away side have scored at least two goals in 6 of their 8 away games played in all competitions and Manchester City have a bit of momentum behind them.

Picking a winner looks very tough, but this is a game that could produce goals at both ends and I do think we will see at least three goals scored in the first of the Sunday live games this weekend.

MY PICKS: West Brom-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Liverpool to Win @ 3.70 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers Over 1.5 Team Goals @ 2.38 William Hill (2 Units)
West Ham United-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Chelsea to Win @ 3.50 William Hill (1 Unit)
Southampton-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November Update14-16, - 0.95 Units (57 Units, - 1.67% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% 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 2014/1528-58, - 36.99 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.61% 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)

Thursday, 27 November 2014

College Football Week 14 Picks 2014 (November 27-29)

The final week of the regular season for those Conferences that have a Championship Game takes place over the holiday season in the United States and also means Week 14 is split over three days.

It is an important week where teams are coming down to the final chances to impress the Committee deciding the College Football Play Off which saw no changes to the top four teams on Tuesday evening. However, the likes of Mississippi State and Alabama have big rivalry games this week as they compete in the Egg and Iron Bowl respectively, while one of those teams won't be involved in the SEC Championship Game next week.

Florida State continue escaping from the clutches of a loss and Oregon remain ahead of them in the Ranking, although both have tough games to play this week ahead of their own Championship Game in the ACC and Pac-12 next week.

Teams like the Baylor Bears, TCU Horned Frogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes remain on the outside of the Play Off picture but all three should be ready to pounce if one, or more, of the top four teams falter in the remaining two weeks. Of those teams, the Buckeyes may have the best opportunity to impress as they take on Michigan in a huge rivalry game and potentially have to play an improving Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game, but it will be interesting to see if they have enough to overtake Mississippi State if the Bulldogs knock off Ole Miss and fail to win the SEC West with an Alabama win.


Some have spoken about the UCLA Bruins potentially being a dark horse to take a place in the final four, but they have two losses on their slate and I am not sure even a win over Stanford and Oregon in back to back weeks would be enough for them to move above three other teams.


Week 14 is the last full schedule of the College Football season and there are plenty of games to be played through the next three days, including a pretty full Friday slate taking advantage of the holiday season in the States.


TCU Horned Frogs @ Texas Longhorns Pick: Over the last few weeks, the Texas Longhorns have improved dramatically from the opening weeks of the season and secured their Bowl eligibility in Charlie Strong's first season when beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Defense has been a strength of this Longhorns team all season, but the Offense is finally producing enough to win games and that might actually be good news for the TCU Horned Frogs.

At this stage of the season, winning big games is very important and I think Texas have improved enough for this to carry some weight for the Horned Frogs as they go on the road.

The TCU Defense is perhaps a little under-rated and I think they will give Tyrone Swoopes some problems to deal with especially if they can play the run effectively. That might make it difficult for the Longhorns to move the ball consistently, although their own Defense has played well enough to give Trevone Boykin and the Horned Frogs Offense some issues.

Texas have made life tough for the Baylor Bears and the Kansas State Wildcats this season, although TCU might have a better balance on Offense to keep Texas guessing. Boykin is a real dual-threat from the Quarter Back position and the Horned Frogs have run the ball effectively enough to open the passing lanes, although this game is going to be close.

Both teams have been well prepared coming off a bye, although I am wary of TCU's poor 1-6 record against the spread as the road favourite in the last three seasons. However, I think Texas exhale a touch after becoming Bowl eligible and TCU have so much to earn by winning this game and that is why I like the Horned Frogs.


Houston Cougars @ SMU Mustangs Pick: Any rivalry game does bring in its own issues to resolve, but it is hard to see how the Houston Cougars fail to dismiss the awful SMU Mustangs who have yet to win a game this season.

The Mustangs have barely been competitive in those losses which has to be the bigger disappointment and they have suffered too many big defeats through the season. Houston should have a lot of success running and throwing the ball against this SMU Defense and the bigger question is whether the Mustangs can score enough points to stay within a three Touchdown number Houston are being asked to cover.

Unfortunately for SMU, the Cougars Defense has played very well all season and they have limited teams on the ground which should allow them to get after a porous Offensive Line that has struggled to protect whoever lines up behind Center for SMU. Houston have turned the ball over and are giving up fewer than 190 passing yards per game and those extra possessions may see them get over this number they are being asked to lay.

SMU are just 1-4 against the spread at home this season and they are just 3-7 against the spread as the underdog, both numbers I expect Houston to increase.


Stanford Cardinal @ UCLA Bruins Pick: For all the success Brett Hundley has had against USC in his career as the UCLA Quarter Back, he is yet to beat Stanford and the Cardinal have won 6 in a row against the Bruins.

However, this Stanford team have struggled this season and UCLA have a huge motivation of getting themselves into the Pac-12 Championship Game. This isn't the Cardinal team that the UCLA Bruins may have been a little intimidated of playing in the past as they are just 4-4 in Pac-12 play this season, while Stanford are just 1-4 against the spread on the road, losing 3 of those games outright.

On the other hand, UCLA have improved in each passing week and looked so good in dismantling the Trojans last week, while some Bruins fans may be hoping a late push for a Play Off place is not out of the question despite the 2 losses on their schedule. UCLA won't have it easy against this Stanford Defense, but there is no doubt that unit hasn't played as well on the road and that is where the Bruins hosting the game could make a real difference.

Add the Offensive struggles that Stanford have faced and the fact they are coming up against a Bruins Defense that has also been improving on a weekly basis and it could be a tough time for David Shaw and his team.

UCLA have improved to 2-0 as the home favourite laying between 3.5 and 7 points this season and Stanford are missing a huge playmaker in Ty Montgomery which suggests the Bruins reach the Championship Game with a lot of momentum behind them.


East Carolina Pirates @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick: I do respect the fact that the Tulsa Golden Hurricane should have success passing the ball against this Pirates Secondary, but I still believe the East Carolina team can keep their slim ACC title hopes alive with a win.

In reality, the best they can hope for is getting a share of the title this season, but they should have the balance Offensively to move the ball up and down the field without too many problems in this one. East Carolina have been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot at times with ill-timed penalties, but making Tulsa's Offense one-dimensional will give them the edge in this game.

One concern is how bad the East Carolina team has been as a road favourite this season, especially when it comes to clearing the spread as they are currently just 1-4 in that spot. However, this Tulsa team lost by 20 plus points against Memphis and UCF, albeit both on the road, and who are more likely to lose the turnover battle which could lead to the Pirates pulling away to also win this one by at least 20 points.


Michigan Wolverines @ Ohio State Buckeyes Pick: This is one of the most intense rivalries in College Football which makes the points that Ohio State are being asked to lay look very large indeed.

Don't get me wrong- Ohio State are likely going to be far too good for the Wolverines with a chance to push into the College Football Play Off, but they also have to take notice of leaving something in the tank for the Big Ten Championship next week.

On the other hand, Michigan can empty the tank in this one as they need the win to become Bowl eligible and the team hasn't seemed to have given up on Brady Hoke despite the Head Coach most likely on the way out after this one. The Wolverines could have a chance to run the ball effectively and that can bleed the clock and perhaps keep this game closer than the layers believe it will be.

The Buckeyes should win, and I expect they will win, but I am taking the points that are set at almost three Touchdowns.


Cincinnati Bearcats @ Temple Owls Pick: This is one of those classic Defense v Offense games that can be tough to call, but I do think the Cincinnati Bearcats are playing a little too well for the Temple Owls to keep with them.

The Bearcats have won 5 straight games in pretty dominating fashion which is a clear contrast to Temple who have been outgained in their last 5 games. As long as Cincinnati can steer clear of the mistakes that lead to turnovers, they should be too good for Temple.

Cincinnati have gone 9-4 against the spread as the favourite of more than a Field Goal and up to 10 points and they have also gone 3-0 against the spread as the road favourite. I like the Bearcats to win this one by at least a Touchdown.


Mississippi State Bulldogs @ Mississippi Rebels Pick: The Egg Bowl is going to be decided with a potential Play Off spot on the line for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, although I am not convinced that they will be invited into the final four if they don't win the SEC West and subsequently the SEC Championship Game.

They won't worry about that at the moment with the Alabama Crimson Tide playing later in the evening, although Ole Miss would love to upset them and guarantee Mississippi State are out of contention.

The Rebels have now lost their last 3 SEC games including being shut out by Arkansas last week with 'bad' Bo Wallace playing, but the Quarter Back may bounce back against a Bulldogs Secondary that has had a hard time all season.

However, you have to like the hunger that Mississippi State have shown all season and Dak Prescott can underline his Heisman credentials by leading them to a win over a very good Rebels Defense. The last few weeks have seen Ole Miss taking some real big body shots and I think they will give their all but ultimately come up short against a Bulldogs team with so much motivation behind them.

If Bo Wallace plays as well as he can, Mississippi could spring the surprise, but I will look for the Bulldogs to create a couple of turnovers and come through. The Bulldogs are 5-2 against the spread when set as a small favourite or underdog and I like Mississippi State to win by a Field Goal.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ USC Trojans Pick: The season has been something of a disappointment for both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans despite opening with such promise. While Notre Dame have been on a poor run of results, it will be interesting to see how the Trojans can pick themselves up from yet another defeat to rivals UCLA.

Both teams should have success throwing the ball and both Cody Kessler and Everett Golson should have a big day, but mistakes have seen their teams lose games they perhaps shouldn't have.

USC haven't been a great favourite to back though and that would be a concern laying a Touchdown in terms of points in this one. They have to also pick themselves up from their disappointment from last week and Notre Dame are 7-4 against the spread as the underdog over the last three seasons.


Minnesota Golden Gophers @ Wisconsin Badgers Pick: This is a game to decide which of these teams will be playing in the Big Ten Championship next week and I am looking for a better all around performance from the Wisconsin Badgers in this one.

The Badgers have dominated the recent games in the series and will look for their big Offensive Line to dominate and open the running lanes for Melvin Gordon in this one. Wisconsin did struggle to slow down Iowa last week once they got into a big lead, but they should be stronger in the trenches in this one and I don't believe Minnesota can match the passing that Jake Rudock put together for the Hawkeyes under pressure.

It will be really tough for Minnesota to hold down Wisconsin and I can only say the same I did last week that the Badgers will eventually wear down the Golden Gophers with their power running. That should see them pull away in this Big Ten West decider and the fact that this game is at home is another key for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin are 6-3 against the spread when set as a big favourite between 10.5 and 21 points and I think they are going to prove too big and powerful for Minnesota.


Baylor Bears @ Texas Tech Red Raiders Pick: Do you think the Baylor Bears might have seen the impressive TCU Horned Frogs win over the Texas Longhorns on Thanksgiving Day? That would have given TCU plenty of style points to impress the voters and the Horned Frogs admitted that was on their mind at the end of the game.

So how can Baylor respond? In all honesty, they won't have too many better chances to put up points against a Texas Tech Defense that has struggled stopping the run or the pass and had 82 points put on them by the Horned Frogs.

I do think Texas Tech's Air Raid Offense scores points too, but they have also made mistakes and that can only give Baylor the chance to put together a really big win in this one.

Baylor beat Texas Tech by 29 at home last season and will look to match that margin at least and there is no doubt they will look to run up the score if they possibly can in this one. I expect the Defense to make a few plays to perhaps pick up extra possessions and Baylor should win this game fairly comfortably.

The Bears are 5-1 against the spread when favoured by more than 21.5 points and not as many as 31.5 points in the last three seasons and they are playing a Texas Tech team that are surprisingly 0-2 against the spread with that many points as the underdog over the same time.


Michigan State Spartans @ Penn State Nittany Lions Pick: The Michigan State Spartans have shown the character they have built in their football programme by not feeling sorry for themselves after losing to Ohio State.

The loss to the Buckeyes has ended Michigan State's chances of winning the Big Ten East and their place in the College Football Play Off, but the Spartans have won back to back games since then and won those games by 22 points and then 42 points so this team clearly wants to end the season on a high.

The Michigan State Defense is a very good unit and they know Penn State have been a little predictable when it comes to their Offense and so it may be tough for the Nittany Lions to move the chains consistently in this one.

However, Penn State have been competitive in most of their games this season which is a concern in backing Michigan State in this one. On the other hand, the Nittany Lions are just 1-5 against the spread in Conference games and they are facing a Michigan State team that has a 7-3 record against the spread as the favourite. Penn State are a tough team to knock off, but the Spartans are playing too well at the moment.


Florida Gators @ Florida State Seminoles Pick: No one is that convinced about the Florida State Seminoles and the last time they hosted the Florida Gators they were beaten by 11 points in 2012, but I like going against the public in this one and looking for the Seminoles to get passed their last big test before the Play Off.

Florida's players showed their support for fired Will Muschamp who is done as Head Coach at the end of the season by whipping Eastern Kentucky last week, but that was an overmatched team and the Seminoles are a different challenge completely.

I just feel Florida State's Jameis Winston makes the big plays in this one that lead the Seminoles to the most impressive win of the season and I am not sure Florida can keep up if this becomes an Offensive battle. The Gators Defense is for real, but Winston helped his team score 37 points against them last season and I think the Seminoles win this by double digits on Saturday.

This is a statement game for Florida State and I do think they come through with a big, important win.


Auburn Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: As one of the big rivalries in College Football, it is fitting that so much is on the line when the Alabama Crimson Tide host the Auburn Tigers in this final SEC regular season game. The Crimson Tide have so much to gain by beating their rivals who would love nothing more than to play spoiler against Alabama's National Championship ambitions.

This is a legitimate revenge game for Alabama after the way the 'kick six' went down against them last season and they have been very good the last two times they have been in this spot against Auburn. In those two games off a loss to the Tigers, Alabama have won by 36 and 28 points.

I do feel Alabama are the better team and they have been playing the better football than Auburn coming into this one, although the sheer fact this is a rivalry should see an improved performance from the Tigers. However, I think the Crimson Tide Defense will make more plays than their Tigers counterparts and that should allow Alabama to pull clear.

Alabama have not been a great favourite to back but they would have covered against Mississippi State if not for a Touchdown thrown with 15 seconds left and I believe they leave this game with less doubt than that one.


Oregon Ducks @ Oregon State Beavers Pick: This is a vital game for both teams for different reasons as the Oregon Ducks know one more loss would likely knock them out of the College Football Play Off and the Oregon State Beavers are still trying to make themselves Bowl eligible. That should make the Civil War great viewing for the fans with both teams likely able to air the ball out through the game.

Big difference between the teams could be Oregon's ability to run the ball and a more effective pass rush that may stall the Beavers drives and that is why I believe the Oregon Ducks cover a big number.

Oregon have won 6 straight games since their sole loss this season and have covered the number in each of those games, while the Ducks have won three road games at Oregon State by large margins.

Marcus Mariota can improve his chances of landing the Heisman in this game and also lead Oregon into the Pac-12 Championship Game with another big performance. The Ducks are now 9-3 against the spread as the road favourite over the last three seasons, while Oregon State are just 1-4 against the spread as the underdog this season.

It does seem Oregon have far more to lose than Oregon State and they have definitely been focused in winning games impressively and I think they add the Beavers to that list in Week 14.


Washington Huskies @ Washington State Cougars Pick: The Washington State Cougars have lost 4 of their last 5 games in the series with the Washington Huskies and they are unlikely to improve that record of recent years. The Cougars did win the last time they hosted Washington, but it is a big ask for them to do that again in this one.

Washington State will have their success throwing the ball, as any Mike Leach run Offense will do, but they struggle to run the ball and will be under pressure from the pass rush that Washington can generate.

On the other hand, Washington will be able to run the ball and then make plays against a Secondary that allows 300 passing yards per game.

The Huskies are 5-1 against the spread in the last three years when the spread is up to three points in either favourite or underdog situation. Washington State are 0-2 against the spread as the home underdog of 3 points or less over the same time span and the Huskies might just be too good for them again in Week 14.

MY PICKS: TCU Horned Frogs - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 21 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
UCLA Bruins - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
East Carolina Pirates - 17.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines + 20.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 6.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Mississippi State Bulldogs - 2.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish + 7 Points @ 1.85 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Wisconsin Badgers - 14.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Baylor Bears - 26.5 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Michigan State Spartans - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Stan James (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 8.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 19 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Washington Huskies - 3 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (1 Unit)


Week 13: 7-6, + 0.37 Units (13 Units Staked, + 2.85% Yield)
Week 127-5, + 1.40 Units (12 Units Staked, + 11.67% Yield)
Week 119-4, + 4.34 Units (13 Units Staked, + 33.38% Yield)
Week 106-7, - 1.51 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.62% Yield)
Week 94-9-1, - 5.31 Units (14 Units Staked, - 37.93% Yield)
Week 85-7, - 2.26 Units (12 Units Staked, - 18.83% Yield)
Week 73-8, - 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 201461-73-2, - 17.55 Units (149 Units Staked, - 11.78% 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)

NFL Week 13 Picks 2014 (November 27-December 1)

Of course this Thursday is Thanksgiving Day so Happy Thanksgiving Day to all those that are celebrating... For NFL fans it is also the excuse to sit in front of the television for eleven hours and enjoy the three games that have been lined up.

It is actually the best slate of games that I have seen in recent seasons with Play Off implications and Division leads all to be contested. The day also brings me back to heading over to Jerry's World three years ago for the Dolphins visit to Dallas which was still one of the best experiences one can enjoy!!


Week 12 Thoughts
Odell Beckham's ridiculous catch: You can't really start anywhere else this week as Odell Beckham almost did what Kim Kardashian had wanted to do and that is 'break the internet' following one of the most ridiculous catches ever.

Everyone must have seen the catch by now, but I still think this image is worth putting here.


It is a fantastic catch, really truly stunning but is it the best catch ever made?

As a single moment, it would be very hard to argue that, but I am still not convinced it would have had a bigger reaction than David Tyree's catch in the Super Bowl for the Giants against the Patriots in February 2008 if 'Twitter' and other social media sites were as big and important as they are today.


That catch effectively won the New York Giants the Super Bowl against the then unbeaten New England Patriots and even Beckham himself has said that was the better catch simply for what it ended up meaning.

Dwight Clark made 'The Catch' and I am sure San Francisco fans around the world would call that the 'Greatest Catch of All Time'.

Beckham's was spectacular and got me off my feet in surprise and excitement, but nothing has ever got me going more in the NFL than seeing David Tyree's catch to knock off the Patriots and that is not going to be surpassed in a game played in November. Moments make greatness and that catch would go over Beckham's in my book, especially as it was far from a routine catch that also involved the use of the helmet, and doing it in the Super Bowl for the underdog against the big, bad, unbeaten favourites intensifies it for me.


Does anyone want to to win the NFC South? The Division that sent two teams to the Play Offs last season has been downright miserable all season, but there was no sign of a turnaround for any of the teams in the Division in Week 12.

Tampa Bay, who at 3-11 are STILL in the Division race, Atlanta and New Orleans were all defeated again and the possibility of a team with a losing record winning the Division has increased dramatically now.

But will the Division produce a team with a record worse than the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks that won the NFC West a few years ago? 6-10 can win the Division with the way the schedules have boiled down which is downright embarrassing, especially as they will host a Play Off game, but it is hard to back these teams winning games at the moment.

I thought New Orleans were in a very strong bounce back spot, but they have lost three times in a row for only the third time in history and for the first time since 1997.

Atlanta continue screwing up the clock management to win games and Mike Smith is very much on the way out as Head Coach unless the Falcons win the Division, while Tampa Bay held Chicago to fewer than 210 total yards and still lost by eight points!!


Quarter Back changes galore in the NFL: Some have happened through injury as Ryan Mallett is out for the season for the Houston Texans which means Ryan Fitzpatrick is back with the keys to the Offense.

The New York Jets announced that their flip-flopping between Quarter Backs is showing no sign of changing with Geno Smith once again getting the gig ahead of Michael Vick for the Jets game with the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

And the change in Washington is less of a surprise with RG3 being benched for Colt McCoy, although it has been said that RG3 remains a huge part of their future in DC. I don't understand the move if that is the case and I struggle to believe Jay Gruden is going to go back to RG3 going into next season if McCoy leads the Redskins to a 4-1 finish for example.


Can Drew Stanton lead the Arizona Cardinals to the Play Offs? That must seem a pretty dumb question considering the Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFC right?

But consider this was a second- have the Cardinals looked that good in the past couple of games since Drew Stanton has had to come in and replace Carson Palmer as Quarter Back? The Defense is good, but it can be thrown against, and the Offense hasn't put up more than 14 points in either game and that isn't an encouraging sign.

To make it worse, both San Francisco and Seattle are just two games behind in the NFC West and Arizona have to play their three Divisional rivals and Kansas City in their final five games. The game in Week 13 at the Atlanta Falcons is critical for Arizona if they are to move into the Play Offs and a loss on Sunday could increase the pressure in each passing week and leave the Cardinals looking on the outside once again even if they reach double digits in wins.


Play Off Prediction: At this stage last season, I started putting together a weekly prediction of the teams I think will make the Play Offs in both AFC and NFC. I list them in order of seeding and is created on the ESPN Prediction machine picking the result of all the games going through the remainder of the season.

AFC: New England, Denver, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Miami
NFC: Green Bay, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Dallas and Seattle


Top Ten
1) New England Patriots (9-2): I've had New England at the top of my list for a few weeks and nothing has changed with dominating wins over two top teams in the AFC and a Division leader from the NFC.

2) Green Bay Packers (8-3): The Packers moved up to Number 2 on my list before last week and they host the Patriots this week in what many have called the 'Super Bowl Preview'.

3) Dallas Cowboys (8-3): Dallas showed heart to overcome the Giants on Sunday Night Football, but need to prove themselves against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving for the NFC East lead.

4) Philadelphia Eagles (8-3): I think the Eagles and Cowboys are very hard to separate at the moment, but we will know a lot more about both teams on Thursday.

5) Denver Broncos (8-3): I allowed Philadelphia to move above the Broncos because I think Denver escaped one against the Miami Dolphins and are yet to get truly going in search of consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

6) Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1): Back to back impressive wins on the road and in control of the AFC North.

7) Baltimore Ravens (7-4): Baltimore were arguably more impressive in their win at the New Orleans Saints than Cincinnati but their 2-3 record in the AFC North is a problem.

8) San Francisco 49ers (7-4): Not the best performance in the win over the Washington Redskins, but the 49ers still have a real chance of winning the NFC West.

9) Seattle Seahawks (7-4): An impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals at home, although I still think Seattle need more from the passing game if they are to win the Division. The pass rush found some life this week which is good news for the Legion of Boom.

10) Arizona Cardinals (9-2): They have the best record in the NFC, but I have dropped the Arizona Cardinals far down the Ranking because the Offense has looked awful the last two weeks against Detroit and Seattle and their remaining schedule is terrible.


Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10): Welcome back to the bottom of the League after a woeful Offensive performance against Indianapolis.

31) New York Jets (2-9): That was downright awful against the Buffalo Bills.

30) Tennessee Titans (2-9): Five straight losses and the Titans look like a team that is in need of a deep rebuild.

29) Oakland Raiders (1-10): Oakland have shown some real heart in the last two games including finally snapping a long losing run.

28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9): I really couldn't believe the way Tampa Bay blew their game in Chicago as mistakes killed them all day... However, they are still in contention to win the NFC South!


Week 13 Picks
It was a pretty poor Week 12 for the picks which resulted in the first negative week since Week 8, but that still means the season is in good shape. With all of the bye weeks completed in the NFL, the remaining five weeks will present a full schedule, although this week is Thanksgiving which will see games split over a four day period.

Three games kick off Week 13 which could have a host of Play Off implications and really clear up the muddy picture in both the AFC and NFC. Hopefully it is also a bounce back week for the picks as I look to avoid back to back losing weeks for the first time this season.


Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions Pick: These two teams come into Week 13 to open the Thanksgiving Day games with contrasting momentum behind them as Chicago have won two games on the bounce and Detroit have lost two games. However, the Bears were very fortunate in their last win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and still have a lot of work to do to haul in Detroit and Green Bay in the NFC North.

A win on Thursday will give the Bears a chance to get back into the Play Off mix, but they need Jay Cutler to be better than he has for much of the season. With the pressure in his face and the Bears unlikely to really establish Matt Forte to the extent they would like, Chicago are going to need Cutler to find his big Receivers while under some duress and need the Offensive Line to hold up.

There have been times when Cutler seems to hold the ball a little too long, while he can sometimes force the issue which leads to turnovers and that could be a killer for Chicago this week. However, the Quarter Back can use Matt Forte coming out of the backfield to take short passes for big gains to slow down the pass rush and to give himself perhaps a little more time to find Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffrey downfield.

The game will represent a chance for Matt Stafford to get the Detroit Offense back on track after failing to score more than 14 points in either of their last two games. Like Cutler, Stafford is likely to be throwing under pressure from a Chicago pass rush that has shown some life recently, but Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate should both win their match ups in the Secondary and help the Lions move the chains.

Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, if healthy, could also establish something of a run game which has been  a struggle for the Lions this season and that will only aid Stafford that much more to make the plays downfield that Detroit have been lacking.

Chicago have been a terrible underdog, but Detroit are not a great favourite when it comes to covering numbers and I do think the Bears seem to be getting a lot of points in this one. However, Chicago have also been a poor 3-12 against the spread in games against teams from the NFC North over the last three seasons and that has taken away some of my excitement about backing them despite the Touchdown head-start the layers are giving them. In that regards, I will limit my pick to the minimum stakes for this one.


Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: This looks to be a game that could produce the highest amount of points on Thanksgiving and it is the game with most at stake as the NFC East lead is up for grabs.

Both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles could offer plenty of reasons as to why they are the team to back in this one, but I will have a small interest on the Eagles to cover the spread.

So why do I like the Eagles? I do believe both Offenses will have their success in this one with Dallas being very capable of running the ball and Philadelphia capable of the big play downfield that can see them quickly put up points. Turnovers are my main concern for the Eagles as they have been a little loose in that department no matter if Nick Foles or Mark Sanchez has begun at Quarter Back and losing that aspect of the game may shift the edge to the Cowboys.

However, the Eagles have begun to establish their run which could make the Offense more potent and I also think their pass rush may at least be able to stall a couple of drives and that may prove to be the key difference in this game.

Both Secondary's could have a tough time defending the pass, but I do think Sanchez may be throwing from a position of less pressure than Tony Romo and that may help the Eagles to have a chance to win this game outright.

Dallas have been a poor home favourite of three points or less as they are 1-4 against the spread in that spot over the last three seasons and are coming off a very tough road win at the New York Giants. The Cowboys have also gone 0-3 against the spread the last three seasons as the favourite on Thanksgiving Day and a small pick on the Eagles with the points is the call.


Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: Ending the Thanksgiving Day football with a huge NFC West game looks to be a great move from the television companies, especially as the loser of this game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers is going to have a very tough road to get back into the Play Offs.

These two teams have been the standard of the NFC over the last couple of seasons, but this has been something of a down season for both with rumours of locker room unrest. However, both can put those rumours aside by winning this game and I quite like the San Francisco 49ers to be the team to come through.

While the Seahawks have been able to run the ball effectively through the season, there is little doubt that Marshawn Lynch is feeling something, while the Offensive Line has also lost Max Unger at Center, a key player to get the run established. The horrific play of the Offensive Line has seen Russell Wilson running for his life in recent games and the return of Aldon Smith has sparked the San Francisco pass rush which could see Seattle's drives stalling and the team being forced to punt or settle for Field Goals.

Unger is a loss on the Offensive side of the ball, but Brandon Mebane's absence on the Defensive side could perhaps open up running lanes against the Seahawks, although Bobby Wagner is back at Linebacker and is very good at playing the run.

Even then, San Francisco have surprisingly been inconsistent at running the ball all season with more faith placed in Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball and that may be the case in this one too. Kaepernick's Offensive Line hasn't been the best in pass protection and the Quarter Back may need to follow Wilson's lead and run the ball from the position to keep away from the pass rush that Seattle will send his way.

Kaepernick should be able to have some success throwing the ball as the Seattle Secondary has not been as good without the consistent pass rush they could generate a season ago and I think Kaepernick can have a big game.

The 49ers have won 5 in a row at home against Seattle and they have been good in these games with spreads of a Field Goal either way over the last three seasons. On the other hand I respect the Seahawks record as an underdog in that same time frame, especially as a road underdog of three points or less where they are 4-1 against the spread.

However, I think home field proves to be the key and I will back the 49ers and go against the public for the third straight game on Thanksgiving Day.


Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans Pick: I am not a big fan of laying this many points with Ryan Fitzpatrick back at Quarter Back, but I do think the Houston Texans Defense can make enough plays against Zach Mettenberger and the Tennessee Titans to win this game by more than a Touchdown.

While it has been possible to throw the ball against Houston, JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are going against an Offensive Line that hasn't been that strong in pass protection and against a Quarter Back that isn't the best mover. I expect Mettenberger to be under pressure in this game, while the Titans might not be able to establish the running game to the extent of negating the pass rush Houston will look to produce.

Fitzpatrick is a mistake waiting to happen though and that is a big concern for me in backing the Texans. He has to play a clean game so not to give Tennessee short fields to work with or end drives without points and that has been an issue for Fitzpatrick through his career.

On the other hand, a returning Arian Foster could bust open some huge yards on the ground in this one and keep Fitzpatrick in a comfortable position on the field and help the Texans get back to 0.500 in the League. Third and short is wear Fitzpatrick should have some success, but the downfield threat might have disappeared a little with Ryan Mallett's injury.

However, the Titans haven't been a great underdog in recent seasons and Houston are 4-1 against the spread when set as the favourite this season. The Texans can get another Divisional win over one of their rivals in this one.


Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills Pick: Following all the terrible weather that hit Buffalo last week, the home town Bills will be able to play in their usual home stadium after Monday night saw them use the Detroit Lions Ford Field as a 'home'.

That didn't stop the Bills from crushing the New York Jets, but might also have seen them perhaps being a little over-rated for this game as they are laying more than a Field Goal against the Cleveland Browns.

I don't think the Browns are as good as some may think and the 7-4 record would indicate, but Josh Gordon's return is huge and Buffalo have regularly failed to pick themselves up from a Divisional win. In fact, they have failed to cover the spread in their next game 6 times over the last three seasons.

Gordon should be able to make some plays for Cleveland that keeps them competitive and the Browns have been a strong underdog in this spot in recent years. On the other hand, Buffalo have been just 2-4 against the spread when favoured and I will take the points.


San Diego Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: Week 13 has been full of games with big Play Off implications and this game is no different as two teams with 7-4 records in the AFC meet. The winner of this game will feel they have a great chance of at least earning a Wild Card spot, while the loser will find it incredibly difficult to bounce back in the last month of the season.

The problem the San Diego Chargers are going to have is an Offensive Line that has struggled to protect Philip Rivers in recent weeks going against a fierce Baltimore pass rush that thrives on getting to the Quarter Back. The Ravens have been tough to run against all season which means Rivers is likely to be in some obvious passing situations and won't have the chance to establish the run to slow down the pass rush.

Baltimore's Secondary has been susceptible to the pass with injuries affecting them, but the pressure up front may help hide those problems.

Justin Forsett may pick up from where he left up on Monday Night Football and gash a Chargers Defense giving up 4.6 yards per carry and it could be tough for the Chargers to stay with Baltimore. If they commit to stopping the run, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith can stretch the field and be found for long passing plays.

Travelling across the country for an early start is tough for San Diego too who were blown out in Miami in that spot earlier this season. They also face a Baltimore team that is 6-2 against the spread as the favourite this season and who are 4-1 against the spread at home where they have been very strong in recent years.


Cincinnati Bengals @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick: The AFC North has dominated the NFC South this season and this game looks to be in a great spot for Andy Dalton, that is that it won't have the vast media coverage in which he has struggled.

The third road game in a row is tough for the Bengals, but Tampa Bay have been awful at home this season where they are 0-5 against the spread this season and just 7-13 over the last three seasons. Tampa Bay just have been killing themselves with foolish mistakes and I think the Dalton to AJ Green combination can have another big game.

The Bengals do have bigger games to come, but they can't afford to drop any game at the moment in the tough AFC North and I think the dominance of this Division over the NFC South will show up again.


New Orleans Saints @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: Another NFC South versus AFC North game in Week 13 and I do think there is going to be a time when the New Orleans Saints come back to life... Just not this week!

The Saints have regularly been a little weaker on the road than at home and, unless we have entered the twilight zone, it is hard to see them snap their losing run here. They face a Pittsburgh Steelers team whose Defense will have the returning Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor thanks to the bye week they enjoyed last week and Mike Tomlin has been strong preparing off a bye.

The Offense should have a lot of success doing what they want in this game- Le'Veon Bell may pick up from Justin Forsett left off and run the ball to open up the passing lanes for Ben Roethlisberger to hit Receivers downfield.

Playing against Drew Brees also seems to excite Big Ben and I think he will have a strong game, while Brees has made some big errors at critical times that have proved costly. Brees should have a decent game even against some of the returning starters on the Pittsburgh side of the ball, but it is hard to trust New Orleans with the way they have played the last few weeks.

New Orleans are just 9-14 against the spread in road games over the last three seasons and Pittsburgh have been strong off a bye which makes the home team the call.


Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: This is almost a must win game for the Arizona Cardinals as far as I am concerned with some tough games left on their schedule and the confidence taking a knock last week in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

However, the Defense looks very good for Arizona and I expect that unit to show up again, while the Offense won't have a much better match up than against the Falcons. Drew Stanton has not played that well since Carson Palmer was lost for the season, but facing Detroit and Seattle is a much more difficult task than Atlanta and I expect Stanton to have one of his better games.

With the pressure Arizona have begun to get up front, Matt Ryan might not have the time to look downfield for the likes of Julio Jones and Roddy White, although both have tough match ups against Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson. The Falcons won't be able to establish much of a running threat either and it could be tough for the Falcons to move the chains consistently.

Arizona have gone 4-3 against the spread when coming off a Divisional loss over the last three seasons and they can get back on track with a vital road win in the Georgia Dome.


New England Patriots @ Green Bay Packers Pick: This is the game that most people have to be looking forward to in Week 13 of the NFL season and, surprisingly, it is also the first time that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will oppose one another at Quarter Back.

Two of the elite Quarter Backs in the NFL might meet for a second time in a matter of months of the predictions of the experts come off and both New England and Green Bay reach the Super Bowl. At the moment, neither team will be looking that far ahead as they look to ensure they are in a position to win their respective Divisions and then Conferences.

Both Rodgers and Brady should have success throwing the ball in this one and both are going to be backed by an effective running game that will only open things downfield for these two Quarter Backs.

However, I do think home advantage is going to be critical in determining the winner of the game and I believe the recent move to put Clay Matthews in as Inside Linebacker has helped Green Bay generate more of a pass rush than New England will get. The Green Bay Offensive Line has protected Aaron Rodgers pretty well in recent games despite carrying injuries and this may be the reason the Packers come through.

I also do think the game is more important for the Packers than New England with Green Bay trying to fend off Detroit and catch Arizona in the NFC. I respect the way the Patriots seem to gear themselves up for being a small road favourite, but Green Bay are a very strong home team and have performed very well as the favourite this season.

Two elite Quarter Backs should lead their teams to big performances and it should be a lot of fun, but I like Green Bay to make home field count and lay a big marker for the rest of the season.


Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: The Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos will be playing a huge game with Play Off implications down the line on Sunday Night Football and I think Peyton Manning can help his team win this as a small favourite.

Jamaal Charles should have a strong day running the ball for Kansas City as long as this game remains competitive, but I always wonder what the Chiefs can do if they fall into a big hole and have to throw the ball. Alex Smith is a capable Quarter Back, but doesn't have the strongest Receiving corps and they have struggled over the last eighteen months once Denver have control of the game.

With a returning Julius Thomas and CJ Anderson showing he can run the ball effectively in Week 12, Denver's Offense should be able to put up enough points to win this game. Anderson has a great match up against this Chiefs Defense and that should only open things up for Peyton Manning to make the big plays downfield.

Denver have won 5 in a row in the series and have won their last 3 visits to Arrowhead so they will know what to expect. The Broncos are also 10-4 against the spread in Divisional games over the last three seasons as Peyton Manning has ensured his team have got the better of these games for the most part.

I have to respect Kansas City's performance as an underdog this season, especially as a small home underdog, but the Broncos will be tough to rein in if they get into a double digit lead, for example, and I like Denver to win this game and cover.

MY PICKS: Chicago Bears + 7 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Philadelphia Eagles + 3 Points @ 2.10 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
San Francisco 49ers - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Houston Texans - 7 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 3.5 Points @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Cincinnati Bengals - 4 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals - 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 2.5 Points @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 1 Point @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Week 12: 3-6, - 4.36 Units
Week 115-4, + 1.20 Units
Week 104-2, + 3.90 Units
Week 94-3, + 1.42 Units
Week 81-8, - 13 Units
Week 78-1, + 11.20 Units
Week 62-3-1, - 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 201450-46-2, + 6.90 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (November 25-27)

The penultimate round of the Champions League/Europa League Group Stage is when a lot of the permutations in the Groups are cleared up and sides can book their places in the Last 16/32 of their respective competitions.

Securing the top spot in the Champions League Groups are especially important to avoid the big tests in the Last 16 as Arsenal have found out to their cost in recent seasons and that should maintain some interest for teams going into the final two rounds.


CSKA Moscow v Roma Pick: As solid as the two results against Manchester City were, I can't help but feel CSKA Moscow have been afforded too much respect from them and I do think Roma can secure a vital three points that will put them on the brink of qualification.

In fact, Roma will be through with a win as long as Bayern Munich avoid defeat at Manchester City and that motivation could see the Italian side win in one of the early kick offs on Tuesday afternoon.

It has to be remembered that CSKA Moscow have lost to Bayern Munich at home this season and should have been beaten by Manchester City who had a 0-2 lead in that game before inexplicably crumbling to a draw. That stopped a run of 3 consecutive home losses in the Champions League for CSKA Moscow, who also head into this one having been beaten in 3 of their last 4 games in all competitions including their last one at home.

Roma haven't travelled well in European competition in recent years and haven't won either away game this season, while the side snapped a run of 5 games away from home without a win by beating Atlanta this past weekend. However, I don't think it is an under-estimation of CSKA Moscow to say away games at Manchester City and Bayern Munich in the Champions League and at Juventus (1st Serie A), Sampdoria (4th Serie A) and Napoli (3rd Serie A) are tougher than this one and Roma might be a little under-rated to win here.

It won't be an easy game for the Italians, but they have less pressure on them having beaten CSKA Moscow 5-1 at home and I think they are going to be too strong for the Russian team that have been out of form recently and I like Roma to win this game and put one foot into the Last 16.


BATE Borisov v Porto Pick: BATE Borisov are in pole position for a place in the Europa League having already been knocked out of the Champions League, but their losses in the Group so far have all been by embarrassing margins. In fact, BATE have failed to score and conceded a mammoth 18 goals in their three losses in the Group outside of the 2-1 win here over Athletic Bilbao that leaves them in 3rd place.

Now they face a Porto team that are going to be desperate to win the Group and who can qualify as winners of the section if they win and Shakhtar fail to do the same later in the evening against Athletic Bilbao.

BATE have struggled once they have got into the Group Stage of the Champions League, although they have also surprised the likes of Bayern Munich and Milan in the section. However, for the most part they have found the best teams too good and they have lost 3 of their last 4 home games in the Group with 2 of those losses coming by two or more goals.

This Porto team has pace to burn in the forward positions and a striker in Jackson Martinez that is capable of scoring at the highest level and this may end up being another fairly comfortable home loss for BATE. Porto haven't been the best travellers in the Champions League in recent seasons, but they will have confidence from beating BATE 6-0 at home and I think they will come close to matching the 0-2 win they had at Athletic Bilbao in the last round of games.


APOEL v Barcelona Pick: A lot of people may look at this game on first glance and expect Barcelona to win by a hatful of goals against APOEL, but the Cypriot side have been anything but an easy three points in the Group this season and in general on home soil in the Champions League.

This is a team that reached the Quarter Final of the Champions League just three seasons ago and APOEL have shown their desire and work rate in close losses in all of their Champions League Group games bar the 1-1 draw with Ajax. The three losses to Paris Saint-Germain (twice) and Barcelona have all come by the same 1-0 scoreline and that looks a big player in this one despite the strong attack that Barcelona can field.

The lack of goals in the APOEL side may be a concern for them in trying to earn a result in this one and they may be better placed to defend deep and try and hit Barcelona on the counter-attack or try and play out a goalless draw. They were minutes away from doing that against Paris Saint-Germain at home, but the fact they have failed to score in 3 in a row in all competitions and 3 of their last 5 at home is going to make it tough to secure a result in this one.

I would expect Barcelona to produce a bit of magic and win another away game in the Champions League which has been a problem as they have won just 3 of their last 10 on their travels in this competition. However, Barcelona's high possession game has meant they have won their last 5 away games in the Champions League when earning a clean sheet and I think that is the call for this game.


Schalke v Chelsea Pick: It has been a strong season for Chelsea in the Premier League, although it has to be said that the competition in that Division won't come up to some of the standards they will be seeing in the Champions League this season. However, I do feel that Schalke are not to that level either and a win for Chelsea looks to be the most probable result in this game.

I do have to credit Schalke for their record at home through the season and the fact they have won 4 in a row in front of their own fans, but this is a team that hasn't performed that well in the Champions League. They could only manage a draw with Maribor and needed a late goal to beat Sporting Lisbon despite the latter playing with ten men for much of that game and I think Chelsea are playing too well for them at the moment.

The away side are creating chances and they have a striker in Diego Costa who doesn't seem to need too much invitation to put his name on the scoresheet. The concern would be the lack of clean sheets that Chelsea have managed away from home with a number of late goals conceded in those games, but they had enough chances to beat both Sporting and Maribor on their travels in this Group and will enjoy playing an open Schalke side that will be on the front foot.

If Chelsea take the chances that are expected to come their way, they can make Jose Mourinho's wish come true and not only qualify for the Last 16, but also win the Group by securing the three points in this game.


Shakhtar Donetsk v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Shakhtar Donetsk might not be playing in their official home these days due to the issues that have gripped the Ukraine over the last few months, but they can beat Athletic Bilbao and remain in contention to win this Group.

Athletic Bilbao remind me very much of their Basque neighbours Real Sociedad in that they were unable to maintain the form that took them into the Champions League while balancing their League commitments with the competition. Like Real Sociedad, Bilbao came through impressively in the qualifiers to reach the Group, but have struggled in that section and are already out of the Champions League.

I don't know to what extent they would want to slip into the Europa League, but Athletic Bilbao have definitely been improving in La Liga, although still found themselves in losses to Porto in the last back to back games. Now they travel to a Shakhtar Donetsk team that have rattled in 12 goals in 2 games against BATE Borisov and who crushed Real Sociedad in both Champions League games last season.

There is so much pace in the Shakhtar forward positions which are going to be very tough for Athletic Bilbao to deal with, especially as they showed they were susceptible to that in the games with Porto. The focus might not be there either with the League the priority now and Bilbao might find themselves in a tough position in this game as Shakhtar go in search of more goals. Shakhtar have only won 2 of their last 7 home games in the Champions League, but they were unfortunate not to beat Porto having led 2-0 until the final three minutes of that game and I do expect them to win this game.


Atletico Madrid v Olympiacos Pick: Since the start of last season, Atletico Madrid have pushed themselves to the forefront of European football which culminated in an appearance in the Champions League Final just a few days after winning the Spanish Primera Division. They are no longer flying under the radar, but remain a team that can earn the big wins and another on Wednesday will send them through to the Last 16 of the Champions League.

They will be expected to see off an Olympiacos side that have lost 4 in a row on their travels in the Champions League although the Greek side will be respected having already beaten Atletico Madrid in the Group. Olympiacos will also have gotten teams to sit up and take notice considering their performance in Juventus although I do think the visit to Atletico Madrid is much tougher than going to Turin at this moment of time.

Atletico Madrid have been flying at home with 6 straight wins coming into this game, while they have also won 7 of their last 8 home games in the Champions League. A lot of these wins have come with Atletico Madrid scoring a few goals and being too strong for opponents and I think that shows up here.

With Olympiacos conceding at least twice in their last 4 away games in the Champions League and Atletico Madrid winning 5 of their last 6 at home by two or more goals, I expect there to be a margin of at least two goals between the teams in this one.


Basel v Real Madrid Pick: Basel are one of these teams that have so much European competition as they are seemingly in the Champions League every season, but have also had deep runs in the Europa League when they have exited this competition at an early stage. With that experience, they have become a tougher and tougher team to visit and that has resulted in a number of big name teams falling to surprise losses here.

It still seems a stretch to think Real Madrid will fall into that trap considering their 14 game winning run that they bring into this one and the fact they will likely start with James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo in the forward positions.

Those three players can make it very difficult for any team in Europe and it is no surprise that Real Madrid have been scoring as many goals as they have. They are averaging 4 goals per game in their last 8 away games in all competitions, although Real Madrid surprisingly struggled against Ludogorets where they needed to come from a goal behind to beat the Bulgarian Champions.

You have to feel Ronaldo will be particularly motivated after seeing what Lionel Messi did on Tuesday night and that could be bad news for Basel. As much as I do respect a team that has given so many problems on their own patch in recent seasons, this Real Madrid are playing at a very high level and should prove too strong.

Basel won't be out of the competition with a loss, but Real Madrid will be going through with top spot 100% secured and I think the reigning European Champions win this by a couple of goals at least.

MY PICKS: Roma @ 2.50 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Porto - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Barcelona Win to Nil @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November Update10-13, - 3.21 Units (43 Units, - 7.47% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% 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 2014/1528-58, - 36.99 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.61% 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, 21 November 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (November 22-24)

The international break has brought more misery on the injury front for Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United as news broke of Daley Blind, David De Gea and Angel Di Maria all returning to training with separate issues. The Blind injury seems to be the one shrouded in most mystery as it was initially reported he will be missing for six months, but later clarified by Van Gaal that it shouldn't be as long as that although there is no real timetable set for the Dutch international to return to the squad.

The De Gea and Di Maria knocks should not keep them out of the side, but defensive injuries remain and the surprise move for Radamel Falcao before the transfer deadline has not worked out so far with the Colombian out for at least another two weeks. The busy festive period where games come thick and fast don't exactly fill me with the expectation that Falcao will be able to take part too often and the gamble may not have paid off despite how highly I rate the forward.

I am no longer sure what is ailing Phil Jones and Jonny Evans to the extent that neither player seems ready to return this weekend, while Marcos Rojo might not return before Christmas.


One piece of good news for United is that they haven't fallen too far from the top four places, although I would dearly love to see them string together a run of wins in an inconsistent season to this point. Louis Van Gaal may have changed his mind about being judged in three months, but I am looking for improvements from the club now even if they have to come through a horrific string of injuries.


Talking about injuries, avoiding them was one of the main reasons that Liverpool, along with the lack of participating in any competition in Europe, that they were able to mount such a strong title challenge last season. Losing Luis Suarez was always going to be a big problem, but the injury to Daniel Sturridge which has restricted him to three Premier League games has arguably been more important to highlight their problems this season.

Sturridge has been ruled out until the New Year and the signings made by Brendan Rodgers have failed to fill the void left by losing their two top scorers from last season. That has seen Liverpool drop down the table and struggle in the Champions League and even a top four place may be slipping from their grasp after all the positives the fans had going into this campaign.

I was convinced they missed their best chance to win the top flight title last season since they last won it in 1990 and I think there is an awful long road ahead for Liverpool to get into such a position again with the last campaign almost being a 'perfect storm' for them.


The best news coming out of the international break was the fact that there will be no more until March 2015.


Chelsea v West Brom Pick: After coming from behind to beat Liverpool at Anfield in their last League game, Chelsea have hardened as favourites to win the Premier League title this season, but don't expect Jose Mourinho to be congratulating his side just yet.

The manager won't want his men to take their foot off the pedal and will expect Chelsea to add another three points to the board, even though they have an important Champions League game coming up during the week. Mourinho won't worry about that just yet with Chelsea in a strong position in the Group, and it would be a real surprise if Chelsea don't play a full strength team in this one.

West Brom have been a mixed bag recently with some impressive performances mixed in with some really poor ones and they are a hard team to get a full read on. There seems to be a real reliance on the pace of the forward players to help Alan Irvine's men surprise teams, but Chelsea have been playing very well this season and I don't believe there will be much of a surprise this weekend.

Goals haven't been a problem for Chelsea and it is hard to imagine how West Brom will keep up if the home side are firing on all cylinders. The international break does ruin some of the momentum that is picked up and can be tough for teams to 'get up' with players returning from far off destinations, but Chelsea have a deep squad and have had the benefit of seeing the likes of John Terry, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa getting vital rest over the last two weeks.

While West Brom have made it surprisingly difficult for Chelsea in recent visits to Stamford Bridge with a couple of close losses before the draw last season, this Chelsea team is full of confidence and I would expect to see them win by a couple of goals at least.


Everton v West Ham United Pick: I have a lot of respect for the performances that West Ham United have produced on a regular basis this season and they have the forward players to give Everton a lot of problems in this one. However, I also believe Everton are a side on the up and this should be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend which should produce goals at both ends of the pitch.

West Ham United have scored and conceded in every away games they have played this season as their attacking performances have finally got the fans fully behind Sam Allardyce, although that always seems to be a tense relationship on the brink of breaking up.

Those performances are likely to continue as they look to expose some of the defensive problems that Everton have been having for much of the season. Those have improved recently with three straight clean sheets at Goodison Park, but West Ham have the pace and an eye for goal that should see them penetrate an injury hit defence that Roberto Martinez has.

On the other hand, West Ham have conceded at least twice in 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and Everton certainly have the firepower to become the latest side to do that. Take away the goalless draw with Swansea and Everton have scored at least twice in every other home game they have played this season, while reaching three goals in 4 of their last 5 here.

As I said, I would be surprised if this isn't one of the more entertaining games of the weekend and I would expect both Everton and West Ham United to score at least once. However, I think Everton's success against West Ham can see them win for the fifth time in a row against them and I believe there is some worth in backing the home side to win a a game in which both teams score at least once.


Manchester City v Swansea Pick: The last set of games between the international breaks were vastly disappointing for Manchester City and a similar run of poor form between now and March will surely end the reign of Manuel Pellegrini as manager of the club. Even with a hugely important Champions League game against Bayern Munich to come on Tuesday, Pellegrini can't afford for his side to slip further behind Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title this weekend.

The expectation will be that Chelsea will beat West Brom at home which means anything less than a win for Manchester City might already be too big a gap to bridge for the Champions of England. A returning David Silva would provide a big boost for the side, although will Pellegrini risk the Spanish playmaker or save him for the game with Bayern on Tuesday?

I'd be extremely surprised if Pellegrini was to under-estimate Swansea who have already been to Manchester and won this season so I would expect a very strong line up to be picked in a bid to secure a morale boosting victory. It won't come easy against Swansea, but Manchester City will at least know that their visitors are a team that likes playing their football so there could be some spaces to exploit.

The pace in forward areas for Swansea could cause a lot of problems for Manchester City who have looked nervous at times in recent games, especially if Vincent Kompany cannot be passed fit, but I also think Manchester City are a better team than they have showed of late.

The form might not be great, but Pellegrini has had two weeks to try and tinker with things and I expect Manchester City can win this game and build confidence for the big game against Bayern Munich in a few days time. Swansea should have some chances to cause a surprise, but Manchester City might have too much and continue their dominance of their visitors at home by securing a win by a couple of goals or more.


Arsenal v Manchester United Pick: Both Arsenal and Manchester United will see the other as a real rival in the bid to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and neither will want to slip up in this game. In recent games, Arsene Wenger has definitely asked his team to play with more caution than you would normally expect and I think that has contributed to the fact that Arsenal have failed to win any of their last 6 against Manchester United.

Even when the teams met during the David Moyes era last season, Arsenal definitely played within themselves in two games against United and they didn't deserve more than the one point they earned in those games.

With the way that both defences have played in recent games and the injuries that both teams have in that area of the pitch, there might be a feeling that both Wenger and Louis Van Gaal will play with more caution, but that is hard to do with the attacking talent on display.

Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria were the two big time recruits brought in by these two clubs and the former Barcelona and Real Madrid stars are likely to provide the key in producing a winner in this game. Both have made very good starts to life in the Premier League and might be in for special attention from the opposition managers, but both have shown they are capable of producing the bit of magic to inspire their teams.

It could also mean that both Wenger and Van Gaal decide attack is the best form of defence in a game like this and it could produce an open encounter that the top clubs have been a part of in recent seasons. A draw could be considered a good result for both teams and I do think both managers would accept that if offered to them now, but I would still be surprised if we see a game that doesn't produce chances.

Recent games between the teams have seen the last three games produce two goals or fewer, while the 3 of the last 4 at the Emirates Stadium have seen a surprising lack of goals too. However, I would be surprised if those trends continue with the mistakes both teams have made in defence and the injuries that both are dealing with and I believe there could be at least three goals scored, while the 2-2 scoreline has proved popular in the Premier League all season and has every chance of hitting here.


Crystal Palace v Liverpool Pick: Goals have been something of a problem for Liverpool in recent weeks and they won't have seen the mood improved when hearing that Daniel Sturridge is going to be missing until the New Year. With big games ahead, Brendan Rodgers has to find a way for his team to be more competitive at both ends of the field as they return to Selhurst Park where things went spectacularly wrong at the end of last season.

On that occasion, Crystal Palace fought back from 0-3 down in the final fifteen minutes to earn a 3-3 draw and effectively end Liverpool's chances of winning the Premier League title. Liverpool haven't played up to the level that saw them go 0-3 up in that game, but defensively they have looked vulnerable and Crystal Palace have to feel they can cause some problems.

However, the Eagles didn't go into the international break with much confidence having lost 4 of their last 5 Premier League games including back to back home losses. Goals haven't been much of an issue for Palace at home in the Premier League, but they have been conceding far too many when faced with better teams and Liverpool will certainly feel they should be included in that category.

I would be surprised if both managers don't set their teams up to have a go in this one and this could be a lively Super Sunday game. An early goal could really open the game up and I am surprised that the layers feel it is odds against that we will see at least three goals in this one.


Hull City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Emmanuel Adebayor insists he was misquoted about Tottenham Hotspur enjoying playing away from White Hart Lane more than they do at home, but there is no doubt results have been more positive on their travels of late. Mauricio Pochettino had already criticised the lack of width at home this season and there is a genuine feeling that Tottenham Hotspur would rather play away than at home.

They have a chance to prove that on Sunday as they visit Hull City who are dealing with a long injury list and have also been out of form heading into the international break. That has seen Hull City drop down the League table and Spurs will feel they have the pace and creativity to cause more problems for Hull in this one.

At home, Tottenham are asked to push a lot more than they seem to be comfortable with and that is unlikely to be the case this weekend with the onus on Hull to attack. Steve Bruce may also feel there are some vulnerabilities that can be exposed in the Tottenham team considering the form of the North London club and that might produce a surprisingly entertaining game.

Both teams will want to get forward and cause problems for the other and there hasn't been too much of a shortage of goals in games involving Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur this season. The home/away games respectively are averaging 3 goals per game and I don't think either manager will lack belief in their own side securing three important points this weekend.

That should produce a lively game that may end up with at least three goals shared by the sides and I will back that to happen in the second live game on Sunday afternoon.

MY PICKS: Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.76 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.75 Bwin (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.09 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.78 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Hull City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

November Update5-12, - 11.04 Units (32 Units, - 34.5% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% 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 2014/1528-58, - 36.99 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.61% 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)
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