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

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (October 31-November 2)

The next domestic League campaign is played over this weekend, but first you can read a few thoughts I had from the last week's games here.


Chelsea v Liverpool PickIf the rumours are to be believed, Chelsea will dispense of Jose Mourinho as manager if Chelsea are beaten in this Premier League game on Saturday. There are allegations that he has lost the dressing room and that Mourinho is desperate to want out of Stamford Bridge, but I don't quite think the performances on the field have suggested the players have given up on their manager.

It would be easy for them to roll over, but bad luck has played a real part in their last couple of losses as well as some frankly stupid decisions made by their players. Nemanja Matic was rash in being sent off at Upton Park last weekend in an eventual 2-1 loss to West Ham United, while the lottery of penalties was almost certainly going to go against Mourinho at Stoke City during the week.

The other issue is that Chelsea have been forced to go on their travels in recent games and they are a much better team at Stamford Bridge where they have won 3 of their last 4 games. I don't think Liverpool have the pace to exploit them in the same manner as Southampton did in the exception at Stamford Bridge and I think Chelsea have a very good chance of winning this game.

As hard as Liverpool have been to beat, they haven't scored enough goals to win too many games and could be missing both Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke again. That's a lot of goals that are potentially missing for Jurgen Klopp and they will do well to keep Chelsea out for ninety minutes which is what it might take to earn a result here.

To be fair to Liverpool though, they have defended well enough to think one goal might be enough to get something from this game and Chelsea have looked vulnerable defensively. However, those vulnerabilities have been highlighted away from home and Chelsea have clean sheets in 3 of their last 4 here so I think the home team has to be backed to deliver three points for their beleaguered manager.

At odds against, it is a fair price in backing Chelsea against a Liverpool team missing some key players this weekend including Jordan Henderson.


Crystal Palace v Manchester United PickIt has been a difficult couple of weeks for Manchester United fans who are still demanding to see more proaction from their team in a bid to win games. Possession is what Louis Van Gaal demands, but too often it has been slow and tepid which is easy to defend.

You have to feel some sympathy though as Manchester United have looked the better team in their last couple of games than both Manchester City and Middlesbrough, particularly in the second half, but they have missed the limited chances that have come their way. There were always going to be openings against a Championship team like Middlesbrough, but Van Gaal's suggestion they 'got lucky' ignores the multiple chances the away side had to win the game in normal time too.

They won't get away with that kind of defending in the Premier League especially not against a Crystal Palace team that has pace to burn in the forward areas and who will be comfortable playing without the ball. It will suit Alan Pardew to almost play this like an away game, but Crystal Palace have had their confidence rocked by three consecutive losses too.

Both teams have the capability of creating chances in this one and I think the recent Manchester United performances have inflated the chance of seeing goals in this one. On a better day, Manchester United's goalless draw with Middlesbrough would have produced a few goals and I think a restored Manchester United starting eleven can create opportunities at Selhurst Park.

Defensively United have still looked a little shaky and it is some big saves from David De Gea that has kept them from conceding too many goals of late. This Crystal Palace team do usually give the top teams a run for their money and will create chances against them too and the odds against quote of there being at least three goals looks too big.

I won't be surprised if both teams get at least one goal in this game and neither will be looking to settle for that if there is a chance to win this match which should result in a decent day's entertainment for the fans in attendance.


Manchester City v Norwich City PickComing off the Manchester derby, I was sure that Manchester City might have a difficult time against Crystal Palace in the Capital One Cup, but couldn't have been more wrong. Manuel Pellegrini had the chance to blood some of his younger players alongside some more experienced heads and that resulted in a convincing 5-1 win and keeps up Manchester City's tremendous home form.

Goals haven't been a problem for Manchester City at The Etihad Stadium even in the absence of David Silva and Sergio Aguero and that doesn't bode well for Norwich City who have conceded plenty on their travels. Both of Norwich City's away losses in the Premier League have come by wide margins and this is a team that might be lacking confidence having failed to win any of their last 5 games in all competitions and losing 3 straight Premier League games.

One benefit for Norwich City could be the big Champions League game Manchester City have to play during the week, but I am not sure that is enough for them to slow down this team. Kevin De Bruyne has fitted in seamlessly to the Manchester City squad and has begun to become a more and more influential player for them in the final third, while Wilfried Bony's confidence will have been given a boost from his goal over Crystal Palace.

It's hard to see how Norwich City will contain a team that is looking to push on in the Premier League and who have banged in eighteen goals in four home games. This looks a tough day in the office for the away side making the long trip across the country and I think Manchester City will become the third team to beat Norwich City on their travels in the Premier League and the third by at least a two goal margin.


Watford v West Ham United PickWest Ham United have a very fine recent history of visiting Vicarage Road having won 9 of their last 13 visits to this ground including last time out. However, that game was four seasons ago and things have changed for both clubs in that time starting with the fact that this is a Premier League fixture and not a Championship fixture like last time.

No one can deny how impressive the West Ham United season has been to this point with wins over three of the top four from last season and also Liverpool. Their wins away from home at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City have been mighty impressive, but this weekend feels different.

Slaven Bilic's team have already failed to beat Sunderland, Norwich City and Bournemouth this season, all teams that occupy places in the bottom six, and I do wonder if they can deal with the different aspect of facing a team they will expect to beat. It is 'easy' to go to grounds like Anfield and The Etihad Stadium with 'nothing to lose' and being able to produce big performances, but West Han United haven't been as good when they've been expected to get forward and win games.

That has particularly been the case at Upton Park, but I think this weekend they can show there is more to their team than just being able to surprise the big teams on their day. West Ham United do have goals in the side and that has to be a big concern for Watford who have scored just one goal at home all season and not been as effective in front of their own fans as they have on their travels.

Defensively they have been sound, but Watford haven't kept a clean sheet in their last couple of home games and that will be a concern when facing a team like West Ham United. The Hammers have scored at least twice in every away game they have played this season in the Premier League and reaching that tally would surely be enough to win the game.

Out of principle I think West Ham United need to be given a small interest in this match as they are the underdog in a fixture where they seem to hold the edge. They have more goals, have been more effective as away team while Watford have struggled at home, and West Ham United should have plenty of confidence having beaten Chelsea last weekend.

My one concern is that West Ham United have failed to win games following the victories over Manchester City and Arsenal, but they did after winning at Liverpool and can back up the Chelsea win. Either way, West Ham United shouldn't be the underdog in this fixture and I will have a small interest they win this game.


West Brom v Leicester City PickThere is no doubt that West Brom are looking to get back to basics by becoming a very difficult side to beat and doing just enough to earn the three points. The last two games they have rode their luck at times and I am not sure they will have the same benefit on Saturday when high-scoring and high-octane Leicester City come to town.

It also has to be remembered that West Brom haven't shown the same toughness at home as they have on their travels and this is a team that is vulnerable to the speed and directness that Leicester City will look to attack with.

The Leicester City away games remain full of goals and I can see them forcing West Brom into a match that Tony Pulis might not necessarily want. He has to have his side going forward being at home and that space will be crucial for Leicester City to exploit and perhaps go on and win this game.

That won't be easy because West Brom will have their chances to score too, but I do think the chance of there being at least three goals shared looks under-estimated by some margin by the layers. A Tony Pulis coached West Brom team conceded three times to Leicester City last season and both teams will have their opportunities to score in this one.

Outside of the win over Sunderland, West Brom's four other home League games are averaging over three goals per game and three of their five home games have featured at least three goals. With The Foxes scoring plenty themselves, the odds against quote for goals looks a little too big.

MY PICKS: Chelsea @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 3.00 Coral (1 Unit)
West Brom-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update16-25, - 8.81 Units (70.50 Units Staked, - 12.50% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% Yield)
August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1616-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 30 October 2015

College Football Week 9 Picks 2015 (October 30-31)

For me there is no doubting that this the calm before the storm- there are some big games on tap in Week 9 but I am already looking ahead to the huge SEC West game next week.

I am a Miami Dolphins fan so the way Nick Saban left the Dolphins to take over at the Alabama Crimson Tide never really sat well with me.

Plus I love LSU.

So the Week 10 game between those two teams will likely decide the SEC West and will also be a barnstormer of a game.


Small story- a friend and I actually met Marcell Dareus, Kelvin Sheppard and Stevie Johnson while they were all members of the Buffalo Bills. This was during the time when the Tigers were the defending Champions but Alabama were unbeaten to that point.

I remember asking Dareus if he thought Alabama would win it all and got the usual 'yeah definitely' response... When I mentioned the fact they still had to go to LSU and I liked the Tigers winning that game, Sheppard jumped into the conversation, being an LSU alum, and was backing my play!


It was a cool day and next week is going to be one amazing game, of that I am convinced.

Geaux Tigers!!


After an almost perfect Week 7, Week 8 produced a small losing record, although that comes down to the fact that the Indiana Hoosiers gave up three Touchdowns in the last three minutes to turn a very close game into a blow out at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans.

If the Hoosiers had kept it close until the end, it would have been a slight winning run for the week, but no matter as the season totals are well protected.


My Final Four Play Off Ranking:

1) Ohio State Buckeyes- unbeaten and beginning to fire on both sides of the ball, beware the defending Champions.

2) Baylor Bears- the Big 12 Champion will be decided in the next few weeks and an unbeaten Champion is guaranteed a place in the Play Offs.

3) LSU Tigers- still unbeaten but they go into the bye week with all hands on deck preparing for the Alabama Crimson Tide in a HUGE SEC West Divisional Game.

4) Clemson Tigers- so one unbeaten ACC team falls, but the Clemson Tigers remain unbeaten

Looking In- Alabama Crimson Tide, TCU Horned Frogs, Michigan State Spartans, Stanford Cardinal, Memphis Tigers, Houston Cougars.


Week 9 Picks
Honestly this doesn't look a great week for the Picks so I might have to cut down on those I make... Even my shortlist was remarkably shorter than previous weeks when I whittle them down to highlight the difficulties in making picks this week.

Instead of giving away a successful start, I will keep up with the methods that have worked to this point and back only those that hit my criteria.

East Carolina Pirates @ Connecticut Huskies Pick: I am not a fan of the midweek games because of the 'crazy' plays that tend to follow them, but the only one I liked this week was this game.

I like the East Carolina Pirates to try and become Bowl eligible before their bye eek and that means beating the Connecticut Huskies on the road and then the USF Bulls at home next week. It looks a big ask of the Huskies to do the same and Connecticut have been dropped to 1-6 agains the spread as the home underdog under Bob Diaco.

Granted, the Pirates have hardly been a team that you would like to back as the road favourite in recent games, but they have covered in that spot this season. I am expecting East Carolina to get more out of their Offense than what Connecticut will be able to consistently and that can see them pull away for a win by over a Touchdown.

East Carolina are 0-5 against the spread in their recent games on a Friday night, but they can buck that here in a low-scoring game that sees them come through by ten.


Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Purdue Boilermakers Pick: Mike Riley could not have envisioned this being his first year as Head Coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers who have now dropped five games by a combined thirteen points. It leaves them out of the Big Ten West Division hunt, but more worryingly is their chance to play in a Bowl Game this off-season.

The Cornhuskers need to win three of their last four games to become Bowl eligible, but they have to face two unbeaten Conference opponents in those games in Michigan State and Iowa. The two more winnable games are on the road where Nebraska won their last game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and I surprisingly like them to cover a big number.

That is mainly down to the fact that the Purdue Boilermakers are not up to their level and have been dropped to 3-8 against the spread as the home underdog during Darell Hazell's Head Coaching run here. The Cornhuskers look to have the balance on the Offensive side of the ball to score plenty of points and I do think their Defensive unit can make enough plays to stall drives.

Nebraska have blown out Purdue the last two seasons and the home team could look past this game to a Homecoming game against Illinois next week.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Wisconsin Badgers Pick: The Rutgers Scarlet Knights had a murderer's row run of teams in the middle of last season and suffered three straight blow outs. They have a similar run of games this season too in the Big Ten and will be hoping that the heavy loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes isn't the start of another embarrassing run of losses.

This week they visit the Wisconsin Badgers who are still trying to reach their third Big Ten Championship Game in four seasons, although they Iowa to drop a couple of games and then run the table to do that. The last four games are all winnable for the Badgers, but they have struggled to cover some big spreads as the home favourite and this is a big spread.

Defensively the Badgers have been such a solid unit that it is hard to see Rutgers causing a big surprise, but they were blown out and shut out last season and that has to be motivation to play this one much closer. They can still get to a Bowl Game with one or two upsets in their last five games so the Scarlet Knights can't give up on the year.

The way they were blown out last season in three consecutive games is a concern though and the better teams in the Conference all handled them fairly easily. However, getting almost three Touchdowns in front looks a lot for a Wisconsin team to cover as they begin to look ahead to their bye week.


Mississippi Rebels @ Auburn Tigers Pick: The Ole Miss Rebels might have suffered a couple of really bad blows this season, but they remain in contention in the SEC West having held the tie-breaker over the Alabama Crimson Tide. That means they are still in with a shout of playing for the National Championship so the Mississippi Rebels will be heading to Auburn with plenty of motivation.

They have been a poor road favourite to back and are 2-6 against the spread in that spot over the last three seasons, but getting to the National Championship won't be the only thing on their minds. Last season their year essentially collapsed when losing to the Auburn Tigers, a loss that was only made possible by Laquon Treadwell being pulled back and breaking a leg just before he crossed the plane for a game winning Touchdown.

Treadwell has played well this season since recovering and I know the Rebels will be highly motivated with that play in their minds. It wasn't a dirty play as such, but it ended their season and I think the Rebels play with that in their minds.

Auburn are off a four overtime loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks but they are still likely to be Bowl eligible at the end of the season. That four overtime defeat has to have taken a physical toll, but the Tigers are 2-0 against the spread as the home underdog under Gus Malzahn. Still, the revenge factor that Mississippi have in play sways me and I like them to cover a big number on the road.


Florida Gators v Georgia Bulldogs Pick: This game is played in Jacksonville and the rivalry is likely to have a huge implication as to which team is playing in the SEC Championship Game. A Florida Gators win would essentially wrap up the Division you would feel, but both the Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs are so banged up that winning the Conference would be a huge task.

The underdog has covered in the last three games between these teams, winning outright twice, but I think the Florida Gators Defensive unit is as good as it gets and that is going to give them the edge. Georgia's Quarter Back has struggled in the bigger games and Nick Chubb has been lost at Running Back for the season.

The bye week would have given Jim McElwain a chance to make Treon Harris feel much more comfortable as the starting Quarter Back and I expect him to make enough plays for the Gators to come through.

Georgia had won three in a row in the series until last season, but I will look for Florida to win this one and cover for the third season in a row.


Time constraints, and a nasty headache, means I have added the other picks from the Week 9 College Football games in the MY PICKS section below.

MY PICKS: East Carolina Pirates - 7 Points @ 1.93 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights + 20.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Mississippi Rebels - 7 Points @ 1.95 Coral (1 Unit)
Florida Gators - 2 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Oklahoma State Cowboys - 2.5 Points @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Michigan Wolverines - 13 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 10.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Stanford Cardinal - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)


Week 8: 5-6, - 1.33 Units (11 Units Staked, - 12.09% Yield)
Week 711-3, + 7.10 Units (14 Units Staked, + 50.71% Yield
Week 68-5, + 2.49 Units (13 Units Staked, + 19.15% Yield)
Week 56-7, - 1.50 Units (13 Units Staked, - 11.54% Yield)
Week 48-4-1, + 3.26 Units (13 Units Staked, + 25.08% Yield)
Week 36-4, + 1.57 Units (10 Units Staked, + 15.70% Yield)
Week 25-4-1, + 0.68 Units (10 Units Staked, + 6.80% Yield)
Week 17-6, + 0.48 Units (13 Units Staked, + 3.69% Yield

Season 201556-39-2, + 12.75 Units (97 Units Staked, + 13.142015% Yield)
Season 201475-82-2, - 13.39 Units (172 Units Staked, - 7.78% 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)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

NFL Week 8 Picks 2015 (October 29-November 2)

Week 8 of the NFL season has come around so quickly, I can't believe it has really been two months since the NFL began.

I have written up a few thoughts on Week 7 including Greg Hardy, Dan Campbell's impact in Miami, the failures of the Indianapolis Colts as well as the updated Power Ranking which can be read here.


It has been a difficult few weeks for the NFL Picks after a very strong start to them, but hopefully Week 8 is going to start trending things back in a positive direction.


Week 8 Picks
Week 8 will give us more Divisional battles as well as separating a couple of the unbeaten teams when the Denver Broncos host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

It is the time of the season when teams can begin to make a move in their respective Divisions and Conferences as we reach the half way mark of their seasons.

Onto the Week 8 Picks.


Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots Pick: I wasn't sure if the Miami Dolphins blow out of the Tennessee Titans was just a reaction to the firing of Joe Philbin, who was seemingly disliked by the players, but last Week 7 brought about another blow out.

Dan Campbell has revitalised a team on both sides of the ball and he clearly has more gumption than his predecessor and I do think the Miami Dolphins will go to the New England Patriots with some belief they can win this game outright.

It is a lot of points for the Dolphins to be given on their current performances and the way the New England Patriots have had to battle through two victories in a row. The physical toll that the New York Jets would have put on New England is hard to recover from in just three days time while the Miami starters were resting up in the blow out win over the Houston Texans.

My concerns are that Miami haven't played well in New England in recent seasons and Tom Brady is still pissed off and trying to destroy teams. He hasn't done that the last two weeks so might be even more motivated to beat up on this Miami Dolphins Defensive unit.

However, I like the Dolphins to cover because I think they can get enough pressure on Tom Brady to at least slow down drives. The last two weeks have seen the Defensive Line get healthy and begin to shown the dominance that many expected of them in the off-season, especially Cameron Wake who has come alive since Kevin Coyle was fired as Defensive Co-Ordinator.

New England will still get their points, but they might not be able to run the ball as effectively as they like and Miami can limit them to give themselves a chance of the upset.

Unlike the Patriots, I don't think Miami will have too many issues establishing Lamar Miller running the ball and he has been in great form the last two weeks. I expect Miami to run the ball straight at the Patriots who have given up 110 yards per game on the ground at 4.5 yards per carry and establishing Miller will only make life a little easier for Ryan Tannehill who has been better, if not perfect, the last couple of weeks.

This isn't a Secondary that can shut teams down as they could if Darrelle Revis was still in town, but New England have gotten immense pressure up front which has led to mistakes or drives stalling. It might not matter to Tannehill if he is in third and short for much of the game and he should be able to keep the chains moving.

All in all it looks like the points being given to Miami are too much although I want a minimum unit on this one with Brady still capable of blowing teams apart when the mood takes him. The Dolphins haven't been good against their fellow AFC East teams, but they have a decent covering rate as the road underdog and I will back them to continue that in Foxboro.

MY PICKS: Miami Dolphins + 8 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Week 7: 2-4, - 4.23 Units
Week 63-5-1, - 3.33 Units
Week 53-5-1, - 3.48 Units
Week 44-3-1, + 2.24 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.03 Units
Week 24-5, - 1.71 Units
Week 15-2-1, + 6.46 Units

Season 201529-26-4, + 5.98 Units
Season 201477-80-2, - 8.47 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Tennis Picks 2015 (October 29th)

I can only say it was more frustration on Wednesday as players got into strong positions only to let me down in unexpected fashion. Leonardo Mayer had a break advantage in the final set of his match with Teymuraz Gabashvili, but fell apart by losing four games in a row to drop the match.

Even worse has to be the manner in which Stan Wawrinka lost to Ivo Karlovic- he was up a set and a break before being pegged back, losing the tie-breaker and then dropping serve immediately in the final set to lose the match.

Pathetic to be honest with you.

Thankfully Rafael Nadal came out of a difficult position to win his match else it could have felt like a disastrous day, but I am frustrated that it didn't end up with a winning position on Wednesday considering how close at least three of the losing picks were to being successful.


The tournaments in Singapore, Basel and Valencia continue on Thursday when we get the first two Semi Finalists in the WTA Finals as well as setting up the Quarter Final line up for the two ATP events this week.


Simona Halep - 2.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: This is a big match for both players in action this Thursday as both still have a chance of qualifying for the Semi Final despite losing their last match. Simona Halep can confirm her place in the Semi Finals if she can win this match in straight sets, while Agnieszka Radwanska would be able to do the same if she can win in straight sets and Flavia Pennetta is beaten in straight sets later in the day's play.

Any kind of win for Halep will give her a chance of progressing and that means her motivation should be high through this match, but I do wonder about Radwanska's mindset. If she is to drop a set, it means Radwanska is going to be out of the tournament even if she wins this match and that could see her check out.

Some might look at that as a chance for her to loosen up and let rip with nothing left to play for until January, but it has been a long season and she could just as easily tank away the match. Simona Halep has dominated Radwanska in recent matches too which should give her the mental edge and I definitely think she has more in her game to exploit the serve of the Pole than the other way around.

The last time they met saw Radwanska make an incredible start before Simona Halep took over but I think it might be a little more straight-forward for the World Number 2 this time around. After taking a tight first set, I look for Halep to pull away for a 64, 62 win.


Flavia Pennetta + 1.5 sets v Maria Sharapova: After winning just three games in her first match in Singapore, Flavia Pennetta would have been pleased to have her own destiny in her hands going into the final Group match. A straight sets win for Flavia Pennetta will be enough to get into the Semi Final and prolong her career by at least one more match, although she will know the exact permutations by the time she goes to the court.

For Maria Sharapova it looks a lot more straight-forward as winning a set should be enough to move into the Semi Final having won her first two matches with a 4-1 set advantage. There hasn't been too many signs of the injury that has kept Sharapova off the Tour over the last few months, but Flavia Pennetta has been something of a conundrum for the Russian.

Pennetta has won the last three matches between the players and all of their matches have been competitive with every single one needing a final set decider to determine the winner. I like the way the Italian battled back to beat Agnieszka Radwanska in her second Group game having been embarrassed by Simona Halep on Sunday, and Pennetta will give it her all with this potentially being her last match on the Tour.

The head to head with Sharapova will inspire her too and I like Pennetta's chances of taking at least a set in this one at a generous odds against quote. She has done that in every previous match against Sharapova and the mere fact she has won three in a row against the Russian should inspire a big performance from Pennetta.


Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Teymuraz Gabashvili: Both players got through tough matches on Wednesday to move into the Second Round and I think Marin Cilic can back that up by beating Teymuraz Gabashvili and reaching yet another Quarter Final.

Out of the two players, Cilic was a little more in control of his win on Wednesday and it was Gabashvili who had to dig very deep to see off Leonardo Mayer. Of course Cilic had a longer week last week when winning the title in Moscow, but I don't envision fatigue being an issue for either player.

The more consistent player is Cilic and I think Gabashvili won't have so much luck holding serve as he did on Wednesday. The Croatian has to serve well too to make sure he doesn't give Gabashvili any kind of encouragement in this one, but I think Cilic has been playing well enough to do that and win this match.

Cilic should have the majority of break points in this match and I like him coming through 64, 63.


John Isner - 1.5 games v Jack Sock: Both John Isner and Jack Sock are going to be very happy with the way their 2015 seasons have panned out and both look set to finish in the top thirty of the World Rankings. The chances of John Isner reaching the World Tour Finals look to have gone now, but he will still want to end this season well and try and get into the World Top Ten.

Both men might be looking forward to the end of the season now, but Jack Sock did reach the Final in Stockholm last week and John Isner reached the Quarter Final in Beijing. That shows both are still very focused on the matches they are playing and I think this is going to be a close match decided by a point here and there.

John Isner has had the better of Jack Sock in the past as his serve is a little more solid all around and that has kept the scoreboard pressure on his compatriot. Sock will always give away at least one really sloppy game on serve and Isner is a great front runner that will be able to push away from him if he can get ahead here.

The speed of the courts should make this a close match that features a tie-breaker or two, but I give the edge to John Isner to find a break somewhere and come through this match 64, 67, 76.


Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: This has always been a tournament that Roger Federer would place some real stock in having been a ball boy here in his younger days. Being back at home will only inspire Roger Federer all the more and he was a comfortable winner in the First Round.

He might have won all ten previous matches against Philipp Kohlschreiber, but there is no doubt that Federer will have a lot of respect for his opponent. These two are friends off court that have practiced together many times too so Federer will know all about the quality that Kohlschreiber can bring to the court.

However, Kohlschreiber has looked like he is slipping somewhat through the 2015 season and he is more likely to throw in a poor couple of service games than he was when at his very best. I think the German will be inspired going up against Federer and he will produce some quality tennis, but the problem will be trying to maintain that through the Second Round match.

Eventually you have to think Federer's quality will make the difference with a few returns and he will be too good as long as he serves effectively through the match. He was a little loose on that side in his win over Mikhail Kukushkin, but I think Federer will be more focused knowing the quality player he is facing and will come through this one 63, 64.


Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 games v Andrey Rublev: The Tour is a tough learning school for the young players that take it on and Andrey Rublev will look back at 2015 and take note of the lessons he learnt. The youngster has shown he has the talent to reach the very top of the men's game, but it will take time as he grows into his body and gets used to the weekly grind of the ATP Tour.

The younger players tend to have a little bit more fatigue in the final month of the season and I think Rublev will do well to keep up with Roberto Bautista Agut who is happy being on the court all day. The Spaniard did reach the Final in Moscow last week and had to dig deep to beat Nicolas Almagro in the First Round here which might mean some fatigue is in play, but I think his experience of managing the season Tour will give him the edge in this match.

Both players will likely have their chances to break serve, but I think Bautista Agut is the more consistent player at this stage of their career. I expect he will look to dig deep and grind down Rublev who had a solid First Round win to snap a four match losing run on the Tour.

Rublev has suffered some one-sided losses in recent weeks as the season winds down and I think Roberto Bautista Agut wins this one 64, 63 after wearing down his younger opponent.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Flavia Pennetta + 1.5 Sets @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
John Isner - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Roberto Bautista Agut - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-10, - 10.78 Units (30 Units Staked, - 35.93% Yield)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

NFL Week 7 Recap 2015 (October 28th)

Another NFL Week is in the record books and so it is onto the Week 7 Recap.


Is Rex Ryan Really Head Coach Material?
There was a lot of excitement in Buffalo this off-season when Rex Ryan was appointed the new Head Coach especially as they looked to have all the Defensive pieces to really challenge the AFC East dominance of the New England Patriots.

A win over the Indianapolis Colts on the opening week of the season looked to have underlined the potential that Buffalo had this year, but I think the former have just looked plain bad and that win hasn't looked as good as it did in Week 1.

A beat down from the New England Patriots put the Bills back in their place, but the bigger issue has to be the fact that Buffalo haven't had back to back wins all season and go into their bye week with a losing record.

After all the excitement and expectation for the season, going into the bye week at 3-4 after losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in London is a bitter pill for the fan base to swallow. Questions have to be asked about Rex Ryan whose bravado quickly evaporated at the New York Jets after leading that team to back to back AFC Championship Games.


Since reaching the second of those Conference Championship Games, Rex Ryan is just 29-42 as a Head Coach and I do wonder if his soundbites perhaps sees him escape the criticism that he should receive. That is a pretty terrible record and now the Bills are underachieving and I think the pressure has to be building on Ryan who may simply be a great Co-Ordinator but an average Head Coach.

Buffalo have had injuries that some Rex Ryan fans will point to, and I accept that has been the case in Offensive positions, but the Defensive unit have not exactly been as productive as hoped. They have just 11 Sacks all season which is terrible considering the money invested in the Defensive Line and a Defensive Head Coach like Ryan has to take some responsibility for that.

Ill discipline is also on the Head Coach and Buffalo are the most penalised team in the NFL and I do wonder how much time Rex Ryan will get here. Missing the Play Offs this season might not be a deal breaker for him, but another poor start in 2016 would almost certainly end the Ryan tenure in Buffalo and I think he will do very well to get another shot at a Head Coaching role.



Dan Campbell Doing Enough to Earn a Permanent Head Coach Role
The Miami Dolphins were a mess when leaving London after a blow out loss to the New York Jets, but Stephen Ross finally made the correct decision in firing Joe Philbin.

The team represented Philbin in being flat, unemotional and rarely looking like one that had too much belief that they could win enough games to make the Play Offs.

Enter Dan Campbell.

From the opening introductory press conference, Campbell has looked a Coach that will demand every ounce of respect from the players and credit to the players for responding in the professional manner. This is a man that exudes passion and commitment and the troops have followed on the field in the first two games he has taken charge of.

Granted it is only Tennessee and Houston, but Miami dominated both opponents in blow out wins and the Dolphins are now back in contention for the Play Off positions in the AFC.

Now comes the big test for Miami though as they take on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football, the unbeaten Patriots who have dominated teams through the season. This is a litmus test for Dan Campbell but even if Miami are beaten, it will be key for them to show the passion they have in the last couple of games to keep the team going in the right direction.

And if Campbell is able to take this team to nine or ten wins and challenge for a Play Off spot, I think he becomes a serious contender to take the permanent Head Coaching spot in Miami at the end of the season.



Ryan Mallett is Deservedly Cut By the Houston Texans
I don't like anyone who has talent but clearly doesn't want to put in the work to really achieve something and instead wants to glide through life off the back of that talent.

I had wrote a piece basically talking up the reasons why the Houston Texans had to cut Ryan Mallett after his latest timing issues, but the Texans managed to get that done before I published this Recap.

You can't oversleep and miss flights through traffic issues because you're the back up now. Mallett has looked disinterested since being yanked by Bill O'Brien and keeping him in the locker room would do nothing for the Houston Texans.

O'Brien had to show he is the Head Coach and is not going to carry passengers or accept players to show up when they feel like and it was the right decision.


I'd also be surprised if Mallett is given another opportunity in the NFL after failing in both New England and Houston, especially with serious character concerns surrounding him.



The Indianapolis Colts Look Like This Season's San Francisco 49ers
What I mean by that is the Indianapolis Colts look like a team with plenty of talent that is being destroyed by the discord between their Head Coach and General Manager. It is also an open secret their Head Coach is likely to be gone by the end of the season regardless of how well he does and that has filtered down to the players who have struggled to perform consistently.

The one major difference between the Colts and the 49ers of last season is the Divisions they play in- San Francisco and Jim Harbaugh had to deal with the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals and were going to have a tough time winning the Division even if everyone was on the same page.

That isn't the case for the Indianapolis Colts who are in the awful AFC South where they lead despite having a 3-4 record. It says something that they are 3-0 in Divisional games but 0-4 outside of those and the Colts look a mess at the moment.

Chuck Pagano's role as Head Coach is unlikely to last like Harbaugh's did through the season though and the rumour is that he might be done after this week. The other major obstacle for Pagano to cross if he is to see out the season is the Week 10 bye especially if the Indianapolis Colts roll into that with a 3-6 record and it looks a matter of when not if for the Colts to make the change now.



Will Greg Hardy Ever Get It?
There is no doubting the talent that Greg Hardy has and I have no doubt that he will be given a couple more shots in the NFL even if things don't pan out in Dallas as he would have hoped.

As a Football player Hardy is amongst the very best at his position.

But off the field he is struggling to really understand what is expected of him and I do wonder if he can keep the hand off the self-destruct button.

I am not overly concerned that he was seriously pissed off that Dallas had given up a Special Teams Touchdown after tying the game with the New York Giants. But getting into an argument with Dez Bryant looked unseemly, and that was exacerbated by the video of him slapping Rich Basaccia's clipboard, that is Special Teams Coach Basaccia.


Childish games with the media after the game won't help his cause either and I do think Hardy needs a lot of support to understand how to improve his public image after last year's alleged domestic abuse issues. Comments about Tom Brady's wife, terms like 'guns blazing' and then this latest problem doesn't make for a good look for Dallas even if the Cowboys continue to support their player.

Talent will get to the NFL, but it won't be enough to keep Hardy there if he cannot escape the controversies that have plagued him through College Football and into this point of his career.



Top Ten
1) Green Bay Packers (6-0): The Packers remain the best team in the NFL and they should come back healthy from their bye and ready to prove that on the road in Denver.

2) New England Patriots (7-0): The team to beat in the AFC.

3) Carolina Panthers (6-0): The Panthers could easily have been flat against the Philadelphia Eagles off a big win in Seattle, but Carolina keep winning.

4) Cincinnati Bengals (6-0): Cincinnati didn't do anything wrong in their bye week but I think Carolina have done just enough to overtake them. Big game at Pittsburgh in Week 8 upcoming.

5) Denver Broncos (6-0): Now we will see what the Broncos are all about as they host the Green Bay Packers.

6) Arizona Cardinals (5-2): Arizona held on to beat the Baltimore Ravens and remain the favourites to win the NFC West.

7) Atlanta Falcons (6-1): They struggled to beat Tennessee in Week 7, but that was a non-Conference game off a Divisional loss which can be difficult.

8) Minnesota Vikings (4-2): A definite contender for a Play Off spot in the NFC.

9) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3): Yes, they lost last weekend, but Ben Roethlisberger is back and this is a very dangerous team going forward if they can keep Big Ben healthy.

10) New York Jets (4-2): Another team who lost in Week 7, but the New York Jets showed enough on the road at the New England Patriots to consider them a genuine Play Off contender in the AFC.



Bottom Five
32) Tennessee Titans (1-5): This is a team that is struggling mightily with injuries and could be in line for a top two Draft Pick for the second season in a row.

31) Detroit Lions (1-6): The Lions were back to losing games last week having broken their season duck in Week 6. Average team with Jim Caldwell on a very hot seat as Head Coach.

30) Baltimore Ravens (1-6)This is not a team that is used to being as bad as they have been this season.

29) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5): Finally made the trip to London worthwhile by winning their first game in three shots at Wembley Stadium.

28) San Francisco 49ers (2-5): They had a players only meeting to try and fix the big issues they are having. Could be another team looking for a new Head Coach at the end of the season.



Week 7 Picks Recap
It is a real disappointment to see three straight losing weeks to drop the season totals from the strong start they have made. I was fortunate it wasn't worse when the New York Jets kicked a 55 yard Field Goal to cover against the New England Patriots with just eighteen seconds left in that game.

I completely mis-read the Indianapolis and Miami games with both of my picks in huge holes by half time in those games, but then again I should have had more luck with my two underdog picks in Pittsburgh and Dallas. Both had their chances to win outright, let alone cover, but missed both aspects to drop the week into a negative.

More frustrating was looking at my shortlist and the picks I didn't make which ended up being on the right side- earlier on in the season I was finding the right teams so the last three weeks have to be considered a failure.

The season total is still very much in the positive, but I want to end this three week losing run in Week 8.

Tennis Picks 2015 (October 28th)

The last three months of the tennis season have given me my worst run in over four years of doing this and I have to say it has been really frustrating at times. I can't remember a run of form where so many times players look set to come in as a winning pick, but then inexplicably blow a lead.

Either that or they will start off so slowly that they can't really have much of a chance of covering despite then dominating the later two sets in the manner I expected them to start it.

And worst of all is the terrible break point conversion rate that so many players have gone through when I have picked them- that alone would be disappointing, but the fact they have then allowed their opponents to dominate in that category has proven to be a killer.

All of these factors were in play on Tuesday as both David Goffin and Philipp Kohlschreiber won their matches, but failed to cover because they combined for just 33% of break point chances converted. That was compared with their opponents converting 50% of their opportunities and proved to be a big difference even though Goffin and Kohlschreiber had many more chances to break serve.

With that kind of luck, I have to say this season has been a big disappointment for the picks which had been in an incredible position after Wimbledon but I haven't been able to escape the awful weeks in the time since.

I'll make some adjustments in the off-season to get ready for the 2016 season as I look for the final month of the season to at least show some form.


Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Lucie Safarova: These two Czech Republic players have both been struggling with injuries and illness and also were both beaten in straight sets to open the WTA Championship.

That means both Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova will be desperate to get back to winning ways in their second Group game, especially if they have a real ambition of getting through to the Semi Final. The losing player is almost certainly going to be out of the tournament and that will bring its own pressure, but Kvitova has dominated Safarova and has to believe she can continue that.

Neither player has done much winning of late which will be a concern for both, but Kvitova has generally found a way to break down the Safarova game. And Kvitova was much more competitive than Safarova in the first game that both played in Singapore and was perhaps a little unfortunate she didn't win the second set tie-breaker against Angelique Kerber which might have turned the whole momentum of that match.

Petra Kvitova has usually been able to wear down Safarova in their matches and I am looking for her to put together a tough 76, 63 win.


Garbine Muguruza-Angelique Kerber Over 21.5 Total Games: Matches between Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza have been tough battles and I think their match in Singapore could easily follow suit. Both Kerber and Muguruza won their opening match to put themselves in a solid position to qualify for the Semi Final, but the losing player will have some significant work to get through to ensure they do just that.

The six previous matches between these two players has seen each player win three times, but I am not surprised Muguruza is given the edge by the layers as she has won three in a row. However, a more noticeable trend is the fact that the last four matches have all been very competitive and would have surpassed this total number of games they are being asked to cover.

As good a player as Muguruza is, she still has the tendency to throw in too many sloppy service games which give opponents a chance. The fluctuations in her game are not as bad as they once were, but there are enough to give Kerber a chance even if the Spaniard has the power to hit through her.

Those fluctuations in the Muguruza game could easily see both players win a set in this one and I think that should see this total number of games passed. Even a tight two setter would do in this match and I will back the over total games.


Marin Cilic - 5.5 games v Marco Chiudinelli: The extra day of recovery was given to Marin Cilic after he won the title in Moscow on Sunday, but the draw looks a kind one for him to open up in Basel. That is no disrespect to the veteran Marco Chiudinelli, but the Wild Card into the tournament has had some bad losses in recent weeks to players far inferior to Cilic.

These two have actually met in Basel before with Cilic coming through in straight sets and losing just six games in the match. Fatigue is the bigger concern for Cilic this week, but he still has an outside ambition of making it through to the World Tour Finals and that might be motivation enough to ignore any tiredness.

I wouldn't want to totally underestimate the veteran Chiudinelli in this contest, but I think he is going to be put under pressure through the match. It will come down to whether he can serve effectively enough to maintain momentum and turn the screw on Cilic, but it looks a big ask for him at this stage of his career.

I believe Cilic is able to earn at least three breaks of serve and that should set him up for a 64, 62 kind of win in this one.


Leonardo Mayer - 1.5 games v Teymuraz Gabashvili: It was a solid week for Teymuraz Gabashvili in Moscow, although the defeat in the Quarter Final in the manner it came would have disappointed. That has been a rare week of success for Gabashvili in recent weeks though and I think he will have a difficult time seeing off Leonardo Mayer in this First Round match in Basel.

There hasn't been a lot of winning done by Mayer in recent weeks, but he has lost to better players than Gabashvili while winning the matches he has been expected to. I have been a little disappointed that Mayer wasn't able to win one of his two matches against Gilles Simon, but the Frenchman is a far different proposition than Gabashvili.

This should be a much bigger hitting kind of match that should suit Mayer and Gabashvili, but I think the former has a little more to like about his game. There is no doubting that Gabashvili has plenty of talent, but his serve can be a weakness and Mayer's is definitely the better shot which can be a difference maker.

I won't be surprised to see this one go three sets, but I like Mayer to find his way through to the Second Round behind a 64, 67, 64 win.


Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Borna Coric: It has been a career season for Kevin Anderson but it doesn't look like he will have enough in the locker to reach the World Tour Finals. That remains a goal for the South African, but he has suffered some disappointing losses over the last month to the likes of Gilles Muller and Steve Johnson that might have ended Anderson's hopes of playing in London.

He could be one of the top Seeds that is quite vulnerable over the last few weeks of the season, but I think Anderson will be a little too strong for the talented youngster Borna Coric.

This is the first full year on the Tour that Coric has competed in and I think the last month has shown that it has taken its toll and fatigue is an issue. Coric has lost three of his last four matches and his thoughts could easily have drifted to the off-season and then focusing on 2016 and I think there are a couple of reasons that Anderson should find himself a winner and a cover of this margin.

The first of those is the Anderson serve should give him a decent chance to keep his nose in front on the scoreboard while Coric is still trying to get the best out of his own serve. That will come once he finishes growing into his body, but it also means he can have trouble holding onto serve at times and I think giving Anderson the lead will be tough for him to peg back at this stage of his career.

After a battling first set, Anderson may be able to move clear for a 64, 63 win.


Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 games v Ivo Karlovic: Ivo Karlovic has been serving like a monster in recent weeks and that is shown by the fact that he has not dropped a set outside of a tie-breaker in any of his nine matches since the US Open.

You can't say he hasn't played some tough matches in that time with a three set loss to Rafael Nadal at the Shanghai Masters the most memorable. However, Karlovic has dropped matches in straight sets to Ernests Gulbis, Pablo Cuevas and Nick Kyrgios although all of those have been in two tie-breakers.


Now he faces Stan Wawrinka in conditions that should suit his serve and that makes him very dangerous if the Swiss Number 2 is not at his best. It can be tough to look after your own side of the court when it feels like you are constantly serving, while Wawrinka can be accused of being a little slack when it comes to his service games.

However, you can't ignore the fact that Wawrinka is playing at home and has had the better of Karlovic in their recent matches. Only some poor play at break point up prevented Wawrinka beating Karlovic more comfortably when they played at the Cincinnati Masters in August, but I think he will be a little stronger this time.

Breaking the Karlovic serve is far from easy with the way the Croatian is playing, but Wawrinka is capable of doing it with the bounce going his way at break points. Even if those don't come his way, Karlovic has lost a few matches now in straight sets with both sets being decided on the tie-breaker so I will back Wawrinka to cover this number of games on Wednesday.


Rafael Nadal - 2.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: Rafael Nadal could so easily be out of the tournament in Basel, but he dug deep to come back from Lukas Rosol serving for the match and turn the match around completely.

It backs up his successful weeks in Beijing and Shanghai and Nadal won't want to slip up against Grigor Dimitrov, a player he has beaten every time they have met on the court.

If people thought Nadal has had a bad season, Dimitrov fans will point out how difficult it has been for their own man this year. He might have had a convincing win over Sergiy Stakhovsky to move into the Second Round, but Dimitrov has had plenty of disappointing losses all year with little sign of that changing.

I am struggling to see how Dimitrov has changed things significantly to keep Nadal at bay in this one and I think the Spaniard is going to be too strong. They have had some close matches in the past, but this could be a little more in favour of Nadal and I think he is playing the superior tennis and is definitely the more confident player.

That can make the difference and ensure Nadal is able to move through 76, 64.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza-Angelique Kerber Over 21.5 Total Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Leonardo Mayer - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Betway (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 1.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-6, - 8.20 Units (16 Units Staked, - 51.25% Yield)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

NBA Picks October 2015 (October 27-31)

The NBA off-season is finally over and tip off for the 2015/16 season will go ahead on Tuesday 27th October as the defending Conference Champions both take to the court.

The Golden State Warriors remain the team to beat even though Steve Kerr will not be with the team for the opening weeks as he recovers from a surgery in the off-season, while the Western Conference looks loaded with teams ready to have a crack at the Champions.

The San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers and Houston Rockets all look capable of reaching the NBA Finals and getting out of the gauntlet of the West remains as difficult as ever.


On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the big favourites to get back to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference which isn't as strong from top to bottom as the Western Conference. Cleveland have kept their key pieces together with both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson extending their stays with the Cavaliers and LeBron James will be given more rest during the regular season to make sure he is ready for another shot at the Championship.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat look the most dangerous to prevent Cleveland reaching the NBA Finals and I really like how the latter have responded to losing James before last season.

Other teams are talented but I am not sure Atlanta can have a season like the last one, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics might not have enough experience to challenge the top teams in the East although do look good for Play Off spots.


It doesn't look so good for fans living in Gotham as both the Knicks and Nets continue a rebuild that might still see them off the pace for a top eight place in the weak Eastern Conference. The LA Lakers are another big franchise that are perhaps behind the curve in the Western Conference despite Kobe Bryant returning from injury.


All in all it looks like being another special season in the NBA which will really get going once the NFL Play Offs are concluded as teams simply jockey for position early on before turning on the afterburners with real thoughts turned to their own Play Offs.


The last two seasons have been difficult for the picks and I have to be a little more careful with them. The early season can be tough to get a read on but last season four of the first six months had a losing record which is simply not good enough and I have made a couple of adjustments to try and get this season back on track after the last couple of years.


Finally it makes sense to end this opening NBA post of the season on a more mournful note than worrying about things we can't control when it comes to picks and fretting about bad luck and the like.

Flip Saunders passed away on the eve of the new season- the Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach was only 60 years old and it is stories like that which you remind you of the important things in life. His impact on the sport was highlighted by the outpouring of messages from those involved in the NBA and it was unexpected considering it was only two days prior to his passing that Minnesota announced he wouldn't be coaching this season, but the plan was that Saunders would be retuning.

RIP Coach.


Tuesday 27th October
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls Pick: The season opens between two teams that many are tipping to compete in the Eastern Conference Finals in May. The Cleveland Cavaliers have kept all their key pieces together and they look set for another run, while the Chicago Bulls have replaced Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg.

The Bulls really like what Hoiberg is going to give them Offensively and Derrick Rose was particularly vocal on the space he is going to get in the system. There is depth in Chicago and they have one of the best back courts in the NBA with Rose and Jimmy Butler.

Rose was banged up in the pre-season, but he has always looked like he would be ready for opening day, but the same can't be said of LeBron James. James will play, but he missed the last two weeks with a back issue and Cleveland are also missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love remains doubtful although potentially winning his battle to play. Tristan Thompson is only recently back having signed his contract and I think the Chicago Bulls have a real chance to get off to a positive start at home.

Chicago are 6-2 against the spread in the last eight games against Cleveland and they are 3-1 against the spread in the last four at home. However, that is only 1-1 when set as the home favourite and that is my only concern, although the public remains behind Cleveland which off-sets that somewhat.

It'll be a good game to open the NBA season, but I think the Chicago Bulls can cover in a winning start to the Hoiberg era with the more settled team that is not missing key players.


New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors Pick: Alvin Gentry will begin his time as Head Coach of the New Orleans Pelicans in a familiar environment having been an Assistant Head Coach with the Golden State Warriors last season.

That familiarity might give the New Orleans an edge in this game, but injuries are hurting them early in the season and that makes it difficult for the Pelicans to execute effectively. Anthony Davis will still get his job done, but the supporting cast might not be enough to challenge the defending Champions who have a chip on their shoulder.

Despite beating everyone in the NBA, some teams have suggested the Golden State Warriors were 'lucky' and that will give the home team motivation to prove themselves. Raising the banner should produce a raucous atmosphere in which the Warriors will thrive and even the absence of Steve Kerr might give the team a reason to rally together.

It is a lot of points for them to cover considering Anthony Davis is on the opposite bench and can take over games, but there looks to be too much talent all around in the Warriors team for a short-handed New Orleans one. Golden State beat New Orleans by double digits in three of their four home games last season and all of the excitement in the building should see them reach that margin again.


Wednesday 28th October
It was a slightly frustrating opening day of the NBA season for the picks with Cleveland hitting two big shots late to get within two and then virtually holding the ball for long enough to stay at that number rather than fouling the Chicago Bulls.

Should have been two out of two really, but at least Golden State didn't let me down by blowing out the New Orleans Pelicans.

Charlotte Hornets @ Miami Heat Pick: It was always going to be difficult for the Miami Heat to recover from the loss of LeBron James, but they weren't helped when the likes of Chris Bosh and Luol Deng went down with injuries.

Some good moves were made by Pat Riley though and Hassan Whiteside was a revelation and the Heat now look to have a starting five that can rival any in the Eastern Conference. Bosh is back healthy, Dwyane Wade continues to lead the team and Goran Dragic gives them a Point Guard that can really dominate games.

In recent seasons the Charlotte Hornets have become competitive, but they have lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for much of the season and new faces need to be integrated into the team. I am not as down on the Hornets as much as some of the experts as I think they have decent depth on the roster, but Kidd-Gilchrist is a big loss and I can't doubt that.

Miami struggled with Charlotte last season, but the Heat are 12-5-1 against the spread in the last eighteen against them and I look for them to make a strong start to the new season.


Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: It is all change for the Indiana Pacers this season as they move from the big, strong Defensive team into a faster Offensive one. Gone are the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West but in comes Monta Ellis to join George Hill and Paul George to make the Pacers a better team with the ball in hand.

They are immediately going to be tested by the Toronto Raptors who disappointed so badly in the Play Offs last season but who have kept their key players together for one more run. The arrival of DeMarre Carroll will help improve the Raptors on the Defensive side of the court where they have struggled and Toronto look set to be a Play Off team in the Eastern Conference again.

Strengthening up Defensively is key for the Raptors as they still have plenty of Offensive power from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Carroll is a big improvement on that front and the Raptors look like they can make a solid start to the new season by winning their first game.

Toronto are 20-7 against the spread in their last twenty-seven against Indiana in Canada, while they are 38-18 against the spread in the last fifty-six overall. I like the Raptors to make some big stops in the Fourth Quarter and find themselves in a position to cover this number.


LA Clippers @ Sacramento Kings Pick: Not many in the LA Clippers organisation are going to forget their historic collapse in the Western Conference Semi Finals in 2015. They led the Houston Rockets by 3-1 and were up by nineteen points in game five before collapsing and never recovering.

That has to have eaten up at the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin all summer, but they managed to pick themselves up for long enough to convince DeAndre Jordan to change his mind on leaving for the Dallas Mavericks. Keeping the team together and adding the likes of Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce means the Clippers remain one of the favourites in the Western Conference, but they need better health later in the season to do that.

I like the Clippers getting off to a winning start to the new season in Sacramento despite the Kings looking like an improving team. However, Rudy Gay is likely to miss this game and that is a huge loss for the Kings and should take away enough Offense for the Clippers to continue their strong record here.

The Clippers are 8-1 straight up overall and 3-1 against the spread in their last four visits to Sacramento and I like them to cover in this game.


Thursday 29th October
All three picks came into the winner's enclosure on Wednesday, although I needed a bit of luck for that to happen. I guess that makes up for the fact that Chicago blew a guaranteed cover in a ridiculous manner on Tuesday and gives me a very positive beginning to the new season.

But it's two days into a long eight months of the regular season so I have to be careful to ensure getting back to the winning seasons after two disappointments.

Dallas Mavericks @ LA Clippers Pick: I was considering giving Thursday a miss with the small number of games on offer, but I was a little surprised that the Dallas Mavericks are given as many points as they are at the LA Clippers.

Now I do expect Dallas to perhaps struggle to get into the Western Conference Play Offs this season, although not quite willing to rule out Rick Carlisle inspiring his team to do so, and the Clippers are a genuine NBA Championship team.

However, the DeAndre Jordan situation in the summer would have had Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks circling this game as one for 'revenge' and I think they come out hot. Dallas had an easy win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday while the LA Clippers battled in Sacramento and I think the Mavericks will be ready to go on this back to back nights play.

Deron Williams might not play and the Clippers are a deeper squad, but revenge and that kind of motivation is hard to ignore. Of course this is the Clippers opening home game and they will be plenty motivated too, but Dallas have the edge and have a solid 8-3 record against the spread in their last eleven visits to play the Clippers in the Staples Center.

The Clippers haven't been a great team to back as a big home favourite in recent years either and this looks a big number to cover against an angry opponent. The eleven point advantage is beginning to run out despite the public hammering the home team and I like Dallas to cover here.


Friday 30th October
The Dallas Mavericks played the LA Clippers pretty close up until a blow out third quarter but they never looked like covering from that point and the 16 point deficit is flattering to them.

Charlotte Hornets @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: I am going to try and steer clear of teams on back to back nights play for much of the season if that is possible, but at this stage of the year it shouldn't be too much of an issue. Of course this is the third game in four nights for the Atlanta Hawks, but they owe the home fans after being blown out in their opening home game by the Detroit Pistons.

The Hawks were much better in a big win at the New York Knicks on Thursday and now host the Charlotte Hornets in a home and home series over the weekend. Charlotte had a big lead in the opening quarter of their first game of the season, but they are still finding their feet after losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the year.

It was a poor defensive effort from outside the arc that prevented the Hornets keeping up with the Miami Heat on Wednesday and that is a real issue that could be exploited by Atlanta if it continues through this game.

Atlanta are 12-4 against the spread in their last sixteen against Charlotte and they are 4-1 against the spread at home against the Hornets. Both wins at home came by at least twenty-four points last season and I expect the Hawks to move above 0.500 for the first time this season while covering this number.


Minnesota Timberwolves @ Denver Nuggets Pick: It was always going to be an emotional opening day for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their first game since Flip Saunders sadly passed away. They rode that to give their Head Coach the kind of battling performance he would have been proud of and knocked off the LA Lakers on the road.

The Timberwolves are returning home after this game and it would be easy for this young and inexperienced squad to perhaps be looking ahead to that. The home opener is going to be full of emotion and this game in Colorado looks almost like a throwaway one.

It would have been a tough game regardless of all the sadness the Minnesota franchise are dealing with, especially after Denver perhaps showed they are better than expected in a blow out win in Houston. The home opener should have the team pumped up to play and they are facing a team that hasn't backed up their surprise wins that well

In fact Minnesota are 3-8 against the spread when winning a game as the road underdog, and 0-5 against the spread when winning by 3 points or fewer on the road. On the other hand, Denver have thrived as the blow out winner of a game where they were set as the underdog and have gone 11-2 against the spread in that spot.

The Timberwolves have a good record in Denver, but I think the home team has too much scoring and there is a real potential the road team are a little flat as they anticipate returning home to the sadness of Saunders' passing and the big home opening game.


Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets Pick: The Western Conference Finals were competed by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets last season and this is a big game early in the season for both this time around.

Both have plenty of motivation to set down a marker for the season- neither team perhaps received the praise they might have imagined off the back of strong seasons and both have an MVP calibre player that might feel disrespected by the other.

James Harden and Stephen Curry could put on a clinic in this game, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the Golden State Warriors went 8-1 straight up against the Houston Rockets last season. Both teams have issues at the Center position with Andrew Bogut not travelling for the Warriors and Dwight Howard back from suspension, but not fully fit, for the Rockets.

The Rockets made some moves in the off-season but they still look short of the Golden State Warriors who want to show why they are Champions. It could be a high-scoring game for sure, but the Warriors are 7-3 against the spread in the last ten games between the teams and I like Golden State to find a way to get this done on the road.

MY PICKS: 27/10 Chicago Bulls - 2.5 Points @ 1.83 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
27/10 Golden State Warriors - 9.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
28/10 Miami Heat - 6 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
28/10 Toronto Raptors - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
28/10 LA Clippers - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
29/10 Dallas Mavericks + 11 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
30/10 Atlanta Hawks - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
30/10 Denver Nuggets - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
30/10 Golden State Warriors - 1.5 Points @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

October Update: 5-4, + 0.57 Units


Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units
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