September 21, 2018

NFL Week 3 picks

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

The lines are from Betway.com and the home teams are in CAPs.

CLEVELAND -3 over New York Jets

The city of Cleveland is drunk on Bud Light after the Browns picked up their first win in 635 days. Perhaps even more incredibly, they covered. Even better than that – or perhaps worse – the Browns still haven’t won on a Sunday since Dec. 13, 2015. But Baker and the boys should get a few more W’s this season.

ATLANTA -3 over New Orleans

There’s something not right about the Saints right now. While Alvin Kamara still scares us – especially with Keanu Neal and Deion Jones out – the defence has certainly regressed.

BALTIMORE -5.5 over Denver

The Broncos are 2-0 based mainly on their home-field advantage and some luck. While there’s not a ton to be excited about from the Ravens, we’ll spot the points to a hobbled Case Keenum playing an early game cross-country.

Cincinnati +3 over CAROLINA

The Panthers offence was better last week, but it’s still not where it needs to be. Facing a frisky-looking Bengals team that is coming in on extra rest shouldn’t get it up to full speed.

New York Giants +6 over HOUSTON

Could this be another Texas nightmare for Eli Manning? Sure. But have the Texans shown that they’re three points better than the Cowboys so far? We don’t think so.

JACKSONVILLE (nl) over Tennessee

There’s no line because of Marcus Mariota, but we can’t see the Titans moving the ball against the Jags either way.

San Francisco +6.5 over KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs are must-watch TV right now, but the big problem is that their defence doesn’t come close to the electric offence. Jimmy G and the Niners almost blew it last week, but can cover here.

MIAMI -3 over Oakland

Can the Dolphins really go 3-0? Thanks to the scheduling gods, yes. The Raiders are improving, but can’t generate a pass rush with Khalil Mack gone and even when Derek Carr completes 90% of his passes, it’s not enough.

MINNESOTA -16.5 over Buffalo

The Bills are simply putrid, with players retiring mid-game, LeSean McCoy hobbled and looking over the hill, and the passing game a work in progress with Josh Allen learning on the job. The Vikings need to bounce back after a tie and the defence playing at home has a good chance of pitching a shutout.

Indianapolis +6.5 over PHILADELPHIA

We’re still not sure that Andrew Luck is back to his old self again, but at least the Colts defence showed some spark last week. The Eagles are getting Carson Wentz back, but everybody else seems to be hurt on offence.

WASHINGTON +3 over Green Bay

We’re used to seeing Alex Smith have off weeks and he’s usually good to bounce back with a decent performance. Aaron Rodgers’ knee is concerning enough to pass on giving points on the road.

L.A. Chargers +7 over L.A. RAMS

The Battle of L.A. is going to be an interesting one with a ton of talent on both sides. The Rams do have an edge after their summer spending spree, but don’t rule out the Chargers. The Rams haven’t beaten anybody talented yet while the Chargers kept it close with the vaunted Chiefs in Week 1. We see a cover in the books.

ARIZONA +6 over Chicago

This is one we could regret, but let’s not gloss over how pedestrian Mitch Trubisky looked most of the game. The Bears defence will show up, but the offence looks questionable on the road.

SEATTLE -1.5 over Dallas

There’s plenty wrong with the Seahawks, but their home-field advantage is real. The Cowboys won last week, but honestly didn’t impress much against the Giants.

DETROIT +6.5 over New England

Do the Pats have what it takes to pull away on offence against a guy that literally saw them practice every day? The Lions trio of receivers with Kenny Golladay emerging will be hard for New England to contain, too.

Pittsburgh -1 over TAMPA BAY

Everybody is excited about the Bucs and Fitzmagic, but can he really do it for the third week in a row? The Steelers have some in-house turmoil, but we have faith in Mike Tomlin to right the ship in prime time.

Last week: 6-9

This season: 16-14-1

September 18, 2018

EPL FREE KICKS: Reds and Blues headed towards clash of 100-percenters

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Can you feel that? It’s the anticipation building for a true clash of the titans in two weeks’ time.

September 29: Liverpool at Chelsea.

Here’s hoping that both teams will keep their 100% records intact next week and we get a true battle for the top of the table.

This weekend we saw Liverpool pass its first true test of the season, going to London and beating Spurs 2-1, with Eric Lamela’s goal of little consolation in second-half injury time.

Chelsea actually went down 1-0 to Cardiff before coming back to pound the Welsh side. Eden Hazard continued his terrific form, scoring a hat trick, while Willian had a goal and assist in just 22 minutes.

These are two teams that are no joke. Even when you look for flaws on either side, it’s really nitpicking at best. You can point to Alvaro Morata not playing up to snuff or Alisson’s footwork flub two weeks, but nothing has slowed these two sides yet.

But we are about to get a little degree of difficulty thrown into the mix with Champion League group stage play starting on Tuesday.

Finding a balance between European fixtures and domestic ties is one of the hardest tasks for managers and squad depth can really be put to the test. The Reds may be in a better spot for this as Jurgen Klopp has had much more time to assemble his squad while Maurizio Sarri has only really brought in Jorginho and is dealing with the roster he was given.

Oh, and don’t forget that Chelsea is coming to Anfield next Wednesday for a Carabao Cup game. While we’ll certainly expect some backups to play that fixture, it could be a sign of things to come.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

When you score a hat trick, it’s kind of hard to ignore you for this spot.

Hazard was his usual brilliant self this weekend, running his season total up to five goals to go with two assists. He has had a hand in at least one goal in all five games.

Sarri has also said that he wants to see the Belgian not worry about wasting energy tracking back as much, which is music to any fantasy players’ ears. It’s also a far cry from the Jose Mourinho days at Chelsea, when the Special One benched Hazard in favour of Willian and Pedro, who were more apt to defend.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Toby Alderweireld (left) was noticeably missing the club’s crest on his jersey this weekend. (GETTY IMAGES)

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Burnley has conceded 103 shots in 5 games, which is on pace to set the record for a season by 46 … All it took Leroy Sane was two minutes into his first start of the season to bag a goal. I guess Pep Guardiola’s motivational tactics worked … Apparently, Pep wasn’t too happy with his team despite picking up a 3-0 win. He cancelled a planned day off on Monday and had his charges in training … We’re all for bigging up your teammates, but keep it within reason. Asmir Begovic said this week that Bournemouth’s front three of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Josh King were as good as Liverpool’s vaunted trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah – who is up for FIFA’s player of the year. Settle down, Asmir … Alexis Sanchez has yet to score this season and has just three goals in 22 games since joining Manchester United. If something doesn’t change, he could go down as one of the biggest busts in Premier League history … Leicester City is in trouble. In the Foxes’ past 19 games (a half-season sample), they’re just 5-10-4. The dream could be coming to an end … Wilfried Zaha once again showed just how much he means to the Crystal Palace, scoring the only goal in its away win vs. Huddersfield … You’re not going to believe this, but Jack Wilshere is hurt again and will miss six weeks after undergoing ankle surgery … Granit Xhaka’s long-distance free kick was one of the goals of the week, you have to check it out … Is everybody ready for badge-gate? Speculation about Toby Alderweireld’s future with Spurs is rampant after the defender played the entire game without a badge on his shirt. We’ve seen reports that it wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction, but we’d also wager that’s the safest bet. If it is legit that he wants out of Tottenham, that’s one of the most subtle transfer requests we’ve seen.

THE LAST WORD

We should sell this space to teams that need a reversal of course.

After recently writing about West Ham’s putrid play and Watford’s stunning run to the top, both went in the opposite direction this week.

The Irons beat Everton at Goodison Park to pick up their first points of the season while the Hornets fell at home to Manchester United.

Of course, these are two mid-table teams and parity is inevitable for both sides, but we just didn’t expect that quickly of a turnaround.

September 14, 2018

NFL Week 2 picks

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

The lines are from Betway.com and the home teams are in CAPs.

CINCINNATI (pick) over Baltimore

You can never forget that A.J. Green is capable of big, three-TD games like the one he had on Thursday night. And maybe, just maybe, Joe Flacco isn’t, in fact, back.

TENNESSEE +2 over Houston

Mariota should be OK for this one, but certainly won’t be at 100%. We can’t take much from their loss to Miami, but Deshaun Watson still hasn’t looked right for the Texans after coming back from his torn ACL.

Minnesota (NL) over GREEN BAY

We can talk about how amazing Aaron Rodgers is until the cows come home, but he doesn’t play defence and that’s the issue we have for the Pack. The Vikings are an all-around great team and we can even see them winning in Lambeau.

NEW ORLEANS -9 over Cleveland

The Saints can’t possibly lose twice in two weeks as huge favourites, right? We wouldn’t bet on it. And we don’t think that the Browns are going to somehow stick around with the turnover problems they showed in the opener at home.

Carolina +5.5 over ATLANTA

The Falcons lost two of their best defenders in the opener, which is the dealbreaker for us in this one. The Panthers defence wasn’t really tested by Dallas, but as long as Luke Kuechly is out there, it’s one of the better units in the NFL.

WASHINGTON -6 over Indianapolis

Andrew Luck is certainly capable of a backdoor cover, but what if Washington is a continue sleeper contender with Alex Smith leading the way? The Colts defence could be exploited by a mind like Jay Gruden’s.

Philadelphia -3 over TAMPA BAY

The Bucs are a perfect case of not overrating a team from their Week 1 performance. We don’t see them running wild against a much better defence – even if they’re at home. Nick Foles continues to be a worry, but we like the overall package Philly brings.

Kansas City +4 over PITTSBURGH

We’re not discounting the Steelers because of that tie in Cleveland, but we’re not sure why they’re giving more than a field goal. Although the line seems a bit fishy, we’ll take a Chiefs team that usually starts the season out really strong.

NEW YORK JETS -3 over Miami

This one was really tough to pick. It’s hard to take anything from Miami’s weather-wreaked win, while the Jets impressed against a team that we just don’t think will be very good. If we’re going by what we figured pre-season, the Jets get the edge here.

BUFFALO +7.5 over L.A. Chargers

We’re not expecting the Bills to win this one, but they have a number of things in their favour. Josh Allen can’t possibly be worse than Nathan Peterman, Joey Bosa is out, plus it’s an early start and a long flight for the Chargers.

Detroit +6 over SAN FRANCISCO

Matt Stafford isn’t going to throw four picks again and the Niners might be without their top receiver. Both teams need to bounce back and won’t take this one lightly. It should be close.

L.A. RAMS -13 over Arizona

It’s hard to lay nearly two touchdowns in a division showdown, but when you have perhaps the best team in the NFC taking on the worst, it’s a bit easier.

Oakland +6 over DENVER

Is Derek Carr better than Case Keenum? It might actually be closer than you think, but Jon Gruden’s guys looked OK before falling apart in the opener and the Raiders’ line might actually have a chance against Von Miller and Co.

New England -1.5 over JACKSONVILLE

We could be looking at real defensive struggle in this one. The big difference is that the Pats have Gronk, who can beat almost anybody out there.

New York Giants +3 over DALLAS

We’ll have to see something, anything, out of the Cowboys offence before giving points with them. The Giants also have a history of winning in Dallas.

CHICAGO -3 over Seattle

The Seahawks are on the road again and this week we should see even more of Khalil Mack wreaking havoc for the Bears.

Last week: 10-5-1

This season: 10-5-1

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