December 28, 2018

NFL PICKS: Bilicki’s Week 17 selections

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

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

BUFFALO -3.5 over Miami

The weather won’t be too bad for the Floridians, but the Bills repeatedly have shown good fight and should get some revenge for their last-second loss in Miami. The Fins are freshly eliminated and reports are that there will be plenty of change this off-season.

GREEN BAY -8 over Detroit

The reports about coach Matt Patricia are concerning, but he should be back next season – for better or worse. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should be able to put up some yards through the air while the Lions’ offence has looked toothless.

Jacksonville +6.5 over HOUSTON

The Texans may be bound for the playoffs, but this is a banged-up team and the Jags are playing for what little pride they have left. In spite of Blake Bortles making his probable final start for Jacksonville, getting nearly a TD seems a bit too much here.

New York Jets +13.5 over NEW ENGLAND

The Pats do need the win to clinch a bye, but shouldn’t need to go all out to get it. It’s very easy to see the Jets getting the backdoor cover here.

NEW ORLEANS -8 over Carolina

Even the Saints backups shouldn’t have trouble with the Panthers these days. Carolina has an undrafted rookie QB starting – their third-stringer – while New Orleans will be playing Teddy Bridgewater for most of the game. Neither side will risk much, but the Saints still have more talent.

NEW YORK GIANTS -6 over Dallas

Locked into the fourth seed, the Cowboys have nothing to play for and nothing to risk against the Giants. New York has little motivation either, but Saquon Barkley needs a huge day to up his stock in the rookie of the year race.

Atlanta +1 over Tampa Bay

The Bucs got a push in Dallas thanks to a garbage time score while the Falcons offence has kicked into gear far too late in the season. This should be a high-scoring affair and we think that Julio Jones caps off an underrated season in style against a team he usually dominates.

Cleveland +6 over BALTIMORE

Baker Mayfield is exactly the type of QB that would love to crash the Ravens’ party and potentially knock them out of the playoffs. Are the Ravens really that much better than what the Browns have become down the stretch? Can Mayfield and Co. get a little revenge against the team that used to call Cleveland home?

L.A. Chargers -6.5 over DENVER

Will the Broncos put up a fight for lameduck coach Vance Joseph? We wouldn’t bet on it. And losing Phillip Lindsay to a serious wrist injury really saps any joy you could potentially get from watching Denver’s offence. Chargers need a win and some help to get the top seed and should do their part.

Oakland +13.5 over KANSAS CITY

Since Kareem Hunt was cut loose, the Chiefs have not been the same juggernaut. Patrick Mahomes is still leading them to wins, but they’re no longer blowing out teams. The Raiders have shown some fight in recent weeks and could sneak in a backdoor cover here.

San Francisco +10 over L.A. RAMS

There’s a lot to like with this 49ers team, which has made a habit of getting better in December under Kyle Shanahan. The line is far too high for us to be spotting double-digits on the road against a decent opponent with a Rams team that will be relying on C.J. Anderson at RB once again.

MINNESOTA -4 over Chicago

This line opened at -6, so we’ll happily go against the tide and take the cut-rate price. The Bears could easily see the Rams leading at half time and decide to go out of the break with backups playing. We’re not excited about the Vikes’ record against winning teams, but this is a special circumstance.

PITTSBURGH -14.5 over Cincinnati

The Steelers are going to sneak into the playoffs. Or, at the very least, do their part by blowing out a Bengals team that gets thinner by the week.

SEATTLE -13.5 over Arizona

The Cards are another case of a weak team headed by a lameduck coach. It’s a big line a meaningless game, but Seattle should cover it.

Philadelphia -6.5 over WASHINGTON

Imagine if Josh Johnson keeps the defending champion Eagles out of the playoffs. Now that is a dream we don’t see coming true. Philly’s defence will need to step up against the run and Nick Foles should continue his heroics in this rivalry game.

Indianapolis -3 over TENNESSEE

Marcus Mariota or Blaine Gabbert, it likely won’t matter who starts for the Titans. The Colts are the superior team and should be bound for the playoffs in the final wildcard spot.

Last week: 9-6-1

This season: 111-116-9

December 21, 2018

NFL Week 16 picks

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

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

Washington +10 over TENNESSEE

All aboard the Josh Johnson train! Nothing would be more insane than a guy who hasn’t played for seven years somehow leading a team into the playoffs.

Baltimore +4.5 over L.A. CHARGERS

Now this a playoff preview, prime-time worthy matchup. The big fear is that the Chargers come down after last week’s emotional win over the Chiefs. The Ravens can make this game a grind and may come down to a field-goal margin.

Atlanta -3.5 over CAROLINA

The Cam Newton getting shutdown, the Cats are raising the white flag. While spotting points on the road with the Falcons is certainly dicey, can you really back Taylor Heinicke in a rivalry game?

CLEVELAND -9 over Cincinnati

The Browns are really setting us up to be disappointed in them next season. The amount of growth they’ve shown since Hue Jackson was fired has been fantastic. The Bengals, on the other hand, have gone in the opposite directions and should see a lot of change in the off-season.

Tampa Bay +7 over DALLAS

The Cowboys offence was exposed in Indy last week. While Dallas should bounce back at home, even during its five-game winning streak, it only once won by more than seven points.

Minnesota -5.5 over DETROIT

There isn’t much left to like with the Lions. The Vikings and Kirk Cousins’ reputation against teams with losing records works in their favour here and their gameplan of running the ball more does, too.

INDIANAPOLIS -9 over New York Giants

The line is a bit inflated after last week’s results, but you have to like the way that the Colts are playing right now. Saquon Barkley and the Giants won’t get shutout again, especially in a dome, but we don’t think they’ll be stopping Andrew Luck, either.

MIAMI -4 over Jacksonville

Is there something we’re missing here? The Dolphins are by no means a great team and their .500 record is questionable, but aren’t they a bit better than this line? Taking out home-field, this line says Miami is one point better than a Jags team that has seemingly given up. We’ll take the hosts.

Buffalo +13 over NEW ENGLAND

What, you think we would pick that bum Tom Brady over the legend that is Josh Allen? But, for real, the Pats certainly won’t lose a third straight game, but covering by two TDs against a very game Bills team night be a bit much.

NEW YORK JETS +3 over Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers will play, but it’s the rest of the Packers were not sure about. The Jets gave the game away last week against Houston and could easily fare better against the struggling Packers.

PHILADELPHIA -2.5 over Houston

This a surprisingly good matchup for the Eagles despite the records. They can pressure the QB while the Texans’ O-line has trouble in protection. With Lamar Miler ailing, it remains to be seen how the running game will fare. The Eagles have given up close to 1,000 yards over the past two games, but we still like them here.

Los Angeles Rams -14 over ARIZONA

The Rams have not looked good the past two weeks, but this matchup should set them straight. The Cards were just blown out by the four-win Falcons. If the Rams struggle, there will be some serious worries for the playoffs.

Chicago -4 over SAN FRANCISCO

Nick Mullens. Do you think Nick Mullens can do what Aaron Rodgers couldn’t last week? We didn’t think so.

Pittsburgh +5.5 over NEW ORLEANS

The Saints return home after a tough little stretch on the road in which they haven’t looked all the way like contenders. This is a tough game to a homecoming for. The Steelers are coming off a win over the rival Pats and could get James Conner back. While we don’t disagree with the line, we’re still preferential to taking the points.

Kansas City -2.5 over SEATTLE

If Patrick Mahomes truly wants to be the MVP this season, this is a game he needs to win. The Seahawks’ success at home is well-documented, but they don’t have the same talent level as K.C.

Denver -2.5 over OAKLAND

The Broncos may be out of the playoff race now, but the Raiders get no benefit from winning here. After losing to the lowly Bengals, we don’t see Oakland putting up a big fight on Christmas Eve.

Last week: 6-10

This season: 102-110-8

December 19, 2018

Premier League’s move to DAZN a step into future

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Many moves are called game-changers these days, but this one could literally change how you watch your favourite team.

Starting next season, in order to get into your soccer zone, you’re going to have to get into DAZN.

According to a source close to DAZN’s business, the British-based streaming service has signed a three-year deal to be the exclusive broadcast partner with the English Premier League in Canada.

“DAZN will cement itself as the home of soccer in Canada with this latest deal,” the source said. “Champions League, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, MLS – among other leagues. Essentially all of the world’s best soccer has been brought to one platform.”

Bell Canada, owner of TSN, refused to comment on the report while the Premier League is not commenting about the TV rights deal at present since it has not been officially announced.

What the deal would do is take soccer off conventional television in Canada, which will certainly upset more than a few purists. It’s potentially a huge blow for TSN and Sportsnet, which have turned Premier League soccer into a staple of their weekend morning programming, including studio shows based around the games.

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But with the way that more and more people are cord-cutting these days, it’s not too shocking to see an entire league’s slate on a pure streaming platform – which has its own advantages.

The on-demand nature of the service also gives the option of which game you want to watch, instead of being tied to the network’s choice. As with any streaming service, you can also watch “any game, any place.”

Many will balk at what could be seen as an additional cost of DAZN’s subscription on top of your traditional sports channel package. But when you consider that you would currently need a Sportsnet World sub to watch 170 of the EPL’s 380 games this season, the cash outlay is actually even at $19.99 per month.

“This is the first time all of the world’s best soccer will be in one place in Canada,” the source said. “Once fans try out our service, they will see just how much programming and how essential the product is for any soccer enthusiast.”

And we wouldn’t cross our fingers about a deal being worked out with the networks, similar to what happened last year with the NFL.

“DAZN has no plans to sublicense games in Canada,” the source said. “DAZN will be the exclusive home of the Premier League in Canada. It is the only place you will see all the action following this season. All 380 games exclusively on DAZN.”

Technological worries are seemingly behind DAZN. It got off to a disastrous start when taking over NFL Sunday Ticket last year, with a bevy of issues leading the service to sublicense the package to Rogers and Bell. But this NFL season, complaints have been few and far between from subscribers.

Our biggest fear is what effect this deal will have on the league’s ability to grow. Moving games off of conventional TV to an on-demand format creates a barrier for entry, taking away the ability for those new to the game to be able to watch without first having a subscription. You would already have had to buy in to DAZN to watch the Premier League and its other content.

And to say that the older generation of soccer fans can be stubborn is an understatement. Will those of having been watching footie on the tube for decades make the switch – or even be able to?

It seems we’ll find out next August.

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