Beating Vegas: Entry Two

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week:  The Browns and Florida were the money makers last week.  Eagles hurt a lot of people (especially those who took them in Suicide Pools, yikes).   The Bills almost made a comeback but it was too little too late and Cal got lazy late in the game to let Texas come back.

BYU (+5.5) at Michigan

Michigan has notched two wins under their belt after losing their season opener to Utah 24-17.  The Wolverines are a one dimensional offense, led by the running attack of De’Veon Smith and Ty Issac.  The backs have combined for over 300 rushing yards this season.  The scouting reports have circulated though on quarterback Jake Rudock, who has five interceptions on the year – not a good look for someone being asked to manage the game.  The defense has looked good the last two weeks, but the inept offenses of Oklahoma State and UNLV can make anybody’s defense look above average.  BYU comes into this game with confidence and a lot of luck on their side.  The “luck” comes from win over Nebraska resulting from a “Hail Mary” touchdown pass and beating Boise State by scoring two touchdowns in the final minute.   They loss to number ten ranked UCLA last week by one point.  In that loss they made UCLA freshman-quarterback-phenom, Josh Rosen, look like a freshman, picking him off three times.  Rosen struggled mightily throughout the game, while BYU’s Tanner Mangum helped lead a balanced attack against an impressive UCLA defense.  Michigan is too one dimensional on offense and suspect on defense for BYU not to move the ball on them.

Take BYU +5.5

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Ohio University (+10.5) at Minnesota

The Ohio Bobcats are 3-0 to start the season and have won by double-digits in each game.  This week the Bobcats travel to Minnesota for their first real test of the season.  The Bobcats have had a surprisingly balanced offensive attack and that’s because of the depth at the skill positions this year.  The offense is averaging 33 points per game and the Minnesota Golden Gophers defense has allowed 17 points per game – nearly half of what the Ohio is used to seeing.  Minnesota struggled against a MAC opponent in Kent State last week, only winning 10-7 and won by three points to Colorado State.  Minnesota came into this season with some high expectations, even after a loss to TCU to open the season.  Many saw the fight in the Gophers to believe that this program is on its way up.  Minnesota’s defensive front will be a problem for Ohio’s offensive line and much like the Bobcats, they have a strong running attack.   The MAC Conference has been a thorn to the side of the Big 10 Conference in recent years and although Minnesota should pull off the victory, there is nothing that proves they will run away with it.  The Bobcats have a lot of size and athleticism, and that will keep them in this game.

Take Ohio +10.5

 

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USC (-5.5) at Arizona State

USC started out the season blowing out easy opponents and as soon as they faced an average Stanford squad – they lost by ten points.  That just isn’t a good look.  Understanding the rivalry and familiarity between USC and Stanford, one might be able to look passed this loss, BUT – in a year that Stanford is definitely on a down-year and USC supposedly climbing back to national prominance – this just isn’t a good look.   USC would be nothing without it’s fair share of drama in a season and coach Steve Sarkasian has definitely supplied that early in the year.  Arizona State may be in the same boat with USC if one looks at their 2-1 record.   They open the season getting handled by Texas A&M and then beat up on two powder-puff squads.  Both teams look questionable on defense but both seem to have offensive fire-power.  The over/under is set at 63, which seems about right, but in a game where points will be scored by both teams, take the home under-dog.  Although both have the same record and play in the same conference, the pressure is always more on USC.

Take Arizona State +5.5

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Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) at New York Jets

Chip Kelly’s “genius” is being put into question.  After all the crazy off-season moves, Kelly’s Eagles have an 0-2 record and this offense hasn’t hit it’s stride.  The signing of Demarco Murray has brought nothing to this offense, as he has struggled out of the gate (21 carries for 11 yards).  Murray is a north-south runner, but the Eagles insist on running sweeps out of the shotgun with him.  If Kelly is the “genius” we’ve all been led to believe that he is, he starts running Murray up the gut.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, this might not be the week to try that.  The Jets have a strong front seven and like to attack  frequently.  The Jets have big names on their defense and the one who gets overlooked is David Harris.  Harris is a sure-tackler, that cleans up the middle of the field well and can mirror backs with the best of them.  The Jets offense has been more efficient than flashy, but that’s all they’ve needed thus far.  Brandon Marshall is proving that when healthy he is still one of the hardest receivers to cover in the league, and Eagle’s corner back Byron Maxwell will have his hands full.  Maxwell has been picked on a lot in the first two weeks. . . The Jets have (personally) been the team to trust in covering the spread, but keep it in perspective.  If they do beat the Eagles – who have the Jets really played?  A Browns team that stinks, an over-rated Colts team and an over-hyped Eagles squad.  Not saying the Jets aren’t good but they will get hit with reality eventually. . . luckily for them, Chip Kelly and the Eagles do not live in reality.

Take the Jets -2.5

 

If You Must: Seahawks -14.5 – The Chicago Bears are without Jay Cutler and going into Seattle to play an 0-2 Seahawks team.  This is a Seahawks team that has been hearing for two weeks that things are tearing apart at the seams and that their run is over.  There is no better way to get back on track than getting a home win against a team starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. . . These are rough times for Bears fans.

College / NFL Football Tease of the Week: four gamer –  Patriots -1.5, Cowboys/Falcons Over 33, BYU +17.5, Wisconsin -12.5

Good Luck and wager wisely.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Entry One

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

College Football:

Cal -6.5 at Texas

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Going into Texas used to be a scary situation for visiting teams.  The only thing scary there now-a-days is the job security for people atthe university.  Texas has just fired their athletic director Steve Patterson, who’s reign of (not even) two years has been abysmal.  This happens a week after head coach Charlie Strong ripped away the play calling responsibilities from his offensive coordinator.  Charlie Strong is a good coach, but he needs a good four or five years to get things where the boosters want it.  With that being said, Cal has one of the better quarterbacks in the nation in Jared Goff.  Goff is a big quarterback with a strong arm and throws at a completion percentage of seventy-three.  Cal’s defense has held the offenses of Grambling State and San Diego State to scores of 14 and 7 respectively.  Those are both below average offenses and the Texas Longhorns are pretty much that – below average.  The Longhorns defense isn’t much better allowing 494 total yards per game.   Cal might start slow in the hostile environment, but not slow enough to win this game by at least 16 points.

Take Cal at -6.5

Florida -3 at Kentucky

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Some people think Kentucky will make strides this year to be a better team.  Getting off to a 2-0 start is a good look for the Wildcats, but considering the wins come against a team they should beat in Louisiana-Lafayette and a South Carolina Gamecocks team that is in a predictable “down” season, nobody should be planning a parade in Kentucky.  Kentucky’s success comes from running the ball behind Stanley “Boom” Johnson and Jojo Kemp – who average 10 and 7 yards a rush, respectively.  The yards on the ground won’t come as easy against this Florida defense though.  In playing against similar competition as Kentucky has (New Mexico and Eastern Carolina) – the Gators defense has allowed a little over a yard a carry.  Kentucky’s offensive line will get worn down by Florida’s strength and the speed on Florida’s offense will be too much for Kentucky to handle.   Florida sends Kentucky right back down to reality with a win here.

Take Florida -3

 

NFL

New England Patriots at the Buffalo Bills

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Currently this game is a “pick ’em” and that seems about right.    Rex Ryan has at his disposal a defense that has the potential to be as good as his early Jets’ defenses and even some of his vicious Ravens’ defenses.  When Rex was looking for a new job this off-season, I’m sure folks in New England thought they were rid of the perpetual “thorn in their side,” but it didn’t work out that way.   In his last four meetings against the Patriots he came away with a 30-27 over-time win and three loses – all of which were decided by 3, 2 and 1 point differentials.   Considering how bad the Jets were last year, that says something.  Besides the great defense he’s got this year, he has legit weapons on offense as well.  With all that being said, “the Patriots are the Patriots.”  You can never count them out, even with very questionable depth on the defensive side of the ball, Bill Belichick always seems to ‘scheme’ correctly.  It will be chess match, but this is one, where the Bills take the king with the rook.

Take the Bills.

Dallas Cowboys +5 at the Philadelphia Eagles

Both teams had odd week-ones.  It looked like the Cowboys were doing everything in their power to give the Giants opportunities to get the win; while the Eagles had all the momentum late in the game against Atlanta and didn’t continue to ride it.  At the end of it all, the Cowboys won in dazzling theatrical fashion and the Eagles shrugged their shoulders at losing to the Falcons.   Romo is without a doubt, one of the most under appreciated quarterbacks in NFL history and his “haters” are turned up after his Sunday Night Football performance.  The Eagles defense had no answer for Julio Jones on Monday night, but with Dez Bryant out of the game with a broken foot, that should calm down the likes of corner back Byron Maxwell.  In the second half of Monday night’s contest, Sam Bradford looked locked in and the Eagles offense looked as good as advertised.  The Eagles fans will resemble the likes of an ugly riot come game-time and this Cowboys defense at the end of the day, just does not have the talent to keep up with the weapons that will be coming at them at a rapid fire pace.

Take the Eagles -5

 

If you must: Browns +1 – Titans play a better defense and Haden will not look like fool two weeks in a row.  Vegas knows the average Joe, wants to believe Mariota can put up Oregon numbers in the pros.  Watch the struggles this week.

College Football Tease of the Week: Four Gamer;  Cal +5.5, UCLA -5, Arkansas +.5 and Florida +9

Good Luck and wager wisely.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

“Deeply Rooted” Album Review

2Pac.  Biggie.  Jay-Z.  Nas.  Scarface?

scarface

He should be included in that cast of hip hop legends but often times his name is omitted.  Scarface is a gangsta-rap pioneer who has been around since the late 1980’s and who’s persona became one of hip hop’s most defiant in the early 90’s.   “Face” has the coldest voice in the history of the musical genre and is one of the most respected lyricists to ever grace a microphone.  Yet, with all of this – he seems to be forgotten in barbershop arguments of “Who are the greatest MCs?”  Scarface returns to the scene with “Deeply Rooted,” in an attempt to further cement a legacy which has seemingly been taken for granted.

Scarface is a real life, true to  form, O.G.  He shares his stories not to glorify the life on the streets, but to scare others away from it’s harsh realities.  He opens up on “Rooted” with : “You win some, you lose some – life in a nutshell/ free all my n*gg@s on lock down, f*ck jail/ I’ve seen enough hell, I’m never gonna live there/tattooed tear drops, sitting in a wheel chair. . .”

Most of the album’s production is handled by N.O. Joe and on tracks like “F*ck You Too” and “All Bad” he lays down piano chords with enough darkness and soul, respectively – which help cater to the voice of Scarface perfectly.  On “F*ck You Too,” we find Scarface taking his time with his delivery.  Like a well thought out storyteller would, he keeps the flow at a cadence that keeps the listener at the edge of every bar: “We all wanna eat, gotta feed folks / took an oath on the streets called the G-Code / that’s what we live by, die for it / I got homies standin’ firm doin’ time for it.”  “All Bad” finds Scarface as a youth going to church and trying to justify in his young mind the allure of the streets.

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Scarface’s growth as an artist has been evident for years and maybe for the first time since his album “The Fix” he touches on his spirituality with ease.  Face has a way of never being “preachy” in his spirituality but he effortlessly invites his listeners to explore the depth of his vulnerabilities.  His paranoia is felt on “Steer” where Scarface seems to be in desperate need of a sane moment to take him away from his darkest thoughts: “Career still intact got my street cred/Went on with life thinking that the beef’s dead/ But every now and then I get flash backs/Get down on my knees and I ask that. . .Paranoid, got me running for my life now/ Homicide’s questioning my mama and my wife now/ Parking lot, full of cops, got the dogs out/Running, chest burning, out of breath/ About to fall out.”

He talks about the hell he raised as a teenager on “You” and how the stress he threw on his mother at the time will revisit him as a father now.  Then he goes into more detail about his mother on the emotional “Voices” which is produced by M. Mac and J. Baum.  The track has a steady bass kick supplied with a very melodic acoustic guitar – separating the sound on this track from most of the album.  Scarface talks about living life with his mother gone and even the toughest of mama’s boys will feel this one: “I still often drift when I drive / the tears that drip down on my cheeks, emotionless mirrors with eyes / starin’ me down / a view of this soul/ a heart of a woman that’s cold / my conscience is weak/ she makin’ me weep / the only love I ever known / has left me alone. . .”

Scarface tells of a relationship he’s struggling to keep together in “Keep It Moving,” and even goes back to his O.G. ways on “Dope Man Pushin'” but he reaches a peak on this album with “God.”

“God” is easily one of the best rap songs released this year (with or without airplay) and once again the O.G. Brad Jordan a.k.a Scarface  shares with his listener, his honesty.  He breaks down “God” in three verses.  The first being if he himself had a chance to be God for a day and what he would do “I would open up the gates let the world see my face/Remove all doubt from the ones without the faith. . . A safe place, for the young to come out if they wanna play/ and let their mamas know that they okay.”  On the second verse he tackles the scenario if God took off for a day : “More souls never rest/A killer walks the streets seekin flesh/ A adolescent hangs she depressed. . .A father kills his son look at life it’s a mess/ Just imagine what would happen if the lord up and left.”  Then in true Scarface fashion, he turns the whole story around and ask the listener what would they do if they found out their faith was a lie: “When all that you believed in was a lie/Are you willin’ to accept it when you find out/ Or try to reason with yourself that’s what it is when it’s not/ And all the whole while it’s been a plot.”

scarface-deeply-rooted

Sure there are questionable moves on this album like the unnecessary collaboration with Nas and Rick Ross on “Do What I Do” and “Anything” kind of drags on a little too long – but even then – it’s nitpicking.  “Deeply Rooted” is yet another well crafted release by Scarface which will most likely and unfortunately go under the “commercial” radar.

Rating 8.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Chicago Bears 2015 Preview

To call last year’s 5-11 finish “disappointing” would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year.  The Bears were supposed to have a high-flying, unique, high-scoring offense led by head coach Marc Trestman.  Instead, the Chicago faithful saw a coach that looked over-whelmed, a team that didn’t look interested in playing and a franchise that became an embarrassment to itself.  Ownership called for the heads of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery and replaced them with veteran coach John Fox and hired Ryan Pace, who is now the NFL’s youngest general manager.   It is up to Fox and Pace to rebuild a broken franchise and rebuild the trust between the team and it’s fans.

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A lot of people are surprised to see that Jay Cutler is still the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, but the truth is – his price tag is too much to move him or cut him.   Despite all the negativity spewed in Cutler’s direction he still managed to throw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns, while finishing with the best completion percentage of his career at 66%.   Cutler’s eighteen interceptions are a combination of carelessness, poor route running and usually playing from behind last season.  It’s been said before and it will be said again – this is Cutler’s “make it or break it” year.  The organization doesn’t seem to be one-hundred percent behind the gun-slinger QB, so it’s up to Cutler to cut down on his mistakes and surprise some folks.  He still has the arm strength and athletic ability at the quarterback position that many of the league’s so called “elite” do not.

Most see Matt Forte as a hardcore, do it all back.  It’s true – if we’re talking about fantasy football standards.  Forte finished with 1,038 yards rushing and an incredible 808 yards receiving last year but at 3.9 yard a rush, it’s apparent he isn’t the back he once was.  Forte, of late has been average at best as a pass blocker and his ability to break tackles has gotten worse over the years.  There is a lot of wear and tear on Forte so expect coach John Fox to use three backs often.  The new coaching staff seems to like sophomore back Ka’Deem Carey who is more of the bruiser back, while rookie Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State is the speedster back.  Langford ran a forty time of 4.4. and like Forte, doesn’t break many tackles, but unlike Forte – has youthful legs that haven’t been ran into the ground yet.

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The Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the NY Jets, which leaves a void in the Bears wide receiver depth chart.  Physically, Marshall provided a great blocking receiver and one of the more difficult wide outs to cover “one on one.”  Marshall’s attitude and “out spoken” nature made him dispensable to the Bears’ eyes so that leaves it up to Alshon Jeffrey to take over as the number one guy.  Jeffrey locates the ball in the air better than most, but his route running is still a question.  He has a ‘lazy’ approach to football, which will eventually land him in Fox’s doghouse; and without Brandon Marshall on the other side of Jeffrey, who knows how effective he’ll be all season long.  At the present time, it looks like the Bears will be without their first round draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White out of West Virginia.  White has everything it takes to be a top receiver in this league, but because of a shin injury, the Bears will be lucky to see him anytime after week seven (if at all).   Eddie Royal was acquired free agency and was dealing with a hip injury in the pre-season, the hope is, to rekindle the chemistry he had with Cutler back in their Denver Broncos days.  Tight End Martellus Bennett was amazing last year, but his off-season rumblings about the organization and some comments aimed directly at quarterback Jay Cutler show that he isn’t too happy with his current situation.  The Bears patience with Marquess Wilson may be running thin as he was battling a hamstring injury most of pre-season.

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The offensive line is a unit seemingly headed in the right direction but Jordan Mills needs to tighten up at right tackle.  Mills’ head just doesn’t seem to be in the game sometimes and gets beat out by quicker defensive ends pretty quickly.  Most Bears fans expect guard Kyle Long to be moved to tackle one day, but Long is arguably the best player on the roster, so there is no real reason to move him out of the guard position.  Long has two Pro Bowl appearances to match his two years he’s been in the league – there is no reason to doubt his ability to be a pro-bowler for the next 7-8 years.  The Bears drafted Oregon Duck Hroniss Grasu in the third-round of this year’s draft and although it appears he won’t be starting right away, the Bears love his quickness and awareness at the position, so if veteran Will Montgomery slips up, Grasu will be put in with no hesitation.  Jermon Bushrod has been a slight disappointment since his arrival to Chicago but is still a top-ten left tackle in the league.

Defensively the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 scheme, orchestrated by one of the more aggressive defensive coordinators in football Vic Fangio.  While with the 49ers, Fangio 3-4 attack was one of the best in the league, unfortunately for Fangio, he does not have anywhere near the talent on this Bears team as he did in San Fran.  The Bears acquired linebacker Mason Foster in March of 2015 and he did not even make the final 53 man roster in Chicago.  Surprisingly enough, veteran Jared Allen who is converting from defensive lineman to linebacker did as well as Willie Young who is recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered last season.  If Young is able to use his athleticism to his advantage he may be able to get back to racking up another ten sacks as he did last year.  Jon Bostic was the team leader with 127 tackles last season.  The Bears have a lot of depth at linebacker with Pernell McPhee and Lamaar Houston, who is looking to impress after a disappointing season last year.  For some reason Shea McClellin stays on this Bears roster. . .

Rookie Eddie Goldman will man the nose-tackle position in the Bears’ 3-4 attack.  He looks the role of a prototypical nose-tackle and was a good run-stopper while at Florida State.  Last year the Bears drafted Ego Ferguson in the second-round and it looks like they will move him from the tackle spot over to the defensive end spot.  Ferguson is a good athlete but there has to be patience with his learning curve at the position.

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With the departure of long-time Bear and fan-favorite Charles Tillman, the Bears went to free agency to find a veteran to help lead this secondary.  They found one in former New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle.  Rolle has lost a step and isn’t as effective as he once was, but the formal all-pro will bring a much needed voice into this Bears’ locker room.  Rolle’s patience will be tested as there is a lot of youth around him.  Opposite of Rolle is Brock Vereen who struggled a lot last year and if the sophomore struggles early the Bears will plug in former Penn State Lion Adrian Amos.  Amos is a good ball hawking safety but isn’t the best tackler at the position.  The wild card in this Bears secondary is second-year man Kyle Fuller.  In his rookie season Fuller quickly saw how things can turn in this league.  For the first half of the season he looked like a stud out there but then he quickly found himself out of position and even picked on by other teams.  Fuller has the support of the locker room and this organization still feels he can be a top corner in the league.

The Bears are in an up-hill battle.  With a new philosophy on both sides of the ball and new faces just about everywhere, the Bears will be learning as they go.  All eyes will be on Jay Cutler this season – but then again, they always are and it doesn’t seem to bother him either way.  The Bears start out the season in rough fashion against Green Bay, Arizona and then Seattle – things can get ugly quick in Chicago if they start out 0-3.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Kyle Long, Jay Cutler, Martellus Bennett

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio