Category Archives: NFL

Looking Passed Alex Smith

When people hear the name “Alex Smith,” there are usually two reactions: “game manager” and “meh.”   He is not the NFL quarterback who scares fans of opposing teams and when fans rank the top starting quarterbacks in the league, names like Stafford and (Eli) Manning come before his. . . and that’s just ridiculous.

Smith’s journey started at the University of Utah, while being coached by Urban Meyer – he put up impressive numbers after starting just two seasons: 66% completion percentage, 48 TDs, 8 Ints, 1072 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.   Those numbers make it obvious why he was taken first overall in the 2005 draft by the 49ers. . . at least at the time it was obvious.  Who knew that 23 picks later the Green Bay Packers would snatch up Aaron Rodgers?

For the rest of their careers, Smith and Rodgers have been linked and it’s not in the most complimentary of ways.  Football pundits scoff at the Niners – in hindsight – saying that the 49ers passed up on an all-time great and for who?  Alex Smith.

Never does anyone say “What if Aaron Rodgers got drafted by the 49ers?  Would he still be the Aaron Rodgers we all know now?”  The answer is: “Probably not.”  You see, Alex Smith was thrown into the fire – literally.  He was expected to pull off miracles with a below average roster, a clueless front office and had to deal with this stellar list of head coaches: Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary and Jim Tomisula.   Aaron Rodgers?  He got to sit behind a hall of fame quarterback for three years and when his time came to start, he was the face of a franchise that is one of the best run in the league, with a mastermind of an offensive head coach in Mike McCarthy.

Fate was made so that Alex Smith would have to struggle.

As we all know, it wasn’t until Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the 49ers that we finally saw  a coach build an offense around Smith’s strengths and we finally got to see what he could do. Nobody is saying that it was the most ridiculous season a quarterback could have, but what it did was give Smith back his confidence.  Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and became the NFL textbook definition of what a “game-manager” is.  Then something weird happened.  The phrase “game-manager” had been around for  awhile, but now that it was tied in with Alex Smith – it now gained a negative aura about it.   Being a quarterback who moved the chains and didn’t turn the ball over became seen as “meh.”

Fast forward and we come to Alex Smith getting injured and losing his starting job to the young quarterback with promise Colin Kaepernick.  After nine games, Smith threw for 13 touchdowns with 5 interceptions at 70% completion rate – but after seeing  how electric of a player Kaepernick was at the time – there was no going back.

Smith now found himself in Kansas City with Andy Reid.  For five years in Kansas City, Smith showed the best version of himself.  Smith threw for 102 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and posted an average of about 3400 yards a year.  Reid was not only able to use Smith’s accuracy (finished the five years with a completion percentage of 65%) he also made good use of his legs which opened up the Kansas City offense.  With Kansas City, Smith became a three time pro-bowler and had the highest passer rating in 2017 with a digit of 104.7.  What did all of that get him?  Traded at the end of 2017, to once again – make way for another young quarterback.

Fate now finds Alex Smith, who is now 33 years of age and will be 34 by the season opener, with a pretty good offensive coach in Jay Gruden, but with a team in the Redskins who are very. . . “meh.”  Washington is where Alex Smith’s career may very well end and although this franchise has historically been one to make questionable decisions on both sides of the roster and has an owner who sometimes gives the impression that he lives in another world – SOMEHOW – it will fall on what Alex Smith “failed to do.”  At this point, Alex Smith has heard it all – “draft bust” – “game manager” and now “passed his prime.”  A good chunk of Smith’s career hurt him and it’s due to nothing else but bad luck and situations that he could not control.

Would he be an all-time great if he had a better situation?  Nobody is saying that.  Smith definitely has his limitations. He just deserved better is all.

Beating Vegas: Super Bowl Prop Bets

The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sports event of the calendar year.  It is also the biggest gambling day of the year.  The folks at Vegas are taking tickets for just about any kind of action they can this Sunday, and for good reason.  This is the day that the hardcore gamblers look at as “their last chance to win big this year” and for the people who don’t normally place a wager on action – they feel they “must” for the Super Bowl.  Besides the general lines and prop bets, the Super Bowl goes nutty with prop bets as Vegas tries to suck your wallet dry – at least one last time.  Lucky for you, your pocket has looked pretty good this football year, if you’ve been following the Beating Vegas articles and podcast.  Let’s continue that trend with the final, Beating Vegas article of this football season, by looking into these ridiculous prop bets.

Will a roughing the passer penalty be called in the game?

Yes EVEN (1/1)
No -130 (10/13)

This is an easy one.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows that this game is just too big for Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, or at least he hopes.  Foles will not be given the privilege of seeing line backers drop into a zone coverage in the early going, as Belichick will be looking to get him shook up early – and often.  This increases the chances of a roughing the passer penalty getting called on the Patriots, who aren’t the best pass-rushing defense out there and might get over-zealous.  On the flip side of things, the Eagles are a good pass rushing team, and Tom Brady is arguably the most hated offensive player of all time if you ask any defensive player for the last 15 years.  Due to this fact, referees are quicker to throw a “roughing the passer” penalty in favor of Brady to keep defenses in check.

The Pick: “Yes” at Even money

Total rushing yards – Jay Ajayi (PHI)

Over/Under 62½

Remember how Jay Ajayi was traded from the Dolphins to the Eagles mid-season?  Yeah, that’s because he’s not that good.   Ajayi had a fluke of a season last year and has had attitude problems and problems adjusting to defenses for most of this season.  He’s gone over the 62.5 rushing yard mark seven times this season.  He’s also going to be splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount how is averaging 4.4 yards a carry to Ajayi’s 4.1 and although lately Ajayi has been getting more carries than Blount, expect the former Patriot to get some action against his former team being he’s the veteran with playoff and veteran experience. The Patriots rush defense is pretty good, and will be focused on having more men in the box anyway against Nick Foles.

The Pick: Under 62.5 Rushing Yards

Will there be a score in the final two minutes of the first half?

Yes -300 (1/3)
No +240 (12/5)

Doug Pederson hurried and got the Eagles into field goal range before the first half ended, already up 21-7 against the Vikings, to hit a field goal with no time left – giving them a 24-7 lead at the half.  This showed Pederson’s willingness to “kick” an opponent when he’s down and it also showed that Pederson believe’s that “anything can happen” and if you can score points, you score the points.  Belichick has more trust in Tom Brady to get points before the half than probably any coach ever.  Belichick is also (for lack of better words) a “dick” to some degree and will look to put it in the endzone (or uprights) whenever he can and as many times as he can.

The Pick: Yes -300

 Will “nipplegate” be said during broadcast?

Yes +500 (5/1)
No -900 (1/9)
**Note: From kickoff until final whistle, halftime does not count.

Absolutely not, unless people want to get fired on-air during the biggest televised sporting event of the year. . .

The Pick: No -900

Will Justin Timberlake cover a Prince song during halftime?

Yes -120 (5/6)
No -120 (5/6)

Here’s a little fact on Justin Timberlake that people either don’t know, or refuse to believe.  He’s kind of a jerk.  Timberlake is all about him and what he can do to further his agenda.  He has a new album coming out in mid-February and he will be most likely performing the two (god-awful) songs he’s released and pepper in a lot of the this that we all know and love him for.  Prince has been an inspiration to many artists like Justin Timberlake, and I would not doubt for one second that Timberlake is a huge fan of Prince, but Prince-Estate is apparently holding any and any rights to the late-Prince’s likeness and won’t let that go down.  Also, the death of Prince has had some time to settle in and won’t be as big of an emotional impact that J.T. would be looking for.

The Pick: No -120

 

Super Bowl MVP

Dion Lewis +1000 or Rob Gronkowski +1000

At +1000 these are both good bets because Gronkowski is the ultimate x-factor when he’s in the game and Dion Lewis has been great since he’s come back into form.  Of course the popular vote here usually sides with Tom Brady (who is at -175) but what’s the fun in that?

The Game Itself

New England Patriots -4 versus Philadelphia Eagles

I pick the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl every year because – why not?  The Eagles impressed me this year.  Even after I read and listened to people hyping them up before the season started, I saw them as a .500 team.  I was dead wrong.  Underestimating Carson Wentz was the lamest thing I did all year and seeing him go down was probably the worst thing that happened to the Eagles and the league this year, as many – including myself – thought he could be league MVP in just his second season.  Coach Doug Pederson has kept it all together though and now has Nick Foles at quarterback.  Foles was once thought to be the future of Philadelphia football not-to-long ago and now he has the chance to make history for the franchise. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be going up against a true dynasty in the New England Patriots.  The Patriots were actually a five point favorite, until some Vegas big shots laid down $700,00 on Eagles money line and a nice million on the Eagles with the points.  Now the Pats sit at about 4 point favorites at most spots.  For either sentimental value of the Eagles maybe winning a championship or pure hatred towards the Patriots the public is going with the sharps and laying it all on the Eagles.  Looking at the Eagles without Wentz you see a shoot-out victory against the pitiful Giants, a lackluster win over a bad Oakland team, a gross 6-0 win against Dallas and two playoff wins where they looked like two totally different teams.  In this case, the public just wants to see Belichick and Brady lose but as mentioned before, if Belichick has two weeks to game plan against a back-up quarterback – how can you go against the hood?

Four points, may not be what I’d want – buy the whole point and at least take it down to a 3 to be safe.

Final Score should read Patriots 23 Eagles 18, in something of a grind.

As always good luck and wager wisely!

 

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Tom Brady, Earning His Seat

A weird thing happened on January 21st 2018.  Did you happen to witness it?  There isn’t really a word for what happened on the Gridiron that day.  The New England Patriots were home favorites against a Jacksonville Jaguars team, that was young, cocky and talented.   We all saw what happened on the field, there is no need to get into the details of how the New England Patriots came from behind in the fourth quarter to pull off the victory against – for all things considered – the best defense in the NFL today.  We won’t go into those details because that is not the topic of discussion at hand.  For there are levels to this game of football.

There is the beginning, where young men delve into this rugged sport.  Some from the start know they aren’t cut out for it, but those that feel they are, endure the pain, the disappointment, the glory – all of it – that may or may not lie ahead. . .  then after they’ve gone through what they think is the hard part – they realize that there is a a shot at being a legend.  They realize there are moments that are immortalized in this sport, and they want to partake in one of those moments.  For others though, they strive for greatness, they strive for that bronze-busts which cements them forever in the Hall of Fame. Then there is a final level of football.  This is more a realm than a level, actually.  Very few people get to garner this respect and most do not even think about getting to this level because the bar is so high, some men have contracted vertigo even imagining themselves up on such a perch.  That level – this realm – is that of the Football Gods.

Brown, Payton, Unitas, Taylor, Munoz, Hannah, Rice. . . there are maybe ten names which fill out this realm.  Some have clouded vision when declaring who these gods really are – but if one is to be honest with themselves, these names are the sure fire ones that fit “the gold standard.”

Not many realized what happened on January 21st 2018.  If you blinked, you may have missed it.

With about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, the skies opened up.  Clouds separated among themselves, as if scurrying away from the light which would soon push through the marvelous and great blue which caresses the Earth, like wings, carrying it through the cosmos.  There was a loud noise, which pushed against the winds of fortune.  It was more like a dragging sound, if one is to tell this tale correctly. . . the sound of a chair’s legs, brushing along the floor.  A seat was being pulled out and then it happened – Tom Brady passed the football to Danny Amendola down the middle of the red-zone and scored a touchdown.

The Football Gods, looked to each other – now certain that their debating among themselves was all for not.  Unitas looks to Hannah and smirks.  Brown’s hand still at the back of the chair with a look on his face that says “I’m not standing here all day.”

A light shone upon the red-zone about six minutes later and with a wave of his finger, Rice makes sure that both of Amendola’s feet stay in bounds as Brady delivers a thing of beauty to him at the back of the end-zone.  Sealing the come from behind victory.

All of who become Football Gods deliver more pain and anguish to the on-lookers than they do joy to their followers – to be hated only feeds the hunger of the Gods.  Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. lives off of that hate like no other of the Football Gods.  Brady laughs at the hate.  Brady mocks the hate.  He sits at his dinner table, sees the hate in front of him, sprinkles animosity on top for flavor and washes it all down with a twenty ounce glass of water infused with electrolytes.  He has eaten this hate for over 10 years.

The Football Gods have noticed.  They even tried tripping him up.  They threw the obstacle of the New York Giants at him twice – only to watch him fail – consume more hate – and climb back on top of that mountain called Greatness (which now is looking to physically plant itself in Foxborough, Massachusetts just so the walk up and down the hill is a little easier for the man who is now forty years of age.)

The Football Gods thought they had him when they threw the best defense they could put together in years with the Seattle Seahawks – only to see him raise the trophy.  Then they pitted him up against a ‘hopefully newer’ and younger version of himself – who was surrounded by more talent than him in Matt Ryan — only to see Brady lead the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Brown has taken a seat next to the one he pulled out, as Payton tells him “it’s not over, yet.”

Brady, in two weeks will get his chance at yet another Super Bowl victory.  Win or lose though, his seat will be waiting for him.  He will be sitting at the same table with the Football Gods by the end of this season.

Deservedly so.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Beginning of the End

It’s that time of the year where the college football season ends and the NFL season is coming close to it’s own end.  For some who’s teams had a horrible season, or for those who chose to ignore the advice from “Beating Vegas” you’re glad the season has come to and end.  For those on the other side of the spectrum though . . .

Buffalo Bills +9 at Jacksonville Jaguars; Points Total: 39

I found myself cheering for the Buffalo Bills to get into the playoffs last weekend.  I remember when I was a kid, how amazing those teams were with Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly – albeit they never won a Super Bowl together. . .and the last time the Bill were in the playoffs – Doug Flutie was their starting quarterback (easy to see why they came up empty with a Super Bowl championship in that effort).   Now the Bills, after a quarterback controversy and fans of the NFL not knowing what to quite make of them – are in the NFL playoffs.  They find themselves up against a team that is foreign to the playoffs as well – the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It’s been a 10 year drought for the Jaguars and this year they have the NFL’s number one ranked defense.  If it’s true that defense wins championships, the Jaguars should have it made – but we all know it’s never that easy.  The Jaguars have been steadily forcing a rushing attack on offense, led by rookie running back  Leonard Fournette.  Fournette has seen most defenses stack the box against him this year, so his rushing average of 3.9 yards a carry and his total rushing yards of 1040 may not blow people away, but if he’s anything – he’s reliable.  The pressure is all on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.  His 21 touchdown passes are easily forgotten by the fact he’s had 13 interceptions and 3 lost fumbles on the year.  Bortles just never has amounted to the hype he had when he came out of college in 2014.  He should have some decent looks when going against a secondary that has allowed quarterbacks to complete 65% of their passes.  Buffalo as an offense though only has more total yardage than three other teams in the league (Bears, Colts and Bengals).  This is another team who’s offensive focus is the run, and their leading rusher LeSean McCoy averages just at 4 yards a carry – and is a game time decision as of now (January 2nd).  The Bills do not have the receiving talent to challenge the best secondary in the league, so this one should be a tough go for Tyrod Taylor and the Bills.  Expect the Jags to win this game, but don’t expect a lot of fireworks.

The Pick: The Under at 39

Tennessee Titans +9 at Kansas City Chiefs; Points Total: 45

It happens every year.  One team does it, every year.  One team slips into the playoffs and nobody has a clue as to “why.”  This year, that team is the Tennessee Titans.  The Kansas City Chiefs on the other hand started the season looking like the best team in football. . .and then they looked like a totally different squad who could miss the playoffs.  As fate would have it though, the Chiefs finished off the season with four wins in a row, and seem to resemble more of what we saw earlier in the season.  Kansas City’s pass defense should have a walk in the park, considering they hold the opposition to a 57% completion percentage (second best in the league) and are going up against Marcus Mariota who is one of the worst road-quarterbacks in the NFL.  Forget about “the road” though, Mariota has been flat out bad for the better part of the 2017 season. The Titans are relying on a rushing attack led by Derrick Henry, and his success will be determined by how much of a threat Mariota is – the problem is – he won’t be.  There is no reason to believe Mariota will revive any of his Oregon Duck majestics to come away with a win here.  The only thing about laying down this many points with the Chiefs is that Andy Reid forgets how to coach once he gets to the playoffs.  Kansas City is 6-2 at home and they are going up against a quarterback who has a rating of 69.1 on the road with five touchdowns and eleven interceptions.

The Pick:  The Under at 45 points and the Chiefs -9

The College Football National Championship:

Alabama Crimson Tide -4 versus Georgia Bulldogs; Points Total: 45

We had another successful year in college football here at Beating Vegas, and this game is being spoken of here, just because it must be.  This is in no way a “lock” but just a “lean” at the moment.  For all the talk of the Big 10 or ACC being the best division in College Football – the SEC seems to stand above all conferences again.   Offensively they both want to run it down the opposition’s throats and defensively, they are just suffocating offenses.  This time around it’s Nick Saban going up against Kirby Smart, a former Saban assistant.  Both know each other well and one can expect this one to be an old school grudge match.  The issue here in this grudge match is that, although both programs perform and are run similarly – Bama is just a little better as a run defense and a little less prone to turning over the ball.  It’s those slight differences that can prove to do Georgia’s undoing.   The world may be in love with Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm but typically the non-mobile quarterbacks with average arm strength don’t fare well against Saban’s defensive schemes.  Expect Saban to stack the box and challenge Fromm, who will have to see his wideouts matched up against some of the toughest secondary players in the nation.  Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts isn’t the most prolific passer in the nation, but he knows all he has to do is NOT turn the ball over as his 15 touchdowns and 1 interception on the season prove.  Hurts is part of a three headed monster that runs the ball, along with running backs Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris.  This Bama defense holds opponents to less than three yards a carry but Georgia’s running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel average 6.2 and 7.2 yards per carry, respectively.  Much like the Jaguars / Bills game we mentioned earlier, expect this one to be a smash mouth low scoring game but in the end, the student does NOT surpass the teacher.

The Pick: Alabama -4

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

Week Seventeen of the NFL season is the trickiest of all when it comes to getting an edge against the spread.  For some teams it’s “win and you’re in” while others need help from other teams so they can get into the playoff dance.

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, this is a very predictable start for this week’s Beating Vegas.  The Steelers need to win in order to secure home field advantage but they also need the New England Patriots to lose their game against the Jets.  The last time the Steelers played the Browns,  it was week one and the Steelers squeaked by 21-18.  This loss was looked upon as a positive for the Cleveland Browns, who hung in there and made things difficult for Pittsburgh, but that premature optimism was proven to be idiotic because they are currently on a 15 game losing streak (just in case you didn’t figure it out, that means they haven’t won a game all season long).  Cleveland is in the pitts (burgh? eh. . .) and now many on this team are just auditioning to keep their jobs on the team or trying to play themselves off of it. . .  Cleveland’s one positive all year has been their rush defense but in the last two weeks, they’ve let up 4 yards per rush against Melvin Gordon and then 5.4 yards a carry against Baltimore’s Alex Collins.  Steelers running back LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards rushing the last time he went up against Cleveland and will be looking to make his mark this week.  Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seems to get worse every week – while hovering at the 50% completion mark with only 9 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top 10 this year and will have no problem confusing  “Disheveled Kizer.”  Pittsburgh is also top ten in rushing yards allowed in the NFL so this shouldn’t be a repeat performance of week one.

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

This game is interesting because two other games that directly affect the Falcons and the Panthers playoff hopes are being played at the same time.  Here is the breakdown for the NFC South:

  • New Orleans wins the NFC South if they beat the Bucs or if the Panthers lose
  • The Panthers win the NFC South if they beat the Falcons AND the Saints lose
  • The Falcons get a wildcard berth if they win OR if the Seahawks (who also play at 4:30) lose.

Keeping all this in mind, the public is going to jump all over the Panthers getting points against a team that since last year’s Super Bowl has been a punchline. . . The Falcons offense, has indeed taken a step back – but remember the numbers they were putting up – it was video-game-like.  Matt Ryan is still completing passes at 65%, Julio Jones has over 1300 receiving yards and the Falcons possess the second best running back duo in the league with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman (behind the Saints).   If Coleman’s concussion symptoms linger – Freeman has proven before he can carry the load for the whole four quarters. . . the Panthers defense is what generally keeps them competitive, but they are allowing 4.1 yards a rush and let opponents throw against them for a completion percentage of 64%.  Atlanta is pretty much right there defensively with Carolina – but nobody really talks about that. . . out of these two teams, Carolina is definitely the one you don’t want to play in the playoffs because their style of play can travel well; but in this scenario the Falcons at home are the play.  Don’t be cheap though – buy the whole point and give yourself the -3, even maybe buy a point and a half.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens it’s pretty simple – win and you’re in.  It seems almost too simple.  You beat the Bengals and you’re in though, and the Bengals at 6-9 have nothing going for them. . .nothing except playing the role of spoiler to the Ravens.  The last time these teams played was on week one were the Ravens shut out the Bengals 20-0.  The Ravens went on to shut out two more teams this year (the Dolphins and the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, big whoop) and pretty much lucked in with second year running back Alex Collins who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  Joe Flacco is the most underwhelming “franchise quarterback” in the NFL, and it’s been that way for about four or five years.  Sure he completes 65% of his passes, but he only averages about 6 yards a pass.  Cincy might be without running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this week, but believe it or not, there is so much talent on both sides of the ball, it shouldn’t make a difference.  Yes, I said it, there is actual talent here.  The results don’t show it and that is why this is head coach Marvin Lewis’ last year.  Expect the leaders on this team – quarterback Andy Dalton and wide-out AJ Green to expect their teammates to send their coach out with a win, against their division rival.  This is a team with nothing to lose, getting almost ten points and in a position to play spoiler against a division rival.  Who wouldn’t love the odds here!?

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

 

 

Beating Vegas: Vikings of the North

Minnesota Vikings -8.5 at Green Bay Packers

The Minnesota Vikings are positioning themselves for a deep and serious playoff run, while the division rival Packers , have pretty much packed it in for the season.  After last week’s jolt from reality that Aaron Rodgers returning from injury was not going to propel the Packers into a magical playoff run, they have now shut down Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season.  The Vikings are the most balanced team in the NFL on offense and defense it seems that both units are cohesive and working in harmony.  Quarterback Case Keenum has been quite the story for the Vikings though.  If people aren’t talking about him being mentioned in the MVP race, they are talking about how he could be the next “big contract quarterback” – because that’s just the climate of today’s game when speaking of starting QB’s.  A lot of his success is due to the underrated receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs who are averaging 14.3 and 13.7 yards per reception respectively.   That doesn’t bode well for a Green Bay secondary that is already allowing 11.4 yards per reception which puts them in the bottom half of the league.    Green Bay back up quarterback Brett Hundley will be facing one of the NFL’s best defensive units while not having the services of Davonte Adams the team’s reception leader.  With the Packers fans and players all knowing this season is a wrap, it’s going to be hard for them to get up for this game on the holiday weekend.

The Pick: Vikings -8.5

Los Angeles Rams -6.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Los Angeles Rams are tied for most points per game in the NFL with 31.3.  They bring that ridiculous average over to Tennessee against a Titans defense holding opponents to 22 points per game.  That’s not too shabby, but when you’re only averaging 21 points a game – things shouldn’t line up in your favor.  For reasons that go far beyond anyone’s comprehension though, the Titans have an 8-6 record and are in the playoff hunt.  The good news for the Titans is that they are playing at home this week.  That’s generally good news for anybody, but more so in the case of the Titan’s who’s starting quarterback Marcus Mariota, is pound-for-pound the worst road QB in football today.  The bad news for the Titans is that. . .Mariota hasn’t been that great across the board.  The former Heisman winner has 12 touchdowns against his 14 interceptions and has been sacked 23 times so far this year.  This Ram’s defense has been impressive against the pass this year holding the opposition to a completion percentage of 58% but against the run, they have shown at times to get worn down.  This is the type of game where Tennessee will have to rely on running back Derrick Henry to move the chains.  This Tennessee defense is pretty good, but this offense isn’t the type to be bottled up for four quarters – especially when considering the Titans offensive attack will be pretty predictable in the early going.

The Pick: Rams -6.5

Indianapolis Colts +14 at Baltimore Ravens (over/under 42)

Whenever the Colts are on television – I pass.  Whenever the Ravens are on television – I pass.  When the Colts play the Ravens, let’s be clear – nobody wins.  According to ESPN’s Total QBR Rankings, the Raven’s Joe Flacco stands at 26 with a QBR of 40.9; and the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett is 29th with a QBR of 38.9.   To make things a little more interesting – Joe Flacco is dead last in the NFL when it comes to yards-per-pass (5.8) and Jacoby Brissett is 30th in league completion percentage with 59.6.  Both teams rely on the running attack, where Baltimore’s Alex Collins is having a great year and averaging 4.9 yards a carry and Indy’s Frank Gore is averaging a sad 3.6.  Much like the previously mentioned Titans, one look at the Ravens’ record will make you scratch your head as they too have an 8-6 record.  This will be one of the worse games of the week – nay – the year.

The Pick: The Under at 42

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: So What If I’m Petty?

New York Jets +15.5 at New Orleans Saints

Yes, you read it right the Saints are a fifteen point favorite in a professional football game.  This is not a college spread, this is an actual professional match up.  It won’t look like one though, as the Jets are now forced to go with back up quarterback Bryce Petty, in place of the injured Josh McCown.  McCown was having a career year and was the main reason this Jets team has been able to compete week to week when many doubted they could.  What the Jets lose with McCown goes beyond the stat-line though.  He was building a rapport with the wide receiver talent around him (even making Robbie Anderson emerge as a true number one), made up for a lack of a running attack and was the calm, confident leader this team needed.  Bryce Petty’s short career numbers are: three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 54%.  The Saints pass defense is mediocre, allowing 60% completion percentage but can get to the quarterback (34 sacks) and against this offensive line, they’ll be bringing the heat.  The last time we saw the Saints, they lost in embarrassing fashion to the Falcons on National Television, now they get a mentally defeated Jets team without their leader and on their home turf.  Considering the Jets defense put absolutely zero pressure on the frantic and easily frazzled Trevor Siemian last week, I’m sure the veteran Drew Brees will be someone’s MVP in fantasy football this weekend.

The Pick: Saints -15.5

Tennessee Titans +2 at San Francisco 49ers

With all things considered, and when all the numbers and analytics are figured out – Marcus Mariota is the 34th best road-quarterback in the NFL.  Remember, there are only 32 teams so that means – well you get it. . . Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on the year and although this team is 8-5, word on the street is – they play like they’re 5-8.  This is a team that is in La-La-Land because they are three games over .500 and just don’t want to rock the boat.  Their only source of offense that teams should concern themselves with is running back Derrick Henry who is averaging five yards a carry and has really emerged as the go to guy in the backfield with Demarco Murray. The San Francisco 49ers rush defense is hard to figure out because they’ve allowed over 1500 rushing yards but they have an impressive 3.9 rush on average by the opposition.  Offensively, this offense have been pretty adequate all season long.  They are on a two game winning streak since putting in Jimmy Garoppolo at starting quarterback.  In his two games he’s posted a completion percentage of 67% and is grasping the offense more and more with each snap.  Garoppolo racked up wins against the Bears and the Texans, but the road gets tougher at home this week against the Titans, followed by the Jags and the Rams.  The 49ers fan base and organization as a whole have something to root for in a losing season as they all see the future in Garoppolo.

The Pick: San Fran -2

San Diego Chargers -1 at Kansas City Chiefs

Do people realize that the San Diego Chargers are on a four game winning streak?  Have people realized that if not for some bad kicking in their first two weeks, this is a team that could easily be 9-4 instead of 7-6 ?  The Chargers are right now looking to take control of their destiny as the final three games of their season are against a Kansas City Chiefs team that seems to have lost their identity, a  below average Jets team and a Raiders team that is just lost.   Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is well on his way to a 1000 yard season, and back up running back Austin Ekeler has been adding in a punch late this season with 5.5 yards a carry.  This backfield has helped give balance to this offense which is lead by quarterback Philip Rivers and his 3600 yards passing.  The last time these two teams played the Chiefs won 24-10, but this is back in week three when the Chiefs looked like the best team in the AFC, Alex Smith looked like the MVP and Kareem Hunt looked like the Rookie of the Year.  Times have changed and since they started out 5-0, they have limped since October 15th with two wins and six losses. The Chiefs control their destiny as well in this division, but you have to ride the hot hand in this situation.  Chargers are hitting their stride and the Chiefs are grasping at straws.

The Pick: Chargers -1

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Follow the Road

Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers

The Vikings are still top five in the NFL when it comes to total offense and total defense.  Quarterback Case Keenum has seen his popularity go from “he should be benched when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy” to “MVP candidate.”  Although the last claim may be a reach, the first one is definitely just words put together to make an incoherent sentence at this point.  Keenum is completing passes at a rate of 67.5% – his 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions show a competency at the quarterback position but doesn’t tell the whole story about just how affected he’s been under center.  The running backs Murray and McKinnon aren’t making defensive linemen lose sleep but they do help to maintain a balance to this offense which has helped the likes of Adam Thielen who has over 1000 receiving yards this season.  The Vikings defense is one of two who have not let opponents gain 1000 yards on the ground against them yet this season.  The Carolina Panthers though, are fifth in the NFL with 1533 yards aren’t going shy away from their offensive philosophy though. Although running back Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 531 rushing yards, it’s quarterback Cam Newton’s 515 yards at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry that is the real threat in the backfield.  Cam Newton lost his favorite target, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo via trade, but it seems that move has pushed the talents of Devin Funchess foward, which is what the Panthers franchise has been waiting for. The Vikings though are second in the NFL in touchdowns allowed by receivers with 12 and although this Vikings team hasn’t faced a quarterback like Cam Newton -who brings the package of “unpredictability” to the table – in the last three weeks they took care of Jared Goff and Matt Ryan pretty easily.

The Pick: Vikings -2.5

New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons

Keeping it in the NFC South, this Thursday night is a good one between the Falcons and the Saints.  The Falcons are 7-5 and in the next four weeks they must play the Saints, the Bucs, the Saints again and then the Panthers.  Getting back into the playoff picture won’t be an easy task for the reigning NFC Champs.  Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to finally have things on a roll for a few weeks but then hit a roadblock against Minnesota last week.  This week they play against a Saints defense that isn’t as good as the Vikings, but is miles ahead of what they were last year.  The Saints are holding quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 61% which isn’t too bad,  but Atlanta has been humming away at a 66% completion rate and have finally found ways to get the ball to stud wide out Julio Jones.  The story in this game will be about one thing:  which running back duo will outperform the other.  it is the Saints’ rookie Alvin Kamara (over 600 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards)  and Mark Ingram (over 900 rushing yards) versus the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman 589 rushing yards and Tevin Coleman with 561 rushing yards.  Now, by just looking at the numbers you can tell which tandem has caused more panic to defenses throughout the league but the Saints rush defense is allowing five yards a carry while the Falcons are allowing 4.4 yards a carry.  Watch the line on this game as it gets closer to game time, if the Falcons are getting three points before kickoff, take Matty Ice and the boys, but until then. . .

The Pick: Saints -1.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Both of these teams have very one dimensional offenses;  the Jaguars try do do any and everything in their power so that quarterback Blake Bortles won’t have to throw the ball, while the Seahawks offense is – Russell Wilson.  That’s not being cute either.  They struggle to run, have no real threat in the receiving game (calm down Doug Baldwin groupies. . .) and it seems that the majority of their big plays are never scripted – they are just Wilson creating while on the run.  The Jaguars will just run the ball, and run the ball and run the ball. . . rookie running back Leonard Fournette has carried the ball more than 200 times and is averaging 4 yards a carry.  This is a testament to his ability and the offensive line because defenses are stacking the box against Bortles every single week.  Last week the stout offensive attack of the Eagles was able to take advantage of the banged up Seahawks secondary but could not get anything done on the ground.  That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars.  The Jaguars defensively though, are one of the best units in the league and that is much due to pass defense that is as stingy as they come.  Nobody will get much done in this game.  Expect a score of 20-13.

The Pick: Under 40

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Sorry Chief

Kansas City Chiefs  +3.5 at New York Jets

The Kansas City Chiefs have lost four of their last six games and are currently in the midst of  a three-game losing streak.  This is the same Kansas City Chiefs team that started out the season 5-0 and had people thinking that Alex Smith was a legit contender for the MVP award this season. . . yeah, things have changed -drastically for the Chiefs.   This is an offense that is sputtering – not being able to hit the 20-point-mark in their last four games, and it’s not all on Alex Smith.  Running back Kareem Hunt started out the season looking like he would run away with rookie of the year honors, but in his last six games he has averaged just 3.15 yards a carry and has not topped the 100-yard-rushing mark in a game.  The pass defense, on paper, looks good only letting opponents complete – an NFL best – 55% of their passes – but they’ve been able to bolster that number going against offenses like the Giants, the Bills and the Broncos as of late. . . This week’s opponent, the New York Jets – have exceeded very, very, very low season expectations and the veteran quarterback Josh McCown is leading quite an impressive aerial attack.  Yes, the Jets are 4-7 but McCown is completing 67% of his passes and he has formed a great chemistry with the speedy wide-receiver Robby Anderson, who has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games. Wide-out Jermaine Kearse is on pace to having the best season of his career and is neck and neck with Anderson in receptions.  At this point the Jets just seem like the team that is playing harder and the Chiefs have lost their identity.  Add to the fact that this is the Chiefs second cross country visit to New York in the last three weeks and there are now rumors of Andy Reid having Alex Smith on a short leash, this points all the way to the Jets.  Watch the line even out by kickoff.

The Pick: Jets +3.5

Cleveland Browns +13.5 at San Diego Chargers

Cleveland has been broken down here at Beating Vegas, countless times already this season. . . good run defense / worst offense in the league. That pretty much sums them up. Fans are calling for another new regime, another quarterback to be taken in the first round and they are getting ready for another season to come to a merciful end. Deshone Kizer’s five touchdowns coupled with fourteen interceptions would get him benched in any other town – he has been benched actually – but he always comes back, because – why not? Running back Duke Johnson, was basically the only bright spot of this offense, but it seems Corey Coleman is almost back to his old self after returning to the field two weeks ago.  What people will be looking forward to seeing though is the return of troubled wide-out Josh Gordon.  The last time Gordon played meaningful football was in 2014.  . .  with no disrespect to Deshaun Watson – the Browns are playing a quarterback this week who is the consummate professional at his position – Philip Rivers.   Rivers has the Chargers actually thinking about the AFC West division and a playoff birth (yes, they are 5-6 and that pretty much puts them right in the mix) and with the supporting cast he has at his disposal, this could be one of the more damaging dissections of this Browns secondary that we’ve seen all year.  The Browns are allowing opponents to complete passes at a rate of 67% and as a defense are allowing quarterbacks to generate a 103 rating against them.  Regardless of who’s out there running routes for Cleveland, they still have the worse quarterback in the league under center, and he’ll be under pressure from two of the best pass rushers in the business in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Pick: Chargers -13.5

Pittsburgh Steelers -5 at Cincinnati Bengals

In the last ten meetings of this AFC North rivalry, the Cincinnati Bengals have only come away with two victories.  The Steelers pretty much own the Bengals and that’s not ground-breaking news to anyone even half-way-familiar with the Bengals.  The Bengals are pretty much one of the more underwhelming franchises of all time.  Even if they make the playoffs, you know they’re getting the boot in the first round. . . but.  . . there is something about a home underdog on Monday Night Football.   No, I’m not one of those superstitious-line-watchers who believe it’s a “lock” to take the home under dog on Monday Night Football, but this time around, it’s something to consider.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the “phoniest” 9-2 team you’ll ever see.  They play down to the level of their competition as if it’s their job.  This is proven by their three-point victories over the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, the Cleveland Browns (look above to see how awful they are) and the Colts.  Let us not forget that this Steelers team actually LOST to the lowly Chicago Bears as well.  This game will be determined by how early and hard the Bengals hit the Steelers.  Five points is a lot, and it seems like a line that is put there because of the “public” – more than football reasons.

The Pick: Bengals +5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Give Thanks, Make Money

Houston Texans +7 at Baltimore Ravens

We’re going to kick off this week’s NFL edition of Beating Vegas by telling you to ignore the the line of seven points and take a look at the points total number which is 38.  Nobody would blame you for not wanting to view this Monday Night Football match-up.  The Houston Texans without DeShawn Watson at quarterback are pretty unwatchable and the Ravens have the leagues second worse offense in the NFL.  The Ravens deserve some kind of award for having Joe Flacco under center for the last three years and acting as if he is something special.  Flacco is one of the most underwhelming quarterbacks in the NFL and it’s been that way for a while. . . Running back Alex Collins has been a welcomed surprise, averaging five yards a rush and being the teams one true source of consistency on offense. Collins will have a tough challenge going up against a Texans defense that holds runners to an average of 3.7 yards a rush.  Last week this defense held the Cardinals’ Adrian Peterson to 26 yards on fourteen carries. . . This Baltimore team though is hard to gauge; this defense has “pitched” three shut outs but also lost 44-17 to the Jags, 26-9 to the Steelers and actually figured out a way to lose to the Chicago Bears 27-24.  Baltimore will most likely win this game because they will be at home and the Texans are still putting Tom Savage out there to play quarterback. . . who is probably one of the three starting quarterbacks worse than Joe Flacco.

The Pick: The Under at 38

Minnesota Vikings -3 at Detroit Lions

Thanksgiving Day always gives us the Lions and the Cowboys.  The world always understands the Cowboys – but why – oh why, the Lions?  Why won’t the football gods let us enjoy our festive day filled with family and food by viewing a team that the world can at least pretend to care about?  The Lions are currently riding a three-game win streak and are at least beating the teams they are supposed to be beat during this streak.  The Lions do one thing, but at least they do it pretty well – pass the ball.  The receiving core (which was mentioned on Beating Vegas last week) is a dangerous one, that averages 12 yards a catch.  But being a one dimensional team against a defense like the Vikings is a recipe for disaster.  The Vikings are currently in the top five for total offense and total defense, but it’s their defense that has become their calling card.  Last week the Vikings defense put the clamps on the leagues number one offense, the L.A. Rams.  As much as people want to push quarterback Case Keenum out for Teddy Bridgewater; the Vikings can’t and more importantly – they shouldn’t.  Keenum has jelled well with his wide-outs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and is doing with a completion percentage of 65% and averaging over 240 passing yards a game.   Last time these two teams played, the Lions won 14-7 in a boring game in which it was evident, both teams were working out the “kinks.”  Minnesota by 10 is more than realistic.

The Pick: Vikings -3

Denver Broncos +5 at Oakland Raiders

The Raiders enter this week with a new defensive coordinator, John Pagano and the Broncos enter this week with a new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Obviously, this is proof that both organizations are disappointed with themselves, and they should be.  Last week we were all over the Patriots destroying the Raiders (your welcome) but this week they go up against an offense that is putrid.  The Raiders pass defense might get a break after getting scorched by Tom Brady last week, because Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler’s 53% completion percentage isn’t enough to scare even a pee-wee-football team’s secondary. (*DISCLAIMER: It was announced after this article was posted that the Broncos have benched Osweiler in favor of Paxton Lynch to start the game at quarterback.  This doesn’t change the line for me at all. . .)  For as much as we are told that this Broncos defense is one of the best in the NFL, they are on a six-game losing streak and in this mess, the secondary has been toyed with  – and because of the inefficiency of this offense – the defense is on the field a lot.  The Raiders were just embarrassed on national television and are looking to gain some kind of redemption.  This is a good week for a  defensive coordinator to start his new job, because it should be easy to prep against this Broncos offensive attack.

The Pick: Raiders -5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras