Tag Archives: Cardinals

Beating Vegas: Are the Rams Good?

Green Bay Packers +2 at Dallas Cowboys

In what will be called the “marquee match-up” this Sunday, the Packers will go into Dallas.  The Cowboys are 2-2 and still have yet to be a “good” team.  The Packers standing at 3-1, may just be the brand of “good” that the Cowboys need to get a “W” against to prove to the world that they are still playoff contenders.  The public’s money is going HEAVY on the Green Bay Packers here and this is why: 1. The last time the world saw the Packers play was on national television, making short work of the lowly Chicago Bears; and 2. The Aaron Rodgers-Factor.  Rodgers is one of the most visable players in the NFL and if he is ever getting points, the public is quick to jump on it.  Why shouldn’t they?  I’ll tell you why.  The Cowboys pose the same threat to the Packers as the Falcons did a few weeks ago.  The Cowboys average rushing yards a game are right at what Green Bay allows (114 in comparison to 111) and as long as Prescott can complete intermediate passes against the zone coverage, which he does well, the Cowboys should have little resistance from the Pack.  Of course though, there is : the Aaron-Rodgers-Factor.  And although he is off to another impressive start to the season, the Packers offense is painfully one dimensional.  Go with the team at home, who people are doubting and have better balance on offense.

The Pick: Cowboys -2

 

Seattle Seahawks +1.5 at Los Angeles Rams

I honestly never thought I’d see the Rams be a favorite ever again.  I mean, it’s the Rams.  Remember they took that “bust” Jared Goff last year in the draft.  Yeah. . .about that.   Jared Goff has the third best Quarterback Rating in the league at 112.2 and has thrown 7 touchdowns with only one interception.  As a team, the Rams have the best offense in the league and are 3-1.   The Seattle Seahawks are still a “good” defensive team, and although being a “good” defensive team is usually a. . .”good” thing – it loses it’s value when not too long ago you were the “best” defense.  Things get really put into perspective when you factor in the Seahawks offensive game plan is pretty much “let Russell Wilson create.”  It seems that over-night the Rams have become a viable player in the NFL while the Seahawks have been slowly regressing.  This game is usually close anyway – just got to ride with the hot hand at the moment.

The Pick: Rams -1.5

 

Arizona Cardinals +6.5 at Philadelphia Eagles

Well look at what we got here.  One team I’m not too high on and the other is a team I basically told everyone to bet against for the whole season.  Listen here. . . Yes, the Arizona Cardinals are traveling to Philadelphia, and yes, the Cardinals are looking pathetic but we’re taking the Cardinals this week – why?  Because 70% of the public is taking the Eagles to win this game by a touchdown.  6.5 is a lot of points in the NFL and you still have to believe that Bruce Arians is one of the best coaches in the NFL.  The Cardinals have special teams talent and defensive talent to give the Eagles a headache this week.  The Eagles last two wins came against win-less teams and they won both games by the smallest of margins.  The Cardinals are desperate for a big win, they throw the ball a lot (2nd in the NFL in passing yards) and that is the weakness to the Philadelphia defense.

The Pick: Cardinals +6.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Will The Pats Start 0-2?

New England Patriots -6 at New Orleans Saints

Last week’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left Patriots fans feeling empty and it gave Vegas fat(ter) pockets.  Last week’s season opener was one of the biggest wins the wise-guys had on an opening day game.  The Patriots made losers out of anybody who took them straight up, second half, teasers, parlays etc. . . More so, the Patriots defense could not get their pass rush going and the offense seemed lack-luster.  Could this be the end of Tom Brady?  Most likely not.  Super Heroes go out as winners, usually.  Now, the public has to decide if the Pats reign over the NFL is coming to an end, or if the Pats will rectify this embarrassing loss.  The Saints on the other hand,  weren’t embarrassed by the Vikings last week, but they were definitely kept in check for all four quarters.  The Saints showed that their defense is still “bleh” and they also showed that the signing of running back Adrian Peterson is going to be a headache for most of the year.  Peterson is the least valuable back out of the three-man-rotation in the Saints backfield and that isn’t going to sit well with the future hall of famer.  Aside from that drama though, Drew Brees still completed 73% of his passes against a good pass rush, so just imagine what he’ll accomplish against this Patriots defense.  The Patriots are still winning the division, they can probably even win this game – but the Saints have the upper hand playing at home to avoid the 0-2 start.

The Pick: Saints +6

Minnesota Vikings +4.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Weren’t we just discussing the Vikings?  Yes, we were.  Quarterback Sam Bradford looked amazing carving up the Saints defense, and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, proved to be worth the first round pick running for 127 yards in his first game.  The Steelers opened as a 10 point favorite last week against AFC North doormat, the Cleveland Browns, but had to hold on tight for the entire ride to come out on top 21-18.  Really wasn’t an impressive win for the Steelers who people expect to have an almost unstoppable offense this year. Pats Pulpit on SB Nation wrote up a piece going in detail about how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a completely different player at home than he is on the road.  In the last three years he’s thrown 62 touchdowns at home compared to 24 on the road and has a quarterback rating of 109.5 compared to a traveling QB rate of 85.3.  This is another case of the public seeing Minnesota look great on national television and getting the points against a veteran team who struggled against the lowly Browns.  Don’t fall for the trap.

The Pick: Steelers -4.5

Arizona Cardinals -7 at the Indianapolis Colts

I’ve got issues with both of these teams.  First, the Colts. . . Chuck Pagano is the worst coach in the NFL.  And has been for years.  Why is he still the coach of the Colts?  Oh, because the Colts are one of the more poorly run franchises in the NFL.  They have failed to give Andrew Luck a competent coach or a decent team; and now it seems their medical staff may have failed Andrew Luck who is still sidelined.  Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien looked awful against the Rams last week and even if newly acquired Jacoby Brissett doesn’t know the playbook yet, he’s the better option.  Jacoby Brissett is a “Beating Vegas” favorite because he was the reason money was put on N.C. State when he was the one under center.  With that being said, the Colts are awful. . . And that leaves us with the Cardinals.  The most disappointing, under achieving team in the NFL.  Unlike the Colts’ Pagano, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is actually a great coach – but something just isn’t clicking on this team.  Where it needs to click the most is the quarterback position but folks, remember you heard it hear first (said it last year too) – Carson Palmer is done.  He has nothing behind his throws and reminds me of the Cap Rooney character Dennis Quaid played in the movie “Any Given Sunday.”  This will be one of the most toughest games to watch this year.

The Pick: The Under at 44

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: NFL Week 1

The “sharps” at Vegas play the NFL lines differently from the college lines.  A lot of what is determined is based off what the “public” leans towards.  Don’t fall for the “sucker-bets” and the “traps” – just beat, Vegas.

Arizona Cardinals -1.5 at Detroit Lions

Last season was a disappointing one for the Cardinals who finished 7-8-1 (yes and ONE).  Coach Bruce Arians is still regarded as one of the best in the NFL but his team as a whole just didn’t seem to max out their potential. In what may be a “make it or break it season” for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, opening weekend means a lot.  Detroit on the other hand, surprised the masses last season.  As well as over-achieved.  .  . They rewarded their quarterback Matthew Stafford with a five year $135 million contract.  It’s been brought to the light that Stafford has a record of 5-46 when playing against teams with a winning record, and although I’m not big on putting wins and losses on a QB, that stat is just mind blowing.  Lucky for him it’s the first game of the season and the Cardinals are 0-0.  Even then, the Lions (since dating back to 2006) have lost six straight to the Arizona Cardinals.  The public will jump on the Lions being a playoff team home dog to the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have weapons on offense, including the best player in the NFL, David Johnson and a healthy defense that can cause trouble for Detroit.

 

The Pick: Cardinals +1.5

Los Angeles Chargers +3 at Denver Broncos

Let’s just call it for what it is when it comes to the Broncos: Good defense that picks up the slack for an average vanilla offense.  John Elway really thought he could sway a QB to come here, or at least expect last year’s first round pick Paxton Lynch to step up and assume the starting position, but nope – we’re here once again to see another season of Trevor Siemian.  Not that Siemian is “terrible” – 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 3400 yards passing last year – but he won’t “wow” you either.  On the other side of the field, the Chargers have one of the more underappreciated starting quarterbacks in NFL history in Philip Rivers.  Rivers, was average at best in two games against the Broncos defense last year but running back Melvin Gordon was able to run for 111 and 94 yards in both games.  An added bonus for the Chargers this time around is that they have a healthy receiving core (minus rookie Mike Williams) which includes Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.  The Chargers defense is one of my “sleepers” this year and against this very limited and predictable offense, the Chargers win this one in a low scoring affair.

The Pick: Chargers +3

Oakland Raiders +1.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Raiders won five games last year by 5 or less points.  Sure that’s a result of good coaching and focus by the players – but lets not kid ourselves – you need a lot of LUCK for that to happen as well.   Quarterback Derek Carr is the leader of Raider Nation and he enters the home of a Titans defense that finished third worst against the pass last year letting up 7.2 yards an attempt.   One could easily say that number was that high because teams were forced to throw against a defense that was stingy against the run last year ( allowing 4 yards a rush).  The Raiders allowed 4.5 yards on the ground and even more yards per pass last year than the Titans at 7.9.  Bottom line is, the Raiders can’t get “lucky” with this bad play by their defense.  That line should actually be 6 or 7 in favor of the Titans.

The Pick: Titans -3

New York Giants +4 at Dallas Cowboys

Two rules that I have when it comes to sports wagering:  1) Never bet on or against your favorite team and 2) Never bet on or against the team you despise.  The Giants are the team I despise, while the rest of the world either hates the Cowboys, or can’t get enough of them.  Last season the Giants beat the Cowboys in both meetings 20-19 and 10-7 respectively. This is a rivalry in which both teams know each other well and with another tight race expected in the NFC East this season, the importance of this rivalry is multiplied by fifty.  The Cowboys have their running back Ezekiel Elliot (at least for week one)  who had a 50 and 100 yard game against the G-Men defense last season which was only allowing an impressive 3.6 yards a rush.  The Cowboys defense was just as impressive against the run last year but it was their pass defense that was gross allowing quarterbacks to complete 67.1% of their passes last year (second worse behind Detroit).  Although Eli Manning isn’t the most accurate of passers in the NFL, his receiving options are plentiful.  As long as Eli can get rid of the ball quickly, the Giants should not only cover the spread but win outright over the Cowboys. So much for my “rules.”

The Pick: Giants +4

Only if you must: Pittsburgh Steelers are a 9 point favorite in Cleveland against the Browns.

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC West: First Round Mock

It was just less than five years ago that the NFC West was thought to be the toughest division in football.  Every team had a tough defense, and the division games were grueling matches, usually decided at the line of scrimmage.  Now a days, it’s more like a Seahawks team with a lot of bark, an under achieving Cardinals team and two of the most poorly run franchises in the league in the Rams and the 49ers.

Here we will discuss the best option for these squads and what they should do with their first round pick.

San Francisco 49ers: 2nd Overall Pick
Finished 2016 with a 2-14 record
Def Yards: 32nd Off yards: 31st

Talk about a complete disaster.  The San Francisco 49ers were once considered one of the most cherished franchises in the league, but last year further cemented the “bottom feeder” persona that they really are.  The team’s best player is an above average running back in Carlos Hyde and a veteran left tackle in Joe Staley.  They went out and signed wide receiver Pierre Garcon but at quarterback they are looking at Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  The “woes” don’t stop there either.  Defensively they are led by two veteran linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Navorro Bowman – but as 2016 showed, that isn’t scaring anybody. . .


Automatically, people may say: “You need to build this team around a quarterback,” and if that’s the case, have your pick with these “maybe-average-at-best” options, in Deshaun Watson and Mitchel Trubisky.   But just what can a rookie quarterback do with this team?  Exactly.  The only real option for the 49ers here is to auction off this pick to the highest bidder.  There is no shame in trading back and getting more picks, when you have one of the worse rosters in the NFL.  Since nobody has been able to get a clear feel on how teams feel about these quarterbacks, trading back may still ensure the Niners securing Watson or even maybe a Pat Mahomes or Brad Kaaya (Kaaya in maybe the 4th round).  But aside from the quarterback position, the Niners can benefit by getting multiple picks in rounds as last as the 4th or 5th and start plugging in players in positions of need. . . which will be easy because the 49ers need everything.

Los Angeles Rams: 5th Overall Pick
Finished with a 4-12 record
Def Yards: 9th    Off Yards:32nd

The draft helps bad teams like the Rams, get a good early pick to bolster areas needed.  Defensively, they were in the NFL’s top ten of yards given up, but finished dead last in offensive yardage.  They have a potential bust in their quarterback selection last year, have a weak offensive line and no real receiving threat.  .  . They most likely would’ve went on the offensive side of the ball, but unfortunately this pick is owned by the Tennessee Titans, so. . . that’s it for the Rams, who will continue to be a brutal on the offensive side of the ball.

Arizona Cardinals: 13th Overall Pick
Finished with a 7-8-1 record
Def Yards: 2nd    Off Yards: 9th

This Arizona team confused just about everybody.  Even I touted them as the best team in the league last year and was left looking as if I had no business talking football ever again. . . keeping that in mind, let me continue to talk about this sport of football. . .  The Cardinals lost two safeties in the off-season, but at the start of 2017 they’ll have a healthy Tyrann Mathieu back there, and he is possibly the best at the position.  Patrick Peterson is the lone corner on this team, so expect the Cardinals to go after Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. BleedingGreenNation.com referred to him as “a tone setter in the secondary,” and his aggressiveness proves this to be true.  The issue is, he’ll probably be scooped up by Buffalo with the tenth pick, because they just lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency.  This leaves them with options though at corner, and the versatile  Adoree’ Jackson of USC comes to mind.  Not only is he a great athlete at the position (11 passes defensed and five interceptions) – his versatility as a kick returner and a wide receiver can open the door for a mad-scientist-head-coach like Bruce Arians.

The Cardinals, lacked a “spark” or “energy” last season, Jackson is the kind of electric player who can provide that to this franchise. It may be a bit of a stretch at the 13th spot, but I just believe he’s a better corner than Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and way better than Washington’s Sidney Jones.  Jackson is a player, who loves the spotlight and his kind of attitude would fit in great with Mathieu and Peterson.

Seattle Seahawks: 26th Overall Pick
Finished with a 10-5 record
Def Yards: 5th  Off Yards: 12th

The Seahawks are the one team in this division that seem to take winning seriously.  Even with that being understood, their franchise quarterback Russell Wilson has a tough go the last few years when it comes to not being sacked.  Some of it may be attributed to his inability at times of trying to do more than he can, but the sack numbers since 2013 to 2016 are: 44, 42, 45 and 41 — and last year he coupled that forty-one with his lowest number of touchdown passes, 21.  Seattle “helped” Wilson by signing tackle Luke Joeckel to a one year deal. . . Joeckel has been more of a “joke-el” after being selected with second pick overall in the 2013 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Seattle will most likely address this offensive line issue, although this draft doesn’t really have any standouts – at least not too many ‘first-round’ standouts.  The minds at Pro Football Focus ranked this unit as the worst in the league, and although my pick for them is somewhat of a gamble, the selection here is LSU guard Ethan Pocic. He can play both center and guard, but it is likely when drafted he would start out at guard.  LSU’s offensive line is one of the more dominant in college football, it didn’t matter if Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice ran the ball – the ground game was able to pick up yards in chunks.  He is a patient player, who was trusted to make adjustments from the line.  He finished 2016 as a First-Team All American and SEC player. Some folks have him as a late second round talent, but I have him as one of my top three offensive linemen in the draft.

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

3 Immediate Impact First Rounders

Every year in the NFL draft there are players who will be stars, players who will play a role and players who will “bust.”  When a young man is a first round pick in the NFL draft, there is a certain aura around that player.  He is expected to help a team get to the next level, or even carry them into a new era.  This is a lot to put on the shoulders of a kid straight out of frat-parties, juggling girlfriends and handing in a science lab on time.  When you’re a star though, you welcome that pressure and are excited to see how well you will be in the NFL.  Here are three players taken in the first round who will have a positive impact on their teams from week one.

Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys, Fourth Pick in the Draft

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This one is the most obvious choice.  The Cowboys thought they could lose Demarco Murray and replace him with just about anybody behind that offensive line.  Joseph Randle was the one people though would carry the torch, but he proved himself to be a knucklehead (for lack of better words) and Lance Dunbar proved to be “just a guy” on the roster.  They were lucky enough to take a gamble on Darren McFadden last year, when most teams in the league didn’t want to touch the often-injured back.  McFadden carried the ball for over a 1000 yards, but to expect that again would be asking for a lot.  The Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a deal which many thought would be enough.  The pairing of Morris and McFadden behind the offensive line seemed to be a match that could work but the Cowboys, like most gunslingers in the wild west would think – there is never enough ammunition.  Looking at his play in college, Elliot has the abilities to transcend himself in the league to be a top-five back in the NFL today.  That’s something McFadden can’t say, and Morris – well to be nice, he could be a top ten back. . .

Many thought that Dallas should upgrade their defense with this pick, but the Cowboys realized one young player on their defense won’t help to satisfy all their woes, so they decided to stockpile on the offensive side of the ball where they can do their damage.  Elliot can give the Cowboys a running game closer to what they had with Murray, which will make this offense one of the best in the league (of course this all goes hand in hand with keeping quarterback Tony Romo healthy, but a strong running game will leave the veteran QB less vulnerable.)

Predicted Stat line: 1,350 Rushing  Yards, 10 Rushing Touchdowns, 4.8 yards per carry

Robert Nkemdiche, Arizona Cardinals, Thirtieth Pick in the Draft

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If it wasn’t for “character concerns,” Nkmediche would have been a top ten pick, easily.  This was a smart move by the Cardinals who have a good roster as is, and were only looking for most pass rushers, particularly from the inside.  NFL.com has him listed as a defensive tackle, but his athleticism and quickness will no doubt see him attacking from the outsides more.  He is an aggressive pass rusher who uses his athleticism and balance well against the opposition.  If Nkemdiche can’t work with head coach Bruce Arians, who is without a doubt one of the best in the NFL, then he won’t be able to work with any coach in this league.  This is a great landing spot for Nkemdiche who is used to a winning tradition with talent around him and now he has that same formula at the next level where his skills should show an immediate impact.

Predicted Stat Line:  7 sacks, 80 tackles

Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns, Fifteenth Pick in the Draft

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Although the best receiver of this class is Laquon Treadwell, who got drafted by the Vikings with the twenty-third pick overall – it’s Coleman who will be more heavily relied on in the Browns offense.  Where Treadwell has Adrian Peterson, Coleman has Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. . . Where Treadwell has Teddy Bridgewater, Coleman has RG3 and/or Josh McCown.  In other words, everything around Coleman is inconsistent where Treadwell is steady.  This is good and bad for Coleman.  Bad because, well. . . the Browns are bad.  There is just no other way around it.  The good news for Coleman though,  is that he is already the team’s best wide receiver and outside of left tackle Joe Thomas, he is also the teams best offensive weapon.  Coleman is the type to make a catch and immediately tries to make something big happen.  McCown and/or RG3 are both capable enough at the quarterback position (and smart enough) to get the ball into Coleman’s hands as much as they can.  If RG3 happens to catch half the magic he played with in his rookie year, Coleman will put up monster numbers.  He’s a deep threat, and chances are the Browns will be faced with a lot of second and long and third and long situations. . . they’ll also be playing from behind a lot. .  .  . so there’s that.  . .

Predicted Stat line: 85 catches, 1235 yards, 7 touchdowns

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Nineteen

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: Last week was all kinds of weird.  Lost one and pushed the other two.  That’s just a non-eventful day of nothing but lows.  Let’s see if we too can “push” through this week and come out on top, as we usually do on Beating Vegas by taking action on the NFL Conference Championship games.

New England Patriots (-3) at the Denver Broncos

Tom+Brady+Divisional+Round+Kansas+City+Chiefs+ZAiwos4heywl

This match-up has not been friendly to the team that travels in recent history.  In the last five meetings between these two squads, the road  team has gone 0-5, straight up and against the spread.  In the fictional “quarterback vs quarterback” world, Brady has bested Manning with an 11-5 record.  Don’t be a clown and base your wager on that silly tidbit of knowledge though.  The facts here are that Peyton Manning for all of his accolades and career records has pretty much been “okay” in the playoffs.  Even during his Super Bowl run of the 2006 season he threw only  three touchdowns and seven interceptions.  Considering that now Peyton is going up against a very underrated Patriots defense and Peyton’s arm strength is just about the equivalent to a big bowl of jello – what do the Pats really have to worry about?   The Broncos have a waste of two good wide outs in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryous Thomas; and are relying on a two back running game that doesn’t exactly put the fear of God into opposing defenses when they hear the names “Ronnie Hillman” and “C.J. Anderson.”  What the Broncos do have is the NFL’s best passing defense and the league’s third best rushing defense.  Denver will surely try to put the heat on Tom Brady and this much maligned Patriots offensive line as the Broncos also had an NFL best with 52 recorded sacks.  The problem with that attack is that Brady gets rid of the ball quicker than most and blitzing leaves the gaps open for the Patriots’ drag, slant and seam routes all day long.  The bye-week seemed to do Brady good as he looked sharp in his game against a good Kansas City Chiefs defense.  Not counting Brady’s six scrambles out of the pocket (one which resulted in one of his famous goal-line touchdown dives), the Patriots only ran the ball 8 times and they seemed fine with it.  The Broncos defense will stay strong against the Pats for a while, but the Broncos offense is gross.  Peyton Manning’s career should end with a loss to the Patriots and hopefully it does because the last time we saw Peyton in the Super Bowl. . . aye.  . .

The Pick: Patriots -3

Arizona Cardinals (+3) at the Carolina Panthers

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If Cam Newton didn’t have the season he’s having, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer would be in talks for NFL MVP along with Tom Brady.  No question.  BUT, we don’t live in a world of “maybes” and Cam Newton is treating the NFL, like he treated the SEC in his Auburn days: The NFL is Cam’s Playground.  He has a way of improvising, an undeniable leadership and the ability to make things happen with a very, very thinly talented offense.  Aside from tight end Greg Olsen, his best option is running back Jonathan Stewart.  The defenses are evenly matched but each defense has to deal with their own issues.  For Carolina, they shouldn’t under estimate the abilities of Arizona’s running back David Johnson, who has an NFL leading 9 touchdowns in road games this year.   Johnson may have started as number three on the depth chart this season, but Arians has had him involved in this offense since week one, so there should be no “rookie gitters” coming from the multi-purpose back. Arizona also boast one of the best wide receiver trios in the league with the speedy John Brown, the (still) under-rated Michael Floyd and the veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who showed in the over-time win last week against Green Bay that if you sleep on him, he can still hurt you.   For Arizona their defense is just as complete as Carolina’s but the loss of safety Tyronn Matthieu is one that they can’t make up for.  His versatility and overall skill has him already mentioned as a top three safety in the league, and his ball hawking ability and presence on the line of scrimmage will be missed (and needed) against Cam Newton. . .  This will be a tight game but three points may not be enough to lean to the visiting team in this one.

The Pick: Carolina -3

 

As always, good luck and wager wisely!

P.S. There will be no “Beating Vegas” article up next week, because everyone knows when it comes to the Pro Bowl you either take the “over” or find something better to do with your time than waste it on that non-sense.  “Beating Vegas” will return the week of the Super Bowl for the final entry of the year though, giving you an in-depth analysis on the Super Bowl game and of course, the ever popular “prop bets.”

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Nine

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: We split it down the middle last week.  USC is joining the likes of Ole Miss in the sense they are either “feast or famine” when playing the lines. . . Temple and Iowa made us sweat it out, but a win is a win, so let’s keep on truckin’!

Oklahoma (+2.5) at Baylor

Baylor+v+Kansas+State+3wtIgMO6ICcl

The Big 12 Conference saw one of their “mighty” teams go down, as TCU fell to Oklahoma State last weekend (if you follow me on Twitter, you would’ve seen me give that pick out Saturday morning by-the-way. . .).   It’s up to Baylor to keep hope alive for the Conference that ignores things like “strength of schedule” and a “conference championship game.”  We’ve discussed coach Art Briles and his Baylor Bears before – it’s a relentless offense that sets out to make a point each week.  Freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham stepped in last week and threw for 419 yards with a little over half of that total being received by the stud wide-out Corey Coleman.   Coleman, along with KD Cannon provide possibly the best one-two receiver punch in football – and they are backed up by a “usually” strong running game from Shock Linwood.  The word “usually” crept into that sentence because against Kansas State, the running attack slowed down a bit.  Oklahoma provides a pretty good run defense itself, only allowing opponents 3.5 yards a carry.  Oklahoma has the athletes on defense to not only give Baylor’s running game fits but also it’s highly praised passing attack.  Oklahoma has only allowed 11 passing touchdowns and has nabbed 12 interceptions while holding the opposition to a 52% completion percentage.  Even if Seth Russell could quarterback for Baylor today, I’d still say Oklahoma.  Sooners take care of business, and it will be by double digits.

The Pick: Oklahoma +2.5

Ohio State (-16.5) at Illinois

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No matter how this season ends for Ohio State, ESPN better be working on the “30 for 30” documentary about this year’s Buckeyes team.   It’s been about and it’s all about the quarterback’s at Ohio State, and one week after being suspended a game, it looks like J.T. Barrett will be back under center, while the man who started the season, Cardale Jones is back to holding the clipboard.  Urban Meyer knows that the next two weeks will determine his fate (games against Michigan State and Michigan) but Meyer is one who doesn’t look ahead and will have his team ready for a Illinois team that is neither good, or bad.  The “middle of the pack” Illini have a mess behind the scenes with their athletic director this week, this after the resignation of the school chancellor and the August firing of their head coach.  To say they are in a “transition stage” is an understatement.  Nevertheless, this is an Illinois team that is 5-4 and shows fight week to week.  Where Illinois struggles the most on the football field though, is when they play an above average quarterback.  North Carolina’s Marquisse Williams threw for three touchdowns and at a 70% completion rate in a game where UNC won 48-14;  In their loss to Penn State, Christian Hackenberg threw at 72% completion rate and  two touchdown passes; and even in their nine point loss to Iowa, although they held C.J. Beathard to a completion percentage of under 50%, he too threw two touchdown passes.  If J.T. Barrett is on, which he very well should be – this should be an easy twenty point victory.  Keep in mind, we didn’t even mention how Illinois has no answer for Ohio State running back Ezikel Elliot, so. . .yeah.

The Pick: Ohio State -16.5

N.C. State (+9.5) at Florida State

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In the post-Jameis Winston era, the Seminoles aren’t as dominant as they once were and it shows.  In their loss last week to Clemson, Florida State gave them all they could, but seemingly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.  This week the Seminoles face an interesting opponent in N.C. State.  The Wolfpack have six wins this season and are still in search of that one “trademark win” to show that their program has stepped up.  N.C. State’s quarterback Jacoby Brissett  is throwing the ball at a 64% completion percentage and his two turnovers prove how efficient and poised he’s been all season long.  The Wolfpack as a whole are averaging close to 35 points a game and are physical for the most part.  That physical play will be key, because Florida State is still coming off of that physical loss to Clemson.  N.C. State has had better looking wins than Florida State against ACC bottom feeders like Wake Forest and Boston College – and nobody would be surprised to see the Seminoles come out flat -because that’s pretty much what they do.

The Pick: N.C. State +9.5

 

Arizona Cardinals (+3) at Seattle Seahawks

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This one is kind of easy to sniff out.  The Seahawks are only the favorite here because of the public “mystique” surrounding the home field advantage in Seattle.  If this game was in Arizona, the Cardinals might be a 7.5 point favorite – real talk.  Russell Wilson has fallen short of (rather lofty-and premature) expectations, throwing only nine touchdowns and pairing that with six interceptions.  He’s holding the ball too long, and his offensive line has let him down in pass protection, as his league leading 32 sacks proves.  Luckily for Wilson, the Cardinals have only netted 13 sacks on the year but they are comfortable letting opposing quarterbacks test their secondary as they have a league leading 13 interceptions (three of them returned for a touchdowns).  The run defense of Arizona is holding teams to less than four yards a carry, which is what Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is hitting per attempt.   Carson Palmer has more than enough weapons on offense to handle a “Legion of Boom” that appears to look the weakest it’s looked in years.

The Pick: Arizona +3

If You Must:  Does anybody know why the Cincinnati Bearcats are a 17.5 point favorite over Tulsa?  This makes no sense which probably means – as Lee Corso of ESPN would say:  “Somebody, somewhere knows something. . .”   — Even then, I just can’t have faith in a Cincinnati team that has been pretty underwhelming this season – Tulsa is just as good as them – take Tulsa with the points, and just hope this isn’t a sucker bet. . .

Teaser of the Week: Cardinals +15, Michigan State -2.5, Stanford +2.5 and Mississippi State +19.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Who’s Left to Challenge the Seahawks?

Pound for pound, the Seattle Seahawks have been viewed as  the most balanced and deepest team in the NFL.  It’s rare to see a team get built from the ground up and have more than formidable depth on both sides of the ball.  The Seahawks get the best out of every team that they face every week, but no team has been a bigger thorn to their side than the San Francisco 49ers.

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The NFC West used to be decided by these two squads who basically were mirror images of each other.  They both had offenses that lived off the running game, while their defenses were aggressive and in some ways paid tribute to the style of defenses played in the NFL of yesterday.

For the 49ers it was almost literally yesterday that they were a team that could go toe to toe with Seattle.   After the much publicized breakup between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers – things started to fall apart with this roster.  Running back Frank Gore signed an off-season deal with the Indianapolis Colts and with that the 49ers all time leader in rushing yards and attempts is gone.  Long time defensive linemen Justin Smith retired from the game of football,  linebacker Patrick Willis retired at age 30 and that loss wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the following retirement by much heralded rookie linebacker Chris Borland announcing his retirement for fear of long term brain damage.  For the same reasons, 25 year old right tackle Anthony Davis has retired as well.

Add to the fact that last season tight end Vernon Davis didn’t look the part of the pro-bowl caliber tight end he is paid to be and that now there are trade rumors circulating quarterback Colin Kapernick – the 49ers are simply not the same.  And won’t be for a while.

So who in this division will step up and challenge the Seahawks?

The options are the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.  Let’s start with the Rams.

Head coach Jeff Fisher knows how to coach teams well enough to hang around in games they have no reason hanging around in.  That’s a testament to his coaching ability and how he tends to get players to play for him.  Fisher will most likely look to protect newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles with a punishing running attack from rookie Todd Gurley and second year man Tre Mason.  They have a head case at wide receiver in Kenny Britt and the two West Virginia wideouts who can’t seem to get anything right on the field in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin – defensively though – they are solid. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn applying pressure from the end positions and second year defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming through the middle – it makes life easier for this talented secondary and linebacker group.   Their secondary isn’t as talented as Seattle’s but they are talented enough for Seattle’s wideout group.  St. Louis needs to put this all together though.  With all of this talent they have on the defensive side of the ball the Rams were still “middle of the pack” in terms of rushing and passing yards given up per game.

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Everyone’s darlings of last year, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that’s easy to like because they don’t come with the “rah-rah” mentality that the rest of their division opponents have.  They also have (arguably) the best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  One can make an easy argument that Arians has been the best coach in the NFL in the last three years.  He seemingly resurrected Carson Palmer’s career – then Palmer got hurt.  No problem, the team and Arians were confident with Drew Stanton under center. . . then came the injury to Stanton and even the amazing coaching of Arians couldn’t lift the below average talents of Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback.  Never-the-less, at full strength the Cardinals are a team that can put up 10 wins in a season AND give Seattle trouble for the division.

Defensively Calais Campbell is one of the best defensive ends in the league that nobody talks about but it’s their hybrid-like 3-4 defensive scheme that drives offensive coordinators crazy.  Arizona’s defense only averaged about 18 points a game to opponents and a lot of that was based more on a bend and don’t break (before the 20 yard line) mentality.

So when the question is posed : “Who will challenge the Seahawks in the NFC West?,” — there is one obvious answer: The Arizona Cardinals.

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They have the talent on offense to at least spread out the Seattle defensive attack and minimize their blitzing abilities.   With Harbaugh out of this division and with Jeff Fisher’s best coaching days seemingly behind him – Bruce Arians is the one in this division with the savvy and intellect to top Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a game of X’s and O’s.

Let’s be honest, if Bruce Arians was coaching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl – he would’ve handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. . .

 

G.W. Gras

twitter GeeSteelio