Tag Archives: raiders

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

 

Beating Vegas: Patriots;Whenever, Wherever

New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders

(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)

After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home.  Why?  Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City.  Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise.   Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL?   That was cute.  Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17.  Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short.  The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up.  The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook.  The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well.   Gross.  Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article?  Yeah.  Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -6.5

 

Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears

It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team.  They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur.  Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters.  With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors.  The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game.  Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch.  At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.   Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster.  The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.

The Pick: Detroit -3

Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns

This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover.  It doesn’t matter who they’re playing.  Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL  which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.  Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game.  Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year.  This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield.  Rookie running back Leonard Fournette  has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon.    As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground.  The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush.  The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver.  At the end of the day, who cares?  DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Houston Is A Problem

Houston Texans +5.5 at Seattle Seahawks

A lot of people wanted to jump ship when the Houston Texans lost J.J. Watt for the season, but the truth is: The Texans are kind of used to it by now.  What also has tempered the over-reaction of panic in Houston is the play of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson, who said he’s looking “forward” to playing against the Seattle secondary is completing passes at a rate of 61.5%, with a 3:1 TD to INT ratio.  Nobody can be happier than wide-out  DeAndre Hopkins.  Hopkins was almost “forgotten” among the NFL’s “elite receiver class” but this year has 6 touchdowns, averages 10 yards a catch and is the team- leader, by far, in receptions with 37.  Hopkins will go against a secondary in Seattle that is still living up to it’s legendary status.  The “Legion of Boom” is holding the opposition to 5.6 yards a completion and a completion percentage of 55%.  The rush defense has seen better times in recent years, as this year’s group is allowing 4.7 yards a carry.  Fortunately for them, they are seeing Lamar Miller across from them this week, who is averaging 3.8 yards a carry.  The Seahawks are 4-2 so far this season and it has ZERO to do with their offense.  Their wins so far have come off of inexperienced or putrid competition.  Usually the Texans win their division by default and although “default” will play a role again in them taking the AFC South, this is a more competitive team than we’ve seen under Bill O’Brien.  Houston doesn’t only cover the five and a half points – but wins this one outright.

The Pick: Houston +5.5

L.A. Raiders +2.5 at Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have been a part of the very confusing AFC East.  They currently stand at 4-2, and as long as quarterback Tyrod Taylor can stay healthy, the win total should only go higher.  Defensively, the Bills are holding the opposition to 3.4 rushing yards a game.  This of course forces teams to throw against them, but even then – the Bills are second in the league with nine interceptions.  Offensively, as mentioned before, this team goes as far as Tyrod Taylor will bring them.  Tyrod is a game manager who’s success is determined on his amount of turnovers.  So far he’s only got two interceptions and zero fumbles, so things are looking good, for the former Hokie.  The Raiders came into the season with high expectations and started out the season 2-0 looking to make all pre-season pundits look like genius’.  Then. . . they lost their next four.  Yes, Derek Carr got hurt during that, but even when he played it was nothing special.  Last week they got up for division rival, Kansas City and beat them 31-30, although some would say they netted that win due to help from the officials.  .  .Derek Carr has two viable targets in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree but the chemistry hasn’t exactly been perfect. Cooper was in a real struggle but blew up last week with over 200 yards against a below average Kansas City secondary.   When it’s all said and done if this game was on the West Coast it would be a pick ’em.

The Pick: Buffalo -2.5

Minnesota Vikings -9.5 at Cleveland Browns

From the pre-season to early in the regular season,  this Vikings offense looked legit. And with their already stout defense, people were thinking they could take the NFC North crown this season.  Then after Sam Bradford gets hurt and then (the bigger blow) rookie running back Dalvin Cook got hurt – things started to change. Now with the Vikings having Case Keenum in at quarterback and rumors starting to mount about a Teddy Bridgewater return to the position – things may get weird to say the least. As long as they can, the Vikings will try to push Jerick McKinnon down the public’s throats, but that’ll be tough against a Browns defense that’s done at least one thing right this year: stop the run.  The pass defense is tied with the NY Giants for giving up the most TD’s through the air (15) and are letting opponents sit back and complete 70% of their passes.  What makes matters worse for Cleveland is that their starting quarterback is Deshone Kizer who is flat-out awful.  Expect the Vikes to win this one  24-7, which means you can take them -9.5 but the smarter play here is the “under.”

The Pick: The Under at 38

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Lynch vs Peterson

The NFL off-season gets fans in a frenzy and for good reason.  It’s in the off-season where the draft happens and free-agency happens, and it’s because of these tools that fan-bases are given new hope.  Whether the hope is fabricated optimism or reality is to be revealed as the actual season unfolds, but until then it’s all open for debate.  This season, the Raiders went and acquired running back Marshawn Lynch and the New Orleans Saints signed free agent running back Adrian Peterson.

They are both products of the 2007 NFL draft, Lynch going number 12 to the Buffalo Bills, while Peterson went number 7 to the Vikings.   Comparing the numbers side by side, Peterson is clearly the better running back.  In some discussions, Peterson is looked upon as the best back to emerge out of college in the last decade.  His production, when healthy, is always league-best or close to it.  His last three seasons have been a sea-saw of consistency though. In 2014, he played one game and was suspended because of  child-abuse charges and in 2016 he tore his meniscus (right knee) and was limited to three games of action where he didn’t average over two yards a carry. . . 2015 though he led the NFL in rushing yards, yards per game, carries and rushing touchdowns. . .

Peterson found himself a free agent in this off-season and the only team he’s ever played for, the Minnesota Vikings were ready to let him go.  The New Orleans Saints signed Peterson to a two year, $7 million contract, with a signing bonus of two and a half million dollars. It was an interesting move for the Saints, whose running back Mark Ingram had a career high in rushing yards with 1043 and averaged over five yards a carry.  Considering the Saints, who led the NFL in passing yards last year, are team who’s offensive attack is concentrated around Drew Brees and the passing game – it was an interesting signing to say the least.  Maybe, the Saints will focus on a more “ball-control” oriented offense, to help preserve the health and stamina of their veteran quarterback?

Marshawn Lynch’s story is a bit different from Peterson’s.  Actually it’s a vastly different scenario.  After 2015, Lynch retired from the NFL altogether, sitting out the 2016 season but when the Oakland Raiders showed interest in the Oakland native, he was all about “the comeback.”  A year off might’ve been what “Beast Mode” needed as he had an injury plagued 2015 season, that saw him finish the season with a little over 400 yards at less then 4 yards a carry.  After Seattle traded his rights to the Raiders, Lynch was signed to a two-year contract worth $9 million with a $2 million signing bonus.  Lynch joins an Oakland Raiders team that some feel may be the only team to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC.  Last season the Raiders had a very balanced offensive attack, finishing ninth in passing yards and fifth in rushing yards.  The rushing yardage total was more because of the offensive line than the actual ball-carriers though.  The Raiders worked with a running back by committee system, and it’s leading rusher was Latavius Murray who finished with less than 800 yards on the season (in a twist of irony, Murray signed with the Vikings this off-season).

So who got more bang for their buck?

Of course this is all built off of assumption, but everything points to Marshawn Lynch having more of a positive impact with the Raiders this season than Adrian Peterson will with the Saints.  Peterson, looked bad the last time we saw him – before he got hurt and he’ll be definitely splitting carries with Ingram in the backfield.  Drew Brees, might like the insurance policy that is Adrian Peterson, but the way this offense moves, and the language it uses, his comfort-level with Ingram will be hard to dethrone.  Lynch on the other hand, is on a team that truly believes with this offensive line, a well rested and newly motivated Marshawn Lynch will give them the consistency they need in the backfield.  Lynch retired from Seattle, because he wasn’t happy there anymore – let’s not get that twisted.  Lynch is looking forward to representing his hometown, especially on a team that is so focused on winning a championship like the Raiders.

For Peterson, it might be a season that we’ve seen once too many times for sports-greats.  Peterson is a lock to get into the hall of fame one day, but this might be a season that leaves his fans remembering him NOT as the dominant back he once was, but as a veteran hanging on to his glory days – and cashing out while he can.

G.W. Gras

@GeeSteelio

Silver and Black Beast

Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch announced his retirement the same day as Super Bowl 50 back in early 2016.  He left behind a legacy of being bruising-back, with a very specific personality.  His final season though in 2015, was one to be forgotten.  A sports hernia injury limited him to half the season where he had his lowest yards per-carry average in five seasons (3.8 ypc) and when he did return in the playoffs, he was held to 20 yards rushing by the Carolina Panthers.

He has sat out an entire year after this and now is ready to play again.  And he wants to play for his hometown team, the Oakland Raiders.  Alrighty then. . .

The Raiders are in need of a running game.  One would guess that the current starter is Deondre Washington, who ran for over five yards a carry on limited opportunities behind Lativius Murray.   Although the Raiders organization likes Washington, they are a team that feels they can challenge the Patriots in the AFC – and a healthy Marshawn Lynch just might be what pushes them ahead.

Lynch and the Raiders have apparently come to an agreement and it’s all pending a trade with the Seahawks, who still own Lynch’s rights.

If the Raiders aren’t going to have to shell out a lot of dough for Lynch, it’ll be worth the gamble.  Lynch provides them a strong running game as well as a tough and veteran presence in the huddle.

There are a few red flags though when considering this move.

The most obvious is that Lynch’s running style is violent and after years of running as hard as he does, are we to believe that a 30 year old back, who is a year removed not only from the game of football but also a sports hernia injury, can be the player he once was?   And even if he is that  guy on the field – remember the mention earlier of his specific personality?

Lynch is on another planet.  He gives the media a hard time and is pretty much a loner.  His playing style goes in contrast with his personality – he does not exhibit the “brute” type of energy off the field.  He is more of a recluse, who tells corny jokes while staring at the floor.  For a team like the Raiders, it’s obvious they all gel together.  From Derek Carr all the way down, the culture has been remixed in Oakland and everyone is feeling good about themselves.  Lynch could potentially throw a wrench into that harmony.  As stated by Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times, Lynch was integral to building the culture in Seattle and “that gave him locker-room clout that might not await him in Oakland.”

The Oakland Raiders averaged 4.4 yards a carry last year, and know that in order to maintain the success their offense had this year, and to maintain the progression of their young quarterback Derek Carr they would like to keep that the same, or obviously, get better.  If Lynch has at least one more good run left in him, it will turn out to be an upgrade for a team that already boast one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: En Fuego

This is the best we’ve done here at Beating Vegas.  We might be pushing our luck this week, but there are so many good plays and for many reasons this weekend.  Let’s get into them and keep this winning streak going!

Oakland Raiders +1 at Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Raiders and Jaguars are two teams that find themselves on Beating Vegas for better and for worse.  Today though, we’re talking about the 4-2 Raiders and the 2-3 Jags.  The Jaguars came into this season with a lot of hype.  Some even thought they had a fighting chance to take the AFC South crown – for all things considered, the AFC South is pretty terrible so winning the division isn’t out of the question, but the Jags have been just grossly inconsistent.  Most of that is due to quarterback Blake Bortles falling grossly-low of expectations.  As of now Bortles has a quarterback rating of 80.3, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.   His yards per attempt is at a measly 6.8 and he at times just is as inaccurate from the pocket as he is flustered in it.  Maybe luck will be on Bortles’ side this week though, as the Oakland Raiders give up the most yards in the air on an average of 312 per game.  Aside from giving up the most passing yards in the league, the Raiders also are third in most rushing yards given up in a game.  Much like Bortles, this Raiders defense has failed expectations as well.  Traveling from Oakland to Jacksonville isn’t a fun trip, especially when the Raiders are still licking their wounds from the beating they took from K.C. last week.  Vegas wants you to take the Raiders here.  Don’t fall for it.  The Jags have the talent to protect home against a very inconsistent Raiders team.

The Pick: Jaguars +1

Hawaii +16.5 at Air Force

The Air Force rushing attack isn’t as strong as last year’s but that’s saying something considering they are averaging 275 yards a game on the ground at a clip of 4.8 yards a carry.  They run a very precise running game, built off of timing and attacking the weaknesses of the opposition.  This week the Hawaii defense is just full of weaknesses in their defense.  The rush defense is abysmal, letting the opposition trample them for 238 yards a game, putting them right with the defensive powerhouses of the NCAA like Oregon and Oregon State. . . Hawaii’s “strength” is running the ball – 198.4 rushing yards a game – but that’s when they can line up against trashy defenses like Nevada, Tenn-Martin and San Jose State.  Air Force has one of the better run-defenses in college football, only allowing the opposition 3.6 yards a carry.  There is not a run formation they haven’t already seen in practice and against Hawaii it’ll be as if this defense is practicing against a slow-motion-monitor.

The Pick: Air Force -16.5

 

Ole Miss +6 at LSU

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This line opened at LSU being a three point favorite and in that short time the spread has doubled.  Trend-wise, the Rebels owned the Tigers last year 38-17 and LSU has one the last three of these meetings when they played host.  The Rebels can easily fall suspect to this LSU offensive line that is bossing opposition at the line of scrimmage for  228 yards on the ground a game.  Last week we went against LSU who was a 24.5 point favorite and they easily covered the spread AND made us look silly here at Beating Vegas in our only loss of the weekend. . . Ole Miss CAN run the ball (4.7 ypc) but they just chose not to and lead the SEC in passing yards and passing yards a game.  Arkansas has a much more balanced attack and Ole Miss lost to them by 4 points last week (at Arkansas) and Ole Miss is pound for pound the only team in the country that can keep up with Alabama.  If you’re given the chance to take a team like Ole Miss getting nearly a touchdown, how can you turn it down?  This is a big statement game for Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who already has draft scouts thinking he can be a first or second round pick.

The Pick: Ole Miss +6

 

Wisconsin -3.5 at Iowa

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Iowa has had some bad losses and some ugly wins.  Wisconsin has had some tough losses and some impressive wins.  The tough losses for Wisconsin have them reeling from back to back games with Michigan (lost 14-7) and Ohio State (lost 30-23).  Wisconsin is one of those teams that fell victim to their schedule – OR – just fell victim to two teams that are nationally better than everyone but those dudes who play in Tuscaloosa.  Regardless, the Badgers need a rebound victory because at the end of the year nobody will care about how well they played in a loss.  Both teams have impressive defenses, Wisconsin allowing 15 points a game and Iowa allowing 19 points a game but the difference here is the level of competition.  Iowa was able to help themselves out with early wins against Miami of Ohio and Iowa State, then lost to North Dakota State and STRUGGLED to beat Rutgers 14-7.  Can we somehow emphasize that word even more?  STRUGGLED.  Do you know how bad you have to be to struggle to beat Rutgers?  Iowa couldn’t even put down Purdue without a struggle last week — Wisconsin will look to make an impact early in this game and take the crowd out of it.

The Pick: Wisconsin -3.5

 

Four Game Tease of the Week:  Patriots +5; Minnesota (Univ.) -5; Marshall -1 and UNC +4

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GEESTEELIO

Beating Vegas: The Juke Move

About last week:  The Raiders were the one team that made us look bad here at Beating Vegas.  Some teams are just hard to read  and the Raiders look like they are one of them – at least for the moment.  We’re doing good things here at Beating Vegas, so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Baltimore Ravens -1 at  Jacksonville Jaguars

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The San Diego Chargers made the Jaguars look like the Jaguars we’re more familiar with.  The Jags looked over-matched and over-whelmed for most of the contest.  It was over quickly and this Jaguars team that has wildcard hopes, looked awful.  The truth is, the Chargers have games like these during the year, where they look like world beaters, but then are sent back down to reality.  The Jags are not a franchise that knows how to handle expectations, but this familiar taste of being blown out will not sit well with this unit.  They are back home and playing the role of host to an underwhelming Ravens team that is 2-0.  The Ravens barely beat Buffalo and barely beat Cleveland.  Cleveland was actually up by twenty points until a questionable taunting call turned the tides of the game. . . Those are two below average teams and one can argue that their kicker Justin Tucker is probably their best weapon on offense.  The Jaguars are a legit wildcard team this year and smart folks love a home underdog after a road blow-out loss.

The Pick: Jaguars +1

Oakland Raiders +1 at Tennessee Titans

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Ironically, these two teams were “locks” in last week’s “Beating Vegas” article.  The Titans covered fairly easily in their victory over Detroit, but as mentioned in the opening – the Raiders are just undependable at this point.  So why are the Raiders still featured here, if they are “undependable?”  Because, the Raiders defense looks awful.  The Saints and Falcons were able to ride up and down the field at ease against this re-vamped Raiders defense – and although we’re not knocking the abilities of those two offenses, it’s the fact that the defense looks lost.  There is an obvious lack of communication with some of the new pieces and this is something that won’t change overnight.  Marcus Mariota showed in the second half last week what this offense can look like.  His ability to escape pressure is key, because the Raiders will most likely blitz early – Detroit did that late last week and Mariota took what defenses were giving him.  The backfield of Murray and Henry hasn’t blown up yet, but they’ve been consistent.  The emergence of Tajae Sharpe at wide receiver has been a nice surprise too.  The Raiders should win this game, but we’re not worried about that for the most part.  Points will be scored, that’s for certain.

The Pick: The Over 46.5

 

Wisconsin +5.5 at Michigan State

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Classic trap game.  Michigan State less than a touchdown favorite after a huge nationally televised game against the most recognizable name in college football Notre Dame.   Last week Wisconsin struggled against Georgia State but came through with an ugly 23-17 victory.  THAT’S the game that is fresh in everyone’s head, but let’s not forget how Michigan State struggled against Furman to open the season with a sloppy 28-13 victory.   Michigan State has been protecting their quarterback Tyler O’Conner for the most part and they don’t have him throw too much during games so it’s nice to see  him throw at a completion percentage of 73% but it doesn’t tell the whole story. . . Wisconsin’s offense is basic as well, but they are going to keep true to what they do.  They have three talented running backs running behind an above average offensive line.  The Wisconsin defense allows about seven less points a game than Michigan State does and with Michigan giving five and a half points in this game, it just seems like this one will be a blue collar game played at the line of scrimmage.

The Pick: Wisconsin +5.5

 

Air Force -3 at Utah State

The Air Force offense is picking up this year where it left off last year – one dimensional and nearly unstoppable.  They are on top of the college football world averaging 432 rushing yards a game.  Couple that with the fact that their defense allows only 17.5 points a game (best in the Mountain West) this is a team that should own most of their competition this year.  Utah State has a more balanced offensive attack and defensively aren’t terrible, but in their one true test this season against USC (if that’s even a “test” at this point anymore in college football) when they gave up an average of 4.8 yards a carry to USC’s best backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Justin Davis.   Sure Air Force hasn’t played much competition, but 400 plus yards a game against anyone is impressive – AND this is just what we’ve come to expect from the road favorite.

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The Pick: Air Force -3

 

Houston -34.5 at Texas State

It may seem a bit foolish and even naive to pick Houston two weeks in a row, but THIS Houston defense against THIS Texas State offense – it’s kind of hard to ignore this.  Texas State allows five yards a rush and their defensive front just doesn’t have the talent to stay with Houston’s offensive line.  Houston’s defense is allowing only 13 points a game and don’t think they don’t see what Louisville is doing this year.  If Louisville doesn’t slip up next week against Clemson, then the November meeting between Houston and Clemson might decide a playoff birth.   Houston needs to make short work of teams like Texas State to prove a point.  The first half might be a smart wager here as well, but just like last week, don’t think too much about it.  Houston should win this win 49-13.   Yeah, of course you’ll have to sweat it out, that’s just the way it is.

The Pick: Houston -34.5

Four Game Tease of the Week: Dolphins +2.5; Western Kentucky +4.5; Michigan -7; Pitt +19

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Let’s Not Over-React

About Last Week:  Oh Seattle. . . Russell Wilson seemed out of sorts last week and that Cincinnati / Purdue game made us sweat it out, but we got that “under.”  When it came to Louisville clearing sixteen at Syracuse – it really doesn’t get much easier than that. . . Seriously, keep checking this column and mybookie.ag every week so you can beat the NCAA and NFL Lines. . .

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Tennessee Titans +6.5 at Detroit Lions

After being up 21-3 and  then having to edge out a win 39-35 against the Colts, the Lions should be counting their blessings.  The Colts don’t have much depth, neither do the Lions, so on paper it should have been a close game anyway.  Vegas has the Lions as a one touchdown favorite against a team that should be making strides this season.  Minnesota’s offense didn’t do much against Tennessee’s defense (the Titans even held the unstoppable Adrian Peterson to an abysmal 1.9 yards a carry) as the offense had to settle for four Blair Walsh field goals.  Marcus Mariota’s costly two interceptions turned into defensive touchdowns which made the difference in the game.  This time around, Mariota plays against an easier defensive opponent and a team, in the Lions who never knows how to put anybody away.  Expect the Titans to mix in Derrick Henry a little more with Demarco Murray early to see if they can have the same amount of success that Frank Gore had last week (4.2 yards a carry) against Detroit.  They may want to ease Mariota into the game and keep an overly anxious Matt Stafford on the sidelines.

The Pick: Tennessee Titans +6.5

 

Atlanta Falcons +4.5 at Oakland Raiders

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The Oakland Raiders gave us a gutsy and exciting game last week against the New Orleans Saints, but all was not to be celebrated.  The Raiders came into this season ranting and raving about a defense that was ready to take on the world, but Drew Brees and the Saints threw the ball all over the field on them, leaving it up to Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to carry the load.  The good news is, Carr looks totally in-sync with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – the chemistry from last year, just seems to have gotten better.  The Falcons have a top flight wide-out in Julio Jones there is no doubting that, and they even have two talented backs in Coleman and Freeman – but that offensive line is still an issue.  Matt Ryan has slid down to  be the fourth best quarterback in the NFC South (remember class there are only four teams in the division).   If the Oakland Raiders are truly back in the picture as a team that matters, beating an average at best team at home by a touchdown should be a requirement on their resume.

The Pick: The Raiders -4.5

 

Houston Cougars -9 at Cincinnati Bearcats

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To be honest, there was some wavering on this one.  And the golden rule should be – if you’re not sure, stay away – but it’s a Thursday night game and we all can’t avoid a little college football action in the middle of the week. . .  The Bearcats have found a better look in their offense with Hayden Moore at quarterback but the competition has been way below average.  The Ohio-Valley Conference was represented by Tenn-Martin and the Bearcats struggled for a half and couldn’t stop the run.  Then they beat the worst team in the Big 10 by 18 points. . .  Meanwhile, Houston has showed off a tough defense in both of their wins, one of those wins was the season opener in which they were in control against Baker Mayfield and that Oklahoma Sooner offense.  In just two games, the Bearcats have three 100 yard rushers (and one 80 yard rusher) and will be able to eat the Bearcats offensive line all day.  History shows that in the last three years the winner of this game has been decided by 7 points or less, but this is a huge year for Houston and they are looking to make examples out of teams that are clearly not in their league.  This game has a lot of the Louisville / Syracuse feeling from last week and we saw what the better team did in that one. . .

The Pick: Houston -9

Western Mich  -3.5 at Illinois

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Year in and year out, Western Michigan has an impressive and very un-noticed team.  Welcome to the glory of the MAC Conference.  Western Michigan comes complete in their passing attack and their ground game. Senior wide receiver Corey Davis is having a nice start to the season snatching seven catches a game and already racking up 220 yards in his two games.  This will prove to be a problem on the Illinois defense as Lovie Smith still hasn’t learned that the Cover-2 base defense just isn’t a good idea anymore.  Watching Illinois, they leave the middle of the field open all day long – this is what helped get Lovie fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears.  The Illini are giving up 440 passing yards a game and expect that trend to continue.

The Pick: Western Michigan -3.5

South Florida Bulls -14.5 at Syracuse Orange

Syracuse was just embarrassed on national television last week (as was predicted here on Beating Vegas) and now they are a double digit home dog.  The Regular-Joes will ride the favorite in this game because of what they saw.  But it’s all about what they don’t see.  South Florida was able to open the season to beat up on Towson and Northern Illinois, while Syracuse had one cup cake opponent and then a monster in Louisville.   Syracuse’s problem isn’t moving the ball, it’s finishing drives and they are going up against a defense that hasn’t been tested yet.  Syracuse has a fast paced offense led by quarterback Erik Dungey, who is flying under the radar now, but is one of the more exciting quarterbacks to watch play.  Syracuse may not win this game, but they definitely won’t get blown out either.  The Bulls may get winded early and have to muscle a win out of this one.

The Pick: Syracuse +14.5

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If You Must: Take Memphis at home -20 against the visiting Kansas Jayhawks.  If this was basketball, Kansas would be  a road favorite by at least 7 or 8, but in the world of football, Kansas has won six road games since 2011 and haven’t really been trending upwards in the last two years.

Four Game Teaser: Saints/Giants Over 40.5;  Cardinals +5.5; Panthers -1.5 and Ohio State +10

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

2016 AFC West Preview

  1. Kansas City Chiefs  – Yeah, something doesn’t look right in a division when a team led by Alex Smith at quarterback and the Kool-Aid-Man as head coach are the favorites to win it.  But the Kool-Aid-Man a.k.a Andy Reid has been a model of consistency in his coaching career and has made quarterbacks play above their potential.  Alex Smith is in a comfortable spot with the Chiefs and he’s a decent enough “dual-threat” quarterback that he keeps defenses honest – although they know the deep ball is a rare occurrence.  Outside of Jeremy Maclin, the only real receiving threat is tight end Travis Kelce, but the Chiefs’ offense will circle around their backfield depth.  When star running-back Jamaal Charles went down last year the Chiefs saw what they had in Charcadrick West and Spencer Ware.  Expect Andy Reid to find ways to get all of three of these backs involved in the offense often.  In the draft, the Chiefs didn’t really do much, but look out for their fourth round pick Eric Murray out of Minnesota to add some punch to a defense that allowed less than 18 points a game last season.  Chiefs have a middle of the road schedule in terms of difficulty, but this is a team that has most of the same pieces that reeled off an 11 game win streak last year and a division that is win-able with eight or nine wins this year.

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Prediction: 10-6

2. Oakland Raiders – Yeah, that’s right.  Eight or nine wins will win this division and Oakland won’t get the division crown.  Do the math.  Folks are high on the Raiders this year.  Maybe because of the young talent; or maybe because folks are tired of this once proud franchise being a laughing stock. Last season they showed promise and showed they have the centerpieces for their offense and defense: Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, respectively.   Mack will have free agent signees Bruce Irvin and (in November) Aldon Smith to help not just with the edge rush but also help to form a very athletic trio up front.  Rookie Karl Joseph has all the tools to be a starter for this franchise for the next ten years.  Joseph will be playing alongside safety Reggie Nelson who had an NFL leading eight interceptions last year.  Amari Cooper is the real deal at wide receiver; and Michael Crabtree looked the best he’s looked in years, but it may be reaching to think he’ll duplicate last year’s performance.  The pieces are there for this team to  make the next step, but because EVERYONE is saying that, it definitely won’t happen.  This is a team that looks better on paper then they will on the field.  They are still one year away, and if they can put it together, this division can be theirs for the next three to four years – easily.

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Prediction: 9-7

3. Denver Broncos – What did we expect?  A team wins a Super Bowl, and all the players who were up for new contracts – left for ridiculous pay days.  That’s the business of the sport.  The Broncos biggest attraction, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, was set to sit out for the season if he and Broncos didn’t agree on terms – but cooler heads prevailed.  Miller will be set to lead a defense that is still formidable even after the losses of Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson.  The defense will have to be key because that’s how they won games last year.  The Broncos re-instilled the notion that “defenses win championships” because in this “quarterback league” they basically played without one for most of last year.  Although Peyton Manning was trashy last year, his poise and leadership kept this offense motivated and focused all season long – even when times were tough.  Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are top notch receivers but expect their numbers to plummet this season.  The Broncos signed Mark Sanchez who once upon a time was the savior to the New York Jets.  Now he’s a journey man, who’s forever haunted by the epic “butt-fumble.” The Broncos also went and drafted Paxton Lynch who has a creepy mustache and a stupid hair cut.  Also the general manager John Elway is pretty smug.  Nobody with teeth like that should be that smug.

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Prediction: 7-9

4. San Diego Chargers – The Chargers are basically, sorta, kinda. . . irrelevant?  Ugh, you hate to hear the word “irrelevant” associated with a team that has the coolest alternate jersey and a team that is led by Philip Rivers, who has been quiet as kept – this generation’s Dan Marino to some degree.  Does he have the records like Marino and is he as good – no.  BUT, Rivers has put together quite the career and done so with little to no help for the most part.  The organization makes the wrong signings, drafts the wrong people and — oh wait – who’d they draft this year?  Ha. . .  as of now (August 17th, 2016) the Chargers first round pick Joey Bosa is holding out, and it seems that both sides are not budging.  Bosa comes in with a lot of hype, too much hype if you ask me – he’s a piece that would be nice in building a defense, but he is not a piece to build around.   Free agent Travis Benjamin signed on to the Chargers from the Browns and he joins a pretty talented receiving group that include Keenan Allen and tight-end Antonio Gates who is still a top five tight end at thirty-six years of age.  The Chargers lost eight games by seven or less points and just couldn’t close the deal when they needed to.  There is just nothing flashy or exciting about the Chargers anymore.  Sick jerseys though. . .

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Prediction: 6-10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Thirteen

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: If it wasn’t for a nonsensical Hail Mary-like Florida touchdown that did nothing to change the course of the game – the picks would’ve been a respectable 3 out of 5 instead of 2 out of 5.  The games were all close and could’ve went either way, but hopefully you evened yourself up (and kept the faith in me) to lay it all on the Jets on Sunday afternoon.  This week’s Beating Vegas is the unlucky number 13th entry.  And with only one college game to really keep an eye out for, we might be playing against the odds, but let’s take a crack at this week.

Oakland (+7.5) at Denver

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The Broncos have ushered in the era of Brock Osweiler and what it’s brought to this offense is a sense of “calm.”  And that’s right where this offense should be right now.  Coach Gary Kubiak is all about time of possession and minimizing turnovers – this goes against everything Peyton Manning was displaying this year as the veteran quarterback’s reaction time could not keep up with his instincts.  Broke knows that he has tools to move the chains and keep his defense rested.  Although he does tend to hold the ball a little too long at times, he is still not turning it over.  On the other side of the ball is the blossoming of a future franchise quarterback in Derek Carr.  The Raiders fan base has been waiting on a franchise QB for a while and Derek Carr seems to be playing the role of one as his 26 touchdown passes paired with a 63% completion percentage show.  Unfortunately for Carr, he is going up against a Denver defense that allows only 195 passing yards a game and has accumulated 41 sacks so far this year (both NFL’s current best).  Carr has fumbled the ball 7 times this year already and he’ll have to be aware of edge rushers all game long.  The Raiders only put up 10 points in their last meeting at that was in the comforts of their own home, this time around, expect more of the same.

The Pick: Denver -7.5

New England (-3.5) at Houston

This one is pretty simple.  It may seem cheesy, or it may seem like a terrible way of reasoning but it’s simple in my mind:  The Patriots will NOT lose three games in a row.  It’s something we just will not see.  They especially wont lose to a team quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer.   Yes, they did just lose to Sam Bradford, but that makes it even more impossible to lose to a quarterback of the same caliber.  Truth is, the game against Philadelphia included a blocked punt for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown.  Indeed it takes skill to do those things, but for all of them to happen in the same game and against the Patriots – takes a lot of luck as well.  The Patriots biggest issue (besides not having Gronkowski who CBS Sports said was “iffy” against the Texans) was the dropped passes – especially on their final drive.  Amendola, Lafell and the rest of this group need to get it together especially against this formidable Houston Texans pass defense.  New England will go back to utilizing their running backs, like the good ol’ days, and work their way into the heart of this Texans defense that is allowing nearly 4.5 yards a carry.   Bottom line, the Patriots are not losing three in a row and at 3.5 points, that’s almost a “pick ’em” in the era of Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -3.5

Army (+24) at Navy

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The annual Army/Navy game is one of the best traditions in American sports.  This will be the 116th meeting between the two military academies and Navy leads this series 59-49-7.   Navy has actually won thirteen in a row and looking to continue that streak this weekend.  For some reason as better as Navy has looked in recent years, Army gets up for this game.  In the last four victories Navy took home, they only won by a margin of 7 points or less.   Both academies rely on their running attacks and Navy has been stellar this year on the ground.  Navy ranked in the top tens with yards per carry and finished third in the nation in total rushing yards (ahead of offensive big shots, Baylor and Oregon).  And although Army runs for about 80 yards less than Navy does a game, they are still running for 254 yards a game at 4.9 a clip —  very far from being “shabby.”   Navy is 9-2 and Army is 2-9, Navy has had a tougher schedule and their losses came by the hands of two ranked teams in Notre Dame and Houston.  Their most notable wins came against Memphis and Air Force, of whom statistically has a better rushing attack than Navy and for the most part were shut down.  Army’s wins came against Eastern Michigan and Bucknell, but losses to teams like Wake Forest and Fordham really make you shake your head at the direction this program has taken (quick note, Army had success against Air Force’s rushing attack as well by ultimately lost by 20-3).  There is a lot of respect in this rivalry and the times Navy has blown out Army it’s usually because they can’t help themselves, they’re just that much better.   The over/under is set at 54.5 and the last time these two teams combined to get over that number was back in 2005 when Navy won 42-23.

The Pick:  Army +24 and the Under at 54.5

If You Must:  The Giants versus the Dolphins on Monday Night Football will make it three weeks in a row of teams nobody really cares to watch on prime time.  This games puts to defenses up against each other that can give up thirty a night easily.  Take the over at 46.5 points and root for nothing else but the scoreboard.

Tease of the week: (four gamer) Jets +5,  Patriots +8.5, Army/Navy Under 66 and Steelers/Bengals Over 36.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio