Tag Archives: Ravens

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: 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: L.A. Non-Consequential

Pittsburgh Steelers -3 at Baltimore Ravens

Forget about the actual spread, and lets take a look at the over/under number of 42.  This match up is typically a grudge match and here is how the numbers look since 2010:  Three games have gone completely over, two of those games have been right at 42 and three of those games have gone to 43 points (one of those meetings needed overtime to do so). That leaves the other 7 meetings to obviously go under our “magic number.”  This year the Steelers look “un-even” and Baltimore looked like they had the best defense in the league until (excuse me as I double check the stats) Blake Bortles threw for 244 yards and 4 touchdowns against them – yeah, I know. . . The Steelers lost to a Chicago Bears team who’s offense is as one dimensional as one can get and had to squeak by a Cleveland Browns team, that is ___________ (you can fill in the blank).  Bottom line is, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense is probably just as hard to watch as the Panthers are now-a-days and it seems that “Big Ben” Roethlisburger may have finally lost a step.  Expect a 13-10 thriller, and it doesn’t matter who wins.  We all lose if we watch this game.

The Pick: The Under at 42 points

Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 at the Los Angeles Chargers

We’re taking a look at this game because of the optics.  Both teams got worked by Kansas City, but if not for two botched field goals, the Chargers would be sitting at 2-1 much like the Eagles.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has gotten off to a slow start this season averaging less than 7 yards a pass, with 4 touchdowns mirroring 4 interceptions.  The public is riding high on the Eagles this week with 68% of the money going that way, which isn’t surprising because the national and local public pay no mind to the Chargers anyway.  The Eagles escaped with a win against New York, as the Giants realized too late that the Eagles have no secondary.  The Chargers, when compared to the Giants have a formidable group of wide-outs, a better offensive line and yes, a better quarterback.  On top of all that you got a team coming off a win against a division rival traveling 3000 miles to the team football forgot.  Great time for the home team to pick up their first win of the season.

The Pick: The Chargers -1.5

Here at Beating Vegas, we’re feeling good about those two picks.  The rest of the match-ups don’t look to pleasant but for the sake of writing down a third “lock” as we always do, here we go. . .

Cincinnati Bengals -3 at Cleveland Browns

Last week told us two things, the Browns aren’t good enough to beat the Colts and the Bengals should be almost good enough to beat the Packers.  It might sound crazy, but that tells a lot.  The Colts possess one of the worst rosters in the NFL this season (and last season) so for the  Browns to put up the “L” against them is atrocious.  The Bengals, came out the gates looking like the NFL’s only punchline.  A firing of an offensive coordinator and the discovery of using Joe Mixon, gave the offense some life though.  The Bengals actually DO have a good roster – that’s never been the problem, it’s been coaching – eh, yeah and sometimes it’s Andy Dalton as well. . . Bottom line is people keep looking for the Browns to turn the corner and for the Bengals to stump their big toe on the curb – truth is, neither of that will happen.  At least not this year.

The Pick: The Bengals -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Outsmart the Wise

Last week, the hot-shots at Vegas had some tricky lines but over here at Beating Vegas, we netted another winning week.  The NFL has left many scratching their heads as last year’s powerhouses like the Cardinals and the Panthers are struggling left and right, while teams like the Rams and the Vikings are proving to be the cream of the crop.  The hard-work will be accomplished here as we continue to give you winners against the spread though so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Washington Redskins +3.5 at Baltimore Ravens

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The Baltimore Ravens finally played an above average team and lost their first game this season and the Washington Redskins became a .500 team with a “little” help from the referees.  In the NFL it doesn’t matter how you get your wins, but for our purposes, how you win is just as/and sometimes more important than the actual win. The Ravens have been fluttering around the league looking a notch below mediocre and coming out with victories.  Credit that to coach Harbaugh (no, the other Harbaugh. . .the one who’s actually won something in his career. . .) but as stated last week, the Ravens best weapon on offense is their kicker Justin Tucker.  Sure they should something last week with running back Terrence West, but that was more of a fault to the Raiders who couldn’t stop anything that was attacking the left side of their defense.  Joe Flacco has been inconsistent this season and the Ravens best option at wideout is the seventy-five year old veteran Steve Smith, who this week will be matched up against the Redskins’ Josh Norman (popcorn, anyone?).  The Redskins go as far as Kirk Cousins’ own mediocrity will take them.  Offensively they seemed to put it together last week – albeit it was against the Browns, but this might be the kind of game that gets Cousins back on track.  The Redskins have speed and talent at the skill positions and should easily spread the Ravens thin.  The Ravens win or lose games by single digits and the Skins always have the “talent” on both sides of the ball – it’s their execution that comes into question.  Take the talent.

The Pick: Redskins +3.5

Chicago Bears +5 at Indianapolis Colts

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This is quite possibly the most disgusting game of the week. . . eh, maybe even the year.  The Bears have been showing no signs of turning fortunes around this season and getting their first win against a Detroit team that’s been a perennial loser for two decades is nothing to celebrate.  The Colts just lost to a Jaguars team that is one of the hardest to figure out – and it seems now that Andrew Luck’s frustrations are coming to a boil.  The Colts have the worst roster in the NFL today but Andrew Luck and Frank Gore are doing all they can to keep it together – by themselves.  The Bears are so bad as a franchise they’re actually considering leaving Brian Hoyer in at quarterback even if Jay Cutler is cleared to play.  I guess the Bears haven’t seen the story of Brian Hoyer being a starting quarterback in the NFL yet. . . most of us have seen it twice, two thumbs – wayyyy down.  So why would we bother watching this trash on a Sunday?  Easy.  Gore can run through the Bears front line and Luck can air it out against one of the most trash-bag secondaries in the league.  The Colts will struggle against Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard, and the Chuck Pagano coached defense of the Colts stinks.

The Pick: The Over 47.5

Syracuse +3 at Wake Forest

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Each of these teams will struggle trying to get to six wins this season and that’s mostly because there is a gauntlet of talented teams in the ACC.  Unfortunately for Wake Forest and Syracuse they are not included in that gauntlet.  Defensively Wake Forest crushes Syracuse – if you look at the numbers, that is.  Wake allows 20 ppg compared to Syracuse’s 37 – but Syracuse has played the likes of Louisville, South Florida and Notre Dame; Wake has played Delaware, Tulane and Indiana. . . Wake’s rush defense is impressive only allowing 3.3 yards a run.  That’s nice and all, and would mean something – but Syracuse doesn’t run the ball.  Syracuse has a spread offense that averages 370 passing yards a game and completes 31 passes a game – this is tops in the ACC, a conference that has Clemson, Louisville and UNC.  This is bad news for Wake Forest who’s pass defense has allowed the fourth most passing yards in the conference and allows opponents to complete passes at about a 57% rate.  One of college football’s best kept secrets is quarterback Eric Dungey of Syracuse – he’ll have his way against Wake.

The Pick: Syracuse +3

Michigan -27.5 at Rutgers

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Michigan has hit the “finally” mark this season.  Last week they “finally” played a worthy opponent and this week they “finally” play an away game.  Lucky for Michigan their first away game is against one of the worst teams in division one football, the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.  Rutgers ranks 268th in passing offense and 225th in total yards per game. Defensively they are dead last in the Big Ten Conference allowing 32 points a game.  Pretty impressive to be dead last in that category considering it means you have to play worse defense than Illinois, Purdue and Penn State.  Michigan has already won by more than 30 points on three separate occasions this season against teams that are bottom feeders like Rutgers.  Add to the fact that Michigan’s rival Ohio State just lit up Rutgers 58-0 last week – coach Jim Harbaugh and his boys will look to outdo their rivals by giving Rutgers a beat down for the ages.

The Pick: Michigan -27.5

Washington -8.5 at Oregon

The fact that Oregon is apparently going to sport some cool “Webbed Feet” jerseys this week, should be enough to make anyone watch this game.  From a football stand-point though, Washington, after stomping out Stanford last week, is looking to put a stranglehold on the Pac-12.  Washington hasn’t beating Oregon in over a decade and the cards should line up for them this year.  They have the number one offense (45 PPG) and defense (12 PPG) in the Pac-12 but let us look at this in depth. . . three of the offenses they’ve played were Idaho, Rutgers and Portland State – not exactly the kind of heavyweights selection committees faun over. . . Last week’s huge win over Stamford had the Cardinal missing three offensive linemen, and two starters in their secondary – add to the fact that the Stanford Cardinal have no real answer at quarterback – safe to say it was a good time to catch them.  The only time Washington faced a real offense was against Arizona, where they came away with the win, 35-28.  . . College football pundits have been talking about the decline of Oregon, but one thing you cannot deny is that they can still score points (40ppg) and rack up over 500 yards a game.  Oregon lost last week to a Washington State team that will give anyone fits, and before that lost by three points in back to back weeks to Nebraska and Colorado.  Not saying Washington will lose this match up, but Oregon is going to come out with something to prove in what could be a “let-down” type of game for Washington.

The Pick: Oregon +8.5

Four Game Teaser of the Week: Colorado/USC Over 48.5; Michigan -15.5; Notre Dame +13 and Toledo -5.

 

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: Entry Fifteen

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: Pushed on that sloppy and head scratching Jets win against Dallas, lost with Georgia State but covered with Ohio University and the big tease.  NFL is running high on emotion at this point of the year and there is no telling how these bowl games will unfold in college – BUT, we’ve been pretty much taking care of our faithful readers here at NGSCSports.Com, so don’t you worry, we got you!

The Bahamas Bowl (played at Thomas Robinson Stadium):

Middle Tennessee State (+4.5) vs Western Michigan

The line is interesting but the over/under is what you should be looking at.  Vegas has put the points total between the two universities at 63.  It’s a pretty big number but taking the ‘over’ just might be the way to go.  Out of the twelve games Western Michigan has played this year, nine have had a points total of at least 60 points.  Senior quarterback Zach Terrell will get to showcase his talents in this game in front of a national audience who isn’t familiar with him.  Terrell has thrown at a 68% completion rate, and has accumulated over 3200 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.   Middle Tennessee State has been averaging       points per game this season and it’s due to their aerial attack courtesy of sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill who’s stats mirror Terrell’s except he’s thrown for about 500 more yards.  Middle Tennessee is able to look good against the bad teams, but drew losses to better competition in the Sun Belt Conference (Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech) and had back to back losses against lowly BCS Conference opponents (Vanderbilt and Illinios).   Neither team has a defense that will scare off these high octane offenses but Western Michigan is clearly the more balanced of the two attacks.  Western Michigan is a pretty good bet at -4.5 but that over is too tempting to let go of.

The Pick: The Over at 63

 

The St. Petersburg Bowl (played at Tropicana Field)

Uconn (+4.5) vs Marshall

Nov 8, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies corner back Jamar Summers (21) returns an onside kick against Army at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

UConn is a pretty awful 6-6 team, who somehow beat a ranked Houston team during this season.  The UConn Huskies put up a putrid 17.8 points a game (second to last in the American Conference) BUT – this is a team that DOES have a defense allowing only 19.8 points per game (second in the conference, only to Temple).  UConn’s brand of football is uneventful and hard to look at, but it’s got them to a bowl game (for what it’s worth.)  Marshall’s defense is stout as well.  They were the best defense in Conference USA (18.4 points allowed per game).  Marshall’s opposition threw at a completion percentage under 50% against them, although when they played the aerial attacks of Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, that number swelled considerably. . .  That won’t be an issue against UConn though, who as a team, struggle to run and struggle to pass.   Ultimately, Marshall will win the turn over battle and force enough three and outs that things will work out for them.

The Pick: Marshall -4.5

 

The Sun Bowl (played at Sun Bow Stadium)

Miami Hurricanes (+3) vs Washington State

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The Washington State Cougars were a nice surprise out of the Pac-12 this year, finishing with an 8-3 record, mostly due to their aerial assault.  Wide receivers Gabe Marks and Dom Williams are both close to accomplishing some impressive highlights to their amazing seasons.  Marks has over 1100 receiving yards but he is one catch shy of 100 receptions, while Williams is three yards away from a 1000 yard season.   These two talented wide outs have been the beneficiaries of their quarterback Luke Falk who has thrown for 37 touchdowns and has completion percentage of 70%.    The Miami Hurricanes defense has 15 interceptions on the year and hold opponents to less than 200 yards through the air.  That is nearly half of what Luke Falk averages per game throwing the ball —  Something has GOT to give.   Miami’s rush defense is terrible but that shouldn’t matter because the Cougars barely run the ball anyhow.  Offensively the Hurricanes live and die by quarterback Bray Kaaya who isn’t a bad quarterback but has very little help around him and at times pushes too much.

The Pick: The Over at 61

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If You Must:   The Pittsburgh Steelers at -10 over their rival the Baltimore Ravens seems like a slam dunk.  The Ravens offense has turned into “throw it to Aiken and let’s see what happens” while their defense has turned into “let’s sleep walk through this season and see what happens.”  The Steelers are coming into the end of the regular season hot and if Big Ben remains healthy there is no reason this team can’t put up five touchdowns a game.  The Ravens haven’t even scored five touchdowns in their last three games. . .

Tease of the Week: (four gamer) Cowboys/Bills Under 55; Chiefs – .5; Marshall +7.5 and Seahawks -1.5

 

Good Luck, Wager Wisely and Happy Holidays!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Baltimore Ravens 2015 Preview

The Baltimore Ravens are a team built for a playoff run, but at times during the regular season, they appear stagnant.  They can come out flat in some games and tend to grind out wins against meek competition.  Regardless of how they make the playoffs though, they usually do and they’re a tough match up for anyone they go up against.  This season the Ravens have little margin for error though, with the Steelers and Bengals being in the same division.

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Quarterback Joe Flacco is well protected up front, the only weakness for the line though – comes from Flacco’s blind side in the form of left tackle, Eugene Monroe.  Monroe wasn’t 100% last season and was recovering from knee issues, but he should be at top health when the season starts.  Flacco has proven to be a durable quarterback through his career and is coming off of a season where he was fourteen yards short of throwing for 4000 yards.  There were too many times last season though where the Ravens had to settle for field goals instead of finishing a drive off.  Flacco has a few new targets this season that he needs to gel with quickly.   He is paired up with new offensive coordinator, former Bears head coach, Marc Trestman.  Trestman had a horrendous season in Chicago where his offense was supposed to be high powered and barely sparked during 2014.  He has been humbled and will most likely keep things as they were in Baltimore with a zone running scheme.

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The wide receivers on Baltimore are a question mark, but still there is room for optimism.  Veteran Steve Smith, is a trash talking wide out, that is hard to keep quiet.  Smith is probably the NFL’s toughest receiver (after Anquan Boldin of the 49ers) and is relentless.  At times Smith can disappear for long stretches and at 36 years of age, who knows how much of his motor will be going at 100% for four quarters each week.  Marlon Brown was a nice surprise last season, but considering he was basically unheard of if it wasn’t for a few nice weeks, one can assume he is average at best or has already peaked.  The Ravens drafted UFC wide receiver Brett Perriman, who showed off a 4.27 run at the forty-yard dash in this year’s rookie combine workouts.  He has all the makings of being a big time wide out if he doesn’t lose focus.  Great speed, good route runner and aggressive when the ball is in the air – but has a tendency to drop some passes.

Justin Forsett  stepped up as the starting running back for this organization when it was called upon him to do so.  Forsett finished with over 1200 rushing yards and knocked it off at nearly five and half yards a clip.  The problem going forward with Forsett is that, he is coming into his eighth season, in a career where he was predominantly a back up.  Not saying, he can’t be a late bloomer or that his time isn’t the present, but there has to be a reason why he’s been a back up for so long.  Rookie running back Javorius Allen fits the mold of a former Ravens back Bernard Pierce in sheer size.  Allen is a big back with some pass catching abilities that will work his way to either share, or take over the load at running back.

The defense of the Ravens is a consistent within the NFL.  This year should be no different.  A lot of that depends on how second year man Timmy Jernigan works on that defensive line.  He has shown to have a motor, but it takes a while for that motor to get revved up again.  It’s tough to leave him on the field for long – hopefully he’s worked on his endurance and stamina in the off-season.  Chris Canty is the veteran defensive end who will lead the way in the rotation of pass rushers, including the sophomore end Steven Means who apparently is getting high praise in the organization according to Aaron Wilson of Lindy’s Sports.

Last year the Ravens struck gold with their first-round pick C.J. Mosley out of Alabama.  He racked up 129 total tackles last season and proved to have a “veteran’s feel” when it came to chasing down ball carriers.  Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw are the veterans in this linebacker core that will help make Mosley’s transition to the pros even more comfortable than it already has been for him.  Dumervil is a versatile pass rusher who can line up with his hands in the dirt, or standing up-right.

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In 2011, the Ravens were said to be taking a gamble on corner back Jimmy Smith, who had an arrest and a few failed drug tests tied to his name at the time – but Smith has only improved on the field and is now part of a $48 million dollar deal over the next four years.   Smith injured his foot halfway through mid-season but will be back at full strength to start this season to lead this secondary.  Opposite of Smith is Lardarius Webb, who was playing injured most of last season, but he too will be ready to give it a go at 100% health.  The pressure is on the corner backs this season because the safeties behind them are more about hitting then covering.  Will Hill is decent in coverage, but it’s questionable if his head is ever in the game; and free agent Kendrick Lewis is more about knocking someone’s head off.

The Ravens offense will go through some growing pains this season, but they have a strong enough offensive line that they won’t put their defense in bad spots.   In true Ravens fashion, most of their games will be hard to watch but by the end of the regular season they’ll have something to play for.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Jimmy Smith, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, Kelechi Osemele

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio