Tag Archives: Texans

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: Beardown

Green Bay Packers +5.5 at Chicago Bears

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I entered this season with very minimal hopes and realistic expectations.  At the mid-point of this season, all isn’t awful for the Bears, but they sure do have a lot more work to do.  Currently the Bears offense is – predictable, to say the least.  With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being handcuffed by play-calling and a lack of options to throw the ball to, the Bears are attacking via the rushing game. Running back Jordan Howard is third in the NFL in total carries (behind Zeke Elliot and LeVeon Bell) and is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (662).  He is the bell cow for this offense and with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for less than 50% of his completions, expect this trend to continue.  The strength of this Bears team lies in their top ten defense.  This is a great thing for fans of the Bears to see as they know the key to any success this franchise has ever had – stems from a strong defense.  This week the Monsters of the Midway face their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Brett Hundley has been more underwhelming than Trubisky and although his completion percentage is 1.2 points below sixty-percent – don’t be fooled.  He’s averaging five yards a pass and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 1:4.  Yikes.  Defensively, the Packers are allowing 357 yards a game, which puts them in the bottom twenty-five percent of the NFL.  Both teams will run very vanilla offenses, the Bears may try to open things up more than the Packers actually.  Regardless, this is the first time since 2008 that the Bears are actually favored to win over the Packers.  Five and half points (with the trending arrow moving upwards) is just a weird number, but 38 as the over and under is a good one.  This game will see a lot of three and outs and a lot of kicks.  Bears may pull it off, modestly.

The Pick: The Under 38.5

Houston Texans +11 at Los Angeles Rams

One thing we all can agree on is this:  The Houston Texans are pathetic without Deshaun Watson under center.  The Texans options are quarterback are Tom Savage, who’s awful; Josh Johnson, who we vaguely remember as awful and TJ Yates, who is “eh.” It’s not even about the Texans losing their quarterback, the whole organization seems to have lost any inspiration, and that is not ALL on coach Bill O’ Brien.  O’Brien is in the middle of a firestorm that involves his players not being happy with remarks made by the team’s owner.  This is the total opposite of what’s going on in L.A. with the Rams.  For years, the Rams have pretty much been a door-mat in the NFL.  First year coach Sean McVay has transformed this team into the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 32.9 points per contest.  Houston’s defense may struggle with the Rams’ aerial attack and their run defense will get their best challenge of the season going up against running back Todd Gurley.  Gurley has the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with 686.  The total balance on offense will be too much for Houston to keep up with for four quarters especially because the Texans offense will most likely throw up uneventful three-and-out drives and turn over the ball at least twice.

The Pick: Rams -11

New Orleans Saints -3 at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo at home is always a tough sell on the sharpest of betters.  The weather is miserable and visiting teams are bored because there is nothing to do there.  This year’s Bills team is in the middle of the debate of “contenders or pretenders” especially after getting smacked up by the Jets on national television last week.  The Bills don’t run the ball exceptionally well but they also don’t throw the ball exceptionally well – but they force the issue with the run as their 250 attempts, with an average of 3.7 yards a carry, prove.  NFL pundits have been drooling over the defense of the New Orleans Saints, saying that this defense is the reason why they have a record of 6-2.  When you look at the numbers though, you ask yourself: Really?  A defense that gives up 4.7 yards a rush and a completion percentage of 60% sounds pretty average. . .even to some below-average. For the Saints though, it’s all about one defensive stat: Points Per Game.  This defense is only allowing teams to average 19 points per contest which goes really well when you have an offense that is constructed so perfectly.  Head coach Sean Payton has leaned on a two-running-back attack where Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are relied on heavily throughout the game.  The Saints have an offense that is top ten in rushing and passing and going against the Bills defense on the road will be one of their tougher test this year.  A final score of 27-18 is totally believable in the favor of the Saints.

The Pick: Saints -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

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

Beating Vegas: Tennessee Turn Up?

Last week Beating Vegas went 50/50 on College and NFL picks. That’s just not going to cut it here, so let’s knock out these NFL picks!

Seattle Seahawks +3 at Tennessee Titans

In two weeks, the Seattle Seahawks have put up a whopping 21 points.  The offensive line isn’t what it used to be and quiet as kept. . .neither is Russell Wilson.  Wilson’s completion percentage is 56% and he’s averaging 5.4 yards a pass.  Those are pretty below average numbers for a guy who’s held in such high regard today.  It’s not all his fault though, the pass protection isn’t great and his receivers – if we’re being honest – they’re a pretty overrated group (sorry Doug Baldwin fans. . . all four of you).  Tennessee is a team, on the other hand that NEEDS to piece this thing together.  Quarterback, Marcus Mariota is putting up better numbers than Wilson – but  not by much, but unlike Seattle, he has weapons.  Running back Derrick Henry just may have taken over the reigns last week when Demarco Murray went down with a hamstring injury (day-to-day) and the young receiving core has talent with Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Rishard Matthews.  They’re just a young team that is finding ways to put it all together – at least one would hope.  The Titans need a signature win and this is their opportunity, to hit a heavy weight while it’s tending to it’s wounds.

The Pick: The Titans -3

Houston Texans +13.5 at New England Patriots

While Texans coach Bill O’Brien is muddling through the early goings of this 2017 season (blowout loss to the Jaguars and barely beating the Bengals) he has to take his team, led by rookie quarterback Deshawn Watson to go against his former boss, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.  O’Brien was awarded stripes while being the offensive coordinator at New England, than won people over by accepting the job at Penn State during it’s darkest times and eventually becoming head coach of the Texans.  It’s been rough though, as this once heralded “quarterback guru” has been shuffling through mediocrity under center since he arrived.  Now a rookie quarterback enters New England, where under Belichick rookie quarterbacks have gone 0-8.  Add to the fact that Watson is averaging less than 5 yards a pass and his second leading target is his under achieving running back Lamar Miller – things can get crazy.  This Texans defense is “supposed” to be one of the better ones in the league, but in two games they’ve netted three sacks and zero interceptions. New England on the other hand shook off their week one cobwebs and got their swagger back against New Orleans last week 36-20 (game wasn’t even that close – Brees through a garbage time TD with about 5 minutes left).  Houston is going to struggle to score and there will be more than a few three and outs. This will benefit the New England offense who by the second half will wear down this defense.

The Pick: Patriots -13.5

Miami Dolphins -6 at New York Jets

It’s easy to pick against the Jets because. . .it’s the Jets.  When a team is noticeably tanking, you take that into consideration, but this is a rivalry game and coach Todd Bowles is coaching for his life right now.  On the other hand, the Miami Dolphins are only looking up, as they bring to New York one of the more complete rosters in the NFL.   Miami went to L.A. and squeezed out a win against a gritty Chargers team that has a knack for blowing close games and now come back to the east coast to play their rivals in New York.  Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler looked like he didn’t forget a step in the Adam Gase offense and looked calm and in control throughout the game.  Cutler throwing over 70% completion rate, which is pretty much what the Jets allow at about 11.4 yards a pass.  Josh McCown is doing what he can on offense but with no real running game to help him out and only one real target in Jermaine Kearse, the frustration settles in quick.

The Pick: Miami -6

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NFL Free Agency, Pt. 2

Last week we discussed who should get paid, where they should land and who should be ignored.  We nailed Alshon Jeffrey landing with the Eagles, but what we didn’t see coming was his one-year price tag. For a young guy, only his fifth-season – signing a one-year deal worth $14 million seems to just short change his economic potential.  The Patriots made two moves, one in signing corner Stephon Gilmore, who we gave a “buyer’s beware” tag attached to his name, and then traded for Saints wide-receiver, Brandin Cooks – proof that the rich only get richer. . .

The move that made the most noise was the Cleveland Browns trade with the Houston Texans, and breaking it down, we’ll reveal why. The Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler, 2018 second-round pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick and in return the Browns gave the Texans a 2017 fourth-round pick, and helped relieve the weight of the Texans’ purse.  The Texans are set to save about $10 million in salary-cap space this season because of the move, and are also out of a bad marriage, which was the contract they gave Osweiler.  From the onset it looks like a landslide victory for the Texans, but for the Browns it was all about the draft picks.  The Browns have more cap room than anyone else in the league (I’m not a “cap” guy, but it’s in the area of $100 million in cap space) so even if they decide to cut Osweiler, it won’t affect their plans in the off-season – it was all about the draft picks.  It’s a pretty unconventional move, but these two had to means and desire to get it done.  The Browns would be better off just cutting Osweiler instead of actually starting him, and Osweiler will most probably land somewhere as a back-up for what he’s really worth.  .  .

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This trade opens up the quarterback position for the Houston Texans now, who many feel are one-quarterback-away from at least getting to the AFC Championship game.  Currently, their quarterback position is filled with the likes of Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden.  The “dream” scenario would be to sign Tony Romo if he was to be released by the Cowboys.  Only problem is, that still hasn’t happened.  Romo’s relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is what’s basically holding it back.  Jones does not want to trade Romo to a team that he doesn’t want to go to – which is admirable but at the same time, teams who are interested (like the Texans and Broncos) don’t want the lucrative contract that comes with the talented, yet very injury prone veteran quarterback.  In all reality, the Cowboys could still hold onto Romo and keep him on as a back-up, and knowing Jerry Jones, that’s very much so a possibility.  . . Back to the Texans though. . .  if Bill O’Brien and Houston can’t land Romo, who’s the next best option? Nick Foles? RG3? Colin Kaepernick? Or maybe, just maybe – Jay Cutler?  Previously, in the NGSC article entitled “Where Does Cutler Go Now?” five different landing spots were mentioned (one of which was ‘retirement’ which may still happen) but the Texans were never quite entered that discussion until now.  The Jets are so far the only team rumored to be interested in the veteran QB, but if the Texans can’t land Romo – are they really going to go through another year of Brian Hoyer type (who just signed with the 49ers)?  Very unlikely.  Cutler would actually make sense, and this would be his most complete team to start for in his career.

The running back position is always an interesting one in free agency.  The league just doesn’t want to pay the big bucks to that position, which seems foul, but it’s just becoming smart business.  We discussed last week how Adrian Peterson didn’t show much last year, but his name will garner him attention,  but there are a few other backs that should be interesting, if not anything else, to follow.  Isiah Crowell is a talented, strong back with a lot of upside on the field, but got into some hot water for his tasteless take on police brutality on his twitter account last year.  He is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen, even if you were to just interview him.  BUT, in terms of business a team may be able to pay him less than what he’s worth and it can benefit them.  Seattle, might be a good landing spot for him.  They are looking to bolster their running back group and are rumored to have interest in Adrian Peterson (yikes).

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A nice addition to any team would be Mike Gillislee.  Last year for Buffalo, he averaged 5.7 yards a carry and rushed for 8 touchdowns.  He’s perfect for teams that employ a split at the halfback position, although if he was asked to carry the full load, it’s doubtful he’d disappoint.  He played his college ball at Florida and the Jaguars like spending money at free agency, it could work out nicely for him to get a job in Jacksonville.

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The “30 and Over” crowd at the running back position usually get the raw end of free agency.  Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower and DeAngelo Williams can still be productive but if a team  takes them on, it will be at a discount price and in a clear number two (even three) spot on the depth chart.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Vegas Is Getting Smarter

Beating Vegas has been ON FIRE with it’s college football picks!  So far this year we are 11 for 13 so let’s see if we can keep that luck going.  Safe to say everyone took a hit with the NFL last week as two big time favorites this year in Pittsburgh and Arizona looked flat out awful.  New week, new story – so keep checking for this column weekly and visit mybookie.ag so you can beat the NCAA and NFL odds. . .

Tennessee Titans +6.5 at Houston Texans

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At this point, some teams and players start shaping up into what they will be for the rest of the year.  For the Titans, this looks like a squad that is confused on the field and has a quarterback who is suffering from the sophomore jinx.  Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota appears to be thinking too much.  Usually thinking is a good thing, but he hasn’t been “reacting” to situations quick enough in the pocket – he’s somewhere between ‘trying to make the big play’ and ‘trying not to turn over the ball’ – and failing at both.  The Texans were just shut out on National television by a third string, rookie quarterback and are now playing in the comfort of their own home against a division rival they know well.  The Texans have beaten the Titans in eight of their last ten meetings, and they’ve done so by nearly twenty points per win.   This Titans team is far from making the jump to being competitive and they’ve got a quarterback who seems to be trying to drive this offense  from the back seat.  Take the better coach and better depth (even without J.J. Watt).

The Pick: Texans -6.5

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at New York Jets

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The big story here is that Russell Wilson suffered a sprain ACL in his left knee last week against the San Francisco 49ers.  The Seahawks are expecting Wilson to play, even if not at 100% which will work right into the Jets’ hands.  Wilson hasn’t been “killing it” this year anyhow.  In three games he has two touchdown passes, an interception and a lost fumble.  The Seahawks offense doesn’t know what it wants to be: “Smash-mouth”
, Aerial – or balanced.  Regardless of what they think they are – they’ve looked really sloppy so far this year.  Speaking of “sloppy” . . . The New York Jets were downright pitiful last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, losing 24-3.  Well at least their offense looked pitiful. . .Eh, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked pitiful.  Fitzy threw six interceptions and appeared to be confused with which jersey color he should’ve been throwing to the whole game.  The Jets will keep this game simple against a Seahawks defense that will feast on those floater passes Fitzy likes to throw.  This game will be ugly, but it will be in New York, meaning Seattle has to make that coast to coast travel that all teams dread.  The Jets will be looking to rebound against a wounded Russell Wilson.  The public will be riding the Seahawks on pure reputation against the Jets – the public is usually wrong.

The Pick: The Jets +2.5

Illinois +21 at Nebraska

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Talk about two universities going in completely different directions. . . yikes.  Illinois is the bad side of the coin as it looks like head coach Lovie Smith may have taken on more than he can handle with this roster and it’s lack of talent.  On the heavier side of the coin is Nebraska, who is so far, undefeated and both sides of the ball seem to be in sync with each other.  Illinois has gotten shelved by UNC and Western Michigan and although quarterback Wes Lunt isn’t a bad player, it’s the lack of talent around him.  The offensive line isn’t impressive and outside of wide receiver Marcus Turner, they lack little to know play making ability.  Nebraska is led by quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. who has been a duel-threat nightmare for defenses so far this year averaging over 300 yards and three touchdowns a game.  The offense has two capable running backs and Nebraska is a team that can go four wide at the wide receiver position and depend on all of them.  The trend in Vegas is that Nebraska is 4-1 ATS in it’s last five games, while Illinois is 1-5 ATS in it’s last six games.  Expect that trend to continue, even with this big number – Illinois just can’t match up with Nebraska on the field.

The Pick: Nebraska -21

Western Michigan -3.5 at Central Michigan

You got to love the Mac Conference.  We won with Western Michigan earlier this year in an easy cover against Illinois (yes, the team that we’re going against this week as well) and this week they’re going against Central Michigan.  Both squads average about 41 points a game between them and defensively they allow on average about 23 points a game between them.  Last year the winner of this game was Western Michigan 41-39.  The over/under for this game is set at 55 and this is the kind of game where these two will be lighting each other up until late in the fourth quarter.

The Pick: The Over 55

If You Must: Take Wisconsin +10.5 against Michigan.  Don’t like riding a team two weeks in a row, but they were the underdogs last week and flat out won, this week, Wisconsin is the first true test for Michigan who has been playing cup cakes so far this season.  Michigan is playing a team now that will “punch back” and they haven’t faced that at all this year.  Michigan will most likely still come away with a win, but Wisconsin will hang around.  This might be a preview of the Big Ten Title game and both teams know it.

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4 Game Tease of the Week: Dolphins +19, Browns +19.5, Raiders +15.5 and Stanford/Washington Under 57

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Seventeen

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: I have no problem being wrong about USC last week because I’m pretty sure 95% of America was with me on that one. . .

The Division 1-AA Championship Game:

Jacksonville State (+4) vs North Dakota State:

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Despite two close wins against Chattanoga and a near upset of a “then ranked” Auburn team in over-time – The Jacksonville State Gamecocks have been winning with ease week to week.   They caught the attention of the college football world in that game against Auburn, in which they exposed what the Auburn Tigers really were and we were introduced to senior quarterback Eli Jenkins.  Jenkins is a true dual-threat quarterback who has thrown for over 2700 yards and rushed for over 1000.  Jenkins along with stud running back Troymaine Pope (average 8.4 yards a carry and over 1700 rushing yards) lead a Gamecocks offense that is putting up 41 points a game.  The North Dakota State Bison have been the most popular team in Division 1-AA because of their recent run of dominance and because of the seemingly annual trip ESPN’s College Gameday makes out there to show love to the Bison.  The Bison have a very blue collar way of going about their business – they make minimal mistakes on offense and play hard nosed defense.   Both of these defenses allow less than 3.5 yards a rush and both defenses keep opponents throwing at a 50% completion rate.  This is a tricky one  because one group of people will see how Jacksonville State almost beat an SEC team in Auburn, while the other half will see a North Dakota State team which has been the media darling for the better part of five years.  The line is right where it should be, but bet on the defenses in this one.

The Pick: Take the UNDER at 58

The Green Bay Packers (+1) at the Washington Redskins

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It may sound crazy, but although the Kansas City Chiefs are on a ten game winning streak, the hottest team in the league just may be the Washington Redskins, who are currently riding a four game winning streak.  The Redskins won the nearly laughable (and collapse-able) NFC East and are at home to one of the league’s most storied franchises, the Green Bay Packers, who are anything but “hot” entering the post season.  The funny thing about Green Bay, is that even in a “sub-par” season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has still thrown for 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions in a season, where he struggled to find help from his supporting cast.  The offensive line disappointed many and the wide receiver core showed how “regular” they can be without Jordy Nelson out there.   Running back Eddie Lacy has been “okay” as of late, but with only 743 rushing yards on the season and only three touchdowns by way of the ground – it’s easy to tell that the hefty tailback has been running to IHOP more than to the end zone this year. . . Luckily for Lacy, Rodgers should find some spots in a Washington secondary that has given up 30 touchdowns this year, so it’s very likely that the running attack will be rarely displayed from Green Bay.  The Washington Redskins quarterback, Kirk Cousins is one of the better stories of this year.  He’s taken shots from the media and has looked at times – flat out, awful – as a quarterback, but something clicked in him this year and he has stood out as one of the better passers in the second half of the season.  Cousins leads the NFL in completion percentage at 69.5% and was 10 yards short of throwing for 4000.  He’s looking better in the pocket now and has a healthy Desean Jackson to help stretch the field.   Jordan Reed is a top five tight end who the league, who is a match up nightmare for any defense.  The Packers are by no means going to get blown out, which is why Vegas has them as a slight underdog.  Vegas is also betting that people will fall for the allure of the Packers over the Redskins, who up until this year have been one of the NFL’s punchlines.

The Bet:  Washington Redskins -1

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) at the Houston Texans

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This will be a defensive battle in the state of Texas, and if you’re trying to find out which team has the better defense, you’d be splitting hairs to do so.   Alex Smith is one of the most under appreciated players in the NFL, but he keeps throwing at high completion rates and he keeps NOT turning the ball over.  Oh yeah, remember when he didn’t throw a touchdown pass to a receiver all of last year?  Well that all changed once they gave him a receiver to spread the field with in Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin turned out a 1000 yard season with seven touchdowns and is still a dynamic play maker.  After stud running back, Jamal Charles went down for the season, coach Andy Reid was able to find life and stability in his backfield with Chacandrick West and Spencer Ware.   Meanwhile, the Texans haven seemingly used five different running backs this year who all pumped out average numbers, but it doesn’t matter because they will find ways to get the ball in wide out Deandre Hopkins’ hands as much as possible.  Hopkins is one of the most “un-coverable” guys in the league, who has a combination of speed, athleticism and hands that makes any quarterback comfortable tossing the ball up in the air.  Brian Hoyer will be that quarterback, and after starting, being benched and starting again – he’s got to be happy that he’s a division winning quarterback with one of the best tools in the league to play with.   This game will be a chess match for all four quarters, as both teams are coached extremely well and for the most part are evenly matched.  Take the home team with the points though, especially because nobody has been enamored with the Texans this year.

The Pick: The Texans +4

If You Must: Even if you don’t watch/like college football, how are you going to NOT watch the National Championship.  The Clemson Tigers have finally made it over the humps that have stumped them in the past and are the number one ranked team in the country and even with that, they are underdog to Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.  Clemson has speed and spread formations that have given Saban’s teams fits before, but Saban is too smart to be beat by the same tricks again.   Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is a smart quarterback and a “gamer” who won’t be intimidated by the Crimson’s Tides blitz packages – expect Clemson to slow down the blitz with screen passes and quick slants early.  Alabama is driven by the playing style and over-all “awesomeness” of Heisman Trophy Winner, Derrick Henry but the Tide are actually a pretty well balanced offense.  On average, Alabama puts up 208 rushing yards and 214 passing yards a game.  This should an interesting match up because Clemson can defend both the pass and run very well.  Alabama makes it impossible to run against them, and if Clemson has to be one dimensional the whole game, it won’t bode well for them.  Clemson will get some scores in because they have way too much talent but in the end, Alabama -7 might be the way to go. 

Not enough to make me want to play with the lines this week to throw in a “teaser of the week” but as always, Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Houston Texans 2015 Preview

Head coach Bill O’Brien is one of the most likable – yet, rugged coaches in the NFL.  He comes from the Belichick tree of coaching, and what he did in the two years after the tumultuous Penn State scandal was remarkable and commendable.  Now in his second year with the Houston Texans, O’Brien still has a talented roster but no answer at quarterback.  A key injury has impacted the offense before the season has started and Bill O’Brien will once again have to find ways to win, when people are counting him out.

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The Houston Texans have announced that Brian Hoyer will be the starting quarterback this season.  This comes as a surprise to many because Ryan Mallett was the one the masses figured would get the start.  In team practices and in the pre-season though, Mallett has been unable to to show growth, or even enough adequacy at the position for the coaching staff to go with him.   Hoyer didn’t have much an impressive season last year with the Browns (over 3300 passing yards, twelve touchdowns, thirteen interceptions) but none-the-less, he is handed the reigns of this offense.  Hoyer will most likely be benched in favor of Mallett before mid-season.  Third-string sophomore quarterback Tom Savage, has nothing more to offer than a really cool last name. . .

It doesn’t get easier for the offense.   Star running back Arian Foster suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for just about six weeks of the season.   Foster is a do-it-all back, who is the centerpiece of this offensive game plan.  Now that pressure goes onto backup running back Alfred Blue.  Blue has the potential and saw a lot of playing time last year behind Foster, so another year in this system should make things a little easier for the second-year back out of LSU.   When Foster went down, the Texans looked into twenty free agent backs (none of them went by the name Ray Rice) – but Chris Polk might be their backup-backup plan if Blue goes down.

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With or without Arian Foster starting week one, this Texans offense was going to have a weird look to it at the beginning of the season, regardless.  That is because longtime Texan, Andre Johnson is now in Indianapolis.   Andre Johnson takes with him his 13,597 receiving yards and and 64 touchdowns, which have made him a Texans legend in the last 13 years.  Now it’s time for DeAndre Hopkins to fill the role of number-one receiver and in some discussions, he took over that role last year – with Johnson on the team.  Hopkins finished last year with 1210 receiving yards and will be looked upon to handle even more as he will be the focal point of the aerial attack.  The number two receiver position seems like an interesting battle between Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington and rookie Jalen Strong out of Arizona State.

The offensive line isn’t too bad though.  They have studs at the tackle spots with Derek Newton on the right side and Duane Brown at the left.  Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones were the guards last season but it appears Jones will now play center.  It will be interesting to see the affect this will have on a team that likes to run the ball as much as the Texans do.

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An easy way out of writing about the Texans’ defense could’ve just been to write the name: J.J. Watt.   Watt literally does all any coach can ask of him and more.   Impossible to block one on one and when he can’t get to through the line he has the uncanny ability to swat passes down (or tip them to himself).  Watt makes any defensive unit in the league a threat because of all the attention he gains on every possession.   The Texans thought it was worth the gamble to see if veteran nose-tackle Vince Wilfork has anything left in the tank.  Although the Texans would’ve liked to not spend the money they spent on Wilfork if last year’s third-round pick, Louis Nix would’ve showed them something.  It’s still early enough to have some hope for Nix, but he needs to show them something special in order to get on the field.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Jadeveon Clowney looked “mobile” and “confident” in Texans’ practices, which is a good thing because if Clowney pulls in his second year what he did as a rookie – he’ll be in “bust” territory.   Clowney came in with such fanfare and hype that he would’ve never lived up to the expectations, but his limited time on the field and questionable work ethic have people in Houston worried.  If Clowney can play at full strength, and play with heart – there is no way on Earth, that he can’t be a force in this league as a pass rusher.  Brian Cushing hasn’t stayed healthy since his rookie year in  2009.   He was amazing in that season but that season is more of an urban legend than anything else.  This will be a make or break season for Cushing.  Whitney Mercilus is a decent player, but until Clowney or Cushing step up, he is the team’s best linebacker.

Corner back tandem of Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Jospeh looked good last year but that’s what happens when you have J.J. Watt wrecking havoc on quarterbacks and as a defense you get to play Jacksonville and Tennessee twice a year.  The duo gets more help in that secondary with the addition of Stevie Brown.  Brown is an active and underrated safety who can play the ball and put on the tackle.  Great addition to this defense.

This defense looks better on paper than it is in real life, but if some of these newest editions along with players returning from injury can make a change – it will only be a positive.  The Texans finished 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs.  Nobody would be surprised with another decent season with nothing to show for it.

Predicted Record: 9-7

Predicted Pro Bowlers: J.J. Watt, Stevie Brown, Vince Wilfork, DeAndre Hopkins

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio