NFL: Championship Sunday Handicapping

Patriots at Broncos 

The Patriots are a three-point or 3.5-point favorite at the Broncos on Sunday. The same Patriots team that was only a five-point favorite against the Chiefs last Saturday. This line for the AFC Championship Game is saying the Patriots would be close to 10-point favorites if this game was played in Foxboro.

Are the Chiefs five points better than the Broncos? Not a chance. A Broncos are probably the better team and have an advantage at almost every position other than quarterback.

The big question in this game is Peyton Manning. I expect the Patriots to force Manning to beat them with mid-range and long throws. New England will look to stop the run and contain a screen-pass game.

There’s not much value in betting on the Patriots against the spread so I will approach this game by picking against the Broncos defense. I will tweet out official plays but will likely go under the Broncos team total, which is currently posted at 20.5. I will also take a closer look at the first half under for this game.

Cardinals at Panthers

Let’s get this out of the way early. I think the Cardinals are a slightly better team than the Panthers. The Panthers are a 3-point favorite so I think there is some value in the Cardinals.

The first half for the Panthers couldn’t have gone better against the Seahawks. A long run by Jonathan Stewart set up an early touchdown and pick-six by Luke Keuchly put Seattle in an early hole and they could never recover. It was a dream start for Carolina and I don’t think that will happen this week.

I do like the Cardinals to win straight up and think their wide receivers will be able to have success against the Cardinals secondary. Josh Norman has had a very strong season and will likely be able to contain Larry Fitzgerald. I will look at the props for Michael Floyd and John Brown in this game. I think both could be very productive playing away from Norman. Floyd got the headlines last week with his two touchdowns receptions but Brown had more receptions and targets. He didn’t score a touchdown but his a deep threat that could change the game in one play. I will post the props I like on Twitter but they will likely involve Brown over receiving yards and to score a touchdown.

As for the side, I will tweet an official pick on the Cardinals later but will hold out hope the line gets to 3.5-points.

NFL: Week 15 Picks

Giants (+5) over Panthers: I think this is the week the Panthers lose. The Giants are getting way too many points at home and the Panthers are on the verge of locking up home field advantage in the NFC. Finishing 16-0 would be nice for the team but success in the playoffs is more important.

Packers (-3) over Raiders: I think this will be a high-scoring game as well so I have no problem with taking a road favorite at a field goal. The Raiders are coming off a big win over the Broncos last week and think they have a letdown especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders offense will move the ball but think they lose by a touchdown.

Eagles (+4) over Cardinals: I think this is a field goal game either way and the Eagles are a much improved team with Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Football Picks: December 5 and 6

Stanford (-4.5) over USC: A lot has changed since these two teams met on September 19 in Week 3. Stanford entered the game 1-1 and beat USC straight up as a 10-point underdog. Since then Stanford flirted with a spot in the College Football Playoff but a loss to Oregon gives the Cardinal a slim chance to get a top four spot. USC has fired a coach and just permanently hired one since the Week 3 contest against Stanford. After beating UCLA, the Trojans took the interim label off Clay Helton’s title and he signed a five-year deal to be the school’s head coach. With Stanford having more to play for, I think they cover this number. Helton and USC will have one eye looking towards recruiting and might not be well prepared for this game.

Saints (+7) over Panthers: I made the point spread for this game Panthers -4. So I think there is some value in this line. New Orleans is a much better team at home and their defense has to be slightly better since Rob Ryan got fired. The Saints played the Panthers tough when the two teams met earlier this season and I think this will be another close one.

Rams (+6) over Cardinals: This is the classic take the Jeff Fisher team as an underdog in a division game. The Cardinals might be looking ahead to a Thursday night game at home against the Vikings. I think the Rams will be able to have success on the ground with Todd Gurley and cover this spread at home.

Giants (+2.5) over Jets: The Giants are technically the home team but you can throw out home field advantage here since the Jets play in the same stadium. I still don’t think the Jets are a better team than the Giants and not sure why they are favorites especially without Darrelle Revis.  I think the Giants win straight up and put themselves in a strong position to win the NFC East.

Chiefs (-3) over Raiders: I usually don’t like taking away favorites but I think the red-hot Chiefs aren’t getting the respect they deserve in this line. Oakland has won five game but I don’t spot an impressive win on their schedule. The Chiefs are on a great winning and covering streak, and I’m going to take a shot at them doing it again.

NFL: Week 4 Picks

There are a lot games to stay away from this week but I found three underdogs that I predict will cover and possibly win straight up.

Texans (+6) over Falcons: The line for this game was Falcons -3.5 before Week 3 action. The Falcons improved to 3-0 with a win over Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys. The Texans picked up their first win of the season at home against the Buccaneers. I don’t see why there was a 2.5-point line move in favor of Atlanta. A lot of people are impressed with the Falcons but they have won all there games as small underdogs. Now they have a different role as a big favorite and I think they struggle trying to cover this number. The Texans have a solid defense and will keep this game close.

Giants (+5) over Bills: The Bills are another team that the public is in love with after a 2-1 start. I was on the Bills last week and they dominated against the Dolphins. Now injuries have caught up with Buffalo as running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins are out for this game. The Giants have an extra three days to prepare for this one and are a few plays away from being 3-0. This is a pretty big number for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Bills to cover. I think Buffalo has a letdown after three grueling games against the Colts, Patriots and Dolphins.

Rams (+7) over Cardinals: The Rams burned me last week but they I’m going back to them this week. The lookahead line going into Week 3 was Cardinals -4 for this game. The Rams falling to the Steelers 12-6, and the Cardinals routing the 49ers by 40 points is the reason the line has reached a full touchdown. The Cardinals played a great game against the 49ers but that was set up by two interception returns for touchdowns in the first six minutes. The 49ers were only a 6-point underdog in that game and the Rams are a better team than the 49ers this season. Along with the line value, Jeff Fisher teams do great in an underdog role against division teams. Last year the Rams led the Cardinals going into the fourth quarter in Arizona. The Cardinals scored 21 fourth quarter points, including two defensive touchdowns to get the 17-point win. But the Rams played the Cardinals close and the score was misleading. Arizona is 3-0 but they beat the Saints, Bears and 49ers who are a combined 1-8 this season. My strongest pick of the week is to take the Rams against the spread.

Saints vs Cardinals Pick

I’m not a huge fan of the Cardinals this season but I am very down on the Saints in 2015. New Orleans finished 7-9 last year, and lost Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. Those two players were important weapons for quarterback Drew Brees who is now a year older. The Saints defense is also a mess right now.

The Cardinals struggled at the end of last season but I wouldn’t put much stock into that because Carson Palmer was hurt. Drew Stanton was serviceable but he eventually got injured, which led to Ryan Lindley starting a playoff game. The Cardinals were 7-0 at home with Palmer and Stanton as the starters last year. Palmer is back and it always seems like the Cardinals have covered a spread in this range under coach Bruce Arians at home. I think the Cardinals are the better team and like them giving less than a field goal.

Pick: Cardinals (-2.5) over Saints