NHL Playoffs Get Underway

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After thinking that we may not have hockey at all in 2013, fans and bettors will get the chance to revel in the excitement of the NHL playoffs once again starting today. The league is offering up a three-game slate of games ones today, which includes some of the most anticipated match-ups of the postseason. Check out who we like in game one with our picks below!

#8 Minnesota Wild +1.5 at #1 Chicago Blackhawks -1.5

Though the Wild struggled at times this season, they are still a dangerous team with an extremely talented roster. However, they’ll be going up against the team that could do no wrong during the regular season – the Chicago Blackhawks, who finished the season with the most points.

The Blackhawks dominated most opponents this season, including the Wild, going 2-0-1 against Minnesota this season, but they only won their two games by a combined three goals, so there’s a reasonable expectation that this will be a close game as well, especially considering it’s a playoff game.

I like Chicago to win this one, but look for the Wild to take it down to the wire and cover +1.5 today.

#5 Los Angeles Kings +1.5 at #4 St. Louis Blues -1.5

The Kings are in better starting position as the five seed then they were when they won the Stanley Cup last year (eight seed), but they’ll be the underdog again in their opening series against one of the hottest teams in the league.

The Blues finished the season strong, winning 12 of their final 15 games, but they did it with tough defense and tight goaltending, while putting the puck in the net enough to get the job done.

However, the Kings have dominated the series recently, winning the last eight meetings, including the a second round playoff sweep of the Blues last season. The Blues might be playing well right now, but the Kings have plenty of playoff experience and a knack for beating St. Louis, so take L.A. to cover +1.5 and win this one outright.

#7 Detroit Red Wings +1.5 at #2 Anaheim Ducks -1.5

The Ducks have been flying under the radar for much of the season and they’ve had an incredible amount of success against almost every opponent, but one team they struggled with was the perennial playoff power – the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings got the better of the Ducks this season, winning two of three meetings, but they weren’t as consistently strong as they have been in years past, ranking just 19th in goal scoring.

Still, I like the postseason-tested Red Wings here in game one. They may not win the series, but the it may take the Ducks a couple more games to figure them out. Take Detroit to cover +1.5.

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Monday NBA Playoff Games: April 29, 2013

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NBA fans and bettors saw the Spurs and Heat advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs this weekend and today two more teams will have the chance to move on, while two others will be staring elimination in the face.

Here is a look at all three games in the NBA playoffs today and and always, our premium point-spread picks:

Chicago Bulls +5.5 at Brooklyn Nets -5.5

After winning game one of the best-0f-seven series, the Nets have stumbled, losing the last three to the Bulls and now face elimination in game five. However, Brooklyn will be back on its home court today and it knows there’s no room for error.

The Bulls have faced plenty of adversity this season – mostly in the form of injuries – and have been able to overcome it, but today they’ll be in the unfamiliar role as the hunter looking to finish off an opponent.

The Nets have dominated stretches of games during this series, but haven’t been able to hold on to leads in clutch moments and late in games. I think they’ll have a much better chance to do this at home today and I think they’ll stay alive. Take the Nets to cover -5.5 with their backs against the wall, but look for the Bulls to win the series in game six.

Indiana Pacers +1.5 at Atlanta Hawks -1.5

After crushing Atlanta in the first two games, the Pacers were looking like they could earn the sweep, but then they failed to show up at all in game three, losing 90-69 in a dreadful offensive showing. We also have to give some credit to Atlanta for finally playing some physical defense and frustrating Indiana’s scorers. They’ll definitely need more of the same tonight.

Even though the momentum seems to be shifting, the fact is, Indiana played a bad game in game three. The Pacers turned the ball over 22 times and we can’t really expect that to happen again. Game four will probably be close, but I like Indiana to get back on the horse with a win tonight, while covering +1.5 points.

Oklahoma City Thunder -2 at Houston Rockets +2

The Thunder won game three to take a 3-0 series lead against the Rockets and they did it without star Russell Westbrook, but the Rockets looked like they had plenty of life, losing by just three points, so we know a sweep won’t be easy to come by for OKC tonight.

Kevin Durant picked up the slack in game three, scoring 41 points, and we have to believe the Rockets’ full attention will be on him tonight without Westbrook in the lineup. The Thunder definitely have other guys who can score, but if the Rockets are able to limit Durant’s production, even a little, then they’ll have a great chance to win at home.

Let’s also not forget that Houston is one of the best scoring teams in the league and they’re going to play as hard as they can facing elimination. I like Houston to edge out a win here in game four, covering +2 tonight, but don’t expect this series to continue past game five when it goes back to OKC.

 

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2013 NFL Draft: Day 3 Recap

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After a nearly quarterbackless first two days of the 2013 NFL draft, the big name throwers found homes during day three. The Eagles got things started by trading up to draft USC’s Matt Barkley with the first pick in the fourth round and the Giants grabbed Ryan Nassib – who was regarded by many as the top QB in the draft – midway through the fourth round. Then later in the round, Landry Jones landed with the Steelers and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson found a home in Oakland.

While Nassib and Jones will certainly enjoy a year of learning behind two of the league’s best quarterbacks, Barkley and Wilson may have a chance to play right away. Last year we saw a third round pick – Russell Wilson – win the starting job in preseason and the same could happen for these two fourth rounders.

It was Matt Flynn who lost that starting spot in Seattle to Wilson last year and coincidentally, Flynn will be battling for the starting job in Oakland this year with another rookie, who also happens to be named Wilson. Tyler Wilson’s strong arm and toughness makes him a good addition to the Raiders, even though Flynn might be irked by the pick.

Meanwhile, Barkley has a real shot to win the job in Philly, which is a wide open competition, according to new head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly obviously likes Barkley and knows him well from his days coaching against him in the Pac-12, but Kelly has also liked what he has seen from Michael Vick and Nick Foles. Choices, choices. We’ll just have to wait and see how training camp and preseason plays out.

After QBs finally started to go in the fourth round,  the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds still provided some fairly big-named skill players, including Mike Gillislee, who went to Miami; Stepfan Taylor, who ended up in Arizona; and Spencer Ware who was drafted by Seattle.

In comparison to last year, 2013 may have seemed like an uneventful draft, there’s a good chance this draft will later come to be known for producing numerous long careered pros out of the late rounds. For most, at least right now, it will be known as the draft dominated by offensive lineman, but I have a feeling we will see many rookie skill players make a major impact this season as well.

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2013 NFL Draft: Day 2 Recap

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After an eventful, but mostly surprising day one of the 2013 NFL draft, the league’s 32 teams were back at it on Friday, searching for the most valuable players in the second and third rounds.

Many players who had fallen below their predicted spots finally landed with NFL teams; including Geno Smith, who was picked by the Jets; and Manti Te’o, who was snatched up by the San Diego Chargers.

One team that seemed to stand out was the Buffalo Bills, who added to their fine 2013 draft so far by adding USC’s speedy receiver Robert Woods and Oregon’s versatile linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Bills selected the only quarterback on day 1 – Florida State standout E.J. Manuel.

Though we saw a definite uptick in the amount of skill players chosen on day 2 – including Montee Ball, who landed with Denver and Eddie Lacy, who was picked by Green Bay – it was still a drab day for quarterbacks, as Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Landry Jones and Tyler Wilson were left on the board at the end of round three. Tampa Bay grabbed a quarterback in round 3, but it skipped over the aforementioned college stars and took Mike Glennon from N.C. State instead.

There was certainly plenty of buzz surrounding some of the familiar names that weren’t being called, but one name that was called had everyone talking and that was Tyrann Mathieu, formerly of LSU. The Cardinals were the team that decided to take a chance on Mathieu – also known as “The Honey Badger” – in the third round. Of course, Mathieu endured a year of hardship after being kicked off the LSU team for off-the-field issues related to drug use, and for a period, it looked like he had blown any shot at a pro career. However, the visibly emotional Mathieu said he was a changed man and the Cardinals felt his talent was worth giving him a chance to prove he could be a professional.

There was certainly much more to talk about after day 2, but there are still plenty of solid prospects left on the board and we’ll be glued to the coverage again today to see where they end up. As we’ve seen before with the likes of Tom Brady and Zach Thomas, the third day of the draft can still yield hall-of-fame worthy talent, so every pick matters.

 

 

 

 

 

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2013 NFL Draft Round 1 Recap

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The skill players were almost entirely blocked out of the 2013 NFL Draft’s first round by the best young offensive and defensive lineman in the country.

If 2012 was the year of the quarterback, then 2013 certainly became the year of the big man, as the first seven selections were offensive and defensive lineman, with Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher becoming the just the third offensive lineman selected number one overall since 1997.

After the Kansas City Chiefs chose Fisher, the Jaguars selected Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel at No. 2 and the Dolphins traded up to grab defensive lineman from Oregon, Dion Jordan.

“That’s a lot of love for the big boys up front, which we usually don’t get,” Fisher said, according to ESPN.com.

All in all, 17 lineman were selected on day one, while the Buffalo Bills were the only team to take a quarterback – Florida State’s E.J. Manuel. It was a far cry from last year’s star-studded first round, but as one drafted player explained, team’s were simply filling their biggest needs.

“Tackle is not a very sexy position,” said Lane Johnson, who was selected fourth overall by the Eagles. “But it’s a position of dire need.”

While the first round short on skill players, it was also short on trades. Miami and St. Louis moved up to snag their desired picks, but for the most part teams stayed put.

Teams also stayed away from some of the so called “riskier picks” and avoided Manti Te’o, Tryann Mathieu and Marcus Lattimore in round one. Though, that wasn’t as surprising, the fact that Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib – the draft’s top ranked quarterbacks – were left on the board was a bit shocking.

We’ll have to wait and see where those players land in day two of the NFL draft and we’ll get you caught up to speed in tomorrow morning’s draft recap.

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Thursday NBA Playoff Game 3 Match-Ups

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NBA fans and bettors endured some real snoozers in the opening games of the NBA playoffs, but now teams are starting to get familiar with one another and with game threes moving to the lower seeded teams’ home courts, we should get some more competitive games today, and spreads that should be easier to bet as well. Here’s a look at all three NBA playoff games today and our point spread picks.

Miami Heat -8 at Milwaukee Bucks +8

The Miami Heat didn’t need to be fired up for their opening round series with the sub .500 Bucks, but after Brandon Jennings said the Bucks would win in six games, the Heat definitely responded, crushing Milwaukee in each of the first two battles.

Now, for the Bucks to make Jennings’ prediction come true, they would have to win the next four games in the series starting today and based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s safe to say that won’t happen.

In fact, having the home floor probably won’t even help Milwaukee with how strong Miami is playing. The Heat look determined to defend their 2012 title and it looks like a first round sweep is in the cards for the champs.

Look for Miami to cruise to another easy win today, covering -8 points.

Brooklyn Nets +3.5 at Chicago Bulls -3.5

The Bulls may have taken control of the series after their game two win knotted things up at 1-1, but surprisingly, they haven’t played all that well at the United Center this season, so maybe they don’t have an advantage?

Considering that Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich are both dealing with injuries, the Bulls definitely aren’t at 100%, but then again they haven’t been at full charge all year and still have managed to pull off big wins in the face of adversity.

This one is a tough call, but I like the Bulls to build off the momentum they started with the win in game two and cover -3.5 tonight. Expect this series to go the distance, but for Chicago to gain the upper hand today.

Los Angeles Clippers +4.5 at Memphis Grizzlies -4.5

The Grizzlies have been known as the league’s best defensive team all season, but some foul trouble in games one and two has kept some of their stars off the floor, resulting in two losses to open up the series. Meanwhile, the Clippers have found ways to win. In game one, they dominated, and in game two, they had to rely on a Chris Paul buzzer beater. Things will only get tougher for the Clipps when they head to Memphis today.

The Grizzlies don’t match up particularly well against the balanced attack of L.A., but they are strong enough to put up a good fight in the series and that starts today. I like Memphis to bounce back and earn a win at home with some of their signature sticky defense.

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Wednesday NBA Playoff Game 2 Match-Ups

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Today, the NBA playoffs will see its last three series play their second games, as the Lakers look to rebound against the Spurs, the Rockets hope to even things up with the Thunder and the Hawks attempt to tie the Pacers at 1-1 as well. We’ve already seen the Bulls and the Warriors pick up big game 2 wins as underdogs, but can any of these three get back in the game today? Check out our picks to find out!

Houston Rockets +11.5 at Oklahoma City Thunder -11.5

The Rockets got blown out in the teams’ game one meeting and though I expect they will put up more of a fight in game two, it’s going to be tough to cover 12 points against a Thunder team that is playing this well.

Initially, I thought the Rockets would be able to keep up on the scoreboard with the Thunder, but after seeing them struggle in game one, I’m not as confident. I think Houston will keep things closer when they are at home for games 3 and 4 and they might even win a game, but in OKC, they don’t have much of a chance to compete. Go with the Thunder to cover -11.5 today and take the 2-0 series lead.

Atlanta Hawks +7 at Indiana Pacers -7

After struggling down the stretch, Atlanta seems to be a team that has run out of gas. Meanwhile, the Pacers are just starting to get going.

Indiana pulled away in game one and will look to do the same again today, and I have to believe it will get it done. The Pacers’ size and strength gives them advantages all over the floor, but particularly in the low post, defensively and offensively. Frankly, the Hawks just don’t stack up well against the Pacers and they probably won’t have a good time tonight on the road. Take Indiana to win again and cover -7 points.

Los Angeles Lakers +8.5 at San Antonio Spurs -8.5

The Lakers hung tough in game one, but proved they are no match for the Spurs without Kobe Bryant. Los Angeles’ outside shooting was off in game one, so if they can knock down more shots, they’ll be able to keep things close, but they’ll also need to go inside to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to be effective offensively.

Unfortunately for L.A., it just doesn’t have enough weapons to contend with one of the NBA’s best, especially on the road. We’ll see some more inspired efforts when the series moves to Staples Center, but until then, stick with the Spurs to cover -8.5 in the win tonight.

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