Early NFL Lines Offer a Few Road Favorites

Dalton
Dalton

Andy Dalton and the Bengals host Cleveland in a key AFC North game Thursday night.

Road favorites aren’t uncommon but this week we have three plus a “pick’em” game so you’ll need to do your homework and I’ll do my best to help later this week.

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati – The AFC North is a logjam and all four teams are above .500. I expect a great effort from the Browns who I like getting those points.

Dallas at Jacksonville (in London) – There is no line yet because of the situation with Tony Romo.

Miami (+3) at Detroit – This should be one of the best games of the day. Will a hot Miami team handle a rested Lions’ team getting Megatron and Reggie Bush back? I like the Fins getting the points.

Orton

Can Kyle Orton and the Bills upset the Chiefs this Sunday?

Kansas City (-1.5) at Buffalo – The Bills are one of the hardest teams to figure out this year especially at home. If Kyle Orton can get protection I like the Bills getting the points.

San Francisco (+4.5) at New Orleans – What a brutal loss for the Niners on Sunday. Now they have to play in New Orleans against the surging Saints. I like the Saints to cover.

Tennessee (+10) at Baltimore – The Titans no doubt paid attention to the Steelers’ destruction of the Ravens’ secondary. The problem is that Zach Mettenberger isn’t exactly Ben Roethlisberger so take the Ravens even giving ten.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at NY Jets – This is a situation where normally the Steelers play down to the competition. The Jets are reeling and their secondary is a mess as is their offense. Take the Steelers to cover on the road.

Atlanta (Pick’em) at Tampa Bay – Flip a coin here right? Personally I think Atlanta’s Mike Smith is a dead man walking so let’s see how his team rebounds following the bye. I like the Bucs to win at home.

Denver (-11) at Oakland – The Raiders get the honor of hosting Denver following the Broncos loss at New England. Tony Sparano has these guys playing hard but the talent just isn’t there. Take the Broncos to cover.

St. Louis (+7) at Arizona – In recent weeks, St. Louis has beaten Seattle and San Francisco so now they go for the trifecta. The problem for the Rams is that neither of those teams is playing as well as the Cardinals are. I like Arizona to cover at home.

NY Giants (+9) at Seattle – The Seahawks really disappointed me last week. Double-digit favorites over Oakland and they couldn’t close the deal. This week will be more of the same. Take the Giants and the points.

Chicago (+7) at Green Bay – The NFC North rivalry returns to the frozen tundra where the Packers are leading the division along with Detroit. The Bears have been a huge disappointment in recent weeks and Jay Cutler has struggled to the point where frustration has settled in. Take the Packers at home to cover.

Carolina (+5.5) at Philadelphia – Cam Newton is coming off of a poor performance at home in the loss to New Orleans while it looks like Mark Sanchez will get his first start in quite a while with Nick Foles out with a clavicle injury. The Panthers just haven’t proven any sort of consistency to me this year so I like the Eagles to cover.

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Here’s Your Early Look at NFL Lines for Week Nine

Graham
Graham

A healthy Jimmy Graham would be a welcome sight for Saints' fans.

Tuesday means I’m giving you an early look at the National Football League schedule and who is favored and who is not. Here’s you’re sneak peek.

New Orleans (-1) at Carolina – The Saints got a much-needed win over Green Bay and now can take over first place with a win over the Panthers. Were the Saints in any other division, they may have been left for dead, but not this one.

San Diego (+2.5) at Miami – Very interesting game here with the Chargers getting ten days to prepare for a Dolphins’ team that has struggled offensively but is playing very well defensively. This is a monster game for both teams in terms of their respective divisions.

Jacksonville (+11.5) at Cincinnati – The Bengals appear to have righted their listing ship with a tight win over Baltimore on Sunday. They had gone 0-2-1 in their previous three games. Jacksonville got that all important first win over Cleveland but then was just awful in losing to Miami. A.J. Green may return for the Bengals as well even though I don’t think they’ll need him.

Tampa Bay (+6) at Cleveland – I think the Browns got a significant wake-up call after they beat rival Pittsburgh and then lost to Jacksonville. They got past the Raiders Sunday and now entertain the Buccaneers who are about as bad as it gets right now.

Washington (+2.5) at Minnesota – Depending on what happened last night in Dallas, we could see Robert Griffin III return, Kirk Cousins get another shot or maybe Colt McCoy again. The biggest thing about this game however might be the protests going on outside regarding the Redskins’ nickname.

Foles

Nick Foles and the Eagles look to bounce back in Houston.

Philadelphia (-2.5) at Houston – The Eagles hit the road again following a tough loss at Arizona on Sunday. The Texans will not be an easy challenge as they typically play well at home. If the Eagles can put the clamps on Arian Foster then they should win going away.

NY Jets (+9.5) at Kansas City – Rex Ryan wasted no time in announcing that Michael Vick would get the start against the Chiefs following Geno Smith’s brutal performance against Buffalo. Ryan is as close to a dead man walking as anyone could be right now so he needs to get something going immediately or he’s gone before the season ends.

Arizona (+4) at Dallas – The Cowboys played last night and barring an enormous injury things should be set up for the game of the week with the 6-1 Cardinals. The formula will be simple for Dallas; run the ball and limit the Cards’ offense. This should be a great game.

St. Louis (+9.5) at San Francisco – The Rams looked to be on the right track when they beat the Seahawks but then they played poorly in losing to Kansas City. Now they head to San Francisco where the 49ers are getting healthy and seem to be putting any issues with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh behind them.

Denver (-3) at New England – Stop me if you’ve heard this but Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are meeting once again an the media will do everything to not fall all over themselves. Actually this should be a great match-up where both QBs will need to find the mismatches at the line of scrimmage. Hard to believe the Pats are underdogs at home where Brady rarely loses.

Oakland (+15) at Seattle – I expected a bit more from the Tony Sparano-led Raiders but the talent just isn’t there. While I think the Seahawks still have some issues, they should roll over Oakland.

Baltimore (+1.5) at Pittsburgh – The Ravens beat the Steelers in week two and have a 2-2 divisional record. Pittsburgh is 1-2 in the division and still has two games remaining with Cincinnati. These two almost always play games to within a field goal and I expect this to be no different.

Indianapolis (-3) at NY Giants – The Colts look to rebound from their 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh while the Giants come off the bye week. You can pretty much pencil in a 300-yard passing game for Andrew Luck who seemingly does it every week, but now the Colts’ defense appears to be a weakness. Can the G-Men take advantage at home?

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NFL Bullets for Week Seven

Cutler
Cutler

Jay Cutler and the Bears fell to 0-3 at home and it didn't sit well with Brandon Marshall.

The National Football League used to be a place where a “sure thing” actually was a “sure thing.” In the 1970’s, we knew that teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins would be favorites almost every week.

In the 1980’s, teams like the 49ers, Broncos, Giants and Redskins were the “givens” while in the 1990’s the Cowboys and Niners established themselves as “go to picks” when gambling.

Those days are gone because we are now in an era of parity that may be unlike any seen in professional sports. Great teams are a thing of the past because now we have “good teams” that are capable of winning many games but they are also capable of losing games that shouldn’t.

Oh well, this is what the league wants so I guess we have to deal with it.

On to this week’s bullets…

Hoyer

Brian Hoyer was brutal in the Browns' loss to the Jags which opens up questions about Johnny Manziel.

-The Cleveland Browns once again showed why they are the “Cleveland Browns.” A week after blitzing long-time nemesis Pittsburgh, the Browns followed that up with a loss to lowly Jacksonville.

-Any great team always has guys in the locker room who are edgy and aren’t exactly “choir boys.” Seattle’s “choir boy” apparently has been singing the wrong tunes as Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets.

-I’m guessing Harvin had supporters and detractors and Sunday’s loss in St. Louis was evidence of that as several players said the timing was pretty bad. They were informed as they boarded the plane to Missouri on Friday.

-Apparently there is more dysfunction in Chicago where the Bears were soundly beaten by Miami. The Bears are 0-3 at home and loud screaming was heard after the game as Brandon Marshall was allegedly calling out Jay Cutler. Why does this surprise anyone? Resigning Cutler was a mistake.

-I have no problem saying that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. Just make sure you put “regular season” in front. Manning is under .500 in the playoffs and I’m sorry, but that’s where the great ones are truly defined.

-New Orleans wasted a great opportunity on Sunday. They led Detroit by 13 points with four minutes to go. A win would have put them at 3-3 and at the top of the NFC South but they blew the lead and fell to 2-4. Good for them that their division stinks or else it would be too late.

-I still have concerns about Green Bay’s defense and the Packers’ offensive line but I would not want to mess with Aaron Rodgers right now or in the playoffs.

-I have no idea what to make of the Cincinnati Bengals who are now looking up in the standings at Baltimore. Indianapolis is playing well, but shutting out the Bengals? I never saw that coming. If this Bengals’ team misses the playoffs or goes one and done Marvin Lewis would have to be out.

-I have no idea how the Seahawks fell for that Rams’ punt return. How on Earth do you not know where the ball is?

-Antonio Brown and J.J. Watt were once part of the same offense at Central Michigan.

-Congrats to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 100 yards in his seventh straight game to open the season. All he did was break the record of Jim Brown but no big deal right?

-As long as the Cowboys’ offensive line stays healthy I think that offense will thrive. Lengthy injuries however could derail Jerry’s boys.

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Here is Your Brief Glimpse at All of the NFL Lines for …

Romo
Romo

Tony Romo and the Cowboys are red-hot and now host a depleted Giants' team this week.

As is the usual case, I’m taking a look at the early lines for this week’s National Football League schedule. These are, and will change in almost all cases so stay tuned but here are my thoughts on each game as they exist today.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 46.5) – Double-digit spreads in the NFL are always tough to swallow and this rivalry game in the AFC East will be no different. Right now I like the Pats to cover simply because I have zero faith in the Jets’ offense to score more than 14 points.

Cincinnati (+3) at Indianapolis (O/U 49) – This line will move solely on the availability of A.J. Green. Doctors are recommending rest and no surgery but that rest means he is likely out another week or two. The Colts offense will be licking its’ chops after the Bengals surrendered 37 to Carolina this past Sunday.

Tennessee (+4) at Washington (O/U 46) – Here is you ugly game of the week… The Titans seem to play everyone tough and they were fortunate to get a few win over Jacksonville. The Redskins need to get the running game going because while Kirk Cousins can put up impressive numbers he also makes mistakes. Right now I like the Titans and the points.

Philbin

Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin need to get their act together as they head into Chicago.

Miami (+3) at Chicago (O/U 49) – It’s going to be a long week in Miami where head coach Joe Philbin didn’t do his team any favors in their last second loss to the Packers. In Chicago, the Bears righted the ship with a solid win over Atlanta that featured Jay Cutler playing much better than he had lately. Take the Bears in this one.

Cleveland (-4) at Jacksonville (O/U 45) - The Jags remained winless last week while the Browns knocked off long-time nemesis Pittsburgh in a big way. The schedule sets up nicely for the Browns who have Tampa Bay and Oakland in the next two weeks. The loss of Alex Mack will hurt but I still like Cleveland to cover.

Seattle (-6) at St. Louis (O/U 43.5) - Seattle is 3-2 and already has a loss at home. In their two losses, both San Diego and Dallas did two things; converted on third down and kept the Seahawks’ offense off the field. Still like them to cover.

Carolina (+7) at Green Bay (O/U 48.5) – Great performance by Carolina last week in a tie. Better performance by Aaron Rodgers in a Packers’ last-second win. Take the Panthers and the points.

Atlanta (+6.5) at Baltimore (O/U 49.5) - Atlanta? Outdoors? Forget it. Take the streaking Ravens to cover.

Minnesota (+4) at Buffalo (O/U 43) - Minnesota was stifled at home by a decent Detroit defense. Look for the Bills to cover here.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Detroit (O/U 50.5) – The Saints understand this game could be their season. Another loss and making the playoffs becomes most difficult. If Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are both out, expect scoring to be down. Take the Lions to cover.

Kansas City (+5) at San Diego (O/U 44.5) - This could be the game of the week. The Chargers are playing as well as anyone and the Chiefs seem to be in every game they play. I like the Chiefs and the points.

NY Giants (+5) at Dallas (O/U48.5) - Victor Cruz is gone for the season. Dallas is on fire and at home. Take the ‘boys to cover.

Arizona (-3.5) at Oakland (O/U 43.5) - I said last week that Tony Sparano would have his Raiders ready and they were despite losing. The Cards are too good on both sides though. Take them to cover.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Denver (O/U 47) - The 49ers seem to have bounced back a bit and are playing better on defense. No matter, the Broncos offense is too good at home. Take them to cover.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 44.5) – The Texans are a bit of a mess at quarterback while the Steelers are a mess period. Take the Texans and the points.

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Odds to Win the AFC North for 2014

Dalton
Dalton

Andy Dalton has a lot to prove in 2014 following his new contract extension.

With the AFC East behind us, we’re heading North. Let’s go!

Cincinnati +200 – For a team that won the division and hosted a playoff game last year, there is a lot of doubt around these Bengals and much of that is about QB Andy Dalton. Fresh from signing a new contract, Dalton’s 0-3 record in the playoffs is a glaring stat. Enter new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson who I believe will make Dalton better.

The defense is good as Geno Atkins returns from his ACL tear, but they aren’t ‘great.’ Rookie DB Darqueze Dennard will help in coverage but the Bengals must adjust to a new defensive coordinator as Mike Zimmer now runs things in Minnesota. The schedule starts out well for the most part but Cincy plays five of their eight games on the road and that includes a three-game stretch on the road to end November.

Season Projection: 10-6

Shazier

Rookie Ryan Shazier has a lot of expectations upon him to help the defense in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh +200 – The Steelers enter 2014 off of back-to-back 8-8 seasons. The youth movement is clearly on in the Steel City as the receiving corps is younger than ever as is the defense in quite some time. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the key to this team’s chances. If he repeats the 16 games he played in last season then the Steelers have a great shot at the division.

Defensively, the Steelers are far from being the Steel Curtain of yore. So far through the preseason, they’ve given up more rushing yards than anyone. Rookies Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt will help but they also have to get pressure as well as the secondary is average at best. The Steelers’ schedule features four road games in five weeks between September 11th and October 12th. They finish the season with the final two at home though.

Season Projection: 9-7

Baltimore +275 – The Ravens didn’t make the playoffs following their Super Bowl victory the year before and in comes Gary Kubiak to run the offense. He will look to establish the run in order to create play-action opportunities for Joe Flacco. Ray Rice had a very down year last season and needs to rebound in order to help the offense.

Defensively, the Ravens are far from what they were several years ago and they have aged especially with Terrel Suggs and Haloti Ngata. There has been an infusion of youth in some spots but will that youth perform? Baltimore opens with two home games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. A few weeks later, they start a stretch of four road games in five weeks and in that run are return trips to both Cincy and Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 9-7

Cleveland +500 – Cleveland has settled on a quarterback and it isn’t Johnny Football. Head Coach Mike Pettine has decided to go with Brian Hoyer to start the season and it’s probably the safest way to go. The Browns play Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore in the first three weeks and then have a bye. If the Browns are 2-1 or 3-0 then I believe Hoyer keeps the job. 1-2 or 0-3 could usher in the Manziel era.

The defense is solid and probably underrated because of all the attention paid to the offense but they’re pretty good. They’ll be charged with keeping games close in order to help the offense and they’ll do that by creating pressure. I mentioned the opening three games but the end of the schedule isn’t great either with Indianapolis and Cincinnati at home and then finish with Carolina and Baltimore on the road.

Season Projection: 6-10

Overall: I can see scenarios where Cincy, Pittsburgh and Baltimore can all win the division but I think the Bengals are the surest bet.

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Weekend Ramblings Are All About the NFL

Manziel Hoyer
Manziel Hoyer

Johnny Manziel will give up the helmet in favor of a clipboard as Brian Hoyer will be the starter.

It’s hard enough to believe that the National Football League season is upon us let alone the fact we are already deep into the preseason. There is already no shortage of story-lines throughout the NFL and they sound like a a good place to start for a Saturday.

The ‘Decision’ is over in Cleveland. For now…

Browns’ Head Coach Mike Pettine announced earlier this week that Brian Hoyer had won the quarterback job over Johnny Manziel despite the fact that both guys were pretty awful last Monday night in Washington. Browns’ beat writer Mary Kay Cabot was pretty straight-forward when she said Manziel’s partying and middle-finger gesture were the reason he lost the job.

I’ve said from day one that I thought that Manziel would be the starter in the opening week and while it looks like I’m wrong, if Hoyer stumbles at all I believe you’ll see Manziel in there. The Browns can’t afford to have their biggest draw standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard all season and Mike Pettine knows that as well as anyone. Short of a 3-0 start by Hoyer, I think Manziel sees the field in week five after their bye.

RGIII

RGIII needs to stop responding to critics and talk with his play instead.

RGIII Self-Counseling?

Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III felt it necessary to tweet out this week that he was essentially going to prove all the doubters wrong in 2014. I guess I have to wonder why RGIII felt the need to do this? Was this some form of self-help? Whatever it was, I have to question why he went public?

Many are questioning two things regarding the former Heisman Trophy winner; first, can he stay healthy? Second, can he adjust to a more pro-style offense? Both are fair questions but I’m concerned why he needed to pump himself up in such a public way. To say that I have my doubts about his overall mental well-being headed into the season would be an understatement. Keep your thoughts to your self RGIII. They can’t haunt you publicly that way.

Dumb and Dumber in Pittsburgh

The last thing the Pittsburgh Steelers needed was a distraction as they try to rebound from back-to-back 8-8 seasons but that’s exactly what they got when running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were charged with marijuana possession. Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence which apparently Bell didn’t know he could be charged.

The two players were just 90 minutes from boarding a team flight to Philadelphia for their preseason game against the Eagles on Thursday night. The Steelers were beaten 31-21 but the score doesn’t indicate how badly the Eagles beat them leading to speculation that the team was distracted by the incident.

Rather than suspend them for the game, Head Coach Mike Tomlin chose to play the two pot heads and I like the move. Both played well into the second half and Bell’s karma got the best of him as he was decked a couple of times on big hits by Eagles’ defenders.

The real issue here is not the legalization of marijuana or whether the NFL needs to relax penalties for it, but rather, it’s the sheer stupidity of the two “professionals.” They were in  a vehicle, at a stop light with smoke coming from the car and a police officer pulled up next to them. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels aren’t dumb enough to pull this off.

Blount and Bell are far fro the only players in the NFL who use marijuana but at least others are smart enough to not do it in public.

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A Dose of Honesty Among Other News for a Sunday

Tringale
Tringale

Cameron Tringale DQ'ed himself days after the PGA Championship ended.

I’ve spent so much time being negative lately that it’s time for a nugget of news that is actually positive. It might not sound real positive for the person involved, but his actions are refreshing and welcome in a time when there is very little honesty and upbeat news.

This piece comes from the PGA Tour and goes all the way back to Sunday’s PGA Championship. You’ve probably never heard of Cameron Tringale who is in his fifth season on the PGA Tour. Tringale was nowhere near the action when Rory McIlroy clinched his second PGA Title and probably shouldn’t be in the news today if not for his owning up to his own mistake.

During the final round, Tringale claimed he did not credit himself with a stroke after he mistakenly waved the putter over the ball before tapping in for bogey. He could have easily kept quiet and taken his $53,000 in prize money (he finished 33rd) and walked away. His conscious got the better of him through the week and yesterday he contacted the PGA telling him about his error.

First of all, this should have been noted by the player competing alongside Tringale. As a competitive golfer, your job is not only to keep track of your own score, but to also keep track of a player you are playing with. I’m not certain of who was playing with Tringale but he should have been paying attention.

Either way, it’s refreshing to see a professional athlete be so forth-coming in a situation like this. Kudos to Cameron Tringale.

Manziel

Johnny Manziel can't afford 'innocent mistakes.'

OK, back to the negative stuff…

Johnny Manziel was late to a meeting this week and claims it was an innocent mistake. You know what? It really could have been just as he says but there’s a problem even with that. Manziel is fighting for a starting quarterback position in the NFL. There are only 32 of these jobs in the entire world. You do not make an ‘innocent mistake’ in this case.

This is exactly the type of thing that Manziel can’t do because he is under a microscope the size of Texas. Manziel also went on to say this week that he wasn’t ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers on opening day. I like his honesty. That said, I still think he’s the starter on opening day at Heinz Field. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian Hoyer were in another uniform soon too with the addition of Rex Grossman.

Back to golf to close things out…

I’m extremely hard on Tiger Woods and for the most part I feel it’s warranted, but I have to give him credit for shutting it down this week. Woods could have easily been stubborn and despite not being 100% would have made the Ryder Cup team. The pressure on Captain Tom Watson would have been too great for him not to select him for the team.

The pressure coming from NBC had to have been there but Woods bailed out Watson by taking himself out of consideration. The other reason this is good for Tiger is that if he really truly feels that he can return to his glory days then he must rest his back. It’s also a good time to duck out of the limelight while Rory McIlroy enjoys his tremendous run that he’s on.

Tiger playing well is good for golf. This was the right move and I know it couldn’t have been easy for him.

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