Broncos Host the Chargers Tomorrow Night in a Key AFC …

Manning
Manning

Peyton Manning looks to do this several times Thursday night against the Chargers.

Thursday night offers us just two games on the gridiron with one being in the college game while the other is serious AFC West showdown between the Broncos and Chargers.

San Diego (O/U 51) at Denver (-7.5) – It’s hard to say that the San Diego Chargers were looking ahead to this game when they lost to the Chiefs at home on a field goal. Kansas City is a division rival and arguably was just as important as the game tomorrow night in Denver. Still, the Chargers dropped a game they probably shouldn’t have and now find themselves needing a win in Denver a little more than they did a week ago.

Rivers

Can Philip Rivers out-duel Peyton Manning Thursday night?

In the Rocky Mountain State, all eyes have been on Peyton Manning who broke Brett Favre’s record for passing touchdowns in a career. As good as Manning has been in recent weeks, the Broncos’ defense has been pretty darn good as well. They limited the San Francisco 49ers and QB Colin Kaepernick to just 17 points which is pretty impressive.

Since November of 2011, the Broncos have beaten San Diego five of the last six times they’ve met including last season in the playoffs. The Bolts always seem to play the Broncos tough home or away so I expect that trend to continue. Denver will look to make life miserable for Philip Rivers while the Chargers will need to limit the big plays from Manning and company as well.

Trends: The Chargers are 4-2 straight up in their last six games playing on the road in Denver… The total has gone UNDER in four of Denver’s last six games against the Chargers… The total has gone UNDER in six of San Diego’s last nine games… The Broncos are 1-7-3 against the spread in their last 11 games against the Chargers at home in the Mile High City.

The Pick: I think we are in for a good game tomorrow night and although I like Denver to win, take the Chargers getting the 7.5 and I like the UNDER too.

College Football Thursday Night

Arkansas State (-3.5) at Louisiana-Lafayette (O/U 58) – This is a very interesting match-up that could go a long way towards deciding the Sun Belt Conference champion. Right now, the Red Wolves are 4-2 overall and 2-0 in conference play.

The Rajun Cajuns are 3-3 overall but they are also 2-0 in the conference. Both teams trail leader Georgia Southern who currently stands at 4-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. Neither team has Georgia Southern on the schedule this year.

Trailing both of them in the standings however is South Alabama who stands at 3-1. They have to travel to Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette in back-to-back weeks starting November first.

What this all means is that the Sun Belt should start shaking itself out in the next couple of week.

Lafayette is one of the rare hidden gems in college football tailgating and the home-field provides quite a spark for the Cajuns. In their last four games against each other, they’ve split the series 2-2 with each posting a win at the other’s field.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Arkansas State’s last six games at ULL… The Red Wolves are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games against the Rajun Cajuns… Louisiana-Lafayette is 7-1 straight up in their last eight games when playing ASU at home… The total has gone UNDER in six of Arkansas State’s last seven games.

The Pick: Almost everything favors the Red Wolves tomorrow night and I’m not going to pass on that. Take them to cover and take the UNDER.

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Thursday Night Games in the NFL Are No Picnic for Players

Brown
Brown

Duane Brown was pretty clear that he isn't a fan of Thursday Night games in the NFL.

There are times when we as people know something to be 100% fact yet other people will still deny it. I’ve argued for years that the National Football League is far more interested in money than in any sort of ‘player safety.’

Now that argument has as much solid fact behind it as any argument could. In this week’s MMQB through www.SI.com, writer Robert Klemko spoke with players about Thursday Night games now held every week of the season.

Before I get too far into the breadth of the article, let’s examine how an NFL player’s week typically goes.

In a typical ‘game is on Sunday’ situation, the team will come into the team’s facility on Monday and will start preparing for the next opponent. This will include team activities and group position activities. Those things may include chalkboard sessions, video, walk-thru situations and so on.

Tuesday is almost always a day off for players with a couple of exceptions where teams give Monday off.

Wednesday and Thursday are usually the heaviest days in terms of practice and preparation and where players are usually made available to the media.

Depending upon where a team plays, Friday could be a walk-thru followed by a flight to the city where they’ll play. In most cases however, the team won’t depart until the day before which is Saturday.

With that general overview in mind, let’s go back to the article where Pro Bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown was one of the players interviewed. Following a Thursday night game Brown had this to say, “That Friday, everything was hurting; knees, hands, shoulders,” he remembers. “I didn’t get out of bed until that night. I didn’t leave the house at all. You talk about player safety, but you want to extend the season and add Thursday games? It’s talking out of both sides of your mouth.”

Pickett

The Packers' Ryan Pickett says guys haven't recovered from Sunday games yet but still have to be ready for Thursday.

Most players will tell you they feel like this on Mondays following a Sunday game. I can remember Jerome Bettis saying that he struggled to even get down the stairs of his home on Mondays.

Now imagine you feel this way on Monday and then again on Friday of the same week! Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett says: “People don’t know this; after the game, it’s normally Friday and Saturday when your body starts feeling better. I’ve been around for 13 years, so it takes a little longer to recover.”

Even though it is not in the best interest of the players from health and safety standpoint to play these games, the league offices of the NFL could care less. The Thursday night packages bring in an estimated $700 million and that number is sure to go higher according to Klemko.

If the league offered half the games (and kept the other half on the NFL Network) there would certainly be a bidding war.

As was also pointed out in the piece, it doesn’t matter who is playing on Thursday Night Football because it will still be one of the most-watched shows of the week. No one can deny the monster that the NFL has become and Roger Goodell uses this to its’ ultimate end.

Unfortunately the game has become more popular not because of the game itself. It’s become what it has because of fantasy football which makes the novice fan feel like they are a part of the action. Never mind the fact that football is a great game that is being stripped down to the core. Never mind that the players are getting beat up with this mid-week games either.

As it has always been over the tenure of Roger Goodell, it’s always about the money.

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Kansas City run ends tonight in Philadelphia

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Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia as the Kansas City Head Coach after coaching the Eagles for 14 seasons. He has started successfully with Kansas City as they have won their first two games of the season.

The Chiefs record of 2-0 SU (1-1 ATS) already equals their entire output of wins from a season ago when they finished 2-14. The Eagles have their own new head coach in Chip Kelly who has guided them to a 1-1 SU and ATS start with a potent offensive attack, but a weak defense.

The Eagles with their new up-tempo offense looked impressive in game one in their 33-27 win over Washington, but their defense could not hold down the San Diego Chargers who defeated Philly 33-30 last week.

The current line has the Eagles as the favorite by 3 points, with an over under point total sitting on 50.5. The line has not moved much this week, with it opening at 3 and moving at one point on Bovada to 3.5 but seems to have found its place at 3 points on most sites such as betonline, topbet and sportsbooks.com.

The total points have moved to 49.5 and up to 51.5, but sit now in the middle at 50.5.

Reid, in his 14 seasons with Philly, took the Eagles to the playoffs nine times. During six of his seasons with the Eagles, the team posted a winning record on the road against the spread.

The Chiefs covered on the road in their only previous road game by defeating the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars 28-2, but beating the Eagles or covering the spread is an entirely different challenge.

For the Chiefs to beat Philadelphia, they most exploit the weak defense for the Eagles. On Sunday, San Diego had their way through the air against the Eagles secondary as Philip Rives had 419 and three touchdowns. However, not all the blame can put on the secondary, as the defense line did not pressure Rivers and only sacked him once.

Reid knows a great deal about many players on the Eagles and his play calling might be a way to exploit their weaknesses.

Jamaal Charles could be the key on offense for Kansas City. If he has holes to run through and is in open space on the end of throws from Alex Smith, he will be hard to stop.

For Philly, their high-octane offense meets a defense that has flourished under Reid to start the season. Over the first two weeks of the season, the defense for Kansas City is allowing the fewest yards per play in the entire league. The Chiefs have also given up only 108 total yards rushing entering this game.

At home, the Eagles have struggled and are just 2-7 SU, while 0-8-1 ATS going back to last season. They have not covered on their home field since the last game of the regular season in 2011 versus Washington.

Pick: Philadelphia 35-21

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Broncos Visit Raiders For Thursday Night Football

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos secured the AFC West title last Sunday and now look towards a higher seeding.

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos secured the AFC West title last Sunday and now look towards a higher seeding.

Denver secured a second consecutive AFC West title with a 31-23 win over Tampa Bay last Sunday.

The victory would ultimately prove redundant, at least in terms of winning the division, as San Diego fell to Cincinnati making it impossible for the AFC West’s other three sides to take the title. Denver wasn’t about to risk it though.

Thursday night sees the Broncos make the trip west to the Bay Area to take on the Raiders in a divisional game that will have no bearing on the division. But like last week, Denver will not be risking anything.

In Search of Home Field

With the matter of the division wrapped up, Denver (9-3, 4-2 home) will now look to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.

Currently Houston (11-1) sits on a two-game lead atop the AFC with New England and Baltimore joining Denver at 9-3. For the Broncos, securing home field, at least for the divisional portion of the playoffs, could make a huge difference, especially considering the advantages that come with being acclimatized to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.

Catching Houston might be out of the question, although Denver’s run in is slightly easier than the Texans’, but that number two spot is certainly up for grabs. In order to secure it, the Broncos will first need to beat an Oakland (3-9, 2-4 home) that has little to play for.

The Raiders’ miserable season was confounded by a 20-17 loss at home to Cleveland last week, a fifth consecutive defeat for the Northern California side. At this rate, the Raiders could well be looking at the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, although Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Kansas City will ultimately have a say in that.

Denver is a perfect 4-0 against the AFC West this season, while the Raiders have cobbled together a 1-2 record, with three left against divisional rivals. Oakland might want to consider trying to finish second in the division just for bragging right (sort of) over Kansas City and San Diego.

Looking for an Edge

In a rivalry that began way back in 1960, Oakland leads the all-time head-to-head series 60-44-2. Things have been much different since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995 though, with Denver taking 24 of 35 games in total. The Broncos have won the previous two encounters between the two sides, including a 37-6 drubbing of the Raiders back on Sept. 30.

Oddsmakers have the Broncos as 10½-point favorites on the road. With a 7-4-1 ATS record this season, Denver covering the spread might seem like a slam dunk but bettors should beware.

Although Oakland has posted a 3-8-1 ATS record, the Raiders have only lost only once at home this season by a margin of more than 10 points, a 38-17 rout by New Orleans. That suggest the spread could be a little too high. Furthermore, the Raiders have covered the spread three times this season, nothing to boast about, but all of those have come when considered an underdog.

The over/under opened at 51 and has subsequently fallen to 48½. The Broncos have seen the total go over in eight games this season, while Oakland has seen an even split between over and under.

The Broncos have breached the 30-point mark in seven of the last nine games and will have a good shot at doing likewise this week as they face the worst defense in the league in terms of point allowed (31.3 points per game). But Denver will need Oakland to score some points to topple 48½, and that’s something the Raiders struggle doing – to the tune of 1936 points per game, 23rd in the league. That being said, three of the last five games between the sides have exceeded this week’s required total.

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Tampa Bay Visits Minnesota for Thursday Night Football

Adrian Peterson has impressed despite returning from injuries, helping to lead the Vikings to an unexpected 4-2 start.

Adrian Peterson has impressed despite returning from injuries, helping to lead the Vikings to an unexpected 5-2 start.

There’s no denying that the credibility of Thursday Night Football is up for grabs most weeks. Critics cite the fact that it dangerously gives players too little rest time following a Sunday (or worse, Monday) game, whilst fans have questioned some of the choices of games being broadcasts.

This week’s edition sees Minnesota (5-2, 4-0 home) host Tampa Bay (2-4, 0-2 road). Looking at the schedule early in the season, there would have been a lot of eyebrows raised, after all, the Vikings and Buccaneers was hardly must see TV.

But as luck would have it, this topsy-turvy season has made even this benign encounter intriguing, not least because of Minnesota’s unexpected strong start to the season.

Whilst the Vikings have been ruffling feathers in the NFC North, Tampa Bay has been stinking up a storm in the NFC South. Well, that’s what the team’s record states, but in all honesty that’s a long way from the truth. The Buccaneers may have lost four games this year, but it has only lost one by more than a touchdown – a humiliating 38-10 loss to Kansas City at home – which means these have for the most part been close games.

Thursday’s clash between the two side might not be the prettiest of encounters, but it’s one worth watching, something nobody would have predicted preseason.

 

Statistically Speaking

Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been horrible this season. The Bucs are giving up 323.0 yards per game through the air, which puts the team second from last in the league. Fortunately for the Florida side, Minnesota has a far from prolific passing game. The Vikings are averaging just 203.4 yards through the air (27th in the league).

Minnesota’s strength has been running the football, with Adrian Peterson impressing having returned from ACL and MCL surgeries. The Vikings are averaging 132.3 YPG on the ground, good enough for seventh in the league. However, as poor as Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been, the team’s run defense has been exquisite. The Buccaneers are third in the league, giving up just 76.0 YPG on the ground. If Minnesota is to win, it could be necessary to throw the ball.

Offensively, Tampa Bay is very much a middle of the pack side. Averaging 244.8 passing yards (16th) and 101.8 rushing yards (17th) per game, the Buccaneers are neither one thing nor another. They’ll be up against a defense that ranks just outside the top ten in both passing and rushing. As with Minnesota, yards and points could be hard to come by.

 

Looking for an Edge

Minnesota opened as 5½-point favorites, a number that has risen to seven over the past week. The over/under is 42½, having risen one point in that span.

Over recent years, Tampa Bay holds the edge in the head-to-head series, winning five straight games against the Vikings, including a 24-20 victory last season. Minnesota however leads the all-time series 31-21, and has gone 9-4 over the past 13 home games.

Bettors looking for a jump on the spread should consider that Tampa Bay has gone 5-11 ATS over the last 16 games and 2-4 ATS during the last six road games. That being said, the Buccaneers have posted a 4-2 record ATS this season. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 3-3-1 ATS this season, making predicting the team’s success that much trickier.

The total has gone under in five of the last six Minnesota games but over in four of the last five Tampa Bay games. This could be a toss-up, but as we’ve seen above, points may be at a premium in Minneapolis on Thursday night.

With the teams difficult to separate, Thursday Night Football itself may nudge you in one direction or another. This season, only two teams have entered Thursday night as favorites and beat the spread (Green Bay in Week 2 and the New York Giants in Week 3). The remaining games have seen three upsets and two games where the underdog lost but beat the spread. Thursday Night Football has been harboring surprise results all season, making the Buccaneers look like an intriguing pick.

That being said, last week’s slate of games saw just one upset – a rarity in this strangest of seasons – which might suggest normal business is about to resume in the NFL.

Finally, the good news for Tampa Bay fans is that the Bucs will not be wearing throwback jerseys again this week. Tampa Bay hardly won wearing those uniforms first time around, and lost again this past weekend whilst donning those orange delights. That makes the team 1-3 since embarking on the once-a-year tradition in 2009.

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