Thursday Night Pick Steelers vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns -3 

The Steelers have won four straight games propelling them into AFC playoff contention.   It’s been the defense that has taken the reigns with the loss of Big Ben and injury to James Conner. The Steelers defense has allowed fewer than 193 passing yards and 96 rushing yards over their last three games. Pittsburgh was able to bottle up the red-hot Cooper Kupp last week.  They will look to do the same to Odell Beckham. Beckham was targeted ten times last week but was still unable to make an impact in a game that Cleveland actually won. 

Cleveland’s offensive line has been solid on the run but has had serious problems protecting Baker in throwing situations. The Steelers are third in the league in sacks, while applying a ton of pressure.  Baker Mayfield has been subpar under pressure this season.  Mayfield has a completion percentage of just 37% while under pressure this season. Mayfield’s flaws are apparent, this matchup is not good for the struggling former #1 pick. 

Both of these teams need this win.  The Cleveland flaws are obvious.  Pittsburgh will be able to exploit those flaws while Mason Rudolph does what he does best: game manage.  Steelers are just a better overall team, most importantly better coaching. 

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers +3

The Cardinals should have moved on from Waino

Comeback stories are awesome.  Seeing a player that everyone had given up on overcoming their struggles to be successful is what makes for great sports stories.  Adam Wainwright was the feel-good story of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals. The ending of this story has been written and it’s time to move on.  

Adam Wainwright is a future Cardinals Hall of Famer. He will be fondly remembered by all that were able to watch his amazing career.  Closing out the World Series striking out Brandon Inge or maybe even more memorable his nasty curveball that finished off future teammate Carlos Beltran to get to that World Series will be embedded into Cardinals fans forever.  Memories are great but right now the Cardinals have to be looking to the future.  

Let’s go over his 2019 season.  Wainwright was one of the most effective pitchers down the stretch for the St. Louis Cardinals.  His 2.97 ERA in the months of September and October helped St. Louis win the division and perhaps overachieve by making it to the NLCS.  Wainwright’s overall numbers were solid, 14 wins, 2.2 WAR, 4.39 xFIP and 171 innings pitched. The Cardinal’s veteran pitched well enough to reach all of his incentives, making his contract worth $10 million.  His numbers at the end of the season paid for his price tag. 

The Cardinals need to add more pitching depth.  You have two young guys at the top of the rotation in Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson along with Miles Mikolas.  The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes are both having a problem staying healthy their entire careers.  Daniel Ponce De Leon seems to never be a part of the conversation. Austin Gomber had an injury derail his season. Jake Woodford and Genesis Cabrera are both not ready to be full time.  

I don’t believe the Cardinals will go all in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg there are a number of affordable arms that can bring upside for multiple years while you discover what you have with your young starters. Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Zack Wheeler Hyun-Jin Ryu, Michael Pineda and Dallas Keuchel are just a few of the names that will be available at a moderately affordable price.  

Let’s say the Cardinals don’t like the idea of giving up a compensatory pick.  That would eliminate Wheeler and Odorizzi. Let’s also say Dallas Keuchel still wants that big contract that he couldn’t find last offseason, the Cardinals won’t want to do that.  Why not make a call to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Just 33 years old, Ryu has a much bigger upside.  

The price for Wainwright’s return is fair.  All of the aforementioned free agent pitchers will cost you more than $5-million plus incentives.  I am not upset about the price, I am upset because we have seen the highest upside we will see from Wainwright and where did that get the Cardinals.  Making it to the NLCS is great, personally I think they overachieved based on the full season performance. The Cardinals have to focus on a new direction.  They have to move on from the players that have peaked. Adam Wainwright peaked in 2019. To expect Wainwright to not go through negative regression is overly optimistic.  You are giving away a rotation spot to a 38 year old that depends on location. It’s time to try something new, it’s time for the organization to make a move to change the consistency of mediocrity. The emotions of Wainwrights 2019 success have masked management’s eyes.  They are not seeing that it is time to focus on the future. Keeping Wainwright around to be a “mentor” to the young staff will stunt the progression of leadership that you need from a guy like Jack Flaherty.  

Wainwright will be back in 2020.  He may have a great season. When you look at the rotation though he will be at the top of the question marks.  Can he be what he was in 2019? Is that really what the fanbase wants? Isn’t it time to be better? I am not rooting against Wainwright. I am just ready to move on from his era.  

NCAA Football Week Ten Picks ATS

Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Golden Eagles -2.5

Boston College has been undervalued for the last few weeks (Excluding their matchup with Clemson). Florida State is dealing with inner turmoil after firing Willie Taggert mid-week.  Clemson was the only team that was successful in stacking the box to stop AJ Dillon.  Florida State will stack the box on Saturday but that won’t stop the 230-pound Junior running back.

Florida State has been bad on the road 0-3 while not covering the spread in any of those games. The Boston College running game will be able to wear down the Seminole defense which should allow for a dominate victory for the Golden Eagles. 

Boston College will be celebrating Senior day and Florida State has to many questions to trust them to cover this small spread.

Pick: Boston College Golden Eagles -2.5

Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan State Spartans -Total 45.5

This game is simple. Michigan State has hit he under in 13 of their last 16 games.  Illinois has hit the under in 4 of their last 5 games.  

Illinois has a mediocre offense.  They now face a defense that has dominated lesser competition.  Illinois has taken advantage of other teams’ mistakes, scoring 105 points off of turnovers this season.  Michigan State will not turn the ball over, look for them to run the ball and dominate the field.  Without the reliance on turnovers the Illinois offense doesn’t bring enough to the table on Saturday.  Boring game, easy under.

Pick: Under 45.5

Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Virginia Tech Hokies +2

Virginia Tech is 1-4 against the spread at home.  That’s right they are terrible at home. They get a matchup with a Wake Forest team that comes in underrated once again this week.

The Virginia Tech secondary is getting loaded, allowing 340 yards or more in three of the last four games. Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman is coming off of one of his most impressive victories of the season, dominating NC State last week.  This is bad matchup for the Hokies as they don’t have the secondary to matchup.  Newman has a repeat dominant performance, one that will assure him the spot of ACC Offensive player of the year. 

I’m taking Wake and not worrying about it. 

Pick: Wake Forest Demon Deacons -2

Other Picks:

LSU +6

Kentucky -1

Penn State -7

Georgia -16.5

Three things we learned about Duke last night.

Alex O’Connell has improved.

AOC could always shoot. That was what he was useful for in his first two seasons.  Last night AOC was not connecting at a high percentage but was still able to make an impact.  With four rebounds, three steals and two assists AOC was able to put together an impressive stat line that was more than just coming in and chucking shots all over the floor.  

The most notable play from last night was in the first half when he stormed towards the rim and finished a thunderous (for O’Connell) put back dunk.  That was a play that you would have never seen from AOC over the last few seasons.  The junior  has taken the next step in development and will be a key piece off the bench for Duke this season. 

Cassius Stanley is a spark plug.

Duke obviously lost its offensive spark plugs in Zion and RJ Barrett.  At a time in the second half when the Blue Devils were showing their youth and lack off firepower, Cassius Stanley was the guy that ignited the rally. Two thunderous dunks off of Kansas turnovers inspired the team.  

With just 2:29 left in the game it was Stanley hat was able to drive to the hoop and lay it in while being fouled.  After he sunk the free throw Duke took a one-point lead, one they would never relinquish.  Stanley had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, showing where the ball may be going in a time of need for Duke.  

This defense is very good. 

Tre Jones is widely considered the best on ball defender in all of college basketball.  His intensity showed in his teammates.  Kansas turned the ball over at an alarming rate, finishing the game with 28 turnovers.  While Duke cannot rely on a lack of ball security at that rate, they can rely on the effort from all five positions.

Kansas had a clear advantage with their size on the interior.  The Duke team defensive plan was to double the bigs as soon as possible. They did it to perfection.  The bigs doubled and while the guards were able to rotate and take away the outlet passes. The fact that Kansas got zero points from back to the basket posts and just four points on passes out of the double teams is a huge reason for them pulling out the victory.

NCAA Football Picks ATS- Nov. 2

North Carolina State Wolfpack at Wake Forest Demon Deacons -7.5

NC State just allowed Boston College to run all over them.  They get the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday, one of the best offenses in the country.  Wake enters 5thin the country in total offense averaging 523.9 yards per game. 

NC State will start a freshman QB Devin Leary on the road in a situation where they will need to score points.  In Wake’s only loss of the season it took 62 points from Louisville.  It’s hard to believe that NC State will be able to keep up with Wake’s offense.

The Wolfpack have been horrible on the road this season going 0-3 while not covering the spread in any of those games.  Wake’s normal starting QB Jamie Newman is questionable for this game but the offense should still roll. 

Pick Wake Forest -7.5

UNLV Running Rebels at Colorado State Rams -8.5 

Colorado State has turned their season around with two straight victories over Fresno State and New Mexico.  The Rams have done it on the defensive end, stopping teams on third down at a high rate. UNLV has been one of the worst team in the country on third down.  

This is UNLV’s running game versus Colorado State’s passing game.  This should be an exciting and ugly football game with a lot of mistakes. Colorado State is going to build off of their two straight victories, the Rams will destroy the Running Rebels by double digits. 

Pick: Colorado State -8.5

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Purdue Boilermakers Total: 58

Nebraska should have Adrian Martinez back for this game.  The Cornhuskers broke out offensively against Indiana after three straight tough matchups. The Purdue pass defense can be picked apart, Martinez should be able to dominate this matchup with short to medium passes. A recharged Nebraska offense should be able to take serious advantage of the Boilmakers

Purdue QB Jack Plummer had a bad game against Illinois in tough weather conditions. Plummer was able to throw for over 700 yards in his previous two games versus Maryland and Iowa. Nebraska brings a solid pass rush but has not performed well against good or even mediocre QB play.  This game has a lot of points coming.  

Pick: Over 58

Other Picks:

Florida +6

NFL Week 9 picks ATS

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals +10

This line is interesting, seems like a letdown spot for the 49ers heading to Arizona.  The Cardinals have had issues in the red zone and the 49ers are great defending the red zone.  Arizona has problems against the tight end and the 49ers have the best tight end in football.  This is a smash spot for San Fran.  They will cover, don’t over think it.

Pick: San Francisco -10

Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (London) +1

I want to take the Texans. I love Deshaun Watson, but they have had their issues with the Jags.  The Houston line is in trouble, offseason acquisition Laremy Tunsil is very questionable which is a problem for the Texans.  The Jaguars have the pass rush to give Watson a lot of trouble, while the Texans have lost JJ Watt which obviously will hurt their pass rush. 

Jacksonville has been through these London games before,  that matters.  Jags will win a close one.

Pick: Jacksonville +1

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills -9.5

Washington is bad on offense, but they seem to know how to cover.  Dwayne Haskins does not look ready to be the starter, a matchup with the Bills terrible. My pick is based on assuming Case Keenum will play, if he plays they will find a way to cover.  

Pick: Washington +9.5

Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers -4

I try to avoid the Titans because they are so unpredictable.  Ryan Tannahill has been great over his first two starts.  Notably dominating a poor Buccaneers secondary. This is going to be a different challenge for the former Miami QB.  The Panthers are coming off a shellacking at the hands of the 49ers last week which should put them in a foul mood heading into this game.

Carolina is a different team at home.  They will lean more heavily on their star running back Christian McCaffery, I will also look for Curtis Samuel to breakout in this one.  I think we are getting a great buy low on a Carolina team that is better than what we saw last week

Pick: Carolina -4

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles -5

Been back and forth on this one all week.  Trubisky has been horrible all season.  He gets a favorable matchup with the Eagles secondary.  This will be the time that we see the Trubisky of last season.  The Bears defense will keep them in the game by supplying a ton of pressure on Carson Wentz.  

Bear’s defense keeps them in it and cover.

Pick: Chicago +5

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins +3

The Jets are better than the Dolphins.  I see a big game from Sam Darnold.  Jets win by at least ten.

Pick: New York Jets -3

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers -1

The Colts are another case of public playing a recency bias, struggling mightily against the Denver Broncos last week.  Indianapolis has been good on the road going 2-1 covering or pushing the spread in each game. 

The Steelers will fall behind early in this game and the superior Colts offensive line will work the clock. Indy is the better team and has no fear of the road.

Pick: Indianapolis -1

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders -2

Two similar teams meeting in a must win situation makes for what should be a really fun matchup.  The way to beat the Raiders is to pressure on Derek Carr.  That is something that the Lions have not been successful in doing this season.  Oakland will lean on the running game and Josh Jacobs which will open up the passing game for Darren Waller and Tyrell Williams. 

The Raiders are 5-1 against the spread in their last six home games.  The Lions have had problems ever since they lost Kerryon Johnson. Raiders win by 3.

Pick: Oakland -2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks -6

This is going to be an offensive explosion on both ends. The Buccaneers are going to bring their air raid offense to Seattle.  The time of the Legion of Boom is very over.  Seattle has been crushed through the air this year and will continue on Sunday. 

The Seattle Seahawks have failed to cover all four games at home this season.   They are a run first team which plays right into the hands of the Buccaneers who love to sell out to the run.  If Winston can avoid multiple turnovers this one should be close.

Pick: Tampa Bay +6

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos +3

Baker better come to play in Denver.  If the Browns lose to a rookie QB there will be full on anarchy.  Cleveland will put up too many points for the Broncos to keep up with.

Pick: Cleveland -3

Green Bay Packers at LA Chargers +4

This will be a home game for the Packers.  The Chargers were able to get to a much-needed victory of the Chicago Bears last week.  They face Aaron Rodgers this week rather than Mitchell Trubisky. Rodgers will reportedly have the services of Davante Adams

The Packers are already 3-0 against the spread on the road already and will continue their success. 

Pick: Packers -4

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens +3.5

You can run on the Patriots. Just hold on to the ball.  The Ravens will do their best to make sure that they keep Tom Brady off the field.  Baltimore is not scared of the Patriots and they will show it Sunday night.  

This is the toughest matchup of the year for New England.  They will be challenged in this one.  I see it as a field goal game.  Not sure which way so I have to go with the underdog at home.

Pick: Ravens +3.5

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants +7

I am keeping this last one simple.  I believe a lot of money will be on the Cowboys in this one.  The Giants have their full complement of offensive weapons. The Giants will be able to move the ball,  I wonder whether they will be able to stop the Cowboys.  I’m taking the home team with the points.  

Pick: New York Giants +7

NBA Offseason Steals

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers paid Malcom Brogdon a lot of money.  He is not the reason for their 0-3 start.  Brogdon has been exceptional in the Victor Oladipo role, putting up points and shooting over 43% for the season.  Brogdon has also posted a double double in each game so far this season. 

Brogdon got a huge contract at four years and $85 million, but he has looked worth every penny.  He will fit in perfectly when Oladipo comes back, potentially being one of the most productive guard tandems in the league. Brogdon has shown in his time with Milwaukee that he doesn’t need the ball to be effective, when the Pacers star comes back Brogdon will be established as a real threat that will force teams to game plan opening up opportunities.  

Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns

I was a huge fan of the Suns offseason.  Adding Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Aaron Baynes solidified a young roster with veterans that bring multiple skills to the table. The best move by far was resigning Kelly Oubre Jr to a 2-year $30 million deal.  Oubre Jr. is still just 24 years old is in his fourth season in the NBA after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks #14 overall, ultimately being traded on draft night to the Washington Wizards where he suffered in the wasteland of John Wall’s deteriorating legacy.  

Oubre Jr. in Phoenix has been allowed to be the running mate of star Devin Booker.  Running the wing and opening up his offensive game has contributed to a great start in 2019-2020 averaging 20 a game over the first four. With Rubio handling the ball and the extra scoring opportunities due to the suspension of DeAndre Ayton Oubre Jr. will continue to progress and become a future All-Star.

Rodney Hood, Portland Trailblazers

Rodney Hood has never lived up to the hype coming out of Duke.  The former #23 overall pick has always had trouble holding down a starting spot for whatever team he has been a part of.  He has seemed to find his place in Portland, signing a miniscule 2-year/ $12 million dollar deal, Portland has found a valuable 3 and d wing that complements Dam Lillard and CJ McCollum perfectly.  

Hood started the season off slow, but after the injury to power forward Zac Collins the Blazers have been forced to move to a consistently smaller lineup.  Hood has thrived shooting over 51% on the season including 50% from behind the arc.  Portland will have to wait for big man Jusuf Nurkic to come back in a few month before we know exactly how much of a threat they will be in the stacked Western Conference. We do know that for now their third most important player was grabbed from the bargain bin.

Did I miss anyone?

NCAAF Football Picks ATS Week 9

Oklahoma Sooners at Kansas State Wildcats +23.5

The Wildcats bring in the perfect matchup for a cover.  Kansas State has been the best in the Big12 at defending the pass, giving up just 152.5 yards pe game, 5thbest in the entire country. That is what Oklahoma is all about.  While I don’t see Kansas State completely shutting down the pass game, I do see them forcing Oklahoma to run the ball more than they would like which can slow up the attack.

Kansas State will look to do what they do best and possess the ball.  They will look to run and run often with work horse runningback James Gilbert. The longer they can keep Jalen Hurts off the field the better chance they have to survive.  

Oklahoma wins, but Kansas State gives them a tough game. 

Pick: Kansas State +23.5

Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes -14.5

This was supposed to be a matchup of undefeated powerhouses.  Wisconsin may have been looking too far ahead as they became the biggest upset of 2019, losing to Illinois on a last second field goal.  The Badgers turned the ball over three times against the Illini, which helped blow  20-7 second half lead. 

Ohio State has done everything possible to show that they are the cream of the crop in college football, dominating every game. The competition hasn’t been great, that all changes on Saturday.  Despite their loss Wisconsin still sees themselves as the top of the food chain in the Big10. The Badgers have to come out and establish Jonathon Taylor early and often. Wisconsin is averaging 38 minutes of possession per game. They will work to grind out the Buckeyes and force them to play from behind, something they have not done at all this season.  

Wisconsin is the biggest test for the Buckeyes this season, Ohio State QB Justin Fields has not seen a defense that can bring the pressure the way Wisconsin can.  Buckeyes win but they are tested.

Pick: Wisconsin +14.5

Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan State Spartans +6.5

Michigan State’s offense has disappeared since their shocking loss to Arizona State.  The Spartans have averaged a paltry 5.7 points per game over their last three.  Michigan State has not shown the ability to play up to the higher level of competition. Ohio State and Wisconsin beat the hell out of the Sparty, and they will have similar trouble coming their way on Saturday.

Sophomore QB Sean Clifford has been superb with a 56% completion percentage, helping the Nitany Lions get out to a 7-0 start.  Despite the 7-0 start Penn State has had trouble covering against ranked opponents, failing to cover against Michigan and Iowa.   They have a terrible history versus Michigan State, going 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six matchups.  

Penn State’s history is not what I am worried about.  Looking past Michigan State is the only thing that I am worried about.  This matchup is not as highly regarded as it would be if Michigan State hadn’t been embarrassed by Wisconsin and Ohio State.  Penn State has to stay focused and overcome the recent history of these two teams.  Penn State’s offense is just too strong for Michigan State’s defense to handle.  Penn State will grab a lead early and that will be to much for the Spartans to overcome. 

Pick: Penn State -6.5

Other Games:

Texas -1

App State -27

Marshall/ Western Kentucky over 44.5

NCAAF Picks Oct 19

Houston Cougars at UConn Huskies +22

The Huskies are fade worthy every single week.  This week is no different.  The Houston Cougars saw themselves potentially on the verge of pulling off an upset of a top 25 team until they gave up 17 points and the lead to Cincinnati in the 4thquarter.

Heading into a matchup with UConn, Cougar’s QB Clayton Tune should be able to find his grove pretty easily (if healthy).  Houston was able to move the ball pretty well versus a stout Cincinnati defense until their collapse.  If Tune is healthy, he should be able to dominate on the offensive end. 

UConn playing at home which should give them a bump, but this is still UConn.  Money is coming in on the Huskies which has already dropped this by a half a point.  I just believe the Cougars will play with a fire after their tough loss last week. They jump out early and run the score up. 

Pick: Houston Cougars -22

Oregon State Beavers at California Golden Bears Total: 51.5

California is coming off a much-needed bye week, previously losing a tough 17-7 game versus Pac12 powerhouse Oregon.  The Bears are still without Quarterback Chase Garbers, they will again look to Devon Modster to carry the Golden Bears offense.  California’s defense will have to be the star on Saturday, Oregon State QB Jake Lutton has been lighting up the sky with 1400 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception on the season.

California has gone 4-0 in unders at home and 10-1 on unders in their last 11 conference games.   I expect California to win this game at home, that means it will have to be a low scoring affair.  Cal doesn’t have the offense to compete with Oregon State, but their defense at home is too good.  Cal wins 26- 18.

Pick: Under 51.5

Duke Blue Devils at Virginia Cavaliers -3

Virginia is looking to get their groove back after two straight losses versus Notre Dame and Miami, relinquishing their lead in the ACC Coastal Division.  What’s been the problem?  The offensive line’s inability to handle the pass rush.  That should not be the same problem heading into their matchup with the Duke Blue Devils.  

Duke has been red hot offensively against the weaker opponents on the schedule, Middle Tennessee, North Carolina A&T, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.  Losing rather easily to the Alabama and Pittsburgh. Duke was not able to throw the ball well in their two losses.  They will have to be able to throw against Virginia, who ranks 11thin the country against the run.  

This is the time to buy low on Virginia.  Only a three-point spread at home against a team that has not shown the ability to handle real competition.  The concerns about injuries in the secondary for Virginia will have people worried about the recency bias of Duke’s offense.  Virginia will have the use of #1 wide receiver Hasise Dubois, which means they will be at full force on the offensive end.  

Three points at home for the top of the ACC Coastal Division.  Give me the Cavaliers all day.  

Pick: Virginia -3

Other Games I’m leaning

Florida -5

Temple +9