Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bridgewater Injury Opens the Betting Gates

Earlier in the week, Minnesota (+9.5) in Green Bay looked like one of the more challenging games to bet this week. Thursday Night Football outcomes are generally difficult to predict, as teams don't have enough time to prepare for one another. That, in addition to a divisional rivalry and a rookie QB at the helm for the Vikings made the big spread one to avoid. Then, around 10:30 AM ET on Thursday, ESPN NFL reporter, Adam Schefter, dropped a bomb on the handicapping world. He stated that all signs are pointing toward Minnesota's signal-caller, Teddy Bridgewater, sitting this one out with an ankle injury. Christian Ponder is expected to get the start under-center for the Vikings, making it tough to believe that the men in purple can survive a shootout against 3x Pro Bowler - QB Aaron Rodgers.

Last week, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers silenced their critics with a brilliant performance in Chicago. After Green Bay's 1-2 start, Rodgers told his fans to "R-E-L-A-X" in a pregame interview. He then proceeded to back up the talk with a 38-17 win in Solider Field, and threw for 302 yards and 4 TDs. Granted, Chicago's defense is nothing to write home about, but neither is Minnesota's. Rodgers is a former NFL MVP, and if he finds a rhythm, don't expect him to be thwarted at home.

For Vikings fans, Bridgewater's injury news has to be a tough pill to swallow. They too looked like a force to be reckoned with last week, piling up 41 points at home against the Falcons. Again, Atlanta doesn't provide much resistance on the defensive side of the ball, but after Minnesota scored just 16 combined points over the prior two weeks with veteran Matt Cassel at QB, the Vikes were finally trending in the right direction. When we look toward tonight's game, Green Bay's defense has struggled for a few years now, so this one has shootout written all over it.

To make matters worse, there is heavy rain in the forecast for Wisconsin Thursday night. If Adrian Peterson were still in the lineup for Minnesota, bettors would feel comfortable taking the points and hoping for a heavy dose of "Purple Jesus." With backup Matt Asiata in there instead, the firepower is lacking. Green Bay's RBs Eddie Lacy and James Starks are the two best, and most experienced backs on either roster, so if it does turn into a ground-and-pound style game, the Packers still have plenty of upside.

In addition, don't expect Rodgers to fully abandon the air attack due to the weather. We've seen him throw darts 30 yards down-field on a snowy Sunday in December, so a little rain shouldn't deter one of the league's strongest arms. Rodgers is also one of the best play-action QBs in the NFL, so if the ground attack is working, we could see some deep shots early in the game.

Minnesota on the other hand, would probably prefer to protect their 3rd-string QB with short routes and safe passes. Unfortunately, if they're playing from behind, they'll have no choice but to take the training wheels off of Ponder, which could lead to turnovers, and an even bigger deficit.

As for the numbers, Green Bay has won seven of the last 8 meetings with Minnesota. They're also 22-12 against the spread in home games since 2010. If that's not enough, Aaron Rodgers is 49-30 ATS since 2009.

Whichever way you're leaning, be sure to join us on SnapCall to make your in-play predictions. Coverage for this one starts at 8:25 PM ET. Don't miss it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pats Look Like a Nice Pick in KC

With Week 4 almost in the books, we’re just about to the quarter pole of the NFL season. As we finally start to get some clarity on what’s already been a topsy-turvy season, Vegas will continue to adjust with more data points and insight. Tonight in Kansas City, we’ll see how another the lines shakes out, as the Patriots look to start 3-1 and move to the top of the AFC East - yet again.

There’s been surprisingly little movement in this line, even with the news that Jamaal Charles is likely to suit up for the Chiefs. At the beginning of the week, the line opened up with the Pats giving 4, but has only dipped to -2.5 with the injury updates. However, that’s still attractive enough to take the Patriots and not think twice about it. To the casual fan, it may not be a lock, but let’s take a look at some of the supporting ideas. The theme for both teams so far this season has been struggling offensive line play. Both clubs suffered some key losses in free agency and via trade in the trenches and haven’t quite adjusted to the new personnel just yet. You can guarantee that the respective defensive fronts were licking their chops when looking at the film in preparation for this matchup. Additionally, Bill Belichick and KC defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, are two coaches who can gin up creative ways for their defense to be effective.

New England’s splash move in the offseason was, of course, signing free agent cornerback Darrelle Revis. The shutdown corner allows Belichick to ignore a side of the field and develop exotic blitz packages for his unit. Since their opening week embarrassment against the Dolphins, the Patriots have allowed just one touchdown in their last eight quarters, so the defense is humming. New England fans probably haven’t seen a defense this good since the title-winning teams of the early 2000s. 

With an alarming lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, Andy Reid will have to be creative to find ways to get the ball to Charles and Knile Davis, his pair of dynamic running backs. On the other side, it’s Tom Brady who’s struggling for the Patriots. Is Tom finally starting to show signs of his age with some of the accuracy and mobility issues? Perhaps, but Tommy Terrific still has more than enough weapons to make it work. With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston terrorizing New England’s tackles on the edge tonight, the Pats should rely on the running game. Kansas City is allowing a sieve-like 130 yards on the ground per game, and that weakness won’t be lost on Belichick.

Need some more data to back up the Pats? Well, try this out for size. Kansas City is 3-7 against the spread against a team with a winning record over their last 10. Going deeper, the Chiefs are 0-6 ATS in their last six home games. Couple that with New England’s record against the spread (5-1) in their last six Monday Night games, and we have no qualms about taking the Pats giving the points on the road.

Join us for Monday Night football tonight at 8:30pm and make real-time predictions against your friends!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fantasy Watch: Preemptive Pickups for Week 4

We all know season-long fantasy leagues are not won on draft-day. The savviest of owners know how to game the trade market, buying low and selling high, but leagues are won and lost on the waiver wire. Waiver wire All-Stars in recent seasons have included: Peyton Hillis, Alfred Morris, Knowshon Moreno, and a host of others that were previously expected to be fantasy afterthoughts. While this week's waiver wire cannot be picked clean until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, forward-thinking fantasy owners can look to free agency before players lock on Sunday and preemptively grab a potential Week 4 breakout star. With that in mind, here are a few players who may be worth snapping up before the games begin who may help your squad over the rest of the season.

Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

It wasn't Robinson, but two other rookie receivers for Jacksonville who were turning heads in training camp. While the second-round pick out of Penn State nursed a hamstring injury throughout most of camp, another second-rounder, Marqise Lee, and undrafted free agent Allen Hurns were the young wide receivers to own in Jacksonville. Well, fast forward to Week 4, and Lee is now battling a leg injury while Robinson is healthy and starting across from veteran Cecil Shorts.

Unlike Lee and Hurns, Robinson has that prototypical #1 WR size and speed, complimenting his outstanding athleticism. Standing a hair shorter than 6-foot-3 with a 40'' vertical jump, Robinson's prospects are clearly enhanced by the insertion of rookie QB Blake Bortle. Bortles is an instant upgrade on journeyman backup Chad Henne, and will test defenses downfield with his aggressive mentality. With Lee already sidelined, look for Robinson to develop some chemistry with his rookie QB, and become an asset over the rest of the season as the Jacksonville offense progresses. With San Diego expected to get out to a substantial lead against the Jags, Robinson should have ample opportunities to display his talent.

Branden Oliver, RB, San Diego Chargers

Scatback Danny Woodhead is lost for the season, and bell cow Ryan Mathews is still sidelined for about 3-4 more weeks with a sprained MCL. That leaves Donald Brown as the only healthy running back who started the season on San Diego's active roster. Head coach Mike McCoy loves employing a committee of backs in his ball-control offense, so Brown will need a breather every now and again.

Enter Branden Oliver. The undrafted free agent from the University of Buffalo took just six snaps in his NFL debut last week after Woodhead went down with his gruesome leg injury, but McCoy has all but ensured he'll see more this week. Oliver can't be picked up and simply tossed into the starting lineup. Athough with Woodhead gone, there's real possibility for the young Oliver to carve out a similar role. So if you're hurting for running back production (and who isn't?), throw Oliver on your bench before this afternoon and see what happens.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

It sounds odd placing a tight end on this list when he's not even the #1 TE on his own team on this list, but Kelce is an emerging star. Add the fact that Kansas City is lacking playmakers, and the second-year player is a must add prior to Week 4. Kelce continues to play behind the incumbent starter, Anthony Fasano, but it's clear that he's a more talented player. Head coach Andy Reid is taking notice. Kelce played his highest percentage of snaps all season in Week 3 vs. the Dolphins, at about 67%, and scored an impressive TD as well.

Lining up in the slot, out wide, and in-line to take advantage of any mismatch the staff can find, the former Cincinnati Bearcat's moves on the field remind us of Rob Gronkowski. With the Chiefs lacking considerably in wide receiver talent, Kelce's role on the field should expand. Even if he can't wrest the #1 TE duties from Fasano, he'll be on the field in the red zone, which makes him fantasy viable at the tight end position.

Good luck in Week 4! Join us on SnapCall this Sunday. We're covering games in each time slot so download SnapCall and show us your ability to make play calls in real-time.