NFL - Wild Card Weekend

Cincinnati at Houston 4:30pm EST

Through 12 games at 11-1, the Texans looked like a team destined for the Super Bowl. As they often do in the NFL, things changed dramatically for this team over the last month of the season where they went just 1-3 straight-up and ATS. The offense, which went for over 30 points in six of their first 11 games, failed to do so once over their last five. Their average points per game dropped from over 30 to just over 16. They were held to less than 17 points just one time in their first 12 games, but failed to get there in three of their last four games. It appears that defensive coordinators have figure out this Texans offense to some extent and Houston hasn't been able to react positively. The offense wasn't their only problem, as the mighty Texans’ defense that limited their first nine opponents to 17 points per game, broke down and allowed 27 per game in their last seven. The Bengals endured a painful 0-4 stretch themselves this season, but fortunately it came early enough for them to work out their problems. They then came roaring back after the skid to finish 7-1 both SU and ATS. Outside of that one bad stretch, the Bengals were an impressive 10-2 on the season. The difference here is that the Texans have gone from looking Super at 11-1, to in a funk. The Bengals have left their funk behind to look Super at 7-1 in their last eight. Houston's pythagorean wins (a truer measure of a team's strength than actual wins) is 10, compared to 12 actual wins. They aren't as good as advertised. Cincinnati has gone 6-2 this season on the road. One team is off their game and favored, the other is on their game and is a dog, setting the stage for a live dog here. Cincy is coming in off a win and under Marvin Lewis, this team is 28-15 ATS on the road after a win. Take Cincinnati with the points.

The play: Cincy +4

others for Saturday
Green Bay -7'
GB/MIN over 45'

...more tomorrow

New Years Day Bowls 2013

Capital One Bowl: Orlando, FL Florida Citrus Bowl 1:00PM ABC

Nebraska vs Georgia (-9)

It’s hard to believe that teams could be less than excited about playing a January 1st Bowl game. But with the expanded 35 game slate, that is exactly the position in which each of these teams finds themselves. The Cornhuskers had dreams of the Rose Bowl in just their second season of Big Ten play. Those were quickly doused in a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin. In that game, they allowed the Badgers to rush for 539 yards. It was a continuation of their failure against quality offenses on the road. Nebraska lost 36-30 at UCLA, allowing 344 RY and 63-38 at OSU allowing 371 RY. As a result, they are playing at the same site as last year, where they lost 30-13 to S. Carolina. Unless there have been dramatic changes in the last 31 days, the Huskers could well take the worst of it at the line of scrimmage once again. Georgia is playing old school football under HC Richt. Though the Bulldogs have the ability to stretch the field with QB Murray, a veteran signal caller, it was the Georgia ground game that provided balance and allowed them to stay in the game against a top-ranked Alabama defense in their 32-28 SEC Championship game loss. If Murray has his head on straight after the nightmarish final play of that Championship game, Georgia could put up some big offensive numbers. And though NE is a potent offensive force, 35/462, behind QB Martinez and RB Burkhead, they will be greatly challenged by an SEC type Georgia defense that played its best ball down the stretch in the regular season, allowing 14 or less points to its last five opponents. Fundamentals speak loudly to SEC rep Georgia providing there is no worse than equal motivation come kickoff time.

The play: Georgia -9 $$$$$

others...
Northwestern -1 $$$$$
S Carolina -4' $$$
N Illinois +14' $$

NFL - Week 17

REVENGE GAME OF THE YEAR!

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals(-3, 42') Dec 30 2012 1:00PM

At 1:00 PM EST on Sunday, I will be playing the Cincinnati Bengals minus the points versus the Baltimore Ravens. The playoff picture is pretty much settled in the AFC with all six teams clinching their spots last weekend. Cincinnati (9-6) will be the 6th seed no matter what while Baltimore will likely be the 4th seed hosting Indianapolis -- with the outside chance of a Patriots loss (along with their victory) seeing them host these Bengals next week. Yet one team seems particularly motivated to play well in this game -- and it is Cincinnati who looks to avenge their rough 44-12 loss to Baltimore that began the season. Said head coach Marvin Lewis: "We didn't kick the season off very good, and now we get to finish it at home … We don't know who we will play (in the playoffs) or where. We just have to take it on ourselves." For Lewis, that means bringing their "A-Game": "More in focus, though, is the Baltimore Ravens. They are a good team that just won our division and a team that beat the snot out of us in the first game … The only thing that is at stake is you go out and play to win the game every time we go … That's important." The Bengals are building confidence having won six of their last seven games which includes wins against their nemesis Steelers last week as well as a decisive win over the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants. Led by defensive lineman Geno Atkins, the Cincy defense is becoming elite. Over their last six games, they are limiting teams to just 264.3 total which makes them the stingiest defense in the NFL over that span. Over their last four games, they are holding teams to only 58.0 rushing YPG. But this is a team that still needs work for an offense that ranks 20th in the NFL. Look for the Bengals to press to keep their momentum going against the Ravens -- while getting some revenge from the beginning of the season -- after their 13-10 win at Pittsburgh as a 3-point underdog. Cincinnati has covered the point spread in 4 of their last 5 games after a point spread win. The Bengals have also covered the spread in 8 of their last 10 games after holding their last opponent to 14 points or less. Cincy has now covered 4 of their last 5 games against teams with a winning record. And they have covered 4 straight against teams from the AFC. Furthermore, in their last 7 meetings with the Ravens in Cincinnati, the Bengals have covered the spread (and won straight-up) 5 of these contests. Furthermore, they are supported by a situational angle that has been 76% effective since 1983. Teams with a winning percentage in the 60-75% range listed in the +/- 3-point range coming off a win on the road by three points or less now facing a team with a winning record have then covered the point spread in 34 of the last 45 situations where these conditions applied.

Baltimore (10-5) played one of their best games in months last week against a listless Giants team as they triumphed by a 33-14 score. But we remember how bad the Ravens have looked the previous three weeks that all ended in losses (and a fired offensive coordinator). Just how motivated will Baltimore be in this one since (a) New England will unlikely lose to Miami and (b) a playoff matchup with young Indianapolis is probably more attractive than a third contest against a heated divisional rival? Baltimore has some key injured players that may quickly hit the bench in this one. As it is, the Ravens have underachieved this time of season having failed to cover the point spread in 6 of their last 7 games played in December. And Baltimore is not nearly as good on the road as they are at home. While the Ravens average 352.5 total YPG, this number plummets to only 297.6 total YPG when on the road. In fact, Baltimore is being outgained by 65.7 total YPG away from home this season. Expect Baltimore to suffer yet another letdown in this one after being 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games after a victory. The Ravens passed for 309 yards in that contest -- but they are 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 games after passing for at least 250 yards in their last game. Baltimore did hold the Giants to 67 rushing yards in that one -- and they have failed to cover the point spread in 4 straight games after holding their last opponent to 90 rushing yards or less. And in their last 5 games against teams with a winning record, the Ravens are just 1-3-1 ATS. Together, these team trends produce our specific 46-10-3 ATS combined angle for this situation. Lastly, because Baltimore raced to a 24-7 halftime lead last week, they now fall into a historical "play-against" angle that has been 81% effective since 1983. Road underdogs (or pick 'ems) who score 23-27 PPG (Baltimore: 25.4 PPG) who scored at least 24 points in the first half of their last game -- now facing a team that holds their opponents to 18-23 PPG (Cincinnati defense: 20.2 PPG) -- these road teams have then failed to cover the point spread in 25 of the last 31 situations where these conditions applied. Cincinnati does not want to begin the playoffs on the heels of a home loss versus a Ravens' team that crushed them by 32 points to begin the season. To pull an upset next week, Lewis needs his team confident -- and a win here goes a long way to establish that swagger.

The Play: Cincinnati Bengals -3

others...
Detroit +3
Washington -3'

Armed Forces Bowl

Rice Owls vs. Air Force Falcons (-2, 61.5)

WHEN: 11:45 AM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2012
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES

1. Rice and Air Force enter the contest with mediocre records, but they took differing routes to get there. The Owls won four in a row and five of their last six contests to secure a berth in their first bowl game since 2008. Playing the final 10 weeks without a break, the exhausted Falcons were outscored 124-66 en route to losing three of their last four to limp toward the end of the season.

2. Ironically, Air Force attacks on the ground with its one-dimension offense. Led by diminutive senior Cody Getz (1,219 yards, nine touchdowns), coach Troy Calhoun's triple-option offense averages 328.8 rushing yards - a gaudy number which ranks second-best in the nation. Considering that Rice yields nearly 193 rushing yards per game, the Owls could be in for a long day.

3. Rice's offense features a more balanced game plan as junior quarterback Taylor McHargue has both thrown and rushed for 11 touchdowns this season. Charles Ross is averaging a team-best 5.7 yards per carry and 743 yards total. The Owls amassed 381 points and 5,053 yards of total offense - with both numbers ranking behind only the 2008 club in program history.

TV: 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE: Air Force opened as low as +1 and has since been bet up to -3. The total has moved from as low as 60.5 to 62 points.

CONSENSUS: 65 percent of Covers Consensus picks are on Air Force while 53 percent are on the over.

WEATHER: The forecast in Forth Worth is calling for clear skies and temperatures in the low 40s. Winds are expected to blow NNW at 6 mph.

TRENDS:

* Owls are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Falcons are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. CUSA.
* Under is 7-3 in Owls' last 10 non-conference games.
* Under is 6-2 in Falcons' last eight games overall.

ABOUT RICE (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA, 7-4-1 ATS): Cody Bauer, among others, will be charged with deciphering the triple-option offense. Bauer leads the Owls in tackles for loss and is tied with fellow defensive end Jared Williams for the team lead with 5.5 sacks. Offensively, Jordan Taylor (48 receptions, 673 yards) and Sam McGuffie (49, 523) have proven consistent for McHargue. In addition, first team All-Conference USA selection Vance McDonald has come on strong since returning from a toe injury. Rice will be playing in its third bowl game since a postseason drought from 1961-2006. The Owls won their last bowl appearance in 2008 by taking the Texas Bowl.

ABOUT AIR FORCE (6-6, 5-3 Mountain West, 3-9 ATS): While the rushing attack secures the headlines, Ty MacArthur is traditionally the one responsible when Air Force takes to the air. The junior wideout has a team-high 411 receiving yards and two scores - although he has matched the touchdown total and surpassed the yardage (419) on the ground. Air Force has won five of the last six meetings between the former WAC members, although the last encounter took place in 1998. The Falcons, who will be playing in their school-record sixth consecutive bowl game, have plenty of experience playing in the Armed Forces Bowl. After dropping its first two appearances, Air Force posted a 47-20 triumph over Houston in the recent meeting in 2009.

The play: AIR FORCE -2

NFL - Week 16

Washington at Philadelphia (Sunday 12/23 1:00 PM Eastern)
The Play: 3 units on Philadelphia +7
The likelihood of RG3 playing here has put a bump in the line, and a bump in the support for the Skins in this game with over 80% of the public siding with Washington. It doesn't hurt things here that the Eagles looked awful on national TV last week, turning the ball over five times, losing to the Bengals by 21 points. Also feeding this line is the fact that the Redskins are looking invincible with their glamorous rookie QB (actually two awesome looking rookie QBs), and five straight wins with 31+ points scored in four of them. So how can the hapless Eagles have a chance here? Welcome to the NFL where late season home dogs, who are supposed to roll over and play dead against playoff-caliber teams, don't. Since 1989 the last two weeks of the regular season have seen the home dogs cover 57.4% of all games. When you have a home dog in this same situation, revenging a loss of 20 points or more they are 31-15-1 ATS. You can bet the Eagles remember the 31-6 thrashing they took just five weeks ago. And, the Skins remember that easy win too. Under Andy Reid, the Eagles are 12-4 ATS revenging a loss by 21+ points. Washington brings in a woeful 11-26 ATS mark in their last 37 games vs. a losing team.

New England at Jacksonville (Sunday 12/23 1:00 PM Eastern)
The Play: 2 units on Jacksonville +14.5
The New England Patriots probably just played their two biggest games of the season back-to-back at home. They beat Houston badly, and almost came back from the dead vs. San Francisco, but suffered a loss in the end. A lot of energy was used up last week in that attempted comeback. They now head on the road after a big Monday Night game at home, followed by a big Sunday Night game at home, to face lowly Jacksonville. I can hardly see this team taking the field with their "A" game after those two highly-physical and emotional games. Better than two-touchdown road favorites are very rare, and certainly the line is fair if the Pats pack their "A" game. But, I don't see it happening against the 2-12 Jaguars. Jacksonville seems to play big against big teams, as they took Minnesota to overtime on the road, won at Indianapolis, had a chance late to win at Green Bay, and lost in overtime to Houston. Don't be surprised if they hang around here too. As great as the Patriots are, they are not immune to letdowns. In fact, in late season play (from week 7 on), the Pats are just 9-25 ATS in their last 34 games when facing teams at .250 or worse! This is an ugly one, but the references I just made were supposed to be ugly as well. Back ugly and take the points on Jacksonville.
Game: Indianapolis at Kansas City (Sunday 12/23 1:00 PM Eastern)

Buffalo at Miami (Sunday 12/23 1:00 PM Eastern)
The Play: 3 units on Buffalo +5
Buffalo has been playing well over the past five weeks, but ran into a buzz saw last week against the Seattle Seahawks, a team that has simply been on a rampage, scoring 50+ points in two straight weeks. If not for that game, the Bills’ defense would actually rank in the top five in the NFL over the last month. Ryan Tannehill had a big game last week, but that was vs. Jacksonville, a team that has all of two wins this season. Things should be different this week vs. a Bills’ defense that has played well against weak competition this season. The Patriots, Niners and Seahawks have all torched this Bills defense. But outside of those games, Buffalo has held all but two teams to 21 points or less, including 14 vs. this Dolphins team five weeks ago. The Bills’ biggest enemy has been themselves, and Miami has not been turning opponents over at all. The Dolphins’ last four opponents have combined to turn the ball over just one time. The Bills were beaten badly last week, and teams usually play up to their level and beyond after a poor blowout. The Dolphins are now eliminated from the playoffs picture, and with their "Super Bowl" game next week vs. New England, I can see them mailing this one in. The Dolphins are 9-30-1 ATS in their last 40 at home vs. a team with a losing record. Take the points with Buffalo.

Chicago at Arizona (Sunday 12/23 4:25 PM Eastern)
The Play: 2 units on Arizona +5.5
The Chicago Bears opened the season at 7-1. The offense was rather ordinary, but the defense was feeding off of turnovers at a very high rate. The wins were coming easy, but the turnovers hid a lot of warts. Those warts have now been exposed, one of which is an offense that has scored 17 or fewer points in five of their last six games - all losses. The five losses saw the Bears turn their opponent over just six times. Arizona has to be feeling awesome as they broke a nine-game losing streak last week with emphatic precision win over the Lions 38-10. Arizona has a winning record at home of 4-3 and are now 5-1 ATS in their last six as a home dog. If you expand things out and go back to last year, the Cardinals are 9-3 straight-up in their last 12 home games. Chicago is certainly not playing like a team that should be a mid-sized favorite here, and they haven't exactly acquitted themselves very well vs. Arizona at 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings. Take the home dog here and play on Arizona.

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