September 28th 2014 - Posted at 11:00 AM ET
There are 3 NFL picks today.
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Note: Experienced sports-bettors know the importance of shopping lines. We suggest that you shop for the best lines whenever possible since that half a point or so will at times decide the outcome and turn a win into a push or vice versa.
#1: Take San Francisco 49ers at -4 spread against Philadelphia Eagles risking 2%
The San Francisco 49ers got their season started with a convincing win over the Dallas Cowboys but since then two straight losses has seen them slip to last place (along with St Louis) in arguably the very tougest division in NFL! The 49ers have looked impressive to start each game and have taken a lead into halftime but over the last two weeks against the Bears and the Cardinals, their lead has evaporated and they have failed to score a touchdown in the second half! Even though it is only Week 4 of the season, they now find themselves in almost a must-win situation. The fact that they have not been able to produce in the second half is an issue that the 49ers will need to quickly resolve. Coach Harbaugh is a great teacher and will have emphasized the importance of playing all 4 quarters in practice this past week.
Despite criticism, QB Colin Kaepernick has had a good start to the season and is completing nearly 70% of his passing attempts. The issue has been largely with the offensive line which has forced Kaepernick to get the ball out early or take off on the run which has led to him throwing 3 interceptions already this season and taking 6 sacks. The SF run game has gotten things going as Frank Gore is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and Carlos Hyde 4.5 yards per carry but with the 49ers falling behind on the scoreboard in the 2nd half, they have had to abandon the running game in order to focus on the passing attack to get them back into the games. Their receiving corps is in top form however with weapons all over the field. Vernon Davis is a bit banged up at the moment, but with players like Crabtree, Boldin and Johnson on the field, Kaepernick has plenty of options to choose from.
Penalties have also been the main undoing of the 49ers so far as they are currently near the top of the league in penalty yards this season! That is something that we are not used to seeing from a normally disciplined defensive unit. Granted, some of the fouls that have been called against San Fran have been what we would consider "ticky-tack" but they have hurt them immensely nonetheless and given their opponents field position and new life after failing to get them off the field on 3rd downs. We could see how visibly frustrated coach Harbaugh was on the sidelines last week vs. Arizona, so playing disciplined assignment football will have no doubt been a hot topic for discussion during the week. They will need to clean up some of those penalties if they want to start winning games and we expect them to do that.
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the unbeaten teams in the NFL and yet each week it has been a furious rally after being down. In Chip Kelly’s second year as Head Coach in Philly there has been less talk of the tempo of the offense and more talk about its effectiveness. However, the Eagles have had some issues themselves. Despite being an undefeated 3-0 on the season, they have been somewhat fortunate with their results thus far. In each of their first 3 games, the Eagles have trailed by double-digits! They have had to battle back from a big deficit each and every time. It takes an huge amount of energy and concentration to continually battle back each and every time they step on the field. Some player like starter Cary Grant have even gone as far to criticize coach Chip Kelly publicly in the media for how "excessive" he trains them during the week. That type of statement can cause locker room issues and shows that the team is not as united as one might suspect and that there are some underlying issues which have yet to fully surface.
Defenses are currently keying on the Eagles ground attack and are holding LeSean McCoy to just 2.9 yards per carry this season! The 49ers will need to be wary of the running game as that has been the nail in the proverbial coffin for most teams in the 4th quarter. The Philadelphia defense is an area that we feel San Francisco can exploit as they have been thoroughly dominated in each game early on. The Philly defense currently ranks 26th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed! The Eagles have just three sacks thus far and are just minus one in the turnover department.
San Francisco is the hungrier, more motivated team heading into this game and we expect that to translate onto the field. There were talks of the 49ers being Super bowl contenders and we find it hard to believe that they could be staring at a 1-3 hole after this game. Philadelphia has been fortunate, while the 49ers have not. We expect the scales to even out in this matchup and if they do, we feel that San Francisco is still the better overall team with the more skilled playmakers. They lost their first game inside their new stadium after a strange 4th quarter but we don't expect them to lose their second one as well. Meanwhile we'd be surprised if the Eagles remain unbeaten after today and see the 49ers winning this by at least 2 field goals.
Other notable facts to consider:
- 49ers are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 games following a loss.
- Eagles are 1-4 ATS in their 5 against the NFC West.
- 49ers are 18-5 ATS in their last 23 games off an upset loss as a road favorite.
- 49ers are 24-8-3 ATS their last 35 following a game in which they didn’t cover the spread.
#2: Take Green Bay Packers at -2 spread against Chicago Bears risking 2%
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers renew their divisional rivalry this afternoon when they square off from Soldier Field. The Bears have had a nice start to the season. After dropping their first game at home in an overtime thriller against the Buffalo Bills, they have rattled off two wins and find themselves atop the NFC North in a tie with the Detroit Lions. Being on top however has come at a price and hasn't been straightforward. They have been decimated by injuries over the last couple of weeks and their defense looks more like a college secondary with backups and reserves thrust into the starting role. The Jets were unable to take advantage because of some terrible play-calling by the Jets offensive co-orindator and also due to Geno Smith still adapting to play in the NFL. In this matchup, the secondary is going to have to deal with an All-Pro and elite QB in Aaron Rodgers, who has made a living off shredding even the toughest of defenses.
As if the injuries in the secondary aren't enough, the Bears have also had issues defending against the run this season. The Bears rank near the bottom in the league at defending the run. The Jets also chose to not exploit that facet of the defense, even though they had ranked tops in the league in rushing yards. The strength of any team in this league is their ability to be balanced, not only on offense, but on both sides of the ball. Neither team is currently exemplifying the definition of balance; For Chicago, it has been due to the number of injuries that they have had. Green Bay on the other hand, has just been because of poor execution. Chicago does not have the luxury of fixing their issues as easily as Green Bay does.
The Packers, who many experts had predicted would be in the conversation as potential Super bowl contenders this season have failed to deliver on those expectations thus far. The Packers have failed to get any semblance of a run game going behind Eddie Lacy. That has put a lot of the pressure on Aaron Rodgers and has really made Green Bay a one dimensional team. With the Bears rushing defense susceptible to giving up yards on the ground, we expect that to open up some running lanes for Lacy, which in turn will take some pressure off of Rodgers and open up the passing game for Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and others. With the Packers currently sitting at just 1-2 on the season, another loss, especially to a divisional opponent is nearly out of the question and will put them in a huge hole early in the season. Rodgers has had no issues coming into Soldier Field and knocking off the Bears as he has done so in his last 5 out of 6 trips there.
The Bears also come into this contest after logging some heavy travel miles. They played a primetime matchup against the San Francisco 49ers 2 weeks ago out in California, then had to travel back East to play a Monday Night Football game in New Jersey against the New York Jets and now, finally head back to Soldier Field. After such a rigorous schedule, the Bears no have to face their toughest competition who is desperate for a win.
As much as the Bears are suffering on the defensive side, their offense has taken a hit as well. Star receiver, Brandon Marshall as well as Alshon Jefferey have been hampered with leg injuries over the last couple of weeks. Even though they are still in the lineup, their limited mobility is evident and they are not as explosive as they have been in the past. Given the number of issues that the Bears have surrounding them, they need QB Jay Cutler to play nearly perfect football in order to win games. That simply is not going to happen in a week in and week out basis. Cutler is currently playing at an extremely high level and is making all of the correct decisions, but that is not his typically MO. Sooner or later he will find himself in a pressure situation and just let the ball fly out of his hands like he usually does, which typically ends up in the hands of a waiting defender. Unless Cutler has finally changed his outlook on the game for the first time in 9 seasons, it's only a matter of time before he has a poor showing.
Even though their current record doesn't indicate it, Green Bay is the better overall team. We expect them to win this game as they have done on this field many times in the past. With this being as short as it is, if the Packers win, they will more than likely cover this number as well. The Bears were outgained in both of their previous games but turnovers helped them win. We don't feel that'll be the case today and they are gonna have to get Matt Forte going which is a difficult task against this sout Packers' run defense.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Chicago is just 2-10 ATS versus division opponents over the last 3 seasons!
- Chicago is 5-13 ATS in games where the line is +3 to -3 over the last 3 seasons.
- Chicago is 7-17 ATS when playing on 6 or less days of rest over the last 3 seasons.
#3: Take Minnesota Vikings at +4 spread against Atlanta Falcons risking 2%
The Atlanta Falcons head north to take on the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings have had quite the couple of weeks in the media. By now everyone knows about the issues surrounding Adrian Peterson. The media circus has come and gone and it is now time for the Vikings to focus on the task at hand and turn their season around. There have been a lot of changes in the organization recently, Peterson is out and Asiata has taken over, Matt Cassel is out and now the team is led by Teddy Bridgewater. This change of "scenery" may just provide a spark be what the Vikings need to get out from this black cloud that they been under.
Teddy Bridgewater will be making his home debut this afternoon. Bridgewater came into this past year’s draft as arguably the most "NFL-ready" QB. That is largely thanks to his normally composed and confident personality. He also has great mechanics and protects the football well. Bridgewater has the potential to be a solid NFL QB and his growth is going to depend on how the coaching staff decides to utilize him.
For this matchup we expect a somewhat conservative approach from the Vikings in the beginning. Some easy, high percentage passes to get him comfortable inside the pocket. There will more than likely be a lot of check downs to the RBs for small gains. What that will do however, is give the young QB confidence to make those big throws down the field when needed. Bridgewater is not necessarily a deep-threat QB although he does have a good arm, but he is extremely efficient in the short to medium yard passing situations and can also be a rushing threat. This should allow the Vikings to grab small chucks of yards while slowly moving the chains down the field. Their ability to put points on the board, whether it is with FGs or TDs will be key for the Vikings in covering this number and shouldn't be too difficult against a weak Atlanta defense.
For the Falcons, they come into this game after an absolute destruction of Tampa Bay. Atlanta looked like a team possessed in that game as they scored early and often and played nearly flawless football. After watching that performance and seeing them listed as only -3 point favorites against what is supposedly a "poor" Vikings team, looked almost 'too good to be true'. In fact, we believe it is just that.
The Falcons' win over Tampa Bay was impressive but is not truly indicative of their overall level. They have 2 wins so far this year, both of which have come at home. In their lone road game, they lost in ugly fashion to the Cincinnati Bengals in a game when Matt Ryan had one of his poorest outings over the last few seasons. That has been Matt Ryan's MO for much of his NFL career. Inside the dome, Matty Ice is incredibly tough and hard to beat, on the road and especially in outside stadiums; he has failed to deliver and is susceptible to mistakes. The Minnesota defense did a great job in limiting the high powered Saints offense to just 20 points inside the Superdome last week. That has to give Mike Zimmer's defense cand should once again keep them in this game.
The public is quick to back the team that had the blowout victory last week but that is often too simplistic and a mistake. With only 16 regular season games to be played, the level of performance for each team changes from week to week. A poor showing last week, can often result in a team making the necessary adjustments to bounce back the following week, while a team off a dominant performance like the Falcons often don't perform at the optimal level in the next game. Especially when facing an unassuming 1-2 team that they may feel won't put up much of a fight. We expect the Falcons to get caught somewhat "napping" in this game as the Vikings and their new look offense keep this closer than many expect.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Minnesota is 10-1 ATS at home vs. teams outscoring opponents by 10+ ppg on the season since 1992.
- Minnesota is 5-1 ATS as home underdogs of 3 points or less over the last 3 seasons. (Game opened at Minnesota +3)
- Atlanta is 18-38 ATS after gaining 6.5+ yards per play in their previous game since 1992.
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