October 4, 2015 (11:00 AM ET)
There are 3 picks today.
1) Take San Diego Chargers at -6 spread against Cleveland Browns for 3% of the bankroll.
Mike McCoy's team was supposed to be an AFC West contender this season but currently sits at the bottom of what has turned out to be a more competitive division than most anticipated. Given Denver's 3-0 start to the season and the surprising performances of the Oakland Raiders (2-1), the Chargers can't afford to fall any further behind. And with the KC Chiefs travelling to Cincinnati for a tough game today, they, at the very least, have an opportunisty to dust themselves off the cellar and move up to 3rd with a win.
San Diego may be just 1-2 on the season but the schedule-makers didn't make it easy on them with 2 tough road games in their first 3 opening matchups. Now back at home, where they are a lot more capable and confident, we expect them to take care of one of the worst teams in NFL and improve to 2-2 in the process. Mike Pettine may be a good defensive mind but as a head coach, he's one of the least competent in the league and is among the oddsmakers' favorite to get the sack before his counterparts. As it is often the case, the issues are numerous with the Browns but perhaps the most troubling and divisive one is their poor handling of the QB situation which rivals that of Washington's mismanagement. Josh McCown is set to get another start and while the veteran is a good backup option, he can't put the team on his shoulders for the forseeable future. He's also not 100% coming into this game and is a bit banged up. We don't believe Johnny Manziel is necessarily the answer either but he should have at least gotten a chance to start consecutive games by now. There's an old saying "If you have 2 quarterbacks, you really have none" and we believe that is the case here. Neither player has been given the proper support by the entire organization to truly shine. They are switching back and forth on a weekly basis and that's detrimental to this franchise's short and long term success.
Phillip Rivers, on the other hand, is the unquestioned leader and QB of the Chargers. For all his flaws, the direction and leadership is at least clear. The players know his tendencies perfectly well and he's not afraid to lead by example. In terms of ability and career numbers, he's also by far the more accomplished quarterback than McCown and young Manziel of course. He has been very accurate with his pass completion % again this season and will continue to look for Keenan Allen who has blossomed into one of NFL's very best wide receivers. Allen is on pace for 155 receptions this season! And while that is unlikely to happen, his 29 catches in the first 3 games of the season are a franchise record! He has the speed and intelligent movement to trouble even the most stout defenses and we expect him, Malcolm Floyd and Steve Johnson to be a handful.
The offseason goal of this Charger offense was to rely less on the passing game and to get a running back that can be explosive in the rush and make San Diego less predictable. In Melvin Gordon, they drafted one of the finest RB's to come out of college in recent years and he has already shown glimpses of brilliance in his first 3 games. While he hasn't yet scored a TD, something that we believe could change today, he has rushed for 190 yards to lead all rookie backs in NFL! Against a Cleveland squad that ranks dead last in NFL in rushing yards allowed (avg of 158 yards), the running game could be key. Let's not forget that Danny Woodhead is another capable guy that will get carries. Mike Pettine's team missed a total of 14 tackles at home against the Oakland Raiders last week! Now travelling to West coast, against a desperate San Diego team that is off two losses, we believe they'll find it tough to keep up on the scoreboard. The home team has not only the more talented roster but also better leadership and less uncertainty on the sidelines and on the field. Both squads are missing quite a few players due to injuries but it is the Chargers that have better depth in our opinion and are more likely to create separation this afternoon. Barring a late backdoor cover, San Diego enjoys too many advantages in this one and should win by a TD or more.
2) Take St. Louis Rams at +7 spread against Arizona Cardinals for 3% of the bankroll.
The Arizona Cardinals have made quite an impression on everyone to start the season. With Carson Palmer under center, it has seemingly made this offense just that much better. Coming off back to back 40 point outings, there is no question that the Cardinals are a legitimate threat in the NFC West, and everybody knows it. That is where we believe we can take advantage this afternoon. After two back to back solid performances, we believe the Cardinals are in somewhat of a letdown spot offensively. They simply cannot continue on the torrid pace that they have been on; their offense is simply not built that way.
Looking at the way Bruce Arians runs his offense, the Cardinals are a run first team. Carson Palmer isn't throwing the ball 40 times a game or for 400 yards to put up these numbers, he has simply been efficient with his decision making and his receivers have made spectacular catches for him, with this being Week 4, we expect opposing defenses to be more in tune with what the Cardinals are doing offensively to be able to defend better on the field.
St Louis is a team that certainly plays up to their competition. They beat the Seahawks in Week 1, played poorly against the Redskins in Week 3 and then played Pittsburgh to a statistical tie last week. The St. Louis defense did its job, holding the high-powered Steelers offense to just 259 yards of total offense, allowing just 62 rushing yards and one touchdown. It was the Rams offense that had come up short, as the running game struggled, and a pair of red-zone penalties on a fourth-quarter drive hurt. IF St Louis can muster up a performance like they had in Week 1 against the Seahawks; they should be able to keep things interesting.
This is a divisional rivalry game, so there is no question this matchup means a lot to both teams. The Cardinals have managed to beat the Rams the last 3 meetings and have covered the spread in the last 4 straight. There is no question that Jeff Fisher will be looking to swing the balance of power and get a manner of revenge on their rivals. There is no question that the Rams have the talent to compete in this contest. Their defense isn't getting as much recognition as the Cardinals’; however they are just as dangerous, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.
The perceptions of these teams are severely skewed at the moment, but this is a more evenly matched up contest than casual bettors realize. And that's because Jeff Fisher who owns the best underdog covering record in NFL among active coaches has a defense that can trouble Arizona. Rivalry games are often close and we don't expect this one to be any different. The Cardinals certainly get the advantage for playing the desert however we don't believe the victory will come as easily for them as it has in weeks past. The sharp money is with the points. Everyone wants to back the Cards now but as usual they are late to the party. Arizona is a great team but in this particular spot, they are laying more than they should be and are in a let-down spot after numerous blowouts! To continue to expect them to win by double-digits is too much and doesn't often happen in NFL.
3) Take San Francisco 49ers at +8 spread against Green Bay Packers for 3% of the bankroll.
There is no question that a team’s most recent performances and perception has a lot to do with how the betting public places their wagers and this is one case where we feel perception has clearly inflated the line. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put on one of the most masterful displays in recent memory this past Monday against the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that we had backed them and easily cashed out. Green Bay led 14-0 before the Chiefs put a point on the scoreboard and built that lead to 31-7 in the third quarter before taking their foot off the gas making the game closer on the final score than it really was. Aaron Rodgers was nearly perfect in that contest and has looked like the best QB in the league thus far this season. He threw 5 TD passes on the day and now owns a 10-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. There is no question that after that performance, everyone is high on the Packers.
Meanwhile the San Francisco 49ers are coming off arguably their worst loss in recent memory as they were absolutely routed by the Arizona Cardinals in a game out in the desert. San Francisco couldn't have looked any worse than they do. Colin Kaepernick had easily his worst performance of his career as he saw 2 interceptions returned for TDs in the 49ers first 2 possessions. Down in a 14-0 hole, things just got progressively worst as Kaepernick threw a couple of more interceptions and the Cardinals went on to embarass SF, 47-7. After hearing all week about how the 49ers should perhaps look elsewhere in the QB position, Kaepernick and teammates will be looking to prove doubters wrong as they often have in the past. Coach Jim Tomsula said in no uncertain terms that he's their quarterback and that is the vote of confidence this team needed. With capable receivers like Boldin and Smith at his disposal and an O-line that needs to up its game, we expect them to remain competitive against a team that is in a let-down spot after some easy wins.
These are clearly two teams that are heading in opposite directions at the moment, however the NFL is an up and down league. The 49ers are not as bad as their recent performances shows. Let's not forget that they did manage to completely throttle a Minnesota team who has since rattled off two straight wins, so that shows the 49ers have the talent to keep up with quality teams. It's easy to forget that Colin Kaepernick has been one of the quarterbacks that Green Bay has had the most issues with in the past. Kap is 3-0 in his last 3 meetings versus the Packers and has rushed for a ton of yards on the ground in each of those meetings. If he can limit the turnovers, he should be able to do enough to keep this game close.
There is no question that Green Bay is playing better football at the moment, however to lay more than a touchdown on the road is an extremely difficult number to cover. There is no doubt the 49ers will be looking to atone for their recent performances and turn things around. San Francisco is 8-1 straight up and 7-1-1 ATS when playing at home against AFC North teams. Green Bay may get the win, but San Francisco will be the team who cashes the ticket as the smart money is with the points. After such an embarrassing defeat last week, they entire group will be determined to display a much better effort and that should see them cover the spread much to the dismay of the betting public.
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