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October 12, 2015 (2:00 PM ET)

There is one NFL and one MLB pick tonight.
 

1) Take Toronto Blue Jays on the Money Line (-138) against Texas Rangers risking 4.14% to win 3%.

The Blue Jays offense is by far the most feared in baseball after scoring 891 runs during the regular season! Yet after scoring just 7 runs in the first two games of the playoffs, they finally found their rhythm yesterday and crossed home plate 5 times to secure a W in what was a must-win game. They kept their hopes alive by staving off elimination and are in the same spot again today. That's because a Texas victory would see the AL favorites, Toronto, crash out of the post-season. The Blue Jays showed their tenacity and character on Sunday and we believe will do so again tonight by forcing a Game 5.

RA Dickey called it poetic and coming full circle when asked about Game 4 which would mark the 40-year old's playoff debut! The knuckleballer started out with the Rangers and spent 5 years pitching in Texas. Now after spells with the Twins and the Mets, he finds himself in a Blue Jays uniform finally realizing the dream of pitching in the postseason! It's been a long journey for him and many of his teammates to get to this stage. All-Star sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion had never participated in a playoffs game until the series opener! For others like Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, they've been there before but at 29 years and 32 years of age respectively, they too know that time isn't necessarily on their side. The bottom line is that this is a ball club that is in win mode NOW and at its very peak. Other than a few young players such as Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins, the vast majority are in the prime and won't be getting any better in the future. They know the time to win is now and that opportunities like this don't come along often. Dickey was virtually unhittable in his last 3 starts while Holland had a 7.12 ERA in his last 5 games and struggled down the stretch!

After nerves and a few questionable umpire calls frustrated the Jays in the opening two games of the series, they finally regained their confidence and swagger when Troy Tulowitzki hit a 3-run homer yesterday! RA Dickey admitted that in his mind, he would always be starting Game 4 and that he nor anyone else in the clubhouse even entertained the possibility of going home early. John Gibbons' squad is full of belief and conviction that they can stave off elimination once again and take the series back to Canada and it shows in their body language. Winning mentality is the most crucial aspect of playoffs success as pressure from the fans and media is enormous and the stakes are at their highest. We believe this team is well put together in the sense that they share a similar mindset and care for each other like great friends. In addition to incredible talent, they are a very cohesive group and get on very well with one another. The Rangers are similar in many ways but won't have the services of their captain Adrian Beltre at 3rd base. Beltre is a future hall of famer and the undisputable leader of this team. His Golden Glove and clutch-hitting presence on the field is a calming factor for his teammates and the fact that Hanser Alberto will once again start instead does not bode well for Jeff Banister's team in such an important game. Alberto has nowhere near the experience and in games such as this, it takes just one smal fielding error to shift momentum. Even if Beltre does play, he's got a bad back and is not 100%. We believe the Rangers are more likely to committ errors than the Jays today.

The veteran knuckleballer has been excellent since the All-Star break and owns a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts! Derek Holland meanwhile returned from a lengthy injury and had some good and poor performances. One of his more challenging days came against these Blue Jays back on August 25th when he allowed 3 home runs! It's no secret that this right-handed heavy lineup has hit southpaws very hard this season. They have frustrated Holland in the past and could get to him again today especially after facing another lefty yesterday. Meanwhile the Rangers bullpen had to work a lot in yesterday's contest after Perez only lasted 5 innings and the bats were frustrated by another crafty right-handed veteran in Marco Estrada. This series doesn't feel like it is going to end today. We believe it'll go the distance and be sttled with a crucial and entertaining Game 5 in Toronto which will make for great TV ratings. Back the road team as they stave off elimination once again and keep their World Series hopes alive. The Jays lineup is loaded with power hitters stacked one after another and sooner or later, they will get to Holland and the relievers. In what should be a high-scoring shootout, we believe the best offense in the Majors will find a way to extend the series!
 

2) Take Pittsburgh Steelers at +4 spread (buy half a point) against San Diego Chargers for 3% of the bankroll.

Even though it is still early in the NFL season, this is an extremely important game for both teams. These two AFC conference contenders have the unfortunate places of being in divisions where one team is completely dominating the landscape. The AFC North & AFC West are currently led by teams that have started the season 5-0. It is unlikely their neither the Pittsburgh Steeler or San Diego Chargers will make an impressive enough run this season to take their respective division, so their only real chance to make the playoffs this year would be to make the Wildcard, which is why a victory tonight could ultimately play a role in which team takes one of those Wildcard spots come the end of the season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will again be without their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Losing Big Ben at the helm is an obvious loss for the team, but they still have a bevy of playmakers at the skill positions at their disposal. Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are Pro-Bowl level players, while Heath Miller is the consummate veteran who knows how to find the soft spots in opposing coverages. Also players like Wheaton and Heyward-Bey are starting to come into their own and find their place on offense this season. Pittsburgh will also receive a boost on offense with the return of Martaivis Bryant as well. While Bryant may be a bit rusty after serving his 4 game suspension, he does add speed to the sideline that the Charger defense will have to respect. There are just too many weapons on this Pittsburgh offense that the Chargers will have to account for. If they plan for the run and try to stop Bell, that leaves Michael Vick the option of calling for a pass play and finding any one of his capable receivers. If the Chargers decide to double team Brown in the passing game, that leaves both Miller and Bryant in one on one coverage. It truly is a pick your poison scheme and if the Chargers choose wrong, they will surely get burned.

Let's not forget, that while Michael Vick is certainly past his prime, he has been a suitable replacement in the absence of Roethlisberger. In 5 quarters of action, Vick has yet to turn the ball over. What that means is that he is making good decisions with the football and not trying to be the one-man show that he has been used to playing for much of his career. He is allowing getting the ball to his playmakers and allowing them to make plays. That's all Mike Tomlin could really ask of his backup quarterback. Vick has also had another week of practice to become familiar with not only his teammates, but also the playbook. Having an extra week to practice will surely open up the offensive playbook and we should see a lot more plays downfield becoming available to Vick and company tonight.

The Steelers are also no strangers to these types of primetime games as this will be their 3rd one already this season. They let a game slip away from them in their last primetime contest as a couple of missed field goals by Josh Scobee and some questionable play calling by Tomlin saw the Steelers salt away what should have been a sure win against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night. There is no doubt the entire Steelers franchise has a bad taste in their mouths after the way that game played out and will be looking to come out and make a statement tonight.

The San Diego Chargers are a team that may have a decent offense with Phillip Rivers at the helm, but they are a team that has many holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have allowed 30+ points this season to teams like the Lions, Vikings and Browns who are not known for their offensive prowess. Their secondary has been hit for big plays down field either by allowing completed passes or from drawing penalty flags and tonight they will face the best offense they have seen all season. The Chargers also haven't been very good at getting to the quarterback. They have only accumulated 5 sacks thus far on the season and even though Vick is not as mobile as he once was, he is still a threat to run and maneuver in the pocket which gives their offense a chance at extending plays.

While the Steelers are dealing with an injury to Big Ben, the Chargers are also dealing with injuries of their own. They have a depleted receiving corps and Stevie Johnson has been ruled out of this contest. Jacoby Jones will likely take his place, however he is currently dealing with an ankle injury. The Steelers are also well versed in the capabilities of Jones in the return game during his time with the Ravens, so we expect the Steelers defense to have a game plan to contain him tonight. They also have quite a few banged up players who are currently dealing with nagging injuries on both the offensive line and secondary. While some of these players will be likely to feature tonight, there is no question that they will not be 100% and that could hamper San Diego in this contest.

The Bolts have been a team that has thrives on big plays down the field. They rank near the tops in the league in plays more than 20+ yards and that is due to guys like Keen Allen and Ladarius Green who have accumulated a good chunk of yards after the catch. They will likely struggle completing the big plays tonight as the Steelers defense, even without Dick Lebeau currently ranks 1st in the league in fewest big plays (20+ yards) allowed thus far. The Steelers defense, which was thought to be a weak point this season has actually played well this season and guys like Stephon Tuitt are a big reason why. At just 22 years old, Tuitt is turning into a key piece of this Steelers defense on the edge and we wouldn't be surprised to see him have a big game tonight on the national stage. Defensive pressure and forcing the ball out of Rivers' hands early will be key for the Steelers tonight.

These two teams are fairly even on paper with both offenses scoring exactly 96 points on the season; however the big difference has been on the defensive side of the ball where the Bolts have allowed 110 points to opposing offenses compared to just 75 for the Steelers! Strength of schedule also plays a huge factor in this contest as well as the Steelers have had the much tougher tests to date this season compared to the Chargers and suffered the more heart breaking losses so they should be the more battle tested team in this contest. There have been a lot of times where the Chargers have been favored and managed to win the game, but not cover the spread and we wouldn't be surprised if this was one of them. This should be a closely contested game that we believe the Steelers can win outright. Even if they don't we don't see San Diego running away with this contest and the points will likely come into play.  

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Steelers are 20-10 ATS in their last 30 games as an underdog!
  • Chargers are just 1-8 ATS vs. good passing teams (61%+ completion) over the past 2 seasons.
  • Steelers are 6-0 ATS since Dec 2014 after a game in which they scored a rushing touchdown!
  • Chargers are 17-33 ATS at home after allowing their previous opponents to gain 6 of more yards per play.



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