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December 4, 2016

There are two NFL picks.

#1: Take Arizona Cardinals -2.5 spread against Washington Redskins for 3% of the bankroll.

The Cardinals need to put together a winning streak if they are to have any chances of making the playoffs. They're currently sitting at a below average 4-6 record and have not performed as expected. Now that everyone has written them off, there's some value in siding with them as they are laying reasonable point-spreads such as being less than a field goal favorite at home against what is a mediocre team. The Redskins might have the better record right now but we don't believe are superior to Arizona.

Bruce Arians knows how to motivate his players when everything's on the line and that is the case this afternoon in what is an absolute must-win game for a team that is running out of time. This is a veteran squad made up of highly experienced individuals like Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer. The emergence of do-it-all RB David Johnson has been the real story however this season as the running back is equally adept at catching passes as he is rushing for yards. He's been almost unstoppable this year and finds a way to impact each and every game he participates in. We believe this Cards offense has enough about it to put up points against Washington.

The absence of TE Jordan Reed is a big loss for the 'Skins. He's been Kirk Cousins' favorite target since he took the starting QB job last year! The two had formed an excellent understanding and were regularly connecting in the end zone and on key downs. The athletic tight-end has been Washington's most consistent pass-catcher over the last year and will be missed. Washington doesn't have the best running game either, which puts a lot of pressure on Cousins to spread the offense around. While he's a capable quarterback, he's far from perfect and without his favorite target, it wouldn't surprise us if he made some mistakes. Look for Patrick Peterson and other members of this opportunistic Cardinals defense to pounce on miscues and make the most of them. It's also worth noting that few realize Arizona's defense actually ranks #1 in NFL in terms of 'yards allowed' (294 ypg)!

A loss here will all but eliminate Arizona and we don't see that happening today. We believe they'll record a convincing 'W' even if it's a tightly contested battle at times. Barring a late backdoor cover when a team up by 8 or 9 gives up a late meaningless TD, we see them covering this short spread and cashing in tickets. The Redskins have an important divisional matchup against the Eagles next week and might already be slightly distracted by that. Furthermore, they haven't turned the ball over in two straight games which is highly unusual and unlikely to continue. We expect Cousins and company and have a couple of turnovers today which may well decide the game.

#2: Take Pittsburgh Steelers -6 spread (buy half a point) against NY Giants for 3% of the bankroll.

It's interesting that the 8-3 New York Giants are nearly a touchdown underdog in this contest against a 6-5 Pittsburgh Steelers team, however we believe it is for good reason! All season long the Giants have been narrowly winning games by being the beneficiaries of nothing more than good fortune. They have been extremely "lucky" up until this point and have been fortunate to win a few of the games that they have. They have also been fortunate in that they have a lengthy home stand which allowed them to pad their record, especially since those games came against some of the 'lesser' teams in the league this season. They will now have to take to the road to play a Pittsburgh team who has a very small margin for error if they want to contend for the playoffs this season.

There is no question that the Steelers are the more 'complete' team in this matchup. Like the Giants receiving corps, Pittsburgh has some notable playmakers in their passing attack as well. Where Pittsburgh differs however is that they also have a Pro Bowl caliber RB in Le'Veon Bell in the backfield. It's no secret that the Giants have struggled running the football this season and have relied heavily on the arm of Eli Manning. The Giants' have essentially become a one-dimensional team and that will likely pose problems as we head towards the end of the season. Pittsburgh has the luxury of balance in that they can run the ball with Bell which will force the linebackers and secondary to cheat-up to the line of scrimmage. When this happens, we expect the veteran play calling of Mike Tomlin as well as the experience of Roethlisberger to see this and start enacting more of a play-action pass type game plan. The threat of the run is what is going to give the Steelers the advantage in this contest.

Where teams have struggled against the Giants has been their ability to contain Odell Beckham. Beckham is a dynamic receiver and can change the course of a game with a single play. There are very few defensive backs in the league that could contain Beckham one-on-one and we don't believe the Steelers will even attempt that. Look for Tomlin to come up with a game plan to slow down the impact that Beckham has on the field and force Manning and his other receivers to beat them. Without a huge threat of a rushing attack, the Steelers will be able to focus solely on slowing down the passing attack.

The oddmakers opened this matchup up with the Giants being a near touchdown underdog and we believe that speaks volumes on how they believe this game is going to play out. Pittsburgh is the more balanced and desperate team in this contest and we believe that will translate itself onto the field. The Giants have been fortunate to win games this season but this is one situation where we believe their good fortunes run out. Pittsburgh should be able to outscore their opponents and come up with the critical stops at the end for a statement win and cover.

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