January 16, 2016 (11:45 AM ET)
There are 3 picks today.
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1) Take Boise State at -4 spread against San Diego State for 3% of the bankroll.
This is a classic battle of offense vs defense. The Aztecs bring the nation’s 7th best scoring defense into this contest as they allow teams to put up an average of just 60.5 points per game on the year. They have held opposing teams to just 36.5 percent from the field and 31.6% from three point range. The Aztecs also force 11.1 turnovers per game, record 5.3 steals and reject 5.59 shots per game, which is tied for 17th in the nation. There is no question that SDSU will be the more defensive minded team in this contest, however we are not sure that is enough to pull out the victory. Playing defense on the road is extremely tough, especially in this venue where the Broncos are undefeated on the season.
As good as the Aztecs are on defense, their offense pales in comparison as they are currently 312th in the nation in scoring, averaging just 66.4 points per game. They have struggled shooting the ball this season hitting just 41.7 percent from the field and 31% from deep this season. The style of gameplay that the Aztecs are accustomed to playing puts a tremendous amount of pressure and reliance on their defense. If a player's defense breaks down and the Aztecs start falling behind on the scoreboard, it make it incredibly difficult for them to keep pace, simply because of their struggles on offense.
Meanwhile Boise State is more of an offensive minded team as they rank 71st in the nation in scoring offense putting up an average of 78.6 points per game or 47% shooting from the field. . They are shooting just under 35% from the beyond the arc making an average of 8.5 threes per game. They are also extremely effective at getting to the foul line as they average just under 25 trips to the stripe per contest. At the line they are shooting 71.5% which makes them one of the better free-throw shooting teams in the country. That in itself could be the difference in this contest.
The Broncos also have a possible Player of the Year contender in James Webb III. Webb is a do-it-all type player who is extremely hard to contain defensively. His all around game is so impressive that it often takes more than one player defending him at all times. Given that Boise St has 4 players that are averaging in double figures this season, opponents focusing all of their attention on slowing down Webb often leaves other talented shooter open in the wings and waiting for their chance to put points on the board.
We expect the Aztecs to have a bit of success on the defensive side of the ball early in this contest; however we do expect the Broncos to create some separation in the second half. That separation coupled with the Aztecs ability to keep up offensively will be the difference in this contest. Boise should lock this game up with some clutch free throw shooting at the end giving us the win and cover.
Other notable facts to consider:
- SDSU is 3-7-2 ATS in their last 12 road games.
- Boise State is 21-6 ATS in their last 27 vs. Mountain West!
- SDSU is 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight after an ATS win.
- Boise State is 15-5 ATS in their last 20 vs. teams with a winning record!
2) Take the UNDER 44 total points in Chiefs vs. Patriots for 3% of the bankroll.
Sharps hammered the 'Under' in this game until it fell as low as 41.5 points on January 14th before slowly rising back up as public money pours in on the 'Over'. Now, at 44 total points, there is value looking for a lower-scoring game as we just don't see the two offenses outshining the defensive units. Barring an overtime game, this game has a high probability of having 45 or less points scored in it and given that only one number (45) does not work for us and everything else does, the 'Under' has great value! This should be a closely contested battle that could have just as many FGs as TDs and it wouldn't surprise us to see a good number of punts as well as the two teams battle for field position.
The Kansas City Chiefs defense needs no introduction. The team has won 11 in a row and that is largely thanks to a shut-down defense that has allowed an average of just 11.6 points per game in that span! That ranks #1 in the NFL during the last 11 weeks and it's worth noting that they also have generated 28 turnovers in that time frame! Defensive-coordinator, Bob Sutton has quality players at his disposal from front to back in this KC defense and utilizes them to great effect. Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali make a fearsome pass-rush trio that will give Brady little time to pull the trigger. Any one of them is hard to stop but to manage to contain all 3 has proven next to impossible as the Chiefs continue to sack opposing QB's with ease. We don't believe they'll find it easy today but they will nonetheless put Brady under pressure and force him into releasing the ball quickly. There will also be passe batted down and turnovers generated by this opportunistic defense. Sebastian Vollmer of the Patriots' O-line missed the regular season finale against the Dolphins and while he will likely take the field today, he's at less than 100%.
Tom Brady should have his favorite targets, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back on the field but all 3 are banged up and could be at less than their best today. Edelman in particular has missed every game since Week 7 and while a great player, he could be rusty in the first half before adjusting to NFL game speed and getting his rhythm back. Amendola has also missed time which could affect the timing of his routes while Gronkowski was in a Boston hospital as early as a few days ago and is dealing with both back and knee issues! These are great players and they will still have an impact on this game one way or another but are they as likely to help Brady score touchdowns as usual? The answer is, no. Some of their gains will end up being limited to field goals and that makes all the difference toward whether a game goes 'Over' or 'Under'.
The one often overlooked strength of New England is the Patriots defense! This unit has been especially stout this season but still gets little to no credit. Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard have combined for 20 sacks this season while Dont'a Hightower and Butler are having excellent seasons. This unit is led by veteran Rob Ninkovich and although a number of these players are listed as 'questionable', we expect them to participate in this crucial clash and give it everything they have. Historically, there has been a big home/road disparity for Bill Belichick's team in playoffs as far as defense goes. The Patriots have allowed just 17.8 PPG at Foxboro compared to 26 points per game in road playoff games! Look for Matt Patricia's stop-unit to be highly motivated as they aim to prove doubters wrong and show that they are just as important as the offense and no lesser than their Kansas City counterparts.
The Chiefs are conservative offensively by nature and the fact that their top receiver and biggest down-field threat, Jeremy Maclin has a high ankle sprain will make them even more methodical. Even if Maclin does take the field, he'll be used primarily as a decoy and we forsee Andy Reid choosing to run the ball with West and Ware out of the backfield for a good portion of offensive snaps. Running the football takes time off the clock as it keeps it rolling as opposed to incomplete passes where time stops and it's no secret that the Chiefs have learned heavily on their rushing game to get to this stage. Alex Smith is having an excellent season and actually does not get the credit he deserves, nonetheless, he is primarily a 'game-manager' rather than a 'game-changer' and while we don't see anything wrong with that as long as the team wins (unlike much of the media), it does bode well for 'Under' bettors as he does not recklessly throw the ball down deep which often either leads to big plays and TDs or costly turnovers. The Chiefs and Patriots are two of the best offenses when it comes to sustained long drives and that's because they turn the ball over less than any other 2 teams in the NFL! Long drives that takes up 5+ minutes while slowly and methodically marching down the field take precious time off the clock and limit the number of possessions that the other offense gets.
Another factor that leads us to believe this could be relatively lower scoring game is not only the weather forecast but the fact that both teams have reliable kickers. Stephen Gostkowski is the very best in the league and Brady and Belichick have shown their faith in him time after time, by doing just enough to get within field goal range and then letting him do what he so often does. He has a big and accurate leg and anything less than 55-yards is within his range! The Patriots aren't shy about using him on 4th downs and have done so with success for a number of years. On the other side, Brazilian Cairo Santos is relatively inexperienced but he showed no signs of anxiety in his first ever playoff game in a hostile atmosphere in Houston, making all 3 field goal attempts! He is a guy that KC Chiefs have come to rely on, especially as this is an offense that sometimes stalls in the red zone and has to settle for FGs.
This may not be the most entertaining game for the average fan but should be a hard-fought competitive affair for the purist that get as much joy out of seeing a good tackle as they do, a completion down the field. These are two of the most under-rated defenses in the league going up against a rather limited offense in Chiefs and a good but injury-riddle one for Patriots that hasn't had a lot of time together in recent weeks. Timing of the routs, communication and chemistry isn't something that gets turned 'on' like a lightswitch. The fact that Tom Brady and his best receivers have not had too many meaningful snaps together in recent weeks will limit their effectiveness against this stifling defense, especially in the earlygoings. It wouldn't surprise us if a Gostkowski field goal secured the W for New England late in the game. This Kansas City team is playing with a lot of confidence and has not given up more than 22 points since Week 4 of the season! Barring overtime or strict refereeing that throws out soft 'pass-intereference' flags, look for this contest to go 'Under' and disappoint the betting public that was hoping to watch a high-scoring game.
3) Take Clemson at +5 spread against Miami Florida for 3% of the bankroll.
The Clemson Tigers are 11-6 on the season and lost 4 of their last 5 games including 3 straight to end 2015. There is no question that many had written the Tigers season off at that point and we believe that has worked out to our advantage. To start 2016, the Tigers have been one of the hottest teams in the country that no one is really talking about and that has created an extreme amount of value on them in this contest. The market has yet to catch up with this team, but we believe that will likely change after this contest.
Part of Clemson's turnaround is likely attributed to a players-only meeting that was called by senior Center Landy Nnoka prior to the Christmas break. Nnoka is one of the leaders of this team and no doubt his speech hit home with other players in the locker room as the Tigers are now playing like a team with a tremendous chip on their shoulders.. Since that meeting, Clemson is a perfect 4-0 in January and have defeated some big named opponents in the process.. They hold wins over Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville and Duke, all in consecutive fashion with 3 of those 4 victories coming at home. Their recent stretch of opponents is arguably the toughest in the country and the Tiger's somehow found a way to come out on top. They have defeated Top 25 teams in back to back contests and their confidence is no doubt at an all-time high which could be the difference in this contest.
The Miami Hurricanes had won eight straight games before putting up an absolute stinker against the Virginia Cavaliers in their last contest. It was a horrible shooting performance which saw them go just 6-of-22 from beyond the arc and a mere 10-of-17 from the free-throw line. Angel Rodriguez, the team’s leading scorer is really struggling with his shot at the moment and is just 2-for-19 from downtown in his last three games. Rodriguez finished with 17 points against UVA, while Sheldon McClellan added 13. It was one of McClellan’s worst showings of the season, as he went 4-of-12 from the floor, including 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. Given how the Tigers defense has been extremely stingy as of late, we don't expect Miami's shooting to improve much in this contest.
Clemson is a team that is very fundamentally sound in that they play solid defense and are great on the glass. They out-rebounded a very good Duke team and should be able to do the same against Miami in this contest, especially if their shots are not falling. The Hurricanes will no doubt be motivated not only to halt the Tigers red hot streak, but to also get back into the win column themselves, however Clemson rarely makes mistakes on their home court and they are the team that is riding all of the momentum. With Miami struggling shooting the basketball, we expect the Tigers to keep this a competitive contest and even challenge for the outright victory. Even if Miami is fortunate enough to escape with a victory, the Tigers will give them all they can handle and stay within what we believe is an extremely generous number.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Miami is 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a loss.
- Clemson is 5-0 ATS in their last five games against the ACC.
- Miami is 1-5-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between the two teams.
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