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October 16, 2016

There are two Sunday picks.

#1: Take Carolina Panthers -3 spread against New Orleans Saints for 3% of the bankroll.

It's now or never for the Panthers. Having won only one of their first 5 games of the season, the Super Bowl hopefuls find themselves in a big early hole! Luckily for them, there's still time to fix that but they do need to start today and at just 1-4 on the season, they certainly can't afford anymore slip-ups. A victory today however, coupled with a likely Falcons loss in Seattle will suddenly put them right back in the division race and that's what we expect to see.

Both of these franchises sport poor records right now but one is still a contender in our opinion and plays fundamentally-sound football while the other can at best be labeled a 'pretender' and is destined for another season of missing the playoffs. The Saints just don't have enough about them these days and rely heavily on Drew Brees' arm to bail them out. This is a team that doesn't run the ball well and a defense that sometimes just can't get off the field. They have too many weaknesses in their overall game to compete with a more complete and balanced side like the visiting Panthers.

Cam Newton will be back under center this afternoon after missing last week's game due to concussion protocol. He and his teammates are no doubt motivated to prove critics wrong. The truth is that the Panthers are a better team than their record currently suggests. They have been unlucky with not only key injuries but certain calls as well. They could easily be 3-2 right now and yet sit at the division cellar with a 1-4 record. We believe that'll change as a few things start going their way. Having their MVP quarterback and their unquestioned leader back on the field, will surely help. Newton's presence keeps defenses honest as they have to respect his rushing and passing ability. The Saints' defense has had no answer for him in recent meetings, no matter who the co-ordinator has been and we don't expect them to suddenly solve the dual-threat QB today. 

Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis make up arguably the best LB tandem in the NFL! Not only that, both players are natural leaders and hold everyone accountable. They know the defense is partly to blame for Carolina's poor start to the season and are gonna want to put pressure on Brees early and often today. The fact that Ron Rivera and company chose to release CB Ben Benwikere earlier this week also sent a loud and important message to the rest of the team. It showed that they have confidence in their other corner-backs to step up and make a name for themselves while also signalling that no one's position is safe and that everyone must perform or face the axe.

We're catching a quality and extremely motivated team against a side that realistically knows it has no post-season chances, after starting 0-3. New Orleans did win their last game to temporarily climb to 3rd in the division with a 1-3 record but that victory doesn't necessarily bode well for them. This is a squad that has come out flat in the vast majority of their games following a 'W' in recent years and a bye week hasn't helped either. The Saints have lost both of their games after 'bye weeks' in the last couple of years. Carolina was embarrassed on Monday Night Football, losing to a Tampa Bucs team that has its own set of problems and will be out for blood today. Let's not forget, that defeat came with a bunch of key players including QB Newton out and still only happened due to 4 turnovers! They actually outgained Tampa Bay in that contest but when you turn the ball over 4 times (uncharacteristic), it's hard to win football games. We expect the Panthers to take better care of the ball today and get back to business by beating an inferior opposition.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Panthers are 6-0-1 ATS after hosting a Monday Night Football game.
  • Saints are 0-8 ATS since 2012 after a road win in which Brees threw 2 or more TD passes!
  • Panthers have covered the spread 18 straight times on the road after turning the ball over 4+ times in the previous game!

#2: Take Detroit Lions -3 spread against LA Rams for 3% of the bankroll.

The Lions have been involved in some tightly contested games not only this season but last year as well but often fell short in those matchups. The vast majority of their losses have been heartbreaking and marginal. Therefore this squad really needed a close win of their own to build confidence and they got just that last week, against a much improved Philadephia Eagles team! That 1-point victory will have given everyone in the locker room a mental boost and make them believe that they can come out on top in such affairs. Those wins are often followed by more comfortable ones (bigger margin) and that's what we expect from them this afternoon against an LA Rams side that has its own fair share of issues.

The Rams have had to fly across the country facing a schedule that wouldn't make many coaches happy. They first faced division rival Arizona Cardinals in what was a big game for them and then hosted the Buffalo Bills in what turned out to be a disappointing performance. Having beaten Bruce Arians' Cardinals, they had a chance to extend their lead atop the division and introduce themselves as serious contenders but instead put up a lackluster display against the Bills which saw them move back down to 2nd place with the Seahawks on a bye week! After that deflating game, they had to fly across the country from LA to Detroit to play a team that has already been there for nearly two weeks with no travel. We believe the cross-country travel of the visitors gives the hosts an edge, as does the added practice time and home field advantage.

Quarterback Case Keenum is a serviceable backup but as a starter, he's rather ineffective. He currently ranks dead last (#30) among NFL quarterbacks in Total QBR (QB ratings) with a lowly 38.1 mark! It is only a matter of time before the name of Jared Goff, the #1 pick in last year's draft starts coming up more and more. The media and the fans love a young QB with a supposedly high-ceiling and they believe Goff fits that profile. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, and time will tell, but in the meantime, it means there is a lot of pressure on Keenum with every errant pass as few believe in him and most would like to see him make way for the #1 pick! All this scrutiny makes it even tougher for Case Keenum to perform to the best of his abilities. It wouldn't surprise us if Keenum and the Rams had a tough day today and it resulted in a QB change going into Week 7!

Matthew Stafford has taken ownership of the Detroit locker room and that is a good thing for this franchise. The Lions needed a leader and to have that from your QB is essential. You can see that the players have bought into his leadership and respect him as an NFL quarterback, and that isn't something that was always evident in the previous years. Stafford has matured and gained a lot of experience in recent years and is now more assertive (in the right way) with his teammates. He's a tough QB who's not afraid to stand in the pocket and take some hits, and has really grown in confidence. The absence of Theo Riddick, their pass-catching RB is a loss today but we believe they'll still find a way to win this game and cover the spread in the process. Only a 1 or 2 point win doesn't work for us, as far as the spread goes and that is a chance we'll just have to take. The likely margin of victory will be by 3-10 points and works well for us. CB Trumaine Johnson will be out for LA and sorely missed by a secondary that already had some holes in it.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Rams own the NFL's worst offense having averaged only 290 yards per game!
  • Lions are 11-2 ATS in games in which they enter with a losing record, despite winning their last game!
  • Rams are just 3-9 ATS in games in which the Vegas line was set in the +3 to -3 range!

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