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December 24, 2017

There are two picks today.

#1: Take San Francisco 49ers +4 spread against Jacksonville Jaguars for 3% of the bankroll.

Jimmy Garoppolo is the real deal. Sometimes players and in particular quarterbacks get hyped up without deserving it. That's not the case with Tom Brady's former understudy. He's as composed as you can find in the pocket, has great arm strength and pinpoint accuracy and is an above average athlete capable of moving in the pocket if left too much space. What's perhaps impressed most people is his decision-making and leadership which has the previously one-win 49ers riding a hot 3-game winning streak! Garoppolo will face his toughest test today but we believe he'll do enough to keep San Fran competitive.

Many QB's have failed against the Jaguars this season. After all, this is a defense that ranks #1 among a number of important categories and has made life difficult for signal-callers all season long! They are coming off a demolition of divisional opponents Houston Texans and could clinch the division if the Titans fail to beat the Rams earlier in the day. Keep in mind, the Jags have already secured a playoff berth and might just be in 'party mode' given that it's been nearly a decade since they participated in the playoffs. You'd expect them to be all-business as there is still a lot to play for but while this is an extremely talented squad, they don't strike us as a very mature one. This isn't a squad that has been in similar situations in the past. They were the laughing stock of the league for years and are now deservedly heading to the playoffs but this matchup could be a let-down spot for them and unlike a seasoned team like the Patriots, they aren't as well-coached in such spots.

This should be an 'easy' game for them on paper but we believe that won't be the case. There's a reason a team with an impressive 10-4 record is spotting just over a field goal in points to a team that is 4-10 on the year! You would think the spread would be bigger given Jacksonville's record and the fact that they have been covering spreads for fun. The Floridans have become a very 'public bet' over the course of the season thanks to their ability to cover the Vegas line and endearing nicknames such as 'Sacksonville'. We believe the sharp mone is on the 49ers however this afternoon and the casual fan might be disappointed with the final outcome. It's not easy for an East coast team to travel across the country and play on the West coast and that is the case here. There could also be an element of complacency which could make matters more difficult. In what is the final home game of the season for San Francisco, expect the 49ers faithful to show up in big numbers supporting their franchise QB as he's renewed their enthusiasm for their beloved football team. We believe they are capable of causing an upset and winning outright but even if they don't, the 4 points are a big bonus and could come into play. 

#2: Take Cincinnati Bengals +4 spread (buy the half point) against Detroit Lions for 3% of the bankroll.

News broke out last week that the Bengals are parting ways with Marvin Lewis and will have a new head coach on the sidelines next season. The timing of that news (right before the game against the Vikings) was unfortunate for Cincinnati. The players went into that game not as focused as they would have been, in what was already going to be a difficult matchup, away from home, against arguably the best team in the NFC! It led to an embarrassing defeat but one that perhaps bodes well for them going into this Sunday's game against the Lions.

Marvin Lewis is far from perfect but he did take a struggling franchise to the playoffs a number of times and allowed these players to taste what post-season football is like. Players like AJ Green have established themselves as Pro Bowl type players under his leadership and have played their entire career for Lewis! The 59-year old has been in charge of Cincinnati for nearly 15 years and there's no doubt his players want him to head out with his head held high, especially in what is their final home game of the season! We believe the decision to move on from Lewis is a good one as the time has come for a new voice and a new leadership but having said that, we do expect Cincy players to perform better than they have for much of this season and give it their all, one last time. Look for the hosts to be competitive in this game and quite possibly play spoiler (win outright) and end Detroit's playoff dreams.

The Lions have Wild Card aspirations but are a flawed team. That's because while they have a quality QB in Matthew Stafford who continues to pass the ball well despite being sacked 43 times (second most in NFL), they own an inbalanced offense. The lack of a running game has hunted this franchise for years and they still have no answers on that front. They've yet to have a 100-yard rusher this season and rarely get over the century mark even collectively as a team! That often leads to a one-dimensional offense where opposing defenses know Detroit will likely pass the ball instead of run it. Ameer Abdullah started the year as the #1 running-back but failed to impress and also dealt with some fumble issues. Theo Riddick and Teon Green have jumped in front of him as far as the depth chart at RB position is concerned but neither have enough about them to be the true bellcow that takes pressure off Stafford. Theo Riddick is much more suited to a 3rd down passing-situation RB while Green is very inexperienced at this level and is still finding his footing as an NFL back. 

Cincinnati is getting back 3 of its most important players for this matchup. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker Vontaze Burfict have both passed protocol and will be back on defense. Kirkpatrick is arguably their best CB and his presence is even more important now that the veteran Adam Jones is out for the season. As for Burfict, he's the leader of this defense and the heart and soul of it. And for all the bone-headed plays he makes, he's also an excellent tackler and one that drives this team. Elsewhere, up front, you have Geno Atkins who continues to be one of the better pass rushers in the league! On the offense, Joe Mixon has passed concussion protocol and will be taking back his lead spot as the featured tailback for the hosts. Mixon is a dual-threat RB meaning he's equally as capable rushing for yards as he is catching passes and that is an element that this offense has lacked over the last couple of weeks, when he was out. His presence brings diversity to a struggling offense that could use some unpredictability. We believe the Bengals will put up a fight in their home finale and send Marvin Lewis out as a winner but even if they don't, the 4 points are a big bonus and could potentially come into play. 

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