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October 1, 2017

There are two NFL Sunday picks.

#1: Take San Francisco 49ers +7 spread (buy half point) against Arizona Cardinals risking 3% of bankroll.

The 49ers are winless so far this season but we actually believe they have a chance to record their first 'W' of the season today! They are being completely written off in this spot but this is a matchup that actually gives them an edge in a couple of key areas. Whether they fall short of the outright win or not, we believe spotting them a full touchdown is a mistake and the value is on the underdog in Glendale this afternoon.

San Francisco has a good running game this season. Kyle Shanahan has made sure to keep a balanced offense as his team rushes for an average of 107 yards per game and that will pay dividends sooner or later. Carlos Hyde might be 'questionable' heading into this contest but we fully expect him to play. He's had a very good season so far and has been featured heavily in this offense. When he and the other backs are doing their part, it opens up the passing lane for Brian Hoyer. Hoyer is an average QB at this level but he can surprise a few people when given good protection. We believe this offense finally woke up in the loss to the Rams and although they fell short in that contest, scoring 39 points gave them a much-needed confidence boost! They now know that they can find the end-zone and have enough firepower to keep this one close.

The Cardinals are lost offensively without David Johnson. The dual-threat RB who was featured in the passing game almost as much as the running game had a breakout season last year and did it all for Arizona! Unfortunately for them, he went down with a wrist injury in the very first game of the season and since then it's been backs against the wall for Carson Palmer and company. To make matters worse, this offensive line is banged up and having to use backup players. As if losing guard Mike Iupati wasn't bad enough, his backup Alex Boone is also out! Lawrence and the Cowboys had their way with this line continuously harrassing Palmer and hurrying him into throws and we expect San Fran to dial up the pressure as well. The lack of protection for their QB and the fact that this has become a very one-dimensional (pass-heavy) offense means the Cards aren't as dangerous as they were last year.

San Francisco last played on Thursday Sept 21st giving them ample rest and preparation time for this matchup. This is a hungry team that can't wait to taste its first victory of the season and finds itself in a desirable situation this afternoon. Everyone is overlooking them but we believe this could be a closely-contested game that gets settled in the final possession or so. If that's the case, the points are likely to come into play and give us the cover even if the underdog falls short of the win. The fact that they have lost 4 straight times to their division rivals (Cardinals) makes them even more motivated for this battle in the desert! This Arizona team is missing some key players and doesn't feel 'relaxed' under the coaching of Bruce Arians who's always on edge. Look for them to perhaps squeeze out a narrow win but we don't believe it'll be convincing.

#2: Take Houston Texans +3 spread (buy half point) against Tennessee Titans risking 3% of the bankroll.

This divisional matchup between two AFC South foes is a very important one for both sides. The Titans come into this one riding high. After falling short in their season-opener against the Raiders, they dismantled the Jaguars before grabbing national attention by taking care of the Seattle Seahawks! Now they have a supposedly 'easier' matchup on paper against the Texans but one that could prove difficult for them in our opinion. The Texans have beaten the Titans in 3 of their last 4 visits here and also have have revenge in mind, having been beaten in Tennesse on New Year's Day last season! They remember that and it fuels their fire.

It didn't take long for Bill O'Brien to name DeShaun Watson his starting QB! Tom Savage was replaced as the signal-caller in the very first game of the season and since then Watson has given everyone plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The former Clemson quarterback has big game experience at college level having taken the Tigers to the title game two years in a row, culminating in a 2016 National Championship! He's got a lot to learn at the NFL level but has already shown his confidence and leadership at this level and is a better QB now in Week 4 than he was in the first three weeks. Some lessons you have to learn only through practice and having faced 3 different looking defenses each with their own unique schemes and disguises has helped him settle down a bit.

Today in front of the supportive home crowd, we expect him and the Texans to do what they couldn't in their first home game of the season and that is to give the fans something to cheer about after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey! They weren't quite ready to shoulder the pressure of the entire community in that first game of the season and faltered but now with Watson under center and the team more composed, we expect them to perform. It's also worth noting that in their opening home game of the season, they were installed as nearly a touchdown favorite against the Jags! In this spot, the pressure is on the Titans as much as the Texans if not more. After all, Tennessee is laying a field goal here and is 'supposed' to win this matchup, all on the road, something they've rarely done. We believe Bill O'Brien will have his troops ready for the task at hand and will secure an important 'W' over the Titans to send both teams' records to 2-2! It's early in the season but Houston can't afford to fall further behind. A victory today allows them to pull up to even standings with Tennessee and stay close to Jacksonville.

Titans are a very good team this year and we don't have much bad to say about them. They have playmakers in offense and a solid defense but we do think they are currently a bit overvalued, coming off that Seattle game, as they are still not a group that has shown the mental resilience to win close games on the road. Let's not forget, this is still a roster that is just 4-9 vs. division opponents over the last 3 seasons. They also have a poor record away from home in that same time span. Now they are expected to not only win this matchup but do so by a solid margin. We think that's a tall order. This Texans defense hasn't played up to its potential yet and has the pass rushers in particular to trouble the Titans. The fact that JJ Watt has yet to record a sack this season and we're in Week 4 of the season shows how uncharacteristic things have been! We expect him and company to put pressure on Mariota this afternoon and find a way to edge the game for the hosts. The Titans have covered the spread only twice in 11 attempts when facing teams with a losing record in recent years and will likley fail again today! They are a team on the rise but this is a tougher matchup than it looks at first glance. Houston needs this game to stay in the division hunt and should find a way to get it, even if it's through Watson scrambling for yards and moving the chains with his legs in one or two instances. Take the important 3 bonus points with them knowing this is a close game in which the points could come into play.

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