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Written Thursday January 7th, 2021 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) First, let’s recap the performance of the NFL picks against the spread (ATS) for the entire 2020 season: 5 STARS: 4-3 record 4 STARS: 9-4-1 record 3 STARS: 10-11-1 record 2 STARS: 4-9-2 record 1 STAR: 9-4 record OVERALL: 36-31-4 record (a 53.7% win rate) If you are betting at -110 odds, you need to win 52.4% of your bets in order to net a profit. When wagering at -105 odds, that figure is 51.2%. In other words, this year’s NFL tips led to a small profit overall (but still a gain nonetheless!). Next week, I’ll show you how my preseason predictions about each team’s win total went. As you’ll see, it did incredibly well and you certainly turned a great profit if you tailed those plays! During the regular season, I did not make a pick on all games. For entertainment purposes, I’ll do it in the playoffs. I will let you know how much confidence I have in each pick. The best part of the NFL season is coming up, so let’s dive right in! WILD CARD GAME #1: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT BUFFALO BILLS (-6.5) We are starting strong with my top pick of the weekend: I’m putting my money on the Bills in this matchup. Can you believe Buffalo has beaten the spread in each of their last eight games? That’s unbelievable! Only four teams ended the season by beating the spread on 8+ consecutive games. All of them were winning wagers in their first playoff game. The Colts suffered a big blow in Week 16 when they lost their star left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The team absolutely needs to protect Philip Rivers well because he is a statue in the pocket, and he tends to get bottled up easily. To me, Rivers having no mobility whatsoever is a big factor, as opposed to Josh Allen who can escape the pressure on a regular basis. Also, Indy is great defending the run, but they weren’t nearly as good against the pass where they finished in the middle of the pack in terms of passer rating allowed. Now facing a passing team, that could spell trouble for Indianapolis. The Colts defense overall slowed down as the season progressed. Indeed, they allowed an average of 19.7 points per game through their first nine meetings, while that number increased to 26.4 in the final seven matches. The Bills defense did the exact opposite and seems to be peaking at the right time. They surrendered 28 points per game in the first six contests versus 21 points over the last 10 games. The temperature is expected to be below zero degree Celsius this Saturday. Philip Rivers played his entire career in the warm weather of San Diego and Los Angeles before joining the Colts who play in a stadium covered by a dome. Buffalo wins big and finally gets its first playoff victory since 1995! Official pick: Bills -6.5 WILD CARD GAME #2: LOS ANGELES RAMS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-3.5) I am not going to bet this game, but if I was forced to do it I’d back the Rams here. The situation at quarterback is unclear for Los Angeles, but the latest reports suggest Jared Goff should be under center. If he is unable to go, John Wolford will take the field. He did better than expected in a must-win game last week. He’s not as good as Goff as a passer, but he was a threat as a runner. I also like the fact that the Rams are expected to get three key players back this weekend: wide receiver Cooper Kupp, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive end Michael Brockers. Seattle’s defense improved a lot late in the season, while L.A.’s defense was strong all season long. This could be a defensive battle, in which case I prefer to go with the underdog. Still, I am not going to pull the trigger on the Rams. Seattle has won 11 consecutive playoff games when favored. They also post a great 6-1 ATS record in wild card games. Lean: Rams +3.5 WILD CARD GAME #3: TAMPA BAY BUCS (-8.5) AT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM I won’t put money at risk in this game either, but I am leaning towards the Bucs. Alex Smith appeared even more limited than usual last week in Philadelphia, and he really played poorly. Washington’s running game couldn’t get going all night long, and it led to a bad outing by the offense. Now facing the top run defense in the league, how are they going to score points? I simply do not trust Alex Smith to light up the scoreboard, especially with his top two threats, Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, being banged up. So why am I not betting this game then? There are a few numbers and trends that scare me. Since 1970, only three teams were road favorites by 6+ points in the playoffs; all of them lost straight up! Also, the Bucs are 0-4 in primetime games this season. They were really awful in such games. Finally, the only other two squads qualifying for the postseason despite a losing record both covered in their first playoff game. Lean: Bucs -8.5 WILD CARD GAME #4: BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3 OR -3.5) AT TENNESSEE TITANS This time we have a pick that I like enough to put money at risk. In this matchup of the two best running attacks in the league, I am betting the Ravens as 3-point favorites. First, how could I omit mentioning the famous revenge factor, which is largely in favor of Baltimore? Not only did they lose 30-to-24 in overtime back in Week 11, but the Ravens were ousted from the playoffs last year by those same Titans by a 28-to-12 score. Both of these games occurred in Baltimore. The Ravens will be fired up to avenge those losses, and they won’t slow down even if they take the lead this Saturday. The Baltimore train has been picking up some steam recently. John Harbaugh’s team has beaten the spread in each of their final six games. They are also a perfect 6-0 ATS over the past six road playoff games and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games in January. A piece of information that may be flying under the radar is the fact that Tennessee has three offensive linemen listed as questionable: Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones and Dennis Kelly. Even if they all suit up this Sunday, they are nicked up and could struggle against a tough Baltimore front. If you like betting totals, you may consider grabbing the over for two reasons. All five times that the Titans were underdogs this year, the game went over the total. Secondly, this will be just the third time that a wild card game has a total of 55 points or more. In the previous two instances, the game ended with exactly 73 points scored. Official pick: Ravens -3 Lean: Over 55 WILD CARD GAME #5: CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-10) This is the third pick that I like enough to call it an “official” pick: I’m grabbing the Saints as 10-point favorites. The Bears have a fairly weak offensive line, so they are likely to struggle against the ferocious Saints defense. Also, Chicago is likely to miss a key piece of their defense due to injury: linebacker Roquan Smith. He exited the regular season finale against the Packers with an elbow injury. It looks like he dislocated his elbow and probably won’t be available this weekend. Meanwhile, the Saints have a good shot to get both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on the field. That should be a big boost to their offense. There are several statistics favoring New Orleans: Since 2011, double-digit favorites are 7-1 ATS in playoff games; The Bears are 0-4 ATS over the last two years as underdogs of 6 points or more; Chicago is 0-6 ATS on the road when facing a team with a winning record; Da Bears have a disappointing 6-18 ATS record after a double-digit home loss; The Saints are 4-0 ATS following a win by at least 14 points. Based on these arguments, I’m taking the Saints but for some reason I remain cautious and won’t go big on this one. I still prefer Buffalo and Baltimore this week. Official pick: Saints -10 WILD CARD GAME #6: CLEVELAND BROWNS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6) I am clearly avoiding this game. Way too many uncertainties surrounding this game. The Browns had some COVID-19 cases, which will prevent head coach Kevin Stefanski, star left guard Joel Bitonio and defensive end Olivier Vernon from taking the field. Other guys are uncertain to suit up this Sunday, including three offensive linemen (Tretter, Teller, Conklin) and a couple of cornerbacks (Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson). Who will play and who will miss the game? I prefer to avoid putting money at risk on this great AFC North matchup. The only wager I could consider making is betting the over. Why? The over has gone 9-1 with Big Ben under center in home playoff games. Also, the over is 11-3 when teams meet two weeks in a row. Lean: Over 47.5 This should be a fantastic weekend of football, so enjoy it guys! I’ll be back next week for more betting tips for the Divisional Round. Best of luck with your plays! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/KC2UYTUySLI
Written Wednesday December 23rd, 2020 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) After a series of five straight weeks without a negative record against the spread (ATS), we underwent a bad Week 15. Indeed, we went 0-2-1, including the 5-star pick that lost badly. I certainly did not expect the Steelers to play that poorly against a weak division rival on national television after losing two consecutive games. That was an awful performance by Pittsburgh. It was a reminder that we cannot win every week! Losing runs are inevitable in the sports betting industry, unfortunately! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back on the winning track right away! PICK #1 (4 STARS): CHICAGO BEARS -7.5 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS Chicago is 5-1 ATS after scoring 30 points or more. They are clearly surging and the light has turned on for Mitchell Trubisky. After crushing the Texans, Da Bears pulled off the upset in Minnesota last week. Trubisky has completed more than 70% of his passes in each of his last three outings, which is impressive! During this time period, he has tossed 5 TD passes versus a single interception. He is also a decent runner, when necessary. There is no reason to believe he cannot do it again when facing a vulnerable Jags defense. Another guy that has been on fire lately is running back David Montgomery. He has averaged 109 rushing yards over his past four games, while scoring a total of six touchdowns. His yards-per-carry average during these four meetings has been even more impressive: a whopping 6.1! The Bears defense remains a steady force and they should create problems to whatever quarterback will be under center for Jacksonville. I believe Chicago wins this one by a good margin. PICK #2 (2 STARS): PITTSBURGH STEELERS +2 VS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS Enough is enough. The bad streak must end for Mike Tomlin’s squad. In what should be a fairly cold day in Pittsburgh, I could see Philip Rivers struggling, especially considering he is not mobile and about to face a feisty pass rush. Indianapolis will be forced to make quick throws, which will make them more predictable. The Steelers are showing a great 15-4-2 ATS record in their last 21 games as home underdogs. That’s pretty convincing! Meanwhile, Indy has beaten the spread just once in their last five trips to Pittsburgh. Big Ben looked awful last week and he is now facing a pretty tough Colts defense. However, Indianapolis is better defending the run, but the Steelers happen to throw the ball very often. I think the Steelers outlast the Colts in a tough, physical and low-scoring game. PICK #3 (2 STARS): PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -2 AT DALLAS COWBOYS The Cowboys run defense ranks dead last in rushing yards allowed per carry. As for Philly, they hold the second-best yards-per-rush average in the entire league. That’s a good recipe for success, especially after switching from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts, the latter being a much more dangerous QB as a runner. Hurts has really been impressive in his first two starts with 4 TD passes and zero interception, while rushing for an average of 84.5 yards per game in those matches. And that included a game against the stout Saints defense! The Cowboys have a good trio of receivers, but Dalton has been fairly inconsistent. He has a low yards per attempt average and he missed many easy throws last weekend. Also, Philadelphia’s defense is a notch better than Dallas’, and their front four should give problems to the Cowboys offensive line. The Cowboys are 6-0 ATS as home underdogs, but 1-4 ATS following a straight up win. One interesting statistic: during the last 10 meetings between these two clubs, the favorite has beaten the spread eight times. Ultimately, I trust Jalen Hurts to be able to extend drives both with his arm and his legs more than Andy Dalton. Philly takes this game. PICK #4 (1 STAR): NEW YORK JETS +9.5 VS CLEVELAND BROWNS The Jets are coming off a stunning upset win over the Rams last week, so many people will anticipate a letdown here. I don’t expect New York to come up with another victory, but this spread seems pretty high to me. The Browns have more incentive for sure, but they will be on the road for the fourth time in five weeks. Cleveland has beaten the spread just once over the last seven contests where they were road favorites. Meanwhile, the Jets present a nice 9-3-1 ATS record at home against teams with a winning record. You might also be surprised to hear New York has beaten the spread in four of their last five games in December. Cleveland relies a lot on its running game on offense. That’s good news for the Jets, whose run defense ranks 8th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per carry. It will come down to whether they can slow down Baker Mayfield, who has been on a roll. He is susceptible to making mistakes, though. Crowder, Perriman and Mims are good enough to allow the Jets offense to move the ball against an average Cleveland defense. Running back Ty Johnson has also provided a good spark on some plays for New York. I like New York to keep it within 9 points. UNOFFICIAL PICKS For entertainment purposes, here are some leans for you: LEAN #1: Texans -8.5 vs Bengals (Cincy won’t play with the same intensity after a hard-fought game in Pittsburgh last Monday, they also lose one day of rest from playing Monday, Texans mad after losing two close calls against the Colts recently, Houston holds an 8-2 ATS record in the last 10 meetings with the Bengals); LEAN #2: Titans +3.5 at Packers (I don’t feel good at all fading Aaron Rodgers in a primetime game, especially with one extra day of rest and after being at home in four of the past five weeks, but I’m still going to do it. Packers are 1-6 ATS after an outright win, while Tennessee is 7-1 ATS on the road against teams with a winning record); Merry Christmas to all of you!!! I am super grateful to have such great followers like you!! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/nMWjWPEhzCI