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Written Friday December 18th, 2020 at 8 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) We did not experience a losing week for the fifth straight time. We finished Week 14 with a 3-3 record against the spread (ATS). Most importantly, the 5-star pick was a winner. We grabbed the Titans -7 at the Jaguars, which turned out to be an easy winner. During the regular season, I tend to pick more underdogs than favorites. But when we get towards the final weeks of the year, I feel like the cream rises to the top and we observe great teams imposing their will on less-motivated and less-talented squads. That’s why I’m going with more favorites than usual this week. Oddly enough, we only have three official picks this week, but one of them has the highest five-star rating. Such predictions are 4-2 this year, and an impressive 9-4 since I started this Professor MJ brand three years ago. Let’s rolllllllll!!!!!!! PICK #1 (5 STARS): PITTSBURGH STEELERS -13 AT CINCINNATI BENGALS Both Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen are bad quarterbacks. Plain and simple. Since Joe Burrow got hurt, Cincinnati’s offense has scored 17, 7 and 7 points in their three matches. There is absolutely no reason to believe it will get better against the feisty Pittsburgh defense. They are going to eat them alive. The Steelers have recorded the most interceptions this season. They also have a ferocious front seven that puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They are going up against a weak Bengals offensive line, so the result will be catastrophic for Cincy, unless Boyd, Higgins or Green can somehow break a long TD. The Steelers have lost two straight games. It’s never a good spot to face an elite team after a couple of bad performances because you know they won’t take the game lighly. That’s especially true considering this is a primetime game. And they are facing a division rival. Let’s end with an astounding statistic: the Steelers have a mind-blowing 16-3-2 ATS record over their past 21 meetings in Cincinnati. That’s remarkable! In other words, we have all the ingredients for a blowout. There is no way Pittsburgh comes into this game unfocused. I expect them to win by at least 17 points, but it could very well end with a 30-point margin as well. PICK #2 (2 STARS): INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -7.5 VS HOUSTON TEXANS I am a fan of the revenge factor, which would have a tendency to favor the Texans here since they lost 26-to-20 against the Colts a couple of weeks ago. Still, my money will be on Indy this weekend. The Colts have beaten the spread the last five times they faced Houston. Even more impressive is the fact that Indianapolis holds a 12-3-2 ATS record in the past 17 meetings with the Texans, wow! Also, the Texans will be on the road for the fifth time over the past seven weeks. That’s a lot of traveling recently. Running back David Johnson is expected to be back in Houston’s backfield, but he has not been effective this year, nor Duke Johnson. The Colts run D has been superb this season, surrendering more than 75 rushing yards only to Derrick Henry. That included holding in check good runners like Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Josh Jacobs. That will make the Texans unidimensional on offense. Meanwhile, Frank Reich’s team will have plenty of ways to put points on the board. The Texans have allowed the most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. Things will get even worse with nose tackle Brandon Dunn and safety Justin Reid getting hurt last week. Star left tackle Anthony Castonzo made a return from injury last week on a limited basis. He should see more action this week. The mismatch in the trenches will be incredibly in favor of Indy. The Colts running game has been ordinary this year, but rookie Jonathan Taylor seems to have found his rhythm. Indeed, he has rushed for 90+ yards in each of his last three contests. To make matters worse, Houston pass defense is also atrocious. It was already among the league’s worst units, and it got even worse when its top cornerback, Bradley Roby, got slammed with a six-game suspension. The Texans have nothing to play for, while the Colts need this win to keep up with the Titans atop the AFC South division. The only way Houston covers the spread is if Deshaun Watson manages to throw at least 3-4 TD passes to compensate for his porous defense. Even though I like Watson, I don’t believe it will happen, so I’m putting my money on the Colts. PICK #3 (2 STARS): GREEN BAY PACKERS -8 VS CAROLINA PANTHERS New Orleans’ surprising loss to the Eagles, combined with Green Bay’s win in Detroit propelled the Packers to the NFC’s number one seed. Getting the top spot is super valuable since it is the only one providing a bye during the playoffs. For this reason, there is no way the Packers take this game lightly. The weather forecast indicates a pretty cold day in Green Bay: around 0 degree Celsius. Aaron Rodgers is used to this kind of weather, while the Panthers don’t enjoy it nearly as much. Carolina might get wide receiver D.J. Moore back on the field, but they are unlikely to have running back Christian McCaffrey available. There is almost ZERO chance that the Panthers hold Green Bay’s passing game in check. Carolina has allowed at least 280 passing yards to opposing QBs in six of their last 7 games, including big production from average signal callers like Drew Lock and Kirk Cousins. How in the world are they supposed to stop Aaron Rodgers, who has been in MVP form throughout the year (ok, except against the Bucs!!). Donte Jackson, Rasul Douglas and Troy Pride represent one of the weakest coverage trios in all of football, while safety Tre Boston has been awful. It would be surprising if the Packers don’t score more than 30 points, so it will come down to whether Green Bay’s defense can hold the Panthers to a maximum of 20-23 points. I expect the Packers to score a boatload of points, which will force Teddy Bridgewater into passing mode and that will result into a few turnovers. UNOFFICIAL PICKS For entertainment purposes, here are some leans for you: LEAN #1: Patriots +2.5 at Dolphins (Bill Belichick is known for eating rookie quarterbacks for breakfast, Miami’s defense is great defending the pass but New England focuses on the ground game and the Pats get three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday); LEAN #2: Bears +3 or +3.5 at Vikings (Chicago will be looking to avenge an earlier 19-to-13 loss to those same Vikings, Minnesota is 1-6 ATS as home favorites recently and Da Bears have beaten the spread in five of the past seven meetings with Minnesota); LEAN #3: Ravens -13 vs Jaguars (huge difference in motivation between these two clubs, temperature expected to be near zero degree Celsius which the Jags won’t like too much, Ravens have the top rushing offense in football while Jacksonville has allowed 120+ rushing yards to opposing RBs in three straight contests and mobile QBs like Watson and Herbert have enjoyed some success against the Jags this season). It would be awesome if the 5-star pick could hit once again! Let’s beat our bookies, guys!!!!! Professor MJ https://youtu.be/hw0MDZPVmBc
Written Thursday October 29th, 2020 at 7 a.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) Yeah, baby! The 5-star pick was a winner last week, lifting our record on such plays to a perfect 2-0 record this season! Backing the Jets was a bold call, especially considering they were 0-6 against the spread (ATS) this year, but we took them at the right moment. Notice how New York was a 13-point underdog when I took them last Thursday, while the line dropped all the way to 9.5 prior to kickoff. That was a huge indication it was a good value bet. I’ve got four official picks for you this week, as well as five “leans”. Let’s get going! PICK #1 (4 STARS): ATLANTA FALCONS +2 AT CAROLINA PANTHERS The Panthers were supposed to be one of the worst NFL teams this season, but surprised many by winning three of their first five games. They have now lost a couple of games in a row, and I would not be surprised if they go on a downward spiral. It is still uncertain if Christian McCaffrey will return to the lineup, but even if he does it looks like his ankle is still not 100%. Left tackle Russell Okung is a long shot to be available, which would be a big blow to this offensive line. I also believe losing Kawann Short for the rest of the year will have a big negative impact on Carolina’s defensive line. He was a key part of this defense. Matt Ryan is the type of quarterback who struggles a lot when pressured, but thrives when given time to scan the field. Carolina ranks dead last in sacks with only six. I expect Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst to shine on Thursday Night Football. I also like to pick teams who have lost to the same opponent earlier in the season. That’s the case of the Falcons who lost 23-16 against Carolina three weeks ago. It’s time for some payback! Atlanta suffered another mind-boggling loss last week and I really expect them to lash out on their division rivals this Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the game by 10 points or more. PICK #2 (3 STARS): NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS +4 AT BUFFALO BILLS After a hot start to the 2020 season, the Bills have cooled off in a big way. They were hammered 42-16 in Tennessee before getting stomped by the Chiefs despite a fairly close 26-17 score. Last week’s win over the Jets wasn’t convincing either. What I like the most about this prediction is how well the Patriots match up against Buffalo. Let me explain. First, let’s think about the case where New England has the ball. Their passing attack has been very inconsistent and they lack playmakers catching the ball. In order to have success, they must run the ball effectively, which happens to be Buffalo’s Achilles’ heel on defense (they rank 23rd in terms of yards-per-rush average). Now, how about when the Bills are on offense? Buffalo has the sixth-most passing yards per game this year versus 29th in rushing yards per game. Guess what is New England’s strength on defense? That’s right, their pass defense with Stephon Gilmore and the two McCourtys leading the way. Some might also argue that the Pats are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 meetings in Buffalo, but I’m not sure this stat is relevant with Tom Brady gone. Without hesitation, I’m going with New England to keep this game close. PICK #3 (3 STARS): NEW ORLEANS SAINTS -4 AT CHICAGO BEARS In today’s NFL, it is hard to win if you cannot throw the ball effectively, unless you are exceptionally good at running the ball like the Baltimore Ravens. Clearly, the Bears have a bad passing attack with Nick Foles posting 6 TD passes and 6 interceptions in five games. And their running game is just as bad: the team ranks last in rushing yards per game. Somehow, Chicago rode their defense to go 5-2 thus far in 2020. However, everyone knows they are not that good. Even their defense started to show some signs of weaknesses last week against the Rams, who picked up 24 first downs and 371 total yards. Relying on a stifling defense was a good recipe 20-30 years ago. It does not work as well in the modern NFL. Even then, the Bears defense is good, but it’s not a dominant force either. I do believe Sean Payton’s team will be able to move the ball offensively. Here are some interesting trends: Are you worried about how the Saints will perform on grass this weekend? They are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games on grass. New Orleans is 5-1 ATS in their last six matchups as road favorites, and 36-17 ATS in their past 53 road games overall. Also notice that the Bears are playing on a shorter week due to playing the Monday nighter, a game in which they traveled all the way to Los Angeles. PICK #4 (1 STAR): NEW YORK JETS +19.5 AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS No need to discuss the mismatch on paper. We all know how much better the Chiefs are compared to the lowly Jets. I’m going with the Jets for a couple of reasons: Since the AFL-NFL merger, 13 teams have been favored by 20 points or more. Those teams have gone 13-0 straight up, but just 3-10 ATS. Technically, New York is not a 20-point underdog, but the line opened at 21.5. I’ll mention the same stat as last week for those of you who didn’t see my Jets pick against the Bills. Since 1985, six teams have started the season with six straight losses both SU and ATS (which is the case of the Jets in 2020). How did these teams fare in the remainder of their season? They went 34-24 ATS, a 58.6% win rate. Personally, I’m holding off before placing a bet on New York. I am waiting to obtain the injury status of wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman. If both are out, I need a point spread of at least 21 to bet the Jets. Hopefully, at least one of them suits up this Sunday, otherwise Sam Darnold may not have any reliable targets. Granted, I thought rookie Denzel Mims showed promise in his NFL debut against Buffalo last week. The Jets also have four offensive linemen who are listed as questionable. In other words, depending on who plays and how the point spread changes, I’ll make a decision once I have more information. UNOFFICIAL PICKS For entertainment purposes, here are some leans: Bengals +6 vs Titans (Cincy’s five losses were by 3, 3, 4, 5 and 24-point margins, so they kept all games close except against the Ravens); 49ers +3 at Seahawks (tight divisional matchup and Seattle’s defense is horrendous); Steelers +4 at Ravens (don’t like the fact that Baltimore is coming off its bye week though); Dolphins +4 vs Rams (too much uncertainty due to Tua’s first start to bet, but the “rest” factor favors Miami in a big way. They are coming off their bye week and have been at home three straight weeks, while the Rams played last Monday night and are now traveling across the country); Over 48.5 points Jets vs Chiefs. I hope you enjoyed this post, go get your bookie man!!! Professor MJ Twitter: @DavidBeaudoin79 FB: ProfessorMJ www.professormj.com https://youtu.be/NeppsXY9WRQ
Written January 9rd, 2020 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed) The picks went 3-1 last week. Let's stay on the winning track! Minnesota Vikings +7 or San Francisco 49ers -7 ? The 49ers got a much-needed bye week, thanks to a goal-line stand in the final moments of last regular season game against the Seahawks. The additional rest will allow San Francisco’s defense to get a boost, with the return of Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt. Let’s face the reality: the Niners defense did not dominate nearly as much in the second half of the season. In the first seven games, San Francisco’s defense allowed an average of 11 points per game. That number exploded to 26 points per game during the final nine contests. Part of this steep raise can be attributed to the strength of opposition, but we’re still talking about a huge spike! The weakest link on the Niners defense is when it comes to stopping the run. They finished 17th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. The bad news is Minnesota excels at running the ball. Dalvin Cook looked fast and fresh last week in New Orleans after sitting out the last two regular season games. Both quarterbacks finished with similar passing completion rates, passing yards and TD passes. The one difference lied in the number of interceptions thrown: 13 for Garoppolo versus just 6 for Cousins. I was impressed with Minnesota’s defensive line last week. They pressured Drew Brees all game long, and pretty much shut down the running game (except some unconventional runs by Taysom Hill, which is unlikely to happen against the Niners). Both teams have a well-balanced attack and a stout defense. I expect a hard-fought game, where the Niners will come on top by a close margin. For this reason, I’m taking the Vikings +7 points in San Francisco. Tennessee Titans +9.5 or Baltimore Ravens -9.5 ? The Titans defeated the defending Super Bowl champions last week by beating the Patriots 20-to-13. The line for this game opened at 10, but dropped to 9.5 since then. Let me tell you right away that I’m going with the Ravens laying 9.5 points. It’s easy to get excited over the great win by Tennessee last week, and the amazing performance by running back Derrick Henry. However, don’t forget the Titans got a 9-7 record this year, compared to 14-2 for Baltimore. Tennessee lost games against the Jaguars, the Broncos and the Panthers this season. They can be great at time, and bad at others. I’m betting it will be an off day for the Titans this weekend against a Baltimore team that is riding a 12-game winning streak. Did you know Ryan Tannehill led the league in passer rating? Still, for some reason I don’t trust him too much. Against a stingy pass defense last week, he struggled quite a bit. He completed just 8 passes out of 15 for a total of 72 yards. That’s not reassuring. The Ravens will focus on stopping the run, and dare Tannehill to beat them. I don’t think it’s going to end well for the Titans. These two teams met in Tennessee last season. I know the rosters were fairly different, but the Ravens won 21-0, a game in which Derrick Henry rushed for just 21 yards on seven carries. The Ravens finished the season with more than 200 rushing yards per game on average, a feat that had never been accomplished before. Lamar Jackson showed he can throw too; over his last eight games, he threw 25 touchdown passes versus a single pick. That’s impressive! One final telling statistic for you: the Ravens beat their opponents by at least 10 points in eight of their final 10 games. That included meetings with some very strong teams. I’m betting Baltimore -9.5 points. Houston Texans +9.5 or Kansas City Chiefs -9.5 ? The Chiefs seem to be peaking at the right time. After starting the season with a 6-4 record, they concluded with six straight victories. All of them occurred with a margin of at least 7 points! Meanwhile, it seems difficult to trust this Texans’ team. They are very inconsistent, as shown by their playoff win against Buffalo last week. They started slow by trailing 16-to-0 and rallied to win in overtime. Also, their negative point differential of -7 during the regular season is a shame for a division champion! The revenge factor goes in favor of K.C. since Houston pulled off the upset at Arrowhead back in Week #6. The Chiefs led 17-to-3 after one quarter in this game; they won’t let them off the hook this time around. Both QBs threw for exactly 26 TD passes. However, Watson was the victim of 12 interceptions versus just 5 for Patrick Mahomes. Another key argument is the defensive side of the ball. Houston’s defense was not very good; they finished 28th in terms of total yards allowed per game. As a comparison, the Chiefs defense finished 17th in that category, but they improved dramatically over the second half of the season. Indeed, they allowed just 11.5 points per game during their last six games. Therefore, I’m going with the Chiefs -9.5 points. Seattle Seahawks +4.5 or Green Bay Packers -4.5 ? The final meeting of the weekend involves two fierce competitors at quarterback: Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Based on the point spread, it should be the closest game of the weekend. The Seahawks have been plagued with injuries at the running back position, and also on the offensive line. However, they might get a couple of guys back: Duane Brown and Mike Iupati. With “Beast Mode” getting accustomed to being back on the field, Seattle will try to mimic what the Lions did to the Packers a couple of weeks ago, a game in which they racked up 171 rushing yards. I’m going to take the Seahawks and the points in this game, even though Seattle is 0-5-1 in their last six meetings at Lambeau Field. To me, the Packers passing offense relies too much on Davante Adams. Seattle seems to have more weapons with Tyler Lockett, Jacob Hollister and the emergence of rookie D.K. Metcalf, who looked like a beast in Philly last week! On Green Bay’s side, Lazard, Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham are too inconsistent. The Packers have the better defense, though, especially with the Smiths (Preston and Za’Darius). Still, we’re talking about evenly matched teams. I can see this game ending on the final drive with either team moving on to the NFC Championship game. Under this setting, I’m taking the underdogs: Seattle +4.5.