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Free Super Bowl Prop Plays – Sunday, Feb. 7

Total Passing Yards – Peyton Manning (DEN): OVER 235 (-125)

In seven of his first nine starts of the season Peyton Manning threw for 256 yards or more. He didn’t hit that mark with lower passing performances in the two playoff wins but in both of those games the Broncos had the early lead. The game with Pittsburgh proved to be a defense and field goal game and Denver never trailed against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Carolina ranked 16th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed and three of the last four quarterbacks to face the Panthers threw for over 300 yards. Expect Carolina to want Manning to throw the ball as they likely won’t apply the same aggressive pressure they did against Carson Palmer as they will be more fearful of the Denver running game and will dare Manning and his high interception rate to try for big plays against a very opportunistic defense. As the underdog if the Broncos fall behind they may also be forced to throw more than they would ideally like to and Manning’s numbers could climb.

Total Pass Attempts – Cam Newton (CAR): OVER 28.5 (-125)

Cam Newton had 30 or more pass attempts in 10 of 16 games in the regular season. Newton had just 50 attempts in his two playoff games combined but in both of those games his team built a huge early lead and the Panthers were able take a more conservative approach. Denver allowed the fewest rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt in the NFL this season as Carolina will need to plan on making plays in the air. The Broncos were also #1 in the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt this season as it will likely take more plays and more pass attempts to move the ball against the Broncos than the Panthers are used to. Carolina’s great numbers on 3rd downs this season could also allow the Panthers a few more plays than most teams are able to run against Denver and Newton’s passing numbers should climb if this game remains close which most Denver games have this season.

Total Receiving Yards – Demaryius Thomas (DEN): UNDER 67.5 (-105)

In seven of his last nine games Demaryius Thomas has been held to 61 or fewer receiving yards. Some of those games were with Brock Osweiler at quarterback but on the season Thomas only had four 100 yard receiving games. In two playoff games with Manning back under center Thomas had just six catches for a combined total of 52 yards. Thomas will draw a lot of attention from the Carolina defense and with his decline in production and targets late in the season Thomas proved to be a worse receiver. Thomas has just 43 catches against 89 targets over his last nine games with several notable drops and the three-time pro bowler isn’t the same receiver in this offense as he was in his big seasons of years past. Expect cornerback Josh Norman to frequently be paired with Thomas and opposing quarterbacks had the lowest rating in the NFL against Norman compared with all NFL corners.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick – Saturday, Feb. 6

#609 Western Kentucky +2.5 over UTEP 4:00 PM CT

Western Kentucky is just 12-11 on the season and only twice this season have the Hilltoppers put together consecutive wins. There are some solid wins on the resume, beating Stony Brook, Central Michigan, Indiana State, and Conference USA leader UAB. At 4-6 in league play this is a big stretch of games and after passing a road test in San Antonio Thursday this is an important second straight road test. Like Western Kentucky, UTEP is in a season of decline after these teams were among the better teams in the conference last season. On Thursday the Miners held on for an exhausting 112-108 win over Marshall, a win that snapped a three-game slide and gave UTEP is fourth conference win. The other three league wins came against the bottom of the conference and the Miners produced nothing substance in non-conference action, actually losing five games including three home games vs. teams outside the top 100. UTEP has defensive edges in this matchup but Western Kentucky has been the clearly superior offensive squad. Western Kentucky won the only meeting in overtime last season and this looks like a game destined to again go down to the wire with the Hilltoppers more trustworthy to hit big shots down the stretch.

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Super Bowl 50 Side Decision

Super Bowl 50 is approaching and as usual it is a tough call. Here is a case for both sides in the big game as both teams have a lot of excellent indicators to work with heading into the big game. Hear the arguments and make your decision on the winning side play.

Super Bowl 50 Carolina Arguments:

Carolina is 17-1, scoring over 32 points per game while scoring at least 27 points in eight of the last nine contests. The Panthers dominated two playoff wins over excellent statistical teams in Seattle and Arizona. Denver has only scored 22 points per game this season with the Broncos taking four losses in the regular season before surviving two very close calls in the playoffs. At no point this season did Denver even reach Carolina’s scoring average, as the high mark for the Broncos was 31 points in Week 2 at Kansas City, a game in which Denver benefitted from five turnovers.

With the one-loss record and the remarkable scoring margin this is a Panthers team that enters the conversation of being one of the greatest teams of all time should they complete the campaign with a Super Bowl victory. Some of the other teams on that list including the ’85 Bears, the ’89 49ers, the ’94 49ers, ’08 Patriots, and the ’96 Packers were all double-digit favorites in the Super Bowl while the Panthers should kick off as a favorite of less than a touchdown for a relative bargain to back a team that many consider in that company.

Denver unquestionably has an excellent defense but Carolina isn’t getting a lot of respect for allowing just one point more per game on average this season, counting the two playoff games. Carolina surrendered 19.3 points per game while Denver has allowed 18.3 points per game. Counting the playoffs, the Panthers defense also faced six games against teams that finished in the top five of the NFL in yards per play offense. Denver only faced one game against a top seven team in that measure this season, playing Pittsburgh twice although the second time they faced the Steelers it was a banged-up group without key players.

Carolina had a remarkable turnover margin this season which certainly boosted the scoring numbers as the offensive production was far from league-best for the Panthers. One can argue that Carolina so often had huge leads in games that they were able to conservatively run its offense to close out games and the potential of the team is far greater than the numbers suggest. What the Panthers did against elite defenses facing Seattle and Arizona tells a truer picture of what Carolina is capable of offensively. While Carolina benefitted from four defensive touchdowns in the regular season, Denver actually had five defensive touchdowns as the Broncos actually may have caught more big breaks to inflate the numbers.

Super Bowl 50 Denver Arguments:

The Broncos have been the best team in the NFL at stopping the run, allowing just 81.4 rushing yards per game and just 3.3 yards per attempt, both league-leading marks. That was despite facing six games vs. teams that finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing yards per attempt, with Carolina sitting as the 11th ranked team in that measure. The Panthers were one of the least productive passing teams in the NFL, gaining less than 226 yards per game in the air and Denver’s plan will be to force Cam Newton to make plays in the air rather than finding success in the running game.

Newton is as physically imposing as any quarterback to ever play the game but keep in mind the historically great performance that Denver’s defense had against Tom Brady in the AFC Championship, probably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. The Broncos hit Brady 23 times, 11 more times than he had ever been hit in any of his previous 224 career games. Brady was sacked four times and threw two interceptions looking very little like the Hall of Fame caliber player that he generally has looked like in his career. That was Tom Brady, a player with more playoff experience than any other quarterback behind Bill Belichick who certainly makes a strong case as the NFL’s greatest coach of all time.

Newton as well as head Coach Ron Rivera will obviously be in their first Super Bowl and it will be just the sixth career playoff game for the quarterback. All of those games have been decided by seven or more points as Newton has really never had to make big plays in key moments in a playoff game. He had the opportunity to do so to put away the divisional game against Seattle but was unable to, instead relying on the defense to close out the game. In five playoff games Newton has thrown six interceptions and for all the fears teams have of Newton rushing against them he has ran 49 times for 176 yards in five playoff games for less than 3.6 yards per carry. Denver just held a great Patriots offense to going 2 of 15 on 3rd down plays in the AFC Championship as well as the Panthers might not be able to produce the same successful results in those key plays as they have done much of the season.

15 of 18 Denver opponents were held to 24 or fewer points this season and in 10 games counting the preseason at Levi’s Stadium this season no team scored more than 24 points on the soft turf in this still new venue. Carolina outscored foes by 16 points per game at home in the regular season but out-paced opposition by just half that number on the road while also just playing one game on the west coast, the miracle comeback win at Seattle in October. Another factor that should fuel Denver is that many of the players have been on this stage before and many have bitter memories of the Super Bowl two years ago with a golden opportunity to avenge that result this week.

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Super Bowl 50 Total Decision

Super Bowl 50 is approaching and as usual it is a tough call. Here is a case for both totals in the big game as both the ‘over’ and the ‘under’ have a compelling case. Hear the arguments and make your decision on the winning total for Sunday’s big game.

Super Bowl 50 ‘UNDER’ Argument

Last season’s Super Bowl featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots slipped just ‘over’ the total with 52 points scored on a total that closed at 47, falling from earlier numbers closer to 48.5. As we all recall it looked like even more points would be scored as an interception near the end zone effectively ended the game.

In Seattle’s Super Bowl win the previous season, 16 points came outside of offensive scoring plays but last season all the scoring came on offense and while there were three turnovers in the game, every scoring drive travelled at least 50 yards. Super Bowl XLIX had a scoreless first quarter but things escalated in the second quarter with two touchdowns on each side including three of those touchdowns coming in the final three minutes of the half.

While the past three Super Bowls have played ‘over’ the ‘under’ has still hit in six of the last 11 Super Bowls and the totals on the big game are often considered slightly inflated due to the popularity of the game and the common propensity to favor scoring. With that said 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls have closed with a total above 45, with only Green Bay’s win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV featuring a lower closing total than the current common price on this year’s big game.

The venue seems to favor the ‘under’ as Levi’s Stadium, hosting its first Super Bowl, saw the ‘under’ hit in nine of ten games this season if you count the preseason. San Francisco’s team certainly played a role in that with a limited offense but none of the games in Santa Clara featured more than 45 points this season. The conditions of the field were also often criticized with complaints of soft spots and there is likely some basis for expecting lower scoring in games played in the 49ers home venue.

When looking at the defensive scoring the case for the ‘under’ has validity as Denver has held 15 of 18 opponents to 24 or fewer points this season and Carolina has held 14 of 18 foes to 24 or fewer points. The two playoff games for the Panthers both soared well ‘over’ but Carolina allowed a total of 7 points to Seattle and Arizona combined in two postseason first halves with most of the points allowed by the Panthers coming after a big lead was in hand.

Given Carolina’s league-best 39 turnovers created (plus 9 more in the postseason) the expectation will be a careful calculated offensive approach from the Broncos. While Denver’s defense led the league in fewest rush yards per carry allowed, Carolina was not far behind and it seems reasonable to expect both teams to have trouble breaking big gains on the ground. Carolina’s yardage numbers on defense were not overwhelming this season but they also faced five regular season games vs. teams that finished in the league’s top five in yards per play on offense.

Both sides also have dangerous play-making secondary players and avoiding turnovers will be the top priority, especially in Denver’s case given how poorly the Super Bowl started two years ago and seeing how well Carolina has started in two playoff games. Denver and Carolina were the top two defenses in the league this season in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed as big plays were very tough to come by against these teams.

The ‘under’ went 11/6/1 in Denver games this season and it seems likely that the Broncos will aim to be conservative while sustaining long clock-burning drives as they have in both playoff wins. Denver leaned on its defense to continue to get stops on big plays vs. New England and the Broncos know they can’t take great risks with Peyton Manning’s limitations and turnover issues this season. Winning a shootout with Carolina seems like a tall order as Denver will likely aim to keep this game with as few possessions as possible and lower scoring potential. While Manning is an all-time great and Cam Newton may win the MVP this season this Super Bowl is featuring two quarterbacks that completed fewer than 60 percent of their passes this season as a defense-oriented game should not be a surprise.

 

Super Bowl 50 ‘OVER’ Argument:

Some may be viewing this year’s Super Bowl as an offense vs. defense matchup given Denver’s great defense and the high scoring of the Panthers. Carolina led the league in scoring this season and the Panthers were also a productive offensive team posting almost 367 yards per game. Denver gained over 355 yards per game as well as the Broncos were capable of moving the ball this season despite not always delivering great scoring numbers. While the Broncos passed for a total of just 360 yards in the two playoff wins combined, in the regular season the Broncos threw for over 248 yards per game despite balancing two quarterbacks, 24 more yards than Carolina’s offense totaled per game on average.

Denver and Carolina both had successful running games and the balance presented by both offenses should be a challenge for both defenses. Carolina faced potent offensive teams in the two playoff wins but they were also both teams that were pass-reliant late in the season and allowed the Panthers to bring serious pressure. The Broncos also faced a one-dimensional New England offense in the AFC Championship while also facing a Steelers team that was beat up without its top running back or wide receiver and with Ben Roethlisberger not playing at 100 percent.

With a total of 45 the recent scoring numbers for the Panthers make the case for the ‘over’ an easy one. Carolina’s NFC South schedule can be fairly criticized but facing elite defenses in the playoffs the Panthers put up 80 points in two games and had they not built up huge first half leads they likely could have scored even more. In eight of the last nine games Carolina has scored 31 or more points by themselves and only once since Week 3 did the Panthers fail to score at least 27 points.

Denver’s defense deserves great credit for getting big stops and holding the Steelers and Patriots to a combined total of just 34 points in two playoff wins but both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards against Denver’s defense despite its great reputation.  The great regular season numbers for the Denver defense also featured no games vs. any of the league’s top seven yards per play offensive teams. Carolina did face a few top offensive teams this season but they also had regular season games vs. four of the six worst yards per play offenses in the league as the case can be made that the numbers on defense are a bit better than they should be on both sides.

The ‘over’ went 12/5/1 in Carolina games this season and after taking heat for nearly blowing a big lead vs. Seattle in the divisional round an aggressive approach was displayed by ‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera in the NFC Championship. The team seems to feed off that approach and if the Panthers have their way it will likely wind up as another higher scoring game with the defense daring Manning to beat them through the air.

Carolina has also shown the ability to score quickly with defensive and special team plays as well as quick strikes on offense. While Denver got big stops in key plays last week, Cam Newton’s size makes the Panthers devastatingly effective in 3rd down and red zone situations as the Panthers rarely settle for field goals. Denver actually scored six defensive touchdowns in the regular season as well as the likelihood of a defensive score or a big shift in field position due to a turnover is great. With a total of only 45 which is relatively low for this season in the NFL, one defensive score would greatly shift the trajectory of the scoring pace.

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Free NBA Pick – Friday, Feb. 5

 

 

Los Angeles Clippers -4.5 over Orlando Magic 6:05 PM CT

The Clippers were stunned at home on Wednesday as the Timberwolves went into the Staples Center and scored 32 4th quarter points to steal a rare win. The Wolves have been on a run of mostly competitive games despite the disappointing record and against the Clippers Minnesota had one of its best shooting games of the season hitting over 50 percent from the floor. The Wolves also had the edge on the boards while it was a disappointing night for most of the starting five for the Clippers. After a slow start to the season Los Angeles is up to 32-17 while holding the fourth best record in the Western Conference. Los Angeles hasn’t been the great home team they were last season but the Clippers have produced a 15-9 S/U mark on the road. Los Angeles has also excelled in the small favorite role going 11-6 ATS this season as a favorite of fewer than six points. The Magic displayed some promise early this season but the team is currently on a 2-14 run as a team that was once in playoff position continues to slide. The Magic have dropped five of the last six home games and the solid season numbers continue to head in the wrong direction. The Clippers are 10-6 S/U off a loss this season and over the last five games the Clippers have allowed nearly 18 fewer points per game than the Magic as there is a huge contrast in the recent defensive form of these squads. The Magic gave the Clippers a tough game in Los Angeles in a two-point loss in December but Chris Paul didn’t play in that game and expect this to be a big game for Paul after getting hit with a technical foul late in the loss to Minnesota that proved to be a critical play. 12 of the last 14 losses for the Magic have come by four or more points and coming off big games with the Spurs and a close call with the Thunder it will be tough for Orlando to be up for another prominent game. Despite the distractions this season the Clippers are still rounding into a serious Western Conference contender, winning 16 of the last 20 games and last losing consecutive games before Christmas.

Nelly’s turned in a 3-0 night in basketball last night with NBA & college winners – our Free Pick with Oregon State also held on for a narrow upset! We are 30-10 for a 75% run in our last 40 picks over the past 23 days with our basketball service. Don’t miss a guaranteed NBA pick tonight as we gear up for a big college basketball day on Saturday, having gone 3-0 each of the last two Saturdays! We also have our Super Bowl selection coming this afternoon plus a handful of prop plays to build on a 5-1 run this season and a 17-4 run the last three seasons in the NFL playoff picks!

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Free College Basketball Pick Thursday, Feb. 4

#778 Oregon State +2.5 over Utah 10:00 PM CT

Oregon State lost by six in a tight defensive battle in Salt Lake City and this revenge spot should be a big game for the Beavers at home. Utah hasn’t lost since that game with now five consecutive wins but they have not faced the top teams in the conference in that run. Oregon State has wins over some of the best teams in the conference at home with wins over Oregon, California, and USC as Corvallis is proving to be a difficult place to play. Utah has climbed to 17-5 but this year’s team doesn’t look near the same level as last season’s Sweet 16 squad and big early season wins over San Diego State, BYU, and Duke no longer look as impressive.

Nelly’s is riding a 27-10 run in basketball picks including a 24-8 college run. Join us for a guaranteed 2/3 offer for Thursday night basketball – $25 pay after you win!

 

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Friday New Year’s Day Bowls – Rose & Sugar Bowls

12/29/2015

While two of the biggest traditional bowls are not involved in the college football playoff matchups this season both the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl have great matchups to fill out the last two slots on the New Year’s Day Bowl schedule with prominent major conference teams facing off. Here is a look at the teams and matchups to close out New Year’s Day.

Rose Bowl

Match-up: Iowa Hawkeyes at Stanford Cardinal

Venue: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Time/TV: Friday, January 1, 2016

Line: Stanford -6, Over/Under 53½

Last Meeting: First Meeting

Going to the Rose Bowl shouldn’t ever get old but this is the third trip to Pasadena on New Year’s Day in the past four years for Stanford. Stanford won vs. Wisconsin New Year’s Day in 2013 but lost vs. Michigan State New Year’s Day 2014 vs. Michigan State in two tight games. This will be the first ever meeting between Iowa and Stanford on the football field and for Iowa the first Rose Bowl trip in 25 years.

The Big Ten already spoiled Stanford’s season in a way as the Cardinal lost on the opening Saturday of the season at Northwestern, falling 16-6 as a 10-point road favorite to start the season. Stanford wound up 11-2 on the season with a Pac-12 championship but had they not lost that opening game they likely would have ended up in the college football playoff with Stanford finishing #6 in the final rankings, just behind Iowa at #5.

Stanford has a very strong collection of wins this season having defeated Notre Dame, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, California, and USC twice but the Cardinal also slipped late in the season hosting Oregon 38-36. The wins over Washington State and Notre Dame came by the slimmest of margins while being soundly out-gained however as the Cardinal resume ultimately didn’t stack up quite as well by season’s end with teams like USC and UCLA fading late in the year.

Since the low output performance against Northwestern Stanford has scored at least 30 points in every game as a program more associated with defensive excellence in recent seasons was far better on offense this season. This will be the final game of a checkered but successful career for quarterback Kevin Hogan who had his best statistical season but also had some uneven performances. Leading the way for Stanford this season was sophomore all purpose producer Christian McCaffrey who wound up in New York as a Heisman finalist after combining for nearly 2,400 rushing and receiving yards.

Stanford finished the season ranked 50th nationally in total defense however with the team allowing the most yards and points per game of the five years under David Shaw. Eight of the team’s last 11 foes scored at least 22 points, a figure that would have been enough to win four of the last five Rose Bowls. Iowa averaged over 32 points per game this season while allowing just over 18 points per game with a 12-0 start only spoiled in the final seconds of the Big Ten championship game. Iowa ranked 20th in the nation in total defense with excellent numbers against the run, allowing just 3.6 yards per rush, a full yard superior to Stanford’s run defense.

Iowa faced a schedule that deserves some scrutiny with a narrow three-point home win over Pittsburgh being the only win of substance in non-conference play as the team narrowly escaped an upset vs. rival Iowa State in September as well. Big Ten play started with one of the biggest games in the Big Ten West with the Hawkeyes winning at Wisconsin 10-6. Iowa was out-gained by 99 yards in that game and was handed four turnovers. Iowa did crush Northwestern but they had close calls vs. several average teams in conference play to finish undefeated, winning one-score games with Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska while frequently failing to impress in the box score. Michigan State had a big yardage edge in the Big Ten championship but it was Iowa that committed the turnovers and key mistakes that the veteran squad rarely had in the regular season.

Despite the game being in Stanford’s home state Iowa figures to have a huge edge in crowd support. One can surmise that Iowa was left ahead of Ohio State in the final college football playoff rankings with the enthusiasm for the traveling fan base being a big factor even though it is not easy to make a case for the Hawkeyes being ahead of the Buckeyes on the final ballot and certainly Ohio State would have been a healthy favorite had the teams faced off.

Stanford should be motivated to prove what many believe, that they were the best team left out of the playoff bracket and the early bowl returns for the Pac-12 have given credence to what many believe, that the league was the deepest in the country despite no team able to fulfill a very difficult task of going 10-0 in league games to remain a viable national playoff candidate in the current format.

The spread briefly opened at Stanford -7 before slipping to -6½ and eventually -6. The total has steadily climbed upward from an opening number of 49½. Under David Shaw Stanford is 53-14 S/U and 42-25 ATS for an impressive five-year run. The Cardinal is 2-2 S/U and 2-1-1 ATS in bowl games with three of those four games being major bowl games. Stanford is just 12-13 ATS under Shaw as a single-digit favorite however as most of the impressive spread track record has come as either an underdog or a heavy favorite.
Despite being a surprise national contender and a team that was doubted all season Iowa was only 7-5-1 ATS on the year and with the soft schedule they were only dogged twice with this Rose Bowl line set to be the biggest underdog spread for the Hawkeyes all season. Iowa covered in all five road games this season and under Kirk Ferentz, who is now one of the longest tenured head coaches in college football, they are 126-86-1 S/U with a 112-91-6 ATS record. That record includes a 48-33-4 ATS record as an underdog with Iowa 6-6 S/U and 8-4 ATS in bowl games under Ferentz, playing as an underdog in all but one of those bowl games.

 

Sugar Bowl

Match-up: Mississippi Rebels vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Venue: Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana

Time/TV: Friday, January 1, 2016, 8:30 PM ET

Line: Mississippi -7½ Over/Under 68½

Last Meeting: 2010 Cotton Bowl, Mississippi (-3½) 21, Oklahoma State 7

This will actually be the third recent bowl meeting between these teams with Cotton Bowl wins for Mississippi after the 2003 and 2009 seasons. Mike Gundy was coaching Oklahoma State for the most recent meeting and it was a rare bowl loss for the Cowboys who have won four of the last five bowl games under Gundy who is 6-3 S/U and 5-4 ATS in bowl games.

With a win in this bowl game Ole Miss can improve in record in a fourth straight season under Hugh Freeze who took over a 2-10 squad to go 7-6 in 2012, 8-5 in 2013, and 9-4 in 2014. Last season’s team also could have hit the 10-win mark but the Rebels were destroyed in the Peach Bowl with a 42-3 result vs. TCU. Going 9-3 through a difficult SEC West schedule is commendable but for the second straight season Ole Miss climbed to #3 in the polls with a big win over Alabama only to falter against lesser competition later in the season.

The Rebels took losses to Florida, Memphis, and Arkansas and while the late season loss at home vs. the Razorbacks was an overtime affair that featured one of the more incredible plays of the season with a 4th-and-25 lateral play converted for Arkansas, the losses to Florida and Memphis came by double-digits. This was an inconsistent team and the overall numbers are a bit inflated due to opening the season with 76-3 and 73-21 victories.

The marquee win over Alabama featured five turnovers for the Tide as Ole Miss held off a furious comeback attempt in a 43-37 win. The acclaimed defense filled with top end talent also allowed over 400 yards in each of the final four games of the season. NFL prospect Robert Nkemdiche has already been suspended for this game and depth on the defensive line could be an issue for the team going up against a fast-paced Cowboys attack.

On offense junior quarterback Chad Kelly will come close to 4,000 passing yards for the season but he had four games with multiple interceptions this season and he is a risk to take sacks trying to extend plays. Highly regarded wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had 76 receptions for nearly 1,100 yards but only once did he had multiple touchdowns and the committee approach in the backfield led to some inconsistent performances as Jaylen Walton led the team in rushing but with just 690 yards and only one 100 yard game.

After a 10-0 start Oklahoma State wound up losing the final two games of the season but it is the fourth time in six seasons the program has reached a double-digit win count. The Cowboys have had late season slips before as a 10-0 squad in position to be in the BCS title game lost at Iowa State in the 2011 season as a nearly four-touchdown favorite and the 2013 team was 10-1 before losing the finale with Oklahoma.

A schedule that put TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all visiting Stillwater had many pegging the Cowboys as a national sleeper this season but in the first half of the season it didn’t look like a team capable of that kind of run.  Oklahoma State struggled to slip by Central Michigan in the opening week and was very fortunate in a 3-0 Big XII start with narrow wins over Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia. At 7-0 the Cowboys looked in trouble falling way behind at Texas Tech but the team rallied to win and then with the help of turnovers upended undefeated TCU the next week.

Oklahoma State couldn’t keep up with Baylor allowing 700 yards to lose by 10 even with Baylor down to a back-up quarterback and in the Bedlam finale with the Sooners the Cowboys played most of the game without their own quarterback as Mason Rudolph was battling an ankle injury and only played sparingly before being ruled out. Rudolph sparked the late season rally last season as Oklahoma State upset Oklahoma to become bowl eligible and then won in bowl action vs. Washington. The sophomore had a strong statistical season though he did have eight interceptions in nine Big XII games. The Cowboys are an up-tempo offense that spreads the ball around as no receiver had more than 53 catches and the running game was often sparked by their other quarterback, senior J.W. Walsh who routinely took snaps for a change of pace.

The pace of play wore on the Oklahoma State defense which allowed 430 yards per game on 5.5 yards per play with the biggest difference compared with Ole Miss being much less success against the run and far more yards per completions allowed but the Big XII schedule compared with the SEC schedule plays a role in those figures.

Under Mike Gundy Oklahoma State is 93-46 with a 73-59-3 ATS record but the team owns a track record as being a bit of a frontrunner, piling on points in lopsided wins but not winning in the biggest games. Oklahoma State is just 20-28 ATS as an underdog under Gundy but 23-11-1 ATS as a double-digit home favorite. Oklahoma State did win the Fiesta Bowl in an overtime thriller vs. Stanford after the 2011 season but they came up short vs. the SEC in the Cotton Bowl two years ago losing to SEC East champion Missouri. In the last six games the team has played as an underdog Oklahoma State has four outright wins going back to last season as the recent success as an underdog has been there.

While there have been some late season distractions for Ole Miss this will be the first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1969. The team has played in the Cotton Bowl in a few recent seasons and last season’s Peach Bowl appearance was technically a major bowl game but there is some enthusiasm to be in this game with the program having several historic Sugar Bowl wins in its history and a reasonable five-hour drive south for fans to make the trip. Under Freeze Mississippi is 33-18 S/U and ATS and after the embarrassing bowl showing last year a better performance should be expected. The spread on this game appears to be hitting -7½ at some outlets after mostly sitting at -7 since being released at -6½. The total has climbed from 66 to 68½ before holding at 68.

 

 

 

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NFL Close Calls – Week 15

12/22/2015

Each week there are a handful of NFL games that go down to the wire not only on the scoreboard but also relative to the pointspread. Here is a look at the outcome-impacting late game plays from Week 15 of the NFL season with several games nearly featuring a different result.

New York Jets (-3) 19, Dallas Cowboys 16 (41): On Saturday night the Jets took an early 9-3 lead but by halftime Dallas was in front and the Cowboys took a 13-9 lead into the fourth quarter. The Jets completed a 70-yard touchdown drive with about nine minutes to go to go up by three, even with the closing spread though the road favorite did hit -3½ at times during the week. Dallas burned over seven minutes of clock to go 51 yards, even picking up a big 4th down conversion but the Cowboys led by Kellen Moore still had to settle for a field goal with Dan Bailey good from 50 yards to tie the game. In one of the key plays of the game on 3rd and short Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick sneaked for the first down with the play standing up on review. On the next play Fitzpatrick hit Kenbrell Thompkins for 43 yards and the Jets were in field goal range, running out much of the clock before Randy Bullock connected from 40 yards to put New York up by three for the narrow win.

Atlanta Falcons (+2) 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 17 (48): Riding a six-game losing streak and basically out of playoff contention the Falcons saw a 17-3 halftime lead disappear with two Jacksonville touchdowns in the third quarter with the second coming on a short field after another Matt Ryan interception. In the fourth quarter a 31-yard pass interference call was the biggest play for the Falcons setting up a go-ahead field goal, which Atlanta did again to double the lead in the final two minutes. Jacksonville approached midfield on its final possession but came up short, although both teams still are not eliminated from the postseason officially just yet.

Kansas City Chiefs (-6½) 34, Baltimore Ravens 14 (41): Despite Jimmy Clausen starting for the Ravens the line on the red hot Chiefs as a road favorite slipped from -7½ to -6½ during the week. With an early fumble return touchdown the Chiefs quickly moved in position to cover the road favorite spread but the Ravens wound up hitting a 48-yard pass play just before the half to cut the margin to 10 points and keep all outcomes in play. After no scoring in the third quarter the ‘under’ looked like it might hold despite 38 points in the first half and a short Chiefs field goal with under seven minutes to go put most right on the number. The Ravens down by 13 threatened to score late but Marcus Peters returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown to deliver the ‘over’ and make sure there was no backdoor cover potential for a Ravens offense that was actually fairly productive.

New England Patriots (-14½) 33, Tennessee Titans 16 (48): With a fumble return touchdown and Marcus Mariota injured the Patriots looked like they would cruise to a dominant victory up 14-0 early and 24-3 at the half. With a heavy favorite spread it would only take a modest comeback for the Titans however and the Tennessee closed to within 17 by the end of the third quarter, holding New England to another field goal with the ‘under’ on the game looking promising. Early in the fourth quarter the Titans had a drive going but on 1st down in field goal range Zach Mettenberger was intercepted in the end zone. On Tennessee’s next possession a short pass to Delanie Walker broke free for 57 yards to put the Titans in the end zone within 11 but Ryan Succop missed the extra point, a point that looked important with the spread right at -14 most of the week. New England got a big play on a critical 3rd down play to break into scoring range and a few plays later New England converted a field goal to go up 30-16, sitting just below the total. The Titans looked like a threat to score again to get back within the spread moving into New England territory but Mettenbeger was again intercepted and Jason Collins returned the pick 51 yards to the Tennessee 16-yard line. With just over two minutes to go the Titans had the two-minute warning and one timeout to extend the game with the Patriots content to run the ball. Had New England gotten a first down the game would have ended, the total would have stayed ‘under’ and most on the spread would have pushed but they fell short and kicked a short field goal to go up by 17 and put the total ‘over’. Tennessee had over a minute to go on its last possession but showed no real urgency gaining 23 yards but running just three plays with no attempt to stop the clock.

Carolina Panthers (-5) 38, New York Giants 35 (46½): The perfect season for the Panthers did not look in jeopardy as the Panthers turned a 7-7 game into a 35-7 rout by the middle of the third quarter. The Giants added a touchdown late in the third quarter and then broke a long run to score early in the fourth quarter to climb within 14 points with the total already well ‘over’. It looked like Carolina would put the game away lining up a field goal to make it a three-score game but that kick was blocked. The momentum for the Giants appeared to end with an interception in the end zone just over a minute later but incredibly Cam Newton fumbled two plays later to give the Giants the ball back. Eli Manning hit Shane Vereen with just over five minutes to go to put the Giants within seven. New York’s defense held and the Giants were back in scoring position. On the first play after the two-minute warning Manning was sacked and appeared to have fumbled but on review it was ruled an incomplete pass. On 4th down Manning found Odell Beckham for the tying score. While Carolina’s offense had stalled in the second half the Panthers had no real resistance in the final minute picking up four first downs and lining up the game winning field goal but the Giants did enough to cover despite being down 28 in the second half.

Seattle Seahawks (-14½) 30, Cleveland Browns 13 (45): While Cleveland scored first in this game Seattle took control with a 20-10 lead at the half, settling for two field goals in the final minute of the half. With 30 points in the half the ‘over’ looked promising but a scoreless third quarter changed that outlook. As the fourth quarter started the Seahawks hit a 27-yard pass play to complete a 96-yard drive, putting Seattle past the heavy favorite spread for the first time. Cleveland answered with a field goal to make it a 14-point game but Seattle did the same to go back up by 17 with just over three minutes to go. Johnny Manziel was intercepted a minute later and the Seahawks were eventually able to just take a knee to hold on to the cover and keep the total just ‘under’.

Green Bay Packers (-4) 30, Oakland Raiders 20 (47): With a defensive touchdown the Packers took an early 14-0 lead with two touchdowns in 15 seconds of game clock. The Raiders took over the third quarter with two field goals and a touchdown to make it a one-point game. After a Green Bay field goal Oakland took its first lead in the game with an Amari Cooper touchdown to lead 20-17 with less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Green Bay needed just three plays and just over a minute to get back in front with a 30 yard touchdown strike as the margin was equal to the closing spread entering the fourth quarter. The Packers had a great 19-play 92-yard drive completed early in the fourth quarter but despite getting to 1st-and-goal at the Oakland one-yard line the Raiders forced Green Bay to settle for three. Oakland went backwards on its next possession and it looked like Green Bay was in the end zone a few plays later but a penalty wiped away the score. Oakland’s defense held again as Mason Crosby made it a 30-20 Green Bay lead. The Raiders went for it on 4th-and-14 from its own 16-yard line on the next possession and failed but the Raiders got a break with an interception from Aaron Rodgers to get the ball back. Oakland again failed on a 4th down try in its own territory but the opportunity for a Raiders cover remained live with a blocked field goal. For a third straight possession the Raiders were stopped on 4th down in their own territory with time running out as the Packers escaped with the win and cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-7½) 34, Denver Broncos 27 (45): The spread on this game climbed from as low -5½ up to -7½ by Sunday and the move certainly looked wrong early with Denver taking a commanding lead at 27-10 late in the second quarter. Pittsburgh managed to chip away with a field goal before halftime and halfway through the third quarter the Steelers found the end zone to get within seven. Early in the fourth quarter the Steelers tied the game as the Broncos were not able to get anything going on offense. After four straight punts Brock Osweiler was intercepted with just over four minutes to go and on the short field the Steelers connected to go up by seven. Osweiler had the Broncos in Pittsburgh territory on the next possession hoping to stage another great finish but back-to-back incomplete passes ended the threat. Incredibly the Broncos got another chance as an aggressive play call had the Steelers passing ahead of the two-minute warning and Ben Roethlisberger was picked off. Four more incomplete passes followed with an egregious pass interference penalty missed in a game where the calls were lopsided against Denver with 12 flags for 127 yards as Pittsburgh completed the comeback win and the spread results were varied depending on the timing.

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) 24, San Francisco 49ers 14 (40½): The first start for A.J. McCarron featured nearly 25 minutes of scoreless football to start the game before the Bengals scored three touchdowns in five minutes just before halftime on drives of 11, 36, and 20 yards with two of the scores off turnovers. Cincinnati added a field goal to start the second half and even after a 49ers touchdown it was still a 17-point lead for the Bengals entering the fourth quarter. San Francisco missed a field goal in the fourth quarter but on the next possession Blaine Gabbert completed a 72-yard drive to put San Francisco within 10 and forcing those on the favorite and the ‘under’ to feel much less comfortable. The 49ers went for the on-side kick and got it and then Gabbert hit a 27-yard pass play on 1st down to make things really interesting. On 1st down from the Cincinnati 28 Gabbert was intercepted near the end zone however to end the threat and while the 49ers reached midfield in the final seconds a sack eventually ended the game as the Bengals won with the help of four San Francisco turnovers despite totaling only 242 yards.

 

 

 

 

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NFL Close Calls – Week 16

12/29/2015

Each week there are a handful of NFL games that go down to the wire not only on the scoreboard but also relative to the pointspread. Here is a look at the outcome-impacting late game plays from Week 16 of the NFL season with several games nearly featuring a different result.

Oakland Raiders (-4) 23, San Diego Chargers 20 (45): On Thursday night San Diego took control early in the Christmas Eve matchup in the AFC West billed as potentially the last game in Oakland for the Raiders. Leading 17-10 at the half San Diego suffered a safety late in the third quarter to shift momentum as both offenses mostly stalled in the second half. On the next two possessions the Chargers missed a field goal and then had a fumble with the turnover setting up Oakland’s go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes to go in the game. The Raiders went for two and got it to take a three-point lead. San Diego was able to answer however as Josh Lambo hit a 45-yard field goal for the tie with 55 seconds to go. The Raiders were not able to advance in the final minute but they won the toss and got the ball first in overtime. The Raiders survived numerous penalties to grind out a 15-play drive over nearly seven minutes but ultimately had to settle for a short field goal after going backwards from 1st-and-goal. Those on the ‘over’ hoped for a San Diego equalizer and those that had moneyline tickets on the Chargers needed a late rally after the blown lead but the Oakland defense held with the Chargers losing narrowly yet again in a tough-luck season.

Chicago Bears (+3) 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 (43½): The Buccaneers hit a big play in the third quarter to take a 14-13 and Tampa Bay appeared poised to add more points with a drive to the Chicago 11-yard line on the next possession before Jameis Winston was intercepted. Doug Martin fumbled on the next Tampa Bay possession to hand the Bears great field position and early in the fourth quarter Chicago took the lead with a touchdown to go up 20-14. Chicago added a 50-yard field goal to put the underdog in a commanding position and leave the ‘over’ with an opportunity. Tampa Bay would miss a field goal on the next possession and the Bears added three more points with just over a minute to go to put the total on 40. The Buccaneers would deliver a late touchdown with a 43-yard pass play with a second left on the clock to push the total past the number even on totals as high as 46½ early in the week.

Buffalo Bills (-6) 16, Dallas Cowboys 6 (42): With a 6-6 game at the half the ‘under’ was a clear winner in this matchup but the Bills were able to get a field goal in the third quarter to lead 9-6, leaving the favorite with an opportunity to get past a spread that was at -6 or -6½ during the week. A Kellen Moore interception set up the Bills in great position to at least add another three points late in the third quarter but Buffalo fumbled the ball back to Dallas. After trading punts Buffalo was able to pick up a few first downs late in the game with a fresh set of downs with just over three minutes to go and Dallas with only one timeout remaining. Moving the chains again would have likely sealed the win for the Bills but Mike Gillislee broke a 50-yard run to put the Bills in front by 10 for the late favorite cover.

Detroit Lions (-9) 32, San Francisco 49ers 17 (42½): The Lions and 49ers were tied 17-17 late in the second quarter but Detroit hit a field goal as the half expired. With a third quarter field goal Detroit went up by six and the Lions were able to pull away in the fourth adding a Calvin Johnson touchdown and another field goal. With the margin at 15 points, a late San Francisco touchdown would have been enough for a backdoor cover but two drives around midfield ended on downs for the 49ers with Detroit’s defense stepping up in the second half in a game that was pretty even statistically despite the final margin.

New York Jets (+2½) 26, New England Patriots 20 (45½): The Jets led 17-3 early in the second half in a critical AFC playoff picture game for the team. New England climbed closer with a field goal late in the third quarter but those on the underdog felt pretty comfortable especially with +3 or +3½ available earlier in the weekend. Disaster struck as Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled while being sacked and Jamie Collins returned the fumble for a touchdown and it was a four-point game with a potential New England touchdown enough to flip the result for those on the game late. In the fourth quarter Randy Bullock nailed a long field goal to make it a seven-point margin and late in the game Tom Brady delivered another great drive with two 4th down conversions to put New England in the end zone with a tie game just after the two-minute warning. The Jets were able to cross midfield with the help of a big 3rd down pass interference penalty and were getting close enough to consider a long range field goal but with 37 seconds remaining a miss might have handed New England a great opportunity. The Jets punted and New England took a knee rather than making an attempt to advance. The Patriots opted to kick in overtime and mismanaged the situation as they intended to choose the direction with wind a factor in the game while assuming the Jets would receive. The Jets hit a big play on second down to enter field goal range and three plays later New York was in the end zone for the win as Tom Brady never saw the ball in overtime. The overtime touchdown also was enough to flip the total for many with a number that slid from 46½ down to 45 late in the week.

Houston Texans (-3½) 34, Tennessee Titans 6 (38½): The Texans took control of this game early with a defensive touchdown and never looked back. At 17-0 at halftime the ‘under’ looked promising even with a low total that fell from 41½ to below 40. In the third quarter the Texans scored two touchdowns behind Brandon Weeden and it was 34-0 entering the fourth quarter. Despite the 12 previous drives all ending in punts or turnovers Tennessee and Zach Mettenberger were able to spoil the shutout as well as sending the game ‘over’ as they connected on 4th down for a touchdown with less than two minutes to go. The two-point conversion that followed was missed, a key play for many that got involved with the total early in the week.

Denver Broncos (-3½) 20, Cincinnati Bengals 17 (39): The Bengals led by A.J. McCarron looked great against Denver’s excellent defense early in the game with a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. Denver managed to get on the board before halftime following up a missed kick from Cincinnati and the Broncos were back in the game with a third quarter touchdown. Seven straight drives ending in punts with only one first down followed before C.J. Anderson broke a 39-yard run for a touchdown after the Broncos got the ball in good field position early in the fourth quarter. That put Denver up 17-14 with the spread that briefly touched -3 during the week before climbing back up to -3½ or -4. McCarron delivered a strong drive with a few big 3rd down conversions to re-tie the game but it looked Denver would score again and possibly get past the spread. The Broncos faced little resistance with a fresh set of downs in field goal range with just over four minutes to go but Anderson coughed the ball up. Cincinnati ultimately had to give the ball back and the Broncos were back in field goal range in the final minute but Brandon McManus missed badly from 45 yards. Denver went first in overtime and had three shots from inside the Cincinnati 20 to reach the end zone before McManus redeemed the miss to put Denver up by three. Two plays later McCarron mishandled the snap and the fumble was recovered by the Broncos to seal the win but Denver never got past the home favorite spread.