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Free MLB Pick Friday

#961 Arizona Diamondbacks (Ray) -125 over San Francisco Giants (Pomeranz) 9:15 PM CT

Arizona had a pair of tough-luck losses vs. lefties in San Diego earlier this week but the Diamondbacks have nine wins vs. southpaw starters this season, tying for the most in the NL while a season OPS of .825 vs. left-handed pitching is also an elite figure that trails only a few teams in baseball. Mired in five straight losses, yesterday’s off-day should help the team re-group while they get to face a demoralized Giants team that lost in 13 innings in a game the Giants led most of the way Thursday afternoon. A strong start from Madison Bumgarner and a lot of bullpen innings were wasted in a loss that will make this Friday night game a difficult turnaround contest.

The Giants are 9-10 in May but -26 in scoring as a short-term surge early in the month appears to have been a mirage. San Francisco has very poor offensive numbers vs. left-handed pitching with a season OPS of just .619, posting only 11 home runs in 626 plate appearances while the Giants are 6-10 vs. southpaw starters on the season. Robbie Ray remains one of the top strikeout producers in baseball and after an injury-plagued 2018, he appears to be back in his 2017 form, posting a 11.5 K/9 with a 3.25 ERA. Ray has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts and he pitched well vs. the Giants last week.

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San Francisco has a great bullpen but six key relievers were used yesterday for double-digit pitch counts and Drew Pomeranz will be hard to count on for a long outing. Pomeranz owns a 5.66 ERA this season and once in eight starts has completed six innings. He has a 4.6 BB/9 and his numbers don’t improve much at AT&T Park. Right-handed batters have hit .292 vs. Pomeranz this season and Arizona can generally feature a lineup with eight right-handed hitters. These teams are only a few games apart in the standings but are 75 runs apart in scoring differential and the losing streak puts Arizona at a very reasonable price in a favorable matchup and situation Friday.

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Point Train Free Pick

 

FREE PICK 364 NY GIANTS +4.5 over CHI BEARS 12:00 PM CT

It would be easy to assume the Giants have quit on the season after a November surge had the team playing for a long shot division title run. Last week in Philadelphia New York did everything right early with a 19-3 edge but wound up falling 25-22 and now 3-8 any lingering playoff hopes have been extinguished. That doesn’t mean New York will mail it in the rest of the season and a team that was just a slight underdog on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions last week will be similarly priced at home vs. a team with a back-up quarterback this week.

Chase Daniel is an experienced option for the Bears and he played reasonably well last week in the comeback win over the Lions on Thanksgiving morning. The Chicago defense broke a 16-16 tie in the fourth quarter however with a defensive touchdown while also intercepting a late Lions drive that could have forced overtime. Behind Daniel the Bears had just 264 total yards against a mediocre Lions team that doesn’t rate much differently than the Giants at this point. With Daniel in the game and without the rushing ability of Mitchell Trubisky Chicago managed only 38 rushing yards on 2.5 yards per carry.

Struggling on the ground has been at the forefront of the discussion for the Giants this season but New York has been out-gained on the ground by more than 27 yards just once in the past six games. Chicago meanwhile has been out-rushed in three of the past four games. This will be a second straight road game for the Bears ahead of a huge NFC test with the Rams next week and a Giants team that has played almost exclusively close games this season can again play tight with a spread that has climbed above four points.

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Free MLB Pick Sunday

#961/962 ‘OVER 8’ Pittsburgh Pirates (Musgrove) at San Francisco Giants (Rodriguez) 3:05 PM CT

Joe Musgrove has a 3.41 ERA in 12 starts looking like a viable piece of a promising Pittsburgh rotation for years to come. His xFIP is 4.41 and his K/9 is just 6.8 however as Musgrove may not be able to keep this pace up. He has pitched extremely well on the road this season but it is a very small sample of only 27 innings and the Pittsburgh bullpen has struggled in recent weeks while needing a substantial workload already in this series.

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Dereck Rodriguez has provided a very promising start for the Giants, 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 11 outings. He also has a high xFIP casting some doubt on the figures however at 4.00. His strikeout rate isn’t a lot higher at 7.5 K/9 and his numbers seem likely to rise over time. The Giants have had several short starting efforts in the last week and both teams have been significantly more productive vs. right-handers this season.

In six meetings between these teams on the season there has been 71 combined runs scored and AT&T Park has not fit its reputation this season with 8.9 runs per game and a sharp lean ‘over’. Five of the past seven day games in San Francisco have also featured at least eight runs.

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Pointspread Previews NFL Week 1

POINTSPREAD PREVIEWS

NFL WEEK 1 – Weekend of September 9

Our preseason Annual should be in the mail in early August but here is a look at the NFL Week 1 schedule with five situational angles for the opening week in the same format that we feature in the Annual for each week of the college football regular season. Our official newsletter predictions for Week 1 will be in our September 3 issue of the Green Sheet as our opinion on these games could change but at this point here are a few things to think about looking ahead to the opening week NFL schedule.

Revenge Spot: Cleveland Browns over Pittsburgh Steelers:

The 0-16 season for the Browns was bookended with Week 1 and Week 17 losses to the Steelers. Both games were highly competitive despite the contrasting final records for these division rivals fueled by a few big mistakes from rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Cleveland has covered in the past three meetings in this series and the Browns now have a solid veteran quarterback known for taking care of the ball in Tyrod Taylor who led the Bills to the playoffs last season. Cleveland finished last season -28 in turnovers as improvement in that area should make the Browns a candidate to improve by a handful of wins on the season  and this game will have extra meaning for Cleveland’s new offensive coordinator Todd Haley who has spent the past six seasons with the Steelers in that capacity. Always one of the league’s most popular teams the Steelers are often overvalued in the opening week, currently on a 1-5-1 ATS run in Week 1 with four S/U losses in that span since 2011 and the Steelers are 4-6 ATS in the last 10 trips to Cleveland including three S/U losses despite the contrasting results for these franchises over the past decade. Pittsburgh lost at Chicago early last season and only twice in eight games won by more than six points on the road last season.  CURRENT LINE: PITTSBURGH -5½

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Road Trip: Baltimore Ravens over Buffalo Bills:

In Week 1 the playing field is supposed to be level in regards to travel but Bills have a late week Sunday preseason Week 3 game at home before playing the preseason Week 4 game in Chicago the following Thursday. The Bills are then on the road in Week 1 facing the Ravens. While the travel mileage isn’t overly demanding for that stretch the Bills are likely to start an unproven quarterback on the road against a defense that had some success last season. Baltimore pitched three shutouts last season and had a great turnover margin despite missing the playoffs at 9-7. The overall prospects for the Ravens are discouraging this season but knowing that they will be on the road in four of the first six weeks of the season will put extra emphasis on this home opener. The Ravens are at home for the final preseason week for a favorable set-up ahead of this game and the Ravens are 10-2 S/U in the past 12 home openers, covering as well in five of the past seven instances. A playoff team from a year ago the line should remain under a touchdown with the lower scoring potential for Baltimore but it should be a favorable opening week game for the Ravens no matter who ends up starting at quarterback for Buffalo. CURRENT LINE: BALTIMORE -5½

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Historically Speaking: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New Orleans Saints:

Tampa Bay is 16-12 ATS at New Orleans since 1981 while going 19-13-1 ATS as an underdog in this series in that span while also covering in five of the past eight meetings. The Saints overcame a slow start last season to win the NFC South and expectations are high considered one of the top NFC contenders this season by many. The Saints have lost S/U in Week 1 in six of the last seven seasons however as it often takes some time for Drew Brees and the offense to reach full capacity. There are also concerns with the big defensive improvement last season being due to some scheduling breaks. Jameis Winston is currently suspended for this game which will put the Buccaneers as an even greater Week 1 underdog but Ryan Fitzpatrick is a capable veteran and the Buccaneers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Expected to be a NFC sleeper last season not much went right for the Buccaneers last season with a hurricane postponing the Week 1 game plus injuries taking a significant toll. Tampa Bay was only -47 in scoring differential despite a 5-11 record with seven losses by less than a touchdown last season as this wasn’t a typical last place team. Week 1 teams laying 7 or more points are just 16-23-2 ATS since 2006 including just 2-4 ATS with two S/U losses the past two seasons.  CURRENT LINE: NEW ORLEANS -9½

Look-Ahead: New York Giants over Jacksonville Jaguars:

The Giants were a stronger team than last season’s 3-13 record indicated with a number of narrow misses early in the season before things spiraled out of control for Ben McAdoo. New York had terrible luck with injuries with the receiving corps decimated early in the season and new head coach Pat Shurmur steps into a pretty good situation with a team that was in the playoffs two years ago. Shurmur didn’t have success as a head coach in Cleveland but he will have an established quarterback and a promising rookie running back to go up against one of the league’s top defensive teams. Jacksonville nearly made the Super Bowl last season but gave away the lead in the AFC Championship against the Patriots. Next on the schedule is a rematch with the Patriots for the home opener and that game certainly will be the focal point of September for a Jaguars team unaccustomed to coming off a season of success and now facing elevated expectations. The Giants will catch a home underdog spread and could be a threat against a Jaguars team that can still be erratic offensively with the Jaguars just 4-4 S/U on the road last season. CURRENT LINE: JACKSONVILLE -3½

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Letdown: San Francisco 49ers over Minnesota Vikings:

Last season everything lined up for the Vikings to have a special season, with the injury to Aaron Rodgers opening the door in the NFC North while claiming the #2 seed in the NFC and knowing that the top seeded Eagles were playing with a backup quarterback in the playoffs. Minnesota looked like a team of destiny with a miracle win over the Saints sending the team to the NFC Championship with a berth to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis at stake for an incredible storyline. Things didn’t work out with a blowout loss in Philadelphia for another devastating NFC Championship result added to the depressing postseason history of the franchise. Minnesota is considered one of the top NFC threats this season with the big free agent signing of Kirk Cousins but making a quarterback and offensive coordinator change adds for some early season adjustments that could lead to a slow start plus offensive line coach Tony Sparano passed away in late July to add to the turmoil on the staff. Meanwhile San Francisco closed 2017 with five straight wins and Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated as a starting quarterback. The 49ers featured a formidable defense late in the season particularly against the run and the underdog will be worth a look in Week 1 in a big NFC battle.  CURRENT LINE: MINNESOTA -5½

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NFC East Preseason Preview

NFC East Preseason Preview

07/27/2016

9-7 was good enough to win the NFC East last season and in a division that has not had a consecutive championship team in a decade, most are expecting a change at the top in 2016. There are some unknowns with two coaching changes and some big personnel questions in the NFC East, here are a few things to watch for in the preseason.

DALLAS COWBOYS

Over/Under Win Total: 9.5 (+105 OVER, -135 UNDER)

Odds to win the NFC East: 7/4

Odds to win the NFC: 9/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1

STAFF CHANGES: Despite an ugly 4-12 season Jason Garrett was retained for the 2016 season, his sixth full season leading the team after taking over halfway through the 2010 season with only one playoff berth in that run. He has a new safeties coach in Greg Jackson while Joe Baker will lead the secondary with the departure of Jerome Henderson. An additional passing game coordinator was added with linebackers coach Matt Eberflus taking on that role.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Wide Receiver

The Cowboys will be looking to settle the wide receiver spots opposite of Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams has been productive starting 29 games the past two seasons but Brice Butler had a pair of solid games late last season and could be the best big play threat. Devin Street is a player the Cowboys traded up to get in the 2014 draft despite having little impact so far. Cole Beasley figures to hold the slot position but Lucky Whitehead could push for playing time as well after making the team as an undrafted free agent last season.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: With Randy Gregory starting the season on suspension the defensive end spot will feature a solid battle for positioning. Benson Mayowa and David Irving figure to be first in line but rookie Charles Tapper was picked up in the 4th round of the draft. Ryan Russell and Jack Crawford will be looking to carve out a spot in the rotation as well.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Dallas went from 12-4 to 4-12 in a first to worst slide last season with Tony Romo being injured playing a big role in the decline. This is a big season for the team with two NFC East teams making coaching changes the division which Washington won last season at just 9-7 looks up for grabs. Dallas is a strong candidate to be in the postseason mix with a favorable first month schedule to set the tone for an improved season.

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NEW YORK GIANTS

Over/Under Win Total: 8 (-135 OVER, +105 UNDER)

Odds to win the NFC East: 5/2

Odds to win the NFC: 12/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 25/1

STAFF CHANGES: Tom Coughlin will no longer be coaching the Giants as his former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is the new head coach. Steve Spagnuolo will remain the defensive coordinator for the team and former quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan was promoted to offensive coordinator as there will be some continuity with the staff. New faces are Mike Solari taking over the offensive line with a long tenure in the NFL, most recently with the Packers. Adam Henry is the new wide receivers coach coming over from San Francisco. Patrick Graham is the new lead defensive line coach after spending the last seven years with New England.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Tight End

The best seasons for Eli Manning have featured a productive tight end but last season Larry Donnell had a disappointing campaign that ended with injury. Will Tye made the most of the opportunity in his rookie season and it could be a serious battle for the starting role. Matt LaCosse is also in the mix known for his blocking ability and he could be a sleeper in the race.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: With Nat Berhe and Bennett Jackson coming off injuries last season nothing is assured at the safety position opposite Landon Collins. Darian Thompson was picked up in the 3rd round he could have a real opportunity to start as a rookie. Veterans Jasper Brinkley and Keenan Robinson will also be fighting for the middle linebacker spot with the entire linebacker corps an underwhelming group that will likely work by committee especially if Devon Kennard continues to battle injuries.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Of the teams that made a head coaching change in the offseason the Giants figure to have a chance for the smoothest transition, hiring in house leaders in the key spots. New York also draws a pretty favorable first half schedule and the offense has some stars in place for a squad that at times looked very competitive last season ultimately finishing just 6-10. Seven losses came in single-score results as it won’t take a huge leap for the Giants to move up in a division that looks wide open.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Over/Under Win Total: 7 (+110 OVER, -140 UNDER)

Odds to win the NFC East: 4/1

Odds to win the NFC: 33/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 66/1

STAFF CHANGES: The Eagles gave up on Chip Kelly after three seasons despite a 26-21 record before he was released late in the 2015 season. Given the dramatic transformation the team took in those three years it may require another major transition to get the Eagles back on track. Doug Pederson was the hire as the new head coach with Pederson ironically working as the offensive coordinator under former Eagles coach Andy Reid the last few seasons. Moving back to a west coast offense could take some time but veteran assistants fill out the staff led by Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz as the offensive and defensive coordinators respectively.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Wide Receiver

Jordan Matthews has had back-to-back fine seasons for the Eagles mainly on the outside while also taking some snaps in the slot. Where the targets fall behind him is mostly unknown with Nelson Agholor being the most consistent performer last season now entering his third NFL season. Former Giants burner Rueben Randle was picked up in free agency while Chris Givens and Josh Huff will also be looking to earn playing time.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: A head-to-head battle at kicker should unfold as Cody Parkey was injured early in 2015 after a fine 2014 season. Caleb Sturgis eventually finished strong after taking over last season. Cornerback looks like a multi-player battle for the positions with free agent pick-ups Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin likely the favorites for starting roles. Eric Rowe was a 2nd round pick last season and Ron Brooks also figures to be used heavily. Rookie Jalen Mills could also be utilized in some looks as he has earned favorable reviews this summer despite being just a 7th round pick out of LSU. It is assumed that Sam Bradford will sit ahead of Chase Daniel and rookie Carson Wentz at quarterback but don’t rule out some conversations in preseason action if Daniel impresses or if Wentz looks ready.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The season for the Eagles felt worse than it was as Philadelphia emerged as a trendy Super Bowl pick last August with huge numbers in the preseason. The defense collapsed in November after a 4-4 start to the season and major changes were expected as the team played out the season despite still being in playoff contention into December. The staff and scheme changes are rather dramatic but the Eagles have winnable games early in the year and could have an opportunity to surprise if everyone gets on the same page early.

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Over/Under Win Total: 7.5 (-115 OVER, -115 UNDER)

Odds to win the NFC East 3/1

Odds to win the NFC: 20/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1

STAFF CHANGES: After a surprise division title last season Jay Gruden’s staff remains mostly in intact for his third year leading the Redskins. In minor additions assistants Kevin Carberry and Shane Waldron were added to the offensive staff with Shane Day taking the tight ends position with Miami and Dave Ragone leaving to be the quarterbacks coach for Chicago.

KEY POSITON BATTLE: Linebacker

Will Compton is expected to be the lead linebacker and signal caller for the Redskins but the rest of the linebacker corps is a bit unsettled. Mason Foster played well late in the season and is a strong candidate for a starting role but Perry Riley should be recovered from a late season injury and will be in the mix if healthy. Martrell Spaight will be battling for time after being picked up late in the 2015 draft while this year Washington drafted Steven Daniels in the 7th round out of Boston College.

OTHER POSITIONS TO WATCH: Shawn Lauvao was injured early last season and it is unclear that he will be ready to return at the right guard position. Spencer Long started the rest of the season with mixed results for a mostly disappointing Washington running game while Arie Kouandjio will be looking for a step-forward second season. Matt Jones will start in the backfield but expect a serious battle for snaps behind him in the preseason with Mack Brown with the most experience with the team and Keith Marshall with the highest ceiling. Adding Josh Norman makes the secondary look much better but depth at cornerback looks like a position under watch in the preseason.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Washington was just 9-7 with a barely positive point differential last season as they benefitted from being in a very weak division. They could be better this season and yet have worse results with the East teams taking on difficult scheduling drawing AFC and NFC North teams and overall the road schedule looks difficult for a team that was just 3-5 away from home last year. The first three weeks should tell a lot about the potential for Washington in 2016 with three critical games with Pittsburgh, Dallas, and the Giants.