Posts by Joe Fortenbaugh

Las Vegas market report: Wildcard weekend

Recent history hasn’t demonstrated a significant bias during the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs as it pertains to general classifications. Since 2009, home teams are an average 11-8-1 against the spread during the wildcard round, while favorites are just 9-10-1 ATS. During that same time span, overs have gone a modest 9-11.

Recent history hasn’t demonstrated a significant bias during the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs as it pertains to general classifications. Since 2009, home teams are an average 11-8-1 against the spread during the wildcard round, while favorites are just 9-10-1 ATS. During that same time span, overs have gone a modest 9-11.

So we’ll have to dig a little bit deeper this week in the hopes of unearthing some little nugget of information that may provide an edge in one or perhaps all four matchups scheduled to take place beginning Saturday afternoon.

2014 SNAPSHOT

Home teams: 123-127-6 (.492)
Favorites: 120-130-6 (.480)
Home favorites: 81-88-4 (.479)
Home dogs: 42-39-2 (.518)
Overs: 120-135 (.470)

CLICK HERE to check out the current lines.

Arizona Cardinals (11-5, 4-4 road) at Carolina Panthers (7-8-1, 4-4 home)

When: Saturday, 4:35pm ET
Weather: High of 50 degrees, 70% chance of rain, winds 5-10 mph
Open: Carolina -4.5/39
Current: Carolina -6.5/38

Arizona in 2014: 11-5 ATS, 10-5-1 to the UNDER
Carolina in 2014: 8-8 ATS, 8-8 to the OVER

Cam NewtonNewton and the Panthers are big favorites against an 11-win Arizona team on Saturday.

Analysis: Two teams heading in completely opposite directions as the Carolina Panthers have surrendered an average of just 10.75 points per game during their current four-game winning streak while the Arizona Cardinals have dropped four of their last six and haven’t scored more than 18 points in a matchup since November 9. One look at Cardinals third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley will have public bettors sprinting to the windows to bet Carolina, but note that the Panthers’ four-game win streak is a bit of a mirage, as those victories came against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Atlanta, who combined to post a 22-42 record this season. The Cardinals can still play some defense and with the weather in Charlotte on Saturday expected to be messy, this should be an extremely tight affair. In addition, be advised that Carolina has scored more than 24 points in a game just four times this season and none of those performances came against a club with a top-20 defense.

Notable trends: Arizona is 9-3 ATS over its last 12 road games while Carolina is 1-5 ATS over its last six games played in the month of January.

The play: Arizona (we want +7 but will take +6.5) and UNDER 38

Baltimore Ravens (10-6, 4-4 road) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, 6-2 home)

When: Saturday, 8:15pm ET
Weather: High of 41 degrees, 100% chance of rain, winds 10-15 mph
Open: Pittsburgh -3/47
Current: Pittsburgh -3/46

Baltimore in 2014: 7-8-1 ATS, 9-7 to the UNDER
Pittsburgh in 2014: 9-7 ATS, 9-7 to the OVER

Joe FlaccoICONCan Joe Flacco conjure up some more postseason road magic?

Analysis: 33.6% of Pittsburgh’s 2014 offensive production may be on the sidelines for Saturday’s showdown with division-rival Baltimore, as Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell suffered a hyperextended knee in last Sunday night’s 27-17 win over Cincinnati. Not only would this be a big blow to the Steelers’ rushing attack (1,361 yards, second in NFL), but Bell also caught 83 passes this year and is a monster in pass protection, unlike 5-8, 173-pound backup Dri Archer, who could have some serious trouble against a Baltimore defense that ranked second in the NFL in sacks this season (49). Ravens signal-caller Joe Flacco has had an up-and-down 2014 campaign, especially when playing on the road, but the seven-year veteran is 6-4 career in the playoffs away from M&T Bank Stadium and knows what it takes to run the table in the postseason. Be advised that the weather forecast calls for rain and moderate winds in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

Notable trends: Baltimore is 4-0 ATS over its last four road playoff games while Pittsburgh is 9-3 ATS over its last 12 playoff games.

The play: Baltimore (we want +3.5, will play at +3) and UNDER 46

Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1, 5-3 road) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5, 6-2 home)

When: Sunday, 1:05pm ET
Weather: Indoors
Open: Indianapolis -4/49
Current: Indianapolis -3.5/49

Cincinnati in 2014: 8-7-1 ATS, 10-6 to the UNDER
Indianapolis in 2014: 10-5-1 ATS, 9-7 to the OVER

Marvin LewisMarvin Lewis has never won a playoff game. Is this the year?

Analysis: The early money showed up in support of Cincinnati due to a variety of factors, one of which has to do with an Indianapolis team that has been walking on eggshells as of late. One look at the Colts’ schedule shows an 11-win team that padded its stats with soft matchups against Jacksonville (twice), Tennessee (twice), Washington, Cleveland and the New York Giants, but came up short in marquee showdowns with Denver, New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Dallas. In addition, the Indianapolis defense ranked just 19th in scoring this season (23.1 pts/gm) and 18th against the run (113.4 yds/gm), which is a big concern when playing a Cincinnati team that ranked sixth in the league in rushing (134.2 yds/gm) with a whopping 567 yards coming via the ground game over the last three weeks alone. But how do you get behind a Bengals team that is coached by Marvin Lewis (0-5 lifetime in playoffs) and quarterbacked by Andy Dalton (0-3 lifetime in playoffs)? Not only that, but take note that Cincinnati is just 2-5 ATS over its last seven trips to Indianapolis.

Notable trends: Cincinnati is 5-1 ATS over its last six games following a loss while Indianapolis is 1-4 ATS over its last five playoff games.

The play: Cincinnati (+3.5). I’m calling this game “The Banana in the Tailpipe Special.”

Detroit Lions (11-5, 4-4 road) at Dallas Cowboys (12-4, 4-4 home)

When: Sunday, 4:40pm ET
Weather: Indoors
Open: Dallas -7/48
Current: Dallas -6.5/48

Detroit in 2014: 7-9 ATS, 11-5 to the UNDER
Dallas in 2014: 10-6 ATS, 9-6-1 to the OVER

DeMarco MurrayMurray and the Cowboys have been on fire ever since that Thanksgiving loss.

Analysis: Ever since they were drilled 33-10 at home by the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys have been cooking with gas. Big D has ripped off four straight wins (4-0 ATS as well) by an average of 21.5 points per game with only three turnovers committed and 12 turnovers forced. All of this is due in large part to the league’s best offensive line which has paved the way for a rushing attack that ranks second in the NFL (147.1 yds/gm). On the flip side you have the Detroit Lions who, despite entering this showdown with 11 wins under their belt, went just 4-4 on the road this season and are now 8-20-1 ATS over their last 29 road contests. In addition, the Lions are 1-6 ATS over their last seven matchups against teams with a winning record. Detroit has a nasty defense, but the big problem is whether or not highly-paid “franchise” quarterback Matthew Stafford will finally rise to the occasion on the big stage, something the Georgia product has failed to do in each of his six NFL campaigns. Stafford has completed only 54.1 percent of his passes on the road this season, with nine touchdowns, six interceptions and a QB rating of 74.9.

Notable trends: Detroit is 2-5 ATS over its last seven games overall while Dallas is 4-0 ATS over its last four games overall.

The play: Dallas (-6.5) along with a Dallas (-.5) and Baltimore (+9) teaser.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Sources: Dolphins offered Rex Ryan defensive coordinator position

Update (12/31 at 6:45pm PST): I completely dropped the ball on this story and would like to apologize to all parties involved for the incorrect information regarding the Miami Dolphins' interest in former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. There is no excuse for this type of error. Miami did not offer Ryan

Update (12/31 at 6:45pm PST): I completely dropped the ball on this story and would like to apologize to all parties involved for the incorrect information regarding the Miami Dolphins’ interest in former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. There is no excuse for this type of error. Miami did not offer Ryan the opportunity to become the team’s new defensive coordinator. Again, my deepest apologies to all involved.

Dismissed Monday after six seasons as the head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan won’t have trouble finding work if he chooses to return to the National Football League in 2015.

Sources familiar with the situation have informed the National Football Post that the Miami Dolphins offered Ryan a multi-year contract this week worth approximately $8 million to become the team’s next defensive coordinator.

Rex RyanRyan went 46-50 during the regular season in six years with the Jets.

However, while Ryan built his reputation as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens from 2005-2008, the prevailing line of thinking is that the 52-year-old would prefer to accept a head coaching position rather than take a role as an assistant. That assertion is furthered by the recent reports indicating Ryan is scheduled to meet with both the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers about their current vacancies.

As for Miami, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was noncommittal on Monday regarding the future of current defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who has been with the team since 2012. Coyle’s defense got off to a hot start in 2014, holding the opposition to just 18.8 points per game with 25 sacks and 18 turnovers through the first eight contests of the season. But with a playoff berth on the line, the Dolphins wilted down the stretch and were torched for an average of 35.2 points per game over the team’s final four outings.

The Dolphins’ attempt to lure Ryan to Miami clearly indicates that the organization is looking to shake things up on the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not the team succeeds in landing an upgrade remains to be seen, but head coach Joe Philbin has gone just 23-25 with the club since taking over in 2012 and no doubt enters the 2015 campaign on the hot seat.

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Bowl game betting primer: Part II

Bowl season has a habit of producing some utterly insane results. So the hope is that you can either sidestep these yearly landmines by avoiding the game altogether or somehow find yourself on the correct side of an absurd outcome.

Look no further than the Christmas Eve spectacular between Western Kentucky and Central

Bowl season has a habit of producing some utterly insane results. So the hope is that you can either sidestep these yearly landmines by avoiding the game altogether or somehow find yourself on the correct side of an absurd outcome.

Look no further than the Christmas Eve spectacular between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan for proof, as the Hilltoppers (that’s obviously the team we were backing) blew a 49-14 fourth quarter lead, but hung on to win (and not cover) 49-48.

Twitter exploded following the 75-yard miracle that doomed our evenings, but all you can really do in those situations is shake it off as quickly as possible and hope that the gambling gods balance out your karma somewhere down the road.

Actually, to hell with all of that. I’m still pissed about that finish.

Last week: 2-4

Season: 40-50 (.444)

CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL

#9 Mississippi Rebels (9-3, 2-2 road) vs. #6 TCU Horned Frogs (11-1, 4-1 road)

When: Wednesday, December 31 at 12:30pm ET
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Open: TCU -3
Current: TCU -3.5

Mississippi in 2014: 7-4-1 ATS, 9-2 to the UNDER
TCU in 2014: 10-2 ATS, 8-4 to the OVER

Bo WallaceBo Wallace and the Rebels are primed for the upset.

Analysis: TCU entered the final meaningful week of the college football regular season slotted third in the inaugural college football playoff rankings, but inexplicably fell to sixth following a 55-3 thrashing of Iowa State. Being as how college football is all about everybody getting rich except for those who actually put their bodies as risk, it was no surprise to see a big draw like Ohio State fly up the board to claim the fourth and final playoff spot, leaving an 11-1 TCU squad dejected at having to play in what the team could be viewing as a meaningless December 31 bowl game. So whether or not the Horned Frogs are motivated to show up in this one is a huge concern. We stand on the side that feels TCU doesn’t care much for this showdown after having a shot at the title ripped from its hands, so give us the Rebels, the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense (13.8 pts/gm) and 3.5 points and we’ll gladly settle in front of the couch to watch the Peach Bowl.

Notable trends: Mississippi is 4-0-1 ATS over its last five bowl games while TCU is 0-5 ATS over its last five bowl games.

Pick: Mississippi (+3.5)

ROSE BOWL

#2 Oregon Ducks (12-1, 5-0 road) vs. #3 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 4-0 road)

When: Thursday, January 1 at 5:00pm ET
Location: Pasadena, California
Open: Oregon -8
Current: Oregon -9

Oregon in 2014: 9-4 ATS, 6-6-1 to the OVER
Florida State in 2014: 3-10 ATS, 8-5 to the UNDER

Jameis WinstonWinston and the Seminoles are feeling little love within the betting markets.

Analysis: Correct me if I have this wrong: The defending champion Florida State Seminoles, winners of 29 straight games, head to the Rose Bowl as a staggering 9-point underdog for a matchup with Oregon, per Sportsbook Review.com? I get the fact that the Ducks won and covered the number in each of their final eight games of the year while the Seminoles covered the spread in just three of 13 contests this season, but that is far too many points to lay against the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. FSU has been in the big spot before, while 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota has never come close to this grand of a stage. The Seminoles may have played down to their competition this season, but with a month to prepare and far more on the line come January 1, they’ll get up in a big way for this semifinal encounter.

Notable trends: Oregon is 5-2 ATS over its last seven bowl games while Florida State is 8-1-1 ATS over its last ten bowl games.

Pick: Florida State (+9)

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1, 3-1 road) at #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-1, 4-0 road)

When: Thursday, January 1 at 8:30pm ET
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Open: Alabama -9.5
Current: Alabama -9.5

Alabama in 2014: 5-8 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER
Ohio State in 2014: 8-5 ATS, 11-2 to the OVER

Analysis: The Crimson Tide are a juggernaut and there is no disputing that sentiment, as it’s tough to find flaws in a program that has gone 72-8 (.900) with three national championship victories since 2009. Still, this is a big number to lay on a squad that has gone just 5-11-1 ATS over its last 17 games that will be facing a well-rested and ultra-prepared Urban Meyer football club. Ohio State’s 21st-ranked scoring defense (21.2 pts/gm) will be the key to success in the Sugar Bowl, as Bama has recorded 42 or more points in each of its last three contests. And don’t think for one second that Meyer hasn’t been selling the Buckeyes on the fact that many feel they shouldn’t be playing in this game (TCU, anyone?). We’ll hold our nose here in the hopes that a +10 surfaces sometime before kickoff.

Notable trends: Alabama is 0-7-1 ATS over its last eight non-conference games while Ohio State is 6-2 ATS over its last eight non-conference games.

Pick: Ohio State (we’re waiting for +10, but will play +9.5)

TAXSLAYER BOWL

Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 3-2 road) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6, 2-3 road)

When: Friday, January 2 at 3:20pm ET
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Open: Tennessee -2.5
Current: Tennessee -3.5

Iowa in 2014: 6-6 ATS, 6-5-1 to the OVER
Tennessee in 2014: 6-6 ATS, 6-4-1 to the UNDER

Kirk FerentzICONFerentz is 5-1 ATS over his last six bowl games.

Analysis: Say what you will about Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, but the reality of the situation is that the man is good with a month to prepare his team for postseason play. Ferentz is 5-1 ATS over his last six bowl games and word around the campfire is that the Hawkeyes have been putting together some exceptional practices in the build-up to the school’s showdown with Tennessee. We believe that this will be a classic situation in which the public shows heavy support for the SEC school over the Big Ten program, so we’ve got no problem backing the contrarian angle here on January 2.

Notable trends: Iowa is 6-2 ATS over its last eight neutral site games while Tennessee is 3-8 ATS over its last 11 non-conference games.

Pick: Iowa (+3.5)

BIRMINGHAM BOWL

East Carolina Pirates (8-4, 3-3 road) vs. Florida Gators (6-5, 2-2 road)

When: Saturday, January 3 at 12:00pm ET
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Open: Florida -7.5
Current: Florida -7

East Carolina in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER
Florida in 2014: 6-5 ATS, 8-3 to the OVER

Analysis: East Carolina hasn’t played in a January bowl game since 2010 and missed the college football postseason entirely last year, so the assumption is that this team should be pretty jacked up at the chance to knock off a reeling SEC school that just dumped its head coach after another disappointing campaign. After opening as more than a touchdown favorite, Florida has since been knocked down to as low as -6.5 at some shops, which is a significant move since it crossed through the key number of 7. The thought process here is that we’ve got a motivated team (ECU) against a squad that probably cares very little to be playing in this game, so we might as well take the touchdown and brace for the upset.

Notable trends: East Carolina is 5-0 ATS over its last five non-conference games while Florida is 4-1 ATS over its last five bowl games.

Pick: East Carolina (+7)

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Updated Super Bowl odds: Welcome to the postseason

While the advantage in the race for the Vince Lombardi Trophy sides with the four teams that earned a first-round bye (Seattle, Green Bay, New England, Denver) and even more so with the two clubs who claimed home field advantage (Seattle, New England), preseason Dallas backers have to be salivating at the hedging opportunity

While the advantage in the race for the Vince Lombardi Trophy sides with the four teams that earned a first-round bye (Seattle, Green Bay, New England, Denver) and even more so with the two clubs who claimed home field advantage (Seattle, New England), preseason Dallas backers have to be salivating at the hedging opportunity that has presented itself entering the month of January.

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray and the Cowboys have surged from 75/1 to 10/1 to win this season’s Super Bowl.

Listed at 75/1 to win the Super Bowl back in August, which was more favorable than the odds for just six other teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Tennessee), the Cowboys rode the legs of running back DeMarco Murray and right arm of quarterback Tony Romo to an NFC East crown and spot on the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s odds board at 10/1. And of the four teams listed above the Cowboys, none will be playing during this upcoming weekend’s slate of playoff action.

The defending champion Seahawks remain atop the board at 9/4, while the freefalling Cardinals bring up the rear at 75/1. Poor Bruce Arians. The Arizona head coach was cooking with gas until the injury bug decimated the team’s quarterback position.

Here’s the full rundown:

Note: The odds in parenthesis indicate where each team was listed back on August 25.

Seattle Seahawks: 9/4 (9/2)
New England Patriots: 5/2 (8/1)
Green Bay Packers: 5/1 (10/1)
Denver Broncos: 6/1 (5/1)
Dallas Cowboys: 10/1 (75/1)
Indianapolis Colts: 20/1 (20/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 20/1 (20/1)
Baltimore Ravens: 30/1 (25/1)
Carolina Panthers: 40/1 (60/1)
Cincinnati Bengals: 40/1 (20/1)
Detroit Lions: 40/1 (40/1)
Arizona Cardinals: 75/1 (40/1)

SUPER BOWL XLIX GAME LINE

NFC (-1.5/49) vs. AFC

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NFP power rankings

Happy holidays, everybody! This marks the final installment of the NFP power rankings for the 2014 season. However, we’ll be back next week to break down the wildcard playoff matchups via the “Las Vegas market report.”

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100.

Happy holidays, everybody! This marks the final installment of the NFP power rankings for the 2014 season. However, we’ll be back next week to break down the wildcard playoff matchups via the “Las Vegas market report.”

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100. These numbers can be used as a baseline to determine the point spread between any two teams on the list. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for home field advantage, situational analysis (extra rest, back-to-back road games, divisional rivalries, etc), injuries, weather or public perception. They are merely to be used as a baseline for your initial analysis.

NFP power rankings

1. Seattle Seahawks [93.0]
Record:
11-4 (Won 35-6 at Arizona)
Previous ranking: 93.0 (1)

2. New England Patriots [92.0]
Record:
12-2 (Won 17-16 at NY Jets)
Previous ranking: 92.0 (2)

3. Green Bay Packers [91.5]
Record:
11-4 (Won 20-3 at Tampa Bay)
Previous ranking: 91.5 (3)

4. Dallas Cowboys [91.0]
Record:
11-4 (Won 42-7 vs. Indianapolis)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (5)

5. Denver Broncos [89.5]
Record:
11-4 (Lost 37-28 at Cincinnati)
Previous ranking: 91.0 (4)

T6. Pittsburgh Steelers [89.0]
Record:
10-5 (Won 20-12 vs. Kansas City)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T11)

T6. Cincinnati Bengals [89.0]
Record:
10-4-1 (Won 37-28 vs. Denver)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (T7)

8. Detroit Lions [88.5]
Record:
11-4 (Won 20-14 at Chicago)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (T7)

9. Indianapolis Colts [88.0]
Record:
10-5 (Lost 42-7 at Dallas)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (6)

10. Kansas City Chiefs [87.5]
Record:
8-7 (Lost 20-12 at Pittsburgh)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (13)

T11. San Diego Chargers [87.0]
Record:
9-6 (Won 38-35 at San Francisco)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (14)

T11. Baltimore Ravens [87.0]
Record:
9-6 (Lost 25-13 at Houston)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T11)

T11. Arizona Cardinals [87.0]
Record:
11-4 (Lost 35-6 vs. Seattle)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (T9)

14. Philadelphia Eagles [86.0]
Record:
9-6 (Lost 27-24 at Washington)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (T9)

15. Houston Texans [85.5]
Record:
8-7 (Won 25-13 vs. Baltimore)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (19)

16. Miami Dolphins [85.0]
Record:
8-7 (Won 37-35 vs. Minnesota)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

17. Buffalo Bills [84.5]
Record:
8-7 (Lost 26-24 at Oakland)
Previous ranking: 85.5 (15)

18. San Francisco 49ers [84.0]
Record:
7-8 (Lost 38-35 vs. San Diego)
Previous ranking: 84.5 (18)

19. New York Giants [83.5]
Record:
6-9 (Won 37-27 at St. Louis)
Previous ranking: 82.5 (23)

20. Minnesota Vikings [83.0]
Record:
6-9 (Lost 37-35 at Miami)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (20)

T21. Atlanta Falcons [82.0]
Record:
6-9 (Won 30-14 at New Orleans)
Previous ranking: 82.0 (T24)

T21. Carolina Panthers [82.0]
Record:
6-8-1 (Won 17-13 vs. Cleveland)
Previous ranking: 82.0 (T24)

T21. New Orleans Saints [82.0]
Record:
6-9 (Lost 30-14 vs. Atlanta)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T24. St. Louis Rams [81.5]
Record:
6-9 (Lost 37-27 vs. NY Giants)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T21)

T24. Washington Redskins [81.5]
Record:
4-11 (Won 27-24 vs. Philadelphia)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (26)

26. Chicago Bears [81.0]
Record:
5-10 (Lost 20-14 vs. Detroit)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (25)

27. Cleveland Browns [80.0]
Record:
7-8 (Lost 17-13 at Carolina)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T21)

28. Oakland Raiders [79.5]
Record:
3-12 (Won 26-24 vs. Buffalo)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (T29)

T29. New York Jets [79.0]
Record:
3-12 (Lost 17-16 vs. New England)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (T29)

T29. Jacksonville Jaguars [79.0]
Record:
3-12 (Won 21-13 vs. Tennessee)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (T29)

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [78.5]
Record:
2-13 (Lost 20-3 vs. Green Bay)
Previous ranking: 79.5 (28)

32. Tennessee Titans [78.0]
Record:
2-13 (Lost 21-13 at Jacksonville)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (32)

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Bowl game betting primer: Part I

Happy Holidays and a special thanks to all of you who stuck with the NFP college football betting primer through an up and (mostly) down campaign. We closed out the regular season with a clean sweep and now the hope is that we can maintain this success through the remainder of the 2014 bowl

Happy Holidays and a special thanks to all of you who stuck with the NFP college football betting primer through an up and (mostly) down campaign. We closed out the regular season with a clean sweep and now the hope is that we can maintain this success through the remainder of the 2014 bowl season.

The following rundown isolates six games from this week’s upcoming slate of postseason action. We’ll be back next Tuesday morning with another edition of the bowl game betting primer to cover the marquee matchups and New Year’s Day run of games for those of you who may be interested in watching that sort of thing.

Be safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Final week of regular season: 5-0

Season: 38-46 (.452)

BOCA RATON BOWL

Marshall Thundering Herd (12-1, 6-0 road) at Northern Illinois Huskies (11-2, 6-1 road)

When: Tuesday, December 23 at 6:00pm ET
Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Open: Marshall -10
Current: Marshall -10

Marshall in 2014: 8-5 ATS, 7-6 to the OVER
Northern Illinois in 2014: 7-6 ATS, 9-4 to the UNDER

Analysis: Northern Illinois will have a hell of a time trying to slow down a lightning quick Marshall offense that averaged 45.1 points per game this season (fifth in NCAA) while defeating the opposition by the staggering average of 26.3 points per contest. The Thundering Herd represent the best offense that the Huskies have faced in 2014, which is led by experienced signal-caller Rakeem Cato, who is 2-0 both straight-up and against the spread in bowl games (563 passing yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT). Take note that Marshall is 8-3 ATS over its last 11 games against teams with a winning record while Northern Illinois is 1-4 ATS over its last five matchups with Conference USA opposition. This is a big number to lay per the odds board at Sportsbook Review.com, but given the MAC’s poor bowl record in recent years, we’re comfortable Marshall will prevail by more than 10.

Notable trends: Marshall is 5-1 ATS over its last six non-conference games while Northern Illinois is 2-5 ATS over its last seven bowl games.

Pick: Marshall (-10)

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL

Navy Midshipmen (7-5, 3-1 road) at San Diego State Aztecs (7-5, 1-5 road)

When: Tuesday, December 23 at 9:30pm ET
Location: San Diego, California
Open: San Diego State -3
Current: San Diego State -3

Navy in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER
San Diego State in 2014: 6-5-1 ATS, 11-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: A rematch of the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl in which San Diego State emerged victorious 35-14, the Aztecs have a big advantage in this matchup due to the fact that it will be played at Qualcomm Stadium where SDSU went 6-0 this season winning by an average of 19.8 points per game. Another San Diego State edge comes in the form of having three weeks to prepare for Navy’s triple-option attack, a system the Aztecs’ 3-3-5 defense faced when playing Air Force and New Mexico this year and had much success, holding both schools to season-low offensive yardage totals. This is a big step up in class for a Navy squad that is 2-5 ATS over its last seven games played in the month of December.

Notable trends: Navy is 2-5 ATS over its last seven neutral site games while San Diego State is 11-5-1 ATS over its last 17 games following a win.

Pick: San Diego State (-3)

POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL

Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5, 4-2 road) at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 2-4 road)

When: Wednesday, December 24 at 12:00pm ET
Location: Nassau, Bahamas
Open: Western Kentucky -2.5
Current: Western Kentucky -3.5

Central Michigan in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 7-5 to the UNDER
Western Kentucky in 2014: 6-6 ATS, 8-3-1 to the OVER

Brandon DoughtyWKU quarterback Brandon Doughty led the nation with 44 touchdown passes this season.

Analysis: Led by quarterback and Conference USA Player of the Year Brandon Doughty (NCAA-best 44 TD passes in 2014), Western Kentucky shook off the cobwebs from learning a new system that resulted in a 3-5 start and rallied to close out the year on a perfect 4-0 run (3-1 ATS), winning by an average of 18.7 points per game. And those four wins didn’t come against inferior competition, either, as the Hilltoppers landed the only blemish on Marshall’s otherwise perfect 12-1 record with a 67-66 win back on November 28. This is just as much a PLAY ON Western Kentucky as it is a PLAY AGAINST Central Michigan, as MAC teams cannot be trusted during bowl season (0-5 in bowl games in 2013).

Notable trends: Central Michigan is 5-15-1 ATS over its last 21 non-conference games while Western Kentucky is 14-3 ATS over its last 17 games played on grass.

Pick: Western Kentucky (-3.5)

ZAXBY’S HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6, 1-4 road) at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5, 4-4 road)

When: Friday, December 26 at 1:00pm ET
Location: Dallas, Texas
Open: Louisiana Tech -5
Current: Louisiana Tech -6

Illinois in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER
Louisiana Tech in 2014: 10-3 ATS, 8-4-1 to the OVER

Analysis: Some may be worried about the five Bulldogs who were suspended at the beginning of the month due to academic issues, but Louisiana Tech rallied without those players against 12-1 Marshall on December 6 and nearly upset the Thundering Herd before falling 26-23. Winners of six of their last eight, Skip Holtz has the Bulldogs playing with jam thanks to a 2014 turnover differential of +18 (note that Illinois is -2 in turnover differential this season). The Fighting Illini may have finished the year at 6-6, but the team got really lucky in its wins over Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern. In addition, note that Louisiana Tech is 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall. With think the Big Ten will be dealt a swift and decisive blow in this one.

Notable trends: Illinois is 9-19 ATS over its last 28 games played on turf while Louisiana Tech is 4-0 ATS over its last four games played on turf.

Pick: Louisiana Tech (-6)

BITCOIN SAINT PETERSBURG BOWL

North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5, 3-2 road) at Central Florida Knights (9-3, 3-2 road)

When: Friday, December 26 at 8:00pm ET
Location: Saint Petersburg, Florida
Open: Central Florida -1
Current: Central Florida -1.5

North Carolina State in 2014: 7-5 ATS, 6-5-1 to the UNDER
Central Florida in 2014: 8-4 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER

Analysis: Central Florida boasts one of the better defenses you’ll see this bowl season after concluding a 12-game campaign that resulted in permitting an average of just 17.9 points per contest (eighth in NCAA) with 27 turnovers (2.25 per game) and 33 sacks (2.75 per game). The Knights also went 4-0 ATS to finish the season and are now 6-1 ATS over their last seven games played on a Friday. North Carolina State definitely took a step in the right direction this season, but note that the team’s seven wins came against opponents who combined to finish the year with a 37-46 record (.445). The Wolfpack have turned the corner and should prove to be worthy adversaries in this one, but we believe Central Florida will prevail based on the strength of its defense.

Notable trends: North Carolina State is 2-7 ATS over its last nine games on turf while Central Florida is 8-2 ATS over its last ten non-conference games.

Pick: Central Florida (-1.5)

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HOLIDAY BOWL

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 3-2 road) at #24 USC Trojans (8-4, 3-3 road)

When: Saturday, December 27 at 8:00pm ET
Location: San Diego, California
Open: USC -5.5
Current: USC -7

Nebraska in 2014: 7-4-1 ATS, 7-5 to the OVER
USC in 2014: 7-5 ATS, 7-5 to the UNDER

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Bo PeliniUS PRESSWIREBo Pelini’s time at Nebraska has come to an end.

Analysis: The Cornhuskers dropped two of their final three games to close out the regular season, are 1-4 ATS over their last five neutral site matchups and just said goodbye to head coach Bo Pelini, who had some choice words for the Nebraska brass on his way out the door. In addition, as you’ll see below, the Huskers have had a hell of a time when tasked with beating opposition from the PAC-12, while USC has performed quite admirably in recent encounters with Big Ten schools. Take note that the Trojans are 5-1 ATS over their last six bowl games and enter this showdown much more organized and well-prepared than the team that will be staring them down from the other sideline.

Notable trends: Nebraska is 0-4 ATS over its last four games against the PAC-12 while USC is 9-2 ATS over its last 11 games against the Big Ten.

Pick: USC (-7)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated Super Bowl odds: The rise of the champs

The top of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook odds board has seen plenty of turnover over the last few weeks in regards to the shop’s Super Bowl prices, as the Green Bay Packers relinquished the title of “favorite” last week to the New England Patriots before the defending champion Seahawks stepped in

The top of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook odds board has seen plenty of turnover over the last few weeks in regards to the shop’s Super Bowl prices, as the Green Bay Packers relinquished the title of “favorite” last week to the New England Patriots before the defending champion Seahawks stepped in on Monday to claim their rightful spot on the throne.

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks are back on top of the Westgate odds board.

Winners of eight of their last nine outings and led by a defense that is surrendering an average of just 6.6 points per game over its last five starts, the Seahawks now reside at a price of 5/2 to win February’s Super Bowl following a thorough 35-6 dismantling of former NFC West leader Arizona.

The New England Patriots, who sat atop the board last Monday at a price of 5/2, slipped to 11/4 to make room for the Seattle surge. And after claiming the NFC East in dominating fashion, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys jumped from 12/1 to 10/1 while division rival Philadelphia fell off the board entirely.

The entire rundown is listed below.

Note: The odds in parenthesis indicate where each team was listed back on August 25.

Seattle Seahawks: 5/2 (9/2)
New England Patriots: 11/4 (8/1)
Green Bay Packers: 9/2 (10/1)
Denver Broncos: 5/1 (5/1)
Dallas Cowboys: 10/1 (75/1)
Indianapolis Colts: 20/1 (20/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 20/1 (20/1)
Detroit Lions: 25/1 (40/1)
San Diego Chargers: 30/1 (30/1)
Arizona Cardinals: 40/1 (40/1)
Cincinnati Bengals: 40/1 (20/1)
Atlanta Falcons: 60/1 (60/1)
Baltimore Ravens: 60/1 (25/1)
Carolina Panthers: 80/1 (60/1)
Houston Texans: 300/1 (25/1)
Kansas City Chiefs: 1000/1 (50/1)

OFF THE BOARD

San Francisco 49ers (10/1)
New Orleans Saints (7/1)
Philadelphia Eagles (25/1)
Chicago Bears (20/1)
New York Giants (40/1)
Washington Redskins (50/1)
St. Louis Rams (75/1)
Miami Dolphins (50/1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100/1)
Tennessee Titans (100/1)
New York Jets (60/1)
Buffalo Bills (60/1)
Minnesota Vikings (100/1)
Cleveland Browns (100/1)
Jacksonville Jaguars (200/1)
Oakland Raiders (100/1)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 16 SURVIVOR PICKS

–At this point in the season, I really have no clue which teams you guys have left to use in survivor. So rather than throw out what will likely amount to repeat selections, hit me up on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh and we can talk it through from there. Best of luck!

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 7-7-1

Last week: Cincinnati Bengals (+1) over Cleveland Browns (win)

This week: Minnesota Vikings (+6.5) at Miami Dolphins

Analysis: Like clockwork, the Miami Dolphins are once again tanking at the end of the season, as Joe Philbin’s team has dropped three of its last four contests and is averaging a paltry 14.0 points per game over its last three outings. On the flip side, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings have come on strong during the second half of the season and have now covered the number in four straight matchups. Take note that while Minnesota is 10-1 ATS over its last 11 games played in the month of December, Miami is 0-5 ATS over its last five games played in the month of December.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 3-1-1

Season: 36-38-1 (.486)

Two weeks left for the Big Puma and I to get our squad above .500 so we can save some face entering the 2015 season. Here’s the rundown for Week 16:

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+6.5) at Miami Dolphins
DETROIT LIONS (-6.5) at Chicago Bears
NEW YORK GIANTS (+4.5) at St. Louis Rams
ARIZONA CARDINALS (+8) vs. Seattle Seahawks
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+3) vs. Denver Broncos

CLICK HERE to check out all of the current lines.

START ‘EM UP

Kyle Orton, QB, Buffalo Bills (at Oakland): Orton hasn’t exactly set the league on fire since taking over for former first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel in Buffalo, but he has helped guide the Bills to an 8-6 record and an outside shot at a postseason appearance. Those of you who are jammed up at the quarterback position in Week 16 should give this guy a good, long look, as the Raiders just surrendered 297 passing yards and two touchdowns to game manager Alex Smith last Sunday. Knowing the Bills, this will be a tight game entering the fourth quarter, which means Orton should rack up plenty of passing attempts against a defense that is permitting an average of 27.2 points per game this season (30th in NFL).

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta): Ingram has found the end zone just one time over his last six outings, but owners should expect that streak to come to a close Sunday against a dreadful Falcons defense that is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than any other team in the league (24.2 pts/gm). Not only is Atlanta the lone NFL defense giving up over 400 yards of offense to opponents this season (409.9 yds/gm), but this unit has also permitted six rushing touchdowns over its last three starts.

Kyle OrtonOrton has a tasty matchup on deck against the Oakland Raiders.

Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (at Houston): Smith has found the end zone in two of his last four starts and should provide a solid stat line for owners Sunday in Houston against a Texans defense that currently ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass (257.1 yds/gm) while giving up an average of 26.8 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). In addition, be advised that the Houston secondary has permitted at least two touchdown passes in nine of its last 12 outings.

Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams (vs. NY Giants): The rookie from Auburn is purely a situational start based on his matchup, as the St. Louis offense can’t be trusted to move the football with any sort of regularity on a consistent basis. That being said, Week 16 offers up a tasty matchup for Mason against a Giants defense that currently ranks 30th in the NFL against the run (135.1 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 20.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eighth-most in NFL). As a bonus, St. Louis has had ten days to get ready for this matchup.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (at Washington): Last Sunday’s home loss to the Cowboys has the Eagles on the outside looking in at the 2014 playoffs, which means this team needs to rally in a big way Sunday against a highly dysfunctional Washington Redskins team. With just two games remaining in the season, the Redskins are surrendering an average of 26.4 points per game on defense (28th in NFL) and 25.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (fifth-most in NFL). In addition, note that Maclin caught eight passes for 154 yards and a touchdown when these two squads got together back on September 21.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (at Pittsburgh): The two-year veteran has come on strong the last two weeks, catching 12 passes on 15 targets for 169 yards and a touchdown. Kelce has tremendous upside, but working within the limited confines of the Kansas City offense, it’s unclear if we’ll ever see the Cincinnati product hit his true ceiling. Either way, Week 16 presents a favorable matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that is surrendering an average of 8.9 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (eighth-most in NFL). Note that the Chiefs have made an effort to get this guy more involved in the offense over the last two weeks and it’s starting to pay dividends.

San Diego Chargers, D/ST (at San Francisco): Banged up and struggling, the San Diego defense enters a highly favorable matchup Sunday in Santa Clara against a 49ers offense that has scored 17 or fewer points in seven of its last eight games with 13 turnovers and 36 sacks. And with Jim Harbaugh on his way out the door and the team officially eliminated from playoff contention, motivation is an element that could be lacking come Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (at San Francisco): Wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Ryan Mathews are out, the offensive line has been playing suspect football at best and Rivers has thrown just seven touchdown passes over his last seven starts. That makes for a bad combination of factors against a 49ers defense that is permitting an average of just 17.1 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (third-fewest in NFL).

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (vs. Baltimore): Foster is battling a hip injury and faces a Baltimore defense on Sunday that may stack eight defenders in the box in an effort to dare fourth-string quarterback Case Keenum to beat them through the air. And as if that wasn’t daunting enough, take note that the Ravens currently rank third in the NFL against the run (84.3 yds/gm) while surrendering fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the league (12.5 pts/gm).

Philip RiversRivers has thrown just seven touchdown passes over his last seven starts.

Michael Floyd & Larry Fitzgerald, WRs, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Seattle): This is a bad situation all the way around for the Arizona offense, as the Cardinals are now down to third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley thanks to injuries sustained by both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. In addition, this is without question the worst matchup on the board for Lindley, as the Seattle defense currently ranks first in the NFL against the pass (184.3 yds/gm) while giving up fewer fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the business (14.0 pts/gm). Owners need to activate Plan B in a hurry.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (vs. Detroit): Arguably the most underrated running back in the league, Forte has found the end zone just once over his last three starts and will be playing on an offense this Sunday led not by starting quarterback Jay Cutler, but by the highly unpredictable Jimmy Clausen. So not only is the signal-caller switch a huge blow to Forte’s overall value, but note that Detroit currently ranks first in the NFL against the run (63.8 yds/gm) while permitting an average of just 14.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL).

Michael Crabtree & Anquan Boldin, WRs, San Francisco 49ers (vs. San Diego): 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is in the midst of one of the worst regressions we’ve seen from a signal-caller in quite some time. The Nevada product is playing behind a terrible offensive line, has no confidence in himself and lacks the touch necessary to make some of the more complicated throws in the National Football League. As a result, the San Francisco offense has scored 17 or fewer points in seven of its last eight games and boasts a passing attack that ranks 28th in the NFL (198.7 yds/gm). No sense in starting either one of these receivers on championship weekend.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (vs. Cleveland): One of the few bright spots on the Carolina offense this season, Olsen has racked up 20 receptions on 24 targets for 182 yards and a touchdown over his last two starts. However, that stat line came against two of the worst defenses in the league in New Orleans and Tampa Bay and Week 16 offers up a much more challenging situation against a Cleveland Browns team that is permitting an average of just 5.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). Olsen isn’t the worst option on the board for Week 16, but his upside is severely limited.

Cincinnati Bengals, D/ST (vs. Denver): We like the Bengals to upset Denver Monday night in Cincinnati, but not enough to justify starting this defensive unit against Peyton Manning and breakout running back C.J. Anderson. Owners in need of a better option should look to Minnesota and Miami.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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NFP power rankings

It’s been a few weeks since our last installment of the NFP’s power numbers, so take note that the “previous ranking” section underneath each team refers to where that specific club was ranked back on October 30 and not last week. My apologies for the length of time in between updates.

It’s been a few weeks since our last installment of the NFP’s power numbers, so take note that the “previous ranking” section underneath each team refers to where that specific club was ranked back on October 30 and not last week. My apologies for the length of time in between updates.

Before anybody’s blood pressure shoots through the ceiling at the thought of having the 11-3 Arizona Cardinals in the ninth position, remember, these are not the NFL’s standings. With Carson Palmer done of the season and Drew Stanton battling a knee injury, Bruce Arians has turned the keys to the car over to a quarterback in Ryan Lindley who boasts a career passer rating of just 46.8. That type of downgrade/uncertainty definitely has an impact on where we view the Cardinals as a team today, which is the entire point of these rankings.

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100. These numbers can be used as a baseline to determine the point spread between any two teams on the list. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for home field advantage, situational analysis (extra rest, back-to-back road games, divisional rivalries, etc), injuries, weather or public perception. They are merely to be used as a baseline for your initial analysis.

NFP power rankings

1. Seattle Seahawks [93.0]
Record:
10-4 (Won 17-7 vs. San Francisco)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (8)

2. New England Patriots [92.0]
Record:
11-3 (Won 41-13 vs. Miami)
Previous ranking: 90.0 (3)

3. Green Bay Packers [91.5]
Record:
10-4 (Lost 21-13 at Buffalo)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T9)

4. Denver Broncos [91.0]
Record:
11-3 (Won 22-10 at San Diego)
Previous ranking: 92.0 (1)

5. Dallas Cowboys [89.5]
Record:
10-4 (Won 38-27 at Philadelphia)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (T4)

6. Indianapolis Colts [89.0]
Record:
10-4 (Won 17-10 vs. Houston)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (7)

T7. Detroit Lions [88.5]
Record:
10-4 (Won 16-14 vs. Minnesota)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T12)

T7. Cincinnati Bengals [88.5]
Record:
9-4-1 (Won 30-0 at Cleveland)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (11)

T9. Philadelphia Eagles [88.0]
Record:
9-5 (Lost 38-27 vs. Dallas)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (T4)

T9. Arizona Cardinals [88.0]
Record:
11-3 (Won 12-6 at St. Louis)
Previous ranking: 90.5 (2)

T11. Baltimore Ravens [87.5]
Record:
9-5 (Won 20-12 vs. Jacksonville)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T12)

T11. Pittsburgh Steelers [87.5]
Record:
9-5 (Won 27-20 at Atlanta)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

13. Kansas City Chiefs [87.0]
Record:
8-6 (Won 31-13 vs. Oakland)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (14)

14. San Diego Chargers [86.5]
Record:
8-6 (Lost 22-10 vs. Denver)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (6)

15. Buffalo Bills [85.5]
Record:
8-6 (Won 21-13 vs. Green Bay)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (T18)

T16. New Orleans Saints [85.0]
Record:
6-8 (Won 31-15 at Chicago)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T16. Miami Dolphins [85.0]
Record:
7-7 (Lost 41-13 at New England)
Previous ranking: 85.5 (15)

18. San Francisco 49ers [84.5]
Record:
7-7 (Lost 17-7 at Seattle)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T9)

19. Houston Texans [84.0]
Record:
7-7 (Lost 17-10 at Indianapolis)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (T18)

20. Minnesota Vikings [83.5]
Record:
6-8 (Lost 16-14 at Detroit)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (25)

T21. Cleveland Browns [83.0]
Record:
7-7 (Lost 30-0 vs. Cincinnati)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T22)

T21. St. Louis Rams [83.0]
Record:
6-8 (Lost 12-6 vs. Arizona)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (27)

23. New York Giants [82.5]
Record:
5-9 (Won 24-13 vs. Washington)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T20)

T24. Carolina Panthers [82.0]
Record:
5-8-1 (Won 19-17 vs. Tampa Bay)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T20)

T24. Atlanta Falcons [82.0]
Record:
5-9 (Lost 27-20 vs. Pittsburgh)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (26)

25. Chicago Bears [81.5]
Record:
5-9 (Lost 31-15 vs. New Orleans)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T22)

26. Washington Redskins [81.0]
Record:
3-11 (Lost 24-13 at NY Giants)
Previous ranking: 82.5 (24)

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [79.5]
Record:
2-12 (Lost 19-17 at Carolina)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (T30)

T29. Oakland Raiders [79.0]
Record:
2-12 (Lost 31-13 at Kansas City)
Previous ranking: 78.0 (32)

T29. New York Jets [79.0]
Record:
3-11 (Won 16-11 at Tennessee)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (29)

T29. Jacksonville Jaguars [79.0]
Record:
2-12 (Lost 20-12 at Baltimore)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (T30)

32. Tennessee Titans [78.5]
Record:
2-12 (Lost 16-11 vs. NY Jets)
Previous ranking: 80.0 (28)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Las Vegas market report

The month of December means, among other things, the start of bowl season, which any decent analyst will tell you requires a thorough examination of which teams possess the key ingredient known as motivation. Every year we’re presented with a handful of matchups that pit teams overly excited for postseason play against schools that

The month of December means, among other things, the start of bowl season, which any decent analyst will tell you requires a thorough examination of which teams possess the key ingredient known as motivation. Every year we’re presented with a handful of matchups that pit teams overly excited for postseason play against schools that couldn’t care less about the hand they’ve been dealt.

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the same can be said about professional football, as there are numerous teams who have packed it in for 2014 and are already looking ahead to vacations in the Caribbean. Did you watch the Saints-Bears game on Monday night? Because that serves as a perfect example of a team with motivation fighting for a playoff spot (New Orleans) taking on a club that has already thrown in the towel on the season.

2014 SNAPSHOT

Home teams: 108-110-6 (.495)
Favorites: 107-111-6 (.490)
Home favorites: 73-76-4 (.489)
Home dogs: 35-34-2 (.507)
Overs: 107-116 (.479)

Detroit Lions (10-4, 3-3 road) at Chicago Bears (5-9, 2-5 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Open: Detroit -4.5
Current: Detroit -6.5

Detroit in 2014: 7-7 ATS
Chicago in 2014: 5-9 ATS

Jay CutlerCutler and the Bears are already looking ahead to a postseason spent on the beach.

Analysis: This line skyrocketed from Detroit -4.5 on Sunday evening to Detroit -6.5 late Monday night thanks to another lifeless effort from manbaby Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. Losers of six of their last eight outings with only three point spread covers over their last 11 games, the Bears have officially packed it in for the 2014 campaign thanks to a locker room rift started by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer that will contribute to the pending dismissal of head coach Marc Trestman. Meanwhile, the Lions seized control of the NFC North last Sunday with a win over Minnesota coupled with a Green Bay loss at Buffalo, so the motivation is there to keep the pedal to the metal. Detroit is cooking with gas right now (7-2 SU over last nine games) and is set up beautifully in Week 16 for a showdown with a Chicago team that is just 7-18-1 ATS over its last 26 home contests. This is a classic case of a highly motivated football team squaring off against a club that is already in the process of booking its postseason vacations.

Notable trends: Detroit is 8-3 ATS over its last 11 games against NFC North opposition while Chicago is 3-13 ATS over its last 16 games against NFC North opposition.

Baltimore Ravens (9-5, 4-3 road) at Houston Texans (7-7, 3-3 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Open: Baltimore -3.5
Current: Baltimore -5.5

Baltimore in 2014: 7-6-1 ATS
Houston in 2014: 8-5-1 ATS

Analysis: Houston’s top three quarterback options (Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage) are unavailable for Week 16 due to injury, which leaves the Texans with either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis to take the wheel against a Baltimore defense that is surrendering an average of just 19.1 points per game this season (sixth-best in NFL). In addition, Houston’s loss at Indianapolis last Sunday gave the Colts the AFC South crown, so one has to question how much motivation the Texans will have for a showdown with a Ravens team that is currently postseason bound, but looking to improve its position via a divisional championship. One interesting angle for this matchup involves former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, who currently runs the Baltimore offense, but is very familiar with Houston’s personnel. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens stack eight in the box on defense in an effort to shut down Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster while simultaneously daring either Keenum or Lewis to beat them through the air.

Notable trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS over the last five matchups between these two teams.

Indianapolis Colts (10-4, 4-2 road) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4, 3-4 home)

When: Sunday, 4:25pm ET
Open: Dallas -1
Current: Dallas -3

Indianapolis in 2014: 9-4-1 ATS
Dallas in 2014: 8-6 ATS

Andrew LuckLuck will operate with a banged-up receiving unit on Sunday.

Analysis: Wide receivers Reggie Wayne (triceps) and T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) are banged up and the Indianapolis defense is surrendering an average of 29.2 points per game on the road in 2014. Those are big concerns when you consider the fact that the Cowboys have successfully rebounded from their Thanksgiving Day loss to Philadelphia with back-to-back wins that came by scoring an average of 39.5 points per game. Dallas is clicking at the moment but doesn’t have time to stop and smell the roses because the Eagles are still nipping at their heels. However, the Colts just wrapped up the AFC South title with last Sunday’s win over Houston, so one has to question whether or not the team will get up for a Week 16 matchup with a non-conference opponent. Either way, note that Indy is 8-3-1 ATS over its last 12 games overall while Dallas is 1-4 ATS over its last five home contests.

Notable trends: Indianapolis is 0-3-1 ATS over its last four games against teams with a winning record while Dallas is 1-4 ATS over its last five games after scoring more than 30 points in the previous contest.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-5, 3-3 road) at Washington Redskins (3-11, 2-4 home)

When: Saturday, 4:30pm ET
Open: Philadelphia -8.5
Current: Philadelphia -7.5

Philadelphia in 2014: 8-6 ATS
Washington in 2014: 4-10 ATS

Analysis: Chip Kelly is a perfect 3-0 (2-1 ATS) against the Redskins with an offense that has averaged 31.3 points per game against the team from our nation’s capital. But curiously enough, this line is moving against a Philadelphia club that is currently on the outside of the playoff picture thanks to last Sunday’s home loss to Dallas. We know the Eagles have plenty of motivation to get up and play big in Week 16, but what about this dysfunctional Redskins team that has dropped six straight by an average of 14.0 points per game, is rumored to be looking for yet another head coach and is 1-8 ATS over its last nine games following a loss? Be advised that the Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to Washington.

Notable trends: The road team is 11-4-1 ATS over the last 16 meetings between these two teams.

Green Bay Packers (10-4, 3-4 road) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12, 0-6 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Open: Green Bay -10
Current: Green Bay -10.5

Green Bay in 2014: 7-6-1 ATS
Tampa Bay in 2014: 6-8 ATS

Analysis: The first-glance analysis of this matchup would be to note that Tampa Bay is 0-6 at home this season and losing by an average of 9.3 points per game, while the Packers just let the NFC North lead slip through their fingertips thanks to an upset loss at Buffalo last Sunday. So one would think that Aaron Rodgers and company would stomp all over the Buccaneers defense with renewed vigor after laying an egg in Week 15, right? Well, it’s worth noting that Green Bay has had some trouble with this franchise in the past (3-9 ATS in last 12 vs. Tampa) and of Tampa Bay’s last nine losses, six have come by eight or fewer points. However, most of that last sentence loses its luster when you note that the Packers are 12-5 ATS over their last 17 road games while the Buccaneers are 15-35-1 over their last 51 home contests.

Notable trends: Green Bay is 3-9 ATS over its last 12 meetings with Tampa Bay.

Seattle Seahawks (10-4, 4-3 road) at Arizona Cardinals (11-3, 7-0 home)

When: Sunday, 8:30pm ET
Open: Seattle -7.5
Current: Seattle -8

Seattle in 2014: 7-6-1 ATS
Arizona in 2014: 10-4 ATS

"RussellWilson and the Seahawks are averaging just 19.8 points per game over their last five outings.

Analysis: Wait a minute, you’re telling me an 11-win team with the revenge angle is catching eight points at home in a game lined with a total of just 36 points? Well, that’s what happens when both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton are lost to injury, forcing Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to opt for a backup in Ryan Lindley who has started a grand total of just four games during his two-year career. Things are so bad at the QB position in Arizona right now that some knuckleheads are tying to make the case for 43-year-old Kurt Warner to come out of retirement. The thought process behind this line move is that a team with the league’s top-ranked defense that has won seven of its last eight matchups should have no problems handling a third-string quarterback. Just remember that Seattle is only averaging 19.8 points per game over its last five outings, which could make covering an 8-point line a tall order if Lindley finds a way to avoid turning the ball over.

Notable trends: Seattle is 2-6 ATS over its last eight trips to Arizona.

THE REST OF THE RUNDOWN

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams: From STL -5.5 to STL -5
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: From JAC -3 to JAC -3
San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers: From SF -2.5 to SF -2.5
Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins: From MIA -6.5 to MIA -6.5
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: From NO -6.5 to NO -6.5
New England Patriots at New York Jets: From NE -10 to NE -10
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers: From PIT -3 to PIT -3
Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers: NO LINE (Newton injury)
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders: From BUF -5.5 to BUF -5.5
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals: From DEN -3.5 to DEN -3.5

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Into the fire

In what very well may go down as the worst professional quarterback performance of the 2014 season, assuming we’re no longer operating under the impression that Geno Smith is a professional quarterback, the Johnny Manziel rocket ship detonated on the launch pad Sunday against Cincinnati without lifting even so much as an inch off

In what very well may go down as the worst professional quarterback performance of the 2014 season, assuming we’re no longer operating under the impression that Geno Smith is a professional quarterback, the Johnny Manziel rocket ship detonated on the launch pad Sunday against Cincinnati without lifting even so much as an inch off the Earth’s surface. It was a horrific display of indecisiveness and ineffectiveness that resulted in just 10 of 18 completed passes for only 80 yards with two interceptions and zero points scored while marking Cleveland’s fourth loss in five games and signaling the end of the city’s hopes for a postseason berth.

It was also the 22-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner’s first career start.

This last part is of particular importance because of the reaction Manziel’s performance has solicited from both the fans and media. You’d think the 22nd overall pick in last May’s draft was an eight-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowler who just pulled a Chris Webber in the Super Bowl with the amount of backlash, criticism and “I told you so” nonsense that made its way into the air we breathe at such a breakneck speed.

Take this tweet from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, which was sent out into the vast abyss of the internet barely one hour into Manziel’s first career start:

“It’s officially awful right now for @JManziel2. Merrill Hoge is looking like a profit right now”

This is the type of overreaction that we can all do without, but is simultaneously necessary to both attract eyeballs and ignite debate, something Smith’s television show First Take excels at doing. Manziel is a hot topic, so simply employing some elementary level of patience while giving the rookie signal-caller a chance to grow over the course of a few weeks or, gasp, even months won’t move the meters. The Texas A&M product performed poorly on Sunday, so the natural conclusion of this day and age is that he must be a bust. There’s no other way to slice the pie.

Johnny ManzielManziel’s debut was terrible, but it was still only one game.

Let’s start with the fact that Cleveland made the right move by turning the keys to the car over to Manziel, as there are still some making the case that veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer and his 76.3 passer rating (31st in the NFL, one spot behind Oakland rookie Derek Carr) should be under center for the Browns. Why? The Cleveland Browns weren’t winning this season because of Hoyer, they were winning despite him. Prior to the passing of the torch to Manziel, Hoyer’s previous five starts had resulted in just one touchdown pass and eight interceptions. The bottom line is that the guy wasn’t getting it done and won’t be back in Cleveland next season, so whether the franchise was in the playoff race or not, the correct move was to get Manziel in the starting lineup so that he could get his feet wet and commence building a rapport with wide receiver Josh Gordon so the team could hit the ground running in 2015.

Let’s next acknowledge the fact that there was no way Cleveland was winning that football game on Sunday, regardless of who was under center. The AFC North-leading Bengals, a playoff team in four of the past five seasons, had this game circled on the calendar ever since they were embarrassed on their home turf in front of a national audience by the Browns back in early November. Cincinnati entered this contest having won three of its last four outings with a defense that was permitting just 20.6 points per game in 2014 (tenth in NFL). If there was ever a game where revenge played an integral role in the outcome, this was it.

But even though the franchise made the right call in opting for Manziel over Hoyer and despite the fact that this was a showdown the Browns were unlikely to win, the first-year signal-caller is still taking a Mayweather-like beating in the media for playing like a rookie quarterback who was making his first career start. Is it perhaps just the slightest bit possible that once again a drastic overreaction is taking place in regards to a situation that was both predictable and common amongst those thrust into a similar set of circumstances?

The heat Manziel took following Sunday’s loss was nowhere near the level of scrutiny paid to fellow rookie quarterbacks Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, all of whom have produced just as dreadful stat lines during their respective inaugural campaigns. But the difference between those three quarterbacks and Manziel is that neither Carr nor Bortles nor Bridgewater gave the media any ammunition with which to use against them when the going got tough. Remember, Manziel is the guy with the big ego, bad attitude and arrogant swagger. He’s an easy target and it’s largely his own fault. If anything, the former Heisman Trophy winner’s approach to his post-collegiate career should serve as a lesson in how not to act when you’ve yet to win anything at the professional level.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this is still a 22-year-old kid who was making his first career start against one of the best teams in the league. It was a poor performance with a disastrous result, but that doesn’t mean Manziel is a bust, just like a stellar outing and a win over Cincinnati wouldn’t have made Johnny Football the next Tom Brady.

Sometimes one game is simply that and nothing more.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated Super Bowl odds: Patriots back on top

It feels like a lifetime ago when the fans and national media alike had left Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for dead following a horrific 41-14 Monday night loss at Kansas City in which the future Hall of Fame quarterback threw for just 159 yards with two interceptions.

Fast

It feels like a lifetime ago when the fans and national media alike had left Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for dead following a horrific 41-14 Monday night loss at Kansas City in which the future Hall of Fame quarterback threw for just 159 yards with two interceptions.

Fast forward 11 weeks and the situation couldn’t have been further from the truth, as the Patriots have ripped off nine wins over their last ten games, have already put a bow on the AFC East and find themselves in a race with Denver and Indianapolis for the top overall seed in the AFC playoffs.

It just goes to show that maybe before we hit that little “tweet” button, we should re-think what’s being sent out into the abyss of the internet.

However, as the Patriots have surged, others have fallen. The San Francisco 49ers, a participant in each of the last three NFC Championship games, are no longer on the board at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook after being eliminated from postseason contention with Sunday’s 17-7 loss at Seattle. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers slipped from the Super Bowl favorite of 5/2 to 9/2 after being upset 21-13 at Buffalo this past weekend.

As for our early December value play (Baltimore), the Ravens have jumped from 40/1 to 30/1 now that John Harbaugh’s crew is in control of its own destiny.

Note: The odds in parenthesis indicate where each team was listed back on August 25.

New England Patriots: 5/2 (8/1)
Seattle Seahawks: 3/1 (9/2)
Green Bay Packers: 9/2 (10/1)
Denver Broncos: 5/1 (5/1)
Dallas Cowboys: 12/1 (75/1)
Arizona Cardinals: 16/1 (40/1)
Indianapolis Colts: 16/1 (20/1)
Detroit Lions: 20/1 (40/1)
Philadelphia Eagles: 25/1 (25/1)
Baltimore Ravens: 30/1 (25/1)
Cincinnati Bengals: 30/1 (20/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 30/1 (20/1)
New Orleans Saints: 50/1 (7/1)
Carolina Panthers: 60/1 (60/1)
Kansas City Chiefs: 80/1 (50/1)
Atlanta Falcons: 100/1 (60/1)
San Diego Chargers: 100/1 (30/1)
Buffalo Bills: 200/1 (60/1)
Houston Texans: 500/1 (25/1)
Miami Dolphins: 500/1 (50/1)
Cleveland Browns: 1000/1 (100/1)

OFF THE BOARD

San Francisco 49ers (10/1)
Chicago Bears (20/1)
New York Giants (40/1)
Washington Redskins (50/1)
St. Louis Rams (75/1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100/1)
Tennessee Titans (100/1)
New York Jets (60/1)
Minnesota Vikings (100/1)
Jacksonville Jaguars (200/1)
Oakland Raiders (100/1)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 15 SURVIVOR PICKS

–At this point in the season, I really have no clue which teams you guys have left to use in survivor. So rather than throw out what will likely amount to repeat selections, hit me up on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh and we can talk it through from there. Best of luck!

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 6-7-1

Last week: Houston Texans (-4.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars (won)

This week: Cincinnati Bengals (+1) at Cleveland Browns

Analysis: Johnny Football gets the start, the Bengals get their revenge. Cincinnati was humiliated on their home turf by this Browns team on a Thursday night last month in a game in which Andy Dalton and company mustered just three points and 165 total yards of offense. After that wakeup call, the Bengals promptly ripped off three straight road victories to help re-claim the lead in the AFC North. This game has been circled on the calendar for Marvin Lewis and company November 6. Expect a different result this time around.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 2-3

Season: 33-37 (.471)

At this point, the Big Puma and I are simply playing for pride, assuming there is some left to be earned by closing strong over these final few weeks. In either case, here’s our card for Week 15:

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-6.5) vs. Houston Texans
NEW YORK GIANTS (-6.5) vs. Washington Redskins
BUFFALO BILLS (+4.5) vs. Green Bay Packers
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-10) vs. San Francisco 49ers
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-3) vs. Dallas Cowboys

CLICK HERE to check out all of the current lines.

START ‘EM UP

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (at Philadelphia): The Dallas signal-caller is completing a staggering 69.1 percent of his passes this season (career-high) and is coming off a three-touchdown outing against the sinking ship known as the Chicago Bears. But the real upside here is twofold: First, Romo and the Cowboys are on ten days rest heading into a revenge game against a Philadelphia team that embarrassed the Cowboys in their own building back on Thanksgiving. Second, the Eagles currently rank 26th in the NFL in pass defense (258.1 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 23.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-most in NFL). The Las Vegas over/under for this rematch is set at 55.5, so expect to see some fireworks on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers (vs. Tampa Bay): Stewart carried the ball a season-high 20 times last week in New Orleans in a breakout effort that resulted in 155 rushing yards and one score. Don’t look now, but the Oregon product is averaging an otherworldly 7.5 yards per carry over his last two outings, which were road dates at Minnesota and New Orleans. Look for another tasty stat line Sunday in Charlotte against a miserable Tampa Bay defense that currently ranks 20th in the NFL against the run (115.8 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 21.2 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eighth-most in NFL).

Jonathan StewartWeek 15 offers up a great spot for Jonathan Stewart.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Houston): Moncrief has hauled in just 27 passes so far through his rookie campaign, but we have a feeling that the Mississippi product could be headed for a big outing in Week 15. Note that while Reggie Wayne is expected to play, the veteran Pro Bowler is dealing with a torn triceps and will likely prove to be highly ineffective against the Texans secondary. That leaves T.Y. Hilton as the other Indianapolis receiver, who has shredded Houston for 31 receptions for 611 yards and six touchdowns in five career meetings against the club. The Texans are all too familiar with this stat line, so expect Houston to roll safety help over the top of Hilton in an effort to neutralize the three-year veteran, opening up the field for Moncrief to make it rain. Take note that in addition to everything you just read, Houston is currently surrendering an average of 27.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-most in NFL).

Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Jacksonville): Considered nothing more than additional depth on an NFL depth chart prior to the start of the season, Forsett has taken every advantage afforded him in 2014 to rank third in the NFL in rushing with just three games to play (1,080 yards). Through his last four outings, the California product has amassed a healthy 471 rushing yards on 79 carries (5.96 YPC) with five trips to pay dirt. We expect the good times to continue Sunday against a Jacksonville defense that currently ranks 28th in the league against the run (132.5 yds/gm) while giving up an average of 22.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (sixth-most in NFL).

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (at Atlanta): Bryant is coming off a stellar performance against the Cincinnati Bengals (4-109-1) and by all accounts has moved ahead of Markus Wheaton on the Pittsburgh depth chart. This means more targets and more touches, which couldn’t come at a better time as the Steelers head to Atlanta on Sunday to challenge a Falcons defense that is on short rest, currently ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass (287.8 yds/gm) and is permitting an average of 26.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans (vs. NY Jets): It’s a gamble simply because the Tennessee Titans are so damn bad, but Sunday’s matchup with the New York Jets is definitely worth considering. The Titans will make the switch at quarterback from the injured Zach Mettenberger to Jake Locker, so the hope is that the Washington product checks down to his reliable tight end when things get dicey in the pocket. After all, the Jets are currently surrendering an average of 10.3 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Cleveland Browns, D/ST (vs. Cincinnati Bengals): The obvious choices (Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit) are all owned at a high percentage and thus, not worth mentioning. But for those of you looking to stream a widely available D/ST (34% owned in Yahoo! leagues) in Week 15, take a look at the Cleveland Browns. Mike Pettine’s crew is giving up an average of just 20.8 points per game this season (11th-best in NFL) and has already forced 26 turnovers (third in NFL). In addition, this is the same unit that held the Bengals to just three points and 165 total yards of offense in Cincinnati back on November 6. You could do worse.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns (vs. Cincinnati): There will be some highlights and there will be some lowlights in Manziel’s first career start, which comes against a revenge-minded Cincinnati defense that is permitting an average of just 18.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-fewest in NFL). Look for the former Heisman Trophy winner to pick up some quality yards with his feet, but to struggle through the air as the Bengals bring the heat. Not the worst of options on the board, but the final result won’t justify the hype.

All San Diego running backs (vs. Denver): Ryan Mathews (ankle) is banged up, Donald Brown has never lived up to his first-round billing and Branden Oliver has apparently fallen from grace after torching opposing defenses earlier this season. That’s a bad combination to feature when walking into a divisional rivalry against a Broncos defense that currently ranks second in the NFL against the run (72.8 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of just 14.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). If Mathews plays, he won’t handle the full workload. If Mathews sits, Brown and Oliver will split the reps. Nothing good comes from this scenario.

Johnny ManzielAll eyes will be on Manziel Sunday in Cleveland.

Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins (at New England): The warm weather Wallace has scored just one touchdown over his last four outings and has yet to top 81 receiving yards in a game this season, so it’s difficult to like his chances Sunday in New England against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots. This is a classic case of a guy who has failed to produce going up against extremely stiff competition, meaning there’s very little upside here.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (at Buffalo): Lacy has been an absolute beast over the second half of the season, but it’s worth mentioning that both the situation and the matchup in Week 15 warrant a tapering of expectations. For starters, the Packers are working on a short week and traveling to Buffalo to play a non-conference opponent. Second, the Bills currently rank eighth in the NFL against the run (99.2 yds/gm) while giving up an average of just 14.6 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (sixth-fewest in NFL). This isn’t a doomsday scenario for Lacy owners by any stretch, but it’s not going to be easy rolling up a gaudy stat line in this spot.

All San Francisco wide receivers (at Seattle): The 49ers have a banged up offensive line that has permitted 43 sacks this season (third-most in NFL), a quarterback with no confidence who is in the midst of a horrific regression (QB rating of 85.1, 23rd in NFL) and a Week 15 date in Seattle against the best and most aggressive defense in football. You’ve got two teams trending in opposite directions here and it’s only going to get worse for Niner Nation as their soon-to-be ex-head coach and struggling offense get taken behind the woodshed Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Stay away from everybody in red and gold this weekend.

Coby Fleener/Dwayne Allen, TEs, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Houston): They’re cutting into each other’s targets and face a Houston defense on Sunday that is surrendering an average of just 5.4 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). There are better options with more favorable upside out there (Larry Donnell, Delanie Walker).

Houston Texans, D/ST (at Indianapolis): The Texans currently rank fifth in fantasy scoring at the D/ST position, but this is not the week to ride with J.J. Watt and company. Andrew Luck has led the Colts to 25 or more points in each of the team’s last four outings against Houston, with a grand total of just three turnovers committed. In addition, the Colts are averaging a rock-solid 425.0 total yards and 29.5 points per game at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2014, so you know the venue suits the situation.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Las Vegas market report

This is normally the spot reserved for our weekly college football betting primer, but unless you guys are looking for a breakdown of Friday night’s highly anticipated Tennessee-Chattanooga at New Hampshire matchup, the college card is a bit thin this week to warrant a full-on breakdown. So from now through the Super Bowl, we’ll

This is normally the spot reserved for our weekly college football betting primer, but unless you guys are looking for a breakdown of Friday night’s highly anticipated Tennessee-Chattanooga at New Hampshire matchup, the college card is a bit thin this week to warrant a full-on breakdown. So from now through the Super Bowl, we’ll dedicate Wednesdays to our NFL Las Vegas market report, with the college football primer returning just before the start of bowl season.

2014 SNAPSHOT

Home teams: 104-100-4 (.509)
Favorites: 100-104-4 (.490)
Home favorites: 70-70-2 (.500)
Home dogs: 34-30-2 (.531)
Overs: 104-103 (.502)

New York Jets (2-11, 0-6 road) at Tennessee Titans (2-11, 1-5 home)

When: Sunday, 4:05pm ET
Open: Tennessee -2
Current: New York -1.5

New York in 2014: 3-9-1 ATS
Tennessee in 2014: 3-9-1 ATS

Geno SmithGeno Smith and the Jets are laying points on the road?

Analysis: What does it say about the Tennessee Titans when a lousy, two-win New York Jets team that is 1-4-1 ATS in away games this season travels to Nashville as a 1.5-point road favorite? Embarrassing, to say the least, but the key to this 3.5-point line move has to do with the potentially season-ending shoulder injury sustained by Tennessee quarterback Zach Mettenberger, as well as the fact that the Titans have dropped seven straight contests, the last three of which have come by an average of 24.0 points per matchup. While the Jets are bad in virtually every phase of the game, the Titans are just 4-15-1 ATS over their last 20 games overall and an astounding 1-10-1 ATS over their last 12 home contests. The Jets may stink, but this is still a mildly competitive club that has dropped its last two outings by a combined nine points.

Notable trends: The Jets are 3-8-1 ATS over their last 12 games against teams with a losing record while the Titans are 7-18-1 over their last 26 games played in the month of December.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, 4-3 road) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8, 3-3 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Open: PK
Current: Pittsburgh -2.5

Pittsburgh in 2014: 6-7 ATS
Atlanta in 2014: 6-7 ATS

Analysis: The Falcons are operating on a short week here having played on Monday night at Green Bay, but the real concern is the availability of superstar wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) who was injured late in Week 14 after torching the Green Bay secondary for a career-high 259 receiving yards and one touchdown on 11 receptions. Atlanta has virtually no running game to speak of (23rd in NFL), so the absence of Jones would deal a serious blow to Matt Ryan and a Falcons offense that is backed up by the worst defense in the National Football League (410.8 yds/gm). However, it’s imperative bettors note that this is a non-conference game for the Steelers that is taking place one week before a two-game home stand that will feature matchups with playoff contenders Kansas City and Cincinnati. It’s won’t be easy to lay points on an inconsistent Pittsburgh club that is just 2-5 ATS over its last seven games following a win.

Notable trends: The Steelers are 5-12 ATS over their last 17 games following a win of more than 14 points while the Falcons are 5-1 ATS over their last six games played in the month of December.

San Francisco 49ers (7-6, 4-3 road) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4, 5-1 home)

When: Sunday, 4:25pm ET
Open: Seattle -7.5
Current: Seattle -9.5

San Francisco in 2014: 6-7 ATS
Seattle in 2014: 7-6 ATS

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks have owned the 49ers as of late.

Analysis: What was just recently considered to be the best rivalry in football has the potential to turn into a bloodbath Sunday afternoon as two teams heading in completely opposite directions square off at CenturyLink Field. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the midst of a horrific regression and head coach Jim Harbaugh likely headed to another team at the conclusion of the regular season, the 49ers are spiraling out of control at an alarming rate after getting blown out at home by this same Seahawks team on Thanksgiving before laying an egg against the 2-11 Raiders in Oakland last Sunday. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are peaking at just the right time, with six wins over their last seven contests, the last three of which have come by an average of 14.0 points per game. This Seattle front four should have its way with a San Francisco offensive line that is in shambles at the moment. Also note that the 49ers are 0-6 ATS over their last six meetings with the Seahawks and 1-5 ATS in their last six trips to Seattle.

Notable trends: The 49ers are 1-4 ATS over their last five games against teams with a winning record while the Seahawks are 20-7 ATS over their last 27 games against teams with a winning record.

Arizona Cardinals (10-3, 3-3 road) at St. Louis Rams (6-7, 3-3 home)

When: Thursday, 8:25pm ET
Open: St. Louis -3
Current: St. Louis -4.5

Arizona in 2014: 9-4 ATS
St. Louis in 2014: 7-6 ATS

Analysis: This is one of the most significant moves of the week as a 10-win Arizona team is traveling to St. Louis to play a six-win Rams team that is laying more than the customary three points for home field advantage. In fact, this game opened on the key number of three, but was hit early in the Rams’ favor, which should be sounding off the alarms to all who are in the vicinity. As to the reason for the move? For starters, the Cardinals have dropped two of their last three outings, barely got by Kansas City at home last Sunday and are averaging an anemic 12.6 points per game during that stretch. That’s largely due to the fact that quarterback Drew Stanton is completing only 54.5 percent of his passes on the season with just two touchdowns and three interceptions over his last three outings. Additionally, go back to the last time these two teams got together on November 9 and look at the box score. Despite a final of 31-14 in Arizona’s favor, St. Louis was trailing only 17-14 with just under eight minutes to play before a late meltdown paved the way for a Cardinals cover. As for St. Louis, note that the Rams have won four of their last six matchups, have pitched two consecutive shutouts (Oakland, at Washington) and have covered the number in four straight games.

Notable trends: The Cardinals are 0-4 ATS over their last four Thursday games while St. Louis is 1-4 ATS over their last five Thursday games.

Minnesota Vikings (6-7, 2-4 road) at Detroit Lions (9-4, 6-1 home)

When: Sunday, 1:25pm ET
Open: Detroit -7
Current: Detroit -8

Minnesota in 2014: 8-5 ATS
Detroit in 2014: 7-6 ATS

Calvin JohnsonCalvin Johnson and the Lions have smoked the competition over the last two weeks.

Analysis: Outside of Green Bay at Buffalo, this game has a really good chance of being the most heavily teased matchup of the week (Detroit from -8 to -2). The early money has come in on the Lions and pushed this line off the key number of 7 to -8, despite the fact that Minnesota has won four of its last six games while covering the number in six of its last seven contests overall. Why? For starters, take a good look at the Vikings’ record and you’ll notice that even though the team has been surging as of late, Minnesota is 0-5 this season against teams with a winning record while being outscored 130-57 (losing by an average of 14.6 pts/gm). That tells us Mike Zimmer and company can handle the league’s inferior competition (like a home overtime win over the Jets last Sunday), but struggle when stepping up in class. On the other side of the field stands the Lions, who have emerged victorious in six of their last eight outings which features back-to-back ass-kickings of the Bears (34-17) and Buccaneers (34-17). In addition, take note the Detroit is 5-1 ATS over its last six encounters with NFC North opposition.

Notable trends: The Vikings are 9-1 ATS over their last ten games played in the month of December while the Lions are 5-2 ATS over their last seven home games.

Houston Texans (7-6, 4-3 road) at Indianapolis Colts (9-4, 5-2 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Open: Indianapolis -7
Current: Indianapolis -6.5

Houston in 2014: 8-5 ATS
Indianapolis in 2014: 9-4 ATS

Analysis: While it’s only a half-point adjustment, this game features a line move off the key number of seven in the Texans’ favor, so it’s absolutely worth noting. These two teams got together in Houston back on October 9 with Andrew Luck and the Colts rolling up 456 yards of offense, yet barely hanging on to claim a 33-28 victory. Perhaps the thinking here is that it will be tough for Indy to knock off a feisty Texans team twice in the same season, or maybe it has to do with Houston trotting out one of the league’s best running back/defense combos, which is a style conducive to tight football games. Either way, it won’t be easy to fade a Colts squad that is 15-2 ATS over their last 17 games following an against the spread loss and 20-6 ATS over their last 26 home dates. Note that Indy will likely be a very popular six-point teaser play in Week 15 (from -6.5 to -.5).

Notable trends: The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these two teams, while the home team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings between these two teams.

THE REST OF THE RUNDOWN

Green Bay Packers at Buffalo Bills: From GB -6 to GB -5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: From CAR -5.5 to CAR -4.5 (Newton)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens: From BAL -12.5 to BAL -13.5
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs: From KC -9.5 to KC -10
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers: From DEN -3.5 to DEN -4
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns: From PK to PK
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: From NE -7.5 to NE -7.5
Washington Redskins at New York Giants: From NYG -6.5 to NYG -6.5
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: From PHI -3.5 to PHI -3.5
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears: From NO -3 to NO -3

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Be careful what you wish for

When a boat is taking on water, two options arise in regards to rectifying the situation: Assuming the resources exist, one can either patch the leak and attempt a journey to the nearest slice of dirt, or jump ship and hope for the arrival of the Coast Guard before it’s too late.

Despite

When a boat is taking on water, two options arise in regards to rectifying the situation: Assuming the resources exist, one can either patch the leak and attempt a journey to the nearest slice of dirt, or jump ship and hope for the arrival of the Coast Guard before it’s too late.

Despite a 7-6 record and a chance, albeit an infinitesimal one, of qualifying for the postseason, the San Francisco 49ers are taking on water at an alarming rate, a quandary that intensified Sunday afternoon following the team’s stunning 24-13 upset loss at Oakland. What was once a sea vessel of the most stunning magnitude has quickly transformed into a sinking slab of expensive parts no longer recognizable as the spectacular whole they used to comprise.

The problems in San Francisco range from inconsistent quarterback play to a middle-of-the-pack rushing attack, but at its very core involves a disconnect that pits CEO Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke on one side of the divide and head coach Jim Harbaugh on the other. And due to an apparent unwillingness to secure the resources necessary to patch the leak, the 49ers appear headed for a swim in the frigid December temperatures of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

This is a grim situation for the 49ers franchise because head coaches like Jim Harbaugh are few and far between.

Jim HarbaughSince joining the 49ers in 2011, Harbaugh has won 71.6 percent of his regular season games.

In just under four seasons with the organization, the former Stanford head coach has compiled a regular season record of 43-17-1 (.716) and a postseason mark of 5-3 (.625) while guiding the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship game appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl. To put that into perspective, only the New England Patriots (47), Green Bay Packers (44) and Denver Broncos (44) have tasted victory more times in the regular season during that time span than the 49ers, with none of those clubs hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy since Harbaugh arrived in the Bay Area.

The past, however, is simply that and nothing more. What matters now is that the 49ers are preparing for life after Harbaugh because the two sides involved in this ever-growing rift have dug in their heels and opted to jump ship entirely rather than work quickly to identify the resources that may salvage a once great vessel.

This approach is no doubt alarming to the San Francisco faithful, who remember all too well what life was like in the eight years prior to the arrival of the “Captain Comeback.”

Before taking a chance on the hot-tempered, ultra competitive head coach from Stanford, the 49ers went eight seasons with neither a postseason appearance nor a winning record. From 2003-2010, this was a franchise that posted a 46-82 mark during the regular season (just three more wins than Harbaugh has produced in less than four years) under three head coaches (four, if you count Jim Tomsula’s two-game interim stint in 2010), each of whom was canned prior to reaching four full years with the organization. The 49ers were a model of both instability and inconsistency long removed from the legendary runs of the Bill Walsh and George Seifert eras.

Harbaugh, mind you, will be fine, as the soon-to-be 51-year-old will be rescued by his choice of more-than-willing vessels looking to snag one of the best and brightest in the business. In fact, Harbaugh’s resume speaks so loudly that he may not even have to hire a moving truck if the allure of the Silver & Black from across the bay turns out to be too much to pass up.

The 49ers, on the other hand, will cast aside a situation franchises like the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and several others would willingly embrace if it meant experiencing a run similar to the one San Francisco has enjoyed over the last four years.

Honestly, you don’t think the Buccaneers would trade out of their current situation for the “problems” San Francisco is dealing with at the moment, especially if it meant playing in three straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl?

Of course they would. Because winning trumps all and while the 49ers may not be winning at the same rate now as they have over the last three seasons, that body of work should be more than enough to overcome the issues that have distracted the team from enjoying continued success in 2014.

But right now, none of that matters in San Francisco because the 49ers aren’t looking to patch the hole, they’re looking to jump ship.

Even if that means waiting another eight years for the Coast Guard to arrive.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated Super Bowl odds: 49ers, Chiefs plummet

As the dust settled at O.co Coliseum Sunday afternoon shortly after the Oakland Raiders put the finishing touches on a 24-13 upset of Bay Area rival San Francisco, the harsh reality of life without a place in the postseason set in for the 49ers.

Entering Week 14 with a record of 7-5 and

As the dust settled at O.co Coliseum Sunday afternoon shortly after the Oakland Raiders put the finishing touches on a 24-13 upset of Bay Area rival San Francisco, the harsh reality of life without a place in the postseason set in for the 49ers.

Entering Week 14 with a record of 7-5 and listed at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook at a reasonable 30/1 to win this season’s Super Bowl, the 49ers plummeted to 100/1 after falling to a Raiders organization that claimed just its second victory of the season on Sunday.

Similar sentiments were felt to the south, where the Kansas City Chiefs—who entered Sunday’s clash at Arizona listed at 50/1 with a 7-5 record—lost a 17-14 heartbreaker to the Cardinals to drop to 200/1 on the Westgate board.

You’ll find the entire rundown of the Westgate’s updated Super Bowl odds below. As we mentioned last week, we like the value in playing the Baltimore Ravens at 40/1, who are currently 8-5 and finish the 2014 regular season vs. Jacksonville (Week 15), at Houston (Week 16) and vs. Cleveland (Week 17).

Note: The odds in parenthesis indicate where each team was listed back on August 25.

Green Bay Packers: 5/2 (10/1)
New England Patriots: 7/2 (8/1)
Seattle Seahawks: 7/2 (9/2)
Denver Broncos: 9/2 (5/1)
Indianapolis Colts: 16/1 (20/1)
Philadelphia Eagles: 16/1 (25/1)
Arizona Cardinals: 18/1 (40/1)
Dallas Cowboys: 18/1 (75/1)
Detroit Lions: 25/1 (40/1)
Baltimore Ravens: 40/1 (25/1)
Cincinnati Bengals: 40/1 (20/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 40/1 (20/1)
New Orleans Saints: 40/1 (7/1)
Atlanta Falcons: 60/1 (60/1)
San Diego Chargers: 60/1 (30/1)
Carolina Panthers: 100/1 (60/1)
Houston Texans: 100/1 (25/1)
Miami Dolphins: 100/1 (50/1)
San Francisco 49ers: 100/1 (10/1)
Cleveland Browns: 200/1 (100/1)
Kansas City Chiefs: 200/1 (50/1)
Buffalo Bills: 300/1 (60/1)
Minnesota Vikings: 2000/1 (100/1)
St. Louis Rams: 2000/1 (75/1)

OFF THE BOARD

Chicago Bears (20/1)
New York Giants (40/1)
Washington Redskins (50/1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100/1)
Tennessee Titans (100/1)
New York Jets (60/1)
Jacksonville Jaguars (200/1)
Oakland Raiders (100/1)

Hit me up on Twitter: @

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Updated CFB title odds & opening lines

The inaugural four-team college football playoff is set. Whether you agree with the decision to select Ohio State over TCU and Baylor or not, the bottom line is that it’s time to start looking ahead to January 1.

Shortly after the playoff announcement was made on Sunday, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released

The inaugural four-team college football playoff is set. Whether you agree with the decision to select Ohio State over TCU and Baylor or not, the bottom line is that it’s time to start looking ahead to January 1.

Shortly after the playoff announcement was made on Sunday, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released their updated championship odds and opening point spreads, which you will find below.

CURRENT COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS

Alabama Crimson Tide: Even
Oregon Ducks: 8/5
Ohio State Buckeyes: 7/1
Florida State Seminoles: 8/1

OPENING POINT SPREADS

Sugar Bowl: Alabama (-9.5) vs. Ohio State

Rose Bowl: Oregon (-8.5) vs. Florida State

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 13 SURVIVOR PICKS

–At this point in the season, I really have no clue which teams you guys have left to use in survivor. So rather than throw out what will likely amount to repeat selections, hit me up on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh and we can talk it through from there. Best of luck!

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 5-7-1

Last week: Arizona Cardinals (-1.5) over Atlanta Falcons (loss)

This week: Houston Texans (-4.5 at MGM) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Analysis: Three cheers for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who won for just the second time this season and third time at home since the commencement of the Gus Bradley era with last Sunday’s 25-24 comeback victory over the reeling New York Giants. Now that we’ve got that little introduction out of the way, let’s talk about why the Houston Texans are going to cover the number in this football game. For starters, Houston has already forced an NFL-best 28 turnovers this season, while Jacksonville has given the ball away 24 times through just 12 games (24th in NFL). In addition, the Texans are 5-2 ATS over their last seven road games and 4-1 ATS over their last five outings against teams with a losing record. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is 3-10-2 ATS over its last 15 games overall and 17-36-1 ATS over its last 54 home dates.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 1-4

Season: 31-34 (.476)

Brutal two-week stretch for myself and the Big Puma that dealt a swift and decisive blow to any chance—no matter how absurd—we had of finishing in the money this season. We’ll be back with a revamped game plan in 2015, but for now the goal is to close out this campaign with as much gusto as possible.

HOUSTON TEXANS (-5.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-12.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
DETROIT LIONS (-9.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TENNESSEE TITANS (PK) vs. New York Giants

CLICK HERE to check out all of the current lines.

START ‘EM UP

Kyle Orton, QB, Buffalo Bills (at Denver): The nine-year veteran’s numbers have taken a hit in recent weeks due largely to the fact that rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been playing with a hip injury, but we still feel strongly about Orton’s prospects in Denver on Sunday. For starters, there’s a good chance that Peyton Manning and the Broncos get out to an early lead on Buffalo, forcing Orton and the Bills to put the ball in the air at a frequent pace. In addition, the Denver defense is currently surrendering an average of 21.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL), so it’s not as if this will be the stiffest challenge Orton has faced in 2014.

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions (vs. Tampa Bay): Come Sunday against the Buccaneers, Bell will be 10 days removed from a season-high 23-carry Thanksgiving day performance against the Chicago Bears that resulted in 91 rushing yards and two scores. Owners are advised to ride the 229-pound back for the second week in a row as Bell and the Lions challenge a Tampa defense that currently ranks 19th in the NFL against the run (116.0 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 20.6 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (10th-most in NFL).

Eddie LacyLacy should see 20+ carries against the Falcons on Monday night.

Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina): In the two games New Orleans has played since losing rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks (thumb) for the season, second-year pass-catcher Kenny Stills has hauled in 13 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown on a respectable 15 targets. Owners should anticipate another solid stat line from the Oklahoma product on Sunday against a Carolina defense that is leaking out 27.6 points per game (29th in NFL) while permitting an average of 25.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (eighth-most in NFL).

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (vs. Atlanta): The Alabama product has carried the ball a healthy 46 times over his last two games with trips to the end zone via the ground & pound in two of his last three starts. But what’s surprising here is that Lacy has become a big factor in the Green Bay passing attack as well, with 21 receptions and three scores over his last six contests. Look for another solid effort Monday night against an Atlanta Falcons defense that is currently permitting an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL). Lacy should become the beneficiary of plenty of second half rushing attempts courtesy of a sizeable Packers lead.

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (vs. Tampa Bay): Despite his role as the No. 2 receiver in Detroit behind Pro Bowler Calvin Johnson, Tate currently ranks sixth in the NFL in both targets (116) and receptions (80). Additionally, the former Seattle Seahawk has been targeted at least ten times in seven of his last nine starts, so you know the opportunities will be there. That’s a big time plus in Week 14 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their leaking faucet of a secondary come to Ford Field having surrendered an average of 25.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (sixth-most in NFL).

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (vs. NY Jets): The Notre Dame product comes with limited upside due to the presence of inconsistent rookie signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater, but for those of you who failed to land one of the “Big Three” (Gronk, Graham, Thomas) back in August, Rudolph makes for a nice option in Week 14. For starters, the four-year veteran is averaging a respectable 5.5 fantasy points per game (standard scoring) since coming back from groin surgery. In addition, the New York Jets—who have quit on the season—are currently surrendering more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than any other team in the business (11.0 pts/gm). Take note that Rudolph is currently still available in 44 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Minnesota Vikings, D/ST (vs. New York Jets): They’re currently available in 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues and play host to the Jets on Sunday. How much more analysis do you need?

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (at Cincinnati): Since Big Ben lit the league on fire with 12 touchdown passes spread out over two games, the two-time Super Bowl winner is averaging just 1.3 TD tosses per start with five interceptions and eight sacks. Expect more of the same Sunday against a Cincinnati defense that is currently surrendering an average of just 17.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). In addition, be advised that Roethlisberger has thrown for one or fewer touchdown passes in ten of his last 11 showdowns with the Bengals.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins (vs. Baltimore): Miller has just one 100-yard rushing effort under his belt this season and has been limited to 15 or fewer carries in 11 of 12 outings this year. That’s not a good sign when entering a Week 14 showdown with a Baltimore Ravens defense that currently ranks fourth in the NFL against the run (86.2 yds/gm) while giving up fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the league (12.7 pts/gm). For as bad as this Baltimore secondary has been in 2014 due to a variety of injuries, the Ravens’ run defense has performed admirably.

Ben RoethlisbergerCincinnati has Big Ben’s number.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (vs. New England): The second-year receiver out of Cal has been red hot over the last two weeks, catching 17 passes for 225 yards and three scores on 24 targets. But Week 14 against cornerback Darrelle Revis and the New England Patriots—who are coming off a loss at Green Bay—is a far greater challenge than what the highly suspect St. Louis and Baltimore secondaries offered. Take note that the Patriots are giving up an average of just 19.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fourth-fewest in NFL).

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills (at Denver): Believe it or not, last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns was the first time in 2014 that Jackson carried the ball more than 12 times in a game (21 rushing attempts). Unfortunately for the eight-year veteran, those 21 carries resulted in just 70 yards with no touchdowns. Take a pass on Jackson and all of the other Buffalo running backs in Week 14 due to the fact that A) The Bills will likely be throwing all game in an effort to stay close to Peyton Manning and B) The Broncos defense is currently surrendering an average of just 14.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this year (fifth-fewest in NFL).

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Minnesota): The rookie from Texas A&M had found the end zone six times in four games prior to getting blanked (4-49-0) against the Bengals in Week 13. Unfortunately, we think Evans is in for more of the same Sunday at Minnesota against a Vikings defense that currently ranks sixth against the pass (219.1 yds/gm) while permitting an average of just 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (13th-fewest in NFL). Remember, Evans and the Buccaneers are a warm weather team heading outdoors for a very cold game December game.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (at New Orleans): The Panthers have quit on the season and Olsen hasn’t found the end zone since October 12 (six games). That’s a bad combination of factors when traveling to New Orleans to play a Saints defense that—despite looking absolutely hideous at times—is surrendering an average of just 5.0 fantasy points per contest to opposing tight ends this season (second-fewest in NFL).

Seattle Seahawks, D/ST (at Philadelphia): Seattle has held the opposition to 20 or fewer points in each of its last three outings with six turnovers and seven sacks. That’s an impressive run, but Week 14 offers up a different set of circumstances as the Seahawks have to travel across the country to face Chip Kelly’s well-rested Eagles team. Take note that Philadelphia has won ten straight matchups at home while scoring an average of 35.6 points per game.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 15 college football betting primer

Bowl season can’t come soon enough as the 2014 college football campaign is about to put a bow on the impressive ass-kicking it handed me over the last three months. This week’s card features a mix of dogs and favorites, most likely in the incorrect order.

Last week: 1-5

Season:

Bowl season can’t come soon enough as the 2014 college football campaign is about to put a bow on the impressive ass-kicking it handed me over the last three months. This week’s card features a mix of dogs and favorites, most likely in the incorrect order.

Last week: 1-5

Season: 33-46 (.417)

Central Florida Knights (8-3, 2-2 road) at East Carolina Pirates (8-3, 5-0 home)

When: Thursday, 7:30pm ET
Open: East Carolina -5.5
Current: East Carolina -7 (Westgate)

Central Florida in 2014: 7-4 ATS, 6-5 to the UNDER
East Carolina in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 6-5 to the UNDER

<p> Analysis: In Central Florida’s 15 losses suffered since 2011, ten have come by seven or fewer points, with two of the larger defeats coming at the hands of a 14th-ranked Ohio State team and 20th-ranked Missouri club. This is a strong Knights defense that is surrendering an average of just 166.2 passing yards per game this season with only 12 aerial touchdowns permitted. Keep that in mind when you consider the fact that the strength of the ECU offense is the passing game, as the Pirates are averaging 364.6 passing yards per contest in 2014 with 26 touchdowns. In addition, Central Florida is 4-1 ATS over its last five showdowns with East Carolina and 4-1 ATS over its last five games overall, while ECU has covered the number just one time over its last seven outings.

Notable trends: Central Florida is 6-0 ATS over its last six games played on a Thursday while East Carolina is 0-4 ATS over its last four games played on a Thursday.

Pick: Central Florida (+7)

Bowling Green Falcons (7-5, 3-3 road) at Northern Illinois Huskies (10-2, 4-1 home)

When: Friday, 7:00pm ET
Open: Northern Illinois -6
Current: Northern Illinois -6 (Westgate)

Bowling Green in 2014: 4-7-1 ATS, 7-5 to the UNDER
Northern Illinois in 2014: 6-6 ATS, 9-3 to the UNDER

Analysis: This is a rematch of last year’s MAC title game in which a 47-27 upset win for the Falcons crushed Northern Illinois’ dreams of a BCS bowl game (NIU was 12-0 entering the MAC Championship) while simultaneously ending the Huskies’ 25-game conference winning streak. So it’s safe to say that Northern Illinois will have revenge on its mind when these two get together Friday at Ford Field in Detroit. NIU enters the conference championship with a turnover differential of +10 while having won six straight contests by an average of 7.5 points per game. Meanwhile, Bowling Green heads to Detroit having lost two-straight to Toledo and Ball State, who are a combined 13-11 on the season.

Notable trends: Bowling Green is 2-6-1 ATS over its last nine games on turf while Northern Illinois is 7-3 ATS over its last ten games following an against the spread win.

Pick: Northern Illinois (-6)

#7 Arizona Wildcats (10-2, 4-1 road) at #2 Oregon Ducks (11-1, 6-1 home)

When: Friday, 9:00pm ET
Open: Oregon -13.5
Current: Oregon -14 (MGM)

Arizona in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 8-4 to the UNDER
Oregon in 2014: 8-4 ATS, 6-5-1 to the OVER

Marcus MariotaUS PRESSWIREMarcus Mariota is one game away from the Heisman Trophy and college football playoffs.

Analysis: Oregon’s lone defeat of the 2014 season—a loss, mind you, that many thought would derail the Ducks’ national championship hopes—came against this very same Arizona squad that became just the third team to win at Autzen Stadium since 2009 (USC and Stanford are the others). Since that setback, the Ducks have been destroying the competition, winning and covering seven straight contests by an average of 24.2 points per game. The Wildcats have had a mighty fine season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, but while they were gutting out a 42-35 win over in-state rival Arizona State last Saturday, Oregon was cruising to a 47-19 victory over Oregon State. In addition, take note the Arizona is just 1-7 ATS over its last eight games played on grass while Oregon is 14-3 ATS over its last 17 games played on grass.

Notable trends: Arizona is 3-9 ATS over its last 12 games following a win while Oregon is 20-7 ATS over its last 27 games following a win.

Pick: Oregon (-14)

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4, 4-3 road) at Marshall Thundering Herd (11-1, 5-1 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Marshall -12
Current: Marshall -12.5 (Wynn)

Louisiana Tech in 2014: 9-3 ATS, 8-3-1 to the OVER
Marshall in 2014: 8-4 ATS, 7-5 to the OVER

Analysis: Marshall’s dreams of a perfect season and marquee bowl game evaporated faster than summer sweat in the southern Nevada desert last Saturday following a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky. So with their bubble having officially been popped, will the Thundering Herd even bother to show up for this one? That’s an important question to ask because we know Louisiana Tech, who is 20-7 ATS over its last 27 road games, will be coming to play seeing as how this is the school’s first-ever appearance in the Conference USA title game. We’ll take the points here.

Notable trends: Louisiana Tech is 16-5 ATS over its last 21 road games against teams with a winning home record.

Pick: Louisiana Tech (+12.5)

#4 Florida State Seminoles (12-0, 5-0 road) at #11 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2, 5-1 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Florida State -4
Current: Florida State -4 (Westgate)

Florida State in 2014: 3-9 ATS, 8-4 to the UNDER
Georgia Tech in 2014: 8-4 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER

Analysis: Interestingly enough, Florida State’s current 28-game winning streak began on December 1, 2012 with a 21-15 victory over, you guessed it, Georgia Tech. But this Seminoles team has been living on borrowed time, with four of the school’s last five wins coming by five or fewer points. In addition, while Florida State and turnover-prone quarterback Jameis Winston are 3-10 ATS over their last ten games overall, Georgia Tech, fresh off an upset of SEC school Georgia, has covered the number in five straight contests. Also worth noting is the fact that the Yellow Jackets are 3-0-2 ATS over their last five meetings with the Seminoles.

Notable trends: Florida State is 3-9 ATS over its last 12 games following a win while Georgia Tech is 4-0 ATS over its last four conference games.

Pick: Georgia Tech (+4)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated Super Bowl odds: Packers claim top spot

In a Week 13 showdown many pegged as a Super Bowl preview, the Green Bay Packers’ 26-21 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots vaulted the NFC North leaders to the top of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s odds board.

Green Bay, which was available for purchase at 10/1 at the

In a Week 13 showdown many pegged as a Super Bowl preview, the Green Bay Packers’ 26-21 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots vaulted the NFC North leaders to the top of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s odds board.

Green Bay, which was available for purchase at 10/1 at the end of August, now resides at 5/2 and one spot above the New England Patriots (7/2). Super Bowl XLVIII participants Denver (4/1) and Seattle (5/1) follow close behind, with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles nipping at their respective heels at 12/1.

Through 13 weeks, the biggest movers up the board include the Arizona Cardinals (40/1 to 20/1) and Dallas Cowboys (75/1 to 30/1) while the biggest fallers category features Carolina (60/1 to 1000/1) and Pittsburgh (20/1 to 80/1).

The entire rundown can be found below. As for our current list of value plays, we’d take a close look at Baltimore (40/1).

Note: The odds in parenthesis indicate where each team was listed back on August 25.

Green Bay Packers: 5/2 (10/1)
New England Patriots: 7/2 (8/1)
Denver Broncos: 4/1 (5/1)
Seattle Seahawks: 5/1 (9/2)
Philadelphia Eagles: 12/1 (25/1)
Indianapolis Colts: 18/1 (20/1)
Arizona Cardinals: 20/1 (40/1)
Cincinnati Bengals: 20/1 (20/1)
New Orleans Saints: 20/1 (7/1)
Dallas Cowboys: 30/1 (75/1)
Detroit Lions: 30/1 (40/1)
San Diego Chargers: 30/1 (30/1)
San Francisco 49ers: 30/1 (10/1)
Baltimore Ravens: 40/1 (25/1)
Miami Dolphins: 40/1 (50/1)
Kansas City Chiefs: 50/1 (50/1)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 80/1 (20/1)
Atlanta Falcons: 100/1 (60/1)
Cleveland Browns: 100/1 (100/1)
Buffalo Bills: 200/1 (60/1)
Houston Texans: 300/1 (25/1)
Carolina Panthers: 1000/1 (60/1)
Chicago Bears: 2000/1 (20/1)
Minnesota Vikings: 2000/1 (100/1)
St. Louis Rams: 2000/1 (75/1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9999/1 (100/1)

OFF THE BOARD

New York Giants (40/1)
Washington Redskins (50/1)
Tennessee Titans (100/1)
New York Jets (60/1)
Jacksonville Jaguars (200/1)
Oakland Raiders (100/1)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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The fantasy waiver wire report

For those of you reading this article, I’d like to extend a hand in congratulations, as you’ve likely secured a spot in the fantasy postseason. But while qualifying for the playoffs is half the battle, now the real work begins. The fantasy postseason is a different beast as the bottom-feeders have been eliminated and

For those of you reading this article, I’d like to extend a hand in congratulations, as you’ve likely secured a spot in the fantasy postseason. But while qualifying for the playoffs is half the battle, now the real work begins. The fantasy postseason is a different beast as the bottom-feeders have been eliminated and you no longer have the luxury of facing an opponent who starts three players on a bye. Each roster decision must have merit and every waiver wire acquisition must serve a purpose, if only to block your competition from upgrading their respective rosters.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most talked-about available players entering Week 14.

QUARTERBACKS

Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Seattle, owned in 53% of Yahoo! leagues): How is it that Sanchez, who has thrown for over 300 yards in three of four starts this season, is still available in nearly half of all Yahoo! leagues? At the very least, playoff-bound owners should be scrambling to add the Philly signal-caller as a QB2 insurance policy for whichever stud is currently handling the starting duties. Take note that after Sunday’s showdown with Seattle, Sanchez and the Birds host Dallas before hitting the road to play the Redskins and Giants.

Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins (vs. St. Louis, owned in 6% of Yahoo! leagues): The switch from the inconsistent and much-maligned RG3 to McCoy in Week 13 led to a massive surge in offensive production for the Redskins, as Jay Gruden’s squad racked up 425 total yards and 27 points in a 49-27 loss to the Colts. As for McCoy, the journeyman quarterback completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Through three appearances this season, McCoy now boasts a QB rating of 113.5 with four touchdowns, one interception and a completion percentage of 75.3 percent.

Johnny ManzielIs Pettine ready to turn the keys over to Manziel?

Eli Manning, New York Giants (at Tennessee, owned in 59% of Yahoo! leagues): The Titans just put a bow on a defensive performance that included 358 passing yards and six touchdowns surrendered to Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who not too long ago was benched in favor of backup Ryan Mallett. If Fitzpatrick was capable of shredding this ready-for-the-offseason defense, think of what Eli could produce given the fact that the Giants are coming off a humiliating defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars? Risky? Sure. But the Titans are currently surrendering an average of 20.4 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (12th-most in NFL).

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns (vs. Indianapolis, owned in 13% of Yahoo! leagues): Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was benched Sunday in Buffalo after throwing three interceptions in a crucial showdown with the Bills, giving the Cleveland signal-caller five picks with no touchdown passes over his last two outings. That was enough for rookie head coach Mike Pettine, who made the switch to Manziel in the fourth quarter and was rewarded with 63 passing yards, 13 rushing yards and a touchdown in a matchup that ended 26-10 in favor of the home team Bills. Be advised that Pettine has yet to name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s home date with Indianapolis, but also keep in mind that the Colts are permitting an average of 20.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (tenth-most in NFL). What makes Manziel so appeal is the rookie’s ability to rack up fantasy points with his feet. Total boom or bust prospect right here.

RUNNING BACKS

Boom Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at Cleveland, owned in 47% of Yahoo! leagues): It became clear after a Sunday encounter with the Redskins that former top-3 draft pick Trent Richardson has once again lost his hold on the starting job, this time to Ohio State product Herron who picked up 88 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries compared to T-Rich’s 12 yards on the same amount of rushing attempts. Herron is now averaging a rock-solid 7.65 yards per carry over his last two outings and, as a result, should be in line for a bigger share of the workload moving forward. Just be sure to note that the Browns are surrendering an average of just 18.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (15th-most in NFL).

Michael Bush, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Kansas City, owned in 1% of Yahoo! leagues): Starting running back Andre Ellington was knocked out of Sunday’s game at Atlanta with a hip pointer, will not practice on Wednesday and could miss the Cardinals’ Week 14 showdown with the Chiefs as a result. That would open the door for either the newly-acquired Bush or rookie Marion Grice to take charge by handling the bulk of Arizona’s backfield responsibilities. At the very least, look for the 245-pound Bush to handle the goal line and short yardage work this weekend.

Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers (at Oakland, owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues): San Francisco currently ranks 12th in the NFL in rushing (114.8 yds/gm) and has a very favorable matchup this Sunday with crosstown rival Oakland, who is currently surrendering more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the league (24.7 pts/gm). Be advised that the rookie from Ohio State has only carried the ball 75 times this season, but this is more of a recommendation for dynasty and keeper league owners, as it’s very unlikely that longtime ball-carrier Frank Gore is back with the Niners in 2015.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Detroit, owned in 46% of Yahoo! leagues): Don’t be fooled by what you saw Sunday against Cincinnati. Yes, Martin rushed for a season-high 58 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 18 carries in Week 13, but this performance was more the exception than the rule. In fact, Martin is on this list strictly so we could advise fantasy owners to stay away from him, especially when you consider the fact that Tampa is traveling to Detroit this weekend to face a Lions defense that is permitting an average of just 15.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (seventh-fewest in NFL).

WIDE RECEIVERS

Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina, owned in 42% of Yahoo! leagues): In two outings since rookie receiver Brandin Cooks was lost for the season, Stills has caught fire by pulling in 13 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets. Not only is the Oklahoma product worthy of a roster spot, but this guy should be in your starting lineup in Week 14 when he and the Saints host a Panthers defense that is currently surrendering an average of 25.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (eighth-most in NFL).

Kenny StillsStills has caught fire since Cooks was lost for the season.

Jarvis Landy, Miami Dolphins (vs. Baltimore, owned in 41% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from LSU has been targeted ten or more times in three of his last four starts with three touchdowns over his last three outings. But what’s really enticing about Landry is the fact that quarterback Ryan Tannehill is currently playing his best football since turning pro in 2012 and is opting to look Landry’s way more frequently than the high-priced Mike Wallace. In addition, Miami plays host to a banged-up Baltimore secondary on Sunday that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than any other team in the business (29.0 pts/gm).

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans (vs. NY Giants, owned in 1% of Yahoo! leagues): Limited upside here, but note that starting wide receiver Justin Hunter will likely miss Sunday’s game against the Giants due to a lacerated spleen suffered in Week 13 against the Texans. That opens the door for more targets for the speedy Washington, who has found the end zone in two of his last three outings.

Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills (at Denver, owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues): With rookie first-round selection Sammy Watkins struggling, Woods has very quietly elevated his game over the last two weeks by catching 13 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown on a healthy 18 targets. The upside here includes the fact that Watkins is currently battling a hip injury and Sunday’s matchup at Denver opens up the door for a plethora of garbage time statistics.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Kansas City, owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from Pittsburg State has turned 28 targets over his last four outings into a respectable 15 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers aren’t about to set the world on fire, but Brown is a big-play deep threat who is always one catch away from making your entire fantasy week. Currently recommended as a WR3/4 for owners in leagues with 12 or more teams.

Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. NY Jets, owned in 18% of Yahoo! leagues): The Grand Valley State product was on the field for 49 of Minnesota’s 50 offensive snaps in Week 13, lending more credibility to the notion that he has become the Vikings’ top receiver. Granted, Johnson caught just two passes for 41 yards on four targets against the Panthers in Week 13, but he does have a tasty matchup with a New York Jets secondary on Sunday that is currently surrendering an average of 24.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (12th-most in NFL).

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (vs. Atlanta, owned in 11% of Yahoo! leagues): An inconsistent producer due to the presence of established playmakers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, the rookie from Fresno State is coming off a career performance that included six receptions for 121 yards on 11 targets. While it’s tough to roll with Adams in the starting lineup due to a lack of targets (4.5 per game), be advised that Monday night’s home date comes against a horrific Atlanta Falcons secondary that is permitting an average of 25.8 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (fifth-most in NFL).

Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams (at Washington, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): The second-year receiver out of West Virginia followed up last week’s bust-out performance (7-89-1) with another solid effort that included five receptions for 100 yards on just six targets in Week 13 against the Raiders. While we’re still a bit hesitant to jump on this train due to the fact that this is still the St. Louis Rams we’re talking about here, be advised that Bailey’s Week 14 showdown comes against a reeling Washington club that is surrendering an average of 25.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (seventh-most in NFL).

TIGHT ENDS

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (vs. St. Louis, owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues): If only this guy could stay healthy! Reed’s athleticism was on full display in his return to the gridiron Sunday against the Colts as the oft-injured second-year tight end out of Florida hauled in nine passes for 123 yards on 11 targets to stake his claim as one of new quarterback Colt McCoy’s favorite weapons. If you’re an owner who failed to nab one of the Big 3 (Graham, Gronkowski, Thomas) back in August, Reed is worth serious consideration for your TE1 spot.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (vs. NY Jets, owned in 54% of Yahoo! leagues): The Notre Dame product has a limited ceiling due to the growing pains that will sometimes plague rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but Rudolph nabbed three receptions for 50 yards in Week 12 and then caught two passes for seven yards and a touchdown this past Sunday against the Panthers. Not exactly the type of production that will propel your team to the fantasy championship, but stable if you’ve been hit by the injury bug at the TE position.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Minnesota Vikings (vs. NY Jets, owned in 27% of Yahoo! leagues): The Vikings have notched 16 sacks through just six home games this season, but more importantly, this unit plays host to Geno Smith and a New York Jets team that currently ranks 29th in the NFL in total offense (311.5 yds/gm), 30th in scoring (15.8 pts/gm) and 20th in turnovers (20). This will likely be the most aggressively targeted D/ST on waivers this week.

Green Bay Packers (vs. Atlanta, owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues): Not the best unit in the league, but you have to love this matchup as Matt Ryan and the soft as pudding Atlanta Falcons leave the cozy confines of the Georgia Dome to travel north for an outdoor Monday night road date at Lambeau Field. The situation alone dictates this squad be inserted into your starting lineups immediately.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated CFB championship odds: Only 12 remain

Only six meaningful games remain on the 2014 college football schedule as it pertains to the race for the sport’s ultimate prize.

Landon CollinsLandon Collins and the Crimson Tide are your 5/4 favorite entering the SEC championship game.

After defeating Auburn 55-44 last Saturday, the only

Only six meaningful games remain on the 2014 college football schedule as it pertains to the race for the sport’s ultimate prize.

Landon CollinsLandon Collins and the Crimson Tide are your 5/4 favorite entering the SEC championship game.

After defeating Auburn 55-44 last Saturday, the only thing left standing between current favorite Alabama and college football’s inaugural four-team playoff is an SEC championship game date with the Missouri Tigers (25/1). Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks (5/2) will square off Friday night against the Arizona Wildcats (40/1) while the TCU Horned Frogs (4/1) conclude their impressive 2014 campaign with a home date against Iowa State.

Speaking of TCU, the Horned Frogs opened the season at a lofty 200/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook before ripping off ten wins in 11 games to climb to 4/1 and what looks like a spot in the playoff.

Below you’ll find the college football playoff rankings as they were entering last weekend’s slate of action along with the full rundown of odds for the 12 teams still listed on the Westgate’s board.

CFB PLAYOFF RANKINGS ENTERING LAST SATURDAY

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Oregon Ducks
3. Florida State Seminoles
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs
5. TCU Horned Frogs
6. Ohio State Buckeyes
7. Baylor Bears
8. UCLA Bruins
9. Georgia Bulldogs
10. Michigan State Spartans
11. Arizona Wildcats
12. Kansas State Wildcats
13. Arizona State Sun Devils
14. Wisconsin Badgers
15. Auburn Tigers
16. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
17. Missouri Tigers
18. Minnesota Golden Gophers
19. Mississippi Rebels
20. Oklahoma Sooners
21. Clemson Tigers
22. Louisville Cardinals
23. Boise State Broncos
24. Marshall Thundering Herd
25. Utah Utes

FULL RUNDOWN FROM THE WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK

Alabama Crimson Tide: 5/4 (Open: 5/1)
Oregon Ducks: 5/2 (Open: 5/1)
TCU Horned Frogs: 4/1 (Open: 200/1)
Baylor Bears: 8/1 (Open: 20/1)
Florida State Seminoles: 10/1 (Open: 5/2)
Ohio State Buckeyes: 15/1 (Open: 12/1)
Missouri Tigers: 25/1 (Open: 60/1)
Wisconsin Badgers: 30/1 (Open: 25/1)
Arizona Wildcats: 40/1 (Open: 100/1)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: 40/1 (Open: 300/1)
Kansas State Wildcats: 40/1 (Open: 60/1)
Mississippi State Bulldogs: 100/1 (Open: 100/1)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 13 SURVIVOR PICKS

–At this point in the season, I really have no clue which teams you guys have left to use in survivor. So rather than throw out what will likely amount to repeat selections, hit me up on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh and we can talk it through from there. Best of luck!

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 5-6-1

Last week: Green Bay Packers (-9) over Minnesota Vikings (loss)

This week:</strong> Arizona Cardinals (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons

Analysis: Losers of six of their last eight, the Falcons and game management nightmare Mike Smith have dropped three straight home contests and are the proud owners of the NFL’s worst defense. Playing behind one of the league’s most porous offensive lines, quarterback Matt Ryan has already been sacked 23 times this season (12th-most in NFL) and will be under heavy duress Sunday against an Arizona defense that is in a great bounce-back spot following last week’s 19-3 loss at Seattle. Yes, Arizona is traveling to the east coast for this one, but be advised that this game will start at 4:05pm eastern, which helps to combat the time zone difference. In addition, note that Arizona is 7-2 ATS over its last nine road games while Atlanta is 2-6 ATS over its last eight contests overall.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 2-3

Season: 30-30 (.500)

Stop traffic, but the Big Puma and I have a finalized card to share with you guys this week:

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9.5) vs. Washington Redskins
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4.5) vs. New Orleans Saints
ARIZONA CARDINALS (-2.5) at Atlanta Falcons
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+1.5) vs. Denver Broncos
MIAMI DOLPHINS (-6.5) at New York Jets

START ‘EM UP

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins (at NY Jets): Tannehill’s in the midst of the finest season of his three-year professional career, with a 66.1 percent completion percentage and 93.4 QB rating through 11 starts. In addition, the Texas A&M product has tossed two or more touchdown passes in three of his last four starts and has completed over 70.0 percent of his attempts in each of his last four outings. Not only is Tannehill running hot at the moment, but the Miami signal-caller has the luxury of a Week 13 date with a disintegrating New York Jets squad that is currently surrendering an average of 23.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-most in NFL). We love Miami to roll in this spot.

Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. NY Giants): Over his last five starts, Robinson is averaging a healthy 19.0 touches per game with four trips to the end zone. But few outside the fantasy world have noticed the former Michigan quarterback’s rise to the top of the Jaguars’ depth chart at the running back position. However, savvy owners quick enough to land Robinson off waivers have been handsomely rewarded for their foresight and will once again reap a solid return on their investment Sunday when Shoelace and the Jaguars take on a New York Giants defense that currently ranks 31st in the NFL against the run (142.6 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 23.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL).

Ryan TannehillUS PRESSWIREA date with the New York Jets gives Tannehill one of the best matchups on the board for Week 13.

Michael Floyd & John Brown, WRs, Arizona Cardinals (at Atlanta): Coming off a disappointing 19-3 loss at Seattle last Sunday, you know we’re going to get a quality effort from Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. The good news here for the Arizona offense and, specifically, wide receivers Michael Floyd and John Brown, is that the Falcons and their shoddy secondary currently rank dead last in the NFL against the pass (284.1 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 26.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fourth-most in NFL). Those of you who play in deep daily fantasy league tournaments should also keep a close eye on quarterback Drew Stanton.

Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams (vs. Oakland): While the Auburn product has only found the end zone once this season, Mason is averaging a dependable 19.0 rushing attempts per game over his last four starts, one of which resulted in an impressive 113-yard effort against defending AFC Champion Denver. The upside here is relatively limited, but those looking for a good flex play in Week 13 should seriously consider starting Mason, as the Oakland Raiders currently rank 25th in the NFL against the run (126.7 yds/gm) while giving up an average of 22.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. New Orleans): The rookie from Clemson has found the end zone six times through five games this season and is averaging a staggering 20.1 yards per reception on the year. This kid is a home run hitter who should take at least one big play to the house Sunday against a banged up New Orleans defense that currently ranks 23rd in the league against the pass (253.3 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 25.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (eighth-most in NFL). If the Saints could lose three straight games at home, imagine how an outdoor road trip against a non-conference opponent will play out.

Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins (at NY Jets): The fourth-year tight end is currently battling both knee and hamstring injuries, but the word out of Miami is that Clay should be able to go Monday night in New York. That’s good news for fantasy owners in need of help at the tight end position, as no team in the National Football League is giving up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season than the Jets (11.5 pts/gm).

Miami Dolphins, D/ST (at NY Jets): All you need to know here is that the Jets have quit on the season and are turning the keys to the car back over to turnover-prone quarterback Geno Smith.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers (at Baltimore): The San Diego signal-caller got off to a fast start this season, but be advised that Rivers is currently playing with a rib injury and has tossed just two touchdown passes over his last three starts, with four interceptions. Even though the Baltimore defense has been susceptible to the passing game this year, this is a bad spot for the Bolts, who are traveling across the country for a 1:00pm eastern start time. The upside here is minimal, so we advise fantasy owners to look for another quarterback option with a more favorable matchup.

Isaiah Crowell & Terrance West, RBs, Cleveland Browns (at Buffalo): The rookie duo went off last Sunday in Atlanta, but Week 13 offers up a much more daunting challenge than what the Falcons threw on the field in Week 12. Not only will Crowell and West cut into each other’s touches, but take note that the Buffalo Bills currently rank eighth in the NFL against the run (98.4 yds/gm) and are surrendering an average of just 13.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-fewest in NFL). In addition, be advised that the Bills are giving up an average of just 17.5 points per game in home contests this year.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Cincinnati): Jackson has clearly taken a backseat to rookie wideout Mike Evans, as evidenced by the fact that the veteran pass-catcher hasn’t found the end zone since September 28. Look for that streak to continue Sunday against a Bengals defense that is currently surrendering an average of just 16.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-fewest in NFL).

Philip RiversRivers has thrown just two touchdown passes over his last three starts.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (at Baltimore): If we don’t like Rivers, we sure as hell don’t want to start Mathews in Week 13 at Baltimore against a Ravens defense that currently ranks sixth in the NFL against the run (88.3 yds/gm) while giving up fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the business (12.8 pts/gm). Even though Mathews went off for 105 yards and a score last Sunday against St. Louis, the San Diego running back has failed to eclipse 70 rushing yards in three of four starts this season.

Eric Decker & Percy Harvin, WRs, New York Jets (vs. Miami): The Dolphins currently rank fourth in the NFL against the pass (211.7 yds/gm), but the real reason we’re fading both Decker and Harvin in Week 13 is the fact that not only has this Jets team quit on the season, but Geno Smith has been re-inserted into the starting lineup at the quarterback position. Yes, that’s the same Geno Smith who has thrown just seven touchdown passes in 245 attempts this season with ten interceptions and a dismal QB rating of 67.4.

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns (at Buffalo): Cameron isn’t a 100 percent lock to play this weekend (concussion), but even if he does, take note that the Buffalo Bills are permitting an average of just 5.3 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (fourth-fewest in NFL). The upside here is minimal.

Kansas City Chiefs, D/ST (vs. Denver): We fully expect the Chiefs to give Peyton Manning and the Broncos all they can handle Sunday at Arrowhead. That being said, this is still Peyton Manning and the Broncos we’re talking about here. There are better D/ST options with more upside available on waivers.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 14 college football betting primer

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Eat plenty, be safe and enjoy a terrific weekend filled with college football and leftovers.

Last week: 3-3

Season: 32-41 (.438)

Stanford Cardinal (6-5, 2-3 road) at #8 UCLA Bruins (9-2, 3-2 home)

When: Friday, 3:30pm ET
Open: UCLA -4.5
Current: UCLA

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Eat plenty, be safe and enjoy a terrific weekend filled with college football and leftovers.

Last week: 3-3

Season: 32-41 (.438)

Stanford Cardinal (6-5, 2-3 road) at #8 UCLA Bruins (9-2, 3-2 home)

When: Friday, 3:30pm ET
Open: UCLA -4.5
Current: UCLA -5.5 (Westgate)

Stanford in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 8-2 to the UNDER
UCLA in 2014: 4-7 ATS, 6-4-1 to the UNDER

Brett HundleyUCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and the Bruins are still alive in the hunt for the college football playoff.

Analysis: Stanford is bowl eligible at 6-5, which is pretty much where the positive analysis stops when talking about the Cardinal. David Shaw’s ultra-conservative crew has dropped two of its last three and three of its last five en route to the worst regular season this school has experienced since 2008. In addition, Stanford is just 1-5 ATS over its last six road games and 1-5 ATS over its last six contests against teams with a winning record. On the other side of the field stand the Bruins, who have won five straight and are still very much alive for the college football playoff. UCLA takes care of business here and then moves on to next week’s PAC-12 championship.

Notable trends: Stanford is 0-6 ATS over its last six games following a win while UCLA is 8-3 ATS over its last 11 games following an against the spread win.

Pick: UCLA (-5.5)

Michigan Wolverines (5-6, 1-3 road) at #6 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 5-1 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Ohio State -20
Current: Ohio State -20 (MGM)

Michigan in 2014: 4-7 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER
Ohio State in 2014: 7-4 ATS, 9-2 to the OVER

Brady HokeBrady Hoke’s final game at Michigan won’t go well.

Analysis: Michigan head coach Brady Hoke will be out of a job shortly after this game reaches its conclusion, due in no small part to a sloppy football team that has scored fewer than 20 points in six of its last eight contests while amassing a staggering 24 turnovers through 11 games this season. In fact, the Wolverines haven’t played a single game this year without committing at least one turnover. At No. 6 in the college football playoff rankings, Ohio State needs to not only win this game, but make a serious statement in the process against a Michigan program that is 1-5 ATS over its last six trips to the Horseshoe.

Notable trends: Michigan is 1-6 ATS over its last seven games against Ohio State.

Pick: Ohio State (-20)

#4 Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-1, 3-1 road) at #19 Mississippi Rebels (8-3, 6-1 home)

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET
Open: Mississippi State -1
Current: Mississippi State -2 (MGM)

Mississippi State in 2014: 7-4 ATS, 6-5 to the UNDER
Mississippi in 2014: 6-4-1 ATS, 8-2 to the UNDER

Analysis: Mississippi was a national story for a hot minute following a 23-17 upset of Alabama, but the Rebels have gone just 3-3 since with losses to LSU (10-7), Auburn (35-31) and Arkansas (30-0). In addition, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is banged up (ankle) and won’t be anywhere near 100 percent for this season’s Egg Bowl. Despite suffering a 25-20 loss at Alabama two weeks ago, the Bulldogs are still ranked No. 4 in the college football playoff rankings, giving them all the motivation necessary to put a thumping on their in-state rivals. Note that Mississippi State is 5-1 ATS over its last six road dates and 12-4 ATS over its last 16 contests overall, while Mississippi is 0-4 ATS over its last four matchups overall.

Notable trends: Mississippi State is 9-2 ATS over its last 11 conference games while Mississippi is 4-17 ATS over its last 21 games played in the month of November.

Pick: Mississippi State (-2)

Florida Gators (6-4, 3-1 road) at #3 Florida State Seminoles (11-0, 6-0 home)

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET
Open: Florida State -10.5
Current: Florida State -7.5 (Stations)

Florida in 2014: 5-5 ATS, 8-2 to the OVER
Florida State in 2014: 3-8 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER

Jameis WinstonWinston and the Seminoles are looking for their 26th straight victory.

Analysis: Head coach Will Muschamp, whose Gators are 3-8 ATS over their last 11 non-conference games, has already been fired after posting a lackluster 28-20 record in four seasons in Gainesville. But this line is moving quickly in the Gators’ favor for two key reasons: First, Florida State is just 3-8 against the number this season and has a bad habit of playing down to its competition. Second, there’s a line of thinking that Florida gets up for this game in an attempt to send Muschamp out on a high note. I’m calling bullshit on all of that. Saturday night in Tallahassee will likely follow a script we’ve seen many times this season: FSU stumbles early, wakes up in the second half and takes care of business, kicking Muschamp to the curb with nothing but a 1-3 lifetime record against the Seminoles.

Notable trends: The favorite is 13-3 ATS over the last 16 meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Florida State (-7.5)

BYU Cougars (7-4, 3-2 road) at California Golden Bears (5-6, 2-4 home)

When: Saturday, 4:30pm ET
Open: California -3.5
Current: California -4 (Westgate)

BYU in 2014: 4-7 ATS, 7-4 to the OVER
California in 2014: 7-4 ATS, 6-5 to the OVER

Analysis: BYU is headed to the Miami Beach Bowl and has nothing left to play for this season, while this is California’s last shot to get bowl eligible. So you know that both motivation and intensity are on the side of the Golden Bears. Additionally, note that the Cougars are just 2-7 ATS over their last nine games overall and 3-7 ATS over their last ten road games, while the Bears are 5-2 ATS over their last seven outings against teams with a winning record. We love California in this spot.

Notable trends: BYU is 0-4 ATS over its last four games against PAC-12 opposition while California is 4-0 ATS over its last four games after scoring less than 20 points in the previous matchup.

Pick: California (-4)

#15 Auburn Tigers (8-3, 2-2 road) at #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1, 7-0 home)

When: Saturday, 7:45pm ET
Open: Alabama -9.5
Current: Alabama -9 (Wynn)

Auburn in 2014: 4-7 ATS, 6-5 to the OVER
Alabama in 2014: 3-8 ATS, 6-4 to the UNDER

Analysis: Auburn is 1-5 ATS over its last six games overall, but we’re hammering the Crimson Tide in this one based solely on the following video:

Notable trends: The home team is 5-2 ATS over the last seven meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Alabama (-9)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Your turkey day betting primer

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Most of you are already aware of the fact that I am utterly opposed to Thursday night football, but I’ve got no reservations whatsoever about throwing together a three-game slate of divisional matchups once a year for Turkey Day. In 33 years of life on planet Earth, this is without question

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Most of you are already aware of the fact that I am utterly opposed to Thursday night football, but I’ve got no reservations whatsoever about throwing together a three-game slate of divisional matchups once a year for Turkey Day. In 33 years of life on planet Earth, this is without question the best Thanksgiving lineup I’ve ever encountered.

For those of you who have been looking for our weekly college football betting primer, that will go live at the National Football Post on Thursday afternoon. For now, here’s a rundown of what direction I’m leaning for Thanksgiving. Be advised that I don’t love any of these plays, but if you’re going to give me a day off with nothing but turkey, pinot noir and football to fill my time, you can rest assured that I’ll be firing early and often.

Have a terrific holiday and thanks for reading.

Chicago Bears (5-6, 3-3 road) at Detroit Lions (7-4, 4-1 home)

When: Thursday, 12:30pm ET
Open: Detroit -7/46.5
Current: Detroit -7/47
Betting percentages: 66% on Detroit, 66% on the OVER
Weather: Indoors

Chicago in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 6-5 to the OVER
Detroit in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 9-2 to the UNDER

Matthew StaffordStafford and the Lions will bust out of their slump Thursday against Chicago.

Analysis: The Lions return to Ford Field following a disastrous two-game road trip that saw the team get outscored by a combined margin of 48-15 by the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, respectively. But you need to forget about all of that for a moment, as Detroit is 7-1 ATS over its last eight meetings with Chicago and 4-0 ATS over its last four home dates with the Bears. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and company should bust out of their current slump on Thursday against a Chicago club that currently ranks 28th in the NFL in pass defense (260.5 yds/gm) and is 10-21-1 ATS over its last 32 games overall. The Bears had lost five of six games before lackluster wins over bottom-feeders Minnesota (21-13) and Tampa Bay (21-13) stopped the bleeding, but that doesn’t change the fact that this squad is averaging 2.2 turnovers per game over its last five outings. Note that Chicago is 2-10 ATS over its last 12 games against NFC North opposition and 1-5-1 ATS over its last seven Thursday games.

Pick(s): Our top play here is a 6-point teaser with the Lions (-1) and the Seahawks (+7.5). We’re also siding with Detroit (-7) and the UNDER (47)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-3, 2-3 road) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3, 3-3 home)

When: Thursday, 4:30pm ET
Open: Dallas -3/54
Current: Dallas -3 (-120)/55
Betting percentages: 56% on Dallas, 82% on the OVER
Weather: Indoors

Philadelphia in 2014: 7-4 ATS, 8-3 to the OVER
Dallas in 2014: 6-5 ATS, 6-4-1 to the OVER

Tony RomoRomo should have his way with the Philadelphia secondary.

Analysis: The Philadelphia secondary is absolute garbage and will no doubt serve as the team’s Achilles heel when they lose in Dallas on Thursday. Andrew Luck threw for three touchdowns against this unit, Kirk Cousins ran up 427 passing yards and three scores as well, Carson Palmer let loose for 329 yards and two scores and Aaron Rodgers barely broke a sweat racking up 367 yards and three scores in a 53-20 blowout win. With both teams currently sitting at 8-3, this rivalry has all the makings of a season split, with each team defending its home turf. For as much success as Philadelphia has had at Lincoln Financial Field under Chip Kelly, the team is just 2-5 ATS over its last seven road games. In addition, the Eagles are 3-8 ATS over their last 11 games against the Cowboys. Tony Romo should have a field day against this defense.

Pick(s): Dallas (-3) and the OVER (55)

Seattle Seahawks (7-4, 2-3 road) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4, 3-2 home)

When: Thursday, 8:30pm ET
Open: San Francisco -2/41
Current: San Francisco -1.5/40
Betting percentages: 56% on Seattle, 54% on the OVER
Weather: 60 degrees, 0% chance of precipitation, 3 mph winds out of the WNW

Seattle in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 7-4 to the OVER
San Francisco in 2014: 6-5 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER

Colin KaepernickUS PRESSWIREKap and the 49ers have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate.

Analysis: The Seahawks may be 1-4 ATS over their last five road games, but this club is also 5-0 ATS over its last five dates with the San Francisco 49ers. The angle here is that while both teams have been struggling to move the ball as of late, the 49ers have committed nine turnovers of their last six outings while Seattle has been turnover-free in three of its last four contests. In addition, San Francisco is just 2-5 ATS over its last seven home games and 1-4 ATS over its last five games after allowing less than 15 points in the previous matchup. Between two offenses that have really bogged down over the last month, we’ll side with the Super Bowl-winning quarterback who knows how to protect the football.

Pick(s): As mentioned above, a 6-point teaser that features the Lions (-1) and Seahawks (+7.5), as well as Seattle (+1.5) and the UNDER (40)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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The fantasy waiver wire report

The home stretch for season-long fantasy football formats has arrived. Some of you are about to slide comfortably into the postseason while others—myself included—are scratching and clawing for every damn point in an effort to grab a lower seed for a chance at a glorious run to both riches and bragging rights.

In

The home stretch for season-long fantasy football formats has arrived. Some of you are about to slide comfortably into the postseason while others—myself included—are scratching and clawing for every damn point in an effort to grab a lower seed for a chance at a glorious run to both riches and bragging rights.

In addition to scouring the waiver wire for any possible talent to aid in the championship quest, owners should start analyzing the schedule for Weeks 14-17 in an effort to get a jump on the competition.

Because sometimes it all comes down to that one additional point.

QUARTERBACKS

<p> Eli Manning, New York Giants (at Jacksonville, owned in 54% of Yahoo! leagues): Inconsistent with a dash of unpredictability, Manning has an ultra tasty Week 13 matchup against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is permitting an average of 21.0 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (tenth-most in NFL). You can’t trust this guy on a week-to-week basis, but it’s worth noting that Manning has thrown two or more touchdown passes in three of his last five starts and is averaging a healthy 315.0 passing yards per game over his last four outings.

Mark SanchezPlaying in Chip Kelly’s offense, Sanchez has QB1 upside.

Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles (at Dallas, owned in 53% of Yahoo! leagues): While Sunday’s blowout win over Tennessee resulted in just one touchdown pass, the former New York Jet has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his three starts since taking over for the injured Nick Foles. Sanchez is currently quarterbacking the league’s fourth-ranked offense in terms of yardage and third-ranked unit it terms of scoring, so there’s plenty of upside here…especially when you consider the arsenal head coach Chip Kelly has surrounded him with.

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans (at Houston, owned in 4% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from LSU has notched two touchdown tosses in three of his four starts for the Titans while averaging a respectable 271.5 passing yards per game during that same stretch. Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Mettenberger is not going to win you a fantasy championship. But Tennessee is consistently playing from behind, which means garbage time stats are a big plus in this instance. Recommended for owners in two-QB leagues or leagues with more than 12 teams.

RUNNING BACKS

–While he’s currently owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! leagues, if new Minnesota Vikings running back Ben Tate is available in your league, he’s worth an add.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns (at Buffalo, owned in 59% of Yahoo! leagues): It’s utterly astonishing that the rookie from Alabama State is still available in 41 percent of all Yahoo! leagues. Now that free agent acquisition Ben Tate has been dropped from the roster, Crowell has emerged as Cleveland’s top rushing threat with less competition to worry about. That’s a big plus for a power runner who has notched 149 rushing yards on 26 carries (5.73 YPC) with two touchdowns over his last two starts. Crowell currently trails fellow rookie running back Terrance West by 36 rushing attempts on the season, but has amassed just 24 fewer rushing yards than West with four more touchdowns. If this guy is still available in your league, make him a top priority.

LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (at Green Bay, owned in 31% of Yahoo! leagues): Rookie running back Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in Week 11 at Indianapolis, but overslept and was sent home from practice last week, which resulted in zero carries Sunday against Detroit. And while Gray was “learning his lesson,” Blount—who was dumped by the Steelers last Tuesday—carried the rock 12 times for 78 yards (6.5 YPC) and two touchdowns against one of the best run defenses in the league on Sunday. It remains to be seen how fantasy troll Bill Belichick will divide up the workload moving forward, but it’s worth noting that the Green Bay Packers are currently surrendering an average of 18.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. Blount is worthy of an add strictly for his red zone value.

Isaiah CrowellCrowell handles the bulk Cleveland’s red zone carries.

Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Washington, owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues): The loss of Ahmad Bradshaw left a big void on the Indianapolis offense, which was filled by handing out 13 carries to Trent Richardson and 12 carries to Herron Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that is where the similarities end, as Herron racked up 65 rushing yards (5.4 YPC) while Richardson recorded just 42 (3.2 YPC). Yes, T-Rich found the end zone in Week 12, but Herron made a far greater impact for the offense. It will be interesting to see how this rotation shakes down moving forward.

Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (at St. Louis, owned in 25% of Yahoo! leagues): First, the good news: Murray has turned just eight carries over his last two outings into 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns, providing the explosive element that is severely lacking in veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. But the downside here is relatively large. To begin, Murray suffered a concussion in last Thursday night’s win over Kansas City and has to pass the league’s concussion protocol before he can be cleared to play. In addition, thanks to trailing in so many games this season, the Raiders currently rank dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (19.5), so there may not be enough opportunities for Murray to rack up some serious stat lines. Lastly, Oakland travels to St. Louis this weekend to face a nasty Rams front four that is permitting an average of just 15.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eight-fewest in NFL). The upside here is extremely limited.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints (at Pittsburgh, owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues): After rookie wideout Brandin Cooks was lost for the season following thumb surgery, the big question surrounding the New Orleans pass-catching unit regarded which receiver would step up to fill the void. Marques Colston found the end zone Monday night against Baltimore (4-82-1) while Jimmy Graham was Jimmy Graham, but it was Stills who notched nine targets (second on team behind Graham), which resulted in eight receptions for 98 yards. Expect more of the same moving forward as the Saints continue to air it out for four quarters in an effort to offset the team’s hideous defensive play.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (at Atlanta, owned in 32% of Yahoo! leagues): Larry Fitzgerald is dealing with a sprained MCL that kept him out of action in Sunday’s loss at Seattle, which means that if the ailment persists, Brown will see an uptick in targets. The rookie burner from Pittsburg State has caught just 37 passes on the season, but is averaging a healthy 14.3 yards per reception with five scores and five grabs of 25+ yards. But the best part about Brown is his Week 13 matchup against an Atlanta Falcons secondary that is currently surrendering an average of 26.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (fifth-most in NFL). This guy makes for a solid WR3 in Week 12 thanks to a tasty matchup.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (at Baltimore, owned in 51% of Yahoo! leagues): The fact that Floyd has stayed healthy and appeared in all 11 games this season for the Bolts is reason enough to celebrate. However, the 33-year-old from Wyoming isn’t exactly setting the league on fire with his 36-604-4 stat line, so owners shouldn’t view Floyd as an every week starter. But that doesn’t mean the 6-5, 225-pound target isn’t worthy of a roster spot, as Floyd has notched six grabs of 25 or more yards this season and takes on a Baltimore secondary on Sunday that is currently giving up an average of 26.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). Consider Floyd a WR4/5 with starting potential for leagues that start three or more wideouts.

Malcom FloydWhile his upside is limited, Floyd has big-play potential.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans (at Houston, owned in 40% of Yahoo! leagues): While Hunter has yet to top the 100-yard receiving mark in any game this season, the second-year receiver out of Tennessee has found the end zone twice in the four games since rookie Zach Mettenberger took over as the Titans’ starting quarterback. In addition, during that same stretch, Hunter was targeted a staggering ten times twice. The upside here is relatively minimal, but Hunter makes for a nice WR4/5 who is worthy of a starting roster spot when faced with a favorable matchup.

Jarvis Landy, Miami Dolphins (at NY Jets, owned in 20% of Yahoo! leagues): Landry has found the end zone in three of his last four starts and has an excellent Monday night matchup on deck with a New York Jets secondary that is currently surrendering an average of 24.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (ninth-most in NFL). The rookie from LSU shouldn’t be considered an every-week starter, but he’s a nice value play in Week 13.

Steadman Bailey, St. Louis Rams (vs. Oakland, owned in 0% of Yahoo! leagues): The West Virginia standout is coming off the best performance of his two-year career after hauling in seven receptions on nine targets for 89 yards and his first professional touchdown Sunday at San Diego. This showing will no doubt cause fantasy owners to take notice, as will the fact that Bailey takes on a shaky Raiders secondary in Week 13. But be advised that St. Louis is highly inconsistent when moving the football and currently ranks 28th in the NFL in total offense (313.3 yds/gm). This may have been a flash-in-the-pan performance.

Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Carolina, owned in 1% of Yahoo! leagues): The relatively unknown 2013 product from Grand Valley State has stepped up his game as of late, hauling in nine passes on 18 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown over his last two outings. As crazy as this may sound, Johnson has actually been more valuable to the Minnesota offense over the last few weeks than 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, who has caught more than two passes in a game just once over his last eight outings. However, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been struggling to find any semblance of consistency and, as a result, the Minnesota offense has gotten bogged down for lengthy stretches of time. There isn’t much upside here.

TIGHT ENDS

Tim Wright, New England Patriots (at Green Bay, owned in 15% of Yahoo! leagues): The ultimate boom or bust prospect. Wright has posted his fair share of dud stat lines this season (six in 11 games), but has found the end zone in five of his last seven outings and is seeing more and more snaps as the season winds toward December. If you aren’t lucky enough to own one of the Big 3 tight ends (Graham, Gronkowski, Thomas) and have been hit hard by the injury bug that has plagued the tight end position this season, take a good, long look at this guy.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Carolina, owned in 47% of Yahoo! leagues): Limited upside due to the inconsistent play of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but Rudolph is coming off a decent Week 12 performance against the Chicago Bears in which the Notre Dame product caught three passes on five targets for 50 yards. Rudolph is a serious red zone threat, but the only problem is the fact that the Vikings rarely make it inside their opponent’s 20-yard line.

Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders (at St. Louis, owned in 38% of Yahoo! leagues): Rivera has scored three touchdowns over his last four games and has seen eight or more targets in three of his last five starts. In addition, the 24-year-old from Tennessee has operated as a consistent security blanket for rookie quarterback Derek Carr. Unfortunately, due to the Raiders’ never-ending struggles on the offensive side of the football, Rivera can’t be counted on as a week-to-week starter. But we advise all of you to remember this kid’s name because he’s going to be a player once Oakland gets it all sorted out.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Blake BortlesBortles and the Jaguars have been horrific on offense this season.

New York Giants (at Jacksonville, owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues): For as bad as this team has been in 2014, Week 13 offers up the tastiest of all matchups in the form of a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that currently ranks 31st in the league in total offense (304.1 yds/gm), dead last in scoring (14.6 pts/gm) and 30th in turnovers (24). For those of you who love to stream defensive units, look no further.

St. Louis Rams (vs. Oakland, owned in 42% of Yahoo! leagues): A nasty front four that has accounted for 22 sacks so far this season, St. Louis plays host to an Oakland Raiders team on Sunday that currently ranks dead last in the league in total offense (283.2 yds/gm), 31st in scoring (16.0 pts/gm) and 26th in turnovers (21). Not only is this one of the best matchups on the board for the D/ST position, but the Rams are still widely available on waivers in most league formats.

Cincinnati Bengals (at Tampa Bay, owned in 52% of Yahoo! leagues): This is Cincinnati’s third road trip in as many weeks, so exercise a bit of caution with the Bengals this Sunday. Still, the Buccaneers have been absolute garbage this season, ranking 27th in total offense (318.2 yds/gm), 26th in scoring (18.8 pts/gm) and 30th in turnovers (24).

Hit me up on Twitter: @<a href=”http://www.twitter.com/joefortenbaugh” target=”_blank”>JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 12 SURVIVOR PICKS

Last week: Washington (loss), Pittsburgh (win), Atlanta (win)

–At this point in the season, I really have no clue which teams you guys have left to use in survivor. So rather than throw out what will likely be repeat selections, hit me up on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh and we can talk it through from there. Best of luck!

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 5-5-1

Last week: Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) over Seattle Seahawks (win)

This week: Green Bay Packers (-9) over Minnesota Vikings

Analysis: This is a huge number to lay on the road, but you’ve got two teams heading in totally opposite directions in this situation. The Vikings have dropped four of their last six contests and are averaging a paltry 18.1 points per game this season while ranking 29th in the NFL in third down conversions (35.0 percent). That’s not going to cut it against a Green Bay Packers team that is more than comfortable playing outdoors in frigid conditions. The Packers have ripped off six victories over their last seven outings and are averaging a stellar 39.4 points per game during that stretch. In addition, take note that the Packers are 5-2 ATS over their last seven meetings with Minnesota.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 3-2

Season: 28-27 (.509)

The Big Puma and I are still working through this weekend’s card, but here are the selections that are currently under consideration:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7) over Detroit Lions
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-9.5) at Minnesota Vikings
ARIZONA CARDINALS (+6.5) at Seattle Seahawks
NEW YORK JETS (+4.5) at Buffalo Bills
HOUSTON TEXANS (-1.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+5.5) at Chicago Bears
DENVER BRONCOS (-7) vs. Miami Dolphins

START ‘EM UP

Mark Sanchez, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Tennessee): We’ve now seen Sanchez play on both ends of the spectrum and in both instances the Philadelphia quarterback rolled up more than enough fantasy points to justify a spot in the starting lineup. In a 45-21 blowout of the Carolina Panthers, the former New York Jet threw for 332 yards and two scores and in a 53-20 ass-kicking at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, Sanchez again threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. It’s all about the system and the arsenal when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles, so feel comfortable riding Sanchez until he gives us a good reason to jump off the train.

Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (at Indianapolis): Since taking over as the starting running back in Jacksonville in mid October, the former Michigan quarterback has racked up 419 total yards and four touchdowns through four starts. That’s an ultra impressive stat line when you consider the fact that this guy is playing on a lousy offense with a struggling rookie quarterback. Go back to the well with Robinson in Week 12 when he takes on an Indianapolis Colts defense that currently ranks 17th in the NFL against the run (112.9 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 22.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (t-sixth-most in NFL). Also of note, the Jaguars are coming off the bye week here, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this divisional showdown.

Josh GordonWelcome back, Josh Gordon.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (at Atlanta): Don’t overthink this one. Those of you with Gordon on the roster have likely been stashing the Cleveland wideout for more than a month, so it’s time to start reaping the benefits of such discipline and patience. Even if this were a terrible matchup we would advise you to start Gordon, but Atlanta currently ranks dead-last in the NFL against the pass (281.2 yds/gm) while giving up an average of 25.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (sixth-most in NFL), so this one is pretty much a no-brainer.

Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Jacksonville): Richardson is a bust of the highest magnitude, but with Ahmad Bradshaw on the shelf for the remainder of the season due to a broken leg, the former top-three draft pick is about to see an abundance of touches on one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. That’s a big plus when you consider the fact that Week 12 offers up a date with a Jacksonville defense that currently ranks 25th in the league against the run (126.2 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 21.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (seventh-most in NFL). However, owners are advised to keep a real close eye on backup running back Dan Herron (2012, Ohio State) during this matchup.

Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. Baltimore): A roll of the dice based on the way New Orleans has played this year, but with rookie Brandin Cooks out for the season (thumb surgery), Stills is about to see a big boost in the targets department. A big-time playmaker with deep speed for days, Stills could go nuclear on Monday night against a Baltimore defense that currently ranks 21st in the league against the pass (251.2 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 26.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fifth-most in NFL).

Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants (vs. Dallas): Donnell’s last encounter with the Cowboys resulted in seven receptions for 90 yards (season high) on seven targets, so there’s no reason to believe the second-year tight end can’t take advantage of the Dallas defense for a second time this season. Take note that the Cowboys are currently giving up an average of 11.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (third-most in NFL).

San Diego Chargers, D/ST (vs. St. Louis): We’re not willing to buy into the fact that the St. Louis offense can string together two solid performances. Through five home contests in 2014, the Chargers are giving up an average of just 12.8 points per game with 12 sacks and seven turnovers. Ride the lightning in Week 12.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (at New England): The indoor Lions are heading outside into the frigid New England air to play a non-conference game against the red-hot Patriots just four days before a Thanksgiving divisional showdown with the Chicago Bears. That’s as bad a spot as you will find in the National Football League. And as if that situation wasn’t challenging enough, Calvin Johnson is banged up and the Patriots are surrendering an average of just 21.3 points per contest during the team’s current six-game winning streak. Expect a rough go of it Sunday for Stafford and company.

Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (at San Francisco): The Redskins are coming apart at the seams in the most glorious and predictable of fashions, so it’s become extremely dangerous to back anybody on this 46-man roster. With the locker room up in arms over RG3’s recent comments and crap play, Washington heads west for a showdown with a San Francisco defense that is not only getting healthy, but has given up an average of just 13.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-fewest in NFL). Stay away.

Matthew StaffordStafford and the Lions are in a tough spot at New England in Week 12.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (at Seattle): The 31-year-old is battling a sprained MCL as he and the Cardinals travel to the most hostile environment in the NFL for a Week 12 divisional showdown with the Seahawks. Take note that Seattle is permitting fewer fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than any other team in the business (16.4 pts/gm). In addition, the Seahawks defense is surrendering an average of just 16.7 points per game at CenturyLink Field over the last two seasons. There isn’t a whole lot of upside here.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Arizona): We fully expect all Lynch owners to have Beast Mode in the starting lineup this Sunday. However, we’ve including Lynch on this list because we want you to taper your expectations. Arizona currently ranks third in the NFL against the run (80.5 yds/gm), has surrendered just five rushing touchdowns through ten outings and is giving up an average of just 13.1 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (second-fewest in NFL). This one has all the makings of a low-scoring, grind-it-out slugfest.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (vs. Cincinnati): Johnson may have notched nine more receptions than counterpart DeAndre Hopkins so far this season, but Hopkins holds the edge in both receiving yards (764-631) and touchdowns (4-1). So with A.J. taking a back seat to the young up-and-comer, we need a really favorable matchup to get behind the Pro Bowl wideout. Sadly, Sunday against Cincinnati isn’t that matchup, as the Bengals are currently surrendering an average of just 17.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-fewest in NFL).

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos (vs. Miami): Just a reminder that Thomas is dealing with an ankle injury and is expected to be a game-time decision on Sunday. In addition, Miami is currently giving up an average of just 5.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (sixth-fewest in NFL).

Miami Dolphins, D/ST (at Denver): Believe it or not, the Dolphins currently rank second in fantasy scoring at the D/ST position. However, Week 12 is not the time to test that ranking out, as the Denver Broncos are coming off an embarrassing loss at St. Louis and will be out for redemption.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 13 college football betting primer

For as brutal as the 2014 college football season has been to this column, a bright spot finally emerged last Saturday in the form of North Carolina State’s 42-13 romp over Wake Forest, a win that gave the Wolfpack their sixth victory of the season. As a result, our OVER 5.5 wins wager on

For as brutal as the 2014 college football season has been to this column, a bright spot finally emerged last Saturday in the form of North Carolina State’s 42-13 romp over Wake Forest, a win that gave the Wolfpack their sixth victory of the season. As a result, our OVER 5.5 wins wager on N.C. State cashed with one game to play, giving us a brief respite from the ass-kicking we’ve been taking here on a weekly basis.

With Baylor currently sitting at 8-1, we need two victories over the Bears’ final three games (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State) in order to cash our OVER 9.5 wins ticket on Art Briles’ high-flying crew.

So as we’re grinding out the Baylor game this weekend, we might as well take a look at some other individual plays worth firing on.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 29-38 (.432)

UTEP Miners (6-4, 2-3 road) at Rice Owls (6-4, 3-1 home)

When: Friday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Rice -10
Current: Rice -8.5 (MGM)

UTEP in 2014: 8-2 ATS, 5-5 to the OVER
Rice in 2014: 7-3 ATS, 6-4 to the OVER

Analysis: UTEP has covered the number in five straight contests and for the second week in a row is out for revenge, this time against a Rice team that smashed the Miners 45-7 last October. Rice has played a solid brand of football in 2014, but the Owls had their six-game winning streak snapped last Saturday in a 41-14 loss at Marshall in a game where the Thundering Herd amassed a staggering 581 total yards of offense, which included 284 yards gained via the ground. The rushing attack is UTEP’s forte, as the Miners rolled up 351 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 35-17 win over North Texas thanks to the return of sophomore running back Aaron Jones (16-177-2). Take note that Rice is 2-5 ATS over its last seven contests against teams with a winning record.

Notable trends: The underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last ten meetings between these two schools.

Pick: UTEP (+8.5)

Miami Hurricanes (6-4, 1-3 road) at Virginia Cavaliers (4-6, 4-2 home)

When: Saturday, 7:00pm ET
Open: Miami -7
Current: Miami -6.5 (Wynn)

Miami in 2014: 5-5 ATS, 7-3 to the UNDER
Virginia in 2014: 6-3-1 ATS, 7-3 to the UNDER

Al GoldenUS PRESSWIRELook for Al Golden’s Hurricanes to come out flat Saturday at Virginia.

Analysis: This game is all about the situation, as Virginia is coming off a bye week and still needs two more victories to get bowl eligible, while Miami just left everything on the field in a devastating 30-26 loss to in-state rival Florida State, a game in which the Hurricanes donked off leads of 16-0 and 23-7. We believe Miami will come out flat here against a Cavaliers team that is 6-1 ATS over its last seven games when coming off a bye week. Note that Miami is 1-4 ATS over its last five road contests while Virginia is 5-1-1 ATS over its last seven home dates.

Notable trends: The underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Virginia (+6.5)

Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-5, 1-2 road) at #7 Baylor Bears (8-1, 4-0 home)

When: Saturday, 7:30pm ET
Open: Baylor -26.5
Current: Baylor -27 (Wynn)

Oklahoma State in 2014: 3-7 ATS, 5-5 to the OVER
Baylor in 2014: 6-2-1 ATS, 5-4 to the OVER

Bryce PettyBryce Petty and the Bears are out for revenge.

Analysis: Baylor is currently riding a 14-game home winning streak that includes nine consecutive victories over conference opponents by an average of 28.3 points per game. In addition, after throttling the Sooners 48-14 in Norman on November 8, Bryce Petty and the Bears had a week off to get ready for a three-game stretch that will determine whether or not Baylor qualifies for the first-ever college football playoff. As if all that wasn’t enough to get you excited, remember that Oklahoma State derailed Baylor’s national championship dreams last season by crushing a 9-0 Bears team 49-17 in Stillwater. Baylor remembers that game all too well and is going to pour it on early and often here against a struggling Oklahoma State squad that is 0-5 ATS over its last five conference games, 0-4 ATS over its last four road dates and 0-5 ATS over its last five matchups overall.

Notable trends: The favorite is 12-3 ATS in the last 15 meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Baylor (-27)

**BONUS PLAY** We’ll be riding Baylor on the first half line as well.

#19 USC Trojans (7-3, 3-2 road) at #9 UCLA Bruins (8-2, 2-2 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: UCLA -3.5
Current: UCLA -3.5 (Stations)

USC in 2014: 6-4 ATS, 6-4 to the UNDER
UCLA in 2014: 3-7 ATS, 5-4-1 to the UNDER

Brett HundleyUS PRESSWIREBrett Hundley is 2-0 lifetime vs. USC.

Analysis: Back-to-back home losses to Utah and Oregon dropped the Bruins from the national spotlight, but bettors need to pay attention to the fact that UCLA has ripped off four straight victories, the last two of which (vs. Arizona, at Washington) came by double digits. UCLA enters the Battle for Los Angeles on an extra week of rest while USC enters Saturday’s showdown with a 1-4 ATS record over its last five games following a win. Believe it or not, UCLA (No. 9) could still find its way into the college football playoff assuming the Bruins win out (vs. USC, vs. Stanford), knock off Oregon in the PAC-12 championship game and then get some help from the schools currently ranked in front of Jim Mora’s crew. Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Absolutely not.

Notable trends: UCLA is 4-0 ATS over its last four games following a bye week.

Pick: UCLA (-3.5)

Oregon State Beavers (5-5, 2-2 road) at Washington Huskies (6-5, 3-3 home)

When: Saturday, 10:30pm ET
Open: Washington -6.5
Current: Washington -6.5 (Westgate)

Oregon State in 2014: 3-7 ATS, 5-4-1 to the OVER
Washington in 2014: 5-6 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER

Analysis: Oregon State hasn’t played a road game since October 25 (lost 38-14 at Stanford) and is coming off a big-time upset of previously seventh-ranked Arizona State, which was no doubt the biggest victory of the Beavers’ season. On the other sideline for this one stands Washington, who outgained Arizona in total yardage last Saturday 504-375, but found a way to lose 27-26 on a game-winning 47-yard field goal. Expect a much better effort from Chris Petersen’s squad at Husky Stadium on Saturday against a Beavers team that has dropped four of its last five conference road games.

Notable trends: Oregon State is 1-4 ATS over its last five games following a win while Washington is 4-1 ATS over its last five games following a loss.

Pick: Washington (-6.5)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Updated CFB championship odds: Down the stretch they come

In yet another classic illustration of why it’s better to lose early than late when it comes to the world of college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide (9/4), Oregon Ducks (4/1) and Ohio State Buckeyes (6/1) currently occupy three of the top four slots on the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s odds board as we

In yet another classic illustration of why it’s better to lose early than late when it comes to the world of college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide (9/4), Oregon Ducks (4/1) and Ohio State Buckeyes (6/1) currently occupy three of the top four slots on the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s odds board as we close in on Thanksgiving.

Amari CooperUS PRESSWIREAmari Cooper and the Crimson Tide are in full command of the odds board at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Alabama lost on October 4 at Mississippi, Oregon fell on October 2 at home against Arizona and Ohio State was upset by Virginia Tech back on September 6.

Despite a thoroughly unconvincing 34-30 win at 3-7 Kansas on Saturday, TCU held strong at 6/1. However, it’s unlikely that the Horned Frogs maintain their No. 4 ranking when the latest edition of the college football playoff poll surfaces this week. Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s 25-20 loss at Alabama on Saturday will cost the Bulldogs the top spot in the poll, but had no effect on the team’s odds to win this season’s championship, as Dak Prescott and company remain 7/1 at the Westgate SuperBook.

The big riser this week was Georgia Tech, who moved from 9999/1 to 100/1 following the Yellow Jackets’ 28-6 dismantling of No. 19 Clemson coupled with Duke’s 17-16 loss against Virginia Tech. As a result, Georgia Tech now stands atop The ACC Coastal Division, which could lead to a conference championship showdown with undefeated defending champion Florida State in a few weeks.

Here’s the rest of the rundown:

odds chart

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 11 SURVIVOR PICKS

Last week: Baltimore (win), Green Bay (win), Tampa Bay (loss)

Plan A: Washington
Plan B: Pittsburgh
Plan C: Atlanta

–If you haven’t already used the San Diego Chargers, now is the time.

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 4-5-1

Last week: Detroit Lions (-2.5) over Miami Dolphins (win)

This week: Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) over Seattle Seahawks

Analysis: The Chiefs should be laying the customary three points for home field advantage here, as this is a terrible spot for the Seahawks. From Seattle’s perspective, this is a non-conference road showdown that will take place one week before a home date with the division-leading Arizona Cardinals and just 11 days before the first of two meetings with hated rival San Francisco. Also worth noting is the fact that Kansas City has won three straight home contests by an average of 22.6 points per game.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 4-1

Season: 25-25 (.500)

The Big Puma and I are just about locked in on the following five selections:

HOUSTON TEXANS (+3) at Cleveland Browns
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3) at Chicago Bears
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-1.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (-7.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DETROIT LIONS (+2.5) at Arizona Cardinals

Also under consideration: Atlanta Falcons (+2) at Carolina Panthers, San Diego Chargers (-10) vs. Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) at Tennessee Titans

START ‘EM UP

Mark Sanchez, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (at Green Bay): Back to the well for the second week in a row as Sanchez and the Eagles are likely to find themselves caught in a shootout Sunday afternoon in Green Bay. With this game totaled at 55.5 points coupled with the Philadelphia secondary squeezed firmly within the crosshairs of an Aaron Rodgers thrashing, Sanchez and the Birds will need to throw early and often in this one in order to keep pace with the high-flying Packers. Expect another big game from the former New York Jet and his arsenal of playmakers.

Also start: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (at Carolina)

Ryan MathewsMathews and the Bolts have something to prove following a three-game losing streak.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (vs. Oakland): Back in action for the first time since a sprained MCL sustained in Week 2 sent him to the sidelines, look for Mathews to reclaim the starting role—and at least 15 touches—in Sunday’s showdown with division rival Oakland, who is currently surrendering an average of 24.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL). The Chargers went into last week’s bye riding a three-game losing streak, so look for an aggressive effort from Mike McCoy’s crew as the Bolts begin their push for a return trip to the playoffs.

Pierre Garcon & DeSean Jackson, WRs, Washington Redskins (vs. Tampa Bay): Well rested thanks to a Week 10 bye, the Redskins return to the gridiron Sunday to face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that ranks 31st in the NFL against the pass (277.1 yds/gm) while giving up more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the business (29.6 pts/gm). Quarterback Robert Griffin III got his feet wet in Week 9 at Minnesota and has had two weeks to get ready for this one, so expect a solid effort from the Washington offense on Sunday.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (vs. Cincinnati): Total swing-and-a-miss on the whole “sell high on Ingram” nonsense I was preaching last week, as the former Heisman Trophy winner eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the third consecutive game in last Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss against San Francisco. Ingram is averaging a staggering 27.0 rushing attempts per outing during his lights out three-game run and should find more success in Week 11 against a Cincinnati defense that currently ranks 31st in the NFL against the run (143.0 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (fourth-most in NFL).

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (at Carolina):

White at home in 2014: 6.3 targets, 4.3 receptions, 59.3 yards, .333 touchdowns

White on the road in 2014: 9.6 targets, 5.2 receptions, 62.6 yards, .600 touchdowns

Also note that the Panthers are currently surrendering an average of 25.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (seventh-most in NFL).

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings (at Chicago): Remember this guy? Rudolph hasn’t seen the field since being sidelined by a Week 3 groin injury, but returns this Sunday to face a dumpster fire of a defense in the Chicago Bears who are permitting more fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season than any other team in the business (13.4 pts/gm). For those of you in need of some production at the tight end position moving forward, take note that Rudolph is currently still available in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Kansas City Chiefs, D/ST (vs. Seattle): This is a poor spot for the Seahawks, who are playing a non-conference road game one week before the start of back-to-back divisional showdowns with Arizona and San Francisco. In addition, Seattle is averaging just 21.7 points per game on the road this season with nine sacks surrendered, while Kansas City is permitting an average of only 14.2 points per game at home in 2014 with 17 sacks recorded. Russell Wilson has one of the least impressive receiving units in the National Football League at his disposal this year and that issue will be on full display when the crowd noise at Arrowhead Stadium reaches a deafening tone on Sunday afternoon.

Also start: San Diego Chargers (vs. Oakland)

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (at Kansas City): You can read our rationale on why to sit Wilson in the “Fade of the Week” section at the top of this article or in the “Kansas City Chiefs” breakdown directly above. But in addition to all of that, take note that the Seattle signal-caller has thrown for over 200 yards just once in his last five outings, with just three touchdown passes during that same time span.

Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants (vs. San Francisco): Jennings owners are no doubt thrilled about the fact that the Giants running back will return to the gridiron this Sunday after missing significant time with a sprained MCL. Just be sure to taper your expectations, as the 49ers currently rank seventh in the NFL in run defense (91.2 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of just 14.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fourth-fewest in NFL). In addition, take note that San Francisco has allowed just two rushing touchdowns over its last six games.

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks are in a real bad spot Sunday at Kansas City.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (at NY Giants): Talk about a bust of a season. The former top-10 draft pick has made exactly one trip to the end zone over his last six starts, has yet to top 82 receiving yards in a game this season and is averaging a pedestrian 7.5 targets per game in 2014. Add in the fact that the Giants are currently surrendering an average of just 20.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (seventh-fewest in NFL) and you’ve got the makings of yet another dud performance from the former Texas Tech standout. It really is amazing how infrequently quarterback Colin Kaepernick is looking Crabtree’s way this year.

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions (at Arizona): Bell hasn’t topped 75 rushing yards in a game all season, hasn’t found the end zone in either of his last two outings and runs into an Arizona Cardinals team on Sunday that currently ranks third in the NFL against the run (78.6 yds/gm) while permitting an average of just 13.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in 2014 (tied-fewest in NFL). There are better options out there for Week 11.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. Cincinnati): Between Jimmy Graham nabbing all the red zone targets and rookie Brandin Cooks functioning as the team’s possession receiver, there’s little meat left on the bone for Colston to chew on this season. The 31-year-old from Hofstra has scored just one touchdown in 2014, is averaging a paltry 3.3 receptions per game and faces a Cincinnati defense on Sunday that is giving up an average of just 17.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-fewest in NFL). Not only should you avoid Colston in Week 11, you should consider dropping him to clear some roster space for a receiver with a higher ceiling.

Mychal Rivera, TE, Oakland Raiders (at San Diego): The second-year tight end out of Tennessee has turned some heads as of late by scoring three touchdowns over his last two starts, but Sunday at San Diego makes for a bad matchup against a Chargers defense that is permitting an average of only 5.5 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs this season (fourth-fewest in NFL). Also worth noting is the fact that the last time Rivera faced the Chargers, the Oakland tight end was completely blanked on just three targets.

Arizona Cardinals, D/ST (vs. Detroit): One of the hottest units in the league, owners need to be really careful about backing the Cardinals in Week 11. This unit is as stout as they come against the run, but Arizona currently ranks 30th in the league against the pass (274.2 yds/gm), which is a scary proposition with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate coming to town.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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NFP tailgating: Gear to know

One of the primary reasons why I refer to the three years I spent in San Diego as the best of my life has to do with the $295 I spent on Chargers season tickets for the 2005 season. Granted, Qualcomm Stadium is an absolute dump and the Bolts went 9-7 and missed the

One of the primary reasons why I refer to the three years I spent in San Diego as the best of my life has to do with the $295 I spent on Chargers season tickets for the 2005 season. Granted, Qualcomm Stadium is an absolute dump and the Bolts went 9-7 and missed the playoffs that year, but the tailgating in that enormous Mission Valley parking lot is some of the best you will find anywhere in professional sports. The sun is always shining, the beers are constantly flowing and the atmosphere in general is more along the lines of an impromptu beach party rather than a professional football game.

It’s for this precise reason that, over the last nine years, I’ve become increasingly more enamored with the pageantry that surrounds the game of football. It’s why I went to Missoula in 2012 to experience the “Brawl of the Wild,” Seattle last season to explore the world-renowned “12th Man” and why a trip to The Grove at Ole Miss is higher on my bucket list than a trip to the Mediterranean.

Each new tailgating adventure brings about new lessons in how to improve upon the experience. Fans in the northeast do things very differently than fans in the south, so there’s a lot to be learned from visiting different regions of the country and paying attention to how the locals operate.

In addition, 2014 offers up a vastly different series of tailgating requirements than what our four-man crew put together at Qualcomm back in 2005. The rise of fantasy football and sports betting coupled with the improvements in wireless technologies and devices make keeping up with the outside world a virtual imperative while tailgating. DIRECTV offers the ability to stream every single NFL game to your wireless device, something every good tailgate can’t function without. And with the rise in additional gear needed to throw a kick-ass parking lot party comes a greater demand for the gear that can transport it.

OgioThe OGIO Renegade

Our friends at OGIO are well aware of this fact and have recently launched a series of products designed to improve upon the tailgating process. Seeing as how I’ve been carrying an OGIO golf bag for the last eight years, the team reached out to see if I was interested in giving any of their new products a try for the purposes of sharing them with you, our fellow tailgaters.

At the head of the class stands OGIO’s Renegade backpack ($150), a lightweight, compact travel bag with an armor-protected dedicated laptop compartment, crush-proof Tech Vault pocket and an additional padded pocket, perfect for tablets and e-readers. It’s the optimal bag for the individual who joins the tailgate party late, but still needs to bring essentials such as a laptop, ipad, sunglasses, additional layers of clothing, camera and, of course, a six-pack. The bag fits snugly, is easy to store and also operates beautifully for young professionals who make city commutes to work each day—especially those who ride bikes.

For those interested in a smaller, less expensive version of the Renegade but with just as much upside, the OGIO Rucksack Backpack ($55) can also be utilized for work or day-to-day travels while offering ample space and even more comfort than its aforementioned counterpart. This bag serves as an excellent travel companion for weekend getaways, like my 36-hour trip to Seattle last season for the 49ers-Seahawks showdown.

Finally, for the tailgating pioneers who set up camp before the rest of the party arrives, OGIO offers the All Elements Waterproof Bag ($125), perfect for our friends in Eugene and Corvallis who attend Ducks and Beavers games on a regular basis. After all, if you’re going to bring the integral technology to your tailgate experience, you might as well make sure it’s protected.

All of these products can be found at OGIO.com, or on my back on any given Sunday when traveling around the country looking to mooch beers at your tailgate parties.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 12 college football betting primer

This week’s attempt to halt a losing streak for the ages features a combination of high-profile matchups and under-the-radar showdowns. One game that didn’t make the list is the annual Florida State-Miami slugfest, which the Big Puma assures me will be won by his Hurricanes. Should that homer call the game correctly,

This week’s attempt to halt a losing streak for the ages features a combination of high-profile matchups and under-the-radar showdowns. One game that didn’t make the list is the annual Florida State-Miami slugfest, which the Big Puma assures me will be won by his Hurricanes. Should that homer call the game correctly, maybe we’ll turn this column over to him next week.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 27-35 (.435)

Temple Owls (5-4, 2-2 road) at Penn State Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-3 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Penn State -10
Current: Penn State -11 (Westgate)

Temple in 2014: 5-4 ATS, 6-3 to the UNDER
Penn State in 2014: 4-4-1 ATS, 6-3 to the UNDER

Christian HackenbergPSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions are averaging just 20.3 points per game this season.

Analysis: This game features an offshore over/under of just 39 points, but an underdog that is catching 11. To summarize, we’re looking at a game that features two teams that play low-scoring football, a low total and a favorite that is laying double digits! Penn State ranks 112th in the nation in scoring this season (20.3 pts/gm) and has beaten Temple by an average of just 8.0 points per contest over the last three meetings between these two schools. Also of note, Temple is 6-2 ATS over its last eight road games, 12-5 ATS over its last 17 matchups overall and 8-2 ATS over its last ten showdowns following a loss. We’ll take the points here.

Notable trends: Temple is 6-1 ATS over its last seven games against teams with a winning record while Penn State is 2-7 ATS over its last nine games following a win.

Pick: Temple (+11)

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5, 2-1 road) at North Carolina Tar Heels (4-5, 3-1 home)

When: Saturday, 12:30pm ET
Open: North Carolina -2
Current: North Carolina -2 (MGM)

Pittsburgh in 2014: 3-5-1 ATS, 4-4-1 to the OVER
North Carolina in 2014: 3-6 ATS, 4-4 to the OVER

Analysis: Pittsburgh ranks 18th in the nation in rushing (247.7 yds/gm) while North Carolina’s 126th-ranked scoring defense (41.9 pts/gm) has been gashed on the ground in conference play for an average of 218.6 yards per game this season. Big edge to the Panthers. In addition, Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 ATS over its last six road dates and 8-1 ATS over its last nine games when surrendering more than 40 points in the previous contest. It’s been a disastrous season for Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels and we don’t see how the UNC defense will be able to generate enough stops this weekend to defeat the Panthers, who are out for revenge following last year’s 34-27 loss to North Carolina.

Notable trends: Pittsburgh is 23-8-1 ATS over its last 32 games following a loss while North Carolina is 1-4 ATS over its last five games following an ATS loss.

Pick: Pittsburgh (+2)

#1 Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-0, 3-0 road) at #5 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-0 home)

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET
Open: Alabama -7
Current: Alabama -8.5 (Westgate)

Mississippi State in 2014: 5-4 ATS, 5-4 to the OVER
Alabama in 2014: 3-6 ATS, 5-4 to the UNDER

Dak PrescottHeisman hopeful Dak Prescott has thrown 18 touchdown passes through nine games this season.

Analysis: The early action flowed in to support Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, who have won six straight in this series, but we’re looking to go the other way in this weekend’s marquee showdown. Alabama left it all on the line in last Saturday’s 20-13 overtime win at LSU, while Mississippi State cruised past Tennessee-Martin 45-16. Alabama will no doubt feel the effects of that slugfest during the second half against a Bulldogs team that currently ranks 16th in the nation in scoring defense (19.7 pts/gm). In addition to Mississippi State holding the edge at the quarterback position in this one, take note that the Bulldogs are 4-1 ATS over their last five road contests while Alabama is just 3-9-1 ATS over its last 13 games overall.

Notable trends: Alabama is 3-7 ATS over its last ten games following an ATS win while Mississippi State is 8-2 ATS over its last ten games against teams with a winning record.

Pick: Mississippi State (+8.5)

#23 Utah Utes (6-3, 3-1 road) at Stanford Cardinal (5-4, 4-1 home)

When: Saturday, 6:00pm ET
Open: Stanford -8
Current: Stanford -7.5 (Wynn)

Utah in 2014: 7-2 ATS, 5-3-1 to the UNDER
Stanford in 2014: 4-5 ATS, 6-2 to the UNDER

Analysis: Stanford’s had two weeks to get ready for a revenge game against a Utah team that defeated the Cardinal 27-21 last season in Salt Lake City. And while the Cardinal are rested and hungry, Utah is in an extremely difficult spot here. The Utes are at the tail end of a five-game stretch that featured a double overtime win at Oregon State, last-second come-from-behind victory over USC, overtime loss at Arizona State and a 51-27 throttling at the hands of Oregon last Saturday. A tough travel date off back-to-back losses against a rested team is a recipe for disaster. Additionally, take note that Stanford is 6-0 ATS over its last six games following a loss.

Notable trends: Utah is 0-6 ATS over its last six games when surrendering more than 200 rushing yards in the previous contest.

Pick: Stanford (-7.5)

North Texas Mean Green (3-6, 0-4 road) at UTEP Miners (5-4, 3-1 home)

When: Saturday, 10:00pm ET
Open: UTEP -6.5
Current: UTEP -6 (Stations)

North Texas in 2014: 3-6 ATS, 6-3 to the OVER
UTEP in 2014: 7-2 ATS, 5-4 to the UNDER

Analysis: There are a lot of elements at play that point to UTEP here, beginning with the fact that the Miners tanked a 27-14 third quarter lead over Western Kentucky last week to lose 35-27. That’s big because it means we’re going to get a hungry and motivated UTEP team on Saturday that is one win away from bowl eligibility, and it’s certainly worth noting that this is the best chance left on the schedule for UTEP to qualify for the postseason. We also have the revenge angle in play for this one, as North Texas smashed the Miners 41-7 in last November’s encounter between these two schools. Additionally, UTEP running back Aaron Jones (886 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 5.4 YPC average) is expected to return this week after missing the Western Kentucky matchup with a knee injury, which should provide a big boost to an offense that is scoring an average of 29.8 points per game this season. North Texas’ three wins in 2014 have come against teams with a combined record of 3-25 and bettors should take note that the Mean Green are 0-4 ATS over their last four road games, while UTEP is 5-0 ATS over its last five home contests.

Notable trends: North Texas is 11-25 ATS over its last 36 games against teams with a winning record.

Pick: UTEP (-6)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 10 SURVIVOR PICKS

Last week: Kansas City (win), San Francisco (loss)

Plan A: Baltimore
Plan B: Green Bay
Plan C: Tampa Bay

–If still available, Denver, Seattle and Dallas (assuming Tony Romo plays) all make for solid selections.

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 3-5-1

Last week: Arizona Cardinals (+4) over Dallas Cowboys (win)

This week: Detroit Lions (-2.5) vs. Miami Dolphins

Analysis: Winners of four of their last five, the Miami Dolphins have looked terrific since coming off the bye at the beginning of October. And while you can make the case that without a New Orleans meltdown in Week 7 and delay-of-game penalty in Week 8 Detroit would be 4-4 instead of 6-2, the fact remains that the Lions are very much in the thick of it at the moment with reinforcements on the way in the form of Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson and dual-threat running back Reggie Bush. This is the best game of the weekend that nobody is talking about and, in our opinion, Detroit should be laying the customary 3 points for home field advantage. At -2.5, we’re all over it.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 2-3

Season: 21-24 (.466)

The Big Puma is attending a bachelor party in Myrtle Beach this weekend, so needless to say, he has been virtually useless when it comes to handicapping this week’s card. So yours truly will be driving the caboose in Week 10, with the following plays currently under consideration:

NEW YORK JETS (+5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
DETROIT LIONS (-2.5) vs. Miami Dolphins
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+7) at Arizona Cardinals
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-2) at Buffalo Bills
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-5) vs. San Francisco 49ers
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-7) vs. Chicago Bears

START ‘EM UP

Mark Sanchez, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Carolina): 62 career regular season starts and a Week 9 off-the-bench performance that included 202 passing yards, two touchdowns and a 68.2 percent completion percentage has Sanchez looking more than capable of holding down the fort while Nick Foles recovers from a broken collarbone. The former New York Jet has an impressive big-play arsenal at his disposal for Monday night’s showdown with a Carolina Panthers team that currently ranks 25th in the NFL in scoring defense (26.2 pts/gm) while surrendering an average of 22.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL).

Bobby Rainey, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta): Amassed 121 total yards on 20 touches last Sunday at Cleveland and now gets a crack at the defense that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than any other unit in the business (27.2 pts/gm). Former starter Doug Martin is still nursing an ankle injury that will likely keep him out of action in Week 10 while rookie Charles Sims is also battling an ankle injury, but is likely to suit up as Tampa’s No. 2 ball-carrier on Sunday. That should lead to Rainey receiving a plethora of touches in a very favorable matchup.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers (at Philadelphia): Currently ranks tenth in the NFL in targets (78) and has found the end zone in five of nine starts this year. However, owners have soured just a bit on the rookie from Florida State following back-to-back performances that resulted in a combined stat line of only six receptions for 112 yards with zero touchdowns. We advise you not kid yourself into thinking this is a developing trend, as Benjamin and quarterback Cam Newton have a tasty matchup on deck with a Philadelphia Eagles defense that currently ranks 22nd in the NFL against the pass (256.2 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 27.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Kelvin BenjaminBenjamin should have his way with the Eagles secondary on Monday night.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (at Oakland): The San Diego State product found the end zone twice in New England last Sunday and should continue cruising through Week 10 when he and the Broncos travel to Oakland to face a Raiders defense that is currently permitting an average of 24.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (second-most in NFL). If Denver gets up big in this one, expect Hillman to see plenty of second half carries in an effort to grind down the clock.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (at Tampa Bay): White is nowhere close to producing the numbers owners are used to seeing from the ten-year veteran, but Week 10 offers up the mother of all fantasy matchups when it comes to wide receivers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been absolutely dreadful this season, a statement that is supported by the fact that the defense currently ranks 31st in the league against the pass (285.2 yds/gm) and dead last in scoring (30.6 pts/gm). In addition, no squad in the NFL is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season than Tampa Bay (30.1 pts/gm). We advise you roll with Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones for this one.

Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants (at Seattle): Donnell made this list last week and responded by catching four passes on eight targets for 25 yards and a touchdown. Not exactly numbers that will set the world on fire, but his trip to the end zone resulted in a respectable fantasy stat line. Jump back on the train for this Sunday’s stop in Seattle, where the Seahawks are surrendering an average of 11.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Dallas Cowboys, D/ST (vs. Jacksonville, in London): Currently owned in just 55 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, those of you looking to stream a defense in Week 10 should seriously consider the Dallas Cowboys, who go toe-to-toe with the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday. Note that Jacksonville currently ranks 30th in the NFL in total offense (313.1 yds/gm), dead last in scoring (15.7 pts/gm) and 31st in turnovers (19).

SIT EM DOWN

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Jacksonville, in London): Nothing against Romo, as the 34-year-old is in the midst of one of his finest seasons to date. But the guy is banged up and even if the lunatic Cowboys throw him out there in London on Sunday to face the Jaguars, chances are it will be a run-heavy attack with emphasis on protecting the star quarterback. This is an excellent fantasy matchup for sure, as the Jaguars have been decimated in every phase of the game this season. But the Cowboys need to be smart about how they handle Romo if they want this guy to be ready for a serious postseason run.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (vs. San Francisco): The former Heisman Trophy winner is currently riding the hottest two-game stretch of his career, with 54 carries for 272 yards and three scores coming against Green Bay and Carolina. But we advise owners to taper their expectations for Week 10 when Ingram and the Saints run into a San Francisco defense that currently ranks fifth in the NFL against the run (85.6 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of just 13.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fourth-fewest in NFL).

Tony RomoICONEven if Romo is able to play, don’t expect a monster stat line on Sunday.

Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins (at Detroit): After a relatively hot start to the 2014 season, Wallace has been held to a combined five receptions for 109 yards and no touchdowns over his last two outings (Jacksonville, San Diego). Additionally, note that Wallace has yet to post more than 81 receiving yards in a game this season and has been held to 60 or fewer receiving yards in five of eight outings this year. All of that adds up to a low ceiling when facing a Lions defense that is giving up just 16.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (second-fewest in NFL).

All Buffalo Bills running backs (vs. Kansas City): Fred Jackson (groin) could play in Week 10, but the veteran running back would see limited touches even if he’s capable of getting on the field. That leaves Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown as your primary Buffalo ball-carriers for Sunday’s game against a Kansas City defense is permitting an average of just 13.6 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). Note that the total for this game is listed at 41.5 points in Las Vegas, so even the oddsmakers aren’t anticipating a high-scoring affair.

Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants (at Seattle): Has found the end zone just once over his last six outings, hasn’t topped 75 receiving yards in a game since September 25 and faces a Seattle secondary on Sunday that is surrendering fewer fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than any other team in the league (16.5 pts/gm). If you’re going to ride with a New York wideout in Week 10, make it Odell Beckham.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (at Philadelphia): We fully expect Olsen owners to ride the Carolina tight end in Week 10, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that the Philadelphia defense is permitting fewer fantasy points to the tight end position this season than any other team in the business (4.5 pts/gm). Also note that Olsen hasn’t found the end zone in any of his last three games and has notched just four receptions for 46 yards over his last two outings.

San Francisco 49ers, D/ST (at New Orleans): Held the St. Louis Rams to just 13 points and 263 total yards while forcing two turnovers in a Week 9 loss, but shouldn’t be counted on this week in New Orleans. Be advised that when playing at home, the Saints are averaging a total of 31.9 points per game since 2010.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 11 college football betting primer

Changing venues and moving to the MGM Grand last Saturday did nothing to halt this nauseating cold streak I’m currently riding, so this weekend we’re rolling down to the Venetian/Palazzo for a taste of fresh casino air. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to enjoy a cold sweat with me.

Changing venues and moving to the MGM Grand last Saturday did nothing to halt this nauseating cold streak I’m currently riding, so this weekend we’re rolling down to the Venetian/Palazzo for a taste of fresh casino air. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to enjoy a cold sweat with me.

Last week: 2-5

Season: 25-32 (.438)

Northern Illinois Huskies (6-2, 3-1 road) at Ball State Cardinals (3-5, 2-2 home)

When: Wednesday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Northern Illinois -2.5
Current: Northern Illinois -3 (Stations)

Northern Illinois in 2014: 3-5 ATS, 5-3 to the UNDER
Ball State in 2014: 4-4 ATS, 5-3 to the UNDER

Analysis: Ball State snapped a five-game losing streak on October 18 with a 32-29 win at Central Michigan that preceded a 35-21 home victory over Akron on October 25. So things are looking up for the Cardinals, right? Not so fast. Take note that in those two aforementioned victories, Ball State was a staggering +9 in the turnover battle, committing just one while forcing ten. Northern Illinois is a disciplined football team that has committed just five total turnovers on the season, with no more than one coming in any of the Huskies’ eight games played in 2014. In addition, take note that Ball State is just 1-4 ATS over its last five home games while Northern Illinois is 7-2 ATS over its last nine road contests.

Notable trends: Northern Illinois is 6-2 ATS over its last eight road games at Ball State.

Pick: Northern Illinois (-3)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2, 3-1 road) at North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-4, 3-2 home)

When: Saturday, 12:30pm ET
Open: Georgia Tech -5
Current: Georgia Tech -3.5 (Westgate)

Georgia Tech in 2014: 5-4 ATS, 5-4 to the OVER
North Carolina State in 2014: 5-4 ATS, 5-3-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: We need one more Wolfpack win to cash our season win totals bet on North Carolina State (over 5.5), but think that happens next week against Wake Forest rather than this Saturday against Georgia Tech. After opening the season 5-0, the Yellow Jackets dropped two straight (vs. Duke, at North Carolina) before putting together back-to-back victories against Pittsburgh and Virginia. But the big reason we side with Georgia Tech in this spot is because of what we saw out of N.C. State the last time the team was asked to defend the triple option. That instance came in the season-opener against Georgia Southern where the Wolfpack surrendered 246 rushing yards and fell behind 17-3 at halftime before a furious rally resulted in a 24-23 come-from-behind win. Georgia Southern is not Georgia Tech and it’s also important to note here that North Carolina State is averaging just 14.0 points per game over its last four outings. Lastly, be advised that Tech is 5-0-1 ATS over its last six trips to Raleigh.

Notable trends: Georgia Tech is 8-3-2 ATS over its last 13 meetings with North Carolina State.

Pick: Georgia Tech (-3.5)

Tulane Green Wave (2-6, 0-4 road) at Houston Cougars (5-3, 3-2 home)

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET
Open: Houston -17
Current: Houston -18 (Wynn)

Tulane in 2014: 3-5 ATS, 4-4 to the OVER
Houston in 2014: 5-3 ATS, 7-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: Two teams headed in opposite directions here as Tulane has dropped four of its last five outings while Houston has won four of its last five contests and is now 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall. The Green Wave are a young, mistake-prone football team that is averaging 2.0 turnovers per game this season, which is alarming when you consider the fact that Houston is forcing an average of 3.0 turnovers per contest. Note that Tulane is 1-4 ATS over its last four road games and a staggering 1-10 ATS over its last 11 meetings with Houston, while the Cougars are 20-7 ATS over their last 27 contests against teams with a losing record.

Notable trends: Tulane is 0-5 ATS over its last five road games at Houston.

Pick: Houston (-18)

Boise State Broncos (6-2, 2-2 road) at New Mexico Lobos (3-5, 0-4 home)

When: Saturday, 7:00pm ET
Open: Boise State -17
Current: Boise State -17.5 (Wynn)

Boise State in 2014: 5-3 ATS, 5-3 to the OVER
New Mexico in 2014: 3-5 ATS, 5-3 to the UNDER

Grant HedrickBroncos quarterback Grant Hedrick is completing 72.5 percent of his passes this season.

Analysis: Upon a quick initial inspection of this matchup, the first thing you may notice is that New Mexico is 3-0 ATS over its last three meetings with Boise State. This is true. However, dig a little further and you’ll discover that the Broncos outscored the Lobos 122-46 in those showdowns, but failed to cover the number because they were a favorite in all three contests by an average of 37.16 points per game. Laying 17.5 this Saturday is a much less daunting number to cover for a Boise State squad that is averaging 47.6 points per game over its last three outings.

Notable trends: New Mexico is 0-5 ATS over its last five home games.

Pick: Boise State (-17.5)

#4 Oregon Ducks (8-1, 3-0 road) at #17 Utah Utes (6-2, 3-1 home)

When: Saturday, 10:00pm ET
Open: Oregon -9.5
Current: Oregon -9.5 (MGM)

Oregon in 2014: 5-4 ATS, 5-3-1 to the OVER
Utah in 2014: 7-1 ATS, 5-2-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: The Ducks have been on cruise control since suffering a 31-24 home defeat to the Arizona Wildcats on October 2 with wins over UCLA, Washington, California and Stanford. On the other side of the field sits a wildly underrated Utah squad that just fell 19-16 at Arizona State last weekend, but will have the benefit of a rocking home crowd for this Saturday night’s clash with Oregon. Note that for as solid as the Ducks have been over the last month, Oregon has played only two road games this season (Washington State, UCLA), winning both by an average of just 9.5 points per contest. Additionally, it’s worth keeping in mind that Utah is 4-0 ATS over its last four conference games, 8-3 ATS over its last 11 home contests against teams with a winning road record and 4-0 ATS over its last four matchups overall.

Notable trends: Oregon is 1-4 ATS over its last five games played in the month of November while Utah is 7-0 ATS over its last seven games against teams with a winning record.

Pick: Utah (+9.5)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 9 SURVIVOR PICKS

Last week: Dallas (loss), Cleveland (win), Miami (win)

Plan A: Kansas City over NY Jets
Plan B: San Francisco over St. Louis

–However, if you haven’t already used Cincinnati (vs. Jacksonville) or Seattle (vs. Oakland), now is the time.

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 2-5-1

Last week: Green Bay Packers (+1.5) over New Orleans Saints (loss)

This week: Arizona Cardinals (+4) at Dallas Cowboys

Analysis: The Cowboys’ biggest strength in 2014 has been a top-flight rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray, but the Cardinals are capable of neutralizing that weapon via the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense (77.9 yds/gm). Take note that Dallas is working on a short week here and is 1-4 ATS when playing on Sunday following a Monday night game. Meanwhile, Arizona is 6-1 ATS over its last seven road contests and 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 1-4

Season: 19-21

The Big Puma and I will post our final card Saturday via twitter. For now, here are some of the sides we’re eyeing up:

CLEVELAND BROWNS (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ARIZONA CARDINALS (+3.5) at Dallas Cowboys
NEW YORK GIANTS (+3.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
BALTIMORE RAVENS (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-10) vs. St. Louis Rams
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (+3) vs. Denver Broncos

START ‘EM UP

Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. St. Louis Rams): Kaepernick has had two weeks to get ready for an opponent in the Rams whom he torched for 343 passing yards and three touchdowns back on October 13 when these two teams got together in St. Louis. No team was in need of the bye week worse than San Francisco, who got smashed up 42-17 at Denver on October 19 to move to a disappointing 4-3 in the standings entering the off week. Take note that the Rams are currently surrendering an average of 22.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL).

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts (at NY Giants): Bradshaw has already found pay dirt an impressive eight times this season, which includes trips to the end zone in six of his last seven outings. Reliable in both phases of the offense, we like Bradshaw in Week 9 for two big reasons. First, this is a primetime showdown against his former team in the New York Giants, so you know the Indianapolis running back would love to stick it to his old club. Second, Big Blue currently ranks 22nd in the NFL in run defense (122.0 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL).

Colin KaepernickKaepernick torched the Rams that last time these two teams got together.

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cleveland Browns (vs. Tampa Bay): Hawkins is averaging a healthy 8.71 targets per game this season, but with tight end Jordan Cameron out of action for this Week 9 contest, we expect that number to cross over into double-digits. So not only will Hawkins receive plenty of opportunities to make a serious impact on Sunday, he’ll get to do so against a Tampa Bay defense that is currently surrendering more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the league (30.3 pts/gm). That’s the perfect storm if you ask us.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (at New England): The third-year back out of San Diego State has been on an absolute tear since taking over for the injured Montee Ball, with 357 total yards and two scores in three starts. Hillman enters Week 9 on extra rest, is averaging 22.6 touches per game since being named the starting running back in Denver and faces a New England defense on Sunday afternoon that currently ranks 25th in the NFL against the run (129.6 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 22.5 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (fifth-most in NFL). Fireworks are expected for this matchup and don’t think for one second that Hillman won’t be a big part of that display.

Andre Johnson & DeAndre Hopkins, WRs, Houston Texans (vs. Philadelphia): This is strictly a matchup play, as the Philadelphia Eagles feature a highly suspect secondary that currently ranks 26th in the league against the pass (266.9 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 28.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). It’s never easy to back an offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this is a good spot for the Texans to put up some points by airing it out.

Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants (vs. Indianapolis): With Victor Cruz out for the season, the Giants will have to lean heavily on youngsters Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Donnell…all three of which are excellent starts in Week 9. Big Blue is coming off a bye and needs a huge showing here in order to stay in the hunt for the NFC East crown. Also note that Indianapolis is currently giving up an average of 10.2 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (sixth-most in NFL).

Cleveland Browns, D/ST (vs. Tampa Bay): Even with a bye week already under their collective belts, the Buccaneers still rank ninth in the NFL in turnovers, with 14. This is a bad team with a disastrous offensive line and a quarterback who lacks the consistency required to lead a top-flight passing attack. The Browns have been a bit underwhelming on the defensive side of the football this season, but this is one of the best matchups on the board for Week 9. Ride Cleveland with confidence.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): Griffin hasn’t played since September 14 and his teammates are coming off a Monday night road game at Dallas, so expect some rust here. In addition, the Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 17.1 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-fewest in NFL), so this matchup doesn’t lend itself to a high ceiling for the Washington signal-caller. There are better options out there.

Jonas Gray, RB, New England Patriots (vs. Denver): Gray grabbed the fantasy world’s attention with a 17-carry, 86-yard effort against the Chicago Bears in Week 8 following his promotion from the New England practice squad. And while all signs point to the former Notre Dame product stepping into the starting role at RB for the Patriots, Week 9 sets up poorly when it comes to the 24-year-old’s upside. Manning vs. Brady is going to be a classic shootout featuring plenty of fantasy goodness for both quarterbacks as well as their respective wideouts, but we don’t see Gray making a big splash against a defense that is surrendering an average of just 15.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eighth-fewest in NFL).

Robert GriffinRG3 has plenty of rust to kick off before owners can consider starting him.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (at Miami): Quarterback Philip Rivers is spreading the ball around like never before, which has put a serious dent in Allen’s production this season. So far the sophomore wideout has posted just one 100-yard receiving effort with only one trip to the end zone through eight games. That doesn’t bode well for a cross-country, early start time road game against a Miami Dolphins defense that currently ranks third in the NFL against the pass (211.6 yds/gm) while giving up an average of just 19.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (sixth-fewest in NFL).

All running backs from the New York Jets & St. Louis Rams (at Kansas City and at San Francisco): We’re passing on Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Tre Mason, Zac Stacy and any other running back you can think of who plays for either the New York Jets or St. Louis Rams. First off, Kansas City is surrendering an average of just 13.5 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL), while San Francisco is permitting an average of just 13.9 (sixth-fewest in NFL). In addition, both backfields are utilizing running back-by-committee approaches, which does nothing to help the fantasy stock of any player involved. Road games against tough run defenses with limited touches is an disastrous formula for fantasy success.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (at Dallas): Fitz busted out last week to the tune of a 7-160-1 stat line against the Philadelphia Eagles, but take note that Week 8 was the first time this season that the veteran Pro Bowler notched more than 100 receiving yards in a game. As shocking as it may sound, the Dallas secondary has been much better this season than their counterparts from Philadelphia, surrendering an average of just 16.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (fourth-fewest in NFL). It’s understandable if your roster is devoid of viable replacements for Fitzgerald, but we still advise you taper your expectations here.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): We detailed above all the reasons why we aren’t high on the Washington offense in Week 9, so let us leave you with this one thought as it specifically pertains to Reed: The Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 5.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (sixth-fewest in NFL), with just two touchdowns surrendered to the position through eight contests.

Denver Broncos & New England Patriots, D/STs: The Broncos and Patriots have met a grand total of three times since Peyton Manning landed in Denver prior to the start of the 2012 season. And in those three contests these two teams have combined to score an average of 53.0 points per game. Expect yet another shootout between these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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NFP power rankings

There is an interesting difference of opinion that has surfaced regarding the Dallas Cowboys in the wake of the team’s 20-17 upset loss to the Washington Redskins this past Monday night.

Jason GarrettWill Garrett and the Cowboys bounce back from last week's upset loss?

On one

There is an interesting difference of opinion that has surfaced regarding the Dallas Cowboys in the wake of the team’s 20-17 upset loss to the Washington Redskins this past Monday night.

Jason GarrettWill Garrett and the Cowboys bounce back from last week’s upset loss?

On one side you have those who feel it was only a matter of time before the Cowboys’ annual meltdown commenced. Monday night’s performance strengthened this position as Jason Garrett’s team appeared to overlook Colt McCoy and the Redskins and when the game was on the line in overtime, Dallas got away from what had been working so well both in that contest and throughout the course of the season by abandoning DeMarco Murray and the rushing attack for a throw-first approach.

On the other side of the argument, where this writer happens to stand, Monday night’s loss, while disturbing, isn’t enough to overlook what the Dallas Cowboys had produced in the seven weeks prior to the Washington game. The thought process here is that the Cowboys will learn from their mistakes, will get back to what works and will continue to push forward towards a spot in the postseason. As a result, we’ve dropped Dallas only two spots in our weekly power rankings.

However, a bad showing in Week 9 against a surging Arizona Cardinals team and we may need to rethink that position.

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100. These numbers can be used as a baseline to determine the point spread between any two teams on the list. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for home field advantage, situational analysis (extra rest, back-to-back road games, divisional rivalries, etc), injuries, weather or public perception. They are merely to be used as a baseline for your initial analysis.

NFP power rankings

1. Denver Broncos [92.0]
Record:
6-1 (Won 35-21 vs. San Diego)
Previous ranking: 92.0 (1)

2. Arizona Cardinals [90.5]
Record:
6-1 (Won 24-20 vs. Philadelphia)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (T5)

3. New England Patriots [90.0]
Record:
6-2 (Won 51-23 vs. Chicago)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T9)

T4. Philadelphia Eagles [89.5]
Record:
5-2 (Lost 24-20 at Arizona)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (4)

T4. Dallas Cowboys [89.5]
Record:
6-2 (Lost 20-17 vs. Washington)
Previous ranking: 90.5 (2)

6. San Diego Chargers [89.0]
Record:
5-3 (Lost 35-21 at Denver)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (T5)

7. Indianapolis Colts [88.5]
Record:
5-3 (Lost 51-34 at Pittsburgh)
Previous ranking: 90.0 (3)

8. Seattle Seahawks [88.0]
Record:
4-3 (Won 13-9 at Carolina)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (T9)

T9. San Francisco 49ers [87.5]
Record:
4-3 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (11)

T9. Green Bay Packers [87.5]
Record:
5-3 (Lost 44-23 at New Orleans)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (7)

11. Cincinnati Bengals [87.0]
Record:
4-2-1 (Won 27-24 vs. Baltimore)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (T12)

T12. Baltimore Ravens [86.5]
Record:
5-3 (Lost 27-24 at Cincinnati)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (8)

T12. Detroit Lions [86.5]
Record:
6-2 (Won 22-21 vs. Atlanta)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (T12)

14. Kansas City Chiefs [86.0]
Record:
4-3 (Won 34-7 vs. St. Louis)
Previous ranking: 85.5 (T14)

15. Miami Dolphins [85.5]
Record:
4-3 (Won 27-13 at Jacksonville)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T16. New Orleans Saints [85.0]
Record:
3-4 (Won 44-23 vs. Green Bay)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T19)

T16. Pittsburgh Steelers [85.0]
Record:
5-3 (Won 51-34 vs. Indianapolis)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (18)

T18. Houston Texans [84.0]
Record:
4-4 (Won 30-16 at Tennessee)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T21)

T18. Buffalo Bills [84.0]
Record:
5-3 (Won 43-23 at NY Jets)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (T21)

T20. Carolina Panthers [83.5]
Record:
3-4-1 (Lost 13-9 vs. Seattle)
Previous ranking: 85.5 (T14)

T20. New York Giants [83.5]
Record:
3-4 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T19)

T22. Chicago Bears [83.0]
Record:
3-5 (Lost 51-23 at New England)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T22. Cleveland Browns [83.0]
Record:
4-3 (Won 23-13 vs. Oakland)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (26)

24. Washington Redskins [82.5]
Record:
3-5 (Won 20-17 at Dallas)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (25)

25. Minnesota Vikings [81.5]
Record:
3-5 (Won 19-13 at Tampa Bay)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (T27)

26. Atlanta Falcons [81.0]
Record:
2-6 (Lost 22-21 vs. Detroit)
Previous ranking: 82.0 (24)

27. St. Louis Rams [80.5]
Record:
2-5 (Lost 34-7 at Kansas City)
Previous ranking: 82.5 (23)

28. Tennessee Titans [80.0]
Record:
2-6 (Lost 30-16 vs. Houston)
Previous ranking: 80.0 (29)

29. New York Jets [79.0]
Record:
1-7 (Lost 43-23 vs. Buffalo)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (T27)

T30. Jacksonville Jaguars [78.5]
Record:
1-7 (Lost 27-13 vs. Miami)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (31)

T30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [78.5]
Record:
1-6 (Lost 19-13 vs. Minnesota)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (30)

32. Oakland Raiders [78.0]
Record:
0-7 (Lost 23-13 at Cleveland)
Previous ranking: 78.0 (32)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 10 college football betting primer

I’m going to switch up the venue this weekend in the hopes of turning around this thoroughly disappointing season. However, if you see me throwing chairs at the MGM Grand on Saturday, you’ll know that plan fell apart rather quickly.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 23-27 (.460)

BYU Cougars (4-4,

I’m going to switch up the venue this weekend in the hopes of turning around this thoroughly disappointing season. However, if you see me throwing chairs at the MGM Grand on Saturday, you’ll know that plan fell apart rather quickly.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 23-27 (.460)

BYU Cougars (4-4, 2-2 road) at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-3, 4-0 home)

When: Saturday, 3:30pm ET
Open: BYU -7
Current: BYU -4 (MGM)

BYU in 2014: 2-6 ATS, 6-2 to the OVER
Middle Tennessee in 2014: 5-3 ATS, 5-2-1 to the OVER

Analysis: This play is all about the situation, as Middle Tennessee is coming off a bye and has yet another bye next weekend, giving the Blue Raiders nothing to focus on other than revenge for last season’s 37-10 loss at BYU. As if this spot wasn’t already tasty enough, this weekend marks BYU’s third road contest in four weeks. Note that the Cougars are banged up and have dropped four straight matchups, not to mention the fact that the team hasn’t covered a spread in any of their last six outings. Middle Tennessee, however, is 7-1 ATS over its last eight home games.

Notable trends: BYU is 2-7 ATS over its last nine road games while Middle Tennessee is 5-1 ATS over its last six contests following a bye week.

Pick: Middle Tennessee (+4)

South Alabama Jaguars (5-2, 3-0 road) at Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (4-3, 3-1 home)

When: Saturday, 5:00pm ET
Open: UL-Lafayette -5.5
Current: UL-Lafayette -6.5 (Wynn)

South Alabama in 2014: 3-4 ATS, 5-1-1 to the UNDER
UL-Lafayette in 2014: 3-4 ATS, 4-3 to the OVER

Analysis: South Alabama’s current four-game winning streak looks impressive until you realize that Idaho, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Troy are a combined 5-25 on the season. Throw in the Jaguars’ season-opening win over Kent State and that gives South Alabama five victories against opponents who are a combined 6-32 on the year. Meanwhile, the Jaguars were outscored by more than three touchdowns in each of their defeats this season (Mississippi State, Georgia Southern) and currently rank 98th in the country in scoring (24.3 pts/gm). We’ll side with the favorite in this one.

Notable trends: South Alabama is 2-5 ATS over its last seven games against teams with a winning record while UL-Lafayette is 14-5 ATS over its last 19 contests against teams with a winning record.

Pick: UL-Lafayette (-6.5)

Arkansas Razorbacks (4-4, 1-1 road) at #1 Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 home)

When: Saturday, 7:15pm ET
Open: Mississippi State -11.5
Current: Mississippi State -10.5 (Westgate)

Arkansas in 2014: 6-2 ATS, 6-2 to the OVER
Mississippi State in 2014: 5-2 ATS, 4-3 to the OVER

Dan MullenDan Mullen’s Bulldogs survived a scare against Kentucky last weekend.

Analysis: Arkansas is 0-4 against SEC opposition in 2014 and runs into a top-ranked Bulldogs team on Saturday that is coming off a wakeup call in the form of a 45-31 too-close-for-comfort victory at Kentucky. Expect a much better effort in this one from a Mississippi State team that is 7-1 ATS over its last eight conference games, 6-1 ATS over its last seven home contests and 10-2 ATS over its last 12 matchups overall. With a cakewalk game against UT-Martin on deck and the Kentucky scare fresh in their minds, there’s no way Mississippi State gets caught sleepwalking in this one.

Notable trends: The home team is 10-2 ATS in the last 12 meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Mississippi State (-10.5)

#10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1, 1-1 road) at Navy Midshipmen (4-4, 2-3 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Notre Dame -15.5
Current: Notre Dame -13.5 (Stations)

Notre Dame in 2014: 5-2 ATS, 5-2 to the UNDER
Navy in 2014: 3-5 ATS, 6-1 to the UNDER

Everett GolsonLook for Golson and the Irish to come out firing on Saturday.

Analysis: Despite a razor-thin loss at Florida State, Notre Dame is still very much alive in the hunt for the college football playoff. The Irish have had two weeks to both get over that last-second defeat in Tallahassee and prepare for a Navy team that just notched a respectable 41-31 win over San Jose State last Saturday. However, Navy has only played one team this season with the pedigree of the Irish and that resulted in a 34-17 loss at Ohio State back in Week 1. In our opinion, a rested Everett Golson will be too much for the Midshipmen to handle for 60 minutes. Take note that Notre Dame is 4-1 ATS over its last five road games.

Notable trends: Notre Dame is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games at Navy.

Pick: Notre Dame (-13.5)

#12 Arizona Wildcats (6-1, 3-0 road) at #22 UCLA Bruins (6-2, 1-2 home)

When: Saturday, 10:30pm ET
Open: UCLA -4.5
Current: UCLA -6.5 (Westgate)

Arizona in 2014: 3-4 ATS, 4-3 to the UNDER
UCLA in 2014: 1-7 ATS, 4-3-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: This is a bad matchup for an underachieving UCLA team that has covered only one spread in eight games this season. The Bruins secondary is surrendering an average of 267.7 passing yards per game this season, a number that jumps to 275.0 if you factor in only conference matchups. Meanwhile, Rich Rodriguez’s offense is averaging a rock-solid 348.4 passing yards per game and already has one marquee road win under its belt this season thanks to a 31-24 upset win at Oregon on October 2. In addition, note that UCLA is 1-4 ATS over its last five home games, 0-4 ATS over its last four conference matchups and 1-4 ATS over its last five showdowns against teams with a winning record. We’ll be playing Arizona on the moneyline here as well.

Notable trends: Arizona is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Arizona (+6.5, holding out for +7)

OTHER GAMES WE’RE PLAYING THIS WEEKEND

Georgia Bulldogs (-12.5) over Florida Gators
Kansas State Wildcats (-14) over Oklahoma State Cowboys

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The fantasy waiver wire report

With eight weeks of the season under our belts, it’s important for owners to note that “points scored” is a better indicator than “overall record” when it comes to how good your fantasy football team truly is. Look through your various leagues and you’re sure to discover a team with a 6-2 or 7-1

With eight weeks of the season under our belts, it’s important for owners to note that “points scored” is a better indicator than “overall record” when it comes to how good your fantasy football team truly is. Look through your various leagues and you’re sure to discover a team with a 6-2 or 7-1 mark that ranks in the bottom three in scoring, as well as teams with 4-4 or 3-5 records that rank in the top two in scoring. Seasoned owners have been through this drill before. You’ve got a top-flight roster that produces points on a consistent basis, but you’re 3-5 because every single week you face an opponent with a roster that goes nuclear. The same can be said about the other end of the spectrum where owners with a 6-2 mark consistently face opposition that falls flat at virtually every spot on the roster.

For preciously this reason, records sometimes serve as a false indicator when it comes to the overall quality of your fantasy football team. And if you currently happen to own a team with a solid record but low scoring total, don’t relax. Hit the waiver wire and/or look to swing a last second, high-profile trade before the deadline passes.

Because at some point in the future, your luck is going to run out.

Bye week: Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans

<strong>QUARTERBACKS

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (at Dallas, owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues): In three starts since returning from an early season shoulder injury, Palmer has averaged 277.3 passing yards per game with six touchdowns and only one interception. The ceiling here is somewhat low as Palmer will never be the quarterback who throws for 400 yards and four scores like Drew Brees, but the Arizona signal-caller makes for a solid and reliable QB2 with QB1 upside during bye weeks.

Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills (Bye, owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues): We’re still not exactly sure as to why more owners aren’t willing to take a chance on Orton, as the veteran journeyman has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns in four starts since stealing the starting gig from E.J. Manuel. The Buffalo offense can be difficult to stomach at times, but there’s no denying the fact that Orton has been consistently producing favorable results since taking over the huddle. A dependable QB2 with QB1 upside.

Carson PalmerPalmer has been rock solid since returning from a Week 1 shoulder injury.

Michael Vick, New York Jets (at Kansas City, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): Apparently the Jets have finally suffered enough embarrassment from riding with former second-round draft pick Geno Smith through the first eight weeks of the season, so the team has opted to turn the keys to the car over to 34-year-old Michael Vick and his career QB rating of 80.3. Vick made this list simply because he was recently named the starter for Sunday’s game in Kansas City, but don’t expect a whole lot here. The Jets are a mess and it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than an aging, turnover-prone quarterback to turn things around.

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans (Bye, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): Speaking strictly from a fantasy football point of view, Mettenberger’s NFL debut was half bad as the rookie from LSU completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 299 yards and two scores with one interception against a respectable Houston Texans defense. The upside here is that Mettenberger now gets two weeks learn from his first start and prepare for his next opponent. There will certainly be plenty of growing pains here, but owners in very deep or two QB leagues should pay attention.

RUNNING BACKS

Note: The following running backs are worth owning if for some reason they are still available in your league: Ronnie Hillman (74% owned), Ryan Mathews (64%), Jerick McKinnon (73%), Darren McFadden (61%), Mark Ingram (69%).

Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (at Cincinnati, owned in 57% of Yahoo! leagues): Since making the transition from wide receiver to running back, Robinson’s last two games have featured an impressive 40 carries for 235 rushing yards and one score with a rock solid 4.8 yards per carry average. The problem here is that the Jaguars have a tendency to put themselves in big holes in football games, which leads to an abandonment of the rushing attack during the second half, so owners need to be aware that there is plenty of risk involved with Robinson. But it’s hard not to like what this guy has produced during his limited stint as Jacksonville’s workhorse running back.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (vs. New Orleans, owned in 14% of Yahoo! leagues): After missing the last four games with an ankle injury, Williams is expected to return to the lineup Thursday night when Carolina plays host to division-rival New Orleans. The most likely scenario in Week 9 is that the Panthers employ a running back-by-committee approach that includes a healthy dose of Williams, but at the same time devalues any ball-carrier who is involved. That’s a shame for fantasy owners because the Saints are currently surrendering an average of 20.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (11th-most in NFL).

Jonas Gray, New England Patriots (vs. Denver, owned in 6% of Yahoo! leagues): Recently promoted from the practice squad in the wake of the season-ending injury suffered by starting running back Stevan Ridley, Gray took command of the backfield responsibilities in Week 8 against the Chicago Bears by rushing for 86 yards on 17 carries (5.1 YPA). Owners will no doubt be falling all over themselves to acquire the 24-year-old out of Notre Dame, but take note that head coach Bill Belichick has a history of trolling fantasy owners when it comes to the running back position. Gray will continue to see carries, but week-to-week reliability is definitely an issue.

Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Cleveland, owned in 24% of Yahoo! leagues): Rainey will be a popular name this week following another disastrous performance from starting running back Doug Martin (10-27-0), who happened to suffer a minor ankle injury in Sunday’s home loss to Minnesota. But the problem here is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a horrendous football team that currently ranks dead last in the league in total offense (295.1 yds/gm) and 27th in scoring (19.0 pts/gm). So is it really worth blowing a top waiver priority to acquire a player with a low ceiling due to such a bad situation?

Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Cleveland, owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues): If you’re looking to roll the dice on a Buccaneers running back, this is the guy, as word out of Tampa is that Doug Martin has fallen out of favor with the team’s coaching staff and Sims—a third-round pick out of West Virginia—is headed for a heavy workload once he’s activated this week from the I.R./recall list. A 6-0, 213-pound dual-threat option, Sims ran for 3,465 yards and 40 touchdowns during his 48 collegiate games with the Mountaineers while adding another 203 receptions for 2,108 yards and 11 scores through the air. Just remember, this is the Buccaneers we’re talking about here.

Boobie Dixon, Buffalo Bills (Bye, owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues): Don’t be discouraged by Dixon’s lackluster 22-44-0 stat line Sunday against the Jets in his first true test as a starting running back, as New York is one of the better run stopping units in the National Football League. The 6-1, 233-pounder out of Mississippi State is a powerful inside runner who should handle the bulk of the Buffalo goal line and short yardage carries until Fred Jackson returns from a groin injury (approximately four more weeks). Dixon is worthy of a roster spot and will make for a decent Week 10 start when the Bills play host to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bryce Brown, Buffalo Bills (Bye, owned in 40% of Yahoo! leagues): Touched the ball just seven times for 15 yards Sunday against the New York Jets, but there’s a good chance Brown gets more involved in the offense now that the Bills have two weeks to figure out the best way to utilize his abilities. Remember, this is the same guy who amassed 1,018 total yards and six scores on 211 touches from 2012-2013. Brown has potential, but a limited share of the workload certainly devalues his overall worth.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Note: Doug Baldwin (57% owned in Yahoo! leagues) and Odell Beckham (56%) are both worth owning if still available in your leagues.

Note 2: Josh Gordon (62%) is scheduled to return from his suspension in Week 12.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (at Cincinnati, owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues): Since stepping into a starting role in Week 3, the rookie from Penn State is averaging a healthy 9.0 targets per game. Additionally, the Robinson-Blake Bortles connection has begun to pick up steam over the last few weeks, with the Jacksonville wideout finding the end zone in each of his last two outings. As always when it comes to the Jaguars, garbage time statistics are a big plus here.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans (Bye, owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues): Heading into Week 8, Hunter told the Tennessee media that he had been building a nice rapport with rookie signal-caller Zach Mettenberger, who made his first start of the season Sunday against the Houston Texans. The result? Hunter was targeted a team-high ten times, which resulted in four receptions for 31 yards and a score. Consistency will be an issue here due to the presence of a rookie signal-caller under center, but these two may have something cooking.

Martavis BryantBryant has found the end zone three times over his last two outings.

Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Baltimore, owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues): Through just two appearances this season, the rookie from Clemson has took the fantasy world by storm, notching seven receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets. Don’t be surprised if Bryant steals the No. 2 job away from the underwhelming Markus Wheaton (29-333-1 on season) in the very near future. The upside here is the fact that playing opposite Antonio Bryant is going to create some very favorable coverage matchups. The downside is consistency and dependability.

Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (vs. Denver, owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues): The former Carolina Panther has found the end zone four times over his last five outings and appears to have quietly installed himself as quarterback Tom Brady’s No. 2 option behind tight end Rob Gronkowski. LaFell is coming off his best performance of the season (11-124-1) and currently serves as the only true homerun threat on the Patriots roster.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (at Dallas, owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from Pittsburg State isn’t what you would call a “high volume receiver,” but he’s a big-play nightmare for opposing defenses, as evidenced by the 5-119-1 stat line Brown recorded Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Makes for an interesting bye week replacement due to his high ceiling, but remember, it’s still the Michael Floyd-Larry Fitzgerald show in Arizona. Dynasty and keeper league owners should be paying close attention to this guy.

Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders (at Seattle, owned in 42% of Yahoo! leagues): Holmes is averaging a healthy 16.2 yards per reception this season and has found the end zone four times over his last four contests. The Oakland Raiders are an unreliable and inconsistent offense, so you can’t bank on solid week-to-week production from Holmes. But the Hillsdale product is worth rostering as a WR3/4 due to garbage time numbers, big-play ability and the rapport he is building with rookie signal-caller Derek Carr.

Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (at NY Giants, owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues): With Reggie Wayne on the sidelines in Week 8 due to an elbow injury, Moncrief seized advantage of the opportunity to play more snaps by catching seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown at Pittsburgh. Note that when Wayne returns to the field, Moncrief’s value will take a severe hit. But until that time happens, any starting receiver working with quarterback Andrew Luck deserves your attention.

TIGHT ENDS

Note: Colts TE Dwayne Allen is still available in 26% of Yahoo! leagues despite finding the end zone in six of eight games this season.

Tim Wright, New England Patriots (vs. Denver, owned in 14% of Yahoo! leagues): While his target totals are relatively limited, it’s worth noting that Wright has found the end zone in three of his last four games since bursting onto the scene with a 5-85-1 effort against the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week 5. Don’t expect Wright to hold down the TE position on your fantasy squad for the rest of the season, but the former Tampa Bay Buc makes for a high-upside situational play if you are jammed up due to injuries or bye weeks.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Note: Streamers should look to see if the Bengals are available on waivers (currently owned in 68% of Yahoo! leagues), as Cincinnati plays host to the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend.

Kansas City Chiefs (vs. NY Jets, owned in 59% of Yahoo! leagues): Held the St. Louis Rams to just seven points and only 200 total yards of offense while registering seven sacks in Sunday’s 34-7 blowout victory. Those owners quick enough to snag this squad last week should stand pat, as Week 9 offers up a tasty matchup with turnover-prone Michael Vick and a New York Jets offense that currently ranks 28th in the league in both total offense (319.4 yds/gm) and scoring (18.0 pts/gm).

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Updated CFB championship odds: Georgia’s rebound

After exacting revenge on the Clemson Tigers on August 30 for a 38-35 season-opening loss in 2013, the Georgia Bulldogs traveled to South Carolina in Week 2 of the college football season and suffered a 38-35 defeat to Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks. The setback dropped Mark Richt’s crew both from 10/1 to 20/1 on the

After exacting revenge on the Clemson Tigers on August 30 for a 38-35 season-opening loss in 2013, the Georgia Bulldogs traveled to South Carolina in Week 2 of the college football season and suffered a 38-35 defeat to Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks. The setback dropped Mark Richt’s crew both from 10/1 to 20/1 on the odds board at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and out of the public eye as conference foes like Mississippi State and Mississippi captured the country’s attention.

Mark RichtICONRicht’s Bulldogs have won five straight entering Saturday’s showdown with Florida.

Nearly two months later and the Bulldogs have clawed their way right back into the thick of the national championship hunt. Georgia’s 45-32 victory over Arkansas on October 18—the team’s fifth-straight win—elevated the Bulldogs to their current position of 6/1, which currently resides in a tie for second with Oregon just below favorite Alabama (5/1).

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the previously unbeaten Mississippi Rebels, who botched Saturday’s showdown with LSU in Baton Rouge and, as a result, were adjusted from 5/1 to 8/1 to win the national championship.

Also worth noting is the rebound of the TCU Horned Frogs, who after losing 68-51 at Baylor on October 11, have bounced back to pound Oklahoma State (42-9) and Texas Tech (82-27) to establish a current position at 12/1.

Here’s the rest of the rundown as we approach Halloween weekend:

odds chart

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Las Vegas market report: NFL Week 8

Five matchups featuring home underdogs highlight this weekend’s slate of action, but be sure to note that unlike in years past, home dogs haven’t been barking quite as loudly this season (12-15-2 through seven weeks).

We’ll find out Sunday if that trend reverses course as we approach Halloween, but for now, let’s take

Five matchups featuring home underdogs highlight this weekend’s slate of action, but be sure to note that unlike in years past, home dogs haven’t been barking quite as loudly this season (12-15-2 through seven weeks).

We’ll find out Sunday if that trend reverses course as we approach Halloween, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the key line movements heading into the Sunday schedule.

AFTER 7 WEEKS

Home teams: 50-54-3 (.480)
Favorites: 53-51-3 (.509)
Home dogs: 12-15-2 (.444)
Overs: 58-49 (.542)

Baltimore Ravens (5-2, 2-1 road) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1, 2-0-1 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Cincinnati -3.5
Week 8 open: Cincinnati -3
Current: Baltimore -1

Notable trends: The favorite is 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between these two teams.

Analysis: Two key factors have combined to move this spread a grand total of 4.5 points since the look-ahead line hit the board last week. First, Baltimore fell at home to Cincinnati 23-16 back in Week 1, so you’ve got the revenge angle in play here. In addition, Cincinnati has looked terrible over the last three weeks, surrendering an average of 35.6 points per game, which includes a 27-0 blanking in Indianapolis last Sunday afternoon. Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense are a much more anemic unit without the services of wide receiver A.J. Green (toe), so it’s important to monitor the injury reports as we approach Sunday. Remember, while Cincy has been floundering over the last three weeks, Baltimore has very quietly won five of its last six outings with quarterback Joe Flacco currently on pace to post career-high marks in both passing yards and touchdowns.

Houston Texans (3-4, 1-3 road) at Tennessee Titans (2-5, 1-2 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Houston -1.5
Week 8 open: Houston -1
Current: Houston -3 (-120)

Notable trends: Houston is 4-1 ATS over its last five games at Tennessee.

Zach MettenbergerMettenberger gets the nod for Tennessee on Sunday.

Analysis: Even with Houston riding a three-game losing streak and entering Sunday’s divisional matchup at Tennessee on a short week following a 30-23 Monday night loss in Pittsburgh, the action has been ferocious and constant in support of Bill O’Brien’s Texans. The main reason has to do with Thursday’s announcement that immobile rookie sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger will start at quarterback for the Titans in Week 8. Mettenberger may have the comfort of making his NFL debut at home, but against the relentless Houston pass rush featuring J.J. Watt and rookie first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney, the LSU product is going to have his hands full on Sunday. Note that the Titans are 1-8-2 ATS over their last 11 home games.

Miami Dolphins (3-3, 2-1 road) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, 1-2 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Miami -4.5
Week 8 open: Miami -4.5
Current: Miami -6

Notable trends: The favorite is 4-1-1 ATS over the last six meetings between these two teams.

Analysis: Jacksonville may have notched its first win of the season last Sunday, but the betting community still has very little faith in a club that is now 7-15-1 ATS overall since 2013 and 4-14-1 ATS at home since 2012. Miami, on the other hand, is coming off an impressive 27-14 upset win at Chicago and had it not been for a late meltdown against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6, the Dolphins would be 4-2 on the season and garnering much more attention. The big question is whether or not Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill can find a way to sustain their recent success, as both men find themselves on the hot seat as we approach the month of November.

Chicago Bears (3-4, 3-1 road) at New England Patriots (5-2, 3-0 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: New England -6.5
Week 8 open: New England -7
Current: New England -6

Notable trends: The Patriots are 1-4 ATS over their last five games following a win.

Analysis: The biggest red flag of the weekend features a dysfunctional Bears team that just lost 27-14 at home to the Miami Dolphins against a well-rested New England squad that has won three straight games since being humiliated at Kansas City back in Week 4. So why is this line moving toward Chicago? Well, the Bears are 6-1 ATS over their last seven outings when amassing less than 250 total yards in the previous game. In addition, this is a non-conference showdown for the Patriots, who could get caught looking ahead to next Sunday’s AFC Championship rematch with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Also worth noting is this little tidbit: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook sends out the weekly point spreads for their SuperContest on Wednesday afternoon. Being the exceptionally sharp bookmakers that they are, the staff tries to anticipate where the lines will move by the time the weekend rolls around. In this instance, the Westgate sent out New England -5.5 in anticipation of Bears money. Take that for what it’s worth.

Seattle Seahawks (3-3, 1-2 road) at Carolina Panthers (3-3-1, 2-1 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Seattle -3.5
Week 8 open: Seattle -3.5
Current: Seattle -5

Notable trends: Seattle is 12-4 ATS over its last 16 road games.

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks have taken plenty of money in the build-up to Sunday’s game at Carolina.

Analysis: Interesting line move considering the fact that Seattle just played a road divisional game in St. Louis and now has to travel all the way across the country for an early start time with a Carolina Panthers team that is 11-5-1 ATS over its last 17 games following an against the spread loss. This is either a setup by professional bettors who are firing big money on Seattle in an attempt to move the line only so they can come back later on to wager even more money on Carolina at a better price, or it’s true belief that there is no way the defending champs will drop three consecutive matchups. Let’s see what happens here on Sunday morning.

Buffalo Bills (4-3, 2-1 road) at New York Jets (1-6, 1-3 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: PK
Week 8 open: NY Jets -3 (even)
Current: NY Jets -3

Notable trends: The home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two franchises.

Analysis: The Jets enter Week 8 on extra rest and with a new offensive weapon in wide receiver Percy Harvin, but the Bills are 2-1 on the road this season with victories over Chicago and Detroit. I find myself asking the following question every time I look at this point spread: Am I confident laying three points with a 1-6 Jets team quarterbacked by Geno Smith? The answer, of course, is a resounding “no.” But it’s also worth noting that Buffalo is 8-24-1 ATS over its last 33 games following a win.

Indianapolis Colts (5-2, 2-1 road) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3, 2-1 home)

When: Sunday, 4:25pm ET
Look-ahead line: Indianapolis -1
Week 8 open: Indianapolis -2.5
Current: Indianapolis -3 (-120)

Notable trends: Pittsburgh is 0-4-1 ATS over their last five contests when playing on a Sunday following a Monday night game.

Analysis: Short week for a Steelers team that has been consistently inconsistent this season facing off against one of the hottest teams in the league in the Indianapolis Colts, winners of five straight by an average of 18.0 points per game. The Colts are now 23-8 ATS over their last 31 showdowns with AFC opposition and have been turning a consistent profit for their backers, so it’s easy to understand the move here. However, note that running back Trent Richardson (hamstring) will be a game-time decision while wide receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) have already been ruled out.

Green Bay Packers (5-2, 2-2 road) at New Orleans Saints (2-4, 2-0 home)

When: Sunday, 8:30pm ET
Look-ahead line: PICK
Week 8 open: Green Bay -1.5
Current: New Orleans -1.5

Notable trends: New Orleans is 36-17 ATS over its last 53 home games.

Analysis: That trend above is the sole reason why the market is taking Saints money, but let me ask you a question: Of the six games New Orleans has played in 2014, can you name one instance in which the team has looked good? The Saints’ two victories this season came by way of an overtime home shootout over lousy Tampa Bay and a 20-9 blah performance against a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who was making his NFL debut. New Orleans’ other four outings feature the team finding ways to lose games against Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit, as well as getting blown out at Dallas back in Week 4. This is not the same Saints team we remember from years past and the red-hot Packers—winners of four straight by an average of 19.2 points per game—are going to demonstrate preciously that Sunday night in the Superdome.

THE REST OF THE RUNDOWN

Numbers in parenthesis indicate look-ahead line, Week 8 open and current

Detroit Lions (-3.5, -4, -3.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons (in London)
Kansas City Chiefs (-6, -6, -7) vs. St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (PK, -2, -2.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5, -2.5, -2.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Cleveland Browns (-7, -7, -6.5) vs. Oakland Raiders
Dallas Cowboys (-8, -8, -9.5) vs. Washington Redskins

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 8 SURVIVOR PICKS

Last week: Buffalo (win), Washington (win)

Plan A: Dallas over Washington
Plan B: Cleveland over Oakland
Plan C: Miami over Jacksonville

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 2-4-1

Last week: Kansas City (+4.5) over San Diego (win)

This week: Green Bay Packers (+1.5) over New Orleans Saints

Analysis: The big misconception here is that New Orleans will finally decide to start playing some quality football thanks to a Sunday night home game in which a raucous crowd will lead the Saints to victory. Don’t believe the hype. In seven outings this season, Drew Brees and company have yet to put together an impressive performance. This is the week the rest of the country wakes up and realizes that the window has closed and the Saints are in need of a rebuilding effort. The wrong team is favored here.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 4-1

Season: 18-17

The Big Puma and I are still in the process of finalizing our Week 8 card, but here are six plays we are currently discussing:

CHICAGO BEARS (+5.5) at New England Patriots
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-6.5) vs. St. Louis Rams
HOUSTON TEXANS (-2) at Tennessee Titans
BALTIMORE RAVENS (+1) at Cincinnati Bengals
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers
GREEN BAY PACKERS (+1.5) at New Orleans Saints

START ‘EM UP

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Washington): Romo may not be throwing the ball as much this season as in years past thanks to emergence of running back DeMarco Murray, but the Dallas gunslinger has tossed ten touchdown passes over his last four outings, is completing 69.2 percent of his passes on the season and is averaging a healthy 284.3 passing yards per game over his last three outings. Look for another solid outing Monday night against an out-gunned Washington Redskins defense that is currently surrendering an average of 24.0 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns (vs. Oakland): Tate is averaging an impressive 21.0 rushing attempts per game since returning from a Week 1 knee injury and should see yet another demanding workload Sunday against an Oakland Raiders defense that currently ranks 29th in the NFL against the run (145.3 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 24.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (second-most in NFL). It’s possible that rookie ball-carrier Isaiah Crowell steals some red zone carries against the Silver & Black, but Tate should see more than enough opportunities to rack up a solid fantasy total in Week 8.

Tony RomoUS PRESSWIRELook for another solid effort from Romo on Monday night against the Redskins.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks (at Carolina): Stepped up huge in Seattle’s first game without Percy Harvin to the tune of a season-high seven receptions for 123 yards and a score on a team-high 11 targets. Expect another heavily-targeted outing Sunday in Carolina against a suddenly reeling Panthers defense that currently ranks 22nd in the NFL against the pass (250.7 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 27.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fourth-most in NFL). Baldwin has the potential to become one of the league’s top breakout players during the second half of the 2014 campaign.

Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions (vs. Atlanta, in London): He’s found the end zone in each of his last two starts, but more importantly, Bell runs head-on into an Atlanta defense on Sunday that ranks 27th in the league against the run (137.7 yds/gm) while surrendering more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the business this season (28.1 pts/gm). In addition to Bell, owners are also advised to ride with Reggie Bush in Week 8.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Philadelphia): The 11-year veteran and his one touchdown reception have left owners scratching their heads through seven weeks, but this Sunday offers up the perfect opportunity to ride with Fitzgerald one last time before selling high on the Pro Bowl wide receiver next week just before the trade deadline. Why? Because the Philadelphia Eagles currently rank 23rd in the NFL against the pass (256.5 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 26.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this year (sixth-most in NFL). Michael Floyd owners should be equally excited about this weekend’s matchup.

Owen Daniels, TE, Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati): While Daniels’ upside is relatively limited, the former Houston Texan is coming off a 6-58-1 performance against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday which included a season-high nine targets. That’s a good sign entering a Week 8 matchup against a Cincinnati Bengals defense that is currently giving up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than any other team in the league (14.2 pts/gm).

Miami Dolphins, D/ST (at Jacksonville): Even after notching their first win of the season last Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars still rank 31st in the NFL in total offense (296.6 yds/gm) and 32nd in scoring (15.0 pts/gm) with an astounding 15 turnovers through seven contests. Do you really need us to go any further?

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Detroit, in London): After throwing three touchdown passes in three of his first four starts this season, Ryan and the Falcons have plummeted off a cliff, with the Atlanta signal-caller tossing only one score in each of his last three outings. This team is bad news when asked to play outside the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome, so steer clear of Ryan Sunday in London when he takes on a Detroit Lions defense that is giving up fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season than any other team in the business (15.2 pts/gm).

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Baltimore): Bernard is coming off a dreadful 7-17-0 rushing effort against the Indianapolis Colts and now has to turn around for a Week 8 divisional showdown against a red-hot Baltimore Ravens club that currently ranks seventh in the NFL against the run (87.4 yds/gm) while giving up an average of just 11.8 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this year (third-fewest in NFL). While he’s not the worst option on the board, owners are advised to taper their expectations when it comes to Bernard’s Week 8 potential.

"MattRyan has tossed just three touchdown passes over his last three outings.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (at Dallas): With Colt McCoy under center for the Washington Redskins in a Monday night road showdown against a 6-1 Cowboys team, there is no way owners can feel any level of comfort rolling with Garcon in Week 8. Perhaps fellow wide receiver DeSean Jackson breaks a big play on a McCoy prayer, but the reality is that we’ve seen this movie before and it does not end well for the Redskins. Taper your expectations here.

Tre Mason, RB, St. Louis Rams (at Kansas City): One of the hottest waiver wire pickups of the last two weeks, the rookie from Auburn has finally begun to assert his dominance over the St. Louis backfield. The problem, however, is that head coach Jeff Fisher still plans to split, to some extent, the team’s distribution of rushing attempts amongst a variety of ball-carriers. As if that wasn’t enough cause for concern entering Week 8, take note that Kansas City is currently permitting an average of just 14.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (seventh-fewest in NFL). There are better options with more upside out there.

Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati): He’s found the end zone three times in his last two starts, but Smith owners who are suddenly excited over the fact that the Baltimore receiver has decided to deliver this season should look for another option in Week 8. Note that free agent acquisition Steve Smith is quarterback Joe Flacco’s top target these days in addition to the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals are surrendering an average of just 17.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts in 2014 (fifth-fewest in NFL).

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (vs. Green Bay): The Pro Bowl tight end is battling a shoulder injury that makes him a serious liability when it comes to pass protection. In addition, Graham played just 30 of a possible 75 snaps last Sunday at Detroit, which resulted in zero receptions on two targets. Feel free to roll the dice on Graham Sunday night against the Packers in the hopes of scoring one big red zone opportunity, but don’t expect a knockout performance.

Cincinnati Bengals, D/ST (vs. Baltimore): The wheels have fallen off the bus as Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals have been torched for an average of 35.6 points per game over their last three contests. At the current moment, it’s impossible to get behind this football team.

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NFP power rankings

In impressively stealth fashion, the Baltimore Ravens rebounded from both the loss of running back Ray Rice for the entire 2014 campaign and a 23-16 Week 1 home defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals to rip off five victories over the franchise’s last six outings to claim the top spot in the AFC North.

In impressively stealth fashion, the Baltimore Ravens rebounded from both the loss of running back Ray Rice for the entire 2014 campaign and a 23-16 Week 1 home defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals to rip off five victories over the franchise’s last six outings to claim the top spot in the AFC North.

Baltimore’s rise up the rankings can be attributed to a combination of the Joe Flacco-Steve Smith connection and a lockdown defense that is currently permitting a league-best 14.9 points per game in 2014. Through seven contests, Flacco is on pace to set career marks in both passing yards (4,237) and touchdowns (32) while Smith’s current numbers (38-640-4) put the former Carolina Panther on course for his best season since 2005.

Joe FlaccoUS PRESSWIREFlacco and the Ravens have quietly assumed control of the AFC North.

Back-to-back wins over the next two weeks against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh would put the Ravens at 7-2 and in firm command of the AFC North heading into a Week 10 home date with the Tennessee Titans, which precedes Baltimore’s 2014 bye week.

And to think, in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal at the beginning of the season combined with the alleged rise of the Cincinnati Bengals, many of us were dismissing this club’s chances in 2014.

The numbers in brackets indicate each team’s Power Ranking, which is based on a scale of 60-100. These numbers can be used as a baseline to determine the point spread between any two teams on the list. Keep in mind that these numbers do not account for home field advantage, situational analysis (extra rest, back-to-back road games, divisional rivalries, etc), injuries, weather or public perception. They are merely to be used as a baseline for your initial analysis.

NFP power rankings

1. Denver Broncos [92.0]
Record:
5-1 (Won 42-17 vs. San Francisco)
Previous ranking: 91.5 (1)

2. Dallas Cowboys [90.5]
Record:
6-1 (Won 31-21 vs. NY Giants)
Previous ranking: 90.5 (2)

3. Indianapolis Colts [90.0]
Record:
5-2 (Won 27-0 vs. Cincinnati)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (7)

4. Philadelphia Eagles [89.5]
Record:
5-1 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (5)

T5. Arizona Cardinals [89.0]
Record:
5-1 (Won 24-13 at Oakland)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (T10)

T5. San Diego Chargers [89.0]
Record:
5-2 (Lost 23-20 vs. Kansas City)
Previous ranking: 90.0 (T3)

7. Green Bay Packers [88.5]
Record:
5-2 (Won 38-17 vs. Carolina)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (8)

8. Baltimore Ravens [88.0]
Record:
5-2 (Won 29-7 vs. Atlanta)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T12)

T9. New England Patriots [87.5]
Record:
5-2 (Won 27-25 vs. NY Jets)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (9)

T9. Seattle Seahawks [87.5]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 28-26 at St. Louis)
Previous ranking: 90.0 (T3)

11. San Francisco 49ers [87.0]
Record:
4-3 (Lost 42-17 at Denver)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (6)

T12. Detroit Lions [86.0]
Record:
5-2 (Won 24-23 vs. New Orleans)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T15)

T12. Cincinnati Bengals [86.0]
Record:
3-2-1 (Lost 27-0 at Indianapolis)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (T10)

T14. Kansas City Chiefs [85.5]
Record:
3-3 (Won 23-20 at San Diego)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T15)

T14. Carolina Panthers [85.5]
Record:
3-3-1 (Lost 38-17 at Green Bay)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T12)

T16. Miami Dolphins [85.0]
Record:
3-3 (Won 27-14 at Chicago)
Previous ranking: 82.5 (24)

T16. Chicago Bears [85.0]
Record:
3-4 (Lost 27-14 vs. Miami)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (14)

18. Pittsburgh Steelers [84.0]
Record:
4-3 (Won 30-23 vs. Houston)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (T19)

T19. New Orleans Saints [83.5]
Record:
2-4 (Lost 24-23 at Detroit)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T15)

T19. New York Giants [83.5]
Record:
3-4 (Lost 31-21 at Dallas)
Previous ranking: 84.5 (18)

T21. Houston Texans [83.0]
Record:
3-4 (Lost 30-23 at Pittsburgh)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T21)

T21. Buffalo Bills [83.0]
Record:
4-3 (Won 17-16 vs. Minnesota)
Previous ranking: 83.0 (23)

23. St. Louis Rams [82.5]
Record:
2-4 (Won 28-26 vs. Seattle)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (25)

24. Atlanta Falcons [82.0]
Record:
2-5 (Lost 29-7 at Baltimore)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T21)

25. Washington Redskins [81.5]
Record:
2-5 (Won 19-17 vs. Tennessee)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (26)

26. Cleveland Browns [81.0]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 24-6 at Jacksonville)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (T19)

T27. New York Jets [80.5]
Record:
1-6 (Lost 27-25 at New England)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (T27)

T27. Minnesota Vikings [80.5]
Record:
2-5 (Lost 17-16 at Buffalo)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (T27)

29. Tennessee Titans [80.0]
Record:
2-5 (Lost 19-17 at Washington)
Previous ranking: 80.0 (29)

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [79.0]
Record:
1-5 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 79.0 (30)

31. Jacksonville Jaguars [78.5]
Record:
1-6 (Won 24-6 vs. Cleveland)
Previous ranking: 78.0 (32)

32. Oakland Raiders [78.0]
Record:
0-6 (Lost 24-13 vs. Arizona)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (31)

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Week 9 college football betting primer

Well would you look at that? A winning Saturday for the first time in God knows how long. Let’s see if we can build on that success with a plan to peak just as bowl season gets underway.

Last week: 3-2

Season: 21-24 (.466)

North Texas Mean Green (2-5,

Well would you look at that? A winning Saturday for the first time in God knows how long. Let’s see if we can build on that success with a plan to peak just as bowl season gets underway.

Last week: 3-2

Season: 21-24 (.466)

North Texas Mean Green (2-5, 0-3 road) at Rice Owls (3-3, 1-1 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Rice -14.5
Current: Rice -14 (offshore)

North Texas in 2014: 2-5 ATS, 5-2 to the OVER
Rice in 2014: 4-2 ATS, 4-2 to the OVER

Analysis: After opening the season with three consecutive losses (at Notre Dame, at Texas A&M, vs. Old Dominion), Rice stepped on the throttle and now enters Saturday’s showdown with North Texas having won three straight contests (at Southern Mississippi, vs. Hawaii, at Army) by an average of 17.3 points per game. The Owls are coming off a bye week (4-0 ATS off last four bye weeks), are 4-1 ATS over their last five outings and have a bit of revenge on their minds after falling to North Texas on a Thursday night last season, 28-16. North Texas has been defeated in three consecutive contests (at Indiana, at UAB, vs. Southern Mississippi) by an average of 23.3 points per game, has covered the spread in only one of its last five outings and is 1-4 ATS over its last five conference matchups. We’ll lay the big number here.

Notable trends: Rice is 7-1 ATS over its last eight games against teams with a losing record.

Pick: Rice (-14)

Ohio Bobcats (4-4, 1-3 road) at Western Michigan Broncos (4-3, 1-1 home)

When: Saturday, 2:00pm ET
Open: Western Michigan -9.5
Current: Western Michigan -10.5 (MGM)

Ohio in 2014: 4-4 ATS, 6-2 to the UNDER
Western Michigan in 2014: 7-0 ATS, 4-3 to the OVER

Analysis: Don’t look now, but Western Michigan is a perfect 7-0 against the number in 2014 behind solid play from quarterback Zach Terrell (65.7% completions, 1,750 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs) and running back Jarvion Franklin (992 rushing yards, 16 TDs, 5.6 YPC) who pace an offense that has covered the spread in four consecutive conference matchups. Next up for the Broncos is a Frank Solich-led Ohio squad that ranks 117th in the nation in scoring (18.8 pts/gm), is 6-14 ATS over its last 20 conference games and 1-5 ATS over its last six road dates. Take note that the home team is 5-1 ATS over the last six meetings between these two schools.

Notable trends: The favorite is 6-2 ATS over the last eight meetings between these two programs.

Pick: Western Michigan (-10.5)

#3 Mississippi Rebels (7-0, 2-0 road) at #24 LSU Tigers (6-2, 4-1 home)

When: Saturday, 7:15pm ET
Open: Mississippi -3
Current: Mississippi -3.5 (MGM)

Mississippi in 2014: 6-0-1 ATS, 6-1 to the UNDER
LSU in 2014: 6-2 ATS, 4-4 to the OVER

Bo WallaceWallace has thrown zero interceptions in three conference games this season.

Analysis: If you haven’t already, you’re going to hear a lot this week about how nasty Les Miles and the LSU Tigers have been when playing home night games. It’s an impressive record, to say the least, but this team is too young and too inexperienced to hang with what’s coming to town on Saturday night. For starters, Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.6 pts/gm), which is going to pose a serious problem for LSU sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings, who is completing just 50.0 percent of his passing attempts this season with three interceptions and 13 sacks. On the other side of the field stands Mississippi signal-caller Bo Wallace, who is completing 65.6 percent of his passes this season with zero interceptions through three SEC showdowns. Defense and starting experience will be the keys to victory here, with Mississippi holding a sizeable edge in both categories.

Notable trends: The road team is 14-3 ATS over the last 17 meetings between these two schools.

Pick: Mississippi (-3.5)

South Carolina Gamecocks (4-3, 1-1 road) at #5 Auburn Tigers (5-1, 4-0 home)

When: Saturday, 7:30pm ET
Open: Auburn -16.5
Current: Auburn -17.5 (offshore)

South Carolina in 2014: 1-6 ATS, 4-3 to the OVER
Auburn in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 3-3 to the OVER

Analysis: This is Steve Spurrier’s worst Gamecocks team in years and things aren’t going to get any better Saturday night at Auburn against a Tigers team that has had two weeks to fume over a 38-23 loss at Mississippi State. South Carolina is 0-4 ATS over its last four games, 1-5 ATS over its last six conference matchups and 1-5 ATS over its last six outings against Auburn. Meanwhile, the Tigers 10-1 ATS over their last 11 conference showdowns and 14-3 ATS over their last 17 games overall. Auburn is still very much alive in the race for the college football playoffs while South Carolina is just trying to find a way to survive the season.

Notable trends: South Carolina is 2-6 ATS over its last eight road games while Auburn is 10-1 ATS over its last 11 home games.

Pick: Auburn (-17.5)

#13 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1, 2-0 road) at Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Ohio State -13
Current: Ohio State -13.5 (Westgate)

Ohio State in 2014: 5-1 ATS, 5-1 to the OVER
Penn State in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 4-2 to the UNDER

Urban MeyerUS PRESSWIREUrban Meyer’s Buckeyes have been cruising since an early season loss to Virginia Tech.

Analysis: The story of two teams heading in opposite directions as the Buckeyes have won four straight contests by the staggering average of 38.7 points per game, while the Nittany Lions have dropped their last two outings by an average of 14.0 points per game after opening the season 4-0. The big problem here for Penn State is the fact that the team’s offense has been anemic at best in 2014, averaging just 21.2 points per game (111th in nation), so the Lions can’t afford to test the waters of a shootout with a Buckeyes squad that is averaging 46.5 points per game on the season (fourth in nation). Note that Ohio State is 35-15-1 ATS over its last 51 road games while Penn State is 1-4 ATS over its last five conference games.

Notable trends: Ohio State is 4-1 ATS over its last five games against Penn State.

Pick: Ohio State (-13.5)

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Updated CFB championship odds: FSU slides

Despite a 31-27 come-from-behind victory over the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night in Tallahassee, the Florida State Seminoles dropped from 5/1 to win this season’s college football championship to 7/1 Monday morning at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Alabama and Mississippi are now the co-favorites at a price of 5/1,

Despite a 31-27 come-from-behind victory over the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night in Tallahassee, the Florida State Seminoles dropped from 5/1 to win this season’s college football championship to 7/1 Monday morning at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Alabama and Mississippi are now the co-favorites at a price of 5/1, with Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs hanging close by at 6/1.

Jameis WinstonWinston and the Seminoles dropped from 5/1 to 7/1 even after defeating a top-5 Irish team.

Brian Kelly’s Irish, who were inside the red zone with less than a minute to play and a chance for the upset Saturday night, slid from 12/1 to 30/1 after the program’s six-game winning streak to open the season came to an end.

But Notre Dame wasn’t alone in their plummet down the odds board. Baylor dropped from 12/1 to 25/1 following the team’s upset loss at West Virginia and Oklahoma plummeted from 7/1 to 100/1 after Bob Stoops’ crew was handed its second defeat of the season, this time courtesy of Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats (from 50/1 to 25/1 after the win).

On the flip side of things, Arizona State surged from 300/1 to 75/1 after defeating Stanford 26-10, TCU’s impressive dismantling of Oklahoma State vaulted the Horned Frogs from 50/1 to 15/1 and Utah continued its impressive climb following a tough Thursday night road win at Oregon State that advanced the Utes from 500/1 to 100/1.

Here’s the full rundown:

odds chart

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Start ’em, Sit ’em, Smash ’em

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports

FANTASY QUESTIONS

While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.

WEEK 7 SURVIVOR PICKS

Plan A: Buffalo Bills over Minnesota Vikings
Plan B: Washington Redskins over Tennessee Titans

FADE OF THE WEEK

Record: 1-4-1

Last week: Chicago/Atlanta OVER 54 (loss)

This week: Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) over San Diego Chargers

Analysis: I’ve changed the name of this section from “Pick of the week” to “Fade of the week” because, quite honestly, I’m performing so terribly here that you can’t possibly be expected to back these suggestions. This marks the seventh consecutive game for the 5-1 Chargers, who just squeaked by the Oakland Raiders in a grueling affair last Sunday afternoon. In addition, the Bolts will travel to Denver four days after this game for their third divisional matchup in as many weeks. Take note that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is 13-2 lifetime coming off a bye.

WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS

Last week: 2-3

Season: 14-16

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-3) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-7) vs. Carolina Panthers
BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
BUFFALO BILLS (-5.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (+4.5) at San Diego Chargers

START ‘EM UP

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta): The six-year veteran is currently on pace to post career-high marks in passing yards and touchdowns, just demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 306 yards and five scores and faces a lousy Atlanta defense this Sunday that is currently 0-3 on the road in 2014 while surrendering an average of 31.6 points and 372.3 total yards per game. With free agent pickup Steve Smith (35-573-4 on 55 targets) emerging as Flacco’s go-to guy, look for another big performance this weekend as the Ravens attempt to reclaim the AFC North.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (vs. Carolina): Through six weeks, Lacy owners no doubt feel duped after having spent at top-5 selection on a running back who is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry with only three scores through six contests this season. But Week 7 offers up a tasty matchup in the form of a Carolina Panthers defense that currently ranks 27th in the league against the run (140.2 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 24.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (second-most in NFL). Ride Lacy in this favorable spot and then look to flip him next week if the Green Bay ball-carrier comes through as we’re predicting.

Joe FlaccoICONFlacco is currently on pace to post career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cleveland): Returned from a hamstring injury last Sunday to catch ten passes for 103 yards on a team-high 16 targets, demonstrating that he, not rookies Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson or Marqise Lee, is the reliable go-to receiver for first-year signal-caller Blake Bortles. Expect another high-target affair in Week 7 against a Cleveland defense that currently ranks 23rd in the NFL against the pass (259.6 yds/gm) while giving up an average of 24.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (tenth-most in NFL).

Ben Tate & Isaiah Crowell, RBs, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville): Tate has carried the ball 47 times over the last two weeks since returning from an early season knee injury and Crowell is a beast in the red zone who has already scored four touchdowns in five games while averaging a rock solid 5.4 yards per carry on the year. That means both Cleveland backs are worthy of a spot in the starting lineup this Sunday when the Browns travel to Jacksonville to challenge a soft Jaguars defense that is currently permitting an average of 23.5 fantasy points per contest to opposing running backs this season (fifth-most in NFL).

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (vs. New Orleans): Underwhelmed (7-44-0) in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings with Calvin Johnson out of action due to an ankle injury, but still saw a healthy 12 targets and enters a much more favorable matchup Sunday against a porous New Orleans Saints defense that currently ranks 25th in the league against the pass (267.6 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 27.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (fourth-most in NFL). Start Tate with confidence.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Cincinnati): The third-year veteran out of Clemson has found the end zone in four of six starts this season and faces a reeling Cincinnati defense on Sunday that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than any other team in the league (13.1 pts/gm). It’s unlikely that Allen will provide owners with high reception or receiving yards totals, but he should be good for at least one score in Week 7.

Buffalo Bills, D/ST (vs. Minnesota): Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater posted a solid effort in his Week 4 debut against the Atlanta Falcons, but the Louisville product has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season and faces a stiff challenge Sunday at Buffalo against a non-conference opponent that has been playing much better defense than expected in 2014. Note that the over/under for this game is lined at a conservative 42.5 for a reason. Bridgewater is walking into a hostile environment with a mediocre arsenal to take on an aggressive front four.

SIT ‘EM DOWN

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (vs. New Orleans): Yes, facing the shoddy New Orleans secondary makes for one of the tastiest matchups on the board. But the Saints are coming off a bye and Stafford has thrown for just 416 yards with two touchdowns over the past two games, which featured an injured Calvin Johnson vs. Buffalo and no Calvin Johnson at all last week at Minnesota. Without Megatron in the lineup, Stafford’s value sinks faster than a bankroll at the Caribbean Stud table.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans (at Washington): With Shonn Green banged up and facing a highly suspect Jacksonville defense, Sankey took the mother of all opportunities and racked up just 61 rushing yards with zero touchdowns on 18 attempts (3.4 YPC) last Sunday. But while we’re not ready to assign the rookie from Washington to the land of the waiver wire just yet, we do feel it’s best to keep him on the bench in Week 7 against a Washington Redskins defense that is permitting an average of just 12.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-fewest in NFL).

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (at Pittsburgh): Johnson snapped his 12-game touchdown drought in Week 6 with a 7-99-1 performance in a 33-28 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. That should give owners a reason to smile, but that bit of euphoria will be short-lived as the Texans head outdoors for a Monday night road date with a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is permitting an average of just 18.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (seventh-fewest in NFL). The reality here is that it’s not so much Johnson we don’t trust as it is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown just three touchdown passes in three road games this year.

Andre JohnsonICONJohnson has found the end zone just once over his last 13 games.

Matt Asiata & Jerick McKinnon, RBs, Minnesota Vikings (at Buffalo): One minute the word out of Minnesota is that McKinnon has assumed the starting job for the Vikings, the next minute head coach Mike Zimmer is telling the media that he wants to get Asiata more involved. This has been a tricky situation to handicap, to say the least, but either way, owners are advised to stay away from this tandem in Week 7 when Minnesota travels to Buffalo to face a Bills defense that is currently surrendering fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the league (10.5 pts/gm).

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (at Denver): Through six starts this season, Crabtree is averaging just 4.6 receptions, 49.1 receiving yards and .5 touchdowns per game, which isn’t exactly what many of us had in mind back in August. Taper your expectations for San Fran’s most athletic receiver this Sunday when he matches up with a Denver Broncos defense that is surrendering an average of just 16.1 fantasy points per game to opposing pass-catchers this season (third-fewest in NFL).

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (at San Diego): One of the hottest names at the position and for good reason, Kelce has grabbed 13 passes for 144 yards and three scores over his last three outings. But owners need to be advised that the San Diego defense has done a solid job defending opposing tight ends this year. Through six contests, the Bolts are giving up an average of just 4.9 fantasy points per game to the tight end position (third-fewest in NFL). With Kelce and the Chiefs coming off a bye week, this isn’t a terrible start, but the upside here is limited.

San Francisco 49ers, D/ST (at Denver): They’re working on a short week following a road Monday night game at St. Louis and now have to travel to Denver for yet another primetime road showdown, this time with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Owners who need a backup plan should look at the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.

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Las Vegas market report: NFL Week 7

Of the 14 games yet to be played in Week 7 of the 2014 season, four have experienced a point spread adjustment of 1-point or greater since hitting the board Sunday evening at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. However, if you go back to last week and factor in the look-ahead lines for Week

Of the 14 games yet to be played in Week 7 of the 2014 season, four have experienced a point spread adjustment of 1-point or greater since hitting the board Sunday evening at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. However, if you go back to last week and factor in the look-ahead lines for Week 7, you’ll notice that a total of six games have been adjusted by 1-point or greater.

It’s no secret that betting lines move based on the amount of money wagered. But there’s more information to be gained by analyzing these line movements within the context of how much they are adjusted from when they first hit the market more than one week before kickoff. These early point spreads are called “look-ahead” lines and their adjustment from the week prior to the following Sunday evening (seven days before the game in question is to be played) tell a much grander story than the movements we track during the week leading up to the game.

For example, take a look at the Atlanta-Baltimore game below. Last week’s look-ahead line hit the market with the Ravens listed as a 5-point favorite. But after Baltimore waxed the Buccaneers and the Falcons fell on their collective faces against the Bears in Week 6, this line reemerged Sunday evening with John Harbaugh’s crew listed as a 6.5-point favorite.

It wasn’t an influx of money that forced the adjustment from Baltimore -5 to Baltimore -6.5 so much as the events that transpired on the field last Sunday. These adjustments are worth noting because they provide a glimpse into what the bookmakers are thinking while sometimes offering a more valuable wagering opportunity based on what could have been an out-of-character performance.

THROUGH 6 WEEKS

Home teams: 41-48-3 ATS
Favorites: 45-44-3 ATS
Home dogs: 10-14-2 ATS
Overs: 51-41

New York Giants (3-3, 1-2 road) at Dallas Cowboys (5-1, 2-1 home)

When: Sunday, 4:25pm ET
Look-ahead line: Dallas -3.5
Week 7 open: Dallas -4
Current: Dallas -6.5

Notable trends: The Giants are 4-1 ATS over their last five road games at Dallas.

Analysis: It’s not as if people were ignoring the Cowboys’ 4-1 record entering last Sunday’s showdown against the defending champion Seahawks, but it took a marquee 30-23 victory over a Seattle team that had gone 17-1 at CenturyLink Field since 2012 to get the entire country to stand up and take notice. That win elevated the Cowboys from “pretender” to “contender” as the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook adjusted Dallas from 20/1 to win February’s Super Bowl to 12/1 in the wake of such an impressive upset.

DeMarco MurrayMurray and the Cowboys are riding high following Sunday’s monster win in Seattle.

Week 6 was not as kind to Eli Manning and the New York Giants, who were annihilated 27-0 at Philadelphia in a game that saw wide receiver Victor Cruz go down with a season-ending knee injury. Now, New York is being asked to play their second consecutive divisional road game against one of the hottest franchises in the business.

The Week 6 results coupled with the Cruz injury are the driving forces behind this three-point line adjustment, but note that if this number gets as high as Dallas -7, you’re likely to see New York money make its way to the counter. It’s the classic contrarian approach in which sharper bettors fade a public that is putting too much emphasis on the previous week’s results. Be advised that the Cowboys are 2-5 ATS over their last seven home games while the Giants are 5-2 ATS over their last seven contests following a loss.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3, 1-2 road) at San Diego Chargers (5-1, 3-0 home)

When: Sunday, 4:05pm ET
Look-ahead line: San Diego -5
Week 7 open: San Diego -5.5
Current: San Diego -4

Notable trends: The Chiefs are 9-3 ATS over their last 12 road games.

Analysis: Plain and simple, this line move is all about the situation. Winners of five straight, the Chargers have played six consecutive weeks in a row entering Sunday and are currently just five days removed from a grueling 31-28 victory at division rival Oakland. The Chiefs, however, are well rested following a week off. The key here is Kansas City head coach Andy Reid, who is a career 13-2 coming off a bye. That’s a very popular statistic that you’ll be hearing more about in the build-up to this showdown. For totals bettors, take note that the OVER is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these two teams.

Atlanta Falcons (2-4, 0-3 road) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2, 2-1 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Baltimore -5
Week 7 open: Baltimore -6.5
Current: Baltimore -7 (even)

Notable trends: The Falcons are 1-4 ATS over their last five games.

Analysis: Since John Harbaugh took over as the head coach in Baltimore, the Ravens are 41-10 straight-up and 28-22-1 against the spread when playing at home during the regular season. On the other sideline resides an Atlanta Falcons team that has lost 15 of its last 20 games and is 3-8 ATS over its last 11 road contests. The Falcons have been absolutely horrendous away from the Georgia Dome this season, going 0-3 both SU and ATS while committing six turnovers and surrendering 31.6 points and 372.3 total yards per game. Look for Baltimore to be one of the most popular six-point teaser plays in Week 7.

Minnesota Vikings (2-4, 1-2 road) at Buffalo Bills (3-3, 1-2 home)

When: Saturday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Buffalo -3.5
Week 7 open: Buffalo -4
Current: Buffalo -5.5

Notable trends: The Vikings are 1-4 ATS over their last five games.

Analysis: Attribute the two-point move in this line to Minnesota rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who looked solid against a lousy Atlanta defense in Week 4, but very much the inexperienced professional signal-caller in last Sunday’s 17-3 loss to Detroit (23/37, 188 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 8 sacks). Now, Bridgewater and his anemic Vikings offense (28th in both total offense and scoring) travel to Buffalo for a non-conference showdown against a tough Bills defense that is going to make life very difficult for the young quarterback. However, the question here is whether or not 5.5 points is too much to lay with a Buffalo franchise that has posted just one winning season since 2000. Take note that although the Bills are 10-4 ATS over their last 14 contests when coming off a loss, Buffalo hasn’t been favored by this many points in a game since Week 13 of the 2012 season.

Cleveland Browns (3-2, 1-1 road) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6, 0-2 home)

When: Sunday, 1:00pm ET
Look-ahead line: Cleveland -4
Week 7 open: Cleveland -4
Current: Cleveland -5.5

Notable trends: The Jaguars are 7-19-1 ATS over their last 27 games.

Analysis: The Brian Hoyer-led Cleveland Browns are now 3-2 on the season with those two defeats (at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore) coming by a combined five points. This is a competitive football team that is currently 16-4-1 ATS over its last 21 road games against teams with a losing home record. Enter the Jaguars, who are the NFL’s Mona Lisa when it comes to not covering the point spread. Jacksonville is 1-5 ATS so far this season and just 7-18-1 ATS when playing at home since 2011. This is just as much a play against Jacksonville as it is a play on Cleveland, but note that the Browns have not laid this many points on the road since the last millennium.

THE REST OF THE RUNDOWN

Numbers in parenthesis indicate look-ahead line, Week 7 open, current

Indianapolis Colts (-2, -3, -3 -120) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Washington Redskins (no line, no line, -5.5) vs. Tennessee Titans
Chicago Bears (-3 -120, -3 -120, -3 -120) vs. Miami Dolphins
Seattle Seahawks (-7, -6.5, -7 even) at St. Louis Rams
Green Bay Packers (-7, -7, -7) vs. Carolina Panthers
Detroit Lions (-1.5, -2.5, -2.5 -120) vs. New Orleans Saints
Arizona Cardinals (no line, -4, -3.5) at Oakland Raiders
Denver Broncos (-6, -7, -6.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4, -3.5, -3.5 even) vs. Houston Texans

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NFP power rankings

While a 4-1 record in the National Football League is certainly nothing to scoff at, I think the main reason so many of us were hesitant to back the Dallas Cowboys as a legitimate Super Bowl contender had to do with the fact that the franchise lacked a marquee victory through the first five

While a 4-1 record in the National Football League is certainly nothing to scoff at, I think the main reason so many of us were hesitant to back the Dallas Cowboys as a legitimate Super Bowl contender had to do with the fact that the franchise lacked a marquee victory through the first five weeks of the 2014 season.

But all of that changed last Sunday in Seattle.

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray and the Cowboys sent shockwaves through the National Football League last Sunday.

The defending champion Seahawks entered Week 6 having won 17 of their last 18 regular season home games at CenturyLink Field while outscoring the opposition by an average of 16.5 points per contest. But a visit from the Cowboys in Week 6 put a dent in that nearly flawless record, as DeMarco Murray and company flew back to Texas with a 30-23 win and a 5-1 record.

That marquee victory over Seattle moved the Cowboys—who entered the season at 75/1 to win the Super Bowl—from 20/1 to 12/1 to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy this past week at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

It also sent Jerry Jones’ crew skyrocketing up toward the top of our power rankings.

NFP power rankings

1. Denver Broncos [91.5]
Record:
4-1 (Won 31-17 at NY Jets)
Previous ranking: 91.0 (2)

2. Dallas Cowboys [90.5]
Record:
5-1 (Won 30-23 at Seattle)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T11)

T3. San Diego Chargers [90.0]
Record:
5-1 (Won 31-28 at Oakland)
Previous ranking: 90.0 (3)

T3. Seattle Seahawks [90.0]
Record:
3-2 (Lost 30-23 vs. Dallas)
Previous ranking: 93.0 (1)

5. Philadelphia Eagles [89.5]
Record:
5-1 (Won 27-0 vs. NY Giants)
Previous ranking: 89.0 (5)

6. San Francisco 49ers [89.0]
Record:
4-2 (Won 31-17 at St. Louis)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (T6)

7. Indianapolis Colts [88.5]
Record:
4-2 (Won 33-28 at Houston)
Previous ranking: 88.5 (T6)

8. Green Bay Packers [88.0]
Record:
4-2 (Won 27-24 at Miami)
Previous ranking: 88.0 (8)

9. New England Patriots [87.5]
Record:
4-2 (Won 37-22 at Buffalo)
Previous ranking: 87.5 (9)

T10. Cincinnati Bengals [87.0]
Record:
3-1-1 (Tie 37-37 vs. Carolina)
Previous ranking: 89.5 (4)

T10. Arizona Cardinals [87.0]
Record:
4-1 (Won 30-20 vs. Washington)
Previous ranking: 87.0 (10)

T12. Baltimore Ravens [86.5]
Record:
4-2 (Won 48-17 at Tampa Bay)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (T13)

T12. Carolina Panthers [86.5]
Record:
3-2-1 (Tie 37-37 at Cincinnati)
Previous ranking: 86.0 (T13)

14. Chicago Bears [86.0]
Record:
3-3 (Won 27-13 at Atlanta)
Previous ranking: 85.5 (15)

T15. New Orleans Saints [85.0]
Record:
2-3 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T15. Kansas City Chiefs [85.0]
Record:
2-3 (Bye)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

T15. Detroit Lions [85.0]
Record:
4-2 (Won 17-3 at Minnesota)
Previous ranking: 85.0 (T16)

18. New York Giants [84.5]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 27-0 vs. Philadelphia)
Previous ranking: 86.5 (T11)

T19. Cleveland Browns [84.0]
Record:
3-2 (Won 31-10 vs. Pittsburgh)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T22)

T19. Pittsburgh Steelers [84.0]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 31-10 at Cleveland)
Previous ranking: 84.5 (T19)

T21. Atlanta Falcons [83.5]
Record:
2-4 (Lost 27-13 vs. Chicago)
Previous ranking: 84.5 (T19)

T21. Houston Texans [83.5]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 33-28 vs. Indianapolis)
Previous ranking: 84.0 (21)

23. Buffalo Bills [83.0]
Record:
3-3 (Lost 37-22 vs. New England)
Previous ranking: 83.5 (T22)

24. Miami Dolphins [82.5]
Record:
2-3 (Lost 27-24 vs. Green Bay)
Previous ranking: 82.5 (24)

25. St. Louis Rams [81.5]
Record:
1-4 (Lost 31-17 vs. San Francisco)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (T25)

26. Washington Redskins [81.0]
Record:
1-5 (Lost 30-20 at Arizona)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (T27)

T27. New York Jets [80.5]
Record:
1-5 (Lost 31-17 vs. Denver)
Previous ranking: 80.5 (29)

T27. Minnesota Vikings [80.5]
Record:
2-4 (Lost 17-3 vs. Detroit)
Previous ranking: 81.5 (T25)

29. Tennessee Titans [80.0]
Record:
2-4 (Won 16-14 vs. Jacksonville)
Previous ranking: 80.0 (30)

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [79.0]
Record:
1-5 (Lost 48-17 vs. Baltimore)
Previous ranking: 81.0 (T27)

31. Oakland Raiders [78.5]
Record:
0-5 (Lost 31-28 vs. San Diego)
Previous ranking: 78.0 (32)

32. Jacksonville Jaguars [78.0]
Record:
0-6 (Lost 16-14 at Tennessee)
Previous ranking: 78.5 (31)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Your $1 million fantasy primer

The rise of the daily fantasy sports industry has been incredible to watch over the last couple of years, as websites that were once awarding just $5,000 to winners of multi-player tournaments are now crowning millionaires on a weekly basis and sending other qualifiers to places like the Bahamas for a seven-figure

The rise of the daily fantasy sports industry has been incredible to watch over the last couple of years, as websites that were once awarding just $5,000 to winners of multi-player tournaments are now crowning millionaires on a weekly basis and sending other qualifiers to places like the Bahamas for a seven-figure payday.

Few, if any, should be surprised by the explosion. Season-long fantasy leagues take up to four months to crown a champion, while daily leagues are paying out wads of cash in a matter of hours. Additionally, fantasy owners who find themselves out of contention in season-long formats can easily turn to daily leagues for a fresh start on a weekly basis.

As a result of the ever-changing fantasy landscape, we’re going to start providing coverage here at the National Football Post for daily fantasy players who are looking for either insight or feedback (@JoeFortenbaugh) on any topics ranging from roster construction to money management.

This week’s column will focus on the website DraftKings.com, who has awarded a top prize of $1 million in each of the last two weeks in the company’s “Millionaire Maker” multi-player tournament ($27 to enter). The popularity of the contest has compelled DraftKings to offer another “Millionaire Maker” tournament for Week 7, which you can enter by CLICKING HERE. For those who decide to take a shot, note that DraftKings is offering a 100% deposit bonus (up to $600) for first-time depositors which is paid out in increments based on rate of play.

But before we get to some of our top recommendations for Week 7, a quick primer:

1. Unlike some of the other daily fantasy websites on the market, DraftKings awards a full point-per-reception. This is certainly worth noting, as less-targeted running backs like Le’Veon Bell and Andre Williams have slightly lower ceilings due to their infrequent contributions in the passing game.

2. Draftkings permits late swaps to your rosters, meaning you won’t be locked in to your selections once the 1:00pm eastern games kick-off. Instead, once the first wave of games commences, owners still have the ability to go back into their rosters and substitute players who don’t kick-off until later in the afternoon/evening.

3. Rosters consist of the following positions: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, D/ST, FLEX (RB, WR or TE), with owners being given a $50,000 salary cap with which to build their team.

4. When competing in a large multi-player tournament such as the “Millionaire Maker,” it is important to target some high-upside, long-shot/contrarian-type players. What I mean by this is that everybody knows Peyton Manning is going to put up a significant amount of points. And when you’re competing against 90,000 other entries, that type of information is unlikely to give you an edge. Take a look at the roster that won $1 million last weekend:

QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
RB: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
RB: Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers
WR: Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders
WR: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
WR: Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
TE: Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
D/ST: Denver Broncos
FLEX: Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals

See what it took to will $1 million? You need a combination of reliable, high-upside superstars (Julius Thomas, Jordy Nelson) and cheap, lesser-selected alternatives (Joe Flacco, Andre Holmes). However, in head-to-head and 50/50 leagues, which have far less entrants, you can afford to use a slightly more conservative approach.

5. A popular strategy is to pair your quarterback with one of his wide receivers, such as an Aaron Rodgers-Jordy Nelson, Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham or Peyton Manning-Demaryius Thomas combination.

We’ll be back next week to offer more insights into the strategy that goes into roster construction for all the different daily fantasy formats (tournaments, head-to-head, 50/50 leagues, etc.), but for now, let’s take a look at some enticing Week 7 options at DraftKings.

QUARTERBACKS

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. Carolina, $8,800): Has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the three games since telling Packer Nation to R-E-L-A-X. Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 1, has completed 70.6 percent or more of his passes in two of his last three starts and faces a Carolina defense on Sunday that is on the second leg of back-to-back road games while permitting an average of 22.5 fantasy points per contest to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL). If you’re going to shell out the big bucks at the quarterback position this weekend, Rodgers is the guy to target.

Pair him up with: Jordy Nelson ($8,200) or Randall Cobb ($6,700), but note that using Nelson (43-632-5) will put a serious dent in your salary cap.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta, $7,700): >Torched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 306 yards and five scores last Sunday and now returns home to face a highly suspect Atlanta defense that is 0-3 on the road while surrendering an average of 31.6 points and 372.3 yards per game in 2014. Flacco’s price tag is a bit higher than we would like thanks to last week’s utter annihilation of the Buccaneers, but this is one of the most favorable matchups on the board and there are still seven signal-callers who check in at a higher cost for Week 7.

Pair him up with: Steve Smith ($6,700): Smith has notched 100 or more receiving yards in four of six starts this season, ranks ninth in the NFL in targets (55) and has posted just one dud performance so far since joining the Ravens (Week 6).

Russell WilsonWilson and the Seahawks are 8-1 since 2012 when coming off a loss.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (at St. Louis, $6,800): Big bounce-back spot for the Seahawks here, who are 8-1 since 2012 when coming off a loss. Wilson was uncharacteristically off his game last Sunday against the Cowboys, but was back in the film room at 5:00am Monday morning working to correct the issues, according to head coach Pete Carroll. The upside here is twofold in that Wilson is one of the few signal-callers in the league who can rack up big points with his feet (221 rushing yards, 2 TDs this season) in addition to the fact that the Rams are currently giving up an average of 21.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (10th-most in NFL).

Pair him up with: We would pass on using a Seattle wideout, as Percy Harvin is averaging just 4.4 receptions per game this season with zero receiving touchdowns.

Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $5,600): If you want a shot at winning $1 million playing fantasy football, you’ve got to think outside the box and identify some high-upside contrarian plays. Hoyer fits the bill for Week 7, as the Cleveland Browns travel to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars defense that is surrendering an average of 23.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (sixth-most in NFL). The six-year veteran has tossed just one interception on the season and comes at such a bargain basement price in Week 7 that you’ll have plenty of money left to throw around on big-name superstars.

Pair him up with: Tight end Jordan Cameron ($4,600), see below.

RUNNING BACKS

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NY Giants, $9,600): Leads the NFL in rushing attempts (159), rushing yards (785) and rushing touchdowns (6) entering a Week 7 divisional showdown with a New York Giants defense that is permitting an average of 23.1 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (sixth-most in NFL). Murray has found the end zone in five of six starts this season while notching 100 or more rushing yards in every single outing. However, if you’re willing to spend one stack of high society to land this guy, you’ll need to assemble a big portion of your roster with undervalued, high-upside options.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (at San Diego, $6,700): The Chargers have done a respectable job defending the run in 2014, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is a career 13-2 coming off the bye week, so you know Kansas City will have something up its sleeve for Philip Rivers and company. With an extra week of rest, look for a heavy dose of touches to head Charles’ way, especially when considering the fact that he’s recorded 192 total yards and three touchdowns over his last two starts.

DeMarco MurrayMurray has torn the NFL to shreds over the first six weeks of the season.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals (at Oakland, $6,500): His numbers to date have been underwhelming, but Ellington has a very favorable Week 7 matchup against and Oakland Raiders defense that is giving up an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season (seventh-most in NFL). The hope here is that Arizona jumps out to an early lead and spends the better part of the second half grinding down the clock via the ground game.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta, $5,600): No team in the NFL is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Falcons (29.7 pts/gm), so that alone should have you eyeing up the Baltimore depth chart. Forsett will likely lose some touches to cohorts Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro on Sunday, but the journeyman running back has found the end zone in two of his last three starts and is coming off an impressive 111-yard effort against the Buccaneers in Week 6.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. Carolina, $4,700): Excellent price tag for a heavy workload running back squaring off against a suspect run defense that is permitting an average of 24.5 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (second-most in NFL). Lacy has been a major disappointment for fantasy owners in 2014, but he’s found the end zone three times over his last three outings. In addition, when it comes to roster construction for high-entry fantasy tournaments, sometimes you need to zig when everyone else is zagging.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Houston, $7,900): Pittsburgh’s No. 1 receiving option is averaging 104.8 receiving yards per game this season with five touchdowns while ranking third in the NFL in targets (61). In addition, Brown has a favorable Week 7 Monday night home matchup against a Houston Texans defense that is currently surrendering an average of 25.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (ninth-most in NFL). All it real boils down to is whether or not Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is capable of calling a good game for a change.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos (vs. San Francisco, $5,900): Experienced a big drop in price following last week’s 3-38-0 effort against the New York Jets. But owners should take note that Week 6 was the exception and not the rule when it comes to Sanders who, despite having yet to find the end zone in 2014, is still averaging a healthy 9.6 targets, 7.0 receptions and 94.6 receiving yards per game this year while playing with the best quarterback in football.

Antonio BrownBrowns has a favorable Week 7 matchup with the Houston Texans.

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cleveland, $5,400): Returned from a hamstring injury last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans to notch ten receptions for 103 yards on a team-high 16 targets. Shorts is the most experienced and polished receiver on the Jacksonville roster, which means he should function as rookie quarterback Blake Bortles’ go-to guy until one of the rookies (Hurns, Robinson, Lee) steps up and establishes himself as a consistent threat. Note that the Browns are currently giving up an average of 24.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (11th-most in NFL).

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (at Dallas, $5,300): The Giants were humiliated in a 27-0 shutout at Philadelphia last Sunday night, so expect Tom Coughlin and company to put in a good week of practice in preparation for Sunday’s divisional showdown with white-hot Dallas. Randle makes for a solid Week 7 value play due to a likely increase in targets now that No. 1 receiver Victor Cruz has been lost for the season (knee). Even with Cruz in the lineup, Randle had recorded nine or more targets in each of his last four starts.

Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders (vs. Arizona, $4,800): A roll of the dice for sure, Holmes is coming off a breakout performance against the San Diego Chargers in which the three-year veteran hauled in four receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns in a gutsy 31-28 defeat. Holmes has now posted nine receptions for 195 yards and three scores on 20 targets over his last two outings and gets a crack at an Arizona defense on Sunday that is giving up an average of 29.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-most in NFL). As always, garbage time statistics are in full effect when it comes to the Oakland Raiders.

TIGHT ENDS

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. San Francisco, $6,900): Through five games, Thomas has turned ten red zone targets (eighth in NFL) into a staggering nine receptions (first) for 60 yards (first) and seven touchdowns (first). Between future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at quarterback and a plethora of offensive weapons (D. Thomas, Sanders, Welker) lining up alongside him, Thomas is as difficult to defend in the red zone as any player in the National Football League. You’re paying a hefty price here, but the resume suggests it’s well worth it.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $4,600): Was on the verge of being hit with the dreaded “bust” label prior to last Sunday’s breakout effort which entailed three receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Take note that the Jaguars are currently permitting an average of 12.1 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs this season (fourth-most in NFL).

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Cincinnati, $3,700): Allen has become one of red-hot quarterback Andrew Luck’s top red zone targets (6, 11th in NFL) and has now found the end zone in four of six starts this season. The reception and receiving yard totals are a bit of a concern here, but that’s right up until you realize the fact that no team in the league is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2014 than the Cincinnati Bengals (13.1 pts/gm).

Josh Hill, New Orleans Saints (at Detroit, $3,000): You won’t find a cheaper price with more upside at the tight end position this week than you will with Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham’s replacement. Hill has only been in the league for two years and runs into a tough Detroit defense on Sunday that is giving up an average of just 8.0 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (16th-most in NFL), but the Saints are coming off a bye and Hill has quarterback Drew Brees on his side. A true roll of the dice, but the potential for a breakout performance is present.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Buffalo Bills (vs. Minnesota, $3,400): One of the more underrated defensive units in the league, the Bills currently rank 11th in the NFL in total defense (336.7 yds/gm) and eighth in scoring (21.0 pts/gm) as they get set to play host to a Minnesota Vikings offense team that currently ranks 28th in the league in scoring (17.3 pts/gm) and is being run by a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who has already thrown three interceptions with zero touchdowns in two professional starts.

Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, $3,000): Not exactly the safest play on the board since the Browns currently rank 29th in the NFL in total defense (409.2 yds/gm), but definitely worth consideration since the Jaguars are surrendering more fantasy points to opposing D/STs this season than any other team in the business (16.0 pts/gm). Take note that Jacksonville has already turned the ball over 12 times (third-most in NFL) and ranks dead last in the league in total offense (13.5 pts/gm).

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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Week 8 college football betting primer

Before we begin, a rant:

Stop taking exception to the way Florida State is handling quarterback and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Forget about the fact that the University of Georgia suspended star running back Todd Gurley for making a couple bucks signing autographs while FSU will allow Winston to play despite

Before we begin, a rant:

Stop taking exception to the way Florida State is handling quarterback and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Forget about the fact that the University of Georgia suspended star running back Todd Gurley for making a couple bucks signing autographs while FSU will allow Winston to play despite doing the exact same thing. Disregard the fact that Winston appears to make headlines every other week for breaking laws, violating rules or acting like an immature, selfish jackass.

The truth of the matter is that Florida State football is a business and they don’t give a damn what you or I think. Winston gives the Seminoles the best chance to win and the more the Seminoles win, the more money the school makes. Public outrage, allegations of rape, NCAA rules violations and overall despicable conduct mean nothing to the people calling the shots at Florida State University. The school plans to cover up all of Winston’s indiscretions and ride that Benjamin Franklin-laced wave of money and exposure for as long as it can before the quarterback becomes some NFL team’s problem.

Florida State won’t change until somebody forces it to, and that somebody doesn’t exist. So there’s really no sense in getting upset about the way the University is flaunting it in everybody’s face.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 18-22 (.450)

#14 Kansas State Wildcats (4-1, 1-0 road) at #11 Oklahoma Sooners (5-1, 2-0 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Oklahoma -9.5
Current: Oklahoma -8.5 (Wynn)

Kansas State in 2014: 3-2 ATS, 3-2 to the OVER
Oklahoma in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 5-1 to the OVER

Bill SnyderIn a battle of wits between Bill Snyder and Bob Stoops, we’ll side with Bill Snyder.

Analysis: Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has had two weeks to prepare his squad for eighth-ranked Oklahoma while reinforcing the fact that the Sooners defeated his Wildcats 41-31 last season. Snyder is 10-1 against the number over his last 11 outings in the road dog spot while Kansas State is 11-4-1 ATS over its last 16 road contests and 10-4 ATS over its last 14 outings overall. Two weeks ago Oklahoma fell 37-33 at TCU and responded to that setback last Saturday with a less-than-stellar 31-26 victory over a bad Texas team. Be advised that after blowing out Louisiana Tech and Tulsa to open the 2014 campaign, the Sooners have converted just 33.3 percent on third down over their last four matchups (Tennessee, at West Virginia, at TCU, Texas). In addition, take note that Kansas State is 5-1-1 ATS over its last seven road trips to Norman.

Notable trends: Kansas State is 19-6-1 ATS over its last 26 games against teams with a winning record while Oklahoma is 1-6 ATS over its last seven games played in the month of October.

Pick: Kansas State (+8.5)

Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 road) at Maryland Terrapins (4-2, 1-2 home)

When: Saturday, 12:00pm ET
Open: Maryland -3
Current: Maryland -4 (Westgate)

Iowa in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 4-2 to the UNDER
Maryland in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 3-2-1 to the OVER

Analysis: Here’s another situation where we’re backing a team entering Saturday on extra rest. The Terrapins have the speed and talent on offense—especially in the passing game—to exploit Iowa’s slow secondary. Through six contests, Maryland is averaging a healthy 34.6 points and 399.6 total yards per game, numbers that indicate this will be a much different test for a Hawkeyes defense that has faced a relatively soft schedule so far in 2014 (Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Indiana). They say that styles make fights and with Iowa ranking 71st in passing, 83rd in rushing and 89th in scoring, the Hawkeyes will need to lean heavily on an aforementioned defense that doesn’t match up well with the Terrapins.

Notable trends: Maryland is 4-1 ATS over its last five games following a loss.

Pick: Maryland (-4)

#10 Georgia Bulldogs (5-1, 1-1 road) at Arkansas Razorbacks (3-3, 2-2 home)

When: Saturday, 4:00pm ET
Open: Georgia -3
Current: Georgia -3.5 (MGM)

Georgia in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 5-1 to the OVER
Arkansas in 2014: 5-1 ATS, 4-2 to the OVER

Todd GurleyGeorgia will be without the services of running back Todd Gurley once again on Saturday.

Analysis: In the wake of the news that star running back Todd Gurley was hit with an indefinite suspension last week, Georgia rallied around its leader, elevated its game and throttled Missouri on the road 34-0. And impressive performance to say the least, but now the adrenaline and emotion have worn off just as the Bulldogs head back on the road to visit a live Arkansas squad that took Alabama to the wire last Saturday in a 14-13 defeat. Head coach Bret Bielema has the Razorbacks playing with some gusto this season, which is part of the reason why this school is 5-1 against the number in 2014, which includes five consecutive covers. We’re calling for the outright upset here.

Notable trends: Georgia is 2-8-1 ATS over its last 11 conference games while Arkansas is 6-0 ATS over its last six contests against teams with a winning record.

Pick: Arkansas (we think this line will continue to climb and, therefore, are holding out for a number better than +3.5)

Washington Huskies (5-1, 2-0 road) at #9 Oregon Ducks (5-1, 3-1 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Oregon -19.5
Current: Oregon -21 (Stations)

Washington in 2014: 3-3 ATS, 5-1 to the UNDER
Oregon in 2014: 2-4 ATS, 3-2-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: Not too long ago, there was a time when bookmakers had some difficulty keeping up with the influx of Oregon money they saw every week. I remember one bookmaker in particular telling me in regards to the Ducks, “We can’t set these numbers high enough.”

Fast forward to 2014 when the Ducks are still laying massive points on a semi-regular basis, despite the fact that the team is 3-8 ATS over its last 11 outings and 1-5 ATS over its last six home contests. Oregon is still a good football team, but the Ducks are now overvalued when it comes to the Las Vegas point spread on a near weekly basis. As a result, there’s value to be found in betting against Oregon, which is exactly what we plan to do Saturday by grabbing three touchdowns with a Washington team that cashed for us last week.

Notable trends: Oregon is 1-6 ATS over its last seven conference games.

Pick: Washington (+21)

#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0, 0-0 road) at #2 Florida State Seminoles (6-0, 3-0 home)

When: Saturday, 8:00pm ET
Open: Florida State -12.5
Current: OFF THE BOARD

Notre Dame in 2014: 4-2 ATS, 4-2 to the UNDER
Florida State in 2014: 1-5 ATS, 3-3 to the OVER

Jameis WinstonWinston and the Seminoles are not the same team this season.

Analysis: The Seminoles may be undefeated midway through the month of October, but this team has looked nowhere near as good as it did last season en route to winning the national championship. Take note that in 14 games last year, Florida State decimated the competition by a staggering average of 39.5 points per game. Now compare that to 2014’s results, which have the Seminoles beating the opposition by an average of just 18.3 points per game. And be sure to remember that those six opponents include The Citadel, Wake Forest and N.C. State.

Quarterback Jameis Winston is involved in yet another scandal (which is why this line is currently off the board) and you get the feeling that the FSU program is ready for the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner to depart Tallahassee as soon as he’s done making as much money as possible for the program. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame keep chugging along.

To conclude, here’s a great trend from our friend Marc Lawrence of Playbook.com: Defending national champions are 10-17-2 ATS since 1980 as favorites of less than 14 points in matchups featuring two undefeated teams.

Notable trends: Notre Dame is 5-0 ATS over its last five games against teams with a winning record while Florida State is 1-4 ATS over its last five contests played on grass.

Pick: Notre Dame (we’ll post the spread we play the Irish at on Twitter)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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The fantasy waiver wire report

While we touch on this subject further down the page, those who plan to blow a highly coveted waiver wire priority on a New England running back this week may want to rethink their strategy.

Yes, it’s difficult to remain emotionless and analytical when news hits that a starting running back—in this case,

While we touch on this subject further down the page, those who plan to blow a highly coveted waiver wire priority on a New England running back this week may want to rethink their strategy.

Yes, it’s difficult to remain emotionless and analytical when news hits that a starting running back—in this case, Stevan Ridley—has gone down for the season, opening up a roster spot for a fantasy free agent to cut his teeth. But the truth of the matter is that this is still Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, which means that this is still the same football team that has produced only two 1,000-yard rushers (Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis) since the conclusion of the 2004 season.

In addition to Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, rookie James White and Jonas Gray could all be in line for a piece of the backfield pie moving forward, which is why it might be a better idea to focus instead on widely available running backs like Isaiah Crowell and Jerick McKinnon before committing to what could be a low-upside timeshare situation in New England.

QUARTERBACKS

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Atlanta, owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues): The seven-year veteran out of Delaware is currently on pace to throw for 4,256 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, both of which would be career-high marks. The addition of Steve Smith to the wide receiving unit via free agency has given the Super Bowl winner one of the best pass-catching duos of his young career, which was evidenced in Sunday’s 48-17 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Note that while consistency is an issue when it comes to Flacco, Sunday’s matchup against a shaky Falcons defense offers up another soft spot on the schedule.

Derek CarrCarr looked sharp in Sunday’s loss to San Diego.

Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (vs. Arizona, owned in 4% of Yahoo! leagues): Sunday’s divisional matchup with San Diego served as a coming out party for Carr, who threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns in Oakland’s best offensive performance of the season. Maybe it was the bye week rest or perhaps it had to do with the switch from Dennis Allen to Tony Sparano at head coach, but it’s possible that the Raiders could have something brewing here. Be advised that while garbage time statistics are a big plus, consistency is an issue, making Carr a QB2 recommendation for owners in leagues with 12 or more teams only.

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals (at Oakland, owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues): Returned from a shoulder injury Sunday to throw for 250 yards and two scores in a 30-20 win over Washington that now gives the 11-year veteran a QB rating of 100.5 on the season. While Palmer’s upside is relatively limited, he does play with one of the league’s better receiver tandems in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and has an excellent Week 7 matchup against a Raiders defense that is surrendering an average of 26.8 points per game on the season (seventh-most in NFL). Consider the Arizona signal-caller a QB2 with situational QB1 upside based on bye weeks or favorable scheduling spots.

RUNNING BACKS

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (vs. San Francisco, owned in 45% of Yahoo! leagues): Following the loss of starting running back Montee Ball to a groin injury sustained in Week 5, Hillman stepped up into the lead dog spot and handled the rock 27 times for a grand total of 116 yards Sunday against the Jets. Between that type of production and the fact that fellow backs Juwan Thompson (9 touches) and C.J. Anderson (0 touches) were hardly utilized, it’s safe to say that for the time being Hillman is the featured back in Denver worthy of a roster spot until Ball makes his way back into the rotation.

Isaiah CrowellCrowell has been Cleveland’s best running back so far in 2014.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns (at Jacksonville, owned in 19% of Yahoo! leagues): While the Browns continue to employ a running back-by-committee approach, Crowell continues to produce the best results of the bunch. The rookie from Alabama State has already found the end zone four times this season and is currently averaging one touchdown for every 11 rushing attempts. Take note that rookie Terrance West was a healthy scratch from Sunday’s game against the Steelers while free agent pickup Ben Tate amassed only 78 rushing yards on 25 carries (3.1 YPC) compared to Crowell’s 77 rushing yards on just 11 attempts (7.0 YPC). As for the icing on the cake, Crowell faces a Jacksonville defense on Sunday that is currently surrendering an average of 23.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fifth-most in NFL).

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders (vs. Arizona, owned in 40% of Yahoo! leagues): I laughed a bit at first here as well, but new Raiders head coach Tony Sparano told the media last week that his team needed to put more emphasis on the running game. In the Raiders’ first outing since that statement, McFadden rolled up a season-high 80 rushing yards on 14 carries (5.7 YPC) in a 31-28 loss to division rival San Diego. Consistency and health are both issues when it comes to McFadden, but a heavy workload is reason enough to roster this guy as we enter the heart of the bye weeks.

Antone Smith, RB, Atlanta Falcons (at Baltimore, owned in 28% of Yahoo! leagues): What the hell is wrong with Falcons head coach Mike Smith? He’s got a fresh, five-year veteran who leads the team in touchdowns (5) while averaging a game-changing 15.04 yards per touch this season, and he’s only given the guy 23 touches through six games. No wonder Atlanta is 2-4 with Smith on the hot seat now that the head coach has won just six of his last 22 games. Regarding the productive Smith (Antone), owners should consider rostering the Florida State product in the event Mike Smith wakes up and starts feeding the rock to one of his only viable playmakers.

Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NY Giants, owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues): Super stud DeMarco Murray is on pace for an NFL record-breaking 424 rushing attempts this year and hasn’t completed a full 16-game season in any of his previous three professional campaigns, so Randle may be called into action in the coming weeks if that expensive Porsche the Cowboys have been driving breaks down at an inopportune moment. On the year, Randle is averaging a healthy 7.1 yards per carry, so Murray owners and snakes alike should be keeping a close eye on this guy.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings (at Buffalo, owned in 37% of Yahoo! leagues): Week 6 marked the first time this season that the rookie from Georgia Southern recorded more touches (17-82-0) in a game than veteran Matt Asiata (3-13-0). We’ll take that as a positive sign moving forward since there’s virtually no chance of Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson returning to the Minnesota lineup in 2014. However, be advised that McKinnon should still be viewed as a situational play until the Vikings offense finds a way to start clicking.

Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots (vs. NY Jets, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): With starting running back Stevan Ridley out for the year due to a knee injury suffered in Sunday’s win at Buffalo, Bolden should get first crack at the available rushing attempts that just hit the market. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get excited about a guy who has notched just 570 rushing yards in 28 career games. Be advised that outside of Bolden and Shane Vereen, fellow Patriots running backs James White, Jonas Gray and James Develin (fullback) could try to make a case for more playing time as well. The upside here is extremely limited.

Storm Johnson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cleveland, owned in 18% of Yahoo! leagues): Now that the Toby Gerhart experiment looks to be nothing more than a waste of both time and money, Johnson has an opportunity to prove his worth as an NFL starting running back. The problems, however, are that the rookie from Central Florida is slow to the hole and playing on an offense that currently ranks dead last in the league in scoring (13.5 pts/gm). While Johnson did find the end zone Sunday at Tennessee, he also recorded just 21 rushing yards on ten carries. There’s minimal upside here.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Note: Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is worth a roster spot if he’s still available in your league (owned in 68% of Yahoo! leagues).

Andre Holmes, WR, Oakland Raiders (vs. Arizona, owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues): Any recommendation regarding a player from the Oakland roster warrants a tempering of expectations, but nevertheless, Holmes is going to be a popular prospect on the wire this week following Sunday’s 4-121-2 breakout performance against the San Diego Chargers. There will definitely be some growing pains here due to the presence of rookie signal-caller Derek Carr, but it’s definitely worth noting that Holmes notched a team-high eight targets in Carr’s best game at the professional level.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers (vs. Kansas City, owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues): He’s a big, physical target playing with one of the hottest quarterbacks in football at the moment, so that alone should grab your attention. In addition, Floyd has found the end zone in two of his last three starts and just racked up a season-high 103 receiving yards on seven targets Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. A good WR3/4 option for owners in leagues with 12 or more teams.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cleveland, owned in 38% of Yahoo! leagues): Returned from a hamstring injury to notch ten receptions for 103 yards on a team-high 16 targets in Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars may boast a semi-impressive display of young talent at the wideout position (Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns), but Shorts is still the most polished and experienced of the group, which means rookie signal-caller Blake Bortles should continue looking his way on a consistent basis. And as always when it comes to Jacksonville, garbage time statistics are in full effect here.

Louis Murphy, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): Despite the return of Mike Evans to the starting rotation, Murphy hauled in seven passes for 72 yards and a score Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. While the upside here is fairly limited, note that Murphy has now recorded 16 grabs for 206 yards and two scores on 27 targets over his last three outings. Owners in leagues with 12 or more teams should consider the former Florida Gator a WR4 with starting potential during the bye weeks.

Brandon LaFell, WR, New England Patriots (vs. NY Jets, owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues): Don’t look now, but the former Carolina Panther has topped 90 receiving yards in two of his last three games to go along with an impressive three touchdown receptions. LaFell isn’t a lock for the starting lineup, but he’s been coming on strong in New England in recent weeks and is worthy of a roster spot for WR needy owners who are heading into the meat of the bye weeks.

Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills (vs. Minnesota, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): The second-year receiver out of USC has been targeted ten or more times in two of his last three outings and just recorded a season-high seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Patriots with Kyle Orton under center. While it’s still more likely that Orton leans on rookie Sammy Watkins over Woods, the young pass-catcher is definitely worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks to see if he continues to build a rapport with his new quarterback.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins (at Chicago, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from LSU just posted his best stat line since turning pro by racking up six receptions for 75 yards and a score on eight targets in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers. While Landry is a speedster with plenty of upside, the problem in Miami is that quarterback Ryan Tannehill has yet to take the next step in his development, which is severely hindering the Dolphins offense. Recommended as a WR4/5 with upside for owners in leagues with 12 or more teams.

TIGHT ENDS

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (vs. Tennessee, owned in 59% of Yahoo! leagues): Returned to the gridiron for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 1 to notch eight receptions for 92 yards on 11 targets. Reed is an athletic tight end who presents serious matchup issues for opposing defenses…just as long as the former Florida Gator can find a way to stay on the field. Note that this Sunday’s matchup against Tennessee features a Titans defense that is currently surrendering an average of 10.6 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (eighth-most in NFL).

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (at Indianapolis, owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues): Gresham isn’t the answer to any long-term issues at the tight end position, but the five-year veteran did just post a season-high six receptions for 68 yards on seven targets in Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers with Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green sidelined due to a toe injury. And since it looks as if Green could miss another game this weekend, expect Gresham to see a healthy dose of targets against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7, who are currently permitting an average of 10.0 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs this season (ninth-most in NFL).

Tim Wright, TE, New England Patriots (vs. NY Jets, owned in 24% of Yahoo! leagues): We recommended Wright following his breakout 5-85-1 stat line on Sunday night football against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5. And even though the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer was targeted just one time in New England’s Week 6 win at Buffalo, he still managed to notch a touchdown. Consistency will more than likely be an issue here, but the upside that comes with playing tight end in Tom Brady’s offense definitely makes Wright worthy of consideration.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Cleveland Browns, D/ST (at Jacksonville, currently owned in 16% of Yahoo! leagues): This unit has been torched for an average of 409.2 total yards per game in 2014 (fourth-most in NFL), but they won’t find a more favorable matchup anywhere on the schedule than this Sunday, which features a trip to Jacksonville to challenge rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and the NFL’s worst offense. Note that the Jaguars currently rank dead last in scoring (13.5 pts/gm), dead last in total offense (290.0 yds/gm) and 26th in turnovers (12).

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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