Turn On The Jets – NFL Week 2 Best Bets

Chris Celletti with his Best Bets for week 2 of the NFL Season

Week 1 Record: 1-2

Season Record: 1-2

I’m actually okay with going just 1-2 last week. It was your typical Week 1 craziness…the Eagles barely beat the Browns, the Saints lost badly at the Superdome, and that team in Green and White put up 48 points against everybody’s preseason darlings. Week 1 is impossible to predict. Now, it’s not like in Week 2 we know exactly what every team is like yet, but at least we have something to work off of other than preseason, which has once again been proven to be a total waste of time and worth almost zero attention.

As I look at the Week 2 schedule, it’s perfect for gambling because there are a lot of crappy games. No one outside of Ohio would voluntarily watch Bengals/Browns. The same can be said for Dolphins/Raiders and Bills/Chiefs unless you’ve been dealt the horrible hand of being a fan of one of those franchises, so naturally, I didn’t choose any of those games in my Week 2 bets. Even money isn’t worth sitting through that crap. — Here is where you will be betting on Top Bet in the NFL

Giants (-7) vs. Buccaneers

Much like the Packers at Lambeau on Thursday, the Giants return home after a tough opening season loss and are not going to fall to 0-2. I have never been a member of the Josh Freeman fan club, and don’t think I ever will be. The Giants’ d-line should be ticked off and will take it out on him. Plus, I really, really don’t want to see Greg Schiano return to New Jersey and score a big win, because Peter King and Harvey Araton will write  a combined 7,559 insufferable words about it on Monday. I don’t want that, and neither does Eli Manning. Giants, big.

Colts (+2) vs. Vikings

Blaine Gabbert threw for 260 yards against the Vikings last week again. Read that sentence again. Now put your money on the Colts and Andrew Luck at home.

Texans (-7) at Jaguars

Is this the halftime line? I know the Jaguars are at home and have a decent enough run defense to  keep the Texans’ running game in check, but how many points can Gabbert and Co. (that sounds like midwestern insurance company or something) score against the Texans? I’m not convinced they can put up 10 points all day and if that’s the case, the Texans only need a solid 20-24 to cover this spread.

Bonus Non-Football Bet Of The Week (Record, 0-1)

Not that anybody watched, but I was wrong about last week’s non-football bonus bet, as Andre Ward totally dismantled Chad Dawson in a 10th round TKO. Andre Ward is a name worth keeping tabs on though, because as Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather start to fade off in the boxing superstar sunset, Ward is the most likely guy to take over the throne.

This week I move to baseball. Is there anything more sure in sports these days than the New York Mets being a total waste of space? This is not exactly bold, but the Brewers are currently at -240 to win the weekend series between the two. Isn’t this free money?

NFL Week 1 Bets: The Opening Week Crapshoot

Chris Celletti submits his best bets for week 1 of the NFL season

Oh brother, here we go.

It’s Week 1 of the NFL season, and nobody knows what the hell will happen, which makes gambling on the league this week all sorts of frustrating and fun at the same time. You’re just as likely to hit something that seemed like a reach than you are to miss on a perceived no-brainer. Betting on NFL games is a total toss up to begin with, but it’s even crazier in the opening weeks before teams settle into their own. In that way, Week 1 is a bit like the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Even if you’re talking about games without a point spread*, Week 1 is tough to forecast. Yeah, it might sound crazy unlikely, but would anyone be completely and utterly shocked if the Browns beat the Eagles on Sunday? I mean, sure, the Eagles are a better team and will probably win, but they’re still coached by Andy Reid…which makes any scenario possible. Every Week 1 sees one team who was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender start off with an epic crapfest, so why can’t that be the Eagles this week? Or the Patriots? Or the Saints? It will happen to someone.

*Sorry for the Grantlandish footnote-y thing here, but I have a quick aside: I hear a lot of people complain about the various NFL pregame shows picking games without the spread. And it’s not just idiot fans too, it’s radio hosts like Joe Beningo who are like “Bro, BRO… come on, how easy is it to pick games without a spread?!” when talking about the NFL Today or Fox’s pregame show or whatever. This is one of the most mindless complaints ever. You know why Bill Cowher doesn’t make his picks against the spread? Because actual, real life NFL football is NOT played with a point spread! Football analysts are there to break down actual, in between the lines football.  When the Jets take the field on Sunday against the Bills, the game will NOT kick off with the Bills already up 3-0 (and thank the lord for that). So go on Dan Marino, Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Bradshaw and make your non-spread picks. I have no problem with it. Plus, join a survivor pool and see how easy it is to pick games without a spread.

On that note, here are my three picks for the week, of course, against the spread.

Lions -8.5 vs. Rams – I’ve seen this line at -7.5 or even -7 in some other places, but either way I’ll take the Lions. Now, I don’t have a ton of confidence in the Lions overall this year, because if there’s any franchise that can screw up the momentum of last year and a good young quarterback with a can’t-miss wide receiver, its the Detroit Lions. But for this week, I like them at home against the Rams for one main reason; Brian Schottenheimer. Yes, our great old buddy from the Jets’ sidelines is running the Rams’ offense this season. And he actually has less offensive talent on this squad than he ever had with the Jets, and we saw how dynamic Gang Green’s offense was under his guidance this past half decade. Add in the fact that this offense employs the likes of Wayne Hunter and Matthew Mulligan, I mean, how in the hell are the Rams going to stay within 10 points of a team that threw for 5,000 yards last year in their building? Not happening.

Patriots -5 at Tennessee

Five points? That’s it? You’re telling me the  Patriots won’t beat the Titans by a touchdown? Believe me, just like every other writer on this site I’m rooting for Tennessee, but I’m not holding my breath. Too much Tom Brady, who will have a killer day throwing to his new toy Brandon Lloyd on the outside and to Vinny and Ronnie Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski down the seams. The Patriots D isn’t great but I think they’ll be ahead enough early to render Chris Johnson useless.

Chiefs +3 vs. Falcons

The Falcons are one of those teams I talked about above, one that has big expectations coming into the season and could fall flat on its face in Week 1. I don’t like the Falcons outdoors, on the road in a hostile situation against a solid defense. Here are Matt Ryan’s QB ratings the past four season while playing outdoors: 94.2 (the outlier), 76.2, 80.3, and 79.1. His numbers are even worse on grass. I like the Chiefs in an upset outright, so I’ll gladly take the three points.

Bonus Non-Football Bets of The Weekend: Did you know two of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world, in their primes, are fighting each other on Saturday for free on HBO? No! No you didn’t know, because you have no idea who Andre Ward or Chad Dawson are, even though you’re clearly a sports fan if you’re on this site. That’s how horridly boring these two are outside of the ring (and sometimes inside the ring too). Ward is the world’s best Super Middleweight (168 pounds) while Dawson is the best at 175, and the fight will be for Ward’s WBC and ring belts. Dawson isn’t a huge puncher, so going down in weight shouldn’t hinder him too much. With a six and half inch reach advantage and a two inch height advantage, I like Dawson  in a pretty big upset at +265.

NFL 2012 Gambling Preview: Over/Unders, MVP, Super Bowl Bets

Chris Celletti kicks off his weekly NFL gambling column with a look at over/unders, MVP and Super Bowl bets

We are happy to welcome Chris Celletti to the TOJ writing staff for the 2012 NFL season. He will be contributing a weekly NFL gambling column every Friday. Make sure to give Chris a follow on Twitter and all the credit if you hit on any of these bets – 

So preseason is finally, finally over, which means the beginning of the NFL gambling season (unless you have a serious problem and have been betting on preseason games, which I’m sure about 85% of the NFL gambling population does, no questions asked). Each week during the regular season, I’ll give you three picks against the spread.

And let’s get this out of the way, here’s my disclaimer: I am in no way trying to pass myself off as any sort of gambling expert. I don’t study how lines move during the week because I have a job, a life and friends. I’m simply going to waddle up to my computer every Friday or so and look at that week’s schedule, pick three games, and give football reasons as to why. From time-to-time I’ll also throw in a non-football bet and other random thoughts that pop into my head. We’ll tally my record and keep a running total each week and see how horrifically I did at the end of the year, because we all know betting on football has zilch to do with anything football related. This is gonna be a fun exercise.

So since we’re still a wee bit off until the actual games kickoff, I thought I’d debut with some futures bets; a few team over/unders and MVP and  Super Bowl Champs bets.  As with my weekly picks to come, I plan on having a big old laugh when looking back on these in February when the season is over and Mike Tannenbaum takes over for Bill Polian as ESPN’s “Expert NFL GM”.

FYI: I get lines from Bovada.

Team Over/Unders:

Baltimore Ravens (10) – UNDER

My dad is a huge believer of “being due” in sports, and he’s passed that on to me. This ranges from everything like “Good god is Swisher OVERDUE for a homer” to “All the home teams have won on Wild Card Weekend so far, one of the road teams has to win”. It’s completely illogical and totally irrational, and yet I still believe in it. And to me, the Baltimore Ravens are due for a crap year. They’ve made the playoffs in all of John Harbaugh’s four seasons, which is a miraculous accomplishment given that Joe Flacco has been the starting quarterback for all of them. And of course it’s because of the Ravens’ defense, which to me is on its last legs. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are on the way out, and Terrell Suggs is hurt. Their schedule isn’t a murderer’s row but does include games with the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles and of course two with the rival Steelers. It’s just pretty hard in the NFL to have five straight winning/playoff seasons, especially with a quarterback like Flacco. I don’t expect the Ravens to be bad, but I can see 8-8.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5.5) – UNDER

This is the biggest dumpster of a franchise in the NFL and it’s not even close. Can you blame Maurice Jones-Drew for wanting out? The Jags and Jets should have pulled a Tebow-MJD trade, but the Jags would rather start Blaine Gabbert at quarterback than someone who, at the very least, would fill their stadium. Oh, wait, this is easy to figure out…their owner wants absolutely nothing to do with the city of Jacksonville. Additionally, the Jags have the NFC North and the AFC East on their schedule this year. It will take them until they’re the London Jaguars before they win six games in a season.

Denver Broncos (9) – OVER

It’s going to be close but I have the Broncos slightly over, probably by about a game or so. The competition in the AFC West will remain mediocre and Denver’s schedule isn’t too bad. And then there’s this: last year, this team won eight games and one in the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback. This season, they made an itty-bitty upgrade at the position with Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning throwing with his left hand could win 10 games if he gets half the support Lefty Jesus got last year from this defense, special teams and running game.

NFL MVP

Eli Manning (18/1)

The Giants’ offense has a chance to be insanely good. If David Wilson is even a fraction as good as every Giants blogger has blabbered on about since April, and Ahmad Bradshaw stays healthy, can’t Elisha have a truly MVP-caliber season? With any semblance of a running game Eli should put up monster numbers throwing to Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Co. Of course for Eli to win the MVP, the Giants will need to have a big regular season, something many seem to think isn’t going to happen, but I do (and then they’ll promptly lose in the first round of the playoffs because that’s how the Giants do things). To me, there’s no reason at all why guys like Michael Vick, Arian Foster and Matt Stafford should have better odds to win the MVP than Eli.

Super Bowl Champs

New Orleans (18/1)

What the Saints will prove this year is that in the NFL, coaching doesn’t mean a whole lot when you have a great quarterback who runs your offense from the huddle/line of scrimmage. In 2009, The Colts went 14-2 (should have went 16-0) with Jim Caldwell as their head coach, and Jim Caldwell is about as aware of his surroundings as a deer that sprints across the Garden State Parkway . The only reason that Colts team was worth anything was because of Peyton Manning. The Saints still have that whether Sean Payton is on the sidelines or not because of Drew Brees, and Brees also still has plenty of explosive weapons to use. The whole bounty scandal will end up being good for them because it forced ax-murderer wannabe Greg Williams and his Transitions lenses out of town, and Nola replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo, a totally competent and Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator. Besides, defense means jack in the NFL these days, just ask last year’s Patriots. And then there’s the dome. The Saints are impossible to beat in that dome. If they can get to the Super Bowl, well, do you know where the Super Bowl is this year? Why take the Eagles at 11/1 (this is a joke, right?) or the Bears at 15/1 if the Saints are sitting there below them?

New York Jets (40/1)

You remember what site you’re on, right?

Rex Ryan Deserves Some Blame For Jets Struggles On Offense

Chris Celletti on why the Jets offensive struggles fall both on Brian Schottenheimer AND Rex Ryan

I’m as guilty of it as the next disgruntled Jets fan. On December 4, 2011 at 1:47 PM, sometime during the first or second quarter of the Jets-Redskins game, I tweeted the following:

“I hate Brian Schottenheimer. That’s all.”

Hate is a bit of a strong word. I don’t hate the man. He seems like a hard-working guy who takes his job seriously. Other than make me grow some gray hairs because I care about the Jets way too much, he really hasn’t done anything to m e.

But I probably tweeted that after a failed tight end screen, a wildcat call on 3rd and 4 (even if it was successful) or a draw on 2nd and long. There are countless times during a Jet game when they are on offense when you could tweet something like “I hate Brian Schottenheimer”. That’s because, despite probably being a really nice guy who you’d like to play golf with, Brian Schottenheimer is a bad offensive coordinator.

But blaming a coordinator is the thing football fans do the best. The Eagles are 4-8, why? Juan Castillo, thats’ why! The Giants have lost four in a row? Perry Fewell has lost his way! Us Jets fans are especially great at it, whether it be Schottenheimer, Mike Heimerdinger (I’ve decided that the next time the Jets make an awful play call on offense, it should be known as a “Schottenheimerdinger”), Paul Hackett, Bob Sutton…the list doesn’t end. And yes, sometimes it is warranted. But it is also an easy way out.

I love Rex Ryan and what he’s brought to the Jets. Sure, sometimes I wish he’d keep his mouth shut, sometimes I wish he’d learn to manage a clock a little bit better, but on the whole I’m more than pleased with Rex leading the Jets. My biggest concern with Ryan is that he’s a defensive coordinator masquerading as a NFL head coach. Ryan has such a love for “his” defense (in case you were wondering, he’ll remind you every time he can that it…”his”) that the offensive suffers. ESPN analyst and memory-less former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Steve Young has consistently stuck on this premise when discussing the Jets, and I think it has a lot of credence.

My next tweet after the in-the-moment Schottenheimer blast mentioned something about getting sick of Rex Ryan-Ball. What’s Rex Ryan-Ball? It is what we’ve seen from the Jets since the home loss to the Patriots in Week 10. It is about doing anything, everything, at all costs, NOT to turn the ball over. Rex Ryan-Ball would rather win a game 13-10 with no turnovers in a nail-biter than win 31-20 by taking a few chances. It is all about the defense. Get my defense on the field at the end of the game with a lead, and we will win. Well, we saw how that worked in Denver, and if Stevie Johnson could catch, how it worked against Buffalo.

I guess you could say that it is smart football. Maybe you share Ryan’s opinion. Maybe that’s just how the Jets have to play. Maybe Sanchez would kill them with pick-six after pick-six if they simply let him chuck the ball all over the place. But Rex Ryan-Ball works best if you have a truly dominant defense, if your running game is elite. The 2000 Ravens, the 85 Bears. Once in a lifetime type of teams. I don’t know if Ryan has got this memo yet, but it is week 13 and the Jets have neither a dominant defense or a good running game this season.

Just know that next time you destroy Schottenheimer for a crappy play call, he has a hulking head coach right behind him, perhaps drilling this style of football into his brain. Do we honestly think that if Ryan wanted to throw the ball downfield more, Schottenheimer wouldn’t listen to him? Would he really disregard his boss? If this in fact does happen, and Ryan has literally no say in offensive matters, then that’s a really big problem. We all know he’s a defensive guy, and you can’t change his defensive football upbringing. But the best coaches in football — Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin — have full command of their sideline. If Tom Coughlin wants to blitz on a specific play, guess what? The Giants will blitz. If Belichick wants to fake a punt? They’re doing it. And it’s likely that Rex does have a say in the offensive style the Jets play, which is why when they struggle to move the ball, you can’t point JUST at Schotty.

And that brings us to this Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs will throw Tyler Palko at the Jets. Tyler freaking Palko, probably the worst quarterback to start an NFL game this season. I, for one, am fascinated to see how the Jets play this thing. For 55 minutes, the Jets were in a dogfight with the Washington Redskins, a bad football team with nothing to play for. The Jets didn’t try to jump on them, get a lead, and stomp on their throats. They were content playing a one-possession game, where one mistake loses them the game. Thankfully, the mistakes came by the guys wearing maroon and gold, and the Jets made a couple big plays. But how often can you count on that to happen?

I want to see the Jets come out guns blazing and give the Chiefs zero hope. I want to see them take the opening kick (stop deferring Rex, “your” defense keeps getting gashed early in games), march down the field and score, force a turnover and score again and put the game out of reach early. At home, the Jets CAN do that against the Chiefs. I hope they do. I think most Jet fans hope they do? Will Rex let them?

Prediction – It will be more of the same. I think the Jets win, and that’s because the Chiefs with Palko at quarterback are one of the worst offensive football teams in a very long time. But my dream of a 31-9 thrashing will probably be just that — a dream. I think they do it the way Rex wants it. Sanchez won’t put up big stats. They’ll try (mostly unsuccessfully) to run the ball. They’ll get some points off turnovers (I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned this yet, but Tyler Palko is really bad). They’ll win something like 20-10. Maybe 17-13 even. I wish the Jets would finally go out and beat up an inferior opponent. I just don’t see it happening.

It Is Now Or Never For Jets Fans: Suggestions For MetLife Stadium

Chris Celletti with a call to action for Jets fans this Sunday and a few suggestions for the MetLife Stadium game-day production crew

I’ve been going to Jets games since the days of Boomer Esiason. I’ve seen some great moments for sure – plenty of bad ones, and now I’ve gotten to experience two different stadiums. MetLife Stadium has many faults. When it was being designed and then built, Jets fans were sold on the idea that this would be OUR stadium – not just a shared one with the Giants – even though we were sharing this one with them too. How would that be accomplished? By green lights, and green signs, and just a bunch of other green things. When I first walked into the place, the color that overrode everything was gray. It’s a huge hunk of steel and concrete. I suppose it is better than the Giants’ red that the seats in the old building had, but walking into MetLife stadium doesn’t exactly invoke an overwhelming amount of Jet pride.

Jets fans have always seemed a bit whiny when it came to not having their own stadium. I say this because there is no reason that on eight Sundays a year (and hopefully more, but who are we kidding?) Jets fans can’t lose their collective minds and go be completely off the wall in support of their team, regardless of the name of the stadium or the color of the seats. I watch enough NFL football on TV to know what a truly great home crowd is. Every other NFL stadium seems totally packed by kickoff; in most buildings the entire place is standing and cheering on the team’s first defensive possession. From being at every Jets home game this season, I can tell you that that’s not nearly the case at MetLife Stadium.

The place is generally about 60% full at kickoff. When I walk into the stadium from the parking lot, usually about a half hour from kickoff, I notice hoards of people still lounging in their bucket seats, knocking back Coors Lights and flipping burgers, priorities clear. Why you’d pay whatever you pay for a Jets ticket and waltz in 25 minutes late because you just had to have another sliver of Sal’s awesome skirt steak, well, I’m not sure. I hope Sunday night is different.

You have all day to tailgate. Get to your seat by 8 o’clock. Go nuts for the team when it is announced. Stand up, get loud, make it as tough as you can for Tom Brady. If the Jets go down by 7, or 10, don’t wallow. Rex Ryan and Bart Scott have both said the crowd could make a difference this week. They’re not crazy.

As for MetLife Stadium? Well, they cant change the colors. Whatever. But there are some things that can be changed.

-First off, don’t attack our senses at every chance. I don’t need to hear “Ridin’ Dirty” blasting in my ears after every Shonn Greene 10 yard run (thank God, in that sense, that he’s had a rough year). My brother, Rob Celletti, has made the very valid point that the blasting of music does absolutely nothing to get people pumped up. Instead, it has the reverse effect. All it does is drone on and drown out any crowd noise.

-Replace your PA announcer, please. I usually don’t begrudge people who do their jobs since, but I know I could do a better job. I swear I could. Almost anyone could.

-You’ve gotta be kidding with “Down With The Sickness” by Disturbed before kickoff. To every New York sports team who isn’t sure what song to play when their team comes out, here are four words: Empire State of Mind.

-Give me more classic highlights during TV timeouts! This was one of the best parts of the old Giants Stadium. So what if we’re losing to the Dolphins 3-0? Show me Ken O’Brien hitting Wesley Walker for an 86-yard bomb in 1988, and all will be fine.

So there’s that. The gameday stadium production will be the same, but one can dream. Either way, now is the time for Jets fans to step up their game and make MetLife Stadium a fortress. The team has given you plenty to cheer about the past two and a half seasons.

Now go cheer.

Is Eli Manning Elite?…Who Cares?

Chris Celletti questions the logic of attaching the word “elite” to Eli Manning

Eli Manning is good.

He’s won a Super Bowl. He’s put up some very gaudy statistics. He’s also thrown a boatload of interceptions. His most recent triumph was leading the Giants to two late touchdown drives against the New England Patriots for a big victory in Foxboro. Earlier this season, ever since Michael Kay asked Manning if he considered himself “elite” – among Tom Brady and his older brother Peyton as current NFL quarterbacks – and he answered some version of “yes”, the media and fans have been so obsessed with asking the question to themselves.

Is Eli Manning “elite”?

The Giants themselves played into this ridiculous vernacular,  when Justin Tuck said after the win over the Patriots that you can’t spell “elite” without “Eli. Thanks, Justin.

While the rest of the world asks this silly question, (and most are answering yes at this point), I’ll ask another:

Who cares?

Do we even have a frame of reference as to what “elite” means? We don’t. It is a completely dramatized phrase that seems to be the go-to word for sports fans these days when discussing their team against another. If you say your team or a player is elite, you’re dressing them in some sort of teflon coating. For some reason, the word “elite” holds more meaning than simply saying a player is “great”. But what the hell makes someone elite? What’s the cutoff? If you’re a top-5 QB, are you elite? Don’t dare be ranked number six! You sir, not elite.

What exactly did Manning do against the Patriots that made him elite as compared to past weeks? He actually had a terrible quarterback rating in the game, one of the lowest this season against New England’s horrible defense. He threw what could have been a back-breaking interception in the end zone, and took advantage of a few pass interference calls to complete the comeback. The Giants’ win was as much about how bad the Pats’ passing defense is, and how well the Giants defense played against Brady than it was about Manning.

This is in no way to disparage Manning, in any way whatsoever. I happen to think he is playing at a very high level this season. He’s probably the main reason the Giants sit atop the NFC East at 6-2. Why can’t it just be about exactly this? It’s actually possible that we can talk about Manning’s play, his statistics, the good things, the bad things, wins and losses without needing to attach a specific term to it.

What happens if Manning does something like this next week at San Francisco: 25/37, 310 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble in a 24-16 49ers win? What will we do then? Will Eli have fallen off the elite pedestal?

No, because there is no such thing as the elite pedestal. We live in a football world where everything needs to be ranked and compared. Last night on television (I can’t remember who or what show exactly, although I believe it was Dan Patrick on Football Night in America), this was uttered in the transition from the Packers-Chargers highlight to the Saints-Bucs highlight: “Drew Brees is no Aaron Rodgers, but…” Why do we even have to make a comparison like that? Last time I checked its Super Bowl rings: Brees – 1, Rodgers – 1. They’re both star QBs for their teams and will be for years to come – just like Eli Manning.

Can’t we just let that be?

NFL Week 9 – Smart Bets

Chris Celletti with his smart bets for week 9 in the NFL. Who are you putting your money on?

When the Jets have a week off, I take the week off from the NFL. I know I’m in the minority, but just as Mark Sanchez and company need their rest, I need my mental health time away from football. Week 9 brings an excellent slate of games, maybe the best week of games overall this season. Here in the New York metro area, it’ll be that rare time where Jets fans are rooting for Big Blue. Personally, whenever it seems like I have to root for a team I normally root against, they never come up big. Let’s hope I’m wrong, and this week the Giants come up with a big victory for both New York teams.

Giants -9 at Patriots and the OVER (51)

This will be a shootout. I really don’t think the Patriots should be nine point favorites over anyone at this point with that defense. Well, maybe against the Broncos if you-know-who is at QB. But Eli Manning is playing as good as he ever has, and even if Hakeem Nicks can’t go I still think the Giants will put up a lot of points. However, you don’t want to face Tom Brady and the Pats in Foxboro when they’re coming off a loss. The G-Men will have trouble covering Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and don’t sleep on the Pats’ running game in this one. I think it is a close game that goes down to the wire, with both QB’s putting up huge numbers.

49ers -2.5 at Redskins

Who’s quarterbacking the Redskins at this point? The Redskins rank 21st against the run, and Frank Gore has been a monster recently (while also saving my miserable-but-somehow 5-3 fantasy team), and I expect him to have another huge day. If the line were a little higher I’d be skeptical with the cross country trip and early start. But by just a field goal? I’ll take San Fran.

Steelers -3 vs. Ravens and the UNDER (41.5)

I’m going with the Steelers solely on the revenge factor. Pittsburgh really hasn’t been all that impressive this season, even with beating the Pats last week. Sorry, I won’t go wild about a Super Bowl-winning QB shredding that New England pass defense. They are that bad. But the Ravens haven’t been anything special either so far. They should have lost to the horrendous Arizona Cardinals last week, at home no less. The Steelers have had this one circled on their calendars (although I doubt James Harrison has an actual calendar anywhere) since the Ravens’ Week 1 beatdown. Also, I’ll set the over/under of plays that will result in fines in this game at 4.5, and likely take the over.

BONUS NON-FOOTBALL BET OF THE WEEK

Alabama -4.5 vs LSU

Eh, nevermind. I still won’t watch a second of this game. #getaplayoffsystem

NFL Week 5 Smart Bets: And The Yankees Post-Mortem

Yikes. Well my Week 4 picks didn’t go so well, thanks to two athletes who are quite similar, Tony Romo and Alex Rodriguez. We’ll get to the Week 5 NFL picks in a little bit, but if you recall one of my bets last week was the Yankees beating the Tigers in the ALDS. I also proclaimed that Jose Valverde’s consecutive saves streak would come to and end, and while it nearly did, well, it didn’t.

So what happened to the 2011 New York Yankees? We’ve had a little time to digest the Yanks’ postseason failure, and I’m going to take what will probably be a very unpopular view on this. This Yankees team actually overachieved. By a lot.

Yeah, it’s possible for a team with the highest payroll in the sport to overachieve.

Heading into the season, all the “experts” had the Red Sox winning the AL East and going to the World Series. And for good reason. Who wouldn’t have picked the BoSox with their rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, a bullpen with the second best closer in the game (I think so at least), and a lineup that is stacked with multiple MVP candidates? If in February you would have told me that the Yankees would lose Alex Rodriguez for about half the season, Mark Teixeira would hit under .250, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon (it is 2011!!!) would start 51 games combined, Derek Jeter would have a DL stint, A.J. Burnett would have an ERA in the fives and Rafael Soriano would pitch only 39 innings – and with all that the Yankees would win 97 games and win the division by six games, I probably would have told you to check into rehab immediately.

The fact of the matter is is that the Yankees were gritty and gutted their way through 162 games. Sure, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson had MVP-type seasons, with the latter putting up otherworldy numbers. Teixeria had good power numbers but let’s face it, it was a down year for him. Throw in all the Jorge Posada drama, and it wasn’t an easy task winning 97 games by any stretch. This season should go down as a good one for the Yankees. You can’t win it every year.

But in Yankees Universe we have to dissect the playoff meltdowns, and it really doesn’t get much easier than looking at the middle of the lineup. The Yankees simply needed much, much more out of their four, five and six hitters. A-Rod hasn’t been A-Rod all year, but he was vintage postseason A-Rod this year, and he’s starting to prove that his gargantuan 2009 playoff performance was an aberration. Rodriguez will be around for six more years, and thank goodness there is no salary cap in baseball. Additionally, it might be time for the Yankees to try something else in right field. Nick Swisher is a good player, seems like a great guy and teammate, and the fans like him. But man, how much more deer-in-the-headlights could you get than Swisher in the postseason?  Is it really worth the solid regular seasons if he’s going to be an automatic out in October? There are plenty of other players who could play a good right field with a solid bat and have a better approach at the plate in a big situation.

And I think Joe Girardi had a really rough time this postseason. Yanking Ivan Nova so early in Game 5 sent a message to the whole team that he was in panic mode. The Yankees can spin “forearm tightness” for Nova all they want. Girardi freaked out and pulled Nova. He also mismanaged the end of Game 2 by essentially giving away a run by bringing in Luis Ayala, a run that proved not costly but surely important. Girardi doesn’t need to be fired or anything, but he needs to learn from his poor managing the past two postseasons.

The future isn’t dark for the Yankees. Offensively they’ll be built around Cano and Granderson for the next few seasons, with Rodriguez and Teixiera of course capable of putting up big numbers. The pitching may lend itself to a youth movement, with Nova joining Sabathia and Phil Hughes in the rotation full time without the fear of being sent down (although maybe Girardi will pull him every time he gives up a few runs in the first two innings). Burnett will be back (it is what it is), and the Yankees can look to their youth with Dellin Betances or Hector Noesi for the fifth spot. The bullpen will be good as long as Rivera is around.

The Yankees are home early, and any first round loss stings. But fans should take a step back and look at the whole season, and realize that it could have been much, much worse.

And now, on to the picks –

Eagles -3 at Bills

The Eagles are a talented team and they are desperate. The Bills are a nice story, but I don’t think many people see them being a serious playoff threat. The Eagles won’t go 1-4. If they do, Andy Reid better walk around Cheesesteak Town in disguise.

Atlanta +6 vs Green Bay

I’m taking six points with Matt Ryan/Mike Smith at home. I think the Packers could very well win the game, but it will be close. One of the better games of the weekend.

Steelers -3 vs. Titans

I’ll take the Steelers at home off a bad loss. I know the Steelers are banged up, and very much like the Jets, look a little slow and old. But I think Mike Tomlin rallies the team, and at home, they don’t lose to a team quarterbacked by Matt Hasselbeck.

Saints -6.5 at Carolina

No spread is too high for the Saints these days. It could be a shootout, but I think the Saints put up a ton of points.

Non-Football Bonus Bet of the Week

NBA Playing entire season: 8-5

Yes, you can actually bet on this. Things sound a little uplifting recently, with David Stern caving a bit and offering the players close to 50% in revenue. Too much at stake for both sides, I think they get it done.

NFL Week 4 Smart Bets

A ridiculous weekend that involved a lot of drinking restricted me from doing what I love to do this time last week – give gambling advice. Although as with anything, there are mixed results. Two weeks ago, I went 4-for-4 on my NFL picks. I would have made it a perfect cross-sport 5-for-5 had Victor Ortiz not gone completely mad and headbutted Floyd Mayweather, causing Mayweather to rightly sucker punch him into oblivion. I’m convinced that fight absolutely would have ended in rounds 9 through 11, like I said it would. Either way, a pretty solid weekend two weekends ago.

And then, inexplicably this past Tuesday, I said to myself – what’s a more sure bet in this world than Manchester United and Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League against clubs from Switzerland and Amsterdam, AT HOME? At halftime, up 2-0 in both games I was joyous, and then seeing Man-U choke the game away only to do what only the Red Devils could do, score in the 90th minute to tie, was infuriating. Anyway, I’m back on it this weekend with what I think are locks for Week 4 in the NFL.  And away we go…

Giants -1  at Cardinals

As a die-hard Jet fan I can’t believe I’m saying this, but will everyone get off the Giants’ back? This is a team with a solid quarterback (not spectacular, not awful by any stretch), a great defensive line and a very good coach. I’m not saying that the Giants are going anywhere serious this season. They’re in a very tough division that appears as though it is going to beat itself up over the course of the regular season.  But I think to say they are a bad team is really shortsighted. In related news, the Cardinals are a bad team, and the Giants will win this one.

Falcons -4.5 at Seahwaks

This line jumped out to me as being a little low simply because of how bad the Seahawks are. They may have a great home-field advantage, but that’s not enough to keep them close enough in this one when they host a hungry and ticked off Falcons team. The Falcons’ offense has a field day as they win by more than a touchdown.

Cowboys  -1.5 AND Over 46 vs. Lions

The Lions are a fantastic story, and a very good football team, but they’re not going to go undefeated. Tony Romo has shown some great courage in battling through some tough injuries, and usually plays well at home. In a shootout, the Cowboys give the Lions their first loss of 2011.

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week – Yankees in 5

Can the Yankees win one of the games Justin Verlander starts? If they can, they should win the series. I actually think the Yankees will get decent starting pitching from Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. The Tigers aren’t the most dangerous offensive team. And mark it down: Jose Valverde’s saves streak is coming to an end in this series. It will be a really good series with some dramatic games, but I think the Bombers advance past the Tigers in five games.

As usual, don’t hate me if you lose all your money this weekend.

NFL Week 2 Picks: Saints & Texans Good Bets

Chris Celletti goes over the best bets for week 2 of the NFL

The mass uncertainty heading into an NFL Week 1 has come and gone, and while there are teams (ahem, the Giants) for whom the sky is falling, there is also extreme optimism across half the league. Week 2 should get everyone back to normal. Those teams who had a rousing Week 1 win, like the Bears, may get a reality check – while all will likely be right in Steelerland on Monday morning. Taking a look at the Week 2 NFL schedule, there are actually a lot of pretty miserable games on tap. The only thing that could make some of them watchable (Redskins vs. Cardinals, Browns vs. Colts – ouch), is what makes the NFL the most popular sport in the country anyway – betting!

Saints -6.5 vs. Bears

I love the Saints in this one. First off, because if you’ve ever been to New Orleans (and remember it), you know that the only things that matter in the Big Easy are food, alcohol, jazz, and the Saints (not necessarily in that order), so the Superdome will be rocking. Drew Brees looked silly-good against the Packers in Lambeau last Thursday, so I expect big numbers in the dome on turf. Despite missing Marques Colston, New Orleans will still be able to move the ball. The Saints D’ will come up with enough big plays, intercepting Jay Cutler a few times, and I think they win by more than a touchdown.

Texans -3 at Dolphins

The Texans’ defense is better than the Patriots’. Yeah, I said it. I’m sorry, Chad Henne is not throwing for 400 yards again this week. And while Matt Schaub is no Tom Brady, did you see the Dolphins’ defense in Week 1? My goodness. Add Andre Johnson into the mix, and the Texans should roll to 2-0 while covering this spread.

Steelers -14 vs. Seahawks

I usually stay away from a spread this high, but the Steelers are pissed after getting routed by the Ravens last week. Good night.

Bucs +3 at Vikings

I need to see something from Donovan McNabb to prove that he’s not a walking corpse before I have any confidence in the Vikings. I’ll give you Adrian Peterson, but outside of him Minnesota is weak. I think Tampa was overhyped last year and was the classic “new coach out of nowhere 10-6 team (see 2006 Jets under Eric Mangini), but I think they keep this a low-scoring affair.

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week!

Floyd Mayweather Jr. by KO over Victor Ortiz (+200)

Looking at the odds for the Mayweather-Ortiz fight, I think any Mayweather by KO odds are sneaky good bets. Especially if you can find someone to give you the Vegas lines that ESPN’s Dan Rafael tweeted yesterday, where a Mayweather KO in rounds 9-11 is at 12-1. Mayweather is no knockout artist but I can see this fight being eerily similar to Floyd’s December 2008 fight with Ricky Hatton. Ortiz is going to try to get inside and make it a brawl, and may have some moments in the early rounds. But by round four or five Mayweather will have adjusted, which he does better than anyone in boxing, and will be systematically picking apart Ortiz. Ortiz won’t pull a Shane Mosley and give up, he’ll keep coming in, hoping to land a big shot. As he tires, he’ll be ripe for the picking by Mayweather, and I think a 10th or 11th round stoppage is a good possibility.

Please don’t blame me if you lose all your money this weekend.