Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From the Waiver Wire: News, notes & other stuff (Labor Day Weekend Edition)

A lot of ground to cover:

J.J. Watt gets paid. - The best player on the Texans roster (and quite possibly, the best defensive player in the league) gets paid like it. Yes, there are people (mainly in Houston's media and among the usual idiots who grouse about anything) who don't like this deal but I would argue it had to get done. We can go back and forth about the ethics of someone who plays a game making $100 Million until the contract kicks in but it won't change the fact that JJ received market value.

The NFL's "homophobia" is a red herring. - The real problem here is that Sam is not talented to justify putting up with all of the distractions. In part, he brought this on himself by dabbling with the reality series and generally making a hash of it PR wise.  True, ESPN shares some of the blame for making up stories where none existed but, at the end of the day, players like Sam are a dime a dozen and it's not unusual to see them NOT get selected to a practice squad.  It's less homophobia than it is the reality of life in the NFL.

So goes Bo.  - The Astros are a long-running mess and (apparently) this issue has been brewing for a while. As is their wont, Houston's sports media is suddenly bursting at the seams with anecdotal evidence regarding the issues with both Porter and (Astros GM) Lunhow. The question now being: Why weren't these issues reported before? For all of the homer stories reporting that the Astros are "doing it the right way" the preponderance of evidence is suggesting they are not.

The keys to the Carr - I guess that about does it for the career of Matt Schaub.  With Derek Carr taking over in Los Angeles you have to think they'll just keep Matt Schaub around long enough to ensure they have a back-up in case the kid starts off slowly.  If Derek Carr has even a modicum of success it wouldn't surprise me to see Schaub cut from the roster before season's end. You don't pay $8MM for a back-up after all.

Making his Case. - Congratulations go out to Case Keenum who gets a 2nd chance and a new lease on his NFL life with the St. Louis Rams.  Will he succeed?  I don't know. I think he's too slow through his progressions to ever really be a viable NFL quarterback but I do wish him well.

Yup, they Cooged it. - The University of Houston football program can't seem to get out of its own way. Every time there are signs of promise they tend to fail in a spectacular manner. This trait has become known as "Cooging it" amongst some of the alumni.  On Friday, the Cougars Cooged it badly, losing to UT-San Antonio 27-7 in a game that wasn't that close. Coach Tony Levine is receiving support from some of the more clueless members of local alt-media but that's mainly because (oddly) they like his interviewing style.

In reality, the Coogs have a head coach who doesn't appear to be a viable College head man and a roster that's got talent at spots, but huge gaping holes at spots as well.  This, and they seem to be totally overmatched on the sideline. For UofH to win consistently they need to return to their short-passing game which finds WR's in space and allows them to make plays.  They also need to remember how to play defense.

It's the basics that the team failed at on Friday and that's almost all on the coaching staff.

College Football: 10 Games (Rough Start)


There's no sugar-coating it, I took a whuppin' over the first weekend of College Football. Teams I thought would come out strong didn't and teams I thought would struggle didn't either.  All in all that makes for a pretty rough first week out of the box.

The gory details:

Week One Straight-Up: 7-3

Week One Against the Spread: 2-8.

Where I went Wrong:  The worst mistake that I made over the first weekend was that I forgot to apply my own cardinal rule and assume that teams making big changes on the lines might struggle more than teams that aren't. I also assumed that some teams would reload while some would struggle.

Of all my picks my biggest error was aTm-South Carolina. I was surprised at how little talent SC has at key positions such as wide receiver and quarterback. I also wasn't sure if aTm's defense would hold up.  It did, aTm rolled, and I'm sitting here with egg on my face.

I also made the mistake of assuming UH football was any good at all.  What a disaster by the Cougars.  Tony Levine should be fired, but he won't be, and that program is going to continue its downward spiral.

The best news is that this is only week one and there are plenty of weeks remaining for me to get it back.  As with any enterprise, sports betting* is a long-term proposition and the idea is to come out ahead over time.  I'm sure there are 100's of handicappers chest-beating about going eleventy-zillion and 0 last weekend but let's see how good they are over the entire season.

On to week two and, hopefully, a return to respectability.

*Reminder: In most cases, I am not actually placing these "bets". They're just picks to see if I can finish the season over 50%, which would theoretically make it a profitable season. These posts are for entertainment purposes only and should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

Monday, August 25, 2014

College Football: 10 Games (Week 1)

Here. We. Go....

1. Texas A&M vs. SC (-10.5) - Leaning towards the Gamecocks here with the points. While aTm is set to have  fairly strong offense, their defense (as a matter of fact, every defense Sumlin has coached) has been atrocious. I think SC is going to be the eventual champion of the SEC so it makes little sense to go against them here. SC 45 aTm 21

2. UTSA @ UH (-12) - Opening up their new stadium, with O'Korn returning and a roster full of speed you have to think the Cougars are going to win big. If they don't, then questions about Levine's quality as a HC are sure to resurface. UTSA 7 UH 52

3. UCLA (-21.5) @ UVA - My pick as the eventual winner of the College Football Playoffs should roll here. This game could be the coming out party for Miles Jack and Brett Hundley. UCLA 63 UVA 10

4. Rice @ ND (-24.5) - I'm not sure if ND's overrated offense can score 25, much less against a pretty good 2nd tier team as Rice.  I think ND wins, but I think the Owls cover. Rice 17 ND 24

5. WVU @ 'Bama (-26) - The trendy pick is WVU, thinking that Coach Dana Holgerson needs a big year to keep his job. He does need a big year, but it's not going to start off well against a Tide team that's reloaded. WVU 3 'Bama 42

6. Clemson @ UGA (-8) - Struggling a little bit with this one. Both teams have lost a lot in the off-season so there's a huge unknown factor here.  That said, I think UGA is still going to be pretty good while I see a big fall-off for Clemson. Clem 14 UGA 35

7. Florida St. (-17.5) vs. OSU - 'Noles roll.  That is all. Fl. St 56 OSU 20

8. North Texas @ Texas (-24) - Call me crazy, but I like North Texas here.  Not to win mind you, but to beat the spread against a team with a new coach and uncertainty at several positions. N.Texas 21 UT-Austin 35

9. Wisc vs. LSU (-4.5) - Running against type I think Wisconsin wins this game outright. Wisc 24 LSU 21.

10. Boise State vs Ole Miss (-10) - This year, we'll be able to quiet the Boise State crowd early. Boise State 14 Ole Miss 42.

I will never bet on Michigan, but will discuss the game every week:

Appalachian State @ Michigan (-34.5) - Go Blue and all of that but 34 1/2 points?  I hope Michigan wins, and if they don't, I think this is the end for Hoke, but I don't see them covering this.  App St 24 Blue 42

Regardless, good luck to you this weekend and here's hoping your teams, and wagers, are winners.

Friday, August 15, 2014

College Football: 10 Games Introducton

Many people are pointing at August 28th as the first "day" of the 2014 College Football season. That's not true.  The first game to be played is Sam Houston State University vs. Eastern Washington University pitting the pre-season number 1 ranked FCS team in all the land against the National runners-up the last two years running.

Eastern Washington has a great college QB and a heck of an offense.  Sam Houston has a lot of questions with a new coach (and new players at key offensive position) so this game could either be a back n' forth monster (Remember: EWU is going to have very little game tape on Sam) or it could be a blowout either way.

Unfortunately, there are no lines on FCS football (yet) so we'll omit them from our weekly 10 game ATS challenge and focus instead on the games that begin August 28th.

This year, to reflect wagering reality, the lines in question will come from the LVH Superbook as reported by the linemakers for Sporting News.  Bets and predictions are accurate as of the day of the post only, and I'm not going to track any line moves.

The goal, as you've seen before if you've read my blogs for any length of time, is to spend just an average amount of time on 10 games per week in an effort to crack 50% and (theoretically) turn a profit.

As a reminder: Since I don't live in a State where sports gambling is legal and my day job would not look kindly on me engaging in illegal activity I will not actually be placing these bets. Consider this more a social experiment to see if a normal schlub can obtain similar results as the so-called "services" which really just exist to take your money.

I won't spend more than 10 minutes researching each game, and I'll always provide a Michigan prediction (because I'm a fan) although I'd never lay money on them.  I'll also try to include Texas teams (when possible) because I live in Houston.

It's important to remember that I'm not predicting these to be the 10 "best" games of the week.  These games will be the ones that I think have profit potential.

Right now I'm in the process of selecting the 10 games for the first game of the week.

Good luck this year, and make some money.

Monday, August 11, 2014

College Football: The New Playoff should be easy to predict....

...provided the members of the panel are honest brokers.

IF you believe, as do I, that winning one's conference is a prerequisite to winning the National Championship then 4 of the 5 winners of the major conferences should get an invitation to the dance.  Yes, there will be exceptions if, should one year, two conferences have a down year or a 4-loss division winner pulls an upset but, for the most part, it should be pretty clean.

If you run on that assumption then it makes sense that your College Football Playoff predictions would mirror your Conference predictions.  This lies outside rankings, numbers, 30 people meeting in a room etc.  It's just simple math.

Because of this I'm predicting the following 4 teams will receive invitations to the newly minted College Football Playoff:

1. Ohio State (Champions - B1G)
2. Florida State (Champions - ACC)
3. UCLA (Champions - PAC 12)
4. South Carolina (Champions - SEC)

I think SC goes in with 2 losses but, by upsetting Alabama, they get the 4th seed. UCLA (with one loss) probably deserves the 2 seed but will get the 3 seed because....West Coast.  Florida State and OSU will battle all year long for the first seed, with OSU winning out after an impressive B1G Championship rout over Iowa.

In the Championship Game I think it will be Ohio State and UCLA with the Bruins coming out on top for the championship in 2014/2015.

And yes, I've backed that up on a futures wager in Las Vegas.  That would be the Bruins at 25/1

The weekly pick-em and odds tracker will be up before the first games are played on the 28th of August. At that point I'll continue my mission to prove you can beat 50% (and turn a profit) without an expensive gaming service and with just a modicum of research. (after all, we all have jobs right?)

Good luck this season, make a ton.

Houston Texans: Pre-Season game 1 has changed the conversation.

Before Saturday, the Houston Texans had roster full of talent that just needed to be coached up. After Saturday the new mantra is that this roster is so bereft of talent Rick Smith is a goner after the season. How quickly things can change in what pundits are now suggesting is a "meaningless" game (just a few days after telling us how important that it was to the team.)

Despite Bob McNair's Drayton-like proclamations to the contrary, the Texans are in a rebuilding mode. If McNair can't see that then he's part of the problem. The biggest problem with the Texans 32-0 loss against the Arizona Cardinals is that the team was so inept there were several players who didn't even get to play.  This makes analysis difficult.

That said, here's my quick and dirty review of where they stand position by position....

Quarterback: The prognosis for this position is grim. If there's a place beyond grim then that's where the Texans are. We've known (when being honest with ourselves) that The Fitz is not the answer. Neither is Keenum, and it's way, way to early to tell w/Savage. If things continue on this path then I've a feeling that the Texans game 1 starter might not be on the roster right now. That's dismal.

Running Back: Alfred Blue has promise, Grimes is an OK back-up, Arian Foster will not be with the team past this season (good riddance) and Brown was a no-show. One of the few things the Texans did well on Saturday was run the ball. Had Notre Dame not invented the forward pass way back when they might have had a chance to win.

Wide Receiver: This team's receiving corps is still Andre Johnson and his back-up brigade. I haven't had a chance to view the All-22 game film yet but, from what I could see on the pitiful ABC 13 broadcast, this group of receivers sticks to corner backs like Elmer's glue.

Tight Ends: Salary cap hell forced the Texans to give up most of their good ones. That's pretty much all you need to know.

Offensive Line: Duane Brown & Chris Meyers are good, everyone else would be either a back-up or on the practice squad (or worse) for almost any other NFL team.  This is a horrid unit that's been both a victim of bad drafting, and Rick Smith's inability to manage the salary cap. No matter who's your QB, they're going to struggle behind this line.

Defensive Line: The starting DL has a chance to be pretty good. JJ Watt is excellent and with Crick, Powe and Nix (if healthy) there's some depth here as well. Probably the best unit on the Texans roster.

Linebackers: Whitney Mercilus is looking more and more like a bust or, more probably, a bad fit for the 3-4.  He's a 4-3 DE who is lost playing at the OLB position. Brooks Reed is a back-up, and the rest of the LB corps is desperately waiting for Cushing to return.  The talent is so thin on this group there's a chance it's among the worst LB groups in the league. Clowney had a good play, and looked lost for the rest of the game. He's got talent but he could be another Mercilus if not handled correctly.

Defensive Backs: This is the worst unit on the field, behind QB, that the Texans have. They might have heard of the concept of covering WR's, but they don't seem to have any idea how to put it into practice.

Special Teams: Who knows? The kickers didn't kick, the return game was anemic and the coverage game was spotty.

As hard as it is to believe, Saturday's game wasn't as close as the 32-0 score suggests. The Cardinals didn't play as well as I think they can and they dropped a couple of should-have-been-sure-fire interceptions to boot.

Perhaps the most telling series of the entire game was the first Texans offensive possession in the 2nd half. They started off with a delay of game penalty, and then proceeded to be penalized on the next five plays. It was an inept performance by a team that didn't seem like it was ready to suit up for the game.

If there's a silver lining to all of this it's that this was the first game the Texans played under a brand new system so you would imagine that things will get better as they move forward. It's tempting to say they can't get any worse but that's not true. We still haven't seen a pick-6 after all.  This week means that the Atlanta Falcons (and HBO's Hard Knocks) come to town so we'll get a good picture of the Texans talent two Tuesdays from now.

Hopefully this was just first-game jitters, that the team is not this much of a disaster. Maybe playing at NRG helps them out a little bit?

Or maybe, we're seeing just what this team really is. It's more likely that 2-14 wasn't a fluke and that dodgy drafts and bad cap management have placed the Texans in a big hole. If that's the case then they're really starting all over again. For a team that's done that twice in the last 12 years that's a pretty awful thing for Texans fans to have to face.

Fingers crossed that things get better.

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