Is Tonight the Night the Raiders Break Through?

Tony Sparano is looking for that first win of the season in Oakland as the Chiefs come to town.

The Oakland Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs tonight looking for their first win while in college football there are two key conference games worth your time.

Kansas City (-7.5) at Oakland (O/U 43) – In their last 10 meetings, the Chiefs own a 6-4 advantage over Oakland but they are separated by just two points per game in that stretch. Oakland is of course the only remaining winless team in the NFL while Kansas City is 7-3 and tied atop the AFC West with Denver.

Two things to think about here; any time the spread goes over a full touchdown you have to pay close attention to the underdog especially at home. Secondly, we have to wonder if the Chiefs aren’t ready for a letdown.

They’ve won five in a row and are coming off of a very emotional statement win over Seattle. Against almost any other team on the road I’d strongly consider that second point but I’m not so sure in this case.

If the Raiders can protect Derek Carr they may have a chance, otherwise, forget it.

Key Injuries: KC WR A.J. Jenkins OUT/Shoulder… OAK CB Carlos Rogers OUT/Knee

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Chiefs last nine trips to Oakland… The Raiders are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games at home… The Chiefs are 5-0 straight up in their last five contests… Oakland is 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games at home against the Chiefs.

The Pick: I like the Raiders getting the points but KC to win. Take the UNDER as well.

Clint Trickett plays his final home game for the Mountaineers tonight in Morgantown.

Kansas State (+2) at West Virginia (O/U 57.5) – The Mountaineers own a home victory over Baylor and a near victory over TCU. With that in mind, K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder knows this will be no picnic for his Wildcats in Morgantown.

Behind QB Clint Trickett, WVU has little problem moving the ball and scoring but that had a bit of a hiccup last week in Austin as the Longhorns held them to just 16 points. The Wildcats’ offense isn’t too bad either ranking 20th nationally in scoring and their defense is also in the top 25 as well.

This game is ultimately about bowl positioning. The Wildcats feel they can still climb into that upper echelon of bowls if they finish 10-2 while West Virginia hopes to raise its’ bowl profile as well.

Trends: Kansas State is 4-1 straight up in their last five games on the road… WVU is 4-2 in their straight up in their last six games… The total has gone OVER in five of the Wildcats’ last six games on the road… The Mountaineers are 3-6 straight up in their last nine games at home.

The Pick: I love the Wildcats getting the points and take the OVER too.

North Carolina (+6) at Duke (O/U 66.5) – The Blue Devils had everything in place for another ACC Coastal Division title. They had just one loss and had their final three games at home against conference opponents. Phase one did not go well as the Devils lost to Virginia Tech 17-16. All is not lost however because now they have a very average Tar Heels team coming in tonight followed by a woeful Wake Forest team in the finale.

UNC won’t roll over though because a win makes them bowl-eligible and this after all is a rivalry game. It isn’t what it is on the hardwood but it still is for serious bragging rights.

Trends: UNC is 5-11 against the spread in their last 16 games on the road…The Blue Devils are 1-8 straight up in their last nine home games against the Tar Heels… The total has gone OVER in four of North Carolina’s last five games on the road at Duke… The Blue Devils have gone 4-1 straight up in their last five games.

The Pick: Duke rides its’ defense and covers. Take the OVER tonight.

I Have a Feeling We Are in for Another Wild Saturday

Can Charlie Strong and the 'Horns knock off Oklahoma?

Texas (14.5) vs Oklahoma (O/U 47) – I have to say, I’m glad the Red River Rivalry has continued to stay at the original Cotton Bowl. I realize how easy it is to shift to Jerry World but I’m glad some traditions have stayed alive.

I expect the Longhorns to play hard but I also expect a very ticked off Sooners’ team to show up as well.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Texas’ last six games when playing the Sooners… OU is 3-5-1 against the spread in their last nine games when playing the Longhorns… Texas is 2-5 straight up in their last seven games.

The Pick: Take the Sooners to cover and the OVER

Northwestern (+4) at Minnesota (O/U 43) – I’m sure all of you had this match-up pegged for the lead in the Big Ten West in the second week of October right? Well that’s what we’ve got. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin have already suffered conference losses.

The Gophers are riding the wave of winning the Little Brown Jug two weeks ago while the Wildcats have scored impressive wins over Wisconsin and Penn State.

Trends: The Wildcats are 4-3 straight up in their last six games Minnesota… The Gophers are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home against Northwestern… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Wildcats’ last six games against Minnesota.

The Pick: The Badgers gashed the Wildcats’ run defense last week and I expect the same thing from the Gophers. Take them to cover and I like the UNDER.

A win at Baylor puts Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs in front of the Big 12 race.

TCU (+8) at Baylor (O/U 66.5) – If the Horned Frogs can pull of another upset they’ll be well on their way to a Big 12 title since they’ve already beaten the other favorite in Oklahoma. If the Bears win, they still have a November date in Norman.

Trends: The Horned Frogs are 4-2 straight up in their last six games against Baylor… The Bears are 14-1 straight up in their last 15 home games… The total has gone UNDER in six of TCU’s last eight games on the road.

The Pick: Expect lots of scoring and take TCU while taking the OVER as well.

Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State (O/U 64) – The Tigers are accustomed to these marquee match-ups while the Bulldogs are still getting used to them. Both teams still have Bama and Ole Miss on their respective schedules.

That means a win is vital tomorrow.

Trends: The Bulldogs are 2-11 straight up in their last 13 games against Auburn… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Tigers last five trips to Mississippi State… Mississippi State is 4-8 against the spread in their last 12 games against Auburn.

The Pick: Take the Bulldogs getting the points at home and the UNDER as well.

Oregon (-3) at UCLA (O/U 72) – This is an elimination game. Both have one loss now and a second automatically knocks them out of contention for the college football playoff. If UCLA follows Arizona State’s lead and runs the ball then they have a good shot at the win.

Trends: Oregon is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games… The Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last five games when playing Oregon at home… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Ducks’ last five games at UCLA.

The Pick: I like the Bruins getting the points at home and I like the UNDER.

Ole Miss (+2) at Texas A&M (O/U 64) – I said earlier this week that this is the type of game that programs who aren’t sued to big wins usually lose. The Rebels beat Alabama but will there be a letdown?

Trends: Texas A&M is 6-0 lifetime against Ole Miss and 2-0 since they joined the SEC… The total has gone UNDER in five of Ole Miss’ last five games on the road… The Aggies are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I expect the Aggies to cover and take the OVER as Ole Miss suffers their first defeat.

Best and Worst NCAA Football Teams Against the Spread

There are just three weeks until the kickoff of college football. The NCAA football season will begin in late August, but odds makers are furiously updating lines and adjusting futures as the big opening kickoff approaches.

When making decisions on what teams to bet on each week, bettors must look at the volumes of information available on the Internet on each team.

In college football, there are often lines that can be hard to choose, as there is some much information to digest.

Last season 9 teams in college football covered the spread in 10 or more games. That is the most in a single season in the past decade.

Both Missouri and Auburn covered the number in 12 games last season according to Bovada and topbet. In 2009, the Florida Gators, the national champions were the only other college team to cover in 12 games over the past ten seasons.

Bowling Green, Colorado State, Houston, North Texas, Navy, Florida State and Duke all covered the spread in 10 games during last season, according to betonline and

In the past 10 years, only 46 teams have covered the number in a minimum of 10 games during a single season. Just 18 of the 46 were above .500 ATS the previous season.

Auburn, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Central Michigan and Missouri are the only NCAA teams that have had at least 10 wins ATS in two different seasons over the past 10 years.

The Mountain West, ACC and SEC each produced 6 teams with 10 ATS wins the most of any of the conferences.

Teams that cover the spread in 10 plus games in one season from 2004 to 2012 combined to go 233-276-10 ATS the next season, which was just a 46% winning percentage.

Just 15 NCAA teams during the last 10 years have recorded a minimum of 10 losses ATS in one season. Three teams – UTEP, Eastern Michigan and California – failed to win at a minimum of 10 games ATS last season.

There are many theories as to why there are fewer teams that have 10 or more losses ATS versus teams than had 10 or more ATS wins.

However, the most common reason is there are fewer games. Teams that have a tendency to struggle against the spread to an extreme, also almost always will struggle as well straight up.

Therefore, they likely do not reach a conference championship or bowl game. UTEP, Cal and Eastern Michigan were a combined 5-31 SU and 6-30 against the number in 2013.

Among the bowl teams last season, Georgia was the worst ATS with a record of 3-8-1.

All this information is enough to keep the most diehard bettor busy for days. However, time is ticking away as the NCAA football season will soon start and bettors will be lining up at the windows or sitting in front of their computer or tablet screens making their weekly wagers.

NFL Coaches Straight Up and Against the Spread

Coaching in the NFL today is even more important that before as rosters change dramatically each season. A coach can help the team in both winning straight up as well as against the spread.

Bill Belichick is 182-142-8 against the spread as a head coach. He has covered 40 more games ATS, which is the best differential of any head coach in the NFL.

Besides the New England head coach, there are four active coaches in the top 11 win-loss ATS differential. Tom Coughlin from the New York Giants is fourth at 161-138-8, Mike McCarthy from Green Bay is sixth at 79-57-3, Andy Reid from Kansas City is ninth at 138-118-4 and Jeff Fisher with St. Louis is 11th with 1601-141-4.

Marc Trestman the head coach of the Chicago Bears holds the worst record ATS in the league amongst active coaches after going 4-11-1 in his first season. It is just a single season, but Trestman is likely to have a hard time reaching expectations for the upcoming season.

The public continues to overinflate the Bears as many are jumping on the bandwagon pleased by their offense, according to Bovada and betonline.

Bruce Arians is the leader in active coaches in the NFL with a 70% win rate ATS. The head coach of the Cardinals is 19-8-1 against the number. He guided the Cardinals to a mark of 10-5-1 against the spread in 2013, after leading Indianapolis to covering the spread in 9 f 12 games while the 2012 interim coach. Arizona in the NFC West last season was 8-2 against the number, but expectations for the Cardinals have been put on hold due to playing the same division as the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

According to topbet and, Andy Reid the Kansas City coach was 14-1 SU and 11-4 ATS on the week after the bye while a head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last season he faced the Denver Broncos after the buy as a 7.5 ‘dog. The Chiefs lost 27-17 and on the season, the Chiefs were 11-5 ATS.

The Brothers Harbaugh know how to do it. John Harbaugh the head coach at Baltimore and brother Jim at San Francisco have succeeded in making bettors happy.

In three seasons with the 49ers, Harbaugh has a record of 34-20-2 against the spread. Before moving to the 49ers, Harbaugh was 28-17 against the number at Stanford. Brother John has a record of 58-46-5 in his six seasons with the Ravens.

As the Denver coach for the past three seasons, John Fox has an OVER/UNDER mark of 27/8 outside the AFC West and a record of 10-3 O/U outside the AFC.

Successful NCAA Football Coaches Against the Spread

One great gauge to see which coaches in college football are getting more than what is expected from their players is the closing against the point spread record.

The closing line on sportsbooks such as Bovada and topbet is sharpened by thousands of dollars in bets and represents the expectations of the college football betting world.

Bill Snyder

One active coach, Bill Snyder from Kansas State has exceeded the norm for decades. No active head coach in college football has covered the number in more overall games than Snyder.

Amongst coaches with five seasons or more, only Urban Meyer the Ohio State head coach has a better ATS winning percentage. However, Snyder has 61 more games in which he has covered the spread than Meyer has.

Charlie Weis knows just what it is like to face Kansas State. Long before Weis arrived in Kansas, Snyder has been manhandling the Jayhawks. K-State under Snyder is 14-1 ATS versus Kansas.

When Snyder was away for three seasons between 2006 and 2008, the Wildcats lost the three games versus Kansas.

Since his return in 2009, K-State is 5-0 SU as well as ATS versus Kansas.

In those 5 matchups, K-State covered the spread by over 20 point per game on average. Betonline and have K-State favored by 25 points in their head the head matchup on November 29.

However, Snyder is not potent in just games against the Jayhawks, but also the conference. In conference games, Snyder is 31-11 against the number since returning in 2009 and no other team in the conference since that time has a better record.

During his head coaching career, Snyder is 88-52 against the spread in home games and 149-102 against the number overall.

Urban Meyer and Gus Malzahn

Urban Meyer in his career is 30-9 against the spread when his has over a week to prepare his team and that included opening games of the season.

Meyer is also 15-5 against the spread when an underdog. In the 20 games as an underdog in his career, Meyer has won 12 outright. Only David Shaw at Stanford has a better winning percentage when an underdog.

Meyer following a loss is 14-6-2 against the number.

Gus Malzahn since becoming a head coach is 20-6 against the number. Of course, that is not much time to make comparisons with just a single season at Arkansas State and least season’s 12-2 ATS with Auburn.

However, Malzahn is just the third head coach over the past 10 years to cover the spread in 20 games during two consecutive seasons. His predecessors were Meyer at Utah and then Florida and George O’Leary at Central Florida.

The Auburn head coach is also 8-1 ATS when a favorite. He is also 14-3 against the number in games that are non-conference.

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Trends for Returnees

The NCAA Tournament has reached the Sweet 16 and there are teams returning for their second consecutive season to this round.

The question for bettors is do the teams perform better on this stage due to experience from last season, or will they once again fall apart under the pressures of March Madness.

Last season 8 of the 16 teams in this round had played in the Sweet 16 the previous year. However, this season just five teams have returned from last season’s round of 16. The returnees include Florida, Arizona, Michigan State, Louisville and Michigan.

Since 1992, according Bovada, teams that return to the Sweet 16 after reaching that round the previous season have a record of 68-46 straight up and 50-62-2 against the spread.

What separates these teams usually is the line. Topbet says that in those same games, teams that were favored by 7 points or more are an impressive 37-3 SU but just 23-17 ATS.

If the teams are priced at something less, a favorite by 6 points or fewer or even a dog, the teams fall off dramatically at 31-43 straight up and 27-45-2 against the spread, according to betonline data.

Looking in depth, even more you find that returnees to the Sweet 16 struggle even more when they arrive off a victory that was 9 points or less. Those teams in Sweet 16 games are 28-25 SU, while a paltry 19-32-2 ATS.

As would be expected, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have fared better than the rest as returnees in the Sweet 16. Data on shows that the two top seeds are 50-17 SU combined. However, they fall off when covering the number, as they are just 32-35 against the number.

Faring the worst have been the No. 3 returning seeds, with a record of just 7-8 straight up and an even worse 4-11 against the spread.

At the same time, teams that are No. 4 seeds or lower and are returnees have finished 11-21 SU, while just  14-16-2. When the same teams are coming off a win of 10 points or more they fall to 3-15 SU and only 5-12-1 ATS for their Sweet 16 games.

The numbers get even lower when a returnee in the Sweet 16 plays an opponent of top quality that has a .830 or better winning percentage, they drop to 12-21 straight up and 13-19-1 against the spread.

Even worse, if the returnee won fewer than 30 games and played the same top quality opponents their record in the Sweet 16 was 6-18 straight up and 6-17-1 against the spread.

Teams returning to the Sweet 16 should hope their win in the previous round was not a blowout. Returnees to the last 16 who won their previous tournament game by 15 points or more are a disastrous 0-9 straight up and 1-8 against the spread in their Sweet 16 games.

Teams that fall into that latest category are Michigan State and Arizona. Hopefully for them and their supporters, they will become the exception and not the rule.

Experience helps in the Sweet 16 as seen in the past and that should be the same this season as well.

Coaches, Trends and Injuries as March Madness Begins

The NCAA tournament is already underway with the First Four, while the full field gets underway on Thursday with 16 games and on Friday with another 16.

Coaching is an important part of a college basketball team’s success. Two coaches that have seen their teams exceed their expectations during the Big Dance are John Beilein from Michigan and Sean Miller from Arizona.

Miller coached at Xavier prior to Arizona. He is 14-2-1 ATS for his career in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is 6-1 in the NCAA Tournament under the tutelage of Miller. The Wildcats are 6-0 against the spread in their past six NCAA Tournament games.

Beilein has had equal success during the NCAA Tournament. He has a record of 17-5 ATS. Since 2005, he is 15-3 ATS and at Michigan 8-3 ATS. While coaching West Virginia he was 7-0 against the number, according to infomation taken from Bovada, topbet, and betonline.

Jamie Dixon from Pittsburgh has not had the same success as the previous two coaches. His teams continue to be disappointments during March Madness. Over his 10 seasons coaching, the Panthers have a record of 6-15 ATS in the NCAA Tournament.

Other coaches to take note:

Billy Donovan from Florida is 25-16-3 against the number in March Madness.

Shaka Smart the VCU coach is 8-2 against the spread in NCAA tournament action.

Steve Alford for UCLA is 1-7 ATS over his last eight NCAA tournament matchups.

NCAA Tournament Tid Bits

BYU goes to the foul line more than any other team in the NCAA. The Cougars attempted 1,025 foul shots this season.

Louisville is the leader in the field of 68 in scoring margin. The Cardinals are beating teams by 21.2 points per game on average. The second place team, Wichita State is beating teams by an average of 15.9 points per game. Louisville was 19-13 ATS even though they were favored this season by an average of more than 14.5 points.

In 2013, Saint Louis had the best against the spread record in the tournament covering in 20 of 29 games. This season the same Billikens have the worst against the spread record in the tournament at 10-19.

Just three teams since 1998 have won a national championship while have a sub. 500 record against the number: 2004 – UConn, 2012 North Carolina and 2012 Kentucky. This season there are 11 teams in March Madness with losing against the spread records.

Kentucky has the best margin in rebounding in the 68-team field at 9.8 rebounds more per game than its opponents.

The worst margin for the NCAA Tournament in rebounding goes to Eastern Kentucky, who was out rebounded on average per game by 6.1.


Melvin Johnson a guard for VCU and the sixth man of the year in the Atlantic 10 will miss the tournament due to a knee injury.

Joel Embiid, a center for Kansas, has had a bad back and is not expected to play during the Jayhawks first round game.

Who I Like in Super Bowl XLVIII

Chancellor and Thomas
Chancellor and Thomas
Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas must play well in order for Seattle to win.

The last two weeks have been about Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Manning. Today, we finally get to see all of the other players as the 48th edition of the Super Bowl is played this evening.

When compared to past Super Bowls, these two weeks have been rather tame even though the throng of media has been greater than ever. Much of that is due to the location where the media is literally everywhere you look, but also because the game just continues to grow in terms of a social phenomenon.

Earlier this week I broke down why each team would win Super Bowl XLVIII and now it’s time for me to make my final analysis and pick for the game.

Super Bowl XLVIII Seattle vs. Denver (-3) – Hours after their respective conference title games, the line was established at even but soon shifted to Denver giving three points. This is exactly where it has stayed.

Welker has a tendency to disappeaar in games and this cannot be one of them.

This game features the fifth meeting in Super Bowl history between the NFL’s top-ranked offense and top-ranked defense. In the previous four meetings, the top-ranked defense has prevailed three times. Despite being 1-3, top ranked offenses still have averaged 33 points but that’s a bit misleading. Remember that among those scores used for the four top-scoring offenses is the 55 that San Francisco hung on Denver in Super Bowl XXIV.

There are a lot of directions one can go when analyzing this game and many of them favor Denver which is why about 70% of the wagering action had been on the Broncos. Consider that Peyton Manning 37 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone this season and he’s only been sacked three times. It’s incredibly hard to go against that type of statistic and that makes it easier to see why the action is going in their direction.

The gameplan is simple for both teams. For Denver, it’s all about letting Manning dictate things on offense. He rarely throws the ball deeper than 20 yards so I expect Seattle to force him to be more aggressive than he usually wants. If the Broncos, through a combination of the run and pass can stay in third down and short situations then it will be a long day for the Seattle defense.

Offensively for Seattle, the running game behind Marshawn Lynch and an athletic offensive line will be top priority and that won’t change much. I do believe you’ll see the Seahawks use more play-action earlier in the game than normal. This will be in an effort to set up the run and keep the Denver safeties deeper than they’d like to play.

On defense for Denver, they must stop Lynch on first and second down. If they can force Russell Wilson to become a pocket passer that will be OK with them. I don’t expect that to happen however so that means the Broncos will need to contain Wilson when he scrambles or gets on the edge.

Seattle’s defensive gameplan is going to be very intriguing. Will they attempt to blitz Manning at will or will they allow their big secondary to disrupt routes? What Seattle has to be careful of is forgetting about the run because Manning will audible to it if he finds it working.

Both teams have gone under the number in the last five games and that could favor Seattle with the number today being 48. Don’t pay much attention to Seattle’s 3-6 record against the spread in their last nine meetings with Denver because neither QB was playing for his respective team in 2010. This was their last regular season meeting.

I have a strong feeling that someone will make a big special teams play and I think Seattle finds a way to force Denver into field goals. Take Seattle getting the three and take the under. I like Seattle 23-21.

How Seattle Wins Super Bowl XLVIII

I think you''ll see Russell Wilson on the outside edge a lot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The biggest game in all of football is just days away now and rather than just give you a general breakdown of the game I’m going to give you a look at how both teams win Super Bowl XLVIII. I’m going to do this by focusing one team at a time in terms of the line, over/under possibilities and the general gameplan. I took good hard look at how the Denver Broncos win and cover the three-point spread on Wednesday. Today, I’m focusing on the Seattle Seahawks.

The National Football Conference Champion Seattle Seahawks enter Super Bowl XLVIII as three-point underdogs. As I mentioned Wednesday, I think that is in large part due to the way Denver played versus how Seattle played in their respective conference championship games. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Seattle has struggled recently on offense and Russell Wilson in particular.

How Does Seattle Cover the Spread?

Lynch may be a decoy early on in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Common thinking by anyone who covers the National Football League will tell you that Seattle must run the ball well early and often. That accomplishes two things for the Seahawks. Most importantly, it means they are advancing the ball and collecting first downs. Secondly, but perhaps just as importantly, running the ball well means keeping Peyton Manning on the sideline wearing a visor. Or in this year’s case, a stocking cap.

I tend to think a little differently though. Look for Seattle to come out with hard play-action meaning, you’ll see Wilson being very emphatic with his fakes to Marshawn Lynch. Denver will already have safeties and linebackers thinking run so their first step will be forward. The only way this is successful of course is if Wilson is completing the passes.

I also think you’ll see Wilson on a lot of designed roll-outs and bootlegs because this could really cause Denver problems. The Broncos have faced both San Diego and New England so far in the playoffs and those teams have very traditional, drop back passers. Russell Wilson can be a nightmare on the edge because of his ability to run with the ball.

The Broncos haven’t seen much of this in 2013 and I have to believe that Pete Carroll and his offensive coaches want to take advantage of that. I’m not suggesting that Seattle abandons Marshawn Lynch at all but I think it will be wise to open up the defense a bit which in turn opens up running lanes for Lynch. In other words, pass the ball to set up the run.

On the other side of the ball, Seattle must guard against being spread out which is what I think Denver will do. They cannot allow clean get-aways from the line of scrimmage from the Broncos’ receivers and whoever guards Julius Thomas must be able to handle his size and speed.

Pay attention early on Denver’s opening drives to see how Seattle is playing the receivers. If Manning is having timing issues because wideouts are getting knocked off their routes then that could really open defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to bring more pressure. Carroll and Quinn both know that getting to Manning is not easy. That said, it isn’t impossible and teams that typically have good outside edge rushers give Manning fits.

As I mentioned Wednesday, the over/under is 47 and if you like Seattle to win then you like the under. Seattle must keep Denver in the low 20’s to have a legitimate chance because the Broncos can play pretty good defense too. I also have to believe you love getting the three points.

Like the Broncos, the Seahawks have gone under in their last five games. Seattle is also 3-6 against the spread in their last nine meetings with Denver. The last time these two teams met, Denver won 31-14. The quarterbacks were Matt Hasselbeck and Kyle Orton so there isn’t much use in a comparison.

Six Games on the NBA Hardwood I’m Watching Tonight

Rather than go in depth on just three or four games, I’m giving you some quick hits on six games scheduled for tonight in the National Basketball Association. Make sure you pay close attention to the trends and lines because there are some interesting lines on these games.

LA Lakers at Orlando (pick’em) – The Lakers and Magic area a combined 4-16 over their last 20 games (10 each) and now meet in Mickey Mouse World. No wonder the line is a straight pick’em considering how poor these two teams have played. The Lakers are hoping to get Kobe Bryant back after the All-Star break but in the tough Western Conference, that may be too late for a playoff run. I’m going to go with the Magic tonight at home.

DeMar Derozan looks for another big game as the Raptors travel to Philly.

Toronto (-6) at Philadelphia – The top team in the Atlantic faces the bottom team in the Atlantic as the Raptors head to Philly. Toronto is 5-5 over their last ten while the Sixers are just 3-7. Philadelphia is 7-18 against the spread in their last 25 games at home against the Raptors. Because of the incredibly poor Eastern Conference, the 76ers aren’t dead in the water just yet. I like the Raptors to win but I like Philly getting the six.

San Antonio (-4.5) at Atlanta – The Spurs come in after losing a tough one at home to Oklahoma City while the Hawks keep battling to stay in the playoff hunt despite the loss of Al Horford for the season. San Antonio is just 1-4 against the spread over their last five games which is something you should keep an eye on. The Hawks are 7-18 ATS in their last 25 games against the Spurs. When these big time teams from the west come into Eastern Conference arenas, teams like Atlanta want to prove something and I think that favors the Hawks tonight.

Milwaukee (+8) at Cleveland – The Cavaliers are 18.5 games behind first place Indiana. Therefore you might think they are in last place. Actually they aren’t by a long shot as the Bucks are 25 games behind the Pacers. Milwaukee has yet to crack double-digits in the win column too. The Cavs are just 4-6 over their last ten games but it’s clear they are a better team with the addition of Luol Deng who came over in a trade from Chicago. Those eight points are pretty large for an NBA game but I’ll take Cleveland giving them tonight.

Dallas (+1.5) at Brooklyn – The Nets have won three straight games and are 8-2 over their last ten games which is fantastic for a team that couldn’t get out of its’ own way when this season started. Tonight they entertain the Mavericks who are 6-4 in their last ten games. Brooklyn has climbed to just 2.5 games behind the Raptors in the Atlantic while the Mavs are hanging tough in the Southwest. They are eight games behind the Spurs. Despite having a much better record, I think Dallas is running into a buzz saw right now. Take the Nets.

Oklahoma City (-6.5) at Boston – No one is hotter in the NBA right now than Kevin Durant who continues to torch opponents with his hot shooting. Because of him, the Thunder has won five straight games and is 7-3 in their last ten games. The Celtics are representative of a bad Eastern Conference as they just 15-29 overall but they are only 7.5 games out of first in the Atlantic. Expect a good battle from Boston this evening but I like OKC to cover.