The First Sunday in March Brings Many Thoughts From Across the Sports’ Spectrum

Westbrook

 

Westbrook
The dent in Russell Westbrook's face is pretty evident in this photo.

With numerous goings on in numerous sports, I’m giving you a little bit of everything as the third month of 2015 begins.

There was a time when it was extremely rare for fans to get a hold of hats, shirts or jerseys of their favorite teams and while that difficulty no longer exists the Pittsburgh Pirates have to wish it still did. With the revealing of “Jihadi John” of ISIS this week, a photo of him surfaced wearing a Pirates baseball cap and it has sickened not only the fans but the Pirates’ organization. It’s too bad you don’t actually have to do something to prove your fandom.

Remember the saying, “Do you want another hole in your head?” While a hole is not what Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook has after being kneed in the head inadvertently by a teammate. Westbrook had a clear ‘dent’ on the right side of his face and he had surgery to repair the zygomatic arch bone which is officially part of the cheek. He’s out for today’s game against the Lakers and will be re-evaluated this week,

Kentucky rolled to another SEC victory yesterday as they knocked off a pretty good Arkansas team. I have a really hard time seeing the Wildcats get beat before the NCAA Tournament begins. Yes, they could face some challenges in the SEC Tournament but once tourney time hits I expect them to be even better.

QBs
Mariota and Winston each have questions about their games heading towards the draft.

In what is already a weak quarterback class, both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have separate issues that teams considering them will have to contend with as the draft approaches. Winston’s issues are obvious; can he mature enough to make off-field problems a thing of the past? For Mariota, the issue might be bigger. I worry about him having to take traditional three, five and seven step drops at the pro level. It might not sound like a big deal but trust me, it is.

RIP Anthony Mason. The former New York Knick was the epitome of basketball in the mid-1990s when the game went from a fast-paced, back and forth style to an aggressive, physical style ushered in by the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons. Mason played with the Knicks and Patrick Ewing when they made the NBA Finals in 1994 and lost to the Houston Rockets. Mason was consistently at the epicenter of the chaos in the sometimes brutal and physical Eastern Conference Playoffs. Whether it was the Jordan-led Bulls or the Alonzo Mourning Heat, Mason was a physical presence not to messed with.

The Cleveland Browns did their due diligence in getting Josh McCown to come to them for the 2015 season. McCown will not be any kind of savior for Cleveland at 35 years of age but with Johnny Manziel in rehab and Brian Hoyer likely heading elsewhere, the Browns acted wisely to get a veteran QB into the fold. McCown was 1-10 last year with Tampa Bay and perhaps the reason the Browns liked him was that his one win was over the Steelers. Still, one has to wonder just what the direction of the Browns is.

While the NFL toys with the idea of one or possibly two teams in Los Angeles, a new study says a new stadium there would immediately be a terrorist target. While terrorism is nothing to joke about, why should we assume that a stadium in LA would be any more of a risk than one in New York or Chicago or Kansas City for that matter? Obviously bigger cities are better targets for terrorists but I don’t think we can just say the others aren’t susceptible as well.

Battle of Ohio Round One On Tap for Tonight

Hoyer
Hoyer
Can Brian Hoyer find some consistency tonight on the road in Cincinnati?

Two games for your Thursday night football experience.

Cleveland (+7) at Cincinnati (O/U 45) – At 5-2-1, the Cincinnati Bengals lead the AFC North. Their rivals to the North are 5-3. Thus for the first time in a long time these two teams are playing a very crucial game. Also in the division is 6-3 Pittsburgh and 5-4 Baltimore making the AFC North the only division in football with all four teams above .500.

Besides these four teams, there are six others in the AFC that are above .500 as well which means every game for these teams is even more crucial. Falling even a game behind can spell doom not just for the division title but for the wild-card as well.

Neither team is heading into to this game at 100%. The Bengals are without leading tackler Vontaze Burfict and will also be without top cornerback Leon Hall. Meanwhile the Browns are without their top tight end Jordan Cameron so both teams are without key parts of their teams.

The Bengals’ A.J. Green will give it a go with his bad toe and could finally make an impact for the Bengals’ offense after weeks on the sidelines. My gut feeling tells me he will see some action but I don’t know how much of a factor he’ll be.

Both teams are scoring just over 20 points per game and both teams are surrendering about 20 points per game as well. The seven-point spread therefore I find a little large but the Bengals are pretty good home. The major question for Cleveland is Brian Hoyer who has been inconsistent of late. If he gets off to a rough start tonight, could Johnny Manziel finally get his shot?

Key Injuries: CLE TE Jordan Cameron OUT/CONCUSSION, CIN LB Vontaze Burfict OUT/Knee, RB Giovanni Bernard DOUBT/HIP

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Cleveland’s last five games… The Bengals are 12-2-1 against the spread in their last 15 games at home… The Browns are 5-14 straight up in their last 19 games against the Bengals… The total has gone OVER in eight of the Bengals last 11 games at home.

The Pick: I think this game is played in the 20’s and I’ll take the Browns getting those seven points. Take the OVER as well.

Dabo
Dabo Swinney and the Tigers head to Wake Forest as heavy favorites.

Clemson (-21) at Wake Forest (O/U 42.5) – The Demon Deacons come into this one averaging barely over 14 points per game while they give up almost 25 points per game defensively. Despite having to replace Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant on offense, the Tigers have managed to piece together a 6-2 record to this point.

The Tigers have won five in a row in this series and they’ve beaten Wake in eight of their last 10 games. The Deacons have lost four straight games by an average margin of 19.7 points per game. In the meantime, Clemson has won their last five games by an average margin of 15.2 points per game.

Key Injuries: CLEM QB Deshaun Watson OUT/Hand

Trends: Clemson is 6-3 straight up in their last nine games at Wake Forest… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Demon Deacons last five games at home against Clemson… The total has gone UNDER in 17 of the Tigers’ last 25 games on the road… Wake Forest is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games at home.

The Pick: With QB Watson out, I think the Tigers’ offense struggles a bit so take Wake Forest getting the points and take the UNDER as well.

[UPDATE]: Clemson HC Dabo Swinney says that QB Desean Watson will start at QB. If this holds true than take the Tigers to cover.

Is Cleveland for Real?

Hoyer
Hoyer
Brian Hoyer has the Browns and their fans riding high in 2014.

The Cleveland Browns have not won an NFL championship since the 1950’s. They remain one of a handful of teams to have never played in a Super Bowl. Despite this, their fan base remains strong and committed. Perhaps their long-held devotion is paying dividends because the Browns are now 3-2 on the season and yesterday took their long time nemesis the Pittsburgh Steelers to the woodshed in a 31-10 win.

The Browns were playing with two key defenders, Paul Kruger and Joe Haden, less than 100% and they were also playing without Phil Taylor who is a key cog in their 3-4 defense. During the game they also lost all-pro center Alex Mack for the season with a leg injury.

Pettine
Mike Pettine has the Browns buying into his system in Cleveland.

Those things didn’t matter. Although they spotted the Steelers a 3-0 lead, they came roaring back behind quarterback Brian Hoyer to grab a 21-3 halftime lead. They would extend it to 31-3 before Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit receiver Lance Moore with a touchdown pass late in the game.

Hoyer’s play has put to bed any controversy that was there in training camp between he and first round draft pick Johnny Manziel. The Cleveland crow chanted “Bri-an Hoy-er” throughout the second half and made it clear their feelings on just who should be the starting quarterback for their beloved Browns. In two against the Steelers this season, the Browns have rushed for over 300 yards.

Their zone scheme led by Kyle Shanahan has given the Steelers and their defensive coordinator fits. The success of the running game led to success in the play-action passing game which the Steelers could not cover for their lives.

Also not to be ignored is the Cleveland defense which didn’t exactly slow the Steelers’ offense but did shut it down when it seemed most necessary. While I could easily make this a referendum on just how bad the Steelers are in the red zone, let’s give the Browns the credit they deserve. Time and time again they forced the Steelers into situations that ended up being far less than than what they were accustomed.

The Browns move forward with Jacksonville and Oakland in the near future on the schedule and have the opportunity to be 5-2 before we know it. They will need to address the void caused by the injury to Alex Mack and that will not be easy. He’s been one of the top centers in the game and his absence will be felt moving forward.

For today at least, Browns’ fans can bask in the glory of a victory over their most-hated rival while looking forward to even better days ahead behind a quarterback not named Manziel.

Other NFL Notes from Sunday… Joe Flacco threw for five touchdowns in a win over Tampa Bay. Four of those were in the first quarter… A rare tie presented itself yesterday as the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers played to a 37-all tie in Cincinnati… Dallas pulled off the stunner of the day by beating Seattle at home 30-23… The Lions went into Minnesota and beat the Vikings 17-3 despite having no Calvin Johnson and no Reggie Bush in the lineup… Carson Palmer returned to the Cardinals’ lineup and led them to a 30-20 win over Washington. Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions on the day including the pick-six to Rashad Johnson which clinched the game for the Cardinals.

My Top Picks for the NFL This Sunday

Brees
Brees
Drew Brees and the Saints are on the road in Atlanta in the NFL's opening weekend.

Finally. The opening weekend of the NFL is here and here are the games I like Sunday.

New Orleans (-3.5) at Atlanta (O/U 51.5) –  Word has it in Atlanta that this game is considered one of the biggest in a long time in town. The reason? Coming off of last year’s horrible season, the Falcons believe this is a big time measuring stick for them. The Saints are favored to win the NFC South and come in with both a high-powered offense and an aggressive defense.

Atlanta has receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White back in the best shape they’ve been in recently but is there a replacement for Tony Gonzalez? I like the confidence shown by Mike Smith’s team but I think the Saints come in and cover. I also like the over in this one as well.

Roethlisberger
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has lost just one time in his career to the Browns.

Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh (O/U 41.5) – Brian Hoyer may be the starter in Cleveland but I have a strong feeling we’ll see Johnny Manziel at some point on the field in Pittsburgh. It might only be in a package or two but I still think he makes an appearance. The reason is simple; the Steelers have a lot of new faces on defense and if Manziel can come in and confuse them with bootlegs and play-action then Browns’ coach Mike Pettine will take it.

The bad news for Cleveland is that Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger is 17-1 all-time against the Browns and he’s 9-0 at home in Heinz Field. Pittsburgh will be without receiver Lance Moore which means I think they rely on the running game more often. I like the Browns getting the points but I like the Steelers to win a close game. Take the under as well.

Cincinnati (+1) at Baltimore (O/U 43) – Andy Dalton enters the season opener with an 0-3 record in Baltimore which explains his Bengals being one-point underdogs. Both teams are featuring new offensive coordinators. Hue Jackson is in Cincinnati and Gary Kubiak is in Baltimore. Kubiak will look to re-establish the running game for the Ravens while the Jackson will plan to make Dalton a more efficient passer.

The Ravens are still re-tooling their defense while Cincinnati as a few new faces as well including rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard. I expect an extremely close game but I like the Ravens and I like the over.

Carolina (+3) at Tampa Bay (O/U 38) – This has been the most interesting line of the week as the Panthers have gone from a three-point favorite to a three-point dog and it’s all because of Cam Newton. The Panthers’ QB didn’t practice all week but did run with the first team on Friday. I really like the Bucs this year a team to watch because of their big receivers and new coach Lovie Smith.

A lot of people think the Panthers are prime for a setback this year and I happen to be one of them. They are thin at receiver and the defense has lost some pieces from last year’s team. I like the Bucs to cover and I like the under.

Indianapolis (+8) at Denver (O/U 55.5) – This one almost seems too easy despite the suspension of Wes Welker. The Broncos have had several long months to stew over their horrible performance in the Super Bowl and now they get Peyton Manning’s former team at home in primetime. In last season’s opening game, Manning threw for a record seven touchdowns.

While both teams have made some upgrades defensively I think the Broncos are primed for a big performance in their home and season opener. I like the Broncos to cover and I like the over as well.

 

A Mid-Week Run Through the NFL

Hoyer
Hoyer
With the addition of Rex Grossman, are Brian Hoyer's days numbered in Cleveland?

Unless you just crawled out from under a rock, then you know the National Football League is back in full swing. Each team has played their first preseason game and is gearing up for another. Today I’ taking a look around the NFL at the key stories that are impacting the league.

First stop is in Cleveland and why not? Can we ever get enough Johnny Manziel? Wait, don’t answer that. The story from yesterday wasn’t really about Manziel as it may be for his main competition for the starting job Brian Hoyer. The Browns released QB Tyler Thigpen and signed veteran Rex Grossman.

Here’s how I’m reading this; the Browns are going to start Manziel week one in Pittsburgh and I don’t care what anyone tells me. Therefore, why not get rid of Hoyer and perhaps land a decent draft pick in a trade for his services elsewhere? I think it’s very possible because unless Hoyer is head and shoulders above Manziel in the next couple of games then Johnny Football gets the nod.

Jones
Things just aren't going real well for Jerry Jones or his Cowboys lately.

Next stop is in Dallas where Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones claims the recent photos of him in compromising positions with a couple of young ladies were “misrepresented.” They were taken five years ago and Jones claims they are not what they appear to be. While the man trying to extort some money from Jones is a complete whackjob, it doesn’t take away from the fact that there is no way anyone could “misrepresent” what is being said in the photos.

Also in Dallas is Orlando Scandrick who will miss the first four games of the season due to a suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Scandrick admitted the positive test was a result of recreational drug use while on vacation in Mexico. While this is certainly an apples and oranges situation, it still bears mentioning that a positive drug test costs more time than knocking out one’s fiance.

After a morning practice filled with skirmishes, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning told reporters he didn’t like fights in practice.

“I don’t like [fights], to tell you the truth,” quarterback Peyton Manning  said. “You don’t do it in a game. If you do it in a game, it usually costs you something important, it costs you a drive, costs you field position. … I’m into treating practice like a game. I’m not a fan of it.”

I see his point and for the most part agree with him but here’s the problem as it pertains to the Broncos; they need some of this. They were pounded into oblivion by Seattle in the Super Bowl on both sides of the ball. This led their toughness to be questioned and rightfully so. As long it doesn’t get out of hand and become a normal thing, I don’t think Manning should worry about it too much.

One of the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission publicly stated that the NFL’s ‘blackout rule’ is outdated and needs to go. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the following as reported by ESPN.

“Right now, the FCC is officially on the side of blackouts. We should be on the side of sports fans,” Pai said during a news conference in Buffalo on Tuesday. “The FCC shouldn’t get involved in handing out special favors or picking winners and losers. And in my view, there is no reason for the FCC to be involved in the sports blackout business.”

He’s absolutely right. Selling out a home stadium shouldn’t have an impact on whether fans in that area can see the game or not. I don’t think the blackout rule will be around much longer.

Winners and Losers of Round 1 and 2 in NFL Draft

The first two rounds of the NFL draft have been completed with winner and losers in each round.

The easy winner for the first round was the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns traded down from the No. 4 spot to the No. 9 spot and then moved up one to No. 8 to grab Justin Gilbert a talented cornerback.

Of course, some will say Sammy Watkins, who went No. 4 with Buffalo is better than Gilbert, but Gilbert plus the first round pick from Buffalo next year is better overall.

Cleveland then grabbed Johnny Manziel with the Browns’ No. 22 pick overall. Manziel should fit into the offense of Kyle Shanahan and will bring excitement to the Browns and their fans.

Ray Farmer had plenty of pressure on him in his first draft as General Manager of the Browns and he easily took the top spot in round one.

The first round loser was Marquis Lee the talented wide receiver for the USC Trojans. Lee was not a first round lock, but things looked up for him heading into the draft. Philadelphia passed on the receiver and Kansas City, which needs receivers, did as well. Carolina also in need of a wide out opted for Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.

In a way, Buffalo also was a loser in the first round even though they grabbed maybe the second best all around player in Sammy Watkins. However, they had to give up next year’s first round pick for Watkins, which could prove costly if they have another mediocre or worse season in 2014-15.

Round two winners were without a doubt led by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers had four picks in the round.

San Francisco grabbed a bull of a runner in Carlos Hyde from Ohio State. Next, they took Marcus Martin a center from USC, who many thought was the best at that position in the draft. Chris Borland was then drafted by San Francisco. Borland is a talented linebacker from Wisconsin.

Brandon Thomas was then taken. Thomas is an offensive tackle from Clemson. He torn an ACL in a workout with New Orleans, but is considered one of the better tackles and he can recover during 2014 and come in strong in 2015.

Dallas was easily the loser of round two. They took Demarcus Lawrence trading up to 34 from 47. However, the trade cost the Cowboys too much.

Between Saturday and Sunday there are a number of talented players still left in the draft and a long shot or two that will end up being an All-Pro one day.

The first two rounds, according to data taken from Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbooks.com, also have a superior amount of talent than the lower rounds, but percentages are high a star will be born from rounds 3 through 7.

Manziel Drafted By Cleveland at No. 22

The first round of the 2014 NFL draft is complete and the name talked about most, Johnny Manziel finally was chosen. On Thursday, prior to the draft, odds makers had the former Texas A&M standout quarterback going anywhere from second to 1oth.

As it turns out, Manziel was selected much further down the line than that, but nonetheless chosen during the first round.

The Cleveland Browns chose Manziel with the No. 22 pick overall. The Browns are hoping Manziel is the franchise quarterback they have waited years to sign.

Manziel was forced to wait patiently at Radio City Music Hall until his name was finally called close to three hours after the draft had started.

The Browns made two trades earlier in the first round and made a third with the Philadelphia Eagles to select Manziel at No. 22.

Back in Cleveland, certain Browns supporters celebrated the selection of Manziel. Of course, Cleveland has not won a title in 50 years and many are hoping that Manziel can help make that happen again.

Manziel said he has been a winner wherever he has played, but that is just high school and college. Now the real test will come, if he can back up all the hype that surrounds him with his 6-foot frame.

His lack of size scared some team away, but he as do others, believes his skills at playmaking can translate to the NFL.

Manziel said he is used to hearing things about his size saying he has been scrutinized, but has been able to play at a level few have.

Manziel will battle with Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for the No. 1 spot on the offense. Hoyer had a promising season cut short last year after suffering a knee injury.

Cleveland according to data taken from Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com has only reached the postseason once in the past 15 season. Over their last six seasons, the Browns have last 11 games or more each season.

Cleveland has had three coaches in three seasons, but this season the club has five players who are potential Pro-Bowlers.

With the addition of Manziel, the spotlight will be focused directly on Cleveland from the start of preseason.

The Browns have not had much luck at drafting quarterbacks of late. In 2007, they drafted Brady Quinn at No. 22, two years ago, they drafted Brandon Weeden, and he was released this past March.

One thing is certain, Manziel will help the ticket sales at Cleveland but time will tell if he can produce wins from all the hype.

All winter, the Browns did studies on the different quarterbacks available in the draft. With five picks out of the first 83, the Browns knew their chances of landing a top quarterback were high.

Most thought they had decided on Teddy Bridgewater from the Louisville Cardinals. However, they opted for Manziel and will see this fall if the choice was the best one for them.

NFL Thoughts for Tuesday

Harbaugh
Harbaugh
With his QB a year away from a big contract and an aging defense, would Cleveland have been so bad for Jim Harbaugh?

The last time a trade was made in the National Football League involving a head coach was when Oakland traded Head Coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay in 2002. If you’ll recall, late Raiders’ owner Al Davis had grown tired of Gruden’s West Coast offense and desired a more down-field passing game.

Gruden was traded for the Buccaneers’ first round draft picks in 2002 and 2003 plus a couple of second rounders and $8 million in cash. He would lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl Championship in his first season in Tampa Bay.

Apparently we were very close to having yet another head coach traded across the country as the Cleveland Browns admitted they flirted with trading for Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers.

While the 49ers have claimed this either didn’t happen or never got serious, Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslem validated the stories that had been emerging about the potential trade.

My take is that the Browns did indeed poke around and explore the possibility but I don’t think it got all that serious. Cleveland would have been in a very good position with which to negotiate because of their numerous high picks over the next couple of years.

While Harbaugh himself called the story “Ridiculous,” would the move have really been that bad for him?

The Super Bowl window in San Francisco is closing. His quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a year away from a big contract and his defense is aging rapidly at many key positions. Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore are both on the down-side of their careers despite still putting up big numbers.

In Cleveland, the defense is young and has potential while the receiving corps is pretty talented. If Harbaugh could just take his QB with him, it wouldn’t be a bad deal if you really think about it.

Furthermore, one has to wonder why the 49ers would even consider the possibility although they are claiming they didn’t. Are they perhaps tired of the near misses? Are they embarrassed by his sideline antics?

Muema
Adam Muema's NFL chances took a severe hit when he left the Combine for religious reasons.

Who knows? All I can say about this entire situation is that it isn’t happening so let’s move on.

Religion Leads to Combine Absence

San Diego State running back Adam Muema was projected to be a mid to late round draft pick in May’s NFL Draft. There’s a good chance he won’t get drafted at all after the leaving the combine before participating because ‘God’ told him to do so. I’m not in the business of telling anyone how or who or what to believe in so to each their own when it comes to religion.

It would have been one thing had Muema just said ‘God’ told him to leave and that were the end of it, but he took it further by saying “[God] told me to sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace,” according to U-T San Diego. Muema’s dream is apparently to play for the Seattle Seahawks and he is taking God’s message as the only way for that dream to come true.

The sad reality is that Muema is not only costing himself a shot at a decent NFL contract but he is potentially costing himself a chance to ever play pro football period. While there are certainly more important things than that out in the world, the sanity of Muema must be questioned.

I find it interesting that with all the focus on Johnny Manziel’s off-field antics and Michael Sam being gay, very little attention will be paid to a guy who probably needs the right kind of attention the most.

Four Thursday Night Betting Opportunities From the Football World

Manuel
Manuel
E.J. Manuel will face a stern test in the Cleveland defense tonight.

Tonight the football gods offer us three good college match-ups and the NFL brings us a surprisingly good game between the Browns and Bills. Take a look and see if you find these enticing.

Buffalo (+3) at Cleveland – Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that the Cleveland Browns traded their best player in Trent Richardson? At the time, they were 0-2 and appeared to be stock-piling picks for the 2014 NFL Draft. All of the sudden, the Browns are 2-2 and went into Minnesota for a win and then beat Cincinnati in Cleveland behind third-string QB Brian Hoyer.

Buffalo is also 2-2 after knocking off Super Bowl champion Baltimore last week in Western New York. The Bills are riding the second best rushing attack in the league and an opportunistic defense that forces turnovers rather than cut down yards. The defense ranks near the bottom against the run and pass but when you’re getting turnovers it really doesn’t matter.

The Browns are completely opposite of the Bills as they are getting things done in the air and are in the top ten defensively against both the run and pass. Cleveland is 2-5 in their last seven games against the spread while the Bills are 1-4 in their last five road games ATS. Despite the Bills getting three points, I like the Browns behind their defense.

Texas (-8.5) at Iowa State – The Longhorns will once again be without quarterback David Ash who is out with an injury. At 2-2, Texas has to win games such as this one if they want to keep any BCS dreams alive tiny as they may be. The defense was a little better in last week’s win over K-State but it is going to be an issue all season.

The Cyclones surprised me last week by roughing up Tulsa by 17 points on their own field. I really expected that game to have been much closer. ISU has struggled to replace some really good talent on the offensive line and at linebacker but they seem to be making decent progress. The Horns enter at 1-4 in their last five road games against the spread while Iowa State is 1-7 in their last right games at Jack Trice Stadium. I expect this game to be played into the high twenties at minimum but I do like Texas to cover.

Petrino
Bobby Petrino already has the Hilltoppers looking like his kind of team in year one.

Western Kentucky (-7) at Louisiana Monroe – I have to admit I thought this spread would be significantly higher because ULM has been pretty bad defensively and not much better offensively. They’ve been embarrassed by Oklahoma, Baylor and Tulane with all three winning by at least 17 points or more.

WKU under Bobby Petrino is 3-2 on the year and has solid wins over Navy and in the opener against Kentucky. I wouldn’t call the offense ‘Petrino-like’ just yet but the Hilltoppers are getting there by running the ball first and foremost. The WarHawks are 1-6 in their last seven against the spread and I just see too much WKU in this one. Take them to cover.

UCLA (-6) at Utah – While their rivals across town make all sorts of news, the Bruins have quietly jumped out to a 3-0 record behind the nation’s third-best scoring offense. UCLA is averaging over 52 points per game in wins over Nevada, Nebraska and New Mexico State. They are doing it with a really nice balance of running and passing with each ranking in the top 15 in the country.

Utah enters off a huge win over rival BYU and stands just an overtime loss against Oregon State from being 4-0. Although not as potent, the Utes have also had great balance with their offense ranking in the top 30 in running and passing. If you are interested in a good number then look at the over which stands at 57.5. I would take the over and run in this game and I’m also going with the Bruins to cover.

Richardson Trade Will Garner Your Betting Attention

Richardson
Richardson
Trent Richardson will now do his celebrating for the Colts after being dealt last night.

Last night one of the biggest in-season National Football League trades in the league’s history went down when the Cleveland Browns sent last year’s number one pick Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for next year’s first round selection. This trade gives the Colts an immediate upgrade at running back while the Browns are essentially going ‘all-in’ for a franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Many will look at this trade like the Browns have cashed in their 2013 season and perhaps they have but the Cleveland front office and coaching staff clearly believe that Brandon Weeden is not the guy going forward to play quarterback.

With two first-round picks in the ’14 draft, the Browns will more than likely have their choice of Tajh Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater and possibly Johnny Manziel if he comes out early as a third-year sophomore.

With this trade in mind, how does it affect your wagering on the National Football League?

Luck
I'd be happy too if I were Andrew Luck. A running game will make his life easier.

That requires a little bit of breakdown and here it is. By adding Richardson to the backfield, the Colts now have a legitimate running threat behind quarterback Andrew Luck. Vic Ballard was recently lost for the season with a knee injury and while Ahmad Bradshaw is a worthy fill-in, his presence won’t keep defensive coordinators awake at night.

Enter Richardson who isn’t exactly a speed merchant, but rather, is a guy who can get and create yards and can move the sticks. If he is successful early in games at running the ball then that will set up Luck in play-action. To this point, Luck has not really been fortunate enough to have a running back who can compliment him as well Richardson can.

No longer will teams be able to just sit back and play pass defense against the second-year QB from Stanford. Defenses will be forced to respect the run threat from the Colts which will make passing lanes bigger.

If you’re betting the Colts over the next few weeks, keep an eye on a number of things. First, look at the over. With the addition of Richardson, the over comes into play a little more. Depending upon the opponent, pay attention to the spread. Leads for the Colts will mean heavier doses of Richardson late in ball games.

With Luck not having to throw it as often, that could mean less scoring opportunities.

What does the trade mean if you’re betting the Browns? Well, first of all, why are you betting the Browns? No, I’m kidding…. The Browns’ offense under Norv Turner was expected to be significantly better than in recent seasons and perhaps it still might. With Richardson gone from the backfield that will put a greater emphasis on throwing which we know Turner likes to do.

Don’t forget too that Cleveland announced today that 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer will start at QB on Sunday in place of injured Brandon Weeden. Why Jason Campbell didn’t get the nod is a question, but considering how poor he looked in relief of Weeden this past Sunday, there is probably your answer.

Cleveland’s offense was anemic with Richardson so we should expect it to be worse right? Not so fast my friend. There is no concern now about having to get the former number one pick the ball, so Turner can run the offense more wide-open and with more of a speed back rather than a power one.

Obviously, paying attention to the opponent of the Browns is extremely important each week but considering the Browns have already thrown in a towel of sorts on this season, what do they have to lose?

Bet wisely my friends.