Welcome to Breaking the Book, your guide to the upcoming weekend’s football action from a handicapper’s perspective. This season, Chat Sports is proud to welcome handicapper Jason Cellura as a guest columnist. Jason is CEO of BookDogger, a social betting startup, and has vowed to provide Chat Sports readers with his expert insight on the picks he is making each week.
Every Friday chat with Jason about the upcoming action and identify his top five plays of the week (pro or college). We’ll also include a rundown on the Blazing 5 picks made by everyone’s favorite talking head, Colin Cowherd, and compare the record of Jason and Colin each week to decide who the true superstar handicapper is.
Cellura’s Cover 5
Last week was a mixed bag, resulting in a 2-3 record as we saw a couple of solid covers outweighed by a near miss and two blowouts. Our record for the year now stands at a sub-par 11-13-1, but there’s still plenty of time left to put a little cash in your pocket. Let’s take a look at how it all went down last week.
Marshall (-14) jumping out to a 24-3 halftime lead en route to a 34-10 win over UTSA. The Packers (-7) defense holding the Lions (sans Megatron) to 286 yards of total offense in an easy 22-9 win at Lambeau.
Nevada, despite forgetting to field a defense, forcing overtime at San Diego State by scoring 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points. Unfortunately, the Wolf Pack (+6) couldn’t hold the Aztecs out of the end zone in a 51-44 loss that left us with a busted cover.
Penn State (-3) lacking any answers for the red-hot Indiana offense in a 44-24 loss in Bloomington. Things were so bad for the Nittany Lions D that Bill O’Brien elected to go for it on 4th and 2 from the PSU 33 with over 11 minutes remaining in the game. Of course, Penn State couldn’t get the 1st down, and Indiana followed up with a quick dagger to dash our hopes of a cover.
The Falcons (-9.5) looking more like pigeons sucked into the roaring turbines of the Jets. Despite overcoming a 27-14 Q4deficit, the Falcons defense couldn’t get the stop that mattered, allowing Geno Smith to drive the Jets into range for a 43 yard FG as time expired to get the outright win.
As college football gets deeper into conference play, the spreads become tighter and opportunities more limited. The same can be said on the pro side, where Vegas has had five weeks to break down this year’s surprise teams and disappointments. As such, this week has a little bit of everything. We’re backing two home favorites (LSU, Vikings), two road dogs (Missouri, Saints) and one road favorite (Boise State) in our quest to make you a little coin. We feel confident that this could be the breakout week that puts the Cover 5 back in the black for the season – let’s take a look at why:
My, how the times have changed down in Baton Rouge. Over the previous four years, the Tigers have averaged 344 ypg and 30 ppg on offense while allowing 301 ypg and 16 ppg from opposing teams. Through the first six games this year, LSU’s offense has averaged 489 ypg and 46 ppg with their defense allowing 367 ypg and 25 ppg. Clearly, two things are happening: 1) LSU’s talent offensive talent level has finally caught up to that of its defense (and new coordinator Cam Cameron has produced one of the most explosive and well-balanced attacks in the country) and 2) years of early departures for the NFL has finally taken its toll on the normally stout Tigers defense.
This week, LSU matches up against a Florida team that’s been rejuvenated under backup QB Tyler Murphy, winning three straight (2-1 ATS) since he took the helm early in Q1 of the Gators’ 31-17 win against Tennessee. The Gators also boast the 2nd ranked defense in the country (allowing 217 ypg) but have yet to face an offense with the depth and balance of LSU’s. While Murphy led Florida to a road win at Kentucky two weeks ago, the environment he faced in Lexington will be no match for the one awaiting him in Baton Rouge. This is a game where Florida’s defense will keep them close early, but look for LSU’s offense to wear the Gators down throughout the course of the game as the Florida offense just doesn’t have enough firepower to keep pace. Lay the points and take the Tigers.
Cellura’s Pick: LSU -6.5
Boise State Broncos (-6) at Utah State Aggies
Boise State comes into this Mountain West Conference showdown well-rested following a 60-7 beatdown of Southern Miss and a bye week. While Boise isn’t on the same level as they used to be, this is still a dangerous team. Since opening the season with a 38-6 loss at Washington, the Broncos have scored over 40 points in each of their last four, going 3-1 overall and ATS. The Broncos’ only straight-up loss during this span came in a 41-40 shootout at Fresno State (nothing embarrassing about that). The Broncos defense, on the other hand, is still a bit of a work in progress. After allowing an average of 297 ypg and 16 ppg over the previous three seasons, the Boise State defense is yielding 406 ypg and 24 ppg through their first five games of 2013.
On the other side, Utah State comes in to the game on the heels of an emotion-filled 31-14 loss at home to BYU where they lost all-everything QB Chuckie Keeton to a season-ending knee injury. Keeton was completing 70% of his passes with a 18-2 TD-INT ratio at the time of his injury, in addition to ranking as Utah State’s third leading rusher with 241 yards on the ground. Make no mistake - this guy was one of the top signal callers in the country, and he was the focal point of the Aggie attack. To add to the pain, Joe Hill, the Aggies’ second leading rusher, underwent surgery on his torn ACL last Friday and is also out for the year. While Utah State’s defense is nothing to sneeze at (allowing 336 ypg and 19 ppg), this is clearly a tough spot for the Aggies. We expect Utah State to circle the wagons and come out filled with emotion, unfortunately that won’t be enough for them to keep pace with a well-rested and well-prepared Boise team.
Cellura’s Pick: Boise State -6
Missouri Tigers (+8) at Georgia Bulldogs
Missouri faces their biggest test of the season this weekend in Athens. The Tigers roar into town 5-0 (4-0-1 ATS) and have become a trendy upset pick for many. Missouri boasts the #7 offense in the country, piling up 544 ypg on their way to 47 ppg and has shown exceptional balance (285 ypg passing and 259 ypg rushing). James Franklin & Co. are finally healthy, and with four players over 278 yards rushing and three others with at least 20 receptions and 262 receiving yards, the Tigers have playmakers across the board. The Missouri defense hasn’t exactly fared as well as their offense. The Tigers' D has yielded 410 ypg (76th nationally) but has done a solid job of keeping opponents off the scoreboard, allowing 22 ppg (or 18.3 yards per point) which is good for 40th in the country.
Georgia enters this game having won two straight contests in the final minute, a 44-41 victory over LSU in Athens and a 34-31 overtime win at Tennessee last week. Georgia is also a banged-up football team. The Bulldogs were already without top WR Malcolm Mitchell, but now must make do without their top two RB’s and 2nd and 3rd leading pass catchers. While Aaron Murray has emerged as one of the top signal callers in the country, we’re not sure even Peyton Manning could overcome the rash of injuries affecting the Bulldog offense. We expect some points to be scored in Athens, but Georgia’s injuries and emotional wins of the last two weeks will take their toll, and this Missouri team is set on revenge after last year’s 41-20 home loss at the hands of the Bulldogs. Take Missouri and the points.
Cellura’s Pick: Missouri +8
With their 26-18 win at Chicago last week, the Saints made a statement that they can get it done outside the friendly confines of the Superdome. New Orleans enters this matchup 5-0 (4-1 ATS), led by an offense that’s averaging 405 ypg (4th in the NFL) and 27 ppg (9th). The Saints defense has also been much improved under Rob Ryan, allowing 330 ypg (12th) but more impressively ranking 4th in the league with 14.6 ppg allowed.
Awaiting the Saints is a Patriots team coming off their first loss of the season at Cincinnati. Despite their record, the Patriots have shown us that they’re not on the same level of New England teams of the past, at least offensively. The Pats offense is desperate for solid WR play and hopes to get a boost this week from the potential return of Rob Gronkowski. Without Gronk, the New England offense has struggled mightily, putting up 19 ppg (24th in the NFL) on 343 ypg (18th). The Patriots defense has been much more effective in yielding only 14 ppg (2nd) but they haven’t yet seen a QB the caliber of Drew Brees (sorry Matt Ryan). There’s a lot of value in the +2.5 provided to New Orleans on the road - take the Saints and the points.
Cellura’s Pick: Saints +2.5
The Vikings enter this matchup well-rested, coming off a bye week following their 34-27 win over Pittsburgh in London. Matt Cassel will again get the start for an injured Christian Ponder after a strong showing against the Steelers (16-25, 248 yds, 2 TD) and has a decent RB a few of you might have heard of. The Vikings have struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball with their biggest problem stopping the passing game, where they rank 31st in yards allowed (328 ypg). They’ve done much better against the run; ranking 15th in the league with 105 ypg allowed and get a matchup in their favor this week.
The Panthers’ passing game is 30th in the league, averaging 192 ypg. Cam Newton is completing only 57.5% of his passes and has been sacked 15 times in four games. Carolina’s strength is running the ball, where they rank 7th with 137 ypg. The Panthers have played very solidly on the defensive side of the ball, ranking 3rd in yards allowed (302) and points allowed (14.5). On paper, this looks like a game only Larry Csonka could love. Expect both teams to run the ball aggressively, in which case we like the guys at home with the best RB to hit the field over the last 50 years. Lay the points and take the Vikes.
Cellura’s Pick: Vikings -2.5
Colin Cowherd’s Blazing 5
Colin continued his season-long struggle last weekend by posting a 2-3 record, taking his season totals to 8-15-2. Colin correctly picked the Eagles (+2.5) and Packers (-7) but missed by a wide margin on the Patriots (+1), Panthers (-2) and Texans (+6.5).
Much like our Cover 5, Colin has given us a variety of plays this week. He likes two road dogs (Saints, Redskins), one road favorite (Bengals), one home favorite (Jets) and one home dog (Bucs).
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2) at New York Jets
Colin’s take: At this point in the season, teams are what they are. The Steelers have an aging defense that’s failed to generate a pass rush and is yet to force a turnover, ranking second worst in the NFL with a turnover differential of -11. Geno Smith has proven he can perform well against teams that lack a sufficient pass rush (see Atlanta last week), completing 65% of his passes in Jet wins. Lay the points and take the Jets in a 27-20 win at home.
Colin’s Pick: Jets -2
New Orleans Saints (+2.5) at New England Patriots
Colin’s take: The Patriots have struggled in the red zone without Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. This week, they face off against arguably the best defense they’ve seen all year in New Orleans. The Saints are on a roll, having outscored their last three opponents (all of which have winning records) by a 95-42 margin. Saints win and cover, 26-23 New Orleans.
Colin’s Pick: Saints +2.5
Colin’s take: This is a classic rivalry game. The Redskins have covered their last six against Dallas, never losing by more than a FG. Dallas is not a great home team, lacking any distinct advantage despite 100k+ in the stands. Washington comes in healthy off a bye week and will be ready to go. Look for Dallas to win 28-27 but the Skins get the cover.
Colin’s Pick: Redskins +5.5
Colin’s take: Cincinnati is a better football team than Buffalo. The Bills are a mess at QB, and Stevie Johnson is also banged up. The Bengals are 11-4-3 ATS in their last 18 road games, and have beaten three potential Hall-of-Famers in Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Look for the Bengals to play conservative football, but eventually pull away with a comfortable 28-13 win.
Colin’s Pick: Bengals -7
Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Colin’s take: The Eagles are on the road for the third consecutive week, while the Bucs have had extra rest coming in off a bye week. The Eagles offense is built for a player like Michael Vick, but it looks like Nick Foles will get the start in place of the injured Vick. Foles lacks foot speed, and needs more reps to become a reliable player. Philly is also awful defensively, ranking 31st in total defense and 30th in points allowed. Bucs win 24-23.
Colin’s Pick: Bucs +1.5
About Jason Cellura
Jason is founder & CEO of BookDogger (www.bookdogger.com).
BookDogger is a sports gaming website that delivers the sports betting experience with a social twist. BookDogger eliminates the risks of real money gambling and delivers legal sports betting competitions that can be enjoyed with friends, similar to fantasy sports. BookDogger’s first free-to-play contest is its Leaderboard Contest, where players compete each month for a shot at $500 in cash. BookDogger is based in San Francisco, CA. Connect via Facebook or Twitter
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