RICK NEEDHAM'S BETTER BETTOR


2010 HORSE OF THE YEAR - ZENYATTA

DELIVERS AN "EASTER DAY FILLY!"

AQUEDUCT RACETRACK (OZONE PARK, NEW YORK) THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

Bourbon Lane Stable, a national racing partnership based in Lexington, has established a retirement pasture for its horses at Old Friends, the country's premier Thoroughbred retirement care facility. According to an April 23 release, Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., will dedicate the Bourbon Lane Stable retirement pasture at the 10th annual Old Friends Homecoming May 4, at 3 p.m. EDT. The pasture, approximately 15 acres in size, will be made available to any off-the-track Thoroughbred that has raced in the Bourbon Lane colors, regardless of whether the horse retired directly from the stable. The retirement pasture is for horses that cannot be retrained for a second career or those not suitable for a second career. One Bourbon Lane horse, Johannesbourbon, has already taken up residency. A 5-year-old by Johannesburg, Johannesbourbon ran 12 times. He won four times and ran second five times, winning more than $68,000 in purse money. Because of knee issues, Johannesbourbon is unable to train for a second career. "Bourbon Lane Stable's establishment of a retirement pasture for its horses is a tremendous example of enlightened owners taking the initiative to plan for their horses' retirements," said Michael Blowen, president of Old Friends. "A retirement pasture is like Social Security or a 401(k) plan for Thoroughbreds, and Bourbon Lane is making sure its horses are cared for once their racing days are over." The retirement pasture was secured with a $25,000 donation from Bourbon Lane Stable to Old Friends. Bourbon Lane made the decision to secure a retirement pasture for its horses with the hope that other horse owners will consider after-care management as part of their organization. "At Bourbon Lane, we are careful to track where our horses go when they leave us. Having a retirement pasture at Old Friends helps us do our part," said Mike McMahon, a managing partner at Bourbon Lane Stable. "We applaud the work they do at Old Friends. They've put together an organization where retired Thoroughbreds are well cared for and celebrated, and we are pleased to be part of that mission."

RACE #6 - AQUEDUCT - 3:45 PM EASTERN POST

6½ FURLONGS DIRT THREE YEARS OLD AND UPWARD $25,000.00 CLAIMING $34,000.00 PURSE

#8 ED'S MAGIC
#9 RISK MANAGEMENT
#6 POLITIZIANO
#3 DEFINE

#8 ED'S MAGIC has nice early speed abilities to compliment for this sprint, and has hit the board in "POWER RUN FASHION" in four of his last five outings, including a pair of "POWER RUN WINS" being embedded in this recent streak of racing consistency. Jockey Jose Ortiz and Trainer Michelle Nevin send him "postward" this afternoon ... they've "whacked the tote board" with 75% of their entries saddled as a team to date, producing a 63% return on investment in the process. #9 RISK MANAGEMENT, a 6-1 shot, takes a class drop (-11), is the pace profile leader, and has produced a trio of "POWER RUNS" in his last four outings, hitting the board in a pair, including a "POWER RUN WIN" in his 2nd race back.


RACING NEWS: The California Horse Racing Board will hear a report April 25 on the proposed transfer of the Los Angeles County Fair's 2014 race dates from Fairplex Park to Los Alamitos Race Course. The late addition to the board agenda was made following the announcement April 21 of an agreement by LACF to transfer its 11-day Thoroughbred meet Sept. 5-21 to Los Alamitos. The plan has the support of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. CHRB spokesman Mike Marten said the presentation will be for informational purposes, giving commissioners an opportunity to learn the details of the move. The board, which allocates race dates, must grant approval before Los Alamitos could host the meet. The board's next regular meeting is scheduled May 22 at Santa Anita Park, where it may take action on a formal application for the date transfer. The meeting is scheduled to begin Friday at 9:30 a.m. PDT at the Golden Gate Fields Turf Club. For those who cannot attend, an audio webcast of the proceedings is available via the following link on the CHRB website: www.chrb.ca.gov. The board will also hear a license application from the Oak Tree Racing Association to conduct the annual Alameda County Fair meet June 19-July 6. Also on the agenda are proposed changes on whip use by jockeys during races, and additions to penalties for use of an electrical device or buzzer on a horse.


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RaceAnalyser Software

Wagering Mathematics Software

Rick has added these software products to his handicapping arsenal! They use TrackMaster Past Performance Files! Check 'em out!

WagerMate Thoroughbred Handicapping Software

RaceAnalyser Thoroughbred Handicapping Software


Disclaimer: Every attempt has been made to insure accuracy, however since this report is prepared and typed by hand, errors, including typographical and numerical, can be made. It is the responsibility of the end user to "cross check" these selections against the actual entries and program numbers.


BRAZILIAN "BRAHMA BEER LONGSHOTS" - THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY

RACE #4: The 8-1 shot, #8 PRUDENT INVESTOR, is the overall speed leader in this starter allowance field racing at today's distance of a mile on the turf.

EVANGELINE DOWNS

RACE #2: #6 EIGHTWENTYFIVE, a 12-1 BOMB, qualifies as a TrackMaster PLUS "PowerPony," takes a class drop (-14), and has nice overall speed for this 8½ furlong route test on the turf.

Ultra Longshot Angles

NOTE: The entries listed below have been "found" utilizing TrackMaster's fantastic new product Ultra Angles ... I have utilized this product to scan EVERY TRACK in North America for entries today meeting the following 3 criteria:

a. Odds are at least, 4-1 or greater
b. The entry must be the TOP POWER RATED entry in the field
c. The entry must also have the BEST SPEED in this field for today's distance and surface!

Evangeline Downs - Race #7 - 8:22PM - #7 BRITESUNNYSKY 9/2
Sam Houston Race Park - Race #1 - 7:00PM - #2 WMA SANDSTORM 5/1
Sam Houston Race Park - Race #4 - 8:18PM - #4 OUR SPANISH PRINCESS 8/1

NOTE: Listed Post Times are given in the local time zone of the track.

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CHECK OUT THIS SOFTWARE TO FIND RICK'S "POWER PUPS!"


NOTES ON CLASS: The TrackMaster PLUS software uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to calculate the "class" of a particular race. It is important to note that this calculation is NOT based on purse structure, but on the competitive level of the entries in today's field. Therefore, it is possible (and not uncommon), that an entry may be racing for a higher purse today than in his or her last race, but in a "TrackMaster Sense" is dropping in class, because the overall abilities of the entries in today's race are not as competitive as the entries in his or her last race. The TrackMaster class scale is numeric, and basically ranges from 50 to 100, and is particularly helpful in judging entries that are "shipping" in from another track. In my analysis of a race, I often note that an entry is "dropping in class," or "stepping up in class." Following this statement, you will see a (number in parenthesis). The value of that particular number indicates the degree of the class change. EXAMPLE: "#4 SIN CITY takes a fairly significant class drop (-8) this evening." This indicates that this entry is dropping by 8 TrackMaster Class Levels from his or her last race. It does not necessarily mean that this entry is racing for a lower purse, only racing against a less competitive field.

NOTES: I frequently use the term, "POWER RUN" in this column. It is my terminology for a previous race run at a speed, which if duplicated today, should compete for the winner's circle at the class level in which the entry is competing today. Space requirements do not allow for a thorough discussion of this calculation, however, if you would like a short essay on how the "POWER RUN" is calculated, kindly send me some EMAIL at rneedham1@yahoo.com and I'll send you a copy of my "POWER RUN" file.


Do you want some handicapping tips? Select an "essay" below, and I'll return some comments to you via email!

Kindly enter Your Name:

    Bouncers
    Power Run/PowerPonies
    Maiden Starters
    LASIX Runners
    Three Star Sires
    The Value of Class
    Reading PS's
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    Aqueduct's Inner Track
    Down and Dirty Quick Pick Longshots
    How to qualify for The Breeders' Cup
    The Psychology of Pari-Mutual Wagering


RICK'S "YOU GOTTA SEE THIS DEPARTMENT!"

EDGAR PRADO "SAVES" JAVIER CASTELLANO!


Rick Needham - Football 2012-2013

2013-2014 ARCHIVED REPORTS:

Week Ending - February 2, 2014

THE SUPER BOWL

Seahawks (PLUS 3½) at Broncos - Sunday February 2, 2014 - 6:30 PM FOX

In reference to Peyton and Russell Wilson, Thomas Edison once said “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration”…but Edison was a complete tool who screwed Nikola Tesla out of cash and the AC current. You know the teams, the players, the good and the bad. You’ve heard enough crap from ‘Derek’ the ‘down the aisle fantasy football league winner’ and Zippy the ex- NFL blowhard to choke on “Omaha”, “Legion of Boom” (the same as Beyonce: bloated, manly, and trendy!), and those creepy/fake Papa John’s commercials. One thing is for sure; Peyton Manning does not drive a BUICK! “B-I-C-K? B-I-C-K? That’s not the way you spell Buick? The only thing missing is “U”!!!!! Peyton doesn’t always fake people out on the football field! Russell Wilson and “Go Hawks”? I actually think Wilson is sincere…”Thank the Lord” the Harbaughs are sitting Super Bowl XLVIII out. One last thing; MetLife Stadium is NOT Eli Manning’s house…it will ALWAYS be Lawrence Taylor’s house so ... “Stop It!” Super Bowl XLVIII will surely be filled with cliché’, over-hype, and more pomp-and-circumstance than St. Peter’s Basilica at Pope-pickin’ time! But the Super Bowl is New Rome’s version of the gladiator games so let’s who might become “Superious Magnificus Maximus of the Gamigus” in their attempt-icus (just like the Lotto; once you starticus you just can’t stopicus!). Let’s pick a winner.

After listening to Van Pelt and Russillo (‘Van Pelt’ is Dutch for: drunk from thyself!), Freddie Coleman (like listening to Tokyo Rose while seasick), Merril Hoge (hillbilly Hipster), and Zippy the accidental Fantasy League winner down the hall, you’ve probably been drowned by so much Super Bowl information by sports creeps making your decision impossible to make at this point. Well, let’s have a little fun and I’ll try and ease you in so the decision is easy! Let’s GO Baby!!

Super Bowl XLVIII is taking place about 10 miles west of 42nd Street, New York City which anyone from New York will tell you “It’s the Center of the F***ing World A***ole!” The beloved New Yorkers; to live under a bell jar sitting on razor blades. The NFL says it seeks to reconnect modern football with past original football placing weather as a factor and a point of historical significance. I believe this is the NFL’s third or fourth spin on why the game is in Jersey? The NFL will fail…because they’re not telling the truth. Frankly, any goof can figure out why New Jersey is getting the Super Bowl…it’s the reward system! Build a new Stadium on the backs of taxpayers, get the Super Bowl: Glendale, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; East Rutherford; Arlington, Texas; Detroit Michigan…etc. etc. etc. The “Modern” game is reminiscing in this sense…they’re using an age-old shell game to explain their actions. In any event, two Number 1 seeds will square off in the freezing cold (how are those $5,000 tickets tasting now???!) and THIS Super Bowl might become the coldest matchup since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani buzzed Benjamin Netanyahu after hours from his IPhone! The Broncos with the best offense in the NFL against the Seahawks with the Best Defense will clash in Jersey in a sub-zero cage match for all to remember!

”Is Peyton Manning a great QB?” is not the question most Super Bowl people are asking right now. Most fans are asking, “What the crap is the stinkin’ Red Hot Chili Peppers doing as a halftime sideshow?” (Don’t worry; I’ll get into the game shortly!) Even when the Peppers were making loot (‘90’s), they STILL weren’t worthy of Super Bowl stardom!! On the other hand, the Peppers make perfect sense performing for Botox fueled, image based sponsors! And the screaming, pre-arranged, enthusiastic audience pouring onto the field…priceless! Where in the crap does the NFL find these ‘out of touch’ focus groups?? The Stones (Stoners), Beyonce (manly feminine), Madonna (gut-punching excitement) and now Flea? That’s almost as goofy as Tom Brady crying because he was drafted late!! Yes, Peyton is a good QB. In the current NFL (last 10 years or so), it is impossible to gauge Peyton’s performances against…let’s say…any QB pre-Marino/Jim Kelly. Today’s NFL rules for DB play limits the penalty Free/Strong Safeties exacted from Receivers venturing over-the-middle. DB’s, not Receivers, are exposed to potential punishment from enthusiastic, over-the-middle Football Catchers! Peyton, in fact, may be a relic, a dinosaur as an immobile ‘Pocket-Passer’ in the NFL? Whatever the case may be, without Peyton Manning the Broncos are probably an 8-8 or 7-9 football team.

The Seahawks are a high-energy, play-every-play, shutdown team carrying a lot of confidence in their lunch pails. A word or two concerning Richard Sherman: Professional football is an extremely violent, highly emotional environment played by finely tuned players intensely focused on destroying…not defeating…destroying the opposition. When you place an “Image Magnate” (Erin Andrews) in the middle of the snake pit (field of play) IMMEDIATELY after a highly focused, highly emotional, player (Richard Sherman) makes a play to put the Seahawks into the Super Bowl against a Player Sherman has convinced himself to “hate” (upon the field…gaining an edge), well Ms. Andrews…and every other spoon-fed limp wrists watching…THAT IS EXACTLY why we are fans of the game!!! Look at it this way; if Erin Andrews goes away, the game remains…if the game goes away, Erin Andrews goes away. “Ms. Andrews (and every single spectator left aghast by Sherman’s post game remarks), this is the ‘something’ a professional athlete must have to succeed!” Richard Sherman is a class act carrying an axe to grind with Jim Harbaugh over Harbaugh’s comments of the “Seadderall Seahawks”. We don’t know the full shark bite details between the two, but Pete Carroll at USC (when Harbaugh was at Stanford) started much of what we are seeing! I LOVE the intensity of this 49’ers/Seahawks rivalry and wish this Super Bowl had the same tension! Sherman’s a class act; Harbaugh is reading his headlines…and Pete Carroll? Carroll has this team rollin’ but I’m afraid no one really knows who Carroll truly is…especially Pete Carroll. As for Erin Andrews…stay on the sidelines, say something starkly desolate, be void of humility, and tell all the drunks in Porkya’ Gap Kentucky “Thanks for Following Me!” Geez!

Seattle comes in 1st in the NFL in points against, 1st in the NFL in yards against, 1st in takeaways, 1st in yards passing against, 1st in Interceptions, 1st in net yards per catch against, 1st in rushing touchdowns against, 1st in percentage of drives scoring against, and 1st in drives ending in an offensive turnover. The Seahawks are 3rd in 1st down passing attempts against, 2nd in touchdown passes against, 7th in rushing yards against, and 7th in rushing yards allowed. THOSE STATS are UNREAL!!!!!!!! Defensive Ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril lead the pressure from the edge with Bennett 32th in the NFL in sacks and Avril 38th in sacks. Big hitting Strong Safety Kam Chancellor, Free Safety Earl Thomas, and Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner cleans up the remaining mess left over by Bennett and Avril and all finished in the Top 50 in the NFL in tackles. CB Richard Sherman led the NFL in Interceptions with 8 and Free Safety Earl Thomas was tied for 5th in the NFL snagging 5 balls. CB Byron Maxwell finished tied for 11th in the NFL with 4 picks. The Seahawks defensive backs rely on upfront pressure and pressing receivers to the boundary. How do you beat Peyton Manning? Get upfront pressure and press receivers to the boundary!

The Broncos come into the Super Bowl led by Head Coach John Fox and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio…HA! Who are they kidding! Truthfully, if Fox and Del Rio took the Super Bowl off it would probably benefit the Broncos immeasurably! Peyton Manning is the best Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Player Personnel Director, General Manager in NFL History (sorry Mr. Elway…ride those coattails and repeat “Denver still LOVES me, Denver still LOVES me…” [Ha! What a creep!] ). Manning’s expertise as a QB is not all in the numbers: Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013 and over his career, Manning has passed for almost 65,000 yards and 500 touchdowns! Manning’s complete expertise, beyond the stats, is very difficult to gauge and measure…the edge is in his mind and work ethic…Manning just knows how to beat ya’! At QB, Manning led an offense 1st in points for, 1st in total yards for, 1st in first down yardage, 2nd in passing attempts, 1st in yards passing for, 1st in passing touchdowns for, and 1st in net yards gained per passing attempt for! Those are very good offensive statistics; maybe one of the best years at QB (statistically) of all time! But Peyton’s influence…just like Napoleon, Cincinnatus, George Washington or an in-the-home Dad…is almost impossible to calculate quantitatively! But make no mistake about it; Manning IS IN CHARGE of the Broncos (and Colts when he was in Indy) because Manning is smart and he OUTWORKS everyone around him. Manning may not go down in history as the best QB/Player in NFL history. But Manning WILL go down as one of the greatest influencers in the history of sports…alongside Lawrence Taylor, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Phil “The Power” Taylor, Lionel Messi, Franz Klammer, Dan Gable, Hichem El Guerrouji, and Wayne Gretzky! Can Manning beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl Forty Eight? Let’s take a look at where these teams “falter” and/or the differences between these two teams to predict a winner!

The Seahawks are actually led by a Head Coach (unlike Denver), Pete Carroll, who might resemble Elmer Gantry more than appearing to be Vince Lombardi. Carroll has done an EXCELLENT job motivating his professional athletes (a trait obtained while USC’s Head Coach…jus’ sayin’) and the team is inspiring to watch. QB Russell Wilson leads an offense that ended 2013 8th in points for and 17th in yards gained. The Seahawks don’t hurt you by slingin’ the ball all over the field. The Seahawks get it done on the ground led by Marshawn Lynch who ended up 7th in the NFL with 1,257 yards gained. QB Russell Wilson ended the season as 54th in total yards rushing because of Seattle’s offensive scheme and Wilson’s incredible mobility! Wilson also ended the season 16th in passing in the NFL with 3,357 yards gained, a 63.3 completion percentage while Seattle was sitting NEXT TO LAST (31st) in passing attempts for!!!! That is a HUGE STAT! Seattle was 10th in touchdown passes for while being 31st in total attempts! Wilson isn’t asked to throw the ball much, but when he does he is INCREDIBLY efficient! Remember those offensive stats if the Seahawks fall behind. Denver’s defense spent 2013 getting torched by opponents! Denver was 10th in the League in time of possession but 1st in 3rd down conversion percentage at 48.05%. Over their last 4 games, the Broncos converted a 60.98% 3rd down conversion percentage against a simply apathetic Texans’ team, an Oakland club on the verge of entering the BCS, a horrid playoff Charger team, and a Patriots team without any Receivers on the active roster!!!! ALL that glitters is not gold…just like the moment, in week 10, when we ALL found out the Chiefs were not very good despite going 9-0 out of the gate. The Broncos last 5 games were against teams with a combined 15-33 record (Texans, Raiders, and Chargers) and a Patriots team not having a professional wide receiver on the active roster! What is the reasonable pick for this Super Bowl? Let’s find out!

Super Bowl XLVIII won’t come down to Denver’s offense versus Seattle’s defense. Super Bowl 48 WILL be a battle between Denver’s defense versus Seattle’s offense! The best corner in a bad Bronco’s secondary, Chris Harris, blew a knee against the Chargers and is done until next season. That leaves R-Cromartie who ‘stunk it up’ in Philly in 2012, and rookie Kayvon Webster to guard the outside for Denver. That spells D-O-O-M for Denver at the boundary!! Picking up the pieces will be Safeties Duke Inehacho and Mike Adams to defend like never before. Unfortunately, neither safety is good enough, athletic enough, or experienced enough to drop the hammer on Seattle’s offense. Linebacker Von Miller is out…again…this time from a torn ACL; not self-lubrication (selfish!). Trevathon has played well and might very well be a defensive MVP---on the Jaguars squad---but this game is COMPLETELY outside of Trevathon’s best effort and look for him to be on his back more than Jazzy Josephine when the ships come in!! LB Wesley Woodyard…who I believe played shortstop for the Reds in the 70’s…has been pushed to play more minutes in Miller’s absence totaling 9 whole tackles in the last 3 regular season games and 2 playoff games combined! What a beast! HAHA! WooHoo! Champ Bailey is the Nickle/Dime/Hal Dollar/ Shadow of Himself and should be thrilled to just appear in this Super Bowl. Dreaming of a victory is movie magic in Prime Time. But they make “feel good” movies in Hollywood, not New York-ish Jersey. Here, they make movies that are profane and comedic. New York Comic-Movie Maker-turned-Weirdo Woody Allen might quip about the Broncos, “horses in Jersey don’t finish well…horses in Jersey finish well-done!” (he didn’t say it…I did) Anyway, here it is: Manning will throw for a couple of touchdowns and Seattle will not let Denver dictate policy all game like other Denver opponents. Denver’s defense will look like they’re catching alley cats in the back of Chinese Sweet and Sour Shop. Kindly note that this game "opened" in Las Vegas favoring Seattle by 3.0 ... with 70% of the wagers now being placed on The Broncos, the line has shifted to Minus 3.5 favoring the Broncos. I like the early assessment ... I'll THE THE SEAHAWKS in an upset!


WILDCARD WEEKEND

Saints at Seahawks (Minus 8.5 / Over-Under 48.0) - 4:35 PM - Saturday, January 11- FOX

Rick's Analysis: The New Orleans Saints were a bit out of character last week in their road trip to Philadelphia. Quarterback Drew Brees did not have to throw for 300 yards with several touchdowns and the offense did not have to score 30 plus points. Instead the Saints relied on a strong running game behind Mark Ingram and a gutsy defensive performance to overtake the Eagles in a 26-24 grudge match. The win was actually New Orleans’ first postseason road victory in franchise history and moved the team one victory away of an NFC Championship appearance. However, the Saints will face an even tougher road challenge this week when they go into CenturyLink Field for a Divisional Playoff showdown with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks ended the regular season tied with Denver for the best record in the NFL at 13-3 SU. Seattle will now have the 12th man at their back throughout the playoffs as a result of their number 1 seed in the NFC. CenturyLink Field is largely known as the NFL’s most difficult environment for visiting teams. Back in week 13, the Saints rolled into Seattle with a 3 game winning streak but were demolished by the Seahawks 34-7. Not only was it the Saints biggest loss of the season, but it was also one of the worse performances by the New Orleans offense under Coach Sean Payton. Brees and company were held to a season low 188 total yards on offense while the Saints defense was gashed for 315 in the first half alone.

Obviously the Saints have an opportunity to erase that loss to Seattle with a dose of redemption this Saturday but it is not going to come easy. Oddsmakers have the Seahawks listed as 8.5 point favorites for this Saturday’s contest. The good news is that the Saints have displayed a lot more physicality in recent weeks which should help them avoid a repeat result from week 13. As mentioned earlier, running back Mark Ingram has emerged as a reliable ground and pound type of runner between the tackles. Ingram carried the ball 18 times for 97 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over the Eagles. We all know about Brees and New Orleans’ potent passing attack. However the Saints were not able to sustain drives and gain tough yardage in their last trip to Seattle which left a lot of 3 play drives on the table. If Ingram can continue to run well, it could open things up for TE Jimmy Graham and WR Marques Colston down the field.

Obviously points will be tough to come by for New Orleans so keeping drives alive will be critical to their chances of a victory. Seattle owns the top rated defense in the NFL holding opponents to just 273 total yards and 14.4 points per game. The Seahawks are exceptional against the pass with All-Pro cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. I would not necessarily Seattle has any true defensive weaknesses but they have been most vulnerable against the run. The Seahawks gave up several big numbers on the ground this season which is another reason why I believe New Orleans will try to run the football this Saturday.

On the other side of the ball, Seattle will surely put the ball in the hands of their workhorse and running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch touched the ball 301 times (2nd most in NFL) this season for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Saints ranked 2nd against the pass behind Seattle yielding just 194 yards per game. Therefore, if the Saints can keep Lynch bottled up they should be able to make things difficult for quarterback Russell Wilson and an average Seahawks receiving corps which would keep things very interesting.

Rick's Bottom Line: Weather looks to play a big part in this weekend’s game with heavy rainfall expected. I would jump on the under 48.0 as they number will likely come down throughout the week. Both teams will look to run the ball and I believe this game will be about the defenses. The rain just helps. I'll TAKE THE UNDER (48.0)!


Chargers at Bengals (Minus 7.0) - Sunday January 5, 1:05 PM - CBS

Rick's Analysis Finally!! The NFL Playoffs are upon us. This is what its all about right here. It's anyone's ball game and the battle for the Super Bowl starts this weekend. Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals will host the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Wildcard round. San Diego made the postseason by the skin of their teeth with a win over Kansas City this past Sunday, and now they see themselves on the road as a seven point underdog to the Bengals. Cincinnati comes in with a record of 11-5 and champs of the AFC North, while San Diego is 9-7 and one of three teams from the AFC West to find themselves in the playoffs. Playoff games are tough. NFL players themselves will tell you that everyone seems to play just a little harder, and each and every play means a little more. A touchdown spread is a little high, but the Chargers will be leaving the beautiful weather of San Diego to play in the frigid cold of Ohio…this could play a huge role and be part of the reason the spread seems a little higher than normal.

The Bengals have played well all season. Many thought coming in that they had a shot to be a playoff team, but few picked them to win their division. They have been pretty balanced all season on both sides of the ball. They finished the regular season ranked 5th in all the NFL in both rushing defense and passing defense. Midway through the season, their top defensive lineman, Geno Atkins went down for the season, and many thought their defense would suffer, especially the line's ability to rush opposing QBs, well not so much, they have kept on doing just fine, and in order to advance in the playoffs, a solid defense is a must. On the offensive side of the ball, Andy Dalton has played well enough to keep his team winning. Would I ever trust him enough to win a game on his own? No, but so far he hasn't had to do that. With wide out, AJ Green, the Bengals ranked 8th in passing gaining over 258.7 per contest and they aren't too bad running the ball gaining about 110 yards a game. Cincy really should have no issue winning this game, but there is one very important key…Andy Dalton must protect the ball…MUST. This past Sunday they beat Baltimore handily but he threw four picks in the process. Baltimore this season wasn't the same team we saw last year, so the INTs weren't as deadly. If he thrown four interceptions against the Chargers, it's a wrap and San Diego will be the ones moving on to next week.

San Diego must have found a four leaf clover before last week's game against the Chiefs. A missed field goal from point blank range, and a referee blunder with the awful no call gave the Chargers not only the win, but the final AFC wildcard spot. Now, what will San Diego do with it? Will they make a magical run through the AFC playoffs, or will they go east, lose, and call it a day? I know one thing for certain, they will give it all they got. I am not a huge Chargers fan, but those guys play hard. A lot of that can be credited to quarterback Philip Rivers. He may seem like a hot head at times, but he is one hell of a competitor. The Chargers on paper have had a pretty good season. They are 4th in the NFL in passing, 13th in rushing, and their run defense ranks in the top 15 giving up only 107 yards per game. The one blemish to this team from a statistical standpoint is their pass defense that is near the bottom of the NFL giving up over 255 yards a game through the air. If San Diego wants to win this game, they will have to slow down AJ Green and the rest of the Bengals offense. If they can keep Dalton under pressure, this game could be very interesting.

Rick's Bottom Line: Playoff games are tough. It's do or die. One blunder could end your season and one great play could keep your team alive for the ultimate goal. Like stated before, Cincy is a seven point favorite over San Diego. To me, that is a lot of points. Yes, the Bengals are 8-0 at home, and yes they are the "better" team, but I think the Chargers have tons of momentum and fight left in the tank. 61% of bettors are on the Bengals, which means not much respect is being given to San Diego on the road. Both teams ATS record this season are pretty similar so there is no clear cut way to choose based on that. At this point, it is pure gut and hunch. In my opinion, San Diego may not come away with the win, but this game will come down to the wire. I like the final score being about 24-20 in favor of the Bengals. With the OVER/UNDER being set at a paltry 46.0 points, the folks in Las Vegas are anticipating a close, low scoring game ... I'll TAKE SAN DIEGO to beat the spread!

RICK'S "HOT-SPOT" PLAYS

SAINTS (PLUS 3.0) over EAGLES

 


Sat, Jan 4 1 pm ESPN
The Compass Bowl
Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala

Vanderbilt (Minus 3.0) vs. Houston

Vanderbilt never takes bowl games for granted - James Franklin won't let it happen. Houston probably deserved the Pinstripe against Notre Dame, but getting to show what it can do against an SEC team could be a nice finish to a surprisingly strong season. Houston's defense will keep this close, but the Commodores will pull away late.

I'll TAKE VANDERBILT to both win and cover!


Fri, Jan 3 7:30 pm FOX
The Cotton Bowl
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX

Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (Pick 'Em)
The Cotton Bowl always seems like it should be good, but it usually isn't. This is a BCS-level game that could've been played on a much bigger stage, but no, Oklahoma State isn't in the Fiesta, and Missouri isn't in the BCS championship. This is about who wants it more. Who wants to be here, and who wants to end a successful season - even with a disappointing finishing kick to the regular season - with something big? If these two teams are playing at a high level, this could be a fun and entertaining shootout.

I'll TAKE MISSOURI to win!


Wed, Jan 1 12 pm ESPN2
The Gator Bowl
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL

Nebraska vs. Georgia (Minus 9.5)

Vote of confidence, schmote of confidence. There are some games coaches just have to win, and considering Nebraska's 45-31 thumping to Georgia last year in the Capital One Bowl, and with Bo Pelini's issues in bowl games over the last three years, it would do him a world of good to come away with a win. Georgia should be a wee bit healthier, but it's still a shadow of its September self, especially without Aaron Murray under center. No one will be expecting much out of the Bulldogs, but a win would be a sweet ending to a sour year (sorry about that.) The Huskers will come through with a late score.

I'll TAKE NEBRASKA in at least a "spread upset!"


Wed, Jan 1 1 pm ESPN
Outback Bowl
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

Iowa vs. LSU (Minus 6.0)

This could go into five overtimes after a Chris Davis-like field goal return sends it into extra frames, and it still won't be as much fun as the 2005 Iowa win on the Drew Tate miracle throw. Iowa is still searching for some measure of respect after a strong 8-4 season. That was nice, and beating Nebraska was fun, but as Clemson showed last season, beating LSU can make for a big offseason. LSU will have to get used to life without Zach Mettenberger, and it might as well start now.

I'll TAKE L.S.U. to both win and cover!


Wed, Jan 1 5 pm ESPN
The Rose Bowl Game
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

Stanford (Minus 4.5) vs. Michigan State

But Stanford lost to Utah. But Michigan State's offense was really bad for the first month. While both teams improved and adapted as the season went on, Michigan State did more to upgrade on the offensive side with Connor Cook coming into his own in the Big Ten championship. Much will be made of Stanford's familiarity with the big Pasadena setting after last year, but the Spartans will come in nasty.

Despite being a former graduate student at Stanford during my days working at TrackMaster/SportsMaster in nearby Los Altos, California, and living in Palo Alto ... I'll TAKE MICHIGAN STATE in an upset!


Mon, Dec 30 11:45 am ESPN
Armed Forces Bowl
Amon G Carter Stadium, Ft Worth, TX

Middle Tennessee vs. Navy (Minus 6.0)

The 'Big Question' is ... "Can Middle Tennessee stop the run?" Not really. This is a sound Blue Raider team that's on a hot streak winning five straight, but the front seven might get carved up. The team beat up on the weak and the sad in Conference USA play, and it's about to show.

I'll TAKE NAVY to both win and cover!


Mon, Dec 30 3:15 pm ESPN
The Music City Bowl
LP Field, Nashville, TN

Mississippi (Minus 3.0) vs. Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech is always the coach tester of the bowl season. For a BCS-level team, especially one from the SEC, there's no excuse to not have the Yellow Jackets figured out with several weeks and 15 practices to prepare. Of course, it's next to impossible to simulate the precision in practice, but Ole Miss has the athleticism to do just that. One way or another, this will be a blowout. Ole Miss will be healthier, and grouchy after the Egg Bowl, so ... I'll TAKE MISSISSIPPI to both win, and cover!


Mon, Dec 30 6:45 pm ESPN
The Alamo Bowl
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX

Oregon (Minus 12.0) vs. Texas

Oh dear lord. These two put on a fantastic show in the 2000 Holiday Bowl, a 35-30 Duck win, but this defense is light years removed from the one that was so strong over a decade ago. Memories of BYU's Taysom Hill running wild on Texas are still too fresh. Even though Mack Brown has done a nice job in bowl games, a healthy Marcus Mariota will officially kick off his 2014 Heisman campaign as Oregon goes ballistic.

I'll TAKE OREGON to both win (probably easily) ... and cover!



Packers (Minus 3.0) at Bears - Sunday, December 29, 2013 - 4:25 PM FOX

Rick's Analysis: "Win and you’re in!" That’s the scenario for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in their Sunday matchup for the NFC North title. One team will make the Playoffs and host a Wildcard game, and the other will be watching from home. The Packers were a cinch to make the postseason with Aaron Rodgers under center, but then he went down with a collarbone injury on Nov. 4 against the Bears. Since then the Packers have gone 2-5-1 with Matt Flynn filling in the last four games. One of the huge unanswered questions is whether or not Rodgers will be ready to go come Sunday. "We've done a scan and we're going through the process of evaluation," Rodgers said on his weekly ESPN radio show. "Probably not what everybody wants to hear, but I can say definitively (on) Thursday - one way or another - it will be a definitive conclusion to this week's unknown. We wanted to give everybody a rest for Christmas, be able to enjoy their Christmas." Obviously the Packers have the best shot of winning with their star quarterback – who has thrown for 2,128 yards, 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the eight games he played -- but what if Flynn has to step up once again? He’s 2-2 as the starter, and currently boasts an 86.1 rating from completing 102 of 166 passes for 1,146 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. Not bad considering he started the season with the Oakland Raiders and was brought in off the streets. The Rodgers/Flynn combo have the Packers sitting with the eighth-best passing game in the league with an average of 263.7 yards per game (YPG), and surprisingly it’s complimented by a solid run game, one that is ranked seventh with 131.7 YPG. That’s due to the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy, who has carried 263 times for 1,112 yards (4.2 Avg) and ten touchdowns. Back in Week 9, Lacy rushed for 150 yards on the Bears defense, though the Packers still lost that game 20-27.

Speaking of that Week 9 matchup, Josh McCown was under center in that game where he passed for 272 yards, of which 107 went to Brandon Marshall. However, in Week 17 it will be Jay Cutler getting the start. This year he has gone 209 of 331 for 2,395 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions – good enough for an 88.1 rating. Of course a lot of the Bears passing game, which is ranked fifth with an average of 270.5 YPG, is due to their star receivers – the aforementioned Marshall and second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery. Marshall has hauled in 94 receptions for 1,221 yards for 11 touchdowns, while Jeffery has torn it up by catching 86 passes for 1,341 yards and seven scores. It’s a deadly tandem and made even stronger considering running back Matt Forte draws defenders into the box. Forte, who has carried 267 times for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns, is responsible for the Bears’ 18th-ranked run game with an average of 113.8 YPG. Defensively both teams are equally bad. The Packers have allowed an average of 395.4 YPG (263.7 passing YPG and 131.7 rushing YPG) while the Bears aren’t too far behind at 384.3 YPG (270.5 passing YPG and 113.8 rushing YPG).

Rick's Bottom Line: So much (including lines) hinges on whether or not Rodgers will play; in fact, the betting lines are off until that question is answered. On Friday afternoon, The Packers announced that Rodgers will indeed play ... on Thursday, my analysis had The Bears winning and a UNDER wager was "in order." Now I'll TAKE THE PACKERS to both win and cover, and I'll make a small wager on THE OVER (52.0)!


Sat, Dec 28 12 pm ESPN
Pinstripe Bowl
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

Rutgers vs. Notre Dame (Minus 12.0)

Considering Rutgers basically invented college football, and Notre Dame is college football, you'd think the two storied programs might have forged a regular matchup. Nope. This is just the fifth time the two have played since a 48-0 Irish win in 1921. This might not be as close if the Rutgers team that died over the second half of the season shows up. It'll be a nice stage because it's New York, and the fans will be there because of the two teams, but if the Irish are motivated, this won't be pretty.

I'll TAKE NOTRE DAME to both win and cover!


Sat, Dec 28 6:45 pm ESPN
Russell Athletic Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL

Miami vs. Louisville (Minus 3.0)

It's a showcase for the NFL scouts as Miami native Teddy Bridgewater tries to recreate the Sugar Bowl magic of last year before taking off for the next level. Miami's Stephen Morris is a mid-round draft prospect who might show off a little firepower of his own. The two future ACC brothers should put on a decent show - unless it's cold. Orlando in December could be a bit chilly at night; Louisville should be better prepared. Bridgewater will be magnificent.

I'll TAKE LOUISVILLE to both win and cover the spread!


Fri, Dec 27 2:30 pm ESPN
Military Bowl
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD

Marshall (Minus 1.0) vs. Maryland

It should be a home game with both schools likely to put butts in the seats, but which teams will show up? Will the Marshall team that clunked against Rice in the Conference USA title game make the trip, or will it be the one with the high-octane offense that can hang 50 on the board without breathing hard? Maryland came up with a Virginia Tech win from out of nowhere, but that was the one bright spot and the one win over a bowl bound team. Marshall will be jacked up to send the Terps off to the Big Ten grumpy.

I'll TAKE MARSHALL to both win and cover!


Fri, Dec 27 9:30 pm ESPN
Fight Hunger Bowl
AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA

BYU vs. Washington (Minus 3.0)

Under normal circumstances this would be the Steve Sarkisian Bowl, but now that he's a Trojan, Washington has to beat its former head coach's alma mater on its own. BYU was fantastic in last year's bowl win over San Diego State, and the defense should give the transition Huskies major problems. However, Keith Price and the Dawgs will be healthy, and they seem like they're going to be one of those out-with-something-to-prove teams.

I'll TAKE WASHINGTON to both win and cover


Tue, Dec 24 8 pm ESPN
Hawai`i Bowl
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI

Oregon State (Minus 3.0) vs. Boise State

Seriously folks, who doesn't want to play in the Hawaii Bowl? Fans schmans, it's not like the other bowls are filling the second deck. Boise State will play hard in the first game without Chris Petersen, but can the offense keep up with the Sean Mannion show? This isn't the same Boise State team of past seasons, and when in doubt, always pick against the team making a coaching change.

I'll TAKE OREGON STATE to win and cover!


Giants at Lions (Minus 10.0) - Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 4:00 PM - FOX

Rick's Overview: The Detroit Lions have had so many chances to pull away from the rest of the NFC North that it’s come down to a must-win situation for their playoff chances this season, starting on Sunday when they get the gift of the hapless New York Giants inside Ford Field in a late game on Fox. Detroit had a chance to show the nation they were ready to step up to the challenge of being an NFL playoff contender on a primetime stage on Monday Night Football last week, only to poop the bed and lose on a 61-yard field goal by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, 18-16. With back-to-back losses the Lions have gone from the driver’s seat in the NFC North, to hoping their “easier” schedule (NYG, at Minn.) and a little help from Pennsylvania teams (Pitt. at GB, Chi. at Philly) gets them back to the top by attrition. The G-men have lost three of their last four games and even though they talked a lot about stepping up week to week in the big city media, it’s pretty clear they have quit and are counting the days down till their first off-season tee time. New York was shutout by Seattle last week, 23-0, in a game that highlighted the Giants season this year, and really their woes every season … five Eli Manning interceptions. With no running game to speak of, even Manning can’t save this ship. Oddsmakers originally opened the game with the Lions as 9.5-point favorites at home, but the number has moved both up and down a little since then, dropping to minus -9 at some sportsbooks while others have gone up the hook to minus -10. The over/under total opened at 48.5 and can still be found sitting there, although most books have gone up to 49 with the total. Really this game can be broken down to the play of Manning and the Giants offensive line, its really as simple as that these days in the Big Apple. New York has lost G Chris Snee, C David Baas and C Jim Cordle to season-ending injuries along the inside of the line, and defenses have been eating them alive since. The once-proud Giants running game is still just 28th in the league at 83 yards per game, Manning is struggling with a down year, it’s just not good in New York this year. The Lions run defense (4th – 98 ypg) is no pushover, literally, so the Giants final 120 minutes of football this season looks like it could be as painful to watch as the last four weeks. Detroit will bring Matthew Stafford and the 3rd-best offense into the game, an offense that had some uncharacteristic drops from Calvin Johnson in last week’s big game. With Reggie Bush and Joique Bell becoming a strong duo out of the backfield, the Lions should be a heck of a lot harder to stop than they are at times. The Giants defense has enough pride to hold the Lions for awhile, but if the G-men keep turning the ball over on offense it could be over quickly. New York is 7-3 SU against the Lions dating all the way back to the 1988 season, but the Lions do own a 6-4 ATS record for bettors. New York has never lost in Detroit either, winning 16-10 in 2007, 26-20 in 1997 and 35-7 in 1996, in their last three trips to the Motor City. Ironically, the betting trends for this game all scream a play on New York too. The road team is 5-0 in this head-to-head ‘series’ and the underdog is also a strong 4-1 ATS as well.

Rick's Bottom Line: It's official! The general betting public has finally gotten off of the NYG and think that they suck! Bad timing! The Lions shouldn't be laying 10 to anybody! I'm grabbing the GMen here which will be one of my bigger plays of the season. I'll TAKE THE GIANTS to beat the spread!


Sat, Dec 21 9 pm ESPN
New Orleans Bowl
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA

Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Pick 'Em)

The only thing you can reasonably ask out of a minor bowl game is teams that care. No problem here. The two Louisiana natives should bring interested and fired up fan bases, and even though the recent history hasn't been great - ULL won 41-13 last year - this is just the second meeting since 2000. It should be a good atmosphere, and the game should be solid as long as the Ragin' Cajun team that yawned its way through an ugly loss against South Alabama was simply looking ahead.

I'll TAKE LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE to win!

Eagles at Vikings (OVER / UNDER = 51.0) December 15, 2013 - 1:00 PM FOX


The Philadelphia Eagles have won five straight games and are surging at just the right time under rookie head coach Chip Kelly, with a date against the hobbled Minnesota Vikings on the road in the Metrodome this Sunday as the next step towards the NFC East title. The Eagles took a one-game last week with a blowout win over the Detroit Lions in the snowstorm in Philly, 34-20. LeSean McCoy set a new franchise record with 217 yards rushing against the Lions defense that was overmatched by Kelly’s scheme as much as the elements. With a Cowboys loss on Monday Night Football the Eagles gained an extra game cushion before the showdown versus the Cowboys in the finale, so beating the injured and struggling Vikings on the road is important to the cause this week. Minnesota not only lost in a wacky, wide-open end of the game sequence last week at Baltimore, 29-26, but they also lost heart-n-soul Adrian Peterson early in the game to a foot strain that is likely to keep him out of this week’s game. Peterson vowed to be ready to play, but test results late on Monday had team doctors putting A.P. in a walking boot until further notice. With the latest updates on Peterson public knowledge, a game that opened with the Eagles as 2-point road favorites as since jumped two points to Philly minus -4.5, -5 and even a few minus -6’s at some of the offshore sportsbooks on the Web. The over/under total opened at 50 and has moved up a point to 51 at most sportsbooks, with a few adding the hook to make the number 51.5 and take the push out of play.

With only a few weeks left in the season the Eagles offense seems to be peaking, with quarterback Nick Foles putting up playstation numbers (20 TD- 1 INT, 120 QB passer rating 1st in NFL) running Kelly scheme. In fact, McCoy, Desean Jackson, and even Riley Cooper are experiencing renascence on offense, the offense that puts up 409 yards a game (3rd) including a league-best 159 yards on the ground each week. The Vikings defense is one of the league’s worst in pass defense (allow 283 ypg – 30th), but you can bet that if they have to commit more resources to stop the Eagles running game … well, let’s just say the Eagles offense looks like they should have success inside on the Metrodome carpet o Sunday. RICK TAKES THE OVER!