RICK NEEDHAM'S BETTER BETTOR


RACING RETURNS

TO BELMONT PARK!

FOOTBALL NOTE: RICK'S WEEKLY FOOTBALL SELECTION SHEET WAS EMAILED OUT EARLY ON FRIDAY MORNING TO HIS SUBSCRIBERS!

BELMONT PARK (ELMONT, NEW YORK) FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014

Cooler temperatures and the leaves changing colors signify the return of live horse racing to the Louisville area as Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, opens for its 125th fall meet Oct. 26. The popular 26-day stand, which covers a five-week stretch through Nov. 30, kicks off with the 10th annual "Stars of Tomorrow I" program entirely devoted to 2-year-olds. The 10-race opening day program is headlined by a pair of one-mile overnight stakesóthe Street Sense (race 4 at 2:06 p.m. ET) and Rags to Riches for fillies (race 9 at 4:44 p.m.). Both races serve as local steppingstones to the Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod for fillies (both gr. II) on the "Stars of Tomorrow II" program Nov. 29. The successful Stars of Tomorrow programs have helped launch the careers of numerous graded stakes winners, including 33 grade I winners and 19 millionaires. First post Sunday, as is the case for most of the meeting, is 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern). The National Weather Service forecast for Louisville calls for ideal fall conditions for the opener: sunny skies with a high near 68. The fall stand includes 13 stakes races cumulatively worth a little more than $2 million. With a compact 26-day schedule and not as many competing race meets at year's end, the meet traditionally offers larger fields. Last fall, the average field size was 8.84 horses per race, compared to the 7.29 and 7.70 at this year's spring and September meets, respectively. The anchor of the lucrative stakes program comes Nov. 28 with the 140th running of the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. I). The 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is one of five stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. After Sunday's opener, live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule with dark days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Most race days will begin at 12:40 p.m. ET and feature 10 live races. Eleven-race programs are scheduled for opening day and Nov. 14. Twelve-race cards are scheduled for Nov. 27-29.

RACE #4 - BELMONT PARK - 2:26 PM EASTERN POST

10.0 FURLONGS INNER TURF THREE YEARS OLD AND UPWARD ALLOWANCE $77,000.00 PURSE

#8 MAKE A DECISION
#9 LUNAR ROVER
#1 BARATTI / #1A SUBLIME
#2 MAKE IT GOLD

#8 MAKE A DECISION is the overall speed and pace profile leader in this allowance field this afternoon racing at, or about, 10.0 furlongs on the grass, and has been a "POWER RUN PERFORMER" in five straight starts, hitting the board in a pair, including a "POWER RUN PLACE" finish in his last outing, missing a "Circle Trip" in that race by just a "photographed nose" at the wire. #9 LUNAR ROVER, the morning line favorite, scored with a "POWER RUN WIN" in his 2nd race back, winning by nearly 10 lengths!


RACING NEWS: Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, a 10-time Breeders Cup winner, will be riding in this year's event at Santa Anita Park, exactly 14 weeks to the day after undergoing total knee replacement surgery July 25. Stevens, 51, will be aboard Sivoliere in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 31 for owner Martin Schwartz and trainer Chad Brown. Stevens and Schwartz won the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington Park in 2004 aboard Angara. It was Gary's first mount back at Arlington after his near career-ending fall there in the 2003 Arlington Million (gr. IT). "I feel like we got the band back together. I couldn't be more excited," said Schwartz after speaking with Stevens about riding the race. Stevens rode his last race in July for Brown before announcing he was taking time off to get his right knee replaced. In recent days, he had been back exercising horses at Santa Anita. "It was something that I knew I would need to do eventually. I just put it off until I had to deal with it," Stevens said. "I always hoped I would be able to ride in the Breeders Cup this year, but I knew that I wasn't going to do it unless I was 110%. I'm so grateful to have owners and trainers that believe in me." Stevens won the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last year on Mucho Macho Man as well as the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) aboard Beholder. Neither horse is running in this year's races. "Nothing can top the Breeders' Cup I had last year. But being able to go out there and ride at the highest level, for great people only three months after having a new knee put in, well it's right up there," Stevens said. Stevens, who won an Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 1998, has 4,988 North American wins in his career. In addition to the Breeders' Cup wins he also won the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Oxbow in 2013, his comeback season following a five-year retirement due to his ailing knee.


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RaceAnalyser Software

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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" - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014

DELTA DOWNS

RACE #2: #8 RASPBERRY DELIGHT is 6-1 in the morning line, and is the overall speed leader in this claiming field tonight racing at the mile distance on the dirt.

HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE

RACE #2: #10 PETTICOAT is 8-1 in the morning line, and is the overall speed leader in this maiden field racing at today's distance of a mile 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!

Delta Downs - Race #2 - 6:17PM - #9 CATCH THIS FISH 12/1
Evangeline Downs - Race #2 - 6:05PM - #7 DARK FOREST 6/1

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
    Exotic Wager BOXING
    Aqueduct's Inner Track
    Down and Dirty Quick Pick Longshots
    How to qualify for The Breeders' Cup
    The Psychology of Pari-Mutual Wagering


Rick Needham - Football 2014-2015

PRO/COLLEGE FOOTBALL ANALYSIS - 2014-2015 SEASON

Yep ... FOOTBALL IS INDEED BACK!!!

Rick is once again ... "dusting off" his SportsMaster for Football Software ... and his "ancient" Windows Machine ... to for the 8th straight year ... to analyze Professional and College Football for the 2014-2015 season. As he has done in the past .. 100% of the monies for his service are given to his former middle school students who attended The Nativity School of Harrisburg (a middle school for poverty level boys) and are now currently in college. Subscription monies last year purchased text books ... calculators ... lab fees ... etc. for his students.

If you would like to receive his weekly reports .. which include his analysis of N.F.L. Football through the Super Bowl, as well as college football analysis (including his 20 page analysis of the 2015 College Football Bowl Games) ... kindly send a check or money order for $175.00 payable to Richard Needham to ...

Richard Needham
7621 Jonestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112

Rick Notes:

1. There is no analysis of pre-season N.F.L. Games

2. Weekly reports are sent via email ... usually on Thursday or Friday of each week. Kindly include your preferred email address with your subscription.

3. Unlike other years ... there is no "free analysis" for the first month of the "season" ... emails will be sent when subscription monies have been received.

4. As in the past ... the "subscription rate" will increase weekly as the football season progresses ... when the N.F.L. season begins ... the subscription rate will be $150.00 ... so it is to your "advantage" to "lock up" your subscription before the N.F.L. season begins!


2014-2015 ARCHIVED REPORTS:

Notre Dame at Florida State (MINUS 14.0) - Oct. 18, 8:00 ABC

Rick's Overview In so many ways, both good and bad, this epic matchup of two superpowers is the epitome of college football. The sport is loaded with hypocrisy and controversy, and sometimes, itís hard to compartmentalize and simply enjoy the event. But beyond the academic issues at Notre Dame, and even though its starting quarterback spent last year suspended, and even though the reigning Heisman winner is embroiled in yet another controversy, and even though heís going to be under the microscope in a school hearing that could change the entire university, and even with all of the various issues and concerns with both programs, itís undefeated Notre Dame taking on the unbeaten defending national champion in a game that could and should play a big role in defining the national title chase. Itís history that transcends the sport and adds another major chapter to it, one way or another. Itís Notre Dame, the school that came up with the 0-0 tie against 1946 Army to halt a 25-game winning streak. Itís the program that stopped Oklahomaís 47-game winning streak in 1957. Itís the school that beat unbeaten Alabama in the 1974 Sugar Bowl, and the next year beating another undefeated Bear Bryant team in the 1975 Orange. Itís Joe Montanaís team stopping Earl Campbellís national title bid with a 38-10 win over Texas in the 1978 Cotton Bowl, and itís Lou Holtz pulling off a classic win in 1988 top stop a juggernaut Miami programís 16-game winning streak and 36-game regular season run. And, of course, itís the program that halted Charlie Ward and the eventual 1993 national champion Florida State squad in one of the greatest games ever. This isnít nearly the same Notre Dame team as some of the others that pulled off wins for the ages, but head coach Brian Kelly has done a phenomenal job of putting together an unbeaten season so far despite missing five of his key players due to academic issues, and now, with one win, heíll have an honest shot of putting the Irish in the national title mix for the second time in three years. This isnít nearly the same Florida State team as last yearís, either. This is a very good team with a very great quarterback, and despite all the problems and the inconsistencies on the field, and even though the world has turned its eyes to the SEC West and the state of Mississippi, an argument can be made that this is still the No. 1 team in America, or at least in the top three. Winners of 17 in a row and 27 of its last 28, Florida State is finding ways to win. If last yearís run to a national title was a dominant march to greatness, this year is more of a grind through adversity. If the Seminoles can win this, then they really will once again prove they can rise to just about any occasion, but this wonít be the end of the journey with a quirky Thursday night game against Louisville up next, tough home games against Virginia, Florida and Boston College to deal with, and a road date with Miami to fight through, not to mention, most likely, the ACC championship. The Seminoles are 5-2 all-time in the series, with the last win coming in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. This time around might not be as big or as good as 1993, but thereís a chance it could be up there Ė and thereís a chance this might be the first of two meetings. There are still plenty of landmines for Notre Dame, but this is the big one. If the Irish can win this, they can win at Arizona State and USC, and they should be able to handle Northwestern and Louisville, but even a close loss could be okay. In the eyes of the College Football Playoff world, an 11-1 Notre Dame might just have enough in the schedule bank to slip into the top four if that one loss is an extremely acceptable tight defeat in Tallahassee. A blowout, though, would probably kill the dream. Meanwhile, FSU can probably lose this, too, and get into the playoff at 12-1 with an ACC title, but then it would be up for debate. So have fun with it. Suspend your belief system for a few hours on Saturday night and enjoy the theater. It should be worth it.

From The Irish Sideline: If you didnít know this was Florida State, youíd swear this was a team fighting just to be around the top ten. To put it bluntly, Clemson fumbled/choked in the Doak, and even though there was a key part of the Seminole puzzle missing, backup quarterback Sean Maquire did just fine throwing for 304 yards. Against the FSU defense, NC State QB Jacoby Brissett looked like the next Russell Wilson, bombing away for 359 yards, and the next week he completed 4-of-18 passes against Clemson. Even the blowouts over Wake Forest and Syracuse were underwhelming Ė the Noles just havenít been sharp, even if theyíve been effective. Whatís the problem? The running game isnít there. Last season, FSU ripped up 5.6 yards per carry with 42 touchdowns on the year with six 200-yard games on the year. This season, the ground game has yet to hit the 200-yard mark against any FBS team, and while it averaged over five yards per pop against NC State and Wake Forest, it hasnít been able to establish much of anything on a consistent basis. The rebuilt Irish defensive front has been outstanding, allowing just 663 yards on the year and doing a great job of holding up against anyone who wants to get physical. Jameis Winston might be a proven winner, but he might have to carry the team on his back all by himself.

From The F.S.U. Sideling: Winston has yet to be stopped cold, but he can be slowed down with steady pressure Ė thatís not really Notre Dame. The line did a great job of giving Stanfordís Kevin Hogan a few problems, and the D has come up with three sacks or more in three of the six games, but this isnít necessarily a defense that manufactures enough of a pass rush to slow down the FSU passing attack. The Irish might come up with a sack on one play, and then Winston will get time and connect on a 3rd-and-17 the next Ė teams have been able to hit him, and it hasnít made much of a difference. The real concern for the Irish revolves around the mistakes. They were able to overcome a five turnover day against Syracuse without much of a problem, but after being a 6 in turnover margin in the first two games, theyíve turned it over ten times in the last four with Everett Golson doing everything possible to give it away last week against North Carolina. Notre Dame has to be flawless, and it wonít be.

Rick's Keep Your Eye On Department: Jameis Winston might be the best player in college football by a ten-mile margin, and he still wonít have a shot at the Heisman because of all of the off-field stuff. Even so, this is the type of game that could cement his already legendary status. 19-0 as a starter, for all of his issues and problems, heís able to focus on what he has to do between the lines. The overall stats arenít there like they were last season, but heís been doing just as much to make the machine go, completing 70% of his passes with 11 touchdowns, throwing for over 300 yards in three of his five games, and it wouldíve been five-for-five but he wasnít needed for the whole game against the Citadel and he threw for 297 against Wake Forest. Despite the problems and errors last week against North Carolina, Golson has been Heisman-worthy, throwing for over 220 yards in every game with 16 touchdowns, four picks, and a game-winner on fourth down to beat Stanford. He hasnít needed to be a dangerous runner, but heís effective when he has to be, taking off for a season-high 71 yards last week. 15-1 as a starter Ė and the one loss to Alabama wasnít his fault Ė heís been dangerous at times, ultra-accurate at others Ė hitting 25 straight throws against Syracuse Ė and the ultimate leader now that heís more mature than he was in 2012. This is his team now, and heís taking to the role.

Rick's Bottom Line: Both teams have been able to avoid disaster, and each has been battle tested enough to be ready to handle a game like this on the big stage. Notre Dameís defensive front will shut down the FSU running game cold, and itíll stiffen in the red zone. Winston and FSU will move the ball, but there will be way too many Roberto Aguayo field goals, keeping the door open for the Irish. Unlike the last few weeks, Notre Dame will be mistake-free on both sides of the ball, and Golson will overcome a rocky start by picking apart a Seminole secondary that can be beaten deep. The Irish will control the clock and the tempo in the second half, and even though Winston will connect on a few huge plays, everyone will be talking about Golson after the game as he pulls neck-and-neck with Dak Prescott as the Heisman front-runner. I'll TAKE NOTRE DAME to "Beat The Spread" ... and possibly win outright!!


Bills at Lions (MINUS 7.0) - Oct 5, 1:00 FOX

Rick's Overview:Five weeks into the National Football League Season and the 2-2 Buffalo Bills may be pushing the panic button a little, benching starting quarterback E.J. Manuel in favor of veteran Kyle Orton, when the Bills travel to Ford Field to take on the red-hot Detroit Lions in an early game Sunday on Fox. With New England showing signs of being ripe for the taking in the AFC East, the Bills are tied atop the division standings in a three-way tie with the Patriots and Miami Dolphins. Usually that is hardly a time to axe the QB, but new head coach Doug Marrone even threw Manuel under the bus with the explanation being ďwe canít keep going in the direction that weíre going.Ē The Bills have played two straight lousy games to get to 2-2, but itís not like their troubles on offense the past two weeks were strictly on the QB play. Manuel was 22-for-44 in the loss at Houston last week, 23-17, but accuracy aside he did throw two touchdowns and two interceptions albeit for limited yardage (225 yards) on short throws. On the flip side, Detroit hopes to keep going in the direction they are going following their second straight impressive performance after beating the New York Jets on the road last week, 24-17. With a chance to stay a game ahead of the pack in the NFC North race, the Lions hope to keep the pedal down and beat up on an indecisive Bills team in front of the home crowd in noisy Ford Field. The Bills sudden change in QB has, of course, altered the point spread for the game on Sunday. The Lions opened as 5-point favorites late on Sunday, then on Monday when the announcement was made it was Ortonís job, the spread shot up to Detroit by a full touchdown -7 at most sportsbooks.

The over/under total opened at 44 and continues to hover around that number currently, although most books have dropped it down to 43.5 to take the push out of play, but some sports books "overseas" now have it at 46.0 ... ! With Orton playing QB all bets are off as to how well the Bills offense will operate. One could argue the two-headed approach at running back with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller isnít getting either of them enough touches in the ground game. But itís clear that Orton was brought in to upgrade the Bills passing attack (198.5 ypg Ė 31st in NFL), and getting young wideouts Sammy Watkins (17 rec.), Robert Woods (11 rec.) and Mike Williams (7 rec.) more involved in the attack. Theyíll face the No. 1-ranked defense in the league right now, as the Lions are No. 2 versus the pass (186 ypg) and No. 6 versus the run (80.8 ypg) for the season. The Bills defense will have to contend with Mathew Stafford at quarterback, who seems to be starting to show signs of ďchampionshipĒ maturity. Stafford has controlled his interceptions for the most part (3 through 4 games), and the Lions offense has relied on the passing game (276 ypg Ė 7th) to get points on the board this year. Right now Buffalo has been a lousy wager on the road, going 4-9 ATS in their last 12 road games. The best looking betting trend for this matchup is the under, which is 4-0 in the last four head-to-head meetings, and is 4-0 in all four of the Bills games this year, and 3-1 in the Lions four games thus far.

Rick's Bottom Line I fully expect the Lions to win, and theyíll likely win big. There might be a good UNDER (46.0) this afternoon, and I'll also TAKE THE LIONS to win and cover!


L.S.U. at Auburn (MINUS 7.0) - Oct. 4, 7:00 ESPN

Rick's Overview: Here's The Deal: A funny thing happened on the way to one of the biggest games of the college football season Ė Mississippi State was better than LSU. Auburn passed its test with a tough, gut-check win over Kansas State that was more of an indication of how strong the team is under fire than it was an indictment of how the team might have slipped. AU followed it up with a breezy win over Louisiana Tech to set up the SEC West showdown, but it wonít stop here with a trip to Mississippi State up next followed up by South Carolina, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and at Georgia all before finishing with Alabama. If these Tigers are going to repeat as SEC champs, theyíre going to certainly earn it. The other Tigers came up with a furious rally to try to get back into the loss against MSU, and they almost pulled it off with a late Hail Mary attempt. A blowout win over New Mexico State got the offense rolling, but that was nothing more than a chance for some of the tremendous young players to get a little more playing time. But now this becomes something of an elimination game, even though the SEC West is so brutal that several twists and turns are sure to come. LSU is right back in the fun with a win, but a loss means the other Tigers are two games up on the Bayou Bengal Tigers, and Les Miles is starting to get more and more interested in real estate in the greater Ann Arbor metropolitan area. L.S.U. was the one team to tag Auburn in the regular season last year making it three straight in the series and five of the last six.

From The L.S.U. Sideline: So what did Kansas State do to make it such a close call and to keep the Auburn offense under wraps? For one, the defensive front seven was never, ever caught out of place. Itís hard to stay disciplined against this attack when every instinct says to read and react, when sometimes it really is okay to let the play look like itís running five yards the other way. Kansas State was able to do that and kept the runs to from blowing up into big plays. Can LSU be disciplined enough to handle the misdirection? The speed isnít a problem, and the athleticism is there, but to pull this off, you need a strong running game (check), a defense thatís great on third downs (check), a ball control attack that cam keep possession for over 33 minutes a pop (check), and the turnovers and penalties have to be kept to a minimum (check and check). Basically, LSU is Kansas State, only better.

From The Auburn Sideline: So what did Mississippi State do to rip apart LSUís front seven? Having a bulldozer of a running quarterback like Dak Prescott certainly helped, and being able to run Josh Robinson inside and out was a big plus. Wisconsin was able to use the speed and quickness of Melvin Gordon to put up big numbers for a while, but the real way to handle LSU is to bring the power, and that was the most beautiful part of the Auburn win over Kansas State. When the team needed it, the offensive line kicked it into high gear, forgot about the finesse for a bit, and simply blasted away for grinding, time consuming drives to put the game away. To beat LSU, you need to have an efficient passing game (check) to balance out a dangerous ground attack (check) and you have to be able to control third downs (check). You need to come up with a decent pass rush (check) and the run defense has to be able to hold up for a full four quarters (check). Auburn isnít another Mississippi State, but it might be a whole bunch better.

Rick's "Keep Your Eye On Department: Brandon Harris was this close to being an Auburn Tiger, and now heíll get his first collegiate start for LSU in what has the potential to be a special career. Anthony Jennings was the safer, more experienced choice to start this season, but it was Harris who almost pulled off the impossible against Miss State. When Jennings went 2-of-5 for 11 yards and two picks against New Mexico State, it became an easy call. Harris stepped in and completed 11-of-14 throws for 178 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two rushing scores.

Rick's Bottom Line Welcome to the 16th Annual Not-Funny Groaner guaranteed 100% lock of the year: The Tigers will win! LSU will play far better than it did against MSU. The power of Leonard Fournette and the rest backfield will keep the game under control, but Auburn will have a bit more on offense. It wonít just be the running game; Nick Marshall and the passing attack will unleash the big, talented receivers on the LSU secondary to balance things out just enough to take control early and hang in when Harris comes up with a few outstanding scoring drives. The Auburn Tigers will win and cover!


Eagles (PLUS 5.0) at 49'ers - Sept 28th, 4:25 FOX

Rick's Overview: This Sunday, we will have a great NFC showdown when the Philadelphia Eagles travel west to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Philly comes in undefeated at 3-0, while San Francisco desperately needs to get back on the winning track. The line opens with the 49ers a four point favorites at home, and the total points are set at 50.5. Many believe that this game could be a preview of an NFL Playoff game. I have my own opinions about that, but nonetheless, this is a highly anticipated match-up. It is not very often you see a 1-2 team favored by 4 or 5 points, but then again, this is San Francisco...people are high on them.

For going on three years now, the San Francisco 49ers have been considered one of the better teams in the NFC, as well as the NFL. After they lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Title game last season, I turned to my friend and said "well, the Niners are done for awhile." He thought I was crazy, but here we are. The 49ers are 1-2 and on the verge of being 1-3 if they do not right the ship this week. I predicted before this season started that the NFC West would send two teams to the playoffs (Seattle and Arizona). I called an 8-8 finish for the Niners. Kaepernick in my opinion is an incredible athlete, but I think he makes far too many mistakes at the QB position in big moments. I could be wrong but I predict by 2016, the Niners will begin their search for the next "franchise QB." Okay, anyway, enough about my predictions on this team, but I just do not think they are as good as people seem to think. Currently, San Francisco ranks 17th in the NFL in both passing offense and rushing offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers are the 7th best team against the run and the 15th best against the pass. In defense of the 49ers, they have played a pretty tough schedule so far. I believe the Bears and Cardinals are both NFC Playoff teams, and the Cowboys are never a pushover in Dallas. The key to this game for t 49ers is to control the ball. They cannot let Philadelphia keep that up tempo offense on the field or it could be a long day for them. On the flip side, not only does San Francisco need to keep the Eagles offense on the sideline, they also need to make sure to slow down the attacking Philly offense. These guys can score at will, and can be very explosive. The Niners must eliminate the big plays and make Philly earn every score.

The Philadelphia Eagles look good, really good. They come into this game 3-0 and 1-0 in their division. Of course the Jacksonville win was a given, but since that week one match-up, the Eagles have taken down the Colts and the Redskins. Philadelphia ranks 2nd in the NFL in passing yards averaging over 310 yards a game. The running game is only ranked 19th in the league, but when you are throwing for over 300 yards, another 110 on the ground is just bonus. This is a solid offense. The weakness in the Eagles however is their pass defense. Opponents are passing for over 280 yards a game. In order to slow down the 49ers, this much improve this week. The running defense is top 15, but they will have their hands full with Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick. The Eagles goals in this game are the same as San Francisco's...keep the other teams defense on the field. Controlling the clock and keeping the other defense winded will be a big key to winning this one.

Rick's Bottom Line: This is a pure toss up. A four-five point home favorite (depending on yoour "book") versus a 3-0 team. I have always liked the home favorites, especially when a team is traveling cross country, but going east to west is not as big of a disadvantage as it is going west to east. The "earlier" start for the west coast team on the east has a much bigger effect. As for right now, 62% of the action is being laid on Philadelphia to cover the four. This is not a big enough range in order to bet contrary to the public opinion. I took much of this breakdown explaining that I do not think San Francisco is that good of a team this year, and I think this Sunday is when the 49ers fans officially go into panic mode. I like the Eagles to go into California and get a win. Look for the Eagles to win a 27-23 type contest or lose by no more than a field goal. I'll TAKE THE EAGLES to at least ... Beat The Spread!

Oregon State at Southern California (MINUS 9.0) - Sept 27, 10:30 ESPN

Rick's Overview: No. 18 USC returns to work for the first time since getting embarrassed two weeks ago by Boston College. A week off afforded the Trojans an opportunity to take a deep breath, refocus and really teach some of the younger kids. Itíll be interesting to see how Troy responds to the wild swings of emotion that have marked the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era. Oregon State heads to Los Angeles looking to snap a 22-game Coliseum losing streak that dates back to 1960. The Beavers, like so many unbeaten teams in September, havenít proven a whole lot by taking down Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State.

From The Beavers' Sideline: The Beaver D is comprised of all juniors and seniors, and itís operating like a veteran unit. CB Steven Nelson and SS Ryan Murphy headline a secondary that has yet to allow a touchdown pass in 2014. Meanwhile, the USC defense is still trying to recover from the whooping it received from the Boston College ground game. This is a week that Oregon State might want to see backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods complementing the passing of Sean Mannion a little more.

From The Trojans' Viewpoint: After being shut down two weeks ago, the Trojans are going to run the ball with something to prove. Expect a huge day from RB Javorius Allen, whoíll be facing a retooled D-line thatís had issues in run defense lately. Oregon Stateís new-look offensive line must also prove that it can keep DE Leonard Williams and the rest of the USC defenders off Mannionís back. Mannion, by the way, will be down a weapon now that starting WR Victor Bolden is out with an injury.

Rick's "Keep Your Eye on Department: Can Nelson neutralize Nelson Agholor, the best wide receiver heíll face in the first month of the season? Agholor has already caught 23 passes from Cody Kessler, three of which produced six points. And if Nelson is fixated on Agholor, how will Oregon Stateís other starting corner, Larry Scott, manage USC rookie sensation JuJu Smith?

Rick's Bottom Line: Nothing USC did in the first three games was expected, but Troy is about to restore some stability to the program, if only for a week. The Trojans will handle Oregon State easier than expected behind a huge day on the ground from Allen and a solid all-around effort from the defense. I'll TAKE U.S.C. to both win and cover!


RICK'S "HOT-SPOT" PLAYS

NEBRASKA (MINUS 7.0) OVER MIAMI
VIRGINIA (PLUS 15.0) OVER B.Y.U.
GEORGIA TECH (PLUS 8.0) OVER VIRGINIA TECH
EAST CAROLINA (MINUS 2.0) OVER NORTH CAROLINA

REDSKINS (PLUS 7.0) OVER EAGLES