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NCAA Football Preview – The Texas Longhorns

July 17, 2009

Today we take a look at the Texas Longhorns, a team that dealt the only regular season loss to Oklahoma, but did not manage to get into the Big 12 title game:

2008 Record: 12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS

Three-Year record (’06-’08): 32-7 SU, 20-17-1 ATS

BetOnline Sportsbook NCAA Football Odds

To Win Big 12 South Division

Baylor +1500

Oklahoma +150

Oklahoma State +600

TEXAS Even

Texas A&M +2000

Texas Tech +850

To Win Big 12 title +165

To Win National title +725

Over 10 wins -160

Under 10 wins +120

There wasn’t very much not to like about what Texas was able to do last year. The ‘Horns beat Oklahoma 45-35 in the annual blood war, and suffered its only defeat on the last-second heroics of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech. They lobbied for inclusion in the Big 12 title game, but apparently Oklahoma’s higher ranking, as well as its string of gratuitous 60-point performances, impressed people more, and the Longhorns had to settle for the Fiesta Bowl, where they beat Ohio State by three points.

Colt McCoy had a year that would be pretty hard to duplicate. He completed almost 77% of his passes, with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and has set himself up as a "third party" candidate for the Heisman in case Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford slip somewhere.

McCoy has people to throw to. Quan Cosby was lost, but he had a great running mate last year in Jordan Shipley (89 catches, 1060 yards), who returns. John Chiles, the former backup quarterback, has been converted to wide receiver.

McCoy also was the leading rusher for his team, gaining 561 net years (after sack losses are subtracted) and that is part of a problem for Texas to solve. They need a consistent running attack from somebody like Vondrell McGee, who ran for 376 yards (4.3 ypc) last season. They could conceivably do a committee attack, using sophomore Foswhitt Whittaker and highly-touted freshman Chris Whaley, who brings a lot of size (6’3", 235 pounds) to the table.

The offensive line returns four starters. Center Chris Hall and left tackle Adam Ulatowski are all-conference performers. Ulatowski in particular will supply McCoy with a lot of time to pass. This is a pretty deep group, and it gives hope to the development of a running game.

The primary job for defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is replacing a standout like Brian Orakpo, who won last year’s Bronko Nagurski Award and had 11.5 sacks. Sergio Kindle, an outside linebacker who is back as a senior, had 10.5 sacks, and he has Jared Norton and Roddrick Muckelroy coming back to join him. An interesting recruit was Alex Okafor, a freshman speed rusher who may be able to pick up some of the slack left by Orakpo’s departure. The Texas secondary, with three returnees, will be much tougher this year than last. The guys to watch here are sophomore safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon.

This team will be as tough as any in the Big 12, but I’ve wondered how good McCoy really is. Surely he stacks up with all the other good QB’s in the Big 12, but there is no way he is going to pull those great numbers again. This is a team that has lost just twelve lettermen, meaning Mack Brown has great depth at his disposal. On balance they’re probably the best in the division, but it’s nip-and-tuck with Oklahoma, who could conceivably beat them out.

As far as the over/under, look – with teams of this caliber, every game is winnable. When you are talking about ten wins, you’re asking if they could lose more than two in the regular season. The pivotal game might be an October 31 visit to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. I’ll go with the ‘Horns to go "over" that 10 wins total, though the price is somewhat steep (-160) in the BetOnline NCAA football futures betting odds. I wouldn’t bet them to win the national title, and Oklahoma may bring more value within the division, especially if the Sooners win their duel in Dallas on October 17.

LeBron Posterized – Tapes Confiscated, $50,000 Reward Offered

July 17, 2009

LeBron James basketball camp is supposed to be for young kids to learn, grow their basketball skills and have some fun.

Apparently it’s not all just fun and games for everyone.

Recently, at LeBron James Skills Academy, James and four teammates (Cavs players James, Danny Green, Tarence Kinsey, Christian Eyenga, and James’ high school teammate Romeo Travis) played a five-on-five game against five college players, including Xavier transfer Jordan Crawford.

Crawford, drove to the basket on a play and slammed home a dunk over LeBron James, which set off quite the uproar.

Most people understand that basketball is an offensive game and points are scored in the 100’s, which means each team scores roughly 40-50 baskets a game. In a sport where offense dominates so much, you would think that no one would take it personal when someone scores but James – the NBA’s leading scorer – did.

Nike officials, who run the camp, quickly found everyone videotaping the event and confiscated the tapes.

Nike, who is obviously a huge sponsor of James, didn’t want their superstar to lose any of his shine and as we all know, in the modern day with the internet, the video of James getting dunked on would have circulated around Facebook, Twitter and Youtube so fast that by the end of the day, millions of people would have seen it.

The behavior of Nike Basketball senior director Lynn Merritt, who helps run the camp at the University of Akron in James’ hometown, was a little much when he confiscated tapes. The reasoning was also weak, suggesting that videotaping of after-hours pickup games at the camp is not allowed.

A similar incident happened to New Jersey Nets point guard, Devin Harris, was styled on in a street pickup game and while the video circled around the internet, nobody believe that Harris was a less-skilled basketball player because an amateur scored on him in a street game.

At the end of the day, Nike is trying to protect their brand and their superstar but this kind of shady activity is going to hurt them more than the actual video would have. While James getting dunked on at his own camp may not display him in the best light, the brand Nike has been shed in a worse light since they now look like FBI agents forcing regular fans to give up their video memories.

I for one think the video could be spun in Nike’s and LeBron’s favor. Why not let people see that video, it could inspire countless youngsters that may not believe they have what it takes to ever be up to The King’s status. James could come out and say that “Yea I got dunked on, props to the youngster”.

BetOnline is so determined to find a copy of that video, they are offering up $50,000 to anyone who can produce a tape of that day so that everyone can see that LeBron is indeed human and that in the world of sports, anything is possible.

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 Quarterfinals – USA vs. Panama

July 16, 2009

European champions Spain can vouch for the credentials of the US football team as they were shocked by the American juggernaut at the Confederations Cup semi-finals earlier last month. Bob Bradley’s team went on to the final where they very nearly shocked Brazil after taking the 2-0 lead, before acceding 3 goals and bowing out with a runner-up finish. It is not the same calibre of players that made their way to the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2009 competition to defend their title. Bob Bradley sent a true “B”. But any perceived shortcomings on the bench did not materialize on the pitch and they went through the group stage undefeated. Next up for USA in the knock out stages of the tournament is Panama, a side that finished third in Group C and that was promoted into the quarterfinals through one of the two spots reserved for the best third placed teams.

Soccer Betting Line:

USA -1½ Ev -325 2½ O -130 U Ev Draw +325

Panama +1½ -130 +650 2½ O -130 U Ev Draw +325

Match Time: 05:00 P.M. Eastern Time Saturday July 18 2009

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

USA hot favourites

USA has been rolling through the competition and save for their 2-2 draw against Haiti they have been nigh-perfect. It is hard to see anything other than a comfortable victory for the USA against Panama. They are unbeaten in group action. They are bolstered by their international turnout. And they intend to ride this successful wave to the finish line. More significantly, they have home edge as the USA is hosting this tournament this year.

Panama long shot bet

Panama are huge underdogs in this match and they enter with a +650 price tag in the BetOnline soccer betting marketplace. Panama made it into the quarters not so much on their own merit, as they finished third, but through the competitions rules which allows two third placed teams to advance. That said, Panama did finish the group stage with a morale boosting 4:0 pounding of Nicaragua.

Soccer Betting Verdict: While the market tips this match as a complete USA beat down, I believe this match will be a lot closer. The pressure will be all on the USA to perform in front of their home fans. The stakes are high against Panama and they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They rose to the occasion in their last match against Nicaragua and I expect they will rise to the occasion once again and try to make a match of it. That said, the Americans should be too strong for them and the best Panama can do is to lose respectably. USA at -325 is the value play. Over 2.5 goals is the totals pick.

UFC 100 Salaries – Inside Look at the Payouts for Each Fighter

July 16, 2009

The UFC 100 fighter salaries have been announced, and once again there are some surprising major discrepancies between what some of the top fighters earned on perhaps the UFC’s biggest night.

Take the main event fight between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir for example. Lesnar took home an event-high $400,000 for his base salary, and that number would have been doubled if Lesnar didn’t alienate thousands of fans with his post-fight antics as well as perhaps the UFC’s top sponsor, Bud Light.

As for the challenger Mir, who came in already holding a win over Lesnar? $45,000. Yep, that’s it. Keep in mind, however, that Mir was still on a contract from his days as an unknown commodity still recovering from his time after a devastating motorcycle accident that left him with a broken leg and torn knee ligaments. Still, that discrepancy doesn’t seem remotely fair. Undercard fighter Dong Hyun Kim made more at $58,000 than headliner Mir.

The big-name fighters like Lesnar often get other bonuses such as portions of the pay-per-view revenue and sponsorship and it’s estimated that the headlining former WWE star took home far more than his listed amount.

The fight bonuses of $100,000 handed out included Dan Henderson for his vicious knockout of Michael Bisping as Knockout of the Night, Tom Lawlor for his submission on C.B. Dollaway, the former Ultimate Fighter runner-up to Amir Sadollah, and Yoshiro Akiyama and Alan Belcher for fight of the night.

The $100,000 prize for Belcher was well-deserved and might ease the sting a little bit following his heart-breaking decision loss to Akiyama that many thought he should have won due to the damage his leg kicks and elbows did.

Other notable UFC 100 salaries included Jon Fitch, the former welterweight title challenger, getting $90,000 total (including a $45,000 win bonus), while his opponent Paulo Thiago only got $8,000.

Georges St. Pierre took home $400,000 including a $200,000 win bonus while his opponent Thiago Alves got $60,000.

Michael Bisping surprisingly took in a solid $150,000 due to his ability draw PPV buys in the UK while Dan Henderson got $250,000 including a $125,000 win bonus.

Aging former star Mark Coleman took home $100,000 altogether for his decision win over Stephan Bonnar, a number that explains clear as day why the veteran continues to put his body through the stress and abuse of being a fighter in the UFC.

NCAA Football Insider – Early look at the LSU Tigers

July 16, 2009

NCAA Football Futures Betting

LSU TIGERS: CAN THEY BE ROAD WARRIORS?

Today we take a look at the LSU Tigers, who won the national title two seasons ago but didn’t do much in terms of the follow-up last season:

2008 Record: 8-5 SU, 3-9 ATS

Three-Year record (’06-’08): 31-9 SU, 14-23-2 ATS

BetOnline Sportsbook NCAA Football Odds

To Win SEC West Division

Alabama +200

Arkansas +650

Auburn +1200

LOUISIANA STATE +220

Mississippi +200

Mississippi State +2000

To Win SEC title +325

To Win National title +1900

Under 8.5 wins -135

Over 8.5 wins -105

There’s no two ways about it – LSU was a disappointment last season, and they know it. The Tigers lost home games to Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss, were also routed by Florida, and had life-and-death with Sun Belt entry Troy before emerging victorious. They achieved a vindication of sorts in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl when they destroyed Georgia Tech 38-3.

One of the stars in that game for LSU was quarterback Jordan Jefferson, but he is nonetheless a potentially shaky part of this offense. Jefferson completed less than 50% of his passes, and it was this inconsistency in the passing game that led to LSU’s mediocre season. The thing is, Jefferson is probably a better alternative at this time than either Jarrett Lee (14 TD’s, 16 INT’s last year) or freshman Russell Shepard, who is the guy Les Miles will go with if he is looking for someone who can really run.

There isn’t a bad cast of receivers. The best returnee is Brandon LaFell, who had 63 receptions to lead the SEC and was second in yardage gained. One of the other pass catchers who could emerge is Terrance Toliver, who caught only 22 balls last year but came to Baton Rouge with a huge reputation.

In the end, though, if the Tigers can’t run their offense is not going to work. That means handing the ball to Charles Scott, who stood out with 5.4 yards a carry and 18 rushing touchdowns, which was tops in the conference. Scott, who is a legitimate All-America candidate, may be relied upon even more this season, which will pad his yardage total (1174 in ’08), but there is also a capable relief man in Keiland Williams (417 yards last year).

It was a tough break for LSU that they lost All-America guard Herman Johnson to the NFL Draft, but this team does manage to return three starters to its offensive line.

The defense allowed 30 points or more five times, including 50+ points to Florida and Georgia. In consecutive years, this team has lost defensive linemen who have been drafted in the top five – Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. They still should be a good run-stopping unit against most teams (allowed 3.4 ypc last year). Indeed, the top four tacklers are back. Rahim Alem, a defensive end who didn’t even play all the time, should be able to improve upon his 8.5-sack total from ’08.

All three linebackers from last year’s starting crew return. One of them is Perry Riley, who was the defensive MVP of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. They also should have one of the best secondary’s in the SEC. Patrick Peterson, who snagged one of the starting cornerback jobs during the course of last season, is a future star and one of three returning starters.

LSU’s non-conference schedule is pretty mild. They visit Washington, and host Louisiana (formerly Louisiana-Lafayette), Louisiana Tech and Tulane. They do have some challenges during conference play as they have to play road contests against Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss – three teams who beat them at Tiger Stadium last year. Then, of course, there is a home game against the awesome Florida Gators.

LSU is in the top ten on a lot of pre-season lists. Maybe, but they’re a marginal top ten pick at best. I don’t think they’re getting by Ole Miss in the division, and they certainly won’t topple Florida in the SEC. They just won’t get enough of a payoff from the quarterback position. That having been said, they have talent, and I would be perfectly willing to go "over" the total of 8.5 wins (at -105 in the BetOnline NCAA football futures betting odds) because of the light non-SEC slate.

WTA Palermo Quarterfinal Quick Picks

July 16, 2009

Palermo, Italy – The WTA Palermo moves into the quarterfinal round as tennis betting continues at BetOnline Sportsbook. Through to the final eight is top seed and Italy’s own Flavia Pennetta, along with second seed Patty Schnyder, fifth seed and defending champion Sara Errani and seventh seed Aravane Rezai. A spot in the Palermo semis is on the line – who will advance? Here is a look at some of the quarterfinal matchups at WTA Palermo.

Tennis Betting Line: Flavia Pennetta vs. Aravane Rezai

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: It will be the second career meeting between No.15 Flavia Pennetta and No.43 Aravane Rezai. The pair met, ironically, in the first round at Palermo in 2007. Pennetta defeated Rezai 6-3, 7-5. This year, their rematch comes in the quarters. Pennetta is a clay court aficionado having won most of her career titles on this surface. She has home edge. She is a top 20 player. She is therefore the value play.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Pennetta in straight sets.

Tennis Betting Line: Tathiana Garbin vs. Olga Govortsova

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: Italy’s Tathiana Garbin had a surprisingly easy victory over last week’s Bastad champion Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the second round. No.66 Garbin (32-years-old) made short work of Martinez Sanchez, 6-2, 6-3. In reaching the quarters, she improves to 16-15 on the season.

Next up is Belarusian Olga Govortsova. The 22-year-old Belarusian arrived in Palermo 12-16 on the season and improves to 14-16 by reaching the quarters. She beat sixth seed Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. Garbin has the home edge so technically she is a good play; I like the young up-and-coming Govortsova.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Govortsova in straight sets

Tennis Betting Line: Anna-Lena Groenefeld vs. Patty Schnyder

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: Second seed Patty Schnyder is a strong favourite amongst the field of players competing for the title in Palermo. Schnyder won this event on her debut at Palermo in 1998. She is making her second career appearance in Palermo and interestingly, she has never won a clay court title since. Schnyder moved into the final eight with a commanding victory over Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-2, 6-2. Schnyder is on form and she takes a 2-0 edge over Groenefeld that includes their 2009 Fed Cup clash.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Schnyder in straight sets

Prague Open Quarters – Schiavone and Navarro on collision course

July 16, 2009

Prague, Czech Republic—The ECM Prague Open quarterfinal line-up took shape today and among the winners was top seed Francesca Schiavone and fourth seed Carla Suarez Navarro. Schiavone advanced into the final eight with an imperious 6-2, 6-2 win over Polona Hercog; meanwhile, Navarro moved into the final eight with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over local favourite Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Schiavone and Navarro are headed for a clash in the semis but first they must handle their quarterfinal opponents. Schiavone next faces Kateryna Bondarenko and Navarro will battle Timea Bacsinszky. Here is a look at the quarterfinal matchups in the top half of the draw.

Tennis Betting Line: Francesca Schiavone vs. Kateryna Bondarenko

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: Top seed Francesca Schiavone enters this match as the favourite to advance into the semis. Schiavone currently ranks No.30 in the world. She arrived in Prague 20-16 on the season and in reaching the quarters, she improves to 22-16. Schiavone started slowly this season but she has picked up pace recently. She was a semi-finalist in Barcelona and S’Hertogenbosch, and a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon.

It will be her first career meeting against No.68 Kateryna Bondarenko. The 22-year-old Ukrainian improves to 14-14 on the season by reaching the quarters. She beat older sister Alona Bondarenko (the fifth seed) in the first round and Kristina Barrois in the second round.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Schiavone in three sets is the pick.

Tennis Betting Line: Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Timea Bacsinszky

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: No.33 Cara Suarez Navarro takes a 25-18 mark on the season into this match and a 1-0 edge in head-to-heads. The spunky Navarro (20) has had some noteworthy results this season, namely beating Venus Williams at the Australian Open to reach the quarterfinals (l. to Dementieva). She also reached the Marbella finals where she lost to Jelena Jankovic in three sets 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and the semis at Barcelona (l to Maria Kirilenko). Most recently, she was a quarterfinalist in Bastad where she lost to eventual champion, compatriot Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Timea Baczinsky weighs in at No.102 in the world and takes a 13-10 mark into the quarters. She is making her second quarterfinal appearance after reaching the quarters in Budapest last week where she lost to eventual champion Agnes Szavay.

While Bacsinszky has a good clay court game Navarro is a clay court specialist. This is the surface where she can do the most damage. She is the better play.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Navarro in three sets

Prague Open Quarters – Benesova and Bammer eye Semis

July 16, 2009

Prague, Czech Republic—As Thursday tennis-betting action came to a close the quarterfinal line-up at the ECM Prague Open took shape. Through to the final eight is second seed Sybille Bammer as well as third seed and local favourite Iveta Benesova. The top two seeds in the bottom half of the draw are headed for a collision in the semis. Benesova faces wild card Zarina Diyas next who topped eighth seed Petra Kvitova in the second round; meanwhile, Sybille Bammer will battle local favourite Lucie Hradecka for a spot in the final four. Here is a look at the quarterfinal matchups in the bottom half of the draw.

Tennis Betting Line: Iveta Benesova vs. Zarina Diyas

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: Zarina Diyas from Kazakhstan accounted for the biggest upset on Thursday when she upset eighth seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2. Diyas is only 15-years-old and she entered the ECM Prague Open on a wild card. She has put that free pass to great use, punching above her weight class and surprising just about everyone. Very little was known about this youngster but after this week surely that will change. Diyas next takes on another local favourite in Iveta Benesova. Can she go one better in Prague? One thing is for certain, Benesova will not underestimate Diyas after the heroics against Kvitova that booked her the spot in the quarters.

Iveta Benesova is the third seed and local favourite for the title. Benesova is 20-17 on the season, which includes a runner-up finish in Hobart (l. to Kvitova), back-to-back semis in Acapulco (l. to Pennetta) and Monterrey (l. to Li) and quarters in Miami (l to Venus Williams). Benesova’s favourite surface is clay. She also has home edge. She should be the value play in this match.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Benesova in straight sets

Tennis Betting Line: Lucie Hradecka +150 Sybille Bammer -200

Match Time: 06:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Tennis Betting Verdict: Austrian Sybille Bammer is the second seed in Prague. She reaches the quarters with victories over Pironkova and Kudryavtseva. Bammer is a seasoned player at 29-years-old. She weighs in as the No.31 player in the world and arrived with a 9-12 mark. She reaches her second quarterfinals since Indian Wells when she withdrew Ana Ivanovic. In reaching the quarters, she improves to 11-12 on the season. She enters this match as the favourite.

No.56 Lucie Hradecka is not the bookies favourite but she will be the crowd’s favourite. The Czech player is 22-14 on the season. She is level 1-1 in head-to-heads with Bammer; however, the last time they met was in 2005. With home edge and the crowd fully behind Hradecka and Bammer’s well-known mental frailty and inability to close matches under pressure, Hradecka might come through with the upset.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Hradecka in three sets

Swedish Open – Robredo and Verdasco on crash course in semis

July 16, 2009

Bastad, Sweden – Defending champion Tommy Robredo went through to the final eight when he beat qualifier Peter Luczak of Poland. Joining him in the quarters is compatriot Fernando Verdasco who survived a three-set thriller and saved a match point against Daniel Koellerer of Austria 6-7(1), 6-2, 7-5.

Robredo and Verdasco are on a collision course in Bastad, set to collide in the semis should they both advance in the quarters. Here is a look at their upcoming quarterfinal encounters.

Tennis Betting Line: Tommy Robredo -800 Teimuraz Gabashvili +425

Match Time: 05:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Head-to-Head Analysis: It will be the first-career meeting between No.16 Tommy Robredo and No.75 Teimuraz Gabashvili.

Tennis Betting Verdict: Defending champion and third seed Tommy Robredo is a hot favourite to advance into the semis, listed at BetOnline Sportsbook at -800. The Spaniard is enjoying a standout season and enters the quarters with a 35-14 mark and 2 clay court titles on the season. Robredo was a 2009 French Open quarterfinalist most recently. Clay courts are clearly his best surface.

Teimuraz Gabashvili is a hefty underdog in this match. The Russsian arrived in Bastad 8-16 on the season. In reaching the quarters, Gabashvili topped Christophe Rochus and Bjorn Phau and improves to 10-16. Gabashvili is not without clay-court skills himself but Robredo is in a different league. Gabashvili would have to play the match of the tournament to beat Robredo. Though anything is possible, banking on Gabashvili is a long shot bet. Robredo is the value play.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Robredo in three sets

Tennis Betting Line: Fernando Verdasco -200 Juan Monaco +150

Match Time: 05:00 A.M. Eastern Time Friday July 17 2009

Head-to-Head Analysis: No.9 Fernando Verdasco trails 2-4 lifetime against No.61 Juan Monaco; however, Verdasco beat Monaco most recently at the Masters Madrid R16 7-5, 6-2.

Tennis Betting Verdict: Top seed and world No.9 Fernando Verdasco should enter this match as a firm favourite to advance into the semis. There is a lot of value in betting on Verdasco this season; he has made at least the quarters or better in 8 of 12 tournaments this season. He is an impressive 31-13 coming into this tournament and with his second round victory – a hard fought one – he improves to 32-13. That said, Juan Monaco (the underdog) in this match is a value play as well. If there were an underdog that could mastermind the upset in Bastad, it would be Monaco. The Argentine is a clay court specialist. In 2007, he picked up three titles on clay Buenos Aires, Poertschach and Kitzbuhel – ironically, he beat Verdasco in the semis in Kitzbuhel that year en route to the title. Granted going on season alone, Verdasco is the better play; going, on surface either player has a chance and tennis bettors would do worse than bank on the underdog.

Tennis Betting Free Picks: Verdasco in three sets

NFL Inside Look – The Washington Redskins

July 16, 2009

The Redskins got a nice break out of the starting gate, winning four of their first five and six of their first eight and included in those wins included key division road wins over Dallas and Philadelphia. Beginning with a 23-6 home loss to Pittsburgh, though, things started to crumble, and it has hard to right the ship as the ‘Skins just stopped scoring. Ultimately it was an 8-8 season (6-8-2 ATS) and a lot of questions being raised about quarterback Jason Campbell.

Why will things be different on offense this year?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

BetOnline Sportsbook Odds
To Win NFC East 

  • New York Giants       +165
  • Dallas Cowboys        +250
  • Philadelphia Eagles              +210
  • WASHINGTON REDSKINS             +550
  • To Win Super Bowl: +3300
  • To Win NFC title: +1600
  • To Reach Conference title game: +700
  • Under 8 wins  -125
  • Over 8 wins -105

There was a lot of talk out of training camp last season that Jason Campbell really "got it" and was ready to become a much more productive NFL quarterback as he was grasping Jim Zorn’s version of the West Coast attack. This was important, as Todd Collins had been the guy who steadied this team and brought it on a playoff run in what turned out to be Joe Gibbs’ final season as head coach.

Campbell had the ‘Skins out to a 6-2 start, and things looked good. Then the offense hit the brick wall, and the 2-6 record in the second half of the season featured five games in which they scored ten points or less. Campbell doesn’t really provide the answer at quarterback in the NFL, and team management recognized this, as it tried to make a deal for Jay Cutler, then attempted to trade up for Mark Sanchez. So on top of the fact that he is no more than a middle-of-the-road QB, Campbell (3245 yards, 13 TD’s) knows they don’t have confidence in him, which is why they’re happy to keep Collins around.

There are some pretty good performers on this offensive unit, though. Clinton Portis (1487 yards last year) is a legitimate #1 NFL running back, if he can stay healthy, and he’s backed up by Ladell Betts. Portis seemed to tire from the workload in the season’s second half, so expect them to use Betts a little more to let him pace himself. Santana Moss is a dangerous wide receiver, and Antwaan Randle-El is not a bad second banana. They’ll need to get something out of one the wideouts they drafted high last season – Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas.

Tight end Chris Cooley caught 83 passes last season and is one of the best in the business. He will once again be a favorite outlet of Campbell (or Collins). Fred Davis, the tight end who was drafted on the second round out of USC last season, should be more of a part of the offense and give them a chance to do some double-TE situations, if he can stay out of Jim Zorn’s doghouse. The protection is relatively solid with left tackle Chris Samuels manning the position. We already know that this offensive line can open holes for the running game. Because Campbell is so non-explosive, they are going to have to do it again.

Defensively, this team could not put together a pass rush last season, and Jason Taylor, who they acquired from Miami (and who has since gone back), was out with injury for most of the year. That problem was addressed. The Redskins made one of the bigger splashes of the free agent season when they signed Albert Haynesworth, the All-Pro from the Titans. Haynesworth not only plugs up the run from his defensive tackle position, he also generates an awful lot of pressure on the quarterback for an inside lineman. Then, with the 13th pick in the draft, Washington took Brian Orakpo of Texas, recognized as one of the better pass rushers in college football.

More pressure on opposing passers will make a good secondary even better. D’Angelo Hall, if he can get back to his Pro Bowl form, helps enormously opposite Carlos Rogers, and Laron Landry and Chris Horton, a second-year man, are a very capable pair of safeties. Beyond London Fletcher, the linebacking corps has some holes that need to be plugged up.

Washington will live and die by the running game, but that isn’t quite enough. If they continue to try justifying selecting Campbell in the first round four years ago, this is a team that may not climb from the limbo of .500 football. Because I think at some point they will turn to Collins, and the defense has become more dynamic, I would go "over" eight wins (-105) in the BetOnline NFL football futures odds, but it would not be a strong recommendation.

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