Welcome Back to College Football (55% in 2010)

The 2011 football season is finally upon us, beginning with a healthy slate of Thursday games in college football, which of course means the return of our Free NCAA Football Picks.

We have, so far, just one pick for Thursday night's opening action, and we assure you, this is not a basketball pick, despite the teams involved.

Syracuse -6 1/2 over Wake Forest

We could potentially add to that for Thursday and even Friday, but most assuredly, there will be several picks for the opening Saturday of the college football season. Stay with us all year for our absolute, 100% Free NCAA Football Picks every week.

Last year, our Free NCAA Football Picks finished at 55%, supported by a very strong 90% bowl season. In the beginning, though, there were plenty of ups and downs, as we endured three consecutive losing weeks early in the season.

We often struggle to start the college schedule, due to some of the wild double-digit spreads caused by unbalanced non-conference games. Conversely, our Free NFL Picks usually start off much better in the beginning of the season and then go about .500 the rest of the way.

We'll try to change both of those blemishes, of course, but consider this a disclaimer if you are tailing our picks (like you need any more of a disclaimer while following free picks from a sketchy blogspot site). All that said, our Free Picks have been pretty successful, with a 55% college season accompanying a 60% year in the NFL. Last year's results are below, for posterity's sake.

2010Free NCAA Football Picks

Week 1: 5-4-1

Week 2: 8-4

Week 3: 3-6

Week 4: 4-7

Week 5: 3-6

Week 6: 5-2

Week 7: 5-3

Week 8: 5-3

Week 9: 5-0

Week 10: 3-3

Week 11: 1-7

Week 12: 2-2

Week 13: 4-3

Week 14: 2-2

Bowls: 9-1

Overall: 64-53-1... 55%

Free NFL Picks: Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Jets Nets NFL Picks

New York Jets Nets vs Philadelphia Eagles Free NFL Picks: The New York Jets are just hours removed from playing their Week 3 preseason clash with the New York Giants. Now, Head Coach Rex Ryan and company have to get ready for the Philadelphia Eagles, who fly into town on Thursday night for the preseason finale.

Don’t expect to see a whole heck of a lot out of the starters for the Eagles this week, as they really have played well in the preseason and look prepped for the games that count starting next week. QB Michael Vick led his offense to a 24-0 lead last week against the Cleveland Browns before the backups conceded some late scores, but the team was still more than good enough to cover a hefty seven point spread.

Instead, expect to see a ton of work for QB Mike Kafka. Kafka only was in the game to hand off the ball and to take knees last week at the end of the game, but this week, you can be sure that Head Coach Andy Reid is going to let him fire away at the New York defense.

He has completed over 70 percent of his passes over the course of the preseason, and he has been one of the most efficient passers in exhibitions over the last two preseasons. Don’t be shocked if the former Northwestern Wildcat is in for a great game against a typically stout defense.

The Jets definitely have their share of problems right now. There is no way whatsoever that they are going to be using the starters at all in this preseason finale, especially after playing a half of ball against the Giants on just Monday night.

However, the real question is how the starters in this one, who were likely the backups on Monday, are going to be able to play on just a three day turnaround. It’s really an inhumane thing to do to these players, and though they aren’t starters, they are going to be important cogs to the puzzle for the Jets this year.

Head Coach Rex Ryan isn’t an idiot. He knows that to avoid unnecessary injuries in this one, he needs to use a bunch of players that are either fringe guys, practice squad guys, or guys that he knows that he is going to cut as soon as the game is over.

That being said, a large portion of this game is probably going to be quarterbacked by QB Drew Willy, which really can’t put any confidence into those making their Free NFL picks on the Jets.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets Free Picks: Sorry, New York. There will be better opportunities for you than this one. The Eagles, for what it’s worth, have gone 5-0 in this series in the regular season dating all the way back to 1987. Don’t be surprised if this one gets brutally ugly in a hurry causing the boo birds to come out in the Big Apple.

NFL Picks: Philadelphia Eagles OTB

If you’re looking For Great NFL Picks, Check out the NFL Forums at Bang the Book!

Dallas Cowboys Free NFL Picks: 2011 Dallas Cowboys NFL Picks

2011 Dallas Cowboys Free NFL Picks: Things did not go according to script for the Cowboys in 2010. In what was supposed to be a championship run that ended up with a victory in Super Bowl XLV in their home stadium, ended up as a total nightmare with a 1-6 start, a season-ending injury to quarterback Tony Romo, and a mid-season change at head coach.

Team owner Jerry Jones remains confident that everything is back in place for a return to the level of play his team put forth in the 2009 season when Dallas won the NFC East.

Former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was promoted to the permanent head coaching position after salvaging a 6-10 record from such a dreadful start. The 2011 version of the Cowboys is already guaranteed to be better with the return of Romo to the starting lineup.

He was coming off is best season as a pro in 2009 and completing close to 70 percent of his passes last year before going down in Week 6 with a broken collar bone. Also back is WR Dez Bryant, who broke his ankle returning a kickoff in early December.

They will be joined by a crowded backfield that includes veteran RB’s Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, along with third-round pick DeMarco Murray. Romo will quickly look to reconnect with his two favorite receivers, Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten, while working rookie WR Dwayne Harris into the mix.

Even with backup Jon Kitna at the helm, Dallas finished the 2010 season ranked seventh in both yards and points per game, so with Romo back at the helm, the Cowboys have the potential to be one of the top offenses in the league.

The real fun could be on the defensive side of the ball with addition of Rob Ryan as Dallas’s new coordinator. He has already tried to stir things up in the division by calling Philadelphia the “all-hype team”.

In the same vein as his father Buddy and brother Rex, he looks to motivate his own players by antagonizing the competition. He has to hope that there is enough talent on this squad to back these words up, especially given the fact that Dallas finished last season ranked 23rd in the league overall and 31st in points allowed.

The addition of LB Bruce Carter in the second round of the draft along with DE Kenyon Coleman and DB Abram Elam through free agency will help to add some depth, but the Cowboys will be going with basically the same players as last year.

There is still a wealth of talent up and down Dallas’s roster, but the trick for guys like Garrett and Ryan is to get them to play to their potential on a consistent basis, which is something that previous head coach Wade Phillips could never seem to accomplish.

The good news for Cowboy fans is that Garrett has already seemed to win this team over with his performance as the interim coach last season and Ryan is the perfect guy to light a fire under a defense that tended to just smolder under Phillips’ direction. Overall, it will be a tall task to keep up with the Giants and the Eagles in the East, but this year’s Cowboys will be much more competitive than last year’s squad.

2011 NFL Prediction: 9-7 and third in the NFC East.

2011 NFL Team Betting Previews- Dallas Cowboys Odds by Free NFL Picks

NFL Picks to win the NFC East +300

NFL Picks to win the NFC +1200

NFL Picks to win the Super Bowl +2000

Win Total 9

If you’re looking For Great NFL Picks, Check out the NFL Forums at Bang the Book!

So... Who Wants to Bet on the Lingerie Football League?

It's back to football alright, just maybe not exactly what you had in mind.

The Lingerie Football League, which is surprisingly well organized and put together, kicks off today, and wouldn't you know it, you can actually bet on the thing.

Here are the odds to win Lingerie Bowl IX in Las Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2012:

Los Angeles Temptation... 6/5

Philadelphia Passion... 3/2

Chicago Bliss... 4/1

Orlando Fantasy... 6/1

Tampa Bay Breeze... 8/1

Seattle Mist... 10/1

Baltimore Charm... 12/1

Green Bay Chill... 18/1

Minnesota Valkyrie... 20/1

Cleveland Crush... 20/1

Las Vegas Sin... 30/1

Toronto Triumph... 30/1

What's that you say? Can't wait until February to get a payoff on your Lingerie Football League bet? Don't worry, you can bet on all the games leading up to the infamous Lingerie Bowl, beginning with tonight's contest between the Green Bay Chill and Minnesota Valkyrie. We like the Chill at -2 1/2.

We'll check back in on these odds as we near Super Bowl XLVI (46), and of course, Lingerie Bowl IX (9). That is, if we don't get hooked and start betting on Lingerie Football every week.

With less than two weeks until the NFL kickoff and less than a week until the college football slate is underway, we'll try to save our football betting bankroll for just a little while longer.

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends (and Defenses and Kickers)

We've given you our 2011 fantasy football rankings for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, and if you haven't done so already, take a look at those before you proceed.

Go ahead, we'll wait.

OK, now that you've studied up on our previous rankings, your priorities are in order. We're of the opinion that you want to load up on the running backs and wide receivers throughout your draft, and that you should make sure to grab a top-tier quarterback and be done with that.

The latter is how we also feel about tight ends. Get a good one early, and don't even bother with a backup. The waiver wire will eventually offer plenty of pieces for you to plug in.

As for kickers and defenses, don't even bother worrying about either until the last two rounds. The big rallying cry from top fantasy football experts is to never draft a kicker before the last round, and we feel the same about defenses. We feel like the second-to-last-round is a perfect spot for your kicker. This way, you get one of your top-rated kickers before everybody else in the last round follows the advice of the so-called experts.

Defenses, meanwhile, are an equal crapshoot. Just pick one up in the last round and watch the waiver wire during the season, where a top 10 defense is sure to reside at some point early on.

The only rankings we'll provide here are our tight ends:

Tier 1
1. Antonio Gates
2. Jason Witten
3. Dallas Clark
4. Jermichael Finley
5. Vernon Davis

That's all we'll even bother to show you. Pick up one of these guys in the fourth or fifth round and be done with it. Kickers and defenses we'll trust you to figure out on your own.

Not a fan of fantasy football? (What's wrong with you?) Don't worry, we'll be back to betting on games as soon as they matter--starting with a pick in the Packers-Saints game season-opener on Sept. 8.

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers

The upcoming weekend is a big one in the world of fantasy football, coinciding with the third and most telling week of preseason action. We've knocked out our Quarterback and Running back rankings, and we're going to help you get ready for the weekend with our third installment of fantasy football position rankings, this time focusing on the wide receivers.

Tier 1

1. Andre Johnson

2. Roddy White

3. Calvin Johnson

4. Hakeem Nicks

5. Larry Fitzgerald

6. Greg Jennings

7. Reggie Wayne

8. Mike Wallace

Tier 2

9. Vincent Jackson

10. DeSean Jackson

11. Dwayne Bowe

12. Dez Bryant

13. Kenny Britt

14. Miles Austin

15. Santonio Holmes

16. Marques Colston

17. Brandon Marshall

18. Brandon Lloyd

19. Steve Johnson

Tier 3

20. Percy Harvin

21. Anquan Boldin

22. Wes Welker

23. Mike Williams (TB)

24. Jeremy Maclin

25. Mario Manningham
26. Chad Ochocinco
27. Sidney Rice

Tier 4
28. Santana Moss
29. Pierre Garcon
30. Austin Collie
31. Mike Sims-Walker
32. Mike Thomas
33. Steve Smith (CAR)
34. A.J. Green
35. Michael Crabtree
36. Robert Meachem
37. Julio Jones
38. Braylon Edwards

Tier 5
39. Malcolm Floyd
40. Roy Williams
41. Johnny Knox
42. Lee Evans
43. Jordy Nelson
44. James Jones
45. Jerome Simpson
46. Jacoby Ford
47. Plaxico Burress
48. Hines Ward
49. Davone Bess
50. Danny Amendola
51. Deion Branch
52. Derrick Mason
53. Donald Driver
54. Lance Moore
55. Steve Breaston
56. Emmanuel Sanders
57. Kevin Walter
58. Nate Burleson
59. Steve Smith (PHI)
60. Mike Williams (SEA)
61. Andre Roberts
62. Arrelious Benn
63. Jason Hill
64. Eddie Royal

For the wide receiver group, our tiers are expanded as there is only a slight difference between many of the players in the talent pool. The lesson here, as always, is get at least one guy in the top tier. If you are yourself with a top tier quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end in the first four or five rounds, you'll be in good shape no matter how the rest of the draft shakes out.

2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

Ahhh running backs. The lifeblood of fantasy football. Or at least, they used to be, back when all 32 teams had a feature running back to take all the carries and rack up a ton of points. Not so anymore, which is where we come in to sort through them all and make sure you get the right ones.

Continuing our 2011 Fantasy Football series after unveiling our Quarterback Rankings last week, it's time to take a look at the top running backs in the the NFL--for fantasy purposes, anyway.

Tier 1

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Chris Johnson

3. Jamaal Charles

4. Arian Foster

5. Ray Rice

Tier 2

6. LeSean McCoy

7. Maurice Jones-Drew

8. Rashard Mendenhall

9. Darren McFadden

10. Frank Gore

Tier 3

11. Matt Forte

12. Steven Jackson

13. Michael Turner

14. Ahmad Bradshaw

15. Peyton Hillis

Tier 4

16. LeGarrette Blount

17. Knowshon Moreno

18. Jahvid Best

19. Shonn Greene

Tier 5

20. Mark Ingram

21. Daniel Thomas

22. Ryan Mathews

23. Felix Jones

24. DeAngelo Williams

25. Cedric Benson

26. Ryan Grant

27. Marshawn Lynch

28. Fred Jackson

29. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Tier 6

30. Jonathan Stewart

31. Tim Hightower

32. Beanie Wells

33. Ryan Williams

34. Mike Tolbert

35. Michael Bush

36. Pierre Thomas

37. Joseph Addai

39. C.J. Spiller

40. James Starks

Tier 7

41. Brandon Jacobs

42. Reggie Bush

43. Danny Woodhead

44. Ryan Torain

45. Roy Helu

46. Darren Sproles

47. Rashad Jennings

Tier 8

48. LaDainian Tomlinson

49. Ronnie Brown

50. Willis McGahee

51. Thomas Jones

52. Ricky Williams

Tier 9

53. Montario Hardesty

54. Jerome Harrison

55. Javon Ringer

56. Bernard Scott

58. DeMarco Murray

59. Jason Snelling

60. Ben Tate

61. Marion Barber

62. Brandon Jackson

63. Delone Carter

64. Shane Vereen

65. Justin Forsett

66. Donald Brown

67. Toby Gerhart

68. Anthony Dixon

69. Cadillac Williams

The Running Back position, as you can see, has turned into one big clusterfudge in the fantasy football world. Just as we advised that you pick up a Tier 1 quarterback, that would be ideal with running backs as well, but definitely have at least one of the top 15 guys or you really don't know what you're getting.

The shortage of quality backs means, quite simply, just pick as many of them as you can. That 20-40 group can almost be flipped around without anybody putting up too much of a fight, which is quite the predicament for fantasy players looking to get a stud No. 2 back. So our advice is to stockpile the position and hope that your Tim Hightowers separate from your Ryan Torains.

At the top, there are more enticing options than Adrian Peterson, but old reliable gets our No. 1 nod for his consistency. Chris Johnson's holdout is a little fearful, as is Arian Foster without bruising fullback Vonta Leach, so we'd stick with Peterson as the first overall pick.

With QBs and RBs behind us, it's time to take a look at another seemingly convoluted position--wide receivers. Check back later this week for our WR rankings.

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2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks

We are finally back to football after last night's NFL action (albeit preseason) and we are celebrating by rolling out the first installment of our 2011 Fantasy Football rankings. In our first position ratings, we are naturally taking a look at quarterbacks.

While the position is often referred to as the most important position in football, it may just be the most important in fantasy football as well. Running backs and wide receivers will still rule the early rounds, but it's important to get a good QB early (we recommend making sure to get a guy in the first tier).

Without further ado, our 2011 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings:

Tier 1

1. Michael Vick

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Drew Brees

4. Phillip Rivers

5. Tom Brady

6. Peyton Manning

7. Tony Romo

Tier 2

8. Matt Schaub

9. Matt Ryan

10. Ben Roethlisberger

11. Eli Manning

12. Joe Flacco

Tier 3

13. Matt Stafford

14. Josh Freeman

15. Sam Bradford

16. Jay Cutler

17. Kevin Kolb

18. Kyle Orton

19. Ryan Fitzpatrick

20. Donovan McNabb

21. Mark Sanchez

22. Matt Cassell

Tier 4

23. Colt McCoy

24. Cam Newton

As you see, we've broken the quarterbacks into convenient tiers. As we mentioned above, if you see some of the top quarterbacks flying off the board early, make sure to get one of the top seven (Romo is a controversial pick for the top tier that some might not feel comfortable with, so in that case, grab one of the top six).

Fantasy Football players are just starting to truly realize the importance of a consistent, reliable quarterback. Get one early and don't worry about it for the rest of the year.

After that, Tier 2 is mostly dependable starters who we feel will maintain their current production with no dropoff. There is a little more potential in Tier 3, along with a few players who we do, in fact, think have a dropoff coming (Josh Freeman, namely).

Finally, our last tier is just two deep: McCoy and Newton. If you're drafting a quarterback this late into the talent pool, go for the boom or bust guys who could break out rather than the consistently mediocre options such as Matt Hasselbeck or David Garrard.

Now that you have your signal-caller picked out, we'll continue with our series of 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings to help you fill out the rest of your fictional squad. Next up: Running backs.

Stock Lemon's Advice on Betting the NFL Preseason:


The Tiger Woods Major Tournament Betting Strategy

The last of the 2011 golf majors takes place this weekend, and for betters feeling nostalgic about Tiger's seemingly long-gone dominance in the golf world, here's a strategy to consider.

With a mediocre performance over the weekend (and the last two years), Tiger's odds are dwindling with every tournament. You'd be hard-pressed to find him at odds of 10/1 or better at a major until he wins another one, a far cry from the days when you could actually bet on him versus the field--and get better odds on the field!

So here's a strategy: Knowing that 10/1 is the worst of the odds you'll have to lay (he's double that at 20/1 at the PGA Championship this weekend), you could feasibly bet on Tiger at the next 10 majors (covering 2 1/2 years of golf), needing only to win in the last tournament of those 10 to break even. Which means, should he win next year's PGA, you would have unsuccessfully bet on four tournaments, say for $100 each, but in the fifth tournament, assuming at worst 10/1 odds, you would profit $1,000. Our math tells us that you made yourself a $600 profit, at which point you scrap the system.

Now, maybe our logic is flawed. Maybe Tiger will show promise at a tournament and get everybody jacked up about his game again, thus boosting the odds to unfavorable amounts (and given the public's betting affection for Tiger, this is not unlikely). Maybe injuries and mental fatigue have ruined the once immortal Tiger for good. But hey, that's gambling. There are no guarantees, just opportunities.

In the end, the risk may prove greater than the reward. But vise versa is possible, too, particularly if he keeps getting 20/1 odds.

Essentially, under this strategy you are betting on Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest golfer of all-time, to win just one major in the next 2 1/2 years. Would you take that bet?

Stock Lemon's 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings Coming Soon

Thankfully, it's football season yet again, where all your fantasies become realities.

For those of you who have been fantasizing about our 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings, wipe that drool from your lip and check back soon for our position-by-position ranks of the best of the NFL.

And since there will likely be very few Raiders in our rankings, fantasize about the picture above for as long as you can.

Check back soon for our rankings!

Tiger Tempting Bridgestone Bettors

The big golf news of the week (year) is that Tiger Woods will finally return from his physical and mental injuries and take part in the Bridgestone Invitational which begins tomorrow.

This is an event that Tiger has won seven times, and other golfers have won just five, so yeah, a lot of people are betting on Tiger Woods in his first tourney back.

We like Tiger as much as the next obscure sports betting/stocks website, but let's hold on just a minute. Bookmakers are enticing betters with great odds on Tiger, especially at an event he has historically dominated like none other. But keep in mind, this is his first event back, and with a new caddy at that. Let's give him a tourney to work out the kinks. Our prediction is that he does just that--and then goes on to win the PGA next weekend. But we think this is just a tune-up to prepare for next week.

Keep in mind that Tiger's list of goals looks like this: 1) majors; 2) everything else. Obviously, he would like to win the tournament, but he has his eye on an even bigger prize next week. Though it is extremely tempting to bet Tiger at a tournament he has won nearly 60 percent of the time at such favorable odds (currently 12/1 on Bodog after opening upwards of 20/1!), this is the only Bridgestone tourney in history in which we advise taking the field.

Now don't get us wrong, despite what his arbitrary ranking might tell you, we still think Tiger is the best golfer in the world. We just don't think he will be this weekend.