Preview: Spurs at Lakers

The San Antonio Spurs look to post their third straight win in the season series when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday for the opener of a home-and-home set. San Antonio recorded a 143-142 overtime victory in Los Angeles on Oct. 22 and registered a 110-106 home triumph over the Lakers five days later.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Both losses to San Antonio came during a 2-5 start for the Lakers, who have since put things together by capturing 12 of their last 16 games. Los Angeles has won its last three contests by an average of 14.3 points, and Monday’s 120-96 rout of Phoenix marked its largest margin of victory this season. The Spurs have lost three of their last four games, with all of the defeats coming by more than 30 points – including Tuesday’s 139-105 setback at Utah. Coach Gregg Popovich was dismayed with the latest whipping, telling reporters, “We’re very challenged defensively.”

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles)

ABOUT THE SPURS (11-13): San Antonio’s defense was virtually nonexistent in Tuesday’s loss as the team allowed the Jazz to shoot 60.7 percent and sink a franchise-record 20 3-pointers on 33 attempts. The Spurs have given up an average of 127.3 points over their last six games, and the effort versus Utah marked the third time they have allowed 135 or more during the stretch. “I think we’re just not aggressive enough. We’re very passive,” center Jakob Poeltl told reporters after the defeat. “We’re trying to change that, but somehow we still fall into bad habits. We’re being the reactors instead of forcing them to go where we want them to go.”

ABOUT THE LAKERS (14-9): LeBron James is averaging just 34.7 minutes – the lowest mark of his 16-year career – and visibly has displayed frustration at times when coach Luke Walton removes him from a contest. Walton said he is making sure the soon-to-be 34-year-old remains fresh throughout the season, while James insists he can play a full game without being subbed out. “I want to play 48 minutes a game. Seriously,” James told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “But it’s not going to happen. It’s not smart. It’s not smart on anyone’s behalf, but it’s just the competitive side of me.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. James averaged 33.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and nine assists in the two previous meetings with the Spurs this season.

2. Poeltl scored a career-best 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting against the Jazz.

3. Los Angeles PG Rajon Rondo (hand) participated in Tuesday’s practice and could return on Friday, when the teams meet in San Antonio.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Clippers at Grizzlies

An overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 23 began a stretch of four setbacks in five games for the Memphis Grizzlies. Host Memphis will attempt to dig out of its slide when it clashes against the Clippers again on Wednesday.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

The Grizzlies were off to a strong 12-5 start before the recent funk but point guard Mike Conley insists there is no need to be troubled. “We’re not in panic mode at all,” Conley said after Sunday’s 103-95 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. “We’ve built ourselves a good little cushion to have a little spell like this. Hopefully, we’ll just get back home, get back to work, get a few days in and get back together.” The Clippers are flying high with 12 wins in their past 15 games and they posted a 129-126 road triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday to retain a share of the Western Conference lead with the Denver Nuggets. “We’ve had a bunch of close games,” backup guard Lou Williams told reporters after the win. “If you’re going to compete in the Western Conference – there’s a lot of talented teams – you’re going to have to be able to (win those).”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), FS Southeast (Memphis)

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (16-7): Forward Tobias Harris was named Western Conference Player of the Month on Monday and continued his strong play that night with 27 points against the Pelicans. Harris scored 24 or more points in six of the past nine games and knocked down at least half his field-goal attempts in 15 of the last 21 contests. Forward Danilo Gallinari also has a hot hand with four 20-point efforts in the past six games, including 24 points against New Orleans.

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (13-9): Rookie power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a pleasant surprise with averages of 13.9 points and 4.5 rebounds while fitting in with veterans like Conley and center Marc Gasol. “Everybody here knows a lot about the game, so you can pick up a lot just by watching them,” the 19-year-old Jackson told reporters. “If you have a question, it’s easily answered because they have so much experience and they were in the playoffs and they’ve played together for a long time.” Jackson scored a season-best 36 points in Friday’s 131-125 double-overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets and followed up with 17 points against the 76ers.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Clippers won the past three meetings and 10 of the last 14.

2. Williams scored 20 points against the Pelicans to reach the mark for the third time in the past four games.

3. Gasol was just 4-of-14 shooting in the loss to the 76ers after making 16-of-23 over the previous two games.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Ohio State vs. Illinois

Any concerns that No. 17 Ohio State might struggle after losing freshman Luther Muhammed to a dislocated shoulder were eased with a Big Ten-opening victory over Minnesota on Sunday. The Buckeyes will try to win their second straight conference game when they travel to Chicago to face Illinois on Wednesday night.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Muhammed was averaging the second-most minutes on the team at 27.9 per game and his absence forced Ohio State to change its rotations against Minnesota in its first game without him. The Buckeyes used nine new lineup combinations and went with three guards on the floor at the same time for only 5 1/2 minutes after playing with three guards together for more than 25 minutes in the first seven games. Ohio State responded with six players scoring in double figures against a team that entered the game on a roll. Illinois is certainly not on a roll, having dropped six of its last seven games, including Sunday’s 75-60 loss at Nebraska.

TV:
7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

ABOUT OHIO STATE (7-1): Junior Andre Wesson stepped up with Muhammad out and turned in arguably the best game as a Buckeye against Minnesota with a career-high 16 points. C.J. Jackson, Musa Jallow and Duane Washington Jr. were also significant contributors with 11, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Kaleb Wesson, the team’s leading scorer and Andre’s younger brother, continued to produce with 15 points against the Gophers and fellow forward Kyle Young also reached double figures with 10 points and added a game-high eight rebounds.

ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-6): The Fighting Illini dug themselves into a big early hole at Nebraska and never could escape in their Big Ten opener. Freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili (14 points), Kipper Nichols (12) and Ayo Dosunmu (10) combined for 36 of Illinois’ 60 points. Dosunmu (13.1 points per game) and Bezhanishvili (10.0) are two of the four players averaging in double figures for the season along with Trent Frazier (14.7) and Aaron Jordan (11.1) for the Illini, who are struggling with turnovers and putting opponents on the foul line.

TIP-INS

1. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Muhammad’s status is “day-to-day, week-to-week,” and was noncommittal about him being back for the Illinois game.

2. Ohio State is preparing to face its third straight different style of defense (Syracuse zone, Minnesota conventional and Illinois ball pressure).

3. Illinois, which has four players from the Chicago area on its roster, has played 52 games in the United Center with a record of 37-15.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Warriors at Cavaliers

It doesn’t have quite the same juice as it used to when LeBron James was around, but it’s still special when the participants in the last four NBA Finals get together in the regular season. The Cleveland Cavaliers will try to get some revenge when they host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

The Warriors beat the Cavaliers in three of the last four NBA Finals, including the last two, but Cleveland is no longer among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference since the departure of James. The Cavaliers are fighting to stay out of the basement in the East and lifted themselves to 5-18 with a 99-97 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. Golden State is not on top of the West at the moment but remains a Finals favorite and finally looked like the team that won those titles while it rolled the Atlanta Hawks 128-111 on Monday. “We have a great offense where we emphasize ball movement, body movement, making the right play and trying to find a great shot every time down,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant told reporters after the victory. “Tonight, we saw something working in our movement game.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBCS Bay Area (Golden State), FS Ohio (Cleveland)

ABOUT THE WARRIORS (16-9): Superstar guard Stephen Curry was playing his second game back after missing 11 with a groin injury on Monday and managed to shake off the last of the rust while exploding for 18 points in the first quarter en route to 30 on 10-of-17 shooting. “I think with Steph, our offense is so free-flowing,” Durant told reporters. “And if it’s Steph getting 18 points in the first quarter or Klay (Thompson) or myself, it starts off with passing the basketball. So, I think, obviously, Steph scored the points, but we all had a hand in setting screens, throwing the ball to him, getting out of the way so he could be aggressive. He’s just all otherworldly when he makes those types of shots and definitely got us going tonight.” Durant finished with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting and eight assists in the win.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (5-18): Cleveland is still working on its roster in the post-James era and brought in guard Alec Burks from the Utah Jazz last week in the deal that sent Kyle Korver out of town. Burks finished with 13 points on Monday and punctuated the effort with a go-ahead dunk in the final seconds. “He attacks the basket,” Cavaliers coach Larry Drew told reporters of Burks. “Because he’s so athletic, he can maneuver to the basket and get a shot off. The one thing I was trying to do, I wanted to be aggressive on the last play of the game. If the same shot hadn’t gone in, just wanted to take them to overtime. We were going to get the last shot. He just made a really good move with the basketball.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Cavaliers C Tristan Thompson recorded a double-double in seven of the last eight games.

2. Warriors PF Draymond Green (toe) is expected to miss his 10th straight game.

3. Golden State took both regular season meetings in 2017-18 and swept the NBA Finals.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Arsenal-Manchester United Preview

Fourth place in the Premier League table is a spot Arsenal have been intimately familiar with for more than a decade. But unlike seasons past, currently occupying that slot is providing previously unseen optimism as the Gunners go from an intense north London derby win to a mouth-watering clash at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Wednesday.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Since winning their last Premier League title in 2004, Arsenal (9-3-2) have finished fourth in six of the previous 14 seasons. The constant battle to remain a Champions League participant under predecessor Arsene Wenger hid the gradual erosion from the elite status the London club enjoyed – something that came home to roost over the Frenchman’s final two seasons with fifth and sixth-place finishes.

Unai Emery’s arrival, initially met with skepticism following his flameout from Paris-St. Germain, has brought renewed spark and life to Arsenal, who are now unbeaten in 19 matches (15-4-0) across all competitions after a 4-2 victory over north London rival Tottenham Hotspur in a white-hot derby clash at the Emirates on Sunday.

The Gunners shook off a 2-1 halftime deficit with three unanswered goals in the final 45 minutes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who converted a first-half penalty, completed his brace on 56 minutes with a well-placed shot inside the right post that left Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris flat-footed.

The Gunners then grabbed the match with two goals two minutes apart starting in the 75th. Aaron Ramsey forced a Spurs turnover at midfield and sprung Alexandre Lacazette, whose shot took a fortunate deflection off Spurs midfielder Eric Dier and snuck inside the left post. Lucas Torreira then scored his first Arsenal goal, ripping a shot across Lloris after being sent through by Aubameyang.

The Emirates crowd, roiled so much by “Wenger In” and “Wenger Out” factions in recent years, roared their approval in unison as Arsenal overtook their eternal rivals for fourth place on goal difference and are one back of Chelsea for third.

“It’s not just an important game for a manager to win against a team from the top six, it’s important for us as a team,” keeper Bernd Leno told the club’s official website. “We lost the first two games against Chelsea and Manchester City but against Liverpool we played very well. We didn’t win that one but today we won against a good team and showed a very good performance.”

Emery will be forced into one change since defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka picked up his fifth yellow card and must serve a one-match ban. Matteo Guendouzi will likely fill that spot as Emery is expected to return to his preferred 4-2-3-1 set-up for this contest.

It is uncertain if Mesut Ozil will be available after the playmaker missed Sunday’s match through a back injury. Ozil did not play against Bournemouth per Emery’s decision, and with Ramsey surprisingly coming on after the club rescinded a contract offer for beyond next season, the former Germany international’s status is starting to bubble into an unwanted distraction for the Gunners. Emery, though, seems to be relishing his English adventures as they take him from one high-stakes game to another with Wednesday’s match-up.

“It’s a new match, a new challenge, a big challenge,” he said Monday. “It’s away and we need to continue improving our mentality away. We know we need to change to get more competitive away. I think the team is doing that, but it’s a new challenge because we’re going to play against Manchester United away, and the challenge is bigger than other matches.

“For us, it’s a very exciting match. The preparation for this match is also a big motivation for us. If we are stronger now, we need to (show that) on Wednesday.”

As Arsenal bring a tidal wave of momentum to Old Trafford, the inconsistencies persist for Manchester United (6-4-4). For the second time already this term, Jose Mourinho’s team recovered at least one point from a two-goal deficit after finishing 2-2 at Southampton on Saturday.

With a lack of available bodies in central defence, Mourinho opted for a 5-3-2 set-up that included midfielders Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay as his three centre backs. The plan backfired spectacularly as a relegation-threatened Saints squad were two up after 20 minutes.

United’s fightback revolved around Marcus Rashford, whom Mourinho exasperated midweek after missing a gilt-edged chance in their Champions League win over Young Boys. The England international set up goals by Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera six minutes apart late in the first half – the latter a spectacular run along the end line before spotting a charging Herrera — that was enough to see United through for a point.

“Yes (it was two points dropped),” Mourinho said post-match. “The result is not good so I have to say we dropped two points. If you are losing 4-0 and you get to 4-4 I would say maybe not. I think the comeback is good from 2-0 down to 2-2 in normal conditions everybody says it is a point gained, you have the game lost and you get a point, so normally you say it is a positive point, but it is a match that we want to win.”

Mourinho, though, was optimistic Lukaku’s goal will get the Belgium international to finally kick on. His fifth goal of the season in all competitions ended a personal 981-minute drought stretching back to Sept. 15 at Watford.

Like his counterpart, Mourinho is forced into one change for this match since right back Ashley Young picked up his fifth yellow card. The most likely option to replace him is Diogo Dalot, who made his long-awaited Premier League debut after left back Luke Shaw was forced off with a knock. Mourinho could also turn to Antonio Valencia or play Marcus Rojo at left back if Shaw cannot play.

Central defence, though, continues to be a nightmare as Phil Jones figures to be the only centre back certain to play. Chris Smalling sat out Saturday with a knock, and Mourinho continues to have little faith in Eric Bailly. Victor Lindelof is out until Boxing Day with a hamstring injury, so there could be more of Matic and McTominay as part of a five-man back line.

Mourinho hopes to have Rashford available after lifting him for the final 15 minutes with a knock. Jesse Lingard would be the most obvious replacement on the right attacking side for United, while Anthony Martial could be restored to the starting XI if Mourinho reverts to a 4-3-3.

Also unavailable through injury is ex-Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez, who did play in last season’s corresponding fixture after his January move from the Emirates. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was shipped to London as part of the move, did score in that 2-1 United victory.

Manchester United did their first double over Arsenal since 2011-12 last term and are unbeaten in their last 11 league matches (8-3-0) against them at Old Trafford. The Gunners did record an FA Cup quarterfinal win in 2015, but they are just 4-7-19 at the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League era.

Arsenal’s last league victory at Manchester United was a 1-0 win in 2006 courtesy an 85th-minute goal from Emmanuel Adebayor.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Trail Blazers at Mavericks

The Portland Trail Blazers are experiencing issues after getting off to a strong start. Portland has dropped five of its last six games entering Tuesday’s road game against the Dallas Mavericks, who have won nine of their past 12 games.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

The Trail Blazers have allowed 125 or more points three times during the six-game stretch and the issues were evident during Sunday’s 131-118 road setback against the San Antonio Spurs. “It’s definitely been a struggle,” Portland forward Al-Farouq Aminu told reporters. “Teams have been able to score at a highly efficient rate pretty easy the last couple of games. I like the way that we started the game, we had a couple of steals, guys getting on the floor — we even showed that at halftime. We just have to make sure that we sustain.” Dallas continued its recent stellar stretch with a 114-110 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and the Mavericks have topped 100 points in four of their past five games. Impressive rookie forward Luka Doncic (hip) was unable to play against the Clippers and is expected to return against Portland.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Northwest (Portland), FS Southwest (Dallas)

ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (13-10): The 131 points allowed to the Spurs is the second most allowed by Portland this season behind the poor showing in a 143-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 21. The Trail Blazers are giving up 111.7 points per game and often are trying to outscore teams behind the offensive attack averaging 113 per contest. Star point guard Damian Lillard had 37 points and 10 assists against San Antonio for his third 30-point effort in four games and his third double-digit assist outing of the campaign.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (11-10): Second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. will be in the lineup but had a dentist appointment Monday after losing part of a tooth courtesy of an elbow from Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. “It’s just a freak accident,” Smith told reporters after the contest. “I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose. I’m sure that wasn’t his intentions, but it happens. Come back in, finish the game, we got a win. That’s all that matters. I love when the game gets like that. You can go out there, get mad, play with some intensity, heart. When it gets chippy, it’s just like playing back home. That’s the best way to play.” Small forward Harrison Barnes scored a season-high 30 points against Los Angeles and is averaging 24 over the last five games.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Trail Blazers went 2-1 against the Mavericks last season to win the season series for the first time since 2009-10.

2. Dallas G J.J. Barea scored a season-best 24 points against the Clippers for his third 20-point performance of the campaign.

3. Portland G-F Evan Turner (Achilles) could miss his second straight game.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Maple Leafs at Sabres

Auston Matthews has returned with a vengeance, recording three goals and an assist in two contests after missing 14 with a shoulder injury. The 21-year-old star looks to help the Toronto Maple Leafs extend their winning streak to five games when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Matthews began the season with a seven-game multi-point streak but was kept off the scoresheet in four straight contests before being sidelined. The 2017 Calder Trophy winner appears to have regained his old form following his recovery, scoring two goals and setting up another in Toronto’s victory over San Jose on Wednesday while also tallying in Saturday’s 5-3 triumph at Minnesota. Buffalo returns to the comforts of home after completing an 0-2-1 road trip – which followed a 10-game winning streak – with a 2-1 setback in Nashville on Monday. Sam Reinhart scored the lone goal for the Sabres, who won all six of their contests at KeyBank Center in November and have gone 7-0-1 over their last eight in their own arena as they begin a four-game homestand.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, TSN4 (Toronto)

ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (19-8-0): The rich will be getting richer, as William Nylander – who was a restricted free agent – is expected to be in the lineup soon after signing a six-year, $45 million contract just before Saturday’s deadline for eligibility to play in the NHL this season. The 22-year-old right wing, who has reached the 20-goal plateau each of the last two campaigns, figures to make his season debut either Thursday against Detroit or in Boston on Saturday as Toronto kicks off a five-game road trip. Mitch Marner, who leads the team with 38 points, is riding a four-game assist streak during which he has set up 10 goals.

ABOUT THE SABRES (17-8-3): Reinhart has been heating up for Buffalo as he enters Tuesday with a three-game goal-scoring streak during which he has netted four of his seven tallies on the season. The 23-year-old forward scored just once in his previous eight contests. Jeff Skinner was kept off the scoresheet Monday after registering points (six goals, one assist) in six of his previous seven games.

OVERTIME

1. Toronto LW Zach Hyman has recorded three goals in his last three games after scoring the same amount over his first 24 contests this season.

2. Buffalo D Rasmus Dahlin, who was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for November, has gone three contests without a point following a four-game assist streak.

3. The Maple Leafs acquired Michael Carcone from Vancouver for fellow LW Josh Leivo and recalled D Travis Dermott from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NHL, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame

Two 6-1 teams face off in the Jimmy V Classic as Oklahoma and Notre Dame meet on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Sooners enter the week winners of two straight, while the Fighting Irish are aiming for a fifth consecutive win.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

With Trae Young moving on to the NBA, Oklahoma has become a defensive team and has held its opponent to 60 points or fewer in three of the last four, including North Texas in a 73-57 win on Nov. 27. “When we defend like that and we have that stretch in the second half where we lock in defensively and stop, score, stop, score – I don’t know if (there are) too many teams in the country that can play 40 minutes with us,” senior guard Miles Reynolds told reporters after the game. Notre Dame earned its fourth consecutive win on Wednesday – a 76-74 victory over Illinois as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge – as Juwan Durham had what coach Mike Brey called a “coming-out party.” Durham had a career-high 10 points and added five blocks – all in the second half – as the 6-11 sophomore was leaned on more than usual after teammate John Mooney fouled out early.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT OKLAHOMA (6-1): Reynolds had a team-high 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 31 minutes off the bench versus North Texas. Christian James had nine – his lowest output of the season – but leads the team with 19.1 points per game and is the only Sooners player averaging more than 10. Oklahoma held the Mean Green, a team shooting 48 percent on the season, to 27.5 percent from the floor and are ranked 19th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense (37.1) on the season.

ABOUT NOTRE DAME (6-1): Guards T.J. Gibbs and D.J. Harvey both notched season highs with 19 points, with Gibbs pushing his team-leading scoring average to 13.7 points and Harvey edging his season average into double-digits at 10. Freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb added 10 points and has reached double figures in scoring in four straight, surpassing the 30-minutes played mark in each of those games as continues to be a key contributor in Notre Dame’s youth movement. Mooney, the ACC’s leader in double-doubles with three, played just 10 minutes against Illinois because of foul trouble – his lowest mark of the season.

TIP-INS

1. Tuesday marks the first meeting between these two schools.

2. The Sooners made just 17-of-33 free throws against North Texas and are shooting 65.8 percent from the free-throw line on the season.

3. This is Notre Dame’s first game away from home in 2018-19.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Redskins at Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off what may have been a season-saving victory while the Washington Redskins are trying to shake off back-to-back losses that cost them the lead in the NFC East. As the division rivals prepare to clash on Monday night in Philadelphia, the Redskins will hold a one-game edge on the Eagles for the conference’s sixth and final playoff slot.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia appeared on the verge of absorbing a knockout blow last weekend before erasing an early 16-point deficit and rallying for a 25-22 victory over the New York Giants. “This was a big game for us,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Obviously in terms of the division standings and all that fun stuff, but really mentally to show the resilience that we did. To get down early like we did, then to battle back, just really builds a lot of confidence.” Washington is trying to maintain its confidence and a victory over Philadelphia could provide a huge boost in that department, particularly with the teams squaring off in the regular-season finale. “I think there should be a sense of urgency without a doubt,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Anytime you can go on the road and get a key victory is very, very critical. It is also important for our confidence and our psyche down the stretch.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Eagles -6.5. O/U: 45

ABOUT THE REDSKINS (6-5): Washington is hoping the additional time off will pay dividends for Colt McCoy, who had only three days to get ready for his first career start in four years after Alex Smith suffered a season-ending leg injury. McCoy, who was picked off three times in a 31-23 loss to division-leading Dallas on Thanksgiving, and the offense could receive a boost with the return of running back Chris Thompson, who practiced fully for the first time Friday since suffering broken ribs on Oct. 28. Thompson also would alleviate the workload on Adrian Peterson, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury. The Redskins were burned for a pair of long touchdown passes against the Cowboys.

ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-6): Wentz bounced back from a three-interception performance in a debacle at New Orleans by throwing for 238 yards and a touchdown in the comeback win over New York. Once again his favorite target was tight end Zach Ertz, who had seven catches for 91 yards and a score to boost his season totals to a career-best 84 receptions and 895 yards. Running back Josh Adams provided much needed balance to the offense and lifted a running game in dire need of a spark with 84 yards rushing on 22 carries — both season highs — while scoring for the second week in a row. Philadelphia held New York to three second-half points last week but ranks 28th against the pass (276.5 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Wentz has six TD passes and two interceptions in a sweep of the Redskins last season.

2. Peterson needs two rushing touchdowns to move past Jim Brown (106) for fifth place on the all-time list.

3. Ertz has 59 receptions for 620 yards in 10 games against Washington.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Rockets at Timberwolves

The Houston Rockets are back to streaking in the right direction and are coming off back-to-back dominating wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets will try to make it three in a row when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

Houston surrendered an average of 124 points during a four-game slide but was stronger on the defensive end Friday and Saturday while holding the Spurs and Bulls to 105 points apiece. The turnaround on defense coincides with the healthy return of point guard Chris Paul, who sat out three games with leg soreness before returning on Friday and notching a double-double in back-to-back games. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak come to an end in a 118-109 setback at home to the Boston Celtics on Saturday. “We had some miscues and made some mistakes. It was our fault,” Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters. “They’re a great team and made us pay for those mistakes.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS North (Minnesota)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS (11-11): Houston star James Harden scored 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 30 minutes on Saturday and is averaging 35.4 points over the last seven games. Harden needed to play an average of 29 minutes in the last two games with the Rockets rounding into form from a health perspective and took some time after Saturday’s win to extol the virtues of a short injury list. “Everyone is much more efficient when we’re together and we have a full roster, as you can see these last few games,” Harden told reporters.

ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (11-12): Minnesota is leaning on former MVP and current sixth man Derrick Rose for leadership, and the veteran is not afraid to get on his younger teammates. “At this stage in my life and my career, that’s what I’m here for, to be able to express how I feel, express what guys want to say but don’t say it,” Rose told reporters. “It’s easy for me to communicate with people. They listen to me. I guess they trust me and believe in me.” Rose is leading the team on the court as well and scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting in Saturday’s loss – the fourth time in the last six games that he scored at least 20 points.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Timberwolves SF Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting Saturday, snapping a string of five straight games in which he finished with fewer points than attempted field goals.

2. Rockets C Clint Capela recorded a double-double in eight of the last nine games.

3. The teams are meeting for the first time since Houston knocked off Minnesota in five games in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in NBA, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Iowa at Michigan State

Michigan State looks to stay unbeaten in Big Ten Conference play when it hosts Iowa on Monday. The eighth-ranked Spartans won their league opener Friday night at Rutgers 78-67, while 15th-ranked Iowa comes into the contest looking for its first Big Ten victory after falling to No. 22 Wisconsin 72-66 Friday at home.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

The Hawkeyes have a balanced scoring effort, led by the interior duo of junior forward Tyler Cook (15.4 points, 8.1 rebounds) and 6-11 sophomore center Luka Garza (13.9 points). Iowa is aggressive with the ball, ranking first in the country in both free throw makes per game (25.3) and in attempts (32.7) entering Sunday, with the Hawkeyes having made 19 or more free throws in six of seven contests. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo relies on his backcourt for offense and leadership, with junior guards Cassius Winston (17.9 points, 7.1 assists) and Joshua Langford (17.5 points) ranking 1-2 on the team in scoring. Junior forward Nick Ward is the third double-figure scorer at 14.6 points, but at 6-9, he struggles a bit against bigger defenders, so how well he handles Iowa’s front line will be a key for the Spartans.

TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

ABOUT IOWA (6-1, 0-1 Big Ten): Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon came into the 2018-19 season having hit over 41 percent from 3-point range in each of his first two campaigns with the Hawkeyes. But the junior has struggled this season, hitting just 30.6 percent and posting his lowest scoring average at Iowa – 10.1 points per game. Bohannon continues to play and try to find his stroke – he hit three 3-pointers in the second half against Wisconsin – but he has yet to shoot consistently this season, and coach Fran McCaffery can only wait so long before going with other options.

ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-2, 1-0): One big problem for Michigan State in its losses has been turnovers, especially the unforced variety, though Izzo told reporters he continues to harp on his team about taking care of the basketball. After totaling 53 turnovers in its previous three contests, the Spartans were able to hold onto the ball against Rutgers, committing just seven miscues, including none from point guards Winston and Foster Loyer. Michigan State will need more of that against Iowa, a team that loves to apply pressure and get out on the break off an opponent’s turnovers.

TIP-INS

1. Garza is fourth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (60.7).

2. Michigan State G Matt McQuaid has missed the last two contests with a thigh injury and Izzo said he wasn’t optimistic the senior would play against Iowa.

3. The Spartans hold a 73-55 advantage over the Hawkeyes in their all-time series, having won 11 of the last 13 meetings.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Clemson vs. Pittsburgh

Not many ACC teams can claim wins over Clemson in recent years, but Pittsburgh is one of them. The Panthers will try to play spoiler once again when they face the No. 2 Tigers on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

The Panthers handed Clemson a 43-42 home loss in the most recent meeting in 2016 – the Tigers’ only loss en route to the national championship. Another loss to Pittsburgh would cost the Tigers their fourth consecutive ACC title, and it might deny them a chance to play for another national crown. Clemson has hardly been challenged lately, winning its past seven games by at least 20 points, though the vaunted defense had its most worrisome performance of the season in last week’s 56-35 victory over rival South Carolina. Pittsburgh had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 24-3 loss at Miami last week as the offense inexplicably fell flat after totaling 86 points in the previous two contests.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Clemson -27.5

ABOUT CLEMSON (12-0, 8-0 ACC): The Tigers have been dominant on both sides of the ball as they rank third in the nation in total offense and seventh in defense. Clemson boasts one of the most prolific – and most balanced – offenses in the nation with freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence (2,488 yards, 22 touchdowns, four interceptions) and running back Travis Etienne (1,307 yards, 19 TDs) leading the way. The defense has been especially tough against the run, allowing more than 117 rushing yards once and holding seven opponents to 90 yards or fewer on the ground.

ABOUT PITTSBURGH (7-5, 6-2): The Panthers averaged 40.8 points during their four-game run to clinch the ACC Coastal Division title, but managed only 200 total yards and did not find the end zone last week. To have a chance Saturday, they’ll need a big rebound from running backs Qadree Ollison (1,134 yards, 10 TDs) and Darrin Hall (935 yards, nine TDs), and quarterback Kenny Pickett (1,825 yards, 12 TDs, 5 interceptions) can’t make many back-breaking mistakes. They’ll likely need to put up some points, because a defense that allows 399.9 yards and 27.8 points per game will have a tough time shutting down the Tigers.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Clemson has won eight consecutive games in December dating to a loss to Virginia Tech in the 2011 ACC Championship.

2. The Tigers have scored at least 27 points in a school-record 12 straight contests.

3. Pitt has won its last four games against top-three teams when unranked, including the 2016 victory over No. 2 Clemson and a 24-14 win over No. 2 Miami to close the 2017 regular season.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Northwestern at Ohio State

Sixth-ranked Ohio State looks to strengthen its case for a College Football Playoff berth when it faces No. 21 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday in Indianapolis. Ohio State eviscerated seventh-ranked Michigan 62-39 to capture the Big Ten East Division title and vault into contention for a postseason spot, but No. 4 Georgia and fifth-ranked Oklahoma are potential roadblocks in their path to the playoff as the Buckeyes aim to win their second consecutive conference championship game.

To play this game at FanPicks…click here

“When you start using terms like national championship and playoffs, that’s very rare air,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told reporters. “That’s why we have a job to do … to go win the Big Ten championship and worry about that down the road.” Northwestern is making its first Big Ten Championship game appearance after ending Wisconsin’s dominance in the West division. The Wildcats have won seven straight conference games, including a 24-16 victory over Illinois to capture the Land of Lincoln Trophy last week, and hope to ride the momentum by knocking off the Buckeyes for the first time since 2004. “I’m fired up to take the purple down to Indy as every year our goal is to win the Big Ten West and we’ve gotten over that hump,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters. “We have an opportunity to take the team to the Rose Bowl and if that doesn’t motivate you then I don’t know what does.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Ohio State -14

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten): Clayton Thorson completed 12-of-18 passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding another on the ground as the Wildcats downed the Fighting Illini for the fourth consecutive time. Linebacker Paddy Fisher earned All-Big Ten First Team honors after making 92 tackles and forcing three fumbles, while defensive end Joe Gaziano was named to the second team following six sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2018. Fitzgerald was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year after guiding the Wildcats to eight conference wins, which matched a single-season program record.

ABOUT OHIO STATE (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten): Dwayne Haskins continued his push for the Heisman Trophy as he threw for 396 yards and equaled a program record with six touchdown passes in the win against Michigan. Haskins was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for a record sixth time after his dominant display against the Wolverines, breaking the old mark of five set by former Heisman Trophy winner and former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones was selected to the Big Ten First Team after registering 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss to go along with a pair of touchdowns while Chase Young earned second-team honors.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Ohio State has won six consecutive meetings with Northwestern.

2. Haskins set Big Ten single-season records with 4,081 passing yards and 42 touchdowns.

3. The Wildcats have won 15 of their last 16 Big Ten games dating back to last year.

Download the FanPicks Fantasy App. Click on the links below.

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks