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spiller2

Week 16 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. After a disappointing Week 15 performance, I rebounded nicely with last week’s selections. My plays on The Nickel Package podcast went 3-2 ATS, and I added an additional play into my Recommended Wagers to finish 4-2 ATS. One of my losses came on the Panthers -10.5 (won by 10), which would have probably been a push if I wrote my article on Saturday instead of Friday, but what can you do?

Before I get into this week’s selections, I’ll give a little bit of insight into my strategy this week. A lot of spreads are inflated because of the “need to win” factor, and it’s very important to recognize this going into the week. Don’t assume that a team will win a game just because they need to, and conversely, don’t assume that a team will roll over because the game is meaningless.

I like a lot of games on this week’s board. I’ve had two weeks this season where I’ve wagered on eight or more games, going 5-3 ATS in one week and 3-5 ATS in the other. I’m obviously hoping for the former rather than the latter. I was trying to be as selective as possible this week but just can’t pass up on a lot of these games, especially since my lines are so substantially different from the oddsmakers’ lines.

As of the time of this writing, there is still no posted line on the Packers/Steelers matchup. My breakdown of those games is entirely dependent on who’s starting at quarterback, so I’ll refrain from previewing that game until Sunday morning via my Twitter account (@robpizzola).

The Nickel Package Record: 42-30-3 ATS (58%)

As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence. Each week, Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, listen to the player below or download the MP3 file here.

Recommended Wagers Record: 52-42-3 ATS (55%)

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Indianapolis Colts v Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have made a bit of splash in the free agency pool, signing TE Martellus Bennett and DT Jermon Bushrod. Despite Chicago’s obvious willingness to open their wallet for free agents, they have yet to make an offer to longtime Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher.

In fact, they haven’t even responded to Urlacher’s contract proposal (rumoured to be a 2-year deal) with a counteroffer.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Michael Silver, there are a handful of teams that are interested in acquiring Urlacher’s services.

According to a source familiar with Urlacher’s situation, there doesn’t seem to be a prevailing sense of urgency coming from Halas Hall as the official start of the 2013 league year approaches Tuesday afternoon. Urlacher, 34, received interest from several teams during the 87-hour “legal tampering” period that preceded the start of free agency, though it’s believed he prefers to remain with the franchise that drafted him ninth overall in 2000.

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This isn’t nearly as sexy as the early Mike Wallace and Martellus Bennett signings, because offensive lineman inherently aren’t sexy. Unless that’s your thing.

But the Vikings retaining tackle Phil Loadholt is still a pretty damn big deal, especially for the safety of Christian Ponder, and the continued success of Adrian Peterson. That happened in the early minutes of free agency, with ESPN 1500′s Tom Pelissero reporting that Loadholt is staying with the Vikings on a multi-year deal.

This thins out a tackle market that was already top heavy, and led by Loadholt and Jake Long. Now teams like the Bears who are looking for tackle help may have to overpay for either Long or Andre Smith — though Long’s price could be declining — or dip into the second tier of Jermon Bushrod, Eric Winston, Sam Baker, and Sebastian Vollmer.

This is not Percy Harvin, but use your imagination.

Here at Goal-Line Stand, we were quite involved in the Colts-Bills preseason game in Toronto yesterday. Lost in the shuffle because of that was a scary incident involving Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Harvin vomited and collapsed on the sideline at Vikings practice. The apparent culprit: another migraine.

The 22-year-old star-in-the-making from Florida dealt with chronic migraines for much of his rookie season, missing several practices and a game. Despite an offseason trip to the legendary Mayo Clinic, Harvin’s head problems aren’t going away in 2010. Before his medical emergency Thursday, Harvin had already missed pretty much all of training camp because of the chronic issue.

In what has become one of the most famous stories in NFL history, Terrell Davis scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXII despite not being able to see straight due to a migraine. And I’m thinking that tale has softened the average sports fan’s expectations in regard to how debilitating migraines can be.

Harvin’s been plagued by this problem since he was 10 years old, and it’s clearly hindering his ability to perform consistently as a professional athlete (not to mention his ability to perform day-to-day tasks as a human being).

So, could migraines ruin Percy Harvin’s career?

“He said he’s tried everything,” Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie told ESPN.com. “Hopefully he can eventually find something.”

But to actually try everything, it could take a lifetime. I had a conversation with osteosomatic therapist Dan Palma from the Toronto-based Headache and Pain Relief Centre. The majority of Palma’s patients are migraine-sufferers, most of whom get rid of their symptoms permanently once they’ve been treated.

The problem, though, according to Palma, is that it’s extremely difficult for a specialist to determine what’s triggering the migraines in patients that don’t wipe them out the first time around.

“There is a very small percentage of recurring or chronic patients that you’ll stabilize and, guess what? After a while they need to come back and do the whole program again,” Palma said.

Palma says there are dozens of potential causes that trigger migraines — deep-seated vascular problems, hormonal imbalances, benign tumours, aneurysms, teeth grinding, stress, and jaw issues to name a few — meaning it can take years to properly diagnose the underlying root, or roots, of the problem.

Palma, who interned with the 49ers in the 1980s while attending San Francisco State University, notes that we rarely hear of athletes suffering from chronic migraines because they’re less likely to encounter them.  

“I would find that we have less athletes presenting with chronic migraines,” he said, “and if we do (get them), they tend to respond better to treatment.” That make sense, because athletes are generally healthier than the average Joe.

But it’s too late for a guy like Harvin. Treatment hasn’t work for 12 years and there’s no telling when it will. What does an athlete do when migraines are interfering with his or her livelihood and there’s no cure in sight?

“You need to slow things down,” Palma said. “Of course that’s not easy when you’re being paid to perform.”

Five thoughts on Favre Day

There is no context for this picture. Just enjoy.

I’m not going to waste too much time on Brett Favre’s most recent return, simply because there have been too many of them. Here are some quick thoughts…

1. I’m not convinced things are going to be as peachy early on for Favre and the Vikings this year as they were last year. And that’s because the schedule is stacked against Minnesota early. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a peek at the schedule factored into Favre’s temporary retirement two weeks ago. Here’s a look at the first eight weeks of the Vikings’ season, along with my prediction for each game:

Week 1: at New Orleans (loss)
Week 2: vs. Miami (win)
Week 3: vs. Detroit (win)
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: at New York Jets (loss)
Week 6: vs. Dallas (win)
Week 7: at Green Bay (loss)
Week 8: at New England (loss)

Seriously. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings were 3-4 headed into their Week 9 game against Arizona. The early bye week also means Favre will have to go 12 consecutive weeks on that bad ankle. Not easy.

2. Exactly two weeks ago, on Aug. 3, news of Favre’s apparent “retirement” shattered the football world (sarcasm). And NFL Network went live all day. And ESPN devoted what felt like 45 minutes per hour to No. 4. The sports world stopped because Favre had reportedly sent a few text messages indicating that he was considering stepping aside.

What a waste of an entire day of resources, time, energy and money that was. When will we learn our lesson?

3. No new contract yet for Favre, but the press conference regarding his return isn’t  supposed to take place until later on Wednesday, so there’s still time for Favre to get a raise. Based on what went down in this process, I doubt Favre will ask for or receive any more money, but the Vikings reportedly offered him a $3 million boost earlier this month.

4. How awesome is this story? I mean, three veteran players fly down to Favre and basically persuade the guy to come back just by spending some time with him on his Mississippi ranch. In the midst of training camp, Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell simply leave town and become recruiters. And they do a sweet job. Not bad, although Hutchinson noted it wasn’t as fanciful as it sounds.

“I wish I had some sort of fairy-tale story about the way it all happened, but it really was not a big moment or anything.”

5. I was struck by the way in which Tarvaris Jackson reacted to the news of Favre’s return:

“Honestly, I really don’t care,” Jackson said. “I feel like if my number is called I’ll be ready and I’m going to continue to try and work hard and get better. That’s all I can do. My teammates, that’s their prerogative. I can’t really control that. I’m just going to do my part.”

He doesn’t care? Perfect….