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The closer the weekend gets, the sharper the lines get and the harder it is to find value on NFL picks, but this week I’ve found a couple which are of interest. MORE: Get the latest NFL odds at Sportsbook Review Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Denver BroncosOpening line: Broncos -3 (-110) & O/U 38 -110There’s a few things that jump out at me here. The Broncos are statistically better than their record so far. After losing to a pumped-up Oakland team in the opener, they’ve controlled their games in terms of possession and first downs. They had the ball for six minutes more against the Bears in Week 2 and 11 minutes more against the Packers, with 13 more first downs in those two games.They have been moving the ball well, controlling tempo and creating turnovers on defense, but that hasn’t translated into touchdowns as of yet. They’re running well, with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman forming a good partnership, and for his many flaws, Joe Flacco hasn’t been the entire issue for this team. He does need Courtland Sutton to fully make the leap and rookie TE Noah Fant not to fumble, but if a Freeman rushing TD wasn’t called back against the Packers last week they could have stolen a win there.Week 4 NFL PICKS:Against the spread | Straight-up picksThe Broncos are overdue for a big sack game, too — an amazing trend with Vic Fangio as HC and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb as elite pass rushers. They’re yet to record a sack this season. That has to be more of an anomaly than the norm.For this game specifically, Jalen Ramsey looks like he might be checked out waiting for a trade. That’s a huge boost for the Broncos, facing a rookie QB who admittedly has played well. But they don’t have a whole lot of targets, and with Chris Harris Jr. probably shutting down DJ Chark, there’s not much to throw to.And finally, if you want a further statistical note, their home record in September is brilliant. From Week 3 of 2012, the Broncos have won 13 games straight at home in September up until the game they threw away against the Browns two weeks ago. The altitude with teams who aren’t up to full fitness gives them a decent advantage.NFL pick: Broncos straight up at -170Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago BearsOpening line: Broncos -3 (-110) & O/U 38 -110Two of the best defenses in the league face off in an NFC North clash which neither can afford to lose. With the Lions still undefeated at 2-0-1 and the Packers losing on Thursday night, it gives a chance for the winner of this game to join the Packers atop the division at 3-1.I very much doubt this will be a high-scoring game, a view shared by the bookies with a line of around 38.5 on the NFL odds board, which is right around where I think it should be. It’s a divisional game, so both teams know each other well, and both are hitting opposition QBs regularly — Bears with 11 sacks, Vikings with 10 — this season. They’re 10th and 12th in yards allowed per game, respectively, and second and fifth in points allowed per game in the small sample we’ve had this season.So what’s the differentiating factor here? For me, it’s the offenses. The Bears offense just doesn’t work at the moment and that’s pretty much entirely on Mitchell Trubisky.MORE: Complete game-by-game betting guide for Week 4Frankly, he’s just not very good at the moment. He can make a few plays, but is horribly off-target on so many easy throws and this is with a simplified playbook in place for him. Yes, he had three TDs on Monday, all to Taylor Gabriel, who is likely to miss this week with a concussion, but one was a busted coverage, one a fantastic catch, and the other from the 1-yard line.Admittedly, Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly pulling up any trees on the other side of the ball, but he’s not being asked to. And for my NFL pick I think this is where the Vikings will win the game. They have the best rusher in the league at the moment in Dalvin Cook, and despite the fact that teams know the gameplan and know Cook is going to get the ball, they’ve been unable to stop them so far this season. He is well and truly passing the eye-test so far and has put up over 100 yards and one TD each game.Even when Cook is rested, they’ve got the rookie Alexander Mattison who can step in and do a similar job to Cook. He also found the end zone last week on his limited carries. The Bears’ gameplan revolves around forcing turnovers on defense and giving their average QB good field position to work with. Not even Mitch is able to mess up too badly when they get the ball inside the opponents 30. If the Vikings avoid turnovers, they win this match.NFL pick: Vikings +110 straight upThe parlay at the prices quoted pays out at +233.
Related Utah-TCU tilt puts Utes in spotlight ESPN will be in SLC for ‘GameDay’ ’08 victory convinced Wynn New Utah uniforms support troops SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah men’s basketball team tips off its season Friday night when Adams State, a Division II team from Colorado, visits the Huntsman Center for a 7 p.m. exhibition contest. The season officially begins the following Friday when another Division II team, Grand Canyon, plays the Utes in the Huntsman Center.Actually the Utes have already played a game, but no one is supposed to know about it. The Utes went to Tucson over the weekend and played a secret game against the University of Arizona. The gym was completely empty except for the players, coaches and a couple of security guards. No stats were kept, although the teams were allowed to film the game.Because of strict NCAA rules, Utah coach Jim Boylen can’t say anything about the actual game, but the Utes played well and he offered, “It was a great learning experience and hopefully we can grow from it.”College teams are allowed to play two exhibition games every year, but are also allowed to use one of them to play another college team in a “practice” game. Under Boylen, the Utes have done this the past two years, playing the University of Colorado at the Huntsman Center and in Boulder.GETTING BETTER: With nine new players, it has been a challenge so far this season, but Boylen believes his team is progressing well, three weeks into official practice time.”We’re starting to grasp the concepts of our foundation — that we can play full speed and do it,” he said. “We’re starting to understand how hard you have to play at this level. We’ve adjusted better to the pace of practice.”Newcomers Josh Watkins and Will Clyburn continue to shine in practice along with returning forward Shawn Glover. Sophomore center Jason Washburn and freshman J.J. O’Brien are getting time with the first team as projected starters David Foster and Jay Watkins are sitting out with nagging injuries.The Utes added a pair of walk-ons this week from tryouts in October — Seth Tippetts, a 6-8 forward from Sandy, and Michael Hodgman, a guard from California.REDSHIRTS: Boylen said he won’t make any announcements about players who will be redshirting until next week before the first game.As many as four of the 15 players could be redshirted with freshman walk-ons Neal Monson and Josh Fuller, who are planning on LDS missions after the year, almost certain to be. The other two most likely redshirts are freshmen guards Preston Guiot from Missouri and Dominique Lee from California. Neither is expected to crack the Utes’ nine-man playing rotation and might be better off saving a year of eligibility.Boylen said it’s a decision between him, the player and his family.”Some coaches don’t like to redshirt a guy, because it locks up a scholarship in the program for another year but I’ve been open to it because I’ve been asked to build a program,” Boylen said.Three players from Boylen’s first recruiting class redshirted, including Washburn, Chris Hines and Josh Sharp, who is serving an LDS mission. Last year, forward Jeremy Olsen redshirted before going on a mission.TICKETS: Men’s basketball single-game tickets went on sale Monday. Fans can purchase tickets on the web at www.utahutes.com, by phone at 801-581-UTIX or in-person at the Rice-Eccles Ticket Office.Utah will also offer several ticket packages, which are on sale now. Season tickets in the lower bowl are available starting at $199. Single-game tickets start at $15 in the lower bowl.Season tickets in Section F are also available now for $99. “Section F” is Utah’s designated zone behind the west basket for the loudest and most active fans.Also anyone purchasing season tickets for the 2010-11 season will receive first priority in 2011-12 when Utah enters the Pac-12.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org