Super Bowl 50 – Preview and Betting Selections

THE BIG PICTURE

The Carolina Panthers arrive in Santa Clara as the favourites to round off a memorable season and lift their first ever Vince Lombardi. Ron Rivera’s squad finished the season 15-1 and with probable MVP Cam Newton in control of the offence, they are well fancied to win Super Bowl 50.

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They carried their regular season form into the playoffs too. Against Seattle, Carolina raced out to a 31-0 lead, eventually holding on to win 31-24 after a sloppy second half. However against Arizona it was a complete blowout, a 49-15 beatdown of the NFC West Champions.

Denver meanwhile have had a rollercoaster ride to arrive in the big dance. Peyton Manning was very ineffective early in the season as seemingly his age caught up to him, throwing 17 interceptions against only nine touchdowns before he excited the starting lineup due to a foot injury. The defence however has carried the Broncos right through the year, with a dominant defensive line led by superstar pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Vonn Miller. In their conference win against New England, Wade Phillips was able to deploy just a three-man rush against Tom Brady and even then they were still getting to the Michigan-alum.

The offensive problems are well documented for Manning and the Broncos in what could be the future-hall-of-famer’s final game on an NFL gridiron. The medium to deep ball power has extremely diminished for the former Colt, while his receivers had a bout of the drops last time out against the Patriots. Because of their dominant, top-ranked defence however, Manning has become a game-manager, looking after the ball and not forcing throws or turning the ball over. Field position will be a huge factor to this game and Denver have a very capable punter in Britton Colquitt.

16703_Cam_Newton_during_the_2011_NFL_season

POINT SPREAD

Onto the selections then and first up the spread. Initially the line opened at 3.5, but that is long gone and has now climbed to 5.5 as all the public money has come steaming into Carolina. The advice would be to wait till Sunday and hope for more support for Carolina. If the line reaches 6.5 or hopefully a straight 7, you’d have to take the points as it is. The best defence in the league shouldn’t be such a big ‘dog in such a huge contest.

TOTAL POINTS

When we talk of Denver’s fantastic defence, the Carolina squad is barely a step behind. Luke Kuchely’s name was certainly in the Defensive MVP talk and though Thomas Davis has a broken arm, he will still be lining up alongside Kuchely. We should get a good grasp on how the game is going to go early doors. If Denver can control the strong run game of Carolina (which I think they can) then the under 44.5 certainly comes into play. A scorline of 24-20 or 23-17 is in the realms of possibility here and that would see the under click.

TOUCHDOWN SCORER

More of a fun interest bet than anything else, this gives non-serious punters a way to cheer on one team or player so let’s select one per side. Before we do however, get a few quid on each Defence/Special Teams to score first. Given the strength of each defence and the possibility of early nerves we could get a run for our money. Add in the fact that Ted Ginn is one of the best returners in the game, then we have a number of chances. A defensive/special teams score in the game is also in play. Anyway for Denver, it was Owen Daniels who opened the scoring a fortnight ago and he is capable again. With Manning’s lack of arm strength he looked down the seam a lot and if he can get matched up with a banged up Davis he could come through. For Carolina, we’ll go with their tight end Gregg Olsen. He is Newton’s favourite target and outside of Gronkowski, has been the best player at his position all season.

PLAYER PROPS

You’re not going to get rich on the props market with most selections 10/11 but it does give you a player interest in the game. Let’s start with the Panthers and their rushing attack. Jonathan Stewart has tallied 19 rushing attempts or more in 10-of-11 games following Carolina’s Week 5 bye, including both playoff games, so take the over 18.5 attempts. SuperCam finished with double-digit rushing attempts in each of Carolina’s first two playoff games, while only three NFL teams allowed more yards per quarterback run than the Broncos this season, so the over 38.5 yards is in play. Passing-wise, Greg Olsen notched 6 catches in each playoff game so far and Hills have evens about 6 or more again on Sunday. With a tough pass rush Cam will be looking to get the ball out quick and given the tight matchups on the outside, Olsen should once again be his favoured target.

GAME WINNER

Another tough Super Bowl to pick after last year’s contest which started as a pick em. Much like the players for the Broncos, punters need to forgot the memory of the Super Bowl two years ago against Seattle if you are with Peyton Manning and co. That day the Broncos were favoured against the upstart Seahawks and were blown away. Many people are doubting Carolina and trying to crab the form so to speak but they feel eerily similar to that Seattle team two years ago. However that said, after seeing the Denver defence control Brady and learning off their past experiences of Russell Wilson, they will be able to control Newton enough to manage the game and send Peyton Manning into retirement with his second Super Bowl ring.

Denver, USA - JANUARY 19: Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots AFC Championship at Sports Authority Field. The Denver Broncos defeat the New England Patriots. Peyton Manning celebrates after the win. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

SELECTIONS (at time of writing):

Denver +6 pts @ 4/5 – Bet 365

Under 44.5 pts @ 20/21 – Ladbrokes

Denver D/ST 1st Touchdown @ 25/1 – Sky Bet

Carolina D/ST 1st Touchdown @ 22/1 – Sky Bet

Owen Daniels 1st Touchdown @ 16/1 – Ladbrokes/Coral/William Hill

Greg Olsen 1st Touchdown @ 10/1 – Paddy Power/Ladbrokes/William Hill

Jonathan Stewart over 18.5 Rush Attempts @ 10/11 – William Hill

Cam Newton over 38.5 Rushing yards @ 5/6 – Paddy Power

Greg Olsen Over 5.5 Receptions @ Evs – William Hill

Denver To Win @ 2/1 –Ladbrokes

NFL Betting Preview – Week 1 TV Games

GREEN BAY @ CHICAGO – SUNDAY 6PM – SKY SPORTS

The Spread: Green Bay -6.5

The Total: Under 49

The First Touchdown: Randall Cobb

Why: A tough total in Chicago, but Green Bay look good things despite the loss of Jordy Nelson. The man under centre for Green Bay will be on MVP ballots at the end of the year, though they may lean on Eddie Lacy against a porous Bear run defence. For Chicago, Jay Cutler has a 13:22 TD:INT ratio against Dom Capers-led Packers defence and Alshon Jeffrey could miss the opener as well. Expect a lot of Matt Forte (what’s new?) while Martellus Bennett could be the top passing game option.

BALTIMORE @ DENVER – SUNDAY 9.25PM – SKY SPORTS

The Spread: Denver -4.5

The Total: Under 48.5

The First Touchdown: CJ Anderson

Why: The Broncos defense ranked No. 2 against the run and No. 9 against the pass last year and the trio of DeMarcus Ware, Vonn Miller and rookie Shane Ray could be the best pass-rush trio in the league. Joe Flacco’s top target this term is 36-year-old Steve Smith and he’ll be up against the stingy Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. With Gary Kubiak running the show in Denver, look for Peyton Manning to be  handing off a whole lot more this term.

NEW YORK GIANTS @ DALLAS COWBOYS – MONDAY 1.30AM – SKY SPORTS

The Spread: New York +6

The Total: Over 51.5

The First Touchdown: Odell Beckham Jnr

Why: ODB made his name with THAT catch against Brandon Carr and the Cowboys last term. But it was his 7 games over 100+ yards receiving that really propelled him and he could be the leading wideout come season’s end. Greg Hardy doesn’t play till week so the pass rush could still be suspect for Dallas, however Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should pick up where they left off last term. Shootout potential under the lights on Sunday night.

PHILADELPHIA @ATLANTA – TUESDAY 12.10AM – SKY SPORTS

The Spread: Philadelphia -3

The Total: Over 55

The First Touchdown: Nelson Agholor

Why: Another shootout in store for the opener on Monday Night Football. Sam Bradford is a significant upgrade on Mark  Sanchez and Nick Foles but will he stay healthy? If he does this Eagles team will be one of the most high-scoring units in football. Jordan Matthews is ready for his breakout year out of the slot in Chip Kelly’s hyper-speed offence, while DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews provide a perfect one-two punch. New OC Kyle Shanahan will make Julio Jones one of the most targeted WR’s this term and look for him to have joy against a porous Eagle secondary.

MINNESOTA @ SAN FRANCISCO – TUESDAY 3.20AM

The Spread: Minnesota -2.5

The Total: Under 41.5

The First Touchdown: Charles Johnson

Why: A one for the purists to close out week 1. With Adrian Peterson back, expect the Vikings to be even more run-heavy than usual, though they will be missing stalwarts John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt off the offensive line. Mike Wallace’s addition gives Teddy Bridgewater a field-stretcher out wide and the Vikes will make the playoffs under Coach of the Year Mike Zimmer. The Niners will finish the season with a top five draft pick, though NaVorro Bowman’s return will see him contender for Comeback Player of the Year.

Heisman Trophy: Betting Preview

Recent history suggests a quarterback will land college football’s most prestigious award, with the last five and eight of the last nine lining up under centre. However a couple of running backs for big schools could be set for huge years.

Nick Chubb @ 12/1 – Skybet & Bet365

A huge season for Chubb with the Georgia Bulldogs last season, despite having to play second fiddle to Todd Gurley early doors. Averaged a whopping 7.1 yards per carry and destroyed Louisville in the Belk Bowl going for 266 yards at 8.1 YPC. His offensive line features three returning starters including two seniors.


Leonard Fournette @ 12/1 – Paddy Power

Somewhat underwhelming season last year for the number 1 recruit. Made it hard work for himself after striking the Heismann pose in his second every game against lowly FCS school Sam Houston State. Integral part of LSU’s SEC wins over Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M and also shredded Notre Dame for 143 yards on only 11 carries in the bowl game. Hopefully he has matured since his Heismann pose and Les Miles really feeds the former number 1 recruit the ball this season.

Those bets may well be for nothing if favourite Trevone Boykin has a great year with TCU. He fits the mold of the recent Heismann winners i.e. dual-threat quarterback (Mariota, Manziel, Tebow). With that said we should add a signal caller to the mix for interest…


DeShaun Watson @ 28/1 – Coral

Extensive playing time as a true freshman last season at Clemson despite being severely hampered by injuries. Started the season as the #2 but was soon given the starters gig for game 4 vs UNC and proceeded to light it up, throwing six touchdowns and over 400 yards. A week 6 injury derailed what was turning into an impressive campaign for Watson. He would start only one further game late in the season against rivals South Carolina, playing with a torn ACL, Despite the injury he led Clemson to an impressive one, tallying four total touchdowns without turning the ball over. Off-season ACL surgery has gone smoothly and 28/1 looks too big for a player with a skillset similar to the market leaders at the position – Boykin and Prescott.

NFL Cheat Sheet : Cowboys

Cowboys

Lots going on in the off season, not reading the MMQB every week? The NFL Cheat Sheet has you covered! Less than 500 words everything you need to know about the Off-Season

DALLAS COWBOYS

No major changes for the coaching staff in Dallas. O-line coach Bill Callaghan moved on to Washington, with Frank Pollack moving up to the main gig from his assistant spot. Interesting fact: if Jason Garrett makes it through the regular season, he’ll be the second longest tenured coach in Cowboys history…


PLAYERS OUT

  • Bruce Carter ILB          Free agent move to Tampa Bay
  • Justin Durant OLB        Free agent move to Atlanta
  • Dwayne Harris WR     Free agent move to New York Giants
  • Henry Melton DT           Free agent move to Tampa Bay
  • Jeremy Parnell RT           Free agent move to Jacksonville
  • George Selvie DE           Free agent move to New York Giants
  • Anthony Spencer            Free agent move to New Orleans
  • Sterling Moore CB           Free agent move to Tampa Bay
  • DeMarco Murray         DUBIOUS free agent move to Philadelphia

PLAYERS IN

  • Keith Rivers
  • Jasper Brinkley Backup linebackers/special teamers
  • Andrew Gachker
  • Greg Hardy Premier pass rusher, huge free agent signing, banned 4 games
  • Darren McFadden Rejuvenation project running back – former first rounder
  • Corey White Nickel Corner/safety from historically bad pass D in New Orleans
  • Efe Obada DE plucked from London O’s. Hope for all IAFL players yet!

DRAFT

  • Byron Jones – Athletic freak. Corner from UConn will also get time at safety. Has the length to succeed in the modern day NFL.
  • Randy Gregory – off-field issues saw him fall out of first to the bottom of the second round. Potential steal of the draft as he works alongside Greg Hardy and d-line guru Rod Marinelli.
  • Damien Wilson – athletic linebacker from Wisconsin could compete for starting SAM linebacker job.
  • Chaz Green – swing tackle from Florida could miss the start of camp with injury. Replaces Jeremey Parnell as backup tackle.

Overall

The Cowboys look well set to make another run at the NFC title. Franchise tag deadline day saw Dez Bryant finally sign his long term contract, solidifying his spot as possibly the best wideout playing the game.

Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory are huge additions to the defensive line, while Byron Jones has all the attributes to be a big player in the secondary. Given that the Cowboys season was ended by their inability to stop a gimpy Aaron Rodgers escaping the pocket in the frigid Green Bay air, they have addressed their issues well. DeMarco Murray’s loss could be big, but McFadden’s addition alongside Joseph Randle could well make up for it in a committee situation.

Super Bowl XLIX – Betting Preview

It’s finally here. Super Bowl XLIX is upon us with reigning champions the Seattle Seahawks going up against the New England Patriots in Arizona. It’s the matchup a lot of people wanted as the Seahawks look to get the better of another future hall-of-fame quarterback in the biggest game of them all. Let’s dive straight in and take a look at where the game could be won and lost and what selections stand out!

Game Preview

First of all this game is a “pick em game”- in other words it’s 10/11 for either side to win the game, with a handicap of one against either side depending on which firm you go to, highlighting just how closely matched these squads are. So this is a perfect opportunity to get your tenner or twenty euro/pound down and have a team to cheer on while watching the greatest show on turf.

Let’s put this out there from the outset, I’m in the New England camp in a low scoring affair.

Defence could well be the order of the day here, with both offences lacking explosive playmakers who can get chunk yards. Seattle like to pound the ball early and often with Marshawn Lynch, while keeping you honest with the threat of Russell Wilson scrambling from the pocket or a designed run out of an option keeper. On the flip side, Tom Brady uses shifty wideouts Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as an extension of the running game, getting the ball out quickly and into the hands of his receivers who are fantastic at getting open quickly against all types of coverage.

As ever when thinking about any selections, you have to visualise how you think the game will go. Coach Bill Belichick is from a defensive background and is renowned for taking away an opposition’s strength. This Seattle running game is that strong that you may not be able to shut it down completely, but if New England manage to stifle it enough to make Russell Wilson have to beat you with his arm then Seattle may not have the weapons at wideout to succeed.

Revis Island has been back in business this season, with the former Jet bouncing back to his high level of play, while the addition of Brandon Browner has added a physical player on the outside, despite his proneness to penalties. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have stepped up with big plays in the clutch at times throughout the season but it will be a struggle for them to win their one-on-one battles against the talented Patriot defensive backfield.

On the other side of things, New England had success running the ball in their blowout win over Indianapolis in the AFC title game, and that could be the way to attack Seattle in this game. Brandon Mebane’s mid-season loss was big for the Seahawks and Eddie Lacy was gaining considerable yards early in the NFC title game before the strange decision of Mike McCarthy to move away from a running game that was churning out chunk yardage.

LaGarette Blount could be in for another big day, hot on the heels of his 30 carry, 148 yard, three touchdown game against the Colts. Look for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski to be lined up on the same side of the field often as well, as Brady looks to find his open man against a Seattle D that has somewhat of a weakness between the hash marks.

SELECTIONS

  • New England to win @ 10/11 (various) – As highlighted above, New England has the weapons on both sides of the ball, as well as in the coaching box, to handle this Seattle squad.
  • New England -6.5 pts @ 9/4 (Ladbrokes) & New England to win by 7-12 pts @ 11/2 (B365) – Again as already mentioned, we’re firmly in the Patriots camp and can see a touchdown win for Brady and co.
  • MVP’s – L.Blount @ 25/1, Jamie Collins @ 150/1 & Kam Chancellor (40/1) BetVictor – Blount could be the key to the Pats offence if he has a repeat of the game he had against the Colts he could be going to Disneyland. Jamie Collins is one of the most athletic linebackers in the league and will no doubt be tasked with neutralising the threat of Russell Wilson running. He’s too big at 150/1 if he shows up in a big Way. Again Kam Chancellor is a walking highlight reel and a huge game from the hard-hitting safety could see him walking away with the MVP gong.
  • L.Blount first touchdown scorer @ 12/1 (Various) – This bet landed in the AFC title game and can go in again here. The Pats like to quick snap the ball anytime they get down around the goal line with a quick hand off.
  • First scoring play New England Field Goal & Seattle Seahawks Field Goal (split stakes) @ 4/1 (BetVictor) – Both teams will understandably be nervous and New England in particular will have seen the Denver botched snap on the opening play of last year’s game multiple times. Any early success will be key for both offences with any lead being something to build on.

Good luck if you choose to follow. As mentioned at the start of this piece, this is one of the most wide open Super Bowl’s in recent history so you could completely disagree with everything written. Whatever you choose to get involved with, thanks for reading all season and have a fantastic Super Bowl Sunday.

P.S. – One more thing. Katy Perry to sing Roar as her first halftime song. BUYING MONEY.

NFL Betting Preview – Divisional Saturday

A fantastic slate of games to look forward to on divisional weekend in the NFL. We’ll start by taking a look at the Saturday night games, which should both be great spectacles.

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Baltimore went into Pittsburgh a week ago and knocked off an out-of-sorts Steelers to set up another clash with Tom Brady and co in Foxboro. Despite only putting up 17 pts , Ben Roethlisberger was able to move the ball through the air, throwing for over 300 yards, so look for Brady to do work against a below-average Raven secondary. The former Michigan man will likely to be looking to get the ball out quick to negate the pass rush of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. This means Julian Edelman could come into play, with screens and routes from the slot. It could also be tough sledding for the New England run game against a Ravens defence that finished 4th best in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

Baltimore’s offence is built around the run, with play action passes and moving the pocket all stemming from success on the ground in Gary Kubiak’s system. However again it could be tough for Justin Forsett to get going, especially after a slow game last week in Pittsburgh. From Weeks 9-16 the Pats held opposing backs to 405 yards with just one touchdown on 129 carries (3.14 YPC), before resting starters against Buffalo in week 17. In the secondary, Darrelle Revis has regained the form he had when with the Jets and he could shadow Torey Smith, allowing Brandon Browner to try and out-muscle Steve Smith on short and intermediate routes. With not much else it could be tough work for this Ravens offence in what is set to be a pumped up Gillette Stadium.

RECCOMENDATIONS

Main Selection: Under 47.5 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – Can see this Patriots defence coming out all guns blazing. Couple that with the success Baltimore had against one of the best offences in the league last week, we could have the makings of a low-scoring affair in Foxboro.

First touchdown: Tim Wright @ 16/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power, Coral) – New England went away from their heralded two tight end sets somewhat this term, but Timothy Wright still has six touchdowns on the year and could benefit from a lot of attention on Gronk.

Additional selection: Justin Forsett under 70.5 Rushing Yards : 10/11 (SkyBet) – Forsett was bottled up last week and as mentioned above could find it hard for running room against a tough Pats run D. Factor in the potential for Baltimore to be playing from behind and it could be a hard day for the Ravens feature back.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Carolina squeaked into the playoffs, winning the disastrous NFC South, before overcoming an offence-less Arizona Cardinals on wildcard weekend. Now though they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in front of the 12th man, in what could be a long evening for Cam Newton’s crew. Seattle held their opponents to single digit point totals in five of their final six games and with a nice week to rest over the bye, the Legion of Boom should continue their dominant play against a middle of the road Carolina offence.

The Seahawks offence continues to rely heavily on the legs of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. Beast Mode should be relatively fresh coming into the playoffs this time around, having his smallest carry total in the regular season since 2010. Carolina lost DT Star Lotuleilei during the week and he will be a huge miss, meaning Lynch will see clearer running room in front of him.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Main Selection: Carolina +11 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – A very large handicap for Seattle to cover here. Carolina’s defence got back to somewhere near their 2013 level during the stretch and that continued over to last week. Cam Newton’s legs could provide the key and it’s difficult to see Seattle running away with it.

First Touchdown: Russell Wilson @ 12/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power) – Wilson is always a threat with his legs, especially on read options plays in the redzone.

Additional Selections – Marshawn Lynch over 18.5 Rush Attempts @ 11/10 (Ladbrokes) – As mentioned above Lynch is well rested and ready to go. He carried it 28 times in this round of the playoffs last year, before getting 22 totes in the Championship game with San Francisco, so he should get plenty of looks in what could be a tight running affair.

NFL Wildcard Sunday – Betting Preview

 

The first two games of Wildcard Weekend are in the books, with the Panthers rolling over the Cardinals, while Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and pulled out the upset thanks to another impressive defensive display. Onto the next batch of games, with plenty of opportunities available, and a better showing needed tonight on our part.

CINCINATTI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

First and foremost AJ Green will be a huge miss for the Bengals. The former Georgia man is set to miss out with a concussion, so look for running back Jeremy Hill to feature heavily, as the Marvin Lewis team looks to control the game through their running attack and defence. During the eight weeks where Hill handled 17-plus touches this season, the Bengals went 7-1.

Indianapolis will no doubt have replayed the tape of their 27-0 beat down of this same Bengal squad from earlier this year numerous times this week. Again the Bengals were AJ Green-less then, and it could be even harder for Andy Dalton with it all on the line now. In his three career playoff games, Dalton is 70-of-123 (56.9%) for 718 yards (5.84 YPA) with a 1:6 TD-to-INT ratio, without notching a win.

The Colts two post-season games a year ago saw a combined 154 points, but with some health problems for both units, this might not be as wild as predicted. TY Hilton was hampered down the stretch with a hamstring, while Dwayne Allen and Reggie Wayne also struggled with niggles. With no run game to speak of, it will once again all be on the shoulders of the former #1 pick from Stanford, Andrew Luck.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Main Selection: Cincinnati +4 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – If Jeremy Hill can have success and keep Dalton in manageable third down situations, the Bengals may be able to get a strong foothold in this game. A field goal game either way sees the bet click.

First Touchdown: Jeremy Hill @ 7/1 (BetVictor, Coral, Hills) – The former LSU man has to carry the Bengal squad today and is an obvious choice to cross first, if the coin toss falls our way.

Additional Selections: Jeremy Hill over 19.5 rush attempts @ 10/11 (Lads) – Keeping on the same theme, for Cinci to win Andy Dalton has to hand it off. Hill must see over 20 carries.

DETROIT LIONS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Arguably the game of Wildcard weekend as Dallas hosts Detroit in a strength v strength encounter. DeMarco Murary led the league in rushing during the regular season, but he meets a stern Detroit front that finished No. 1 in run defense and No. 1 in yards-per-carry allowed (3.17). The Lions have also been boosted by the news that Ndamukong Suh will be available after having his ban overturned.

Don’t expect the Cowboys to deviate from their gameplan too much despite the tough opposition. Murray is very adept at grinding out the ‘dirty yards’ as put by coach Jason Garrett, which helps open things up for Tony Romo who forced himself into MVP contention with a lights out December. In fact Romo led the NFL in 2014 in completion percentage (69.9%), touchdown rate (7.8% of his throws went for a score), yards per attempt (8.5), and quarterback rating (113.2).

For Detroit’s offence it all comes down to Matthew Stafford. While he has put up nice numbers over his career with the help of Calvin Johnson, Stafford is 0-17 against teams that ended with winning records on the road. Will he be able to get it down with all the marbles on the line?

RECOMMENDATIONS

Main Selection: Detroit Lions +6.5 @ 10/11 (Various) – As a Cowboy fan hopefully its straightforward, but from a logical view this game could well turn into another shootout with the offensive weapons on display. In that scenario, it could well be a field goal or two that seals it either way.

First Touchdown: Cole Beasley @ 16/1 (BetVictor) – Beasley has turned into Wes Welker lite this season, working the middle of the field very well and starting a nice rapport with his quarterback.

Additional Selection – Lance Dunbar over 15.5 Rush & Receving Yards @ 10/11 (Lads) – Dunbar gets some work as the third down and passing back. The screen game could be useful to keep the Detroit pass rush at bay and one screen pass to Dunbar could very well see this bet land.

NFL Wildcard Saturday – Betting Preview

NFL BETTING PREVIEW – WILDCARD SATURDAY

A brief respite from the final fortnight of the season has us well and truly pumped for the playoffs. A nice antepost ticket on the Dallas Cowboys @ 16/1 has us cheering on Jerry’s boys, so let’s dive straight into Wildcard Weekend, with numerous thoughts and selections.

ARZIONA CARDINALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

So it was the Panthers who emerged from the shockingly bad NFC South, though their play significantly improved down the stretch going 4-0 over their last four, highlighted by the shellacking they gave rivals Atlanta in the playoff-showdown last week in the Georgia dome. Finally resembling last year’s stellar defence, Ron Riveras crew notched 14 sacks in their last 4 games, with five interceptions so it could be hard work for the lifeless Arizona unit.

Ryan Lindley again has to take charge of the anemic Cardinal offence in the absence of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. He linked up well with Michael Floyd last week in San Francisco, so look for that partnership to have the most success for Arizona, given Larry Fitzgerald’s injury troubles. However it will still be tough sledding for a team will once again rely on it’s defence. Even with below-par offensive play, this is very much a winnable game for Arizona thanks to mastermind schemer Bruce Arians and their talented defence.

Recommendations:

Main selection: Under 38 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – Two dominant defences with less than explosive offences could see a tight battle with all the marbles on the line.

First touchdown: Cam Newton @ 10/1 (Various) – Cam has ran for a touchdown in his last 3 and will need his legs against a tough Cards front.

Additional selection: Arizona FG 1st Scoring Play @ 4/1 (BetVictor) – As mentioned two tough D’s could turn this into a field goal game.

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Another huge AFC North playoff battle between these two, with the huge news that Le’Veon Bell will miss out for Pittsburgh. Bell is a huge loss for Mike Tomlin’s side, with Josh Harris filling in. Bell’s patience and burst saw him to second in the NFL in rushing and it remains to be seen what kind of game plan the Steelers will go for in his absence. Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have been fantastic this season, with Brown ending the regular season atop the receiving charts. Expect him to feature even more heavily in Bell’s absence.

In contrast, look for Baltimore to employ a control game plan, playing field position and keeping Pittsburgh dynamic passing game off the field. Justin Forsett had a breakout year and ended the season well against Cleveland last week. He now takes on a Steelers defence that gives up 4.31 YPC to opposing running backs. Quarterback Joe Flacco had success in his two games against Pittsburgh earlier this term, throwing four touchdowns.

Recommendations:

Main Selection: Under 44.5 pts @ Evens (Boylesports) – Maybe missed the boat here, but with Bell’s absence and a brutal weather forecast, this could turn into a defensive slugfest, with one Raven fan I talked to earlier this week declaring whichever team gets to 20 wins the game.

First Touchdown: Martivis Bryant @ 10/1 (BetVictor, Hills, Coral) – Bryant is the deep threat for Pittsburgh and can get in behind a very shaky Raven secondary if Ben is given time.

Additional selection: Justin Forsett over 70.5 Rushing Yards @ 10/11 (Lads) – We could see a heavy dose of Forsett if the conditions take a turn for the worse at Heinz Field.

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles – Game Preview

DALLAS COWBOYS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – MONDAY 1.30AM IRISH TIME

The Dallas Cowboys travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a huge NFC East clash on Sunday Night Football.

Both teams share the division lead at 9-4, with the winner taking outright pole position in the East, meaning their destiny is in their own hands over the remaining two weeks of the season, while the other must hope for favours from other teams to wrestle back the division lead or a wildcard spot.

Only two weeks have passed since the Eagles gave Dallas a 33-10 beating in Texas, a game that the Eagles controlled from the outset. Mark Sanchez engineered five scoring drives in the first half alone as the Cowboys zone defence was torn apart, while the Philly defensive line got plenty of pressure on the much-heralded Dallas O-line and Tony Romo.

Not taking anything from the level of play from the Eagles that day, but Dallas fans will be hoping the circumstances surrounding that game played a big part in their team’s disappointing display.

Dallas returned from New York in the small hours of Monday morning after a Sunday Night win in New York, meaning the usual short Thanksgiving game turnaround was even shorter. Couple that with Tony Romo’s unique weekly schedule this term where he takes Wednesday practices off to aid his surgically-repaired back, then there is enough to suggest the 10-day gap between games this time around could do wonder’s for both sides of the ball for this Cowboys squad.

Seattle provided the blueprint of how to get the better of Chip Kelly’s offence last week. Sanchez failed to reach 100 yards through the air, as Richard Sherman and Co played lockdown coverage on the outside, with Bobby Wagner controlling the middle of the field and the defensive line constantly a menace for the Eagles front five.

Who is going to win?

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Look for Chip Kelly to again go hyper-speed against a Dallas defence that has given up a huge number of big-plays so far this term, both through the air and on the ground, as the zone scheme ran by Rod Marinelli two weeks ago was abused by Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Maclin, whilst LeSean McCoy went for a over a buck fifty on the ground.

For the Cowboys to win this game on Sunday, they could do well to take the blueprint of the Super Bowl winning teams of the 90’s. The running game was largely a non-factor in the Thanksgiving Day game between these two teams, so look for Romo to open things up early through the air, quick hitters to Bryant and Witten, with slot corner Cole Beasley working the middle of the field, opening up running lanes for Murray as the game wears on if the ‘Boys have a foothold in the game.

No question this is the most important game of the year for both these clubs come Sunday night, and with the extra time to prepare, look for it to be a tighter matchup than the first clash just a few short weeks ago.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 34 – 31 Philadelphia Eagles.

NFL Betting Preview – Week 14

A busy mix of work and football last weekend prevented a Sunday Betting Preview, but we did hammer out some Thanksgiving Day selections that were a mixed bag. But with the regular season winding down, it’s time to get a few winners in the bag to give us some playoff spends!

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CINCINNATTI BENGALS

A huge game this week on the banks of the Ohio River, as the Bengals look to extend their divisional lead over the visiting Steelers. This could very well turn into a slug fest with so much at stake, with UNDER 47 PTS @ 10/11 the first selection of week 14.

Andy Dalton was poor last week in Tampa Bay, but his Bengals squad managed to squeeze out a vital win. He has a 7:10 TD-to-INT ratio over the past six weeks, while the former TCU man has faced Pittsburgh six times now entering his fourth year in the league, throwing just seven touchdown passes against five picks. Look for the Steelers to load the box to stop a decent Bengals running attack and make Dalton beat them.

Despite Pacman Jones and Terrance Newman being some of the elder statesmen in terms of defensive backs in the NFL, they’ve done a nice job this term limiting opposing passing attacks, as neither Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans passed 50 yards receiving last week. Antonio Brown has had a fantastic year so far for Pittsburgh but he may face a tougher task this week against the pair. Le’Veon Bell has carried the Steelers running game, touching the ball 64 times over the past two games, but again he could find life more difficult this week going against a Bengal unit that has held opposing running backs to 373 yards on 114 carries (3.27 YPC) over their last four games.

Look for defences to step up in this one. UNDER 47 PTS @ 10/11 opens this week’s selections, as Pittsburgh grinds out a clutch 23-20 win on the road. AJ Green to score the first touchdown @ 13/2 appeals given the struggles Ike Taylor had on his return last week against New Orleans.

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Gonna roll the dice here in the Superdome with another divisional match up in which the Saints finally stake their claim for the NFC South division. NEW ORLEANS -10 PTS @ 10/11 is next.

Maybe last week was the game that finally broke the Saints out of the sleepwalking state they’ve been in all season. With the NFC South there for the taking, New Orleans snapped a three-game losing streak, as well as winning on the road for only the second time all year in Pittsburgh. The Saints now return home looking to build on that momentum ahead of a potential division-winning showdown with Atlanta in a fortnight’s time.

In the last three meetings between these two squads, Carolina has failed to score more than 17 points on each occasion. A similar total this time means Brees and co need four touchdowns and a couple of boots from Shayne Graham for the bet to click, easily within their range. Brees has thrown multiple touchdown passes in all but one of his six 2014 Superdome games, completing 71.5% of his throws with a 7.56 YPA, 14 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Look for more success against the Panthers for Jimmy Graham. The former hoops man has scored a touchdown or passed 100 yards in each of his seven outings against this defence.

Look for the boys from the Bayou to grab a hold of this division by the scruff of the neck this week, as NEW ORLEANS -10 PTS @ 10/11 is next on the slip, Nola taking it 31-17, with the main man Graham crossing first @ 13/2.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cutting straight to the chase here, these two teams are offensively challenged. Despite the low line, we’ll take the UNDER 40.5 PTS @ 10/11 to round off week 14.

Arizona has held opposing quarterbacks to a 9:11 TD-to-INT ratio over their last eight games while play caller Todd Bowles’ blitz-heavy defense has racked up 18 sacks over the past four outings. Going against a Chiefs side that incredibly has still yet to have a wide receiver catch a touchdown pass. Patrick Peterson was embarrassed by former SEC foe Julio Jones last week, but look for a bounce back by the former LSU man back in Phoenix.

Carson Palmer is already on the shelf for the year, while Larry Fitzgerald’s age has finally caught up with him and Andre Ellington will also miss this week’s tilt, leaving a void in the playmaking areas of this Cardinals offence. Palmer’s replacement Drew Stanton is stinking the place up. He’s thrown five interceptions over his last three games and led just the one solitary touchdown drive across the last 11 quarters of football.

Not one for fantasy players, or neutrals, but we’ll dive right into this one with UNDER 40.5 PTS @ 10/11 rounding off the week, as Kansas City breaks their mini-losing streak with a 23-13 win in the desert. A bold pick of Alex Smith to run one in for the first score @ 20/1 isn’t the worst price in the world.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Top cover man for the Indianapolis Colts Vontae Davis is out for the meeting with Josh Gordon and the Browns. Could this be the week Gordon gets his first touchdown of the year. Over 85.5 yards @ 10/11 is interesting, with Gordon to score the first touchdown @ 9/1 some decent value.
  • The Seattle D has returned to last year’s standards that carried them to the Super Bowl. Now the acid test against Chip Kelly’s uptempo offence in Philly, a test I think they’ll pass. Seahawks for the upset win at 11/10 could be a nice odds booster on any accumulators this weeekend.
  • JJ Watt to score the first touchdown is worst priced 14/1! Madness. Shorter price than half of the Jacksonville skill players. MVP.