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.

Week 1 TV Listings

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Friday September 11th 1:30am

Sky Sports 1
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots

Sunday September 13th

Sky Sports 3

6pm

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

9pm

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Monday September 14th

Sky Sports 3

1.30am

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys

Tuesday September 15th

Sky Sports 1

12.10am

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons

3.20am

Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers[/column]

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[/row]

NFL Betting Preview – Week 11

First off, apologies for the lack of column last week. This column is written every Friday, however last week was taken up by the wedding of the best running back in Ireland, while the weekend was spent getting skint in London seeing the future Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys dismantle a hapless Jaguars outfit. Anyhow let’s back on the horse this weekend!

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ WAHSINGTON REDSKINS

This is a sneaky matchup in terms of points. Robert Griffin III returned for Washington last time out against Minnesota and did well, engineering five scoring drives. Meanwhile, Josh McCown was drafted back in under centre for the Bucs last time and also did well, finishing with 340 all-purpose yards. OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s treble.

The usual Alfred Morris stat gets rolled out each time Griffin makes his return from any injury problem but it’s worth highlighting. With Griffin under centre, Morris has 4.86 yards per carry as opposed to 3.69 yards per carry without him. The threat of the read option with the former Baylor Bear calling the shots allows more room for Morris and he should run well. Griffin should also go well against a Tampa defence that has allowed a 103.7 passer rating to opposing QB’s – third worst in the NFL.

Washington’s defence has been badly affected by injuries with pass-rusher Brian Orakpo and top cover man DeAngleo Hall done for the year. Bashaud Breeland has been a rookie success, but David Amerson has been poor and big targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans could have success.

OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 opens this week’s bet, with a scoreline somewhere in the region of 27-24 either way predicted here. V-Jax to score the first touchdown at 9/1 makes do.

HOUSTON TEXANS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Not the most attractive match on this week’s NFL slate, but we’re here to make money. Ryan Mallet is in at quarterback for Houston, but he has to take on a Cleveland defence that hasn’t given up more than 17 points over last three games. Coming off the back of a huge divisional win in Cincinnati, a 3 point spread at home looks to small for this Browns team. CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next on the slip.

Over the last 5 games, the Browns unit has allowed only five touchdowns, while intercepting 10 passes and sacking the quarterback 12 times. Joe Haden has rediscovered his shutdown cornerback status and with an immobile quarterback under centre, it could be a long afternoon for the Texans offence.

Cleveland’s success on offence has come on the ground. The Browns ran it an NFL-high 52 times last week, with Crowell, Tate and West all getting involved. Brian Hoyer has been the stereotypical game-manager getting the ball out quickly, until the Browns take the Lamborghini out of the garage next week, with Josh Gordon’s return. Houston are allowing 4.38 yards per carry to opposing backs so expect plenty of the three-headed monster this week.

CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next with a low-scoring Browns win in the region of 21-14. Ben Tate went in first last week, he’ll do again this week at a price of 9/1.

DENVER @ ST LOUIS

St Louis has finally generated a pass rush from it’s heralded linemen over the past two weeks, sacking the opposing trigger man 11 times over the last 2 games. However the Rams take on Peyton Manning under a roof, and that spells trouble for St Louis. DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 rounds off this week’s selections.

Manning and co bounced back from their loss to the Pats, with a win over the Oakland Raiders last week. Despite their pass rush success the last fortnight, expect Peyton to know this and a gameplan to revolve around getting the ball out quickly to a host of playmakers. Also as we mentioned the game is indoors. Manning has played three games indoors over the last two seasons with Denver, where he threw for 1200 yards (8.45 YPA) and an 11:2 TD-to-INT ratio.

Shaun Hill is under centre for the Rams, with coach Jeff Fisher finally losing patience with rookie Austin Davis, after a drop-off in play the last few months. Hill has played a total of 73 offensive snaps since the end of the 2010 season and is knocking on a bit – turning 35 by season’s end.

DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 with Denver handling St Louis by a score of 31-17. Touchdown machine Julius Thomas once again will do for first touchdown at 11/2.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Minnesota has given up 55 receptions to running backs, good for 6th most in the NFL. They go up against the best pass-catching back in the league tomorrow in Matt Forte. Big day expected for the former Tulane man.
  • Mark Ingram has been straight balling, finally showing his Heisman-winning talent despite a bum shoulder. He’s rushed for over a tonne his last 3 games, and now goes up against a Bengals D that was gashed to the tune of 169 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against a previously-terrible Browns running attack.
  • Carolina allowed Mark Sanchez to pass for 300+ yards last week. They get Matt Ryan this week with the Falcons finally getting the monkey off their back and winning on the road for the first time in over two years. Expect a big day for Matty Ice.
  • Two runners who should have plenty of touches – Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. The last 4 games the New York Giants have allowed 680 yards and four scores on the ground, while Marshawn Lynch is all the Seahawks have on offence at the moment. Pair that with Kansas City’s top ranked pass defence, it could be tough-sledding for Russell Wilson in Arrowhead.
  • Litmus-test for Mark Sanchez this week. On the road at Lambeau against a white-hot Green Bay squad. Will the real Mark Sanchez please stand up? It’s a tough ask for the former Jet, as he’ll be going toe-to-toe with the best player in football at the moment Aaron Rodgers. A-Rod has video game numbers at home – he’s not thrown a pick at home since December 4th 2012, and has 15 td’s already this year at Lambeau. Green Bay will win this football game.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 8

Week 8 marks the halfway point for most teams and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock and appreciate what we’ve got. The NFL Ireland Team of the Week has been dishing out the most-sought after honours in sport for half a season now, and the players keep making plays, each one desperate to get their name on the teamsheet! Whether it’s a quarterback making history or a veteran DB revisiting his island, Week 8 saw great performances from some of the top players in the league. Here’s your NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

TOTW-Offense-8

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

In case you were living under a rock this weekend, on Sunday Ben Roethlisberger gave us one of the greatest QB performances of all time. He was completely error-free, with a box score full of numbers so good they’d make Rachel Riley blush: 40 of 49, 6 passing TDs, 522 passing yards, 0 INTs, 0 sacks. Although he finished a TD shy of tying the single game record, and just 32 yards short of the all-time single-game passing record, Big Ben’s performance made him the first player in NFL history to have TWO games with over 500 passing yards. And this Colts team came into the game looking like one of the better defenses in the NFL. Ben, we salute you.

Running Back: Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is often the victim, sometimes of injuries, more often of the many-headed running back committee in New Orleans. With Darren Sproles  now injured in Philly and Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson both forced to sit out the Saints’ Sunday matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Ingram was finally used as the featured back his Heisman-winning college career promised he could be. The 4-th year veteran didn’t disappoint, carrying the rock 24 times for 172 yards and a touchdown as the Saints got their season back on track with a 44-23 win. Have they finally found how to use the talented back?

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

We’ve said it before: Gronk is back and when he works, the Patriots work. The tight end and Tom Brady were partying like it was, well, 2011, as they hooked up on 9 passes for 149 yards and  3 TDs in a blowout win against the misfiring Bears in Foxboro. With Gronk in this kind of form, he only needs to stay healthy to keep the Patriots offense firing. Of course that’s always been his problem, but he is the key to New England booming or busting.

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin – Philadelphia Eagles

Maclin is putting any fears about his ACL recovery to bed this season. Having hauled in a scary 12 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ painful loss to the Cardinals this week, he’s also showing why Chip Kelly had no problem in letting DeSean Jackson walk this offseason. Maclin’s performances have made Nick Foles look good and saved Philadelphia’s blushes on a couple of occasions. It wasn’t enough this time, but if he maintains this form the Eagles will always be in with a chance.

Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu – Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals improbably top the AFC North despite putting in some absolute stinkers since their bye week. A big reason for these bad performances has been the continued injuries of A.J. Green, but in his absence, Mohamed Sanu has stepped into his considerable shoes and performed admirably. In a tight divisional game against the Ravens, Sanu caught five balls for 125 yards, adding another 27 yards on two rushing attempts. Plays like this bobbling catch-and-run reception to bring the Bengals into scoring range are a big part of what Sanu does every week, and to do it in this tough a matchup was impressive.

Offensive Line: Denver Broncos

The Broncos managed to keep Peyton Manning’s jersey clean all day Thursday against the Chargers. As well as keeping their QB sack-free, they made the holes for Ronnie Hillman’s second rushing game of at least 100 yards this season. The Broncos O-line has been a strong base from which this offense is able to get downfield and score, which they do better than anybody.

 

Defense | Offense

TOTW-Defense-8

Defensive Line: Tennessee Titans

Looking for bright spots as a Titans fan is tough right now, but their D-line is starting to click again having faded after a promising start to the season. Jurell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Mike Martin, Al Woods and Ropati Pitoitua served as a reliable rotation in the hybrid fronts of Roy Horton on a team struggling for reliability on both sides of the football. Now if only they could get some help.

Linebackers – Buffalo Bills

So the Bills aren’t missing Kiko Alonso as much as people might have feared. Against a hapless New York Jets side they held the opposition running backs to just 78 yards while also forcing a fumble and taking an interception. A good game for a unit that continues to impress despite injuries to key players.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis – New England Patriots

The Patriots big offseason acquisition has been a solid performer in recent weeks. Against the Bears he was targeted 8 times but he only gave up 23 yards for 3 receptions. He also managed to catch his second pick since moving to New England. If he continues to perform like this the Patriots will be looking at another deep postseason run.

Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie – Arizona Cardinals

Cromartie landed in Arizona as the second corner behind Patrick Peterson. He’s been a good contributor at times this year, but his talents really shone on Sunday against an Eagles side who like to throw the ball. He had a pass breakup and by the end of the game Cromartie was also celebrating his first multiple-pick game since 2010. He also had this glorious juke on a red-zone interception return to leave two Eagles players smashing into each other.

Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson – Cleveland Browns

After a strong start to the season that saw him make our team in Week 2, Gipson’s form slipped slightly at the start of the month. He’s bounced back in the last two weeks with 3 passes defended, all picks. His most recent interceptions came against Derek Carr and a Raiders team who found it difficult throwing his way, and the Browns safety chipped in two tackles for good measure. With continued good all-round play, Gipson is fast being recognised as a quality safety in the NFL.

Strong Safety: D.J. Swearinger – Houston Texans

Swearinger’s return to form this season has been somewhat overshadowed by the stellar form of J.J. Watt, and his performance against the Titans was again quietly efficient. He didn’t allow a single reception into his area of coverage per PFF, breaking up one pass and picking off another. He’s always been strong against the run but his work in coverage this year has improved, and he has proven to be an excellent and consistent performer for the improved 2014 Texans.

NFL Betting Preview – Week 9

WEEK  8 RECAP

A poor one out of three on last week’s selections but with a trip across the Irish Sea to Wembley in the offing, the same amount of work wasn’t put into the column as usually is, and for that apologies. We’ll aim to right the ship this week though in what is an entertaining looking week in the NFL, including another Brady-Manning matchup in Foxboro.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

It’s been a somewhat disappointing last few weeks for the Bengals after a fantastic start to the season, but they did bounce back to form last time out against the Baltimore Ravens. However the 10.5 pt spread Cincy has to cover is somewhat large against a Jaguars team that despite still being poor on offence is playing well on defence. JACKSONVILLE +10.5 pts @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s treble.

The good news for Cincinnati is that number one pass catcher AJ Green returns to after missing the last few weeks with a toe injury. In his absence Mohammed Sanu filled in admirably, meaning Andy Dalton will have a number of weapons to attack a Jags team that is better against the run than pass. Highlighting that fact, Jacksonville have only allowed one rushing touchdown during their last five games, and with Gio Bernard questionable with a hip problem, expect Dalton to be slinging it more than handing it off on Sunday.

Despite Blake Bortles’ sloppy play under centre, the Jags have found a spark from former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson at tail back. The dreadlocked runner has averaged over 5 yards per carry the last fortnight. Handing the ball off may be the best way to go, with the Bengals pass D performing well, given the they have picked off more passes than they have allowed touchdowns through the air with an 8:9 TD:INT ratio. Cincinnati will also feel Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict’s absences in the linebacking corps, so expect a decent day from Robinson.

JACKSONVILLE +10.5 pts @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s slip and after giving him a big mention, we’ll plump for Robinson to score the first touchdown @ 11/1 with SkyBet.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Barring a magical drive from Aaron Rodgers, the Miami Dolphins could very well be in the middle of a four-game win streak. However a two-game streak isn’t to be sniffed at in this league, and they look good value to add to that against a San Diego outfit who’s season has hit somewhat of a stumbling block. MIAMI – 2.5PTS @ 10/11 is next up.

Stat of the week alert: Visiting the east coast for a 1PM game, San Diego has allowed 368 yards and three rushing TDs on 79 totes, good for 4.66 YPC to opposing rushers over its last three games. Combine that fact with the form that Lamaar Miller is in top form, it could be a good day for the shifty back. Not only has the Chargers run D been struggling but also the pass defence hasn’t been doing too well. They’ve allowed 789 yards through the air in their last 3 games with eight touchdowns against one interception and they now lose Jason Verrett for at least a fortnight. The savvy may point out one of those games came against Lord Peyton, but Derek Carr accounted for four of those passes…

Phillip Rivers has continued his fine play this term but it could be tough for him in Florida this week, given the journey to the east coast and also playing against a tough ‘Phins defence, ranked third in pass D and 7th in sacks per game.

Both teams’ seasons seem to be at crossroads, so we’ll stick with the team in form – MIAMI – 2.5PTS @ 10/11 is next up, with a speculative punt on Ryan Tannehill to cross for the first touchdown @ 30/1 with BET365.

DENVER BRONCOS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

No finer sight in this sport than seeing two of the finest quarterbacks ever to strap on their helmet step onto the same field. It’s Manning v Brady at Gillette Stadium and it would be rude not to offer up a selection. A quick flick through google tells us that we could have our first snowfall of the NFL season on Sunday in Massachusetts, so with potentially dodgy weather conditions coupled with a very high game total line, the UNDER 53.5 PTS @ 10/11 completes this week’s bet.

So if we do see snow and possibly high winds, both offences may prioritise ball control over explosive plays. That would play right into the hands of Denver. A mauling offensive line should be able to take advantage of the injury to Pats run stopper Jerod Mayo. In the two games Mayo hasn’t been amongst the Pats linebacking unit, they have let up 332 yards on the ground, meaning it could be a good day for San Diego State alum Ronnie Hillman, who has took the lead back role and literally ran with it since Montee Ball’s injury.

The media like to make a big deal about Peyton playing in unsavoury conditions, but he handled the cold just fine in Denver’s playoff win over New England last season, and Brady is perfectly at home in the often snowy confines of Gilette Stadium. Speaking of Tom Terrific, Gisele may not even be the hottest person in the Brady household this past month, with the ex-Wolverine lighting up defences passing for 14 touchdowns without a single turnover. In their tilt with the Chargers last week, Denver’s run D was simply dominant, but Rivers was able to throw three touchdown passes, including two to veteran tight end Antonio Gates. We may see a ball or two being spiked in the endzone if Mr Robert Gronkowski has his way.

While there will be points in this one, the possibly unsavoury conditions could see a rise in the amount of run plays, particularly by Denver, meaning we see the clock ticking away nicely. UNDER 53.5 PTS @ 10/11 rounds things off with the 20/1 about #2 tight end Tim Wright appealing for first touchdown purposes.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • A dreadful matchup on paper and it could well play out that way in Cleveland. Tampa Bay seemingly threw up the white flag earlier this week, trading away Mark Baron and Jonathan Casillas. The Browns run first approach has failed the last two games, Ben Tate only managing 62 yards on 31 carries. However, the Browns should get back on track against a Bucs outfit that has let up 380 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, their past 3 tilts. UNDER 43.5 PTS appeals.
  • The Jets are bad. They are downright bad. They have intercepted one pass all season, yet given up 22 touchdowns through the air. Alex Smith, still hasn’t thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver yet this term, so Travis Kelce could have himself a day. 5/1 for the athletic tight end to score the first KC touchdown looks a tidy price.
  • San Franciso had a nice bye week to get their banged up defence back and they look set to go against St Louis, looking to bounce back from a Peyton Manning dismantling. They played well in a win against the Rams in week 6, and with Patrick Willis back this could be a statement game from the 49ers. San Fran to be leading at the end of each quarter @ 6/5 interests.

NFL Ireland Team of the Week: Week 7

We’re almost at the halfway point for the season and a lot of 2014’s top performers are starting to make multiple appearances on these hallowed pages. We still have plenty of debutantes in the NFL Ireland Team of the Week though, as plenty of fresh players made a big impression on us this week. Here’s the NFL Ireland Team of the Week!

Offense | Defense

 

 

TOTW-Offense-7

Quarterback: Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

It’s not just that he set the all-time NFL passing TD record, which was an achievement worthy of a lady on a horse with a flag, but Manning this week also went 22 of 26 for 4 TDs, topping 300 yards and running out with an almost-perfect QB rating of 157.2 in the win against San Francisco. He didn’t just break the record, he did it with one of the best performances of his career. That’s what legends do.

Running Back: Denard Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

A Jaguar hasn’t graced these pages since Allen Hurns in Week 1, but Robinson finally brought some semblance of order to the chaos that has been the Jacksonville backfield this season. In the team’s first win of 2014, Robinson went for 127 yards and a TD on 22 carries – behind a very questionable offensive line – as they cruised to victory over the Browns. The former ‘offensive weapon’ looked every inch a starting NFL running back, and the Jaguars will be hoping he can continue this fine form from here on out.

Tight End: Greg Olson – Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ problems on defense have been well documented, but on offense Cam Newton has always been able to rely on Greg Olsen. Even as the team struggled last week, the former Bears tight end continued to show that he’s one of the most underrated players at the position, racking up 105 yards on 8 receptions. He’s the best weapon the Panthers have outside of Newton, and an invaluable cog in this offense.

Wide Receiver: Golden Tate – Detroit Lions

With Matt Stafford struggling and the Lions staring down the barrel of a home loss to the Saints, Golden Tate stepped up and took a short pass 73 yards past the Saints secondary for a touchdown. The score breathed new life into the Lions, setting up a come-from-behind victory that keeps the Lions on pace with the Packers in the NFC North, and contributed to Tate’s 154 yards on ten receptions.

Wide Receiver: Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos

Thomas makes his second appearance of the season here as he not only hauled in 8 passes for 171 yards and 2 TDs, but he also caught the all-important no. 509 from Peyton Manning’s hand. He’s found his feet in the end zone after a slow start to the season, and on this form he looks set to continue posting monster numbers as the season progresses.

Offensive Line: Dallas Cowboys

They’ve been consistently good all season, so it’s about time we put them in our team. The Cowboys offensive line has been so good, leading DeMarco Murray to a historic first 7 games with 100 yards rushing, that the RB surprised them all with presents this week. The real reward for the Cowboys has been a 6-1 start to the season with all of their star players performing above expectations, and creating an offensive juggernaut that will be hard to stop in the NFC.

 

Defense | Offense

 

 

TOTW-7-Defense

Defensive Line: Denver Broncos

It’s not just on offense that the Broncos are playing well this year. The D has been strong and against the 49ers they managed to give up just 62 yards rushing to the 49ers and getting to the QB four times for sacks. When you include Von Miller this defensive front is one of the most fearsome in football, and with the offense as dominant as it has been it’s difficult to see a weakness in this team for other AFC sides to exploit.

Linebackers: Baltimore Ravens

One side who might be contending for the AFC along with Denver is the Baltimore Ravens, and a big reason for their improvement this season has been the consistent production from their linebackers. The emergence of Pernell McPhee alongside rookie CJ Mosley and Daryl Smith, combined with Terrell Suggs and former Bronco Elvis Dumervil on the edges has created a corps with depth and impact talent. Against the Falcons they combined for 5 sacks and a fumble, alongside good coverage and shutdown performance on the ground. This Baltimore D is a serious unit, and their linebackers are the starting point for all their success.

Cornerback: Vontae Davis – Indianapolis Colts

Davis lands  a spot on our team for the second week in a row, as the Colts defense improved again to shut out the Cincinnati Bengals in a  27-0 victory at home. Davis allowed just two receptions into his area of coverage for a mere 21 yards, and his contribution to the Colts improvement this season on the defensive side of the ball can not be overstated.

Cornerback: Adam Jones – Cincinnati Bengals

One player who managed to overshadow Davis this week was playing in the same stadium. In spite of the success Indianapolis enjoyed on Sunday, the Bengals D could still rely on Pacman Jones to be strong against the run and allow just 8 yards on two receptions on balls thrown his way. The Bengals are struggling in many areas of the game at the moment, but Jones was excellent and if he can continue to perform like this, the rest of the team will have a great example to follow

Strong Safety: Robert Blanton – Minnesota Vikings

Blanton may have ended up on the losing side against the Bills on Sunday, but his performance alongside former Team of the Week-er Harrison Smith was a bright spot for the Vikings. He managed to be strong in the box against the run and also caught his first career interception. He’s earned his place as a starter this year and the Vikings’ safety duo look as good as any in the league right now.

Free Safety: Glover Quin – Detroit Lions

In a dominant Detroit Lions defense this season the secondary has sometimes been overlooked. Not so this week, as Quin managed 5 tackles and the crucial 4th quarter interception to set up his team for a win at home against the Saints. He has progressed this season into a strong starter and with the trip to London this week the Lions should be hoping to secure a big victory working off the base this D gives them.

NFL Betting Preview – Week 7

WEEK 6 RECAP

Not the best week last week, despite Geno Smith’s late pick six seeing Denver somewhat fortunately covering the spread. In our other main selections, the total was well over in Buffalo against New England, while for the luckless Jaguars, I echo Pacman Jones’ words: “Do your job” Josh Scobee!

CINCINNATI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

For the first of our week 7 selections, we go to Lucas Oil Stadium and the live Sky game between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Andrew Luck has put the team on his back so far this season, playing upto MVP candidate level, that’s why COLTS -3PTS is the first on the betslip.

Fantasy players who own Luck (myself included) will be thrilled at the former Stanford man’s production, while it has also translated to the real world with the Colts riding a four-game win streak to bounce back from two tough losses against Denver and Philly to open the year.

On the flip side, despite starting the year 3-0, the Bengals were shellacked by the Patriots a fortnight ago, then playing out a “sister-kisser” last week – a tie with the Panthers. The Bengal defence has also followed a similar pattern to that of the team’s record. In the last two games, they let up 576 pass yards and four touchdowns to Tom Brady and Cam Newton, while Newton was also very effective running the ball. Couple that with the league’s 4th worst D in terms of yards per rush, then Andrew Luck and the Colts offence could well have their way with the Bengal unit.

The game total of 50 pts looks slightly high, but the COLTS -3PTS @ 10/11 appeals more. TY Hilton was simply unstoppable last time out against the Texans and he is a great shout to score the first touchdown at 9/1, burning veterans Terrence Newman or Adam Jones.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ DETROIT LIONS

Thankfully for New Orleans the NFC South is rather weak this year, but Sean Payton’s side will be hoping for an improvement in their play coming out of the bye week. However they travel to the league’s number one pass defence in Detroit, with UNDER 48 PTS the selection at Ford Field.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been a revelation so far this term, with his crew leading the league in pass defence, with a very impressive 5:7 TD:INT ratio. Add in the fact that Drew Brees could very well be without his top target in Jimmy Graham this weekend, it could be a long day at the office for the Louisiana outfit.

Matt Stafford also will be without his main man Calvin Johnson again on Sunday, as the star wideout looks to get healthy in time to entertain me and the rest of the London fans next week. Stafford has only tossed four touchdowns in his last three games, but should have Reggie Bush back this week to offer an option out of the backfield.

As mentioned the Lions defence has been impressive this season and barring the season opening win against the Giants, the game total has went under in each of Detroit’s games this season. Add in the fact that Brees has his struggles on the road, highlighted by the stat that six of the last nine Saints’ road games have went underm we have more than sufficient support to plump for the UNDER 48 PTS @ 10/11.

In the absence of Megatron, Golden Tate has jumped up to the number one wideout spot, 17/2 to find paydirt will do for first touchdown purposes.

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Perhaps no two hotter quarterbacks around at the minute than Cam Newton and particularly Aaron Rodgers. For that simple reason we’ll dive onto the OVER 50 PTS hoping it rains points on Sunday at Lambeau.

Rodgers has been straight up balling over the last five games – throwing 14 touchdowns against an incredible zero interceptions! When you couple that with the fact that Carolina have been stung for 38, 30, 24 and 37 point totals so far this season, you’d fancy at least four touchdowns from the Pack at Lambeau.

That leaves the Panthers looking at maybe three touchdowns to land our bet, which looks highly achievable given the form of the former number one pick under centre for Carolina. For all his improvements as a passer this season, the shackles were finally lifted from the legs of Newton, as he ran the ball 17 times for over a tonne in the overtime tie in Cincinnati. Green Bay has a history of being carved up by dual-threat signal callers, so look for the Panthers to stick with Green Bay this weekend.

As mentioned, hopefully there is a bagful of points in Wisconsin this weekend, with OVER 50 PTS @ 10/11 rounding off the treble.

One match up to keep an eye on is 6’5 Kelvin Benjamin up against 5’11 Sam Shields this weekend. The Florida State star to score first is an interesting 10/1, while an over on the receiving yards would be the way to go.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

  • Even the best laid plans can fall short sometimes. Jacksonville had the perfect chance to notch their first win a week ago, time expiring Josh Scobee’s boot between the Florida side and their first W, but no. His kick was blocked and with it spoiling the selection of Jacksonville last week. Fear not though, Blake Bortles is improving each week and this will finally be Jacksonville’s first win of the season against a somewhat overachieving Cleveland outfit  @ 21/10.
  • Atlanta’s offensive line is brutally bad. Halti Ngata, T-Sizzle and co could well have a field day against Matt Ryan this weekend. Baltimore jumped out to a fast start in Tampa Bay last week and again the 13/8 to lead at the end of each quarter appeals.
  • Super Bowl champions Seattle lost at home last week against Dallas, and will be rather keen to right the ship in St Louis. However the Rams are no mugs,  and have started well against Dallas and San Fran, before fading. 9/4 for St Louis to be leading at half time makes for an interesting wager.
  • Peyton has yet another record in his sight. Three more touchdowns and Manning will have thrown for the most touchdowns in NFL history. He looks to achieve the record against a 49er defence that will now be missing All-Pro Patrick Willis, as well as long term casualty Navarro Bowman. That means rookie Chris Borland will have to handle duties inside, and look for manning and Julius Thomas to abuse the former Wisconsin man in the middle of the field. The 13/2 about Thomas to score first appeals nicely.

  • Spread currently sitting at NY Giants +6.5. Jump on that now – last few games Dallas have been favourites have seen the underdog’s spread come in…

NFL Betting Preview – Week 6

WEEK 5 RECAP
Week 5 was very much middle of the road. Could have been better, could have been a whole lot worse. The Bears and Panthers went easily over the total, while it was a void bet as over 50 pts hit dead on the mark in New York, and Blake Bortles played like the rookie quarterback he is in Jacksonville’s loss to Pittsburgh, with the total never threatening the over selection. From the additional thoughts section, a nice little selection landed with exactly 4 first half touchdowns at Mile High, while 40/1 is no longer available about my  Super Bowl dark horses the Dallas Cowboys.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ TENNESSEE TITANS
The time has finally come folks. Jacksonville Jaguars are on the betslip! This is the week Blake Bortles plays like the second coming of Ben Roethlisberger, Toby Gerhart summons up his inner Adrian Peterson and the team from North Florida get their first win of the 2014-15 NFL Season @ 9/5.
Regular readers of this column will know this game has been earmarked for a long time for Jacksonville to get off the mark. Tennessee will once again be without starting quarterback Jake Locker, meaning it’ll be another start under centre for the player with the best nickname in the history of sports – “Clipboard Jesus” Charlie Whitehurst.  Couple that with Tennessee’s meltdown last week where they threw away a 28-3 lead against Cleveland to lose at home, they will be vulnerable.
In contrast, Jacksonville will surely be eyeing this game as the perfect chance to find their feet. They went to Bortles slightly earlier than imagined, with Chad Henne’s disguise as an NFL starting quarterback wearing off quicker than the bad guy’s in Scooby Doo. Head coach Gus Bradley is a renowned defensive coach; the former guru of Seattle’s legion of boom before departing to take the top job in Jacksonville. Despite his unit being ranked last in pass defence, they finally showed signs of life last week, limiting Ben Roethlisberger and Co to 17 points. A repeat of that performance against a quarterback not in the same postcode as Big Ben, and the Jags have a huge chance.

 

Jacksonville win the match @ 9/5 by a scoreline somewhere in the region of 21-20. Bortles to take one in for his first rushing score of his career appeals @ 40/1.

 

 

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ BUFFALO BILLS

 

Write off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at your peril. The knives were out for the pair after the Patriots were taken apart by the Kansas City Chiefs a fortnight ago, but they responded to the critics by smashing a Bengals team who came into the game last week as the smart new kid on the block, still unbeaten on the back off a bye week. Now New England travels to Buffalo looking to prove that destruction of Cincy was not a flash in a pan and they are indeed back on the right track. However, it won’t be as easy for the former Michigan man this time, with game total UNDER 45 PTS @ 10/11 the selection.

 

Kyle Orton was given the reigns to the Buffalo Bills offence last week after Doug Marrone finally had his fill of EJ Manuel under centre. Orton performed well to upset Detroit at Ford Field, but he should face a stiffer task against a Pats D that is ranked third covering the pass, and that has an AFC leading six interceptions. Then it’s on to the Bills D. They lead the NFL in sacks and also lead the AFC in rush defence. They have not given up a rushing touchdown in their opening five games and allow just 3.04 yards per carry to opposing teams. That’s a big plus in this game, given how the Pats went back to basics last week feeding the ball to Steven Ridley 27 times, while Shane Vereen also had 9 totes.

 

The weather in Buffalo is always unpredictable with a windy, rainy day playing into the hands of any under selection. Hopefully Kyle Orton plays a safe game, with any pick-sixes being a major threat to the bet. Also it remains to be seen how well Buffalo’s linebackers can cope with Gronk and Timothy Wright over the middle, if as expected the Bills are successful at taking away the run.

 

Buffalo are odds against to win the match and I certainly couldn’t put anyone off that given how well their D is playing, but Kyle Orton under centre is a worry. That’s why we’ll plump for UNDER 45 PTS @ 10/11. Sammy Watkins was given a new lease of life it seemed with Orton at the helm last week, we’ll go for the former Clemson start to find paydirt first @ 11/1.

 

 

DENVER BRONCOS @ NEW YORK JETS

 

Let me hear you say BLOWOUT! Geno Smith wouldn’t get a look in for the Irish Champion Belfast Trojans at the moment, nevermind the New York Jets. He was pulled at halftime in the shocking performance the Jets mailed in, at San Diego a week ago. However Michael Vick was equally as useless, and it’s hard to see how Peyton Manning and his star studded offence don’t handle the J-E-T-S in New Jersey. DENVER -8.5 PTS @ 10/11 completes the treble.

 

To be fair to Rex Ryan’s squad, they weren’t given the easiest of schedules to kick things off. Aside from Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Phillp Rivers have combined to throw for 10 touchdowns against one single pick against the hapless Jets secondary. Dee Milliner did return last week but still the former first rounder will be rusty and he will have to go up against Demaryius Thomas, fresh off the back of breaking the Broncos single game receiving record, a game which also broke the former Georgia Tech man out of something of a slump.
Again to be fair to Geno Smith, he has literally no playmakers on the field when he lines up under centre. Eric Decker the big offseason acquisition has been dealing with injuries early in his Jet career, while elsewhere you have Jermey Kerley, David Nelson and Jeff Cumberland, names that hardly spark fear in opposing defences.
Look for Peyton to pick off where he left off last week, and this again could very well be over by halftime. DENVER -8.5 PTS @ 10/11 with that man Julius Thomas again notching the first score at 13/2.
 
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
·         Pittsburgh hung on against Cleveland back in week one and they square off again this week. Le’Veon Bell showed the league he is one of the top backs around in that game going for 197 yards and a score, while Big Ben also threw for over 350. Pittsburgh at odds against for the win, or +1.5 pts on the handicap will do nicely against a Browns team, who although they did rally and win last week, were 27-3 down at one point to the Titans of all teams!
·         There’ll be some interest in Carolina this week going to Cincinnati. AJ Green re-aggravated his toe injury and is set to miss out alongside fellow wideout Marvin Jones, leaving Mohammed Sanu as the top pass-catching threat for Andy Dalton. However, I’d be more than willing to put down last week’s thumping at the hands of the Pats as a one-off. Vontaze Burfict will return to a defensive unit that before the beatdown from New England, had given up only 2 touchdowns against six interceptions in their opening three games.
·         Maybe no hotter quarterback in the league than Aaron Rodgers right now. He’s been a perfect 11:0 TD:INT over his last four games and will more than likely have perfect passing conditions in Miami. The Dolphins rank ninth against the pass, but faced Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Tom Brady, and Alex Smith in their first four games. Expect Rodgers to keep rolling, with a punt on him over 272.5 yards @ 5/6.
·         Finally the weekly Dallas Cowboys discussion. This is the litmus test for just how far this Dallas outfit has come. Demarco Murray has ran the ball in a similar fashion to Beast Mode himself Marshawn Lynch, but this week we’ll see how that talented offensive line does against the best rush defence in the NFL. Still, I would expect Dallas to “dance with the one who brung ya”. In other words don’t look for Scott Linehan to change up the play calling. Keep handing it to Murray and control the time of possession and keep the dynamic Seattle offence on the sidelines has to be the blueprint for success for the Cowboys. Dallas +8.5 pts looks a little too high for my liking…