Championship Weekend

Quick apology. I had a nice big blog which went into more detail but, for one reason or another I lost it. You’ll miss the sum up. I’m sure most of you don’t give a fuck but I enjoy writing them and they are important for the next week. Bits will pop up anyway.

Right. The winners this week go to the biggest game in football. Here we go… in a post sponsored by Don Julio tequila….

AFC:

Patriots@Broncos

Both teams squeezed in against teams they probably should have destroyed. New England looked much stronger against KC when Brady had his full compliment of receivers. Gronk got a pair of touchdowns and Edelman got first down after first down (as he does) while Amendola was a constant threat. Denver are still reliant on the defense as Manning goes through his arthritis tour!

A couple of years ago he fooled everyone putting up huge passing yardage numbers before completely choking in the big game! Arm weakness and poor decision making has him done for me. Almost twice as many picks as TDs sums up Peyton this year, even with Osweiler calling the shots Denver haven’t had a deep threat all year. Too many dropped passes and not enough separation. Expect New England to close ranks and protect against the run. These teams have totally different ways of winning games, I pick the strong offence (Pats) to overcome the strong defence (Broncos) as they did last week.

Pats are favoured by 3… Brady doesn’t have a great record at Mile High but I expect a W this week!

NFC:

Cardinals@Panthers

The two best teams in the NFL meet at 11.40pm and you all wanna watch this! Unless Palmer was showing his nerves last week and this turns into a Carolina slaughter!

Palmer is fighting off a dislocated finger and it has really affected his throwing style and, obviously, his completion rate. He looked like a starstruck Kaepernick against Green Bay but without the rushing yards! Hopefully (for Arizona fans) that was jitters while he looked for his first ever playoff win at age 36! Against the team with the most picks in the league he needs to be careful, especially with Arians love of big plays. I think the running game will be diminished slightly. Arizona have struggled to open lanes recently and against a strong run defence that might show.

Carolina have a good shout of a big win here, Newton as a duel threat QB will worry Arizona. They might have a good example of one in their division with Russell Wilson but Newton is a little different in how he rushes. Blitzes (which Arizona are fond of) don’t really work against someone as physical as Newton for a full game. Arians can only hope Cam is trying to stay healthy for the Super Bowl (I doubt it!) and hope the all out approach works,

 

Picks:

Patriots and Panthers win.

Pats & Panthers -3

Betvictor offering 4/1 on a J Stewart or Newton 1st TD scorer is decent value.

 

Good luck all, enjoy the games and maybe I’ll post what was the original blog if you give half a shit eh?!

 

(not at all) Sponsored by Don Julio Anejo Tequila

 

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Divisional weekend

Didn’t do so well with the picks last week did I? Got them all wrong with only the fourfold bet coming in. It was still a canny weekend of football though – unless you’re a Texans fan, or a Vikings fan. Or a Bengals fan. It didn’t start well for Houston did it? Knile Davis returned the kickoff 106 yards for touchdown and gave Kansas what they love, an early lead they can protect. Hoyer was absolutely dreadful and looked like a rabbit in headlights as he turned the ball over 4 times in the first half with 3 interceptions and a fumble. Strangely he didn’t get benched for the 2nd half as the Texans fans filled the stadium with boos. Pittsburgh followed up with a strange victory over the Bengals who seem to be destined to be one-and-done playoff contenders forever more. Cincy clearly missed Dalton as the offence just couldn’t get moving. The defence was a little better but the game just deteriorated into a fight. Roethlisberger took a big sack and was taken out of the game before being brought back for a desperation drive with less than 2 minutes on the clock to drive down to get the winning field goal. The worst was the hit on Antonio Brown which puts him in jeopardy for this week with a concussion. Cincinnati should be ashamed of themselves, they had the game in the bag before more stupidity gave the game away and gave Vontaze Burfict a 3 game suspension for the start of next season. The lowest scoring game turned out to be the one I thought would be the easiest win with Seattle scraping by with a 10-9 victory in what was the 3rd coldest playoff game in NFL history. Minnesota built a 9-0 lead with 3 field goals in the poor conditions from Blair Walsh before Seattle rallied for the win. Russel Wilson played poorly in the first half but improved a lot in the second as he ducked and dived out the way of sacks and some great passes. Adrian Peterson had another performance to forget, getting only 45 yards from his 23 carries as Seattle loaded the line for him before the ball was ripped out of his hands on one of his two catches and gave Seattle the ball in Minnesota territory two plays after the only touchdown of the day. The Vikings drove down the field before Blair Walsh set up for a 27 yard field goal. Which he missed. It wasn’t blocked. It wasn’t deflected. He just flat out missed it and put his team out of the playoffs. The final game gave the home favourite, and unexpected playoff team, the Washington Redskins a chance to put Green Bay out. They started well with an early field goal and a safety on a sack before Green Bay started to play less conservatively and show their teeth. Green Bay know how playoff football works and showed their experience in the 35-18 win – Green Bay’s first game with 35 points since September. Rodgers moved to a lot of no-huddle plays and kept Washington from resetting the line or able to make substitutions. This gave Green Bay a pair of plays where they caught Washington with 12 men on the field and looked much more like the team everyone expects when Green Bay take the field. The offensive line looked better and Rodgers got better protection but it will still be a worry for the team. This week is nearly always a treat with all 8 teams in real contention for a title and quite often some classic matches. Remember the Ravens-Patriots game last year? Let’s get into the games for this weekend.

Saturday 9.35pm
Chiefs@Patriots
Who is going to show up for New England? Is Edelman going to be back? Don’t’a Hightower? Danny Amendola? Chandler Jones? Can Tom Brady get rid of the ball fast enough and accurately enough against one of the best defences in the NFL? The highest scoring over the last 3 months. Cutting down on mistakes will be essential as Kansas have been capitalising on these and been confident enough to sit back and absorb the pressure and maybe force another one. They have Alex Smith who is one of the best mobile quarterbacks in the league. A lot of people forget just how good he can be. He had a huge gain negated by a holding call against Houston and is always prepared to take off and get the first down to keep a drive going. Their running game has improved since the loss of Charles, can they keep the pressure on New England with a strong ground game? Kansas might be missing Maclin so that will take some of the pressure off New England defensively. On offence they have Gronkowski who will always make plays. If they can welcome back Edelman too (looks good, he has been active at practice) then New England should be a much stronger opponent than we saw as they lost 4 of their last 6 regular season games. Belichick has admitted he is a little stumped as to how to approach the game as there isn’t much game footage of teams doing well against this KC team. Strange kick-offs aside, if anyone can find a way it’s Belichick! New England find themselves 5 point favourites at home with the weather potentially playing a part. I find myself siding with the defence here and leaning towards the Chiefs. Momentum can mean a lot come playoff time.

Sunday 1.15pm
Packers@Cardinals
A rematch of that embarrassing 38-8 loss from just 3 weeks ago. Green Bay didn’t move the ball that day and Aaron Rodgers got smashed around by the Cardinals pass rush. They looked better at protecting Rodgers last week against Washington but when Rodgers sped the game up the offence immediately looked more hooked up. Arizona would probably quite like a faster paced game, especially if they can force a few punts and keep the ball for themselves for more of the game. Time of possession should make a lot of difference in this one as both teams are good at putting up a lot of points when the offence is working together. Arizona has one of the best receiving groups in the NFL and when Palmer is having an average game they can look unstoppable. If he has a great game this one could be out of reach of Green Bay by halftime. A lot will depend on what kind of production they can get out of Lacy who hasn’t had the best of seasons so far, especially if Green Bay are without Davante Adams who has a suspected MCL sprain. Arizona are 7 point favourites. Seven! They certainly beat that a few weeks ago but this is Green Bay in the playoffs.

Sunday 6.05pm
Seahawks@Panthers
I think this one could be the best game of the weekend (so cue one team going on to win 32-6!) as Seattle travel to Carolina to face the 15-1 Panthers. Carolina have had a week off to rest and prepare for a Seattle team that struggled to get any form of game going in Minnesota last week. The ground game never really got going for Seattle in the cold and without Marshawn Lynch – who ruled himself out of the game last week – the team is missing it’s engine room. Russell Wilson has picked up a lot of the slack in his absence and is playing the best football of his career. Forget last week when it was recorded to be -21C with wind-chill, he has been on a roll recently and in warmer conditions I think he’ll be back to his best. Carolina have had a couple of injuries in the defence which Wilson can potentially exploit so a lot of the pressure will rest again on Cam Newton. Can he live up to his current reputation as the man expected to win regular season MVP and lead his team through the Seattle defence and take the fight to Seattle. Remember Carolina only played 4 teams in the regular season with a winning record (Houston, Seattle, Green Bay and Washington) with the last of them being in November. This will be a real test for Carolina who always play Seattle hard, I think I’m tempted to take the road team here, especially if Marshawn decides he’s ready to play again. Carolina are 3 point home favourites – as close as to mean no line.

Sunday 9.40pm
Steelers@Broncos
I guess we’re going to see Peyton Manning back in the starting line-up for Denver this week after the benching of Osweiler a fortnight ago and the apparent return of Manning. Forgetting that he only threw the ball 9 times (for 5 completions) for a total of 69 yards in his time on the field because most of the yardage was from the ground game there are still questions surrounding his health and durability. We all know he was injured but we also know he wasn’t adapting to the offensive system in place in Denver and the early season games were generally won because of the defence, which has been mighty all season long. Pittsburgh are in a similar predicament as Roethlisberger is beat up. He has torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder which probably contributed to the overthrown pass that lead to Antonio Brown getting knocked out of the Bengals game with a concussion. He still needs to pass the protocol to be allowed to play here and DeAngelo Williams is also an unknown with his injury. We might see a rather weak Pittsburgh team fielded as injuries take their toll at just the wrong time of the year. Can the defence have another good week and force Manning into the turnovers he was benched for or will the Sheriff come back and lead the Broncos to a huge one-sided victory and the AFC Championship game they should have played in last year? Normally I’d say this is an easy win for Denver but it does have a lot of unknowns that could swing the game and makes it harder to call. The Broncos were made early favourites by 6.5 points and with the uncertainty around Manning it’s tempting to go with Pittsburgh on that spread. But can an injured Roethlisberger do enough or will the Steelers need to go back to Landry Jones? Is he ready for the playoffs?

Picks:
ATS: Chiefs +5, Cardinals -7, Seahawks +3, Steelers +6.5
To win: Chiefs, Cardinals, Seahawks, Broncos

Seen some fourfold specials but I don’t like the look of them. If you fancy 4/1 for all favourites load up. I’ve gone for a 9/2 double of Chiefs and Seahawks to win. Usually one upset on divisional weekend and I don’t see it being the Packers or Steelers this year. Good luck, enjoy the games. Anyone want to pick a Super Bowl winner?

Anyone?

Wild Card Weekend

I went 4 from 6 last week with both the New York teams the ones to let me down, leaving me at 54-45-3 on the year. Buffalo won a scrappy game to end the season 8-8 thanks to 3 picks in the second half as the Jets tried in vain to force a win. Their loss was Pittsburgh’s gain as they rolled over the Browns 28-12 to take that final wild card to set up a game with the Bengals. The Patriots managed to lose another divisional game, this time against the lowly Dolphins which turned them into Chargers fans to try and hold onto the number 1 seed. Despite a good effort from San Diego the Broncos were able to get the win they needed to become the number 1 seed in the AFC thanks in part to the return of one Peyton Manning. The Chiefs held on in Oakland to keep them unbeaten in 10 games to set them up with a rematch from week 1 with a trip to Houston. The Texans took the AFC South with a 30-6 win over the Jaguars. The Colts managed to see off Tennessee but that Houston win kept them out of the playoffs after being in the Championship game last year. I think there just might be some big changes in Indy this year. In the NFC we already knew which teams were going to the playoffs and only seeding to sort out. The Panthers made sure of their number 1 status with a comprehensive 38-10 win against Tampa while Arizona didn’t get the win they needed had the Panthers lost – going down 36-6 against the resurgent Seahawks. With Washington already a lock as the 4th seed it was a straight up fight for the NFC North title between Green Bay and Minnesota. A win would give them bragging rights over their rivals but also a game against the Seahawks so maybe Green Bay were playing the long game as they lost 20-13 to send them off to Washington to take on the Redskins. The rest of the games were incidental but the Lions beat the Bears to leapfrog them in the battle at the other end of the NFC North while the Saints beat the Falcons with a field goal as time expired to ensure they didn’t finish bottom of the NFC South. The 49ers finished an awful year with a win against the Rams but still finish rock bottom of the NFC West. The Panthers have bragging rights as the team who scored the most points with 500 over their 16 games as well as the biggest points differential with a huge 192! The lowest scoring team was unsurprisingly the 49ers with only 238 but the Browns pipped them with the worst point differential of -154. The leakiest defence was Jacksonville who allowed 448 points all year while the Seahawks had the stingiest defence, only allowing 277 points which beat the Bengals who only allowed 279. No team went 6-0 against their division but the Chargers did manage to go 0-6 in the AFC West. One final fun fact? There have been 20 games that needed overtime to give us a winner. Anyway, enough with this regular season nonsense, onto the playoffs!

Saturday 9.35pm
Chiefs@Texans
First off is this week 1 rematch which Kansas City won 27-20. Kansas of course are still without star running back Jamaal Charles who they did have while they went 1-4. Since he went down injured they have gone 10-1. Houston had a similar start to the year too going 2-5 before rallying to finish 7-2. This could actually be a tricky matchup for Kansas; Alex Smith threw a couple of interceptions against Oakland and with the Texans defence bearing down on him, especially JJ Watt, then there are chances for Houston to generate turnovers a week after they sacked Blake Bortles 8 times! The Chiefs are also pretty good on defence so Hoyer might have his work cut out to get points on the board, especially if Kansas take their usual route of building up a lead and hanging on for dear life for the win. They’re favoured by 3.5 on the opening line. I think this is going to be quite a defensive game and therefore quite low scoring so I’m tempted by the under 40.5 points line. If it does end up being a grinding defensive game I’m going with the Texans on the spread, they might even steal the win.

Sunday 1.15am
Steelers@Bengals
Both teams here have been hit with injury news at the wrong time of the year. Obviously Cincinnati lost Andy Dalton the last time these two met as he tried to make a tackle after tossing an interception and the quarterback is not expected to be back for his annual one-and-done. Pittsburgh lost DeAngelo Williams in that game with the Browns last week which will hit their running game hard after already losing LeVeon Bell weeks ago and is liable to turn their offence a little one-dimensional. That in itself isn’t a huge problem when you have Big Ben throwing the ball to players like Antonio Brown but against the stingiest defence in the AFC then Pittsburgh might need to tighten up its own leaky secondary. Steelers are favoured by 3 and can pull that off if Big Ben can cut out the turnovers, even without much of a ground game. Don’t count Cincinnati out yet though, maybe they can finally win a playoff game if Dalton is sidelined!

Sunday 6.05pm
Seahawks@Vikings
These two met back in week 13 and I’m sure everyone remembers the Seahawks dominated the Vikings with a 38-7 victory. I’m afraid I can see more of the same in this one. Bridgewater doesn’t get good protection to give him ample time to make his throws, and I’ll bet not many are aimed at Richard Sherman anyway which should make him a little easier to read. The Seahawks are also hoping that Marshawn Lynch might be able to return to bolster the running game and take some of the pressure off Russell Wilson. Not that he needs it. Wilson has been fantastic in the last 6 weeks or so and has dragged Seattle back to the playoffs and making them look like the scariest team on this side of the draw. Unsurprisingly they’re the big favourites, 4.5 on the spread, and can go more than that if the run game returns with a healthy Lynch, Wilson still playing like crazy, Kam Chancellor and JR Sweezy returning and the defence putting the stops on Peterson again. The only potential spanner in the works could be the weather – it’s predicted to be hovering around -1 at kick-off without accounting for any wind chill. Not quite to the level of the Ice Bowl but it could make things a little more interesting.

Sunday 9.40pm
Packers@Redskins
This has to be the worst offence Green Bay has sent to the playoffs in living memory. Possibly the worst team actually. The defence is up and down, the receivers keep dropping catches and the running game barely exists. They’ll certainly be glad to not be going up against the Seahawks this week but this is a Washington team that is starting to pull together and look pretty dangerous. They actually currently have the longest win streak in the entire NFC at 4 games! They don’t really have much of a running game either but Kirk Cousins is playing very, very well right now making some great throws and barely any turnovers. Washington are actually favoured here by 1.5 points which seems strange at first, but Green Bay aren’t a team to be feared so much anymore. Washington might actually pull this off.

Picks:
Obviously we don’t have enough games for my usual pick 6 so instead I’m going to pick each game as well as a few bets I think are decent value.
Texans +3.5
Steelers -3
Seahawks -4.5
Redskins -1.5
7/1 on Kansas, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay all to win – at least one is bound to upset it but that’s canny value. This is with Betvictor.
4/1 Doug Baldwin and DeSean Jackson to score a touchdown. Also Betvictor.
8/1 DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown and Adrian Peterson to score a touchdown. Betfair.
Steelers -3 & Seahawks -4.5 double pays a little under 3/1

Now that we’re down to the final 12 teams it might be time to mention the Super Bowl again. The current favourites are, unsurprisingly the 15-1 Carolina Panthers who are at 7/2 to win in February. The Patriots are next at 4/1 with the Broncos next for the AFC at 6/1. The outsider Redskins are 33/1 and the poor Texans bringing up the rear at 66/1. If you fancy a bet on the currently hot Seahawks, they’re 11/2 while the current hot AFC team, the Chiefs, are at 16/1.