All posts by derekcuster

Super Bowl 50

Get the beers on ice and stick a few extra gold discs in your online account – this is what it has all been leading up to. Ever since Malcolm Butler intercepted that Russell Wilson pass a year ago every NFL team has been aiming to be playing in this game. Denver upset the Patriots with a very solid defensive display and stopping a 2 point conversion attempt with seconds left to roll out 20-18 winners and the Panthers embarrassed the Cardinals in a totally one-sided 49-15 win to make it here. I’m willing to bet there weren’t many people picked these two teams to make the Super Bowl, I didn’t even have the Panthers winning the NFC South! 

I might look foolish now after Carolina put up 500 points on their way to a 15-1 record but I don’t think many people managed to predict most of the eventual division winners did they? Hands up who thought the Colts had a chance to win the Super Bowl? Keep them up if you thought Green Bay did? Of course neither side made it but neither side won their division either! And what about the damn Redskins? Go on, hands up again. I want to count who had Washington to win the NFC East! I did have the Broncos winning the AFC West but was tempted to go with Kansas City. After week 6 I was counting my blessings on that but boy did they turn it round?
Anyway, after all the fun and games of the regular season and a few weeks of playoff football to settle who will play in THE game of the year we have the Pro Bowl. A game where a whole bunch of the best players turn up for an exhibition game. Well, some of the best players turn up, a lot of them are on the Panthers or Broncos teams so didn’t show. A lot of others just decide not to bother so instead of Aaron Rodgers you end up with Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor. Anyway, for taking part the players on the winning team get $55k a piece and the losing team get $28k a go. So in theory these players get a chance to go to Hawaii and see how much coconut milk they can fit into an NFL helmet and STILL go home 28 grand richer! Anyway, one team won and well done etc etc… what’s going on for the Super Bowl?

Sunday February 8th – 11.30pm
Carolina are 5.5 point favourites after being 3.5 early doors as a whole lot of people jumped on the Panthers to end this fantastic season with the Lombardi. I’d go with caution before wildly jumping on the Panthers, remember just 2 years ago when the Broncos were last in the Super Bowl and were favoured to beat out the Seahawks after Manning was blowing offensive records out all season long. He started that game by staring dumb-founded as the very first snap of the game sailed over his head and into the end-zone for a Seahawks safety. That game ended 43-8 to Seattle. Strange things can happen in a Super Bowl (1 yard line – don’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch) and sometimes defence can win the game. Denver have had a crushing defence all year long and they proved it against New England. They harassed and beat up Brady all game long to make it here and have done so all season long. This week though, it may be trickier for Denver to be quite so dominant on defence on two fronts;
1: The Patriots didn’t have much of a running game all year, in fact in the Broncos game Brady was the top rusher with a heady 13 yards! Carolina definitely have a running game.
2: Brady is a pocket passer, Newton is not.
Denver knew they could play rush the passer all day against Brady and so long as the DB’s could stay in coverage for about 3 seconds they had the Patriots over a barrel. The Panthers o-line is much stronger than the Patriots so for a start Newton should have more time to find an open receiver. When the pocket starts to collapse, if the ball hasn’t been tossed then Newton will take off. And when he takes off it’s like having a spare LeSean McCoy or Adrian Peterson on the team. Newton is a big guy who doesn’t scamper like a lot of rushing quarterbacks. There’s a reason he has 10 touchdowns from the regular season before adding another pair against the Cardinals. Denver will have a much tougher set of match-ups to contend with in this game with Carolina’s varied offence so the threat of big plays is higher than it was a fortnight ago. I have a feeling Denver might not be as dominant at the line of scrimmage here and might struggle to get big sack numbers on Newton. It isn’t impossible; Von Miller is a nightmare to stop and was cutting through the Patriots o-line like a hot knife through butter. The Broncos will also want to keep pretty tight in coverage and hope for a few takeaways, they picked off Brady twice and have been pretty handy most of the rest of the year too.
The other side of the equation is the Denver offence and whether or not a 39 year old Manning can lead this side to enough points. Coming off a terrible season so far and yet more injuries will only make a tough job even tougher! We all know why Manning was benched in that game against the Chiefs shortly after he broke the record for all-time passing yards and it is something he’ll need to be extra wary of against Carolina. The Panthers have been experts in takeaways this year. They’ve even got a sign made up for their nickname – Thief Street. I would imagine Denver will run a fairly balanced attack thanks to their fairly solid ground game mixed up with the usual array of shorter passes the Broncos have been relying on this season. The longer pass seems to have almost vanished from the repertoire, probably due to a combination of depleted arm strength from Manning and a whole host of dropped passes from the receiving corps. Demaryius Thomas will be hoping for a big game with his mother not long out of prison and what better way to welcome her home than getting a score in the Super Bowl?
Injuries shouldn’t be too much of an issue with the extra week off between games but the Panthers do have a question mark over linebacker Thomas Davis. He is determined to play despite breaking his right forearm in the 2nd quarter against Arizona. It’s certainly do-able but it will really restrict his ability to push off players and I can’t imagine how painful it would be to play any position with an actual broken bone!

How will all this break down then? I urged caution before lumping on the Panthers and I still do, but it’s hard to bet against this Panthers team, especially after they carved through the Cardinals. I know Arizona helped them along with 7 turnovers in that game but Carolina are good at getting takeaways and taking full advantage of them. They’re generally around 10/11 on the -5.5 spread and 4/9 on the moneyline. If you think Denver can pull off the upset they’re being offered around at 2/1 with a few bookies.

Super Bowl gambling is brilliant and I have a friend who joins me every year by having a flutter. While I like breaking down the game and what I think might happen to try and extract good value bets my friend prefers to go with some of the, ahem, other markets available. This year he might be looking at the colour of the Gatorade that gets dumped (Orange is the favourite at 5/6, if you’re a danger hound aim for green at 18/1) or perhaps one of the 5 (FIVE?!) markets being offered on the coin toss. It’s so ridiculous I’ll break it down. All options are offered at 20/21 with Betvictor;
You can pick the outcome yourself.
Pick the team to win the coin toss.
Will the player calling the toss call heads or tails?
Will the player calling it get the call right?
More ridiculously… will the team that wins the toss win the game?

There are other regular markets to bet on as well of course, the MVP one is a favourite. Newton is the favourite at 4/6 with Manning next in line at 7/2. If you fancy Jonathan Stewart to have a breakout game he’s offered at 16/1 or perhaps Von Miller will destroy Cam and return a pair of forced fumbles to win the game – he’s 20/1. The first defensive TD to be a pick six at 9/2 looks decent value. Fancy Denver to muff another snap? A safety to be scored is 10/1.

Good luck with any bets folks, enjoy the game and remember. Drink irresponsibly – you only live once!!

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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

 

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.

Week 17

Well, some strange results in the penultimate week. I didn’t see the Steelers getting beaten by the Ravens again. Big Ben had an awful day and the loss leaves the Steelers needing help to make the playoffs thanks to the Patriots opting to kick to the Jets in overtime and Fitzpatrick leading the Jets down to field for a game ending touchdown. The Steelers need to win this week against the Browns and hope that the Bills manage to beat the Jets. That was one upset but the big one had to be the Panthers finally dropping a game to the Falcons – a team they had beaten 38-0 just 2 weeks ago. The Seahawks also fell to the Rams again which was a bit of a shock as well. Most of the rest of the games played out as expected. Washington easily beat the Eagles to take the NFC East and the 4th seed in the NFC. The Chiefs won their ninth straight game, as did the Cardinals with their whitewash of the Packers. Green Bay fell apart against the Arizona defence who got 8 sacks on the way to a 38-8 victory. The Vikings kept even with Green Bay with a whitewash of their own over the Giants. Their week 17 matchup will decide to NFC North and then probably face the Seahawks, the loser will probably have a trip to Washington. The Texans thrashed the Titans 34-6 and pretty much sewed up a playoff place for them. The Colts are still technically part of the picture but would need 9 things to happen for them to top Houston.
1: Colts beat Titans
2: Jags beat Texans
3: Ravens beat Bengals
4: Bills beat Jets
5: Falcons beat Saints
6: Broncos beat Chargers
7: Dolphins beat Patriots
8: Steelers beat Browns
9: Raiders beat Chiefs
Anyone want to take a punt on all of that happening?
All the games this week are on Sunday and all are divisional matchups. Only a couple really mean anything, the first is one of them.

Jets@Bills
New York are going to the playoffs if they beat ex-coach Rex Ryan and the Bills in Buffalo. Buffalo are beat up with injury and have nothing to play for except to try and spoil it for New York. Buffalo will give everything to upset the Jets here and hope Pittsburgh can take that final wild card spot but I think New York are on a roll right now, Fitzpatrick is in the zone with his receivers and can get a comfortable road win to close out the regular season and leave Buffalo with a losing record. The Jets are -3 and I think that is more that do-able against a Buffalo side without a lot of key players.

Patriots@Dolphins
Alright, that was an upset last week for New England and that call by Belichick is overshadowing a tremendous final drive by the Jets but this is still the defending champions against the Dolphins. I am a little surprised to see the spread at 10.5 I must admit but Miami have been terrible this year. They have lost 7 of the last 9 and even the wins were scrappy wins over the Eagles and the Ravens. I’m not sure New England are likely to go for broke here as they already have a bye next week and just need a win for the number 1 seed, I think Miami might take this on the handicap. But you never know with New England. Interesting stat for New England this year – Tom Brady is the only offensive player to have started every game this year in the same position. That is unbelievable and shows just how badly the Patriots have been hit by injury this year.

Ravens@Bengals
Still no Andy Dalton for the Bengals but McCarron has been solid as backup. Baltimore stole the march on Pittsburgh last week and would have had a bigger win had an end zone interception returned for a touchdown not been negated by a holding call. The Ravens have not been generating turnovers this year but they got some important ones last time out so McCarron will need to be careful not to force throws. The Cincy defence is also stronger than the Steelers so they should be able to keep Baltimore off the score sheet a little easier. I’m still tempted to take Baltimore on the handicap here as it’s up to 9.

Steelers@Browns
Another 9 pointer, favouring Pittsburgh – obviously. I think Pittsburgh will bounce back with a vengeance against Cleveland with Big Ben more than making up for his off day last time out. Cleveland won’t be able to cope with this offence and I think we’ll see Pittsburgh putting up near 40 points in this one. Manziel has been fairly impressive in his last few games with some good throws and keeping drives alive with his legs. He can certainly get a few scoring drives up against Pittsburgh but probably not enough to cover the 9 points.

Jags@Texans
Houston are basically in the playoffs already but a win here confirms it. They had a great week against the Titans last week under Weeden but will be welcoming back Brian Hoyer this week to help them ensure playoff football. Jacksonville have been terrible on the road this year, winning 1 of 7 so far and with the Texans defence playing as it is now can be stifled a little. Bortles will need to get rid of the ball quickly or be mobile. No spread yet but I think I’d take the Texans up to about 5 barring any big changes on the lineup.

Titans@Colts
The Colts know they need a lot to get the AFC South title again this year and should hold up their end of the bargain against Tennessee. The main problem for Indy is who exactly will start at quarterback for them? Luck won’t be back this year, Hasselbeck has about 65 injuries and Whitehurst is on injured reserve. The Titans of course are without Mariota so this one could be a real nightmare of a game to sit through. I’d back Indianapolis to get the win they need but fall short in at least one of the other 8 things they need to happen.

Redskins@Cowboys
Washington are in and I would think likely to rest a few starters to give them half a chance next week. Cousins got a few hits last week so it might be likely the RG3 plays the majority of snaps on Sunday. Seems like a win-win situation to me. If he plays badly, who cares? Cousins back in next week. If he plays well and has improved while being benched you’ve got a solid backup next week and a legitimate QB battle for next season. No spread again, probably until we find out what Washington are thinking. I’d think despite having no running game to speak of Washington will get a win over Dallas here no matter who starts.

Eagles@Giants
The Chip Kelly experiment is officially over. Sacked before the final game of the season. It was a matter of time really after he overhauled the team, traded away big name players and found it didn’t work. Philly are a team in trouble and will need a couple of years to rebuild. It won’t start this week and New York will batter them. I would imagine the first thing to change for Philly will be the tempo will drop, which might give them a better chance of keeping the score down but I think New York should be welcoming OBJ back with open arms this week on the way to a big win to close off a disappointing season. They’re -3 favourites and I think it’ll be nearer 10 for NYG.

Lions@Bears
Chicago come in as 1 point favourites in a pretty meaningless game to decide who finishes bottom in the NFC North. Last week the Lions tore the 49ers apart and the Bears held on against Tampa. I think this will be a close game but I’m tempted to take Detroit here as they’ve been the stronger team as the season draws to a close.

Saints@Falcons
Get them dirty birds! They deserved that win against Carolina but I doubt many saw it coming! It was a great day for both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and when those two play well, Atlanta are a dangerous team. New Orleans need a big overhaul in the defence but Drew Brees is still a very high quality quarterback and can lead nearly any bunch of players down the field. Atlanta are 4 point favourites and I think that is right on the money. I’m tempted to take the Saints to bring Atlanta back down after that big win last week but if Ryan and Jones have another day it’ll be Atlanta.

Raiders@Chiefs
Chiefs favoured by 7 after scraping by the Browns by 4? Hmmm… KC are a funny team. They keep getting the wins but the offence seems up and down. Oakland can have a leaky defence but they can also jump on dodgy throws and generate turnovers. If Carr can keep his turnovers down this will be close, and Oakland might edge it. Kansas might take their foot off a little with a playoff place already sealed.

Bucs@Panthers
One thing for Carolina fans to note. All the teams that went 6-0 to start the year, when they lost a game they lost the next one too. If you put money on stats like that then back the Bucs here. Carolina are 10.5 point favourites which seems a lot when a lot of their main players missed practice. We know the Panthers are capable of it, they won the reverse fixture 37-23 in week 4 at Tampa but they need to start thinking of the playoffs too. Big spreads are always a bit of a turn off for me, especially as nobody really likes watching a team getting whitewashed do they?

Chargers@Broncos
Broncos favoured by 9! Wow. I didn’t see that coming. We all know the Broncos are a strong side and the Chargers have self-destructed, but 9?! Eric Weddle, probably the Chargers best defensive player has been put on IR with a groin injury. More cynical people would say it has something to do with him being fined ten grand for watching his daughter perform at halftime last week. Either way, he is done in San Diego and will be snapped up by someone in the off-season. As to who will win, well, Denver. Can Osweiler put up enough on offence to get them over 9 points for the spread? I’m not entirely convinced but San Diego don’t exactly have a strong defence to try and stop him.

Seahawks@Cardinals
Still no Marshawn for Seattle. They’ll need him ready for the playoffs so it makes sense to keep him rested for another week in what is a pretty meaningless game. Arizona can play for the number 1 seed but I think they’re likely to take Palmer and a few other starters out early to lower the risk of injury. Especially to Palmer. Arizona are 6.5 point favourites and I think for the first time this year I might take Seattle on the handicap.

Rams@49ers
Ah who cares? Rams by 3.5. Yeah, if you like.

Vikings@Packers
The main question mark around this game as I write this is the availability of Adrian Peterson. If he plays and gets some traction Minnesota will win easily. Without him and being more reliant on Bridgewater this could get ugly. The Vikings passing game has been patchy at best this year and aside from the hail mary in Detroit 4 weeks ago the Packers game hasn’t been much better. Rodgers got torn apart last week by Arizona and Minnesota will look to continue that against a pretty porous offensive line. If Minnesota can force a couple of turnovers from blitzes or forcing Rodgers to make throws rather than take a sack they can run away with this. Personally I saw the Vikings as favourites coming in to this but Green Bay have been made 3.5 point favourites. I’m going with the Vikings to go pillaging in Wisconsin and to take the NFC North this year.

Pick 6:
Vikings +3.5
Jets -3
Seahawks +6.5
Giants -3
Dolphins +10.5
Ravens +9

Expect some strange results as teams rest starters and try some different things with nothing on the line. As ever, good luck.

 

Oh aye. And Happy new year.

Week 16

I went 3 from 6 last week which puts my picks at 48-39-3 for the season. Perhaps I should stick to games on Sunday as I can’t remember the last time a Thursday or Monday pick came in! I thought I was on to something with the Bucs but St Louis scored more than 30 points for the first time since their overtime win against Seattle. In week 1! They were helped when Tampa caught a pass at the St Louis 1 and proceeded to toss the ball and start to celebrate. Rather foolish considering it was still a live ball. Thankfully another Buccaneer jumped on it to save the embarrassment being too bad but it didn’t help them in a game Tampa really should have won. The Jets needed a fourth quarter comeback to topple the Cowboys who were using their fourth quarterback of the season and remain well and truly in the playoff hunt. The two teams they’re up against in the AFC also had wins, the Chiefs eased past the Ravens 34-14 and the Steelers needed a big second half to get past the Broncos. They went in 27-17 at halftime and sent the Broncos home as 34-27 losers. Washington took the lead in the NFC East after demolishing the Bills 35-25. That makes it look closer than it was with Buffalo trailing 21-0 at halftime and losing Shady McCoy at the start of the 2nd half. The Eagles and Giants both lost but New York almost stole it against Carolina. They rallied from 35-7 with 28 unanswered points before Cam Newton drove the Panthers down the field for a last second field goal to keep Carolina unbeaten. Atlanta finally got their seventh win of the year with a 23-17 win at Jacksonville but it’s too little too late for a team that has beaten itself this year. The Houston Texans won their first ever game in Indianapolis to give them 1st spot with 2 games remaining. I’m giving the Texans the benefit of the doubt and saying they’ll take the playoff spot with the Titans this week and the Jags next week, the Colts have the Dolphins then the Titans and will need to win them both. Seattle didn’t quite demolish Cleveland as badly as I was expecting, 30-13 isn’t a great score but when you’re Cleveland going up against the charging Seahawks that’s pretty good! San Diego got a win in what might be their final game in that stadium over the Dolphins who just never got going again. The Andy Dalton-less Bengals got the win over the 49ers to keep them ahead in the AFC North before travelling to Denver this week.

Chargers@Raiders – TNF
So, technically this game is on Christmas Day as it’s due to kick off at 1.25am UK time. Somehow I doubt I’ll be allowed to watch it. Neither team really has anything to play for but San Diego showed they can still play with their 30-14 win last week and the Raiders still showing as a decent side this might actually be some kind of match. Oakland are coming in as 5 point favourites a couple of days after Charles Woodson announced his retirement. What a player he has been in his time in the NFL! Earlier this year he lamented never getting an interception from Peyton Manning. He then caught two when Oakland met Denver in week 5. Oakland will miss him next year. This week, I think San Diego might be able to keep this close. Carr has been a bit of an interception machine in recent weeks which has been holding the Raiders back. Will he get back on track and end the year on a high or have the Raiders binned it for the year?

Redskins@Eagles – Saturday
This game could seal the NFC East. A victory for Washington would send them to the playoffs. Uh huh. Philly are still in the hunt if they win here and are favoured by 3 at home. Let’s use the scientific method of deciding this one shall we? Both teams have just hosted (and beaten) Buffalo in the last 2 weeks. Philly won by 3. Washington won by 10. Therefore Washington will win. I’m ignoring the fact Washington are terrible away from home and have won 1 of their 5 so far this year.

Cowboys@Bills
The Bills get their third NFC East opponent in three weeks and might finally get a win. I doubt it; the Bills have been awful against teams from the dreadful NFC East, losing against the Giants in week 4 and then Washington and Philly the last two weeks. Can they really do any better against Dallas? The Bills seem to be descending into chaos of late, the defence is revolting against the system Rex Ryan is trying to implement and who can blame them? Last year Buffalo had one of the best defences in the NFL, this year they’re not even close! Dallas have obviously had a terrible year after being close to the Super Bowl last year but personally I can see them staying within the 6.5 point spread here. The Buffalo offence is better than last year but will probably go into this game without McCoy who injured his knee in the 3rd quarter last week. Watkins has been playing great but isn’t getting a lot of targets. Karlos Williams might be back at running back to fill the gap McCoy will leave but I still think Dallas can smother the Bills enough to get it done +6.5.

Colts@Dolphins
Still no Andrew Luck for Indy as he recovers from his lacerated kidney so the job will probably fall to the battered Matt Hasselbeck again. The Miami pass rush needs to get going early on in this one and they can force a couple of easy turnovers. Indy have just gone right off the boil this year and I doubt they can get it done in these last two games to fight for the AFC South title. That looks like it’s going to Houston this year. They’re capable of winning on the road in Miami but both teams are having bad seasons.

Patriots@Jets
Teams from New York always seem to cause New England problems don’t they? And with the Jets fighting for a wild card spot they’ll be coming into this with all guns blazing. Fitzpatrick is playing well and the defence seems to have tightened up again after a bit of a rough spot. New England are without Amendola this week as the injuries keep piling up. New York kept it within 7 in New England earlier this year and were driving to tie the game before a daft pass into the middle of the field ran the clock out. At home with the Patriots hit hard with injury and already into the playoffs? They’ve got every chance. New England are favoured by just 3 this time around.

Texans@Titans
No Mariota this week as the Titans season gets worse. Although maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, without their star rookie they might be in line for the number 1 pick in the draft! A Houston win will practically guarantee them playoff football this year and I don’t think many will see this game going any other way. Hoyer might be missing for the Texans again this week as he is still in the concussion protocol so it’ll fall to their 4th quarterback of the year to lead them here, Brandon Weeden. Yeah, the guy who the Cowboys cut a few weeks back. You’ve still got to fancy Houston to win here though haven’t you?

Browns@Chiefs
Another week and another huge spread against the Browns. 12 points this week. Anyone not see Kansas extending this win streak to 9 games? Cleveland might have been dealt a big loss last week and they’ve got every chance of another one here (come on, it’s Cleveland!!) but this will be good for the development of Manziel. He played well last week despite the big margin of victory for Seattle getting a touchdown pass with his first drive. I think Kansas will shut down the Browns as well as Seattle and ease to victory, it’s whether or not the Browns defence can stop Alex Smith enough and limit Kansas to field goals which seems to happen a lot with the Chiefs offence.

49ers@Lions
Stafford had a great game on Monday and showed what the Lions can do. Alright they were up against the Saints defence which isn’t exactly a tough test this year but Stafford still put up great numbers on the way to that 35-27 win. Detroit are favoured by 9 here (!!) which is quite a big margin, even against the awful 49ers! If Stafford can have another start like he did last week I don’t think the niners have enough in them to come back close enough to 9 points. The way they’ve been leaving receivers in open space Detroit can have a ball here and grab their sixth win of the year.

Panthers@Falcons
Carolina had a scare against the Giants didn’t they? After a drive at the death of the game lead to a winning field goal the Panthers stay undefeated and are just 2 games away from being only the second team to go 16-0 in the regular season, after the 2007 Patriots. Atlanta had a better game last week but I can’t see them giving Carolina too much trouble. For two weeks I’ve questioned whether or not Carolina are going for the undefeated season and hedged my bets. Now I’m going to put myself on the line and say they’re going for it, because how many times do you get a chance to go for one? Carolina are 6.5 point road favourites and after Carolina burned Atlanta 38-0 two weeks ago I’d say that’s a pretty good bet!

Bears@Bucs
Cutler seems to have got over his good patch and has regressed into being Jay Cutler again. We all should have known better that it wasn’t going to last. The season might be over but that shouldn’t give teams an excuse to field players who just won’t put in the effort. Chicago have a lot invested in Cutler and he just seems too stubborn to show them he’s worth it. Tampa had a pretty poor game on Thursday as well as the awful moment celebrating a catch at the 1 when the ball was live. Had Donteea Dye fallen over the goal-line he could have celebrated a little harder, rather than tossing the ball away and almost giving it away. Plays like that are always going to cost you. Tampa come in as 3 point favourites which could happen, especially if Cutler is his usual self again.

Steelers@Ravens
For the last few years this would have been a match to drool over. This year the Steelers are fighting for a place in the playoffs with what I think is the scariest offence in the AFC while the Ravens haven’t won since they edged the Browns with that blocked field goal 4 weeks ago. The Ravens did win the reverse fixture back in week 4 but that was when they had Flacco and the Steelers were without Big Ben, and even that took overtime. It’s no wonder then that the bookies are favouring Pittsburgh by 10 points here. The Steelers took the bull by the horns in the second half last week and torched the normally superb Denver defence for 17 unanswered points to take what looked a fairly comfortable 34-27 win. Baltimore gave up 34 to the Chiefs last week and 35 to the Seahawks the week before. They scored a combined 20 points in those two games.

Jags@Saints
Ah Jacksonville. You had the chance to stay in the race for the AFC South but managed to lose to the Atlanta Falcons whose last win was before Halloween! I love the commitment to failure, torch the Colts 51-16 to give your fans a gasp of excitement and a glimmer of hope before you come crashing back down to earth and sinking those hopes like that vodka it takes to watch some of your games. New Orleans did a similar thing funnily enough, only without involving the playoffs as they’re not in LAST year’s NFC South. After some hope in the eyes of the people of New Orleans with a 24-17 win over Tampa Bay, somehow you went and gave up 35 points to the Lions and asked an injured Drew Brees to dig you out of the hole. Apparently Brees has suffered a similar injury to Peyton Manning, so we might not even see him suit up this week! One of these teams will win this game. Neither of them will look like they want to.

Packers@Cardinals
Green Bay have won 4 of 5 and ignoring that loss on Thanksgiving they have been playing like a much more solid unit, mostly. The wideouts need glue on their gloves instead of butter half the time and Rodgers perhaps needs to learn how tall his players are instead of just aiming at the sky and assuming that 12 yards down the field he has a 10 foot tall tight end he hasn’t been formally introduced to! Arizona meanwhile are getting scarier. They even managed to steal Beast Mode from Marshawn Lynch – did you see that run from David Johnson? 47 yards and beating about 5 tackles to rumble into the endzone. It was unbelievable. Teamed with Carson Palmer playing out of his mind well and a defence that stacks up in the top 5 in the NFL this Cardinals team is formidable. 4.5 points is the spread and it obviously favours the home side. This should be the game of the week, both sides are in the playoffs already but Green Bay are only one game ahead of Minnesota in the NFC North and will want to clinch that for the home field advantage in the wild card round.

Rams@Seahawks
One of the big upsets from week 1 was the Rams beating Seattle but I don’t see it happening again this week. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin are both on fire at the minute as Seattle close in on their attempt for three Super Bowls in a row. It’s hard to bet against Seattle at the minute, they might have just had two easy games (Ravens, Browns) but they also shut down the Vikings the week before and managed to outscore Pittsburgh before that. This is a team on a mission. St Louis have been consistently inconsistent all year long and relying too heavily on Todd Gurley. Seattle are 13 point favourites which seems hard to argue with. St Louis do seem to turn it up a notch for divisional games but like I said, hard to bet against the Seahawks at the minute.

Giants@Vikings
New York go into this one minus OBJ after that malicious hit on Josh Norman in last week’s game against the Panthers. It was the obvious decision. He should have been ejected from the game last week after his behaviour got increasingly erratic and culminated in that spear to the helmet of Norman after a 15 yard run up. It was intentional and it was dangerous. This is a hard hitting and sometimes violent sport, but that aggression and violence should be controlled and used to make plays, not to try and injure a competitor because he has been winding you up. Beckham hopefully will learn from this, he’s an incredible talent and will be featured in highlight reels for years to come, if he can wind his neck in a bit. Anyway, the game this week will be made a lot harder for the Giants without him lining up. Bridgewater looked better throwing the ball last week against Chicago and combined with the ground attack Minnesota tend to favour this could be a fairly easy win for Minnesota. A loss for Green Bay will keep the Vikings in the hunt for first place in the NFC North too. They’ll want this win. Minnesota favoured by 6.

Bengals@Broncos – MNF
Denver are 3.5 point favourites as the Bengals come in without the injured Andy Dalton. Cincinnati managed to get past the 49ers well enough without him and Tyler Eifert who is still in concussion protocol. Eifert has been great this year and the Bengals will want him back for this match as Osweiler has been showing improvement, as witnessed in the first half against Pittsburgh last week. For a battle of backups you’d have to fancy Denver to keep in front thanks to their defence, but the Bengals are no slouch on defence either. This could end up being a fairly low scoring game decided by a field goal rather than a touchdown. I’m still tempted by the Broncos though purely because of that defence. If Osweiler can move the offence in the 2nd half this game they’ll take the win.

Pick 6:
Redskins +3
Patriots -3
Panthers -6.5
Steelers -10
Broncos -3.5
Cardinals -4.5

Some hard picks this week actually, not helped by 3 games not having a spread yet.

Week 15

Some results I certainly wasn’t expecting last week, Washington beating the Bears, Raiders beating the Broncos and St Louis taming the Lions but the Eagles beating the Bills cut the deepest. Buffalo beat themselves with 15 penalties for over 100 yards. You just can’t give up the length of the field in penalties and expect to win games! The defence kept them in the game but the final drive was stopped when an overthrown shot down the field was picked off. Stick a fork in the Bills, they’re definitely done! The Jets got an easy win over the Titans to stay in the playoff hunt and the Chiefs squeezed out a 10-3 win over San Diego for their seventh straight win. The main game for the AFC playoff picture was the Steelers@Bengals game which finished 33-20 in Pittsburgh’s favour – the outcome was almost decided early on when Andy Dalton left the game with a thumb injury and was seen wearing a cast. If he’s out for the season Cincinnati might just have seen their playoff hopes go up in smoke. This could have been the year Dalton finally won a playoff game. New England bounced back and beat Houston and claim the No.1 seed back with that Bengals loss and the Broncos falling to the Raiders. The loss for Houston coupled with the Jaguars absolutely destroying the Colts (51-16!) means we have two entire divisions without a team over .500! The Jags win also means they’re a game back in the AFC South and are still, somehow, in the playoff picture. Johnny Manziel led the Browns to their third win of the year over San Francisco who are probably asking for a defence from Santa! Atlanta will be asking for the last 7 weeks back. Six losses and a bye now for the Falcons as Carolina improved to 13-0 with a 38-0 shutout. Minnesota fell in Arizona as the Cardinals sealed a playoff place in a close fought 23-20 win. The Seahawks eased by the Ravens to improve to 8-5 to take the other wild card place in the NFC and it’s tough to see anyone other than the current teams making it in the NFC. The only two questions I can see for the NFC is whether the Vikings or Packers win the North (Green Bay have my vote) and if any team will actually win the East? Dallas are a pair of games back and you’d have to say out of it. The other 3 teams all won leaving it a 3-way tie at 6-7 with Washington holding the top spot with the tiebreakers. Who will take the spoils? It should probably be the Giants but they don’t have it easy this week as they host the Panthers! For some reason the NFL have arranged a game for Saturday this week, which just so happens to be my birthday. My birthday treat from the NFL? The New York Jets travel to Dallas. I might go out!

Bucs@Rams – TNF
We start the week with the rather underwhelming proposition of the Buccaneers travelling to St Louis to try and keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They didn’t help themselves losing to New Orleans last week whereas the Rams got their first win in 6 games. Tampa have had a fairly decent season overall and can certainly improve again next year while the Rams seem to be stuck in a pattern of being average in a tough division. Jameis Winston has certainly improved since that week 1 loss to the Titans and I’d think he can lead the Bucs to another win here in St Louis. The Rams are favoured by 1.

Jets@Cowboys – Saturday
New York seem to be back on track after that lull a few weeks back where they lost 4 from 5 and have won 3 straight and have their eyes on an AFC wild card. They eased by the Titans last week despite Mariota switching to a receiver for one play and catching his first NFL pass for a touchdown. Dallas must be wondering what happened to their season. After making a good playoff run last year and almost making the NFC Championship game (come on, that was a catch!) they are 4-9 and basically done for the year. Had Romo stayed fit could they have challenged? They probably could have won the division but I doubt they’d have gone far in the playoffs. This week I think the defence will keep Ivory limited in the ground game so it’ll be resting on Fitzpatrick to deal another couple of touchdown passes. I doubt Dallas can put up too many points so 14 or 17 should do for the Jets to get another win.

Bills@Redskins
I predict yellow. Lots and lots of yellow. Yes I’m bitter about the 15 penalties Buffalo put up last week because it cost them the game but Washington can be quite flag happy too. The Bills have been given the same treatment as last week being made 1 point favourites. If the offensive line can behave itself they can manage that. Washington are playing for a playoff spot and will need at least 2 wins from their last 3 games, Cousins will have to watch out with some of his throws as Buffalo can be quite handy at reading routes and getting a pick.

Panthers@Giants
Alright, so last week I wondered which version of Carolina would play. The one that rests players and just rides the wave to the playoffs or the one that goes and decimates teams? A 38-0 walkover against the Falcons later and I had my answer. They did sit Newton for most of the 2nd half but this team still wants to win games. New York had a decent win over the Dolphins mainly thanks to another huge game for Beckham. He’ll need to be at his best again this week to make a dent big enough to upset the Panthers. Carolina drop to 4.5 point favourites, probably as they aim to go a little more conservative with their plays rather than risk injuries.

Bears@Vikings
I thought Minnesota did quite well in their loss to Arizona last week. They put up 20 on a top 5 rated defence and limited a top 5 rated offence to only 23. They didn’t get the result they wanted but they certainly showed why they’re fighting for the NFC North title. Chicago had a pretty poor showing last week against Washington with another missed field goal costing them a shot at overtime. Minnesota should get the win here but they need to improve their passing game to have a proper shot in the post-season. They’re favourites by 5.5 points and I might be tempted to take Chicago on that.

Falcons@Jags
After that huge win over Indianapolis last week where Jacksonville scored a touchdown on every possession in the second half they’re favourites to be the latest team to topple the Falcons. Bortles is certainly getting to grips with the NFL despite some daft errors still present in his game. He’s not in Matt Ryan’s league yet, but the Atlanta passer has been having a nightmare time of it lately. With the Panthers and the Saints left on their slate this is the Falcons best shot of getting another victory in this wasted season. With an extra 3.5 points I’m tempted but I think the Jags probably have the edge overall with the way Atlanta have played in recent weeks.

Texans@Colts
In the battle for the AFC South the winner of this game could well be going to the playoffs. Indy have still got Miami and Tennessee which are both winnable games. Houston have still got Tennessee and Jacksonville, both winnable games. That means a lot will be riding on this game. The game earlier in the year was a close one, with Indy edging it 27-20. Both teams have lost their last two games with the Colts looking the shakier of the two teams. There is also uncertainty around who will play quarterback for Indianapolis again. Andrew Luck was due back but he doesn’t feel 100% ready to play yet. Hasselbeck left the game last week with injured ribs a week after neck and shoulder injuries. Nothing is broken but he will be sore after taking all that pounding. If he is taking so many hits is it worth risking Luck when there is no quarterback protection to speak of in that offensive line? No spread as yet while we wait for the QB news. I’m tempted to back Houston regardless of who plays. I can see them covering a 3 point spread.

Titans@Patriots
More bad news for New England with LaGarrette Blount ruled out for the year with a hip injury. I’m not sure who is meant to run the ball for them now. Maybe Belichick will suit up in the backfield for a snap or two!! The Patriots should still ease past Tennessee who are a slowly improving side but still not good enough for playoff level teams. I would say New England might start sitting players to not risk injury but I doubt they’ve got enough players left!! It’s a 14 point spread (!!) which normally I’d say should be easy for New England. At the minute are they likely to go all out?

Chiefs@Ravens
Kansas made hard work of beating San Diego last week, only managing a 10-3 victory. It does look good for the defence to limit the opposition to one field goal but not so hot for an offence that has been working well in recent weeks. Alex Smith threw his first interception in something like 300 attempts which stopped his closing on Brady’s record. Baltimore finally suffered that big loss they’ve avoided all season in the 35-6 defeat against Seattle. I think they’ll have another home loss this week as Kansas get back to scoring about 30 points per game. Baltimore won’t be able to keep up with that and I reckon another big loss could be on the cards. Kansas are -7.

Browns@Seahawks
Russell Wilson has been unstoppable the last few weeks with 16 touchdowns and no picks in his last 4 games. What a time for Cleveland to have to visit Seattle. What can Manziel do against the suddenly surging Seahawks? Reckon he’ll get the Browns close enough for a field goal attempt? This is going to be a bloodbath! Seattle are 14.5 point favourites and I think that’s being generous to Cleveland. Normally I shy away from big spreads but I can’t see anything other than a third huge win for Seattle. 31 over Minnesota, 29 over Baltimore, anyone want to bet on Cleveland?

Packers@Raiders
Both sides had good wins last time out with the Raiders 15-12 win over Denver being a bit of a standout result. Everyone expected Green Bay to ease past Dallas but a 28-7 victory was something Green Bay should have been doing all year long. I think this one might be tight. Oakland made it past the strong Denver defence and can get more on the board against Green Bay which has a defence that only seems to come alive in the red zone. The Raiders will need to be better against Rodgers than against Osweiler to keep it lower scoring, but as I’ve said before, Oakland can do well in a shootout. I wouldn’t bet against them possibly coming up with another upset here. Green Bay are only 3 point favourites, I’m tempted to take the Packers but Oakland are capable of pulling it off!

Broncos@Steelers
Osweiler lost his first game as a starter last week as Denver couldn’t manage a touchdown against the Raiders and had to settle for field goals. Pittsburgh had an easier time than most would have expected against the Bengals when Dalton went off injured after tackling the man who intercepted his red zone pass. The Steelers have one of the best, if not the best, offences in the AFC right now which will be tested against this strong Denver defence. Osweiler needs to improve more to be a real threat at quarterback but is handling it well considering how little game experience he has. This will be a real test for him this week which is reflected in Pittsburgh being 5.5 point favourites. Pittsburgh are capable of putting up those kind of points and can cover the spread if they can keep the Broncos limited to field goals for another week.

Dolphins@Chargers
San Diego are 2 point favourites in what might be their last home game in this stadium. Miami haven’t been the team anyone expected this year but they are running the ball better and the defence has strengthened as the year comes to a close. Tannehill has been disappointing this year with very little to suggest he is the great young quarterback a lot of people thought he was turning into last year. Rivers on the other hand has been fantastic despite playing almost with a hand tied behind his back. He was kept out of the end zone last week against Kansas but I expect he’ll get a couple of balls in there this weekend. I’m tempted to back Miami in this one after their performance against the Giants.

Bengals@49ers
This probably would have been more like a 10 point spread had Dalton not wrecked his thumb last week. As it is they only have to find 4 to beat the spread against the slowly improving 49ers. They look better with Gabbert taking the snaps and I think San Francisco should stick with him into next year rather than revert to Kaepernick. Cincinnati should still take this one by more than the spread. They’ve got a strong team and over the full hour they should be able to stifle Gabbert and get up enough points for a comfortable win to keep them in prime position for the AFC North title.

Cardinals@Eagles
Not sure why Arizona are only favoured by 3.5 here. A team with a top 5 offence and defence against Philadelphia? Arizona had a bit of a fight with Minnesota last Thursday to get their 11th win of the year and get themselves a place in the playoffs but on the back of a long week and a chance to wrap up the NFC West they’ll ease past a team that struggled against Buffalo. Bradford can make some big plays but doesn’t have the weapons that Palmer has around him. I’d back to Cardinals to win big here.

Lions@Saints – MNF
Stafford and Detroit seemed to relapse last week. Are they trying to get a better spot in the draft or something? If they play anything like that again this week Brees will have them for breakfast. New Orleans broke that four game losing streak last week with a comfortable win over division rivals Tampa Bay after a strong showing against Carolina the week before. I expect New Orleans will be coming into this with a lot of confidence. The defence is still weak and that could let them down but if Brees can put 38 on Carolina he can do enough to win his team this game.

Pick 6:
Cardinals -3.5
Bucs +1
Bengals -4
Jags -3.5
Chiefs -7
Saints -3