March Madness Down to Final Four

 

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Over the weekend the Elite Eight narrowed the US college basketball field to the Final Four.   On Saturday, Villanova will take on Oklahoma at 3:00 pm PST and UNC will battle Syracuse at 6:00 pm PST.

BettingInstinct will have a preview and predictions from UK NCAA blogger Cathal Laughren later this week.

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Cam Newton vs Broncos defense holds the key to the outcome of Superbowl 50.

beer and football Super Bowl 50

This Sunday, I predict Carolina will produce the goods offensively when it matters and Cam Newton will be MVP

Get your 6 packs of American beer, put the nachos in the oven, and get the popcorn ready for a long night stint. Superbowl 50 is not an event to be missed, even for the soft Brits!

This Superbowl will be fascinating, because it will almost certainly be decided by one key battle: The Panthers offense versus the Broncos defense. The Broncos booked their place on Sunday because they have the best defence in the NFL by an absolute mile. Their defense has been so good that a few pundits have resurrected the famous phrase “Orange Crush” used to describe the legendary defensive unit of 1977-79. With household names that would scare any quarterback – Miller, Ware and Wolfe, and threats against in the backfield to boot, there’s plenty to worry the Panthers, who haven’t had much to worry about until this point.

Tom Brady couldn’t quite unlock the Broncos defence, so can Cam Newton? The first thing to note: The Broncos have been excellent against pocket quarterbacks like Brady, but less good against more dynamic all-rounders. Alex Smith, one such dynamic quarterback, dismantled the Broncos in their only significant loss of the regular season. So the evidence is there that Cam’s scintillating form could continue, even against the best defense in the NFL. The Panthers will not run away in the first half like they did in their two previous playoff games, but they may just be able to find the key to unlock the Broncos defense with their dynamism.

If the Broncos do manage to keep up their excellent defensive record, they have to keep the chains moving on their own drives. After all, there is no point in keeping points off the board if you can’t put then on yourself. Peyton Manning may be an NFL legend, but he has a questionable playoff record (13 wins and 13 losses), has had an unremarkable season by his standards, and doesn’t have the same weapons around him as he did 2 years ago when the Broncos last made the Superbowl. Demaryius Thomas has also not been as successful receiving in previous years, and the team seem reliant on their solid running game and Emmanuel Sanders’ receiving yards. They face a Carolina defense with a Pro-Bowler in every part of the field, a terrifying proposition for a team already struggling with confidence with the ball in hand.

Carolina on the other hand, have no such problems moving down the field. Even if the Broncos restrict them to one and two yard gains and a few incompletions, Newton has been throwing 30-yard passes to devastating effect all season. With Greg Olsen and Corey Brown in form in the receiving positions, and Jonathan Stewart posting outrageous rushing numbers in the post-season, the Panthers undoubtedly have enough big plays in their arsenal.

If you believe in superstition, the Broncos are wearing white on Sunday, and have never won the Superbowl in their famous orange. The famous phrase “Offense sells tickets, Defence wins championships” has been knocking around a bit – which obviously favours the Broncos. Having said that, superstition and traditional phrases seem to be the only indications of a Broncos win. Carolina are 17-1 all season, Cam Newton is unstoppable and everything that has happened up to this moment makes you think it may be Carolina’s year. It will be a low scoring close affair, but Carolina will produce the goods offensively when it matters, Newton will be MVP, and Panthers fans will be talking about this season for decades to come.

 


Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a UK sports journalist with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.

47 NFL stars reject Pro Bowl

Pro Bowl 2012

After beating the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals respectively last weekend, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are preparing for the Super Bowl – but still have over a week to wait until locking horns in one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

To fill the void in the weekend before the Super Bowl, a host of stars from the rest of the NFL will take part in the Pro Bowl; a casual game to recognize the best performers of the campaign.

Unfortunately for the NFL, an unprecedented number of players have pulled out of this year’s Pro Bowl match. 47 NFL stars have rejected the chance to play in the Pro Bowl, meaning that the total number of players invited to play has now reached 133, with all seven of the voted New England Patriots player declining the game after a long season.

Still, the NFL is attempting to make the game fun and ultimately watchable, and is sticking with the recent draft format for selecting the two teams. Legends Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice take it in turns to pick from the available players, and then pit their sides against each other in Hawaii on Saturday evening.

Irvin had the first pick and plumped for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, whilst he also has other stars such as St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on his side.

Meanwhile, Jerry Rice made New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning his first pick of the draft, meaning both team captains unsurprisingly went with QB’s as their first selections. Rice also added Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews to his ranks.

These matches tend to be high-scoring affairs, as only once since 2010 has there been fewer than 50 points scored in the game, with the 2012 edition ending with 100 points on the board between the two teams.

There may be fewer stars than planned after all the rejections, but this should be a fine warm-up to the Super Bowl next week, with a more casual offering of American football in store for supporters this weekend.

 


Olly avatarOLLY DAWES is a Sports Management graduate and sports journalist for Here Is The City, whilst he also writes about NFL for Colts Authority.

Cam Newton expected to come out on top in a Panthers Super Bowl Win

Cam Newton Carolina Panthers

Can Cam Newton lead the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl Victory?

Tom Brady has fallen out of the spotlight, but the quarterbacks are still ruling the headlines preceding Super Bowl 50.  As an exciting season draws to a close, predictors say that Cam Newton will lead Carolina to victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday.

But nothing is written in stone yet! Peyton Manning’s experience is still a major factor and, come game time, that experience will put Newton and the Panthers to the test. However, the fact remains that with Newton leading the way, the Panthers have had success in 22 out of their last 24 games going all the way back to the end of the 2014 regular season.

Could Newton be the key to Panther victory? Newton is the leading candidate for the NFL MVP award after being a league leader with 45 touchdowns during the regular season.

MVP is seeing a lot of betting action and so are ‘First Touchdown Scorer’, ‘Winning Margin’ and ‘Double Result’ wagers.

There is no way to tell for sure. But in my opinion, Panthers fans should feel a fair amount of confidence come kickoff this February  7th.

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Thane Colcy sports bloggerTHANE COLCY is a Canadian sports fan currently living in Melbourne, Australia but still following American football and basketball from down-under.

Newton Will Present a Unique Challenge for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers will make for worthy adversaries against the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers will make for worthy adversaries against the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday

Cam Newton lead the Carolina Panthers to victory in their NFL Conference Championship game over the weekend with a 49-15 win against the Arizona Cardinals. While Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos didn’t have quite the same experience, they still managed to win their game by squeaking by Tom Brady and the Patriots 20-18 on Sunday, with Manning throwing two touchdown passes.

Newton will present a unique challenge for Denver in Super Bowl 50. While Manning and the Broncos have piled up 14 wins this season, they haven’t played a quarterback quite like Newton, who is looking as though he will be up for MVP honors this season.

Newton’s journey towards MVP didn’t truly begin until halfway through the season, after which he greatly increased his efficiency and decreased his turnovers, making him a much more dangerous opponent. However, all that matters now is that Newton and the Panthers will surely be a force to be reckoned with come Super Bowl Sunday.

All things considered, odds makers’ early line predict Cam Newton and the Panthers a 4.5-point favorite in their clash with Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Santa Clara. I think they’re right.

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Thane Colcy sports bloggerTHANE COLCY is a Canadian sports fan currently living in Melbourne, Australia but still following American football and basketball from down-under.

Don’t Be Fooled by Hype: A Brit’s Picks for NFL Conference Championships this Weekend

Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos NFL

Manning will start, he will lose a record 14th playoff game, and Brady will be sizing up his Super Bowl ring finger.

After the breathtaking playoff drama, the results thus far appear to have gone by the books. The 1st seeded Broncos host the 2nd seeded Patriots for the AFC Championship, and the 1st seeded Panthers host the 2nd seeded Cardinals.

AFC Championship Game

The game at Mile-High feels like the worthy culmination of the AFC championship this year. The best two teams on paper from the start of the year, and possibly the last time we will ever see the epic Manning v Brady match-up under center. The only evidence we have to go by is an OT win for the Broncos in November that ended the Patriots perfect season, and considering how tight that contest was, this should be a tough game to pick a winner from.

In terms of playoff form, there is nothing much to reveal either. Both New England and Denver cruised into the Championship game in the end, though the Broncos might have been a bit jittery coming into the fourth quarter. Nothing unexpected happened either, except maybe the Broncos decision to go back to old faithful, Peyton Manning, instead of sticking with his very impressive replacement Brock Osweiler.

This decision may well hold the key predicting the outcome of this game. Manning was unimpressive in Denver’s victory over Pittsburgh, and with the body clock ticking and a questionable playoff record, it’s hard to see anything other than Brady taking centre stage. However, the Patriots are far from invincible, and their over-reliant passing game has shown signs of coming unstuck. Their defence against the run also came unstuck against C.J Anderson last time out, meaning the Broncos won’t be reliant on Manning’s arm.

This is the playoffs though, and there have been far too many good examples of big time players carrying teams. Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman and company are big time players, and there is too much uncertainty over a talented Broncos team under pressure. If the Broncos pick Osweiler and mix things up a bit with some creative plays, they may come out on top… but they won’t. Manning will start, he will lose a record 14th playoff game, and Brady will be sizing up his Superbowl ring finger.

NFC Championship Game

Like the AFC game, this feels like the perfect culmination to the NFC. With the Packers and the Seahawks proving that they don’t quite have enough this season in the playoffs, the big boys rightly stepped aside for the long-time second fiddles. This is also the first time these teams have seen each other this season, so it will be a fascinating match-up.

In terms of playoff paths, the Panthers showed they have no problem with post-season inexperience when they took an experienced Seattle team to the cleaners with a scintillating first half display. The Carolina defence made Russell Wilson look like he’d never seen the Seahawk’s playbook with two key picks in the first half to virtually put the game to bed before it had even started. The Cardinals were also cruising against the Packers until Aaron Rodgers’ epic two Hail Marys showed up a worrying weakness in the Cardinals secondary. Crucially, however, Carson Palmer threw another 300-yard game. He has looked ruthlessly efficient with this season’s playbook, and there is no evidence to suggest he won’t be ruthlessly efficient against this Carolina defence. Whilst Carolina have all-pro players in each part of the defensive field, there are still weaknesses to exploit, and it could be argued very effectively they have not come up against an offence as solid in the air the Cardinals. Furthermore, the Cardinals have talent on the ground to back their scintillating passing game up.

It may be foolish to rule out a 15-1 team with an MVP potential quarterback, but I genuinely think the Panthers have only gone 15-1 because the NFC has not been particularly competitive. Don’t be fooled by the odds, don’t be fooled by the hype. Carolina have not faced a team as good as the Cardinals all season and they will come unstuck against this well balanced offence in Charlotte at the final hurdle.


Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a UK sports journalist with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.


Andy Lee Vs Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO Middleweight Title

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There is no sport more exciting to have a wager on than boxing. Football can be exciting, but once your team is 4-0 down with 2 minutes to go then it’s curtains for you and your scrappy little betting slip. Not so with boxing. Let’s use Carl Froch as an example. If you’d bet some of your assiduously earned coins on a Jermain Taylor victory back in April 2009, you’d have been elated by the final round. Taylor was comfortably ahead on two of the three judges’ cards. Froch would win the fight via TKO with 14 seconds left to go…

It’s that cliché of “it only takes one punch to win a fight” that makes it such an enthralling sport to spectate. Finally, after two postponements, Lee and Saunders fight on Saturday in Manchester for the WBO Middlewight Title. To borrow another shop-worn cliché “this is a genuine pick ’em 50-50 fight”. Hailing from Ireland, Andy Lee is currently the WBO Middleweight title holder. He won this when he scored a surprise TKO in round 6 against the technically skilled Matt Korobov; they were fighting for the vacant title. Since then he shared a draw with Peter Quillin (who both had each other tasting canvas) and has demonstrated his game changing right-hook in both of those fights. Lee was losing on points to both John Jackson and Matt Korobov before landing cleanly on Jackson’s chin to end him and setting up Korobov for the end with the same shot respectively.

Whilst not quite a maestro when it comes to actual boxing skill, Lee is capable of boxing at range. With a 75′ reach and operating as a southpaw, Lee can still be tricky to work against. That said, both of his loses (against 34 wins (24KO’s)) have been times where he has been stopped. Once against the much maligned Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and prior to that Brian Vera, who you might know after recently being halted by Rocky Fielding. The aforementioned Quillin also had Lee down twice as well – visibly hurt in fact, so there are questions on the durability of Lee’s chin. Though as stated, Lee’s right-hook is a shot dangerous to anyone in his division; it’s an equaliser that means he can’t be ruled out of any fight really. Thanks to that, he’s much more likely to be winning a fight by KO than by a points decision.

His opponent for the night  is unbeaten southpaw Billy Joe Saunders. Saunders – whilst lacking genuine power – is an excellent boxer, combining his quick hand-speed with intelligent footwork to make himself a difficult night for anyone at Middleweight. His best win is against rising star Chris Eubank Jr. Whilst this was indeed a split decision I think it’s difficult to truly make a case for Saunders losing the fight. Yes it was extremely close, but it was also clear. On top of that, Saunders has used his talents to secure wins across other top fighters across the domestic scene, namely: Nick Blackwell, Gary O’Sullivan and John Ryder.

To his detriment, Saunders seemed to slow down a fair bit towards the Eubank Jr fight. Wherever this was a case of Saunders not having enough in the tank or Eubank Jr finally starting to work him out, I guess we won’t know until Saunders is dragged into the late rounds again. He’d built up a steady enough lead after the first 5 rounds so it’s possible his mentality shifted and allowed him to think he could coast the fight. Whilst confidence is a required skill to be a top fighter, being able to impose a limit on one’s own mind and halting before arrogance is equally vital.

With both fighters being southpaw I’d expect the first few rounds to be a little bit cagey. A cautious approach whilst both work the other out (in fact, I believe these rounds will edge towards Saunders slightly as he is the better boxer). Lee will eventually begin to look for that KO shot and will want to make this more of a brawl than an exhibition. Saunders has never been down in his career; he looked hurt against Eubank Jr but it’s possible this was down to fatigue as much as anything. Will that happen again? Possibly. Either way, Lee will land that right-hook eventually and as tough as Saunders has proved to be, I’m not confident it won’t shake him up enough for Lee to go in for the kill. My opinion: Lee via TKO 10.


Jake CollinsJAKE COLLINS is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in London and lives in Essex. Read more of his sports betting commentary in Jake’s blog or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

NFL Bets: 4 Thanksgiving Weekend Tips

Buccaneers to beat the Colts

The Bucs are on a winning streak and Jameis Winston is starting to look like the real deal. This Thanksgiving, NFL fans in Tampa Bay are just thankful that they have a team that looks like it can compete! The Colts have not been totally ‘Luck-Less’ (Matt Hasselbeck has proved himself a worthy replacement), but their ageing squad is showing signs of predictability and tiredness. Expect them to fizzle out and the Bucs to keep the good times rolling in Tampa.

Vikings to beat the Falcons

Don’t be fooled by Atlanta’s tasty looking 6-4 record… This is a team on the brink after four losses in five and a developing penchant for conceding turnovers. This is a team that also looked good at points last year, but really, the good times seem to be papering over deep cracks in this franchise. The Vikings, on the other hand, have only lost to two Superbowl contenders this season (Broncos and Packers), and display the consistency against lesser teams that the Falcons wish they had. Atlanta’s only hope is getting the same luck on the passing rush as Green Bay did last time out, but Minnesota should cruise this one and put another nail in the Falcons’ coffin.

Steelers to beat the Seahawks

This, arguably, is the boldest call of the lot. Earlier in the season I suggested that the Seahawks may struggle to make the playoffs with the Cardinals looking so good, and this is something I stand by after 11 weeks of football. The Seahawks have a point to prove after losing to every serious playoff contender they have played so far. The Steelers provide the latest challenge, since they are looking very good for at least a wild-card spot. This will all come to one of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups of the season: Pittsburgh’s irresistible wide receiver Antonio Brown against Seattle’s NFL legendary cornerback Richard Sherman. With Antonio Brown in scintillating form and question marks still lurking over the Seahawks post-season potential, Pittsburgh will end Seattle’s season here.

Patriots to beat the Broncos

The Patriots are a 16-0 team. There, I said it. They have overcome injuries to key players and whilst they haven’t always looked invincible, you know what they say about teams that still win when they don’t play their best… Tom Brady has been the once constant this season, and that is no co-incidence. His experience and brilliance have been too much for all 10 teams they have played this season, and whilst the Broncos will provide them with their toughest test so far, Mr Brady isn’t about to relinquish his chances of a post deflate-gate perfect season. Brock Osweiler is proving that the Broncos have a future past Peyton Manning, and they are certainly a playoff team, but the Patriots have all the answers and will find away past Denver on Monday night.


Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a UK sports journalist with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.

Breeders Cup is Last Race for Legendary American Pharoah

American Pharaoh to win Breeders Cup

After becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah joined the ranks of Secretariat and Seabiscuit as one of the most legendary race horses of all time.  He returns to Kentucky, the state of his birth, to finish his triumphant racing career tomorrow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.

Then, like all great champions, he begins his new life as a stallion.

The Breeders’ Cup only began in 1984, making American Pharoah the first Triple Crown winner to run it. In the Classic, he will be facing his elders for the first time, coming off a two-month layoff, and racing a demanding 1 1/4 miles on a track he’s never raced before.

Following tomorrow’s race, American Pharoah goes to stud. That’s some carrot! Perhaps the thought of retirement will spur him on to one more victory!

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Intertops Sportsbook has American Pharoah at -120 in Breeder’s Cup odds posted October 31, 2015

NFL Betting Tips

NFL American football betting tipsWith the beginning of the NFL season just a couple of weeks away it’s time for those who bet on sports to come up with a strategy for the season.  CasinoCity published the first part of a three part article on the subject today. Their “Top Ten tips for Degenerate NFL Bettors” includes “Don’t bet on Andy Dalton at #9 and, my personal favorite (at number 3 on the list): Don’t blow your whole bank roll in week one!

For more NFL betting tips read Dan Podheiser’s full NFL Betting Preview.

Check back here next week when our own NFL blogger, Francis Kelly, looks at NFL rookies to watch this season.