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.


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Andy Lee Vs Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO Middleweight Title

Billy_joe_saunders2_-_wembley_2011.11.05

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.

NFL Thanksgiving games see Cowboys planning to end Panthers’ perfect season

Panthers vs Cowboys Thanksgiving NFL

The Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton has sites set on perfect NFL football season

U.S. Thanksgiving Day means 3 things to many Americans: turkey dinner, family and football. With redemption, pride and perfection at stake, it’s looking to be a great day of NFL action.

Long-standing Thanksgiving game day host, the Dallas Cowboys, are looking optimistic following the return of Quarterback Tony Romo on Sunday. After losing 7 straight games without Romo, the Cowboys 24-14 win against Miami kept Dallas’ minor playoff prospects going, though it is still unclear if Romo and the Cowboys can triumph over the undefeated Panthers. Cam Newton and the Panthers crushed the Redskins 44-16 in Week 11 with Newton throwing a career-high 5 touchdown passes to keep a perfect season well on the horizon.

The Bears may have improved their game in recent weeks but they couldn’t defeat the Broncos after losing by 2 at home to the Broncos on Sunday. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers busted out of their three-week rut with a crushing 30-13 defeat of the Vikings.

Historically, Detroit plays host to a Thanksgiving game but a disappointing season so far puts the Lions right out of the running for the playoffs. Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia Eagles come to town licking their wounds after being destroyed 45-17 by Tampa Bay and rookie QB Jameis Winston at home on Sunday. Fortunately for them the NFC East is still up for grabs and the Eagles are still contenders, in spite of their troubling 4-6 record.

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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.

 

 

Panthers may be going into Thanksgiving undefeated… but Tony Romo is back!

NFL Thanksgiving betsAs American sports fans prepare for a four day weekend of football and food, the Carolina Panthers are hoping to give their fans a real Turkey Day treat with yet another win in Dallas.  Thanksgiving Day betting is always heavy and this game – one of three NFL games on Thursday — is seeing a whole lot of action. 

“The Panthers are still undefeated, but Tony Romo just returned from an injury,” noted one Intertops’ bet manager.  “The win at Miami after 7 straight losses in Romo’s absence has kept Dallas’ slim playoff hopes alive, but can the Cowboys stop the still-perfect Panthers, that’s the question.”

“Cam Newton’s career-high 5 TD passes against Washington showed that he has no intention of letting up with a perfect season in his sights.”

On Thanksgiving Day both QBs will be keen to use their arm and if one of them throws for over 300 yards in the game, Intertops Sportsbook customers betting on “Total Team Points” get losing stake back.

Along with pages of other NFL bets this holiday weekend, Intertops Sportsbook has the Carolina Panthers as an early one-point favorite over the Dallas Cowboys.

“That could change by Thursday, of course,” reminded the Intertops bookie.  “It could easily move a point either way.”

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!

brreaderscup01

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

Can the Seahawks dig themselves out of the 0-2 hole in the NFL’s NFC West?

Seattle SeahawksOne of the biggest stories at the start of this NFL season is that the Seahawks are occupying the basement of the NFC West. The team that won the 48th Superbowl, and should have won the 49th Superbowl have given themselves an uphill struggle to reach Superbowl 50. Is the mass hysteria justified, or will the Seahawks fly back on course in and reach the playoffs?

The context to the Seahawks’ losses is certainly the most important thing to analyse before declaring them a team in meltdown. The two losses have both been on the road, to the Green Bay Packers and St Louis Rams. The Packers are a formidable force, especially at home with Aaron Rogers in the kind of mood that saw him throw 9 for 9 and 91 yards in the 4th quarter. The Rams have been the Seahawks’ bogey team and the season opening loss marks the second time in two years Seattle have lost at the death in St Louis. Both of these losses were not expected, but they were predictable. The Seahawks have got fellow 0-2 strugglers Detroit and Chicago in their next two home games, and a probable 2-2 position in two weeks time looks likely, and a lot less dreadful.

Turning an 0-2 into a positive record is one thing, but winning enough games to dispatch all of their NFC West rivals is another. One of their rivals, the 49ers, will probably be out of the playoff picture in a month judging by their cataclysmic capitulation at the hands of Pittsburgh Steelers last time out. Yes, they have Colin Kaepernick, but too many question marks surrounding him. Another rival, the Rams, started the annual “it’s going to be their year” bandwagon when beating the Seahawks. But a weak performance against a poor Washington team has threatened to derail them already. The Seahawks have enough to haul themselves back above those two, which only leads the Arizona Cardinals to deal with… The Cardinals fell short when Carson Palmer got injured last season, but now with him back and an impressive 2-0 start they are looking ominous. Larry Fitzgerald has 199 receiving yards in 2 games, and their dynamic offense looks the real deal.

The Seahawks have given a 2-win head start to the Cardinals, and that is too much for a team with an offense so frighteningly productive. The NFC West culminates with a week 17 matchup between; you guessed it, the Seahawks and Cardinals. That could well be the decider, but watch this space – one bird will be flying on top of the NFC West in January, and I think it might just be a Cardinal.

 

 

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.

Top 5 NFL rookies to watch this season

NFL rookie Melvin GordonMelvin Gordon San Diego Chargers – Running back

Melvin Gordan has suffered a slow start to winning over San Diego fans – especially after a subdued debut – and none more so than his own mum, who declared she won’t be pulling on the Chargers’ jersey until Gordon’s earned it. The 2014 Heisman runner-up proved impressive enough during his college days to receive her approval and there is no doubt she’ll be donning the blue, white and gold soon. While other recent Wisconsin graduates may have struggled in previous seasons, this tightly-coiled ball of speed and nimble touch is set to excite from the off. Rapid over short distances and a quick learner, this downhill running back is seen as Ryan Matthews’ replacement starter.

Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quarterback

Doubts have crept in during pre-season over Jameis Winston’s ability to slot instantly into the demanding rigours of the NFL following a disappointing first fixture against Minnesota Vikings. Yet hidden among the match stats were signs indicating why the former Florida State quarterback was Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ No.1 draft pick. His roaring eight-yard rushing touchdown, including a dive over Jabari Price, capped off a splendid 76-yard drive, showing the power and dexterity that encouraged admirers to rate him so highly in college football. Coupled with his long-arm capabilities and on-field intelligence and there is every expectation that, much like his time with the Seminoles where he grew into the role, he will form a formidable partnership with wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans this season.

Amari Cooper Oakland Raiders – wide receiver

A record-breaking Alabama alumna, Amari Cooper is predicted to quickly provide large returns for Oakland Raiders’ eye-watering investment in him. Enjoying electric footwork and explosive running, the Biletnikoff award-winner has swiftly gone about embracing the requirements put down by coach Jack Del Rio. Cooper got a high workload early on against St Louis Rams in their preseason encounter, touching half of the Raiders’ opening eight snaps for a 25-yard total, as quarterback Derek Carr looks to form a promising partnership. If Carr can delivery the killer pass, then expect Cooper to improve Raiders’ fortunes, with 1,000 yards not beyond his maiden season prospects.

Leonard Williams New York Jets – Defensive end

There didn’t look to be an immediate route into the New York Jets side for Leonard Williams when the draft was first made, however, with team-mate Sheldon Richardson’s off-field indiscretions seeing him banned for the first four games of the regular-season, an opening has arisen. The No.6 overall pick is adamant he can impress, and has already spoken on his desire to be a playmaker. While substituting for Richardson might not suit Williams’ play entirely, under the stewardship of coach Todd Bowles there is hope that the 6-foot-5, two-time All-American will thrive performing the forceful defensive duties Bowles will likely enforce.

Maxx Williams Baltimore Ravens – tight end

Maxx Williams is well known for his hurdling ability having jumped numerous tackles in college football, but while his astounding 54-yard effort for Minnesota Gophers ended in a remarkable touchdown, it is the deft leap versus a New Orleans Saints cornerback in their preseason match that could prove the most crucial for his career. Required to make 20-yards, his innovative manoeuvre ensured the Ravens reached 22. An athletic, determined individual, Williams has wowed team-mates in practice with his safe catching and inventive style of play. Although opportunities might not come straightaway – Crockett Gilmore is predicted to be ahead currently – back Williams to take any chance he gets.


FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

Las Vegas sportsbooks report heavy losses over Sunday’s NFL opening

Las Vegas sportsbook image from Wikimedia Commons free media repository originally posted to Flickr by G0SUB.

Las Vegas sportsbook . G0SUB @ Flickr.

After several popular favorites covered the spread this weekend, Las Vegas sportsbooks say they’ve never had such a bad NFL opening Sunday. Sportsbooks usually do quite well on the first Sunday of the NFL regular season.  Last year in Week 1, underdogs covered the spread in 10 of 13 games.

The underdog Giants covered against the Cowboys in a 27-26 loss, which helped the books. However after the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins both covered the day was already a loss.

The St. Louis Rams, who took the Seattle Seahawks 34-31 in overtime, were a popular pick among savvy bettors. Some books had 2.5 times more money on the Rams. Ouch!

Although the season started off a little rocky for most, Nevada sportsbooks won an all-time high of $114 million on football in 2014.  So they don’t need our sympathy!

The journey to Super Bowl 50 has begun

Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski scored the first two touchdowns of the 2015 NFL season over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Patriots beat the Steelers 28-21 and with that, the NFL regular season for 2015 and the journey to Super Bowl 50 have officially begun!

Coast-to-coast celebrations before the game featured Ellie Goulding and Train performing at the site of Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco.

Ellie Goulding

Super Bowl 50 will be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, February 7th, 2016. Online sportsbooks like AllYouBet Sportsbook offer competitive odds on all regular season games and have already taken a huge amount of bets on who will win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy.

When asked for their Super Bowl predictions, bookmakers say they like the Packers’ and Colts’ chances of making it to the Super Bowl this time around.  It’s early days of course, but the Eagles, Seahawks and Ravens are also considered contenders.