Browns back in business!

Browns could be an NFL force this year!

Will playoff football be back at FirstEnergy Stadium this season?

Being a major league sports fan in Cleveland hasn’t been a bundle of laughs in recent years with the Indians failing to make much of an impression in MLB, the Cavs being NBA also-rans and the Browns being pretty much a laughing stock in the NFL.

But wait a minute, things are certainly looking up as far as the latter two are concerned! LeBron James’ return to the Cavaliers was THE big sports story of the summer in the USA, and with the additional acquisition of Kevin Love Cleveland Cleveland is now the bookies preseason pick to take the NBA title this year.

And what about the Browns? After years of playing fourth fiddle in the AFC North, things are suddenly looking up in a big way at FirstEnergy Stadium. Sunday’s impressive 31-10 thumping of the Steelers has taken coach Mike Pettine’s team to 3-2 for the season – not much to get excited about you might think, but with games against the Jaguars (0-6), the Raiders (0-5) and the Buccaneers (1-5) coming up next, things could soon look very different indeed!

The Browns last made the postseason in 2007 and have failed to post more than five regular season wins in the six seasons since. Pettine has chosen a conservative approach in offense with quarterback Brian Hoyer, a Cleveland native by the way, executing his role without any major mistakes so far – and don’t forget there is still college football wonder-boy Johnny Manziel to fall back on should Hoyer get injured! An average of 26.8 points per game is not bad by anyone’s standards and that number should continue to rise if the Browns can keep their momentum going before entertaining the Bengals in what should be a true test of their potential on November 6th!

NFL Week 7: Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars Betting Odds:

Cleveland Browns 1.42
Jacksonville Jaguars 3.0

To win the AFC North Odds:

Cincinnati Bengals    2.2
Baltimore Ravens     2.75
Cleveland Browns    6.5
Pittsburgh Steelers  7.0

All odds provided by allyoubet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI

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Which NFL unbeaten record will be the last to fall?

With Andy Dalton performing solidly, do the Bengals have the best shot at going 16-0?

With Andy Dalton performing solidly, do the Bengals have the best shot at going 16-0?

Since the 2007 New England Patriots proved it possible, the 16-0 season has been the goal of 32 teams over six separate regular seasons. In the seventh attempt, the list of possible ‘perfect seasons’ has already been whittled down to three: Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals. Have any of them got what it takes?

 

Philadelphia Eagles  

There are two ways to look at the great start this team has made to the season. The optimist would suggest that their three amazing comebacks, and in particular their incredible second half scoring figures make this team resilient and hard to beat. As the Jaguars found out in week 1, you can have a comfortable 17-0 half time lead and still be on the wrong end of a 34-17 thrashing. Quarterback Nick Foles has thrown more passing yards than anyone else in the NFL so far, and their close schedule isn’t exactly terrifying. Wins against the 49ers, Rams and Giants will take them up to their bye week 7 with a 6-0 record. The cynic would argue that their 26th ranked defence will leak too many points for the offense to continue making up for, and the promising start will soon start to unravel. Judging by the evidence that they only just scraped past the Redskins, who are frankly the only team they have played with a respectable defensive record, they could find a trip to the West Coast to face the 6th ranked 49ers defence as a step too far. It’s hard to not listen to the cynic on this one. The Eagles will struggle to keep their record past this weekend.

Betting Instinct tip the 49ers to end the Eagles’ dreams of a perfect season is -250 with AllYouBet.ag (all odds are subject to change)

 

Arizona Cardinals 

If anyone foresaw the Cardinals being 3-0 at this stage in the season, they were ignoring every reliable indicator of NFL success that informs any logical prediction ever made. This is a team who have negotiated a tough start against a number of realistic Super Bowl prospects without their star QB Carson Palmer, all whilst being heavily reliant on rookie WR John Brown. If their unbeaten season goes past 8-0, this will be a fairytale to warm the hearts of any sports fan. With respect to the amazing achievements of this team so far, a 16-0 season is frankly a pipe dream. The bye week coming up is likely to be the only thing keeping their fantasy of a perfect season alive. The prospect of facing the formidable Denver Broncos in week 5, who themselves are very unlucky not to make the 3-0 club after an overtime loss to their arch-nemesis, Seattle Seahawks, will probably be a bridge too far for the Cardinals. They can view this start as a platform to launch a realistic playoff charge, but no more than that I’m afraid.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Now here is an actual prospect for a perfect season. The Bengals, unlike their two counterparts on a 3-0, have recorded three very convincing wins so far. The standout result in terms of revealing how good this team actually is remains the a 24-10 victory against the Atlanta Falcons, and limiting one of the most impressive offenses in the NFL to 10 points really does reveal the potential of this team. Their own offensive record doesn’t set the world alight, but QB Andy Dalton has been rock solid, and the team’s rushing productivity means that the weight is not all on his shoulders. Pundits have been so impressed by their potential that whispers of comparison to the Super Bowl winning 2013 Seahawks have already been heard. Their presence in the arguably much friendlier AFC means their schedule doesn’t look too daunting either. When the Bengals face the New England Patriots in week 5, all will be revealed, but a win at Gillette Stadium could set the Bengals up for a run which may only be truly tested with visits to Denver and Pittsburgh in the final 2 games of the regular season. If there is one team that can go 16-0, it is the Bengals. Watch this space!

Betting Instinct tip – The Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl is +1200 with Intertops.eu

 

 Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist with a particular interest in English football, particularly the  relatively unexplored world of Conference football. He also has a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly  American football and Baseball, and has previously contributed to Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.

Falcons flying high!

Can the Falcons beat the Bengals?

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons started the NFL season with a big win!

There were quite a few experts predicting a difficult season for the Atlanta Falcons after several changes to their roster on both sides of the ball this summer. Indeed, after falling behind by 13 points to NFC South rival New Orleans in the first half of Week 1, things seemed to be going pretty much as expected, before quarterback Matt Ryan and his offense finally got into their stride.

Ryan threw a franchise-record 448 yards as the hosts stormed back to finally secure a 37-34 OT victory off the boot of kicker Matt Bryant in what could yet prove a crucial win in the race to the division crown.

The next goal for the Falcons to achieve is to win a second straight game – something they failed to do in their miserable season last year – but it will be anything other than easy as Week 2 takes then north to Cincinnati where the Bengals are defending a nine-game Regular Season home winning streak.

The Men in Stripes got off to a good start to the season themselves, grinding out a narrow victory at Baltimore in Week 1, and hopes are high in Cincy that this could be the season in which the team finally makes a serious Super Bowl challenge.

After recent playoff failure, the heat is on quarterback Andy Dalton to deliver the goods in the postseason at last following the signing of a massive new contract earlier this year, but everyone at the franchise knows it is now a question of keeping concentration high and securing a good start to what could, and indeed should, be a long season ahead.

A home defeat to the Falcons would be a serious confidence blow to all at Paul Brown Stadium, and after Atlanta’s positive Week 1 showing nobody will be taking the visitors lightly on Sunday!

NFL Week 2: Atlanta Falcons @ Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds:

Atlanta Falcons        3.05
Cincinnati Bengals  1.41

All odds provided by allyoubet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI

 

AFC Wild Card Sunday: Bengals earning their playoff stripes at last?

Sunday sees Cincy handed another chance to put their nightmare behind them when they host the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card encounter.

Cincy hosts the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card encounter on Sunday.

Why is January 6th 1991 a date that might stick in the minds of long-time Cincinnati Bengals fans? It was the last time that they experienced their team win an NFL playoff game! A long period of postseason abstinence then followed and although the franchise eventually managed to brush off its “Bungles” image in the mid 2000’s, four playoff appearances since 2005 have seen four straight defeats. Sunday sees Cincy handed another chance to put their nightmare behind them when they host the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card encounter. Things are looking good for the home team after running up a perfect 8-0 home record during the regular season. The Bengals will be hoping that their maddeningly inconsistent quarterback Andy Dalton has one of his better days, and the fact that they beat the Bolts on the road on December 1st will also prove to be a pre-game confidence booster.

The Chargers, who have a long-standing reputation for not liking cold north-eastern winter weather, sneaked into the postseason at the last minute. They did, however, close out the regular season with four straight wins, led by QB Philipp Rivers, who threw for nine TDs and 845 yards during that streak. After missing out on the playoffs for three straight years, the visitors will be looking to take their chance at Paul Brown Stadium, but it doesn’t really look likely that Rivers will succeed where the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers have all failed this year.

AFC Wild Card Game: San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds

San Diego Chargers         3.40
Cincinnati Bengals            1.36

(Odds provided by AllYouBet Sportsbook current of today, but subject to change)

______________________________________________

chrisives-50CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

Time For Saints to Show They Can Perform on the Road

Marques Colston is the form player for the Saints, with two touchdowns last week

Marques Colston is the form player for the Saints, with two touchdowns last week

Saints @ Panthers

It’s rare we have the situation of a matchup where the reverse fixture was as recent as two weeks before (it feels rare, it might not be rare). This, in theory, should give us plenty of points of focus where coaches are determined not to make the same mistakes while at the same time reinforcing their existing competitive advantage.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Betting Odds

Saints to win – 2.55

Panthers to win – 1.57

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are correct as of today and subject to change)

The main talking point around the New Orleans Saints this week has been the announcement that their rookie left tackle out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Terron Armstead, will replace 4th year USC alum Charles Brown. The left side of the New Orleans offensive line was undoubtedly tortured by Robert Quinn last week (think Gareth Bale v Maicon in 2010, soccer fans), but even the most competent blockers around the league wouldn’t be able to avoid being trampled by the Rams pass rush right now. Armstead will almost certainly be up against Greg Hardy for most of the afternoon, and while Hardy is no slouch (6th best 4-3 defensive end in the league according to Pro Football Focus), he was well and truly blunted by Brown in Week 14, in what was a pretty ignominious night for the vaunted Panther defensive front.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the New Orleans Saints are famed for Drew Brees and the prolific pass attack he commandeers. They ran riot in the previous fixture at home to Carolina, with Brees throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns, and stellar wideout Marques Colston having his best game of the season (9 catches, 125 yards, 2 touchdowns). The secondary had been the main concern for this Carolina defence but they have surpassed most expectations, with PFF’s pass coverage metric ranking them a very respectable 8th overall. Regardless of the Saints’ recent stutters, the Panthers defence will need to be on the top of their game if they are to best one of the greatest passing offenses the game has ever seen.

For the Saints, a win would answer some of the questions starting to bubble up about their credentials, whether they’re just one-trick ponies who can only perform at home (only the Bengals have a greater differential between their home and away records). In fact so dominant are the Saints at home, this surfaced on one of their fansites. And for the Panthers, despite statement wins in San Francisco and against New England on Monday Night Football (although even the flawed Colts beat San Francisco and Seattle), beating the regent Saints would go a big way to proving they are a big time contender. There are some people* who still think their franchise quarterback hasn’t established himself the way Luck, Wilson and even Kaepernick have. A win on Sunday would surely paid to that.

*People? What people? ME

Patriots @ Ravens

If the Baltimore Ravens were a sensitive bunch, they might think they were being disrespected. A norm for the Super Bowl winners is to play the first game of the next season at home, but they had their opening night home game privileges stripped from them, and now NBC, who hold the rights to a primetime Sunday night matchup, decided to “flex out” of airing the Ravens’ final home game in favour of an Eagles-Bears game which could feasibly have the home side resting their key starters depending on a result earlier that day.

Still, after losing (what people considered to be) the lynchpins of their Super Bowl winning side to retirement and free agency in the summer, the supposedly decimated Ravens have got to the penultimate game of the season with their place in the playoffs in their own hands. All they have to do is win both of their games and they’re in. Except, they’re playing the powerhouse New England Patriots who are always in contention for a world championship (yes, I went there) and away to their division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals (who, as you read above, have a pretty considerable home-field advantage).

Trouble, you may think. Alas, the Ravens are 3-2 against New England in their last five encounters. Only the New York Football Giants are able to match such a record – if you only count the five games occurring in this millennium.

Baltimore have won their last 4, while New England are coming off the back of a slap-in-the-face loss in Miami, who incidentally are one of Baltimore’s main challengers for a playoff place. It hasn’t been the first such defeat for the Patriots this season, whose other defeats came away against the New York Jets, the Carolina Panthers and the Cincinnati Bengals. All four boast outstanding defences, something the Baltimore Ravens pride themselves on.

Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder suffered a concussion last week, and if he’s fit to play he’ll have his hands full with a rampant Elvis Dumervil (ranked 2nd in the league among 3-4 outside linebackers) and a healthy dose of Ball So Hard University alum Terrell Suggs.

New England have spent most of the season without their superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski (I won’t even mention the other one), and after his week 7 return, they tragically lost him to a season ending ACL tear against Cleveland in Week 14. Any offense in history would have a gaping Gronkowski-sized hole in it if he was shorn from it, but it has especially hindered New England considering the deficiencies in their other offensive skill players. Ridley (butterfingers), Thompkins and Dobson (inexperience), Amendola (always injured), Hoomanawanui (not Gronkowski) and Hernandez (homicide charges, ok I mentioned him) have left the imperial Tom Brady with Julian Edelman and not much else all season.

This has shown in their results – six of New England’s wins have come with a three point winning margin or less. Meanwhile Baltimore won on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions without scoring a touchdown, and being stalwarts of the AFC North they are more than familiar in the art of grinding out close wins.

The most recent weather forecast suggests there will be thunderstorms during game-time in the Maryland area with a medium strength wind. Rain usually means running the football, and while Ravens tailback Ray Rice has had an appalling season by any measure (PFF have him as by far the worst running back in the league this season), he appeared to be workable in his last two games (4.2 yards per carry).

With the strength of their defence and with kicker Justin Tucker having a career night earlier this week, a slugfest could play right into Baltimore’s hands, setting things up for a Week 17 for the ages with supporters in the stands obligingly having their ears pinned to the wireless. And who doesn’t love those days?

Betting Instinct TipBaltimore Ravens -2.5 is 1.91 with Intertops Sportsbook

saadaab avatarSAADAAB JANAB is a recovering football fan (he doesn’t like to call it soccer) who discovered NFL and MLB in the depth of his crisis. He is back on amicable terms with his original passion, but American football and baseball get as much attention as ever.

Cowboys to Benefit From Home Advantage Against Packers

Cowboys_Stadium_field

Packers @ Cowboys

This is a game of so many uncertainties that even most bookmakers haven’t made their mind up.

The Packers offense is banged up but three key parts are all maybes, if Aaron Rogers were to play and one of Lacy and Cobb I fancy GB every time, but with Flynn most likely under centre and Lacy struggling I give it to Dallas. The Cowboys are in disarray but are desperate, and at home, like a cornered rat.

The thing people seem to be ignoring is that the Packers simply aren’t that good. There may not be another team in football, hell any sport in the world, that is so reliant on one player. Since Rogers got hurt the Packers have lost four and drawn one of their games, with a one point win over the 3-10 Falcons on Sunday finally breaking the ignominious record and landing them at 6-6-1 going in to this week.

The Cowboys simply have to win, in fact they have to win their next three games to make the playoffs. The problem now, following a wild weekend in the NFC wildacrd race, means the four spots are wide open.

Dallas are expected to be favoured by a touchdown, and in what I see as a shootout I wouldn’t back against that.

Betting Instinct Tip – Dallas -6.5 is 1.91 with AllYouBet.ag

Bengals @ Steelers

The 9-4 Bengals put together an impressive performance against the maddeningly inconsistent Colts last week, with the dual threat running attack of Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (a.k.a the Law Firm) dicing up a butter soft Colts. Andy Dalton also looked brilliant. No I mean it. Dalton threw with touch and was accurate throwing down field. Yeah we all think we could do a job throwing to AJ Green on that Colts secondary, but seriously Dalton was impressive, ending with a passer rating of 120.5 and three TD tosses and no interceptions.

Now this is where the gambler in me sees Dalton inevitably having a stinker against the Steelers, and in the past that is the way I would pick it, but this Steelers team don’t fill me with confidence and Cincinnati look like they are hitting stride at the right time. They have lots of weapons and I see them rolling past Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the 25th worst team against the run this season in terms of yardage, if the Bengals dynamic duo can get at it again they should be able to dominate the ball and hit their big time receivers enough to score on the Steelers.

Pittsburgh are 1-3 point underdogs at the time of writing and although that looks tasty against the maddening Bengals, Pittsburgh are all but out of the playoff race. Mike Tomlin’s teams never let off the gas but all a win would do would deflate the Bengals (yay) and help the rival Ravens (boo), a pretty lose lose week for the Steelers really and I would take the Bengals by a score.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Odds

Cincinnati to win – 1.76

Pittsburgh to win – 2.00

(Odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

scott avatar SCOTT CAREY is a journalist with a passion for Chelsea football club and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter at @SCarey102