Can Brees banish the road blues at last?

The Saints face a crucial game against the Panthers.

Drew Brees and the Saints need to get winning on the road!

One thing is pretty much certain in the NFL – if you can’t win on the road, then you have little chance of making the Super Bowl!

After starting the season as one of the favorites to challenge in the NFC title race, the New Orleans Saints now have to change their priorities in order to keep their season alive. Drew Brees and Co. are almost unbeatable at their own Superdome, but currently just cannon-fodder on the road. Eight straight regular season away defeats since last November are a sorry tale indeed and everyone at the franchise knows that this needs to be changed quickly.

Just four days after showing what potential they have by thrashing highly-fancied Green Bay in Week 8, the Saints travel to NFC South rival Carolina on Thursday desperate to make a statement away from their own fans at last. Luckily the division is the worst in the NFL at the moment with no team able to boast a positive record so far.

After starting the season with two wins, the Panthers have managed just one victory in their last six games, but are still top of the division standings. Last week saw them put up strong resistance against defending Super Bowl champion Seattle before eventually going down 13-9.

Thursday’s game could have a crucial bearing on the NFC South title race because however bad the teams are throughout the season, the division champion lives to fight another day in the playoffs! The Saints will be highly motivated to beat their rivals, overtake them in the standings and prove that they can win on the road after all!

NFL Week 9: New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Betting Odds:

New Orleans Saints 1.71
Carolina Panthers 2.20

To win the NFC South Odds:

New Orleans Saints          1.5
Carolina Panthers            2.85
Atlanta Falcons                13.0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers  67.0

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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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

 

Battle of the Quarterbacks Dominates Playoff Schedule

Will Andrew Luck (#12) come out on top against Tom Brady?

Will Andrew Luck (#12) come out on top against Tom Brady?

Betting Instinct blogger Zito Madu previews all four of the NFL divisional matchups

Indianapolis @ New England

The match-up between two marquee Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, the all-American Golden Boy (Man) of New England, 3-time Superbowl champion and Uggs model. Against Andrew Luck, a legend in the making, accurate and undeterred in the face of the seemingly impossible with a forest-like neck beard. Both of these quarterbacks have made miracles an everyday thing this season, Brady with numerous last minute wins in the regular season, and Luck, more recently, showing that the Colts are never truly out of a game with him at the QB position against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

Both teams offenses come down to these two players, with New England’s situation at receiver making national headlines during the course of the regular season: Aaron Hernandez arrested for murder, Rob Gronkowski’s surgery, return and then subsequent knee injury taking him out for the rest of the season and a very long time, the injury prone-ness of Danny Amendola and the inexperience of the rookies. There’s also questions at running back for The Patriots with Steven Ridley willing to give the ball to the opposing team by the way of fumbles and Shane Vereen’s inability to stay healthy leaving only Blount (and Bolden) as the most dependable of the group.
On the Indianapolis side of things, you have the fact that they traded a first round pick for Trent Richardson (who wants to make a statement in this game), master of the 2 yard run, who lost his starting place to Donald Brown who seems to be a star on the rise. The Colts best weapon besides for Andrew Luck’s brain, T.Y Hilton, has been on a tear lately. Matched against an ailing New England defense he looks poised for a big game unless Aqib Talib rediscovers his early season form (which was, to be fair cut short by injury. Having a bye week is sure to be a big boost for him). For the rest of the receiving corps, it’s nothing to write home about with Coby Fleener being the standout of the group as Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be suffering from injury as well.

New England comes in suffering injuries to many key defensive players: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes recently, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Adrian Wilson, so on and so forth. The Colts on the other hand, while not suffering from the same injury bug as New England are abysmal in defending the run (as the Patriots have been after losing Wilfork and Mayo), ranking 26th and generally ranking 20th in pass yards allowed with 357.1 yards a game.
With all of the injuries and plain ineffectiveness of the offense and defense of both teams, this game looks set to come down to which Quarterback plays better or which one decides to lead another miraculous comeback in the final few minutes of the game.

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots Betting Odds

Indianapolis win – 3.55

New England win – 1.36

(All odds supplied by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Saints @ Seahawks

The last time these two met, the Seahawks didn’t just win against the Saints, they beat them down 34-7 and limited Drew Brees to 147 yards passing. Of course, this was in the regular season and before the Saints became the Road Warriors (They finally won a road playoff game after a 0-9 start) they are today. Sean Payton has been doing the best that he can, short of kidnapping the Seahawks starters, to replicate the environment that the Saints will encounter, though it’s not yet quite clear if painting the Seahawks logo on their practice field will prepare them well enough for the real thing.

The Saints will be hoping Drew Brees plays like his usual self in the matchup and not his road version, who is prone to turnovers and wobbly passes. The Seahawks of course, have the best young Quarterback in the league and arguably one of the best as of right now in Russell Wilson, who can make plays with his arm and his feet but is not as run happy as many other mobile quarterbacks of his age. And now with the returning Percy Harvin, he welcomes in another weapon to an offense that was desperately needing of passing weapons.

The Seahawks also have a defense that was ranked first in points given up, yards conceded, and pass yards conceded, falling short to 7th on rush yards (which the Saints should look to exploit with their rejuvenated running game and a motivated Mark Ingram), and lets not forget the 12th man who also add a different dimension to their defense.

The key to this game will come down to how the Saints deal with the multi-faceted offense of Seattle and if they will be able to crack a defense that is seemingly impregnable.

New Orleans @ Seattle Betting odds

New Orleans Saints – 3.85

Seattle Seahawks – 1.26

(Odds supplied by Bulldog777.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

San Diego @ Denver

This game looks as if it should be a blowout in Denver’s favor. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the exploits of Peyton Manning this season, who shattered Tom Brady’s record for most passing touchdowns in a single season and then also Drew Brees’ record for most passing yards in a single season.

He leads an offense that’s ranked first in everything but rushing yards and even that seems to be coming along well, an offense that broke the record for most points in a season and one that seems poised to lay waste to any team in its path. Except for apparently San Diego. The Chargers who barely made the playoffs (thanks to the Chiefs reserves and Succop), are one of the few teams that have beaten the Broncos this season.

More than that, the Chargers seem to always find a way to be near perfect in order to beat Peyton Manning, whether in a Colts uniform or a Broncos and Philip Rivers will once more need to play perfectly in order to keep up with Manning as there’s almost no way that;s ranked 29th in pass yards will be able to cop with the unlimited weapons on offense that the Broncos have.
Philip Rivers can take heed that the Broncos defense has steadily fallen off since the injury to Von Miller and the rise of Keenan Allen as a potential rookie of the year will be a boost against a team that doesn’t deal too well with the pass. After handling Cincy, the Chargers have shown that they belong in the playoffs and will be looking to conjure old whatever magic they have to once again stop Peyton Manning.

Betting Instinct Tip – Denver -9 is 1.91 with AllYouBet.ag

San Francisco @ Carolina

One and two of the NFC West face off in a battle between two dynamic QBs with incredible arm strength and game winning speed with each team boasting a top ranked defense. Carolina in 2nd in points given up, 2nd in yards total given up, 6th in pass yards and 2nd in rush yards while the Niners are 3rd in points, 5th in yards 7th in pass yards and 4th against rush yards. San Francisco has the edge on offense ranking 11th in points to Carolina’s 18th and with the return of the “Greatest catcher of all time” Michael Crabtree, their offense has finally hit its stride.

Now Carolina has to deal with the receivers, the ageless Frank Gore and the unpredictable Colin Kaepernick. That’s not to say that San Francisco will not have their hands full with Cam Newton seemingly becoming the unstoppable quarterback that many envisioned he would be. An accurate passer, Newton has learned to pick his spots with his runs, trust his receivers and trust that Ron Rivera will not hinder him anymore with conservative playcalling.

He will also be welcoming back the evergreen Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart back in this game so this game seems as if it’s going to come down to which team will grind it out more. The front seven of the Panthers have stopped Kaepernick before and will be looking for a repeat performance but the first year starter will be out for revenge for their embarrassing early season loss.

Betting Instinct Tip Carolina +2 is 1.73 with GR88.com

______________________________________________

e8erHZO3ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol, and numerous other sports sites

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.

Everything at stake in the NFC South

showdown between the Panthers and the Saints that will go a long way to determining both franchises destiny this season

This weekend’s showdown between the Panthers and the Saints will go a long way to determining both franchises’ destiny this season.

There are just two weekends of action left in the NFL Regular Season and fans across North America will be glued to their seats over the festive period as the playoff berths are decided. This Sunday’s Week 16 action is highlighted by the NFC South.

Two weeks ago this pair met in the Big Easy, with the hosts New Orleans running away to a comfortable 31-13 victory. The division title then looked the Saints’ to take, but last week’s surprise loss at St. Louis, coupled with a Carolina win over the Jets, means that we are all square again at 10-4 going into this weekend. Cam Newton and the Panthers will now be fancying their chances of taking a massive step towards title glory in front of their own fans. Whilst the Saints have proven to be fragile on the road (four losses in their last five away trips is hardly championship-winning form), the hosts have won eight straight at their Bank of America Stadium by an impressive average of 18.7 points. So it’s all to play for with the winner taking the NFC South crown and the loser having to wait until Week 17 to discover its postseason destiny.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Betting Odds

Saints                    2.45
Panthers              1.61

(All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are current as of today, but subject to change)

Saints to tame Panthers in the Superdome

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is arguably having the season of his career

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is arguably having the season of his career

Panthers @ Saints

Just over three months ago, before the NFL circus kicked into action, you’d have looked at this weekend and assumed the Seahawks’ visit to San Francisco would be Sunday’s big game – a potential division or even conference-decider. But with Seattle already in the play-offs and three games ahead of the 49ers with four games to go, the focus will instead be on the Superdome, for what looks like the game that will decide who will be the second seeds in the NFC, with the loser forced to play an extra game in the play-offs.

In the Cam Newton era, the Panthers have traditionally ended seasons on a roll, but seldom started them well enough to be a factor. This year, their momentum started earlier. Despite starting 1-3 (yep, they lost to the Bills), they have won their last eight games, including wins over the 49ers and the Patriots. With the Jets, Falcons and another game against the Saints in Charlotte to come, they’re in a good position to make the play-offs for the first time since 2008, a distant time when Jake Delhomme was the quarterback and Steve Smith was a sprightly 28 years young.

The Saints, on the other hand, have been consistently strong all year with intermittent defeats, bouncing back from a disappointing 2012 in the wake of the Bountygate scandal. Of their three losses, two are at least understandable: the late Tom Brady-inspired capitulation in Foxboro, and the crushing defeat in Seattle last weekend. The other was in New York at the hands of Geno Smith and the Jets, which looks even more bizarre in hindsight than it did at the time.

The obvious place to start is to compare the quarterbacks. While there are no doubts about the quality of His Holiness Drew Brees, there remain a few question marks about Cam’s ultimate potential. This is perhaps the biggest test in his career so far: a high-pressure game against a potential Super Bowl contender.

It’s also an enormous test of the Carolina defense, which has been exceptional of late. Four of the eight wins in this run have been by a score, and that is primarily because the Panthers have restricted their opponents to 16 points or fewer in seven of those games, the only exception being the game against New England. They also kept the Giants scoreless in September, and even restricted the Seahawks to just 12 points on the opening day. Second year linebacker Luke Kuechly is a candidate to follow up his Defensive Rookie of the Year Award from last year with the Defensive Player of the Year Award this year.

The Saints defense has allowed more points, but they have the offense to combat it, with Brees having numerous targets to choose from, the most notable being tight end Jimmy Graham. His fourth year in the NFL is proving to be by far his most successful, having already picked up twelve touchdowns and six 100+ yard games, both more than in any previous season. But even if the Panthers cover Graham (somehow), Brees still has the likes of receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and rookie Kenny Stills, and running backs Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram to fall back on.

Surely this embarrassment of offensive riches will be too much for the Panthers to handle, especially in the intimidating atmosphere of the Superdome.

Betting Instinct Tip: New Orleans Saints -3 is 1.83 with Intertops Sportsbook

Cowboys @ Bears

Another decisive game for two teams aiming to win their division – and I can’t work out which is more likely, despite differing fortunes in the last two weeks.

After their bye week in week 11, the Cowboys were 5-5. Two wins since then against the Giants and the Raiders has left them on course for their first winning season since 2009. All four of their remaining games are winnable: a trip to the Bears, the visit of a Packers team that’s spiralling out of control, a visit to Washington, and the final game at home to divisional rivals the Eagles. That still should leave them with at least 9, if not 10 or 11 wins.

A few weeks ago, you would have thought that would be enough to win the NFC East. However, the Eagles have also begun a good run since Nick Foles suddenly transformed himself into an elite quarterback overnight. Four wins in a row have also lifted them to 7-5. They also have to play the Bears and two of their NFC North rivals, the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, before the crunch game against the Cowboys on December 29. The Cowboys thus have to win all of their remaining games to be sure.

Meanwhile, the Bears are minding their own business, as they try and claim the NFL’s most wounded division and week Nine win over the Packers seemed to be a turning point. However the Lions promptly beat them the following week, and they have lost two of their three games since, including a shock overtime loss to the Vikings last weekend. This has left them at 6-6, a win behind the Lions and probably too far behind for a wildcard spot.

Chicago haven’t been helped by an unstable quarterback situation, with Jay Cutler fit, then injured, then fit, then injured again. These latest defeats have been overseen by Josh McCown, who has done a credible job filling in. In his four starts, he has thrown seven touchdown passes and has only been intercepted once. He has also thrown over 350 yards in the last two games, and you wouldn’t bet against him making it three in a row against Dallas, whose defense has been very generous to quarterbacks this season.

With Tony Romo having a good season and the Bears defense also leaking points, this will be a game decided by whichever defense will collapse the least. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m calling a shootout. All the weapons are there: McCown has running back Matt Forte and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, all in superb form this season; Romo has a similarly powerful offense include wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray.

It’ll be a disappointment if there aren’t at least 60 points on the board after this one, and I’m giving the edge to the in-form Cowboys.

Cowboys @ Bears Betting Odds:

Dallas Cowboys – 2.00

Chicago Bears – 1.83

(Odds, obtained from AllYouBet.ag, are subject to change.)

 

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Sports blogger JamesJAMES BENNETT (James) is a History MPhil/PhD student, who writes about soccer, Formula 1 and the NFL in his spare time to pay for his studies. He is also a Torquay United fan. He publishes articles in his sports blog, and you can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Race for NFL playoffs hots up in the cold

Can Larry Fitzgerald help the Cardinals keep up their playoff chase?

Can Larry Fitzgerald help the Cardinals keep up their playoff chase?

Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally where the NFL switches into a higher gear as the race for the playoffs heats up. This year is no difference and two games this weekend will decide the shape of the post-season in the NFC.

Cardinals @ Eagles

Three weeks ago, this game looked like being a boring irrelevance as both teams slid towards winter mediocrity, however recent bursts of form have seen Arizona and Philadelphia enter the last few weeks of the season with the playoffs in sight.

Despite an inferior record, the 6-5 Eagles have a smoother road to the knockout stage than the Cardinals. Consecutive wins over the Raiders (featuring 7 (seven – such a ridiculous number that it demanded double brackets) Nick Foles touchdown passes), Packers and Washington Professional Football Team (no place for that nickname), have put them atop the NFC East alongside the Cowboys, even before Dallas’ traditional wintery demise. Their offense is moving the ball nicely, with Foles playing the best football of his young career alongside the league leader in rushing, LeSean McCoy. The Chip Kelly offense has breathed new life into the slumbering DeSean Jackson. After a quiet couple of years, Jackson has the sixth most receiving yards in the league thus far this season, and alongside the controversial Riley Cooper, he makes up one half of a fearsome duo.

The real question mark for the Eagles is their defense. Yes, they’ve restricted teams in their last three wins, but with all due respect Terrell Pryor was barely fit, Scott Tolzein continued to be Scott Tolzein and RG3.0 yards per attempt is a different beast to last year. The newly invigorated Carson Palmer will be a trickier test.

Or will he?

There’s no doubting Carson Palmer’s upside. The former Heismann Trophy winner and number one overall pick in 2003’s talent is not in doubt, but his decision making occasionally is. There’s no QB in the league who throws into double or triple coverage with more regularity, but very few are able to do so with such accuracy. It’s that aspect of Palmer that makes him both frustrating and exciting, and with a pair of receivers such as the legendary Larry Fitzgerald and the breakout Michael Floyd he’s able to take more risks than many signal callers in the league. The Cardinals sit at 7-5 and in with a good shot at the final NFC wildcard spot, but face tough competition from divisional rivals, the San Francisco 49ers.

Unlike the Eagles, Arizona’s defense has been the real star this season. They restricted Andrew Luck and the Colts to just 11 points last weekend, and will go into this game confident of a similar performance, with their dominant defensive front backed up by the star power (and talent!) of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary.

It’s a tough one to call and both teams will know that a win is crucial to keep them in the playoff hunt, but I fancy the Cardinals defense to make the difference in this one.

Betting Instinct tip: Cardinals +3  is 1.91 with Intertops Sportsbook

Saints @ Seahawks

The matchup between possibly the two best teams in the NFC will go a long way towards determining the playoff hopes of these two sides. Both New Orleans and Seattle probably hold the two best home-field advantages in the league and a number one seed in the NFC for either side will make them very tough to beat. Seattle go into this one with a single game lead over the Saints and the winner of this one will see it as a huge step towards the Superbowl.

For the Saints, there was never any doubt about the productivity of their offense going in to the season – the combination of Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and a myriad of receivers meant scoring points wasn’t going to be the issue. But New Orleans has stepped up on the defensive side of the ball this season. Rob Ryan has been the brains behind the revival from last year’s historically bad unit, and without adding any spectacular pieces (rookie Kenny Vaccaro has been impressive) there has been a huge improvement in that unit – enough to keep them in games when their offense has spluttered.

The Seahawks are known for their tough, uncompromising defense, and this season has been no different. They’ll be without a couple of key pieces from their secondary on Monday after (MORE!) suspensions for substance-related misdemeanours but it still remains a team strong on that size of the ball. That’s not to suggest that the Hawks will struggle to score points – Russell Wilson has continued to impress in his second season, and will be delighted to have Percy Harvin alongside him, after a small debut cameo in their game before the bye week. Add that to Marshawn ‘Beast mode’ Lynch and you have an offense that will go toe-to-toe with the Saints.

There’s much to love about both of these teams, but the line is too high here to back the Seahawks.

Betting Instinct Tip: Saints +5 is 1.91 with AllYouBet.ag

Jamie avatarJamie Cutteridge is a journalist for a real magazine, but spends an inordinate amount of time writing about NFL. He’s the editor-in-chief of anygivensundaynight.co.uk and its associated twitter feed @UKNFL