NFL Week 17: Panthers and Chargers can sneak into Playoffs

Does Philip Rivers have what it takes to carry the Chargers into postseason?

Does Philip Rivers have what it takes to carry the Chargers into postseason?

Week 17 of the NFL season is a minefield for those betting on the NFL. Sure, picking the Broncos over the Raiders in Denver looks like free money. But nothing rivals the feeling of panic when you tune into the game and see Brock Osweiler towering over everyone in Denver’s opening huddle and Peyton Manning sat with his feet up on the sidelines. You check Osweiler’s stats for the season and realise he’s only thrown 8 passes this year, 2 of which were completed. Now you’re seriously worried (although after blowing their Monday night game against the Bengals, Denver still have the first round bye to play for).

In the final week of the season it’s just impossible to trust good teams who have already wrapped up their division and want to use this week to rest players, especially if they are playing a bad team coming off a win who want to finish the season strong (read: Oakland and Washington).

 

The key game in the playoff picture this week is the the de facto NFC South Championship game between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. It has taken 17 weeks but finally one team must begrudgingly accept the title of NFC South champion and they will enter the playoffs as a 7 win team. If you are a supporter of chaos then it’s your duty to root for the winner of this game throughout the playoffs, because who doesn’t want to see a team who finished the season with a losing record become the Super Bowl Champion?

 

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Betting Odds:

Panthers +3.5 -105

Falcone -3.5 -115

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

 

With Atlanta coming off a 30-14 road win in New Orleans and Carolina only managing to scrape past the shambolic Cleveland Browns at home you would expect this game to be Atlanta’s for the taking, and the with the line favouring Atlanta by -3.5 the bookies seem to expect the same.

But even though the Panthers aren’t blowing teams out, they are looking very reminiscent of the team that won the NFC South last year; grinding out victories by playing suffocating defense and scoring as few points as possible but enough to somehow win the game.

 

In last year’s game against Atlanta in the final week of the season, the Panthers squeaked out a 21-20 victory in the must win game, and a similar spectacle is on the cards this week. The Panthers defense is well suited to handle the Falcons’ high power offense, as for all the wealth of talent that the Falcons have at the skill positions, their offensive line is still one of the most repulsive units in the league. And for a Panthers front seven, which has finally recovered from the mid-season loss of Pro Bowler Greg Hardy, this spells good news. Rookie Kony Ealy has come on strong late into the season, notching a sack in each of his last 2 games and will be eager to be match-up up opposite rookie left tackle Jake Matthews.

Even if Matt Ryan and Julio Jones manage to get into a rhythm, the Panthers are going to keep this close and I can’t see the Falcons covering the 3.5 point spread, especially given the rejuvenated way that the chronically injured Jonathan Stewart has been playing in the past few weeks for Carolina.

The Falcons are currently undefeated at home against the NFC South, and the Panthers are undefeated on the road against the NFC South, so one of these team’s records and playoff hopes will be blemished come Sunday, and all signs point to the game being won by Graham Gano or Matt Bryant on the final kick of the game. Given the way that Ron Rivera’s teams traditionally close out seasons and Mike Smith’s utter incompetence as a head coach in important games, I would give Carolina the edge this weekend.

 

Another game with clear playoff implications and an underdog who seems primed for a victory is the AFC West match-up between the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. For some reason the line in this game is Chargers +2.5. Whoever set that line must not have seen how Philip Rivers was playing last Sunday in the overtime thriller against the 49ers. He was a man possessed. After throwing 2 interceptions and gifting the 49ers a comfortable 21-0 lead at the start of the 2nd quarter, Rivers become intent on dragging his team into the playoffs by any means necessary as he tossed 4 TDs against the 5th ranked passing defense in the league.

Philip Rivers has somehow become one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the game, and he knows that if he wants to be mentioned in the discussion for who the best QB of the 2004 NFL Draft was, then he needs make like Eli and Ben and win a ring (or two). Rivers may have gone through a horrible spell towards the middle of this season when the Chargers lost 3 games in a row, but he has been on fire in his last two road games, throwing for over 700 yards and 7 TDs in games against the 49ers and Ravens.

 

The Chiefs are a team who have won 1 of their past 5 games (and that lone win was against the Raiders who they also lost to in that 5 game spell). Their offensive line is falling apart; no longer opening up huge running lanes for Jamaal Charles and failing to protect Alex Smith from the pass rush. And their plan to consistently win games without having any legitimate wide receivers has been fully exposed. They may have some impressive victories against Seattle and New England on their résumé, but this is also the same team that lost to Tennessee and Oakland, who have a combined total of 5 wins. The Chiefs have been a sloppy football team in this final stretch of the season, and with the Chargers coming off an emotional overtime victory and with all to play for, it’s hard to bet against a fired up Rivers in this game.

Betting Instinct tip – Chargers +2.5 is +100 with Intertops.eu

 

mattm MATT MCGRATH writes about American football, be it college or NCAA (because betting on unpaid student athletes is fun and definitely ethically correct). Follow him on Twitter.

 

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Seahawks – 49ers rivalry renewed in Thanksgiving Day special

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Image credit: PhilipRobertson

One of the burgeoning rivalries in the NFL hits our screens once again on Thanksgiving Thursday as the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

It’s not difficult to see how the rivalry has really caught fire in recent years. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and his Seahawks adversary Pete Carroll had a tempestuous relationship whilst coaching in college with Stanford and USC respectively, and that has continued after both landed roles in the NFC West.

 

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers Betting Odds:

49ers win -125

Seahawks win +105

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

 

It’s been one way traffic of late in these games though, with the Seahawks winning three of the last four meeting between the two sides – though all of those victories have been at home, in front of the vaunted CenturyLink Field crowd.

Finally winning against their biggest rivals on the road would really prove that Seattle are back, having stumbled their way to a 7-4 record just months after being crowned Super Bowl champions.

The keys to the game are simple; Seattle will hand the ball to star running back Marshawn Lynch time and time again, and rely on quarterback Russell Wilson to avoid turning the ball over in order to win.

It’s not a dynamic offense, with the Seahawks having only scored 30+ points in three of their 11 games this season, and it sometimes holds them back, leaving them to rely on their defense.

 

On the other side of the ball, we’ll finally get to see cornerback Richard Sherman go up against 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree again after their public spat in the NFC Championship Game back in January, whilst the return of linebacker Bobby Wagner helped the Seahawks to end Arizona’s winning streak on Sunday.

Wagner’s presence will make it harder for San Francisco to have joy in the running game, though in Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde, they have a promising one-two punch at running back, whilst quarterback Colin Kaepernick is also a threat with his legs.

Defensively, the 49ers were superb against Washington on Sunday, with the return of pass rusher Aldon Smith serving as a huge boost – and he’ll be smelling blood once again as he takes on a porous Seahawks offensive line.

The emergence of rookie linebacker Chris Borland has been a welcome boost for the 49ers with Patrick Willis on injured reserve, with the former Wisconsin standout proving his reputation as a tackling machine.

 

Both teams are lagging behind Arizona in the race to win the NFC West, giving this clash something of an early play-off feel – so expect to see a feisty encounter with huge hits, plenty of running yards and a low scoring encounter as two of the NFC’s heavyweights lock horns once again.

 

Betting Instinct tip – we should expect a tight game, and under 19.5 first half points is -105 with Intertops.eu

Intertops Sportsbook is offering stake-backs up to $100 on the ‘first touchdown scorer’ market in this game, if either Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson scores a rushing TD. For this, and for more Thanksgiving NFL props, visit www.intertops.eu

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.

Detroit Lions can bounce back by mauling Bears this Thanksgiving

Like cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie, a Lions home game is a Thanksgiving staple

Like cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie, a Lions home game is a Thanksgiving staple

It is the longest-running annual series in the NFL, and this Thanksgiving the encounter between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears could be a make or break game for Jim Caldwell’s Lions side.

 

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions Betting Odds:

Chicago Bears +250

Detroit Lions -300

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

 

After back-to-back reverses against tough opposition in conference leaders Arizona and New England, Detroit has a chance to get its playoff charge back on track against a Bears side that hasn’t won away from Soldier Field since October 12th.

An opening-day demolition of the New York Giants led to cautious optimism around Ford Field, and the Lions have already matched last season’s seven wins with five rounds to spare. However their participation in the playoffs hangs by a thread, meaning they will look to make the most of home-field advantage in their remaining outings. They may be helped by the return of Reggie Bush, who hopes to feature after sitting out the last two weeks with an ankle problem.

 

The Bears narrowly missed out on top spot in NFC North in 2013, but this year trail their divisional rivals going into round 12. Their last road game ended in a heavy defeat against NFC North leaders Green Bay, and they may struggle to contain in-form Golden Tate this week.

This is the first Thanksgiving match-up between the Bears and the Lions since 1999, but a repeat of the 28-10 Chicago win that day seems unlikely. The last six regular-season meetings between the sides have been split three apiece, and this week marks a great chance for the home team to record three wins in a row against the Bears for the first time since 2004.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Chicago’s slow starts see no sign of letting up, and if you fancy a repeat it could be worth backing Detroit -7 at +100 with Intertops.eu

 

Intertops Sportsbook is running a number of special promotions this Thanksgiving, including a special no-juice line on the Lions-Bears game. Head to www.intertops.eu for more information

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Mark Sanchez to be the deciding factor in Cowboys v Eagles Thanksgiving match-up

Does Sanchez have a big performance in him this Thanksgiving?

Does Sanchez have a big performance in him this Thanksgiving?

The NFL fixture list has served up an absolute Thanksgiving cracker! The Philadelphia Eagles take on the Dallas Cowboys in one of the most fascinating games this season. Both teams are on 8-3, both teams have a bitter hatred of each other, and only one team can win the NFC East. You’d be a fool to predict the outcome of this one…. So here’s my attempt to help the fool!

 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys Betting Odds:

Eagles +3: -105

Cowboys -3: -115

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

 

The Eagles are a curious case this season. Pundits (and even yours truly after week 3) have been waiting to write them off from the start. The wolf has been knocking on the door for sometime howling, “You don’t have a quarterback!” But some scintillating performances from Nick Foles over 9 weeks have kept them quiet. Even when Foles broke his collarbone, New York Jets cast-off Mark Sanchez silenced his doubters with a series of positive displays, and consequently there is a lot to be positive about in the Eagles camp. Their offense keeps churning out game-winning performances, and their go-to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is looking on top of his game.

However, one of the most proficient offensive outfits in the NFL is not backed up by a good defense. They have allowed the third most passing yards in the entire NFL, and the way they were opened up in week 10 by Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers provides concern that this defense simply can’t handle a top NFL quarterback. The only saving grace is the Eagles’ defensive line isn’t so leaky, and this may be enough to nullify the main Cowboys rushing threat, DeMarco Murray. Tony Romo is not in the same league as Aaron Rogers either, so the Eagles defense may have enough to keep the Cowboys down to a beatable offensive total. The main question mark is which Mark Sanchez will turn up? If Sanchez performs to his full capability, the Eagles have a really good chance of winning this game and taking control of the NFC East.

Anybody associated with the Cowboys probably still has nightmares about that Kyle Orton intercepted pass that handed the Eagles the 2013 NFC East title on a silver platter last time these teams met. It was the moment that crushed hopes of the Cowboys ending their 3-season playoff qualification drought, and the moment America resumed their laughter at the demise of their most famous franchise. Presently though, that interception feels like years ago, and the next Cowboys team to run-out on the field to face the Eagles will be very different one. It is a team with a balanced and productive offense, a potential MVP running back, a solid performing defense, and an impressive ability to produce big plays at big moments.

The offensive production from wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten has provided the cornerstone of their solid passing game, whilst pundits continue to run out of superlatives for the rushing production of DeMarco Murray. This is the first Cowboys team with no obvious weakness in recent memory, but as Arizona proved in week 9, they are certainly beatable. Their defense has a habit of allowing a fair few passing yards, and Philadelphia pose arguably the most potent aerial threat they have faced all season. Also, whilst Tony Romo has looked calm and collected this season, there are still question marks over his big-game presence. If the Cowboys want to take command of the NFC East and banish last year’s memories, they will have to produce their finest form on Thanksgiving.

This is a huge game, and like any big game, there is likely to be a season-defining moment that clinches it for one of these teams in the fourth quarter. Last season, a back-up quarterback threw an interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and this season, one team has a back-up quarterback who has a penchant for throwing such interceptions! You can just see it, Mark Sanchez throwing the game away on the final Eagles drive just like he did so many times in his Jets days. The home advantage and dynamic offensive threat will be enough for the Cowboys to expose the Eagles’ defensive frailties, and the Thanksgiving turkey will taste especially good in Dallas.

Intertops Sportsbook is offering a generous stake-back deal on the Cowboys-Eagles game this Thanksgiving. If a team leads at half-time but fails to win the match, a stake-back of up to $100 will be available for losing bets on the ‘1st half spread’ market.

 Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist from the UK 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: The Cowboys bring more than just a big name to London

DeMarco Murray has been this season's stand-out performer for the Cowboys

DeMarco Murray has been this season’s stand-out performer for the Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are coming to London, and this year, they are far more than just a big name. The Cowboys have been the brunt of many jokes over the past few seasons, as the richest team in football suffered disappointment after disappointment from the hands of a seemingly inept Tony Romo, a quarterback who many believe is simply not good enough to be the poster-boy of arguably the NFL’s most famous franchise. This season, the story could not be more different. Eyebrows have been raised everywhere as the Cowboys have stormed to a 6-3 record. Doubters were well and truly silenced in week 6 as the Cowboys put the defending Super Bowl champs to the sword, and it seems like they have the players to have a decent shot at the Super Bowl themselves this season, as long as owner Jerry Jones and his infamous ego avoid throwing a spanner in the well-functioning Cowboys’ works…

 

NFC East Betting Odds: To Win Outright:

Philadelphia Eagles -189

Dallas Cowboys +160

New York Giants +2000

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

 

The key to their dramatic turnaround in fortunes is an offense that poses a far more dynamic threat. Running back DeMarco Murray has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven consecutive games, an NFL record that will put him well in the hunt for the MVP award come the end of the season. Whilst Murray has undoubtedly been the highlight, this is also a team with the incredibly talented Dez Bryant at wide receiver, and rock-solid tight end Jason Witten. It has taken seven weeks for any team to figure out how to stop this offensive machine, and this has coincided an injury to Tony Romo, who may well have a greater effect on the team than his many doubters might like to think. With his return imminent for the Wembley showdown, this game may provide the perfect platform for the Cowboys to showcase their talent and lay a marker down to their NFC East rivals at 7-3.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have raised few eyebrows too, but this has been due to their incredibly poor start rather than Superbowl potential. Every season has a team or two that is already looking to the new season at the halfway mark, and the Jaguars are now in that category. They now sit at 1-8 and have been fairly shambolic throughout this season. Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles and leading receiver Allen Robinson were only drafted last year, so their poor season can probably be attributed to the fact that this team has no proven NFL performers.

 

It could be argued that they have been slightly unlucky not to win a game though, and it’s fair to say they haven’t had the easiest schedule either. The Jaguars also have the added incentive of a will to establish a support in England. They have signed a deal to play one game in England every year until 2016, and will be keen to make an impression in what could be considered their second home. Their season may already be a write-off, but a lot is at stake in this fixture, so don’t totally rule them out.

With the tower of statistical and tactical evidence pointing to a Cowboys rout, it would be foolish to back anything but a Dallas victory here. Simply put, one team is producing the goods, and one team is not. However, with the added incentive for Jacksonville to perform well, and the fact the Cowboys are on a losing streak of two coming into the game, it may not be the rout many will be predicting….

 

Scott AvatarSCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist from the UK 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

Who’ll Make the NFL Playoffs?

NFL Football Cheerleaders

NFL regular season begins next week

The NFL regular season doesn’t even begin until next week and already one of the hottest NFL bets is “Who’ll Make the NFL Playoffs”? The Denver Broncos (-714), New England Patriots (-500) and Seattle Seahawks (-400) are obviously favorites. According to early odds on NFL playoff bets, so are the San Francisco 49ers (-303), the Indianapolis Colts (-222), and the Green Bay Packers (-200). Odds on other teams and dozens of other NFL odds and props are posted and regularly updated at the world’s original online sportsbook, Intertops Sportsbook.

The 2014 NFL Regular Season opens on September 4th when the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. The defending Super Bowl champions enter this campaign at +550 favorites to go back-to-back. Intertops Sportsbook expects the hosts to start with a win over Green Bay, with the money line at -5.

The visitors will be out to improve on last year, when they went 8-7-1 in the regular season but lost out to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game.

“The Seahawks dominated last year’s Super Bowl, and we expect them to be in the mix once again this year,” said Intertops’ oddsmaker. “Green Bay shouldn’t cause their opponents too many problems in theory, but the NFL can always throw up surprises.”
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To Win Super Bowl XLIX

Seattle Seahawks +550
Denver Broncos +600
San Francisco 49ers +700
New England Patriots +800
Green Bay Packers +1200
New Orleans Saints +1200
Indianapolis Colts +2200

All NFL odds quoted are as of today at Intertops.eu and are subject to change.
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To celebrate the start of the 2014 season, Intertops is offering a special 20% kickoff bonus up to $100 for anyone who makes a deposit by 10:20 ET on September 8th. You can also qualify for a huge $500 free bet on NFL by wagering $5,000 or more on the NFL regular season at minimum odds of -200.

All odds quoted are as of today at Intertops.eu and are subject to change.

 

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The Gamblogger gambling blogLARRY COLCY (TheGamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness.