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

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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

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

Bolts from the blue

gosd

Despite just sneaking into the postseason at the last minute, San Diego’s prospects may be better than they seem.

What do all of the last four Super Bowl winners in common? They were all the first opponents that the Philadelphia Eagles faced at home during the NFL regular season! It is just a statistical fluke, but fans of the San Diego Chargers are hoping that the trend continues in the weeks ahead. Despite just sneaking into the postseason at the last minute, the prospect is not as crazy as it might seem at first glance, especially after the Bolts brushed aside the Bengals on the road during Wild Card weekend.

Quarterback Philip Rivers and co. have found their form just at the right time and it is momentum that often plays the crucial role in the destination of the Super Bowl title. Sunday sees the Chargers travel to Denver in the Divisional Playoff round where they take on the number one seeded Broncos. A tough task indeed against record-breaking Peyton Manning and a team that won 13 of 16 regular season games, racking up over 600 points in the process, but the visitors have one strong ace up their sleeve. On December 12th San Diego helped turn their season around by travelling to Mile High Stadium and beating the Broncos 27-20. Both teams will no doubt have that result on their minds when kick off approaches, but can we really expect a man of Manning’s class to forget the script as he looks for a second career-Super Bowl title? It should be an enthralling encounter, but the home team’s overall quality is likely to shine through in the end.

NFL Playoffs: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos odds:

Chargers              4.20

Broncos                1.24

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

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)

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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.

Broncos unbeatable at home

Brocos vs Chargers

Quarterback superstar Peyton Manning and his boys welcome AFC West rival San Diego Chargers to Mile High Stadium tonight.

We’re into Week 15 of the NFL season and slowly but surely we have reached the crunch games as far as the playoff picture is concerned. One team certain to play a prominent role in the postseason are the Broncos and it is Mile High Stadium in Denver that plays host to the weekend’s opener on Thursday. Quarterback superstar Peyton Manning and his boys welcome AFC West rival San Diego confident of putting up another impressive showing to add to their Conference-best 11-2 record.

The Broncs have bounced back from a tough overtime loss at New England in Week 12 by beating both the Chiefs and the Titans in the last two weeks. Manning has led the way in style throwing nine TDs in those two games and he will be looking forward to facing a Chargers’ defense that he dissected with ease in a 28-20 road win at San Diego in Week 10.

For the visitors, Thursday’s game could yet prove to be the key to their faint playoff hopes. Their 6-7 record currently sees them sitting in eighth place in the AFC, but a win at the mighty Broncos would prove such a confidence-booster that anything could still be possible. All that being said, the hosts have a perfect 7-0 record in front of their own fans and they don’t have intention of putting a blemish on that…!

Betting Odds:  NFL Week 15 Thursday Night Game

San Diego Chargers         5.10

Denver Broncos                1.18

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

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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.