Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Handicap Betting Preview – Mon 4th Jan by @DarkDyson

Vikings at Packers – Lambeau Field at 01:30 live on Sky Sports 2

The final weekend of the NFL’s regular season is upon us and as usual it seems to have come round far too quickly my liking. The American Football season is far too short, but to be fair the beating that the players take each time they step on the gridiron, it is understandable that this part of the season is 16 games long.

Unusually for the NFL’s final weekend, there really are not that many playoff permutations to keep an eye on this Sunday.

In the AFC conference, it is only really the Pittsburgh Steelers who can claim a last ditch place in the post season, although the Indianapolis Colts can also crash the party. However, both of these pre-season fancies for deep playoff runs, require other results to their way if they are going to be playing a second game in January.

The NFC is even more sewn up, with all six playoff teams decided already. But, their specific seeding’s will be finalised on Sunday and I will be looking at the NFC North divisional title race for this final week preview.

The Minnesota Vikings make the tough trip to Lambeau Field to face old rivals, the Green Bay Packers in a game which will decide who tops the division and claims the number three seed for the playoffs.

Although, winning this game could well mean the difference between at home against the Seattle Seahawks and away at the Washington Redskins, both teams professional pride and their fierce rivalry should insure that both teams will be playing flat out for the W.

After all, heading into the playoffs with a win and knowing the wildcard game will be in front of your own fans is an opportunity not to be missed, it could well prove to be the difference between a Super Bowl run and a one and done post season.

The Packers started this season as one of the favourites to win Super Bowl 50 and Aaron Rodgers fantastic QB play along with their 6-0 start, demonstrated why so many people believed this could be their year.

However, injuries and subsequent loss of form has virtually destroyed the Packers hopes of lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy in February, despite them showing some real grit to battle right down to the wire to retain their NFC North divisional title.

They have had to change their scheme’s on both sides of the ball due to injuries to their starters but, the changes have seen them win three of the last four games and with last weekend’s defeat coming at the Arizona Cardinals, they could not have asked for a better run of results to end the season.

The Minnesota Vikings have surprised many with their run to an impressive looking 10-5 record, however there is a question mark over the strength of their schedule which undoubtedly played a part in their successful season thus far.

It has generally been against the big teams where this Vikings team has struggled and even with all the injuries Green Bay have, playing at the home of the Packers on the last day of the regular season is one of the toughest assignments in the NFL.

Three of the Vikings five defeats this season have come on the road and on top of that, one of their home defeats came in Week 10 against the Packers. Many people, including me, were looking for them to beat the Packers that night and really show everyone that they were ready to challenge the established super powers of the game.

Despite them failing that test, the Vikings have shown some resilience to get themselves into the playoff and within one game of taking the NFC North title, after finishing third last year with a 7-9 record.

Minnesota have been racking up the points in their last two games with 38 against the Chicago Bears and they put 49 on the New York Giants, both wins were real team efforts as game manager QB Teddy Bridgewater is never going to light up a game with his deep and daring passing play.

With Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings will be confident of moving the ball against the injury ravaged Packers D which gives up 116.9 YPG on the ground and I like the Vikings to finally come good in a big game or at least keep it close!

Other teams I like in the final week are: Bears, Texans, Colts & 49ers (although this is low stakes due to the last week being the most unpredictable)

Handicap Betting Pick: Minnesota Vikings +3 at 2.06 with Matchbook

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @DarkDyson

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Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos Handicap Betting Preview – Tue 29th Dec by @DarkDyson

Bengals at Broncos – Sports Authority Field, Mile High at 01:30 live on Sky Sports 1

I have decided to preview the absolutely monumental clash in the AFC over the Christmas weekend, as the 11 – 3 Cincinnati Bengals travel to Denver to face the 10 – 4 Broncos, in a match which will have serious playoff ramifications regardless of who comes out on top.

The Broncos, despite starting the season 7 – 0 are now in some danger of dropping out of the playoff race completely. With the surging Kansas City Chiefs just one game back in the AFC West and both the Pittsburgh Steelers & New York Jets holding 9 – 5 records, they could still get edged out of the post season action.

Admittedly, it will take a highly unlikely series of events to happen for the Broncos to miss out altogether but, should they lose this game, there will be a real question mark over their ability to take the divisional title.

On the other hand, the visiting Bengals are virtually assured to claim the AFC North title, with a home game against the hapless Ravens in the final week of the regular season. However, with the New England Patriots just one game ahead on 12 – 2, they still have an outside shot at claiming the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Believe it or not, these playoff scenarios are not a complicated as they usually are due to the top heavy makeup of the AFC Conference. However, the one caveat to everything in the AFC playoff picture is that the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently the number six seed.

The implications of this for both these teams and the Patriots is massive because, if the Steelers head to the post season as the six seed, the winner of the AFC West will have to face them in the Wildcard round and if the Steelers won that match, they would then face the number one seed in the Divisional round.

Nobody wants to be playing against the Steelers high power offence, even at home, in the playoffs where anything can and usually does happen.

So, taking a closer look at this matchup it is a very tough game to decipher because both the Bengals and Broncos, as highlighted in previous weeks are now being led by their backup QBs, AJ McCarron and Brock Osweiler respectively.

 

AJ McCarron

With young backs under Centre, both team offences have had to make adjustments to their scheme’s and it makes life very tough for us to put any faith in previous results, performances or stats. Inexperienced QBs are naturally very inconsistent at the best of times.

It makes more sense to base our betting decision on what we do know about the rest of these rosters and in particular the defensive units. Cincinnati do have a very solid D, currently 1st in the NFL for Opponent Points Per Game and 4th in Opponent RZ Scoring Percentage.

But, we all know about the quality of Denver’s defence which, leads the league in Opponent Yards Per Game and ranks 5th in Opponent 3rd Down Conversion Percentage.

On the other side of the ball, as expected with the young QBs learning complex schemes, they have both been struggling to find their best form. The Bronco’s average 19.3 PPG with Osweiler calling the shots and the Bengals are averaging 22 PPG with McCarron as QB, but as he has played just two games, this number is particularly unreliable.

It will be a surprise if they can score that many points in Denver against such a talented & aggressive defence. With the home field advantage, extra playing time that Osweiler has had and their impressive record against the Bengals, it makes sense to lean towards them this week.

Taking Denver -3 for the big match looks like a fair bet here, despite their dismay performance against Oakland that cost me in Week 14. Another option would be taking the Under 40.5 Points line, with limited offensive schemes in place, tough D’s and potentially bad weather to contend with.

Other teams I like this week are: Redskins, Panthers, Buccaneers, Colts & Cardinals.

Handicap Betting Pick: Split Stake on Denver Broncos -3 at 1.90 & Under 40.5 Points at 1.99 with Matchbook

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @DarkDyson

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Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers Handicap Betting Preview – Sun 20th Dec by @DarkDyson

Broncos at Steelers – Heinz Field at 21:25 live on Sky Sports 2

Another disappointing result for my main pick last week as the Denver Broncos somehow managed to turn their 310 total yards and 20 First Downs, into just 12 points. Against an Oakland Raiders defence which ranks just 24th in the league, giving up an average 25.1 PPG (Points Per Game)!

As if to rub salt in these open wounds of the Broncos inability to convert possession and yardage into touchdowns, the Raiders performed a minor miracle to turn their 8 First Downs and 126 total yards into 15 points, to take the win by three.

Let’s leave that bad result in the past and look forward to 15 of the regular season and try to get this ship back on course. Again I have opted for a Denver Broncos game, but this week I am taking them on, they might have a great defence but with their offence unable to convert in the redzone they are liable to lose against almost anyone right now.

The last team you want to be playing at a time like this is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the hottest offence in football, led by big Ben Roethlisberger and the league’s deadliest WR duo, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

 

Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown

Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown

After last weeks huge win over divisional rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers still have an outside shot at claiming the AFC North title and with that in mind, along with the opportunity to knock off another potential AFC playoff opponent, I expect Mike Tomlin’s side to be going full throttle on Sunday night.

That is a daunting prospect, even for the best defence in the NFL, because over the past five games the Steelers have been on another level in terms of offence. Over this period they have averaged a staggering 24.2 First Downs, 494 Yards Per Games and 35.2 PPG!

If those bare numbers are not enough, consider that two of those five games were against the top draw defences of the Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks. Plus, over the same period, the Broncos have averaged just 17.8 PPG and you can see why I think the Steelers will simply have too much for Denver to handle this weekend.

The Steelers defence itself has been better than expected this season and with the limited Broncos offence coming into their building, they should not have too much to worry about. As great as Denver’s defence is, I am sure they will slow the Steelers down, every defence gets tired if they are on the field a lot and taking a pounding from a high powered offence like the Steelers.

The spread for this match is set at +/-6.5 points and although I do think that the Broncos will be able to contain the Steelers explosive offence to some degree, their complete lack of a potent offence, will leave them unable to keep within one score of their hosts.

The other teams I like this weekend are: Jaguars, Texans, Cardinals and Lions.

Handicap Betting Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -6.5 at 1.93 with Matchbook

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @DarkDyson

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