’s NFL Betting Preview: Week 16


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Dec 2, 2008
Tokens’s NFL Betting Preview: Panthers march into Big Apple on winning streak<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

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By’s Andy Richmond sees the mists clear a little in the NFL post-season picture but not by much. With just two games to go in the regular season, 19 teams remain in the race to extend their season into the New Year. <o:p></o:p>

Two of this weekend's games are de facto showdowns for home field advantage in the play-offs - those are the two that bookend this triumvirate of games at Tennessee and New York respectively - only winners this weekend need apply for the an extension to their season.<o:p></o:p>

Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2)<o:p></o:p>

If you thought the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore contest was exceptional fare last week, this match will definitely float your boat. These two have the best records in the AFC, they have both allowed less than 200 total points this season and both allow less than 300 yards per game - defensively they have been outstanding.<o:p></o:p>

But at the moment these two appear to be going in the opposite direction to each other - the Steelers have won five straight games by a combined score of 104-52, the last three wins all coming against very tough opposition - New England, Dallas and Baltimore. Whereas a month ago it looked a foregone conclusion that the Titans would host the AFC Championship game they were blown away by the Jets 34-14 and then displayed more shortcomings last Sunday as the Texans defeated them 13-12 and they lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth late in the game to a sprained MCL.<o:p></o:p>

Haynesworth is a huge part of the Titans defence and in the three games that he missed last season, the opponent managed an average of 160 yards rushing. Throw in the added absence of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and the Titans "D" will have a patched up feel this weekend and whilst the Steelers running game has stuttered this season, you feel though that they will major on that part of the game offensively with the Titans missing two key players.<o:p></o:p>

The Steelers number one ranked defence will know exactly what the Titans will be bringing at that them, the 1-2 punch of the RB's LenDale White and Chris Johnson, stop them and that will force Titans QB Kerry Collins into a position where he doesn't appear comfortable - passing, and having to make plays - he's completed just 51.8% of his passes with three interceptions in his last two games.<o:p></o:p>
Sunday could be just round one between these two teams on Sunday with a re-match possibile in the AFC Championship game.<o:p></o:p>

6-1 on the road the Steelers can make that 7-1 here to have a shot at the number one seeding - back the Steelers at 1.78 (-129). <o:p></o:p>

Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)<o:p></o:p>

These two are mirror images of each other, the main similarity being in their strong running games, led by the NFL's top two rushers in the Vikings' Adrian Peterson and Atlanta's Michael Turner.<o:p></o:p>

If anything it will be Turner who finds things tough on Sunday, even though the Vikes are without one of the key components of their dominant defence in nose tackle Pat Williams. <o:p></o:p>

With Williams they have been holding the opposition to 71.2 yards per game this season. That facet of their game alone will make emerging and likable rookie QB Matt Ryan do a little more work through the air, although with Pro Bowl wide receiver Roddy White in his armoury that will still provide a threat that the Vikings will have to watch.<o:p></o:p>

Both teams are in-form and have overcome adversity this season but a loss here would prove costly - the Falcons have hung in there all season but the Vikings look a more effective running force here against a Falcons defence only ranked 22nd against the run.<o:p></o:p>

Recommendation: Minnesota from 1-3 to a NFC North title - back the Vikings -2.5 at 1.83 (-122).<o:p></o:p>

(11-3) at NY Giants (11-3)<o:p></o:p>

A month ago it would have been unbelievable if you'd said that this was the second of the week's games in this preview that carried for the winner guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.<o:p></o:p>

The Panthers march into the Big Apple on a three game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight games, although they are only three from three on the road. The Giants looked far and away the best side in the NFC a month ago and then like their wide receiver Plaxico Burress they managed to inflict some damage on themselves, losing their last two games, the first time they have dropped consecutive games since the start of the 2007 season.<o:p></o:p>

The Panthers will need their two headed running game to function but also have a dangerous weapon in WR Steve Smith - the Giants just seem to have dropped emotionally and physically on the defensive side of the ball lately and that could prove key here.<o:p></o:p>

Despite being Pro Bowl bound Giants QB Eli Manning has lost not only
Burress lately but appears to be struggling when pressured and he was sacked eight times on Sunday - not a platform to build on for the Giants biggest game since last year's Superbowl victory.<o:p></o:p>

Recommendation: Momentum and confidence plus the points make the Panthers the pick in this winner takes all contest - back them +3.5 at 2.06 (+106)<o:p></o:p>

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