Betfair's NFL Betting: Full previews for both of Sunday's divisional games


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Dec 2, 2008
NFL Betting: Full previews for both of Sunday's divisional games


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NFC east rivals NY GIants and Philadelphia Eagles get it on for the third time, while San Diego go east for a tough one against Pittsburgh.

Sunday's games continue the rematch theme but more than that they highlight the fact that it's great defence that usually wins championships, not flair and trickery on offence. Three of Sunday's defensive units are rated in the league's top five, so points will be at a premium in Sunday's games.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) at NY Giants (12-4)
This looks the toughest game of the weekend with parallels to the Giants' Superbowl campaign last year when they had to meet the Cowboys on three occasions. This year it's another NFC East rival who provide the "third" game in the shape of the Eagles. They split the regular season series, but the Eagles did win in NY, and they come into this game on a streak of 5-1 since the loss at Baltimore, which led to QB Donovan McNabb being benched. Did Coach Andy Reid unwittingly use that as a decision to motivate the team? I doubt it, but since that incident McNabb has thrown 10 TD passes and just two interceptions.

More likely it was the return of RB Brian Westbrook that provided the team with fresh impetus and the road win at the Vikings last week underlined how tough a unit this Eagles side, and especially the defence, is. They are going to need to be at their best, as winning at the Giants for the second time this year will be no easy task.
NY have stuttered of late, especially when without two key players RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Plaxico Burress - they are likely to have Jacobs back from injury on Sunday but will be without Burress. His importance to the team is highlighted by this statistic - the Giants scored only 15 points per game in their NFC East matches without Burress but nearly double that (29) with him.
On offence, the Eagles will try to work Westbrook into their patterns in as many different looks as possible. The real key though will be who can use turnover ball effectively, both teams run identical defences and change offensive personnel groups throughout the game. There are no secrets, special plays or blitz calls that these players haven't seen, so this game will come down to execution and the ability to capitalise on turnovers.
How important are turnovers that result in defensive touchdowns? Last week, three teams scored defensive touchdowns, and all three won. When any of the 12 teams that made the play-offs scored a defensive touchdown this season, they were 41-4.
Keep an eye on the weather too, this game will be played in cold (snow is expected); windy conditions and that will affect the ability to move the ball effectively.

Recommendation: Points at a premium, go under 40.5 at 1.96 (-104), Eagles have momentum and in a tight match I'll take the Eagles plus the points (4.5) at 1.94 (-106).

San Diego Chargers (8-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Weather is going to play an important part in Pittsburgh too and expect similar conditions (snow showers and a wind chill of 26 degrees) when these two bang heads again on Sunday evening. The Steelers won the first meeting this year 11-10 and have some key players back that missed that first contest.

The weather conditions mean that the running game will be ready to take over and although the Steelers have drifted away from the power running game that typified the Bill Cowher era, expect Willie Parker to see plenty of carries on Sunday. The Chargers could be missing star back Tomlinson on Sunday and so will have to rely on his backup Darren Sproles, but he faces a dominating Pittsburgh defence which has not allowed a 100 yard rusher all season. The Chargers could be forced to throw and to do that QB Phil Rivers has to avoid a quick and very effective Steelers pass rush which has become expert at pushing the opposition into third and long situations.

The other reason that the Steelers will be looking to concentrate on their ground game will be the health of QB Roethlisberger - who comes into this game off a concussion suffered two week ago, he will be harried and blitzed by the Chargers on Sunday in a bid to force him into mistakes and I for one have never been impressed by his play selection or decisions in that situation.
Having said all that, the Chargers are 2-11 in Pittsburgh, face yet another clutch game, this will be the fifth in as many weeks and you wonder how long they can maintain the energy and sharpness in tough conditions against a dominating and aggressive Pittsburgh defence.
Conditions are key here and a cold, windy and chopped up Heinz Field suits the Steelers far more than the Chargers, for whom this will be one bridge too far. Pittsburgh may just win by the handicap (-6.5) and have the fans thinking the old Steelers style of pounding the ball and dominating on defence is back.

Recomendation: Unders again at 38.5 is the call; around 1.96 (-104) is your price.

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