NFL Week 15 Betting: Falcons meet Buccs in massive NFC South clash (By


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Dec 2, 2008
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Andy Richmond of Betfair Canada Blog previews three games from a top weekend of NFL action - as well as Tampa's trip to Atlanta, our expert also looks at Pittsburgh v Baltimore and NY Giants visit to Dallas.

Let's start this week with some numbers - seven teams are in the race for the two NFC wild card spots, and four for the two AFC spots.

Only three of the eight divisions have been decided so far while others are wide-open. All four teams are on course to claim the AFC East division title and all four teams are still in the hunt for the post-season party in the NFC East.

With three weeks of the regular season left, just 10 teams are eliminated and 14 could still win their respective divisions - or miss playing over the post-season.

Situations like this establish the NFL as a premier organisation. Innovations like the salary cap and draft rules gives all sides hope in turning desperate seasons last year into winning ones this - unless of course you come from Detroit!

This week's triumvirate of Sunday offerings is top class and first up are one of those comeback teams - the Falcons from Atlanta.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Both these sides suffered divisional losses last week, but that shouldn't surprise as the NFC South is the stronghold of the home team - not one team has won away at a divisional rival this year.

You can also judge Atlanta's fortunes early in the game - when they score first they are 8-1, when they don't 0-4 is the result. The Falcons lost a close one last week at the Saints and it was possibly just a lack of inexperience on and off the field which cost them a valuable victory - they still have a potent attacking force and can pound a Bucs defence which appears to be suffering an identity crisis at the moment. Expect to see RB Michael Turner loosen up the Bucs defence for rookie QB Matt Ryan to use WR Roddy White, who is leading the league in receiving yards and is quietly putting together one of the best seasons in franchise history.
If I have a worry about the Falcons it is their ability to stop the run - they leaked 184 yards to the Saints last week, not normally a team who worry that much about running the football - and they will need to address that area of the game this week.

Atlanta average 32.2 points at the Georgia Dome, expect to see that added to on Sunday as they keep comeback alive.
Recommendation: Back the Falcons to keep the dream alive at [1.6] and take a look at the Atlanta match points (+24.5) at [1.96].

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Attritional is the summation of this game - two teams who are mirror images of each other - and this will be close, but the Steelers have not won in Baltimore since 2002.

These two teams just do not allow the opposition many yards - fact - they are ranked one and two in that category in the NFL.

So all set for a boring game then? No way is my answer, this for me is the game of the weekend and full of intrigue and great match-ups.

With both teams so strong at stopping the run this may well come down to who can move the ball through the air better - Steelers QB Roethlisberger or rookie Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Roethlisberger is brave and stands in the pocket as well as anyone in the NFL but his direction and touch sometimes let him down and Ravens Free Safety Ed Reed, is a great anticipator of where the ball is going to be thrown - he has four interceptions in his last three games and the Steelers are going to have to throw the ball.

Ravens QB Flacco is going to face an almighty pass rush from Steelers linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley if he avoids this and finds primary target Derrick Mason, who has been in good form lately and caught eight passes for 137 yards against the Steelers in Week 4, then the Ravens can get the scoreboard ticking against the tough Steelers "D".
Recommendation: Scrap of the week - Ravens at [1.8] to provide the knockout blow ... eventually.

NY Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Never a dull moment with these two teams - the Giants already missing WR Plaxico Burress, now have featured RB Brandon Jacobs out through injury. Throw into the mix problems in the Cowboys camp with owner Jerry Jones unhappy at the team's commitment and a supposed locker room rift between Romo and Owens.

That little lot might give you a recipe for interest but it doesn't make for a great punting canvas but there are a couple of angles to consider if you do play.

I'm not sure both teams will play with their usually fluidity as they both have lots to lose - the Giants are under pressure for the number one spot in the NFC while the Cowboys might miss out altogether, the wild card route the only one open now.

The Giants need to cope without Jacobs and also need to move the ball more effectively in passing situations while the Cowboys need to find far more cohesion and timing than they have in the past few weeks.

Recommendation: Caution! Due to the soap opera surrounding both teams - the Giants have more pedigree and confidence at the moment - back the Big Apple Boys (+3.5) at [1.84].

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