NFL Predictions: Expert 2020/21 NFL Tips

Our NFL guru will be sharing his NFL predictions right throughout the 2020/21 season. The NFL Analyst will have comprehensive previews for each prime-time match in the regular season, as well as the Playoffs and the Super Bowl.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

The divisional round comes to a close with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting the New Orleans Saints. A matchup between two future hall of fame quarterbacks, and two oldest players in the NFL, who may see this as one of their final chances to add another ring to the collection.

The Bucs offence has come into their own since the Week 13 bye, averaging 35.8 points per game and winning all five games. Tom Brady has completed 66% of passes for 1,714 yards at 9.7 yards per attempt with a 14:1 touchdown to interception ratio in those five games.

There has been significant changes to the play-calling since the bye, with the Bucs increasing their play action dropbacks from 18% to 27% and passing on first downs (non-4th quarter) from 49% (7.1 yards per attempt) to 54% (8.5 yards per attempt), resulting in six Brady play action touchdown passes (second in the league in that period).

With the Saints defence being amongst the best against the run (fifth-lowest yards per carry, fourth-fewest rushing yards against) and the Bucs complete abandonment of the running game in their last matchup (five rushing attempts for eight yards), I’d expect this trend to continue.

As the form for the Bucs offence improved, the defence moved in the other direction. Allowing five touchdowns and 750 yards scrimmage to an aging Matt Ryan and backup Tyler Heincke over the last two weeks, the Bucs defensive backfield has struggled to stop any opposing passers outside a game against Detroit where injuries forced the Lions into using three QBs.

With a defensive front that can attack the quarterback (third in pressure percentage at 27.2%, fourth in sacks at 48) and stop the running game (fewest rushing yards against and lowest yards per carry at 3.6), the Bucs should see plenty of pass attempts from Drew Brees and the Saints.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has had great success against the Bucs since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator, completing 74% of his passes for nine touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. With the strength of the Bucs run defence, the Saints will likely use running back Alvin Kamara as a receiver.

Kamara caught more catches than any other running back in the league (83) and had a combined 14 targets in the two meetings between the teams this year, with Tampa giving up more catches to running backs than any other team (101). With star receiver Michael Thomas working back into full fitness after injury, expect Brees to target his two stars heavily on short routes to limit the Bucs pass rush.

The Saints defence was able to pressure Tom Brady on a season-high 54% of his dropbacks in the week nine demolition of the Bucs. With Brady in much better form than in that game, the Saints will be hoping to produce the same kind of pressure to limit the star-studded wide receiver group of the Bucs.

Stopping the run and limiting the effectiveness of the play action could be the first step to achieving this, with the Saints proving to have the edge over the Bucs running game over their two games this year (94 total rushing yards over two games).

The Saints defence was dominant in the two games played this year, but the Bucs offence has been on a different level since their bye. It’s not often Brady goes into a playoff game as the underdog and the odds may be too good to pass up here.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Tampa Bay at $2.30

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills

The divisional playoff round sees two star third year quarterbacks facing off, with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Baltimore Ravens. The Buffalo Bills had their first home playoff win since 1995 last week against the Colts, while the Ravens fought from behind to overcome the Titans.

The Ravens and Lamar Jackson were able to break down a couple of narratives with last week’s win against Titans, coming back after falling behind by double digits for Lamar Jackson’s first playoff win. Jackson did the majority of his damage on the ground, rushing for a season high 136 yards as well as a touchdown. Jackson has rushed for over 80 yards in five of his last six games, reaching that number in only two of his first 11 games. The Bills surrendered the 12th most rushing yards (327) and third most rushing touchdowns (7) to QB’s this season, setting up Jackson for another big day on the ground.

The Ravens defence was able to stifle rushing leader Derrick Henry in last week’s win, holding him to only 40 rushing yards, his lowest total since October 2019. They’ll be looking to do the same to the Bills rushing attack that lost rookie running back Zack Moss to an ankle injury, leaving Devin Singletary to handle the bulk of rushing attempts. But stopping the passing game will be of more concern to the Ravens, allowing the second fewest yards per attempt (6.4) and yards per completion (10.0), up against Bills quarterback Josh Allen who has looked unstoppable in the second half of the season.

The Colts came close to stopping the Bills last week, slowing the game down and taking the ball out of Allen’s hand. The Bills time of possession (25.43) was the second lowest amongst all teams in the wildcard round, with only the Bears recording less (21.02) on their way to scoring only nine points. The Bills used their limited time well though, averaging 6.8 yards per offensive play (second most last week). Allen continued his hot streak from the regular season, passing for 1840 yards at 8.4 yards per attempt with a 17:2 touchdown to interception ratio in his last six games. Allen has also had success against the blitz this year and comes up against a Ravens team that led the league in blitz rate (44.1%). Allen completed 66.2% of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt with 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions against the blitz.

The Bills defence had been in good form to finish the regular season, but none most of this came against sub-par offences. The Bills struggled to contain the Colts, allowing 472 total yards and only recording one QB hit and pressure on 6.5% of the 46 dropbacks. Just as concerning is Buffalo’s run defence, allowing a seventh worst yards per carry (4.6) to go along with their struggles against opposing QB rushers.The Ravens lead the league in both rushing attempts and rushing yards on the season.

With both offences in hot form to end the season, this one could end up in a shootout between two of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Josh Allen’s arm should give the Bills the advantage in a high scoring affair, setting up to soar past the total points line.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 49.5

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cleveland Browns visit the Pittsburgh Steelers to close wildcard weekend, the Browns’ first playoff appearance since 2002. These two teams squared off last week for a Browns win, but the Steelers will look a much different team after resting a number of players with their playoff position secured.

The Browns struggled to a win against the undermanned Steelers last week to clinch their playoff spot, but now face their own personnel issues this week. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, along with others on the coaching staff, will miss due to a Covid close contact. They will also be without starting left guard Joel Bitonio who excels in pass blocking, who this week earned All-Pro second-team honours.

This should see the Browns continue to lean heavily on the run game, with running back Nick Chubb rushing for 100 yards or scoring a touchdown in 10 of his last 11 games. The Steelers have struggled against the run in the last three weeks, giving up attempts/yards/touchdown splits of 24/145/1 (Browns), 26/118/2 (Colts) and 31/105/1 (Bengals). Attacking on the ground could also limit a Steeler pass rush that has sacked quarterback Baker Mayfield eight times over the two matchups this year.

The Browns defence has been struggling with injuries to finish the season and lost defensive end Oliver Vernon to an achilles injury last week. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson could make their return from the Covid list though after missing last week, with special teams player Robert Jackson starting at cornerback in their absence. Cleveland’s pass rush is creating pressure at the seventh-lowest rate (20.6%) and with Vernon’s injury is now extra dependent on star pass rusher Myles Garrett (12 sacks on the year), with no other Browns player with five sacks.

The Steeler offence had been in a bit of a freefall until the second half of their week 16 game against the Colts, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing 243 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to take the win. After he sat out last week’s match, all eyes will be on Roethlisberger to carry this offence. The Steelers running game has been non-existent in the second half of the season, ranking dead last in rushing yards per game (60.6) since week seven. But Big Ben should have his full array of weapons available, with all four wide receivers fit and the expected return of tight end Eric Ebron.

The Steeler defence has slowed in the last month, with injuries starting to pile up. After allowing 24+ points in only three of their first 11 games, the Steelers have now allowed 24 or more in each of their last four games. Having had success against Mayfield, it will be no surprise to see the Steelers blitz often, leading the league in sacks (56), pressure rate (32.3%) and third in blitz rate (40.3%).

The Browns form line had been impressive prior to the last two weeks of the season, where the prospect of making the first playoff appearance in 18 years may have been looming over them. The Steelers, on the other hand, have really struggled on the back end, looking a far cry from the team that started 11-0. With the interruptions in the lead-up, the expectations are now low for the Browns, but I see them keeping this one competitive against their fierce rivals.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Browns +6.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington

Wildcard weekend kicks off on Sunday, closing with a matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Washington Football Team. The Tom Brady led Bucs make their first playoff appearance since 2007, while Washington comes into the game after last weeks controversial win over the Eagles, which clinched the NFC East and home ground advantage this week.

Brady and the Bucs offence have been on fire since their week 13 bye, averaging 37 points per game with Brady throwing for 1,333 yards at a completion rate of 69% and a touchdown to interception ratio of 12:1 in the four games.

The opposition hasn’t been great during that stretch (ATLx 2, DET and MIN), but having Brady hitting form at this time of year will have been the plan for the Bucs all along. After injury concerns in last week’s game, wide receiver Mike Evans is now looking likely to play, giving Brady all his offensive weapons. Much maligned receiver Antonio Brown has started to show some chemistry over the last month and broke out last week for 138 yards and two touchdowns last week, with his form now giving Brady one of the best wide receivers groups in the league.

The Bucs defence will be looking to attack come Sunday, up against Washington quarterback Alex Smith who is still dealing with a calf injury. There has been talk of Smith splitting snaps with backup Taylor Heinicke, but whoever is under centre will be facing the blitz often. The Bucs send extra defenders at the fifth-highest rate in the league (39.0%) and are second in the league in pressure percentage (27.0%). The Washington offensive line struggled with the potent Eagles pass rush last week, allowing three sacks and pressure on 31.4% of dropbacks.

The Washington offence had been efficient since Alex Smith took over the starting job, but have seen their turnovers increase over the last month, something they struggled with early in the season. With the Bucs allowing a league-low 3.6 yards per carry and 1289 total rushing yards, Washington could abandon the running game early and look to target their running backs in the passing game. Tampa Bay has allowed a league high 101 receptions to running backs, with Washington RB J.D McKissic leading the team in targets (59) and catches (38) over the last five weeks,

The Washington defence has been one of the most dominant in the league this season, led by their defensive front and star rookie Chase Young. Washington creates pressure at the seventh highest rate (25.4%, the highest the Bucs have faced all year) while only blitzing at the 13th highest rate (32.4%), and have recorded the sixth most sacks (47).

Brady has shown himself vulnerable to pressure (especially without blitzing), with his completion numbers dropping from 71.7% to 43.9% and his yards per attempt 8.3 to 5.2 when under pressure as opposed to a clean pocket. Not prone to taking sacks, Brady’s drop in yards per attempt will limit the effectiveness of the star studded wide receiver group if Washington can create that pressure.

Chase Young told the world he wanted Tom Brady after last week’s playoff clinching win against the Giants, but with an in-form Tom Brady heading into the playoffs, the old saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind. Even if the Washington defence is able to slow Brady, their offence hasn’t shown enough in the leadup to the playoffs to suggest they can score against a strong Bucs defence. Tampa Bay should prove too strong in a defensive battle and move on to the Conference Semi’s next week.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 44.5

Washington at Philadelphia Eagles

The regular season comes to a close with a divisional matchup between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles. With the Eagles now out of playoff contention, Washington are in a prime position for a win that would clinch the division.

Washington has lost their last two games after losing Quarterback Alex Smith to a calf injury but should have him back for the season finale. Washington had won their last four games led by Smith, who had stopped the turnover issue that had plagued the team all year.

The Smith-led offence had turned the ball over only four times in their previous five games, which was then followed by six in the last two games he has missed. Washington should also have their leading playmakers who have been troubled by injuries in the last few weeks, with running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Terry McLaurin likely to suit up.

The Washington defence has been on a tear in recent weeks, keeping them in games they looked likely to lose with the struggles on offence. Allowing the fifth-lowest points per game (21), they have also forced 11 turnovers in their last six games (1.83 per game, a figure that would lead the league on the year).

The stellar play has been led by the defensive line, and in particular rookie Chase Young, who is showing why he was the number two overall pick in the draft. In the last three games Young has two sacks, two fumbles forced and two fumbles recovered, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The Washington defensive line dominated the Eagles in their first matchup this year to the tune of eight sacks and pressure on 28% of dropbacks.

The Eagles’ loss to the Cowboys last week all but ended their season, with reports coming out of Eagle camp there will be a number of players missing this game with injuries that most likely wouldn’t have held them out if the game were meaningful. There were also reports that rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts would be pulled early in place for third-string Nate Sudfeld.

The Eagles offensive line has already been decimated by injury and will likely now be without Australian tackle Jordan Mailata for the game, we could see a repeat of the week one onslaught from the Washington defensive front.

With Eagle defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz confirming this week he won’t be with the team next year and a number of players missing, we could see a very different looking Eagle defense this week. The pass rush has been strong all year but will be without star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, amongst others from the defensive front.

The Eagles have been torched through the air in their last two games, giving up 406 and 377 yards at yards per attempt rates of 11.3 and 12.6 respectively. While Smith isn’t known for his deep passing, this is as good a spot as any to attack down the field.

With nothing on the line for the Eagles, it appears the cue is firmly in the rack. The Washington Football Team has everything to play for and should run straight through an Eagles team with one eye already on next season.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Washington -4.5

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots

Week 16 comes to a close with a AFC East divisional matchup, with the Buffalo Bills taking on the New England Patriots. The Bills have clinched the division for the first time since 1995 and will be looking to make a statement against a Patriot team that has won the division 16 out of the last 17 seasons. The Patriots are out of playoff contention, but won’t roll over against a team that looks in place to take over the division for years to come.

Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Bills look to enter the playoffs in good form. The offence has been consistent all year, dropping below 25 points on only three occasions and sitting fifth in the league in points scored (29.1). The Bills have had the lead on 57.4% of their offensive snaps, which leads the league. The improvement in the offensive has been led by quarterback Josh Allen, who has been in the MVP conversation all year. Allen is fifth in total passing yards (4000), sixth in completion percentage (68.7%), second in total touchdowns (38) and in the top ten for interception percentage (1.8%).

While the offence has been consistent throughout the year, the defence has stepped up over the last month of football. The Bills have allowed only 18.5 points per game over the last four games, down from 26.5 points in the first 10 games. Bills have been able to stifle the opposing run game, while star cornerback Tre’Davious White has played himself into all-pro contention (leading the league in third down coverage grades). If the Bills can stop the Patriot running game, Cam Newton has been prone to turnovers when forced to chase a game.

The Patriots have suffered two disappointing losses after a midseason revival, recording a total of 15 points and 523 yards of offence in their last two games. Quarterback Cam Newton has failed to reach 210 passing yards in 10 of his 13 starts and has only five passing touchdowns on the year, with the rushing touchdowns that lifted his production early in the year drying up (only two in the last five games). Relying heavily on the run game, they will come up against a Bills defence that has limited opposition to only 87.25 rushing yards per game over the last four games.

This Patriot defence looks very different to the one that dominated the league last year, partly due to offseason losses, injuries and Covid opt outs. The total points has remained low (7th lowest in the league), but this is more a product of the slow pace the Patriots play their games at. The defensive backfield can be attacked with last year’s defensive MVP Stephon Gilmore still out with injury and the defensive front has been dominated over the last two games, giving up 413 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams and Dolphins.

Even with the division title in the bag, the Bills will see this as an opportunity to beat down an opponent who has had their measure for a long time. Josh Allen has struggled with the Patriots in the past, but this year has been different for the young quarterback, and he should have no trouble dispatching a Patriot team who will be looking forward to next year.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Bills -7

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers

In what should be Week 16’s premier matchup, the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans visit the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers. The Packers have clinched their playoff spot and currently hold the number one seed (and first-week bye), but will need to keep winning with the New Orleans hot on their trail. The Titans are tied with the Colts on 10-4 in the AFC South but currently hold the better divisional record, dropping a game could see them back in the wildcard mix with the Ravens just a game back.

The Titans have quietly become the league’s highest scoring team (31.1 per game), posting over 30 points for the last five weeks and averaging 37.4 points per game in that span, with their only loss coming in a shootout with Cleveland. The offence is built around the power running game of league rush leader rusher Derrick Henry who has been on a tear the least five weeks, averaging an otherworldly 146.6 yards rushing yards at 5.95 per carry, with 7 total touchdowns.

In the Titans’ one loss during that stretch, Henry was held to 60 scoreless yards, showing a clear blueprint on how to stop the Titans. The Packer defence hasn’t excelled in this area, ranking in the bottom half in most run-stopping metrics.

The Titans defence has not been able to create any pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year after splashing out big money on free agent additions to the defensive line (Jadeveon Clowney – 0 sacks and now on IR, Vic Basely – 0 sacks and since been cut). The Titans rank last in sacks (14), pressure percentage (16.9%) and second-last in QB hits (62). Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating in clean pockets (127.1) and has posted a turnover-interception ratio of 35:4 when not pressured.

The Packers head into this game winning their last four games and six of their last seven, sitting atop the NFC. Rodgers has moved into MVP favourite and will look at his last nationally televised game as a chance to. Rodgers will be up against a pass rush that is amongst the league’s worst and a secondary that has given up the fourth-most passing touchdowns (29). Rodgers leads the league with 40 passing touchdowns and has only thrown four interceptions, with his 0.8% interception percentage also leading the league.

The Packers defence has been hurt by star running backs this year, but their offence has been able to put opponents into passing situations to limit the damage being caused on the ground. They’ll hope to do the same with Henry, who has been able to wear down teams and dominate second halves throughout the year. If Rodgers is able to score early, they will look to their star cornerbacks to try and contain the Titans.

With both teams’ defensive weaknesses playing into the hands of their opposing offensive centerpieces, we could be set for a shootout between two teams that rank in the top three for total points. The Titans will need to keep pace early to keep Henry in the game, but I can see this game sailing past the projected total.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 54.5

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders

The Miami Dolphins travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders for a Sunday primetime game. The Dolphins currently sit in the final wildcard playoff spot, but are tied with the Ravens on 9-5 and will need to win out to ensure their place. Last week’s loss all but squashed any hopes the Raiders had of making their first playoff appearance since 2002, but any scenario where they do make it would need to involve a win this week against the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have quietly put together an impressive season after a slow start, winning eight of their last ten games. The move to rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has proved successful even without the impressive passing numbers of some of his counterparts,with the rookie only recording three turnovers in his eight games. Tua’s yards per attempt sits at a modest 6.5 (29th in the league) but comes up against a Raiders defence who have allowed 8.9 yards per attempt in their last three games. The Dolphins should also have running back Myles Gaskin back from an injury/Covid related absence, with the undrafted rookie proving effective since taking the starting job in week 3.The Raiders allow the eighth highest rushing yards per game (125.8) and have allowed the second most touchdowns (23).

The Miami defence has slowly moved into the elite category this season, now allowing the fewest points per game (18.4). They have allowed the second fewest touchdowns (16), have recorded the second most interceptions (16) and allow the third lowest quarterback rating (83.9). The defence is led by cornerback Xavien Howard, who leads the league in interceptions (9) and has moved into the defensive player of the year conversation.

The Raiders season has just about gotten away from them, losing four of their last five games and all but fallen out of playoff contention. Quarterback Derek Carr had been in good form before leaving last week’s game with a groin injury (697 yards and five touchdowns in the previous two games), but he has been limited in practice this week and his status for the game is still unknown. The Miami defence is most vulnerable against the run, with running back Josh Jacobs key for the Raiders. But the second year back has struggled over the last month after suffering an injury, recording 152 rushing yards and one touchdown in his last three games.

The Raiders real problem has been on defence, allowing the fourth most points per game (30.1), with that figure rising to 36 per game in the last five games. The pass rush has been almost non-existent, ranking second-last in sacks (16). But the Miami offensive line can be attacked, allowing pressure on 25.8% of dropbacks (10th highest in the league).

Backup Marcus Mariota performed well in place of Carr last week, but if Carr were to miss this game the Miami defence will provide a much tougher test. With their playoff destiny in their own hands, Miami should take this one out.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Miami -3

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 15 comes to a close with the AFC North matchup between first-place Steelers and fourth place Bengals. The Steelers have clinched their playoff spot, but after two straight losses will be looking to get back in form before the postseason starts. The Bengals will be looking ahead to next year, their season a write-off after losing last year’s number one pick Joe Burrow for the year.

After suffering their first loss of the season in week 13, the Steelers didn’t have to wait long for their second, outplayed by the Bills on Sunday Night Football last week. With the offence struggling, the Bengals present the perfect opportunity for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to get things clicking again. Almost certain to see a clean pocket (Bengals rank last in pressure rate, Steelers concede the lowest pressure rate, both at 25%), Big Ben will be up against a passing defence that ranks in the bottom ten in passing touchdowns allowed, yards per attempt, passing yards allowed per game and quarterback rating allowed. Still shying away from the running game, expect a big game from Roethlisberger who was able to throw for 333 yards and a season high four touchdowns in their matchup earlier in the year.

Even in their two losses, the Steelers defence has held up their end, allowing only 21 points per game. Still leading the league in points per game allowed (18.2) and total sacks (45). Committed to the blitz, The Steelers will send extra numbers at third-string quarterback Ryan Finley who has taken 18 sacks on 124 dropbacks in seven career games (three starts) and will be behind an offensive line that has allowed sacks on 8.3% of dropbacks (fifth worst in the league).

The Bengals offence has fallen apart since the season ending injury to Joe Burrow, with their points per game dropping from 22.7 to 10.0 since the injury. Moving to Brandon Allen after the injury, he looks likely to miss with a knee injury of his own, leaving Finley in line to make his fourth career start. Finley has accounted for two touchdowns, four fumbles, four interceptions and has a career completion rate of 48.1%. Against one of the best defence n the league, this doesn’t look like a favourable spot for Finley to make your first start of the year.

The Bengal defence hasn’t fared much better than the offence this year, creating the second-fewest turnovers in the league and having no success in the pass rush. With a league worst pressure rate, along with the second fewest total sacks (15), opposing quarterbacks have had no issues picking apart the Bengal secondary

It’s hard to see a situation where the Bengals score double digits against this defense with Ryan Finley at the helm, with the Steelers controlling the game from the start. It’s a low line, but I am liking the under in this one.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 40.5

Cleveland Browns at New York Giants

The New York Giants host the Cleveland Browns in Monday’s late game. The Giants were in good form before last week’s loss to Arizona, winning their previous four games and vaulting themselves right into playoff contention in the NFC East. The Browns had also won four straight before last week’s heartbreaking loss to the Ravens, but will see their next two matchups against the New York teams as an opportunity to clinch their playoff spot.

Last week’s loss to the Ravens saw the Browns put up one of their best offensive performances for the year, posting 493 total yards and 42 points against one of the stronger defences in the league. The damage was done on the ground early, rushing for three touchdowns in the first three quarters, before quarterback Baker Mayfield took over with two passing and one rushing touchdown in the last quarter.

Committed to the run all year, the Browns rank third in rushing attempts (416), total rushing yards (2031) and yards per carry (4.9). This shouldn’t change against a Giants defence that is far more vulnerable on the ground.

The Browns defence has been middle of the road in most passing and rushing metrics, but has been able to get to the quarterback on a regular basis, 12th in the league in total sacks (34) while blitzing at the fifth-lowest rate (21.8%). Star edge rusher Myles Garrett ranks third in total sacks (10.5) while having played two less than anyone else in the top eight.

The Giants offence has struggled all year, posting the second-lowest points per game (18.3) and are one of only two teams to still be in single digits for passing touchdowns (nine). After missing week 13 with injury, quarterback Daniel Jones returned last week and battled his way to 127 passing yards on 11-21 passing, while being sacked six times (which lost 52 yards).

Usually one of his strengths, Jones’s mobility looked affected after his layoff and did not record a rushing attempt for the first time all season. If still not 100%, he could have a torrid time with Garrett in good form.

The Giants defence was the main factor behind the recent winning streak, holding opponents to 16.5 points per game (they give up 22,4 points per game on the year, 10th in the league) before giving up 26 to the Cardinals last week. Ranking eighth in pressure rate on the year (25.3%) and having one of the better secondaries, the Giants will be hoping to attack at the line of scrimmage and out Mayfield under pressure, who has shown he is susceptible against the better defensive lines (PIT, PHI, HOU have all had success against Mayfield)

Cleveland’s offence has been firing over the last two weeks and will be confident going into the match, even more so with the Giants likely to be missing their top cornerback James Bradberry. With a clear advantage in the run game, the Browns should attack on the ground early and put pressure on the Giant offence to keep their defence off the ground. With their first playoff appearance in over 20 years on the line, the Browns should be too strong.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Browns -6.5

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders

Week 15 kicks off with an AFC West battle between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers battled to a win against Atlanta last week, with a last-minute interception setting up a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Raiders lost big to the Colts last week, but are still in playoff contention and have three winnable games to finish the season.

The Chargers bounced back from their embarrassing 45-0 loss from two weeks ago, beating out the Falcons in a game where the offence failed to fire. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s bright start to his career has started to slow in recent weeks, his averages dropping to 256 yards and 1:1.3 touchdown to interception ratio over his last three games, down from 300 yards with a 2.4:0.6 ratio. A Raiders defence that has totaled the second-fewest sacks (15) and eighth fewest QB hits (62) gives Hebert a great chance to get back on track.

The Chargers defence has struggled with injuries and form this year, allowing over 25 points in all but one game since week three. The pass rush is failing to muster any pressure on the quarterback while blitzing at a league-low rate of 17.5%, relying on difference-making defensive end Joey Bosa (14th in the league in sacks) to create on his own (only one teammate in the top 80 in sacks). Even without a successful pass rush, the defensive backfield has been able to hold their own, recording the fifth-lowest yards per attempt (6.8) and eighth-lowest completion rating (63.2%).

Just outside of the top 10 for points per game on the season, the Raiders have put together a strong run of offensive performances since week 8. Taking out a huge loss against Atlanta where they had as many turnovers as they did points (6), the Raiders have averaged 31.4 points per game over the five matches.

Quarterback Derek Carr has seen his average pass attempts rise to 39.25 in the last month, up from 31.4 through the first 10 games. This correlates to niggle injuries to running back Josh Jacobs, which has caused the rushing yards per game drop to 70 after posting 139.22 (would be seventh in the league on the season) over the first 10.

As their offence has improved, their defence has moved the opposite direction. The Raiders are allowing 37.5 points over the last month, bring their season average up to a third-worst 30.1 points per game. Defending the run has been particularly bad, allowing a league-high 21 touchdowns at the third-worst rate of 4.7 yards per carry.

With Chargers lead running back Austin Ekeler now three weeks returned from a long injury layoff and backup Justin Jackson returning from his own injury last week, the Chargers should look to exploit a clear weakness in this Raider defence.

Both quarterbacks have seen an increase in their pass attempts in the last month and come up against defences that can be attacked. Even with one of the highest point totals for the week, I can see this game clearing this with ease. Games involving the Raiders average a league-high 57 points, with the Chargers in the top half of the league on 50.7.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 53.5

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

Week 14 comes to an end with a divisional matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are looking to clinch their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season, and a win against a Ravens team who is amongst the challengers for the wildcard spot the Browns currently hold.

The Ravens got their season back on track last week with a big win against Dallas, with Lamar Jackson getting back to his best with 107 passing yards at 70.59 completion rate with two touchdowns, to go along with 94 rushing yards and a touchdown. Jackson was able to pick apart the Browns defence in their meeting in week one, throwing for 3 touchdowns and 275 yards while only having five incompletions (20-25).

Baltimore will get back wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Mark Andrews back this week, with Andrews recording two touchdown receptions in the earlier meeting between the two teams. Establishing their run game is key for the RAvens in most games, they’ll come up against a Browns team that ranks in the top ten for fewest rushing yards allowed per game (104.3) and yards per carry (4.1).

Baltimore was able to stifle the Browns in week one, turning the Browns over on their first two drives and putting a lead on the board which forced Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to abandon the run early. The Browns have been at their best when running the ball often, with the Ravens allowing 127.4 rushing yards per game over their last five games. They should have run-stopping tackle Brandon Williams back to full health this week, which will go a long way to stop the run.

The Browns have been rolling since that first week blowout at the Ravens, dropping only two more games on the year and winning their last four. While the run game has been the key to their offence this year, Baker Mayfield had a huge day in last week’s big win against the Titans, throwing for 334 yards, four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 147.0, his highest for the season. The Browns will be hoping the run game can open things up for Mayfield this time around, who is in the top five for rushing yards per game (157.8), yards per carry (4.9) and runs of over 20 yards (18).

The Browns were able to pressure Jackson in their meeting, applying pressure on 31.0% of his dropbacks but only able to record two sacks in their first meeting. While their pass rush numbers don’t stand out, the Browns only blitz on 22.4% of plays (sixth-fewest) and rely on star rusher Myles Garrett to attack without help. Garrett ranks third in total sacks in the league, while only playing 10 games.

A win for the Browns would all but seal their playoff spot, but I don’t see things being easy for Baker Mayfield who has struggled to an 8:7 touchdown to interception ratio in his five career games against the Ravens. The Ravens see this as a must-win game and will be strong for the Browns.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Cleveland -6.5

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

Two of the AFC’s best matchup in Monday’s late game, with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers lost their first game of the season last week, but still hold a two-game lead over the Browns for first place in the AFC North. The Bills continued their good form last week, with a win of the 49er’s making it five wins from their last six games.

Last week’s 23-17 loss to the Washington Football Team came as a shock, with the Steelers struggling to generate offence against one of the better defences in the league. Running back James Connor’s return should help the run game that was among the best in the league through five weeks (136.8 yards per game). but has struggled since (61 yards per game in the last seven).

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has seen his passing attempts increase with the lack of production on the ground, throwing at least 42 pass attempts in the last five games. Most of these pass attempts have been on shorter routes, with Roethlisberger having the sixth-lowest average depth of target (7.3 yards). The Bills have faced the lowest depth of target against for the year, so the Steelers should be able to continue their short passing approach that has served them well over the last seven weeks.

The Steelers defence that has been so good all year will head into this game without edge rusher Bud Dupree, inside linebackers Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, and cornerback Joe Haden. Up against in-form quarterback Josh Allen, the Steelers blitz often game plan (leads the league at 37.2%) will be tested with their injuries, especially Dupree who has performed well enough to ensure the league’s leader in sacks TJ Watt isn’t double-teamed on every snap.

Josh Allen and the Bills were able to dismantle the 49er’s last week, scoring on seven consecutive drives after an early fumble coming out of their own endzone. Allen threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns at a completion rate of 80.0%, taking his average for the last month to 307 yards and 2.5 touchdowns at 75.4%, with two rushing touchdowns and only two interceptions in that period. While his numbers drop, he is still amongst the league’s best against the blitz and will need to use his elusiviness and speed to avoid the pass rush as they will be coming often.

The Bills defence has been below par for most of the year. Allowing a fourth-worst 4.7 yards per carry and fifth-worst 16 rushing touchdowns, the run defense has been vulnerable. On top of that the Bills rank in the bottom half in almost all passing defence metrics, especially against opposing tight ends where they allow a league-high 6.1 receptions and the fourth-highest yard per target (8.3 yards) to the position. Steelers tight end Eric Ebron has benefitted from the move away from the running game, receiving 11 targets in each of his last two games and an average of 7.7 targets over the last seven games.

Pittsburgh’s form line may have been a little deceiving, winning over three lesser teams before struggling against a Baltimore team that had 20+ players hit the Covid list. Further injuries to their league-best defence should put strain on an offence that has really struggled of late, who will be trying to keep up to a Bills offence that can score in bunches. Allen has performed well against the better defences this year and this should prove his biggest test for the year, one I can see him passing.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Buffalo -1.5

New England Patriots at LA Rams

Week 14 kicks off with the New England Patriots visiting Los Angeles to take on the Rams. The Rams have won four of their last five since their bye, including crucial wins against division rivals Seattle and Arizona, leaving them in first place in the NFC West. New England has also won four of their last five, including last week’s 45-0 thumping of the Chargers, and find themselves right back in the playoff hunt.

The Patriots have dominated on the ground in the wins on their current streak, with quarterback Cam Newton throwing for an average of 136.25 yards in those wins compared to 152.75 rushing yards in the same games. New England is having trouble when teams are able to stifle the running game and force Newton to pass from the pocket. The Rams allow the third-fewest rushing yards per game (93.1) and only allow 15.1 rushing yards to QB’s, even after facing notable rushing QB’s Kyler Murray, Josh Allen and Russell Wilson.

The New England defence has come to life after a four-game losing streak where they averaged 25.25 points allowed, down to 16.2 points in their last five. They’ve also been able to stifle opponents’ running games, allowing only 88.6 rushing yards in the last five games compared to 154 in their previous four. But they have struggled to create pressure on the quarterback, with the fifth-fewest sacks in the league (18). Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been vulnerable to pressure all year and struggled in his previous two matchups with the Patriots, including a Superbowl performance where the Rams were only able to score three points, so the Patriots are likely to attack at the line of scrimmage early.

Goff comes into this game throwing for an average of 343 yards and 76.05% completion rate in their last three wins. The Rams rely heavily on the play action and short passing game, with Goff having the fifth-lowest average depth of target and the most yards after the catch in the league, while the Rams as a team run the most play-action passes in the league. The Rams will need to rely on some success in the run game early to keep the Patriots honest, with rookie running back Cam Akers starting to take control of the backfield that has previously been split three ways. Recording career highs in scrimmage yards and a touchdown in each of the last two weeks, it will be vital he can make inroads early against a strong Patriot defence.

The Aaron Donald led Rams defence continues to be dominant, ranking in the top five for sacks (36) while blitzing at a bottom 10 rate (26.1%). Able to create pressure without needing extra help from their backfield, the Rams have allowed the fewest touchdowns, yards per attempt/completion, passing yards per game, and sit only behind the Steelers for quarterback rating allowed. Cam Newton’s passing has been patchy all year, he will need to have a big day against one of the more dominant pass rushes in the NFL.

The Rams will be keen to get the better of a defence who has beaten them convincingly in their last two meetings. With both teams looking to establish their running game, we could be in for a slow defensive slog, with points at a premium.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Total Points – Under 44.5

Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens

Week 13 comes to end with the Dallas Cowboys visiting the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday. Baltimore sit outside of the playoff spots with last week’s loss to the Steelers, but remain in the hunt for a wildcard berth. The Cowboys’ season keeps getting worse, with a 41-16 drubbing from Washington in Week 12 dropping them into last place in the NFC East.

Quarterback Andy Dalton continues to struggle behind the Cowboy offensive line that has been decimated by injury and will be without tackles Cameron Erving and Zack Martin. Dalton has struggled against the blitz, seeing his completion rate drop from 71.0% to 53.8% when blitzed, and comes up against a Baltimore team that blitzes at the fourth-highest rate in the league (39.7%).

The poor offensive line play has seen star running back Ezekiel Elliot struggling to impact games, averaging 64.3 rushing yards per game at an average of 3.9 yards per carry, down from 96.85 yards per game at 4.6 per carry over his first four years in the league.

The Dallas defence has been torched through the air all year, giving up the most touchdowns (25) in the league while making the third-fewest interceptions (4). Not faring much better against the run, Dallas allow a league-high 4.9 yards per carry and the fifth-most rushing touchdowns (15).

Baltimore should have last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson back at quarterback this week after ending up on the Covid list. Struggling in his last four games (five touchdowns, four interceptions), this is an opportunity for Jackson to get back on track against a defence that he can attack both through the air and on the ground.

He will be without two of his favourite weapons, with tight end Mark Andrews and slot receiver Willie Snead both still on the Covid list. The Ravens are one of the most run-heavy offences in the league and should have all the running backs available, up against a Cowboy team that has faced more rushing attempts than any other.

The Ravens will get back their biggest difference-makers on the defensive line, with Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell both set to return to from injury along with a number of others who missed after last week’s Covid scare. Up against the Dallas O-line who allows the fifth-most sacks (31) and ninth-most tackles for loss (66) and with their strong secondary, the Ravens should see this as an opportunity to blitz often and attack Dalton at every chance.

After all the chaos the Ravens dealt with last week, they find themselves in a perfect spot to get their playoff push back on track. Their dominance in the running game could see them dominate the time in possession and wear down the Cowboys on their way to a big win.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Baltimore -8.5

Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers

Tuesday’s late game sees the San Francisco 49er’s hosting the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo will look to keep their one-game buffer in their division with a win, currently sitting even on wins with the Miami Dolphins on 8-3. A win over the Rams have kept the playoff hopes alive for the 49er’s, but will need to put a winning streak together to sneak into a wildcard position.

Buffalo enters this game-winning four of their last five games and lead the AFC East. Quarterback Josh Allen has slowed down after his hot start, throwing for only six touchdowns in the last five games after throwing 16 in his first six games. But he is up against a 49er’s defence that has allowed a league high 335 QB rushing yards (Allen is sixth for QB rushing) and has struggled to create any pressure on opposing passers, ranking in the bottom 10 in sacks (20) and bottom five in QB hits (50). Allen’s QB rating rising to 113.4 when in a clean pocket, rising from 80.5 when under pressure.

The Buffalo defence has picked up the slack as the offence has dropped off lately, allowing 22.8 points in the last five games as opposed to 28 in the first six. Opposing quarterbacks have been held to 62.4% completion rate and 4:6 touchdown to interception ratio, down from 70.3% and 12:2 in the first six weeks. They do continue to struggle against the run, giving up the second-most touchdowns (16) at the sixth-highest rate (4.7 yards per carry).

The 49er’s continue to keep themselves in contention despite their injury worries. Back-up quarterback Nick Mullens will have the most offensive weapons he’s had all year, with receiver Brandon Aiyuk returning to join fellow receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Raheem Mostert who came back last week. With the backfield back healthy, attacking the Bills on the ground seems like the obvious play for coach Kyle Shanahan, who is known for his creativity in the run game.

The injuries to the 49er’s defence has robbed them of their pass rush this season after being one of the most imposing units last year, but they have been one of the better teams against the run. Averaging 4.0 yards per carry, that number drops to 3.65 yards when only running backs are taken into account. With top cornerback Richard Sherman back from a long-term injury, Allen will be asked to attack a defensive backfield that is starting to get back to full strength.

The Bills form coming into this tough round-trip is solid, with their only loss since week six coming on a last-second hail mary against Arizona. I can see Josh Allen having a big day both passing and with his feet, with the Bills running away with the win.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Buffalo -2.5

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

The Denver Broncos visit Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in Monday’s late game. The Chiefs have won their last six games and are chasing the Steelers for the number one seed in the AFC, sitting one game behind on 10-1. The Broncos slim playoff hopes took a hit with a heavy defeat last week and would just about need to win out to have a chance at the postseason.

The Bronco’s played last week’s game without a quarterback after a positive Covid test ruled out all four of the Denver QB’s, with college QB turned wide receiver Kendall Hilton getting the start. There was a reason Hilton converted to wide receiver before his last year of college, throwing two interceptions and only one completion (13 yards).

Without a passing threat the Broncos were unable to generate any flow on offence, going down to New Orleans 31-3. Drew Lock will be back to make the start this week, but he has been having some troubles of his own of late. Over the last seven games, Lock has thrown 11 interceptions with only six touchdowns at a completion rate of 54%, as well as three fumbles. His record against the Chiefs is equally as bad, completing 42 of 80 passes (52.5%) at 5.8 yards per completion with zero touchdowns and three interceptions.

While the Bronco defence isn’t the feared unit it once was (9th highest points against), some of the struggles can be attributed to the offence’s inability to stay on the field. Even after losing All-Pro rusher Von Miller for the year, the pass rush ranks seventh in total sacks (31), second in pressure percentage (26.8%) and third in hurry percentage (12.7%). The pass defence ranks third in yards per attempt (6.7) and completion (10.2) and fifth in touchdowns allowed. The time the defence spends on the field is their biggest issue, with the Bronco’s ranking fifth last in the league in time in possession. This is likely to still be an issue against a Chiefs offence that has been near unstoppable over the five games.

The Chiefs offence is rolling behind MVP favourite Patrick Mahomes, who is completing 73% of his passes and boasts a 17:1 touchdown to interception ratio in their six-game winning streak. With his 200+ yard and two touchdown first quarter last week, wide receiver Tyreek Hill has taken a league lead in receiving touchdowns (13) and sits second in receiving yards (1021).

Sitting third in receiving yards (978) is tight end Travis Kelce, over 400 yards clear of anyone else at the position. The Broncos project to be more vulnerable against the run, but Mahomes and the Chiefs tend to stick to their guns against any defense in the league.

The Chiefs have struggled against the run, allowing 4.7 yards per carry and 148.5 total yards to opposing running backs. Putting points on the board early should mitigate the struggles against the run, forcing Lock to pass more and possibly turn the ball over, an area they lead the league (turnovers on 20.2% of possessions).

Mahomes will be given more than enough opportunities to attack the Bronco defence, who won’t be equipped to handle the surging Chiefs offence. With turnovers giving the Chiefs additional possessions and favourable field position, the score in this one could blow out.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 50.5

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

In what should have been Thanksgiving’s marquee matchup, the Pittsburgh Steelers will finally host division rival Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. The Steelers will look to keep their unbeaten streak going against a severely depleted Ravens squad, who have seen 21 players be added to the Covid-19 reserve list since their Week 11 game.

The Ravens offence will have a different look come Thursday, with 10 players having hit the Covid list. Quarterback Lamar Jackson will be missing and is replaced by Robert Griffin III, but he will be behind an offensive line that will be missing four key players, although there are reports right tackle DJ Fluker should be reinstated prior to the game.

Running backs Mark Ingram and J.K Dobbins were among the first names added to the list, but with the game being delayed so much have now isolated the required 10 days and should be back in contention to play.

Griffin has only started one game during his three seasons in Baltimore, taking control of the offence in last year’s Round 17 matchup against the Steelers. The Ravens were able to win the dead rubber, but Griffin struggled to only 96 passing yards and an interception while being sacked three times.

The defence hasn’t fared much better and will be without a combined five players in the defensive line and linebacker groups, including sack leaders Calais Campbell and Matthew Judon. The Steelers boast one of the strongest offensive line groups in the league and would have been an imposing matchup for a full-strength Ravens pass rush, but should prove too strong against this depleted unit.

The Ravens run defence has allowed the ninth-fewest total yards but has been helped by an offence that often plays with the lead which can hide the fact they are allowing 4.6 yards per carry (eighth-highest in the league).

The Steelers come into this game sitting fourth for points per game, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger only being sacked twice in the last five games and throwing for the fifth-most touchdowns per game on the 14th-most passing attempts.

Without a strong Ravens pass rush, Big Ben could continue to see an increased workload that has jumped from 34.6 passing attempts in weeks 1-6 to 43.4 in weeks 7-11. Starting running back James Conner will miss after a Covid close contact, pointing further to a big passing day.

While the offence has been efficient, the defence has been the star of the Steelers unbeaten start to the season. It leads the league in sacks (38), QB pressure (34.3%) and hurry (14.5%) percentages, interceptions (15) and points allowed per game (17.4). Blitzing at the highest rate in the league, they will be up against a Ravens offensive line that is without its best players and likely to have players playing out of position, with a quarterback who hasn’t played a snap since week five.

The run defence has been vulnerable in the last four weeks, allowing 5.06 yards per carry, but is unlikely to be in a situation where it faces many rush attempts.

With what should have been one of the most anticipated primetime games of the year now looking very one-sided, we could be in for a dire affair. Pittsburgh will have the advantage in the trenches and should be able to overpower the undermanned Ravens on both sides of the ball. Without all their stars, the Ravens will struggle to score against the league’s best defense.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Total Points – Under 42.5

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

Tuesday’s game sees the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles have slipped to third in the NFC East after Week 12’s earlier games but remain in the playoff hunt, a win would put them back at the top of the division. Seattle entered the week with the same record as the Rams at the top of their division and will be looking to rediscover some of the form they had to start the season.

Seattle were back amongst the winners last week after losing three of their last four, taking down division rival Arizona 28-21. While not back to his best, Russell Wilson was efficient in his passing while letting the run game get on top. Wilson passed for 197 yards and two touchdowns at a completion rate of 82.14%, compared to 66.66% and seven interceptions in his last four games.

Seattle was able to rush for 165 yards and should have starting running back Chris Carson back from injury for the first time since week seven. They’ll be up against an Eagles rush defence that allows an 11th best 4.2 yards per carry, but has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, tied for third-worst.

Seattle’s defence has been a mixed bag this year. The run defence is allowing the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (91.2) and yards per carry (3.6), but this forces opposing offences to attack their biggest weakness. Allowing the most passing yards per game and in the top ten for the most yards per attempt, yards per completion and QB rating allowed, the Seattle defensive backfield is among the league’s worst.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled this year, ranking 30th or worse in completion percentage (58.4%), yards per attempt (6.2) and QB Rating (73.3). He also leads the league in interceptions (14), sacks taken (40) and fumbles (10). There have been rumours of first round draftee Jordan Love getting increased practice reps with the first team this week, hinting that a change may be on the horizon.

The Seahawks may just be the passing defence that can buy Wentz some more time in the starting position, but he will need some improved play from the offensive line. Losing starting right tackle Lane Johnson to an already injured hit group and up against an improving Seattle pass rush, Wentz will need to produce if he isn’t to finish the game on the bench.

The Eagles defence has been able to keep them competitive throughout the struggles on offence. One of the best pass rushes in the league, the Eagles rank second for sacks per game (3.4) and sixth for pressure percentage (25.2%) while blitzing at the eighth-lowest rate (24.1%). They have struggled against mobile quarterbacks, allowing the second-most rushing yards to quarterbacks, an area where Wilson has excelled this year (36.7 rushing yards per game).

Wilson’s mobility could prove the difference in this one, allowing him to escape the pass rush and attack the secondary. The second-highest scoring team on the year, I see Seattle getting out in front of Philly early and forcing Wentz to chase the game.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Total Points – Over 48.5

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

The NFL’s oldest rivalry takes centre stage in Monday’s primetime game, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. The Packers lead the division but come into this week after a disappointing loss against the Colts, while the Bears have lost their last four games but should come in fresh after the bye.

While Chicago’s struggles on offence have been well documented all year, the last four games have been particularly difficult for the Bears, averaging just 15.75 points and 283 yards per game. The Bears rank last in rushing yards per game and quarterback Nick Foles ranks last in third-down pass attempts that result in a first down. With a hip injury looking likely to sideline Foles, the offence could see an improvement with a move back to Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky led the Bears to two wins to start the year, throwing for five touchdowns over the two games. But Trubisky has been known for his erratic play over the first three years of his career, throwing 22 interceptions over the last two seasons.

The Bears defence remains strong, in the top ten for yards per carried allowed (4.0), total yards allowed (340.10), passing touchdowns allowed (12) and quarterback rating allowed (85.7). The defensive line has grown stronger as the season has progressed, but comes up against a stout Packers offensive line who allowed the third-fewest sacks (12). If they aren’t able to generate any pressure on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, the defensive backfield will have their hands full against one of the games best passers.

Rodgers and the Packers offence are nearing full strength again with the return of wide receiver Allen Lazard, who has been missing since week three. At full strength in those first three weeks, the Packers averaged over 40 points and 450 yards per game. After some injuries and a mini-slump in the middle of the season, the Packers are back averaging 29.67 points and 389 yards per game over the last three. Keeping Rodgers in a clean picket seems to be the key, with his completion rate dropping to 37.3% when under pressure.

While not a daunting defence by any stretch of the imagination, the Packers sit in the middle of the pack for most defensive stats. The pass rush is not amongst the league leaders, but does come up against the week offensive line of the Bears and should hold the advantage. Linebacker Za’Darius Smith has had particular success attacking opposing guards, a position in which the pairs have one of the weakest tandems in the league.

The Packers offence is starting to get back into the flow that was seen at the start of the year and will be in a position to put some pressure on the Bears. If able to put some points on the board early, the Bears will be forced to let Mitch Trubisky air the balk out which could result in scoring or turnovers, but either should result in points on the board.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Total Points – Over 43.5

Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys

Thanksgiving day football gives us an NFC East matchup between Washington and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas saw the return of quarterback Andy Dalton in their win against Minnesota in week 11, while Washington also comes into this game with a win, taking down the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams have a record of 3-7 and remain in the playoff picture, just a half-game behind the Philadelphia Eagles.

Washington has struggled on offence for most of the year, moving to their third starting quarterback with Alex Smith. Coming back from a gruesome leg injury and not being surrounded by many weapons in the skill positions, Smith will be relied upon to manage the game and not turn the ball over. He will be up against a Dallas defence that leads the league in passing touchdowns allowed and is in the top five for yards per completion and QB rating allowed. Having not thrown multiple touchdowns in a game thus far this year, this could be the game Smith breaks out for multiple scores.

The Washington pass rush has been its main weapon this year, ranking fourth for total sacks (32) and in the top seven for pressure percentage (25.2% and QB hit rate (17.9%). In the week seven matchup between the two teams, Washington was able to sack Dalton three times and hit him twice in just over a half of football, before being replaced by Ben DiNucci who was also sacked three times. Dallas has since shuffled their offensive line, but Washington should still have a clear advantage in this part of the field.

The Dallas offence showed signs of life with the return of Andy Dalton last week. Favouring a short-passing approach (6.3 yards per attempt), Dalton was able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers who were able to hurt the Vikings to the tune of 203 yards and three touchdowns. The improved passing also coinciding with a season-high in rushing yards for Ezekiel Elliot, who was able to rush for 103 yards and picked up a receiving touchdown. Whilst up against a far superior defence this week, the signs were good for one of the most talented offensive groups in the league.

The struggles on the defensive side of the ball continued for the Cowboys last week despite the win, giving up 28 points to the Vikings which included three passing touchdowns. Along with their struggles with the passing game, Dallas are allowing a league-high 31.8 points per game and a third-worst 4.9 rushing yards per carry. Washington running back Antonio Gibson had a season-best 128 yards rushing and a touchdown in the week seven matchup, with his backups adding another 69 yards.

Washington’s big win against the Cowboys earlier in the year should see them enter this game with confidence, even with the return of Andy Dalton. Dalton’s struggles against that stout Washington defensive front should continue, leading them to a hard-fought victory against one of their rivals.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Washington +2.5

LA Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tuesday’s game sees a matchup between two NFC playoff contenders, with the LA Rams visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A win for the Rams will take them back to the top of the NFC West, while the Bucs will be looking to keep pace with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

The Rams got the win over Seattle last week, but the offence has struggled in recent weeks. Quarterback Jared Goff’s completion rate has dropped to 62.5% over the last four games, down from 71.7% in the first five. Missing veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth, Goff will be up against an explosive Bucs pass rush that ranks second in sacks (32) and fourth in QB hits (73). Goff’s passer rating drops from 113.5 when in a clean pocket to 36.8 when under pressure, which doesn’t bode well against a Bucs defence that blitz’s on 40.1% of plays, second-highest rate in the league.

The Ram’s defensive strength is in it’s backfield, allowing a league-low in yards per attempt (6.4), touchdown passes (9) and 20+ yard completions (19). Some of this success can be attributed to the Aaron Donald led pass rush, which sits third in total sacks (31) while blitzing at the 12th lowest rate (28.4%). Coming up against one of the strongest offensive lines in the league, generating pressure without calling on help from the pass coverage will be key for the Rams.

The Bucs remain one of the most efficient offences, scoring the sixth-most points (29.6 per game) while running only the 12th most plays. One of the most potent passing attacks in the league led by Tom Brady, who is fourth in yards, fourth in touchdowns and first in passing attempts. But the Bucs have struggled in all their primetime games this year, with their points per game dropping from 35.6 to 15.7 points per game, not covering the spread in any of the three games.

The Tampa Bay defence has been among the league’s best in stopping the run this year, averaging a league-best 3.3 yards per carry allowed. The Rams will need their three-man running back committee to have some success to take some attention off Goff and allow him time in the pocket. If not the Buc pass rush will be able to lock into the QB and continue to blitz at a high rate.

With two strong defences against two quarterbacks susceptible to pressure, the game could come down to who’s offensive line holds up best. But with the defence’s key, I see this coming under the points total line.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 48.5

Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders

Monday’s late game is another primetime divisional matchup, with the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs taking on the second place Las Vegas Raiders. The Chiefs’ only loss of the season came against the Raiders in week five, winning the four games since. The Raiders come in on a winning streak of their own, winning the last three and a win would put them only one game behind the Chiefs with the tiebreaker.

The Chiefs enter this game as Superbowl favourites and quarterback Patrick Mahomes has taken MVP favouritism. With the second-highest scoring offence in the league, Mahomes enters the game throwing less than one touchdown in only one game and boasts a 25:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

The only team averaging over 30 points both home and away, the Chiefs score of 54.1% of their offensive drives (only the Raiders score at a higher rate) and average 4.8 plays over 20 yards per game. With 788 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two games, Mahomes looks to be back in top form and leading a talented offence that is unlikely to be stopped.

The Chief defence gave up their biggest point total for the year in their last game before the bye, beating the Caroline Panthers 33-31. Struggling against backs and allowing 4.8 yards per carry on the year, they come up against second-year running back Josh Jacobs who has cleared 100 rushing yards in two of his last three games. He has also scored three touchdowns in the last two weeks and scored twice in this matchup in week five.

The Chiefs pass defence has been strong all year, in the top five for passing touchdowns allowed, yards per attempt and quarterback rating allowed. Putting points on the board early and forcing the Raiders away from the running game will be key for the Chiefs.

The Raiders come into this game with three wins on the bounce, inspired by some big rushing games by the backfield. With more rushing than passing yards (572 to 314) and touchdowns (6 to 3), quarterback Derek Carr has seen his pass attempts drop below 25 for each of these games, after being over 30 for the first six games.

The Raiders offensive line was able to keep Carr protected against a potent Chiefs pass rush in their matchup earlier in the year, which led to Carr’s best passing game for the year. The pass rush will need to be contained if the Raiders have any chance of repeating the victory.

The Raiders defence has struggled to contain Mahomes since he entered the league, allowing an average of 306 yards, 3.8 touchdowns and 19.6 rushing yards over the five matches. Tight end Travis Kelce has been the main beneficiary, averaging 107 yards and scoring four touchdowns in that same span. With the Raiders pass rush struggling, ranking 29th in sack rate (3.2%) and 30th in QB hit rate (11.8%), Mahomes should find the space he needs to open up the defensive backfield.

The Chiefs have looked near unstoppable on offence since that week five loss to the Raiders. Las Vegas comes in on some good form, but hasn’t faced an offence with anywhere near the firepower of Kansas City in the last three weeks. Mahomes should be too strong again, taking control of the division with a big win.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Kansas City -8

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Week 11 begins with a divisional matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. Arizona has won four of its last five and now sits atop the NFC West with a record of 6-2. The Seahawks have dropped their last three of their last four games after going undefeated in their first five and now sit in a three-way tie for first with the Cardinals and the LA Rams.

The Cardinals won a thriller against the Bills off the back of a last second hail mary from Kyler Murray to Deandre Hopkins in week 10. The late touchdown took their point total over 30 for the fifth week running, averaging 33.6 points per game in that span.

Quarterback Kyler Murray has led the hot streak, accounting for 16 touchdowns over the five week span (ten passing, six rushing) and averaging just under 68 rushing yards per game. With running back Kenyan Drake returning from injury last week, the Cardinals offence should head into this game with a relatively clean bill of health against a Seattle defence that has struggled to stop anyone this year.

The Cardinals defence sits seventh in points allowed on the year (23.3 per game), but has allowed 30+ in each of their last three games. They also allow the fourth most plays per game by their opponent, with their own pace of play on offence driving that statistic. The Cardinals do like to blitz at one of the highest rates in the league and had success in this year’s earlier matchup, recording two sacks and nine QB hits.

Seattle has cooled off after their white hot start to the year, with quarterback Russell Wilson coming back to earth with only 248 passing yards and two interceptions in last weeks loss to the LA Rams. After starting the season with a touchdown to interception ratio of 26:6, Wilson’s last two games has resulting in two touchdowns to four interceptions, both losses. With the struggles on defence, nothing short of MVP level play from Wilson looks to be enough to get the Seahawks the win.

As mentioned above, the Seahawks defence has really struggled this year. Giving up the most passing/total yards and fifth most points, there isn’t much to like about this defensive unit. The two teams faced off in week seven, where Kyler threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 67 yards and a touchdown on the ground, all while not being sacked or hit once.

In what could be the game of the week, it looks like we will have another shootout between the division rivals. Cardinals has had success in Seattle recently, winning four of the last five games there, including last year’s matchup. This coupled with the change of fortunes in the two teams since the week seven win for Arizona, makes the value for the Cardinals hard to pass up.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Arizona to Win

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

This week’s late game sees the Minnesota Vikings visiting the Chicago Bears. The Bears sit second in the division and a win would put them just one game behind the Packers and in the hunt for the playoffs. The Vikings have won their last two games, both against divisional opponents, after losing five of their first six games and sit at the bottom of the division.

The Vikings form has turned around off the back of two huge performances by running back Dalvin Cook, totalling 458 yards and six touchdowns in the last two weeks since returning from injury. This has lead to efficient passing games by quarterback Kirk Cousins, with his quarterback rating over 135 in both the wins. He will come up against one of the leagues best defensive backfields, one he has struggled against in the past, with the Vikings only scoring point totals of  6, 10 and 20 since Cousins took the quarterback job in Minnesota.

The Viking run defence has seen some improvement in the last month, allowing only 3.86 yards per carry and no touchdowns since week six. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Chicago usually attacks through the air. 89% of offensive touchdowns scored by the Bears have come via passing, whereas 79% of offensive touchdowns scored against Minnesota have come via passing, both the highest rates in the league.

The Bears struggles on offence continue, losing three straight games while scoring a total of 50 points. Quarterback Nick Foles had his best passing game stat-wise, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns, but was forced into a season-high 52 passing attempts. The Bears may also be missing running back David Montgomery who is still in the concussion protocol, meaning we could see another big passing day from Foles.

The Bears defence remains strong all over the field, in the top ten for rushing yards allowed per attempt and rushing touchdowns allowed, the top five for passing yards allowed per attempt, passing touchdown allowed and quarterback rating allowed. Having been able to slow down Dalvin Cook in their past meetings (140 yards over three games), the Bears will be looking to recreate that success against the arguably the league most in-form player.

The Vikings have gone over their total points line seven out of nine times this year, only missing out against a stout Colts defence and against the Seahawks in a game where Seattle went into half time scoreless. With the Vikings offence in form and a defence that allows a lot of points, I can see this one hitting the overs line too.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 43.5

Baltimore Ravens at New England

Monday’s late game sees the Baltimore Ravens visiting the New England Patriots. The Ravens were able to come from behind to take down the Colts in week nine and are still in the running to take the division with a record of 6-2. The Patriots left it late in beating the Jets last week, a 51 yard field goal as time expired gave them their first win since week three.

Baltimore has struggled to recreate the offence that took the league by storm last year, averaging 60 fewer yards and five points less than last year. The yards per play on first down has slipped to 3.9 (5.1 in 2019), leaving last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson in more passing situations after he dominated the league on the ground 2019.

46.5% of Jackson’s pass attempts have come on non-first downs needing seven or more yards, which is the highest rate in the league. The return of veteran running back Mark Ingram from injury may help the running efficiency on first downs, helping the offence get back on track.

The Baltimore pass defence has been strong this year and should see the return of top cornerback Marlon Humphrey from the Covid list. The Ravens are in the top five for yards per attempt and completion allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, quarterback rating allowed and have the league’s lowest TD percentage against. They look likely to be without defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback Jimmy Smith, but this is a defence that allows a league low 17.8 points per game up against a low scoring Patriots offence.

The Patriots were able to sneak over the winless Jets last week after heading into the 4th quarter down by 10 points. Cam Newton passed for over 200 yards for the first time since week two, throwing for 274 yards while trailing most of the day. Rookie Damien Harris led the backfield in rushing again for the Patriots and comes up against a Ravens team that allows 4.5 yards per carry, but have seen the fewest run attempts against. The Patriots will need to ensure they remain in the game early and aren’t forced to move away from their run-first offensive scheme.

Arguably last year’s best defence, this year’s Patriots defence has struggled as the season as worn on. The run defence is in particular danger here, giving up 522 yards and five touchdowns in the three games prior to the Jets games last week. Up against one of the strongest rushing teams in the league, the Patriots will need to stop the run early if they are to stay in the game.

While still holding a record of 6-2, the Ravens haven’t quite looked the team that surprised the league last year. A win over the Jets in the final seconds has done little to hide the Patriots struggle, this matchup might just be what Baltimore needs to get their offence back on track.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Ravens -6.5

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans

Week ten’s first game brings a divisional matchup between the two leaders of the AFC East, the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans. With a second game between the teams in week 12 and only one win separating the two, the division could be decided by the end of the month.

The Colts started strong against Baltimore last week, leading at half time before going scoreless in the second and losing convincingly. A matchup with a Titans defence who allowed an average of 31 points in weeks 6-8 before coming up against a dysfunctional Chicago offence, might be what the Colts offence needs to get back on track. The move to veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers hasn’t gone completely to plan, with Rivers only throwing more than one touchdown in two games this year and ranking in the bottom half of qualified passers in touchdown percentage, yards per attempt and completion, quarterback rating and interception percentage. The offensive line should have an advantage over the Titans pass rush, allowing a sack on only 2.5% of Phillip Rivers passing attempts against a Titans defence that ranks in the bottom five in sacks, pressure percentage and hurry percentage.

The Colts defence has been one of the league’s best, allowing the third-lowest points per game (20) and the least yards per game (290). The defensive line ranks in the top ten in most pass-rushing metrics while blitzing at the fourth lowest rate in the league (19.7%). The run defence leads the league in yards per attempt (3.3 yards) and has only allowed six rushing touchdowns on the year. The pass defence leads the league in interceptions and quarterback rating allowed, ranks second in touchdowns allowed, and ranks third in passing yards allowed. There isn’t a glaring weakness to this Colt defence.

The Titans offence revolves around superstar running back Derrick Henry, who leads the league in rushing attempts and is second in total rushing yards and touchdowns. Henry’s success has opened the play-action game for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who sits in the top five in the league for total touchdowns (19) and touchdown percentage (7.5%) while only throwing three interceptions. Coming up against one of the strongest defence could disrupt their whole offence, but Henry has had success against the colts in recent seasons, averaging 122 total yards at 5.68 yards per carry over the last three meetings between the two.

As mentioned above, the Titans defence has had some issues in 2020. The pass rush has been the main issue, with big money offseason recruits Jadeveon Clowney (zero sacks) and Vic Beasley (now cut) failing to help the struggling unit. Up against a Colts front line that has been amongst the league’s best over the last few years, these issues should continue for at least another week.

This game could come down to Derrick Henry vs the Colts run defence, and I’m backing the defence to get the upper hand in this one in a close one.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Colts to win – Margin 1-13

New England Patriots at New York Jets

The last game of week nine brings us a divisional match up between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The Patriots have lost their last four games and slipped to third in the division, while the Jets remain winless on the year with the league’s worst record.

The Patriots have struggled on offence during their four-game losing streak, averaging only 12.25 points per game and giving up 12 turnovers in that stretch.

Quarterback Cam Newton, in particular, has struggled during that period, throwing no touchdowns with five interceptions and a fumble lost in the last three weeks. Not known for his passing, Newton looks to still be missing his main passing weapons with receivers Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry both set to miss again this week.

Likely to stay run-heavy on offence again this week, running back Damien Harris looks set for another game after rushing for over 100 yards and a touchdown in his last outing. The Jets rush defence has held up well this season, allowing a respectable 4.1 yards per carry despite seeing the fifth-most rushing attempts per game.

The Patriot pass defence has remained strong again this year, holding one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios at 9:9. The run defence could be seen as the weakness of this unit, but the Jets don’t have a running back that could really exploit, mixing in equal parts of 37-year-old veteran Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine. The Patriots should have the upper hand all over the field against the league’s worst offence.

The Jets rank last in yards (259) and points per game (11.8), score the lowest percentage (28.3%) of the total scores in their games and have scored the fewest offensive touchdowns in the league. With a bye in week 10 next on the schedule, the Jets may opt to rest quarterback Sam Darnold and his injured throwing shoulder for this week, going back to backup Joe Flacco.

Flacco made two starts earlier in the season, but struggled to perform any better than Darnold. Whoever gets the start will struggle against the Patriot pass defense.

The Jets defence is far more vulnerable through the air, in the bottom ten in the league for yards per attempt (8.2), touchdowns allowed (16) and quarterback rating allowed (104.5). The pass rush hasn’t fared much better, last in the league for pressure percentage (16.8%) and fifth-lowest sacks per game (1.38 per game). The Patriot offensive line has been solid all year and should have an advantage of the Jets defensive front.

The Jets may just be what the Patriots need to get their season back on track. New York look like a defeated team, covering the line once all year and averaging just over 9 points a game over the last 4 games. The Patriots should win this one comfortably, in what should be a fairly ugly affair.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Patriots -9.5

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Monday’s late game sees the New Orleans Saints visiting division rivals Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are one win ahead of the Saints at the top of the division, but a Saints win would flip that and give them the crucial head to head tiebreaker.

With Tom Brady overtaking Dree Brees for the all-time lead in touchdown passes in the last few weeks, how two of the all-time greats perform against each other in primetime will provide an interesting subplot in the game.

The Saints are set to get star Wide receiver Michael Thomas back for only his second game of the year, missing through a combination of injury and team discipline since week one. Lining up opposite Thomas should be Emmanuel Sanders after missing last week two weeks with a positive Covid test, giving Quarterback Drew Brees all his offensive weapons for the first time since early in week one.

Leading the league in total all-purpose yards, running back Alvin Kamara comes up against a Buc defence that allows the fewest yards per carry (3.2) and rushing yards per game (70.38). The Bucs have allowed the third-most receptions to running backs, a stat Kamara leads the league by a considerable distance.

The Saints pass defence has struggled this year, allowing the most passing touchdowns per game (2.71) and fourth-highest quarterback rating (108.4). They also allow the highest conversion rate in the redzone, with opponents converting for touchdowns on 83.3% of their redzone trips.

The Bucs rank third in the league in converting their redzone trips to touchdowns at 77.42%, with this raising to 83.3% when at home. The Saints pass rush has been middle of the road this year and will come up against a Bucs offensive line that has remained healthy all year, performing at an elite level and allowing the second-fewest sacks per game (1.25).

Tom Brady and the Bucs should get back a couple of offensive weapons of their own, with receivers Chris Godwin (injury) and Antonio Brown (recently signed) set to play this week. Against a weak pass defense and with all his weapons back, Brady should look to attack through the air more often than not.

Their rushing is in the lower half of the league in most categories and comes up against a Saints run defence that is allows the third-fewest yards per carry (3.6) and the second-fewest touchdowns (5).

The Brady/Gronkowski connection looks to be back in the last few weeks, averaging 58 yards per game and 3 total touchdowns over the last 4 games after being held scoreless and averaging 22 yards per game in the first four games.

Along with being arguably the best run defence in the league, the Bucs pass rush is among the leagues best. They sit second in total sacks (28) and pressure percentage (38.7%), but come up against arguably the best offensive line in the league. In what could be the key matchup for the game, if the Saints O-line can hold off the Bucs pass rush and give Brees time in the pocket, we could get a shootout between two future hall of fame quarterbacks.

The Saints won the first matchup between these two earlier in the year, with Brady throwing a pick-six in the 34-23 loss. But the Bucs offence has come a long way since that game, averaging 32 points per contest since. The Saints aren’t too far behind on offence, but lack the difference-making defence the Bucs have and may struggle to contain Brady in this one.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Tampa Bay -4.5

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Week nine’s early game is a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, with the San Francisco 49er’s hosting the Green Bay Packers. The 49er’s were hit hard with injuries again in last week’s big loss to Seattle and now look a long shot to make playoffs. The Packers go into this game after a disappointing loss to division rival Minnesota Vikings, but still lead the division with a record of 5-2.

The Packers have a shortage of running backs this week, with starter Aaron Jones still struggling with injury and his two backups both now ruled out after a positive Covid test. If Jones were to miss, 2019 sixth-round pick Dexter Williams and journeyman Tyler Ervin would be the next two men up, with the later almost playing exclusively as a wide receiver this year. Luckily for the Packers QB Aaron Rodgers continues at an MVP level, throwing a TD on 8% of his pass attempts and having a touchdown to interception ratio of 20:2 on the year.

The Packers defence has been particularly vulnerable against the run this year, allowing 4.7 yards per attempt and 14 total touchdowns to opposing running backs. In the two meetings between the teams last year, the 49er’s for a combined 354 yards and six touchdowns at a rate of 6.44 yards per carry in two convincing wins, a tactic the 49er’s are likely to go back to considering their injury issues.

The 49er’s enter this game set to be missing every offensive skill player that touched the ball in the playoff win against the Packers last year after the injuries to QB Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle last week. A positive Covid test to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne looks like it will rule out offseason additions offensive tackle Trent Williams and first round rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk as close contacts, leaving the already thin offence for the 49er’s stretched even further. Already one of the more run focused teams, a backup quarterback and a host of pass-catching options missing should see the 49er’s run the ball early and often.

The depleted 49er’s pass rush has struggled to get to the QB the way they did last year, ranking in the bottom half for sack rate (5.1%), total sacks (14) and QB hit rate (13.9%). With Aaron Rodgers passing for 19 of his 20 touchdowns from a clean pocket, the 49er’s defensive backfield could be up for a long day against a Packers team that will want to pass the ball as much as they can,

Teams traveling to the west for Thursday night games have historically struggled to cover the line, but the injuries for the 49er’s look to be too much to overcome against a Packers team looking to cement their position atop of their division.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Green Bay -6.5

Tampa Bay at New York Giants

Tuesday’s game sees the New York Giants hosting Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A win for Tampa Bay will take them back to the top of the division, while the Giants are coming off a close loss to the Eagles last week.

The Bucs enter this one off the back off convincing wins over Green Bay and Las Vegas and sits third in points scored per game at 31.7. The offence has been efficient, especially in the red zone, converting 29.3% of their red zone plays into touchdowns.

Brady has settled in nicely behind a strong offensive line, only allowing a sack on a league-best 2.9% of dropbacks, and comes up against one of the weakest pass rushes in football. Brady may still be without wide receivers Chris Godwin (injury) and Antonio Brown (not yet available after signing), but has had improved showings from Scotty Miller and Rob Gronkowski over the last few weeks.

The Bucs pass rush remains one of the strongest in the league, sitting second in total sacks and ranking in the top 5 in QB hits and pressure percentage. They come up against a Giants offensive line who allow pressure on their quarterback at a league high rate of 44%. They also allow a league low 66 rushing yards per game at a league low rate of 3.0 yards per carry.

The Giants struggles on offence has persisted all year, cracking 30 points only once against a poor Dallas defence and averaging 17.4 points per game, second lowest in the league. With backup running back Devonta Freeman looking unlikely with an ankle injury, they will be down to third string Wayne Galman up against the leagues best-run defence. With Quarterback Daniel Jones throwing for less than 200 yards in four out of the last five games, this looks like an offence that is outmatched all over the field.

The Giants defence has held up relatively well considering the struggles on offence, especially impressive with their run defence, sitting in the top five in yards per carry. The pass rush has improved in recent weeks, but have has lost Markus Golden in a trade to Arizona. But they come up against one of the strongest offensive lines and a quarterback that thrives when leading, Brady has only thrown one interception for the year when leading. The Giants defensive line will need to attack early if they are to have any chance.

The Bucs look too strong all over the field in this one, and while the line is large, they have put up 30 plus points in all but two games. Removing the Dallas game from the Giants schedule drops their points per game down to 14.66, and this looks a likely score for New York against one of the strongest defences.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Bucs -12.5

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Monday’s late game is another primetime divisional matchup between NFC East rivals, with the Dallas Cowboys visiting Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. The Eagles have taken the lead in the division after last week’s close win over the Giants, while the Cowboys freefall continued with a thrashing from the Washington Football Team.

The Cowboys struggles continued against Washington last week, scoring a total of three points for the game and losing quarterback Andy Dalton to a concussion after a dirty hit by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic. With Dalton unlikely to recover in time, seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci is likely to make the start.

In his six dropbacks last week, DiNucci completed two of his three passes but was sacked on the three occasions. Pass protection should be an issue for the rookie again in this game, the Dallas offensive line has been dominated in recent weeks.

They should have starting right guard Zack Martin back from injury but are up against an Eagles defensive front that ranks third in sack rate (9.2%), total sacks (24) and QB hit rate (22.9%) while blitzing at the sixth-lowest rate in the league (21.9%).

The Dallas defence has been among the leagues worst, last in points allowed at 34.7 and giving up a 15:1 touchdown to interception ratio to opposing quarterbacks. It’s not just through the air where opponents have been feasting, allowing 5.77 yards per carry and six touchdowns over the last five weeks.

The pass rush did show some signs of life last week, pressuring the opposing quarterback on 28.6% of their dropbacks and recording two sacks. The Eagles offensive line has been vulnerable this year, allowing a league-high 28 sacks, so this may be an area the Dallas defence can attack.

Quarterback Carson Wentz has continued to keep the Eagles in games despite a slew of injuries on the offensive side of the ball, highlighted by a comeback win against the Giants last week. Philly should get star right tackle Lane Johnson back from injury, as well as first-round draftee Jalen Reagor for his first game in the NFL, against a defense that can be attacked all over the field.

Lead running back Miles Sanders will still sit out with his knee ailment, but backup Boston Scott has performed well in the lead role in his two games as a starter, averaging over 100 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

The Eagles defensive backfield has been vulnerable this year, ranking in the bottom 10 in completion rate, touchdowns and quarterback rating allowed. But with the pass rush having a distinct advantage over the opposing offensive line and being against a third-string rookie quarterback in their first start, the Eagles should be able to protect their backfield with pressure on the quarterback.

The Eagles look like a clear favourite in this one, with the line widening since the markets opened. While Eagles have had their own offensive struggles, but should have a big advantage on the defensive side of the ball against a Dallas offense who has scored a total of 13 points over the last two games since Dak Prescotts injury. It’s hard to see Dallas improving on those scoring numbers with their rookie quarterback.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 42.5

Atlanta at Carolina

Week 8 kicks off with a divisional matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers. A win for the 3-4 Panthers would theoretically keep them in playoff contention, while the Falcons playoff hopes are all but gone after another heartbreaking loss in week 7.

It’s not often scoring a touchdown costs you a game, but Todd Gurley stumbling unopposed into the endzone when trying to kill the clock gave the Lions one last chance to win the game. The way Atlanta’ season has unfolded, it was no surprise the Lions went the length of the field and scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock, kicking the extra point for the win.

Atlanta has led for 46.7% of their offensive snaps and by double digits for 25.8%, both top ten in the league, a crazy amount for a team that has only won one game.

The offence has been much more potent in games with wide receiver Julio Jones in the lineup, with QB Matt Ryan averaging 358 yards per game with an 11-1 touchdown to interception ratio as opposed to 249.6 yards and 1-2 ratio without him. With Jones back, the offence looks set to fire again against a Panthers defensive backfield who were picked apart by Drew Brees last week.

The Atlanta defence has improved after firing head coach Dan Quinn and moving on to Raheem Morris. After averaging 32.2 points allowed the first two weeks, opponents have scored only 23 points in both games.

Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was able to put up big numbers in their clash earlier in the season, throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns and only being pressured on 15.8% of his pass attempts. The Atlanta pass rush ranks in the bottom half of the league in most metrics while blitzing at the 11th highest rate, numbers that bode well for opposing passers.

The Panthers have now lost two straight after their winning their previous three, hoping to get back into winning ways against the bottom of the division Falcons. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really struggled against some of the elite defences this season (Tampa Bay, Chicago), but has been more than capable against some of the lesser defences he has faced, a category Atlanta would fall into.

Atlanta has allowed over 300 passing yards in every game this year and rank last in yards per attempt (8.8) and touchdowns passes allowed (19). Bridgewater may also get back superstar running back Christian McCaffrey back from an ankle injury, but it is looking unlikely off the back of the short week.

The Carolina pass defence has been better than expected this year, allowing a league-low 6.3 yards per attempt and 9.2 yards per completion and only 9 passing touchdowns all year. This all while having the least amount of sacks and pressure percentage (17%) in the league.

They have however been dominated in the run game, allowing a fifth-worst 4.9 cards per carry and ten rushing touchdowns on the year, as well as a league-high 56 receptions to opposing running backs. Atlanta running back Todd Gurley touches have increased over the last couple of weeks and he could be in line for a big game against one of the worst run defences in the league.

The Falcons have been in winning positions in most of their games this season, finding ways to lose time after time. With the improvement since the coaching change, I can see the Falcons getting back to winning ways this week.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Atlanta to Win

Chicago at LA

Tuesday’s game sees the LA Rams hosting the Chicago Bears. The Bears come into the game with a record of 5-1, largely off the back of their stout defence. The Rams sit on 4-2 in the highly competitive NFC west, losing to division rival 49er’s, who they join on four wins.

The Bears have looked less than convincing for a 5-1 team, scoring at the sixth-lowest rate in the league. The offence has seen an uptick in efficiency since moving to quarterback Nick Foles, with receiver Allen Robinson the main beneficiary of the change.

Averaging 53 receiving yards in the games with Mitch Trubisky, that number has risen to 91 yards per game in the games Foles has been involved in, as well as both his TD’s on the year. The Rams defence has been stronger in the air, so establishing the running game with David Montgomery will be key early.

The Chicago defensive backfield has been one of the best this year, allowing the third-fewest yards per pass attempt at 6.6 and has a TD:INT ratio of 4:5. The Chicago pass rush that has been so strong the last couple of years has dropped off this year, sitting just outside the top ten for sacks in the league but dropping to middle of the league in most other pass-rushing metrics. Jared Goff is a quarterback who has struggled when under pressure this year, so an attack from star linebacker Khalil Mack looks likely.

The Rams come into this game off the back of disappointing primetime game against the 49er’s where they were only able to score 16 points against the injury-riddled SF defence. Goff struggled to connect with of his wide receivers until late in the game and may look to turn to the running early in the game to avoid the elite Bears defensive backfield. The Rams were able to rush the ball efficiently last week (5.9 yards per carry), but fell behind early and were forced to pass more in catch up mode.

The Rams defence has also been one of the best against the pass, allowing only 6.5 yards per attempt and the fourth-fewest yards per game. They come up against a Bears passing attack that ranks in the bottom ten in passing yards per game and second-last in yards per attempt.

The Bears are also heavily reliant on Allen Robinson, who may be in lined to be shadowed by all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams pass rush struggled last week against a 49ers offence that schemed to get the ball out of the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo quickly, but still remains one of the most dangerous units in the NFL.

A matchup between arguably the two best passing defences, with two quarterbacks who have struggled to pass the ball efficiently in recent games, has this looking like a close game. Scoring should be at a premium in this one, with the under the value bet.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 44.5

Seattle at Arizona

The last Monday game sees another division matchup, with the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks visiting the Arizona Cardinals. The unbeaten Seahawks are coming off their bye week, their last game being a come from behind victory against the Vikings in week five off the back of a last-minute touchdown pass from the red hot Russell Wilson. The Cardinals trail the Seahawks in the division and look to secure a win that will keep them in contention. They should be confident after a dominant win over Dallas last week, leading throughout in a 38-10 win.

The Seattle offence has started the season in top form, leading the league in points per game and red zone conversion rate. Led by MVP favourite Russell Wilson, who leads the league in touchdown passes and quarterback rating and shown no signs of slowing down prior to the bye. The passing attack revolves around wide receivers D.K Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, with Metcalf, in particular, impressing in his second year. Metcalf currently sits second in receiving yards per game and leads the league in yards per reception but may struggle against an Arizona defence that allows a league-low 21.9% completion rate on throws over 15 yards downfield. Running back Chris Carson is also on track for a career year for targets, receptions and receiving yards, highlighting Seattle’s change to a pass focused attack.

The Seattle defence has struggled to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking in the bottom half of the league in sacks, pressure and hurry percentages, and 28th in sack rate. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was thrived in a clean pocket this year and should be able to attack a Seattle defence that is 27th in yards per attempt allowed at 7.9 and 22nd in completion percentage allowed at 66.9%, both above his season averages.

The Cardinals were able to put up 38 points in last week’s win against Dallas with Murray only completing nine passes, completely dominating on the ground. The Cardinals rushed for 261 yards, with running back Kenyan Drake accounting for 164 of those. Murray was able to rush for 74 of his own, an area where he leads all QB’s and ranks 13th in total rushing yards in the league. The Seahawk defence has been strong against the run all year, limiting opposing backs to 3.74 yards per carry and only three touchdowns on the year, instead challenging teams to attack them through the air. Seattle’s ability to stop the top-5 Cardinals rush attack will be key in this matchup.

The Arizona rank in the middle of the pack for most pass defence metrics, but have faced a less than an illustrious list of quarterbacks to start the season. Facing Wilson should be different, and they will need the pass rush to keep performing in the absence of linebacker Chandler Jones. The Cardinals rank seventh in sacks for the year, but difference-maker Jones will likely miss the remainder of the season with a torn bicep.

With both teams more susceptible in the air, we could be treated to a primetime shootout. The Seahawks pass defence is one the leagues worse and could play Murray into some form after a slow passing day last week. And at this point, it’s hard to bet against Wilson keeping pace with any team he faces.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 54.5 Total Points

NY Giants at Philadelphia

Friday’s game sees a matchup between divisional rivals, with the New York Giants visiting the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants picked up their first win of the season last week against the Washington Football Team in a close one, with a failed two point conversion giving the Giants the victory.

The Eagles continue to battle with injuries, losing a close game to Baltimore in week six. Both teams only have one win each, but remain in contention to take the division. The winner will join the Cowboys on two wins and in the lead of the NFC East.

The Giants offensive struggles have persisted all year, scoring over 20 points only once all season and averaging the least yards per game in the league. After losing running back Saquon Barkley to an ACL in week one, along with a number of other injuries to pass catchers, the Giants have been desperately short of playmakers on offence.

Quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled against some strong defences early in the season, ranking 25th or lower in the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt and completions, quarterback rating and just about every other metric available. The offensive line has to shoulder some of the blame, having allowed the eighth-most sacks in the league and regularly collapsing and pushing Jones out of the pocket.

The Giants defence has fared slightly better, ranking in the top 10 in sacks and allowing only 3.7 rushing yards per carry whilst facing the ninth most attempts. They will be up against an Eagles offensive line that has been struggling with injuries and has forced Eagles QB Carson Wentz to increase his rushing output, with his rushing stats for the year only behind noted running QB’s Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Kyler Murray.

The Eagles will be without its two most talented offensive playmakers, with running back Miles Sanders and tight end Zach Ertz both out this week. They have been dealing with a number of injuries on offence this year, which has given an opportunity to little known receivers Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward.

Fulgham, in particular, has stepped up over the last three weeks, with three touchdowns and the fourth-most yards in the league in that period. Wentz may need to get creative with the players at his disposal, with receiving focused running back Boston Scott an interesting matchup against a Giants defence that has been hurt by receptions out of the backfield.

The Eagles defensive line has performed well this year and could be the key to this game. They rank fourth in the league with 21 sacks with a blitz percentage of only 20.3%, all three teams with more sacks blitz at rates in excess of 40%.

Star lineman Fletcher Cox remains the biggest threat, but veteran Brandon Graham has chipped in with 5 sacks already this season. The Eagles defensive backfield has been middle of the pack this season, but the pressure the front line should be able to produce against the weak Giants O-line should give them the edge.

While it hasn’t been pretty, Carson Wentz and the Eagles have been able to remain competitive against quality opposition over the last few weeks. The edge on the defensive line should be enough for the Eagles to win this one and cover the line.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Eagles  -4.5

Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys

The last game of the week sees the Arizona Cardinals visit the Dallas Cowboys. The Cardinals come into the week after a win against the Jets but trail the Rams and Seahawks in the division with a record of 3-2. The Cowboys had another come from behind win in week five but lost quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury.

The Cardinals started the season strong with two wins but fell to disappointing losses to Detroit and Carolina in weeks 3-4 before their win last week against the hapless Jets. The Cardinals used that win against the Jets to get their offence back on track, with quarterback Kyler Murray posting season highs in completions, passing yards and yards per attempts.

Wide receiver Deandre Hopkins is currently leading the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards and comes up against a Dallas defence who has given up big games to opposing number one receivers. The Cardinals rushing attack has been effective to start the year, ranking in the top ten for both rushing yards per game and yards per attempt. The Cowboys have allowed 5.29 yards per carry over the last three weeks and looks like an area the Cardinals can attack.

The Cardinal defence has allowed the leagues fifth-fewest points to start the season and rank in the top ten for sacks. They have been strong against the pass, but come up against a Dallas defence that leads the league in passing yards. The Arizona defence has been weak against the run in the first five games, giving up 157 rushing yards per game. They haven’t encountered a running back as talented as Ezekiel Elliot, who sits fifth in total rushing yards and could become the focal point of the offence with Prescott’s injury.

The Cowboys signed ex Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton as an insurance policy in the offseason amidst the contract negotiations with Prescott, and will now turn to Dalton to take over their offence for the remainder of the year. Dalton spent eight years as the starting quarterback in Cincinnati, taking the Bengals to the playoffs in five seasons before struggling in his last few years.

There was a lack of offensive weapons in his last few Bengals seasons, but he shouldn’t have that problem in Dallas. The Cowboys start arguably the best group of wide receivers in the league and one of the top rushers in Elliot. Dalton went 9-11 for 111 yards to set up the comeback win against the Giants last week, giving some optimism that he can step into the role and guide the Cowboys to the playoffs.

The Dallas defence has struggled to defend the pass all year and is allowing the most points per game to opponents. Creating pressure on the passer should be key for the Cowboys, with Murray’s QB rating dropping from 107.5 in a clean pocket to an atrocious 24.2 when under pressure.

The Cowboys are in the top ten for pressure percentage but are struggling to convert that into sacks, only recording 10 in their five games. Murray is notoriously hard to get a hold of once scrambling, so keeping him in the pocket will be the Cowboys best bet in limiting his effectiveness.

This game looked like it would be one of the seasons biggest shootouts prior to last weeks game, with the two offences ranked in the top few for no-huddle rate, neutral pace and passing plays in neutral situations. While the Cowboy offence slowed considerably after Prescott’s injury last week, the Cardinals look to have made a more deliberate effort to slow down after two losses. Their no-huddle rate dropped from 45% to 21% and ran the ball at a rate of 46% in the win and this tactic could be used again this week against the poor Dallas run defence.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 55.5

LA Rams at San Francisco 49ers

The late Monday game sees a divisional matchup between the LA Rams and The San Francisco 49ers. The Rams have started the season 4-1, but all wins have come against the dismal NFC East. The 49ers season continues to fall apart, losing to the Miami Dolphins in week five and sitting at 2-3. The two wins have come against the two New York teams who currently hold a combined record of 0-10. Another loss would make the winning the division almost impossible for the 49er’s, so a lot will be on the line in this one.

The Rams offence improved after a disappointing week 4, led by QB Jared Goff who threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns. The running game continues to have success, spreading the load across their three backs for around 130 yards in week 5 and sit 7th for rushing yards per game for the year.

The offence has been dependant on the offensive line play, with Goff leading the NFL in pass yards per attempt from a clean pocket at 10.6 yards, with that figure dropping to 3.7 yards when under pressure (32nd in the league). The 49ers pass rush has still been able to generate pressure at a decent rate despite all their injuries, so this matchup could be pivotal to the outcome of the game.

The Ram defence is one of the league leaders in points and yards allowed, but as mentioned above, have faced some underperforming teams. Of the strongest they faced, they were able to hold Dallas to 17 points in week one but gave up 35 to the Bills in their only loss. The success on defence has started with the defensive line, currently leading the NFL in sacks. Aaron Donald has been the stand out again this year, leading the league with 7.5 sacks of his own, which is more than eight teams have in total.

The 49er’s received some positive news on the injury front on offence, almost back to full strength with the return of Jimmy Garoppolo and Raheem Mostert. But that didn’t stop the struggles, with Garoppolo being pulled at half time in the 43-17 loss to the Dolphins. Coach Kyle Shanahan claimed the move was to protect the injured ankle of Garoppolo, so his status will need to be monitored up until game time.

The 49ers switched between reserves in Garoppolo’s absence without any real success, if he were to sit again this week it would move the Rams into heavy favouritism. The 49ers should continue to try and lean on the run game, where they ran in the top ten for rushing yards per game and rushing yards per carry. The Rams defence has been solid against the run but avoided Donald, and the pass rush would be the preferred option for the 49ers.

The 49ers defence was torched in the passing game by the Dolphins last week, giving up 350 yards and three touchdowns to Ryan Fitzpatrick. They have been able to post respectable defensive numbers considering all the talent missing via injury. Still, some of this will be propped up by the dysfunctional New York offences they faced. The injuries on the defensive line have highlighted the deficiencies in the 49er’s defensive backfield though, who are now dealing with their own injuries. This is a defence that can be attacked through the air and should be targeted by Goff.

The Rams defence should be too strong for a 49ers offensive line that has struggled to protect their quarterback, even if Garoppolo can make a start. I can see the Rams covering the line comfortably in this one.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Rams -3

Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints

The LA Chargers visit the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints in Tuesday’s game. The Chargers enter the game at 1-3, but have seen enough of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in the last few weeks to name him the starter moving forward. The Saints have started 2-2, but have an opportunity to draw level with the division-leading Bucs after their loss earlier in the week.

Justin Herbert had some luck in getting his first chance at NFL football, a misplaced injection from the Chargers medical team left QB Tyrod Taylor with a punctured lung just minutes before week two’s kickoff, but he has shown enough promise for the Chargers to commit the rest of their season to the rookie.

Herbert has averaged 310 yards passing at a completion rate of 72% and 8.7 yards per attempt in his three starts, all in the top seven in the league. All three starts have resulted in losses, but tight games against the Chiefs and Bucs will give Chargers fans some hope.

They will be without one of their most exciting weapons, with running back Austin Ekeler missing up to a month with knee and hamstring issues.

The Chargers entered the season with one of the strongest defensive lines in the league, but have struggled with injuries in the first month of football. They have been able to create pressure on the quarterback at the 8th highest rate in the league while blitzing a league-low 10.3% of snaps, but have not been able to convert that to sacks, recording only six through four games.

After a slow start by his standards, Drew Brees has seen his yards per attempt and depth of target increase of the last few weeks. In Michael Thomas’ absence, running back Alvin Kamara has been the focal point of the passing attack, ranking in the top ten for receiving yards and top five for receptions in the league.

The depleted Chargers defensive line has allowed 4.32 yards per rushing attempt and the sixth most receptions to running backs, so another big game for Kamara is on the cards. The Saints defence has been middle of the road at both levels this year and are allowing the 8th most points in the league. The Saints have given up 283 yards and four TDs to opposing tight ends over the last three weeks, setting up Hunter Henry as the probable number one target for the Chargers with Saints CB Marshon Lattimore likely to shadow Keenan Allen.

The Saints defence have allowed opponents to stay in games and Justin Herbert has shown enough to make me think he will hang around in this one, losing by one score or less in all his starts. Can see Herbert and the Chargers making this more interesting than the 8.5-point line suggests.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Chargers +8.5

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks

Monday’s late game sees the undefeated Seattle Seahawks hosting the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are coming into the game in some improved form, off the back of their first win for the season against Houston last week and a 1 point loss to Tennessee in week three. The Seahawks stumbled a little in last weeks win against the Dolphins, but had too much firepower in the end and continued their streak of 30+ point games to start the season.

The Vikings started the season with two big losses, but have improved in the last two outings. The offense has come to life off the back of two huge rushing performances from Dalvin Cook, averaging 155 yards rushing per game with three touchdowns in the last two games. The improved rushing has opened up things for Kirk Cousins and the passing attack, with rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson posting back to back huge games.

Over 70% of the completions Seattle allow are to wide receivers, which bodes well for Cousins who targets his receivers at a high rate (around 66%). The Viking defense has struggled to create any pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking in the bottom 10 in sack and QB hit rate. The lack of pass rush has left the secondary exposed, allowing the fourth-most passing yards for the season.

The Seattle offense continues to fire with Russell Wilson moving into early MVP favouritism, who leads the league in touchdowns, completion percentage and quarterback rating. The main beneficiaries of this hot start to the season has been wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who both rank in the top 15 for receiving yards and have 7 touchdowns between them. Metcalf could be one to watch in this matchup, leading the league with 25.2 yard per reception against a Vikings secondary that has allowed a league high 13 receptions on passes thrown 20 yards or further.

The Seattle defence have struggled to stop opposing passers all year, giving up a league-worst 401 yards per game, 60 more than any other team. All-pro safety Jamal Adams looks set to miss another week with a groin ailment, setting up Cousins for a big passing day.

With both teams really struggling to create any pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, this one is set up for a shootout and currently has the highest point total for the week. With his hot start to the season, betting on Wilson in any shootout looks to be the safe bet.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Seattle -7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears

This week’s early game sees the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting Chicago to take on the Bears. The Bucs enter this game off the back of a big second-half comeback against the Chargers last week and sit atop their division on a record of 3-1.

The Bears are coming off their first loss of the season, going down 19-11 to Indianapolis last week in a game where their offense struggled to get firing. They will be looking for a win to keep up with the unbeaten Packers in the NFC North.

Tom Brady’s move to Tampa Bay has started well, averaging close to 300 yards passing per game with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, with only 1 in the last two weeks. But he looks set to lose more weapons, with Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette set to be joined by LeSean McCoy and O.J Howard on the injury list.

Star receiver Mike Evans has also been limited during training this week, which would leave the Bucs extremely thin at the offensive skill positions. The offensive line has improved since week one, only allowing 2 sacks in the last three weeks and allowing Brady the time he needs in the pocket. This doesn’t bode well for the Bears pass rush who have been below average this year, ranking in the lower half in sacks and both QB hurry and pressure ratings.

History has shown Brady can pick apart the best secondaries if given enough time and space, so the Bears will need to have some success in the pass rush if they are to win this one. The Bucs defense on the other hand ranks in the top five in all the above pass-rushing metrics and is arguably one if the best defensive lines in the league. They come up against an average Chicago offensive line who struggled to generate offense against a similarly strong Colts defensive line last week.

The Bears benched quarterback Mitch Trubisky during their week 3 game, bringing on Nick Foles who led them to the comeback win over Atlanta. Foles was named starter for week 4, but struggled against the much tougher defense of the Colts.

The Bears lost third down back Tarek Cohen to an ACL injury in week three, but head into this game with little other injury worries on offense. The Bucs defense has been one of the best against the run, allowing opposing rushers to only 2.43 yards per carry and a total of three touchdowns, so whoever ends up at quarterback will be relied on to attack the Bucs secondary.

The Bears secondary has started the year as strong as any, yet to allow a touchdown to an opposing wide receiver and forcing opposing passers to one of the lowest quarterback ratings in the league. But the run defense and defensive line has performed below expectations areas they have excelled in over the last two seasons.

Tampa Bay hold the advantage on both sides of the line in this one. With the offensive line giving Tom Brady the time he needs to utilise his running backs and avoid the strong secondary of the Bears, the Bears O-line might struggle to contain the Bucs defense which has been surging in the last few weeks.

The Bucs have averaged just under 33 points per game after their week one loss and should have too much firepower for the Bears.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Tampa Bay -3.5

Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

The Tuesday game sees the high-flying Green Bay Packers hosting the winless Atlanta Falcons. The Packers head into this game leading the league in scoring, against a Falcons team that is allowing the most points to opponents. Atlanta has shown they are capable of scoring themselves, having double-digit fourth quarter leads in high scoring games the last two weeks before finding spectacular ways to lose.

Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn will be feeling the pressure after starting 0-3 and blowing two big last quarter leads, bringing back memories of the infamous Superbowl collapse. The offence have performed well, averaging 30 points per game to start the year. This has mainly been off the back of the passing game, with Matt Ryan third in passing yards and Calvin Ridley second in receiving yards. They should also get back star Julio Jones from a hamstring injury, which will add to passing attack.

The Packers have been vulnerable to the running game, allowing 5.5 YPC and allowing the NFL’s second-most receiving yards to running backs. Atlanta’s best chance may be to try and control the game on the ground and establish running back Todd Gurley early, keeping the Packers offense off the field.

Which brings us to the Falcons defense, which hasn’t been to stop anyone this year. After allowing 38 and 40 points in their first two games, against MVP candidate quarterbacks, they continued the trend last week giving up 4 passing touchdowns and 30 points to the tandem of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, they will be visiting former MVP Aaron Rodgers and a Packers offence that has scored 122 points through 3 games, the sixth most in NFL history. The Falcons defense have fared slightly better on the ground, but this is more likely due to opposing teams focusing on possibly the league’s worst secondary.

Rodgers will get his favourite weapon back this week, with Davante Adams likely to suit up after missing last week. That didn’t stop him taking apart a solid Saints defense in week 3, putting up 37 points after scoring 40+ in the first two weeks. Running back Aaron Jones has averaged over 100 yards rushing per game and scored four rushing touchdowns, having success early in games which has opened up the play action passing game for Rodgers.

The Packers also have one the best offensive lines in the NFL, allowing the fewest sacks in the league. The Atlanta pass rush has been middle of the road at best and has had two defensive lineman missing practice throughout the week. Rodgers has been under pressure a league-low of 16.9% this season, any Atlanta injuries could see that number drop lower.

The Packer defence has been below par for the season, but has been put in an advantageous position by the offense for the most part. They are amongst the leaders in yards per carries allowed art 5.5, but have seen the second-lowest rushing attempts against. The pass rush has been amongst the worst in QB hurry and pressure percentages, but has been able to finish for sacks when getting to the quarterback.

The Packers come into this game averaging over 40 points a game, against possibly the worst defense in the league. But Matt Ryan hasn’t been shy in airing it out to his star receivers either, all signs point to a shootout in this one. The bookies have set the total line high, but Packers games have averaged a league-high 69 points per game, with the Falcons not far behind at 66.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 56.5

Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers

Monday’s late game sees the winless Philadelphia Eagles Visiting the San Francisco 49er’s. The 49ers have started 2-1, defeating the two New York teams in back to back weeks. They’ll look to keep pace in the competitive NFC West, currently sitting fourth will all teams at 2-1 or better.

The Eagles on the other hand have struggled to just one draw in their three games, with that coming against the lowly Bengals. But a win for the Eagles would put them back in the mix in the NFC East, with the favourite Cowboys only sitting on 1-2.

Philly comes into this game off the back of an overtime draw with the Bengals, their only points of the season. Questions have been raised over quarterback Carson Wentz’s play, leading the league in interceptions and sporting the league’s worst quarterback rating.

Some of these struggles could be attributed to injuries on offence, with a number of key pass catching options and linesman out and set to miss this match. But he may have even lost the confidence of his coach, with the ball taken from his hands on a crucial 4th down in last week’s game, instead opting to settle for a draw.

The Eagle defence has started the season strong against the run again, after being one of the best in 2019. The pass rush has also started strong, one of the league leaders with 12 sacks. They’ll look to attack second-string quarterback Nick Mullens, who should make his second straight start with Jimmy Garoppolo out with an ankle injury.

Mullens performed well in his first start since 2018, passing for 343 yards and a touchdown while picking apart the woeful Giants defence. Mullens will get back the 49er’s top pass catching weapons, with tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel both set to return from injury.

The 49ers have remained a run-first offence in 2020, but may be forced to pass more due to the stout Philly defensive front and injuries to their two starting running backs, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.

While the injury front has started to ease on the offensive side, the defence is still missing key starters. 49er’s will be missing starting DE’s Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, CBs Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley, DT Solomon Thomas, and SLB Dre Greenlaw. The defence held up in the wins over the two New York teams, but the growing injury list just may be what the Eagles need to get their offence back on track.

The 49er’s offence has been rolling in the last couple weeks and should continue against Philly defence allowing 29 points per game, while the Eagles will hope the banged-up 49er’s defence will allow them to get their season back on track. This one looks to have some shootout appeal and should cover the moderate points total on offer.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 45

Denver Broncos at New York Jets

Friday 2 October, 10:20am AEST

This week’s early game sees two teams without a win up against each other, with the Denver Broncos visiting the New York Jets. Both teams have struggled offensively to start the year, ranking in the bottom few of most offensive metrics. Only one team has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-4, so both teams will be desperate to a win on the board.

Denver continue to be decimated by injuries, with backup QB Jeff Driskel forced off the field in week 2, replaced by undrafted second-year player Brett Rypien. Rypien looks likely to start on the short break, but will be without his best wide receiver in Courtland Sutton and behind an offensive line that is dealing with injuries of its own, allowing 13 sacks and 29 QB hits in the first three weeks. The defensive side of the ball hasn’t fared much better, with starters Von Miller, Jurrell Casey and A.J Bouye amongst those missing.

With a starting three-man receiver group that have a total of 68 receptions for their careers, Rypien will look to lean on his tight end and running backs in this game. Second-year tight end Noah Fant has starting the season strong, averaging over 60 yards per game and finding the end zone twice.

The Broncos should get running back Phillip Lindsay back from injury, joining Melvin Gordon in the backfield. The Broncos will likely look to utilise their two pro-bowl running backs with Rypien making his first start, against a Jets defence that has struggled to contain the run all year.

The Jets have been awful on both sides of the ball to start the season, but will see this as their best opportunity to get a win for the foreseeable future. They rank last in yards per game, points scored per game and have yet to run a single offensive snap with the lead this season. This is all while allowing opponents to score over 30 points per game.

Quarterback Sam Darnold struggled with turnovers last week, throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Broncos have only forced one interception all year and rank in the lower half of the league in QB pressure and hurry percentages, so Darnold may have some time to sit in the pocket after facing elite pass-rushing teams in the last two weeks.

The Jets should get wide receiver Jamison Crowder back from injury, improving a pass-catching group that has been struggling with injuries. The Jets defensive line will hope to have more luck this week after coming up against two of the best offensive lines in the past fortnight. The Jets were still able to post acceptable pressure rates in these games and will hope to have a much better time against a beaten up Bronco’s O-line.

There isn’t a lot to like about either team in this one, but the injuries on both side of the ball for Denver have seen the Jets move into favouritism. A loss for the Jets could see the end of head coach Adam Gase’s reign in New York, but I see them just getting over the line against the banged up Broncos.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Jets -1.5

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens

Tuesday 20 September, 10:15 am AEST

Tuesday’s game brings us a matchup between arguably the NFL’s two best teams, with the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams have started 2-0 and will be looking to get the upper hand in the race of the AFC Championship.

The Chiefs come into this game off the back of an overtime win against the Chargers, led by rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in his first NFL start. The Chiefs offence failed to fire early against the talented Charger defensive front, but Patrick Mahomes was able to find some rhythm in the last quarter and put up more points than the first three quarters combined to tie the game up. An overtime drive set up a long field goal for what was an unconvincing win.

The Ravens have had success limiting speed receivers in their first two games and will look to contain Tyrek Hill, who has hit the endzone in each of his first two games. Tight ends on the other hand have had success against the Ravens in 2020, putting up a total of 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Travis Kelce has been the best receiving tight end in the NFL over the last four years and had success against the Ravens in their last two meetings, so he should be targeted frequently in this one.

The Chiefs defence continues to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks after finishing strong in that department last year. They rank in the top three in QB hurry and QB pressure percentages, while staying around the middle of the pack in blitz percentage. This is largely due to linesman Frank Clark and Chris Jones, who will look to target rookie right guard Tyre Phillips to attack Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens have been dominant in both their victories to start 2020, leading from start to finish in both games. In week one, Lamar Jackson did the majority of the damage passing from the pocket, going for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns. Week two saw the Ravens go back to the rushing attack that served them so well last year, rushing for over 200 yards.

The Chiefs have looked more vulnerable against the run this year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens to attack on the ground early. The Ravens defence has started 2020 strong, limiting opponents to only 22 total points. This comes after limiting opponents to just over 13 points per game in the second half of 2019, after acquiring cornerback Marcus Peters in a midseason trade.

The Ravens blitz at one of the highest rates in the league and will hope to create pressure on Mahomes, but he continues to be one of the most dangerous passers outside of the pocket. If he is able to escape the blitz we may see more of the highlight reel plays Mahomes is known for.

With both offences amongst the league’s best, we could be in line for a shootout. The Ravens go into this game in better form to start 2020 and deserve to start favourites at home, but the value looks to be with a Kansas City team who have won their last 11 games dating back to mid last season.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Chiefs at $2.64

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

Monday 28 September, 10:20 am AEST

Monday’s late game sees the Green Bay Packers visiting the Saints in New Orleans. A battle of two future hall of fame quarterbacks, their respective starts to the 2020 season have been contrasting.

After a perceived down year from Aaron Rodgers in 2019, 2020 has started with back to back games of 40 plus points for the Packers. Rodgers has looked like his old self on the way to 600 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions, but may be without his favourite weapon Davante Adams. Adams left the week 2 game early with a hamstring strain and is looking unlikely to suit up or the game. Rodgers isn’t the only Aaron firing for the Packers offense, with running back Aaron Jones currently leader the league in rushing yards.

The Packers have been a little suspect against the run themselves, allowing 4.87 yards per carry to opponents in the first two weeks. Rodgers and the offense have ensured the opponents have been forced into passing situations to mitigate this, and will hope they can keep this trend going.

Drew Brees on the other hand, is starting to look every bit of his 41 years. Brees currently has the lowest average depth of target in the league at 5.4 yards and has struggled with accuracy on deeper balls, this partially caused by loss of number one receiver Michael Thomas. One beneficiary of the short passing game has been running back Alvin Kamara, who is leading the league for targets, receptions and receiving yards amongst backs.

The Saints defense continued their run of not allowing a 100 yard rusher, a run that dates back to 2017, so may be the team to slow down Aaron Jones.

The Saints will start this game favourite, even after a surprise loss to the Raiders last week. The strength of the Packers first two opponents will be a big part of this, but I see Rodgers to continue to roll against a Saints defense that has struggled to pressure the quarterback.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Packers +3

Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars

Friday 25 September, 10:20 am AEST

Week three kicks off with the Jacksonville Jaguars hosting the Miami Dolphins. Miami has started 0-2, losing two tough divisional games against New England and Buffalo. A third loss would all but end any playoff hopes for the Dolphins. The Jaguars have exceeded what were fairly low preseason expectations, beating the Colts in week one and competing to the last drive in a 33-30 loss to Tennessee.

The Dolphins offence improved on their week one showing, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing mistake-free football after three interceptions in week one. He accounted for 328 yards and two touchdowns, with tight end Mike Gesicki the main benefactor of the improved display with 130 yards and a touchdown.

The defence has struggled to limit opposing quarterbacks this year, allowing efficient passing games (72% passing completion rate) from two historically inaccurate passers. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has started the season passing the ball well and will be looking to attack the Dolphins secondary.

After trading Nick Foles and Leonard Fournette in the offseason, along with a number of defensive starters, the Jaguars projected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams. But second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew has led the team to point totals of 27 and 30 in the first two weeks, helped by rookie running back James Robinson who is in the top 10 for rushing yards.

The Jaguars are yet to allow an opposing wide receiver to reach 75 yards in a game, but have allowed tight ends to catch 13-15 targets for 198 yards and two touchdowns. The Jags will need to tighten up the middle of the field to limit the effectiveness of Gesicki if they are to slow down the Miami passing attack.

The surging Jaguars offence should be too strong for Miami in this one, with Minshew having success against the soft Miami secondary.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Jaguars -3

New Orleans at Las Vegas

Tuesday 22 September, 10:15 am AEST

The final game of the week sees the New Orleans Saints visiting the Raiders in their new home town of Las Vegas, the city’s first-ever NFL game. Both teams are coming off a win in week one, with the Saints able to ruin Tom Brady’s Bucs debut with a 34-23 win at home, while the Raiders held off a late Carolina run for a 34-30 win.

The Saints offence struggled to get going against a strong Tampa Bay defence in week one but were able to play turnover-free football; something Drew Brees excelled at last year. The offence will take a further hit this week with wide receiver Mike Thomas suffering an ankle sprain.

Thomas led the league in receptions and receiving yards last year and will leave Saints relying on offseason addition Emmanuel Sanders and the unproven Tre’Quan Smith at receiver. Star running back Alvin Kamara will likely see more action in the passing game after posting five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in week one.

The Saints defence were one of the league leaders in stopping the run in 2019 and showed that again in week 1, limiting Tampa Bay to 86 rushing yards. They will look to keep Raiders running back in check after a monster week one.

The Raiders leaned on the Jacobs as mentioned earlier in week one, the second-year back posting 93 yards and three touchdowns on 25 attempts. Quarterback Derek Carr spread the ball between his receivers in week one, with six different players posting 20+ receiving yards. But this was all against a Carolina defence that projects to be one of the worst in the NFL, the Raiders should expect more pressure on Carr this week from the Saints.

The Raiders defence allowed star running back Christian McCaffrey 135 total yards with two touchdowns, this will need to be addressed with another dual-threat in Kamara coming to town. The Raiders pass rush also struggled to create any pressure in week one, with only two QB hurries and one sack, the type of environment Brees thrives in.

Brees should utilise his running backs and tight ends in the passing game with Mike Thomas out, slowing the game down and controlling the tempo. The Raiders are coming up against a much better defence in week 2, with the Saints not allowing a 100-yard rusher all of last year.

I see this slowing the Raiders offence down, with Carr being one of the more conservative passers last year. I have the Saints winning this one, with the Raiders’ big score from last week not being repeated.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Under 49.5

New England at Seattle

Monday 21 September, 10:20 am AEST

Monday’s late game sees the New England Patriots visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The post-Brady era started with a win for the Patriots, with Cam Newton leading the way in a convincing win against the Dolphins. But they will be coming up against much more formidable opponents in Seattle, who had a victory over Atlanta in week one.

The Patriots used a run-heavy approach in their week one victory, utilising their superior offensive line against an outmatched Dolphin defensive front for a 21-11 win. Quarterback Cam Newton led the way, rushing 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns, with the 15 carries the second-most in his career.

The Patriots called run or play-action on 83% of their offensive snaps, which may hint at the style of play they will look to implement this year. While the offence was much changed, the defence seems to have picked up where they left off. With three interceptions on only 30 pass attempts, the Patriots’ defensive backfield looks to be one of the NFL’s best again this year.

In contrast to the Patriots, the Seahawks had too much firepower for the Falcons in a shootout, winning 38-25. Seattle coach Pete Carroll may have been listening to NFL fans everywhere who have been screaming out for Russ Wilson to be unleashed, with the Seahawks passing the ball on 16 of 21 early-down snaps.

The usually run-heavy Seahawks passed the ball on 60% of snaps in the first half to build a lead, with Wilson passing 31 of 35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns for the game. Wilson showed his elite accuracy when attacking the undermanned Atalanta cornerbacks, with none of his 35 passing attempts going to a receiver with a defender within one yard.

This year’s Seattle defence is a far cry from the Legion Of Boom heyday, but they do have the hard-hitting Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams. If Cam Newton runs the ball 15 times again in this contest, he should expect a lot of attention from these two.

With Wilson coming up against arguably the best defensive backfield in football, the game should come down to whether the Seahawks can get their passing game going. Wilson has had success against Belichick led defences in the past, completing 64% of his passes for a 6:0 TD to INT ratio at over 10 yards per attempt in four contests. If Wilson gets going early, I don’t see Cam Newton being able to keep up.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Seattle -3.5

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Friday 18 September, 10:00 am AEST

Week two kicks off with a divisional game between the Cleveland Browns and the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams are coming off week one losses and will be looking to get a win on the board, going 0-2 in this division will make reaching the playoffs difficult for the loser.

The Bengals’ loss came against the Chargers and their highly-rated defence, with the game ending at 16-13. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrows showed composure in his first game under what seemed like constant pressure from the Chargers, and he will be hoping his offensive line can provide a bit more time and space this week.

He took the Bengals 80 yards on their final drive, having a game-winning touchdown called back for an offensive pass interference penalty. The following 31-yard field goal was missed by kicker Randy Bullock, so the Bengals will be disappointed not to get the win or at least a chance in overtime.

The Browns were convincingly beaten by the Ravens in week one, with the offence, in particular, struggling in the 38-6 loss. With new head coach Kevin Stefanski having success running the ball during his time as the Vikings offensive coordinator, he will be hoping to establish the running game early after falling behind against the Ravens and resorting to a more pass-happy approach.

The Browns defence were torched through the air by Lamar Jackson, but this may have been by design to stop last year’s leading rushers. They held the Ravens to 107 rushing yards, which is the lowest total they have posted since the 2018 season.

Cleveland’s struggles on offence should give the Bengals a chance to stay in this one, with more expected from Burrows in his second start. The Bengals defence had success in the two matchups with the Browns last year, forcing more interceptions than passing TD’s allowed. I’m seeing this being closer than the bookies are predicting, with the Bengals a chance at taking the win.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Bengals +5.5

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos

Tuesday 15 September, 12:15am AEDT

The season’s first Monday Night football game has the Tennessee Titans visiting the Denver Broncos. The Broncos won last year’s match up 16-0 at homer, but a lot has changed for the two teams since then.

The Broncos enter the season with some optimism, going 4-1 to finish the season after moving to rookie quarterback Drew Lock, the only loss coming against the Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. But a lot of this success was built around the defence (19 points against in those wins), which will be much changed for the 2020 season.

Superstar Von Miller has suffered a possibly season ending ankle injury in training, with emerging edge-rusher Bradley Chubb still recovering from an ACL tear. This is in addition to offseason departures of cornerback Chris Harris, defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis and safety Will Parks. The Broncos did add running back Melvin Gordon in the off season, along with drafting wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round. Jeudy joins emerging pass catchers Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, giving the young quarterback some promising weapons.

The Titans made a midseason quarterback change of their own, moving to veteran Ryan Tannehill during the 16-0 loss to the Broncos. The move prompted a commitment to the running game and in particular Derrick Henry, who ended the season as the league’s top rusher. The Titans finished the regular season 7-3 after the change, followed by victories over the more fancied Patriots and Ravens in the playoffs, before bowing out to the eventual Champion Chiefs in the AFC title game.

Signing both Tannehill and Henry to new contracts in the offseason, the Titans look to be keeping the same strategy this year. Much of the offence remains the same, with offensive lineman Jack Conklin being replaced by Dennis Kelly and rookie Isaiah Wilson the only major change. The Titans did sign former number one pick Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley to their defensive line, but also lost All-Pro defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

The depleted Broncos defence should struggle with the power running game of the Titans, who are now favourites after the injury to Von Miller. The Titans covered the line in all 7 of their wins after the change in QB last year and should do so again.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Titans at -2.5

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams

Monday 14 September, 10:20am AEDT

The Dallas Cowboys visit the LA Ram to debut the brand new SoFi Stadium. The Rams will be looking to make their way back into the playoffs after missing out last year, but will need to contend with the toughest division in the league. The Cowboys on the other hand will contest one of the weakest and start favourites to top the division after winning last year.

The Rams have lost a couple of key offensive pieces from last year, with Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley departing in the offseason. They will look to replace both from within, only rookie running back Cam Akers looking like breaking into the rotation in the skill positions. On the defensive side of the ball, they did resign cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the richest contract in the positions history. They also return Aaron Donald, arguably the best defensive lineman in the league, but lost Dante Fowler Jnr and Clay Matthews from that defensive line.

After a protracted contract saga over the offseason, the Cowboys keep Dak Prescott at quarterback. They also add first round draftee CeeDee Lamb to an already strong wide receiver group. With superstar running back Ezekiel Elliot and a strong offensive line, the Cowboys offense looks to be among the leagues best. On the defensive side of the ball, Pro Bowler Everson Griffen has been added to a defensive line that already included Demarcus Lawrence. They’ve also added pass rushers Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory, who both spent time out of the league with suspensions.

The new additions to the pass rush could prove key in this matchup, with Rams quarterback Jared Goff showing he was susceptible to pressure last year. His QB rating dropping from 99.5 when in a clean pocket, to 60.4 when under pressure. With the Rams not upgrading their below average offensive line from last year, Goff should continue to see pressure in this match, which will make keeping up with this Cowboys offence tough.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Cowboys at -3

Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs

Friday 11 September, 10:20am AEDT

The season kicks off with the defending champs playing host to the Texans, who split their two meetings last year, the second being a huge comeback from the Chiefs in the playoffs where they trailed 24-0.

With the starting QBs Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson well settled within their offensive schemes, the interruptions to training camp and preseason may impact the defensive side of the ball more so than the offense. All signs are pointing towards an entertaining, high-scoring game.

The Chiefs are returning most of their key offensive personal from last year, though starting running back Damian Williams opted out of the season, replaced by explosive first-round draftee Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

The Texans have lost superstar wide receiver Deandre Hopkins in trade during the offseason, receiving running back David Johnson in return.

After a couple of injury-affected seasons, the Texans will be hoping he can reclaim his previous form. Hopkins was replaced by speedster Brandin Cooks, who will offer further deep ball threat to the Texan wide receivers but isn’t the true number 1 receiver Hopkins is.

The Chiefs’ high-powered offense shouldn’t have any issues scoring against this Texans defense that projects to be middle of the road again this year. The Texans have shown they are capable of scoring when chasing the game, covering the total points line in five of their seven losses last year. With all the makings of a shootout, I expect the total points line to be covered.

Betting Strategy

BACK — Over 54.5

Current Results

Total Units Staked: 53.00

Total Units Returned: 52.59

ROI: -0.77%

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