It’s going to be rather short and sweet from me today. If like me you’ve stayed up to watch the Cardinals – Packers game you’ll know why. I’m exhausted! If you haven’t I’d advise to go and watch the highlights right now!
Carolina Panthers -2.5@20/21 vs Seattle Seahawks
This is set to be the game of the weekend(or at least it was before that Packers-Cards game!) it’s hard to imagine two teams were the similarities are so obvious. Both are led by Quarterbacks who have the ability to beat teams with their arms and their legs. Newton and Wilson are the best in the league at what they do and this rivalry could develop into the modern Brady-Manning. Both are excellent at running the ball and in turn stopping the run and excel in controlling the clock. Doug Baldwin is having a career year for an over performing Seattle receiving corps. Ted Ginn Jr is having a career year for an over performing Carolina receiving corps. Defensively it’s the same story. Seattle allow the least points per game in the league and have the number one run defence. Carolina lead the league in takeaways and allow the lowest Quarterback rating against them. Seahawks have Richard Sherman, Panthers have Josh Norman, so on and so forth…
The Seahawks will certainly be playing loose here. They will know that the really should be on the golf course after Blair Walsh’s inexplicable field goal miss last weekend. They are a much better team now than the one that lost to Carolina back in week 6 and have the big game experience having made it to the SuperBowl in consecutive seasons. Their star running back Marshawn Lynch will also reportedly return to the field this weekend although when he has been healthy this year he’s looked a long way off his best.
Carolina will also get their lead runner back this weekend with Jonathon Stewart not listed on the injury report. He should be well rested after sitting out since week 14 and his return is timely against the NFLs top run D. They are the only team to have not lost at home in the NFL this season although they have lost three straight here against Seattle. They did get the monkey of their back somewhat with that win over the Seahawks. That will count for nothing however if they can’t repeat the feat in the playoffs.
With the two sides being so evenly matched and each have a number of playmakers all over the field this is a very difficult contest to call. For me one player swings this in Carolinas favour and that is TE Greg Olsen. He has slowly developed into one of the few elite TEs in the league and in a high pressure game like this will be the safety valve Cam Newton needs to lead the Panthers to victory. Carolina wins in a nailbiter.
Pittsburgh Steelers Vs Denver Broncos – No Bet
Should the Broncos prevail in this one and go on to face the Patriots in the conference finals they will owe and enormous debt of gratitude to one man, Cincinnati Linebacker Vontaze Burfict. His vicious hits last weekend have robbed the Steelers of the league best receiver, Antonio Brown who is concussed and left Quaterback, Ben Roethlisberger with an injured shoulder. Remember this is same player whose tackle knocked out Steelers running back Leveon Bell all the way back in week 8. Incidentally Bells backup up Deangelo Williams also misses this one(surprisingly his injury is nothing to do with Burfict!)
As regular readers will know the Steelers(After the Cardinals) were my outside pick for SuperBowl 50. Had they had a healthy team, even a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Brown id be taking them to win this heads up. However given who is missing and the questionable status of Big Bens health its impossible to make a handicap call here with any degree of conviction. When Roethlisberger eventually returned to the field last week he was struggling to throw the ball more than 15 yards down the field because of his shoulder. Should he be limited or cannot last the course of this game it will be worrying as frankly his backup, Landry Jones just isn’t that good.
Things don’t look very clear for Denver at quarterback either. Peyton Manning will get the start again but it’s hard to forget just how ineffective he was earlier this year cumulating in the 4 interception game that saw him benched. Granted he was dealing with a multitude of injuries but this Steelers secondary has improved over recent weeks and if he turns to ball over to them giving the Steelers a short field they could still do something in this game.
Ultimately my call on this one would be just to leave it well alone and sit back and enjoy the game. For those who are invested in the Steelers for the SuperBowl lets just hope that despite the injuries they can pull this game out because if they get themselves healthy for next week they would have a good shot at knocking off the Patriots. At a push though and if Roethlisberger is at least 75% of his normal self I’d probably take the Steelers plus the points as they are getting more than a touchdown.
Best of luck,