NFL BETTING: What an incredible final day of action we’re set for in the AFC as no fewer than seven sides aim for the remaining two post-season play-offs. William Hill‘s Michael Taylor previews.
The Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars all face the prospect of seeing sixteen weeks of hard work come down to one game but who can grab the two wild cards?
New York Jets – On paper the Jets final day match-up against the Bengals is one of the toughest, I’m not sure it’ll turn out that way though. Cincinnati are already there, they would also much rather see the Jets in the play-offs than the Steelers or Ravens and the Jets are coming off an impressive win over the Colts last week. Marvin Lewis’ message to his Bengals will be to stay healthy, Rex Ryan’s will be to physically dominate – it’s a contest that surely only has one winner. (New York to cover -10 spread – 10/11)
Baltimore Ravens – I was expecting more from the Ravens this year but it’s testament to the character John Harbaugh has battered into them that their post-season dream is still in their own hands. They make a nice looking trip to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon and only a big upset should knock them of course. The Raiders may just be capable of that shock though with nothing to play for except an end of season boost and a back-field that has the potential to cause defences all sorts of problems against the rush. Bruce Gadkowski has also provided the Raiders with a bit of stability at quarterback where JaMaurcus Russell failed. (More than 38 total points – 10/11)
Looking to capitalise on any slip-ups
Pittsburgh Steelers – The defending Super Bowl champs were in serious danger of being a humongous blow-out a couple of weeks ago when they fell to a fifth consecutive loss. However, Mike Tomlin somehow rallied the troops and they’ve stormed back into contention, even if it may prove a tad too late. In simple terms they have to beat the Miami Dolphins in Florida and get help from elsewhere. I don’t think part one of that formula will let them down, it may all come down to whether AFC North rivals Cincinnati decide a number three seed is more important than seeing the back of Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh to cover -3 spread – 5/6)
Denver Broncos – It’s hard to imagine the Broncos could be play-off bound if they get a drop of luck on the last day given the season they’ve had. It was never going to be easy after losing star QB Jay Cutler to the Bears but Josh McDaniels’ side quickly got past that to start the year 6-0. Since then life hasn’t been anywhere near as easy with only two wins from the last nine games but a home stroll against the Chiefs on Sunday could be good enough. I think it’s fair to say if the Broncos do qualify they’ll be the weakest team amongst the final twelve. (Kansas City to win with +12 – 10/11)
Close but yet so far
Houston Texans – Nobody can be too shocked about yet another year of underachievement in Houston, even if this was seen as their best chance to finally make the play-offs. Gary Kubiak’s side have at least turned Sunday’s encounter with New England into the biggest in franchise history thanks to a three game winning streak, the final push may prove to be the hardest though. The Pats have found form at the right time, the Texans have only beaten one play-off bound team (Cincinnati in week 6) and, most importantly, Houston have never come close to getting the better of Bill Belichick. (New England to win with +7.5 – 10/11)
Miami Dolphins – Tough scheduling means the Dolphins need a miracle if they want a post-season repeat. Tony Sparano’s men haven’t played with quite the same spark as they did last year with Chad Henne failing to distinguish himself being one of the major issues. Even if they do find a way to beat the charging Steelers it almost certainly won’t be good enough for a wild card.
Jacksonville Jaguars – There isn’t a whole lot you can say about the Jags. Maurice Jones-Drew remains one of the most lethal finishers around and they’ve done well to keep themselves alive this deep into the season. Away from that though, they won’t be in the play-offs, in fact they may even struggle to end the year with a .500 record with an away trip at the Cleveland Browns the decider. You can’t really say they deserve a shot either after losses to San Francisco, Tennessee and Seattle this year. (Jacksonville to win – 21/20)
Verdict: Out of the major contenders it’s hard to see who is going to slip up on the final day. The NEW YORK JETS could be set for a tense night in their final game at Giants Stadium if everyone else has won earlier on in the day but I still believe they’ll romp their way home. I also fancy the BALTIMORE RAVENS to pass their potential banana skin in Oakland, the big worry for their backers is that everything is made that slight bit tougher when the mighty Steelers are breathing down your neck.