Paul Higham previews another huge NFL Sunday with the Packers and Patriots backed to continue their winning runs.
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Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots
Pre-season we’d have this down as a mouth-watering close contest between the much-hyped Browns and the defending champions, but both teams have surprised us so far. The Patriots, especially in defence, have been incredible, while Cleveland have largely been a massive let down.
That means the Pats go into the game as 11-point favourites, when we’d all have probably marked it down as half that in the summer. And how can you argue when a team is 7-0 with a defence that’s allowed an average of 6.9 points per game – it’s hard to get your head around an average of just under a touchdown a game allowed after seven matches.
There’s obvious talent with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and Nick Chubb on the Cleveland offence, but it’s just not clicked and if there’s one team that can scramble a QBs mind and stifle an offensive rhythm it’s this New England defence.
New England shutout the Jets last week and Cleveland scored three points in San Francisco against a similarly strong defence a few games ago – this one looks like going in a similar fashion.
Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers
We’ll get another big clue as to whether the 6-0 49ers are the real deal when they face the 4-2 Panthers on Sunday. True, the Niners have dealt with beaten Super Bowl side the LA Rams, but the other five teams they’ve beaten have a combined seven wins between them.
So a friendly schedule has helped, but San Francisco look genuine play-off material behind a dominant defence that’s allowed just under 11 points a game on average – and in fact they’ve conceded just ten points in their last three games combined. Regardless of the opposition that’s an elite defensive statistic.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan uses all his tricks to get the best out of the 49ers offence, but they are last in the league in catches from wide receivers and second last in receiving yards. The team responded by trading for Denver’s best receiver Emmanuel Sanders, in a major sign that they feel their team is ready to win now.
Panthers back-up QB Kyle Allen has an undefeated run going of his own, and with star running back Christian McCaffrey in the MVP running the Panthers will probably offer the sternest test yet for San Francisco, but with home advantage and that defence, the run looks likely to roll on.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
It looks like the season is already over for Atlanta, who lost their fifth game on the spin last week, in humiliating fashion at home to the Rams, and then responded by trading away number two receiver Muhammad Sanu to the Patriots.
The only reason Atlanta have had a chance in games has been because of Matt Ryan throwing for 2170 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he limped out last week with an ankle injury. Even if he plays he’ll be limited, and if he’s out Matt Schaub will start at quarterback – giving the Falcons almost no hope at all.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson has also thrown 15 touchdown passes, but they’ve been far more valuable with him playing on a half decent team, a team that’s won all three games on the road this season and one that also has a decent running game.
And it’s that running game that could settle the argument - Atlanta has real trouble stopping the run and Seattle aren’t afraid to keep pounding that rock right down the opposition’s throats. Averaging just over 68 yards a game on the ground themselves isn’t a great look for Atlanta’s offence either, and with doubts over Ryan that takes them from a one-dimensional passing team to a no-dimensional sitting duck.
A 6.5pt line in Seattle’s favour looks a gimme, but an area for concern is their penchant for getting involved in close games – their margins of victory this season are 1-2-17-1-4, with three of those single-digit games coming against bad opposition. The vote, then, goes for Seattle to get ahead in the first half and stay there.
Best bet: Seattle Seahawks HT-FT at Evens
Green Bay Packers @ Kansas City Chiefs late game
Fitting that as it’s just under 100 days until the Super Bowl in the NFL’s 100th season, that this NFL Sunday is capped off with a game between the sides that contested the first ever Super Bowl.
It was also penned as a clash between arguably the two most talented quarterbacks in the league, but an injury to Kansas City’s reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes has put a stop to that – instead Aaron Rodgers will face journeyman Matt Moore. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it does it?
Green Bay go in as road favourites due to Mahomes being out and Rodgers being very much in form after his best ever game statistically in a six-touchdown performances against the Raiders last week. Throw in a run game and decent defence and you can see why they’re 6-1 and flying.
KC had a solid defensive outing in Denver and have had some extra time to rest, but Joe Flacco is hardly Aaron Rodgers and with a few other injuries along with Mahomes, it’s hard to see them slowing down the Packers enough to stay on terms.
Best bet: Packers -4.5pts at Evens
Odds correct as of 1135pm BST on 25/10/19
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