NFL Week 16 TV Games: Seahawks to leave Arizona high and dry

Marshawn Lynch can batter Arizona into submission
Marshawn Lynch can batter Arizona into submission

Things are getting nervy now in the NFL, with several teams fighting it out for a place in the post-season. Here's our analyst Neil Harvey with his take on this weekend's crucial live TV games...

"Seattle have been getting leaner and meaner with every game and look to be peaking at just the right time. A win here would see them into the play-offs and I just can't see Arizona having the energy left to stop what's sure to be a fired-up Hawks side"

Seattle -(7.5) to beat Arizona @ 2.021/1

Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers 
Sunday December 21st, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports 2

This contest between two play-off hopefuls almost has the look of a wildcard game about it, with both teams above average but unlikely to go all the way. The Chiefs have to win, and to do this would normally look to their star running back Jamaal Charles. But the league's 7th best running attack may find life more difficult than usual when it faces Pittsburgh's 11th ranked run-defense. The Steelers have conceded just nine touchdowns to the run in 14 games. They also put substantial pressure on the ball carrier, ranking in the top five teams when it comes to forcing fumbles.

Where Pittsburgh are vulnerable though, is through the air. Mike Tomlin's team rank just 25th at stopping the pass. And when you consider how few quality quarterbacks they've faced this season, the reality is that rating should probably be even lower. On the few occasions when they did face the best, Pittsburgh struggled - conceding five TDs to Drew Brees, and then 400 yards and three TDs to Andrew Luck. That will offer encouragement to Kansas quarterback Alex Smith. And let's be honest, he needs it. The question is, can he and his 27th ranked pass unit flourish against an equally poor set of defensive backs? One person who should benefit though is, again, Jamaal Charles. Equally adept at taking short passes, he looks in line for a monster game and should be backed every which way possible.

But while some doubts remain over how Kansas will move the chains, things seem more clear cut on the other side of the ball. Pittsburgh's running game ranks 10th in the NFL. And that doesn't take account of the fact that Le'Veon Bell has been improving steadily in recent weeks. So his prospects look tremendous against a run defense that rates 28th in the league. And while the Kansas secondary can prevent Ben Roethlisberger from making plays deep downfield, it will struggle to prevent him from throwing short to Bell who, like Charles, looks set to have a huge outing. The last time Pittsburgh faced a defense that was this weak against the run, was against Indianapolis, when they put 51 points on the board. Expect the Steelers to use the old 1-2 combination punch, by softening up Kansas with the run, before taking some shots deep downfield - a tactic that can steer them to victory in what should be a point-laden spectacle.
Recommended Bets:

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) to beat Kansas City @ 2.1011/10
Total Points Over 46.5 @ 1.865/6 or better
Le'Veon Bell rushing yards to be more than 100.5 @ [1,91] or better

Indianapolis Colts @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday December 21st, 21:25
Live on Sky Sports 2

Both teams have their injury worries here. For the Colts though, there's more to be concerned about than just the fitness of star receiver of T.Y. Hilton. The Colts resemble a chocolate fireguard when up against a strong running game, with the defensive line simply melting away at times. Remember this is the team that capitulated to Patriots back Jonas Gray, who they allowed to rush for more than 200 yards. And so that leaves the door open for DeMarco Murray, who despite having had surgery on a broken bone in his hand recently, is expected to start this game. And even if Murray should bow out, then there's always Joseph Randle - a perfect replacement who's equally capable of battering down the Colts door on his own.

Andrew Luck leads what is the league's best passing attack and should make serious inroads against the Cowboys - whose defense has been playing like its name suggests recently. Meanwhile Tony Romo has not been quite so effective as his opposite number. He has though pulled the strings effectively enough to steer Dallas to some big scores, with the Cowboys having passed the 30 point mark in four of their last five games.

Dallas possess the run-pass double punch. Indy though lack a quality running game and that's where the difference could lie. Dallas also don't tend to have many close games, with only four of their 14 matches having been settled by a margin of less than seven points. The Colts may play like thoroughbreds at home, but I think they'll find themselves outclassed in Dallas - who are capable of running up a decent lead, literally, in the first half here,

Recommended Bets:

Dallas Cowboys (-3) to beat Indianapolis Colts @ 1.834/5
Dallas (-1.5) to beat Indianapolis at Half Time @ 1.9110/11 or better    
Points Over 54.5 @ 1.9420/21     

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals 
Monday December 22nd, 01:30
Live on Channel 4

Timing, they say, is everything. And there's a danger that Arizona may have peaked too soon - both in terms of their best form and their clinching of a play-off place. After blasting out of the starting blocks this season, the Cardinals have been looking increasingly leggy in recent weeks. They did just enough last week to book their place in the postseason, but a string of hard fought victories have left them in need of some time now to regroup and rest-up.

By contrast, after a sluggish start to their defense of their Superbowl crown, Seattle have been getting leaner and meaner with every game and look to be peaking at just the right time. A win here would see them into the play-offs and I just can't see Arizona having the energy left to stop what's sure to be a fired-up Hawks side. Seattle possess the most brutal, and number one ranked, ground game in the league and will batter away at Arizona's defensive line until it buckles.

When these sides met in Week 14 it was Seattle who triumphed 19-3. Less than a month later it's hard to see anything Arizona have done to close the gap. Indeed it's probably widened. Without their first choice quarterback and running back, the Cardinals have been reliant on their defense to power them to victories. That defensive unit must be starting to feel the strain though and could once again be exposed by the darting runs of Seattle QB Russell Wilson, who scampered for 73 yards, a game high, in that November encounter. 

Recommended Bets:

Seattle -(7.5) to beat Arizona @ 2.021/1
Seattle -(3.5) to beat Arizona at half time @ 1.9110/11 or better
Total Points Under 36 @ 1.991/1

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