Luca Bercelli previews two of this weekend's NFL games and believes the Dolphins can beat the Jets, and the Texans can get the better of Peyton Manning's Broncos...
"Manning's problem this week is that he's up against a defensive brick wall in the shape of the Houston Texans."
This week's early Sky game pitches a couple of teams in mini-crisis up against each other in what is always an intense, fiercely fought rivalry.
The Jets have a problem, a big problem, and his name is Mark Sanchez. Their starting quarterback had an atrocious season last year (by his own admission), causing the team to implode, squabble on the pitch and generally disintegrate... at one point it's even rumoured that his pet dog ran away in search of a credible owner. What did the Jets front office do in reaction? They rewarded him with a big fat salary extension and caused a thousand sports' writers to furiously scratch their heads in amazement.
'The Sanchize' as he used to be called (less so now!) will never repay that blind faith because he simply isn't good enough. I genuinely believe there isn't a QB in the league who would do a worse job than him with the squad at his disposal.
What are his plus points? Well if under no pressure and his first receiver is open he can lob the ball 10-20 yards for a completion. That's about it. No pocket presence, no scrambling ability, no deep threat, little ability to adjust to defences and a lack of toughness. All the great (or even good) QBs need a combination of these assets - his combination is zero to the power of five.
What he's trying to do in the NFL is the equivalent of what Joe Allen is doing at Liverpool; namely get the ball - give it three yards to an open player, move. He's doing something that any player in the league could do if they put their mind to it... quarterback's need to do more, a heck of a lot more.
So, if I was Miami coming off an up-and-down start to the season I'd be confident about rattling the Sanchize and beating the Jets. They didn't register a sack in their win against the Raiders last week but a couple of early blitzes v the Jets should sort that stat out.
An ace card for the Dolphins is the return to form of Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush, who ran for 172 yards (more than Sanchez threw for against the Steelers!). The Jets are not easy to run against but if he gets any success this will allow rookie QB Ryan Tannehill chances against a defence that made too many mistakes in the absence of the best defensive player in the league, Darrelle Revis. Sir Revis is back this week and at his best is unplayable, but after a recent concussion his readiness for gameplay might be an issue.
Sit back and enjoy the contrast between a promising rookie (Tannehill) and a blown prospect (Sanchez).
The main thing standing in the way of a 'Fins victory at 2.3211/8 is sitting there on the Jets sidelines; backup QB Tim Tebow. If he gets into the action all bets are off and anything can happen. On the evidence of last week where Tebow came on for three plays, was effective, but was still hauled off immediately - that's not likely to happen. Shame.
Question marks abound about Denver's quarterback, Peyton Manning; he's coming back after serious injury, is in his first season with a new team, and is certainly no spring chicken. He also suffers from one of Mark Sanchez's failings and that is a tendency to panic in the pocket when under pressure. We saw this all too plainly last week when he threw three interceptions in the first quarter... now that takes some doing.
In contrast to the Sanchize, however, here we're talking about an elite QB whose glittering career will end up being immortalised in the hall of fame.
Manning's problem this week is that he's up against a defensive brick wall in the shape of the Houston Texans. This is a team that harbours the top defence in the league allowing only 17 points in two games, and which is especially miserly against the throw (first in passing yardage defence). As if that's not bad enough for Peyton, the Texans apply plenty of pressure at the line of scrimmage and sack leader JJ Watt (with three so far) has gone on record as saying his main aim in week three is to sack Manning. I wouldn't bet against him doing it.
With this in mind it might be worth having a nibble on the First Scoring Play being a Houston safety if you can get matched at anywhere near the 100.099/1 mark. If Denver get the ball first inside their own 20 and have a third and long to contend with that bet will be oustanding value.
The main wager, however, has to be a straight win for the Texans at round about the 1.84/5 mark. Barring a slew of injuries I can't see them losing this one and a win will solidify their place as second favourites in the Superbowl Winner market (7.87/1). Those odds are plenty short enough at this stage but they do outline the high regard in which this team is held.
So how to monetise our confidence in a Texans win? The Winning Margin odds look mighty tempting and I'll be looking to get matched on Houston to win by 7-12 points @ 6.05/1, 13-18 points @ 9.08/1 and 19-24 points at @ 15.014/1. Feel free to join me.
Back Miami Dolphins to beat the Jets @ 2.3211/8
Back Houston safety as the First Scoring Play @ 100.099/1
Back Houston to beat Denver @ 1.84/5
Back Houston winning margin 7-12 @ 6.05/1, 13-18 @ 9.08/1 and 19-24 @ 15.014/1