Luca Bercelli comes back down to earth after a famous Jets victory and provides us with a tip for all of Sunday's games...
"Atlanta, facing a sixth defeat in a row should offer little in the way of resistance"
Back the Carolina Panthers -7.5pts @ 2.111/10
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers Sunday, 18:00
If Superman-Cam didn't spend half his time auditioning for a Panto role I think we'd all like him a tad more. His goal-line showboating v the Saints almost denied the Panthers a certain touchdown and came close to resulting in a concussion - not ideal when the Super Bowl is within your sights. A narrow win against New Orleans last week represented a severe dip in form; but it could be the wake up call Cam and co needed to avoid complacency for the rest of the season. Atlanta, facing a sixth defeat in a row should offer little in the way of resistance so Carolina minus 7.5 looks tasty.
Back the Carolina Panthers -7.5pts @ 2.111/10
Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, 18:00
Philly's success against New England last week had much more to do with a decimated Patriots' roster than it did with any significant improvement by the Birds. Special teams did most of the heavy lifting and the Pats were well below par, but I didn't see anything to get too excited about. Sam Bradford didn't do much better than the Sanchize, only slinging for 120 yards, and the rushing attack was pretty much nullified, with DeMarco Murray racking up a measly 24 yards on eight carries. The Bills also looked mediocre in their win over Houston so this is a tricky one to predict. It will probably boil down to whether or not the Eagles can bottle up Sammy Watkins and contain LeSean McCoy. With the answer to those two questions being possibly and no, the Bills at even money are a solid bet.
Back the Buffalo Bills to win @ 2.021/1
Detroit Lions @ St Louis Rams Sunday, 18:00
The Lions suffered a stomach-churning loss of Bush Tucker Trial proportions when they succumbed to a last second Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers on TNF. It hurt so much that coach Jim Caldwell couldn't bring himself to talk about it during a press conference on Monday. His team should never have lost that game but their competitiveness throughout does reinforce the belief that their season has been well and truly turned around. That cannot be said for the Rams, who are threatening to tip toe out of the back door with the lamest of whimpers. Five losses in a row against mainly mediocre opposition adds up to a crisis. Head coach Jeff Fisher could well be fishing for another role if this one goes pear-shaped since he's fired pretty much everyone else.
Back the Detroit Lions to win @ 1.784/5
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, 18:00
Torched, pulverised or just plain mullered...take your pick. That's what happened to these two outfits last week as they allowed a combined 87 points and 989 yards of total offence (no...honestly). The difference is that whereas the Horses got picked apart by Big Ben and one of the league's most potent attacks, the Cats were savaged by a rookie quarterback and the league's 28th ranked offence according to yards gained. As with the prospect of Benn v Eubank III...that's worrying. The Colts are the call at the prices, but with a question mark over Matt Hasslebeck's fitness, makes sure he lines up with two arms and legs before wading in.
Back the Indianapolis Colts to win @ 2.26/5
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, 18:00
The Saints seemed a much improved side as they took the unbeaten Panthers all the way to the wire last week. They were unrecognisable from the outfit that had shown nothing in their previous three defeats; but for all their dangerous play on offence (including Brandin Cooks, who looks unplayable) they still looked pretty porous on defence. This should be a points fest and I was severely tempted by the overs even though the line is a high one at 50. I've settled on a bet on the Bucs on the moneyline, however, since they are in much better overall form and have the play-offs very much in their sights.
Back the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win @ 1.558/15
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, 18:00
This is a 'sit back and enjoy without too much financial exposure' job. An absolute Christmas cracker of a game on paper featuring two class acts clashing for high stakes with the added ingredient of bad blood from previous encounters. Pittsburgh linebacker Arthur Moats summed up the mood neatly: 'We don't like them. They don't like us.' An already intense rivalry was cranked up by Pittsburgh's reaction to a season-ending injury sustained to running back Le'Veon Bell when the two last met in week six. The outcome then was 16-10 to the Bengals but I think the tables could well be turned this time around due to several factors. Big Ben was returning from injury in that game, Cincinnati have just had two cushy fixtures, and Pittsburgh will probably welcome back tight-end Heath Miller. With a valuable three points on the handicap the Steelers are just about the call in what is sure to be a close game.
Back the Pittsburgh Steelers +3.0pts @ 1.8810/11
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, 18:00
The Chiefs made us sweat last week but eventually came through with what turned out to be a comfortable victory. That makes it six wins in a row for the Peace Pipe Passers and my 40-1 for them to win the big show is not looking as silly as it was a month ago (29.028/1 still available). I've had plenty of worse bets in my time and it's not one that's likely to get derailed versus the miserable Chargers. A 3-9 record is not what Bolts' fans had in mind when the season kicked off and with more rebuilding ahead of them than Sarah Beeny they've already got diddly squat left to play for. This should be straightforward for the Chiefs but minus 10 points is a bit steep so caution is advised.
Back the Kansas City Chiefs -10.0pts @ 2.01/1
San Francisco 49ers @ Cleveland Browns Sunday, 18:00
Johnny F has been in more last-chance saloons than Wyatt Earp, but this weekend's effort at QB for the Browns really could be the end unless he pulls his finger out. I've maintained all along that he has the ability to shine in the league, and I still believe it despite his lack of opportunities and stats. If you haven't got the team around you, it's almost impossible to perform as a quarterback in the NFL, and make no mistake, the Browns aren't great. So the lad went to a party in his week off - big deal. All will be forgotten when he dials up an unlikely win over San Fran at the weekend. The Niners are hard to fathom but are definitely beatable. Go Johnny go.
Back the Cleveland Browns to win @ 1.991/1
Seattle Seahawks @ Baltimore Ravens Sunday, 18:00
Seattle look like genuine Super Bowl contenders again and the Ravens (without Joe Flacco at the helm) look like a team that are going nowhere except swiftly up the draft board. This has something of a 'watch from behind the sofa' feel to it as a massacre is a distinct possibility. Russell Wilson is so hard to neutralise, rookie running back Thomas Rawls is electric and, needless to say, Seattle's defence is sensational. At the time of writing Baltimore's QB situation is slightly hazy and there is no spread available. If it turns out to be 10.5 or under get heavily involved.
Back the Seattle Seahawks @ best price available on the handicap.
Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets Sunday, 18:00
The Green Machine clicked into gear against Big Blue last week but left it until overtime to kick on and take the W. There's been a fair bit of buzz about the Planes since, with several pundits declaring the Marshall/Decker combo to be the best dual receiving threat in the league. Preposterous...especially when you consider that the Giants' pass-defence is the worst in the whole league. Old fuzzy face Ryan Fitzpatrick has his most important asset in between his ears and he'll need to use that Harvard brain to avoid a sometimes ferocious Titans front line. Fitzy's noddle should be up to the task but Mariota scares me, the handicap scares me and the Jets erratic running game also scares me. All in all, a nail-biting no-bet situation.
Back the New York Jets -6.5 @ 1.855/6
Washington Redskins @ Chicago Bears Sunday, 18:00
The Skins will be kicking themselves for letting it slip against Dez Bryant and the happy-go-lucky 'Boys last week, but can re-energise their quest for divisional honours by downing Da Bears at Soldier Field. Washington are my under-the-radar team this year and I still expect them to win the NFC East despite a couple of knucklehead plays in their recent setback (DeSean Jackson take a bow). Chicago has had its preparation interrupted by events off the field and Jay Cutler will either be motivated or distracted by a recent family tragedy. With that in mind there are too many intangibles to make this anything other than a low stakes affair.
Back the Washington Redskins +3.0pts @ 2.26/5
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos Sunday, 21:05
Denver has an injury list longer than Ronda Rousey's but that shouldn't stop them notching a win against stuttering Oakland. On the plus side for the Nags, Demarcus Ware is on the verge of a recall and if he does line up the Denver D will receive a major boost. Pick Six Peyton is no doubt whispering 'can I have my ball back' on the sidelines, but it seems as if everyone has now realised that clipboard duties followed by a long jog into the sunset are pretty much all that is left on his 'to do' list. He could always try his hand at a new career as a leg spin bowler without too many adjustments, poor lad. As for a wager, although I think the Nags will win, I'll take the Raiders on the handicap as a consequence of Denver's injury list, and the fact that Oakland will be playing without pressure and that will suit their game plan.
Back the Oakland Raiders +7.5 @ 1.8810/11
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers Sunday, 21:25
The 'Boys were lucky in their win against the 'Skins last week, but the Packers were as jammy as hell as they came from 20-0 down against the Lions. That was a game that had to be seen to be believed but the result didn't hide the fact that Green Bay was shut out in the first half against the 4-8 Lions. They might pull another rabbit out of the hat and take the win but the handicap of minus seven points doesn't make much sense to me...it should be half that. Dallas, despite their ongoing circus side-show, have managed to step up their game in recent weeks and I will be shocked if they don't keep this one close.
Back the Dallas Cowboys +7.0pts @ 2.26/5