NFL tips today!

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

We have the big NFC Championship between the 49ers who we are on outright at big odds for a big stake ( see below) and as explained in midweek, it is/was possible to take some cover for that if you so wished. I think that San Francisco will make it to the Superbowl tonight, it just kind of feels “right” and I am always happy when I feel like that. They are a better team IMO and I suspect that the Falcons who come into this game with 24 hours less recovery will be drained after playing a  very demanding opponent last week and now another and similar ( but better) one,  in SF. The Falcons are 1-3 in the post season under Mike Smith and were very fortunate to get the job done last week, they will have to double team Justin Smith tonight and that is going to free up Aldon Smith who is due another big game. Also, Falcons have struggled to contain running quarterbacks all season and they might be facing the best one here in Colin Kaepernick. I would favour the 49ers giving up four points if we were not already involved, but no need for us to bet.

The AFC game is an exact repeat of last season’s Championship game, which the Patriots won by 3 points (23-20), they met in Baltimore in Week 3 of the regular season and the Ravens gained a little revenge winning 31-30, the previous four games saw the Patriots win three by between 3-6 points, the other was a big win for the Ravens, so betting Baltimore +7 points, you would have won in the last six match ups, tonight you can bet the Ravens +8 and that looks the way to go. The form book goes out of the window in these big rivalries and what has happened in previous meetings tend to shape how the next game plays out, more than form coming in, or home field advanatage, weather, injuries etc. The Ravens went as a big dog to Denver last week and got the job done, the Broncos did score 35 points but 14 were on special team returns, Peyton Manning was largely ineffective and less so the longer the game went and they previously held the Colts without a touchdown and if Ray Lewis could reach the season ending game, it would be a fitting end to a stunning career. He and the Ravens defence can keep the Patriots and Brady quiet enough for Flacco and co to stay within a touchdown and who knows, maybe post an upset win. 1.25 units Baltimore Ravens +8 points 1.935 Pinnacle Sports/ Ibramarket.

NFL ( written September 9th)
I am going to ease into the new season and keep a fairly low profile for the first two weeks, especially with regard to comments, as I want to keep as much information to myself until it is needed.
However, I have to put up my outright bet from the get go and that is the San Francisco 49ers. It is simply impossible to overstate the impact coach Jim Harbaugh has had at the club in just 20 months. Last year was meant to be one of rebuilding, he entered the new season, with a lot of new players , shortened summer practice due to the “lockout”  and taking over a team which had not posted a winning season in nine years. They not not only won, but did so 13 times in the regular season and went to the NFC Championship game losing in overtime (and they should have won), to the New York Giants who went on to win the Super Bowl. That was an incredible achievement.

Harbaugh and the coaching team he brought with him from Stanford believe in teaching, not just telling players to do something, but explaining why, it is all about improvement and attention to details, he is a coach from top to toe, a man born to lead, from a family of leaders. His father and brother are football coaches, another sibling is a Basketball coach. I love these quotes from Trent Dilfer who said “he has done exactly what he did at Stanford, he’s taken guys who thought they were tough and taught them how to be tough. ” His offensive genius isn’t necessarily in the modern-day passing game,he and his staff are very good at scheming the running game, Harbaugh is a master of creating matchups in the running game and capitalizing on the play-action” .

The loss to the Giants still hurts quarterback Alex Smith, who said “As much as we all talk about pressing delete on last year … I don’t think that anyone is pressing delete on the taste in our mouth.” Smith threw for a career-high 3,150 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, and his five interceptions were tied for the third-fewest in NFL history with a minimum of 400 attempts. He was playing with a wide receiving corps that was considered one of the league’s worst, and that unit managed just one reception in the NFC title game loss. That was what ultimately let them down, the existing group will improve quite a bit IMO, but they have added Giants wide receiver Mario Mannigham and running back Brandon Jacobs to the squad and the offense will be far more potent this season. Also 35 yo Randy Moss came out of retirement to sign a one year contract, hard to know what to make of this, but Moss is an all time great receiver and if anyone can get another golden year out of him, then it is Harbaugh and his team. I heard that he has been quick and impressive in training camp and this really could be incredible business, anyway, anything he brings to the Niners is a bonus. As a fomer QB himself knows a good wide receiver when he sees one. The 49 er defense is awesome, it was the best in the NFL last season, giving up just 227 points and not allowing a rushing touchdown through the first 14 games, posting 42 sacks, 23 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, a safety, a defensive touchdown and 2 return touchdowns, through the regular season, it was ranked #4 but was clearly #1 for my money.

They come into the season oozing quiet confidence, left tackle Joe Staley said they feel “much further along than we were last year.”

Green Bay are all about the offense, they were big Super Bowl favourites last season after going 15-1 through regular season and QB Aaron Rodgers set the NFL single-season record with a 122.5 passer rating and franchise records with 4,643 yards and 45 touchdown passes, his team scoring an average of 35 points per game, the 5th highest in history. However, their defense gave up 4,924 passing yards, the most in NFL history and their pass rush was almost non existent. They have looked out of synch in pre season and the 49ers can put more pressure on Rodgers than he normally sees. If they can stop the run as effectively as last season, it will be easier to deal with even the amazing Packers receivers, it is always easier to defend, when you “know” what a team is going to do.

Packers have/ had the NFL’s worst defense and go into the start of this season with several young players set to play in key roles.Outside linebacker Nick Perry, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, will be a starter, they will also have to go with youth in the secondary to cover for the offseason move of 35-year-old cornerback Charles Woodson to safety. Linebacker Desmond Bishop is out for the season and second-year player Davon House, who made an early bid in training camp to win a starting job at cornerback is injured. Anyway, today is more about the 49ers for me, tehy do not have to win today, but if they do, the 14-1 will disappear, if they lose narrowly I doubt it will change at all.

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