New England Patriots @ St Louis Rams
In this game the nominal home team (meaning they gave up a home fixture in the US) are the St Louis Rams but it might not feel that way when they get into the stadium as the New England Patriots are the best supported team in the UK by a margin & will have plenty cheering them on. The Patriots have had far more success than the Rams in recent years meaning they've experienced big games & they have the stars to get fans excited too, it's easy to see why they are strong favourites in this one.
(Rob Gronkowski can wow the Wembley crowd)
The Patriots are second favourites for the Super Bowl but only have a 4&3 record, with their three losses coming by a combined total of just 4 points with narrow losses against Arizona whilst they were really rolling, the always tough Ravens & then to the defensively sound Seahawks. Those losses clearly could have gone either way & we could now be looking at an unbeaten Patriots side, they're ranked first in total offensive yards & can hurt opposing defenses in so many ways with their running looking more impressive this year to complement Tom Brady's passing game. Stevan Ridley has been the lead rusher for the Pats & has been averaging a steady 4.4 yards plus has crossed the goalline for touchdowns on 4 occasions, the biggest dangers in & around the end zone though are the star tight end pair of Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez. Both Hernandez & 'the Gronk' are horrible matchups for opposing defenders as they are built like blockers yet have great hands for receiving meaning they can get extra yards after the catch regularly, Gronkowski has already gained 5 TDs on the season, with 2 coming last week, & he looks a fair price at 6/1 to score the first in this one.
St Louis have certainly improved from last year where they won just twice & they already have 3 victories, 2 coming against the Seahawks & Cardinals so you could argue they have a form line on New England. Danny Amendola was turning into a star for the Rams but is out for a while with injury & they've subsequently lost their last two (against the Packers last week was no disgrace) & their running game hasn't looked good enough to cover any flaws in the passing of Sam Bradford with Steven Jackson's production down on last year at just 3.8 yards a carry & one touchdown, it looks unlikely he'll improve here against a decent run defense. The Rams best chance of winning here is by putting pressure on Tom Brady & they do rank 5th in sacks this year, unfortunately for them the Patriots mish mash of a defense has actually done a pretty good job protecting Brady & he's mobile enough to make defenders miss anyway.
In our opinion New England are by far the more likely side to rise to the occasion & we can see them putting plenty of points on the board plus their sometimes suspect secondary won't be too troubled by the Rams' mediocre reciever corps. Rather than take the Patriots on the handicap we like the prices available for them to win by between 7-12 points at 4/1 & 13-18 at a huge 9/1 with bwin.
San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns
The Chargers have the potential to be genuinely dangerous this year but have been hampered by the incredibly inconsistent play of their quarterback Philip Rivers who was at one time definitely amongst the elite but hasn't reached those standards in the last season & a half, coming off a bye week to the Browns however could be just the tonic tp his passing woes.
(We're putting our trust in Philip Rivers against the Browns)
The Chargers are coming off a bye week & that will be a big benefit as Rivers needed to work out some of the problems in his game & Ryan Mathews at running back continues to recover from injury, he should be getting to full strength now & is capable of a big game here. Rivers has good receioving targets in Malcolm Floyd & Antonio Gates to throw to plus Robert Meachem seems to be coming into the game more now as evidenced by his two touchdowns against his previous team the Saints. Overall we feel the Chargers have an awful lot more going for them than the less than mediocre Browns & even with the risk that is Rivers' quarterback play they look an outstanding bet giving up just 3 points on the handicap.
New England Patriots to beat St Louis Rams by 7-12 points at 4/1 (General) & 13-18 points at 9/1 (bwin)
Rob Gronkowski to score first touchdown in Patriots v Rams game at 6/1 (General)
San Diego Chargers to beat Cleveland Browns with -3 points on the handicap at Evens (Various)