Three Teams Trending Down in the NFL


Colin Kaepernick's fumble on this play sent the 49ers to 4-4 on the season.

What we know about the National Football League is that this isn’t the same NFL many of us remember from 10 to 20 to 30 years ago. Teams can go from looking like the greatest teams in the history of the league one week to the worst team ever allowed on a football field.

While there are certainly teams trending upwards right now, there are also teams heading in the wrong direction. Here’s a look at a few of those teams.

San Francisco (4-4) – The 49ers hit rock bottom this past Sunday with yet another home loss this time to St. Louis. It wasn’t even that they lost but moreso in how they lost. With essentially three shots to beat the Rams from the goal line, San Francisco failed to give the ball to their workhorse Frank Gore even once.

Eventually, Colin Kaepernick mishandled a snap and James Laurinaitis came up with the ball to preserve the Rams’ 13-10 victory. 49ers’ legend Jerry Rice said this week that thinks “Jim Harbaugh will not be coaching this team next year.” Rice is not alone in his thinking. It’s no secret that Harbaugh and the general manager don’t exactly get along.

It doesn’t help calm things down either with Harbaugh’s alma mater Michigan potentially looking to hire him as their next head coach. The team expects to get pass rusher Aldon Smith back from suspension as early as next week and he will help but he won’t do much for an offense that is suddenly struggling to find its’ way.


It was not a good day in Miami for Philip Rivers and the Chargers.

San Diego (5-4) – Remember about a month ago when the San Diego Chargers had already racked up a win over defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle? There was much talk that the Chargers were prepared to take on the Denver Broncos for AFC West supremacy. There was also a great deal of discussion about the potential MVP-candidacy of quarterback Philip Rivers.

Things change quickly in life and the NFL is no different. The ‘Bolts have suffered three straight defeats and their most recent one has the potential to bury them for the remainder of the season. After divisional losses to Denver and Kansas City, the Chargers were steam-rolled by the Miami Dolphins 37-0. So bad was it, that Rivers was actually pulled from the game in the second half.

With so many teams above .500 in the AFC, the Chargers cannot afford to fall back any further.

Dallas (6-3) – The Cowboys opened the season with a frustrating home loss to San Francisco. They then reeled off six straight wins behind a powerful offensive line and the running of DeMarco Murray. Signaling just how important he is to the Cowboys, Tony Romo went down against the Washington Redskins with a back injury.

Although he returned to the game, he was obviously not the same QB and the Cowboys lost. This past Sunday Romo was forced to sit because of the injury and in his place was Brandon Weeden who struggled from the start as Dallas lost to the best team in football right now the Arizona Cardinals.

Romo has flown with the team to London for their game against Jacksonville but I don’t believe he will play. With their bye week coming after this game, Jerry Jones knows Romo’s health is of paramount concern. Should Romo continue to struggle with his health then I see the Cowboys continuing their slide.



Trends to Consider if You’re Wagering the NFC …


Will Aldon Smith be a difference-maker in the NFC Title game?

On Tuesday, I ran through a series of trends and numbers that you’ll want to consider if you’re going to wager on the AFC Championship game between New England and Denver. Today I do the same for the NFC.

The Teams

The San Francisco 49ers are making their 15th appearance in the NFC Title game which is the current record. Overall, they are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the AFC. By contrast, the Seattle Seahawks are making just their second NFC Title game appearance.

To be fair, they did reach the AFC Title game when they were members of that conference but lost to Miami. The 49ers are an impressive 6-2 on the road in NFC Title games while the Seahawks are 1-0 at home. The Seahawks have also won six straight playoff games at home after starting 0-2.

This game features two of the top three scoring defenses in the NFL. This has occurred eight times previously with the winner going on to win the Super Bowl.

Kaepernick and Wilson

Will rushing yards or passing yards be the bigger difference between Kaepernick and Wilson on Sunday?

The Quarterbacks

Colin Kaepernick is 4-1 in the postseason with his only loss coming in Super Bowl XLVII. That record also includes a very good 3-0 record on the road. His completion percentage in those five playoff games is just 57.9% with his high being 76% in last year’s NFC Championship game win over Atlanta which was on the road. Keep in mind too that one third of Kaepernick’s career interceptions have come against Seattle.

Russell Wilson has more career starts but less playoff experience. His postseason record stands at 2-1 with a win at home and a win at Washington last year. His loss came against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. Wilson’s postseason completion percentage is right at 60% with a high of 66.6% coming in the loss to the Falcons.

Kaepernick and Wilson had almost the exact same rushing yards total this season. Kaepernick rushed for 524 while Wilson was just 15 yards better at 539. The rushing similarities don’t stop there. Kaepernick carried the ball 92 times while Wilson had four more at 96. Kaepernick did have a four to one advantage in rushing touchdowns however.

The Over/Under

After opening at 40.5, the over/under for the NFC Title game has slipped to 39 points. Unlike the AFC Title game, points are liable to be at a premium on Sunday. The Seahawks have beaten San Francisco 29-3 and 41-13 in the teams’ last two meetings in Seattle. The first would have come under today’s O/U number while the game from last year in Seattle would have been over the O/U number.

Ironically, the 49ers have scored 23 points in both of their postseason wins while the Seahawks have scored 23 in their one playoff victory. Assuming both stay on that pace, the over/under would clearly be an ‘over’ selection.

In San Francisco’s case, the total has gone under in four of their last five meetings when playing Seattle. The total has also gone under in four of the Niners’ last six road games.

For Seattle, the total has gone under in four of their last five games at home and has gone the way of the under in all of the Seahawks’ last five games.

Because these two teams both allow less than 20 points per game I’m going to push for the under here.

The Coaches

Jim Harbaugh is in his third year with the 49ers and has a playoff record of 5-2 over that span. Pete Carroll has been in Seattle for four seasons and he has a playoff record of 4-4. Keep in mind he was 1-2 when he coached the New England Patriots in the 1990′s.

Harbaugh does have three road playoff victories in the last two seasons whereas Carroll is unbeaten at home in the playoffs.

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The Road May Be a Friendly Place for Both Visiting Teams …


Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and his quarterback Colin Kaepernick face another tough road test in Carolina.

The Divisional Round of the National Football League playoffs is often the best weekend of the playoffs in terms of great games and upsets and I think today will do nothing to deter that notion.

San Francisco (-3) at Carolina – In the divisional playoffs in the Super Bowl Era, when a visiting team is favored, they have lost four of five times. Possibly a negative omen for the 49ers? San Francisco will have much less to worry about in terms of weather as they did last week in defeating Green Bay on a field goal as time expired.

They will however, have to deal with a Panthers’ team that has had a week off and has the confidence of a 10-9 win at Candlestick Park several weeks ago. Carolina has had the Niners’ number recently winning the last four times the two have faced off. Despite having a rowdy crowd on hand today, the playoff experience rides with San Francisco.

I believe the Panthers will do a much better job containing Colin Kaepernick than the Packers did but does that mean more room for Frank Gore and for the passing game? Since Michael Crabtree returned, Kaepernick has been a significantly better passer and this will also make Anquan Boldin more of a target as well.

Cam Newton’s favorite target Steve Smith has been limited in practice all week so his status is uncertain. Tight end Greg Olsen is ready to go and will be a serious factor in the Panthers’ attack. DeAngelo Williams will be the first option but Newton will have to pass in order to keep seven and eight defenders out of the box.

The Niners are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games at Carolina while the Panthers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven home games. Things seem to point in favor of the Panthers but I’m taking the experience of San Francisco to cover.


I expect Woodhead to play a huge role today against Denver.

San Diego (+9) at Denver – I honestly have a hard time believing this line considering the two games these teams already played this season. One was a seven-point Broncos’ win in San Diego and the other was a Chargers victory in Denver. Denver jumped out to a double-digit lead in their first meeting but this was also the game where the Chargers got after Peyton Manning and sent him off with a twisted ankle.

San Diego appears to be peaking at the right time offensively with a running game featuring Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Both have picked things up in recent weeks and Woodhead continues to be a huge factor out of the backfield. If Philip Rivers throws less than 20 times as he did last week in Cincinnati than that will mean another Bolts’ victory.

For Denver, this is the start of what the Broncos hope is a shot at redemption. Last year in this round they were stunned in overtime by the Baltimore Ravens who went on to the win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning, for all of his regular season success, is just 9-11 in his playoff career. Among those numbers is a big number eight. That’s how many times he has been one and done in the playoffs.

I think the Broncos will rely more on the running game than some imagine in this game. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will see more carries than usual in an attempt to keep pressure off of Manning and allow the play-action passing game to flourish.

San Diego is 8-17 straight up in their last 25 games on the road in Denver. The Broncos are 1-6-3 against the spread at home against San Diego and I think that’s a big factor considering the spread today. The Broncos will miss Von Miller and will struggle to keep Manning upright. I love the Chargers getting the nine.


Jim Harbaugh Whining Yet Again


Jim Harbaugh is whining again and I can't say surprised.

San Francisco 49ers’ Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is known to National Football League fans as a very good football coach. He is also known as a total whiner and looks like a toddler throwing a temper-tantrum on the sideline nearly every week. Just when I thought the NFL was ready to turn a corner with the recently settled lawsuit pertaining to head injuries, I was wrong.

Coach Harbaugh was obviously upset about the comments this week by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews. The all-pro player was asked on ESPN’s Mike and Mike about playing against teams that run the read option in terms of how to stop it. His answer was straight out of previous decades of pro football and did not even create the slightest reaction from either Mike Greenberg or Mike Golic. The following were Matthews’ comments…


Matthews' comments could have come from any defensive player.

“One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback,” Matthews said. “So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they’re too important to their offense.

“If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that’s exactly what we’re going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”

What Matthews said is no different than the late Raiders’ coach and owner Al Davis used to tell his team. “The other team’s quarterback must go down.” I don’t recall opposing coaches whining about that statement. The difference between the two ideas that Davis’ comments were in general and Matthews’ were in regard to a specific offensive play.

Harbaugh took Matthews’ comments as if he were stating that Niners’ QB Colin Kaepernick was the one being targeted and then when on to compare what was said to Bounty Gate.

According to the rules on hitting a quarterback, if he should be part of such a play where he is carrying out a fake, and this what QBs who run the read-option do, they are allowed to be hit. Pretty plain and simple as far as I’m concerned.

Packers’ Head Coach Mike McCarthy added, “The reality is, the quarterback is part of the option,” McCarthy said. “There’s three options obviously: the quarterback, the dive and the pitch. The ability to go tackle that player is obviously within the rules.”

That’s it right there in a nice, tidy nutshell but just watch. I can almost guarantee that one of the Packers will get nailed for unnecessary roughness for hitting Kaepernick. The league, despite settling its’ concussion lawsuit with former players, will continue to the defense out of the game and make it more and more simple for the offense to score points and score them at will.

In some ways what Harbaugh is doing is no different than an NBA coach talking about his guys getting pounded on by a more aggressive team in the hopes that the officials hear it and then act on it. No one is accusing Harbaugh of being stupid here, but on the heels of the concussion settlement, this just sounds like typical whining.

If the NFL begins to eliminate hitting the quarterback on the read-option then the defense may as well not bother showing up for games. At this point, what more could the league take away from them?

Another sad commentary on the direction of this once proud league.



Early NFL MVP Candidates


Rodgers should benefit from an improved running game and put up big numbers.

Believe it or not it’s just a matter of hours before some National Football League teams open training camp in preparation for the 2013 season. Unlike college football, every team in professional football enters the season with aspirations of playing for a championship regardless of how they fared last year.

Last season, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was the MVP despite coming off an ACL tear just nine months prior. Peterson’s 2,000 yard season was one of the best in the history of the game and now comes the hard part for Peterson. Can he top last season?

There are any number of candidates to choose from so I’m going to break the favorites listed as such by our friends at Bovada. I’m going to tell you why they could win it and why they might not.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 13-2 Why He Wins? Rodgers will have Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson as well as tight end Jermichael Finley to throw to and the running game will be better with rookies Eddy Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Why He Doesn’t? The offensive line lacks improvement and Rodgers runs for his life for a second-straight season.

1. Peyton Manning, Denver, 13-2 Why He Wins? Because he’s Peyton Manning! He actually has a solid receiving corps that got better with Wes Welker joining the team. I expect the schedule to offer plenty of opportunities for Manning to have big numbers. Why He Doesn’t? If the running game slips, Manning will not be as effective. He isn’t 26 anymore either and the injury concern is always there.


Brees will have big numbers but his defense could cost him a shot at the MVP.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 10-1 Why He Wins? I have no doubts that Brees and Head Coach Sean Payton will treat this season as a form of ‘revenge’ tour after “BountyGate.” Brees has a mutlitude of weapons and a nice runing game as well. Why He Doesn’t?  If the Saints’ defense doesn’t improve, Brees could be forced to throw more than he wants to and that means turnovers.

3. Tom Brady, New England, 10-1 Why He Wins? Brady has proven that he works well with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and even despite the issues with Gronk and Aaron Hernandez, Brady will still elevate the play of others around him. Why He Doesn’t? Last seasons’ running game was a surprise. If that doesn’t return, Brady will not be able to pass this team to victory as he has in the past.

5. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco, 12-1 Why He Wins? Kaepernick has really good talent around him and with Anquan Boldin, he has a veteran target who will make him look even better. Throw in the running game and Vernon Davis and Kaepernick could have an amazing season. Why He Doesn’t? Many teams this offseason spent countless hours working to stop the spread option. That, along with the Niners being the hunted may have an impact on his play.

6. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 15-1 Why He Wins? Because he’ll have the sentimental vote that’s why. Can you imagine if he rushes for another 1,800 plus yards? On a rebuilt knee? Peterson thinks he can eclipse 2,000 again. Why He Can’t? The schedule for one thing. The Vikes play the AFC North where all four teams are solid against the run and no back has ever rushed for 2,000 in consecutive seasons.

Other Guys to Consider… Matt Ryan, Atlanta 15-1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit, 20-1. Both guys will put up big numbers.

Guys I’m Not Touching… Robert Griffin III, Washington, 18-1. Health is a major concern. Matthew Stafford, Detroit, 25-1. Until he can be more efficient with the ball, the turnovers will kill his chances despite monster yards.

Who Wins? I think Brees makes a strong run at it, but I have to go with Rodgers who will benefit from a more diverse offensive attack and put up huge and efficient numbers.


Super Bowl Sunday Betting Tips


Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday. Finally.

After a story-rich season that provided surprise after surprise, the NFL finally reaches its marquee game. It’s taken 22 weeks to get here, but now the 75,000– I would say fans but let’s face it, the corporate numbers eliminates the use of that particular term – in attendance and the millions of TV viewers get the chance to hear Alicia Keys belt out the national anthem, Beyonce shake her rump at halftime whilst lip-syncing (possibly), and those $4 million commercials.

Oh and there’s also the small matter of the game between Baltimore and San Francisco.

Welcome to Super Bowl XLVII: the event, the spectacle, the game nobody can pick.

It’s been a long time since a Super Bowl winner was this hard to pick. Ordinarily, there’s a decisive advantage for one team. That team might not live up to that advantage, but there’s an advantage nonetheless. But this year…

Trying to separate the Niners (the team of the stats) and the Ravens (the team of destiny) has been a nightmare. Numbers (they never lie, you know?) favor San Francisco, but Baltimore has been on a crusade to upset everybody this postseason.  Then there’s history. Three of the last five Super Bowls have gone to the underdog. It’s becoming common place to expect the unexpected.

So, who do you pick?

If you’ve waited this long to pick your side, fear not. You’re not the only one. For now, let’s see what Casino Review can conjure up for you.


Opening Lines

Two weeks ago, the line opened with San Francisco as the favorite, with the spread at 5. The total opened at 49.


Current Lines

Sunday morning sees the spread at four with most bookies, although Bet Online has it at 3.5. The total is 47.5 with most online sites, although Bovada has it at 48.


Betting Straight Up

Statistically speaking, San Francisco (11-4-1, 2-0 postseason) has a slight advantage when it comes to the numbers.

Offensively, the Niners compiled more total yards this season, including a whopping 155.7 rushing yards per game (4th in the league). Towards the end of the season – the part where Colin Kaepernick took over quarterbacking duties – the Niners really started putting numbers up.

Baltimore (10-6, 3-0 postseason) was no offensive slouch though. The Ravens outranked the Niners in passing yards and points per game, although the one tenth of a point difference proved these sides would need a well-oiled crowbar to separate them.

These trends have continued during the postseason, although San Francisco has scored 6½ more than the Ravens.

Defensively, San Francisco was a juggernaut. The side limited teams to just 17.1 points per game, second to only Seattle in the regular season. It was the sort of defense we’ve come to expect of Baltimore, only this year’s Baltimore side was middle of the pack when it came to defense. Until this postseason.

Baltimore has allowed just 19 points per game in its three playoff games, while San Francisco has allowed 27.5. It appears that the feared Baltimore defense (and Ray Lewis) turned up at just the right time.

Historically speaking, San Francisco has been to five Super Bowls and won all five. That includes Super Bowl XXIV (Jan. 28, 1990), a game in which the Niners defeated Denver 55-10 at the Super Dome in New Orleans, making for the most lopsided in Super Bowl history.

Baltimore has made one Super Bowl appearance, defeating the New York Giants 34-7 at Super Bowl XXXV (Jan. 28, 2001). One team’s undefeated Super Bowl streak is coming to an end tonight.

Baltimore currently owns a three-game winning streak over San Francisco, with the average game score coming out at 19-6. Some would argue that Baltimore hasn’t faced the 49ers side currently on show, and in terms of the Kaepernick offense, that’s true, but remember: the Ravens took down the Niners last season (Nov. 24, 2011) 16-6. Add to that the fact that San Francisco has only beaten Baltimore once (Nov. 17, 1996; a team that included Steve Young and Jerry Rice) and you have an historical advantage for Baltimore.

Want the waters to get even murkier?

Consider that the NFC representative has the superior record (23-19 since 1970 merger) in the Super Bowl, has won three straight, and is 18-5 when beginning the game as favorite, you surely have to come down in favor of the Niners, right?

But then again, the underdog has won four of the last five Super Bowl games and eight of the last 11. Add to that, the AFC has gone 9-6 in the Super Bowl since snapping a 13-game losing streak in 1998 and things suddenly look to be favorable to Baltimore.

See what we mean by impossible to pick?

And all of this without considering those unfathomable anomalies: will Ray Lewis win a Super Bowl in his final season? Will Colin Kaepernick finish off a fairy tale story? Will an injury play a part? Which Harbaugh brother has the advantage? Or any number of other factors that could impact the game.

So your pick essentially becomes a tossup. Which brings us to…

Take: BALTIMORE – There’s just something about this team that draws you to it. Huge underdog wins against Denver and New England, as well as experience, gives the Ravens a slight edge. An almost indecipherable edge in all fairness, but this just seems like the Ravens’ year now. It certainly didn’t earlier in the year.


Betting Against the Spread

Picking Baltimore means we’re automatically taking the side to cover the spread. But if you still inching towards San Francisco, here’re the numbers you need to know.

San Francisco was 9-7-0 against the spread during the regular season. The Niners covered the spread in both playoff games also.

Baltimore recorded a 6-9-1 tally against the spread during the regular season, but the Ravens have gone on to cover the spread in all three postseason games, including two as the underdog.

Historically, the favorite is 26-18-0 against the spread. On only six occasions has the favorite won the game and failed to cover. The favorite is 5-3-1 ATS when the Super Bowl is played in New Orleans. Those are advantages that favor San Francisco, and well worth considering if you’re going to take the Niners straight up.

In this instance, we’re taking Baltimore to be the 14th underdog to cover and win outright.

Take: BALTIMORE – By default.


Betting the Total

The total is a really bitch to predict. Consider this; the total has gone over in 22 Super Bowls and under in 23. The more keen-eyed of you will realize that only equates to 45 of the 46 Super Bowl games. Well, there was no total in the first Super Bowl.

During the regular season, San Francisco was 10-6-0 in favor of the total going over. The total has also gone over in both games involving the 49ers this postseason. All told, San Francisco has seen the total go over 66.7 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, Baltimore was 8-7-1 in favor of the over during the regular season. This postseason has seen two Ravens games (vs. Indianapolis, at New England) go under, with one (at Denver) going over. All told, the Ravens have seen the total go over 47.4 percent of the time, the same as it has gone under.

Take: UNDER – Both teams may have favored the over this season but the two defenses take the field in New Orleans can shut a game down. The two previous playoff rounds have seen the total go over in all games, which suggests the under is about to rear its ugly head. There’s a historical presence here also: six of the nine Super Bowl games played in the Big Easy have seen the total go under. Meanwhile, six of the last eight Super Bowls have also seen the total go under. Smart bettors should be thinking knockdown, drag out affair, not offensive spectacle.


So there you have it. Now all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy the final football game of the season.


Kaepernick Could Become Most Bet-On Player in Super Bowl …


Colin Kaepernick has certainly earned his share of fans during the San Francisco 49ers’ recent postseason run and then some, as the first-year starter has dazzled spectators with record-setting games and more controlled performances. Unsurprisingly, he’s been a hit with bettors this season too, as his popularity with folks and prop betting is beginning to border on incredible territory.

According to Las Vegas insider Jimmy Vaccaro of William Hill, via, Kaepernick could become the most bet-on player in Super Bowl history next weekend if his popularity among bettors continues to grow.

“We put 10 props on him last week and generated more than $100,000 in bets,” Vaccaro said. “To put that in perspective, a good prop is when you can draw $2,500 to $5,000 in bets.”

Kaepernick is doing good business for sportsbooks

That number is likely to increase by a significant margin, as Vaccaro says William Hill plans to put 20 props on Kaepernick for the Super Bowl, including bets like: What Kaepernick throw first a touchdown or interception? Will Kaepernick have 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing? already has 19 props on Kaepernick in many of the same categories and has him listed as the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl MVP award at 8/5.

“But I’ve never seen interest on prop bets like I’ve seen with Kaepernick,” Vaccaro said. “We think we can do $300,000 in Kaepernick prop bets alone, and that’s a conservative estimate. No one has ever come close to that number.”

Vaccaro says the most bet-on player for the Super Bowl since the props were invented after Super Bowl XX was Peyton Manning, but it looks like those records will be shattered in a week’s time.

Kaepernick’s popularity is obviously mostly derived from his amazing skill on the field, but experts think it also has to do with the fact that he played college ball at the University of Nevada in Reno, which is of course, a prolific gambling town.

With so many sportsbooks offering a variety of props on Kaepernick and other star players, you’ll want to get in on the action before we have to wait a whole year for football and football prop bets to return. And why not be a part of sports gaming history by putting a bet on a Kaepernick prop?