NFL Play-offs: Miami fairytale can carry on
If I had a penny for every article that had been written this season about the remarkable change of fortune the Miami Dolphins have seen then I would be a very rich man - I even wrote one myself prior to the Jets game last weekend!
Because of this I am going to purely comment on what has brought them this far and what they are likely to come across against in their wild-card match against the Baltimore Ravens, as well as throwing my insight into the Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings match-up.
Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins
The rejuvenation of the Dolphins cannot be attributed solely to one person, although Bill Parcells does get a special mention for his off-season rebuilding project that included bringing in first year head coach Tony Sparano.
The acquisition of Chad Pennington was particularly huge whether it be for his accurate arm or the stability he has given the franchise in the quarterback department - another year of Cleo Lemon would hardly have brought about the same type of season.
Pennington's numbers make him the most accurate quarterback in NFL history which fits in perfectly with the no-nonsense ball retention game they have employed this season with only 13 turnovers recorded all season.
The biggest problem for Miami now is finding away to make an impact on the Ravens defence after they failed in a big way back in week seven losing 27-13.
The wildcat formation was largely ineffective that day as was the majority of their offence, however that seemed to be a common theme for all of Baltimore's opposition in 2008.
Baltimore have been clinical all season long on the defensive end and are top three ranked in points allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed - they are in the Pittsburgh Steelers' school of mean.
The stingy defence is hardly surprising given it includes Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs, but the effective offence has been warmly welcomed.
Joe Flacco has improved after a shaky start to his NFL career but it is through the powerhouse rushing duo of Willis McGahee and Pro Bowl starter LeRon McClain that the Ravens have managed to put points on the board.
In the match betting Baltimore are the 10/19 favourites to win which is only to be expected - they are the better team on paper but 33/20 about Miami to carry on looks tempting even if it a feeling based on heart rather than head.
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You have to like the 9/1 about Willis McGahee to score first while 15/2 about Ronnie Brown also looks big, and the 28/1 about Joe Flacco could be an interesting if slightly unconventional.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings
Both teams can feel somewhat fortunate to be playing post-season football as the Vikings have looked well below-par in no small part due to quarterback problems, while the Eagles have looked the total package lately but a mid-season slump meant final day results had to go their way.
Luckily for the Eagles they got all the necessary last day results including their own demolition of NFC North rivals the Dallas Cowboys.
The highlight of this NFC wild card match should be the battle of the running backs with Adrian Peterson coming up against Brian Westbrook - we have enhanced first touchdown prices on both of these players amongst a range of others.
In the match betting, the Eagles start as 5/8 favourites with the Vikings at 7/5 but, while the two teams had similar regular season records, this should be a Phily banker.
Tarvaris Jackson is going to come under immense which is terrible news for a quarterback that struggles at the best of times and to make things worse Donovan McNabb at the other end is getting better as the season progresses.
The best bets could be the 20/23 about Philadelphia with a -3.0 handicap and the 10/3 about the first scoring play being an Eagles field goal.