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Michael Taylor 2nd Jan 2009 - 18:53

NFL play-offs: Ryan can march Atlanta past Arizona

Matt Ryan may lack the experience of Kurt Warner but the Atlanta Falcons' rookie quarterback looks set to lead his team past the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round of the NFL play-offs.

Ryan is likely to be named as the offensive rookie of the season after his mature displays have helped the unfancied Falcons to within touching distance of Super Bowl XLIII.

And while the ex-Boston College star has been superb when throwing the ball he has also opened the door for the rushing game, with Michael Turner in particular thriving with 17 touchdowns.

It is this offensive combination that may ultimately prove a little too much for the Cardinals, who, despite boasting a formidable home record, are one of the more fortunate teams to be seeing play-off action.

Arizona's progression to this wild-card showdown was not so much down to their own exceptional performance, although Kurt Warner produced yet another memorable season, it was more due to a shockingly bad NFC West division.

The trio of the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams were not just poor competition for the Cardinals, they were also fodder for anyone that came across them, managing a meagre 13 wins between them - six of which came from divisional games!

It is this fact that causes questions to be asked about the Cards, such as, can they compete with the NFL's better teams? Is Kurt Warner going to be as effective playing post season football? And, is the low ranked defence any match for talent such as Ryan, Turner and Roddy White?

The most likely answer to all of these questions is probably no, making the 10/13 about a Falcons win, or the 10/11 about the Falcons -2.0 on the spread look extremely tempting - the 11/10 about Arizona should be avoided.

Michael Turner is the 3/1 favourite to score the first touchdown which looks a little too short to back despite his scoring form, while better value can be found on Arizona's RB Tim Hightower at 8/1.

The first year, fifth round draft pick, out of the University of Richmond has replaced Edgerrin James as Ken Whisenhurst's starting back and has instantly made a name for himself with ten regular season touchdowns - a Cardinals single season, rushing record.

Hightower's role is limited given Warner's preference for the aerial game but, if Arizona find themselves in a first and goal early in the game, the 8/1 will look huge.

Here at William Hill we are going play-off crazy, offering punters no fewer then 23 prelive betting markets as well as a range of in-play markets on all games! So, if you think Mike Smith will make the first coaches challenge, or Todd McClure will false start for the first penalty yards of the game, then why not take a look at our improved range of NFL betting?

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