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Michael Taylor 11th Sep 2010 - 19:55

San Francisco can headline bumper NFL Sunday

The NFL curtain raiser between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings on Thursday may have failed to boil but the disappointment should be short lived with a bumper package of five televised games over Sunday and Monday.

Super Bowl contenders, new stadiums, renewed optimism and close match-ups are the name of the game but for five teams the promise of getting off to winning ways is the biggest prize of all.

So which sides look best to move to 1-0 from the televised games?

Carolina Panthers @ New York Giants

The Giants never really got going in 2009 as they fell to an average 8-8 record - don't expect things to drastically change this year either.

Luckily they couldn't ask for a much easier start to their spell in the Meadowlands Stadium though when they welcome a weak looking Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers finally got rid of Jake Delhomme in the off-season, unfortunately their already suspect defensive line received a major blow with the loss of Pro Bowl DE Julius Peppers.

Unless somebody can step up and make the big plays this year then Carolina will give up points heavily, too many for Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to make back in most cases I suspect.

Matt Moore is an upgrade on Delhomme but he's far from the finished article so don't expect Steve Smith to put up the sort of numbers we know he's capable of - it appears he's destined to go yet another season without reaching his full potential.

As for the Giants in this one you have to feel Eli Manning will be on top of his game in his new home and he's a man that really knows how to exploit his Steve Smith.

The Giants' wide receiving Smith had a breakout season in 2009, emerging as Manning's favoured target and in the process was rewarded with a team leading seven touchdown catches - he looks good value at 8/1 to score the first of the day here.

It could be a busy day for him as well with the Giants likely to see at lot of the football and I can't see anything other than the home side making short work of the -6.5 spread and can be backed at 10/11 to do so.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Mike Singletary's 49ers deserve a lot of respect going into this season and they'll feel confident of showing why when they travel to Washington to face the Seahawks.

Alex Smith isn't perfect under center by any means but you don't need to be if Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook can run the football like we know they can.

It's on the defensive end that the big things can be expected though with Patrick Willis leading one of the toughest units around and expect him to be a constant burden for Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday.

This is the biggest reason the 49ers start as favourites for the NFC West, Singletary's injection of passion and tough discipline are enough to see them walk the weakest division in the NFL and you're likely to see part one of the romp here.

Seattle have done little to improve and it looks like another year of failure is on the cards, in fact they could even be worse than last year where they won just five games and finished on a four game losing streak.

They had no rush and they've lost TJ Houshmandzadeh so their prospects of breaking down the San Fran defence looks slim to say the least - making the travelling side value at 20/21 to cover the -3 spread.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins

The Redskins were terrible last season but it seems there's light at the end of the tunnel and hopes for an improved time in the capital improved with the arrival of Mike Shanaham and Donovan McNabb.

Jim Zorn was never liked in Washington and their record showed why although he was hardly helped by a grumpy Albert Haynesworth and a lack of even a semi-decent quarterback.

These are the issues Shanahan will aim at sorting out and if he can there's no reason to think they can't be a contender in the NFC East, especially since the Eagles have been stripped down to nothing.

Beating Dallas on opening day may be a tough ask though.

McNabb isn't definitely 100% fit and is a little doubt to start while the Cowboys, for all their individual issues, are pretty much perennial lock-ins for the playoffs.

Tony Romo is lucky to have some great receiving talent in Miles Austin and Jason Witten while who knows whether Roy Williams can actually live up to his billing and give Wade Phillips a massive boost.

Lets face it they'll probably end up losing in the wild card round of the playoffs but these are games they always seem to come out of with a win and I don't think it'll change here - Dallas are 10/19 on the money line while I think Washington might have enough savvy to survive the +3.5 on the spread.

Watch out tomorrow for the next two games that complete the first round of the NFL season.


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