NFL: Reliable receivers to excel in Minnesota

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NFL nut Kyle Brown (@Kyleianbrown) runs the rule over best bets from Sunday's Week 12 action.

San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Sunday 24th November 2018, 18:00

Jameis Winston will start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week and he will be desperate to prove a point.

I correctly predicted he would be benched mid-season in my ante-post preview where I tipped the Bucs to finish with the worst record in the NFL.

Currently sitting 3-7 and one win ahead of the joint-bottom teams, they would be rock-bottom had it not been for freakishly good performances in the opening two games by stand-in QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Tampa’s offence and defence have been light and day this year. They have the most passing yards of any team through 11 weeks of the season and average the most total yards per-game. Tampa also sit ninth for average points per-game (26.7)

Defensively however, they’re the equivalent of a football team playing without a goalkeeper. Allowing 329 points this year is the worst in the NFL, and they seem to have no answer to stopping opposition throwing the ball, giving up an average of 282.3 yards per-game (28th).

Mike Smith quite rightly lost his job last month as the defensive coordinator, with Mark Duffner, the LB coach, filling in until the end of the season, but he’s yet to implement an effective system.

With Winston playing in front of home fans and trying to prove he is still the Bucs franchise QB, expect him to have a career defining game. His talent has never really been in question, only his character, so a big game and win will hopefully prove that Tampa should stick with the fourth year quarterback.

Mike Evans is the clear stud at wide receiver, and when Winston was giving the nod to play after half time last week, the pair found their groove and connected for two touchdowns.

I expect Winston to lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to victory. His best chance of doing so is targeting Evans early and frequently, so I would not be surprised to see a multi-touchdown performance from the receiver.

A straight win is best priced on Marathon at 19/25, and Evans to score anytime at 11/10 on SkyBet. The match winner/scorer market is available on Paddy Power at 11/5.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos | Sunday 24th November 2018, 21:25

The 7-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers travel to the 4-6 Denver Broncos in what should be a fiercely contested match.

The Broncos are coming off a hard-fought divisional win against the LA Chargers (my tip for AFC champions) and have every opportunity of making a wild card play-off spot given the plethora of teams in the AFC sitting 5-5.

Pittsburgh, after starting 1-1-2, now find themselves atop of the AFC North and on a six-game win streak. Le’veon Bell is firmly in the past and they are finding success with replacement back James Conner.

Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are arguably the hardest wide receiver tandem that any opposition will face, and the Steelers have T.J Watt, Joe Haden and Cameron Heyward all playing brilliantly on defence.

Ben Roethlisberger was, by all accounts, woeful last week in the first half – going for 53 yards, two INT and a 10.1 passer rating. But he turned it around and completed a 16-point comeback, throwing for 261 yards and two TD’s while rushing for a game winning TD in the last seconds.

The Steelers rank sixth in offense and fifth in defence, scoring an average of 29.9 points to 22.5 points allowed (+7.4 difference). Denver are very much a middle of the pack team, with a -0.7 point difference.

In the seven games Pittsburgh have won this year, they covered a -6 handicap spread in five of them, and averaged a total of 32.43 points per-game. I don’t see Denver upsetting the odds like they did last week and beating another Super Bowl hopeful, so I’m all in on a Steelers win.

There is no doubting that Denver is one of the more difficult places to go on the road, and many analysts have the Broncos as their ‘upset’ pick for Week 12. But Pittsburgh are playing phenomenally well in every area of the field, and last week’s first-half blip isn’t enough to convince me they won’t win and win in style.

Jacksonville (third), Carolina (12th) and Baltimore (first) all have better ranked defences than the Broncos – and Pittsburgh just defeated them all in consecutive weeks.

I expect a 6-10 winning margin in favour of Pittsburgh, and you can get -6 at a best price of 10/7 on Unibet.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings | Monday 18th November 2018, 01:20

When the Green Bay Packers meet the Minnesota Vikings in this crucial (for both teams) NFC North match-up, expect to see both QB’s target their ‘Mr Reliable’.

Adam Thielen has 85 receptions for 1013 yards and seven TD’s through 10 games of the season. His primary rival for targets has been Diggs, but still, in all but two games (Week 8 v New Orleans Saints and Week 9 v Detroit Lions), he was targeted by Kirk Cousins over 10 times. He’s catching 74% of those balls, so is always good value for a high yardage performance.

Cousins himself is averaging just under two passing TD’s per-match, and with the complete lack of a reliable run game, expect the Vikings to focus on what they do best – pass. When these two sides met earlier in the season, he threw for a season high 425 yards and four TD’s.

Thielen is best priced for: First TD (15/2), Anytime TD (6/5) and 2 or More (8/1), all on SkyBet.

For the visiting side, any receiver is obviously elevated when you have Aaron Rodgers throwing at you. Nevertheless, Adams has come into a class in his own in this Packers offense and has more than filled the boots left by Jordy Nelson.

Adams has caught 72 balls for 953 yards and nine TD’s. Less targets and receptions than Thielen but still averaging just shy of a TD per game clearly highlights his playmaking ability.

The Packers have recently found their run game as well, with Aaron Jones putting in back to back scoring performances for the first time this season. A more balanced offense will allow for Adams to sometimes find himself in single coverage, and I’ve no doubts that he will capitalise. Adams is the stand out receiver on this Packers team, also scoring in the previous outing against Minnesota.

Adams is best priced for: First TD (8/1), Anytime TD (13/10) and 2 or More (9/1), all on Betfair.

My angle is to combine both Adams and Thielen to score a touchdown at 4/1 with SkyBet.

Best Bets

San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tamba Bay Bucceeners to win and Mike Evans to score a touchdown (11/5 Paddy Power)

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos – Pittsburgh Steelers -6 handicap (10/7 Unibet)

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings – Adam Thielen and Davante Adams both to score a touchdown (4/1 SkyBet)

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