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ATPF Preview Wildcard Round

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What a crazy week to finish the season. The Steelers mustn’t be able to comprehend how the Chargers ‘won’ their game against the Chiefs backups. The Bears must also be hurting, they had their winner takes all game in their grasp, Julius Peppers had Aaron Rodgers in his grasp, Rodgers escaped, Green Bay escaped and piled more misery on their deadly rivals. There was a familiar theme even minus Tony Romo in Dallas as for the third straight year the Cowboys lost a winner takes all NFC East clash; all three teams have beaten them in the three year skid. The coaching carousel is in full swing too, Gary Kubiak’s position was untenable, Mike Shanahan and Greg Schiano had lost their locker rooms and both Leslie Frazier and particularly Jim Schwartz had failed to meet expectations relevant to the talent level on their rosters. I do feel most for one year head coach Rob Chudzinski, fired by the Browns. Chudzinski inherited a woeful roster and organisation which knows only how to lose, admittedly they fell apart once the season was lost but if Michael Lombardi thinks anyone is making this team competitive in one season he is very much mistaken.

Anyway to look back, we went 13-3 in our condensed week 17 preview, our best week of the year. In our first season we went 151-87 on predictions; we have had plenty of fun and a few headaches along the way but turned out reasonable numbers. Onto the playoffs now and the stakes are raised, we are excited about the next month but hope it doesn’t go too quick.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts

A fortnight ago the Colts beat the Chiefs 23-7 in this stadium so will certainly enter this game with confidence. They have been giant killers in an 11-5 AFC South winning season, San Francisco, Denver and indeed Kansas City were all favoured but all beaten by the Colts. The Colts are not without their flaws but they certainly have the winning knack. Their defense ranked 20th in yards allowed but eighth in scoring, allowing just 21 points per game and the 27 turnovers forced by the unit were vital. Offensively the Colts haven’t been ultra dynamic, Trent Richardson has disappointed on the whole but showed a few signs down the stretch and the loss of Reggie Wayne has put a lot on the shoulders of T.Y. Hilton who has had a solid sophomore year. Andrew Luck hasn’t yet reached the pantheons of the likes of Manning, Brees or Rodgers but is smart, accurate and more athletic than many realise.

The success of the Chiefs, 2012’s worst team has been surprising but not completely shocking. They have a lot of talent; we already knew that and in Andy Reid brought in a highly respected, experienced and successful coach. Reid has got the best out of a team that past managements got the least out of. Kansas City have been led by Jamaal Charles, their superstar running back who was deprived of a 2000 yards from scrimmage season by being rested for the final game and had nineteen total touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Smith’s accurate short and intermediate passing has been an ideal fit for Andy Reid’s west coast offense and Smith has had arguably the best year of his career. Kansas’ defense is laden with stars and boasts one of the league’s most feared pass rushes and most talented secondaries. Few teams in fact can boast the talent that K.C. can on defense with playmakers throughout the starting eleven.

In the first meeting Kansas uncharacteristically committed four turnovers, couldn’t complete on third down and lost the time of possession battle by almost seventeen minutes. They are a team built to not turn it over, not get in third and long situations and to control the clock so the game went all wrong. Andy Reid will want to shut down the Colts run game here first and foremost and allow Jamaal Charles to both control the clock and make big plays. The Colts will hope to do a better job on Charles than in the last meeting but he can make plays in so many ways. Kansas defense is entirely reliant on pressure but they couldn’t get at Luck nearly enough last time and when their blitz doesn’t get home they can be vulnerable.

ATPF PredictionThe Colts finished the season strongly including a verdict over the Chiefs. Kansas City are more solid as an all round team but the Colts were able to exploit all of their weaknesses last time out. Reid will want to correct many of these issues but the Colts won comfortably that day so have to get the edge. It will be closer however this time; we predict the Colts win by a score of 27-20.

New Orleans Saints @Philadelphia Eagles

All credit to Chip Kelly who took the Eagles from worst to first in the NFC East behind one of the league’s most feared offenses. The Eagles finished the season 7-1 to power past the Cowboys and will enter the playoffs with great confidence. Their offense went from explosive but self destructive under Michael Vick to just flat out explosive under Nick Foles. LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing and DeSean Jackon came back to his best as the dynamic deep threat that terrified defensive coordinators in his first couple of years in the league and a word must be said about the offensive line which paved the way for McCoy’s great season at a tempo which is hardly comfortable to men weighing around 300 lbs. The Eagles have languished in the bottom five of the defensive rankings all year yet they have allowed over 22 points just once in their last 12 games.

The Saints finished the season with an 11-5 record but lost the NFC South to the shock success story of the Carolina Panthers. The Saints are imperious at home but won just three of their eight road games this season and none of those were convincing. Defeats to the substandard Jets and Rams on the road, a crucial loss to the Panthers and a whipping in Seattle further backup the view that this team needs the comforts of home to be at their best. Their best is however arguably better than the Eagles best so there is hope if they can find their best form. The Saints always prolific offense ranked fourth in the league and Drew Brees’ pass attack was good for second best overall. The biggest difference for New Orleans this year was their fourth ranked defense which was second best in the league against the pass. Rob Ryan’s defense uses many different formations, sub-packages, coverages and blitzes and he will hope to disguise his plays from the relatively inexperienced but usually unflappable Nick Foles; it will be an interesting battle.

Offenses grab the headlines in these two cities but don’t be fooled, the Saints defense is the best we have seen for years and I include their Superbowl year in that and the Eagles are way better than the stats suggest too. The Eagles have great momentum, are at home and will find conditions much more to their liking than their opponents. The Saints are a very experienced postseason team and can go toe to toe with anyone but their away form just doesn’t add up to the same as their home form.

ATPF PredictionThis game won’t be an offensive shootout like some are suggesting but nor will it be dull. The Eagles were brilliant in the snow against Detroit a month ago so minus 6 celsius (21 Fahrenheit) temperatures shouldn’t be an issue. The Eagles have enough in their favour to upset the better side here and we see something like Philadelphia 34 New Orleans 28.

San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

As we spoke of earlier San Diego winning their decisive week 17 game wasn’t far short of miraculous. I have heard a few cynical whispers but the Chiefs did not want their AFC West rivals in the playoffs so such talk is ridiculous. The Chargers have been behind the eight ball all year as their West rivals Denver and Kansas City blazed such a trail yet beating both in their own backyards gave them hope and their win last week saw them in against the odds. They look the most flawed team in the playoffs but their schedule has been brutal so a 9-7 finish was no mean feat and they have one major thing in their favour here. That is quarterback Philip Rivers who has led them to a top five ranking in total offense and in passing. Defensively the Chargers are in stage one of a major revamp and there are some obvious holes particularly in their secondary.

The Bengals at last won the NFC North from perennial Lombardi trophy contenders Pittsburgh and current holders of the trophy Baltimore. In their third straight year in the playoffs they need to win at least one postseason game and with a home game in the cold against the Southern Californians they will fancy their chances. Few teams are as strong on both sides of the ball as Cincinnati; their defense has been strong for a few years now and despite some big name injuries they ended the season as the third ranked unit in the league. Their offense is full of talent too; superstar receiver A.J. Green is among the league’s elite and Marvin Jones has emerged as a valid number two. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert are both good pass catchers and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard form an effective one-two. The lone issue on this team is quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton enters his third straight postseason needing a win and needing to prove that he is capable at this level. Dalton passed for a seventh best in the league 4296 yards and a third best in the league 33 touchdowns but his 20 interceptions is the most of any quarterback to make the playoffs. If Dalton can hold it together and use his weapons the Bengals will be tough to beat.

The Chargers need Phil Rivers to be at his best as he has been for much of the year here against a very stout defense capable of constant pressure from just their four man rush. The Chargers will also hope that Dalton errs as he has in the last two postseasons.

ATPF PredictionThe Bengals shouldn’t struggle against the Chargers defense and should score plenty of points. San Diego will score points also despite the Bengals defensive strength but we can’t see them matching their rivals on the scoreboard. Our prediction is Cincinnati 34 San Diego 24.

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers

There is history here and it favours the 49ers but the Packers will be ready for Colin Kaepernick this year but minus Clay Matthews they may still struggle to contain him. The bitter weather of Lambeau Field may have been a problem to 49ers teams of the past but strangely the blue collar 49ers ought to be more suited by it than the dynamic Green Bay Packers. San Francisco are a run first, ground and pound offense and veteran Frank Gore sets the tone. The Niners ended the year with the third ranked ground game in the league but they will need more from their passing attack. Michael Crabtree stepped up on their run to the Superbowl last year and they will need more of the same from him having missed the majority of the year. The 49ers ended the year ranked fifth in total defense and haven’t given up thirty points once this season.

The Packers scored 28 against that stingy defense in week one but it wasn’t enough. Their offense has struggled on the most part this season with Aaron Rodgers missing more than half of the season but we all know how dangerous they can be with him at full speed. He was slow to get going on his return last week but typically made a brilliant game winning throw inside the final minute. Randall Cobb is back also and caught two touchdowns against Chicago, Cobb, speedy James Jones and Rodgers favourite target Jordy Nelson are a formidable trio especially when you consider that the Packers have run the football the best that they have since their Superbowl campaign of three years ago. Their defense is one of the weaker units in the playoffs and injuries to their front seven will certainly give Dom Capers some headaches when you think back to the way Kaepernick consistently got to the edge in the playoffs last year and then picked up huge chunks of yardage en route to a quarterback rushing record.

The Packers are a team everyone will fear now but perhaps less so San Francisco who have such a fine recent record against them. The Packers must pick their poison with San Francisco’s multi faceted offense but the matchups seem to largely favour the 49ers.

ATPF PredictionThe Aaron Rodgers factor will be big here but the 49ers are a more talented all round team so they again hold the edge in this matchup. It was 34-28 last time and a similar score is likely. We are going to say 30-28 this time.

 

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ATPF Thanksgiving Special

 

Its thanksgiving week which doesn’t mean a great deal to many this side of the pond but for football fans it means a tasty treat and we aren’t thinking of turkey, a tripleheader of football is on our plates. On the back of a disappointing week where we scraped our way to a 7-6-1 week we have decided to split this week’s predictions with the thanksgiving special here to be followed by the Sunday and Monday previews a little later in the week.

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Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions

This fixture was set to be a cracker until Aaron Rodgers injury a few weeks ago. Green Bay haven’t won without their star quarterback but forced the tie in week 12 as their rivals Chicago and of course Detroit both lost. In a race that seems to have a new leader each week the Packers are now just half a game behind and their rivals haven’t taken full advantage of their plight.

Rodgers is in anyone’s book a top five quarterback; many would he is say the best in the game so it’s hardly surprising the Packers have missed him. He has begun some practice this week and while head coach Mike McCarthy has said he has little chance of playing the magnitude of this game means we aren’t ruling him out. In his absence the Packers have leant heavily on running back and rookie of the year candidate Eddie Lacy who had 160 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown last week. Scott Tolzien is now injured so presuming Rodgers misses it will be Matt Flynn who has returned to Green Bay after realising the grass isn’t always greener on the other side with failed stops in Seattle, Buffalo and Oakland to his name. Flynn looked sharp enough last week and should be at least the equal of Tolzien given his experience. Defensively the Packers inability to create turnovers continues to be their biggest problem; even against the ever helpful Vikings they managed just one.

The Lions lost to an inferior team for the second week running when beaten by the lowly if improving Buccaneers at home in week 12. Jim Schwartz’s team need to regain momentum if they are to prevail in what looks like being a three way battle to the end in the NFC North. Their issue these past two weeks has been turnovers; they had three in Pittsburgh and no less than five last week, four of which were Matt Stafford interceptions. Compounding the woe was the fact that Detroit didn’t force a turnover from either opponent. Stafford is very much the gunslinger, he has a massive arm and will back himself time and again but it can be his undoing. Behind Stafford and the unplayable Calvin Johnson the Lions have the third most passing yards so far but if Stafford is to become an elite quarterback he must tone down the risky throws. If Rodgers is out the Lions should win this massive game but another turnover strewn game would change things.

Both teams are renowned for their high octane, vertical passing attacks but if Rodgers remains sidelined the Packers offense will again be hamstrung. Stafford takes too many chances but Green Bay aren’t the sort of team likely to capitalise so we are banking on him leading his team to enough points to take the NFC North initiative, at least for now.

ATPF PredictionPresuming Rodgers is out Detroit win by ten.

Oakland Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys

Another season appears to have passed the Raiders by after a backbreaking loss to the toiling Titans at home last week with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the winning score with just eight seconds to go. Dallas meanwhile remain right in the hunt for the NFC East, they drew level with the Eagles who were on their bye with a game winning field goal against the resurgent Giants.

The Cowboys are yet to beat a team with a winning record at the time they played them but they are 6-1 against teams who had losing records going into their matchup. The Cowboys continue to be inconsistent offensively; at times they looked good against the Giants before disappearing as they allowed a fifteen point lead to evaporate only to spark into life with a game winning drive. Defensively they forced two key stops inside their own ten yard line a week ago but were gashed by journeyman running back Andre Brown time and again. No team has allowed more yards than the Cowboys but they are excellent at creating turnovers and will expect to grab more here against an inexperienced quarterback.

The Raiders looked on course for the win until Ryan Fitzpatrick found Justin Hunter in the back left of the end zone a week ago. Rookie quarterback Matt McGloin who went undrafted was again pretty impressive and certainly looks a better passer than Terrelle Pryor and in Darren McFadden’s absence the Raiders have gotten a couple of nice performances from Rashad Jennings. Defensively the Raiders rank 17th so they are very much middle of the road but they have given up 21 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions so could find the Cowboys talented receivers tough to handle.

Exactly how good the Cowboys are or aren’t remains a mystery. They pushed Denver and Kansas City really hard and are 4-0 in the NFC East but they were awful in New Orleans and struggled against the lowly Vikings too. The Cowboys have been easy prey against the pass so far but in New York it was the run minus Sean Lee that hurt them. The Raiders will take heart from knowing the Cowboys are 0-3 against AFC West teams so far but they are easily the least talented team in that division and in most matchups here they look second favourites.

ATPF PredictionCowboys lean on turnovers to win this by two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens

Neither of these bitter rivals has hit the heights we have come to expect but both are at 5-6 and right in the race for the final wildcard spot in the AFC so don’t expect any less intensity or brutality from this always engrossing game.

The Steelers are 5-2 since their bye week and beat the Ravens at Heinz field in week 7. Typically the margin was just three points there as both teams managed just one touchdown in a battle of the kickers. Pittsburgh have won their last three and their improving defense is now ranked eleventh after some pretty un-Pittsburgh showings earlier in the year. Le’Veon Bell has added a modicum of balance to an offense still predicated on the passing of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has performed admirably behind a poor offensive line and with limited receiving talent at his disposal. Antonio Brown has become his go to guy while Jerricho Cotchery is the redzone threat.

Baltimore just can’t string together wins; they won a defensive battle with the Jets last week but lost in overtime to Chicago the week before. The Ravens defense was huge against the Jets last week, holding them to just a field goal and the unit now ranks tenth overall. They have been playing catch up ever since that still too fresh in the memory week one annihilation in Denver. The Ravens offense has certainly been the thing holding them back with only Torrey Smith a reliable receiver and Ray Rice a shadow of his usual self. Baltimore have given up nineteen turnovers so far, fourteen are Joe Flacco interceptions and the highly paid Superbowl MVP needs to return to something like his outstanding playoff form of 2012 down the stretch if the Ravens are going to make the postseason.

These games are always tight, they are always hard fought and one mistake can be all it takes to decide it. We thought that homefield advantage gave the Steelers the edge at home earlier in the year and they won by three which is generally considered to be what playing at home is worth which only goes to illustrate how closely matched the two again are. The Steelers are undoubtedly the hotter team but they are by no means an unbeatable team all of a sudden and with the Ravens now at home we will side with them and their defense to shade it.

ATPF PredictionA field goal is again the margin, this time it’s in Baltimore’s favour.


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ATPF Preview Week 2

With the first week out of the way teams have already been anointed with the titles not given out until December and January. Fans have given up on their entire season and or regimes, general manager’s are already looking at head coaches, head coaches are looking at quarterbacks and we already can vote all 32 teams in power rankings and read experts describing why certain teams and players are failures. All of this tells us that the NFL is back!

Across the pond football gave out our pre season opinions and after one week we haven’t jumped off or onto too many bandwagons but we are looking ahead to week two with the information provided to us a week ago still fresh in the memory bank. Below is our prediction for each game

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

In the legendary words of Herm Edwards ‘they are who we thought they were’. The Patriots are indeed who we thought they were. They are still a tough team to beat but they have lost some firepower and struggled to a late victory against the Bills. It was the sort of game where knowing how to win carried the Pats to success against a team who is trying to learn what that requires.

The Jets meanwhile rode rookie Geno Smith’s 300 yard debut and let their stingy defense grind Josh Freeman and the Bucs into submission. Ultimately a Nick Folk field goal with 15 seconds remaining gave the Jets the 1 point win. When the Jets were successful and able to give the Patriots a run for their money under coach Rex Ryan they played hard, physical defense, ran the ball well and won the close ones, running the ball still needs more commitment but otherwise the Jets practised what Rex Ryan preaches in that week one win.

Looking ahead to week two and everyone has the Patriots cruising to success, Vegas gives the Jets a 12 point start. Don’t be fooled however, this will be a close one. The Jets need to run the ball better; they need to give Geno Smith a chance on third down to put points up but this Patriots defense is still susceptible against the pass, particularly the play action pass. Rex Ryan will have his team right up for this and expect the defense to get in Tom Brady’s face.

ATPF Prediction- Patriots win by less than a touchdown

Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills

The Panthers were desperate offensively in their season opener but the Seahawks may have the league’s strongest defense so things should get easier here. The Bills had the Patriots on the ropes but a heartbreaking late field goal saw excitement turn to the usual despair in upstate New York.

Carolina may have only put up seven points but their defense gave reason for hope. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are meant to be a dynamic duo out of the backfield but were stifled by the Patriots. The Panthers are excellent in the front seven and will hope to again frustrate the duo. Rookie EJ Manuel will then be pressured to make things happen but the Panthers will take their chances with the developmental prospect. Cam Newton should have some joy against the Bills if his line can protect him and more rushing production should help him and the team further.

ATPF PredictionPanthers win this one by around a score

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

The Superbowl Champion Ravens came down to earth with a bump in Denver but a tougher game this season they won’t have. As it turned out all four teams lost in the AFC North, a very rare occurrence but a bonus for the Ravens. The Browns meanwhile hung with Miami for a while until Brandon Weeden self destructed, his days as the starter look numbered.

The Ravens are still well coached, disciplined and above average in talent, the Browns have none of those attributes and a one sided game should occur. The Browns are unlikely to score many more than their 10 points in week one and the Champs should get back on track here,

ATPF PredictionThe Ravens take this one by at least 10

Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs

A pair of teams who got a W to kick off go head to head here. Andy Reid’s debut saw the Chiefs pummel a woeful Jacksonville side while Dallas won on the back of six Giants turnovers.

Key to this one could be Kansas’ excellent pass rushing duo Justin Houston and Tamba Hali teamed with the raucous Arrowhead faithful. Dallas’ offensive line was better than advertised in the opener but a year ago in a similar early season game the Cowboys were overwhelmed by crowd and pass rush in Seattle, a repeat is very much on the cards here. The Cowboys defense will struggle to match such opportunism as their opening win against an Alex Smith led offense which will concentrate on short passing and a heavy dose of electric rusher Jamaal Charles.

ATPF PredictionThe Chiefs get to 2-0 and win this one by between 3 and 7 points.

Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts

Both of this duo made the most of very friendly starts to the schedule with wins and both will fancy doubling up. The Colts got a bright start but then were under the cosh against the Raiders and had to come back under Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter while Miami only shook off the Browns in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Tannehill will be keen to show he is ascending closer to an excellent group of quarterbacks drafted last year, led by his rival here Andrew Luck. He received virtually nothing from his run game in the opener and if the Colts can stifle the rushing attack they will fully expect Andrew Luck to guide them to victory.

ATPF PredictionColts win this one comfortably

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

A pleasant surprise last year, the Vikings lost an important divisional game to the Lions in week one. The Bears got a huge win over the talented Bengals meanwhile. Adrian Peterson still ran wild for the Vikings but he can’t do it alone, with Christian Ponder having a nightmare the Vikings came off the tracks in the second half and without a playmaker like Percy Harvin he could struggle this year.

The Bears are perennially excellent defensively and will be a match for Peterson; he will certainly be their main focus. If the Bears heavily revamped line can keep Jay Cutler upright he should again be able to lean heavily on star man Brandon Marshall and put up plenty of points for the Bears.

ATPF Prediction- Bears build more momentum with a comfortable win

San Diego Chargers @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Chargers blew a huge lead to the Texans in week one while the Eagles got a crucial win against NFC East rivals Washington. Chip Kelly’s high speed offense crucially got more out of running back LeSean McCoy, his best weapon and he will look to him again here. Phillip Rivers had less than 220 yards passing but four touchdowns, crucial to the Chargers inability to put the game away was their lack of success on the ground, a recurring theme since LaDainian Tomlinson’s departure.

The Eagles forced three turnovers from the usually careful RG3 in that opening win and Phil Rivers has a penchant for turning it over so that could be decisive here. With the Chargers secondary heavily rebuilt this offseason they could struggle with the tempo and diversity of the Eagles offense.

ATPF PredictionEagles put up some big numbers en route to victory

St. Louis Rams @ Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons couldn’t punch the ball in on their final drive to beat the Saints in week one but the Rams came from the dead to beat the Cardinals in a thriller. The gulf in class between the two’s respective opponents in those matches however is huge so expect a different story here.

The Falcons lost Roddy White to injury but former Ram Steven Jackson had an impressive debut and will be up for this. Jared Cook had a huge debut for the Rams but the Falcons will be ready for him. Key to this game will be quarterback Matt Ryan who is virtually unbeatable at home and should have success against a defense who impressed last year but struggled against the less talented Cardinals last week.

ATPF PredictionFalcons too strong for the Rams and win by around a touchdown

Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans

The Texans performed a miracle comeback against the Chargers whilst the Titans revamped defense overwhelmed the Steelers offense in a week one win. The Titans know this is a big one for them, losing at home to the superior Texans would already put them behind the 8 ball. Houston meanwhile want to right last year’s wrong and get a bye in the playoffs so winning has to be a habit.

The defenses of these teams will be key but Houston’s more potent offense will put points up and they have a way where somebody always beats you. If it’s not superstar runner Arian Foster or superstar receiver Andre Johnson its quarterback Matt Schaub and tight end Owen Daniels as we saw last week. The Titans and quarterback Jake Locker don’t have such diverse talent and if running back Chris Johnson doesn’t come up big the Texans will fancy their chances, patience could be key in a likely defensive battle.

ATPF PredictionTexans win by around a score on the road here

Washington Redskins@ Green Bay Packers

The Packers were left with little doubt that the 49ers remain the team to beat in the NFC as they again found them too strong in week one. The Redskins meanwhile found the new look Eagles a tougher foe as a rusty RG3 took time to get going.

Green Bay needs to keep pace with the Bears and Lions so a home win here is essential. The Redskins ground teams out with battering ram Alfred Morris last year and used the magic of their quarterback to provide the x-factor. With Morris struggling in week one and RG3 still short of full pace the Pack will fancy limiting the Redskins offense and their potent Aaron Rodgers led passing attack should do the rest against an average defense.

ATPF PredictionThe Redskins can’t keep pace here and lose by at least ten

Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals

The Lions offense came up big in an opening win over Minnesota while the Cardinals blew what could be a rare chance to win in week one.

The high powered Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush trio could wreak havoc on a rebuilding Cardinals defense missing star linebacker Daryl Washington. Carson Palmer showed himself to still be capable against a Rams defense at least as strong as the Lions so points are likely in this match.

ATPF PredictionThe Lions could put up big points here and win by upwards of a touchdown

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A crushing, narrow defeat for the Bucs and a joyous goal line stand for the Saints sees the two meet in complete opposite moods here. Josh Freeman’s woes against a strong Jets defense and the Saints ability to make a stand on defense under Rob Ryan were the back page headlines but things may be a little different here.

With the Falcons so dominant in the NFC South of late the Saints looked like they had spent an entire nine months preparing for them and with a deafening Superbowl behind them they got the win. The offense is always potent but can they keep the ball rolling defensively in an equally important road game here? Tampa are dominant against the run and if Darrelle Revis can keep one target quiet they can hold the Saints juggernaut to reasonable totals. The Bucs meanwhile will look to star runner Doug Martin to earn them the time of possession battle and will expect Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams to cause the Saints secondary fits.

ATPF PredictionThe Bucs have to win this one and narrowly, they do

Denver Broncos @ New York Giants

The Broncos looked unstoppable in week one, annihilating the superbowl champions Baltimore, the Giants outplayed the Cowboys but six turnovers can’t be overcome. The Manning sons face off here with younger brother Eli needing a home win badly, Peyton meanwhile will look to guide his team to beating both of the last two Superbowl winners in as many weeks.

An offensive cast which looked deadly was all that and more in week one as Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes. The juggernaut rolls into the big apple against a defense no longer the force of old and it’s tough to envisage the Giants making many stands. New York’s offense put up huge numbers themselves against the Cowboys with three receivers having 100 yards and Victor Cruz scoring three touchdowns. This promises to be a pass fest between two high powered offenses but Denver’s defense are a solid unit even without Von Miller whereas the Giants have plenty to prove on that side of the ball.

ATPF PredictionDenver win an aerial dogfight by around a touchdown

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Oakland Raiders

Both minnows were beaten in week one but the Raiders showed some life, the Jags however were dire. With an extremely long journey out west things may not get much better for them here.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was injured for Jacksonville, journeyman Chad Henne steps in, little difference there. Terrelle Pryor has taken the start in Oakland, the dual threat had a nice game in week one and teamed with star rusher Darren McFadden could give the Raiders a dangerous run game. A defense likely to be spurred on by the ever passionate Black Hole can again pour misery on probably the worst offense in football.

ATPF PredictionRaiders win, yes you read correctly, infact they win comfortably

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

The niners proved their worth with a repeat victory over the Green Bay Packers in week one, Seattle got in a battle with Carolina but they won it. One of the most eagerly anticipated rivalries of the season will be hugely affected by the two head to head clashes.

San Francisco had almost 500 yards of offense and 40 minutes possession in that opener. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is emerging into an absolute superstar, the dual threat quarterback had almost 200 yards rushing against the Pack in the playoffs and 400 yards against them passing in week one, pick your poison with him. Seattle’s defense is amongst the league’s toughest, no way will Kaepernick get close to either of those stats nor will receiver Anquan Boldin match the 200 yard debut he had last week against dominant corners Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner, Sherman v Boldin will be unmissable. The Seahawks offense struggled in week one and without Percy Harvin and possibly Sidney Rice the focal point will again be Marshawn Lynch, he couldn’t get going in the opener and the 49ers will no doubt make stopping him their first priority. The twelfth man of Seattle is always important but the talent of San Francisco’s offense makes them favourite nevertheless.

ATPF PredictionThe 49ers wear down Seattle’s defense en route to a hard fought victory

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Both teams lost their openers but Baltimore’s defeat softened the blow. The Steelers were awful offensively against Tennessee, the Bengals lost a topsy turvy battle with the Bears. On that form there is little doubt that Cincinnati, at home, should be favourites here.

Two picks from Andy Dalton in that defeat did little to quieten his detractors and the Steelers at least in Ben Roethlisberger have the better quarterback. The Bengals gave up 24 points to Chicago but their defense is still among the league’s best and considering the way the Steelers struggled against Tennessee, one of the league’s worst defenses a year ago this could again be a long night for Roethlisberger and co.

ATPF PredictionThe Steelers make this a game but the Bengals outlast them


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ATPF Divisional Preview- NFC North

Green Bay PackersWhen the Packers won the Superbowl three years ago it looked like they were about to become the dominant force. Even a shock playoff loss in 2011 didn’t change the perception given they had won 15 regular season games but a heavy defeat to San Francisco last year in the playoffs suddenly sees others ranked higher in the NFC. One reason for the lack of progress is that the Packers 2011 and 2012 drafts as yet at least didn’t yield much, a good 2013 draft added to the talent they already have however could have them challenging again this season and there are few teams better than the Packers at their best.

Offensively the Packers have a huge array of talent and leading the team is Aaron Rodgers who became the highest paid player in the NFL this offseason and rightly so, he is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. At 29 he is at the peak of his powers, Superbowl MVP in 2010, NFL MVP in 2011 and in 2012 he passed for 4300 yards and 39 touchdowns on a down season. His all round abilities are unmatched, leadership, arm strength, accuracy, ball security, game management, elusiveness, Rodgers is in the top 10 in every one of those categories. Key to improving the offense however is reigniting a run game which hasn’t sparked since James Starks got hot in their Superbowl run three seasons ago. Drafting Eddie Lacy, a powerful, highly productive runner at Alabama and also Johnathan Franklin of UCLA gives them chance of some production. Star receiver Greg Jennings left for Minnesota and a big money deal and Donald Driver retired, for most teams that would leave a gaping hole, not Green Bay. Jordy Nelson battled injuries last year but had 1200 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011 while Randall Cobb led the team with 80 catches for 954 yards last year. James Jones is third on the depth chart and he caught 14 touchdown passes last season. Tight end Jermichael Finley’s stock has slipped a little in recent seasons and he isn’t a reliable pass catcher anymore yet he looked unstoppable a few years ago so the ability is there and he is still young. The big issue in Green Bay is the offensive line, Rodgers was sacked 51 times last year and the rushing attack wasn’t helped by poor blocking. Fourth year pros Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga man the tackle spots but both have problems with elite pass rushers. Inside T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton will play guards and Evan Dietrich-Smith takes over from retired Jeff Saturday at center. High powered doesn’t do the Packers offense justice but unfortunately the line has been the Achilles heel of the team too often and could be again, having success on the ground would help everybody and if doing so this unit can rank top 5 again as it should do.

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

The defense of the Packers wasn’t bad last year until Colin Kaepernick tore them apart in the playoffs. Upfront ‘The Freezer’ B.J. Raji is an immovable object at nose tackle and alongside him Ryan Pickett is a cheeseburger short of 340 lbs. Mike Neal and first round rookie Datone Jones will be relied on to pressure quarterbacks from the defensive end position but of course Clay Matthews is the Packers main man when it comes to pass rushing. He had treble what the second best Packer had in sacks last year and is a dominant player. A year after being drafted in the first round, Nick Perry will be expected to do a lot more opposite Matthews with Dezman Moses who impressed in his rookie year breathing down his neck. Inside starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk are both good players but rarely are both fit which is an issue as the depth behind them looks shaky. Cornerback Tramon Williams is an excellent cover man and he will be joined by either 2012 starter Sam Shields, second year pro Casey Hayward or third year pro Davon House, all four will see plenty of playing time. At safety Morgan Burnett is a solid pro and he will be joined by either veteran Jarrett Bush or another sophomore defensive back Jerron McMillian. A defense which needs to give Clay Matthews more help did little to do so beyond drafting Datone Jones so it will be expected that the likes of Perry and Neal take a step forward. Overall a solid unit but one with few playmakers they ranked 11th last year and should be between 10 and 15 again.

2013 Predicted wins10-11

Playoff Prediction- Hard to envisage them not being there but a hellish schedule means they will likely be on the road although that didn’t stop them in 2010, this team are still major contenders.

Chicago Bears– The Bears have won 18 games the last two seasons without making the playoffs, the latter statistic cost long time head coach Lovie Smith and all of his coordinators their jobs and in his place is Marc Trestman from the CFL. Smith can feel hard done by but his biggest mistake was never protecting quarterback Jay Cutler properly after acquiring him in a blockbuster trade. Cutler has the talent to take the Bears deep and if he gets proper protection this could be the year.

Trestman’s first statement of intent was signing Jermon Bushrod in free agency; the pro-bowl left tackle’s acquisition would surely have delighted Jay Cutler. But Trestman didn’t stop there; he added Matt Slauson, an experienced starter with the Jets at guard and drafted Kyle Long in the first round to play opposite. Only 12 year vet Roberto Garza at center and right tackle Jonathan Scott in his second year with the team return to starting jobs, this unit looks enormously improved and Cutler’s best excuse has gone. Cutler is a polarising player, he has enormous ability, a cannon for an arm and can make all the throws yet has never been successful and is often criticised for a perceived lack of commitment to the cause. If he is kept upright at long last the Bears will finally see if he really is the man to take them back to the success this organisation expects. Cutler’s best target by far is Brandon Marshall, the pair had success in Denver and it continued last year after Marshall came from Miami. With 2012 first round pick Alshon Jeffery likely to improve the Bears have two big, powerful athletes on the outside and few defences will have the size at corner to match the duo. Tight end Martellus Bennett is a talented underachiever but is a fine blocker and a big target in centerfield. Matt Forte enters his sixth season in the NFL as undoubtedly one of the league’s top 10 backs, his powerful yet elusive one cut running style and excellence catching the football make him a huge part of the offense. The Bears are expected to run a west coast offense this year which will see quick release passes and a reliance on short completions with yards after the catch, Marshall, Jeffery and Forte are all capable of this and the scheme should limit Cutler’s issues with turnovers. The Bears new heavily upgraded line should make this offense much stronger, with Jeffery likely to improve and Bennett a further upgrade they can move from 28th in 2012 into the teens overall this year.

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler

Defense has long been the Bears strongpoint and should be again under new coordinator Mel Tucker. The Bears led the league in interceptions and were third in scoring defense last year in addition to finishing top 10 against both pass and run. There was an argument for this being the NFL’s best defense especially considering the division they are in. Eight time pro bowler Brian Urlacher retired but he was no longer an elite player so his loss will be manageable. His place goes to tenth year pro D.J. Williams a free agent pickup from Denver, and another veteran free agent steps in at outside backer in former Panther James Anderson, both are on one year contracts and rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene will expect to start next year. Pro bowler Lance Briggs is amongst the league’s best 4-3 outside linebackers and will be the key to this group. Upfront star defensive end Julius Peppers headlines a strong trio of edge rushers with Corey Wootton and 2012 first round pick Shea McClellin both dangerous also. Tackle Henry Melton went to the pro bowl in his fourth season and is a terrific pass rusher from the inside, Stephen Paea is an improving nose tackle but depth is lacking here. The strength of the whole team is at corner, Tim Jennings may only be small but his 9 interceptions led the NFL in 2012 while Charles Tillman is another regular in Hawaii. Kelvin Hayden is a solid slot cover but depth again is the issue. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte return, they helped solidify a position which had long been an issue last year. The Bears ranked fifth overall last year but were better than that considering the turnovers they generated. Depth is the only worry this year but if the starters stay mainly healthy this is a contender for number 1 defense.

2013 Predicted wins8-9

Playoff Prediction- The NFC North usually sends two teams to the playoffs but all four need to be there to be satisfied. The Bears can edge their way in with their improved offense and then hope their defense can come up big to take them deep.

Minnesota Vikings- One of the biggest surprise successes last year was the Vikings. Adrian Peterson’s return from career threatening injury to 2000 yards rushing and the MVP award proved that he definitely isn’t human. Drafting three players in the first round and adding superstar receiver Greg Jennings only heightened expectations and the Vikings fans now expect not only a return to the playoffs but to win games in January. With a tougher schedule and teams likely to respect them more however the Vikings are far from certain to be playing into January.

Adrian Peterson was the offense last year and will be the main player again but as great as he is the passing game must help him out. Christian Ponder only mustered 2900 yards and 18 touchdowns compared to divisional rivals Matthew Stafford’s 4900 yards and Aaron Rodgers’ 39 touchdown passes. Ponder won’t match either quarterback again; he isn’t an elite talent as that duo are but he can still take a step forward. Jennings arrival helps; he replaces Percy Harvin who missed too much time for a number 1 receiver. Cordarelle Patterson was one of the three first round draft choices, he will need time but his talent is sufficient that he starts from week one. Tight end Kyle Rudolph a former first rounder is Ponder’s favourite red zone target. The offensive line which paved the way for Peterson’s year all return, a huge plus. Center John Sullivan is one of the league’s best and leads the unit, left tackle Matt Kalil went to the pro bowl as a rookie and man mountain Phil Loadholt plays opposite. Unheralded guards Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson both played at near pro bowl level to complete one of the league’s best lines. Adrian Peterson is the heart and soul of this offense but his ambition to top 2500 yards rushing is not going to be fulfilled. A run heavy offense which ranked 20th overall a year ago can improve on that if Ponder takes the next step, that however is not guaranteed so don’t expect a top 10 offense.

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Reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson

Historically the Vikings play good defense and will have too to return to the playoffs. Their defensive line is aging but in end Jared Allen and tackle Kevin Williams they have two of the league’s best. Opposite Allen veteran Brian Robison had 8.5 sacks last year and his backup Eversen Griffen had 8 and at tackle rookie first rounder Sharrif Floyd has the talent to push Letroy Guion for the start next to Williams. Linebacker Chad Greenway is a tackling machine (148 a year ago) but the other two spots see uncertainty. Erin Henderson is a playmaker but a move inside will ask more responsibility from him and Audie Cole a seventh round pick in 2012 will likely take Henderson’s old position on the outside. Fourth year pro Chris Cook and first round pick Xavier Rhodes are big physical corners, with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery not to mention the Packers array of talent they need to be. Strong safety Jamarca Sanford and emerging star Harrison Smith complete a defense not short on talent. With one of the best rotations in the league upfront the Vikings question marks at linebacker can be erased. Their secondary is reliant on D.J. Hayden hitting the ground running in a division packed with receiving talent but he may be up to the task. The Vikings were 16th overall last year but should be knocking on the door of a top 10 spot this time round.

2013 Predicted wins- 6-7

Playoff Prediction The Vikings raised the bar of expectation last year but have an immensely difficult schedule and getting above .500 will be very hard to do. Even if they make the playoffs again you still can’t see Ponder taking a team deep into January.

Detroit Lions- So if the Lions finally became relevant in 2011 they were completely irrelevant again in 2012, tipped as NFL dark horses by some they perhaps believed their own hype. Losing their last 8 games on the way to a 4-12 season wasn’t so much a reality check but instead an absolute shocker for a team whose leadership is very much in question. They still have some talented players and a dynamic offense but even games they dominate often result in losses, a whole host of players and the entire coaching staff are fighting for their jobs, a winning season could save them but that will be hard to accomplish.

Matthew Stafford once again put up gaudy numbers but didn’t convert them into success, nearly 5000 yards passing means little when you win just 4 games, Stafford’s 17 interceptions were to be expected considering he attempted more passes than any quarterback in history. Put simply Stafford is the least of the issues in Motown but there is still room for improvement from him. The best player Detroit has is Calvin Johnson, undoubtedly the premiere receiver in football, Johnson shrugged off being double teamed on every play by breaking Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record last year. With bonehead Titus Young gone, the Lions will again start 10th year veteran Nate Burleson and once again Johnson will have to carry this offense on his back. Reggie Bush got payed handsomely to join Detroit, he gives the Lions another playmaker but has his limitations, expect powerful Mikel Leshoure to split carries and do more of the heavy lifting inside. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is supposed to be the second biggest receiving threat on this time, his size creates mismatches but if he carries on dropping passes he may not get offered a second contract. The line of the Lions has been an issue for years and was again in 2012, three starting jobs are up for grabs but the likely replacements leave more questions than answers. Riley Reiff, last year’s first round pick will start at left tackle, opposite him a host of unproven players will fight it out and rookie Larry Warford will start at guard, he is a monster of a man but has questionable footwork. Center Dominic Raiola gets moved around too easily by defensive tackles and journeyman guard Rob Sims is far from a dominating presence. An offense that ranked third overall last year again will put up yards but they were only 17th in scoring so by no means was this an elite offense. With question marks over everyone bar Johnson it’s hard to predict what to expect from this frustrating unit.

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Lions receiver Calvin Johnson

The Lions defense ranked 13th in yards, acceptable enough but unacceptable was 27th in scoring defense averaging 27 points plus surrendered per game. The strength of this team has to be a hugely talented but inconsistent defensive line. Tackle Ndamukong Suh needs to work to change the perception of him from dirty player to dominant one which is what he was as a rookie. Nick Fairley is another with ability but his charge is underachievement and taking plays off. Rookie Ziggy Ansah, a Jason Pierre-Paul kind of athlete will provide an upgrade at end, opposite him will be free agent pickup Jason Jones another big powerful end on a huge offensive line, depth is more than adequate upfront but less so on the rest of the defense. The linebackers are able to perform adequately but there are no real playmakers in the group. Veteran Stephen Tulloch, the team’s leading tackler and DeAndre Levy are back but the third spot is up for grabs with no obvious candidate worthy of the start. The secondary suffered with a slew of injuries last year, the starting corners this year will be Chris Houston and rookie Daruis Slay, a man who should have the speed to run with the best of them. Safety Louis Delmas is the team’s best defensive back when healthy but he missed half of last year’s games, about par for the course with him. Glover Quin was the biggest signing made on defense, he can play either safety spot and has playmaking ability. This is a defense which could wreak havoc with its front four; it will surely be a priority. Average corners, a star safety who struggles to stay on the field and a modest group of linebackers temper enthusiasm and this is a defense that will struggle to finish better than the late teens overall.

2013 Predicted wins– 5-6

Playoff Prediction- The men in charge at the Lions may need to make the playoffs to save their jobs but in a brutal division the Lions look unlikely to show the consistency required to make that happen.

 

 


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Top 10 NFL Stadiums To Visit

Top 10 NFL Stadiums To Visit

America is a wonderful place to visit, particularly for Football fans. In a country of enormous contrasts in culture, weather, pace of life and wealth every city is different. Every football team’s home is different; every team’s following is different. For many NFL fans in the UK their favourite team’s home stadium is top of the list to visit but from a neutral point of view where is best to watch a game and why?

1)    Lambeau Field, Home of the Green Bay Packerslambeau

The unquestioned top stadium in the NFL is historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. Opened back in 1957 it has witnessed some of the greatest matches and greatest teams in History. Perhaps Lambeau’s most famous game was the infamous ice bowl of 1967 in which the hometown heroes edged the Dallas Cowboys to win the Championship in -26C temperatures. Postseason success and arctic conditions are synonymous with Lambeau Field and the Packers all time postseason record at their near 80,000 home is 14 wins, 4 losses. The season just doesn’t seem complete unless the Packers play a home playoff game in snow and gale force winds. The fact that the smallest city in America collectively all get a say in the team and all the major decisions make the Pack’s followers amongst the league’s most passionate and the atmosphere at Lambeau Field is up there with any in the League.

2)    Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Home of the New Orleans Saints

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The home of last year’s Superbowl, it’s seventh in all, the Superdome may not be the most historic stadium or most modern but it is one of America’s most famous sports venues. Beyond the Saints it hosts the Tulane Green Wave College Team, the Bayou Classic, The New Orleans Bowl and the historic Sugar Bowl, making it just as important to College football as it is to professional football. Wrestling’s main event of the year Wrestlemania will be held in the 76,000 capacity Superdome in 2014 also. But from a Saints perspective the Superdome is famous for its deafening, partisan home crowds.  Veteran future Hall Of Famer Brett Favre described it as the loudest, most hostile stadium he ever played in, so much so that he wore earplugs in games there. Since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina the city Of New Orleans has pulled together and the Superdome sees all that fighting spirit embodied during home games. The fact that New Orleans is America’s party capital only adds to the attraction.

3)    Cowboys Stadium, Home of the Dallas Cowboys

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Perhaps the most amazing stadium in all of America is the $1.3 billion, 105,000 capacity Cowboys stadium. The phrase everything’s bigger in Texas and the expectation that the Dallas Cowboys are bigger and better than the rest were very much in owner Jerry Jones’ mind when the stadium was built back in 2009. The 2100 feet HD videoboard that hangs above the field embodies the same vision and is from inside the stadium the defining feature. The huge spaceship like stadium has already held a Superbowl, an NBA all-star game, the NCAA cotton bowl and world championship fights to name but a few and it is widely considered to be among the world’s best stadiums.

4)    Soldier Field, Home of the Chicago Bears

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Historic Soldier Field has a vast amount of reasons to visit. Home to the Bears since 1971 but open since 1924 it was completely rebuilt in 2003 and now has the perfect blend of modern amenities and history. It is the second smallest stadium in the NFL holding 61,500 but its city centre location makes expansion impossible. The views North of bustling, downtown Chicago and its former world’s tallest skyscraper Sears Tower are in stark contrast to the Greco-Roman architecture of the stadium and green space that surrounds it. The Bears are one of the most storied and successful franchises in football dating back to 1919. They were the most successful pre-merger franchise winning eight NFL titles and one Superbowl. The history of the team and its stadium makes Soldier Field one of the most spectacular settings for Football in the country.

5)    MetLife Stadium, Home of the New York Giants and New York Jets

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Opened in 2010, MetLife Stadium replaced the old Meadowlands as home of both of the New York franchises. At $1.6 billion it is the most expensive stadium in the world and has the largest permanent seating capacity of any NFL stadium at 82,566. Based on the Allianz arena that hosts both Bayern and 1860 Munich it has an aluminium shell that can be lit Blue for Giants games and Green for Jets games. Metlife is also distinctive for its four HD LED screens in each corner of the ground and unlike most modern grounds its lack of a roof. New York fans are some of the most passionate if also critical in the country and both teams already have established a significant homefield advantage. Although Metlife is in New Jersey its proximity to New York City makes it all the more attractive to visit on a trip to The Big Apple although tickets, especially to watch the Giants are like gold dust.

6)    CenturyLink Field, Home of the Seattle Seahawks

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One of the most unique stadiums in sport, CenturyLife Field in Seattle is of course a very long way for a British NFL fan but the atmosphere on game day makes up for it. Infamous for its 12th man, CenturyLife may well be the loudest outdoor venue in the NFL and with the travel involved is one of the most difficult for an away team to win at. Opened in 2004 the 67,000 seat facility is also the home of the Major League Soccer team the Seattle Sounders. The u-shape stadium is open at the North for views of downtown Seattle and its many skyscrapers and famous for its 13 story tower scoreboard underneath which is the wonderfully named ‘Hawks Nest’. It is a long way to go but for gameday atmosphere CenturyLife Field has few peers.

7)    Heinz Field, Home of The Pittsburgh Steelers

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Heinz field, home of the NFL’s most successful Superbowl era franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers was first opened in 2001, it seats 65,000 fans. With the blue collar town of Pittsburgh built on its steel industry (hence the Steelers name) the design of Heinz field included 12,000 tons of steel and unlike most Northern stadiums the field is grass. The Black and Gold are the pride of Pittsburgh’s proudly working class people and the Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972. On gameday Heinz field is a cauldron of noise and waving of the infamous ‘terrible towels’. Steelernation are amongst the most passionate fans in all of football and their team, particularly their legendary ‘Steel Curtain’ defense thrive off the noise and passion of the crowd. The city of Pittsburgh may not be top of many lists to visit in America but it is synonymous with the game of football.

8)    Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Home of the Oakland Raiders

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Usually known as ‘The Black Hole’, the coliseum is still one of the most daunting places for any team in the NFL to visit. Although the Raiders as a team have become something of a laughing stock in recent years they still have a terrific history of success that few can match. Opened in 1966 and seating just fewer than 65,000 the Coliseum is an old fashioned, outdoor stadium but the atmosphere inside matches any in the country. The legions of silver and black turn up in all manners of star wars masks, movie zombie costumes and any form of ridiculous outfits they can get their hands on. They remain fiercely behind their team however and the stadium being just a couple of hours from Los Angeles, basking in the Californian Sun makes it ideal for holidaymakers to join in the party.

9)    Gillette Stadium, Home of the New England Patriots

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The Patriots consistent excellence over the last decade has helped grow their popularity and with Football becoming ever more popular across the pond they have become one of the most supported franchises in Britain as their success and that growth have coincided. 20 miles or so from Boston, Gillette Stadium holds just shy of 69,000 people and has now been open for 11 years. The most defining features of the stadium are the Lighthouse and a bridge modelled on Boston’s historic Longfellow Bridge at the entrance. New England in the fall is famous for its beauty and very popular to British tourists and the fall is a pretty good time to catch the Patriots as well while you are there.

10)  Raymond James Stadium, Home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Florida is the favourite destination for British tourists in the USA. The year round sunshine, fantastic beaches and world leading attractions send Brits flocking all year every year. Although the Miami Dolphins are the state’s most famous franchise, the much newer but already Superbowl winning Buccaneers are the best to visit for British tourists as Tampa Bay is considerably closer to tourist haven Orlando than Miami or Jacksonville in the far North of the state. Opened in 1998, Raymond James Stadium is most famous for the huge pirate ship behind one end zone which fires its cannons each time the Buccs score a touchdown. The 65,000 seat facility always has a sprinkling of British tourists and is a must visit for any football fan holidaying in Florida during football season.