NFL: Bears, Steelers and Rams can all hit the ground running
To celebrate the first weekend of the new NFL season, Coral offer a special price of 2/1 on a trio of wins for the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and St Louis Rams. Here’s why this is such a great bet.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears
The Bears offense should roll in week 1 – Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are up there with the very best wide receivers in the league right now.
Together with pass-catching tight end Martellus Bennett and new addition Santonio Holmes (who was the Superbowl MVP five years ago), they offer quarterback Jay Cutler the opportunity to stretch the field and make plenty of big-scoring plays.
Chicago’s big problem last season was its defense, but the Buffalo offense does not look likely to present a stern test for them this weekend.
Second-year quarterback EJ Manuel was disappointing in pre-season and faces a fight to keep his job, with former Dallas Cowboy Kyle Orton recently signed by the Bills. Punters should therefore back Chicago to win its sixth straight home opener at Soldier Field.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
History is against the Browns; they have lost 19 of the last 21 games against their fierce division rivals Pittsburgh. That run includes 10 straight defeats at Heinz Field by an average of more than 14 points, and astonishingly Cleveland have not won a season opener since 2004.
All of this might not matter if the Browns came into the season in better shape, but instead they are in a bit of a mess. Star wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended for the season following a failed drugs test.
There is also a quarterback controversy brewing, with media darling Jonny Manziel left holding a clipboard after Brian Hoyer beat him to the starter’s job in pre-season.
The Steelers, by contrast, have a reassuring sense of stability about them. Ben Roethlisberger has been under center for a decade, and coach Mike Tomlin is now entering his eighth season in charge at Heinz Field. Punters should expect them to start the season with a win here.
Minnesota Vikings at St Louis Rams
St Louis lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a serious knee injury in pre-season, but nevertheless can win this encounter with a superior defense and special teams. His replacement is veteran Shaun Hill, who is seen as one of the more capable backups in the league.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher believes in Hill’s ability to keep his offense ticking over in 2014. Minnesota, meanwhile, have suffered in recent seasons from being over-reliant on running back Adrian Peterson.
Mediocre quarterback performances failed to keep opposition defenses honest in 2013, and the jury is out on if Matt Cassel can work on that for the Vikings this season.
It may be too optimistic to expect an immediate improvement, however, as the defensive front-seven for the Rams are among the very best in the league. Punters should look for big plays on defense, and the advantage of playing at home, to be enough for St Louis to see off Minnesota in this encounter.