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Super Bowl XLVI point spread continues to move, but Patriots remain favored

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (10) warms up for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on January 22, 2012. The Giants won 20-17. UPI/Terry Schmitt

As the point spread for Super Bowl XLVI continues to dance leading up to Sunday’s 6:30PM ET kickoff, one thing remains constant: The Patriots will be favored.

Depending on the sports book, the Pats opened as a 4, 3.5, or 3-point favorite over the Giants when the line was released on Championship Sunday. But the spread has dropped to 3 or 2.5 at most books as the majority of wagers continue to come in on the Giants.

According to the public betting charts available at The Spread, the majority of the early money has been placed on New York, which has forced some sports books to drop the spread to New England –2.5. The total, meanwhile, continues to drop as well, falling from 55.5 to 54.5 at most books.

It’s no surprise that bettors are backing a Giants team that upset the Patriots as a 9-point underdog back in November of last year. Eli Manning rallied New York to a 24-20 victory when he found Jake Ballard for a one-yard touchdown with just 15 seconds remaining in the game. The Giants also ruined the Patriots’ attempt at a perfect season back in 2008 when they pulled off an incredible 17-14 upset as a 12.5-point dog. Thus, bettors aren’t afraid to lay coin on the G-Men.

The Giants are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against the Patriots while the underdog is 5-1 against the number in the last six meetings between these two teams. New York is also 8-0 ATS in its last eight playoff games as an underdog and 8-1 ATS in its last nine playoff games overall. New England, meanwhile, is just 1-6 against the spread in its last seven playoff games as a favorite and 1-7 ATS in its last eight playoff games overall.

The spread will probably jump between 3 and 2.5 throughout the rest of the week, although it would be surprising to see the number jump to 3.5 or fall below 2.5. Odds makers seem comfortable with the spread dancing between 3 and 2.5.

Check Bullz-Eye.com for the latest Super Bowl XLVI point spread.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Super Bowl XLVI Giants vs. Patriots: Five Questions

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) scrambles for a first down against the New York Giants in the first half of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts November 6, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

With kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI rapidly approaching, what are some of the bigger questions surrounding Sunday’s title game?

1. Can Brady shake out of his Giant funk?
There are just some teams that Tom Brady doesn’t play well against. Entering this year’s AFC championship game, Brady’s completion percentage in five career outings against the Ravens was 55.9, which was his lowest against any team in the league. So it wasn’t any wonder while he compiled a 57.5 QB rating in a lackluster 239-yard, two-interception performance versus Baltimore two Sundays ago. Now he faces a New York team that, again, for whatever reason, he’s had trouble beating. From a passer-rating standpoint, Brady had his worst performance of the season in a Week 9 home loss to the Giants. His quarterback rating of 75.4 in the 24-20 loss was only slightly worse than his 82.5 rating in Super Bowl XLII back in 2008. Save for his 356-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Giants in Week 17 of the ’07 regular season, Brady has struggled to beat this New York team. Following his poor performance, he reportedly told owner Robert Kraft in the locker room following the AFC title game that he would play better in Super Bowl XLVI. For a quarterback that has largely been viewed as cool, calm and collected, it’s not a stretch to think that Brady is feeling the pressure of potentially losing yet another game to the Giants.

2. Can the Patriots slow the Giants’ pass rush?
These two teams have met three times since December of 2007 and during that span the Giants have sacked Brady a total of eight times (including five times in their Super Bowl victory in February of ’08). New York uses four defensive ends in passing situations, which is something no other team can boast. Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks), Justin Tuck (5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (9 sacks in just nine games) and Dave Tollefson (five sacks) can line up at the same time because Pierre-Paul and Tuck have the ability to play inside. The Giants also have the option of playing a combination of three of those ends with Mathias Kiwanuka (3.5 sacks), who is a highly versatile role player. It’s no coincidence that Brady struggled in New England’s 24-20 home loss to New York in Week 9 considering that was one of the games Umenyiora was healthy for. When the Giants can dress all five of their pass rushers they’re a completely different defense – a defense that the Patriots and their usually solid group of pass blockers has had trouble with in the past two meetings with New York.

3. Can the Pats’ defense slow down all of the Giants’ weapons?
The Giants’ offense doesn’t receive nearly enough attention for how explosive it is. In a lot of ways, that’s a direction reflection of how some view Eli Manning, who also doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves for being a quarterback that can put pressure on a defense with his playmaking ability. For all of the attention that the Giants’ pass rush has received lately, without Manning’s outstanding play the Giants wouldn’t have won nine games this season. They wouldn’t have made the playoffs, upset the Packers at Lambeau, or have an opportunity to make it two-for-two against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Granted, Manning has had help. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have been outstanding for a New York passing attack that stacks up to any offense in the league outside of maybe New Orleans, New England and Green Bay. Mario Manningham is also a weapon in the vertical game because he can attack a defense along the seam, which is important seeing as how New York doesn’t have a Jimmy Graham-type at tight end. Throw in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs (who both have awoken from their season-long slumber) and yes, the Giants offense is that good. That said, New England’s red-zone defense has allowed just two touchdowns in seven opportunities throughout the playoffs, as Denver went 1-of-3 inside the 20 in the Divisional round and Baltimore went 1-of-4 in the AFC title game. Statically speaking the Patriots weren’t very good defensively this season. But they’re starting to come together on that side of the ball so it’ll be interesting to see who wins the Giants’ O vs. Patriots D matchup come Sunday.

4. Will Belichick continue to make sound second-half adjustments?
Baltimore has been the only team in the past seven weeks that has matched New England after halftime. The Ravens and Patriots each scored 10 points apiece in the second half of last Sunday’s AFC championship game, but other than that New England has killed teams in the final two quarters. The Pats have allowed an average of 5.7 second-half points in their last six games, which is an indication that Bill Belichick and his coaching staff are making sound in-game and halftime adjustments. In fact, New England has outscored opponents 111-34 in the second half over their past six games so it’ll be interesting to see how Sunday’s game plays out. If the Giants build a first-half lead, can they sustain it?

5. How effective will the “Gronk” be?
At this point the question isn’t whether Rob Gronkowsi will play but rather how effective will he be. This isn’t the same situation as last year with Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey, who never really had a realistic shot of playing in the Super Bowl after suffering a high ankle sprain in the AFC championship game, because Gronk is going to play. But remember two years ago when Colts’ defensive end Dwight Freeney tore a ligament in his right ankle late in the AFC title game versus the Jets, played in the Super Bowl but was largely ineffective? Will Gronk be the same player he was for the Pats during the regular season or will he serve as merely a decoy in passing situations? We already know that Gronkowski will likely need his left ankle scoped following Sunday’s game so it’s not unrealistic to believe he could be severely limited. Granted, the Pats do have Aaron Hernandez, who not unlike Gronkowski is a weapon from the slot or tight end position. But the “Gronk” was nearly unstoppable this season and is a major mismatch against defensive backs and linebackers. The Patriots need him to be as healthy as possible if their offense is going to fire on all cylinders.

UFC on Fox Results & Recap: Two title contenders named

nullRashad Evans and Chael Sonnen were expected to win their fights at UFC on FOX 2 Saturday night, and they did just that.

Evans defeated Phil Davis by unanimous decision to become the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight title while Sonnen defeated Michael Bisping by unanimous decision to earn a future shot at the middleweight championship.

In the main event, Evans simply out-classed Davis with his superior wrestling and striking. Davis, who was in the biggest fight in his career, seemed overwhelmed by the environment and his opponent while Evans remained calm and implemented his game plan.

Evans didn’t look overly impressive but he did enough to win and now will face Jon Jones at UFC 145 in a fight that everyone has been waiting for.

Sonnen had a much more difficult time with Bisping than what was expected. Bisping showed the ability to stay off his back, but he didn’t quite do enough in the eyes of the judges to win the striking contest.

All three rounds were razor thin and there was some debate as to who won, but ultimately the judges all scored the fight in favor of Sonnen. He will now face Anderson Silva for the second time later this year. Sonnen clearly had the best performance against Silva than anyone in the UFC, as he was an arm triangle away from pulling out a decision win over the champion.

For full results from UFC on FOX 2, check out the jump.

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Will Boise State’s Kellen Moore go undrafted?

Boise State Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore (11) follows through on a pass during the second half of a NCAA football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Landover, Maryland, September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Sporting News draft analyst Russ Lande writes that Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is in danger of being undrafted following a poor week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.

Coming to Mobile, Moore needed to really step up, but things could not have gone much worse for him. Not only did he measure under 6 feet, but he showed below-average arm strength and lacked accuracy on passes longer than 10 yards. He did not show the arm strength to make all the NFL throws with good velocity and had a long delivery and release, which made it easier for defenders to break, close and make plays on his passes. Moore will have to be amazing at the Combine and his pro day if he hopes to get drafted.

This isn’t all that surprising of a report. Moore isn’t the type of quarterback who will force defenses to cover the entire field because his arm strength is limited. His lack of size also becomes a problem when a defense is able to create pressure from the interior and push the pocket into his face. He simply has a lack of physical skills that cannot be overcome, even by a great combine or Pro Day performance.

But that doesn’t mean that Moore won’t prove to be a quality backup or provide depth at the next level. He’s very accurate with the football, has good pocket awareness and he’s able to decipher information quickly. Thus, he shouldn’t be discouraged if he isn’t drafted because he does have a future in the NFL if he gets in the right system.

Buzz building for Courtney Upshaw

University of Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw speaks to reporters during Media Day before his team take on Louisiana State University in the NCAA BCS National Championship, scheduled for January 9, in New Orleans, Louisiana January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

This kid is a beast and he’s likely moving up on many draft boards.

Will Courtney Upshaw be a defensive end or an outside linebacker in the NFL? The Alabama star and surefire first-round pick has insisted throughout Senior Bowl week that he has no preference.

But this much seems assured: The preference of opposing offensive tackles would be that he take up another line of work.

One of the standouts of a dominating Crimson Tide defense, Upshaw has had a fine week of practice at the Senior Bowl. He has worked with the defensive ends throughout the week, though he plans to do OLB drills at the Combine and at Alabama’s pro day. However, Upshaw did get some work standing up in a 3-4 look this week, noted Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, a member of the South coaching staff this week.

Haslett is among those who have been impressed by the first-team All-American, who garnered BCS championship game MVP honors with seven tackles and a sack in Alabama’s shutout of LSU.

“He’s a tightly built guy that’s powerful, extremely fast,” Haslett said. “… I think he’s got so much upside. I think he’s a heck of a football player.”

Power is the 6-1½, 273-pound Upshaw’s game, whether he’s playing the run or getting after the quarterback. The opposition knows this. What follows is a lot of pushing — and pulling, as Upshaw noted.

It’s early in the process, but draft mania is already catching fire. With Twitter we now have an outlet where more and more people can discuss topics like the draft. Upshaw will get a ton of attention throughout this process.

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