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January-07-2003,
Rocket arm, but no Rocky...By Simon Milham, www.tradesports.com columnist

Anything appears possible this season. Take the Miami Hurricanes. 34-0 streak (ended by the Buckeyes) and Brett Favre.s .35-0 when it dips below.. record (ended by the Atlanta Falcons). If this continues we could even end up with two teams in the Super Bowl . the Jets and the Falcons . who were beaten by Chicago!

So while Tampa Bay will beat the over-rated San Francisco 49ers, the only real shock of the weekend in the NFL could come in Veterans. Stadium, where the Philadelphia Eagles could fall to the surprising Atlanta Falcons.

Why? Good question. A very good one. Erm. Er. because this is the NFL?

The more you look, the harder it becomes to make a clear and concise case for Atlanta. This is not the same underdog team that went to the big one in 1998 . nobody believed in them either - despite posing a good defense, strong running game and a 14-2 regular season record.

This is a 9-6-1 team who backed into the playoffs and then beat up on a less-than-impressive Green Bay outfit whose fire was extinguished in New York a week earlier.

How about form? The Eagles went 12-4 in the regular season . best in the NFC. Tell me that doesn.t cut much ice. If not form, how about momentum?

As far as momentum swings go, their 27-7 thrashing of the Packers doesn.t get much bigger. Green Bay were 13-0 in playoff games at Lambeau Field until Saturday, when they gave up five turnovers and Atlanta who became the first to win a playoff game there in what could turn out to be Favre.s farewell.

But the memory of defeats by Cleveland and Seattle at the backend of the regular season is still hard to ignore.

What about history then?

Atlanta now travels to the NFC.s No.1 seed . and a top seed in that conference has not lost its first-round playoff game at home since 1991.

But wait a minute. Guess who lost that year. the Falcons (to Dallas). And wasn.t it the Eagles whom Atlanta defeated in 1978 in a wild card game to win their first ever playoff game?

The Falcons are dogs again and are likely considered 7.5-points inferior on the TradeSports Handicap line where you bet person to person. This means you pit your wits against other players before and during every NFL game. Players post all bets on the exchange. If you don.t see the bet you are looking for post what you want for others to take. Its fun and once you familiarize yourself with the system it will become a big part of your betting.

If this weekend.s match-ups are anything like last Sunday.s wildcard games, you can bet throughout the entire hour (perhaps more) and probably buy a small Caribbean island if the games swing wildly and you dictate correctly the odds in your favour.

So just how will the Falcons win? What if I tied my shoes the other way or put on my right sock first instead of my left?

Seriously, the reason the Falcons have a shot at the upset is because of their running game, which managed 192 yards against the Packers.

If the Eagles have any delusions of adequacy, it is against the run, as shown in the regular season by the Indianapolis Colts (Hey you, no snickering at the back!) and the New York Giants. The Falcons also have Michael Vick . the man with the nuclear arm.

If Vick can weave his magic and the Eagles are force to respect the running game, and if the Atlanta defense shows up and the Eagles offense stalls, the Falcons must be considered. That.s a bunch of .ifs. too many.

There is no question the Eagles should win and win comfortably. The hunch is the Eagles will snuff out the visitors in a low-scoring contest and cover the line. Everyone outside the city of Brotherly Love will be hoping for a Falcons win and hoping that, just like Rocky Balboa, they may just have one last haymaker left in the locker.

No. This is playoff time. The time to get real. The Eagles will cover the spread with ease.

So to Florida. Sit back, relax and watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trample all over the San Francisco 49ers, who came back from the dead to beat the New York Giants 39-38 and recorded the second biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.

The Buccaneers are likely 4.5-point favorites on the TradeSports Handicap line and although they may struggle to put points on the board should they fall behind, the visitors must travel across country to face a fresh team who have a stifling defense, one which will get to Niners. quarterback Jeff Garcia with force and regularity.

On the flip side, the visitors will know that the Buccaneers are not a team that is built to come from behind and they have momentum on their side.

Though their coach, Jon Gruden, was recently selected as one of the most beautiful people in the world (Look, for the final time, stop laughing at the back!), Tampa continues to win ugly and should do so again.

The Pittsburgh Steelers exposed their weakness and proved they are beatable at home, but the Niners. simply do not look capable of exploiting it. While the point spread looks big for a team that has struggled on offense, they may just be able to cover. Tampa and Philadelphia have long looked the strongest teams in the NFL and if things go as expected, we should have a cracking NFC Championship game to look forward to. Then again, anything appears possible this season.

Simon Milham is a columnist with www.tradesports.com. TradeSports is a person-to-person sports trading exchange where members wager together without a bookie and ZERO VIG everyday. TradeSports offers all new members a choice of sign up bonuses. E.g open an account with $250 or more and we will give you a $50 bonus (mention .SM2.) Normal T&C.s apply.



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