THE PARS' steady climb up the table means that they are now nearer the play-off positions than the bottom spot currently occupied by Saturday’s opponents, St Mirren.

Athletic are odds-on to condemn the Buddies to another defeat: Dunfermline are 3/4 (Betvictor), a draw 14/5 and St Mirren 7/2. As outlined in last week’s column, at 1/6 the Paisley outfit are short enough for the drop but a 3-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Queen of the South does not bode well in the immediate future and the three points can stay in West Fife.

Prediction: Dunfermline 2 St Mirren 0.

The race to the Superbowl has effectively reached the quarter-final stage and all four matches are to be televised on Sky Sports this weekend. New England head the outright betting at 7/4, Dallas are 9/2, Green Bay 15/2 (Skybet), Atlanta and Pittsburgh both 8/1, Kansas City 9/1, Seattle 12/1 (Skybet) and Houston 66/1.

The first game takes place on Saturday night (Sky Sports 2, 9.35pm) with Atlanta hosting Seattle. The Falcons are 5/11 (Bet365, Ladbrokes) and the Seahawks 19/10 (Boylesports/Hills). The handicap is -4 or -4.5 and total points are over 51 or under 51.5. Seattle showed their play-off pedigree in drubbing Detroit last week and are the value to see off their opponents in Georgia, who may be flattered to be the NFC number two seed.

Prediction: Atlanta 17 Seattle 24.

New England take on Houston in the early hours of Sunday morning (Sky Sports 1; 1.15am) presumably because this is expected to be X-rated viewing. The Patriots are 1/12 (Betvictor) to beat the Texans, who can be backed at 10/1 (Boylesports). The handicap line is at 15 or 15.5 and total points are 44 or 44.5. New England ought to have little trouble justifying their cramped odds but Houston’s number 1-ranked defence can keep them within two touchdowns.

Prediction: New England 27 Houston 14.

The Sunday evening game (Sky Sports 2, 6.05pm) pits Kansas against Pittsburgh and the layers believe this will be a close contest. The Chiefs are 4/5 and the Steelers 11/10 and the handicap is at -1.5 or -2. Total points are at 44.5/45. The Pennsylvanian visitors are the slightly better-balanced team and can edge it.

Prediction: Kansas City 17 Pittsburgh 20.

The final game (Sky Sports 2, 9.40pm) promises to be a cracker with a resurgent Green Bay visiting Dallas. The Cowboys are 10/21 (Bet365) and the Packers 15/8 (Skybet). The handicap is -4/-4.5 and total points 52. Green Bay are a much respected opponent to the NFC first seeds but away from the Wisconsin tundra, they might fall short.

Prediction: Dallas 31 Green Bay 27.