Beating the Spread: Wild Card Round Picks
After a strong regular season that saw Jeff Berckes lead the way with a 65% winning percentage, we’ve decided to clear the slate for the NFL playoffs. With my 60% win rate and Tom Schweitzer’s 53% win rate, it was a successful regular season as a whole for this column. The NFL playoffs, however, present an entirely new challenge.
Some of Wild Card weekend’s biggest questions include; who will win the battle between DeAndre Hopkins and Tre’Davious White? Do the Patriots have another gear for the playoffs this year? Can the Vikings match the offensive firepower of the Saints? And which injury-depleted roster can pull out the win in Philadelphia?
Jeff, Tom, and I are now forced to pick each game as opposed to our five favorite bets of the week, making us take sides on games that we would have previously shied away from. We will be picking either the spread or over/under in each game of the NFL playoffs, and as always will track our results. Best of luck with your bets this week!
The following lines were captured on Wednesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.
|Away Team||Home Team||Line||O/U|
|Tennessee||New England||NE -5.5||44|
|Minnesota||New Orleans||NO -7.5||49|
|Analyst||Jeff Berckes||Erik Smith||Tom Schweitzer|
|Pick #1||HOU -2.5||BUF +2.5||HOU -2.5|
|Pick #2||TEN +5.5||NE -5.5||TEN/NE Over 44|
|Pick #3||NO -7.5||NO -7.5||NO -7.5|
|Pick #4||SEA -1.5||SEA -1.5||SEA -1.5|
|Regular Season Record||55-29-1||51-33-1||45-40|
Jeff Berckes: When the lines came out, I immediately liked the Titans at +5.5. I get it, the path of fading the Patriots in the playoffs is littered with corpses but they haven’t played particularly well down the stretch. I’ve liked the Titans all year, they’re a bad matchup for NE, and I think they can at least keep this one close with the possibility of stealing a win outright (TEN +5.5). Another team I’ve liked all year is the Bills, but I think they’re a year away from making real noise. While the Texans have been volatile all year, they could have their full receiving corps playing here and I think that’s enough to get past that very good Bills D (HOU -2.5). In the NFC, it’s a big line but I can’t walk away from the Saints here. They’re firing on all cylinders and feel overqualified to play on Wildcard Weekend. In fact, I think they’ve got a chance to go on a run and win the NFC (NO -7.5). Seattle doesn’t play in many normal games so this one has a chance of getting weird. I’m tempted to just take the over here as both teams can put up points, but I’ll play it straight up with the sides and bank on Russell Wilson doing his thing, setting up an epic Seahawks-49ers Part 3 tilt in the next round (SEA -1.5).
Erik Smith: I liked Buffalo more before the impending return of J.J. Watt for the Texans, but I’m sticking with my first instinct here. Will Fuller is a game-time decision, possibly leaving DeAndre Hopkins to battle Tre’Davious White as the best option for Deshaun Watson in the passing game. The Bills feel more like a cohesive team, while the Texans must rely on Watson to make magic happen (BUF +2.5). I went back and forth on this next one all week, and I’ve finally settled on the Patriots side of the spread. Everything points towards Tennessee keeping this game close, and the Patriots certainly looked mortal losing to the Dolphins next week. But I expect Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to have their team ready, and Stephon Gilmore should be able to contain A.J. Brown. I don’t think New England has a Super Bowl run in them this year, but I’ll back them one last time in Foxborough (NE -5.5). I’m certainly afraid of a back-door Kirk Cousins cover, but the Saints are the superior team. Adam Thielen still hasn’t made his mark coming back from injury, and Dalvin Cook is returning from an injury of his own. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook give Drew Brees three excellent options on his home turf (NO -7.5). The last game of the weekend was another game I went back and forth on. I was inclined to pick the home underdog Eagles in a matchup featuring two banged-up rosters, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see them win here. But ultimately I decided that coming within inches of winning a far superior NFC West has to mean something, and Russell Wilson is a scary quarterback to bet against regardless of his supporting cast (SEA -1.5).
Tom Schweitzer: I’m surprised to see the Texans as less than a 3 point favorite at home, which implies that Buffalo would be favored at a neutral site. I’ve been impressed with the Bills and I think they’re going to be a tough out, but I’m not ready to say they’re better than Houston. Buffalo had just one win against a playoff team this year – a week 5 victory against the Titans when Marcus Mariota was still the quarterback. They played close against other playoff teams like the Ravens and Patriots, but they always seem to come up short because Josh Allen misses too many throws. I think you’re getting value with the Texans -2.5, the more experienced team with the better quarterback. Tennessee is averaging over 30 points per game since naming Ryan Tannehill the starting QB. I think they’ll be able to move the ball on a suddenly vulnerable Patriots defense. I would not be surprised to see the Titans cover or even win the game outright, but I think the better bet is Over 44. The Patriots tend to play high scoring playoff games – when they get a lead on teams they tend to keep their foot on the gas to ensure a victory and when they get down they don’t hesitate to go to their hurry-up offense in order to increase possessions. The Saints are playing their best football right now, just in time to get their revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago. On top of the revenge angle, there are various reports/rumors that the Vikings want to move on from Mike Zimmer at the end of the season. Just the way the teams have played over the last month should be enough to recommend Saints -7.5, but the added motivation for the Saints and the uncertainty behind the scenes in Minnesota make this an easy pick. I think the best bet of the week is Seattle -1.5 in the final game of the weekend. Both of these teams are dealing with several injuries to key players, but the Eagles injury report could reach disaster levels if Zack Ertz and Lane Johnson are unable to suit up. The Eagles have won four straight games, but it’s important to note that all four wins were against the NFC East and they very nearly lost two of the games. The Eagles had lost 3 straight prior to the win streak, including a home game against the Seahawks. Seattle is the better team, they’re healthier, and I’d rather back Russell Wilson than Carson Wentz in a playoff game.
What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all playoffs!
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)