The NFL Lines: Wild Card Weekend

Filed in NFL, NFL Tips by on January 4, 2011

The regular season is over and done with – 32 have become 12. With the Patriots, Ravens, Packers and Niners lying in wait next week, wild card weekend kicks off the 'win or go home' part of the season. Nick Tedeschi and Cliff Bingham look at an intriguing weekend of playoff matchups and give their picks.

CB – Wild card weekend means the end of crappy opponents and therefore for mine, the focus this week will be on 2 factors: (1) Previous playoff experience/ success; and (2) regular season performances against playoff-calibre sides. I'll be reflecting on these factors heavily throughout the tipping process in the postseason.

Summary of Week 17 results

NT – 4 selections, 5 units bet, return of 5.00 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = 0%

CB – 2 selections, 3 units bet, return of 5.62 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = 87%

Total – 6 selections, 8 units bet, return of 10.62 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = 33%

Summary of Overall results

NT – 93 selections, 135 units bet, return of 119.69 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -11%

CB – 55 selections, 69 units bet, return of 65.72 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -5%

Total – 148 selections, 204 units bet, return of 185.41 units, Profit on Turnover (POT) = -9%

CIN @ HOU -3
NT – When I first thought about this match-up, I had a slight leaning towards the Bengals. The Texans have lost three straight, struggled to win against the Bengals four weeks back and had allowed 70 points over the last three weeks, an ordinary effort from a top-level defensive unit. And then I realised that Jake Delhomme would be the likely starter for Houston. The last time Delhomme saw playoff football, he ended the Carolina Panthers' 2008 season by throwing five interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals. He is hopeless. This will be a real arm wrestle but the Bengals can win this. Take the points for 2 units.

CB – This looks like a real trap game to me. Reasons to worry about taking Cincinnati +3 include: (1) The Bengals being 0-7 this season against playoff sides, including Houston at home; (2) Andy Dalton throwing for only 5 TDs and 7 Ints in 6 games against good defences (Pit twice, Balt tiwce, SF & Hou); (3) potential jitters associated with not having won a playoff game in eons. Reasons to worry about taking Houston -3 include: (1) The Texans losing 3 games straight and having zero momentum coming into the playoffs; (2) a banged up side with Arian Foster out and Andre Johnson still shy of 100% fitness; (3) either TJ Yates coming off a separated shoulder or Jake Delhomme under centre; and (4) potential jitters associated with never having played a playoff game, let alone won such a match. I'm tipping Houston 19-16 but with zero confidence. No play.

DET @ NO -10.5 to -11
NT – Despite the big line, I am very keen on the Saints here. They have been covering machines. They have made the number in seven straight and are a perfect 8-0 straight-up and against the spread at home this season. The Lions, meanwhile, haven't covered in four straight on the road and they allowed Matt Flynn, in his second career start, rip them apart in a game that meant plenty to the Lions. The Saints pounded the Lions 31-17 when they met five weeks ago and I expect them to be able to get away with another big win. Look for the Saints to run the ball on Detroit. The Lions have struggled against the run all year and have been at their worst against change-of-pace runners like Darren Sproles, who should have a big game. Bet 2 units on the Saints giving 11.

CB – New Orleans at home against 5 playoff-calibre sides (Chi pre Culter/ Forte injuries, Hou, NYG, Det, Atl): 5 wins, average score of 39-21, 17 TDs to 4 Ints for Drew Brees. In all likelihood, the Saints will rack up another 30-odd here. But the more telling stats are those for Detroit against 6 playoff-calibre sides (excluding week 17 against the Green Bay B-side – the Bears pre Cutler/ Forte injuries home and away, SF at home, Atl at home, GB at home, NO away). 6 games for only 1 home win, 3 home losses and 2 road losses by 24 and 14 points. Only against Chicago at home did they reach 20 points. Matt Stafford threw for 1,708 yards, 8 TDs and 9 Ints in those 6 matches (compared to 3,330 yards, 33 TDs and 7 Ints in the other 10 games). With a loud and hostile road crowd, a so-so rushing game and a penchant for penalties and the most inopportune times, I can't see Detroit matching motors with the Saints. New Orleans 35-17 for mine, and thus I'll have 1.5 units on the Saints -10.5.

ATL @ NYG -3
NT – The Giants have limped into the playoffs, winning only three of their last eight and being lucky to survive a Dallas comeback in the NFC East decider that rounded out the regular season. Their deficiencies are there for all to see. They can't run the ball. They can't stop the pass. Injuries have hurt on both sides of the ball. The key players here are going to be Falcons wideouts Julio Jones and Roddy White, who have combined for 11 touchdowns and five 100-yard plus games in the last seven weeks. My only concern about Atlanta is their poor form against good teams: they have gone 1-4 against playoff sides this year. Just the 1 unit on the plus.

CB – If there are 2 things we've learnt about the Falcons this year, it's that they are 'flat-track bullies' against bad sides and that they are substantially better at home than on the road (especially when they have to play outside). To wit, let's split their season up into the home games + road games at Indy and Carolina (both with subpar defences) in one category, and the other 6 road games (Chi, TB, Sea, Det, Hou and NO) in the second category. In the 10 'home + easy road' games they went 8-2 (avg score 30-20), Matt Ryan averaged 19/30 for 238 yards per game and threw 24 TDs and 6 Ints, while Michael Turner ran 202 times for 945 yards and 9 TDs. That all sounds pretty impressive. However, in the 6 'tough road' games (I'm being liberal here including the Bucs and Seahwaks) the Falcons went 2-4 (avg score 17-25), Matt Ryan averaged 27/45 for 300 yards per game and threw 5 TDs and 6 Ints, while Michael Turner ran 99 times for 395 yards and 2 TDs. To recap, Ryan and Turner had a combined 33 TDs in 10 easier games, but only 7 TDs in 6 tougher road games. Throw in the last 2 Falcons playoff efforts (shellacked by Green Bay at home last year and beaten by Arizona on the road in 2008 when well fancied) and I'm happy to take on the Falcons on the road. To those who are worried about the Giants running game, I'd like to point out that in the 5 games since Ahmad Bradshaw returned, Bradshaw and Jacobs have combined for 109 rushing attempts for 470 yards and 7 TDs. Eli will throw a pick or two (after all, he's Eli Manning), but I think the Giants will pull out enough big plays against a Falcons side who fails to meet expectations once again. New York Giants 24-16 for mine, sufficient to induce a 1.5 unit bet on the G-Men at the -3.

PIT @ DEN +7.5 to +9
NT – I am struggling to get too excited about this one. It is a bit like the soccer World Cup. I should be excited but damned if I can get worked up. Okay, it isn't as bad as soccer. But it is still pretty dull. I can't see the Broncos being able to move the ball at all against a Steelers defence that ranks first against the pass and eighth against the run. The Broncos defence is pretty stout but Rashard Mendenhall is the one who will be looking for a big game. No play but a lean towards the Steelers.

CB – There a lot of things to dislike about wagering in this game. You have a home team coming off 3 straight losses with a QB who seems to have lost his mojo – a bad sign when he and his dubious passing skill set are about to take on one of the best passing defences in the league. The Broncos own passing defence is less impressive than their reputation suggests – they are 28th in QB rating allowed, with only Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indianapolis and Minnesota behind them. It's difficult to envisage them putting together a winning score. Nonetheless, the Steelers are not without their own problems – a banged up team with Big Ben hobbling around and Mendenhall out, a negative 8 turnover differential this season (creating only 14 turnovers while conceding 22 of them) and having to lay more than a touchdown on the road. I think the Steelers and their playoff experience will see them through but laying more than a touchdown on the road? No thank you. Pittsburgh 20-13 for mine – no play. 

NT- 2 units on Cincinnati +3 at $1.89 (Luxbet), 2 units on New Orleans -10.5 at $1.94 (Luxbet) and 1 unit on Atlanta +3 at $1.95 (Sportingbet).

CB – 1.5 units on New Orleans -10.5 at $1.94 (Luxbet) and 1.5 units on New York Giants -3 at $2.05 (Sportsbet).


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