The Backdoor Cover: NFL Wildcard Weekend
The playoffs are here! The playoffs are here!
I love college football. I have many friends who only follow college and turn their noses up to the professional game. I’m fine with that if it’s your preference. However, what I can’t take is someone who prefers the collegiate postseason to the NFL. They are certifiably insane.
It’s no argument. There is nothing better than the next two weekends where we have two games a day for Saturday and Sunday. Anything can happen and usually does. It’s must-see TV.
Now compare that with college football. Long layoffs between games, no one cares outside of maybe the conference you support is involved or perhaps a marquee player. It’s been well-documented that most schools lose money and tickets are given away in some cases. I don’t want to trash bowls too much but just to show for the love of God, can we get a college playoff system. It’s an embarrassment the way the system works now. Rant over.
Back to the NFL, I feel strongly about these games this weekend. I’m ready to win, you are ready. Let’s do this. I have run the spreadsheets, the algorithms, lined up the sun-dials and went against my heart. Trust me, these picks are well worth how much you paid for them. If you read now, you’ll get the four sides AND the four totals for the games. What a bargain.
HOUSTON -3 vs Cincinnati – Man, what a terrible game to lead off the playoffs. At least the NFL is smart enough not to put it in primetime on Saturday night. Here’s what I know – I’d rather bet on the team with the better defense, better running game, at home and beat their opponent earlier this season. The Bengals built up their record against terrible teams. I might have a fantasy man-crush on A.J. Green but he has a shoulder separation and hasn’t been himself the past two games. This all adds up to a 7-10 point Houston win. Even Andre Johnson is expected to play a decent role this week. Cincinnati is a trendy pick here but don’t take the bait.
Houston/Cincinnati UNDER 38 – My favorite total of the week. If you can get the Bengal TEAM UNDER 17.5 I would do that one as well. Quite simply, the Texans defense is plenty good enough to limit a plodding Bengals offense. Both teams will want to run, run and run some more. Neither wants their shaky quarterbacks to do too much, so we’ll see the clock running the whole time. I know UNDERs aren’t a party favorite, but who is the life of the party after the game is over? The guy with the $5 bill he won by taking the UNDER, that’s who.
DETROIT +10.5 at New Orleans – It is extremely hard to pass on an underdog that is getting over ten points. The Lions lost by 14 to the Saints in New Orleans earlier this season. However, they missed a field goal and had eleven penalties, including 3 offensive pass interferences. The Lions were missing secondary members, Suh and Fairley went out early in the game. Plus, with the expanded role of Kevin Smith since then I believe they will run the ball enough to keep Saints off-balance. I believe the pass rush will be the difference in the Lions getting blown out and almost pulling an upset. I have to back the underdog that can also put up points quickly.
Detroit/New Orleans OVER 58.5 – I can’t believe I am taking a total this high but I can’t take the under here. This game should be played in the thirties. As the game goes on, they will know settling for field goals is a lost cause which will force fourth down situations. I am excited to watch this game since I am predicting a close shootout and the Superdome should be rocking. This is one of the highest totals I’ve ever seen in the NFL but the OVER is still getting most of the action. It is what it is.
NY GIANTS -3 vs Atlanta – My biggest bet of the weekend. I was asked by The Hazean twitter account what my lock of the weekend was and I replied – the NY Giants. I simply don’t believe in the Falcons ability to go to NY and pull off the upset. Their opponents lately have been frauds and they rarely play outdoors. I like the Giants to pound the ball and make big plays when needed in the passing game. And when in doubt, go with the better looking quarterback – Eli Manning.
NY Giants/Atlanta UNDER 47 – The only thing that scares me about this UNDER is Julio Jones, who is a man among boys. If he doesn’t have any big plays, then the Falcons will be held in check and the Giants will be content to play field position football. I capped this total to be around 43 so I’m guessing Atlanta’s last few weeks have inflated the overall number.
PITTSBURGH -9 at Denver – Which brings me to my beloved Broncos. Make no mistake, I will be bleeding Orange and Blue Sunday afternoon but I simply cannot back them here. It’s simple really. Denver can be thrown on rather easily. Outside of Champ Bailey, the other secondary members are mediocre at best. Pittsburgh is a pass-first team. Denver can be run on the past two games. Pittsburgh has a very capable back-up in Redman that actually catches passes much better than Mendenhall. Pittsburgh’s defense will be better than any the Broncos have faced with Tebow, who was struggling to move the ball regardless. Unless Denver gets relentless pass rush against Big Ben, Pittsburgh will build a lead and it will be lights out. I believe in miracles but I have to put my wallet where the most logical outcome lies. I will gladly lose this pick though for an upset.
Pittsburgh/Denver OVER 33.5 – This is also easy. If you believe Denver will cover, then it will be a 7-3 type game and take the UNDER. If you believe Pittsburgh will cover, then they will score in the twenties assuredly and the OVER will hit. Hopefully, Denver’s coaches will take the kid gloves off their ultra-conservative game planning and let the Broncos take some chances. That will also help the over to hit. What I see is Denver getting behind early and then Tebow turning the ball over leading to easy Pittsburgh scores trying to play catch up. Of course, John Fox could also call only runs in the fourth quarter down 24 just so Tebow loses badly.
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