The 2014 NFL playoffs begin on Saturday, Dec. 4 with two of the four Wild Card Weekend games getting underway. It’s an exciting time for football fans and an even more exciting time to be a gambler.
While the lines have tightened up drastically due to an increased focus on each of the few remaining contests, it is never more fun to bet on the outcome of a game than when the teams are in win-or-go-home situations.
If you are looking for an edge and need some advice on which way to lean, look no further as I have you covered with a pick for each Wild Card Game. Keep reading for those, plus a closer look at the two best bets of the weekend.
|Date (Time)||Visitor (Seed)||Home (Seed)||Pick (Spread)|
|Jan. 4 (4:35 p.m. EST)||Kansas City Chiefs (5)||Indianapolis Colts (4)||Colts (-1.5)|
|Jan. 4 (8:10 p.m. EST)||New Orleans Saints (6)||Philadelphia Eagles (3)||Eagles (-2.5)|
|Jan. 5 (1:05 p.m. EST)||San Diego Chargers (6)||Cincinnati Bengals (3)||Bengals (-6.5)|
|Jan. 5 (4:40 p.m. EST)||San Francisco 49ers (5)||Green Bay Packers (4)||Packers (+2.5)|
Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over San Francisco 49ers
Weather can be a great equalizer in football, and that will be readily apparent when these two teams clash at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.
According to The Weather Channel, temperatures in Green Bay could get down near -20 degrees and shouldn’t be above zero degrees by the time things kick off around 4:40 p.m. ET.
Anything goes when the conditions turn arctic, and it should allow the Packers—who are generally more familiar with this type of contest compared to the 49ers—to prevail in a close battle.
Cornerback Tramon Williams is definitely experienced with these types of conditions, having been with Green Bay since the 2006 campaign. He recalled the 2007 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants, when it reached -1 degree, and the Packers narrowly lost by three points.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the veteran defensive back said of that matchup:
“The first drive, I froze to death. I ain’t going to lie to you. I froze to death. But once I got thawed out ... got in front of the heaters and things like that when I came back on the sideline, I was good for the rest of the game.”
Those experiences, coupled with home-field advantage and the return of stars Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, should give the Packers the boost they need to win this one.
Which team will cover?
Speaking of the superstar signal-caller, Green Bay has gone 5-0 straight up and against the spread in the last five games Rodgers has started and finished. The team is also 5-1 ATS at Lambeau Field as an underdog with Rodgers under center, two encouraging trends that indicate the Packers are better than their 8-7-1 record.
San Francisco has recently been terrible on the road in the playoffs, posting an unimpressive 1-5 SU record away from Candlestick over its last six postseason showdowns. Factor in the terrible conditions, and it is hard to see the Niners pulling this one out.
Back the underdog, and watch as the Packers exceed expectations in a big way and punch their ticket to the NFC Divisional Round.
Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) over New Orleans Saints
The Saints have been receiving a ton of flak for their inability to win away from the Superdome. It’s not unwarranted, as this team has struggled mightily to do exactly that, especially in the postseason.
Unless you count the 2009 Super Bowl, the Saints haven’t won a playoff game on the road in the long history of the franchise. That streak of ineptitude dates all the way to 1967, when the club joined the NFL.
This roster hasn’t proved itself capable of achieving four straight victories away from the Big Easy to capture a Super Bowl, let alone talented enough off the turf to capture a wild-card victory on the road over the Eagles.
New Orleans right tackle Zach Strief spoke about how no one believes that the Saints can get it done on the road, telling Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune: "We know we're going to hear all week how we can't do this. (But) I like our chances. I like the feeling that no one expects you to win. I like putting this team in that position."
Strief is understandably optimistic, but bettors would be wise to avoid lining up their opinion with his. The Eagles are much better positioned to not only win this game but also cover the spread.
Philly is one of the hottest teams in the NFL (7-1 SU, 5-2-1 ATS over the last eight games) and has been dominating with Nick Foles under center.
ESPN Stats & Info notes just how good Foles has been with his deep ball in 2013:
Nick Foles: Best comp pct (52%) and best TD-Int ratio (14-1) when passing 15+ yards downfield this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 2, 2014
Which team will cover?
The second-year signal-caller has helped his offense put up an average of 33.25 points over the last eight contests, while the defense stepped up and kept opponents to 20 points or less in eight of the team’s last 11 matchups.
While those numbers are nice, you need to look no further than New Orleans’ 3-5 SU and 1-7 ATS road record to realize this squad is terrible outside of the Superdome. Stay far away, and back the chalk in order to get paid in this Wild Card Game.