The 2014 NFL playoffs begin late on Saturday afternoon, giving you a reasonable amount of time between now and kickoff to get in some last minute bets.
Whether you are looking to plunk down a massive wager at the sportsbook or just make a friendly bet among friends, it is always good to have backed the right side when the final whistle blows.
Keep reading for the updated lines for every Wild Card Game, my predictions for each against the spread and a closer look at two wise risks worth taking on Saturday.
|2014 NFL Wild Card Weekend Schedule and Predictions|
|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)|
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
The No. 5 Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, going 0-7 straight up and against the spread in their seven appearances since that win against the Houston Oilers.
Unfortunately for fans in Kansas City, it appears that streak of postseason ineptitude will extend to two decades when the No. 4 Colts take care of business at home.
Indianapolis already proved it could beat this opponent in 2013, scoring a convincing 23-7 victory in the confines of Arrowhead Stadium back on Dec. 22, a shade under two weeks ago.
The Colts were able to play smart, opportunistic defense and capitalize on a few rare turnovers from the Chiefs. The “D” sacked K.C. quarterback Alex Smith fives times and forced him into two fumbles and an untimely interception.
Rookie running back Knile Davis also turned over the ball via a fumble, giving the Colts another chance to put points on the board. It was a thorough enough rout that gamblers on the fence that may be considering backing Kansas City should go back and watch the tape, as Indianapolis wasn’t just lucky—it was also good.
The Colts were a 7.5-point underdog in that road contest, so it should be a no-brainer to take this squad at home just a fortnight later. The Colts went 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS in Lucas Oil Stadium this year and will certainly benefit from a raucous crowd and other minor advantages that a home field provides.
The key players in this one will be Andrew Luck for Indy and Jamaal Charles for the Chiefs. Both were instrumental in the Week 15 regular-season meeting between these foes, with Luck having the better overall day.
The second-year signal-caller finished the game having completed 26 of 37 passes for 241 yards and a score, with zero turnovers. Charles was on point with 106 yards on 13 carries but wasn’t utilized enough to make a difference. That should change come Saturday, but the Colts also know it and will be ready to stop him.
Bettors would be wise to back the more proven team with more quality wins in this situation.
The Colts knocked out the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers this season, while the Chiefs' only “W” against a playoff team came against a Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles squad in Week 3.
Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) over New Orleans Saints
The Eagles are coming into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NFL and look more than ready to handle a road-weary Saints squad that has yet to win a true road playoff game (in hostile territory) since the franchise joined the NFL in 1967.
New Orleans’ road struggles are more than just historical, as these issues are also plaguing the current roster. The team went an impressive 8-0 SU and 7-0-1 ATS inside the Superdome but sputtered away from the Big Easy—going just a concerning 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS over the last six road games.
According to ESPN’s Mike Triplett, reporters asked Saints head coach Sean Payton what his plans are to get his players to put these traveling issues behind them. He responded:
I think it's the playoffs. I think the focus isn't so much on road and home. This is the path. In other words, this is the schedule. The big thing as a coach is just trying to cover every detail covering your opponent, trying to cover the specific situations that can come up in a game, making sure you're prepared that way.
He’s going to have his work cut out trying to prepare for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s potent offense. The Eagles have been rolling ever since second-year quarterback Nick Foles took over under center, as they have gone 7-1 SU and 5-2-1 ATS over the last eight games.
Foles’ cannon arm is a large reason for his success, as it opens up things for the rushers and also allows the team to pick up big chunks of yards in a hurry. ESPN Stats & Info has more on just how effective the Arizona product has been when looking down the field:
With the Eagles averaging 33.25 points over their last eight matchups and giving up 20 points or less in eight of their last 11 games, it seems this group has what it takes to make a postseason run.
Don’t be afraid to back Philly, as a powerful offense, improving defense and home-field advantage should be all it needs to win against this flawed Saints squad that is unproven on the road.