The sports betting world is focused on the NFL Wild Card Weekend, and the NFL betting lines are shifting constantly. Before we can get to the Super Bowl betting, we need to get past Wild Card Weekend and there are some interesting NFL picks set to come out of this first NFL playoff weekend.
The best way to help you decide who to pick in each game is to analyze the keys to winning for each team, in each game.
So let’s break down the upcoming NFL Wild Card Weekend games and see how each team can come away with a win and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.
Saturday—New Orleans Saints (-10.5) @ Seattle Seahawks
For the Saints, the key to winning this game is to keep pressure on the Seattle defense by moving the football. The Seahawks' front defensive line is not great at pass rushing, and that is just fine for the Saints, since New Orleans has no running game.
On defense the Saints need to keep the Seattle offense in the middle of the field and then just shut it down.
The Seahawks need to get to Saints quarterback Drew Brees. If Brees is left in the pocket without being pressured, he will pick the Seattle defense apart.
On offense, the Seahawks need to find that running game they have not had all season long and run to outside the tackles. Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst offers a different wrinkle with his ability to run the ball and that should help keep the Saints defense spread out.
Saturday—New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
The key on defense for the Jets in this game is to forget the run and focus on Peyton Manning. Antonio Cromartie and Darelle Revis are great corners, but Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon are more than capable of getting behind the Jets defense. The Jets need to pressure Manning and stay behind the Colts receivers.
On offense, the Jets need to start Mark Brunell. Mark Sanchez is still a bit injured and Sanchez’s decision-making is what cost the Jets their last two losses. It will be a blow to the quarterback’s confidence, but Sanchez is just not ready to compete at a high level in the playoffs.
The Colts just need to keep doing what they are doing on offense. Peyton Manning is brilliant at taking what the defense gives him, and the Jets defense will give Manning the outer edges of the field. That means that running back Joseph Addai will not be a factor.
On defense, the Colts need to control the middle of the field. They need to stop LaDainian Tomlinson running the ball and catching the ball in the slot out of the backfield. The Colts also need to keep an eye on receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes and the long ball.
Sunday—Baltimore Ravens (-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs need to rely a little more on quarterback Matt Cassel in this game than they are used to. The Ravens run defense up the middle may be too fast and too strong for the Chiefs. But the Chiefs have prided themselves on their running game all season long, and they should stay with it.
But to win this game, they need to get the ball downfield.
On defense, the Chiefs need to protect against the deep passing game of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco is much-improved on getting the ball down the field and his accuracy needs to be a concern for the Ravens.
The Ravens just need to keep that balance of run and pass on offense. Running back Ray Rice and the running game are doing an excellent job of setting up the passing game.
The Ravens defense just needs to watch the short passing game. Safety Ed Reed and the secondary have been shutting down the long ball, but the middle of the field, just behind the linebackers, has been a problem for the Ravens defense.
Sunday—Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
The Eagles and their offense need to stay mobile in this game. The Packers defense is fast and athletic. If quarterback Michael Vick decides to stand still in the pocket, the Packers will bury him.
On defense, the Eagles need to contain Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the Green Bay offense, but his offensive line is extremely strong and fast. A variety of coverage schemes designed to confuse Rodgers and a linebacker assigned to spy Rodgers can help keep the Green Bay quarterback in the pocket.
The Packers just need to use that speed they have on defense and keep the pressure on Michael Vick. Green Bay blitzes from a variety of places on the field, and that will confuse Vick. Neutralize Vick, and the rest of the Eagles offense is stopped as well.
The Packers offense needs to create some kind of running game to keep the Eagles defense off Aaron Rodgers. Running back Brandon Jackson has shown signs of life lately, and they need to get him going to help spread out the Eagles defense.