The regular season is over (Randy sighs in relief) and it is finally playoff time! We are still going to pick each game against the spread through the Super Bowl, but we will also offer some extra analysis on each matchup. Let’s get ready for Wild Card Weekend!
Saturday, Jan. 7
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-3.5)
NB: Houston Texans. Get excited! Connor Cook vs Brock Osweiler! In an underwhelming slate of Wild Card games, this one is definitely the worst matchup on paper. The Texans have had issues at Quarterback this year, but at least they aren’t down to their 3rd string signal caller like the Raiders. Also, the Houston D has been excellent all year (7th in DVOA), while the Oakland D (outside of Khalil Mack) has been up and down all season. Oakland will have a ton of trouble scoring in this game, and I think Houston can do just enough to move along to the next round. Whoever wins this game will almost surely lose next weekend anyways. Texans 20. Raiders 14.
RH: Oakland Raiders. This is the time slot to get all of your housework and grocery shopping done this weekend before the real games start. I’m worried that the Texans defense just takes over this game and the Raiders fail to get things going in the run game. However the Texans are just a flat out bad football team, they have a -49 point differential! The only teams with a worse point differential in 2016 are the Jags, Bears, Jets, Rams, Niners and Browns. Those teams also happen to hold the first 6 picks (except the Rams don’t actually own their draft slot. LOL) in the upcoming draft. The Raiders have a real shot at winning this game despite having Connor Cook under center. Texans 17. Raiders 16.
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-8)
NB: Seattle Seahawks. Both of these teams have struggled down the stretch, but I still really like Seattle’s chances in the NFC for some reason. They have a QB who has won a Super Bowl, a top notch defense, and a roster that has a ton of playoff experience. I know their offensive line and run game are terrible right now, but they may be able to manufacture enough out of both units to get back to the Super Bowl this year. The path to Houston starts Saturday night against a Lions team that finished 27th in the NFL in DVOA and has lost three straight games to end the year (all to NFC playoff teams). Between the late season lull and Matthew Stafford’s injured middle finger, I think Detroit’s season is all but over. I think Seattle will get a blowout win this week before heading to Atlanta next week to face a beatable Falcons’ team. Seahawks 30. Lions 13.
RH: Seattle Seahawks. Captain obvious here. The Seahawks aren’t the same team from the past few seasons, but they should be good enough to roll over Detroit in this one. The Lions were 1-6 against teams with a winning record this season including 0-4 against current NFC playoff teams. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has also been bad since his finger injury a month ago as he just 3 touchdown passes in the 4 games since. Seahawks 24. Lions 14.
Sunday, Jan. 8
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10)
NB: Miami Dolphins. Both of these teams probably aren’t quite as good as their records. Miami has been pretty hot during the second half of the year, but was also exposed in games against the Ravens and the Patriots. Pittsburgh has a scary three headed at monster on offense in Ben, Bell, and Brown, but otherwise their team is pretty pedestrian. The defense has underperformed all year, particularly when they played these same Dolphins and allowed Jay Ayaji to run for over 200 yards. The Steelers should get revenge for that game this Sunday at home, but I wouldn’t expect this to be a blow out, even with Matt Moore under center for Miami. Steelers 27, Dolphins 20.
RH: Miami Dolphins. All season I’ve been questioning how good this Dolphins team really is and here we are. Early in the season I buried Miami, said their season was over and questioned if they were worst team in the league back in Week 5 after their 1-4 start. Then Miami caught a break in Week 6 against this Steelers team when Pittsburgh came out flat, Big Ben got hurt and probably most important of all Jay Ajayi happened. I still think Pittsburgh is the superior team and I should probably take them to cover here, but Miami has burned me for the last three months. Maybe I’ve finally learned my lesson. Steelers 24. Dolphins 20.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)
NB: New York Giants. The Giants have been somewhat smoke and mirrors all season and have won a lot of close games that could have gone either way. Usually that means that a playoff letdown is probable. Having said that, they also have the best wide receiver in football, a much improved defense (2nd in the NFL in DVOA), and a quarterback that can win on the road in the playoffs. Eli Manning beat the Packers in Lambeau in both 2008 and 2012 on his path to the Super Bowl. Manning threw for a total of 581 yards and 3 TDs in those two wins. More on Eli, he has won seven straight games as a playoff underdog. The Packers have been playing great and Aaron Rodgers is a stud, but their momentum will only take them so far. Eli and Odell will torch the Packers’ injured secondary in his first ever playoff game and the GMen will march on to (likely) Dallas for their 3rd chance to beat the Cowboys this season. Giants 21, Packers 20.
RH: Green Bay Packers. All season I’ve been telling anyone with a pulse that the Giants are a fraud. Every time I thought they were about to show America their true colors they would get a layup game against teams like the Browns, Rams, Bears and the Redskins in a game where their season was on the line (which is basically like playing the 2008 Lions. LOLSkins). So here we are, the Giants are in the playoffs and everyone is talking about how the last two times they won the Super Bowl they won in Green Bay on the way there and how Big Blue is about to do it again. Well I am sticking to my guns, this team stinks. Their defense is much improved (which didn’t take much) but still have garbage moments from time to time and they haven’t scored over 20 points in a game since Thanksgiving weekend. This is not the same New York Giants from previous years. This team stinks. Packers 27. Giants 16.
Regular Season Record:
NB: 125-124-7 (7-8-1 last week)
RH: 107-142-7 (6-9-1 last week)
-Nick Bair & Randy Haines
Odds according to Westgate Las Vegas
Photo credit: New Jersey 101.5