Here Are Our 2016 NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks Against The Spread
I had some surgery done this week, so the NFL Playoffs couldn’t come at a better time. (I clearly went with the boob job to get up to a size C…not.) There are few weekends better to be lying on your couch inside a warm apartment. We’ve got some pretty competitive games to enjoy this weekend, so it should be a fun two days of football.
It’s always fun to take a look at how the NFL playoffs shape up before they actually take place. We start in the NFC, which seems to be the most top heavy of the two conferences. Carolina’s been the dominant team all year and the road to the Super Bowl will come through Charlotte. I’m still not exactly sure how Carolina has gotten the passing game going this year with such mediocre weapons, but Cam Newton has clearly taken the team on his back. The defense is clearly one of the league’s elite and should continue to see success in January. Carolina owns victories already this season over Green Bay, Seattle, and Washington, so they should generally feel good about making their way out of the NFC.
The numbers geeks love Seattle right now and it’s understandable why. It’s basically the same team that made the Super Bowl last year and the Seahawks have been on a great run in winning six of its last seven games including wins over Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota. I see Seattle disposing of Minnesota with ease (we’ll get to that), which means the most pivotal game in the NFC would be Seattle traveling to Carolina next weekend since Carolina gets the lowest seeded advancing team.
Why is that the game I’m focusing on? If Seattle wins, that means Arizona will get an easier road to the NFC Championship game. Arizona matches up pretty well against Carolina because of its defensive speed and run defense. Its pass defense is susceptible to being beaten as we saw last week against Seattle. Seattle can easily do that to Arizona again if it gets past Carolina. As crazy as it sounds, Arizona should be rooting to play the Conference Championship game in Carolina and not at home. We’ll see how things shake out.
Meanwhile, don’t worry too much about the remaining three teams. Washington is a nice story, but they don’t match up well offensively against teams with an elite cover corner like the three aforementioned teams have. They also don’t have a running game and their pass defense is leaky. Minnesota has a strong defense, but they can’t do it all themselves. They were falling apart last week when Aaron Rodgers forced a pass that led to an interception. Teddy Bridgewater is not going to beat an elite defense right now. Finally, if you haven’t figure it out by now, Green Bay is not the same Green Bay. Better luck to them next year.
The AFC is a much simple story. It’s New England’s world as long as their healthy despite losing their last two regular season games. The week off should definitely allow the offensive line, the receiving core, and secondary to heal. You have to wonder if they took the foot off the gas a little last week when they saw Pittsburgh was going to lock down the #6 seed. Cincinnati, Houston, and Kansas City don’t scare New England. If they have to head to New England for the Conference Championship game, so be it. They should’ve won the first one between the two teams if not for injuries. Things get a little scarier if Pittsburgh comes to town, but Pittsburgh isn’t nearly the team on the road as they are at home. We’ll have to see if they can even win two road games first.
After New England it’s a real crap shoot. Denver is the #1 seed, but they don’t look like it. Their “elite” defense has looked pretty soft over the last few weeks. Their elite corners have been exposed. And we haven’t even touched on the elephant in the room, Peyton Manning. He was holding the team back before he became “injured” and was replaced by Brock Osweiler. Just because he can call some audibles to beat the awful Chargers defense doesn’t mean he’s back to normal. Defenses will be licking their chops to take shots at Manning in the playoffs.
As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh looks dangerous with their high-flying passing offense, but they’ll need to fix their home/road splits in order to go anywhere. DeAngelo Williams’ absence this week certainly doesn’t help. Their run defense is solid, but their pass defense is a sieve. Andy Dalton needed to prove he could win a playoff game and he’s clearly better than A.J. McCarron. That doesn’t say much for what we should expect from the QB with the hot wife. Houston and Kansas City are mirror images. I’ll let you enjoy rooting for Brian Hoyer or Alex Smith in a tough road environment.
Locks of the Week:
Seattle -5.5 over MINNESOTA
People are talking about how the Vikings defense is now much healthier than when it faced the Seahawks the first time. That’s great. That means Seattle will score 23 instead of scoring 38, the total they put up back in Week 13. That’s not going to help Minnesota score at all. They’re going to struggle to run the ball again as they did in the first matchup against the 3rd best run defense according to Football Outsiders. The Vikings passing game isn’t built for big plays because Teddy Bridgewater can’t push the ball down the field. The Vikings will need to pray for a defensive or special teams touchdown just to crack 14 points. Good luck with that. The Under here isn’t a bad look either.
J.Camm’s Pick: Seattle (I already DOMINATED Mr. T in the regular season, not sure why he wants to get trounced in the playoffs too.)
WASHINGTON PK over Green Bay
I’ll say it again: Green Bay is not the same Green Bay. When are people going to realize this?? Why is the public betting this spread down from the Redskins being a three point favorite to a pick em? Green Bay had the best offense in the league last year according to Football Outsiders. This year it’s the 11th best with the 16th best passing offense! Would you expect Washington to be 10 spots higher than Green Bay in passing offense? Green Bay’s last three wins include a Hail Mary victory against Detroit and two wins against bad teams: Dallas and Oakland. The Redskins bunch show moxy and have won five of their last six to make the playoffs. It’s good to be hot at the right time. I could see this going over in a semi-shootout as Washington jumps ahead and Green Bay tries to chase them down.
J.Camm’s Pick: Green Bay
Rest of the Picks:
Kansas City -3 over HOUSTON
I’m honestly torn on this game, but because it’s the playoffs I need to take a side. There’s not much separating these two teams. The Chiefs have the sixth best defense in the league according to FO. Houston is ranked 8th. They both have slightly better pass defenses than they do run defenses. Both teams have questionable passing offenses based around mediocre QBs and an elite receiver. The interesting thing here is the Chiefs actually come in ranked #1 in rushing offense compared to Houston’s 26th, which isn’t a surprise after Houston’s loss of Arian Foster. The Texans run defense isn’t as good as it has looked in recent weeks because of the quality of opponents. Houston gave up some yardage to solid running teams in Buffalo and New England. Being that they held down Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville on the ground is not impressive. I hate that I’m taking Alex Smith on the road, but he’s less prone to mistakes. The preferred pick is more teasing Houston and the under together.
J.Camm’s Pick: Kansas City (These wild-card games suck. Every home team is the DOG. Is this the first time that’s ever happened?)
Pittsburgh -3 over CINCINNATI
The one game between division rivals would be more fun if Andy Dalton was playing, but alas he is not. We all know about the Steelers’ much maligned passing defense. Can A.J. McCarron take advantage of that now that he’ s already seen it once and has a week to prepare this time? I need to see the kid make me a believer. Can Big Ben overcome his 5:9 touchdown to interception ratio in road games? I’d like to believe he can. The last time the Steelers won a road playoff game? It was 2005. There is a lot to consider here, but I’ll bank on Pittsburgh’s 5th ranked run defense holding Cincinnati’s rushing game at bay and forcing A.J. McCarron to beat then. Ben will make the play when he has to. I just can’t convince myself to take Cincinnati, but this game should be reasonably close the whole way.
J.Camm’s Pick: Pittsburgh
Last Week: 7-9
JCamm: 132-117-7 (Maybe next year, Mr. T. But likely not. )