Last Week: 3-1
The regular season has flown by and we have made it to Wild Card Weekend. After a stunning loss to Miami at home, coupled with a Kansas City win over the Chargers, the New England Patriots will be playing on Wild Card Weekend for the first time since 2009. The Patriots will play host to the Titans in the night cap on Saturday. Buffalo travels to Houston to take on Deshaun Watson and the Texans. In a rematch of the Minneapolis miracle, the Vikings will travel to New Orleans to face the Saints. The final game of the weekend pits Seattle on the road against Philadelphia. There are quite a few intriguing matchups to kick off the playoffs. Last season, road teams won 3 out of the 4 games in wild card weekend. Home field advantage is important, but as we have seen in prior years, it can be gone in the blink of an eye.
Bills @ Texans (-2.5) (O/U 43.5) – Saturday, 4:35 PM: ESPN, ABC
Buffalo and Houston will play for the first time this season. I am wary of picking the Texans at home in the playoffs for some reason. They fell to Indianapolis at home last year and have been a hit or miss team this season. I would like to think that Deshaun Watson can get it done, as he is clearly the more talented quarterback in this game with more weapons on offense. Josh Allen has had a solid second season in leading his team to the playoffs. However, the Bills have been fortunate to play a very weak schedule and have been carried by a solid defense. Buffalo’s 10 wins in the regular season included 1 win over a team with a record above the .500 mark (Tennessee with Mariota). The Bills were 1-4 against teams with a winning record, with two of those losses coming against the Patriots. Given these stats, I am not sure how good Buffalo really is, but we will find out on Saturday. I like the Texans to win this game simply because of Watson’s ability to make plays down the field. Look for Deandre Hopkins and Tre’Davious White to battle throughout the day. Whoever wins this matchup more will have a huge impact on the game.
Pick: Texans 20-17
Best Performance: QB, Deshaun Watson (HOU)
Buffalo will win if: Devin Singletary rushes for 2 TD’s, 0 turnovers on offense
Houston will lose if: Watson throws for 3 INT’s, team rushes for under 100 yards
(Image from SB Nation)
Titans @ Patriots (-4.5) (O/U 44) – Saturday, 8:15 PM: CBS
Tennessee comes into this game with a lot of confidence. The Titans running back Derrick Henry won the rushing title last week and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has saved the season with his tremendous play. New England has limped into the playoffs with a Week 17 home loss to the Dolphins. Still, the Patriots being at home in the playoffs have me feeling that the Titans have no chance. Until someone proves otherwise, New England at home in the playoffs is basically a lock. Brady and company will figure it out as they always do, until they don’t. Tennessee can control the game with their ground attack. If the Patriots have proven anything, it has been their susceptibility to a strong power running back. In order to win this game, the Titans will need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I see a significant advantage for the Patriots defensive line. Tennessee gave up 56 sacks on the season (3rd in the NFL), while New England had 47 sacks in the regular season (7th in the NFL). If the Patriots can slow down the run game and get to Tannehill, they will have a distinct advantage given that their secondary is elite. Brady and Belichick will find a way to advance to the divisional round once again.
Pick: Patriots 23-16
Best Performance: RB, James White (NE)
Tennessee will win if: Tannehill throws for over 300 yards
New England will lose if: Brady is sacked 4+ times
(Image from WCVB Boston)
Vikings @ Saints (-8) (O/U 45.5) – Sunday, 1:05 PM: Fox
Vegas clearly like the Saints here as 8 point favorites at home. I’m surprised it was not a greater point spread given how both teams have been playing. New Orleans has been one of the best teams in football all season. I don’t expect that to change, but I’ve been wrong many times before. If you are relying on Kirk Cousins to win you a playoff game then I tip my cap to you. The Saints have come up with a stinker just when you think they are going to the Super Bowl, but I just can’t see it happening here. The Saints offense is potent and I don’t believe Minnesota can generate enough offense, unless Dalvin Cook goes off. The Saints will look to key on Cook and force Cousins to beat them down the field. I like Brees and company to advance after a thrashing of the Vikings. The revenge season continues another week.
Pick: Saints 38-17
Best Performance: WR, Michael Thomas (NO)
Minnesota will win if: Dalvin Cook goes over 200 yards rushing, Cousins throws for 4 TD’s
New Orleans will lose if: The defense falls apart, offense turns it over 3 times
(Image from USA Today)
Seahawks (-2) @ Eagles (O/U 45.5) – Sunday, 4:40 PM: NBC
This is the game I could see an upset more than any other. Seattle has looked like the best team in football and then just fall off the face of the earth. The Seahawks obviously have issues at the running back position after bringing in Marshawn Lynch off the couch last week. This has put a greater emphasis on Russell Wilson having to do it all again, which he is certainly more than capable of doing. The reason I like Philadelphia in this game is still a mystery to me. The Eagles have played so up and down this year due to all of the injuries they have faced. I just believe in Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia magic that seems to come with him. He’s rallied the team around him and they believe now more than ever that they can win this game. Carson Wentz is going to have to play big and show fans that he can lead this team to the Promised Land. He may not get it done this year, but if he can show an ability to perform well in big games, the organization and even fans will have more confidence in him going forward. The Eagles have been excellent at doing things with less this year.
Pick: Eagles 24-20
Best Performance: QB, Carson Wentz (PHI)
Seattle will win if: Russel Wilson can extend plays with his legs, throw for 3+ TD’s
Philadelphia will lose if: The secondary gives up big plays in the passing game
(Image from Inforum)