It is good to be back. The holidays are always crazy. We finished the year strong going 2-0 in week 16 and hitting our top pick in the Falcons in week 17. We are ready to roll into the playoffs with more juice in our pockets. It is wild card weekend and four games are on tap. The playoffs are extremely tough to pick against the spread. In the last two years, the wild card dogs went 6-2 ATS. I may have to play the trend and pick every dog on this week’s card. If I’m not taking the points, I am staying away as I think you take the points in all four games this weekend.
CINCINATTI BENGALS (+4) @ HOUSTON TEXANS
The Texans have made the playoffs for the first time in their history and will have to rely on their rookie T.J. Yates who is 2-3 as a starter and has an average QB rating of 80.3. T.J. faced the Bengals on December 11th and pulled out the victory, winning a tight one 20-19. In that game, Yates threw for 300 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. The player to watch in this one is obviously Arian Foster who will take on the 10th ranked run defense in the NFL. When Arian faced the Bengals just a few weeks ago, he was completely shut down. Foster was held to 41 rushing yards and posted his worst per-carry average of the season, racking up just 2.7 YPC.
This game should be another tight one. I’ll trust the Bengals D to contain Adrian Foster again and put the pressure on Yates to win this game with his arm. In their last game, the Texans won 20-19. I expect a similar tight, low-scoring games so I will gladly take the Bengals with the points. However, with the Texans incredible defense, I am not overly confident in the Bengals outscoring the Texans here.
You can take the Bengals with a good chance of an outright win and the likelihood of the cover. You can also take the Bengals at +11 for an extra cushion and rely on the under 45 knowing that two very good defenses will be facing a rookie quarterback. In any event, I think you see the Bengals make this a tight game and there’s no doubt that this should be a low-scoring contest. The Texans may win this one by a field goal, but with a tight game, I’ll favor the points. I’ll stick with the teaser for an extra points boost since I am very confident that the story of this game will be each team’s defense.
Prediction: Bengals 20 – Texans 17
Pick Against the Spread: Bengals +4 (Confidence: 2/5)
Teaser: Bengals +11/Under 45 (Confidence: 3/5)
DETROIT LIONS (+10.5) @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints have destroyed everyone at home so why should this game be any different? I see a lot of merit in taking the Saints (-10.5), but this is the playoffs, where the dogs are 6-2 ATS in the last two years. There are some very compelling reasons to take the Saints. The Saints are 8-0 ATS in their last 8 games and are 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games. The Saints also have a ridiculous 41 PPG home scoring average. You can expect the Saints to light up the Lions pass defense, who is ranked 22nd against the pass.
You can’t just write off the Lions though. I think and hope you see a competitive game. Afterall, the Lions 5th-ranked offense can keep up with the Saints 1st-ranked offense. I don’t like how the Lions finished the season though. Although they were 3-3 in their last 6 games, their 1-4-1 ATS record has me concerned. The Lions were battling some injuries though and two of those games were against Green Bay. The Lions can still cover 10.5 on the road as the Lions still manage 28.9 PPG when travelling.
The Saints have faced the Lions very recently, just about a month ago on December 4. The Saints defeated the Lions at home 31-17 as 9-point favorites. Stafford threw for over 400 yards, but the Lions were penalized 11 times for 107 yards and missed two field goals, which was the difference maker in that game. Add the two missed field goals and the Lions get the cover. The Lions also got themselves in a hole early, giving up a 17-0 lead to the Saints before getting on the scoreboard in the 2nd quarter.
It’s tough to beat the same team twice so hopefully the Lions can learn from their mistakes and minimize their errors. I’m not saying the Lions will beat the Saints, but I hope they can cover 10.5 points. If they can prevent the Saints from scoring two unanswered touchdowns to start the game, you will see the Lions compete throughout this game. The Lions outscored the Saints 10-7 in the 2nd half so this game is mostly a matter of how the Lions start this game. I am going to take the points in a low-confidence play. I would recommend passing on this game though or playing it lightly as a Saints domination could also likely occur.
Prediction: Saints 31 – Lions 27
Pick Against the Spread: Lions +10.5 (Confidence: 2/5)
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