2016 NFL Wild Card Weekend Bettor’s Guide

2016 NFL Wild Card Weekend Bettor’s Guide
M.D. Wright

As referenced during last week’s cast, we pointed out how Week 17 can be extremely difficult to handicap. There are desperate teams fighting for their playoff lives, there are teams looking to improve their seedings, teams tanking, teams resting players for part or all of games without much notice, and it affects handicapping. As such, we had the rare week where we handicapped the spreads better than the money line. No excuses, though. This is how it goes in today’s NFL. Particularly in Week 17 of today’s NFL.

Last Week:
SU: 7-9
ATS: 9-7

2016 Season Cumulative Stats:
SU: 161-93-2
ATS: 134-116-7

Wild Card Playoff Analysis Here:
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
NRG Stadium
Houston, Texas
Saturday, January 7, 2017
4:35 PM EST
My Call: OAK +3.5
Over/Under: Under  37

A lot of people are outright giving this game to Houston on the strength of their defense, as if Oakland’s defense (particularly Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Mario Edwards, Jr.) won’t have a say. Needless to say, the QBs are unlikely to light up the skies, but while Connor Cook has yet to play, the Texans ALSO don’t have film on him. The Raiders know what Osweiler is after playing him a few times in the past couple of seasons.

Oakland                     16
Houston                    13

Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field
Seattle, Washington
Saturday, January 7, 2017
8:15 PM EST
My Call: DET +8
Over/Under: Over 43.5

Seattle’s better at home, no doubt, but they are still prone to long droughts offensively even at home. And we know about their massive struggles on the road. But before we get there, they have to get this win, which won’t be easy. The spread is a sucker bet for… well… suckers. We picked San Francisco to cover the 9 they were getting last week, and they did (and had a chance to win straight up), and we’ll do the same here. Seattle can’t stop anyone since Earl Thomas was lost for the season. Excluding the Rams game, they’re giving up 32 points per game. Even 23 against San Francisco with 3rd and 4th string running backs and a bunch of #3 WRs. That’s not good. Seattle won’t miss Tyler Lockett AS much in this game, but unless they turn over Matthew Stafford multiple times, we don’t think the Seahawks win going away.

Detroit                         24
Seattle                         26

Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sunday, January 8, 2017
My Call: MIA +10
Over/Under: Over 46

Miami just has way too many injuries on their back end defensively. They’ve been without Reshad Jones for most of the season, they lost Isa Abdul-Quddus a couple of games ago. Additionally, Byron Maxwell is unlikely to play, and we saw Tony Lippett — arguably their best remaining defensive back — get shellacked on a block by Michael Floyd in Week 17. He should play, but the Steelers have their “Killer B’s” (Ben, Bell and Brown) together for a playoff game for the first time. This is not the time for the Fins to have secondary injuries.

Offensively, the Fins ran the ball well (at home) against Pittsburgh, but this is IN Pittsburgh this time. The Steelers have been notoriously bad on the road the past couple of seasons, and this is the playoffs. We like the Fins with the points, but no way the Steelers lose this game.

Miami                         20
Pittsburgh                 28

New York Football Giants vs. Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Sunday, January 8, 2017
4:40 PM EST
My Call: NYG +4.5
Over/Under: Under 44.5

We’ve heard a large number of people talk about ancillary things that have no impact on this game (2007 and 2011 playoff match ups between these two at Lambeau, for instance), and others bringing up things that have zero impact on preparation for the game (the Giants WRs in Miami on an off day, versus being out and partying in the New York metro, as they normally would have), but the bottom line is football is about match ups, not narratives or storylines. You also heard people talk about the 2011 Giants, when the defense was awful until December when they got Osi Umenyiora back for the stretch run and playoffs, and “Eli relied on his run game, he didn’t do anything but get lucky otherwise” when the Giants run and pass blocking was worse than it is this year, despite what some claim.

One of the storylines that the media has created is the “Giants ‘can’t’ run the football, rely on their defense, and only one or two plays by Odell Beckham to win” and Aaron Rodgers this, that and Ty Montgomery the third. We don’t see how this is true since early December, and certainly going into this game.

We hate to even bring up the officials — and their proclivity to allow Green Bay’s offensive line commit every penalty in the book so that Rodgers can “escape and have all day to throw, WHOA! Look at that play!” and the thinking is that Ed Hochuli heading a crew will minimalize this, as he calls games down the middle. That said…

Green Bay has major concerns with their secondary with injuries and shoddy play from those who are healthy (excluding Micah Hyde, who got away with blatant pass interference on a critical play for Detroit in Week 17, and Hasean Clinton-Dix). As such, you can expect Green Bay to keep their safeties back a good deal and force the Giants to take underneath throws. Contrary to the narrative, the Giants have run the ball much better since Paul Perkins became more integrally involved. Maybe the Giants were saving him so that he wouldn’t hit the proverbial rookie wall, but he is far more effective than Rashad Jennings. He adds a dimension of speed, elusiveness and pass receiving that Jennings does not provide. This will force Green Bay out of their two deep shells and engage the linebackers for Green Bay (Joe Thomas is not 100% if he plays). Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers won’t be able to simply tee off rushing the passer if they’re getting gashed on the ground — one of the things you CAN compare to the 2011 playoff game, when Ahmad Bradshaw got critical big gains at important junctures in that game.

If the Giants avoid turnovers, which they’ve MOSTLY done when they’ve won, Green Bay will be hard pressed to hold them under 20 points. They may not need more than 20 or 23 to win this game.

Conversely, for all the accolades Green Bay has gotten and all of the statistics Rodgers has put up, this is the best defense (by far) the Packers have faced during their current winning streak. Their receivers will struggle to get open and no one runs well on the Giants defense. The two areas where the Giants defense has issues is defending screen passes — and you can expect to see a good deal of it if they get pressure on Rodgers early — and defending tight ends on intermediate and seams routes. Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers will be the chain movers for Green Bay, not Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb (if he plays, otherwise Geronimo Allison) or Davante Adams. The Giants have the benefit of blitzing when they want to versus being forced to do so in order to generate pressure on the QB. This enables them to mostly keep their secondary back in coverage and flow to the football, which is why they led the league in passing yardage per play and yards after the catch against on the season.

All in all, turnovers would change the projection on this game, but we are struggling to figure out where all these points that people think Green Bay will score are coming from. If they get 20, it will be shocking.

NY Giants                       23
Green Bay                       17


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