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The NFL picks are back for Wild Card weekend. We are hoping to build upon a successful regular season finishing with a 54-40-2 overall ATS record (57%).
We are going to preview all six playoff games and I will give a pick, lean, or a simple stay away on the picks.
We will start with the Saturday games here, and then on Saturday afternoon check back for Sunday NFL plays.
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Now, without further ado, let's get to the picks:
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
Line: Buffalo (-6)
The opening game of the Wild Card weekend may be the most exciting. It seems like everyone loves the Bills this weekend, from your dad to the weird neighborhood kid down the street. Literally everyone on these gambling streets loves Buffalo: As of now 78 percent of spread money is on the Bills, yet the line has gone from the Bills favored by 6.5 down to 6.
In their defense, I don’t blame the betting public for loving the Bills. Bills Mafia has been one of the best stories in the NFL this season. The Bills have arguably been the best team in the NFL during the second half of the season, not just in the win-loss column, but for gamblers as well. Buffalo is 8-0 ATS in their last eight games and have covered by an average of 14.8 points in those contests.
And it's with good reason. The Bills offense ranks fifth in overall DVOA, second in scoring, and are second in total EPA and they are facing a Colts defense that has proven they aren’t has good as we thought they were. After being ranked third in overall DVOA during the first 10 weeks of the season, the Colts have dropped down to No. 12 in the past six weeks after facing a difficult stretch of offenses. The Colts have really struggled defending explosive passes ranking 28th in explosive passing success rate, and 25th in pass DVOA during the second half the season. Indianapolis has also struggled defending 1-1 and 1-0 personnel, and the Bills use those formations at the highest rate in the NFL. The only hope the Colts have to stop Buffalo’s offense is to force Josh Allen to make crucial turnovers. The Colts rank seventh in the NFL in pressure rate, and they rank eighth in the NFL interception percentage. Allen has known to make the big mistakes in the biggest games, and the Colts will need to force the Bills quarterback into making them on Saturday.
Offensively, the Colts have been one of the most improved units in football. They have found a running game with Jonathon Taylor who has averaged the over 100 yards rushing in his last five games. They will be facing a Bills defense that ranks 26th in the NFL allowing 4.6 yards per rush. The Colts need Taylor to be the bell cow of this offense. Buffalo has been great against the pass, and the Colts really don’t have the weapons on the outside to consistently beat the Bills corners. An old Phillip Rivers does not possess the arm strength to sling the ball in the cold. I expect Taylor to have between 25-30 touches if the Colts keep this one close, and Taylor’s rushing yards prop is viable in this game because of it.
Prediction: The Bills have one of the better coaching staffs in football and are going to be aggressive in this one. Expect the Bills to be aggressive in trying to capture an early lead to lessen the incentive for the Colts running game. If the Bills can go up two scores early, I don’t see Phillip Rivers leading this team back with a comeback. I like the Bills and have already taken them at -6.
The pick: Bills -6 ( Would take them at 6.5 as well)
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Line: Seattle (-3)
Two weeks ago we made the Rams our pick of the year against Seattle, and it didn’t turn out well. The Rams lost 20-9 despite holding Seattle to 4.8 yards per play. Jared Goff had the worst possible a game a quarterback could have. The Rams had two possessions inside the Seattle 15 yard line that resulted in zero points. The Seahawks added a garbage time touchdown that made the game look more convincing than it actually was.
Still, if we liked the Rams then, then I still like the Rams now.
As mentioned before, the Rams defense is the worst possible matchup for Seattle’s offense. The presence of Jalen Ramsey takes away Seattle’s main offensive weapon in DK Metcalf. The Rams play two high safeties in quarters coverage that takes away Seattle deep ball opportunities. Aaron Donald dominates Seattle’s inferior offensive line, making it hard for the Seahawks to run the ball and for Russell Wilson to scramble.
Because of it, we are not going to get cute, we are going to stick with what we now.
There are questions surrounding whether Jared Goff will play or not. Although I believe Goff will play on Saturday, I don’t think it really matters. The Rams were competitive with Goff having a failing quarterback grade in the 30’s - he literally accounted for negative EV points at the position. Even if back up John Wolford plays, I believe he can do better. The Rams get the benefit of having Andrew Whitworth back at left tackle, and Cam Akers back at running back. A semblance of a running game and passing protection from Whitworth should help this Rams offense.
I also think we are getting a great line with the Rams because of the fraudulent numbers the Seahawks defense has put up in recent weeks. The Seahawks have played better but just look at the past five QB’s they have faced: Kyler Murray with a sprained throwing shoulder, Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins, Jared Goff with a broken thumb, and CJ Bethard. That’s not great.
I trust the Rams offensive coaching staff with Sean McVay to make the necessary coaching adjustment. This line closed pick em just two weeks ago. This is too big of an adjustment, so I like the Rams getting a field goal.
The pick: Rams +3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team
Line: Tampa Bay (-8)
It took over three quarters of the season, but Tampa Bay finally look like the team we thought they were. The Buccaneers are coming into the playoffs hot on a four game winning streak where they averaged 37 points per contest. Yes the competition was sub-par, but you can say Tom Brady and the Bucs are starting to gel at the perfect time.
On the other side, the Washington Football team won the NFC “Least” mostly thanks to Doug Pederson throwing the game at the end of Sunday Night Football. A Bucs defense that ranks fifth in DVOA should be salivating against a Washington football team offense that ranks No. 32 in offensive DVOA. To add to the Washington Football team’s major inefficiency, many of their key pieces are hurt. Alex Smith did not look healthy last week against the Eagles, Terry McLaurin has been on the injury report all week, and Antonio Gibson has been limited in practice all week as well. Early in the week press conference, Ron Rivera suggested he may rotate quarterbacks depending on Smith’s health. Which is a terrible sign for the Washington football faithful.
Washington has been a great story with resilience of Smith and Rivera, but they are simply a mediocre football team. If Washington is going to have a chance, its going to need heroics from their defense. The Football team ranks third in adjusted sack rate and fifth in overall turnover rate. It really comes down to how long is Tom Brady going to hold on to the football and the game plan Bruce Arians installs. Brady holding the ball with Chase Young coming down on him is not good news for Tampa. The Washington Football team has made great adjustments and are the best defensive team in the second half. So the first half of this ball game is going to be paramount for Tampa Bay.
This is a hard game to track since a Bucs blowout or a Washington win wouldn’t surprise me.
Lean: Bucs first half -4.5.
Tease the Buccaneers down to -2 on a teaser, under Alex Smith passing yards if available.
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