January 06, 2017
For the gambling degenerates, here are my NFL wildcard round picks. To note, the helmets indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note the teams that I like based on the spread.
Raiders at Texans (-4): The Texans had a point differential of -49 this season, which was seventh-worst in the NFL, better only than the Jaguars, Bears, Jets, Rams, 49ers, and Browns. For the second straight year, the Texans are the worst team in the playoffs.
Then again, the Raiders will be starting rookie Connor Cook over veteran (and Penn State alum) Matt McGloin. I loved this analysis of McGloin:
Scouting report on McGloin:— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) December 29, 2016
(+) Tough, smart, tries hard
(-) size, athletic ability, accuracy, arm strength, turnover prone
So it's Connor Cook vs. Brock Osweiler. In the playoffs. Cool. I'll take the Texans, I guess, who are 7-1 at home this season.
Lions at Seahawks (-7.5): Detroit is limping to the finish line, after having lost their last three games and missing out on an NFC North crown to the Packers in the final game of the season. Their punishment for their late-season slide is that they have to play in Seattle in the first round of the playoffs instead of hosting a home game.
The Lions were 3-5 on the road this season, while the Seahawks were 7-1 at home. Layup.
I hereby declare Seattle to be my Lock of the Week.
Dolphins at Steelers (-10): The Steelers have won seven straight games, and the Dolphins will likely be without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, hence the 10-point spread.
However, it's not as if Miami is a pushover, as backup quarterback Matt Moore has played well, going 55 of 87 for 721 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs, and a QB rating of 105.6, winning three of the four games in which he appeared. It's perhaps also worth noting that the Dolphins ran all over the Steelers in a game back in October, when Miami beat Pittsburgh 30-15. In that game, RB Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards and 2 TDs.
The Steelers are at a major advantage against a team playing without their stating quarterback, but I like Miami's chances of making it a game.
Giants at Packers (-5): This stat from Jordan Raanan of ESPN is ridiculous:
Amazing stat of the week: Eli Manning has won last 7 games as playoff underdog, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Pretty, pretty good.— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) January 4, 2017
Still, as an observer who watched the Eagles face both the Giants and Packers this season, the Giants looked ordinary, while the Packers' offense looked like a well-oiled machine when they needed to win games down the stretch. The Packers have the third-longest winning streak heading into the playoffs, behind only the Patri*ts and Steelers. Despite repeatedly watching Eli Manning win games most (self included) didn't think he would throughout his career, I'll doubt him again, although I do like the Giants getting five.
• Picks against the spread: Raiders (+4), Seahawks (-7.5), Dolphins (+10), Giants (+5).
• 2016 season, straight up: 161-93-2 (.633)
• 2016 season, ATS: 38-33 (.535)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)
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