January 05, 2019
For the gambling degenerates, here are my NFL wildcard round picks. To note, the team logos indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.
Colts at Texans (-1.5): This is a matchup of two teams that the Eagles faced (and beat) this season. In prepping for the Eagles-Texans game, I found the Texans' offensive line to be among the worst the Eagles have faced in the last few years. From left to right, across the board, it's just a crappy unit that can't protect Deshaun Watson, and struggles to open up holes in the run game.
It's hard to win in the postseason with bad OL play.
Seahawks at Cowboys (-2): Emotional hedge.
OK, but seriously though, while the Seahawks over-performed in the regular season, I think it ends here. Like the Texans above, the Seahawks' offensive line remains a major problem, as it has for years in Seattle. Russell Wilson has been a magician anyway, but I believe that the speed of the Cowboys' defense, particularly at the linebacker position, will help offset the kinds of plays Wilson is able to make when he scrambles around, buying time for things to open up down the field.
This will be a close game, as all Dallas games are, and it has the potential for some eyebrow-raising calls from the officials.
Chargers at Ravens (-3): Remember when the Ravens were unwatchable? That's not the case anymore, as Lamar Jackson is actually fun to watch, as opposed to Joe Flacco. This is a good matchup between Jackson and a very good Chargers team that was in contention for the No. 1 seed in the AFC all the through Week 17.
The Ravens' had the Chargers' number Week 16 of the regular season, when they held them to under 200 yards of offense and 10 points, in L.A. It'll be hard to replicate that against a quarterback as good, smart, and competitive as Philip Rivers. Overall, the Chargers just have a better roster, in my view, and they had a 7-1 record on the road this season, including wins over the Chiefs, Seahawks, and Steelers.
Eagles at Bears (-6.5): This is the third time I've used this in an article this week, but 31 active NFL quarterbacks have started at least one playoff game. Only 10 won their first playoff start. That would be an overall record of 10-21, or a winning percentage of 0.323. They were 6-12 in home games, 4-9 on the road.
• Guys who won their first playoff start: Blake Bortles, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Marcus Mariota, Brock Osweiler, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith, and Russell Wilson.
To note, Bortles, Osweiler, and Wilson were all playing against quarterbacks who were also making their first ever start in the playoffs.
• Guys who lost their first playoff start: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel, Connor Cook, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Jared Goff, Robert Griffin III, Brian Hoyer, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, A.J. McCarron, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, and Joe Webb.
The lone quarterback in the NFC making his first playoff start this postseason is Mitchell Trubisky.
I believe the affect of added pressure for a first-time playoff quarterback is real. The Eagles head into this matchup in an interesting position. They're coming off a Super Bowl win, so they know what the playoffs are all about, and yet at the same time, they barely squeaked into the playoffs, and are almost kind of playing with house money. The combination of those two things makes them dangerous.
When the Eagles have the ball, they'll have to figure out a way to block the Bears' impressive front seven. With their excellent offensive line playing its best football of the season, the Eagles are perhaps better positioned to mitigate the pressure the Bears' front can apply, more so than any opponent Chicago has faced this season.
When the Bears have the ball, the Eagles could be in a good position to take advantage of several matchup advantages along the line, particularly with Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, and Chris Long against the Bears' offensive tackles.
The Eagles can win this game, and I think that they will.
• Picks against the spread: Colts (+1.5), Chargers (+3), Eagles (+6.5).
• Eagles picks: 9-7
• 2018 season, straight up 165-92-2 (0.641)
• 2018 season, ATS: 38-34-2 (0.527)
• 2017 season, straight up: 181-86 (0.678)
• 2017 season, ATS: 36-32-2 (0.529)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS: 41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)
• Last 4 years, ATS: 161-130-6 (0.552)
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