NFL Picks Week #18 (Wild Card round)
NFL PICKS (WEEK #18 - Wild Card Round)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Hey NFL fans, Happy New Year, I hope the holiday season was good for you!
We finished the season by going 2-2 with our picks, ending 2017 with the following record: 35 bets won, 23 bets lost and 3 ties for a 60.3% rate. I’m thrilled to have achieved over 60%, I really hope many of you profited from my picks $$$$$$$$$$ !!!
As advertised in my last post, I’m going to discuss each playoff game and making picks for every one of them for entertainment purposes. Obviously I’m going to keep track of my playoff record, but it’s not going to be anything official since I usually don’t pick every single game, as most of the lines don’t necessarily provide value.
Ok so without further ado, let’s talk about the Wildcard Weekend in the NFL!
PICK #1: Kansas City Chiefs -8 vs Tennessee Titans
If that game is anything close to last year’s meeting at Arrowhead Stadium, it will be a dandy. The Titans were trailing 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter before cutting the lead to seven points after a field goal. With three minutes left, Derrick Henry scored what looked like the tying score, but head coach Mike Mularkey opted to go for the 2-point conversion, which failed. Tennessee, now trailing by one point, got the ball back with one minute remaining and got in a position to attempt a 53-yard field goal. Ryan Succop’s try was short, but Andy Reid had called a timeout just before the snap. Succop drilled his second attempt to give Tennessee a dramatic 19-17 win.
As great as that game was, I believe Kansas City will be looking for payback. The 2016 game was played on a frigid afternoon and all signs are pointing towards another cold day this year. According to The Weather Network, the temperature should feel like -4 degrees Celsius, or 25 degrees Farenheit. Tennessee’s quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is a Hawaii native and is therefore more susceptible to having trouble dealing with the weather. In last year’s meeting, he fumbled the ball once and also threw an interception.
One more argument in favor of Kansas City is the fact they will have fresher legs. They were able to rest many key starters last week as the team was locked into the #4 seed. Meanwhile, the Titans were playing for their lives and beat the Jaguars 15-10, a game in which Jacksonville played their starters despite not having any incentive to win.
Prior to last week’s win over Jacksonville, the Titans had lost three straight games against Arizona, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams. Over the final four regular season games, Marcus Mariota completed 59% of his passes with 3 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions, so nothing to write home about.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, finished the season strong with four wins in a row, including an impressive beating of the Chargers.
I’d also like to draw your attention to the fact that the Titans looked like a different team on the road versus at home. They were 6-2 at home compared to only 3-5 on the road.
Based on all this information, I’m willing to lay 8 points and I’m taking the Chiefs.
PICK #2: Atlanta Falcons +6.5 at Los Angeles Rams
The revenge factor is favoring the Rams, but I’m still going to pick the Falcons. Last year’s meeting did not go so well for the Rams at home, as Atlanta demolished them by a 42 to 14 score. The Rams turned the ball over five times in that game. Of course, the Rams have improved dramatically this year, as opposed to the 4-12 team from 2016.
I like the Falcons to keep this game close. After starting the season with a 4-4 record, they went on to win 6 of their last 8 matches. Their only two losses during that stretch occurred on a 14-9 loss against a great Vikings team and a 23-13 loss in New Orleans, so nothing to be ashamed of. Their latest six wins included a victory in Seattle, and beating the Saints and the Panthers at home.
Atlanta finished the season with identical 5-3 record on the road and at home, but you will probably be surprised to hear that the Rams were 4-4 at home versus 7-1 on the road!
Kickers are not accounted for very often when handicapping NFL games, but sometimes they have a big impact on the final outcome. After losing Greg Zuerlein for the rest of the year, the Rams signed former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken. In his two games since joining the team, he has to be a source of concern for the Rams. He has made 21 and 23-yard field goals, but missed on a 36-yarder. He has also missed one extra point out of only four tries. Playing a playoff game in your third NFL start is not ideal, while the Falcons’ kicker Matt Bryant has plenty of experience at 42 years old. And he seems to have plenty of leg despite his age, as shown by his 8-for-9 conversion rate from 50 yards or more. He has not missed a single extra point out of 35 attempts. His confidence level is high following a 5-for-5 performance on field goals last week in a critical matchup against the Panthers.
So in summary, I’m betting the Falcons to keep the game close or even win it. Their playoff experience compared to a young Rams team (and a young head coach) should have an impact.
PICK #3: Buffalo Bills +9 at Jacksonville Jaguars
First of all, remember that Jacksonville’s current head coach, Doug Marrone, is a former Bills’ head coach who surprisingly left the team three years ago. The reasons are still not clear, but Buffalo fans still consider him as the guy who quit on the team. It could motivate some players, although I don’t believe it’s a huge factor. I still thought it was interesting to remember people about this fact.
I saw some astonishing numbers on TSN the other day. With a point differential of -57, the Bills are the 5th worst team to qualify for the playoffs in NFL history. Guess what is the record of the top 4 worst teams to have ever made the postseason? They are 4-0 in their first game of the playoffs! And the team who is now sixth on this list also won his first playoff contest. I’m not talking about beating the spread, these five teams all won straight up! So if you expect the Bills to go down easily based on their bad point differential, don’t bet your house on it.
Buffalo’s main offensive threat, running back LeSean McCoy, was carted off the field last week in Miami and it looked like he was done for the year. However, x-rays to his ankle came back negative and he will be a game-time call. Many people expect him to be on the field. Jacksonville’s leading receiver, Marqise Lee, did not practice Wednesday nor Thursday and he will also be a game-time decision.
I like the job cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Tre’Davious White have done this season. The Bills defense allowed 18.8 points per game with Gaines in the lineup versus a whopping 30.4 points per game when he was out. What a huge difference!
I am not handicapping totals, but I see a very low-scoring game which is nice when you are taking a 9-point underdog. I would not fall off my chair if the Bills come out on top, but I do expect them to cover the spread.
PICK #4: New Orleans Saints -6.5 vs Carolina Panthers
Most bookies are currently posting a 7 point spread, but Heritage Sports has 6.5 with both sides at -105 (or 1.95 in decimal format). Sports Interaction also has a 6.5 point spread, you can check them out here.
Even though both teams finished with identical records, I don’t trust the Panthers nearly as much as the Saints. New Orleans finished with a +122 point differential compared to +36 for Carolina. In this year’s two meetings, the Saints outscored the Panthers 65 to 34. Is that a good thing, or is it just going to motivate Cam Newton and company even more to get revenge? Only time will tell.
After losing their home opener against the Patriots, the Saints prevailed in all of their last seven games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Cam Newton is coming off two games in which he completed just 51% of his passes, while throwing one TD pass versus 4 picks. He and Drew Brees have thrown almost the same number of touchdown passes this year, but Newton had 16 picks versus only 8 for Brees. However, Newton can hurt a defense with his legs.
I’m taking the Saints -6.5 points, but I’ve got to admit that this is the pick I have the least confidence in.
This is it for my picks for Wildcard Weekend in the NFL, I’m anxious to see how we’ll do in the playoffs. I really hope I can help you win some money, after spending so much over the Holiday period! So good luck with your plays, thank you for reading this report, and enjoy the great games that are coming up next. I’m Professor MJ from Quebec City in Canada, bye bye!
Want to join a new bookie? You should definitely take a look at my sportsbook reviews here to help you make some well-informed decisions.