NFL Picks Wildcard Weekend (2019 regular season)
NFL PICKS (WILDCARD WEEKEND)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Written January 3rd, 2020 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)
Buffalo Bills +2.5 vs Houston Texans -2.5
Before the line came out, I figured a fair point spread would be 3. The line opened at 3.5, so I was leaning towards Buffalo. However, the line quickly dropped to 3, and then 2.5. Accordingly, I’m now leaning towards Houston.
The problem is I believe Buffalo’s defense matches up well against the Texans offense. Indeed, the Bills pass defense is outstanding, while they have an okay run defense. Considering Houston’s running attack is not very good, they could have trouble scoring against Buffalo.
The following stat is also pretty impressive: the Bills defense has allowed 24 points or less in all of their regular season games, except the Philly game where they surrendered 31. They are very stout.
I am aware that the Bills benefited from a soft schedule, but they still finished with a point differential of +55, compared to -7 for Houston! A division champion with a negative point differential is seldom seen!
To me, the Texans are a difficult team to predict. They are capable of the best and the worst, as shown by their wins over the Chiefs, the Pats and the Titans. But they were also beaten pretty easily at home against the Broncos late in the season.
I’ve been monitoring closely the injury status of wide receiver Will Fuller. People around the NFL don’t talk about him enough because he’s playing on the same team as DeAndre Hopkins, but he’s very good. Earlier in the week it seemed like he would be ready to go, but the latest reports affirm he is a long shot to play. That’s a big blow for the Texans.
Houston has more playoff experience. They have won the AFC South title in four of the past five seasons.
The only time Josh Allen played in Houston, he completed 10 of 17 passes for just 84 passing yards.
After hesitating for a while, I’m reluctantly going to go with the Texans in this one. Buffalo’s defense is very good, but I find it hard to bet on Josh Allen when facing an experienced DeShaun Watson at quarterback, who will also be at home.
As you know, I’ll be rooting hard for the Bills since I still have my $500 bet that they’re going to win the AFC Championship game, a placed placed 6 months ago at 66-to-1 odds for a potential payout of more than $33,000.
So, I’m taking the Texans -2.5 but I have little faith in this pick.
Tennessee Titans +5 vs New England Patriots -5
As soon as the line opened at 5.5, I was pretty about excited about taking the Titans. It clearly looked like my top pick of the weekend.
Since then, the line dropped to 5 or 4.5, depending on which bookie you do business with. My level of confidence has also gone down as time went by.
I started asking myself the following question: do I really want to bet against the experienced duo of Brady and Belichick at home in a playoff game? Especially after a horrible home loss to the Dolphins? That worries me quite a bit.
Still, I’m going to go with the hot team: Tennessee. Their defense is solid and they have a well-balanced attack. Running back Derrick Henry won the rushing title this year; he is simply a beast! The Titans are 7-3 since Ryan Tannehill took over as their starting quarterback. Rookie A.J. Brown has been difficult to stop in the second half of the season; he scored 5 touchdowns in the last 6 games.
The Patriots are 0-3-1 ATS when facing a team with a winning record this season. Meanwhile, the Titans are 4-0 ATS in their last four road games against a team with a winning record. They seem to play better when playing good teams.
The conclusion is to pick Tennessee +5, but again I wouldn’t bet my house on it.
Minnesota Vikings +8 vs New Orleans Saints -8
This one is also a tough call.
The Saints offense has looked almost unstoppable of late. They have scored at least 34 points in seven of their past eight games! New Orleans will also try to avenge the “Minneapolis Miracle” where Stefon Diggs caught a miracle 61-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game a couple of years ago.
The only problem is I find an 8-point spread to be fairly big. Minnesota has an above-average defense. They also have good weapons on offense with Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and the critical return of running back Dalvin Cook who is very explosive.
Minnesota is 1-5 ATS in their last six meetings with the Saints, but New Orleans is 0-4 ATS in their last 4 playoff games as a favorite.
The Vikings were able to rest many starters last week since they were locked into the number six seed.
For these reasons, I’m taking Minnesota +8. It isn’t a great play, though.
Seattle Seahawks -1.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles +1.5
Here are some contradictory stats: Seattle has beaten the spread in each of their past four games in Philly, but the Eagles are an impressive 10-1 ATS in their last 11 playoff games as an underdog!
Philadelphia ended the season with four straight wins to claim the NFC East title. Sure, those wins were obtained over the Giants twice, as well as the Cowboys and the Redskins. Still, they overcame a lot of adversity considering the piling injuries to key players. Their defense did an outstanding job, especially the defensive line.
The Seahawks are also a banged up team. They have key injuries on the offensive line and at the running back position. Their best pass rusher, Jadeveon Clowney, is questionable to play.
Seattle stumbled down the stretch with three losses in the final four matchups. Despite their 11-5 record, they finished the season with a disappointing +7 point differential. For your information, Philly finished at +31.
Based on these reasons, I’ll take the Eagles +1.5. They have been very resilient over the past few years and I like them as home underdogs once again. Russell Wilson is a fierce competitor, but his squad is going in the wrong direction.
Enjoy the NFL playoffs!
(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)