Wild Card Weekend is coming up this Saturday and Sunday in the NFL and you know what that means: plenty of high-stakes gambling opportunities. And while the teams in the playoffs usually do match up better than most teams in regular season matchups do, that is a good thing for gambling purposes – the lines are usually lower.
Just to be clear, these are not predictions on who will WIN the games this weekend, but rather who will cover the spread. If you want standard win/loss predictions, you can check out Oliver Ristow’s excellent Wild Card Preview here.
Here are my gambling picks for NFL Wild Card Weekend. HOME TEAM is in CAPS, and lines reflect Wednesday, January 1st.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-2.5) OVER Kansas City Chiefs
Interesting matchup here between two teams that are both capable of being excellent or terrible on any given Sunday. Both teams had hot starts and played mediocre football down the stretch (see: the Colts getting curbstomped in Arizona and the Chiefs going 2-5 in their final 7 games). Both teams here are volatile as hell and I could see this game going nearly any direction. Needless to say, though, the main factor in my decision here is that the Colts gave K.C. an ass-whoopin’ a mere two weeks ago. In Kansas City. If Andrew Luck and his boys can win by sixteen in Arrowhead, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to cover a field goal at home.
Prediction: Colts 31, Chiefs 24
New Orleans Saints (+2.5) OVER PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Here it is. The Something’s Gotta Give Bowl. The Saints have NEVER won a road playoff game in (a mostly tortured) franchise history, and the Eagles have lost three straight home playoff games…and just recently had a YEAR AND A QUARTER LONG home losing streak snapped this November. Yeah, they’ve won their last four at home, but the competition hasn’t been nearly as tough as Drew Brees and the Saints. Now, you know I love Nick Foles, but in a game like this, I trust Drew Brees more…even on the road. The Eagles have had an immensely positive season in their first year under Chip Kelly, but they’re a year away from real contention. Take the points.
Prediction: Saints 38, Eagles 34
San Diego Chargers (+7) OVER CINCINNATI BENGALS
Two more teams capable of being great or the opposite of great in a given weak. The Chargers finished the season incredibly strong, fighting for their playoff lives and getting in with four straight victories, including two over AFC playoff teams (Chiefs rested their starters, but still). The Bengals, meanwhile, won five of their final six, looking great except for a somewhat surprising loss to a desperate Steelers team. Both teams boast QBs whose play can be stellar or boneheaded, and I think the game will come down to who commits fewer turnovers. This game is also a rematch of a December 1st game in San Diego, a game which the Bengals won by seven…and had a lot to do with turnovers. The Bengals are the better football team and I’ll take them to win, but San Diego is playing fantastic football right now. I think they’ll cover in a close game.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Chargers 20
San Francisco 49ers (-3) OVER GREEN BAY PACKERS
I don’t feel good about this pick. My heart and my head are telling me different things. The 49ers are the certainty. You’ve seen a full season of their work and can judge them accordingly. The Packers? Not so much. You’ve seen them trot out as many starting quarterbacks in this season as they had in the LAST TWENTY YEARS, COMBINED. They played much of the year without their top two offensive weapons, in Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb. They looked miserable at times without them. But, the Packers are a much different team with those guys back, without a doubt. Nonetheless, the Packers lost to this Niners team in Week 1 even with those dudes. Will a team with so many injuries and flux this year be able to change that result 16 weeks later? I think not. I think Rodgers could easily toss five TDs and prove me wrong, but smart money is on San Francisco – and not Aaron Rodgers’ shaky collarbone.
Prediction: 49ers 31, Packers 27
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