Ballin’ on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Picks
We made it through 17 weeks of the NFL season and as an added bonus, we're going to give you one more week of picks. Wild Card weekend tends to provide the most interesting matchups of any playoff round, because it often matches up a really hot team with a team that is better on paper. The reason for that is simple. Think about it. Whoever gets the No. 6 seed in either conference had to beat out a handful of other teams and has been in playoff mode for weeks. That's why the Bears and Texans could have their hands full with the Eagles and Colts respectively. Anyway, let's get to our picks.
Texans -1.5 vs. Colts (-105)
Bettors are loving the Colts, who snuck into the playoffs by beating the Titans in Week 17. There's plenty of reason to believe in this team, whose offense looks to finally be humming entering the playoffs. I alluded to the fact that a hot No. 6 seed often can go on a deep playoff run, but there are a few reasons I don't think this is happening this week. First of all, the Texans offense has plenty of weapons (ones the Titans didn't have in Week 17) to outscore the Colts.
Second of all, the Texans have a very stout defense, which should give Indy some trouble. The same could have been said about the Titans, but their defensive efforts week to week were much less consistent than Houston's. Let's not forget the Texans were a win against the Eagles away from having home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They've been one of the best teams in the AFC all season long and this one just doesn't scream upset to me. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.80.
Seahawks to beat the Cowboys (-105)
This game is essentially a pick 'em as the line is only one point and there are negative odds for picking each to win (Seattle at -105, Dallas at -110). I get that this game is on the road and the Seahawks play differently away from home, but they also have a ton of playoff experience. The x-factor here is really Russell Wilson. In what should be a close game, I trust him 10 times more than I trust Dak Prescott in a pressure situation.
Sometimes, in these games, you have to trust the players who have been there, done that and are better equipped to handle the pressure. This is a dangerous game as each team has shown some flaws in recent weeks, but between these two imperfect teams, there is still a ton of talent. Expect a lot of big plays and an exciting finish. If it comes down to the fourth quarter, as playoff games usually do, the edge has to be given to Russ and Co. who have proven they can get it done in crunch time before. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.80.
Chargers-Ravens UNDER 41.5 (-110)
I just can't bring myself to pick this game against the spread. The Chargers and Ravens are such different teams and this is a toss up for me. Los Angeles is 7-1 on the road this season, but Baltimore runs the exact type of offense that bleeds the clock and keeps opposing teams off the field that the Chargers hate. It gets them out of their rhythm and that could put them in some real trouble if they don't stop Lamar Jackson.
Again, I can't for the life of me decide who I think is going to win this game, but I do think we're going to see a low-scoring game that comes down to the wire. 21-17 or something along those lines certainly isn't out of the question and that would get us the under. There isn't a ton of confidence in any bet involved in this game, but to make sure this one was covered, we'll take the under as the most confident bet associated with it. $3 for total payout of $5.70.
Bears -5.5 vs. Eagles (-110)
This game scares me a lot. Full disclosure: I'm a Bears fan. I very rarely like to pick a team I root for, especially under these circumstances, so I'll tell you why I'm doing so this week. On paper, the Bears are a much better team than the Eagles, much better. Of course, games aren't played on paper, but we need to remember the Bears have a lot more talent and if we're defaulting to something, it has to be that. Let's not forget, the Bears are the first 12-win NFC team since 2014 to not get a first-round bye. Second of all, for as scared as myself and all Bears fans are for playoff Nick Foles, there is reason to believe he won't duplicate last year's success.
Chicago allows the lowest opponent's quarterback rating in the entire league. Essentially, QB's have their worst performances when they play against the pass rush and secondary of the Bears. With Pro Bowl safety, Eddie Jackson, set to return to the fold, that Bears defense looks even stronger. For the Bears to win, they need to take care of the football. If they don't turn it over, Philly stands very little chance. Whether or not they cover comes down to Mitchell Trubisky's performance in his first career playoff game. All they need is a touchdown margin of victory to cover and we'll trust the Bears enough to do that. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.50.
Texans-Colts OVER 48.5 (-110)
For as much as I talked about how Houston's defense is going to slow the Colts down, this game could still become somewhat of a shootout. 31-24, or something along those lines isn't out of the question. In my opinion, holding the Colts to 24 would be a victory for the Texans and would also hit the over as long as Houston won the game. Picking over/unders in the playoffs is tricky, because they're often dictated by the pace set at the very beginning of the game. If one of these teams scores early, players and coaches start to loosen up and the field opens up. In that case, I love the over.
One thing that could hurt us here is if a few defensive stops are made early on and it becomes a field position battle. That's entirely possible, but I think that's the less likely of the two scenarios. Each team has offensive playmakers capable of picking up chunks of yards at a time, so as long as both team converts its red zone trips into touchdowns instead of field goals, I feel good about the over in this one. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.
These are the last picks of the year, so let's hope they're fruitful like the entire regular season has been for us. One final time, we'll cross our fingers and hope that we can hit on that elusive five-team parlay we've been so close to all year long. Based on the picks above, a $20 five-team parlay would pay out $530.16. For the final time this season, good luck, and we'll have one more recap column to look at how our Wild Card Weekend picks panned out.