Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws the ball against Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong (92) in the second quarter in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers hold off late push to eliminate Cowboys

Elijah Mitchell ran for 96 yards and a touchdown while the San Francisco 49ers’ defense overcame the loss of star end Nick Bosa to hold the Dallas Cowboys in check during a 23-17 win Sunday in the NFC wild-card round in Arlington, Texas.

Jimmy Garoppolo hit 16 of 25 throws for 172 yards with an interception for the 49ers, who will travel to top-seeded Green Bay next weekend for the NFC semifinals. Deebo Samuel added 110 yards from scrimmage, 72 on the ground, with a touchdown.

Samuel’s 26-yard scoring run, one play after Dak Prescott was intercepted by K’Waun Williams, gave San Francisco a 23-7 advantage with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Greg Zuerlein’s 51-yard field goal and Prescott’s 5-yard touchdown run pulled the Cowboys within six points with 8:02 left. But Dallas’ last chance ended when Prescott ran 17 yards up the middle to the 49ers’ 24-yard line and could not spike the ball to stop the clock before time expired. Dallas was out of timeouts.

Bosa (concussion) didn’t play in the second half, but sixth-seeded San Francisco still held third-seeded Dallas to 307 total yards and sacked Prescott five times. Prescott completed just 23 of 43 passes for 254 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Dallas hurt its cause with 14 penalties for 89 yards. Four of them gave the 49ers first downs.

San Francisco initiated the scoring on the game’s first possession, marching 75 yards in just seven plays. Mitchell stepped into the end zone from the 4 on a toss sweep, slicing just inside the front right pylon at the 10:54 mark.

Gould upped the lead to 10-0 on the 49ers’ second drive, drilling a 53-yard field goal with 4:56 left. He connected from 40 yards out with 9:44 remaining in the first half, capping a drive of nearly eight minutes to make it 13-0.

Dallas finally got some traction on the next possession, going 67 yards in nine plays to get on the board. Prescott hooked up with Amari Cooper for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 5:24 on the clock to cut the deficit to 13-7.

Gould sent San Francisco into the locker room with a 16-7 lead after converting from 52 yards out with 3:08 left.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (76) reacts from the field prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots rule out starting LT Isaiah Wynn vs. Bills

The New England Patriots on Friday downgraded starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn to out for Saturday’s playoff tilt at the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.

Wynn (hip, ankle) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday, and was one of 13 Patriots players listed as questionable on Thursday’s injury report.

Wynn, 26, was a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. He played in 16 games in 2021, starting 15, as he was tasked with protecting rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ blind side.

He left the Patriots’ Week 18 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the first half with an ankle injury, having played only nine snaps.

Yodny Cajuste, who has two starts among seven career appearances, is listed as the Patriots’ second-string left tackle. But their options to replace Wynn also include veteran Trent Brown, who’s been starting at right tackle, and second-year lineman Michael Onwenu, who has played both guard and tackle.

Several other key New England players remain questionable for the game, including center David Andrews (shoulder), defensive lineman Christian Barmore (knee), linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle), kicker Nick Folk (knee in non-kicking leg), running back Damien Harris (hamstring) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee).

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Familiar foes Rams, Cardinals have something to prove in playoffs

While the Los Angeles Rams will play host to the first-ever Monday night playoff game, it is the Arizona Cardinals who are feeling completely familiar with the lead-up to the all-NFC West wild-card-round matchup.

The Rams-Cardinals primetime showdown will be the third meeting between the teams, with the road team having won the previous two.

And while the Rams prevailed in a Monday night meeting at Arizona in December, it was the Cardinals who pronounced themselves playoff-worthy with a Week 4 victory at Los Angeles in early October.

Defeats in four of their last five games cost the Cardinals an NFC West title and left them with something to prove Monday. But that was also the case in Week 4, when they arrived in Los Angeles on the heels of three consecutive wins to start the season amid questions of whether their hot start was sustainable.

The Cardinals not only delivered a resounding 37-20 victory over the Rams that day, behind two touchdown passes from Kyler Murray and 120 yards rushing from Chase Edmonds, but they went on to open the season 7-0.

Having gone 4-6 since that undefeated start, the Cardinals are once again having to prove that their time has arrived.

“It’s 0-0, and no one remembers the regular season,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It’s what you do here on out, and it’s a real opportunity for us to take the next step and see how good we can be.”

The game will not only be Murray’s playoff debut, but it will be the Cardinals’ first appearance in the playoffs since 2015-16, when they defeated the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round but were blown out by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.

Murray averaged 270.5 yards passing per game this season with 24 TDs and 10 interceptions. He had 383 yards passing in Week 14 against the Rams but did not throw a TD pass that day and was intercepted twice in a 30-23 Los Angeles victory.

“I like that we had two games to see how we played them, how they played us and what looked good and didn’t,” Kingsbury said. “So we can build off that.”

The Rams had a hot start of their own, despite their early loss to the Cardinals, opening with a 7-1 record. Then came a midseason slumber when they took consecutive defeats to a trio of playoff teams, the Tennessee Titans, the San Francisco 49ers and the Packers.

The Rams were just 2-5 against playoff teams this season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford averaged 309.6 yards passing per game with 22 TDs and four interceptions over the first eight games in a Rams uniform, but those stats fell to 267.7 yards passing with 19 TDs and 13 interceptions over the final nine games as Los Angeles went 5-4.

Stafford did help wide receiver Cooper Kupp to a Rams-record 1,947 receiving yards, while Kupp also pulled off the wide receiver triple crown, leading the NFL in receptions (145), TDs (16) and receiving yards.

After their midseason swoon, the Rams pulled together a five-game winning streak that included their victory at Arizona, but questions started anew after their 27-24 defeat in overtime to the 49ers to close out the season. The Rams blew a 17-0, first-half lead.

Los Angeles’ offensive and defensive lines were dominated by the 49ers in the season finale, especially in the second half as San Francisco rallied.

“Whether we’re playing at home, playing on the road, things are going our way, things aren’t going our way, we continue to battle,” said Stafford, who has not won a playoff game in three chances. “That’s what it takes to win games in the playoffs, there’s no question. Right now, it’s testing us … but we’re a resilient group and we’ll be ready to go.”

With Rams safety Jordan Fuller out for the playoffs with an ankle injury and fellow safety Taylor Rapp in concussion protocol, the Rams signed Eric Weddle out of retirement Wednesday. Linebacker Leonard Floyd (back) is expected to play but was listed “out” for Thursday’s walkthrough.

Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (shoulder), who hasn’t played since Week 7, returned to practice Thursday but was extremely limited. Edmonds (ribs, toe) was limited but said he was prepared to play, while fellow running back James Conner (ribs) did not practice and will be a game-time decision.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals, Bucs, Packers have shot to lock up playoff spots

Three NFC teams have a chance to lock up postseason berths by the end of Week 14 play on Monday.

The Arizona Cardinals (10-2) host the Los Angeles Rams (8-4) on “Monday Night Football,” and they’ll clinch a playoff berth with a win or tie. A win would also reduce their magic number to one to clinch the NFC West.

Even if they don’t win, they would earn at least a wild-card berth if other events occur, which include a loss or tie by the Minnesota Vikings and a San Francisco 49ers loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3) host the Buffalo Bills (7-5) on Sunday afternoon. The Bucs will clinch the NFC South title with a win and a loss or tie by both the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.

They also could seal a playoff spot if they tie the Bills and the following happens: losses by the Panthers, Saints and Vikings, and losses or ties by the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team.

For the Green Bay Packers (9-3), it will take a win Sunday night in their home game against the Chicago Bears (4-8), plus a Minnesota loss or tie, to win the NFC North title. They also could achieve that milestone if they tie the Bears and the Vikings lose.

The Packers would clinch a playoff berth, though not the division title, if they win and the 49ers lose and the Saints lose or tie their game.

In another scenario, they’d make the postseason if the Saints lose or tie, the Rams lose, and the 49ers tie.

The Week 14 schedule includes the following games that have a bearing on the playoff hunt:
Pittsburgh (6-5-1) at Minnesota (5-7)
New Orleans (5-7) at New York Jets (3-9)
Atlanta (5-7) at Carolina (5-7)
San Francisco (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5)

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reacts during pregame warmups before a game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots miss playoffs for first time since 2008

The New England Patriots will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Patriots were eliminated from postseason contention Sunday after losing 22-12 at the Miami Dolphins. The defeat dropped the Patriots’ record to 6-8, meaning that the franchise will finish at .500 or worse for the first time since the 2000 season, coach Bill Belichick’s first with the team.

Tom Brady, who led the Patriots’ dynasty before he left during the offseason to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was diplomatic when asked about the end of New England’s long playoff run.

“As far as the Patriots, they have their own thing going,” Brady said. “I’ve really been focused on how my play needs to be at quarterback (and) the execution I need. They’re not really an opponent of mine.

“Obviously, I have a lot of friends there, a lot of great relationships, but they’ve been focused on what they need to do and I’ve been trying to focus on what my job is.”

New England’s loss came one day after the Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East for the first time since 1995.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins (73) and offensive guard Ike Boettger (65) celebrate a touchdown catch by wide receiver Gabriel Davis (13) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

NFL playoff scenarios: Bills on verge of AFC East title

Five more NFL teams will have a chance to wrap up a berth in the playoffs in Week 15 — some on their own, others with some help.

Thus far, the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers have clinched spots in the AFC, with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints set in the NFC.

The Buffalo Bills (10-3) have a clear path to both the playoffs and a division title. A win over the Denver Broncos (5-8) would give them the AFC East championship, as would a Miami Dolphins loss or a Buffalo tie combined with a Miami tie.

Even with a loss, the Bills could seal a playoff spot with a loss by the Baltimore Ravens (8-5) to the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12), or a Buffalo tie and Baltimore tie.

Other scenarios:

The Tennessee Titans (9-4) play the Detroit Lions (5-8) on Sunday and can clinch under the following scenarios: a win and a Baltimore loss; a win, plus a loss or tie by the Las Vegas Raiders and a Miami loss and a Cleveland Browns win or tie; or a win plus a Raiders loss or tie and a Miami loss, giving Tennessee or Cleveland the strength of victory tiebreaker over Miami.

The Los Angeles Rams (9-4) host the New York Jets (0-13) on Sunday. The Rams will earn a playoff berth with a win or tie, or a tie in the Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game.

The Seattle Seahawks (at Washington, 6-7) will clinch with a win or tie, or a tie between the Bears and Vikings.

The Tampa Buccaneers (at Atlanta, 4-9) will earn a berth with a win and a tie between the Bears and Vikings.

Also, the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) can clinch the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win at the New Orleans Saints (10-3), combined with a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Bills’ loss or tie.

The Steelers (11-2) play Cincinnati (2-10-1) on Monday night and will clinch the AFC North title with a win, or a Cleveland loss, or if both the Steelers and Browns tie.

Should the Saints beat the Chiefs, they will claim the NFC South title. They also can win it with a Tampa Bay loss, or if both the Saints and Buccaneers tie.

The Packers already have won the NFC North.

–Field Level Media

Jan 12, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL mulling 16-team playoff field if games lost to pandemic

The NFL has not yet lost any scheduled games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the league is constantly preparing in case it does.

The latest evidence is a plan that potentially could adjust this season’s playoff format to a 16-team field, with eight teams in each conference qualifying for the postseason, ESPN reported Monday.

The fall-back option was discussed on a conference call conducted by the NFL competition committee on Monday, with the purpose to soften some of the league’s financial blow in case multiple games are eventually canceled and bye weeks are lost due to COVID-19.

NFL sources were cited describing the idea that would hypothetically increase the numbers of playoff teams by two to 16, with one additional team each from the AFC and NFC. This postseason was already slated for a two-team playoff spike, with one more wild-card team in each conference, after the league approved the switch in March.

If approved and instituted, the seeding system would include no byes for division champions and instead rank each team by conference from No. 1 through 8. In the opening round, the top seed — the division champion with the best overall record — would face the wild-card team with the worst record as the No. 8 seed. Then the second seed would face the seventh seed, with No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5 in the opening weekend.

The league office has reportedly remained steadfast in its hopes to avoid any schedule changes that could threaten its current Super Bowl LV date, currently slated for Feb. 7, 2001 in Tampa. In case of major postseason scheduling changes, the NFL’s likely first move would be to eliminate the week off scheduled between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

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.

Ballin' on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

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.

Wild Card Appearances (2002-2018)

Since the NFL was restructured in 2002, there are four teams that have not played in the postseason as a wild card. The Patriots, Bears, Texans and Buccaneers have either won their division or missed the playoffs completely.

In the same time frame, the Patriots have made 14 postseason appearances. Combined, the Bears, Bucs and Texans have made 10 appearances. 

Amount of wild card appearances is a good metric for the continued strength of a division as a whole. The graphic below displays each division and the number of wild card appearances since 2002. The AFC North comes out on top, boasting five consecutive seasons from 2008-2012 in which they sent at least two teams to the postseason. The AFC East and NFC West each finished with only six appearances.

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