Niks Picks | NFL Playoffs Wildcard Round

Playoffs time is upon us in the NFL, follow our tips to make it a profitable time.

Fri, 6 Jan, 12:00 AM

Welcome back lads and ladettes, the first week of the playoffs is here and what a pearler of a season it’s been. Put aside week 17, in which I hope you all took our advice and stayed away or were profitable with your own plays.

Time to get down to business.

In a new format for the playoffs we’ll be handing out our main plays and also give our leans on the games that didn’t cut muster.

Happy Punting,

Nik Hatzi

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans

This game reminds me of something a friend of mine told me as we were hitting the vodka shots on new years eve. She turned to me and said, Yuuuuuuuuuuck. I couldn’t agree with her more.

This game should’ve been a coming out party for the Raiders but they lost their Carr (pun intended) and now may have lost their way. Nevertheless, if I was to choose one team I’d want to play in the playoffs, it’d be an Osweiler led Texans outfit.

Let's not forget that Osweiler was benched while healthy, for the 135th pick in the 2014 draft, Tom Savage. Luckily for Osweiler, and the only reason he’s playing, Savage was concussed in his last outing. Osweiler was the only quarterback in the league averaging less than 6 yards per pass this season. Pretty piss poor from a bloke that looks like Tarzan but plays like Jane.

In this matchup the Raiders will have the better offensive line, a sound running game and receivers in Crabtree and Cooper who’ll help make life easier for debutant Connor Cook. The kid will have support, and I can’t see the Texans putting up an unreachable score either.

One key factor I like to look at especially in the first round of the playoff is a team’s strength of schedule. Oakland played the 4th hardest strength of schedule compared to the Texans who faced the 18th strongest. Teams who enter the first round of the playoffs with a strength of schedule 10 places above their opponent as the Raiders have here, are 11-3 ats (against the spread).

Now I’m not saying Oakland will win this game, because the Texans defence is legit and Cook is a key unknown factor in this one. What I am saying though, is that I know Osweiler is one of the 2 worst quarterbacks in the league. I don’t know if Cook is that other quarterback.

Lean: Oakland Raiders +4

Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks

Let me start off by saying that I don’t think Detroit has the horses to beat Seattle in their own home. They’re much too banged up in the secondary and in various other positions on the field.

With that said, a capable quarterback like Stafford who at times has shown glimpses of MVP caliber quality is more than capable of pegging back a Seattle-8 ticket with a late touchdown or two. This season Stafford has been fire in the 4th quarter. You know, the way he equaled the record for most 4th quarter comebacks.

Seattle is a team full of quality. Their defence on both ends is top shelf, however the loss of Thomas at the safety position has them quite vulnerable to the big play. I think Detroit will fail at running the ball against Seattle’s number 1 ranked run defence. Forcing them to go deep will lead to both big plays and big picks from the likes of Sherman and co.

Seattle has a key weakness in its run game. Rawls has run the ball 37 times for 56 yards in the last 3 weeks. Furthermore, 4 or fewer points have decided the last 3 games between these two squads. Seattle has the experience, the talent and the better coach. Seattle wins this, but it’ll take a brave man taking them to cover -8 given what we’ve seen from the Seahawks in recent weeks.

Play: Seattle Seahawks 1-13

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers

This is a game where I’m going against my instincts because the logic to back the Steelers even at -10 is too strong.

We’ll start with this. Pittsburgh has the better quarterback, running back, receiver and have the home field advantage. Already off to a flying start.

Another stat to lean on is that double digit favourites in the playoffs have covered the spread five straight times. This is a good trend to have behind this play.

The Dolphins come into this game somehow being outscored on the year, yet they find themselves in the playoffs. Miami ranked 29th in total defence. That shouldn’t instill a lot of confidence for Dolphins backers. Matt Moore hasn’t played a snap of post-season football and this Dolphins teams hasn’t been here since 2006. The experience and pedigree is all with the Steelers in this one.

The Dolphins soundly beat Pittsburgh in round 6. I’ll give them that one, but its important to note that Big Ben took knee injuries in the 2nd and 4th quarter of that game. Big Ben needed surgery after the game, so its clear they weren’t playing at top condition. More importantly, reports suggested that Pittsburgh severely struggled in the Miami heat, which is not uncommon for the squad who plays their football in a cold climate.

Miami won’t be able to adjust to the Pittsburgh weather, just as the Steelers couldn’t adjust back then. The weather is expected to peak at 18 degrees… Fahrenheit! I’m sorry, but if I’m used to the beach and the babes of Miami and I get thrown into weather that’s supposed to peak at -7 degrees Celsius, I think my game will shrink along with my other extremities.

Did I also mention that Miami got to playoffs courtesy of the 27th most difficult schedule? Pittsburgh on the other hand played the 11th most difficult. The trend tells us that at worst Pittsburgh has a 71% chance of winning this game. That’s a trend that’s got me all hot and bothered to saddle up on the Steelers.

All signs point to Pit in this one. Play of the round by a country mile.

Play: Pittsburgh Steelers -10

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers

This is probably one of the oddest handicapping situations out of the four games on offer. The reason being is that there are a number of intangibles that need to be taken into account.

I’ll start by saying the play in this one is on New York with the 5 points, however I understand that a case can be made for Green Bay. Here’s why Green Bay won’t pay.

The Green Bay Packers haven’t been a very successful post-season side. The Pack has covered 2 of the last 8 playoff games in which it’s been set as a favourite. The Giants on the other hand are 4-0-1 ats in their last five against the Packers and 7-2 over the last nine wild card games. Eli and his Giants beat a Rodgers led Packers outfit en route to their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl titles. Eli is a further 7-1 on road or neutral playoff games.

I know what you’re thinking, the Packers got their running game going, Rodgers said he was going to run the table and Green bay have gone 6-0 since. Correct. However, Nobody is talking about who the Packers beat.

They beat Philli, who’s cooled off significantly in this back half of the season. Houston, when playing Osweiler, so that game is meaningless in my eyes. Seattle, who we all got excited about when they won, but now we’re seeing something off about this Seahawks side. They only beat a Matt Barkley lead Bears side by 3. They convincingly beat the Vikings who evidently went 3-8 down the stretch and beat Detroit after Stafford had an injured hand and a bevvy of injuries around the offence and defence.

6-0 is impressive but I’m not convinced they’ve really rolled strong teams. Why was Green Bay able to go on that 6-0 run you ask? Well, they found their running game of course. The evolution of Ty Montgomery from a WR to an RB has been nothing short of phenomenal. Not only is he managing expectations, but he’s taking a chainsaw to those expectations and kicking down the door. This kid is legit. The reason I bring that up is because no matter how average a quarterback looks, as long as they have a decent running game they can achieve better results.

The Giants have found their own running game in recent weeks, which will only elevate New York’s offence. The Giant’s defence is already a solid proposition.

Introducing the Giants defence. This defence has only allowed more than 20 points in two of its last eight games. Do you think Ty Montgomery is better than Ezekiel Elliot? Because I don’t. That Giants defence beat up the Cowboys offensive line and rushing attack, which is the best in the league I might add.

I’ll be expecting 5 points to come in real handy when judging the final margin.

Play: New York Giants +5

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