Picks of the Week: NFC Wildcard Games

Thursday, 02 January 2020 14:23 EST

In yesterday’s NFL Playoffs edition of Picks of the Week, NFLbets laid out some good lucrative opportunities for betting AFC wildcard games and … wait a minute, can we really be liking this many visiting teams? Well, why not? This is 2019, after all, the home team went just 106-139-8 ATS (not including the international games) for the year – well below the 50/50 ratio the bookmakers aim for weekly – as such a disadvantage slowly disappears.

Additionally, thanks to seeding, the weaker of two teams can easily get the home date, e.g. the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Seattle Seahawks, who not infrequently this season have played like the NFC’s second-best side. And any advantage the Eagles might have been believed to get from the West-to-East travel has also evaporated into the past. Hell, the Seahawks in the past three seasons are 6-2-1 ATS in games played in the Eastern time zone.

So while at first glance, the first four NFL playoff games don’t look like much, NFLbets is expecting the formerly topsy-turvy now normalized ways of parity will generate lots of on-field excitement – and hopefully in-sportsbook lucrativeness. Let’s get to betting NFC wildcard games, starting with…

Minnesota Vikings +8½ at New Orleans Saints, over/under 49½ points

Full disclosure: NFLbets admits that have no idea how to account for the conclusions to the past two New Orleans seasons. Two years ago in Minnesota, the Saints overcame a 17-point first half deficit in unflappable, champion-like fashion to take the lead late in the fourth and give Case Keenum just one play to win the ballgame. The Vikings won the ballgame.

Last season, perhaps the most famous non-call in NFL history deprived the Saints of a red zone opportunity and send the game into overtime. The Los Angeles Rams won that ballgame.

You know how certain reality-denying Democratic Party types like to claim that America has already elected a woman president, because Hillary Clinton actually won more popular votes in Election 2016? That’s the way bettors might choose to look at 2019 New Orleans Saints on this playoff run, i.e. what are the odds that a team can advance to the Super Bowl three years in a row? As essentially the past two Saints’ runs were decided by massive outliers, we can guess that the Saints won’t get bounced on a fluke for a third time but some skepticism on this team going far must be applied.

So … are the Vikings the team to beat Peyton, Brees & Co. this time? Since the Super Bowl run following the 2009, the Saints are a mediocre 4-5 SU/ATS; as favorites in that span, they’re just 3-3 SU and an incredible 1-5 ATS. Finally, note that just one of those nine postseason games were decided by more than 8 points. Now at Minnesota +8½, this is one tricky line – particularly with the Vikings backing into the playoffs.

Two weeks ago, the Vikes were even in contention for a bye week in the playoffs but rolled over the Green Bay Packers and sat starters against the Chicago Bears in week 17. Prior to the Packers loss, Minnesota had enjoyed an 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) run. The Vikings are also a poor 1-4 SU/ATS against playoff teams, but with excepting the 13-point loss to Green Bay, all other games were within a touchdown.

Now NFLbets realizes that betting on Kirk Cousins is hardly an inspiring prospect, but more important for the Vikings has got to be Dalvin Cook’s health. Cook has been practicing in full this week and will play – absolutely necessary for a dude who’s produced nearly 28% of the Vikings’ total yards this year. Cook’s presence for this one plus Payton’s apparent conservatism come playoff time is enough for us to advise NFL bettors take the Minnesota Vikings +8½ at New Orleans, and at -430 on the money line, we’re thinking about the Saints in a parlay and/or teaser.

Seattle Seahawks -2½ at Philadelphia Eagles, over/under 45½ points

This line is something of a puzzler, though the sportsbooks are probably looking at the ignominious ending to the Seahwaks’ season – thriller against the San Francisco 49ers or no – in which they limed to a 1-3 SU (0-3-1 ATS) finish. But as the talking heads like to remind, experience can be crucial in the postseason – and the Carroll-and-Wilson Seahawks have plenty. In wildcard round games alone, these Seahawks are 3-1 SU/ATS, with the sole SU loss a 2-point upset by the Dallas Cowboys last season and the sole ATS loss in a 1-point SU win over the Vikings in 2016.

And while Seahawks fandom and presumably the locker room alike are geeked by the return of Marshawn Lynch – just in time to face a defense that’s no. 11 in yards per rush attempt – the Eagles’ active roster boasts little more than walking wounded. One may marvel at Philadelphia’s tenacity in winning four straight and swiping the NFC East title from the Cowboys, until one realizes that all four games were against the weakass teams of that NFC East.

Among those “skill players” not actually on the disabled list, WR Nelson Agholor and RB Miles Sanders have sat out practices this week; TE Zach Ertz will play hurt. Boston Scott and the practice squad: This is what Carson Wentz is working with in his first NFL playoff game against the poor man’s Belichick-and-Brady? Come on! Take the Seattle Seahawks -2½ at Philadelphia.

Further, we’re figuring that Lynch’s 12 touches and one goal line plunge were a precursor to this week, when Carroll is likely to have his guys grind it out in cold Philly weather. (Current forecasts call for temperatures in the 30s and a 20% chance of some Seattle-style rain.) The Seahawks OL will likely be without G Mike Iupati and possibly C Joey Hunt, who stepped into the starting role in week 8; already Seattle ranks a lowly 24th in pass protection, but a reasonable 15th in run blocking and 10th in power run blocking even before Beast Mode reupped. So we’re also saying take the under on an O/U of 45½ points as well: Note that in all Carroll-and-Wilson Seahawks NFC playoff games, the under is 5-6 but is 3-1 in the wildcard round.

–written by Os Davis

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