McGon’s Picks: 2018 NFL Wild-Card Playoffs

In Week 17, the Indianapolis Colts won on Sunday Night Football to clinch the final spot in this year’s playoffs. Fitting.

While it sucks that there won’t be another full slate of football until September, these upcoming games are the one’s we will remember forever, especially if your team is involved. This year’s Wild Card matchups are among some of the most intriguing I can ever remember. It starts on Saturday afternoon with the Colts traveling to their division rival Texans in a matchup of two teams who turned around early season struggles to both win double digit games. Then on Saturday night, in arguably the most anticipated of the weekend, we have our 3rd Below the Belt Bowl (and first in the playoffs) between Bert’s Seahawks and my Cowboys. Just like the earlier matchup, both teams were afterthoughts early in the season, and are suddenly teams that no one wants to see. While it may not be as anticipated, the early matchup Sunday may be the best of them all, with the Chargers traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, who they lost to at home just two weeks ago. And finally, we end the week with another great matchup, with the defending champion Eagles traveling to take on a very dangerous Bears team in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited.

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To quickly recap Week 17, it was a little less unpredictable than anticipated. I went an okay 7-9 ATS, but went a season-high 13-3 outright. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (correct pick in blue, incorrect pick in red):

Lions at Packers (-7.5)

Cowboys (+7.5) at Giants

  • Went to the Post Malone concert Saturday night, went to this game on Sunday. This tweet sums up my weekend pretty well.

https://twitter.com/Bulldog_Graphic/status/1079513268341886977

Jets (+14) at Patriots

Jaguars (+7) at Texans

Panthers (+8) at Saints

Falcons (-2.5) at Bucs

  • Lucky to have Falcons +1 in my spread pool, cause this would have been a tough beat.

Dolphins (+5.5) at Bills

Eagles (-6) at Redskins

Raiders at Chiefs (-14.5)

Chargers at Broncos (+7)

Bengals (+14) at Steelers

Bears at Vikings (-6)

Cardinals at Seahawks (-14.5)

Browns (+7) at Ravens

49ers at Rams (-10.5)

Colts at Titans (+5) 

  • Kept my Titans ATS picked, but switched my outright pick to Colts.

2018 Straight-Up: 156-98-2, 2018 vs. Spread: 109-136-11

Let’s make up for a tough regular season.

Image result for stu feiner bat

Colts at Texans (-1.5)

Texans 27, Colts 21 

  • After starting the season 1-5, the Colts made of the greatest in-season turnarounds in NFL history, winning 9 of their last 10 games and getting great play on both sides of the ball to earn the AFC’s 6th seed.
  • But don’t let that overlook the Texans turnaround. After starting off 0-3, Houston won 9 in row before finishing 11-5 and winning their 5th AFC South title in the last 8 years.
  • Everything would point to these teams being pretty evenly matched, yet the home Texans are only laying 1.5 points- good value to get them at
  • As great as the Colts’ second half has been, they’ve shown vulnerabilities, needing double digit comeback wins at home against the lowly Dolphins and Giants, and getting shut out in Jacksonville
  • The Colts may be the better team in this rivalry in the coming years, but I think the home Texans are the better team this season and will win by less than a score to move on to New England

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  • These two teams split the regular season series, with the road team winning by a field goal on both occasions (Week 4 highlights, Week 14 highlights)

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  • This is the first playoff matchup between these two teams

 

Seahawks at Cowboys (-2)

Cowboys 24, Seahawks 20

  • With nearly every member of the Legion of Boom gone, the Seahawks were given small odds to make the playoffs this season by most. After starting 0-2, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys in Week 3 to start an incredible run that ended at 10-6 and the NFC’s first wild card
  • After starting 3-5, the future of the Cowboys’ leadership was being questioned by many. But the arrival of Amari Cooper and the strength of this defense has changed everything, as the Cowboys won 7 of their last 8 to win the NFC East for the 3rd time in 5 years
  • Both teams have changed dramatically since they met in Week 3, so don’t put too much stock into what we saw that day (not just saying that because the Cowboys lost)
  • The Cowboys are 7-1 at Jerry World this season, and are coming off the most meaningful meaningless game ever, with Dak Prescott balling out despite missing Zeke, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin
  • The Super Bowl winning pedigree is a big advantage for Seattle as it comes from their most important pieces (Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Pete Carroll), but the rest of the team is very different from the old days, especially defensively
  • Ultimately, these are two extremely evenly matched teams. 12 of the Cowboys 16 games this season were decided by a score or less, and they’re 9-3 in those games, so I like that and their home record as a big reason why they edge out a close win Saturday night

Image result for dak prescott seahawks

  • As mentioned, these teams last met in Week 3 with the Seahawks winning 24-13 (highlights)

Image result for seahawks cowboys week 3

  • These teams have met one time in the playoffs, the 2006 Wild-Card round in which the Seahawks won 21-20. This was a great game but is only remembered for one of the most infamous plays in Cowboys history

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  • Good luck Bert (but not really)

 

Chargers at Ravens (-3)

Ravens 23, Chargers 17

  • The Chargers have been enjoying one of their best seasons in franchise history, going 12-4, and many people are picking them to be the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl since the 2010 Packers
  • The Ravens first half was up and down under Joe Flacco, but since turning to rookie Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are 6-1 and locked up the AFC North title, and suddenly are a team most will not want to play
  • These teams met just 2 weeks ago in Los Angeles, with the Ravens defense dominating the high powered Chargers offense
  • I actually kind of like the Chargers more as a road team, but I don’t love them in this matchup
  • The Ravens are small favorites, but the public has made it clear who they like- 72% on the Chargers as of Friday night
  • The Ravens, like the Cowboys, have been winning close games against any team, and I like them to do the same on Sunday as they edge out the Chargers by less than a score

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  • As mentioned, these two teams met in Week 16 with the Ravens defense dominating to win 22-10 (highlights)

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  • This is the first playoff meeting between these teams

 

Eagles (+6.5) at Bears

Bears 23, Eagles 20

  • After what they did last year, especially with a backup QB, this Eagles team has been nothing short of a disappointment this season. But to their credit, they rallied to win 5 of their last 6 games, including the last 3 in a row under Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles to earn the NFC’s last playoff spot
  • The young Bears came mostly out of nowhere this season. With the additions of Khalil Mack and head coach Matt Nagy, and QB Mitch Trubisky’s sophomore season, the Bears put together a phenomal year, going 12-4 and winning the NFC North
  • There’s truly something different about the Eagles under Nick Foles. While he may not be as talented as Carson Wentz, he brings a different animal out of this team, and he’s also been able to get weapons other than Zach Ertz more involved
  • We saw what a less talented but more experienced Falcons team did to a more talented but less experienced Rams team last year in the playoffs- they domianted them
  • I think the Eagles will keep up their strong play and cover in this game
  • But this Bears team doesn’t play like a young and inexperienced team, as seen last week dominating the Vikings in a must win game for Minnesota, and a virtually meaningless game for the Bears
  • The weekend concludes with the Bears winning by a field goal

Image result for mitch trubisky

  • While this means virtually nothing, these teams last met last season with the Eagles dominating 31-3 (highlights)

Image result for bears eagles week 12 2017

  • The last postseason meeting between these teams came in the 2001 Divisional Round, with the road Eagles winning 33-19

Image result for bears eagles 2001 playoffs

Now, here’s a look at how I think the playoffs will play out. These’s are not my final predictions, as the matchups could change and I could of course change my mind. And let’s be honest, if the Cowboys advance, you know I’m willing to live and die with them.

Wild-Card

  • AFC: (4) Ravens over (5) Chargers, (3) Texans over (6) Colts
  • NFC: (4) Cowboys over (5) Seahawks, (3) Bears over (6) Eagles

Divisional

  • AFC: (2) Patriots over (3) Texans, (1) Chiefs over (4) Ravens
  • NFC: (2) Rams over (3) Bears, (1) Saints over (4) Cowboys

Conference Championships

  • AFC: (1) Chiefs over (2) Patriots
  • NFC: (1) Saints over (2) Rams

Super Bowl LIII

  • Saints over Chiefs

That’s it for this weekend, hopefully these games are as great as I’m expecting them to be. Who will win the latest chapter of the Below the Belt Bowl between Bert’s Seahawks and my Cowboys?

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