Wildcard Saturday preview
I finished strong last week going 3-1 against the spread. I’m going to try and to keep that streak going with my picks for the Wild Card games. The Playoffs bring an entirely different brand of football. It’s a more physical game, mainly because if you lose, your season ends. Experience means a lot during the playoffs especially at key positions like quarterback.In today’s games, three of the four quarterbacks have playoff experience and that should go a long way towards determining the winners.
Arizona (+6.5) at Carolina
The first question you may ask is how can a team with a losing record possibly be a 6.5 point favorite against a team with 11 wins? The answer is simple, the 11 win team (Arizona) does not have a quarterback. They are playing with their third string quarterback in this game, and that can’t possibly bode well for them.
Ryan Lindley has thrown only 234 passes, and his completion percentage is 50% with an atrocious 2 touchdown to 11 interception ratio.
Though Carolina may have finished 7-8-1, they won their last four games, and two of those four wins were blowouts on the road. Last week’s 34-3 win in Atlanta was, in essence, a playoff game, as the winner was in and the loser was done for the season. Carolina may be as healthy as they have been all season. Safety Thomas DeCoud looks like the only player who may miss the game. What Arizona has going for them is their defense and defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. Bowles preaches an attacking style of defense but in this game not only do they have to attack, but they need to keep Carolina quarterback Can Newton in check.
The bottom line is that Carolina has more playoff experience than Arizona and the game is being played in Charlotte. While I strongly feel that Carolina will win the game, I also feel Bowles will be able to keep it close. There is a reason Todd is on everyone’s list as a future head coach…he’s damn good! Take the points, but I can see the Panthers winning by only 3 or 4 points.
Baltimore (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
I took Baltimore to easily beat Cleveland last week at home to guarantee a playoff berth. While the Ravens won, it wasn’t by much. Today they have to go on the road to play an always tough Pittsburgh team. The two team split their games during the regular season, with the home team winning each game. Pittsburgh is on a four game winning streak and in each of those games, they have won by at least 7 points and the average margin of victory was 11.5 points.
Baltimore is 3-2 in their last five games, with the losses coming at home to San Diego and on the road at Houston. Pittsburgh will be hurt without standout running back Le’Veon Bell. Rookie free agent Josh Harris gets the start, and he carried the ball all of 9 times this season for a grand total of 16 yards. Still, I think this game will get down to the passing game. Roethlisberger may well have his way with a weak Baltimore secondary and that could well be the difference. The weather isn’t going to help either team. With the weather forecast calling for rain and temperatures in the low 40’s, I feel this will be a close game. Pittsburgh will try and score early and force Baltimore to play catchup. Without Bell and with a 90% chance of rain, the 3.5 point spread may be too much. While I like the Steelers to win, take the points.
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