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2018 Wild-Card Weekend Playoff Betting Picks

2018 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Playoff Betting Picks

By Loot, NFL Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

One of the best times of the year for pro football fans is here. In the NFL, it all comes down to this, as 8 playoff teams will try to get the ball rolling for a deep playoff run they are hoping leads to Super Bowl glory. The stakes are high and everything is riding on this weekend for these teams. On Saturday and Sunday, each conference will feature one matchup, as the field of remaining teams is whittled down to eight teams. Let's take a look at the matchups, along with our picks to win.

Saturday's Games

Indianapolis Colts +2.5 vs. Houston Texans -2.5
Analysis and Pick: The Indianapolis Colts take on the Houston Texans in game one of Wild Card Weekend on January 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. These divisional teams meet for the third time this season, with Houston having won the AFC South with an 11-5 record, as the Colts had a great second-half to overcome a 1-5 start and make the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Both teams won on the road this season in this divisional rivalry, with the Texans winning in Indy by a field goal in week 4, while the Colts won by a field goal in Houston in week 14. What will part III have in store?

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Both teams really surged this season. Indy, with Andrew Luck back at full strength and team-improvements made on both sides of the ball, overcame a rough start, winning 9 of their last 10 games, including a win-and-you're-in game against the Titans on week 17. The Texans had similar issues, overcoming an 0-3 start to win their next 9 games in a row and ending up at 11-5. Each team is tested beyond most teams in this postseason, having risen up from the ashes to keep their dreams alive.

And on the field, these teams also have things in common, beyond having overcome bad starts to the regular season. They both have nice running-games, but their offensive success rides on the arms of their quarterbacks. Houston's defense might have more difference-makers up front, but their secondary looms as a weakness with Luck coming into town. This game has a toss-up feel to it and in cases like that; taking the points seems like the best course of action. I'm taking Indy.
Loot's Pick to Cover the Spread: I'm betting on the Indianapolis Colts plus 2.5 points.

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys -2.5
Analysis and Pick: The Seattle Seahawks come to AT&T Stadium for an NFC wild card showdown with the Dallas Cowboys in a battle of 10-6 teams. I give both teams credit for making it this far. For the Cowboys, a 3-5 start didn't look like it would lead to this spot, but they showed a lot of guts in winning seven of their last 8 to win the division. The Seahawks were not a team fancied by many in preseason and a 4-5 start seemed to confirm that sentiment. But six wins in their last 7 games showed them to be in fine form. These teams already met this season, with Seattle beating Dallas at CenturyLink, 24-13, way back in week three.

A lot has changed since that week-three result. The Seahawks run the heck out of the ball, with Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, and QB Russell Wilson. But with rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas isn't so bad in that area themselves. Dallas also got a big boost with Amari Cooper giving their aerial game more juice. Wilson also takes to the air well, with Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin leading the way. Both teams can get you in any number of ways.

Over the course of the season, I like the way Dallas' defense got their act together. And this was despite injuries. The Seattle defense has in many ways overachieved this season, doing well in spots with a lot of new faces. They might even be ahead of schedule in many respects. However, they are still fairly mediocre and lagged behind what the Dallas "D" was able to do in the second half of the season. I see that being the difference in this matchup, with the Cowboys pulling off the win and cover.
Loot's Pick to Cover the Spread: I'm betting on the Dallas Cowboys minus 2.5 points.

Sunday's Games

Los Angeles Chargers +2.5 vs. Baltimore Ravens -2.5
Analysis and Pick: The Los Angeles Chargers come to MT&T Stadium for a wild card showdown with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Chargers were 12-4 this season, but forced to take to the road with the Chiefs taking the one-seed. They face the 10-6 Ravens, champions of the AFC North and winners of 6 of their last 7 games. It wasn't long ago these teams did battle, with the Ravens taking a week 16 game in LA, beating the Chargers, 22-10.

I'm not sure how much to heart we should take that game. Sure, when a team just beat an opponent a few weeks ago, on their field to boot, it means something. I anticipate a higher level of urgency from the Chargers this week. In week 16, they had already locked up a playoff spot, while the Ravens were in a situation where they needed a win to stay in the mix. But it wasn't just urgency that got them to the winner's circle. The injection of QB Lamar Jackson in the offense has made the Ravens a powerful running-team and they've been bowling over opponents as of late via the ground game, while flexing the best defense in football.

The Chargers, however, were without some key pieces in that game, namely Melvin Gordon. I see this side of the ball having more success this week. Rivers has a lot of weapons with which to wield. In the last game, we saw a flat Chargers' performance. I see a lot more effervescence on both sides of the ball this week, with Philip Rivers and Company unveiling the full-scope of their menace, with enough big plays on defense helping the Bolts get the cover in Baltimore.
Loot Pick to Cover the Spread: I'm betting on the Los Angeles Chargers plus 2.5 points

Philadelphia Eagles +6 vs. Chicago Bears -6
Analysis and Pick: The Philadelphia Eagles battle the Chicago Bears on Sunday in wild card action from Soldier Field. With the Eagles, you have the defending Super Bowl Champions, but a team that needed to have everything go their way late to even land in the postseason. Still, they showed incredible moxie in winning five of their last 6 contests to at least put themselves in a spot to repeat. And they are hot. The Bears, however, are the new-face in the NFC picture, a team that parlayed a strong and playmaking defense with a rising offense led by Mitchell Trubisky into a 12-4 record.

With nine wins in their last ten games, the Bears kept getting better and better. Trubisky threw 24 TDs and ran the ball well. But that defense was really the difference-maker. With 27 interceptions on the season, no team was even close to the big playmaking ability that the Chicago "D" flexed this season. The Philly defense also started playing better down the stretch. They have been really good in recent weeks, especially against the run. And while no one wanted to see Carson Wentz suffer another injury, Nick Foles is the defending Super Bowl MVP for a reason and his recent imprint on the team has been indelible.

A team like the Bears must be lauded for turning things around, maybe even ahead of schedule in most people's minds. And that defense is for real any way you want to cut it. I just think that in recent weeks, a Super Bowl hangover has given way to a team on a mission for the Eagles. I don't rule out a conclusive Chicago win, but something tells me the Eagles are going to be difficult to dissuade in this spot and I'll take them with the points.
Loot's Pick to Cover the Spread: I'm betting on the Philadelphia Eagles plus 6 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on wild-card weekend at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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