NFL: Wild Card Weekend Handicapping

Chiefs (-3) at Texans: A lot has changed to since the Chiefs and Texans played in Week 1. Kansas City lost five straight after their win at Houston but followed that up with 10 straight victories. It’s hard to find an impressive opponent in that 10-game stretch. They beat the Steelers with Landry Jones starting and the Broncos in Peyton Manning’s worst game of his career. The Texans started the season 2-5 but have bounced back to win the AFC South. The Houston defense has been dominant down the stretch.

The Chiefs are a field goal favorite on the road meaning they would be about a six-point favorite on a neutral field. This means Kansas City would be a nine-point favorite at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs closed as a 6.5-point favorite last week against the Raiders, and I think Houston is a better team than Oakland. So there’s line vale on the Texans but I don’t trust Houston enough to make this an official pick.

I am going to pass on picking a side in this game. One way I would approach this game is to take the Chiefs to cover the first half spread, and then take the Texans in the second half. The total of this game is 40 and I would only be able to take the under.

Steelers (-3) at Bengals: Four weeks ago the Bengals closed as a one-point favorite at home against the Steelers. Cincinnati still had Andy Dalton but money came in on the Steelers because they faced a must-win situation. Now there has been a four-point line move in a game with the same two teams at the same stadium.

Since the Steelers 33-20 win that day, AJ McCarron is now starting for the Bengals after Andy Dalton suffered a thumb injury. McCarron has been serviceable and the Bengals offense hasn’t struggled too much. Meanwhile the Steelers had an embarrassing loss to the Ravens but with help from the Bills, made the postseason. DeAngelo Williams is banged up and it doesn’t look promising that he will play.

I don’t think the line movement is justified in this situation. There is great line value in the Bengals and I think they will cover and possibly win this game.

Pick: Bengals (+3) over Steelers

Seahawks (-5) at Vikings: Here’s another example of a recent rematch. The Vikings hosted the Seahawks on December 6 and the line was around a pick ’em most of the week until Seattle got up to -3 on game day. The Seahawks dominated early and won 38-7. The Vikings have looked very impressive since the loss by going 3-1 and 4-0 against the spread.

Now in the rematch the line has settled at five points. This line is saying the Seahawks would be an eight-point favorite on a neutral field, and around a 12-point favorite at home depending on how you grade their home field advantage. The Seahawks were an 11-point favorite at home against the Rams in Week 16, and Minnesota is clearly better than St. Louis.

Despite the line value on the Vikings, I’m going to stay away from picking a side in this game because of the weather. It’s going to be chilly in the Twins Cities, and game time temperature looks like it will be zero degrees. I don’t see how the Vikings offense will move the ball so one way to play this game would be to go under Teddy Bridgewater passing yards in a prop bet. The total of 39.5 seems low but I wouldn’t be surprised if points are hard to come by here.

Packers (-1) over Redskins: The Packers are a mess right now. They ended the season on a 4-6 run but that included a win on a Hail Mary against the Lions and a victory against the Raiders where they were outplayed in the box score. They face a Redskins team that has only been a favorite twice all season and have not won a game against a team with a winning record.

It’s hard to believe that this line is basically a coin flip. On December 7, the Redskins closed as a two-point favorite against Matt Cassel and the Cowboys. Now they are only a one-point underdog against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

I’m still looking closer at this game but would consider buying low and taking the Packers here. If I do, I will make it an official pick before game time on my Twitter account. I will post any other picks I have this week on Twitter.


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