Best Bets for NFL Wild Card Weekend and CFB Playoff Title Game
It's postseason gambling time!
Joel Kramer (via Flickr creative commons)
For the seven years I've been doing Best Bets on here, if I had to guess, I am probably SLIGHTLY above the threshold where, with vig included, it's been profitable to follow my lead. 52 percent, 53 percent, somewhere in there? In the gambling world, I've been "just a guy."
Then, for two months this season, I went on a 70 percent tear, a run like no other! I was a Hall of Famer! The Greatest Show on Turf! Now, over the past month, RIGHT AT HOLIDAY SHOPPING TIME, I've been a lousy 8-15-1 for all of you. I really, truly suck lately.
A career of being a basic nothing, to a streaking comet, to a dud...I am basically gambling's answer to the first eight years of Kurt Warner's NFL career. Right now, I am the Giants version of Kurt Warner that fumbled the ball in the pocket once every three or four drop-backs.
So it's playoff time now, and it's time for me to become the CARDINALS VERSION OF KURT WARNER of gambling! Don't call it a comeback; I've been here for years! (screamed in my LL Cool J voice).
We have NFL wild card round games and a college football national title game this coming weekend. Let's get on the record!
TEXANS -3.5 over Raiders
Raiders/TEXANS UNDER 36.5
For a team that's had its biggest decision (Brock Osweiler's contract) and its best player's health (J.J. Watt's double-surgically repaired back) blow up in its face, this wild card matchup is a remarkably ironic stroke of luck. In one week, the Texans went from a collision course with the team that throttled them 30-0 at home in last year's playoff game to a home game with a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2003, lost their MVP candidate QB to a broken leg in Week 16, and lost their second string QB to a shoulder injury in Week 17. The Raiders will have Connor Cook, a rookie making his first career start, going against one of the best defenses in football on the road. Yes, Brock is starting this game, but he should only need to generate a touchdown and a few field goals, and history tells us that he EXCELS at that! (That and NO MORE.) So I love the Texans, and I love the UNDER considering that I think the Raiders will score no more than six points and the Texans haven't scored more than 27 all season.
SEAHAWKS -8 over Lions
We know what the Seahawks are — they are a killer home team, a bit of a lamb on the road, and a team that will bust you in the mouth defensively. The Lions are, record-wise, a bit of a phony. They finished 9-7, but played in a slew of close, one-score games in which Matt Stafford brought them back late in the game. The Lions' mode of winning is not a methodology that I see translating into success in Seattle. The Seahawks have one of the best home field advantages in all of sports, and went 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS) this season at home. They're undefeated at home under Pete Carroll in the playoffs. The Lions, meanwhile, are 0-10 on the road in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era, and outdoors this season were 0-3 SU and ATS. This Saturday night game should allow you to focus on your social activities fairly early in the evening.
Dolphins +10 over STEELERS
Damn, I love all the favorites this weekend, but I can't just go all chalk (and I'm NOT picking Eli over Aaron Rodgers...SPOILER ALERT), so I'll take the team getting the most points in a game this weekend going against a team they beat earlier this year behind a couple of hundred yards from Jay Ajayi. That will be the key for the Dolphins on Sunday, getting some sort of lead early and then trying to run the football and keep Big Ben, Bell and Brown (KILLER B'S! OH NO!) on the sideline. The Dolphins have been a pretty solid road team this season (5-3 ATS), and I trust Adam Gase to find a game plan that gives the Dolphins a chance to compete...and that's all we need. COMPETITIVENESS.
PACKERS -4.5 over Giants
Aaron Rodgers is the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League. Matt Ryan likely will win the award; Tom Brady might win it (and almost assuredly would win it if he had played the whole season). But Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football, and also is the best player whose team would suffer the most precipitous drop if he were to get injured. Rodgers called his shot at 4-6, saying the Pack would win the last six games of the season — they went 6-0 and he threw 18 touchdowns and no picks. The Giants certainly won't be intimidated by the surroundings, as they've gone 5-0 SU and ATS on the road in the postseason since 2007. This is a 100 percent play on Aaron Rodgers... and feels like a total sucker play. Screw it.
Alabama -6.5 over Clemson
I've come this far backing Nick Saban, and I won't stop now. The only thing that kept the semifinal game against Washington within striking distance of a cover, the play calling of Lane Kiffin, has been removed as a factor in this game. Nick Saban has given the Tide a Kiffin-ectomy and told Lane he can go get started on being the head coach at FAU. Steve Sarkisian will handle play-calling duties (presumably with a beer in his hand). Clemson is the closest thing to an SEC defense that the Tide will have faced all season, including in its SEC games. They're really, really good. I just think Nick Saban is going to latch onto this chance at history and not let go. Bama by 14.
Last Week: 2-4
Season Record: 62-44-2
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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