College and Pro Football: This Weekend's Best Bets
Sometimes, you need to take one step backwards to take two steps forward, and for me that happened earlier this week.
One of my small plays during the week in college football was Ole Miss as a three-point underdog to TCU. I figured TCU might come out flat because of their disappointment with being left out of the College Football Playoff, and nearly every "person with an opinion I respect" was on Ole Miss (which actually, unto itself, should've been a red flag).
So I happily put a sawbuck or two down on the Rebels and settled in to watch some college football. And it was evident from the first three plays of the game -- all aborted, horrific passes by Ole Miss
train wreck quarterback Bo Wallace -- that I was on the wrong side.
I don't think I've ever watched a game with as small a spread feeling like I had ZERO chance of winning a wager. And it was all because of one position -- the quarterback matchup. Trevone Boykin was a Heisman dark horse this season. Bo Wallace is a hot mess, especially with Ole Miss's best receiver injured.
It was something so blatantly obvious, I felt like a total fool for backing Wallace, and I vowed I would not let that happen again. At least not this week.
So with that in mind, here are my picks for the four NFL wild card round games this weekend...
PANTHERS -6.5 over Cardinals Has there ever been a team that's suffered a six-game losing streak that started on October 19 that has gone on to win a division? Granted, the division in question is the NFC South, which is giving the 2010 NFC West a run for its money as worst division since expansion in 2002. But still. The Panthers actually closed the season strong, with a four-game winning streak during which Cam Newton was almost lost for the season in a car accident. The Cardinals are starting third stringer Ryan Lindley. Again, I refuse to have that "Bo Wallace" feeling again, so suck it, Lindley.
STEELERS -3 over Ravens Much has been made of Joe Flacco's bounce-back season under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, in a season in which Flacco's numbers look like a "Matt Schaub heyday" doppelgänger -- almost 4,000 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions. Well, I never would've taken Matt Schaub back in his heyday, and on the road against a division rival being quarterbacked by somebody significantly better (what up, Big Ben?), I'm not taking him here. Also, since the merger, Pittsburgh is undefeated in playoff games against divisional opponents. So there's that.
COLTS -3 over Bengals Andrew Luck and the Colts are beasts at home, and are tailor-made to play well against teams that don't rush the passer all that well. Andy Dalton is a mess on the road, and the Bengals have fewer sacks as a team than J.J. Watt. Any questions here?
COWBOYS -6.5 over Lions Sticking with our QB-centric theme, did you know that in his career, Matthew Stafford is 0-16 against teams that finish the season above .500? In other words, Stafford is the ultimate lamb killer and one of the few respected quarterbacks who should have a worse big-game reputation than Tony Romo. These Cowboys are built to succeed in the postseason, at least offensively, and should have more than enough juice to get to a division round game in Green Bay (where Aaron Rodgers will throw for about 400 yards on them).
And a couple of bonus college leftover bowls....
Kansas State +1.5 over UCLA (Alamo Bowl) I trust Bill Snyder having his team ready and thinking this is the Super Bowl. Jim Mora Jr., I trust, is interviewing for at least three other openings.
Washington -6 over Oklahoma State (Cactus Bowl) Playing this one because I need a sixth game and I'm getting a decent Pac-12 team versus a barely bowl eligible Big 12 team at under a touchdown. Yes, please.
Last week: 3-3 Season total: 53-54-1
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