We've had 17 weeks of regular season NFL action, and the entire body of work is now in the books. It's onto playoff time, where hopefully, my four months of mediocrity turn into something special. Something that can pay off all of these damn shopping bills from December, and help pay for my wedding in February. We have 11 games left, fellow degenerates, to make this happen.
It's wild card round time in Houston, and we're ready to play! (Yes, you're supposed to sing that last sentence in Clay Walker's voice to the tune of "Football Time in Houston," go back and do it. I'll wait.) Here are the best bets for the four wild card round games, beginning with your Houston Texans....
Bills +3 over TEXANS
I know J.J. Watt is coming back for this game — it sounds like he will be used as more of a part time player than a "96 percent of the snaps" guy, like he usually is, but still, it's nice — and I know the Texans, particularly Deshaun Watson, have the benefit of last year's bloodying they sustained at the hands of the Colts in the wild card round. Still, I can't get the images of Watson against the Bills last season, and Watson against the Panthers (same style defense as Buffalo) this season, out of my head. This is going to be a street fight. Ultimately, it will come down to the quarterback who makes a play for his team and/or the quarterback who commits the key turnover. To that end, I'll take Watson over Josh Allen, but barely. Texans 19, Bills 17. The Bills cover, the Texans move on.
PATRIOTS -4.5 over Titans
When the Patriots went out and lost to the Dolphins at home in Week 17, blowing a 2-seed and first round bye in the process, the gateway opened for people to climb aboard the 6-seed underdog Titans, and the gateway opened for the line to hover in a very manageable area, if you want to take the favorite. Look, I get it. This may be a day of reckoning for the Patriots, and this might be the day the dynasty dies. However, we've said that about a half dozen other times in the last five years, and it never seems to actually occur. I'll take Tom Brady and a raucous, drunken Patriot nighttime crowd over the relative playoff inexperience of Ryan Tannehill and Mike Vrabel, as a head coach.
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SAINTS -8 over Vikings
The Saints might be the strongest 3-seed in the history of the NFL postseason in the 12-team playoff format. They're 13-3 on the season, and according to Football Outsiders, they are the 4th best team in football (4th best offense, 11th best defense). Minnesota is actually the 7th best team according to FO, but I can't get past Kirk Cousins' record of 2-10 over the last two seasons in games against teams with winning records, and his career playoff record of 0-1, more about the quantity of playoff games, or lack thereof. Also, this is the Saints' first playoff game since being screwed out of a Super Bowl berth a year ago on a bad pass interference no-call. If the journey for revenge is real, it begins on Sunday. Saints by 17.
Seahawks -1.5 over EAGLES
The Eagles had to win four in a row just to make the playoffs, while the Seahawks are 1-3 down the stretch, but came within literally a few inches of beating the top seeded 49ers in Week 17. These two teams met in Week 12, with the Seahawks winning 17-9 in Philly. The Seahawks were 5-2-1 ATS on the road this season, 7-1 SU, so they won't be intimidated by the environment. The Seahawks are one of the more banged up teams heading into the playoffs, but fortunately for Seattle, the Eagles look like a M*A*S*H unit. The Seahawks have the better, more experienced quarterback. Russell Wilson has more Super Bowl wins (one) than Carson Wentz has playoff starts (none). Seattle wins by a touchdown.
LAST WEEK: 3-3
SEASON NFL ATS RECORD: 49-52-1 (48.5 percent)