It's the Wild Card weekend in the NFL, and Mike Carlson gives his best bets from the tasty clashes...
"So what we are saying here is that Brady needs one QB sneak and one scramble for basically any positive yards to be able to make this one pay off, and given the misfires possible I think almost 2/1 to is a pretty good value here. "
The Wild Card round throws up some of the hardest picks of the NFL season. Better teams travel to play away games against lesser teams. Teams coming off the disappointment of missing a bye and home field advantage in the later rounds play teams who've just squeaked into the big dance, often on the basis of hard-fought wins, sometimes on the basis of a game against a team already locked into its playoff spot with nothing left to play for and star players to protect from injury.
Because recency bias is such a strong factor in people looking at any sports event (remember US pundit Peter King encouraging his readers in mid-season to believe in recency bias? How did that one work out?) the sort of re-set which the playoffs provide is by no means clean.
Nor were my results last week, which I had dubbed "Over Indulgence" for the holidays. I had banked on the Broncos carrying the Raiders to more than 41 points and they failed miserably; hence the Raiders won. But my other two picks, one Over (Chicago at Minnesota hitting a sloppy 40 beating the 36.5 line) and one Under (the J-E-S-T Jets and Buffalo managing to combine for 19 as the Bills rested key players, and easily fell short of their 36.5). I also added a bonus Over, the Niners at Seattle, which was set at 46.5 and wound up with the Niners, 26-21, or 47! Oh lucky me.
This week a lot of individual markets have opened up, and I think there is some life there.
Buffalo can keep strong
I think the Bills can keep this one close, though I would watch to see if Will Fuller plays or not for Houston; if he does it becomes a different sort of game, where Houston's passing game functions better, even against the Bills' tight defence.
In fact, if Fuller plays I might be wary of this bet and might instead prefer Josh Allen Completions Under 18.5 at 4/5, because I doubt the Bills get into a situation where Allen throws enough to complete 19. Without FullerV I like the under 43.5 at 10/11, with him the over at the same odds, and without him I might also take the 5/4 odds of the Bills on the moneyline.
Brady bet can pay off
Remember that in the NFL, sack yards do not count against your rush totals. So what we are saying here is that Brady needs one QB sneak and one scramble for basically any positive yards to be able to make this one pay off, and given the misfires possible I think almost 2/1 to is a pretty good value here.
I am basically picking the Pats here, for all the usual reasons about going against Belichick and Brady in the playoffs at home (but I think back to the first decade of this century and recall the Ravens and Jets beating them, when both were similarly tough teams who could pound them, and I kind of like the Titans +5.5 at 10/11 but I suspect the spread may even be higher by Saturday nigth and I'd suggesting waiting to see.
Derrick Henry can cause Pats trouble
Henry's rushing yards over/under is 88.5 which is a tricky one, because New England is a pretty good run D and if this game stays close the Titans may run him a lot, but I have no doubt they will go to him if they're close to the goal line in the second half, and the odds are better for that scenario than if you take Henry for anytime. Ryan Tannehill is a good runner too, and is 10/1 for the second half TD, if you want to cover yourself.