For The Win: Wild Card Weekend

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

The regular season is now done, with 256 games now officially in the books. The season was good to this column, as every category finished above 50% for 2018, with both Picks of the Week (57%) and Weekly Top Plays (65.1%) well above the Las Vegas breakeven win rate of 52.4% (Check out the summary for Week 17 and all of 2018 at the bottom of this article). Not bad at all, and Week 17 helped with a strong finish. Now comes the postseason, and there are a few things to keep in mind for the playoffs. First, “For the Win” has had good success in January and February, and that all comes down to the main playoff rule – use Las Vegas against itself. Even before the first games were all lined up, everything pointed to close Wild Card Weekend contests with point spreads all under a touchdown, regardless of which teams finished in each seed spot. That means that teasers will be a big part of the plan this weekend, as will the fabulous “Wong Teaser” approach. Simply put, if you can get both “3” and “7” in your teaser, do it. With several contests this week all in the 1-6 point range, that screams teasers, but read on to see which sides are the right plays. Here we go:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+1.5 to +2) at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over/Under 47.5)

(Saturday, 4:35PM Eastern, ESPN)

The 2019 NFL Playoffs begin on Saturday with the third meeting of the year between two AFC South foes in Houston. The Colts visit the Texans for the second time this year, and the recent history has favored the road teams in this matchup. Indianapolis avenged a Week 4 loss to the Texans in Indiana by heading to Texas in Week 14 and coming out with a 24-21 win to break the Texans’ nine-game winning streak. The Colts have come on strong since their 1-5 start, losing just once in their last 10 contests (6-0 in Jacksonville). Andrew Luck has been on fire with 39 touchdown passes – exactly 39 more than last season. The Texans are one of those teams (see Carolina or Pittsburgh) that has shown flashes of playing very well this year – but also falling on their collective face. Houston’s defense is stronger than Indianapolis’ unit, but the Colts are no slouch either. For example, the Texans lead the league in yards per rush against at just 3.4 per carry – but the Colts are sixth at 3.9. Houston has given up a lot of passing yards (and a good chunk of that to T.Y. Hilton), and that could easily be the difference in this matchup. If Indianapolis can control Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins, then they should be able to win on the road once again this week. PICK: Colts

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+1.5 to +2) at DALLAS COWBOYS (Over/Under 43 to 43.5)

(Saturday, 8:15PM Eastern, FOX)

Saturday’s doubleheader of playoff football is all in Texas, with Round 2 moving to Dallas from Houston. Dallas tried – sort of – to play hard in Week 17, but they also rested Ezekiel Elliott against the Giants. The Cowboys were able to win the meaningless game against the Giants, but what did it to for their collective confidence? Dak Prescott had a very strong performance (27-44-387 passing, 4 touchdowns) but how will that translate against the Seahawks? Seattle was in a similar spot in Week 17, playing what was close to a meaningless contest (there was a slim chance of a seeding change) and winning on a last second field goal, but the confidence is already there for the Seahawks. Seattle has been in “must-win mode” since Thanksgiving to just get into the postseason, and now that they are there they could make some noise. That all starts with winning on the road in Dallas, and the offense and defense will offer up some tough challenges for the Cowboys. Russell Wilson can throw for 300+ yards or 3+ touchdowns, or he can take what the defense gives him and lead a strong running game – including himself – to move the ball. Dallas’ defense will be tested, as will Seattle’s if Prescott can perform as he did in Week 17. This should be a close contest between two teams on hot streaks in the second half of the season (Dallas went 7-1 while Seattle went 6-2, but six out of their last seven contests were wins). Seattle has good balance on offense, while Dallas can be honed in if Elliott is kept in check and Prescott is pressured. The Seahawks are the best team in turnover differential, and one of the best in stopping drivers on third downs, and those two factors will be the keys for a Seattle victory. Seattle 27, Dallas 20. PICK: Seahawks

BALTIMORE RAVENS (-2.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Over/Under 41.5 to 42)

(Sunday, 1:05PM Eastern, CBS)

Déjà vu strikes on Sunday, where the Chargers have to wake up early (10AM Pacific) to play Baltimore on the road in a rematch of a Week 16 Saturday night game where the Ravens won in Los Angeles, 22-10. Copying that game plan will be the goal for the Ravens, as they ran the ball 35 times (as opposed to just 22 passing attempts) – but there was much more to the story. Lamar Jackson had the first 200-yard passing game of his young career, but the bigger story was the Ravens’ defense forcing three turnovers and holding Los Angeles to under 200 total yards – a feat not seen since 2014. If Baltimore can play that same style then they should be able to get the home victory over the travel weary Chargers, who were very nearly the #1 AFC seed. That loss to Denver cost them dearly, as they have to play three road games (most likely) to get to the Super Bowl instead of two games in California. The weather is supposed to be great for Sunday in Maryland, but the forecast for the Chargers on offense is foggy with a good chance of multiple turnovers. Expect a lower scoring game dominated by old school rushing, defense and field goals for a 23-10 type score that favors the home team. PICK: Ravens

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+5.5 to +6) at CHICAGO BEARS (Over/Under 41)

(Sunday, 4;40PM Eastern, NBC)

The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles needed some help last week to get into the playoffs from the team that they face on Sunday, but the Bears are going to be far less cooperative this weekend. Chicago took care of business to effectively eliminate the Vikings last weekend, and that contest helped Mitch Trubisky to get tuned up for a likely lower scoring struggle with Philadelphia late on Sunday afternoon. Both the Bears and the Eagles are amongst the Top 6 NFL teams in third down defense this year, which only adds more weight to the comparison of the 2018 Bears to the 2017 Eagles. Both teams are remarkably similar – strong defense, young up-and-coming quarterback, good rushing offense and a strong tight end with some special teams mixed in well. (Note – Trey Burton will have some revenge factor going a little, but he did leave the Eagles for a better contract and with a Super Bowl ring on his finger). The winner of this matchup could easily give either the Rams or Saints (or both) trouble in the playoffs, and both offenses can control the ball and clock well enough to keep high octane opponents on the sideline. This game is the hardest call of the four, but experience in a tight game in the playoffs can make a difference in a key moment. That tips the scale – ever so slightly – towards the Eagles, who likely have a good shot at not just covering the spread but winning the game outright. Taking Philadelphia and the points seems like the smartest play, as 5-6 points are just too many in what should be a close contest with a lower Over/Under total. PICK: Eagles

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Indianapolis, Seattle, Baltimore, Philadelphia

WILD CARD PLAYS

The intent of this column is to give out not only the Plays for the Week in the NFL but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Unit scale. The more units, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game. (More units = More $$$).

Before diving straight into the picks, it must be pointed out that this time of the year is when you can really use Las Vegas against themselves. The sportsbooks spend extra time analyzing these four contests, and the lines they set are usually rather strong. To use this, it is a great time to use teasers and pair up teams you expect to win and take the leverage that those teasers give you.

In addition, the spreads this week are set up perfectly for several Wong Teasers in play. These are teasers that target margins of victories of 3 and 7, so point spreads at +1.5 to +2.5 are perfect targets as a 6-point teaser moves across both 3 and 7.

* ONE STAR *

  • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+2) at HOUSTON TEXANS
  • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+2) at DALLAS COWBOYS
  • BALTIMORE RAVENS (-2.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
  • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+6) at CHICAGO BEARS
  • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES “FOR THE WIN” (+215) at CHICAGO BEARS

SATURDAY TEASER:

  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER:
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS

“PHILLY SPECIAL”

  • 6-POINT TEASER: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+12) at CHICAGO BEARS (Over 35)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.1-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over 41.5)
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+12) at CHICAGO BEARS
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over 41.5)
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+12) at CHICAGO BEARS
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at CHICAGO BEARS (Over 35)
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over 41.5)
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+12) at CHICAGO BEARS
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at CHICAGO BEARS (Over 35)
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at DALLAS COWBOYS (Over 37)
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over 41.5)
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+12) at CHICAGO BEARS
    • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at CHICAGO BEARS (Over 35)
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at DALLAS COWBOYS (Over 37)
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Under 47.5)

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at HOUSTON TEXANS (Over 41.5)

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (1.65-1 ODDS):
    • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+8) at HOUSTON TEXANS
    • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (+8) at DALLAS COWBOYS
    • BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 10-6 (62.5%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 5-2 (71.4%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 21.7-9 (70.7%)

Regular Season

  • OVERALL: 128-119-9 (51.8%)
  • PICK(S) OF WEEK: 61-46-5 (57.0%)
  • WEEKLY TOP PLAYS: 362.1-194-3 (65.1%)

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com