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Reply To: ♦ NFC Wild Card Playoffs ♦ Sunday 1/10/16

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JOE GAVAZZI

Seattle Seahawks (-5) at Minnesota Vikings
1:05 ET NBC
Biggest home field playoff edge of the Wild Card round goes to the Minnesota Vikings with the weather forecast calling for wind chill factors in negative numbers. In addition, the Seahawks will be playing this 1:00 ET start at 11:00 am body time. They enter this contest at 10-6 SU, compared to the Vikings’ 11-5 SU. Must note that all Wild Card home dogs are 13-9 SU, 15-6 ATS, including 9-3 ATS, if they have the better record!

The Vikings closed the season with a (20-13) win against rival Green Bay to claim the divisional crown. In so doing, they outrushed the Packers 151-76. Not that it did them any good, for other than the pride factor, they are still relegated to the Wild Card round, albeit the advantage of a home game. They are still asked to suit up against a Seattle team with far greater experience edge, as they have appeared in consecutive Super Bowls. Though the Vikings improved from 7-9 SU to 11-5 SU this season, much of it came courtesy of a relatively weak schedule. Last week’s victory vs. Green Bay was their only regular season win against a team who was greater than .500 at the time they played them. Must give credit to 2nd year HC Zimmer for turning around the fortunes of the Vikings. He did so with a blue collar work ethic that featured one of the NFL’s best running games that averaged 30/138/4.7 overland. It was aided by an outstanding defense allowing just 19 PPG. There was, however, inadequate balance in the passing game and they enter today being outgained by an average of 344-321 per game. That has not stopped them, however, from entering today’s playoffs on an under the radar 21-5 ATS mark. Today, Minnesota is asked to take a major step-up against an opponent, who defeated them (38-7) on this field December 6th. In that game, the Seahawks rushed for 173 yards and held a commanding yardage edge of 433-125.

That win vs. the Vikings was the 3rd victory in a season-ending run that would see this veteran Super Bowl team close 6-1 SU ATS. Though the Seahawks have plenty of playoff experience, note that HC Carroll is just 8-5 SU ATS in post-season play. That strong stretch run was aided by an improved offense that averaged 32 PPG on 402 YPG in the last half of the season. The Seahawks closed out the regular season with a resounding (36-6) victory against division champion Arizona, in which they outrushed the Cardinals 37/145 to 13/27, while profiting from a (+3) net TO margin for a (36-6) victory. Aided by the return of RB Lynch and the fact the Seahawks won their last 5 road games of the regular season by an average of 22 PPG, it appears that Seattle is once again primed for playoff success. For, as well as the Minnesota defense played this season, it is the Seattle stop unit that allowed just 17 PPG, 292 YPG, 5.1 defensive YP play and 82/3.6 overland (that is the superior stop unit on the field today).

Green Bay Packers (-1) at Washington Redskins
4:40 ET FOX
As noted in the previous game analysis of this week, should Washington remain a home underdog in this contest, we must remember that all Wild Card home dogs are 13-9 SU, 15-6 ATS. This is a game where it certainly seems that the home team has the more positive momentum. As a result of the Packers’ (20-13) loss to the Vikings last week, they have been relegated to the road for this Wild Card Playoff game. Here they will face a Washington team, who enters with far more positive momentum. Let’s take a look inside the numbers to see how that may translate to pointspread success in this game today.

After a 4-12 SU season of last, the Redskins rebounded with a 9-7 SU ATS mark in 2016. They concluded the season with a (34-23) outright underdog win against the Dallas Cowboys in which they benefitted from a (+4) net TO margin and outrushed the Cowboys 146-100. Still, it must be noted that they allowed Dallas’ QB Moore (in just his 2nd start) to lead the Cowboys to 412 yards through the air. In that regard, it is a negative for Wild Card teams, who come off an outright underdog division win in the previous week. That win, however, gives them positive momentum of 4 consecutive victories, as they line up for their first playoff game since 2012. QB Cousins came to life for HC Gruden in running the ball control West Coast offense in the latter stages of the season. Cousins completed 72% of his passes with a 23/3 ratio. Now, the Redskins have made the playoffs for just the 3rd time in 10 years. Consider the Peter Principle to be at work, as they may be well satisfied in just ascending to this playoff level after last year’s gloomy 4-12 SU season. Playoff teams who exceed their win total from the previous season by as great a margin, as did the Redskins, have a less than 10% opportunity for ATS success this season. Lest you get too excited about the Redskins’ recent 4-game winning streak, note that it came against the Bears, the Bills, the Eagles and the Cowboys, none of whom dot this year’s playoff landscape. In fact, Washington played just 3 fellow playoff teams this season. Though the games were all on the road, it resulted in a 0-3 SU ATS mark, including losses of (34-20) to the Jets, (27-10) to New England and (44-16) to Carolina. It may be a big step to ask them to succeed against a Green Bay team, who is making its 7th consecutive playoff appearance.

But, this certainly is not looking like a vintage Green Bay playoff team. They limped home with a 4-6 SU ATS mark, including losses in their final 2 games of the season by scores of (38-6) at Arizona and (20-13) at home to Minnesota last week with the division title on the line! In that game, they were outrushed by the Vikings 151-76. Main issue is a battered and bruised offensive line that has allowed playoff savvy QB Rodgers to be sacked 14 times in the last 2 weeks. Those results certainly do not give Packer backers much hope.