January 3, 2015

It’s wild-card weekend!

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

Welcome to the playoffs!

While it’s sad to see the NFL regular season go, we’re in for an intense 11 games of playoff football over the next month.

There are a lot of fans that have seen their teams sent home and won’t have anything at stake, but it’s not like we want a longer regular season, right?

When you consider a team like Arizona is now down to its third-string QB and was seriously considering starting a fourth-stringer just to try him out last week, well that tells you about the never-ending injury situation in the league.

But enough about the dark side of the game; we’re here to celebrate the greatness that is post-season football. On to the picks!

The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPs.

CAROLINA -6 over Arizona

The Panthers have found their way in their secondary and became a really good team in December. They’re really coming together when it matters most, which makes them a very scary opponent.

On the other side completely is the Arizona Cardinals. This is a team that started out strong before being decimated by injuries. They failed to score a TD in two out of their last three games and haven’t looked right since Carson Palmer got hurt.

This should be a low-scoring game, which makes taking the points a little enticing, but just can’t make Ryan Lindley on the road in a huge game.

PITTSBURGH -3 over Baltimore

This classic rivalry game was the easy pick for the Saturday nighter.

While the Steelers torched the Ravens in the previous meeting, they’ll be without top running back Le’Veon Bell. That could make a big difference, but then you remember how great Antonio Brown has been for the past two years.

With Big Ben targeting Brown against an awful Ravens secondary, it might not matter that Bell is out.

The Ravens have potential to burn the Steelers, too. Pittsburgh is also quite vulnerable in the secondary and can be beaten deep. I’m not sure even the return of Troy Polomalu will help with his free-wheeling ways. This one could be a stark contrast to the defensive mindsets of both sides, with plenty of yards piled up on both sides.

The hosts should take this one though, even though it’s always most likely that either side wins by three.

Cincinnati +3.5 over INDIANAPOLIS

This rematch definitely won’t go the same way as the first.

The Colts won’t have Ahmad Bradshaw, who was a huge part of Indy’s offence when these two teams first met.

With T.Y. Hilton not at 100%, the Colts passing game isn’t the same. This is a team that backed into the playoffs too, taking it easy down the stretch.

The Bengals were fighting to the end and even saw Andy Dalton win a game in prime time.

After three straight years of home playoff defeats, this could be the first time that Cincy actually advances.

Remember, the Colts didn’t do so well when facing equal or better teams this season, earning them the moniker of the “good bad team.”

But, if A.J. Green is ruled out for this game, I’ll fully reverse this pick.

Detroit +6.5 over DALLAS

So who will choke this one away?

Both teams have a propensity to let big games slip away, although that might be an overblown storyline in this one.

What really matters is that Detroit’s defence with the unsuspended Ndamukong Suh is really good at stopping the run and could put a big damper on the Cowboys offence. If the Lions can also take away Dez Bryant with a double-team, it might not matter if Matthew Stafford misses his targets.

Dalllas’ defence is also nothing to write home about and could be exposed by the likes of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

And when you remember that the Cowboys are worse at home than on the road, this might not end so well for Dallas.

Last week: 11-5

This season: 141-111-4

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