Here we are – we’ve all been waiting seventeen long weeks (and by extension, eleven months) for this. Playoff football is here, and we won’t be shying away from any game as we fire ahead into the new year with a fourfold.
Oakland Raiders (to win) @ Houston Texans, 17/10
This may be worst playoff game you’ll ever see. No, really – it might well be. Cook v Osweiler is hardly grabbing all the headlines, and in truth – despite me tipping the Texans and the Packers back in September, the play of Osweiler has left me thinking you should trade out of that. However, there is a saving grace in terms of indicators here.
I’m going to let you in on a secret here – I’m a draft nerd. When it came to the 2016 season, there weren’t that many great quarterbacks to pick from. In reality, Derek Carr has looked the most polished under centre since the emergence of Andrew Luck – and I consider the latter to be overrated.
The one player I really did like, though – was Connor Cook. I simply cannot back out of that now. Combined with Latavius Murray, I see the Raiders winning their first post-season game in fifteen years.
Detroit Lions (+8.0) @ Seattle Seahawks, 20/23
Eight points – are you joking? Teryl Austin is a genius, and he can certainly figure out this west coast passing style that Wilson so often depends on, simply off the back of effective read-option efficiency. I was so close to picking the Lions on the moneyline here. Eight points is huge, despite the crowd noise. Stafford wouldn’t have been able for this a year ago, but he spent an off-season miserable, realising he’d be without Calvin Johnson, and in those dark months, he became a quarterback. Silent counts or not, they cover this spread in my eyes.
Jimmy Graham is the X-factor in this. I’m not sure there’s too many plays that protect seams, as well as concentrating on contain elements on top of dealing with Graham in double teams. The only thing is – he’s not been playing to the standard I came to expect of him – just look at my fantasy woes. Despite this, Michael Bennett will remain sackless, and the well-oiled Detroit offense gets within eight.
Miami Dolphins (+10.0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 20/23
Vance Joseph is atop most NFL head coach wish lists. There is a reason for this. It’s because he doesn’t lose by ten points to teams that often, despite not being able to put up that many points. The Steelers are typically a team I feel never live up to their potential in the post-season lately and this should highlight it. Apart from the speed of Ryan Shazier, they’ve got little athleticism on defence. Artie Burns’ struggles have been highlighted at corner, and if Matt Moore can just protect the football, I think the Miami run game get them just on the right side of this.
This is easily my most shaky selection, but I’d not be more comfortable backing anything in this game – believe.
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers (To win), 5/11
When I first got into the NFL, it was 2003. I was almost eleven and I stayed up until crazy hours to watch poorly edited highlights on Channel 4. Three quarterbacks came out of the first draft class I ever witnessed. Those were Big Ben, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. As a Chargers fan, the fact Manning is regarded as a better passer than Rivers has always irked me. He’s won two Super Bowls – fair play to him – but he’s not of Rivers’ ilk and he never will be.
It’s for this reason that I’m excited to see his Giants be dismantled by Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay were my antepost bet, and I’ll stick with them here. I’m not completely sold on the spread as I think it could be very close to being on the nose, but back the better quarterback in a game where it’s going to be all about air miles.
This week’s playoff fourfold: Oakland (To win), Detroit (+8.0), Miami (+10.0) & Green Bay (To win).