Friday, January 2, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend - Against the Spread

Balt +3 Pitt -3
This game will come down to the health and availability of Le’Veon Bell, who did not practice Thursday. Assuming Bell is out; the game will fall squarely on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger. Unfortunately for Ben, he doesn’t have a reliable pass blocking running back to protect him against the stout front seven of the Ravens; who welcome back NT Haloti Ngata. With Ngata’s return and nobody to protect Ben, perhaps the Ravens try to get pressure with just four and drop into coverage to protect their leaky secondary; who gave up the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers this year.  This rivalry game sets up well for Flacco, who I think will pepper Steve Smith Sr. often to set up Torrey Smith. I really like Justin Forsett as well because the Steelers allowed the second most receptions to running backs in the last 4 weeks of the season. I’ll take the Ravens and the points due to Bell’s current status.

AZ +6.5 Car-6.5

For this one, I think it’s going to swing on a special team’s play and especially defensive turnovers. With this game being a later start, Arizona will be taking the field the same time as they would at home for an early game; so that west coast travel won’t be as big of a factor. With the Cardinals tough corners and a good run defense, I think Cam Newton and Greg Olsen will have to dink and dunk down the field. I don’t think the Panthers offense is set up to blow out the Cardinals; especially coming off their personal Super Bowl last week in Atlanta. But the Panthers defense is so hot right now, against a backup quarterback that was awful in the second half against the 49ers last week. The Panthers defense will dominate field position and with some turnovers, allow Graham Gano to kick them into the divisional round. I’ll take the hottest team in the league right now at home, despite giving up the points. Give me Carolina -6.5.

Detroit +6.5 Dallas -6.5
The Cowboys were 8-0 on the road and just 4-4 at home and the time is right for Romo, to be Romo. The stage is set, everything is too perfect.  For me, I don’t care how good the Cowboys have been this year; they are always that one Romo play away from choking in crunch time.  See Romo versus Peyton Manning in Week 5 last year and that late key interception after he was lights out all day.  I’m confident in this because, despite the woes of what should be a dominant Lions offense, it’s been their defense that’s kept them in the playoff hunt this year. That Defense gets Ndamukong Suh off suspension after winning his appeal and the offense gets veteran center Dominic Raiola back. Conversely the Cowboys will be without their best defensive lineman, Henry Melton; which hurts a defense already at the bottom of the league in sacks this year.  Stafford returns to his home state of Texas and has too many weapons, that even if Cowboys get up in the score, they have the firepower to come back. I’ll confidently take the Lions and 6.5 points.

Cinn +3 Indy -3
This game will come down to good Andy Dalton, or bad Andy Dalton. Because aside from the quarterback position, I believe the Bengals have the better overall defense and offense. Additionally, from what I saw last week with the Bengals pounding Jeremy Hill and getting creative with Giovani Bernard in the slot, I think they will have no problem pacing the Colts offense if necessary. I recognize it’s tough to go against one of fantasy football’s best, Andrew Luck and a kicker like Adam Vinatieri, who did miss his first field goal of the year last week. But in what is projected to be a closely contended game and one the Colts may win on the money line with a Vinatieri field goal, I’ll hedge myself against bad Andy Dalton and take the Bengals and the points.