Wild-card weekend: Focus on outright winners

By Brent Musburger  (VSiN managing editor) 

January 4, 2019 01:28 PM

The best advice I can give you for wild-card Weekend is pick winners, but don’t get so obsessed about the lines.

Steve Makinen, editor of VSiN’s Point Spread Weekly, found that the outright winner owns a point-spread record of 37-4-1 ATS in the last 42 NFL wild-card playoff games. I was stunned when I saw this.

Interestingly, there were two non-covers a year ago. Jacksonville (–9) edged Buffalo 10-3, and New Orleans (–6½) failed to cover against Carolina 31-26. But those were clearly rare exceptions.

With that in mind, let’s jump into the four games.

Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET – ESPN/ABC

Indianapolis (o/u 48) at Houston (–1)

This is the only one of the wild-card tilts that puts divisional opponents against one another. Both the Colts and the Texans won on the other team’s field as they head into Round 3 of their AFC South rivalry, and that’s not a fluke. The last five years the road team in their matchups has gone 7-1-2 ATS. The Colts and Andrew Luck have been especially good against better defenses. Against teams that allow fewer than 20 ppg, Indy is 7-0. But I have a bias against NFL teams playing consecutive weeks on the road. The Colts played a win-or-go-home game last Sunday night at Tennessee, shortening their work week. So I’m going to back Deshaun Watson in Saturday’s playoff. Last year two road teams prevailed in the Wild Card round – Tennessee at Kansas City, and Atlanta at the L.A. Rams – but both of those winners played Week 17 at home.

Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET – Fox

Seattle (o/u 43) at Dallas (–2)

The Seahawks are the road team that I like the best this weekend. With less than a week’s rest they are 7-1-2 ATS away from home. Pete Carroll does a good job of preparing his teams emotionally. He always has, and I don’t see why this will be any different. The last time they met in a playoff game was 12 years ago, and everybody remembers quarterback Tony Romo fumbling the snap on a potential game-winning field goal. More recently, Seattle has won the last three times it has played Dallas, including 24-13 this season in Week 3.

Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET – CBS

L.A. Chargers (o/u 41½) at Baltimore (–2½)

Two weeks ago the Ravens traveled to the West Coast and beat the Chargers 22-10. The AFC’s best defense held Philip Rivers and the Chargers to under 200 total yards. Everyone knows that Rivers and Co. are dangerous on the road, and as Makinen points out, they are 24-11-1 ATS the last 10 years against teams with a winning record. A lot of money will come down on the Chargers as a result of that stat, but my travel bias reminds me that this game starts at 10 o’clock west-coast time. I will side with the Ravens and keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET – NBC

Philadelphia (o/u 41) at Chicago (–6)

Santa Foles, as he is being called in Philadelphia, is one of the best stories of the playoffs. But it says here that the defending champions’ run ends this weekend against the NFC’s best defense. Foles will quarterback the Eagles with extra padding protecting his bruised ribs, but this is not the defense that you want to go against when you are not 100 percent. Even when Foles is getting a break on the sideline, Mitch Trubisky has not thrown an interception in the last three weeks. Obviously, I’m riding with the Bears in this game.

Finally, my teaser specials this week are a pair of six-pointers. Take the Bears to pick-’em and the total up to 47 to go under. And move the Seahawks up 8 and go under 49.

Remember, cashin’ playoff tickets is what it’s all about.

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