Wild card teams worth a look in futures

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The 2018 NFL regular season ended with some dramatic and exciting finishes to a number of Week 17 games, several of which had impacts on the teams that made the Playoffs as a result of Week 17 and also affected the seedings.

Most sports books offer revised odds to win the Super Bowl once the Playoffs field is set and at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook the two 1 seeds indeed have the shortest odds of the 12-team field.

New Orleans is the overall 9-4 favorite (+225) with Kansas City next at 4-1. The two 2 seeds, the Rams and Patriots, are next with odds of 5-1 and 6-1 respectively. he NFC third seed, Chicago, is 9-1 while the AFC’s third seed, Houston, is more generously priced 25-1, a longer price than both fourth-seeded Baltimore (20-1) and the fifth-seeded Chargers (16-1). The Colts are 25-1.

The balance of the NFC field is also priced at long odds with both fourth-seeded Dallas and fifth-seeded Seattle at 25-1. The longest shot in the field is the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles at 30-1.

It’s usually very easy to make a case for the No. 1 seeds to advance to the Super Bowl. After all, those teams had the best records within their conference. Few would be surprised if the Chiefs and Saints meet in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs scored 30 or more points in a dozen of their 16 games. And although the Saints were held to 14 or fewer points in three of their last four games they also scored 30 points or more in 10 games.

But if you are looking for a pair of longer shots to meet in Atlanta, how about the Bears and the Chargers? Chicago led the NFL in defense, allowing just 4.8 yards per play. The Chargers won seven true road games this season. Their eighth road game was in LA against the Rams.

Saturday

Colts (+2.5) at Texans (Over/Under 42): Indianapolis was arguably the hottest team in the NFL going back more than halfway through the season. After starting 1-5 the Colts won 9 of 10, becoming just the third team to make the Playoffs after such a horrid start. And the Colts’ run was no fluke. Even including that poor start the Colts, for the season, outscored their foes by 89 points, At the same time, only two of those wins were against teams that made the Playoffs (Houston and Dallas). In fact, only five of Indy’s 16 games were against teams that are in the Playoffs.

The teams traded three-point point road wins in their meetings. Both lost to the Patriots and Eagles but defeated Dallas.

Houston QB DeShaun Watson has great versatility whereas the Colts’ Andrew Luck is more of the prototypical pocket passer who can run effectively when needed. Houston had the better overall defense for the season but the Colts came on strong over the latter part of the season. At a FG or less the preference is to back the home team in what also handicaps as a lower, rather than higher-scoring game. TEXANS and UNDER

Seahawks (+2.5) at Cowboys (41.5): Both teams played outstanding football over the second half of the season. Dallas won seven of its final eight games (6-1-1 ATS) while Seattle won six of seven (4-2-1 ATS).

Seattle coach Pete Carroll did perhaps his best coaching job this season, remolding a defense that had lost several key performers over the past few seasons. QB Russell Wilson rates an edge over his Dallas counterpart, Dak Prescott, with a significant edge in big-game postseason experience. 

Both teams were excellent in avoiding turnovers with Seattle leading the NFL with just 11 giveaways (Dallas had 18). The Seahawks were also better at forcing takeaways (26 vs. 20) and considering how statistically even these teams are turnovers could be decisive.

There are two teams I was hoping to play ‘ON’ during the Playoffs but unfortunately one of them will not make it to the Divisional round. I’ll take experience over the home field and look for Seattle to pull the minor upset and advance. SEAHAWKS and UNDER

Sunday

Chargers (+2.5) at Ravens (42): Much as with the matchup of Seattle and Dallas, I was looking to play on both the Chargers and Ravens during the Playoffs.

These teams met just two weeks ago in LA with the Ravens winning 22-10, with a total yardage edge of 361-198. Both teams ended regular season play strongly as Baltimore won six of its final seven and the Chargers won five of their final six.

The Ravens have turned to rookie QB Lamar Jackson after he filled in well for the injured Joe Flacco and Jackson’s athleticism has made it difficult for defenses to contain him when he runs.

Of course the Chargers have already witnessed Jackson’s ability and should be better able to devise a defensive game plan for this rematch. 

The Chargers had the better record and won all seven of their true road games in the regular season. Hopefully this line will be bet up to +3. CHARGERS and ­UNDER

Eagles(+6) at Bears (41): Philly QB Nick Foles was banged up in the Wild Card clinching win in Washington, suffering bruised ribs. But he is expected to play against Chicago.

Statistically, the Bears enjoy several key edges. including the better rushing game (121 ypg vs. 98 ypg) and a much better defense, allowing more than a yard per play less than the Eagles (5.8 vs. 5.9). Foles is a better QB than Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky but the second-season pro has made strides under Bears coach Matt Nagy.

Yet part of this handicap must consider the possibility of Foles not playing the full game given the condition of his ribs and the aggressive nature of Chicago’s defense. Should the Eagles have to rely on lightly tested Nate Sudfeld the Bears will enjoy a huge advantage. BEARS and OVER

Last week: 6-10

Season: 123-126-6

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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