So, the regular season is done and dusted, 32 teams have been cut down to 12, and the big games start this weekend. The Patriots, and the Cowboys got the number 1 seeds in their respective decisions, Patriots was predicatable, the Cowboys not so much, especially with 2 rookies leading their charge. The Falcons were the top scorers in the league by quite a way, they had to be as their defence isn’t great, they and the solid, and now explosive Chiefs got the second seeds and have a cushy week off this week while the other 8 battle it out to travel to them in the next round. My pre-season hunch of Steelers vs Packers Superbowl (I don’t think I tipped it, but it was 33/1 and i’m sure I wrote about it somewhere) wasn’t looking good a couple of months into the season, but they’re now the hot teams coming into the Playoffs with 7 and 6 consecutive wins respectively. The playoff picture looks like the following…
As there’s only 4 games per week, Jay @jayhatton49 and I, @TouchdownTips will be doing 1 each on each day.
First up on TV on Saturday night it is the Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans. Yeah. About 2 weeks ago this might have been interesting and then Derek Carr went down with his injury and then Tom Savage went down as well who, although inexperienced, was a massive upgrade to Brock Osweiller. Now Brock is back in the picture thanks to a concussed Savage and the Raiders are down to QB3 on the depth chart, rookie Connor Cook. A somewhat meaty encounter has now almost become trivial and I can guarantee, not many people are going to sit down, dig their heels in and watch this from start to finish. With the media attention on the starting QB’s, the focus in the game will turn to the offensive lines. Who dominates the trenches will more than likely come out victorious. The Raiders have been extremely good on offense this year, powered by Derek Carr. Although he is out, the Raiders do still have a shot because the core guys Carr throws and hands off too are all there and healthy. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both have 1000 yard seasons and at last count had the most combined targets of any pairing in the league. Cook should look to those two guys early. Expect the offensive co-ordinator to give Cook lots of quick fire passes, out patterns and slants to get him in a rhythm. In theory, if this can work early, this frees up the three headed running attack of the Raiders of Murray, Washington and Richard. The trio combined for over 1700 yards good enough for 6th in the league. Murray has been decent this year and figures to be the workhorse and goal line back, his 12 TD’s prove this despite not hitting 1000 yards. Washington for me is the better option as the change of pace back and his recent success would lead me to favour him over Richard despite their similar regular season numbers. After Crabtree and Cooper, there is a bit of a drop off with the passing options after these guys but if you are looking for a TD then Seth Roberts is the other guy to look in for and to a lesser extent Clive Walford. These weapons with Derek Carr were as smooth and as potent as they come. Without him, it becomes very difficult to gauge any kind of success as rapport and confidence mean as much to a QB as patterns and experience in these sorts of high pressure games. I would not be sure about any success with this offense with Connor Cook in the game against this very good Texans D who rank first in yards allowed per game (301) and second in passing yards (201). The bookend linebackers, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney (more on him later) have 7.5 and 6 sacks respectively so good but not great numbers against an offensive line that only allowed 18 sacks all year. The overall D itself have been great when considering the other side of the ball was not living up to their end of the bargain. The team doesn’t have great turnover numbers but against an inexperienced QB, you have much greater chance of causing those turnovers and I am expecting quite a few turnovers from both sides. Raiders offense and Texans defence is strength vs strength. The flip side to this game faces weakness vs weakness. The Raiders D started poorly and despite good play recently, they are still at the lower ends of the rankings (low to mid 20’s in scoring, passing yards and running yards). Despite these numbers Khalil Mack is a legitimate game changer and he personally won games for the Raiders late in games by forcing game ending turnovers. Add in experienced vet Reggie Nelson and rookie stalwart Karl Joseph and the leadership of Bruce Irvin, you can see that the numbers don’t entirely reflect the work they have done. Where the scales tip in this game is the TERRIBLE Texans offense. Ranked 29th in scoring and passing yards their only saving grace was their running game which ranked 8th. The ineptness of Brock Osweiller ruined the expected pro-bowl season of DeAndre Hopkins and promising receiver Will Fuller’s rookie season. His 72 passer rating is a full 44 points lower than league leader Matt Ryan. The only beneficiary of Brock’s awful play is CJ Fiedorowicz but he is a mid level talent TE at best but will probably get the bulk of the targets. I would expect Brock to try and break loose some of the shackles of the regular season and to just launch the ball and hopefully fire away to Hopkins and Fuller. Hopkins is the better option so if the Texans get close to the red zone, then he should be Osweillers first and only read. The only certainty here for the Texans offense is Lamar Miller. He has around 1200 total scrimmage yards and you can bet that Miller finds himself on more ‘2017 breakout’ lists this offseason because his year has not really lived up to the expectations. Maybe he is just not that good but this week he is the only option you can rely on for the Texans. Miller does have speed and the Raiders D has been leaky in the run game. Alfred Blue might be a good shout as well thinking about it, he is as good as any backup in the league and has produced in Miller’s absence. I think that I have written a lot of words here but please do not be fooled, this will be a low scoring game and it will be hard to watch. I would say that there won’t be much offense but like I said at the start of this write up, the winner will have to win the battle on the offensive and defensive lines. The Texans have home field advantage but I doubt the fan base will exactly be buzzing about their chances given how badly they have played on offense. Will their D carry them? Possibly. Will their offense drag them down in to the pits of NFL woe and shame? More than likely. The Raiders have a rookie QB and they have all been decimated and written off. Getting the Texans was the best thing that could have happened to them but they are going to have to rely on their D to help carry them into next week. They might not make it much further into the postseason with what they have now but the Texans are the worst division winner since the 7-9 Seahawks 2010. Raiders will take this one in a slow, painful, low scoring affair.
We’re sticking to small stakes on what could be a god awful match. But however I am willing to take a shot at either of the big two for Oakland getting into the end zone. You don’t see them at 5/2 very often
- 1st half total u17.5 – 20/21 – 2pt
- Cooper anytime 5/2 (Skybet) 2pt
- Crabtree anytime 5/2 (WillHill) 2pt
The late Saturday night match sees the Detroit Lions travel to the Century Link to take on the Seattle Seahawks with the Seahawks set as 8 point favourites, and the total at 43.5. I have mentioned a few times through the season that the Seahawks home advantage is generally better than average, the bookies usually giving them 4-5 points as opposed to the usual 3 for most home teams. So that line is about right, they are a better team than the Lions, so they are rightly favourites. The total is about right too, neither team is on form at the moment, the Lions lost the last 3 and the division in the final week to the Packers, they’re also 0-5 against teams in the playoffs, just as damning for the Lions, they’re 0-3 outdoors this season and 0-2 in night matches. The Seahawks are 3-3 in their last 6 games, however their home record is 7-1, averaging a touch over 28 points per game at home and only losing to the Cardinals 34-31 due to their inability to hold out for 1 minute a fortnight ago as Carson Palmer marched his team into field goal range. Everything is pointing to a fairly comfortable home win.
The Lions, and especially Matthew (not Matt) Stafford looked a lot better last week against the Packers, but their secondary is butt, so you’d hope that he would look more impressive. He also seems to be at full health after his dislocated finger a few games back, he threw for 347 yards (his second highest of the season) and 2 TDs. He will struggle to get near to those numbers against the Seahawks, however, they have been more susceptible to the pass since Earl Thomas ended his season on IR. As it turns out he was a massive part of the Seattle defence, and while they haven’t fallen apart without him, they are definitely a weaker team, and Stafford has the ability to exploit that. He’s also rushed in for 2 TDs in the last 4 weeks. Talking of rushing, one of the top 3 best white running backs (There’s probably only 3 in total) in the game at the moment got himself noticed last week. Zach Zenner got into the endzone last week, after a double the week before against Dallas, and with Theo Riddick still out, their run game will likely rest on his shoulders again this week. Golden Tate got his usual o5.5 receptions (He’s had that in the last 5 games now), and i’ll be looking at that market again this week as the Lions will probably be chasing the game so will need to air it out. He got over 1,000 yards this season, and it’s a REVENGE game for the former Seahawks wideout. Marvin Jones has slowly been getting a little more involved in the passing game in recent weeks after being pretty poor since he went for over 200 yards way back in week 3. He finished with 7 from 5 catches last week his highest yardage in 2 months, and he’s still been getting targeted, admittedly mainly on deep passes. He’s been struggling to get separation from cornerbacks, so he’ll need to play well to get the ball in this matchup. Anquan Boldin has 8 TDs on the season, and remains a very good red zone target for the Lions, his large frame makes him very difficult for opposition defenders to stop that close to the goal line. Eric Ebron has been getting a lot of the ball in recent weeks, he’s had at least 4 receptions in each of the last 5 games, averaging 52 yards in those matches. The Seahawks have only given up 3 TDs got tight ends over the season, and finished with the 5th least yards allowed to that position.
The Seahawks haven’t been performing as we’d of expected, they’ve been conceding a lot of points, but previously have been able to out score teams, but they just can’t get their run game going recently, not even against the worst defence ever last week. It’s a worry, and it’s mainly due to the offensive line, being pretty awful all year, they do however usually overcome that deficiency at home, so it’s not all negative for them. Russell Wilson is actually their second highest rusher on the year, and he looks like he’s back to full fitness, he has said this week he’s feeling great, so that’s a big positive for someone who finds themselves under so much pressure, he needs to be as mobile as possible, the Lions have struggled against running QBs, giving up 35 yards to Dak, and 42 to Rodgers last week, so over 15.5 rushing yards for him at 5/6 on Paddypower looks like a steal. The Lions have also given up a league high nearly 73% completion rate to QBs, and an NFC high 33 passing TDs on the season. The Seahawks run game, as said is worrying, they’re constantly hit in the backfield, and Thomas Rawls, who I thought would be a monster this year, has averaged less than 2 yards per carry in the final 3 games of the season. He’s also been losing work to rookie Alex Collins in recent weeks who has looked the more effective runner (55yds from 7 attempts last week), although Rawls arguably has the better TD and big play ability. Their passing game hasn’t been stellar either, Doug Baldwin blew up against the Cardinals with 171 yards and a TD, he’s still their main guy, and I’d trust him over the other rabble they’ve got there. Kearse is average, Paul Richardson has had a bit of action of late, but is a rookie so who knows, Tyler Lockett is unfortunately on IR, and Jimmy Graham has slowed after a few very good weeks earlier in the season. It may even be worth a dart throw at someone like Tanner McEvoy who seems to pop up with the odd TD at random points, he’s got 2 from 9 catches on the season, you can get 17/2 on him at PP, compared to as low as 9/2 at bet365.
The Lions have kept most games close so far this season, but the Seahawks should have too much for them at home.
- Tate o5.5 rec. – 17/20 (Ladbrokes) 3pts
- Boldin anytime – 3/1 (Skybet, Hills) 2pts
- Wilson o15.5 rushing yards – 5/6 (Paddypower) 4pts
- Seahawks by 1-13 points – 11/10 (PP) – 4pts – (1/4 on a weekend acca)
13 pts on this game.