Wildcard Weekend! Saturday night previews

Colts (+1) @ Texans: 48

Well, this line has come in! It opened with the Colts getting 2.5, I knew I should have taken my acca at the start of the week… These two split the series during the regular season, both games decided by 3 points, the first being the overtime debacle from Frank Reich leaving the Texans an easy field goal to win the match, the second a far tighter affair. The Colts have looked really good this year, I’ll admit that I was one of those who thought that Andrew Luck might never be fit again but I’m happy to say I was wrong on that front, he’s been brilliant this year, 5th in yards, 2nd behind Paddy’ ‘homes in TDs thrown, 2nd best in INTs. He’s had a great season thanks in part to a greatly improved offensive line, he’s 2nd only to Drew Brees in sacks taken by QBs who’ve played most of the season, they went 5 games in a row earlier in the year without allowing a hit. The line vs the Texans pass rush could well be the key to this game.

The passing game runs mainly through TY Hilton, he topped 1,200 yards, at an average of 90 per game, finishing 6th in that stat and he topped 100 yards in both of the matches against the Texans this season, the last one with 199, to say that he’s the only name in the WR corps could be seen as a little disparaging, but honestly, Zach Pascal, Dontrelle Inman, Chester Rodgers? Well they’ve all been important for the Chiefs this year, possibly not as important as the tight ends though, Eric Ebron has finally lived up to his draft position (You may have heard he was picked ahead of Odell Beckham) with 13 TDs this year, second amongst all pass catchers. Even Mo Alie-Cox, Eric Swoope and Ryan Hewitt have chipped in with TDs this year. – Over the last 6 weeks the Texans have been the worst in the league against the Tight end.

The running game has really picked up over the last month as well, Marlon Mack has been very good with 2 100 yard games in the last 3, and 5 TDs in his last 4 games: He and Nyheim Hines have formed a good partnership with Hines being active in the passing game, without Mack playing in their first encounter Hines scored 2 TDs against the Texans. There’s also Jordan Wilkins who has barely been used in the second half of the year but isn’t awful. – But it’s worth noting that the Texans have been the best in the league against the run in the last 6 weeks, possibly because the secondary has been so poor everyone has just been throwing.

The defense is average but has the leading tackler by quite a way in rookie LB Darius Leonard who somehow didn’t make the pro-bowl.

The Texans boast a very good pass rush which has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks, JJ Watt is 2nd in sacks with 16.5 this year. I’m still not sure he’s what he used to be but it’s more than enough for most offensive lines in the league, oh and he’s also top in forced fumbles as well…He and Jadeveon Clowney on the other side of the line have been destructive to say the least, they will do well to find a way through the Colts offensive line though and as above it will probably be the key to the game. One word of caution on this side of the ball, Watt appeared to injure his elbow last week, he has said he’s all right during the week and I wouldn’t expect it to keep him from being a beast, but still.

DeShaun Watson, for some reason in a fairly meaningless second half last week, was constantly running the ball finishing with his second highest rush yards of the season, and what should have been more than 1 TD. It was a weird decision given what is behind him at QB, but he came through unscathed and threw the ball well too, especially given what he’s got to throw to.

Even more so than the Colts they’re reliant on one player in the receiving game, DeAndre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins is cementing his position as a top 3, and possibly the best WR in the league this year, he is yet to drop a ball. HE HASN’T DROPPED A CATCH ALL YEAR! 115 catches and no drops. It’s remarkable as they’re not exactly easy catches for the most part, it seems he’s inevitably fighting with at least one cornerback for the ball and somehow always seems to emerge with the completion. He’s great fun to watch when it’s not against your team, he finished 2nd in yards behind Julio and with 11 TDs, good for 5th in the league for pass catchers. Outside of him it looks like Keke Coutee is finally fit enough to go from the hamstring injury that’s kept him out for seemingly the last 2 months of the season. He was a vital chain mover for them when fit and without their mid-season signing Demaryius Thomas (bust Achilles) they are currently relying on Vyncint Smith and DeAndre Carter who was cut by the Eagles a month or so ago. They do have 3 tight ends who can provide assistance, Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins and Ryan Griffin (ordered from most to least interesting) although Griffin leads the three in targets and receptions they’re rarely red-zone targets.

Lamar Miller is somehow an effective running back. I have never seen it in real life but his stats are remarkably good, nearly 1,000 yards and 5 TDs won’t blow anyone away but he does a decent job for the team although he has been struggling with an ankle injury he did get 17 carries last week which must be a good sign for him. If he does drop out then Alfred Blue will come in but definitely can’t be relied on to do, well, anything really. D’Onta Foreman is one of “my guys” – They have eased him in since his return from a blown Achilles late last year and he was a healthy scratch last week despite scoring a TD the previous week. I’ll be checking team news to see if he’s involved.

The Colts pass rush has been average but the Texans have allowed more QB hits than any team in the league, and that’s with one of the most mobile QBs in the league back there, he was constantly scrambling against the Jags last week so the Colts may well be able to cause some issues.

So… I think the Colts will win. I think they’re the better roster and are better coached. The key will be keeping Watson under wraps, and obviously limiting Nuk as much as possible. It’s worth noting that of the league best 18 sacks the Colts have allowed this year, 5 of them have come in the games vs the Texans. The Texans are the worst in the league at allowing sacks with 62 on the season! – Player props? Well, total sacks o5.5 looks like a solid bet (8/11 on 365) – TD Scorers – Nuk (4/5 Redzone) and Ebron (13/8 Skybet) at shorter prices, the tight ends Jordan Thomas (5/1 Fred) and Mo Alie-Cox (16s 365) at bigger prices. – It’s the highest total of the weekend by some way and I think despite it being a playoff game which are usually lower scoring that it will go over 48.

Colts to win and obviously cover, over 48.

  • Colts moneyline – 21/20 (Skybet) – 2pts
  • Ebron anytime – 13/8 (Skybet) – 2pts
  • o5.5 sacks – 8/11 (365) – 3pts
  • Mo Alie-Cox anytime – 16/1 (365) – 1pt
  • Deshaun Watson o30.5 rushing yards – 10/11 (PP) – 5pts
  • Keke Coutee o38.5 rec. yards – 10/11 (PP) – 2pts

Seahawks (+2) @ Cowboys: 43

Run, run, run, pass, and then run some more! That seems to have been the mantra of both of these teams on the whole, but especially the Seahawks who have turned back the coaching clock and gone for an extremely run heavy approach this season which has obviously worked.

A crazy stat I saw today… Russell Wilson has had 7 season as the Seahawks QB and played a part in all 16 regular season games during that time. For a QB who scrambles so much and takes hits in most games, that’s quite remarkable, and while they’ve tried to protect him this year by running the ball so much he’s still taking 51 sacks, 8th worst in the league. Somehow, despite seemingly hardly throwing a pass he’s also finished the regular season with his highest number of passing TDs in a season, and that’s without Doug Baldwin (or a fit Doug Baldwin) for most of the season.

Speaking of… Doug Baldwin has struggled all year with the knee injury he picked up towards the end of the pre-season, but a fortnight ago finally looked like he was back somewhere near his best, 126 yards from 7 receptions and a TD vs the Chiefs after 77 and 2 TDs from 4 catches the week before that against the 49ers, the game against the Cardinals wasn’t his best but I think he was probably matched up against P2, either way he finished the season with 4 in 4 games, and 5 in his last 6. The main man for most of the season was Tyler Lockett who had some ridiculous efficiency: 16.9 yards per catch, a touch behind Tyreek Hill and Mike Evans, he scored 10 TDs, in 10 separate games this year including one against the Cowboys at the CLINK earlier in the year. David Moore has provided a big body as well but seems to have dropped off over the last month after “famously” winning me a 500/1 2+ TD bet earlier in the year, but they have increased his targets again over the last few weeks so a TD from him isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. Jaron Brown is the possibly worth a look but it’s impossible to judge his input on any game. 14 receptions from 19 targets on the year, but 5 TDs from that small target share. The tight ends are a bit of a muddle as well, Nick Vannett has 269 and 3, Ed Dickson 143 and 3 from considerably less games and targets. So good luck picking either to score.

The running game is the main thing for the Seahawks, it was assumed it would be largely their first round pick Rashaad Penny but he struggled in blocking to start the year and Chris Carson took his chance with both hands, finishing the season 5th in rushing yards thanks in part to 3 x 100 yard games to close out the season, scoring 5 in the last 4 to finish on fire. Penny has been out with an injury (4 carries vs the Cards) but Mike Davis has provided good backup for Carson when needed, he also scored last week, even JD McKissic got some snaps last week, he’d be a crazy anytime shot in the dark.

The Seattle defense received an overhaul this year, but they kept their main man in Bobby Wagner and he’s been phenomenal this year PFF #1 LB in the league and pretty much locked on to be a first team all pro when that’s announced. They’ve added youth around him and it’s worked well for them on the whole, although they have struggled against pass catching RBs…

I’ll get this out of the way early. I don’t like the Cowboys. I don’t rate Dak, as with most people, I think Garrett is a clown.

Ok. Proper preview now.

In a game that he shouldn’t have even been playing, Dak was brilliant last week. 4 TDs, 387 yards, and the game winning throw to Cole Beasley was amazing, https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1080257013123244032 – Seriously it was a beautiful throw! He’s actually been pretty impressive since Amari Cooper arrived during the season, it’s freed up space for the other players and given him a solid target to aim for. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he was capable of clearing 200 yards in a game let alone the 455 he threw for against the Eagles a few weeks back. I’m not going to call him good, but he’s been far better than I thought he could be and has run in for 6 TDs as well this season. (That was painful)

You may have heard of Ezekiel Elliott. He’s rather good. He has led the league in rush yards this year with 1434 on the ground but surprisingly to me, only the 9 TDs, 6 rushed and 3 caught. They just don’t seem to use him at the goal line (LIKE THEY DID WITH FUCKING ROD SMITH LAST WEEK) – He has been increasingly used in the passing game as well, which he should do, any way you can get the ball in his hands you should be using – He’s averaged just over 7 targets and 49 yards per week since the bye. He goes up against one of the better run defenses in the league, but a team who are susceptible to pass catching backs, so logically you’ve got to think they’ll use him that way.

As mentioned the Amari Cooper trade was the pivotal moment of the season for the Cowboys, he was a breath of fresh air for a team who basically had 3 WR3s before he turned up, he started on fire but has been absent in recent weeks, I assume teams have paid more attention to him opening up chances for others but restricting his stats. He has still been getting the targets, but 32,20,31 yards in the final 3 weeks doesn’t convince me to take any bet on him. Michael Gallup trotted up 50 yards in each of the last two games and got himself a TD against a poor Tampa team a fortnight ago, he has promise and while I won’t back any WR/TE on this team he may well pop up when needed. Cole Beasley scored that beauty last week but hasn’t been reliable week in, week out although he did finish the season quite well with over 50 yards in the last two. They do however boast the HOTTEST TE IN THE LEAGUE! The ever-reliable Blake Jarwin of course… 3 TDs and 119 yards last week was ridiculous and a quite possibly a total anomaly. Again not one I’ll bet on but it will be interesting to see if they get him the ball again this week.

The defense has been good this year, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esche have managed to oust Sean Lee and become one of the best linebacker duos in the league. They’ve been brilliant frankly.

I’ll be honest I was convinced the Seahawks would win this game thanks mainly to having more experience in the playoffs and the better QB. But after listening to the “RJ Bell dream preview” I’m not entirely sure! He quite rightly pointed out that the Seahawks road form hasn’t been great and they haven’t really beaten any real challengers, whilst the Cowboys home form has been brilliant (7-1) and they beat the Superbowl favourites (admittedly on TNF) – Actually saying that, after looking at their schedule, they’ve barely played any good teams either, the Saints being the one marquee win. I think it’ll be a close game, the run heavy styles of both teams don’t really lend themselves to winning by more than a TD and playoff games are notoriously close affairs in general.

Player props? – Shorter priced – Chris Carson – 10/11 (Lads): Longer priced – Ed Dickson – 12/1 (365) Yardage bets – Zeke o35.5 rec. yards – 5/6 (Skybet)

Seattle to win and obviously cover, would lean over on the total but not a bet for me. 

  • Zeke o35.5 rec. yards – 5/6 (Skybet) – 3pts
  • Chris Carson anytime – 10/11 (Ladbrokes) – 2pts
  • Jamize Olawale anytime – 33/1 (365) – 1pt

Obviously I haven’t mentioned Olawale but at the odds, I’ll have a small punt on him, he should have scored a couple of weeks ago and they used a similar play close to the goal line last week. It’s speculative obviously, but weird things happen in the playoffs!

Well done if you read through all of that and didn’t just skim to the bets. I got a little carried away, luckily I’m off work on Friday so will get the Sunday night games posted soon!

Sunday night previews now up as well! – Wildcard Weekend – Sunday Games!


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