NFL Wild Card Previews -- Saturday’s Games

 

THE NFL WILD CARD ROUND –

WE PREVIEW SATURDAY’S GAMES

AS RAIDERS-TEXANS, LIONS-SEAHAWKS SQUARE OFF …

PLUS RANDOM FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE

JUST-COMPLETED BOWL GAMES

 

Hey, folks, do you happen to remember what occurred in last year’s NFL Wild Card Playoff Round?

That’s right, all four road teams won (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay) but not all of ‘em covered the all-important pointspread … let’s review and note home teams below are in CAPS:

 

LAST YEAR’S WILD CARD GAMES

WINNER         SPREAD          LOSER             SCORE

Kansas City            - 3           HOUSTON             30-0

Pittsburgh             - 1.5                CINCINNATI           18-16

Seattle                    - 5           MINNESOTA         10-9

Green Bay             + 1.5       WASHINGTON      35-18

 

Some folks might have had Pittsburgh at – 2 or -2.5 points for that crazy game in Cincy but the bottom line here is we had a strange playoff round last year with four road sides advancing – right, not likely that’s gonna happen again this time around.

We’ll get to Saturday’s AFC and NFC Wild Card Round game previews in just a moment but first this key reminder …

 

Get the Side & Totals of this weekend’s NFL Wild Card Round games when you check with us here on game-day mornings at Jim Hurley’s Network.

And, of course, make sure you’re all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week either online here at www.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.

Plus, the College Football National Championship Game is set – it’s a rematch between #2 Clemson versus #1 Alabama on Monday from Tampa and we’re ready to put a capper on what’s been a great College Football Bowl/Post-Season with Side & Totals winners here!

 

NFL WILD CARD ROUND –

On Saturday, it’s …

OAKLAND (12-4) at HOUSTON (9-7) – 4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN

Think the season-ending broken leg suffered two weeks ago by Oakland QB Derek Carr impacted the Super Bowl LI “Win it All Odds”?

Heck, check it out – and tomorrow’s Jim Sez will bring you the complete odds list – and you’ll see the Raiders are 62-to-1 now to win SB 51 and that’s tied with Miami for the longest shots on the board … wow!

It’s gonna be generally untested rookie QB Connor Cook (14-of-21 passing for 150 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT in last week’s 24-6 loss in Denver) who gets the nod here after backup Matt McGloin went down with a shoulder injury and no need to hide the fact the best/maybe only way the silver-and-black is gonna win here is to run the ball 45-plus times and hope that monstrous O-line can outmuscle the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

The Texans figure to move around DL Jadeveon Clowney but we see the real keys here being just how well LB Brian Cushing and the Houston linebackers/defensive backs tackle RBs DeAndre Washington and Latavius Murray.

Note Houston will indeed go with QB Brock Osweiler who threw for 243 yards and one score in a 27-20 loss (in Mexico City) to the Raiders back in Week 11 play – we’re waiting still to see when Osweiler makes a real “connection” with top-flight WR DeAndre Hopkins (only 78 receptions and 4 TDs).

Spread Notes – Oakland is 10-6 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and the Raiders are a decent 11-7 spreadwise as underdogs the past two years. On the flip side, Houston is 6-9-1 against the odds this season and the Texans enter this one having failed to cover six of their last seven games.

 

DETROIT (9-7) at SEATTLE (10-5-1) – 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

Here’s the facts: The Seattle Seahawks have won at least one post-season game in each of the past four seasons and they’ve been to the conference championship game (or beyond) two of the past three seasons but there’s plenty of “doubting Thomas’” out there that don’t think Pete Carroll’s club will have a long shelf life in this year’s post-season thanks mainly to the fact S Earl Thomas – a real heart-and-soul guy – is out and that offensive line is a mess.

Still, it appears QB Russell Wilson (4,219 yards passing with 21 TDs/11 INTs) is healthier now than he’s been all year long and there’s no denying TE Jimmy Graham and WR Doug Baldwin (159 combined receptions) have become bigger factors as this ’16 season has drawn on – can the Lions’ secondary deal with Graham/Baldwin especially if CB Darius Slay (hamstring) either can’t go here or is extremely limited? Tough stuff for the TD-plus underdogs who rank a sub-par 19th in the league in passing defense (248 ypg).

Okay, so how exactly can the Lions pull off the upset against the admittedly flawed/short-handed Seahawks?

Well, for starters, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford – damaged middle finger and all – must show the want to go deep a few times in an effort to stretch this unit and perhaps pick on Seattle CBs not named Richard Sherman. If you’ve watched Detroit’s last couple of games, you’ll note Stafford (whether it’s the game plan or not) simply doesn’t – or can’t – throw deep and that’s a real problem because even a 10-catch, 85-yard game here from WR Golden Tate ain’t gonna do the trick. We say Detroit’s only shot to grab an outright “W” here is for Stafford to connect on a least three or four deep “chunk plays” in the aerial game and then PK Matt Prater (31 FGs) must hit on every try inside 55 yards out. Got it?

Spread Notes – Seattle’s a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 against the odds this year and the Seahawks also are an exactly the same 8-8 ATS in post-season games the past 10 years. Detroit is 7-8-1 ATS overall this season and a collective 21-31 spreadwise away since the start of the 2011 season.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL NOTES

We’ll have plenty to say about Monday’s National Championship Game showdown between #2 Clemson vs. #1 Alabama in the next couple of Jim Sez columns but let’s just put a bow on the Bowl Season with some off-the-cuff random thoughts:

 

Who was the real “biggest winner” in the just-completed 41 bowls? How about Florida State RB Dalvin Cook who rushed for 145 yards and one TD in the Seminoles’ thrilling 33-32 Orange Bowl upset win against TD fav Michigan. Not only did the NFL-bound Cook play – unlike LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey (among others) -- but he shined at crunch time and probably improved his draft status in the process. Don’t know about you, but we’d take Cook before either Fournette/McCaffrey in the next NFL Draft …

How about the “biggest loser” in the Bowls? Well, Ohio State’s no-show effort in the national semifinal/Fiesta Bowl is a no-brainer as the Buckeyes were battered 31-0 by Clemson but what about going back to an earlier bowl and chastising Washington State? Geez, the Cougars were 17-12 losers to 8.5-point pup Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl and Wazzau QB Luke Falk cost himself millions with a shabby 30-of-50, 1 TD game. Talk about a dude that looked lost in space!

Other teams that decided to go AWOL for their bowls:

Houston, Colorado State, Temple, Boise State, Colorado and Louisville – hey, guys, not only did you all lose (and, in many cases, by wide margins) but the effort wasn’t there … we were watching!

 

 

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