Last week was a momentous occasion for The Spread.
We thought Week 17 of the NFL regular season could bring about a surprise or two but who the bloody heck thought Miami would go into Foxborough and beat the New England flaming Patriots…? We did…
Ryan Fitzpatrick outplayed Tom Brady and the Dolphins caused the upset of the season. Miami were close to $10 head-to-head whilst New England were unbackable favourites. It’s a funny old game this NFL.
Unfortunately, AFL cliches are ingrained in my mind so it’s time to stop celebrating last week and focus on the next challenge. One week at a time. Wildcard Weekend, here we go.
BUFFALO at HOUSTON (8:35am Sunday)
The Bills are gritty and grimy. Forget about their Week 17 loss at home to the hapless New York Jets, most associated with the Bills were probably subconsciously focused on the playoffs and ignored Gang Green.
Both Houston and the Bills wound up with 10-6 records. Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are phenomenal players who make the Texans go but there’s going to be an uplift on defence this week with the surprise return of superstar defensive end JJ Watt.
Houston has had its playoff problems and the pressure in that city this week would be immense. I expect the scoring to be low despite the perfect conditions inside NRG Stadium.
Buffalo is tough. Josh Allen makes plays when they need to be made and the defence is rock solid. Tre’Davious White’s match-up with Hopkins will be decisive. White is yet to concede a touchdown but Hopkins is one of the premier WR’s in the NFL.
Tip: Bills 22, Texans 20
Total FG over 3.5 ($1.92)
TENNESSEE at NEW ENGLAND (12:15pm Sunday)
What on earth do we make of these Patriots!?! ESPN analyst Marcus Spears said recently that history has very little to do with what’s happening right now. So do we believe that philosophy or do we get spooked into the countless occasions where we’ve written off New England only to be embarrassed when they are holding aloft the Lombardi Trophy…
Last week’s home loss to Miami was frightening. They got jumped — which was understandable — but could never fully recover and stave off a team who was once accused of tanking for draft picks.
Brady’s performance is worrying but he knows how to win playoff football and Bill Belichick will have spent his entire week figuring out how to slow down Tennessee’s main offensive weapon, Derek Henry.
He may have even called upon Henry’s former college coach, Nick Saban, for advice on stopping the enormous RB and 2019 rushing champ.
Ryan Tannehill has exploded since taking over from Marcus Mariota, throwing 22 TDs with only six interceptions. The key, though, is Henry. He’s No. 1 in the league for rushing yards, rush attempts and rush TDs.
When deciding who to back, the question is, can Belichick work out a way to stop Henry or will ‘King Rhino’ run rampant all over the Pats defence…
Tip: Patriots 24, Titans 17
New England score every quarter NO ($1.40)
MINNESOTA at NEW ORLEANS (Monday 5am)
This game seems the only easy one of the weekend. New Orleans have looked like the best team in football at different stages of the season. Alvin Kamara troubles me, though, with his statistics dipping stunningly this season.
With Mark Ingram’s departure we expected his numbers to rise again but he’s had career-lows in TD (both rush and receiving) and receiving yards despite having close enough to the same amount of opportunities.
Getting him going will determine how far these Saints can progress. Drew Brees and Mike Thomas are givens. They’ll be dominant.
For the Vikings, it’s time to get over the hump. Kirk Cousins leads them to impressive victories against mediocre teams but he’s struggle to get it done against the big dogs.
The Saints in New Orleans inside Mercedes Benz Superdome is like a great dane. Pinch this and all is forgiven in Purple People Eater Land for Cousins. You like that?
Tip: Saints 33, Vikings 24
New Orleans win ($1.24)
Total points +49.5 ($1.87)
SEATTLE at PHILADELPHIA (Monday 8:40am)
11-win Seattle has to travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles who won two less games this season. It’s an ordinary situation but one the NFL has run with for many years so we’ll move on without complaint.
Philly is banged up. They have eight regular contributors who are listed as questionable heading into the match. Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson and Fletcher Cox are the three they’d most like to play. IF none can go, forget about it, Seattle wins easy.
‘Beastmode’ Lynch addition to Seattle is handy for morale and energy but I doubt he can add too much between the lines. Russell Wilson is still where it all ends up. Contain him and Philly is in the mix. It’s a tough game to pick.
Tip: Seahawks 23, Eagles 17
Both teams to score 20 points NO ($1.57)
Seahawks win ($1.77)
-Bills/Texans +3.5 FG ($1.92)
-New England score every quarter NO ($1.40)
-New Orleans win ($1.24)
-Seahawks/Eagles both teams to score 20 points NO ($1.57)