Wild Card Week picks
Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter
The snacks are all set up and the beverages are chilled, as I get myself set for a two-day homegating party this weekend. It’s the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, and as an added bonus, the college football National Championship game Monday night.
Normally, Wild Card weekend features four games, two each Saturday and Sunday, but the NFL added a seventh playoff spot in the first round this year because of uncertainty whether all teams would be able to complete a 16-game season.
With only seven games on the menu this weekend, I’m making a prediction on each game, although in the interest of full disclosure, at the time of this writing on Friday night, I’ve only bet one game so far and am not sure I will bet any others.
With no further ado, the picks (with lines from William Hill as of Friday):
Buffalo (-6 ½) vs. Indianapolis: If you watch ESPN at all, or read any of the endless takes online about the NFL, you’ve likely heard lots of debate about whether Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson can set aside his past failures in the playoffs. I think the question applies at least equally to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen. But in Allen’s case, I believe the answer is yes. Allen actually played well in Buffalo’s loss last year to Houston, until a couple of late mistakes cost the Bills the game. I consider that part of the natural progression that Allen has been on, and as I have stated in several picks here this season, I have far more questions in a big game about Colts QB Philip Rivers, especially in a game with a forecast high temperature of 32 degrees with 20 mile an hour winds. I have not bet this game because I missed the -6 when it was available, but if it shows again, I will lay it.
Seattle (-3) vs. L.A. Rams: While certainly some mediocre quarterbacks have won playoff games and even Super Bowls, in general the first thing I look at in the playoffs is for the better quarterback. In this case, Russell Wilson is going against either Jared Goff two weeks after breaking his thumb, or John Wolford in his second career start. This is the one game I have bet so far.
Tampa Bay (-8) at Washington: Tom Brady might throw five touchdowns and roll to a 30-plus point win, or the Football Team defensive line might have the immobile Brady under pressure all game long and made a fight out of it. I figure the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Baltimore (-3) at Tennessee: The Ravens lost to the Titans in the playoffs last year, and in overtime this season. I think they break through here, but that’s nothing more than a gut feeling.
New Orleans (-10) vs. Chicago: The playoffs haven’t been kind to the Saints the last three years. Maybe this year the breaks go their way.
Pittsburgh (-6) vs. Cleveland: I wish I’d laid this price when it came out this week at -3 or -3 ½, before the Browns announced that coach Kevin Stefanski and a couple of players tested positive for Covid and won’t participate. The Browns barely beat Pittsburgh last week at home when they needed a win and the Steelers didn’t play Ben Roethlisberger and a few other guys. But Pittsburgh hasn’t been that dominant even when they were 11-0, and I won’t be surprised if this is close.
Alabama (-8) over Ohio St.: I made the mistake last season of betting against a generationally good offense in the National Championship game, and I won’t make the same mistake this season. However, as I said last week, the Alabama defense is gettable, even though Notre Dame didn’t bring either the talent or the tactics to do it. Ohio St. does, which is why I’ll enjoy watching this game, but without a stake in the outcome.
On New Year’s Day last Friday, for the first time this whole season, I sat down to watch the two semi final college football championship games on tv. Among other observations, the main thing I saw was that…COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAMES ARE WAY TOO LONG.
The first game began at 1:20 PM Pacific Time (after being advertised to start at 1:00) and ended at 4:40 PM, for a time of 3 hours and twenty minutes. The second game, advertised to begin at 5, actually began at 5:20 and ended at 8:50, an elapsed game time of 3 hours and 30 minutes.
I consider myself a football fan, but a total “tube time” of 8 hours, 50 minutes is too much, even for me. By the time the second game ended its halftime, this football fan was switching back and forth between the game and yet another showing of “Godfather Part 2”, a great movie that I have seen probably six or seven times. There were candy and chip wrappers scattered all around my overused chair. The ice in my soda glass had melted, the soda itself had gone flat and warm, and half of the soda had evaporated. My eyes were red and watering. My wife had complained about my activity, or lack of it, fallen asleep, woken up, and fallen asleep again. The dog buried her head under her blanket. I got an email from the cable company saying I had abused my cable purchase (jk).
According to sbnation.com, networks plan for FIVE TIMES MORE ADS TIME THAN FOR GAME PLAY!! One third of all football game air time is commercials! There are four tv timeouts every quarter, in addition to other breaks! That doesn’t even include the scheduled 20 minute (I think it was more) halftimes and the 20 minutes between when the games were advertised to start and when they actually did, times that seemed to me to be more than half commercials!
Sorry. I wrote the above on Monday, before the events in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. I can’t make fun of trivia such as the length of college football games or the folly of Doug Pederson’s coaching when the President of the United States is purposely inciting an attack because he believes, but has never proved, that the election was rigged. So, I’ll just make my predictions.
Indianapolis Colts (+ 6 ½) at Buffalo Bills
LA Rams (+3 ½) at Seattle Seahawks
Tennessee Titans (+3) at Baltimore Ravens
New Orleans Saints (-10) vs. Chicago Bears
God bless, and keep, our country.