On the Road Again: Wild Card Weekend Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

Kansas City (-3) vs. HOUSTON

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Derek: Picking this game wasn’t fun. I don’t want to back the Chiefs because of Andy Reid, and I don’t want to back the Texans because they aren’t very good. I’ve come to the conclusion that “isn’t very good” should matter more in my packs than “coach has a bad history covering in big games.” As such, I’ll just reluctantly take Kansas City.

Will: First, this game has been advertised on national television as kicking off at 4:20 Eastern time, which is perhaps my favorite thing the NFL has done all season. In lieu of addressing the fact that the league is only slightly more likable than Vladimir Putin, they’ve decided to lean on stoner word of mouth to boost TV ratings. I love it. With a 4:20 kick, the Chiefs are the only choice.

Pittsburgh (-3) vs. CINCINNATI

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Derek: I’ll like whoever wins this game going forward, but alas, one of them has to go down Saturday night. The tiebreaker for this one is simple: Ben Roethlisberger vs. AJ McCarron. Oftentimes, when I’m making a sports decision such as picking a game or start/sit in fantasy, I think to myself “which one is going to make me feel stupider if I get it wrong?” If I pick the Bengals and the Steelers win, I’m going to feel like a jackass for talking myself into McCarron over Roethlisberger. If I pick the Steelers and McCarron makes me pay, I can live with that. I’ll go Pittsburgh.

Will: We know that Pittsburgh’s offense is flame emojis. We also know that they’re down to their third-string running back, an apparently Irish-Creole fellow named Fitzgerald Toussaint. We know that Cincinnati hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a game since Andy Dalton went down. We also know that Pittsburgh won this same matchup, in Cincinnati and all, a month ago.

Lump me in with everyone and their degenerate gambling mother in backing the Steelers.

Seattle (-5) vs. MINNESOTA

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

Derek: Marshawn, noooooo! I was really looking forward to seeing him again. But the team has thrived without him, so hopefully reigning Gentleman of the Week Christine Michael will seize his big opportunity.

The Vikings are a good matchup for the Seahawks, as they showed in Week 13. They should be able to key on Adrian Peterson and force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. Then again, I thought something similar in Week 16 and the Seahawks lost at home to the Rams. Plus the cold can’t be a good thing for Seattle. There certainly are a few reasons to believe the Vikings will put on a better performance, but I don’t think it will be enough to stop a Seattle cover.

Will: So the high temperature in Minneapolis on Sunday is forecast to be 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill could knock it down another 10 or 15 degrees, easy. One might assume that that will make the running game a bigger deal, which could help the Vikings keep it close, at least close enough to cover at home. But much like Steelers-Bengals, we saw this same matchup about a month ago. The Seahawks won by 31 points and held Minnesota to 31 rushing yards. The weather will throw some kind of kink in things, but 26 points’ worth? Nah. Seahawks.

WASHINGTON (-1) vs. Green Bay

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Derek: I’m applying the same logic to this game that I applied to my Steelers pick. I’m going to feel really, really dumb if I pick Kirk Cousins over Aaron Rodgers and lose. And while at this point I think it’s pretty clear that the Packers aren’t particularly good, I think Rodgers can have success against Washington’s secondary. I also think a lot of people are underestimating the value of playoff experience. The Packers are loaded with guys who have played in big playoff games. We haven’t seen them miss the playoffs since 2008. Not too many current Redskins played a big role in Washington’s last playoff game.

Furthermore, the Redskins have only played two games against playoff teams this season–at New England and at Carolina–and got trounced in both of them. I could see them getting nervous and making mistakes early like they did in New England. Meanwhile, the Packers played seven games against playoff teams. Despite that (and being in a tougher division) they still won more games than the Redskins. I say the Packers put an end to Washington’s win streak.

Will: I’ve reflexively backed the Packers about a hundred times this season because Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay’s offense has been like the tumbling skyline at the end of Fight Club, leaving him to conjure points out of rubble. The Packers have had some offensive stinkers this year, and they finished 15th in points scored this year. If Washington had a more fearsome pass rush, I think I’d actually pick ’em. Alas, they get to the quarterback at just an average rate. Let’s back the Pack for the 101st time.



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