Into the Play-Offs to decide the participants in Superbowl 51, with four games in the first round over Wild Card Weekend
The line up this weekend is as follows
9.35pm UK Time Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Mltiple quarterback injuries late in the season in the AFC Cnference has given the play-off field an underwhelming look, no more so than here where Matt McGloin or Connor Cook will face off against Tom Savage or Brock Osweiler in the first game. Oakland lost to Denver in week 17 and thus lost out on the divisional title to Kansas City. Their hugely promising seasonw as derailed in Week 16 with the injured to QB Derek Carr meaning they are on the road through the play-offs
Houston’s quarterback situation is disappointing too so this isn’t an easy game to call. One thing we do know is that the Texans defense is one of the best in the league, and typically performs strongly at home. That is probably going to be the difference here and justifies Huston being 3.5 point handicap favourites in what is anticipated to be a low scoring (+/- 37 points in the markets game) Huston -3.5 is available at Evens with William Hill
1.15am UK Time Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Detroit lost out on the NFC North title losing to reen Bay at home in the last week of the regular season and now face the tough task of travelling to NFC West Wnners the Seahawks who have one of the biggest home advantgages in the league. This is the fourth year in a row the Seahawks have made the play offs since drafting Russell Wilson but this team has more flaws than previous years with injuries to a stellar defense, and lots of problems on the offensive line in protecting Wilson.
The question is if these flaws are big enough that Detroit can cover a +8 spread. Detroit are a little way off being play-off competitive in my opinion with a poor running game and weaknesses in the defensive secondary. I can see Seattle winning this comfortably and covering at 10/11 with William Hill
6.05pm UK Time Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami had a great run in the second half of the season to secure a wild card spot behind the Patriots in their division. A strong running game and much improved pass rush enabled them to overcome the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury. They face a really tough task going to Pittsburgh though and stopping the triumvirate of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown at the offensive skill positions.
As Miami showed when getting blown out by the Patriots in week 17, they have done well to reach the play offs but are unlikely to go much further. Pittsburgh are strongly favoured. -10 on the points handicap. Whilst that seems big for a play-off game, against a back up quarterback when the pressure is on i expect this is more likely to be a blow out win than a close game.
9.40pm UK Time New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
The most appetising game of the weekend comes at Lambeau field where two of the form sides in the NFC meet. The Packers, with Aaron Rodgers in imperious form, won six in a row to come from behind and win the division and in streaking form with a big home advantage and cold weather likely are going to be favourites to progress to the divisional round.
In the Giants’ favour their defense is in great shape and matgches up well with the Packers. The main question is here whether the Giants on offesne can score enough points to give them a shot. In their favour the Packers secondary is badly injury hit but you just have to have more confidence in Rodgers than Eli Manning to take his side through here.
The Packers -4.5 at near even money with William Hill is a bet, on a weekend where I expect all four favourites to progress