NFL Wildcard Weekend Shocks Set Up Intriguing Divisional Round
This past weekend was Wildcard Weekend in the NFL with four matches taking place across Saturday and Sunday and it is fair to say that there were more than the usual number of upsets across what was an exciting weekend of action.
The first game of last weekend went to plan but only just, as the Houston Texans narrowly defeated the Bills in overtime 22-19. In truth, the Bills bossed most of the game and it was only some fine play from the middle of the third quarter onwards, that dug the Texans out of the hole and allowed them to claim the win. They will be joined in the Divisional games by AFC South compatriots the Tennessee Titans who ended Tom Brady and New England Patriots’ hopes of landing another Superbowl with a battling 20-13 win over the Patriots in Foxborough.
In the NFC Wild Card games, the Minnesota Vikings then caused another upset when they defeated the much-fancied Saints 20-26 thanks to another overtime victory and then the fourth seed Eagles were held without a touchdown as they went down 17-9 to a battling Seattle Seahawks.
Those results now mean we head into the Divisional games with some exciting matchups taking place this weekend. The four seeded teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers from the NFC and the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs from the AFC now enter the fray, with the winners of the two sets of two games meeting in the Conference Championship game next weekend.
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Let’s now take a look ahead to the four games this weekend and give you our preview and tips for each.
NFL Divisional Round – Sat 11th & Sun 12th January
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have been the fashionable pick to be the NFC’s representative in the Superbowl for some time now and they will star as the clear favourites in this game against the Vikings.
However, Kirk Cousins led Minnesota to a fine victory in New Orleans to answer some of the criticism coming his way for his less than stellar playoff record and there is no doubt that the Vikings have a chance here. They bounced back from two defeats in the final two weeks of the season to earn a win in Louisiana and they won’t be fazed by taking on the top ranked seed.
The 49ers three defeats on the season though have been against in form sides in the Seahawks, Falcons and Ravens and it is easy to see why they start this game as the favourites. However, they have been pushed hard in all their last five games, winning or losing by a single score in each and I think this game will be close too.
Tip – Take the Vikings with a +7.0 handicap on the Spread bet at 20/23 with bet365.
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens ended the season with the best record in the NFL (14-2) and the top seed in the AFC and in Lamar Jackson, they have the player who will undoubtedly be crowned the MVP in the entire league thanks to his extraordinary play at quarterback for the team this season.
The Ravens also have a favourable record against the Titans, especially in the playoffs, and with home advantage too, it seems that everything is pointing to a Ravens victory here and certainly the bookies think so, with the Titans being a nine-point underdog in the betting with most bookmakers.
However, something is telling me that this one is not quite as cut and dried as that. Both the teams that the Ravens have lost to this season, the Chiefs and the Browns, Tennessee has beaten this season. The other thing to consider is Derek Henry, whose power running destroyed the New England Patriots last weekend. What’s worrying for the Ravens is that their rush defense is one spot below the Patriots (28th out of 32).
If the Titans can use Henry and supplement that with an effective passing game, which they did not have in New England but still won the game anyway, then they can keep Jackson off the field for long periods and that may well be the key to the Titans landing a surprise win here.
Tip – The Titans are 13/4 on the Money Line to win the game. Take that bet.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
There was a time when Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL, until Lamar Jackson landed in Baltimore this season and seemingly supplanted the Chiefs quarterback in that role. Even so, Mahomes has still enjoyed a good season for his team, leading them comfortably into the playoffs.
They now face a Texans team who were very lethargic in the first half and part of the second against Buffalo last week but who battled hard to secure an overtime win by a field goal. However, they will have to be much sharper and play much better this week against a Chiefs team whose offense is far more potent than the Bills.
That said, the Texans (and the Titans) have both beaten the Chiefs already this season and with another of their four losses coming against the Colts, it does seem that AFC South teams are a problem for the Chiefs and as such, I think this one will be much closer than the bookies are expecting and I think the Texans can secure an unlikely win.
Tip – The Texans have beaten the Chiefs once already this season in Kansas City, back them to do it again at 13/4.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay team have powered to a 13-3 season losing only to the Eagles, Chargers and 49ers over the course of the season. They take on the 11-5 Seahawks who have proven their resilience by winning many of their games by just a couple of points, or one score over the course of the year.
The Packers have a big advantage playing in Lambeau Field, but with the weather not set to be as severe as it has been in the past, Seattle won’t be too concerned with that. However, their three losses to divisional rivals over the ladt four weeks of the season will be a concern for Pete Carroll.
I am never sure though if a week off helps or hinders teams in the playoffs and I just feel with an extra week of playing, even though they are on the road, Seattle could well be the team to keep this close and steal the win either late on or in overtime as they have done many times this season.
Tip – The Packers are the smart pick here, but Seattle know how to win these crucial games. Take the Seahawks spread with +4 points to win at 10/11 with bet365.