Wild Card Weekend means A few extra stats, so here they are for your perusal before you make your picks…
Oakland @ Houston
We have some extra things we do during the playoffs – one of which is take our regular season data to check trends for the teams that made the postseason.
In this case, it’s pretty difficult to take a read from the Raiders in particular, having gone from Derek Carr (excellent) to Matt McGloin (oh dear) and finally now to Connor Cook (who the hell knows?).
So we’re not going to go too deep into the Raiders, because frankly they could easily come out and find they have another great QB, considering he was a 4th round pick and played for Michigan State. He was no slouch in college last season, but nobody can predict how he’ll do at this level.
Here’s the Raiders vs the consensus this season
As you can see, under Carr, the team as a whole was very predictable, with just 3 early season games that reversed the consensus opinion. By the time Carr got injured seriously in week 16, they were on a 9 game streak of doing exactly what we thought they’d do. Worth considering too, that in the last two games Carr played with his finger injury, the Raiders didn’t break that trend, suggesting that this isn’t a team that will compensate for their QB’s absence, but equally, a team that can still grind out wins against lesser opponents.
But are the Texans a lesser opponent?
The Texans have been the epitome of predictability in 2016. Whenever we’ve collectively decided they would win, they’ve won. When we wanted them to lose, guess what they did? That’s right, they lost.
They were the 7th most predictable team in football this season – and remember that doesn’t just mean winning when expected, it means losing too. Under Brock Osweiler, the Texans had just two reversals of that trend, and both were upset wins. They haven’t actually lost all season to a team they were expected to beat with the maligned Osweiler at QB. That plus the completely random factor of Cook as the Raiders most important player (I hate to make it about the QB’s, but it really is in this case) makes this a Texans pick both straight up and vs the 3.5pt spread.
Straight up: Houston
vs spread: Houston -3.5
Detroit @ Seattle
The Lions were harder to predict than any other in the wild card round, and only Atlanta of the playoff teams was harder to predict in 2016 as a whole. I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel like we all got out of sync with the Lions early on, not rolling with the punches enough to keep tabs on their ups and downs effectively. You know the one, it’s like you’re permanently a week behind some teams who cause upsets, and as soon as you get on their bandwagon, they go and lose. Then the next week the opposite happens and after 6 weeks of the season you just wish the Lions would be barred from pick’em.
The first thing that should jump out is the amount of red – contrast that with the Seahawks below. This team was only favored 8 times in the 2016 season, a low total for a playoff team. Their 3 underdog victories were against Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia, a mixed bag in some regards. The major concern with the Lions is clearly their limp into the playoffs via a 9-7 record and a 3 game losing streak. Of some mitigation, they were all against playoff teams with plenty to play for, but it’s still mildly concerning. Maybe when you think of the Lions you think of Matt Stafford airing it out, but the Lions scored 30+ points just twice all season, against the Colts in week 1 and the Rams in week 6. If this was a consistent team, I’d bet on them, but that’s much more about their opponents…
The Seahawks have again won the NFC West and made the playoffs for the 6th time in 7 years under Pete Carroll, but they have a very interesting trend that I can’t ignore heading into this game…
First of all, the Seahawks have managed to lose or not win (they had a tie) six times while favored this season. That is a phenomenal problem, because it indicates a team that goes into games it should win and loses. Now you might say that what the experts think about these games has no bearing on the players, but is that true? It’s hard to escape media narratives as a player, particularly the notion that other teams are underdogs and you are favorites. I mentioned this factor before the Super Bowl last season, where the Panthers built their whole season on being the underdog, only to come into the Super Bowl media week and find that everyone expected them to win. Their response was to create a false narrative that nobody believed in them, a strategy that didn’t work.
This is the 8th straight game that the Seahawks have been favored in, and yet in that stretch, they haven’t managed to win two games in a row. The teams to beat them were Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Arizona. It’s impossible to ignore.
My only problem in this game is that the Lions have been so terrible for the last 3 weeks against good NFC playoff opposition. How much has that served them in gaining the experience to play against the Seahawks? Or has it simply proven that they can’t compete with the big dogs? I would hedge my bets here and take the Seahawks to win and the Lions to cover the +8 spread. The Seahawks are notoriously hot and cold in terms of scoring, but regardless the Lions have the firepower to stay in the game. If this was any team but Detroit, I’d be very wary of taking the Seahawks.
Straight up: Seattle
vs Spread: Detroit +8