NFL Predictions 2020: Wild Card Round Picks for Every Game
Wild Card Round Expert Picks Summary
|16:35||Buffalo @ Houston||HOU -2.5||44.0|
|20:15||Tennessee @ New England||NE -5.0||44.5|
|13:05||Minnesota @ New Orleans||NO -7.5||49.5|
|16:40||Seattle @ Philadelphia||SEA -1.5||45.5|
Buffalo @ Houston (-2.5) Picks
Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott is 1-11 SU and 3-9 ATS vs. Super Bowl-winning head coaches Sean Payton, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, Doug Pederson, and Mike Tomlin. The average score in those games has been Buffalo 11, Opponent 30. Buffalo’s offense has scored 17 or less points in all twelve games. Aside from a 17-10 win over Pittsburgh’s 3rd string quarterback, the other two spread covers have both been by a slim 1 point vs. New England.
That’s the bad news. The good news is McDermott is 24-13 SU and 23-12-2 ATS vs. non-Super Bowl-winning head coaches, and Houston’s Bill O’Brien falls into the latter camp. In fact, O’Brien has a very sketchy history when it comes to the postseason, where he is 1-3 SUATS. O’Brien’s lone postseason win came in 2016 against Oakland’s backup quarterback.
In O’Brien’s four postseason games, his offense has scored 0, 27, 16, and 7 points. In McDermott’s one postseason game with Buffalo, his team scored 3 points in a 10-3 loss at Jacksonville. The history of both coaches suggests they will be very conservative in this week’s game.
McDermott is 4-3 SU and 6-1 ATS vs. the AFC South. If you include his 2015 season as the defensive coordinator for Carolina, he is 8-3 SU and 10-1 ATS vs. the AFC South. When McDermott was with Carolina, his team went 4-3 SUATS in the postseason. O’Brien is 5-7 SU and 4-7-1 ATS vs. the AFC East.
Buffalo has played pretty much the same all season long. They haven’t done much offensively, but their defense has been among the best in the league. They’ve outscored their last seven meaningful opponents (excludes Week 17) by 5 points per game. In those games, they’ve averaged 2.3 offensive touchdowns per game, while allowing 1.7 offensive touchdowns.
Houston is the opposite. They are not the same team they were earlier this year. In their last seven meaningful games, they’ve been outscored by 1.4 points per game, averaging 2.4 offensive touchdowns per game, while allowing 2.7 offensive touchdowns. Houston has lost the yards per play battle in five of those seven games.
Houston is projected to win this game by a score of 23-20. However, they’ve scored an average of 21.7 points in their last seven meaningful games, while Buffalo has allowed an average of 16.4 points. Meanwhile, Buffalo has scored an average of 21.4 points over their last seven meaningful games, while Houston has allowed 23.1 points.
Houston’s Deshaun Watson has 34 total touchdowns and 17 turnovers, a 2-1 split. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is the same with 29 total touchdowns and 14 turnovers. Among playoff teams, Buffalo ranks 2nd best in opponent passer rating (78.8). Houston’s pass defense is ranked worst among playoff teams in opponent passer rating (92.5).
If you can get Buffalo at +3.5 – bet it!
Tennessee @ New England (-5.0) Predictions
These teams met in the playoffs just two short years ago. New England won 35-14. Derrick Henry was held to 28 yards on 12 rushing attempts in that game. How quickly things have changed. Tennessee now has one of the league’s highest scoring offenses (31.3 points per game in their last seven meaningful matchups), while New England’s offense has been decidedly below average (21.4 points per game in their last seven).
Do you know who is ranked #1 in the league in passer rating? It’s Ryan Tannehill. New England’s Tom Brady is far behind at #19. Defensively it’s a flip, with New England ranked #1, and Tennessee ranked 3rd worst among the twelve playoff teams.
New England has an edge in coaching, but Tennessee has several former Patriot players and coaches. That familiarity came in handy for Tennessee last year when they beat New England at home by a score of 34-10.
New England is limping into the playoffs with a 4-4 record in their last eight games. Tennessee is 5-3 in their last eight games, and 7-3 since making the switch to Tannehill. Tannehill has experience playing against New England from his time in Miami. He’s beaten New England several times, but those wins were all at home. Tannehill has never won a road game in New England.
New England is projected to win this game by a score of 25-20. However, they’ve scored under 25 points in seven of their last eight games, while Tennessee has scored over 20 points in seven of their last eight games, and in nine out of ten games with Tannehill at quarterback.
Take the Titans at +5.0. Even at +4.5 – it’s still worth it.
Minnesota @ New Orleans (-7.5) Picks
This game is a dream matchup for Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins. In three games vs. Sean Payton’s Saints, quarterback Kirk has thrown for 1,005 yards, with 74% completions, and a TD/INT ratio of 9/1. He’s 2-1 ATS in those games.
For Drew Brees, this is not the ideal matchup. In four games vs. Mike Zimmer’s Vikings, he has thrown for 998 yards, with 72% completions, and a TD/INT ratio of 7/3. He is 2-2 SUATS in those games.
Neither head coach has excelled in recent postseason play. Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer is 1-2 SU and 1-1-1 ATS in the playoffs. During that same four-year period, Sean Payton is 2-2 SU and 0-3-1 ATS in the playoffs.
New Orleans is projected to win this game by a score of 29-21. They might manage those 29 points, however, in their last seven games they have allowed an average of 22.7 points, while Minnesota has scored an average of 25.3 points in their last seven games.
The knock-on Cousins is his inability to win a big game. That may be true, but most of those games came when he was still with Washington. Paired with Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota defense, Cousins is 18-12-1 SU. If he loses this game it will define his career. I think he knows that and will put forth one of his best efforts.
I bet Minnesota +7.5
Seattle (-1.5) @ Philadelphia Picks
As we’ve pointed out in the past, Philadelphia’s defense plays much better at home than on the road. Under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles defense has allowed 17 points and 274 yards per game at home, along with 4.8 yards per play, and a 3rd down conversion percentage of 28.9%. On the road, Philly has allowed 27.5 points and 390 yards per game, 6.1 yards per play, and a 3rd down conversion percentage of 39.8%.
That’s a sizable difference, and those figures are not a one-time thing. Schwartz’s entire history has followed a similar pattern. In his previous three years with Philadelphia, his defense allowed an average of 16 points and 311 yards per game at home, and from his time with Detroit in 2009 up until 2018, Schwartz’s defenses have allowed 21 points and 329 yards per game, along with 5.3 yards per play at home, vs. 26 points and 371 yards per game, and 5.7 yards per play on the road.
Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson is 3-0 SUATS in home playoff games. Since 2014, Seattle’s Pete Carroll is 1-3 SUATS in road playoff games. In head-to-head games, Carroll has the upper hand, going 3-0 SUATS vs. Pederson.
Philadelphia is a 70% home club getting points. We’ve seen this three times in the last three weeks, and those teams are 2-1 SUATS.
Seattle wants to run the ball and Philly is a top-10 team in yards per rush allowed. Seattle is ranked 28th, allowing 4.9 yards per rush. Seattle is 1-3 SU and 0-3-1 ATS in their last four games. That is not the ideal way to enter the postseason.
Still, The Eagles aren’t getting enough points to bet them. I pass.