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    Wild Card Weekend: Picks Against The Spread

    Wild Card Weekend: Picks Against The Spread
    Davis Mattek January 4, 2019 11:56AM EDT

    Davis Mattek Makes Picks Against The Spread For Wild Card Weekend

    While we all love Fantasy Football (and some of us even participate in Playoff Fantasy Football), the best part of the actual football season is the playoffs. The best way to sweat if your team didn’t make the playoffs or earned a first-round bye is to place bets on the Wild Card Weekend games against the Las Vegas spread. I am currently third out of 160 contestants in the Fantasy Pros Sports Betting Accuracy Challenge and would love to help you all have a rooting interest during Wild Card Weekend.

    Houston Texans -1

    These two teams are incredibly close in most advanced metrics. They are three spots away from each other in Football Outsiders DVOA, are .2 yards apart from one another in yards gained per play on offense and .1 yards apart from one other on yards allowed per play on defense. In that scenario, we would generally expect the home team to be favored by three points, not by one. The Colts get a little bit of public steam because Andrew Luck is held in such high reverence by the football touting community. However, Deshaun Watson had a startlingly efficient season with only nine interceptions despite playing with injured ribs for most of the regular season. Compare that to Luck, who is getting MVP buzz, despite being a full yard worse in Adjusted Yards Per Attempt than Watson. As the home team for this game, Houston is my second favorite pick of the week.

    Seattle Seahawks +2

    Seattle on the road at Dallas with the points is my favorite bet of the week. I am a former self-hating Dallas Cowboys fan who has transitioned my allegiance to the NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes. That doesn’t influence this pick, however. Seattle is a team on a clear upwards trajectory; over the last half of the season, they moved the ball more efficiently and allowed Russell Wilson more creative freedom in the pocket. Seattle is actually a full nine spots higher in Football Outsiders DVOA rankings than Dallas is and gains .2 yards more per play than Dallas does. The strength of this Cowboys team is their offensive line and ability to play a ball control offense, which is theoretically what Seattle likes to do as well. The difference between the two teams is the coaching staff (advantage: Seattle) and the improvisational ability of Russell Wilson. Those edges seem small, which is why the line is what it is, but the advantage here goes to the Seattle Seahawks.

    Baltimore Ravens -2.5

    Lamar Jackson is a good NFL quarterback and he is here to stay. There is, of course, an off chance that Jackson throws three interceptions at home and the Chargers are able to force a run-heavy Baltimore offense out of their comfort zone. The most likely scenario, however, is one where the team that ran the ball for more yards than they passed the ball in all but one game since their Week 10 bye does more of the same. Lamar Jackson averaged 4.7 rushing yards per attempt on 147 attempts and Gus Edwards averaged 5.2 rushing yards per attempt on 137 carries. While passing the ball is more efficient and this Ravens offense seems like something from a 1983 college football game at times, it does put their unique blend of talent in the best position to win games. Baltimore allowed the lowest opposing yards per play on defense this year, allowed the second-fewest first downs, the third lowest adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt and generated the second most Expected Points on defense. Home teams generally win playoff games and the Ravens formula of pounding the ball and playing stellar defense is the perfect antidote to this Los Angeles Chargers team.

    Chicago Bears -6

    This is pretty clearly the toughest game to call for me. The Bears are a very talented football team with a defense that in many ways, is actually better than aforementioned Baltimore Ravens unit. The Eagles were mediocre for much of the season and really only recaptured their magic when their starting quarterback was injured and replaced by Nick Foles. His playoff run from 2017 is the stuff of legend and has some people thinking that he is ready to do it again. However, Foles’ career Adjusted Yards Per Attempt is 7.1, but in four of his career seasons, his Adjusted Yards Per Attempt was worse than 6.3 yards. This tale of two quarterbacks leaves us scratching our heads about which one is going to show up on Sunday. If it is the bad version, the Bears should run away with this one. If good Nick Foles shows up, they are likely to be able to at least cover. Betting on the Bears is a bet on Matt Nagy being one of the best play callers in the NFL and their dominating defense forcing a poor, turnover-laden performance from Nick Foles.

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