What We Learned About Wild Card Weekend & How It Affects Our NFL Picks

Ted Sevransky

Monday, January 11, 2016 7:01 PM GMT

A lot happened this last week in the NFL but just because its behind us doesn't mean we leave the lessons learned behind.  Let's examine some takeaways heading into the weekend.

What Bettors Learned On Wild Card Weekend
Experience Matters
The four road teams went into Wild Card Weekend with a combined 37 career starts from their quarterbacks. Three of the four road teams Seattle, Pittsburgh and Green Bay – had been to the Super Bowl in the last five years, and all three quarterbacks from those teams have at least one ring on their fingers.

Meanwhile, the four home teams came into the playoffs with a combined total of zero postseason starts from their quarterbacks. Brain Hoyer was downright inept in his playoff debut for the Texans, essentially handing the game to Kansas City. AJ McCarron looked awful for three quarters against the Steelers, and while his late game comeback was impressive, the poor conditions clearly affected McCarron’s confidence and execution more than they affected Roethlisberger. Teddy Bridgewater played a decent game for the Vikings, but he still only threw for 146 yards and Minnesota never cracked the end zone. And while Kirk Cousins threw for more than 300 yards against the Packers, he was also sacked six times and failed repeatedly in the red zone.  

 

Luck Matters
Two of the four games came down to one final drive. Pittsburgh got a couple of key calls in their favor on the final drive; most notably the personal foul on Adam Jones that set the Steelers up for a 35 yard field goal attempt instead of a 50 yarder. Pittsburgh was certainly lucky that LB coach Joey Porter wasn’t flagged on the same play, resulting in offsetting penalties. They were lucky that the Bengals missed their two point conversion try, allowing them to win with a field goal, instead of just sending the game into overtime. The Steelers made enough plays to win, but they were the beneficiaries of more than their fair share of lucky breaks.

And the Seahawks were certainly lucky! The three biggest plays of the game were both complete luck. Russell Wilson scooped up a bad snap, escaped two defenders and fired a deep pass to set up a first and goal on a completely busted play. Instead of facing second and 20, they were able to punch in the game’s first touchdown, swinging the momentum completely.
Adrian Peterson’s fumble on the ensuing drive (fumble luck = it was recovered by the Seahawks) set up Seattle for what proved to be the game winning field goal. And of course, Blair Walsh’s chip shot 27 yard field goal to win the game hooked way left, allowing the Seahawks to escape with a win. Seattle took advantage of the luck in their favor, but make no mistake about it – no team was luckier to reach the Divisional Round than Pete Carroll’s squad was.

 

Elite Teams Survive And Advance
Washington came into the season without a playoff win since 2005. They were lined as a 6.5 win team coming into the season. Houston went 2-14 just two years ago; a franchise with two playoff wins (both against the Bengals) in franchise history. The Bengals went into the postseason with an 0-6 playoff record under Marvin Lewis, now 0-7. And Minnesota’s last playoff win came in 2009 under Brad Childress. None of those four teams have been elite franchises at any point in the last two decades and it showed.

Meanwhile, the teams that have been consistent contenders in recent seasons all won on the road.  As noted above, Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have rings. So do Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. So do Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. The lone non-previous Super Bowl winning coach/QB combo to win in the Wild Card Round – KC – is riding an eleven game winning streak with both a coach and a QB who have been proven playoff performers. All the weaklings turned to dust, and all the experienced, elite level contenders moved on to the Divisional Round coming up this weekend.