The NFL Playoffs arrive this weekend and those making NFL picks will be facing the sharpest numbers of the season from the sportsbooks. With just four games, oddsmakers can divide the action with ease.
However, the football bettor’s task is also simpler, not having information overload from too many sources to attack the betting odds when making their NFL picks. Here is where I as a NFL football handicapper find the greatest value for this upcoming Wild Card weekend.
Panthers on the Prowl for a Victory
Going into last week, I was convinced the winner of Carolina and Atlanta was going to be a home underdog against the NFL odds unless they would be lucky enough to face Arizona. This line of thinking proved to be accurate, with Carolina a 5-point favorite despite having a losing record (7-8-1) heading into the playoffs. What is even more striking is from Oct. 12 thru the end of November, the Panthers were 0-6-1 (3-4 ATS). But give credit to coach Ron ‘Riverboat’ Rivera, who gambled in making defensive personnel adjustments to get faster and in the Panthers last seven contests, they are allowing just 86.4 yards per game on the ground.
The much-maligned offensive line became a more cohesive group late in the season, growing in confidence blocking for a red-hot running back in James Stewart and has averaged 194.6 rushing yards a game the last five weeks.
Arizona’s 9-1 start allowed them to become a playoff team, but the loss of Carson Palmer was a devastating blow and losing backup Drew Stanton likely secured their fate. Since Palmer went down, the combination of Stanton and Ryan Lindley has averaged 12.4 points a contest, which will not win many games.
This places a lot of pressure on the defense and they have shown cracks of late, especially against the run in conceding 236.5 yards per contest the last two weeks. The Cardinals this week will focus on stopping the Carolina run game and hope to create turnovers and work with Lindley not to stare down receivers as is he is wont to do, which has resulted in all of his recent interceptions. Unless Carolina starts fumbling and Cam Newton begins throwing jump balls, I cannot comprehend how Arizona stays in the game until the fourth quarter and the ‘Cats cruise to a win and cover.
Free NFL Pick: Carolina -5
Dallas Dominates in Big D
For much of Tony Romo’s career, the Cowboys needed a stuntman’s landing cushion the way they fell off the last month of the season. But not this year, as they look like genuine Super Bowl contenders with four wins and covers in a row. In Dallas’ favor, especially on offense, is the best offensive line in football, the best running back in DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant, who leads the NFL in touchdown catches with 16.
The Dallas defense is not the same quality as the past few years, but they improved as the season wore on and finished 11th in yards per points. Also, this last month, they have been ball hawks, generating 13 turnovers.
The NFL is a cruel league and with Detroit falling to ZERO for forever in Wisconsin, they fell from possible division champions to wild card status, facing arguably the hottest squad heading into the postseason.
Detroit has a 4-4 record on the road but just 2-6 ATS this season and the main reason why is they are averaging an unsavory 15.6 points a contest. Matthew Stafford continues to struggle with accuracy, despite having two 1,000 yards pass catchers in Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. Just in case you have not heard, Stafford and the other players in the Hawaiian blue jersey’s are 0-16 away (3-12-1 ATS) versus winning teams.
Though the Lions finished second in total defense in the league, it is presumed Ndamukong Suh will remain suspended which weakens the Detroit defense markedly. A hot team, facing a struggling offense that will be without their best defensive player, leads to the Cowboys lassoing the Lions.
Free NFL Pick: Dallas -7 at BetOnline