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Saturday, 5 January 2013

NFL Play Off Picks Wild Card Round 2012

I have had a busy week with work once again back in full flow, but I had decided I would only make my picks from the Wild Card Round this week.

I have an idea over which teams I think will be competing in the Conference Championship Games in two weeks time, but the NFL season has been more than surprising that I wouldn't be shocked if I was wrong.

Just for arguments sake, I believe we will see Denver taking on New England in the AFC and Atlanta taking on Green Bay in the NFC, but I am a lot more confident in my AFC projections than I am with the NFC ones.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans Pick: It seems the trendy pick this week is the Cincinnati Bengals knocking off the Houston Texans, but I like the home team in this one with home field being the real difference between the teams.

Both teams have powerful Defenses and I think it will be that side of the ball that dominates- both also have one very strong Wide Receiver that could have a big game.

I also think there is a slight question mark on both Quarter Backs in this game so you can see why I like the Defenses in the contest.

Houston and Cincinnati are both amongst the leading teams in amount of sacks generated this season with the Bengals number 1 in that category. However, I think what will stand out at the end of this game is Arian Foster and the Houston Texan rushing game, although it has been faltering in recent weeks.

I trust Foster more than the Bengals Backs and I think he will be able to find enough success to allow Matt Schaub to make his favourite play-action play to Andre Johnson and that should lead Houston to a win in this game.

I remain unconvinced about Cincinnati and it has to be said that Houston have won 4 games in a row in the series, including consecutive blow outs at home. The Texans have also covered the spread in the last 5 in this series between these two teams.

A couple of trends also favour the Houston Texans in this one- first, teams coming off a straight up loss as a favourite are 10-3 against the spread at home in the Wild Card Round.

Second, Wild Card road teams are just 20-40-1 against the spread if they played a Divisional rival in their last game, while that becomes 9-25 against the spread if they are given more than 3 points.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers Pick: Everyone and their mother should know what Minnesota are going to do in this game, although I still think Adrian Peterson will have another big game for them against the Green Bay Packers in the third meeting of the season between these Divisional rivals.

I expect Peterson will have another big game in this one, although Minnesota are facing a tough task having to take on the Packers outdoors this time. While Christian Ponder played pretty well last week, I have little faith that the Quarter Back will be able to make the same throws this week in what could be conditions involving freezing rain.

The Packers are also getting healthier on the Defense and they did make a couple of key mistakes on that side of the ball that cost them the game in Minnesota last week- these are the kind of mistakes that Dom Capers will make sure his unit rectify this week and I think Ponder will be under pressure.

On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers should have yet another big game against the Vikings Secondary, while the return of Randall Cobb will enable him to get the ball out a little quicker and perhaps negate the pass rush Minnesota have, one that will get through this porous Offensive Line.

Green Bay have also found a running game and that balance should mean Rodgers has time to make the big plays downfield. With all his weapons, I do expect Green Bay to put up enough points and put the Vikings away this week.

The Pack have won 3 straight against Minnesota at home and covered the spread in each of those game.

The trends that favour Houston also apply to Green Bay this week- there is one further trend that goes against Minnesota and that is teams off a straight up win as an underdog are 13-20-1 against the spread in their Wild Card game.

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: There are a lot of emotions involved in this game as the Baltimore crowd have never, and probably never will, forgiven the way the Indianapolis Colts came into being, while the stories surrounding Chuck Pegano and Ray Lewis have also been well established.

Pegano was the former Defensive Co-Ordinator of the Baltimore Ravens before taking the Head Coach role in Indianapolis, while Jim Caldwell will be calling the Offensive plays for Baltimore having been the Head Coach of the Colts last season.

That should prove a lot of emotion in the Stadium throughout this game, but I am like the Baltimore Ravens to find a way to cover the spread which is stuck at 7 points and has been for much of the week.

Andrew Luck should have some success, while the Baltimore Defense is just not as intimidating as they used to be. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed are all getting old and Luck will make some plays with Reggie Wayne proving his ageless quality.

However, I think the key man in this Play Off game will be Ray Rice and I think the Running Back will be able to take advantage of this Indianapolis Defense that has struggled against the run. That will open up the field for Joe Flacco who has had some big Play Off games in the past and I think he will have a lot of success in this one. The Indianapolis Defense isn't really very good and being on the road, outdoors, looks a big ask for them.

A couple of the big trends I mentioned in the Green Bay and Houston games also apply to Baltimore in this one. Another is that teams coming off games where they have covered the spread by 12 points or more, as Indianapolis did against Houston in Week 17, are just 5-15-1 against the spread in the Wild Card Round when they are sent on the road.

Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins Pick: These two teams are very closely matches in my opinion and it has made picking a winner very, very difficult.

Both Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are rookie Quarter Backs for these teams and both have been very good this season in leading their teams.

The read option has made it tough for opposition Defenses to focus on, but both are going to be very familiar with that and I think the Defenses will step up in this one.

I think the real difference is that Seattle have the better Secondary and I think that will end up being the difference in this game. I believe Washington have the better receivers, but Seattle will happily leave Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner in one on one coverage on the outside and they should be able to commit more defenders to stop the option.

Griffin is also a little beat up at the moment and I think Wilson will win the battle of the Quarter Backs in this one.

Washington have won 3 in a row at home against Seattle and also won the last 2 in the series at the Seahawks, while the fact that Seattle is on the road is a concern as they are certainly not as good on their travels.

However, I think Seattle will do enough to win this game and I am going to back yet another favourite to win here.

MY PICKS: Houston Texans - 4 Points @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 7.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (4 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 7 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Seattle Seahawks - 3 Points @ 2.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

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