Nik’s Picks: NFL Super Wild-Card Saturday 2020

It’s NFL playoffs time. With no Canadian football to watch in 2020 my eyeballs crossed over the border to the American game, which had its most unique regular season in history. Of course, I laid down a couple loonies and toonies and at the end of the day I profited 3.47 units. That didn’t cover the fantasy football and confidence pool fees I put forth, but I did end on a heater. Onto Saturday’s games!

Indianapolis @ Buffalo (-7)

Full disclosure, I root for the Colts. Full disclosure, there are some mighty fine statistics that indicate the 2 versus 7 matchup in the AFC should be much closer than what your average Bills fans might tell you, that is once they’re done telling you they’re a Bills fan. So far just over 60 per cent of the bets and money is on Buffalo, yet on some books it’s become easier for them to cover. Reverse line movement is key.

Buffalo’s got an elite offence led by Josh Allen and his wide receiver one Stefon Diggs. Indianapolis’ identity is a run game steered by rookie Jonathan Taylor, and on the flip side a high-motor defence that forces quarterbacks to play smart.

Why Buffalo:

The Bills offence can win them any game. They’re my second-highest ranked team in the playoffs due to the fact they get ahead early and pass the ball extremely well. In fact, no quarterback performed better again man-to-man coverage than Josh Allen. Buffalo also controls their games, ranking third in time of possession this season. Indianapolis on the other hand is average in most of these categories and have a mediocre quarterback to boot. The Colts’ pass defence is also giving up over 300 yards over their last three.

Why Indianapolis:

Allen and the Bills dominate man coverage, but the Colts played more zone than 25 NFL teams and ranked sixth when playing it. What’s even more interesting is how pedestrian Allen is against zone. Allen‘s EPA drops from 73.1 against man to 52.5 against zone, throwing 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions against any zone variation. On offence Indianapolis’ meat and potatoes is pounding the rock, and only five teams (all missed the playoffs) gave up more rushing scores in 2020 than Buffalo, also the NFL’s fifth-worst tackling team.

Indianapolis 24 Buffalo 27

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle (-3)

In a tale of two seasons the Seahawks took the NFC West with a hot offence that has now cooled off, and a historically-bad defence that played incredible down the stretch. Is Jared Goff playing for the Rams? Because if not, it’s first to 14 with Russel Wilson under centre at home. And now it’s time for the strangest stat of this blog: over the past eight seasons, the under is 15-0-1 between the 3 and 6 seed playoff matchup. I’m looking at you, under 42.

Wilson at home with a solid defence is one of the NFL’s sure-things. But if Goff plays you can never count out a Sean McVay offence that’s gotten the better of Seattle in years past.

Why Los Angeles:

Because defences wins you championships, McVay’s brain also at least gets you there. Los Angeles does three things on offence like few other teams can: maintain the ball, complete passes, and run the ball in masses. All three give you a good shot to win games. Goff’s status means everything to the Rams, even with his bleh play in 2020. He runs McVay’s offence well, an offence that’s defeated Seattle five times in eight tries. Seattle’s also in the bottom half of all the categories Los Angeles excels in: time of possession and red zone defence.

Why Seattle:

The Seahawks get ahead early, both on their offensive series’ and on the scoreboard. Only one team had a better early down success rate than Seattle this season and only five teams were better overall in the first half. Seattle also missed zero field goals in 2020, which shouldn’t be underestimated. The Seahawks are a sound running team, ranking sixth in yards per carry behind several ball-carriers. And when they call a pass there are few pivots you’d rather have than Russel Wilson. They also haven’t lost a home playoff game since 2005.

Los Angeles 16 Seattle 22

Tampa Bay (-8) at Washington

The David vs. Goliath matchup comes in primetime, how fitting! In all honesty, how does Buffalo not get the nighttime slot and the NFC East does? Is it because history indicates Chase Young will be correct, in fact, to want Tom Brady? Since the NFL’s 1970 merger only three times has a road team been a favourite of greater than six points. Those three teams lost outright. The Bucs are the fourth team to fit that bill, and a public betting favourite. Ew.

Tampa Bay’s without All-Pro linebacker Devin White, the best player affected by the COVID-19 protocols this weekend. But, hear me out: it’s Brady versus Alex Smith, and well Washington is bad.

Why Tampa Bay:

My honest answer is because they’re better than Washington, but boy the Bucs are not a team to put your future dollars on. I have Tampa Bay as the 12th highest-ranked team left despite Brady actually playing very solid with his All-Star cast down in Florida. The sit in the top in first half point differential, yards per pass attempt, and starting total QBR. Washington’s also in the bottom five in the following areas: early down success rate, first half point differential, yards per pass attempt, yards per rush, and starting total QBR.

Why Washington:

You know what Washington does poorly, but what do they do well? Second halves! With the league’s 31st ranked first half point differential, the Football Team are the best second half defence in the NFL by surrendering 5.7 points per second half (and 3.8 per half at home). They were a top-two rated second half team behind… Tampa Bay. Oh no. At least the Football Team have a top-five red zone defence in their favour.

Side note: Washington’s my worst-ranked team in the playoffs which uses 10 statistical categories. If you were to include only where Washington ranks in early down success rate and first half point differential, they would still have a worse total than if you counted Green Bay’s ranking in all 10 categories. Washington = 225 points. Green Bay = 59. The higher the number = no bueno.

Tampa Bay 22 Washington 16

Bet of the day
IND +7 -127

Personal plays
IND +7 -127 2u
Jonathan Taylor anytime TD -110 1.5u
Jonathan Taylor over 75.5 rushing yards -120 1u
SEA -3 -115 1u
LAR-SEA under 48.5, WSH +14.5 -104 1u
Chris Godwin over 60.5 receiving yards -120 1u

Year to date: +3.47u

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