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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016-17 NFL Wildcard Weekend Playoff Preview

Yee Haw, I love Football!
As is the tradition for NFL playoff time, Dallas native and Cowboys fan J.R. Ewing will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  This year, we have a special twist to discuss in a minute.  But here each playoff game will have a short analysis with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for recreation purposes only.  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

Welcome NFL Expert consultant, Bulldog Babe
For this year's twist, we're bringing in a NFL expert consultant to offer supporting or contradictory analysis.  Welcome "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) whose candid football analysis is spot on, funny, and usually turns out correct if you are smart enough to follow her on Twitter.  Bias alert, she really likes Aaron Murray and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And if you follow NASCAR, you have to track her lap by lap analysis (just don't cheer for Jimmie Johnson).

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 7, 2017: 16:35 EST
Oakland Raiders (+3.5, +175) at Houston Texans (-3.5, -205) O/U 36.5

Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Last ten games: 8-2
Road: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Derek Carr (out)

Houston Texans (9-7)
Last eight games: 4-4
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Lamar Miller (probable)

J.R. Ewing prediction
Most pundits slam the Texans for playing in a bad division and having no offense.  Both true.  But they have the number one defense (by yardage allowed) and are very tough at home.  The Raiders will be starting rookie quarterback Connor Cook and this is a tough assignment for him.  These teams played in Mexico City and the Raiders prevailed on a fourth quarter comeback.  The methodical Texans get it done at home with a tough defense and enough scoring (maybe via turnovers) to move to the next round.

Final Prediction: Texans 20 Raiders 12.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Texans have had an up and down year, especially at the quarterback position towards the end of the regular season. Raiders are without Derek Carr going into the first playoff round and their final regular season game was not their best of the season, but they will have to lean on rookie Connor Cook during the playoffs. I have the Raiders taking this game in a close one

Final Prediction: Raiders 20 Texans 13.

January 7, 2017: 20:15 EST
Detroit Lions (+8, +300) at Seattle Seahawks (-8, -360) O/U 43

Detroit Lions (9-7)
Last three games: 0-3
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 0-5 (0-4 on road)
Key Injuries: Matt Stafford (probable)

Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Last six games: 3-3
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-1 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Earl Thomas (out), Tyler Lockett (out)

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Seahawks edge seems to have been less since Earl Thomas went out.  Always tough at home in front of the 12th Man, self-proclaimed loudest crowd in the NFL.  They have sputtered on offense with no real running game this year.  But the Lions are reeling badly.  Note no wins against playoff teams for Detroit, they seem to have little chance to keep up with the Seahawks.  Lower scoring victory for Seattle, but closer than people think.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 21 Lions 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This is a great matchup with two great teams that have had a great season. Despite his injured finger, Lions QB Matt Stafford is having one of, if not, his best season since being drafted by Detroit in 2009. He became the fastest player in league history to throw for 30,000 pass yards in just his 109th career game, breaking Dan Marino’s record of 114 games. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is a mobile quarterback who has that ability to extend plays. Just because of that, he will be a force to be reckoned with when he faces the Lions defense. It will be a close matchup I feel like as well.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 24 Lions 21.

January 8, 2017: 13:05 EST
Miami Dolphins (+10, +380) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, -455) O/U 46

Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-2 on road)
Key Injuries: Ryan Tannehill (doubtful)

Pittsburgh Steelers  (11-5)
Last seven games: 7-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-2 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
No team in the AFC seems hotter than the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose last loss was an epic thriller to the Dallas Cowboys.  The Dolphins have also been winning with one of the best records in the NFL the second half.  However, missing Tannehill is a killer.  And while they defeated Pittsburgh earlier in the year, these Steelers are vastly improved.  Much better offensive weapons, plus terrible towels and the Steelers roll easily against the punchless Dolphins, who rely on the running game and Jay Ajayi to protect leads or keep them in close games.  This won't be close.

Final Prediction: Steelers 31 Dolphins 10.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Dolphins have a great running back in Jay Ajayi, but the Steelers have a great offensive line with guys such as wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell included in the mix. These teams faced each other in week 6 and it was not a good run for Pittsburgh, but it will be a different go around this time. Pittsburgh will be playing angry remembering the previous matchup in week 6.

Final Prediction: Steelers 24 Dolphins 14.
 
January 8, 2017: 16:40 EST
New York Giants (+4.5, +185) at Green Bay Packers (-4.5, -215) O/U 44.5

New York Giants (11-5)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-2 on road)
Key Injuries: None

Green Bay Packers  (10-6)
Last six games: 6-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 5-2 (4-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Packers are the talk of the NFC after living up to MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers prediction of "winning out" after Week 11.  They are always impressive at home and did damage against playoff teams this year.  The Giants haven't been too shabby either, and Eli Manning just knows how to win in the playoffs (8-1 in his last nine playoff games).  The Giants fight tough, but the Packers too tough at home.  The temps will be well below freezing, keeping it lower scoring than otherwise.

Final Prediction: Packers 24 Giants 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Eli Manning is one of five quarterbacks to win a road game in Green Bay, he has done so twice. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are headed into Sunday on a six game win streak and Rodgers threw for 300 yards last week in the matchup against the Detroit Lions. He is also has had an MVP, and he has had a stellar season despite the team’s regular season record. Sunday is the first time that they will face off in the NFC Wild Card game, so it will be another great game.

Final Prediction: Packers 27 Giants 20.

The NFL playoffs are for the fans, no more pretenders, just contenders.  I want to thank Bulldog Babe for her analysis and contributions and hope she can join us the rest of the postseason (her contract at this point is week to week).  Enjoy the games, and we'll provide a postmortem along with Division Playoff analysis next week!

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