Metro tells you where to place your money for the first week of the NFL playoffs.
Oakland Raiders atHouston Texans (-3.5)
It’s hard to have faith in the Raiders now that third-string QB Connor Cook will be under center, but in a potentially very low-scoring affair (the betting total is a season-low 35), they can keep it close and perhaps even beat the Texans in Houston.
The Texans are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games and are now turning back to Brock Osweiler after some uninspiring play from backup Tom Savage. Oakland’s defense is exploitable (26th by YPG), but Osweiler’s unit was ranked 28th on the season by YPG. Lamar Miller can be explosive at times but Oakland’s defense will be looking for him. The same can be said for Houston’s defense and Raiders RB Latavius Murray.
Turnovers could make the difference in this one. The Raiders have forced 30 turnovers this year while the Texans have forced just 17, and Oakland leads Houston in turnover differential plus-16 to minus-7.
The pick: Raiders +3.5
Detroit Lions atSeattle Seahawks (-8)
The Seahawks ended their 2016 campaign in a Jekyll-and-Hyde manner, sandwiching easy wins over the Panthers and Rams with surprising losses to the Packers and Cardinals before scraping by the hapless 49ers in Week 17. However, they seem to be in demonstrably better shape heading into the postseason than the Lions, who dropped their last three games and fell into a wild card position.
The Lions have been giving their backers heart attacks all season, as eight of their wins have come via fourth-quarter comebacks led by Matt Stafford. But their luck appears to have run out as they’ll face the league’s fifth-best defense by YPG (third by PPG) while playing in daunting CenturyLink Field.
Detroit’s rush defense has been slashed for over 300 yards combined in their last two games, so Thomas Rawls and Alex Collins should have no problem moving the chains on the ground. That will take the pressure off Russell Wilson, whose offensive line in among the worst in the league at protecting the quarterback.
Expect Seattle to stymie the Lions’ offense and coast to a low-scoring victory.
The pick: Seahawks -8
Miami Dolphins atPittsburgh Steelers (-10)
Matt Moore will have his hands full trying to match scores with Ben Roethlisberger when the Dolphins travel to Pittsburgh for this AFC Wild Card matchup.
The Steelers have won seven straight games, their last coming with Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown all on the sidelines. They should be well-rested and ready to torch the sorry Miami stoppers that have surrendered over 428 YPG in their last five contests.
As for the Dolphins’ offense, they did not look ‘ready for primetime’ when they were thrashed by the Patriots last Sunday. Jay Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards when these teams met in Miami on Oct. 16, but plenty has changed since then. Once the Steelers contain Ajayi, the Dolphins’ ability to move the football will be severely compromised. Pittsburgh is the best bet of the week.
The pick: Steelers -10
New York Giants atGreen Bay Packers (-4.5)
The Giants beat Green Bay in Lambeau Field on the way to Super Bowl glory in both 2008 and 2012, but a three-peat doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
The Packers handled the Giants at home on Oct. 9, and that was before Aaron Rodgers and company got on the roll they’re on now. The Packers have won their last six games, with Rodgers passing for over 275 YPG. The Giants’ pass stoppers have struggled to contain the last three pocket QBs they’ve faced, allowing an average of 262 YPG to Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford and Ben Roethlisberger.
Unlike Rodgers, Eli Manning has failed to record more than 200 passing yards in four of his last six games. And with Green Bay’s defense generating turnovers at an incredible rate (plus-13 differential last four games), Manning could get himself into trouble if he tries to force it downfield to Odell Beckham Jr.
The pick: Packers -4.5