• Max Carlson

Max against the Spread | Wildcard Weekend

Image Credit: Houston Texans

The regular season has come to a close, and what should be a very exciting playoff bracket kicks off this weekend with the wildcard round. I would like to thank everyone who followed along throughout the regular season while I took on the daunting task of picking against the spread for every NFL game. It took until the final week of the season to eclipse the .500 mark, but it actually happened. With a dominant performance in the final week, I went 12-4 and improved my overall record to 110-106-2. As I’m sure you know, picking against the spread is much more difficult than picking outright winners on the money line, as Vegas sets their spreads in a way that they anticipate will generate even betting action on both sides - thus guaranteeing a profit for the books. Finishing in the black was no easy task, and I owe thanks to the readers who participated in my tweets throughout the year offering their takes on some of the point spreads.

But we’re not done yet. I’ll take on all of the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl, where I’ll have not only my pick against the spread, but a big breakdown of some of the absurd prop bets that become available for the big game.

Let’s dive in!

Saturday Games:

Colts @ Texans (-1.5)

I think the Colts are going to make some serious noise in the stacked AFC bracket, and that noise-making will start in Houston. I’m taking the Colts to win this game outright, so the leeway of a possible one-point loss is icing on the cake. I love what’s going on in Houston, but Andrew Luck’s experience in these big games will be the difference maker. Another key factor will be the Colts’ pass rush going up against the abysmal offensive line that’s tasked with protecting Deshaun Watson. In their two regular season meetings this year, the Colts sacked Watson a total of 12 times. Between the mismatch in the trenches, and Houston’s inefficient ground game, I’m expecting their offense to run through DeAndre Hopkins and be fairly one-dimensional. Something to keep an eye on though, is the availability of Colts WR T.Y. Hilton. As of Thursday, he has yet to practice this week. If he isn’t available, that complicates things, but it wouldn’t sway my opinion on the outcome of this game. Remember, the Texans will be without Demaryius Thomas. Take the Colts with confidence.

The pick: Colts (+1.5)

Seahawks @ Cowboys (-2)

There are many reasons to take Dallas in this one. On the year, Dallas is 5-2-1 against the spread when playing at home. Their young, fast defense has played exceptionally well, and will be a problem for the Seahawks’ offense. Ezekiel Elliott will have a great opportunity for a huge game against the suspect Seattle run defense. Also, unlike their last meeting earlier in the year, the Cowboys will have Amari Cooper at their disposal, while the Seahawks will be without star safety Earl Thomas.

Despite all of this, there’s one simple thing working in Seattle’s favor that makes everything I just mentioned null and void:

Russell Wilson.

The enigma who’s incapable of getting hurt, and consistently capable of putting together 4th quarter performances that leave everyone scratching their heads while thinking, “why does this always happen?”

As a 49er fan, I would love to see Dak Prescott and the boys send the Seahawks home packing, but I’m not betting on it. Expect to see an absurd evasive maneuver leading to an unfathomable throw to a double-covered Tyler Lockett that bounces off the referee’s left earlobe, only to be caught for a game winning touchdown. Trust me, that is the safe bet.

The pick: Seahawks (+2)

Sunday Games:

Chargers @ Ravens (-2.5)

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. I think the obvious choice here would be to take the Ravens, given that they beat down the Chargers in Los Angeles just a couple weeks ago, but I still think the Chargers are the better team, and I’m going to take them in this matchup. Lamar Jackson has been a fun story, but I’m expecting Phillip Rivers to end that story and advance his team to the divisional round. The Chargers will have a tall task trying to move the ball against the dominant front seven of Baltimore. But with the elite talent they have at the skill positions, I think they’ll manage enough points to escape this game with the victory. Something else to consider if you’re on the fence with this one like myself: the Chargers are 7-1 against the spread on the road this year, while the Ravens are 3-5 against the spread at home. The 2 points being given is a nice cushion if things go wrong (like a missed game winning field goal in true Chargers fashion.)

The pick: Chargers (+2.5)

Eagles @ Bears (-6)

The defending champions have to go to the one place that no NFC team wants to go: Soldier Field in Chicago. I’ll spare you the analysis of the Bears’ defense, because we all know how dominant that unit is. This game will ride on the shoulders of Mitch Trubisky. Can he expose the Eagles’ questionable secondary and put up enough points to let his defense handle the rest? He certainly has the weapons at hand to do it, so there won’t be any excuse if he fails to hold up his end of the deal on Sunday. The Bears have been one of, if not the, most dominating teams against the spread this year, especially at home. They’re 12-4 overall ATS, with a 7-1 record at home (6-0 when favored at home.)

This is an easy one for me, and the only game where I’m not taking the underdog. However, get it while you can. The line opened up at minus-5.5 for Chicago, and is now at minus-6 at the time of writing. With the public leaning heavily on the Bears, I expect to see this line somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 by kickoff. Now is the time to get in, because it’s as good as it’s going to get for Bears backers.

The pick: Bears (-6)

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