2016 NFL Wild Card Picks: NFC Previews

Both NFC Wild Card games will be played on Sunday, January 10 at 1:05 pm. The first features the Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at the Minnesota Vikings (12-4). The Seahawks finished second in the NFC West, which was won by the Arizona Cardinals. The Minnesota Vikings took the NFC North by beating the Green Bay Packers on the final day and in the last game of the regular season.

The second game, which has the Green Bay Packers (10-6) at the Washington Redskins (9-7), will be played at 4:40 pm. The Redskins won the NFC East this season. The Packers, like the Seahawks, are in this due to their capturing the wild card.

Seattle at Minnesota

Seattle is the favorite, but the spread is everywhere on this game. You’ll find the Seahawks at -3.5, -4.0, -4.5, -5.0, and -6.0! The spread that’s most prevalent has the Seahawks listed at -4.0. The over/under opened at 42.5 and is now at 39.5. Bitter cold is expected in Minnesota at game time with temperatures around zero and wind chills well below that mark. That may take its toll on both offenses.

Between these two teams, the Seattle Seahawks are first in every major offensive and defensive category. They bring a very tough run defense, which they will need to utilize against the Vikings whose primary offense weapon is injured RB Adrian Peterson. The Seattle defense is first in the NFL in points allowed, as teams are averaging just 17.3 PPG against them. Their secondary has 14 interceptions with free safety Earl Thomas leading the club with five. Seattle pass rush is average.

The Seahawks offense will feature the dynamic Thomas Rawls at running back. He’s averaging 5.6 YPA and has 830 yards on 147 carries and four touchdowns. Of course, Seattle must deal with the fact that their top running back Marshawn Lynch is injured and out.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson (68.1 COMP%, 34 TDs, 8 INTs) has performed well. He is, however, susceptible to being sacked. He’s been brought down 45 times despite the fact that he has run for over 500 yards this season and is averaging 5.4 YPA. The Viking defense brings a solid pass rush. They have 45 sacks this season with DE Everson Griffen leading the club with 10.5. The Viking secondary features Terrance Newman at CB. He leads the team in picks with three.

On offense for the Vikings, a lot will depend on the injured Adrian Peterson (327 ATT, 1,485 YDs, 4.5 AVG, 11 TDs). Peterson, who will play, has had a stellar season despite being injured. Seattle QB Teddy Bridgewater (65.3 COMP%, 14 TDs, 9 INTs) has played well within his limits. He’s been brought down behind the line of scrimmage 44 times, and will be vulnerable on Sunday. When the offense isn’t running, he’ll be looking to make short, quick outlet passes.

Green Bay at Washington

The Green Bay and Washington game offers sports bettors some interesting lines. Most bookmakers have Washington at -1.0, but a few are listing the Pack at -1.0. The reason for these deviations may have to do with Green Bay’s tendency for inconsistent play this season, as well as Washington’s surprising performance in the NFC East.

The Pack comes into this game having lost two straight. Arizona beat them two weeks ago 38-8 and Minnesota won against Green Bay 20-13 last week. In contrast, the Redskins posted four straight wins in the last four weeks of the season.

This game offers sports bettors four major points to consider. The first is can Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers put together a solid air attack? He’s had as tough time doing so this season, and if the Redskins can put pressure on him, he’ll be challenged in putting points on the board.

The second question has to do with the Washington defense, which has forced 22 fumbles and recovered 15. The Packer rush attack and Rodgers are both susceptible to this type of pressure. If Washington defense players like Preston Smith, who is one of four Redskins with three forced fumbles and who is second on the team in sacks with 8, can control the line, then Washington will dominate this game.

The next question involves Washington QB Kirk Cousins (69.8 COMP%, 29 TDs, 11 INTs), who has comes into his own this season. Can Cousins, who has a cadre of fine receivers to throw to, continue his ascent towards becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the league? Washington does not have much of a ground attack, so Cousins will have to perform well to win.

Finally, can Green Bay LBs Julius Peppers (10.5 Sacks, 2 FF) and Clay Matthews (6.5 Sacks) put pressure on Cousins? They will need to in order to hamper the Skins’ pass attack.

Our Picks

Despite the cold weather in Minnesota, we like the Seahawks at either -3.5 or -4.0. We think their defense will do well against the Viking running game and Seattle QB Russell Wilson will step up. Take the under in this one at 39.5.

In the Green Bay and Washington game, we like the Skins at +1.0. To win, Cousins and company will need to put about 26 points on the board, as we expect Green Bay to be good for about 20. The over/under ranges from 44.5 to 45.5. This is a tough call, but the over looks like the right pick here.