And here we are, the 2 most fun weekends of the year, though this week’s wildcard matchups are far less attractive than last years, still it’s the playoffs and playoff football is awesome. I have Superbowl futures on the Steelers and Seahawks so that is where my rooting interest is, the Seattle bet was mad the week before Earl Thomas got hurt which feels a little like buying Hillary Clinton stock Nov 7th.
After another strong regular season we try to keep it going for another few weekends but again a reminder that with fewer games, the lines are tighter and just because it’s the playoffs doesn’t mean you need to bet more or have to bet every game. Stay Calm.
2016 Reg Season: 53-37-3 (58.9%)
Game 1: Oak +4 @ Hou
Bet% Oak 41% Hou 59%
For weeks I have been telling anyone that would listen that the 2 teams I couldn’t wait to bet against in the playoffs were Oakland and Houston, that was before Derek Carr got hurt and that was obviously before I knew they would play each other. The Raiders to me were a team over-rated in the market, by efficiency and point differential their record was ahead of their true performance and I thought there would be great value betting against them in the playoffs. Once Carr got hurt that was no longer the case.
As for Houston, I wanted to bet against them because they may be one of the worst division winners in recent memory and with Osweiller back at the helm this is exactly the team we have seen all year. Houston finished 9-7 but still ended up with a -49 point differential which is 26th in the league. Their Pythagorean wins for the year is 6.5 meaning based solely on pt differential, their record is 2.5 wins better that it should be. By Football outsiders estimated wins metric which uses team efficiency, red zone scoring, close game performance and some other measures their estimated win total for 2016 is 4.7. Houston finished 29th in DVOA overall, 30th on offense and Brock Osweiller finished with 15TDs , 16 INTs and a Passer rating of 72.2. All of which is to say Houston is bad.
So we have a bad team vs a pretty good team playing with their #3 QB in a season where there starting QB was the number one reason they won 12 games. So I guess the question is how much does Connor Cook hurt this offense? The Raiders were 7th in offense and 4th in passing offense. Cook looked ok in his limited play in week 17 vs the Broncos, 14/21 for 150 yards 1TD & 1 INT butthat’s not much to judge on. Cook was highly thought of going into his senior season but dropped to a 3rd rd pick in last years draft. Can Cook have the Raiders play as a top 20 offense? If he can that is miles better than the Texans 30th ranked pass offense and should give them a shot to win this game.
Osweiller is in a big spot here, the Texans fanbase cheered loudly when Savage took over for him in week 15 and if he struggles early the boo birds will be out. I have every confidence that Osweiller can give this game away and getting 4 points here in a game that I think Oakland can easily win because Houston isn’t a good team and has a QB that that is mistake prone is too much value to pass up.
Game 2: Mia @ Pit -10.5
Bet% Mia 48% Pit 52%
This is a line that I think is begging you to take the Dolphins, they opened it at double digits and when we get to the playoffs it’s easy to think that the games are all going to be close and you should take the points. That’s not how these things play out though. If we go back to last year, we had 2 blowouts on wildcard weekend, GB beat Was 35-18 and KC @ Hou, which I think is a good proxy to this one.
The Chiefs were 3 point road favorites last year at Houston, at home that makes that line -9 or -9.5 similar to this line here. Chiefs were the superior team and because it’s the playoffs there was no letup that we might see in the regular season. Chiefs won 30-0.
The Steelers finished the year 5th in overall DVOA and 3rd in weighted, while the Dolphins finished 17th and 16th respectively. Pittsburgh finished 8th on offense but remember they played the first 3 games without Levian Bell and also were without Roethlisberger for 3 of the games and even when he came back it took him 2 games to really get healthy. All that is to say that I think that a healthy Pittsburgh offense is a top 5 offense.
The Steelers won 11 games despite missing Bell and Roethlisberger for 3 games each, they played the 13 toughest schedule. Miami did have a 6 game winning streak but 4 of those wins came against the Jets, Rams, 49ers and Chargers who combined for a record of 16 – 64. In fact Miami played the 6th easiest schedule according to football outsiders.
In this game the matchup vs Miami is a good one, Miami gave up 4.8 yards per rush att meaning we should see a steady helping of Levian Bell and that along with the fact that Miami is 2nd to last in adjusted sack rate should give Roethlisberger enough time to make big plays in the passing game.
For the Dolphins to stay in this game they will need a big game from Jay Ajayi, in the week 6 game Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and 2 TDs on just 25 carries. That game spring boarded Ajayi to a great season, including back to back 200 yard games and another 200 yard game in week 16. Ajayi did not manage to keep that torrid pace up and in 5 of the last 6 games he rushed for 60 yards or fewer. Overall the Miami rush offense ranked 16th in DVOA and 8th in yards per rush att at 4.5. The Steelers defense played very well at the end of the year finishing 11th in overall and rush defense DVOA and gave up 4.3 yards per rush.
These teams met in Week 6 in Miami when the Steelers were 4-1 and Miami was 1-4. The Steelers were 8 point favorites and lost the game straight up 30-15 in a game that Roethlisberger wasn’t great in early and was injured in the 2nd half. It was a clear let down spot for Pittsburgh with New England on deck in week 7. There is no chance of that happening here, I think the Steelers win by 20.