NFL Wild-Card Weekend: Best Picks Against the Spread

Ricky Rothstein | Updated Jan 02, 2017

We are guaranteed a new Super Bowl matchup on the first Sunday of February in Houston as both Super Bowl participants from last season, champion Denver and Carolina, failed to qualify for this season’s playoffs. It’s the first time since 2003 that both of the previous year’s Super Bowl teams missed out, and the Broncos and Panthers are two of six teams to be watching this postseason after making it last year. Here’s a look at the four wild-card games this weekend and their Sports Interaction NFL odds.

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

Point spread: Houston -3.5 Total: 36.5 That’s the lowest total in an NFL game that I can remember seeing in a long while. And it’s because this might be the worst matchup of quarterbacks in modern NFL playoff history. And I can’t even tell you who is starting for either team. Oakland’s Derek Carr had an MVP-type season but broke his leg in Week 16 so he’s out. Backup Matt McGloin started Week 17 in Denver, played badly and left late in the first half with an injured left shoulder. Third-stringer and rookie Connor Cook was active for the first time this year and played OK in McGloin’s place. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio hasn’t said who starts this week and that even if McGloin were healthy, it wouldn’t necessarily be him. Meanwhile, the biggest free-agent bust in the league this year was Houston QB Brock Osweiler. He was benched for Tom Savage in Week 15 and Savage started this past two. But he left Sunday’s loss at Tennessee with a possible concussion, was cleared and returned but then left again after another examination and didn’t return. Coach Bill O’Brien hasn’t said who would start if Savage is healthy. Houston and Oakland played Monday night Week 11 in Mexico City and the Raiders rallied for a 27-20 win. Carr threw for 295 yards and three scores, while Osweiler threw for 243 with a TD and a pick. Pick ATS: Houston

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Point spread: Seattle -8 Total: 42.5 The Lions owe the New York Giants a big thank-you gift. Had New York not upset the Redskins in Washington earlier Sunday, then the Lions would have missed the playoffs following their home loss to Green Bay on Sunday night. Detroit would have won its first division title and hosted its first playoff game since 1993 had it beaten the Packers, but the Lions were torched by red-hot Aaron Rodgers. Lions QB Matthew Stafford was playing the best football of his career this season until he tore ligaments in and dislocated the middle finger on his throwing hand Week 14 vs. Chicago. The Lions rallied to win that game but haven’t had a victory since and Stafford hasn’t been the same. The Detroit defense has allowed 73 points combined the past two losses. Seattle essentially had nothing to play for Sunday as the NFC West champion and was nearly upset in San Francisco. But the Seahawks pulled QB Russell Wilson early in the fourth to keep him healthy. Seattle has won nine straight home playoff games, while the Lions have never won a road postseason game in the Super Bowl era. This teams didn’t play during the regular season. Pick ATS: Seahawks

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET

Point spread: Pittsburgh -10 Total: 47 Pittsburgh played its junior varsity on Sunday as it was locked into the AFC’s No. 3 seed as the North champion but still managed to win its seventh straight game with a come-from-behind overtime victory over Cleveland. Miami had basically nothing to play for in Week 17 vs. New England and didn’t put up much of a fight in a 35-14 loss. The big question here is whether Dolphins starting QB Ryan Tannehill can return from a knee injury after missing the past there games. It’s not thought he will be able to, but it hasn’t been ruled out as of this writing. Matt Moore has gone 2-1 in his place for Miami, which is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins looked dead in the water this year when they were 1-4 and the Steelers visited south Florida, but Miami rolled that day 30-15 to turn its season around. Jay Ajayi was the star for the Dolphins with 204 yards and two TDs on 25 carries. Ben Roethlisberger hurt his knee in the game and didn’t play well even before that happened. Pick ATS: Dolphins

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET

Point spread: Green Bay -4 Total: 44 If any team will feel comfortable playing at Lambeau Field, it will be the wild-card Giants. In the 2007 season as a wild-card team, the Giants upset the host Packers 23-20 in overtime in the NFC Championship Game on the way to winning the Super Bowl. That was Brett Favre’s last game as a member of the Packers. Four years later at Lambeau, the wild-card Giants upset the Packers 37-20 in the divisional round on the way to the Super Bowl title. This year’s Packers are rolling, however, having won six in a row and Rodgers has been the NFL’s highest-rated QB in that stretch with 15 TDs throws and no interceptions. Green Bay beat the visiting Giants 23-16 in Week 5. Rodgers had two TDs but also two picks. The Packers defense held New York to 221 yards. Pick ATS: Packers