Well that’s it for the 2021 regular season and the extra week of games certainly didn’t disappoint with upsets, resurgences and a nail biting end to the Sunday night game with the possibility of a mathematically extremely unlikely outcome until the last second.
So what does Wild Card Weekend have in store for us? If this season is any indicator, it won’t go to script! On paper there are some significantly one-sided games on the cards, but a quick look at the corresponding weekend for the last 3 seasons reveals only 3 out of 14 games being decided by 10 points or more.
There has not been a dominant team in the regular season of 2021 with a number of teams looking impressive on the basis of 8 to 10 game periods but none able to put together a complete season.
With that in mind, what might we expect from some of this weekend’s games and what opportunities might there be to find some value in the markets?
Momentum/Form over last 8 games
vs Playoff Teams
vs Winning Records
Some points of interest:
- despite being considered to have had an up and down campaign, the Chiefs have finished strongly against a strong schedule with a 4-1 record against playoff teams and 5-1 against teams with a winning record in the last 8 games
- in contrast the Buccaneers with the same 7-1 record have played a relatively week slate of opponents
- the team of the first half of the season, the Cardinals, have finished the weakest in terms of results of all 14 playoff teams
- The Bengals are 3-1 against fellow playoff teams and 6-2 over the last 8 games
- The Eagles 6-2 record includes only 2 games against teams with a winning record (1-1)
- While Aaron Rodgers and the Packers always get a lot of support for the Superbowl, their 6-2 recent record includes only 1 game against a team with a winning record (1-0)
Notable personnel news
- Steelers look to get James Washington (WR) back and may have a chance of Juju Smith-Schuster (WR) playing his first game in 3 months after shoulder surgery
- J J Watt (DE) was still very limited in practice for the Cardinals and star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also remains doubtful
- Star tight end Darren Waller was on the injury report as limited in practice
- Patriots could have kicking issues with Nick Folk on the injury report with a knee injury
- Defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Josh Sweat have been out of practice for the Eagles
- For the Buccaneers, Mike Evans and Shaquil Barrett were limited participants in practure
- George Kittle missed practice this week and is a key part of the 49ers offence
- Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill both fully participated in practice
What are the most likely upsets?
As is expected in the first round of the playoffs, all of the home teams are favourites. The Steelers are the biggest underdogs at the Chiefs at +12.5 pts. Double digit underdogs are often seen as teams to support by pro gamblers. The Steelers have the emotional boost of the Big Ben farewell tour but have needed everything to go their way to scramble over the line in a number of games this season. That said, they have had found a way of getting crucial wins in the latter part of the season. They lost 36-10 to the Chiefs in the corresponding fixture in week 10 and have a lot to do to overcome that deficit. 5 out of the Steelers 7 losses have been by 2 scores or more and I would therefore be reluctant to support them even with 12.5 points.
The Patriots can never be written off in a playoff situation and the Bills have been up and down over the season and the Patriots won 14-10 in their week 13 visit. The Bills have won their last 4 games, including a win at Gillette Stadium, by 17, 12, 14 and 17 points. At -4.0 pts the Bills may well justify support to beat the spread.
Another potential upset is the 49ers at the Cowboys. The 49ers defensive front has the potential to disrupt the free scoring Cowboys offence and their creative running game could well cause problems. This game could be anything given the two teams involved and might be a good game to trade on the exchanges but difficult to predict in terms of the outcome.
This has been a season of upsets and I have no doubt that there will be at least one this weekend, however, picking which teams will achieve those upsets is a very difficult task.
My picks to progress: