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Sports gambling column: Week 17

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Well, I guess they call it WildCard weekend for a reason. Because it was pretty freaking wild.

If you were keeping track of my predictions for the WildCard games last week (and I know you weren’t), then you would have found that I was 0-4 on picking the games outright. This is obviously disappointing, but the only game I felt confident about was Eagles-Bears, and it took one of the most bizarre moments in NFL history for me to get that wrong. I still did really bad, and I didn’t win the bet I made, but I was still very entertained with the WildCard weekend. I’m grateful that we still have three rounds of playoff football left. So, let’s refer to the schedule and preview the games in chronological order.

1: Colts-Chiefs

The Chiefs seem to be very disrespected considering they’re the top seed in the AFC and have looked unstoppable at times this season. But the Colts dominated the Texans in Houston on Saturday, and the Texans’ defense is a whole heck of a lot better than the Chiefs’. The only area where the two teams are similar is the pass rush, but the Colts’ offensive line was able to neutralize Texans’ defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, so I don’t think much of anything is going to bother Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in this game. The home crowd at Arrowhead Stadium will help the Chiefs defense a little bit, but this is probably going to be a shootout. Another thing helping the Colts in this game is the presence of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on the opposite sideline, who has lost five straight home playoff games and is normally a laughingstock when it comes to clock management (which is very important in playoff games). I could see the Chiefs making stupid mistakes to blow this game, which is why I’m leaning towards the Colts, but I’m not betting on it just because that Chiefs offense is so good.

2: Cowboys-Rams

I’m very lucky that the Saints aren’t playing the Cowboys this week (and they would be if not for Bears kicker Cody Parkey) because I’m deathly afraid of the Cowboys. The Rams should be too. “America’s Team” is 9-0 this season when scoring 20 points or more in a game, which may not be that difficult of a mark to meet considering how shoddy the Rams defense can be at times. Their linebackers are below average, and at this point in the playoffs, if there is a position group on your team that’s below average, it’s likely going to get attacked by the opposing coach (even if that coach happens to be of the same tier of Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett). If Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot can get through the tough defensive line and into the second level of the defense, the Cowboys will be able to continue to run their ball-control offense. This will keep the ball away from quarterback Jared Goff and the rest of the Rams’ explosive offense, which might be bothered by the excellent front seven of the Cowboys. The Rams won’t have home-field advantage in this game either, as Cowboys fans will invade the LA Memorial Coliseum. The only thing I disliked about the Cowboys was how they struggled to stop a Seahawks team that become one-dimensional once they finally abandoned the run. However, I have a weird feeling that the Cowboys will win this game despite being seven-point underdogs, and that combined with my analysis will probably cause me to take the Cowboys money line and/or the Cowboys +7. That’s right: I’m gambling on the Cowboys, the same team I said to never trust.

3: Chargers-Patriots

This may end up being the last game of either or both of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s or head coach Bill Belichick’s storied career(s). Since I don’t think the Patriots are very good and I want the Saints to play them should they make the Super Bowl, I hope the Patriots keep on truckin’ until next season. The Chargers dominated the Ravens for three quarters last week, and they finally have a reliable kicker in Mike Badgely. They also have a great pass rush, and it is one that can bother the 41-year-old Brady, who is losing mobility by the second. Chances are, the Patriots will have a great gameplan to counter this in some way, but the Chargers also have a great secondary that can limit the very few offensive weapons Brady still has at his disposal. The Patriots are undefeated at home this season, but the Chargers haven’t lost outside the city of Los Angeles this year, so even though they are a warm-weather team traveling to cold weather, they just beat the Ravens in Baltimore and have won in Arrowhead Stadium earlier this year. I see this game being very close, so while I won’t take either team outright, I’m considering the Chargers +4.

4: Eagles-Saints

I’ll be at this game, and I hope to see my favorite team advance against the champs. Two former Westlake quarterbacks will go head-to-head in this game in the Eagles’ Nick Foles and the Saints’ Drew Brees, so this game is even more special. The Eagles were very lucky to win against the Bears last week, but we said that during last year’s Super Bowl run, too. Foles has a calming presence that affects this team positively, along with the magic powers he may or may not possess. The Saints lit up the Eagles 48-7 earlier this season, but that was when Carson Wentz, not Foles was under center for the Eagles. But, I still like the Saints’ chances against the Eagles’ depleted secondary and I think they’ll be able to shut down the Eagles’ run game completely. I’ll be a part of the rocking Superdome, and I’ll predict the Saints to win without gambling on it.

I decided to take the Cowboys money line, so I’ll throw $10 on the +260 odds. I’m also putting $10 on the Chargers which are odds that sit at +425. I like the value there for a team that has already beaten the Chiefs on the road this year.

 

Money spent to date: $150

Winnings to date: $89.59

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Sports gambling column: Week 17