Sport

Wildcard Weekend takes centre stage as the NFL Play-offs begin

TONY SCOTT

Friday, January 03, 2014    

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The table is set and so is the schedule for the play-offs. It is the week after the final games of the regular season and all the debates and permutations from the various experts as to which teams would make the play-offs have been put to rest.

The Seahawks, Patriots, Panthers and Broncos all have a bye this weekend as they wait to see who their respective opponents will be at the conclusion of the Wildcard round. Tomorrow the Chiefs play the Colts and the Saints take on the Eagles. On Sunday, it's the Chargers facing the Bengals and the 49ers against the Packers. The winners will go on to the Divisional play-offs. The losers of course get to clean out their lockers and go home. I like this format because of its brutal simplicity.

Winning on the road is never easy and in the post season it becomes even more difficult. That being the case it would seem to make sense to place your bets on the home teams. But in the NFL a lot of stuff that goes down just doesn't make any sense at all. In this Saturday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts we have two teams who enter the play-offs under different circumstances. The home team (Colts) won their last three games convincingly, outscoring their opponents 78-20. The Chiefs on the other hand, go into the post season having lost five of their last seven games. They rested the majority of their starters last week in their game against the Chargers which they lost 23-7. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Chiefs' much vaunted defence will keep out Andrew Luck and his Colts. The ace up their sleeve is head coach Andy Reid and the game plan he has drawn up for this game. But even this may not be enough to beat the Colts at home.

In the next game the New Orleans Saints take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly. Now we all know that the Saints are hard to beat at home, and they finished the regular season with an 8-0 home record. On the road is a different story as they are just 3-5. This weekend they are on the road and up against a hot Philadelphia team coached by Chip Kelly and led by Nick Foles, who is one hot quarterback. A stat worth noting is that the Eagles had a dismal home record not having won a home game at Lincoln Financial Field in 14 months. But all that changed with the Eagles winning four consecutive games to finish the regular season. So, the question arises: can the Saints win on the road at Philadelphia? We will know the answer to this late Saturday night.

On Sunday afternoon, the San Diego Chargers visit the Cincinnati Bengals and this one could be tricky to call. The Chargers' quarterback Phillip Rivers is fiercely competitive and his team went 4-1 to close out the regular season. Their defence is vastly improved from one that gave up 25 points six times in their first 11 games, to one that held opponents to an average of only 18 points in their last five regular season games. On the other hand the Bengals are hard to beat at home in Paul Brown Stadium where they have not lost a game this season (8-0). It promises to be a hard fought matchup, Phillip Rivers against Andy Dalton. The outcome of this one may very well go against the premise of home field advantage.

The last game of the weekend will see the San Francisco 49ers visiting the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in cold Green Bay. This is the only one of the four match-ups in which JustBet sports betting has the road team (the 49ers) favoured to win. The weather may well play a role in the outcome as the boys from sunny California may find it somewhat uncomfortable and hostile. The 49ers are hot right now, having won six in a row in the regular season under quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who apparently has come into his own by posting a quarterback rating of 108 which is good. But - and this is a good but to take into consideration - he is up against a guy named Aaron Rodgers, who is back from an injury that sidelined him for six weeks. Returning also is dynamic Packers' receiver Randall Cobb to the offence. All this and the notion that home field is key in play-offs makes me wonder if it's wise to bet against Green Bay.

As expected a number of head coaches had their positions terminated which is par for the course in the NFL. It's a tough league and owners want the franchise to succeed and the yardstick that measures success is the number of games won. But don't feel sorry for these guys who lost their jobs. They get paid big bucks and most of them will find jobs with other teams. Take for example the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Rob Chudzinski, he was sent packing with a cheque for $10.5 million. That ought to ease the pain. The Detroit Lions let go Jim Schwartz after a pathetic showing by a seemingly rudderless team. The Houston Texans were one of the teams touted at the start of the season to go all the way. Instead, they ended up with just two wins. Head coach Gary Kubiak was let go in light of this poor record. Other coaches who got the axe were the Minnesota Vikings' Leslie Frazier, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Greg Schiano and the Washington Redskins' Mike Shanahan. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (RGIII) must be a happy guy. It will be interesting to see for how long.

The regular season has come to an end and it was most interesting for my colleagues and me in our picks against the JustBet point spread. Kudos and congratulations go out to Andre Hutchinson for a late regular season surge, which allowed him to surpass me and hang on to prevail as the overall champion. Incidentally we all finished up the regular season picks on a very strong note, yours truly posting a 12-3 mark in week 17, Lindo and Roper each posting 11-4 marks and the champion Hutchinson going 10-5. Remember that at the time of writing last week's article, we did not yet have odds for the Bears vs Packers game due to the uncertainty of Aaron Rodgers' playing status. So as a result we didn't make a pick for that game.

Yes folks, the play-offs are here and now things REALLY get interesting. It's win or go home, and we can't ask for more than that. Enjoy the games this weekend and remember to place your NFL bets with JustBet, Jamaica's number one sports betting game. Also, remember to give us a listen on HITZ 92FM at 6:05 pm this and every Friday, for the NFL Gameday Forecast. Have a Happy New year and remember, "Just Win baby, Just Win".

To find a JustBet location near you, visit: www.supremeventures.com/justbetlocations. To find out more about JustBet, and how to bet on the NFL and other sports, visit www.supremeventures.com/justbet, www.facebook.com/justbet, www.twitter.com/justbet_ja , or call 1-888-429-5785 (toll-free).

NFL WILDCARD PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

& JUSTBET HANDICAPS

(*JustBet Handicaps for each game in bracket, Under/Over for each game listed)

Saturday, January 4

IND COL_S v KC CHIEFS (+2.5), UNDER/OVER 46.5

PHI EAGLES v NO SAINTS (+1.5), UNDER/OVER 54.5

Sunday, January 5

CIN BENGALS v SD CHARGERS (+7.5), UNDER/OVER 46.5

GB PACKERS (+2.5 ) v SF 49ERS, UNDER/OVER 48.5

EXPERTS' PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD

Andre Hutchinson's

Wildcard Play-off Picks

COL_S v CHIEFS

EAGLES v SAINTS

BENGALS v CHARGERS

PACKERS v 49ERS

Last week's record: 10-5

Regular Season record: 136-119

***REGULAR SEASON PICKS CHAMPION ***

Tony Scott's

Wildcard Play-off Picks

COL_S v CHIEFS

EAGLES v SAINTS

BENGALS v CHARGERS

PACKERS v 49ERS

Last week's record: 12-3

Regular Season record: 132-123

Peter Lindo's

Wildcard Play-off Picks

COL_S v CHIEFS

EAGLES v SAINTS

BENGALS v CHARGERS

PACKERS v 49ERS

Last week's record: 11-4

Regular Season record: 129-126

Andrei Roper's

Wildcard Play-off Picks

COL_S v CHIEFS

EAGLES v SAINTS

BENGALS v CHARGERS

PACKERS v 49ERS

Last week's record: 11-4

Regular Season record: 120-135

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