NFL Wild Card Weekend: Seahawks To Down Depleted Eagles15 min read
The 2019/20 NFL playoffs are upon us and Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham looks at all four of the Wild Card weekend games…
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
Buffalo (10-6) reached the playoffs for the second time in three seasons on the back of a no-name group of players on offense, while boasting the No.2 scoring defense (conceding an average of 16.3 points per game) that has allowed the third-fewest yards.
The marauding front seven has helped force at least one turnover in each of the last seven games and the AFC East runners-up head to Houston (10-6) on the back of three defeats in their last four contests, all by one-score margins – to the Ravens, Patriots and Jets.
Buffalo’s attack has been patchy all season, with QB Josh Allen marginally improving his completion accuracy from a rookie season 52.8Victor NFL Moneyline odds of 1/4, while the Vikings are available at 3/1 to repeat their 29-24 2017 playoff win.
DIGGS. SIDELINE. TOUCHDOWN.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) December 30, 2019
Yet the Saints, who are 6/1 fourth favourites to win the Super Bowl, have suffered some serious injuries in the past few weeks, particularly to their secondary. Edge-rusher Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins are out for the year, and the team was without defensive backs Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams and Eli Apple in Sunday’s thumping road win over the Carolina Panthers, and they could have done with another week off to heal.
The offensive line has also a patchwork look about it and Minnesota’s edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have combined for 22.5 sacks and have applied numerous pressures on opposing quarterbacks this season. They are disruptors who will give Saints’ veteran QB Drew Brees plenty to think about.
While Minnesota’s cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Mike Hughes and Trae Waynes have often struggled, safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith have been outstanding.
Much will depend on how offensive coordinator Peter Carmichael Jr attacks the Vikings’ vulnerabilities. Minnesota will do well to take away the threat of receiver Michael Thomas, who must surely be in the running for MVP honours after a record-setting 149 receptions, but how do you stop No13, and Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook, whilst not selling out and being made to pay by running back Latavius Murray?
You @Cantguardmike. And you can't out-catch him either.
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2019
The Saints’ diverse offense is summed up by Taysom Hill, who can run the Wildcat as a QB and line up as a receiver. Minnesota will need to stay disciplined to keep this close.
Saints are 7.5-point favourites on the BetVictor NFL Handicap at odds of 10/11, and it may be worth bearing in mind that three of their four road losses were all by a one-score margin. They also went on the road and won at the Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and New York Giants.
The Vikings boast a top-five defense, which is averaging 18.9 points per game and while Kirk Cousins has his critics, he leads an attack that is posting an average of 25.4 points per game, eighth in the NFL. Whether he can be productive in a big game is open to argument, as he has failed to do so on a few occasions.
While the Vikings have lost five of the last seven meetings, including the last three in New Orleans, they have never lost four consecutive trips to the Superdome.
It is likely that the Vikings will be healthier than they have been in recent weeks, with star running back Dalvin Cook recovered from a shoulder injury, and receiver Adam Thielen now over a hamstring injury that has plagued him all year.
It may not be enough to overcome the Saints, but if the Vikings can keep this close with a ball-control running game and manageable second and third-down situations for Cousins, anything can happen.
TIP: Minnesota Vikings +7.5 at
TIP: Minnesota Viking to score Over 20.5 points at
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
We understand that Seattle Seahawks luck had to run out in close games sooner or later – it did on Sunday when a goal-line stand by San Francisco prevented them from earning a first-round bye.
We also acknowledge that they suffered crashing losses to the Rams, Ravens and Cardinals, which makes them vulnerable. They have lost their top two running backs, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise, and left tackle Duane Brown. This week they saw linebacker Mychal Kendricks ruled out with an ACL tear and he will be a huge miss for the Seahawks, although influential safety Quandre Diggs may return after recovering from a high ankle sprain.
It is also fair to question whether, after such an emotional let-down in losing the NFC West and a first-round playoff bye to San Francisco thanks in part to another officiating gaffe – officials ignored/missed a clear Defensive Pass Interference in the end zone on Seattle’s final drive that would, if called, have given them a fresh set of downs and may have led to a victory rather than a 26-21 defeat – they can pick themselves up and be ready to travel across to east coast to play in the Wild Card round.
The NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles, who are 1/1 to win on the BetVictor NFL Moneyline, got past Dallas at home and the New York Giants on the road to secure their playoff berth and they should, thanks to the officials messing up the seeding with their diabolical non-call, arguably be playing a different opponent.
Yet we cannot fathom how the Eagles, who lost 17-9 at home to the Seahawks in Week 12 – one of three home losses – can be considered such small underdogs.
The visitors are 1.5-point jollies at BetVictor Handicap odds of 10/11 but arguably they should be heavier favourites. For while the Eagles are riding a four-game winning streak following a bruising loss in Miami, they have been ravaged by injury, with a total of 11 players on Injured Reserve, including playmaker Desean Jackson.
They may also be without tight end Zach Ertz on Sunday, which will hinder their passing game even more. It is a credit to QB Carson Wentz that he has managed to throw for over 4,000 yards but does not have one receiver who has over 500 yards.
While the Eagles’ run defense is stout and the Seahawks’ offensive line can go MIA for long periods, it is hard to see how the Eagles’ depleted attack, with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor ruled out, plus offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks also injured, will keep pace. Their awfully slow secondary may not be able to cope if Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson locks on to receivers DK Metcalf and go-to target Tyler Lockett. If all else fails, the Seahawks will let loose recently-signed fan-favourite RB Marshawn Lynch in the hope he can at least keep the Eagles’ defense honest, if not wear them down, on his second stint in Seattle.
TIP: Seattle Seahawks -1.5 at
TIP: Philadelphia Eagles to score Under 22 points at