IT'S Wildcard Weekend in the NFL. Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) shares his best bets.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans | Saturday 21:35
All four games this weekend are incredibly competitive and we have one here to kick us off in style. Rewind to Week 7 and both these teams sat at 2-5.
Your chances of making the post season from that point are usually around 20%. You increase those chances dramatically however if you then win out as the Chiefs have done. A 12-5 season is a huge credit to them and particularly the always under rated quarterback Alex Smith.
Kansas has not won a playoff game in 22 years. That ends here in my opinion and it also happens to be the opinion of just about anyone who has ever watched an NFL game.
Smith led San Francisco to an NFC title in 2011 before being cruelly dumped in favour of Colin Kaepernick (that went well). In three games he has thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. He now has weapons downfield, especially Jeremy Maclin whose release from Philadelphia contributed hugely to Chip Kelly losing his job.
I really like the Smith/Maclin combo and 15/8 for Maclin to score anytime is hugely attractive. Compare those odds to DeAndre Hopkns hauling in a Brian Hoyer pass.
There's not an awful lot about Houston here. I tipped them to win the AFC South at 9/2 but that was more my dislike of what Indy had. Yes they have JJ Watt on defence but little apart from Hopkins on the offensive side of the ball. Kansas have done an amazing job without Jamaal Charles and Houston simply did not have the same options when Arian Foster went AWOL.
Kansas have a better offence no doubt but what swings it for me is the defence. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford return to a pass rush that has also been missing the returning Justin Houston.
During the 10 match unbeaten end to the season, the Chiefs outscored opponents 278-128. A 3 point handicap is the play at most bookmakers. I like the -4 with Bet Bright.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals | Sunday 01:15
Hardest game of the weekend is right here with two potential Super Bowl winners devastated by a couple of huge injuries. The key is almost certainly who has the better backup.
Pittsburgh would have beaten Baltimore at this stage last year had they not lost LeVeon Bell, the star running back. Week 6 this year against today's opponents and Bell goes down for the season once again. Week 14 and the Bengals lose Quarterback Andy Dalton.
I have thought Pittsburgh to be huge value all season. Ok, the defence is not great, but Ben Roethlisberger is in the middle of a Hall of Fame career and Antonio Brown is probably the best wide receiver in football.
Big Ben has spent the season, as usual, getting battered by defences but he's a monster and so hard to bring down. Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller etc give him plenty of downfield options. I have also thought the Steelers would win this game all week. Until today.
Bell's replacement in the backfield, DeAngelo Williams has done a fantastic job all season but after missing Week 17 he was expected to play today. I have just read that he is out and that changes everything. Next on the depth chart is Fitzgerald Toussaint (nope, me neither). Toussaint appeared last week and 2 yards per carry is far from impressive especially against the awful Browns defence.
AJ McCarron makes just his 4th career start here. Since replacing Dalton, he has won two of three games and in truth not done a bad job at all.
The Bengals defence could well do enough to enable McCarron to take safer options. At the very least, Cincy has options in the backfield with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Tyler Eifert is as good a tight end as anyone bar Gronk and AJ Green is a receiver on the same level as Brown.
Playing at home against a team with almost no running back. This Bengals defence will need to watch out for a lot of screens from Big Ben in lieu of a rushing game but I am confident they can do that. I would love to see the Steelers win here but in betting terms it just has to be Cincinnati.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans – Kansas City Chiefs -4 (5/4 Bet Bright)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnati Bengals +3 (5/6 Betfred)
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