Star Sports Senior Trader Ed Dark looks ahead to this weekends NFL playoffs, read his views and selections below…..
Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills
The first game of the playoffs features in my view the best team in the NFL right now, the Buffalo Bills, Josh Allen at QB has gone from a mistake prone but big armed QB to a legitimate MVP candidate and with big signing Stefon Diggs topping the wide receiver list you can see why they have only lost one game since week 6 and that was a last second miracle pass against Arizona. The colts come into this game limping into the playoffs ironically helped by buffalo shredding the Miami Dolphins last week. Although they boast a top ten offence and defence, they have just been too inconsistent all season for me and factor in the sub-zero temperatures in buffalo I can see the Bills keeping their hot run going. Selection: Bills -4.5 at 4/5
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
The first NFC playoff game at the weekend and all the talk is whether Jared Goff will be able to play after the surgery on his thumb just 11 days prior to Saturday. Even if Goff does play, which I think he will, the Rams are still rightly underdogs in this divisional game. The Seattle offense led by future hall of fame QB Russel Wilson along with two of the best WR in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf could score on any play. The problem with the Seahawks as it has most of the season is their defence. Although much better in recent weeks missing Safety Jamal Adams and defensive tackle Jarran Reed will give the Rams hope they can stay in touch with the Seahawks. Selection: Rams +5.5 at 4/6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team
Washington have managed to win their division despite have a losing 7-9 record, which means they get home field advantage but must host the highest seed left, which in this case is the Tom Brady led Buccs. Yes, this is the same Tom Brady who has won 6 Superbowl’s and winning 30 playoff games when with the Patriots. Brady and the Buccs offense are playing some fantastic football right now averaging 37 points in their last 4 games and although Washington’s young defence is very good will be hard to contain. Tampa’s defence should be able to put lots of pressure on the limited mobility of Alex Smith and the worst offense in the playoffs. Selection: Buccaneers -9.5 @ 5/6
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans
The Ravens are the second road team that are favourites this week and it is easy to see why, after a Covid induced mid-season lull where most people had given up on them, they have turned their season around and Lamar Jackson has been sensational and back to the form of his MVP year of 2019. Going back to a dominant running game, rushed for over 230 yards in 4 of their last 5 games and a softer schedule have propelled them back into the one wildcard team you do not want to meet. However, the Titans game led by this year’s top rusher Derrick Henry, only the 8th player to go for over 2000 yards in a season is equally has fearsome. With home advantage and the ravens wins against weaker team I think the market has overreacted. Selection: Titans +3.5 @ 17/20
Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints
The Bears are the surprise team of the playoffs this year and I am still not quite sure how they made it. After winning 5 of their first 6 games, then lost 6 in a row and only made the playoffs as Arizona lost last week to the Rams. The Saints are dominant on both sides of the ball with Alvin Kamara going for 6 touchdowns just two weeks ago and look the easily the most likely to win off all 6 games, but the Saints do have a knack of having shock loses, 2017 the Vikings shocked them with a Stefon Diggs 61 last second touchdown, losing to the Rams in 2018 with a brutal incorrect pass interference call and the Vikings again last year in overtime. Selection: Saints -10.5 ¾.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
A rematch from last week, which the Browns won 24-22 but they needed to win to be in the playoffs and the Steelers could afford to rest their key players which they did. Though Cleveland were missing four of their starting defensive backs due to coronavirus protocols the game was much closer than it should have been. Pittsburgh can bring back Big Ben and the rest of their rested players and with Cleveland able to bring back their whole secondary this is the most unpredictable game of the weekend but a narrow Steelers victory is my thought. Selection: Steelers -4.5 3/4