Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: 2018 NFC Wild Card Pick

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

The Seahawks got off to a slow start this year, starting 0-2 and sitting just 4-4 at the season’s midpoint, but they once again finished the season strong, something they’ve done pretty much every year in the Russell Wilson era, going 37-18-1 ATS in the second half of the regular season since 2012. The Seahawks went 6-2 straight up and ATS over the final 8 games of the 2018 season to finish at 10-6 and they rank 9th in first down rate differential since week 10 at +3.24%, after ranking 25th at -3.39% prior to week 10. This Seahawks team is not as talented as they were earlier in the Russell Wilson era, but they’re well coached and quarterbacked and there’s no reason to believe they will suddenly revert to their early season form in the playoffs, where they are 8-4 straight up since 2012.

The Cowboys have also had a strong second half of the season record wise, going 7-1 after a 3-5 start, but they actually rank just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.54%. Somewhat remarkably, all 7 of the Cowboys wins over that time period came by 8 points or fewer, while their one loss came by 23, giving them a point differential of just +12 over that time period (as opposed to +49 for the Seahawks).

Their offense has been better since acquiring Amari Cooper, picking up first downs at a 35.73% rate since week 10, as opposed to 34.03% prior to week 10, but their defense has gone in the opposite direction, allowing a first down rate of 37.27% since week 10, after allowing a first down rate of 32.73% before week 10. Their defense overperformed early in the season, but, aside from their nationally televised game against the Saints, they’ve largely fallen back to earth in recent weeks, allowing 23.3 points per game in their other 7 games. I think they’re a little overrated right now because casual bettors think they have an elite defense as a result of that Saints game.

The Seahawks also have the talent and experience edge. Not only is Russell Wilson going into his 13th playoff game with Pete Carroll already, but Carroll has also been a head coach in 5 other playoff games without Wilson (10-7 overall). On the other side, Jason Garrett is in just his 4th playoff game (1-2) and just his 2nd with Dak Prescott, who lost his first career playoff start in 2016. At +2, we’re not getting quite enough line value to take the Seahawks against the spread (especially since I will have bets on the other 3 games this week), but I like their chances of winning this game. Games rarely are decided by 1 point exactly, so the money line is a smarter play if you want to bet this game.

Seattle Seahawks 19 Dallas Cowboys 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Seattle +2

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans: 2018 AFC Wild Card Pick

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Houston Texans (11-5)

The Texans finished with the better record of these two teams, winning the division and securing the 3rd seed, while the Colts are seeded 6th, but the Colts were statistically the better team this season. The Colts finished the season 5th in first down rate differential at +4.56% and 8th in point differential at +89, while the Texans finished 7th in first down rate differential at +2.99% and 8th in point differential at +86. Perhaps most remarkably, the Colts finished with a league leading +19 offensive touchdown margin, while the Texans were just +2.

Making that even more impressive is the fact that the Colts had a ton of injury problems in the first half of the season. Since returning from their week 9 bye, the Colts have a league best +8.51% first down rate differential and they’ve won 9 of 10 games overall. With Ryan Kelly expected to return from a neck injury this week, the Colts are arguably the healthiest they’ve been all season. The Texans have won 11 of 13 games overall, but they haven’t been nearly as dominant, ranking 10th in first down rate differential over the past 8 weeks at +2.85%, and they aren’t at full strength, missing #2 wide receiver Demaryius Thomas with a torn achilles that he suffered two weeks ago.

The Colts also have the edge in quarterback experience, with Andrew Luck going into his 7th post-season game (3-3), while Deshaun Watson is making his first career post-season start. Quarterbacks tend not to cover in their first career post-season start, especially at home, where they are 6-18 ATS since 2002 unless they’re playing another first time starter. Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Colts at +1.5, as the public seems to realize the Colts are the better of these two teams. It wouldn’t shock me if the Texans won this game, as they’re a solid team and playing at home, so I’m keeping this a smaller play, but the Colts are worth a bet and should win this game straight up.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Houston Texans 20 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +1.5

Confidence: Medium