It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Former New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora once put it eloquently when he said “Playoffs? ... PLAYOFFS?” Yes, playoffs indeed. Fourteen teams enter the octagon — and only one team will come away with a new shiny ring on their hands.
This week’s wild-card weekend features a matchup of two unlikely QBs, a return to glory in the motor city, and a new frozen tundra in Kansas City.
Let’s break down both of their games this weekend and allow me to help you try and win some cold hard cash courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Cleveland Browns vs. Houston Texans (+2)
If you had told me before the season that QB’s Joe Flacco and CJ Stroud would matchup in the playoffs I’d have asked you to get a drug screening. Flacco will look to continue his impossible run with the Browns on the big stage Saturday afternoon. He’s no stranger to the playoffs - in his career, he’s 10-5 in the tournament his team has covered seven straight of those games.
On one hand, we have a 38-year-old QB in Flacco suiting up for Cleveland - and on the other side, we have the favorite for offensive rookie of the year in the Texan’s C.J. Stroud. Stroud led the NFL in passing yards per game (273.9) which is the third most for a rookie in NFL history.
This is a classic matchup of a wily veteran vs. an inexperienced rookie in a do-or-die situation. However, this matchup won’t be solely determined by the QBs. The Texans run defense ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (96.7) and Cleveland averages just 3.9 yards per carry.
I anticipate Flacco being asked to do too much, and Houston riding the home momentum to a win and a cover.
Pick: Texans +2
Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5)
Can Dolphins survive in the cold? It’s a critical question because when these two teams clash on Saturday night the temperature is expected to be around 3°F with a windchill of -30. That would be the coldest game for Miami in franchise history.
You know who else is not cold in the playoffs? Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. He holds an 11-3 record in the playoffs in his career. But unfortunately, it hasn’t been all roses and butterflies for the reigning Super Bowl champions. After finishing first in both total yards and scoring last season, the Chiefs fell to 15th in total scoring in 2023. It’s been their defense that has carried the weight for this team, finishing second in points allowed this season.
The Dolphins are banged up, but they still have an incredibly explosive offense. Both RB Raheem Mostert and WR Jaylen Waddle practiced Thursday after missing last week’s game and are likely to suit up. That will provide a huge boost for QB Tua Tagovailoa and an offense looking to get kick-started again.
Currently, 55% of bettors are backing the Chiefs. I’m going out on a limb and saying not only can Dolphins survive in the cold, but they can also THRIVE in the cold.
Pick: Dolphins +4.5 (and Dolphins moneyline)
Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions (-3)
For my money (and maybe yours) this is the best game of the weekend. The Lions are hosting a playoff game for the first ever time at Ford Field and guess who is coming to town? That’s right, former No. 1 pick by Detroit in 2009, Rams signal-caller Matthew Stafford. Sunday will mark the first time Stafford has been back to Ford Field since he was traded to the Rams back in 2021.
Oh yeah, the guy he was traded for will be running the show on the other side. Jared Goff, another former No. 1 pick (2016) led the Lions to their first division title in 30 years. He threw for 30 touchdowns this season and finished with a 97.9 passer rating.
I think there’s going to be plenty of pressure on Detroit in this contest. The Rams are playing with house money, and the Lions have been the better team all season and are expected to win. Sometimes that can shake an inexperienced team in the playoffs. However, this Lions team feels unshakeable. They won’t fall flat if they are faced with adversity. Head Coach Dan Campbell just won’t let that happen.
Currently, 59% of bettors think the Rams go into Detroit and pull off the upset. I disagree; I’m riding with the pride.
Pick: Lions -3
What are your thoughts on the team’s picks for the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend?