Ed Williams III

Against the Spread

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Wild Card picks

Friday, January 03, 2014


Ed Williams and Jeff Baldwin picked against the spread all season long in Rotoworld's Season Pass, and now they're keeping things going in the playoffs. Jeff dominated their regular season competition, but Ed will be looking to step it up in the postseason. They'll start out with 1,000 units to use during the playoffs. They will have to use a minimum of 25 units on each game during the first two rounds but can only use a maximum of 200 units per round. In the Championship round, they'll be picking both games as well as the over/unders. For that round they'll have to use a minimum of 50 units on each pick with a maximum of 300 units for the round. And for the Super Bowl they'll pick the game, the over/under and two props. They'll have to use a minimum of 50 units and a maximum of 200 units on each pick and will have a 400-unit max for the round. With all of that out of the way, let's get to the picks!

Editor's note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for the Wild Card playoff weekend. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-2)

Ed: On paper, it looks like these are two teams going in completely different directions. After starting the year 9-0, the Chiefs have lost five of their last seven. Meanwhile, the Colts have won four of their last five and will be at home. But the Colts simply have not been the same team since Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL. T.Y. Hilton has done an admirable job as Andrew Luck’s go-to guy, but after that his options are limited. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a bust and lost playing time. Since then, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen have seen more time, but it might not be enough firepower to overcome the Chiefs. The Chiefs’ defense has struggled of late with the absence of pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. While Hali may miss Saturday’s matchup, Houston is expected back and should give the defense a major boost. And while the Colts did just beat the Chiefs 23-7 in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago, I don’t think Indy will have an answer for Jamaal Charles. Charles is one of the most dynamic players in the entire league, and the Colts are only 26th in the league against the run. And even if they key in on the running game, Charles is just as dangerous in the passing game. Alex Smith doesn’t have a ton of weapons in the passing game, but he’s a solid game manager who should stay away from too many mistakes. The bottom line is that the Chiefs’ defense will make enough plays to limit the Colts’ scoring opportunities, and Indy won’t have an answer for Charles. Take the couple points and go with the road team as Andy Reid gets a postseason win in his first year with the Chiefs.
Pick: Chiefs +2, 50 units

Jeff: The Chiefs head to Indianapolis looking to avenge a Week 16 loss to the Colts at home where they were beaten quite handily, 23-7. Andrew Luck will be looking for his first career playoff win as he came up short last year against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Ravens. The Chiefs enter this game well-rested as they were able to give their starters a week off after clinching a playoff spot and locking up the fifth seed. I think the extra week of rest will pay dividends for the Chiefs. Look for the Chiefs to get Jamaal Charles involved early and often in this contest, both on the ground and through the air. The Chiefs' offense revolves around Charles, so it is critical that he touches the ball as much as possible. The Colts' rush defense gives up 125 yards per game so there will be plenty of opportunity in the run game. Alex Smith will need to do a good job managing the game and make plays when called upon. He needs to protect the football if the Chiefs want to win this game. Defensively, the Chiefs will need to pressure Luck. They can't afford to have him sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. RB Donald Brown destroyed the Chiefs' defense in their first meeting as he amassed 110 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns. This was definitely a surprise, since the Colts struggled running the football all season. I expect the Chiefs' defense to do a much better job this go around containing Brown. In what will be a tight game throughout, look for the Chiefs to come up with a big play late, which will propel them to victory.
Pick: Chiefs +2, 25 units

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)

Ed: The Eagles have won seven of their last eight games. The Saints have lost three of their last five. The Eagles are coming off a division-clinching win against the Cowboys. The Saints threw away the NFC South crown when they last to Carolina a couple weeks ago and laid an egg against the Rams the week before (both games on the road). The Saints are scoring just 18 points per game on the road this season, which has resulted in a 3-5 record. The Eagles struggled at home early in the season but have won their last four home games, scoring an average of 34 points per game in those wins. A number that stands out to many is that the Eagles are dead last in the league against the pass. But that stat is misleading. The Eagles give up a ton of yards through the air, but a big reason for that is because they have such a quick-strike offense, which means their defense spends a lot of time on the field. The Eagles have become a very solid bend-but-not-break defense. They held the Bears’ potent passing attack to just 11 points and also kept the Lions, Cardinals and Cowboys in check as well. I expect Drew Brees to rack up plenty of yards, throwing to Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore and company, but I don’t see them scoring more than 24 points, and I think they’ll have to in order to advance in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Saints won’t have an answer for the Eagles’ NFL-leading rushing attack. LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing, and even Bryce Brown and Chris Polk have had some explosive plays over the last few weeks while Shady was catching his breath. The Saints do boast the No. 2 passing defense in the league, but they’re much more vulnerable on the road and are banged up in the secondary right now. Strong safety/slot corner Kenny Vaccaro went down in Week 16 with a fractured ankle and corner Jabari Greer has been out since November with a torn ACL. If Nick Foles can stay away from any interceptions (and he’s only thrown two all season), the Eagles should be able to move the ball and put points on the board. One point of concern for Philadelphia was how little pressure they put on Kyle Orton last week. The key to containing Brees is getting pressure on him without having to blitz. The key matchup to watch will be the veteran Trent Cole, who has been on a tear lately, against rookie OT Terron Armstead who is making only his third start. This one will be close throughout, but I think the Eagles win this one by at least a field goal.
Pick: Eagles -2.5, 100 units

Jeff: The Saints travel to Philadelphia looking to silence the critics as they look to prove they can win a big game on the road. The Eagles held off the Cowboys as a late interception sealed the victory and an NFC East title. The Saints' passing offense should be primed for a big game as they face the worst team in the NFL defending the pass, as the Eagles give up close to 290 yards per game through the air. This has to be an alarming statistic for Eagles fans, especially with Drew Brees coming to town. Look for Brees to do what he does best as he'll spread the ball around to his receivers and make plays down the field. The Saints defense will have their work cut out for them as they face an Eagles offense led by Nick Foles that has been playing extremely well. They will also have to contain LeSean McCoy who creates havoc not only running the ball, but catching it as well. I think both offenses will move the ball well in this matchup. This game has all the makings of a shootout. It could easily come down to which team has the ball last. Even though the Eagles are at home, I don't think that gives them a big advantage. Historically, they haven't been a strong home team. Also, throw in the fact that there is added pressure hosting a playoff game as they are expected to win. I think the lack of any playoff experience for Foles can be a factor here as he goes up against a playoff battle-tested team in the Saints led by Brees. In the end, I think Brees leads the Saints to victory as they come up with a big effort on the road and advance to the next round.
Pick: Saints +2.5, 25 units

San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (-7)

Ed: Yes, the Chargers needed a ton of help to sneak into the playoffs, but now they’re here and they’re on a four-game winning streak (a streak that includes a win over the mighty Broncos). The Bengals are also on a bit of a roll though, as they’ve won five of their last six games. They’ve also been one of the best home teams in the league this year as they’ve gone undefeated while scoring an average of just over 34 points per game. The Bengals boast a very stout defense, but I have a feeling this one could develop into a bit of a shootout. The Chargers have been almost impossible to figure out this year, but I think Philip Rivers is up for the challenge and will play a great game. Look for him to connect with explosive rookie WR Keenan Allen for some explosive plays. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead also gives him a versatile combo in the running game. And he has the reliable veteran TE Antonio Gates. So, I think the Chargers will be able to put up points. The big question is whether the defense will be able to make a few big stops. The Chargers are 29th in the league against the pass, so trying to contain A.J. Green could be a big problem. But even though he’s played much better at home this year, I still don’t trust Andy Dalton in a big spot, and it doesn’t get much bigger than this. I expect him to make a couple of mistakes, which should be enough to let the Chargers hang around in this one. I think the Bengals will find a way to pull this one out, but I don’t think they’ll be able to cover the spread. Seven points just seems like too much for an Andy Dalton-led team to be giving up.
Pick: Chargers +7, 25 units

Jeff: The Bengals will look to snap their playoff losing streak as they host they Chargers on Sunday. This team will go as far as Andy Dalton will take them. I'm not sure how deep they can go this year, but I think this game is set up perfectly for the Bengals. They are at home and are playing a team whose defense struggles at stopping the pass. The Chargers finished the season ranked 29th in the NFL giving up close to 259 yards passing per game. The Bengals were eighth in the league in passing yards per game. Look for A.J. Green to be targeted heavily in this contest. It is hard not to think he doesn't get in the end zone a few times this weekend. As for the running game, BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be solid in this matchup as he'll help move the chains. Giovani Bernard will continue to create mismatch problems for defenses as his catching ability out of the backfield is a huge asset for this offense. His quickness makes it very difficult for anyone to contain him. These two teams met back in Week 13 in San Diego, which resulted in a 17-10 Bengals victory. Dalton didn't play very well in that game, but they still were able to come away with the victory. I'm expecting Dalton to play much better when these teams meet again this weekend. The Bengals were a very strong home team this year during the regular season as they were a perfect 8-0. Remarkably, they were also 8-0 against the spread at home making them only the fifth team in the last 25 seasons to do so. The city of Cincinnati has been waiting for a playoff victory. They'll get it on Sunday as the Bengals pull away in the second half and win this game by double digits.
Pick: Bengals -7, 100 units

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (+3)

Ed: The 49ers are the better all-around team. San Francisco has won their last six games, while the Packers made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. The 49ers have a very stout defense, while the Packers can give up points in bunches. All signs seem to ben pointing towards a San Francisco win, but I’m going with Green Bay in this one. Aaron Rodgers is back for the Packers, and that goes a very long way. He was able to pick up three fourth downs in the game-winning drive last week against the Bears, and he’s arguably the best player, regardless of position, in the entire league. But not only did Rodgers come back last week, but electric WR Randall Cobb came back as well, and he made an immediate impact, scoring two touchdowns last week. Last year, the 49ers beat down the Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but that was in San Francisco. This year, they’ll face off at Lambeau Field and they’ll be dealing with single digit or possibly sub-zero temperatures. And perhaps an even more important difference this year is that the Packers have a much better running game, anchored by rookie Eddie Lacy. Most of the talk has been about how the 49ers are built to do well in cold weather because of Frank Gore and their running game, but Lacy does the same for the Packers. The 49ers do have a better defense, and have some weapons in the passing game with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, but I can’t take Colin Kaepernick over Rodgers in Green Bay. This one will be nip and tuck throughout, so I’m going to roll with the home dog in this one.
Pick: Packers +3, 25 units

Jeff: In a rematch from last year's Divisional Round, the Packers will host the 49ers as they'll look to avenge a 45-31 defeat at the hands of the 49ers as Colin Kaepernick put on a show, rushing for 181 yards and accounting for four touchdowns. The return of Aaron Rodgers couldn't have come at a better time, as he led his team to a late score against the Bears when he hooked up with Randall Cobb for a touchdown on fourth down to secure the NFC North title. The weather forecast for Sunday at Lambeau Field is for frigid temperatures. I don't think there is a distinct advantage for either team because of the extreme cold. The 49ers head into this game riding a six-game winning streak and are clearly playing their best football of the year. The 49ers will move the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air against a very vulnerable Packers defense. This team is still loaded with offensive weapons including Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Kaepernick needs to use his scrambling ability when he is getting pressured or can't find an open receiver. Kaepernick's running ability makes it that much more difficult to defend this offense. During their playoff run a year ago, Kaepernick used this facet of his game tremendously, which resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. I think it is critical that the 49ers' coaching staff encourages him take off when a play breaks down or when he sees room to run. The bottom line here is I don't trust the Packers' defense to come up with a big stop. Plus, Rodgers now faces a much better defense than the Bears as he continues to shake off the rust after missing seven games due to injury.
Pick: 49ers -3, 50 units

For more picks, follow Jeff Baldwin on twitter.







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