The wild-card round of the NFL playoffs concludes late Sunday afternoon from Landover, Md., as Green Bay visits Washington in what I believe is the most interesting matchup of the four-game weekend.
Oh, sure, you have the red-hot Chiefs looking for an 11th straight win when they visit the Texans on Saturday . The Bengals haven't won a playoff game in more than two decades and are starting a backup QB against the Steelers. The Seahawks are the No. 6 seed in the NFC but perhaps playing better than anyone right now in the conference as they look for a rare third straight Super Bowl trip. So why is Green Bay-Washington so intriguing? For one, I call this a coin flip (as do some sportsbooks) because both teams have been so wildly inconsistent at times this season. Also, this is the only of the four wild-card games that's not a regular-season rematch.
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I don't know what's wrong with the Packers. Has their title window closed if they lose this game? The team hasn't looked like a true contender since coming out of its bye week at 6-0 but then getting routed in Denver. Aaron Rodgers has looked very mortal. Could this be the final game there for Coach Mike McCarthy? I highly doubt that, but the Broncos also parted ways with the very successful John Fox when they flopped in last year's playoffs. I actually think the Packers will be just fine next season when they get Jordy Nelson back, but these types of things can go downhill quickly. Ask the 49ers.
The Packers (10-6) might have caught a break in losing last week at home to Minnesota, which gave the Vikings the NFC North title and dropped Green Bay to the No. 5 seed. Obviously it cost the Packers a home game this weekend, but I'd much rather play at Washington than host Seattle.
The Redskins (9-7) were surprise NFC East champions, and they got to take it easy in Week 17, although they still clobbered Dallas. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was one of this season's breakout stars, and he's going to add to his contract leverage with a playoff victory here. Cousins is set to be a free agent, but at worst the team will slap the franchise tag on him. You might remember Washington's last playoff game. It was Jan. 6, 2013 at home against Seattle in the wild-card round. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was a rising superstar in his rookie season, but he suffered a major knee injury on the FedEx Field turn that afternoon in a 24-14 loss. RGIII has never been the same, and that led to Cousins' eventual rise to franchise quarterback. RGIII most definitely doesn't fit in Washington's plans going forward.
Green Bay, which has lost its past two road playoff games, is +1200 at Bovada to win the NFC. Washington, which hasn't won a home playoff game since 1999, is the +2200 conference long shot. It depends on what happens in the earlier Seahawks-Vikings game as to where this winner goes. If Seattle wins, as I expect, the winner here heads to Arizona. If it's Minnesota, the winner is Carolina bound.
Packers at Redskins Betting Story Lines
I'll eat crow when necessary, and I must off last week's preview of Minnesota at Green Bay as I not only thought the Packers would win but that it wouldn't be all that close. Oops! The Packers had just three points through three quarters and lost 20-13. They did outgain the Vikings 350-242 and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes if you want to look at the bright side. But it took Rodgers 44 attempts to pass for 291 yards, he threw an crucial interception in the end zone and was sacked five times. Protection has been a major problem of late. The running game was non-existent.
No team enters the playoff with more injury problems than the Pack. The team thinks it might get back left tackle David Bakhtiari for this game. He missed the final two with an ankle injury. Top cornerback Sam Shields looks likely to miss a fourth straight game with a concussion. Several other guys are nursing injuries but should all play. The Redskins are pretty healthy.
The Washington Post this week actually had the gall to run a poll: Who would you prefer to start for your team the next five seasons, Rodgers or Cousins? That's obviously laughable even as good as Mr. "You Like That!" finished the season. In Washington's final 10 games, Cousins was 228-for-315 for 2,746 yards, 23 TDs and three picks, good for a 119.1 QB rating that would have easily led the NFL for a full season. But let's not get carried away here. Rodgers is an all-time great and still has plenty of great years ahead. Cousins might be a one-year wonder.
These teams haven't met since Green Bay's home opener in the 2013 season. The Packers won 38-20 as Rodgers was 34-for-42 for a career-high 480 yards along with four touchdowns. James Jones caught 11 for 178 and Randall Cobb nine for 128 and a TD. James Starks rushed 20 times for 132 yards and a score. RGIII played well that day, completing 26-for-40 for 320 yards and three scores. Pierre Garcon caught eight for 143 and a touchdown. Alfred Morris rushed 13 times for 107 yards. Green Bay has won five of the past six meetings overall.
Packers at Redskins Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , this game is a pick'em and thus no moneyline. The total is 45. On the alternate lines, Green Bay is -1 (-103) and -1.5 (+103). Washington is -1 (-103) and -1.5 (+103). The Packers were 9-7 against the spread during the regular season (5-3 on road) and 5-11 "over/under" (4-4 on road). The Redskins were 9-7 ATS (5-3 at home) and 9-7 O/U (3-5 at home).
Green Bay is 4-1 ATS in its past five playoff road games. The Packers are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a winning record. Washington is 4-0 ATS in its past four overall. The under is 4-1 in the Pack's past five wild-card games. It is 6-1 in Green Bay's past seven vs. the NFC. The over is 6-2 in Washington's past eight vs. the NFC. The home team is 4-1-1 ATS in the previous six meetings.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Packers at Redskins Betting Predictions
Will the Green Bay offense shake out of its doldrums here? Since McCarthy took over play-calling duties in Week 14, the Packers have scored 19.8 points per game and racked up 314 yards per game. That's not great. Green Bay is trying to become only the third team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl after losing the last two games of the regular season (2009 Saints were last).
As for Washington, it generally has been very good at home this season and did keep its momentum going last week to carry a four-game winning streak into this one. But look at that schedule. Not a single win over a playoff team. What was the best one? Buffalo? Philly?
I like the Packers here. It will be chilly once the sun goes down, but nothing too crazy like in Minnesota. Go under.
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