Getting into the postseason was tough for NFC teams unless you were in the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles won that division at 9-7 after winning four straight games to close out the year, but they were the only division winner in the conference that didn’t win at least 13 games. That’s why they are underdogs at home per the NFL betting odds against the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend. The biggest favorite of the weekend on the football betting line is New Orleans, and the Saints are favored by eight points against the Minnesota Vikings after drawing the short straw as a 13-3 team that didn’t get a bye.
New Orleans Saints -8 vs. Minnesota Vikings, O/U 49.5
The pick: Saints -8
Minnesota won 10 games this season, but the Vikings only victory over a playoff team was a win over the Eagles in October, and they made the postseason despite going 2-4 in the NFC North. They didn’t end their season on a high note as they lost their last two games coming into the playoffs, and there are injury concerns with their running backs. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison both stated that they are ready to go in the Crescent City, but these two running backs missed the last two weeks of the regular season and probably won’t be at 100 percent.
The bigger concern with the Vikes headed into this game is the recent play of Kirk Cousins. Cousins was having his finest season to date for most of the year, but he hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards in a game since leading Minnesota to a comeback win over Denver in mid-November. He has thrown three interceptions in his last four starts, and the Vikings can’t afford to turn the ball over against a New Orleans offense that will make you pay.
Michael Thomas has had a record setting year for the Saints, becoming the most dangerous receiver in the NFL. Thomas set the single season record for receptions in a season by Week 16, and he finished the year with 149 catches for 1,725 yards. He was Drew Brees’ No. 1 receiver by a wide margin, as Ted Ginn Jr. was the only other receiver with more than 20 receptions.
Brees should be able to move the ball relatively easily against a Minnesota secondary that has underachieved in 2019. Neither Trae Waynes nor Xavier Rhodes have lived up to their status as great cornerbacks, and it won’t matter that rangy safety Harrison Smith has been excellent at breaking up deep passes. New Orleans loves to throw underneath routes that continually move the chains, and those are likely to be open throughout the day against this defense. Lay the points with the Saints.
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2019
Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 vs. Seattle Seahawks, O/U 46
The pick: Eagles +1.5
Seattle has been the most fortunate team in the NFL all season. The Seahawks won 11 games, but they had a point differential of +7 this year. They did knock off San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Minnesota in consecutive games, but they followed that up with losses in three of their final four games to end the season with home field advantage on the line.
The Seahawks’ backfield has been decimated by injury. Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise are all on injured reserve, so Seattle will be using sixth round draft pick Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch at running back. Homer is likely to get more run with 6.3 YPC this season, but the grizzled veteran will certainly see some action too.
Philadelphia’s front seven can make Seattle one-dimensional. The Eagles are allowing the third fewest rushing yards in the league, and this defensive line can do it all. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Derek Barnett are one of the best trios up front in the league, and they will likely force Russell Wilson to move the ball through the air.
That’s where the Eagles have gotten in trouble the last couple years, as this secondary is not good and is banged up coming into the playoffs. Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, and Sidney Jones have all been limited at practice, so Wilson will have opportunities against this secondary on Sunday.
I believe Carson Wentz will be the difference though. Despite having fourth and fifth options available at receiver for much of the year, Wentz carried the Eagles to the postseason, and Seattle’s secondary has not looked sharp in recent weeks. I’ll take the short home underdogs on the moneyline.
Check out the latest NFL betting odds.