• Brandon Caputo

"Super" Wildcard Weekend Picks/Spreads & Week 17 Takeaways


Photo Credit: Shawn Grant via thesource.com


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2020 Wildcard Playoff Picks & Spreads

By Brandon Caputo & Miklos McMaster


Photo Credit: Alaa Abdeldaiem via SI.com

As the NFL is calling it "Super" Wildcard Weekend to try to get us extra excited for 3 games on both Saturday & Sunday, the 2021 season ended in the opposite of "super" for half of the league who now look to the 2021 NFL Draft for help.


The Head Coach & Front Office edition of "Free Agent Frenzy" has begun, so we will see how many teams regret their hires by the end of next season; like the New York Jets did with Adam Gase a few years back after his introductory Press Conference.



*As for our picks in the Final Week of the Regular Season, it was only fitting that both hosts finished it off in "grand style" with a Jason Garrett 8-8.

Ironically enough, the Dallas Cowboys could have used a win-loss record like that this season in their 1st year without him as HC, as 8-8 would have been good enough to score an NFC East Division title in 2020!


Both hosts went out on a high note with a strong Over/Under finish, which is the complete opposite of how their Las Vegas Raiders & Atlanta Falcons finished out in Week 17 with their "New Year, Same Me" mentality for 2021.



Week 17 Spreads

Miklos: 8-8

Brandon: 8-8

Week 17 Over/Under's

Miklos: 9-7

Brandon: 10-6





Photo Credit: The Dallas Morning News


Most confident picks of the week

Miklos

Gold Pick: Indianapolis over Jacksonville ✔️ *Really went out on a lim with this one, although Jags only win this season came against Indy in Week 1...

Silver Pick: Minnesota over Detroit ❌ *Vikings won but didn't cover

Bronze Pick: Baltimore over Cincinnati ✔️

Brandon

Gold Pick: Tennessee over Houston ❌*Titans won on a doinked field goal, but didn't cover because of

DeShaun Watson making something out of nothing as usual on this Texans tire fire of a franchise...

Silver Pick: Washington over Philadelphia ✔️ *Thanks Nate Sudfeld for "needing reps!"

Bronze Pick: Seattle over San Francisco ✔️*Was a lot closer than expected....



Saturday


Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills (6.0) Over/Under 51.5

Miklos: BUF Over 51.5

What a matchup to kick off this wildcard weekend. Bills Mafia finally gets to see there main man Josh Allen take on the post season. This the first time the Bills have won 13 games since the Jim Kelly era and their first playoff test is a tough one. The Colts have been tough all year and have a QB who has been here before in Philip Rivers. Experience means a lot in the playoffs and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts got the early jump on the Bills. I do think talent will prevail though and the Bills will come roaring back and come away with the win.


Photo Credit: democratandchronicle.com

Brandon: IND Over 51.5

Now don't get me wrong, I still believe that the Bills win this game but I do think that the Colts will be a tougher matchup than most expect. Colts Head Coach Frank Reich returns to try to take down the Buffalo Bills team in which he Quarterbacked between 1985-1994.

With Cole Beasley & Stefon Diggs being listed as questionable for the game, the signing of WR Kenny Stills a few weeks back becomes even more valuable for Josh Allen if 1 and/or 2 of his main targets are limited or out for such an important game.

A huge moment for Bills fans being able to host their 1st playoff game in many decades & the addition of a limited number of fans allowed into the stadium thanks to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will allow a special moment for this fanbase to truly have a home field advantage, which they have sorely missed during this landmark season.

To me, the biggest X-Factor will be whether the Bills can get to Philip Rivers & force him into quick decisions with his inability to escape the pocket. If the Bills have Rivers under duress for most of the day, things could get out of hand & the Bills could cruise to victory. I would hope the Colts are prepared for such a thing because it could be a long day if they do not find a way to protect their aging QB.



Las Angeles Rams vs Seattle Seahawks (3.5) Over/Under 42.5

Miklos: SEA Under 42.5

Brandon: SEA Over 42.5

It is extremely rare that teams play each other 3 times in one season but here we are in another NFC West showdown. We do not know if the Rams will be without Jared Goff as he is still day to day with his thumb injury. This will be a critical factor in this game as we do not think the Rams will have what it takes to win this game without him, no offence to John Wolford. Even with Goff, we still think it is a tall task to beat Russel Wilson in the playoffs at home(despite missing the 12th man) and still expect the Seahawks to win here.

Brandon believes that even though this Seahawks defense has looked better, the Rams will be able to put up some points, with the contingency that Goff does start at QB.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8.0) vs Washington Football Team Over/Under 45.0

Miklos: WAS Over 45.0

This final game on Saturday is ripe with upset potential. Despite their record in the regular season the Washington Football Team has been very good down the stretch. They also posses the best D-line in the NFL with one of the best defensive players in the NFL in Chase Young. We have seen in the past that the recipe to beat Tom Brady is to get after him early and often and I think Washington can do that. Will the Bucs still win? Possibly but I expect it will be a far closer game than most people expect.

Photo Credit: Immanuel Canicosa via clutchpoints.com

Brandon: TB Under 45.0

Unlike my co-host, I believe that the NFC East of 2020 will finish as ugly as it was most of this season.

I have given Ron Rivera many praise in his 1st season as Head Coach of Washington & I do believe that they have a bright future with one of the best Front-4 on defense in all of the NFL, but their linebackers & secondary will not be able to keep up with all of the skill players for the Buccaneers(even if Mike Evans does not play, as he is listed as Questionable). Star Rookie Pass Rusher Chase Young has said publicly that "I Want Brady!"

Well, as Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians responded with earlier this week "be careful what you wish for" as calling out the 6 time Super Bowl Champion may not be the wisest of moves for the rookie to do.

Washington's only chance at keeping this game close is if the aforementioned Defensive Front are able to get to the aging QB Tom Brady who is basically immobile in the pocket. If they can't get to him quick enough, all of his weapons in the receiving game will have a field day. I am still picking the Buccaneers to win & cover, putting an end to the 2020 NFC East season for good.



Sunday


Baltimore Ravens (3.5) vs Tennessee Titans Over/Under 55.0

Miklos: BAL Over 55.0

Brandon: BAL Over 55.0

We kick off Sunday with a revenge game for the Ravens in this repeat matchup from last years playoffs, in which the Titans went on to face the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game & spoiling the QB matchup everyone wanted to see of Patrick Mahomes vs Lamar Jackson.

You know the Ravens have been watching film from last season looking for ways to slow down Derrick Henry. He is the X factor in this game. The Titans will need him rolling early so they can keep Lamar and Co. off the field to protect their defense, which has been suspect all season.

This game will be some old school, hard nosed, run heavy football and whatever team can control the clock in this game will be victorious.

The Ravens have gotten hot down the stretch & got themselves into the playoffs, when it shockingly looked bleak at times this season with the Browns & Steelers also being solid playoff teams within their own division.

Lamar Jackson is putting to rest the critics who doubted he would be anything but a runner, and we believe he will showcase his arm against this underwhelming Titans secondary by mixing in some throws to key targets like Mark Andrews, "Hollywood" Brown, & Willie Snead as compliments to their top level rushing attack.



Chicago Bears vs New Orleans Saints (9.5) Over/Under 47.5

Miklos: CHI Over 47.5

An intriguing matchup on Sunday afternoon pits the Bears against the Saints. The Bears have been up an down all season but still managed to back into the playoffs. They play a Saints team that has been really been banged up and might be on Drew Brees’ last hurrah. I think the Saints come away with the win in the end,

but I also think it will be far closer and far more difficult than they would like.


Photo Credit: Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune

Brandon: NO Under 47.5

In this instalment of the "Mike Ditka Bowl" for the 2 teams in which he coached in the NFL, the Bears have somehow found a way to get here despite inconsistent play all season by their offense.

We don't know from week-to-week which Bears offense is going to show up, let along who will be the quarterback by the time the game ends with Trubisky & Foles struggling with the reigns this season.

The Bears defense if their strong suit, although they did not prove it against their rival Packers last week by allowing Aaron Rodgers to drop 35 on them in a game that meant nothing to the packers other than seeding. A Cardinals win over the Rams would have knocked the Bears out of the opportunity to even be in this spot in the playoffs.

Limping in isn't a recipe for success, especially when you're going up against one of the best teams in the NFC in the Sean Payton coached New Orleans Saints with a more than motivated Drew Brees who wants to go out on a high note with a Super Bowl ring before his rumoured retirement after this season has concluded.

Good luck to the Bears defense, their only shot is to hold the Saints to not very many points, because their offense has shown that they are incapable can get into a shootout with anyone not named the 1-15 Jaguars, especially not against a stout Saints defensive front & secondary. Even with question marks with Alvin Kamara & Michael Thomas' status for the game on Sunday, Saints win big and continue their quest to get Brees another Lombardi Trophy and the Bears prove once again that "they are who we thought they were!"



Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers (6.0) Over/Under 47.0

Miklos: PIT Under 47.0

Brandon: PIT Over 47.0

Photo Credit: post-gazette.com via Getty Images

The final game of wildcard weekend is an AFC North rematch from Week 17 in which the Browns needed to win to secure their first playoff birth since 2002. Oddly enough, that game was also a Wildcard round game against these same Steelers, which they lost 36-33. Hopefully with this Mason Rudolph & Myles Garrett helmet fiasco well behind us, this will be an old fashioned showdown of run the ball & stop the run, which both of these teams pride themselves on for success.

This time Pittsburgh is rolling out their A team and are at home, after almost beating the Browns last week with their backups, only losing by a failed 2-point conversion. . Also, the Browns are without their head coach Kevin Stefanski due to more COVID-19 problems within their facilities, which could be a huge loss considering how much of a calming effect he has been for this franchise in only his 1st season.

Unfortunately, we both think the Steelers take care of business with ease this Sunday, but take heart Browns fans; the future is very bright in Cleveland and have no doubt you will be back next year with a vengeance.

These dogs are ready to take the experience & success this season and put it to use as this young team continues to grow into a sustained playoff contending franchise, especially for their fanbase as one of the most loyal in the NFL who have waited 18 LONG years for this opportunity.



Most confident picks of the week


Miklos

Gold Pick: Buffalo over Indianapolis

Silver Pick: Seattle over LA Rams

Bronze Pick: Pittsburgh over Cleveland


Brandon

Gold Pick: Tampa Bay over Washington

Silver Pick: New Orleans over Chicago

Bronze Pick: Seattle over LA Rams


Week 17 Takeaways

By Miklos McMaster


Photo Credit: Derik Hamilton/Associated Press


1. Tanking in the NFL

I think given everything that happened in Week 17 and now that it is settled down it is time to address this topic. Now this is something that has been brought to the attention of everybody because of what occurred and the Eagles Washington game. Specifically the decision of Doug Peterson to sit Jalen Hurts and turn to Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of a 3 point game that had some serious playoff implications in the NFC East.

I will take this moment to say a little caveat that if you don't want your playoff destiny to be in the hands of an opponent and division rival no less then maybe don't lose so many games but I still understand the frustrations of the New York Giants and it also NFL fans across the League. Now usually whenever teams in the NFL plan on “Tanking” the season they do so by offloading all of their assets in the offseason and rolling out a team of unproven young players and over the Hill veterans.

In this way this team can play hard and try to win every game weekend week out and honestly do their best to win games but just come up short because they lack the talent to do so on a week in week out basis.

Now fans can say all they want about how teams are intentionally tanking to do this but the actual product on the field is trying their best to win and so it is hard to definitively prove that a team is tanking , which I will take this moment to remind everyone is not allowed and also frowned upon by the league and fans alike.

This method is a acceptable loophole. The 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars are a perfect example of this of trading away almost all of their top tier talent at the start of the season and rolling into the season with a suspect roster. They beat the Colts in the opening game of the season and we're generally in more than one competitive game where all it would have taken is a misplay here or a bad bounce there and they would have had more than one win.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We saw the Jets (who I had blasted all season) as being the worst roster in the NFL managed to pull off not one but two victories on the season, but rarely do we see a situation like we saw this past Sunday where the Eagles treated the game like it did not matter to them what so ever period.

Now I'm going to clarify here and say that the players obviously played their hearts out in the game at wanted to win as they always do but management knowing that this game didn't matter clearly took steps to preserve their top draft pick as the difference between winning and losing was picking at 6 and 9 which in the NFL draft could be a huge difference in what type of player you get.

I'm not saying I wouldn't do the same thing in their shoes after all you're doing what you can to make your team successful in the future and winning this game does nothing for you and I guarantee you in previous seasons similar things have happened, but they just haven't occurred on Sunday night as the only game on television in front of the entire nation with playoff implications on the line.

Does it suck? Absolutely and it is a bad look, but I think all of us who are jumping out to judge the Eagles aren't taking a moment of self reflection to think that most people would likely do what they did in that situation and it just looked so much worse because it happened to be in the spotlight rather than in a meaningless one o'clock game. I think this is an issue that all sports leagues have to contend with and it's something that definitely won't go away in the future. I just hope it doesn't happen in a game that is in the spotlight with playoff implications like it did this year.



2. Reflections on the 2020 season

Photo Credit: SN Illustration via SportingNews.com

With the final whistle being blown on 256 the 2020 regular season of the NFL has come to a close, I just wanted to take this moment to reflect on what a crazy season it has been. Given the pandemic and all of the situations that could have happened with teams missing weeks and players testing positive and being unable to play the NFL managed the (I don't wanna say impossible but extremely difficult) task of getting every single game played throughout the season.

Now, it wasn't pretty and some bye weeks had to be shifted around and games had to be played on almost every day of the week, but the season went off without a single game being cancelled permanently. I think this is an impressive job by the NFL and all of the organizations involved in the NFL as they pulled off one of the most difficult seasons we hope to ever see.

We also saw some incredible things as we always do every season and with the addition of a new wildcard team I think we saw a bigger slate of meaningful games throughout the year. It certainly made week 17 exciting at every slate of games which has historically not been the case. There were far more competitive games late in the season and just a wild collection of playoff possibilities weekend week out through the final weeks of the season.

Looking ahead at two days of triple headers I think everyone will agree that even those who are skeptical of a seventh playoff seed will be excited about what these playoffs have to offer. Think congratulations are in order to the NFL an all members working in the organization who made this season as successful as it was.

We hope for the return of fans and regular games whenever that can be.



3. Playoff Preview

I mentioned the playoffs and I'm going to take this moment in my takeaways to give a little playoff preview for this upcoming week. As mentioned in my previous takeaway this is the first season with the new wild card team an honestly I think it turned out to be one of the best case scenarios for an extra wild card team. The playoff race was competitive across the board an outside of the NFC East I think all of the teams who made the playoffs are deserving of it and the battle for the final wild card spots was intense right up to the end.

Now we're in the playoffs and even with the NFC East you can erase everyone's record because we all know anyone can win any given Sunday. With that being, said let's take a look at the weekend ahead.

The longest playoff drought in NFL history was ended with the Browns making it to the playoffs and they get to have a rematch against the Steelers a team after beating the "B" team last week. Unfortunately there without star head coach & Coach of the Year candidate:Kevin Stefanski.

I also look at another AFC matchup in the Bills and Colts, Bills Mafia finally has a team built for a deep playoff run an I am beyond excited to see what Josh Allen can do in playoff football. We also have Tom Brady traveling as a wildcard road team for the first time in his career to Washington to take on a team that has had a rough season, but I don't think would be a surprise if they upset the Bucs here.

2 other big matchups are a rematch of the Ravens and Titans from last season and it will be interesting to see if they have a solution to Derrick Henry in the playoffs, as well as an always interesting NFC West matchup with the Rams taking on the Seahawks for the third time.

Lastly rounding out our schedule is the Bears and Saints. Now despite what the matchup looks like,

may I remind all of you that the Bears actually beat the Saints in the regular season and really have the weapons to probably do it again. I'm sure just like me, all of you cannot wait for what this wildcard weekend is going to look like . Bring on playoff football!

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