Chris Berman has taken his Swami Sez NFL picks segment, seen on SportsCenter, to ESPN Chalk. He’ll give his favorite picks against the spread here with a little further analysis.
Season record: 51-32 ATS (last week: 2-3)
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Editor’s Picks Betting guide for NFL wild-card games
Where does the betting value lie for NFL wild-card weekend? ESPN Chalk experts provide against-the-spread, over/under and prop bet advice on every game.
This is a very difficult game to handicap. It’s hard to imagine Connor Cook generating a ton of offense in his first NFL start, especially against a very tough Houston defense. If Oakland runs the ball 38 times for 100 yards, the Raiders are in trouble. If they can run it 38 times for 140 yards or so, then it will be a ballgame. Brock Osweiler played perhaps his best game of the season against Oakland in Week 11 in Mexico City and threw the ball well. Maybe he has a bunch of confidence from that game. In the end, however Oakland tries to move the ball, I think Houston’s D carries the day. Texans advance.
Score: Houston 19, Oakland 17
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Will the real Seahawks please stand up? I’m waiting for them. These are pros who know when the playoff button has been pushed, but it’s clear they miss safety Earl Thomas. Seattle is just 2-3 without him, and he’s out for the rest of the year. But this defense usually steps up at home in front of its 12th Man. Even though Detroit’s Darius Slay is a good corner, I like Seattle’s offense to do pretty well against the Lions’ defense, especially tight end Jimmy Graham. Keep an eye on receiver Paul Richardson , who will be Tyler Lockett ‘s replacement. I have a ton of respect for what Matthew Stafford has done this season, but I think the Lions are running out of gas a little bit. I’m looking for Seattle to be the team I picked to represent the NFC before the season.
Score: Seattle 27, Detroit 16
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Running back Jay Ajayi isn’t going to run for 200 yards again, as Pittsburgh has had plenty of time to get a game plan ready. Quarterback Matt Moore doesn’t scare me like Connor Cook does, as Moore has started more than 20 games and has a good record in them. This was a very hot team until it ran into New England in Week 17. Miami has a chance to hang around but only if Ndamukong Suh , Cameron Wake and the defensive line get after Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has too many offensive options, though, and I think the Steelers pull this out. Big Ben is 5-1 at home so far this season. He makes it 6-1.
Score: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 20
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
I understand that Eli Manning and the Giants have gone into Lambeau and won in the postseason in 2007 and 2011, but I’m not sure that matters much. Eli is the most important player left from those teams, and he’s not going to shrink from the big stage anyway. The question is: Can a very good Giants defense make Aaron Rodgers good, not great? Rodgers has 15 TDs to zero INTs during this six-game winning streak. He’s feeling it and finding Jordy Nelson early and often. To me, the big matchup on the other side of the ball is if Green Bay can get a pass rush against Manning. If the Packers can’t, then Odell Beckham Jr. could burn a depleted Packers secondary. But Rodgers is so hot right now, I think he melts the tundra. Packers get it done.
Score: Green Bay 23, NY Giants 16