Wild Card Weekend Preview: NFC

Once again, I’ll be looking at Football Outsiders’ final DVOA rankings, and I’ll be giving my picks for both the money line and spread.  Let’s jump in.

Dallas Cowboys over Detroit Lions straight up,
Dallas Cowboys -7 over Detroit Lions

The Cowboys are ranked 6th in DVOA, the Lions are ranked 14th, and the Cowboys are at home.  It is interesting to note, of course, that the Cowboys were just 4-4 at home and an incredibly 8-0 on the road, but the Lions were also just 4-4 on the road while being 7-1 at home, so I still see a significant enough home field advantage for the Lions right there, especially when Matt Stafford just doesn’t win games on the road against good teams.

The Boys can actually deal with the Lions’ strengths pretty well, such as their awesome rush defense.  The offensive line for the Cowboys can hold up, and Tony Romo’s mobility will also come in handy.  The Detroit pass offense is the one part of the bet that worries me, but a good thing about a high scoring game, which I expect this to be, is that the score can vary a lot more, making the 7 point spread more attainable.

Carolina Panthers over Arizona Cardinals straight up,
Carolina Panthers -6.5 over Arizona Cardinals

This game features the 22nd ranked team going into the building of the 25th ranked team, but those numbers don’t quite tell the story, other than to accurately tell you that 2 pretty bad teams got into the playoffs over some quality squads like the Eagles (7th) and Bills (9th).  But the Cardinals are trending downwards in terms of personnel, and they were the minute that they lost Carson Palmer.  Drew Stanton may have actually been slightly overrated, and Ryan Lindley is just not someone I can trust on the road in the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Panthers are trending upwards after making changes to their offensive line, primarily, suggesting that this actually isn’t the same team as early in the season.  Throw in the fact that they’re at home, where their record of 4-4 matched Arizona’s road record, thus pretty much mitigating the overall huge difference record-wise.  The fact is that the Cardinals just aren’t that good, and with their injuries and the way the teams have gone in opposite directions the past few weeks, the Panthers should be able to win by a touchdown.  With a few tweaks and maybe a better quarterback next year, the Cardinals can be a force, but not right now.

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