Seahawks (-5, 39 ½) at Vikings – 1:05 PM EST – NBC
Seattle (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) is listed as the largest favorite on Wild Card weekend, as the two-time defending NFC Champions travel to frigid Minneapolis to start their Super Bowl quest. Temperatures are expected to be in the single-digits by kickoff, marking one of the coldest playoff games in NFL history.
The Seahawks started the season on the wrong foot, losing four of their first six games, including three losses by four points or less. Pete Carroll’s team would turn the corner by winning eight of the final 10 contests to clinch their fourth straight playoff berth and qualify for the postseason for the 10th time in 13 seasons. Quarterback Russell Wilson lit up opposing defenses in the last seven weeks of the season by throwing for 24 touchdowns and only one interception, including 11 touchdown strikes to wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
The Vikings (11-5 SU, 13-3 ATS) put together the best ATS record in the league, while clinching the NFC North crown by winning at Green Bay in Week 17 by a 20-13 count as three-point underdogs. Mike Zimmer’s club won their final three games of the season to overcome a pair of early December losses to Seattle and Arizona, as the Vikings’ defense yielded 17 points or less during this current three-game winning streak.
Seattle ripped Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Week 13 as 2 ½-point road favorites, 38-7. Wilson carved up the Vikings’ defense with three touchdown passes to go along with a touchdown run, while Baldwin hauled in a pair of scores from Wilson. Adrian Peterson couldn’t get anything going on the ground for the Vikings, rushing 18 yards on eight carries, both season-lows. QuarterbackTeddy Bridgewater struggled as well, throwing for 181 yards and an interception, one of six games in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass this season.
Seattle’s defense gave up at least 30 points in a game three times this season, yet they still led the league in points allowed at 277. The Seahawks lost their first three games away from CenturyLink Field, but won their final five road contests by yielding an average of 6.8 points per game and covering four times. The ‘under’ cashed in the last four games of the season, while Seattle won three of four times against NFC North foes.
The Vikings are back in the postseason for the first time since 2012, while hosting their first playoff game since 2009. Minnesota took advantage at TCF Bank Stadium by compiling a 6-2 SU/ATS record, although they put up 1-2 SU/ATS mark against playoff squads with the lone win coming against Kansas City in Week 6.
Running back Marshawn Lynch is out of the lineup for the Seahawks once again after missing the last seven games with a sports hernia. Christine Michael has stepped up with the myriad of injuries in the Seattle backfield as the former Texas A&M standout rushed for 102 yards in the season finale rout of the Cardinals.
The Seahawks have put together a 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS record in the postseason since Wilson took over at quarterback in 2012. Seattle is playing its first road playoff game since Wilson’s rookie season as the Seahawks beat the Redskins as three-point road favorites, 24-14, followed up by a 30-28 setback at Atlanta in the divisional playoffs as 2 ½-point underdogs.
Packers at Redskins (-1, 45) – 4:40 PM EST – FOX
In probably the most intriguing matchup of Wild Card weekend, arguments can be made for both Green Bay and Washington to advance – and to lose. The Packers (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) are no stranger to the postseason, qualifying for the seventh consecutive season, but Mike McCarthy’s squad has lost four of their last six playoff games.
The last time Green Bay didn’t win the NFC North title, it worked out for them as they won three straight road playoff games and knocked off the Steelers to capture Super Bowl XLV in 2010. The Packers fell short of a division championship this season in spite of jumping out to a 6-0 record. Green Bay lost its final two games, including a 20-13 home setback to rival Minnesota to be relegated to the Wild Card round.
Washington (9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS) overcame a 2-4 start to take home the NFC East championship for the first time since 2012. The Redskins are riding a four-game winning streak, while topping the 34-point mark in each of the past three victories. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was intercepted eight times in the first six games, but turned things around in a huge way by posting a 23/3 touchdown to interception ratio in the final 10 contests (7-3 SU/ATS).
The Packers and Redskins didn’t play each other this season as Green Bay won the previous matchup at Lambeau Field in 2013 by a 38-20 score. Green Bay cashed as nine-point favorites and were never really challenged as they grabbed a 31-0 third quarter advantage. Aaron Rodgers torched the Redskins’ defense by throwing for 480 yards and four touchdowns, while two Packers’ receivers (James Jones and Randall Cobb) each racked up at least 100 yards.
Jay Gruden’s team made plenty of strides this season, but one thing that can be highlighted is the fact the Redskins didn’t beat one club that owned a winning record. Washington is setting in as a short favorite as the Redskins failed to cash in two opportunities when laying points at FedEx Field. In the first chance, Washington erased a 24-0 deficit against Tampa Bay in a thrilling 31-30 triumph, but didn’t cover as three-point favorites. In the second opportunity as a home favorite, the Redskins were tripped up by the Cowboys in an ugly 19-16 loss in Week 13, but Washington won five of its final seven home games.
Green Bay had its struggles on the road against playoff teams this season, losing at Denver, Carolina, and Arizona. The Packers did put together a strong effort in a 30-13 blowout of the Vikings in late November, but Green Bay scored 16 points or less in five of six losses this season. The last playoff game for the Packers especially stung, blowing a 12-point fourth quarter lead in a 28-22 overtime loss at Seattle in last season’s NFC Championship.