Folks, we’ve made it. Well, just about. The “Super” Wild Card Weekend in the NFL awaits all of us on Saturday. A triple-header Saturday and a tripleheader on Sunday, what more could we ask for? While the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs will be sitting in their living rooms, feet kicked up, fireplaces crackling away, all the other playoff teams will be in action. As we buckle in and enter this roller coaster ride together, exactly what are the Packers’ odds to hoist the Lombardi Trophy?
According to Bovada, the Packers have the second-best odds (+433) behind only the Chiefs (+200). For those not looped into the sports gambling world, a $100 bet on the Packers to win the championship would pay out $433. So what exactly does this tell us?
This isn’t and shouldn’t be surprising. It tells us that the bettors and the oddsmakers believe the Packers are right at what the standings tell us; the top pick in the NFC. Keep in mind Green Bay and Kansas City’s odds are viewed in a very advantageous light at the current moment because they both clinched a bye instead of having to play this weekend.
For purposes related to the Packers, let’s look at the NFC and determine one dark horse pick, a good value pick and who we believe will actually come out of the NFC alive.
Dark Horse Pick
The dark horse pick to me in the NFC is the Los Angeles Rams. Now it’s entirely possible they lose this weekend to the Seattle Seahawks, but that’s why this is a sneaky, under-the-radar pick.
Jared Goff practiced in full after thumb surgery kept him out of their Week 17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Sean McVay has been fairly silent about what the Rams will do at quarterback against Seattle. For most, this would scare the hell out of them in picking Los Angeles. For me? No hesitation, let’s push those chips in and let it ride. Shoot, this is our long-shot pick anyways.
If it’s not Goff it will be John Wolford, who started last week. After an opening drive interception, Wolford settled in nicely and showed his ability to make plays both with his arm and his legs. Even so, the Rams offense was still nothing to brag about. They scored 18 points and the touchdown came on a pick-six.
BUT, this Rams team relies heavily on the defense.
Aaron Donald up front and Jalen Ramsey in the secondary isn’t too shabby. Their defense yielded the fewest total points in the NFL and ranked top-three in a ton of categories. In two matchups against Seattle this season, they held them to 43 total points and Ramsey has completely neutralized D.K. Metcalf. You could make the argument that he shut him all the way down in one of those games.
They say defense wins championships, and while I don’t completely buy into the cliche, the Rams flat out are dominant on that side of the ball. The Seahawks are slight favorites, and the sucker money might be in betting them because of Los Angeles’ quarterback situation. But don’t be fooled, the Rams defense can limit the best offenses and in turn, make it so their own offense won’t have to score 30-plus most times.
They are the dark horse pick because of all of this. I love their defense, the offense won’t have to carry the load, and McVay should be able to get crafty enough with the scheme to keep the offense competent and confident.
If they were to play the Packers down the road, what’s the recipe for success for the Rams?
Feed Cam Akers early, rely on Wolford or Goff to extend the defense on the play-action boots they love to run, and most importantly, chew the clock. The Packers’ offense is too good to be held down for an entire game so if the Rams can keep the sticks moving on offense while bleeding clock, it would present their best chance of escaping Lambeau with a win.
Best Value Pick
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers being +900 has some really good value. Of all the teams playing this weekend, they perhaps have the most favorable matchup of any road team — the Washington Football Team.
The offense has been a VIBE the last four weeks entering the postseason, and how could we forget? They have Tom Brady.
Mike Evans is dealing with a hyperextended left knee injury suffered in Week 17 and is questionable for Sunday. But no worries, the Buccaneers still have Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. So, yeah, Brady isn’t exactly screaming for help when it comes to weapons.
While it would be awesome to see Ron Rivera and Alex Smith pull off this “upset,” it seems unlikely. The Buccaneers are trending upwards entering the playoffs while Washington has been flapping its arms in the water just trying to stay afloat. At +900 with a favorable Wild Card Weekend matchup, the value lies with the Buccaneers in the NFC.
If they were to play the Packers down the road, what’s the recipe for success for the Bucs?
Um, look at the film in the Week 6 win against Green Bay when the Buccaneers won 38-10. Feed Ronald Jones and try to gash the defense, pick your spots in the passing game while avoiding Jaire Alexander, and use the speed on the defense to pressure and make life miserable for Aaron Rodgers and the offense.
The Actual Pick
You’re out of your damn mind if you believe we are going with anyone else outside of those men who wear the green and gold, play in the frozen tundra that is Lambeau Field and have the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Call me biased, launch blunt objects in my general direction — I will welcome all of it. The Packers are the pick in the NFC.
Sure they went 13-3 last year, but at no time in that postseason or heading into it did I personally think Green Bay had a shot. This season has a way different vibe.
The offense has been the best in the NFL. Rodgers will likely win his third MVP award. Davante Adams has taken his game to another level, now being arguably the best wideout in the game.
The defense has really come on late to finish the year and is playing with a ton of confidence. Darnell Savage has emerged as a legitimate playmaking safety, Alexander is a lockdown corner, and Za’Darius Smith was top-six in sacks for a second straight season.
There’s just a different feel with this team this season. Rodgers seems to have a different perspective, and it’s spread rapidly throughout the locker room. The offense has been a WAGON from Week 1 in Minnesota all the way to Week 17 in Chicago. And perhaps most importantly, unlike past playoff appearances for Green Bay, the NFC rolls through Lambeau Field. It’s something Rodgers talked about the importance of multiple times this year. Now they have it.
The playoffs are here. Let’s enjoy this ride.