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PIGSKIN PERFECTION: The glorious ‘You Are Looking Live!’ preview of NFL Wild Card Weekend

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The Wild Card round has been extended to six total games for Saturday/Sunday -- highlighted by Ravens-Titans, Colts-Bills and Bears-Saints.

Five years ago, we began honoring radio legend Steve Czaban — who was surprisingly booted from the SB Nation Radio morning lineup in 2016, despite having perhaps the most engaging program in the radio marketplace — with a “You Are Looking Live!” preview of each NFL weekend.

The bit was so well-received, so roundly praised by media pundits (including a few SB Nation writers) and Czabe’s legion of fans alike, that we decided to make You Are Looking Live! a permanent Friday staple of the BATSBY Sports Network programming.

So, without further ado, here’s a print doppelganger to the best 60 minutes in sports radio — Hour #3 of Czabe’s NFL-heavy Friday show (heard daily from 7-10 a.m. EST in Milwaukee).

As such, it makes perfect sense to include Brent Musburger and Joey Porter into the presentation, via YouTube:

WILD CARD ROUND

SATURDAY

#7 INDIANAPOLIS @ #2 BUFFALO (AFC)

TIME: 1:05 p.m. EST
LINE: Bills (-6 1/2) … Over/Under: 51
REFEREE: Brad Allen

WEATHER FORECAST: Overcast skies, 27 degrees
TV ANNOUNCERS: Ian Eagle, Charles Davis, Evan Washburn (CBS)

LEGACY TIME: MVP candidate Josh Allen (4,544 yards passing, 45 total TDs, 60-percent completion rate) enjoyed a fantastic finish to the regular season, leading the Bills to a 7-1 mark in their final eight games … while notching averages of 321 total yards and 3.1 touchdowns during this prolific stretch.

But now comes the hard part.

Despite his tremendous success in Year 3, Allen fully comprehends the gravity of Saturday’s matchup with the Colts. In this era of absurdly high, but eminently marketable contract extensions with top-tier quarterbacks, it comes with the tacit understanding that these superstars must perform well AND win during the postseason.

And we all remember Allen’s shaky playoff debut against the Texans last January.

Is this fair? Probably not. However, like it or not, it comes with the territory.

BETTOR’S HUNCH: The over/under tally of 51 points seems considerably low, when digesting the following factors:

a) The cumulative average of Buffalo’s eight home games this season shakes out to 55.5 points.

b) Even better, citing the Colts’ last six roadies, the combined average comes out to 56.1 points per game.

c) The preliminary forecast calls for overcast skies (no expected precipitation) and 27 degrees; and for Buffalo in the relative middle of winter, that’s a doable environment for scoring.

d) Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor has been on a certifiable tear over the last six weeks, posting otherworldly averages of 140 total yards and 1.3 TDs per game.

Which brings us to this …

The Bills ranked in the bottom 15 versus opposing rushers this season, in terms of rushing touchdowns and rushing yards surrendered.

Our suggestion: Take the OVER.

#6 L.A. RAMS @ #3 SEATTLE (NFC)

TIME: 4:40 p.m. EST
LINE: Seahawks (-3) … Over/Under: 42
REFEREE: John Hussey

WEATHER FORECAST: Partly cloudy skies, 43 degrees
TV CREW: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi (FOX)

IS IT JARED … OR THE OTHER GUY? The biggest drama before kickoff involves the Rams’ choice of starting quarterback — Jared Goff (nursing a broken thumb) or backup John Wolford, who fared OK in the club’s Week 17 victory over Arizona.

Even if Goff plays on Saturday, just 13 days removed from the aforementioned thumb injury (also against the Seahawks), it stands to reason his accuracy with intermediate passes and/or deep balls will be marginal, at best.

In other words, the lack of a vertical passing attack puts extra pressure on the Rams’ offensive line, as that unit encounters a Seahawks defense which ranked 4th in fewest rushing yards surrendered to opposing tailbacks.

On the plus side, Rams O-tackle Andrew Whitworth has been activated from the injury list.

BETTOR’S HUNCH: During the regular season, we would have jumped at the chance to clear a super-low ‘over‘ hurdle with any game featuring Russell Wilson and the Rams’ bevy of playmakers.

Forty-two points … seriously?

Fast forward to the present: Prospective bettors shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the ‘under’ aspect of Saturday’s clash.

For starters, as explained above, we don’t know the starting status of Goff vs. Wolford.

And then there’s this: Covering the last 17 head-to-head meetings, dating back to December 2012, either the Rams or Seahawks merely posted 13 or fewer points 11 different times.

Ugh.

#5 TAMPA BAY @ #4 WASHINGTON (NFC)

TIME: 8:15 p.m. EST
LINE: Buccaneers (-8) … Over/Under: 44.5
REFEREE: Scott Novak

WEATHER FORECAST: Clear skies, 34 degrees
TV ANNOUNCERS: Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Kathryn Tappen (NBC)

BETTOR’S HUNCH: Here are three rock-solid reasons to support Tampa Bay covering the 8-point spread:

a) During their four-game winning streak, the Bucs have enjoyed an average victory margin of 18.3 points; and by no coincidence, quarterback Tom Brady held elite-level averages of 333 yards passing and three touchdowns (69-percent completion rate) during this prodigious span.

b) Washington owns middling averages of 18.4 points at home this season. As part of that, the Woofties exceeded 26 points just once at FedEx Field.

c) The Buccaneers have absurdly averaged 39 points in their last five road outings (all victories).

Bottom line: Even if Tampa Bay fails to reach the above number of 39, Brady and Co. should be considered easy locks for 27-30 points.

Does Washington have enough, uh, firepower to notch 20-plus points?

In case you forgot … the Bucs defense ranked 1st in fewest rushing yards allowed and 3rd in rushing touchdowns yielded to opposing tailbacks.

SPORTS WEEKEND PREP WORK

PIGSKIN PERFECTION: ‘You Are Looking Live!’ for Wild Card Weekend
GOOD BEATS: Our sweetest betting picks for NFL, NCAA football/hoops

SUNDAY

#5 BALTIMORE @ #4 TENNESSEE (AFC)

TIME: 1:05 p.m. EST
LINE: Titans (+3) … Over/Under: 54.5
REFEREE: Jerome Boger

WEATHER FORECAST: Partly cloudy skies, 34 degrees
TV CREW: Steve Levy, Louis Riddick, Brian Griese, Lisa Salters (ESPN)

WHAT’S THE DEAL, NFL? You couldn’t ask for a better Wild Card Weekend grudge match than Baltimore vs. Tennessee (arguably the AFC’s best non-divisional rivalry right now); and yet, the NFL has this game occupying the so-so window of 1 p.m. Sunday.

A quick history lesson for the masses:

****The Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) and Ravens (formerly the old Cleveland Browns) have squared off during the postseason four times since 2001, with both clubs earning two victories apiece.

Of those four clashes, the head-to-head winner eventually advanced to the AFC title game three times … and the Super Bowl once (Ravens championship).

****Tennessee knocked off Baltimore twice during the 2020 calendar year — including last season’s Divisional Playoff round.

For the two road upsets, Titans tailback Derrick Henry (back-to-back NFL rushing titles) averaged 164 rushing yards and 0.5 touchdowns.

****For better context, the Ravens gave up the fewest rushing touchdowns to opposing backs in 2020.

WHAT’S AT STAKE: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson might be one of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers, but he’s also winless in two postseason starts.

As such, Jackson’s young legacy has a lot riding on Sunday’s showdown in Nashville.

(To be fair, Jackson amassed 508 total yards in last season’s playoff defeat to Tennessee. Hardly a ‘flop’ performance.)

BETTOR’S HUNCH: On the surface, it seems like easy money in siding with the underdog Titans … and the feels-like-a-trap spread of three points.

However, we’re eminently more comfortable with the over/under tally of 54 points, citing the following reasons:

a) The surging Ravens have averaged 33.5 points during their five-game winning streak.

b) The Titans have eclipsed the 30-point mark in six of their last seven outings.

c) The head-to-head matchup from Week 11 produced 54 points (Tennessee won, 30-24); but for those watching that game, it still had the physical and emotional feel of a rough-and-tumble playoff battle.

So, why wouldn’t this pattern repeat on Sunday afternoon? Take the over.

#7 CHICAGO @ #2 NEW ORLEANS (NFC)

TIME: 4:40 p.m. EST
LINE: Saints (-10) … Over/Under: 47
REFEREE: Alex Kemp

WEATHER FORECAST: It’s indoors, dummy
TV CREW: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely (CBS)

FUN FACT #1: The Saints currently own a six-game winning streak over the Bears, with an average victory margin of 10.5 points. What’s more, New Orleans started three different quarterbacks during this stretch — Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill.

FUN FACT #2: Charting Brees’ last six postseason starts (2-4 record), the Saints have averaged only 22.1 points per outing.

FUN FACT #3: Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky produced one confounding stat line in last week’s home defeat to the Packers. Zero touchdowns and 16 team points … and yet, the schizophrenic playmaker completed 33 of 42 passes on the night.

Looking forward, this just screams the maturing Trubisky playing well enough to keep the Bears in contention throughout Sunday — or at the very least, leaving Chicago within shouting distance of the 10-point Vegas spread.

#6 CLEVELAND @ #3 PITTSBURGH (AFC)

TIME: 8:15 p.m. EST
LINE: Steelers (-6) … Over/Under: 47.5
REFEREE: Shawn Smith

WEATHER FORECAST: Clear skies, 32 degrees
TV ANALYSTS: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya (NBC)

A MOMENT OF BRUTAL TRUTH: The Browns have no shot of upending the Steelers in the wild-card round.

Sure, the good people of Cleveland experienced a nice moment last week, when the Browns beat their bitter rivals and subsequently clinched the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2002.

However, QB Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t even on the sidelines for that game. Instead, Big Ben was home in suburban Pittsburgh, kicking back on the couch and resting for his team’s imminent playoff push.

In other words, nothing has changed yet, in terms of how we view the one-sided Browns-Steelers rivalry.

BETTOR’S HUNCH: This might be the biggest no-brainer of the weekend, presuming the Steelers cover the six-point spread at Heinz Field.

Here’s why:

a) Pittsburgh’s remarkable receiving trio of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and rookie Chase Claypool produced combined averages of 82 catches, 899 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

b) The Steelers averaged 33.2 points in their first five home games, coinciding with tailback James Conner being relatively healthy.

c) As the Steelers’ starting QB, Big Ben owns a staggering record of 25-2-1 against the Browns.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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