Sep 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith (99) and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) in the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Packers 34-28. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Wildcard Picks Against the Spread (Sunday)

Come all ye office-pool players, casual bettors, wiseguys, and degenerate gamblers: the NFL Picks Against The Spread column is here to help you win mountains of cash and/or bragging rights. They say you need to win at least 53% of your games to actually make a profit betting on NFL games. Well you and I know that I’ll probably only hit about 45% at the most, so go ahead and play the opposite of all my recommended Best Bets and you’ll be sure to make some money.

San Diego Chargers +7 at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are not only undefeated at home this season, they are also 8-0 against the spread. That’s pretty rare, as in only the 5th team in the last 25 years to cover the spread in every home game. In fact, they won their home games by an average of almost 18 points per game, against such teams as the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Colts, and Packers (with Aaron Rodgers). Now they face a Chargers team with the worst defense (per play) left in the playoffs, a team they beat IN San Diego just last month. The Chargers are the longest shot of the playoff teams to win the Super Bowl, at 44/1, so Vegas does not see this as a dangerous team. Now they have to go on the road in the cold for a game starting at 1pm EST (10am PST), when west coast teams have typically struggled. And if all that isn’t enough… they are coming off a down-to-the-wire OT game vs. divisional rival KC, when they needed a missed Chiefs field goal to beat KC’s b-squad featuring a backup QB in his first-ever NFL start just to squeak into these playoffs. Sounds like the makings of a Bengal blowout, right? So… why am I picking San Diego here? Well, it seems in the NFL soon as we think something is a sure thing, the opposite often happens. Remember when the Broncos were hosting the Chargers in a prime-time TV game in Denver? There was NO WAY that San Diego was gonna stop Peyton Manning. No way the Broncos would lose to the Chargers at home; the only question was whether Denver would cover the double-digit point spread. Right? How did that one turn out? (The Chargers not only covered the spread, they won the game outright.) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has never won (or covered the spread) in a playoff game, losing by an average of 13 points per game. Maybe they get over the hump this week, as they are the better team in this matchup, but Philip Rivers has been hot enough this season to keep it close and 7 points just seems like too much. Gimme the bolts plus the points.

San Francisco 49ers -3 at Green Bay Packers
I’m very torn on this game. I really want to take Aaron Rodgers as a home underdog here and believe that there’s something real about the magic at Lambeau field. But this 49ers team is peaking and they are solid on both sides of the ball. They might not completely shut him down, but they can pressure Rodgers and are stout enough against the run to limit rookie RB Eddie Lacy. SF QB Colin Kaepernick has been up and down this year, but with Frank Gore and that offensive line grinding against a subpar Clay Matthews-less Packer defense, he should be able to get the ball to TE Vernon Davis and WR Anquan Boldin, two monster match-up nightmares, not to mention potential game breaker Michael Crabtree. If Rodgers comes out throwing and can get a lead, and Green Bay’s defense plays out of their minds, maybe they can finally beat this Niners team that’s owned them recently. I want to believe in miracles, but I believe San Francisco leaves Lambeau’s frozen tundra with a tough win.

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