John Boell Newsday sports writer John Boell

Boell has worked in the Newsday sports department in various capacities since 1999. In 2010, he became Newsday's

Usually, NFL wild-card weekend has the appeal of leftovers: not too good the second time around.

In the 23 seasons since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams and four wild-card games, only one season (1991) has produced four single-digit winning margins. In fact, the average margin of victory in wild-card games is 12.4 points per game since the 1990 season, when the NFL expanded to the current playoff format.

Interestingly, this year could buck that trend with three games featuring point spreads of 2 1/2 points, and the fourth (San Diego at Cincinnati) just a 7-point number.

Bring on the leftovers

and wild-card weekend.

I think we'll see four

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exciting games.


CHIEFS (11-5) at COLTS (11-5), 4:35 p.m.

Colts by 2 1/2; O/U: 46 1/2

TV: Ch. 4; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

In Week 16, the Colts won in Kansas City, 23-7, thanks in part to four Chiefs turnovers. Colts coach Chuck Pagano called Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles "public enemy No. 1" before the teams' last meeting and still holds Charles (1,980 total yards) in the same regard. The Chiefs have the best road record against the spread this season (7-1). However, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has a 13-3 mark overall at home and 12-4 record ATS in his first two seasons. The Colts finished the season strongly, winning three straight and four of their last five, and don't forget they posted huge wins at home against the respective top seeds in this year's playoffs: first against Seattle in Week 5, then Denver in Week 7.

The pick: Colts, 27-20

SAINTS (11-5) at EAGLES (10-6), 8:10 p.m.

Eagles by 2 1/2; O/U: 54

TV: Ch. 4; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

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The Eagles, led by Nick Foles and coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense, exceeded expectations this season en route to the NFC East title and have won seven of their last eight games. The forecast for kickoff is 24 degrees with light winds and no precipitation. Many think the cold will freeze Drew Brees & Co. I'm not so sure. There's no bigger Jekyll & Hyde team as far as home-and-road play than New Orleans. The Saints (8-0 at home overall) are 3-5 on the road and just 1-7 ATS. New Orleans, which averaged 34 points per game at home, scored 17.8 ppg away from the Superdome and didn't score more than 27 points in a road game. However, this is the postseason. Tight end Jimmy Graham will have a monster game as the Saints earn their first postseason road win after five failures.

The pick: Saints, 31-24


CHARGERS (9-7) at BENGALS (11-5), 1:05 p.m.

Bengals by 7; O/U: 47

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TV: Ch. 2; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

Guess which team is the AFC's hottest entering the playoffs? Believe it or not, it's the Chargers with four straight wins. The Bolts got a gift when they beat the Chiefs' backups in OT last week after the Ravens and Dolphins both lost. The Chargers' last loss was against -- yep, you guessed it -- the Bengals in Week 13 in San Diego. This game is in Cincinnati, and the Bengals were a golden 8-0 overall and ATS this season. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton scares me sometimes, but he's surrounded by a talented offense led by receiver A.J. Green.

The pick: Bengals, 27-17

49ERS (12-4) at PACKERS (8-7-1), 4:40 p.m.

49ers by 2 1/2; O/U: 47

TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

I still don't know how Randall Cobb got so wide open on his 48-yard touchdown catch on a fourth-and-the-season play that lifted Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to the NFC North crown. Green Bay is the only NFL playoff team to have an ATS record under .500 (6-10) this season. The 49ers tied for the top ATS record (11-5) this season. This will be the seventh playoff meeting between these two franchises and a repeat of last year's divisional matchup, a 45-31 win by San Francisco in which Colin Kaepernick set an NFL single-game rushing mark for a QB with 181 yards. It's going to be freezing cold at Lambeau -- reports say it will be zero degrees at kickoff -- but I still love the defending NFC champs in this spot.

The pick: 49ers, 34-27

STAFF PICKS (best bets in caps)

JOHN BOELL: Colts Saints Bengals 49ERS

BOB GLAUBER: Colts Eagles BENGALS 49ers


TOM ROCK: CHIEFS Eagles Chargers 49ers