Merriman: This Is A Big Moment for Matthew Stafford to Shed the Dark Cloud Over Him
To help with your NFL betting going into the playoffs, former NFL Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman is back to give his thoughts on the NFL postseason.
Merriman also discusses what it was like watching the Los Angeles Chargers have their season end to the Las Vegas Raiders, in addition to giving a pick on each of the Wild Card games this weekend.
Gambling.com: What was it like watching the Chargers game unfold the way it did?
Shawne Merriman: I was there in a person, and let me tell you, I haven’t been on a roller-coaster like that since Six Flags. Just even starting the game, it seemed like they always had an opportunity. And then to see (Los Angeles quarterback) Justin Herbert convert all those fourth downs, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in my life.
GDC: What is your impression of Herbert two years into his career?
SM: The scary part is we haven’t seen the best of him because we haven’t seen what he’s truly capable of doing. We see the numbers and those types of things, but I don’t think we’ve seen him completely take over a game yet. He’s getting more comfortable being a franchise guy and being the face and just being in that situation, but when he really comes into his own, it’s downright scary what he’s going to be capable of.
GDC: We saw Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley be aggressive again in fourth downs. How does a team build off those situations in those high-leverage moments?
SM: First off, this is a first-year head coach that was fighting for a playoff position. I see people saying he shouldn’t have went for and this and that, and I’ve seen people say he should be fired. What the hell are you talking about? This is your first time doing this as a head coach, and it’s something to build off of. And more importantly, he’s already gotten the players to buy into one direction, and that is hard to do for anybody, especially a first-year head coach.
Colts Fizzled in Biggest Game
GDC: The big thing before that game was the Indianapolis Colts losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a must-win situation. How deflating is that for an organization to no-show in a game with that much meaning?
SM: There’s enough blame to go around, but nowadays with what they put on top of the franchise quarterback, that loss is on Carson Wentz. A lot of their guys did look flat. You wouldn’t have even thought there were playoff implications on the line if you looked at some of the reactions from some of the guys. But that loss falls completely on Carson Wentz.
Postseason vs. Regular Season Intensity
GDC: As a player, how much difference is it playing in the playoffs compared to the regular season?
SM: You think that later on during the season, when playoff implications are out there, the tempo of the game speeds up. Guys are diving and scraping for every inch, trying to make anything happen. But then you get to the playoffs, and you thought the NFL was fast until you get to the playoffs. It’s next level, man. Everyone knows at that point it’s if you lose, you go home.
GDC: What does it take to succeed in the postseason? What are some key aspects?
SM: Two things: the healthiest team and the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. That is the team that goes deep into the playoffs. Those two things right there allow you to go far.
Wild Card Weekend Analysis and Predictions
Here are Shawne’s picks for the NFL Wild Card games. All moneyline odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Las Vegas Raiders (+190) at Cincinnati Bengals (-235)
SM: I’m taking the Bengals. The Raiders did play a critical game against the Chargers, but I think when it’s time in the playoffs and with how (Cincinnati quarterback) Joe Burrow and (wide receiver) Ja’Marr Chase are playing right now going into the playoffs, they’re dangerous.
The first playoff experience is gonna be unreal for Burrow and Chase. It’s one thing to have a great season and put up all those stats, but it’s nothing compared to the playoffs and I think they will see things much different in the playoffs. It’s a different ballgame.
New England Patriots (+170) at Buffalo Bills (-200)
SM: It’s so hard to bet against Bill Belichick in the playoffs. I’m going with my Bills, man. I think they do it again against them.
Last year, with quarterback Josh Allen, the first time when you get into the playoffs, you don’t know how much is on the line. You don’t realize how much is at stake until you get there. The more and more you play, you get a better understanding of what the playoffs mean and how to go about it in a routine and do certain things. So, I think last year’s playoff experience to the AFC Championship helped him out big.
Philadelphia Eagles (+300) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-400)
SM: I’m taking the Buccaneers by a lot. The MVP should go to Tom Brady or (Green Bay quarterback) Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think anyone else is even close.
San Francisco 49ers (+145) at Dallas Cowboys (-165)
SM: I’m taking the Cowboys. They’re confident after scoring 51 points against Philadelphia. They know they can do it, and that’s the thing.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+475) at Kansas City Chiefs (-675)
SM: I’m taking the Chiefs. I’m sure (Pittsburgh quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger was watching that game against the Chargers and Raiders hoping he’d get in, but now it’s time to get out. It’s about that time.
Arizona Cardinals (+160) at Los Angeles Rams (-190)
SM: I’m taking the Rams, man. You learn from your mistakes, and it’s better to have (last week’s loss against San Francisco) happen then instead of now when they’re in the playoffs.
I think this is a big moment for (quarterback) Matthew Stafford. He’s played in the NFL long enough that the dark cloud and being able to win big games against good teams is over his head, and this is a way to shed that cloud that’s been over him his entire career.
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