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Celebrity NFL Picks: Wild-card weekend invites favored visitors

Sal DeFilippo

Celebrity Picks

Final 2008 Standings
Wayne Newton, "Mr. Las Vegas": 31-19-1
Anthony Crivello, star of "Phantom - Las Vegas Spectacular": 30-21
Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas: 26-24-1
Danny Gans, Encore headliner: 26-25
Lance Burton, Monte Carlo master magician: 25-26
Kevin Janison, KVBC meteorologist: 23-26-2
Carrot Top, Luxor headliner: 17-33-1
Past Winners
2001 – Lance Burton
2002 – Clint Holmes
2003 – Rita Rudner
2004 – Oscar Goodman
2005 – Wayne Newton
2006 – Anthony Crivello
2007 – Rita Rudner
2008 – Wayne Newton

One of the general safeties of the NFL playoffs – not the two-point kind, I mean things that you can consider to happen safely – is that home teams win a high percentage of their games.

After all, it makes sense. Teams with home playoff games earn that position by winning a division, and having a high playoff seed. Then, toss it the obvious advantages of playing in your home stadium, with the crowd and familiarity, and home teams generally fare well in the postseason.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

In recent years, that trend has dissipated somewhat, particularly in wild-card weekend. Since 2004, home teams are only 8-8 in the first round of the post-season. And that includes a 4-0 mark in 2006. In three of the past four years, at least two of the four road teams have won in the first round.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that this weekend, despite the higher seeds playing in front of their home crowds – none of the four home teams is favored.

Arizona, which kicks off the playoff weekend against Atlanta, is a pick ’em, and the three other wild-card entries – Indianapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia – are small favorites over division champs San Diego, Miami and Minnesota, respectively.

I can’t recall a season where, in every case, a home team winning was considered an upset.

But when you look at the matchups, you can understand why the oddsmakers are siding with the visiting clubs. In both Saturday games, the road teams have superior overall records. Arizona limped into the playoffs at 9-7, and four weeks ago, the host Chargers were sitting at 4-8 before winning four in a row. That’s still nothing compared to the 12-4 Colts, however, who have won nine consecutive games.

On Sunday, the Ravens and Dolphins each have 11-5 marks, while Philadelphia, at 9-6-1, finished with a mark slightly worse than Minnesota’s 10-6, but the Ravens and Eagles are each favored to win by roughly a field goal.

It looks like the road to the Super Bowl – at least in the wild-card round – may not feel like home sweet home after all.

Playoff picks: After a 2-0-1 regular season finale, I finished the season at a stellar 32-17-2 against the spread, easily the best mark I’ve posted since, well, birth. Several members of the celebrity panel had outstanding years, too, including 2008 champion Wayne Newton, who was 31-19-1. He’ll make picks, along with me, throughout the postseason, and is the recipient of the prestigious (not really) Golden Nerf for winning the celebrity competition.

This weekend, I’ll take the Falcons as a pick, the Colts -1 ½, the Dolphins +3 ½ and the Eagles -3.

Wayne’s World: Falcons pick, Colts -1 ½, Ravens -3 ½, Vikings +3.

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