The NFL continues to try squeeze every drop out of the playoffs, where Wild Card Weekend now stretches into Monday night when the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams close out the first round of the playoffs.
With six games on tap, there is plenty to be excited about as the field gets whittled down by three teams in each conference and the push to the Super Bowl starts gaining momentum.
NFL Betting Odds and Lines: Wild Card Week
Las Vegas Raiders (+200) at Cincinnati Bengals (-250)
The Bengals went 4-0 against AFC playoff teams this season, including wins over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers twice, and a 32-13 thumping of the Raiders the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The Raiders went 1-3 against AFC playoff teams, including losses by 27, 19 and 39 points. The Raiders have won four straight, but have also proved that they can be run off the field by a good team. The bet here that intrigues me most is the Over/Under (48.5 points at -110 for both). Neither team has been to the playoffs in years and will likely come out deliberate looking to set the tempo that they want, which will likely entail a heavy dose of Joe Mixon and Josh Jacobs. It’s a high number that looks to be just a shade too high. Take the Under (-110).
New England Patriots (+165) at Buffalo Bills (-205)
The Patriots ripped off seven straight wins at midseason before dropping three of their final four games, including a 33-21 loss to the Bills. The last time these teams played in Buffalo, weather was the headline as the Patriots doggedly stuck to running the ball in a 14-10 win. The Patriots are being shown a lot of respect on the spread (3.5 points at -105 Patriots, -115 Bills). The Bills have endured being the “little brother” to the Patriots for a long time. While I’m impressed with the Patriots defense, the Buffalo defense is going to be going up against a rookie QB playing his 19th game who hasn’t been asked to carry the team on his back. He is going to be under duress all day and will likely make the critical mistake that costs his team a chance to win. Take the Bills and lay the 3.5 points (-115).
Philadelphia Eagles (+330) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-450)
The Bucs are heavy favorite (8.5 points at -108 Eagles, -112 Buccaneers). They were a similarly prohibitive favorite when the team met on a Thursday night in Week 6, but Tampa Bay and Tom Brady came away with a 28-22. The Eagles losing to playoff teams is nothing new. They played six games against the current playoff field and lost all six, including four by double digits. On the flip side of the coin, the Buccaneers were 4-1 against teams in this year’s playoffs and have won seven of their last eight games. Being a big favorite is always a slippery slope in the postseason, because it’s all about survive and advance – even if it means leaving potential points on the board. Did I mention Tom Brady is Tampa Bay’s quarterback and this is January? Take the Bucs and lay the 8.5 points (-112).
San Francisco 49ers (+135) at Dallas Cowboys (-170)
If you’re looking for a playoff team that is battle-tested, look no further than the 49ers. They played eight games against this year’s playoff field (going 4-4) and have won seven of their last nine games. The Cowboys, as would be expected, are home favorites (3.5 points at -120 49ers, +100 Cowboys). The Cowboys have been opportunistic on defense, posting a whopping 26 interceptions, but have struggled against elite teams and aren’t dominant at home – three losses in eight home games. If you’re looking for a candidate to be a Moneyline win as an underdog, the 49ers may be your best bet. But, I’m willing to pay the tax to get some insurance. Take the 49ers plus the 3.5 points (-120).
Pittsburgh Steelers (+500) at Kansas City Chiefs (-750)
The good news for Pittsburgh is thanks to greed on the part of the Los Angeles Chargers, resulting in the Steelers getting into the playoffs. The bad news is that they’re on the road against the two-time defending AFC champs. The Chiefs are huge favorites (11.5 points at -108 Steelers, -112 Chiefs). The Steelers came to Arrowhead last month and were completely pounded, losing 36-10 the day after Christmas. It’s a new year, but not much is different. Kansas City is the AFC champ until they’re knocked off. Ben Roethlisberger throws more two-yard passes than any QB in the league, and they’re back in K.C. for the rematch. The Steelers offense puts itself in bad down-and-distance situations too often, and the Chiefs offense feasts when given too many opportunities. Big Ben’s next stop is the Hall of Fame, but his last stop as a player comes Sunday. Take the Chiefs and lay the 11.5 points (-112).
Arizona Cardinals (+160) at Los Angeles Rams (-200)
After starting 7-0, the Cardinals have gone 4-10 in their last 10 games and 1-4 in their last five. They look to be trending badly in the wrong direction. However, a couple of numbers that need pointing out is that Arizona is 5-2 against playoff teams this season and 8-1 on the road – its only loss coming against Detroit. All five of the Rams’ losses came against playoff teams, so my confidence in them isn’t strong. The Cardinals have a good chance to win this game, but the number I’m looking at is the Over/Under (49.5 points at 108 Over, -112 Under). Divisional opponents who know each other well, this has the potential to be a shootout. More likely, things will be kept conservative early on and, if either team can make the other one-dimensional, could spiral out of control. With this kind of number, a 34-14 blowout is still Under. If field goals come into play, more scores will be needed. Take the Under (-112).
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