The longest regular season in NFL history is in the books, and now bettors shift their focus to the playoffs. With a field of seven teams on either side, the NFL presents a host of intriguing playoff matchups for their Wild Card round this weekend. NFL Odds sport intriguing lines for this first set of postseason games.
The drama of Week 18 held the fate of several teams in its hands, with the final playoff field finally settling on Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime. That kick eliminated the Los Angeles Chargers and gave Ben Roethlisberger at least one more game to play.
In the NFL’s first Week 18, the Underdogs ruled the weekend, going 10-6 against the spread. For the season, Underdogs went 142-127-3, covering the spread 52.8 percent of the time. Away underdogs covered at the highest clip, 54.1 percent (85-72-3), with home ‘dogs covering 50.9 percent of the time (57-55).
Last week scoring was up again. The Over hit in 11 of the 16 games for Week 18. But the Under won the season overall, hitting in 53.9 percent of all games (146-125). In non-overtime games, the Under hit 56.4 percent of the time (141-109).
Now that the regular season’s done, it’s time to shift our betting focus to the playoffs. Here’s a look at every NFL Wild Card game, with best odds, picks and predictions for each contest.
Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals Picks and Predictions
The Las Vegas Raiders play the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL Wild Card round playoff opener on Saturday afternoon. Their Raiders rallied behind interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and won their final four games of the regular season to grab an AFC Wild Card spot. But the road to that spot was tight, as the Raiders set a new NFL record for most walk-off win in a season (6). The Bengals clinched the AFC North with their win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17. That punched Cincinnati’s first playoff ticket since 2015. Now, the Bengals hope to win their first playoff game since 1991, the longest drought in the league.
The Las Vegas Raiders (10-7, 8-9 ATS) ranked 18th in scoring (22.0) and 11th in yards per game (363.8). Their offense ranked sixth in passing yards per game (268.6) but 28th in both rushing yards per game (95.1) and yards per carry (3.9).
Las Vegas’ defense ranked 26th in scoring, allowing 25.8 points per game. The Raiders D ranked 14th in yards per game (337.2) and 24th in yards per play (5.2). They ranked 20th in passing defense (222.9), 14th in rushing yards per game (114.3), and 21st in yards per carry (4.2). The Raiders defense allowed a score at the end of offensive drives 41.6 percent of the time (8th-highest).
The Raiders committed the second-most penalties this season (124) and finished with the most penalty yards assessed overall (1104). The bulk of Las Vegas’ penalties came on the offensive end. That factored into the Raiders’ 28th ranking in third down conversion percentage (37.4).
The Cincinnati Bengals (10-7, 10-7 ATS) ranked seventh in scoring this season (27.1) and seventh in passing yards per game (282.7). Cincy was fifth in yards per play (5.9) and 13th in yards per game (361.5). The Bengals ranked 23rd in both rushing yards per game (102.5) and yards per carry (4.0).
Defensively, the Bengals ranked 17th in scoring, allowing 22.1 points per game. The strength of Cincinnati’s defense was versus the run, where they ranked fifth in rushing yards per game (102.5) and 13th in yards per carry (4.3). They ranked 27th against the pass, allowing 264.6 passing yards per game and 21st in yards per pass (7.2).
Cincinnati’s red-zone percentage ranked 17th (59.6 percent), while the Raiders allowed a score on 81.4 percent of its opponents’ red-zone trips (32nd). The Bengals offense is 12th-ranked in the league in terms of turnovers allowed (21), and are facing the 29th-ranked team in turnovers forced, the Raiders (15). The Bengals surrendered the third-most sacks this season (55) and allowed pressures in 24.2 percent of dropbacks (12th-most).
The worry for the Raiders here is, which offense will show up? Las Vegas put up 35 points in Week 18, but prior to that, Las Vegas averaged 16 points per game over their last five games. The Raiders recorded more than 17 points only once over that span. The Raiders scored 17 or fewer points nine times this season, and 30 or more in six.
These teams met in Week 11, with Cincinnati dominating the Raiders in a 32-13 win in Las Vegas. Joe Mixon rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, while Joe Burrow completed 20 of 29 for 148 yards and threw one touchdown for the Bengals.
Cincinnati’s defense limited the Raiders to 278 yards, the second (of three) times the Bengals held an opponent to fewer than 300 yards in a game this season. Las Vegas converted just one of seven third down attempts, committed seven penalties, and lost two turnovers.
Las Vegas is one of two playoff teams with a negative scoring margin this season, but the Bengals were better on the road than they were at home this season. Cincinnati covered in just four of their nine home games. That said, Las Vegas are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games against the Bengals.
The Bengals have covered the spread once this season (1-2 ATS) when playing as at least 6-point favorites. Meanwhile, the Raiders are 3-1 ATS this year when playing as at least 6-point underdogs. Both teams saw their Over-Under mark finished at 8-9 this season. In eight games this season, Cincinnati and its opponents have scored more than 49.5 total points. The Raiders and their opponents went over that total nine times.
The New England Patriots play the Buffalo Bills in the NFL’s marquee matchup on Saturday night. This Wild Card round matchup stands as the third game between these AFC East rivals this season. These teams split their first two games, with the Patriots winning in Buffalo earlier this season. New England has won nine of its last 10 visits to Orchard Park. Weather reports indicate this game will be played in frigid temperatures, below 10 degrees, but in light winds.
The New England Patriots (10-7, 10-7 ATS) limped into the playoffs this season, going 1-3 both straight up and against the spread over their last four games. In each of those three losses, the Pats started slowly, facing deficits of 13 points or more in the first half.
New England ranked sixth in scoring this season (27.2), and third in points per play (0.44). The Pats ranked 15th in yards per game (353.4), 14th in passing yards per game (241.1), and eighth in rushing yards per game (126.5). The offense ranked 10th in yards per play (5.7) and surrendered the second-fewest sacks this season (27).
The Patriots defense stood out as the strength of the team. New England ranked second in the league in scoring defense, allowing just 17.8 points per game. They were first in points per play (0.29), second in passing yards per game (202.2), and third in yards per play (5.1). The Pats forced the third-most turnovers this season (30).
The Buffalo Bills (11-6, 10-6-1 ATS) started the season 4-1 before struggling through a 3-5 stretch in the middle of the season. The Bills finished the season strong, though, regaining the AFC East led and winning the division by winning their final four games of the season (3-0-1 against the spread).
Buffalo sported one of the league’s top offensive units. The Bills ranked third in scoring (28.4), fifth in yards per game (381.9), and sixth in rushing yards per game (129.9). Josh Allen led a passing attack that ranked 10th in passing yards per game (261.8) and yards per attempt (5.7). Buffalo scored touchdowns in 62.3 percent of their red zone trips (seventh).
The Bills led the league in scoring defense, allowing just 17.0 points per game. Buffalo ranked first in points per play (0.29), yards per game (272.8), yards per play (4.6), passing yards per game (179.2), and yards per passing attempt (5.7). The Bills sported the league’s top third-down defense as well, allowing conversions in just 30.8 percent of attempts. They registered the 11th-most sacks (41) and tied with New England for third in turnovers (30).
Interestingly, Allen has played better against the Patriots on the road in his career. In New England, Allen has a 10-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and throws for 265 yards per game. In Buffalo against the Pats, Allen’s TD-to-INT ratio is 1-4, and he puts up just 151 passing yards per game.
Stopping the run will obviously be a big key for the Bills, who are 3-4 straight up this season when allowing 100 or more rushing yards. In their Week 13 loss at home to the Patriots, Buffalo allowed 222 rushing yards. When they met three weeks later, the Bills held New England to 149 rushing yards in a win.
Buffalo will seek a fast start in this game. The Bills went 8-0 this season when scoring a touchdown on their first possession of the game. The Bills are 8-5-1 against the spread this season when playing as at least 3.5-point favorites. The Patriots have covered the spread twice this year (2-1 ATS) when playing as at least 3.5-point underdogs.
The trends point to a Pats cover in this one, considering they’re 15-3 against the spread in their last 18 trips to Buffalo. The underdog is 5-1-1 against the spread in the last seven matchups between these clubs. And the Under is 4-1 in the last five in Buffalo. But it’s hard to bet on a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road in freezing temperatures.
The Philadelphia Eagles play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC first matchup on Wild Card weekend. Tom Brady and Bucs begin the quest of defending their Super Bowl title on Sunday, but unlike last year, they will play at least two playoff games at home if they are able to advance that far after locking up the NFC’s 2-seed with a win over Carolina last week and coupled with a Rams loss to the 49ers. The Eagles return to the playoffs after a one-year absence, this time under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni.
The Philadelphia Eagles (9-8, 8-8-1 ATS) survived an early 1-5 stretch this season to qualify for the playoffs with second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts under center. The Eagles went 6-2 over their final eight games to earn this Wild Card berth.
The Eagles sported the league’s top rushing attack, averaging 159.7 rushing yards per game. Philly ranked fourth in yards per carry (4.9), and fourth in third-down percentage (45.7). The passing attack left something to be desired though, as the Eagles averaged the third-fewest passing yards per game (210.9). Philly committed the fifth-fewest turnovers this season (16), but allowed the sixth-most sacks (30).
On defense, the Eagles ranked 10th in yards per game (328.8), and top-10 in yards per play (5.2, 7th), yards per pass (6.8, 8th) and yards per rush (4.0, 5th). But Philly’s defense struggled on third down, allowing 42.9 percent of conversions (23rd) and in the red zone (66.7 percent, 29th). The Eagles registered the second-fewest sacks (29).
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4, 9-8 ATS) sported one of the league’s top offenses, averaging 30.1 points per game (2nd). The Bucs ranked first in passing yards per game (316.6) and in pards per play (6.1). The Bucs were second in yards per game (405.9), third-down percentage (47.1), and red zone percentage (66.2). They allowed the fewest sacks in the league (23).
Tampa Bay ranked fifth in scoring defense (20.8) and sixth in points per play (0.32). The Bucs ranked third against the run (92.5 yards per game), but 22nd against the pass (255.7 yards per game). The Bucs ranked 10th in red zone defense (52.5 percent) and 12th in third-down defense (38.5 percent).
These teams met way back in Week 6, with Brady leading the Bucs to a 28-22 victory in Philadelphia. Tampa Bay held a 28-7 lead in the second half in that contest and survived a furious rally from the Eagles. Brady started fast in that ball game, completing 11 of his first 12 throws for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first two drives of the game. The Bucs limited Philly to 100 rushing yards.
The Bucs were a dominant home team this season, finishing 7-1 at Raymond James Stadium, the second-best home mark in the league. Five of their seven home wins were by double digits. Tampa Bay covered in six of those eight home games. The Eagles, meanwhile, were a solid road team, going 6-3 straight up and 5-4 against the spread away from home. But Philly had only one win over a team with a winning record this season (New Orleans).
The Bucs have covered the spread seven times this season (7-4 ATS) when playing as at least 8.5-point favorites. Philly’s only 2-6 this season as a Moneyline underdog. Tampa Bay and its opponents have combined to score more than 49 points in 10 of 17 games this season. The Eagles and their foes did that nine times.
The San Francisco 49ers play the Dallas Cowboys in a matchup of marquee franchises on Wild Card weekend. This matchup on Sunday afternoon renews a classic NFL rivalry, one that’s seen Dallas win five of the seven playoff games between them. They haven’t met in the postseason since 1995, the last of three straight NFC Title game matchups.
The San Francisco 49ers (10-7, 9-8 ATS) shook off a 2-4 start to clinch a playoff berth in the final game of the season, coming back from 17 down to tie the division rival Rams on the road and then won 27-24 in overtime. San Francisco ended up 6-3 straight up on the road this year.
The Niners led the league in yards per play this season (6.1), and ranked second in yards per pass (8.6), but only 13th in points per game (25.1). San Francisco ranked first in red zone scoring (66.7 percent), but 14th in third-down percentage (40.2). The Niners leaned on a running game that ranked seventh in rushing yards per game (127.4) and 15th in yards per carry (4.3).
One defense, San Francisco held opponents to 21.5 points per game (9th). The Niners ranked third in yards per game allowed (310.0) and yards per play (5.1). They limited opponents to 4.0 yards per carry (5th) and registered the fifth-most sacks (48). San Francisco’s D was middle of the pack in both red zone defense and third-down defense.
The Dallas Cowboys (12-5, 13-4 ATS) are coming off an NFC East-winning 12-5 season, did struggle a fair bit at home this year, losing three of their last five home games. Dallas covered the spread in five of its eight home games this season, and saw the Over hit in five home games as well.
The Cowboys led the league in scoring, averaging 31.2 points per game this season. Dallas also ranked first in points per play (0.46) and yards per game (407.0). Dak Prescott led a passing offense that ranked third in passing yards per game (291.3) and fifth in yards per attempt (7.7). Dallas ranked third in yards per play (6.0) and seventh in yards per carry (4.5).
Dallas ranked seventh in scoring defense, allowing 21.1 points per game and 0.33 points per play. The Cowboys led the league in turnovers (34), but ranked 21st against the pass, allowing 255,6 passing yards per game. The Cowboys’ red zone defense ranked 21st as well, allowing touchdowns 60.9 percent of the time. But Dallas ranked second on third-down, allowing conversions just 34.1 percent of the time. The Cowboys struggled against the run at times, allowing 4.5 yards per carry (22nd).
Prescott started the year out with several elite performances. He averaged 302.2 yards with 2.7 touchdowns and 0.7 interceptions on 36 pass attempts per game through six contests, with three or more passing touchdowns in five of those six games. But Prescott missed Week 8 with an injury, and he wasn’t the same for a while he returned. He averaged 255 yards with only 1.3 touchdowns and 0.9 interceptions on 39.4 pass attempts per game. Prescott failed to throw for 3-or-more touchdowns in any of those seven games.
But over his last three games, Prescott’s looked significantly better. He’s averaged 283.7 yards and four touchdowns per game without throwing any interceptions. This helped Dallas finish with a league-best 13-4 mark against the spread, including covers in five of their final six games.
The Cowboys covered the spread 10 times this season (10-4 ATS) when playing as at least 3-point favorites. The 49ers covered the spread twice in three tries as an underdog of 3-points or more this season. Dallas and its opponents hit over a total of 50.5 points in nine games this season, whereas the Niners saw that happen seven times.
The Niners are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games as an underdog, but Dallas is 5-1 in their last six as a favorite. The Cowboys are 3-1-1 in their last five meetings with San Francisco in Dallas. The Over is 5-1 in their last six meetings in Big D, and 8-2 in their last 10 meetings overall.
Picks and Predictions
Dallas 24, San Francisco 20
ML: DAL -145 (BetMGM); Spread: DAL -3/-105 (BetMGM); O/U: Under 50.5/-105 (PointsBet)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Picks and Predictions
When: Sunday, January 16th, 8:15 PM
Where: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Kansas City Chiefs in the primetime game on Sunday night during Wild Card weekend. This matchup didn’t materialize until the final moment of the NFL regular season when a game-winning Raiders kick sent Pittsburgh to the postseason. But even though Ben Roethlisberger’s career gets at least one more game, the Steelers face long odds in this one. This game stands as the lone double-digit spread of Wild Card weekend.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1, 8-9 ATS) found themselves in the postseason following an unlikely turn of events in Week 18. The lowly Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Indianapolis Colts, which opened the door for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers come to this one with an offense that ranked in the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. Pittsburgh scored 20.2 points per game (21st) and averaged 0.31 points per play (22nd). The Steelers ranked 23rd in yards per game (315.4) and 29th in rushing (93.1 rushing yards per game). They converted 38.9 percent of third-down tries (18th) and only 54 percent of red zone visits (23rd).
On defense, though, Pittsburgh excelled at attacking the quarterback. The Steelers finished with the most sacks this season (55) and T.J. Watt tied the all-time single-season record for sacks (22.5). The Steelers ranked fourth in red zone defense (50.8 percent) and seventh in third down defense (37.1 percent). But Pittsburgh did struggle against the run, allowing a league-high 146.1 rushing yards per game.
The Kansas City Chiefs (12-5, 8-9 ATS) ended up winning the AFC West comfortably, despite starting the season 3-4 and sitting in last place in the division in Week 7. The Chiefs hold the 2-seed in the AFC and look to make their third-straight trip to the Super Bowl.
Kansas City ranked fourth in scoring this season, averaging 28.2 points per game. The Chiefs put up 0.42 points per play (7th) and ranked third in yards per game (396.8). KC ranked fourth in passing yards per game (290.4) and fifth in yards per attempt (5.9). The Chiefs had the league’s top third-down offense, converting 52.2 percent of the time, and Kansas City surrendered the fourth-fewest sacks (28).
The Chiefs defense rounded into form as the season progressed, and finished eighth in scoring, allowing 21.4 points per game. The metrics all indicate a defensive unit in the bottom third of the league in yards per game and per play, but the Chiefs ranked 18th in third-down defense (40.2 percent) and 16th in red zone defense (57.1). They forced the fifth-most turnovers (29), but registered the fourth-fewest sacks (31).
Kansas City finished the season with a 9-1 record. Their only loss came by a field goal in the final seconds of the game to the Bengals. The Chief’s offense caught fire in recent games, as they’ve posted 28 points or more in five consecutive contests. Over that span, they’re averaging 35.4 points per game. They own a plus-72 point differential in those games.
These two teams met in Week 16, with Kansas City routing the Steelers 36-10 at home. Patrick Mahomes was masterful in throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 159 yards with a late fourth-quarter touchdown for Pittsburgh, along with throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Najee Harris added 93 yards rushing, but most of that came with the game out of reach.
The Chiefs have won and covered in each of their last four games as a home favorite, and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five home playoff games. The Chiefs are 5-2 against the spread versus Pittsburgh in Kansas City. And the Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these clubs in KC.
The Arizona Cardinals play the Los Angeles Rams in the final contest of the NFL Wild Card round slate of games. In the first-ever NFL playoff game on Monday night, the Cardinals and Rams will face off for the third time this season, and the road team won the first two contests. The Cardinals won 37-20 in Los Angeles in Week 4. The Rams scored a measure of revenge in Week 14, when they defeated the Cardinals in Arizona 30-23 in a win that earned them first place in the NFC West.
The Arizona Cardinals (11-6, 10-7 ATS) started the season 7-0, but finished just 4-6 after that, dealing with injuries through those final 10 games. The Cardinals, though, were excellent on the road this season, going 8-1. That made them just the ninth team in NFL history to win eight road games in a single season, including victories at Tennessee, Dallas and of course at SoFi Stadium.
Arizona’s offense started the season on a blistering pace, but finished 11th in scoring, averaging 26.4 points per game. The Cardinals averaged 29.7 points per game on the road, which was the third-highest in the NFL. They ranked fourth in yards per pass attempt (7.8), and eighth in both yards per game (373.6) and passing yards per game (271.7). Arizona finished 10th in rushing yards per game (122.1), as well.
The Cardinals committed the fourth-fewest turnovers (15), and ranked fifth in third-down offense (45.2 percent). Arizona ranked 15th in red zone offense (60 percent) and struggled in that down the stretch.
Arizona ranked ninth in scoring defense (21.5 points per game) and yards per pass attempt (6.9). The Cardinals forced the seventh-most turnovers this season (27) and ranked sixth against the pass, allowing 227.8 passing yards per game. They struggled at times against the run, allowing 114.8 rushing yards per game (20th) and 4.6 yards per carry (26th).
The Los Angeles Rams (12-5, 8-9 ATS) topped the Cardinals on the road in Week 14, a win that came as part of a five-game winning streak that vaulted them ahead of Arizona in the standings. Even though they’ve performed better on the road in 2021, home-field advantage still has to be seen as an edge for the Rams, who owns a 5-3 record in LA this season.
The Rams ranked seventh in scoring this season, averaging 27.1 points per game. LA ranked fifth in points per play (0.43) and passing yards per game (287.8). The Rams ranked third in yards per play (6.0) and yards per pass (8.1). LA was also seventh in third-down offense (43.9 percent) and surrendered the seventh-fewest sacks (31).
LA ranked 15th in scoring defense, allowing 21.9 points per game. They were top-10 in sacks (49, 3rd), yards per carry (4.0, 5th), rushing yards per game (103.2, 6th), points per play (0.33, 7th), and yards per play (5.2, 7th). The Rams ranked eighth in red zone defense (51.8 percent) and forced the 10th-most turnovers (25).
Matthew Stafford enters this one 0-3 in his playoff career, but those losses came as a member of the Detroit Lions. Stafford broke the Rams’ franchise record for passing yards with 4,886 and finished second to Tom Brady with 41 touchdown passes. He was brilliant early in the season, but struggled down the stretch.
Since Week 9, Stafford threw a league-high 11 interceptions, including four pick-sixes. His 17 interceptions tied for most in the league this season. On the other side, Kyler Murray fumbled the 13 times this season, but didn’t lose any of them. Turnovers will be key in this contest.
When playing as at least 3.5-point favorites this season, the Rams have an ATS record of 4-8. The Cardinals are 4-0 ATS this year when playing as at least 3.5-point underdogs. The Rams have won nine of the last 10 matchups vs the Cardinals and are 8-1-1 against the spread. The favorite is 8-2-1 against the spread in the last 11 meetings between these clubs, but the road team is 5-1-1 against the spread in the last seven.
Picks and Predictions
Los Angeles Rams 27, Arizona 24
ML: LAR -189 (BetMGM); Spread: AZ +4/-105 (PointsBet); O/U: Over 50/-109 (Sugar House)